Friday, January 20, 2012


We're delighted to welcome my good friend and critique partner, Sarah Andre, as our guest blogger today. Sarah began writing contemporary romantic suspense novels in 2005 and joined RWA in 2006. She has been a finalist in multiple contests including Lone Star, Fab Five, Sheila, Finally a Bride and 2011 Golden Heart. In 2009 Sarah signed with a NY Literary Agent who is currently shopping her manuscript" "Locked, Loaded and Lying." 

1/1/12: This year I swear I will exercise EVERY day! Off to walk my neighborhood…
1/2/12: Yippee, went to the gym and did 20 min treadmill, 20 min elliptical and 20 min stationary bike. Whew! I’m exhausted but I am a goddess!!
1/3/12: Unbelievably tired today and too busy at work…and I still have a bunch of errands to do on the way home. I swear I’ll do twice as much tomorrow to make up for skipping today…
Sound familiar? That New Year’s Resolution scenario could have come right out of my January, Any-Year journal (if I kept one!) I’ve had exercise-buddies, hired countless personal trainers, tried Jane Fonda videos, step-aerobic classes, Tae Bo dvds, you name it—I paid the money, gleefully convinced that this would be thing to finally motivate me forever.

Well honey, I’ve been a January Flame Out most of my adult life. I could write a book on my failures, my excuses and my newest Fad Diet (but that’s another rambling blog entirely!) My Point: I was born to curl up on the sofa with a novel. The End.

And then ten years ago the oddest thing happened. A personal trainer uttered four little words that ended up shattering my couch potato mentality.
(Dreamy music and blurry lines here to signify a flashback)

I happened to be over 200 pounds and was lamely following her kickboxing instructions: jab, cross, hook, uppercut. (I had boxing gloves on and she held padded mitts.) I threw a right jab, thwap! Connected solidly with those mitts, yes!

She yelled “Harder!”
What?? That was as hard as I hit. Well, I mentally shrugged, Okay. I reared back and swung a slamming left cross. Thwap!!
She screamed, “Hit me harder!

Is she insane? I’d punched her mitts with everything I had that time. Another thwap, another goading: “You can hit harder than that!” I was done.
“No,” I gasped, “I really can’t.”
And then came the four words: “Tap into your anger.”

I danced back on the balls of my feet in confusion (and secretly to catch my breath.)
“I’m not angry,” I said, in my most polite tone.
“Oh yes, you are,” she spat. “Reach deep and let it out.”

Really folks, I wasn’t angry! But now I was so frustrated with the whole session, embarrassed by my jiggling fat, sick of being yelled at when I was punching as hard as I could and who was she to tell me I’m angry? …I grit my teeth, swung my arm and slammed that mitt with all those emotions. THWAP!!!!
It was such a mammoth, fury-driven hit that I actually grunted on impact. She staggered back and dropped her hands. “Yes,” she said quietly. “There’s your anger.”
And I stood there quivering and alive…and I don’t mean with adrenalin but pure rage. Pouring out of me like Niagara Falls. I felt invincible and powerful and…happy.
“Let’s go again,” I said. (And then looked around to see who said that.)

I’d like to tell you that watershed moment immediately changed my life, but it still took years to keep me motivated. (And she left for Paris months later, picture an enormous backslide in my weight loss.)

But those four words stayed with me and once in awhile I found ways to “tap” into anger during workouts, and guess what? Those sessions would be hugely exhilarating and productive. And I felt light-hearted and free afterwards, which I don’t think was all adrenalin-related. It was shedding that ugly emotion that we were taught as youngsters to stuff down and ignore because to express it is inappropriate and unfeminine.

BeyoncĂ© named her brazenly sexy alter-ego Sasha Fierce, whom she ‘turns into’ the second she puts on her glittering dress. She becomes that person; it’s all-consuming, it’s not an act. Well, I’m here to tell you that alter-ego’s work, and mine is also called Fierce and she exercises like a demented fool. In fact Fierce is so real that I have to be very, very careful to keep my worlds separate!

You, dear reader, know me as Sarah: a pleasant, friendly romance writer. Ask anyone at my gym or passing me at Memorial Park…Fierce is a snarling, focused terror-to-behold.  I found a trainer who instinctively knew this was my motivation and each day, within two sentences of greeting me he can set me off.  We spar verbally, escalating to just this side of a UFC Smackdown. Hour’s up, we high-five and part great friends.

Sensory depravation helps me stay in my world of wrath. I don’t make eye contact (and if I do it’s a lethal stare), my music is so loud it covers my asthmatic breathing and I don’t speak to anyone. Unlike BeyoncĂ©’s gowns, I wear rude T-Shirts (“Yet, despite the look on my face you’re still talking” or “I’m not mean, you’re just a sissy.”) My iPod is divided into two categories: soothing music I garden and daydream to, and a loooong playlist labeled ‘Exercise.’ (Wish there was a lightning bolt icon!) In this playlist I listen to some of the most god awful lyrics ever put to music. And to get a spot on that playlist each song must be sung/screamed with intense rage. The angrier the singer, the faster, longer and more determined I run. I would be ashamed to even throw in one iTune link here…THAT’S how much I don’t want you to catch a glimpse of Fierce.

It’s twisted, I get it. And yet, here I am— six years later and 70+ pounds lighter to tell you: Anger works. Any anger. Could be an immediate, one-time event: the driver that cut you off on the way to the gym. Run the treadmill and think of all the ugly remarks you secretly wanted to shout in his face. Could be chronic: your @#$% boss or in-law-from-hell. Could even be petty, envy-related: the fact that you have to exercise until you wheeze while cutie-pie, 20-something strolling on the treadmill next to you, chatting on her cell has the metabolism of a gazelle. Grrr.

The point is, once you admit Anger really is there, unbelievably deep within you and must get out, and once you learn to let it out in controlled, short intervals I guarantee you will look forward to your exercise time. It’s now a recognized toxicity I need to relieve daily or the sludge just builds. I still don’t LIKE to exercise. I still secretly revel in missing a day or two, but guess what happens? I begin to feel like a big, fat Ick. I get snarky at my loved ones. I reach for sweets and junk food. Any of this sound familiar?

If you’ve tried everything under the sun to stay motivated and exercise more often but nothing’s worked, well then…you have nothing to lose…try my bizarre, twisted approach.
Tap into your anger.

Posted by Sarah Andre


Lark Howard said...

Isn't it amazing how different strategies work for different people? I enjoy the way exercise feels and how it levels me out when I'm upset or stressed. I HATE running, though, and always have, so maybe your nasty playlist would spur me to aggressively attach the track at Memorial Park. Or maybe it would just inspire me to buy muscle shirts and leathers.

But certainly no one can argue with your success!

Lena Diaz said...

Sarah, what an inspiration. Thanks for sharing your story.

Sarah Andre said...

Thanks Lark and Lena!
I figure by the looks on the faces of Olympic sprinters, they aren't dredging up memories of Christmas festivities. Maybe where I need anger others just need intensity. (Think Gatorade commercials..)

TJ Bennett said...

Hmm. I've never tried letting my anger out. I could focus on what it feels like after I've spent 3 hours cleaning the house and someone...leaves...their toenail clippings...on--the--COUCH!!! "OMG, can't you use a *freaking* wastebasket like a human being...!!!" Or doesn't wipe the toilet seat after using it (and I sit DOWN ON IT...!!)

Yeah, that could work... :-)

(I live with teenage boys. You get the picture.)



Sarah Andre said...

LOL, T.J.!
Yeah, that's the spirit!

Colleen Thompson said...

Tapping into your anger is a great writing strategy, too!

But I *do* like hitting stuff. :)

Gwen Hernandez said...

Love it, Sarah! When I spar in Kung Fu, I can feel that anger coming out. Nothing ticks me off more than getting hit. Just have to control it so I don't lose focus.

I HAVE to work out or I feel twitchy, but especially when I'm stressed or upset. Nothing clears the knot in my chest like a good, hard run. I also tend to get story ideas/fixes when I run, so bonus. ;-)

Congratulations on finding what works for you, and on your amazing and sustained weight loss! You know I'm going to have to start calling you Fierce now, right?

Sharon Wray said...

Not only do i tap into anger when I run, but I find it's a wonderful thing when I'm writing and it's not going well. I too listen to awful, hard music during exercise, but it also works great when I need to get some kind of emotion down on the page. I'm always shocked at what comes out, but not as shocked as my family is when they look at my playlist!

Brandie said...

That was great! Sometimes I think about the time I waste sitting on the couch and sometime I forget how good it feels to let loose!

You're an inspiration :-)


Rachel Grant said...

Love it, Sarah! I find it so hard to get motivated to exercise, and stay motivated once I'm doing it. Six years ago I lost nearly 60 pounds and in the last year, a few have crept back. It's time to acknowledge I need to work for it if I want to stay healthy. I'll try this for my next workout!

Sarah Andre said...

Oh good, my Kiss and Thrill blogger friends know what I'm talking about...I was afraid I was reeeeeaaaally weird!

Only tried in once for writing a's so rare for me to be angry with my husband (seriously, he's such a gentle soul) but that evening I sat on the couch fuming and writing. Ended up with one of the best arguments beween hero and his brother ever.

Thanks for all your comments, guys!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Woo hoo, Sarah! Unleash the Goddess of War.

I tamp down anger way too often but get a secret thrill out of throwing punches and kicking--in a controlled environment. For the next few days, I'm going to tap my anger and shout "No," at (almost) everyone who asks me for the tenth favor in a row.

Congrats on your weight loss--and acknowledging your anger.

Krista Hall said...

Wow, I think I need to develop an alter-ego! I'll have to give it some thought. I've been letting this cold snap keep me inside. Maybe I need to get some of that plastic underwear that's all the rage with competitive skiers. Sarah, have you heard about Tina Maze? Congrats on channeling your inner fierceness!

Coleen Patrick said...

Tap into your anger--that's great!! I will remember that when I'm getting tired--with anything I suppose :)

Sarah Andre said...

Pat, if I ever hear you shout NO to someone I'll have to name your Alter Ego for you too!

Sarah Andre said...

Hey Krista!
I just Googled Tina Maze (Sorry, I'm all into the Men's Alpine gossip, LOL!)

WOW! Plastic underwear. And how in the heck did FIS find out about a skier's underwear in the first place??

I bought something called Hot Pants (from England), they look exactly like regula workout shorts but it's guarenteed to make you lose inches while working out because of the new fabric invention.

All I know is my skin can barely breath so I sweat significantly more in them. Maybe it's the same the skiers are wearing!

Sarah Andre said...

Thanks for stopping by Coleen,

Yeah, when I'm tired that's where the horrific music comes into play the most. I stand on that treadmill sticking my earbuds in, exhausted and totally unmotivated. I compromise and think "today I'll just stroll."

Then I press 'play' and the second some singer is primal screaming and the drums are thumping there is absolutely no way I can walk. I've tried, LOL!

Fabio Bueno said...

Congrats, Sarah! I also "get angry" a bit when exercising (I imagine Jillian Michaels yelling at me :)
Thanks for sharing your story. Pat, thanks for sharing Sarah with us!

LynNerdKelley said...

Wow! Now that's a whole new technique as far as writing goes. Very interesting. The next time I'm super ticked off, I'll have to give it a shot! I hope it works!

Diana Belchase said...

Great blog Sarah! I'll have to give it a try. I think my spy is my alter ego already. She does everything I wish I was doing -- including staying slim.

Thanks for sharing such a vulnerable issue.


Karen McFarland said...

Ooh Sarah, I never thought about reaching down deep and bringing up old pent-up anger during exercising. That's really interesting. Who doesn't have a little of that hanging around, eh? I'll have to remember to give that a try the next time I get on my eliptical. Thanks. Let's get rid of it, I say! :)

Louise Behiel said...

such a good post, but I'm not sure I could let my anger out. I have a real fear that if I let it out I won't be able to contain it ever again. I wonder what it would be like?

Emma Burcart said...

Guess I'll have to try that. I have always watched shows like Buffy, where the girl kicks a**, and wanted to do that myself. But, kickboxing or martial arts is slways a high price activity, and my gym is just 30 bucks a month unlimited. So, I lift weights and use cardio machines. I try and use fun to motivate me. When my music is on, I'm not at the gym anymore, I'm on a dance floor somewhere shaking my money maker and having a great time.

Diane_Holmes said...

Love this post, Sarah! Yes, girlfriend, I will tap into Anger... and her sisters: POWER and FOCUS and "I'm a force of nature!"