Hi Ann! Please tell us about yourself.

I’ve been an Alaskan since 2000, when I moved to Anchorage to work as the health care reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. Prior to that, my now husband and I had been shooting photographs (him) and reporting (me) for a small-town newspaper in Utah — our first jobs out of college. 

I’m originally a Midwesterner, growing up in Wisconsin and attending the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I much later — between kids 1 and 2 — earned my Master in Public Health degree from UAA and now work in public health communication for the state health department. 

My main job is to oversee and help with public education campaigns focused on chronic disease prevention, including messages about quitting tobacco use, managing diabetes, getting cancer screenings and more. 

Much of my time has been spent starting and running the state’s Play Every Day campaign focused on helping Alaska children grow up at a healthy weight. My husband is a photographer for the Anchorage Daily News (Marc Lester), and we’re raising two boys. Dane is 12 and Quinn is 9. Days are packed from start to finish, but we like to hike together and travel to new places — often state and national parks. 

My boys love cross country skiing and my oldest likes to run with his dad. I’m the only one who loves weightlifting. For now. I also enjoying reading books and newspapers, playing piano and doing yoga. 

How long have you worked with FF, and what initially inspired you to seek us out?

About five years, I started working with personal trainers at local gyms. I was approaching the 40-year mark and I really wanted to improve my strength. A colleague and friend from the communications world, Heidi Embley, had shared some information online about FF. I starting exploring your group online and then reached out to her with questions. I was looking for a gym that provided a connection – more than just one-on-one training. 

I originally joined the FF Boot Camp, and as that ended, I transitioned to the Saturday morning crew. I am motivated by the premium everyone at small group puts on their health and living in a positive way. We could all go to the gym and knock out a workout and say nothing to anyone while we’re doing it. But that’s not how it is at FF. 

I look forward to watching people reach their goals, share encouragement and tips, and have a good laugh at 7:45 a.m. I love getting to know everyone, hearing about their kids, jobs, the best book they recently read. 

Working out with Charlene is an inspiration. I want to maintain the kind of health and fitness she has built for herself. She always wants to know how my week has been. I know she wants the best for all of us in that gym, and her workout has been a positive way to start a Saturday morning. 

What are a few of your favorite exercises?

I love all things upper body — bicep curls, triceps and back. I keep working on those pull-ups. I love push-ups. I have learned the goblet squat at FF, and I really prefer it as my go-to for squats. 

How about a few of your favorite muscle groups to train?

I enjoy learning new ways to work arm muscles, like skull crushers and hammer curls. I know I need to work more on abs (I’m listening to you, Lela!), so I appreciate learning more ways to do that. I really enjoy the plank variations, stability ball pass from feet to hands, and floor work with the medicine balls. 

Optimal health. What does this mean to you?

It’s amazing how a couple of weeks can change your answer to a question. I had a great year fitness-wise. I committed to FF once a week and got up to adding three or more additional workouts each week at Body Renew (where I have a membership) and at my home. 

I’ve been slowing adding dumbbells and a weight bench to my house to accommodate a workout when I can’t get away to the gym. Everything was going great. I was setting up new goals for weightlifting, yoga, flexibility and more — and then something happened to my back. I’m not sure exactly what caused it, perhaps a combination of lying down wrong, coughing wrong when I wasn’t feeling great, some day-to-day stress. I got up off the couch one afternoon in mid-December, felt the pain in my neck and back, and for weeks afterward suffered with some pretty amazing pain that ran down from my neck to my lats and then wrapped around to my front ribs. It pretty much felt like the world’s worst hug. 

I met with my doctors, took anti-inflammatory medications and am now seeing a physical therapist. It turns out that straining these muscles can lead to a tedious recovery, and if you jump back in to your regular routine too soon, you get sent back to the starting line. 

This is unfortunately going to temporarily stall some progress and have me re-evaluate some goals. But that’s where the FF crew has really been helpful. I’ve watched Charlene, Steph and Lela help people make adjustments when they are in pain or need to do things a different way for a while. 

I may not be able to do some lifts at the moment, but I will find ways I can move as I recover. I read everyone’s monthly member interviews when they are recognized by FF, because there’s always something to learn. One of Mary’s recent goals was to stay active and be pain-free. I’m now learning how critically important pain-free is. That is truly a worthy goal. It’s a real bummer to miss workouts, or even struggle to sleep while lying down. 

Now my goals for this new year include creating a plan for fitness that also prioritizes maintaining mobility and limiting pain. Long-term, my goal is to maintain a fitness level and nutrition plan that allows me to keep up with and do whatever my family is doing. 

I know you recently read one of my favorite books, Maximum Achievement by Brian Tracy, and it had a profound impact on you. What are some things that stood out, and who do you believe this book is for? 

This book is for absolutely everyone. I don’t care what your goal is. I picked up this book after Steph recommended it at the fall goal-setting seminar. I actually ordered it so I could mark it up. 

I bought a notebook to take notes as I went. I read a lot — it’s a goal of mine and a way I quietly end each day. But I took my time reading this book over a couple months, reading it like a textbook that was going to teach me something. I bought it to help me with my fitness goals, but it was so much more than that. It’s about really examining all parts of your life — your relationships, the way you interact and speak to your children, determining whether you are living all parts of your life in line with an overarching set of values and purpose. 

Now I have another notebook to write out goals for my professional and personal life, short-term and long-term. You got to write it down. What does it look like? Can you visualize the steps it takes to get there? What it will look like and feel like in the end? The book is filled with gems. 

One quote that stuck with me was this one: “Decide exactly what you want to do and then act as if it were impossible to fail.” Side note: I quickly followed up this book with Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.” It resonated with another great reminder: You don’t ever have to commit to growing up to be one thing. You can keep becoming. 

That kind of thinking really aligns with what Brian writes about in “Maximum Achievement.” It opens up new ways of thinking for people like me in their 40s — who have 20 years of a career behind them but equal measure (and hopefully more) in front of them. 

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by anyone who lives their life according to their values and what speaks to them. I feel fortunate to have worked in two professions — print journalism and public health — that surround me with coworkers who inspire me and share my values: freedom of speech, showing and telling people about the world around us, and helping people be as healthy as possible when there are so many other factors in their lives that don’t make that easy. 

I love telling stories, writing stories, reading stories. Ten years as a reporter gave me the opportunity to hear from and learn from so many people with stories that inspire. 

Meeting people who were excited about how they spent their time – for work, for fun, helping others – always reinvigorated me to strive to do the same. Talk to people. You cannot imagine the stories they have to tell, and what you can learn from them.

I know that living a healthy lifestyle is very important to you. Can you tell us about your approach to nutrition? 

My job has me focused on nutrition every day. In obesity prevention, I work with registered dietitians and I really try to live personally in a way that focuses on choosing healthy foods and drinks for me and my family. 

Through learning from Steph, I have found better ways to balance protein, carbs and fat. My day starts at 5:30 a.m. and doesn’t stop until bedtime around 10 p.m. I’m at work by 7 a.m. so I can be done working by 4 p.m., making it possible to help with my boys’ activities at the end of the day. 

I try to cook dinner every night, and we all sit at the table together and eat it. Pulling that off every day has required a routine. I automate a lot of day-to-day things so I can focus decision-making on the truly challenging decisions at work and at home. I plan out the next week’s menu of meals by Friday and then grocery shop for the whole next week all at once. 

On Saturdays, I plug all that into MyFitnessPal so the rest of the week just requires minor edits day-to-day. I eat the same thing for breakfast, morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack pretty much every day. My coworkers laugh about that, but I really have tried to minimize choices that need to be made during an otherwise busy day. 

I’m not going to wow you with my work outfits. They’ve got to be simple, thrown together the night before or in the early morning hours with the aid of a flashlight. If the pants are black and the sweater is gray, it matches every single day of the week. That’s kind of my approach for food, too. 

One Sunday a month, I buy bulk chicken breasts from Costco and a bunch of onions, peppers, sweet potatoes, etc. Then I bake all the chicken, roast all the veggies, mix them together and pack them into individual containers to store in my freezer. This can make me 3-4 weeks’ worth of lunches with a good mix of healthy lean protein and vegetables. 

I eat plain Greek yogurt with frozen berries, carrots, veggies, turkey jerky and sometimes nuts for snacks. It’s not all perfect nutrition for me. I have a sweet tooth, and I like to bake. But I find that, in general, if I don’t buy it for the house, I won’t eat it. 

There’s no denying I’ve got a type A(nn) personality. That personality type hasn’t been all unicorns and rainbows for me, I’ll admit, but it has helped me to knock out these details to give my days a predictable rhythm. That helps cut down some stress, and for me, that’s critical.  

What are you most proud of accomplishing in 2018? 

I am proud of sticking with my fitness plan for all of 2018. Building a fitness routine has been challenging with a full time job, a husband with an often more-than-fulltime job and two boys who only recently have become more independent. 

I have found ways to add more workouts to each week. I built up a small home gym so I can do workouts at home during days I can’t get out in the evenings. I found ways to reorganize some work days so I could complete workouts on breaks during the day (recess isn’t just for kids!). 

I am proud to have committed to Steph’s nutrition plan that she built for me a year ago. In addition to getting stronger, I lost some body fat during the year. I was proud to have my public education work be recognized by the CDC and to be invited to present in Atlanta about it last fall. 

I read more than 30 books this year, which gives me a lot of pleasure and always teaches me new things. 

What new goals are you inspired to pursue in 2019? 

Having finished Brian Tracy’s book, I am just now building my notebook of goals for the new year. To my surprise, I’ve found ones that go beyond the gym and the grocery list. Some seem big to me, like exploring and researching more ways I can tell and share stories through the work that I do. 

Some seem smaller, like learning to better manage the daily stresses in ways that don’t manifest in biting cuticles. (I mean seriously, I am adult now. I should be able to figure this one out.) 

I am writing down goals for parenting my two boys, as our family finds itself with children who are now closer to college than preschool. They’ve got goals now, too, and I want to help support them on those. 

And I am writing down other family and personal goals, such as trips we’d like to go on with our children between now and high school graduation. I want to make sure we can afford to make that happen, both in time off and in money. I guess what FF has really taught me is this: I came in to improve my fitness, and 12 months later, I’m learning how to improve so much more.