Holly Perkins is used to challenging people’s limits, including her own. She’s trained and guided people through numerous marathons and mountain climbing expeditions, including excursions to Mt. Kilimanjaro. As a renowned fitness expert — and New Balance Fitness Ambassador — she understands the importance of commitment to personal achievement, and how rewarding it is once those goals are accomplished.
Her work as a personal training consultant was founded on the idea that science and fitness can work together to help people reach their optimal fitness levels. Holly’s intimate knowledge of physiology, nutrition, and health, as well as her seemingly boundless enthusiasm, have helped countless people reach their goals, and shifted the way we think about fitness.
Holly is joining us this month as NB’s Wellness guest editor, offering her insights and advice on various topics, including how she stays motivated, the benefits of strength training, and why she’s at the forefront of the “kale as dietary staple” movement.
When did you discover you wanted to get serious about fitness and training?
For me fitness started early. I remember joining a dance aerobics class in sixth grade because my best friend’s mom was making her go to lose weight. I thought, and still do, that it was absurd that my friend needed to lose weight. We were perfect in my eyes! Nonetheless, I was overly excited about taking a dance class with the grown-ups and absolutely loved it. I often wonder if it was this beginning that helped me to consider “exercise” as a fun thing. I wonder too, does that friend now regard fitness as a chore? I’ve always looked forward to fitness and physical activity, and this naturally lead me to get my college degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition and become a personal trainer. I was thrilled to work with people who came to me to in search of elite fitness. I think this is when I began to fully define myself—and my life—through health and fitness. But truly, I have been in love with fitness my entire life. It’s the longest love affair I’ve ever had.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
While a blessing and a curse, I am a very sensitive soul. I tend to be moved and burdened by the challenges of our existence. When I get particularly heavy with the troubles of the world, I find incredible comfort knowing that I get to help people feel better and be healthier. That is the number one reason I do everything that I do. Then, the other reasons all fall in as a close second to that: I get to wear comfy shoes all day, I make my own hours, and I get to pick who I work with!
You have a great attitude towards personal achievement, did you always have terrific self-confidence or is it something you learned throughout your career?
I think I was born with pretty good self-confidence in general. However, I was also born with some unhealthy habits regarding how I use and treat my body. I’ve developed a strong value in personal achievement because I’ve really had to conquer some demons (coffee and donuts!) and have learned how good it feels to hold myself accountable. I get a great sense of accomplishment whenever I complete something that required me to stay committed, like training for a half marathon. I believe that most of us must cultivate self-confidence, but that we do it in very personalized ways.
You spend a lot of your time on the road. What’s the one event you participate in that you’ve come to look forward to more than any other?
For the past three years I have had the honor of attending the Susan G. Komen Global Race for The Cure in Washington D.C. Each year 50,000 people from around the world come in support of breast cancer. I get to be on stage and lead this massive group in a warm up before the race starts. And every year I am moved to tears by the stories of survivors and their commitment to end this disease. I doubt my own strength if I were ever challenged like some of these incredible folks. They move me beyond words. I look forward to this event every year.
You provide motivation to your clients on a regular basis, is there something or someone that keeps you motivated throughout the day?
Motivation is the hardest thing for me! People who are self-motivators inspire me and I try to surround myself with them as much as possible. I have had to cultivate self-discipline over the years and I tend to cycle in and out of ideal. Ultimately, I thrive on the feeling I get from a good workout. I become a better person on all levels through exercise and proper nutrition. I’ve learned that I really don’t care too much about what I look like, so the intrinsic values are much more important to me on a day when I’m lacking motivation.
Do you have a favorite exercise or activity?
I have about 10 favorite exercises and activities! That’s like asking a mom of five which child is her favorite! I love them all equally but for different reasons. A few: walking lunges, running, yoga, walking my dog.
What’s the most significant change you’ve observed in the field of health and fitness in the past 10 years?
There are a few changes in the field that are really significant: The shift from “tons of carbs” in the late nineties, to “no carbs” in the early 2000’s, to the smartest place of “selective carbs” right now. I believe carbs are like medicine and we need to be strategic in how and when we eat them. Another change that is really just emerging is the value in wearing shoes that are supportive, but flatter and closer to the ground. I believe a great deal of hip, back and knee issues stem from shoes that have heels, both in regards to athletic and dress shoes. Our hip and leg muscles work best when the heel is close to the ground allowing the ankle more flexion. I promise you will see more athletic shoes being made with lower heel to toe ratios very soon.
As a proponent of proper nutrition, are there any favorite healthy dishes you find yourself making again and again?
I have decided that I am the first official Kale Advocate. Kale is probably the most nutritious dark, leafy, green vegetable and has so many health benefits. I believe it is absolutely the best thing you can put into your body. I eat kale every day, sometimes twice a day. Right now I am making this salad all the time:
½ Tbsp. Olive Oil
¼ lemon, juiced
pinch of salt
Combine in a bowl and massage the ingredients into the kale with your hands. Add a few dried cranberries – fantastic!
What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had given you?
It took me a very long time to figure out that discomfort is necessary in order to achieve anything worth achieving. There is a big difference between “no pain, no gain” and discomfort. For example,
For me, that might mean that I complete one more set of walking lunges when my legs aren’t sufficiently fatigued. It might also mean that it’s uncomfortable when I really want to eat a donut, but I restrict myself because I know it will only derail me. This kind of discomfort is good. It guides you towards a healthier body. I wish that someone had helped me understand this 16 years ago. Although, self-discovery is a very powerful thing, and I’m thrilled that I now understand.