Backstage arnold

When the intensity builds: Go Deeper

When things “heat up” in your life (e.g. work, school, commitments, family), how do you cope? Do you reach for a drink or comfort food? Do hit the gym, or go shopping? Or… do you carry on until something “breaks” – like your health, your relationships, or your enthusiasm?

The question is not whether you react, but how. Are your choices goal-enhancing or goal-sabotaging…self-nurturing or self-destructive?

Sarah bikini landscapeI’m a fitness competitor, and as I write this, find myself only 10 weeks away from my next competition. As the intensity builds in my training for Nationals, I am “getting real” with myself and finding ways to healthily offset the extra intensity. If I don’t take care of myself, it will soon show up as fatigue, slower progress, injury, or burnout. I also can’t lean on my usual comforts — a glass of wine after a long day, sushi, or just enduring it… as this stress will be revealed in my physique, my hormones, and in my ability to train at a high level. I need goal-enhancing ways to recover, nurture, and pamper myself.

Little things add up when you consciously incorporate them with positive messaging. Here are some my favorites… even though they seem a little random – each one has a very specific response for me, and is deeply necessary!

1. Add beets to my evening salad

Same color as merlot, excellent for muscle recovery, and I appreciate the different texture and sugary sweetness!

2. Go for a pedicure before I need oneMnF Hers

My feet are my connection to the earth – I always want them to shine

3. Apply ice to injuries while working at my desk job

Permissible multi-tasking…

4. Take a Musclease* bath 1-2x a week

I make this a ritual, adding scent-infused water, a fluffy bathrobe, a homemade avocado coconut hair mask, and candles to my in-home spa-experience. I allow myself time to relax – without a computer, book or phone.

5. Use foot massage regularly

More affordable than traditional massage, foot reflex is arguably more effective at an “organ” level. Also, love the convenient walk-in availability.
Sole Training®* at home with aromatherapy – a little bit goes a long way.
Marry a man who enjoys rubbing your feet…

6. Take basic options in my workouts, when my body asks me to

I acknowledge and honor the signals that I need recovery
Practice self-compassion, instead of self-criticism.

7. Add pumpkin & nutmeg to my protein shake

Variety is the spice of life…and ’tis the season for pumpkin spice!
I can make my own for a fraction of the cost (and calories…), avoiding the artificial fillers and sugar, and staying on point with my diet.

8. (Shhh. It’s my secret!) I indulge in eyelash extensions

Ahhh a monthly one-hour nap…
Shortens my prep time in the morning – no makeup required!

9. Utilize the Chopra Meditation series***

Encourages and facilitates my daily meditation practice

10. Take a plank practice hiatus…

Wait, what? The Plank Queen is not planking?! Yes, I am deliberately taking a break from daily plank practice in order to honor my Nationals prep and the ongoing stress I am putting on my hip flexors with heavy squats, single-leg exercises, and HIIT cardio sessions. I am counting on a “cross-training” boost from my training regime and your inspiring plank times to carry me to my 20 min plank goal in December…do not disappoint!

15 min plank

Bottom line: When you acknowledge the additional intensity in your lives and take care of yourself, you’ll send a message to your bodies to not freak out. You’ll establish a new, positive pattern of behavior and reinforce it each time intensity shows up in your life. This week, pay attention to where intensity offsets or energy leaks apparent, and sthen replace the “how” while still tending to the “need”. You can do it… you’ve got willPower.


Sarah Ingmanson

Sarah Ingmanson

Sarah is a studio owner, fitness instructor and competitor. She is a former investment banker and equity research analyst with her MBA from the Wharton School and her MA in International Affairs from the Lauder Institute of the University of Pennsylvania. Sarah is fluent in Japanese and consults with Japanese companies on corporate governance, finance, and investor relations. Sarah's interest in Japan stemmed from her first tour with Disney On Ice as a professional figure skater. For more info on Sarah and her studio, visit


  1. Kelly
    Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 at 2:05 pm ·

    Sarah, thank you for taking this time to share such words of encouragement and inspiration. Keep on rockin’ girl. And good luck on that competition…it must be right around the corner!

    • Sarah Ingmanson
      Sarah Ingmanson
      Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 at 7:50 pm ·

      Kelly, thank you for your kind words! Shortly after I wrote this, I discovered I was pregnant, so my plans for Nationals have been pushed back a year… :)

      • Kelly
        Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 at 6:29 am ·

        Well how about that! What exciting news, congratulations Sarah :)

        And I started that chopra center meditation…thank you again for the recommendation!

        • Sarah Ingmanson
          Sarah Ingmanson
          Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 at 9:49 pm ·

          Thank you! And that’s awesome – I am getting a lot from Deepak’s new meditation series, too. Exhale and enjoy!

  2. Cindy Frary
    Cindy Frary
    Saturday, September 21st, 2013 at 9:41 am ·

    From the moment we met years ago at the very 1st Summit I immediately liked you. Since getting to know more about you I’m even more impressed. I’ll be rooting for you to stay strong and focused these next 9 weeks and winning at Nationals. You go girl!

    • Sarah Ingmanson
      Sarah Ingmanson
      Saturday, September 21st, 2013 at 12:15 pm ·

      Thank you, Cindy! I remember hopping into the airport shuttle with all of you ladies from upstate NY and, thinking, “Wow, I have never met such a cerebral group of fitness instructors. I think I am ‘home’…” ;)

  3. Roberto Cartagena
    Saturday, September 21st, 2013 at 8:39 am ·

    I finally got a chance to read this… Amazing honey! All ur hard work n dedication surely pays off. I love how u inspire others n even me! Especially how u inspire Dominick, our son! He sees how hard u work n knows/sees the pay off ;)

    • Sarah Ingmanson
      Sarah Ingmanson
      Saturday, September 21st, 2013 at 12:09 pm ·

      Thanks, honey. We inspire and support each other…especially Dominick! xoxo

  4. Jennifer
    Friday, September 20th, 2013 at 8:15 pm ·

    Sarah, you inspire me so way! Way to reach girl;) xoxo

    • Sarah Ingmanson
      Sarah Ingmanson
      Friday, September 20th, 2013 at 9:37 pm ·

      Thank you, Jen! xoxo

  5. Sarah Ingmanson
    Sarah Ingmanson
    Friday, September 20th, 2013 at 3:46 pm ·

    Thank you, Tracy! Thank you, Sue! xoxo

  6. Sue O'Brien
    Friday, September 20th, 2013 at 2:31 pm ·

    So smart. Looking forward to incorporating some pumpkin spice and more of your great tips into my routine. Shine at Nationals, Love!

  7. Tracy Miller
    Friday, September 20th, 2013 at 12:42 pm ·

    Amazing stuff, girl! Love it!!!

  8. Sarah
    Friday, September 20th, 2013 at 11:15 am ·

    Stacey – thank you for all of your encouragement and support! You continue to inspire all of us to reach higher and higher. willPower & grace is the “secret sauce” to my mental and emotional prep, and enhances the precision in which I train.

  9. stacey lei krauss
    Friday, September 20th, 2013 at 10:17 am ·

    Sarah – you are such a role model; balancing work and play with self care. Thanks for sharing your tips – all fitness pros need to read this – a great reminder that if we don’t take care of ourselves it becomes impossible to help others!