• Richard McDonough

Co-Movement Gym: A is A Health Podcast S1E24 - Grace and Grit Founder Courtney Townley

Courtney Townley is the founder of Grace and Grit, where she helps women reclaim their health and happiness. She has been a dancer, gym owner, movement teacher (trained by Ido Portal), Pilates instructor, health coach, life coach, and motivational speaker. She also hosts the Grace and Grit Podcast.

Courtney talks about her dog, Sully. He is a great Dane that recently went blind from glaucoma in both eyes. Courtney discusses the lessons she learned from Sully’s experience. She initially felt his life was over, but then realized this wasn’t the case when Sully immediately bounced back with the same love for life that he always had, despite his new limitation. Courtney realized that, as a trainer and health coach she is always trying to get clients to take specific actions, but emotions and thoughts precede actions – so this is where the work of coaching often needs to begin.

What inspired you to create Grace and Grit?

Courtney says that, at first, she wanted to teach movement and fitness to clients, but as she met more and more people, she realized that what they really wanted was to simply feel better. She also realized that what made the biggest difference in this regard was not the hour or two that her clients spent with her in the gym, but rather, everything else they were doing in their own time. Courtney decided that the most important thing she could teach clients was self-leadership, so that they could take control of their own health and happiness for the long term. This is what she does through Grace and Grit.

Courtney discusses the individualized aspect of health coaching. She recognizes that everyone is coming to this from a very different place, and some people are more ready than others to take certain steps. She discusses the importance of meeting clients where they are at and figuring out which steps are right for them at that specific time.

Courtney says there are many parameters of progress – not just weight on the scale. She encourages clients to look for progress in their energy levels, sleep quality, stress levels, etc.

What questions do you ask clients to vet them to work with you?

Courtney asks potential clients what their goals are, and why they think they haven’t achieved them. She also asks what obstacles stand in the client’s way – and she is interested in both external and internal obstacles. Courtney says the internal obstacles tend to be the most important ones to work on.

Do you have a specific system or series of steps that you take with every client?

Yes. Courtney says the first step is teaching clients that health is about more than just physical health. She looks into many aspects of health: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, environmental, etc. Beyond this there are 4 layers that she goes through with clients. The first layer is chemical balance – nutrition, sleep, activity level, mindset, and ingenuity. The second layer is strategy – time management, organization, etc. The third layer is thought management – managing your brain. And the fourth layer is emotional agility – feeling and dealing with the full spectrum of your emotions in a healthy way.

You have chosen to work with women exclusively, what is the reason for this?

Courtney says that women just happened to be the bulk of her clients at first, and eventually she decided to go all-in with this because she realized how much she was helping and speaking to that community. She also says that women in mid-life face special challenges that make for amazing learning opportunities.

What are the main limiting beliefs you see in clients?

Courtney says that the biggest one is that many women are trying to return to a previous version of themselves. For example, trying to get back to the weight that they used to weigh, or to the same level of athleticism that they used to have. She teaches them to embrace changing into a new version of themselves, and to look for the infinite possibilities in this. Courtney also mentions the importance of choosing our thoughts carefully, because the thoughts we think regularly become our identity.

Courtney says that fear of feeling negative emotions is another major issue that prevents people from taking action. She says that the key to becoming happier and more optimistic is to practice being happier and more optimistic – to practice thinking positive thoughts and radiating positive energy. Like anything else, the more you practice something, the more it genuinely becomes a part of who you are.

Courtney discusses the excuse of “not having time” to work on positive change. She says that everyone has time, they just don’t make their goals a priority.

Can you talk about the importance of self-awareness as a first step for change?

Courtney says self-awareness is not a fun exercise – which is why people avoid it. She says that health is the relationship you have with yourself, and you can’t have a relationship with yourself if you’re not honest with yourself. Self-awareness is the key to this. Courtney says that ultimately, self-awareness is acknowledging how you show up exactly. This is what empowers you to make changes.

Josh and Courtney discuss the importance and challenge of changing peer groups when you change your lifestyle. This is a major obstacle for many people.

Josh says he truly believes there is a strong correlation between lack of growth and physical decay. He feels that to stay healthy you need to keep growing in some way.

Courtney agrees. She says that stagnation is death and that every choice you make either moves you in an upward or downward trajectory.

Your website describes you as an “ex-perfectionist”, why did you decide it was important to say this?

Courtney says that she has never met a client for whom perfectionism wasn’t a major obstacle. She says that fear of not being perfect prevents a lot of people from taking action. She encourages people to “put your art out into the world”, and to not worry about the fact that it will be imperfect.

Can you tell us something that you took away from working with Ido Portal?

Courtney talks about a movement drill she that she was learning at a retreat with Ido. She was so focused on executing the drill with perfection that she wasn’t going outside her comfort zone and “getting messy” with it. This was another powerful lesson in letting go of perfectionism in order to achieve real growth. She also mentions that Ido taught her that we’re always evolving and growing, so we shouldn’t put ourselves in rigid boxes. Ido made her more willing to try new things.

What books have had an impact on you?

Emotional Agility by Susan David. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olsen. And anything by Brene Brown.

Do you have a favorite failure?

Courtney tries not to call things failures because everything is a learning opportunity. She says that working with Ido taught her to embrace failure as part of the process.

If you could put a road sign anywhere, what would it say?

She says “it’s okay to rest.” We don’t always have to push harder, grit is important, but so is grace.

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