Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

The beginning of the year always seems to bring up sentiments of retrospection and resolution. These types of feelings can range anywhere from accomplishment and pride to regret or remorse. In either case, the feelings we choose to attach to as we review our past 12 months can impact how we will approach the New Year ahead of us.Similarly, once a book has been read, you know it’s time to close the cover and move onto the next story. You’ll forever have the images, emotions and knowledge that you absorbed with you, but until you know it’s time to place that book back on the shelf and move on to the next, you’ll never be able to experience continued growth and expansion of mind, body and spirit as they relate to the characters and topics within those pages.

As you move into your New Year, and look back over the past, you may find yourself in places of judgment, frustration and disappointment along with joy, laughter and a sense of accomplishment.

The important thing is that you allow all those experiences, which have become a part of you, to help you see the upcoming adventure as a positive and exciting opportunity.

This next era of your life has as much promise for discovery, fulfillment and excitement as the opening of a new book as you read it for the very first time. Imagine the possibilities, especially if you have no idea what the New Year is going to mean to you.

Here are some areas of your life that you may want to consider closing the book on in 2016:

  • Unhealthy relationships
  • Unfulfilling lifestyle
  • Only working biceps and chest
  • Sugar and fruit juice
  • Leggings
  • Giving too many f*cks
  • Fear
  • Not being involved with a helping community organization
  • Knowing when it’s time to leave the party

How do you close the book? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I read this book before?
  • Is this story keeping me from reading a new book?
  • Would I be a different character in another story?
  • Am I finished with this story?

If you can answer in the affirmative for all or most of these queries, then it’s time to close the book. “But, how do I …” CLOSE IT! “But, what if …” JUST CLOSE IT!

Don’t forget, not all things that need to be released in order to move forward are bad. Not bad at all! Sometimes a good thing has just run its course and it’s time to appreciate that time and move forward to the next good thing!

The past four years, being a part of the Echo family has provided me with experiences and opportunities I didn’t expect to receive. I have met some of the most inspiring people in our community (whose names may not even be recognized by the majority), I’ve received several illicit phone calls and voice messages from slightly frightening “fans” and I’ve been challenged to continuously educate and re-educate myself in the fields of physical fitness and life coaching. And, much like the ending of another year or the conclusion of a rewarding book, it’s time for me to close this chapter and move forward to the exciting adventures ahead of me.

As I continue with my life coaching practice, and personal training, I have had to learn to take my own advice and make the challenging decisions – and sometimes scary choices – that come with knowing when a book is finished, even when I’m not sure I want the story to end.

So I end this year and move into the next, with so much love and gratitude toward Echo Magazine, its publisher and editor as well as the powerfully supportive LGBTQ community of Arizona. Thank you for allowing me to use my personality and style to speak to for so long, on so many topics. We’ll see each other around town, and you’ll hear from me still …whether you like it or not!

Make 2022, your best year EVER!

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Photo courtesy of Michael Feinstein.

Michael Feinstein


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Gilles Toucas

Michael Feinstein will commemorate Judy Garland’s life on March 20 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.


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I think it’s fair to say we all want that #fitlife, especially with Spring around the corner — as well as Gaypril on the way. Whether it’s pool season yet or not, everyone would choose to look fit over not looking fit, if they could have it with a snap of their fingers. OK, the vast majority of us would.

If you’ve met me, or have been reading my articles, you know that I live, sleep, eat and breathe fitness; it’s my heart and soul. That being said, I’m here to tell you that the concept of “fitness” is oftentimes tragically misunderstood.

Before you get too aggressive with your goal for pool season, let’s dive a bit deeper into what fitness means on the inside versus what it looks like on the outside, and common misconceptions around this concept.

1. Beware of the cultural pitfalls and misleading information around fitness.

Most of the bodies you see in the media are probably not real, they just look very convincing. As a trainer who also moonlights as a photographer and Photoshop wizard, I’m telling you that it is incredibly easy to alter pictures in materially misleading ways. Once you know the tricks of the trade, the imposters are easily spotted. But that’s not what this is about.

The point is: to the untrained eye, it can be devastatingly defeating to see such impossible standards. It seems as though the cultural pressure to look a certain way, to look perfect, has spread all the way from runway models to fitness novices with the help of smartphone apps.

The truth is that we fitness models look that cut, and that lean for only a couple days at a time. That’s it! In many cases, months or even close to a year of training, dieting and programming all go into looking like that for ONE day. Let that sink in for a second. Day to day, I am less cut, less tan and much flatter muscularly than what you see in some of my pictures. That’s just the nature of the beast. So, when you have a bad day on the scale, in the mirror or in any other scenario, remember that we’re all human and that the most legitimate photos you’re comparing yourself against were from someone’s very best day. That should help to keep things in perspective.

2. Most people want the results, without actually doing the work.

Fitness is not six pack abs, it’s not superficial, it is not temporary and it’s not an isolated phase in your life. Further, fitness is not something you do for someone else, do to spite someone else or even to impress someone else.

Fitness is confidence, toughness, dedication, coordination, power, balance, speed, strength (both literally and figuratively) and persistence in the face of all obstacles. This includes control over your attitude, your mood, your sleep, your schedule, your diet and other aspects of your life. This means getting that workout in when you least feel like it.

It’s not easy, and it’s definitely a grind that has good and bad days. You must show up and keep working on the days you’re tired, stressed, rushed, defeated, doubtful, afraid and so on. The days you actually have to overcome something instead of just checking your workout off your to-do list are the days you have the greatest opportunity to really make progress, push your body and see the most improvement.

3. Fitness is really an internal mindset. The external physique is the fringe benefit.

I’ve said this time and time again, and it might sound strange coming from such an aesthetic-focused trainer, but you are not your body. Your body is a tool, it’s a means to an end, to express your internal mindset, belief system, discipline and dedication to your workout program. Your physique will come and go. Your strength will come and go. Your abilities will wax and wane depending on what you’re training for at the time.

The outside will, and should, be always changing, but the inside is what we’re really after here. Good trainers want to train you to believe in yourself when sh*t gets hard. We want to train you to be resilient in the face of injury, obstacles and other setbacks. We want you to set ambitious goals and shoot for the moon because you can get there with smart programming and relentless will (do yourself a favor and ditch the crash diets and the photo editing software).

So, as you make your spring preparations for swimsuit season, try focusing on developing a sterling, unshakeable internal character and the muscles will come along the way, this I promise you.

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