The Weight is Over: What’s Your Super Power?

Other than being a Super Noni Doni, I have a couple of unique super powers. One is gift-wrapping and gift basket-making, which is why I have an entire armoire in my office packed with wrapping paper, tissue, ribbon and gift bags, and a dresser full of tags, bows and shrink wrap.

If I didn’t have this online news magazine, I’d probably have a career in gift-wrapping.

Noni Doni (in a baggy coat) and her grandson by the Sundial Bridge.

Super Noni Doni (in her now-baggy coat) with her grandson at the Sundial Bridge last week. Photo by Shelly Shively.

My second super power is that 99 percent of the time I have the ability to know exactly which size Tupperware or food storage jar or container is needed, with just a little room to spare. I nail it almost every time.

But I’ve discovered that when it comes to my workouts at Align, I have other super powers, too.

Just as important as knowing my own super powers is avoiding a fixation upon others’ workout superpowers. It’s that “comparison is the thief of joy” quote I love. It’s how I get into trouble when I shift my attention from my own journey and put more focus on others’ aptitudes and successes.

When I compare, sometimes I feel good, and proud of myself.

Gosh, she can chest press 12 pounds, but I can do 25 pounds in each hand. I’m awesome!

But mostly, when I compare myself to others, I feel crappy.

Gosh, it took him just seven minutes to burn 75 calories on the bike, and it took me nine to burn that much on the rower. I’m a loser!

Take planks (please). When I started Align, I didn’t have the strength to do a full plank on the floor, so Matthew started me with my bent arms on a bench and my toes on the floor. I eventually graduated to the floor, but with my knees touching the floor. Finally, I grew strong enough to do a full plank on the floor in the traditional plank position, you know, body stretched out, like a plank. I held it 15 seconds and over the weeks and months to 30, then 45 seconds, and then 1 full minute, which was a red-letter day for me; a reason to celebrate. And then, last week I made it to my personal best: a 3-minute 15-second plank.

I felt pretty good about that, until I compared my record plank time to Andrea Charroin’s, which is a mind-boggling 12-minute-15 second plank.

Andrea Charroin holds the record at Align Private Training in Redding with a 12-minute 15-second plank.

Andrea Charroin holds the record at Align Private Training in Redding with a 12-minute 15-second plank.

To quote the dearly departed Miss King, my first grade (and, weirdly, second grade) teacher at Pine Street School: “Donielle, keep your eyes on your own work.”

One of the workout groups at Redding's Align Private Training: From left, Laura, Erin, Diane, Doni, Westley and Matthew.

One of the workout groups at Redding’s Align Private Training: From left, Laura, Erin, Diane, Doni, Westley and super-trainer Matthew.

I work out with a core group of fellow Aligners each week: Laura, Westley, Diane, Erin, and sometimes Sue and Andrea. Although we may work out at the same time, often, we’re not doing the same things, or working with the same weights or equipment. The training is individualized, depending upon everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. Workouts that get the green light for some of us might receive a red light for others, depending upon individual issues.

Case in point, while I can do a hamstring stretch with my legs and butt against the wall (it’s my favorite stretch), it happens to be a challenge for every one of my workout buddies to do hamstrings the way I do.  What feels good for me is actually painful for them.

Before I start feeling all superior about my impressive hamstring-stretch ability, I will acknowledge that I can’t do lunges as deep nor as far as Laura does, and I can’t burn 75 calories on a bike as fast as Westley, and I certainly can’t chest press 75 pounds of weight in each hand, like Erin does, or do single arm rows with as much weight as Diane. And then there’s 74-year-old retired school teacher Sue, who can hold a 2-minute plank without barely breaking a sweat.

74-year-old Sue can hold a 2-minute plank.

74-year-old Sue can hold a 2-minute plank.

The truth is, our little motley group is all over the map. What’s difficult for one of us is relatively easy for another. What’s simple for one of us is torture for another.

And don’t even get me started about Kyle, who is methodically going from his wheelchair to walking, who held a 90-second plank his week … with his child on his back.

Kyle Stewart's son chills on on his dad's back while Kyle does a 90-second plank.

Kyle Stewart’s son chills on on his dad’s back while Kyle does a 90-second plank.

I asked Matthew about our differences. I mean, what dictates who can do what, or who has the most potential to achieve certain successes? Can he tell?

Matthew Lister spots Erin Lundgren as he chest presses 75 pounds in each hand.

Matthew Lister spots Erin Lundgren who chest presses 75 pounds in each hand. (In the background, Westley Charroin does multiple reps of 30-pound deadlifts.)

“I think to keep people from comparing themselves with each other it’s important to make people realize that everybody is walking a different journey,” he said. “Everybody has different strengths, weaknesses, challenges and goals. Once you see that, you realize how different each and every path is.”

Matthew said that although every one of us has unique strengths and weaknesses, it’s crucial to understand that no matter what those strengths and weaknesses happen to be, our ultimate goal should be to keep fighting for optimum health and the best possible quality of life.

Doni's workout friends in various stages of finishing their assignments.

Doni (third from left) and her Redding Align workout friends in various stages of finishing their crunches and overhead pulls.

He used our little group as an illustration of how diverse one collection of people could be, all working out in the same space at the same time.

“Diane’s superpower is her ability to dead lift,” he said. “Doni, your superpower is your upper body strength and rows. Erin’s superpower is the ability to just press and row, because he has a lot of strength in his upper body. Laura can lunge like nobody’s business. Wesley’s superpower is his even-keeled temperament. He just cruises. That’s an asset.”

I wondered if Matthew could actually just look at someone when they walk into Align and have a hunch about that person’s abilities. Turns out he can.

“Your posture is the foundation of your capabilities,” he said. “When I look at posture I can know exactly what muscles are too weak and which are strong. That’s really going to guide our decision-making in the beginning.”

And, of course, this conversation begged the question: What about Matthew’s super power?

He laughed.

Matthew R. Lister. Photo by Diane Hill.

Matthew R. Lister. Photo by Diane Hill.

My super power? My super power, while training clients, is my ability to intuitively read people,” he said.

“If you’re asking about me exercising, I would say I’m just an average Joe with my own challenges and hurdles.”

Matthew said the main thing is to keep moving, and continue making progress.

“It may be slow, and it may not be easy, but we can make progress.”

Meanwhile, as we work on our progress, what’s your super power?

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
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32 Responses

  1. Darcie says:

    My super power is NOT GIVING UP!

  2. Brad says:


    To be honest this is the first ‘The Wieght is Over’ article I have read. Congratulations on your success, I’m happy for you! I meet with Matthew today for my  first ‘On Board’ elavaluation appointment. I met with him last week for my free consultation and was very impressed with him.  I have some very challenging physical issues and he made me feel like he understood my issues and was confident and compedent  enough to be able to help me. I’m very excited!

    • Brad, I’m so happy for you. You’ve taken the first step on your journey to health and improved quality of life.

      I’m not surprised that you felt as if Matthew understood you and your issues. That’s his gift, and it’s genuine.

      If I can offer a suggestion: As soon as possible, write down exactly how you feel, your pain, your limitations, your struggles, your mindset, and date it. Later, after you’ve been working at Align, check back and read that first self-assessment. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ve changed.

      I’m proud of you for taking care of yourself. See you at the gym!



  3. Beverly Stafford says:

    Thanks, Doni.  Your Weight is Over column is the first thing I think of Thursday mornings when I wake up.

  4. Erin says:

    Great job Doni, Everyday is an Awesome Adventure ?? We succeed together and for me that’s the best part, Even if I don’t reach a weekly personal goal if anyone in our group does,  I go home happy and that’s what keeps me coming back and of course your incredible ability to put a smile on my face with you positive attitude and for me that’s your best SUPER POWER. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Erin, you’re right about one of the benefits of being in a group is that if one of us succeeds, we all feel good, and it inspires us to work harder, too.

      And I feel the same about your smile and your positive attitude, so thank you!  I appreciate you and your support so much.


  5. Erin says:

    I don’t know where those ? Marks came from

  6. Denise O says:

    My super power is loving physical activity. All kinds.

    I used to think that once a person got in the habit, she’d love it, but then I met lots of people who truly have to work at it – after all these years.

    Food regulation is the last frontier! Which is hilarious because it’s my paid gig in life.

    • Yes, I hear you about food regulation. That’s the most difficult hurdle for many of us, myself included. But if your super power is a love of physical activity, that’s half the battle. You’ve got the other half. I know you do!

  7. Barbara Stone says:

    What is my super power…good question! I know my super powers when it comes to my relationships, work, and community work. When it comes to my workout…I’m mostly a whiner! LOL I constantly accuse Matthew of trying to kill me. Fortunately, he has a good sense of humor. Honestly, though, EVERYTHING is really hard so I guess my super power would be the fact that I haven’t given up and after 8 months and 25 pounds, I feel more dedicated than EVER to finally address my issues. So thank you, Doni, for starting with Align and spreading the word!

    • Hey, Barbara, I am 100-percent sure that if you ask Matthew, he knows your workout super power. Ask him!

      And come on! You’ve lost 25 pounds! That’s awesome! (OK, I know I said we aren’t supposed to compare, but look at me: 14 months and 35 pounds … but I lose inches and gain muscle. So you are rocking it with weight-loss, sister!)

  8. One of the reasons I homeschooled my kids was because I truly believe that “Comparison is their thief of joy” — it’s important to take to heart.

    My super power is imagination – a double-edged sword, to be sure. On the one hand, it’s useful for inventing stories and characters in my songwriting. And when things aren’t going right in life, I can easily imagine a hundred ways things could be worse, and I instantly make myself feel better. Of course, my imagination is also curse when I get a  late night “SOS” text from the kid working in the Far East. (Pirates…gotta be pirates… 🙂 It wasn’t.)

    I’ve never made a change in my life that I didn’t imagine – in excruciating detail —  first — so I’m doing my best to use my super power for good instead of evil.  Keep up the good work — EVERYONE.


    • Ah, the curse of the super-powered imagination. You are blessed with a creative mind, but you rightly point out the flip side to it.

      That’s interesting, though, about your life changes, and how you’ve actually imagined every detail before you embark upon the change. That’s a whole other level!

      Thanks for being here, Erin. And I’m glad you’re using your super power for good. Lucky us. 🙂

  9. Matthew Grigsby says:

    My superpower is the modest-yet-useful ability to find pretty good parking.  More useful and fulfilling is my superpower of finding the right people at the right times in my life.

    I love what you’ve done for yourself, in every way, and more than anything I admire your ability to face a new path and create a new world to live in.  I see the changes you have summoned into being and it makes me want to be bolder and summon changes for myself.  Obviously I’m not alone because you have clearly inspired LOTS of people.

    Thanks for being you Doni.


    • Oh, Matthew, I’m so moved by your kind words. Thank you so much.

      (And actually, I must give attribution to you, as you’re the one who first put the super power on my radar in your former Q&A columns – which I miss, btw.)

      Thank YOU for being you, too. xod

  10. A. Jacoby says:

    Yes, Matthew has super powers and you absolutely nailed what it is. His ability to read people, both physically and emotionally. I’ve watched him do it. I’m not even sure he is always aware that he’s doing it. My group had a discussion with Matthew about this very thing not too long ago. Whether it’s an inate talent or  honed skill or some combination thereof, I don’t know. I only know that this ability is an essential part of MY (and the rest of you, too) success.

    My superpower? Gotta be my bionic mouth!!

    • AJ, you are MUCH too self-deprecating! You are a woman of multiple super powers, starting with your musical talent, and moving on to being a stellar teacher. OK, yes, you are blessed with a voice that carries, but it comes in handy for projecting your songs.

      And re Matthew – (oh many, we’ve turned into Matthew groupies) I kind of think he was born with a special ability to read and assess people. You can’t teach that kind of intuition.

  11. Jan Gandy says:

    Yay, Sue!  Sue graduated from my Tuesday-Thursday mornings at 10 slot.  It’s nice to see what she’s been doing.  She left me behind a long time ago.

    Matthew is a medical intuitive.  I’m sure of it.  I can take three steps into the gym and he can tell where I’m hurting or what needs strengthening that day.  He’s amazing.

    Noni Doni, you have so many talents there’s not enough room here to list all of them!

    Love ya,


    • Medical intuitive. That’s a term one doesn’t hear very often, but I think you’re onto something with Matthew.  (And we can talk about him completely unchecked here today because he never reads this column until Friday morning.)

      And thank you for the kind words, too, Jan. But I think the same about you and your myriad talents, too. Love back at you. xod

      • Annette Moell says:

        Good article.  I have to think about the super power though.  Wish I had some ideas that quickly come to mind.  I answered Matthew’s request for questions in the winter when you were gone.  He had great simple practical advice which made me think.  How expensive is this guy?  He sounds worth it but it still needs to be affordable.  Any spare dollar is going towards paying taxes.  I like your writing about the path of your progress.  I bet this helps more people than you realize.  Keep it up, your thinking is appreciated.



        • You do have super powers, even if they don’t quickly come to mind. Here’s one way to know your super power: Do you have something that people ask you do, or help with? Others can often see (and utilize) our super powers before we do.

          I’m glad you like this column. Thank you.

          Regarding Matthew and the cost, it’s one of the common questions, answered here as best as I can when it arises. It really is an individualized, specialized program, and the costs vary from person to person because people’s needs vary. The only way to get an idea is to contact the Align folks and ask.

          Good luck. (And ugh, taxes! Don’t remind me!!)

  12. sue k says:

    Your super powers FAR EXCEED your gift-wrapping and your 99% accurate guessing the right container for food storage.

    Your ability to be open and personable in your social skills is fantastic.   That’s the first A with a thousand +’s right behind it.  That knack shows right up in your writing too  – so delightful.

    Then there is your willingness to challenge yourself; your ‘cheer leading’ or positive encouragement that you give at the gym; your inclusiveness; your sunny smile; your humor; — And, I would say you are a ‘human feeling intuitive’ – I hear it in your writing and when you are talking with others – if they say something that affects their heart – you hear it and respond with empathy.

    I believe these qualities far exceed  a 3min. 15 sec. plank – however – with your determination at 74 you will be doing a 20+minute plank – no sweat!!!!!


    • Well Sue, I’m touched and flattered by your kind words. Thank you. I feel so grateful. Your comment was a perfect way for me to end my day.

      Thank you so, so much.

      Sending you hugs.

      Doni xo



  13. Ginny says:

    Keep up the good work, Doni…..

    When are you going to write a “new” cookbook how you have changed your cooking style, along with the new body? ;o)

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