Visualize.

A few weeks ago, I was out to dinner with some pretty badass yogis. 

We were talking about future plans and goals and about the power of visualizing these dreams coming to fruition. We talked about the power of really focusing in on these goals, and sending our energy there, little by little every day. 

As we were life chatting about this over tacos, my dad, who just turned 64, had just landed in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Ok back up. Ever since I was little, I can remember my dad obsessing over Mount Everest. He's probably read every book, seen every movie/documentary, I think he's even gone to some Everest Climbers' lectures. 

He has always dreamt of going to Everest himself.

Then, when my brother moved to Thailand 3 years ago, they realized they had the perfect opportunity to make it happen. My brother Dan would meet my Dad in Kathmandu, and they'd hike the Everest Base Camp Trek together. Father, son. The training then began for what would be an arduous and magnificent trek at 17,000 feet.

Throughout the trek, my mom relayed text updates from my dad.

I'd see his photos and read his messages about the day's journey, and I couldn't help but stare at my phone in wonder.

Here was my dad. At age 64, climbing to the base camp of Mount Everest.

I just thought to myself, DAMN. Truly, we can do whatever it is we really set our minds to. If we visualize it. If we see it, if we really believe it can happen... that combined with hard, consistent work... anything is possible. Like my yogi friends were saying at dinner, we just have to consistently send our energy towards that goal.

I'm working on something right now that I'm super excited about. And I know that if I just keep putting the work in, if I keep visualizing my future... good things are bound to happen.

So what is it you want to do? Just start to focus in on it. See it. Every day send energy there. Take little steps, take big steps. Maybe that goal will come to life tomorrow, maybe next year, or hell, maybe when you're 64.

But we as my yoga teacher Taylor reminded me on my mat Thursday morning, we have to start somewhere... the most important part of any journey is the very. first. step.

Namaste, ya'll. Get after it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you know a change is coming...

I'm sitting on my couch looking at the shelves in front of me.

The first shelf sits just above the floor, the second one about 2 feet above. On the shelves I have a few succulents, and photos that sit atop a stack of favorite hard covered books.

I'm looking at the shelf thinking to myself how I need to change it before Saturday.

But mostly? I'm thinking about how weird it is to know that on a certain date, life will change. Drastically. 

The last time I had this big of a change, I was graduating with my Master's degree and starting a new job, and it was the first time I ever felt anxiety in my life. WOOF.

This time is different. This time the change doesn't come with anxiety. It's a change that I've been dreaming of since I was about 8-years-old. It's a change that I CAN'T BELIEVE IS HAPPENING.

It's a change I didn't think would come until later in the year... if that! And IF I was lucky...

But the universe has a funny way of working sometimes. Once again I learn that we can plan and plan and plan, and but sometimes things happen in ways you can only describe as being fate.

I'm really building this up... aren't I...

It's funny because as I think about this big change, a lifelong dream coming true... this Saturday... and how it will change my daily life in so many ways, I'm also thinking about other friends who have had similar changes lately.

And I feel pretty silly, because these friends just had freaking BABIES (shout out to Baby Gus and Baby Rowan!) and here I am... going nuts over... getting a PUPPY.

Hehe.

Yes, if you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my post about the little (soon to be giant) Bernese Mountain Dog Alex and I get to go pick up this weekend and call our own.

Her name is Maple, because she was born in Canada (just 4 hours away). 

And I'm sitting here on my couch thinking about how this entire apartment is about to change.

Those pretty shelves need to be stripped of anything she could get into (bye-bye, succulents from Target, to a higher place you go...)

I think about how soon I'll be taking a full hour for lunch so I can come home to take care of her. 

I think about how I'm letting go of one cycle class to be able to not only take care of her, but simply enjoy time with her.

I think about how in the morning, I'll have to sneak out of the house and try not to wake her up when I leave for yoga at 4am. Or how when I do home practice, I'll have a little pup dancing around my mat.

I think about how now, I am not only thinking about taking care of myself, Alex and I will now have a little pup who will depend on us. And that is a HUGE responsibility! I've read like every puppy book and Bernese Mountain Dog book...

But mostly? 

I look around my apartment, which is quiet (Alex is still at work...), and I think about the absolute joy and love and life that is about to fill this space. I think about the snuggles on the couch. Puppy play time. Walks around the Scioto Mile and Goodale Park (once she's vaccinated, of course!)

All of this just has me thinking about how weird it is when you KNOW a change is coming. You know your life is going to be different starting THIS day... but really, you don't know EXACTLY how it's going to change... ya feel me?

I can think about how it will be different... but when it comes down to it, I don't REALLY exactly how this little pup will change my and Alex's life.

So as with anything in life, I open myself up to all of the possibilities... and I will let the universe work as it may. 

This puppy has also reaffirmed my belief that sometimes... we just have to trust universe. If we go after what we want, work hard, put good energy out there, and never lose sight of our dream or end goal or whatever it is... I do think that if it's meant to be... it will be.

We just have to trust.

And at the end of the day, this puppy is going to teach me so much. 

And I can't wait.

*Yes, I made her an instagram... you can follow along on our adventures! @MapleTheBernerBear*

 

 

 

A Plea to Fellow Instructors

January is upon us. And it’s this time of year, that I, for one, love.

I love having packed classes filled with new people giving all sorts of new exercise routines a try. I love the refreshed energy of new goals and aspirations. I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of their journey. I am grateful that I get to help a new crowd of people discover a new way to let out stress, feel good, realize their strength and full potential. It's exciting. And it's why I teach in the first place.

And I really hope that you love this time of year, too… because you play a pivotal role in your new clients' experience and their cycling/yoga/crossfit/whatever journey.

So I have an ask for all of my fellow instructors of ALL types of classes:

I ask you to remember that going to a new fitness class of any kind for the first time is SUPER intimidating... Especially for someone who hasn’t done said type of exercise before, or in a long time. Heck, it’s even intimidating for an "athlete" who just is NEW to a particular studio! Being new anywhere… is stressful!

I ask you to take an honest assessment of how you act before, during, and after class. Do you smile at your students? Do you talk to them? What kind of environment do you create?

As instructors, one of our most important jobs is to make EVERYONE feel welcome, included and cared about. It’s our job to empower every single person who walks into our space.

Sadly, I fear that sometimes instructors can only add to the stress of a new studio. Often times, without realizing it, we can be standoff-ish. We can be intimidating.

And likely, we don’t even realize it. But we are. I know I’ve been to classes before where the instructor scares the shit out of me.

Here’s the thing. I don’t care how strong you are. I don’t care if you have a six-pack and if it glistens while you sweat. I don’t care if you can handstand from your down dog before your chatauranga. I don’t care if you can sprint like a champ all day every day on that bike. I don’t care how long you’ve been teaching for, or how much of a “rockstar” instructor you are, how many instagram followers you have. I don’t care how many certifications you hold, blah, blah. Blah.

You are awesome, I know! And here’s me saying, GO YOU! WOO HOO! Kudos, props! You’ve worked hard and you've likely inspired MANY, many people. Keep it up.

But here's something I believe FIRMLY: What will make you a truly great instructor is when you are one with your class. When you’re disposition is warm and welcoming. When you are not above them, but with them. When you are real and authentic and get to know your clients... when your clients become FRIENDS. What makes you a great instructor is your ability to foster healthy, inspirational, encouraging, supportive relationships with the people who walk into your class. To provide them a space where they feel at home.

So please, let’s leave the ego at the door, and go up to the newbies and befriend them. Laugh with them. Joke about falling out of poses and the bike saddle hurting like cray the first time you ride. With the biggest smile on your face, sincerely remind them that you care about their experience, and that this is THEIR practice/ride/whatever, and EMPOWER them to make it what THEY need. Challenge them to take it up a notch when they want. Challenge them to rest when they want. Challenge them to soak up their first class and not worry about doing everything the first time. Challenge them to have fun, and to ENJOY class.

Forget about you, and concentrate on them.

And when we, instructors, are finally able to realize and embody that?

… then we’ve done something truly great.

The Holidays are Here. ENJOY THEM.

Every time around the holidays, I start hearing people moaning and groaning about “how badly they’ve been eating.”  And how "bad" they are for eating so many sweets. And I get it, I’ve been there too. I’ll feel like a freaking bad person because I ate a few too many sugar cookies along with a slew of other Christmas treats (and ales).

But I, for one, am over it. Join me in this freedom, yeah?!

Here’s my ask of all of us: can we all just stop being so hard on ourselves? I know my personal goal is to just stop thinking so much about it, to stop obsessing.

Ahhh and here I am writing a blog post about it. A touch ironic, no? Hehe ;)

BUT ANYWAYS – where was I, oh yes -- I mean my gosh, enjoy the damn cookie, yeah? They’re delicious and come once a year!

Going into this 2016 holiday season, my outlook has been this:

QUESTION: Am I at a fabulous holiday party with fantastic food?

IF YES: Ok then, awesome, I’m just going to enjoy myself.  I’m going to have that cookie. And some of that delicious looking baked brie. Wait. What’s that over there? Is that… oh my gosh… my friend’s home made crab dip? Yes, YES please.

IF NO: Ok then, awesome, I’m going to do my best to eat as healthy as I can, nourishing foods that do all sorts of good for me, I’ll drink lots of water, and overall just be healthy, happy me.

And of course, I’ll get my exercise in, and I’ll sweat as much as I can during my workout. But I won’t sweat it when I have to miss a class because I have a fabulous holiday party to attend.

Because, ya’ll, I’m livin’ life over here. And I’m going to do way more damage to myself if I freak out over every little calorie consumed/burned/WHATEVERED.

So all of this is just to say this: remind yourself that you’re freaking awesome. You’re beautiful. You’re intelligent. You’re strong AF mentally, emotionally, physically. You aren't defined by how many cookies you ate or didn't eat this holidays season.

Just ENJOY yourself. And love yourself. And love that cookie.

It’s all about aiming for balance. Even when... maybe we get out of balance a little ;) That's ok, too.

The Pedal + Flow Gift Guide for the Workout Guru in Your Life

10 days left! I repeat, 10 days left! That's right peeps, it's December 14 and that means we have just 10 days until Christmas Eve. If you're scrambling to get a few last minute gifts, thank GOODNESS you stopped by the blog, I give to you my Top 10 Pedal + Flow Gift Guide for the person in your life who loves a good sweat, on the bike, on the mat, and everywhere in between.

  1. Have a cyclist in your life? Cycle shoes are a MUST. I tell people if they are consistently cycling once a week, the shoes are worth it! They transform the workout and instantly upgrade your ride. Plus, you can get a great pair for around $80 at my go-to bike shop in town, Roll! I wear the Giro brand and love them. Oh, and you'll wanna snag them SPD clips, too! 
     
  2. For your yogi...the best mat ever. I've tried most of the high end mats, and my ultimate favorite, no-slip mat is hands down the lululemon Reversible 5mm mat. And newsflash, as far as nice mats go, it's actually on the low-end of the price spectrum! Wait, they already have one? Consider the Reversible (Un) mat! It's super light, which is great for traveling... and if you're a yogi like me... you never go anywhere without a mat...
     
  3. For anyone who likes to sweat, or just likes to drink water..get them a Swell bottle, this one is on my list! It's one of those fancy new water bottles that keeps your water SUPER COLD -- which, for someone who enjoys hot yoga... is a gift from the gods.
     
  4. Framebridge. I'm obsessed with this site. If your person did some sort of athletic achievement this year... say, ran a race, cycled in Pelotonia, did a yoga pose they've been working on forever... I'm sure you have a picture somewhere, right?! Frame it! Frame this achievement! Framebridge is this amazing website that professionally frames photos for you... all it takes is a few clicks. You can even frame your instagrams (5" x 5") for just $39, and that includes shipping! This is such a wonderful personal gift... they'll love it.
     
  5. A MASSAGE! Ding ding ding! They'll bow down in gratitude! My favorite local spa is Open Sky Day Spa. Their entire staff is a dream, but I ESPECIALLY love Jessica Erb. The girl knows her shit.
     
  6. The Inspiralizer! Oh. Em. Gee this this kitchen gadget is at the TOP of my list. I've been using a little hand held spiralizer this year DREAMING of having a legit big guy. This kitchen gadget allows you to make noodles out of any veggie you can dream of. Even things like sweet potatoes! Say what?! Yeah, so that friend/loved one who likes to eat healthy? This will be a game changer. 

 

7.  Class passes, duh! I'm going to take a wild guess that your person's fave workout place isn't necessarily... cheap. Getting them a gift card or package of classes is always a winner. They'll be doing their happy dance. Might I recommend Cycle614 or Studio543?! ;) 

8. Gift cards to a local juice spot! I was recently given a gift card to Zest Juice Co., and it was the best thing ever! I love love love our local juice spots, Zest, Native Cold Pressed, and Alchemy... but because they're made with top notch ingredients, they're a little pricey... so a gift card is ah-mazing. Your person can indulge in their favorite healthy treat without feeling bad about paying $9 for that PB&J smoothie. High five!

9. The Simply Taylor Cookbook! Ok, so I've been loving the Simply Taylor blog, she's a local Columbus gal whose healthy recipes always look and taste like heaven. She is coming out with a cookbook on Jan. 3, and it's another item on my Christmas list! (Pre-order, duh!)

10. For the yogi in your life, check out local workshops! Columbus has a bumpin yoga scene... find out what cool yogis are coming to town for workshops -- hint: Yoga on High is always featuring amazing ones. I gifted my sister the Kino MacGregor Ashtanga workshop for her birthday last year, it was a hit, AND we got to do it together. Even better!!

Be a Beginner.

I've been thinking a LOT about being a beginner lately.

Being a beginner can be freaking scary. And often times uncomfortable. And sometimes frustrating. 

But it can also be exhilarating. And often times necessary.  And sometimes the best thing you could ever do for yourself.

I'm entering my third week in my first traditional yoga teaching job, leading a 60-minute hot vinyasa flow. And while I've been practicing yoga for years, I am a shiny, sparkling new beginner when it comes to teaching class. 

And sure, I've taught other fitness classes for the past six years... but trust me when I say teaching yoga is nothing like teaching cycle, or bootcamp classes. 

There are a lot of expectations, you know? Designing a creative, fun sequence that is both challenging and accessible and being able to seamlessly cue people through the entire flow, knowing your rights and lefts and inhales and exhales...

And let's get something straight. I'm Type-A. I've always been the "good student." I'm used to being the experienced cycling instructor. I always want to be great at the things I do.

And now, here I am, finding myself at the beginning of my journey as a yoga teacher. And while I am perfectly capable, and have actually been excited by the flows I've designed thus far, I am well aware that I am a beginner. I am new. And while I am confident in my ability and my knowledge of yoga, I know I have lots of learning and growing to do in this new role.

And you know what? That's great! To be good at anything... you have to start somewhere, right? I mean, if you never start something to begin with... you sure as hell aren't going to grow to be fantastic at it.

So this is me saying, let's embrace being new. Let's love being beginners... the process of trial and error, putting ourselves in situations that get our hearts pumping a little... it's this unique window we get to learn about ourselves... to try something new and see what comes up when we do. And let's not just try something new for a hot second, let's really give it a whirl. Let's not just just test drive the car, let's lease it... really give it a good ole' college try. The best things in life... you have to work for, after all. 

Think... what have you wanted to do... but haven't... just because you've been afraid of being the newbie in the room?

Whenever I'm talking to people about cycling or yoga (or a plethora of other things) the first response I get is, "oh, I'd suck at it", or "I can't even touch my toes, I'm not good at yoga."

But let's be real, it really doesn't matter if you "suck" at cycling your first time, or if you "can't even touch your toes at yoga.

Because.... well, at Cycle614, it's a welcoming AF environment, and literally every single person in that bike room was once a newb, too. And I can guarantee you, you won't be the only person in the yoga room who can't touch their toes... and hell, if you ever WANT to be able to touch your toes... you better get your ass to yoga to help ya out with that! It works. 

But let me repeat: every single person started something somewhere, somehow. Remember this. We were all beginners at one point in time. 

And let me also stress this: who the freak cares what other people think of you? If someone is judging you - F them! That says WAY more about them than it does about you. In fact, let's be clear: people's judgements, 99% of the time, have nothing to do with me/you and everything to do with them.

The best communities will cheer you on and be excited for you in this new journey. I love love love welcoming new students to my classes.

But you know what else is really cool about starting something new? ... It's freaking AMAZING to see your own progress.

...To remember that first class when you were like WTF IS HAPPENING HERE. Or when the teacher said "downward facing dog," and you were like DOWN WHAT LOOKING WHERE? And then to look and notice how far you've come... when I first started yoga, a Warrior 3 was the most challenging pose in the world to me. In fact, anything balancing on one foot was seemingly impossible. Now I'm balancing on my forearms with my feet dangling over my head. WHAT? Had to start somewhere, kids...

Because if you stick to something... you will go far. Ya just will...

Why do we put all this pressure on ourselves to be GREAT at something from the start? 

We have to start somewhere.

It's just a fact of life.

So let's stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to be awesome from the get-go and just have fun trying new things.

So what do you say? Be a newbie with me. 

 

The Great Cubs Indians Dilemma of 2016.

Ok. This blog post is inspired by the question I've been getting since the Indians started to break out earlier this summer.

I've been asked it OVER AND OVER AND OVER. And now... it's become a reality. And now... I'd like to share my thoughts/feelings/theories on this important topic...

The 2016 Cubs Indians World Series.

What. Yup. It's happening, people. The two teams with the LONGEST droughts and most epic curses are now playing each other in the World Freaking Series.

Background:

I grew up about 30 minutes south of Cleveland and have rooted on Cleveland teams my entire life, obviously. I cried hysterically when the Cavs won the Championship earlier this year. Cleveland has been through the freaking ringer, and in my book CLE deserves EVERYTHING in the whole entire world. All the goodness. ALL OF IT.

And then, I met my boyfriend, Alex, in 2013. Alex is a die hard Cubs fan  and has been ever since 1998 when they impressed 10 y/o him in the Home Run Race. Those players were pure magic, and right then and there he decided: the Cubs were his team. When he would write what he wanted to be when he grew up, he'd say a Chicago Cubs baseball player. 

Since 2013, I have watched countless Cubs games with Al. Yes, I watch baseball on TV... frequently. And when Al lived in Chicago for two years, a whopping 2 blocks away from Wrigley... we had a blast eating Chicago Dogs, nomming on peanuts and singing "Hey Chicago whaddaya say, the Cubs are gonna win today!" from the top of our lungs at Wrigley Field. Falling in love with Alex meant falling in love with the Cubs.

I've learned their history, I have favorite players and staunch opinions on what their walk-up songs should be. For example, my fave player Anthony Rizzo SHOULD walk up to Izzo by Jay-Z. 

What can I say. I love the Chicago Cubs.

I also love the Cleveland Indians.

AHHHHH! THE DILEMMA:

Side 1: It's a Win-Win!?
One side of this dilemma says it's a win-win. Either way a deserving team wins the World Series - which is awesome. We don't have to worry about another California team winning another championship... CALIFORNIA GETS EVERYTHING. Ugh. Haha ;) No matter what, one of my teams is going to win... awesome!

Side 2: One has to lose.
HOWEVER... due to my high levels of empathy... I will be devastated to my core for WHICHEVER team loses! Cleveland deserves NOTHING BUT THE BEST... ALL THE GOOD THINGS IN THE ENTIRE WORLD... I'd feel awful if they came this close and lost! And then... there are my Cubbies who haven't even been to a World Series since 1945, haven't WON since 1908! It'll be a heartbreak for whichever team loses!

WHAT.

My Theory... If I HAVE to Pick...
Ok. So WHO do I pick, if I have to pick? Well, I pick the Cubs. This year. Here's why.

Last year, the Cubs had their break-out year. Chicago was fired up, {OH MY GOD the Cubs are FINALLY good! WHAT.} They made it to the play-offs, but ended up getting swept by  the Mets. But alas, we were able to walk away happy and say, you know what, this was a GREAT year, we made it far... and next year? Next year is OUR year. So even with the loss, the hope was more alive than ever.

This year, the Indians had their break-out year. Cleveland and the rest of the world have been blown away by the Tribe. I mean they have been on an INSANE ROLL. And it kinda came out of nowhere! Amazing!! Now, here they are in the World Series!

So... I kind of feel like the Indians are like the 2015 Cubs. They had their break-out year, they've had a great season, and they've made it all the way to the World Series... if they lost, I could say, you know what, that was incredible, and next year? Next year is the Indian's year. The hope would still be alive, and they'd be ready to rock 2017. 

If the Cubs lost... I feel like it would just be flat out defeat. It would just be a heartbreak. 

So this year, this year is Cubs' year. It's the Cubbies time to break the curse. It's been 108 years since their last World Series.

So this year, if you're making me choose, YES, I choose the Cubs.

Next year, Indians, it's all you.
 

F*** Your Bikini Body

*Note: I try to write things entirely in the first person, as I don't want to assume that people think what I'm thinking and put words in people's mouths by using words like "us." But this is something that I have witnessed time and time again and believe that it might resonate with many, and it just felt right to use the second person in much of it. It very well may not resonate with you. You may not be included in the "us" that I use below. That's cool too.

OK SO:

It's halfway through July. Summer is in the peak of its heat (literally). Beach vacations are a plenty. Baby pools are popping up around yuppie lawns in Grandview. And pool pic instas are everywhere.

You know what else is populating my eyes and ear drums? And excuse me as I get vulgar here... but a whole fucking load of bullshit on "bikini bodies." 

Everywhere. In the media, of course. And then I see these fitness instagram people who so kindly post all of these workouts to help us get "bikini ready" as they show off their skinny little bodies. And then I keep hearing people around me say things like, "uh, I'm going to the beach next week, I need to workout every day..."

Can we just all agree to stop? We're letting the media win. We're letting those magazines that make their profit by telling us we need to fix our cellulite on our butt, the fat on our stomachs, and the size of our thighs to be happy and beautiful and worthy... win. WIN. We're letting them win!

They've infiltrated us to the full extent, making us feel like we can't go to the beach without

  1. starving ourselves and sweating to death the week(s) before, or
  2. covering up our bellies as we take our beach pics, or,
  3. of course cropping said beach pics to just be chest up

One of my favorite yogis, Carling Harps, recently posted a photo on instagram, and it was the hashtag that I loved the most of all: #fuckyourbikinibody.

SERIOUSLY: FUCK YOUR BIKINI BODY. I DON'T CARE.

But I do, right? I do care. Because I have to constantly remind myself to say F-it all and to not be so hard on myself because it seems like everybody around me CARES SO MUCH. 

When I think about myself physically... I think about the fact that I've taught fitness classes of all kinds for about 6 years now. I workout twice a day: yoga in the morning, cycle at night. I eat pretty damn healthy during the week, and then on the weekends let myself eat whatever the freak I want, because: living life here, people. I am strong. I am training for 100 miles in Pelotonia and can ride for miles on miles, pretty quickly when I want to really kill it. I am weirdly limber. My heart rate is like 50bpm. My blood pressure is low. I am pretty damn healthy.

And guess what? I still have some belly fat. When I wear shorts, and when I sit down, you will see the cellulite on my thighs.

I'm sorry, does this mean that I'm supposed to be ashamed to show my body at the beach? Just because my abs aren't rock solid? Because: oh shit, my butt jiggles? Does this mean I am not good enough? Does this mean I am somehow worth less than the girl beside me who does have the culturally desired *perfect* bikini body? So I'm supposed to follow all these stupid magazines and fitness instas and kill myself over getting this socially desirable "bikini body?"

Ha! Fuck your bikini body. The bikini body is the ego. It's a toxic attachment.

I don't exercise to look good in a swim suit.

And I certainly didn't eat zucchini pasta and a turkey burger with avocado for dinner tonight because I care so much about somehow eliminating the cellulite on my thighs. Because ya'll, HAH: that's just not going to happen. It just won't. And I don't care. I love my strong, capable, healthy legs that yes, have cellulite on them.

But I used to. I used to care a LOT.

For years growing up I didn't wear shorts, because I thought my legs weren't worthy. I strictly wore dresses and skirts. I thought people would look at my legs and think, "ew."

Yeah. I got over that around age 20. 20! WHAT!? SO STUPID! That's a LONG TIME. Fucking media! Fucking bikini bodies language EVERYWHERE. It ruined me.

Excuse me, but let's get one thing straight: I don't exercise to look good in a swim suit once a year.

I exercise because I want to live a long and amazing life filled with adventure. I want to be able to hike, and bike, and dance all night, and climb mountains late into life.

I once trained an 83-year-old who went to hike the Himalayas with her 35-year-old daughter. 10 miles a day. At age 83! I want to do that. 

I want to be strong and healthy so that when I'm ready to have children one day (A DAY FAR FROM NOW, MIND YOU, BUT STILL), I want my body is ready to carry them safely. I work out and eat nutritious foods because I want to be able to keep up with my future family. I want to be able to chase them around. I want to be a role model for them. I want to be live long for my sister and brother and mom and dad. I exercise because I want to live long with the love of my life by my side until we are old timers.

I exercise because I enjoy it. Because it's an outlet to relieve stress. Because it's empowering. Because it's fun!

I work out because I love myself and want to take care of myself. Because it makes me feel like I am capable of whatever it is I want to do. It reminds me how strong I am. It reminds me that I can constantly challenge myself, I can constantly grow, and change, and adapt, and keep up.

Oh, but you, media, say I should work out to look good in a bikini?

I'm sorry, but when did looking good in a bikini or in a miniskirt determine my self-worth?

I'd rather be judged for my actions. I'd rather be judged for how I live my life in service of others. On the impact I make on this world we live in.

I want to be judged for shit that actually MATTERS. Beauty is fleeting. It's surface level. 

I'd rather people admire me because for the deep stuff. For my intellect, hard work, determination, dedication, loyalty.

I'm way more proud of my Boston College diploma, Ohio State Master's degree and my job working in public health than I could ever be about my abs.

You know what matters to me when hanging out with someone on the beach? The quality of the actual person inside the body. How much they think about the tough things. The way in which they view the world. How they find joy. How they bring joy. Their intellect. How they treat other people. How they spend their time. Their kindness. Their laughter. Their thoughtful consideration. Their humor. 

This summer, as we all put on bikinis/swim trunks/one-pieces/shorts/dresses/WHATEVER --- can we all agree to look at ourselves in the mirror and think about all the amazing things that make us freaking awesome people?

Can we go to the beach and let our insecurities be gone with the wind because we, as human beings, rock? Can we smile for a picture and be proud of every single part of us and not crop out our beautiful bellies? Can we embrace our unique beauty? Our health? Our strength? Our true deep-down selves? 

Let's take back the beach. Let's bring back the beach of our childhood, when we didn't stop for a second to think about how our stomach looked while crouching down making sandcastles.

 

 

 

Waiting for the Right Time.

I had wanted to become a yoga teacher since my early days at Boston College, where I taught various group fitness classes at our rec center, the Plex. Yoga teacher training, however, takes both time and money, and as a college student, I had neither.

So I waited.

I also waited because I knew I wanted to grow my practice physically and mentally before I embarked on a training. I wanted to go into my teacher training as prepared as I could be, so that I could be the best teacher I could be starting out.

During graduate school, I felt ready to embark on my training, but I sure as hell didn't have the time to do a training... I was in graduate school!

So I waited.

Then, I graduated from OSU, started working my full-time job, and had really gotten to a point in my practice where I felt like not only was I ready to take on the responsibility of teaching, I needed to. So, I saved up, started researching programs, and started planning.

But man, life was crazy, my schedule was jam packed with my full-time job, teaching at Cycle614 five times a week, and my long-distance relationship... not to mention my social life, my family, and just taking care of myself in general...

At this point, though, I knew I just needed to make it happen. It wasn't a matter of if I would do a 200RYT program, it was when and how. My body was itching to take my practice to that next level and become a teacher. I had to do it.  

Going into it, I knew it would be tough. I'd have to give up teaching weekends at Cycle614. Traveling to Chicago to see Alex would be hard, seeing as every other weekend, I'd be at training from 8am - 6pm Saturday/Sunday.... and some Fridays even. It was going to be a lot to juggle.

But I put my deposit down anyways.

I needed this training.

I knew 2016 was my year to finally become a yoga teacher and accomplish this dream/goal of mine that I'd carried for YEARS. I knew Laurel's training was right for me, and I knew I had to do it in the Spring... (because if I'm being totally honest, there's no way in hell I could give up my weekends during football season).

I knew it was going to be intense: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Aside from our intensive weekends, I amped up my daily practice, and added on 10 observation hours with approved teachers, 10 practice teaching hours, and a ton of reading and meditation and other various assignments throughout the weeks.

But I also knew... that's exactly why I chose this program. I love to dive in into things. I want to be tested. I want to learn as much as possible... and that only happens when I am constantly engaged with a subject, every day of the week through various mediums. I knew the rigor of the program would pay off in invaluable ways.

I began my training in February. And in those four months, as if I didn't already have a lot on my plate with normal life, I also had my best friend since birth (my sister, really)'s bachelorette party in Nashville, her wedding in Pittsburgh, and a trip home to Akron to visit my siblings who were home from Bangkok (where they have lived for 2 years, and will be for another 2 years).

Needless to say, when I wasn't at yoga training, my weekends were packed. With all amazing things, of course, but packed.

I had to sacrifice a lot. The amount of times I had to tell friends/family, "sorry, I can't, I have yoga," are too many to count. I even had to wake up after my best friend's Pittsburgh wedding at 445am to drive home to Columbus to make it to training by 8am. That may have been the most physically painful experience of my entire life.... driving in the dark completely 150% sleep deprived. Ohhhhhhh LORD. Thankful Alex was with me and took the wheel half-way through.

I wasn't able to go to my best friend's wedding shower.

I wasn't able to go to my future brother-in-law's engagement party or wedding.

Yeah... that sucked. That really f---ing sucked.

But, I had yoga teacher training. 

[Ok, background: see, I could only miss and make up so many hours... and I had already planned to miss a Friday night/Saturday for my best friend's wedding in Pittsburgh... so by the time the other events came up... I would have had to withdraw from the program, lose my investment, and start all over again some other time.]

So unfortunately, I had to tell my loved-ones, "sorry, I can't, I have yoga."

Then Alex moved back to town, unexpectedly, and that was amazing. And since he's moved back, we've just wanted to spend as much time together as we can, I mean, hello... we had been long distance for two years! But then I had to start telling him, "sorry, I can't hang, I have yoga." Or after a long day at work, when all we wanted to do was cook dinner together and watch the Cubs game, "sorry babe, can't, I have to go to yoga."

It's been a hell of a four months. I think it's safe to say I've gone through EVERY emotion. And I wouldn't trade it for the world. I am a better person today because of all that I've put into my yoga teacher training, and I am so grateful for all of the people in my life who supported me along the way. I'm so lucky everyone was so understanding. 

Laurel always says that when you really commit to your practice and are a dedicated student, sure, you do the yoga... but you get to a point when the 'yoga starts to do you.' And what she means by this is that mentally and emotionally... things come up. You dive deep into yourself and what you're feeling and experiencing. You begin to see the world in a new way. You begin to see people in a new way. You begin to see your purpose and life course in a new way.

Yoga did me in a pretty incredible way. I could never put it into words, but in sum, it enabled me to face my fears, it empowered me to start this blog, it taught me to ditch the idea of being perfect, it has guided me to understand the world in a different way. It has opened the door for me to understand myself on a new level. It has allowed me to fall in love in a deeper capacity. And it has brought me this joy and happiness that is unlike anything I've experienced thus far in my life. Yoga has equipped me with the skills to take ahold of my life and live it in the way that I want to.

I am forever grateful to my incredible teacher trainers for these four months of life changing growth. 

I also want to give a shout out to the 12 inspiring women who embarked on this journey with me. They are some of the most resilient, wise, strong, courageous and compassionate women I've ever met. I have learned so much from each of them and have gained a truly unique family. We've laughed and cried and sweat a LOT together over the past four months. 

So here I am. After 8 weekends, 200 hours of training, 10 observation classes, 10 teaching hours, hundreds of pages read, and 102 total yoga practices since February 5th, today I graduate from my training. Today I am officially a Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher. And now I get to go out into the world and share my love for yoga with others.

As I look back over the craziness of the past four months, this training reminds me that there will never be a perfect time for anything in life. There will always be something in the way. There will always be some sort of obstacle, no matter how big or small, that might keep us from going after what we want. 

"It's not the right time yet," we tell ourselves. Or... the famous lie I know I've always told myself, "I'll have more time next month.... next year..."

This year was NOT the perfect time for me to complete my 200 hour yoga teacher training. 

But there was never going to be a perfect time. Remember? Perfection doesn't exist.

But I did it. And as I look back, I couldn't be happier that I persevered. I couldn't be more thankful that I am surrounded by people who not only understood and tolerated my hectic schedule, but who cheered me on and supported me in meaningful ways.

Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who was at the end of one of those, "sorry, I can't, I have yoga"s. Thank you to everyone who has come to my Thursday night class I've been teaching as a part of this training. Thank you to everyone who has understood my absence from major life events. Your support has meant the world to me.

So... what have you always wanted to do? Are you just waiting for the perfect time? Hell, you may think you've found the perfect time... but I guarantee life WILL throw curve balls.

So I encourage you to stop waiting... and just do it. Just make it happen.

Chase your dreams, work like crazy, and surround yourself with the right people. It'll all work out.

 

 

On body image. Part One.

A few words on body image and the media and all that good stuff. 

This is a subject I'm very passionate about. So buckle up and keep both of your beautiful hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times. We're in for a bumpy road with lots of twists and turns. Here goes:

I can distinctly remember being in middle school and thinking that I had to be a skinny, blonde cheerleader with big boobs in order for a boy to like me.

Then the whole Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie era hit, and all of a sudden I saw myself as a whale, and suddenly I needed to be super skinny and "tiny" to be beautiful.

This is me in the 8th grade (the taller one on the right in the pink bathing suit)  Do you know why my arm is over my stomach? Because I was soooo self-conscious about it. I thought my stomach was "too chubby." Yeah. I distinctly remember taking this photo. AHH. I know. WHAT. If only I could go back to my 8th grade self and shake her!

This is me in the 8th grade (the taller one on the right in the pink bathing suit)  Do you know why my arm is over my stomach? Because I was soooo self-conscious about it. I thought my stomach was "too chubby." Yeah. I distinctly remember taking this photo. AHH. I know. WHAT. If only I could go back to my 8th grade self and shake her!

I remember reading magazines looking for the "magic fix" to make me look like Cameron Diaz in Charlie's Angel's. Seventeen Magazine would come through the mailbox with headlines like, "eat this to trim that belly fat!" "this move will fix your problem spots," "hear Jessica Biel's secrets to her perfect body..." I'd tear into every one searching for the secret.

And it goes on and on. Over and over throughout my adolescence I was inundated with messages from the media that I was not good enough. I needed to eat this to look like that, because THAT is what beautiful looks like. I needed to do this move to have abs of steal, because THOSE are sexy, and that's what a man wants to see.

Headline after headline told me what I needed to fix about myself, juxtaposed next to a perfectly photoshopped celebrity, smiling as if she holds the secret to happiness (and happiness obviously has to to with her perfectly tanned skin and tightly toned thighs: look like her, and BAM you're one happy camper).

Fast forward to 2009-2013, my Boston College era. It was here that I started teaching group fitness classes and personal training. I basically lived at our rec center, The Plex. 

((*True story, people called me Plex Girl because I was there so much, teaching and training and doing my own work outs... I would get into parties at the Mods (BC's hot spot where Seniors live) because, "Hey! Plex Girl! You're In!"))

Yes, that actually happened. 

Halloween, senior year, when my dear friend Tash dressed up as me...aka Plex Girl... She pretty much nailed it. (I was obviously our student newspaper,  The Heights,  and yes there were shorts under that newspaper dress)..

Halloween, senior year, when my dear friend Tash dressed up as me...aka Plex Girl... She pretty much nailed it. (I was obviously our student newspaper, The Heights, and yes there were shorts under that newspaper dress)..

Because of my Plex life, I naturally fell into conversation after conversation with girls about body image. And soon, it became very apparent to me that I was not the only one who felt the effects of our society's tireless messages. It seemed everyone around me felt the pressure. It was toxic and infectious.

So, it quickly became my mission to change the way the girls on campus thought about healthy eating and exercise. Every person I came in contact with via my fitness classes, every conversation I had, I tried to steer towards self-love and empowerment and away from exercising to be skinny and look a certain way. I knew I wasn't about to change the world... I just wanted to try to at least impact a few.

My best friend Shauna right there is pretty much a badass. We rode with some friends in the Cycle for Survival cancer fundraiser my senior year, this pic is from one of our donation rides.

My best friend Shauna right there is pretty much a badass. We rode with some friends in the Cycle for Survival cancer fundraiser my senior year, this pic is from one of our donation rides.

When teaching classes, I made a vow to never use a phrase like, "work off those cookies!" I made a conscious effort to never say, "sprint faster! let's get those perfect abs!" Hands high if you've been in a fitness class where the instructor motivated you with a cue about looking a certain way, or about working off something you ate.

Yeah. That's what I thought. I mean shoot, I saw it on Facebook just the other day.

Now, on my blog, I always want to be honest and speak my absolute truth. I want this blog to be my authentic voice. So I'm going to face my fear and lay this all out on the table.

Yes, I was on a mission to help girls feel empowered. I was on a mission to help girls around me love their bodies and feel strong and beautiful and rock the world. I'd encourage girls in my classes not to work out to "look a certain way" but to "feel a certain way."

But I was simultaneously dealing with my own body image battle that had stuck with me since those middle school days. Really, it was me who needed those words and constant reminders.

While my friends were normal people who ate pizza and chicken fingers as 'drunk food' after a traditional college night out... I was often seen making kale chips and eating almonds.

My sophomore year was probably my worst. I was likely on the brink of an eating disorder.

If I knew I was going out to dinner... I'd exercise like crazy and limit the foods I ate that day.

When I did indulge in pizza and burgers... I felt a deep sense of guilt. It was like I was dirty because I ate something so caloric and greasy. I felt ugly and disgusting.

I guess that's why I'm so sensitive to phrases like, "let's work off the cookie," or "let's work off the Thanksgiving stuffing" -- because I know how polluted my mind was with those thoughts back in college.

I remember how hard I was on myself (and often still am). I already felt guilty for eating that damn stuffing, I didn't need a peppy fitness instructor telling me I should feel guilty for eating that damn stuffing and thus needed to go to her class. It only made matters worse. It made it real: I really was bad for eating that extra helping. I SHOULD feel guilty for having that cookie.

The more we hear these messages, the more they become reality, the more they are ingrained in our culture. These messages are absolute thought pollution.

There was no moderation. There was no self love. There was criticism, and judgement, and toxic thoughts.

I was trying to hard to be an example for everyone else, but I was struggling with a whole lot of my own shit.

Yoga was transformative. Teaching cycling was very helpful, too. I also had some pretty incredible mentors at the Plex (you know who you are!)

Starting my work out and teaching my classes with an intention to love my body was a powerful tool for me. It helped me to shift my thoughts from working out to look a certain way to working out to be healthy and happy, and that changed everything.

I trained for the Boston Half Marathon the summer after my sophomore year, and I started to find new purpose in exercise and began overcoming my toxic rut.

I ran because I wanted to challenge myself and the notion I had that I wasn't a runner; rather than running miles on miles to lose weight. I trained for the Boston Half Marathon, because I wanted to prove that I was capable; not because I wanted to get perfect abs. I trained for the Boston Half Marathon and every time I wanted to slow down, instead of thinking, "work off that cookie," I thought, damn I'm lucky to be alive and strong and healthy and moving. Then I started dedicating my runs to friends who were no longer alive.

Training for the Boston Half taught me I was stronger than I realized. It taught me I was capable of anything I set my mind to. It taught me to honor my strength and my health and my life. It taught me that exercise is about empowering me to live an energized, full life. I realized I wanted to be strong and healthy not to look good in my bikini, but because I wanted to really LIVE life rather than be held back and plagued by the plethora of chronic diseases that an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle would bring me.

Training for the Boston Half taught me that exercise is way more than a calorie burning workout. It's about way more than working off that extra chocolate from Easter. 

9 miles down at this point! 4.1 to go =)

9 miles down at this point! 4.1 to go =)

Then it was like... well shit. To think that all this time I was working out to look a certain way... when, damn, it's about so much more than that. 

All of a sudden my workouts were way more fun. They meant so much more. I had this greater sense of purpose and self-love.

It changed everything.

Then the geek in me came out. I started studying this whole body image thing. 

I took a health communication class at BC with the great Dr. Ashley Duggan (a professor who completely changed my life). Her class rocked my world: I learned that there were actual studies about media effects and body image. What?! People have scientifically studied this? There's a theoretical reason I've been so hard on myself all of these years?

Yup.

In graduate school, where I studied health communication (and media effects on body image), I learned that much of it boils down to these theories on social comparison and self-discrepancy.

Say huh?

Social comparison in a NUT SHELL means that we look to other people and compare ourselves to them.

Now, we can do this in a healthy way: we can look up to people as role models. I, for instance look up to the amazing yogi Kathryn Budig. She totally rocks.

But, we can also do this in a negative way. You know, like when we look at celebrities and Victoria's Secret models and compare our bodies to theirs. 

And then, of course, this negative comparison is amplified by the fact that we're inundated with societal ideals. Our culture tells us we need to look like that model to be beautiful. 

So then, when we look at ourselves, and we don't look like that model, we feel like crap. We build this idea in our head of what we should look like. Of what other people expect us to look like. What they want us to look like. 

And when we don't measure up to these expectations, there is a discrepancy. There is an ideal self, and an actual self... and shit, when these two things are not alike, we're screwed.

Even the whole movement, "strong is the the new skinny" is harmful. Why? Because it's still society telling us what we need to look like to be beautiful. This time the ideal just moved from being skinny to being buff and strong. 

By the end of my senior year at BC, I had come a long way in terms of loving my body. And in the years since then, especially after a deeper dive into the subject of media effects on body image (a Master's thesis on it, actually) and integrating yoga and mindful cycling classes, I have begun to quiet the once obvious and boisterous inner critic and instead embrace and truly love my body. I love my body for all that it is, for all that it is able to do, and for all that it isn't, too.

Ugh. That feels good to say: I love my body. I love it! Body? Yeah, you. I love ya. 

I got a booty. I got hips, and my stomach will never be rock solid, and there most certainly will never be a gap between my thighs. And ya know what? That's totally fantastic. Because I'm healthy, I'm strong (mentally, emotionally, and physically), and I can ride a bike like a mofo.

*And because I can proudly shake said booty like Beyonce. 

This is me pretty damn pumped about graduating with my Master's degree and saying BYE BYE to school forever.

This is me pretty damn pumped about graduating with my Master's degree and saying BYE BYE to school forever.

 

Now, let's be real, loving my body is a daily thing that takes practice and intention. And that inner critic is still in me. It always will be. It's not like one day you love your body and then awesome, you're done! You're good to go! Never have to worry about body image shit popping up ever again.

Boy do I wish it was that easy.

Every day, every work out, every healthy AND not so healthy meal, I remind myself of my own, unique, greater purpose. I remind myself of why I'm practicing yoga. I remind myself of why I'm cycling, why I'm baking salmon for dinner and why I'm indulging on a juicy North Star cheeseburger for lunch.

And just like that I remember it has nothing to do with how I look.

When I find myself slipping into slumps of criticism and judgement, I take a moment to re-center myself, breathe, and say a few words of love. 

Perfection is boring, my friends, and it doesn't even exist.

So why do we chase it?

... 'Body Image Part 2: On Perfection' coming soon.....