Fitness is for Bodies

The new year is nearly upon us! You know what that means — a bunch of stuff coming at you about “detoxing” from your “holiday indulgences”, some crap about looking your hottest in your NYE dress, and a lot of newsletters and Facebook posts from gyms with the title “New Year, New You.” That’s right, it’s fitness resolution time (and also time to get a new slogan, amiright?).

A few months ago, I shared my story with you all on here, and one of the main points I had was that I am not a person who is naturally athletic or the stereotype of someone who is super into fitness. I don’t fit the mold. I am clumsy. I love unhealthy foods. (I also love healthy foods. I mean, I just love food.) My favorite activity is reading whilst wearing a robe. In high school, I tried valiantly to play sports but was so naturally uncoordinated that it became embarrassing, and the summer before senior year I quit volleyball so that I could spend two months at Harvard Summer School taking Calculus II instead (because college credits). Society will pigeon-hole us, if we’re willing to let it, and I let it. This is who I am, I thought, and I turned my attention toward my strengths. As if we have to be just one thing.

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We don’t, of course, but it’s not an idea that’s easy to let go of. Even after I discovered that I love working out, I felt like it was something I could do quietly, but not something I could be vocal about, and certainly not a field I could work in. Surely I would have to look a certain way, have a certain body fat percentage to say I worked in fitness. And even after I got comfortable saying I worked in fitness, I always had to lead with the fact that I specialized in social media, in design and marketing, in writing — and I just happened to do it for a fitness studio. I wanted to train to teach, but I felt doubt all around me; there were people who didn’t think I looked the part or was the part; people who reinforced my idea that I should stay where I belonged — in front of my computer and behind the camera.

Thankfully, there were other people too — among them, Lina, who trained me, supported me, and helped me actually believe that I could do it. I could work in fitness. I could teach fitness. And I could do fitness — we all can. Fitness isn’t something that’s just for people with six packs and bulging biceps, or for people who can run a 6-minute mile or bench twice their bodyweight. Fitness is for bodies — ALL bodies.

My body will never be the body of a fitness model. My muscles won’t be rippling on some website. I will never be the fastest person or the strongest person or the person who can perform the most impressive physical feats. I love my Krav Maga training, but I’ll probably never be an amazing fighter. I love my yoga training, but I may never be aweing people with my Instagram account of impossible-looking poses. I have tight hamstrings and shoulders, and fitness is hard for me. I used to be ashamed to admit that, but not anymore. Because in middle school I always ran/walked the slowest mile in gym class, and now I can run a mile in 8:30. Is that fast? Maybe not, but it’s fast for me. And I recently was capable of doing NO real push-ups, and now I can do 25 in a row. Is that a lot of push-ups? It is for me. And because I used to not feel healthy, or strong, but now I do. Which is what really matters for me.

If you are thinking about the impending arrival of 2015, feeling like you need to make a change but also feeling apprehensive and like the world of fitness isn’t one where you necessarily belong, here’s my advice: Stop thinking that. Fitness is for your body. You have the right to take care of it and feel good in it and be proud of it. You do not have to look a certain way or be capable of any certain things to “get into” fitness. It’s not a space reserved for certain people — it’s yours. If you don’t know what fitness to do, do some research! Try out some classes, do a trial session with a personal trainer, ask a friend to go on a gym date. Reach out to me or Lina on here — we would love to chat! Find something that you enjoy doing in a place where you feel safe. Those are the most important things, because that’s what will keep you going back. And when you get there, make it all about you. Whenever we move into the hard stuff in class, one of my favorite yoga teachers always says, “Don’t look at the other people in the room. They don’t have your body.” Remember that. You’re the only one who has your body, and fitness is for you. Go do it.

Happy 2015!

Don’t Succumb to Your Grinch!

Well, it’s Tuesday and it’s Christmas Eve EVE. Yesterday was nuts! I ran around like a mad woman, and today doesn’t look any simpler. I feel overwhelmed and anxious and my acid reflux is kicking into high gear. Every task I have to accomplish is daunting, every person I encounter is driving me nuts, and all I can think about is the surviving until tonight when I will get a mini-vacation away from everything and everyone for a few days.

I’ve let the Grinch of the crazy, overwhelming holiday season take over and rob me of enjoying my week.

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What the hell?! Well, it’s time to reassess, because I don’t like feeling this way, I don’t like feeling like I’m treading water, I don’t like being frustrated with myself and those around me, and I’m certainly not enjoying this acid burning up my throat.

I am in control of my happiness, so lets figure out how to get back to that place.

Understanding that you have control over your own happiness is a really tough concept to grasp. On the outside, it may appear that being in control of your happiness means that you are all rainbows and sunshine all the time, not a care in the world, skipping through life. Well, I don’t really think that’s possible, necessary, or even sane. It’s a fact that you are going to feel crummy sometimes. It’s a fact that you are going to be downright livid, exhausted, sad, and frustrated. Those are all valid emotions, and we all have them, regularly, and anyone who says they don’t is lying to you and/or themselves.

That being said, we do have control over our overall happiness by choosing to focus on the things that make us happy. When we encounter situations that make us feel livid, exhausted, sad, or frustrated it’s easy for us to really dig our heels in and dwell on it, and live in that awful feeling. It’s a strong emotion and we enjoy strong emotions. Anger and sadness are easy strong emotions, we have to work a little harder sometimes at excitement and joy, but they feel waaaaay better and prove to be a lot more productive in the end

So humor me here for a moment. What would happen if we just acknowledged that we feel this negative emotion, took a deep breath, and let it go as we exhaled placing a big fat smile on our faces?

Try it.

Seriously.

Try it.

Acknowledge the BS you are dealing with right now, take a deep breath in, force the negativity out on your exhale and light up your face with a smile…

…I don’t know about you, but that felt kinda REALLY good. Sure it’s not a permanent fix to my problems, but I know that I personally feel better in this moment, and I feel more equip to DEAL with my problems. It feels like I’m above them now and can come at them from a more rational, balanced and powerful place. Not only that, but now I’m finding myself enjoying my coffee that til this moment I was just mindlessly chugging. I’m noticing the Christmas music playing at the coffee shop I’m at right now that before just sounded like noise, and RIGHT NOW… I feel good.

I like feeling good.

When life throws you for a loop, take a deep breath in, breathe in all the positivity and goodness around you, breathe out all the nonsense, BS, doubts, fears, and garbage. Put a big ol smile on your face and take in all the good around you. Allow yourself to see the good, allow yourself to be happy even in the midst of stress, turmoil, and frustration. You deserve it. Put yourself back in the driver seat and SMILE.

If this doesn’t work for you, then you need to take a closer look  inside and figure out why you believe you don’t deserve to be happy – because you definitely do.

Be Happy. Be Strong. Enjoy the Holidays!!

Lead with Your Heart: The Flow

As we talked about on Tuesday, the next week or two are the prime time to have a few go-to yoga moves on hand for a quick de-stress, whether it’s something you do first thing in the morning in preparation for the day ahead, or if it’s just to have in the back of your mind to whip out at the airport when your flight gets delayed. (Sure, people may be staring at you, but really they’re just jealous of how calm and relaxed you look — I promise.) Because we carry so much tension in our shoulders (notice them creeping up toward your ears even as you sit here reading this? That’s tension.), these moves are targeted at pulling them down and back and keeping the chest open. The open-heart idea is also a wonderful one to bring into the holidays — or just in life.

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Breathe
If your yoga practice is just sitting and breathing, or resting in child’s pose and breathing, or lying on your back and breathing… it’s perfect. Start my finding a quiet, comfortable space and finding a natural, comfortable position, and just breathe. Focus on your breath. Let it be fascinating to you. I find it really helpful to count — breathing in for five slow counts, and then out for 5 slow counts. Think about filling up the lungs completely. Think about expanding the lungs from all sides — so not just puffing up the chest, but breathing into your side and your back. Your ribcage wraps around the body, so think about breathing into the entire thing. Try to engage your ujjayi breath — in through the nose and out through the nose, dragging the breath across your throat and creating an ocean-like sound, breathing deep and well.

As you breathe, keep your eyes relaxed or closed, and notice where you hold tension. Drop your shoulders away from your ears. Relax behind your eyes and between your eyebrows — these are big ones for me. Take your tongue away from the roof of your mouth; relax your jaw. Let thoughts flow in and out of your mind without paying much attention to them.

Move
Once you have your breathing down, you can start to move around a little. Rub the palms together. Shake out your wrists. Bring your fingertips to your shoulders and make big circles backwards with your elbows. Circle your neck slowly one way, and then the other. Sit with your feet flat and about hips-width apart and rock them from side to side like windshield wipers. Twist through the spine, looking behind you. Lie on your back and make circles in and out with your knees. Get your body all warmed up in whatever way feels best to you.

Flow
If you feel so inclined, start to flow! I love to do five Sun As and five Sun Bs as a go-to flow; it gets my muscles opened up, stretched, and working, and not having to think about the moves too much allows me to focus on my breathing. To add some heart opening, I like to clasp my hands behind my back and punch my knuckles toward the ground in tadasana (mountain pose) at the top of my vinyasa, and then again in Warrior I. (In the photo, I’m doing another variation, where I clasp my hands and then bend my elbows, putting both hands to one side of the waist to get even more into my shoulders.) If you add this, drive your shoulder blades together and picture them sliding down your back. Broaden across the chest, open your heart to the sky, and gaze up. For every forward fold you do, keep the chest broad and open, and — you guessed it — lead with your HEART. Hinge at the waist and glide forward, rather than letting everything collapse down.

Rest
At the end of it all is rest. There’s a great shirt I’ve been seeing around that says “I Just Came for the Savasana”, which sounds lazy but is actually wonderful. Savasana is vital to your practice, especially if you’re here to re-center, re-focus, and recharge. Take at least 3 minutes (5 is better, or 10, or 20!) to lie down with your palms up, let let your feet naturally turn out, and just rest. Feel totally supported by the ground. Let your ujjayi breath go and focus on nothing. Relish stillness, in a time when there’s precious few minutes to be still.

Hopefully some of this will be useful as you embark on your holidays, whatever they may consist of. Enjoy, and namaste!

Lead with Your Heart

What a wonderful weekend!

Size Strong, wedding-style.

Size Strong, wedding-style.

Weddings are such special events, because your wedding is one of the only times in your life that a large group of people you know and love will gather in one place to celebrate something exciting with you. There is something magical and overwhelming about looking around on that day and seeing so many different people from so many different parts of your life who happily made the effort to come be happy for you and be a part of the day. There’s something beautiful about seeing friends from different times in your existence come together and get to know each other, and about families becoming one big family.

Of course, like all big, heavily anticipated events, weddings can also be a lot of stress. Months and months of planning and paying and planning some more — you want everything to be just right, to be what you had imagined and hoped for all along. So when Lina asked me to lead her and her bridal party in a yoga practice on the morning of the wedding, I thought it was such a great idea. On a day where everything was scheduled down to the last minute, we took half an hour before it all began to simply breathe, move, and be grateful. The theme of the class was “Lead with Your Heart”, and we focused, appropriately, on chest- and heart-opening moves, but also on breathing and being present in each moment as it happens. It was a great time to simply be still and remind ourselves of what truly mattered — that it was going to be a day of great love and joy, which we all felt honored to share.

With the holiday season in full swing around us, this seems like something we can all apply to our lives at this time. It’s easy to get caught up in the bustle and stress of traveling/hosting/planning/prepping/shopping/wrapping and forget what really matters — spending time with the people you love. If you can’t talk your friends and family into a Christmas morning yoga session, still try to take the time for yourself to breathe and move. To shake out your wrists, roll around in your lower back, and pull your shoulders away from your ears. To be still, appreciate what the holidays are about, and always, in everything you do, lead with your heart.

Friday Fit Fashion: Print Heaven at Zara Terez

Happy Friday, you strong, wonderful women! We have an extremely exciting Size Strong weekend ahead of us — as you know, Lina is getting married tomorrow! We’ll be starting the Big Day with a yummy, flowy, heart-opening yoga flow, which we can’t wait to share with on the blog next week (along with many many other wedding highlights, of course). Before I jump on a plane and head into all the love and celebration and fun, I wanted to share a fun outfit with you from my favorite NYC brand.

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With the cold firmly settled in, I find myself gravitating even more than usual toward fun prints and bright workout clothes — hey, I need color and light wherever I can get it! Zara Terez is an NYC-based company with a great online store, and they are all about the prints prints prints. They have so much fun stuff that you will not see anywhere else (emoji leggings, anyone?), and their performance fabrics are top-notch, sweat wicking, and SO comfortable. I took a second after a killer workout at Barry’s Bootcamp this morning to hold a prayer lunge in Washington Square Park in my Above NYC Leggings and Emoji Performance Cool Down Hoodie. If you’re looking to spice up your workout wardrobe (hey, you deserve a holiday treat!) or gift-hunting for the fashion forward fitness fanatics in your life, I can’t recommend this brand enough.

Have a WONDERFUL weekend!

The Most Important Relationship…

Hey friends. As some most of you probably know: I’M GETTING MARRIED THIS WEEK!!!!

Sorry, I’m just a little excited. The past couple of weeks have been really emotional. I’ve been replaying the past several years like a video montage in my mind. I’ve been taking a look at what I’ve gone through, where I am, and how I ended up in this amazing, fulfilling, and loving relationship and on the cusp of marrying the most amazing man, whom I can’t wait to share life’s journey with. (Warning: You may need to get your Lactaid pills out; this might get a little cheesy!) During the “this is your life” replays in my head, I’m reminded of some really important steps I took to get to where I am today. What I have found is that even though I found the man of my dreams, I first found the woman of my dreams and fell in love with her. That’s right folks — the most important relationship I have in my life is with myself.

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We all go through it — dating the wrong guys, editing our personalities to attract the wrong guys, molding our interests and hobbies to fit with said wrong guy. In past dates and relationships, I’ve muted my eccentricities, afraid that if it’s revealed that I’m totally into nutrition and what I eat that I will be thought of as weird, or if I reveal that I LOVE all things fitness I’ll be labeled an obsessed gym rat. I was afraid of not looking 100% put together or not being skinny enough. I was worried that I talk too much, or don’t know enough about music, or sharing that I really love to dance, even in my own living room and especially if Beyonce is playing.

This constant worry, this constant editing and role-playing, picking up the pieces of my personality that were left in hiding after each failed date and relationship, tweaking everything to what the next guy thought was the ideal… it was exhausting, it was frustrating, and it was sad. I finally realized that on the most basic level, I wanted to end up with someone who loves me for me… ALL of me. And how could someone love all of me if:

1) they never get the whole me, and

2) I don’t truly love or understand the whole me?

After this “a-ha” moment, I decided it was time to seriously date – myself. I spent a significant amount of time finding me. What was important to me? What areas did I want to grow in? What were non-negotiables?  I stopped apologizing for me, and started falling love with my quirks, eccentricities, faults, strengths, passions, hobbies. I got comfortable with spending time alone, with choosing the friends and gatherings I wanted to attend. It was during this time that I finally realized that I really like who I am and that everyone has their own freak flags they should be waving. I did it, I began to love myself. To celebrate my new confidence in this profound self-relationship, I wrote this post on my old blog: My Freak Flag.

A few weeks after publishing the post above, I met Scott. Our first conversation was about Tough Mudder (I was gearing up for my first one and he was on the road to his second). He wasn’t intimidated by my passion for fitness. Our first date I asked if he wanted to split a side of kale with me, and he agreed without making a face or batting an eye. Even when we hit a slight “we need to talk” rough patch as we started dating, I remained confident in myself, in what I had to offer the RIGHT person, and I didn’t edit myself. A little more than 3 years later, I am happy to report that I am secure in my relationships. I am secure in my relationship with Scott and, more importantly, I’m secure in my relationship with myself.

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Now I’m not a relationship expert, but I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned over the past 5ish years:

  1. A relationship can’t make you happy. You have to make yourself happy. A relationship can contribute to your happiness, or it can pull from your happiness.
  2. You can’t be afraid to be yourself. Think about it: Do you really want to spend the rest of your life with someone who doesn’t know/appreciate/love the REAL you and ALL of you?
  3. Just as relationships with others can be work, you have to work at the relationship you have with yourself as well. Treat Yo’Self, Love Yo’Self, take the time to do things that make YOU happy.
  4. Before you can truly, unselfishly, wholeheartedly love anybody else – you first MUST truly, unselfishly, and wholeheartedly love yourself.

Well guys, this is my last post as a single lady. It’s been a wild ride. It’s been an educational journey, and I know I’m ready to start a new chapter in my life with an amazing co-pilot. Hopefully you can take something from my story. I wish you all happiness, satisfaction, and love. So get out there and start falling in love… with yourself!

Cut the Guilt from Your Routine

Here I am looking super grumpy on a rowing machine.

Here I am looking super grumpy on a rowing machine.

I don’t know about you guys, but the holidays are always a struggle for me. At the risk of sounding extremely Scroogey: I hate being cold; the traveling, excess shopping, and increased social expectations give me anxiety; and the lack of sunshine drives me into a state where I feel the only thing I’m capable of is sitting on my couch, ordering food from Seamless, and watching episode after episode of Criminal Minds.

The good news is that, having been myself for over 31 years, I know what winter and the holiday season do to me, and I’ve gotten reasonably good at dealing with it — I try to give myself more structure and obligation in the mornings so that I start the day on my feet and have the power of inertia behind me; I also try to give myself regular “treats” and things to look forward to, like massages and giant scrumptious Dean & Deluca cookies. Essentially, I try to cut myself some slack while also not letting myself fall down the Criminal Minds-marathon rabbit hole.

In the midst of this, sometimes the struggle in my head over centers around working out. I’m extremely not a morning person, and as much as I’ve tried to make them work, morning workouts are just not for me. Also, my favorite classes with my favorite instructors are all during lunch or in the evenings. However, work sometimes makes lunch classes impossible, and as you’ve probably experienced, it gets harder and harder to motivate oneself as the day goes on — especially when you look out the window at 4pm and it’s pitch black out. That’s when I start arguing with myself in my head: “Well, you KNOW you’ll feel better if you go to Krav.” “But I also feel fiiiinnneee right here in this warm apartment!” “You KNOW your body just needs to get up and move. This is important to you.” “But… I should really stay and try to get ahead on this project.” “You’re going to feel guilty if you don’t go exercise!” … and there it is. The guilt. How much does it control us? How much does it fuel us? How much are we exercising out of guilt?

At the Women’s Fitness Summit in Kansas City a few months ago, Molly Galbraith from Girls Gone Strong said something that resonated strongly with me, and it’s what I think about any time I might need to “miss a workout” and then start to feel guilty about it. “It doesn’t really matter,” she said, “if you’re at the gym today, or if you go tomorrow or the next day. What matters is that you’re still going 20, 30 years from now.” What that means to me is: missing one workout, having one shitty day when you just can’t get out of your robe, isn’t going to break you. What breaks you is cultivating a habit of exercising that is centered around feelings of obligation and guilt — because that is miserable, and it’s pretty easy for us to quit things that make us miserable. Forcing yourself onto a treadmill for 30 minutes every day because you need to check it off a mental list in order to feel good about your life decisions is so much harder to sustain than, say, developing a relationship with moving your body that becomes a part of your life because you love it. The latter allows you to know and believe that even if you miss a few workouts or have a bad week, it’s going to be okay — you’ll be back in it soon enough, because it’s your way of life.

This is my challenge for myself this winter, and to all of you who share my cold-weather woes. Cut the guilt from your routine! Adjust your mindset so that moving your body, stretching your muscles, and testing your strengths become something you get to do, not something you have to do. When it’s cold and gloomy out, I will remind myself of how amazing 75 minutes of flowy, stretchy, yummy vinyasa will be. When I’m anxious about buying all the right Christmas presents and living out of a suitcase for two weeks, I will remind myself that I’m so lucky to be able to go somewhere and punch a bag relentlessly for 2 minutes — and get a high five at the end of it for my aggression. And when it’s a seriously awful, no good, very bad day, I will remind myself that it’s perfectly okay to snuggle deeper into my robe, order takeout, and watch Shemar Moore catch serial killers… 100% guilt-free.