One More!

Here’s some short and sweet weekend motivation for you, stolen from my instructor and the owner of Krav Maga Academy, Matan Gavish. Last Friday, after nearly an hour of punches, kicks, and chokehold defenses, we partnered up for a last little bit of ab work — leg lifts, with a little twist. Or rather, a little punch.

It went like this: I laid flat on my back with my legs hovering a couple of inches off the ground. Keeping my legs straight, I raised them to 90 degrees, feet pointing toward the ceiling. Then I returned them to a hover and demanded, “One more!”, and my partner punched me in the stomach. Another leg lift. Another demand. “One more!” Another punch. Over and over. You get the picture.

Yes, this was great exercis for core strength and continuous engagement, but more than that, it was a drill for the mind. In any kind of attack or fight, your mindset is the most important thing. Even if you’re exhausted, terrified, and broken, you don’t show it. You ask for one more, just to show that you can take it. Just to remind yourself that you can take it.

Though many of us may never be in a physical fight, we will all come up against things or people in life who are trying to take us down. Don’t start from a place of defeat. Brace yourself. Engage your core. Let them know that you can take one more.

Happy weekend!

The Joy of Doing Nothing

Hey guys! First of all, a massive thank you to my partner, Emily, for manning the blog while I was out. Second of all, it’s so great to be back! It may be like 10 degrees in Chicago, but I’m totally happy to be here and ready to get back into the swing of things!

As you probably know, I’ve spent the past two weeks exploring the country of Nicaragua on my honeymoon. It really was an incredible experience, a wonderful adventure full of fun and crazy stories. It was an opportunity to immerse myself in a new and different culture and relinquish some of the strict control I have over my life back home in Chicago. I learned a lot on my trip. I learned about Nicaragua, about my husband, about our relationship, about the way we handle stress/challenges/opportunities. I learned that I actually LOVE Mojitos, and that cows can swim. One of the biggest things I learned on this trip, however, was all about nothing.

IMG_5608In my daily life, and probably in most of our daily lives, we are all “GO! GO! GO!” We feel anxious when we are unproductive, stressed when we have nothing to do. On this trip, while staying at a remote eco-lodge in the mountains of Matagalpa (where even the WIFI connection was transient), I learned the power of doing nothing.

Each afternoon, Scott and I would sit out in the open pavilion in rocking chairs (or in the hammocks) and quietly enjoy the nothing. We embraced the silence, the stillness, the breathtaking view. We just let our minds wander. Sometimes we spoke to each other, sometimes we sat in silence. Sometimes we read, or wrote in wrote in a journal, but essentially we embraced the nothing.

At first it was REALLY challenging. It was so hard to let go of the hyperactive life I’m used to. I felt anxious and guilty over being unproductive. Once I took a deep breath, and acknowledged that I didn’t have to feel bad for sitting around – it became something I actually really looked forward to. I was able to take it all in and find JOY in doing nothing.

There’s been a lot of research lately about how over-stimulated we all are. How even when walking, riding the bus, sitting on a beautiful veranda overlooking mountain and green gorgeousness, we are nose down in our phones – looking at beauty and life through Instagram and Twitter, instead of experiencing it all around us in real-time. After this trip, I’ve learned to embrace downtime, and still time, and crave opportunities to just sit, enjoy the world around me and let my mind and imagination wander.

I want to challenge you to find sometime this week to just sit – at least for 15 minutes – and take it all in. Let your mind go where it wants to go, enjoy the taste of a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, or nothing at all. Learn to embrace the quiet, the stillness, and allow yourself to sit, reflect, and wander.

Find the joy of doing nothing, and it will help refresh you for all the wonderful things that you actively do in the rest of your life.

Pull It From Your Heart

One of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about during yoga teacher training is (DUH) what it will be like for me to teach yoga. Training is so intense, and I’ve learned such an incredible amount of information, from anatomy to asanas to meditation practices. We’ve spent entire weekends discussing the importance of sequencing and how to build a class to a peak pose. There is so much to think about, and it makes me wonder how much other yoga teachers script and plan out their classes and how many of them are just eventually able to wing it — because right now, I’m tempted to write down everything I want to say and then just read it to the class. (I wouldn’t really do that! But the desire is there.) So I asked one of my teacher trainers about it, and he told me, “I never plan. Every class I teach is pulled straight from my heart.”

This turn of phrase stuck in my mind. We’ve all heard people say (and said ourselves) that they didn’t have time to prepare something and just pulled it out of their ass. But pulling something out of your heart — that’s not about lack of preparation or lack of care. It’s about having a strong foundation, being armed with knowledge, and then doing what’s needed and what’s honest in a moment, what you know to be right. And every class he teaches is like that — you’d never think he was unprepared or didn’t know what he was doing, but you always feel like it comes from a honest and necessary place.

My point is: A lot of times, we have plans. We have something we expect our lives to look like. We have workout plans, food plans, budget plans, retirement plans, five-year plans, ten-year plans, weekend plans, vacation plans… well, you get it. We’re planning. And by no means am I saying that planning is bad — not all of it. But you can plan all you want, and sometimes that’s just not what life had in mind for you. People turn out to be different than you thought they were. Dreams look different when they become reality. Sometimes, you have to make a new plan, or three. Life is about finding that balance so that when a plan goes awry, you can reset and pull something usable out of your heart.

Things don’t always work out how you thought they would. My life looks nothing like I imagined it would 10 years ago, or 5 years ago, or even last year. You come upon surprises. You reassess and realign. This is your Friday reminder that there’s a difference between being prepared and having a rigid, set-in-stone plan. Go for the former. In your work, in your relationships, in your life. Build a strong foundation, arm yourself with knowledge, and know that you’ll have what it takes, at any given time, to pull the right thing from your heart.

Tuesday Sweat: Lower Body Complex

Last week upper body; this week lower! Part two of Lina’s vacation (or anywhere) workout will get your quads, hamstrings, and glutes burning and shaking. Combine with last week’s Upper Body Complex for a longer full-body blast, or just do on alternating days for a quick sweat. Happy Tuesday!

30 seconds Jumping Jacks
30 seconds High Knees

    • 20 Alternating Reverse Lunges
    • 10 Jumping Switching Lunges
    • 20 Squats
    • 10 Squat Jumps
    • 20 Alternating Side Lunges
    • 20 Single Leg Deadlifts (20 each side)
    • 20 2nd Position Plie pulse 2 / Wrap 2

PERFORM ENTIRE CIRCUIT 3-5X
Finish with a full-out 30 second sprint (on the beach, into the water, whatever)

 

Find YOUR Strong.

This week, I came across this article, and it really got me thinking.

For those who don’t have time to read it (though I highly recommend), this woman talks about her weight fluctuating pretty drastically over the years, and how she discovered that being thin does not equal being happy. She talks about working her ass off, skipping meals, and running for hours each week to achieve a body that society would consider “thin” or “fit” or “hot” — and discovering that it didn’t make her happy. In fact, it made her miserable. The things she had to sacrifice to achieve that body — food that she enjoyed, free time that she wanted to spend with her kids, sleep that she desperately needed — turned out to be her happiness. When she decided to let all that go, she found what she truly needed to be happy.

A huge reason that Size Strong exists is to be a voice that dispels the widely held notion in society that we must look a certain way in order to be happy, or confident, or comfortable in our skin. If you have read my story, and Lina’s story, then you know that we each experienced our own struggles with this and eventually have found a peace with and in fitness. We each, in our own way, battled our desire to look a certain way and now chase our desire to feel a certain way. It’s liberating, and it’s brought us joy, which is why we write this blog — so that we can share it with you and anyone else who might want to listen. But as I read the above article, I started to think about the importance of clarifying what it means to be Size Strong.

Yes, I’ve found happiness in a love for fitness, and I’ve joyfully swapped my “goal weight” for the feeling of strength and power I get when successfully defending myself from a rear naked choke (which we did yesterday in krav, and I am covered in bruises). But my strong isn’t the only strong. It’s not Lina’s strong. and it isn’t YOUR strong. Your strong might be something totally different. It might be running a marathon, or running a mile. Or it might be learning to do something — anything! — new. Or it might be making the time to spend with the people you love, pursuing the career of your dreams, letting yourself simply be surprised by life sometimes.

Your strong, like your body, doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s. It doesn’t need to look like any specific thing at all. It just needs to be something that makes you feel amazing, that gives you joy, that polishes you until you shine. Go forth!

Tuesday Sweat: Upper Body Complex

In honor of Lina being off gallivanting in the sun and surf on her honeymoon while New York continues its love affair with starting every week with freezing rain, I’m sharing Part 1 of a quick, fun, do-anywhere workout that she put together for me to do last year while I was vacationing in Belize (look out for Part 2 next week). While this workout is certainly more fun done in a tropical setting (preferably next to an ocean you can cool off in immediately afterward), you can absolutely do it anywhere with enough space. Go forth and sweat!

UPPER BODY COMPLEX
30 Seconds Mountain Climbers
30 Seconds Donkey Kicks

    • 10 Push-Ups
    • 10 Plyometric Push-ups
    • 20 Arm Haulers
    • 10 Down Dog Push-Ups
    • 20 Tricep Dips
    • 20 Bicycle Crunches
    • 20 Single Leg Jack Knife Sit-ups

PERFORM ENTIRE CIRCUIT 3-5X
Finish with a full-out 30 second sprint (on the beach, into the water, high knees, whatever).

4 Numbers that Really Don’t Matter. At All.

We live in a society that’s run by numbers. Think about it — from birth, we are measured, ranked, and added to statistics. As babies, we are part of a designated percentile for height and weight. We’re given milestones we’re meant to have reached by certain points in order to be considered “normal”. In high school, we get defined by our GPAs, our class rank, our SAT scores. As we move into adulthood, the numbers don’t stop — and an alarming number of them have to do with our health (and happiness). But they shouldn’t! I present to you: the numbers that I’m done caring about, for good.

1. My age.
Parents are told their babies need to be walking/talking/peeing on their own by X number of months; then, those babies grow up and think they need to be engaged/married/homeowners/parents by a certain age. For me, the pressure is more related to my career and what I feel like society deems “being a grown up.” I sometimes feel like a married woman of nearly 32 should have neatly tailored pants and a fridge full of organic vegetables and grass-fed meats, but what I actually have is leggings covered in photos of Benedict Cumberbatch and a fridge full of… nothing, because I don’t like to cook. It’s taken a long time, but I’ve finally learned to let these expectations and pressures go. I don’t have to cook or shop at Ann Taylor to be good at being 32. We don’t have to be any specific thing by any specific age, as long as we are honoring who we are and pursuing what we love.

Remember that scene in Reality Bites where Winona Ryder says, “I always thought I would be somebody by the age of 23,” and Ethan Hawke tells her, “The only thing you have to be by the age of 23 is yourself.”? This is true (corny, but TRUE), no matter what your age.

2. My weight.
Lina wrote about this a few months back, but it’s worth reiterating. Your weight is a number that should not (and does not) reflect your health, your happiness, or your worth. Your weight doesn’t tell you how strong you are. It doesn’t recognize what you are capable of, or how healthy your heart is, or how happy you are. So don’t give it a power it doesn’t deserve.

3. My dress size.
I remember when I used to read the Sweet Valley High series, and they always made a big deal about how Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield were a “perfect size 6.” For my pre-teen brain, that was powerful stuff — I knew that I, too, wanted to grow up to be a perfect size 6, or whatever size would be considered perfect at the time. (What is it now, like a -1?)

But as it turns out, sizes are RIDICULOUS. Sure, it helps to have a general idea of size when doing important things like online shopping, but stores and labels have taken to defining sizes so liberally that it’s insane to attach any meaning to them. Thanks to “vanity sizing”, I have clothes that are a size 2 and clothes that are a size 8. I have smalls, mediums, and larges. It’s all very confusing, and it’s all to be ignored. Just like your weight, your dress size/jean size/Benedict-Cumberbatch-leggings size doesn’t define you or determine your worth. I no longer want to be a perfect size 6 or even know what that means — I just want to be a size STRONG. 😉

4. Calories.
I understand the appeal of numbers; really, I do. There’s something calming, familiar, and gratifying about being able to boil it all down to numbers, to let your calories out be greater than your calories in and then boom! All your goals achieved. But as many of us know from experience, that’s not really how it works. Not all calories are created equally. 300 calories of avocado is not the same as 300 calories of Cheetos. Monitoring every bite you take and every step you take can be exhausting, discouraging, and ultimately unrewarding. Pick your food for its flavor, its nourishment, its deliciousness. Pick your workouts for how much fun they are, how strong they make you feel, how much you like to sweat. Leave the numbers out of it.