Stand your ground

I’ve been keeping a low profile online and enjoying the spoils of life in 3D…which are pretty limited in the age of COVID-19. But, that’s what makes them all the more sweet — to me anyway.

It’s the little things, like going for a hike (with a mask on), getting coffee (with a mask on), and maintaining a regular sleep and self-care routine that makes times like these more manageable. I’ve always been a “little things” kind of person.

So, I try not to focus too much on what I can’t do but rather on all that I can.

These past few months have been spent, writing, working, getting back to work, finishing my MPH :), working out, doing yoga and really cultivating my daily practice.

I have a lot of big things in the works. All big things are comprised of smaller things and I’ve been putting both the micro and the macro into perspective.

I wanted to share some insight with you into protecting your beautiful life energy as you evolve on your personal journey.

Recently I was speaking with a colleague of mine, who has been in the fitness industry about as long as I’ve been alive, and we were talking about our plans and dreams as they relate to our careers, and our lives as a whole.

Upon pleasantly chatting about what we envisioned for ourselves and our businesses we came to the blissful realization that THERE IS ROOM FOR EVERYONE TO SUCCEED! Not just in an oversaturated industry like fitness, but in all other endeavors as well.

In today’s culture there seems to be this scarcity mindset, i.e. If someone else is succeeding or doing what I want to be doing or what I am doing, it takes away from me.

That deeply imbedded lie must be weeded out of all of our mental gardens.

Be weary of that sneaky devil that stealthily coils around the roots and stems of the fruit of your labor.

Be weary of foes in the guise of friends who make off-handed asinine remarks about your pursuits. Pay attention to those who you make excuses for, you know the ones that sprinkle their compliments with jabs.

Stand your ground against those who doubt you or tear you down or have a mindset of scarcity and an “I own this idea/field or I did it first” mentality.

While it’s easy, as the positive person that you are, to write these remarks off as a misrepresentation or one-off mistake. Remember, not everyone has curated their mental gardens as you have. Not everyone has pruned and refined their flora in the same mindful manner.

Ahimsa is a part of the first eight limbs of yoga, one of the “yamas,” and it means non-violence towards oneself and others.

Violence, especially in this context, has many meanings. It can be perpetrated in acts, words, or intentions. And while giving loving kindness to others is always the answer… it doesn’t have to be at the price of accepting less from others.

Although you are in competition with no one, you cannot control who chooses to position themselves against you.

Stand your ground.

When I say stand your ground I mean keep your feet in place (ground through mountain pose or perhaps find your center in tree) and keep watering your flowers. Grow your garden. Don’t waste time fertilizing defunct soil.

Sometimes standing your ground means letting go, letting go of mindsets, people, places, dreams that no longer serve you. This could be a transition, a step back— from social media, from reading or watching certain content online or engaging with certain individuals in your personal life.

Protect your energy. I live and love by that phrase.

Send those you seek to distance yourself from prayers, good vibes, and positive thoughts because you know better than anyone how much they need it. I think it’s safe to say we have been there at some point or another.

So, till your soil, sing to your plants, and stand your ground. Remember everyone is on their own journey. It’s not your job to dissect someone’s subconscious or make excuses for their behavior.

Set healthy boundaries, focus your energy on what you CAN control— you!

Be exemplar of a person who stands her ground in her beautifully bloomed garden, while also rooting for others!

Keep your feet in the dirt, your attention on your own begonias, and root to rise :)!

Be well my friends xx.

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Black Lives Matter

This blog post is long overdue.

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I haven’t been on social media much so my online support for this movement has been lacking recently. However, in past blog posts I have addressed the issue of the lack of representation of POC and the LGBTQ community in the fitness industry.

In the wake of George Floyd’s killing I spent a lot of time on Instagram absorbing valuable information and passing along the tools that I’ve found useful to support the Black Lives Matter movement. I have also taken it upon myself to continue to read, watch, and listen to stories of black, brown, and other people of color.

I have the privilege, like many of you do, to look away, to log-off, to not expose myself to the sights and sounds of the unsavory truth. But I have been making a conscious effort, behind the scenes, to actively engage in witnessing and understanding these treacherous realities.

Social media can sometimes be burdensome and triggering to me in ways that traditional informative outlets such as books and articles are not. I have chosen to distance myself from certain forms of SM, but make no mistake, I have not been shying away from acknowledging what has been happening in America.

In recent weeks, I’ve been voicing my support for the BLM movement locally and nationally by signing petitions, engaging in uncomfortable conversations, and showing up in hometown politics.

I openly condemn the systemic oppression and abuse that POC face and the broken institutions that perpetuate it. I consider myself an ally to the movement and strive to learn how I can use my voice to prop others up.

I strive to do my part and better understand what being an ally to the movement actually entails. I appreciate constructive feedback and want to use even the smallest platform that I may have to stand up for civil rights, for human rights.

Admitting, no matter how uncomfortable, that an issue actually exists is the first step.

Addressing the issue by learning as much as you can about it and how it impacts those around you and the system in which it exists is the next step.

Taking action against these injustices is the final step, which is perpetual and never ending.

Our voices are powerful. Your voice is powerful.

Our votes are powerful. Your vote is powerful.

So, I urge you to recognize the power that you have and understand that it may be at the expense of someone else’s power. It is time to make that right.

If not now, when?

If not you, then who?

As a poet myself, I’ve always admired Maya Angelou. She is an incredible wordsmith and has too many compelling and utterly all-consuming poems to name. I highly recommend that you to check them out.

Reading her poem, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in a college course on African American literature was an eye-opener for me.

I encourage you to never stop learning about the things that you do not understand. Never pretend that someone else’s suffering doesn’t exist, or turn a blind eye to it because it’s an inconvenient truth for you.

Let’s all be introspective. Let’s listen, and listen really well, before we speak up. Let’s not be afraid to offend those who are ignorant to the truth or to make “too loud” of a statement in the name of a movement we know in our hearts to be fundamentally right.

Let us all strive to be actively anti-racist.

Here is a list of a few resources to support your knowledge of BLM and why it’s an important movement:

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/#petitions

https://blacklivesmatter.com/resources/

How White People Can Support the Movement for Black Lives

Don’t let these three links be the end of your education on the BLM movement. Speak to POC, LISTEN TO THEM, and do YOUR part.

Be well xx.

How I spent quarantine

Where do I begin?

Do I start with the curated social media version of how I want the world to view my time spent in quarantine, or do I give you the outline to you straight up?

My blog is a space where I feel free to share content that is personal to me. That being said, it’s going to be the latter.

I could just tell you that I spent quarantine, meditating, getting my thesis done early, writing, working out hard etc. But that’s only partly the story. The part that’s sugar-coated and omits key tenants of my reality.

I strived as best I could to fulfill personal goals of mine during this quarantine and some I accomplished and some I failed at.

I failed at keeping up an insanely strenuous workout routine. But that led me to succeed at creating a new manageable one and finding a completely new style of working out, which was just what I needed.

I failed at painting any master pieces, but I certainly painted!

I failed at keeping it together all the time.

I failed at spending every second of my spare time nurturing my nieces and nephew who I am around daily, but I certainly did take them on many adventures.

I failed at spending every second of free time with my cat.

I failed at cleaning everything, but I did organize my clothes and keep my space clean (which I usually do, but since these times were stressful I take this as a win).

I failed at keeping up with my blog and my social media accounts.

I failed at having a perfect meditation practice….

You get the point.

It felt really good to make a list of these things and HERE IS WHY…

I HAVE SUCCEEDED AT BREAKING FREE FROM THE FEAR OF FAILING.

I had done this to the most extreme degree once before in my life, and it felt like the whole world came crashing down.

But it was like something had just released the pressure valve on my being and I felt completely bewildered because my mind was clear and tornado like all at once.

It felt like I was walking on molten lava and one false move could have me tumbling into a pit of…well let’s see now, let’s dip a toe in…oh wait it’s just my living room carpet, and I’ve realized I’m standing on my couch as a kid laughing at the prospect of some imaginary lava that has since become my fear of failure in adulthood.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I used to catastrophized the smallest of things because I was under the impression that there was only a very narrow pathway labeled “right way.” And I was convinced that all the societal norms we are taught as children and berated with as adults were those that were “right.” This black and white thinking led me to the lava and when I finally dove in…the world was in techno color.

I have to say, that brisk dip in some imaginary lava a few years ago really prepared me for the mental strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It wasn’t failure itself that ever stopped me from doing or being anything…it was the fear that was rooted in it.

I recently watched a YT video on dealing with negative emotions and the woman speaking mentioned the Buddhist parable of having tea with Mara, a demon hell bent on wreaking havoc for Buddha as he taught in a forest. I’m not familiar with this parable, the only knowledge I have of it is what was paraphrased in this video.

The general premise of this story is that once Buddha invited Mara out of the shadows, to have tea with his other students, he lost his power as a fearful entity lurking in the bushes.

In this same way, fear of failing lost it’s control over me once I realized that failure is a perspective and it’s not a definitive label (I mean, unless you’re in school but that’s a whole other topic).

And so I gave myself some exposure therapy if you will and tried at many things where failure seemed inevitable. But to my surprise, I found peace. I let the polarization of “success” and “failure” as they are portrayed in popular culture evaporate from my mental filing cabinet.

Picture the episode of Spongebob where you see inside of his brain as he’s training to be a fancy waiter and all the little Spongebob’s inside his head shred every bit of information that isn’t relevant to this task “DELETE, DELETE, DELETE”). In a way, I tried with my idea of failure.

And so, having been through that experience in my life I didn’t look at quarantine as something I needed to succeed at. I new better. I new from trial and error, success and failure.

I saw it as an opportunity to peacefully abide with myself in a time of anything but peace. And that, that I did.

I don’t know if you’d call that success, I just call it living.

And so, I existed. I survived, feeling good and feeling at peace with myself–for the most part.

I stopped scrolling through skewed contrived “hustle culture” content on IG.

And in times where I felt negative emotions come over me like waves growling up from the depths of the sea I didn’t try to shut them down with toxic positivity. I let them come.

I had tea, and crumpets, and then some more tea with them…and then they were on their way.

Be well. xx.

My hair history and natural hair care routine

It’s been about a year since I’ve done anything to my hair color-wise and I wanted to give an update on the changes I’ve noticed.

2018, 2019, and 2020

History

For some background, I’ve always had thick relatively long hair and as a kid I used to hate it! I tend to get dry skin/ hair very easily; compound that with dense, thickness and I noticed that my hair was just so poofy and much more unruly than a lot of my friends silky shiny hair.

But now, I know how to treat my hair and I truly love and appreciate it for all it’s volume and “poofiness” even when it gets a little too wild.

Full disclosure, I’ve never had a problem with growing my hair, it grows like a weed. But, the real issues with my hair started once I dyed it.

I mean, I’ve had every hair color under the sun… my natural hair color is a light brown with auburn undertones that is easily highlighted in the sun. It’s gotten a little more brown as I’ve gotten older (I discovered this once I grew it out).

From middle school to high school is when I went through most of the colors of the rainbow. I settled on blonde in my second year of college and kept getting lighter and lighter.

I was never consistent with coloring my hair so it did have periods where it could breath and grow out.

I’ve always liked the ashy blonde color that my older sister is naturally blessed with and since we look similar I knew it would match my features considering we are both fair (black hair totally washed me out).

I’ve always been very specific about the type of blonde I wanted my hair to be. I always strived for cool with brass being the enemy.

Luckily, I was blessed with an amazing hair stylist and colorist who helped me achieved my dream platinum blonde color.

From the Spring – Fall of 2018 after a series of highlights I had the light blonde color I’ve always loved! However, I knew it was just going to be short term, physically (hair health wise) and financially (it’s a ton of money) I had already accepted it wasn’t sustainable.

Over time, my hair felt like hay. It was always so dry and eventually it began to break even though I never used heat on it.

Luckily my brown roots grew in quickly and I decided that was it- it was time to embrace my natural color!

The last time I got my hair truly highlighted was in November of 2018 and by May of 2019 it had grown out substantially but I went to get a few highlights to conceal the line of demarcation that growing out your hair gifts you with.

So, by that account it has been a year since I’ve done anything to my hair color. And boy, I’ve thought about getting highlights, dyeing it all one color closer to my natural color…But I’m SO glad I never went through with it.

Even with all this growing-out the ends which the damage was already done to bothered me to the point where I decided to cut my own hair in November of 2019. It was drastic and I don’t recommend it. But I loved the outcome and I knew it wouldn’t be that big of a shock to my system because I’ve cut my hair short by myself before.

I did the ol’ pig tail method and chopped off about six inches worth of hair on each side.

Also, I did a “dry cut” which means there was no water to make my hair supple. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos (first issue right there) and believed this was healthier for my ends, maybe it was I don’t really know.

My hair is wavy but not curly, and supposedly this technique is ideal for curly-haired people.

This dry method made it exceedingly difficult to cut evenly and I could not cut my hair all the way through in one fell swoop like the YouTubers I watched did, given its density.

The initial cut was pretty wonky, but I cleaned it up nicely and all things aside I’m so glad that I did it.

I would say it grew about 5-6 inches since November.

(Disclaimer: I recommend getting your hair professionally cut and not doing it at-home) I used professional cutting sheers and have cut my hair a few times before so I felt comfortable doing so.

Since November my hair has grown a considerable amount. The texture is unbelievable and I can say with 100% confidence that I wouldn’t trade any hair color for the healthy hair I have now that is uniquely my own.

There are a lot of misconceptions that you have to use all these products to have nice healthy looking hair, but I found the less products I used the BETTER my hair has looked.

My natural haircare routine

1. I practically never use heat on my hair.

In the past year I’ve maybe blow-dried or straightened my hair 2-4 times. Two of those times were when I blow-dried and straightened it to make sure it was relatively even after my at-home cut (it wasn’t).

2. I wash my hair only when it gets greasy.

Washing it only when necessary amounts to about once a week for me. If it gets greasy or dirty before then, I will give it a shampoo and then leave in a coconut oil mask for a day before giving myself a nice full hair wash complete with conditioner and spritz of leave-in conditioner.

Many people believe this is drastic or unmanageable. But for me, it works. My hair is barely greasy by the 7th day because of how naturally dry it is.

If I go swimming, anywhere pool, ocean etc., I wash my hair immediately after.

3. I use an all natural shampoo.

This may not work for everyone because some people need those detergent-like ingredients to lather up and break apart grease. All-natural products tend to have low-no lather capabilities but are free from harsh chemicals like sulfates and parabens. I also try to get everything fragrance-free because companies do not have to divulge the chemical compounds that make up their fragrances due to a loop hole involving trademarking, so to me it’s counter productive to get something sans parabens/sulfates if it’s fragranced.

After shampooing sometimes I’ll spritz a little leave-in conditioner.

I almost forgot– I also use a leave-in keratin treatment in the shower every time I wash my hair, after the shampoo and before the conditioner.

4. I sleep on a silk/satin pillowcase.

It’s so soft and it’s supposed to prevent hair breakage.

I pull my hair back before bed in a low side pony/bun or braid to prevent my hair from getting all tangled.

5. I brush my hair with a wet brush and always from the bottom.

These brushes are amazing! I need a lot of bristles so I use a special kind that has the extra support for thick hair.

6. I eat a well-balanced diet full of nutritious food that helps my body function properly.

Enough said, no?

I do also use supplements such as a multi-vitamin and biotin on occasion.

7. I stay hydrated.

I love water and tend to get headaches if I don’t drink enough. I’m also really into tea and water dense fruits and veggies as snacks. It’s been about a year since I’ve stopped drinking caffeinated coffee (I think I’ll do a blog post on this) which has allowed me to get my fill of hydrating drinks.

8. I recognize that at the end of the day, it’s just hair.

I used to be really obsessed with “beautification” and constant never-ending self-improvement to reach this ideal version of myself that wasn’t even actually me, or my ideal.

I realized that a lot of the beauty standards women face are manufactured by industries that are dedicated to selling us products we believe we need to feel beautiful and worthy.

I stopped fixating on my looks and persona so much and when I check in with myself and my hair I am proud because I realized I am HEALTHY and HAPPY which is what really makes me feel beautiful.

Thanks for reading.

Be well!

Peace and acceptance

These past few weeks have been an adjustment. But, I’ve honestly been enjoying this time of quiet and isolation. I have been appreciating the chance to reflect and relax in a way that it’s hard to do when participating in all the comings and goings of our fast-paced world.

Of course quarantine has been difficult.

But, as part of my journey to connect with my higher self and nature I have been actively seeking non-judgement and acceptance in my daily life.

It’s not something that comes naturally to me.

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I am very analytical and, as a writer, I like to attach words to things, to label, to identify, to categorize– it’s in my nature.

It’s interesting to me that, the second I acknowledge that about myself, and stop trying to fight against it I am able to accept it how it is. I can accept and love that about myself. And this brings me peace.

I have drawn awareness to something– my judgment mind, and instead of trying to change it, fight against it, or berrade it, I simply acknowledge it how it is and somehow it no longer holds my peace captive.

It’s not our shortcomings or our humanness that keep us from cultivating peace, it’s not even our judgement mind, it is our propensity to fight against what is, to shift reality in our minds, to plan a course of action, to try to alter what is instead of accepting it.

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The second we sit with our breath and are mindful of the present moment and look at our thoughts from a distance as they float through our brains–the moment we simply allow what IS to BE, that need to control dissipates and a feeling of freedom completely encasultates our being.

Maybe I’ve been reading too much on the Buddhist approach to meditation (that’s a joke– you can never read too much)– but this knowledge is empowering!

I’m not an expert by any means.

In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m quite bad at meditation. But, I’m getting better. And just because I’m not “perfect” at sitting still or emptying my ming and being connected to my breath doesn’t mean the endeavor has no worth.

In fact, that is precisely why it does.

I’ve had the chance to finish quite a few books throughout this quarantine, which I am exceedingly grateful for and happy about.

In the book I’m currently reading, the author, Sakyong Mipham, explains meditation in such a way that it seems to be our natural inclination and that we all possess the ability to be aware innately, in fact he makes the reader feel as though that is the natural state of our being. But, we’ve been separated from this by trying, doing, and living. And that is inevitable, of course.

“We’re training in awareness of who we are as human beings. We’re training in being undistracted and focused. We’re training in being fully present for our lives.” – Sakyong Mipham

In my study of meditation, I’ve learned about peaceful abiding and how “thinking” can get in the way, or rather how thoughts are a natural opposition to peaceful abiding.

I’m still learning. I don’t know much, but I’ve been practicing stillness and breathing, which seem fundamental but are actually quite an exquisitely elusive art to master.

Other rituals that have helped me stay peaceful and aware in this time of isolation have been avoiding social media, journaling daily, using entertainment media wisely, and sticking to a sleep schedule.

Photo by Alina Vilchenko on Pexels.com

I’ve also taken this time to shift away from my traditional strength training regime and give my body a rest. I do this every so often and it works wonders on my body and mind.

Lately I’ve been sticking to yoga, runs, and sprinkling in the occasional resistance session (because I genuinely enjoy this type of exercise).

But, I’ve been practicing nourishing movement in all of these methods of training. Sometimes in my yoga flow, or on my run the sudden urge to spin, sing, dance, or even cry, sometimes laugh– and so I do.

I make up my own moves, and do what feels right and nourishing for my body in that moment.

There is no real structure to this, which is part of what makes it so freeing and nourishing to the body and mind.

For instance, the other afternoon I was working out on my picnic table in my backyard, as I typically do. I was wearing a vibrant blood-red sweater and saw a Cardinal fly by. It was so beautiful, and I felt a kinship with this bird due to our shared environment and coloring (his feathers and my sweater) and so, I swooped my arms down and out and shifted my weight from one leg to the other to mimic his aerodynamic method of movement.

Now keep in mind, there’s no exercise or yoga pose (that I’m aware of) that has you swoop like the beautiful bird you just saw fly by.

It was simply a movement I made up in the moment. It probably looked silly to any outsider watching (as do my random spurts of dancing I’m sure do to onlookers). It wasn’t perfect and probably not especially graceful.

But I wasn’t trying to perfectly mimic the physics of flying. I was moving in a way that allowed me to connect with myself on a spiritual level. I let my body guide me.

Photo by Tina Nord on Pexels.com

Usually in exercise we tell our bodies what to do. That is part of the discipline and allure of having a structured workout program.

Lately, however, I’ve been focusing on a different discipline: letting my being lead me in its infinite wisdom and trusting in the instinctive movements that feed me— mind, body, and soul.

Thanks for reading.

Be well and know that you are loved and deserving of peace.

Namaste.

xx

Coping in a crisis

These are truly unprecedented times (sound familiar? probably because it’s how every corporation you’ve ever given your email to has started their email to you about this same topic). But you know what they say about cliches? They are repeatedly used because they are indubitably applicable.

I think it’s fairly safe to say that the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the societal and structural responses that have come along with this pandemic have impacted almost everyone.

The gym that I work at has closed. There have been tens of thousands of applications for unemployment in my state of CT, in just the past few days.

Shopping centers a bare, public and private establishments are shutting down.

Life as I knew it has changed dramatically.

But of course I feel these minuscule changes to my daily life are not merely even a drop in the bucket compared to the larger scale crises happening all around me.

I am grateful for so many things in this moment. Studying public health has taught me not to take outbreaks, epidemics, pandemics etc. lightly. So, a few weeks ago I started to take precautions and anticipating schedule changes.

This was around the time that everyone was a bit skeptical of just how severe the spread of COVID-19 actually is, or was going to be. Not that I saw any of this coming, but I definitely DID heed the warnings from experts within the fields of public health and medicine.

I don’t want to drone on about how my life has changed, because I have it pretty good. I also don’t want to pretend I can even begin to imagine how daily life will continue to be impacted by the spread of this virus. I can’t describe how others may be experiencing this same event.

However, I DO want to extend my condolences and sympathies to all the people of the world in this time of hardship.

I don’t have a cure-all for anxiety about the drastic alterations that have been taking place. But, I wanted to share how I have, personally, been coping with the changes in my daily life.

For starters, I have made myself a strict schedule. I write time frames where I will be doing even simple things like showering or preparing for the day and household chores. I wake up and go to bed at roughly the same time every night and stick to my usual rituals.

I begin every morning with a workout, because that is what I am used to. Of course I don’t have a wide variety of equipment but it actually doesn’t bother me all that much. I’ve been trying to expand my horizons and get back into at-home workouts anyway.

I schedule when I will reach out to friends, when I will journal, my meals, etc. I have time allotted for work, school, and my blog. Even though I am spending nearly all of my time in my house I am treating sticking to my schedule as though it were my full-time job. Because, for now, it is!

I have time sectioned out for keeping up with the news. I plan to stay informed. But, I do not want to be checking the news at all times of the day as I do not feel it is good for my mental health.

I’m sure the world as we knew it will never be the same. Because, with each hardship and challenge that we face, we learn and we grow. We know this is true on an individual level.

Look at your own life for example, and think of a time that you thought was the worst in your life. Then recall how that experience changed you and shaped you.

Now imagine that happening, collectively, to every person and every society on the planet. Try to envision how that may shape the world as a whole.

In the toughest of times we discover our immense capacity for resilience. This resilience calls on the darkest, most desolate parts of ourselves to illuminate so that we may emerge from catastrophe with a deeper sense of gratitude, with a more intense urgency to love, and a more profound understanding of what it means to be human.

I’m not trying to diminish the suffering of others, or to say that this is all part of some larger plan or greater good.

I’m simply suggesting that maybe, just maybe, we can and we will manage to get through this. And when we do, we will have, at the very least, not just learned, but actually understood what it means to be human. Thus calling on societal leaders to prioritize humanity, and the Earth on which it exists—above all else.

And that is the blog for today folks. Amen.

Be well xx.

Challenge yourself

I’ve always been a big fan of challenging myself, in fitness, academics, and life.

In recent years, however I’ve learned to reign that in and not get too caught up in constantly striving to be “better” than yesterday. But really, where is the fun in that?

Kidding, I’m all about self-acceptance. But, I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t LOVE a challenge.

At the end of 2019 I put together a 7-week challenge for myself where I worked out, hard, 5 x a week and ate WELL. I made sure to get enough protein but I didn’t focus on cutting anything out. For me, it’s about eating whole foods the majority of the time. That’s simply my lifestyle.

However, if you don’t have a program for your workouts or your diet, you have no way of tracking your progress. And for the sake of this self-challenge, I wanted to track my progress. So I made a detailed workout program for myself (as I always do) and loosely tracked my protein intake.

I really enjoy looking at sculpting my physique with training and diet as my own personal science experiment, it’s fun for me. This type of commitment and dedication to a goal inspires me to push through days where I’m feeling unmotivated and directionless. I LOVE the shift in mindset that challenges and regimented training delivers, above all else.

At the end of the 7-weeks I felt GREAT! Since I incorporated small increments of cardio (about 10-15mins) a couple times a week I felt leaner and in better shape.

To be honest, I loved the buzz that I get from setting a goal for myself and then getting after it! This challenge made me think…THINK about MAYBE competing again sometime in the future.

Ultimately, I decided that I feel best when I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone–and not to extremes. Competing is by all measures an extreme. And I’m really happy with simply getting out of my comfort zone.

I knew that I wanted to start another challenge, which was tailored to my goals and needs. I just wasn’t sure when, or how.

This week I came across the #75hard challenge which originated from Andy Frisella’s desire to cultivate mental toughness. I found this great article on medium that breaks it down, check it out. There is a podcast that goes with Frisella’s challenge which I’ll link here.

Every year I come across a lot of challenges as Spring nears. I enjoy this renewed energy that we get, collectively, as new seasons approach.

The #75hard challenge involves working out 2x per day, reading at least 10 pages of self-help content daily, following a diet with 0 cheat meals, drinking a gallon of water a day, and taking a progress picture every day.

To be clear, I will not be doing this challenge. I will be making my own. But, I thought the concept behind it was awesome.

Challenges get a lot of flak for being unsustainable. What people don’t realize is, of course they’re unsustainable–they’re CHALLENGES so inherently they are going to be difficult and require you to push through to see a desired end-result.

That being said, challenges are meant to inspire you to bring some of that UMPH back into your daily routine. They’re meant to show you what you’re made of and just how much you are truly capable of doing. Of course we cannot sustain this type of energy year-round.

But take the 75hard challenge for instance, maybe you come out and now working out 1 x per day doesn’t feel as hard. Drinking half a gallon of water is easy peasy, tracking progress with photos becomes second nature, and reading self-help content regularly becomes one of your favorite hobbies.

You’re not sustaining the intensity you approached the 75-day commitment with. But, you are taking what you’ve learned and the new habits you’ve made and improving yourself long-term.

Behavioral adaptations that come from challenges SHOULD BE sustainable. Whereas challenges themselves are not.

Of course it’s not sustainable to go 75 days without a single “cheat meal” (I don’t use that terminology) and honestly, working out 2 x day can be dangerous. But hey, that’s why you have to know yourself and DO YOUR RESEARCH. You should also hire a coach, it’s more than worth it.

So, I implore you to take inspiration from challenges. That doesn’t mean blindly follow them because they seem life-altering. When you’re ready to make changes and see results, be smart about it. There are no quick fixes. Research, use your intuition and common sense. Get creative with it!!! Make your own.

Follow mine 🙂 or simply follow along for inspiration! I will be coming up with a challenge for MYSELF. Be weary that this is tailored to ME where I’m at and for where I’m going.

In my next post I will be breaking down my own challenge, and I’ll be documenting my progress throughout.

Keep up with me and absorb my UMPH through osmosis by simply witnessing the BUZZ that hums through my bones and the FIRE that lights up my eyes when the horn goes off, the race begins and its KRIS vs KRIS.

Thanks for reading xx.

How I’m training for flexibility

My cat, Abby, stole the show.

This year I am going to be working on getting more flexible.

I’ve always been a little bit of an amateur acrobat but in recent months I’ve experienced some back pain. So, I’m going to be focusing on being gentle with myself.

My flexibility challenge is NOT going to be about how many cool positions I can contort my body into. Although, I’d really like to be able to do splits, or at least touch my toes without pain.

Many people are surprised to learn that this simple move pains me. I’ve always had extreme tightness in my hamstrings.

But, hopefully, that’s all about to change!

1. I’m going to focus on breathing

I’ll be breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth consciously and continuously, as we can sometimes forget in the midst of training. I’m also going to incorporate different styles of breath used in yoga. I probably won’t do this with intense stretches, but with light stretches or basic yoga poses I will practice different breathing techniques. One that I particularly enjoy is Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, which involves alternating breath from one nostril to the other. This style of breathing can help create awareness in the body and release built up tension.

2. I’m going to take is slow

I have to admit, I like to push myself. It’s in my DNA, it’s part of who I am. But, in recent years I’ve learned that it’s okay NOT to squeeze out that extra mile or reach for that extra inch…or go from a handstand into a backbend. I’m going to push myself in a different way this time. I’m going to push myself to SHOW UP. After each workout I’ll cycle through a stretch routine, nice and slowly.

3. I am going to be consistent

Seriously, consistency makes the dream work (or is that teamwork? really, it’s both). I have even toyed with the idea of making one of my training days solely dedicated to stretching, foam rolling, and recovery type exercises. I’ll keep you posted on that. But for right now, I will be stretching consistently after every workout. Notice how I said AFTER and not BEFORE. Stretching can create tiny tears in your muscles that will cause more stress on your body throughout your workout. OR, you can always warm up before you stretch and then workout, if you prefer to feel especially loose pre-workout.

4. I’m going to hold my stretches for 30-60 seconds

Typically, stretches should be held anywhere from 30-60 seconds. According to the Mayo Clinic, you should never bounce. I plan to stretch all of my major muscle groups AND foam roll. I wrote an article on foam rolling tips and its benefits that you can check out here. The foam roller is an awfully under-utilized tool for decreasing muscle soreness.

5. I am going to be dynamic

Dynamic stretching involves movement. I plan to bring movement to my stretches by performing lunge twists, butterflies, and hip circles. I already do a lot of dynamic upper body stretches that I plan to keep up with as well, arm circles are my favorite. For more info about dynamic stretching checkout this Healthline article.

Thanks for reading xx. Be well–and limber!

The fitness industry: the good, the bad, and the controversy

I am a huge advocate for ALL people feeling confident and happy in their bodies no matter what their BMI is or what society says about how they look.

I follow many progressive writers and activists closely and I genuinely enjoy the messages that they send to the public about loving yourself and valuing who you are as a person, beyond what you look like.

The New Year brings about a lot of talk of people wanting to change the way that they look.

We are constantly being bombarded with adds for ‘skinny’ teas, gym memberships, and numerous gadgets and gizmos to help ‘shed that stubborn fat and get bikini season ready.’

I cringe at many of those tag lines, not just as a personal trainer, health advocate, and writer but as an educated woman who believes that these adds are generally misleading and in some cases HARMFUL to the MENTAL and PHYSICAL HEALTH of the women they intend to target.

That’s not to say men are not being berated by the fitness industry or harmful messaging. But, generally, I would say women tend to be the primary market for degrading rhetoric in the guise of ‘fitspo.’

So let’s get to the meat of this post, the good, the bad, and the controversy. I’m going to go backwards, starting with what the industry is notorious for.

The controversy

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The fitness industry as a whole is no stranger to controversy.

It’s got components of hardcore propaganda from all angles: the beauty industry, political landscape, and ‘health’-centric pseudo-science .

It’s kind of like peanut butter, you either LOVE it or you HATE it, for the most part. Of course there is a large portion of the populaton who is generally indifferent to the fitness industry.

But, I would argue that no matter what your stance is you are, unequivocally, impacted by the fitness or wellness industry whether or not you love it, hate it, or don’t really even know what it is.

Some ways that the fitness industry seeps into everyday life for the average person can be identified in, actors chosen to play our favorite roles in blockbuster films, No Sugar/No Trans Fat, Low-Cal food packaging, ‘Skinny’ menu options, and internet ads for ‘super supplements.’

Some may say that there is such a stark contrast between real-life and this dominant industry that you either see yourself represented in the fitness world, or you don’t.

While I think that statement is a bit of an oversimplification, it does capture the essence of controversy in the fitness world quite fully.

Not because of the undeniable lack of inclusion in the industry, I’ll get to that in the next section, but because of the way the fitness industry makes people feel like you’re either IN or you’re OUT.

This all-or-nothing approach to training, nutrition, and general health is not beneficial, for anyone.

Not even the sales managers of big box gyms who try to make you think that it’s either all-or-nothing when it comes to getting in shape can successfully produce real, long-lasting results with this mentality even if they do manage to sell it short-term.

The bad

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Hardcore industry advocates might say that the health, beauty, and fashion industries have made an attempt to include more diverse models in terms of age, race, gender, size, sexual orientation, and religion.

Those who are industry critics might say: So what? So what that -INSERT swimsuit brand here- includes women sizes 0-4 in adverts instead of only 00 sized women? Who does that help? Where is the non-cisgender representation? Where is the ethnic diversity?

And those whose stance is somewhere in the middle may say, you’re right, to both of these arguments.

This is the crux of the fitness-world’s downfalls, the lack of inclusion and lack of effort to understand others.

It goes beyond controversy and is, to put it simply, ‘the bad’ of the fitness industry.

Calling the lack of inclusion in the fitness world a ‘controversy’ would not only be belittling to those who are oppressed and discriminated against, it would also be flat out incorrect.

It’s a plain fact that the fitness industry is not nearly as inclusive as it should be.

There must be more representation in the industry, point blank. Period.

CPTs, group fitness instructors, gym-goers, any of us who identify as part of the industry in any way at all must demand better.

And if we don’t know how, we need to ask. How can we, how can I, be a better advocate for those who are NOT represented in this industry?

I’d like to take this opportunity to ask you, as a reader, to offer up some advice below to myself and other people who are associated with the industry because of our job or interests.

How can we be allies? How can we help?

I mentioned the beauty and fashion industries before because they are enveloped by the fitness world, but for the purpose of this post I will not be delving into the good, the bad, and the controversy involved in these industries.

That’s a whole different beast.

The other layers of controversy in the fitness world come from the belief that the fitness industry is, at its core, superficial and at BEST promotes a vapid worldview and at WORST causes eating disorders.

There are definitely people and businesses out there who self-identify as the pinnacle example of health and wellness but have a nefarious impact on unsuspecting fitness newbies or maybe even experienced but vulnerable health-nuts that they make their mark.

The good

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Then there are trainers and health writers, like myself, who will try to be as transparent with you as we can be and tell you, we are not perfect.

Heck, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am still learning. I will always be learning. The day that I say, “I know everything” will never come.

And to those of you who do say that, I hope you have someone there to tell you, “You know nothing John Snow” (Ygritte voice).

But, I want to share what I am confident that I do have a good grasp on regarding developing a mindset that perpetuates healthful habits via my tried-and-true methods.

The reason why I started personal training, pursuing a master’s in public health, and why I entered the fields of health journalism, and health writing is because it has always been a passion of mine to LEARN about these topics.

Every time I meet with a client or a gym newbie I am reminded why I do what I do.

I train, I coach, and I write because I want to help people understand that living a healthy life starts and ends with habits and behaviors.

Health is a mindset. Everything else is a tool to get into that mindset.

To be honest, I get a little bummed when progressive-minded leaders that I admire demonize the fitness industry.

What would they think of me? Am I part of the problem in their eyes, by simply being a personal trainer?

Recently, I came to the realization that, every industry has it’s downfalls and I may be a part of the fitness industry but I am not defined by it.

I am Kristen, dearfitkris. And I want better for the industry, and myself. I want to be an advocate for those who need it.

Who knows, maybe we need to crumple up this draft and start a new industry entirely (like Michael did 802 times with The Good Place).

I mean, that’s what the ‘wellness’ industry did. Although, I don’t know that it ever really differentiated itself entirely from its fitness predecessor.

For those of you who have followed my writing for a while, you know I’m the first to say, it’s okay to just BE instead of constantly striving towards a goal.

I even encourage people, including my clients, to focus less on how their body looks and more on all the incredible ways it allows them to interact with their loved ones and the world around them.

Maybe we need to forget labels, forget fitness pedagogy and just remember at the end of the day that we are human and we are imperfect.

But it’s okay to try to be better than we were yesterday. It’s okay to have ‘fitness goals.’ It’s okay, as long as the means to our end, and our end, are aligned with the core values of our being.

And it’s okay for trainers, like myself, to help those in their pursuit to lift heavier, jump higher, eat more nutritionally dense foods, and feel more comfortable in their own skin.

I exercise, dance, run, handstand walk, journal, and blog to celebrate what I can do mentally AND physically. I eat to fuel these soul-feeding passions of mine and I strive to help other people do the same.

Thanks for reading xx.

Check out my other posts on body neutrality and self-acceptance.

Vacation is over, now what?

I spent last week adventuring on a island, it was absolutely spectacular!

I had so much fun and had been looking forward to this trip for weeks.

To be honest, I love my routine at home but I can’t help but feel a bit bummed that something I’d been looking forward to came and went just like that!

You know when you’re looking forward to a trip or you’re working towards a goal and it happens and it’s AWESOME, but then you’re just like okay, now what?

That’s where I’m at.

I don’t have any single solution for this feeling but I will list below what I do to keep pushing forward in spite of the now what? funk.

1. Return to your routine, but sprinkle it with the unexpected

For instance, with something as simple as breakfast change it up a little. Treat yourself. If you make breakfast and coffee at home everyday, eat at home but treat yourself to a cafe coffee.

2. Make plans with your people

Hit up your friends! Call your mom, your dad, your aunt and make it a point to see them. It will lift your mood.

Reminisce with those you spent your trip with or who stood by you as you worked towards your goal.

3. Write down how you feel

I’m very vocal about my love for journaling. But seriously, it’s so helpful to articulate and write out how you are feeling.

Journaling is also beneficial for tracking your progress towards your goals.

4. Make new goals / plan a new trip

Even if they’re small goals or even if it’s a day trip, start working towards something new.

Put your restless mind to use and draw up a plan, at the very least it will keep you busy and at the most it will turn into an awesome new challenge or adventure.

5. Sit with your discomfort

This seems contradictory to my last point, but there is a time and place for both. 

Sometimes you feel in a funk, (funky? but not the dance kind) and that’s okay. Let yourself feel funky. It’s important, in our culture especially, to be reminded that we don’t always have to forge forward and be working towards something constantly.

Unplug, go for a walk, let the feelings come, and then let them pass.

Don’t hold onto your funk–unless you’re busting a move.

In the same way you would bust a move, let the funk flow through you. It’s a natural part of being human, after all.

Thanks for reading xx.