SFG II : How pressing 22kg changed my belief systems and my life.

Belief is a powerful thing. Belief propels you forward. Stops you in your tracks. Creates beginnings and endings. And all without you ever having made those conscious decisions.

For years I believed I wasn't capable of running a business. I believed I wasn't capable of ending my cycles of disordered eating. And most recently, I believed that I did not belong in an elite group of athletes and coaches. I went into my SFG II*, an advanced kettlebell training weekend, undertrained due to illness, injury and the crazy of running a business (I knocked that belief into next Tuesday. I think.) But more importantly, I went in carrying a silent belief that I didn't belong there. That I wasn't good enough, strong enough or a good enough coach to stand up with such an elite group of people.

Belief is a powerful thing. Belief propels you forward. Stops you in your tracks. Creates beginnings and endings. And all without you ever having made those conscious decisions.

(If you want to skip the whole story and get to the point, find the **)

I opened the studio space for PULSE Kettlebells and Yoga on September 2nd, after two months of negotiations and just one week to renovate and turn over the previous studio. Something I had never thought possible was suddenly brick-and-mortar!

I promptly got sick (because apparently 14 hour days are a good idea for 2 weeks in a row?) and stayed that way for more than 2 weeks. A little overzealous (who, me?) I injured my shoulder on my first workout after my last cold bug, just one month out from my SFG II. I couldn't move my neck or shoulder, had radiating nerve pain and just f!@$ hurt. Crushed, I called my sister and my trainer sobbing. I had worked so hard up until the studio opening and was fitting in three training sessions/week even with all that was going on... it was a really heartbreaking morning.

Thanks to an amazing (and patient) massage therapist, encouragement from my coach and a little bit of stubborn, I slowly rehabbed my shoulder and was back on track! Until the Monday before my certification...when I got slammed with another cold bug. This time? No messing around. I canceled all my clients. Subbed out most of my classes. And turned Netflix to STUN with Scandal and Blacklist while I chugged a gallon of orange juice and a gallon of homemade miso soup over the course of 48 hours, breaking only for acupuncture and naps. I WAS GOING TO FREAKIN' PHILLY.

(So I showed up at the airport, my troubles behind me! Until they told me the flight was oversold by 30 and I'd be lucky to get a seat. COME ON!!! 30 minutes of agony later, I was lucky. And got the last seat, much to the dismay of the 5 people behind me who got bumped. Thanks, Delta.)

Before I tell any more of this (rather long) story, I really want to take a moment to thank whoever made it possible for me to be on Team Sansalone and to Joe Sansalone. I was lucky enough to work with my trainer's trainer (!!) and one of the most talented coaches I've had the pleasure to work with. 

Back to to SFG II.

Day 1: I passed my flexed arm hang -- piece of cake. I passed my snatch test in 4:20, PR'ing by more than 20 seconds. See also: my sore biceps and lats for the next 72 hours. I failed my 22 kg press test after a really decent grind, which wasn't a surprise given my red shirt status. I also failed to anticipate the volume of level 1 skills we'd be doing. I was TIRED by the end of day 1.

Day 2: Rough. Rough. Rough. Rough. Fatigue/soreness had set in due to my lack of volume the previous month, and my brain went into overload learning the bent press (new fave challenge.)  Then.... the swing workout. 24 kg, double 16 kg, double 12 kg, 32 kg .... go down the line 10 swings each. Keep going. Unfamiliar with the swing or double swing? That's a long walk down a short plank. I choked down a bagel for lunch and spent at least 30 min that afternoon choking back tears (or straight up crying in the bathroom) because my usually VERY compliant body was in full-on rebellion. "Oh. You'd like to jerk those 16 kg bells? That's nice."

OK. SO!! All that aside: I learned SO FREAKIN MUCH. I learned what it was like to feel completely at a loss as a student (I'm pretty sure at one point I heard Joe say "That's a good cue, but her brain's about to short circuit, so we're gonna let her work with this.") I learned quality > volume. I learned that a strong trunk translates into power faster than you can imagine. That a good coach walks the fine line of balancing kindness with a demand for quality.

** Day 3: Failed my 22 kg press test again but it was a LONG GRIND and I felt something shift around the middle of it. Joe coached me a few times on lighter lifts and I did some bottoms up work to keep my lat sealed. Tried the lift again. Clean. Pressed. GRIND GRIND GRIND ..... bell starts to drop ... and something inside me snaps. I let out some kind of ridiculous Amazon anger shriek and completed the press. And failed because the bell can't drop on it's way up. F!@#$ but true.

Went to lunch for a walk and called my mom because something deep had let go in that attempt...something deeper than my lat. And as we talked about it, tears swelled to my eyes as I realized that I was holding onto a belief that I didn't belong there. So that was it. The hitch in my strength and my achilles heel: a deep rooted belief that I didn't belong. A belief I was no longer willing to subscribe to after all I'd been through.

So after the rest of my tests...windmills...jerks...push presses... I sat down and realized that I was sore. and tired. and my shoulder hurt. and -after talking to my coach- that I was going to try one more time, results be damned. I walked up to the 22 kg and said half out loud/half to myself "I belong here. I am strong enough. I am good enough." 

and I really meant it.

I cleaned. Wedged. Grunted. Pressed. and let out another variation of the hilarious warrior yell I'd emitted before. AND IT WENT UP. No questions asked. No pause, hesitation or doubt. It just went up.

It took a moment to realize what had happened as I racked the bell and put it down. Got the nod from my coach. Heard people yelling and shouting in trumph for me. And sort of ignored Team Leader's handshake in favor of a chalk-y bear hug.  I bounced up and down like a two-year old in a candy store and hugged people I'd never met, immediately grabbed my phone and texted 5 people (yeah, yeah...) and I came home the next morning still reeling with the excitement of texting my coach I DID IT I DID IT I DID IT!!!!!

I passed my SFG II against a lot of odds. And - oddly - I am even more proud of that than I am of  successfully running my kettlebell and yoga studio or of anything else I can remember. I MET AND TRANSFORMED MY OWN BELIEFS, the most powerful things I've ever come up against and I am really proud of that (Just writing this, my heart gets all swell-y again.)

So here's the moral of the story - for those of you who have tirelessly read through this absurdly long post: changing your beliefs will change the course of your life. By all intents and purposes, the 4th attempt at a lift after 3 days of physical testing should have failed. But a simple shift in *belief* is what shifted my ability to move weight that should have been immovable.

The trick is to dig below conditioning, thought and understanding, and look at what it is you truly believe about yourself. It's not always (or often) pretty. It can be undesirable or confusing. But if you're willing to meet the parts of yourself that you've covered over with productivity or inactivity or whatever it is you're using to hide from yourself? S!@$. WILL. CHANGE. If you're willing to let it.

___

* Strong First Girya Level 1 requires stamina. You must understand and execute 6 Hardstyle Kettlebell lifts with 2 test-sized kettlebells (24 kg for men, 16 kg for women > 124.5# = me.) It's a grueling weekend that builds mental fortitude and toughness.

Strong First Girya Level 2 requires finesse. In addition - of course - to stamina, mental toughness and a "survive at all costs" attitude. On day one, you must pass your snatch test (100 in 5 min) and strength test (5 pull ups + 1/2 bodyweight military press for men, 15 sec flexed arm hang + 1/3 bodyweight military press for women) and go on to review the six SFG I skills. Day 2 is review and practice of Level 1, followed by a headfirst leap in the bent press, push press and jerk. Day 3 is review and practice of those lifts...and skills testing.

Perfect French Press Coffee

Can I just say how much the quality of my life has increased since I figured out how to make French Press coffee that doesn’t taste like two-day old burned Starbucks?
I’ve been through three iterations of drip coffee makers, a Keurig and a World Market FRENCH PRESS COFFEE MAKERhttp://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png in my drinkin’ years.

 Happiness...

Happiness...

What French Press does NOT =
⦁    caffeine at your fingertips (Keurig)
⦁    caffeine as an alarm clock (programmable drip)


French Press DOES =
⦁    Fragrant
⦁    Delicate
⦁    Cathartic


MY RECIPE FOR THE PERFECT FRENCH PRESS COFFEE
1. Mark it 8 (ok..12)
Use a permanent marker to note the 12oz mark on your French Press (or 24 oz mark if you have to share.)  Seem silly – but this has saved me MANY an under or overbrewed cup of coffee first thing in the morning.

2. Boil Water (almost)
Three words: Use. A. TeaKettle.  When you hear the kettle STARThttp://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png to whistle juuuuust a teensy bit, pull it off the heat. Microwave only if under extreme duress.  Heat the water to boiling, and remove from the death machine.

3. Bump and Grind
In the 30-60 seconds it takes your water to go from boiling to juuuust the right coffee brewing temperature, grind your beans.  COARSELY.  I do 6-8 pulses with my grinder.
What’s that you say?  You can get pre-ground beans?  RESIST, I say!!!  Fresh beans ground to the right French Press consistency actually do make a difference!

4. Stir and Steep
Pour the water slowly over the grinds.  (I like to make big SLOWhttp://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png loopy circles — but highly doubt this affects the taste.)  Then STIR.  Using a chopstick or spoon, stir the grinds into the hot water for 5-10 seconds or until you get a little foam. 

Steep from 4-6 minutes depending on your COFFEE ROASThttp://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png.  I do my flavored/light roasts for 6… and a French Roast for baaaaarely 4.5 as I value my teeth.

5. Heat the Mug + Pour
While that’s doing it’s thing, I pour remaining hot water from the kettle into and the mug I plan to use and let it heat while my coffee steeps.  When you’re coffee’s done… just DEPRESShttp://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png the plunger (no.  it doesn’t have Zoloft) and pour into your warm mug!

6. ENJOY!
I usually add 1-2 Tbs of Organic Half and Half (if there’s more than “milk” and “cream” in the ingredient lists, it’s no longer food, people) and sip slowly!
 

Big News!

Big News  For the last month or so, I've been working with the amazing Amanda Ginther of Blackbird Family Yoga to facilitate something beautiful: PULSE Kettlebells and Yoga will have a brick-and-mortar location as of September of this year! We're moving into the space currently housing Blackbird Family Yoga on Frank Lloyd Wright Avenue in Middleton, WI and couldn't be more excited.

I have been looking for a space to call home since April of this year and had two lease negotiations fall through in both May and June. Thank goodness! After learning that Amanda was closing her doors, I reached out to learn a little more about the space and thought "maybe I could even keep a couple yoga classes." That'll teach me to think small!  

In addition to Amanda's beautiful class schedule of family-oriented yoga, I'm planning to offer some energetic and strengthening flow classes, TRX classes and OF COURSE, kettlebell class schedule that includes early morning and express classes!  We'll have a studio for classes, a small studio for personal and small group training, and a wonderful space for tea and community.  The lobby will also feature Sun Warrior and Young Living products...and of course some PULSE gear!  <high pitched excited girl squeal>

I feel so honored to be able to be a part of Blackbird's transition and so. freakin. lucky. to get to work with Amanda. She shares my passion for promoting a body love environment, gets just as excited as I do about the no-bull#&%* fitness counter culture I'm building and loves wine as much as I do. She's a beautiful spirit and I am SO. LUCKY. (did I say that already) that she is staying on to teach at PULSE.

Yesterday, I sent out an email letting everyone know what's up (and why I look like I haven't slept in a year) and the outpouring of love and support nearly knocked me off my feet. We raised nearly half (NEARLY HALF!) the funds needed to outfit the space in less than 12 hours and I received more emails, Facebook comments, texts and phone calls than I could field or respond to. You know when you stop and wonder if you're capable, good enough, on the right path...then the Universe just rolls you with HELL YES?  That happened.

***

Because I'm learning that asking for what I need is a viable way to get what I need (revolutionary, right?) ... here's what I need:

  • We're running an IndieGogo campaign to help us fund equipment for the studio (kettlebells and TRX and pull up bars, hooray!)  You can check out the campaign here to learn more about how you can support our work by donating/grabbing a membership early!
  • Madison area personal trainers and TRX instructors who are body-positive, compassionate and interested in learning the SFG hard style kettlebell method.
  • A few people to help me continue to provide childcare for the 9:15 am class times (trade for classes)
  • A few people to help me with class check-in, cleaning and other day-to-day stuff (trade for classes)

***

I really need to send a big shout out to PULSE hubby, Brian, for believing in me more than I ever have and to PULSE mom, Sandy Graham, for providing a haven from the storm and a constant phone line to sanity. To my teacher, Alex Pfeiffer, for teaching me the challenging and beautiful path of true authenticity and to my financial backers...you know who you are... and you are making this possible.

We are hoping to open the studio the first week of September! Until then, our schedule will stay the same. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me.  In the meantime visit our website regularly for updates.

Why YOU Should Feel Good

bodyfeelgood Even as I continue to see the body love movement grow in the fitness field, I am reminded daily that this is still the case.  Women are still counting calories and skipping meals.  Our culture is trapped in the cycle of what they shouldn't eat and how much they should abuse themselves in the gym this week.  Yoga students come to their mat and are disappointed when they leave feeling like they didn't just finish a spin class.

When did your body feel its absolute best?  Not its skinniest or your strongest...but most vibrant and alive.  When did you last feel GOOD??  My hope for you is that you can say right NOW.  And if that is not the case -- what can you do today to make that happen?

Sometimes that means drinking green juice and going for a run... seeking out a good hug and taking a nap...taking a walk and a juicy yoga class.  With so many ways to feel good, why seek out ways to feel drained and deprived?

Up until a few weeks ago when an amazing coach reminded me of this, I was spending an awful lot of time making sure I felt worked...instead of feeling good.  My gratitude and love goes out to him (if you're in Seattle, find this guy!) because in my last weeks of SFG re-certification preparation, I feel GOOD.  Strong.  Balanced.  Well rested and vibrant.

SO ... what are you going to do TODAY.  RIGHT NOW.  to learn just how good your body is designed to feel?

 

Why I'm Not a "Positive Thinker"

birds“We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing. (136-137)”

~ Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras

I’m not a member of the positive thinking camp. I certainly don’t recommend wallowing in the depths and depressions, but without space for everything that arises we stifle parts of ourselves that are dear and precious. My darkest hours create beautiful art and prose.

The valleys in my life initiate ascension. My “worst” self gives me the nutrient rich compost in which I am able to grow a garden of awareness and contemplative practice. My teacher offers the invitation to “include and transcend” as we change, a phrase that continues to echo in my mind as I read and re-read this Sutra...

Read the full article here on Elephant Journal!

YouAreBeautiful-HEADLINEI have a friend who is breathtaking; her thighs are smooth, her arms are toned, and her abs are sculpted.  Her silky hair and flawless makeup are picture-perfect every single day. She photographs beautifully and she’s funny, talented, intelligent, and driven.  She eludes a strong sense of confidence and is truly lovely in every way.  She also struggles with low self-esteem... We, as women, have been steeped in a culture of dissatisfaction with our inner and outer selves. We are told, “You’re beautiful just as you are,” yet we are inundated with ads for diet pills and books on fad diets.  We are told, “Get strong, not skinny!” as we watch TV shows about how to get thinner faster and movies featuring waif-like women in size zero jeans.  We are told, “Stand up for yourself!” but are far too often represented as shrew-like and demanding when angry or afraid.

So how do we begin to build a strong foundation of self-love, self-care, and healthy self-image?...

Read the full article here!

The Power of Exercise (de)Programming

Wakefulness. Attentiveness. Compassion.  Photo Credit: Topher Simon Photography (THANK YOU! To everyone who read and shared my post on The Biggest Loser.  We saw more than 800 visitors that day! Please feel free join us on Facebook or sign up for our newsletter over there to the right if you want to stay in touch.)

A few months ago, I was talking to my teacher about my kettlebell practice, and how I felt that it was in direct opposition to the mindful, intuitive approach I take with my yoga practice.

In a Strong First practice, things are done "the right way" and there are specific things "to be done."  In my yoga practice, things are done in a way that feels resonant and vibrant and there are things "to be experienced."  I was - honestly - starting to dread my bell work because it was triggering old feelings of frantic-ness and rigidity.

He gave me some wise - and pretty obvious - advice.  Why not approach workouts the way you approach yoga?

Be without expectations.  Approach with curiosity.  Commit to wakefulness. 

So - until 3 weeks ago - my workouts were just that.  Some days I did swings and pull ups, other days I went for a jog or rode my bike, some days I just did yoga.  No set time or schedule - just moved when I felt like moving (which was pretty much every day.)  MUCH to my surprise, I lost a pants size in 3 months without dieting.  Without an exercise program.  Without stress.  In fact - I was enjoying myself so much that I only noticed the weight had fallen off when my favorite jeans almost did the same.

SO!  Here's a VERY CLOSELY GUARDED SECRET in the Fitness Industry.  HERE is the weight loss panacea...the GUARANTEED TO WORK diet for this year!! :

LISTEN.  TO.  YOUR.  BODY.

That's it.  JUST LISTEN. Your body will tell you if you're tired and need a day off, a yoga class, a hill sprint workout (although you have to be really committed to listening to pick up on that one.)  It will tell you if you need a kale salad, a smoothie or some simple carbohydrates and fat.  The most simple and challenging thing in the world: attentive listening.  (Anyone who's in any kind of relationship can attest to that.)

Here's where things get tricky.  Exercise programs and protocols are also important.  Discipline and structure serve a very important purpose for meeting athletic and physical goals.

The KEY is -- discipline and structure also serve a very important purpose in learning to let go.

I'm currently back on a strict training program, getting ready for my SFG Recertification weekend in April, which is programmed at 5 days/week of training at a no-joke level of focus and dedication. And I had a lot of very legitimate fear that it would send me down the vortex of verbal self-abuse, exhaustion and anger...that the increase appetite associated with metabolic training would trigger my eating disorder symptoms.

But my teacher also says that "Practice makes you accident prone."  And the past couple weeks of structured training, I've had a lot of accidents.  Accidental wakefulness inside discipline.  Accidental release of expectations (which creates an amazing way to surprise yourself.)  Accidental curiosity.  All those months of practicing mindful exercise and listening to my body had conditioned me to operate within a strict discipline WHILE being present!

I've struggled a little with listening to my body when it comes to food...but mostly because it wants ALL THE FOOD.  ALL THE TIME. thanks to the increased training.  But I'm doing my best, and despite a lot of whole milk and peanut butter - I can see my abs for the first time ever.  I didn't even have abs when I was "skinny."  Ha!

So here's the takeaway (because who the hell cares about jeans size and abs):

--

Take 6 weeks, or maybe you'll need 6 days or 6 months, to practice mindful exercise. Go to the gym or the park or the trail with an attitude of playfulness.  Not sure how to do that?  Start here:

Picture an exercise and notice your physical (below the neck) response.  Clenching?  Opening?  Excitement?  Do this until you find an exercise that you really freakin' want to do and do it until you don't "feel like it" any more.  Then repeat the process.  No stress about how much you get done that day, as long as you are openly curious to what your body says.  Journal each workout with a note on what you did, how you felt and what your response was - resistance? fear? hopefulness?  (I experienced euphoric sprinting at one point...)

One caveat/caution to this practice:  Your brain saying "I'M TIIIIIRED.  I DON'T WAAAAAANNA" is not the same as your body saying, "OK.  Thank you so much for listening.  We're done here for now."

--

If the idea of chucking your program and/or diet out the window for a while is scary (terrifying?) - you're not alone.  Especially if you struggle with exercise addition or disordered eating, the idea of releasing control can bring up a lot of visceral fear.  And I would say that fear is a very important piece of information about yourself, so notice it and welcome it to the gym.  Then allow it to head over to the StairClimber for an hour while you play.  Because - honestly - you might lose a little conditioning.  You might temporarily set down a little bit of strength.

But I can guarantee you.  GUARANTEE.  that if you do the practice and allow your body to truly call the shots for a while (again -- your body, not your head) that emotional peace and physical contentment will follow.  

The Biggest Loser ... Winner?

Photo Credit: Zap2It I've been training full time since 2008, and have had the shadow of The Biggest Loser hanging over my profession for its entirety.  

I remember telling one of my first clients, "I'm not going to 'Jillian Michaels' you," because I refused to verbally abuse her to initiate change and trying to find a way to respond to another client's request for Biggest Loser-Style Workouts when she desperately needed support and love, not an hour of misery.  (Full disclosure: at the time, I was struggling hard with my bulimia and body dysmorphia.  But even if I couldn't stop abusing myself, I wasn't going to help others do it.)

I haven't watched the show since its first season, but couldn't miss the backlash online today as Rachel Frederickson appeared - emaciated - at the finale to claim her $250,000 prize.  All I could think was "I'm embarrassed to be a part of the fitness industry."

I pride myself to be among the ranks of the Strong First community, who teach and practice intelligent strength.  I am grateful to be a registered yoga teacher, working with beautiful spirits who teach grace is a way of life.

I am embarrassed - however - to be part of an industry that tells women that a thigh gap is not only achievable, but admirable....and since strong is the new skinny, be sure to top it off with a 6-pack.

I am frustrated to be a trainer in an environment where self-abuse in the form of over-exercise is encouraged and only tempered with "be sure to take a rest day."

I am angry at the thousands of under-qualified, overly-charismatic fitness "professionals" that sell their clients on body shame and unrealistic expectations.  (I was told once, by a personal training manager, to ask clients, "What part of yourself do you hate the most when you look in the mirror?  How much would you pay to get rid of that fat?"  All I could do was stare at him.)

More than anything - I am sorry, legitimately full of sorrow, for all the women who have fallen prey to the idea that because a diet didn't work, they are somehow flawed.  For all the women who have stood in the locker room and cried because the number on the scale left them feeling so desperately unworthy that they couldn't even step out into the gym to do something good for themselves.  For all the beautiful human beings who watch shows like the Biggest Loser and wonder "What's wrong with me that I  can't do that?"

So maybe join this guy and Boycott The Biggest Loser?

Maybe take a deep breath, look in the mirror and make the commitment to accept the radiant beauty that is You, moment to moment, fat cells and all.

Maybe reach out to someone who is hurting or hurting themselves and remind them that self-abusive dieting isn't the only way?

Or maybe just take a deep breath and send Rachel Frederickson a whole lot of compassion.

 

Staying Fit in Winter

snowy street with vignette (1 of 1)First off - I'm going to redefine "fit" for the purpose of this article.

Fit (n) : vibrant, having access to free-flowing energy in the body, well and healthy

This winter has been INSANE (Polar Vortex is not, apparently, a specialty blended cocktail featuring peppermint schnapps) and many well-meaning people have joked "Well!  you picked the wrong year to move to Wisconsin!" Cute.  Speciality cocktails and well-meaning  Wisconsinites in 5 layers of smart wool aside:

It can be really challenging to feel vibrant and healthy this time of year and I have actually been pleasantly surprised with the lack of SAD and 5# of hot chocolate gain I was - honestly - expecting.  Drum roll, please?

Top 5 Things that Have Kept Me Fit This Winterice on tree2 with vignette (1 of 1)

1. Exercise

You were expecting naps?  But seriously - I have made a concerted and sometimes not super perky effort to make sure I exercise every. single. day.  Some days are hard core training days at the gym or in my basement, hauling kettlebells and my bodyweight around with vigor.  Other days I make it to a yoga class.  Over Christmas, I went snow shoeing and walked on the dread mill.  But there have been VERY few days where I haven't moved in some way and it has made ALL the difference in the world.

2. Green Food

I am vata-pitta dosha, so raw food and I just really don't get along in winter.  Salads?  Forget about it.  I've had to make the conscious decision to get green veggies into my life because I lean so heavily toward winter veggies like sweet potatoes this time of year.

  • Drink a green smoothie every day or so
  • Put a scoop of Ormus Greens in my water bottle
  • Sautee kale or spinach as a side dish

3. Fat

After spending so many years on the diet train, the idea of purposefully adding significant amounts of fat to my diet was -frankly - terrifying.  But with my excema flaring up and my hair falling out... I went ahead and tried it.  BAM. Skin cleared up, brain fog went down, sugar cravings decreased.

  • Switch to whole milk for coffee
  • Add Coconut Oil to my a.m. coffee or smoothie
  • Take HIGH QUALITY Omega-3 Fatty Acids (take my advice: don't buy the cheap stuff.  $30/bottle is worth it to not...ahem..."repeat" sardine oil all day)
  • Eat nuts for snacks

4. Vitamin D

This is going to sound ridiculous, but the best day of this winter, it was -15.  I had just finished a kettlebell class with a friend and was sitting at Chipotle nomming a salad in front of a giant picture window.  SUN!!!!!

  • Sit by the window at the coffee shop
  • Go outside for a walk if it's at or above your cold threshold (25 for me)
  • Take a Vitamin D supplement. Sunshine in a bottle : Trust me on that one.
  • Sun lamp or lights -- I use full spectrum lights in the basement for my videos, so I just pop those on when I'm working out down there!

5. Radical Self Awareness and Acceptance

There are "those days" -- when I think I'm going to tear my hear out because it's blowing snow AGAIN.  The trick is knowing what you need, and I've stopped judging myself when I realize what that is on any given day.

  • Do a few burpees or jog your stairs if you need to expend energy
  • Wrap up in a blanket with a  book if you need comfort
  • Watch a movie or take a nap if you just need to check out
  • Get on Pinterest and visualize yourself in the beautiful places you want to be

I really really really don't like winter.  But I really really really like feeling pretty damn good most of the time and don't see any reason why the weather should get to interfere with that.

 

Why Yoga?

This article was published in Training and Fitness Magazine in January 2014 IMG_1177

For those who pursue strength and fitness as a lifestyle, the idea of surrender often looms as something foreign or frightening. We teach our bodies to push through barriers and our minds to block discomfort as we chase new levels of ability.

Yoga, on the other hand, asks us to feel uncomfortable, notice barriers that arise without blasting through them, and accept the healing of wounds that we’d often rather not admit to. And while the message is distinctly different from that inundating the fitness industry, the end result of simply allowing the possibility of that path can mean a new relationship with your body and its ability to build strength and surrender deeply.

Why Yoga? Yoga intimately touches upon the connections between body, brain, and drives.  By strengthening that connection, you can experience greater flexibility and less chaos in the gym and in your daily life...

Click here to read the full article at Training and Fitness Mag!

 

Release Expectations and Open Your Heart: 30 min Flow Yoga

January is a time each year filled with expectations and a whole lot of "shoulds," even in the yoga community.

And, in my experience, the preconceived ideas of how things "should" be is what causes miscommunication, frustration and human suffering at large.  We - especially as Americans - have a very deep rooted belief that things "should" be better than they are, and when they aren't, we are left with frustration and dissatisfaction.

I would put forth the idea that we release (or at least hold very lightly) the expectations, resolutions and shoulds.  This year, can we open our hearts to what is arising in each moment?  

I spent last year learning from a beautiful teacher the gift of "now": the present moment's unadulterated beauty in presence, and this practice is designed to open the front of the body - psoas, quads, pec major and minor - and the energy of openness and acceptance.  And I would offer up as intention my mantra for this year: This Moment Only.

 

Smash the Scale 2014

   

Jes over at the Militant Baker published a freakin' beautiful photo shoot this past week called "SMASH THE SCALE" - a montage of women declaring freedom from a number.  She called for the Body Positive community to share their stories about why they're doing the same.  Here's mine!

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I'm smashing the scale in 2014 because until very recently - and to be honest, even now - I have been slave to the FEAR of the scale.

I haven't been a scale worshipper in the sense that I weighed myself every day except for very short (very disordered) points in my life.  Even at my most anorexic, I was only told what I weighed by doctors or nutritionists.  I have only used enough to generate an unhealthy fear of the spinning number gods.

It just sits in my bathroom, in plain sight, watching me.  Reminding me of what those numbers could mean.  You're good enough.  You failed.  GOOD FOR YOU!  Seriously, Anne?  I almost never step on it.  Because just looking at it is enough of a shameful reminder to stay on track.

I don't get on other people's scales.  I would only weigh myself under strict conditions (first thing in the morning, undressed, after peeing) and my scale is set in kilograms and runs 1.5 kg lighter than a medical scale.  I feared the ramifications seeing a number that hasn't been calibrated and controlled by me.

I don't look at my weight at the doctor's office and have begged nurses not to tell me.  My blood pressure runs 90/60...unless I see the scale.  I got stuck at the OB/GYN for an extra 20 min one day because she told me my weight - my heaviest ever at the peak of my bulimia - right before taking my BP and I shot up to severe hypertension levels mid-panic attack.

SO IN 2014 - I'M SMASHING THE SCALE.

It's -11 degrees today here in Madison, so - more likely - it's just going in the garbage.  But it will no longer haunt my bathroom floor (or the back of my closet, laying in wait) or the back of my mind. It won't tell me a damn thing about myself, or make me feel guilty or ashamed.

Aryuvedic Sleep Aid with Sun Warrior

Many of you know I have struggled with insomnia off and on over the years. This aryuvedic sleep aid has been a great addition to cold Wisconsin nights and uses my favorite almond milk recipe, which we also use in smoothies and coffee!sun warrior "This homemade almond milk is delicious on its own or added to your own recipe, but it’s great with the ingredients down below for a nice, warm sleep aid..."

Read the full article at SunWarrior.com here and order your vanilla protein here!

(would also love comments and feedback on the Sun Warrior site if you have a few moments!)

Setting a Mantra for 2014

First - a super quick video love note!!

 

Decided this year, instead of resolutions, or anti resolutions or any of the other variations on a theme I've done before.....to set a mantra from 2014.  Something short and powerful that I can carry with me through the year.

Only This Moment.

With a rather rough, unfinished view of what the next year or few years will look like, it's the perfect time to live in each moment as it arises.

What is your mantra for 2014?

29 + 1 Things I Learned in my 20's

I turn 30 today ... on Friday the 13th.  12/13/13.  The big 3-0 on what is numerically speaking the most terrifying day of the year. And I'm freaking excited.

I told someone, quite bluntly, the other day "My 20s were a s*** show!" and - while it's true - I'm actually quite grateful for the crazy, scary, endearing experience that was my 20s.  And so, inspired by this post I found while killing time on Facebook reading industry specific blogs, here are 29 + 1 Things I Learned In My 20s:

1. Food is not the enemy. Stop fighting it - just eat what makes your body feel alive.

2. If exercise makes you miserable, you're doing it wrong. Uncomfortable: deal with it.  Miserable: do something else.

3. Toxic relationships serve neither you nor the other person.

4. OK.  Let's be completely honest.  When something makes you miserable: STOP.  Even if other people won't be happy with you.  Even if that magazine said it will take off that last 5#.  Even if you really want it to work out.  STOP.

5. It's highly likely that you won't use your college degree in the way in which it was intended.  The time you spent getting it, though: priceless.

6. A man will never (NEVER) make you feel as good about yourself as you want to feel.  Only you can provide yourself with the love you so desperately want.

7. Yoga isn't just exercise.  Yoga is a snapshot of your experience of life, condensed into an hour, in a small space, while watching other people do it better than you. Learn from it.

8. TRAVEL.  Get your passport updated and get out of the country now, because it may not happen later.

9. Along those lines: Those opportunities that you think will come along later ... may not.  Go to the concerts, parties, family events that you want to skip so that you can work another shift.

10. You are not broken.  There is nothing intrinsically wrong with you that needs to be fixed.  You are a whole, complete, perfect human being who has plenty of room to grow.

11. Quitting is perfectly acceptable.

12. Never be afraid to leap. Even if the net is a long way down, it will eventually appear.

13. Keep your birth control in a temperature controlled environment.  It will melt.  It will freeze.  It will become useless if either of these things happens.

14. Say what you mean when you mean it how you mean it.  Stop filtering your words to keep others from experiencing negative emotions.

15. Drinking pint glasses full of hard alcohol: bad idea.  Drinking pint glasses full of water: good idea.

16. Feeling negative emotions isn't a bad thing.  It's an unpleasant thing.  And they process and integrate much faster (like...years faster) when you take the time to feel them.

17. DON'T START SMOKING.  It's really really really hard to quit.

18. A size zero doesn't make you a better person.  And chances are, you didn't like yourself any better at a 0 than you do at a size 8.  Shoot for happy, not tiny.

19. Paint, Draw, Sing, Dance, Whatever!  You don't have to be "good" at something for it to express the life that is inside you.

20. Read more non-fiction books.

21. Read less (read: no) diet books, fitness magazines, diet blogs, "before and after" weight loss stories, or miracle supplement reviews <Admiral Ackbar voice> "It's a TRAP!"

22. Leggings are not pants.  But they are damn comfortable. And are considered work attire when you're a yoga teacher.  So... they ARE pants?

23. DO NOT download Candy Crush Saga.

24. Listen to your intuition, even when it doesn't make sense.  Cross country moves (three of them), last minute changes in expensive education (twice), or just ordering that random thing on the menu.

25. No matter how angry you get with your mom, she will never EVER stop loving you.

26. You WILL be like your mom.  And it's awesome.

27. Money, while not everything, IS important. Stop working for less than you're worth.

28. Journal!  Fill books upon books upon books with your stories.  They're valuable.

29. Give really good hugs and linger when other people give you really good hugs.

+1 (still learning this one) :

Take time, every day, to sit with your most precious, most divine self.  YOU are the best friend you'll ever have.

 

 

 

Before and After: 8 years and 40 pounds ago

For years I have avoided putting photos of myself 40 pounds ago up where anyone could see them. I was afraid of being judged.

Afraid people would think me some kind of failure or hypocrite.

Afraid to face the fact that, some days, I wanted to backtrack 40 pounds.

Here I am in 2006, 40 pounds lighter than I am today

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And here I am last summer at my current weight, worlds happier, stronger than ever and thrilled to share my journey.

With my bestie in Napa

Many people are very proud of the weight they've lost.  I am incredibly proud of the space I now fill, both energetically and physically.

So now it's out there: I'm not a weight loss success story.  And maybe a 40 pound weight gain will make me less of a strength and fitness coach in some people's eyes.  Maybe even less of a yogi.

But you know what?  It makes me freaking awesome at connecting with people who struggle because I've been there.  I've starved for months, and I've been unable to close the refrigerator.  I've been on an IV drip in the hospital and I've been on the Stairmaster for hours after a cookie dough episode.

And, finally, I have found peace with my body and in my deepest spirit.  I have declared my body a no-war zone and most days I honor it with exercise and food that kicks a$$, tastes awesome and leaves me feeling like a rock star. Other days, I biff it and honor the awesomeness of eating tortilla chips in front of a Netlix marathon of Parks and Recreation.

My new message is this: YOU deserve the space you fill, no matter what size or weight or fitness level you occupy.  YOU are enough.

More to come...

Kettlebells and Yoga (or: Kettlebells AS Yoga)

I get a lot of questions on how I combine kettlebells and yoga in my personal and teaching practices. Usually, I explain that I do both throughout the week because it helps keep me balanced energetically and physically and that I encourage my clients to do the same. I imagine upon asking that some if not most people envision crescent lunges with a military press, or malasana (yogic squat) with kettlebell curls.  They're probably either somewhat disappointed or quite relieved to hear that I don't actually do YOGA with KETTLEBELLS.

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Normally, my week has a total of 3-4 kettlebell training sessions 45-60 min, focused on heavy strength and high intensity conditioning, and 3-4 flow yoga classes with a focus on flexibility and keeping consciousness in my body and being present for each moment as it arises.  In all honesty - it's not always this balanced.  Sometimes my yoga practice is awesome... other times I totally bail on it because I'm sore or tired (or because I'm just punking out on the being present thing.)

But something happened the other day : I approached a double bell front squat (my nemesis) and my mind suddenly cleared. I felt every millimeter of ground beneath my active toes.  I could hear the depth in my breath.  It felt like the sun peeking from behind the clouds as I realized: my yoga practice had spread so completely through my life that it was now an integral part of my strength and conditioning practice.

As I thought about it (after my set of front squats of course), I realized that my yoga teaching practice had also crossed over into my kettlebell coaching methods. Most of my coaching energy is spent attempting to help people get into their own bodies: what level of effort feels appropriate, what stance/alignment is most effective, how to activate muscles,  and hopefully how to feel really good about themselves no matter what.

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So I think I have a new answer when people ask me WHY kettlebells and yoga.  Because kettlebells ARE yoga to me.  All that time I spend on my mat isn't about perfecting my handstand - It's about exploring my physical body, my emotional reactions and my thought patterns as challenges arise. And it's no different when I'm in the gym : I get to find my edge, develop a sense of quiet focus and be completely human in all its aspects of success and failure.

I tell my yoga students regularly to take their practice off the mat, and most people probably think it means being more zen in traffic or sitting up taller at their desk.  But what I really mean is : take the things you love - the things you REALLY love - and make them yoga.

Ahimsa: Post Vacation Diet

I'm interrupting the flow of regularly scheduled travel saga to talk about something that's been on my heart the past couple days...

Ahimsa: Sanskrit word translated as non-violence, non-injury or non-harming

ahimsaI definitely had an "everything in moderation and some things not-so-much in moderation" mentality while we traveled which, in combination with over 30 hours in the car, lent itself to some snug jeans by the end of two weeks.

In years past, I would have immediately started a cleanse upon returning home, committing myself to being completely miserable both physically and mentally as penance for indulgences and lack of self control.  It would have been a rather violent process, usually starting with a salt water flush (which I don't recommend) a 24 hour juice cleanse (which I also don't recommend) and a week of actively denying myself anything over 1200 calories of pure vegan greenstock.

This time around, I approached it with gentleness, kindness and mindfulness --- and it was amazing.  In just a week, my butt is back in my favorite jeans with a little room to spare, I'm feeling vibrant and healthy and not once did I have to deny myself something I really wanted.

(Disclaimer: ahimsa is often used as the basis for vegetarianism which I have practiced in the past and found that it is, actually, harmful for me given my current lifestyle.  All in the interpretation.)

Step 1: Get some groceries

In the past 6 months, food and fuel had become a method of self care, ending the mental cycle of "deserve" or "don't deserve."  The day we got here, I immediately went to Whole Foods and bought a TON of veggies, bulk quinoa, brown rice and oatmeal, some treats like Kombucha and Raw Crackers and a whole organic "happy chicken."  I cooked the chickie up and dug out my rice cooker ASAP and had the fixings for super awesome, happy meals when the family was eating pizza and chinese food that I seriously didn't want after a week on the road.

Step 2: Get back to yoga

It was an incredibly stressful move involving a lot of family, a limited time frame and very little sleep preceding. My workout plan was to just get back to yoga and be as wonderful to my body as I could, which paid off amazingly as it just felt natural to pick up a kettlebell and get back on my bike after working the kinks out in a few flow classes.

I also knew that it would be difficult for me to commit to a serious sitting meditation at home, and yoga was the perfect combination of moving meditation and few extra minutes after class to sit.  This studio is just 8 minutes from our house and *great* about maintaining a quiet practice space before and after, which I super appreciated.

Step 3: Dig out the Juicer

I made 2 days worth of veggie juice at a time, keeping a pitcher in the fridge and just having 8-12 oz/day with my afternoon snack for an extra veggie kicker.  Added bonus: you can hide just about anything behind a pitcher of green juice and be pretty much guaranteed that no one will eat it.

Step 4: Get back to kettlebells

I just started easy.  A long 12 kg ladder of presses, swings, snatches and rows to wake up some sleeping muscles and grease the groove. Hit some light endurance swings a few days later, and I was back to 24 kg swings for distance by the time I visited a class the following week!

***

This probably seems pretty ho-hum.  There's no magic in it.  No crazy weight loss recorded or emotional high reached.  But here's the truth: I was kind and loving.  I didn't have any sugar for a week.  I worked out every day for a week.  I ate only organic whole food for a week.  And not ONCE did I go hungry, force myself to workout or tell myself what a bad person I was for eating dessert on the cruise.

For those of you who know me pretty well or have trained with me, you know that I am working on a pretty serious paradigm shift in my life and my training.  No longer am I standing on a soap box preaching "eat clean, train dirty" because I believe that small, loving shifts in your life over time just make strength and health your home base anyway.

Ahimsa: be kind in this moment, this asana, this kettlebell swing, this glass of water, this salad.  Your body knows what it wants.  We just have to slow down and grow loving enough to listen to that.

PULSE On The Road: Part 1: Alaska Days 1-3

On Wednesday, August 7th, my husband and I packed up our 1 BR + Loft apartment in Sunnyvale, California to look for gold.. ahem... move to Madison, Wisconsin to begin his journey through law school and business school. For those of you that I work with and train, you know what a difficult summer it was for us - planning to leave a place that had become our home and people that had become our family.  I spent a lot of time in meditation and did a lot of yoga - something I'll get into as I write more - and found that although it was a tough decision, there was a lot of peace surrounding the sadness and the stress.

Before we ventured off to our home state (I grew up outside Madison,) we took a seven day cruise to Alaska to celebrate our three year wedding anniversary - no limbs missing and no casualties - and our final chance to live like we still had a salary for a few years!

The drive to Vancouver, B.C. was a long one... and felt even longer after packing and moving out.  But with one quick detour to see a dear friend in Tacoma, Washington, we made it to the cruise ship with our luggage and selves intact.  Bon Voyage!

Ship's Log Day 1: At Sea: Captain and First Mate experiencing an overwhelming sense of gravity, leading to long hours spent sleeping and sitting down reading books.

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Ship's Log Day 2:  At Sea: Read more books.  Took more naps.  Ate more foods. Found the gym and did a circuit workout!

3 sets w/ 2 min Rowing Machine between sets:

  • 10 Dumbbell Squats
  • 10 Dumbbell Presses
  • 10 Push Ups

3 sets w/ 2 min Rowing Machine between sets:

  • 10 Dumbbell Deadlifts
  • 10 Dumbbell Bent Over Rows
  • 10 Breaths in Plank

A whole bunch of core work...

Ship's Log Day 3:  Juneau, Alaska!

We hopped off in Juneau to check out the Mendenhall Glacier and took a 20 min ride to the glacier on a blue school bus with a rather entertaining driver for just $8.

We were there at the end of of the salmon run and were sooooo lucky to see a mama black bear and two baby black bears tumbling after her as she looked for an omega-3 rich dinner.

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We took the Nugget Falls trail out toward the glacier, which was about a mile walk.

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And ended our trip with the visitor's center. In which I proceeded to act like a lunatic/toddler.

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Took a quick side trip to the Red Dog Saloon (because, you have to, right?) and for the obligatory sign photo, but otherwise, didn't spent too much time in Juneau proper.

IMG_1920Our next stop was Skagway, and probably my favorite!  Stay tuned for the next episode of MOOSE AND SQUIRREL!

(Honk if you got the reference.  Because that sh*t earned me two points during shipboard pub quiz.  Which we dismally lost anyway.)

How to Take a Healthy Road Trip

We're road tripping to Canada... Cruising through Alaska... then road tripping from Canada to Wisconsin to start a few years there as PULSE hubby goes to law school and business school.  I am SO looking forward to starting up an eCoaching and video side to my business, rekindling a relationship with Steep and Brew Coffee and to just *being* despite all the changes and upheaval. I've spent a lot of time learning about how to keep myself feeling balanced and centered when we travel... here are a few!

1. Support your immune and nervous system

I take Probiotics (usually my Advocare brand but I ran out) every morning anyway...but I'm hyper vigilant about it when we travel. (earmuffs! : it helps things stay regular on a very irregular schedule...)  I also take a B Vitamin every afternoon when I tend to hit my lull - usually a Cortico B5-B6 from Metagenix for adrenal support, but I picked this up from Sprouts today to hold me over.  I also take a powdered Vitamin C supplement and a scoop of Amazing Grass Greens Powder with my probiotics in the morning!

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2. Eat green food.  Then eat some protein.

For road trips, I always make sure we stop at a grocery store to stock up the cooler with pre-made salads, easy protein and happy snacks.  (a McDonald's salad... is NOT a salad in my book...)  Makes for a great chance to picnic when we find somewhere pretty, and I'm not stuck on a blood sugar roller coaster while sitting still next to a bunch of gummy bears.

Found these pre-made salads and great little hummus cups at Sprouts today too, along with greek yogurts and raw almonds...

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3.  MOVE every day... even just a little...

My big mistake on our trip from DC to CA was not prioritizing exercise.  Here's a 5 min (or however long, just repeat)  interval workout you can do in your motel room, parking lot, McDonald's drive through (BE THE CHANGE!) if you don't want to drag a 16 kg kettlebell in your car.  (who me?)

  • 30 sec jump rope or jumping jacks / 30 sec rest
  • 30 sec push ups / 30 sec rest
  • 30 sec squats or jump squats / 30 sec rest
  • 30 sec plank / 30 sec rest
  • 30 sec jump rope or mountain climbers / 30 sec rest

When my stylist asked me this past week about how I stayed healthy when we travel, I thought about it for a minute, because our last cross-country move... wasn't so healthy.  I drank a LOT of Diet Coke and ate a LOT of 100 Calorie Snack Packs.  I didn't sleep...didn't work out... and got to CA feeling awful.

My goal this time around is:

  • Workout/sweat 3x /week and move every day for at least 20 minutes
  • Eat or drink something green with every meal
  • Set up a bedtime routine (melatonin, shower, book chapter works well for me) to help me sleep despite a weird schedule

How do you stay healthy when you travel???