Thoughts On Running

I have never been a runner. I have never been very athletic overall – but I have definitely never EVER been a runner. Growing up, I played basketball, which I hated, tennis, volleyball, and softball, which I was actually all fairly good at and liked, and was also a Pop Warner cheerleader – although I was usually a “base” at the bottom of the pyramid, which is not necessarily great for a pre-teen’s self esteem. Needless to say, hardcore cardio work was not for me. I didn’t have the heart strength or the breathing regimen for it. I just always felt like I was drowning every time I had to run.

It’s interesting how much more health conscious kids are today. I worked in a high school for about a year and the kids would actually go to the gym just to GO TO THE GYM. They weren’t even specifically training for anything, like football! And they were certainly more aware of what they were putting in their mouths. I did not grow up like that. I actually liked eating vegetables, but the ones I ate were usually soaked in cheese and butter. It was just a different world and I wish I knew then what I know now so I didn’t have to work so hard to undo the mistakes of my youth.

Twice in my life, I have lost a significant amount of weight. The first was in college: I actually joined a women’s gym one summer (it was kind of like Curves but they had actual food coaches and cardio machines). I went five days a week and dropped 40lbs before going back to school. For the first time since becoming a teenager, I was a single digit size! The entire experience was wonderful. I bonded strongly with the other women even though they were much older than me. They even threw me a birthday celebration with a sugar free ice cream cake. It was awesome.Image result for scaleThe second time was after I relocated from New York to New Hampshire just as I was turning 30. I came up for air and realized that I had put on a lot of weight while immersing myself in my career. I decided to treat this move as a complete life reboot and hired a personal trainer. I had never gone to a regular gym before but I was hopeful that the trainer could help get me over the hump. We had a comfortable rapport and he actually turned out to be a boy that had a crush on me when we were children, but it took us a few sessions to figure it out. He gave me a realistic regimen and I stuck to it, and slowly the weight came back off. I was once again a single digit! Although I fluctuate slightly, I have maintained it for the past 10+ years.

Now I live in a building that has its own gym, so I really have no excuse. The gym is small and the equipment is old, but it has two treadmills, two bikes, an elliptical and some weights. My BF is a runner and we’ll often be in the gym at the same time, him pounding on the treadmill and me on the elliptical or other treadmill with my hand-weights. My heart is in much better condition than when I was a child; I can sustain long periods of cardio activity now, as evidenced by surviving my weekly cardio kickboxing classes. What’s interesting is how all these things in your life can converge and lead you on a new path. The combination of watching my BF run and the breathing techniques I’ve learned from yoga has actually gotten me to consider running myself. One day while speed walking on the treadmill, I literally thought, why can’t I do that? So I just decided to do it. I cranked up the speed higher than I ever had, and I just ran. Not for very long – maybe a half mile – but I still ran.

I wouldn’t say that I actually enjoyed it, but I didn’t hate it either. And I felt like I accomplished something. Every once in awhile, I even do it again. Who is this person?

A Yogic Thought From RHONY

The way you treat me is your path. The way I react is mine.

This is a quote from the Real Housewives of New York. The ladies went on a group trip to Mexico and lots of drunken hilarity ensued, yet they still managed to do yoga every morning. This is something that their instructor said to them during meditation. It resonated with me.

Thoughts On Garbage

I stepped incorrectly on my kitchen garbage can and broke off part of the pedal. It still marginally worked so I thought I could get away with only stepping very gingerly on it moving forward, but then it finally gave out. I had shopped around for a new garbage can last year before settling on the now broken one at Target. All the really nice metal cans (with metal foot pedals) were quite expensive so I “cheaped” out and went with a plastic one, which still cost $50. I decided not to make the same mistake this time and ended up paying $79.99 for a Simple Human can at Homegoods. Allegedly it is “finger print proof”, but I think it should also take out the garbage for you.

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This whole experience got me thinking about how much trash my BF and I produce. We are only two people. Granted, we eat at home a lot more now that we have such a nice kitchen, a balcony to dine on, and enjoy what we make at home more than most restaurants. But still, we end up taking out the garbage every other day – and we have TWO garbage cans in our kitchen! Are we too wasteful?

When I was younger, I was much less cognizant of my environmental footprint – but so were most people at that time, really. Now that I’m more aware, I still don’t imagine that I will ever become a person that recycles everything, but I do feel a little guilty about all the k-cups I throw away. I have tried using a refillable filter – but dammit, those disposable pods are just too convenient!

I am trying to make a small contribution by repurposing everything I can – plastic grocery bags become small garbage can liners, leftovers become lunch the next day, etc. – but it just doesn’t seem like enough when I see how quickly the trash room in my building fills up. Online ordering is amazing – but all those boxes! It just seems silly.

Almost as silly as spending $79.99 on a receptacle for GARBAGE, I guess. If that’s not the ultimate symbol of consumerism, I don’t know what is.

Yoga Teacher Training Workshop

As promised, I attended the info session/workshop for the 200-Hour YogaWorks Teacher Training today. I entered the studio and was greeted by Kate, who led the first class I attended at YogaBalance back when it was located on the second floor of a small building on Second Street in Manchester, NH; now YogaBalance has a beautiful, light-filled studio on Hooksett Avenue with a separate lounge, a changing room, and awesome bathroom sinks. Kate seemed happy to see me and made me feel welcome. I assumed most of the other attendees would be students of YogaBalance but I was in the minority. This made me nervous. How did these people hear about the training here? They must be way more practiced than me and serious about becoming teachers. As I set up next to an older man who was going through a series of warm-up poses, I really started to get psyched out. What am I DOING? I am not a yoga TEACHER. These people were actually searching for a training like this; I only stumbled upon this because it was mentioned in the announcements at the end of my last class.

Kate started the workshop with an actual yoga class in the YogaWorks style. Since I have taken her non-beginner classes before, I am used to her style of teaching. There is not much time for rest unless you, as a student, choose to honor that for yourself. All the poses she guided us through were leading to a revolved half moon, which was the crescendo of the class. I am very confident in my standing poses and my balance; my downfall is anything that is wrist-heavy due to overuse of computers. (I am sure that I have carpal tunnel and already have the signs of arthritis. More reason to practice!)

There was a moment where I 100% decided that this wasn’t for me. I was like, there is no way I can teach this when I struggle to do it myself. With that, I set myself free to just enjoy the class as a class. I kept my mind on my own mat and turned to my breath. I focused on Kate’s cues and didn’t pay attention to what anyone else was doing. And when we finally reached revolved half moon, I could sense the bodies around me toppling over while I was fairly steady. I kept pushing on the heel of my lifted foot and feeling it raise higher and higher. I had evolved in my revolve.

After the class portion, Kate led a Q&A. Class is in session for the better part of a Saturday and Sunday every four weeks for twelve weekends total. There is also homework – about six hours worth a month. And then, of course, there is a test. Wisely, Kate had a current student attend the tail end of our workshop to vouch for her experience. She is already teaching a class to her co-workers at her full-time job, so I’ve learned that you don’t have to actually be certified in any way to actually teach yoga – something to watch out for. Eloise was adorable – young, effervescent – but what I appreciated most about her was that she didn’t have a tiny dancer body. She was real, like me. I’ve had instructors of all shapes & sizes and one of the largest instructors I had was actually capable of doing the most intense stand-on-your-head poses, which I still cannot do. But even with these great mentors, I was having trouble seeing myself take this training because I don’t “look” like a yoga instructor. Where does that come from?

Pretzel

By the end of the Q&A, I was re-engaged with the course. Kate broke us into pairs and had us do adjustments on each other. I was surprised to learn that my downward dog was “pretty darn good”. (I always imagine it to be a mess because my wrists wail so loudly when I do it.) I actually ended up asking the most questions during this part and I could tell that Kate appreciated how seriously I was taking the experience.

In the parking lot, I met a former marine that had actually signed up for the course. He was undergoing a life change and was training to be a coach (I’m not sure what kind – a life coach?) and he had newly discovered yoga. He started to go into a spiel about how underrated this type of training is; I just kept thinking that he was hanging in the wrong circles – he certainly didn’t need to convince ME. And maybe that’s the point. It’s not just about the information that you learn while taking a class like this – it’s about the community of people that you do it with. He was a bit of a showman, but maybe he’ll relax when he spends more time on the mat and realizes that no one is there to impress anyone else.

And me? It really is a hell of a commitment. I am worried that I will regret the time investment since my end goal isn’t to teach. But maybe sometimes you also have to revolve to evolve.

Thoughts On Clutter

I’m not sure what your opinion of Bethanny Frankel is, but I like her. She, like all of us, can be her own worst enemy, but she is a brilliant businesswoman and a master of branding. I respect what she has accomplished and I do like many of her Skinnygirl products – in particular her low calorie salad dressings and organic stevia. I have also read her books. I would love to have cocktails with her sometime and gauge her mindset after having written a book on relationships while her and Jason Hoppey were together. How does she feel about that book now that they broke up? Is she embarrassed? I hope not. I still think it holds a lot of valuable, realistic advice – even if she made a mistake in marrying him.

But what I relate to most in her books is her feelings on clutter. She goes through these bursts of de-cluttering her apartment. She’ll rip through closets and cabinets and throw massive amounts of shit away. When my boyfriend and I put ourselves on the waiting list for a new apartment in January of last year, I began weeding through my things. I had been living in my last apartment for six years; I started with a small New York-sized 1-bedroom amount of things and then accumulated enough to fill a generous New Hampshire 2-bedroom with a walk-in closet that was bigger than my guest room. Then my BF moved in and there were even MORE things. I am so thankful for those few months while we were on the waiting list, and I am especially thankful that those months were in the winter.

What I discovered, like Bethanny Frankel, is how liberating it is to throw shit away. Of course I tried to donate or re-home most things (my BF’s sister was moving into her first apartment and she became the main benefactor of my purging), but a lot of shit went into the dumpster as well. I came up with a rule: if I don’t LOVE it, I’m not keeping it. No more hanging onto things out of a sense of obligation. Sure, I scored a good deal on that, or yes, this was given to me by this person – but do I love it? If not, then I probably don’t need it. And if I didn’t necessarily love it but I needed it (like some pots & pans that I had since college), I added that item to a list of gift ideas that I could share with my family. They are always asking me what I want at Christmas and I always struggle with what to say, but now I have a running list of suggestions that I feel comfortable with them spending their money on. And they get the satisfaction of seeing my new pots & pans in use when I make them Christmas dinner. (My Dad said that he could hear the satisfying crash of my old pots & pans hit the dumpster from a town thirty minutes away. Haha.)

Every single day, I take some time to de-clutter. My BF used to accuse me of not being sentimental, but he knows better now. I take pictures of all my apartments and have a record of things I’ve owned. And the true things that are sentimental to me – a Starbucks mug from San Diego, my small collection of ashtrays – I always find places for. But now when I travel, the souvenirs I bring home are always usable ones. I have this wooden tray from Honduras that I use to store my costume-jewelry rings. It was burned to create the design on it so it has this amazing charcoal-like coating. I remember the woman that sold it to me every time I look at it. Now when I travel, I buy mostly wearables so I am reminded of that trip every time I wear that item. And they don’t take up a lot of space!

But still, I am very focused on pairing down my wardrobe. Every day, I throw something into the donation pile. Now that I no longer have a walk-in closet, I simply don’t have the room for “just in case” pieces – everything I keep must be something that actually serves a purpose. And honestly, it’s been fun figuring out what my new “uniform” will be in my 40s. I am hyper aware of clothing now that does not feel age-appropriate. (Although I did just buy a pair of distressed jeans – after getting rid of eight other pairs, mind you – and that may have been a mistake. I will keep you posted.)

Thoughts On Yoga

At key times in my life, I have turned to yoga as a form of therapy – not just for my mind, but also for my body and soul. During a terrible breakup in my early 30s (which happened after I had just gone through the intense process of uprooting my life and moving from New York to New Hampshire), I started attending a yoga class at my local gym and lucked out with an amazing teacher. Grace was a tiny powerhouse of a young woman and she made class fun. It was the first time that I had done a more “power” form of yoga, where my strength was challenged with long-held planks and lunges with twists. But what was great about Grace is that she gave us an adequate warm-up before busting out the hard moves, and her positive energy made me look forward to seeing her every week. At the height of the breakup, tears would stream down my face during parts of class and Grace wouldn’t say a word. In order to succeed at the poses, I had to be completely present and engaged in what my body was doing. Something about connecting with my body so fiercely made the emotion pour out of me (literally) and I would leave class feeling like my self-esteem had been restored.

It seems stereotypical, I know, but I was first introduced to yoga while working at a radio station in Woodstock, New York. A large, beautiful studio opened up on Tinker Street right when yoga was starting to be part of the conversation. (I remember Madonna crediting yoga for her ripped body and then suddenly Brittany was doing it as well.) I attended only a couple of beginner classes, but it was enough for me to realize hey, I like this – which really says a lot when you consider that I often got paired up with the owner of the station/my boss and we’d have to help deepen each other’s downward dog by pulling on a strap that was wrapped around the other’s waist.

Downward Dog

Yes, I drew this.

When I suffered a layoff in my mid-30s, I signed up for an unlimited monthly membership at my local studio (where I still attend today). I couldn’t really afford such an extravagance, but I knew yoga was what I needed in order to make peace with what I had just been through. As with the breakup, I often teared up during class – which signaled to me that my instinct to invest in that membership was dead on. Attending class brought structure to my day – a reason to get dressed and leave the house – and also made my mind, body and soul healthier. I found an amazing job within six months and entered back into the workforce stronger than when I had left.

Today, I am staring down my 41st birthday. I am not freaked out about turning 41, mind you. I know that I don’t have a “traditional” life for a woman my age – I have never been married, no kids – but I am 100% good with that. What I am actually struggling with right now is what my family has been going through over the past few years. My brother has been fighting cancer and has had a couple of major surgeries – and as terrible as it has been to watch him battle this disease, it has almost been more gut wrenching to watch my elderly parents watch him battle it. That is their son. My brother should be living the best years of his life with his family and my parents should finally be enjoying a well-deserved retirement. Unfortunately, that is not the hand that my family was dealt. I do realize that it can always be worse, but man…

And that’s how the noise starts. I find myself falling down this rabbit hole of WTF.

I hadn’t been to the yoga studio in a few months due to my travel schedule and made a concerted effort to attend class a couple of weeks ago in order to help re-center. As serendipity would have it, our teacher went through the announcements at the end of class – one of them being that the studio was holding a free info session for their 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training Course with YogaWorks. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it except the teacher went on to explain that you don’t have to be interested in becoming a yoga teacher to take the course – you can also do it to deepen your practice. That’s when my ears perked up. Yoga has helped me through so many challenging times in my life – I wonder if it’s time for me to completely immerse myself in it again. And what if I actually do find that I’m interested in teaching a class here or there? What an amazing gift to be able to help others in the way that my teachers have helped me.

So I’m going to the workshop on Saturday to explore this idea. I never imagined doing anything like this previously – but with one tiny mention, I now feel like this idea is something I can’t ignore.