Fitness

Finding the Illusive Balance

Hey guys…whoa, long time, no see.  This is officially the longest I’ve gone between posts since I started my blog!  Sorry for going MIA.

I have been busy lately.  But oh so happy.  🙂

So, I thought this post would be a good time to talk about balance.  Even if only a reminder for myself.

Balance...get it?  Yay, yoga jokes! Photo credit: Mel Koossy, Shala Plus

Balance…get it? Yay, yoga jokes!
Photo credit: Mel Koossy, Shala Plus

Here is what I know I have to do to keep my balance in life:

1. Be willing to say no.

Starting out in this new line of work, I feel like I have to say yes to everything.  I realize, though, that I have to set some boundaries and be willing to stick to them.  For example, Tuesday is “date night” for Danny and me.  We always make it a priority to set aside time together for dinner and conversation, whether we go out or stay in, on this evening.  I have been offered a Tuesday night class more than once, and each time I have turned it down.  I will sub on occasion, but we really love our Tuesdays, and they are important for us and our relationship.  Which leads me to…

2. Set priorities.

I have been trying to do this for a long time, and it was really the thing that made me decide to take the leap and leave my school teaching job.

Danny and I talked a long time ago about our number one priority to be building a happy marriage together.  So, theoretically, all I do should feed into that goal.  Now, of course, I don’t get ridiculous and still hold responsibilities.  Those responsibilities, however, can’t bring negative to our upcoming marriage.

My job teaching school is a perfect example of this priority being damaged.  I was under so much stress and was so unhappy in my work situation, I would be in tears three or four nights a week.  I would, admittedly, pick fights about little things and, for some reason, would be hurt by the littlest things.  This resulted in a lot of fighting and emotional exhaustion for the both of us.

Summer rolled around, and I was a new woman.  We knew right away it was time for me to leave teaching and pursue what makes me happy.

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I’m not saying that everything is all sunshine and butterflies, of course, but there is way more happy in Danny-and-Amy land.

3. Be realistic.

Sure, after Yoga Teacher Training finished, I would have loved to continue my practice 6 days a week.  However, with working an eight hour day, teaching a class or two on top of that, commuting, and working toward other goals, all while trying to have a life and time with my family, a 1.5-hour yoga practice is just not sustainable.  I am surely getting my workouts in with some of the classes I teach, which leads me to…

4. Take care of your body.

This one probably applies more to the fitness professional area of my life, but doing my own yoga practice is sometimes just plain more than my body can handle right now.

During Yoga Teacher Training, we would do our own practice for about an hour and a half and, later, do a more informal practice while we worked on teaching and adjusting.  Then, I would go on later that day to teach a class or two nearly every evening of the week, including on my only day of from YTT.  While I saw amazing changes in my body, I was so sore most of the time that working out stopped feeling good.  Not the goal when you are trying to motivate others to work out.

5. Plan ahead

Last, but not least, I am going to work harder on planning ahead.  Read: write some blog posts ahead of time so I don’t disappear from blog land for another almost-week.  🙂

How do you find and keep balance in your life?

What Makes a Great Gym/Studio?

Happy Friday everyone!

This week, I said goodbye for good to my previous job teaching middle school and started full time as the assistant manager at a yoga studio/medspa.

4 Person Pushup

Part of my job is to manage the studio end of the business, doing the scheduling, talking with clients, teaching classes, etc.

I’ve had ideas swirling around my head for ways I can enhance the studio, so I thought this would be a good place to share them and get some of your thoughts.

What makes a great yoga studio or gym?

1. Welcoming Atmosphere

There is nothing worse than walking in to a workout class and feeling like an intruder.  I am very conscious of new clients or beginners in my class, and I work hard to make sure they feel welcome and a part of the class.

2. Enthusiastic Teachers

This one isn’t a problem for a second in my studio.  We have excited, friendly teachers who love what they do!

3. Variety

I had an interesting conversation with a client last night that really made me think.  We are having difficulty finding a new teacher for a class in which the original teacher moved away.  This class is dance-based and quite popular.  In order to get some of the other teachers to take it over, we are looking in to changing the format.  However, this is tricky, because we don’t want to turn away the clients who loved it the way it was.

She mentioned to me that what she really values about that class is the cardio, as we don’t have many other cardio classes on the schedule.  This was kind of eye-opening as far as structuring the new class, and as I look at the schedule as a whole.  Which leads me to…

4. Connects with clients

It took me quite awhile to compile a list of email address for the members at my studio today, but I did it.  In my opinion, it is really important to communicate and build a community in order to get people to keep coming back and building a healthy lifestyle and a successful studio.

5. Fun!

This one has got to be the most important.  If you don’t enjoy going somewhere, you’re not going to go back, am I right?

What do you think makes a great gym or yoga studio?

How Yoga has Transformed Me

Guess what, guys?  I’m officially a yoga teacher!

Now that my teacher training is complete, I thought it would be an appropriate time to take a moment to reflect on how this month has changed me.

For the title of this post, I originally wrote “My Body.”  Then, I realized that yoga has changed more than that for me.

I am more flexible than I probably have ever been in my entire life.

Now, by yoga standards, I am still not very flexible.  My past as a runner has blessed me with some wicked tight hamstrings and hips.  However, I am truly amazed by how much daily practice can do in a relatively short about of time.  I went from barely getting my leg into half lotus, to a full lotus in less than a month.  In a forward fold or down dog, I sometimes almost fall into it because I expected my body to start resisting sooner.  🙂  It’s pretty cool.

My posture and standing position have improved.

Photo Credit: Mel Koossy, Shala Plus

Photo Credit: Mel Koossy, Shala Plus

Nearly from the start, I was much more conscious of my posture.  This has continued, and I definitely feel it has improved.

The more interesting part to me is my standing position.  I have been pretty sore throughout the training process, but this past week became downright uncomfortable.  I has continued into the past couple of days (which makes since, because I haven’t rested much).  Yesterday, I was really uncomfortable just standing for a relatively short time.  I was in comfortable shoes and just couldn’t figure out the problem.  Then, I glanced in the mirror and noticed that I had all my weight shifted into one hip (my choir teacher in high school used to call it “pissy girl hip,” haha).  Not very yoga.  So, I evened out the weight in both feet, and, BAM, discomfort went away.  Pretty wild.

I’m stronger.

I remember on one of the first days of training, we went through warrior sequence, in which we have to hold warrior one and two on each side of five full breaths.  I couldn’t do it in the beginning.  Now, I do it regularly, and I could definitely do it longer.  My chataranga is a huge improvement as well.

Photo credit: Mel Koossy, Shala Plus

Photo credit: Mel Koossy, Shala Plus

This part is probably my biggest thing I want to promote.  So many people (me included at one point) view yoga as “less” than a workout, as it is supposed to be relaxing and connect you to yourself.  Sure, it does that, but you also get super sweaty and toned in the process, with a method of yoga that is built for those results.

I’m more poised and take better care of myself.

I don’t know if I can completely attribute this to yoga, or if it is just the result of what I have learned recently with my life changes.  Regardless, I truly feel like a better version of me.  I take the time to think about what I need and how to achieve it.  There was a time, not so long ago, when if something didn’t work for me, I would just deal with it, because that is what I was supposed to do.  Now, I am not afraid to speak up or act if I need a change.

Small example:  On Friday, Danny and I went out to dinner to celebrate.  It was a bit of a rainy afternoon, so, although I wanted to sit outside, we opted for an indoor table since the patio was still pretty wet.  We got our table in the second level, and it was freezing.  Not comfortable at all.  Plus, the atmosphere was weird.

Not so long ago, I would have dealt with it and probably got pretty annoyed and cranky.  Instead, we pretty much immediately decided to leave and check out the patio to see if we could deal with the water.  It ended up being perfect!

I have more clarity.

This one is kind of hard to explain, but I feel like I am waaaay better at clearing my mind because of yoga.  I will say that meditation is still quite the challenge for me, but I am getting there.

I am really able to clear my mind while I am practicing, which is a great feeling.  I do notice this feeling stretching into my daily life as well, which is so refreshing.  I am the kind of girl whose mind can be swarmed with thoughts to the point that it makes me want to freak out, but I have really been able to quiet many of those things, due to yoga and some practice.

Photo credit: Mel Koossy, Shala Plus

Photo credit: Mel Koossy, Shala Plus

So, that’s the Marvelous in My Monday!  (I’m linking up with Katie).

What benefits have you gotten from yoga?

Is there another type of fitness that has given you similar benefits?  Let’s hear about it!

How Do You TRULY Listen to Your Body?

I’m in a bit of a predicament.

As you probably know if you have read any recent posts, you know that I am going through a Yoga Teacher Training program right now.  Each morning (except Saturday), we complete the entire Ashtanga Primary Series, which is pretty intense.

This process has truly transformed my body.  So much so, I am planning to post about it next week when the training is finished.  However, this transformation has come with a LOT of soreness for me.

Running through shin soreness was not a good idea, and nearly took this moment away from me before I had the chance!

Running through shin soreness was not a good idea, and nearly took this moment away from me before I had the chance!

We talk often at YTT about how dull pain is a good thing, as it is the micro-fissures being created in your muscles that help you get stronger and more flexible.  We also talk about the difference between that dull pain and a sharp, shooting pain, which is your body telling you to stop.

My question today is, what happens when you find yourself between the two?

Literally every morning since the training started, I have stepped out of bed to some shocking stiffness and soreness.  I am getting it in the usual spots, but even in strange places like my hands and feet.  It typically eases rather quickly as I get moving, but it is a new feeling for me.

Today, I am having a dull, but constant, pain in the outside of my ankle/foot that radiates all the way up to my  hip.  It isn’t a sharp, shooting pain, but it is definitely uncomfortable and doesn’t feel like your typical soreness.  I’m also noticing a dull, deep-looking bruise in the spot that I am feeling discomfort on my ankle.

I am not one to make excuses.  Excuses are one of my biggest pet peeves.  I try to always remember the great things that my body is capable, and honor my body and how fortunate I am by not selling myself short of a workout because “I don’t feel like it.”  So, as soon as the thought occurs to me that I should sit out the next day, I start to dig deeper.

Is my pain just a result of spending a lot of time in high heels over the weekend?

Isn't he handsome?

Isn’t he handsome?

Did I get to crazy with my awesome wedding reception dancing?

Or, did I push it too hard in my practice today?

At training today, our leader, Caroline Klebl, came to town.  She talked to us for awhile about the importance of maintaining a consistent yoga practice.  Traditionally, this is 6 days a week.  However, she emphasized that importance of recognizing the negative impact over-exercising can have on your body and explained that 3-4 days a week works better for some people.

This was great for me to hear, as I am looking forward to getting back into running and other workouts after the training is over, but I don’t want to lose the benefits I have seen yoga have on my body.

So, now comes the big question.  Am I too sore/tired/injured to practice tomorrow, or am I just burnt out?  How do I know what my body is truly telling me?

What do you think?  Any and all suggestions are welcome (and wanted)!

Life Lessons from Maya Angelou

Awhile back when Maya Angelou passed away, I saved an article called “21 Life Lessons from Maya Angelou.”  Today, as I was looking through some post ideas, I stumbled upon it.  July has been quite the transitional month for me, so a little reminder of some life lessons should be excellent.

It is Marvelous Monday, after all.  I’m linking up with Katie.

I picked out some of the lessons that most strongly resonated with me.

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. Try to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud. Do not complain. Make every effort to change things you do not like. If you cannot make a change, change the way you have been thinking. You might find a new solution.”

Holy cow, do I need to remember this one!  I have been working hard to follow this idea.  I try not to complain too much (although, I admit, I do spill it out on my fiance and sister in law every once in awhile).  The real effort for me is also underlined.  When something is bothering me, I really try to take a step back and ask myself if there is anything I can do to make a change.  If there is, I try to do it.  If not, I need to reframe my thinking and find a way to let it go (or at least deal with it).

“I did what I knew…. When I knew better, I did better.”

This quote is so simple, yet it speaks volumes.  I have encountered this in soooooo many stages of my life.

  • Running my first 5K, and improving from there.

5K finish

  • Choosing friends that may not have appreciated or accepted me, and learning to move away from those people later’
  • Allowing my fear of flying to keep me away from amazing views like this, and then deciding to bite the bullet and travel!
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  • Running too hard in marathon training until I injured myself, then having to lay off much more than I wanted to.
  • Teaching my first yoga class and trying to be someone else.  Now, I have to be myself!

 

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.”

Yes, even my messy hair is enough. Photo Credit: Mel Koossy, Shala Plus

Yes, even my messy hair is enough.
Photo Credit: Mel Koossy, Shala Plus

This is something I am constantly trying to remember in my big career change.

I know that people, even those closest to me, have judged my decision and even maybe bashed it behind my back.  At first, it bugged me a little.  Now, I see it totally differently.  I know that what I am doing is the right thing for me.  Whatever people may think about it doesn’t matter.  I am working hard to be successful and do what makes me happy, I have a fiance who backs me 100% in this, and that is all I need.

Do any of these lessons resonate with you?  Tell me your story!

Fitness Classes I Teach

Happy Friday kids!  I can’t believe we are already looking at the end of July.  Next week is my LAST WEEK of Yoga Teacher Training!  Time sure has flown.

Now that I’ve truly gotten my feet wet in this new career of mine, I thought it would be nice to give a little insight into the classes I teach and how I prepare for them.

HIIT Core + Core Strength

This is the first class I taught, and it is definitely fun.  The ladies I get in the class so far are “regulars” and are super sweet!

Typically, I run this class like so:

  • Warm up- about 10 minutes, starting with cardio and working into abs
  • Abs section- either a timed HIIT set/tabata, or a more traditional strength set for about 10-15 minutes
  • Cardio/full body section- timed intervals for about 10 minutes
  • Cool down- yoga-inspired stretching for a little less than 10 minutes

Ashtanga Intermediate

Photo Credit: Mel Koossy, Shala Plus

Photo Credit: Mel Koossy, Shala Plus

The Ashtanga system is the focus of my Yoga Teacher Training.  My instructor is great, and she has a lot of faith in me.  I started teaching this class in my first week of training!

I follow the Ashtanga primary sequence for this class, but I skip some postures based on the group I get that evening and time constraints.  It is fun in a totally different way from HIIT, as it is much more quiet and mellow, but I find it extremely rewarding.

Yoga Sculpt

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Earlier this week (or maybe it was over the weekend?  It’s all starting to blend together these days), I shared some ideas for fusing yoga and strength training.  This is really the focus of this class.  I take traditional yoga poses and modify them to include weights or a little more intense strengthening moves.

For last week’s class, I followed the Ashtanga sequence but modified postures.  This week, I am working with some of my own designs of flows.  Here is one that I put together today:

  • Samisthiti
  • Arms up
  • Fold forward
  • Look up and lengthen deadlift
  • Chataranga hold
  • Up Dog
  • Down Dog
  • High lunge, torso forward, grab weights
    • Lateral raise x5
    • Front raise x5
    • Rows x5
    • Bent-arm lateral raise x5
  • Up into full high/crescent lunge, tricep kickbacks x10
  • Windmill down to pushup, drop weights, hold chataranga
  • Up Dog
  • Down Dog
  • Repeat High Lunge with other leg
  • Jump through to stand
  • Look up and lengthen deadlift
  • Fold forward
  • All the way up, hands to sky
  • Samisthiti

Looked nearly identical to this yesterday…

Virtual high-five to the person who can guess which one in the Ashtanga photo is me!  (Little sisters need not guess, haha)

What is your favorite fitness class?

 

 

How to Fuse Yoga and Strength

To start, let me clarify that yoga is strength, if you really focus on your form.  However, some people like to have more weight training in their workouts, so a yoga-strength fusion can be great.

Over the weekend, I started teaching a Yoga Sculpt class.  To teach it, I went through the Ashtanga poses I’ve been learning and added strength training elements to them.  I thought it was a fun workout, so I thought I’d share some of them with you.

Yoga Sculpt Poses

Down-dog Pulse

Go through a sun salutation (reach up, fold forward, look up and lengthen, jump back to yoga push-up, up-dog, then down-dog).

Please excuse the hair chunk, dog crate, and dog bed.  :)

Please excuse the hair chunk, dog crate, and dog bed. 🙂

Hold in your down-dog for 5 breaths.  Then, lift your right leg into the air, so it is about parallel to the ground.

Pulse your straight leg into the air with your foot flexed about 15-20 times.  Repeat with the left leg.

Padangustasana Deadlift

At the top of your mat with feet hip with apart and parallel to each other, fold forward to take a hold of your big toes.

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Let go of your toes and take hold of some dumbbells.  Slowly come back up to standing, using your glutes to pull you up.  Make sure to keep a straight back and nearly straight legs (a microbend in your knee is helpful).

Side Angle Shoulder Sculptor

Start at the top of your mat.  Jump out to the right.  Bend your right knee, and place your right hand flat on the ground outside of your right foot.  Sweep your left hand up to make your body take a 45-degree angle to the floor.

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After holding here for a bit, take hold of a dumbbell and rotate your arm up to the same position.  Pulse the back of your hand up toward the ceiling 10 times.  You will probably end up making an EEK face like me, haha.

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Put down your weight, come up to standing, reverse your footing, and repeat on the left side.

Play around with adding some of these poses to your workout, and let me know what you think.  I hope these poses help you have a marvelous Monday!

As always, thanks to Katie for hosting the link-up!

Which do you prefer, yoga or traditional strength training?  Why?

The Best Compliment I Could Have Gotten

…at least in my yoga teaching so far.  🙂

Last night, I taught my 3rd ever Ashtanga class.

If you read about the first time around, it was not pretty.  There were three regulars in the class, who have been practicing Ashtanga pretty regular for a year and a half.  At this point, I had only practiced three times.  So, as soon as I made a mistake and they corrected me, my confidence faltered, and I sort of fell apart.

Yeah…should’ve looked it up first.

I was relatively certain that those three would not be back if my name was on the schedule.

Well, last night, one of them came.  I felt really good about the class; I kept my confidence and was myself.  I tried not to worry too much about what she thought; I focused more on the cues she needed (and the rest of the class, of course).

After class, she came up to me and said, “You’ve had quite a week.”  I smiled, then she went on to say, “That was a great class, a really great class.”

I wanted to jump up and down, but I just thanked her (probably too many times) and made sure she knew how much her comment meant to me.

Another sweaty, but happy, selfie.  Please excuse the weird hair situation.

Another sweaty, but happy, selfie. Please excuse the weird hair situation.

Today, I was telling my YTT instructor (this student’s typical teacher) about it, and she was so excited for me.  She pointed out that this particular student does not give out compliments freely.  She told me that even for her it took a long time for her to feel like she had “won her over.”

On a day that I was feeling a little discouraged about myself as a yogi, let alone an instructor, this compliment really turned my day around.

What is the last compliment that really changed your day?

Can’ts into Cans: My Yoga Body

It’s been awhile since I did a Can’ts into Cans series post!  I figured now is a great time, as I am a week and a half in to yoga teacher training.  Let me tell you, 1 1/2- 2 hours of intense yoga per day is no joke!

With my practice jumping from occasional to six days a week, I have noticed some significant changes in what my body can do already.

Pre-yoga teaching...this is a better picture than after.  If you've seen my sweaty selfie, you get it.

Pre-yoga teaching…this is a better picture than after. If you’ve seen my sweaty selfie, you get it.

1. Forward fold

As ridiculous as it sounds, I thought my runner hamstrings would just never loosen up enough to truly touch my toes.  It only took a couple of days of practicing Ashtanga for me to get there.  Now, I get a little further in every day, and I know that I will get to the “full” posture if I don’t give up!

2. Marichyasana

 

Another posture I never thought I would get into.  Now, I can tell you that mine doesn’t look nearly as pretty as Kino’s, I have to struggle to get my finger tips to clasp, but it is so exciting to be there!  I’m looking forward to continuing to deepen in this one!

(Side note: If you’ve never seen Kino MacGregor’s videos, click around!  She is amazing!)

3. Headstand

This posture is one I’ve always been a little afraid to try.  One day, though, my teacher helped me get up and try to hold.  The next day, continued to be a struggle.  The day after that, I got up by myself.  At this point, my headstand doesn’t last long on it’s own, and I definitely need the wall to support me.  But, again, I’m looking forward to seeing it progress!

It’s truly amazing what the body can do with practice and dedication.  I’m only a third of the way through my teacher training, and I can’t wait to update you on my can’ts that become cans through the rest of the process!

Any yogis out there?  What pose did you think you would never get into, but you finally did?

 

My Yoga Clothes Shopping Spree

Happy Monday, ya’ll! I’m linking up on Katie’s Marvelous Monday today. This weekend was rather uneventful, as I was wiped out from yoga training all week. Friday, though, I made sure to have date night with my favorite guy.

Why do the pictures get all fuzzy when you flip the iPhone camera?  Grr

Why do the pictures get all fuzzy when you flip the iPhone camera? Grr

Saturday, he headed off to a bachelor party, and I was lay-zee!  I did a little blog work, read even littler of my personal trainer textbook, and read a lot of my for-fun book back in bed.  It was pretty delightful. That afternoon, I had some quality time with the sister-in-law (to be, but whatever).  She is basically the queen of shopping, so she and I went to Marshalls, as I needed some more yoga clothes badly.  Twelve hours of yoga and three classes to teach last week really wore out my fitness wardrobe! So, I thought I’d share some of my finds.  I must say, I nailed it.

Zone Training Yoga Towel: $12.99

The one I bought is lavendar.  I was going to just get by with towels from home, but the SIL convinced me that this towel was more professional.  She’s a persuasive lady.

Sweet Romeo Striped Sweater: $10 (on clearance)

Weird arm placement...

Weird arm placement…

This sweater will be the perfect cover-up when it starts getting chilly.  It can work for more than just yoga as well.  At ten bucks, I really couldn’t say no.

Balance Collection by Marika teal tank, $9.99

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I LOVE this brand!  The material is such a great combination of soft and moisture wicking.  It’s so comfortable and functional.  The pattern on this one is great too.

Reebok graphic tank, $12.99

My wedding colors!

My wedding colors!

This tank is totally adorable.  I may have to hold off on it for non-workout things, as it might be too cute to put on my sweaty self.  🙂

Marika Tek capris, $14.99

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These capris are this great material called sanded dri-wik.  They feel almost like a soft, cozy t-shirt, but they’re dri-wick.  I haven’t worn them in action yet, but they seem awesome.  I did goof and bought them in a size too big, but wore them to training today and they were fine.  Just a little saggy in the waist, but nothing crazy.

Balance Collection by Marika striped tank, $9.99

(The picture is not cooperating with me, so I am giving up and having you use your imagination.  :))

I’m really drawn to stripes for some reason.  So, this tank was a given.  I’m wearing it to teach HIIT tonight, so that should be a good sweat-test.  It also has a hot pink hem on the seams, which makes for a cute little pop of color.

Avia sports bra, $9.99

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I was looking for a bra with thinner straps, as most of my bras are for higher-impact workouts and, therefore, have thick straps.  So, this one was the perfect price and had the perfect straps.  When I tried it on at home, it fit like a glove.  So perfectly.  Tomorrow, it will get the true yoga test, but I am confident that I will be going back on the hunt for more of these bras.  Oh yeah, it has removable pads, which I promptly took out.  But they’re there if you want them.

Reebok Yoga Tank, $12.99

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I think this one is pretty self explanatory.  I wore this one for adjustments/modifications class after practice.  The knot in the back was a little tricky at times.  So, it might be a non-yoga top.  We shall see. Aside from this awesome stuff, I bought some PJs and flip flops.  It was a pretty epic shopping experience.

What is your favorite brand of workout clothes?

If you don’t have a favorite brand, where do you buy your workout clothes from?  

*The first link is an affiliate, but all others are “normal.”  All opinions and choices are my own.*