Sunday, October 15, 2017

Endure

I recently heard a teaching by Dr. David Jeremiah. He was talking about endurance and sharing what he learned from his personal training session. As a trainer myself, his analogy got my attention. He explained that there are two ways to train your muscles. If you lift heavier weights with fewer repetitions, you grow in strength. If you lift lighter weights, with more repetitions, you grow in endurance. This is true and this is exactly the idea that I’ve been mulling over in the last few weeks. I was not so much applying it to physical training as much as emotional and spiritual training.

When I posed this question to friends, I asked if they’d prefer one big crisis in their life or several sequential stressors over time. Not surprisingly, most chose the one and done approach. They would rather power through one big issue rather than deal with a bunch of smaller persistent issues. Is this true for you? It is for me. It’s so much easier to be strong and brave once to get through a difficult situation. But to get up daily, face multiple stressors, the problems that irk your soul and persist weeks or sometimes months on end…that’s a whole different training that’s happening. It’s working out patience and resilience in you. It’s teaching you how to endure.

Next time you’re training, think about this analogy. For my heavy lifters, think about mixing up your regimen with lower weights and higher reps. For my sprinters and short distance runners, think about running slower and going farther. For everyone else, consider how life’s discomforts, aggravations, and frustrations are giving you a valuable skill set. There is most definitely a place for strength. But when you’ve trained to withstand for the long haul, then there’s nothing in this life that you can’t endure. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

To any who have been hurt in the name of wellness

You should see my Google search history of late. In the last 2 ½ months, I’ve done all kinds of research on healing digestive issues. The latter part of my summer and the first part of fall I’ve been totally consumed by the effects of a stomach bug that just wouldn’t quit. I haven’t been 100% or felt well for a while now. Thank the Lord, after a good report from my doctor Monday, I believe I have turned a corner. In my recovery process, though, I’ve realized some things. Wellness professionals can be self-righteous and judgmental as hell.

Now, because I’m one I’ll venture to say most are well-meaning. I’m sure people promote certain nutritional choices and exercise regimens because they’ve found them personally healing and helpful. Maybe their wellness habits did play a role in curing what ails them. Awesome! Here’s an inconvenient truth though. You can do everything right and still get sick. Your diet and self-care game can be impeccable and you could still suffer pain in this life. It’s not a reality we like to accept. I certainly don’t. But you can be vibrant and able-bodied until one day you’re not.

If that’s the case and health isn’t guaranteed, it seems like we should all be a little more patient and compassionate with each other. I know lots of delightful souls who deal with chronic illness, autoimmune conditions, pain, and various ailments. They didn’t ask to get sick. I’m sure they don’t want to be. Just in my brief season of moderate discomfort I was beside myself. It’s hard to imagine people who deal with sickness every day for years. Yet, many do. Because so many do, let’s skip the judgments about what they did (or didn’t do) to cause their illness. Let’s stop preaching to people about eating in narrow or restrictive ways. Let’s stop shaming people for being where they are, weight or size-wise, especially when they’re hurting. Let’s instead be merciful and kind. Let’s give people hope that relief and healing are possible. And you know what? Sometimes the most healing thing you can do is let someone know you care and they’re not alone. 


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wh you shouldn't compare yourself with yourself


Many of us have heard sayings related to you being your only competition and focusing on beating where you were yesterday. These are helpful in the sense that they keep you from comparing yourself with others. We each run our own race and should not worry what is happening for the next person. I just can’t help but wonder if competition serves us at all, even if it’s with ourselves. What if it actually interferes with accepting where we are today?

I thought of this because I haven’t quite been myself. I’ve hit a rough patch health-wise and because I haven’t been able to fuel my body sufficiently, I haven’t exercised as much. It’s been over a month since I’ve done much beyond teaching my regular fitness classes. I decided that I needed to ease back in to my own regimen, though, if I wanted to prevent regression.

The results so far? Well, let’s just say I’m in a much different place athletically right now. If I can muster the energy to jog a few minutes, I go much slower. If I can handle weight training, it’s with much lighter weights and fewer reps. Basically, my workouts are pretty wimpy compared to my personal records. But how fair is it to compare myself with my best when I haven’t been at my best?

I share this in hopes that you’ll let yourself off the hook. Life happens and so many factors impact our physical wellness: illness, injury, pregnancy, stress. Sometimes even in peak physical condition, energy levels fluctuate due to nutrition, hydration, or other hormonal and metabolic changes. The bottom line is we don’t always have to beat our best. Sometimes movement isn’t about recapturing some glory moment of the past. Sometimes movement is just celebrating that we can move, that we don’t have pain, that we have the strength to stand, that we can breathe with ease. There are any number of reasons to move that are less about beating your best and more about being your best however that looks today.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

6 Ways Therapy is Like Boot Camp


Health doesn’t just happen. We have to be intentional. Any of us, me included, can experience less than optimal health when we neglect it. That’s why I decided to return to counseling after many years. That’s right. The therapist got a therapist and I’m so glad I did. Since making that choice I’ve considered the many ways therapy is like boot camp for your soul. Let me explain.

It’s an investment
I know we tend to be stingy with our time and money but therapy and fitness require both. If you want one-on-one, personalized attention, if you want someone to partner with you and walk you through the change process, you should expect to drop a pretty penny. It’s not unusual to spend as much as $60-100 per session for a therapist or trainer’s time and attention. But just remember, it’s not about lining their pockets. It’s about investing in you.

You must train your weakness
Confession: I hate training my shoulders. But if it’s a back or leg workout, I can do those for days. It’s easy to focus on our strengths and only do the things we do well. But if you want to grow, you need develop your weaknesses. Emotionally, you might rock at setting boundaries, but stink at expressing your needs. To be well rounded and whole you have to strengthen both.

It hurts before it gets better
You know that sore feeling that happens a day or two after a workout? We’ve come to embrace it as a badge of honor. It’s like, yeah, I did that. Yet, as soon as we notice emotional pain we rush to stop whatever is causing it. Why? Therapy is designed to bring up uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, so we can deal with them in a healthy way. Don’t run from feelings. Discomfort can often be the very sign we’re getting stronger.

It’s best with accountability
You ever notice it’s hard to do the fit life alone? It’s possible, but there’s not as much joy in it and it’s harder to stay on track. Same goes for therapy. It’s great if your therapist is your coach and guide, but you’ll notice even better outcomes if you have support in your personal life. So, tell your trusted friends and family members that you’re working on your emotional health. Maybe you’ll inspire them to do the same.

Small change happens first
You know the feeling you get when your clothes start fitting differently? Or maybe that subtle ability to walk a flight of stairs without getting as winded as you used to get? The same thing happens emotionally. Maybe a simple task that used to cause anxiety doesn’t freak you out as much anymore. Maybe the negative thoughts you battled aren’t as loud. Regardless of what it is, it’s a small but significant change. It might only be discernible to you, but it encourages you to keep going.  

It’s about progress, not perfection
A final noteworthy similarity between therapy and fitness is that perfection isn’t the end goal. No one can be perfect. You will have setbacks. You’ll plateau. You’ll get off course. But as long as you keep moving and don’t quit, you’ll keep progressing. That’s what life’s all about. Progress.

There you have it, friends. Let’s not just burpee, squat, and run our way to physical health and totally neglect our mental health. Let’s get just as excited to train our soul. Put in the work required to be emotionally well. I can assure you there are few things in life more attractive than a beautiful soul.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Where wellness is found when the world is falling apart


It's a weird time to be alive. Last week there were nuclear threats by North Korea. Yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia a Klan rally became deadly. Sometimes it's hard to keep posting my feel-good stuff as usual as if current events aren't happening. Sometimes I feel like my wellness messages are needed even more during times like this. Then sometimes I just don’t know what to say at all. Right now is kind of one of those times and yet I'll reach for the words anyway because they're needed. I think I'll share where I'm finding respite from the rampant bigotry, violence, and chaos.

One of my favorite finds of the summer is a local yoga collective that offers pop-up classes all of the community. I’ve been going to a sunset session on the pier. It's a large class that draws a diverse crowd. Lately, we have been closing class with the following recitation:

May all beings everywhere be happy and free. And may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to the happiness and freedom for all.



It’s aspirational, for sure, but that’s why I like it. Whether or not it can be realized in our lifetime, I’m comforted that there is a remnant of those who still want to believe peaceful relations are possible. It kind of feels like a throwback to John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.” I might be a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Another place I’ve found respite is church. I’m thankful to attend a genuinely diverse church that goes beyond multicultural images for the website. They are truly intentional about diversity of ethnicity, liturgical tradition, and sociopolitical views. Most importantly, they are not afraid to denounce the hatred that’s become the norm in our culture. It’s very affirming to have clergy members, particularly those of the majority culture, take a stand rather than shrink back in silence. It’s really important to know who your allies during times like these.

A final place I’ve gotten a break from all the hate is in the marketplace. It seems that everywhere from laundry mats to farmer’s markets to Starbucks are the great equalizers. People from all backgrounds come and seem open to connect. Perhaps it’s just my recent experience, but I’ve noticed people being a little friendlier: making eye contact, smiling, engaging in small talk and actually waiting for a response. It might just be a simple gesture, but any evidence of human kindness these days gives me hope that there’s still beauty in the world.

What about you? Where are your safe places? Where are you getting a break from the heaviness of life? Netflix is cool. Sometimes you just need to distract and escape with a fictional drama. But what about opportunities to connect with people around you? Now, more than ever, we have to remind ourselves that compassion, goodness, and love exist. If, by chance, you don’t see those qualities around you, perhaps you can embody them. And maybe in doing so, you can contribute to the happiness and freedom for all. Nice thought, right?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sick days and true wellness


I’ve been dealing with some health stuff. Thankfully, nothing too serious. I had something simple needing a quick round of antibiotics followed by some kind of stomach bug. I never get stomach bugs. Like ever. Awfulness was flying out both ends. Quite literally scared the crap out of me. Graphic, I know. But as with most intense experiences, the last few days have taught me some valuable life lessons.

Walk in wellness

It amazed me how quickly I developed a sick mindset. What I mean is that even once the symptoms had passed, I continued to think and act like I was sick. I was tentative about eating and drinking anything. I was fearful that the symptoms might come back. Even once I was feeling fine and the pep in my step returned, I was still worried. Finally, I had to tell myself, “Girl, you are fine. You know you're hungry. Eat some real food and keep it moving.” It might seem weird, but as I resumed my well behaviors (eating, walking, stretching, etc.) my healing continued.

Face the fear

A second realization is that I live in a perpetual fear of sickness and death. Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to wellness and prevention. I mean, if you can prevent issues, why wouldn’t you try? That’s fine, I guess. But what it showed me is that avoiding sickness just reinforces the fear and limits my ability to be resilient. I’m not ever going to volunteer for a struggle. But perhaps, I can adopt the mindset that there will always be grace to endure whatever comes. Rather than pray, "God, please don't let this happen," maybe, I can pray, "God, give me the strength to handle whatever does happen."

Know you’re not alone

A final lesson from my sick days is that God is always with me. I try to honor other faith traditions and spiritual beliefs, I really do. But, when I was throwing up by myself at 3am and feeling scared and lonely, I called on my Father. The universe was not going to comfort me. Love, light, and good vibes were not coming to my rescue. I needed Jesus. I needed the One knew me from eternity, created my body, and already made provision for my healing. I knew if I lived or died He was with me and that gave me peace like nothing else.

 Deep thoughts from a 24-hour bug, I know. I think these are the moments when life can really show us something if we’re listening. I’m here for the movement, the mindfulness, the nutrition, for all things wellness, really. But if and when we face sickness and pain in these mortal bodies, can we still walk in wellness? Can we face our fears knowing we’re not alone? That’s my new wellness goal.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What Kevin Hart, Kendrick Lamar, and Jesus teach about humility

"Everybody wants to be famous, but no one wants to do the work."
-Kevin Hart

I'm waiting for my Zumba class to start. Actually, I'm waiting to see if anyone will show at all. It seems most of my experience as an instructor has been in small facilities with small class sizes: like 2-3 people kind of small. That's a far cry from the image many people have of being a fitness professional. As with most things, there's expectation and then there's reality.

What do people expect? Well, they expect the sexy and the glamorous because fitness is so "in" now. They expect thousands of Instagram followers, fitness videos on the explore page, and beach boot camps in Cozumel. They expect their athleticism to earn them sponsorships and discount codes on high end Lululemon gear, especially the cute mesh leggings that are all the rage right now. Maybe if they're in the dance fitness world, they expect to be "Zumba's next rising star," (yes, that's actually a thing), be on DVD covers, and to lead stadiums full of neon clad enthusiasts in single, single double. Low key, that's kind of what I expected.

Expectation is quite different than reality though. Reality is humbling and perhaps it should be. Without realizing it, a touch of arrogance had snuck up on me. It's hard for it not to in a world where everyone is their own "brand" and everybody wants to be great. This attitude, of course, is nothing new. Social media is new, but the human desire for fame and glory is not. Take the disciples for instance.

In Mark 9, Jesus asked them what they had been arguing about on the road. They didn't say anything because they had been arguing about who among them was the greatest. Even without them responding, He discerned their hearts and said, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be the last of all and servant of all," (v. 35). To me, this sounds like the divine precursor to Kendrick Lamar's, "Be humble, sit down" message of 2017.

Don't get me wrong. The glory moments are cool. I anticipate one this weekend- on stage leading a crowd of easily 50+ people in dance. But those moments are few and far between. And they aren't the moments that make someone great. It's in the moments of obscurity. It's in the times when I'm not really feeling it, lead a solid workout anyway, and make a single person's day. Maybe not even that. Maybe true greatness is expressed when I push aside all the presumed specialness of my gifts, degrees, and credentials and clean the mats. Like literally bust out the cleanser, the towels, and start scrubbing. In fact, maybe I'll pause now and do that.