Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Anthropomorphizing a Yoga Mat

Do you ever think of the significance of your yoga mat?  Of all that it endures, day in and day out, as your partner in your practice?  Probably not.  I started thinking about it this morning when I walked into the room to discover my cat, who is NOT declawed, lazily reclined on top of my mat in a solitary patch of sunlight that was streaming through the window.  I’m not sure I’ve experienced that type of sheer terror before, and I froze for a split second before letting out the shrillest “GET OFF!!!” I’ve ever yelled.  Alley, stubborn cat that she is, isn’t one to follow directions but she knew I meant business and – thank heavens – very gingerly padded off my mat and ran for the hills (er, stairs.)  I was convinced I’d find scratch marks on my precious, expensive mat but alas, it was as smooth and unharmed as I could’ve hoped.  *Insert sigh of relief here.*

I began thinking not only of the fact that I really don’t have the money to replace said expensive mat, but that I really don’t WANT to replace my mat with a shiny, unblemished new one.  I’ve had my mat for less than a year but relative to my yoga journey, she and I go way back.  First, my mat is often my muse.  It’s this serene bluish-greenish-seafoam color that reminds me of sea glass, which reminds me of the beach.  Particularly the beaches and communities along 30-A in the Florida Panhandle, one of my favorite geographic locations on the planet.  So, no matter in what frame of mind I come to my mat, I am always greeted with a beautiful sensory experience that instantly transports me to a happy place – MY happy place.

Second, my mat is my confidante.  As I sit on it at the beginning of practice and lay on it at the end in savasana, I share with it thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams, fears and insecurities that I may not share with anyone else.  What thoughts transfer to the mat, stay on the mat.  Isn’t that the old saying?

Third, my mat is my repository for negativity.  Often times when I first come to the mat, there are things bubbling around inside of me like stress, pressure, doubt, impatience and anger.  Throughout my practice I am able to shed those things and they are absorbed by my mat, washed away from me so that only goodness and positivity remain.  It’s almost a magical quality of my mat – and probably your mat, too.

It’s fascinating to me how I’ve become so attached to a rectangular piece of polyurethane.  My purchase intention was merely to buy the cushiest, grippiest, no-slip mat out there but my mat clearly has a strong grip on me.  I’m happy to have it as my #1 partner in my yoga teacher training journey, and I’m hoping we'll share many years together.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Resolutions, shmezolutions. But check out my challenges!

I am not a big fan of New Year's resolutions.  I've made them in the past - many, many times, and then disappointed myself when I didn't fulfill them.  Maybe I didn't try hard enough, but I feel like it's difficult to make promises, with the utmost confidence and resolve, that you are supposed to keep ALL YEAR LONG when the reality is that things change.  Situations change. Life gets in the way.  That's not a cop out, at least not to me.  So instead of making resolutions and setting myself up for disappointment, I am giving myself some personal challenges for 2013.  I do better at challenges anyway.  I'll chalk it up to my highly competitive (with myself) nature and see how many I can meet over the coming year.  Bring it on, 2013!

1. I will complete my 200 hour yoga teacher training program.

2. I will begin teaching yoga this year in some capacity.

3. I will continue to run 2-3 times per week. (Flexibility here is the key for me, especially in the first half of the year while I'm focusing on the yoga training.)

4. I will make healthy choices EVERY SINGLE DAY. This applies to food, exercise, rest, and whatever my body and mind needs.

5. I will get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep each night - preferably 9. I've learned the hard way that my body needs at least 8 hours to function at max capacity.

6. I will strive to always be a positive influence on those around me, and remember to be supportive, encouraging, empathetic and grateful.

2012 is going to be very hard to beat, but I have a feeling that 2013 just might be one of the best years, ever.  I am looking forward to some huge personal growth with my yoga teacher training, and I'm REALLY looking forward to sharing the gift of yoga with some of you in the 2nd half of the year.  Happy New Year!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A challenge in a time of darkness

Friday’s tragedy in Connecticut has the Internet and the airwaves abuzz with opinions on gun control, health care, politics and religion. I turned on the news for a brief moment, then quickly turned it back off when I saw that the media was sensationalizing the story and exploiting the families of the victims.  With a degree in PR, yes, I know that the public tends to gravitate towards stories and images that shock and horrify, but as a mother, I find myself instead craving words of warmth, love and hope.

My friend Lyndsay posted something on her Facebook page on Friday that resonated with me, and I couldn’t get it out of my head all weekend: “The best response to hate and hurt is more love and gratitude.”  There is so much wrong in the world that no one mortal person has the capability to right it all.  There is no magic switch we can flip to take away all the pain.  However, each of us has a light within us that we are capable of shining and potentially lighting the path for someone else.  One on one, we can work magic.  Sometimes all a person needs is a smile, a word of encouragement or a hug to make their situation just a teensy bit better.

For this reason, and many, many reasons, I am so looking forward to my upcoming journey to become a yoga teacher.  Yoga generates peace, warmth, hope, gratitude and confidence, and my hope is that I can share one (or all!) of those gifts with others on the mat to make their experiences off the mat just a little bit better.  My hope is that I can shine a little light on someone’s world.

I’m not saying yoga is the remedy for all that’s wrong in the world, not by a landslide. I’m just saying that by making a difference in ONE person’s life, yogis make a difference in MANY people’s lives because that one person will leave his or her practice with a renewed attitude that positively affects each person he or she comes in contact with.  Could yoga have saved the children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary? No. Could yoga potentially help heal some of the grieving parents, classmates, colleagues and friends? Possibly.  I challenge each of you to find a way to shine a little light on someone else today, whether on or off the mat.  Because you never know when someone might be feeling like they are all alone in the dark.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Six Degrees of Separation (or, why I'm the luckiest girl in the world)

I ran into a new running friend today in Zumba class. It was a funny coincidence, seeing her there rather than on the trails. I "met" this new running friend online through another running friend before I ever met her in person. The other running friend works at Big Peach Running Co and fitted me for shoes the first time I met him. Since then we've become good friends, and I see him every Tuesday night and Friday morning at the group runs he leads. A few of the people I've taken Zumba with before at the Y have joined these group runs. My favorite Zumba instructor is actually a runner and a friend now too, having completed 2 half marathons and about to run her third - a race I'll be at this week to cheer on another dear friend, and now I can cheer for her too.
Big Peach Marietta Tuesday night group run
Back to the store. While shopping at a different Big Peach about a year ago, I met another person who works there, but in a different capacity, and then became friends with her online. I run into her frequently at races and different events around town, and she always puts a smile on my face because she has the most infectious smile, ever. She introduced to me to Be Yoga and 2 instructors there who I absolutely love. Actually, in a roundabout way, she reintroduced me to Pilates (via one of those instructors) which I hadn't done in many years. This friend also introduced me to a clothing line (hello, Lululemon) and in turn, some new friends who work there.

I met another new friend at Big Peach when I, on a whim, went shopping there to buy a handheld hydration bottle. It's so funny, the random circumstances under which you can meet someone who may just turn into a very close friend and who you look forward to seeing every week. I adore my Big Peach friends and I hope I don't drive them batty by stopping by all the time just to chat. ;)
Bess and Kate
While training for my first half marathon last year, I met a group of super fun ladies who later invited me to join their running team this year, which I did. Through Team LUNA Chix, I had the opportunity to go to San Francisco, get a peek at the beautiful city and learn so much about running, strengthening and nutrition. I met some other LUNA Chix in different parts of the country who have become friends and we keep in touch online. I also became close friends with someone on the team who introduced me to The Bar Method, which I'm now doing regularly and starting to meet new friends in those classes, as well.
Team LUNA Chix
This friend and I, when we can, take yoga classes with an amazing instructor at Dance Stop Studios who has literally changed my life through her teachings - not only on the mat, but of the heart and soul. I discovered this teacher with another dear friend, who is also my neighbor, when we, on a whim, went to an open house where this instructor offered a trial class. This friend and I are also running buddies and have trained for and run races together. She is often the first person I'll call to share an accomplishment with or to commiserate with because we just GET each other.
Yoga instructor Lisa Flynn

Stacey & me
Back to my first half marathon.  That race was the catalyst for meeting some of the coolest chicks (and best friends) I could ever imagine.  My sister and I were ambassadors for this race along with 3 other women. One of them later joined Team LUNA Chix with me, and had a baby, so we're "mommy friends" now too and I adore her. I was actually quite intimidated by one of the other ambassadors and told myself we'd probably never be close because we had nothing in common. That person is now my very best friend. Through her, I've met another group of friends who are triathletes. I didn't even really know what a triathlon was before I met this friend...I knew it involved three sports but not in which order. Now, these friends are a big part of my life and we keep in touch almost daily even though we all live on opposite sides of town. I ran a race with some of them yesterday morning and turns out another one ran a race across town, and we all placed in our age groups and kicked butt. *fist pump*
Jennifer & me at the Peachtree Road Race

My BFF Mari

With Trisha after her first Ironman

Karen, Sarah & Kristi (us athletes like to chill, too!)
Back to the group runs. On Friday during my group trail run, I met two super fun women who are also moms and live close by. We had a great time chatting during the run and discovered we have some things in common, shared our contact info and promised to meet up for another run soon. I marveled, after that run, at how awesome it is to meet new friends.

If I were to do a "six degrees of separation" chart on all the active friends I know, it would likely take up an entire wall. How freakin' cool is that?! It amazes me how supportive and close Atlanta's (and little ol' East Cobb's) running and fitness communities are. I sometimes have to pinch myself when I start thinking about how lucky I am to have found them. I sometimes wish it hadn't taken me 30 something years to realize that I feel so much better when I'm being active...but then again, I have many years ahead of me to spend with my new friends.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Because I Got High (or, why I chose to run 10.2 miles 5 days after a half marathon)

I probably got a few looks during my run this morning.  Started off wearing neon pink arm warmers, so nobody on Roswell Road could possibly miss me as I climbed the hill from East Cobb Park to Robinson Road.  Then as I ran into Chick-fil-A for a quick pit stop, dripping with sweat and wearing a hydration belt, I stood out like a sore thumb in a sea of chicken biscuit munching patrons.  On a particularly fast and breezy downhill stretch towards the end, I waved my arms in the air and sang along to my iPod as cars whizzed by me.  Why did I choose to spend the better part of my morning running 10.2 miles around my ‘hood?  In the words of Afroman, “because I got high.”  *DISCLAIMER: We’re talking runner’s high here, people.  Just want to make that clear.

I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy non-training periods when you can just walk out your door, Garmin or no Garmin, and go for a run.  No distance, time or pace goals, even no particular route in mind.  That’s exactly what I did this morning.  Packed my Gatorade and nutrition JUST IN CASE, and went for it.  I wasn’t even keeping track of the miles, in fact I barely glanced at my Garmin until I got to an intersection where I though “Huh. I’m pretty freakin’ far from home right now. At least on foot.”  I went just a little bit further (apparently I like to push myself even when I don’t have to) and them promptly turned around and strided, shimmied and sang my heart out (er, legs out) all the way back home.

Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t the perfect run; I didn’t break any speed records or even PR for the distance; I made a water stop and I even stopped to stretch my calves a few times along the way.  But I ran at a pace that felt good to me and I caught that elusive runner’s high THREE TIMES.  Woot.  I watched the clouds give way to blue sky and sunshine, and I greeted a few other runners, walkers and bikers with a cheery “Good morning!”  After only a few miles my racing mind calmed down and gave way to a clear head and a sense of peace and calm that’s hard for me to find throughout the day.  I felt like I was flying on that last downhill, and my legs, though tired at the end, made me proud. 

Wait a minute – maybe this morning’s run WAS the perfect run.  Maybe the lack of self-induced pressure allowed my mind to quiet itself and my body to do its thing – impress me.  I am impressed with you, body, very much so.  And my mind has a new challenge in store for you very soon.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

If you think you've done enough, do just a little bit more

Apparently that's what I like to do, after running a nice 5 miler yesterday with a dear friend, and then letting her talk me into running up a particularly steep hill, twice, just for kicks.  Kicks in the tookus.  And then, deciding I needed to lift, doing a powerful lower body set followed by 80 squats, and some abs for good measure.  Enough already, right?  Guess not.  When the husband got home later in the evening, he suggested the three of us go for a walk after dinner.  So we did.  Our walk turned into a trail run with the little guy who kept begging me to "run, Mama, run!"  How can I say no to that?  So, I probably tacked on another 2 miles running around with him, plus the walk back to our house.  Was I pooped last night?  A bit.  Was I sore this morning?  You betcha.  And it hurts sooooo good.

I've found that the times I see (er, feel) the most results shortly following a workout are when I've pushed myself beyond what I planned to do, or beyond what felt like enough.  How do we ever really know what IS enough?  In my opinion, you've gotta listen to your body.  If something hurts or feels off, it's probably a good idea to stop when you planned to stop.  But, if you're just feeling tired, 95% of the time your body can take more, so give it a little more and see what it does for you.  See you how feel the next morning.  See how you LOOK the next morning - you just might like what you see in the mirror.

Enough ISN'T always enough.  Push yourself and you'll be surprised at just how far you can go.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Scheduling time for exercise

My life is about to get a whole lot busier, at least for the next 9 weeks.  I've taken on a part time freelance gig that I honestly couldn't be more excited about...I'm over the moon with anticipation and glee and the thought of getting some precious office time and meaningful conversation with other adults, not to mention a chance to utilize my skills and talents outside of the child rearing realm.  Call me crazy, but I am SUPER excited at the prospect of going to work.

That being said, I just spent the last hour trying to put together a workout schedule for the next 9 weeks.  I'm on the verge of hitting "print", knowing that the schedule will likely change a gazillion times, but I'm the kind of person where if I don't have something scheduled on the calendar, it's not going to happen.  And not running or working out is just not an option.

So, over the course of the next 8 weeks (I decided the last week in May would be a good, solid time to end my schedule, rather then venturing into June), I will be running 3 times a week: on Mondays, I will alternate between a tempo run and a "fun run", where I intersperse things like pushups, mountain climbers, planks, lunges, etc. along the way.  On Wednesdays I will be running trails (woo-hoo!) and Saturdays will be my long run days.  I am also going to attempt a Pilates workout at home on Wednesday evenings.  Tuesdays and Thursdays will be Zumba and strength training, alternating between upper/arms and lower/abs.  On Fridays I will work on my yoga home practice and do the 20/20 workout or another HIIT type workout, and on Sundays I will do Pilates.  Sounds ambitious while working 20 hours a week and taking care of a 3 year old full time, no?  Well, ambitious I am.  And somehow, I will make it work.  It's just that important to me.

I would love to get advice and thoughts from those of you who juggle employment/parenthood/exercise on what has and hasn't worked for you.  I know I will have to be flexible, but I also know that exercise is a top priority.  So, how have YOU made it work?