CrossFit Worthy-ers do self-care.

I’m presenting as part of CrossFit Worthy’s special class on Adulting 101 and I’m super excited to be sharing what I love most – helping people to develop self-care habits that will allow them to flourish on a daily basis. Super excited!

Here are my take away points in developing a self-care mindset:

  • notice how you feel
  • listen to your body
  • make it non-negotiable
  • do it a “smidge” more
  • begin again
  • trust your instincts
  • cut out the crud

Here is a LINK to my presentation too, in case you want to take a look see.

Bonus! Check out a little something I’ve been working on for our McNair scholars, that I “transformed” into something for all of our CrossFit Worthy-ers. I’m pretty excited about sharing this.

Click on the title below!
Taking Care of You: Making Self-Care a Daily Reality

Last, use this LINK to tell us you are committing to three primary self-care habits this fall season. We want to know what they are so that we can share experiences and offer support!

I talk a little more about self-care + the challenge HERE.

Here’s to celebrating our SUCCESSFUL *self-care initiatives* come this December.

clarity

One of the keys to taking care of you – being clear on your priorities + noticing how the things you choose to do MAKE YOU FEEL on a daily basis.

 

 

Good or Bad.

I read a great post the other day from Jina Schaefer of the Healthy Happy Truth – I love her tag line – not your typical wellness guru. Love that! She boils all the complexities of food down to one simple concept – it’s either gonna help you – or – hurt you. Period. Done. That’s all folks! Brilliant.

Jina extrapolates the concept to pretty much anything in life – your relationships (with yourself and others), choices you make about your body, what you choose to spend time on, how you treat your kids, how you respond to annoying situations – you name it!

Right now I’m thinking back to my “Little Debbie saga” in December and how this mantra could have helped snap me back into reality even quicker. Every night when I was eating my Little Debbie’s I should have been asking myself – is this helping or hurting me? Is it good or bad for me? It might have been “helping” by allowing me to burrow in to my nasty little habit that felt comforting (and delicious?) at that moment. In the long-run though, it was definitely “hurting” my health (on so many levels) and making me look like I was preggo (which I most certainly am not)!

Our McNair program assistant – Kim Whitney (who knows me well!) – sent me this HILARIOUS picture that pretty much sums up the Little Debbie debacle.

littledebbie

Now I’m not sure if it’s really this “little bitch” making me fat or me choosing to put shit in my body that’s making me fat. It’s the latter, but of course! And wouldn’t you know it, but you barely turn around after the Christmas season and they’ve already stocked up for Valentine’s Day. AND, they’re on sale! Now that’s convenient!

vdaylittledebbies

Valentine Little Debbies! Just what you need for the special “holiday.”

So I “technically” might be off of my Little Debbie habit these days, that’s not to say that I’m not perpetuating certain habits that are clearly in the “bad” and “hurt me” categories. For me, my triggers definitely come during that time between when the kids go to sleep and when I go to sleep. For some reason, I think since “I’ve made it through the day” that I’m “entitled” to eat a little sweet treat or sometimes it doesn’t even have to be sweet – maybe some cheese + crackers + wine? That sounds good, doesn’t it? All while kicking back to a “relaxing” episode of Frontline on PBS.

I’m going to start using this mode of thinking more often – even beyond the food choices I am making. I’m going to think about the things I choose to spend my time on, how I might respond to a certain situation – I’m going to ask myself – is this going to help or hurt me? Will this be good or bad for me? And with this simple pause, I just might start reversing some of my not-so-good behaviors.

Jina wrote another recent post talking about how if there are things that you absolutely love to do, but just might not be the best for you, that you shouldn’t try to totally stop doing those things. Just do them in moderation, and maybe, just maybe, do a little less each time you do.

So what this might translate into for me:

  • not filling my glass of wine to the top
  • having a few M&M’s instead of 20
  • maybe even having a cup of tea instead of those M&M’s?
  • watching one episode of Project Runway and vedging out on the weekend instead of two or three or….
  • spending quality time with my kids playing games or reading together, or just listening to them – really listening to them and being present with them – instead allowing my mind to be going in a million different directions when I’m with them
  • spending quality time with my husband even though hitting the pillow is very enticing after a busy day – being mindful and giving him some of my time and energy is important to keep our relationship growing instead of stalling out during this crazy time of child-rearing and just trying to “hold it together” on a daily basis

Help or hurt. Good or bad. Let those thoughts pop into your mind the next time you are doing something that might be a little “questionable.” Even if you go ahead and do “the thing” – you’re going find yourself becoming a little more mindful the next time you do.

Your Daily Flow

I’ve been going deeper into this whole EAT SLEEP MOVE theory of mine. The theory is simple: make sure you do these three things pretty well and you’ll be able to really rock it out in all other areas of your life. So what does this mean in practice? And what do I do when I walk someone through an EAT SLEEP MOVE session?

STEP ONE >>> lay it all out. What do you all got going on? Chances are, you’ve got too much.

Depending on your situation (usually related to your money situation), you may or may not have a lot of what I call “wiggle room” to play with in your schedule. I also don’t really like the term schedule. I prefer to call it your “daily flow” – doesn’t that just sound better? Your daily flow can be nice and easy. It might spike up with intensity from time to time, but in general, the goal is to keep your flow flowing – smooth and effortlessly.

With “wiggle room” comes the ability to choose to either add things to your plate or take them away. Sometimes both needs to happen and this is something that tends to surface once we start prioritizing our items.

STEP TWO >>> pick out your BIG ROCKS. We start prioritizing what’s most important. Note: this may not (and should not) include everything that you do (or want to do or need to do for that matter). This is where the going sometimes gets tough. Some items just won’t make the cut. They all can’t and that’s the point. Our goal, however, is to make sure that the EAT SLEEP MOVE categories remain among your top priorities. Getting good sleep, eating well and exercising regularly become your non-negotiables. These things happen no matter what.

When I sit down with someone and start examining their “flow” for the week, what I’m typically looking for is open space. I like to draw “bubbles” around any open space I can find. The more bubbles (or blocks of time) you have the better. Again, the challenge is usually not having enough bubbles.

The goal becomes to create more bubbles.

And this leads to the hard choices. For the students I work with, they generally can’t ixnay their classes or part-time jobs (sometimes bordering full-time even) for that matter. For people with kids, they can’t ixnay their kids. This question does comes up though (kidding)!

Then there’s the big picture question of your work and what you are trying to achieve in your career. It often happens that you don’t have enough bubbles to support forward movement with those “big picture” type goals you have. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily minutiae and just trying to keep yourself afloat.

The real goal is to start leading with intention. No you can’t control every little thing in your daily flow (and shit comes up, that’s for sure), but you can choose how you respond and you can choose how you intend to move through your day, every day.

STEP THREE >>> examine how you operate. What this means is thinking about when you tend to be “most productive.” Are you a “night owl” or a morning person? Do you like to workout and then bust out your homework or manuscript? We are thinking about our energy and how best to put it to use. Ideally, we want to match up those “productive zones” with as many of our “bubbles” as possible. What can you fit in where in your day that makes the most sense, that is time efficient and that leads to you feeling your best – and basically rocking it out?

STEP FOUR >>> create a “flow” that feels good. Once we have our “big picture” in mind that includes our non-negotiables, our bubbles, our ideal time frame for making things happen, like exercise, then we start to put it all together. The most important thing to realize at this point in the process is the reason behind being mindful in creating our daily flow. Yes, we are putting together an “idealized” version of a weekly schedule according to what’s most important and how we can best operate and maneuver. But, what we are not doing is creating any sense of rigidity in our mindset or our daily flow.

We want to keep the flow exactly what it is – a flow. Of course we can’t know what might come up from day-to-day, what projects, kids’ needs and activities, what emergencies might need tending to etcetera. What we can do is respond to such things with the greatest of ease because we are prepared to do so.

That’s the beauty. By establishing – at least in our mind’s eye – an “ideal” way of moving through our days – we can actually start to feel more in line with our intentions, our goals, our best work. We can actually start to progress in those areas that are usually left by the wayside albeit of huge importance to us in the long run.

So we build our flow knowing that stuff comes up. Our baseline self-care (EAT SLEEP MOVE) comes in by helping us to become more adept at meeting daily challenges while still keeping with our flow. When the small stuff starts to fall away (and you’ll be amazed that once upon a time you even gave this kind of stuff a second glance), there becomes all kinds of room – in our days, our heads, in our lives.

And the best way to feel is to feel spacious all around.

STEP FIVE >>> be fluid and flexible. Make it a practice to explore and situate your weekly flow on Sunday’s (this way you won’t feel anxious come Monday AM). You’ll have a list of your big-ticket items (maybe a big paper that’s due, a test, or work project to be presented), you’ll have your EAT SLEEP MOVE categories designated and you’ll have your bubbles distributed throughout as much as possible.

Try to keep some time blocks completely OPEN FOR NOTHING. Just open space. That could be for an hour in the morning before you really get going with your day. That could mean taking a half-hour after lunch just to read the paper and chill before you get back to work or go to class. That could also mean reserving that hour before bed for some light reading or basic downtime with no electronic devices in sight. Having time and space in your schedule or daily flow that is totally open and without any agenda = true magic. Magic for the mind, body and soul (however cheesy that might sound).

Move through your days and think about how you are feeling at different points throughout. Notice when you are feeling energetic, when you are feeling super productive and “in the zone,” notice when you are feeling relaxed and happy, notice when you might be feeling tense and anxious or irritable even. It’s all part of the mix. Through our intentions and using this kind of “mindful approach” to creating our days, however, we can begin to smooth out some of those more irritable and challenging times and replace them with times of greater ease, contentment and general “rocking it out of the park” kind of feelings.

Each week we come back and center again around what’s most important. We set our intentions and then we simply go with it.

Click HERE to explore the EAT SLEEP MOVE Challenge in the New Year.

The Gift of Yoga

This past Friday I got to do what I love to do the most – expose people to the wonderful gift of yoga. Had the studio at OmBodies filled with “old” and “new” CMU McNair Scholars. I feel blessed that I’m in a position to actually do this in my work, in addition to “planting seeds” with pretty much any person I meet or talk to. I took a risk and started incorporating yoga into our scholar programming almost five years ago now. You see, we strive to support our students in ways that go far beyond academics.

When I talk about McNair, I like to say that we’re in the business of developing confident individuals who have the wherewithal to achieve an advanced degree if they so choose. I also like to say that no matter what you have for a goal, you aren’t going to be busting out anything of any real magnitude if you don’t have yourself together with baseline self-care. I call it EAT SLEEP MOVE. If you aren’t taking care of how you are doing each, you’re not going to be in any shape to really flourish in your life.

The fact is, our scholars spend a lot of time working very hard in their classes, many have jobs in addition, and they just have really full schedules that sometimes don’t allow for things like downtime, exercise, healthy eating, etc.

So where does yoga fit into this picture? And what makes yoga special?

Most logically it fits into the MOVE category of self-care, but it’s so much more than just exercise. It’s a type of exercise that offers physical benefits like strength and flexibility, but it also incorporates things like breath work and present moment awareness that can really lead to significant shifts in the way we exist and move through our daily lives.

It’s really a “practice” that one develops over time that usually starts with the physical postures, but often ends up becoming a way to feel more connection among your mind, body and spirit. The physical practice becomes more like a “moving meditation” and allows you to become more in tune with yourself. Some people even say that yoga can help you discover your true self.

yoga

Yoga helps me get rid of things that don’t really matter.

When you practice yoga, you begin to develop an “inner stature” or state of being in which your mind is at ease (thus, yoga is great for stress management). By going inward and focusing on the breath while engaging in the physical postures, you can, in a sense, train your mind to be more aware – more aware of how you might be feeling, more aware of external circumstances, aware of the constant flow of thought. The thing is, at the same time yoga teaches us how to become more aware, the goal is to not attach to any sort of outcome or desire. The goal of the moving meditation is simply to acknowledge what comes up and let it go – let it just float on by.

In talking with one of our scholars about what makes yoga great – she said, “It’s like cardio for the mind.” Brilliant.

This is where the real beauty is – as you go deeper inside yourself, you become clear on your intentions in life and who you are as a person. You also start to de-clutter the mind, getting rid of “stuff” that doesn’t really matter. Things in the past, things that might stress you out (that you can’t control), things that might not really matter all that much in the long run. You simplify. You simplify on lots of levels.

After I do yoga, I always feel wrung out. Wrung out on a physical level, but on the level of my mind too. It’s as if I’m getting down to the very nitty gritty of life, stripping away all the layers of bullshit that accumulate and getting down to my very core. Somehow, as I develop a sense of mindfulness, I’m finding myself letting go of things that don’t really matter. That might mean, something that someone said offhandedly that might have rubbed me the wrong way, to festering about the quiz that I didn’t do as good as I could have on, to being okay with where I’m at in my life, today. I think sometimes we can become so swept up in our daily responsibilities, our problems, our goals, that we can lose sight of the sweetness of life, that is, what is right at this very moment, right now.

That, in my mind, is the true gift of yoga.

lmc

Little Debbie – Friend or Foe?

xmastrees

Where it all started.

Pure and simple: sugar is evil. On December 5, I cracked. I bought a box (note: just one box) of Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes. See my Facebook status for proof. A little background here – I’m a sugar fiend and have been for a very long time. I typically indulge (the most) right before going to bed (probably the worst time, I know). Through the years I’ve gone between double-stuff Oreos (four at a time, cracked open, filling sides eaten first, plus a cold glass of milk), pop tarts (toasted, two, plus milk, I was especially fond of pop tarts when I was pregnant), peanut M&M’s (I’ve been known to take the whole bag into bed with me, I eat at least 20 at a time) and the clincher—Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls.

Now, I should provide more context when it comes to Little Debbie’s. Back in the day, Mum was the master of stretching the budget (thanks Mum!). I practically grew up on generic brands, except when it came to Little Debbie’s. Given these delectable treats are also pretty economical, they typically frequented our back hall closet (the special place reserved for board games, cereal, snacks of all sorts, oh and shoes and coats).

Through the years I recall the following Little Debbie’s as a mainstay: Swiss Cake Rolls (by far, my favorite), Fudge Brownies, Star Crunches, Pecan Spinwheels, Nutty Bars, as well as the myriad “holiday” cake-type options that would appear from time to time, including the now infamous (at least during this past month for me) Christmas Tree Cakes. It’s funny, in doing a little research for this piece, I didn’t quite realize the extent of Little Debbie offerings. The editors at HuffPost Taste found themselves exploring the lesser-known varieties in this humorous piece.

Suffice it to say Little Debbie’s have been a staple throughout my life. We all know that too many Little Debbie’s is not a good thing. But just how many is too many? Well, that depends upon the person. My husband Ken can easily chomp just a few M&M’s and be wholly satisfied. I mentioned my 20 minimum above, so it’s probably no surprise when I explain how it’s never just been “one Little Debbie” for me. At minimum, I’m a two-pack in one-sitting kinda gal. Since in most cases that means four actual Little Debbie’s – that can add up quick – especially at about 200 calories EACH a pop!

When it comes to the Christmas Tree Cakes – in either the red velvet or plain variety – I started (like most people do) with that first scrumptious bite. I’ve been off of my Little Debbie habit for some time (actually it’s been several years now) and so that first bite was especially grand. Too bad it quickly escalates and then goes down hill from there! So, there’s five in a box. I started with one box. And I started with one Christmas Tree Cake.

The next night I had two – because I couldn’t just have one. When I initially bought my “one box” at Meijer, I thought – one box won’t hurt. Well. The next week I was at Ric’s and noticed the Little Debbie’s on sale two for five bucks. A sweet deal (literally)! So I bought a couple more. Then Meijer had an even better sale (lucky for me?) – THREE for five bucks that following week. And it grew from there.

The week before our holiday break, I came home with what was probably ten or so boxes (assorted). Ken saw the stash and said, “Stocking up are you?” I guess that’s what you could call it. The kids knew that “my” Little Debbie’s were off limits (just let Mommy eat the BAD sugar), although I did share with them a red velvet tree or two between December 5 and December 30 – the day I squashed the rest. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

So for about a month straight, I would eat at least two Christmas Tree Cakes every night, sometimes more. You might find it especially amusing that while eating my xmas cakes, I was reading a book called, Spark, which is all about the benefits of exercise. Funny, I know. While I knew my growing habit is not good, in fact, it’s HORRIBLE – I justified it to myself by saying – oh, I’ll stop by Christmas day.

Christmas day came and went and I realized that my Little Debbie habit had really started to impact my life. All that extra sugar was causing me to feel fidgety, compulsive and my stomach pretty much doubled in size (typically my “problem” area). It was affecting my sleep too – I wasn’t sleeping well at night and then I would find myself falling into sugar-induced naps mid-afternoon during our break (that’s when I started eating them in the afternoon too). Something radical had to be done.

So I’m starting over with my love-hate relationship with those pesky Little Debbie’s that jump out and say “hello” each time I walk down the bread aisle at Meijer (they command a good third of the aisle mind you). While the kids watched in disbelief, I took out the remaining Little Debbie’s and STOMPED them flat. They were like – “Why did you do THAT, Mommy?” Actually, I felt pretty good about it – they see me donning some pretty questionable excessive sugar habits, but they also see me reeling things in, making a change, moving toward more of an “all in moderation” mindset.

Of course they know that lots of sugar isn’t good for them and as far as we can tell, at least one kid (Milah) isn’t going to be a sugar fiend like her Mommy (thank goodness). Still, I think it’s important to be straight up with the kids and let them know that this is something that Mommy struggles with. It’s a bad habit period. I explained to them why I stomped on my Little Debbie’s and they get it. Our informer, Maeve, told Daddy the second he woke up, “Mommy stepped on all the xmas trees!”

I explained to them why I stomped on my Little Debbie’s and they get it.

littledebbies

My Little Debbie saga.

Hallelujah, I did! And I’m already feeling better – it’s been three days since my “last” xmas cake. Amazing just how much a bad sugar habit affects your sleep! I hit up the gym yesterday and I’m thinking about my EAT SLEEP MOVE Challenge for the New Year. Making small changes in each of these categories – means moving toward a stronger whole overall! One of my scholars, Andy Derry, recently started a blog called Whole Life Living and writes about this very topic. His tips include: finding an “accountability partner,” setting modest goals (aka making small changes), getting right back into it (without judgement) if you falter and taking things one day at a time. Great advice!

seungnifitclub

Hitting up the Lunch Crunch at Seung-Ni Fit Club – great camaraderie and great energy!

Do you happen to have a “Little Debbie” habit – or a habit just like it? If so, consider signing on to the EAT SLEEP MOVE Challenge with me! Click HERE for the details – it’s a great way to kickstart the New Year. Here’s to less Little Debbie’s and more choices (aka small changes) that will lead to feeling good and strong in 2014 and beyond.

Happy New Year!

Getting Stronger

Funny thing happened while taking on the 30-day Yoga Challenge with Debbie Williamson this past month – you know that when you’re consistent and work on improving something everyday – you get stronger. I say this in a “sorta” joking way since that’s a pretty obvious thing. BUT, at least for me, I rarely get myself into that mindset where I’m (really, really) committed to doing “a little something” everyday so that I can grow my skills, my knowledge, my writing, my whatever. So doing this challenge really nailed this concept down for me firsthand. It’s also pretty damn cool connecting with fellow yogis across the country (granted, a good portion of Debbie’s tribe are Wisconsinites, of which, I am also one!) – sharing our goals, our challenges, our small steps being made, the funny things that might happen along the way, perhaps even our deeper observations of self and how this journey might really be striking a cord at the moment. A breath of fresh air.

yoga challenge

30-Day Yoga Challenge

I didn’t do “my challenge” EVERY SINGLE DAY but of the 30 days, I probably hit it for 25. That’s pretty damn good in my book and for those days I didn’t, I decided not to beat myself up about it. Maybe my arms really needed a rest or maybe I just needed not to be accountable that day. The point is that – overall – I really rocked it! Since I’ve been wanting to jump back into chaturanga from crow (see pic below) for a while now, I decided that my daily goal would be to hold crow 2x for a minute each time. Since I really don’t enjoy L-shaped handstand (thus the real challenge) but know it really builds strength, I also held L-shaped handstand 2x daily for a minute each time. I “threw in” holding a forearm plank and high plank too just for kicks and giggles. Now believe me – while holding these poses did get easier, I would still be squirming, losing focus, stopping my breath and itching for the final 30 seconds to GET DONE pretty much every time I held L-shaped. A great practice in patience, perseverance and “breathing through” any real challenge that might arise – on the mat or in life.

bakasanatochaturanga

This was my goal – which I have now achieved – jumping back from crow into chaturanga. Now I’ve got to work on having enough arm strength to float into up dog.

I’m inspired to continue with my “daily challenge” and I’m thinking about expanding and getting a little crazy creative – maybe even starting to hold my full handstand (still against the wall, of course). I tried it out the other day and did a 30-second hold 2x. I even brought my feet from against the wall and challenged my balance, holding in mid-air for like 3 seconds. As my yoga teacher, Heather, always says — milliseconds count! So, I’ll have to keep you updated on my progress. In the meantime, I challenge you to think about stepping up and exploring with something like this – especially if you are already a yogi or even if you aren’t and are interested in seeing what yoga can possibly bring to your life. Start with a simple down dog. Holding and breathing deeply in down dog, even for 20 seconds or so, can help release tension and get the blood moving, just like that. Simple simple! It’s a start that can open the door to a life-changing practice.

Strong Healthy Body

My good friend and yoga teacher, Carlin, usually closes her classes by encouraging us to feel gratitude for our strong health bodies. I love this because I think it’s something that’s so easy to take for granted. I feel so great after I do yoga, what if I couldn’t experience that feeling in my body?

yoga

I’ve taken to “sneaking in a run” during the noon hour a couple of days during the week. I run straight down Kinney Street (gorgeous tree covered boulevard) to Pickard Street and back. Takes about 30 minutes for me and I can totally “zone out” by keeping my gaze toward the straight and long tunneled sidewalk in front of me or I can sample the beauty of the houses and yards all along the way. Either way it’s therapeutic.

During my runs I also get to thinking about how lucky I am to be able to do this. Sure, I choose to make use of my time this way and I have created my work life to accommodate it. But my strong healthy body makes such a delightful gift possible.

I think about my friend and colleague, Dan Digmann, also a runner, but also a person living with multiple sclerosis (MS). I am completely humbled and amazed by his drive and courage to keep his strong healthy body going despite the very real challenge of dealing with something like MS. Dan inspires me to be grateful for every chance I get (or every opportunity I create) to get out and move my body, get the blood pumping, clear the slate, bring new energy and ideas into motion.

So here’s to our strong healthy bodies – however that may be for you at the moment. Here’s also to our capacity to continually enhance and grow our strong healthy bodies, one step at a time. They are truly our support for an amazing life!