Listening to That Voice Within

Not too long ago I was sharing a stressful experience with someone and they asked me if I meditate. I thought that was a pretty odd question, but then I realized I don’t always meditate in the way some people picture meditating to be experienced. Which is why I don’t really share about it because its a very personal practice for me. Sometimes, it looks calm, sometimes I am surrounded by screaming kids, and other times I just strive to make an effort to be completely present in the moment I am in no matter what it looks like. Other than at the end of my yoga practice, I could be in the grocery store, the coffee shop, the shower, at the park with the kids etc… Essentially, I don’t always set aside time, which I’m not knocking people doing, but I work better when I go into my meditation without the mindset that I have to get this done and check it off my to-do list. That induces anxiety and stress and just doesn’t serve me well. 

All that leads me to my points here to challenge the way we look at meditation and mindfulness practices. One common misconception about meditation is that when we meditate it needs to be in a perfectly calm, quiet and serene space so that we can empty and clarify our thoughts. Although this may be ideal, its not always realistic. Another common misconception is that meditation is a lesser alternative to prayer, or conflicts with religious beliefs. Personally, I say they go hand-in-hand. I mean…isn’t praying just meditating while talking to God? I just don’t really separate the two, but to each their own. No matter how it gets done, meditation is is a great tool for centering our thoughts and working through all the stuff going on in our minds. 

Meditation doesn’t have to look like a peaceful image and as a matter of fact, when we can stay calm in the midst of chaos, we give ourselves the practice that can potentially enhance our focus in our day to day. Think about it… when we get stressed out sometimes we start to spin out and think irrationally. So what better time to practice meditation than in a not so ideal setting. Literally working to stay present in the middle of noise, and distractions. It’s not easy, especially at first, but I encourage you to give it a try from time to time. You will be amazed at the benefits and how worries don’t immediately cause you to feel as though you’ve lost control.

I hear so often that people are afraid to practice yoga and meditation, because they fear it interferes with their religious beliefs and practices, but I just don’t get that to be quite frank. As a catholic, who practices and teaches yoga, I connect the two systems in unison. I meditate to not only just balance my emotions, feelings, thoughts, and energy, but to connect to God. Whichever way you practice, or whatever your beliefs are, meditation doesn’t have to take away from that. It should actually be seen as an opportunity to strengthen our faith while at the same time helping us gather our thoughts and become more connected to what is actually happening around us. 

Meditation is just a tool to bring us into the present moment. Typically practiced for a minimum of 5 minutes, anything less than 5 minutes is okay, but to really collect and ground ourselves it is important to just take the time.  The best part is it can be done anytime and anyplace. You don’t need to carve out a moment, unless you want to.  Another key is to just let the mind wander. The way I look at it is organizing a file cabinet. Such as, when our files and cabinets are in disarray and we don’t know where anything is we have to organize. Same thing with our mind-body-spirit. During the meditation, when you notice your thoughts going all over the place try and bring it back to center. Sort it out. Other than that, there really aren’t any special directions. Just settle into a space breathe and listen to what your inner voice is saying. 

This practice can have profound impacts on our well-being such as better focus, stress management and the breath work is a major key in allowing us to remember we can slow down. As a society on the go all the time, I would argue we need to pause and breath in order to function at an optimal level. The best part is anyone can do it and there isn’t a strict rule book. The only goal is to become completely aware and present in the moment you are in. From there… the magic happens. 

Journey to Becoming a Fitness Instructor

My experience in group, or instructor led fitness goes as far back as 2003 when I started to become interested in Pilates and Yoga. One day, my dad and I were shopping at Barnes and Nobel and I saw a Denise Austin Pilates DVD called “Pilates for Every Body”. I recognized her because I used to do her workouts in the morning on cable t.v. when I was home for summer. She had 7am and 7:30 am workouts and I would usually do both. I loved her instruction! So thankfully that day, my dad bought me the DVD.

As I did her workouts, I began to learn more about the mind-body connection and the importance of feeling good about yourself. I played softball until I was 16 years old, so most of my life I stayed relatively active, but all her ideas and exercises were new to my young mind. She sparked my curiosity to not only learn more about Pilates and yoga, but to also continue to stay active in order to remain healthy and strong.

About a year after this, I stopped playing softball and I began to gain weight. Partially because I was significantly less active and still eating like a teenager, and partially because I didn’t make the team that year. I was down emotionally and consuming more calories than I was burning.

Once I realized I gained weight, my mom didn’t hesitate to help me find a solution. She took me to Jenny Craig to get me signed up with a meal plan, coach and weekly check- ins for support. This gift from my mom gave me the foundation I needed to understand the importance of proper nutrition and staying active for overall health and wellness.

At this time, we joined LA Fitness and that’s when I began taking in-person group classes. I was interested in water aerobics because I loved swimming so, I started attending aqua classes regularly, as well as yoga. Everything I was learning in the classes about fitness and myself, were only expanding on my experience doing Denise Austin videos. I loved the community, the challenge for my mind-body and I quickly (with that sweet teenage metabolism) lost 50 lbs. I kept most of it off throughout college, until I started an entirely new fitness journey after my 3 pregnancies. This experience in my teenage years prepared me for my post natal weight loss and fitness journey. So, I truly benefited long term from everything I learned in my teenage years.

The day I realized being a fitness instructor was something I’d eventually want to do was the day my Aqua instructor invited me to a training. At the time, I was only 16 and you had to be 18 to teach. She complimented my skill and passion and told me to call her in two years. I never did. I went off to college, but it was always an encounter that stood out in my mind. I just figured one day I’d do it. She saw something in me at the time that I didn’t see within myself. I was just too scared to pursue it.

But now, here I am. Thirty years old and 3 kids later, instructing classes at a more challenging level I could have even imagined. I’m thankful to everyone in my support system for the continued encouragement that has allowed me to just dive into this process. I look forward to helping others get results and especially to everything I will learn along the way!

<- My girl Vicky and badass class participant! 💪🏼

Starting A Fitness Routine: Advice and Motivation

First progress picture after losing 30 lbs compared to most recent after 90 lbs lost. If I can do it, anyone can do it!

Have you been in a place where you want to begin exercising regularly, but you don’t know where to start? I can relate and have also been there. The solution may seem easy—just start! However, often -times the issues preventing us from trying something new is our mentality and insecurity. Its hard to walk into a gym, or even go for a jog around the block without feeling awkward when you’re just starting out. The main thing is to just ignore those doubts and try it. Nobody should feel they don’t have the body type to exercise because everybody starts somewhere. Nobody has ever reached health and fitness goals by continuously putting off actually doing the exercise.

With that being said, let me share a little bit of my own experience. I first began my most recent fitness journey over three years ago and sometimes I am amazed at where I am now. “Three years ago me” would have never imagined I would be who I am today from choosing to walk into Fitness 19. I remember being scared and not feeling like I belonged in a gym, but those doubts quickly shifted to motivation as I started to see and feel the difference in my body, mood, strength and energy level. Also, I was enjoying the classes I was taking and I was regularly receiving support from the women and instructors I encountered. It was, without a doubt, one of the best decisions I ever made.

Additionally, one factor that kept me from getting a gym membership, was the thought that it would be too expensive. Until one day I found a flyer in my mailbox from Fitness 19 that was offering memberships in my ideal price range, so I figured I would check it out. I went in and got a free week trial and started out with Zumba. I also tried yoga and pilates because I had a lot of experience doing those already and I began to really enjoy not only the people and instructors, but also the relaxed vibe of Fitness 19.  It has become a place I look forward to visiting and the friends I have made there keep me motivated and excited about staying on top of exercising. Fitness 19 is inexpensive with great deals, has a great community and offers a variety of group classes with excellent instructors. I highly recommend this gym!

Now, I get it if the gym isn’t your thing, but clearly, you can still exercise. After my second child was born I started exercising without a gym membership by doing yoga at home on youtube and walking. We used to live on a street that was in a hilly area so I made time to get really good walks in on the weekends. Also, I was using Youtube to do yoga most days of the week. I did this along with using the Weight Watchers app to track my nutrition and it worked for weight loss as well as building a foundation for maintaining a healthy lifestyle for the long term.

Eventually, I also got a $10 a month subscription to an app called The Daily Burn. If you love the idea of taking classes, they have all kinds from yoga to kick boxing and even recovery videos for active rest days. If you either want to build up some confidence in your fitness abilities, or you aren’t interested in the gym, I can vouch for these other options.

The important thing is it so get your body moving! Combine an activity you like while maintaining proper nutrition and you’ll be on the way to achieving fitness goals in no time. I suggest to try and find something you are interested in doing, not something you dread, other wise you’ll never stick with it. Also, if you end up not liking your work out of choice, try something different until it sticks.

An instructor once said in a class “get comfortable being uncomfortable” and this idea has been on my mind for several weeks now. New experiences can be uncomfortable, and in this case it’s a good thing. That just means you are on a path to bettering yourself and positive changes are in your future. Just try and remind yourself the discomfort is leading you where you want to be.

So, get together with a friend to work out, or make a really good play list and get moving!