Category Archives: Accountability

Life Beyond the Comfort Zone

If you’ve ever taken any type of group fitness class, you will hear instructors spouting dogmatic clichés like: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” and “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” Now, there certainly was a time that though I may have heard someone say this, I did not have the courage to listen to them say it. What’s more is, I have also taken too many classes where these phrases are disingenuously talked at participants. For me as an athlete, trainer, yogi, English teacher, and fitness instructor these phrases are personal, deeply personal. I take them seriously, not just in the capacity of offering a kick-ass fitness class to break people down only to build them back up. For me, the concept of challenging myself to catapult towards success in any arena is what fuels me. Motivates me. Shouts to my soul. So when I tell students or participants in any of my classes to get uncomfortable, I mean it because I live it.

I guess to really understand what I mean, it’s important to look at my relationship with my physical-self. My relationship with my physical-self has been [and shall remain] a tumultuous one. Stemming from my early youth I always struggled with my weight. I yo-yo dieted, flitted from one diet pill to another, never really gained any sort of footing with anything other than my interests in softball, lacrosse, and later soccer. Even during my collegiate years while playing lacrosse, I was still unfocused and overweight. I ate poorly and drank, a lot. That said, I lacked the mental capacity to push myself in team runs and workouts, and ultimately I didn’t get much playing time. However my lack of playing time didn’t seem to bother me so much as I felt entitled to playing without really earning it. I felt that I deserved to play. Now looking back, I recognize  my need to place blame and my sense of entitlement were a projection of my inadequacies. While I played a college sport, my life really hinged upon my close circle of friends, my job as a hostess at a steak house, and partying. I partied with reckless abandon. I experimented with bleaching my hair blonde [and a bad shade of blonde at that], cutting up my clothes, and wearing every conceivable color of eye shadow one could buy at Sephora (probably all at once, eeekk!). Nightly, the pre-gaming began, music vibrated throughout Grove Street and I looked in the mirror. Not only did I like what I saw gazing back at me—I LOVED IT. That’s right. At a hefty size 12 and only 5’0, tipping the scales at upwards of 160-165 pounds at times, I thought I was the hottest gal in town. Simply put, I owned my awesome for all of its tubby glory.

But as years wore on, this self-confidence would be squelched by my desire to whittle my waist to fit in and be accepted in the fitness community in Los Angeles. My self-worth became [and sadly in some respects is still] associated with how fit I can become, how much weight I can lose, how much faster I can run, and so on…And then something hit me. I suppose you can say it literally hit me [there’s a pseudo long digression here, but I’m going somewhere…]

11164639_10100727137527601_7925525871855849797_nIn an effort to take on something new in my life, to push myself beyond anything I already know, I have started boxing with my personal trainer. First things first: I know nothing about boxing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Tantalized by the heavy bag hanging in my trainer’s home-gym, I asked her to teach me.

Thus far it has only been a few short weeks. Boxing is sweaty and deliciously frustratingly fun because it’s SO DIFFERENT than anything I’ve ever done. Nothing like yoga, nothing like lifting weights, nothing like indoor cycling–my body feels awkward. My feet are heavy, I forget to protect my face, I’m not turning out enough, I’m still not staying on my toes, and at times I feel like I have no body awareness. My trainer says the same things to me over, and over, and over again. And while the process is slow, I am learning and loving every bit of shaking up what I thought I knew about my body and myself. Breathing new physical strength into my body is what I think it means to really live.

Sweat dripping down my face. I lick my lips and taste the delightfully salty reward for my efforts hitting the bag. I step back, heart racing and reflect:

While I don’t love myself as much as I would like physically, I sure as hell do LOVE the woman I am today. I am fearless. I try new things without hesitation. ‘NO’ has absolutely zero place in my vocabulary. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t anything I can’t do. So unlike when I was in college and I peer into the mirror and my reflection doesn’t quite love me back yet, I see that this body and mind are pillars of endless strength. And despite my life’s trials, and dark periods filled with negativity, like the Phoenix, I rise again because in my life there is only room for I CAN, I WILL, and I AM.

So the next time you are in my class, or anyone else’s fitness class for that matter: Listen to the person nudging you to push a little harder. Look a litter closer and listen to your authentic-self. Are you really pushing yourself in all arenas of your life? Ask the hard questions and know that you won’t get the answers right away. Relish the process of self-discovery, for something new is waiting up ahead to teach you something about yourself.

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Do we ever get a Do-Over?

As I was leaving the hair salon tonight, I noticed that in the 3 minutes my meter had expired I was getting a ticket. I stupidly ran into the street with my arms flailing screaming, “THAT’S ME! I’M COMING! THAT’S ME!!!!!”

Too late.

Ticket was already being written. The Meter Maid politely informed me that the first item that is entered is the license plate and that she had already done then and must write the ticket. I avoid eye contact as I feel tears welling behind my eyes (I am such a baby and cry over everything) and tell her I understand.

Then the Meter Maid pauses what she is doing. She looks at me, then tells me how much she likes my hair.

Me: “Thanks.”

The Meter Maid handed me the ticket and attempts to make small talk about how much purple is her power color and I notice that there is a softness and warmth to her voice. I am trying my hardest not to get sucked into hair talk because it’ll sure as hell ruin my newly sour mood so I am very short with her. Finally, she hands gives me the ticket and apologetically says, “Sorry for the inconvenience.”

Sorry for the inconvenience?! My meter expired. I got a ticket. I cop an attitude, and SHE’S sorry?! Though I didn’t know it at the time, I felt so exposed and almost shameful that I didn’t reciprocate this woman’s desire to connect with another human. So, let me just say I am not angry about the parking ticket. I fully own and accept that this whole thing was my fault in the first place. But what upsets me is that despite being 100% in the wrong, I was so consumed with rage that I didn’t get the opportunity to show this woman kindness in return.

But what I really I think is what makes me feel so crappy about this whole thing is that without her knowing it, she totally put me in check [hence this blog post] and I am grateful for it. Lesson learned.

Let’s face it, she has a shitty job in the respects that she probably encounters shitty people while giving them shitty parking tickets. It’s shitty, but it’s a job nonetheless. Regardless of her job and my role in all of this, this was the perfect time and place for me to make someone’s day just a little better and I blew it. I friggen blew it.

I want to apologize to the woman who gave me the ticket.

I want a second chance to run out of that salon to suck up my own stupid shit and joyfully talk about her power color, and my newly dyed locks (let’s face it, everyone knows how much I love talking about my purple hair). I want the opportunity to tell this woman that I try to live my life by leaving everyone I encounter with feelings of inspiration, joy, happiness, and confidence. I want that meter to expire just before I run into that street so I can practice what I preach and extend the same benevolence to this woman.

For what it’s worth, and though you will never see this, I am sorry I didn’t leave you with the best version of myself. I hope our paths cross again so that I can hopefully lift you up instead of being one of those shitty people while getting a shitty parking ticket.

Walking My Way

This evening I planned on taking a yoga class. But after my training session I emerged from my nap lethargic with a headache. So, despite really needing to go to yoga—I passed. Instead, I putted around the house for a while; creeped people’s social media then finally decided that I needed to get moving if I were going to hit those 10,000 steps that call to me on my Fitbit.

I tied my sneakers and bounded out the door with my Vega shake and cell phone in hand. I wanted to ditch the phone all together but knew I was trying to link up with Greg and he’d be calling, so my phone was along for the ride, but I intentionally didn’t bring headphones. I wanted to soak up life at my favorite time of day—dusk. I know many people look to the early morning hours and sunrise as representing hope and possibility, but for me the crispness of the evening air, people coming home from work, the laughter of children playing on their front lawns, and the sun slipping into the horizon hold the key to my personal hope.

I strode around my neighborhood of Studio City with my head up, off of a phone screen, noting the houses that surround our apartment complex. I made mental notes of the ones I loved with the Spanish style terracotta roofs, manicured walkways, and mature lush fruit trees.

I listened and even slowed my stroll to pause and appreciate the giggling of children scooting around the sidewalk in front of their houses and just playing. I smiled as I recalled growing up in Oceanside, New York with my family and playing outside with my sister until our parents bellowed our names “ARI!!!!!!! KASSII!!!!!! DINNER!!!!!!” from the front door signaling playtime was over.

People walked their dogs. I mean a lot of people were walking their dogs. There was a pep in people’s steps that I don’t recall ever noticing before. Was the calm of the evening promise responsible for such happiness? Or was I just too caught up in myself or looking into a phone screen that I never noticed the bustling community of my own neighborhood?

People smiled and I smiled back.

I felt empowered and I wasn’t even doing anything. I was just walking with nowhere to be, no destination—just walking. Strolling. Admiring. Savoring. Observing and fantasizing about the home that my soon-to-be husband Greg and I will one day share: I saw Greg getting out of a black SUV and walk up the path to our home, then through the front door to be greeted with a kiss and dinner. It was clearly a made-up moment but hey, the key to achieving our dreams is to visualize them and for me an eternal dreamer, though this moment only happened in my mind, something told me it felt right and would be within our reach.

There was a couple rollerblading. I actually passed them twice on my aimless meandering and smiled again as they held hands rollerblading and chatting. I think I even giggled to myself because I pondered, Is this still a thing? Do people still rollerblade? Wait. Do people still own rollerblades?!” Apparently the answers are yes but it doesn’t really matter because here was a couple doing something active, bonding, and enjoying each other’s company. Some people Crossfit, some run races, some cook dinner, and others rollerblade.

IMG_6565I admired the subtleties of the trees lining the streets and how on each street though indistinguishable from the other, each still looked and felt different because the foliage on each street had its own flair. These streets could have been Anywhere Road in Anywhere USA yet they felt deeply personal to me like these streets were mine.

The Hollywood Hills kissed the sky and embraced the evening as the lighted homes glistened in the distance looking down upon The Valley like a sage guardian.

I walked home and my Fitbit vibrated alerting me that I met my daily goal of 10,000 steps. I rubbed my wrist and thought God, I love this thing. Inspired by my desire to meet and exceed my daily steps my Fitbit led me to an adventure right outside my door. So maybe I wasn’t supposed to get my yoga on today and I was right where I needed to be, exploring, dreaming, and just being alone with myself in stillness.

The F Word

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Now is the time to regain control of my body and my mind. I am firmly making a commitment to actively start to embrace myself and love the outside parts of me the same way I love the bomb-ass insides of me.

To be completely honest, I am at a total loss when it comes to trying to figure out where my inability to be kind and love myself originated. I have spent YEARS trying to identify that once I graduated college, entered the workforce, and became a teacher how I literally become obsessed with being the best. On a level, my extreme perfectionism is what has made me great at what I do and has really catapulted me to success as both an English teacher and fitness instructor. However, my unrelenting standards of myself have led to me this crossroads where I berate myself for my self-perceived shortcomings. My mind is a battleground of hostility raping my thoughts of anything positive.

I hear what students, friends, and loved ones say, “Oh, but you’re so strong and all those races you run!” And to me the translation in my head is:

Strong is the new word for voluptuous. And last I checked, voluptuous implies a negative connotation that we want to believe is disguised as curvy which is simply put: A nice word for chubby, chunky, or unfit.

[See? I told you it was a mess up in that head of mine]

That being said, I embrace the cold hard fact that my outsides do not match my insides and despite this whole “Positive Body Image Movement” I am not happy with myself and I want to change it.

Recently, I hired a personal trainer. Befuddling to imagine that as a trainer and a group fitness instructor that I would hire someone to work me out when I am more then qualified and capable of working myself out. The reality is just that when it comes to taking care of me I am bad at that. I live my life to help catapult others to greatness. Being a teacher and coach IS who I am. But when it comes to me, though I am filled with intense drive, I just cannot find the will to rally for myself. In some respects my fuel for perfection keeps me going but when faced with lifting after teaching a cycling class, I cannot muster the energy to motivate myself. Having someone whom I trust with the care of my fragile ego of my physical-self is paramount in helping me find how to love the outside me. Not surprisingly, finding the right person to empower me was easy since between Greg and I we know and have access to some of LA’s top trainers—yaassssss. I feel so touched, honored, and blessed at the lengths and willingness so many people were willing to extend in working with me. Ultimately, I ended up selecting someone I greatly respect and admire. What’s more is I picked someone I knew would not allow me to trash myself.

My first session was great. It was fun and it was hard. Never inaccessibly hard but the right amount of rehabilitative exercises to strengthen my knee while combining intervals to help me burn fat. And then, while working on the TRX machine it hit me. Right smack in the middle of my workout I had an epiphany.

Not only now, but in recent years when working out I hold back. Don’t get me wrong, in Crossfit I RX (as prescribed without modifications) my workouts and I work hard at anything I tackle but there is this part of myself that keeps something inside, locked up, and reserved. First of all, why do I hold back? What am I afraid of? Why can’t I go just a little longer, a little harder, with a little more weight?

The answer is I am so terrified of failure that I let it paralyze me.

I feel like I have built myself up to the world [and myself] that not being able to do something and do it well means I am a failure.

I shared this thought with my trainer and she seconded the notion that she suffers from the same thoughts. I am glad I shared it because it helped me feel justified but what’s more is by sharing it, it allowed me to finally take control of my fears of failing. Once I said it, and put it out into the universe, I had to own it and there was no looking back. I don’t think that until that precise moment that I even knew I subconsciously held back. It just kind of manifested in that moment so blatantly reflecting my true-honest self back for me to see. So I looked.

I looked without judgment and I committed to myself right then and there to have the resolve to not fear falling short of my own expectations.

I feel like by calling out my fears head on, out loud in the world has already given me strength. It has already made me stronger than I was before.

Tomorrow I have my 2nd training session and for the very first time in a long time, there will be nowhere for me to hide. Just me, some sweat, and unbreakable resolve.

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Inner-cising is the New Exercising

We are officially 7 glorious days into the New Year and it’s a perfect time to take personal inventory of the goals and intentions we set forth just a mere week ago. So, how are you doing thus far? I know that some goals will take time to unfold but what about the nitty gritty of it all in disconnecting so you can reconnect to yourself? Have you been kind to yourself? Patient and welcoming of the process? Excited about the potential of the New Year as it unfolds? How have you started chipping away at carving out your life and the path you want to walk? At 7 days into the year, I will let you know how I am doing with my intentions:

I have been taking better care of myself. I suppose it’s easy to do when I am not in the classroom, but I have been taking really good wholesome care of my body. In the last 4 days alone I have taken 2 yoga classes, well kind of 3 but whatever.

The irony and curse of yoga instructors is that we hustle all across town to serve our students and in the madness of it all from creating playlists to cleverly beating LA traffic, our own practice sometimes gets put on hold. I have enjoyed this delightful time with my body. My surgery and knee injury have taught me so much.

Yoga Tune Up
Therapeutic Yoga Flow at Equinox Encino with Yoga Tune Up balls.

First, there is this almost hyper-awareness of everything going on in my body right now. At least when I practice yoga—not right now, I am just sitting on the couch writing this with a grumbling tummy and all I can focus on is eating…Hmmmm, maybe that awareness really has shifted into all arenas after all. Nonetheless, I digress. In my recent dances on the mat everything seems so much more precise. My inhales and exhales deliberate and my movement sacred. It’s a funny thing what limited mobility does to a person, it forces you to slow down and savor whatever movement you do have. What’s more is I had a conversation with one of my Group Fitness Manager’s at Equinox and she said something that really resonated with me. While sharing about coming back from an injury where she broke her foot, she recalled thinking to herself “Ohhhh, that’s how people feel in my class.” And then it struck me—I realized my injuries and coming back from them are what make me human and better what I do because I get it—I see you. I really see you.

One of the greatest gifts that this journey of healing and self-discovery has given me is a new lease on my perspective of compassion and empathy. Not that I didn’t employ such things before while teaching but like you, I break and need to repair myself. Like you, sometimes I am afraid to move my body because of how it will feel. And like you, right now I am not where I want to be.

This is our time to employ a true sense of community as we take 2015 by storm and we heal one another. In class we look to our right, then look to our left and we say “Hi” to whomever next to us. We support one another when we are down and elevate each other by just being present. Showing up and hitting our mat consistently is what continues to connect us to our essential self while allowing us to acquire the tools to help serve those around us. Each an every time I show up to class, I show up to heal myself twofold: physically and to take the tools I learn on the mat and share them with you. Let’s dig in, tap in, and work in as we inner-cise while exercising and employ self-love and kindness.

Manifest OUR Destiny

About a week ago, Greg and I sat down and set our intentions for 2015. I really enjoyed carving time out of our lives to bring some direction and purpose to how we wanted to continue to embark upon our lives [as a soon-to-be married couple]. What’s more, when we sat down to make this list then completed it, I didn’t toss it aside to implement in 2015. For me, writing down things I wanted to manifest meant that there was no time like the present to dig right in and get down and dirty as we manifested our destinies.
I wanted to start simple. As with any sort of intention one sets, it should be the right blend of challenging just outside your reach to promote growth but also should be attainable. For me this meant biting off something that with my knee surgery looming in the near future I could still tackle with moderate success. I glanced down at my list and realize it’s largely composed of the physical self, and then my phone lights up. It’s another text from a friend chronicling how much we’d love to get together but we are both just so busy.

And then it dawns upon me, what kind of person and friend have I become? Have I really become the friend that creeps your Facebook, likes your pictures, and comments on your successes and happiness on Instgram but cannot pull it together to get in a phone call or come over?! This realization angered me and right then and there I committed to the people I care about:

Be a better friend.

None of this “Come take my class then we can hang after” garbage; It was time to demand the same level of friendship that I demand of those in my life. In the short time since I have dedicated myself to truly being present for my friends I have celebrated the birthday of a beloved student who takes my yoga classes, had dinner with a dear friend whom I also met while teaching yoga years ago, visited a friend who is pregnant, and listened to a friend going through a tough breakup while running errands. It feels pretty darn good to elevate people in my life other then in a fitness room. It feels good just listening, breaking bread, and simply just being me. After all, isn’t that what the essence of friendship is all about? With that, I have decided to let you all into how Greg and I plan to better ourselves and now you can hold us accountable!

Arielle and Greg’s Manifesto

Greg

Arielle

  •  Box
  • Stretch More
  • Create business plan for restaurant concept/s
  • Save money and get out of debt
  • Get 6-pack [back]
  • Eat better
  • Drink less Starbucks
  • Read more
  • Get back into playing soccer
  • Find some sort of Martial Arts and try it!
  • Surf as much as possible
  • Do more yoga
  • Blog more regularly
  • Make more time for friends
  • Be better with finances
  • Be less unkind to myself

Commitments as a Couple

  • Secure some sort of sponsorship or ambassadorship for a fitness brand, race, or affiliated organization
  • Launch Relationships for Life: A 6-week life training program that Greg and I co-authored aimed at working to build [healthy and fun] relationships with food, fitness, significant others, and self
  • Continuing to lead a healthy lifestyle: Focusing in particular on our own fitness but most importantly, our attention to nutrition. Whether it’s Paleo or adopting a new lifestyle
  • Earn our Trifecta*

*The Trifecta is when one runs and completes Spartan Race’s 3 races: the Sprint, Super, and Beast in one calendar year. I completed my Trifecta in 2013 but Greg and I love Spartan Race and set our sights on completing one together and then finishing in 2015 as a married couple!

Now, as you can see Greg and I have some serious work to do. But I can tell you that this is work that I am eager to work through, into, and take it all in for whatever the universe has got coming for me. As some of you already know, some items on my Manifesto are already in the works. Some things haven’t been started and some terrify me. Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, that’s what goals should do: Push you to the edge of something terrifying and just when you cannot take it anymore and you are petrified—LEAP!

Yet, despite this pretty rad list of things that Greg and I will work vigilantly at achieving in 2015; the greatest commitment I will make this year is on June 20th when Greg and I wed in front of our family and friends.

Check Yo’self before You Wreck Yo’self

Many people like to use the New Year as a starting point to adopt a new fitness regimen. And it makes sense. This time of year comes after unrestrained over-indulgence, stressful travel or strained time with family, and/or a departure from one’s regularly schedule fitness routines. For those of you looking to the New Year to venture into something new, WELCOME!

greatness from chaos

I am glad that you are going to shake shit up in 2015 and rock the hell out of that comfort zone so you can grow. As you start researching things you would like to tackle, new studios, gyms, changing up classes, and trying new instructors (which you should ALWAYS do by the way) I wanted to offer some insider advice as a fitness professional to help demystify venturing into new and unchartered territory.

When you are new to a class, studio/gym, type of exercise, or trying a new format:

  1. Arrive early to class

    • Introduce yourself to the instructor
    • Let them know you are new
    • Ask what equipment you may need

Arriving early helps you get familiar with the space, set up properly, and get acclimated. If you are new to something like cycling or a metabolic conditioning (think bootcampy) type of class, you will need equipment, and/or assistance to be set up by the instructor on your bike. Arriving 15 minutes early allows for you to get one-on-one attention from the instructor, ask questions, and to make sure you are set up safely for the class.

  • Disclose any injuries or limitations to the instructor

When the instructors asks “Are there any injuries…?” and there is radio silence it is assumed you are good to go. Well, when we see you modifying every pose/exercise and then ask you how you’re doing, yadda yadda and your reply is “Oh, I just had shoulder surgery…” it’s a problem.

We ask this for a reason people: To keep you safe and to prevent further injury to your body. You guys, this is just a fitness class. There is no need to be a martyr and render yourself unable to use your body in the long term. Your safety is always our #1 priority. Sure, you may not want to broadcast your personal life in a room full of strangers, but quiet time before class is the perfect opportunity to let the instructor know of your limitations.

  1. Read the class descriptions and pay attention to the levels:

    1. Before taking any class read the class descriptions and pay attention to the leveling of the class (if applicable). That said, just because a class is not leveled and deemed ‘all levels’ it does not necessarily mean it’ll be ‘easy’.
    2. For example, if you are completely new to something like yoga, taking an introductory class or series is a great place to learn the fundamentals, pose names, and breath work before venturing into a vinyasa (flow based) class or something more complex with inversions and arm balances.
  1. Get UncomfortableCome to class with an open mind, a CAN-DO attitude, and STAY the entire time

    • Trying something new can be scary but that’s the fun of it all! And I recognize that moving your body in new ways can be awkward, make you feel a little uncoordinated, and at times appear painful. That being said, keep in mind that every experience is one that contributes to your personal betterment. Look, things happen: you’ve gotta pick up the kids, your parking meter will expire, etc. which is totally fine. But if you need to leave early and you know ahead of time, or may need to leave early, just let the instructor know. Then, set up shop and hang towards the back of the room so when you leave it minimizes the disruption to the class.

So, if you are in a class and for whatever reason it’s just not your thang see it through to the end. You showed up and that’s the hardest part, you just may surprise yourself and enjoy it. Leaving in the middle or even a few minutes into class is disruptive to participants and rude. But even more than that, I invite participants to think about why they felt compelled to leave in the first place. Often we act as a reaction without really understanding its origins ourselves but next time when in class and you’re thinking of bouncing think to yourself: Why do I want to leave? And then consider the following:

I will try anything three times (except escargot—I will never even try that once, I just cannot bring myself to eat snail, eww). Yes, you read that correctly THREE TIMES. Here are my general rules of thumb when trying new classes, instructors, and formats:

 

focus on what you can do

We all have our own shit we are working with or through. What we are battling personally and professionally impacts our ability to process things being offered to us. Hence, I may be turned off or think I am turned off to something someone is offering me because it makes me feel vulnerable or forces me to confront myself.

The other reason is the instructor could have been having an off day. Trust me, it occasionally happens. You never know, maybe the sound wasn’t working properly, he/she was just broken up with, lost someone close to him or her, etc. Instructors are people too. Which then leads me to my third go of it all. If after my third trip if it’s not vibing for me, I bid it or the instructor farewell and leave it at that. No harm, it wasn’t for me but I still got a workout and the way I see it, that’s a positive seeing as that was what I set out to do in the first place, right?

  1. Be Nice

    • Employ a general sense of awareness of personal space for those around you:
    • Consider mindfulness when letting bodily functions just go. Anyone who has taken a yoga class knows what I mean by this.
    • Bodily odors: Too much perfume or cologne or the converse, not enough antiperspirant.
    • Cell phones. Ignore your phone for the hour.

Focus on yourself, disconnect from your life, so you can reconnect to yourself.

Phones are distracting. By using your phone in class it usurps the respect we should give to others. Group fitness brings people together. It allows for people who share a common interest. Be mindful of other people around you and your phone etiquette in a communal space.

  • Say hello to the desk staff, the instructor, and those around you. For strangers are just family you have yet to meet.
  • Smile. Smile. 
  1. Surrender the notion of “needing to ‘be in shape’ to come to class

    • Over the years I have had countless people claim they need to ‘get into shape before coming’ to class. The point of a fitness class is help you get into shape. The instructor guides you, pushes you, encourages you, and best of all: you have a room full of people in the same position as you! Stop limiting yourself by making excuses and saying that you’re not fit enough or too inflexible for yoga—showing up consistently will help alleviate those problems!

Make choicesIt’s funny how you go thought the year day by day and nothing changes, then when you look back, everything’s different.

It is time to strip yourself down, look yourself in the mirror and get out of your own way. This is your time to shine. Get out there, put yourself out there, and integrate yourself into your community. By the time 2016 rolls around your body and mind will be ready for new horizons of change and you will embrace them head on!

New Year, Same You

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It’s the New Year so you’ve committed to a “New You”. You have bought yourself new kicks, snagged a new gym membership, and you are ready to re-invent yourself in 2015. Whoohoo! Well, here’s my problem with this whole “New You” business. This concept suggests that the person you were in 2014 wasn’t good enough and I don’t like that. What was wrong with who you were in 2014? So maybe you didn’t achieve what you set out to do, you didn’t meet the partner of your dreams, get that promotion, whatever—but that doesn’t mean the entire year was a wash and what’s more, it certainly doesn’t require an entire personal overhaul.

Ladies and gentleman, we are entirely too hard on ourselves. We HAVE to love ourselves more so that we can thrive. Last year, like any other year was filled with joy, struggle, and laughter. In looking back at your 2014, as you devise your 2015 I want to ask what I feel to be more pertinent questions:

  • What speaks to your heart?
  • What are you doing to bring the things that speak to your heart alive?
  • How have you nourished your soul?
  • How are you filling your cup while you are serving others?

What terrifies you? 

I mean what is something you have always wanted to do but let your own fear and self-imposed inadequacies stand in the way of you reaching out, branching out, and growing?

thisisthebeginning

Get involved in something. Be part of something bigger than yourself.

Commit to something.

Train for something.

Find your faith or connect to a higher power. Whatever your faith maybe or even derive your spirituality from should be something that brings you strength.

 

The thing is here, there are no right answers to how you need to cultivate your soul, fill your heart with life and light, and wake up invigorated and energized by life. I invite you to move away from thinking you need to change the you that the world knows. The current you is just fine. Simply, look to this New Year as a season of hope, after all, obstacles in our lives are merely opportunities in disguise.

I wish you all the happiest New Year as you look boldly and confidently ahead. I will be here to celebrate your journey, laugh, and cry with you. So stop what you are doing right now. Reflect and dare to dream big. You hold the pen to craft this tale and it is up to you to fill the pages of your story.

And to help hold us all accountable, I will be posting my Manifesto for 2015 along with the Miller/Cohen goals for the New Year as we rapidly approach our nuptials but also keep life fresh, fun and as always, fitness oriented.

Happy New Year my loves!

Looking Back to Look Ahead: Part II

Here’s to ending 2014 insightfully with some retrospection–let’s end this on a high note!

6. Coming back to school in the fall of 2014 was certainly a doosey. When I arrived back at work, I learned that I wasn’t teaching what I was told I would be teaching before summer break. There were no texts available for the new courses I would be teaching, or even recommended texts. I was teaching FIVE different courses, and our school had a new bell schedule which meant teachers were now teaching an extra academic class meaning we taught SIX periods a day. Needless to say, the transition from summer to school was not smooth.

As if my shift back to the classroom wasn’t rocky enough, my hellacious 9th graders were train wrecks. Yes, I said it—train wrecks. My new crop of students not only had ZERO work habits but in my 10 years as an educator, they were by far the most unmotivated group I had ever encountered.

Within the first week of school, students already lost their textbooks, rendering them unprepared for class daily and unable to complete homework. And homework? Ha. Right from the start of the school year, my 9th graders earned mostly Fails and they didn’t seem to care about repeating the course in 10th grade, in effect making them 9th graders for a second year in a row. On any given day, it wasn’t unusual for me to have 1/3 of my classes absent due to truancy and ditching. Students rarely brought materials, completed class work, let alone complete writing assignments. I came to school daily to fight a losing battle and it was destroying me.

Ms. Miller is gayFor me, a turning point came only about 3 weeks into the school year when I found tagging on my desk stating: “Ms. Miller is Gay”. Now, of all the things one could say about me, I don’t find the term gay to be offensive. But what irked me about this hate speech was that this student thought he/she was hurting me by calling me gay AND that he/she thought that it was acceptable to use the word gay with the intention of hurting other people’s feelings. Despite what I thought to be one of the most powerful lessons I have taught to date with real-life articles about gay teens being bullied to the point of suicide, videos, and compelling writing assignments, the student who wrote, “Ms. Miller is Gay” still found his comment funny because according to him “it was funny because it wasn’t about him…

It was at this point I started sending my resumes to other schools.

7. After Ragnar Trail in October, Greg and I decided to commit to really cleaning up our diets. Despite eating relatively healthy, at the urging of our friend and chiropractor Dr. Lisa V we purchased It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig and Paleo Comfort Foods by Julie Sullivan Mayfield and Charles Mayfield. I nearly devoured It Starts with Food, which is what most people know as The Whole 30. I couldn’t get enough of this new lifestyle that omits gluten, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar, and preservatives. Now, I know you are thinking cutting out so much seems impossible. After all, how could you possibly go without cheese? Trust me, once you educate yourself, or as I like to say ‘Liberate Yourself’, you will not want to eat cheese again. I am here to tell you that once I cleaned up my diet and life, I felt full longer, I was satiated after eating, and I looked better too. Seriously, going Paleo was the 2nd best thing to happen to me next to meeting Greg. Without getting too preachy, learning about how certain foods sparked inflammation and impacted my body inspired me to really commit to this lifestyle.

Michelle and Henry signingOnce Greg and I started cooking, we couldn’t stop. We started meal prepping on Sunday’s, which meant we shopped together and cooked together. Suddenly eating wasn’t an imposition it was now an adventure. We bought several more cookbooks including Nom Nom Paleo by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong and even went to meet Michelle and her husband Henry for a book signing in Pasadena in late October! Who did we turn into? We were baking Paleo cookies, reading everything we could possibly find on the Paleo lifestyle from PaleOMG to Paleo Grubs and we still loved eating Paleo! You know why? Because when something isn’t a diet or fad and is based on real science with tangible results, adopting a way of eating is not temporary. It becomes engrained into your household; hence, becoming a lifestyle. For me, Paleo took on a life of its own and signified so much more than just a new way of eating and looking at food. Paleo reformulated how I looked at food entirely. As a matter of fact, as someone who has struggled with my relationship with food since I was a teen, I found that Paleo inspired me to want to eat, to want to eat well, and actually enjoy eating instead of viewing eating as a necessity and chore as I did in the past. The Paleo lifestyle gave me a new lease on my own connectedness with food by liberating me from the self-imposed chains I bore for more than a decade. So as I continue to nourish my body and heal through healthy foods, remember from Team Awesome’s culinary cave to yours: Go Paleo, #ItsALifestyle! Signed nom nom paleo

8. In October I interviewed at Fairfax High School in West Hollywood. After my 2nd interview, I was offered a position for the spring semester teaching English 9, 10 Honors, and 11. Despite being under contract at Bernstein High School and knowing that leaving one school for another school in a lateral move would be highly frowned upon from Bernstein administration, I had to take the risk and ask for a transfer. I just had Even though I loved working with my AP Language class and coaching the Girls Soccer team, in the end I opted to leave Bernstein in favor of Fairfax. For me it came down to a really basic thing: I just wasn’t happy. And if my yoga practice and studies taught me anything it was to take risks, live with your heart, never apologize for who you are, and if something no longer serves you then let it go. In this case, leaving Bernstein embodied all of what I have learned from my yogic teachings but this is also a pivotal time for me.

Recently, I have been feeling deflated by my work in education. My soul doesn’t seem to be as fulfilled in my work as it was in the past. For some reason, my heart is telling me that there just may be something else out there for me. Who knows?

My move to Fairfax is so much more than just a change of scenery. Fairfax is my last ditch effort to revitalize my passions for education. It is my last stand and last effort to see if I can continue to shape young minds and try to change the world before throwing in the towel and moving on. Fairfax is my do or die time. I refuse to just walk away without a fight so this is my last round, folks. Fingers crossed.

9. I never thought that at 32 years old after three knee surgeries that I would be sitting on my couch elevating my knee after a FOURTH surgery. I guess that’s life, right? Finally, after almost 1.5 years of modified fitness activities, constant pain, and many missed Spartan Races, I am now on the road to recovery.

Right now I am home resting and I will be seeing the doctor in a few days to discuss my rehab and his recommendations for my future athletic endeavors. Given what I have been told post-op, it seems that in 2015 I may need to re-examine my relationship with fitness and the things I love. As it stanKnee surgeryds now, it appears that Crossfit and running may not be in the cards for me. Naturally upon hearing this, I was angry and the ‘why me’s’ of self-pity quickly set in. But as quickly as self-pity washed over me, it then dissipated when I started thinking about all of the other things that I have been wanting to try or really incorporate into my fitness regimen such as surfing, paddle boarding, swimming, cycling (like real cycling on a bike outside), and so much more. As my list of new and exciting things grew, I looked at my knee and realized that my knee doesn’t represent what I cannot do, for the only limitations that exist are the ones we impose upon ourselves.

10. The last bit of my reflection for 2014 is for you. Each and every soul I have come into contact with this year whether on a yoga mat, on a bike, in a classroom, on the street, where ever and whenever—you have helped shape this year and my ability to look back in order to look ahead. Thank you for your honesty when I needed it [and may not have wanted it], your hugs, your love, your friendships, and our growth together. I sign this very long two-part post off with well wishes and a happy heart as we move forward confidently into 2015.

 

Peace. Love. And Bliss.

Namaste.

Looking Back to Look Ahead: Part I

As 2014 comes to a close, I want to take a look back at 10 things that represented renewal and rebirth for me. As many of you know, I am a firm believer in looking back, admiring the journey and how far one has come, then using the tools of the past to press forward. No, I do not condone using the past as a crutch to cripple growth, but a look back often lends itself to really gaining some perspective.

Often when we feel stuck and like we haven’t made any gains or found success we may lack the ability to really see the growth that has occurred. For me, growth manifests itself in many forms from personal to professional victories to trials and tribulations sometimes filled with tough decisions and discomfort. And it’s just that, the discomfort I will focus on in my 10 Things that Made My 2014 because growth only truly occurs when you are scared, pushed, pulled, tested, and tried.

  1. bitch millerFebruary 2014: My departure from a full-time fitness professional and transition back into the classroom as a public school teacher for LAUSD. I landed at Helen Bernstein High School in Hollywood but not without opposition. In my early weeks at Bernstein I endured name-calling, numerous complaints from parents and students that I was “too strict” and “gave too much work/homework”, and was greeted at my classroom door twice with notes stating “Bitch Miller” and “Fucken Miller”.
  1. My now fiancé Greg and I moved in together in late March. We were only dating 4 months when I moved into his [too small] apartment in Studio City. Surprisingly with my dating history, I expected to be scoffed at by friends and family to the likes of “Here she goes again.” But the jeers and jabs never came. At least from people who knew Greg and I intimately. People saw how Greg enhanced my life, shaping me, guiding me, even making me a better person. I mean, I knew all that already, but it was further validation when others saw that too. When we moved in together, we both anticipated an adjustment period of where we’d drive one another nuts while discovering one another’s idiosyncrasies. Yeah, that never happened. Greg and I moved in together and get this; our relationship only continues to get better with each passing day.
  • Buti Yoga Training in March 2014: For those of you who have no clue what Buti is, it is a type of yoga created by Bizzie Gold. It fuses plyometrics, African Tribal Dance, and yoga into a high energy, sweat-fest that blasts calories and fat. It is fun, sexy, and only for women. Marathi for “The Hidden Secret”, Buti is designed to empower women, unleash their sensuality, and unlock their often blocked or closed second chakra. Well, let me tell you. Prior to the training I had only Buti’ed twice. Yup, twice. I knew a few things about Buti: I was not very good at it, I worked insanely hard in class, and I wanted more.
  • So when I stumbled upon the training in LA, I jumped on the opportunity to hurl myself out of my comfort zone and into something I knew I would struggle with so I could learn something new. The weekend-long training consisted of HOURS of Buti-ing with Bizzie, then in groups, group teaching, and finally individual 15-minute demonstrations for the group. Despite being an experienced yoga and fitness instructor, I was terrified of this demo. After all, I wasn’t good at Buti, so how could I teach it?! Refusing to stand in my own way, I confidently killed my demo to receive rave reviews from the founder herself, Bizzie Gold. I never thought I would be able to tackle sometime so sexy and rhythmic but I did. Currently, I don’t teach Buti nor have I taken it in a almost 8 months as a result of my knee injury, but the lessons I took from that training showed me that with a little heart, I am more powerful than I imagined. Here’s a snippet of me teaching my Buti demo, check it out below :-)

  1. In April 2014, I ran my first ever Ragnar Relay here in SoCal. Until recently, my favorite races to run were Spartan Race obstacle course races because I am not a runner (at least I keep telling myself that). Yes, in OCR’s there is running but it’s broken up by tasks and obstacles that showcase other strengths and skills that test you as a whole athlete. However, as always I am always looking to shake things up, so when a friend asked me to join his SoCal relay team, I couldn’t refuse. Unlike anything I have ever participated in before Ragnar Relay puts a 12-person team in vans to run 3 legs (or times) over the course of just over 30 hours or so covering approximately 200 miles . You eat, sleep, and live in your van during this time and your teammates become your family.
  • IMG_3581My legs consisted of 7.5 miles hard, 3.5 miles moderate, and 2.9 miles easy. Not a runner, this horrified me. There was nowhere for me hide—no obstacle to bail me out. It was the pavement, a very cumbersome knee brace, and I. I didn’t set any records that race. Hell, I am pretty certain I may have ran a 12 minute mile on my longest leg of 7.5 miles but I didn’t quit and to me, that’s what it means to have true character. True character is when you know you may fail, or may not be the best, but you march into battle with an open heart and an open mind regardless of what may come.
  • I suppose it was best I didn’t quit on myself in that first race because I forged a bond with new and old friends and fell in love with The Ragnar Race Series. About 5 months later in September, my fiancé Greg joined me to run Ragnar Relay Napa and I even captained a team at Ragnar Trail in Vail Lake in October! I will never be the best runner and that’s something I am more than ok with, but I am not a quitter and to me, that’s priceless.
  1. On Sunday, June 29, 2014 I got engaged to Gregory Cohen at One Down Dog in Silverlake. You all already know about the proposal and have seen more pictures and videos than you would like (sorry not sorry?), but I am not going to talk about the proposal here. What I am going to talk about is how for my entire life I said ‘I was never going to get married and let a man dictate my life’ and all that other feminist dogma about not needing anyone other than myself, blah blah blah. Here’s the thing about finding the right partner: there is no need involved, it just fits and it works. Period. Contrary to what many couples will say, I do not subscribe to the belief that relationships are work. It is through Greg that I have learned that the right relationship just works. That doesn’t mean we both don’t work hard to keep one another happy and aren’t considerate of one another—we are, but the right partner enhances your life, elevating you, helping you soar while achieving goals and dreams together.
  • darknessNow, before you lay into me about the honeymoon phase and how I have little life’s experience to claim that the right relationship ‘just works’ let me remind you I have walked in great darkness before emerging on the other side to find Greg. I have endured what I thought was love but merely disguised as the devil of codependency. I have thought that love required great sacrifice and putting your dreams on hold for the sake of another, but I was mistaken. For the mistakes of my past laid the foundation not only to show me what love was not, but also precisely what the right partner brings to a healthy relationship.
  • Simply put, everyday I am on this earth is a gift. Everyday I wake up and look over at the adorable man smiling back at me in our teensy full-sized bed in our still too small apartment; my life is filled with hope and endless possibility. Nothing I ‘give up’ is ever a sacrifice and everything I do for my partner is done with joy in my heart. So marrying Greg isn’t about having to give up anything, it’s about reformulating what I thought I once knew and challenging my ideals and gaining a life partner to build an eternity of memories.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I will end my year in reflection with my countdown as we bid 2014 goodbye. See you tomorrow!