Category Archives: Commitment

A Letter from my Fiancé

I have received tremendous feedback from readers in response to the entry (Hello, Darkness my Old Friend) that I shared with you all yesterday. Most readers empathized and thanked me for my honesty as it spoke to them, while others like my family in particular, were terrified. While I recognize that I am a public figure and to many their source of hope and motivation, I think it’s important to note that like everyone else, I experience emotions–and very real ones at that. Despite what sometimes is hard to say or see, I will never censor what I write and share with the world because it goes against the grain, makes people uncomfortable, or exposes the inner not-talked about depths that haunt our souls. With that, I have been inspired to share one of the responses with you all here. Below is something my amazing fiancé Greg wrote and sent to me while I was at work today. Stay tuned for other updates on Hello, Darkness my Old Friend coming at you later…


 

Babylove:

You know how much I love you, how much I want you to be happy and how much I support you.  So here are some quotes to get your mind flowing on happiness and some pictures to remind you about all the good you have in life.  Be happy, no matter what the struggle, you have a lot and you have me.  Remember what I wrote yesterday.  Keep pushing and never give up.

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
― Albert Camus
“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.”
― Tom Bodett
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust
Here are some photos and why I choose them:
FRIENDSHIP:

Friendship

SISTERLY LOVE:

SisterHood

HARDWORK / ACCOMPLISHING SOMETHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO:

HardWork

FIGHT / DON’T QUIT:

NeverGiveUp

COUPLE EXPERIENCES / RACES THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY:

FirstCoupleRagnar

MARRIED COUPLE TO BE:

EngagementPhoto

INSPIRATION / ROLE MODEL:

Inspiration

NEW SCHOOL / LEADER:

TeacherFeature

 FUN TIMES FOR A GOOD CAUSE FOR THOSE LESS FORTUNATE:

CFS_A&G

A VERY RARE EXPERIENCE:

rareexperience

 BEST BIRTHDAY EVER:

bestbirthdayever

THE START OF YOUR FUTURE:

thestartofour future

And here is a poem to reflect upon and how I would like you to think everyday.  Read it every day:
Promise Yourself
To be so strong that nothing
can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness, and prosperity
to every person you meet.To make all your friends feel
that there is something in them
To look at the sunny side of everything
and make your optimism come true.To think only the best, to work only for the best,
and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others
as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past
and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times
and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself
that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear,
and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world,
not in loud words but great deeds.
To live in faith that the whole world is on your side
so long as you are true to the best that is in you.
― Christian D. LarsonYour Forces and How to Use Them

I LOVE YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART.  YOU ARE MY SOULMATE, SNOWFLAKE.
- Babyhands

 

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

20120611-225556

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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Health, Happiness, and Healing: Starting Over

This sure has been one whirlwind of a week! I have so much to say so I am just going to unload it all in a series of posts in no particular order. I think what I would like to address first is my recent news which many of you already know via my various social media outlets.

Finally after years of seeing doctor after doctor and specialist after specialist I was recently diagnosed with PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. The road to finally get here has been filled with lots of tears of frustration—lots and lots of tears of frustration. With my recent diagnosis there is a sort of vindication as these last two years many doctors treated me like I was crazy. I mean, my blood work wasn’t just normal; it was stellar, reflective of someone who was very fit and committed to eating healthy. One doctor even beamed, “Your blood work reads like a pediatric patient—it’s even better than my kids!” So if the blood coursing through my body tells a story of health then why did my period mysteriously disappear 2.5 years ago to only come back months later but only intermittently?

How is it possible to gain 30 pounds despite committing to programs and lifestyles like Isagenix, vegetarianism, veganism, going gluten free, and [recently] the Paleo lifestyle paired with an intense fitness regimen?
How is it possible that right around my 30th birthday my reproductive system completely shut down and I was no longer ovulating?

No one it seemed could provide me with any answers so I continued to cry, workout harder, restrict more calories, and cry some more.

Finally one day my gynecologist looked me in the face and flatly said, “Arielle, we have no explanation why you’re infertile when you are so healthy. It seems as if your brain isn’t signaling to your ovaries to release the egg…” [Note: I was not trying to get pregnant] Naturally, not having the answer she decided to give me some hormones to induce menstruation which never did happen. But you know what did? All the wonderful side effects of hormone treatment: extreme mood swings and depression. Deep, deep, deep depression. There were times it was so dark in my mind I actually could see myself ending my life. I know it’s hard to imagine someone ‘like me’, a lover of all things in my life filled with such darkness but when the people we trust to take care of us do not understand what we are suffering from, they toss anything and everything at the problem and hope to find a solution. I felt so alone and angry that my body could just turn on me. I had no control over my cycle, my weight, and now my very own thoughts were being robbed and captained by a beast I could not tame. Thankfully, this extreme darkness only represents a brief period of my life during which I called my mother crying:

“I know I always said I didn’t want children…but now that the universe has stripped me of that gift without asking me and I didn’t even get a say in the matter.”

Eventually, I did start to menstruate albeit irregularly but apparently so long as one gets at least 4 periods a year it’s considered safe. Who knew that? Girls! You can be healthy and only menstruate 4x a year! Stop taking your placebo pills now! Whatever. I still don’t buy this bologna. But when you’re in a crowded room screaming and no one turns around, after a while you stop screaming and walk out.

Fast forward two years later and I am teaching fitness in LA. I have done some unimaginably awesome things like shoot a yoga reel, an indoor cycling fitness video, become a brand ambassador for a fitness clothing line, had a 4th knee surgery, and so much more all while I worked out more and harder and only got fatter. My clothes have stopped fitting. The only things I can really wear and experience some sort of comfort in are ironically workout clothes. I suppose the yoga instructor in me should embrace the fact that regardless of my expanding waistline [and knee injury] I was killing Crossfit workouts, running serious distance, and a cycling machine so I should be happy, right?

There is nothing worse than looking at yourself in the mirror, pinching the oozing sides of your stomach, then poking it in an effort to will it back into place. What’s more, there is nothing worse than facing the people of your classes wondering if they’re staring at you wondering how a fat ass like you landed this gig in the first place.

The cycle of self-hatred is vicious and to top it all off, when a doctor tells you that you’re gaining weight because ‘you eat too much’ it really doesn’t help the cause.

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t just fade away into the masses and leave this thing alone, whatever this “thing” was with my body. All I kept telling myself and imploring doctors:

“I’m a yoga instructor damn it, I know the body. I understand the body. I know my body and I am telling you something just isn’t right.”

In yet another attempt to get some answers, recently I made a second appointment with my new gynecologist to get some answers. And though I am not sure I am any closer to understanding my body and why it hates me, I did finally get a diagnosis and have started medication.

But the real reason why I am sharing my story is to empower other women. Each day is a struggle to love my physical-self as I can be terribly rigid when it comes to self-acceptance. I genuinely want to take the steps to understand and control my PCOS while learning how to love myself. Since I subscribe to the notion that community can help elevate us all I have started a secret Facebook group for women with endocrine disorders, autoimmune diseases, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, cancer, or depression. Really I wanted to create a place for women looking to understand their inner-selves a little more is welcome. I wanted a sacred space where we share, we heal, and we work towards understanding ourselves just a little better. I wanted a place for women to share their stories without feeling judged and to feel heard. I wanted a place for someone like me to feel less alone and cultivate the tools to learn how to build myself up instead of berating myself for my self-imposed inadequacies.

I created this space for woman to stop surviving and to learn how to thrive.

I have never been one to sit and wallow in self-pity for an extended period of time. Notice how I carefully used the words extended period of time. But with my recent diagnosis I hit the interwebs and have started collecting a group of strong, beautiful, passionate women who are looking to connect. Perhaps it’s our pain that brings us together, but it’s our love and compassion that unites us. After all, my entire life has been about servitude—English teacher, yoga instructor, cycling instructor. I do not know how to do anything else. But what life has taught me is that I can be a victim of circumstance or I can take an active role in all of this and be a victor. I am choosing to stop allowing my exterior to determine my self-worth and how I feel about myself. Though I recognize what an uphill battle that this will be, with the community of women in my new support group I know we can do this together.

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.

Inside Out

Recovery is a funny thing. One would think that I would welcome the solace and down time but it’s killing me. I don’t do well without human contact, seriously. Eternally the extrovert, when I am alone for long periods of time it certainly does something nutty to me. Despite needing to occasionally recharge when I am home alone seldom do I listen to music or have the TV on for “company”. I know it surprises people to know that in my home I am shockingly boring. No music. No TV. Silence. Ahhhhhhh. I don’t know about you, but working with kids all day, then sweating to loud music while coaching participants on a mic, or cueing in a yoga class is enough to make a person crave stillness.

  • My time in stillness has been fruitful. Greg and I have knocked a bunch of wedding business off the list and that has been a tremendous help. That’s a huge feat considering when I start teaching at my new school next week, I will yet again be rendered useless around our house.
  • I have revitalized my blog. Which according to my goals and intentions for 2015, I plan to continue this momentum. Not only because the more I write, the more people read, then the more followers I’ll gain (though that’s also a great perk of writing often), but writing fills my heart with such a joy. I love to write. Maybe I should clarify; I love to write about my life, my past, my future, my failures, my successes, and my work. Maintaining this blog is more than a blog, it’s my life on display and you know I love that, so gawk away. Coming back to what I was discussing earlier about my recovery, this hasn’t been easy. And no one said it would be easy, seeing as anything and everything worth having in this life requires hard work. But for me, not being able to do things humbles me and represents the road ahead.

At just shy of the 2-week post op, last weekend I took an indoor cycling class taught by my fiancé Greg. Since my cycling classes would start back up again after the holiday schedules, it was important I tested the waters before hoping on to teach. Class was hard. Not because of the class profile but because cycling has never been that hard for me. Since I have little to no power in my right leg, I am relying on my left leg, but I am getting fatigued, so my low back hurts, and then there is the aching in my knee, and the wincing of my face. Ugh. But I didn’t get off that bike. Demoralizing at times in those 50 minutes, I kept willing myself to see it through to the end. Sometimes I stayed in the saddle instead of riding out of the saddle, and other times, I just closed my eyes and rode. Class ended and I was frustrated, so I decided to further test my limits in a Power Yoga class.

Ah, yoga. Nothing in this world feels as good as the victorious celebratory movements of yoga. I remember when I found yoga I fell in love with how yoga made me feel elegant, regal, and above all it made me feel beautiful. This may sound weird to you guys, but despite my limitations such as not being able to fully extend my leg, balance on it, or externally rotate the leg in Warrior II or Triangle, it almost felt like the yoga was magically healing me. I know, you’re laughing but you believe what you believe in, and I believe in my yogic-woo-woo stuff. Look, it doesn’t really matter what I believe in or what you believe in—all that matters is class was something that nourished me when I needed it most. And last I checked, that’s what yoga is: taking what you need when you need it the most permitting us to be selflessly selfish.

I walked away from my morning classes optimistic that I am moving along well while only being only moderately deflated. However, in an effort to be kinder to myself: I did ride 14.3 miles in that cycling class. Sure, my watts (power) were low but I rode for the entire class. And my yoga: I couldn’t move into some poses that aggravated my right leg/knee but I did move into Side Crow and connect to my body by practicing loving kindness. Seems to me by how things are progressing thus far that this journey of recovery will also serve as one of self-discovery as well. See ya out there folks and let’s heal one another.

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

set-goals-like-the-pros-just-in-time-for-new-L-MKilrm

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.