Alright Spring, Let’s Do This

There’s something so comforting about spring; even in it’s earliest moments. I’m not sure if it’s the subtle smell in the air, the vitamin D finally returning into my life, or the visible bliss of the dogs when they find that perfect sun spot to lay in, but all of it makes me soul so happy — almost in an instant.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the winter grind; I need the seasonal rebuild time to anchor down into planning for all the businesses, to set the strategy and pace for my day j.o.b.,  and of course there is always the amazing and fun adventure that is tax season.

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The cycle is critical, but there’s still that powerful feeling of loading a spring (literally); it’s  a set up that holds a specific power, an anticipation, and a please-just-freaking-let-me-go feeling that can’t be denied when you’ve spent months preparing to inevitably hurry up and wait.  As one of the least patient people in the world, winter can be pretty unbearable for me.  I’m great at planning, I love long term strategy, and I’m certainly going to want to have a plan before implementing, but beyond that, deliberating is a soul crushing practice and it’s always that last 5% of the wait that does me in.

This past week finished out, for me, what’s been a LONG start to the year balancing my real job, the businesses, and cold weather travel. Thankfully it finished out strong with some amazing  road-sweats in Burlington and NYC as I did my northeast tour — so much so that I almost forgot that a short preview of summer weather hit Charlottesville while I was gone.

I finished out the week with a little solo dinner in NYC to close out the craziness and some down time without any responsibilities or distractions, and was finally able to take a breath before heading back home for what is slated to be a pretty insane month.

IMG_7693.JPGI’m excited about the direction of all the things that are currently hanging in the balance, and, of course, the impending warm weather certainly is not going to hurt.

[Want to get the latest in exciting news of what’s on the horizon? Follow ME, b:core methods, MADcville or sweatIXcville for daily updates and all the big announcements coming out of our compound this month.]

A Purposeful Break in the Routine

Life lately has been a balancing act, a constant grind, and at times an overwhelming pursuit of magically jamming 36 hours of work into 24, with no consideration for how.  Like anyone else, when I can’t fit work between 8a-8p, the day (‘graciously’) extends itself to fit the need; and all the ‘for me’ things on my docket become expendable suggestions rather than the priorities they should be.

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I have clients who have this issue constantly, because, well we’re all human beings, and my rational informed answer – to them – is that they need to make themselves a priority; you’ve got to put your oxygen mask on first if you want to be of any use to anyone else.   It’s the good old ‘do as I say, not as I do’ cliche, as I wonder if maybe I left my oxygen mask in my other bag or inadvertently gave it away in a box of old forgotten things.   During really busy weeks I will frequently basque in the irony that I own three fitness businesses and I can’t seem to get into a class to save my own life.  These are the weeks when I confuse ‘fitness’ with ‘health’ and understanding what I really need to be able to sustain a pace anywhere close to what it’s been lately.

The reality is, that sometimes you just need to give yourself a damn break; whether it’s a real unplug and go off-the-grid type break, or just the grace to be imperfectly human and an actual better, truer, version of yourself — or maybe both.IMG_7119

So here are the things that I’ve really learned, and am learning, about life and myself as I chew through the ‘too much’ that I bit off in 2016; and while I’m working on getting that balance, or ‘blend,’ back in the corner of my most productive, healthy & happy self, since lets be honest, those bites have never been, and are not likely to ever get much smaller with what I’ve got on the docket.

  1.  Fitness is everything, but it’s not the only thing.  I obviously believe strongly in fitness as a mechanism for overall health and wellness, because it is, but that doesn’t mean that 365 days a year of it is ‘healthier’ than a schedule that has balance and recovery — because it’s not.
  2. Take a break.  Whether you plot out two days a week that you go to yoga or stretch class rather than doing something higher intensity, or you literally cut-and-go on vacation – give yourself that break from the grind once in a while, and love every second of it.  Including the food that makes you say YUM.
  3. Do one thing a day that brings you happiness, for the sole reason that it makes you happy.  While I sometimes will go through a full day without a spare second to myself  the one thing that I do every.single.day., unless something is gravely wrong, is have my coffee.  It brings me joy, [relative] patience, comfort, drive, focus….and any of the caffeine generated superpowers required to not lose my shit on the days of constant demands and not-so-emergencies that pile up higher than my most lofty ambitions.  Pretty much coffee saves lives, but more importantly, it makes me happy and that in and of itself makes my life possible.
  4. Cut out the crap: the food, the jobs, the drama and the people that not only bring you down, but actually stunt your ability to do and thrive.  On the food front, rid yourself of the chemicals, but not the joy of eating.   Quit any jobs that you hate; not with abandon, but with the intentional process of setting yourself up to have a development path, to achieve something you’re proud of — because if you’re not motivated to do the work every day, you’re not the right person for the job.  When it comes to drama and the people that create it, forget them. They will always create it and they’ve got no value in your story; don’t waste a pretty little second on it.
  5. Know where you are going: life can certainly be an inexact science, but you will never regret working (and I mean REALLY working) towards achieving something.  If that process lands you somewhere a little different, well, that’s freaking awesome, but never stop learning, never stop developing, and never ever stop building for the future.  If you earn it, you will always deserve it.

And on that note, it’s back on the grind tomorrow, but I’ll be reminiscing about vacation all over the internet for the days to come.

Bonus Days, Planners, and Time in the Kitchen

There’s not much better than a rainy Sunday, unless of course if half way through the day you realize that it’s actually Saturday and for a moment feel like you’ve just won life.  In summary, this weekend is turning out perfectly, by accident.

As we close out September and welcome in fall, I’ve got a few mini goals that I’ve been working on to re-adjust and get the balance back in my life — relatively speaking.  The first of which is time organization with a side of pseudo inner peace.

Balancing all the businesses, the corporate grind, and all life things, has been a little more than a little challenging lately.  Throw in the added stress of all having different location anchors and travel schedules, my planner(s) transformed from being the source of my happiness and forward movement into an anxiety ridden scribble pad that I dreaded looking at.  To add insult to injury I managed to spill a coffee [directly] into my bag last month soaking both planners, so there was no denying that the end was near.  This week new hope was born in the form of a new Emily Ley Simplified [day] Planner.

fuel sweat grow: emily key simplified planner

fuel sweat grow: Emily Ley Planner

I’m pretty much in love with it, so here’s to hoping I can refrain from using my bag as a sink drain in 2016 and my planner and I can survive a full year of happiness before it’s retired for the 2017 version.

Since I’m still a few months out from being able to take pen-to-planner, I’m focusing on doing a few little things each day to help calm the chaos, and bring strength to the systems and structure that I’ve always relied on to get shit done.

The most important thing I’ve been missing lately is cooking + meal planning, both of which are coming back strong this fall — with a little Whole Damn Thing 80/20 action happening over the next few weeks and the real deal kicking off on January 3rd at MADcville and b:core.

Until then, I’ve been back at it on my own, filling in the gaps where I can, and taking the time out for a little culinary therapy and meal planning to bring me back, somewhat, to the center that I’ve been missing.  Breakfast is always where it’s at for me, and I’m an adult convert to over-easy eggs and loving it over my favorite kale slaw.

fuel sweat grow: eggs and kale slaw

I even had a little veggie meal earlier this week that is pretty far out of my typically zone, but my body was craving brown rice hard so I mixed it with some stir fried peppers and onions with a side of goodwood brewing‘s bourbon barrel stout, which was a killer combo.

fuel swat grow: veggie stir fry and stout

This week’s main goal is to finalize some of the month-end organization, and get solidly set for the month so I can shut down every night by 8:30 and read (non-work reading) until I fall asleep, which will hopefully be sometime around 9pm…but I’m willing to be flexible on that detail.  Thankfully my 10 year old life coach and boss lady is going to be squatting in the house for a few days and I’m counting on her to call me out on all the things I’m missing on — she’s got a real eye for inefficiencies.

So here’s to leveraging bonus days, planners, and time in the kitchen to make October the amazing month it can be all around.

Recover + Recharge: Holidays in Charlottesville

There have been years when the holidays have been hectic; lots of travel, gift hunting, and a million to-do’s that all collide with each other generating a little more stress than usual.  Since this year has been full of all things hectic (plenty of travel and to-do’s included), it was a nice change of pace to stay planted in Charlottesville, and take the time to recover, recharge, and settle fully into the warmth of a holiday at home.

With work winding down, I took a couple extra days off to do all of the things I love about living in such a locally driven town; exploring locally owned businesses, hand picking gifts, coffee with friends, and of course, one of my favorite treats: sweethaus cupcakes.

fuel sweat grow: sweethaus cupcakes

Tuesday night was filled with mini-cupcakes, great friends, and warm holiday spirit. This time the party was at HOME, which was a welcomed change from the crazy holiday party circuit that has dominated the last few weeks.  This year has been one with challenges, change, and so many amazing people, old friends and brand new, that make it impossible not to have an (over) full heart.

After a great night of celebrating, the 7am class at MADabolic Cville followed by 75 minutes of Rasa Yoga Lab / myofascial release at Opal Yoga with Mia paired up to be the perfect complement for a little extra recovery.

fuel sweat grow: Christmas Eve Opal Yoga

The more I put on myself, physically and mentally, a load that seems to increase by the year, the more important it has become to know what it needs to recover.  Years ago when I started exploring different practices, methods, and the balance of them, my main goal was to figure out the perfect compliments for my own body and lifestyle.  While that’s still the goal, over time I realized that there’s no ‘perfect’ forever combination, but there’s a definite formula for the intelligent pairings of building and releasing strength, stress, and space.  The formula forces self-education, intelligent pairings and cyclical change over time.

The combination of Mia’s class – the yoga (flow + yin) to warm the muscles, and the myofascial release with blocks and tennis (or lacrosse) balls to release – was exactly what I was needing this week, and allowed so much more of a mental release than hurried stretch or foam/PVC rolling on my own (pre or post sweat).

We found our post-sweat / post-release recovery bliss in an almond milk latte at Milli Joe, nerdish conversation about the body, fitness philosophies, and life’s evolutions – in both body and mind.  It was a great Wednesday out of the routine, and a sweet recharge to kick off the holiday.

I’m excited to get back to a little routine and structure tomorrow, but it will definitely be nice to have a few more days off from work to enjoy the easy balance before real life weighs back in.

Convenience v. Efficiency: A Food + Fitness Story

I’ve been a little off-target over the past two weeks with planning my food and getting into any sort of consistent sweat routine.  It’s not historically in my nature to take long breaks from working out, but over the last year I’ve developed a (much) more balanced approach to letting go of structure when the stress of trying to force fitness in any given day is greater than the benefit.  I’m not sure if it’s a product of ‘growing up’ or just ‘getting old,’ but it’s a real need a couple times a year to slow down and I’m always so thankful when I allow myself to let it go.

Part of creating that balance has also been efficiency.  Convenience is something our whole world seems to be driven by these days, but somehow efficiency sometimes gets lost in the mix.  They’re not the same thing, in fact, they’re grossly different.

It’s the appeal of convenience that leads so many of us to drive-thrus, to processed foods and sugar addictions.  It’s what keeps us on the continuous (proverbial and literal) treadmill for years without seeing any significant change or improvement to our bodies or lives —  and in fact, it usually has the adverse effect.  Efficiency is completely different. It’s the ironic counter to convenience; it’s the most effective way to reach a goal or see a result, and without it, I would never accomplish anything.

So, let me talk clean to you for a second…  [clean + efficient meets food + fitness].

The most important part of eating clean (for me, in my crazy life) is preparation, and packaging.  When I cook it’s never for one meal – I’ll happily live off of leftovers for a week of work lunches and on-the-go dinners.   Example: on Sunday morning I made breakfast for my Charlotte family – 18 eggs worth of breakfast.

fuel sweat grow: steak and eggsZucchini, leftover chimichurri marinated skirt steak (a YUM from Fresh Market), and 18 full fledged eggs.

fuel sweat grow: egg scramble #paleo breakfast

I’m terrible about giving myself enough time for breakfast during the week, but I love breakfast on weekends, so having these leftovers is such a huge thing for me.

Sunday afternoon I followed right up with a bulk-cooking marathon to get ready for a week in the office with my favorite Thai Chicken Stir-fry (with spaghetti squash).

fuel sweat grow: thai chicken stir fry

fuel sweat grow: thai chicken stir fry

To compliment (and balance out the days) this salad came to be — and is always a consistent favorite of mine. It’s definitely more of a summer salad, but it was 80 degrees in Charlotte this weekend, so I’m going to give it a seasonal pass.

fuel sweat grow: fall summer salad

Efficiency is also what I look for in my workouts.  Well, that, and a little escape once in a while.  I still run when I’m feeling inspired — its one of the most freeing actions, and sometimes the only time I have to be in my own head.  I still crave yoga + stretching because it feeds my body and soul.  And I still love sweating for the sake of sweating, when that’s what I need, but for my actual fitness, strength, and total body change, I go for efficiency – and that’s the theme of the week.  So here’s how I’m hoping to balance it:

Monday: Run + new playlist

Tuesday: Carolina Barre + Core: 30/30 Cardio Barre

Wednesday: MADabolic

Thursday: Walk with a friend + Run/body weight circuit

Friday: MADabolic

Saturday: MADabolic

Sunday: a day of REST (or maybe a hike with the 4-leggers)

And the reality is….if somewhere in there life gets a little too jammed and my sanity depends on a little lunch time yoga or childs pose in my office, then so be it.  Sometimes being effective is just about being still.

Always Go Full-Ass Towards Your Goals

Day 3 of #23to30: Don’t half-ass anything, and be clear about what’s important to you.

I’m perpetually working to keep up the juggling act that is my life; trying not to let anything drop and to give all of my jobs and commitments (to othes and myself) the attention they demand.   When I choose new ventures, my goal is not only for it to be successful, but more importantly, fulfilling.  I learned a long time ago that I have to passionate about what I’m doing to be effective in it, and my success unfailingly runs in direct proportion to how connected I feel to the work content, the people, and the overall balance I’m able to keep across my life. The last thing I want is to waste my time and energy giving marginal effort to something I’m not connected to, or don’t have enough time to give to.
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This year has been a big year for really setting priorities, digging in deeper to the things/places where I find value,  making room for what’s coming next, and becoming clear on what I for any degree of life-balance.   For me it’s work and life.  Outside of the connection to my work, I need the structure and balance of a eating good clean food, being physically active – ranging from the most intense sweats to childs pose – and a little time once in a while to be no where in particular.

  • What’s important?
  • What is a fundamental need to be happy?
  • Where do you want to be?
  • What people and passions fall within the first concentric circle of your life?

I ask myself these questions to help me figure out whether something is important enough to say yes to, or whether it will end up compromising the balance in my life.  While the system isn’t fool proof, and some bouts of passion are just momentary, it does help me to stay a little more focused than I normally would on what I have available for myself, and anyone else.

So after many, many, failed attempts to do and be everything, here’s what I’ve learned to be the most important: know your passion, set your own path, and always, always, go full-ass towards your goals (it’s just a metaphor, mom).