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.

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February is for All the Things

So far 2016 has been a little bit of everything.  It’s been stressful and exciting, chaotic and simple, passionately driven and at times, completely draining. So basically, it’s just another January trying to get all the things done, working towards a better blend of work, life, businesses, and well, wine.

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The Whole Damn Thing happened, and it happened pretty well again this year, up until the great snow storm of 2016 which made clean eating a very manageable reality (thanks to the in-house imprisonment) but pretty much guaranteed that 90% of our community would be reaching for some non-water beverage to help cope with the confinement.  And also, because, well, happiness.

This year, the beauty of the Whole Damn Thing was that it wasn’t just MADabolic Cville, and it wasn’t just 28toLife or Paleo.  It was about the embraced effort to eat clean, local, healthful, and body fueling meals that would promote strength and health in anyone, whether you eat meat or you’re a vegan-veggie-tarian.  We’ve long been fans of the Dar Salad (paleo/28tolife) at Citizen Burger Bar, for obvious reasons, but this year, we had our amazing friends and favorite neighboring food source join in to create a menu that our clients could not only love, but could also EAT.  Brazo’s Tacos released a paleo menu that essentially kept me, and many other people (as a result) alive for the duration of the month, and continues to be my lifeblood as when I find myself bound to the building several days a week.  Also, online ordering — it will change you forever.  You’re welcome.

In addition to the food efforts, we experienced the inevitable, yet fully embraced post-holiday influx of clients old and new, both at MAD and b:core, inducing wait list stress, scheduling trickery, and most importantly, a whole hell of a lot of excitement and energy in each class to kick off a brand new year.  With new interval and coaching developments at MADabolic (including what feels like the most innovative and freaking challenging intervals to date) and the launch of our cardio barre and core CARDIO class schedules at b:core that have us sweating our asses off every day, it’s hard to think that there could have been more on the docket for the month, but alas, it was also time to launch the sweatIX pricing, and so we did.

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Other highlights of the month include (but are not limited to):

  1. I was able to start using my Simplified Planner, and somehow, having each hour of the day filled out + up magically became appealing ‘structure’ rather than pseudo-organized chaos (although that’s already wearing off to a degree).
  2. We had an amazingly badass and physically/emotionally inspiring photo shoot of the sweatIX team with Andrea Hubbell that was nothing short of amazing and will continue to be coveted.
  3. The Mayor of MADville (Dar) turned 50, and no one wanted to believe it.
  4. Bug turned 4, and I cried.
  5. We had a delicious (and clean) happy hour at The Juice Laundry, and in addition to my obsession with the ‘Rinse and Refresh’ and ‘Cold Brew Latte,’ I finally had the vegan chili w/cashew cream, and some new Chicory Cold Brew coffee from the local Blue Prairie brands.
  6. Most importantly, we survived.  From the snow to juggling everything, January was unbelievably stressful this year with too little bandwidth and too much to-do, so getting through it is something to be celebrated with full abandon, and a deep exhale.

I’m still pending on really dedicating time to digging into my goals, development, and really any balance for myself, but I did book my first (adult) impulsive vacation, so right now, I’m just going to appreciate the fact that I’ve made it through the start of the year, and in many aspects am already beginning to feel like I’m getting my bearings, slowly.

Here’s to an amazing new year, built upon the foundation of chaos, experience, and all the good, the bad, and the strength, that has evolved up to this point.

The Inexact Science of Business, Life + Pumpkin Muffins

When I bake, I typically use a recipe (or two) as a framework, but the actual mixing of the ingredients is usually more of an inexact science.  For the last few years, trying to eat and cook clean has led to a fair amount of substitution and modification – mostly through trial and error – to figure out what combinations do or don’t work.

It’s a lot like life and business (the business of life?); systems and framework are critical to the foundation, but the rest is somewhat of an inexact science – an art if you’re lucky – that either blends into something amazing, or something that warms your garbage.

I’ve been thinking about it all lately as I try to navigate the ebbs and flows of the different businesses, my day job, and all things life.  So, today, I decided to dive into the metaphorical, and fulfill a few of my core desires in the moment: pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and kitchen therapy.

Without naming names, there’s a coffee shop in town (cough:: Mudhouse) that in the fall makes amazing pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.  I became addicted years ago when Mudhouse was the only real local coffee game in town, and I would buy them in pairs like a little muffin hoarder out of fear that they’d run out the next morning before I got there.  Over the last few years the debut date of the pumpkin muffin has been more and more delayed –probably for the best, since eating sugar-laden muffins two-by-two is not consistent with any of my life goals.  Regardless, I still think about them every fall as the weather turns crisp and just like the stroke of midnight, everything turns into a pumpkin.

So today I pulled up this recipe from paleOMG and decided to fall in love with a muffin that I can have a reasonably stable relationship with.

fuel swat grow: paleOMG pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

Of course I had to make some modifications; in part due to ingredient preferences and availability, and in part due to my inability to painstakingly measure anything out exactly — that’s the art part for me; the outlet and liberation from following all the rules.

Modification #1: Date Paste subbed in to replace Maple Syrup.

fuel sweat grow: raw date paste

My main objective when cooking/eating clean is to eliminate most processed sugar, and leverage the flavor and sweetness of the natural sugars.  There are a number of different replacements out there, but dates are usually my go-to and were at top of mind this week after our friend Lisa geeked out over date paste to make what looked like some pretty amazing waffles this weekend.  Here’s a pretty basic and easy walk through from the chalkboard to get your sweet on without delay.

fuel sweat grow: date paste sugar supplementfuel sweat grow: date paste sugar supplement

Once I had the paste set and ready to go, it was out with the maple syrup and back to the muffins.

fuel sweat grow: paleo pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

I ‘followed’ most of the rest of the instructions, pretty loosely, substituting in ‘pumpkin spice’ to replace the majority of the spices (except for cinnamon), eye balling most of the measurements, and multiplying the recipe by 2 (or maybe 2.5…who knows).

fuel sweat grow: paleo pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

Yeah, I went a little rogue, but we all survived, and 10 minutes later it was all in the oven ready to prove whether or not my ‘art’ of mixing works, or not.

fuel sweat grow: paleOMG paleo pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

While I waited for the moment of truth, I checked back in with the recipe and blog to get a good vision of what they ‘should’ look like, you know, if my muffin babies were ever going to be brunch models.

fuel sweat grow: paleOMG paleo pumpkin muffinsSince I pretty much just used the recipe as a suggested guide for basic structure and context, I wasn’t counting on my muffins being anywhere near as photogenic as the ones in the recipe, but I don’t think they’re half bad (if I do say so myself).

fuel sweat grow: paleo pumpkin muffins paleOMG Maybe I’m just having a proud parent moment, but outside of looking appealing enough, they also happen to taste AMAZING. I’m sure they’re not perfect, but I’m just saying, if they’re wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

[Disclaimer: if you’ve never had anything made with coconut flour before, the texture will likely seem odd at first, but once the taste sinks in, and you’ve had your first one, you’ll never turn back.  Just don’t freak out because it’s all in your head.]

They also apparently smelled pretty good, because this little diva begged incessantly before giving up to watch the rest of Harry Potter, in a full on pout, alone with her chipmunk.

fuel sweat grow: bug says pout

So, in short, I think what these pumpkin muffins are representing today is the reality life requires flexibility and modification.  There’s no one way to do anything, but if the basic systems aren’t there and the foundation is weak, it doesn’t really matter how you modify the rest.  It’s metaphorical, sure, but I really think there’s something to it.  The trick is having the patience to stay focused and committed to that core structure so that the modifications can just strengthen the goal.  I guess bells and whistles are nothing without wind.

And if that’s wrong, well, I gave it a reasonable shot, and whether the outcome is perfect or not, hopefully the modified version will still be tasty in it’s own right.

Bottom Line: I’ve Learned

Today my thoughts are short in length, but, as I’m really finding, deep in meaning, content, and significance to me.  Turning 25 was a huge milestone for me in my life, and through the last 5 years (despite what I sometimes may think) I lived most every moment in one way or another.  I made a million changes, took big chances, explored to possibility and depth of my own person, and did so with what I would now characterize as a ‘cautious abandon.’  I met people who changed me forever; some that taught me to see and believe in the good in others, and some that taught me through their own limitations the importance of forgiveness, personal growth, and the ever-evolving art of learning to let things go.

I wanted the experience, and with that came all the wins, losses, and lessons along the way.  And that’s what matters – that I learned — and I’m still learning.

fuel sweat grow: life

Sometimes it’s just worth the reminder that life is a combination of living — living imperfectly — and learning from the mistakes. Learn from other people’s mistakes – let go of judgement and appreciate the guidance.  It’s worth the energy it takes to work towards the good places, and work out of the bad places so you can actually grow.  Live in all four corners of your life — live outside of the boundaries — and most importantly don’t ever let anyone else’s own limitations ever limit your ability to live your own passions.

Now that I’ve shared what I believe, someone please remind me of exactly this the next time I find myself faced with the seemingly impossible, or the ghosts of lessons past.  Tomorrow might even be a good day for a refresher.

Do Your Best + Let the Rest Roll Off

There are moments, moments that always feel far too frequent, when something shakes our world a little (or a lot), both devastating our hearts and creating pause.  It’s in those moments of pause when silence can become deafening, and all of the pointless chatter happening around us goes quiet so deeper perspective can take root.

This past week I followed on my Facebook feed as the community I grew up in, and a school so close to the hearts of my family and friends, turned itself inside out searching for one of their own. They came together as a community only to be rocked completely.  A 13 year old boy who was so distraught over overdue class assignments and an overly manufactured sense of failure left his home and took his own life.  And unfortunately, this has become far too common.

There are a million different things to speculate, to wonder, and on some level to even relate to, because we’ve all been in a situation at one point or another where it seems almost impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  What that light looks like and how we get to it is going to be different for all of us, and for some, especially those who have battled or known the despair of a deep depression, the end may be that light.  I know all of this, but I still can’t help but feel the extra weight of this tragedy today.  Today my mind kept coming back to a few thoughts I could not shake; things that I wish everyone not only was reminded of, but also deeply believed in.

1.  Outside of doing your best, nothing you do in school really matters.  Seriously, not really even college.  All of those years are meant to give you time to develop, to create context, and to allow you to grow — not to determine your lifelong potential.  Be open to learning, be open to exploring your interests, and of course working hard, but your whole job is to discover your own passion and hopefully start to live it.  Learning what makes you tick, what keeps you motivated, and what your strengths are will be more important in our life than any class, or test, or assignment in the world.

fuel sweat grow: you were meant for amazing things

2. Be open to failure.  Failure and struggle are the experiences that give our stories content, that teach us our most important lessons, and help us find the grittiness in ourselves that confidence can stand on.  Find any person that you think has succeeded and ask them about where they failed — believe me, they’ll not only have some good stories, they’ll also be able to draw a direct line from what they learned to all of their subsequent successes.

3. You have value.  Truly, you. are. valuable….invaluable really, so don’t you ever let anyone or anything ever tell you differently.  There’s a horrible epidemic of kids who grow up looking for their value in other people, in things, or in money, and as adults we have a responsibility to instill in them the confidence and understanding that value is inherent, and not externally found.

4.   Don’t take life so seriously.   Sure, life is a serious business, but sometimes it’s the ability to shake off all the unnecessary pressure and manufactured stress and enjoy the moment for exactly what it is.  Whether you’re in the build, the struggle, or the victory lap of your life, live through every moment and appreciate what’s available to you in that moment. Truly, if you’re alive and your heart is beating for something, you’re already succeeding, so find joy in the path.

I could go on, and I probably will at another time,  in several different installments, but for today, this is what I’ve got. So, thanks for letting me rant, feel, and write my way through what makes no sense and all the sense in one messy package.  And, most importantly, may that sweet boy’s soul rest in peace.

MAD minute: the Airport Edition

I knew that if I made my flight this morning it will not be because of luck, or speeding, or the remote proficiencies of the ticket and gate agents at the airport.  I knew that if I made my flight, it will be only because my body is fully  conditioned to break into a forced 1 minute on, 1 minute off, very aggressive sprint (x 4) through the parking garage and terminals of this airport, all while carrying some damn heavy loads.  Suitcase deadlift? Check.  Suicide (or what I would call a long-distance sprint): double check. Both at the same time? Oh yeah, that challenge was accepted.

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Had I known that this morning was going to be such a fools game (of spreading awesome) I would have just gotten up two hours earlier and killed time with a long coffee date with myself in terminal A.  Instead of that, I started my day from a place of complete calm; all my bags were packed and sitting at the door, I had already planned my outfit out, the dogs cooperated with the feeding/medicating timeline I had proposed with slight apprehension.  I had even made time yesterday morning to clean my closet and office into the well organized meccas they had been intended to be.  In short, I was going to not only crush this work trip, but I was also going to crush my anxiety about it by creating complete control in my environment.  Cue the universe’s intervention.
I’m all about the slow build, but apparently that wasn’t an option.  My 90 minute drive to Richmond turned into a 2+ hour ride, chock full of accidents and lane leaders that believe the speed limits themselves are too high (forget pushing it to +5).  When I finally got there I escorted myself to the daily parking garage, only to learn that the 12 remaining parking spaces were also playing a game: hide and seek.  When I finally got into the airport (after sprints #1 and #2), it became especially clear to me that this challenge was not only physical, but also a mental one, questioning compassion and rationale.  I had 5 minutes to get my ticket, make it through security, and get to my gate before the plane would be finished boarding, and the only ticket agent was helping an elderly woman re-book her flight and understand her new travel…and possibly life.  Honestly, universe, an elderly woman? Of course you did.  You can’t get mad at that.
So, I stood in line, as patiently as I can while simultaneously tapping all of my things and twitching. I eventually got my ticket and well wishes from the ticketing staff as sprint #3 commenced to the security gate.  Shoes off, laptop out, take of literally everything that could possibly suggest weapon of drug concealment  and cause a trip back to the end of the line.  Now, I will say that I appreciate the free pass on the personal body search today, but seeing as though I was just about as naked as you can be (thanks to my lululemon uniform of the day) that search would have been extreme to go beyond the 3 second full body scan.
Eventually I made it to the gate as zone 2 was finished boarding. I slowed my pace to cruise right into seat 16A with muffled, yet still heavy, breathing, a fresh coat of morning sweat covering my forehead and little droplets running down my back.  I know that description made you all want to travel with me, and definitely made you want to be squished into a tiny plane with me and limited air supply.   Truly, how could you resist?
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As luck would have it, we got a little delayed on the runway, and I got to repeat the whole exercise again when I changed planes in Charlotte, just barely making it to the final, and nearly excruciating 5+ hour flight to San Francisco, crammed 3 in against a window.  But, I made it.
I made it and I’m now safely where I should be, getting work organized, and waiting for work to officially release so I can have company for dinner, and the first actually good and restful meal of the day.