My Gym Romance

For the past couples months I have been pretty faithfully attending the gym. It’s shocking really. I have done so faithfully because my boyfriend pushes me and trains me when we get there.

On days when I just want to go out and order a dozen buffalo wings and chill in front of a tv, I balance with days at the gym or getting some workout in. It has not been easy all the time but so worth it.

I choose to step out on my tv nights to build my love affair with the gym. My boyfriend has been incredibly supportive on this journey. It feels good to pick a healthy activity together to make ourselves better. 

We used to do our own things in the gym and he would leave exhausted and I wouldn’t even be sweating. I wasn’t challenging myself and building up any kind of endurance. I was more than happy with 20 half-assed minutes on an elliptical while watching some ridiculous show. 

Now having an accountability partner, I am building muscle and endurance, helping my heart, mind and body get stronger all the time. I literally do every thing he already planned to do on his own, just at a lighter weight. We have different days to focus on different muscles and some days are the hardest thing ever. That feeling though to push past what you think you can do, is the most liberating feeling. 

Getting all that excess energy out is a stress reliever. It slows down the brain busyness because I have to concentrate on not hurting myself or dying in the gym. It’s perfect for draining me to get a good night’s sleep. 

I am not good at everything though so I also learn lessons in being patient with myself.

I used to be nervous I was holding my guy back in the gym and I would look goofy holding 2 or 5 lb weights doing my thing but I focus on myself and him only. He taught me to track my progress and I have seen true change in my appetite for more. Now I can push the limits and it feels good.

Our gym routine is also another great positive way for us to build our connection with one another. A couple that works out and sweats together can learn to conquer so many other things in life together. We lean on and trust each other as we mold our weakness into strength and share vulnerability in our health and wellness journey. 

I used to tell people that I refused to pay for a gym membership for things I can do at home. Before my guy moved to Chicago, I used to do more workouts on my own. I would pull up YouTube on my tv and do yoga right in my living room. Whatever works is worth it if you work it. 

If you have been telling yourself you need to work on getting fit or back in the gym, start as soon as you can. If you don’t think you will stick to it alone, find yourself an accountability partner like I did. 

Now I force myself to take more opportunities during the day to walk. Instead of taking the bus home which is closer, I often walk to the train which is a few blocks further and gets my heart pumping. As a city girl, I walk fast so more activity is better to really get my blood flowing. 

Life is simply too fragile and short not to take care of ourselves. My next step is really examining my diet because I LOVE to eat and 83% is not healthy lol. 

For now I will continue my love affair with the gym. 

Cry It Out

When was the last time you had a good cry? 

It could have been a result of pent up frustration, stress or sadness. I even cry sometimes when I’m happy or overwhelmed with emotions because of something really touching I see or hear. 

Sometimes shedding a tear is the only way you can express what’s going on, when there are no words. Of course, don’t take the extreme and cry all the time at every drop of a hat. 

Sunday morning I spent some time at church…but first I strugggggled. 

I woke up groggy and congested. I had to wake up earlier than usual because I committed to attending an orientation about opportunities to volunteer. The bus was going to make me late so I tried hailing a cab which wasn’t working so I called an Uber but canceled at the last second because a cab did come. I didn’t feel like going to church. I didn’t feel like doing anything but catch up on more sleep. I didn’t want to go at all. At all. 

This morning because I woke up on a side of the bed feeling some kind of way, I decided to Spotify me some gospel music while I showered and got ready. I wasn’t in the mood to take the day on yet but sometimes you  just need to plant the seeds for the atmosphere you want anyway.  Yolanda Adams and Fred Hammond helped me change my mind about some things. I jumped into the day more grateful and contemplative. 

Music is such a powerful tool. Not just worship music. 

I spent a lot of time today listening to music today and creating a peaceful space in my own. As I write this, I have Pandora spilling tracks from Chance the Rapper, Drake and Kendrick Lamar, real conscious lyricists. 

Anyways back to this morning. Towards the end of the church service, the band went back to the stage to lead a few songs. One in particular really touched me and I became overwhelmed with emotion. 

Eyes closed, I sang and listened with silent tears streaming down my face. It didn’t last much longer than 3 or 4 minutes. I just let the magnitude of what I felt like the words were saying to me in that moment, take over. I began to reflect that sometimes I am exactly where I need to be. Not just physically in that building this morning but in life generally. 

Days of feeling tired, stressed or overwhelmed affects us all. Maybe more than we would care to admit. Sometimes life feels like you’re in control and have kiddie-pool size issues going on. Sometimes life feels like you are wading in the ocean during shark week. 

At times you may look around like, “How does it all connect?” or “Why is (fill in the blank) happening?”

The song I heard this morning felt hopeful and confirmed I may resist at times but I am exactly where I need to be.

At this point in my life, I give myself permission to feel all my feelings. Truth, honesty and authenticity from myself, to myself is key to me. 

This morning I needed a good cry and under the direction of powerful music, I let some things go. I cry when I am thankful for blessings or also in times I feel like life is really testing me. Crying was therapeutic and a way to recognize, release and move forward with a clear mind. 

When my loved ones have lost jobs or found new jobs, have health scares and just try to figure out what life has for them in relation to the relationships in and around their lives, I share in what they are feeling. Sometimes they need a good cry too for the blessings and the pain. 

This song “Oceans” is what did it for me:

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise my soul will rest in your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and you won’t start now

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior


Even if you don’t shed a tear, what is something you need to release and let go of physically or emotionally?  

Stop, Breathe & Think: 3 Lessons in Mindfulness

Last week I downloaded this great app to assist in daily meditation. I think using time during the day to meditate is so important to wholeness and wellness. I read, pray, practice yoga, listen to music to stimulate my mind and enjoy times of silence and reflection to focus my energy and thoughts on keeping calm and stress-free as often as possible. 

Stress can truly devastate one’s mental and physical state if you don’t have things in place to de-stress on a regular basis. Helpful (not harmful) habits can create a personal space for you to thrive and let that energy radiate into the pieces and parts of your life that need you to be “on your game” at work and home.

A few months ago I was finding my health being affected by stress. When the stress started to affect my mind and body I knew I had to get back to the basics and re-instate some regular practices I had let fall off. I paid closer attention to what I was eating. I started to do a weekly gym routine and came back to practicing yoga and meditating more regularly.

In the past I have used the Headspace app and I would recommend it. Their concept is 10 minutes is all you need and they have exercises daily. Meditation and mindfulness have a lot of benefits for you and those around you. 

Think about how many people around you, you wish would spend time working on themselves so they wouldn’t drive you crazy. Haha. By taking time for yourself, you can control how you act and react in the world around you. It can make a big difference, trust me. 

I also like Stop, Breathe & Think because there are meditations of different lengths. I used it this week on my morning commute to work. I played one after another and spent time relaxing my mind before jumping into the day. It was very empowering.

Stop, Breathe & Think  is a simple tool to guide people through meditations for mindfulness and compassion. 

According to the app you can accomplish 3 things: 
1. STOP

Stop what you are doing. Check in with what you are thinking, and how you are feeling.


2. BREATHE 

Practice mindful breathing to create space between your thoughts, emotions and reactions.


3.THINK

Learn to broaden your perspective and strengthen your force field of peace and calm by practicing one of the meditations.


Would you agree doing these 3 things more would help you too? I would love to hear other suggestions in the comments on what helps you. 

What do you use to refresh and rejuvenate your body and mind?
 

Be More Than Happy

It’s May 1st!! Ahh we are 5 months into 2016. How amazing. College kids are graduating and getting ready to embark on the next phases of their adult life. High school kids seem mainly focused on prom for now but truly probably fighting some nerves surrounding their next steps. Some off to college, others off to work, probably all wondering what their future holds.

We find ourselves immersed in spring showers here in Chicago. The warm weather is not consistent yet but it is clear we have arrived in a new season. A fresh month and a chance for new starts.

We also celebrate a world of mothers next week which reminds me it is hard to believe a year ago I shared this post about what I have learned from my own mom.

Later this month we reflect back for Memorial Day. Paying respect and honoring heroes. May is packed to the brim with preparations, celebrations and activity.

Before we fall face first into summertime, we can take advantage of this month to really get ourselves on track and our lives in order. If you’re anything like me, you’re not perfect meaning you set goals, get really great momentum and occasionally life happens and you get sidetracked.

I have been on this path of getting my fitness up and taking care of my body and health. I am taking on a holistic stance to give myself my very best. My physical, mental, spiritual self are all impacted by my actions. Those around me can also be lifted up or dragged down when they come into my space depending on my energy and self-care. I always want to build others up but that starts with myself.

Before I got sidetracked a few weeks ago, I was eating salads I made at home regularly for lunch. I was exercising at least 3 times a week. I started walking more before and after work. I had been seeing great progress then I set it aside. 

Now I’m getting back on track this week. It is not just about being happy. It is about feeling whole.

Happiness has always been a fluid concept to me. Situations and things and people bring happiness but when those things shift, change, leave… sometimes the happiness disappears with it.

My goal is joy. I always felt like joy has roots that can’t be easily shaken. Joy begins internally and radiates outwardly. I like being happy but I love being filled with joy.

Make it a great May!!

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Me as a kid

Spring Clean Your Life

Last year around this time, I wrote a post about spring cleaning your closet. Unplanned yet amazingly I followed that advice yet again over the weekend but am expanding it to spring cleaning your life.

Today, being the first day of Spring and International Happiness Day, it is perfect timing.

I have been re-tuning my life, my health, my style, my mind and many other things lately.

Sometimes we need to scrub, sort and simplify our lives a bit.

A few weeks ago, I started finding myself so stressed from work I was having chest pains on my right side only. I had to make a very serious decision to reassess what was most important in that situation. Ultimately my health is number one.

One decision I personally made for myself was to speak up more when things are off.

Without calm and clarity, everything else will suffer. In work, at home, on the go…you name it.

I have been making a few other spring cleaning decisions in recent weeks and months. I always love travel so the trips I take aren’t just because I can’t sit still. I travel to refresh.

As I inch closer to closing a decade of my life and opening another by the end of the year, fitness and food are more important to be concerned over. My recent grocer trips are more planned and thoughtful so I can develop healthier eating habits.

It used to be so easy to eat all the food I wanted and never think twice. Haha oh those days have passed. I’m working on updating my cupboards and fridge to reflect the changing times.

I joined a few fitness classes and am working on making gym visits a regular part of my routine even when I don’t feel like it. Most days I really don’t feel like it. My boyfriend has graciously taken up the request to be my trainer and he is doing a fantastic job even when I am incredibly resistant in the gym. I am grateful for his patience!

Lastly, I spent a few hours in my closet over the weekend, tossing items that no longer serve me. I had two bags of clothes and shoes to get rid of. Even though these things have not been used or are just worn out, I was clearly scared to let them go. My closet seems so small now but it opens up a chance to fit new things that I like.

It feels so good to take care of yourself and put yourself first when you really need it.  Look for the signs and times to calm your body and clear your brain.

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Quieting the Inner Critic

The beginning of a year intimidates. It overwhelms. Well, if you let it.

We have to break the beast down to consume in smaller bites. It’s just 52 weeks and you handle it one day at a time.

The “new year, new you” and all that business should not be the focus. Yes, it’s a new year but why does it have to be a whole new you?

We should all evolve with time and so Jan 1 is not a reset on who you are or how you live.

Jan 1 is an opportunity to continue expanding on what you have already built. The project may take a different turn with a new year but no need to scrap the project altogether and start over.

I cannot, will not and did not throw away 2015 as soon as 2016 arrived. Instead I choose to build on it. It is a new 365 day journal that will have ups and downs, victories and failures. But having arrived at the beginning of the yearlong journey I cannot help but think of the saying, “How do you eat an elephant?  A: One bite at a time.”

Every year we express bewilderment in how quickly 365 days go. I was just toasting champagne at the final countdown into 2016 with what feels like 3 hours ago but in reality we are already 3 days into January.

We must mentally prepare for everything that lies ahead of us. The mind is brilliant and amazing. It works well for us but sometimes the mind seems to work against us.

We intimidate and limit ourselves at times with just our thoughts. Do you find yourself being your biggest critic? I know I do it far too often but it never does me any good.

The time I spend complaining or being critical of myself, I could be making real changes or positive impact in my life and others. I get some of it is human nature and not easy to turn off or walk away from our inner critic but we have to learn to quiet it so we can be productive.

As necessary as it is to be kind to others, it is also so important for you to be kind to yourself. You already have to fight so many battles and the courage to do so can best be found in the most trying times if you are kinder to yourself.

When the critical voice gets loud, tell it to be quiet or get lost.

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Wake Up and Live

It is a great week to give thanks. I am especially thankful for the holiday to spend with my loved ones. We decided to take a vacation for the holiday this year. More on that next week.

This year has been full of fun, adventure, challenge and change. I have taken on a lot of mottos this year. I have lots of resolutions. I have set and accomplished many goals. I have set and failed at others. All lessons learned with grace and an open mind.

Wake Up and Live is an important one. It is so valuable to be a person of action.  It is much better and far more rewarding to actively live this life we have instead of passively waiting for life to happen for us.

Monday evening signals the beginning of my vacation. I get to take a break from the regular rhythms of everyday life. It will be a mental and physical vacay. It is so timely and welcomed.

To enjoy life, we have to get out of our own way sometimes. We have to chill on the status updates and work emails. We have to give ourselves a chance to live the fulfilling life we actually desire.

I plan to re-energize, relax and recoup this week. Each morning is a new day to wake up and live. What will you do with it?

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Summer, You’ll Be Missed But…

I live in Chicago which means Winter could arrive any day now. Today was gorgeous weather — mid 80s — a welcome change from the coat-wearing, fall day, wind chills we have had lately.

It was so nice outside that I tore myself away from the tv shortly after the Chicago Bears won and went on a walk with my sister.

As summer begins to fade, I will focus on cherishing all the good times until next year. One thing I will miss most is how easy it was to find motivation to workout.

I basically measured my summer in workouts. Every Saturday that I could from June to early September, I would peel myself out of bed — toss on shorts and a tank, sling my yoga mat across my back and head for Millennium Park in Chicago’s downtown.

I spent one hour for each doing a class in Yoga, Pilates and Zumba.

Three hours several Saturdays a summer may seem excessive but I learned from them and I felt fantastic doing them. The way the park schedules the classes, gives the group a chance to slowly warm up the body with each hour.

It feels good to sweat alongside a community of strangers in it partly for similar reasons. We are out there stretching and strengthening and challenging ourselves. We have an excuse to start the day in an ocean of sunshine.

The satisfaction I feel after 3 hours is worth it even though I am not a fan of getting up or moving around so early.

It went right along with my other health initiatives. I also use a free app called MyFitnessPal to track what I eat in an online food diary. It notes how many days I log in and it feels like an accomplishment to stay consistent for weeks and weeks.

I used to have a goal of doing it every day for a year. 365 consecutive logs to help me pay attention to salt intake or getting enough protein, veggies,  etc. The first time I made it to 325 days and missed one day of logging in. My day count went back down to zero and I was devastated. I wanted to give up.

I realized it was bigger than that. Seeing the ticker count up towards 365 was amazing but that could not be my only motivation.

I find myself paying attention to my health and wellness now more than ever. I can’t afford to wait for my health to decline before I start caring about it or noticing it. Unfortunately, there are serious health concerns that run in my family’s history so awareness, prevention and proactively doing everything I can to stay healthy is vital.

Even though I’ll miss the ease of working out in the summer, it has to be bigger than that for me. I want my heart and body to be healthy for more than just a season. Don’t you want the same for yourself?

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Bright Pink Octobers: Why I Care and You Should Too

By the end of this week we will be in the full swing of pink. As most people know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

For 31 days, businesses and football players and marathon streets are decked out in bright pink.

More and more the month of October elicits a lot of emotion surrounding loss and victory. Breast cancer battles continue hitting closer and closer to home.

My maternal grandmother had issues with it. My aunt is currently battling breast cancer. Many of my friends have had loved ones affected by breast cancer in one way or another.

A little more than a year ago, my mom had a mastectomy on her left breast after being diagnosed at stage 0 for breast cancer. We were so grateful to have caught it early enough to not need radiation or chemotherapy. We had to make a decision within weeks of finding out the news regarding mom’s health. It was still a major decision to do a mastectomy instead of lumpectomy. It altered our lives. It changed the way we think about health and care for our bodies. It changed us.

There have been many hours in doctor offices and hospital rooms. We have done several surgeries and recoveries, hoping that it’s the last time we will ever need to discuss this with a physician or cancer center. But we never will stop talking about it. It is part of us now and will forever be a present topic in future check-ups.

When that word cancer comes alive, even if it’s a scare or not worst case scenario, it is paralyzing.

In that same summer of my mom’s diagnosis, my sister’s did the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I went out to support them at different mile markers over the two day walk. It was powerful to see how many lives breast cancer touches. People are weakened by it, strengthened by it and every stop between. No one can tell you how to feel or what to feel. We all react differently and that’s okay.

A few years ago, I went to a breast cancer support group hosted by Bright Pink. Bright Pink is a national non-profit organization focused on prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women.

The support group was a chance to ask questions and share stories with young women who had either known someone with these cancers or had themselves gone through it. We bonded over doing an activity together. It was my first and last time ever doing a spin class after I threw up all over the floor following the workout. (That’s a story for another day.) It was an inspiring and eye opening experience to sit and share our stories, encouraging one another in awareness, prevention and treatment.

Now over a year later from our first set of doctor visits for my mom, we are taking breast cancer awareness Octobers rather seriously. We are also celebrating this life. To be aware, is to be alive…literally in some cases.

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Nama(state) of Mind: The Power of Yoga

I like to consider myself a yogi. I am willing to talk anyone into trying yoga at least once. I think it is perfect for balancing the body and mind. It is powerful exercise and demands focus on mindfulness. In a state of mindfulness, you can give yourself a break and keep your thoughts restful instead of overwhelmed at their regular pace.

Yoga is a great idea for men or women, no matter your flexibility level. I do yoga in outdoor park, group workouts. I do yoga at the gym. I do yoga at the beach. I do yoga in my living room, using YouTube yoga channels. It is that simple to find a space to do it anywhere.

The very first time I did yoga was at least 6 years ago now. I was invited to a small workout held on a town hall lawn, under a gazebo. I thought I would be distracted by the cars passing by or the bugs buzzing or just having to be quiet and still for small eternities.

The practice will stretch you. All it took for me was one class and I was hooked. I especially loved making it through an entire session to arrive at the final pose – savasana. This is how every class ends so you know it is almost over.

Savasana is probably my favorite yoga pose. It is also called “Corpse Pose”. You basically lie flat on your back and let your body rest limp on the ground. You focus on keeping your mind from racing and getting occupied. You just keep your head clear and in the moment. It is about deep relaxation.

Savasana always marks the end of a successful practice because not doing every pose perfect in yoga is fine. That’s why it’s called practice. So what that I can’t lift my entire body off the ground resting solely on my wrists. I do not need to. (Though, I am much further in that crow pose now than I used to be.) I can still keep practicing and learning and growing because yoga is about getting your mind right just as much as getting your body right.

Savasana is the most peaceful time. Lay in silence. Quiet the mind. You can cheer yourself on…”I made it through that.”

After I have said my final Namaste and pack up my mat to leave the session, I feel happy and accomplished and at peace. I feel that way even when the world around me erupts in chaos. 

Would you rather have the peace or the chaos?

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