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?



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.





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?


The Body Issue

Body image is such an interesting subject right? It is a topic that cannot necessarily be exhausted because there is always a need to be reminded of the importance of positive body image. 

In the time we live in, positive reinforcement on what is actually valuable and important and worth the fuss is as necessary a daily practice as eating, sleeping, working and living in my opinion. It is so important because it exists in every one of those other areas.

Over the weekend, a few things happened that drove this point home for me. This concept of body image and how you can create two sides to the same story is intriguing. The way you view yourself can be empowering and beautiful or quickly become ugly and twisted if you look at the same picture using a different lens.

On Saturday, I joined hundreds of Chicagoans, suburbanites, tourists, lolla-goers and whomever else was in the crowd for a summer workout in Millennium Park.

I always go to the front so I can see what is going on and not have to rely on the people in front of me to know what the instructor might be doing. I typically break a sweat for 3 hours of yoga, pilates and Zumba #backtoback. For Zumba there was a professional guest  photographer snapping up shots of the dynamic, gorgeous, fit dance teacher we had. Well seeing as I was in the front, I was in more shots than I imagined.

Afterwards the photographer came up to show me a few. “Well that one is great but that one…could be deleted. I look ridiculous,” I told him on a few. I gave him my email so he could send me them all to view up close. I was unfairly critical of myself like I often am in photographs then I was like, wait. My goal wasn’t to look great in a photoshoot. My goal was to work my butt off while working out and I did that. Some shots I may look ridiculous but I am proud of the way I look because I was out there working hard.

Saturday was gorgeous but also quite hot so after I worked out, I decided to head straight to the beach. If you want to give yourself a lesson on body image go to a beach. I mean honestly. I love to people-watch anyway. There were thin, big, curvy, old, young people everywhere with all different body types. I love the confidence of people to just be who they are. It can be tough to not compare myself but I remind myself how much better it is for me to love myself as I am, work on whatever I can instead of comparing myself to others. Of course once you get out of your own head, things are back in perspective. I enjoyed myself and stayed at the beach over 5 hours.

Recently UFC Champ, Ronda Rousey made some pretty intense statements about body image for body shamers going after her. I am all for women taking pride in their body back. My body is under my command and no one else’s so no use allowing someone else to dictate when it’s right, perfect, beautiful. It is best to focus energy on getting your mind right.

While on my trip to London in June, I became familiar with such a handy phrase. When that voice saying of doubt, over-analyzing, stress, negativity, self-criticism creeps in about anything. For example a voice inside that my body isn’t alright. It’s too much of this and not enough of that, that voice has to be cut off. Say, “You don’t serve me.” Refocus and keep it moving.

There is nothing wrong with beauty, feeling beautiful, being beautiful and being told you are. As long as it is not everything you live for. It has always been more important to be a genuine, real and fun person who is beautiful because you believe you are and you act accordingly (read humbly).

Another example of taking beauty to another level: I was running late for a show over the weekend so I had to hop in a cab. Towards the end of my ride, the driver says, ‘You’re not like Chicago girls. Pretty girls aren’t usually nice.’ It reminded me of a few years ago I took a trip to Miami and got the same comparison to Miami girls. That is really too bad. Of course, the blanket comparison is not totally accurate but I wish it did not even have to be a statement.

If throughout my life the best thing someone can say about me is I’m beautiful in the asthetic sense only,  i think I’m missing the mark. Beautiful is a fantastic attribute but we can all stand to strive for more.

In Chicago, at the corner of Ashand and Foster, there are these huge ‘You are Beautiful’ signs. I am sure on a tough day those reminders mean the world to someone who just is not feeling it.

In the meantime, I am going to keep working on self-awareness, self-love, self-acceptance because one can never have too much of it. In aha moments like this weekend, I believe I’m winning.

Remind yourself of your greatness by reinforcing your positive body image. Be beautiful/handsome AND make it hold more weight than physical appearance.





Stop sleeping like a baby: 3 ways to relax, rest and recharge

I don’t have kids but the the friends I know with babies say the last thing you can count on is babies sleeping through the night. Some days I am so tired from staying up late night and waking up early mornings I feel like I will never catch up on sleep. It is exhausting. Maybe we should change the idiom to sleep like a teenager. They can sleep through anything.

I currently sleep like a newborn where some nights I wake up at a random hour for no reason. It throws off everything. Don’t get me wrong. I love staying up late with something fun or interesting to do. Real rest is so important though if I want to be able  to stay awake for random late nights.

Have you ever had a problem getting good rest? I want to help you stop sleeping like a baby who wakes up every three hours and start sleeping like the miracle baby who actually rests at night. Here are 3 ways to do it:

1. Shut the screens down. 

No TV on all night. Set the sleep timer or turn the tv off when you start to nod. It’s also hugely important to not let social media be the last thing you look at before bed. Your brain will thank you for limiting the glowing screens. Having a healthier nighttime routine instead like a nice shower or yoga or reading or writing or listening to music can put you in a more peaceful state of mind to let your body and mind rest.

2. Limit the liquids.

No alcohol or caffeine just before bed. Alcohol can make people crash hard into a temporary deep sleep (even a couple beers) but it throws a wrench in a good night’s sleep. As for caffeine, I don’t know about  anyone else but I once had Pepsi just before bed and I was wired. I couldn’t sleep for hours. It was terrible. Once the sugar high wore off and I managed to get a few winks in, I had to be up for the next day with heavy bags under my eyes. I don’t do that anymore. It also is so annoying to wake up in the middle of the night scrambling to pee. Limit liquids like the airport does…no more than 3 oz.

3. Take naps.

Use a sleepytime app which you can download straight to your phone. You can calculate how to maximize your bedtime hours to get great rest. It operates based on what you need for REM sleep. It is typically in 90 minute intervals. I take quick naps whenever I need to. I notice when my body starts slowing down and there’s nothing I can do but take a nap, I need to comply. I find it hard to concentrate on anything else. Our bodies often tell us exactly what it needs. Without proper rest, it is easy for issues like stress, fatigue and moodiness to take over. If your body needs to take a break, give it a break.

It’s important to take care of yourself and your body. Go to bed. You won’t miss much.

What is your bedtime routine? What would you add to this list?