Expectations vs. Reality

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As an eternal optimist, I tend to go into all situations expecting the absolute best outcome.  This has served me well in many, many ways and I would never want to change that outlook. However, experiences in fitness have given me what I like to call a cautious optimism, and what M likes to call “finally, somewhat of a grasp of reality from a freaking Disney Princess.”

 

Clearly, my parents are to blame.  I was raised by two loving parents who encouraged me to go after my dreams and convinced me I could do anything with some hard work and a good attitude. Probably part of it is due to the fact that I’m a millennial, thus an entitled narcissist. Either way, I have some issues with realistic expectations.

 

Like camping.

 

It’s not that I don’t like the outdoors—it’s really the opposite of that.  I love a good outdoor workout. I’m extremely fond of front porches, especially when I have a glass of wine to go with them.  Beaches? Wait just one second—let me grab a bikini and some sunblock and baby, I’m there. Parks are delightful—in fact, I just returned from the park by my apartment. I can play catch all day, man.

 

Then my fiancé— I mean HUSBAND (how long does it take for that to sink in?) talks about going camping. At first, this seems like a great plan, but then we start talking details. My expectations and his reality are completely different.

 

You see, my friends can attest to the fact that my childhood ideas of outdoor frivolity were a bit skewed. My grandparents own a motorhome, and I don’t just mean one of those little pull-behind-your-truck, I’m-just-a-tent-with-some-mesh-walls kind of a deals. I mean, like something that Mick Jagger rolled around in with all those girls that dropped their panties at the mention of a rock star. And, you know, Keith Richards and the other two guys. 

 

Imagine my astonishment when I’m invited to a Christian music festival at the age of 10 (They do exist. Imagine Bonnaroo, but replace the pot and shrooms with Surge, Swedish Fish and WWJD bracelets) and discover that not all camping involves king-sized Sleep Number beds and DirecTV. And definitely no private shower and restroom facilities. How did they expect me to do my hair in butterfly clips and rock my Limited Too threads in this squalor?

 

Suffice it to say, I’ve had to readjust expectations many times since that day. The hardest of all these readjustments was when it came to my fitness expectations. There is absolutely nothing worse than having your hopes dashed to the ground by reality. 

 

When I began training, I expected immediate results with very little sacrifice on my part. Obviously I was going to don my most adorable outfit and go run for a bit on a treadmill and leave looking like Zoe Saldana’s hot white sister.  Somehow this did not happen! What?!?!

 

A major part, for me, of becoming more fit is the education that led to more reasonable expectations. Remaining ignorant surely wasn’t going to help me get results, neither would believing every single thing on the Internet or in the latest bestselling diet. Learning how my body worked, what nutrients actually DO, and the different functions of each aspect of a training program were imperative to my success in learning to become healthy.  If you have no idea how anything works, then there is no basis for an expectation at all, and a high likelihood of disappointment.

I’ve since then read TONS of books and articles claiming the best training programs and diets. Bodyweight only training, Crossfit, Tabata, HIIT, Running manuals, P90x with all its muscle confusion, yoga, Eat Stop Eat, The Skinny Rules, Paleo–I love them.  They may as well be the next Nora Roberts novel. The problem is, I was so incredibly confused! There were so many conflicting opinions! 

My best advice for wading into these waters? Ask a trainer that you trust and do some experimentation. It’s actually pretty fun to try all sorts of new things and learn different opinions.  Some are wacky and sound crazy, and more often than not (in my experience) that tends to mean that they are wacky and crazy. But before I leave you floundering, I wanted to add one more tip.  

 

I am obsessed with this girl, Molly Galbraith.  She’s legit. Her blog is crazy good and her story is inspiring. If you’re looking for a springboard to jump into this world of living healthily, I think she’s a great place to start. I’m always looking for experts to learn from, and I have gotten so much out of reading her stuff.  Since I am totally not an expert and am just an eager novice, it’s been so incredible to read from someone who just makes SENSE. 

How about you? Any training programs that you are obsessed with? 

 

Cheers!

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Aly’s Favorite Things Episode!

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Get excited. Get hyped. Are you ready? YOU GET A CAR!! YOU GET A CAR!! WE’RE ALL GETTING CARS!!!!!

 Nope just kidding, sorry.  You really should get excited, though. Below you will find all of my favorite things that have led me to success in the past. I hope they help you out, as they have me!

Food

Favorite Healthy Dessert: Don’t be alarmed. This is no lie. These flourless AND butterless brownies are to die for, not to mention are high fiber and actually nutritious. Give ’em a try! 

Meatless Dinner: These quesadillas leave you full and happy. M loves these too, so I swear they are fella-approved. 

Meat Dinner: I think that this is the meal that made M propose. No doubt one of his all-time favorites, so I had to include it. I love it too! 

Munchies: Game time food at its best. Seriously, they are better than the original full-fat full of crap version.  

Gear

iPhone app (Android too!):  I love this running trainer! It’s fun having someone tell you what to do and you can jam to your favorite songs.  Like my favorite PUMP UP JAM!!! 

 Gym Bag: Ladies, they have thought of EVERYTHING. Sorry guys, this is girl-specific. There’s a place for your curling iron/straightener, dirty clothes, shoes–yep, everything.  

Headband: No-slip.  This piece of genius will stay with you throughout your whole workout and not slide around or fall off your head.   

 Jacket: CRAZY flattering, thumb holes so your sleeves stay in place, reflectors so you don’t get hit by a car, wicks sweat off so that guy you’re hitting on in your class will think you actually don’t sweat more than he does. Look at you, sexy thang! 

 Tank: It tricks you into thinking you’re only wearing a sports bra but you don’t have to actually only wear a sports bra. Genius. I have like every color. LOVELOVELOVE. 

Shorts: I’ve talked about these already, but they are just THAT good. Shorts under shorts, these move with you and cover your ass…ets. 

 Sneakers: Comfy, just enough support, and super light.  AND they’re pink!  

Just for fun…

Best Yoga Video ever: True life.  

White Wine 

 Red Wine

 

 Workout Resources

Yoga: http://www.myyogaonline.com/

 Lifting: http://www.bodybuilding.com/

 Running: http://skinnyrunner.com/

 

Enjoy! Cheers!  

 

 

 

Are You Kidding Me?

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You know what the biggest weight loss lie is out there on the interwebs/in gym world? Timestamp fitness promises.  You see that girl up there? I’m not going to look like her in 10 weeks or even 10 years.  That’s not a negative thing, that’s a my-body-isn’t-built-with-her-proportions thing.

I can’t even believe how many sites there are dedicated to 30 Days to Shakira’s Striptastic Bod, or Michelle Obama’s Arms in Seven Days.  The only way that’s happening is if you take a weeklong Photoshop intensive.  Plastic surgery wouldn’t even heal that quickly.

So why am I bashing scheduled plans? Aren’t goals a good thing?  Yay! Yes, you’ve been listening! Goals are fantastic and are the best way I’ve found to track how I’m doing.  The problem lies with unrealistic goals.  Setting yourself up for disappointment will make you lose confidence in yourself and forget everything you’ve already achieved. Don’t do that—you’re much too awesome to lose faith in yourself.

A while back, I committed to doing the Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred program. Each morning I would wake up dedicated to my Level 1, 2, and 3 workouts. Guess what happened after 30 days??? I didn’t look like Jillian Michaels.

For the record, I think that’s a really fun workout. Results were definitely noted, but were overshadowed by my disappointment that this getting in shape thing is not a one-month process. Or two-month process.  Hell, it’s been a couple years now and I’m still reaching for more goals.

My point is, getting fit isn’t an event you can mark in your iPhone after a certain number of days have passed.  It’s an every day lifestyle decision. Those workouts will absolutely begin to strengthening your muscles and upping your endurance.  You’ll even notice definite progress, but please don’t get the idea you’re going to look like a Victoria’s Secret model in a month. You don’t even want to be a Victoria’s Secret model…no one likes juice that much.

My intent isn’t to crush your dreams, but to empower you by sharing that every decision you make gets you a whole extra step closer to your goals. I’m a get it done now kind of gal, so this foreign concept of patience was about as easy to digest as a muffin made from shredded phone books. Actually, was recently evaluated at a recent Mary Kay meeting, and that was one of the big markers of my personality. I like my actions to produce results and I like those results to happen before everyone else’s.

There is hope for you all who share that with me! Your ability to push yourself is out of control awesome. But just keep those goals realistic for your fabulous work ethic. The fun part about it is that you’ll start looking in the mirror and think, “Whoa. Is that a muscle right there? I didn’t even know muscles grew right there.  When did this happen?”

Cheers!

Just a Man and His Will to Survive

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Have you ever felt just a little bit overwhelmed at the gym? Like maybe you’re the only person there who doesn’t bench 750 pounds or run marathons?

When I first started working out, I was in a constant state of being overwhelmed and down on myself.  The group class was the embodiment of anxiety. Do I want to spend 30 minutes to an hour being the chubby kid in the back row heaving like a beached whale? No thanks.

But I have a secret. You are one of the blessed few that gets to hear it.  Group classes can actually be an ego boost! They give you mojo and can crush that plateau. 

Sure, sure, I’ve mentioned them before but I wanted to highlight how big of deal they’ve been for me. That workout buddy you have is perfect and wonderful, but having a whole group of people who notice when you’ve been skipping out is such a motivation.  Here are some tips that I wish I’d known from day one.

Group Class Survival 101

1.  Not everything is about me.  Everyone in the class you just entered is working on their own fitness goals. You aren’t the center of the world.  Not everyone is staring at you.  Not everyone is wondering why the hell is that girl here.  Not everyone just noticed that you couldn’t knock out that last pushup. Promise.

 

2. Chill out. Take a break. There’s always that moment in the middle where I’m pretty convinced I’m about to die.  I’m a little embarrassed how long it took for me to have the realization that this is MY class and it’s all good if I take a little break and grab some water.  I always had this idea that I had to do everything exactly like the instructor—pace, intensity, length, speed, and height.  Yeah, that instructor that teaches these classes 4 times a day and has dedicated his/her life to teaching others fitness. Needless to say, I couldn’t quite keep up.

 

3. Bring water. And a towel. If it’s a good class, you’re going to sweat like crazy. Dehydration will make you shaky and unfocused. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated. Don’t get blinded by sweat dripping into your eyes, causing them to sting like mad.  You won’t be able to concentrate on the instructor or see what they’re doing, so a towel is a great plan too.

 

4. Don’t let your clothes be an obstacle.  I’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again! Confession: I didn’t follow my own rule at a recent boxing class and really regretted it.  You know those sports bras that zip up in the front? Cute right? WRONG. While we were doing sets of burpees then mountain climbers, the zipper came unzipped…whoops. I can promise you I’ll never again be wearing that one to a high intensity class. Oh, and do us all a favor and wear shorts long enough to cover your ass.  

 

5. Talk to people! They’re probably nice. As an added bonus, you get a new support person cheering for your success and doing the same thing you are.

 Hopes this helps! Let me know if I missed your favorite tip 🙂

 

Cheers!

It’s Fine By Me If You Never Leave

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My relationship with exercise has always had a remarkably similar storyline to my relationship with men. It all begins with one great day.

You know the day I’m talking about.  It ‘s one of those days that leaves you going to bed smiling and giddy at the promise tomorrow holds… so giddy that you can’t even sleep because you’re too excited and your mind is making a plan for what that week will hold. For guys, it was an upcoming steamy night. For exercise, it was the bikini I was going to get for this summer. Surprisingly similar outfits were attached to both visions.

Morning would come, and I would spring out of bed singing.  The sun is shining, coffee is brewing and I’m ready to meet each challenge that heads my way with the poise of Grace Kelly and dynamic influence of the Iron Lady, may she rest in peace. This manic, likely unhealthy state of sheer optimism and fortitude lasts for weeks on end. Ok, typically about three or four.

Reality would inevitably have a way of rearing its ugly head. I just don’t feel like going to my group class.  The gym is too packed for me to go. My arms are sore. I had to work late. The guy I’ve been seeing started talking about his car more than is necessary, unless he’s at the Ford Dealer. I found someone cuter. This guy is sweet, brilliant, and interesting… buuuut this guy has season UK Basketball tickets. Deuces. (People still say that. Yeah they do.)

Rinse and Repeat 

This cycle was my life from age 16-22. I don’t think there was the slightest problem with the guy side of it. Prior to age 22, there is no way I had the attention span to be in a real relationship, not to mention zero desire to do so. The exercise thing is where the problem resided.

However, it wasn’t until I met the love of my life that I realized I had commitment issues. My friends are probably laughing at this, because I couldn’t even commit to a hair color until about six months ago (light brown, shockingly my natural hair color in case you’re curious). I think I’ve just been born with a restless spirit.

When I ran across this quote while I was perusing an educational literary magazine, I thought it was a beautiful way to state a lesson with which I struggle. Oh, and it was definitely on Pinterest, but educational literary magazine sounds way better, right?

Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.

Through tough times, it is essential for me to remember why I started something in the first place. I want a stronger, healthier body to enjoy my life. Without exercise, my stress levels skyrocket. I have crazy high energy, and day-um can I wear some jeans now.

When M is really pissing me off (which is rare! Love you), I strive to keep in mind all the good times we have had, and my excitement for our future helps me when I’m convinced for a fleeting moment that I should be single again…after a good boxing class of course, because I am not that rational in the heat of the moment.  Then I remember I’m crazy about that guy, and common sense wins.  I’m still a work in progress, but hey—my favorite part of life is achieving what I’ve set out to do.  And wine.

Cheers!

Two Is Not a Winner and Three No One Remembers

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When M and I first starting dating, I was legitimately concerned when we were invited to our first game night. I mean, it was a perfectly harmless date, right? M was prepared for some fun times with our now best friends that we both love and get along with perfectly. 

The poor guy didn’t know any better; he didn’t see anything coming. I should have warned him, but it was month one and we were still pretending that we both had immaculate housekeeping skills no matter how busy we got, looked flawless at all times, and never went number two.

 Here’s the problem: Whenever there is an ounce of competition in the air, this typically bubbly and cheerful delight of a human being that he was growing to love turns into someone else completely. One of my dear friends/former roommate sent me this quote once, saying she had found the definition for my life:

 If you’re not prepared to lose every friend you have over a board game, you’re not playing hard enough.

 That about sums it up. I have this insane competitive streak. It gets pretty childish at times, and I hear myself saying things like, “We are going to rock this Cloodle, hop on the fast track, and beat your ass to the giant purple brain, son!”

 This competition embedded deep into my psyche affects every aspect of my life.  At work we completed StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath. The results really hit the nail on the head for me.  Basically, it assesses your top five strengths and shows you how you can use these to your advantage, and how to work with others. My number one was, of course, Competition. I love his description so I’m going to share the whole thing because, well, I can.

 Competition is rooted in comparison. When you look at the world, you are instinctively aware of other people’s performance. Their performance is the ultimate yardstick. No matter how hard you tried, no matter how worthy your intentions, if you reached your goal but did not outperform your peers, the achievement feels hollow. Like all competitors, you need other people. You need to compare. If you can compare, you can compete, and if you can compete, you can win. And when you win, there is no feeling quite like it. You like measurement because it facilitates comparisons. You like other competitors because they invigorate you. You like contests because they must produce a winner. You particularly like contests where you know you have the inside track to be the winner. Although you are gracious to your fellow competitors and even stoic in defeat, you don’t compete for the fun of competing. You compete to win. Over time you will come to avoid contests where winning seems unlikely.

 If I could have defined my entire outlook on life, it would not have been as accurate as those words. I remember as a kid, teachers would think I was looking off other kids’ papers to cheat. This was not to glean the maybe correct answers from the C student next to me, but rather because I was adding up the correct v.s. incorrect answers off his paper to compare our grades.  I got a rush, even then, from winning. M, please don’t leave me…

 This same competitive streak has been a helpful edge in my work life.  It ensures that I am constantly trying hard to stay on top of my game, thus earning the loving nickname A Game/Big Time (thanks Lar-Bo).

 Where it tends to bite me back is when it comes to my personal life.  Being in a constant state of comparison has left me pretty down on myself in the past, especially during that whole college/immediately post-college phase. Dangerous waters, my friend!

 That new-ish tv show Go On, the one with Chandler playing Chandler but with sports, had a very pertinent quote in it the other day. 

 You can’t seek happiness from outside sources; happiness comes from within.

 My measure of success had always been placed on outside sources. If I’m going to do something, I want to be the best at it.  The thing about fitness was that I’m not really the best at anything. I am not the fastest runner.  I can’t lift the most weight. I’m not the most flexible. I don’t have the most Latina hip-shakin’ moves. It’s a hard world at that gym for a competitive mediocre athlete.

 Learning to stop (ok let’s be real, lessen my obsession with) competing with others and start competing with myself has saved me much grief. It’s also been a fun way to track my progress.  Celebrating mini-victories, like shaving seconds off my run times, or, as of late, my newfound ability to begin doing some yoga, have been ways I can still celebrate winning without the risk of falling into a comparison trap.

I have embraced the rush I get in competing while maintaining my sanity.  Don’t get me wrong, nothing quite beats that adrenaline rush from actually winning versus others, but it has been a great way to keep my motivation up.

 Game nights? Well, that hasn’t changed. UNO!

Success!

yoga stretch

Guys! Guess what! I’m so happy! I had a major breakthrough this morning! I have learned it–the secret to my yoga enjoyment. It’s counterintuitive for me, but hey, that’s life.

I need my sessions to be longer. That’s it.  I was doing a short 15-minute morning routine, thinking it would be best to start slow. No, no my friends. Just do it, right Tony? I actually found that the longer session did not make my mind go crazy, but rather allowed me to relax and focus as I continued.

Other benefit–I was able to stretch just a wee bit deeper. It was very exciting!!! I can honestly say I’m very much looking forward to tomorrow morning. Who knew?

On that note, I think I need a celebratory glass of wine…

Cheers!

You’re Overcookin’ My Grits, Coach

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True confession time. I didn’t get up and do yoga today. I slept in. My alarm went off and M rolled over and said, “Babe, aren’t you going to do yoga?” I scowled at him as though he made a most ridiculous suggestion, rolled over, and grunted no as I reset my alarm 45 minutes later.

You know what? I think I was much more tired than if I would have just gotten up and done it. The extra sleep was so not worth it! I could kick myself!

Here’s the thing—I think yoga is hard. I really, really do.  It does challenge my strength, but the activities I love and look forward to do that. I’m used to pushing myself when it comes to strengthening my body. I love that challenge and the feeling of sore muscles repairing themselves.

There are two things that kill me with yoga. The first is that I am super inflexible. You know how giraffes are kind of awkward when they try to bend? I feel such kinship with them.  I’m 5’11” (and a half). My toes are really far away….

Even after a hard workout where my muscles got all nice and warm and pliable, I am just not flexible. Because of my lack of ability in this area, I’m having a hard time enjoying it. I feel like a new girl all over again, after I have worked so hard to achieve a higher level of fitness.

The second is my mind’s inability to focus with its multi-tasking default setting, which I’ve gone over before.  Why do I have to think about twelve things at once? I won’t belabor that point because I really haven’t had any major breakthroughs to share.

What this whole new routine reminds me of is the familiar feeling of utter frustration and contempt from when I first started working out. Every activity felt like a huge undertaking. A mile was climbing Everest—there is no way you’re making me go that far! Pushing that prowler was like taking on a semi truck.  Don’t even get me started on a pushup—are you trying to get me to hold the world on my shoulders? I was heaving after jogging for one minute. ONE MINUTE! And the word “jogging” is very generous for the relatively quick walk I was doing. Why was everything so hard???

Previously, I discussed the need to work harder and push yourself if you want to see results. How your body trains itself to tolerate strenuous activity is truly incredible. I’m trying to remind myself that this won’t be so hard soon.  I remember this epiphany I had while I was working out one day with Jackson, my fabulous and wonderful former trainer.

The activity isn’t getting any easier; I’m just getting better. I am able to tolerate it more. Jogging for a minute is the same level of difficulty as it was a year ago, the only difference is me. I’m different. There is very real, very tangible proof of progress.

One of the greatest exercises I did was after I’d lost about 50 lbs.  Jackson had me do the stairs with a 50-pound vest on.  It was a challenge that made me realize just how far I had come.  My body had become so much lighter and more efficient. I totally recommend doing an exercise like that no matter how much progress you have made just so you can really feel what you’ve achieved.

Keeping this in mind as I aim to improve my struggles with flexibility and strength of mind through yoga is a source of inspiration for me.  These feelings are familiar.  I will get stronger. Everything is hard at first. Discipline, baby! Well, I’m working on it…

Cheers!

Because Sometimes I Need a Little Kick in the Keister

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Have you ever wondered why they call exercising “working out”?  I’m no etymologist, but I do notice that the word “work” is inside of it.

Webster’s Dictionary defines work…ok, just kidding. Dictionary.com defines work as “Exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something.” Exertion? Effort? Ugh. I thought that I heard I could just walk around the park a couple times and the weight will just melt off.

I apologize if you feel like I’m saying something that is just too obvious that it insults your intelligence, but I figure that if this took some learning for me, maybe someone out there needs to hear it.  You are not going to lose a substantial amount of weight from a leisurely stroll around the park once a week. You are not going to lose it by parking further back in the parking lot.  You are not going to lose it by taking the stairs to your second-floor dentist appointment every six months.

Changing your body requires work.  Real work. Sweating, groaning, some serious intensity, and probably some cussing. That lesson was a hard one for me, because I read articles with titles like, “Ten Easy Steps to Weight Loss,” or “Six Easy Things to Do For a Six-Pack.”  I’ve found that anything with “easy” in the title is code for ineffective. Getting in shape is an entire lifestyle change, and there’s nothing easy about it.

There’s a saying that’s all over the Internet to which I absolutely subscribe. You may recognize it because it’s at the top of this post. Or perhaps you’ve gone on the Pinterest “Health and Fitness” category page in the past six months. Or attended one of those inspiration work conferences.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

It feels like common sense, right? But somehow, I spent several months just moving along on that treadmill feeling a false sense of accomplishment. I don’t mean to be a treadmill hater, it’s just that I didn’t challenge myself at all when I was jogging on it for months, and it was a huge discouragement.  If you’re not sore the next day, or at the very least if you’re really not even sweating and breathing hard, why bother?

That’s great for you. But shouldn’t it just kind of happen for me?

I think that we live in a time now where people (clearly myself included) believe everything should just happen for us.  This sense of entitlement permeates our consciousness. Things should be easy; life should be simple.  The idea of learning to relish a challenge left much to be desired for me at first.

My mind’s cure for this was the joy I got from taking on a challenge and coming out on the other end stronger—in the area of fitness, I mean that literally. Life isn’t easy, and neither is changing habits. If you’re going to succeed, you need to accept that you can’t do the same things you’re doing now and expect a different result.

There’s another big secret to losing weight that is basically the same sentiment.  By secret, I mean common sense idea that I took a while to pick up on.  

 Work harder. If you’re not getting results, you’re not working hard enough.

 The concept is so simple.  Step it up.  Don’t fake it. Try something new. Pick up something heavy. Punch something heavy. Hold yourself up. Run—really run. Ride your bike up hills. Make yourself go longer.  Make yourself go faster. Make yourself go heavier. Put more weight on that prowler. Throw on a weighted vest. Hike up something tall. Push yourself. Get the word “can’t” out of your mind, because it’s really just a substitute for “won’t try”. You’re better than that.

Not into it? Think it’s just too hard? That’s fine. The only person you’re cheating is yourself.

 

 

Mini Yoga Update:

Still on board. Still waking up to do it. Still the first week. Not a whole lot of change to share. I’ll keep you posted!

Yoga Update!

Success! 

This morning was the first day of my new wake up with yoga and quiet my mind plan. Of course I got up and did it. It was the first day.

I started small with this 15-minute yoga workout. It was invigorating.  I absolutely loved what he said at the beginning:

Don’t anticipate. Just be in the moment.

Convinced I was going to have a very zen, calming experience, I sat in preparation to begin this life-altering yoga routine. The sound of the ocean in the background was very soothing and helped me to quiet my mind…for like the first 5 minutes. After that, I went back to my 9:30 meeting, next week’s agenda, and my boxing class this afternoon.

Why is it I can be so focused on a jab-cross-hook-fade-cross combo, but when I’m in downward dog my thoughts race? I think the activity is almost more zen and quiet for me than the sound of the ocean.

5 minutes wasn’t too bad though. Who knows, maybe I’ll get 10 minutes tomorrow!

Bonus: Songza has the coolest yoga mix ever. 

 

Stay tuned.