Embracing the Darkness

Embracing the Darkness

by Emma Szczepanek

July first marks the beginning of the second half of the year. For those who are goal oriented, or even for those who are not, this can sometimes spark a new beginnig similar to New Years Day. I always aim for my writing to be uplifting and inspiring, and I wanted to bring you something about fresh starts, but as July carries on, I have realized that a fresh start is not my current experience. I want my writing to be a space of authenticity, and with the veil of social media, it’s easy to make our lives look effortless and perfect, but that’s not real life. We all experience hardship, and to compare our hardships to others “perfect” social media posts makes life a lot more difficult. This space doesn’t need another New Year, New Me post, #MondayMotivation or #lifegoals post. This space we call the internet needs something real.

I have, for a long time, and still do, struggle with my relationship with food and a very distorted body image, and unfortunately, this summer has not been an exception to those emotions. This summer has been hard. I’ve struggled with my body, I’ve struggled with anxiety, and I’ve spent a good majority of my time at the lake or pool worrying more than I have enjoying, but as I explore my emotions, I come to understand that they are exactly what I need to feel.

Five years ago I would have handled these emotions very differently. I would have used self harm and other destructive behaviors to cope. Today, I choose to sit with my feelings, and experience them. I no longer restrict my food intake, I don’t turn to self harm. I pick myself up and try to keep myself in the moment, focus on the facts of the situation, and turn to gratitude, because I know those are the healthiest choices I can make. As I reflect on my 27 years, I understand that my summer experience may not be picture perfect. It may not be Instagramable (is that even a word?), but it is the exact experience I need to continue growing on my journey.

With mental illness and hardships, there are always days where it may feel as though you’re slipping back into old patterns or behaviors. Some days it feels like the mountains you’ve climbed to “recovery” were only small hills, but in those times it’s important to dig deep, and to reflect on those emotions, because in doing so, you’ll realize that you’ve come a lot further than you have given yourself credit for. The simple act of recognizing that old patterns and behaviors are surfacing again, is growth within itself. Recovery is truly a journey and not a destination (sometimes really cheesy sayings are just true, ok?). Five years ago I was lost, ill, and completely unsure of myself. I was willing to follow a well built path to society’s ideas of success, at the expense of my own happiness. Today,  I have a clear vision of what I want. Today I have started to build my own path to the success that I’ve imagined for myself, and that is something that I would have never thought I would do. While yesterday’s emotions may have seemed similar to 22 year old me, my reaction to those emotions was completely different. That is where growth lies. That is what recovery is about. Recovery is not about the emotions you feel, recovery is about the way you deal with them.  

So, yes. New month, new you. New week, new Monday, new morning, new minute. Make the changes you feel you need to make in order to live up to your highest potential, but when things get dark, when old emotions surface, embrace them. Dive into them head first, sit with them, experience them, and then, let yourself grow.

You Need a Day OFF!

You Need A Day Off!

By Tiffany Karger

Raise your hand if you walked out of a class or workout and didn’t take the time to stretch. Now raise your hand if you do not take one or more off days per week. I know most and possible maybe all of you reading this do at least one or the other. As a personal trainer and group fitness instructor, I can say with confidence that one of the biggest faults in the fitness industry is the lack of knowledge with recovery and its high importance.

To be holistically healthy in all areas of life we need a balance of exercise, nutrition, meditation, and recovery. If one of the four are not met, we will not see results. Being in the fitness industry for the past three years, I noticed that recovery is always forgotten. I teach 14 classes per week and rarely do I see anyone take the time after class to properly recover (i.e. Stretching, self-myofascial release, etc.). When we are taking a class, weight lifting, or running, we break down and create micro-tears within the muscle. For the muscle to repair and grow stronger, recovery needs to happen. Taking time to the stretch and rest helps with blood flow, increase muscle strength/size, and prevent injury. The “No Days Off” lifestyle halts muscle repair and therefore the body never heals properly. We wear fit bits and apple watches to track steps and count our calorie burn for the day. Getting so caught in the numbers, we lose sight in what our body really needs… a day off.

My Top 4 Recovery Techniques (I promise no burpees!)

  1. Rest: Now we are talking about actual rest, sleep. This is one of the most important ways to get your body to quickly recover from the physical and mental demands of hard training.
  2. Hydration: No not alcohol. We need to consume at around eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. That number goes up when our activity increases. Drink up!
  3. Self-myofascial Release: Foam rolling!!! Taking at least 10-15 minutes per day to give your muscles a little TLC. Don’t know how to foam roll? I am at the studio 24/7 so ask me about tips and tricks to foam rolling. I am more than happy to help.
  4. Fuel Your Body: Your muscles need to eat so feed them well. Focus on whole nutrient dense foods to give your body what it needs.

Treat yo self and your body too.

What I Learned From Detoxing Digitally

by Emma Szczepanek

Last month after watching a very convincing Ted Talk I decided that I needed a break from social media. I’d thought about the idea many times before, but watching that video was the catalyst that made me decide it was time. I’ve always had a mostly hate relationship with social media (90% hate 10% love). It seemed like a chore, something I had to do to stay present in a social circle, the make or break of my career. Facebook always seemed like a constant stream of negativity, and Instagram, the ultimate highlight reel felt inauthentic. I never truly felt connected to anyone when I posted on Facebook or Instagram, but the idea of leaving these platforms made me nervous that my career would fail and my life would fall apart (I’m generally a worst case scenario thinker).

Once I made the decision to leave my social media platforms, and step away from the constant connectedness of the world, I actually learned a lot, and thrived without constant Instagram scrolling and Facebook nonsense. I benefited mentally. It felt like my brain changed. Here are a few things that happened:

I became more focused

Recent studies have shown that regular multitasking can reduce our ability to effectively complete tasks. Our brains can only handle so much information at one time and when we consistently bombard our minds with endless streams, it’s forced to switch between everything we’ve given it, putting less focus on individualized tasks.* I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I found myself trying to read an article while watching a YouTube video, or the number of hours I spent scrolling through Instagram while Netflix played in the background. These seemingly small bouts of multitasking have a huge effect on our ability to focus when we really need to. Once I eliminated the temptation of mindless scrolling I was able to sit down and truly dedicate time to one specific task. Over the course of 30 days, I noticed that the amount of time I was able to really focus became longer and longer. I went from only being able to work for 30 minutes without a break, to sitting down and focusing on something for an hour or longer. I felt motivated by the amount of work I was able to get done.

I actually LIVED the life I wanted

This was something that only the 30-day detox could help me realize. I spent so much time on social media following influencers and other people that were living the life I wanted. Waking up early every morning, working for themselves, traveling, committing themselves to a regular yoga and meditation practice. These were all things that I wanted to do, this was the life I wanted to live, but I wasn’t doing it. I was getting an odd complacency about the life I wanted because I was almost able to live it through other people. Living that life in my imagination through their feed. I got satisfaction from seeing them do all of these things and didn’t actually try to do them myself. Once I gave up social media, I was able to sit down and take a true audit of my life. I was able to tune into the things I truly wanted, and I started to do them. I woke up early, did my meditation, did yoga, spent time on my business, all of the things that I had for some reason been avoiding but coveting in others. During these thirty days, I felt more like myself than I had in a while. I didn’t have other influencers, bloggers, trainers or coaches to compare myself to. I was doing my work the way that I wanted to do it, not being influenced by the things that were popular on social media at the moment. I was able to live my life in that same way. Without stepping away from the people that I envied so much, I think it would have taken me much longer to realize that I was letting them live my life for me.

I was able to create

When I was really able to be with myself and spend time figuring out what I wanted out of life and my career, without the influence of what the “successful” social media influencers were doing. I felt like my creativity was at an all-time high. I came up with new concepts to write about when I had been stuck for months, I came up with an entirely new project that I would have never thought to create before. For a long time, I thought that social media was inspiring to try new things and do something different, but it turned out that it was really holding me back, and instead of standing out, I ended up blending in.

Overall, the past thirty days has truly changed not only my relationship with technology but also my relationship with myself. It’s so easy to get caught up in the digital world because we’re constantly told that we can’t do things without it, but that’s not true at all. Technology and social media have made many things a lot easier, but it’s also taken a lot away. Our ability to connect to our authentic selves, to take chances and do things that may not get likes or follows. Being able to see the world on our phone or computer screen is a wonderful advancement, but being able to see the world with our own eyes is still possible, we just have to lift up our heads.

*[The Essential Digital Detox Plan – Orianna Fielding]

Find Your “Why”

By Jess Welch

Lose 10 pounds in 10 days! Twelve workouts to a flat stomach! Lose unwanted cellulite in just 30 minutes!

Tag lines like these pollute our media and are riddled throughout our everyday lives. Misinformation and misleading titles lead individuals to think sustainable weight loss is as easy as a snap of a finger. This leaves people feeling disheartened and unmotivated with continually fluctuating weights. Not to mention, we live in a society which thrives on instant gratification; thus making the humbling reality of weight loss a tough pill to swallow.

One thing I have continuously learned is this: weight loss is hard. We wouldn’t have an obesity epidemic on our hands if it was easy as pie to avoid… well… pie! Oh, and bacon, ice cream, cheeseburgers, chips, and other sinful tantalizing treats. The old adage of “consistency is key” couldn’t be truer. But those three words are far easier said than done. Too often, I talk to people who have lost a whopping 55lbs in 4 months sometime in their past, gained it all back, lost 20lbs then gained that back too, plus some. The list of weight-loss attempts is never short and too often, I hear defeated voices whisper “I should do better, be better, and have better self-control.” Too many of my clients are consistently reliving their weight loss failures.

The other thing I know about weight loss is this: sustainable weight loss is slow. It is healthiest to lose 1-2 pounds per week. Like I said, sloooow. And when you’re staring at a scale that has a decline as slow as molasses in January, you lose hope.

So why try? Weight loss is difficult and time consuming. Why care? That’s an important question to answer and its one I cannot answer for you. For some people it’s as simple as wanting a pair of jeans to fit or to go to the doctor and finally not receive the advice of “you should really lose weight”. Maybe it’s more clinical, like getting off medications for high blood pressure or getting out of the pre-diabetic range. It could be psychologically deeper, like having a past of bullying or a severe deprivation in self-confidence. Your perception is your reality and once you find a reason captivating enough to make the hard work and patience worth it, weight loss will come easier, I promise!

If you can’t think of your “why”, answer this: What do you gain with weight loss? It could be that size of jeans you always wanted to be in or that number on the scale. You could gain the confidence you never had to rock that bikini you never thought you could. Maybe it’s just the accomplishment itself, the follow through to actually accomplish a goal once thought of as unattainable. Whatever it may be, I urge you to find your “why”. My message is to utilize this as step one in your final weight loss journey to a happierhealthieryou!


Five Tips For Loving Yourself

The concept of self-love has always been hard for me to grasp because I spent so long at war with myself. I always equated self-love to having the perfect body, and because I could never achieve that (Newsflash: No One Can) I felt that I could never truly love myself. I spent a lot of time looking for love and validation in other people, which put me in some really unhealthy relationships. It wasn’t until I realized that I am capable of living in a state of love all on my own that my life started to change for the better. We spend so much time focusing on our relationships with other people that we often forget about the one we have with ourselves. We’re willing to jump through hoops to please others, but how often do we do that for ourselves? We would never fathom putting up with an abusive relationship with someone else, but how often do you talk down to yourself on a daily basis? How often do you really give thought to your relationship with yourself? If you haven’t done that in a while, I suggest taking some time out to really tune into that relationship. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it abusive? Once you’ve tuned in to the current state of your relationship with yourself, here are some tips to improve that relationship, and to cultivate the self-love you need and deserve.

  1. Create and Commit to a Morning Routine

Mornings are powerful. You can make or break your day by how you spend your morning, so why not dedicate some serious time to it? When we spend our mornings rushing to get out the door we set ourselves up for a hectic day right off the bat, but if we slow down, and take our time getting ready for the day ahead, it’s much easier to take that mindset with you the rest of the day. Wondering how you’re going to find extra time in the morning to slow down? Start with just five minutes. Set your alarm five minutes earlier than you normally would and start from there (without pressing snooze!)

  1. Self Care

This one seems like a no brainer, but you can understand where this gets hard. Showering, brushing our teeth, doing our hair, all of these things have become second nature to us at this point, but sometimes when we’re down on ourselves, or spend an entire day in bed these things get pushed to the back burner. Make self care a priority in your life. No matter what your day looks like, make sure you’re taking time out to physically take care of yourself, and when you do that, take a little extra time to do something special. For me, putting on lotion is a big one. It’s something small and simple, and something most people do without even thinking about it, but I often skip it because I’m in a hurry. When I get out of the shower and moisturize, I feel like I’m doing something good for myself, and that’s really important. It’s not anything huge, but it’s something small I can do on a daily basis to show myself that I’m worth the extra time, and I care about myself.

  1. Date Yourself

I love this one because it’s fun! Often times we think that dating is strictly for people in relationships, but let’s take a second to break down that idea. We go on dates with our partner to spend time with them and enjoy their company. If we think about the idea of having a relationship with ourselves, don’t we also deserve that time alone to enjoy our own company? At first, this can sound scary, it’s really hard to be alone with your thoughts, especially if you aren’t used to it, but once you get used to the idea it can be extremely therapeutic. Take yourself out to a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try. Go to that museum you’ve been wanting to check out. That art opening? Take yourself! When we constantly look for other people to experience things with, we’re sometimes subconsciously settling. We’re worrying about whether or not the other person will enjoy the activity, instead of just spending our time in the moment enjoying it ourselves.  When you do things on your own, you only have to do things that YOU like and enjoy. You can be present in the moment, form your own opinions on the experience, and I believe that’s really important in discovering our true selves. I challenge you to try it once a month. Even if it’s just an hour at a coffee shop you’ve been wanting to try. I promise you’ll end up loving it, and looking forward to your monthly date.

  1. Exercise

Ok, I won’t spend much time on this one, because we all know how important exercise is, but because it is important, I wanted to touch on it. We all know that exercise releases endorphins, that natural chemical that makes you feel good, and self-love is all about feeling good. Many people get caught up in the word exercise and write it off because they don’t enjoy lifting weights or running, but exercise can be anything that gets you moving and increases your heart rate. Yoga, walking, rollerblading, dancing with your kids, all of that is exercise, so find something you really enjoy doing and dedicate just thirty minutes to it a day.

  1. Meditate

Meditation has started to become more mainstream, which I’m loving, but I still feel that people have a skewed idea of what meditation is, and the time it takes. Put simply, meditation is just focusing on the moment that you’re in while you’re in it. Seems simple and complicated at the same time, right? I promise you, once you start it won’t be as complicated as it seems. There are a million ways that you can go about meditation, but if you have access to a smartphone, I recommend trying the Headspace app. It’s available in the Android marketplace or on the iTunes store, and the app itself is free to download. Once you download the app you can get ten days for free, which I think gives you a really great base, and a good idea of what meditation looks like. After the ten days, you can continue to use Headspace by paying for a subscription, or you can start meditating on your own with your new found skills. If you don’t want to mess with Headspace, there are also tons of resources on YouTube that you can check out, but I really believe that Headspace and apps like it (Calm, Aura, etc)  give you the most education about meditation, and lays it out beautifully with really zero effort on your part, outside of the whole meditation part of course.

So, now that you have a few tips on how to make your relationship with yourself the best it can be, try them out! Set some goals, maybe focus on just one of these each week. Start to create a healthy relationship with yourself and see how your life changes!


Work Stress & Self-Care

How does one cope with too much work, little help, and no time to do their mounting tasks? Through coaching I consistently hear employees tell me about low job satisfaction. Work is their number one source of stress in their life and carries out into other areas leading to low life-satisfaction.

“I have no time to work out.”
“If I had one word to describe my eating habits it would be ‘quick’.”
“Work is constantly on my mind, distracting me from time with my family.”
“I blink and my entire day is gone.”

And as much as a simple answer could be to quit their jobs, it isn’t so simple after all. Everyone has bills to pay, relationships they have made within the workplace, and face the risk of starting over while many may enjoy large pieces of their jobs. So we have this complex issue of increased stress leading to increased risk factors for things like cardiovascular disease, decreased fulfillment, and no real answer to fix it due to life’s high demands.

Because this blog is not for my recommendations of the complex situation for employers to aide in creating a lower stress environment for their employees, I am going to focus on you: the workers. How do you keep up with life’s high demands inside and outside the workplace? How do you develop healthy habits and keep a job you may have worked quite hard to obtain?

Developing healthy coping strategies takes cognitive effort. If it were something you could do outside of cognitive thought, you probably would have been doing it already. As a species, we run as efficiently as possible already but unfortunately this is a piece we still have to think about. However, once we develop the strategies needed for self-care, it becomes less necessary to be intentional about it and more habitual.

Now, I break up stress into two separate categories: the first being that immediate stress, the “here and now” stress, the “my chest hurts and my head is spinning” stress. The second being that mounting and constant stress, like a consistent dull noise in the back of your head. Below you will see some ideas to help cope with each type.

The immediate stress:
• Remove yourself from the situation for five minutes
• Close your eyes and take 3 slow breaths: 7 seconds in, 10 seconds out.
• Plug in your music and listen to one song you love
• Get a stress ball
The consistent stress:
• Go for a walk, exercise
• Get enough sleep
• Limit Caffeine intake
• Plan a weekend
• Do something you enjoy; volunteer, read a book, etc.

Coping with the consistent stress helps decrease the times of that “immediate stress” feeling. So developing a good self-care plan will lower those intense feelings. Now, you’re probably thinking – “Jess, if I have time I would have already been doing this! This doesn’t answer my question at all.” My answer? Find five minutes in your day. Then find ten. Increase your moments of self-care by five minutes a week until you can somehow find 20-30 minutes in your day. This does not need to be all at once, scatter it if you need to. But I promise, once you do you will not regret it! Your physical body, your emotional body, heck – even your work will all thank you!


-Coach Jess

Fresh Beginnings

If I were to be completely honest with you, I would fill you in on a little secret.  Pregnancy and me are NOT best friends.  


Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve never been faced with nine months of morning sickness, puking, hemorrhoids or bed rest.   No, I’d actually say I am a pretty healthy mama to be, all things considering.  I just don’t really enjoy it.  There’s the unexplainable exhaustion, all day long.  The weird cravings that strike at random times during the day, the swollen ankles, constant peeing and back pain to name just a few of the lovely side effects.  I could write a whole blog on my complaint department but that’s not really why I’m here.  


What I am learning to appreciate with each new pregnancy is the humility it teaches me as a fitness instructor.  Yes, I said it.  Truly understanding what it feels like to start from scratch and begin from ground zero.  I have been teaching fitness for almost 15 years now and while I can modify most everything for everyone, I tend to forget how intimidating and hard exercise can be, if you are completely new.  And so I start all over again, after baby #3.  


It’s kind of like riding a bike.  The first few weeks are painful, mentally exhausting and to be honest, intentionally challenging to stick with as a caregiver.  You definitely need to have some WHY-power fueling your motivation day after day!  And the other driving factor for anyone post baby is to start figuring out when all this weight is going to come off, right?  Things have shifted, things don’t work the same and you just don’t feel comfortable in your skin anymore.  Here are a few lessons I am learning this month that I thought I might share with you…new mom or new to getting healthy:


  1. Be patient.  It took nine PLUS months to put the weight on, so allow yourself some grace.  You just created a human and it takes time to rebuild habits, routines and old muscles back into shape.  Instead of focusing on the scale, focus on daily habits.  Create a 30-day calendar and mark off all the days that you can stick with your water intake, a plank (or two), a 10-minute walk outdoors or eating a salad.  These simple but powerful habits will build your confidence for the long haul!  Once you hit that 30-day goal, celebrate your progress!  (I might suggest doing something out of the house like a pedicure or massage, but online shopping works too!) 
  2. Build your core from the inside out!  I’m not talking crunches here but simply holding an isometric contraction in your gut, as if someone is going to punch you.  Try this throughout the day….take a nice deep breath in and then as you exhale, try to pull your belly button towards your spine and “hollow” out your belly.  Hold for 5-10 seconds and then release.  Do this for 5 minutes in the morning and at night.  Better yet, as you hold the contraction, practice your kegels at the same time (as if you have to go to the bathroom really bad and need to hold it in!)  These pelvic floor muscles are critical to helping you get back in shape sooner than later!  In fact, after six weeks of recovery, I would highly recommend trying out a Pilates class with us at Allegro Coaching, either in studio or in one of our online programs!   
  3. Sneak in some meal prep during nap time.  I always try to make it a game and see if I can prep at least one meal in 20 minutes or less.  (That usually gives me another 20 minutes left to still shower or enjoy a cup of coffee!)  Recently, I hosted a FREE 7-day clean eating week with other busy moms and shared my healthiest recipes that are vegetarian, easy and tasty!   Not only will it help you feel accomplished, great nutrition is so important for more energy during the day, for you AND baby!  Below is one of our staple meals during the week….Curried Cauliflower Heaven!  Heck, even my older kids will eat this one so you know it’s a hit!  (If you want to jump into my next 7-day clean eating week program, message me here and I’ll be sure you get ALL my favorite meal ideas!

Losing The Last 10 Pounds…

Before I opened the studio, I actually had a go at teaching pre and post natal fitness in the Grand Rapids community. I soon realized that screaming babies in strollers was not my thing, but I did learn a few things about patience, which every parent is rudely awakened to, AND to be patient with my own body post-baby. For most moms, we spend nine months accumulating new weight, for a good reason, so we can’t expect it to shed in just 21 days, right?

With any weight loss program, it requires a certain amount of patience, especially if you are going to do it the correct way. Now that Jackson is almost 11 months old, I am FINALLY back to my pre-pregnancy weight and can share some of my top tips for you, in losing that last few (stubborn) pounds! Especially when you get down to the last 5, 10, or 15 pounds you want to lose, the scale may suddenly refuse to budge. You might be tempted to drastically reduce calories or increase the amount of time you spend working out. Don’t do it. Instead, here are some simple tricks to consider…

1) Pump Iron. If you are not already doing it, make the focus of your workout strength training. There is a huge misperception that you need to do lots of cardio to burn calories. Sure, when you do cardio, you burn calories during the activity, but with strength training, you burn calories both during and afterwards for up to 48 hours! This is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) or the more well-know “afterburn”. Resistance training also boosts your metabolism, improves insulin resistance and shuts down the fat-storing enzymes in your body. Just remember that cardio is another form of movement, but you need variety to see results. No one will look his or her best without resistance training, a cornerstone of my training programs. I strength train at least 4 hours a week, including Body Pump, RIPPED, TRX, Pilates and Bootcamp.

2) Bump up the intensity of your workouts. No matter what workout program you’re doing, you will lose weight faster if you kick up the intensity. Jump higher, squat lower, and increase the weight you’re lifting to burn more calories, rev your metabolism, and stoke the fat-burning fire. Don’t just go through the motions; attack your workouts and push harder.

3) Change your exercise routine. If you’ve already increased the intensity of your workout program and still find that your weight loss has slowed, it might be time to try something different. When you perform the same exercises over and over, your body becomes more efficient at them. As a result, you use less energy and burn fewer calories. By starting a new fitness routine, you’ll shock your muscles, reignite your metabolism, and get the scale moving again. Think about which classes you have not tried or what you can do outside of Allegro to compliment your fitness even more!

4) Stand up. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that lean people spend 2 more hours per day on their feet than overweight people. Participants in the study who stood, paced, and fidgeted burned as many as 350 extra calories a day and were much leaner than those who didn’t move as much. Get up from your desk at work, talk on the phone while standing, and stay on your feet in waiting rooms—the simplest effort will yield an extra calorie burn that may help you shed those remaining pounds. As a busy mom, I don’t even know what the concept of sitting is, besides passing out every night when I hit the bed!

5) Drink more water. You may not realize how important water is for weight loss- it’s not just a tool to help you eat less. Being properly hydrated will balance your energy levels, which allows you to exercise with intensity. (Have you ever been so thirsty during a workout that you couldn’t perform as well as usual?) Drinking enough water may also increase your metabolism and promote muscle building—a well-hydrated body can more efficiently repair and build muscles. On the other hand, being dehydrated encourages muscle breakdown. So drink up, especially since you are exercising regularly.

6) Shakeology. It’s not just a fluffy shake or supplement. This stuff is the most nutrient dense meal you will find, ever. Stay fuller longer, reduce your sweet cravings and maximize your workouts. This meal contains your daily dose of pre and probiotics, all your super foods, minerals, vitamins and more. Think of it like 10 fitness classes in ONE workout!

7) Relax. Believe it or not, you may be trying too hard to lose weight. If your workouts are very intense and your diet is too strict, you could overtrain and burn out. Your mind and body will just not respond in the same way when they’re tired. Muscles need rest to repair and grow, and sometimes your brain needs a break from constant calorie counting and worrying about the last few pounds. Instead of becoming frustrated and diving into a box of cookies, try to relax and reduce the intensity for a little while. You may be surprised to find the scale moving again when you give your mind and body a rest.

– Coach Kendra

Stop Seeing Stress As The Enemy

Why we need to Stop Seeing Stress as the Enemy

In today’s high demand world, stress is almost inevitable. We encounter stressors at home, at work, in the news, and in almost every facet of everyday life. And this stress is not without consequences. More and more research is showing that stress is one of the main underlying factors in several diseases and deficiencies as well as digestive issues, weight problems, and even allergies. Stress has become vilified, and we are cautioned to avoid it at all costs by doctors, coaches, friends, and family.

The first time I was told to “reduce” the amount of stress in my life, I embraced the challenge as an attainable goal picturing sunset walks and morning meditation sessions. Then, reality hit and I realized that “reducing” stress is a lot easier said than done. Instead of decreasing the amount of stress, I only transferred it- and in some cases made it worse. Case in point, work. After identifying work as a stressor, I began to cut back-subsequently decreasing my paycheck while increasing my stress over finances. Trying to reduce my stress was stressing me out more than ever before.

What I, and thousands of other individuals, failed to realize is that stress is not the enemy. In fact, stress is often necessary for productivity and survival. The problem arises not with the amount of stress we have, but with our failure to MANAGE it in a healthy and productive way. Our perceptions and coping mechanisms have been recognized by many researchers as the REAL determinate of the negative effects of stress. Learning to manage stress in a healthy way is, therefore one of the most important things we can do to maintain wellness.

Sunset Meditation

Here are five things you can do to manage your stress:

Change your mindset.

Often, stress arises from the emotions and meaning we attach to an event or outcome. Mastering our emotional response to these things is key to the healthy management of stress. You choose how you want to feel about, and react to, any situation.

Practice wellness.

Nourish your mind, body, and soul. Choose nutrient dense and minimally processed foods and drink plenty of water. Exercise. Learn, read, and stay inspired by exposing yourself to a variety of resources and empowering experiences. Take time for yourself in nature and spend times doing what you love with those you love. Remind yourself of what you are grateful for in this life.

Learn to relax.

Calm your nervous system, which is most likely in high gear. Practice meditation, deep breathing, yoga, and/or Tai chi. Spend some time at the spa or getting a massage. Listen to relaxing music and use peaceful imagery. Find what relaxes you, it is not the same for everyone.

Get some sleep.

Not only is sleep essential for proper brain functioning, but it is one of the best ways to “reset” the nervous system. Make your bedroom a peaceful place in which you are able to get quality sleep on a regular basis. Having trouble sleeping? Kick the electronics out of the bedroom and avoid any stimulating activities, foods, or beverages within 1 hour of going to bed. Many things affect your sleep quality, so be prepared to adjust the lighting, temperature, and furniture positioning.

Get it out.

Sometimes we just need to vent. Write about it, talk about it, paint a picture or write a song. Talking to a friend or loved one not only reinforces social connection, but also helps us to work through our stressors with someone we trust.

Remember, you have the power to choose the way you think. It’s time to stop seeing stress as an enemy. Choose to change your mind about stress and you will then change the way your body reacts to it.

Find a great talk on how to make stress your “friend” instead of your enemy here: http://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend?language=en

– Coach Karina

Seeing True Beauty- A Healthy Body Image

Most of the clients I get to coach are women, but for those of you who are not, this STILL applies to you!

Women, in general, are their WORST critic when it comes to seeing themselves as beautiful.  We are so critical of our OWN flaws, but when asked to describe our best friend or co-worker, we point out all of their most positive and beautiful characteristics.  Think about it, when was the last time you wrote down all the things you truly LOVE about you?  This got me thinking about the conversations we have during coaching and how we have a tendency to practice negative self-talk.  It’s true.  We have ongoing conversations with ourselves and if you pause long enough, you will hear that conversation inside.  What does that voice say to you, repeatedly throughout your day?  Is it your greatest cheerleader or your biggest critic?  With more awareness, are you able to shift that conversation to be more uplifting and encouraging, whether that be during your next workout, on your way into work or as you spend the day with family?  I have found it helpful to develop a mantra you say repeatedly through your day- a favorite quote, bible verse, positive affirmation, etc.

Also, at some point in this journey, it is important to stop worrying so much about the number on the scale and accept who you are and the beauty you radiate to others.  Some of the most beautiful, intriguing women I know are not a size 4.  They are amazing, strong and confident women. They are positive and carry themselves with grace.  They don’t dwell on always wanting to lose weight.  They know how to wear clothing that accentuates their best places and they are healthy because they are strong.  Where are YOU this week with accepting your beauty, inside and out?  Are you making progress or still fixated on the scale to define your worth?  Yes, being at a healthy weight is important to your overall health, but being HAPPY is what life is all about.

Recently, I watched a power video that shows how quick we are to point out our flaws and not our natural beauty.  Check this out and share your comments below.  What did it teach you?  Can you relate? http://realbeautysketches.dove.us/

– Coach Kendra