The Single State Of Mind.

The Single State Of Mind.

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For most of my partnered-up adult life, Valentine’s Day was a bit like prom: lots of hype, tons of expectation, and kind of a let down when it finally arrived. They felt extravagant or forced, like some sort of obligation I was supposed to be totally into but was only kind-of-sort-of invested in. Basically, the exact opposite of what all those cards and Sex & The City episodes told me February 14th should be like.

In contrast, my single-gal Valentine’s Days were a blast and a half. In high school I spent my freshman and sophomore years with red on my lips and hearts drawn on my fingernails (in black polish, but I digress), passing out glittery stickers and love notes to my friends between classes. My freshman year of college, my mom sent a basket of cookies and mini-muffins to my dorm, and later that evening we all went out to dinner at a janky strip-mall sushi place where the lighting was harsh and the laughter was plenty.

As relationships came and went, a small part of me felt a little bit bummed that my Valentine’s Days had fallen prey to romantic involvement instead of a fun time with my single friends and family.

But wait…that’s backwards, right?

 


We give a big heap of power to romantic relationships in our culture. So much power, in fact, that it can seem like our romantic relationships shouldn’t just dictate our overall happiness, but dictate our sense of self-worth. “Are you seeing anyone?” has become an oft-used tentpole in the basecamp of banal conversation, and way too often a single gal (or guy, or human, because the urge to matchmake transcends gender) is viewed as ripe to be paired off.

And then. Even when we’re IN relationships, the question isn’t so much about the whos and whys but the whats and whens. Pop songs, movies, TV shows, and magazines tell us that being coupled is a means to an end, and there’s always a new end to strive toward.

We’ve all heard the cliché that “you need to love yourself before you can love others.” But it’s also true that loving yourself should never, ever, ever be about laying the groundwork for someone else to come and swoop in. Being single isn’t about not having a partner – it’s about learning how to be your own best teammate. And that state of mind will follow you throughout your entire life, no matter who else comes into the picture.

Just like being “taken” doesn’t mean you’re someone else’s property, being single doesn’t mean you’re up for grabs. The difference involves another person, but the common commitment should always involve the one you have to yourself.

Little disclaimer: I know couples who have been together since they were 16. My grandparents, aka living breathing heart-eye emojis, were high school sweethearts (granted, they each got married, then divorced, then found each other again later in life – so technically, they had a big old break in the middle of their romance, but still). There are a good number of couples out there who found their “person” early on in life and have created loving, open, equal partnership that’s lasted them a lifetime. And that’s beautiful.

But for most of us, that’s not the case. We experience a multitude of romantic relationships in our lives – both brief and prolonged – and therefore have a plethora of opportunities to check in and evaluate who we are when we’re going solo. Not all of us take these opportunities, but they are always there.

Without prolonged periods of time to ourselves – whether that be months or years – how can we ever develop that deep sense of self-knowledge that fuels our dreams? How can we hone the craft of fine-tuning our intuition and gut feelings so that no matter who or what comes along, we’re able to stay true to who we are at our core? By casting aside those moments, we’re sending ourselves the subconscious message that who we are alone is not enough.

Being single isn’t a relationship status, it’s a mindset. We each get to choose what that mindset means to us.

What kind of stuff does the word “single” bring up for you? Is it along the lines of unlovable, incomplete, alone? Or rather, is it a sense of freedom, bravery, and fearless independence? The way we view our single self is ultimately how we will view our coupled self – in both our highest highs and our lowest lows. What a blessing it is to be able to experience both of these emotional extremes on our own, so that when another person comes along (if we should be open to them coming along, of course), we know for a fact that our love comes from a place of want, not need. We know that we want their love in order to enhance our life… not that we need their love in order to define it.

So, spoiler alert… I’m not single any more. And I haven’t been for a few years now. Bigger spoiler, I’m married. I know, I know… what kind of business do I have writing about singledom, then? A lot. Because even though my husband most certainly has enhanced my ME-ness more than I can even express, he is NOT my crutch.

I had a long (5 years!) time before he came along to solidify my relationship with myself, so everything he has to offer is the best-ever cherry on top. It was in that period of time that I committed over and over again to the most important relationship in my life – my relationship with myself – and I didn’t let myself off the accountability hook once.


These last few years have been the first time I’ve actually enjoyed Valentines Days – and it’s not because I’ve found “my person.” It’s because my Valentine’s Days have morphed back into what they were in the past: a day to celebrate love of all kinds. I wear red lipstick because I want to, I spend time with my friends because I love to, I call my mom and pass out stickers because it makes me happy. Sometimes I go out to a fancy dinner with Jeremy, sometimes we watch Friends reruns in our pajamas at 5 p.m, sometimes we’re not even together so I send him carrot cake in his hotel room and I go out with a friend or spend the night in.

But no matter what, I make sure to reflect on how wonderful it feels to live my life on my own terms, and how grateful I am for that time I had sans partnership to figure out what those terms actually meant to me without the influence of someone else.

It’s a liberating feeling when you realize that the one constant in your life – yourself – is someone you’ve grown to love more than you though was possible. Click To Tweet

Your “single” years are precious. You have your entire life to be surrounded by other people in whatever capacity you choose, whether a lasting romance or a fleeting fling. A Single State Of Mind will serve you no matter who enters or exits your path. Friends and lovers will come and go. It’s a liberating feeling when you realize that the one constant in your life – yourself – is someone you’ve grown to love more than you though was possible. And that that person is not going away no matter what.

 

 

Let It Go: The Most Productive Formula For Your New Year’s Resolutions.

Let It Go: The Most Productive Formula For Your New Year’s Resolutions.

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Doesn’t it sound sexy to say what you’re “leaving behind” in the new year? To make a list of what you’re going to stop doing in 2020?

I know it does. I’ve done that before: written down the things I’m leaving behind, burned them in a fireplace, the whole dramatic deal.

But it’s not that simple. We‘re all human – living not just our high highs and low lows but a whole full spectrum of experience every day. Change is never as easy as leaving something behind and never looking back. Even amongst the most “enlightened” of us, it’s very likely we’ll inevitably be confronted with or fall back into an old pattern we thought we were done with. Best case scenario, we learn to mindfully navigate the situation and pattern differently each time around. But even so – it’s a two-steps-forward, one-step-back kind of deal. Practice makes progress, not perfect.

What’s more likely is what happens to 80% of us: we take that one step back and shame ourselves into submission. When we live in extremes, we don’t leave room for the in-betweens, the lessons learned in those tougher moments. We tell ourselves we’re “so bad,” we messed up, we’re a failure, we can’t do this, and so on and so forth blah blah blah. The moment we create ultimatums in our minds is the moment we set ourselves up for shame and self-doubt in the long run.

In my own work and life, I talk a lot about LETTING GO instead of LEAVING BEHIND. Feels more like accountability to me. Controlling what you can and only what *you* can. Recognizing that something can (and probably will) pop back into your life but you get to choose whether you pick it up or not.

When I coach people to let go of something – a thought, a feeling, a belief, a situation, a person – I always try to frame it so that they’re letting go of it in order to make space for something else SPECIFIC.

Because the thing is: the second you STOP, QUIT, or LEAVE BEHIND…what’s gonna fill that space? If you don’t know what you’re fighting for, you’re going to end up right back where you began with what you’re fighting against…at the most basic level, if only because it’s familiar.

Try this way more productive formula throughout the year, but especially now as you reflect and project in Resolution Mode:

I am letting go of ((how something affects you or why you do what you do)), so I can ((what that thing holds you back from doing)).

Examples…

    • INSTEAD OF “I will stop putting others before myself.”
    • TRY “I will let go of my need to please others, so I can make room for myself.”
    • INSTEAD OF “I am leaving behind toxic people.”
    • TRY “I am letting go of excusing bad behavior at my own expense, so I can live out MY journey exactly as it’s intended to unfold.”
    • INSTEAD OF “I will quit negative self-talk.”
    • TRY “I am letting go of my limiting beliefs, so that I can feel confident and grounded.”

Notice this formula doesn’t say you will always do or feel or be that thing you say you’ve been held back from doing/feeling/being. Just like there’s no ultimatums for the negatives, there’s no ultimatums for the positives. The point is to make space and define what you want that space to hold. Not to always make room for yourself, or live out your own journey, or feel confident and grounded, or whatever you created space for. But to state clearly: this is what I want, this is what I’m willing to fight for.

Burn your regrets in the fireplace if you want. Make a dramatic statement if it feels good. But make sure you do this, too. Just know that you’re a person in progress – and your life will be one long loop of letting things go and picking things up along the way. You might not get to choose what enters your world, but you sure as hell can choose what you do with it.


WANT Yourself: 
Now you: What are you letting go of, and what are you making space for?

 

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How To Listen To Your Body.

How To Listen To Your Body.

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Q: Katie, how do I listen to my body?

 

A:

To listen to your body, you must get INTO your body.

Like slipping on the noise-proof earbuds you got last Christmas.

From the outside it’s wires and plastic – from the inside, a cacophony. Only you can hear the music, does that make it any less real?

Slip inside your skin and drop into your heart instead of your brain. Why has it taken so long for you to try them out?

To listen to your body, you must get INTO your body. Click To Tweet

To listen to your body, to really listen, you MUST interact with it first.

Whether you run or box or bike or bridge-pose, you must feel the way your body moves, and navigate it in space, over and over and over again.

You must take a step, then another, then another, then realize you’re walking. You must twist, you must bend, you must use the range of motion biology handed you and if you’re unable to you must simply breathe.

Feel the rise and fall of your chest, over and over. See how far it can expand and how it melts when you push the air out. Feel the wonder that is the jigsaw puzzle of your Personhood.

 

To listen to your body, to TRULY listen, you must acknowledge its nuance. You must notice the way your joints glide, the way your shoulders tighten, the way you do that thing with your wrists every time you feel anxious. You must listen with your limbs, your lungs, your organs, your nails. You must listen with the things that cannot hear but can work together to decode the tiniest sighs of joy and biggest cries for help and all the other stuff in between.


So no, you can’t learn to listen to your body by THINKING about how the plate you ate made you mentally feel.
You can’t learn to listen to your body by THINKING about your perfect form or precise protocols or even by measuring the sweat pools under your gym machine of choice.

Nope – to listen to your body, you must be IN your body first. When we move our muscles, we manage our mindset. When we workout our bodies, we work out our roadblocks.

We ask how to listen. It’s no wonder we’re met with silence.

Because you can’t truly hear your body’s voice without acknowledging where that voice is coming from.

Gym Face: Skin Shame In The Fitness Industry

Gym Face: Skin Shame In The Fitness Industry

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There aren’t many more powerful places to shift people’s perceptions of their physicality than in the gym. It’s part of the reason fitness was so appealing to me when I first got started. I could give a shit about how many lunges you can do or if you can do them at all. I give lots of shits about your self-image.

As a leader in the space, it’s part of my job to model to you what’s called “good form.” Sure, this means I can show you how to do that proper lunge I don’t give a shit about. But more importantly, it also means I carry myself in a way I hope you’ll carry yourself too. With pride, empathy, and awareness – right down to the skin you’re in.

~

When I started teaching fitness classes, I was ashamed of my skin. I saw the people I admired in the industry in ads, on television, in magazines, and on social media, and I felt as if I didn’t look the part. I didn’t feel like I had the ideal body, the coolest clothes…and I most certainly did NOT have that silky-smooth skin I thought everyone else had.

And so I not only doubled down on my product use, I wore makeup to class to cover up my perceived flaws. Spoiler, wearing makeup while you sweat is a recipe for clogged pores and very unhappy skin. So obviously, it just got worse. Not to mention, I was a broke 20something to begin with, and trying to fix my insecurities just made me broker. I felt shame around my skin, I felt shame around the bank account I mismanaged in order to try and pay for the products I used to un-shame myself from my skin. There are a lot of myths around being “someone from Los Angeles”…but I can tell you the stereotype of aspirational skincare is very real. Not only could I not keep up with the facials, peels, and products I believed I needed, but I felt like a fitness industry failure for not looking like the perfect version of health.

It wasn’t until I read Adina Grigore’s book, Skin Cleanse, that I realized that the perfect skin is the skin you’re in. I’d been overloading my system with SO many products over the years and had been wearing so much foundation and concealer to literally mask my insecurities, that I didn’t even know what my skin’s natural M.O. was.

The second I stopped piling on the products and stopped wearing makeup to teach is the second I really truly found my voice and stepped up my game in the fitness world. Coincidence? Maybe. But I’d like to think it had something to do with the fact that I wasn’t covering anything up anymore, literally and figuratively.

 

The perfect skin is the skin you’re in. Click To Tweet

 

I often think about the rise of body positivity in the fitness industry. Yes, it’s FAR from perfect, but it’s gotten so much better than when I started teaching over a decade ago. Body positivity is the norm not the exception, and the idea of working out for happiness, energy, and mental health is becoming way more mainstream. 

But just like anything we spend our dollars on, fitness is an industry. An industry that all too often banks on us feeling bad in order to sell us feeling good.

I wonder, with the skincare industry being as huge as it is, and apps like FaceTune and Photoshop being as accessible and easy to use as they are…will the shape of our skin be the thing the industry banks on in order to keep us coming back?

Will “Perfect Skin” become the new “Perfect Body”?

Is Skin Positivity one of the final sneaky Body Positivity frontiers out there – too subtle to be addressed but obvious enough to make us feel badly about ourselves on the regular?

I don’t have control over an entire industry, but I have control over what I do on my own platforms, literal and figurative. I no longer wear any makeup to teach my classes or to workout on my own. I’m older now, so I’ve got a few fine lines and eye circles and hyperpigmentation.

But if I’m not accepting of myself, in the skin I’m in, how can I ever expect anyone else to be? I’m not in love with my skin all of the time, but I’m too committed to modeling “good form” to let it distract me.

If you’d have told teenage-me I’d willingly get in front of hundreds of people a week with a spotlight on my naked face, I would have shuddered. If you’d have told 14 year-old me I’d be spotlighted on The Cut (bare-faced, in a VIDEO) talking about my skin, I would have straight-up laughed in your face. But I’m so grateful to know my classes and managers don’t care, and so grateful to know there are highly visible pop-culture publications just as dedicated as I am to busting open the myth that the way your skin looks is some sort of indication of how fit you are.


Skin Shame and Skincare Privilege is a real thing – but I’m here to tell you that you do NOT need to spend a ton of money or have airbrushed-flawless skin to glow from the inside out.
Take off the foundation. Let your pores breathe as deep as you breathe during a breathless push or a spinal twist. Model good form. Let’s break the skin shame together.

 

Success Beyond Your 30s, Big Little Lies, and More: August Roundup

Success Beyond Your 30s, Big Little Lies, and More: August Roundup

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I’ve been trying to find ways to use my voice to amplify others’ beyond simply a social media post – because not all of us are on social, and what’s more, social media moves so fast that it’s likely you’ll miss something.

And so this monthly roundup, combined with our new WANTcast strategy of replacing most of the sponsor spots with a do-good organization we want to highlight, is a way to do that. It’s a way to share other voices, opinions, and perspectives that can help you in some way, whether it’s questioning the status quo, opening your eyes to new viewpoints, introducing you to incredible visionaries, or becoming more proactive in your day to day life. (To get these delivered straight to your inbox, fill out the form below)

 

AUGUST ROUND-UP: THE (GOOD) WORD ON THE STREET


I don’t know about you (actually, I do, because you’ve told me!), but I lived most of life believing I needed to be a prodigy or wunderkind in order to truly make a lasting impact – or at least make anything remotely worthwhile. I even wrote about it when I turned 30. This article from Forbes about how female entrepreneurs actually get BETTER with age is so encouraging, to the past, present, and future versions of myself.

Fitness is a way to get us comfortable with the uncomfortable – and process our emotions. If you’ve watched Big Little Lies and noticed the running motif, you’ll love this analysis by Voxh/t to Natalia Petrzela for this one

I LOVE this article on the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics blog about sports, the female form, Magan Rapinoe, and finding the joy in the bodies we have.

Legends interviewing legends! The luminous Ashley C. Ford interviews Missy Elliott in Marie Claire about her newest album, and it’s a masterpiece.

Bethany C. Meyers shares about their non-binary journey on Shape. This was one of my favorite personal essays of the summer. Bravo, Bethany.

Speaking of my favorites…I was STANDING UP AND CHEERING as I read this article by Shauna Harrison asking people to stop asking their fitness instructors for nutrition advice (and explaining why). 

Want a long but worthwhile read? This piece on “athleisure, barre, and kale” on The Guardian is it. It might make you feel some uncomfortable reactions, but it’s a think-piece that will, well, get you thinking about how we as women get “trapped at the intersection of capitalism and patriarchy,” and the makings of the “ideal woman” on social media – namely, Instagram.

I’ve been catching up on Red Table Talk – have you been watching? Jada Pinkett Smith sits down with her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris and daughter Willow Smith, and together they discuss (many times with the help of guests) some of the toughest topics: infidelity, interracial adoption, porn, polyamory, motherhood, and so much more. This episode unpacking white privilege and prejudice is a MUST-watch.



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Breaking Out Of Negative Cueing

Breaking Out Of Negative Cueing

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I’VE BEEN teaching group fitness classes for over a decade – way before it was trendy and cool, and definitely way before “fitpros” were the new It celebrities they are right now. This was back when  people thought “spinning” classes meant twirling around in circles for 45 minutes, and when that one old friend of mine so casually commented, “You’re not planning on becoming the ‘exercise girl’ for the rest of your life, are you?”

The industry has changed a lot since I began, but the thing that’s remained at the core of fitness is that it’s rarely ever truly about the fitness part alone. What we do in the gym is practice for what we do out in the world – and fitness advice is life advice disguised in sweat and squat-jumps.

Fitness advice is life advice disguised in sweat and squat-jumps. Click To Tweet

WHENEVER WE’RE working out, we’re shifted into a vulnerable state. Whether we’re doing vinyasas or vying for a new running PR, our breath deepens, our heart starts beating faster, and we’re thrust (or eased gently from a seated cross-legged position) into a state of self-imposed stress. And let me clarify: not all stress is ultimately BAD. It’s what we do within those moments of stress that stick with us. It’s the stress that gets us vulnerable, and the vulnerability that allows us to be open to shifting for better or worse in the long run.

And so if fitness advice is really life advice, then what we say (and how we say it) as leaders in that space matters. A lot.

Because what you hear is what you will internalize, and what you internalize will be the language you use out in the world to speak to others and yourself, way after you’ve gone on with your day.

NEGATIVE CUEING is a term used in fitness that generally describes any sort of phrasing that uses what you don’t want to happen as the main motivator. Think, “don’t arch your back.”

Negative cueing isn’t just saying “Don’t do X,” though. Negative cueing is anything that makes the person listening feel like who and how they are isn’t enough.

~
Negative cueing can look like…

  • It’ll be over soon (implying the current experience is worth skipping over)
  • I know you hate me right now (they probably don’t, but you just planted the seed that maybe they should)
  • Burn off that happy hour! (equates what you eat to how much you need to exercise, and that exercise should be food-motivated)
  • Ladies grab X weight, Men grab X weight (not everyone identifies as a “lady” or “man” and therefore you run the risk of people feeling left out – also this reinforces sexist assumptions; I know many women who can out-lift men ANY day)
  • You can do better than that! (um. maybe that IS their best??)
  • That’s not good enough, give more! (along the same lines; this might be their best work – but also shames the work they’re doing)
  • I know you want to fit into those new jeans / get that summer six-pack/ etc (implies everyone who works out is dissatisfied with how they look – and, moreover, probably should be)
  • Don’t give up (implies the person was going to give up at some point)
  • You know you can SMILE (omg please don’t force me to smile – give me something to smile about and I will)
  • I know you want to quit, but… (no, I actually did not, please don’t underestimate me) 

    i did this shoot, in this shirt i owned, within the first five years of teaching. while i still think the photos turned out badassedly, i don’t believe that “work harder” (printed here in reverse so you can read it in the mirror – cool concept for sure) is the best way to motivate someone to work harder.

Negative cueing can also look like self-deprecation in order to “connect.” Stuff like sharing with your clients/students/members how much you hate your thighs or how much you ate last night and need to “burn off.” Might feel cute or “down-to-earth” in the moment, but it’s reinforcing a dangerous epidemic we already fall prey to of bonding over negativity.

It doesn’t matter how “inspiring” you are or what cute tweetables you’ve got lined up to sprinkle throughout your class. If you’re not modeling self-acceptance, self-love, and what the journey TOWARD that actually looks like, your words are just words.

 

IF YOU’RE STILL reading this, are not a fitness professional, and wonder how or why this applies to you…think of all the times we cue negatively in our own lives. We do it to ourselves, and we do it to each other. We think we’re offering advice, being helpful, or inspiring someone else – but the hard truth is, it doesn’t matter how good your intentions are if your impact is creating a shame loop in someone else.

It doesn't matter how good your intentions are if your impact is creating a shame loop in someone else. Click To Tweet

Anyone can study the objective facts. Anyone can teach a class or train a client. Literally. Anyone. You can buy the course online. But the way you talk, act, and live is what actually makes a difference in someone’s life in the long run. For better or worse.

 


Here are some alternatives for the negative cueing above:

Instead of: It’ll be over soon!
Try: Can you give your all to this moment? (implying the current experience is one worth having)

Instead of: I know you hate me right now…
Try: I’m your biggest fan right now (lets them know you’re their ally)

Instead of: Burn off that happy hour!
Try: Literally just not talking about food. Just…don’t do it.

Instead of: Ladies grab X weight, Men grab X weight.
Try: Grab a weight that feels (insert a feeling or a number of reps you’d like them to perform with said weight, so they can gage what they need for themselves). If you don’t know what that is, call me over and I can help you figure it out.

Instead of: You can do better than that!
Try: If you were to give your all, what would that look like? (ask a question and have them come up with the answer themselves!)

Instead of: That’s not good enough, give more!
Try: Can you maintain your work…or even surprise yourself by giving just a little more? (emphasizes the work they’re in as good enough, while giving an option to go farther if they can)

Instead of: I know you want to fit into those new jeans / get that summer six-pack/ etc.
Try: How do you want to feel after this workout is over? (redirects focus to a feeling instead of a look)

Instead of: Don’t give up.
Try: Keep going, you’ve got this.

Instead of: You know you can SMILE… 
Try: Not telling people how to react or emote – everyone processes their emotions differently.

Instead of: I know you want to quit, but… 
Try: You’re doing so great. (simple as that!)

~

NOT SURE if your cueing is negative or not? Find a mentor. Ask them to come take your class and keep their ears open for anything that could be improved upon. Not a fitness professional but want to monitor the negative cueing in your own life? Dedicate a week to hyper self-awareness. Maybe even tell a close friend, coworker, roommate, or partner that you want their help in calling out your language.

What we do in the gym is just practice for what we do in life - and I want all the practice I can get. Click To Tweet

Oh…and as for that friend who asked if I was going to be “the exercise girl” for the rest of my life? That comment that made me doubt my path, my abilities, and my legitimacy as a professional adult trying to find her way in the world?

I sure hope so.

I sure hope that, in some capacity, I am up on that podium, all mic’d up, with my words out there in the open for everyone to hear. And if not, I hope I’m going to classes, keeping sweat dates with myself, or lacing up my shoes for a long run. Because what we do in the gym is just practice for what we do in life – and I want all the practice I can get.

 

all photos by jesse deyoung