The Year-Round Bikini Body (Or, I Survived Summer Vacation And All I Got Was This Healthy Perspective)

The Year-Round Bikini Body (Or, I Survived Summer Vacation And All I Got Was This Healthy Perspective)

Body Most Popular Posts Motivation + Inspiration

It’s that time of year again: bikini markdown season.

Just weeks ago, I was rushing to Target hours before vacation time, rotating 8-item-max after 8-item-max in and out of my 8-item-max dressing room just hoping to find a cut, color, and style that looked halfway decent on my apparently not-adequately-prepped-for-bikini-season bikini body. This is supposed to be the pinnacle of my hard work! I thought. This is supposed to be the moment of glory!

And yet I just hadn’t cared enough to overhaul my routine in the weeks prior, leaving me crossing every finger and toe hoping there’d be something that was somewhat acceptable to wear. Because as I’ve always been told by ads and media – along with the rest of America’s female population – if I don’t put in the work beforehand, I’m certainly not bikini-ready.

It’s almost hard to believe that mere weeks ago, so many of us were gazing longingly at the swimwear section with visions of goal-bodies and “I’ll wear that whens” dancing around in our heads. Now, those same barely-there strips of spandex give us the side-eye from their 40% off racks, mocking the fact that we’re back to where we started. And if we’re not, then we’ll surely be there soon. That’s what New Years Resolutions are for. Obviously.

before i cared about bikinis.
it’s all about the one-piece, really. circa ’95

The idea of preparing for a certain “body” – a bikini body, a spring break body, a holiday bod – is what industries are built on. They pressure us into feeling like we’re not ready, we’re not prepared, and certainly not well equipped to handle all the alleged pressures that come with vacationing. In the ’40s and ’50s, bikinis were a sign of rebellion – now, they’re symbolic of a goal that’s been accomplished. A bikini isn’t just an article of clothing, it’s a trophy you earn for doing things “right.” We’re supposed to work HARD to wear that bikini, dammit!, and we’re supposed to hate ourselves if we don’t. We’re supposed to ramp up our workouts before a vacation, and shame ourselves if we “fall off the wagon” before it’s over.

Maybe it’s just me, but don’t we have enough going on in our lives that can make us feel like we’re screw-ups? We didn’t get our car serviced on time. We missed that noon deadline. We forgot to text our friend back and messed up our plans. The very last thing we need is to make ourselves feel like we’re in the wrong, for something that affects no one but us, for something completely in our control, and for a “right” that we ultimately define for ourselves.

Here’s a thought: what if there WAS no wagon to fall off or get on? What if there was no bikini body, no spring break body, no holiday dress-ready bod?

What if feeling good in our skin wasn’t just a seasonal treat – what if it was a year-round reality?

The aforementioned trip I took back in July was my first summer vacation in five (I know) years. No summer vacation in 5 years = no bikini, which therefore = no “bikini body.” In the weeks leading up to my five-day getaway, I found myself feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. Work was crazed, mornings were rushed, and nights were late almost every day of the week.

I’m not exercising enough. I’m eating past 7pm. Maybe I should do a juice cleanse?

The thoughts that wish-washed in and out of my mind started to pile up, creating anxiety around a trip that was literally just about the sit-back-and-relax. That’s when I found myself in Target less than 24 hours before leaving, hoping that I’d find something I’d feel somewhat decent in. Because there’s this idea that we’re not supposed to feel good in a bikini if we haven’t beaten ourselves to a pulp beforehand. Which I certainly had missed out on.

Most sites and magazines will talk about “the bikini body” right before summer starts – but it’s actually more important we talk about it NOW that summer’s calmed down and closing up shop.

There’s actually a lot of positive to take from this if we dig deep: for a few weeks out of the year, we strive to be our healthiest selves. If we just focused on what we really want instead of what we think we want, this kind of thing could actually change our lives.

What do we REALLY want when we say we want a bikini body, then?

We don't necessarily want to LOOK different - we want to FEEL different about the way we look. Click To Tweet

Sometimes this means letting go of the few pounds those late nights packed on. Sometimes that means gaining muscle on top of our frame. Sometimes that means adding a little softness where there was rigidity. But these are not the main event; they’re the supporting players in this varsity game of Feeling Good. Think about it: if we felt good about how we looked, would we really want to change it?

The goal, then, is not to exercise or eat differently – it’s to figure out what makes you feel your best and go from there.

Let me tell you, I did not ramp up my workouts or change my diet drastically – actually, at all – before my bikini body vacay. Because every day, summer or otherwise, I strive to feel good about myself and in myself. It frees up brain space to devote myself and my energy to other things. Like my relationships, career, through line, and passions. Things that sometimes become eclipsed when those feeling-bad feelings take control.

I didn’t do one thing differently to prep for this vacation, even though I know I could have to have been .001% more tighter or toned or whatever you’d associate with a bikini body.

And guess what.

I had a blast. In a bikini.

A bikini.

On my body.

I’m not saying there isn’t validity in eating a little bit cleaner before you go away, or in a post-vacation detox after you’ve had a little too much to eat/drink/keep you up all night for a few days on end. Hell, I’m there right now! I don’t feel *great* but I know I will soon. Instead of trying to find quick fixes and panicking about deadlines, our goal should be to establish a healthy foundation at a neutral time so it’s there for us to fall back on when we ARE feeling out of sorts.

Come December, we’re going to be going on holiday vacations, then after that, there’s “spring break” season, then after that we’re back into summer. The cycle will never stop, and if we’re being truly honest here, neither will the ads and sales that tell us we need to get our butts into gear. There will always be something to “get ready” for, but that doesn’t mean YOU need to “get ready” for it. Focus on health and happiness year-round, and I promise you, you’ll never need to worry about overhauling your whole routine and sending yourself on a roller-coaster.

How we FEEL about something ultimately determines how it LOOKS to us. Feel good for you, and you’ll look good for you. Feel hot on the inside, and you’ll look hot on the outside. You are the only opinion that matters.

Your “bikini body” is just your body with a bikini on it.

If you have a bikini, and you have a body, you’re already there.

Easiest game plan ever.

bikini-body-gif
forgot to take a bikini pic for this post. oops. but hey, bikini or not, this bod is a bikini bod….and proud of it.

 

The WANT Shop: 7 Stunning Yoga Essentials For Self Love On + Off The Mat

The WANT Shop: 7 Stunning Yoga Essentials For Self Love On + Off The Mat

Community The WANT Shop Tips + Tools

Yoga is such a personal thing. While one yogi might love an athletic, fast-paced flow, another might get high off of getting grounded. Whether you're into acro or Ashtanga, hip openers or headstands, Radiohead or Raam Das - there's a flow for that.

This month, I had the honor of featuring two (well, three) yoga powerhouses on WANT: the ladies of Rock Your Bliss (Jacki Carr and Mary Beth LaRue) and body-positive pioneer Jessamyn Stanley. And in getting to know each of these women, it became even more clear to me than ever that no one practice is "right" or "wrong" as long it's authentically you. Yoga isn't about what happens on the outside - it's about what happens on the inside. Click To Tweet

...however, a little bit of outside inspiration never hurt.

There are studies and findings, but you don't need to look farther than your own closet to know that what you wear and what you have can greatly impact your self-perception. I'm all about less-is-more, but I'm also incredibly sentimental and know that what I own is a reflection of who I am. This kind of mindful minimalism, especially when it comes to my yoga gear/fitness gear (#myweakness) keeps me in check and feeling fully self-expressed long after I leave the studio. Here are my personal top 7 faves for self-love on and off the mat:

 

La Vie Boheme Yoga Mats

photo credit: cortnee loren brown for the chalkboard mag
photo credit: cortnee loren brown for the chalkboard mag

By far the most drop-down-dog gorgeous yoga mats I've ever seen in my life. I personally own the Bahar Mat and the Navajo Yoga Rug (pictured above), and they make me smile every single time I unroll them to begin my practice. shop here

 

 

Spiritual Gangster Crop

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One of my favorite brands. So muchso it currently has a monopoly over my closet. I live in this crop. I wear it to work. I wear it to concerts. I wear it to yoga. I wear it to family dinners. Basically, it might as well be my second skin. shop here

Incense, Incense, Incense

photo credit: cortnee loren brown, creative start
photo credit: cortnee loren brown, creative start

I love me some candles, but there is something so special and ritual about lighting a stick of incense. Flicking the match. Gently catching the flame onto the incense. Fanning the smoke a bit until the smoke slowly curls up in ringlets and swirls. That, to me, is yoga. shop here

 

Tiny Devotions x Danielle LaPorte True Desire Mala

truedesiremalaCall me basic hippie-dippie, but I love me some mala action. Not just any mala beads, though - I like my jewelry to have intention behind it. Tiny Devotions is one of my favorite brands - and this collaboration with Danielle LaPorte is gorgeous and simple enough to go with anything. shop here

Electric & Rose Speedway Sports Bra

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I cannot say enough good things about Electric & Rose. Forget the fact that their gear is ridiculously cute, cool, functional, and flattering - they're a local brand with a big, big heart. I love supporting small businesses and startups that are run on a fusion of passion and purpose. In a pretty saturated market, E&R has managed to stand out in the crowd. Fun side note, each item is named after a street in the founders' hometown of Venice Beach (love). shop here

Yogasmoga Vivacity Leggings

vivacity-legging-olivine-gold-1_007Doing the eco-chic fitnesswear thing isn't the simplest thing ever when you sweat buckets (hi). Which is why I was so stoked to discover Yogasmoga last month. I visited the new location in Beverly Hills without knowing much about the brand - and walked out a fan for life. Not only is everything about their company eco-friendly and responsibly made (right down to the reclaimed wood they use to build out their stores), their activewear is both fierce and flattering. Bonus points for the very WANTy gold accents on these leggs. shop here

Hope Gillerman Stress Remedy

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Essentials oils: yes, they work. And yes, they're game changing. Hope Gillerman is the queen of the essential oil revolution in my eyes, blending scents together perfectly for pretty much anything that might ail you. Her Stress Remedy roll-on is perfect pre-yoga practice - or, let's get real, at work, in traffic, stuck in line at Target on a Sunday... shop here

And Who Would’ve Thought, It Figures: What We Mean When We Say We’re “Fat”

And Who Would’ve Thought, It Figures: What We Mean When We Say We’re “Fat”

Body Tips + Tools

The way we use the word “fat” in our society is pretty lazy.

Kind of like the word “literally.”

Just like “literally” has Alanis-Morisette-ized into a word that usually has nothing to do with the “literal” incarnation of anything, “fat” has morphed into a word that has very little to do with actual body composition. 

There are tons of reasons we say we’re fat that have nothing to do with fatness at all. And this is doing ourselves such a disservice, because it insinuates that “fatness” is at the root of all our problems, and “fatness” is something to be solved. Basically, it insinuates that if we solve our “fatness,” our lives will fall into place. It’s the message media campaigns and entertainment sources want us to believe in order to walk their walk – and here we are talking their talk.

Sometimes fat is a filler word when we don’t know what else to say about something that conjurs up a certain feeling. And sometimes that feeling IS, in fact, physical.

But I’d like to argue that it’s not “fat” we’re feeling.

not ironic.
not ironic. (source)

Today, I’m addressing the flippant use of the F-word, used by people who simply feel a certain way on the inside no matter the exterior. Because no matter what your outsides look like, we can all relate to feeling any of the following: inadequate, uncomfortable, and sometimes – inflammed.

Inflammation is a buzzword right now in the wellness world but its true meaning is still convoluted for the other 99% of the population – meaning the mainstream vocabulary hasn’t yet caught on. Think of it this way: inflammation in your body is like a black-and-blue bruise, a sign something’s taken a beating and is desperately trying to repair.

Bruises aren’t flesh wounds, and can’t be treated topically (at least to my knowledge). Bruises heal from the inside. It’s the same thing with inflammation.

Based on what I’ve learned in my X years in the wellness industry – coupled with my X years on planet earth – there are a few key points when it comes to what causes your run-of-the-mill, non-medical-condition-related inflammation:

  • Food sensitivities
  • Artificial crap
  • Too little sleep
  • Poor or incomplete digestion
  • And, most importantly, life weight: stress, sadness, grief, anxiety.
not ironic (free ride, already paid)
not ironic. (free, paid)

After realizing that we use FAT as a filler word when we don’t know how to describe the mess that we feel, I started to use another phrase when I was talking to myself: poofy-bodied. It just seemed kinder – and less permanent. And more accurately described the inflammation my body was experiencing.

You wouldn’t poke at a bruise over and over and expect it to heal, would you? You wouldn’t put a band-aid and Neosporin on and look for results, would you? So why would you try to reduce inflammation in your body by addressing what’s on the outside? Just like a bruise, inflammation is fixable, but it’s a process. Unless you take active steps to calm your body down, it stays in a state of heightened panic.

I know poofy-bodiness very well: I was constantly inflamed for years. And I’m talking after the Orthorexia. I would complain to others (because complaining is a bonding tactic), and the same advice was always given to me, the advice anyone gets when they say they feel “fat:” eat less, exercise more. I had an intense-but-healthy exercise regimen and a diet that was by no means extreme in either direction. I was doing everything I was told I should be doing with no results. I was so physically and emotionally uncomfortable, and I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong..

The reality, I learned once I straightened up and took a good look at things (the holistic health pro friends and weekly yoga practice helped too), was that too many years of artificial ingredients, “healthy” foods I ate simply for health’s sake, nights of little sleep, and a cherry-on-top of gut bacteria that were depleted due to an erratic diet and a flirtation with diuretics/laxatives in my early twenties – all coupled with the stresses of love, loss, and pushing of my own internal “panic” button too many times to count – had led me to a place in which I always felt I had an extra layer or three under my skin. My stomach always hurt and I was constantly tired.

So of course, I was “fat.”

 

not ironic.
not ironic. (source)

When you’re tempted to land on “fat” as your adjective of choice, hold your horses for a minute. Dig deeper. Fat isn’t a feeling. And labeling it as such just breeds fat-phobia. What is actually going on here?? Maybe your body composition has changed, and maybe your lifestyle habits do need a fresh look. But maybe, just maybe, your body is just trying to cope after a disaster. Maybe your body is just, you know, bruised.

And just like after a disaster, it’s not going to be able to regroup unless it gets a little First Aid relief:

Pay close attention to how you feel when you eat certain foods – and then cut them out. It sounds like a “duh” moment – but find out what’s making you inflammed and then stop eating or drinking it. Maybe your body doesn’t respond well to animal products, or maybe just dairy. Maybe you’ve got a non-Celiac gluten sensitivity (it’s a thing). Maybe every time you eat nuts, or even a certain type of vegetable – you end up feeling sluggish, and yes, poofy. Alcohol’s inflammatory, so maybe cutting back is what will do the trick. Certain foods and spices are proven anti-inflammatory foods: things like berries, dark leafy greens, wild-caught salmon, coconut oil, and turmeric. See what happens when you incorporate these in not as a quick fix, but as a substitute for the things that were causing you duress. As always, just try it and see what happens – there is no harm in trying. You might be so used to feeling crummy that you don’t even realize what it means to really feel good.

Choose sleep over late nights and early mornings. I always tell my spin students that if they have other chances during the week to exercise and have a choice between attending my early morning class or sleeping an extra hour – sleep the extra hour. It’s that important. Sleep is like taking your body in for a tune-up each night – and you wouldn’t tell the technicians working on your car or computer to cut their work short, right? If you have early mornings, set a non-bedroom time limit. In my house, if we’re sitting on the couch past 9:30pm, we make ourselves start to prepare for bed. For some people that’s too early. But we have an alarm set for 5:30am – so this guarantees we’ll get at least 7 hours of sleep, which is my personal bare minimum for being able to function healthfully. Pay attention to how much sleep you actually need, not just what you can “get by on,” and adjust accordingly.

Replenish your gut bacteria. Someone once told me that the gut is like the body’s second brain – so when the healthy flora in there is off-kilter, it sends your whole body out of whack and into a permanent state of fight-or-flight mode. When I was trying to calm my body down from poofiness, I took a strong probiotic twice a day and ate fermented foods such as kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, coconut kefir, and unpasteurized miso. I had to be diligent about it, and it seemed futile since I couldn’t see or feel results immediately, but after a few months my digestion was finally back on track. And it didn’t feel like my organs were working overtime just to keep me functioning. My skin got brighter, my sick days fewer, and my clothes felt comfortable again. Even now, when I don’t take my probiotics, I can feel a difference.

Evaluate your life weight. What’s going on in your life? Anxiety, sadness, fear, grief, loneliness, confusion, and/or lack of purpose can create a sense of heaviness in our spirit, weighing down on us pretty intensely. That feeling of heaviness can not only become apparent on the outside, but it can make us focus on the outside whether it’s actually changed or not. And that’s when it can get convoluted and really hard to let go of – because it’s a lot easier to address something you can see as opposed to something you can’t.

Most of us – myself included – equate the feeling of LIFE weight to BODY weight, and we kill ourselves over banging out the toughest, most brutal workout we can in order to feel good again. Or we regiment our food, “punishing” ourselves for getting so “off-track.” But all this does is stress ourselves out more, and just like with the bruise analogy, it doesn’t even address the inside.

Just the act of separating your life weight from your body weight is a step in the right direction. But if that’s not enough and you want actual, visual proof that what you’re feeling is on the INSIDE, I’d suggest taking a picture.

Most of us – myself included – equate the feeling of LIFE weight as BODY weight, and we kill ourselves over banging out the toughest, most brutal workout we can in order to feel good again. I’m still trying to recalibrate after a couple months of unexpected stress and hustle and heavy gloominess. I’ve been wearing looser shirts and layers to cover up what I *think* shows on the outside, because I feel it so heavily on the inside after little sleep and shallow breaths. And that’s BS. So today, I’m back to my good ol’ uniform, even though I’m not particularly comfortable (like AT ALL), took a quick pic, and guess what?! The exterior looks the SAME as usual. I’m taking it as little reminder to not be afraid of myself and hide – seeing myself just as regular old me reminds me that I’ve got my own back. Life weight, you ain’t the boss of me. #selfieempowerment 💪🙏✨💃

A photo posted by Katie Joy Horwitch || WANT (@katiehorwitch) on

NOT FAT.

If you’re feeling heavy on the inside, go do something nice for yourself that makes you feel holistically strong, inside and out. Take a fitness class. Take a hike. Put on your favorite wacky leggings. Take a picture of yourself and smile, because only you can really reassure yourself that things will get better.

For me, it’s like magic: when I patiently address the inflammation in my body by cutting out irritating foods, getting sleep, keeping my gut healthy, and separating my physical self from my emotional self, I always start to feel better. I’m less self-conscious. Less achy. And go figure, I don’t use the f-word as an insult.

When your body is inflamed, you can literally (see what I did there) feel your place in the world. You feel uncomfortable, you feel awkward, you feel obtrusive and stuffed in. The inflammation realization – I’m just feeling poofy-bodied – has changed my life and the way I look at myself when I’m feeling low. Both internally and externally: because I now see the way I feel not as something that’s happening OUTSIDE me and beyond my control, but something happening INSIDE me that I can get a handle on. When I’ve got my inflammation under control, my body calms down physically and emotionally. It settles. I just feel human. Which is all any of us ever want to feel, anyway.

WANT YOURSELF:
Which one of the 4 tips above will you work on to help you feel good from the inside out? How?
(ex. I’m going to take a power nap today instead of powering through my lunch break…since that 9:30pm thing didn’t really happen last night.)

photo credit: kenishi higashi


 

And I’m Feeling Good: Shifting A Bad Body Day (or week.) Without Kidding Yourself

And I’m Feeling Good: Shifting A Bad Body Day (or week.) Without Kidding Yourself

Body Most Popular Posts Tips + Tools

“Can I be totally real? This winter has destroyed me.”

I got this email from a friend last week and all I could do was sigh and nod. Yep, I’m right there with you, love. I completely get it.

In my Xsomething years of life, I’ve realized something crucial about this toxic, sometimes codependent relationship I’ve formed with my negative-talking alter ego. That negative voice in my head isn’t a pessimist: it’s an opportunist.

For the past three weeks, I’ve felt like shit. Physically. Emotionally. And I’ve been fighting tooth-and-unmanicured-nail to not let it overtake my life.

I’ve had this draft open on my computer for days now, trying to fenagle my words to convince myself it wasn’t about my body. But I can’t. It was about my body.

negative-talk

My body has felt foreign from the inside out, puffed-up in places that make me feel uncomfortable, and has been struggling to complete its usual workouts. I haven’t been overwhelmed per se, or stressed out like crazy; just “off.” It’s not like me. At least not this current incarnation of me.

This is the moment when opportunity starts to take shape for that little negative talk pattern. Sometimes you tell yourself you’ve slacked off. Sometimes you say you have no right to feel this way. You’ve launched your purpose project. You’re connecting with others on a soul level. You’ve got the coolest teammate-roommate-manmate ever and live in a place you love. You’re living the dream, baby. You are not supposed to feel this way.

And on and on and on, until the negative talk morphs into the formation of goals you don’t even need. You know the cycle: I’m bored/distracted/lonely turns into I ate something my body is sensitive to turns into I ate too much turns into I feel bloated turns into I feel fat turns into I am fat turns into I need to lose weight. It’s pretty incredible what a fantastic job that negative talk does at inserting itself into your life and staking its claim, convincing you that you need to take action now in order to prevent the downfall….

My negative opportunist likes to egg me on. You feel fat and unsuccessful, the voice tries to convince me. You’re slacking all over.

In this most recent bout of low-ness, I thought about what I would have done years ago: I would have complained to my friends/family and made up excuses to justify my self-imposed solitude. I would have taken laxatives and diuretics to feel less “stuck” (former Katie, I just want to hug you). Maybe I would have started counting macronutrients or portioned out meals (then binged later, so it goes). I would have let other things in my life slide – like relationships, work deadlines, or healthy eating – in order to give me something to focus all that hurtful energy on.

Not this time, opportunistic gold-digger.

What’s really nagging at us isn’t usually what’s in plain sight. Most of the time, the physical manifestation of our problems is just that: a purely physical manifestation, not the root of the problems themselves. It’s just easier to place the blame on the outside than to dive into the inside – so very easy to simply fixate and fix what’s on the surface (You know when you break a limb and you’re all banged up on the outside? Not addressing the root of a problem is kind of like putting a band-aid on the wound without addressing the bone).

The thing is, we don’t talk about this kind of stuff nearly enough, so we don’t even realize that everyone goes through this and it is totally normal. It’s no wonder so many of us are addicted to problems and starved for solutions.

How do we know, then, what’s really throwing us off-kilter?

this is how i look when i'm liking all of me. cry-laughing all the time.
this is how i look when i’m liking all of me. cry-laughing all the time.

If you’re feeling like you’re in a funk, body-related or otherwise, sit down in a quiet space and think about how you’re actually feeling physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Once you pinpoint the how, then figure out why it’s happening.

Ask yourself: How do I feel when I’m at my best?

This weekend, I decided I had had enough. I started to take a closer look at how exactly I was feeling: physically, mentally, spiritually.

Was I feeling overwhelmed? No.

Was I eating anything out of the ordinary? No.

Was I feeling…resentful? Yes.

Was I feeling neglected?

…Oh yes.

I went through a checklist of how I feel when I’m at my best, and I realized a few areas in which I’ve been completely out of whack:

Supplements + water: Fact; most of us have some sort of deficiency in some vitamin or mineral – and are usually dehydrated way before we think we are (a good tip I learned from Dr. Christiane Northrup: after you get blood work done, check with your doctor and ask what levels of are optimal, not just normal).

One year ago, I started to address my deficiencies with supplements – and it completely shifted my life around. This current funk? It was funk-ing up my digestion and my workout recovery. And go figure, my diligence with l-glutamine and probiotics had been sporadic at best (these are my faves of each, she says as she places her Amazon order: Solgar and Renew Life, respectively). Not to mention, I definitely had not been drinking nearly enough water each day – and my body was crying for hydration help.

Sleep: Remember those guidelines you used to get in health class? 7-9 hours, -ish? Everyone is different – don’t you dare for a second ignore what you discover works for you. For me personally, seven is pushing it. 7 or below and everything suffers. Find what works for you and make it a priority, or else your body doesn’t have ample time to recharge and repair your precious internal mechanics.

Recently, I’ve been going to bed later than usual, no bueno when your average wake-up time is 5:18am (I have a thing for strange wake-up times). As a result, I’ve been trying to squeeze in a whole slew of to-dos I literally do not have time to-do. Work, emails, business growth, texts, voice messages, check-ins, check-ups, car services, cold calls… Even when I have gotten those to-dos to-done, they have all been checked off the list with a fraction of my usual Katie-energy.

Self-support: Since my sleep has been so bad and my hydration/supplementation in the gutter, I shouldn’t have been surprised that I could barely eke out my daily self-care must-have: a decent workout. I’d sleep until the last minute, force myself to get at least 15 minutes of quasi-heart-pumping exercise in, then put pressure on myself to get the best.workout.ever. in on Saturday to make up for the rest of the week…when all I wanted to do was take my Saturday at my own pace, like I usually do. This is not how I exercise. This is not how I function.

Not only that, but Jeremy and I have had opposing schedules for the last couple weeks, and when we’ve both gotten home we’ve been so zonked from the day we basically just crash. It would be easy to zero in on him. I think we all do this at times in our relationships – why aren’t you paying attention to me? Why aren’t you present? But 99% of the time, we’ll find that’s not the case.

Jeremy has been completely present; his actions haven’t shifted in the last few weeks. If anything, he’s been even more present than usual because of the scheduling conflicts. But what I’m now finding is that since I haven’t been paying attention to myself during the day, I’ve wanted him to give me enough attention for the both of us once we’re home. And that’s not fair.

What I really needed, then, was not a new diet, exercise program, or friend to kvetch to.

I needed to fill my nutritional voids, get good sleep, and give myself some love.

Maybe you’re not breathing deeply. Maybe you’re low on vitamin D. Maybe you’ve just become lonely or anxious or frustrated with something or someone, and doing things counter to taking care of yourself provide you a welcome distraction from facing your loneliness and taking action. It’s so simple, but it’s so effective: identifying one small action step you can take now sets a chain reaction in motion, slowly disintegrating any opportunity for that little negative opportunist to take the reins into thin air.

I was so happy to get my girl Jess’s newest post in my inbox last week, sharing her own slump and how she de-funked; immediate action steps she was taking that were right for her (plus a recipe for soup! who doesn’t love soup?!). I think it’s been a trying month for us all. How wonderful we can work through it together.

The immediate action step *I* was so craving? I needed a day of nothingness. I needed a “There are no events scheduled today” notification on my Google Cal. I needed to sleep in on my own time, work out on my own time, bop around town on my own time, and hone in on WANT on my own time. My sanity depends on one day a week (or at least every other week) of absolute obligation-less-ness and minimal human interaction. I looked back on my month…and couldn’t remember the last time that had happened.

If I had only addressed the things I could see, I would still be in the same bind. I would be restricting my food intake when my diet was just fine, or forcing myself to go the gym at the end of the day when I loathe working out in the evening. I would be asking vague things of others when they are already doing exactly what the relationship calls for. Not only would I not be addressing the real imbalances, I would probably be feeling even worse by the minute.

By taking the time to reflect and respond – a drive home, a long shower, a glance out the window – I figured out what it was that was actually making me feel so less-than myself. And slowly, very slowly, I’m starting to feel like myself again.

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When you're feeling down on yourself, you've got to dig deep. Click To Tweet It’s normal to feel this way – what’s not normal is to be sunshine and rainbows 24/7. We will never not feel bad about something or like ourselves all the time. Heck, our bodies change by the minute; we’d be crazy not to notice once in a while. But we move forward.

Getting into slumps, funks, and ruts is a part of being human. It’s how we choose to approach them that determines the lasting effect they’ll have on us. Today, tomorrow, for life. I hope you seize your opportunity.


WANT Action Plan:
In the comments, tell me one good thing that happened this month. Nothing’s too big or too small.

 

What Teaching Fitness Has Taught Me.

What Teaching Fitness Has Taught Me.

Body Community Motivation + Inspiration

EVERY day, I “brave” the 10 (the freeway or I-10, for those who don’t speak L.A. Transit fluently) heading from the Westside to Downtown Los Angeles. And while I always get met with trembling voices and wide eyes when I casually mention this, I actually love that time in the car. But that’s another post for another day….

I’ve started teaching a new class, one that begins at the bright n’ early hour-ish of 6:30am at Equinox DTLA. Apparently, my first class sold out by noon that previous Thursday. And as I approached the overpass at Crenshaw Blvd the following Friday morning, I let the beachy vibe take a backseat and really sat with this kind of crazy notion from a city girl perspective. I’d never taught there before, nothing more than a one-time sub slot with ten people in the room. I’m going to be transparent here: while I know it’s a popular time slot, I was also receiving comments about how “excited” people were to have me on the schedule there, regardless of time. Which was flattering, but confusing. They don’t even know me, I thought…

The reason I got certified had less to do with a love of RPMs and more to do with a loathing of the classes offered at my then-local 24 Hour Fitness. There’s an audience for everything, sure, but for this here audience – it was horrendous. Like, musical-theatre-dance-remixes horrendous. The sculpt class I attended religiously was no different. Enough house beats to give you a migraine, coupled with coaching that might as well come from the mouth of Small Wonder.

Yet despite uninspired coaching and musical blasphemy, I was there almost every week – along with 50 others. No one particularly loved these classes. But still, they came. And then I’d go to the class of an incredibly talented teacher back at home, or I’d experience a sub who blew me away, and the classes would be empty.

This begs the question: if it’s not the music, not the innovation, not the inspiration, then what is it?

group fitness teaching

 Quick note, I’m not saying those things are not important. Opposite, really. They’re some of the most important factors.

But none of the innovation, inspiration, or ingenuity will even be registered if there is no trust.

I’ve been doing a LOT of creative business research lately, and there is this age-old debate of Content vs. Design as king. The Contenters (as I’ll call them) argue that what hooks an audience is above-average content – what is actually being said or presented. The Designers (as I’ll call them, obviously) argue that what hooks an audience is stellar design – the look of what is being presented. I argue that what hooks an audience – or gets them staying put, actually – is trust. Content and design create value, trust creates dependability.

When you consistently deliver, you create trust.

When your playlist is consistent, you create trust.

When you set the stage and stay true to you, you create trust.

The reason I and so many others kept going to these sub-par classes was not because they were off the charts life-changing, it was that they were reliable. The teachers almost never subbed out. The routines were different enough to keep us from checking out but similar enough to be somewhat familiar. While the music was not preferable, it was predictable. Basically – we knew what we were getting ourselves into. When the act of taking a class is “risky” enough as is (elevated heart rate, getting to a vulnerable emotional state, possibility of a rogue fart), we as teachers must serve as an anchor.

Trust is underrated in business and art. But just like in a relationship – if you don’t have trust, you don’t have anything.

~
I used to teach at a studio with my friend, let’s call her Long Legs McGee. At this studio, we were required to theme every single class. Each would be different. LLMG knew that in order to hook people and allow them to open their eyes to the passion and professionalism with which she taught, this policy was not going to make her anything but expendable.

And so she found a way to beat the system: every Friday, she picked the same theme and delivered week after week. Hip Hop Friday became the most popular class at the studio, and the attendees became like family. She was always a brilliant teacher, but once hip hop friday became official, LLMG’s classes skyrocketed and stayed there. People knew what to expect. All hip hop, all the time. Questionable language. An outgoing personality. The same tone and vibe every time. A dancing toy snowman in Hammerpants.

I am certainly not the most talented, the most knowledgeable, or the most innovative teacher – and frankly, I love that. I love learning and I love that there is someone for everyone. Not every party is mine to throw, and I celebrate that we are all so very different in our styles and our approach. There are people who love my class, and people who have blocked it from their minds. But the classes that have really worked – the ones in which people not only show up in person but more importantly show up mentally – have always been rooted in trust. We all know what we are getting ourselves into. We depend on it.

I know what I like. Or at least what I like to play in class. Lots of people love all Top 40 all the time, but if I started playing hit upon hit I’d bet money that people would stop showing up. It’s not that I play one genre all the time – I mix it up, everything from classic rock remixes to hip-hoppy rap. But my through line is that every song evokes a certain feeling, and the 10-12 song compilation takes you on a very specific, very intentional journey. I throw in some Maroon 5 because I love them and some P!nk cause she’s a badass. But my own personal rule is that if it’s being played at the gas station or in a car commercial, it’s not touching my class with a ten foot pole. Does that mean those kinds of songs are crappy choices? Not at all. Different strokes for different folks. If you’re a pop junkie, let it rip! And that doesn’t mean you can’t throw some hip-hop or alternative into the mix, either. That leads me to my next point…

I acknowledge the curve-balls. Class is not a quiz or a practice in reactivity. It’s not my job to surprise my class members or throw them off, it’s their job to take what I’m giving as a guide and use that to surprise themselves in a way that feels authentic to them. Even if I don’t want to give away all my class secrets from the get-go (leave something to the imagination, heyo), I give them an offhand heads up that there will be a curve-ball thrown in. Whether that’s an out-of-character song or a “surprise” breakaway at the end of the hill, I try to let them mentally prepare for something different. Give them armour, give them the reassurance of knowing that you see it too, let them know that no matter what happens, you’ve got their backs. You’re in a secret-free zone.

The easy thing to say is “I don’t sub” – but that’s only step one, and SO not true. Obviously if you’re never there, you can’t build trust. But when I do sub, I sub only when it’s absolutely necessary, and give them heads up as soon as possible. If I have enough advance notice, I announce in my classes, and let them know who the sub will be. Students don’t usually like to see subs (unless it’s a trusted instructor), so put them at ease that they’ll be taken care of, then let them know when you’ll return. Furthermore…

I celebrate my colleagues. My opinion is that if they see you’re a team, they trust that you’re a team player, not just some rando on a bike on a stage. This is exactly why I created my Woman Against Negative Talk series on WANT and my Yoga Matters and Class In Session fitness profile series’ on The Chalkboard Mag: I LOVE celebrating the people in this industry who are doing something unique and authentic. People who are setting a positive example that goes way beyond marketing or class format or how chiseled their abs are. There are so many teachers I admire for so many different reasons – but at the end of the day, it all comes back to camaraderie and authenticity. And I think class members pick up on that. The more you can show you are a team player, the more they feel as if they are on that team.

~

As teachers and as creatives of any kind, we focus so much on the nuance and look. It’s in our blood. We love what makes us feel, we love the intricately woven details. Yet sometimes we get so caught up in them that we forget that any worthwhile relationship is based on trust. It’s based in that inexplicable feeling of safety, the soft-shoe dance between knowing what to expect yet not knowing what that will look or feel like. The unspoken knowing of yes, I am taken care of, yes, I am wanted, yes, this is familiar.

I hope you will trust me.