Fighting Fear ~ Building Confidence with Passion and Action!

New Year’s 1996, I moved up to Marin to be a Taebo instructor. I was thrilled that I was to be one of only 3 Taebo instructors outside of Billy Blank’s studio in Hollywood. I was mentored by Will Yun Lee.. yeah that guy from Wolverine. I had only been doing Taebo for 3 months and I immediately knew I didn’t want to be just another aerobics instructor. I wanted to really know the punches and kicks that I would be teaching. I wanted to be like Will. He was incredibly confident, super skilled, and just looked bad ass… who wouldn’t want to be like him? I trained in a garage-turned-gym for 3 months straight. Hours and hours everyday – kicking, kicking, kicking, and punching. I had a goal and knew I was going to be introducing Taebo to the Bay Area. Oh, did I mention, I had never done martial arts, taught anything in my life, and was PAINFULLY shy. Like, barely-look-you-in-the-eye, shy?

I rehearsed that first class probably 30-40 times and was still a nervous wreck. I had to throw up twice before even entering the group exercise room. I stumble up to the front of the class and looked out at the 60+ people and could barely introduce myself. I was shaking so much that when I got in to my fighting stance to begin demonstrating the punches, my back ankle was shaking uncontrollably. I was terrified, and to make matters worse when I began to explain the stance and punching techniques, my voice would crack. Did I want to run and hide and never be seen in that gym again? – For sure I did. But instead, I raised my voice, because I noticed that when I raised my voice it would not crack. I also started demonstrating the movements with much more emphasis – crazy big and powerful, to hide the fact that I was shaking. After that, it was like an out of body experience. I shouted like a drill sergeant, ran around the room getting in people’s faces. Kicked higher than I ever thought possible and punched so hard I probably could have knocked someone out. I am sure I made mistakes, but nobody noticed and after class people just raved about my teaching and how it was the best class they had ever taken! I was on a high – I wish I could say for days, but I had to teach my second class the next morning, 14 hours later. And the throwing up/voice cracking/body shaking-to-drill sergeant routine started all over again. And that routine lasted 12 classes a week for 6 months until I finally wasn’t panic-stricken. So what kept me coming back day after day, class after class? Passion. Passion for exercise and sharing with others.
20 years later, I have taught over 10,000 classes – from cardio kickbox to pilates. I have trained clients in their homes, offices and abroad, and lead fitness retreats through my company SweatPlayLive. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had decided, way back then, that teaching that first class was just too scary. It is one of those “sliding door” moments. I chose to face my fear and it has brought me here to you, with Sweat Play Live and also Move Your Asana®. On Saturday, that decision is taking me Rancho La Puerta, the #1 Fitness Spa in the world, to guest instruct for the week; and then to Portugal to train on a road cycling trip.
You have heard it before – “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” YOUR desire HAS to be stronger than your fear. My desire to be a Taebo instructor outweighed my fear of failure, even if just barely. It was enough for me to train and endure that first class. Nobody is born with confidence. Everyone you see exuding mass confidence in every situation practiced it until it became a habit. Until that habit became part of who they are. So fake it until you become it! Even Beyonce says she has to turn into Sasha Fierce to get herself onstage. When you feel fear – TAKE ACTION! It is the first step towards building confidence – “Action kills Fear.” Maybe at first you too will need to “pretend” to be confident, strong, and sure of yourself.

By practicing confidence you make it a habit and as we all know, practice makes permanent!

The Busy Epidemic + A quick exercise to break the cycle.

I have a confession to make: I used to feel like a wasn’t good enough.

Not because I didn’t have a certain job, or owned houses and cars, etc. But because I wasn’t as busy as everyone else in my community. Oh, I started out busy. There was a time when I was personal training clients 3-4 hours a day, teaching 2-3 fitness classes, being a dedicated yogi practicing 3-5 classes a week, and also training for mountain bike stage races which entailed being on my bike 20+ hours a week. AND then I decided to start a granola company. GOGO Granola consumed every second of my “free time.” Baking from 7pm-1am and then bagging, labeling, and mailing granola during every spare second of every day of every week. The decision to support my husband during his father’s battle with the late stages of cancer took us to Australia and away from this “crazy busy” lifestyle. When we returned to the states, I did not feel drawn to continue building my granola “empire”. I resumed my personal training and teaching schedule, but a funny thing happened. I started telling myself that I was LAZY when I would sit and read a book, or watch TV at night. I had become so used to multi-tasking and filling my days with doing doing doing that any down-time left me feeling guilt and even shame.

I watched my clients and friends going non-stop, staying busy – “doing it all.” Working 8+ hour days, shuttling kids from one activity to another and volunteering in the classrooms and at church functions, cooking dinners every night, and still finding time to hit the gym – They were my heroes. So of course I was lazy in comparison… Or at least that was the the story I told myself. While it looked like my peers were thriving with their busy schedules, after closer inspection (and chats while they were driving their kids from lacrosse to gymnastics and then off to a client meeting) my heroes were actually “at the end of their ropes” and barely keeping it together. Clearly a big lesson here is: Stop comparing yourself to others.

People fall into 3 categories – Some of us really do love being busy and wear it like a badge of honor. And others need to keep busy so there is no time to deal with big-scary, often painful issues. But the majority of people I talk to are just caught up in the hustle of work-life and family-life; trying to keep their heads above water, and are purely existing instead of creating – Instead of truly LIVING.

I believe a work/life “balance” does exist, but it looks different to everyone (another reason to stop comparing.) That picture of balance is ever-evolving and changes daily with varying degrees of success. That is A-OK as long as you can clearly define what success is to you!

We can get so caught up with doing that we forget that being, feeling, and experiencing are really what life is about. Here is a super quick exercise to feel successful every day.

Get clear on your definition of success – What does your successful day look like?
Think in terms of laying a foundation for success. What are the building blocks that help you perform your best physically, mentally and emotionally during a typical day?

Example, I need to:
Get 8 hours of sleep. Yes, I can survive with 6, but if I am being completely honest, I feel like crap. I do think getting sleep can absolutely change your life, but don’t just take my word for it, read what Arianna Huffington says about it in the Sleep Revolution

Exercise 1 hour. Sometimes I get a lot more (or a little less) but if I do not move everyday, it 100% effects my mood.

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Get outside. From a very young age I knew that I could not be cramped indoors. If I am not teaching outside, I make a point of getting outdoors and breathing fresh air for at least 20-30 minutes. This is where having dogs is great! Even if I am not able to exercise outside during the day, I love taking my girls for their evening walks. I use this time as a moving meditation and try to focus on my breath – breathing slowly in and out through my nose.

 

 

Creativity breaks. I will admit that this is IMG_6289a new one for me. I recently began drawing again. It started with an adult *coloring book… Yeah, you heard me right. (Check out the beautiful books by Johanna Basford.) I found that as I colored, I focused on my breath and tuned everything else out. Sounds a little like meditating right? It was for me, and that segued into drawing.

*I can hear some of you right now saying, “Color? I barely have time to make my kid’s lunches in the morning.” This is just what works for me. You might have very different success-building blocks up your sleeve :)

 

*There are plenty of other things that I will do during my week but these are the foundation or building blocks for my “successful day.”

 

 

 

So what are your successful day “must do’s”?
Do you make them a priority?
If not, why and what can you give up so that you can truly be living your best life?

Is it doing 3 sun-salutations before sunrise? Drinking 3 liters of water? Gardening or meditating for 20 minutes a day? Get it out of your head – write it down!

So now that you have pinpointed exactly what you need to do to kick ass everyday, you must DO them! 

Knowing your daily priorities will set you up for success – so the next time you get asked to volunteer at another church potluck or community fundraiser, as wonderful as these events may be, you can make a conscious decision.
Ask yourself:
Will losing 2 hours of sleep, or feeling anxious and frazzled, or missing the 30 minutes reading to your kids, be adding to the quality of your life?

The Busy Epidemic does not have to be a death sentence. Remember that BUSY does not equal SUCCESSFUL. I need to remember that busy does not equate to “good enough.” Each of us is responsible for creating our own reality.

CHOOSE activities that ENERGIZE and CHARGE YOU UP, then see how your life truly begins to reflect your definition of SUCCESS!

Take Action On Your Dream Life!

Have you ever sat down and really thought about what you want your life to look like?
When you were little I bet you had some fun dreams – where you dancing in the Nut Cracker, or jumping out of airplanes putting out forest fires?

When I was 5, I had typical little-girl dreams – I wanted to be a veterinarian, marry my high school sweet heart (because 18 seemed super old already) and have boy, then a girl. A scary incident with my cat at age 7 brought my veterinary career to a screeching halt – I just couldn’t handle being around any injured animal without falling on the ground and sobbing uncontrollably.. A trait that that I will never out-grow. In high school I realized that I could not have a regular 9-5 job and also keep my sanity, and by my early 20’s I just knew deep in my heart that kids were not a part of my program. Things change. Values change. Life throws us punches. We can either bob and weave, or stay pinned up against the ropes. Our relationship, work, and life situations all lead to growth… or struggle,  if you choose to ignore the lessons.

So, I ask again, when was the last time you sat down and evaluated your life? Does it look and feel like the life of your dreams? If the answer is no, then grab your journal or a piece of paper and write this down:

~ WHAT DOES YOUR DREAM LIFE LOOK LIKE?
This is a bigger picture snapshot of your life. Don’t hold back. This is not your BFF’s dream or your partner’s dream… This is YOUR dream, so go big!

~ WHAT DOES YOUR PERFECT DAY LOOK LIKE?
From the moment you wake up till the moment you fall asleep.
This is a super fun exercise. I did this about 4 years ago and now my perfect day is everyday! Not kidding.

~ LIST 3 THINGS THAT YOU CAN DO TO GET CLOSER TO YOUR DREAM LIFE!
Did you read this and say to yourself, “I’ll do it tomorrow?”
This is where people hesitate. Taking the action. If you want to live in a cabin on a lake, start looking up locations and even real estate properties. It doesn’t mean you are going to go out buy something tomorrow, but it gets the juices flowing and creates excitement. Want to start a vegan handbag line? Start sketching designs or taking sewing classes. It can be small steps, but take the steps – TAKE ACTION!

~ WRITE DOWN 3 OBSTACLES THAT YOU WILL HAVE TO OVERCOME.
Because there WILL be obstacles and challenges. Maybe your kids are still in middle school and flying off a lake-front cabin is not realistic. Could you spend the summers there until the kids go off to college? Your community college sewing class is only offered during your night shift. Can you borrow a sewing machine from a friend and take online classes?

Have a plan of attack!

This dreaming exercise is so much fun, but LIVING YOUR DREAM –  IS   –  THE  –  BEST!

Lessons from Buddhism’s Super Bowl MVP – H.H Dalai Lama

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Last summer I had the great fortune to travel to Ladakh, India and attend the “Super Bowl” of Buddhist ceremonies, The Kalachakra Initiation, presented by H.H Dalai Lama. Just for the record, I am not Buddhist, although I do tend to gravitate towards Buddhism’s simple teaching that ALL beings deserve love and compassion.

We meditated 4-6 hours a day for 6 days straight! After each intense teaching and meditation from H.H. Dalai Lama we would then have a 2-3 hour lecture led by Robert Thurman, a professor of Buddhist studies at Columbia University, a former Buddhist monk and literally the worldwide authority on all things Tibetan Buddhism and H.H Dalai Lama.

I am often asked what I learned from this special time spent focusing inward…

Most of the people in our group were Buddhist. And many of these people had been to multiple Kalachakra Ceremonies – I fondly call them, Dalai Lama Groupies. I sat in awe as they asked profound questions and expressed their views about the teachings, most of which were way over my head. What surprised me the most, was that some of these same groupies were often short with, or downright unkind, to the staff that served our food or kept our tents clean. I wrongly presumed that people with so much spiritual wisdom would walk their talk. (You can file that one under, “Things that make you go Hmmm.”)

So what I took most from H.H. and my fellow seekers that week was very simple:

PRACTICE loving kindness to yourself and others.

And it is a PRACTICE. Like everything in life, practice make permanent. You cannot just SAY you are something or will do something. You must put in the time and practice to become that which you want. It is a perpetual journey.

Here is one way that I practice loving kindness to myself. When I sit down to meditate, the first thing I say to myself is, “I deeply and profoundly love and accept myself.” Sometimes I actually spend my whole time meditating by breathing in PEACE and breathing out LOVE.
And speaking of meditation…

Get Present. 

It sounds so simple, but the only thing you have control over is this moment right now. When you are focused on the past or thinking about the future, you cannot feel truly at peace. I find that meditation, whether it be for 5 minutes or 1 hour, is a great way to become present. Slowing your breathe, eliminating some of the “monkey mind” is also a way to become more self aware.

When I sit down to meditate and I cannot stop my own incessant thoughts, I do a counting meditation. Lately I have been: (all nasal breathing) Inhaling for 6, holding for 2, and exhaling for 7. Exhaling for longer than you inhale calms your nervous system.

Practice Gratitude.

Studies have shown that feeling gratitude boosts our wellbeing. We tend to unconsciously focus on the negative things that happen to us, but when you start to recognize all the awesome things that fill your day, you will SEE more of those awesome things.

Start a Gratitude Journal! Every evening, or even just once a week, write down 3-5 things you are grateful for. Think about what people, opportunities, experiences and things bring you joy and are enhancing your life. Easy.

My favorite quote from H.H Dalai Lama is: “My religion is very simple, my religion is kindness.” Sometime’s life’s simplest lessons are actually the most challenging. Keep practicing.

(Photo Credit: Christopher Michel)

Nothing Tastes As Good As A Healthy Gut Feels!

Have you ever wondered why we feel the need to label our eating habits? Vegan, Lacto-Ovo vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free, Paleo… Any of these ring a bell? Many people truly want to look and FEEL better, and jump from one restrictive-eating plan to the next seeking the magic diet.
I will admit, at some point during my life I have been all of the above. But not anymore.
After my abdominal surgery in 2003 I had symptoms associated with gastric bypass surgery – Because part of my stomach was removed (along with my spleen and most of my pancreas) I had serious issues eating solid food. When I was finally able to eat a couple tablespoons of a particular food, I knew right away if I was sensitive or not. It was an accidental elimination diet. A year later I joined a group of my clients for a “2 week body transformation” that consisted of daily 90-120 minute workouts as well as an elimination-type diet. Eating ONLY green vegetables, lean protein, and almonds. It was after these 2 weeks of not consuming fruit that I realized how sensitive my stomach was to fructose. I now know I can eat wheat and gluten in moderation and I am especially sensitive to dairy, apples, strawberries, garlic, and garbanzo beans.
ACTION:
If you are tired of bouncing around from one food label to the next, I highly recommend trying an elimination diet. For 12 weeks cut out the most common food allergens: dairy, eggs, corn, gluten, soy, and peanuts. Then introduce one food back at a time. This is a good place to start in determining what foods you really need to stay away from, instead of just playing the guessing game.
There are many causes of tummy troubles. Food allergies is #1 and bacteria overgrowth in the small intestines is #2.
The surface of the small-intestine is where your food is absorbed. Did you know that is also where about 60% of your immune system resides? Alcohol, stress, a diet high in sugar and low in fiber, and even the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics break down this intestinal lining leading to irritable bowel symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, etc (YUCK). At a simplistic level this leads to the death of your healthy gut bacteria and means that the bad bacteria start to take over and you are unable to absorb the nutrients from your foods – even healthy foods!
After 10 years of living with constant stomach aches, gas, and “carb bonking” I can assure you that “NOTHING TASTES AS GOOD AS A HEALTHY GUT FEELS!”

ROCK YOUR HEALTH

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