Life is more than beautiful – it is all there is, all we have, and the only thing worth fighting for as all else depends upon it.
Life is also chaos, but that chaos and uncertainty is what drives innovation, growth, and possibility. You may not control the whims and winds of the universe, but you CAN control your own story. YOU dictate who you are, where you go, and how you get there. Things happen – but you control what that happening means and where it takes you.
Your body tells a story; it is the vehicle through which you move through the world; it is a temple, a miracle – it should empower you to celebrate the gift of your life and to move through the world (and all its possibility).
To live your best life, you must nourish that body, write your story, and take responsibility for your health and wellness.
These facts leave us with two critical questions: How do you live your best life? How do you write your story?
In the world of fitness, we hear the world “control” a lot. And for good reason.
Control, aka awareness and purposeful action, is essential to realizing any goal and to living that best life.
You must know what was, what is, and what you want/need to realize your best life, to make critical choices, and to manage and direct your thoughts, emotions, and actions.
But control alone is dangerous and, well, miserable. It leaves no room for possibility or transformation – for detours or growth, for the unexpected. It does not allow for life to happen (and these happenings are essential to your becoming).
Control MUST be balanced with self awareness and flexibility.
Flexibility cultivates vision and compassion – the grace needed to bounce back, to expand out, to adapt, and to move forward.
Self awareness empowers you to see yourself as you are and as you might be without filters, without guilt, and without shame.
Control then ensures that you craft an effective “plan of attack” for realizing that best life and the determination to see that plan through.
One does not work without the other – but in the fitness world, “control” is usually all you get.
Most fitness programs demand that you CONTROL what you eat (your portions, your calories, even when you can eat). They demand that you CONTROL your nutrients (eliminating entire food groups), that you DEPRIVE yourself to the point of starvation. That you DEPRIVE yourself of the joy and connection that food provides (birthdays, holidays, dinners out, wine Wednesdays, etc.) and that you replace that joy with fear, shame, guilt, and self-loathing.
While some control is a good thing, too much not only damages your body, it fosters a dysfunctional and negative relationship with food and nutrition which makes living a healthy lifestyle (and that best life) impossible to realize in the long term.
During my last challenge, I was obsessed with losing weight and being successful. So…I didn’t do anything. I didn’t go anywhere for two months. I didn’t eat out. I didn’t have lunch with family or friends; I didn’t go to birthdays or out with my husband. I didn’t do anything but count, obsess, and worry that I was still eating too much (or not enough).
You can control your calories, exercise, and food intake to the point of obsession for weeks, months, maybe even a year…but eventually real life is going to happen. Your control and best laid plans will falter. And without flexibility and self-awareness, they will break, leading to an ongoing cycle of starve-binge-starve-binge, marked by the latest diet trend and an unhealthy dose of shame and guilt. You will lose weight – then gain it back. You will blame yourself. You will develop a collection of internet memes, telling you to just “be stronger, have more control, be more disciplined” and then next time will be different. You will believe that you are not good enough and that your plateau is a sign of your inadequacy.
This cycle isn’t one that is meant to be broken. It will NEVER be different unless you change how you see yourself and food. You will NEVER be healthy if you do not have a positive and nurturing relationship with food and nutrition as your baseline.
What is a healthy relationship with food?
It means being able to realize a healthy weight without starvation, obsession, fad diets, cleanses, or restrictions.
It means building self awareness and self love.
It means resolving the underlying issues that lead to disordered eating, binge eating, emotional eating, and stress eating.
It means enjoying food without guilt or shame.
It means balancing that control with flexibility and a bit of grace and compassion.
It means mindfulness, tuning in to your body and its specific needs.
It means no more despair or self-loathing, no more counting calories or containers, no more “kitchen ab” memes.
It means STOP – stop abusing your body, stop the guilt trip, stop the cycle.
And it means breaking free – to rediscover balance. To stop fighting your body and to start nourishing it; to STOP obsessing over your life and to START living it.
Let me show you how.
The Ready 2B Fierce and Free Mindful Eating Program Registration is now Open! Day 1 begins May 14.
Exercise is not required (but is optional and encouraged). There is no calorie counting, no portion containers, no restriction, no starvation, no gimmicks. It is a knowledge and education based program meant to foster self awareness and flexibility while building confidence, promoting healthy weight loss, and ensuring a positive relationship with food and thus, with yourself.
Are you ready to break free of that cycle, abandon the guilt and gimmicks, and embrace a new way of eating, living, and most importantly, of celebrating you?
Ask around. Particularly now as winter melts into mud season and the desert starts calling. In the mountain community, you will find nearly every lovely mountain mama you meet shares a few things in common:
An affinity for plaid flannels and beanies
The requisite Girafficorn hat + a craft beer sampler
A strange addiction to carbon and a growing collection of Shredly shorts
A disastrous story of one’s first attempt at mountain biking
Then, a love story about that same bike, that same trail, and that same sport
The “dirt pow” and the wheels that traverse it hold a unique place in my heart. I have never been more terrified or broken than at the hands of my pink handlebars; I have never been more alive or liberated. There has never been more doubt or uncertainty; there has never been more courage or confidence.
I have never been dirtier or more elegant than at the back of my Minon DHF tires.
In fact, in all the ways that mountain biking has broken me (literally – from ankles to ribs to shoulders), it has built me back up, creating someone new, someone bold – all while fostering a deep appreciation for life, for mountains, and for my beautiful + badass babes (and the men who love them).
My story with biking was a horror story; it began with a flurry of rocks and endos aboard a cheap, $50 Craigslist bike (a 20+ year old Trek with a busted front shock). My then boyfriend (soon to be husband) took me and that glorious bike to a trail in Boulder known as Bitterbrush for my first run (one of “the most technical trails in Colorado” – thanks babes). It was a maze of rocks and ledges, of narrow cliff bands and long descents. I would consider that trail to be oodles of fun now…then? I wore a climbing helmet and a pair of vans sneakers; I managed the rock gardens with a death grip and the smell of burning v-brakes; I almost died. I emerged hours later, bruised and battered. I admit- there were also a few tears. At the edge of a rocky switchback upon which I KNEW I was about to meet my own, bitter end, a kind man with dreads and a Jamaican accent (who also possessed a fancy Yeti and turquoise shorts) told me to, “walk to day; ride tomorrow. The trail will always be here when you are ready.”
I was broken; I was humbled; I was hooked.
How does this sport (in which nearly everyone has their own horror story) inspire such devotion and joy? Why did I emerge from my near death experience with the competing desire to throw my bike into a lake…then swim out, retrieve it, and try again?
Regardless of how, over the past decade, mountain biking has saved my life and my sanity more times than I can count.
1. It is hard.
Yes. This is a reason WHY mountain biking is so addictive and transformative.
Challenge. Sweat. Humilty. There is nothing easy about mountain biking. To quote a friend and former amateur cyclist:
It never gets easier. You just get faster.
I remember moments of defeat – where I carted and heaved and lugged myself and my bike up and over rocks, jumps, logs, and streams. There was fear and apprehension, a sometimes brutal wakeup call to my limitations. There was always sweat and the thrill of pushing my body to its edges and beyond. Sometimes, there were bruises, tears – but always, there was the challenge. That challenge meant that there was opportunity and possibility. the room for growth demanded growth – guaranteed it. With every triumph came humility; with every humbled moment came possibility – the chance to grow, to learn, and to try again.
It is hard. And that’s the point. With easy things, you start and end and stay right where you are. With hard things, you end up somewhere else – you become someone and something more.
2. It is fun.
You know what makes those hard things less impossible? When they are also fun.
It’s simple, really.
Riding bikes is fun. It is the joy, the thrill, the possibility of childhood personified. Close your eyes. You can almost feel it, can’t you? The wind in your face, the sound of rubber on pavement, then dirt – the promise of summer. Simplicity. Friendship. Every good thing. Spinning.
That promise? That joy? It is still there, and I rediscover it every time I leap to my bike seat.
It is fun to climb mountains, to stand atop distant ridges, to soar back down. It is slap happy, giddy, irresponsible, beautiful, liberating, glorious FUN – from ear to ear.
3. It is freedom.
Susan B. Anthony said it best.
Independence is happiness
That’s what riding is: freedom. As a child, my single speed huffy provided the freedom to go, to explore, to travel, to wander in search of life, friends, and adventure. When I received that pink tasseled steed of glory (aptly named the B.G.M, aka big green machine), I gained a certain degree of independence. I could now test the borders and boundaries of my quickly expanding world (and I could put a few internal boundaries of my own to the test as well).
As an adult, cycling also represented freedom – this time from self doubt and depression, from cubicles and rush hour traffic, from pain and disappointment, from anger and uncertainty. It was a way to reconnect with something innate and primal within my soul; on my bike, with the sky above and the wind behind, I was utterly and completely free.
Ms. Anthony went a bit further with her take on cycling, crediting it with the rise of the Women’s Liberation Movement.
You see, in the Victorian era, the fashion of the day (tight and tighter corsets, long heavy skirts, etc.) made walking, running, and most physical activities nearly impossible; it served as a reminder and as a metaphor for the limitations placed upon women who were expected to be physically, economically, socially, politically, and intellectually subservient to and dependent upon men. When even breathing is a chore, how could one even begin to imagine something more? In the early 19th century, however, the bicycle emerged and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Everyone had a bicycle. It was the “it” thing to do – particularly among women. And despite some inevitable backlash and criticism, the tour de force of bikes and ladies continued to gain momentum (literally).
Women began to use bicycles to, well, go places – to shop, to travel, to wander, to run errands, to visit friends. Fashion changed, making movement easier and more accessible. Women’s ankles were being exposed (the horror!). And with the ability to move freely, women discovered something even more profound: the empowering thrill of independence and agency.
Today, man or woman, adult or child (and everything in between), recognize this simple fact: the ability to move = freedom. And freedom, the ability to move as and where one chooses, by the strength of one’s own body and the conviction of one’s own heart = happiness.
4. It simplifies.
Bikes (particularly of the modern variety) have gotten more complicated. But riding bikes? It is the most simple thing in the world. There is simply you, your body, your breath, and the trail beneath and before you. There isn’t room for much else.
Jobs and careers, mortgages and rentals, cars and dinners and conference calls and zip codes and fine denim jackets – all that silliness that divides and steals our time and energy, that robs us of unity and focus? It doesn’t matter on the trail. Not in the least.
And while, at the trail head or behind your keyboard, you may gawk at equipment, shorts, chamois, brake fluid, garmins, and whatever other silliness we have tacked on to the biking industry – on the trail itself? All that “stuff” fades into the joy of simply moving, simply breathing, simply riding.
5. It is meditative.
When riding, all else falls away. It must, to an extent. Daydreaming about bills, errands, and that morning-argument with my SO, is a surefire way to start a much more physical argument with an Aspen tree (ouch).
Mindfulness means living in the moment. To quote a former Zen master, “when you sweep the floor, sweep the floor. When you run, run. When you sit, sit. When you eat, eat.”
Too often, our bodies are doing one thing while are minds are off, doing a million others. This division breeds stress, anxiety, depression, and a host of negative emotions, thoughts, and actions. Meditation seeks to resolve this division, and thus, provide us with a way to reconnect with our bodies, to live in the moment, and to foster awareness and gratitude.
This may be why sports like mountain biking are so addictive and therapeutic. When biking, your mind and body are working together, in the moment, on the very specific task ahead of you. It is a kind of meditation – of the much more thrilling and exciting kind. There is nothing more than you and the trail and your bike. In the moment, your mind is clear and present, your body is moving, and you are truly and fully living within that moment, soaking in every ounce of its joy, color, light, and potential.
6. It is adventure.
The open road – you can see it, can’t you? Admired and traversed by wandering gypsy souls, a metaphor for American ingenuity and spirit, the greatest symbol we possess of freedom and possibility. Here, you can be, do, and go anywhere.
That road. Navigated. Adored. Feared. A place that was not a destination as much as it was a journey – less a thing and more an opportunity, a tool to be used to whatever end.
Today, the American road, unfortunately, is less “an open race towards freedom” and more a “grid commute.” But the spirit of that metaphor lives on in a different way in the wildness of dirt roads, singletrack, and aspen groves.
Because, at the edge of that trail head, out there, is adventure and possibility – things happen. And in wandering those spaces, you get to be a part of those happenings. Riding, is simply a microcosm of those open road and their figurative possibilities. Whether your ride is ten minutes or ten hours, a causal ride on familiar terrain or a week long excursion into unknown places, you will do things, you will explore, you will meet people, you will challenge yourself, you will experience something.
And that something? That unknown, mysterious possibility? That is exactly what life and living are all about.
7. It is wilderness (and wilderness is good for you).
There is something about the mountains, about nature and wilderness. It reignites our souls and our imaginations. It nurtures our spirits and strengthens our bodies. In the wilderness, we are able to focus and align ourselves with something greater than ourselves. We discover humility and purpose; we sweat and we learn. And we emerge from those lessons renewed.
The benefits of getting out into the wild spaces of our souls isn’t limited to the emotional and irrational world of us gypsies, however. Nature is energizing and restorative. Getting out of the “box” and out into the open spaces of the natural world increases both mental and physical well being, increasing our sense of well being and vitality while warding off exhaustion and depression.
Wilderness is not only good for your spirit; it is essential to your physical health. In fact, according to the 2010 issue of Journal of Environmental Psychology and professor of psychology, psychiatry, and education, Richard Ryan:
Human beings do not function well in isolation. In fact, isolation is akin to torture and can rapidly undermine both our mental and physical health. Loneliness can kill you – literally. To guard against isolation, we surround ourselves with people, with social media, with “things” – but it turns out being alone isn’t where we go wrong; being lonely is. You can be in the center of a crowded room and still be lonely; you could have the world at your fingertips and still be isolated. To guard against isolation and loneliness, we need and crave meaningful connections with living things (and adding more insta followers isn’t going to cut it).
“We have a natural connection with living things,” says Ryan. “Nature is something within which we flourish, so having it be more a part of our lives is critical, especially when we live and work in built environments.”
Mountain biking cultivates connection. Even when riding alone, one is never alone. There is the connection you have to the natural world around you, the connection that you feel and foster within your own spirit and body, and of course, the connection that you foster within the larger cycling community. Mountain bikers are a social bunch; we are passionate about our sport and thus, passionate about each other. I have never met a stranger at a trail head. I have experienced the greatest kindness on singletrack laps – from those who stopped to chat and share their glory to those who have, in the past, picked up my mangled steed and helped me to repair a chain, a tire, a cable. While biking, my walls are down, my mind and heart are open; the world rushes in and I rush back to meet it with a smile, a nod, and a genuine, deep-in-your-soul kind of joy.
Go to any trail head. I dare you. See for yourself. Like minded people, connected by a shared joy for nature, wilderness, and all things rubber? Now that is fabulous.
9. It will make you stronger (and fitter).
Mountain biking is hard. And doing those hard things does wonders for your body.
Biking is, simply, an incredible work out. It increases endurance, transforms those little lungs into massive cauldrons of athletic glory, and strengthens your heart. It strengthens nearly every muscle in your body.
And, did I mention that is far easier on your joints than high impact sports like running (or even high impact workouts, like plyometrics)?
What’s more, biking is the kind of workout that doesn’t feel like work. Sure, it’s hard. Sure, it gets your heart pumping and your body moving. But it is fun – and that fact means you are far more likely to jump on your bike over the years than hit the gym.
10. It breeds self sufficiency.
Wilderness sprawling in every direction, the open singletrack, my bike, myself and the adventure before me. And to traverse those spaces? I needed to be self sufficient. Because the freedom that mountain biking offers has a cost: that cost is your willingness to take responsibility for yourself and your actions.
Because, while your community is always there to provide guidance, support, and knowledge – at the end of the day, your ride, your bike, and your journey belong to you.
You need to know how your bike work and how to fix it. You need to know where you are going. You need to know how to take care of yourself (and others). You need to be prepared to take responsibility for a poor decision (and to learn from it). You need to analyze what is and plan for what might be. You need to think, act, and do – sometimes all on your own.
On the trail, you cannot hide behind someone else, you cannot slink into the shadows of another’s decision. It is your body, your bike, your ride, your future. You must be your own line of defense against injury and hazards.
And it is this mentality, the need to be aware, responsible, and sufficient as a mountain biker, that has had the most immediate impact on my professional and personal life. Because, the person that I am on my bike (confident, prepared, aware, resilient, free, and capable) – that person is still there at home, in the office, and in the classroom. I found her and discovered her strength on the trail. And because of my passion for riding, I get to develop that strength and bring her back with me.
There is always something about the mountains that transforms fear into courage – that, in showing us our weakness and humbling our pride, reveals our true potential. In daring to strip away our ego and shower our mangled bodies in a shower of sweat and dirt, the mountains provide a path and an opportunity to let go of all that which truly does not matter.
And in this way, in this sweaty, muddy, bruised and battered way, every dirt path promises only one true thing: freedom. This freedom, this sport, saved my life – through injuries and poverty, through homelessness and despair, through bad relationships and eventual romance, through the struggles of marriage and baby making, through the joys of motherhood and the difficulty of finding a balance, through all the trials and celebrations of my life now and into the future, mountain biking has been my center.
Modern Fit Magazine recently ran a feature on the advent of the Online Fitness Coach (with yours truly included! – check out the issue here). These lovely individuals are not fitness models; they are not personal trainers or nutritionists; they are not youtube stars or TGR heroes. They are not gym owners or professional athletes.
So…what exactly are they? What do they do and why are they changing the way we think about health, fitness, and wellness in our modern world?
These individuals come from a variety of different backgrounds – from yoga instructors and chakra queens, to fitmoms, professional skiers, bad!@# grandmas, power lifters, and stay at home dads; from Crossfit instructors to weekend warriors; from mountain gypsies to city kings; from alpine tundras to Manhattan high rises; from fitness advocates to those who are just getting started.
Coaches understand the potential struggles and incredible triumphs of health and wellness; they understand the importance of fitness and are actively working towards their own goals (whatever those might be). Along the way, coaches share their story, organize challenges, and build communities to inspire and support others.
It sounds simple, right? And it is! But within this simplicity lies the accountability and support necessary for lifelong health and wellness. To understand the power of fitness coaches (and why your coach will empower you to realize your health goals), we first need to explore why committing to fitness can be such a challenge.
Why do most fitness journeys end short?
If it was easy, everyone would do it…
That’s the thing about fitness – it seems easy: eat healthy foods, be active, and take care of your mental and physical health. Not only is this equation simple, it is also positive – it feels good to take care of one’s mind and body.
You may be well aware of the physical benefits of exercise – from the big things: increased life expectancy, decreased risk of a host of terrifying illnesses – from cancer to health disease and everything in between…to the little things: the ability to play with your children, for example.
The benefits of exercise, however, go far beyond your physical form. In fact, in a 2011 article, the American Psychological Association made a compelling argument that psychologists should be working with patients to incorporate exercise into existing treatments.
As immediate past president of APA’s Div. 47 (Exercise and Sport Psychology), she’s well aware of the mental health benefits of moving your muscles. “I often recommend exercise for my psychotherapy clients, particularly for those who are anxious or depressed,” she says.
Exercise has a dramatic impact on one’s mental well being. In fact, according to Psyblog, when it comes to the mind, there is very little that exercise can’t do. Exercise has been clinically proven to:
So, exercise paired with clean eating = a longer, healthier, and happier life. Why, then, is it so difficult? Why do so few realize their health and wellness goals?
Exercise is hard (and it should be).
Transforming your body and mind isn’t easy. It cannot be. The benefits of a healthy and active life demand that you push your limits, that you challenge your body and mind over and over, day after day. At a biological level, to build strength, your body must literally eat its own fat reserves, tear muscle tissue, and build that tissue back (stronger than before) while you sleep. At a mental level, you must push beyond self doubt and fear to challenge yourself. In fact, fitness depends on failure – you must work to the point of failure, fail, then rebuild, and try again.
It is (literally) much easier to just sit on the coach or better yet, move – but not really push it (the casual, slow treadmill trod + gym, make-up selfie comes to mind – if your fake eyelashes are still in place after a workout, you are doing it wrong). What’s more, as a general trend, we like being comfortable. We do not like failing. We do not like pushing limits. We do not like risk. We do not appreciate challenges that demand change, effort, or transformation. In fact, as a culture, we have associated this kind of hard work with negative stereotypes and erroneously believe that when we are rich enough, fit enough, successful enough, we can stop working so hard; our success will be portrayed by our constant ease and effortless existence (Mai Tia’s on the beach anyone?).
Not to mention the fact that exercise (in the gym and treadmill sense) is, well, really boring.
Fitness (and just about any level of success) demands intense and consistent effort. It demands that we continuously move beyond our comfort zones in pursuit of something just beyond, always – not just until we realize a specific weight or dress size.
You cannot eat whatever you want.
You know what else releases all those feel good endorphins? Food. And my God, do we have an unhealthy relationship with it. It is a source of pleasure and guilt, of joy and torment. And this dysfunctional relationship makes any nutrition program difficult. In short, diets don’t work. To realize life long health and wellness, we need to fundamentally change the way we view food and nourishment. We cannot simply cut out food groups or drastically cut calories. Exercise is hard work; it will make you hungry. To exercise, you must eat – but we also cannot eat whatever we want whenever we want. We need to learn how to fuel and nourish our bodies, how to read and satisfy hunger cues, how to foster a healthy relationship with the foods we eat. This takes time and effort; it demands knowledge and agency.
And, just like physical activity, it takes work – from the inside out. Did we mention that work is hard? Yes. yes it it.
The Trap of Routine
As human beings, we adore routine. We are creatures of habit, and we like to know what to expect; we like to feel in control and we appreciate the semblance of control that our routines provide. But routines, while they can provide a sense of stability that we all love and admire, are detrimental to fitness and wellness. In fact, that gym routine is working against your fitness goals. To continue to realize the benefits of a fit and active lifestyle, you must challenge yourself – meaning, you must purposefully avoid and push past your comfort zone.
All this hard stuff? You have to do it forever.
Health and wellness isn’t a journey with a definite destination. This journey? It is a lifelong process.
The problem of motivation
Doing hard things forever is difficult – even if those hard things are incredible for you (and make you feel and look fabulous). To be successful in the long run, to make good choices every day from this day forward, you are going to need motivation – intrinsic motivation.
All the little external tricks that we use (that brownie for completing that run? that dress you bought? that trip to the spa you promised yourself?) are not the ticket to permanent transformation. Traditional forms of motivation (losing a specific amount of weight, fitting into a specific dress size, competing in a run or charity event) have a definite end. They are dependent on external cues and, once those cues have been met and satisfied, the motivation to stick with and do “the hard things” fades.
To be and stay motivated long after the initial glamour collapses into a pool of sweat, to continuously pursue challenge and possibility, to push beyond your comfort zone time and time again, you need to build an internal motivation source. In short, to motivate external transformation, we have to first change inside – internally.
How Coaches Create Intrinsic Motivation
The question then: what motivates us at our cores? What are the deepest needs and desires motivating our daily choices and actions? On a daily basis, we need:
to be accepted and loved
to interact with others
to feel empowered and powerful
to feel important
to be organized and “in the know”
to feel unique
to be supported
to feel as though we are a part of something more or greater
Build and maintain online fitness communities (fitfams) that support long term health and wellness goals, inspire healthy choices, and encourage individuals within that community to overcome challenges and to continue moving forward. These communities enable members to share their journeys and to share in the journeys of others, appealing to our natural desire to be a part of something greater than ourselves while simultaneously cultivating acceptance, support, and social interaction – anytime and anywhere. In your community, you are surrounded, virtually and physically, by others who understand your struggles, who support your fit lifestyle, and who share in your triumphs and set backs (making those triumphs that much sweeter, and those set backs just a little bit easier).
Run fitness challenges, utilizing various tools, programs, and incentives. Coaches don’t simply build a community and then set you loose to wander, aimlessly (I have definitely walked into a gym more than once and, unable to figure out how to work that $#! thing, walked out)! Using a diverse set of programs and tools, coaches establish expectations along with specific workout and nutrition programs. They provide the knowledge and the means to realize these expectations, step by step. They take the guess work out of fitness, tailoring your program to your specific goals and unique needs/concerns while providing the knowledge, support, and guidance necessary to realize success – day in and day out.
Enable you to pursue fitness any time and anywhere. Coaches understand that we all lead busy lives. Thus, they provide the support and tools necessary for you to integrate fitness and healthy choices within your daily “routine.” Your coaches are always just a message away – and while you are still responsible for you, coaches empower the members of their community to take an active role in their own transformations by requiring active engagement, accountability, and above all, positivity.
If you are looking for something that works, if you are ready to take the next step forward and commit to a healthy life and lifestyle…
You aren’t looking for a gym membership, spin class, or the next diet craze. You are looking for a coach.
Ready to take the next step? Click here to make me your coach.