Proud 2019 reflection~
My Dad, Larry Roy loved watching me compete. While in college, he attended all my VT triathlons and road races. In honor of him, and his passion for the race, I ran a half marathon (my first in 12 years) this past fall. This particular race had been on my radar for many years, given it's location; South Hero, where my dad was born, and where he rests in peace. His gravesite is located several hundred feet from the start and finish of the race.
Although not feeling 100% prepared due to an early cold virus, my race experience was remarkably satisfying! Step by step, I traveled along the roads I'd grown up knowing. The warm September sun energized my spirit and warmed my bones.
At times during the race I felt my father's presence. There were parts he lifted my heavy, tired feet (at least it felt that way). There were times when I lifted my own, counting out 1-8 over and over, especially mile 12-13.
After finishing an emotional 2 hours on roads, I walked to the cemetery, placed my race medal over his cross, and dedicated the race, and in ways my life to my father.
In some ways the last part of this experience may seem like the climax. However, in many ways, it was during the summer of 2019, that my fuel and passion was reignited. I grew fond of longer running routes again; the 5:30am training runs with my running partner Alysia were a pleasant way to wake with the birds, the hill repeats that grew in quantity (not so much in quality), each week, and the long slow distance weekend runs...thankfully either listening to a favorite podcast or my friend share about meaningful world values and ideas.
It's rarely about the race, it's about the journey getting there. A good reminder: your 2020 journey awaits you...how do you want to experience it?
Attending workshops at the Kripalu Yoga Center in Stockbridge, MA is my favorite way to invest time and money. Learning from remarkable practitioners of yoga, coherent breathing, stress reduction, Ayurvedic-nutrition, and most recently Metta meditation has influenced my teaching, and ways of being. Expanding my views (literally and figuratively) helps me cultivate an open, curious mind. Without this wider lens, I’m embarrassed to write, I’m not 100% certain I’d notice the inequity of the current social landscape.
My October Berkshire visit for a Metta meditation workshop with Sharon Salzberg was deep and full of transformational moments. The practice of Loving Kindness is done silently, offering benevolent health, peace, and ease to yourself, acquaintances, enemies (perhaps a difficult stretch), and all sentient beings. Who knew sitting on your butt (at times in discomfort), has the potential to amplify circles, broaden awareness, settle anxieties, and shake you awake to the life you’re living.The act of wishing good-will to others, has the capacity to not only make your inner world more peaceful, but also foster acceptance, forgiveness, inclusion and love.
Social and racial disparities are obvious in wellness spaces such as Kripalu. Access to health enhancing programs seems reserved for the affluent few. Not unlike many college tours I’ve been on (primarily in New England), the Kripalu campus was overwhelmingly white. However, diversity was strongly represented by employees cleaning bathrooms, stocking cafeteria trays, and providing fresh towels. In mindfulness practice, they say change begins with noticing. Noticing when your mind has spun out in a fantasy, your itty-bitty committee has taken a turn for the worse, or paying attention to simple pleasures- like the gripping hug of a child, snowflakes on eyelashes, or the taste of a steaming cup of cocoa on a winter’s day. We can’t change what remains unseen.
During the meditation practices, when invited to wish positive, peaceful, healing energy to acquaintances/strangers, I knew precisely who I’d be offering blessings. I fantasize about a future where healthy living isn’t reserved for the privileged and monochromatic, and where we take care of the whole and not just the haves. A future where thoroughly seeing becomes prevalent, and un-noticing doesn’t feel right in our soul, and where all beings have access to the privilege of health and wellness.
This past week I had the pleasure of feeling the stars in their glory. One evening as I returned home...instead of rushing into the mudroom to unload my arms (my arms have been full my entire life it seems), I paused and looked up. Not a quick hurried glance, but rather a panoramic view that consumed my being. A feeling and a knowing, that "I'm them and they're me", swallowed me instantaneously. The stars that were up there, are the same as when I was born; and will be the same long after I disinhabit my earth meat-suit.
This interconnected feeling is fleeting. The pause between my thoughts, feelings, and restlessness to "do" restored me for a brief moment. A timeframe frozen in my heart which I've been pondering and savoring.
When you have the opportunity, without searching, looking for something, and forcing an experience,
As I planted my prized variety 50-count bag of daffodils, I was called to exercise delayed-gratification. I’ve spent the money, labored tucking them deep in the earth, but now will need to wait 7-8 months (depending on VT’s 2020 spring) before I’m able to enjoy their striking beauty.
"Patience is a virtue", the phrase you were most likely taught. That virtue has all but disappeared in today’s next-day Amazon delivery. We’re a society that not only runs on Dunkin, but also a hedonic treadmill. Always looking for the shiny new thing that’ll provide immediate gratification.
What does this have to do with Mindful Movement, Mindful Eating, and wellness coaching? Quick fixes in health and wellness often bypass the real meat and potatoes (pun intended), for sustainable change. There’s always going to be the next diet, potion, skinny-coffee membership that’ll promise the fast, easy way to fit into those skinny jeans. But at what cost? You’ve most likely either experienced or witnessed it...the magical transformation that seemed to take place overnight, then the reversal transformation usually a year or so later. Often the process has detrimental effects on future metabolism.
This was evident in the research they did on the Biggest Losers contestants - https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/02/health/biggest-loser-weight-loss.html
After being in the health and wellness field for over 30 years, I’ve come to some solid conclusions. My responsibility to my clients, is to help them find ways to live their best lives- while eating real food, remaining part of their families/communities and moving their bodies in ways that make them feel good. The tools people acquire, help them course-correct during life’s curveballs. Things like more: water, movement, green veggies, connection with loved ones, home-cooked meals, and less: breads, crackers, candies, food wrapped in packages with long expiration-dates , and beverages that lead to poor food choices, and contribute to dehydration.
Notice, however, I said more and less, not all or none! Unsexy I know, but the truth is the long-game, change-game, the ultimate transformation-for-life is how you build an arsenal of healthy habits that’ll assure you become vital, well, and have the ability to participate in your community celebrations and family rituals.
Avoid quick weight loss promises from experts outside the health and wellness field and instead take the time your healthy-self deserves to cultivate personal, sustainable, healthy habits. Transformation may not be speedy, nor spectacularly Facebook news-worthy; however, you’ll be empowered with helpful tools you won’t outgrow in a year.
Transition- noun Tran·si·tion|tran(t)-ˈsi-shən
a: passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another : CHANGE
b: a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another
Who am I? Who have I become? These are some of the existential questions brewing in my mind this season. Life is a never-ending cascade of transitions, and this fall I get to experience another, the “empty-nest”. I originally grasped, forced, and all but jumped off the what-now cliff head first! Thankfully, my attempts to rush into replacement mode went belly-up.
I’m grateful for a pause. The "what’s next?" pause. Although, I won’t lie, this hesitation and shift in my identity at times feels like impending doom and I’m eating my share of anxiety pie. I’m making slow progress towards “the next thing”, “the new thing”, “the same thing with greater devotion perhaps”. It’s no mistake that the most helpful practices that are enabling me to lean into this transition with curiosity, acceptance, and grace, are movement and stillness.
Movement through running as I train for a half marathon (my first in 12 years), and stillness with stretch, meditation, and fascia release sessions. As I run, I let go of regrets. Regrets of how I mothered, if I did enough, if I did too much, how I should be further along in my career, how my IRA and 401k should be bigger, and everything in between. Mile by mile I listen, question the viability of my doubts, and offer them up. I give my worries and fears away to the universe. I let go of what's no longer serving me, tune into a deeper inner-understanding, and know that I did my very best. Today I stand proud, tall, and strong as a mother warrior with indomitable will.
As I come up for air post chaotic child-raising season, I’ll continue sharing what I know to be true for me: when I move more, I react less and respond with greater intention. When I listen deeply, I learn what I need to help show up as the best me. And when I maintain a strong core, I reserve an inner resiliency that’s unstoppable.
Mindful Movement invites you to ask yourself: “what do you need during this transition of waning sunlight and the Earth’s darkening season- where she’ll turn inward and rest?”
We're two weeks past the beginner 5k race and I'm still feeling immense gratitude for the opportunity of coaching 10 remarkable women. Over the 7 week period we walked, talked, shared, supported, and yes even ran. The goal may have been the same for everyone- running a 5k, the experiences however were highly individualized. We began as strangers, finished as a team, and became fierce friends.
The life we endured along the way:
Our lives continued throughout the 7 week journey. We were impacted at home, at work, in our relationships, and by our emotions. The value of “knowing you’re not alone” is the ultimate team experience. The feeling that “you’re OKAY" exactly as you are is the inclusivity felt by individuals willing to be in the 5k arena and run more than just miles.
Mindful Movement’s beginner 5k program is 3 weeks in and going STRONG! I’m thoroughly impressed with the way this group of 10 amazing women are doing this thing called running. They’re showing up…early, I might add. They’re running in rain, humidity, and traffic, yes traffic, have you been on River road during morning rush-hour lately? They’re facing fears, listening to doubt, learning to trust themselves and enjoying the comradery of a supportive community.
Maybe you’ve set a goal in the past and given up once the novelty wore off. Working towards a milestone whether a 5k, marathon, advanced degree or other interest takes hard work, tenacity, and GRIT. Regardless of what you set your vision on, motivation is necessary along the journey. Being able to put the work in day after day, week after week, requires a well of fortitude. How can you stay the course and What’s this distinguished running motivational tip? New sneakers, grape Gatorade, skinny jeans, a race-getaway with your girlfriends? No, nope, nah, and a big German- nein! New sneakers breakdown quickly, Gatorade contains brominated oil to maintain the “grape-color” (a substance banned in Europe and Japan), skinny jeans become outdated in a season (apparently skinny is out and bootcut is in, who knew?), and yes, a girl’s weekend is always a welcomed excursion, however, these motivational tactics are external and usually fleeting.
The number one motivational advantage we all have comes from our thinking. Setting goals is an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize your potential. The work begins when you have to manage thoughts that don’t support your goal…it’s too hot, I’m too old, big, tired, or don’t come from a running background. These sneaky doubts are sometimes noticeable, often times not. If you’re not careful, they creep in and you’ll be organizing your junk-drawer, detailing your car, or ironing your linens, then…it’s too late to drive to running practice this morning, so sad…NOT (click heels together).
Signing up for the race is the easy part, consistently showing up for practice is how confidence is built mile by mile. You begin to see and feel progress. You run further and further down the road. You get a taste of endorphins. You listen to your “yes I can” voice more than your “who do you think you are” voice. Then when the group convenes and you hear that others experience these thoughts also; you feel at home. Feeling less alone is comforting and helps your resolve grow even more! In a world where it’s too easy to stay separated and alone, I’m grateful for this group of women who continue showing up, doing the work, and experiencing it all mile after mile, week after week.
Habit- a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up
" You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems." ~ James Clear,
Clients ask me all the time- how can I make exercise a habit? Using these 4 laws from James Clear's Atomic Habits, you can create lasting change.
4 Laws of behavior change:
1. make it obvious
2. make it attractive
3. make it easy
4. make it satisfying
Use brushing your teeth as an example:
1. Your toothbrush is located in an obvious, frequently visited place- the bathroom counter-top.
2. Anticipating an attractive reward gets you to take action- eliminating morning breath.
3. You've developed an easy system of brushing your upper, lower, right/left, and front teeth- an easy pattern you repeat without thinking.
4. You desire a clean, fresh mouth- mint toothpaste provides a satisfying feeling.
Now lets use the 4 laws for participating in weekly Pilates classes:
1. Packing your workout clothes and yoga mat ahead of time- makes your plan obvious.
2. Anticipating how you'll feel when you leave class- less stressed, taller, stronger, more centered, and accomplished- creates an attractive reward.
3. Paying in advance for a day pass (on website), or full sessions- makes participating in class easy and convenient.
4. Taking good care of your body during class by modifying movements, breathing deeply, and stretching when called to do so- creates a personalized, satisfying experience.
Using these principles for building goal-producing habits.
James Clear's book Atomic Habits made me more aware than ever of what is involved when creating sustainable positive health-habits. Although the suggestions Clear writes about are worthy of sharing with you, I’ve been side-tracked by another book this month.
What My Mother And I Don’t Talk About- Fifteen Writers Break the Silence by Michele Filgate.
After a morning spent reading these formidable stories, I couldn't help but recall the story of my grandmother’s (Romona Francis Walker) first born child in 1935. I felt compelled to capture the tragic event on paper; however, breaking the silence doesn't pertain in this case. My grandmother shared the experience with others, including myself when I was in my early twenties. At the time I was too young to appreciate the calamity of the event, but not too young to contemplate the effect it must have had on an 18 year old smart, motivated, young woman. This understanding has never left me; I document it here for the first time.
To say my grandmother was bright is an understatement. She earned the Green and Gold Award (UVM’s full scholarship) by becoming the valedictorian of her class; it was a college education that would never come to fruition due to the pregnancy of her first child. Rather than attending college, her fate was the more culturally accepted path: marriage.
I’ve often wondered what she would have become. How would UVM have shaped her? How would she have shaped UVM? Would she have studied medicine, education, political science? What discoveries would she have made? These inquisitive unrealized possibilities loom in my being; a being manifested in this realm because of her first pregnancy. If her brilliant mind had wound up at UVM, my mother, and her 5 siblings wouldn’t have been; hence no me, and no story.
The story of her first born is of a “stillborn” delivery; a baby carried to term in 1935. A baby according to my grandmother who was “pink, perfect, and delicate” announced dead at delivery by the doctor who pulled (sedatives were prescribed at delivery) the baby from her and the nurse that stood witness. A baby who was “moving and alive prior to delivery” according to my grandmother.
Her story has haunted me throughout the years. It’s been knocking on my soul to be shared. It’s been screaming at times to be written. It’s bled from my heart on long runs, late nights nursing my own children, and during the time I lived with my grandmother. It’s not my silence, nor my grandmothers', but rather the child that never had a proper burial, the child that didn't have a chance to grow up, the daughter of my grandmother; her name: REBECCA.
You may be wondering why your fitness trainer, wellness coach, group class instructor is sharing this. I believe true authentic health, healing, and sustained wellness is a 360 degree integration of mind, body, and spirit. I believe it’s not simply the foods you choose, but the energy and the company you’re in during meals. It’s not about the squats, rather the strength you build in your legs to stand confidently in your unique power. It’s not the 100 in Pilates, but the understanding that routines are important and provide us with familiarity and habits that ground us. It’s not the group class that burns 400 calories (although it can’t hurt during creemee season), but being part of a community; your community that shares stories such as these…this is what leads to sustainable health and healing for us all.
Becky Widschwenter- Mindful Movement with Becky