Tag Archives: balance

GIVEAWAY: Look Back to Get Ahead

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The end of the year always heightens my need for personal retreat time.  It is time to pause, step back, and look objectively at my work-life balance. It is useful and beneficial to get quiet and clear about what my intention is with my work.   It is imperative for me to pause, do a body scan, and make sure that I’m treating my own body well.   It is important to reflect on how I’ve used my creative talents and served my greater community.

Before you go thinking that I’m going to tell you to wander through the woods or take a spa weekend, let me be clear: a personal retreat does not have to be extravagant or expensive.

For me, personal retreat time does usually mean nature.  I have a park near my home where I like to go hiking, and it is during these quiet solo hikes that I can think clearly.  But sometimes it means simply locking myself in my bedroom in my PJs and slippers and taking some quiet time.  I think about the parts of my business that are working well and the parts that are chafing.  But most importantly I think about how I feel towards my work.  Is it still feeding me?  Am I still giving my clients my best self?  Does my family suffer because of my work?  I love to have time to free-associate and think of all the ways my work and life are flowing– and clogging.

But just as important as time for reflection is time for planning.  After all, if we don’t use the reflection for growth, it just becomes sappy nostalgia.

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I know I benefit from both the mental wave-riding of free thinking about my year as well as a more structured, guided reflection.  I have used the Leonie Dawson Shining Life workbooks for several years with great enjoyment.  They never fail to challenge me, even as I’m encouraged by all that is going well in my life.

I so believe in the power of reflection and planning to help you achieve your goals that I’m giving away a 2016 SHINING LIFE WORKBOOK.  I know that it will help you take stock of where you are now and map out where you’d like to be this time next year.  It’s not just for entrepreneurs, either– anyone can benefit from Leonie’s colorful, engaging, creative, and soul-stirring prompts.

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As someone who promotes balance and wellness in all that I do, I want you to experience how good it feels to know where you are right now and know that you can get where you want to be.

It may feel luxurious to indulge in navel gazing, or it may feel like a waste of time.  Either way, it will be worth it.  If you can use what you have learned this year to plot out how you want to grow in 2016, you’re already bringing balance into your life.

If you just can’t wait to get started on this work (I know am the type!), use the button on the right ————> to order your own Shining Life or Shining Biz Workbook right now.  You can buy a .pdf copy of the workbook that will be sent to your inbox for you to start TODAY!

Well done, You!

GIVEAWAY:

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If you would like to be entered into the drawing for a Leonie Dawson 2016 SHINING LIFE WORKBOOK & WALL CALENDAR, leave me a comment that tells me one thing you learned in 2015 and one goal you have for 2016.

I’ll draw the winner at random at 10am Central time, Tuesday, 29th December, 2015.  The workbook & calendar will be mailed to the winner that day.

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Guest Post: A New Mom’s Tip for Creating Balance

Today OnBalance features a post from new mama, experienced yogi, and fitness trainer Katie Painter.  Katie is based in Richmond, Virginia.  Find Katie on Facebook for more healthy living tips.

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“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Is this not the most irritating quote you’ve ever heard? No? Just me?

I think this quote grates on my nerves because it sends me right into defense mode.

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As a new mom to a six-month old I like to say that parenting is easy… as long as you’re lucky enough to have a laid-back baby and you’re super organized. I am only one of those things and it’s not organized. (Though now that I’ve put it into writing I’m sure I somehow angered the Happy Baby Gods and my little one will now suddenly turn into a sleepless, teething hellion.)

So in an attempt to make life a little easier, I tried to get organized and started food prepping on Sunday nights. Because when I fail to plan, I fail HARD at eating well.

Food prep means different things to different people. For my family, food prep isn’t perfectly portioned containers stacked up in the fridge ready to go. That’s not necessary or practical for us, but I do like to get food cleaned and ready to go so at the end of the day cooking isn’t a time consuming challenge.

Here’s a quick peek at what food prep usually looks like for us:

  • Veggies sliced, diced and seasoned
  • Crockpot chicken (By far the greatest food prep hack! Place 4 chicken breasts in 4c water, let sit all day with some salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder then remove, shred with a fork and store.)
  • Baked chicken (We love Lowery’s seasoning)
  • Ground turkey in homemade taco seasoning
  • Mason Jar Salads

Lunches are the hardest meal for me because if the little one is being needy, I have to eat with one hand while she squirms in my other arm. That means I grab whatever is ready to go. Mason jar salads are the best thing Pinterest has ever given me.

There are really only two rules for building any kind of mason jar salad:

1) Use ALL the veggies. (The more veggies you can throw into your salad, the happier your body will be!)

2) Keep your dressing and leafy greens as far away as possible. (Harder veggies like tomatoes, peppers, etc. will soak up the dressing a bit without wilting so put those in first.)

Here’s my current favorite recipe:

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  • 2 TBSP Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • Grape Tomatoes (As many as you want… go ahead and load ‘em up!)
  • 1oz Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
  • 2oz Pasta (Please don’t fall for the PROTEIN label in the picture! This is still a starchy carb and does not count as a fat loss protein source… we just like the taste of this particular kind)
  • 2c Baby Spinach

Add ingredients in the order listed above starting with the dressing on the bottom of the jar. (I add a small paper towel square to help absorb water and keep my spinach crisp.) Then seal up the jar, pop it in the fridge, and flip upside down into a bowl when you’re ready to enjoy.

Add protein later by heating up chicken before adding the salad OR add your favorite protein source right into the jar.

Have you tried mason jar salads? Share with us your favorite recipe!

Go Pro, Young Man!

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Like many of you, I spend a lot of time supporting my children and their sports endeavors.  I do this happily, as I believe strongly in the value of kids playing team sports.  I believe in learning the importance of teamwork, working at a skill to develop proficiency, and enduring challenging situations.  I also believe in getting plenty of time running around outside.

I’m a soccer mom.  I never would have predicted how much I enjoy watching my boys play soccer.  I never thought I’d open our home to a young man from Brazil and a young woman from England in support of my kids’ interest in soccer.  I certainly never thought I’d spend so much time in the car, driving hither and yon to practices and games, all in the name of sport.

But I do.  And I do it willingly.  I do it without thought to any payback.  I don’t say that in an attempt to be a mama martyr; rather, I say it because I want my kids to know that sometimes you do things because they are fun.  And sometimes you do things because they support people you love.  You should never believe that you’re going to get anything other than the joy of playing or watching the game.

There was a recent NPR story about the likelihood of a child becoming a pro athlete and how many parents have a skewed belief that there is some payoff in their child’s future.  Maybe if we just practice a little more, invest in better coaching, or devote more time and attention, that scholarship is just around the corner.  Or, even better, you’ll turn pro and the big league bonus will make you set for life.

Maybe.

But probably not.

And by narrowing the focus of sport on the infinitesimal chance that there may be money in it, we adults do a whole lot of damage.  Not only do we suck the fun out of sports, but we put way too much pressure on our children to take every moment seriously.  While I certainly advocate developing a strong work ethic and honoring the commitment to the team by doing their best, it is our responsibility (and privilege) to allow these children to develop a sense of satisfaction just from playing the game.

Sure, I’d love for one of my kids to earn an athletic scholarship.  But I would hope that by the time that opportunity presents itself, my son is still in love with the game.  By allowing him to play at a competitive level but keeping a recreational focus, I hope that I’m fostering this passion without putting pressure on him to make it pay off.

And if I’m ruining my boys’ futures by not putting them on the athletic fast track, I’m okay with that, too.  For now, I have children who love to play the game, and I love to watch them.  That’s a balance we all appreciate.

Good health and great happiness to you.

You say, “Back-to-School?” I say, “Self-Care!”

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Self-Care!

As a parent of three kids (ages 4, 9, and 12), I love the opportunities of summer: hanging out, playing board games, exploring new places, and doing whatever the heck we want.  But I’ve got to be honest with you; it’s a fat ton of work.  When you add in the fact that summer is my busy work season thanks to teaching swimming lessons, and I relish the idea of back-to-school as a time to tune into some self-care outlets that have been pushed aside the last few months.

  1. Exercise as its own reward- I’ve been blogging a lot recently about my running goals over the next year.  While I’m focused on my path to achieve them, I also know that I exercise because it makes me feel good….NOW.  The New York Times recently published an article linking the way people viewed exercise with their compliance to sticking with an exercise program.  In short, the more people felt they HAD to exercise, the less they actually did.  The people most compliant with a long-term exercise program were those who were most focused on exercise as a strategy for feeling good in the short term.  So while it’s great to have a goal, I’m going to enjoy the journey.
  2. Eat lunch every day– I have a bad habit of forgetting to eat lunch.  Or I eat snacks here and there, but they don’t always add up to the most nutritious combination of foods.  For me, taking care of myself by eating a high-quality lunch every day– even if it’s a hodgepodge of foods– will help me  from getting “hangry” once kids are home from school.
  3. Fire up the sewing machine– It’s been a while since I’ve sewn on a daily basis.  I miss the creativity and satisfaction of productivity that I feel when I sew.  Taking the time to indulge my sewing interests works parts of my brain that don’t get worked in my family or business life.  More brain work = happier, healthier, more whole me.
  4. Connect to Build Community– I often spend part of the first day of school making a list of people I see regularly but don’t often get to talk to.  You know the type– the parent friends who I see every day at drop-off but we don’t do more than exchange pleasantries.  These are the people I want to approach and offer to go for a walk after drop-off or meet up with over coffee 30 minutes before pick up.  By nurturing these friendships, I can help build my sense of community.
  5. Say NO!– This school year, I am room parent for two of my three kids and soccer team manager for two of my three kids.  I also volunteer teach eight hours a week at the elementary school.  I enjoy each of these roles, but I recognize that I am fully doing my part to support my kids’ educations.  Any further requests for volunteering shall be met with a polite, “Not at this time; thanks for asking!”

How can you take care of yourself this school year?  I encourage you to make a list of your own self-care strategies.  Writing them down is useful not only because you are forced to really think about how these issues affect your life, but also as a record of accountability to yourself.  By intentionally bringing balance into your life, wellness will follow.

Wishing you and yours a creative, active, stimulating, and healthy new school year!

Aqua Yoga: Buoyancy and Balance

This is the first in a four-part series, posting weekly on Thursdays, to introduce concepts of Aqua Yoga.

I love the water– I love the feeling of floating and being free and light.  Being in the water allows me to both escape my body and come in very fine balance with it at the same time.  For that reason, aqua yoga provides me a way to play with buoyancy and balance in a way that a land-based mat yoga class does not.

Let’s dive right in and think about it.

When on land, balancing postures are some of the most physically challenging parts of yoga.  We must feel confident that we aren’t going to fall.

Scary!  I am so worried about falling that I can't keep my hips stacked or raise my leg to full extension.

Scary! I am so worried about falling that I can’t keep my hips stacked or raise my leg to full extension.

We must trust that we have the strength in our legs to hold our weight.  If we’re really good, we even try to concentrate of getting the alignment of the body correct so we can breathe deeply and experience the full expression of the asana.  But let’s be honest– most of us are working so hard just to hold the pose in whatever way we can that we are cutting short the experience we’re trying to achieve.

This Dancer looks pretty graceful, but I cannot hold this alignment for very long...and I'm certainly concentrating more on the physical work of the pose than the breath moving through me.

This Dancer looks pretty graceful, but I cannot hold this alignment for very long…and I’m certainly concentrating more on the physical work of the pose than the breath moving through me.

Enter buoyancy.

The water helps to alleviate much of the risk  of balancing postures.  First of all, who cares if you fall?  Rather than risking an injury, you just get wet.

With a little support from a noodle, I can feel confident in this more complete expression of Half Moon.

With a little support from a noodle, I can feel confident in this more complete expression of Half Moon.

Next, the water carries about 75% of your bodyweight when you are standing in chest-deep water.  That means less weight on your joints, and that can help you focus on the correct alignment of each body part.  It also translates into the ability to hold postures for much longer than on land.

All of this together means that you can hold a well-aligned pose long enough that you can breathe deeply and enjoy the full expression of the posture.  Without all of the gripping in the muscles due to lack of confidence and/or physical stamina, the ease of breath while in water flows freely.

Experimenting with balancing postures in the water is available to a wide population, especially to those people who lack confidence to try them on land. Whether you are obese or pregnant, practicing aqua yoga balancing postures is fantastic for their strength-building potential.

An aqua yogi at eIght-months pregnant, able to find Full Moon with the support of the water.

An aqua yogi at eIght-months pregnant, able to find Full Moon with the support of the water.

Now, don’t go thinking this means that balancing postures in the pool easy.  Because you are buoyant and gravity isn’t doing it’s thing to keep you on the floor of the pool, you are forced to concentrate on the rooting down in the base leg of the posture.  By bringing your focus to your foot, you can begin to think of how the posture is stabilized, then trace the alignment of the body up from that base.  Again, because you are not working so hard just. to.get.in.the.pose. you can turn your attention to alignment and breath.  This deeper level of inner focus that can be achieved in the pool will translate to a mat practice, too.

Three first-time aqua yogis playing with buoyancy and balance in Graceful Dancer.

Three first-time aqua yogis playing with breath, buoyancy and balance in Graceful Dancer.

Grab some noodles and get in to the pool.  Aqua Yoga can help you find your balance, both mentally and physically.

Good health and great happiness to you!

I teach Aqua Kriya Yoga classes and host private events in Austin.  Here’s a complete list of certified Aqua Kriya Yoga teachers.

Health at Every Size

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I received an inquiry from a potential client a few months ago asking if my personal training philosophy was aligned with the Health at Every Size movement.  I had to admit that I had never heard of HAES, but I would investigate it and get back to her.

According to the website:

Health at Every Size® principles help us be at peace in our bodies, supporting people of all sizes in finding compassionate ways to take care of themselves. It includes the following basic components:

  • Respect, including respect for body diversity.
  • Compassionate Self-care
    • Eating in a flexible and attuned manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite;
    • Finding the joy in moving one’s body and being physically active.
  • Critical Awareness
    • Challenges scientific and cultural assumptions;
    • Values body knowledge and people’s lived experiences.

— An edited excerpt from Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Leave out, Get Wrong and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight, by Linda Bacon, PhD., and Lucy Aphramor, PhD, RD.

As far as making peace with body size and developing compassionate approaches to thinking about how we view and treat people of various body sizes, I wholeheartedly embrace the pro-tolerance message that recognizes that weight is not an indication of personal value any more than it is the sole contributor to a person’s health matrix.  Just like there are plenty of people who are considered “normal weight” who lack fitness, people with larger than socially-accepted body sizes can have a positive health profile.

As a personal trainer, my job is to support people on their wellness journey. Fitness is one of the components of a healthy lifestyle, but it is only part of the puzzle.  Sound nutrition, quality sleep, and maintaining a low-stress outlook on life also contribute to overall wellness and good health.  Knowing that my primary role is to help people build healthy habits through meaningful exercise, I want to support people of any size.

I’m pleased to say that I have been working with the woman who introduced me to HAES since May, and she is determined to create a healthier lifestyle for herself.  Incorporating regular exercise into her week and intentional movement into each day, these habits are building blocks to greater wellness.  Like anyone beginning a new exercise program, she is reaping internal health benefits through the increased workload on her body.  Whether or not this translates into a change in body size isn’t the point– it’s that going up and down stairs and taking the dog for a walk are now pleasurable activities that help her to feel vital and strong.

Fat shaming may be popular– particularly in the media– and even seen as en vogue in certain social circles.  But if we truly care about people as individuals, we must see them for who they are and value their health, just as we do our own.

I urge you to read through the Health at Every Size website and sign the pledge!

Good health and great happiness to you.

Beach Bum & Fitness Fun

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Ahhhh, the beach!

I’m back on Cape Cod for my annual vacation.  This year I’m planning a nice balance between relaxing with my feet in the sand and listening to the waves, playing with my kids, and keeping up with my marathon training.

I know that I’m better about holding myself accountable if I lay out a few ground rules before I go on vacation.  Here’s what I’m aiming for this year:

1. Start the day with a green smoothie most days of the week.  I know I’ll have at least one Dunkin’ Donuts Boston Kreme donut.  And I’ll love it.  But most days?  Green smoothie.

2. Say ‘YES’ to the kids when they ask to play paddleball…be pulled through the waves…race on the beach…throw the ball around…fly a kite.  There are still plenty of hours left to relax in a beach chair.

3. Eat a salad every day.  I’ve done this the last two years, and it makes me feel good.  Remember that when I feel good, I am nicer.  That’s a good thing.

4. Honor thy Google calendar.  It has my running training plan on it.  I need to take advantage of having so much free time (and grandparental help) to go for quality runs.

5. Check email only once per day.  At the most.  Giving myself a break may help me remember email isn’t actually all that important.

6.  Spend one-on-one time with each kid.  They deserve it, and I always enjoy it.  It’s hard to parent with a zone defense all the time.  Being able to let each kid choose something special– a hike, a board game, an outing– and then getting lots of attention is what vacation should be about.

7. Enjoy eating ice cream.  But just the kiddie cone.  It’s still tasty, and there’s plenty of it.

That’s enough.  I don’t want to overwhelm myself.  It is vacation after all.

Good health and great happiness to you!