Why I'm celebrating Thanksgiving on the beach (early)...

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My birthday usually falls around Thanksgiving so a few weeks ago I decided to to check what flights to Miami would be like during that time. As foreigners, Chris and I don't celebrate Thanksgiving. Over the years we've been invited to many different family gatherings and while we enjoy them, they don't hold the same meaning for us as they do for everyone around us. Only problem is... we are leaving tomorrow because I was sure that Thanksgiving was tomorrow. Flights were cheap, great hotel choices and weird enough, nobody was traveling.

This also meant that I had to reschedule the rest of the week and cancel my classes for Friday and Saturday.

Most people laughed, one or two thought that I was making this up. Chris was a surprised when I told him to take some time off from work. But guess what in the end, I'm so happy this mistake happened.

Chris and I haven't had a vacation by ourselves, without responsibilities in forever. We both run businesses, we eat, sleep, breathe our work and we take care and dote on Zola.

We have taken family vacations to Germany and Australia. Those were beautiful. But we didn't have too much time for just us.

So this is what we are going to do for the next 4 days:

- focus on each other

- turn our phones off

- sleep in

- eat, drink, be merry

- AND: NOTHING!

I can't wait!

We all live in an interconnected world that has us constantly buzzing with information, messages, and more. We are constantly reachable, we check email first thing in the morning, and Instagram last thing at night. Meeting friends requires more organizing than before smartphones, now we can text and cancel, our opentable reservation as well as with the person we're meeting. We are running later and because we can let someone know in an instance, it's ok... because they are probably answering emails while they wait.

When do we truly unplug? Even for an hour... maybe even for a weekend.

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This holiday season I hope you get to unplug with people that you love. Take some time and share it with someone else. Give the gift of feeling and being fully present, not rushing and enjoying yourself.

Let me know how that goes for you. Happy Thanksgiving.

Roma

Cherry Pie (drool...)

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It is summer, darlings! And that means fruit pies... in particular for me: cherry pie (while I wait for the farmers market peaches to arrive). Those who have taken my classes this week may have noticed that I had an upset stomach a few times. As a girl once summer break came around I could usually be found at my best friend's house - in the cherry tree. I usually paid for the hours of eating cherries (and drinking water) with an upset stomach. And the past week was no different. Not in a cherry tree anymore but I ate as if I was and arrived at some classes with a bit of an upset tummy.

Anyhow... I hope you are all enjoying the diversity of summer fruit that is so abundant these days.

This pie was adapted from Smitten Kitchens' beautiful sour cherry recipe, made with some leftovers that I had but turned out delicious.

You will need:

One Trader Joes frozen pie shell

For the filling:

1.5-2 lbs of cherries (of the dark sweet variety) 2 tbs of corn starch 1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar

For the crust:

2/3 cup rolled oats or Trader Joes hot multigrain cereal: organic rolled whole grains(rye, barley, oats & wheat) 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar 1/4 tsp cinnamon 1/2 cup all purpose flour 1/2 cup almonds 4 tbs of melted butter (cooled)

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Let the frozen pie shell thaw and then press it into a pie form or a quiche pan - parbake in the oven for 10 mins at 300 degrees. Take out and let cool.

Mix the cherries with the other ingredients. Fill the mixture into the cooled pie shell.

In a food processor grind the oats/ grain mixture with the almonds, then add sugar and flour. Move the flour mixture to a bowl and combine with cinnamon and then fold in the melted butter.

Spread the almond/ flour mixture over the cherries. Bake in the oven for 70 minutes at 350. Once it starts smelling deliciously and is lightly browned on top, take it out. Let cool slightly and serve with fresh whipped cream or clotted cream.

ENJOY!

Cabbage Lentil Soup

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For Tasty Tuesday, this is a nice lunch the next day as well as a light dinner. Cabbage Lentil Soup with Farro. I try and keep my dinners lighter than my lunches and reduce the amount of carbs and heavy foods in the evening. Sometimes more successfully than other times. Somehow when I do that, I want to snack around 9/10 pm.

This soup is satisfying in smells, looks and flavours. Cabbage is widely used as a diet food. Who doesn't remember the cabbage detox soup? And lentils are filling and combined with the faro a great protein for your workouts!

You will need:

  • one small onion
  • 3 cloves (not BULBS as previously stated in a recipe) garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs of thyme, rosemary and 1/2 tbs of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • half a head of cabbage
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup of red lentils
  • 1/2 cup of farro
  • 2 cups of kale

Sautee the onion and garlic in 2 tbs of EVOO until fragrant. Add the spices and keep it cooking for a few minutes. Add the cabbage for 5 minutes until lightly browned and wilted. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar and add the broth, lentils and farro.

Cook all of this for 20-15 minutes partially covered. Then add the kale on top, cover with a lid and cook for another 5 minutes.

ENJOY!!

xxR

Red Lentils Recipe

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This red lentils recipe is so simple, I don't have much to say about it except that it is so yummy and was a total "what's left in the fridge" dinner. Red lentils with fennel. It may seem odd that we have fennel and lentils left over but it was that dire!

I really like fresh fennel. In Germany women give young babies fennel to help with colicky nights and even as an adolescent I always really liked that particular tea. So now I sometimes buy Yogi Tea Stomach Ease which includes it. I have also started using fresh fennel in recipes such as "The Chew's" braised short ribs with red wine and fennel and the middle Eastern dish with Kibbeh and fennel salad a la Ottolenghi that I featured here on the blog.

This red lentils dish is great by itself or as a side dish. All you need is one cup of red lentils for every 2 cups of water or (preferably) broth.

Bring the water/ broth to a boil, stir in the red lentils. Cut one fennel bulb in half and slice very thinly and add that half to the boiling lentils.

It will take approximately 30 minutes until the lentils are cooked, then you can sneak in a teaspoon of Turmeric for its amazing health benefits and: ENJOY!

xxR

 

On Procrastinating

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Procrastinating... we all do it in one way or another. Sometimes more consciously and sometimes more unconscious. It can be a matter of a day within which we don't manage to finish all our tasks, or pushing aside a different task over the span of days/ weeks/ months. Usually it's about something uncomfortable. But whenever we wake up from procrastinating we feel worse for it... Everyone does it and mind you I initially started writing this post 4 weeks ago :)

So here are some facts on what procrastination is psychologically (and what it is not). And further down I will share some ways I have learned to break through it or methods that are generally recommended. And then you can decide whether you want to call yourself a chronic procrastinator - like 20% of the US population - or maybe you're just a person who is looking for the right moment and inspiration!

  1. Procrastinating is something you learned at home. So if it's something you picked up, you can drop it again. Yes, really!
  2. Procrastinating is actually bad for your health. Being immobile, which is usually the way of dealing with things, weakens your immune system and can cause gastrointestinal problems and even insomnia.
  3. It is not poor time management or planning. You are simple a little bit more "optimistic" with your time.
  4. Are you trying to piss someone off? Because they may take it that way...

Now here's what to do:

  1. Find someone to jump-start you. It takes extra effort to come back to discipline, so find someone who will nag you repeatedly. When it's done, take them out for brunch. This year...
  2. Make a list and then do the hard stuff first. No task is so hard you can't find a way to motivate yourself. Be nice to yourself.
  3. Focus on one thing at a time and turn off distractions. Instant gratification of counting your Instagram or Facebook likes is awesome. But imagine how much greater it will be when you check back later and suddenly the number of likes is double digits instead of individual.
  4. Schedule breaks and how long they should last (!). Then if it's a longer project schedule the end time and reward yourself. Now go check your likes and have some ice cream.

Oh and while you're on Facebook and Instagram, come over to my pages and say hello, too! But only AFTER you're done.

xxR

Healing and a New Moon

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2014 is charging ahead. It is supposed to be ripe with opportunity and to favour the quick thinkers and decision makers. It is also full of new moons already! In less than three days, we will have a new moon again, the third one this year. This new moon will be in Pisces. I won't attempt to give you an astrological or mystical breakdown of what awaits, but I have come to appreciate new moons as mini new beginnings so I will do the same with this one. Also, the topic of healing came up (my husband compared me to Chiron... I'll write a separate post on that, ha!). As you may know, I suffered from sciatica for three years. It was excruciatingly painful and had absolutely no physical source (at least initially). I talked to a few new mothers this week and some of them told me about their experiences with lower back issues and also sciatica. Sciatica just like many other ailments and pains, usually stems from imbalance, emotional or physical. We can treat the symptoms but until we attack the root cause, the problem will keep returning. It took me another 2 years to get to the root and work on eliminating it and therefore reducing the pain and it took some pretty big changes in attitude and behavioural patterns. I was able to heal with a lot of support from others but mainly because I sought and went after more balance in my life.

Now this new moon on March 1st is in Pisces and asking for a closer look at some of our patterns, it is supposed to set a tone for pause and reflection while we consider where our energy has become totally out of balance.

There it is again: balance. The word pops up a lot. We talk about work-life balance, mind-body balance, balancing acts, balanced meals, the balance of power, standing balances and being well-balanced mentally.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Khaled Hosseini, And the Mountains Echoed

Balance is such an integrative part of our vocabulary but still, we rarely achieve it in our life. This upcoming new moon wants to remind us how to do it. It asks us to tune inward and listen. To pay attention to our dreams. To flow and be connected. To merge and take a break from mundane activities. My interpretation and what I'm intending to do (especially since it's coming on the weekend) is the following:

  • Seeing people that I don't often see and miss (!). I started today with a lovely lunch and it made me happy.
  • Engaging in activities that I love and that allow me to reflect. I will probably go for a run.
  • Taking some me time.
  • Trying to refrain from being impatient for x amount of hours per day. With others AND myself.
  • Preparing and savouring nourishing food. And ideally sharing it in lovely company.
  • Resting and taking a moment in the morning to reflect on my dreams.
  • Beginning or ending the day reminding myself of what I'm grateful for (and writing it down).
  • Writing down my dreams for the future as a way of manifesting them / announcing them to the Universe.

I can't believe we are almost in March. Three weeks and change until Spring. Could it be true?

Let me know what you will be doing for the new moon or what you have done to heal after a difficult emotional or physical setback.

I would love to hear from you!

xxR

Do what you love

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In his commencement address to the students of Stanford University in 2005, Steve Jobs said "You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. [...] And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. When I quit my office job and started my career in wellness, a lot of people thought I was crazy. I had been in said job for several years, it provided a very healthy paycheck that included all benefits that one could imagine (and then some) . Still I was lacking passion for what I was doing...

And on top of it, the job had made me sick. For half of the time, that I spent there, I suffered from sciatica, a condition which once diagnosed,turned out not to be rooted in a physical fall or injury. It was a consequence of the fact that my current situation had made me incredibly anxious and unhappy.

It took guts and a lot of self examination to come to the decision to leave a safe job and start anew but here are five things, I learned in the process leading up to and following through on this (so far) best decision of my life:

  1. When you do what you love, it doesn't feel like work: nobody said you won't have to work anymore, but being passionate about what you do, is fulfilling and ultimately makes you provide a better service to the people you work with and for.
  2. The money will come: Changing careers is never easy. Whether it is in the same industry or doing something completely new. One good think you can do is have savings before changing careers. But then dive into the new direction and trust that you are doing the right thing. And your income will come to reflect that.
  3. Being passionate = being healthy: none of us can escape the occasional sniffles but overall, doing things and loving them will eliminate stress and anxiety from your life which pose an enormous threat to our system and mental and physical well-being.
  4. Being passionate attracts support: believe it or not, the more your body language screams "passion" and "satisfaction" the more people will gravitate towards you. It will shine through what you write and say and these new people in your life will want to help your cause and see it grow.
  5. Being passionate, will be a powerful teacher: just because you are suddenly doing what you love doesn't mean it will always be easy. There will be setbacks and you will need to deal with them. When you are passionate about something, giving up is not an option. This new situation will teach you to look at yourself closely, examine where you are stuck and force you to move through it.

Ever since I started working in wellness, I have seen all the points above come true. My old job felt like an obligation at times, a chore and necessary part of my life. The daily grind became my reality and I accepted it as how work should be.

Being passionate about what I do has helped me navigate all the things that we are confronted with in our work lives and made them a lot easier. It has taught me confidence and to trust that I am doing the right thing, or forced me to re-examine, adjust, adapt and find new ways of dealing with situations where things didn't work out.

Personally, I think there is no better way to grow in my life than to do what you love and ultimately that for me is the purest form of self-love.

The Best South African Buttermilk Rusks

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When Chris and I went to South Africa two years ago (and got engaged ♥ ) one of the things I learned that the Van der Walt women need to know is how to make (the best South African buttermilk) rusks. What are rusks? In the US we would probably call them dehydrated cereal bars. In Europe something like pressed Muesli bars. This following recipe makes for a big amount of these delicious and oh so rewarding and nutritional rusks AND they are gluten free. You can eat them when on Safari, being charged by an elephant bull, crossing an Australian desert, as dessert, as breakfast or with tea. And they are great for pre- and post workout fuel! You can dunk them in tea or coffee and the crunch from all the good seeds, will always have you coming back for more. Luckily you will have enough for weeks...

Thank you for the recipe, Gaynor!

  • 1 1/4 cups butter
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 3/4 cups sugar. I use 1 cup dark soft brown sugar and 1 cup usual brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 7 cups of self raising flour, I use gluten free more friendly on the stomach
  • 4 cups of oat bran
  • 1 cup bread flour, such as King Arthur
  • 1tbs baking powder
  • 2.5 cups of buttermilk
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup of sesame seeds
  • ½ cup of linseeds

 

 

best south african buttermilk rusks

1. Melt butter, oil and sugar on low heat. Stir well and remove from heat as soon as melted. The sugar does not melt completely and remains quite thick but the grains melt. 2. Beat eggs in buttermilk and stir into above. 3. Mix all dry ingredients together and make a deep well. 4. Slowly pour in wet ingredients and mix well with a short handled wooden spoon is best. 5. With hands pull off pieces of dough mix, the size of mandarins. I don’t work the dough in my hands as this makes them heavier but the choice is yours if you want them lighter. A real child-play treat as the dough sticks like crazy but you’ll find a way to get it off your hands and onto the baking tray. 6. Place on 2 baking trays an inch apart. While cooking they will touch which is fine! 7. Cook 180 °C/ 350 F ‘till golden, about 30/45 mins. 8. Remove and allow to cool so you’re able to break them without burning your fingers! 9. Break up into whatever size you fancy while still warm. They break easily on cracks formed while baking. Leave them in a jumble on their baking trays close together as the drying out process is at least 8 hours when you go to bed. I arrange them upside down to allow more airflow while drying. 10. Before going to bed set oven at 100 °C/ 200 F and leave overnight.

ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!

How to resist temptation

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Has the weather in the Northeast worn you down yet? The US and Canada started 2014 off with freezing temperatures and polar vortexes that kept us in their grip for a solid 3 weeks. Now that we learned how to bundle up for all occasions, we get more snow and more to come. We have had colder weather than the arctic, big snow falls, sleet, freezing rain and then some. Usually our response to this weather is to turn to comfort. More precisely comfort food.

For some it is the hot chocolate, for others, savoury dishes that seem too heavy in the summer but now hold a certain allure. We drink more and vegetables take a lot more preparation to make them hot and comforting, so they can land on the back burner.

I'm no stranger to the effect that gravy, creamy dishes and sauces, roasts, pies and other sweets hold in the winter. Exercising in the cold weather is harder too, so is motivating ourselves to even consider it when there are only limited hours of daylight.

BUT: here is how to resist temptation with a few shifts in your mindset.

  1. KISS: keep it simple, skinny! I talk about routine a lot and it is true. The more your mind and body know what is coming (or not) the more reliably they will keep you on track. For example, if you eat a wholesome healthy warm dish of oatmeal in the morning on six days out of seven, then you will be less tempted to grab a quick muffin, egg sandwich or croissant on your way to work. The same goes for exercise. If you plan certain classes ahead and pack your bag, you're sort of forced to go.
  2. KO the sugar! I'm not saying you have to quit sugar all together. Although, it is certainly healthier. But if you start paying attention to white sugar in foods that is hidden, that is half the battle won. The simple carbohydrates don't do much more for your body than providing it with quick energy. We all have enough stored in our bodies to provide the body with that. The other problem is that while your body is busy digesting the carbs, other components of your food, proteins and fat, are being stored. Try and find alternatives, like honey or grab a piece of fruit before eating the chocolate bar.
  3. REM: Rest.Eat.Me(ditate)-Time! Not in that order but you get what I mean. Sleep is important in combating temptation and resisting it. I'm a compulsive snacker especially under stress. And I don't usually reach for an apple. When you get enough sleep and eat your last meal long enough before going to bed and then supplement that with 15 minutes of quality time for reflecting, the chances are that you will be less frazzled and make healthier choices.
  4. DIY: do it yourself i.e. cook! We all lead VERY stressful, busy lives but especially in the winter, our choices for takeout can be dumb. When we prepare our own food, we know exactly what goes in it. It's a beautiful thing to cook, to savour the aroma of dishes, to share it with partners and friends and it prolonges the process of enjoying it, too. If you live alone, cook and then freeze things or have regular potluck lunches with colleagues so you can sample some of their food.
  5. Check your MO: as in moderation, as in fallback plan! We can't always resist temptation but we can limit the amount of indulgences that we give in to. The easiest is to not keep too many unhealthy food options around the house. Or have them in individual packs. When the urge is big, make it a ritual that you enjoy. Reward yourself, have a great experience and then move on with your day and week. For example, have one row of a chocolate bar, have a few spoons of ice-cream, eat a slice of pizza and please spare yourself the guilt afterwards. This may just be my humble opinion, but I'm pretty sure guilt will make you fat ;)

Now, all these tricks are for when you are at home. But we are no hermits. Whenever you are out in public and temptation arises, remind yourself of the awesome things that you have in store for yourself at home. When you go to a party, try and keep normal meal portions in mind, then increase them by a little because it's a special occasion but keep paying attention if you start to feel sluggish, heavy, bloated or tippsy. Chances are that is just the prelude of how much worse you'll feel the next morning...

I hope you find these tips helpful. Let me know in the comments how you resist temptation. Pass on this article if you liked it and come on over to Facebook and like my page.

Have a wonderful rest of your week!

xxR

12 Strategies to have a great new Year 2014!

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At the end of the last year, I spent a few weeks in Australia. Now the sudden drop in temperature from 34 C to 34 F plus jetlag has tested my body's resilience to stress and attacks on its immune system. I'm slowly acclimatizing and relaxed and recharged I wanted to share my go to list with you for a great new year 2014.

  1. Start anywhere: Around the New Year, we often get bogged down in expectations and resolutions lists. I say, don't get overwhelmed on New Year's Day by the gazillion things you feel you need to accomplish right away. Most likely you'll be tired after celebrating. So start anywhere... have a healthy late breakfast, do some yoga or go for a leisurely run. There are still 364 days in the year to come.
  2. Make a plan: They say slim people usually eat in a pretty boring way. It keeps your diet simple and less room for too much over-thinking (i.e. cravings, etc.). This doesn't mean that you should eat the same thing every day. But eating at set meal times, and keeping meal sizes the same from day to day along with keeping healthy staples at hand and a healthy exercise routine, will change the way you look and feel.
  3. When in doubt, meditate: Meditation can be done in many different ways, IMHO. Its health benefits are undisputed and clearing one's head is generally a good idea. Whether you have a set time and place each day to sit and breathe or if you swim/ run whilst solving the world's problems, find that me time and focus inward.
  4. Don't restrict yourself: On MBG's recent list of wellness trends to watch in 2014 they mentioned that the strict view on gluten, alcohol and other ingredients of life would probably loosen up! Amen! I think healthy eating is very individual and needs a lot of experimenting. There is no one-size-fits-all. Ultimately you have to be mindful of the quality of the things you bring into your life. Whether they are food groups or relationships.
  5. Foster healthy relationships: I have dealt with deceptive people and it wasn't nice. It was also very hard to break free. However each one of these relationships has taught me something... Now my gut usually tells me early on what to do. We are overwhelmed with the amount of people and information that we are surrounded by. Pick and choose and make sure you spend quality time with the people who add the most (love) to your life.
  6. Read and Write: This is a petpeeve of mine, but seriously. Have you recently read a book? Not just an article online, a buzzfeed post linked on Facebook? Have you picked up a pen and written a thoughtful note, a letter or postcard? Maybe in the future, we won't need to anymore, however I would rather receive a love letter than an email. And smelling a book still excites me more than a kindle... Just sayin'.
  7. Spend time in nature: Yes, the local park counts. But try and be mindful of the time you spend there. Even in the winter, you can go for a walk. A friend of mine suggested hiking with our dogs in the summer. Time flew by and the landscape was breathtaking... and literally breathless, we got good exercise in, too. Nature's beauty gives us a different perspective on urban life, with its wide unpopulated areas which is very calming.
  8. Act in a respectful manner: Listen rather than speak, hold the door for someone, sit down for a meal and leave the phone in your bag. Manners have changed, there are a lot of things we would need to add to classic etiquette with subway seats and cell phones on tables. But the underlying sentiment is still the same. Make things easier for someone else, listen to them and make them feel appreciated and it will come back tenfold.
  9. Look forward not back: I am the queen of what-ifs, shoulda, coulda, woulda and regrets. It's a hard thing to shake. However, what's done is done. If you have hurt someone and are aware of it, apologize and make amends. However if all the looking back is about life choices, STOP! Nobody's perfect. Nobody's expected to be... You can make better mistakes tomorrow :)
  10. Listen to music: Regardless of what kind of music you like but it will usually have some effect on you. When you are tired, it can wake you up, music will push you through a run or other exercise, soothing music will help you release sadness or anger. Classical music may help you study or work. Go on now, switch on that radio, iTunes or Spotify and enjoy.
  11. Stop fretting about the future: Again, check no. 9... I am learning to live and be present. To lay the groundwork for things to happen but not forcing them to. I am learning to let the best outcome come to me, whether that is what I expected or not and accept it. It is hard and it takes time. And I won't always know why a disappointing outcome may not have been good for me if reversed... But the things that come in its place are looking to be pretty good!
  12. Go mirror-less: Have you noticed that when you go away on a vacation, you can probably go for a full day without really looking in the mirror? Well if you don't do that, try it! I'm sure you can do your morning routine and then resist looking in the mirror and checking on your appearance too often. It feels good! Trust that you look good, feel what your body needs (hand cream, lipbalm, a glass of water) and stay away from the selfies for a few hours...

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy 2014! xxR

Body Image and Health

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Regarding the title, Body Image and Health, you'll probably wonder what I'm doing in the picture above? I'm pulling up my pants. They are low-rise and therefore sitting in them without a belt, means that I have to adjust them before I sit down for a photo opp. Body image is a topic that everybody can relate to, everybody in a different way though. For me personally it came as a big surprise when my 15 year old lanky frame suddenly started developing curves. There were areas that took a little while longer, but not my hips and bottom. Suddenly what felt like overnight, I had a butt. And I didn't like it.

In today's society we are fed pictures of Victoria's Secret models strutting their stuff down the runway looking curvy to us, however they are really only curvy in relation to their otherwise very slim frame. Fashion models are preferably androgynous with narrow shoulders and no hips. So it is now wonder that we women strive to maintain a slim frame from the moment our body changes in adolescence. We own skinny jeans and keep them "in case we will fit into them again", we are joyous at the thought of wearing a size 4 (which is manufactured to make us feel smaller), we compare, we follow trends, we play with colours and shapes and we work out to get slimmer.

As a professional athlete I was huge by society's standards, I had broad shoulders, strong legs (one leg was so much bigger from fencing than the other, that I had to buy jeans one size up), I had big guns and I had a runner's butt. My body was my job, I was eternally grateful for all it could take, it was my tool, and I was incredibly proud of what it stood for: strength in swimming, steadfastness in shooting, a deep seat on horseback, explosiveness in the fencing and a graceful stride in the running. When I quit competing, my body placed fat on top of my muscles, courtesy of me continuing to eat like I was training 25 hours a week. And somehow at the time I didn't notice.

I look back at those photos now (no, I won't share them) I cringe slightly at how unaware I was, not just of how I looked but how unhealthy I was. I had left a very controlled lifestyle for the first time and I was consuming a lot more than was necessary or good for me.

And then a beautiful thing happened: because I was so unaware of my heavier frame I didn't do anything about it. I started eating less as my body recognized my lower output, I incorporated some exercise into my life again and my body naturally "shrunk" back to my healthy size (mind you, over the course of almost 2 years!). I have been at my size and weight for 8 years now and as people who know me will attest, I eat a lot and then some.

Working with people now, my priority is not teaching them how to lose weight quickly and I personally don't measure success by watching people shrink. What makes me happiest is seeing both men and women embrace strength, develop skills, grace in situations in which they were convinced they would never be, change their perception of food and gratification and most importantly make movement an integral part of their lives. If there is an obsession that I support then it's feeling the urge to move to experience health in body and mind.

I embrace my body and my butt now. I'm a woman so I have fat days, bloated days, feeling ugly days, sad days and envious days. But overall whenever I do, I try to think back to the pride I used to feel over a healthy body that allowed me to do so much. I dare you to think of a night out in which all you did was have fun and thought of nothing else. Not your outfit, not who you wanted to impress, or what anyone else was wearing... Right there, that's the feeling that exudes a quiet confidence that is so irresistible...

Stay tuned for the letter C tomorrow! And make sure to hop on over to my Facebook page for the rest of the alphabet.

xxR

Yoga Happiness

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Does yoga bring happiness? For the longest time I was mainly a runner. I was a passionate fencer for many years and I love show jumping on horseback. And then not too long ago I threw yoga into the mix. My husband who has been practicing for decades promised me that if I stuck with it past the point in which downward dog would actually become a relaxing pose, I wouldn't regret it. He is a wise man, my husband :) I can't think of a better way to stretch out after a long run or to start other days building heat in my body (especially in this weather), than through yoga. It has helped me deal with anxiety, makes my skin looks rosy (say my friends) and it is a perfect way for me to end each of my classes and sessions with people that I work with.

Yoga makes me happy. It is the balance to my running. It has helped me trust in things instead of wanting to control them.

Balance + Trust = Happiness

Let me know if you agree or how yoga has helped you, below in the comments!

xxR

Pumpkin Seed Cookies!

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I love it when people send me recipes. This recipe is for pumpkin seed cookies. You must have some left over from Halloween, no? In this adaptation of another recipe, my friend Anahi, added coconut and she will be experimenting with caramelized ginger soon, too! I'll make sure to post an update when she does. 1/2 cup unsalted butter 1 cup rolled oats 1/2 cup coconut flakes 1 tablespoon whole wheat flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted 1 egg 1/3 cup cane sugar + 1/3 cup brown sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until it starts to foam, then watch until you smell a nice light nutty scent. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about a minute, before stirring in the rolled oats.

While the butter is browning, combine the buckwheat flour, baking powder, spices, salt and pumpkin seeds. Set aside

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar and egg together until the mixture becomes creamy and batter-like. Add the vanilla. Whisk in the flour mixture, then stir in the butter and oat mixture, stirring just until combined. The dough will be quite loose and runny.

Drop tablespoons of the dough onto your prepared cookie sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until golden brown around the edges, about 8-10 minutes, turning the pan half way through cooking time. Let sit on baking sheet several minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

(I love the Milk Beer glasses in the picture! Thank you, Anahi!)

Pre and Postnatal Fitness

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Pre and Postnatal Fitness is a topic that - when googled - shows varying results of very gentle movement with a lot of breath work. On the other hand there are professional athletes such as Kerri Walsh (who I am a HUGE fan of) who competed in and won the Olympics during her early stages of pregnancy and her open way of discussing it, earned her quite a bit of criticism. One of the first people that I started working with earlier this year was 4 months pregnant when we started and she stopped 2 weeks before her due date. Over the course of 4-5 months, we worked out up to 3 times a week, always according to how she felt, early in her pregnancy we did some running and later on we kept her heart rate up with fast walks with weights in hand. Each session included yoga and that portion increased over time. Every so often she would join my group workout in which the exercises often involved working with other expectant moms. Because I saw her so much, I got a really good glimpse into how the body changes, the mood changes and the muscoskeletal disposition can be affected by pregnancy. It was fascinating.

Mood wise, there were days when the feeling of heaviness and sciatic pain made her consider not working out but after a few times during which we saw the positive effects of gentle exercise on her mood, it usually took only the first minutes and a fun anecdote of my work week to get her spirits up and by the end of the session she would feel much better than before. Regarding the changes of her body, because she carried a girl, she said the felt different than carrying a boy the first time around: heavier around the hips (I'm looking forward to reading some comments from mothers whether they agree or disagree) and an earlier onset of more weight. Towards the end of her pregnancy we were presented with a different problem. Her pelvis had shifted to one side so now it was pressing on the veins that ran down her leg, causing it to swell to almost an inch more in diameter than the other. Her doctor ran tests to see if it was dangerous and it wasn't but we did an increased number of exercises to stabilize the pelvis (like in this video) and luckily the imbalance subsided immediately after the birth.

This pregnant woman and others have shown me a wide range of fitness levels and motivation. Regardless of what they are they are usually accompanied by a high level of insecurity of what to do and what to avoid. The safest bet is to take advantage of the many prenatal yoga classes that exist now. But there are many other exercise forms that are safe for women to do during and after pregnancy. So in my approach I have focused the first part of the class on getting the women's heart rate up, through walking, slow running, cardio exercises with resistance bands and in some instances light boxing work (it is intensely gratifying to punch those boxing mitts and it is stationary so there is no jumping or running involved). The second part of my workout includes strength. Usually it's focused on the main weight bearing areas such as the hips and legs. But a pregnant woman also wants to maintain a beautiful appearance which is why toning the legs, glutes and arms and shoulders is an essential component too. I do some core work but often the yoga with which I end the session, involves some of that as well.

Postpartum exercise is often similar especially in the early stages post baby, i.e. 6 weeks and later. Women who have given birth are usually very eager to return to a regular exercise routine quickly. But the body needs time. And during that time I have found variety to be the most important component. Just as for people who want to lose excess weight, keeping the exercises fun and diverse is key to making the workout routine a habit and therefore sustainable.

It makes me really happy to see women leave the class glowing. Not only are they doing something healthy for themselves and their baby by maintaining a good cardio-vascular level during pregnancy but after delivery they also take an hour for themselves, they laugh and talk and get things off their chest. Having mixed classes has been beneficial for both groups.

If you are currently pregnant and want my five tips on how to make exercise fun, please read this MindBodyGreen article. Or even better, come and join me for one of my classes.

I hope whether you are a new mom or currently pregnant, that you find a way for yourself to maintain or get back to exercising. And if you have any questions, concerns, comments or just want to say hello, please do so in the comments box below!

xxR

Discipline: Rad or Bad?

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I just read this article about discipline and how celebrities apply the 80/20 rule to stay fit and slim without denying themselves occasional indulgences. It sounds reasonable and I try to live by that same rule. It's often more along the lines of 70/30... but what I am trying to do these days is keep my meal plan simple during the week and allow myself a day on the weekend during which I don't have to think about what I eat and can indulge. I have found that it keeps my cravings at bay and improves my overall well being tremendously. Ok, so maybe I apply 80/20 on those other days sometimes, too :) As I have mentioned before, my schedule as an athlete used to be very structured, time wise, but also in terms of what I ate and when. The structure provided me with a sense of safety and stability in my life, it made me feel invincible to be able to be so physically active and high school was its own structure, too - that I fit in between workouts. During intense weeks, I would run 5-6 times a week, swim 3-4 times, fence 3 times, shoot 3 times (plus autogenic training) and ride once or twice. Phew... just typing this makes me tired now. Days would start at 6am (in the pool) and end sometimes at 9pm (leaving the fencing gymnasium). Wash (often!). Rinse. Repeat.

I was recently invited by a group of women (who have families to take care of), to run with them. Meeting place was 6am at Grand Army Plaza. Which meant getting up at 5.30 and being out of the door by 5.40am. It was remarkable to see how these women met with such fun at such an early time, I thoroughly enjoyed their company and when we were done, their day started with making sure that their kids were out the house and off to school, etc. My only responsibility was to feed my dog and then check my schedule for the day. I won't be doing it all the time, but there was something that made me feel very proud about adding so many hours to my day and having been productive already by the time I got home at 7am.

Being self-employed demands a certain amount of discipline. Working with people and helping them create a different lifestyle demands being creative in my approaches to mask that discipline as enjoyable exercise and delicious meals. Working with people in public class settings means, picking up on each person's vibe, and rewarding the discipline of them showing up with an experience that will be memorable physically and emotionally.

Getting positive feedback is a direct reward of my discipline. What a beautiful circle.

I have learned in the past years, to be less harsh with myself. The control freak in me has to consciously relinquish the rigor of that discipline that is such a strong part of me and allow myself to go with the flow and let events unfold.

I have found that creating structure is important when it is around practical things, such as my calendar, exercises planning for the people I work with but in my personal life, I am allowing a few more elements of surprise. I still don't like surprise parties or ordering dishes for the table instead of me (more on this in a different post)... but I have learned through my dear friends, that life can be a delicious "box of chocolates. You never know what you gonna get".

And I'm ready to embrace it. I dare you to try the same!

xxR

Success Factors - Five Ways to "get there"...

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How do you define success? What are the factors? In our humble society, the word success almost takes on a dirty meaning. I personally prefer to talk of progress, which I define as small successful steps towards my very own goals. Success and the relief, power, satisfaction and other things we attribute to it, can be scary if we don't put it in perspective. As an athlete, my ultimate goal was to participate in the Olympics but I also know many of my former team mates, who did, and the satisfaction from having participated or like these two, having won the Gold Medal in Beijing (Britta & Lena), wears off and makes room for other superlatives to try to reach. It is an ongoing journey and we need to acknowledge that.

I wasn't always this relaxed about things. I would push and shove and train hard. I had the biggest falling out of my teenage years with my coach when he told the then national coach to go to hell and not enroll me on the team in early 1997 (I was 15) because he didn't want me to compete internationally at that young age. I threw a tantrum, I cried, I sulked and I hated him. Ultimately he was right. It would have been too soon. Being on the team meant that the national coach took over from mine and dictated my schedule, with very little room for negotiation. If that meant World Cups throughout the winter, that also meant there was no solid time for me at home to still build my strength, stamina and ultimately all things that made me the well rounded athlete I became later on. When I joined the team 8 months later, I learned first hand how painful it could be to train with someone who didn't care that I was still growing, that I needed adequate rest time and couldn't be partnered up with 17 year young men in little competitive races, swimming and running while reminding me that as a representative of my country, giving up was NOT an option.

At a particularly grueling workshop the boys, who swam the 200 m freestyle in 20-30 seconds faster than me, had to swim 10 sets of 50 meters diving and then 50 meters sprint. Myself and them had the same 'go times' of every 2:30 minutes which meant that they had ample time to recover after each set but my rest time vanished into thin air with each one. The same was true for the 400 meter runs we had to do every day. A week later at the European Championship I swam the worst time of that year and ran a minute slower than ever, with the first three contestants finishing in my usual time. In his defense, my coach did not say "I told you so"...

I digressed a little. Nowadays as a business owner and working my own hours and being solely responsible for my success, it has been hard to be patient. I have touched on patience in a different post but it is not the only thing that I had to apply to remind myself that success can be measured in different ways.

  1. Why only have big goals? Focus on smaller attainable goals and celebrate when you get there.
  2. Talk and listen. We don't like to take advice from parents but we can learn from other people and sometimes simply because they see us from the outside and assess the situation more clearly.
  3. Realize that it is a process. Last week I received a text message from a great woman I work with that she had to buy smaller pants. We've worked together for some time but not too long. This is amazing and the fact that it took some time means it will stick.
  4. Don't compare. Hey, I'm the most competitive woman on the planet so that's hard. Ultimately its two things: there is enough success for everyone (no, really!) AND be kind, because everyone out there is fighting a tough battle (too).
  5. ... which brings us to this: Be KIND to yourself. Because if you're not, why should others be? Don't beat yourself up. Things take time, especially the lasting ones. Fighting yourself can - at the worst - result in self sabotage or self fulfilling prophecies. Try my advice for stressful situations and keep soldiering on.

I think you're great! Please share some successes with me in the comments, pass on the post, like it, and if you haven't yet and want more info from me, sign up for my newsletter on the homepage!

PS: Zola learned how to balance on her hind legs. Success!

xxR

3 ways to manage stressful situations

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This week presents two stressful situations for me. One was teaching a first class at a new place, you know, will the music work, will the owners like it and will the participants like it? Yes, yes and yes. It was a great hour with lovely people, sweaty, heart pumping and incredibly relaxing at the end. Just so beautiful. I tend to get very stressed and forget to focus during stressful situations. This week, in addition to teaching my first class at Melt Massage I'm also running the Miles for Midwives 5k fun run. I am a professional procrastinator so I started preparing for class the night before and the day of but with the race on Saturday there are a few more things I need to remember. Most importantly: to chill out.

Here are 3 ways that help me when my mind starts racing, my jaw clenches up, my brain is already focused on an appointment 5 hours from now and my stomach acts up, which is especially uncomfortable during workouts:

  1. Stop! Turn your eyes away from the computer, the phone and for a moment focus your mind on something else. I like to look out the window and watch the squirrels chase each other down a tree, a dog helps too, playing with Zola calms me down and makes me happy or if you are in the office, get up and walk over to a nice colleague of yours, say hi and chat about something or go get some water.
  2. Nap! Seriously. The racing monkey mind creates a lot of physical anxiety too and that's tiring. If you can close your eyes and snooze or at least drift off for about 15 minutes, it does wonders to your state of mind, emotional and physical well-being. I find that when my stomach gets really worked up, that helps calm it down, too. You can do that outside on a bench, at your desk or at home you can lie down.
  3. Laugh! Remind yourself that nothing horrible will happen. It will probably go incredibly well and by the end of whatever it is you are dreading (public speaking, a sports event, or anything else) your relief will make you happy and crave even more of that adrenaline rush. If you can't think of something funny yourself, ask a friend to check in with you beforehand and make you laugh. If they do, they are truly good friends. Laughing releases dopamine and dopamine makes us smile. Win-win situation.  which help the body stay in tune and even heal.

As children, we didn't anxiously await horrible outcomes to new situations, we were able to live much more in the present and go about our daily business. With experience comes fear. But that doesn't mean we can't remind ourselves of these three simple things that were so simple once and are so vital to our well-being.

I dare you to try it! I'm going to go take a nap now.

xxR

New Beginnings - How to embrace them

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I have only been back in the training business since April this year and I'm loving it. Not being tied to a desk and working as a personal trainer is the best thing that has happened to me. With summer coming to an end and a new moon happening tomorrow, I only found it apt to reflect on new beginnings and the past few months.

"A New Beginning usually happens at the end of another New Beginning"

On September 5th we will have a Virgo new moon, which is here bringing into alignment and integration all we have been learning and growing into. We have been going through some deep shifts as we birth our new selves into being, shedding our skins in favor of  more authentic forms… (see this article on the Mystic Mamma blog).

For the last month or so I have been feeling this shift pretty intensely, After an initial 3 months of excitement, new things, new clients, I reached a plateau, which is good but I'm not quite where I want to be yet. I have more goals for the future, both practically such as finding a great indoor space to work at in the winter as well as where my personal growth is concerned. Part of that personal growth is to embrace patience and impermanence.

Even though I am not always fond of new beginnings/ change, I like new moons, they feel cleansing, powerful, like a clean slate. I have used them in the past to re-evaluate, to get back on track and to listen deep inside me to see if I'm still following my intuition. And with each new moon, usually something happened, sometimes bigger, sometimes subtle but always valuable. So I'm excited to see what happens after tomorrow.

Each new moon that I consciously paid attention to, has also taught me a thing or two. Here are 5 things that I continue to find valuable:

  1. Change makes us uneasy but since it is happening anyway, embracing it, is the easier path.
  2. Someone has been in that situation before and has experience but that doesn't mean that the way they dealt with it, has to be my way.
  3. Patience means resting assured that if it's not the new beginning that we wanted this time, it will still happen in the future.
  4. Trusting that the best possible outcome for us will happen, is something we can learn from the "Urvertrauen" (basic trust in the goodness of existence) that children have.
  5. Getting rid of some old stuff, baggage etc. is GOOD and feels even better.

My next four weeks will be dedicated to training for the 5k race that I mentioned recently (see below).