Gearing Up for Spin: GRIT Fitness REVOLUTION Cycle Spotlight Party

I have a confession.

I don’t like cardio. Like, at all.

Running: no thanks. Elliptical: puts me to sleep. Stairmaster: torture.

Group fitness is probably the only time that I can get down with cardio. I told you all about the fun I had recently at Jam Box fitness.

One of the best places in DFW to have the group fitness experience is GRIT Fitness. I’ve gotten down to yoga, HIIT and other classes with the ladies of GRIT and it’s always a blast. Plus, the owner, Brittani Rettig, is a total #GirlBoss.

But one group fitness class has always given me angst: SPIN. Remember what I said about running, elliptical and Stairmaster? There is something about the same motion on a stationary machine that elicits dread. But when I heard GRIT Fitness owner Brittani Rettig and her rockstar team of cycling instructors are hosting the REVOLUTION Cycle Spotlight Party on Friday, September 30, I knew I had to be there. GRIT always has the best music and the most pumped-up instructors for the other classes, and I’d expect no less for their Cycle party.

Plus, how COOL is this cycle studio?!
Plus, how COOL is this cycle studio?!

Join me as I work through my “fear” of spin class and sweat out the work week with two free cycling classes, drinks, treats, raffles, a photobooth and a special gift for the first 100 guests.

WHAT: GRIT Fitness REVOLUTION Cycle Spotlight Party

WHEN: Friday, September 30, 5-8PM

Complimentary classes at 5:30 and 6:30PM; Studio tours, shopping and entertainment throughout the evening

WHERE: GRIT Fitness – Design District, 1729 Irving Blvd., #101, Dallas, TX 75207

SIGN UP: Guests can reserve their spot to ride at dallasgritfitness.com/schedule beginning Friday, September 16.

Check out the Facebook event page and share with a friend who will need the stress-busting fun of SPIN class this Friday.

Can’t wait to see you there! I’ll be at 6:30 class but catch me milling around before then. 

Shaking My Groove Thing With Jam Box Fitness and Baileys

If you’ve ever been to a public event with me, you will know that I can and will dance/shimmy/slide with no shame. Impromptu movement is fun for me. Some folks challenge each other to #StopDropandYoga and I just want to do the Electric Slide in the grocery store.

Me in Vegas for my 25th birthday, fist pumping for my life.
Me in Vegas for my 25th birthday, fist pumping for my life.
Wedding action shot of me sliding across the dance floor.
Wedding action shot of me sliding across the dance floor.
I even took on challengers at the wedding!
I even took on challengers at the wedding!

For all the fun I have dancing, choreographed dance has eluded me. Given more than three movements in a row and I turn into Ms. Two Left Feet. I didn’t let the handicap stop me from coming out for the Dallas Fitness Ambassadors fun event at Jam Box Addison. The event, billed as a jam session, had attendees enjoying lovely Baileys cocktails beforehand and then we were going to get funky on the dance floor.

You had me at drinks. Baileys got us started right with a refreshing mix of Baileys Almande, a gluten-free, nondairy (but not vegan) liquer mixed with Vita Coco.

I’ve been putting Vita Coco in my smoothies lately in place of sugary orange juice and plain water and it was great to have it in a mixed drink as well. One (okay, fine, two) rounds of drinks and I was ready to bust a move!

I had not heard of Jam Box Fitness prior to attending, so I had no idea what to expect. The teacher and studio owner, Dominique Lasha’e, told us we’d start with Pound class and then move onto choreographed movements, aka my nemesis.

Dominique, getting us ready to go.
Dominique, getting us ready to go. Photo courtesy of Dallas Fitness Ambassadors

Pound class sounded relatively easy: hold drumsticks and clap them and tap the ground in beat. Verdict: ouch, my obliques. While I blissed out to the amazing Rihanna-driven soundtrack and followed along with the moves, my core was working harder than I knew. You stay in a squat and bend laterally, which fires up all the big, supportive muscles groups along the middle of your body. LOVE the deceptiveness of the fitness aspect.

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Get into that core work. And yes, I’m wearing Chuck Taylors because I forgot my tennis shoes and nothing was going to stop me from working out. Photo courtesy of Dallas Fitness Ambassadors
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You can literally see my thoughts: “And 1, 2, 3…4” Photo courtesy of Dallas Fitness Ambassadors

Next up: Funk the Fit dance cardio. I took a deep breath, rolled my shoulders back and faced the class with all I had…and I killed it.

Photo courtesy of Dallas Fitness Ambassadors
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Photo courtesy of Dallas Fitness Ambassadors

We grooved our way through class and I felt like Ciara, Janet Jackson and just a touch of Queen Bey, rolled into one sweaty dancing fool. I’d gotten some crappy news earlier in the day and the class took my mood completely in the other direction.

After class, Pollo Tropical came through with the great-smelling fare. I was initially concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to eat after burning all those calories. Thankfully, their beans are vegetarian so I loaded up on salad, beans and rice with some spicy salsa to go alongside. Perfection. And right before I put myself in a food-induced coma, I got a five minute rubdown from Riviera Spa and discovered just how tight my neck and shoulders are. In all, a great Friday night made better by being surrounded by my fitness friends, dancing, drinks and food and a good mini-massage.

Shouts out to Dallas Fitness Ambassadors, Jam Box Fitness and Dominique Lasha’e, Baileys and Vita Coco, Pollo Tropical and Riviera Spa. 

 

 

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Dancing QUEENS! Photo courtesy of Dallas Fitness Ambassadors

Where Do I Start With Yoga?

Inspired by Amanda Miller Littlejohn’s recent appearance on the Wharton School of Business “Women@Work” podcast, I started to rethink how I present my expertise on yoga. Littlejohn stated that we shouldn’t be thinking so much about what we’re good at and what we know as much as what our customers are asking. (Seriously, check her out, she’s dope.)

The most frequent reaction I get when I state that I teach yoga is “I could never do yoga. I can’t even touch my toes.” This statement is often combined with an assertion that they don’t know where to start. In that vein, today’s post is going to provide a starting point to those who consider yoga and think “Where do I even start?”

Start Inside Your Head

I’ve written about how I think social media skews our idea of what yoga looks like. Your practice, especially as a beginner, will not consist of floating into handstands in hidden alcoves on sandy shores. You will be sweaty, kind of clumsy and possibly forget your right and your left. Make peace with the idea of looking silly to yourself and others. Nine times out of 10, no one is paying attention to you and the bead of sweat that landed in your eye that you’re furiously blinking away. Most people, including me, go to class to work on themselves, not to judge what’s happening on other people’s mats.

Flickr user Fizzr
Flickr user Fizzr

Find Stillness

Let’s back it up for a second, away from the idea of sweating and getting physical. Yoga is more than the postures you do in class, combining movements and breath. There is much to learn in suspending motion and focusing on one action. Find a comfortable position (Mountain, Child’s Pose, Savasana, Easy Pose), allow your eyes to close gently and start the work of blocking all outside distractions. Put your phone on mute, turn off Netflix and bring your attention inward, to your breath entering and exiting your body. I am a fan of resting a hand on my chest and another on my belly, as the sensation of my rising and falling chest gives me something to focus in on. The great thing: you don’t have to do this for long. Start with 120 seconds, two minutes, of removing the external distractions. Increase gradually, and forgive yourself easily if you lose focus. None of us are perfect at meditation – except maybe the monks who have bad reception in the mountains.

Close Up Tree at DMA

Have Fun

I understand that yoga can be intimidating. I teach it, I take classes, and I still can feel inadequate from time to time. I feel like I should be better, stronger, bendier. We’re human and we are all learning how to be kinder to ourselves. One thing I will never stop doing with yoga is having fun. Simply put, my body is amazing, capable of more than I ever thought I could do, and much of the respect I have for it came from being in a yoga studio. I firmly believe that yoga (all physical activity, really) helps you form a bond with your person, your essence and the energy you put out into the world. So every once in a while, whether in Happy Baby or balancing in Warrior 3, pull up the corners of your mouth.

As I like to say to my students: Smile, it’s just yoga!

Smiling Upward Dog

What advice would you give to a new student? Sound off in the comments, teachers and students alike.

Staying Strong in Your (Dis)Comfort Zone

Have you ever found yourself in a situation so new, unusual or outside of your comfort zone that you immediately wanted to retreat?

The feeling that you just associated with the above situation – chest tightening, hand sweating, fight or flight – has been on my mind recently. In the past few months, I have found myself in a position, time and time again, where I’ve been challenged with a new task or emotion that makes me want to turn tail or make an excuse for not trying.

I went to my best advisor, my mom, and told her about my fear of the unknown. Most of my slight distress comes from not wanting to be told “no” about something I really want. I think we’ve all been there. Whether it’s a new responsibility at work, requesting 15 minutes of a potential mentor’s time or even telling your partner what you really want, it can be daunting to put yourself out there, only to hear “no.”

She gave me the sage advice of learning to “stand in my discomfort.” That’s right: stand in it. Not run through it, like you’d do over hot coals. Stay on top of it, make friends with it. Explore it and ask questions. Make friends with your discomfort.

I told her I’d consider it and hung up. Maybe she had lost her mojo or was pulling my leg. Who actually wants to stay uncomfortable? Isn’t that why specialty stores sold so many $50 pillows? We love comfort, pay top money for it, seek out specialists to build ergonomic playpens for the purpose of achieving a zen-like state. So why should I befriend discomfort and ask it to sit down for a cuppa?

Then I thought about what would happen if I ran away. I’d never know what was not only on the other side of the coal bed. Nor would I learn something new about myself on the way there, walking leisurely and embracing all the lessons. I’d forever be on the other side, safe and S.A.F.E. (a bit NSFW but look up what that acronym means and you’ll get it).

Inspired by this way of thinking, I have since adopted 2016 as my year of “Shoot the shot.” This was a brief trending topic on social media around New Year’s, in which folks decided they didn’t want to end 2015 without telling someone they liked them (or some other hidden revelation). For some it worked and they were able to make a love connection. Others got curved. But at least they knew where they stood.

Since I’m married now, my shot shooting is professional only. In my year of “Shoot the shot,” I’ve expressed more openly my professional goals to my boss and sought out mentors and peers for help in what I am trying to achieve. I have made requests of brands, even though I immediately tried to talk myself out of it. I had to tell myself “Worst thing they can say is ‘No, thank you.’ And then you’re right back where you started, but at least you asked.”

I will say, most of my shots right now are from the free throw line. They’re not super challenging or greatly out of my range. They only send a slight tremor down my spine. As the year progresses, I’ll be taking steps back to get to the three-point line. That’s stretch goals, bigger asks and greater challenges of myself if the answer is “Yes.”

Before the year is over, I want to do a half-court, all-or-nothing kind of shot.

Because, yes, I hate feeling awkward and vulnerable just as much as the next person. I don’t want to feel my heart in my chest as I watch the three dots bubble, awaiting a reply, or check my email nearly obsessively.

But the feeling you get when you hear or read “Yes” sure beats standing on the other side of the coals, doesn’t it? Get comfy in that discomfort zone. You may be there for a while.

How are you shooting your shot this year? What’s your free throw, three-point and half-court ask?

(photo courtesy of Mark Moss, flickr)

Doing It With GRIT: Interview with Brittani Rettig of GRIT Fitness

If there is one thing the internet (ha, no longer have to capitalize that) is never short on, it is profiles of folks who have created their own fitness tribe. You know the folks, the ones who have instantaneous online following, the perfectly curated Instagram photos and never look like they break a sweat to “do it all.”

If you’re like me, reading these stories may leave you wondering how they get it done and if the fitness “guru” is truly genuine? One person I’ve never questioned in the authenticity of dedication to their awesome is Brittani Rettig of GRIT Fitness.

Brit for DFW Style DailyNEW GRIT logo

 

I found out about GRIT Fitness when Brit opened her East Dallas location about five minutes from where I used to live. (Full disclosure: I had my first audition to teach fitness with Brit and she was so kind in her evaluation. Suffice it to say, I was all nerves and it was a mess.) I kept up with her through social media and attended her community classes at Luke’s Locker. Seeing Brit’s growth has been amazing, as she’s added fans, fanatics, members and grown her team of energetic instructors.

Now, just barely a year after the East Dallas location launch, Brit has announced an expansion to the Dallas Design District with a second location! The new location is 5,000 square feet and will offer original music-driven classes like Body Sculpt™, Dance Club Cardio™, Hip Hop, powerbelle™, Flexin’ Flow™ and more. In addition to GRIT’s seven original class offerings, GRIT Fitness will now offer GRIT Revolution, an indoor beat and metrics-based cycling class where the instructor rides with the class rather than leads it on a pedestal.

Last week, Brit and I talked about her new location, what it takes to make it in fitness and her updated approach to entrepreneurship in an inspiring conversation. Check out the highlights.

Continue reading “Doing It With GRIT: Interview with Brittani Rettig of GRIT Fitness”

Confession Time: Social Media Fitness Stars Do Nothing For Me

Recently, while reading Greatist’s list of the 100 most influential people in health and fitness, I realized that I recognized next to none of the men and women who were known primarily for their social media presence.

Influencers 2015 Banner

As much as people look to social media for fitspo photos, my ignorance doesn’t surprise me.  I’ve never looked to individuals, wanting to emulate them, not even from my formative pre-teen and teenage years. While some girls wanted to be Britney Spears or Beyoncé, I simply enjoyed their music and stage performances. You won’t find me riding for the Rihanna Navy or shouting from the rooftops for any other legion of superfans. The only people I stan for are family and some exceptional friends, and, of course, my husband.

Looking to what other people are doing also translates to personal relationships, romantic and platonic. The #squadgoals and #relationshipgoals movement mostly amuses me me. I see the excitement, the posts and comments, and I think “When we spend so much time looking to others for how we want to conduct our lives, how do we determine accurately what works for us?”

Going back to fitness: if I’m so busy being obsessed about this woman’s abs or another personality’s arms, am I starting from a healthy point? While inspiration can help kickstart the process, it’s also important to accurately assess what is viable based on the time and effort we’re willing to put in. If you’re working 70+ hours a week at work, you might not be able to take that romantic Italian vacation with your super-hot, 6’3” boyfriend like you saw some social media celebrity do. Similarly, if you’re on a first-name basis with the 7-11 clerk due to your need to get Blue Bell at 12:30 a.m. on Saturday after the club, you’re not on track to get six-pack abs. This is not to say it’s unachievable. It’s just improbable based on the level of dedication that these things take.

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The only thing that’s going to help you hit those fitness goals.

The moment I gave up on absurdist goals like six-pack abs or a butt you could bounce a quarter off of, I gained clarity about what I could actually achieve. I could definitely feel stronger. I could definitely lift heavier, week by week. I could definitely see the progress in a yoga posture, in the number of burpees I can do, in the way I feel about sprinting on the track. Achievements happen outside of the social media bubble. They happen when you put social media down and actually get up and out, challenging your best efforts. So sure, scroll through those top 100 fitness personalities. But when you put down your phone or tablet, be sure you’re picking up the kettle bell!

Are you affected or inspired by fitness personalities on social media? What extra element do they bring to your exercise program?

Attitude Equals Latitude When It Comes to Your Workout

I will readily admit to not being a touchy-feely yoga instructor. I come from a rational family, my husband is a pragmatist and I find it hard to believe in auras and the like. I practice because it makes me feel amazing, and I teach because I want others to have the same feeling.

With this in mind, it was hard to find my zen as I prepared to teach my first yoga class of 2016. We just finished a headache-inducing move, complete with mismanagement at both the old and new apartment communities, and weren’t feeling completely settled. I found out that one of my favorite people at my job was leaving for a new opportunity. Suffice it to say, with a disorganized house and impending goodbye at work, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind – or so I thought – to lead a class.

We all experience days like that – your workout is the last thing you want to do, as opposed to getting a glass of wine with a friend and ranting until the cows come home. Not every day will be ideal when we have partners, kids, jobs and sometimes just general low-grade Seasonal Affective Disorder to compete with for our time and energy.

In those moments of “might don’t make it,” we have to rally around the right attitude. When life becomes stressful, even a brief workout can improve your mood by releasing endorphins. For me, my attitude changed once I hit the front door of the studio, which is not surprising since a recent study showed that the smell of happy sweat can improve your mood. I allowed myself to take the challenges of what was happening personally and apply that as a lesson for my students. By the end of class, as I sat on my mat facing the supine bodies and hearing their slowly regulating breaths, it hit me that I had turned my attitude around completely. By focusing on what I could contribute to the practice of those in the room, I’d unknowingly calmed the anxiety inside me. For the first time as a teacher, I was moved to (almost) tears by the power of wellness, even more so when I saw the glow on their faces as they exited the room.

Flickr user Fizzr
Flickr user Fizzr

My reminders to you:

  • You’ll never regret a workout once it’s done.
  • Get up and get moving, even if it’s only a 10 minute walk. 
  • Make your workout social – meet with a friend for a HIIT class, yoga session or walk in the park.

How do you motivate yourself when you’re just not feeling the workout?

 

Continuing Education: My First Yoga Workshop

I’ve talked about how hard it is to stay on top of my own fitness. This weekend, I challenged myself to keep learning by attending one of Sunstone Academy’s yoga workshops. (Full disclosure: I work for Sunstone part time as a teacher and I attended Sunstone Academy for my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training.)

In the past few months, Sunstone has offered workshops on diet and nutrition with Dr. Sommer White. This weekend, the workshops focused on advancing one’s yoga practice. Of the four available courses, I went to “The Art of Arm Balancing” on Saturday afternoon.

If she can do this, I totally can as well, right?
If she can do this, I totally can as well, right?

Y’all. I don’t think I’ve challenged my body this much since…ever. The warm-up alone, as we found and engaged the entire core, had me sweating bullets. By the time the teacher, Lady Yoga, got us into our first arm balance (the ever-approachable Crow), I knew I was in for a major workout. As Lady Yoga explained, arm balancing is not just arm strength; you have to engage mula and uddiyana bandhas. These bandhas help us lift and stay into balances and inversions.

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Over the course of the workshop, Lady Yoga led the group of about 20-25 people, half of whom were also teachers like me, through Crow, Side Crow, Baby Crow, Running Man, Flying Pigeon, Eight Angle (which I could not get to save my life) and the most challenging for me, Visvamtrasana.

Nailed it!
Nailed it!

Not since training have I been so challenged in my practice, and I loved every moment. I will be attending more yoga workshops, focusing on both the asana (physical practice) and philosophy. Keep up with what workshops I’ll be attending in my quest for knowledge by following me on Twitter: @veleisap.

And if the workshop wasn’t enough, I decided to hop on the Grit Fitness X Luke’s Locker kickoff challenge. Whew, y’all, lemme tell you: the ladies of Grit Fitness are amazing. In an hour, we went through a dance cardio, kickboxing and glute workout and I felt (and still feel) all of it. Check out their latest fun challenge: #LUKESGRIT, plus my sweaty selfie with Annabelle, who kept me moving throughout class!

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Why Being Truly Present Is The Best Gift

Right before the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I posted a status that resonated with people who were due to see relatives and family friends that they only connect with once a year.

The best gift you can give family and friends today: be present. Turn your phone off, join in storytelling, ask questions & LISTEN.

We often talk about “being present” in yoga as a way for students to slow down their thinking, connect to their practice and connect their breathing to their body’s movements. Even as a teacher, being present means I’m not thinking about what happened before I got there (traffic, deadlines at work, disagreements with family) or what I have to do later (cook dinner, write a blog post, return a phone call or email). In the moments, in the room, I’m fully committed to leading, demonstrating, making adjustments and connecting with the students.

One of the common ways we disconnect is by burying our faces in a smart phone or tablet. This is not a trait strictly reserved for my generation. Take a look up and down a city block during the morning commute, and you’re more likely to see the tops of people’s heads than you are their eyes, as we click, read and type on the go. I won’t make a judgment call either way on this behavior, since I am guilty of it myself. Where I want to make a call-out is in breaking these habits when surrounded by loved ones, especially those whom we only see for a long weekend one or two times a year.

I get it: listening to Aunt Cathy and her endless stories about the infallibility of her children and cousin Charles and his get-rich-quick schemes can get old really quick. We all need a mental break sometimes, and it’s easy to fall back on technology to provide entertainment. I want to challenge you to recognize that, though you may not be trying to, you’re signaling to those around you a level of indifference to their presence, which can be hurtful. Instead of taking a backseat to the nattering, try the following tips to be truly present during the holiday season.

  1. Barring any situation for which you have to be reachable, put your phone in another room, face-down.
  2. That one relative that annoys you to no end? Ask them to tell you a story about the family history that you haven’t heard. You’ll learn something new about your clan and you get to direct the conversation away from that pyramid scheme they’re always trying to get you to join.
  3. If you’re into wellness, try leading a small group in breathing and gentle stretching while everyone waits on the meal to be done (you know dinner won’t start on time anyway). Not only are you sharing something that’s important to you, it’s a great way to get the kinks and knots from flying out of your shoulders and hips. Here are some great breathing tips from Yoga Journal.
  4. Get away if you need to. Rather than demonstrate your boredom, take a break and get outdoors. This is especially helpful if your family is the passive-aggressive type that takes digs at each other. Remove yourself from the fray, take a treasured cousin or sibling with you if possible, and return ready to deal.

Finally, if your family is truly the worst and you’re able to do so, skip the headache all together. Stay local and organize a holiday meal with friends, or use those long-overlooked vacation days and see what destinations your favorite airline is promoting. While the holidays can be a time of renewal and joy, they are what you make them. If taking time to be alone, hiking and biking the Colorado countryside or walking along the Miami shoreline, makes sense for you, do it.

Flickr user Fizzr
Flickr user Fizzr (license)

What other ways do you show that you’re completely present in interactions with family and friends?

 

Festival Review: 5K & Yoga at Wanderlust 108 in Houston

I mentioned earlier this year that one of my 2016 goals will be attending a yoga retreat, so when my mom said we should attend Wanderlust 108 in Houston, I was all over it. Wanderlust was on my radar but I thought they only went to the standard festival locations: Colorado, NY, beautiful islands with amazing views. Imagine my surprise and delight that they came to my hometown of Houston, Texas.

Wanderlust - me and mom

The experience was fantastic, and Wanderlust is now high up on the list of events I would attend again. Here a few of the fun-learned lessons from the event:

  • Plan to fail and have a sense of humor about it – My mom and I got all the way (30 minute drive) to event location and then realized we’d left our yoga mats at the apartment. At that point, all we could do was laugh at ourselves. Thankfully, Pravacana Mats was one of the vendors and we ended up with both a mat for the day and for the memories.
  • Accept what you can control and embrace what you can’t – Wanderlust billed the event as a “mindful triathlon,” starting with a 5K, followed by an hour and a half of yoga and ending with meditation. The forecast stated heavy rain all morning, but the event was going on rain or shine. Rather than drop out of the event, my mom and I went full force into the 5K. It started out cool and dry and halfway through the rain was coming in sideways. What can you do at that point but enjoy the natural cool down of the rain? Thankfully, it all cleared up for a lovely 90 minutes of yoga with Faith Hunter (a hilarious teacher who kept the energy high) and Brook Cheatem (who I need to go find, since she teaches in Dallas).
  • Recovery is as important as preparation – confession time: I am not a runner. In fact, I low-key dislike running long distances. Give me sprints and I’m a happy camper. So five kilometers of running had my hip flexors, glutes and thighs upset with me. The post-run rolling with TriggerPoint helped me focus on those trouble spots in a new way, and I plan to incorporate the lessons into my regular stretching routine.
  • Enjoy the moment – though I may be of the “look at me” generation, I have never understood the compulsive need to document every moment of my life on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Though it wasn’t very “yogi” of me, I wanted to smack the camera out of everyone’s hand during asana and tell them to focus not how cute they think they look but instead center in on the energy of 200+ people who want to enjoy the moment.
  • Say yes to new experiences – one of the sponsors, #ActuallySheCan, set up a trampoline and a photographer, which means of course I couldn’t say no. You can’t avoid new experiences for being afraid of how you’ll look to others!

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