Being Present When Your Late Father Drops By (or Vice Versa)

Being Present When Your Late Father Drops By (or Vice Versa)

Today is the last day of the “be present” challenge in my Facebook group. And as a result, today’s post is a little bit (or a lot) stream of consciousness, so bear with me, please.

Basically, this challenge is all about getting out of our heads – out of dwelling in the past or worrying about the future – and living in the now.

And it’s been good. In fact, this now-ness is something I’ve been especially mindful of over the past year. Because, not to be all cliche about it, but “now” is all we really have, yes?

But today … oy vey, today.

First, I had strange dreams last night, which made my sleep weird. My father (who died 32 years ago)  made a little drive-by appearance in my dream just before I woke up. Now, I am not one who dreams often about people who have passed away, so this was a little shocking.

I didn’t get to see him up-close, but I was aware that he was around. And come to find out, he had left a message for me at the front desk at the hotel we had been staying at in my dream. 

And this message was mostly gibberish, and the clerk hadn’t even been going to give it to me because it made no sense, but I insisted:

Sinka inka dinka do 

Sooner or later we all sink.

Which had me like, “What?”

And I woke up late and was preoccupied, which put me behind schedule, and I ended up hurrying to the training studio. The good news about my in-person work is that it requires me to be 100 percent present. I trained some clients and taught County Heat Live class. 

During the class though, I kept thinking: “inka-dinka-do.” Like, I’d heard that before, but I didn’t know where or how.

After class, I ran an errand and then stopped by Starbucks for an iced latte (my Saturday treat!), before heading back home. And basically as soon as I sat down to enjoy my latte, the cat knocked it onto the floor and it spilled everywhere.

Seriously: there was ice coffee on the carpet, I found an ice cube 10 feet away (in another room!), the cat freaked out and knocked over some more stuff, and the dog went into hiding.

And things kind of just fell apart from there. When you’re tired, it’s really hard to be present, because your brain gets fussy. And man, was I ever fussy.

I stayed that way for several hours, despite all my oh-so-serious efforts to be PRESENT.

Then the Dog Started Whining

And I’d just walked her an hour earlier, and there were about 15 more things I had to do on my list before 5:30 p.m. rolled around, and I didn’t have time to take her for another walk, but …

I did anyway.

She’s an energetic dog so I try to let her off-leash as much as possible, and that requires running up a steep snowbank. I got a head start and leaped up the hill, just barely missing stepping on this leaf.

And it was so pretty I had to stop and look. And it made me think of the leaves of the Bodhi tree that the Buddha was sitting under when he became enlightened. 

Gold Bodhi leaf skeleton

Now, I’ve always loved Bodhi leaves. In fact, I used to have them in nearly every room in one form or another. This wasn’t intentional, it was just something that had happened.

There are no Bodhi leaves my life now. As the dog and I were heading back home, I started to think about that … and if I should get some, and blahblahblah.

And then: inka-dinka-do. Wasn’t it a children’s song? 

I was pretty sure it was.

As I recall, my dad had really weird musical taste – if you could even call it music. He was more of a computer/science/math kind of guy. But he got a big kick out of things like Spike Jones (basically sound effects along with big band music), or novelty songs like “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

Anyway. Inka Dinka Doo. Jimmy Durante. Totally up his alley. 

And that made me smile. Because how can you not smile and listen that song?

I’m not ready to start thinking about the “sooner or later we all sink” portion of the message. That’s another thought for another day.

But for now, I’m going to smile and say, Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.

(You’re welcome to join the Facebook group. Just click here.)

356 Helpful Ways to Make 2017 Awesome (Tips and Tricks!)

356 Helpful Ways to Make 2017 Awesome (Tips and Tricks!)

Even though fitness and working out is super important, let’s face it: most of the good stuff happens outside of the gym, right?

(If you disagree, we have to have a talk, k?)

Anyway, I want to start blogging more about THAT stuff, too, because after all, we are multi-dimensional Renaissance people, yes?

Toward that end, I  have found and/or been forwarded several good reads this week, and I thought I would share them with you. Yes, some of them have to do with working out, but … oh well. There’s still that.

Here’s the thing about these posts.

Most of them have to do with getting out of your comfort zone and getting shit (sorry, I’m kind of in a mood today) done. They are about pushing you just a little bit to try new and/or different things.

Yes, even kale.

Trying new things is fun and it challenges us (see the importance of that in the first tip below).

Ready? Here we go.

356 Tips and Tricks to Make 2017 Awesome

How to Be a SuperAger

This New York Times piece outlines how to age not just well, but in a super-duper way. Basically, it’s all about getting a little uncomfortable – pushing yourself either (or both) mentally and/or physically. 

I think it’s a really interesting concept, and it actually made me push myself a little harder in the gym today during my workout.

How to Exercise 312 Times this Year

This is a no-nonsense approach – complete with cool infographic – to getting over yourself and sticking with your gym habit. It’s not written by a smartypants trainer but by a regular guy.

Which makes it even better, right?

Journal Prompts to Get You Started

Speaking of getting over yourself, I am a big believer in the power of writing to help us do just that (well, at least it helps ME get over MYSELF). It helps me figure things out in my life.

And that makes it sound like a complicated, onerous task, doesn’t it? It really isn’t, not at all. The problem is, we often don’t know what to write about.

Problem solved. This post of 31 daily journal prompts will get you started. Get out your notebook, set a timer for 15 minutes, and write. And hey, you can do it on your computer too. 😀

It’ll be kind of like that workout you didn’t want to do: Once you’re finished, you’ll be glad you did it.

Two Cues to Clean Up Your Turkish Getup

Yes. The Turkish Getup. Tony Gentilcore breaks it down, God love him. (And hey, if any of my clients see this, gimme a shoutout because … you know!) 

Why does this matter so much? Because shoulders, core, hips, and more, that’s why.

How to Make Kale Salad Tolerable

Here’s one that might be worthwhile for my kale haters to read. Kale is a superfood for a reason, but it’s also a little bitter and can be pretty tough.There’s a trick to making kale salad something to look forward to: Give it a massage! (This is not a joke.)

What are YOUR tips to Awesome?

Let me know! Send me a message, leave a comment, or whatever. 

Another Route to Awesomeness …

Join my Facebook group, where we post tons of recipes, challenges, tips and more! It’s free and fun. Sign up now!

The Crazy Way I Got a Fitness Book Deal [Video]

The Crazy Way I Got a Fitness Book Deal [Video]

Ever wanted to write a book? Or wondered how to get a book deal?

The other day I did a Facebook Live stream about how my own book deal came about, along with my thoughts about the process.

It’s below, raw, casual, and live as can be! 

My opportunity to write an Idiot’s Guide book came about organically – I really didn’t seek it out. Basically, I saw an opportunity that seemed like a no-brainer, and I went for it.

Book Deals are Fun, But Don’t Expect $$$

In the live stream, I tried to answer some questions people have asked me over the years … like the random guy who sent me a series of interrogating private messages trying to get me to tell him how much I got paid.

Or, the secret you need to know to get started writing for major newsstand publications. Once I learned this secret, I had two accepted queries within two weeks.

And, most importantly, will you really lose 20 pounds in 2 months if you follow the plan I outline in the book?

What I Would Do Different Next Time

There was little incentive for me to market this book very hard because I had already gotten paid for it, which was a good thing/bad thing, given the state of publishing these days.

Plus, I didn’t even know HOW to market it, really.

Now, I definitely would be more proactive about marketing, although I’m still pretty clueless about all that – but now I have a better idea of what to do and where to go. I’d definitely get over myself and let the world know about the book’s benefits.

And if I were to do it again, I’d likely pursue another book contract immediately following the publication of the first book. Although at the time I wrote the Idiot’s Guide, I was really busy with personal training and the gym, so I didn’t have the time for it. Or the support.

Because here’s the thing with writing: It’s a solitary pursuit. I know for me, personally, I end up in my head too much if all I do is write. And I’m old enough and wise enough to know now that’s not always the healthiest way for me to spend my days.

In fact, it’s one of the reasons I am so passionate about fitness and helping others love it too: It clears my head.

I’m smarter now about creating that solitary–social balance that many of us struggle with. Plus, being around other people opens your mind to new ideas – and improves the writing.

Would I write another book? Heck yes! How about you? Do you have a book in you, just waiting to be unleashed?

When that song comes on during your cardio workout

When that song comes on during your cardio workout

Today was my first workout in a few days, thanks to a gross/disgusting cold that’s been making its way around. Normally in my own training regimen, I don’t call cardio on the elliptical or treadmill a “workout,” but today it counted.

(For the record, I consider lifting weights a long-term investment while machine-based cardio is like an infusion of quick cash. Both are cool, but I like big payoffs. Your mileage and returns may vary.)

My heart rate spiked pretty quickly during the workout because I’m still in recovery mode, so I kept my intensity low. And because my intensity was low, I listened to my “chill” iPod playlist, which is filled with songs that are kind of like poems, at least to me.

And a song from the past came on (there’s a playlist to listen to it at the bottom of this entry 🙂 ).

The song has meaning to me for a couple of reasons. But first, it’s not necessarily a GREAT song — although it might be, and I’ve been convinced otherwise. No matter, it’s kind of pivotal in my life. The first time I heard it was on a Saturday morning in 2003 and I was in a car traveling along Old Keene Mill Road in Springfield, Virginia. It was the acoustic version of the Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These.” It mesmerized me and I had to own it, immediately.

Have you ever had a song strike you that way? I think it hit me because a lot of changes were going on in my life and the song kind of summed up how I was feeling. I told my then-husband (who was being kind of a putz at the time, God love him) that I thought it was pretty awesome. He completely disagreed with me, and outlined  the reasons I was wrong.

So anyway, I downloaded the song from Napster (remember Napster?) because you couldn’t buy the song anywhere at that time, and I put it on my mp3 player and listened to it while driving in the car. And since I lived the DC ‘burbs, I spent a lot of time in the car, so the song kind of became embedded in my brain. And then when we moved, the song fell by the wayside.

But it came back several years later, during the divorce. I remember it was on repeat during a brutal winter, when I was getting ready to get ready for my first figure show. Not only was the divorce going on, but during this period a lot of people in my family were sick or passing away, I was in a stupid rebound relationship, and there was a lot of drama related to everything. It was a pretty dismal time.

So this morning when the song came on, a lot of old feelings came back (not about my ex, but about life in general), echoing some new feelings I’ve been experiencing.

No matter how hard we try to keep things the same, it’s not going to happen. That’s not how the world works. People change, situations change, change is the nature of our lives. And while change can be sad and uncomfortable, that’s only if you keep living in the past. You have to keep moving forward.

Another song was also on repeat during that brutal winter — it’s the second song on the playlist, and it features one of my pretend boyfriends, Chris Cornell. :). It talks about how we drop things that are sacred to us. I don’t think that we actually drop them. It might seem like that sometimes, but they often just fall away, during these inevitable times of change and transition.

And they do remain sacred to us, even though we no longer keep them close.

What does this have to do with cardio? With the workout? Nothing, but also everything. Life keeps moving, like the treadmill. You’ve got to keep moving. Sometimes we drop things, sometimes things fall. It’s OK, it’s through this change that we grow.

And that’s kind of the point of it all, isn’t it?

My cold ate my deadlifts, and it’s (sort of) OK

My cold ate my deadlifts, and it’s (sort of) OK

I was supposed to do deadlifts today but I woke up with a cold.

I’m pretty bummed out about this, because deadlifts are on my radar for this year. In fact, I gave myself a pep talk the other day about it. The pep talk was actually the annual birthday “come-to-Jesus” evaluation that I treat myself to each year, when I examine what’s working and what isn’t in my life, and I refocus and commit to a couple specific goals.

Generally, for me, discussions with myself turn into multi-point lectures complete with lists. The list this time around wasn’t awfully long, in fact it has to do with simplicity and taking care of myself. Which is ironic (or not), what with this sudden cold and all.

There are some other fitness-y things on the list, along with other less-workout-y things (rest, food, education, etc.). All of this was scheduled to start happening on a fairly regular basis starting TODAY, but nothing too strict or scheduled because of simplicity.

Why did I choose today? Because it’s mostly a day off. I’d been putting off starting because my schedule has been whack and I need to get a handle on it, but to get a handle on my schedule, a number of things have to happen and … well, I’m not that good at setting boundaries for myself because I’m caught in the personal-trainer conundrum of time and energy management (look it up, it’s a real thing). I feel a deep responsibility for my clients and helping them get/stay fit and vital, but sometimes I’m running ragged at both ends of the day.

So anyway, that’s how the multi-point lectures with lists come about: things have a tendency to snowball, from wanting to do deadlifts to having to completely revamp my schedule, because there’s always a reason …. or an excuse.

But then I woke up with this cold today. Which might actually be more than a cold, it’s too soon to tell, but it’s one of those yucky-gross-wake-you-up-coughing/carrying-around-tissues kind of bugs. (That’s why self-care was discussed, too, because getting run down due to the whack schedule isn’t cool.) I mean, I *could* hit the gym and get in some obligatory work, I suppose. However, I’m writing myself an excuse. Or maybe better, I’m letting myself off the hook entirely, no excuses necessary.

So the fitness part of my plan isn’t happening today. Instead, maybe I’ll just hover over the couch, or maybe I will go for a very easy treadmill walk just to shake out the cobwebs. But I can eat healthy foods, get some rest, and read some interesting stuff and work on that “simplicity” thing, right?

The truth is, keeping things simple isn’t easy. But in the long run, it sure does make things easier.

The deadlifts (and clearer-minded blog posts) will be there another day.

How to crush your goals (hint: set a deadline), with a bonus power and core workout

Have you ever finally gotten around to doing something that you’ve been procrastinating about and then thought, ‘Why was I so worked up over that?’

That happened to me this week, when I refreshed one of my old certifications. It’s kind of an understatement to say I’d been dreading doing that. The idea of studying — especially something I’d already theoretically mastered — didn’t sound like a whole heck of a lot of fun.

But the thing is, I needed to refresh the course in order to tackle a big goal. The last time I took this certification test was 16 years ago. In fitness, that’s like a couple centuries! Even though I keep up with continuing education, so much has changed over the years. I mean, back then people were standing on stability balls (DO NOT DO THAT) and lifting weights while standing on upside down BOSUs (DO NOT DO THAT EITHER). Oh, the horror stories I could tell from back in my Washington Sports Clubs days!

Beyond being a slacker when it came to the thought of actually studying, I was worried I had to unlearn things and break old habits. And then I became paralyzed with self-doubt: what if I took the exam and failed? How embarrassing would that be?

And then I thought: I’ll start tomorrow. The problem was that I thought that every day, and as you know, tomorrow never comes, right?

It’s kind of like when you plan on starting a new fitness regimen after a layoff. It’s easy not to start. It’s comfortable to stay where you are (except for the nagging thoughts in your head about why you should start, right?).

But then late last Wednesday afternoon, after weeks of being a total slacker, another social-media-meme-inspired thought crossed my mind.

A goal without a deadline is just a dream.

I needed to set a deadline. So without ever cracking open the book, I grabbed my phone and called to schedule the exam. The lady at the testing facility told me they had an opening on Monday morning.

Without hesitation, I said: “Sign me up!”

That gave me a mere four and a half days. I panicked for a sec but then I opened the book and it was fine. I already knew this stuff cold because I use it every day. Heck, some of the studying was even fun, and I liked how they had updated their curriculum to make it more realistic for most of my clients.

And then when I passed the test on Monday morning, I had to laugh at myself.

How much stress had I put myself through in order to avoid what I thought would be stress? What a waste of time that was!

Which is exactly how it feels after that first workout back we’ve been dreading, right? Inevitably, we’re glad we dragged ourselves into the gym (or to the track, or the pool, or the basement) and knocked it out.

So here’s to setting deadlines for those goals so we get them done! (Oh and important disclaimer, I would NEVER EVER EVER recommend to anyone without a long history as a fitness professional and who regularly takes continuing education courses that they try to pass an exam without at least a few months of study and practical application. 🙂 )

BONUS: I’ve got a great total-body workout for you that my studying inspired. Some of the moves in this workout are intermediate/advanced, so if you have any knee/back issues, follow the modifications. This one had my legs on fire the next day.

Core, Balance and Power

Warm up for 5-10 minutes with light cardio activity.

Then, core warmup: 2 times through (make sure to stabilize core muscles:
Marching abs, 10 each side
Prone cobras, 12, see below)

2 x through each side
Single-leg squat touchdown, 6 each side (repeat for two sets on each leg, see video below)

Then, 2x through, see video below:
Transverse box jumps with stabilization, 8-10 each side (beginner/intermediate: can be done without the box)
Box jump downs with stabilization, 8-10 (beginner/intermediate, do regular jump squats)


Step up to balance with overhead press, from the NASM.

Three times through:
Step up to balance with overhead press, 10 each side
Chest press, 15
Cable row with stabilization (see video below), 15-20
Squat with dumbbells, 15
Dumbbell side raises, 15
Biceps curls, 15
Triceps dips or press downs, 15

Cool down to return heart rate to normal for 5-10 minutes.

Try this and let me know what you think!