Archive for October, 2011

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Goals

October 31, 2011

As seasons are winding down and races are filling up…. we are not only forced to think about 2012 but when we have new aspirations and goals…. we crave thinking about 2012. What are our goals? What do we dream of achieving? What is it exactly that we want to accomplish?

At QT2 we have a slightly different goal setting process. Extrapolating from Jesse’s blog, we don’t define goals, we break them into three classifications, or “buckets” as Jesse likes to call them:

(From Jesse’s Blog)

Goals” – examples under this bucket are:

  1. I am going to be tough,
  2. I’m not going to give up no matter how hard things get,
  3.  I’m going to follow my pacing plan,
  4. I’m going to follow my fueling plan.

These are better described as those items in which you have 100 percent control over.

Targets” – examples here are:

  1. I’m going to average 250 watts,
  2.  I’m going to run 7:45 pace on the run.

 These are items you have a bit less control over but are directly related to your training and therefore can be predicted very closely. Running pace and swim pace obviously have the course specifics factored in as well and are therefore a bit less tangible.

Outcomes” – examples here are:

  1. age group or overall placing,
  2.  race time, kona slot qualification, etc

 These items are those items that you have the least control over and are really just an outcome of the previous two buckets.

This is a terrific way to approach what you’d like to accomplish this season. It gives you factors to work with and helps you realize what is in your control.

As you know I have chosen to run a marathon in January. My marathon pals are all over me, instructing me I have to get up to XX mileage and I have to do XX runs at XX pace…… I understand I am approaching this very differently than an elite marathoner would.

To use the above example….  here is how I approach it….

Goals: My goals for this marathon (things I have control over)

  1. Execute all workouts at prescribed zones.
  2. Progressively build mileage weekly as prescribed in my plan.
  3. Eat in the core and chip away at body composition. (translated, drop 8 pounds by Jan 15th)

Now as we get closer to marathon day we will set targets. Assuming I have executed the above three goals we will be able to set target paces for marathon day.

The outcome, will be the time.

See….. I am not beginning at the goal of …. I want to run a 3:45 and work backwards. I begin with what I can control and work from there.

I love this backdoor way of approaching the season, it’s emotionally manageable. If I walked through the season with one large goal hanging over my head it might be easy to lose the focus. But I keep on my daily goals. That helps to keep me on track. As we progress through the season I can’t wait to see how these change, mold, fold, bend and hell, how about even break.

Week one of 2012 is in the books. Now it’s to a little training camp in Panama City Beach!

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On the Mat

October 29, 2011

Raise your hand if you have ever walked into yoga with a goal. I can’t raise mine high enough. Through my years practicing and teaching I can think of several goals I have set in that studio:

  • Touch the floor without bending my knees
  • Forearm balance in the middle of the room
  • frog with my pelvis on the floor.

I can forearm balance in the middle of the room but it’d take an act of God for the other two to happen.

And I don’t want them to happen.

Let me tell you why.

Ryan Hall….. elite marathoner….. we don’t want him in frog with his pelvis on the floor. It would mean his hips were too flexible. Why don’t we want that? He’s an elite marathoner, we want some degree of tightness in his hips.

You don’t see Baron Baptiste out there running marathons. With his flexibility it’d only be a matter of time before he developed an injury.

As an athlete while there is a certain level of flexibility we want to develop, there is also a degree of inflexibility we want to maintain. Did you know that those who are a bit tighter are usually the safest while practicing yoga? Those who are hyperflexible and double jointed are the ones who need to be extra careful as they can sit in the joints and not so much the muscle.

So it’s good to have a degree of tightness in yoga? Yes. absolutely. Your goal as an athlete should not to become the most flexible one in the class. In fact…… here is the one place where the goal can be to forget the darn goal to be honest with you.

You can’t win yoga….. and as you know I have tried.

So as an athlete who training 12+ hours per week (and even less) what should we be working on that mat?

Work with your tightness. We want to lessen the degree of tightness in certain areas depending on sport. For example a triathlete would aim to develop some flexibility in their hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors. Think of the position you are in on your bike…… think of the firing of your hip flexors. Now think of how you hop off the bike and run. At this point we need your hip flexors to be more open to allow for the biomechanics of running to be superior.

Work your strength. If you are like me, your strength is your strength, and what is yoga? All core strength. 100%. What’s really important in multisport, ah, core strength. If you can be conscious to engage your core and understand that the core is not just your abs but also your back, hip flexors, etc…… you can work to strengthen all of those areas by initiating all movement from there. It’s what we should do anyways, even in poses like low plank and up dog.

Balance it out. Balance poses are important for many reasons. They help strengthen the ligaments and tendons around your ankles to begin with. In addition, think of what it takes to maintain tree pose….. it involves a lot of strength.

Learn to let go. For many years in extended side angle I just wanted to bind. I have very flexible shoulders from a life as a swimmer and now a yoga teacher. I still can’t bind. Do I need to? No, for me in this pose less is more. So I have to let that binding fantasy go. Literally let it go. I am not here to win, I am here for a host of other reasons. Instead of binding I can perform a half bind and develop more strength and flexibility. The big arm bind isn’t going to do much for me anyway.

Stillness. When I am practicing and teaching I’m not floating on some sort of cloud in a higher spirituality. Some people are and that’s fine. When I compete I don’t think about a whole lot of things. I perform my best when I am in the present moment. It’s how I have always been. I can be out there for hours without a thought entering my mind. Some athletes call it the zone, I call it my zone. I call it being present in this moment right here and right now. Believe it or not I find it on the mat.

Learn to love the process. In Apollo Ohno’s book “Zero regrets” he says something to the effect of this……. (I am paraphrasing) “Seeking perfection is like climbing a stairmaster. It keeps going without ever slowing down, it’s tireless and it doesn’t really have an ending point” Sometimes you have to grab the rails, look around, and remember to enjoy the climb.”. The process of triathlon, of sport, of even yoga is something magnificent. For races like Ironman it is one day. One day. Yet we can be so focused we miss the 364 days that went into this day. The lessons we learned about ourselves and others. The laughs we have traveling to camps and stopping at gas stations for hard boiled eggs. The lessons of learning to persevere when all else seems to be failing.

The process. On the mat I have learned to love the process.

Yoga can be so many things. It’s really what you need it to be. When you step on the mat try to be open for whatever life lesson is there for you today. To me the mat can be daunting, because it’s so freaking revealing. You can’t hide on that thing….. because it will bubble to the surface. It’d be easier to avoid it all together…… but for me…… that just be too easy.

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The latest

October 28, 2011

Forgive me… it’s been a few days since I have written. Oddly when the site goes a little silent I get inundated with “Are you okay” emails, which is really much too kind. Believe me I am grateful you make this site a stop in your day and I promise, next week we will be chock full of great stuff from Panama City Beach and Ironman Florida. I have some terrific interviews lined up.

Me…. I am super. Things are busy and in a very good way. Coaching with QT2 is rolling right along and I am getting it, I think. It’s been a very big learning curve, and not without some tough days…. but the good kind of tough days. As I always say anything worth anything is hard. A good hard, a challenge my brain and my abilities hard.

I am loving the blend of athletes I am working with. In total I will have 8 one on one athletes and unlimited Mission Plan athletes. I have two spots left and all of our one to one coaching spots will be gone soon…… so if you are looking to get in…… now would be the time.

Since we are on the topic of QT2…… several things are happening with us that in my opinion are things you do not want to miss. The first are the camps we are holding…… I will be at our Florida and Placid camp…… and in my wildest dreams I never thought I’d have the ability to be coaching a camp like these!!!!

1. February Clermont Training Camp: For details click here. The nitty gritty is this: From Feb 9-12th we will train in Florida, swim at the National Training Center, and learn a ton. We will have one heck of a group of age groupers to professional athletes who are all incredible and more than willing to share.

2. Lake Placid Training Camp: For eight years I ran a training camp in Placid in June, and one of our biggest worries with me coming on board with QT2…. is what would happen to camp? I am very excited that camp will be a QT2 camp…… and seriously supped up. From June 21-24th again we will have a terrific group of age group and professional athletes training side by side. We will hold an aquabike competition…… and the Eggers versus Kropelnicki swim off…. perhaps…… click here for details….. another not to miss event.

3. QT2 / Core Diet FREE iPhone app!:  Yeah for REAL! Click here for details.
Trust me this is just the beginning of what’s in store in 2012 for QT2!!!

As for me…… stay tuned I have some terrific interviews coming out next week. My long awaited Ballou Skies Kona 6 interview, a few on the podiums with Cait Snow and Lisa Bentley. And stay tuned for some great interviews with some of the amazing professional women competing at Ironman Florida next weekend. We are going to give video a shot, so hang on to your seats!!!!

Now you can see why it’s been a little crazy ’round here!

Last evening….. was special. A group of us gathered at a local restaurant to surprise our friend Matt, as he is preparing to move across the country in just over 2 weeks. I had the honor of coaching Matt for about 18 months….. last year at this time we were preparing him for his second Ironman in which he went an awesome 10:13. This season he’s absolutely catapulted himself to some incredible performances. I fully believe he will be sub ten at IMFL. It’s been wonderful to stand back this season and watch him take himself to new heights. He’s been a good friend to our family and a wonderful role model for Luc…… so it was fitting that a few of us gather to send him off.

I truly think of this community as family. It has been for the past 15 years and it will continue to grow for a good 50 more. Many faces have come and gone….. and we’ve been grateful to hold on to so many wonderful people.  I love Matt’s journey, I love how he has grown in more ways than as an athlete…… and I can’t wait to continue to sit back and watch his journey unfold. I am very lucky to have coached him, and I am very lucky to call him a friend. Next week I will watch him absolutely smash Ironman Florida and then he will be off to the west coast for a new adventure.

Go Matt!

Low phone battery = no flash = weird dark picture

We had a terrific dinner, and then I got really wild and ran 1:20 on the tready listening to house music. It’s like I went out!

As for me and my training….. rolling right along. I am loving marathon training, I love this time of the year. The cold feels good, the crisp air feels sharp, and I am feeling good.

I am in the middle of establishing a few programs locally that I am very excited to share with you, and I will as soon as I can…… as well as beginning the selection process of a new bike. More to come!

 

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USAT Conference Day Two

October 23, 2011

I am so glad I came to Philly. Several people in the clinic asked me what I am doing here….. I am here to learn. Although I have been coaching for 7 years I don’t know everything there is to know about coaching. I never ever will. That’s what makes clinics and conferences so exciting. My first USAT Clinic was back in 05 or 06, and my husband asked if anything had changed since then.

Tons has changed. For the better.

There is  a greater emphasis on what I learned from Chuck Wolfe at the NTC in Florida: Functional Strength Training. Everyone calls it something different; movement training, dynamic training… I don’t care what it is called, I am just glad there is more of it. Coaching theories are also a bit different, more varied I should say.

One presenter told us that heart rate is useless, power and pace are the best way to train and that intensity should come before volume. The next presenter was completely opposite. HR is important and it’s important to lay down the foundation first.

Who is right?

In my opinion…. it’s not for me to decide who is right. I think both presenters bring good thoughts and theories to the table and if you have a good background in exercise physiology, then you know the answer. You also have to learn your athletes, because if you are a good coach you understand that what fits athlete A doesn’t fit athlete B. Again, it’s not up to  me to decide which presenter is right. It’s up to me to listen, to be open to differing thoughts and theories….. use my education and background and experience and apply that knowledge to my own coaching and to my athletes.

I feel very lucky to have come to this sport so long ago with a health / medical / science background, and a huge background in the fitness industry. It’s allowed me to really learn and also be open to learning and it’s helped me to understand the things I need to understand.

Bobby McGee was my favorite presenter, he’s the number one reason I am here. I thought I was here for his running skills presentation, but what resonated with me the most was his mental skills one. His running skills are all something I have been through before with Jesse, and it was a really really good review. As both coach and athlete I can never review that enough.

Mental skills….. especially as it applies to the athletes we coach…… are critical.

In a few weeks I will begin coaching a very elite athlete. A current world champion in fact, who I believe has an incredible future ahead of her on the professional level. Not only is she physically talented but her head is screwed on straight and tight. Even still as we take this path there are things I need to for-see for her and know how to handle before she gets to them. McGee gave some excellent resources, skills, and a lot of good work for me to bring to the table with not only this particular athlete but my entire stable.

This elite athlete I will be coaching is young, talented and smart. I was asked if I was intimidated by coaching someone at this level… hell no. I am hungry for it. I have Jesse who will be my right hand, who is experienced at coaching this level of athlete to help guide me every step of the way. I am ready for it. One of the things I do best is communicate and read between the lines. It will be very important that I do that, and McGee taught a lot of things that can help me keep a good handle on that aspect of this all.

When it comes down to it……. we are dealing with our athletes lives. At the end of the day unless your name is Chrissie Wellington, or Craig Alexander then  we don’t make much money at this sport no matter what level you are on. We are spouses, parents, siblings etc. We as coaches have to remember that when dealing with athletes we need to deal with the whole person no matter what the level. This is their life and what we prescribe in training directly affects all of those other entities.

Bobby McGee said this…. “You as an athletes don’t make the sacrifice, it’s all those around you who make the sacrifice.” Think about it. As athletes we swim, bike and run. It’s our family who has to suffer the effects of all that. Even in my family it happens and we are all triathletes. So as a coach you are not just affecting an athlete you are affecting the rest of their life.Do you want to be the parent who is always out riding when your kid has a game or wants to spend time? Do you want to be the boyfriend who has to schedule time for his girlfriend because she’s training so much?

Always remember that. At the end of the day this is their life. Where will this athlete be in 8 years.

Athletics are also fleeting. At some  point, you slow down. At some point, your health may fail. At some point a crash can end all of those hopes and dreams. Are you settled enough in your own soul that you can handle that?

Again, always remember that at the end of the day this is someone’s life you are messing with.

I don’t aim to be the Gandhi of someone’s life, I don’t aim to bring enlightenment and be your hero. I am a small part of your equation. What I want to do as a coach is stand on the sideline and guide you…. to find the best within yourself. I don’t want to take credit for your world record or fastest time ever…… I want you to. To me, as a coach the important thing is not to be the leader per se but to be the thinker. I want to plant the seed which causes you to dig deeper within yourself.

As a coach you need to be able to stand back and assess. You have to be comfortable on the sideline and allowing your athlete to soak all the glory. I think for some coaches who have been athletes that can be difficult. But trust me, if you give your heart and soul to your athlete….. watching them achieve is more rewarding than anything you ever do yourself.

I am leaving Philly with knowledge. As I said before I am passionate about learning. Now that I am coaching and just coaching…. I can do things like this. I don’t care if I end up in a clinic where it is taught that by standing on your head you will be a better triathlete. There is something in that presentation I can learn.

Sean Corn the yoga teacher once said this….. “If I walk out of a yoga class having not gotten anything out of it, I never blame the teacher. I blame myself. Learning and experiencing is on me, and I can get something out of every class no matter who the teacher.”

That’s exactly the way I feel. I dont’ care if cookie monster himself is teaching a USAT course on why cookies are the way to go….. there is something I can squeeze out of it.

I bet I can score a free cookie too. He always drops a few!

 

 

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USAT Conference Day One

October 22, 2011

Philadelphia is a pretty neat city. I am staying on floor #30 of a hotel much swankier than Mary Eggers can even comprehend. Someone came to my room last night to turn down my bed.

“Turn down my bed?” I asked her, stepping aside. “I apologize but I don’t know what that means.” She smiled as she simply…… turned down my bed covers.

“Just preparing your bed for your slumber ma’am.” She said. for a moment I wondered if I was supposed to get in it while she read me a story.

Guess not.

Was I supposed to tip her?

I think I am staying in a rich person’s hotel. Everyone here has really nice hair and smells incredible. One woman got on the elevator with a fur coat. I didn’t know whether to tell her that I thought fur coats were “out” (what do I know)…. or to pet her. I am more of a Days Inn kind of girl. There you can get a free continental breakfast!

I am swimming in a pretty amazing pool. Two lanes, 20 meters. How’s that for a hotel pool?

I told you….. I am a pool snob.

Day one of the USAT Coaching conference was excellent. I am so glad that I came. I think all coaches should come back to Level I every so many years, it helps to rebuild your foundation, solidifies your roots, brings you back to the basics. Plus I got to meet some really good people and reconnect with some I already know.

I love hanging with triathlon people. I love that some people are here to stop working for “the man” and pursue something in fitness. There are now 2,100 USAT Certified coaches and that number makes me smile. The more the better. Together we learn.

In all honesty there are two people I came here to see. Bob Seebohar and Bobby McGee. I had heard Bob Seebohar was a fabulous presenter and I am interested in his nutrition. Disclaimer: Long before I became a coach with QT2 I subscribed to and became a proponent of The Core Diet. Many people think that what Bob presents and what we at the Core Diet present are opposites. In fact, I don’t think we are. The basic daily nutrition is extremely similar and very solid. It’s the race day nutrition and workout fueling that we differ. I just wanted to hear it from Bob. It’s how I learn.

Bob is an excellent presenter. In my adult life when I sit at a lecture you have my attention for an hour. Bob had it for three separate lectures. He was entertaining, enlightening and educating. At one point he said this; “If a coach or anyone for that matter tells you their way is the only way, run.” I couldn’t agree more.

This is why I came here. I came to be educated, I came to be presented with information about my sport. I didn’t come to change my nutrition philosophy and I haven’t changed it. I think part of education is being open to listen. It sparks our own questions, encourages us to dig deeper, look into the why this and why that…..  I like to listen to other’s material not to change what I do but to broaden my scope of knowledge. As coaches we are also teachers. I can better teach what I know and believe when I know and understand what else there is out there. To really understand what I do believe in and subscribe to I have to understand exactly what everyone else is teaching as well. If I want to be the best coach I can be I have to continue to build a broad knowledge base. Just because I dont’ follow Bob S’s nutrition periodization does not mean I don’t want to learn about it, understand it and take away so many of the very good nuggets he gave.

Understanding all of it helps me in my coaching more than I can explain.

I can’t teach horizontal addition without also knowing how to add in columns. That’s not totally comparing apples to apples, but you get the point.

The moment I stop growing in knowledge , I am over. Remember: if you are going to be passionate about something, be passionate about learning. I am very passionate about learning.

One of the biggest benefits of selling Train-This is that I can now focus on coaching. That’s really what I want to do. Now I have the ability to further expand my education and further my coaching levels and really…. truly learn. Every month for the next 12 I have some sort of coaching education lined up. This weekend it’s USAT. In December we will do out QT2 coaching conference….. man oh man is that the one I am drooling for. In our first meeting as coach / athlete Jesse taught me a bunch. I remember thinking: I wish this guy was one of my high school teachers. He has a way of presenting that would make chemistry interesting.

Saturday will bring another 8 hours of learning. Finally I get to sit in a classroom and learn what I want to learn. I have waited all my life for that. It’ll be Bobby McGee, who is like the Bono of triathlon. At least to me.

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You are what you eat

October 21, 2011

I am fascinated with nutrition. I wish I had done a double degree in Nursing and Nutrition. There is so much nutrition involved in being a nurse but it’s general and broad and dependant on what type of medicine you practice. In pediatric emergency medicine nutrition wasn’t something we dealt much with except the continuous fight we had with food and nutrition. The snacks they had for children, cookiees. That’s the way to treat a kid with abdominal pain, when they can eat load em up with sugar.

But that’s another story for another day.

My fascination with nutrition began a while ago but was consolidated when I began my work with QT2 and The Core Diet. It was really the first time that anyone had taught me how to properly fuel myself and improve my health while training for an Ironman. Those who train 15+ hours a week know all too well that the feed bag can open as soon as we finish that 6 hour ride.

I have been eating in this … style…. you could call it for about 2 years. I am not 100% all of the time. This season I am aiming to be. What I can tell you is that I have enjoyed a very slow and steady progressive improvement in my body composition. I have experienced energy stabilization throughout the day. I have solved my in race nutritional issues (and I have to admit I did that in a not so traditional way but that’s another story for another day).

Being someone who has experienced some serious health concerns…. what interests me is the role that nutrition has in our health. Particularly chemicals.

The other day I posted a picture of an Egg McMuffin to Charlie’s wall and tagged our amazing guru at the Core Diet, Jaime Windrow. The question (albeit a joke) was…… does this fit into The Core?

Tecnically when you are speaking of carbohydrates, fats, and protein…. and Egg McMuffin would fit into the Core Diet. Sweet, right?

Jaime posted the ingredients for us……

Here is what is in the egg.  One, would think, just an egg right?  Nope.  McEgg: USDA Grade A eggs, soy lecithin (release agent). Prepared with Liquid Margarine: Liquid soybean oil and hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils, water, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, soy lecithin, mono-and diglycerides, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (preservatives), artificial flavor, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, beta carotene (color).”

Good lord…. that’s the egg? What happened to just being an egg. Wait, there’s more…..

And if you are curious about the rest. Mc English Muffin: Enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), water, yeast, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, wheat gluten, soybean oil and/or canola oil, contains 2% or less of the following: salt, calcium sulfate, calcium carbonate, citric acid, calcium citrate, yellow corn flour, corn meal, rice flour, barley malt, artificial flavors, natural flavors (botanical source), dough conditioners (ascorbic acid, azodicarbonamide, datem, tricalcium phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, enzymes, calcium peroxide), calcium propionate and potassium sorbate (preservatives), soy lecithin.”

I am not even sure of what half this stuff IS.

And lastly….Pasteurized Process American Cheese: Milk, water, milkfat, cheese culture, sodium citrate, salt, citric acid, sorbic acid (preservative), sodium phosphate, artificial color, lactic acid, acetic acid, enzymes, soy lecithin (added for slice separation).

Canadian Style Bacon
 Pork, water, sugar, salt, sodium lactate, sodium phosphate, natural flavor (vegetable), sodium diacetate and sodium nitrite (preservatives).

Liquid Margarine
Liquid soybean oil and hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils, water, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, salt, soy lecithin, mono-and diglycerides, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate (preservatives), artificial flavor, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, beta carotene (color)”

Whoa. I never thought about it that way. I could make this same food at home, have it fit in the Core and involve about 5 ingredients. For the first time in my life I really looked at the chemicals instead of the fat, calorie and protein content. Now I am not one to grab an Egg McMuffin 7 days a week, but when traveling….. sure. It’s easy  and fast and everywhere.

It doesn’t mean that when I am traveling I wont’ grab one….. but it made me look at what else I am eating. And how does all this stuff add up in the long run. Am I as healthy as I believe myself to be?

Nutrition is an emotional subject for many. Through my work in the Core, I have to say it’s less emotional for me. How many times in the past 2 years has someone made the remark….. I just need some comfort food….. or don’t tell Mary Eggers I had a cookie.

Have those things. By all means. I believe in cookies and comfort food….. sure. Eat the good kinds though. The real ones. The ones made with real butter and not hydroginizated sulfa pasteurized space dirt…. but has vitamin c! In my opinion everything has a place on our plates. Everything in moderation fits.

The thing about eating in the Core is that we can still have those kinds of foods….  if we place them at the right time they can help our fitness and recovery. A cookie can help our fitness and recovery? heck yeah….. maybe even 4! It’s not about denial, it’s about living. And to me living the best possible life I can live means putting the best possible fuel into my body that I can.

I have lost my health in a  big way before, so my appreciation of what I have right now….. today is much greater than before. This is where my passion stems from. Once you lose something like that you feel more grateful to have it again. When it’s handed back to you…. you care more about it. You love it even more.

So exactly what is this whole Core Diet thing?

It’s a system of eating I guess you could say. It’s placing food at the right time to give you the most optimal benefit for sport and life.

It’s all right here. Check it out. We have lots of great webinars and just pure nutrition services. It’s worth the price, trust me on that one.

I am okay with the teasing. It doesn’t bother me a bit. It usually is born from a place of insecurity within someone when they feel the need to do that, just like when we were kids and were teased about being swimmers. But why….. why is nutrition a source of insecurity for you? Does it have to be?

And when you think in terms of your health…… your health at a micro level…… all of the chemicals that we put in to this body…… over decades what does it do? Is it reversible?

So here is to even cleaner eating. What will you do this season to help yourself become the strongest athlete you can be? Is it as simple as what does or doesn’t go into your mouth? Perhaps. Is it as simple as making your Egg McMuffin at home? could be. You just never know what kid of healing, or rebuilding happens….. as that micro level.

I know one thing…… I want to be the strongest I can be from the inside out.

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Off the mat

October 19, 2011

I stood in the studio last night and the night before amongst a crowd of yogis as we like to call them. As the teacher I walk around the room and teach while Anita adjusts and assists. I do play music but usually not until Sun Salutation B. Sun salutation A is then illuminated by breathing.

It’s this magical sound of oceanic like breathing, a reverse whisper. It doesn’t happen in synch nor should it, and becomes the sound of the ocean if you will. Like waves rolling up onto the shore and then washing back.

So much happens on that rectangular mat. So much. It has nothing to do with me…… I am just calling out poses.

At Breathe it’s all very simple. It’s not about who strikes the best pose, in fact there is no best pose. I can’t do many of the poses I teach, hell I would need a surgeon to take flying pigeon but I can teach it. I can’t bind in side angle without dislocating a shoulder but I can teach it. It’s not about copying me (good lord god help you if you do that) it’s about listening with your ears and never with your eyes.

You didn’t need to see it when you were five and had that connection to who you really were. That connection was lost by that seed of doubt which was dropped into the lake of you and rippled out too far. Too powerfully. Then you didn’t just naturally move, you questioned it.

On the mat you find it again.

The frist time you walk in you seek out the most flexible looking girl or guy and decide that is who you will copy, since the teacher seems to be walking around drinking her coffee. (Or maybe that’s just me). Then you follow yoga girl and begin to criticize yourself because she seems to have just stepped onto the mat and knew everything right away and wow she is  flexible and wow am I not. Wow I really suck at yoga.

What you didn’t know is that five years ago when yoga girl walked into my class she not only couldn’t touch her toes, she cried through her first 10 classes. She didn’t have the strength to take chattarunga much less even take it on her knees. What you don’t know is that you can’t suck at yoga. It’s absolutely impossible. It’s the one thing in this world that I agree that everyone plays and everyone wins.

If this were about winning there would be yoga competitions.

Trust me I tried to win it for years.

Once when I was at a yoga workshop the teacher kept flipping up the back of my mat when he walked by. WTF???? What was he doing? I would come out of the pose and fix it. I didn’t like wrinkles, I liked it smooth. Then he would push my yoga tote off the front edge of my mat. WTF? Why was this asshole picking on me? What did I do? I would show him. I’d do 8 push ups when he said one. I would hold longer, deeper, further, I would survive when he tried to break me.

After class he walked right up to me and said “Did I piss you off?” I nodded. HELL YES, what the heck? “Good.” He smiled. “You need to learn to live with wrinkles.”

Ah, another lesson in the yoga treasure box. Trust me I have many. I like to learn the hard way. Then I get to pass those humiliating lessons on to you. Not humiliating…. humbling.

Just when you think you have arrived at the top of the mountain…. you realize you have only begun the climb.

I began to learn to live with the wrinkles of life. Nothing is going to be perfect. I have learned to live with the perfection of imperfection. And love it anyways. I have learned to love that one person. You know…… we all have that one person in our life who represents poison. There will always be that one person who surrounds you with hate and tries to drop the seed into your water. Go ahead. Drop it in.  Many people do. You will see that the wrinkles and ripples will be there and I will still just stand in the middle and smile. Because I have learned the lesson well. I learned it on my mat and it flowed right off and into life. I have learned that person is the one you need to love the most. They need the most help.

And that should not be interpreted to say I am perfect. Next to the definition of imperfection in the dictionary is my picture, trust me on that. I am not here to be perfect, thank god because it’s an endless tireless impossible climb to something that does not exist on this earth.

What a freaking relief.

Geez…… yoga taught me all that? Sure it did. Cost me a lot less than laying on someone’s couch dissecting the intricacies of my childhood and why I had such a terrible time with an eating disorder, so much that it still haunts me today. I know why I had it, I know the intellect of it all…… I don’t need to verbally walk through that on a weekly basis, it’s in the past.

I need to stand on a rectangle mat  a few times a week. When you learn to connect you body and your mind through something as simple as breathing….. magical things occur. The naysayers think that’s hokey. Good, let it be our secret.

Try this for me…… when you step outside today take three deep breaths. Stop right where you are. Three deep breaths. Notice how that changes your energy. That’s no accident. Breath is energy. It’s the energy of life. t’s the first thing you did when you were born and it’s the last thing you will do before you die. It’s the one energy you have some control over. There is a reason people always tell you to take deep breaths.

“But Mary my life’s too complicated and screwed up for yoga to help me.” Yeah I tried that too ages and ages ago.  More people would try it if I put in a pill.

Man I’d make a million.

As a teacher I have those days too, where it’s all I can do to walk through the door and stand in the middle of a group of people and teach. Give us three sun salutation A’s where we shut the door, jack up the heat and breathe. Energy and mood are shifted. The door to us gets opened, you finally stop trying to copy what flexible yoga girl does and slide a block under your bottom hand in triangle.

Then you suddenly realize that by bringing the floor a little closer to you, there is actual room to rotate around your spine. Your heart finally does shine onto the ceiling. Geez…. why were we so intent on reaching for that floor again? Oh because yoga girl was doing it. Well screw her, this is me and my body and my mat.

Then a whole new world of awesome opens.

Oh man yoga can be such a powerful thing.

As savassana began I looked around the room last night and you could just feel the energy radiate from this yoga community, this Kula as we call it. So much happens in these four walls. So much happens on that mat. It’s what you all teach me that makes this all so worth it.

While I am thinking of it…. if you have not heard the news, breathe is opening a third location downtown Rochester, next to the Eastman House. It’s a beautiful little mansion (do those words go together?) and we are opening on November 14th. November 12th we are holding a “farm to table” benefit, to benefit the SEVA challenge.

Click right here for more information.

I play the same song at the end of class in savassana. This is the most beautiful song I have ever heard…..