How to survive your first week in a large gym (and, maybe make the choice to move to a small one.)

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How to survive your first week in a large gym (and, maybe make the choice to move to a small one.)

Good morning, dear Wobblers.  

Here we are at the beginning of February, and here I am to ask those of you who live near our yoga studio to come try us out.  I never like to make an ask without first offering something in return, so here we go–and this is for EVERYONE, no matter how far or near you are to Robbinsdale, MN.

Last Friday, an instructor friend of mine gave me a guest pass to her large gym to come to one of her strength training classes.  I was so excited!  It had been a really long time since I worked out in one of those places, and truly, sometimes I miss it–the rows upon rows of treadmills and bikes, the power-lifting corner, the big locker room with amenities, and parquet flooring on the group fitness studio as far as the eye can see.  I grew up in these places, and when I was old enough, I worked in them joyfully, exuberantly, for 21 years.  

With the barbell on my back squatting and lunging away to my friend’s capable cues, though, I also remembered why I left.  Our class was large and there were many students who were not doing the exercises with proper form, which always makes me a bit nervous.  Most of the people in class were VERY fit and well-muscled.  Absolutely no one, save my friend the instructor, said hello to me or asked my name.  And, another thing became apparent at this large gym—the pervasive message that my purpose for going to class should be to change the way I look.  This was a message I bought into all those 21 years on the large-gym staff and in leadership, and it was only after having been away from that culture for a couple of years that I really could see the forest for the trees.  

These larger facilities and their “change your appearance” vibe, no matter how unintentionally communicated, can be REALLY overwhelming for a new person to navigate.  Here are a couple of tips to help you get the most out of your large-gym investment if you want to exercise and this is the most convenient and economical option for you.

  1. The day you purchase your membership, schedule an orientation on the exercise floor with a fitness staff person. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. This appointment should always be free, otherwise, choose another gym.  This is your tutorial on how to use the equipment safely.  Ask the staff person to show you about 3 pieces of equipment, and then practice using them for a week or so.  Go back to the staff person after that, and ask them to show you three more pieces of equipment until you have the hang of it.  Not every machine will be a good fit for you, and that is okay.
  2. Be okay with being a beginner, and only say positive things to yourself.  For example:  “Yay me!  I did a whole 5 minutes on that treadmill!  I got to know some of the buttons, and I survived!  Maybe next time I will do 7 minutes!”  Little moments of triumph like this tend to build on each other.  No matter what the fitness floor staff tell you about what you SHOULD be doing, always congratulate yourself for what you ACTUALLY do, no matter how small a win it may seem.
  3. Put on blinders to the posters on the walls:  “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”  “It’s not worth it unless you sweat!” written over the image of a ripped, muscular body lifting mighty weights are counterproductive when you are the person feeling like you are dying after 10 minutes on a bike.  Pain should never be ignored or viewed as a badge of fitness honor, and sweat is optional in improving our strength, flexibility, balance, and overall health.  Be YOU.  Hold yourself to no other standard than your own comfort and joy of movement.
  4. If you are going to a class, choose the one that best fits your schedule, and then expect to be successful at performing 25-50% of the exercises in your first month of classes. Go early and let the teacher know you are a beginner.  Trust your own body, and have an experimental attitude.  “Does my body like this movement?  Let me try one or two squats and see how they feel on my joints.  Maybe I can move my feet or shift my body so this movement feels really comfortable and strong for my legs.”  If an instructor calls you out for not doing a full set or not trying hard enough, leave the class and alert the management about the behavior.  They are getting paid to help you feel successful and keep coming back, after all.
  5. Finally, going to the gym even once per week can really help to improve healthy habits and get you learning and practicing new ways to move.  Consistency trumps intensity every time.  View your gym membership and the move toward better movement and health as a slow cooker, not a microwave.  After all, there’s a good chance your gym wants you to sign up, but then burn out and not come back.  Their membership pricing is low so that you will keep the auto-draft, but not make them deliver on all those promises for change they make by actually coming in regularly.  Get the last laugh by putting yourself first at these large gyms.  

And, here’s the ask part:  COME SEE US at Wobble (or another boutique studio in your area.)  We are local, we care about our communities, and we actually WANT you to come to class and have a wonderful experience while you get to know your classmates and work steadily toward more confidence, strength, stamina, and health.  Your body may change in appearance.  It may not.  There are no gritty posters on our walls.   Just a big “Well Done!” from all our instructors and the gift of #movingforjoy.  No one needs a gimmick for that.

See you on the mat, Wobblers.

What is an inclusive gym/studio, and why should you care?

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What is an inclusive gym/studio, and why should you care?

Are you in the Body Positive clique?  If not, you should be.  AND, it’s not really a clique—it’s actually the anti-clique.  You know in high-school when everyone self-organized into groups like jocks, nerds, band geeks, slackers, burn-outs, preppies, overachievers, weirdos, etc? And how some groups counted and other groups didn’t?  Today, our groups might include the Perfect People (the one that counts) and the Imperfect People (the one that doesn’t count).  The Perfect People are rich, sleek, sexual, wonderfully aromatic,svelte, young, fit, lean, white, strong-of-jaw, clear-of-skin, defined, muscular, not TOO muscular, and smiling.  All. The. Time.  The people in this group must also be really, really exhausted.  Sounds like a ton of work to be in this group.  

The imperfect people are skinny, fat, lumpy, pimpled, injured, gimpy, awkward, slow, uncoordinated, slouchy, funny, angry, joyful, sad, late, triumphant, defeated, fringy, sick, diseased, dysfunctional, stinky, sensual,  and just fine, thank you very much.  

I hope it’s clear where I’m going—-the Perfect People Group is really just an illusion–a powerful one that we have all bought into for too long.  People who appear perfect have a lot of rights that Imperfect People do not have.  The thing is, even the Perfect People can only visit that group for limited amounts of time.  I mean, everyone goes to the bathroom, for crying out loud, and the result smells universally, profoundly bad.This new idea of body positivity is brilliant.  Guess what?  You can look any way you want and you should be able to have all the same societal privileges of those appearing to hang out a lot in the Perfect People group.

The Body Positive Movement makes categories for NO ONE.  Because, adulthood, people!  Why, why, why, do we still find it necessary divide ourselves?  Two of the very unfortunate places where this division is painfully obvious are fitness clubs and yoga studios.  Most gym ads, yoga pictures, classes, equipment, building layouts, and guiding business principles favor the very fit and the very lean.  Everyone else is so intimidated by these centers, it’s no wonder 50% of January new members are gone by the end of March.

Truth time:  I am a recovering Perfect Person at the gym.  I still look critically at my body and believe I need to have a certain amount of muscular “shred” to have any sort of credibility in my personal training practice. In other words, my experience, creativity, extensive education, and passion count a whole lot LESS as a personal trainer than the way I look.  However, I am slowly and consciously trying to change these attitudes since opening Embrace The Wobble Yoga.  It’s working, and our customers like it.  People can come in and be who they are, move how they move, and work toward making their existing bodies happier, healthier places to be. I am easier on myself as a trainer, and as a result, I have no idea how much I weigh.  I have a great idea of what kind of movement I enjoy on any given day, though, and that is the example I prefer to provide for my clients and students today and forever more.  

We at Wobble are learning more each week about being Body Positive.  We offer a wide variety of class formats for yogis of all abilities.  Our class sizes are small so we can nimbly accommodate whoever may walk into class.  Our teachers (though all white as of publish date of this blog post—we would love to attract more yoga instructors of color), come in a variety of sizes and genders and backgrounds and are unique in their personal teaching styles.

We will be launching a new website in January that shows off many of our differently-sized yogis, as well as our commitment to community.  We are working toward a verification by BPFA, the Body Positive Fitness Alliance www.bodypositivefitness.org.   This org champions seven pillars of inclusivity, and we discovered we were already doing that at Wobble without knowing it was a thing. Our social media posts feature all kinds of yogis as well as a bunch of random Imperfect People moving joyfully, regardless of their ability, age, color, outfit, strength, flexibility, size, or any other (illusory) category-defining feature.

These are the things that true Body Positive fitness and yoga centers do. And you should care because YOU are Imperfect.  Even if you are trying really hard to spend a lot of time in the Perfect People group.  How ‘bout instead of trying so hard, we all just be who we are and move the bodies we have?  Guaranteed, our bodies change for the better when we move them consistently, without judgement, without hate, and without agenda.  

Our Body Positive initiatives are a work in progress.  Remember, we are ALL part of the Imperfect People group at the end of the day.  Share with us your experiences of body positivity in the fitness/yoga world.  We would love to hear about what other amazing business are doing with their powerful platform for change.  
See you on the mat, Wobblers.

Yoga Teacher Training: Not just for yoga teachers

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Yoga Teacher Training:  Not just for yoga teachers

I am sitting here in anticipation of January.  As a gym owner, we are on the cusp of the busiest time of year—classes will likely fill and overflow, revenue could swell, our instructors will shine, and new faces will try their hand at yoga, wellness, training, and behavior change.  My hopes are high for all these folks every January and the energy in the studio is, well, energizing.

This year, though, I am most excited about Yoga Teacher Training.  After writing a 200-hr curriculum last year and taking one group through it, I have found out again just how much I dig assisting others in their professional development through yogic knowledge and practice.  

Wobble (™) Yoga training will do several things for the participant, only one of which is learning how to teach a safe, fun, and, most of all, inclusive yoga class.  (Inclusive meaning not just for the very lean and very fit).  Last year, I had the honor of watching my RYT students metamorphose before my very eyes in a scant 7 months.

A couple folks that started out all nerves and all thumbs in front of the class found their poise and calm leadership with their student peers.  One such person who struggled with a lot of social awkwardness at the beginning of the training completely dropped his hesitation at the front of the group and put together a top-notch practice, presented as if he were a several-years veteran of teaching.  Another woman managed to break away from her total reliance on the world of pre-choreographed, packaged fitness to find her own voice and creativity on the yoga mat.  Yet another student came to the program as a seeker, wanting to find ways to pursue a more holistic lifestyle and perhaps a profession in the healing/wellness arts.  All of the trainees found connection within themselves and each other which enabled them to add new dimensions to their lives.

I watched this group support each other through the death of a friend, job transition, career questions, financial insecurity, and the bodily work that is the practice.  Some weeks were tough and others were triumphant—and yet all the students persevered and graduated with so many tools for teaching, for personal practice, for life.

Yoga training can be for every body and is certainly an on-going process.  Anyone who has a deep curiosity and a little bit of yoga experience can be on this adventure.  Wobble(™) Yoga training develops strength, stamina, confidence, inner and outer relationship, and courage through vulnerability.  We are ready for YOU to add your uniqueness to the process. The bonds you build and the skills you learn will be yours forever, in every facet of life.  It is an experience you will NEVER forget.  

Space is still available—course schedule and registration at www.embracethewobble.com/education.  Payment-in-full discount and payment plans available.  Call or email me with any questions.  leah@embracethewobble.com, or 615-887-1257.

ALL exercise counts! Or, enough with all the HIIT! (High Intensity Interval Training!)

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ALL exercise counts! Or, enough with all the HIIT! (High Intensity Interval Training!)

I like watching American Ninja Warrior just as much as the next person.  My 5-year-old son and I actually cheer out loud for the champions (especially the women!) and groan right along with all the poor competitors who wind up getting wet.  These athletes are undeniably amazing and inspirational.  They train hard much of the time and reap some superhero-like strength and endurance gains, not to mention a growing cult fan base.  

However.  I want to put it out there that just as hard-core as these athletes are, soft-core training is just as, if not more, important–especially if you are like most of us in the non-super-hero athlete category.  

There is a ton of buzz around HIIT exercise that has come out in the last few years.  HIIT is short for High Intermittent Intensity Training.  The principle of this workout is to do a lot of work in a short amount of time in cycles of heavy loads, explosive body-weight lifts, and  powerful cardio drills, combined with bouts of rest or active recovery exercises.  There is plenty of science to back up the effectiveness of such workouts for weight loss, strength/power development, and agility improvement.   

HIIT training can be a great fit for the following populations:  Younger folks (jeez could I sound any more like I am 80?), already-fit individuals, or people who enjoy and tolerate intense exercise.  What about the rest of us?  I know personally that after sports in highschool,  a tricky lower spine, some stress, 23 years of hair-on-fire group ex classes, HIIT workouts and I are not always the best of friends.  I’m finding that at age 40, I can do about 1-2 intense workouts per week, and then I just need to (moderately) walk, bike, or do yoga for the next several days.  Does that mean I should just throw in the towel?  What about the many,many people out there who have fitness, wellness, or weight loss goals but find that HIIT workouts just don’t, well, work?

Great news!  Just Google “consistency and exercise” and you will come up with thousands of articles and research to support the fact that no matter what type of exercise you are doing, the key to the results you want is to do it consistently.  When you combine your exercise with small changes in nutrition, you are totally on the path to better health, increased energy, and falling at least “in like” with your body and all it can do!  Here are three ways to build more exercise consistency, rather than intensity into your week.

    1. Pick a movement you enjoy.  And, if the movement pattern involves your arms and legs, it counts.  That could mean gardening, the Monty Python walk, or making snow angles as much as it means getting to the gym, the yoga studio, or the trails. Get the picture?  #moveforjoy
    2. Pick a time where other stuff does not get in the way for 20 minutes or so.  For lots of people, that means early in the morning.  (Research shows the MOST consistent exercisers do it BEFORE anything else in the a.m.) Others do better by working out after the kids are in bed, or sneaking in a quickie over lunch–a walk and a few push-ups and squats.
    3. Embrace a “slow-cooker” mentality over a “microwave” approach.  Often as adults, we don’t give ourselves credit for being in learning mode, and we expect too much too soon–especially with fitness and weight loss.  Start with 20 minutes once per week.  I promise that you will start to feel better about yourself.  You may even also notice you sleep better on the day that you exercise.  If that once-per-week appointment with yourself goes well for a month or so, try adding in one more exercise appointment per week.  Think less about pushing the envelope, and more about making choices that continue to bring you joy.  (I mean, really, does eating tons of sugar and fat bring most of us real lasting joy?) You might find in 3 to 6 months that the walk that began as a 20 minute stroll becomes a 45 minute hike because it makes you feel good.  However, if you tried that on your first day off the couch, chances are you would probably be sore, potentially injured, and about as ready to do it again as getting a root canal.  Please, for Pete’s sake, take baby steps if you want to stick with it.

So, HIIT workouts are great for lots of folks.  They would never be my first recommendation for people just coming up off the couch, AND, if you don’t enjoy exercising that way, HIIT workouts won’t work for you.  

The bottom line is, get out there Wobblers, and #moveforjoy.  If you do that, you will #moveforever.

Leah:)
*Want help crafting the body you love while loving the one you have?  We do that.  In-studio and online training sessions available.  Let us help you open the door to YOUR amazing body and all it can do in a safe, fun, energized and intuitive zone.  We look forward to finding out more about you!  Email me today at leah@embracethewobble.com to start the conversation.

September Student Spotlight

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September Student Spotlight

Our September student spotlight is Cathie! Cathie has helped us grow and become more confident with the students we serve. We are proud to have Cathie in our tribe and hope her responses will help others who are unsure of yoga (for any reason) feel comfortable coming to Wobble so they can “experience the benefits and bliss of yoga”.

When did you start coming to Embrace the Wobble?

I started coming to ETW in April of this year.  I was really pleased to find studio yoga in this corner of the metro.

What are you favorite classes to attend (and why)?

I’m REALLY glad to see ETW debuting Wobble Plus on Wednesday evenings.  Although we live in a major midwestern city, there are notably few studios prepared to welcome yogis in larger bodies in the Minneapolis/St.Paul metro area.  My hope is that lots more people will get to experience the benefits and bliss of yoga with instructors who are enthusiastic about making yoga accessible, non-threatening and approachable for them.  Anyone (and any BODY) should have access to classes that include them and honor their bodies right where they are today.  I’m really pleased that ETW has taken on this challenge.  The small class size and close community at ETW make it an ideal environment, particularly for folks in larger bodies who may have had negative or stigmatizing experiences in other fitness settings.  I think it will be a little learning curve, but I’m eager to watch it unfold.

I also love restorative yoga and go to Rob’s classes twice a week.  It’s so relaxing.  It’s a physical practice in yoga that reminds us all that yoga’s not just about chasing crow and side-plank.

What motivates you?

My personal yoga goals are all about making my body a more comfortable place to live.  Yoga has nearly eliminated the back pain I have from a car accident. I really appreciate the strength and stamina that I’ve gained, and how those things make interacting with the world easier.  Most importantly, though, yoga is a drug-free way of managing anxiety and insomnia, which have been challenges for me for years.

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my life outside the studio, I work at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Neurology.  I have a fantastic boyfriend with whom I love to cook, laugh and explore the metro area.  I also have two Labradors and do some volunteer work for Carver Scott Humane Society.  I love to read medical research about health, and am currently reading “Health at Every Size” by Linda Bacon, PhD. I also love audiobooks, and almost always have one going while I drive or putter around the house.

How to build the body you want without hating the body you have

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How to build the body you want without hating the body you have

Good morning Wobblers.  How many of you have the following dialog with yourself in the mirror every morning:

“Ugh.  My skin is so broken out.  I wish my eyebrows were different, and my nose is too big.  Don’t even get me started on my arms and those pockets of flesh under my shoulders…….who made my thighs inflate so much this month?  Will I EVER get rid of my stomach?  I mean, this is no longer baby weight—maybe it’s college weight by this point?…….I wonder which pants will fit this morning?  I hate all the clothes I have—I will never look the way I want to…….Sigh……my body is just disgusting and I am becoming my mother.”

Welcome to how most people begin an exercise program.  They replay this conversation over and over (not just women, by the way, either) and finally say “That’s IT.  I’m hitting the gym tomorrow and going on a juice cleanse.”  

So, you go to the gym, you see all these posters on the walls with pithy quotes like “Pain is weakness leaving the body,” and “Go hard or go home.”  You don’t know where to start, and the only things you can focus on are how horrible your body feels, how hard everything is, how amazing the person next to you on the treadmill looks, and how you will Never. Ever. Ever. Get. There (whatever “there” is for you).

You’re right.  

I can’t think of one person who could “succeed” in the scenario above.  It never, ever works to hate yourself into success…..at anything!

Did you know you can love your body and not lose weight?  Let me say that again.  You can love your body and not lose weight.  And that, my lovely Wobblers, is the key to any transformation whether it includes weight loss or not.

When you start building the body you want, that last idea is totally key.  How do you make that shift, though?  By using baby steps of course.  Here are a few.

  1. Start relating to your body by what it can do.  Did you birth or help make a baby?  Climb the stairs?  Clean the kitchen?  Enjoy sex (with yourself or someone else)?  Walk to the mailbox?   None of that would be possible without a body–the body you have right now.  It is completely miraculous that all of our bodies evolved from little amoebas in the first place, let alone got coordinated enough to cook a pot of mac and cheese.  Feel gratitude for your amazing body’s abilities, if not your body itself,  every day.
  2. Find ONE way that you can healthfully fuel your miraculous body today.  One way to hate it a little less with your actions.  Maybe that means eating a carrot.  Like, even a baby carrot.  Or, maybe that means parking a little farther away from the door at work.  Drink a glass of water. Hug a friend, or receive a hug from someone without shame—-everyone deserves human compassion—either get some or give some today.  Allow your body to move around to a good song—even if you are in the car!  
  3. Notice yourself if or when you begin sinking into the self-hate thought cycle.  Observe that process.  Is it making you feel better or worse?  Is it just such a pattern that it’s unconscious?  Would you speak to your friend this way?  When you notice it, shift. You don’t have to go all Pollyanna on yourself, but shift away from the negative and into something benign like your grocery list, or start counting your breaths.  This is a conscious choice you can make.  Make it.  Then make it again.  And again, and…..

People who are healthy and thriving come in all different sizes and shapes.  Size does not equal strength.  Size does not equal flexibility.  Size does not equal 100% “clean” (whatever that means) food choices or lack thereof.   Health and “looking healthy and/or fit” are absolutely a result of many small actions that build up over time.  These choices do not involve bodily pain, massive and speedy weight loss, or disordered eating.   These choices are all about LEARNING, choice by choice and day by day, how to show your body you love it.  Even if right now you DON’T.  

Sometimes, we just have to act our way into right thinking.

Wobblers, good luck loving on yourself.  And, if you just can’t quite make the leap, ask someone you trust to tell you what they love about you.  It’s okay to borrow for a while what you can’t quite come up with on your own.  

Till next time!

Leah

*Want help crafting the body you want while loving the one you have?  We do that.  In-studio and online training sessions available.  Let us help you open the door to YOUR amazing body and all it can do in a safe, fun, energized and intuitive zone.  We look forward to finding out more about you!  Email me today at leah@embracethewobble.com to start the conversation.

Trauma & Yoga

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Trauma & Yoga

Imagine sitting in a crowded bar with your date….all is well, the band is playing, food arrives at the table, and the conversation is comfortable.  It’s a great evening that feels easy and normal—fun, even.  Then, an image of the musician on a low stage, a handsome man surrounded by a throng of cheering women as he plays his guitar.  All of a sudden, the bar becomes immediately unsafe.  It feels as if all the air has left the building and an elephant sits on your chest.  You start to sweat and feel dizzy and panicked and there is no other way to fix it, except to leave—right now.  Your date is confused and worried.  You feel like an idiot and a wacko and you know in your head that this is a crazy response to a completely normal evening, and yet you are powerless to stop your body from bolting.  You try to talk yourself out of it in the bathroom, but coming back with those images still up on stage, you Just. Can’t. Make. It. Work.  

So, you leave, in tears and frustration, wondering if you will ever be able to be normal again, as you try to shake off this attack from an invisible enemy. “What is wrong with me?”  You think as your heart rate slowly comes down and you catch your breath in the safe car with a man you know you can trust–who is, thankfully, patient and caring and trying to understand.  

Sexual trauma is part of my story, and causes reactions just like the one above.  This scenario actually happened, as well as many others months and even years after of the original trauma.  Thankfully, I found a way out.  Yoga was part of my solution—my path back to wholeness. Every class I taught or took helped me gain back control over my body…..the mat, at times, was the one place I felt completely safe, and I knew the sense of peace I got from each hour of practice would linger awhile after class. Thankfully, the teachers I had and the training I received allowed me to find the practice that fit for me. Now I am able to pay it forward and help others to claim their power by finding and trusting their connection to self.

Many of our yoga students and mental health clients have experienced traumatic events and suffer in silence. It is critical that professionals who work with women and men living with trauma notice and pay attention to the cues given. Rather than push, we want to gently respond in ways that can help the student or client manage the feelings and fears that have risen up inside them. Learning what signals to look for, how to respond, how to help as well as what not to do is critical if we are to assist clients in moving toward healthy ways of functioning. Our workshop will provide not only this information, but will also give clarity in defining trauma and addressing how professionals can pay attention to their own responses and possible traumatic pasts. Join us in September to find out how you can be an integral part of wholeness for your students and clients. Click here to register!

Co-written by: Leah Murtagh and Janet Yates