Brenna’s Thanksgiving Guide

Oh, Thanksgiving Day with it’s hours of food prep for minutes of consumption.  It’s ambition for perfect memories mixed with the reality of family.  It’s lofty goals of enjoying a day off work mixed with the labor of cleaning a house and setting a table.  Thanksgiving can truly be a sneaky let-down if you are not careful and don’t have a plan.  Lucky for you, at this 11th hour, I have just the plan that will not just get you through the holiday, but may actually leave you feeling happy, satisfied, and relaxed.

Morning

  1. Eat a Healthy Breakfast – So many people think they are saving calories by skipping breakfast so they can scarf down as much stuffing as they can come 4pm.  Don’t do it.  Not only will you be cranky the whole morning – snapping at your family, cursing your oven, etc, etc – you also SLOW your metabolism down.  Eat breakfast, regulate your blood sugar, keep your metabolism ramped up, and keep your stress level down.
  2. Take Time for Yourself Before You Spend Time with Others – Spend  a few moments in the morning working out, journaling, or meditating before you jump into the craziness of the day.  Run in a Turkey Trot or find a yoga class.  There are so many options the morning of Thanksgiving to get moving and clear your mind.

Afternoon

  1. Prepare Early- Before the family comes over, get your day laid out.  Write a timeline of what needs to happen when.  It will be easier for you to accept (and direct) help if you have it all written out.
  2. Be Present – When your guests start arriving, walk away from your preparations, even for just a minute, to really be present and greet them.  Look them in the eye, welcome them to your home, really take in their presence before you rush off to baste the turkey.
  3. Include Others/Ask for Help – People like to be part of things, let them.  Ask them to help lay out the table or start washing the dishes.  You can also designate someone to ask everyone what they are grateful for or lead an activity with the kids.

Dinner

  1. Create Space for Conversation – As you sit down for dinner, take the time to set the intention.  Invite others to state what they are grateful for, share a memory or story, or remember a loved one who has passed.
  2. Taste Your Food – Do not shovel.  Do not inhale.  Instead, taste the food.  Compliment the preparer.  Breathe and eat consciously.  Enjoy the flavors, the aromas, and the company.
  3. Take a Break – If you have been doing the heavy lifting all day, let someone else clear the table or get dessert.  Keep the kids busy by having them plate the dessert and serve the adults.

Night

  1. Get Outside – If the weather is nice, try to get everyone out for some fresh air or a walk.  If it is not nice, think about playing a game.  Move just a little after your meal to help the food digest and keep people from snoozing.

5 Hip Openers for Better Movement

Tight hips have an impact on most of your movement, from how high you can step up, to how low you can squat down. Keeping your hips open and functional is an important piece to keeping you moving at your best, with more power and less pain.  Check out the quick video below  for 5 easy hip openers you can do before you head out for your next adventure.

  • Hip Flexor and Hamstring Rocker Stretch – This dynamic stretch helps open up the front of the hip flexor (think psoas, quads, etc.) and the posterior hip (think hamstrings, glutes, etc.). Make sure you keep you spine long and keep the stretch in the hips, not in the back. You can place a pillow under your knee if you feel discomfort at the kneecap.
  • Dynamic Butterfly Stretch – This is a “powered up” version of the traditional butterfly stretch. Make sure to keep the soles of your feet pressing together as you lift your hips so you engage your hamstrings and protect your low back.
  • Knee Dips – This move helps increase the range of motion in your hip rotation. Don’t push into a range where you feel pain in your knee. Keep a slight core engagement to help protect your back.
  • Hip Hikes – Warm up the muscles of the pelvis and lateral hip muscles with this gentle motion. Stay in a pain-free range and let your obliques (side abdominal muscles) help you “hike” the hip.
  • Pelvic Tilts – This gentle rocking motion can help relieve tension in the low back and encourage more range of motion through the pelvis.

Strong and Balanced – Breathe Deep

Yes, this is yet another blog post about how important it is for us to breathe.  Why? Because we forget.  We do breathing exercises for a few days, maybe a couple of weeks, and then what happens?  Life, stress, and our daily grind get in our way.  So consider this your public service announcement for breathing for good health.

Now, I know you are busy, so I will get straight to the point.  Doing some form of breathing exercise can help you with the following:

  • Stress Reduction
  • Proper Organ Function
  • Decreased Inflammation
  • Better Sleep
  • More Endurance, Stamina, and Energy
  • Increased Flexibility, Tension Relief
  • Reduced Spinal Pain, Better Posture
  • Better Brain Function, Clarity
  • Decreased Anger
  • Strengthen the Immune System
  • Promote Good Digestion
  • Strengthens the Heart

You get the point, right?  It is one of the best things you can do for your well-being.

So, let’s get practicing.  Below is a video from my friend and amazing body-worker and life-coach, Emily Wishall.  In this video she goes over a few different ways to use your breathe to help you achieve your goals.  Whether you are trying to fall asleep or trying to gain some more energy in the afternoon, this 10-minute videos goes over simple exercises you can start incorporating into your daily life.

Also, check out Emily’s 10 Simple Steps to Jumpstart Your Day.

Happy Breathing!

Strong and Balanced – Community

When I opened my 2nd personal training studio in 2012, I wanted to build something larger than just a gym.  I really wanted to establish a place of community.  I wanted to be an informational resource for our town, to provide a space for people with common goals to come together and support each other, and I wanted to create a learning environment for the other trainers in the studio.  5 years later, there is definitely a strong community at Koa Fit AND it is something that I try to foster, care for, and grow every week I am in business.

Community = COMMON Purpose + Values + Experiences

Being part of a community, whether you seek it out or it finds you, is one of the most important pieces to living a strong and balanced life.  There are the communities we attach ourselves to because we have a common interest or purpose (think sports teams, weight loss groups, networking, etc) and then there are those we are part of because we share common values (non-profits, religion, political groups, etc.).  And then there are the communities we may just find ourselves in due to our life experiences (support groups, travel, neighborhoods, etc.).  You have probably found yourself in at least one or all 3 of these communities at one point or another in your life.  Being part of a community allows us to have a sense of belonging, provide mutual support, and have greater influence in our society.  It is important for us to not only be part of a community, but to be ACTIVE  and INVOLVED  in that community on a daily basis.

Support

One of the biggest benefits of being active in a community is the support that you get and give.  Working together, supporting each other through life’s challenges not only helps you bare the burden, but also fulfills the want to be needed as you help others.  As you give assistance to someone, you expand your capacity to be compassionate, patient, and generous.  You will also experience more in your life as you look at situations from someone elses shoes or help them get through a particularly trying time.  Your reality and view of the world can be expanded when you support those around you.

Understanding

As you engage and support people as a community, you will also better understand others.  You will understand where they came from, what they value, why they made certain decisions, and what they want to do in their life.  These insights into people’s lives create an atmosphere of understanding, so that even if we disagree, we can UNDERSTAND the other person’s viewpoint.   Understanding leads to patience which leads to compassion which then leads to trust.

This understanding also expands our own knowledge and gives us the opportunity to teach others.  This give and take is a much more valuable life education than anything we can pick up in a book or a classroom.

Connection and Trust

The biggest reason people join a community is to make connections.  It could be as simple as you all enjoy reading books or riding bikes, or it could be more complicated, like trying to conquer an addiction.  Whatever the reason, connection is something every human requires.  Connection leads to friendship and intimacy, and gives us the sense that we are on a team and that people have our backs.

These connections that we make in our communities also lead us to trusting one another.  It helps create a camaraderie in our society that allows us to walk down the street feeling safe and secure.  The more people you can connect with, build a relationship, and ultimately trust in your community, the more peace we can have in this world.

Move the World

Communities can create movements.  Obviously, as a group you have much greater influence than you do alone.  But bigger than that, the power a community can cultivate is exponential.  The motivation and inspiration that feeds the community is only doubled and tripled as the group expands.  This is literally the “power” of a community.  Giving your attention to something larger than yourself can help move attitudes, beliefs, and policy.

The Magic of Walking

I am sad to say that the last week I suffered from a mild head cold.  It turns out it was a huge bummer because I also happened to be in San Diego where the weather was perfect, the humidity was just right, and there are miles and miles of boardwalk along the water to run on.  Not wanting to exasperate my symptoms (stuffy nose, congestion… you know the drill) I decided to walk instead of run.

If you have spent any time with me, you will know that walking as exercise is not really my thing.  Why would I walk somewhere where I could run, or even faster, bike?  That was definitely my attitude.  However, after spending the week forced to slow down a little bit, I was surprised at my enjoyment of the walk.

Here’s the thing…normally if I am going to exercise and exert myself, I need a little pep talk.  A little bit of “You can do it!” or “You will feel great when you are done!”, but with walking, I just put on my headphones and wander out.  It is so relaxing and so gentle, one could even say delightful.  I never had to “convince” myself to do it or that it was a great idea.  It was just so easy.

The second thing I noticed was that I could do it for long periods of time, multiple times a day.  I had no problem walking for an hour in the morning and in the evening and then sneaking out after the lunch break (I was attending a conference).  It was just so nice to listen to music or a podcast and take in the scenery, the people, and just the general action that was happening.  I wasn’t constantly thinking about how any more miles I had left or the rate of my cadence.  It was a nice little break from the usual “pressure” of my runs.

Me, walking in the shadow of the Maroon Bells in Aspen, CO.

Third, it helped my mind.  I could process so much on those walks.  Business goals, meal ideas, life revelations were all processed on these walks.  I could organize, plan, and execute all the ideas that usually just swirl around in my head for days on end.  It was very liberating.

The last thing was that it disconnected me from my usually distractions.  Yes, I listened to podcasts (which, by the way, I have been meaning to “get to” for months), but I did not text, check social media, or read emails.  I just listened and walked.  It brought my stress levels way down and it helped me be more alert and clear through the rest of my day.

Now that I am healthy again, I have gone back to some of my usual workout routines, but I have continued my walks.  I just enjoy the time outside and away from responsibility so much!  During these times of high intensity interval training and 60 hour work-weeks it is important to just have some stress-free time.

So I challenge you this month, to start a walking routine.  Scratch that.  Not a “routine”, jut get out and walk every once-in-a-while.  I know we get tired, I know we have a lot on our plates, but take some time to get outside and enjoy nature.

  • Instead of sitting at the television right after dinner, head outside for a 10 minute walk to help your meal digest.
  • Set your clothes out the night before, wake up 15 minutes earlier, and head out in the morning to help you wake up and clear your mind.
  • Spend part of your lunch break walking.  Walk to a local park, eat, and walk back.  Or if you buy lunch, consider walking to the restaurant instead of driving.

This is not about weight-loss or burning calories.  It is about moving your body everyday, using it for what it was designed to do.  It is about taking ourselves out of our routine, away from our screens, and checking in with our surroundings.  It is about bringing a sliver of balance back to our hectic lives.

Happy Walking!

Strong and Balanced – Sleep

A few days ago I had the honor of seeing Arianna Huffington speak at a conference I attended.  One would expect a lecture from her to review best business practices or how to lead the pack, but in this particular speech, she went a little more personal and spoke of the everyday boundaries she sets so that she can take care of herself.  This got me thinking of my own self-care practices and what I hold most valuable on a day-to-day basis.  The number one thing that came to mind…SLEEP.

I value sleep over food, workouts, and even showers.  If I don’t get enough sleep, I am miserable to work with, to live with (ask my hubby), and I don’t make great decisions. And those are just the things that I notice right away.  Lack of sleep can also lead to high blood pressure, weight gain, memory loss, and more.  1 in 3 Americans do not get enough sleep (according to the CDC).  This is not surprising when we add the stress of our daily lives with the stress of what happens if we don’t sleep!  It is too much.

So, our only solution is to find ways to trick our bodies, to create routines, to set ourselves up for sleep.  We need to give it the same respect and attention we do to brushing our teeth or showing up to our job on time.  We need to start adjusting our days and the amount of work we take on so that we can get the sleep we need to be our best selves.  For those of you who are rolling your eyes and think you are too busy, read this article about Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, getting 8 hours of sleep.  If he can do it, so can you.

Here are my favorite “Hacks” (disclosure: not hacks at all, just good ol’ fashion advice) for sleep:

  1. Respect your sleep time.  Treat sleep like you would an interview, a job, an appointment.  Heck, put it on your calendar if you need to.  Set up your day and your obligations where you are allowing enough time for your Zzzz’s.  Cut social events short, leave emails unread.  The world will keep spinning, I promise.
  2. Establish boundaries. Do this with your work, your screen time, and your obligations to others.  Make sure you have a cut-off point at night and a start time in the morning.   Allow time in the morning to think about what you want from yourself and what you want to accomplish that day before checking your phone to see what the world wants from you.  At the same time, create time in the evening to reflect on your accomplishments, your successes, and what you were grateful for that day (if you make it from sun-up to sun-down with clothes on your back, you can find something to be grateful for each day).
  3. Move and engage your mind everyday.  Our bodies and minds are meant to be used.  If we slack off on utilizing one or the other, it will probably keep us up at night.  Make sure you are challenging yourself physically and mentally for at least part of your day, so that you can power-down easily at night.  PS – if you want to get both done at once, try the Strong Balance Class Home Video.
  4. Focus on quality not quantity.  While performing your tasks and obligations throughout the day, make sure you are focused.  Start and end projects without allowing yourself to be distracted by email, phone, or social media.  When you do something, go all in.  You will get more done in a smaller amount of time and will feel more accomplished and satisfied at the end of the day.
  5. Set yourself up for success.  You can not get home at 11pm and expect that your body will be able to settle down by 11:01pm.  On the same note, you can not play candy crush or browse your Facebook page till it is time to turn off the lights and then fall into a state of blissful rest.  Have a routine to get the screens out of your life at least 30 minutes before you want to go to bed.  Absolutely no screens in bed.
  6. Make your bed the most heavenly place on earth.  What makes you feel comforted and snuggled?  Soft sheets, fluffy pillows, lavender scents?  Whatever it is, spare no expense.  Make your bed super dreamy so that you can not wait to jump in at the end of the day.

Check out my podcast below for more tips on how to get a perfect night sleep.

 

New Strong Balance Class 2.0 Video Now Available Online

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This newest version of Strong Balance Class adds new exercises to challenge your core muscles and improve your posture in an express format. Lengthen your spine, strengthen your core, improve your balance, open your hips, and get a whole body workout that leaves you standing taller and feeling stronger. Class includes mobility and stretching exercises combined with functional and dynamic strength moves to increase coordination, agility, and overall power. Specific exercises are used to correct common postural deficiencies to help relieve pain or stiffness in the neck, back, and knees. The class is designed to strengthen you in ways that decrease stress on the joints and the spine, and we use a smart work-to-rest ratio to keep inflammation within your body to a minimum. The Strong Balance Class creates balance and symmetry in your body, instead of just pushing you through a hard workout. Our class helps decrease your chance of injury and sickness, establishes long lasting lifestyle changes, and promotes a functionally strong body.