Stop Stressing

STRESS.  Everyone has had it, felt it, been overwhelmed by it, failed at overcoming it, and have had it rule moments in their lives.  High stress can lead to an array of health problems including obesity, heart disease, and depression.  And just to add to the irony, when we worry about what our stressful lives are doing to our health, it makes us more stressed (my blood pressure is rising just writing these words).  How do we stop this cycle?

The stress we feel in our daily lives springs from multiple factors.  Stress can rise due to poor eating habits, environmental toxins, anxiety or worry, high pressure situations, our relationships with other people, our financial security and many other things.  Due to this multi-front attack on our stress levels, we need to have a defense that is just as layered.

We need to be able to prevent, combat, and recover from stress to help us lead healthy and more manageable day-to-day lives.  Below are suggestions of some easy things you can add in to help reduce your stress levels and avoid stressful situations in the future.

Prevent Stress

  • Daily Calm – Spend at least 5 minutes each day in a calm and quiet state.  This doesn’t have to be a full meditation session, just a few minutes for you to focus on your breathing, let you thoughts float in and out without reaction, and allow your heart rate and nervous system to settle down.  This is just as important as brushing your teeth or getting a workout in.
  • Eat Well – Poor food choices are going to lead to a crash and burn feeling in your mind and body.  Nobody can stay calm in stressful situations if they are already fighting their bad mood.  Keep blood sugars level, eat right, eat at consistent times, and keep yourself hydrated to avoid moodiness, headaches, and exhaustion.
  • Set Yourself up for Success – If you look at the calendar for your week and you know it is going to be stressful, don’t drink a glass of wine, sit on the couch, and begin to worry and get apprehensive.  Get your toosh up and set yourself up for success.  Think about going into a stressful week the same way you would think about facing a strong opponent in a match.  Prepare.  Get whatever you can get done ahead of time, rest up and eat right (put the wine down) so your body and mind are strong.  Go over the most challenging parts of your week and think about ways to de-stress those situations.  The days and weeks are coming whether you are ready or not.  Get prepared so you can be your best.

Combat Stress

  • Breathe – During a moment of high stress and anxiety, a couple breathes can go a long way.  When you start to feel overwhelmed, stop, and take control of your nervous system by controlling your breathing.  After a few moments, you will have more clarity and be able to approach the situation calmly.
  • “Not Right Now” – Have a hard time saying “No”?  This can lead you to feel out of control of your life.  Even though we know we can’t do something or we don’t have time or don’t want to do something, we still feel the pressure to agree to do it.  It is a mistake made over-and-over.  If you have a hard time saying “No”, try the more friendly and polite version of “Not Right Now”.  It will get you out of the things you know you shouldn’t be doing anyway in a subtle, cool, dare I say, charming way.

Recover from Stress

  • Learn from your Reactions – If you are feeling bad about the way you handled the last stressful situation you were exposed to, take some time to review what happened and learn from it.  What triggered you?  Where was your head space?  Was it the person, time of day, the fact you went out the night before?  Try to find what caused you to move into a high-stress situation and take note of those triggers in the future.
  • Active Relaxation – It sounds counter intuitive.  Active and Relaxation?  What I mean by this is be PROactive in your recovery from stress.  Make sure there are gaps (big ones) in your busy schedule where you can give yourself some space to recover from stressful days, weeks, or events.  Plan vacations, a nice dinner, or some time at the spa.  Or just make sure you take whole days, or at least mornings, off from your stressful schedule. “Downtime” will not just appear, you need to make it happen.
  • Be Grateful – Sometimes when we are caught up in the stress of life, we forget to look around and see how blessed we are to have so much abundance in our lives.  Make sure to take the time to enjoy everything you get to do each day.

Women’s Retreat – San Juan Islands Bike Trip

I just spent the last few days in the upper, west corner of Washington State biking through old-growth forests, past rugged shorelines, through open fields of flowers, and across different islands to get prepared for this year’s San Juan Island Bike Retreat.  This year will be my 3rd trip out to the San Juan Islands for the women’s retreat I do with Women’s Quest every July.  I am so excited to share the place where I spent a lot of my childhood vacations with a rad group of women.

This trip started when I met Colleen Cannon a few years back and suggested that the San Juan Islands might make a great addition to the Women’s Quest calendar of retreats.  The islands provide a perfect blend of scenery, serenity, and shopping that most women are looking for on a vacation.  I can’t describe how fun a day is when you get to pedal with a bunch of friends, stare at gorgeous views, and eat all the ice cream you want.  It’s a little slice of heaven.

Just to give you an idea of what the week looks like, here are a few of my favorite memories from the past two trips:

  • Wine Tasting at Sunset – My cousins allows us to spread out all over his backyard to take in the sunset while we drink wine and eat their food.  It’s fabulous.  They have one of the best views and it is great to sit around and chat after a day in the saddle.
  • Whale Whiplash – We see so many whales on our boat trip we get “Whale Whiplash”.  They will be on the right side, then the left, then under the boat, and you are trying to catch every glimpse of these amazing creatures.
  • Mountains – When you are at sea-level, a 14,000 foot mountain takes up a good amount of the skyline.  THEY ARE GORGEOUS!  Blue and white and beautiful.  I love seeing Mt. Baker everyday as we pedal back to the hotel from the ferry.
  • Laid-Back Lopez Island – This island has very few cars and super friendly people.  The terrain is mellow and very rural.  Open meadows run right into the shoreline.  This day is always a favorite with the group.
  • Bon Voyage Breakfast – We get to eat our last meal on Guemes Island on a grass lawn that overlooks the water.  Then we get to do a short little pedal on this very unpopulated island.  In the last two years, the locals have handed me fresh peaches and flowers as I have ridden by on my bike.
  • Art – the Pacific Northwest has some of the coolest artists.  From art festivals to the stands on the side of the road, you find the most unique art pieces and jewelry.
  • Ferrys and Fairies – Our ferry rides always end up being the time we all gather to talk about the day.  These conversations are filled with laughter, tears, support, and fun.  Women’s Quest retreats have a magical atmosphere that makes you believe in fairies and allows you to make friends for a lifetime.
  • Play – After few days of riding bikes and taking in the fresh air, the ladies of the retreat start getting a little silly.  It is my favorite!  It’s like watching them as they were when they were children.  Adventurous, curious, and just playing.

If you want to join us in 2018, registration is open.  Click here for more info and to register.

Class Review – March 2018

This year, one of the things I wanted to do is try new things in the fitness world.  I am always reading and researching and learning from the other therapists and trainers at my studio.  I also try to soak up as much knowledge as I can when talking to the great practitioners in my network, but I haven’t actually been out there to try what the other guys are doing in a while.

So I have committed to trying something new each month and to write a review about it.  By no means do I pretend that these are objective reviews.  Think of this as more my opinion as a fitness expert (it does say opinionated fitness guru in the title).  Also, there may be things I don’t like that you do.  I am not here to debate, just stating my thoughts because my name is in the url.

Mecha – Resistance

Ok, that was seriously hard.  I consider myself to be in good shape and I rarely have a hard time in group classes, but I got my a$$ handed to me at Mecha.

Mecha’s Resistance class follows the Lagree Fitness method which is kind of a pumped spin-off of Pilates.  The class utilizes a machine called a Megareformer, which looks exactly how it sounds.  Think of the delicate, traditional Pilates reformer, and make it a “Mega” version.  It is bigger, wider, has more padding, handholds, and little nooks and straps to hold your feet, heels, elbows or anything else that needs stabilizing.  I personally think it is a pretty cool machine.

The class is 45 minutes long and the idea is to focus on one body part or move until it is completely fatigued and then make a quick transition to the next set of exercises.  The moves are done at a slow 4-count pace so that you can really focus on your form and really burn out your muscles.  A Resistance Fundamentals class is also offered to beginners to help introduce you to the machine and the class.

Our class started and ended with a series of planks and core exercises.  Within the first 5 minutes, my core was on fire and I was dripping in sweat.  Smooshed between the plank-athon was 14 minutes of lunges (7 minutes spent on each leg).  We lunged moving both legs, moving one leg, holding a lunge position, using handles to help us lunge, bending over, reaching to the sky – you name it, we lunged it.  We also did a few upper body moves for our chest and shoulders.

Classes are limited to 10 to allow the instructor to watch your form.  Our instructor walked around the room the whole time, making adjustments to our positions throughout the class.  While there was a good amount of bad form going on (as there always is in all group classes), the instructor was doing his best, without embarrassing the participants in public, to get people into the right position.  He kept a pretty close eye on me since I was the new girl and definitely helped me adjust into the right position more than once.  The class went by fast and was challenging and interesting.


Cons:  I arrived 10 minutes before class started so that I could get comfortable with the space and the machines.  However, I stood around for 8 of those 10 minutes waiting for someone to return to the front desk or at least say “hi” to the new person.  After 8 minutes, I finally sought out the front desk woman (who had been chatting with a regular for the last 8 minutes) to let her know that I had never been here before.  By the time she took me to meet the instructor, he was obviously annoyed that he had about 30 seconds to show me the equipment and get me situated for class.  It was not a great first impression, especially after last month’s great experience with Orange Theory.

Pros: The slow movement of class was great.  I loved how the instructor kept reminding us to go slow.  It gave me a chance to really do each exercise correctly and get the most out of it.  I also really enjoyed the moves.  They were familiar but had unique twists.  I was sore for about 4 days after I took class.  And to be honest, I am a little upset that I couldn’t do everything in that class.  I will be going back until I have mastered it!