The Path You Pave

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Tough as a rock,

strong as a stone;

take a deep breath, 

and go alone. 

Luck favors the bold,

so go and be brave; 

you never know who’s following

the path that you pave.

Whenever someone says, “Travel solo?! I could never do that!” I say, “…not with that attitude.” 😏 There’s a tremendous amount of empowerment that comes with going somewhere on your own. Somedays often turn to nevers, and if you spend your life waiting to coordinate with the schedules of others, you may never climb that mountain, or see that beach, or taste that poutine. It’s ok to be nervous, nerves are cousin to excitement. Embrace time spent with yourself; the Earth is awesome, and so are you. 🌎

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A Patient Start

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The keeper of time,

the setter of the sun;

Keep smiling, stay patient,

it’s only just begun.

A seedling in the dirt,

awaits its time to grow,

sprouting when it may;

Good things take time, you know.

In my happy head,

with my happy heart,

I’ll wait & wait & wait some more;

Love grows with a patient start.

Lately, life has given me some not-so-subtle reminders of the joy that patience can bring. There is a quote that says, “It was sunsets that taught me that beauty sometimes only lasts for a couple of moments, and it was sunrises that showed me that all it takes is patience to experience it all over again.” I think that the power of mindfulness is the ability it gives us to trust patient timing, and not try to force life to fit within the schedules that we so often are governed by. So many of us settle for the things that we think we should have by now, because they are within our reach. But I believe that it is the things that we have to stretch for, and practice patience in order to attain, are the things that make life so beautiful.

Losing You is a Crock of Shit

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?” – A.A. Milne

I must say, this type of lucky is not a very lucky type of luck. In fact, it’s a rather sucky, what the fucky type of luck.

Sundays are a sacred day. Every Sunday, Grandma and Grandpa would come over from Brooklyn. Grandpa would be out in the yard, clipping something off a tree or digging around in the dirt. That was his element. He loved being outside, watering the plants, feeding the birds, in fact, he had built a pigeon coop in his own backyard.

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Grandpa raised homing pigeons for about 40 years. I grew up with a love of animals that stemmed from the many, many many pets that I’ve met in his backyard. He cared for his animals the way he cared about everything else, with his whole goddamn heart.

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My Grandpa is the strongest man I know. In the summer of 1991, his son was in a fatal motorcycle accident. That same summer, I was born. I never got to meet my uncle Sal, but I’ve been told that we’re a lot alike. I didn’t know it at the time, but I came into the world at the time when my Grandpa needed me the most.

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Sunday was a day for eating. Sometimes we would order pizza from one place, and pasta from another. Grandpa always had something to say about something someone ordered, because it wasn’t as good as HE would make it. He loved being a skutch. He especially loved skutching Grandma, his bride of 61 years.

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Yes, his sign says “do not disturb.” Men today can take a page or 20 from Grandpa’s playbook. I’m afraid that a heart so genuine only belongs to men who were born before 1940. Grandpa would write notes for my grandma in chalk that she would see as she walked to school. And I can’t even get a text back.

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The past 8 Sundays have been nothing like the rest. The world has felt a bit shaky lately. Remember those pigeons I was telling you about? Well, going back to them…  A few months ago, Grandpa had about 20 pigeons in his coop. One night, a small cat got into the coop– which is a happening that has never occurred in his 40 something years of pigeonry. Grandpa, lover of animals, was stuck in a true to life flight or fight situation, and had to fight off this cat to save the birds. Grandpa had to bury over 20 of his birds that day. In the end, only 4 were left. Two days after he experienced such a loss, Grandpa’s brother passed away.

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The pep in Grandpa’s step has been slowing down quite a bit, but after losing his birds and his brother, he had become noticeably weaker. When a stubborn Italian man such as himself says, “hey maybe I’ll go checked out by a doctor”… you know he really must not be feeling well. He went for a physical and all signs pointed towards just healthy enough, so he went on with a false sense of confidence.

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In the beginning of December, that false confidence was wiped away by shortness of breath. Grandma was worried, but Grandpa said crock of shit I’ll be fine til the morning. That next morning, my mom and sister went to Brooklyn to see what was the matter. Grandpa said he went until he couldn’t go no more, so my mom called an ambulance. He poured half a shot of Canadian club, and took it with Willie, his next door neighbor and BFF. He showed my mom how to take care of his pigeons and his cats. And then he started bullshitting with the EMT’s as they gave him oxygen.

In the emergency room, they found out through Grandpa’s blood work that he had a heart attack the day before. “Heart attack?!”, Grandpa said, “I thought I had gas!” Talk about a bad ass mother fucker. He was admitted to the ICU, which seemed so strange, because he was the most lively guy in the unit. I would take pictures of his pigeons when we would feed them, so that I could show him in the hospital. He would take my phone with the picture of the pigeon and stick it under his blanket. Then, he would press the button to call the nurse and when she arrived he’d say… “wanna see my birdie?”

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Even when he was at his most vulnerable, he played it cool. He never wanted us to worry, and we never wanted him to worry. Grandpa was transported to the ICU of a heart center in Manhattan, and stayed there for two weeks. He said, “oooh the big city, can we go see a play first?” My mom quickly transitioned into his role as my Grandma’s caretaker, and still was able to make it to the hospital every night in time for dinner. She did it with her full heart, because she’s her father’s daughter.

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After two weeks of studying the condition of Grandpa’s heart, the medical team decided a triple bypass was the first step in treatment. The night before the surgery was glum. My mom, sister and I all sat around my Grandpa’s bed, trying to make idle conversation, but we were all scared shitless. When it was time for us to go, I told Grandpa how bad ass he’s going to feel when he’s showing people the scars of the bullshit he just went through. We’ll see, we’ll see… he told me.

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No time moves as slowly as waiting for your loved one to come out of open heart surgery. But he did it. He fucking did it. We were right there as he was wheeled into the recovery room. He wasn’t breathing on his own yet but that was okay, because he made it through, like the bad ass that he is. “Salvatore, Mr. Salvatore,” the nurse tried to wake him. He didn’t budge but when my mom yelled “Cheech!”, you bet your ass he opened his eyes. His beautiful, blue eyes.

408419_4972653078974_1072749345_n.jpgIt was a Sunday, the last day Grandpa was able to breathe on his own. December 24th, Christmas Eve. It was three days after his surgery that the team was able to remove his breathing tube. They told us that they took their time with such a step, because once they took the tube out, having to put it back in is no good. He couldn’t talk, so we wrote out the alphabet for him to communicate. He spelled out w-o-t-e-r… we knew what he meant. The nurses couldn’t give him any, because of the excess of fluid in his lungs. We told him, “Cheech! You did it! That was one hell of a surgery!” But he gave us that are you fucking nuts look, with a big ol thumbs down. He used his hands to tell my mom to change the channel on the TV, and to give my sister and I $50 rather than $20. We kissed him goodbye and told him that we’d see him tomorrow.

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This year on Christmas morning, we woke up to the news that they had to put Grandpa back on the breathing tube. From then, we tried to remain positive as his health continuously declined. After two weeks, we were called in for a meeting with the social worker. It was time to be Grandpa’s voice.

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Grandpa’s voice is not a timid one. It’s not a voice that’s afraid of being honest. He’s got a, “I’ll do it my way and tell you what’s what” kind of voice. A life where grandpa could not use his voice is is not much of a life at all. He was no longer his rambunctious self, but was a mere body being kept “alive” by machines. When I went in to see him, it wasn’t him. The essence of who Grandpa is was already gone.

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Going back to the birds… Last Sunday, my mom, sister and I were in my Grandpa’s yard taking care of his birds. We kept counting, “one, two, three,” but couldn’t find that fourth bird. Until we saw it, on the floor, still. We buried the fallen bird, careful not to unearth any of his brothers or sisters. Hours later, we received a phone call from the hospital telling us that Grandpa had passed, peacefully and without pain.

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We often refer to ourselves as the three little birds, because we flew from a caged past into a life of freedom. After all those years of raising pigeons, Grandpa passed away leaving behind his three little birds. I love you with every ounce of my being, Grandpa. Losing you is a real crock of shit. We’ll be here tonight celebrating the legend that was born on this day 85 years ago.

10 Things I Learned From 10 Cities in 2017

In 2014, I made my first New Years Resolution – to travel to five cities I’ve never visited before, and to fly solo on at least one of these trips. Since 2014, I’ve visited over 35 new cities and 10 countries, with more than a handful of these being solo adventures. There’s something about traveling that makes me feel like I’m not just living— but that I am truly alive. I’ve pushed further beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone than I could have ever imagined, which has given me a sense of confidence that has trickled down to every aspect of my life.

Each year, I reflect on my trips and the pearls of wisdom they have brought me. This has become my favorite post to write, for it forces me to mull over the moments that have been marinating in my mind as the months have gone by.

  1. Savannah, GA. | I’m my Mother’s Daughter

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This year I realized that I am one bob haircut away from turning into my mother. We’re two ENFJ’s in a pod, who have walked through fire to live a life of sunshine. Savannah was the first time my mom and I traveled together— no Tammy, no Grammy, just us. On the first weekend of January, my sister attends a theater conference in Upstate New York. My mom and I seized this window of opportunity to do something we’ve never done before: go on an adventure. The combination of a short flight, open containers, and River Street made Savannah the perfect destination.

My Mom has not been bitten by the travel bug as I have, however, we have both been plagued with a different beast: anxiety. Sharing my love of travel with my Mom goes so much further than showing her some of my favorite destinations. I am deeply indebted to travel for allowing me to realize that I can tame my own anxious mind. Our weekend in Savannah was spent going with the flow of what River Street had to offer. Not everything in life needs a plan— which sounds blasphemous when you’re as type A as we are. We didn’t have an itinerary telling us to take syringe jello shots at the dueling piano bar… those things just happen.

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2. Boston, MA. | Embrace change

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I don’t feel completely ready to say goodbye to 2017. My baby sister is a senior in high school, and will be going off to Emerson College in the fall. I’m not completely sure how that’s even possible, because I feel like I graduated high school 20 minutes ago. Going away to college is the experience that transitions you into adulthood. It’s the years that you’ll build relationships that will bring you into your next phase of life.

We visited Boston this summer, and it was such an obvious fit for my sister’s college experience. This trip allowed me to face reality. The truth is that I’ll never be ready to let my sister go (ammi right parents?!), but I have faith in Boston, and the happiness this city will bring my sister. 

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3. Montréal, QC  | Fly solo (and do some pull ups)

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Sometimes you gotta go, where nobody knows your name. ☝🏻🎶 Montréal is my first Canadian adventure, eh, and certainly did not lack in poutine, friendliness, and maple syrup. Once you travel by yourself, it becomes something that you crave. I love to immerse myself in a new location, and flying solo forces you to dive in differently. One of my favorite things to do is take classes at different gyms, so I can learn from different trainers, and trainees wherever I am! On this trip, I visited Studio Epix for their HIIT morning workout. This was the first class that pushed me to try pull ups… and life has never been the same.

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4. Austin, TX | Be Genuinely Curious

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A professor once told me that the key to being a good listener is in being genuinely curious. That was a tip that has always stuck with me, and has been brought to life during my time in Austin. This year on my solo adventures, I grew quite fond of hostel life. During my time at the Firehouse Hostel, I went on daily adventures with interesting others, traveling from as far as Australia. It wasn’t hard to be genuinely curious about the paths that my new traveling posse have taken, that led us to the same place, at the same time. It makes me think of all the people we cross paths with on a daily basis, that we may be inspired by if it were for just a little bit of curiosity. We’re not cats, after all…

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5. Pilanesberg, South Africa | Life extends beyond ourselves

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This year I took the trip of my dreams, and went on safari in South Africa. Being smack dab in the middle of the animal kingdom was a consistent reminder that the universe does not revolve around us. We humans get caught up in our own lives, and don’t often sit and ponder about the lioness that is hunting to feed her cubs. This trip was a refreshing culture shock, that allowed me to disconnect from the human world. Albert Einstein once said, look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Albie, you weren’t kidding buddy.

[Read more: Lessons learned on an African Safari]

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6. Cape Town, South Africa | Don’t talk about it, be about it.

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Many of our dreams are reserved for laters and tomorrows. I prefer to-do lists to bucket lists, because as much as I’m a dreamer, I’m also a doer. South Africa was a destination that I always considered a “someday” trip. One of those majestic places that I’ll visit “one day.” Until my best friend said- I’m going, you coming?

We should all dream big, but don’t be afraid to jump up and make things happen. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have travel buddies with travel dreams similar to your own! This trip will hold a special place in my heart, with each moment affirming my love for planet Earth.

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7. Atlanta, GA | You can always count on Waffle House

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This year, two of my trips were rooted in the nuptial love of my college friends. In September, my prom date, his girlfriend and I traveled as sister wives to Atlanta, where we celebrated the wedding of my cat’s namesake, (human) Jordan. Did we lose you, yet?

There a couple of things in life you can depend on. You can depend on the New Yorkers to be the loudest ones in the room.  You can depend on your best friends to travel as far as it takes to watch you walk down the aisle. You can depend on your road trip buddies to keep you belly laughing the whole drive. You can depend on Turbulence by Steve Aoki and Laidback Luke to get you pumped up. And, most importantly, you can depend on Waffle House to make sure you will fall asleep with a full belly.

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8. New Orleans, LA| Don’t jump in the Mississippi

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New Orleans was the scene for another nuptial adventure, that was fueled by Hurricanes and sleep deprivation. But oh, I’m sorry… I thought we were here to party.

This trip wins the award for most fun had in 2017. It has been four years since my friends and I graduated college, so this celebration also served as an epic reunion. There is nothing quite like a New Orleans hotel doubling as your old dorm. Our strong bonds was made stronger with the topsy turvy times that Bourbon Street introduced us to. If you look deep down to the bottom of the Mississippi, you may find some memories that were meant to be forgotten. But, take it from the itchy skin of my friends… you may not want to take that plunge.

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9. Miami, FL | If they don’t tell you how much, it’s probably $300

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South Beach has officially made its way to the top of the leaderboard on my list of cities visited. This year, I visited on my own in February, and as a birthday celebration for one of my best friends in November. We are a crew who would not snub our noses to the likes of a happy hour, and are a group of gals who don’t back down from a challenge.

On one South Beach Saturday night… we got got. If the hot waiter looks too good to be true, he probably is trying to sell you something. Heed our advice and ask how much, and how big, one Coronita is before ordering four of them. But, my friends, if you do order four of them… you don’t stop until the last one is empty. Remember, your body can do this, don’t let your mind stop you!

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10. Denver, CO |  Get high

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I get by with a little help from my friends, and I get high with a little help from my friends. Denver was one of the last cities I visited this year. It was one of those Google Flights cheap rate induced decisions that I’ll never regret. The Rocky Mountains were calling my name, and I was like, u up?

We visited Estes Park on the last day the road to highest peak of the mountains was open for the season. In less than an hour, we were in a completely different climate. There was a ridiculous sense of tranquility that came with the altitude. I felt like an astronaut that was exploring a totally different planet (ok, maybe that was the edibles talking).

My faith is something that I often struggle with, but I always seem to find answers in nature. This year, I have been coping with the reality of the progression of time. My sister is growing up and going off to college. My grandparents are aging and have been ailing. We’re born, we grow up, we do some things between A to Z, and then life ends. Depressing way to end such an uplifting blog, huh?

Sometimes I feel stupidly optimistic, clinging to silver linings. But, my mindset so often comes from considering darkness, forcing me to exude light. I believe that the role I play in this world is dictated by my ability to be present, be appreciative, and be mindful. Sometimes it takes standing at the highest peak of a mountain to remember that you’re braver than you think. Take this time as we begin the new year to really reflect on the world and your place in it. Try to give more than you take, feel as much as you think, and smile at as many humans as you cross paths with.

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10 Lessons Learned from 10 Cities: 2016

10 Lessons Learned from 10 Cities: 2015

Hot Mess Express

Some people say that social media has made us all narcissists. Others argue that we’ve been narcissists all along, and social media is just a mere tool that we use to flaunt our narcissism. In either argument, the point has been made that there is a link between social media and superficiality.

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Social media makes us want to highlight the best parts of ourselves. Why would we want to share our flaws and imperfections with the world? We post the photos that we look nice in, and the moments of our day that we are proud of. We’ll post our most delicious meals, because no one really wants to see the meal that you burned because you left it in the oven too long.

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But, it is those meals that we’ve destroyed that make us human. It is the pimples that we cover with snapchat filters that give us something in common. No one is perfect. Everyone has flaws.

This morning, a friend of mine (& fellow blogger) tagged me in a post with the tag #gloriousmess, where she talked about the parts of herself that she has embraced as her glorious mess-ness. This is related to a global campaign of individuals sharing their flaws, promoting self love for every aspect of who they are. Campaigns like this one force us out of our comfort zone, bringing us face to face with the aspects of who we are that we would rather brush under the rug than scream from the rooftop.

With that being said, here are mine…

My mind is always filled with a million thoughts. I’ll talk so fast that I’ll stumble on my words, because my brain is moving a mile a minute… and that’s without coffee. I’ve got an overabundance of energy, and while that may sound wonderful, it can also cause me to come crashing down. I consciously have to manage where I exert my energy, which usually causes me to feel like I’m letting some aspect of my life falter. I am a Type-A perfectionist who is her own biggest critic. I can be wound so tight that I wear my shoulders up to my earlobes, and have to take zzzquil to get out of my head and off into dreamland (non-habit forming… yeah right). My addictive personality begs to differ.

Mindfulness and awareness are my tools in embracing what makes me a glorious mess. It’s one thing to acknowledge our flaws, but we must take one step further in becoming the best version of ourselves. For me, something that has helped me immensely has been practicing yoga once a week. It allows me to set aside time for myself to give my brain a break from the consistent flow of thoughts swimming though it. It’s teaching me new tools to carry around throughout the week to help clean up my messy mind… starting with the simple reminder to just breathe.

What makes you a glorious mess? Dig deep into your soul until you have reached a point of uncomfortable. Take those parts of yourself that you have tucked under your bed, and display them on your shelf. Embrace who you are— every damn aspect of you.

5 Things I’ve Learning From Teaching Fitness Classes (that have nothing to do with fitness)

Last year around this time, I decided to register with the National Academy of Sports Medicine to become a personal trainer. I entered the world of fitness classes when I was in college; after a lifetime of taking dance classes, I transitioned into the role of a dance teacher. From there, my post-college fitness path took me into a kickboxing studio, where I developed a true love for helping people change their lives, one roundhouse kick at a time.

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The decision to pursue a certification in the field means gaining a deeper understanding of the science that goes behind exercise. It was a journey that was not only fueled by the desire to help others, but to change my own body in the process.

Here are 5 things I have learned from my experience with fitness, beyond just how to squat properly…

1. Practice What You Preach

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Who would have any respect for a trainer that tells you to do a minute of burpees, that can’t get through 30 seconds on their own? The “do as I say, but not as I do” is not an effective approach to inspire others to learn, grow, and succeed. When studying for my NASM exam, I selected a self-study plan… which for them means that I receive a textbook, and have 1 year to learn the material, and then pass my exam. For me, a self-study plan means that I am going to internalize the material in a way that not only allows me to regurgitate facts for a test, but in a way where I can live and breathe what I have learned. In the year that I had to take my exam, I applied the principles of functional movement to my workouts, and an understanding of basic nutrition to my diet. I not only passed my exam, but lost 10 pounds in the process.

2. Life is about balance

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Yes, I love exercise. Yes, I love pizza. Why not enjoy both? But this principle goes beyond that of nutrition. My love of exercise has stemmed from the fact that both my education and my professional role in the world of social media takes place online. A typical, productive day consists with me sitting on the computer for a very, very long time. To me, that doesn’t scream “balance.” So, I began working out as a way to even out my scale of physical activity. The gym doesn’t have to be a place that is such a task to get to. Instead, it can be your place of equilibrium, where you balance out your mind and body versus the trajectory of your typical day.

3. Team work makes the dream work

 

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As Bill Withers famously sang, we all need somebody to lean on. Working at F45 has opened my eyes to a whole new form of team work. I’ve taken plenty of fitness classes before, but have always preferred to work out on my own. To me, there’s nothing better than being in my own zone. But F45 allows you to be in your zone, surrounded by others who are in their zone, supported and encouraged by a team who has set the bar of what “the zone” is. Speaking for myself, I’ve got a very “I can do this on my own” attitude… which can propel me forwards in some ways, but in others, can hold me back. Intrinsic motivation is important, that’s what gets you started. But, the motivation that comes from a team is what helps you reach new heights.

4. If you want it, go get it

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Despite what the industry of diet pills, tummy tea, and cleanses want to sell us, there is no shortcut to a healthy, fit life. In fact, there is no shortcut to any type of great success. If you want something, you have to give it everything you’ve got. If you want that promotion, work your ass off for it. If you want that A in your class, fully immerse yourself in the material. If you to be able to run a marathon, get off the couch and start training for it. There is nothing more satisfying than looking back on how far you’ve come and thinking, “I earned this.”

5. Everyone has a story

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You learn a lot about people from working at a gym. Everyone’s starting point is different, whether it is on their fitness journey, or their journey in life. Keep an open mind and you can be inspired by, and learn from people who you would have never crossed paths with otherwise. Sharing a common interest, such as working out, is something that unites us. You may be surprised what else you have in common with people who can be so seemingly different from you. As a trainer, it’s a privilege when members trust you enough to give you a glimpse into their lives outside of the gym. It’s truly an incredible thing to see the benefits exercise has on people’s mind, body and soul. It’s what keeps me inspired, enthusiastic, and proud to be part of such a badass community.

Intellectual Intercourse: The Battle Between the Heart & the Brain

“Your heart is a weapon the size of your fist. Keep fighting. Keep loving.” 

We as human beings harbor an internal battlefield. We have two (sometimes three) organs in our body that are vying for our attention and submission. Sometimes we let the heart take the lead, making decisions based on overwhelming passion. Other times we listen to our brains, carefully considering consequence. In either instance, the entirety of the individual is held accountable for the sum of its parts.

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In case you are part the population of those who greet me with furrowed brows when I say that I watch the Bachelor (…and play in a fantasy league…), let me give you a brief recap. Each season, contestants have two months to find out if they could potentially be set up with the love of their life. On the outside looking in, it seems laughable. Can you really fall in love in two short months, where your attention is being split amongst many? Isn’t that a lot of pressure?

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When it came down to the final two last night, it was a battle of Heart vs. Brain. Bryan, the heart, gave Rachel the passionate confidence that he was ready to be her husband. Peter, the brain, was in love enough to speak the honest truth: that he wasn’t ready to speak for forever. Rachel, wanting a ring at the end of this thing, was not happy with that response. This was the first time that a Bachelorette didn’t have to make the ultimate decision, it was made for her.

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There are bouts of time when you’re acting with your brain, yet speak from your heart. Peter told Rachel, if she wants to rush into a proposal, she can go find someone to have a mediocre life with. Her and Peter broke up, and she accepted a proposal from Bryan. Although this break up was fueled by the brain, it was more emotional than the proposal, which was led by a passionately pumping heart.

Rachel and Bryan’s relationship will never be mediocre. The love is certainly there, but there takes much more to know if a relationship will stand the test of time. How much of a relationship can we physically process in just two months?

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Who knows what circumstances would have let Peter let his heart take the reins? Maybe what they say is true, that the brain is the most outstanding organ, that works for 24 hours, 365 days, right from birth until you fall in love. That’s when the heart starts pumping, and never looks back. When this happens, you better hope you’ve prepared well enough, back in the day when your brain was in the driver’s seat.

As someone who leads with their brain, I feel you Peter. But, we can’t let our hearts get rusty. If you don’t use it you lose it, and us mindful decision makers are in danger of missing out of those free-falling emotions associated with leading with your heart. Life is a balance, and if the give isn’t equal to the take, then maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.

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