In an effort to get myself feeling like myself again, I’ve been attending a new fitness class. Unsurprisingly, it’s yoga-based (I know, I know, I never talk about yoga – you’re likely shocked…). It’s called Yoga Sculpt and it incorporates both yoga movement and weight-based workouts, plus intense cardio, plyometrics, and all sorts of other torture.
But I don’t just go to this class any time of day. I go to the very first class in the morning at 6 am at one of the busiest studios in the city. I go with the intense early birds and go-getters. It’s crowded and sweaty but effective…so I like it.
And, I learned after the first class I went to, that’s the time of day where the Insta Models workout.
Now you don’t have to be in insanely great shape (or insanely talented, let’s be honest) to be Insta Famous. And I have my own clear perspective on how I generally feel about being too obsessed with Instagram.
But there are a ton of people on Instagram who consistently show off their healthy lifestyles. And some of them don’t even need photoshop to do so. These are some of the people I’ve begun working out with in the morning.
Keep in mind, too, I live in Los Angeles where actors, models, and personal trainers (and often various variations of the above three labels) abound. I’m used to seeing pretty people and I’m used to seeing very in shape pretty people. So when I say I see these Insta Models…I mean they are genuinely beautiful people. Even with their sleepy makeup-less faces early in the morning.
When I went in the first day of class, I was intimidated. I already knew the class was difficult from previously trying it out (at a more reasonable hour). Generally the people in the class studio are in pretty good shape. But these 6 am class people… they’re no joke. The yoga outfits are on point, their weights are ready, and they are already warming up. Once we get started, they go hard. And you can see the results in their incredibly toned bodies.
There was a part of me (who I used to listen to a whole lot more when I was younger and insecure) who wanted to curl up and hide from these women. I felt like I wasn’t worthy. I am not in my best shape. And, honestly, even when I am these women are still on another level.
Instead, however, I decided to let them inspire me. I’d take my cues from the hard work they’re putting in all around me and let their motivation fuel my own. When I wanted to quit at something, I’d look around at the badasses who are putting in the work around me and try to keep up. And I’d let their fit bodies be a reminder of what you can achieve if you really commit. Because they’re not just filtering themselves and pretending to be in shape. They’re there putting in the work.
There’s one woman in particular who, I’m gonna be honest, is a freaking glamorous beast. Her outfits are beautiful. Her body looks photoshopped. She doesn’t even put her perfectly curly hair in a ponytail as she annihilates every exercise by going above and beyond even the rest of the class. While most of the class (myself included) are struggling to keep our 5 lbs weights going during some of the more intense reps, she’s using 10 or 15 lbs and going hard.
The other day as we were warming up, I saw her start to really dance to the loud music like she was getting in the zone. Years before, I might have listened to the forced inside and outside of me that said “Be jealous of her” or “Who does she think she is?” Now I see her getting her groove on with her heavy weights at the ready and doubling up on most of the exercises by pushing herself harder than anyone else and I think “Fak yeah, girl. If you can do that, I can do this.”
She and the other people in that early morning attack class are total badasses. And I’m inspired to be the same simply by being with them. Though, to be fair, you won’t see me post about it on Instagram because that’s just not my thang.
At the end of last year, I went on a discipline binge. I got introduced to Jocko Willink through some general “research” about early risers I was casually doing on YouTube (aka I was going down a productivity rabbit hole) when I saw this motivational speech by a man who looked like a freaking statue of Hercules come to life.
I started listening to more of his stuff and I was soon hooked. I bought his book on Audible, Extreme Ownership, and found it really motivating to listen to while I ran. I heard stories of modern warfare and these incredible physical feats overcome through drilling and discipline that helped me convince myself I could go one mile longer on my little fun run in paradise. I started talking about Jocko to whoever would listen. On film set I was on, it even became a joke among the cast and crew to “Get Some” (one of his favorite phrases) when you were feeling tired or low energy.
Though I had gone through plenty of phases of being an early riser before, something about reading that book and listening to that information at that time became a huge transformative step in what has been a wonderful past few months for me.
Here are the main lessons I’d like to remind you, now that we’re a few weeks into the new year and people’s motivations are likely waning.
First, discipline starts right when you wake up. You don’t judge what you’re doing as good or bad. You just do it. If you don’t want to wake up, that doesn’t matter. Discipline means you just choose to do it anyway. And when you do, it builds a tiny little muscle that can become a foundation for a much stronger muscle. Discipline isn’t some big choice you make every day. It’s not bench pressing 1,000 lbs when you walk into the weight room your first try. It’s showing up every day and slowly but surely increasing your strength and your confidence so you can eventually achieve what seems like superhuman strength. When, really, anyone could do it as long as they give the amount of work and discipline required. Don’t judge. Just do.
Well, maybe everyone can’t bench 1,000 lbs in their lifetime, but you get my point.
Oh and Jocko for sure can. I have no doubt. He probably does that as his warm up before eating an entire farm for breakfast. He’s a beast.
Secondly, there’s no point in complaining. It’s fine to get something off your chest. And it’s wonderful to be in touch with your emotions so you become aware when something isn’t serving you or when you may be in an environment where you need to make a change. But complaining doesn’t help fix anything and it wastes precious time and energy on absolutely nothing.
If you need to communicate something happened, communicate it. You don’t need to put all the judgements on top of it being good or bad. Zen philosophy would argue that nothing is inherently good or bad anyway, so the time you spent judging or complaining about some thing that happened is a total waste and doesn’t serve you at all.
If something happens to you, spending your energy complaining about it not only wastes that energy, but it can feel disempowering. Rather than realizing you have the power to do something about it, you act like you’re being productive when you whine and moan. Either you can do something about it to improve the situation for you – in which case figure out what it is and do so immediately – or you can’t – in which case you can’t so simply accept your new circumstances and figure out how to make the most of them. If something happened because of actions you took, own them. Blaming someone else or complaining about someone not stepping up again disempowers you. You are in control. You have power. You are worthy of being in control and having power over your life and how you approach the circumstances within it.
Things just happen. That’s what things do. There’s no need to waste your energy complaining. Once you accept this, you can reallocate that energy into fixing problems around you so that you can live a smoother, more productive existence. Until, of course, the next thing pops up. But deal with issues as they appear. Don’t worry about them or what might happen in the future. Understand that your current actions have repercussions down the line and everything that happens just is. It is what it is. No use in complaining about it so spend your precious short time on this earth complaining.
Jocko’s head is shaved like a monk. I don’t think that’s the look he was going for when he did it, but it’s the look I see. He’s a zen beast.
And finally*, you’re capable of so much more than you may currently believe.
I’m not sure this was a lesson that was outright stated in any of Jocko’s writing, but it’s definitely something I saw directly in his work and his stories. People who are willing to teach themselves intense discipline practices and who spend their time and energy devoted to bettering themselves and their world without complaining or blaming tend to start creating some pretty awesome lives. They slowly but surely start discovering that the world is more malleable than they may have previously thought. They begin believing that anything is possible and that they can achieve incredible new heights in their life, goals, and career simply through constant and consistent application of these efforts.
Our brains are conditioned to be a little lazy. It’s not their fault – it actually usually helps us as humans. We want to stay safe and we want to do whatever will require the least amount of output. If our brain had to exert a lot of energy in order to consistently do the involuntary actions it does to keep us alive, we wouldn’t have much brainpower left to thrive.
The second our brain wires something in as a habit or a learned trait, it becomes part of our hardwiring so that the next time we want to do it, it’s already ingrained and easier. This usually works in our favor. But when it comes to creating new habits – healthier ones to replace the old ones no longer serving us – it can get frustrating. Your brain will want to revert back to what it’s always said, thought, and done. It’s easier. Maybe at first the new habit will be easy because it’s novel and fun. But eventually, when your brain realizes it has to do some work to break the old synapses and replace them with new ones, it will rebel. It will begin to fight back to keep the old synapse alive so that it doesn’t have to do work to create the new one. That’s when you need to be aware and fight it.
A couple weeks into the new year, your motivation may be failing and you may or may not have cultivated the right mindset to have the discipline to follow through on whatever your ambitious resolutions were. And your brain is most definitely putting up a fight not to replace the old habit because that means it has to work harder than it wants to.
Fight back. Recognize what’s happening and recommit to the you you want to be. Don’t settle for the you now if it’s a you that isn’t satisfying. You don’t need some major external change to make a minor internal one that can lead to more dramatic future changes. You just need to know, and maybe sometimes be reminded, that you are capable. Resistance is natural. Choose to commit.
As a dedicated yogi, I have to throw in that it’s totally fine to listen to your body. Nobody is asking you to go to incredible extremes immediately. Even though my beloved Jocko is all about the word “extreme,” I do believe it’s totally fine if your body is telling you it cannot to listen to it. But I would encourage you to have a conversation with it. Get honest and get in tune. Is it telling you to stop because it doesn’t want to? That’s different. Is it telling you to stop because it’s scared? That’s different. Is it telling you it wants to stop because it’s not ready and you’re going to break something? In that case, listen to it and learn how to improve so you can get a little closer to your goal in the future.
Get in your own version of Beast Mode, whatever that may mean, and make Jocko proud.
Oh also sometimes I call him my best friend and life coach. He would hate that if he found that out. I’m not doing it to make him hate me, I’m simply trying to manifest someday meeting him and having a positive interaction. Shoot for the Jocko moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land among the Seals.
Now quit reading and go out and get some.
*There’s plenty more that I discovered and glean (and continue to glean!) from his book Extreme Ownership and his podcast, Jocko Podcast and his various interviews (not to mention his Ted Talk). But these are the few I boiled down for simplicity sake. Jocko says simplicity is the key to good communication (another thing you’ll learn from him!). So as part of a my tribute to him, I’m keeping this short and sweet in three simple main lessons.
I don’t know when I started considering myself a yogi. If you’re not too precious about it, I supposed anyone who does yoga once and enjoys it can be considered a yogi. I think I always hesitated because I can’t do an unassisted head or handstand for very long before flopping sloppily to one side and most of my stretches end at other people’s starting positions. But I think I’ve finally accepted that, despite my shortcomings in the positions – or asanas, as they’re called – I can finally embrace the title of “yogi.” Also, I just called them asanas, did you catch that? I’m such a true yogi.
Vocabulary aside, I’m finally comfortable being considered a yogi mostly because I now seek out doing yoga with different people in different places, no matter where I am.
At least, that’s what led to me to my barn yoga experience.
I was touring with three comedy fellows in upper Pennsylvania when we all drove by a tiny little storefront that said “Barefoot Yoga.” I was intrigued and we all googled it immediately. Actually, I probably didn’t because I was too busy staring out the window in awe of the greenery that surrounded me. And one of the fellas was driving. And the other fella I don’t think was interested. Come to think of it, I think only the one guy did the googling and reported the results to the car for the rest of us to feel like we had, also, found out the information.
Was this important to the story? Nah, probably not. But what is life if not frivolous?
Anyway, it became apparent to us (thanks to whichever google sleuth brought us the information) that there was a class available the next morning that wouldn’t conflict with our shows. I immediately wanted – nay needed – to go.
I should have said “neigh needed” since this is a post about barn yoga and horses live in barns. Alas and alack. Add it to the list of writing regrets I pile up every day.
The morning of the adventure, I took time to actually run for the first time in a long while. I went at an insanely fast pace according to the treadmill I was on. I also realized that the treadmill was absolutely broken and couldn’t go at a very fast pace, despite what the readings were saying. But you’d be surprised how much confidence you can gain even if you know you’re being lied to.
Though it maybe wasn’t a seven mile run at a 6 minute mile pace (as the treadmill suggested), I was sweaty and I was ready. In the end, only one of the fellas I was traveling with joined me for yoga. The others had their reasons. But, hey, it’s yoga. It’s honestly the only activity where it’s genuinely the thought that counts.
Boy oh boy was I glad that I had a buddy for this experience, too, because it was a total delight. We entered the studio (which was a small converted barn) and immediately took our shoes off because that’s what it looked like we should do and I like to follow the rules. I couldn’t help but let my overwhelming enthusiasm take over when Teresa, the teacher we saw online, walked up to us in the flesh. We were new to the class and new to her, so I of course made it a goal to become her new best friend. Within no time, I was wandering the studio, taking in the beauty of the space and all the crystals in it, and explained happily what we were doing there. After me berating…err, um, enthusiastically talking to her for a bit before class, Teresa became almost as excited about the start of class as I was.
We set out our borrowed mats, blankets, and blocks in the locations Teresa set out for us (neither of us had any idea where to place ourselves because we didn’t know where she’d be sitting or anyone else would be sitting…it was a mild meltdown until we demanded she just tell us what to do). I got a spot under a hanging crystal, so I was as happy as can be. Soon, a few locals trickled in and we started up class.
The details of the class itself are likely only interesting to the nerdiest of yogis. It was definitely more traditional, slower, emotional based yoga that I do enjoy dabbling in on occasion (rather than my usual intense, sweaty, get down into it yoga). The most telling pose was when we all got into “Goddess” position with a small squat and our hands in specific mudras that reminded us to feel connected while letting anxiety, worry, and doubt fall by the wayside.
Yeah, your hands can provide that kind of confidence. Our bodies are pretty amazing.
The whole class was excellent for relaxation and Teresa definitely did something by choosing those positions that made me leave there feeling grounded and a little emotionally lighter. Teresa seemed to delight in having us in class as much as we enjoyed the class. We took pictures afterwards to commemorate the occasion.
Later, when my partner and I were a little out of our comfort zone for a particular project we were working on, we put our hands in mudras, got in goddess pose, and let Teresa’s wise words of letting go of what you can’t control take over so we could do our best and let the experience be what it was.
I guess what I’m saying is, if you ever get the chance to do yoga in a converted barn, do it. And, hey, even if it’s not converted, it’d probably be pretty fun. Assuming, of course, you’re a dedicated yogi like me.
My body is pretty clear about what it likes and doesn’t like. I’ve talked before about how spinning, though great for many, just is not my jam.
I’ve also talked about how I really love doing Yoga. I go through phases of enjoying running. And love to lift regularly.
But, truth be told, there is one type of exercise that I rarely do that my body looooooooooves. Have you guessed it yet from the title of this article and supplemental picture?
Well done, super sleuth. It’s Pilates.
I rarely do it because it can be pretty pricey. I learned that my body looooooooooved it when I lucked into finding a new instructor years ago in Chicago who needed teaching hours so was able to teach and use equipment for free. I just recently lucked into the same situation here and have reaped the benefits of a really kind, really great teacher giving me free one-on-one classes.
And I seriously come aliiiiiiive afterwards.
Briefly, here’s why I love it. I love efficiency, and Pilates is efficient as hell. Do this move four times and you’ll be sore for a week. The one-on-one attention allows the instructor to look at how your body is compensating for the weaker spots and you can adjust accordingly. I can see the subtle tendencies between the sides of my body and what areas tend to takeover and make up for the lazier and lacking ones. I’ve got really tight hip-flexors that try and do all the work for my lazy ass abs. But Pilates doesn’t let your hip flexors do that. It calls that shit out, gives your hip flexors a rest and makes your abs pull their own damn weight for once.
Not only that, but I find myself thinking about pilates maneuvers and moves long after my session is over. When I run, now, I tell my abs to step up so my hip flexors don’t have to do all the work in the run. I focus on subtlety in form and check in with all parts of my body to see if and where I’m over-compensating.
I’ve barely scratched the surface and I’m legitimately obsessed.
Soon my girl will cost a pretty penny to do one-on-one classes, and I’m glad she’ll be earning some money. But it means I’ll have to pull back on my regularity for lessons for now. Though, who knows, I could come into a lot of money soon and I have a feeling most of it will be going towards Pilates. That and adorable dog costumes for my friends with dogs. But also mostly Pilates.
I’m not always great about finding time to do the things I love. For whatever reason, they tend to be the first things that get pushed by the wayside when I get busy.
Writing is one of those things. And in some ways, as you can tell by my more inconsistent posting, it’s fallen a little by the wayside.
Part of that is genuinely time. As I promised not long ago, my schedule is dramatically changing. While I’m still writing and creating, it’s taking different facets. I’m also juggling a few things at the moment that will all hopefully shake out soon so that they don’t all have to be juggled at once because one of them will take off. But until then, my time is even more limited.
So I’ve had to get smart about the free time I have available. I’ve had to learn to combine certain things I enjoy doing to make sure I’m always getting the most out of every activity. And that has meant combining two things I love that I don’t make enough time for right now- exercise and meditation time.
I know it’s the norm anymore to bring music with you to workout or run. It really can help pass the time. For a long time, I’ve enjoyed listening to podcasts, stories, audiobooks and lectures while working out. It keeps my imagination stimulated while I get my sweat on.
But lately, I’ve been in a bit of stimulation over-drive. For good reasons. So I’ve had to shift my focus. Now, when I’m running or lifting or yoga or whatever-ing, I leave the music at home. I don’t even bring my phone with me. I don’t want the distraction. I want to just enjoy the sights and sounds for a short period of time and let my own thoughts take over. Those thoughts, as I know from my (unfortunately sporadic) meditation, like to run wild. But as long as I breathe and keep a mantra, whether it be “just to that car” or “I feel good” or “I trust myself” or “don’t look weak to the passersby,” I can get through it. And when I get back to my apartment and I finally start letting the world back into my headspace, I find I’m much calmer and more in tune and in touch with what’s going on around me.
Plus, sometimes I even say “hi” to another runner. Or pet a giant loveable dog named Hero and have a conversation with the owner because I was open and not distracted by my podcasts.
That being said, I still love my podcasts.
But too much of a good thing, even imagination stimulation, can be detrimental to your mental. So don’t go mental. Be sentimental. And get quiet.
Not super proud of how I ended this but, heck, it’s been a while so cut me some slack.
I don’t often like to get too much into my personal life here, but I am going to take a quick pause from my usual policy of “NONEOFYOURBUSINESSLEAVEMEALONE” to tell you something cool about my significant other.
Sometimes we actually go running together.
As some of you may know, I haven’t been competitively running for a long time. I changed my focus a while back to more weight training and whatnot. But we’re doing a little dual-motivation challenge with each other that’s making both of us hop back on the running horse. (Metaphorically, of course. He actually hates horses so this can only be a metaphor.)
It’s not easy to find a running partner in any capacity. I tend to like to run (and usually just workout) alone. And I still like to do that. But having someone else along for the jog is surprisingly nice. Especially when you genuinely enjoy that person’s company. And I genuinely enjoy his. Which makes my genuine frustration for getting back in shape ease up a little. And makes me look forward (even just a little bit) to going running. Because it means I get to hang around someone I enjoy being around. Even if we’re both doing something we both aren’t super excited about.
As nice as running can be for be for me at this point I guess.
Anyway, I could talk about it more but that already feels like an over-share for something I tend to stay very private about so I’m gonna go hide in the shade in the corner and wait until you forget all about this and we can all go back to staying quiet and not talking about my personal life because it’s “NONEOFYOURBUSINESSLEAVEMEALONE.”
“Are you using this?” is typically not one of them. It’s a reasonable, polite question that can avoid some serious confrontations.
It’s just, when I get asked by the same people several times if I’m using some weights that I’m clearly using, I start to lose my patience.
And that’s what happened the other day. I didn’t technically lose my patience, but I sure came close.
A small group of dudes who were clearly total bros who loved to come to the weight room and pretend their working out when really they’re holding weights in strange positions and gossiping like Sex and the City ladies.
Yet because of their proximity to me, they seemed to think if I wasn’t actually touching a weight at that moment that it was easier just to ask me if I was using it than to go look for and find a similar (or, dare I say, heavier?) weight themselves.
The first time it happened, whatever. The second time, I was confused. But the third? I thought they must have been messing with me. But they weren’t They were just too lazy to walk to the weight rack themselves and too self-absorbed to realize they were asking the same person.
But you won’t hear me making fun of people. Part of that is I just in general have a policy of kindness. But part of it is because I recognize that I often don’t have all my sh*t together, so far be it from me to point out somebody else’s shortcomings.
Case in point: I saw a woman the other day with her shirt inside out. I thought, “Come on lady. Check your shirt.” Then I caught myself judging, realized it was just because I was exhausted while working out and trying to find something else to think about, and made myself find three things about her to compliment in my mind. I felt guilty for passing judgement (I’m Midwestern. Feeling guilty comes naturally.), so I made myself do kindness penance.
And, wouldn’t you know it, a couple weeks later, I’m at the gym and realize midway through my workout that I had my shirt on inside out.
I could have gone and changed, but I figured “Meh. Such is life” and let it go.
Because we’re all human and we have days we’re more “off” than others. And I figured anyone who noticed wouldn’t care. And anyone who would notice and care about such things wasn’t worth my time anyway, so I shouldn’t care.
I didn’t really know what I was getting into when I started listening, but the title was catchy so I was 0pen.
It turned out to be a great audio course in holistic healing, specifically through using Ayurvedic methods.
That sentence felt really zen and really nerdy. And I loved it.
One of the ideas that stuck with me most was the argument that our body, like the seasons, has it’s own schedule. Which means more than just whether or not you’re a “night owl” or an “early bird.” Theses guys basically make the argument that all bodies respond to certain stimulus at certain times better than others. You’ll have to do your own research to learn the details, but I thought it was a really cool concept. And, since I’m all about trying out different schedules that work with my life, I’m gonna try this one on for size.
It makes a lot of sense. Even if I can’t implement all of it, there are small things that I can. Like, the idea that your body is more responsive to exercise and energy in the morning than late at night. And that you genuinely need to wind down and sleep at reasonable hours and your sleep will be better than if you sleep too early in the morning.
I don’t exactly have the most holistic schedule at the moment and I don’t always have a lot of control over the windows of opportunity I have for healthy habits I enjoy like meditation and exercise. But I’m slowly but surely carving out a more reasonable and doable schedule for myself and a generally more balanced life. So as I continue to get closer to that balance, I’m going to do my best to implement all these small changes as well.
But there is one teacher I have been going to consistently who terrifies me and I love her for it.
She teaches cardio kickboxing and boot camp. I’m scared enough of her in cardio kickboxing, I can’t imagine her in boot camp.
But I do know if I went to boot camp, she would whoop my butt in shape in not time. That’s why I love her.
I’m a big fan of anyone who has passion for what they do. And this fitness instructor clearly has passion for whipping people into shape. And it’s spectacular.
The shy part of me that loves to be invisible and anonymous at the gym despises her. She sees me. She offers me motivation and instruction. And I secretly love her for it. Even the shy part of me appreciates it.
So I keep going. And I keep getting yelled at. And I keep getting better. And, although I know eventually I’ll get used to it, part of me will always be scared of teacher.