Category Archives: Health & Wellness

Don’t just “treat yoself” … Love yoself!

It’s #TreatYourselfTuesday and in honor of that I wanted to reflect on this whole idea of “loving ourselves.”

What does it really mean to you? I feel like I definitely get off the “I love myself” track sometimes, and so often because I start to care too much about the approval of others.

But when I start to let that go, things really start to shift.

I think Melody Beattie says it beautifully…

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I’ll take my abs just as they are thank you

I started taking a new exercise class lately to add some variety to my routine. I want to start by saying that I have loved how strong these classes make me feel – they focus on small isolated movements to strengthen various muscle groups throughout the body. I feel the difference in my yoga practice, when I run, and even when I’m sitting at my desk and writing.

ImageIt has come to my attention however that these classes focus a great deal on the physical “end result” – or the way that your body will look upon completion of an exercise. Do you get my drift? I’m probably far more sensitive to these verbal cues in class because this is something I base my work on (body image, and a healthy one at that) but I can’t help but wonder if these cues are actually helpful to the other women in the class, or further causing them to only dislike their bodies. Causing more self criticism. I’m usually able to just block out these little cues throughout class.

And then last week something pretty darn cool happened.

During the abdominal series the instructor cued us to visualize the way we want our abs to look when we are done. Here’s what happened …

I laughed to myself, feeling totally full of certainty that I like, no, I LOVE my abs just the way they are. I was filled with this warm fuzzy feeling (yup, warm and fuzzy) and excitement that I had arrived. I had arrived at a place of starting to truly love the things about my body that I had once hated and punished myself for. And as the music blasted and we kept crunching our abs, it felt like I had the most wonderful secret sitting deep within me.

So what does this mean?

Well, allow me to preface this with the fact that my “abs” have, for as long as I can remember (or since I was age six), been a “problem area” for me. My stomach has, and probably never will be, flat, defined, akin to a washboard – you get the picture. There never will be a six-pack but my stomach is soft and it is strong. It helps me get into handstands, sit up straight, hold my torso up straight while running, and breath deeply.Screen Shot 2014-04-06 at 1.26.40 PM

I’m almost certain this “ah-ha moment” is a clear indication of moving a step in the right direction. It is proof that the work of training myself out of the negative self-talk actually works. I wasn’t even trying to think positively during this class and I’m certain I will still have those low “my body isn’t good enough!”, moments. But the consistent effort of redirecting my attention AWAY from those thoughts is finally starting to work so that I am able to see my imperfections as part of a beautifully imperfect whole.

I leave you with this: I encourage you to start by simply giving yourself the opportunity to see your imperfections in a new light — even if it feels silly. Slowly start to accept them as part of what makes you beautifully imperfect.

 

 

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Moving Away from Negative Self-Talk (and toward LOVE)

How often are we judgmental toward ourselves? We can be hard on ourselves about a great number of things. One thing we are particularly consistent at being judgmental about is our appearance. I think most everyone can relate in some capacity and what I’d like to share is how I move away from the negative self-talk.benice

The self-loathing includes but is not limited to hating our skin, hating the size of our feet, the fat around our belly, or the cellulite in our thighs. This applies to everyone – all shapes and sizes. To some degree, we are all familiar with negative body image, and verbally beating ourselves up.

The thing that gets me the most is that while getting lost in this verbal attack on myself, I start to feel physically ill.  My body temperature rises, nausea sets in, maybe even a headache. And how often do we try to fix this with a bowl of cereal, a hershey kiss, or an extra diet soda? How often do we turn to food for comfort, as if any of this will magically make all of our imperfections disappear? Or at the very least we try to distract ourselves for the 30 seconds it takes to devour that chocolate kiss.

I have battled with this for years. However, after years of practice, I’m much better at putting my internal bullies to rest. Trust me, I know what it feels like – when your mind really goes for a ride, telling yourself things you wouldn’t DREAM of saying to anyone else. So, how do we stop it?

Let’s compare the obsessive negative self-talk result of feeling physically low to when I get a migraine. Neither one feels good and yet I am very familiar with both. With migraines I know that there are things I need to avoid such as eating tomato sauce and doing too many chatturangas in yoga. I choose to avoid these things because I know the ramifications are just terrible. The same thing happens with this negative self-talk. I will start to go down the road of putting myself down, whether it be in the swimming pool, in front of a mirror, or even out to dinner. However I know that if I stay on this road and keep bashing myself, I’m going to feel terrible both mentally AND physically. I want to avoid this result so I have trained myself to turn around and run away from the negativity.  In order to do this I picture I am stopping myself in my tracks, IMMEDIATELY. Imagine you are running to catch a bus, and all of a sudden you realize you forgot your wallet at home and have to stop short immediately. What do you do? You turn around … and run in the other direction!

Run in the other direction

Run in the other direction

I remind myself of how horrible it feels to go down that path of self-criticism. In order to “turn in the other direction”, I will say positive affirmations to myself. This can feel corny and really challenging at first but, the more I do it (ex: “You are strong and stunning!” or “I am enough”) the easier it becomes. It is like training a muscle: everything shakes and hurts at first but the more you strengthen it, the more work it can do.

This may sound simple, so much so that you are thinking “it’ll never work.” And trust me, there are multiple practices I use to combat these internal bullies. But give it a try and start to train yourself out of that path of self-doubt and run toward love.

How do YOU deal with negative self-talk? Do you have any strategies you call upon? If so, I’d love to hear them! Please email, leave a comment on FB, or my blog.

 

 

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Ironman vs. The Bulge (spoiler alert: Ironman wins)

How Ironman got me to move beyond some of my body image issues and start to see the bigger picture…

I don’t know how we got on the topic of body image but toward the end of a typical Monday night dinner at home, Brett and I started getting into a fairly emotional conversation about positive versus negative body image and having a healthy approach to fitness versus an unhealthy, shame-driven approach. I can’t blame him at all for not seeing my perspective from the beginning — I had not fully explained myself, nor had I provided any hard wired examples. Add to that the fact that Brett is a man who deals with completely different issues pertaining to physical appearance.

I had initially given him the example of a student in my class who expressed to me she hates the way her thighs look in downward dog – a story that was all too familiar both from my own experience and from those who have shared similar sentiments with me! I told Brett how it broke my heart to hear that because ultimately my goal as a yoga teacher is to help people see their bodies in a more positive light. I felt like I was not doing my job.

It wasn’t until he asked me in earnest “what’s wrong with not liking your thighs and doing something to change them?” I knew full well what he meant, and that he meant well. But I could no longer keep my cool, nor could I contain myself.

And out it came…

I launched into a small section of my own story, a fairly recent incident that occurred during the last months of training for Ironman Lake Placid. On several occasions while preparing to head out for long runs I would stop and stare at myself in the mirror, I would lift up my shirt to uncover “the bulge” and force myself to see this imperfection and then take myself into a downward spiral of self-hatred. No longer did I feel motivated to run. What was the point if I looked like this? All I could focus on was the bulge that my run shorts created around my hips and that I had no way of covering this up, and how on earth will I cover this up on race day when I will be wearing tiny tri shorts and a tiny tri singlet that barely covers my belly button?

As I was telling Brett this story my chin started to quiver and my eyes welled up with tears. Not only was I providing a concrete example of negative body image and body dismorphia, but I was reliving the experience and all the emotions that came with it.

Brett was at the same time shocked that I could see myself in this way but, more importantly, appreciative that I could share this with him as it gave him a deeper understanding of who I am. And I in turn didn’t feel like I was harboring a deep dark secret.

Eventually I was able to move beyond the thought process and  my attention shifted away from obsessing over what was wrong with me. I was able to throw on my run clothes and just get out there because I had a much larger goal, something far more important to focus on; that goal was Ironman.

It surprises me that I am able to unveil this story as I rarely talk about my own issues with body image, much less such isolated, specific incidents like this one. I normally keep these stories to myself because they make me feel shameful and embarrassed. At the moment I am working on putting all of this together into one big Maggie Story and this is really just a small snippet. But it’s an important one.

This one incident shed light on what Ironman and endurance means to me. In the end, none of it matters. When I crossed the finish line at Ironman Lake Placid I loved my body and my spirit for all that it was capable of. I had forgotten about how I looked in my tri kit – “the bulge” was but a memory by this point. My body morphed into this superwoman creature that carried me 140.6 miles – and that rocked my world.

I guess sometimes you have to transport yourself to another superhuman-like planet to start to see yourself in a new light.

 

 

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Upcoming Workshop: Expand Your Practice On and Off The Mat

Life Balance Jumpstart will be doing our second workshop of the year. I’m so excited to be teaming up with Sophie Slater next weekend to bring you this workshop, focusing on some of the philosophy and teachings of yoga. Come dive deeper into your practice with us — both on and off the mat!

Expand Your Practice On And Off the Mat

Yoga and the Yoga Sutras with Maggie Converse & Sophie Slater of Life Balance Jumpstart

Sunday March 15th 1:30- 3:30pm at M3 Yoga Westport
$35 ($30 for M3 Monthly/Annual members)

Do you love yoga?

If so, you might want to expand your knowledge of the origins of this powerful practice and acquire even more tools to help you carry that calm, confident, centered space you find on the yoga mat into your everyday life.

To do so, join Sophie Slater and Maggie Converse for this special workshop on Yoga & the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

It will be an afternoon of grounding yoga, meditation, and engaging introductory discourse on the Yoga Sutras of the great sage Patanjali, the 196 aphorism text that outlines the 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga.

Bring your mat, a pen, and a curious mind. Sign up at M3 Yoga Westport by clicking here!

 

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Kale+Shitake+Avocado = LOVE

I am kicking myself right now for not taking a photo of today’s lunch: Sautéed Kale, Shitake, and Shallots Salad with Avocado, and Hard-boiled egg. Using ingredients I had on hand, I created what I would consider an incredibly delicious and quite healthy (and easy!!!) meal.

It’s great for winter because it’s warm. It also took me less than 20 minutes to put together so it works well when you’re in a time crunch!

Here’s what you need (serves one):

1/2 head of kale, roughly chopped or torn into pieces (the stems: you can take them or leave them)
1 shitake mushroom, chopped
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil

1 egg
1/2 avocado

Here’s what you need to do:

Prepare egg (or eggs) in water to hard-boil. For instructions on how to do this, click here. I would definitely recommend doing this and THEN chop the shallots and shitake since it takes about 15-18 min to hard boil.

Pour olive oil into pan and sauté shallot and shitake with cumin and turmeric for 3-4 minutes. Add kale until it starts to soften. Add fresh lemon juice, stir, and remove from heat. Transfer to your favorite bowl or dish and top with avocado, egg, and season with salt and pepper and extra olive oil if needed.

Please accept this in place of an actual image of my food.

Please accept this in place of an actual image of my food.

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Set Your Intentions! Workshops – this weekend!

If you are like most of us, you have at least given a few minutes of consideration to setting goals and resolutions for the new year. AND if you are like most of us, these resolutions fade fast. So … how do we hold to these resolutions? How do we treat them as our “north stars”, allowing them to guide us through a process of growth and change?

If you happen to be in the Fairfield County area this weekend, I will be co-teaching an intention-setting workshop twice with Sophie Slater. The first will be at M3 Yoga in Westport on Saturday 2-4pm and then again on Sunday 3-5pm at A New Earth Yoga in Easton, CT.

To Register:

…for the m3 workshop email merri@m3yogawestport.com.

…for the A New Earth workshop click here.

We hope to see you there!

Set Your Intentions! Workshop

Set Your Intentions! Workshop

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The Wellness Make-over

My dear friend and colleague, Sophie Herbert Slater, and I went on a hike in Trout Brook Preserve about a month ago where she pitched to me this brilliant idea she had been brewing for months: a Life Balance Jumpstart program that would allow clients to work with one-on-one with us as yoga teachers and wellness coaches.

We are beyond excited that we are finally ready to launch Life Balance Jumpstart and invite you to sign up with us. (For the moment this is limited to those residing in the Fairfield County area.)

What does this entail? You can visit our website for the full details but to get an idea…

Life Balance Jumpstart is an intensive 5-week program designed to help YOU feel and be your best.  Our mission as experienced wellness coaches and yoga teachers is to share invaluable tools that will not only help you establish greater life balance now and in the future, but also assist you in navigating life with more grace, confidence, curiosity, and resilience.  Our passion is helping our clients feel balanced, nurtured, and connected with their sense of purpose. From here, so much is possible.

Sign up before January 15 and save 10%! Email lifejumpstart@gmail.com with questions and to get started on your wellness make-over.

Life Balance Jumpstart

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Salutation to The Dawn – the very life of life

My mother gave me a card to read the night before Ironman Lake Placid. Inside to the card, she gave me this poem, Salutation to the Dawn, which remains on my bulletin board as a reminder to make each day as fulfilling as it can be. Needless to say it was probably the perfect thing to read pre-Ironman!

Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life,
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:

The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendor of beauty,
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow only a vision,
But today well lived makes every yesterday
a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day!
Such is the salutation of the dawn.

Salutation To The Dawn

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Simply Strength

I’m not a huge fan of working out at the gym. I would rather jump on my bike or go for a run in the park. Even in extreme weather conditions. Any chance I get, I would rather be outside.

That said, I know my body benefits greatly when I incorporate regular strength training into the routine. #snore. I know, it bores me to think of walking into my gym, awkwardly finagling free weights and bands and equipment and then leaving after 45 minutes feeling like I got absolutely nothing accomplished.

Thankfully, I have some folks in my life who are less awkward when thrown into a gym or weight-lifting environment. Take the trainers at Sherpa for example who provided this strength routine for me. It was a totally different feeling walking into my gym with a PLAN. I completed it this morning in 35 minutes, with just enough time for some stretching and foam rolling. I know my running, cycling, and nagging hip injuries will thank me for this. Now to make sure I keep up with it on a regular basis…

Here is my strength routine from this morning. If you don’t know what something is, ask me or you can reach out to Sherpa. I have provided videos which are also regularly updated on Sherpa’s Facebook page.

  • Always start with a warm-up … like this! 
  • Split Lunge (8-10 each leg)
  • Row (heavy weight – 10 to 15 reps)
  • Lateral stepping with elastic band (20 reps each leg)
  • Scaption (10-15 reps)
  • Bridging (elevate feet on box or bench – 15 reps with 2 sec hold)
  • Push-ups (I aimed for 15)
  • 3 core exercises of your choice (I chose side plank with leg lifts, forearms on a medicine ball moving the arms in and out, and navasana or boat pose)
Repeat all exercises 2-3 times.
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