Category Archives: Health & Wellness

Kale Hempseed Pesto Recipe

KALEPESTOOne frigid Friday night I sifted through my cupboards and the refrigerator, determined to come up with a delicious meal for dinner that did not require me to make a trip out in the cold for more ingredients. I happily discovered I still had an entire head of kale, plenty of garlic, and some delicious specialty pasta.

My Cuisinart had been sitting on the shelf for WAY too long so it was decided: I would improvise a kale pesto using hempseeds as substitute for the traditional pinenuts. Suffice it to say the pesto turned out delicious, although a little heavy on the garlic so tread lightly if you tend to shy away from this flavor.

Kale Hempseed Pesto
1 head of kale chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic peeled
1/3 cup hempseeds
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
1/3 to 1/2 cup of EVO
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375F. Toss kale with EVO and spread out on a baking sheet. Bake kale for 3-5 minutes. When kale is finished, let cool for a couple minutes. While kale is cooling, add garlic to mixer and grind. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. You can add additional EVO to desired consistency. Add to your favorite pasta, spread on fresh bread, and enjoy!

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Letting My Belly Be

image1I have a confession. I have spent most of my life trying desperately to conceal or minimize my belly.

Even as a child, I had this little “pooch” that stuck out. I always took ballet and the leotards and tights dug their way into that pooch that wouldn’t budge. I wished on eyelashes that I would wake up with a perfectly flat, no, perfectly concave stomach. I would stare at myself in the mirror, sticking it out, sucking it in, pulling it in, flattening and spreading it with my hands as best I could – then I’d pinch all the belly I could muster. Oh, how I hated that thing.

As a teen I learned about sit-ups and crunches and ab-work and pilates and when I would put on my leotards I would hope in vain that the 25 sit-ups I had done the night before might have made a difference. More and more I started taking things into my own hands to rid myself of this abomination. I was taught, over and over again, that this belly just needs to go away. I so strongly felt that I needed to make it disappear, and then everything would be alright.

I went through periods in my twenties where I felt skinny and the belly was a little less of a problem. On those days I felt happier, more confident. But then I would wake up the next morning with it protruding over my pajama bottoms. What pants could I possibly wear that were both cute AND would hide my body? What could I wear that would make me appear different? What would make me appear better?

Now in my early thirties my relationship with my body has changed, mostly for the good. I have bad days and I have good days – the good days mostly outweigh the bad. But still I sometimes see my reflection in the mirror in an exercise class and all I notice is that darn belly trying to peek out of my lululemon pants that were supposed to be so slimming, they were supposed to make it disappear, at least for a brief moment. The deep-set belief of belly being bad as a child still rears its ugly head as an adult.

Five months ago I kind of fell into a new yoga studio with brand new teachers and a brand new practice. I fell into this studio during a period where a lot of change was happening in my life – everything felt like it was uprooted and of course this made me go back to old patterns of disliking my body. I almost didn’t go to my first class there because I thought to myself “No Maggie, you’re dealing with enough change right now, why add more fuel to the fire?”

Fast forward to class last week when our teacher Mitchel instructed for the umpteenth time for everyone to let our bellies be long, to let them hang out. When we are on all fours or in crouching cat (think downward dog with very bent knees) he often instructs us to imagine our bellies swaying side to side like a cat. And whenever he does this I can’t help but smile and think of my cat Milo who flaunts his belly like it’s his job. If he’s flaunting his belly, why shouldn’t I?

But the point is that for these five months I have been instructed to just let my belly be. To let it freaking hang out. To forget about the sucking in, the flattening, the diminishing, the shortening, the crunching. I can let my belly be itself – that little pucker toward the bottom of my torso that has held on to so much guilt, shame, and pain for most of my life. And the more I allow myself to let my belly be, the more confident I feel and the more solid I feel within the structure of my own body.

I am discovering a part of my body, my belly, for the very first time. With fresh eyes and a loving and wholly accepting heart. I know that my belly journey will have its ups and downs but what a great sense of relief to put my hand on my belly and say to myself, for the first time ever, “Hell yeah!”

 

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Homemade Hummus – easy as 1, 2, 3, 4 ingredients!

You will almost always find this item in my fridge.

I love making hummus because it never fails to shock me how incredibly easy and inexpensive AND delicious it is to make it at home. I know hummus typically contains tahini (and lots of salt) but I’ve grown to really love this very simple recipe – you taste each and every ingredient!

homemadehummus

 

Simply Homemade Hummus

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of water (or reserve the water from chickpeas)
  • My toppings of choice: fresh parsley, pinch of cayenne pepper

Add all ingredients into a Cuisinart or blender and mix until smooth. If you prefer a chunkier hummus, mix until slightly chunky. Top with parsley, cayenne, or anything that sounds good to you!

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Joan Didion Says it Best (About Migraines)

I spent most of the last two days in bed, with a migraine. Again. I start to feel like a broken record, as I “go dark” for these migraine days. But today feels like a fresh start, a new beginning, as it always feels when a migraine comes full circle and I get that post-migraine high.

I can’t remember how, but I must have been googling “migraine stories” and I stumbled upon Joan Didion’s essay “In Bed” about her experience with migraine. The first time I read it, I felt so much comfort to know that I am not the only one. Everything she says hits the nail on the head and I think to myself “Yes, Yes! That’s exactly it!”

I notice that I have a lot of shame around my migraines and I am working on that. When I keep coming back to a story like this though, I start to lose a little bit of that shame – little by little – every time. It’s like it’s not so bad to not be perfect.

“And once it comes, now that I am wise in its ways, I no longer fight it. I lie down and let it happen. At first every small apprehension is magnified, every anxiety a pounding terror. Then the pain comes, and I concentrate only on that. Right there is the usefulness of migraine, there in that imposed yoga, the concentration on the pain. For when the pain recedes, ten or twelve hours later, everything goes with it, all the hidden resentments, all the vain anxieties. The migraine has acted as a circuit breaker, and the fuses have emerged intact. There is a pleasant convalescent euphoria. I open the windows and feel the air, eat gratefully, sleep well. I notice the particular nature of a flower in a glass on the stair landing. I count my blessings.”

And she’s absolutely right. Today the ice and bitter cold don’t seem to matter. I am grateful to breathe in the crisp air and drive my car through mucky snow tracks and put on layer upon layer before leaving the house. Because I feel like I have come home in my body and I want to be grateful and aware of each experience and sensation and feeling as much as I possibly can.

To read Joan Didion’s full essay click this link.

winter

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Upcoming Event: Bundle Up Hike/Run/Walk!

Bundle Up Trail Journey

I love finding new places to run and hike, so when I was introduced to the Norwalk River Valley Trail (thanks Erica!) I was beyond excited.

Now, I get to share this wonderful space with YOU. I will be teaming up with lululemon athletica Westport on December 13 for a serene (and free!) journey through the Norwalk River Valley Trail.

We will start with a short meditation followed by a 2 mile walk or run through the trail.

Bring the kids, the dogs, and yourself!

There will be coffee and hot cocoa waiting for you at the end – provided by Coffee Barn of Wilton.

Saturday December 13 – 9:30 to 10:30am
(Please plan to arrive early)
Parking: Please park in the commuter lot next to Orem’s Diner.
We ask that you kindly RSVP to maggie.converse@gmail.com.

We want to raise awareness of the trail and we also have a goal to raise $1,000. We are already halfway there!

There is a suggested donation of $25. So that we know it is for the Bundle Up event please enter “BUNDLE UP” in the comments section when you make your donation of any amount. We will announce the total amount raised on the 13th.

Donations can be made by clicking here. Don’t forget to use the code BUNDLE UP!

We will see you on the 13th!
Bundle up run (1)

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A Feeling of Everything-is-alright-ness & Philadelphia Half Marathon

I think I love doing these races so much simply because they make me feel more alive. Just getting to the starting line last Sunday for the Philadelphia Half Marathon was a total well of emotions. And when I crossed the finish line … well you will just have to read on to find out what happens.

This year has been a big old wake-up call for me, most especially pertaining to my health.

I have been practicing yoga for nearly 15 years, teaching yoga for 8 years, and health coaching for 3 years. I am also a perfectionist. Or at the very least have some major perfectionist tendencies. This perfectionism has kept me from coming clean, or being totally honest not only with myself but with every person in my life – from those who I see on a daily basis to those who sometimes peek at my social media presence.

My migraines took a turn for the worse around Christmas last year. They became more frequent, longer in duration, and the symptoms were more severe than I had ever experienced. I was getting a migraine every 7-10 days lasting 2-3 days and, without fail, I could not hold anything down; vomiting regularly and spending at least a day recuperating and rehydrating. I am still dealing with these severe migraines but I have taken several steps to make taking care of them a top priority.

I didn’t want to tell anyone what was really going on except for a select few because I thought admitting that I was having a challenging time meant I was a failure – in so many ways – including a failure as a yoga teacher and health coach. It hadn’t dawned on me that being truthful with myself and giving my health the attention it needed was a huge part of being the best teacher/coach I possibly could.

Since December 2013 I had to say no to so many people and events: from endurance events to weddings to teaching … it started to become so very apparent that my health was not in a good state. Not only that but I was not giving my health the attention it deserved.

I would be struck with a migraine and on top of the physical pain and discomfort I would sink into a state of depression. I am now learning to transition into migraine-mode with more forgiveness and compassion for myself. It’s is tough work, but I am learning to let go and let the migraine just take me into the migraine-state for however long it needs to process through my body.

So what on earth does this have to do with a half marathon? Well, I was hesitant to even sign up for the Philadelphia Half Marathon. What if I got a migraine on race day? It was something I thought of every time I laced up my sneakers and went for a run. The list of what if’s ran through my mind endlessly. I finally came to peace with the fact that a migraine might happen on race day, but I also accepted the exciting possibility that it might not.

The very last run I went on before we left for Philadelphia, I said to myself “I’m going to run this thing” – that became my mantra and I visualized approaching the starting line with my friends and imagined what it would feel like to get back into doing this thing that makes my heart sing.

And guess what? I ran that thing! I got to run the Philadelphia Half Marathon and even set a personal best at 1:57:43. This was the first race for me in about a year which, if you know my history with triathlon and running, is a pretty big deal as I have spent the past 4-5 years filling my calendar with races.

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 3.54.42 PMSo what happened when I crossed the finish line?  My eyes filled with little tears, I got that knot in my throat, and my heart swelled up. (I think I’m officially a “Finish Line Cryer.” Is that a thing?)

The days that I have spent on my couch in more pain and discomfort than I can come close to describing … those days have given me a greater appreciation for the days without a migraine. Where I am grateful just to toe the line at a race and be amongst the running community. Where I am grateful to share race stories with my friends, our teeth chattering as we make our way back to our hotel. Where I am grateful for that hot shower after a race, the water washing away the sweat and soothing my aching muscles.

It’s a feeling of lightness, of “everything-is-alright-ness” … and maybe migraines have given me more awareness of its existence.

PhilaHalfI am grateful for my experience with migraine. Migraine has given me a deeper understanding of debilitating pain and discomfort; it has given me greater appreciation for the days WITHOUT migraine – what a sweet blessing those days are; migraine has taught me to accept the help and support from loved ones when it is offered, and to ask when it is needed; and migraine got me to get my butt in gear this year to make my health a priority. We should never be so busy that we cannot take care of ourselves.

 

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To Toe The Line

Newport Half Marathon 10.13.13

Newport Half Marathon 10.13.13

Sunday will be my first half marathon in over a year. Which, given my track record (no pun intended) over the past 4-5 years – a tendency to sign up for road races on a whim, compounding multiple half marathons in the same year as an Ironman – says a lot.

This year has been challenging to say the least and I limited myself quite a lot because of the severity of my migraines.

Sunday is the Philadelphia Half Marathon. I am most definitely undertrained, but I know that once I toe the line I will finish.

For me this race is much less about finishing, or finishing in a certain time (I have no doubt this will not be a PR race). It is ALL ABOUT toeing the line.

I just want to wake up Sunday morning, migraine-free, and get to that starting line. That will be enough for me.

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What are you afraid of?

What is one thing in your life right now that you are afraid of?

Is it the fear of losing someone you love? What about making a decision that would lead to a major life change? There is also the fear of not completing a task you poured your heart and soul into. We experience fear in pursuing our dreams, because we think we might fail. On top of that we experience (or at least I do) the fear of certain (mostly negative) emotions. We fear falling in love because we might get hurt; and also fear losing that person we love because we know damn well that it’s always going to hurt.

Across the board, fear can be incredibly paralyzing. But I hope this post will give you some insight on how to move beyond fear.

The other night I was out to dinner with some friends when the topic of Ironman came up. Beyond lots of hours of training, we were questioning what does it take to complete an Ironman? We concluded that it requires a great deal of mental agility and toughness and my friend Milly (runner and triathlete extraordinaire!) and I both discovered that we each wrote down lists of our greatest fears before race day. Especially in that final month.

I was instructed to do this by my life coach and found it to be incredibly resourceful in learning to let go of some of the fear I was holding onto so tightly. Fear that then resulted in anxiety and unwanted stress. Once everything was down on paper though I was able to take on more of an “OK, so what?” attitude about my fear of failure. It didn’t seem so bad after all.

I also discovered that my greatest fear pertaining to Ironman was far more than simply not finishing the event, failing, or not getting injured. No, my greatest fear was what will people think if I don’t finish… what will people think if I fail? And, who am I going to disappoint if I don’t finish?

It took several discussions, lots of writing, and a solid amount of introspection to start to believe … So What? If I didn’t finish, I would be upset, but I knew that I would eventually get back on the horse and try again. If I disappointed people then perhaps they aren’t the people I want to hold close in my life. Most of you know that I DID finish Ironman but having written down that list of fears took a huge burden off my shoulders on race day.

I recognized that I am human and I am far from perfect. I acknowledged the fact that if I did not finish Ironman, there was still so much for me to gain and to learn from the experience.

I know that if I ever do sign up for another Ironman, these fears will cross my mind again. But I’m ready to confront them.

So, what are you afraid of? We all have fear – especially when we are confronting something that is meaningful and important to us. Why not write it all down and go through each fear, one at a time – you will discover what is at the root of this fear and that maybe it’s not so terrifying after all. This could lead to new opportunity, a major life change, or experiencing your life’s journey a little bit deeper.

If you’re still feeling stuck, send me an email at maggie.converse@gmail.com and we can set up a free coaching consult.

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Radiant Moments on Retreat

“Ah-ha” Moments from the Radiant Retreat 2008…

When asked about my biggest “a-ha moment” on the Radiant Retreat, I wrote this story:

In 3rd grade, we were prompted to write on a 3×5 card “Who is your hero and why?”

I knew my answer immediately: my cousin Jennifer.

As an eight-year-old the answer to “why” was: because she is an amateur actor. In actuality Jen was a professional actor, I just thought she was too young to be a professional. But what I really meant was: I looked up to her – in the highest way possible.

Jennifer inspired me because she was out there on her own in the world doing what moved her and sparked her soul. It was abundantly clear to my little 3rd grade brain that Jennifer was following her heroic path. Maybe it was the way she talked to me, the smile that beamed from her face, or the way she laughed with my parents about what it’s like to be an actor – but you could just tell.

Twenty years later and I seized the opportunity to practice yoga with Jen and attend the Radiant Retreat. I was sure my yoga asana practice would totally blossom and morph into an outer worldly experience. I was ready to take on all the handstands, inversions, backbends, and arm balances. I was going to work my butt off to “master” them all. But what happened on the Radiant Retreat was so much more rocking than a blossoming asana practice.

Conquering fancy poses became less of a priority. Jen’s yoga classes served to put my body and mind at ease. I opened up in an entirely new way and for the first time, I wrote things true to my soul and SHARED them. The first time I read out loud to the group my voice quivered but I began to soak in all that I was expressing; my vulnerability and exceptional truth.

I read out loud and proud. I laughed and cried and shared the 3rd-grade hero story with the group. And at the center of it all, I shared that I was committing to a strong desire to get to know my extended family a little better. And wasn’t it superb that they, my aunt and cousins, could be there?

The retreat gave me one week to feel safe in a beautiful space, and the truth and writing poured right out. And hasn’t stopped since.

And here is Jennifer’s response:

In 2008, my cousin, Maggie Converse, came on the Radiant Retreat and impossible things started becoming possible.

One blue sky Tulum morning after sunrise and meditation, all 30 of us stood in a Gratitude circle on the beach (an optional opportunity to share inspiration or gratitude), and Maggie spoke,

“I’m grateful for Jennifer. During a meditation, she came to mind as one of my hero’s…”

I missed most of what she said, too busy thinking, Really? Am I your hero? You came all the way to Tulum, age 24, and took a leap of faith. That’s inspiring.

Being “the oldest sister” in my family, I’m used to being the shepherdess, babysitter, take-charge chic and caretaker and I’d never thought of myself as a hero.

Maggie continued, finding the right words,

“I wanted to be closer to people in my family and that’s part of why I came on the retreat. So, it’s great to get closer to Jennifer, Kate (my cousin) and Kitsie (my Aunt) and to know my family…better.”

Maggie was right: our extended family wasn’t close. Divorced, remarried or spread across the map. Over the years, we saw one another at weddings and funerals and a few Thanksgivings. It was no one’s fault. My grandmother had been the hub and once she past the spokes had no center.

“Thank you,” I said, swallowing and digging my feet deeper into the sand. Absorbing the waves and sun: Hero, retreat leader, and family.

It felt magnificent to hear Maggie articulate what I’d wanted, thought and written in my journal years before and yet never knew how to change.

We stood together under the sun and knowing that impossible things can happen before breakfast.

And someone added, “I’m super excited for breakfast and a bowl of granola. This place is paradise. It sure beats Philly in March!”

When the circle broke up, I hugged Maggie and said, “Thank you for being my hero. And saying what I’ve been feeling for years. I love you.”

Jennifer & Maggie at Sandy Neck, Summer 2014

Jennifer & Maggie at Sandy Neck, Summer 2014

Radiant Retreat, Tulum, Mexico, March 21-28, 2015  – Register Now

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Running for Moments of Stillness

3 mile run, 10 minutes of yoga, and 5 minute meditation. What a way to start a Monday! Have you ever tried meditation after your run?

My Monday started at 5AM with the sound of my alarm. Time to start the day with some early-bird yoga students immediately followed by a doctor’s appoint. Was I kidding myself when I planned my day? I sometimes operate in this “go, go, go!” mentality and forget to stop and pause for a minute …

Luckily I blocked out a 2 hour chunk of time to work from home and squeeze in a quick run, just to get the blood pumping. I left for my run as I normally do at the beginning of the week – the mantra is usually “just go easy” or “run as you feel.” It sets the tone for the lowest pressure possible which is helpful at the beginning of the week.

On this particular Monday my stride felt strong and purposeful (could have been those new running shoes I just purchased) and I even found a new route near my home – with minimal hills! (This is a challenge as we live on a very steep hill.)

When I returned home, instead of my usual routine of email check, Facebook check, second email check, stuff something in my face, drink some fluids, OK time to shower!, I sat on the floor and set my phone timer for 10 minutes. I did 10 minutes of yoga which always includes my favorite post-run stretches. And then something pretty cool happened. When I was done with the yoga I just felt like sitting.

I set my alarm again for 5 minutes and sat for a meditation. Sweat was still dripping down my face and I could feel the uncomfortable dampness of my shirt but it felt so sweet to be in stillness after this incredible exertion of energy and effort. Yin and yang. One extreme to the next. But in that meditation I observed: the energy from my run still pulsating through my body, how warm I felt, my stinky sweaty run clothes, and even while sitting in stillness how motivated and energized I felt.

When we can sneak in these little moments of stillness for ourselves and just be witness to all that is going on within us, we start to move forward in life with a little more clarity and steadiness. Maybe when we learn to fit in a short meditation after a run we start to appreciate all that we have accomplished up to that very moment, despite our grander goals. Maybe then we can fit in a short meditation before a work meeting or a challenging conversation with a loved-one.

I don’t normally do this after a run and I would like to make an effort to do it regularly. We are all pressed for time, ALL THE TIME, it seems. But even if you can take 1, 3, or 5 minutes after your run for this meditation I think you will begin to be a little kinder to yourself and appreciate all that your beautiful body is capable of. Even on those “bad run” days.

Interested in adding a little meditation into your running routine? Follow these simple steps or email me for a little extra guidance!

  1. Run … for any amount of time you have planned or just run for fun for as long as you feel!
  2. Yoga … set your timer for 5-10 minutes and go through some basic yoga stretches. Think hips, quads, hamstrings, and back. Or just do legs up the wall.
  3. Meditate … find a comfortable seat, legs up the wall, or lie down. Set your alarm, close your eyes, and focus on your breath and your body. Notice each and every little sensation. Give yourself a pat on the back for getting out there today!

Let me know how your run + yoga + meditation experience goes. What was easy? What was challenging? Post your comments and questions here!

XO Maggie

 

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