Category Archives: Inspiration

Rolls, Thigh Gaps, and Spare Tires

6097785133_02db3aeb1bWhen did we learn that having “rolls” (on our stomach) is a bad thing? Furthermore, when did we learn that having these rolls makes us inherently bad?

I asked this of a dear friend and mentor of mine after reading her very moving piece pertaining to her own body image struggles and her reply was:

Society’s image: stick thin is so ingrained on our psyches that we can’t see ampleness as beauty. In Rueben’s day I’d be on the cover of Vogue.

I couldn’t agree more.

But then as I was driving to meet a client later in the day I thought to myself: wait a minute, what about the girls who ARE stick thin and are STILL unhappy with their bodies and themselves? I can think of a few friends off the top of my head who I look at and think wow they must not have any body image issues, but then they open up to me and all the self-hatred leaks out so effortlessly.

What I think this comes down to is a scarcity issue in our society. It’s a much bigger issue than I can sometimes wrap my head around. I know that people often look at me, or even read my blogs about struggling with my own body image, and think to themselves “what does she have to worry about?”

But from a young age I can remember comparing myself to the other girls who were smaller, thinner, prettier, smarter, more talented, getting into better colleges, and so forth. The comparing and subsequent self-loathing seemed endless.

I allowed myself to believe that, despite my parents best efforts in trying to reassure I was doing enough – that I was gorgeous, smart, and talented – I still firmly believed that I just wasn’t cutting it. Something had to be wrong the very makeup of me. And nevermind my little belly that I discovered at a very early age and have had a love/hate relationship with every since (mostly hate until recent years).

The conversation isn’t over. An answer has not yet been found as to how we are going to cure this illness we have in our society. I aim to continue thinking about it, writing about it, discussing it, and sharing it. And in my own small community I hope to show women and men how they can use yoga as a modality toward self-acceptance. It certainly does not happen overnight but through regular practice.

I don’t care if you can do a handstand, touch your toes, or twist into a pretzel …. what I care about is how do you take the yoga with you? How does it infiltrate your self-worth? Therein lies the true practice. When you can be standing in line at the grocery store, and look down at your legs – regardless of their shape or size – and think how grateful you are that they are holding you. Rather than ripping into how lumpy they may look, or wondering why you were one of the unlucky ones born without a thigh gap.

Or it happens when you are getting dressed in the morning. And you stop and see yourself in the mirror, and while your first inclination might be to drown in the squishiness of your belly and just plain hate yourself, instead you start to see your roundness and fullness as a representation or how full and grand your heart is.

Why can’t it all be beauty? Ampleness, thin, slim, round, full, slender, skinny minny… as long as our bodies and our souls are healthy – isn’t that true beauty?

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Why We Need to Acknowledge Our Progress

It’s those little things. All those small steps. They add up and then you look back and you’re like “WOW – I’ve come so far!”

I hear my clients and students talking a lot about how far they feel from where they want to be. How far they are from their goals. And I find myself reminding them often that they need to remember where they came from. That they need to keep acknowledging their progress.

We live today in a culture where we are taught that we are never enough. Not good enough, tall enough, thin enough, fast enough, pretty enough, lean enough, muscular enough, liked enough … I’m sure you can think of plenty “enoughs” to add to this list.

Whether we have a family, career, children, or all of the above, we feel this sense of lacking. Of never being or doing enough.

We see only what we wish we could be, have, or become. And don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to dream and go for those dreams. But the issue lies in fixating on that and comparing where we stand to where we wish we stood.

I think about this a lot when I’m coaching and teaching but it hit me personally when I was skiing last week.

IMG_6813Let me just say that I am a total fair-weather skier. There is nothing about the way that I ski that shouts daring, adventurous, or “advanced.” But it occurred to me when I was breezing down a blue run (that’s about as advanced as I get – a nice wide open blue square run) that I’ve actually come pretty far from the days as a kid when I tumbled out of the chair lift with my dad and spent the next 15 years convinced I would never be a “winter sports” person, let alone put on another pair of skis ever again.

I’m still not your typical “winter sports” kind of person – I take it easy on the slopes, choosing the “fun” runs over the super challenging ones –  but I have developed enough confidence in my skiing ability where I can now ski with some pretty badass skiers and snowboarders, or accidentally make my way down a black diamond without screaming in fear all the way down. To top it all off – I won’t hesitate to brag about the fact that I NEVER fall.

I had a moment of total frustration last weekend when I was with a group of three snowboarders – all very near and dear people to me. On every run I was behind them and it just felt like I couldn’t catch up hard as I may try. I decided I needed to take a run on my own (go figure it was called “Easy Street”) and as I glided down Easy Street I couldn’t help but smile as I gave myself some credit.

I gave myself credit for getting out there, for putting skis on, and for making it down the hill. I could be in awe of those I was skiing/boarding with. Plus they taught me all the cool snowboarding jargon like “Shredding the Nard” – gnarly!

I could also be in awe of how far I had come – and my mish-mosh of ski instruction over the last 10 years, all of it informal and a lot of figuring shit out on my own.

So, I’m glad I had this experience of being in a position where I first felt completely lacking to then making an effort to acknowledge my progress. And as soon as I did, I felt completely full. I felt like I was enough.

 

 

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3 Reasons Endurance Athletes Benefit from Health Coaching

Why Do Endurance Athletes Need Health Coaching?

Ironman Lake Placid 2012 – just before the finish!

I have been fortunate to coach some pretty incredible endurance athletes over the last few years. And we aren’t talking professional endurance athletes: we are talking the athlete who has a family, a career, hobbies, and somehow manages to integrate a training schedule with enough hours to constitute a part-time job.

I love working with these people because of their intense drive and motivation – and also because I speak their language. I understand feeling like the “crazy” one who leaves a dinner party at 8:30PM because you have a 5AM training session.

So I was thinking about this – why DO endurance athletes need coaching? There are a myriad of reasons so I’ll start with three that really stick out in my mind:

Don’t ignore the basics: food and hydration.

Are you feeling drowsy every afternoon because of that 5AM brick workout, or because you are low on your water intake? Or could it be that skipping lunch because you are “too busy with work” is finally starting to catch up on your energy level during evening hill repeats? Proper hydration and nutrition seem simple enough but when we are juggling training for an endurance event PLUS everything life throws our way, we need to make sure we don’t ignore the basics.

It’s training for your mind and soul.

We spend so many hours every week fine tuning our body in preparation for race day. But what about preparing your mind? In coaching we confront all of the fears … the “what if’s?” of race day. One of my biggest fears around Ironman Lake Placid (and this is probably a popular one for many of you) was “What if I don’t finish?” I worked with MY coach and confronted this fear and came up with a mental game plan for how I might feel or react if I didn’t finish. And when I explored the what if’s instead of ignoring them, it felt like I got all my worrying out of the way. Like I had just “cleansed” myself of worries and had an (almost) worry-free race day!

It makes race day that much more meaningful.

One big reason I love coaching endurance athletes is that these folks have giant hearts and they aren’t afraid to dream big. They have an internal drive that pushes the envelope and is constantly curious what the human spirit is capable of. When you find tune your intention and reason for racing it’s like giving yourself an unlimited stash of mental GU gel. It’s a natural burst of energy that keeps you going through challenging training days and culminates in that final push on race day. Every race, every year, the reasons may change – they shift because we go through different obstacles in our lives. But when we cross the finish line, it’s so much more than just a PR or just a race – it’s a celebration. And that race can become one of the greatest learning experiences you’ll endure.

 

If you are interested in health coaching in preparation for an endurance event, or have any questions about what coaching might be like for you, please don’t hesitate to email me at maggie@maggieconverse.com. Your first 30-minute session is on me!

 

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Adios by Naomi Shihab Nye

IMG_6674I read this poem, fittingly, on my last day in Colorado. It was a part of a piece of artwork created by one of my hosts. When I was feeling sentimental about my vacation and adventure time coming to an end. It made so much sense to me, so beautifully soft and eloquent. I can’t help but want to share it.

Adios

It is a good word, rolling off the tongue
no matter what language you were born with,
Use it. Learn where it begins,
the small alphabet of departure,
how long it takes to think of it,
then say, then be heard.

Marry it. More than any golden ring,
it shines, it shines.
Wear it on every finger
till your hands dance,
touching everything easily,
letting everything, easily, go.

Strap it to your back like wings.
Or a kite-tail. The stream of air behind a jet.
If you are known for anything,
let it be the way you rise out of sight
when your work is finished.

Think of things that linger: leaves,
cartons and napkins, the damp smell of mold.

Think of things that disappear.

Think of what you love best,
what brings tears into your eyes.

Something that said adios to you
before you knew what it meant
or how long it was for.

Explain little, the word explains itself.
Later perhaps. Lessons following lessons,
like silence following sound.

~Naomi Shihab Nye
from Words Under the Words

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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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My New Years Wish For You

May Your New Year be Mindful and Delicious…

May it be filled with more love and less fear.May you continue to remind yourself “I am enough. I am good enough. I am doing enough.”

May you let yourself fall a few times, be a total mess, and grow from the process of putting the pieces back together.

May the choices you make serve you, as you learn to let go of what doesn’t.

This is my New Years wish for you!

I also hope you will join me as we embark upon the New Year together, starting this Monday January 5 … 
Sign up with me to jumpstart your New Year with tasty recipes, weekly intentions, and taking a look at the WHAT and WHY of what we are putting into our body. Click here to sign up and for details!  
Sign-up with a friend and receive a free phone consult! 
With Much Love,
Maggie
farbetterthingsahead
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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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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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Announcing: the Radiant Retreat, March 21-28, 2015

Announcing the Radiant Retreat, March 21-28, 2015 to Tulum, Mexico, Founded by Jennifer Schelter, and assisted by yoga teacher and health coach, Maggie Converse.

RR2015The Radiant Retreat is an internationally recognized week-long retreat to the stunning natural paradise of the Mayan Riviera.

The retreat enhances self-care, connection, rejuvenation, fun, and creativity.

The daily schedule includes: mindfulness meditation, yoga (for all levels), creative writing – memoir, poetry or letter writing, one-on-one instruction, healthy meals, free time, and relaxation.

Jennifer and I look forward to sharing elements of the retreat and journey over the next 6 months, as we all begin to prepare all the elements for your adventure to the Radiant Retreat in Tulum.

Take a peek at your calendar for March 2015.

Just planting the seed, and reminding you that come March, you could be packing your bags for Tulum.

Share this adventure and enjoy the ride.

Looking forward to seeing you soon!

Click here for full details on the Radiant Retreat.

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A not-so-subtle reminder to get out of your own way…

I love this quote and have it posted on my bulletin board as a not-so-subtle reminder to stop getting in my own way of going for exactly what I want.

 

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