Be Active, Day 255

(featured image by Irina L)
What do you consider a weekend off? At this point, we all get to decide for ourselves, and I had a lovely weekend dancing online, chatting with friends, ordering delivery for a change, and taking a break from productivity. I did have a fulfilling session coaching a new client, and perhaps now is the perfect time to ask, “What fulfills you?” Truthfully, we each design our own lives, building on and with the tools handed to us at the start. Some have more materials and a bigger budget, some have to struggle to make gold out of straw. Ultimately, we all have this moment to step into the role of the architect of our days.

Giving attention to values can really help with the design, and today we can apply what fuels us to the second “Way to Wellbeing,” be active. What gets you excited to face the day, either now or in your pre-pandemic life? When did you feel like you were at the top of the world? Most likely, you can identify things you really value in those experiences. When considering physical exercise for those questions, I get excited about music at the gym or at a dance party, feeling the beat. Historically, I’ve loved sports like skiing, skating, and swimming, so I really enjoy being in a sense of flow, fluidity, challenge, and speed. I’ve literally climbed mountains and have run a marathon, both of which gave me unparalleled highs and pushed me to the point of having to focus and really feel present in whatever step I might take next.

I had no interest today in taking another step. I wanted to sit on my couch and watch Kidding and eat PB&J. Thankfully, I know myself and promised I would write now during this pandemic, Monday through Friday, every day. With a post due about staying active, I gave myself all the motivation I needed to make something happen. Do you need accountability too, or are you self-driven? Once I have my reminder in place, I have a lot of options, some of which I have yet to discover. My go to? My mini rebounder trampoline. I jump/dance/party for about thirty minutes to a workout playlist I’ve curated on Amazon Music Unlimited. I just tell my little Alexa to shuffle my workout playlist, and I get to enjoy feeling the beat and dancing around, giving myself the challenge of innovating new workouts and feeling present enough to keep my balance. So, that’s a bare minimum to keep me happy and fit, and I now do it rather often.

Other options include my plan for tomorrow’s workout – waking up early enough to go for a run in the fresh air (with my mask) before too many neighbors in Manhattan get out and make social distancing difficult and therefore exercising dangerous. Because I enjoy variety and trying new things (falling down the rabbit hole), I’ve also already tried bike rides, a couple of online dance parties (I recommend The Get Down), and nude yoga on YouTube with the curtains drawn. I’ve also started trying to strengthen and stretch enough to someday attempt a back walkover, something I’ve wanted to do since childhood.

As The New Economics Foundation recommends, “Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and one that suits your level of mobility and fitness.” If you have a big budget and always wanted that Peloton, make it happen. If you have little space and no funds, go on YouTube or search for free exercise options. Here’s a list from Fast Company of free online exercise classes to keep fit and sane during the pandemic. Whatever you decide, whether you choose a daily routine or mix it up for yourself to keep your interest, find what lifts your spirits and give yourself the gift of health, especially now. Someday, you might remember this time as the moment you built healthy habits and strengthened your resolve to live your best life not only today, but when you get to go back outside again.

Lifetime Investments

Child's Play

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how life has changed since childhood. We spend many of our days indoors, and most of us wouldn’t dream of recessing ourselves outside for any length of time in the winter, unless skiing or absolutely necessary. Most of us have our times at the gym or elsewhere to keep in shape, but the days of monkey bars and dangling by our knees feel like a lifetime ago (unless of course, you perform in Cirque du Soleil or hang out with the folks at the Circus Warehouse). Why?

Yesterday, I remember waxing poetic about my fitness and flexibility as a child, receiving physical education and recess every single day, in addition to the time spent on the playground alone or with friends. Then, I decided to run over the Queensboro Bridge. I would, after all, have to run there during the marathon one month from now. As I ascended, I felt a sense of accomplishment and enjoyed the day, despite the overcast and drizzly weather and the somewhat inconvenient construction which had stripped away all of the pavement on the pedestrian/bicycle path.

Bam! As I flew through the air and promptly landed on my hands and knees, I tore the new capris intended for the marathon, bruised and cut my legs, and ripped open my right hand in a rather unattractive way. Looking up, I saw a concerned cyclist and the raised patch of metal that had caused my tumble and felt childishly offended, as though the universe had cruelly inured poor little me. Somehow, this felt oddly familiar.

Ah yes, it felt like childhood! Running another three miles after briefly cleaning up and begging for bandages at the nearest Starbucks, I pondered my silly though painful fall from grace. My ego cried a little about my mean and unfair boo-boos, and upon arrival at home, I had to take myself to the pharmacy for supplies, clean out my own wounds, dry my own tears, and wash the dirt and blood out of my own tattered clothes. After a few hours, I learned the lesson a teacher or parent no longer needed to instruct.

Kids run and play. They also bring home grass stains and broken limbs. With increased activity comes increased risk and investment. Take, for example, the ridiculous disclaimer I had to sign before skydiving. That said, while wounds may take longer to heal as adults, the lessons sink in faster, and the rewards are honestly priceless. As I sit today outside Lincoln Center, I know I will have many trials in life, more skinned knees, and likely bruised egos. Some years bring more challenges than others, and all of them bring opportunities for growth, investments, and action.

Here’s to the eight-year-olds on the playground and the octogenarian skydivers and triathletes – those who live all of their lives fully without excuses or fear of falling, or in spite of any such fear. Yes, I ran twenty miles in one day this week but a year ago, I wouldn’t have dreamt of it. I’m so glad I took the risk to run this amazing race of life. Yesterday, I fell flat on my face. Today, I took my bruised knees and bandaged hands to the Metropolitan Opera, put on a wig and a dress, and performed on one of the greatest stages on earth. Sometimes the greatest investment we can make in life is to get up, try again, and hang from the jungle gym.

Otello at the Metropolitan Opera

Gratefully Yours

Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” To those of you who have helped me raise over $3000 for Team for Kids for this year’s ING New York City Marathon, you have made possible one of the major experiences of my life and the motivation and encouragement of countless children who will benefit from your donation. Thank you! One of the many beneficiaries of your kindness left me a voicemail the other day… this is who you have helped.

Still haven’t had a chance to contribute? Meet Kristen Kasarjian, an amazing friend of mine running the race for the same amazing charity. Please help her reach her goal, since I’ve already reached mine! Anyone who donates at least $100 to her campaign can still sponsor a mile in mine (I’ll think of you during the marathon in the mile of your choice)… Just let me know when you do. In the meantime for me, lots of training continues, as I keep running to prepare for the 26.2 mile course I get to complete on November 4. Today, I ran 16 miles, and I get to train in some of the most beautiful areas. Here’s your bird’s eye view into some of my favorite runs so far. Thank you, thank you, thank you for making it all worthwhile. I can’t wait!

An Early Run at Bard
An Early Run near Bard College
Run in Palisades Park
Run in Palisades Park
Sunlight in Palisades
Sunlight in Palisades
Back in the city
Back in the city

Run with Me

On Skydiving for Pearls, you can pretty much count on the fact that I love to seek out peak experiences. Bucket list items, challenges, excursions from the realm of safety and predictability. Why? Because when I push my boundaries now in the relatively secure confines of experimentation, then the real, unavoidable trials will later meet a stronger and more stubborn foe. As a bonus, I’ve discovered priceless joy and peace in activities I once feared or disdained.

That said, some strange part of me wants to suffer through these adventures like the heroine of Hunger Games or some similarly daring and adventurous paragon of courage. In hindsight, I think that same odd spirit in me relished dreading skydiving, as the only one of my group of twelve friends who honestly never wanted to try it. Despite my initial fears, I loved it. Loved it. Loved it. Although it may take some time to gather the motivation (and money) and feel the drive to try it again, if I had to choose one day of my life to keep and loose the memories of all the rest, I would save the day where I plummeted from that very tiny plane. Hands down.

Recently, I’ve chosen a new peak to pursue that I also kind of dreaded: running in the 2012 ING New York City Marathon. In some strange imaginative portion of my brain, I expect to hate it, push through it, and succeed. Running for an extremely worthy charity, I also have the fabulous temptation of fearing not only injury, dehydration, heart and cardio concerns, and nutrition but also raising the required amount of $100 for each of my 26.2 miles.

Somehow despite the obstacles, including some ridiculous runs on which I’ve strayed onto wooded paths and tiny, busy highways, I had fun today on my four mile run. Achieving something new always feels great, but after my five miler on Monday and standing all day at rehearsal yesterday, I did not expect the sense of relief and renewal I experienced at the end of a surprisingly peaceful time. The nourishment of my food afterwards felt real and incredible, and I appreciated the dining commons at my summer gig at Bard Summerscape with no palatable annoyance at the influx of kids at their sports camps or the increasing predictability of food offerings. No. Those black-eyed peas and local baby plums amused me to no end, and my body teems with a consistent life and vigor I haven’t felt in a few years.

Does this make me a runner? We shall see. In the meantime, lucky me who gets to enjoy pursuing what I know will be a hard-won goal this November. As for the charity, I’ve chosen to run for Team for Kids, an organization that provides coaching, motivation, and inspiration for children in New York City, across the United States, and in South Africa. Focusing on inner city (can you imagine running in the city without a coach as a child?) and/or low-income schools, they give kids an opportunity to stay active, prevent childhood obesity, qualify for scholarships, and feel the genuine rush of health and of achieving something real.

So it appears the silly, grinchy side of me who longs to suffer will at least have to wait while I enjoy living as an example for the children I hope to help with Team for Kids. For my friends with me upstate at Bard and in the city later this summer and fall, please join me in a run if you like and can suffer my still slow pace. For everyone else, please consider contributing to Team for Kids in support of my run. I have a birthday upcoming on August 3… Feel free to think of it as a gift. I know I do.

Donate to Team for Kids

The Weather Monster

If you haven’t heard already, I’ve decided to run in November’s ING NYC Marathon for Team for Kids, a great cause promoting fitness for children in low income schools and preventing childhood diabetes. Please take a moment to visit my fundraising page, read about all of the great work Team for Kids does, and consider contributing to help me reach my goal.

As for my other goals? At the top of the list of course lies finishing. I also would ideally love to run the entire race, although as my first ever running event, I will happily walk if needed to arrive at the finish line. Truthfully, as a fresh-faced marathon newbie, I feel nervous to begin training for this next major Skydiving for Pearls adventure. How will I manage keeping my nutrition and energy elevated, with my regularly low blood sugar levels? Will I stay motivated and injury free? And seriously – rain? Cold weather in the fall and early spring training? Can’t I just run this thing on an indoor track somewhere?

Today I faced my first fitness challenge with a bit of a weather monster. Everyone has their dragons to slay… Mine? I hate the cold. That said, I also adore skiing! Vacationing in Okemo, VT has brought me a lot of fun, and we had a tremendous day on the slopes yesterday. Moguls kept me on my toes, and my body had an excellent workout. Still, I felt a bit unsure on shorter skis than usual and rarely ski without taking a private lesson, so I signed up for the following morning at 8:30 AM private. Early, but cheaper and with far fewer people on the slopes.

When I left our studio this morning, I thought the freezing rain might stop soon. Not so much. Kevin, my fun and knowledgeable instructor, helped me work on my turns, edges, and balance. Despite my fogged-up sunglasses (I promptly bought new goggles after my lesson ended), I loved challenging my mind and body to improve upon a sport I enjoy and revisit only once a year at best. Honestly, I can’t wait to go back out this afternoon and try out my new techniques… After the rain stops.

Racing down my final hill in my lesson, the hail stung my face and made my glasses almost unusable. The cold began to seep through my soaked ski pants, and I realized the water from the wet ski lifts had permeated down to my now quite cold skin. As I contemplated whether more expensive gloves might protect my hands better, I considered my upcoming marathon training. I will not likely want to run in freezing rain, but with the marathon in early November, I probably won’t.

Having enjoyed today’s lesson despite close to the worst weather conditions I can imagine, I learned another lesson I hadn’t quite expected. All of the things that can go wrong pale in comparison to the potential for growth, fun, and new experiences. Weather doesn’t matter really, and even the cold doesn’t sting quite so strongly when the heart starts racing for a fun sport or a good cause. I imagine the children who benefit from Team for Kids learn that truth well. Having slayed my morning weather monster, I feel much more confident and can’t wait to start running for those kids. This marathon, and training for it, might actually provide me with as much fun as the challenge itself, no matter the weather.

Skiing in Okemo

StripXpertease, Day 134

Even while running up the stairs from the subway, I consider refraining from writing about this particular blog-inspired adventure. With six-inch platform heels in my bag and a nearly expired Groupon to use, I attend a class by StripXpertease, fully expecting to keep that particular experience to myself and a very few close friends. After all, I had written about attending a Naked Painting Party (in a bikini), auditioning nude, and performing in Sarah Small’s Tableau Vivant. Enough, right? Although I didn’t create this blog with the intent of shocking my mother and other more conservative readers, I also have wanted to relinquish my expectations especially as of late. On Sunday at Pearl Studios in Manhattan, my instructor and the company’s policies help me to happily and safely do just that, in a way that would even make Mom happy (I think).

Although I arrive slightly late for class, our instructor Dahlia welcomes and includes me in the introductions of each class member by name. Wearing form-fitting clothes and high heels, each of the women attending happens to look incredible. Despite the unusually magazine-friendly appearance of this specific group, I have no doubt that all ages (above eighteen), sizes, and shapes would feel comfortable in their bodies here. Leaning against the mirror, standing in very specific poses, and using chairs, each of us attempts fairly simple and deceptively repetitive dance moves that require confidence above all else.

Of course, it helps to have good knees and a predisposition to fitness. Six-inch heels and a lot of squatting can tire a girl out after a couple of hours of instruction. Thankfully, when my brain tires of trying to shift my weight to a bent leg while learning a “Reverse Robert,” I can still pull out the acting stops. Dahlia picks up on each of the students’ strengths and compliments us by name. In fact, she does this so well that after class, I received a personal email from her referencing my website and upcoming gigs, and continuing to encourage me by writing, “Also, seriously girl…that predator face is OUT OF CONTROL!” Wouldn’t you like to know?

Personal, clear, effective, empowering, and as comfortable as a class practicing exotic dance with strangers gets, StripXpertease has smart and respectful instructors and policies that honestly turned my unnecessary hesitations and expectations upside down. Firstly, this company does not encourage women to enter the industry as exotic dancers. Of the instructors, only the founder and creator, Kimberly, has exotic dancing listed as a credential for teaching, and according to Dahlia (who even teaches Women’s Studies at one of the local community colleges), she actively attempts to discourage her students from using their bodies in this way for money.

One will not find nudity in any of the StripXpertease classes, including their couple’s classes, private instruction, and private parties. While StripXpertease has yet to expand to teaching pole dancing techniques, they do have a fairly comprehensive listing of introductory, month-long series, and exercise classes. For those looking for something more shockingly risqué, you’ll have look elsewhere – or just wait to practice the moves you learn in front of a mirror at home or for a loved one. In appropriate company, I have no doubt these moves would raise some serious eyebrows, among other things. With such courses designed to give women confidence and ease with sexual expression, I highly recommend StripXpertease and happily support and dance behind both their mission and methods. Returning to town in December with a two-hour class remaining from my Groupon purchase I only wonder, “Who wants to join me this winter?”