The #presence2013 project: conclusions

So today is Easter. Which signifies a million things today, of course.
…but in #teamsutera land, today signifies the conclusion to the #presence2013 project.

But here’s the thing — I don’t want it to end. The past 40+ days have opened my eyes to a whole new world. A world that was staring back at me this entire time — I was just too damn distracted to fully see it.

I mean, just typing those words makes my heart a little bit sad. I have a great, fabulous, wonderful life — am married to my best friend, a guy I adore more than words could ever describe; I have a beautiful, small circle of friends who I would trust with my life, and two amazing sisters who I don’t spend nearly enough time with.

So when I think back to how much time has been wasted by, what, connections? Being uber plugged-in all the time?
…it’s just…enough.

And that’s my conclusion — something I’m thinking about a lot tonight as I sit with my husband on the couch, savoring a glass (or two!) of wine after a fabulous Easter brunch with my in-laws. It’s just enough.

I’m not really even sure what ‘enough’ means — I just know that I’m ready to continually embrace presence. To embrace and love this life I am so blessed to be living. With utter abandon.

…because presence is just too important. And this past 40 days has proven to me that presence is joy. It’s made even the simplest of moments 1000x better because I was fully in the moment. So I guess that’s my conclusion…even though I might not have the right words to describe it, or fully define what it means to me. I just feel it. I sense it. And I want to live it.

Presence is joy. #thatisall


Working smart (despite the crazies)

I’m sitting here in bed, laptop propped on my lap and I’m facing one of those frustrating inner battles (or ‘mind crazies’ as my sis and I like to call them) — the battle where your head is trying to tell you one thing but your body is telling you something entirely different.

So: who do you listen to?

Your brain that’s telling you to go for it, stop being so cautious and just get that run in that you planned on?


Your body that’s telling you that a run is probably not the best of ideas. Your right knee is a little cranky. A run will do it no good.

But a run *would* do my brain good. My brain that keeps telling me to get moving, work for that sweat that I love so much and quit making excuses.

…but is a cranky knee an excuse?

Um, no.

This, my friends, is the one drawback to being so passionate about fitness — I sometimes want to push it too hard. Not because I think I need to or else I’ll gain 45 pounds in 24 hours. That’s not why I workout the way that I do. I workout because I love it, because it makes me happy and I feel so alive and energized because of it. Sure, the physical benefits aren’t too shabby either (let’s be real), but ultimately — I workout for wellness, and yes – for how it nourishes my soul, too.

Note to self: please work smart. Please ignore the mind crazies.


I’ve been reading a lot lately in bloggy land about this desire to push, push, push, no matter what. It’s called the #noexcuses mantra. It’s something I hadn’t really been paying all that much attention to until I read Carly’s post (thanks to Christine’s hat tip to her on Friday!) on the topic. I totally agree with Carly on this one — #noexcuses has become a crutch to allow bloggers to work too hard, push too much and workout when they should be resting. I mean, I’m all for getting out of your comfort zone, working hard for results and motivating others by leading by example. All about that.

What I’m NOT about? Working harder, not smarter. It’s just not worth it.


Another post that got me thinking — a LOT — is one from Heidi: If fitness is about health, why hurt yourself? I mean, the title of her post pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? WHY push to the point of injury? None of us are out there professionally competing or aiming for Olympic gold, so working *that* hard, to the point of injury or excessive fatigue is just doing more harm than good. I mean really, why are takes ourselves so seriously? Fitness should be fun, at least I think it should be. And fitness is most certainly *not* fun if it results in injury.

Thank you a million times over Heidi, I needed that reminder. So much.


Can you tell I just wrote this post essentially to 1) quiet my mind and 2) remember both why I workout and what my workout mantra is? (I’m so transparent, I know…ha)

So yes, this is me — reminding myself and all of you that working smart is so much more important than working harder. Always.

Life is good.

Life is good. 

Seriously, in the grand scheme of things, life is damn good actually. And I think it’s worth jotting those happy thoughts down now and then. If not as just a personal note to self the next time I go down the wahhhbulance rat hole that I know I’m prone to face-planting stumbling into now and then.

And truly, nothing too earth-shattering here, just lots of fun little silver linings lately. Or little things. So I’m gonna go ahead and celebrate them, in pictures.

New haircuts — they make me smile. This is a shorter cut for me (you can’t altogether tell from the pic, but this is what I was aiming for) — and I’m diggin’ it, big time. (hi, blow drying my hair in under ten minutes, I’ll take it!!)

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Unexpected dreadmill highs — and a speedy (for me) 5k “PR” (if you can call it a “PR” on the dreadmill!). After my Wednesday morning fitdate at the barre, I told my friend and one of the clients who was standing nearby that I was going home to run a quick 5k before getting ready for work. I said it loud and proud because I knew if I didn’t, I’d be prone to skipping the run entirely. BUT, because I proclaimed it out loud before I left the studio, I felt accountable and I’m glad I stuck to my guns. This was a surprisingly fast and fun 5k and it made me feel like a total rockstar all morning. A ‘me’ fitdate, double-style– I’ll take it! #fitgeek

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Teaching a 90 minute b9 intensive at the studio — and nailing it — made me SO SO proud and happy on Saturday. The b9 intensive is designed to be our most challenging class (clients must take at least 20 regular classes before taking one of our intensives) and is also meant to help clients get more out of their workouts, focusing on form and finding that mind/body connection. I was *really* excited to teach this class. I came up with what I thought was a pretty killer 90 minute line-up (and accompanying playlist!), filled with my most favorite upper body exercises, lots of planks and pushup series, and a really fun barre/mat combo session to work lower body. Oh and smabs, can’t forget smabs (a part of my body I never thought I’d learn to love to work, but whatdya know, I actually DO love working smabs now!). It was killer. Every client in that room worked their bums off, showing such dedication to the barre, it was just awesome. They absolutely crushed it. It was definitely THE most fun I’ve had at the barre to date. And after teaching the 90 minute class (plus a one-hour class before that), I was exhausted, starving and ready for a shower (didn’t even take a selfie after class, who am I??). So, I felt it was more than appropriate that I try out a coffee shop near the studio (Daily Harvest) that has great iced coffee flavors but somehow, I had yet to get there (which is shocking given how much I love coffee!). So this bad boy turned out to be a much deserved treat — a snickerdoodle flavored iced coffee with a splash of milk. Deeeelish. #earnedit

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Annnnnd finally — after ELEVEN rounds of ‘rummy wars’ with the hubs — I won a round of 25 (we play until someone wins 25 rounds and then the winner picks the losers ‘punishment’ so to speak). The hubs was not entirely pleased by this turn of events, but seriously, the guy won eleven rounds before I finally won one, I think I’ve waited long enough. 😉

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I betcha you’re wondering what his ‘punishment’ is for my win, hmm? Well, I’m sure you won’t be surprised when you see my choice:

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(note the win above my win, Scott is really looking forward to cashing in on that one — to see me squirm for an entire day where I have no control over plans or even any visibility into what our plans are? Ack, Type-A in me is screaming for mercy already, hehe)

Ha!! I can’t wait for this — he’s in for a world of hurt, I can guarantee him that much. But all in a hurts-so-good way I promise (kinda). 😉

Soooo now it’s your turn, what’s making your life good right now? BIg or small, there’s always a silver lining if you look hard enough for it.

Everyone needs a little me (workout) time

I hear this a lot — both from clients at the studio, from family and from friends who just don’t think they deserve, need or are ‘allowed’ to have ‘me’ time. Particularly when that ‘me’ time is of the workout variety. It’s seen by some as a frivolous activity, a nice-to-have versus a need-to-have or it’s a selfish thing to want or need that ‘me workout’ time.

But truly? Everyone needs a little me (workout) time. 

Yes, even I need it. 

You see, I’ve been working on a little experiment these past few weeks. Instead of looking at my me-workouts as nice-to-have activity in between all the teaching that I do each week, I’ve been looking at it as need-to-have time. Obviously within reason, balancing it out with the working out that invariably happens while I’m teaching class. But yes, I’ve been making my me workout time more of a priority. Even if it means shifting my focus a little bit — instead of wishing for or yearning for x amount of miles, I get excited about running a quick 30 mins after class or slotting in a fitdate with a bestie mid-week when schedules allow.  And yes, I #makeitcount.

So I have been committing to my ‘me time’ of the workout variety more these past few weeks and I’ve noticed something. Yup, you guessed it — I’m happier.

It’s not rocket science people, putting yourself first and chasing those endorphins produces, yup — happy, joyful energy. 

Sure, I still love, love, love all the hours I spend teaching, watching clients transform right before my eyes. LOVE. But I also love that me time either at the barre or on the mat where I have time to focus on my own muscle strength and endurance. Or the time I spend in my favorite sneakers, running 3 miles or 7, or somewhere in between, those miles don’t matter distance-wise — all that matters is that they are my miles. Miles I fought for particularly hard for on Sunday in the chilly, windy air. But it was worth it. SO, SO, worth it. Especially because it meant a #teamsutera reunion. ❤

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So here’s my thinking — I will continue to make my ‘me workouts’ a priority. Within reason, of course, and while still respecting the rest time my body needs. But clearly, based on just the past two or three weeks alone, my mood is just happier, less stressy, more centered. I KNOW part of that has to do with the #presence2013 project. But I also believe it has something to do with the me-workout thing. It’s just needed. 

And please, I hope you all will take that time to remember that you are just important to make a priority as everyone and everything else in your life that is important and that you love. You also love yourself, right? So watch that (self) love blossom, and respect the me (workout) time as much as you can. It’ll only make you a happier, healthier, more content wife, sister, friend, mother, auntie, and daughter (ditto this for the boys who may be reading this post!). It’s important, truly.

The #presence2013 project — (almost) 30 days in

It’s been almost a month since Scott and I proclaimed that presence was the ‘thing’ we were going to focus on during Lent this year.

Hence, the #presence2013 project was born.

As I sit here looking at the calendar, I’m realizing we’re almost one month into this project, and I’m finding myself pretty surprised at how quickly that time went.

But then, I look at how my blogging has been going since the #presence2013 project proclamation, and it’s no wonder the time has flown by.

…I’ve been blogging less. Far less.

…I’ve definitely been tweeting less.

…and yes, even texting less, too.

And all of this disconnecting hasn’t just been for Scott’s sake, but it’s been something I’ve been extremely cognizant of with friends and family too. Any time I’ve been in the presence of friends or family since we kicked off this project, I’ve felt downright rude if my phone has been out — unless there was a real purpose or need for it (like to snap a quick pic or something).

But back to the time flying by — it’s been flying by in a good way. Not because I’ve been too busy with my nose buried in my computer to notice the world and the people around me. But because I’ve been so busy LIVING and enjoying each day, cherishing dinner chats with Scott more, spending more time talking on the phone to friends and family versus just texting them, and just spending altogether less time on all things electronic.

I’ve honestly found myself annoyed if I need to use the computer at night, actually. And that’s never happened before. I’ve just been realizing more and more that I spend SO SO SO much time on the computer for work all day long that I seriously do not need to be on the computer (or my phone) so much at night.

I think the best part of this #presence2013 project has been that feeling of connection between Scott and I that I sense a LOT more lately. It’s a hard-to-describe feeling…presence…but once you have it and harness it, you know what that feeling, that sensation is all about. And you start to miss it…a lot…when presence goes missing on you. It’s like nourishing your body with good food (and good wine, ha), but instead of nourishing your body, you’re nourishing that connection.

And it’s that realization, that nourishing of connections — which is telling me that this #presence2013 project should not end just because Lent ends. It should be a constant evolution towards better balance between plugged-in and unplugged time. And that’s what I’m working towards, very happily so, I might add.

With that, I’m going to go ahead and say a big ‘ol TGIF to all of you right now, it’s been a LONG LONG week and I’m more than ready to cheers to the weekend. It’s just too bad that it’s not wine thirty quite yet. 😉

I will, however, start early with my cheers (since you won’t hear from me tonight on that front!) — so this is me, cheers’ing to #presence2013 (and beyond).

Source: Jess on Pinterest

Powerful and spring-y

I’m titling this post ‘Powerful and spring-y’ which might sound kind of like an oxymoron, but I promise it’ll all make sense by the end. Hopefully. 😉

So first up — the powerful part of the equation.

As in a powerful run. Powerful on many levels.

powerful in how it reconnected Scott and I (aka long-lost #teamsutera). Even though we barely spoke a word.

powerful in how present I felt during the run. Present in each and every step I took, present in taking in my surroundings, present in listening to Scott’s even breathing next to me, silently pushing us both along. #presence2013 is a beautiful thing. (more of an update on this project of ours in a future post…)

powerful in how my legs felt pushing up and down the hills on our *favorite* 7-miler rundate route.

powerful in the rush of memories that came flooding back during that 7-mile route we circled. It’s the same route we doubled and tripled and nearly quadrupled during Chicago marathon training. Memories. ❤

powerful in the incredible HIGH it gave us both. The rush of the cool, fresh air breezing past our faces. The strength we both felt in our legs, and in our speed. And the incredible DOMS we both felt the next day (and are sure to feel even more tomorrow…I’m a two-day-later kind of girl).

powerful in the JOY it brought us both when all was said and done. As evidenced by our GIANT (albeit sweaty) smiles. ❤

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Now, for the spring-y part.

spring-y as in the antsy pants I now have for spring to actually arrive. We went from blizzard conditions on Friday to sunshine and 50 degrees on Monday. Kinda makes me crazy, for SPRING. I love it so. ❤

spring-y as in the joy I already feel for the mere opportunity for many more of those powerful runs like I described from Sunday. Those reconnecting, rejuvinating and energizing runs. Trying so very hard to be patient…patience pants don’t suit me so well. 😉

spring-y and the absolute geeked-out high I get from trying out new fitgear at the studio during three-fer Monday that put a big ‘ol spring in my step as I set foot into the studio I love so very much. You see, sometimes *all* it takes to get me going on an early-start Monday (especially after the daylight savings time change the night before!), is a new outfit. Yup, I’m easy to please. And yup, I’m a giant #luluhoarder. But I won’t apologize for that part. I am who I am. Take me or leave me. ;-P

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Soooooo, that’s all I got after a very long start to my week — but doing what I love most of all, and with that extra spring in my step totally helped matters. So is the glass of wine I’m savoring the heck out of as I type this. (note: blogging with wine is something I need to do more often. #noted.). Happppy (powerful and spring-y) Monday, friends! 

Of teaching with gratitude (one year later)

Today marks one year since I taught my very first class at barre n9ne studio and I’m honestly sitting here at a loss for words at how to best capture what this year has meant to me.

The one word that keeps swirling in my mind is gratitude.

I know I gush about barre n9ne for about a million reasons but the main reason I’m so in love with barre n9ne is that it occupies such a beautiful, joyful and grateful space in my heart.


It’s where I met the most amazing studio owner Tanya, who I am honored to call a friend, a mentor, and the best boss around.

It’s where my sister and I bonded over our own ‘challenge’ journey as the original barre n9ne challengers (awesome post here by Tanya on what that challenge journey has evolved into for so many women at the studio since then…almost 2 years ago!)

It’s where I have the honor of paying that challenge experience forward by supporting in any way that I can each challenger that commits to changing her life for the better, into a fit, happy and healthy forever lifestyle. (and ensuring that every class I teach is as challenging and fun as I can make it)

It’s where I learned how to love my body for all that it is and all that it promises to become.

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It’s where I go and know that #everytime I set foot through the front door of the studio, whatever stress or frustration may be swirling in my mind, immediately dissipates as I step forward as instructor, a badge I wear with such joy and honor.

And it’s where I know that no matter what, I’ll always get the most killer workout of my life. Nothing else compares. Nothing.

But ultimately? barre n9ne studio is my happy place. I love it dearly. I love every single client that shakes their bum off at the barre, and I love that this is truly just the beginning. I’m expecting greatness to come at barre n9ne studio in 2013 and for many, many more years.

#b94lyf ❤


I recently started teaching an arms & abs class at barre n9ne (taking it over for one of the other instructors who is pregnant – and super cute, I might add!) and it’s been a fun, very different class to teach versus the usual classes I teach that are all full body workouts.

What I’ve noticed since I started teaching the class though, is just how connected everything is. Since that class focuses SO MUCH on core work and engaging those muscles throughout the workout (not just during the sections that are ab-specific), I’ve noticed some things.

— For one – hello abs, where have you been all my life? You hurt like hell after that class, but I kind of love that.

— Also? It’s all connected. As in, a strong core ties into SO MANY other parts of your body…your entire body, actually.

I noticed that this morning while taking a fusion class at the studio (same class I took last week with my bestie right upfront!) – since my abs were already sore, I was much more aware of how my abs played into every single exercise we did.

— My posture was taller while we sat and worked our shoulders with those love-to-hate silver balls.

— My back was flatter while we were working our glutes on all fours.

— And everything – EVERYTHING – felt a lot more difficult than if I didn’t have such ‘worked’ core muscles this morning.

Which lead me to this very simple conclusion: it’s ALL connected.

And the more I can personally focus on that connection to my core and to all of my muscles really, the more I’ll get out of my workouts, but also the more I’ll help clients get more out of their workouts too.

While teaching arms & abs especially, I’ve been trying to remind clients to make sure they are engaging their core while doing ALL of the exercises I run through in that class. So while standing and working our biceps with the gray band, really think about pulling your belly button to your spine, engaging your core muscles and holding them firm throughout the bicep pulls. So even if we’re not doing a so-called ‘core’ exercise in that class (or any of the other classes), your core should always be working, always engaged, always firm and strong. Because that’s the key – making that connection to your core, to your muscles, and working them as hard as they can and should be worked. Trusting that you can work a little harder, dig a little deeper, engage your muscles even more.

And yes, that’s exactly what I thought about throughout my ‘me’ workout this morning in fusion.  Connecting with my body, making sure to stay in the zone and enjoying the heck out of every last minute of that class (even though it hurt…a lot, ha).

So that’s my mini pep talk ‘o the day – think about those connections, all of them. And put it to practice during your next workout. I’m thinking you might be surprised at how different the workout feels both during and in the days after that workout (think: DOMS).  Juuuuust a hunch. 😉

My run-purpose. Lately.

My running. It’s evolved a lot lately.

I feel like I’ve been talking about my running in the context of ‘when I was in training mode…’ vs. ‘now that I’m not in training mode’ but really, what I should be talking about is my run-purpose. That’s the thing that has evolved, running-wise lately.

You see, for the past few years, my running cycle has looked something like this:

  • Summer – run like hell, soaking in as many early-AM (bunny-filled!) runs as possible, learning to love and embrace the ultra-humid runs and being outside with the hubs by my side whenever possible. Oh – and lots of bestie rundates, too.
  • Late-summer/early-fall – ramp that running up in preparation for a race, usually a half marathon (or that run time I ran a full marathon…), a way to close out all those summer months of running on a high note.
  • Late-fall/early-winter – continue to run whenever possible outside, choosing one or two other races to run before winter settles in (usually the Thanksgiving Day 5-mile “Wild Turkey Run” was our ‘swan song’ race for the winter, until recently…)
  • Dead of winter – work my ass off to keep my endurance and mileage up as best as I can, sticking to the dreadmill during the week (tooooo dark) and outside on the weekends, when possible. Doing what I could to work on speed via intervals, dreadmill-style, and working on endurance on the weekend with the outdoor runs.
  • Early-Spring – ramp that mileage back up in preparation for a springtime race, usually another half marathon. And then get VERY excited to continue keeping the miles up during the summer months – aka one of my favorite running seasons.

I repeated this cycle yearly – training, keeping my mileage up, working on endurance…that was my run-purpose. I *mostly* ran with the intent to race a few times a year and that’s what largely drove my running. Of course, above all else – I always run because I love it, because it makes me feel so alive and yes, because it makes me feel badass. But the ‘purpose’ was also usually training-inspired in some shape or form.

But my run-purpose is quickly shifting – there is no real training ‘purpose’ to my runs anymore. And I don’t really foresee that shifting much. And not because I don’t enjoy the thrill of the chase that training for a race provides, that end goal in sight, feeling that rush of crossing the finish line. I *still* really love those moments and like I’ve said about a million times, training for the Chicago Marathon and countless half marathons before that, provided some of the most memorial bonding moments with Scott, my favorite running partner of all. #teamsutera ❤

But really, my run-purpose now is literally all about the joy of the sweat.

The rush I feel when I see a cool “7.0 miles” completed on the treadmill. Or I watch my pace quicken during those killer intervals (like these intervals, where my a$$ nearly fell off), and I am incredulous that my legs can actually move that quickly if I trust them to.

My running goal lately? To run. Whenever I can fit it in, for as long as I can fit into my day. It might be 7 miles, early-AM (like tomorrow’s plan!), dreadmill-style. Or it might be a quick 3 miler after I teach or take a barre n9ne class in the morning. Or it might be, the altogether TOO RARE rundate with Scott outside, hitting up one of our favorite 7 mile running routes (that I hope to return to this Sunday, actually!).

My run-purpose: the joy of the sweat.

My run goal: to run. Joyfully.

Of three-peats and trying new things (Ellie!)

So I talk about barre n9ne often.
Ok, I talk about barre n9ne A LOT.

…but it’s only because I love, love, love everything about it — the workouts, the clients, the community we’ve built and yes — what I love most of all is being able to teach. It’s an honor, truly.

What I haven’t really talked about all that much here is how often I teach or what my schedule looks like. And well, I’m not necessarily here to blab on about THAT per se, I am here today to talk about what I’m loving about the barre n9ne ‘three-peat’ I teach every single Monday.

You might sometimes see me refer to it as the ‘three-peat’ or sometimes the ‘3-fer’ on instagram if I opt to post on instagram a post-class sweaty-faced pic at the studio, or a post-class glass of pic of the glass of wine I routinely pour after the last class of the day is over with for me. (case in point below)

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But what IS this ‘three-peat’ all about? It started with me starting up the 6am Monday morning class. A class that admittedly was slow to pickup steam at first — I mean, 6am on a MONDAY is rough. Who wants to roll out of bed that early on a Monday anyway?? Well hi, I do. 😉

And I slowly convinced clients that it was the most EXCELLENT idea ever to kickoff the work week with a barre n9ne sweatfest.

Well, soon after that, I picked up the 7am class too and for me, it’s been a blast to rock a barre n9ne double each Monday morning. Even if that means a mad dash and scramble to get to work after that. It’s always, always, always worth it. And THEN, once the Danvers studio expanded to two fitness rooms vs. one, I picked up a 7pm class too. Monday night is ‘bowling night’ for Scott so I readily volunteered for more studio time that day — because to me, that’s an awesome way to kick off a ‘me’ night — at my favorite home away from home. 😉

So WHY am I telling you all of this? Not because I want to look like some crazy ass instructor rockstar or something (seriously, not the point), but because Monday’s have become an awesome day for me. Any time I wake up with the “Monday morning blues” they are almost immediately dashed away as soon as I set foot in the studio at 5:30am. Sure, it makes for a long day between teaching and my day job, but hell – let’s be honest: I’d be taking a class or running if I wasn’t teaching, right??

And this past Monday? I had an extra spring in my step. A spring in my step that could only be the result of new workout gear to wear while teaching. And *GASP* it was NOT Lululemon gear I was wearing on Monday (shocking I know, such a #luluhoarder I am!). It was something new. A new tank and leggings from a company called Ellie. Some of you might know them by ‘pv.body’ which has since morphed into Ellie — an online clothing retailer of their own brand of workout gear called “Ellie.”  For awhile the company was selling discounted name-brand gear (like lulu and others) via the pv.body name, but they’ve since changed their business model and so far, I’m totally digging it.

Let’s be honest — they make some pretty cute gear:

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(Note: the top is called ‘the vixen’ which I kind of love haha, and the bottom is called ‘love struck leggings’ — in case you’re browsing the site later looking for either item!)

And while this particular top required me to wear a second sports bra (to avoid showing off the girls during class lol), I think that was mostly because the top was a looser style and I probably should have gone a size smaller. I’m hoping I can shrink the top a bit when I wash it, maybe. Otherwise, I LOVED the top. So comfy and way cute. And the pants were equally comfy and very flattering. I could see myself running in these pants with no problem, and they were great to teach in. Totally recommend either one.

And really, it’s looking like all of their stuff will be fun, unique pieces to rock at the studio, the gym, the streets, etc. — you can check more of their stuff out here: 

(you can also follow them on Twitter: @MeetEllie, Instagram, and Facebook: MeetEllie)

AND if you’re interested in giving Ellie a try, you can click this link and get 20% off your order. I know, I know, #badinfluence alert. 😉

Buuut you’ll have to put up with me because 1) I’m here to stay (hehe) and 2) I’m now an Ellie Ambassador so in addition to my incessant #luluhoarder ways, I’m thinking I may be an #elliehoarder soon too. 😉