Get On Your Mat This Fall!

Fall is officially upon us. The trees are starting to change colors, the days are getting shorter, and the weather is cooler. Bring on the sweaters, boots, and hot soups.

Often the body takes a minute to catch up with what our environment has to offer us. A balanced yoga practice can help our bodies transition from one season to the next with ease. Incorporating yoga into your day and week can help keep you heated, energized, detoxified, and restored.

HEAT:  As our climate cools off, our joints often stiffen due to lack of circulation to the extremities. So getting on your mat and practicing is a great way to keep the body warm and circulation flowing from the inside out.

ENERGIZE. Our natural inclination as we transition into darker days is to hibernate and to stay indoors. And while that is ok sometimes, we still need to find balance. Yoga is a great way for you to stay uplifted and energized so you combat fatigue and sluggishness.

DETOX: Throughout our heated flow, you will be sure to detox and flush out all of the toxins and stuck energy you may have been holding onto.  A steady practice with twists and inversions is a great way to help you boost your immune system and provide your organs with fresh, oxygenated blood.

RESTORE: The Yin portion of a yoga class is a great way to help your body recharge.  Restorative poses that are held a little longer (i.e.Supta Baddakonasana, Legs up the Wall, & Savasana) allow the body to clear out and for the nervous system to completely relax, making room for all that the new season has to bring.

As we balance out our bodies, we balance out our minds. Embrace this transition & join us on the mat!

Namaste!

 

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This is ME!

My name is Keri Mandell. I am a yogi, crossfit coach, marathoner and Ironman, but I wasn’t always these things. It wasn’t until much later in my life that I discovered my passion for physical fitness and health.

The Keri in my past is way different than the Keri most of you know today. She wasn’t always the driven enthusiastic girl she is now.

Here’s my story…

I was born in January, 1982, 2 months premature and only weighing a few pounds. I spent the first part of my life in an incubator until it was safe for my parents to bring me home. I grew up in Clifton, New Jersey.  As a kid, I was much more quiet, reserved, and introverted (if you can imagine that). At that time the only form of physical activity I really enjoyed was playing softball. I played softball from the time I was in elementary school until I graduated high school. I was in a travel softball league and we played all year long and throughout the state. Once I went away to college, physical activity was not really my thing.  I spent the majority of my time studying, working, and socializing with friends. It wasn’t until my late 20s that I truly found an appreciation and love for physical fitness, health, and nutrition.

I began my fitness journey when I got engaged to my husband Dan. I decided I wanted to lose weight for our wedding. At that time I was a size 12/14 and weighed over 175 lbs. I joined Weight Watchers and started attending bridal Boot Camp classes at the local YMCA where we lived in Boston.  At that time, I also dabbled a little bit in running. I never thought I was much of a runner nor did I think I had a runner’s body. I started to slowly run, going one block at a time, alternating between running and walking, building up until I was able to run for longer/extended periods of time. I wasn’t the biggest fan, but looked at it as a way to help myself lose weight.

After I got married in July of 2009, I still tried to remain physically active. I joined a new gym, started taking spin classes, trx classes, and hired a personal trainer.

During the fall of 2009, I found out that I had cancerous cells on my cervix that needed to be surgically removed. I became ill,  suffering from a serious infection after the procedure. I had to take a leave of absence from work and could no longer workout. On top of that, the doctor told me that I would probably never have kids.

Could you imagine being told something like that? As a woman I had always dreamt of having a family, but here I am as a newlywed and all of our plans for the future were crushed and washed away. I was angry and devastated. I told my husband we could get a divorce so he could remarry and find someone else to have his children. I became severely depressed and suicidal. What I had imagined my future to be had changed in an instant. I wallowed in self pity for a while until one of my friends got me out of the house and made me go with her to take a yoga class… that class literally saved my life. Now I’d practiced yoga a few times, but it wasn’t until that moment that yoga became such a huge and integral part of my life. I often tell people that it was yoga that saved my life. It taught me to live in the moment, to find peace, to love myself, and it showed me that body was capable of so much more than I thought.

I started to come out of my depression and stared to re-evaluate what my life was going to be. So my body may not be able to bare children, but it sure as hell could do other things… and there it began. I wasn’t going to let my body or anything else for that matter get in my way of living my life. I immediately started to look for ways to challenge myself and challenge my body. I wasn’t going to allow it to hold me back. My goal was to try to see how fit I could be.

In 2011 we moved to NJ. My dad and stepmom owned and operated a business, Monmouth Mobile Home Park. They both became ill- she had lung cancer and breast cancer and he had bone marrow cancer. They needed someone to help run the business so my husband and I moved to Princeton, NJ to help. A few years after we moved down here, they both passed away within a few months of each other.

During our time in NJ, I continued on my fitness journey. I joined Can Do Fitness where a I met my good friend Hilary. I would attend spin and bootcamp classes in the mornings before work. Each day when I arrived, Hillary would be on the treadmill running with a sweatshirt and/or weighted vest. Having seen her numerous times, I decided to go over and approach her. I asked her what she was training for and she stated the Boston Marathon. I started to arrive to the gym early and walk on the treadmill next to her. She intrigued and inspired me. Her drive and dedication to her sport was like nothing I’ve ever seen. So each morning, I’d arrive at the gym early in hopes to see and talk to her. In time, I would slowly start to jog next to her. We would talk about running and the running group she was a part of called Run Around Princeton or RAP as it’s often referred to. Hilary convinced me to join her one Saturday morning at their weekly long runs and also sign up for the Broad Street 10 miler in Philadelphia.  

When I started running with the group, they would give you a slip of paper that had the route with turn by turn directions. I was always last. At that time, I think I ran a 12.5 or 13 minute mile. By the time I got back to the lot everyone had already left. I would cry. I hated being last and I hated running, but I committed to doing a 10 miler so I stuck with it. Eventually I got a little bit faster and was no longer the last one in the group. I ran the 10 miler on May 5, 2013. After that, I decided to keep running. I signed up for countless half marathons and even started training for a full. I completed my first full marathon that November, the Philadelphia Marathon.

I caught the running bug. From there, I started to run several marathons a year and eventually decided that I was going to complete all of the World Major Marathons. I just completed my final World Major Marathon this February, the Tokyo Marathon. Since 2013, I have run over 30 half marathons, 10 Marathons, 2 ultra marathons (50k) and an Ironman!

For a few of the races, I joined a charity team. I decided to run and raise money to support charities such as the Special Olympics and Autism Speaks.  As a Special Education teacher, these charity’s where near to my heart. Running and raising money for charity was a great way to bring awareness to the charity but also to travel and see how far my body could go. During a marathon, you often feel like you are going to die, but you don’t and when you cross that finish line there is no better feeling. I started to crave the high that running gave me.

In addition to running, I knew I had to incorporate strength training into my routine. In 2013,  was also the time I discovered Crossfit. I loved it so much that I went to get my level one Crossfit certification so I could coach. In 2014, I started an internship at Crossfit Nassau and started coaching part time at the gym in 2015.

Additionally, I was still taking yoga classes.  Yoga was a great tool that helped me with running- it helped increase strength, mobility, flexibility, allowed me to work on my breathing as well as my mindfulness.  In 2014, I decided to become certified to teach yoga. Yoga had given me so much over the years that I knew wanted to give back. Fast forward to 2016, I quit my job and opened my very own yoga studio, Empower Yoga. I decided that health and fitness was going to be my full time gig.

In 2014, my husband suggested that we try to complete a triathlon.  We signed up for the New Jersey State triathlon. He thought it could be something fun for us to do together. Now, I didn’t know how to swim (I hated swimming and was terrified of putting my face in the water)  so I was a little afraid prepping for this race. However I figured it was a great way to force myself to learn. I took swimming lessons and practiced swimming regularly at the pool in the clubhouse where we lived. I was nervous for the race, but excited to give it a try. During the race I panicked in the swim. A woman in my group panicked too and got on top of me, pushing me under the water. All I could think about was that I was going to drown and regretted not telling my parents I loved them that morning. I eventually broke away. It took me over 30 minutes to swim 500m because I doggie paddled. I was never so happy to be on land. At least when you’re running and you need to stop you can walk, but if you’re swimming and you need to stop, you drown. It was scary. Unfortunately, the bike wasn’t much better. I started to ride my bike but when I went to take sip of my Gatorade I didn’t put the bottle back in the cage correctly and I dropped it. I proceeded to roll over my bottle and fall off my bike. Unable to clip out in time, I fell off my bike and cut open my knee. It was gushing blood. From there, I went on the run. It was incredibly hot that day and the sun was beating overhead, there is no shade. When I crossed the finish line and my friends were there cheering for me they asked, “how do you feel?“ I said “I fucking hated that. I will never do that again.” The following year my husband completed a few more triathlons while I watched on the side lines. In 2017,  I decided to give triathlons another try. I decided that I wasn’t going to let triathlons get the best of me and I wanted to work hard to be and do my best. I decided to sign up for a half Ironman, I figured go big or go home. I reached out to several friends and asked about training plans. I piecemailed a plan together and started training. I joined a Master swim program near where we lived and bought a road bike. That summer leading up to my 70.3, I knew that the swim was going to be challenging for me. So I decide to sign up for several smaller races in order to prepare. I basically raced every weekend that summer forcing myself into those uncomfortable positions at the swim start- adrenaline pumping, heart racing, large crowds, flaring arms, people kicking you, and swimming over you- I needed to get my nerves under control. Towards the end of the summer I start to get stronger, faster, and better… Even placing in my age group in a few races.

Prior to even competing in AC 70.3, I had decided to sign up for a full Ironman. Always down for a challenge and a way to get better and stronger, I knew I just had to do it. I wanted to see what my body was capable of. In such a short time, if I could go from being afraid to put my face in the water to swimming over a mile, I knew I could do anything. Less than 1% of the population complete an Ironman and I wanted to be one of those people.  My husband (and prob the rest of the world) thought I was nuts. I hadn’t even completed a 70.3 race yet, what if I hated it. Why sign up for a full? I said that even if I hated it (which I doubt I would) I would do it anyway because completing an Ironman quickly catapulted to the top of my bucket list.

When I have an idea or want something, there is nothing getting in my way, and I wanted to be an Ironman!  After AC 70.3 I was hooked on triathlon racing. I was anxiously waiting to start training for my next goal, completing Ironman Lake Placid.  I knew I needed some help and expertise to really go the distance and get the most out of my race, rather than piecing a plan together like I did for AC. This was something I didn’t want to wing and I knew it would require hours of work each week for my body to get there. So I hired a coach, Chris Draper ( who was referred to me by my good friend Hilary, who has stuck with me over the years)

Training for an Ironman takes lots of time, sacrifice, and dedication.  Training wasn’t always roses and butterflies. It was hard, grewling, time consuming and left you at times beaten up and bruised. Even though it was challenging, I have to say that I loved every minute of it. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and more badass.  There is nothing in this world that compares to 15 hours of non stop physical activity and finally running down the shoot to the finish; where you here your name- Keri Mandell, you are an Ironman!!

Since my Ironman, people of been asking me what’s next? Well how about The World Marathon Challenge?!  A few years back, I heard about the World Marathon Challenge- An event where competitors must run the standard 42.2 km marathon distance in Antarctica, Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and North America within 168 hours (seven days). The clock starts when the first marathon begins in Antarctica. This event started in 2015 and since then, 103 have people have finished the challenge. When I first heard about it, it sounded incredibly scary and exciting at the same time. Now, the more I think about it and read about it and hear the inspiring stories like Becca Pizzi from Boston, I know that I need to do this too.

The World Marathon Challenge is next on my bucket list. In order to do the challenge I need to raise $52,000. I’m currently seeking sponsors to help make this dream a reality. I want to continue to surpass my mental and physical limits and see how far I can truly go. I want to help encourage and inspire people to live their best lives and know continue that anything is truly possible. Will you help me?

When you are ready to contribute, please visit my Go Fund Me page to donate!

Donating through this site is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to make a contribution!! NO donation is too small and every little bit helps.  Thank you for your donation and for taking the time to read my story.  I appreciate the support!

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Road to Ironman Part 3

PART 3: My top 10 Ironman Moments

Ironman was an incredible journey. While I have a ton of favorite moments and wonderful memories from the weekend, I thought I’d highlight my top 10.

10. I had a BLAST shopping at the expo. I couldn’t wait to get my
official Ironman  backpack and some new gear. While at the expo I came across Rapid Reboot (which is a compression boot for athletes). They are great for recovery as well as pre workout activation! Halfway through the run, my husband  surprised me with a pair! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him standing there holding them.

9. The pancake breakfast with my friend and teammate Eileen. On Saturday before the race, Ironman held a special all you can eat pancake breakfast.The pancakes were fresh and delicious. Eileen was in Placid volunteering for the race. It was so wonderful to have an opportunity to see and talk to her before the big day.  She offered pointers and words of encouragement. It was great to know she’d be there cheering me on!

8. Walking into the water with my friend, Amy. As we got ready to start, we took a moment to relish in what we were about to do. She turned to me and said, “thanks for being a part of this journey with me.” and then we started our race. That was a special moment, one I will never forget!

7. Seeing my coach right before I finished the second loop of the bike course and again right before the finish of the run. On the bike, you hit a major hill before returning to transition, it’s a tough part of the course so it was great to have him there to help give me a little push. Seeing him again before the end of the run was awesome too. He ran about a ½ mile with me. It helped add a little pep to my step, which is hard to do after spending over 14 hours on your feet. His support ment a lot.

6. I had a few friends and teammates running the race with me. One in particular was Christina. I had seen her at certain points throughout the day and towards the end of the second loop of our run she caught up to me. The second half of the run was tough, my brain was a little fuzzy and my legs were pretty tired, but seeing her gave me a little push. She helped me to pick up the pace, especially for those last three miles when all I wanted to do was walk. It was nice to have someone to be with and I appreciated being able to run and talk to her.

5. The incredible spectators and awesome volunteers. They were not only motivating and encouraging, but truly looked out for you. I was particularly grateful for the women in the tents who helped me get undressed and dressed during transition, packed my gear, and made sure I had what I needed before exiting. I could never have gotten into my sports bra without them!

4. Seeing a crow during mile 92 and 106 of the bike. After my dad passed a crow started to appear- on the golf course with my husband, at the yoga studio literally tapping on the back door, outside our house, near my car… We started to say it was my dad, he wanted us to know that he was there with us. Well during the race, wouldn’t you know that on mile 92 and 106 of the bike a crow dropped down into the middle of the street and cawed at me. I couldn’t help, but smile. I knew my dad was there cheering me on.

3. Having my husband and bestie Beth cheer me on throughout the day and especially there at the finish line to see me cross and then spray me with champagne, that was really special. There are moments throughout the race you begin to question yourself, life, basically everything and seeing them made me smile and helped bring me back to the present moment. It was nice to have them there to celebrate such a huge accomplishment with me.

2. Being able to compete with so many incredible and inspiring athletes. I LOVE triathlons. Nothing is better than the people you meet and the friendships you create along the way. This sport has introduced me to so many awesome people. Their energy and equal drive & dedication helps fuel me. We are in this journey of life together. We support and look out for each other and that’s pretty incredible.

 1. Running down the shoot, seeing the Ironman red and black carpet, bright lights & having my name called out and the words you are an Ironman, was unlike anything I have ever experienced. It was a huge sense of accomplishment for me. I couldn’t help but feel ecstatic and proud.

I have done some pretty incredible things in my life so far and completing an Ironman was certainly on my lists of favorites.  You’ve got one life, why not do it all. I can’t wait to see where I’ll go from here, but get ready, because this girl isn’t slowing down any time soon!!

You can be an Ironman too… ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

 

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Road to Ironman Part 2

PART 2: What it takes to go the distance.

Training for an Ironman can be an extremely rewarding and life-changing journey. However, it requires lots of preparation, a strong commitment, and some sacrifices.

Here’s what you need to do to prepare:

MONEY:
My new Felt try bike! Getting read for Eagleman 70.3
  • Training for Ironman is not an inexpensive thing to do. The racealone can cost close to $900 just to enter, but then you will need the proper gear/equipment- clothes (bathing suite, bike shorts, tech tees, running shorts, socks, etc..), swim goggles, wetsuit, a road or tri bike, helmet, a pair or 2 of running shoes, and an indoor bike trainer.
  • Then there’s everything you’ll need over the course of your training: gym or pool memberships, specialized nutrition gels/drinks/bars, bike parts and maintenance (i.e. spare tire tubes and tune ups), sunscreen, chafing creams, first-aid materials, food, doctors copays, entry to shorter races to help prepare you for the big day… the list can be endless.
  • Slowly but surely, other costs will begin to sneak in so be prepared to spend a pretty good chunk of change.
TIME AND TRAINING:
A few of my dt+n peeps. Love my Saturday morning computrainer classes!
  • You’ll need a plan that maps out what sport to do each day, for how long and what type of workout to do.
  • Be ready to train 25+ hours a week.
  • Be prepared for early morning workouts that last 2-3 hours- I got up everyday at 3:45am to swim, bike, and/or run before going to work. On the weekends you can expect to go longer; upwards of 6-8 hours if your doing a long ride or long brick (when you do two sport in one day, i.e. bike & run).
  • I highly recommend hiring a coach (you can add this to the list of expenses). Ironman is no joke and not something you should go into lightly. If you’re going to do it, do it right! (Chris Draper of dt+n)
NUTRITION:
Prepping for my century ride!
  • All the training in the world won’t prepare you for a race that youaren’t fueled properly for. A big key is not only to stay hydrated, but to be sure you know your caloric needs so that your body can go the distance. Figure out how many calories you need to take in every hour for your long training sessions. For me, I shoot for 300 calories an hour.
  • You need to start practicing nutrition very early on in your training. You need to train your body to digest the fuel you’re using so you don’t suffer from any GI problems on race day. I am a big fan of Cliff blocks (salted watermelon) and Honey Stinger Waffles (choc/vanilla) along with GU Roctane that I add to my water. Proper fueling is CRITICAL. You could get away with not fueling for a sprint or an olympic distance race, but not an Ironman.
SLEEP:
  • Sleep is critical to help with recovery. You need your sleep and should try to get at least 7 hours a night.  
  • No more late nights or parties on the weekend. You need to think about how your spend your energy. Is it worth sacrificing your training the following day?
MENTAL STRENGTH:
Yoga very damn day! Empower Yoga NJ!
  • As with many challenges, the right frame of mind and mental toughness can make a big difference. Your longer rides and runs are the perfect time to practice mental toughness. Find a positive mantra you can repeat to yourself when the going gets tough. Know that everyone has low points during a race, dealing with them, keeping moving and staying positive will carry you a long way.
  • Yoga is a great way to help with mindfulness, in addition torecovery. Take a yoga class, learn how to stay positive, be present, and keep breathing. These tools can be incredibly helpful come race day!
SUPPORT:
My doctor and teammate!

It takes a village. When you train for an Ironman you never train alone.

  • Get your family and friends involved. You’ll need people to help support you when your tired, question your sanity, feeling unmotivated, or just need a little pick me up. Plus it’s nice to have people who will listen to your endless talks about triathlons and training!
  • See a doctor. Be sure to check in with your physician before you tackle such a big endurance event. Make sure your body can handle all the stress you are about to place on it. And during training, if an injury should arise, take care of it immediately. Seek professional help and support rather than trying to take care of something on your own. It may suck in the short term, but will help you out tremendously in the long run.  My sport medicineguy became my best friend. He helped me with all my plantar fasciitis troubles so that I could still train and not suffer further injuries. Also, tell your coach if something’s going on. He can always substitute workouts for you and keep your training right on track! (Dr. Peter Wenger)
  • Find a good chiropractor. I saw my guy every week for adjustments, ultrasound therapy, and graston treatments for my foot. He was a critical piece to helping making sure I got to the start line. (Grossman Chiropractic)
  • Treat yourself to monthly sports massages. I saw my massage therapist at least once a month. Sports massages can reduce recovery time, promote flexibility, reduce fatigue, improve
    My girl Natalie! Her hands are magic!

    endurance, help prevent injuries and prepares the body and mind for optimal performance. (Natalie Johnston of Run Fit)

  • Acupuncture can do amazing things! I went every other week to help loosen my glutes, IT band, calves and feet. It was amazing!  (Relief Acupuncture)
  • Find a good bike shop, one that you trust and will be there to help prepare you for race day. Be sure to train on your bike regularly so that you know how it handles and rides. Get used to shifting gears, changing tires, etc… Make sure you have your bike serviced before the race to ensure it’s in working order. (My fave is Halter’s Cycles)

After all the money and time you will put into training, remember that the race is the reward. Go into it with a positive attitude. Embrace each moment and be sure to thank your body for its incredible work & always showing up, and all of the people who have been a part of your journey.  Smile at all you have accomplished and be sure to enjoy every step. You CAN go the distance and in the end when your name is called out with the words YOU ARE AN IRONMAN it will all have been worth it.

 

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Road to Ironman Part 1

Over the next three weeks, I’d like to share my Ironman Story with you. This week, I’ll fill you in on how I got into the world of triathlons and what made me sign up for an Ironman.  Next week, I’ll share what it takes to be an Ironman, and finally my top Ironman moments…. I hope you enjoy!

PART 1: Why Ironman?

For those of you who are new to the sport, an Ironman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon 26.2-mile run, raced in that order and without a break. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. Ironman started in 1978 and since then, has come a very long way.  What started as an idea on the back of a napkin is now calling to thousands.

I had started to learn about Ironman a few years ago when I entered the world of triathlon racing. Having had no experience swimming and limited experience biking,  the Ironman was so far off my radar that I had no idea what it was or even entailed.

It wasn’t until 2015, when I signed up for my first sprint triathlon as a way to not only force myself to learn how to swim, but also, it was something fun and active that my husband and I could do together.  After completing my first race (NJ State sprint- 500m swim, 11.5 mile bike and a 5k run), I vowed never do one again, I hated it so much. I got swam on top of and nearly drowned, I doggie paddled throughout the entire swim (taking over 30 min. to complete 500 meters, which I can swim now in 8 min.), fell off my bike and tore open my knee, and hobbled my way across the finish line. When I crossed the finish line, I cried. Now, these were not tears of joy but rather of pain and frustration. I couldn’t believe people actually enjoyed doing this sport.  

The following year, I watched my husband compete in a few races as I cheered him on, happy to be on the other side of things. Then in 2017, I decided to give triathlons another try. In my yoga classes, I always talk about stepping outside your comfort zone, facing your fears, and never giving up. So after some internal debate, I decided that triathlons weren’t going to get the best of me. I was going to face my fears and prove to myself that I could succeed and get better at this sport. I was prepared to work my butt off until I gained the confidence and skills I needed to complete a successful race.

Now at this point, I had only completed 1 sprint triathlon, but decided to up the ante and register for Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City anyway (figured I’d go big or go home). Now to prepare for a race of this distance, I knew I had a lot of training ahead of me.  With no real direction as to what to do, I downloaded a bunch of 70.3 training plans and made up my own; picking and choosing what I thought was a good fit for my schedule and had enough volume that I felt like I could finish the race.

To start, I joined a masters swim program at a local pool in Princeton, swimming 5 days a week,  rode on my road bike 3 days a week, and ran 4-5 days a week. However, I new this wouldn’t be enough. I was terrified of open water swimming. I went a few times to some local open water swims in my area and did ok, but this didn’t totally help prepare me to swim in a race when your adrenaline is pumping and you have hundreds of people around you… so what did I do? I registered myself for 8 sprint races and 2 olympic distance races that summer, basically racing every weekend). No better way to train yourself how to handle open water racing than to throw yourself right into it. Now the first few races I still panicked, but towards the end of the summer I was actually swimming and placing in my age group!! The races helped me get over my fears and taught me how to remain calm and in control when someone hit, kicked, or swam over me. By the end of the summer, I was feeling so confident in my skills and was proud of how far I had come, that I knew I needed to keep going and to do more. So prior to even completing in AC 70.3, I had decided to sign up for a full Ironman. Always down for a challenge and a way to get better and stronger, I knew I just had to do it. I wanted to see what my body was capable of. In such a short time if I could go from being afraid to put my face in the water to swimming over a mile, I knew I could do anything. Less than 1% of the population complete an Ironman and I wanted to be one of those people.  My husband (and prob the rest of the world) thought I was nuts. I hadn’t even completed a 70.3 race yet, what if I hated it. Why sign up for a full? I said that even if I hated it (which I doubt I would) I would do it anyway because completing an Ironman quickly catapulted to the top of my bucket list

When I have an idea or want something, there is nothing getting in my way, and I wanted to be an Ironman!  After AC 70.3 I was hooked on triathlon racing. I was anxiously awaiting to start training for my next goal, completing Ironman Lake Placid.  I knew I needed some help and expertise to really go the distance and get the most out of my race, rather than piecing a plan together like I did for AC. This was something I didn’t want to wing and I knew it would require hours of work each week for my body to get there.

Training for an Ironman takes lots of time, sacrifice, and dedication.  I had interviewed several coaches before deciding to hire, Chris Draper of dt+n. Immediately when I met him, I knew that he was the right person for the job. Chris is incredibly smart and talented. He’s honest, real, and straight forward. While he can be a hard ass at times, he is also incredibly attentive, supportive, and encouraging.  Chris developed appropriate and well balanced workouts to develop my strength and my skills across all three areas. Training wasn’t always roses and butterflies. It was hard, grewling, time consuming and left you at times beaten up and bruised. Throughout my training, I had been suffering from very bad plantar fasciitis so it was a delicate balance for a while to insure I could help my foot heal, but also continue to develop the endurance I needed for such a long event. And even though it was challenging, I have to say that I loved every minute of it. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and more badass.  

Chris’ smart training helped me to not only be able to get to the start of my race, but across the finish line. There is nothing in this world that compares to 15 hours of non stop physical activity and finally running down the shoot to the finish; where you here your name- Keri Mandell, you are an Ironman!! I think Chris will be stuck with me for a while, because triathlon is something I have grown to love and not seem to want to live without. Who knows what’s next… but I will tell you that it will entail, swimming, biking, and running.

Here’s to chasing your dreams and making the impossible, possible! 

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What to expect from your first hot yoga class…

NEW TO HOT YOGA?

Hot yoga can be incredibly beneficial, whether you’re looking to improve your strength and flexibility or an opportunity to quiet your mind.

To some, hot yoga can be intimidating. The following points will help clarify some of your questions and help you work up the confidence you need to give it a shot.

YOUR BODY WILL ADJUST

The heat of the studio might feel intense at first, but I promise, your body will adjust to it. Know that it can take up to 3 classes for your body to become acclimated. Especially for the first few classes, be sure to be hydrated, breathe, and take breaks as needed. Do your best to stay in the room and allow your body to acclimate to the space appropriately. Though it might be tempting to run out of the heated room, don’t! The sudden change in temperature might be too much. Just know that soon your mind will be so engaged with what’s going on with your body—balance, placement, alignment, etc… that it will forget about the heat.

STAY HYDRATED

Be sure to drink plenty of water prior to class and take water with you into class. Also,  avoid eating an hour before class starts. If you’re hungry ahead of time, have a light snack, like fruit or nuts. You’ll regret indulging in sweets or rich foods prior to class.

DON’T LET SWEAT BRING YOU DOWN

Embrace the sweat and expect a lot of it. Sweat is very cleansing and detoxifying so enjoy it. To help with the sweat, you may want to bring a towel or two with you to class-  one small hand towel to wipe off sweat and a larger towel to lay over your mat. Otherwise, you may find yourself slipping and sliding between poses. Certain mats, such as the lululemon 5mm reversibleare great for hot yoga. They are slip resistant and also have an antimicrobial additive that helps prevent mold and mildew from growing.

BREATHE

If you’ve taken yoga before, you know that your breath should guide your practice. This is especially true for hot yoga. Let your body take the deep inhales and exhales that it needs, especially during the more challenging poses, this will help cool you down and keep you calm and relaxed.  Avoid holding your breath or taking short, shallow breaths which will escalate your heart rate or make you feel dizzy or lightheaded.

STAY INWARD

Hot yoga is incredible. Go in with an open mind and get ready to have fun. Know that as in all yoga classes, everyone is at a different level so don’t compare yourself to the person next to you. Check your ego at the door and don’t become discouraged if you can’t take the same variation of a pose as your neighbor, find what feels right for you. Your first few hot yoga classes are about getting used to the temperature, the poses, and the environment. If things become too intense it’s ok to take a child’s pose. Listen to your body.

DON’T OVERTHINK, JUST DO

Things may feel hard, challenging, or just downright impossible, but know that you are capable of more than you think. Attempting challenging poses can be fun and with time, patience, and practice can be very attainable.  Change the script in your mind from one of “I can’t” to “I can”. Just allow the teacher to guide you and move through each pose with confidence and strength!

KEEP PRACTICING

You did it! You might feel a little shaky after your first class, but you’ll also feel cleansed, empowered, and strong. It’s a feeling like no other. After class, remember that hydration is essential, to replace the fluids you lost through sweating in class. Get ready for your next class- sign up online and perhaps even consider trying another instructor. Practicing yoga 2-3 times week can be essential in helping your overall physical and mental health.  The more frequently you practice the sooner you’ll see results-  such as better range of motion and flexibility, strength, reduction in stress, and better posture to name a few.

NAMASTE!

 

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10 Things to Consider When Joining a Yoga Studio

If you’re looking to increase your physical fitness and overall health, then yoga is right for you. Yoga is a great way to help with stress relief, increases flexibility, balance, and build both physical and mental strength.

In a culture where we rush from one day to the next, constantly trying to change our health, our body, or our emotions, or to plan our future, yoga opens up the possibility of connecting to what we already have and to who we already are. So why not give it a try?

No time like the present to add yoga into your workout regimen.

When choosing a yoga studio that is right for you, here are some things that you should consider.

1. Where is the studio located?  Choose a studio that is convenient to where you live. If it’s too far, the likelihood of you committing to a regular practice is decreased.

2. What type of yoga is it? There are many different types of yoga, so you may have to try a few types before deciding what feels right to you.  If you are looking for a more athletic based practice, going to a studio that offers power or vinyasa flow classes is great. Looking for something more restorative, consider a yin class.

3. What are the class offerings & times? Does the studio offer a variety of classes to try- i.e. Power, Restorative, Heated. What are the lengths of the classes? 60 min., 75 min., or 90 min.? Are the classes held at times that can accommodate your needs? Are there early am classes? Mid day? Night classes? Do they offer classes for beginners?

4. Do you have to sign up for classes in advance? Each studio can only accommodate a certain number of students. Classes held at prime times  (I.e. evenings and weekend mornings) can become crowded and even sell out, so knowing in advance in important so you can sign up and reserve your spot.

5. What is the studio’s core values? Are the core values listed and followed? Do you have similar values? You want to find an environment that is authentic and truly believes in and lives by their mission and values. Find a place whose values resonates with your own.

6. Are the teachers Yoga Alliance certified? Yoga Alliance provides the minimum standard for which a Yoga Alliance registered yoga teacher training must meet. The Yoga Alliance outlines a minimum number of hours to be spent on each topic: philosophy, anatomy, practicum, methodology, etc. You want an instructor who is Yoga Alliance certified and is well trained and versed in what they are teaching.

7. Where is the teacher in the room? When taking a class, is the teacher in the front doing the class with you or walking around ensuring that everyone is safe and using proper form and alignment?  Remember, the yoga class is about YOU, your experience and your safety. The teacher should be monitoring the class and not teaching from his/her mat.

8. Do the teachers offer variations? You need someone who is going to help you modify a pose (especially if you’re newer or injured) as well as help you enhance a pose (if you are  more of an advanced practitioners or looking to advance your practice). Either way, having options is always a good thing. Everyday is different. How a pose feels may be different so listen to your body and take what you need.

9. Is the studio clean? If they don’t properly care for the facility or aren’t mindfult to what has to be done, than how will they properly care for you?

10. Is the studio fun? Most importantly, if you aren’t enjoying yourself or having fun, why bother. Find a place that you can connect with. People who you enjoy being around and a community that will support you and your practice.

Namaste 

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Yoga For Endurance Athletes

Yoga can be a very effective tool to help endurance athletes make huge performance and recovery gains by adding yoga to their training.

One of the best forms of yoga for athletes is vinyasa yoga. Vinyasa yoga is a type of moving meditation that links movement (asana) and breath (pranayama). Through breathwork alone, taught in a yoga class, athletes can begin to increase their cardiovascular and physical endurance, help them lower their heart rate, decrease anxiety, create more mental alertness, and even better proprioceptive balance.

When most people think about yoga, they think about a bunch of boring stretches. However, yoga is more than that and can be very fun.

Endurance athletes, such as triathletes, should consider adding yoga to their weekly training schedule.  Yoga is a great way to help triathletes prevent injuries to settling pre-race jitters. Yoga can help you achieve a sense of balance, allow you to become more intune with your body, increase flexibility, balance, strength, prevent injuries, as well as help with mental toughness.

HERE’S HOW:

Flexibility:

Flexibility is a big part of yoga because practicing the different postures will help to stretch tight muscles and encourage use of your full range of motion. Tight muscles are more prone to acute injury, (i.e. muscle strains and tears), so loosening up those tight spots will help prevent such injuries.

Beyond physical flexibility, yoga also helps increase flexibility of the mind. The poses, breath exercises, and meditation practices all encourage focus on the present moment which is a great benefit during a race.

Strength:

Yoga helps create whole-body functional strength and encourages greater awareness of the body and the breath.

Yoga helps promote joint stability and trains the muscles and tendons to stabilize the joints, which will help greater power and fluidity in sports.

Yoga also increase core strength, not just in poses that specifically target the core, but also in standing and balancing poses.

Holding challenging poses also teaches mental strength. On the mat, you will observe your mental and emotional reactions to your physical situation and learn ways to manage intensity. When you encounter similarly intense situations on race day or in life, you’ll have experience with using your breath and your form to find strength.

Balance:

Yoga helps with balance of the body and the mind. There are many balancing poses that help strengthen your body, but also make you more aware of your body’s center of gravity and how to move as a unit. Yoga helps you move through different planes and through dimensional balance, rather than just in a linear pattern. Yoga also teaches you to find stillness, quiet your mind, and be more present. This can help build the mental strength athletes need to reach their goals.

Injury Prevention:

A regular and well-rounded yoga practice will help bring the body into symmetrical alignment, correcting flexibility and strength imbalances in the soft tissues. Yoga poses also facilitate a self-awareness that can help you notice your own skeletal misalignments.

Yoga can do wonders in addressing underlying unbalances and instabilities that lead to overuse injuries. When we train a lot, our body become stressed and this can over take the sympathetic nervous system (which prepares you for fight or flight) and the adrenal glands. Instead, yoga can help you engage the parasympathetic nervous system (which allows you to relax and save energy) and restore balance to the body. This in turn will help you to sleep better & recover faster.

Mental Training:

Yoga teaches you to remain calm and breathe in intense situations/poses i.e. heart opening or hip opening poses. It helps you to bring your awareness to your form and your breath to make the situation manageable. This skill is invaluable when you encounter a similar intensity in training. Yoga will help teach you to cope and manage difficult tasks.

What are you waiting for?

With a small commitment to yoga, you can increase your flexibility, strength, focus and, most importantly your balance. There are many ways in which creating balance in your every day, as well as in your training, can help you as an athlete.

Ready to take a class?

Visit Empower Yoga!

Empower yoga is hot vinyasa style studio. During our vigorous flow, students will move with breath and begin to build muscle tone, core strength, and increase their endurance. It is very strengthening and detoxifying. Each class is set to inspiring, fun, and upbeat playlist. You’ll leave feeling stronger, empowered, and renewed.  We make all of our classes challenging, fun and accessible!

 

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Transformation

This idea of transformations has been on my mind over the last week.

Each day we make changes and transformations both big and small. We learn, we grow, and we discover more about who we are. We are never still or stagnant. We are always moving, breathing and therefore changing.

In the past year, my life has changed dramatically. Through it all, I have changed. I have transformed. Some of these changes I wanted for myself, but some changes were forced upon me and out of my control. Regardless of the whether the changes are in our control or out, we need to continue to move forward and learn from the experiences that change us.

Probably the biggest change I went through this past year was out of my control, losing my dad. Learning how to live without him was incredibly challenging, but over time, I have adapted to the change. I will always be his daughter, but now I am also a person who lost a parent. I had to learn how to deal with his death, and rather than feel despair, I needed to find hope and strength.

Something that is in my control is that I have started to train for an Ironman which is both mentally and physically challenging. Through the training process I am stronger than before and in the best shape of my life. I have also had to learn how to balance running my yoga studio while being able to complete the high volume training.

“Transformation is a process, and as life happens there are tons of ups and downs. It’s a journey of discovery- there are moments of mountaintops and moments of deep valleys of despair.”- Rick Warren

Even though change can be hard, we need to remember to take the good with the bad because sometimes while transformations aren’t easy, once we complete them we come out stronger on the other side. So don’t be afraid or back down, move forward excited to see the person you are becoming. Open your arms to all that the universe has to offer and trust that’s it’s got your back.

If you’re ever unsure or start to second guess if you’re on the right path, start to look for clues. The universe is always talking to you, but you have to be awake to listen and receive the messages it is sending.

I have been reminded of this over the last few days- there has been a black crow that keeps visiting the studio. I am convinced that it’s my dad coming to deliver me a message, so I started to do a little research about what black crows represent and this is what I found…

Crows are messengers from beyond. They often come to reassure us that we are on the right path.  If you see a crow, it’s because it understands that you’re going through a huge transformation and questions if you are stopping your personal abundance due to fear and anxiety. The crow has magic that can help aide you in your quest. The crows medicine is a reminder that you are on the verge of manifesting whatever it is you have been creating in your mind. Allow your positive thoughts to guide you.

Crows are tenacious and never give up, so transform and shift into your confident self.

Crows are a reminder that magic is all around us and maybe those who have passed are not too far.  

Tap into the magic of the crow today and get ready to transform and to awaken, discovering your most powerful self.  

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Belize in Yourself!

One of my goals for my first year of opening Empower Yoga was to lead a Fitness Retreat. There is nothing that makes me feel more alive than working out & traveling. My husband and I travel often and one of our favorite things to do is to explore different CrossFit boxes and yoga studios while we are away. As a result, we decided to plan a Fitness Retreat and invited some like minded and adventure seeking people along for the ride. We always wanted to go to San Pedro, Belize and we felt this would be a perfect spot to host our first retreat!!

We stayed at Sun Breeze right near the heart of the town. What a perfect spot. It was close to town and all of the restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. However, once inside the walls of the hotel it was like a hidden oasis, it was very peaceful and quiet. It was  the perfect vibe for our trip. I would definitely recommend this hotel if you’re looking to visit San Pedro. We actually learned about this spot from our friend Tauni of Lean Power Yoga. She had visited Belize and was incredibly helpful with the planning and organizing of the trip since she knew about the country and all it’s hot spots!

Being home for almost a week now, I am still on a high. I am still processing the magic of those days and it’s been hard to put it into words. The trip really surpassed my expectations. It was an incredible week filled with lots of fitness, friendships, food and fun!!

The yoga was incredible. I got to teach in a beautiful outdoor setting overlooking the ocean. The ambiance was just perfect. It was so lovely and every class offered something different from the previous one giving the yoga aspect excitement and diversity.

The CrossFit was a challenge. CrossFit Wolf hosted us for the week. It was an awesome facility with expert coaches and workouts that were lots of fun and pushed your limits!

The food was fresh and down-right tasty too. We didn’t have a single bad meal- from salads to fish tacos to the tamali street food. Oh and the coffee… nothing better than early morning coffee talk before we started our day or our after workout iced coffee that was so delicious and refreshing!

The folks that joined were so perfect too. Everyone got along well and became fast friends by the time the week was over. The rich conversation, laughter and authenticity made being around each other refreshing and energizing. I’m so honored that my circle of friends grew from this.

Honestly, thinking back, I couldn’t think of a more perfect getaway. I feel so incredibly thankful for all the people who attended. I am confident our experience in Belize just would not have been the same without each of them! Traveling can be hard, but stepping outside your comfort zone and joining other folks you don’t know on an international adventure, even more so. However, this group jumped right in from the moment they arrived and held nothing back. Everyone worked hard, supported each other & challenged their limits. Looking back over the pictures and reliving these moments makes me smile and feel so happy. I cannot wait to do it again!

Check out our itinerary from the trip:
Honestly, there was a great deal of fear involved with planning and hosting my first retreat, because the thought looming in the back of my mind was: What if no one signs up or what if they don’t have a good time?

It’s scary to put yourself out there, but believing in yourself or “Belizing in Yourself”( which was the theme of our trip) is important  we decided to go for it. The Universe definitely had my back because not only did people start signing up, they were a fun, easy going, and incredibly kind group of individuals. I knew that no matter what, we would have a good time, and we did!!

Monday-
My husband, Dan and I flew down a day early to get our bearings and prepare for our guests. To get there we took three planes, I know it sounds like a lot but it really wasn’t bad. We left from Newark, flew to Fort Lauderdale and then Belize City. From Belize City we opted to fly Mayan Air to San Pedro instead of the water taxi. Now, at first I was a little scared about being on the small plane where you actually had to crawl to your seat, but once we were in the air, I really loved it. The views were breathtaking. I was so happy I had the opportunity to see Belize form the air. Once we landed, we headed to the hotel to check-in.  After, we walked around searching for hot spots and sampling some local cuisine, we rented a golf cart so that could be our mode of transportation around the island for the week. We also visited crossfit and our yoga spot. We tried to make sure we were well prepared to show our guests around and answer any questions they had upon their arrival.

Tuesday-
Our guests arrived that afternoon between 1:30-3:30pm. This gave them an opportunity to check-in, recieve their welcome bag, go to their room to unpack and lounge a little before yoga and our welcome dinner that evening. Yoga took place from 4:30-6:00pm , which included a nice 30 min. meditation and our Welcome Dinner was at 7:30pm at the Blue Water Grill!

That first night, we made it clear to everyone that it was their vacation. Yes, we had a schedule, but absolutely everything on that schedule was optional and they were free to do what they wanted.

Wednesday-
We were a group of early risers. Each morning we met outside around 6-6:15am for coffee. We got to chat, see the sun rise, and look out on the beautiful ocean. Around 7am we left for Crossfit. After CrossFit we found a delicious coffee spot (which we visited each day following) called The Baker. It was the best iced coffee I have ever had. The ice cubes were even made of coffee which was an awesome touch. Afterward, we returned to the hotel for breakfast before spending the day relaxing by the pool and walking around the city. We ended the day with a yoga class and meditation before dinner at El Fogon.

Thursday-
Thursday was similar to Wednesday, coffee at 6am, CrossFit at 7:30, coffee from The Baker, and breakfast at the hotel. In the afternoon we visited Science and Soul Wellness Center for SUP yoga. This was a beautiful facility with a beautiful beach. They just opened this past December and I am super excited for them. It is worth checking out!! That night we ate at Romand’s restaurant, Pineapple on the Beach. It was delicious. A must try especially if you love pineapple as much as I do.

Friday-
Friday was a lot of fun. We started the day with yoga on the beach, to stretch out and warm-up before our Crossfit beach workout. It sure was sandy, but a lot of fun. Afterwards we went for coffee of course and had breakfast. If having breakfast in Belize, I highly recommend the fry jacks, they are incredibly tasty!! After breakfast we lounged before heading to the reef and shark alley to snorkel. For dinner that evening we went to Rain and watched the sunset. This by far had the best view and ambience.

Saturday-
Coffee, yoga, and CrossFit to start this day before heading to Secret Beach for the afternoon. Secret Beach was on the other side of San Pedro, so it was a little bit of a hike to get to. The beach was beautiful but the scene was not really for us. There were lots of bars and loud music. We hung out for a little bit and had a taco snack but then left to head back to resort to lounge and relax before our farewell dinner at Blue Water Grill that evening.

Sunday-
On sunday, because everyone was leaving early, we didn’t work out. We gave people the opportunity to sleep in or pack before our coffee talk and breakfast. Then everyone departed. I am glad that everyone arrived back to the states safely and in high spirits, having loved the trip and talking about the next one.

Hosting this retreat was one of the best experiences of my life. I feel full, energized, rested and ready to plan the next one so I can connect with more individuals who are looking for adventure. Thinking about Mexico or Nicaragua for our next trip 😉 Stay tuned!!

For more pics from our retreat, please visit Empower Yoga’s FB page

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