All posts by yogaswole

Stop Skipping Savasana!

For most people, Savasana is the easiest pose to get into, but the hardest pose to stay in. As a result some people bolt out of class early and skip it all together. But, Savasan is honestly, the best part of class. It’s the reward for all your hard work.

Why is Savasana so hard?

Savasana means total relaxation. It is a chance for your body to absorb your practice. It’s a way to rejuvenate your body and mind. Most people find Savasana so difficult because they have a hard time lying still, closing their eyes, and quitting their minds.  So instead of trying to relax into the pose, they avoid it.

Here are some tips to help you in Savasana.

How To Do Savasana Properly:

  1. Spread the legs one to two feet apart, the toes are turned outwards, the heels facing each other, a comfortable distance apart.
  2. Bring the arms a little away from the body, palms turned upward.
  3. Relax the whole body. Letting go of any tension you may be holding onto.
  4. Close the eyes and focus the attention on the body, breathing normally.
  5. Bring your attention slowly to each body part and try to relax them one at a time.

5 Tips For A Successful Savasana

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Allow your body to melt into the mat.
  3. Keep the mind focused on relaxing. As thoughts come to your minds eye, acknowledge them, but then let them go.  
  4. Avoid moving the body, as even the slightest movement will use many muscles and increase the nerve impulses.
  5. Practice, practice, practice. It’s not easy, but it’s totally worth it. Don’t give up.

Why you should Savasana

Here are some benefits:

  • Improved self-confidence.
  • Improved concentration.
  • Increased energy levels and in general productivity.
  • Improvement in concentration and in memory.
  • Relaxes your whole body.
  • Releases stress, fatigue, depression and tension.
  • Helps insomnia.
  • Decreased fatigue, coupled with deeper and sounder sleep.
  • Calms the mind and improves mental health, i.e anxiety
  • Stimulates blood circulation.

So I challenge you, next time you feel like skipping Savasana, dont… no matter how busy you may be. Indulge yourself in those 5 or so minutes at the end of your practice and you will reap the benefits, I promise you.

 

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Why You Need Yoga in Your Life- Especially When You’re Crazy Busy!

If you’ve ever said the words “there aren’t enough hours in the day,” you’re not alone. While there’s no doubt that most of us have our plates full with work, family, friends, etc… studies show that we’re not quite as busy as we think we are.

Life is about priorities and making time for the things you want and need. It’s important to take care of yourself. You can’t pour from an empty cup, so it’s critical to take care of YOU. To do all the things you need to do and to do them well, you need to stop, breathe and give yourself a break.  So if you’ve been wanting to try yoga for a while, but you just can’t seem to find the time, think again. Now is your chance to stop what you’re doing and discover all of yoga’s amazing benefits so you can start to feel better. When we feel good, our lives feel much more manageable.

Here are a few ways yoga can help:

Yoga is a great way to work the body.

Yoga helps increase flexibility, improves muscle tone and strength, and helps develop better posture.  It’ll make you feel strong, empowered and renewed. Perhaps giving you a sense of confidence that wasn’t there before.

Yoga helps you stay present.

Life seems to be filled with those never-ending to-do lists. We quickly move form one thing to the next, which makes it hard for us to be present in any given moment. Well yoga can help that. Yoga takes you into the present moment, the only place where life exists. Spending a few minutes on your mat will help you stay in the moment and teach you to be more present in the flow of life.

Yoga helps you stay grounded and balanced.

When you’re spending more than 8 hours a day at the office, staying grounded is tough. It can seem like your entire life is and endless cycle of work, eat, & sleep. Yoga can help bring more balance into your life and remind you about what’s important. There is more to life than just working! Take time to feel centered and enjoy what’s happening around you.

Yoga helps you destress.

Yoga helps decrease the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Yoga provides a nurturing space and quiet time to stop for a moment, relax and reflect upon our daily routine and priorities.  Stress is a part of our human nature, but we can go to yoga to balance it out. With yoga, you can begin to tap into that constant source of inner happiness so you can spend less time being bogged down and more time doing the things you love.

Yoga helps you sleep better.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, stress is highly correlated with sleep problems, and lack of sleep makes you more stressed out. So if your lifestyle is making it difficult for you to sleep, maybe yoga can help. With more sleep you’ll be more rested and ready for the day!

Yoga creates harmony between you and the world around you.

A regular yoga practice centres you and keeps you balanced. What yoga can teach you is to let go of things that no longer serve you. Being present and being ok with it, no matter what the particular moment reveals. It gives you confidence and realisation that you can actually achieve more than you think but without aggravation, unnecessary struggle and stress.

Here’s to living a more balanced life.

Namaste!

 

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Thank You Facebook!

There’s a new trend floating around Facebook being referred to as- Then and Now,  The 10 Year Challenge, Aging Challenge, or Puberty Challenge. The premise is simple- users upload their first Facebook profile picture and their most recent one side-by-side to see how much they have changed and what type of transformation has occurred over the years.  

Some people have had issues with this challenge and were upset that the focus appeared to be primarily about one’s looks.   However, I took it as an opportunity to reflect on my life and how far I’ve come over the last ten years, as well as how FB has helped to change my life and grow my business.  

Facebook launched in 2004. When FB first started I was not a huge fan. I had no desire or interest in it and to be quite honest didn’t really believe it would be around as long as it has. In fact, I didnt even create an account until 2008, almost 4 years later.  

Now, I have to say that FB and social media has become a big part of my life- both personally and professionally.  

The rise of social media and networking has made it faster and easier to access information around the world and communicate with one another.  Whether through a simple tweet, post on Instagram or a status update on Facebook, we can instantly be made aware of different issues around the world.

For many, especially business owners, social media has moved from a “nice to have” to a “must have”.

FB in particular is a great tool to help you communicate and connect with friends, share your story or opinion and as a business, connect and engage with customers, provide great customer service by responding to customers in real time, and a great tool to help hire new employees.  

I have no doubt social media is changing and will continue to change our society. This change is permanent and upcoming generations won’t even know a world where social media does not exist.  While social media has its advantages and disadvantages (like everything else) it’s up to the user to decide how he/she will use it.

Just like with the challenge- is it about looks or an opportunity to see how far you’ve come and share your dreams and goals for the future?

I am grateful to have FB and particularly like looking through my memories and photos. Gone are the bulky photo albums from my past to digital albums online.  What a great way to document one’s life and legacy.

For the Then to Now Challenge- I uploaded my two photos and what I see is a girl who was more fearful to try new things, content with the status quo, stuck in a job she didn’t like, and not very athletic… to a woman who doesn’t back down, quit her job to pursue her dreams and open her own business, competed in several athletic events (even a full Ironman in July 2018), and tries to live each day to the fullest without any regrets.   

Thank you FB for giving me this opportunity to reflect, for storing and saving my photos and memories, and for helping me to stay connected to those around me.

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Birthday Reflection!

Today is my birthday. Believe it or not, I am 37 years old!!!

Sometimes I stop and wonder how I got to be this age and where the time has gone. I remember when I was a kid and thought that people in their 30’s were old and over the hill… lol

Now it’s dawned on me that I am in my late 30s. But I am much too young to be 37, right? I mean I don’t feel 37.  But what does feeling 37 really mean? I have no idea. All I know is that I feel better now than I did in my twenties. I am fitter, healthier, and so much happier in my personal and professional life. I feel positive about life and excited to see all that my future holds!

I can say that my thirties have proven to be, so far, the most fulfilling, enriching, meaningful and life-enhancing decade of my life. Not only have I found more peace and love within and for myself, but I also found the courage to change careers, open a business and make fitness my full time gig. I started running, swimming, and completing in numerous endurance events around the world, traveling to over 10 countries. I’ve started on this brand new and exciting journey that has completely rejuvenated me and I could not feel more proud, excited, and grateful. I think that I have found my calling and purpose in life, and have to say that when you find it, magical things happen.

I know that I am a very lucky lady and feel truly blessed. I wake up every day and thank god for my life. And as I take a moment to reflect on the last 37 years here are some words of advice that I have to offer.

A few words of wisdom from this 37 year old- (in no particular order)

1. Stop wasting or wishing your life away. It’s time to stop existing and start living!

  • Hate your job? Find a new one.
  • Want to run a marathon? Do it!
  • Want to visit another country? Charge it and go.

You’re not getting any younger and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so live today.

2. Stop getting in your own way! You are the only one stopping you from living the life you want and the life you have imagined. Things may get tough and when it does, you can give up or you can continue to preserve and follow our dreams.  It is up to YOU!

3. Don’t work too hard. There is more to life than your job. Spend time with family and friends, take time to travel and explore, just be present and live in the moment.

4. Let go of negativity- people, things, whatever it may be. Don’t allow others to bring you down or hold you back. Surround yourself with people who encourage you, support you, and inspire you.

5. Try something new. Ten years ago, I never thought I had a runner’s body and I was deathly afraid of the water, but now I run marathons and compete in triathlons. I’ve realized that I am capable of so much more than I gave myself credit for. So try something new, step outside your comfort zone, you may surprise yourself.

6. Take time for you every day. Go for a walk, run, yoga class, read… whatever it may be, remember to care for yourself and do things that fill your cup.

7. Love yourself and be kind to yourself. Stop with the negativity and putting yourself down. Stop hating yourself for everything you aren’t and start loving yourself for everything you are. You are special and have many things to offer this world. Believe in you!

8. Pain is temporary. Stop allowing yourself to be hindered by it.  When you hit rock bottom, you feel like you are never going to be able to crawl out from that hole… but that’s not true.  Bad things may happen but you cannot let them define you or have a lasting impact on your life. Learn from the pain you endure, but then let it go.

9. Karma is real. I’ve seen it happen personally and for friends. If you give more, you’ll get more. The energy you put out is what you get back, so be good & do good.

10. Gratitude is the key to happiness. It’s powerful and it works! Always be grateful for what you have; no matter how bad things seem, there’s always someone who has it worse. “Gratitude is an attitude!”

 

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Manifest Your Best Life!

We are always manifesting!

We are powerful manifesting beings, but since we have 50,000-70,000 unconscious thoughts per day, of which about 80% are negative, we’re not always manifesting the best things into our lives.

We need to remember that each thought we have, creates an energy flow within and around us. This energy attracts similar energy. So if you’re thinking, “I suck,” then your energy kinda sucks, and you’ll attract sucky experiences.

The opposite is true when you think positive thoughts like, “I rock” you exude an energy of confidence and therefore will attract greater experiences into your life. Each thought you have informs your energy and your energy manifests into your experiences . . . Your thoughts and energy create your reality.

Law of Attraction is the belief that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, people can bring or manifest positive or negative experiences into their life. The law of attraction is not a magic wand, but with positive thinking, we can shift our feeling state to attract more of what we want.  Because our brains store negative experiences, we have to consciously and regularly build the positive mental muscle. We all have layers and layers of limiting beliefs and fears that block our ability to think more positively, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. It won’t happen overnight, but in time, we can shift our mindset from one of negative, to more positive.   

In order to become a master at manifesting with the law of attraction, we have to begin to rewire our brains and start replacing negative thought patterns with more positive, empowering patterns.

As we head into the New Year, this is a perfect opportunity to begin the rewiring process.  Begin to think about what it is you want to manifest into your life and start to take the steps below in order to help make it happen.

Start today, clearing all that blocks you from believing in your greatness.

Ways to Manifest Your Desires

By implementing these daily positive practices into your lives, you will start  to shift and raise your energetic vibration that will produce good experiences and results!

Notice your thoughts and clear space in your mind.

Begin by paying attention to what you focus on and observing your thoughts. Do you pay attention to what’s going right, or what’s going wrong? When you’re working on manifesting your dreams, obstacles and challenges will arise, but when you focus on what’s right, you increase your energetic vibration. Clear away any negative beliefs you have, these get in the way of your happiness and prevent you from believing in your greatness. Know that the universe shows up for you in many ways- if you lose your job or end a bad relationship, while these things may seem tough at first, there are lessons to be learned and new and better opportunities that await you.  

Write down your goals and connect to your “why.”

Write down your goals or create a vision board. Doing so will not only help you get clear, but will help you create positive steps towards your dreams. Connecting to your “why” means connecting to the feeling that achieving the goal will give you. When we connect to the “why,” we raise our vibration and become magnets for attracting the people, circumstances, etc. that will help us achieve our goal.

Visualize what it will look like when you achieve your dreams.

Hang your vision board in a place you can see it every day and/or read your written goals first thing in the morning and before going to bed at night; then take a few minutes each day  to visualize and connect with the feeling of achieving your dreams. Get it into your subconscious mind! The more you feel the feeling of what you desire, the more you believe it is on the way.

Chill- the Universe has your back!

In order to manifest your desires into form, you gotta chill out! Stop waiting around with anxiety for your dream to happen and know what you desire is on the way. Trust that the Universe has a plan for you. You can’t always control the timing of when things come- so stay calm, relaxed, and remember that the Universe has your back! In time, what you desire will come through fruition.

Stay committed to happiness.

Trust that you’re exactly where you need to be. If life starts to feel chaotic or just plain overwhelming, sometimes you just need to surrender and learn to trust that things will work out. When one door closes, another door opens.

Practice breathing.

Practice breathing from the belly, not the chest. This type of breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps produce a sense of relaxation and contentment which allows us to be calm and clear.

Move your body.

Negative emotions get stuck and stored in our bodies on a cellular level. Moving is one way to release stress and negative energy. Perhaps practice yoga, go for a walk, dance, etc… Just work on releasing that stuck energy and clearing space for what the Universe has in store for you.

Keep a gratitude journal.

Gratitude is one of the simplest ways to raise our vibration. When we recognize our great fortune and appreciate all our blessings, it automatically puts us in a “feel-good” energetic vibration.

 

Stay committed to the goal of feeling good first and attracting good stuff second. Continue to remind yourself that when you feel good you will energetically attract goodness into your life.  Be patient and stay strong. Trust that what you desire is on the way!

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Do Hard Things

You have to do hard things to be happy in life. And doing the hard things is a skill to be honed.  At the basic level, it’s the ability to overcome distractions and get the right things done, even if you don’t want to in that moment.  Doing hard things is a sacrifice and one that may not offer immediate satisfaction. However, you need to trust that those hard things are going to help get you where you want to be.  And in order to excel, live your dreams and be your best, you need to do the things no one else is willing to do. The things others can’t do for you. The things that make you question how much longer you can hold on and push forward. That’s when you know you’re on the right path. If your dreams don’t frighten, they arent big enough.  

When I wanted to open a yoga studio, everyone thought I was crazy. They asked, how are you going to pull that off? Do you have enough money? Why leave a good and stable job in education, a pension? But I didn’t care what other people said, I new what was right for me and trusted that the Universe had my back.  

Was opening a business easy? Absolutely not. Was it scary at times? Definitely. It’s hard to quit a job and move forward into the unknown. I spent 2 years in limbo wondering what the hell had I done. However, I was able to figure it out, because if there is a will there’s a way. Things weren’t and still aren’t perfect, I have challenges like anyone else, but I embrace each challenge in stride and continue on my path, unwilling to give up or back down. The hard things are what lead you to where you are meant to be, you just have to be willing to take the risk, have patience, and faith that it will all work out.

Those hard things in life are what define us.  Taking the risk and doing hard things is the difference between existing and living… between knowing our path and walking our path. It’s the difference between an average life and the living the life of our dreams, filled with success and happiness.

Most people avoid the hard things, they procrastinate, make excuses or pretend like they somehow don’t apply to their life or situation. However, the truth is that ordinary people can achieve immense success and happiness if they are willing to step out of their comfort zones and do the hard things that others don’t have the courage, drive or determination to do.

I dare you to stop sitting back and watching your life happen and take control.  Start doing those hard things TODAY. I guarantee, you will be amazed at how strong and remarkable you really are and just how amazing your life can be.

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Happy Planksgiving!

For the month of November, Empower Yoga students and friends have been participating in a Planksgiving Challenge. It is 30 days of giving thanks and planks.  No prizes are awarded, it’s more about having fun, creating community, challenging ourselves and of course giving thanks! Each day our plank holds get a little bit longer. We started with a 20 second plank and are working our way to a 3 minute hold on November 30th.

Planksgiving is one of my favorite holidays! Planking is not only a really great way to activate and strengthen your core, but a great way to work your whole body!

Are you ready to jump into our #Planksgiving Challenge? Don’t worry if you find it too difficult to hold, you can plank as long as you can and break it up into smaller parts. Try to hold a few more seconds each day! Remember to stay aware of your form- it’s quality, not quantity that counts. Challenge yourself, but not to the point of injury.

Why you should be thankful for the plank:

  • No equipment needed
  • Improves your posture
  • Promotes a flat belly
  • Works more than just your core
  • Reduces back pain
  • Burns calories
  • Builds strength
  • You can do them anywhere

How to safely do a plank:

  • Start out lying on your stomach with your hands flat on the floor, directly below your shoulders
  • Have your legs out straight and toes curled under
  • Press your hands into the floor, squeeze your core, and come up into a straight arm plank position
  • Don’t allow your hips to sag or your butt to come up
  • Think about squeezing your core and drawing your belly button in towards your spine, and pressing your hands into the floor the entire time
  • Try to keep your head and neck in line with the rest of your spine
  • You can do most of these on your forearms, too, just place your elbows directly underneath your shoulders!

Click for 35 fun plank variations!

Happy Planking 😉

 

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5 REASONS TO GO ON A YOGA RETREAT!

Ever wondered whether a yoga retreat is for you? Often thought about it, but never found the time/money?

Here are 5 reasons I think you should make sure that this year is finally the year you go on that long dreamed about retreat.

1. TIME OUT FOR YOURSELF:

There is a huge difference between going on a vacation and going on retreat.

Going on a retreat allows you to take a step back, focus inward, and give yourself a time out so you can rest and rejuvenate.

Vacations are often centered around families and can be busy, with little time to relax and rejuvenate. Often times vacations aren’t centered around what YOU may want to because you have to make compromises to ensure everyone is happy.

Retreats can help encourage you to leave the outside world behind, step away from all the stressors in your life and leave behind drains on your time and energy, so you can focus on yourself and what you need. The nice thing is that on a retreat, you can always participate in as much or as little as you want. You make the rules.
At the very least, a retreat will give you a break from your day-to-day life and will hopefully leave you refreshed, renewed, empowered, and inspired.

2. DEEPEN YOUR PRACTICE:

A retreat can help take your yoga practice to the next level. Maybe you’ve been practicing yoga for a while now, experienced its amazing benefits first hand, and are looking for more. Or maybe you’re new and wanted to better understand what it’s all about and experience its positive effect on your mind and body first hand.

Whatever the reasons, retreats can help you to further increase your strength, flexibility, and your awareness of your own practice.

The main gift a retreat gives is that it takes you out of your comfort zone. Most of us are creatures of habit.  We like routine. We like our regular teachers, we like to practice with certain friends, and we have our certain spots. Well on a retreat, it’s completely new.  You get to meet new people, maybe try a new teacher or type of yoga, and get to explore and appreciate new surroundings. It’s the perfect time to explore your boundaries, change things up, and step outside your comfort zone.

3. MEET LIKE MINDED PEOPLE:

You get to hang out with like minded people who enjoy the same things as you.  Most people are often nervous to travel alone or even with people they don’t know, but on a retreat you don’t have to be.  The nice thing is, is that you already share a common interest. You spend time together, bond over the yoga, other activities, & shared meals, and by the end of the week, inhibitions fall away and strangers become lifelong friends.

4. LEARN SOMETHING NEW:

Take your yoga off the mat and into the world.  Try new things (activities or food), learn a new skill.  Learn how to swim, surf, dive, paddle, whatever it may be…  Expand your mind. Step outside your comfort zone and begin to discover how strong you truly are and what you are capable of. Take your new interests and carry them back home with you.

5. DETOX YOUR LIFE:

Looking to cleanse your mind, body and soul? Retreats are designed to help you feel good.

MIND:

Clear your mind- turn off your electronics and unplug.

Take in the beautiful scenery and be present.

Practice yoga

Meditate

BODY:

Workout and sweat. Get rid of all the toxins.

Enjoy the delicious food- fuel your body with foods that will help nourish and cleanse you from the inside out.

Get a massage and pamper yourself.

SOUL:

Meditate

Practice yoga.

Sit in silence.

Reconnect with your inner self. Speak to your soul and allow it to help find the answer you seek.

READY TO SIGN UP?

Rather than make excuses as to why you shouldn’t go, spend the money, take time off, etc…. Decide that you are worth it. YOU, more than anyone else deserves to be taken care of. Remember that we need to continue to fill our own cups.  If you aren’t happy, healthy, and inspired, you can’t help others, because you can’t fill from an empty cup. By doing this for yourself, you actually get to give back to all those around you too.

YOU deserve to invest in yourself.

BONUS:

My Mexico Retreat is coming up this June!!

That’s right. I’d love for you to join me for my 5 night Yoga & Fitness Retreat in Tulum, Mexico.

This retreat is all about moving and manifesting. With daily workouts & yoga for all levels, sound meditation, clay ceremony, goal-setting, cultural excursions, delicious meals and plenty of time to relax, this retreat will be a dream come true.

To learn more and to apply, visit our website. We’d love to have you!

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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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