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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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Change is in the Air

Have you noticed that constant change is the one sure thing in life? Yet, so many of us fear and resist change. Have you ever wondered why we are so afraid of change? What can we do to embrace it?

Just as the seasons change and the leaves change color, every cell in our bodies change.  We grow up, grow old, grow apart… Change is all around us. So why haven’t we gotten used to it by now.

Spring is a reminder of change- it’s about rebirth, renewal, and regrowth. Since change is inevitable, why not take the opportunity to embrace it.  Maybe if we can better understand that, than we can accept changes more easily as they take place.

I’ll be the first to admit that change is hard for me. I am very type A. I like plans, routines, consistency… so when changes occur, they throw me off and I have difficulty managing.

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time trying to get better at embracing changes; not dwelling or hanging on, but letting go.  This idea continues to show up on my mat and in my teaching recently, as I have gone through some pretty major changes.

For me, yoga has been a tremendous gift.  Practicing for over a decade has helped me to continue to cope with some major changes and hardships in my life. Yoga has taught me some valuable lessons of embracing change. Every time I get on my mat, something new arrives- I observe it, accept it and work with it. It may be a physical discomfort from holding a challenging pose, or maybe it’s finally mastering a pose I’ve been working on. Whatever it is, I remember to breathe and embraces the feelings and sensations that come along with the changes I am noticing.

Through my yoga practice, I’ve noticed that the more I try to resist change, the more it persists. This happens because we’re putting too much emphasis and energy on the things we should be getting rid of; instead of the things that are trying to manifest in our lives. When we dwell, the thing we need the least stays around longer and takes up a more substantial part of our life, until we allow ourselves to let whatever it is go and move on.

When we embrace change, whether in our body, life, work or relationships, we allow the energy to flow on its own accord. Even if it creates some discomfort in our lives for the time being, the sooner we accept it, the sooner it shall pass.  When we get rid of things that are weighing us down, when we release negative energy and toxins in our lives that hold us back, we can start to open ourselves up for all that the universe has to offer us and better embrace the path we are on. We don’t’ always see what is ahead of us because we are being blocked, but when we let go amazing things can happen and new doors will begin to open.

No one ever said life was easy and sometimes you have to take the good with the bad. Well, let’s not dwell in the bad. Let’s keep moving forward. When looking in the rearview mirror of life, watch the past drift away and move forward with open eyes and an open heart to all that the future holds.  

If you have a regular yoga practice, or even if you just started, you too can enjoy enjoy some of the valuable lessons that yoga has to offer.

Hope to see you on your mat soon!

Namaste.

 

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Renew Your Practice

Spring brings a heightened awareness of new life. Flowers begin to bloom and trees begin to grow. It’s the perfect time for renewal and new beginnings. It could mean taking a new direction or following a new path in life, so let your creative juices flow!

With spring comes a time of fresh starts and it’s not just about spring cleaning your home. It’s also internal cleaning. It’s time to get rid of stuck energy, release anything that isn’t serving you anymore and get ready to embrace what is to come.  Spring is the season of beginnings so it’s a perfect time to try something new or revitalizing something you’ve done a lot. Maybe you’ve fallen into a habit and routine and are looking to make a change. Perhaps it’s time to spice things up.

If you’ve been interested in taking a yoga class or are looking for ways to renew your practice, we can help.

Here are some ways to break old habits, get a fresh start, and a new perspective.  Let us help you find your most powerful self.

Try a new type of yoga class.

If you’ve never taken a yoga class or have only ever practiced flow yoga, then you’re probably pretty comfortable in down dog. But when was the last time you stayed in pigeon for more than five breaths? Alternatively, if you always attend the yin and restorative yoga classes, why not challenge yourself to try out a flow class?

Trying a different style can be as challenging as going to yoga for the first time. You will move your body in new ways and explore yoga from a different angle. At Empower Yoga we have a variety of styles to choose from. Whether it is Slow Flow, Yoga Nidra, Yoga Sculpt, Hip Hop Yoga or somethings else, a new style can truly renew your yoga practice.

Try a class with a new teachers.

No two Power Hour or Power Flow classes at the studio are the same. While we follow a similar sequence, each teacher brings their own unique personality, training, and experience into the class.  The more teachers you learn from, the more variety you are going to get. This can help you discover new poses, challenges, and ways of moving.

Schedule a private session.

One way to renew your yoga practice is to schedule a one-on-one session. Private classes obviously cost more money than a group class, but they are worth every penny. You get to work with a skilled yoga teacher who can help you explore and deepen your yoga practice and test your limits. Private classes are also a great way to learn how to go deeper into poses or learn modifications to poses. Modifications, can be critical to know, expecialyl if you have an injury or health impairment.  

Sign up for a Retreat.

One of the best ways to get a fresh start is to get away from it all entirely. When you leave your routine you’re forced to break habits. You begin to look at and do things differently. A yoga retreat can be the perfect way to do this. This May Empower Yoga is heading to Belize for our first ever retreat. Stay tuned for future retreat opportunities.

New practice, new attitude.

Having a fresh start is about more than doing something differently. It’s also about the attitude you do it with. Spring is the perfect opportunity to embrace change, so keep an open mind and an adventurer’s spirit. Awaken your mind to all the opportunities available to you and trust what the universe has in store.  You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised as to what new beginnings can do 🙂

Wishing you a wonderful Spring.  We look forward to helping you grow your yoga practice this season!

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Dear Yogis…

Dear Yogis,

Tomorrow is Empower Yoga’s one year anniversary and I wanted to take an opportunity to reflect and share some of the thoughts I have going into year two.  I opened Empower Yoga a year ago for a few reasons. First, to have a heated power studio in Central Jersey because there wasn’t one before now, but more importantly to create a safe place that people could come to learn and grow- physically, emotionally, & spiritually. I named this space Empower Yoga because I want you to feel empowered every time you walk out the door. I want you to know that you are so much more than what you sometimes believe and I hope through our classes at the studio, you truly start to see that and you begin to discover your most powerful self.

I started teaching yoga as a way to give back to a community that gave me so much. I believe that we all have the capacity to feel healthy and strong, and I want to help you feel that too. When we allow our bodies and minds to move freely, when we let go of our ego, when we quiet the chatter in our heads, and join together in community and breath, we begin to experience a profound sense of being truly awake and alive.

We live in a crazy world and sometimes all of life’s circumstances can weigh us down and hold us back. We are constantly bombarded with information about how we should live or what we should do. It can be intimidating and very overwhelming, but I hope that through your yoga practice, you can get a glimpse into the space beyond your busy mind; where you’re already calm, clear and where all your answers lie. A place where you can let go of some of the emotional baggage and just be.

Now being a yoga teacher does not make me an expert on life and all things spiritual. I can only authentically share what I have learned from my own experience. It’s your job to put your yoga into practice in a way that fits with your daily life. I can instruct and inspire, but you must do the work.

Just remember, the days you feel like skipping your practice are the days you need it the most. Keeping yoga a consistent part of your day and/or weekly routine will help you to thrive both on and off your mat. Yoga will help you in those challenging moments you face. Once you’ve been practicing a while, you’ll notice a calmer, happier, and less anxious version of you. I can promise that I will always be here to support you in anyway I can. Come sweat, move, and breathe with me! Come discover what you’re truly capable of.

Thank you for being a part of this amazing Empower Yoga community and allowing me to guide and instruct you.

Much love,

Keri

 

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