Sunday, April 13, 2014

Obstacles and Starting Points

Zig Ziglar
I've always been the person that can't back away from a challenge.  When I was 19, moving out of my parents' house and on my own, someone looked at me and said "Now you won't ever finish your Biochemistry degree." The instant response in my mind was, "Yeah?  Watch me."

It took longer than the typical college student, but, I was working three jobs and paying all my own bills.  I finished that degree and I made sure the person who unintentionally issued the challenge was well aware that I not only completed my degree, I was also accepted into a PhD program.  I didn't finish the PhD, I walked away from the program with a Master's degree (in Molecular Biology and Cell Pathogenesis) and that was big turning point in how I viewed myself.

I considered myself a failure for not completing the doctorate.  I felt that way even though I knew getting a PhD was not the correct career path for my life.  I felt as though I had backed down from the challenge.  Fast forward thirteen years.  I was stepping into my AIM2 and I had my eyes focused on going to the next level of being a Les Mills Instructor.  I had laser point focus on my goal.

But I didn't reach that goal.  I didn't get anywhere close to the goal.  I was told to go back and keep working.  Keep learning and, when I was ready, try again.  That was a huge obstacle and I felt like a huge failure.  It felt like a big, huge, ugly, failing of me and my abilities.

But, it wasn't.  It was a gift.  It was a chance for me to go toe-to-toe with my heart and my dreams and see if it all was worth fighting for.  And, it has been the best fight ever.

It has been almost a year since that weekend where I cried, I laughed and I made some true, life-long friends.  It has taken a year to really begin to process all that happened and was presented - and I'm still working on all of it.  It's a life-long journey, so I don't expect to ever really finish.  There is a word that is used often in the training, and the word is: shift.  I didn't get what it meant over that weekend.  I mean, I did in the literal sense, but I didn't GET it.  I didn't get it over the next six months, either.  In retrospect, I was working on understanding it, but it hadn't really sunk in.  When I had a Groundworks training with Meghan we had the chance to talk.  I started to realize my approach to being an Instructor had changed.  The shift was beginning.  I still had a ways to go, though.  Meghan did a huge part in helping me feel more confident, and that was a boost I really needed.

What has created the biggest change?  BodyCombat training - this process has completely changed how I view almost everything.  It was the final piece of the puzzle that has helped me see the beauty of the forest by looking at every single tree and leaf and vein on the leaf.  This is a journey (thank you Monika!) and one to be enjoyed.  The obstacles are what give me a chance to pause and reassess and reconsider what it is I truly want.  I was able to accept that this process of improving and changing and sharing is never-ending.  When Jake (my trainer) and Mandy (another amazing BodyCombat instructor) shared with me a different times that BodyCombat takes years to be comfortable, authentic and technically solid - I had to decide if that is really something I could commit to.  And I did, I decided I wanted to be part of this never ending process of improving and getting more authentic and achieving better technique and then better coaching.  Receiving the news that I had passed my video assessment and was an official Combat instructor was one of the most rewarding moments of my life.  But, and this is truly significant, for the first time I don't see the certification as an end point.

It is a starting point.  

Thursday, April 3, 2014


It has been one hell of a year.

This time last year I thought I was about to become a single Mom.  I was intensely training to get certified in my second Les Mills program: CXWORX.  I was also preparing for my Les Mills BodyPump AIM2 module.

Since then...I got certified in CXWORX, learned that I have A LOT to work on as a BodyPump Instructor and am still married.

I have met some of the most incredible, caring, supportive people along the way.  My AdrenalineGX family, my AIM2 family, my kids' friends' parents, my knitting peeps and, most importantly, the family I come home to every evening.  They have all cheered for me, cried with me and gotten real and honest with me when I needed to hear the truth, regardless of whether or not I wanted to listen.

What prompted this watershed post?

I sent in my Les Mills BodyCombat Assessment Video this morning.  It occurred to me today that this is the first time that I am truly engaged in the process of being a better instructor - not just looking to the final outcome of being "Certified" to teach a particular format.  My trainers from my AIM2, Kim and Meghan, could easily tell you this is light years from where I was this time last year.  I had my eyes on a particular status and was missing the entire point of the journey.

The journey is a process.  It's about learning and failing and choosing to get back up again.  It's about trying something new and being HORRIBLE and then figuring out how to do it better.  The process is about shifting from 'the goal' to what really matters: am I making a difference in and for the people in front of me?  Am I giving them what they need so that THEY can engage in the process - whatever that process may be for them, at that moment.

The process.

Welcome to it - it is a lifelong adventure.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Being Part of the Moment.


I'm a perfectionist.

There.  I said it.  I own it.  It is a key part of my personality.  Whether it is an innate part of who I am or whether it was drilled into me at an early age, I'm not going to explore in this forum.  All I know is this:  I expect complete perfection out of myself in everything I attempt.

No room for failure.

That is a hard, unforgiving place to live.  I allow my students to fail.  I allow my children to fail.  I often tell people that far more is learned from failure than success.  I say it because it is true.  However, I don't allow myself the same space to fail and grow.  I expect to get everything right the first time.  If I don't get it right?  The barrage of negative, horrible, degrading thoughts that I beat myself with are seemingly endless.

Three weeks ago I walked into BodyCombat training.  I was told ahead of time to "enjoy the journey."  I had no idea how prophetic those words would become.  I had no clue how pivotal the word journey would be in my experience.  Then, I found myself floundering when I got up to team teach for the first time.  This was FAILURE, no question.  In a public forum, for everyone to witness.  Painful and horrible and so very, very needed.  It sent me right back to square one and back on my path, my journey.

Last week, after team teaching BodyCombat again, I was told by another Combat instructor (who is totally kick ass and amazing) that this is a format that takes time to get right.  It isn't immediate and it isn't automatic.  It is a FEEL, it is an emotion, it is an authenticity that comes from inside the instructor and not just from the music and the format.  Finding that inner warrior and releasing all of the reservations and inhibitions that hold the warrior in check is the journey for me.  The other part of the journey is recognizing that perfection is merely a goal and not necessarily what I am trying to achieve.

That was reinforced again today.  I had the pleasure of meeting up with one of my BodyCombat fellow trainees at her gym and her club owner and I spoke about the process of becoming an Instructor for BodyCombat.  He understood the intimidating nature of the technique and coaching.  But then he said something that really resonated with me, he said: "It is also about the personality.  Bring your personality and the rest will happen."  I'm obsessing over the details (which are important, don't get me wrong) but I may just be missing the forest for the trees.  Jake and Bri are always telling me to loosen up, relax, let it go.  I think I need to find that place of being okay with doing that - letting the perfectionist go and being part of the moment.  The journey.

Letting perfection go - that is one key part of the journey.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Failure: Appreciating the Journey


Last week I was on a high from passing my Les Mills BodyCombat Initial Instructor Training Module.  I went to class Monday night with my awesome trainer, Jake, and he even called me up on stage to shadow a couple of tracks.  I was terrified and ecstatic.  I didn't have to say a thing, I just got to DO the tracks.  (This becomes very important later on)

Once I learned I had successfully passed the module, I asked my mentor, Bri, if I could team teach with her during the Saturday morning class.  She was enthusiastic and said, "Absolutely!"  We decided which tracks I would teach and I went about scripting and practicing the two tracks that were 'new' to me.  By new, I mean that I didn't have to present them at training.  I listened and scripted the tracks and listened some more.  I practiced some in my bedroom when the kids were asleep.  Before I knew it Saturday morning arrived.  

I got up early, reviewed my choreography and listened to the music and went through my scripts.  I got showered (which I always find very ironic...I get cleaned up to get crazy sweaty and gross) and dressed.  I knew I wanted to get to AGX early to hit a few bags to loosen up and check in on my form.  I am, to quote Jake, "One of the few people whose form IMPROVES when hitting a bag versus hitting air."  Maybe its all the angst I have stored inside.  Bri came in to join me and loaned me a pair of her MMA combat shorts and I was thrilled.  Here it is.  My chance to actually look and BE a BodyCombat instructor.

I ran through my tracks and felt pretty good.  At the same time, I was incredibly nervous.  The kind of nervous where my hands were shaking, palms sweating and heart racing.  I should have taken that as a warning sign.  I've experienced this particular kind of nerves when I was competing as a solo Irish Step Dancer.  As I waited for my turn to perform, this exact scenario of emotion would ramp up.  It was particularly bad if I was one of the last competitors.  My nervousness would cross the boundary into anxiety.  The anxiety would absolutely trigger my fight or flight adrenaline response.  This biological response shuts down just about every function in the brain except for finding the way to get the hell out of there.  It does NOT allow for immediate recall of information that is not deeply ingrained.  I felt the same ramp up of emotions as Bri and I entered the room with the members and started to get setup for class.  

I set my stuff to the side of the stage since I wasn't on until track 3.  Track 1 & 2 were fun.  My anxiety didn't seem to intensify and I was feeling  a bit loose when it was time for me to get up and teach.  I put on my mic and Bri started the music.  I stepped up and said SOMETHING (I'm not really sure what I said, to be honest) and at that moment my brain just froze.  I drew a complete and total blank.  I couldn't remember a single thing I had scripted.  The tiny bit of muscle memory kept me moving with the basic choreography, but it was a mess.  I couldn't keep the combinations straight and it felt like I was all over the place.  It seemed like I said the same 2-3 cues over and over and over.  

This kind of brain freeze is why I quit competing in solo Irish Dancing.  The absolute, mind numbing fear that took over in those milliseconds between when the music would start and I was supposed to begin simply wasn't worth the pursuit of a higher ranking that, as an adult dancer, truly didn't matter.  Even in those moments of total blank recall, I kept moving.  I could make steps up off the top of my head all day long.  The performance might even be considered decent if a judge wasn't paying close attention.  But I always came off the stage feeling like a failure.  There is no positive payoff in that moment, no matter how good the judge thought I looked, how much air I caught on my slip-jig (and to be honest, I can catch some SERIOUS air) or how technically sound my steps (made up on the spot) appeared.  I failed.

I made it through track 3 and because Bri is pretty awesome, she didn't take the mic off my head and tell me to get off the stage.  Track 4 was mine, too, and it rolled right on.  This track, however, was better.  The choreography was easier for me to remember and I was able to get that part (mostly) correct.  I still  blanked on my scripting, though.  So many things I wanted to say - and things I had written down TO SAY, and I think only 2 or 3 things actually made it out of my mouth.  It looked like the members were having a hard time following and that only made me feel worse.  If I were coaching correctly, they could follow.  Clearly I wasn't doing a decent job coaching - one of the basic responsibilities of being a Les Mills Instructor.

I stepped off the stage after track 4 and Bri took over for the next 3 tracks.  I headed back up for Track 8.  It is the last big push of the class and was also one of my training tracks.  While it felt more familiar and better than the first two times on stage, I still felt completely out of sync.  The last part of the track there was lots of awesome energy from the members.  Jake gave me lots of non-verbal cuing advice and I was able to throw it in on the fly.

I finished and stayed on stage for the Conditioning and Cool Down tracks.  Bri and I set up Jake for his BodyPump class and then I offered to take some equipment to another room where Bri was going to be coaching for AGX Warrior.  On my way out, Jake told me I did a good job - which meant the world.  Bri said I did well and needed to work on projecting my voice.  I saw two other instructors, Tina (who also trained last week with me to Re-Certify in BodyCombat) and Alice.  They were both very kind and told me I did great job, too.  At that point Tina looked at me and asked what I thought and how I felt.  By this point, I was in complete meltdown mode in my mind.  The experience had felt awful and I couldn't even begin to speak about how horrible I felt about myself at that particular moment without losing all composure.  I just shook my head and quickly walked away without saying anything.

I got to my car in one piece.  Then it all hit.  The disappointment I felt in myself.  I felt like I had let Bri and Jake and all the members down by not being better.  I'll be really, painfully, brutifully honest:  I cried the whole way home and good part of the rest of the day.  There are other major life changes going on right now  - they are all positive and I'm very excited about each of them - but they are still major life changes.  I had discounted how much of a toll this was taking on my emotional ability to cope with everything until Saturday morning happened.  The class and how it all played out was the last straw and I spent most of Saturday going between feeling overwhelmed, crying and trying to dig myself out and formulate a plan of attack for this week.

Before I went to bed Saturday night I decided that I had A LOT to learn from Saturday's class.  Remember I said I wanted to enjoy this journey?  Maybe I need to change the word enjoy to APPRECIATE and BEING GRATEFUL FOR this journey.  Because, that is what this is - a learning experience that is taking me to a new place I've never been before.  I failed Saturday morning.  Regardless of what it appeared to others, I know I didn't do what I needed to do and that is a failure in my world.  It made a number of things very clear to me:
  1. I need to devote more time to practicing and preparing for class
  2. This is a completely foreign format and one that I will need time to find my comfort zone in coaching
  3. I'm not going to sail through this certification process like I did for BodyPump and CXWORX
  4. This certification will mean more to me than I ever anticipated
My good friend Tina sent me a quote today when I contacted her to explain why I bolted on her and Alice when they were being such good friends and checking in on me yesterday after class.  Here is what she sent:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, talented, fabulous?  Actually, Who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  This is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  - Marianne Williamson
Am I afraid of getting back on that stage and failing again.  Yes.  Will I do it anyway?  Absolutely.  Will I take this experience and learn and improve and be different as a result?  No question.

It's the journey.  I love and appreciate and am incredibly grateful for THIS journey.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Enjoy the Journey

This weekend I went though Initial Instructor training for Les Mills' BodyCombat.  Here were my thoughts on Friday evening after I had packed my bags and was gearing up mentally for the training ahead:

I've packed my bag and I've reviewed my choreography.  I am nervous, excited and scared.  I know this training has the potential to change my life if I let the opportunities happen.  It feels like ages ago and just yesterday I was going through the same sense of fear and excitement as I prepared for my BodyPump initial certification training.  I remember obsessing over all the little things but overlooking the most important part of it all: the journey.  Little did I realize how my life would change as a result of those two days and the amazing experiences that have followed. 

As all the times before, I was focused on the end result, earning the all important PASS on the Assessment.  That is, until a friend and fellow Les Mills Instructor, Monika gave me some incredible advice:
"Enjoy the journey."  
That really and truly stopped me in tracks.  In the past, I was only concerned about the final outcome.  My BodyPump Certification, my CXWORX, even my AIM2 training - ALL I cared about was the rating I received at the end.  How did I measure up?  Was I good enough?  Did I WOW my trainers sufficiently?  Did I do it better, faster and stronger than everyone else?

I completely and utterly missed the most important part of all of these experiences.  I missed the journey.  But not this time.  I absorbed myself in the journey this time around.  I stayed in the moment.  I listened, I shut my mouth and heard what others were saying.  I tried to learn from EVERYONE around me and what they were experiencing.  But, I stayed in tune with my journey as well.  When I started obsessing (as I usually do) with whether or not I was going to be successful at the end, I would write myself a little note that the journey is a process.  It doesn't really have an endpoint.  Regardless of what happened on Sunday afternoon, the path is still open and in front of me to continue moving forward.  I also remembered that I survived getting the lowest possible outcome on my AIM2, and, in fact, that was the best thing to happen to me in my Instructor experience.

This weekend I worked harder than I ever have in another training.  Some of it was because our trainer, Jake McLendon, is the best at what he does and has the ability to push me (and the rest of us) well outside our comfort zones and then coach us through.  Some of it was because I wanted to be sure that the time my mentor, Bri, had spent with me wasn't wasted.  But, lastly, I wanted to prove something to myself.  Every other training, I held back from the start.  I was so afraid of failing that I wouldn't force myself outside of my known limits.  This time, I walked into the master class on Saturday morning and knew I was going to give 110%.  Would that mean my form and technique later in the day might suffer because of muscle fatigue?  Probably.  Could going full out from the start possibly jeopardize my Pass rating?  Almost certainly.  I did it anyway.  I wanted to experience every bit of this training and experience and leave no regrets on the floor behind me as I left Sunday evening.

The outcome, I realized, is NOT the journey.  It is merely a brick on the path.  A significant brick, but a brick none the less.

To Jake, Bri, Tina, Summer, Jordan, Thelma, Christy, Sarah and Danielle - thank you for being part of my journey.  Each of you are so incredibly amazing and powerful.  Monika, thank you for opening my eyes to the most important part of this process.

The journey is just getting started.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Birthday of Giving

29 years ago today my world irreparably changed.  It was the day my Mom lost her fight with cancer.  It was the day, at the very young age of 11, I lost the most important woman in my life.

My Mom was 35 years old.  Think about that for just a moment.  35 years old.

In 17 days I am going to turn 41.  I have celebrated 6 more birthdays than my Mom.  That is incredibly significant to me because I spent most of my youth and young adult life convinced I wouldn't be able to survive past 36 years old.  I mean, if my Mom couldn't, why would I?

This birthday is significant for another reason, though.  My son, my oldest child, is 11 years old.  He is the same age I was when my Mom died.  I look at him and see his youth and his sweet childhood still in place.  I look at him and wonder how my Mom felt when she knew she wouldn't get to watch me grow up.  I look at my kids and I am thankful, every day, for the opportunity to see them get a day older.

I miss my Mom.  I miss her every day.  I miss her most on days like today when I wish she could have hugged my husband when he asked for my hand in marriage or the day I dressed in white and walked down the aisle to marry that awesome guy or the day my babies were born.

I know she has been there, I have felt her spirit so many times.  But it isn't the same.  I miss my Mom.

So this birthday is about doing something to try to end the thing that ended my Mom's chance to watch me grow up and ended her opportunity to hold my babies.

I am having a fundraiser for my birthday.  The site for my fundraiser is here:  Cris' Birthday of Giving.  It isn't my birthday yet, but because today is the day that my Mom lost her fight, today is the day I'm going to start my own fight in her honor.

Please consider donating.  There are some cool prizes for donations. So check it out.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What doesn't challenge you, doesn't CHANGE YOU

I am constantly telling the people that I train that they need to push outside their comfort zones if they want to change.  One of my favorite sayings, which I recently heard on a Les Mills release:

Another way of saying this: push outside what feels familiar.  Step into the unknown and take a deep breath and GO FOR IT.

I'm living that mantra right this moment.  I am preparing for another training.  My next challenge is to be a Les Mills BodyCombat Instructor.  What is BodyCombat?  Look here or watch this:

This training is so far out of my comfort zone, it is almost comical.  I have taken many BodyCombat classes from some really awesome instructors (Jake, Mandy, and Bri at Adrenaline GX).  I have gotten more comfortable with the format.  However, this style of teaching is a complete departure from the BodyPump or CXWORX style of coaching and instructing.  

The entire idea of this training was very nebulous (and safe) until I received the email yesterday that allowed me to digitally download my release and notes.  AND, the email told me which tracks I am responsible for teaching during my training on March 1 - 2.  My honest reaction?  I thought to myself: "Oh Shit.  I actually have to SAY something while doing the moves?  Oh crap.  Oh NO.  What the HELL was I thinking?!?!?"

I am completely outside of my comfort zone.  Not just outside, I am completely on another continent from my comfort zone.

In my moment(s) of complete and utter panic I come back to what I tell my athletes and participants:  Go beyond what you THINK you can do and then just DO it.  Don't think, just KNOW that you can.  Go for failure.  What is the worst thing that could happen?  You miss a rep or two and have to come in after a quick break.  You CAN.  You WILL.

I am completely in uncharted, unfamiliar territory.  It is scary, to be sure.  But this is where change happens.  This is where I get to test my will and my fears and I get the opportunity to win.  And you know what?


Time to go read up on the choreography and keep practicing the moves.  Chance always favors the prepared mind.

Swing by my page on Facebook for more quotes, links to articles and other interesting day-to-day posts.

See you there!