3 Beginner Kettlebell Exercises to Work Your Core

Kettlebell is a total-body workout that has huge benefits for your core. Using the weight in controlled movements around the body, every muscle in the core is working together to balance you as you move. Here are three beginner kettlebell exercises to work the core and gain strength.

When choosing the weight of the kettlebell as a beginner, always err on the side of caution and begin with a lower weight. Practice the movement with the lower weight until you feel confident in your control of the weight during the movement. Once your confidence builds, you can always increase the weight.

Goblet Squat:

In a standing position, engage your core and hold the kettlebell in the two-handed “racked” position. The racked position is where the kettlebell is held at chest-height with your elbows tucked by your side. Continue to hold the kettlebell high just under the chin, keep your elbows tucked tight to the side body. Lower down into a squat and raise up to standing keeping the kettlebell in the same position. As you squat and stabilize the weight, focus on slow, controlled movement and staying rooted through your heels. This engages the entire frontal plain and core. Through the squat, the core provides balance and connection between the lower body and loaded upper body. Advanced Move: Take it the next level with a front press or overhead press at the bottom of the squat.

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Suitcase Deadlift

The deadlift is a foundational kettlebell movement. Place the kettlebell to the side of one foot on the ground. Stand with feet hips-width apart. Root into your heels as you lower your seat back into a hinge position with a bend in the knees and a neutral back. Lift the weight and rise to standing by engaging your glutes and core. By placing the weight on one side of the body, it forces the core to engage and stabilize the body. The one-handed variety requires linkage through the obliques and latissimus dorsi. Advanced Move: Take this movement to the next level with the one-legged deadlift.

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Halo

Stand with feet hips-distance apart and hold the kettlebell with two hands in the racked position with the bottom of the kettlebell up. Lift the kettlebell over one shoulder, to the side of the head, move the weight around to the back of the head with a rolling motion to make a “halo” or a circle around the head, and end back in racked position at your chest. Next rep will alternate the movement on the opposite side. The core engages as the weight is lifted over shoulder height and stabilizes the body as the weight moves from one side of the body to the other. Advanced Move: When confident, try a back lunge/halo combo.

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5 Reasons to Cross-Train for the Best Results

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We are all guilty of finding a type of exercise we love and sticking with it day in and day out. There’s nothing wrong with practicing yoga every day, or running every day or strength training everyday. However, if you want to optimize your health or performance, prevent injuries, stay motivated and meet new goals, we suggest trying something different every now and then.

Cross-training simply means supplementing your normal routine with a variety of exercises that focus on flexibility, endurance, and/or strength training to balance out the effect of your workouts on your body.

Here are 5 reasons why you should cross-train:

  1. Recovery or Rehabilitation. If you’ve developed lower back pain, or tight hip flexors, or pain in your shoulders, or whatever it may be, it’s likely you need to slow down, and allow those areas recovery and healing. However, when you experience an injury, it’s well-known you never want to stop moving. Supplementing your strength-training program with lower impact programs can keep you moving, allow you to modify to protect and heal the injury and get you back on your favorite program sooner.

  2. Bust Through a Plateau. Your body adjusts to something you do repetitiously. When I hit a plateau in my health or weight loss goals, changing it up always works. When I do change it up, I feel soreness in areas of my body I don’t normally feel sore. This means those other areas of your body need work and could benefit from a balance of different types of exercise. I do this often as a yoga and barre teacher by adding high-intensity interval training, running, or kettlebell exercises.

  3. Injury Prevention. When you do the same exercises over and over again, it’s possible to have a muscular imbalance which could lead to injury. It’s important to think about the extensive amount of small and large muscles and connective tissue in the body and how we can utilize different areas of the body to build strength and stabilize our joints. Also, giving your body a break from repetitive movements that may be overused in your exercise of choice can allow necessary recovery for greater injury prevention.

  4. Motivation. Practicing one type of exercise every day or 5 days a week will inevitably cause boredom. That doesn’t mean you’re cheating on your favorite instructor or gym, it just means your body and mind may appreciate it more with a little curiosity and change occasionally. It’s a way to stay committed to your goals while also continuing to move.

  5. Mind-Body Connection. Trying new movements with intention and focus teaches your body to work in a different way. This inevitably changes the way your mind and body are connecting and strengthens that connection. Routine is great and is a foundation for true health, but variety is the way to optimize your able body and mind to come even more into your body and grow.

Flow Space will be opening soon offering a variety of group fitness classes from yoga to barre, and bootcamp to kettlebell.

Sweat Therapy | FlowSpace Fitness Studio Opening Late January 2019

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This thing we are building is so much more than getting in shape. We look at exercise and fitness as a way to be better in every aspect of our lives, and we want you to feel that way too. Our studio came about after discussing the feeling that we could only describe as “sweat therapy.” It’s our way to describe the feeling that comes after a strenuous, challenging, sweat-inducing workout. The feeling that gives us hope, it empowers us, and it helps us release. It brings us into our bodies and takes our worries from overwhelming to doable. It helps us to be more present with our kids and be present with each other. It forces us to put the phone down, detach from the screen and listen to our breath for one full hour. It gives us a sense of relief that just for today, we weren’t complacent. We moved, we grew and we flooded our body with feel-good hormones and fresh blood to age more gracefully.

By moving, we gave gratitude to our strong legs and healthy heart.

The cure for anything is salt water: SWEAT, tears or the sea.

-Isak Dinesen

We want to give this to you, to our community, and to our friends. We want you to feel comfortable, at home, and challenged all at the same time. Beginning exercise is not easy. Facing your racing thoughts is not easy. We want to face those fears together and help you keep your promises you made to yourself once and for all.

We open in two short months and hope we will see you there.

Reasons We Get Stuck and How to Change

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I came across a podcast this week that literally stopped me in my tracks. It was an interview with Dr. Joe Dispenza, who presents himself as a mind-body connection expert. You have GOT to listen to this guy because I cannot do his work justice in this quick post. He’s on the podcast circuit pretty heavily right now. I am in a state of indecision often and so his explanation of our thoughts and our inability to get past the program of our mind due to past ingrained behaviors is so relevant for me at this time in my life, and maybe for you.

In one of my previous posts I talked about how I lost weight and how it wasn’t through traditional calories in calories out, but actually was sparked by being kinder to myself, having more positive self-talk, and giving myself a break. I attributed it to breaking old patterns of turning to food for comfort, sabotaging efforts to make a change by negative self-talk, and finally changing the intention behind my habits to health rather than getting skinnier thighs.

Dr. Dispenza travels around the world giving speeches on the mind’s ability to heal the body. He is well-versed in neuroscience, memory formation and cellular biology.

This is what he says about our ingrained behaviors: “Psychologists tell us that by the time we’re in our mid-30s, our identity or personality will be completely formed. This means that for those of us over 35, we have memorized a select set of behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, emotional reactions, habits, skills, associative memories, conditioned responses, and perceptions that are now subconsciously programmed within us. Those programs are running us, because the body has become the mind. This means that we will think the same thoughts, feel the same feelings, react in identical ways, behave in the same manner, believe the same dogmas, and perceive reality the same ways. About 95 percent of who we are by midlife is a series of subconscious programs that have become automatic—driving a car, brushing our teeth, overeating when we’re stressed, worrying about our future, judging our friends, complaining about our lives, blaming our parents, not believing in ourselves, and insisting on being chronically unhappy, just to name a few.” 
― Joe Dispenza, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One

Dr. Dispenza says “Same thoughts always lead to the same choices, same choices lead to the same behavior and the same behaviors lead to same experiences and the same experiences produce the same emotions and these emotions drive the very same thoughts.”

When I would start a diet, I would always start hearing the thoughts “you’re going to fail”, “it won’t work” or I would immediately start craving the very food I just swore off for a month. It was insanity. It’s also known as yo-yo dieting. Turning inward, accepting who and where you are right now is crucial to changing.

Also, when I would try to do better, I would make overarching, generalized goals like “eat better” or “be healthier.”

So then how do we change knowing all of this???

Dr. Dispenza suggests going deeper and becoming aware of the exact thoughts that have gotten you to where you are today. He suggests listening to your thoughts and actively working to not allow the sabotaging thoughts to continue playing in your mind like a broken record. Challenge those thoughts, and guard your mind by actively countering them with a positive thought.

“Most change starts with the simple process of something outside of us altering something inside of us. If you begin the inward journey and start to change your inner world of thoughts and feelings, it should create an improved state of well-being. If you keep repeating the process in meditation, then in time, epigenetic changes should begin to alter your outer presentation—and you become your own placebo.” 
― Joe Dispenza, You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter

Part of Dr. Dispenza’s solution is this: “To be happy with yourself in the present moment while maintaining a dream of your future is a grand recipe for manifestation. When you feel so whole that you no longer care whether “it” will happen, that’s when amazing things materialize before your eyes. I’ve learned that being whole is the perfect state of creation. I’ve seen this time and time again in witnessing true healings in people all over the world. They feel so complete that they no longer want, no longer feel lack, and no longer try to do it themselves. They let go, and to their amazement, something greater than they are responds—and they laugh at the simplicity of the process.” 
― Joe Dispenza, You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter

This all presupposes that you understand that your thoughts are not the truth. They are thoughts, and we have millions of contradictory, untruthful ones each and every day. Why do we sometimes choose to believe the negative ones and not the positive ones?

This helped me, hope it helps you! Happy Thanksgiving!

In health,

Erica

Eat the Ice Cream...Just Not Everyday

“Most people have no idea how good their body is

designed to feel.”

-Kevin Trudeau

Let’s talk about moderation. It has taken me a long time to get here, but I’m at a place now where I have no guilt over the occasional indulgence. Why? Because the majority of the time I’m eating plant-based, clean, whole foods. For me, it’s not a diet, its a lifestyle. This is how my nutrition looks on a normal day or week:

Breakfast: I always start my day with coffee. That is a pleasure I allow myself unless I’m pregnant. I add in a delicious Almond Milk creamer and raw honey. Then I typically have some version of a green smoothie, which is in an earlier post, or I will scramble two organic eggs with 1/2 an avocado.

Snacks: Banana or some type of fruit or Larabar (fav is Cashew Cookie) or other Gluten-free bar

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Lunch: Always go for the Salad. I almost always pick up a to-go salad from Publix or Whole Foods. If it’s not perfect, it’s ok. I choose the ones with nuts, fruit, maybe even some cheese and just don’t eat all the cheese and I rarely use all of the dressing. My favorite days are when I can fill up on the salad bar at Whole Foods. My choices are tons of veggies, seeds, beans or legumes(chickpeas are my favorite) and vinegar based dressing. Here’s the thing about eating mostly greens for lunch: You can stabilize your blood sugar to avoid that afternoon slump and get the most out of your day!

Dinner: Before dinner, Zach and I usually snack on gluten-free crackers and hummus or chips and guacamole. Our go-to dinners are a “Buddha Bowl”(will blog about this later but choose a base of greens or quinoa and pile on raw and cooked veggies, organic tofu or chicken, etc) or Baked Fish(wild-caught) and Veggies.

Before Bed: Tea- currently loving Chamomile with Lavender.

The truth about us though is about one night every two weeks, and honestly sometimes once a week, we will absolutely, without any guilt, go to town on a huge tub of Haagen Daz Coffee Ice Cream. We will occasionally finish off the mac and cheese we cooked for the kids. And some days my only snacks consist of goldfish or graham crackers because I’m ravenous and that’s all I have on hand from being a mommy.

I’m here to tell you, you can meet your weight loss goals, feel great in your body and give in occasionally. The trick, from my experience, is to let go of the guilt and move on to the next healthy meal.

With that being said, the days I feel the best, I eat like I’ve laid out above and I drink lots of water.

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The old me would freak if I ate 5 goldfish or indulged in ice cream the night before and punish myself the next day by replaying in my head over and over how disappointed I am in myself. This results in bad decisions from the guilt and negativity. The new me knows I’m human and I’m doing my best. I really focus on easy concepts such whole foods, tons of veggies, and the majority of my food is organic, and eaten for fuel and nourishment. Disclaimer: I don’t feel great eating meat, so the majority of the time I’m eating plant-based, but if you need/love/have-to-have meat, just choose grass-fed and organic the majority of the time. Maybe try some meals with and some meals without and take note of how you feel. Food can be confusing. We get it, and that’s why our “rules” aren’t really rules. They’re guidelines. There’s so much to talk about with food but in the interest of time, here are a few guidelines I keep for myself when making the decision of what to eat:

  1. 80/20 Rule. Make it a goal that 80% of the time you’re eating clean, unprocessed, well-balanced whole foods. Allow yourself an indulgence, the occasional pasta dish or the coffee ice cream. This goes far in ensuring a healthy relationship with food. You’re human, its really ok.

  2. Focus on “Adding in” Greens/Fruits/Whole Foods rather than “Taking Away” the unhealthier foods. I read a study recently that concluded that people who added in greens daily still felt/saw the benefits even though they ate other foods that were processed and unhealthy during the same time. It’s best to eat clean the majority of the time, but even if you don’t, your body will benefit from giving it all the nutrients, minerals, clean protein and fiber from greens, veggies, fruits and organic whole foods when you can. Also, when your cells are given the nutrients they need and your blood sugar is regulated from the steady supply of healthy, low glycemic food, you probably won’t even crave or want the other stuff as much.

  3. Ask Yourself How You Want to Feel. Most people look at food through the lens of “is this in my diet plan?” or “will I gain weight by eating this?” That will only get you so far. Your body will tell you what it needs if you listen. It will ache and feel bloated and fatigued with foods that cause inflammation and it will feel light and energetic with foods that are healing, detoxifying and clean. There’s also a direct effect on your mood that you will see crystal clear if you start journaling or just taking notice of how you feel when you eat certain foods.

I truly believe that most of our struggles with food is a matter of changing our mindset. We have so many resources these days. Food can be incredibly healing if you let it, and it also can be one of the greatest pleasures in life. Keep an open mind. Let yourself be human. Give your body what it needs to thrive so you can too.

In health,

Erica

Your Tuesday Wake-Up Call

“I hope there are days when you fall in love with being alive.”

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The last couple months I’ve learned a lot about people’s personal struggles with health. As I’ve shared tidbits of my story on this blog, taught barre classes, and shared how I try to live to be healthier, stronger, and feel better on a daily basis, people have also shared with me their challenges. I’ve heard a pattern of explaining why they aren’t actually making the changes. And truthfully, I’ve come up against a wall. What I have found is that most people simply don’t want to hear it. People don’t want to hear that fast food will kill them or that exercising is a non-negotiable or that anxiety and stress can be healed holistically. People don’t want to hear that lifestyle changes are the number one thing you can do to prevent disease. People don’t want to hear it because it’s hard and it takes work. I completely understand and relate to that perspective because I had it myself and I pushed aside day after day what I needed to do to end my own struggles.

I didn’t want to hear it either. Then I had no choice.

You see, health issues happened to other people, not to me.

Then on April 28, 2015 I got a call that my sweet father and one of my best friends was found unconscious. It was in the middle of a workday, on an ordinary Tuesday. I entered the hospital, after the longest drive of my life where I pled with God that I would walk in and talk with my Daddy again, and discovered that it was over. There was no recovery or rehabilitation, no second chance. It was just over. The doctor said they could “find no electrical activity.” I asked “people can come back from that right?” She said “they can sometimes.” She could tell I wasn’t processing it. I couldn’t process it. Then it was just people shaking their heads and asking if we would like to see him.

He was a 58 year old former collegiate and professional athlete. He had just left the gym. He always cooked homemade meals. He chased after his grandkids and rarely if ever sat down at work. He wasn’t supposed to die at 58. He wasn’t perfect by any means, but he also didn’t look the part of a man who was going to die of his first heart attack.

This changed me. How could it not? I felt it would be in vain or lost on me if I didn’t allow it to wake me up and change me to my core. It sparked in me a fire and a passion to learn from it and change my life accordingly.

So, over time, I’ve found a way, a way that came about after much trial and error, hardship, tears, frustration and victim mentality. I finally found the way after I was brutally honest with myself and said that this was on me. It is on me, 100%. This was no one else’s problem or future or life but my own. So, I found a way that I come back to again and again after I lose track or fail. Because failing is inevitable. No one is perfect, it’s just a matter of knowing how to start again. I found a way that has empowered me about my health. A way that I’m sharing with anyone that cares to hear it. I strongly believe that most of the time it doesn’t have to be pills and doctors. I believe that our bodies are freaking miracles from God that can do amazing things. I believe that each decision in our teens, 20’s, 30’s and up will decide what kind of life we will live as we age. I believe it is a gift and a privilege to get the opportunity to help our complex and magnificent bodies heal and grow and get stronger by giving it yoga and functional exercise and living, green foods. We get this one life. We get this one body. Don’t wait until you get that perspective from loss or reality that stops you in your tracks. Live healthy now, be present now.

I’ve shared below three people that inspire me. These people and their stories have helped me tremendously in the past few years find an intention that has catapulted me into caring about true health. They also helped me feel empowered about my health.

  • The first is Kris Carr. She is a cancer survivor and self-taught wellness advocate. She is living, breathing proof of what nutrition can do for you.

https://kriscarr.com/meet-kris/

  • Dr. Joel Kahn gives you real life advice, having treated thousands of heart attacks, his answer is that nutrition can heal the body.

https://drjoelkahn.com/about-us/

  • Rich Roll, is an ultra-athlete and plant-based nutrition guru, who has overcome a lot to find a whole new life in wellness. His podcast is one of my favs and gives me tons of resources.

http://www.richroll.com/bio/

Lastly, please know I’m always here, for anyone who needs a little help. You can work with me or Zach in our group fitness classes, personal training or through skype workouts where we do the same thing as in class, just over skype. If you are interested, contact us through our website or email me at Erica@flowspacefitness.com for more details. We are about to launch a way for Flow Space to aide you in your healthy journey so we can work with you wherever you are, so stay tuned for exciting details coming up in the next month!

In health,

Erica

One Addition To Your Daily Routine To Feel Instant Results

Do you want clearer skin? Less bloating? A flatter stomach? More energy? Less cravings? To bust through a weight loss plateau? Or jumpstart weight loss? Or better yet, prevent cancer and disease? Then I assure you, if you add this one thing to your daily routine consistently, you will see and feel all of those results. For years I couldn’t imagine drinking my greens, but now I do it on an almost daily basis and it has changed my life.

Here’s Today’s Recipe:

Organic Spinach about 2 cups

Organic Romaine Lettuce about 1 cup

Organic Kale about 1 1/2 cups

2 stalks of Celery

1 Organic Apple

2 Tablespoons Milled Flaxseeds

1 Tablespoon Chia Seed

2 teaspoons of Coconut Yogurt

1 cup Almond Milk

1 Scoop Vega (Optional)

Most mornings I blend without any Vega or yogurt, but this morning I had no bananas, so I needed the flavor. Bananas are the key to countering the sometimes bitter taste of the greens, so be sure to add one in.

This morning I started with this spread…

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I blended my greens, celery and almond milk first…

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Then I added in my apple, seeds, yogurt, and Vega…

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Voila!

When people say Food is Medicine, this is what they’re talking about. It is rare, as a working mommy, that I can down this many greens. So this smoothie is crucial for me to maintain a baseline of energy. It is also very high in tons of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. If you’re interested in why I chose these ingredients, let’s take a closer look:

Spinach- proven to reduce inflammation, high in antioxidants that protect against disease, and amps up the immune system by delivering tons of Vitamin C, A, Manganese, Zinc and Selenium.

Kale- Cancer Fighting Powerhouse; Natural detoxifier.

Celery- Tons of water for hydration, Good source of dietary fiber, Helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

Flaxseeds- Plant-based source of Omega 3 Fatty Acids; Improves skin, hair and nails.

Chia Seeds-Protein, Antioxidants, Vitamin E, Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Balances blood sugar.

All of these foods give you a plethora of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that protect your body and fight disease at the cellular level. When you do this, when you give your cells what they need and help your body detox the toxins and excess that it doesn’t need, you will naturally lose weight and feel better.

I guarantee you will FEEL the difference, give it a try and feel free to shoot me a message for any recipe variations you find that you love! Cheers!

In health,

Erica

Your Own Kind of Beautiful

This new journey into fitness/wellness/health, stepping outside my comfort zone, embracing vulnerability every single day as I try to finally follow my passions has caused me to remind myself again and again of one truth that took me quite some time to learn. I think about what I wish I could say to my 20-something year old self. I have two young women in my life that are on the brink of beginning their 20's. I see them and pray they see just how beautiful they are in their own unique way. It's not cliche, it's real, and it takes a strong sense of self to believe that truth. I think of them so much because I remember that at their age was the time where I really lost my sense of self worth.

I clung to external validation like it was oxygen I needed to breathe. 

I was in pageants...I voluntarily entered myself into contests where complete strangers scored me based on my outward appearance and wardrobe choices.  I did the pageants you do to eventually win Miss South Carolina and then Miss USA. I have no qualms with pageants or the beautiful women who do them and do them well, it's just that the reason I did them was not healthy or productive at all for my own growth. I did them solely to feel validated and to be told that I was enough in the most materialistic sense of the word. I wanted to be told I was beautiful enough, interesting enough, cool enough. I often did them to meet the "goal weight"...to impose strict deadlines on myself to lose weight, and fit into the size 4 dress that usually never got past my ribs. The lengths I went to to become the ideal that the pageant world sought after was quite hilarious now that I think about it...

I would travel 2.5 hours to this one personal trainer recommended by my pageant coach who told me to never ever lift weights on my legs...because they were too muscular as they were.

So instead I would go to my own personal trainer locally and tell him I can only work my upper body….how weird is that?  I then went on to do as I was told to achieve "the body" and would do 5 sets of 25 of about 4 different exercises of leg lifts that would guarantee me long, lean legs necessary for swimsuit. This routine took about 1 to 1.5 hours. This was after I would do the requisite 60 minutes of cardio to be sure I was in the "fat burning zone," and not any higher. I think I did this the entirety of my fall semester of my senior year. I had a lot of positive things going on with my academics, but my outside needed to be validated, my thighs, my dress size, my ab lines, my tan. That is what I cared about, spent money on, spent my precious time on. I feel sad for that girl now. Oh the fun I could've had, the places I could've traveled.

Our messy, real, beautiful life in the lowcountry with our girls.

Our messy, real, beautiful life in the lowcountry with our girls.

I'm worlds away from that girl now, but the lesson I wish she could've learned is the same lesson I must repeat to myself over and over and truly believe. The first is…MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR THIGHS. Seriously, it’s time. The second is this:

1. Being yourself is the only way to be happy and successful. I've watched successful people a lot lately, I've read about their stories, listened to a gazillion podcasts. There seems to be a common theme...no one is happy and successful by being someone they're not. You could be successful but once you got to the top, you sure as hell won't be happy.

2. Release the need for approval or validation from other people. You just won't get it, not in the way that it matters. Like that glorious Eleanor Roosevelt quote, it is guaranteed that you will be criticized anyways, so why not do what's in your heart.

3. Avoid Comparison. Your efforts towards true, lasting health will not work if you're seeking an ideal outside of yourself. I believe this from the bottom of my heart. You must start with the fundamental truth that you are your own kind of beautiful. You will become only more of your own kind of beautiful the healthier, more energetic, and more vibrant you become. But it has to be yours and not someone else's. Comparison only brings negative energy and will sabotage your well-intentioned efforts.

This time, if you’re starting again, starting to move for the first time in a while or wanting to release some weight, or just simply get healthier, listen to the voice in your head, watch what your goals and intentions are behind a new program, and try to tell yourself that what you are right now, the way you look and move and speak is beautiful….you are beautiful because you’re real, you’re alive, and you have so much love to give.

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In health,

Erica

Me and my two girls. These girls are polar opposites but oh so beautiful in their own way.

Why Flow?

Most of my memories of being a kid are good ones.  I feel very fortunate in this regard.  I distinctly remember the feeling of time and how the pace would vary.  A rainy Saturday would feel more like a week.  Three hours playing backyard football would fly by and feel more like half an hour.  I think we all have these memories as kids and hopefully we are still having them as adults.  But why are the memories from our past so vivid?  Is it romanticism or distinct feelings of happiness?  The best answer may be linked to the activities and our experience of “flow state.”

Flow State is a positive psychology term, maybe you have heard it referred to as “in the zone,” and it was coined by Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Dr. MC).  Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi began studying and writing about optimal experience in the early 1970’s.  He set out to define and characterize happiness.  Through his research, Dr. MC found the happiest people, regardless of their field or status, had one thing in common…more optimal experiences or flow state.  Here is  Csíkszentmihályi describing his work;,

“I developed a theory of optimal experience based on the concept of flow – the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter, the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it, even at great costs for sheer sake of doing it.” 

Ultimately, Dr. MC developed a state of mind model (illustration below), with FLOW at the intersection of high challenge – high skill.  To simplify a bit, we need a challenge and the skill set to meet the challenge, in order to tap into “flow.”  Most of us can recall the feeling of flow, even as adults.  Maybe its a great conversation, painting, writing poetry, birth of a child, running a marathon.  The optimal experience is subjective but the benefits of flow have been proven.  For a deeper dive into flow state, check out Dr. MC’s book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (one of many) and his 2004 TEDtalk.

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So its clear flow is good but the “feeling of flow” is still a bit hazy.  Dr MC explains it this way:

“...being completely involved in an activity for its own sake.  The ego falls away.  Time flies.  Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz.  Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”  

I am a football guy so a football scenario or analogy seems appropriate but instead, I’ll dive into how I prepare for and hack into flow. 

For me, it starts with exercise.  I like running, yoga and functional weight training (kettlebells, macebells) or body weight training.  These activities do not always produce a “flow” moment but a lot of the time I do experience the “ego falling away” feeling.  I have a lot of experience with sports training and heavy weight lifting but now my favorite approach is geared towards functional strength, mobility and cardio, all rolled into a workout with a flow to it.   I really believe a continual, flowing type of exercise creates the optimal experience, along with great results!  Next, is a mindful practice.

 I like to get 20 minutes of meditation in each morning.  Basically, I sit, breath deeply and try to quite my mind.  If a thought comes to my mind, I visualize it floating by like a cloud and then I focus on breathe again. 

The benefits are noticeable, including, more gratitude and being more present with others.  Another option is to do twenty minutes of slow, deliberate yoga, while focusing on breath.  This is a great way to work with your breath and get the body moving in the morning.  Lastly, get outside in the elements and in nature.  It is important to get fresh air, allow the sun to hit your skin and actually notice your environment.  It's awe inspiring and I think we need it in our everyday lives.  Plus, I enjoy exercising outside and we live in a beautiful place so this is usually an easy one to check off the list. 

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The great thing about exercise, meditation and time in nature is their benefits are not limited to the experience itself.  Exercise is great for strength, stamina, metabolism, confidence, and firing up the nervous system receptors (endocabbinoid, serotonin, dopamine).  The experience is great but the residual benefits help with performance and focus throughout the day.  Meditation or a mindful practice has similar results.  This practice will quiet the monkey brain, provide clarity and help in quieting the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight).  I appreciate it because it helps me be more present with family, friends and co-workers.  Being more present, in the moment, always creates more appreciation and inevitably, more flow. 

So whatever your process, I hope my experiences will help you recognize and start tapping into more flow.  I leave you with this inspiring passage from Dr. MC:

“Flow is important because it makes the present instant more enjoyable, and because it builds the self-confidence that allows to develop skills and make significant contributions to mankind.” 

 

Find what makes you the best version of yourself and do it more! Make changes, do the work, prepare to be your best self, find more FLOW.

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In health,

Zach

How I Lost Weight

I fought with myself for years over what I ate, how much I exercised and what I looked like. I am no different than probably 95% of women who bought into the ideal of what a woman should look like based on society's image.  I was the girl who always said "i'll be happy when..." I would yo-yo diet, and lose the same 5-10 pounds again and again only to regain it. I had so many rules for myself. No carbs, then no sugar, then no cheat days or meals, then a lot of times, I would make myself run off the calories that I had eaten outside of what my goal was. Moral of the story...I STRUGGLED. I had a very unhealthy relationship with food and with exercise.

Here's what I know now, it doesn't have to be that way. It is possible to love your body, feel good in a bathing suit chasing your kids on the beach and put more energy into the things that matter rather than the way you look. 

The thing was, I was wrong about how I would get to this place. Now, I'm nowhere near perfect, I still struggle with negative self-talk or comparing myself, but I'm at a place where the thoughts may come into my mind and I'm able to let them pass on through. 

What I think happened is I finally gave myself a break, and let go of the rules. I listened to my body, and got to the root of the issues I had with food, which were way deeper than failing to have the willpower to follow a strict diet. 

What I've learned and am still learning is that our bodies, being inextricably connected to our minds and our thoughts, respond to very ingrained behaviors and habits that we have acquired over years of doing the same thing. Here's a breakdown of a little brain science 101. (I'm sure my neurologist sister will laugh at this but let's give it a shot) From what I understand, and what I found to be true about me is that this big, bold, cold turkey/deadline/high pressure diet and weight loss goal strategy I made were often destined to fail. They were up against a brain wired to turn to food if I was stressed, negative self-talk that sabotaged any hope of commitment or confidence I could follow through, and just plain inconsistency of moving my body. I underestimated how powerful the wiring of our brain was from previous longtime habits. 

I couldn't say it better than this mindbodygreen article*(link below) I came across that basically explains it this way: 

"First, the act of thinking sets into motion a chemical reaction in the brain that can be likened to plugging in a string of lights. As you think about something—be it positive or stressful—you turn on a string of lights related to that topic.

Second, the more you think, feel and act the same way, the faster the lights turn on and the brighter they glow. Thus, the string of lights related to driving a car at 45 years old is much brighter and faster than the string you had at 16 years old.

Finally, we have trillions of brain cells, resulting in thousands (if not millions) of strings of lights correlating with our habits in all areas of our life. Donald Hebb’s landmark discovery in 1949, “neurons that fire together wire together,” best explains the process of wiring and strengthening brain pathways. The key is to activate as many of these pathways as possible given they work synergistically. One pathway alone is not enough to successfully rewire your brain. However, when you repeatedly align your beliefs, feelings, vision, and actions you will experience lasting changes in your brain."

Why does this matter? Because healing yourself of bad habits, making actual progress towards weight loss, stress relief, general positive thinking even, doesn't happen, for most normal people, just by garnering up a massive amount of willpower. Each negative thought you can counter with a thought about something you're grateful for, literally rewires your brain. And if you do it day in and day out, you will have changed your brain and become better wired to actually accomplish the goals you set for yourself. Each time you move, even if just for 20 minutes, is again affecting the entirety of your body and working synergistically with your positive mindset, and with each day/each choice building on the next, the sustainability of your change is only growing stronger, and your brain changes. 

THIS is why we call Flow Space a mind-body studio. You cannot have one without the other. 

So this is how it actually happened for me,

1. Gratitude/Changing your Thoughts- This changes the hardwiring of your brain. Gratitude and movement were the only tools that I could find to slightly lift the pain and heartbreak of grief to be able to move through it. I still turn to it every day. This will make the other changes involving exercise and nutrition so much easier. It can begin with simply countering your negative thoughts/angry thoughts/victim mentality thoughts with 1 thing you're grateful for. On my particularly rough days, I could always counter with "I am healthy and my children are healthy." That was enough to change the course of my thoughts to a positive place. 

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2. Movement- Your body will reward you with feel-good chemicals when you move. It is proven and backed by scientific data. Begin with walking, and I can almost guarantee you'll feel so good that you'll search out more ways to move. Or come to a flow class!

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3. Eating foods that make me feel good- Period. I don't believe there is one diet or nutrition plan everyone should be on. My mostly plant-based diet doesn't feel great to my husband who prefers to add in beef or chicken. But I have found through a lot of trial and error what foods feel good to me. They are clean, healthy, plant-based and usually pretty simple. Also, an important part of this is if & when you fail to eat the most healthy foods, which you will do if you're human, let it go and move on to the next healthy meal. 

4.Self-Discovery-Start doing the work of finding your purpose. Journal, recognize what you're pulled to and do more of that. Follow the feelings where you feel expansive rather than constrained. Recognize that you are an individual that may be heavily influenced by what you "should do" and allow yourself to be free of those expectations for as much as you can to figure out yourself. Sometimes our issues with food and having a sedentary lifestyle is because we are numbing ourselves to avoid the feelings of anxiety and depression that come from not feeling fulfillment or purpose. 

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I share these thoughts not as an expert, because I certainly am not one, but because it was what I wish I would've heard in moments when I needed it.  I have so loved people reaching out to me directly in response and us being able to have real dialogue about these issues that I feel are life-changing for me. If you're looking for more help on getting through a weight loss journey or just want to get on the road back to better health, I would love to have you in one of our classes, or you can always reach out to me at erica@flowspacefitness.com to see how we can help put some tools in motion to begin your health journey. 

In health,

Erica

*https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11762/5-ways-to-rewire-your-brain-for-meaningful-life-changes.html