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Self-Love and Body Positivity: Challenge Accepted.

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Self-Love and Body Positivity: Challenge Accepted.

ano This picture was taken just over ten years ago, on my sixteenth birthday, in New York City.

I was meeting with every major modeling agency through a talent manager I had recently met at an open call modeling convention. I eventually signed on as a new talent for a company in Los Angeles, but I wasn't exactly happy about it. When the above photo was taken, I was 5'11" and about 130 pounds. Still, I believed I had more weight to lose... especially if I wanted to have a decent modeling career. I was consistently told to "lose another five pounds." I was also told that I had to quit swim team because it was broadening my shoulders, and leave the basketball team because of how muscular it was making my legs.

To say that I was not loving myself is a huge understatement. In fact, I had the most dysfunctional relationship with my self-image when I was my thinnest. I was compulsively counting calories and carbs as I lightly snacked throughout the day. I started "power walking" through my neighborhood in a sweat suit in an attempt to slim down my basketball butt. Every meal felt like torture; trying to keep myself satisfied while feeling guilty about every bite. I never thought I was thin enough. Exercise became a punishment for treating myself, and this eventually caused me to resent working out altogether.

It was the most unloving relationship I have ever been in.

My whole world revolved around trying to achieve a physical ideal that wasn't even my own, and I eventually became a stranger to myself. In my modeling-industry-warped mind, I was constantly criticizing and comparing myself to the the iconic images of famous models in magazines and on television. It was so much easier to be critical of myself and to pick myself apart than to feel good about my body...

I didn't pursue a modeling career for long.

Fast forward ten years and I am a much healthier, happier version of myself than I was at sixteen, but I still struggle with being self-conscious about my body. I've always been tall and athletic, but I've had a hard time embracing my "Amazonian" stature. I always wanted to know what it would be like to be small and petite. Even when people would compliment my height and tell me how lucky I was, it fell on deaf ears. There was another girl named Lauren on my basketball team in high school; because she was shorter than me, our coach decided to nickname her "Little Lauren" and... you guessed it, I was "Big Lauren."

It felt like getting punched in the face every time he said it.

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I know I'm not alone in struggling to find that happy place with my body, and perhaps everyone experiences a certain degree of self-body-shaming because of the amount of media content we are exposed to today. For every "Instagram model" that floods the internet with filtered bikini photos, there are women everywhere lamenting their own physique. Now, more than ever, it seems as though loving yourself—truly L-O-V-E-LOVING your body, your shape, and the way it moves, evolves, and changes—is one of the hardest things to do.

During a recent class, I asked my riders to come up with three things that they truly loved about who they are. As I started to make my own list, it was a clear reminder of how difficult this simple suggestion can be. I decided to focus on the things that my body can do, instead of what it looks like, and the list began to grow. I can teach upwards of twenty SoulCycle classes in one week. I give great hugs. My body is able to practice yoga on a regular basis. I have a beating heart and air in my lungs... there were so many more things I could do, or be grateful for, than things I wanted to change. That's when it clicked... maybe the concept of self-love isn't something that comes with an answer?

What if the answer is to challenge ourselves every single day to practice self-love?

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It's still a huge challenge for me to feel comfortable working out in just a sports bra, but maybe that's the whole point? Maybe we have to play an active role in developing a positive relationship with our bodies by doing things that remind us of what we love about ourselves? Creating that mental list of things that we are grateful for, exercising because it feels good to take care of ourselves instead of doing it because we're punishing ourselves for consuming calories... working out in clothes that help us embrace our bodies and appreciate the way that they move and flow; a seemingly small act, when practiced regularly, can have a huge impact on our overall self-esteem.

We must be relentless in our practice of self-love and body positivity.

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STRENGTH comes in many different shapes and forms. The more we practice embracing what makes us different, and the amazing things our bodies can do, instead of what they look like, the more we might be able to celebrate ourselves and move away from that overly critical mindset.

Yoga has always been something that makes me feel strong and connected to my physicality, so I decided to wear a new outfit from Lucy Activewear to Dolores Park and practice some poses that make me feel proud of what my body can do. I might not have the size-zero physique I once did, but my body is capable of things I never could have done in that condition. Today, my relationship with food is a balancing act: as an athlete, I need fuel and nutrients to supplement my active lifestyle, but when I have downtime, I am never one to say no to a treat. Instead of shaming myself for having a body with curves and texture, I am choosing to be proud of my shape and the many things I can do with it.

A little something, every day.

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What do you do to make yourself feel proud of  your body? What makes you feel strong? I propose we make a commitment to put these answers into action on a daily basis and continue practicing the self-love that we deserve. Please share your story, leave a comment and check out my SoulCycle schedule in San Francisco this week!

Check out the Lucy Activewear collection and post a photo of yourself doing something that makes you feel strong and confident with the hashtag, #lucyletsgo!

Photography by the brilliant soul that is Jennifer Brody. Find her at the new Calabasas SoulCycle studio soon!

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How I Travel And Why It Works

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How I Travel And Why It Works

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Let me preface this with the fact that I am fully aware of my limited knowledge and experience having only traveled through Europe, The Caribbean, and Bali. So, if you're looking for tips on how to plan a trip that includes summiting Mount Kilimanjaro or navigating though Tokyo... this post probably won't help. Planning your first excursion to Burning Man? I can't help you there either, but I can forward you a lengthy email from my dad ("Ranger Osho") in which he gives a detailed list of all necessary preparations. Maybe you're questioning whether or not you should sign up for The Yacht Week or fly to The Bahamas for an extra long weekend... Or, perhaps you would simply like to get away to a beautiful destination for some new adventures and culturally rich experiences... That's where I would like to come in. I think experiencing another culture through travel is one of the most valuable facets of human experience; however, having a full-time job with limited vacation days can make us feel unsure of where to start. We can end up spending more time daydreaming about the exotic vacations we have always wanted to go on instead of investing our time in making it happen. Time isn't slowing down and there is a lot of ground to cover, so I have simplified the vacation planning process in order to help you feel less intimidated by the travel planning process.

1. Choose Your Travel Companions and Set Dates.

Your boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, new friend, cousins, or siblings... It doesn't have to be your entire squad but it does have to be someone with similar travel interests who you trust. The last thing you want to worry about while traveling is whether or not your friend can play it cool in a foreign country where no one speaks the same language as you. Traveling with a large group can definitely be fun, but the more schedules you try to coordinate, the smaller the window of availability. Some of my favorite trips have been with just one or two other people and we were able to cover so much more ground than we would have if we were trying to accommodate the expectations of a larger group. Where do you want to go? If you could book a flight to anywhere in the world just for fun because you want to, where would it be? Find the answer to this question and invite someone you trust enough to join you on that journey. Look at a calendar, set some dates, send in your vacation request, and—very important—COMMIT to these plans. No one likes a flaky adventure seeker.

2. Invest in the Plane Ticket. 

If you want to travel, travel HARD. I'm not writing this to tell you how to get from California to New York on a budget and a breeze. I'm here to talk about going somewhere far away and dope af. While at an airport in Germany on his way home from Greece, my boyfriend Nick met a Swedish couple who was very friendly and claimed to have travelled most of the world together. He asked them where their favorite place was, then came home and suggested that we plan a trip to Bali. I said yes immediately and just like that we were looking at our calendars and picking out dates. When I told my colleagues about the trip, many were stunned that I was so casual about it. No, its not our honeymoon (LOL). We just wanted to go! Once my vacation days were approved we looked up the cost of flights and started saving up. Getting there is usually the most expensive part of any faraway vacation, so get over the hump of letting that be an excuse not to go and you're on your way. Our Instagram feeds are constantly flooded with inspirational photos of gorgeous destinations, so pick somewhere and set a goal to buy your flights ASAP. Trust that you can usually bank on an affordable exchange rate. Our flights to Bali were not cheap, but you know what was cheap in Bali? EVERYTHING. The way I see it is that if you can travel somewhere and spend less per day than you do going through your everyday life that's a win. Committing to purchasing plane tickets is the first step toward having an unforgettable experience that will teach you more about yourself and the world you live in than living vicariously through the people and social media accounts you follow online.

3. Don't Bring Any Clothes. 

I've never considered myself to be a fashionista so perhaps I'm biased on this one but, under-packing is one of the most liberating things you can do for yourself while traveling. When I travel a long distance I try to keep everything in a carry-on size bag or a large backpack. For one thing, I don't want my luggage to get lost (I have some trust issues with airport baggage claim services) because I don't want to show up to a foreign country without chonies. Speaking of which, CHONIES (also called "underwear" or "panties" depending on how you were raised) are the most important thing to pack when you travel. Start with packing one pair for every day you are gone then toss in a few extras just in case you go swimming in your clothes or wet yourself or something. Second to chonies are socks and bras; pack enough to have a fresh pair everyday and use your own judgment with how many bras you'll blow through (is this an action packed trip or more of a beach bum getaway?). When it comes to planning out the rest of the clothes you're bringing, try to be realistic. We can get excited about all of the fashion moments we want to have when we are on vacation but the truth is, being comfortable is also luxurious and you don't need as many accessories as you might think. I usually lay everything I'm bringing out on my bed and focus on bringing things that mix-and-match well together (one pair of shorts/pants probably goes well with more than one top... get creative). No matter where you are traveling to you only need to bring three swimsuits. If you are cycling through all three you should always have at least one clean, dry one at any given time. Try not to add too much weight to your trip, keep the mood and your luggage light! My priorities are usually comfies, swimsuits, athletic wear (#athleisure), then a couple of nice outfits in case we feel fancy.  Packing light is also a strategy for leaving room in your luggage for some new gear, so if you somehow destroy all three swimsuits before the end of your trip, what a great excuse to get a new one as a souvenir! Otherwise use your spare chonies.

4. Don't Plan Too Much. 

Traveling is fun because no matter where you go there is always a laundry list of things to do, places to go, and food to eat. It can feel overwhelming if you try to cram too many things into your itinerary. When encountering a new culture, try to immerse yourself in as much of it as possible, but keep in mind that the intention is to enjoy your trip, so give yourself room to breathe and recharge. If you are not used to doing 2-3 adventure sports in one day every day for nine days, don't schedule yourself so aggressively. Pick one major goal for each day of your trip then give yourself some wiggle room to explore and go off the beaten path. When Nick and I arrived on the small island of Eleuthera in The Bahamas last year, we didn't have anything planned; however, we did have a thirty minute taxi ride from the airport to our hotel and a friendly driver to gave us the scoop on where to get cash, buy groceries, and catch the "Friday Fish Fry." A constant parade of live music, art, and food, the Fish Fry was one of the most memorable experiences of the whole week, and we might have missed it if we hadn't trusted the locals to guide us to where we needed to go. Give yourself at least one day where you have nothing planned so you can have some time to rest and recover. This might seem like it's defeating the purpose of experiencing as much as possible, but if you don't take time to decompress it's going to be difficult to enjoy those experiences as fully. Use your resources and ask around for as many suggestions as you can so you have a solid base of information before you arrive, but give yourself permission to be flexible.

5. Inhale Intention, Exhale Expectation.

Okay, you caught me. This is a quote from the SoulCycle mantra that's printed inside every studio, but this is true for traveling just as much as it is for high-intensity cardiovascular interval training. Setting expectations on ourselves can rob us of the joy that comes from being in the present moment and set us up for a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. Sometimes the most memorable moments happen without a phone or camera handy, so don't let your desire to accumulate a photo album get in the way of soaking in the scenery for yourself. Be self-indulgent with your time and try not to take the simple things for granted. You might not get the best picture of a beautiful sunset but if you allow yourself to enjoy it instead of capture it, that might be more fulfilling anyway. If the most uncomfortable aspect of traveling is doing so without a plan, there is probably a lot to learn from that experience and you should give yourself permission to explore it. Trust your choice of where to go, then go there with an open heart and open mind. Ask locals where they eat, not where they tell tourists to eat. From my experience, many people are excited to share their culinary culture with those who are genuinely interested... just be kind, curious, and polite (manners matter). Obviously safety can be a concern when traveling so use your best judgment when wandering off into a faraway abyss, but don't let fear hold you back from cultivating the sense of self that you can only gain from getting out of your comfort zone and opening yourself up to a new corner of the world.

Now, where do you want to go and what are you doing to get there? Do you have any travel tips that have worked well for you? Please share your story, leave a comment and check out my SoulCycle schedule in San Francisco this week!

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