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3 Years of Teaching, 3 Lessons Learned

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3 Years of Teaching, 3 Lessons Learned

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I have been going through what can only be described as a creative slump lately. It's been a beautiful handful of weeks celebrating a wedding, a bachelorette party, and now my 3-year SOULiversary (teaching anniversary at SoulCycle), and it has definitely taken a lot out of me.... Last week, for example, was a whirlwind of emotions; I had my annual class review and instructor development trainings all week before flying to Los Angeles for a weekend of bachelorette party shenanigans... Now that I feel like I have finally caught up with myself and have taken some time to reflect on this career milestone and overall life high, there are three lessons I would like to share with you that I have learned throughout my three years as a full-time instructor! 1. Be Yourself.

BEFORE YOU ROLL YOUR EYES, hear me out. As cliché as it might seem, this is the first challenge every instructor faces and its one of the hardest to overcome. We all have, hopefully, had an instructor who changed our perception of whatever workout we have fallen in love with. They said something so profound it made us cry, they reminded us that we have something to fight for, or they simply kicked our ass in a way we never knew we needed. Whatever it was, it changed us for the better and maybe even inspired us to pursue a teaching career. The thing is, you can't chase down anyone else's dream but your own, so finding your own voice in the midst of being inspired by someone else's can be extremely challenging. We can get caught up trying to rally followers in ways that we have seen work for other people, but the same teaching strategy for one instructor won't necessarily resonate with people if it isn't authentic to you. During those first few classes I taught, I could hear the mantras I learned from other instructors creeping into my dialogue, so I had to learn how to make them my own instead of just regurgitating something someone else had taught me. I can't remember the exact moment that I first heard Melanie G. say "choose faith over fear," but it has been one of the realest sources of inspiration for me ever since. When delivering this message in my own classes, I have to think about why that particular truth bomb resonates with me in the moment instead of just throwing it out there without any real purpose or relevance. Everyone interprets information differently, so it's a generous choice to give yourself permission to reflect on what is true in that moment before reciting the same information the same way you have already heard it before. People don't want a second-hand version of someone else, they want you, so use what inspires you to create something as unique as you are.

2. Find Your Balance.

This starts and ends with the little moments throughout the week where you can find some inner peace and quiet... For me, it's when I'm driving to Marin; there's something about turning off the radio and just enjoying the view in the comfort of my car that really allows me to clear my mind. It is highly unlikely for me to meditate at home without just taking a nap, so recognizing those moments within in my weekly routine where I can be still and listen to what is happening in between my ears gives me some time to prioritize and focus. Having someone tell me what to do through yoga and personal training sessions can also feel so self-indulgent that I often forget that its technically more "work." The feeling of being quiet and having someone guide me for a change makes me feel grounded and whole. As full-time instructors, we give so much of ourselves to our riders and our studios that sometimes the most simple act of being still or quiet can really help us find the balance we need to recharge. Beyond the physical benefits, the mental and emotional components of yoga, meditation and simply getting away from work for a while is extremely important for preventing burn out. It doesn't have to be complicated or time-consuming; take a walk outside, sit still with your eyes closed, take a power nap... the benefits of creating pockets of self-care throughout your week will always be beneficial.

3. Keep It Simple.

This is something that I have been working on more recently, and will probably have to remind myself on a near daily basis, as I continue to grow as an instructor and overall human being. Having a lot of teaching experience gives us a lot of material to work with as we develop our class structures and coaching techniques. One of the hardest things for me has been to take some pressure off myself to include everything I have ever learned about why SoulCycle is so great and why everyone should be just as passionate about it as I am into every class that I teach. The truth is, this mindset is exhausting, and I have been guilty of putting way too much pressure on myself to provide this cumulative experience when, in reality, some of the most powerful experiences we can provide aren't done so by force, or even using our words. When we take the pressure off of ourselves to meet an expectation that no one has set on us but ourselves, the connection we are able to make with one another becomes much more organic and real.

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inhaleexhaleMCHALE

One of my riders sent me a message after class a few days ago, quoting something I had said, "You don't have to have all of the answers to be a leader." I truly believe that we all just want to do right by the world in our own individual ways. Sometimes admitting that we have a lot to learn and that we simply don't have every answer to every issue in the world can keep us connected to one another throughout our individual pursuits. When we stop trying to put on a show and break ourselves down to a human level of understanding and consciousness, we prolong the longevity of our passion for what we do because it really doesn't have to be complicated. Today I reminded my class, "When you think of it, we are mostly made up of water, so be a flowing river or ocean, not a pond or a puddle." Sometimes all we need to do is remind ourselves and others that we all have a lot more in common than we probably know, and that in itself is worth exploring and celebrating.

By giving ourselves the freedom to give the world a real version of who we are, by finding balance between the chaos and stillness, by taking down our guard and allowing the simplicity of our ambitions to guide our actions, we are able to give more authentically to others and ourselves.

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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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My Weekly Routine: Cross-Training, Recovery, and Down Time

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My Weekly Routine: Cross-Training, Recovery, and Down Time

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bali yoga pose I have been teaching full-time at SoulCycle for almost three years now and one of the most common questions I am asked is, "How do you do it?" To some, teaching upwards of fifteen classes each week might seem like a lot, but it has taken a lot of time and practice to find a sustainable life balance between my personal and professional worlds. As a fitness professional, I have to walk what I talk and take care of my physical body through cross-training and recovery. As someone who values family and friendship above anything else, I also have to make time for the people I love and nurture those relationships. Being in teaching shape requires much more than just eating a lot of bananas and slamming coconut waters all day... we also have to take care of our mental and emotional health, so here are some aspects of my weekly routine that help me accomplish this:

Massage/Burrito/Bachelor Mondays. "Massage Mondays" are actually something I am trying to focus more on because it can be difficult to justify treating myself to a massage every week but this is SO IMPORTANT to keeping my body happy (thank you for the inspiration, Pixie!). Between my 10:30am class on Union Street and my 5:30pm/7:30pm combo in the evening, my go-to is a deep tissue at Lamai Thai Massage in the marina where (for $65/hour) these strong women step on and dig into every major muscle group that needs lots of extra attention. My eating habits vary from week to week and I try to cook as many meals at home as I can. Although, one of my favorite post-massage lunches when I'm feeling all zen-ed out is a spicy tuna salad from Blue Barn and a kombucha to keep my tummy happy before I head to the SOMA studio for my 5:30pm class. Between classes I wish I could say that I eat a protein bar or a handful of kale, but the truth is I'm more likely to grab a bag of Chex Mix from the snack drawer and a juice/immunity shot from Pressed before I get in a Lyft and head back to Union Street for my 7:30pm class.

After class, whether its The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, or Bachelor in Paradise, I have a lady date with some of my girlfriends so I grab a burrito (#BurritoMonday) and head up to Russian Hill for some quality time with my squad. This is a very important aspect of my weekly routine—getting together with people who can take my mind off of the day, help me center my mind on the present moment, and give me a fresh perspective on life while watching people try to find love through reality television. For all of the right and wrong reasons, this is my favorite night of the week because it makes me feel connected to my favorite people (while also keeping me up past my bedtime). Sometimes we can feel like we are staying in touch with our friends because of all the social media we have access to, but it's important to get together face-to-face in order to cultivate healthy relationships (more on this later). This is when we catch up, vent, hash out our emotions (if necessary), and relate to one another on a human level—no filters or hashtags, just a bunch of girls on a couch enjoying one another's presence and keeping it REAL. Very important.

Tuesdays & Thursdays are for Cross-Training and YOGA. After teaching my early morning classes at the SOMA studio (6am & 8am) its time to put in the extra work—the stuff that can sometimes feel like a chore but is really one of the most fundamental aspects of how full-time instructors are able to maintain our intense teaching schedules. On Tuesdays, I do a double floor "Butt & Legs" class at Barry's Bootcamp in the marina (no treadmill for me, thanks) then I head straight to a one-hour float session at Reboot Float Spa just a few blocks down Lombard Street. This combination of cross-training and recovery is essential to feeling strong throughout the rest of the week. The hour I spend floating in a sensory deprivation tank at Reboot helps my body recover and gives me time to reconnect with myself and get my mind right. The super-condensed epsom salt solution relieves soreness, fatigue and tension in my neck and shoulders; adding this hour of blissful relaxation to my weekly routine has truly changed my world.

On Thursdays, I go from my SOMA roosters to a yoga class at Equinox Union Street then to personal training with my friend Ryan Miller at Rise Up Fitness. I have been practicing yoga for about 13 years now and it has always been a way for me to reconnect with my body and take care of myself from the inside out. As a full-time instructor, it can feel so self-indulgent to be quiet and listen for an hour as someone else guides you through a vinyasa flow. Working with Ryan gives me that personalized experience of feeling like I am targeting muscles that need some extra love and attention so that I feel like I am consistently getting stronger every week. One of my favorite mantras is "there is always more to give," so taking the extra time for yoga and cross-training is how I walk in that truth.

Wild Card Wednesdays. I teach a private yoga class in San Rafael on Wednesday mornings (shout out to Crome Architecture!) and then the rest of my day is open until my evening classes (5:30pm SOMA/7:30pm UNST) so there is a good chunk of the day to rest, foam roll, go to physical therapy if I need to, go grocery shopping, and get my mid-week chores done (so much laundry always). Napping is imperative to any instructor's lifestyle, so Wednesdays are an excellent day to make a playlist in bed then snooze until I have to leave for the studio.

On FriYAYS & Saturdays I Recharge. I only teach one class on Fridays (12:15pm SOMA) and Saturday is my regularly scheduled day off, so after cardio partying with my lunchtime/working-from-home crew, I'm ready to get together with my friends and take advantage of the amazing city we live in. Friday afternoon through Saturday night I'm trying to find something new and exciting to throw myself at. "Sun's out guns out" is definitely a motto that I live by, so if the weather is nice, I am at the park with some snacks and sunscreen ready to soak up the awesomeness of my surroundings and some Vitamin D... Drive to Marin for a hike or a hangout at Hippie Tree? Yes. Matinee movie with bae? Absolutely. Bottomless mimosas and topless tanning? Why not.... but I won't disclose where that goes down. OFF THE GRID?! Always. Drive up to Tahoe? Yes Please! When I have a day off I make sure to enjoy it because I am a living, breathing human being and there must be a healthy balance of hard work and good times in order to live a happy life.

Sweaty Sundays & Date Night. When my day-and-a-half-off is over, its time to get back to work. Between my 9:30am soul survivor at SOMA and my 1:00pm class at Union Street, I teach a private yoga class which makes my Sunday teaching schedule fly by. When classes are done, it's time for late Sunday brunch with some riders (if you haven't joined us yet, what are you waiting for?!) then date night with my man in Palo Alto (location may soon change when he moves to Burlingame). Connecting with my riders outside of the studio is also a very important aspect to balancing my work and social life; I have learned countless times that SoulCycle attracts some of the most influential, inspiring people, so taking time to get to know their stories is truly enlightening. Having one night a week dedicated to having a date night with my boyfriend is what keeps us feeling connected and present in our relationship. No matter what we are going through, professionally or otherwise, taking time to enjoy one another's presence and spend quality time together reminds us that we support one another and we have each other's backs. Girls night, date night, family dinner—spending time with the people you love and who care for you is always worth it.

Do plans change from week to week? Of course they do, and flexibility is necessary. Do I sometimes skip out on cross-training for an extra long nap? Yes, especially if I am teaching more classes than usual. A weekly routine should not be rigid or fixed, but setting weekly goals can help you feel better physically, emotionally, and mentally. What I hope to convey is that it is important for us to look at our lives and notice how much time we are spending on taking care of ourselves and our interpersonal relationships. Sometimes we can get caught up in the glamorization of being busy and forget that cultivating a strong relationship with ourselves and others requires time and effort. Take the time. Make the effort. Remember that life is short and unexpected, but seemingly small moments of self-care and social interaction can help you make the most of it. It's all about balance and moderation... Take time for yourself so that you have something to give to others. Spend time with people who love you so that you have a stronger sense of self—this can be incredibly grounding and motivating for your professional pursuits as well. Cross-train your body, nurture your mind, and surround yourself with love... I'll keep trying with you.

How do you find work/life balance in your weekly routine? Please share your story, leave a comment and check out my SoulCycle schedule in San Francisco this week!

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