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Looking Back and Growing Forward: Embracing a Growth Mindset

The 10 year Anniversary of the opening of our Menlo Park studio has given me pause to reflect and look back and how my own life has changed since 2009. There are a few more candles on my birthday cake and more “laugh” lines on my face. All a testament to a decade of a life well lived!

 

In 2009, I was a full-time mom raising my 3 daughters. Amy was 17 and a junior in high school and beginning to look ahead to college. Molly was 15 and a freshman at St. Francis. Abby was 12 and attending St. Simon’s school. I was a part-time chauffeur, laundry service, short order cook, counselor, volunteer, etc, etc…And I LOVED every second of those years. (Well, maybe not every second!). While the girls were at school I was running a lot of miles at Rancho San Antonio with my running partner. We logged close to 40 miles per week when we were training for marathons, qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon twice. The endorphin rush of a good long run is something I still enjoy, albeit at a much slower pace. Looking back, I could mourn what is no longer… our home filled with the laughter of my girls and their friends (especially during high school when our home became home base after school). Oh, how I loved spending time preparing snacks at the kitchen island, silently listening to the deep inner workings of the teenage heart and mind. I still manage a run with my running partner on Friday mornings but they are shorter (and slower) and we don’t spend an hour afterward lingering at Starbucks over a non-fat latte. Yes, those years were fantastic but instead of longing to go back, I have learned to look forward. To “grow” forward and embrace a growth mindset.

 

In roughly 2010, our therapist posed the question of “what is next for you, Cathy, once your girls grow up and your nest is empty?” I had to give some serious thought to the fact that I was nearing a “forced retirement” of sorts. What would my next chapter be? I still had a few years to ponder my options. Would I go back and renew my teaching credentials? Go back to work? Devote time into more volunteer endeavors? Be a lady of leisure? 😉

 

Fast forward to 2011, I was taking classes at the Los Altos studio (after an IT band injury after the Boston Marathon). I worked at the front desk and grew to love the community of instructors and the clients. When Erin approached me to ask if I would be interested in training to teach, I thought she had lost her mind. I was 49 years old!!! A fitness instructor??  After consulting with Jeff and the girls, I leaned into my self-doubt and said YES! Was I scared? You bet I was! Would I be able to get up in front of clients/friends who once viewed me as a student, put a mic on and lead the class?? Would I remember what to say to cue them into position? Would clients be put off by my age? My inner critic was large and in charge! Training to teach allowed me the opportunity to confront that inner mean girl, lean into the challenge and flex the muscles of a growth mindset.

 

The decision to teach at Alkalign has changed my life in more ways than I can say. This chapter of my life has been incredibly fulfilling.  I love what I do and look forward to what is ahead at Alkalign and in other areas of my life. My three teenagers from 2009 are now embracing their own growth mindsets. Amy is 27 and getting married in August. She and her fiance, Max, will be heading to Germany in September so that he can pursue a master’s degree.  Molly will be moving from Washington, DC where she has been a pediatric transplant nurse at Georgetown to Seattle for a job at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Abby will graduate in May from Villanova University and is heading to NYC to work as an Economics Consultant. They are fearlessly embracing the unknown of what is to come. I couldn’t be more proud of them and I look forward to watching them continue to blossom.

 

My nest may be empty but my life is full because of my connections and community at Alkalign. As for Jeff and I, we are excited about what life has in store for us. We look back with so much gratitude while setting our sights ahead to a bright future.  

Running Smoothly, Thanks To Alkalign!

In 2012 I ran my 7th marathon: Boston. As I crossed the finish line, feeling grateful and delighted to be done, I had the usual aches associated with pounding the pavement for 26.2 miles, but I had a new sensation that ran from the outside of my left hip to the outside of my knee. As I hobbled back to the hotel, I tried to convince myself that I would be able to shake it off and be back out running in no time. I forced myself to wait a few days before attempting a short jog. I made it only a few feet when the tears began to flow. This was a bigger issue than I thought.

 

I went straight to the sports medicine doctor who delivered the diagnosis of “acute illiotibial band syndrome.” The IT band is a thick band of fascia, or connective tissue, that runs parallel to the femur from the outside of the hip to knee. The IT band’s role is to stabilize the outside part of the knee.  The months of pounding the pavement without stretching (AT ALL!) and without any cross training had taken a toll on my body. The doctor advised that I lay off the running and begin physical therapy.

 

This was my first experience with an injury and first visit to a PT. During the initial visit, the therapist performed a variety of strength tests and determined that I had an imbalance in muscle groups. I had strong quads, but weak glutes and my adductors were also not firing effectively. Treatment included electrical stimulation (such a freaky feeling but helped a ton!). We also worked with resistance bands to strengthen the adductors and abductors and glute medius. Loads of squats, lunges, stretching and mobility work. Sound familiar? #functionalfitness #alkalign!

 

In the meantime, I was losing my mind not being able to go out for my morning run! It was at this point that I realized that I needed to find a workout that would allow me to focus on building overall strength, flexibility and mobility. I needed a workout that would help get me back on the trails at Rancho San Antonio, and perhaps able to run at least a half marathon.

 

A friend invited me to take a class at Alkalign and I am beyond grateful. Alkalign has changed my life in so many ways. From starting as a client to working the front desk to training to become an instructor and now training our newest instructors!  Not only did Alkalign help me rehab from that gnarly IT band injury, but it has helped me get stronger both mentally and physically and enabled me to get back out running INJURY FREE! Alkalign is an amazing workout that has its roots in physical therapy exercises and focuses on the 7 functional movements that allow our clients to participate in all the endeavors they enjoy outside of the studio.

 

As a side note….I just the San Francisco Giants Half Marathon on September 9th. As I crossed that finish line at ATT park, I tipped my running hat to Alkalign with appreciation and gratitude!  

Leaping forward + Developing a Growth Mindset

Cathy Alkalign Studios Plank Pose

If you had asked me five years ago if I could see myself becoming a barre instructor, I would have said you were nuts!

 

After my first daughter was born in 1992, I stepped away from my job as a special education teacher. The decision was easy for me. Thankfully, I was able to make the transition from teaching to being a full-time mom (something I will always be grateful for). Fast forward (and I really do mean FAST forward) to 2012: I had been a stay-at-home mom for 20+years raising my three daughters. Countless hours of driving carpool, attending various practices and games, volunteering at schools and relishing every moment. My youngest daughter was in high school when I realized that I was about to be “forced” into retirement. Abby was about to graduate and head off to college. My girls would no longer need me day to day. What on earth would I do to fill my days?  Couldn’t help but wonder… what’s next?

 

I was literally at a crossroads. The last 20 years had been both meaningful and extremely rewarding. I LOVE being a mom. How could anything else bring me joy and fulfillment? After being “retired” for two decades, what was I qualified to do?

 

Timing is everything, and I believe that opportunities present themselves exactly when we need it the most. In the fall of 2012, Erin approached me asking if I had ever considered teaching. My first response was “Um no! I could never do that!”. The thought of putting on a mic and standing in front of my fellow clients and suddenly becoming their teacher was terrifying! It was then that I realized I had two choices. 1.) I could let fear hold me back because seriously, who wants to take a fitness class from a former client who is the oldest instructor on the team? (“fixed mindset”) 2.) I could embrace being a lifelong learner and adopt a growth mindset… embrace the idea that you really can teach an old dog new tricks!

 

After careful consideration and with the support and encouragement of my family, friends and now fellow instructors, I made the bold and brave leap of faith and said YES! Yes to going through the rigorous training to become certified to teach but more importantly, yes to committing to developing a growth mindset. What does that mean? A fixed mindset believes that all talent, skills and capabilities are fixed traits. You either have it or you don’t! You are not a work in process but a finished product. In contrast, A person with a growth mindset focuses less on mastery or perfection and more on the process and what they can learn and how they improve + grow along the way. They find setbacks or challenges motivating. They enjoy challenge!

 

According to Carol Dweck of Stanford University, people with a growth mindset learn:

+ Trying and failing is a part of the process

+ Learning requires stumbling, correcting, and growing

+ You don’t have to know everything in advance

+ Practice and skill-building are more important that embedded talent

+ You’re always a beginner

+ Life is about lifelong learning

 

I am committed to challenging myself, and to taking risks knowing that “failing” provides an opportunity for learning and growth. With every class I take, every class I have the privilege to teach, every client interaction, every workshop or master class I attend, I learn something new. I am growth minded not because I am striving for perfection but because I want to focus on being the very best version of me!  #TeamAlkalign

Confronting (or fighting!) The Inner Critic

Reform Your Inner Critic Mean Girl via Alkalign Studios Today is the day that I FINALLY sit down and begin to write about my experience  with  “the inner critic”.  I have promised myself to begin this process for weeks (ok it’s been months!). What has held me back you ask? That nagging voice in my head that repeats “Who do you think you are?” “What makes you an expert on this topic?”  “Really? Now you are a blogger?”

 

We know that words have power. Power to build us up or to tear us down. Negative words lead us to doubt our value, our ability, our worth. When someone praises us for a job well done, we stand a little taller and feel a little better about ourselves. In contrast, if  someone criticizes us or says something hurtful to us (or about us) it stings. It sticks with us!

 

But what happens when we have negative beliefs or thoughts about ourselves? What happens when the inner critic chimes in and tells us that we are just not enough? We should do better, look better or be better. Science has shown that those thoughts actually create neural pathways in our brain which act like a recording set on repeat. Heard often enough and these thoughts may become our “reality”. These thoughts hold us back. We begin to believe that inner critic.

 

Before sitting down to write this piece, I googled “the inner critic”.  It’s amazing how much information is out there. This is clearly a popular topic. Probably because we can all relate! Most of us hold ourselves to insanely high standards. How many of us can say that we only say nice things to ourselves when we look in the mirror in the morning? How many of us can say that we only affirm our abilities as a mother, wife, friend and employee? If you can and you do, please hunt me down and tell me your secret!

 

Recently, I arrived at the studio to teach the 6:00 am class. As I walked into the room to turn the lights and music on, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. “Holy cow!  Look at the bags under your eyes! And why on earth did you pick that tight fitting top today? Look at that belly pooch!”. Oh hello, inner critic! I refer to her as that witch (with a B) in my head!As I listened to those words I had to stop for a moment and ask myself “Would you EVER say something like that to your friend, your spouse or worst of all your child?” Obviously, the answer is no! Honestly, if I heard anyone talk to my child this way, I would take them down. So why do I take it from my inner critic? Well, I’m ready to confront this chick in my head.

 

Authors Amy Ahlers and Christine Arylo describe this voice as “the inner mean girl” in the book titled Reform Your Inner Mean Girl:  7 Steps to Stop Bullying Yourself and Start Loving Yourself. I immediately ordered the book. I’ve started reading the book. Good start right? The authors encourage the reader to start to listen to our “inner wisdom” instead of allowing the inner mean girl to run the show. There is even a quiz to help you identify your type of inner mean girl. Mine is the “good girl”.  Then they offer an Inner Wisdom Kit that is available online to help you reform the inner mean girl.  So far I have found the book to be relatable, useful and best of all funny.

 

So the next time I hear that mean girl’s voice, I will stop her and let her know that she no longer runs the show! Hit the road mean girl!  I will show myself empathy, compassion and love. Let’s DO THIS!

A fabulous workout and so much more

Alkalign Studios Menlo Park + Los Altos | Barre Fitness | Cardio Align

In 2010, I was introduced to barre class by a friend. To say this was “life changing” may seem dramatic but it is the honest truth! My friend, Eileen, had been taking classes for a few months and I noticed a difference in her body. She looked taller, leaner, more confident. I had to know the secret! I’d recently completed a marathon and was injured (that dreaded IT band!) and needed something to fulfill my exercise requirements and to develop some flexibility so I would be able to get back out there and RUN! So I signed up for a class. Looking back, I recall feeling totally clueless as the class got underway. Thank goodness I had my friend for moral support and an amazing instructor who seemed to sense my cluelessness and was quick with a smile and an encouraging word. I came for a workout but five years later, I have so much more.

 

Fitness has always been important to me. I feel better on the days that I work out. I sleep better,  I have more pep in my step. I get more done. My family will tell you, I am just nicer to be around when I get a workout! But the biggest draw for me is the need to be around others who have a similar relationship with exercise. I found this at Alkalign. I started as the front desk worker on Monday afternoons. I got to know the instructors. I took class more often. I fell deeper in love with the barre format as I noticed a difference in my posture, my strength and my flexibility. The studio became a second home for me. Why did I continue to come back to class? Why did I take the leap to train to become an instructor? Was it simply because I felt better and noticed a difference in how my clothes fit? That I truly saw results? All those things are true and SO much more. I came for a great workout and found a home. I have made so many wonderful friends, both instructors and clients. I am forever changed, forever grateful.

 

You may have noticed that the studio has gone through some changes! Thank you all for being patient throughout the process. What you probably notice is that the space has been reconfigured to provide room to gather and get to know each other. Grab a juice, salad or snack from the new fridge after class and hang out with a friend. Check out the current retail. Once you drag yourself away from the studio, visit our new website. ‘Like’ us on Facebook. Let us know if there are things you’d like to see us add that may foster an even greater sense of community. We are here for you. We want the studio to feel like your home—a place that is welcoming and friendly and that you want to come back to frequently!