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One Decade Down

Ten years ago today, March 28th, I opened my first boutique fitness studio in Menlo Park, CA. I was newly married and new to the area, only knowing a few folks from my banking days on Sand Hill Road.

 

Obama has just initiated his tenure as the 44th President and Slumdog Millionaire won Best Picture. Beyoncé’s Single Ladies and Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” topped the charts. Uber was conceived and the first iPad was yet to be released. The U.S. was in the midst of a financial crisis. Swine flu was a global pandemic.

 

I was 30 years young and as green in business as my environmentally friendly studio. I was lucky to have an amazing team and a seemingly endless supply of energy that allowed me to teach 22-24 classes per week. I was on the forefront of the barre craze, bringing the first studio of its kind to the peninsula.

 

Ten years later the world is a different place and I am a different person. Obama, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga all still rock and I have evolved. I have matured. I have become more open and more discerning. I am a mother to two beautiful girls who inspire me each and every day. I am the Founder of Alkalign, a holistic health and wellness company deeply committed to its values and mission. I am a leader who is wholly invested her community. Together, we are a team of individuals; a family of originals.

 

I have sifted and sorted through the b.s. of owning a business. I have met many amazing people. I have met my fair share of @$$holes. I have stepped outside of the fitness industry’s flashy, fad-focused comfort zone to a place no one has gone before. Beyond the barre and in a direction that most don’t even realize they need to go. At least not yet. My goal is to innovate ahead so that my clients never fall behind.

 

Who knows what the future holds? I predict that someday people will look back and try to picture life before Alkalign much like we look back and imagine our lives before Snapchat, Instagram, oat milk, emojis and #hashtags. #canyoubelieveit #hashtagswereinventedin2007

 

All I know for sure is that my life is more fulfilled now because of every person I’ve connected with and every obstacle I’ve encountered and ultimately overcome. The physical strength I glean from Alkalign pales in comparison to the mental.

 

I am deeply grateful for the last decade and look forward to a fulfilling adventure ahead as I forge a path forward with friends, family and franchisees by my side. Thank you to everyone who has and will continue to be part of the journey.

 

 

Bruised But Not Broken

Barry’s Bootcamp recently opened in Palo Alto, CA and my Co-Director of Innovation, Lizzie, invited me to join her for a class. We alternated between running on the treadmill and heavy weights on the floor. During the second set of treadmill sprints it happened: the dreaded treadmill tumble. It happened so fast I didn’t have time to process. I fell off the treadmill. OMG. I fell off the treadmill! Ouch. Right away I could tell my fall was going to leave a mark. I had road rash on my arm and bloody knuckles. Despite my embarrassment I got back on and completed the workout. Surprisingly no one even seemed to notice it happened, which only made it all the more awkward.

 

After the fall I replayed the scenario in my head. I am a movement specialist who studies and coaches movement for a living. I am a functional fitness expert. Running is a faster version of walking and walking is the beloved 7th functional movement. It’s the one functional movement that we do most in our daily lives. I’ve run 7 marathons and thousands upon thousands of miles in my life. How could I, of all people, fall off a treadmill?🤦🏻‍♀️

 

The truth is I lost focus. I got distracted and stopped paying attention. I went into auto-pilot and my movement became mindless. It happens to all of us every day. We are so busy that we occasionally miss a step or mis-judge the distance between our hip and the corner of the counter. Sh*t happens. Unless we wrap ourselves in bubble wrap and never get out of bed, that will never change. We can’t control the universe but we can impact the way we respond to it.

 

The key is resiliency. Train your body to respond to its surroundings and circumstances with mitigated risk. All the work I’ve done at Alkalign to improve my strength, balance, core stability, mobility and mind body connection made the difference between a serious injury and being relatively unscathed. Alkalign doesn’t guarantee you won’t stumble or even fall, but should you get knocked down, a regular, functional movement practice helps you get up again with the grace of Chumbawamba.

 

My elbow, knee and ego may have been severely bruised, but I was not, am not, nor will be broken. To me, the investment in myself and my health is worth it.

Be True. Lean into You

Erin

It’s not easy being a woman. We are told from an early age we can be anything we want to be, and we must also be  everything. We are told to be smart, educated, career-driven, athletic, thin, pretty, outgoing.  We have to be an amazing mom/daughter/sister/friend/family CEO and, of course, the perfect spouse. We are also supposed to make it look as easy as pie….as in the one you just whipped up and popped in the oven.

The expectations society places on women are ridiculous. The expectations we place on ourselves are even worse.

I have 4 decades of experience as a woman and a decade of experience owning fitness studios primarily comprised of women. I am also raising two daughters. The struggle is real…the feelings of doubt and inadequacy are raw. And that’s ok, after all, we are human.

I recently participated in a workshop about our inner critic. We were asked when our inner critic first appeared in our lives. For me, it was in second grade! Who knows where she came from, or what experiences up to that point influenced how she presented herself. It was likely a combination of relationships, conversations and observations that began at birth. In general, as we grow up and  into who we are, our sphere of influence gets bigger and our inner critic opens the door for more opinions, judgment, insecurity and vulnerability to seep in. Family, friends, media, teachers, coaches, celebrities, infomercials, articles, fake news, false advertising and social media all contribute to our basic understanding of who we are and the expectations of who we should be.

I see the impact these expectations have on my clients, employees, friends and family. I see the light inside being slowly extinguished by the damper of expectations. It’s devastating and destructive. I have spent years working on my own self-care and self-love. I’m not perfect, I gave up on that a long time ago, but I am in a better position to help others navigate these tumultuous waters. I also see it as my life’s mission to help others feel better from the inside out.

When I founded Alkalign, establishing a culture of acceptance and authenticity was my top priority. Even more than offering a safe, sustainable workout, I wanted to offer a safe place where people could feel comfortable spending their time on good days and bad. My goal was to provide something that would leave people feeling better than when they came in. Community is the heart of Alkalign. Human connection is the glue that holds us together. It is important to surround ourselves with people who support us in bad times and champion us in good times. That is the sign of true friendship.

Here are a few tips I regularly incorporate into my life. Try them for yourself! What’s the worst that could happen?

Detoxify Your Life
Out with the old. In with the new. This goes for anything toxic, everything from the food you consume to the relationships that consume you. Get rid of what doesn’t serve you and make room for what does.

Practice Self Care
Invest in you. No one is going to take care of you, self-care is an inside job. Michelle Lam, founder of True & Co. said, “Self care is about carving out space, making sure you realize that you deserve time for yourself.” Nourish yourself with food that provides you with the fuel and energy you need to feel well from within. Make time for exercise that is as good for you now as it is 20 years from now. Prioritize sleep, which is evolutionarily your way of resetting and restoring your mind and body every day. You only get one body, take care of it for the long haul.

Tell the Inner Critic to Take a Hike
First, acknowledge the inner critic, then turn down her volume. You will never have more conversations with anyone in life than you will have with yourself. Ensure the inner dialogue is as constructive, productive, compassionate and loving as the one you would have with your friend or child.

Give Yourself Some Credit
Perfection doesn’t exist and if it did, the world would be a really boring place. As the saying goes, life is tough and so are you. Things won’t always go according to plan. Embrace that life is dynamic. Balance is dynamic. Sometimes you crush it, sometimes you get crushed. On those days, pick yourself up and turn the page. Give yourself some credit for all that you are and all that you do. You are enough.

Note: If you’re interested in this topic, I highly recommend a book called ‘Enough As She Is’ by Rachel Simons. A must read if you are a woman or want to better understand the women in your life.

Disrupting Health and Fitness, One Class and One Book at a Time

I am writing a book! Just typing those words is a huge step for me. I’ve secretly thought about writing a book for a long time but honestly had a zillion reasons in my head as to why that was a ridiculous idea. What would I write about? Would anyone want to read it? Where would I come up with the time? With 2 studios, 2 franchises, 2 kids and far too many commitments, writing a book would just be another project I’d start and never finish.

 

However, as the wise Winston Churchill said, “Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.” I can’t stop thinking about this book. Since I’m not one to shy away from a challenge, and with the big 4-0 that took place this year, I decided now is the time.

 

 My mission in life extends far beyond the day-to-day of running Alkalign. My mission is to disrupt the way people think about health and fitness in the hopes of inspiring positive change. As a former champion cardio junkie and calorie counter, I know first-hand how deeply rooted beliefs are about “more is more” when it comes to exercise and “less is more” when it comes to food. I also know how destructive those beliefs were to both my physical and psychological health. Almost by accident I stumbled into a different way of doing things which has transformed who I am and how I feel, from the inside out.

 

This book is an opportunity to share my story. It’s a chance to challenge your truth.

 

As part of this project I am conducting a survey and would greatly appreciate your participation. Additionally, please share the survey with friends, family and colleagues. It takes 12-14 minutes and can only be taken once per computer. My goal is to get as many, if not more, responses from non-Alklaign affiliated individuals as Alkalign. Wishful thinking, but a girl can dream.

 

Thank you in advance for your support! I look forward to sharing the published project in 2019!

 

Erin

Blue is the New Green – Erin and the Environment

At Alkalign Studios, we believe the environment you work out in should be as toxin and waste-free as possible. Being environmentally-friendly is something I hold near and dear to my heart. As a result of my passion for the planet, all Alkalign studios are built and held to standards set by the Environmental Working Group. We aim to keep the studios toxin free for the health of our clients and to reduce waste as much as possible for the health of our planet. This includes providing a filtered water station to eliminate disposable plastic water bottles and energy efficient hand dryers to eliminate use of paper towels in the restrooms. Moreover, all of our cleaning products are toxin free, including the essential oil blend we use to clean the mats. Our products (shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, hand sanitizer, etc) are all organic and many of our building materials are eco-friendly (floors) and/or recycled (reclaimed wood, etc). We care how the both environment inside the studios affects our clients and impacts the environment outside the studios.

 

I’m not exactly sure when I started thinking more about the environment, probably my childhood. I remember as a kid my parents being very resourceful. We composted biodegradable food scraps and lawn clippings to use in our garden. We recycled back in the late 80s….even in Upstate NY!  I remember collecting cans as a kid, although my passion for collecting and redeeming them for $0.05 was probably more financially than environmentally inspired.

 

My parents were extremely “efficient” when it came to waste. We used the backside of paper to run through the photo copier or printer. We shredded newspapers, bills, etc to use as packing materials for my father’s manufacturing business. We never left a room without turning off the lights or the TV. To this day, waste kills me. I try to inspire those around me, at home and in the Alkalign studios, to shut lights off, use less water and be mindful of conserving and reusing whenever possible.

 

I know I cannot single handedly reverse the effects of global warming, but the Alkalign community can do as much as we can to make a difference. As Alkalign grows, our commitment to being green in all the studios we open is even more important to me. One towel, one lightbulb and one client at a time, Alkalign is doing our part so that tomorrow can be as good, if not better, than today.

 

Yours in good health,

Erin

 

We are proud to be a green studio! Alkalign was recently feature in Best Company’s article on green living and sustainability. READ MORE HERE.

Nourish: The Path to Health and Wellness

 

People often ask about how I made the transition from my corporate jobs in investment banking and product development to health and wellness.

 

The truth is, my journey to wellness has been gradual, and it has taken most of my life. As a teenager, I had terrible abdominal pains. From the age of 15, I can remember being doubled over. Often, I had to dig my elbow into my right side to cope. I felt as if I were “bruised on the inside” and also was so bloated that I wished someone could pop me with a pin. It was an awful existence.

 

It got so bad that I had a battery of tests: Upper GI, Lower GI, parasites, barium enema, you name it. All were inconclusive. Eventually, I ended up in the hospital for exploratory surgery, and doctors removed my appendix, which appeared “shriveled.” They labeled my condition “chronic appendicitis,” but I wasn’t convinced, especially since the pain continued. Through all of that, not one doctor asked me about what I was eating — at lot of dairy and carbs. After all, skim milk and bagels were FAT FREE!

 

In San Francisco after college, I went to see a kinesiologist I found on the Internet. The first visit was $500 out of pocket, a hefty investment, but I was desperate. I met this woman in a consultation, and she explained to me that flour and water were acting as a glue in my system and causing my ileocecal valve, the joining point between the large and small intestine, to either get stuck in the open or closed position. She manually adjusted me to pop it into place (which felt amazing) and advised me to “stop eating carbs” for 2 weeks before my follow-up appointment.

 

I tried for a few days but failed because I didn’t know what to eat instead. The lack of education on this was a big issue because at the time I was running marathons and training for triathlons. How would I train without “carbs”?

 

I fueled myself for a 14-mile run on Saturday with eggs, canned tuna and mixed greens. On Sunday, I rode 40 miles through Woodside and literally collapsed on the side of the road. My friend had to bike to his car and come back to pick me up. We went to Bucks, and I lay in the booth unable to move. Yet I refused to eat anything other than egg whites.

 

I continued to feel so awful that I eventually went back to eating normally. I couldn’t sacrifice my job or training for this silly health practitioner who clearly didn’t know what she was talking about. I never went back to see her. I never gave it a chance.

 

Eventually, I did make small changes to my diet, including switching to better carbs, such as sweet potatoes and quinoa, and began to feel better. I realized the kinesiologist was probably right. After giving birth to my first daughter in 2010, I got really serious about my nutrition. I decided to do tests again to see if my gut issues had a diagnosis, given that “celiac” wasn’t a label in my teens. The endoscopy results showed that I don’t have the disease, but the most interesting finding was that 15 years later, no doctor asked about my nutrition…even in California.

 

I love Western medicine, and I respect doctors. I do, however, feel there is a significant gap between preventing disease and discomfort and treating it. I believe food can be the best form of medicine or the worst form of poison. I also believe that many ailments can be helped by changing what we put in and on our bodies.

 

I acknowledge that we all go through different journeys and that we are all individuals. In the Nourish program I’ve developed under my Alkalign brand, my goal is to guide you through a journey of self-exploration so you can really understand what does and does not work for you.

 

Nourish is a 21-day group health coaching program that guides you to take a holistic view of your health. The emphasis is on discovering how what you eat impacts how you feel, but you will also learn how paying attention to your sleep and hydration and incorporating mobility and mindfulness contribute to your well-being. Nourish provides a supportive community setting as well as structure and motivation to help you learn and grow. You get access to a Facebook group with health coaches, daily emails, a Playbook (the how-to), a Recipe Book (the yum) and a Journal to keep track of it all. Most of all, you get control of your energy, your health and your quality of life.

 

During each Nourish cycle, we start slowly and work on one thing at a time. It is better to make one lasting change than many changes that don’t stick. Sustainable change comes with repeated behavior over a long period of time. We host regular sessions, seasonally, so find out when the next one starts and sign up as soon as you can!

 

Erin Paruszewski

Alkalign Founder, CEO and Studio Owner

 

 

What I Learned on a Miraval Wellness Retreat

Recently, I was fortunate to get to go on a sibling wellness retreat with my brothers, Andrew and Ryan, and my sister, Carey. Inspired by Andrew’s cancer diagnosis and flawlessly executed by Carey, we spent 3 days at Miraval, a wellness spa in Tucson, AZ. Here’s what I took from the experience.

 

I love my siblings. I’m grateful for the gift of siblings. The bond we have is unique. We share the same core values, the same origin and similar memories, but we are different individuals. With distance and years between us, it’s not always easy to connect, but when we do, I realize that no one gets me in the same way or understands my formative years like they do.

 

You can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s hard for me to get away. I feel a deep level of responsibility to my family and Alkalign. As hard as it is to leave, it is so important to reset and recharge. I always say “you can’t pour from an empty cup,” and I’m learning to take my own advice.

 

Cardio counts. I am a recovering cardio addict. I started running competitively in 7th grade and continued for nearly 2 decades until I realized my body was broken. Now I get my heart rate up with the low-impact cardio interval class I developed at Alkalign. Even though I take Cardio Align (or Cardio+Recharge) only one to two times a week, an exercise physiologist at Miraval measured my VO2 max at 90%. VO2 max is a measure of how well you use oxygen during intense exercise. It is linked to aerobic endurance, and many athletes use it to determine their overall fitness. I did a 45-minute trail run with my siblings at altitude in the blazing Arizona sun and faired OK. I’m not quite as quick as they are (or as I was in my marathon days), but I felt good about it and nothing hurt the next day. I’m willing to sacrifice the 10% in VO2 max for what I gain in joint longevity.

 

I am aligned. I saw a practitioner for Thai massage, acupuncture and craniosacral work. She assessed my bones, muscles, energy, meridians and more and said I’m one of the most balanced people she has worked on. She told me: “You’re doing something right. Keep doing it.” Thank you, Alkalign.

 

I am balancing. I took a yoga class with a guru whose style and cues really resonated with me. At one point, he said, “This is a balancing pose. ‘Balance’ doesn’t exist. There is no one point of ‘balance’ where everything is in line and is never going to change again. Balance is dynamic.” Sound familiar? No wonder I liked him! ; )

 

Savasana is my favorite part of yoga. Honestly, the “corpse pose” at the end is the part I used to dread the most. I didn’t have time to lie there and do nothing! What I’ve realized throughout my wellness transformation is that sometimes the thing you avoid the most is the thing you need the most. This realization is the inspiration behind more mindful final stretches as well as the Recharge format. We all need more down-regulation in our day — more time without our phones buzzing and our brains whirring. It’s a learned skill and a practice just like increasing your VO2 max. Now I crave the final stretch and welcome the opportunity to just be still.

 

Alkalign prepares me for everything. Trail running, Beachbody PiYo (a Pilates–yoga format), aerial yoga, step aerobics, mountain biking, a 35-foot high ropes course, cardio drumming and swimming laps in the pool. Nothing intimidates me anymore. I did it all and in good form despite not getting much guidance from the instructors. Alkalign gives me the physical strength and confidence to conquer anything.

 

There’s no place like home. I love to travel and experience new things. But no matter how far I roam, Alkalign is always home. No workout makes me feel as good. No instructors hold me as accountable. No community makes me feel as supported. I am so grateful for my life and everyone in it.

 

The world needs Alkalign. Mindful movement matters. Alignment matters. There is a huge opportunity to teach more people to move better so that they can avoid the pain and inconvenience of injuries. There is a need for dynamic balance in mind, body and soul.

Got Injuries? Get Alkalign!

Alkalign specializes in injury prevention and rehabilitation. Back, knee, hip, ankle, shoulder, foot: We can improve whatever ails you with a combination of strength, mobility and flexibility exercises in a fun, supportive environment.

 

Most injuries occur from repetitive movement or positioning in improper alignment. (i.e., the way you walk, sit, text, type, squat). That’s why Alkalign educates you on the principles of alignment and helps you practices those principles through a proprietary blend of carefully sequenced exercises. We say we offer “fitness for life” because we focus on how the training you do in class translates to real-life scenarios. Our goal is to help you not only work hard and feel better when you’re in the studio, but also to give you the tools to improve how you function throughout the day.

 

Over the last decade, we have worked with clients with every injury imaginable. Our instructors are highly trained and ready to provide the individualized attention you need within the dynamic group environment. Read testimonials about how Alkalign has helped clients heal as well as avoid major injuries because of the education and heightened mindfulness they have gained at Alkalign.

 

Alkalign is functional training for anyone who is committed to living in a functioning body. There are very few injuries that cannot be overcome.* As long as you are willing to show up and put in the work, we are here to help you every step of the way.

 

If you have an injury or concern, please contact me. I founded Alkalign to provide safe, effective, sustainable workouts. It is my personal mission and life’s work to help people feel better.

 

In health,

 

Erin
Alkalign founder and CEO

 

 

*Alkalign instructors are not doctors and cannot diagnose injuries; their suggestions are not a substitute for medical advice.

Your Feet Affect How Well You Forward Fold

At Alkalign, we believe that mobility is the missing link for many people when it comes to fitness. Do you know that if you can run a marathon but cannot touch your toes, you are not fit?

 

Everyone has more and less mobile spots in their bodies, and the great news is that you can easily improve your less mobile areas (as well as address and prevent pain) by rolling with yoga therapy balls.

 

Take the forward fold challenge shown in the video below and see how you do before and after rolling your feet. No yoga balls? A tennis ball will work, but we highly recommend investing in balls specifically designed for body work instead of sports.

 

Read more about mobility and rolling here, and if you’re near a studio, check out our Recharge and +Recharge classes!

 

Grateful for 3 Years of Alkalign

I am so proud to celebrate our 3rd Alk-iversary! It has been amazing to watch this company grow the past few years. From an idea in its infancy to four thriving studios, we have created something special at Alkalign. It’s more than a studio. It’s more than a workout. It’s community. It’s connection. It’s authentic.

 

In a world that moves way too fast with too many filters, Alkalign remains real, raw and human. We are a team of individuals, a family of originals. You inspire us to innovate. We inspire each other to evolve.

 

I’ve always said my mission in life is to help people feel better from the inside out. I’m grateful that I get to do this every day with Alkalign. What we offer in terms of exercise, nutrition and community contributes to the physical and emotional wellness of thousands of people — and we are honored you’re our people. Thank you for your loyalty and support. We are committed to serving you for years to come.

 

In gratitude,
Erin