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.

Lizzie Hammerman: Beyond the Metrics

If you’ve been to an Alkalign Studio, you might have noticed the airy, open feel of our studio space. There are no machines or closets full of equipment. We enhance our practice with simple props like straps, bands, and balls, but really encourage our clients to spend their time with us focusing on what their body is doing and feeling during class. Our decision to minimize the amount of equipment we use and to leave technology out in the hallways of studios is intentional and is at the foundation of what we do.

 

Alkalign is about mindful, purposeful movement in order to train (and re-train) you to move better in your body.  Screens and dashboards force your attention elsewhere and impair your ability to make brain-body connections. Our # 1 core value is “pay attention”. The use of metrics makes that harder, not easier.

 

Screens, dashboards and spreadsheets impair our ability to connect with the instructor and our fellow classmates.  We come together in the studio to support each and connect as a real community. Make eye contact with someone who might need a little encouragement or someone who you admire. We’re here for each other, it’s not a competition.

 

It is easy to become reliant on the machine (megaformer, bike, treadmill, heart rate monitor) for your workout.  At Alkalign, we teach self-reliance. YOU are the machine and are in full control of it.

 

In this modern world, we spend so much of our time in front of screens and interacting with online “communities”. We are losing personal connection.  We are committed to the brick and mortar studio because we believe that face-to-face interaction and physical touch is both necessary and therapeutic/healing.

 

Have you ever had the number on the scale make or break your day (or week)? That reaction is deeply ingrained in our brain, but is so counter-productive to our wellness. We want our clients to gauge their success by how they feel and in the small victories in class and in their day – not a number on a scale, dashboard, spreadsheet, etc.

 

Metrics are not as objective as you think. Machine calibration may vary and your heart rate can be influenced by your hydration, sleep or how well you have recovered from a previous workout. Pay attention to how you feel and connect that to your behavior outside the studio. What is working? What is not? Maybe you need a rest day or more sleep?  Identify causes vs. react to symptoms.

 

Lizzie Hammerman runs the Program Innovation and Franchise Development at Alkalign. She joined the corporate team at its inception in 2015  and is responsible for evolving Alkalign’s class offerings.

 

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!  

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

 

 

Testimonial: David’s Journey After Injury

I met Erin Paruszewski at Alkalign a while back and took her up on her offer of a week of classes. I’ve never done a fitness or pilates/barre/yoga class before, but this year has been one of self-improvement, so it came at the right time. I couldn’t have known how important my new-found fitness and body alignment awareness would be over the last few months when I first started. I’ll get to the part later where I’m in yoga pants, facing the waterwall with one arm in a sling, trying to balance in neutral spine and wide turnout and realizing that I’m the only one-armed guy in class. I’ll also get to the part when, later that month, I had emergency abdominal surgery, took 2 (stressful) weeks off of exercise and then had to modify for another 2 weeks after that. But first, how I got to be an Alkalign addict and a true believer that my work at Alkalign is responsible for me enjoying physical and mental health like never before.

 

Erin and I were connected by a friend with shared work interests. In an effort to understand her business better (and since I was curious about what my first Alkalign experience would be like), I took a class. I started with Align 101 and discovered new muscles (lateral oblique, piriformis, and my whole ass in general) I didn’t know I had. More importantly, I found a workout that was really hard and rewarding. After 25 years of chronic back pain, I’ve never felt better than after I found my new core strength at Alkalign (thank you, Erin). My year of self-improvement has included some pretty intense mental health work…not just eating the Mindful Meatloaf at the hospital cafeteria (and that’s a real thing)…but real work and progress on my mind. I consider my progress at Alkalign a major part of that mental health as well.

 

Strength and mental health are why I try to go to Alkalign every day. Because of my work schedule, I can’t pick the class format, I can only pick the times, which is why in May of 2018 I was in a huge rush back to work after the 6:00 AM class. I knew I would be late for my 6:30 AM work meeting, but if I did a quick shower/change and biked as fast as I could, I would be only 30 minutes late (yeah, it’s a 2-hour meeting at 6:30 AM…I work with surgeons).

 

This next part is hard to retell, since I wish I could go back in time in a 1985 DeLorean and change what happened next. I booked out of Alkalign, got on my new bike and steam down the Alameda. I received a text message, read the message and tried to reply. It wouldn’t send correctly because I’m pedaling —fast— so I tried again. I’m frustrated because I’m supposed to be in two places at once and I’m late for work. But, I can do this! I can even do this without a helmet at the time — never again (Apryl)! As I’m typing —BANG!!! —OH F&*K! And then…I’m on top of a car, looking down at my bike, which has the fork completely dislodged — sheared right off. I’m bleeding and then laying prone on the Alameda. It really hurts, a lot. My shoulder hurts to the point that I don’t know if I can even feel everything correctly. I stand up, walk to the curb, curse the fact that my new bike is ruined and now not going to make my meeting. I text my work colleagues that I won’t make it, then call my wife and tell her I need to go to the ER because I have a broken collarbone. I can feel the bone fragments rubbing against each other. Other than that, I can feel what ends up being a thigh contusion and a bruised finger, and eventually a chipped tooth. Thankfully it wasn’t a broken neck, major head injury, broken pelvis, or anything life altering….or life ending. I knew these injuries would be a major setback for my mind and body. I knew I needed help. I knew I needed to slow down. I knew, for real, that I needed to slow the F down.

 

I did a few weeks in a sling with no physical activity on the arm. No plank, down dog, water-ski, push ups, all 4s, or anything else that would delay the collarbone healing. I thought I was in pretty good shape until about 3 weeks after the bike crash. One afternoon I noticed an unusual and sudden pain in my abdomen. After about an hour of writhing around in bed, my wife finally forced me to go to the ER where I was diagnosed with an acute surgical abdomen. I had 10 inches of my intestines twisted and strangulated that required emergency laparoscopic surgery to release it. Yeah, technically it was a “hernia,” but not the kind that your granddad has that bulges out his groin when he coughs like a party trick. For me this meant another 2 weeks of crawling up the walls (Alkalign-less) while I recovered from surgery.

 

Through both injuries, Alkalign was a major part of my quick recovery. The physical therapist (for the shoulder) was sure I could have wrecked my rotator cuff if it hadn’t been for my flexibility and strength. He eventually cancelled all my follow up appointments because I was “so strong and flexible beforehand.” The surgeons who did my abdominal surgery discharged me within 12 hours because I was “in really great shape and would recover abdominal strength quickly.” I can’t help but think both events could have been much worse if I hadn’t been working on my strength and flexibility at Alkalign.

 

I thought at first that I’d probably lose touch with my Alkalign routine and slip back into marginal physical fitness and a mental health struggle that has been a familiar routine, but Erin was there for me. She opened the studio to help us figure out what I could do to modify the classes with a broken wing. Then she showed me how to modify after the major core weakener of surgery. I got back into the studio, started modifying classes and that’s what made me realize why I’m Alkalign-hooked…it’s not just the physical benefits, it’s the mental benefits that also keep me coming back. Don’t get me wrong, I am so appreciative of the physical changes and flexibility that Erin and team have afforded me, but in my year of self-improvement, the mental health I’ve achieved at Alkalign is the real gift.

 

I’m still working on achieving the physical and mental strength that comes with recovering from my injuries. The biggest thing I learned is that I can’t keep rushing around. If you see me in the studio stretching out my shoulder near the waterwall, you’ll know what I’m focusing on, and you can even remind me to slow the F down.

 

David M. Axelrod, MD

Stanford University Clinical Associate Professor, Pediatrics – Cardiology

Testimonial: Ana & Manraj S. — Our Happy Place

My husband, Manraj, and I could never find an exercise routine that we could do together. Manraj was a badminton player whereas I was a swimmer. We did a few things together, like hiking, once in a while, but we could not do these as regularly as we would like. We tried going to the gym together but soon lost the motivation.

 

After I joined Alkalign, I knew this was something different. Every instructor is very knowledgeable, and each of them has different strengths. Every class is unique. Overall, it feels very personal and not commercial. I eventually convinced Manraj to join me for one class. Since then, it has become “our thing.”  Manraj was hesitant initially, but all the instructors constantly made sure his posture and technique were correct. We began to encourage each other during and after class. In no time, we both felt stronger and active.

 

Every time we go to class after work, it is not a drag or chore. Rather, it is something we look forward to after a long day as a boost. I am proud of myself after each class, especially knowing that I am now able to do some of the exercises that I never thought I could do!

 

We are moving to San Diego soon, and the only thing we are sad about leaving in Irvine is our Alkalign. We hope one day we will join Alkalign in San Diego!

Diastasis Recti: Healing Through Alkalign

I distinctly remember the day I felt sensation in my abdominal muscles near my navel. It was a feeling I hadn’t had in over a decade. I was in the Low C position for the final abdominal set and was concentrating in the final hold. If you’ve taken an Alkalign class, you know that by the end your core is nearly spent and you’re doing everything you can to breath through it while maintaining proper form and alignment. I may have let out a gasp of shock when the sensation hit me.

 

To accurately tell this story, I have to go back a few decades (or longer – eek!). In high school, I ran cross-country and track and played volleyball. In college, I continued that active lifestyle while working 2 jobs and taking a full load of classes. As an adult, I maintained running and volleyball as hobbies, but it never occurred to me that the way I was moving my body was slowly damaging it. I thought the more activity and the harder I worked at being healthy and fit, the better my body would be. I was very wrong.

 

After I had my first child (a small 6-pound baby boy), I noticed I was softer in my core but didn’t worry because I returned to my pre-pregnancy clothes and weight by the time he was 2 months old. After my second child (a significantly larger 9-pound baby boy), I lost all elasticity in my skin and developed a gaping hole in my abdominals around my navel that I worked hard at correcting by doing “ab work.” After my third child, I asked my doctor why my abdominals were hosting their own Grand Canyon and learned I had diastasis recti, a separation of the connective tissue around rectus abdominis muscle. My doctor measured the separation at 6 fingers wide and told me diastasis is a common side effect of pregnancy that only surgery could fix. It was live with it or go under the knife. So I opted to embrace my mommy body and move on from caring about the aesthetics of my midsection.

 

Fast-forward to the day my core “woke up” in that Align class. After my Low C epiphany, I couldn’t wait to get home and engage again to figure out what I was feeling. Sure enough, my Grand Canyon was only one finger wide. I couldn’t believe it! At first, I attributed it to the abdominal sets in class, but I soon found out they were only a small part of the story. I am a curious person by nature, and I wanted to know what was happening in my body and why, so I started researching, listening and reading!

 

What I learned is that diastasis occurs when the connective tissue (linea alba) that holds both sides of the rectus abdominis together is damaged by an outside force or pressure (like pregnancy, weight gain, poor alignment, etc). The linea alba stretches, and the result is a gap. Diastasis recti can affect pregnant women as well as babies, children and men. I highly recommend learning more about this condition from Katy Bowman, author of Diastasis Recti: The Whole Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness.

 

I knew Alkalign had something to do with my rectus abdominis coming back together, but I didn’t know exactly how. In my search, I found Bowman’s podcast called Move Your DNA, and things became clear. Suddenly, my whole life pieced together as a hot mess of bad movements. Through my research, I realized I had diastasis before I was even pregnant, but the force of pregnancy exacerbated it.

 

In my youth, I was a slim and fit person, but I always had a small belly that stuck out no matter how many sit-ups I did or miles I ran. It was barely noticeable to anyone else, but it always bothered me. My solution was to suck it in (tuck my hips), stick my chest out (flare my ribcage) and do crunches like crazy (push my abdomen out farther)! In short, my bad abdominal exercises and poor posture during daily movement and workouts pulled my abdominals apart long before my pregnancies. The babies were just the final straw that broke the fascia.

 

It took months of practicing neutral spine at Alkalign for my body to create the muscle memory and strength it needed to correct a lifetime of bad movement and posture habits. It wasn’t only the carefully crafted abdominal exercises that healed my body. It was also the focus on finding neutral in quad work, in stretching from neutral with square hips, from building my core from the inside out!

 

I now practice nutritious movement while building strong muscles that support me in all 7 functional movement patterns. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to healing my body through movement, but the road started the moment I walked into Alkalign, which continues to change my life for the better.

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.

Testimonial: Daniela B.—Motivated in Irvine

As a mommy of two adorable wild children (Brooklyn 3 and Dash 2), my life seemed pretty busy, and by the end of the day, I felt exhausted to pick myself up and workout anywhere, even with the help of my husband. However, I started realizing that I needed to take action and work on my mind and body because my kids are getting faster and I’m running of breath!

 

It had been a very long time since I attended a class/gym to nourish my mind and body since giving birth to back-to-back babies. Then one day I came across a pretty little blue sign in my neighborhoods shopping center in Irvine and felt like it was a sign! I registered for my first Alkalign class, and I was so pleased at how welcomed I felt from the beginning and how dedicated the instructors and Kate are with their students. Now, I had never taken barre, but I took a few dance classes in college and was familiar with some of the terms that are used, but I was still nervous because I did not know what to expect. After taking my first class, I was beyond thrilled.

 

Kate and her staff are WONDERFUL and so MOTIVATIONAL! No matter how intense the workout, they always make you feel powerful and say just what you need to hold that plank a little longer and squeeze that ball a little tighter! It has been one month since I started my Alkalign journey, and my body and mind feel magnificent. My mama pouch (as I like to call it) is disappearing, and I can feel my abdominal muscles. It’s been a great start, and I’m looking forward to what’s to come.

 

Thank you, Kate and staff, for being incredibly dedicated and making me feel that anything is possible.

Testimonial: Melissa S.—Alkalign for Equestrians

On a whim, on my birthday, I tried a free intro class at Alkalign and was taken with the joy and energy of the instructors. It was the middle of winter in Michigan, and I needed a new project. Immediately, I found the classes fun, varied, and well-paced. I started regularly taking classes. I love how the instructors share their knowledge and give individualized tips for improvement. My strength has been building week after week, but most importantly, I have been thrilled with how my improved sense of body awareness and alignment has transformed my communication with my horse and improved my riding.

 

In my first few classes at Alkalign, I could see that I was uneven in my strength and flexibility. I was amazed how this unevenness mirrored my horses’ weaknesses. I tried all of the classes, and each one—Align, Cardio, and Recharge—has helped me in a different way to build strength, find balance, and release tension in various muscles. The supportive and encouraging environment keeps me motivated to continue cross-training.

 

Although I still have a long way to go to meet my equestrian goals, with my increased flexibility and core strength, I can now ride in a more balanced, even position, which helps to support my horse as we learn more challenging movements in our sport of dressage.

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.

Mental Illness + Recovery: Alkalign Sustains Me

 

You don’t need to know this. I’m not even sure I want to tell you. But I think it’s important.

 

For the past 4 years, I have been on a major self-discovery journey. It sounds nice, but truly it has been the hardest 4 years of my life. I did not purposefully start the journey. The drastic downward spiral of my mental health pushed me to it.

 

I have always experienced some level of depression and anxiety, but my symptoms fully erupted as an adult. I did not reach out for help, and, to be honest, I didn’t think I needed help. I moved through life with a mask on, hiding my troubles with a smile, but about 2 years ago, I lost control. I spiraled down quickly and could no longer cope with how I was feeling. I needed help, and I am lucky that a few people in my life were able to take over and literally save me.

 

I was diagnosed with myriad mental health issues, including bipolar disorder, and I stayed in the hospital for quite a while under constant care so I could learn the tools to take care of myself. After more recovery time at home, I was ready to slowly re-enter the outside world. I was equipped with a diagnosis, medications, awareness techniques and therapy sessions, but I was out of balance. My time away had taken a toll on everything, including my spirit and my body, which was dealing with the effects of new medications and lack of movement.

 

What was missing for me was Alkalign. My body was weak and tired, and I needed exercise. I also needed my Alkalign community.

 

I have been an avid Alkalign fan for years. I share my love by teaching the Alkalign principles multiple times a week, I exercise there daily, and sometimes I stop by just to hang out. Taking class every day was what kept me going through really hard times in my life. It was one hour to nourish my body and my soul. I took class to clear my mind and strengthen my body, and I didn’t realize at the time how much my 1 or 2 hours a day at the studio were keeping me together.

 

When I was finally ready to go back to Alkalign, I hesitated. I needed to come back to my community, but I was also embarrassed and worried. Had people noticed I was away? What did they know? What did they think of me? I didn’t want anyone to know what I had recently gone through or how truly sick I was. Mental illness still has a stigma attached to it even though most of us experience some version of it or know someone who does. It’s seen negatively, as a sign of weakness and failure. Social media doesn’t help, either, with its images of only smiling faces, happy families and exoctic vacations. I’m just as much to blame. I most definitely did not boomerang my medication 6 times a day or post any stories with my hospital location.

 

Luckily, my good friend and Alkalign founder, Erin Paruszewski, was there to help me every step of the way, even persuading me to stay on as an instructor. She knew everything I had gone through yet still wanted me on her team. I wasn’t alone, and I didn’t need to be embarrassed. Hiding who I am and my struggles along the way are not what Alkalign is about. When we say Alkalign embraces what is “real, raw and human,” we truly mean it. It takes real strength and the will to be raw and open with yourself to accept who you are even if it means learning you need help.

 

Together, Erin and I devised a plan to bring me back to life. She knew what I needed and helped me return in a way that was comfortable for both of us. I started out taking class and working at the front desk. Having an appointment to keep and just being in the Alkalign environment were enough to start, and I eventually went back to teaching. Then and now, my day basically revolves around when I will be at Alkalign. In the studio, I feel focused and a sense of normalcy, especially when taking class. You have to listen, do what the instructor says and feel what’s happening in your body. It’s kind of a break from your own brain. I think of Alkalign as my moving meditation.

 

I am proud for surviving everything I have to get to this point. I am not “cured”; there is no cure. I have gotten help, though. I take my medication consistently, and I am aware of the status of my health. I can say that I have a mental illness and that I am also a healthy functioning member of my family and community.

 

When I started writing this, I felt like I was admitting to doing something wrong. My anxiety rose with each draft as I worried about being judged, patronized or, worse, ostracized. I don’t have any expert advice, and I don’t understand the many levels of mental illness. What I do know is how I feel and what I have gone through. And that is why I want to start a conversation about mental health and hopefully lighten the darkness that surrounds it. I am not saying you need to shout your problems from the rooftop, but it is our responsibility to be real! That’s why I am allowing myself to be vulnerable and saying that I struggle every single day.

 

Don’t feel sorry for me. I am a strong woman, and my illness doesn’t define me. I have bipolar disorder, I live my life, and I thrive thanks to Alkalign.

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

 

 

Alkalign Takes Elite Athletes to the Next Level

 

Once a week last summer, the Alkalign studio in Irvine was filled with men learning about alignment and body awareness and improving their fitness through Alkalign’s signature functional fitness formats. But these were not regular clients.

 

Studio owner Kate Biber was working with elite athletes trying out for a Southern California semi-pro soccer team. The team’s coach had her train his players to improve their body control and agility — key skills required in soccer. He also wanted to improve his team’s game fitness and recovery time. Kate’s training was also meant to evaluate the players in a new way and assist in the team’s selection process. She began their training with a Cardio Align class to assess the players’ fitness and to understand what education was required.

 

“It was really interesting to me that these top athletes didn’t know what they had, bodywise,” Kate says. “I spent a lot of time training alignment of feet, knees, hips and spine for them to find their best position. I wanted to help them understand that they’re in charge. It’s not simply momentum, which is what they were used to depending on to perform. Their mentality was: Just run faster!”

 

Kate observed the players in practices to identify areas where her expertise could be helpful. One of the things she noticed was that everyone looked at the ground when they ran, whether going for the ball or not, and, subsequently, their shoulders were significantly rounded. So she worked on posture and form and guided them to understand the bigger picture through strengthening the whole body and bringing more focus to their core stability and strength.

 

“I tried to empower them to be aware of the relationship of the abdominals and the legs,” Kate says. “You can’t run unless you have a strong core and know how to use it.”

 

Kate also noticed the players running with what she calls “kipper feet.” They ran with their legs in a turned-out position so the inner edges of the feet would be in the position to receive the ball. Positioning feet forward and knees over toes provides more power, which helps players run faster and change direction more easily. So Kate helped reset their ready stance: feet forward; abdominals engaged; strong, tall posture; and chin parallel to the ground.

 

At first, the players were skeptical of Kate’s methods.

 

“I could tell that they didn’t really think it was going to work,” Kate says. “So I said: ‘I know this works. I know I’m the only girl among 30 guys, but this is going to work!’”

 

And the players were surprised when low-impact training did work. They were used to shuttle runs and burpees and cranking out push-ups with terrible form. They didn’t realize that training doesn’t have to impact the joints to be effective.

 

“It’s not harder; it’s better and smarter,” Kate says. “That’s what I kept telling them. There’s no point in doing anything unless you position the body correctly. Just doing it and sweating is not enough.”

 

After a few weeks, Kate focused the training on the functional movements of soccer players. They move in all planes, so the Cardio Align class was ideal because the format balances symmetric/asymmetric movement in all planes of motion with exercises such as lunges, pendulums, and single-leg squats.

 

“Those workouts were so much fun,” Kate says. “These guys would be yelling at me to be done, and I would say: ‘If you want it, work harder!’ The players progressed above and beyond what I expected. I worked so hard to motivate them and give them attention to detail they had never seen before. And those who were selected for the team were the ones who used everything I gave them to their advantage. I definitely grew as a teacher having this experience.”

 

The players also learned that more running is not the solution to better fitness. Some players were running 10 miles a day in addition to training at Alkalign, and Kate and their coach had to beg them not to run beyond what was needed in games and practices.

 

“I would say, ‘Please don’t run. You’re just wearing everything out!’’’ Kate says.

 

When the players stopped the extra running and continued to put in a lot of effort in Kate’s training, they started to be able to do more and move better. Some of them lost weight, which improved their speed, and they reported sleeping better, standing taller and being free of aches and pains.

 

“Every class was totally kicking their butts,” Kate says. “Once I started to see them strengthen, I changed some of the exercises and brought them away from the barre as there’s no barre on the field! For example, we moved between a wide-turned-out position and a traditional lunge, which means pivoting on both feet, a very functional movement for soccer players. Lateral explosion comes from this as well — moving from the center line to the lateral side really quickly and having the confidence that your body is going where you want it to, without getting injured all the time.”

 

As the training progressed, Kate began to include more stretching and Recharge in her classes and was once again surprised that most of the players didn’t expect that they needed to look after their bodies or tune them up in any way. In conjunction with the team’s chiropractor, Kate also worked with the players on getting to areas of tension in their bodies so they could know their limitations and help prevent injuries.

 

Some of the players had existing injuries, but they showed up to every session. Kate worked one on one with these players to give advice on ways to work around their injuries and to teach them modifications to assist in recovery and continue to build strength. Kate says many of their foot and knee issues resolved over time because of the gluteus medius strengthening they did in her workouts. The players also had fewer instances of strain/tear to the groin, the No. 1 injury in soccer, because Alkalign’s back-body strengthening provided support to prevent this issue.

 

“Most of the guys were between 20 and 30, and at that age, their plan is to just to keep going and muscle it out,” Kate says. “And that’s fine if you’re in good health and don’t have any issues. But if you do, you have to be more thoughtful about it. Part of body awareness is knowing when to scale it back a little bit. So they got to know their limitations, especially when we rolled on the therapy balls. Recharge was a really eye-opening experience for them.”

 

It was after a month of Alkalign training that the team selected their players. According to Kate, the guys who “mastered” the alignment principles and were the most body aware were those who ended up making the team.

 

“I went to their games and saw these guys improve even beyond what they thought they were capable of,” Kate says. “They ran so fast!”

 

The coach was really happy with the results. It was easier for him to select players for the team and to identify who should play what position. Alkalign training showed which players were ready and able to perform and yielded information on who was physically best suited to perform some movements versus others.

 

Says Kate: “I was pretty sure my training was going to get them where they wanted to go, but I wasn’t 100 percent as I don’t know anything about soccer! But this experience really proved that you can transfer what we do in the studio to anything. If you put in the work at Alkalign, you get results whatever the sport.”