The funny thing about life is that sometimes it gives you what you need before you know you need it. While exercise and sports have always been a part of my life, I never envisioned myself being an instructor of fitness. I spent almost 20 years as a Graphic designer & consultant in the ‘land-of-deadlines-and-adrenaline.’ I was always looking for the new idea and rushing to beat the clock for clients. I was stressed out. There were never enough hours in a day. I always said yes to everyone except myself, and I was exhausted.
Around the same time that Alkalign was looking for instructors in the summer of 2017, changes had been made in my full time job as Creative Director for the company I was working for. I had been a client since the studio opened earlier that year, so I decided to take the leap back into self-employment as a freelance designer and also took on the adventure of becoming an Alkalign instructor.
Over the course of the training I learned so much about the practice that grew to love it more than when I was a client. I became part of an inspirational group of people who all hold the same values about movement. My brain was working in new ways it needed, and I was moving my body more than I ever was sitting in a chair for 40+ hours a week.
The biggest surprise was that becoming an instructor changed my family’s household dynamic. According to my husband, we all went from stressed and rushed (the state I was always in), to positive and balanced. He has been my biggest supporter because he says Alkalign makes me a happier person, partner and mother. I’m blessed to work with a community who values family time and schedules. Becoming an Alkalign instructor gave me back the most important parts of me that I didn’t know I was missing. I learned that when life throws me big changes, it’s because I need to ALIGN my priorities.
I’m always happy to talk to anyone who is considering becoming an instructor, so please get in touch with me if you’d like my personal experience by responding to this blog post! If you’re ready to take the plunge and have more detailed questions, contact our amazing instructor-trainer, Cathy, at email@example.com.
As the holidays approach, are you starting to think “Wow, I need to dial in my nutrition” as another plate of cookies from your aunt shows up at your door? Are you ever curious why so many people (maybe yourself included) feel so down over and after the holidays? Have you considered that maybe it’s the food you are (or are not) eating? If you’ve found yourself asking these questions, it’s time to stop wondering and start Nourishing!
Nourish is our 21-day group health coaching program that helps you take a more holistic view of your health. Here are the top 3 reasons why you should sign up for Nourish in 2019!
1 –LOSE THE WEIGHT AND PUFFINESS CAUSED BY INFLAMMATION Do you have extra weight/puffiness you would like to stop carrying around? Weight, inflammation and food sensitivities are all closely related. Spend 21 days discovering if one, or 5, inflammation-causing foods are standing between you and your health goals.
2 – COMMUNITY SUPPORT AND ACCOUNTABILITY We are more likely to reach our goals when we tell others about them. We are also more likely to succeed when we have support, help and encouragement along the way. Nourish will give you all of this and more! Join Nourish and you will join our private Facebook group lead by our Nourish team which includes certified health coaches.
3 – REDUCE ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION, INCREASE ENERGY Are you feeling less than amazing these days? Are you blaming it on the holidays or shorter winter days? Try something new! Take 21 days to eliminate sugar and explore what it has been doing to your mental health and energy levels. We FEEL how we eat and a healthy diet can help balance your mood and increase your energy.
Now that you have our top 3 reasons to join, sign up with us today and start feeling like the best you possible. Make 2019 YOUR BEST YEAR YET….same you…only healthier!
CLICK HERE for a free recipe book and preview of the delicious food ideas you will get by joining Nourish!
Core Plus Unlimited Members and returning nourishers, email us for your discount codes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
My journey is an interesting one – I’ve always been a “healthy” person. I started dancing when I was 5 and only stopped when I was in my 30’s when I had my 3 children. I’ve always worked out and maintained a healthy lifestyle.
In 2010, when I was 37 and my youngest was only 9 months old, I was diagnosed with HER2+ Breast Cancer. I underwent a bilateral mastectomy, multiple reconstruction surgeries and chemotherapy. I was extremely lucky and have been in remission since, but the road to recovery, both physically and emotionally, is very long and my body was an unrecognizable wreck. I had lost so much muscle that my metabolism slowed down and I started gaining weight. It hurt to walk and I could barely get up and off the couch without feeling pain in my lower back from my lack of strength. About two years later I started working out with a trainer and took some classes at the gym, and that did help. I lost the excess weight and started to gain my muscle back. I finally started to feel myself again after a few of years. I found dance classes and started to dance again. Then, in July 2017 I decided to check out Kate Biber’s Alkalign studio in Irvine, CA. I remember after the first class my abs hurt for 2 days straight and I was hooked.
In all my years of dancing and working out, nothing has impacted my body like Alkalign has. I had grown used to using heavy weights with my trainer, and was nervous that using only 2 pound weights (or none at all!) would not be as effective. I had no idea! Overall, my body is much leaner, and I am so much stronger than I have ever been. I have muscle definition I’ve never had before in my life (my butt!!) and my core is the strongest it has ever been. I still dance, because that is my love, but Alkalign is my go-to work out. I go as often as I can and have come to love it just as much as dancing.
What is so amazing about Alkalign is that I can always do better and work harder. There is no plateau. It’s so challenging, but attainable, and the hour spent in that room is always the most important one of my day. The attention from all the instructors makes such a huge difference. After one little adjustment, I realize I could have been working harder and getting even better results.
There is an all-around dedication to being the best you that you can be. During one of my classes, Kate said that doing what we are doing is more challenging mentally than physically. She said we can surprise ourselves with what we are capable of during our workouts and she’s right! So, when I leave and my legs are still shaking, and the next day and I am on a plane traveling for work and my abs are still sore – it feels amazing and I can’t wait to go back for more. Kate and Team, thank you for creating such a wonderful and special space. I am so happy I found you!!
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!
“Every accomplishment begins with the decision to try.” – Anonymous,
Have you ever wanted to accomplish something but had no idea how to start? Felt paralyzed by the unknown? Well, that’s exactly what happened to me. In 2015, my friend, Julie Grosvenor, a Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer (CET) by the American College Sports Medicine (ACSM) approached me about her job. Julie worked at the YMCA teaching a fitness program for cancer survivors: The Living Strong, Living Well program. The program is designed, sponsored and managed by Stanford Health Improvement Program. It’s a twelve week fitness program offered to adult cancer survivors through the YMCA at no cost. The goal is to improve muscle strength, build muscle mass, increase flexibility, reduce the side-effects of their treatments and fatigue, increase their overall well-being, and so much more. Julie asked if I’d be interested in becoming a trainer at the YMCA for this program. I said of course I was interested, but at the time I was working at Alkalign teaching classes, taking on the new role of Development Coach, bringing up two active boys in high school and my husband traveled a lot for his job. The timing wasn’t right. However, I decided to write my GOAL down and also shared my goal with my friends of becoming a CET. It worked!
In October of 2017, Julie called again, she offered me the opportunity to teach a weekly class for cancer survivors. I jumped in with both feet. After shadowing a few times, I started teaching the Exercise for Health fitness class sponsored by Stanford Health Care (delivered by Sunflower Wellness) in November. This would be the gateway to my end goal: ACSM Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer. In January 2018, I decided to set a deadline to take the exam; I scheduled it for the first week in March and then planned out a study schedule. As the exam date approached I realized I was heading to the finish line to attaining my certification. March 9, 2018 I sat down at the desk, started to answer approximately two hundred questions over three and half hours. At the end of the exam, I hit the “complete” button and instantly felt a little nauseous. Did I study enough? Did I learn enough while shadowing cancer exercise consultations? The word PASS popped up on my screen! I felt a wave of satisfaction and accomplishment and then a realization: I’m not at the end of my GOAL but at the beginning of my next GOALS.
The Certification Cancer Exercise Trainer provides me the opportunity to meet with cancer patients and survivors to develop an individualized exercise program for them to ward off side effects, combat fatigue, improve bone density, increase muscle mass and decrease the possibility of depression and recurrence. I have completed numerous hours of shadowing the exercise counselling consults and now conduct the sessions on a weekly basis.
I love how my work as a Development Coach and fitness instructor at Alkalign Studios aligns with my goal of training and providing exercise counselling to cancer survivors. Alkalign Studios focuses on the 7 functional movements (squat, lunge, walk/gait, push, pull, hinge, rotate) and educates our clients to make the connections between how they use these movements in their daily lives. I feel there is a common goal of Alkalign Studios, Sunflower Wellness and the Stanford Cancer Supportive Care Program to help clients improve muscle strength, joint flexibility, mobility, range of motion, mood (increase happy endorphins) and cognitive skills, as well as reduce anxiety, fatigue, and depression. I am happy to be a small part in a client’s, and survivor’s, day where I can educate, motivate and support them regardless of where they are in fitness or in their health journey. Thank you to Alkalign for my foundation in fitness and thank you to Sunflower Wellness and Stanford Cancer Supportive Care Program for the opportunity and support you’ve given me during this journey.
Development Coach, Alkalign Studios
Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer, ACSM, Sunflower Wellness, Stanford Cancer Supportive Care Program
To say that 2018 has been a big year for franchise owner, Elise Feichtner would be an understatement! Alkalign in Ada (a suburb east of Grand Rapids) celebrated their one year anniversary in February, her daughter turned 3 and her and her husband, Ben, are expecting another daughter in November! Her love of her family and her business shines brightly to everyone who walks through the studio doors. I caught up with Elise to talk family, business and pregnancy.
Q: What does an average day in your life look like?
Mornings are my favorite and most productive time of the day, so my alarm goes off just before 5am and I’m at my computer shortly after. Once my 3-year old, Reese, is up, it’s her time with me, so that 90-minutes of quiet work time in the mornings are when I’m at my best. I typically take her to daycare every day before heading into the studio to either work with our awesome desk staff or teach classes. I LOVE my studio mornings because it’s when I get to connect with our community. Once the round of morning classes are done, the rest of the day is up for grabs. Each week fills up with meetings, studio work time, or work from home. I always try to make evenings family time. When Reese was a baby, we used to be able to get her to bed much earlier, so I’d be able to hit my computer and to-do-list again after bedtime. Now that she’s an expert bedtime-staller, I’m usually exhausted by the time she’s settled. Choosing to sleep when she goes to bed has been essential to my health since I’ve been pregnant and am so much more tired!
Q: How has this pregnancy differed from your first?
Wow! So many things about this pregnancy are different than with my first, especially as I get later into my pregnancy. I’d say the number one difference is the fact that we didn’t have kids to manage when I was pregnant with Reese. I totally underestimated the beauty of being able to rest, work, set my schedule or even use the bathroom without the demands of a 3 year old. Initially with this baby, I was SO much more tired and actually felt more sick than with Reese as well. That was a huge challenge in those early days when I wasn’t really ready to tell people. Similar to my first pregnancy, the 2nd trimester was great for me. Once I hit the 3rd trimester, my active job as an instructor, owner and mom got more challenging. Not only did it seem like the baby and my body were growing by the day, but my body started to feel some stress and fatigue I didn’t experience with Reese.
At 31 weeks I started experiencing some really intense pain in my left SI joint. I could tell it wasn’t muscular. After realizing it was getting worse, I finally gave in and consulted my doctor. Turns out, I developed a really common issue in pregnancy related: SI Joint Dysfunction. My OB recommended I see a Pelvic Floor PT and also gave me the option to try chiropractic adjustments.
To say that this has been eye opening for me is an understatement. I am learning SO much about my body, the female body in general and how best I can use this experience to inform and enhance what we do for all of our female clients.
After working through the disappointment of this “injury,” I’ve made peace with it and have had to scale back my teaching and movement schedule. I realized that the more active I was, the worse this pain got. Fortunately, I saw an amazing functional chiropractor who assessed not only my joints and spine but my ability to BREATHE! This was a total game changer. His initial work with me on how to breathe to open up my pelvic floor + the continued work with the PT really helped keep my symptoms at bay. Did they totally alleviate the issue? No, but I definitely was able to manage the pain so I could function through the day. It has been such a humbling and educational experience, and I anticipate continuing to learn even more after labor, delivery and postpartum. Stay tuned Alkalign!
Q:In general, describe how taking Alkalign classes has been different in each trimester?
Interestingly enough, I could tell I was pregnant before I even officially knew, and I noticed that in class. I could just tell that my body felt different. I don’t know if it was hormonal or fatigue, but early on, certain exercises in class just felt much more challenging. I really noticed it in planks right off the bat. Beyond just feeling slightly off in first trimester, I was fighting the nausea and morning sickness in classes. I never actually got sick, but had that constant “ick” feeling.
Second trimester was great! I felt awesome strengthening my body with modifications. As 2nd trimester ticked along I’d start to notice certain exercises were a little more challenging. I specifically remember feeling a totally different challenge in High C Curve. It was so much harder for me to pull my abdominals down and in to create the active flexion we seek in that position. There’s this growing baby in there that made it harder for me to control the movement, but it was still manageable.
When the 3rd trimester arrived, more movements became challenging. That sensation of having “too much baby” in High C Curve became a full-on barrier to the exercise. I also started to feel that Seated C Curve and Low C Curve were also really hard to do since there was so much less room in by torso. Even modifying with props proved more and more difficult as my belly grew. Once my SI joint dysfunction officially reared it’s head, I felt that standing glute work or single-sided exercises were too much. The joint was already under stress so adding all my added body weight onto that single side was not working for me. I decided to scale back from classes until I figured out what was going on with my pelvis, but now that I know I have been able to use modifications and breathing strategies I’ve learned while under chiropractic care and PT to modify when I do take class.
Q:What advice would you give pregnant women who want to stay active and maintain their fitness?
Listen to your body! Chances are, it will tell you important things! Growing a human is no small task. So much of your “normal” body movement and mechanics will be impacted by your growing baby. If you start to feel things that are somewhat “off,” ask your healthcare provider. Share information about how you’re feeling. Knowledge is power! Unfortunately, some feelings in my body I brushed off as normal “second baby things” turned into more. Thankfully, I asked for guidance have been able to manage and treat some symptoms and learn a whole lot along the way!
Q:What advice would you give someone who is interested in starting an Alkalign franchise and wants to grow their family?
You really CAN do it! The opportunity for me to open a studio came at a time when the Ada/Grand Rapids market needed a niche studio like ours. If we were going to do it, it had to be now. I am so happy my husband and I made that decision when we did. I knew this is where I wanted my life to go professionally. I have a supportive husband, loving family and bigger community to help when I need it. I also know that someday I won’t have young babies. What makes this all work is that I have faith in my own abilities as a parent and professional; gratitude and love for the amazing support network we have; and pride for the example I can set for my young daughters as they learn to be strong, independent, kind, and compassionate women.
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,
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Alkalign founder and CEO
*Alkalign instructors are not doctors and cannot diagnose injuries; their suggestions are not a substitute for medical advice.