Ten years ago today, March 28th, I opened my first boutique fitness studio in Menlo Park, CA. I was newly married and new to the area, only knowing a few folks from my banking days on Sand Hill Road.
Obama has just initiated his tenure as the 44th President and Slumdog Millionaire won Best Picture. Beyoncé’s Single Ladies and Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” topped the charts. Uber was conceived and the first iPad was yet to be released. The U.S. was in the midst of a financial crisis. Swine flu was a global pandemic.
I was 30 years young and as green in business as my environmentally friendly studio. I was lucky to have an amazing team and a seemingly endless supply of energy that allowed me to teach 22-24 classes per week. I was on the forefront of the barre craze, bringing the first studio of its kind to the peninsula.
Ten years later the world is a different place and I am a different person. Obama, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga still rock and I have evolved. I have matured. I have become more open and more discerning. I am a mother to two beautiful girls who inspire me each and every day. I am the Founder of Alkalign, a holistic health and wellness company deeply committed to its values and mission. I am a leader who is wholly invested her community. Together, we are a team of individuals; a family of originals.
I have sifted and sorted through the b.s. of owning a business. I have met many amazing people. I have met my fair share of @$$holes. I have stepped outside of the fitness industry’s flashy, fad-focused comfort zone to a place few have gone before. Beyond the barre and beyond the body. My goal is to innovate ahead so that my clients never fall behind.
Who knows what the future holds? I predict that someday people will look back and try to picture life before Alkalign much like we look back and imagine our lives before Snapchat, Instagram, oat milk, emojis and #hashtags. #canyoubelieveit #hashtagswereinventedin2007
All I know for sure is that my life is more fulfilled now because of every person I’ve connected with and every obstacle I’ve encountered and ultimately overcome. The physical strength I glean from Alkalign pales in comparison to the mental.
I am deeply grateful for the last decade and look forward to a fulfilling adventure ahead as I forge a path forward with friends, family and franchisees by my side. Thank you to everyone who has and will continue to be part of the journey.
Your body is a system of systems that work together to help you functionally move in everyday life as well as perform better in every activity you engage in. Why would you treat your body as separate parts on your workout days? We’ve all heard the infamous line from friends, family, and coworkers: “It’s leg day.” We’ve listened to it so much we fail to question why people isolate their body parts in their workouts. We assume that’s how strengthening should happen because that’s what we’ve been conditioned to believe.
Alkalign believes your workout should work your whole body, every time. Your body is smart and dynamic…isn’t it time you start treating it like it is? Your mind isn’t separate from your body, your legs and arms don’t work in isolation without your core. Mindful movement combined with paying attention in class is not only great for your body, but also for your mind and mental health.
For most of us, most of the time, total-body training that incorporates functional training is the best thing for your body. Workouts (like the kind at Alkalign) that rely on combination strength-training moves, stretching and mobility that engages your mind and muscle groups all at once with are the best way to get what you want out of your fitness routine and overall wellness for long-term.
Whether you are an endurance athlete looking to up your game, have an injury that has sidelined you from exercise, and you want to get back into it, or a regular Joe/Jane who just wants to feel better in your body, we have a workout that’s perfect for you.
Whole body. Whole person. Whole life.
Alkalign Founder Erin Jennings Paruszewski was recently featured on Drew Taddia‘s podcast, Exploring Mind and Body. In the episode, Improve Your Functional Movement, Erin talks about what Alkalign is and why everybody needs mobility and functional strength training.
Drew Taddia travelled the world as a professional baseball athlete for 10 years before following his entrepreneurial spirit started his health and fitness business. Seeking a larger platform to reach more people and help change their lives for the better, he started sharing his information on radio and podcasts. Find Drew Taddia’s show iTunes, on his website or on Facebook.
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.
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
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.
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.
Stanford University Clinical Associate Professor, Pediatrics – Cardiology