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What do I do when I’m nervous?  

Well  apparently I like to do things that make me feel vulnerable.  The week leading up to a kettlebell sport competition is always a bit rocky.  My stomach is in knots, I am terrified that I won’t make weight, I look at the ranking chart and figure out how many reps I would need to do at the higher weight class in order to still make my goals on the platform, I analyze whether or not that is possible and back to stomach upsets.  

In the past during this time I have snapped a people or taken it out on others.  I am committed to not doing that this time.  I have surrounded myself with the best support system possible, I am trained and more ready than ever to attack my CMS ranking, as of Monday morning I was only 1 pound over my weight class and I am eating lots of veggies and will be doing a little steam room time.  It will be fine.  

So instead of blogging and obsessing over my competition, which will be FINE, I am going to get vulnerable.  

I have been being mysterious for some months about a project that I am working on that is very close to my heart.  The video shared here is a teaser for a feature film that I am producing which will cover the interpersonal and social challenges faced by people who are dealing with invisible illnesses like fibromyalgia.  We will share a few different stories of people with different conditions that fall under the invisible illness category.  

I will need to raise quite a bit of money to get this film made and I may be asking for your help.  For now, please take 5 minutes to watch this teaser, share it with your contacts and reach out to me directly if you can help in some way.  Actual fundraising won’t begin until September.  

Thank you for watching, sharing and supporting…I would not be where I am now without my incredible community.  

I used to hate my legs.

I would do anything and everything to figure out how to make them appear thinner.  I would refuse to wear shorts and hated swimsuits.  I learned all sorts of tricks in how to dress to play up my small waist but hide my lower body.  

A photo like this is something I would have hated maybe only a couple years ago but somewhere along the way I learned to love things about my figure just as they were.  I also learned to appreciate that my legs are strong and an excellent source of power.  They are the reason I am good at kettlebell sport.  They are the reason I can deadlift and squat fairly impressively for my bodyweight even though I have never really trained with a focus on lifting heavy on those lifts and do them as a supplement to kettlebell sport.  My legs are the reason that I can run very fast and they made me a powerful dancer and gymnast.  

This post is for all of the women (and yes men too!) who are beating themselves up over an aspect of their body that they don’t like for whatever reason.  I want to encourage you to take a really good look at the messages you are sending to yourself and whether or not they are doing any good at all.  Sure I prefer now that my legs look lean while they look strong but if someone tells me I have big legs I will say thank you!  All the better for lifting things with.  And I just might accept more invitations to model and show them off.  

To quote Ru Paul… “If you can’t love yourself, how in the heck are you gonna love anyone else.” 

Am I right?

Fundraising for #invisiblefilm is going more slowly than I would like but I am overwhelmed by the realization that this film WILL happen. There may be other rounds of fundraising, there may need to be other requests made, I may need to adapt and get creative, but I am committed to telling these stories and I am committed to creating connection and love among members of the #invisibleillness #community . It will happen! #commitment #grateful #producer #fundraising #fibromyalgia #ilovekettlebells #whyishaklee #instaquote

For those who are wondering #whyishaklee.  

When I started my Shaklee business three years ago, I was an under employed, 27 year old, actress, personal trainer and pilates instructor living well beyond my means in Manhattan.  I was still asking my parents for money, I was unable to travel or take days off, I was very unhealthy and frequently buying the 99 cent boxes of macaroni and cheese from trader joe’s, and I was struggling with fairly severe symptoms of fibromyalgia.  The timing was wretched for me to start a new business, especially one that required an, albeit relatively small, upfront financial investment.  The timing was bad, I was sick and not an example of what Shaklee stands for, and yet I said yes.  To say that I was desperate for something to change at that point is an understatement.  

I should mention that I had recently quit my steady income job at a well known gym in the city that can remain nameless because I had a very tough time with the work environment.  I was under so much stress there that I developed even more severe symptoms related to fibromyalgia and the related other issues that I dealt with back then that quitting was my only option.  I was in the process of building a private fitness clientele from scratch and though I was beginning to audition more and more as a voice over actress, I saw very little income from my acting career either.  I used money that I shouldn’t have used to pay for some products to try that would enable me to start a business selling Shaklee products if I decided I felt comfortable putting my name and reputation on the line to do so.  Besides quitting my job maybe two months prior, this purchase is one of the riskiest moves I have ever made.  I actually wasn’t sure how I would pay my rent after making this purchase.  What I didn’t expect is what happened next.  

I have one of those Shaklee health success stories that sounds too good to be true.  I get that it does.  It’s true.  Every word of it.  And there are people in my life who witnessed my health transformation every step of the way.  The products arrived on a weekend I believe, I don’t remember, but either way I remember starting with a smoothie for breakfast, a liquid supplement that would supposedly reduce inflammation and a basic daily regimen of vitamins on a Monday morning.  By wednesday of that week there was such a noticeable difference in my mood and my energy that my best friend and roommate actually stopped me to tell me that he noticed it and to support my decision to work on my health in this way.  That was just the beginning.  Three months later I not only was the healthiest I had been since I was a pre-teen, but I had created a passive income stream that more than covered my ability to purchase the products that I would need for myself to maintain and improve my health every month going forward, and it also started an upward trend of monthly passive income that was the reason that I have turned my finances, my business and my life around in just three years.  

Today, I have built a team of people who are as passionate about helping others with their health as I am and I am able to mentor them to solve their similar problems with under employment.  No one I am mentoring does Shaklee full time.  Most of them have other careers or are Moms who are so dedicated to their families that Shaklee is the perfect way for them to WAHM or be a Work at Home Mom.  Under employment is a real problem and it is very difficult for people who are entrepreneurial or who have dreams that are outside of the having-a-day-job box to figure out the finances of handling day to day expenses without an extra stream of income that doesn’t require a large time commitment.  

My Shaklee business is still only a small part of my day to day life as far as time spent, but it is a massive part of my monthly income.  In addition to sharing Shaklee products with people who are interested in preventative health, increased energy, weight loss, or targeted solutions for issues they are currently dealing with and mentoring other motivated people in doing that same thing, I am a working voice over actor who auditions multiple times a week.  I also act in plays on occasion and am producing a feature length documentary right now about the impact of invisible illnesses like Fibromyalgia on interpersonal relationships and basic social skills.  I teach private lessons in classical Pilates around 20 hours per week to a select group of incredible clients who I love.  Many of these clients have been with me for the entire six years that I have lived in NYC.  I personally train 12-15 hours per week in kettlebell sport and I also compete at a very high level in the sport.  I receive no financial compensation for my hours spent training or competing, I simply do this for the love of the sport.  I am also in the process of taking on real estate investments and am working my way out of the massive debt I found myself in after a very expensive college education and a decade of underemployment.  

So, in a nutshell, in around 10-15 hours per week I run a business with Shaklee that allows me to help many people with their health and to help a select group of people focused on the business to create a powerful stream of income very part time.  I believe that anyone can do what I have done but I have learned that very few people are actually ready to accept the challenge in a way that leads to success.  I am transparent with people who are interested in the business side of Shaklee and I don’t make any lofty promises.  I mentor people who are willing to take the actions necessary to be successful and who are genuinely passionate about the health and well-being of others.  I am always open to discussing the opportunity with people who are interested and always meet people exactly where they are in the conversation.  This has worked to help me be successful up to now and I expect it will continue to work.  

I don’t say this next bit to brag, but I suppose it is worth mentioning.  I have a 2014 Prius C that is paid for 100% by Shaklee as a bonus for my success in the business.  I have also taken 3 all expense paid vacations in my three years in Shaklee and Shaklee paid for four people that I love to join me on those vacations as well.  This accidental business has changed my life in ways that still blow my mind and I am grateful for even more to come.  

Coming from my background as an actor where it seems like everyone is waiting for their “big break” or to “be discovered” some may not understand this idea of luck. What I can say is that all of the actors I know who make their living off their craft have done so by taking chances and putting themselves out there. They have made themselves visible and made their own luck. This is what I strive to do in my business and what I strive to inspire others to do. Don’t wait for luck to knock on your door, get out and make your own!

3

The road to 100 reps of long cycle with 16kg has been a winding one.

I am writing this post from a Starbucks in midtown manhattan. As I look out the window across the street and upstairs, directly in my sight line, I can see a group of black cropped designer legging wearing NYC women doing countless ‘butt burning’ leg lifts. I know what they are hoping to look like and I remember a day when I did much the same thing, hoping and crossing my fingers that I would wind up looking like a model.

Now, I am 5’2” on a tall day and even in college, in my self-proclaimed ‘fat phase’, I barely tipped the scale at 125 pounds. In my mind I have struggled with my weight when in reality I actually have no idea what it is like to be even slightly overweight. Since I was a gymnast and ballerina, starting at 3 years old, I have always been active and blessed with a fairly fast metabolism.

Though I haven’t struggled with weight on the scale I have absolutely struggled with strength and body fat. I would fluctuate from a size zero to a size 6 within a year at times and there would be days when I felt very strong and days I could hardly carry a light handbag. There were days I felt so dizzy and nauseous that simply had to lie down. There were days the pain in my joints was so excruciating that I would snap at people I loved and cry for no reason. As I dealt with a chronic illness diagnosis and doctors who wanted to put me on anti-depressants or experimental pain killers, I was always recognized by medical professionals for my ability to exercise through it and ‘maintain my weight.’ As if what the scale said had any indication of my health.

June 15th 2014 will mark three years that I have been pain and symptom free of Fibromyalgia. This is how long I have known what ‘healthy’ feels like. This is not what this post is about but it is important to share where I am coming from.

The journey of the past three pain free years has been my journey to becoming an athlete after illness. I was an athlete as a kid so I knew what that felt like but over a decade with a body incapable of training meant I forgot a little. Relearning has been the biggest blessing I have been given.

In March of 2012 I competed in Kettlebell sport for the very first time with the 12kg Kettlebell in one arm long cycle. I completed well over 100 reps in the 10 minutes and immediately set the goal of 100 reps of OALC with 16kg for June of 2012. I started training harder. So much harder in fact that I did something stupid and I ended up with a forearm injury that took me out of training until December of 2012. I started back training again and the goal was the same, 100reps 16kg OALC with an overarching goal of 80reps 20kg OALC down the road.

I trained hard. I increased my commitment. I cleaned up my diet even more. I lived and breathed kettlebells and my training. In March of 2013 I completed 93 reps with the 16kg. I accepted it and training continued. Same goals, 100 with 16 and 80 with 20. I competed again in September of 2013 and was sure that I would complete 100 that day. The gym was colder than expected, my flight was later in the day than I thought it would be, I was nervous and tired and hungry and had been fighting off a cold for three days. Everything went wrong that day and it took everything I had to match my personal best of 93 with 16kg.

A few weeks later I attempted 100 again with 16kg in a training set and came away with 98. My coach and I decided to move on to the next goal of 80 reps with the 20kg. Between October 2013 and March 2014 I faced my biggest challenges and learned my biggest lesson. Despite my training and my nutrition and my hard classical Pilates recovery workouts, despite my performance in my sport up to this point, despite a loss of around 6 pounds, an increase in muscle mass and a massive drop in body fat, I was WEAK.

Kettlebell sport is deceptive. You think because you can lift 12kg at 13 reps per minute that means you could lift 16kg at 10 reps per minute. Not necessarily true. I see many people drop out of the sport during the phase I faced before my competition in March of 2014. Quitting wasn’t an option for me so my coach and I discussed it and decided that I simply wasn’t in good enough shape, that I needed barbells. Basic strength training.

Adding this aspect of my training allowed me to compete with 20kg in March and complete 62 reps OALC. This allowed me to do 100 reps with 16kg in training last Saturday and it brings 80 reps with 20kg into reality as possible for August 2014.

I still don’t consider myself STRONG and I may never. What I know is that I feel healthy. And I will be moving progressively heavier weights for the rest of my life, both on a barbell and with kettlebells. There is nothing wrong with a few leg lifts in the name of joint mobility and stability and I can still be found passionately sharing pilates with my clients who I love, but I am also going to teach them how to deadlift or at least tell them why they should consider it.

More muscle is always and forever a good thing.

2

I still remember the way I struggled to even swing the 16kg kettlebell a year ago and how impossible the 18kg felt.  I breezed through a 12 rep per minute pace with the 16kg in my training set yesterday.  As I was going along yesterday I remember thinking, “wow, this feels good!”  The bell felt manageable and easy….even light!  I also felt much more like I was moving with the momentum of the bell instead of fighting against it.  I thought my form was okay last year and it probably really wasn’t too far off, but if I hadn’t gotten injured I’m sure I would never have gotten to where I am now.  My injury required me to completely rework the way I cleaned the kettlebell to my shoulder.  Along the way I am continuing to learn more and more ways to conserve energy and fight the movement of the bell less and less.  It feels GREAT.  I now work on taking this understanding to other aspects of my life that feel “broken”.  I know in fact they aren’t broken…they are simply in process.  Sometimes things get broken in order to be put back together in a pattern much more beautiful than existed before.  

I often speak about gratitude on this blog and one of the things I am most grateful for is my ability to stay open and receptive.  There were times when the pain I lived with was overwhelming.  In those times I was extremely negative and made decisions based on fear.  I was not able to take chances and go for my dreams.  I also often felt like the world was out to get me…that somehow I was doomed to a life of pain and loneliness.  I am beyond grateful that despite periods of negativity in my past, I am now able to live a healthy life surrounded by wonderful people who care about me and my happiness.  I believe with all of my heart that the world is a beautiful place.  I even had fun giving away some homemade gluten free cookies to people shoveling snow in NYC today!  I received huge smiles of gratitude in return and I headed into my kettlebell sport training session feeling elated.  I am a living testament to how a life can turn from the completely negative to the completely positive seemingly overnight and my conclusion is that deep down I never completely lost sight of the belief that the world is a beautiful place.  I am so grateful for that.

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I went into the US Nationals on Saturday very prepared to hit CMS with a minimum of 80reps in 10 minutes. Unfortunately I let nerves get the better of me and a last minute weight cut didn’t help either. I struggled a bit in this set and it definitely wasn’t pretty, but I held on for a new PR of 71reps with the 20kg Kettlebell - 28 right and 43 left - in only 9 minutes with an early hand switch after my right arm failed. My previous PR was 62reps in a full 10 minutes at the NY Open a few months ago. Looking forward to getting back to training soon and attempting CMS again in December in New Jersey!

As I prep for my next competition in December I am looking back on what I have accomplished. I am happy with a PR in August even though it wasn’t the 80 reps I was prepared for. I am excited to train this fall with improved focus and patience. I am also more dedicated to my nutrition and the health of my muscles and joints. Improved mobility and a commitment to recovery is long overdue! #whyishaklee #gainzzz #ilovekettlebells #cmshereicome #iksfa #longcycle

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Here is yesterday’s 6 minute set with 16kg.  71 reps!  Getting ready for competition in September!!

THIS is What Fibromyalgia Looks Like

image

Hopefully the combination of the photo and the title got you to click on this blog post to read further. Now that you are, thank you. I would also like to thank Lou and Phil for taking this photo of me last Friday after a daunting kettlebell workout.  I am less than two weeks away from my first long cycle kettlebell competition and I feel surprisingly prepared. 

It is difficult to express how grateful I am to be where I am right now.  As a child I was a competitive gymnast, multi-sport athlete and a dancer.  At age thirteen, after a frustrating diagnosis of fibromyalgia, my life turned a very different direction.  My path to returning to competitive sports has been an enlightening one.  Through a healthy, natural lifestyle full of exercise, nutrition, stress management and positive thinking I have learned not only how to rid myself of all fibromyalgia symptoms, but I have gained the ability to lead others in finding their healthy lifestyles as well.  I am on a mission to show people who are suffering from chronic pain and fibromyalgia that there is way back to health that is completely natural and involves no pharmaceutical medications. 

In order to make the difference I wish to make, I need your help.  Maybe you or someone you know is looking for help and guidance in this area or maybe you just feel like sharing this blog post to family and friends.  Either would be extremely helpful.  Change can be slow and there are many people who will be made uncomfortable by my approach to treating fibromyalgia, but any movement worth starting meets with resistance.  Thank you for reading and for sharing.

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