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Posts Tagged exercise

Experience Life Magazine

On The Bike: Cross-Training

When bicycle racers speak about “cross-training,” it’s kind of like cross dressing: Putting on the clothes, the mien, and the ethos of another sport during the off season to help prepare you for the Real Deal.

Bicyclists up here in the Great Frozen North often cross-train by Nordic skiing, as some of the motions of the two endurance sports are similar, or at least close enough to provide training benefits.

Rarely do we consider lacrosse, rugby, or ice hockey. Or surfing.

A buddy of mine is a surfer. A real surfer. As in, he lived for several years in his Subaru station wagon parked at Malibu Beach. When the surf was up, he surfed. Other times, he did the rest of the things the rest of us do and call “life.”

When I mentioned bicycle racing to him, he screwed up his face and practically shuddered. “Why do you cyclists like to suffer so much?” he asked.

Good question. And one for which I didn’t have a good answer.

Truth is, I don’t think we cyclist really like to suffer, per se. But it is how you get better.

Surfers also suffer for their sport. Have you ever tried paddling a longboard into a set of waves while laying prone? It’s hard work, it’s exhausting, and after a morning of surfing, you feel it. But come on. The palm trees, the sun, the beaches … I guess it’s all just “suffering” by a different name.


Gone surfin’.

So I figured this winter, I’d try cross training for bike racing by surfing.

Unfortunately, here at my HQ in Minnesota there are no oceans (unless I somehow overlooked one). So when a break in the action permitted (in between work and polar vortexes), my family and I made a beeline for Mexico.

We surfed the left-breaking shoulder of the pointbreak at La Saladita and the beach break at a nearly deserted Playa Linda, both just north of the gorgeous small city of Zihautanejo. There were indeed palm trees, sun, and beaches. And there were especially wondrous sets of waves, thanks to our catching the tail end of the North Swell that was making big surf up in California that week.

Now, through my new regimen of surfing cross-training, I wasn’t expecting huge cardio and metabolic improvements — although my shoulders and core could certainly feel all that paddling, especially considering the size of some of the North Swell waves. Maybe I built some explosive power from jumping up on the board to my feet as I caught those breaks. And the surfboard rash on my knees and chest also may prepare me for the inevitable road rash this coming season, although I’m skeptical you can ever really prepare for that.

So all in all, I sadly have to report that surfing doesn’t quite cut it as cross-training for bike racing.

But on the other hand … upon reflection, with all that saltwater, vitamin D, and the glorious laid-back vibe of surfing, I felt great. Refreshed. Reinvigorated. Yes, dare I say it, stoked.

Surfing proved to have phenomenal psychological and even philosophical cross-training benefits — benefits that I could foresee translating into all sorts of other Good Things on the bike.

In fact, maybe I’ll become a surfer, and cross-train by racing bicycles.

TELL US: How do you cross-train for your sport/activity of choice? Comment below or tweet us at @ExperienceLife. 

Michael Dregni is Experience Life‘s managing editor. 

Experience Life Magazine

Pumping Up My Brain Power


Here at Experience Life we talk a lot about physical fitness. From strength training and cardio to mobility and relaxation, we’ve got the inside scoop on building and maintaining a strong, healthy body. My officemates have described me as a “jock,” an “athlete,” and a “gym rat” — a far cry from my clumsy, sedentary childhood persona — so, unsurprisingly, I soak all this fitness advice right up.

But while I’ve worked hard to get stronger, I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting the 3-pound mass of gray matter that sits atop my body: my brain.

It’s a shame not only because I was once an avid student (nerd pride!), but because research shows that much like my bones and muscles, my brain can be fortified and strengthened. Our brain capacity is not hardwired to peak in youth only to degenerate as we age, as some people believe; it’s actually possible to change existing brain circuitry and create new neural cells at any age.

As such, I’ve been trying to make brain health a priority alongside physical strength. I want brains and brawn. Here are some of the things I’ve been up to:

1. Continuing Education:


Coursera’s “Introduction to Genetics and Evolution.”

I’ve always loved school. Not the getting up early part, but the reading, writing, calculations, problem sets, class discussions, and even the tests were fun for me. I loved having my mind widened and blown on a daily basis. Sadly, after I finished grad school, I never made time to learn anything that wasn’t related to my work.

Recently, however, I discovered Coursera, a database of online, college-level courses that can be taken for free. Free learning is my favorite! (h/t to Facebook friend and weightlifting coach extraordinaire Tamara Reynolds of Asheville Strength for turning me on to this.) I’m currently enrolled in “Introduction to Genetics and Evolution” and “Modern European Mysticism and Psychological Thought.” A course on the highlights of modern astronomy will begin in a few weeks.

2. Games and Puzzles:


Lumosity games aim to improve memory, problem solving, and other skills.

Thanks to Lumosity, a web app that provides “brain training,” I’ve been working on improving my working memory, visual attention, computation, and other skills by playing simple computer games.

The science backing up the idea that brain training can improve IQ and stave off early dementia is contradictory and inconclusive. But given that the Lumosity puzzles are fun, challenging but not impossible, and short (less than 10 minutes each day), it seems like a worthwhile investment.

3. Unitasking. (Is unitasking a word? This probably doesn’t support my claim that I’m doing things to improve my brain power.)


Multitasking is not all it’s cracked up to be.

In other words, I’m multitasking less. I used to take huge pride in being able to juggle multiple things at once and do them all well. But over time I realized that 1) the juggling was exhausting; and 2) I probably wasn’t completing my tasks as well as I thought.

Well, it turns out that multitasking is actually impossible. All I’ve been doing is splitting my brain’s resources. (No wonder I felt tired.) Even though it’s a hard habit to break, I’m making a concerted effort to focus on one thing at a time, which will hopefully make all the new things I’m learning stick.

4. Exercise:


Strengthen your body, strengthen your brain.

Of course it comes back to exercise, you’re probably thinking with a roll of your eyes. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the brain benefits beholden in physical activity.

“Across the board, exercise increases brain function, memory retention and other key areas of cognition up to 20 percent,” Arthur Kramer, a neuroscientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Experience Life in 2013.

Although Kramer and his colleagues don’t know exactly how exercise helps, they suspect the benefits are related to increased blood flow to the brain and the release of a biochemical that supports learning by helping our synapses store new information. They also found that exercise helps the brain make new neural connections and build new vascular structures. (Big muscles = big brain.)

Similarly, a 2013 study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that exercise had a neuroprotective effect among older men and women. Exercise also helps reduce stress, which has been shown to negatively impact cognition and prematurely age the brain.

5. Try New Things:


Novelty does a body, and brain, good.

Exercise is all well and good — I needed no convincing of that. The change I’ve made is to break out of my comfort zone and instead try new movements and activities. Novelty, it appears, spurs brain activity.

Among my recent gym-time discoveries are kettlebell snatches, Turkish get-ups, and the bench press. Outside the gym, I recently tried trampolining and have plans to take advantage of the snowy Minnesota winter by trying snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing for the first time. When the weather improves, I’m committed to face my fear and go skydiving.

I can’t say for sure if any of my brain-boosting tactics will benefit me in the long run. But for the time being, I’m having a lot of fun. Which, I’m certain, is also good for the brain.

Tell me: How do you give your brain a boost? Share your experiences in the comments below or tweet us @ExperienceLife. 

Experience Life Magazine

Lessons in Camel Pose

The first time I curled back into “Camel,” I wept.

Camel pose.

Camel pose. (istockphoto)

It was January 2004. I was 20 years old, living in New York City, and, in that particular moment, I was on my knees and bending backward into Ustrasana, the 22nd of 26 poses that make up a 90-minute Bikram yoga practice.

As the instructor encouraged the class — packed full of New Year’s “resolution-aries” eagerly down-dogging our way to clearer minds and tighter bodies — to open our chests to the ceiling and push our hips forward, I found my eyes filling with tears.

I did a quick scan of my body: nothing hurt, nothing was strained, nothing was broken. These weren’t tears of pain, which was a relief, and they weren’t tears of sadness. The tears were just there, welling up and annoyingly blurring my vision as I tried to cast my glance down the back wall.

Distracted and uncomfortable, I pulled myself out of the posture and settled quickly into child’s pose; any tears that escaped my eyelids melted into the sweat pouring from my face in that 105-degree room.

After that unpleasant experience, Camel pose became an afterthought. While I practiced Bikram, it was a posture to “get through,” a time-suck between postures that I was more skilled at. Eventually yoga became little more than a sporadic activity, and Ustrasana faded into the recesses of my memory.

Then, this fall, I began attending yoga classes again after a very long hiatus. Twice a week, I hobbled through asanas that once felt like second nature, and I slowly got a feel for flowing through a vinyasa again.

One night, my instructor and friend Jennifer Worley guided our small group into Camel. I hesitated as I got down on my knees, placed my palms on my sacrum, and started to lift my gaze up and back, initiating the supported backbend. I remembered the emotional discomfort I’d felt nearly a decade earlier, and imagined that 10 years of aging — not to mention a series of desk-bound writing jobs that further tightened my hips, chest, and spine — would make the whole experience even harder.

But I listened to Jen, focused on my breath, and curled back. This time, I didn’t weep — instead I was grinning ear-to-ear. The smile was as surprising as the tears had been.

“It’s normal,” Jen assured me when I confided my manic reactions after class. Camel is more than a backbend, she explained. It’s also considered a “heart-opener,” meaning it can trigger emotional releases that may or may not be tied to what we are consciously feeling. “You may cry even though you don’t actually ‘feel’ sad. Or it might make you feel really happy for no reason.”

Jen encouraged me to just “go with” whatever bubbled up and not to wriggle out of a pose to escape emotional discomfort. (Physical discomfort is another story; if it hurts, stop what you’re doing.)

I’ve tried to follow her advice over the last few weeks, and it’s become obvious that there’s a bigger life lesson here:

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Duh, you’re probably thinking.

I tend to shy away from things that seem uncertain, out of control, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable. Over the years I’ve had to force myself to take calculated risks (such as moving to a new city for work) and to get out of my comfort zone (going to a party with people I don’t know when I’d rather stay home in my pajamas).

Over time it’s gotten easier to push myself in this way, but my natural instinct in times of perceived distress is to retreat, to run away — to bow into the safety and comfort of child’s pose rather than risk exposing my heart in Camel, so to speak.

The thing is, when I think about it, child’s pose isn’t all that great on its own. It feels safe, calming even, to sit back on your heels and bend forward, eyes down and forehead to the ground. But, in child’s pose, you can’t really see anything; you don’t really feel anything.

Sure, safe and calm has it’s place — in life and in yoga — but so does feeling things. Even unpleasant things. Just like child’s pose isn’t as special without the excitement and discomfort of poses like Camel to mix it up, life requires a dose of discomfort once in awhile, too.

So, as we embark on a new year, I’m really going to take Jen’s advice, and the lessons learned in Camel pose, to heart. Instead of running away from a little discomfort, I’ll try to take a breath and just go with it. Who knows what I’ll wind up feeling?

Experience Life Magazine

Makeshift Winter Workouts

Tennis Shoes

My running/biking/walking shoes.











Confession: I don’t like going to the gym.

Not because I don’t want to exercise, I just prefer to do it outside — alone. I’ve never been motivated by working out with others, and tend to get discouraged more easily when doing so. Maybe it’s a hold-over from my many years of organized sports from toddler-hood through my senior year of high school. I felt more stress and panic than focus when a coach was yelling to run faster, jump higher, dive farther. I felt self-conscious as mean high-school girls sneered during practice, and when their mean parents muttered and yelled comments from the crowd.

I never looked like I was having fun while playing in games: I was so worried I would mess up, let people down, fuel a flurry of comments from the crowd, get yelled at, or be pushed even harder at practice the next day for not performing well. It all seemed so life or death, which was difficult to pair with girls I knew who were cutting their skin to feel something, throwing up their food, or dealing with real issues outside of the gym.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret playing sports: It’s where I first learned the difference between physical and mental strength, and about the meaning of preparation.

I’m glad I can play pickup games for basketball, softball, and volleyball — and know the rules. That muscle memory returns and I’m a fairly decent player. I enjoy playing now much more than I ever did then.

Playing sports also instilled in me the craving of moving my body consistently each day. You just won’t find me making public commitments of moving my body by running a triathlon or doing a “fun” run.

To this day, I find I push myself harder when I work out alone, whether that be walking, biking, swimming, running, or doing strength circuits. Over the last few years, I’ve tried running with friends, but their joking comments about how I looked when I ran, or the obviousness in how much slower I was cut deeply. It left me feeling like I’d rather sit on the couch under blankets and not move.

When I lived in North Carolina, I braved most 90-plus degree days and bundled up for the low 30s, but when winter hits in the Midwest, I feel panic set in.  How will I move each day without being in a gym, around people?

To be honest, I still haven’t mastered this. I probably need to let go of some neurosis as well, and start going to the gym. I’m working on it. I’ll get there someday. The reality is, it doesn’t matter how many indoor workouts I create on my own, I move less in the winter than I do in the summer.

So, what do I do to move my body when it’s -20 outside?

  1. I do indoor circuits in my apartment. I sprint up and down the short hallway when I know my roommate won’t be there. I do jumping jacks, run in place, jump rope. I do burpees, squats, push-up variations, ski-abs, plank variations, and triceps bends. A few of my favorites: Shaun T.’s Insanity-Inspired Workout (Video), The Countdown Workout.
  2. I run up and down the four-flight stairwell at work (it’s a side staircase and rarely used). I recently started doing exercises on each landing: jumping jacks, burpees, squats.
  3. I race my coworker and friend, Maggie, up and down the stairs and do burpees at the top. I’m a tinge faster going up the stairs, and she’s much stronger and faster at burpees. Yet, she’s an encouraging person — maybe I’m letting some of my neurosis go by finding generous people.
  4. When visiting my parents, I use their elliptical, bike, and weights in the basement.

So if you’re a “gym” person, remember when you see others there, they may be taking a very brave step. Be kind, be generous, and although everyone needs a little nudge sometimes, let them go at their own pace. They’ll get there.

Extra Reading: Overcoming Gym Jitters

Tell Us: What are your favorite indoor workout routines? What would you like to see more of from Experience Life?

Casie Leigh Lukes is Experience Life‘s digital content specialist.



Experience Life Magazine

In lieu of gifts, ‘presents of heart and mind’

Yesterday, my friend and co-worker Casie Leigh Lukes shared her family’s holiday gift-giving tradition and her penchant for gifts that are ethical, educational, and fun. Casie’s socially and environmentally conscious holiday goodies got me thinking about my own family’s “alternative” gifting practices.

We Fazeli Fards have never been big on gifting for gifting’s sake. An unspoken rule is that if one of us can’t find a present that the recipient would truly want or need, we simply don’t give anything. No last-minute pressure to find something — anything! — to stuff a stocking or put under the tree. Gifts should be thoughtful and meaningful, and given with intent.

As a result, we often buy gifts months in advance as we come across that perfect item or exchange gifts months after the occasion has passed. My sister, the artist in the family, navigates the situation by making gifts for the rest of us, such as paintings, drawings, and handmade ornaments, while I prefer to make edible gifts, such as cookies, pickles, and jam.

Handmade ornament by my sister.

Handmade ornament by my sister.

Homemade jam by yours truly.

Homemade quince jam by yours truly.

Friends and relatives have learned to expect random gifts at random times, and  not to scoff at a funny card with a handwritten I.O.U.

Another consequence is that physical gifts have, for the most part, been replaced by “experience gifts” — activities, day trips, and vacations that offer an escape from the everyday while building lasting bonds and memories.

For instance, as a combined Christmas/birthday gift for my dad’s 65th, we saved up for a week-long family vacation in Istanbul so he could reunite with his older brother. We celebrated my mom’s 60th birthday in New Orleans. For finishing grad school, I was gifted a dinner at Alice Waters’s famed Chez Panisse. When I bought my first home, my “housewarming present” was registration into a half-marathon in Miami. My 30th involved hiking glaciers and eating rotted shark in Iceland.

Other recent experiences have included massages, movie tickets, adventure courses, and a polar plunge. (Trust me: No gift beats the memory of donning swimsuits and running, as family, down a rocky beach into the icy Potomac River in the dead of winter.)

As you can tell, some of these gifts are budget-friendly; others, reserved for the special-est of special occasions, require saving up for several years. What doesn’t change is the lasting effect of the memories, photos and stories.

This Christmas was no exception to our little tradition. As her gift to me, my sister bought us passes to an indoor trampoline park near our parents’ home in New Jersey. I can’t really describe the sheer joy and giddiness that an evening spent bouncing up, down, and on/off the walls can bring. Maybe these photos will give you some idea:

My sister goes in for a butt-bounce at the trampoline park.

My sister goes in for a butt-bounce at the trampoline park.

Unexpected bonus: Bouncing around on a trampoline is a great workout.

Unexpected bonus: Bouncing around on a trampoline is a great workout.

Hair tie highly recommended.

Hair tie highly recommended.

Kinfolk magazine recently described these experience gifts as presents of heart and mind, noting that “some of the most meaningful gestures that can be given are not, in fact, wrapped in red bows, but are actually experiences to be shared together.” I couldn’t agree more.

Tell me: Do you deviate from typical gift-giving practices? Would you consider marking a special occasion with an experience gift? Leave a comment below or tweet us @experiencelife.

Maggie Fazeli Fard is Experience Life’s staff writer. 

Experience Life Magazine

Homemade Deodorant: B.O. No Mo’

Homemade Deodorant from PassionateHomemaking.com

Photo credit: PassionateHomemaking.com

Confession time: I stopped wearing antiperspirant/deodorant several years ago, much to my husband’s dismay. I had read about the possible negative health effects that antiperspirant could have on my body and just felt like it wasn’t worth the risk to wear it anymore.

Not using antiperspirant — the chemicals that prevent the body from sweating — would be fine and dandy except for one issue: I stink.

When I quit wearing antiperspirant, I sought out and tried numerous brands of organic deodorant. None have worked; in fact, they barely mask the smell.

There are some good days when the odor isn’t so bad. But then there are those days that I repulse myself (even within a few hours of showering). It’s been so bad at times that I’ve shortened workouts because I don’t want to offend my fellow gym-goers!

For special occasions (weddings, reunions, etc.), I will wear a popular brand of antiperspirant/deodorant so as not to embarrass myself or my dismayed husband. But even that product doesn’t work well: I still end up smelling myself by the end of the evening.

All these things considered, I had pretty much resigned myself to simply keeping my arms down and praying that nobody stood downwind from me. Then I remembered that baking soda is a known odor absorber, and I decided to try making my own deodorant using that as a base.

I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it sooner. Perhaps I just figured if the name brand deodorants didn’t work well, how could a homemade version possibly work?

The following is a recipe that I found at PassionateHomemaking.com. Amazingly, I happened to have all the ingredients at home so was able to whip it up:


  • 6-8 tbs. coconut oil (solid state)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch (arrowroot is preferred, but I used cornstarch)
  • A few drops of your favorite essential oil (I added a few drops of lavender)


  1. Combine equal portions of baking soda and arrowroot powder/cornstarch.
  2. Slowly add coconut oil and work it in with a fork or hand blender until it maintains a firm but pliable texture. It should be about the same texture as commercial deodorant: solid but able to be applied easily. If it is too wet, add more arrowroot powder/cornstarch to thicken.
  3. Scoop the mixture into your old deodorant dispensers or place in a small container with lid (I used a small mason jar).
  4. Apply with fingers with each use.

Makes about 1 cup (enough for two people’s regular daily use) and lasts about three months.

I’ll admit: I didn’t think this would work well (my husband was even more skeptical). I mean, come on! There are scientists, chemical engineers, people with PhDs, etc., developing this stuff, and even more folks who make a fortune marketing and selling hygiene products to ward off unwanted smells. How could a homemade recipe with three ingredients work more effectively?

I applied a bit and set off for my own personal test.

The results? This simple, homemade recipe works better than any other product I’ve ever used! I don’t need to worry about offending anyone while doing lat pull downs, walking by someone at the gym, or standing in a group of people!

Plus, it’s passed the ultimate test: A 1.5-hour endurance studio cycle class. I gave myself a quick sniff after completing the ride and there wasn’t a hint of odor. I took a whiff of the T-shirt I had been wearing about an hour after class (we’re talking nose right to arm pit), and even then there was no odor!

I’m truly shocked, and thrilled, to have found such an effective recipe for deodorant. I hope you’ll give it a try. And I hope you’ll be just as happy with it as I’ve been!

Christy Rice is Experience Life‘s circulation coordinator. 

Experience Life Magazine

A Ski in the Park

It’s been a couple of years since I last blogged about cross-country skiing in which I wrote a recap of completing my 14th Birkie. Last year, just a week before the big race, I suffered a medical emergency that not only ended my season, but also required months of healing. Now, nine months later, my recovery is done, and I’ve been getting stronger and fitter through roller skiing, cycling, and strength training. I’m back on track to ski the Birkie once again in February.

Breaking Trail at West Yellowstone

Breaking Trail at West Yellowstone

To kick off this ski season, I traveled to Montana over Thanksgiving to attend the West Yellowstone Ski Festival. For years I’ve heard from my friends that it’s an event they loved and that I should someday experience, too. And were they right!

There were at least three thousand skiers from around the world who enjoyed the perfect conditions that week — plenty of well-groomed snow on over 35 kilometers of rolling, pristine trails that wound through lodgepole forests laden with snow. The daytime sky was cobalt blue and the temps rose from below 0 into the pleasant 20s and 30s each day.

There were races to watch, lots of friends to meet and ski with, plenty of lung-busting altitude to adapt to, and gorgeous mountain views to stop and photograph. It seemed that everyone was in heaven, skiing at least twice a day, in the morning and afternoon.

The evening ski expo was a place to see new equipment from major ski companies, to hear lectures, to see films, and even enjoy a ski-clothing fashion show. And for Thanksgiving, people made sure everyone had a place to go for a holiday meal.

One afternoon at dusk, my friend Matt decided he needed an easy ski to end the day, so we went to the Riverside trail on the edge of town. From there, we double-poled through ungroomed snow and came to an opening that overlooked the rushing Madison River in Yellowstone Park. After a brief stop to enjoy the Madison Range to the north, Matt headed off along the river, and I scrambled to keep up as we went deeper into the park. As the sun was setting, Matt took off and, realizing that I couldn’t keep up with him, I stopped to wait for his return after he finished exploring. The stillness, the darkening sky, the wildness of Yellowstone Park was at once breathtaking and also scary. When Matt finally returned, we double-poled like mad back to town. It was exhilarating, and I have to admit I was relieved to be safe again.

What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving and good health than by starting my ski season in the mountains of Montana.

(Look for more about my trip to West Yellowstone in a future issue of Experience Life.)

One of the many trails at sunset at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival

One of the many trails at sunset at the West Yellowstone Ski Festival

Range in Yellowstone Park

Madison Range in Yellowstone Park

Lone Skier at West Yellowstone

Lone Skier at West Yellowstone

Steve Waryan is Experience Life’s Copy Chief.

Experience Life Magazine

Behind the scenes with ‘punk rock yogi’ Sadie Nardini

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing “punk rock yogi” Sadie Nardini for an upcoming Experience Life cover story.

For those who haven’t heard of her, Nardini is a NYC-based yoga instructor, host of Veria TV’s Rock Your Yoga, and author of the new book, The 28-Day Yoga Body.

She found yoga following a childhood illness that doctors predicted would leave her paralyzed for life, and used the practice to overcome her physical limitations, depression, and panic attacks. Not only did she build the strength to walk again, she has since become a combat boot-clad, steak-eating yoga powerhouse with an affinity for ninja wisdom (she practices the martial art of ninjutsu) and female empowerment.

Our interview veered from topics of life, death, depression, and downward-facing dogs, to Nardini’s favorite chocolate macaroon recipe and tips on cultivating your “inner badass.”

The full article won’t hit newsstands until March, but I thought I’d share a few of my favorite snippets from the Q&A. Without further ado, my top 5 takeaways…

Health is not about deprivation or punishment.

“I think it’s really important to reclaim the idea of what it means to be healthy, because we’ve got such a skewed perspective of what health and beauty is … We can improve without punishing ourselves or feeling bad for being imperfect. Really celebrating our bodies inside and out — that’s the new healthy.”

Confront your fears, dysfunctions, and past traumas. 

“That stuff doesn’t just sit down there hidden and quiet. It shows up in every single relationship you have. It shows up in how you feel from day to day, how insecure you are, how reactive you are. It shows up in your love relationships, in your family relationships, and in every decision you make.”

Don’t fear your mortality. 

When Nardini was warned that she may never walk again, “I decided I could always kill myself. I thought, ‘Well, that’s always an option for me. So let me try everything else humanly possible before I think anymore about such a final step.’ That gave me the courage to try anything. In Tibetan Buddhism, they call it ‘death consciousness.’ Instead of depressing you, it should make you focus more fully on the present moment, be more grateful for who you are and what you have, and be brave.

Embrace life’s challenges. 

“I have switched my mindset from being upset and disappointed when challenging things happen, to understanding that those are exactly the things that I need to strengthen myself and get more courageous. It’s a chance for me to really stand up for myself and be the best me I can be, and to change the things that aren’t working. The richest work you can do is in that space of discomfort.”

Eat for health AND pleasure.

“You want to exist in balance. You want to fuel your body properly and also have stuff that you really feel happy eating — whether it’s the clean, healthy food or a glass of wine or a little cocktail or chocolate here and there. Enjoy your life.”

Tell us: Do Sadie Nardini’s words resonate with you? What do you agree (and disagree) with? Leave a comment below or tweet us @experiencelife.

Experience Life Magazine

Giving Back: Girls on the Run

Before moving to the Twin Cities to join the Experience Life team, I worked a schedule that involved being at the office by 5 a.m. each morning. There was plenty that was painful, physically and mentally, about waking up to darkness and a buzzing 3:30 alarm, but the timing did free up my afternoons to pursue other interests.

While the obvious choice might be napping, my favorite after-work activity was volunteering at a D.C. public school as a running coach with Girls on the Run, a nationwide organization that uses physical activity as a way to build up confidence and self-esteem in young girls.

Every Monday and Wednesday, the other volunteers and I would meet at Tyler Elementary School in Southeast Washington to lead a group of 3rd and 4th grade girls through team-building, self-esteem-boosting, and anti-bullying exercises. Each session included a running “workout” or game that served as training toward an end-of-term 5K “fun run.”

As someone who doesn’t particularly like kids, the choice to become a GOTR coach surprised many of my friends and family.

But as someone who was once a shy little girl with little (ahem, zero) natural athletic talent — and who therefore never participated in team sports — the mission of the organization felt incredibly important.

GOTR gives girls a chance to be active and to be part of a team, without requiring any tryouts or special skills in return. All the girls have to do is treat each other with respect and kindness, and make an effort to run — even if that means walking around the track.

Over the course of my 10 or so weeks volunteering with GOTR in D.C., I became very attached to “my girls.”

Of course, it wasn’t always easy. These are pre-teen girls we’re talking about. There were afternoons when they’d throw fits, argue with each other, burst into tears, and flat-out refuse to participate.

There were the times when they were sweet and happy; they’d hold hands, burst into impromptu dance parties, and freely dole out hugs that, frankly, melted my heart.

And then there were the afternoons when they’d be so focused on the run that they’d get lost in the physical activity. With each lap around the field — whether they walked or jogged, sprinted or skipped — flaring emotions would calm and they’d work together toward their goals.

Since I moved from D.C. to Minneapolis in October, I arrived mid-semester — too late to sign up as a volunteer coach with GOTR’s Twin Cities chapter. Luckily, the organization offers a “Running Buddy” program for adults who want to support the girls but who can’t volunteer on a weekly basis.

As a Running Buddy, I’ll be paired with a girl for the Fall 5K, which will be held this Saturday. (If you’re in the area, feel free to swing by the Lake Nokomis course to cheer for our girls and say hello!) I’m beyond excited to meet my young buddy and complete the run with her. My only worry: Will I be able to keep up?

Tell me: What’s your favorite way to give back to your community? Leave a comment below or tweet us @experiencelife.

Experience Life Magazine

Please, Don’t Blame It On Your Thighs

Are you workout pants pilling? Seams stretching? Seat looking a bit too see-through? Well, it’s not the pants — it’s you. Namely, your thighs.

That’s the message from Lululemon Athletica founder Chip Wilson, who was recently interviewed about the company’s yoga pants and the women who wear themlulurun.

The Canadian company’s pants developed a cult following for their quality and apparent ability to flatter women’s butts, but drew a backlash this year when new versions were found to be too sheer. There have also been complaints about pants pilling and seams coming apart.

In this week’s interview with Bloomberg TV, Wilson acknowledged the complaints about the pants and suggested that the women experiencing the problems might be to blame.

“Frankly some women’s bodies just don’t actually work for it,” Wilson said. “It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it.”

Wilson also said that some seatbelts and purses “won’t work” with the pants, which can cost upward of $100 each, depending on the style.

Related Story: Six Packs and Sex Lives

We want to give Wilson the benefit of the doubt. It’s true that how one uses a product determines how it will hold up.

I, for one, have done sit-ups and lunges on gravel and I only had myself to blame when the fabric on the lower back and knees of my pants got scuffed up. I can’t reasonably blame the pants for not holding up. (For the record, I don’t recommend gravel workouts.)

Even Wilson’s wife, who was also being interviewed in the Bloomberg piece, chimed in to say that improper use — such as doing L-sits on a cement ground, she said — could compromise the garment.

But if that’s the point that Wilson was trying to make, he couldn’t have chosen a worse way to phrase it. To say that “some women’s bodies just don’t actually work” for the pants and that thighs rubbing together are the culprit is, at best, bad customer service. At worst, it’s a blatant example of body-shaming.

Intentional or not, body-shaming is still body-shaming and it’s never OK. A woman’s body is not broken because a pair of brand-new pants, from a company whose quality she previously trusted, is see-through. A woman’s body is not defective because her thighs rub together and cause fabric to pill.

Many women’s thighs touch and rub together. That’s not a judgement; it’s not “good” or “bad,” beautiful or ugly. It just is what it is.

Again, Wilson may very well have meant no ill will against his customers. He may not have intended to sound like Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries, who in 2006 said that the brand is designed for the “cool kids” and that plus-size women don’t fall in that group. (Abercrombie announced Wednesday that it will begin selling larger sizes, Reuters reports.) The Lululemon interview could all be a misunderstanding.

But, given the online reaction to Wilson’s words, which is easily Google-able if you’re so inclined, it seems like this needs to be said:

It’s not you — it’s him. It’s not your thighs — it’s the pants.

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