The Unintentional Yogi

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I’m going to start right in the middle of my story.  I’m a 200 hour certified yoga teacher.  So, there’s that.  It wasn’t really a plan or a goal.  Not at first.  Actually, it was never even on the radar.

When I took that first yoga class, I was a disaster.  And, that is putting it mildly.  I had no clue what the poses were, regardless if they were being presented in English or in Sanskrit.  But, what I lacked in knowledge and skill, I made up for with total ignorance, a lack of pride, and sheer visceral-fortitude.  The fact that I DIDN’T know how to do anything only made me want to do it MORE!  Luckily I didn’t feel intimidated by the advanced students.  They actually had quite the opposite effect on me.  I saw them as inspiration!

I never knew that the body could be so strong and could be contorted in so many simple, beautiful, and unusual ways. So, I kept showing up to my mat because I liked seeing from practice to practice that I was making progress.  I eventually dove into beginner and fundamental workshops (which probably would have been a better place to start, but…hey, hindsight is 20-20).  I moved from practicing one day a week to two…and then to three.  I found changes happening in my body and in my overall mindset and well-being.  It took me an entire year of continuing to show up and put in the work to finally be able to hold crow pose (bakasana) for 5 breaths.  And, once that happened…I felt that anything was possible in my practice.

I was a regular at the studio.  I was “friends” with the teachers.  When a teacher-training was finally being offered at the studio location that I frequented, my favorite teacher suggested that I sign up.  I LOVED the idea.  I really wanted to expand my knowledge of yoga and to fine-tune my personal practice.  I didn’t have any desire to teach, but not everyone who goes through teacher-training actually wants to teach.  So, that wasn’t an issue.  When I presented the idea to my husband, he was fully supportive…in as long as I chose to MONETIZE my training.  He didn’t feel it was a great idea to spend a somewhat large sum of money to get certified if it was solely being used as a self-exploration and personal growth tool.  And, because I REALLY wanted to do this, I agreed to his terms, and I signed up (still not personally committed to the idea that I actually would teach).

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The five and a half months worth of teacher-training classes were set to start in September.  In July, I unfortunately was unexpectedly injured.  In a freak occurrence, I was bitten by my own dog.  I had to have a plastic surgeon brought in to perform emergency surgery on my mouth and face.  My upper-left-lip was mostly detached, and it took countless numbers of artistically placed stitches to put me back together.

Recovery was physically brutal.  I wasn’t able to eat for 10 days, and I was in constant pain.  Emotionally I was a wreck, too.  In an effort to make sure our young daughter (and everyone/anyone else) would be safe, we made the heart-breaking decision to say goodbye to our well-loved 12 year old fur baby.  Through the course of all of this, people began sympathetically talking to me about how sucky it was that I also now wouldn’t be able to go through with my yoga teacher-training.  That really struck me in an odd way.  That thought never even crossed my mind!  At that moment, more than any other, I knew that I HAD to go through with teacher-training…that I NEEDED it.  So, I stuck with that plan as I continued to move forward.

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I made my way back to my mat after a month of healing.  I slowly started to move through the practice and re-establish what yoga was to me right then and there.  Two weeks into it, I was feeling strong and motivated…so much so that I was engaging in a full-practice, including arm balances and inversions.  That is when another blow was delivered.

meganyoga3I was in side-crow, and I felt something “tweak” in my wrist.  That tweak turned into a whole bunch of pain.  Pain that didn’t get better.  Off to the wrist specialist I went where it was determined that I had torn my TFCC (triangular-fibrocartilage complex) and had perforated a ligament.  I was given a cortisone injection and was put in a fiberglass cast for 4 weeks, with the talk of surgery after that.  Again, everyone assumed that my opportunity to go through with the yoga teacher-training process was going to be inevitably delayed.  The way I looked at it, though, was that the universe was simply testing me.  It wanted to find out HOW MUCH I really wanted to do this….how much it really meant to me.  So, my game plan?  Show up.  Just as I had been doing, cast and all.  I determined that the only way that I wasn’t going through with the program was if one of the studio owners told me that I couldnt.  I wasn’t going to give them any reasons to think that I shouldn’t be there.  And, luckily, no one ever openly questioned my showing up .

So, TAKE THAT, UNIVERSE!  I plopped down on that mat cast and all, full of excitement and naive anticipation.  I’ll mention that there is no preparing for the mental and physical exhaustion that comes with yoga-teacher training, injury or no injury.  There are days that we practiced for the better part of 4 hours straight with little or no breaks.  I gritted my way through it all.   I modified my practice and did everything on my fists.  My knuckles were bruised and calloused.  But, I wasn’t going to give anyone any reason to say that I wasn’t putting in the work.  I wasn’t going to use anything as an excuse nor was I going to jeopardize my certification.  So, on it went.  10 hours a weekend for most weekends.  Time away from family.  Time filled with mom-guilt.  And wife-guilt.  Time spent not knowing if I would get through, because, shit, y’all…yoga teacher training is H-A-R-D!  But, it is when you push yourself through in the toughest of moments that you tend to reap the biggest rewards, and that is what I wanted.  I wanted the reward.

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When the cast came off, I again had to rebuild my practice.  I spent the entire teacher-training working to lift back into crow pose and fumble my way back into hand-standing.  Hell, down dog wasn’t even “easy.”  But, that is one of the beauties in yoga.  It is humbling.  You never know where your body might be from one day to the next…but there is still a place for you on that mat.  There is an opportunity to practice and progress, regardless of where you are at any given moment.  Drop the ego, pull yourself inward, focus, let go…and just see what happens.  That right there…that is what KEEPS me coming back.  And, that is what kept me going through the grueling and soul-searching process that is yoga teacher-training.  And, that is what eventually earned me my certification to teach yoga.

I just graduated in February 2016.  About 6 weeks prior to my final, I started teaching donation-based classes to get in additional teaching practice.  I taught my first “real class” the week right after I graduated…at the studio that has been my “home” for three years, the studio where I also took my teacher-training.  I’m not only teaching vinyasa, but I’m also combining my loves and am teaching running yoga classes!  And, I feel I am exactly where I should be, unintentionally or not.  Some things in life may not be planned, but they might turn out to be exactly what you need.  I discovered that I DO want to teach yoga.  I want to share my love of yoga with others.  I want people to discover that they have an inner-strength that maybe they have not yet explored or found.  I want people to know that yoga is accessible to EVERYONE, and that even if you can’t or don’t care to ever emulate all of the crazy poses that you see plastered all over Instagram…that you can still progress in your own practice.  That even in the most basic of poses, you are still “doing” yoga.  That it is ok to fall and to laugh at yourself, and then get right back up and try again.  I want people to know that yoga takes place on the mat, yes…but that most of the work of yoga takes place off the mat, and that is where the real magic happens.  I am a living example of that.  I am a healthier, stronger, more calm and patient, life-loving person than I ever thought possible.  My yoga practice makes that a reality.  I never thought at the age of 42 that I would be a head-standing, balancing on my arms, hand-standing, mantra-singing, peace-loving, breath-focused yogi…but I am, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

I encourage you to:  Throw down a mat.  Get on.  See where it might take you.  You might be surprised.  Om, shanti, shanti, shanti!  Namaste!

Megan currently teaches at Dhyana Yoga in Haddonfield, NJ. If you’re not close by (and even if you are) you can follow her on Instagram

Finding your motivation – what drives you?

New Year, New You! How many times have we heard that? And how many times do we set out on a new year journey with the best of intentions, only to find that they fall to the wayside, some sooner than other. Because, not for nothing, but LIFE. Life can be overwhelming, exhausting, and throw you a few curve balls when you least expect them.

This post is for everyone. For those who need a little boost as we jump into 2016. Those who need a little ‘atta boy (or ‘atta girl). And those who are looking for motivation in all the right places. That would be right here, just so you know.

A year after the birth of my first son, (who will be 11 years old in February – Oh Em Gee) I found my local tribe and began a healthier lifestyle with a fitness course called Stroller Strides. Before that, I was basically a mess. I wish I were kidding but no, I’m not.

Anyway, it was there that I met many dear friends, including Brandi, Jen, and Megan. What kept ME going in those days was knowing that I had a standing date with them, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Megan, Me, Jen, and Brandi in the front. Matt and Sean in the back. I think this qualifies as business in the front, party in the back?

Haddonfield Adrenaline 5k – 2015- Megan, me, Jen, and Brandi in the front. Matt and Sean in the back. I think this qualifies as business in the front, party in the back?

These women are very strong motivators in my life. They saw me through the very early stages of my running career, meeting me at local parks and telling me that I wasn’t going to die when I swore up and down that I would. (Running brings out the drama in me.)

Jen, Brandi, and Megan have been with me through it all and they continue to be there for me, supporting and lifting me up through every trial and tribulation. Furthermore, they are very strong in knowing their WHY. When you surround yourself with motivated people, you can’t help but set goals and achieve dreams yourself!

Rather than me blather on and on (after all, you get me all the time) I figured I would ask them if they would share what keeps them motivated. Naturally, they were all about it.

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I believe staying motivated is a mindset. If your head is not fully in your decision to change, you will never change. As a personal trainer my career is to motivate people on a daily basis, but sometimes it’s hard to motivate myself to keep going.

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One trick I have is to take a quiet moment to myself (even if that means escaping into the bathroom or in my car just to get a couple of minutes alone), take a breath, and ask myself what I am trying to achieve in that moment and how I can do it.

I am also a list maker, so if I can find a quote that moves me, I will write it at the top of my list as a reminder, then start to list all the steps I need to work on completing my goal. It’s all about keeping my Negative Nelly voice quiet and not let her be loud enough for me to hear.  When I keep her quiet I know I can do anything I set my mind to.

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Did you ever hear of that quote that says “I don’t have the time, I make the time” in regards to working out? Maybe it’s because I went to Catholic school; maybe it’s because I’m a teacher but I have been told that I would do really well in the military.

My running schedule is a fine oiled machine that screams at me from most-high on the fridge, like a Jillian Michaels trainer. That’s just the way I like it. The calendar is my motivation. I use good old fashion pen and paper. I need to see the big picture, like a month, to see progress or slowing down. It holds me accountable. I see gaps, highs, and lows. I see variety. Everyday is something different, if I want it to be. I have control, I write it down, and cross it off with pride when I have finished.

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It all started like this. I came face to face with very common issues most young mothers have.

“How do I work out with young children/babies?”

“How do I muster the energy after the baby has been crying all night?”

“How do I make time for myself without feeling guilty?”

I only have so many hours to get what I want completed before 3 o’clock hits and then BAM! Homework, snack, dinner, karate, etc!

I was already in the frame of mind that I don’t need to pay an arm and a leg for a gym. I can run at home on the treadmill in the basement or with the jogger. YouTube videos like XHIT Daily work for strength training days.

My magic numbers started out as 2 days cardio, 2 days lifting. But after training for and completing Philly Half Marathon and then sliding right into the Runner’s World Holiday Run Streak (#rwrunstreak), the schedules are showing me that my body can go harder and farther than expected.

Just as I scheduled my workouts, the day also has baby time, rest time, and clean time. It just works for me. Some days, something gets skipped. With hyper-scheduling comes fluidity. But as the calendar shows me, there is always tomorrow to conquer.

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What keeps me motivated?  I think that I have found that as I get older, what keeps me motivated in most everything in life (exercise, parenting, studying, going to the grocery store, you name it) is pretty much the same things.

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Motivation boils down to whatever is going to make me feel happy or is going to make my inner light shine.  If the end result is a sense of overall awesomeness, then I can pretty much push myself to do it, whatever that particular “it” may be.  I link myself with positive and inspirational people.  Motivation is contagious.  I do activities that bring the most joy.  If in some way it doesn’t feel good at the end, then it might not have been worth doing.

I tap into the mantra of my yoga studio…what is the BEST that can happen???  Don’t go looking at the worst thing that can happen.  Bad stuff can always pop up along the way.  But, if I choose to venture down a road (or lace up my running shoes, or put my butt on my yoga mat or tackle a new project)…what is the BEST possible outcome?  A focus on the positive leaves me challenged and inspired instead of putting me in a negative frame of mind.

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If I’m not feeling motivated in the moment, I think of reasons why I shouldn’t do something. Are they truly valid reasons? Or are they simple EXCUSES or JUSTIFICATIONS for letting myself off the hook?

Valid reasons, I can live with.

Excuses, I cannot.

And through the course of it all, I allow time for breaks and silence and laziness and gratitude and reflection. Those moments and days are not “excuses” or a “lack of motivation.” They are instead rewards for kicking my own ass the rest of the time. Those little breaks are a way to honor my joy and reflection on the hard work that goes into everything I choose to do, and they are a way to recharge my motivation for the next task. Nothing fancy, but I have found that truly living a life I love (even in the hardest of moments) is motivation enough to see me through pretty much anything.

I would love to hear what thoughts or mantras keep YOU motivated as you trip along life’s journey. A positive and a forgiving heart seem to really go a long way when I am dealing with myself. I tend to want to go, go, go but sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m only able to do so much in the time that I’m given each day and that it’s okay because I’m still doing incredible things.

Many thanks to Megan, Jen, and Brandi!

 

Guest post: Consider me Cleansed

pre-pubertyI grew up a latchkey kid in the cornfield-laden suburbs of the middle of nowhere, Illinois. I pretty much came and went as I pleased, within reason. I relied upon myself for at least half of my daily meals. The meals that I made consisted of whatever I found in the house, and what I found usually consisted of the white starch food group and the overly sugary food group. When my mom cooked, it was usually a meat, bread, and potatoes sort of presentation. Our milk was 2%, always. We were all a part of the clean plate club, and dessert was never something we missed. This was all well and good. I didn’t know any different, and I liked it. I was an active kid: riding bikes, playing soccer, playing softball, running around the neighborhood…you name it, I was involved. So, activity and ultimately crappy eating were excellent partners. Until. UNTIL I hit puberty.

Puberty was not kind to me nor was it a friend of my “questionable food group” diet. I put on weight overnight, I swear. My thighs grew so quickly that they produced stretch marks. I went from being a fairly thin and athletic girl to a chubby 130 pound 8th grader sporting a butch haircut. (The haircut has nothing to do with anything, but it was horrific enough to be worthy of mention.) This is where my battle with weight and food and self-image began.

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I kept up most of my horrible eating habits right on through college. I added the food group “alcohol,” which might have contributed to making things a bit more than worse. I ate things called “beer nuggets,” and I ate them at 3am. I maxed out around 155 pounds. Just so you know, I’m not all that pretty at 155 pounds. Not gonna lie.

Sometime after college, as a working adult living on my own, I figured out that something had to change. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t feel good. I wasn’t comfortable in my own body. I had an epiphany that I simply couldn’t “have my cake and eat it, too,” AND be any combination of thin /healthy / happy. My metabolism didn’t work that way. My body knew how to turn a calorie into a fat cell faster than I could blink, and I needed to come up with a way to win the battle against the calories and fat cells. I needed a way to win the battle against myself.

It has been a journey of 15 or more years in the making. I have found balance. I still don’t know everything there is to know about food, and I don’t claim to be a health expert. I have learned that no one thing works for everyone. I have only learned what works best for me: overall healthy eating and eating everything in moderation. As easy as that sounds, it isn’t. People who have only known me in my adult life assume that I have always eaten well, taken care of myself, exercised, looked this way, etc. Appearances can be so deceiving! When you go on such a journey, you know that the journey continues. It has detours and breakdowns. It doesn’t end…it just goes on.

So, as much as I’d like to say I have it all figured out and that I never give into cravings for shitty food that are destructive to my body…it just isn’t true. I aim to have more better days than I have bad days. I run (when not injured, which is another story for another day). I go to yoga. I eat mostly well. But, I also falter. I also self-sabotage. I also suffer from body dysmorphia. If I gain 10 pounds or lose 5 pounds, I pretty much feel I always look the same: ok, but not great. That is me. I own it, and I am a work in progress.

Just before Easter, I had found that I was really giving into my cravings more than usual. My one or two bad days of eating turned into “I can just have something bad every day as long as I keep up my exercising…that is ok, right?” Once it starts, it is easier to just go with it. Sugar is addictive. It makes me want more and more and more. I’m seriously an all or nothing sort of eater (I eat all of the cupcake, not just a bite. I eat all of the Easter candy, not just a few pieces. I just can’t help myself, it seems). I adapt by eating the cupcake for lunch, that way the calories are still kept somewhat in check. However, my body can’t be fooled. Do that too many times, and the weight just jumps right back on, of course. I decided it was time to reset my body and get back on track. I didn’t feel good. I was up about 5 pounds. I wanted to gain back the control and the good feelings that good eating bring with it.

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Enter: the Suja Juice 3-day cleanse. Just so you know, I am not a proponent of cleanses in general. Most of them involve a ridiculous combination of starvation and explosive “colon-purifying” diarrhea. (I’m just sort of against both of those things at my wise old age of 40. Consider me silly, but that is my stance.) When I came across this particular cleanse, though, I realized it was different. Their 3-day cleanse involves drinking 6 juices a day, for a total of 1200 calories. The juices are designed for different purposes throughout the day. This company does NOT urge you to enforce the rule of “chewing is cheating.” If you are hungry: EAT! If you are more active and require more calories: GET THEM! The only guideline is that you are smart about your choices. They recommend eating raw fruits and vegetables, drinking clear broths, or eating things like a baked sweet potato or an avocado. The idea is to rest and cleanse your digestive tract, and these choices will allow you to stay true to that idea.

My experience with this cleanse was a good one. It is recommended that you set yourself up for the cleanse by reducing sugar intake, eliminating coffee and alcohol, and eating a bit more lightly in the few days leading up to it. Uh huh. Yeah. I totally didn’t do that. I drank coffee. I drank my nightly jumbo sized glass of red wine. I ate as much as I could at an Easter brunch the day before. (Remember when I said that I self-sabotage? Well, here you go.) I knew I was starting the juice cleanse, so I just went crazy beforehand. Consider it the storm before the calm. Sort of backwards, sure, but that is par for the course in my world. Way to go, me!

When I commit to something, though, I commit! I jumped right into that cleanse the next day. I started day one with a juice and a yoga class. I figured it was smart to exercise first thing, prior to my body only having liquid sustenance and being a bit energy deprived. All went well there. I initially thought that I wouldn’t be able to give up my coffee and wine habit, but I did! I think that I was drinking so much throughout the day that I didn’t really crave anything else that was liquid. The first day I did make the mistake of not bringing one of the scheduled juices with me when taking my daughter to a movie. Too much time had lapsed between juices (you are pretty much drinking one every 2 hours), and I found myself VERY hungry. I cheated and ate 3 large bites of my daughter’s soft pretzel. Eh, nobody’s perfect. The rest of the day went well. No other cheats. No other problems.

the cleanse

Now I will say, on day one, I was not used to the juices. I’m not a “juicer” in general, so I didn’t know what to expect. The first juice (Glow) has a bit of an overwhelming celery presence to it, but it wasn’t too bad. I managed it. The second juice (Fuel) is bright orange and has a light sweetish taste of pineapple and orange. For the record, I loved this one. The third juice (Purify) is purple, thanks to the beets in it. My first experience with it was a bit interesting. This one is “earthy” and a bit “dirty” tasting, as in it sort of tastes like dirt. Really. I plugged my nose when drinking it the first go around. Next up was Fiji. It has a lot of apples in it, so I thought it would be amazing. I was wrong. I wasn’t prepared for the STRONG taste of ginger. I drank 2 swigs and called it quits. I drank more water to fill up my belly instead. For dinner there was Green Supreme. It is definitely green, but the taste surprised me. It was very much like apple juice, and I welcomed that immensely! Last for the day was Vanilla Cloud. It is designed sort of as a dessert. It has hints of vanilla, coconut, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I liked it. It is tasty. Other people RAVE about this one, but I have to say that the grit of spices and chunky bits of coconut meat turned me off to it a bit. Just a personal thing, I guess.

Anyway, the rest of the cleanse went surprisingly well. The juices grew on me, and I found myself actually looking forward to them. I didn’t even have to plug my nose at all. In addition, I managed to drink all of my Fiji drink on day 3. I’m not going to lie, I still had to kind of choke that one down, but I did it! I was oddly proud. I found what worked for me was adding in raw carrots and celery throughout the day. I also would throw in a banana or some grapes. When I was craving something warm to eat, I made up some vegetable broth and drank it from a coffee mug. This satiated that need, and it also added a few calories and a feeling of fullness that helped me through the process.

Some things to note:

  • I really wasn’t hungry, per se. I more missed the process of putting something in my mouth and chewing it. This is where the raw fruits and veggies came in.
  • I was pretty tired the end of day 1. I even went to bed early.
  • I was COLD during this process. I am generally cold, so this isn’t a big deal, but I certainly noticed feeling a chill. The warm broth at night helped with this side effect.
  • My teeth were very sensitive by day 3. Although there are no added sugars in these juices, they do contain a ton of pressed fruits which means there is a lot of natural sugars in them. I have sensitive teeth to begin with, so the sugar did a number on them. I would recommend using a straw!
  • I took off exercising on day 2, but I did go for a run on day 3. I was sluggish and my legs felt heavy. I still managed it, but I definitely noticed the lack of energy.
  • I constantly had to pee. I mean it. All day. Middle of the night. All night. When you are drinking that much liquid, I guess it is bound to happen!

How did I feel in the end? Did I lose weight? Did I feel reset? Would I recommend juice cleansing to others? Well, I will tell you. I felt pretty great after it was all said and done. I felt a sense of accomplishment and a sense of peace. I know that might sound a bit weird, but I don’t know how else to phrase it. Weight loss is NOT the ultimate goal of a juice cleanse, but it is often a by-product of it. In my case, I lost a total of 6 pounds. (I lost 3 pounds after the first day. I lost an additional pound after day 2 and after day 3. Oddly enough, after resuming my normal diet on day 4, I still lost an additional pound. I am back to my “happy weight.”) The best part of the entire experience was feeling reset. This cleanse gave me a chance to get away from all the sugar and junk and put me back on the path of “mostly eating well most of the time.” Given all of my positive experiences with it, I would highly recommend trying out the Suja Juice cleanse! I know that I plan on using the 3 day cleanse a few times a year, and I will probably throw in a 1 day cleanse from time to time. They have a lot of wonderful juices that I also intend to use as an occasional meal replacement or as a snack just to get in some extra fruits and veggies. It isn’t a cheap date, but I do like that everything is already thought out, prepared, packaged, and ready for me to ingest.

finding balance

In the end, as we all know, there are no magic pills / diets / secrets that will turn us into picture perfect models of health and fitness. Every day we have to own our individual journeys and do our best to just keep doing our best. I am proof, though, that you can change your overall course. I’m not perfect, and I obviously still seek out ways to help me stay on track, or get back on track when I falter…but there is satisfaction in small victories and continued overall success. I find joy in sharing my experiences and offering up any tools that have worked for me, just as I embrace gaining similar knowledge from others around me who are also fighting the good fight.

So, have you cleansed? Do you have any tools that you use to battle cravings? What are different ways that you have succeeded in your journey to be healthy?

Megan Ritter is a stay at home mom, blogger and fashionista. She enjoys yoga, running, photography and the laugher of her daughter. Her secret powers include sarcasm and baking without a recipe. It’s quite possible that she was a cat herder in a past life. A Chicago area native, Megan now lives in Haddonfield, NJ with her husband, 4 year old daughter and dog, Batman.

Notes on purchasing Suja Juice: you can find / purchase Suja juice products and the 1, 3, or 5- day cleanse on the Suja website: http://www.sujajuice.com . Please note, when purchasing through their website the shipping costs are very expensive. This is fresh juice that must be shipped on ice overnight. I found and purchased the 3-day cleanse on Amazon.com, and I was able to greatly reduce the shipping expense / cost of the product. The price varies, but you can usually find a good deal here. You can also find many of the Suja juice products (and piece together your own cleanse) at your Whole Foods store.

Philadelphia Marathon’s biggest fan

My favorite race that I’ve never run? That would be the Philadelphia Marathon! I’ve cheered/volunteered for the past four years, since Vic ran her first marathon in 2010. Why so much love for a race I’ve never participated in? Well, it’s the race that made me WANT to run.

When I caught wind of Kyle’s plans to run Philly as her very first marathon, I swooped in (Eagles fans, that one was for you!) and said, “You’ll stay with me! I’ll make sure you get there and back and it’s going to be awesome and there will be signs and I’ll cheer and you’ll sleep at my house and have an amazing time.” I bossed my way right in and she, thankfully, was very receptive!

She arrived on Saturday and immediately my kids tried to talk her into roughhousing with them (she wisely declined). Instead, we went to dinner with Megan and her four year old at The Pop Shop for a little carb loading… for both of us. I mean, spectating takes a lot out of a girl and I needed to prepare!

Megan's 4 year old daughter is gearing up to be a professional photographer!

Megan’s 4 year old daughter is gearing up to be a professional photographer!

We headed home around 8 and got Kyle all tucked in by 9, with visions of finish lines dancing in her head. Our alarms were set for the heinous hour of 3:15 (her) and 3:30 (me) – hey, that extra 15 minutes does matter.

Who has two thumbs and is ready to run a marathon? THIS GIRL!

Who has two thumbs and is ready to run a marathon? THIS GIRL!

Out the door by 4am, we made our way to the train station and were quickly underway. To entertain her, I showed her the video that Bec, Cam, Jenn and I made during Hurricane Sandy. Because hey, what takes stress away more than watching people being silly for six and a half minutes? Nothing, that’s what!

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This was my last sighting of pre-marathoner Kyle.

Following the swarms of other runners and spectators, we made our way to the start line. In past years I’ve walked Victoria right up to her corral but with the heightened security following the bombings at the Boston Marathon, I was only allowed to go so far before I had to send her on her way. We parted with a big hug and off she went to the security check point and to find the orange corral.

And off I went to find a Starbucks. Which, not surprising, I did… and then sadly realized it didn’t open until 6:30. It was only 5:30. So I hung out right outside for the next hour, watching runners walking to the start (okay, fine, I was eavesdropping!) and chatting with family members and friends who were hanging out waiting for Starbucks to open as well.

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Pacers heading to the start

It was right around this time that I saw a yellow Team Athletic skirt and Team Lemon shirt walking by. I’m super bad at recognizing people from picture alone. I always play the, “Is that… nooooo. Well, it might be? Maybe?” game and wind up not saying anything at all. However, there was no mistaking Malinda from Twins Run in Our Family! So much fun to see her and wish her well during the marathon!

Malinda's tweet

Malinda’s tweet

While waiting for Starbucks to open, I also met Andrea. Andrea had run a marathon the previous day and her husband, Cooper, was doing the half before the Eagles game. Happy to have a friend, we stuck together waiting for Starbucks and then headed to our first spectating position, just in front of Love Park.

Spectating at the Philadelphia Marathon is pretty fantastic because the course is easy to navigate, even as a fan. Miles 1 and 6 are just a few blocks from each other so once fans see their runner go past mile 1 (or anywhere within that range, give or take a half mile), they can then cross the couple of blocks to see them after they’ve circled through Old City.

The chair athletes came just around the bend a little after the 7am with the Elites following behind.

So fast, they were blurs. Literally.

So fast, they were blurs. Literally.

I knew to look for Kyle in the orange corral but Andrea wasn’t sure which corral Cooper was starting in so we just kept our eyes peeled! Everyone was looking fresh in that mile and while I completely missed seeing Kyle, I did manage to catch a shot of Cooper!

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Soon after orange passed and I realized that I wasn’t going to see Kyle, we decided to hunt her down by mile 6. We crossed the couple of blocks and waited for people to clear their cheering posts so we had prime spots.

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I was holding my “May the course be with you” sign, which runners really seemed to be digging! It got high fives and smiles. Andrea had her cowbell and was ringing it as we cheered!

Again we saw Cooper, looking strong!

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And AGAIN, I didn’t see Kyle. Thankfully, she saw me (or maybe she saw the sign) because she HIT ME as she went by. Love hurts, folks.

After that Andrea and I made another stop at a Starbucks for their bathroom and snacks before making our way toward the start/finish area. At this point we had to say our goodbyes as she was waiting for Cooper to finish his race and I was hiking out to miles 15/25 to catch the ever elusive Kyle.

The second part of the race was much quieter than the first, as the marathoners make the long trek to South Philly, visiting Manayunk before making their way back to the finish line in front of the art museum. I wanted to be out there to lend support, not only to Kyle but to other runners as well. My throat was already sore by this point (I might have been a tad bit too enthused during the first cheer zones) and my foot injury from the week prior was rearing its ugly… foot.

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The sign says “Speeding triggers red light” – I bet that was for all the speedy runners!

Got Kyle’s half split just as I was a passing mile 14 (I think; they didn’t have mile markers at every mile) and stopped walking to cheer and search the crowd for her. Yet again, she found me.

Hello, I’m a horrible friend. Pleased to meet you. Awfully embarrassed!

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Really, Meridith? Really?

I continued walking along because I knew that Cyanne was just up the way a few miles and we’d planned to meet up by mile 17. However, my heel was super cranky and I knew I’d regret adding additional miles to the day (I rounded out the day at 10 miles – should have just ran the half!) (Not really.) so instead I planted myself just before mile 25 and let Cyanne know I’d see her in a few weeks at the Ugly Sweater Run.

I was going to get the money shot of Kyle during the 24th mile! I spent a couple hours (that is not an exaggeration) searching for a little blonde in a white Alaska tank and capris.

While I was scanning, I saw Malinda again and got to cheer for her out on the course! I know so many other people who were running and yet somehow missed all of them – I was cheering for all of you, I promise.

By this time, my cheering was less vocal (because ouch), more smiling and blowing my whistle. I’d brought candy to hand out but at that point, no one wanted candy, they just wanted the finish line. Totally understandable.

And then… I saw KYLE.

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Is it really her?

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IT REALLY IS!!! It’s almost marathoner Kyle!

I shouted! I whooped with joy! KYLE! KYLE! I KNOW HER! I asked, “How are you feeling?”

“Like I’m dying!” she said, cheerfully.

I jumped onto the course with her and ran a couple of steps. “Water’s just ahead. Then mile 25. And then you’re done! AND WE CAN EAT ALL THE FOOD!” With that, I hopped off the course, she continued on toward the finish line; I hobbled over to the path to walk the rest of the way and meet her at the family meetup area.

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The next time I saw her, she was a marathoner! Absolutely incredible and such an inspiration, this girl! Kyle ran to raise money and awareness for the Joyful Heart Foundation, which is why we (the Scoot a Doot Chicks) chose that particular wording. Here’s Kyle’s recap!

So why do I go every year to watch the Philadelphia Marathon? Well, as Katherine Switzer said, “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” I haven’t lost my faith in human nature but watching the runners of the Philadelphia half and full marathons certainly reminds me to move into each day with a joyful heart and a grateful one.

Is there a race that you spectate at year after year? Have you ever watched a friend complete their first race, whether it be a 5k, 10k, half or full marathon? What fills your heart with joy?

Guest Post: Beauty and the Beast

We pretty much all grew up with the adorable (and, at moments, terrifying) fairy tale depicting the beauty, Belle, and her unlikely relationship with the big scary Beast.  Essentially, a story about two people that you might not put together at first glance, but upon further inspection, clearly fit well with one another.

Now, this might seem like a strange analogy for the way that I view the relationship between yoga and running…but that really is what it is like.  If you look at it from an over-simplified “10,000 foot view”…yoga is Beauty, and running is the Beast.  Some people might not think that they would form a great mutualistic relationship, but they do.  Oh, how they totally and completely do!

side by side shot of some of my yoga wear and some of my running wear

side by side shot of some of my yoga wear and some of my running wear

I have been running off and on since my sophomore year in college.  Prior to that, I firmly believed that I didn’t have more than a forced-gym-class mile in me.  I pretty much forever hated running as a sport and thought it was for crazy people.  As a matter of fact, I really felt that way up until probably 10 years ago.  (Wait, am I dating myself here???  Yeah, I’m kind of old.)  Even after I stopped thinking that running was for those who were certifiable, I still envisioned that it was for a special brand of people who were probably close to superhero status.  Why?  Because every time I took to lacing up and hitting the pavement, the novelty of it all would last for a few months, and then it would fizzle out.  Let’s face it.  Getting off the couch is hard.  Finding motivation to do something beyond that?  Well, HARD x 10.  So, the people who ran obviously had the super power of stick-to-it-iveness that most do not.  And, it seems I was better at quitting than I was at continuing or committing.

Fast forward to a few years ago when I actually caught the running “bug”.  This time,  for real.  I don’t know how exactly that it happened, but it did.  Maybe it was because I stumbled upon the realization that running was a cheaper form of therapy for a first time mom than prescription drugs or “real” therapy.  Maybe it was because I actually got time to myself, and I wasn’t about to stop indulging in that guilty little pleasure.  Maybe because I discovered it was a way of giving in and letting go and coming out stronger at the end…and, well, that just feels good.  Just for the record, I’m all for feeling good.

this is a selfie from one of my fall runs last year in my beautiful outdoor gym

Selfie from one of my fall runs last year in my beautiful outdoor gym

At the same time, though, I was starting to realize that my body wasn’t as into running as my head was.  My body was viewing running as the Beast that it can be for some.  See, I have an ever-growing list of injuries / aches / pains that often hinder my want or ability to open up that front door to my outdoor gym.  I would often wake up the morning after a run, step out of bed, and limp my way through the rest of my day, courtesy of: sesamoiditis, a newly forming bunion, an uncooperative and often angry heel and ankle, IT bands tighter than my husband’s grip on the bank account when I go out purse shopping, etc.  Well, you get the idea.  I’m sort of a mess (and my husband is stingy when it comes to purse shopping).  Enough of a mess at a few turns that I was starting to cut back and contemplate stopping my running activity YET AGAIN.

Until.

Until, I sort of accidentally met yoga.  Ah, enter, Beauty.

I say that I accidentally met yoga because I really had no intention of being a yogi.  (Sort of like I never really intended or expected to be a runner.) I had taken some prenatal yoga classes, and they were “fine”.  Outside of that, I had unwarranted opinions about the practice, and I just didn’t think yoga would be for me.  But, life works in mysterious and awesome ways…and, so it happened.

I decided that I needed to do something else besides JUST running.  Something that would break up the monotony of my routine, challenge me, and get me another form of exercise all while still allowing my body to recover from my running Beast.  I was searching out a unicorn of sorts.

Another mom friend had mentioned the prospect of us trying out an all-levels Vinyasa class at a local studio while our kiddos were at preschool.  I swallowed all of my group exercise, “oh, I look like an idiot and have no idea what I am doing while you all look amazing in your Lululemon everything” insecurities, rolled out a mat, and took the class.  And, I almost died.  Turns out, yoga can be seriously HARD, y’all!  I like a good challenge, though, so I stuck with it.  And, I learned a whole bunch of things in the process:  yoga IS exercise.  It can be intense. Or restorative. It works every part of your mind and body. It can energize you and calm you, all at the same time.  And, it really, really, really helps to loosen up your muscles and stretch you back out after a run (see: pigeon pose, double pigeon pose, lizard pose, forward folds, downward dogs, legs up the wall, etc).  Hallelujah!  Beautiful, wonderful, magical unicorn found!

This is a pic of myself (10 lbs heavier, but still including despite that fact...ha!) and my best friend Canella (yoga instructor extraordinaire) doing back to back tree poses on the beaches of OBX in 2012

This is a pic of myself (10 lbs heavier, but still including despite that fact…ha!) and my best friend Canella (yoga instructor extraordinaire) doing back to back tree poses on the beaches of OBX in 2012

Working yoga into my weekly routine, and limiting my weekly running to 3 or 4 days at the most, has made it possible for my body to be “ok” with the beatings that it takes when I’m out hitting the roads.  The pairing of both exercises, in turn, has allowed me to run longer distances than I ever imagined and to improve my pace (without even consciously working on it).  I actually ran a half marathon in September, and that is something that I never even imagined being remotely possible.   So, I might be old, achy, and held together by KT Tape, but I am now also officially one of those certifiable superhero-y sorts of people that I used to emulate…all thanks to introducing Beauty to the Beast.

So, what do you do besides run?  Is there anything that makes it more enjoyable or more possible for you to run or for you to be a “better” runner?  Please share!

Happy Running!  Shanti, Shanti, Shanti!  And, Namaste!

Megan Ritter is a stay at home mom, blogger and fashionista. She enjoys yoga, running, photography and the laugher of her daughter. Her secret powers include sarcasm and baking without a recipe. It’s quite possible that she was a cat herder in a past life. A Chicago area native, Megan now lives in Haddonfield, NJ with her husband, 4 year old daughter and dog, Batman.

A few of our favorite things…

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.

Just as Rodgers and Hammerstein shared a few of Maria’s favorite things in The Sound of Music (personally, I don’t get all that jazzed about brown paper packages tied up with strings but, hey, whatever floats your boat…), we asked our Team Scoot a Doot members if they’d like to share their favorite running things with you. While there’s no singing and dancing, they are still quite amazing!

Megan’s blog. Twitter. Instagram.

Lisa’s blog. Twitter. Instagram.

Heather’s blog. Twitter. Instagram.

Jan’s blog. Twitter. Instagram.

Just a few of our many awesome team members! Thanks for the vids, ladies. You rock!

From the get-go we’ve said that we are looking to collect miles and funds. Some of our team focused on one or the other but a couple of our members did both and we’re super grateful for it!

We’re currently at 37 team members.

1,317.90 miles.

1,090 dollars raised for Childhood Cancer Research.

It’s absolutely incredible what we’ve done so far this month and we could not have done it without each and every single person on our team. You’ve all put your hearts into this and we know that within the final six days of September, those numbers will be going up even more!

As a thank you to our team’s top fundraiser, we’ve put together a little prize package giveaway of a few of OUR favorite things. We’ve given hints via Instagram of some of the prizes but here’s a better peek to check out the goods.

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Many thanks to Sweaty Bands and Lace Locker for their contributions! There might be a couple more surprises added to this too… wait and see what we’ve got in the works.

Let’s go the distance within these next six days!

Do good, feel good!