Internal Guidance System

I accepted a job offer last week with the University of Arizona as a contract analyst.  I will be reviewing and negotiating agreements on behalf of the University, and I am so excited about it.  I’m writing this post to tell the story of how it came about, because it might be helpful to others who are struggling with what decisions about their career, relationships–really anything.

The job market isn’t great for new law graduates right now.  Everybody knows that.  And people love to complain about it.  And I fell into that fearful place for awhile where I would frantically apply for random jobs, knowing in my heart that they weren’t going to work out. Even more important, I never stopped to ask myself: did I even want these jobs? There was no time to ask this question, I just had to apply, apply, apply!  (I imagine many of my classmates can relate)

Here’s the thing: anxiety and fear do not help people make good decisions. There is no situation in this world that won’t improve for you if you relax.

So I chilled out.  I decided I would focus on bar exam study and quit scrambling around applying to these jobs I didn’t really want.  Then, within a day or two of making this decision, I received a Facebook message from my friend and classmate Greg.  Greg and I had talked about our career goals, and I told him I really wanted to learn to be a great negotiator.  I told him about my fear that women weren’t as skilled at business negotiation as men because we have so much doubt in our own capabilities.  Many of us (absolutely myself included) have “impostor syndrome”, where, regardless of how accomplished we may be, we are waiting for the day when everybody figures out the truth–that we’re not as smart or put-together as we appear to be.

Fortunately, Greg didn’t buy it.  He insisted women could be just as good as men at negotiation.  He told me about an event at a horse ranch where MBA students were going to work with the horses to learn about negotiation, and every part of me knew I had to attend.  (I won’t tell the entire story… my friends are probably tired of hearing about the horse-whispering, but I am just obsessed with it.)

Flash forward a few months and the Facebook message from Greg told me about this job with the UA.  I read the job description and immediately felt a deep inner calm. I thought, “This is it.”  Then, as usual, my obnoxious internal voice started arguing with me (we all have it … it’s like a crazy baboon screaming pointless, judgmental stuff at you). She screamed, “Uhmm this is not a law firm position?!? Hello! What will people think?”  But I knew, in my heart, this position was perfect.  I got a good feeling throughout my entire body about it, and that feeling only got stronger after the interview.  Everything felt right.

And it worked out.

My point is that you can use this internal guidance system to make all decisions in your life.  Your body sends you signals constantly, and if you pay attention to them rather than letting the crazy internal baboon dictate your choices, things work out.  They just do.  This is coming from a person who has spent the majority of her life making decisions based on logic and reason and trying to be really clever… and ending up really unhappy.  The internal compass can be used for relationships (maybe that guy sounds really perfect on paper and fits your internal checklist of desired qualities, but when you’re in his presence, you don’t actually really like him) and careers, and even fitness (if you hate that gym… don’t go to that gym!).  I absolutely believe in having huge goals, but can you be willing to admit that you cannot control every single detail that leads to that outcome?  I’m pretty darn certain I’m going to end up living in California, but every effort I made to get out there this year just didn’t feel right.  If you have to desperately struggle for something, chances are it’s not meant to happen right now, and that is okay.  Maybe something better is coming :)

The world is changing rapidly.  It’s like this huge tsumani wave that is crushing a lot of the big institutions that we thought were so stable.  You can fight against the wave and risk drowning, or get on a surfboard and ride the wave.  I am letting go and riding the wave!

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Current Fitness Schedule and Goals

Hey guys! Quick blog post inspired by my awesome friend Alla who asked what my current fitness goals are.  I’m going to share mine and I want to hear about yours!

Current fitness routine and goals:

  • I’m studying for the bar exam but I still go to the gym first thing in the morning (I’ll probably do this for the rest of my life… I’ll be that 95-year-old lady on the treadmill still jamming out to One Direction! And don’t get on my treadmill or I’ll kill you).  
  • I do about 1 hour of cardio and 1 hour of weights 5-6 days per week (following the plan designed by my coach Rob Rosetti).  The cardio is NO JOKE…. Rob comes up with insane routines where I am jumping on and off the treadmill, sprinting, and trying not to drown in my sweat!  
  • I am splitting up my body parts for lifting in approximately this manner: Monday: quads/legs; Tues: shoulders/triceps; Wed: back/biceps, Thurs: hamstrings; and Friday or Saturday: glutes.  It varies a little bit, depending on what Rob put in my plan. 
  • In his last email to me, my coach said: “Push the weights!”  He wants me to lift heavier and add muscle mass.  We actually had a really great conversation where I opened up to him that I hadn’t been eating all the carbs on my plan.  I don’t know why, I was just being overly restrictive and afraid of gaining weight.  Very kindly, he explained that carbs are absolutely necessary for an active woman…. the glycogen from carbs gives women that “tight” and “toned” look, rather than looking loose/jiggly (sorry if this is TMI for anybody, ha).  Runway models, for example, might look good in their clothes… but if you see the backs of their legs and glutes when they walk away from you, it often doesn’t look so good.  This lecture from Rob really helped me get myself back on track and following the plan he designed for me (which includes 7 meals now! Awesome!).  
  • I will probably not compete again until the spring of 2015.  I have no idea which show… I don’t even know what city I will be living in!  But the drive to be an excellent figure competitor is a huge part of me. It’s a never-ending goal. It’s my “art” project (with the benefit of keeping me really healthy for years to come!).  
  • I still have one cheat meal per week… and all I usually want is a burger…. with weird stuff on it… peanut butter? Fried egg? Both? Ha ha. 

How is your summer body comin’ along? Let me know; I love to share fitness tips and motivation with others.  

(Last ridiculous goal: Jillian Michaels (trainer from the Biggest Loser) said her dream is to have the kind of butt that rappers write songs about… I thought that was so funny :) Maybe I will add that to my list of goals too.  Here is a video of one exercise I do to get there….)

A New Chapter

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Somehow, it happened. I graduated law school. Graduation weekend happened so quickly—a blur of the ceremony (which was beautiful), the afterparty, the goodbye-brunches with friends as they embarked on new journeys. And then figuring out what my new schedule would look like as I study for the California bar exam (which, as many people love to point out, is currently considered the most difficult bar exam in the country—thank you for the reminder, everybody! Ha ha).

Of course fitness is part of my daily routine! Doing cardio first thing in the morning is my favorite way to begin the day. With the bar exam in mind, I started saving money last summer to purchase a bar-prep treadmill (complete with nerdy little computer desk), which I am currently walking on as I write this blog. I have high anxiety, and it helps me to be in motion when I’m confronted with a task that I’m afraid to tackle. I am definitely afraid of the bar exam. But after my last competition, in March, I realized that if I am able to remain calm and avoid listening to the frantic, frightened voice inside me (I call it the ego or the pain-body)—if I’m able to feel peaceful and calm, I am capable of anything. I mean anything. And so are you, if you’re reading this. Let me tell you how…

I didn’t write a blog after my competition in March, but I must tell you that it was an incredible, transformative experience, both physically and mentally. I decided in the beginning of contest prep that, this time, I would be kind to myself, always. Example: If the thought of going to the gym made me cry (yes, I’ve been there), then I would not go. If I needed to sleep in and do cardio later than planned, then I would sleep. I decided I would be steadfast in this decision to be kind to myself, every day. It was really challenging for me, and I’m sure many competitors can relate—it’s easy to fall into patterns of being so mean and judgmental toward yourself during competition prep. But I took a leap of faith and just trusted that this new way of treating myself was the right thing to do…

And it worked!

I took fifth place at my figure competition in March 2014. This qualifies me to compete at the national level and seek IFBB professional status (i.e. my “pro card”). It was an amazing experience, and the fact that my sister and brother and friends were there to celebrate was absolutely the best part.

(The picture of me with my sister, below, is actually my favorite photo from the entire event because she has always been a huge supporter of my competitions and helps me in more ways than I can describe.  I love you Googlefritz!)

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I always have the goal of earning my pro card in the back of my mind. It will never go away. But as I prepare to take the bar exam and begin my next chapter, now is not the right time to focus on competing. My body and mind were exhausted after competition prep. I needed a break. Additionally, I have never wanted my life to revolve around competing or fitness—I do not believe that it’s wise to invest your entire existence in a sport where your physical form—your body—counts for everything. This is because—surprise!—we’re all going to die (I mean this in the most positive way, ha ha), we’re all aging, our physical forms will disintegrate and there is no stopping that. I want to contribute to the world in ways beyond fitness, especially because being in good physical shape is, in my opinion, actually a reflection of what’s going on inside you. If you are kind and loving toward yourself, your physical form will reflect that. I can see it in my eyes in photos… when I feel peaceful and have been treating myself with love, my eyes are filled with light. For a couple of years, that light was absent, as I beat myself up constantly inside the gym and in my head with self-critical commentary.

I have big dreams for my life, and for the world, and if I am ever going to achieve them, I know I must stick to the same rule I followed during contest prep—kindness, always. I call it “a mighty kindness” from the poem “Zero Circle” by Rumi. A mighty kindness recognizes that every living thing on earth is connected, and that by being kind toward myself, it’s like dropping a rock in a pool of water… the ripples of love extend toward others and they feel it. I want to be a flame of kindness that can light the candles of others. That’s all I want to do during this lifetime.

Last thought—can we just talk about how much energy women (and some men) spend complaining about and criticizing their bodies? Think about the fact that that energy could be directed somewhere else—like reducing poverty, increasing equality, reducing suffering of all kinds… as I discussed above, you only get a finite amount of time in your body, on this planet. Do you really want to spend it staring sadly in the mirror at your cellulite? I am, of course, totally guilty of wasting so much time being self-critical and judgmental, but I’m working on it, I promise. I hope you are too. It helped me when I saw the photo below of a model for the Lululemon swimsuit line… “She looks like me,” I thought to myself, and I almost cried. Maybe the world is coming around, slowly but surely, to embrace a female figure that radiates health and strength.

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I hope everybody reading this conducts an act of love toward yourself today. That could be eating breakfast when you usually just skip it, or going for a walk outside, or choosing the apple with peanut butter instead of the Doritos. Once you take one step in the direction of kindness, you can take another step, and another step, and your life could change in ways you never imagined. I’m not kidding. I have a J.D. after my name so you have to take me seriously now! (Just kidding)

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26 Days Out: Forcing Things to Happen vs. Letting Them Happen

Today is Sunday, my rest day.  26 days until the NPC Natural Western USA Figure competition.  My body—my nervous system—is very tired.  I am spending the day studying for school …. in bed. Ha. I am so sore, and my bed is the most comfortable place.  But I am also at peace.  Admittedly, I woke up this morning in a state of anxiety (like I do pretty much every morning) thinking, “Maybe I should go do extra cardio?!”  But then I stopped and recognized that the idea of doing extra cardio did not feel good in my body.  In the past, I might have forced myself to go do it anyway. And then it would have been a pathetic cardio session with me feeling frustrated the whole time.  But I told myself at the beginning of this competition prep that I would not force things to happen—I would let them happen.  Let me explain using an analogy:

One of my life role models is named Martha Beck (she’s a Harvard-educated sociologist, life coach and best-selling author).  One of her methods of teaching people to be happier and calmer is to have them work with horses: usually when a horse is behaving badly and violently, humans will attempt to “break” them using physical means—ropes, whips, etc… basically forms of torture.  Sometimes that will work. But in her seminars, Martha teaches people that if you stand in a pen with the horse—just stand there—and offer the horse kindness and compassion, and show it that you’re not going to hurt it, it will eventually calm down and “join up” with you.  (Here’s a video of Martha Beck’s friend, Koelle Simpson, explaining this in more detail in a TED Talk).

So here’s where the analogy comes in: the horse is like your own human body.  You can certainly torture it via starvation diets and excessive exercise, and you can get some results.  This is what I had done for a long time, and it sort of worked—and I also suffered miserably internally (one time in high school I actually ended up in the hospital with severe dehydration because I kept exercising when I was sick with the flu… brilliant, huh?).

There is, I believe, a better way.  I have adopted the approach of being kind and compassionate to my body, and recognizing its limits.  At my gym, the people who work there are so sweet—they call me “The Machine”… but in reality our human bodies are not machines.  They are animals that require sufficient food and physical movement and rest.  All of my ideas in this blog may sound a little strange to many Figure & Bikini competitors who enjoy the (so-called) inspirational/motivational “Fitspo” posts on Facebook and Instagram  (e.g. “push yourself to the limit!” and my least favorite of all time: “do it for the thigh gap!” etc.)  Those concepts no longer resonate with me.  I started training to become a Figure competitor because I love it, and it’s that love that will carry me through these next 26 days until showtime.  Let’s see how it goes … :)

Thank you for reading!

A Long (Sometimes Boring, Sometimes Painful) Journey–But It’s Worth It!

Hello!

It has been awhile since I posted.  Truthfully it’s because I didn’t think anybody noticed and/or cared.  But lately people have been looking at me quizzically, asking “Why haven’t you posted on your blog ?” I stare blankly back, surprised that anyone other than my mom reads this thing (and let’s face it, I MAKE her read it. Love you mom!).

Here’s what’s been going on fitness-wise: I no longer train with Team Bombshell. I have a different coach. I did not make this decision because I have any negative feelings toward Team Bombshell.  They are a wonderful team, and they have changed my life for the better by showing me what I was capable of accomplishing.  But sometimes you have to listen to your heart and make the decision that feels right in your gut (actually I think that’s how ALL decisions should be made—has anyone else read Malcolm Gladwell’s book called “Blink”? It is fantastic and the message is: your body knows the right decision long before your conscious mind figures it out). 

Here’s what has NOT changed: I train hard every single day with the goal of becoming an IFBB professional athlete. I will not compete again in 2013 (the season has pretty much wrapped up anyway—most fitness athletes are in their “offseason” at this point). I am not sure what my first competition will be in 2014, but it will be in the Bikini division (although I don’t have a suit… I sold my previous blue one. Any color recommendations?).  I have accepted the fact that I’m better suited for Bikini than Figure right now (*see my previous blog posts if you are thinking “WTF is she talking about?”)  The reason my focus is not 100 percent on competing is that I have this other thing I’m working on…. Hmm, what was it again?—oh right, I’m GRADUATING LAW SCHOOL in May. And, even scarier, taking the bar exam! Exciting and terrifying.

This is all okay. I have developed have a long-term perspective with fitness and competing. It is a marathon, not a sprint. I don’t need a competition four weeks away to keep me motivated—I want to be within 5-7 pounds of my competition weight year-round.  I would like to pursue commercial fitness modeling in the future as well, and you never know when modeling opportunities will arise—I’d better be in shape!

Here is my biggest “aha moment” over the last year or so: the most important thing in this fitness journey is that I help other people believe that THEY can achieve their fitness goals.  

Time to get sappy and emotional! :-) To be really frank, the trophies I have from competing are now under my bed in a cardboard box collecting dust.  They are just objects.  Here is what’s REAL: when someone says that I inspired them to go to the gym after six months of avoiding it. Or when they start doing HIIT on their elliptical (Julia P!) Or when they hold up their lunch Tupperware to proudly display the salad inside. Or when they vow to give up soda forever (Eddie W… maybe? :-). Those moments are real and important and they could be the beginning of a huge change in that person’s life.

If you want to experience change in YOUR life… like, if you sink into depression when you look in the 3-way mirror in the department store dressing room (was that just me?) but don’t know what to do, let me show you with my own pictures below—you can changeBUT the disclaimer is: it’s not all rah-rah-lose-10-pounds-in-5-minutes like the Facebook ad tells you.  …It will take awhile. Probably longer than you think.  For example, the picture on the left is me almost exactly three years ago (November 2010).  I was doing what the mainstream fitness magazines told me to do.  I did a zillion hours of steady-state cardio on the elliptical and ate the minimal number of calories to survive (mostly composed of sugar).  I hated my body.  See how I’m wearing that stupid hat? I was literally trying to hide. I felt ashamed.

Now, picture on the right is from last week (November 2013. Sorry for the dusty mirror).  I have a SHAPE! I am not skinny fat—I have muscular but still feminine curves. I am strong physically and emotionally. I don’t do steady-state cardio—I do high-intensity intervals. I lift heavy weights. I eat to fuel my performance in the gym and aid muscle growth. Maybe the difference doesn’t look huge to you, but it has changed my life significantly.  

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It took three years to make this change. Here is my nerdy equation for what it required:

(Many small, seemingly insignificant decisions made repeatedly) + (Patience) + (Believing the end result would be worth it) + (Believing that I could do it, i.e. efficacy) – (Fear) = Success.

Write to me and tell me how your own fitness plan is going (or if it’s nonexistent, how are you going to change that?). Thank you for reading!