ELPAT myself on the back

I’m still waiting for my official ELPAT results (they won’t be out until the Fall!) but I wanted to share what the experience was like for me while it was still fresh in my mind.

With only two weeks’ notice, I received an email with the date for my scheduled ELPAT (I of course knew it was coming, but wasn’t expecting it so soon).  This is the second half of the eligibility process for Massachusetts fire fighters.  The process is a little confusing for those who don’t know, so I’ll start by explaining how it work.  If you are familiar skip down a little bit.

Everyone who wants to apply to become a firefighter in most towns in Massachusetts must go through the civil service process. Every two years, the process restarts, and a new list is created.  Once a list is created for each town, the Chief can start interviewing from the list, if they have job openings.   The list is created based on the applicants test scores.  50% of your score comes from the written exam, and 50% comes from the strength test.  If you are a Veteran, disabled vet, or had a father die in the line of duty, you get moved to the top of the list.  No, it doesn't help that I'm a woman. In it a nutshell, it’s a long process with no guarantee of ever being hired.   

Step one is to pay $200 to apply to the state of Massachusetts Civil Service.  Then you take the written Civil Service entrance exam, which is held on the same day for everyone at different locations across the state.  It’s a 3 hour multiple choice test that includes a life experience survey, work styles questionnaire, and a written ability test.

After the written exam, you receive your ELPAT (Entry Level Physical Abilities Test) date.  To see what the test is like, watch this super retro video.  I took this test once already back in 2016, and I passed every event except for one.  This year I was determined to pass them all.  To train for the 2016 test, I did about 5 months of strength training 2-3x a week, and little cardio here and there.  This year, my training involved more cardio, hiking, and less strength training, more about that later.

During the test, you wear a helmet and a 20 pound weighted vest.  This is meant to simulate the equipment you would wear as a fire fighter on the job.  There are 7 events in the test, and you move through them pretty quickly.  You have 2 test monitors giving you instructions and timing you for each event.  There’s a lot of adrenaline pumping.  I was so nervous before the test, I got really cold, and my hands started to lose circulation.  I thought I might possibly be going into shock….

Let me back up and explain a little bit more about what this whole process was like for me from a body image perspective. 2 years ago, I remember being in a much different place with my self-esteem, body image, and eating disorder mentality. I was slowly gaining weight to restore my body after hitting my lowest weight, but fighting it the whole time.  I remember telling myself that I needed to have some weight on me so that I could have the muscle and strength it took to do the test.  I was in a daily battle against my Eating Disorder brain. I’d step on the scale each morning, and if I didn’t like the number I’d immediately want to fix it by restricting what I ate that day. The other part of me was there to say “No, you need this weight, you need to be strong, you won’t be able to pass this strength test if you continue to lose weight, remember what your college sports nutrition professor (shout out to crazy Dr. Tyzbur from UVM, I still remember what you taught me) said, as a female athlete, when you lose weight, you also lose muscle, if you lose weight, you get weaker, you need that muscle!!! You need to be STRONG” This was the mental dialogue I used every day to be ok with putting on some weight.  The most annoying part of having an eating disorder was that I was so aware of what it was doing, and how insane it was, but I still had to have these daily pep talks with myself to snap out of it.  It was like I knew better, but the eating disorder part of my brain was so strong, it took a long time for my logic to override the crazy eating disorder voice. 

This year, I have a much healthier body image, eating pattern, and relationship with the scale.  I also have a better relationship with exercise, and have been choosing things that I enjoy, instead of just doing things I felt I had to do.  I don’t feel like I am any less strong this year as a result.  In the past 6 months, I’ve learned the true connection between exercise and my mood, and I’ve been using exercise to battle mild depression symptoms.  So nowadays my exercise plan looks a lot more like walks in the woods with my dog, sporadic jogs for the fun of it, yoga, and a new class called pulse-x which is cardio + strength training. I was willing to see if my unstructured training plan got me ready for the ELPAT.  I believe it did, and it was also nice to let the pressure off of myself, and trust my body, something new for me.

Ok, so back to the day of the test.  You show up to the Hudson Armory, and sign in. Then an EMT or a nurse takes your vital signs to make sure you are fit to test.  You then move into a room and watch a video that explains the test process (the same retro one from above).  Then you go into the testing room and wait for your number to be called.  Once they call you up, you get fitted with a 20# weighted vest.  I never expect it to feel as heavy as it does.  This year I took the extra time to make sure it fit comfortably. Once you are in the vest, you step onto the stairmaster for 1 minute to warm up, and then for 3 minutes and 20 seconds at a pace of 67 steps per minutes. You are not allowed to touch the handrails.  This was way harder than I anticipated, but the test monitor said “You are making this look easy.”  I can’t tell you how much the test monitors can help you through this whole experience.  

After your time is up, you put on a helmet and sit in a chair for 5 minutes to let your heart rate come back down, and then it’s on. Two test monitors come over and bring you through each event.  I’m not going to explain every one because that would take too long.  The one I failed last time was the hose pull because you only have 20 seconds to do it, and it’s hard.  They tell you that you have to run like a bat outta hell and they ain’t lying.  This year I took an extra second to throw the hose over my shoulder and clamp it down across my waist (Thanks for the tip Matt Parlante). I think it helped, but I still don’t know if I passed!  

Last time as I was leaving the test monitor whispered, “you did great, but you missed the hose pull by a couple seconds”.  This time, there was no secret sharing of my results, but as I walked away from the final event, I heard one of my monitors say to the other, “She did good!”

I honestly felt really good about the whole thing. It was hard, but I felt like I crushed it.  I’m proud of my body, and how far I’ve come in my recovery, and that’s the real victory here, no matter the results.

2017: Year in Review (Business and Personal)

Hey there! it's been a while! I started writing this post last month with the intention of finishing out 2017 with one final blog post, and hopefully motivate myself into blogging more (one of my 2018 goals).  It's not 2017 anymore, obviously, but I believe it's still relevant to do a year in review.

2017 was great in so many ways, and absolutely terrible in other ways.  I know that that's kind of the way this whole life thing works, but I don't feel it's fair to ONLY talk about the wonderful things that happened.  I need to at least acknowledge the grief of 2017:  It was there, and it hurt a lot of my loved ones, and that's all I want to say about that.

2017 had so much packed into it, that I can hardly remember anything that stands out about 2016.  I remember thinking to myself back in 2015, the year I got married, "I wonder if any year to come will be able to top 2015" and by golly, 2017 was the year to do it.

A few highlights:

  • Buying a freakin' house.  This was something I honestly didn't think was possible. In January 2017, I wrote "We will buy a house" on my vision board, and kind of laughed to myself until May, when we found ourselves pre-approved and visiting open houses.  Even though I believed in the power of vision boards before, I am now officially convinced they work miracles.
  • Traveling everywhere!  St. Croix not once but twice, Costa Rica, Quebec, Montreal, and the best trip of all, the Alaskan Cruise with my family.  I also wrote "travel more" on my vision board.  See above.
  • Landing my dream part-time job.  In November, I started working as a health coach for Breast Cancer patients at Dana Farber Cancer Institute.  This is my dream job for so many reasons but one of them being that is is so fulfilling and rewarding to do this work.  The hiring process is a funny story, but the short version is that I didn't think I needed a career change until CJ pushed me to see what was out there for careers in the nutrition field.  This is why you must stay open to change and possibilities and put yourself out there!
  • Getting a kitten, and then watching that crazy little kitten become BFF's with our dog.
  • Becoming a certified EMT, starting to work on the ambulance, and then fizzling out after 4 shifts.  I guess I could write "Having the world's shortest career as an EMT" not because I didn't like the work, but because the health coach job offer came along and I only have time for so many jobs in my life!  Luckily, I'm still a certified EMT and plan to keep that active!

Last year was full of lessons, of crushing goals, and going for it even when I didn't think I needed to make a change.  2017 was a year of personal success as well as business success.  Speaking of business success,  I adopted a new approach to my business ideas and it really helped to take some pressure off.  In the past, if I did an event and it wasn't "successful" by my standards, I would beat myself up about what I should have done to make it better.  Recently, I started to look at my events with a more inquisitive approach, and a less black and white, successful vs. unsuccessful approach.

At the end of a busy mermaid yoga season this summer, I took some time to reflect back and see what worked and what didn't, what was easy and what wasn't, what did I ENJOY doing, and what caused more stress than it was worth.  Looking back at my events with this "trial and error" lens really helped to see things more objectively.

Another thing I did different in 2017 was to ASK FOR HELP! I worked with a team of business mentors at SCORE (small business counseling), I hired an accountant, I hired musicians, caterers, and coordinators for my events, I paid for advertising on Facebook, etc.  In other words, I went PRO and it felt really good.  

A few things I'm looking forward to in 2018:

  • Starting Health Coaching Training with Wellcoaches!  
  • Leading MORE yoga retreats to magical places with magical people
  • Collaborating MORE with amazing people: yoga teachers, chefs, musicians, business owners, and other inspired and inspiring folks. I really believe that we can achieve more by working together, plus it's 10x more fun to share the success with someone! 
  • making 2018 the best, happiest, healthiest, most successful year ever!

Thank you for reading my year in review!  I'd love to hear, what do you want to see more of in 2018? How can I help make this year the best year ever for you, too?

xo,

Amy

 

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I'm your fitness instructor, and I'm not going to comment on your body.

At one point in my junior year of college, I gained some weight and got to my heaviest point.  It happened gradually, and it had to do with drinking and unlimited portions at the dining halls, as is the norm in college.  During that time, I had a Dr's appointment, and I asked the doc if I should be concerned about my weight gain, and she said, "No, you are at a healthy weight."

Looking back, I thank her for this.  As women, we hear the message to be thinner from EVERYWHERE.  We see it in advertising, we see it in movies and tv shows, we read magazines that tell us how to get our "body goals met" and so on.  We hear it at the gym, while working on our "summer bodies."  It's all over the place.  It's ironic that the one place that has the medical knowledge to decide if our weight is affecting our health, the Dr's office, is sometimes the last place we listen to.  I believe your weight is mostly your business, and if there's a health concern, your dr's as well.

Over the 4+ years that I've been a fitness instructor, I've met so many people, with so many different reasons for coming to class.  One lady in her 60's comes to class to build bone density, one woman came to cross train for a hiking trip to machu picchu, more than one woman has come to strengthen and heal after a miscarriage, some come because the workout reminds them of the days when they used to dance, some come to stay strong through their pregnancies, or get back to how they felt before having a baby.  Some come because just having an hour to yourself, (without looking at your phone!) can have profound effects on your mental state.   Of course, there's those that come to lose weight/tone up/ect,   and there's nothing wrong with that if that is your specific health goal.

The reasons for coming to class vary, and therefore the results from the classes vary greatly, too.  This is why I'm making a commitment to not comment on your weight/shape/size.   It's something I've definitely done in the past (in fact I did it this week), but I've realized I have no business commenting on something I know nothing about.  I have no business commenting on what I can see with my eyes, because who am I to judge when I don't know what's really going on? Bodies change, cells die and new ones regenerate to replace them. Our body today is not the one we had 6 months ago, and there's a variety of reasons for why your body looks the way it does.

Most more importantly than all of that, is this idea:

"Everyone has this giant, luminous being that is their true self...Everyone is a sleeping giant, so to speak, waiting to hear the call, waiting to surrender to it, waiting to act on it.  We've gotten caught up in thinking we are what we look like, the physical, the exterior.  We think we're the lamp shade.  We've forgotten that we are the light-the electricity and the luminosity that lights up every man, woman, and child.  The light is who we truly are."

-Michael Bernard Beckwith

I'd rather comment on your light than your lamp shade.   I feel there is more value in that compliment than a comment about your physical appearance.  You are not your size, you are not your weight, you're much greater/brighter/more beautiful than that.  As your fitness instructor I want to see the whole you, I want to get to know your light, the true you.   As your fitness teacher, I am committing to this, and I'd love if you would hold me accountable.  Fellow fitness instructors, I'd love it if you would do the same.

xo,

Amy

 

How to Organize your Creative energy

I used to think I wasn't creative. I thought that creativity only existed in the form of artwork, like paintings and sculptures, or crafty things you find on Pinterest.  It took me a long time to realize that creativity can live in different places for different people.  

Eventually I realized that my particular brand of creativity comes in the form of event creation, specifically yoga events.  With this one realization my creative energy was activated and I finally got the momentum going in my business!

Creativity is Intelligence having fun - Albert Einstein

Once I gave myself permission to be creative with my business, I started to have a million ideas.  It was overwhelming.  Every morning I would plop down at my laptop and start "working."  Sometimes I was productive, but other times I'd finish the day with nothing to really show for it.

The whole game changed when my friend turned me on to the concept of "Bullet Journaling."  In a nutshell, bullet journaling is a place to keep record of your past, and plan for your future in all aspects of your life.  It's something you can design yourself, and it allows you to organize your entire life.  You can track and log health metrics, habits, social events, workouts, food logs, shopping lists, ideas, goals, running to do lists, etc.  It was especially helpful for me because I had various journals and scraps of paper going simultaneously, and this helped me organize it all into one place.  It helps to have structure for all the thoughts and ideas that pop up.  You can search Pinterest for more bullet journal ideas if you want to learn more, it's quite addicting!

I picked up a cute new notebook and began my bullet journal.  The most helpful pages for my business are:

  • monthly tasks- a running to do list
  • 2017 Big Picture Financial goals
  • a 2017 Money map- projected earnings
  • Business Ideas TBD
  • Blank White Space- a space for all random thoughts, SUPER HELPFUL for those times when you have a random idea and you don't want to lose it

I also have some personal pages that help me to stay focused on the things that are important to me:

  • Summer goals
  • A Monthly habit tracker:
    • drinking 64 oz water daily
    • making the bed
    • Washing my face before bed (I used to be so bad at this!)
    • meditating for at least 5 min a day
    • sleep tracker
    • etc

I'm currently on my 10th consecutive day of meditation, which is HUGE for me.  I've attempted many times to have a daily meditation habit, but this is the first time that I've been able to have a 10 day streak.  It's surprising how motivating it is to be able to check off a box when I complete my daily goal of meditation, plus the added benefits of meditation have really helped me gain clarity and focus for my day ahead.

Bullet Journaling may not be for everyone, but for this type A lady, it really fits the bill. It's amazing what some structure can do for you.  Of course it's not the only tool I use to stay motivated and on plan, but it's been an absolute game changer!

Let me know if you give it a try!

 

How to Get Your Good Juju Back

 looking for my juju

looking for my juju

The other morning I woke up feeling pretty crummy.  The sky was gray, I was feeling emotionally drained from a conversation I had the day before, and I felt like my energy was zapped.  I tried to go back to sleep, but it wasn't happening. As I tossed and turned in bed, I thought, what can I do to raise my vibration (aka feel better) right now?

I can get out of bed, for starters.  This lead to:  I can take a shower, I can put on something colorful, I can go outside with the puppy, I can tackle my to-do list, I can get a cup of coffee at Starbucks (a rare treat), I can play pop music in the car and sing along, I can say my gratitude list out loud....and on and on and on it went.  Suddenly, I was feeling better.

Sometimes a gratitude list alone isn't enough to get me back to my natural state of exuberance, so I've developed the following formula:

 Taking action NOW + rattling off some g-tude = good juju.

This act of self-love really works.  It takes effort to be happy, but it's worth it! Doing these two things can't solve all your problems, but it can definitely lead you in the right direction.  It always amazed by the results of my little formula: talk about Instant attitude adjustment!

As part of my self-love journey, I've been practicing gratitude by making lists of all the things in my life I'm grateful for, and I always include my current challenges.  I do it when I'm happy (it's easier, and the list is longer), but it's most powerful when I am in a funk.  

One of my favorite quotes about gratitude from Melody Beattie goes like this:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

It really puts whatever you are going through in perspective.  I share this quote often in my yoga classes, and people always ask about it.  It is a powerful concept, and one I return to frequently.  

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, for every minute you spend angry {insert- in a funk, feeling crummy, not yourself, etc.} you lose sixty seconds of happiness.  Let's all make a pact to not spend any more time unhappy than is absolutely necessary.  I hope you bookmark this post and return to it whenever you may need it!

xo,

Amy

 

How a Yoga Class can Change the World

Backdated to Jan 22, 2017

Today something awesome happened while I was teaching my core vinyasa class at Barre & Soul Melrose. This month we are working on chinstand, which is a semi-crazy/advanced inversion. While demoing the pose, I asked my student Brian Larson to spot me by holding my ankle because I can't always hold the pose on my own, and I wanted the class to see what it looked like.

After demoing, I encouraged the class to try it, and said that I would be coming around to spot them if needed. Then I suggested that maybe they could spot each other if I couldn't get to them, and THEN I was so happy to see students taking me up on that suggestion! It really made my heart jump for joy to see students who didn't really know each other offering to help out with a spot.

I keep thinking about it and smiling. It blew me away. It made me feel so lucky and honored to teach.

The collective consciousness in the room was so positive, collaborative, and open minded, It made me realize maybe we can change the world a little bit with something as simple as a yoga class. Let's keep raising the collective consciousness!

Enter the mind of a Yoga Teacher

Warning: Long post!! Read on for some insight into the brain of a yoga teacher.

About one year ago I took a 6 hour sequencing workshop with Goldie Graham, and it completely changed the way I teach my classes. As I enter my 5th year teaching yoga, I still marvel at the changes it's made 1 year later. The workshop helped me to realize the importance of going into the room with a definitive plan. This has not only made me a more confident teacher, but it's been beneficial to my students as well. When I have a plan of what I want to teach and how I want to teach it, I'm able to guide my students into more advanced postures, and stay more present to what's happening in the room since I'm less worried about what I'm going to teach. This is what people want at Barre & Soul Melrose, where the yoga crowd is strong! 


 Now I have a process for developing a sequence, which is fun and effective. I sit down and develop a new sequence for each month. Part of my creative process is asking myself, "What theme do I want to do this month?" or "What's something I haven't taught in a while or have never taught?" or even "What do my students seem to need right now?" This method helps me to stay fresh in my sequencing and also challenge myself and grow my teaching abilities. 
 I'm also working on developing a template for how I sequence, so that I can streamline the planning & development process. It makes me feel very professional, and I love this level of craftsmanship. It's made me realize that even though I think of yoga sequencing as a creative process, it still demands discipline and structure. 


 In the beginning, teaching the same class for a month made my inner critic cringe. Will my students get bored with the same class for 1 month? Will I get bored teaching the same class for a month? Whenever I started to think like this, I would tell myself the following:


-some people practice Bikram/other formatted yoga styles and love it, and that is always the same class sequence. There are, of course, pros and cons to this...
-teaching the same class for a month gives the students the chance to practice an "advanced" posture multiple times, and make "measurable" progress
-even if I tried my hardest to teach the same class every time, it would come out different because each class is inherently different!


After I mentally run through these statements, I feel confident again.
Over the course of the month, sometimes I fall so in love with my sequence, and when the month ends I don't want to change it, or other times I am so over the sequence and desperate for a new one. It's all part of my evolution as a yoga teacher.

There's No Crying in Yoga!

Today was a first: a lesson in being completely vulnerable as I stood sobbing in front of my yoga students. I was having one of those days, and for no particular real reason I could not get it together.

As the minutes ticked past the start time for class, I stood cowering behind the desk in the studio searching for the strength to stand in front of the classroom and have 20+ sets of eyes on me in my most raw state. After a quick pep talk from a very good friend, I thought f*ck it, I just have to own this. So I got up there and said "hi guys, I'm crying for no reason and I need some time to get myself together, please come into Savasana" and then I just let the tears flow. I made eye contact with a woman in the front row who I had never seen in class before and I could see the empathy in her eyes. Then one of my amazing students got up to hug me, and then a fellow yoga teacher in the room stood up and kindly offered to teach the class if I needed her too. I thanked her and said I think I need to get through this.

I took a few minutes to sit down and just be with myself and take some deep breaths. It was a good five minutes before I could speak. And then I taught the class, and when it was over I thanked the students for bearing with me.

After class a couple people came up to me and said that they understand what I'm feeling, and they have days like that too, and that I help them through their tough times, which of course made me cry even more! I can't really put into words how that made me feel, but it helped.

I'm so grateful for my yoga community who accepts me in all my emotional states with open hearts, kindness, and empathy. The world needs more of that. Thank you.