Strong is the New Skinny

I shot this quick video last night when I got home from Dance2Fit. This is real, y’all – sweaty, no makeup, hair pushed back in one of my daughter’s soccer headwraps to keep the sweat from dripping into my face.

I’d gotten home after a 75-minute workout, during which time I’d downed about 20 ounces of water.  I wasn’t perfect; I missed steps and kicked right when everyone else was kicking left.  Two things happened last night, though, that really fired off some pride and humility in me.  First, the instructor praised how low my squat was – right after praising this other lady who was also killing the held squat.  The cool part is, I admire and respect that other lady’s fitness level and how she does the class.  She’s been doing Dance2Fit for years and really has the routines down.  The humbling part came after a grueling 3-4 minute arm workout.  I was walking around my spot and stretching out my arms when I happened to notice a new lady to the class was copying my stretches.  Just like I watch the lady I admire, this lady was watching me.  You can bet I was a lot more attentive to how I moved after that!

Genetics and a life of not making the best choices both ensure that I’ll never be skinny – not without some really dangerous behaviors or extensive and expensive surgery.  And that’s OK.  I’m getting stronger with every workout, be it high-impact aerobics, weight-lifting, cardio, or yoga.

For ages, society has equated skinny with healthy, and in some cases, that is certainly true.  However, skinny isn’t the only shape healthy takes.  While far from skinny, I’m in the best health of my life, not just judging by strength, but also by the numbers – blood pressure, cholesterol, resting heart rate, and glucose.  I celebrate my healthiness and my strength, even while I continue to slim down my silhouette.

How are you building strength, whatever stage in life you’re finding yourself?  Drop your response in the comments below so we can celebrate and encourage you.

Starting with the Finish in View

No secret…  I walk a few times a week.  I’ve walked in pretty-chilly temps and I’ve walked in weather where I begin pouring sweat as soon as I step out of the house – like walking through the sauna that is North Carolina in the summer.  I don’t walk because I like freezing my butt off or sweating out two pounds of liquid in under an hour.  In fact, if I could get the same benefits from not-walking, I would in a heartbeat, but the truth is, I can’t, and walking really does have a whole lot of benefits – psychological, holistically physical, emotional, and even spiritual.

When I start my walks, within the first quarter mile, I mentally plan my route and start thinking of the very end – that last quarter mile when I can start slowing it down, check my pulse, log in the time and calorie burn, and get more comfortable.  I think about which route I’ll follow.  It’s always the same four streets, but depending on how I walk them, it can be 2.5 miles or 2.8 miles.  It may seem silly to think about finishing my walk before I have barely begun, but envisioning the end helps motivate me through every step and prevents me from taking short-cuts – skipping that little bit of .2 mile or not going down that short street.

Similarly, thinking about the end of a business venture from the outset helps a business owner work towards that goal, that completion, that teleos.  As we celebrate 15 years of soapy business, I reflect back on those early days, and I did not have an end-game in sight.  It wasn’t until several – SEVERAL! – years down the road that I began to think about things like having a brick-and-mortar store and passing my business down to my children.  That particular route requires certain steps and a certain amount of time, just like when I opt for “route A” of my walking choices.  Going the B&M route means striving to build up the revenue to sustain such a venture, taking into account overhead, staffing needs, retail traffic ebbs and flows, and so forth.  Passing the business down to my daughters requires teaching them every aspect of the business, not just the technical aspects, but also the passion and the why.

Last year in the midst of the rebrand, the brick-and-mortar suddenly became less important to me, and the girls have no desire to run a soapmaking business, though they love making soap.  They love the creativity and the design aspects, and the chemistry of it fascinates them, but that’s as far as their enthusiasm goes.  So, it’s become time to work with another end-game in mind.

To be honest, I haven’t entirely worked that out, yet.  Part of the rebrand involved an increased focus on wholesale and private label, though retail is still a very strong part of my business.  At this point, though, I’d more love to have a separate work shop than a full-blown B&M.  I’d enjoy the space separate from the house to make, wrap, and store my products.  The completion of my business now would be having a strong business to sell off in – ideally – one huge chunk to someone who’d love and nurture it as I do.  Again, this route requires a certain path, a certain set of steps, a particular journey to traverse.

Without the finish in sight, I could just meander along, making this product or that product, selling whenever, pushing for sales when I felt like it and ignoring my business when I didn’t.  Similarly, when I walk for my health, having a defined time frame and route ensures I do at least as much as I need to, and it also restricts me from following whims that could take me on long treks – not that that would necessarily be a bad thing, but when the family is expecting me to be gone a certain amount of time, being gone for 2-3 times that would cause them to worry.

Goals are essential, but goals without a defined end are just nebulous scratchings on a dry-erase board, the result of moments or hours of brainstorming.  As you set your goals, whether fitness, business, or lifestyle, determine to look at the end.  It’s likely not the end, but it is an end, often that of a chapter before the next beginning.

Pushing Through

I didn’t want to do it.  Despite knowing I must get some much-needed exercise today, it was a struggle getting out there.  My legs were still feeling remnants of the abuse from earlier in the week, it’s less-than-warm outside, and I have some business-related computer-based matters that need my attention in addition to planning tomorrow evening’s soccer practice.  Yeah, I put it off.  Even after my older daughter “helped” me out by grabbing my sneakers and workout clothes for me (without my asking her to), I still found another ten minutes’ worth of reasons not to strike out.

But finally, I could put it off no more.  Though the sun was out and the sky was a vibrant, cloudless blue, the wind stabbed through my top like knives and stung my cheeks.  The muscles in my legs were still a bit tight.  I was cold.  All I wanted was to be inside in my warm, fleecy bumwear in front of my computer with a mug of hot chocolate getting work done.  For about fifteen seconds, I gave serious consideration to turning around and going back home.  But sheer determination and nothing short of stubbornness kept me going.

I did it.  I did it for 47 minutes and almost 3 miles.  I did it despite the bitter wind and my desire to be warm inside.  I warmed up and kicked my heart rate up to my perfect target rate.  Best yet, I had that time for my brain to be free of distractions, which gave it room to plan my soccer practice, formulate a new direction in my business, and mentally draft this blog post.

Business requires us to push through sometimes, too.  I’m facing hours of website work this weekend, which is my absolute least favorite thing to do for my business.  It has to get done, though.  Other business owners may love that type of stuff but hate dealing with the public (my favorite).  Regardless of what your least favorite task is or how much you may not be feeling one of your more enjoyable ones, as business owners, we have to push through and get things done.

The past month has stymied my drive and creativity, and in the evolution of my business, especially over against changing technologies, I have to push through yet again with a new angle and a new way of connecting with my customers.  I love my customers, talking to them and hearing their stories, but that is one thing I really miss about not doing as many events – I just don’t get to connect with them like I used to.  Sure, blog posts and emails are great, but it all too often feels like a one-sided conversation.

To that end, I am going to be launching a brand new Facebook group just for Coastal Carolina Soap Company’s customers, whether you have bought from us or you just love our brand story and want to stay connected.  The link will be going out very soon, so be on the lookout for that.  Maybe my blog posts come right to your inbox, or perhaps you see them on Facebook, Twitter, or some other social media outlet.  You can find out about this incredible new group by subscribing to this blog or also by signing up to receive our emails (one of which handily contains links to each blog post for the month).

We hope you will join us, and we look forward to connecting with you in new and exciting ways beginning next week!

Rollin’ Along

In the business seminar my husband and I attended a couple of weeks ago, the presenter said that exercise is key to developing the right mindset for business success.  However, when you’re juggling home life, family life, and running a growing business, how in the world are you supposed to find time to exercise?  Are you one of those who joined a gym in January?  How many times have you made it?  Driving to the gym, working out, showering, then driving on to work or home equals a huge time commitment each day; and it’s so easy to subtract that from your busy schedule.

What if, though, you found an exercise that takes less time but still has good benefits?  The presenter shared that he runs a mile almost every day.  It takes him about 10-15 minutes, but then he’s done.  (He also shared that, when he was in the Corps, he could run three miles in 18 minutes.)  Slow is okay; it’s far better to be slow than not to exercise at all, and the slow mover is still making more progress than the couch potato.

I spend 30-60 minutes a morning, five days a week, doing stretches, resistance work, and toning; there’s absolutely no shortcut to that.  Then I spent another 45 minutes 4 days a week walking almost three miles.  That was before last Thursday.  My trike showed up, all sleek bright yellow, 24″ wheels, six speeds, and a seat perfectly suited to my tushy.

Me on my new trike. The reflectors aren’t the only thing making this visible! It’s bright! Those jeans are getting baggy on me!

Now I can bike those three miles in 20 minutes (I’m still building up speed), getting the heart rate up there, pushing the legs to firm up and get stronger.  The calorie burn is roughly the same as walking, but it takes half the time.  Pretty sweet, huh?  On top of that, my knees have been feeling much more amazing, and on the weekends, I have time to add a walk onto that bike ride.  Another benefit is, I feel exhilarated for a substantial period afterwards, but then I start feeling really draggy around 9:00, which means I crash into sleep quickly and sleep soundly through the night.

This week’s business take-away is, get out and exercise, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day.  It’ll help renew and recharge your mind and body, making it easier to give focus to your business life.  That time also allows ideas to fall out of the ether, which can spark some amazingly outside-the-box creative processes!  Make it happen!

 

 

Why Exercise is So Important to Me

No mystery here, I’m a control freak.  I can’t control the weather or my customers’ responses to my products or my husband’s business, but I can control me.

Sara, owner & CEO
My New Year‘s Day walk. Cute new headband and proof that I do actually wear makeup occasionally. What a great way to begin the year!

I began my fitness program three-and-a-half months ago with specific goals in mine, the first being to lose fifty pounds in a year.  I’m going to have to rethink that one, lest I get discouraged.  Why?  Because the combination of toning, weight training and cardio is resulting in the increase of some lovely muscle mass while I’m getting rid of some less-than-lovely fat.  That’s a yea, right!  Muscle takes up less space than fat (imagine the difference in volume between a pound of feathers and a pound of brick), though it weighs the same ounce-for-ounce.  So, while I’m shrinking, the scales aren’t looking like it.  Myeh, who needs them, anyway?

My goal is to hit the pavement at least 3-4 times per week, with a goal of walking briskly for at least 75 minutes each week.  I usually get that in the first two days, so the rest is calorie-burning icing (mmmmm… icing!).  To keep that muscle-building, fat-reducing thing going on, though, the toning and resistance work is vital.  Yet, I need the walks (and soon rides; I’m getting a new trike!), because I get so much more out of them.

  • Walking gives me private time.  When I walk through the neighborhood, I’m generally free of all kids, which gives me time to think, reflect, pray, and, sometimes, listen to downloads or podcasts without distractions.
  • At the same time, walking is also social for me.  Being the social bug that I am, I’ll also wave and say hi to neighbors, maybe even exchange a few pleasantries.  Being outside breaks the ice with people I may never usually see.
  • Pavement pounding keeps the stress down.  Doing arm curls and crunches is one thing, but feeling the vibration of asphalt singing through my trainers up into my legs connects me with the earth and helps relieve tension.
  • Nature helps the body.  Fresh coastal air revitalizes the mind.  Sunshine helps my body metabolize vitamin D, which is good for the bones.  Both the fresh air and the sunshine help improve mood; my annual “I hate winter” doldrums have dissipated in the face of the chemical changes in my body that exercise produces.  (The atypical temperatures and greater amount of sunlight don’t hurt.)
  • Exercise helps alleviate other ailments.  Trouble sleeping.  Knee stiffness.  Menstrual aches and moodiness.  The strength training and walking alleviate all these, though walking is the most effective.  Those who know and love me certainly appreciate the benefits!

This far in with miles to go, and I’ve discovered I’m a happier me from all this exercise.  I’m also a more comfortable me – comfortable physically, psychologically, and emotionally.  Exercising is making me a better me.

As I say in my videos on my Facebook page, keep it going!  Whatever your goals are for the year, keep at ’em and create the life you want.

 

Just Chill!

One woman, many hats.  CEO.  Teacher.  Home manager.  Wife.  Minister.  That’s a lot for one person, and the potential for me to get super stressed out is high.  Obviously, stress is neither good for myself or for the girls, so I have to find ways to reduce stress in ways that don’t involve eating copious amounts of chocolate.  At the same time, I want to do things that are good for my brain, good for my body, and somewhat productive.  But not soap.  Ninety-eight percent of the time, making soap is for business, though I do enjoy playing with it occasionally.  I choose activities that can stand separate from soap.

For my body, I’ve been doing some resistance exercises daily, and in the past week or so, the girls have been joining me, so we can count that as part of school as we learn about how our muscles work and how these exercises help us.  I started out with planking, wanting to strengthen my arms and tone my core.  Then I decided to add push-ups to the routine so I can get rid of annoying upper arm dimples and tone the muscles there.  Next, I got this wild hair about doing crunches.   Like that’s not enough, a friend posted on Instagram a brief video of her doing roll ups.  If crunches are like a street gang’s tag artist, roll ups are Al Capone.  Yep, that much more evil.  Supposedly, each roll up is comparable to four crunches.  This is what they look like.

 

I started with where I was then, even though my counts were pitifully low.  However, I’ve steadily increased my counts, my seconds planking, and my strength.  It feels awesome!  My first goal?  Get these arms toned to look great with my red sleeveless dress before attending a wedding next weekend and the abs smoother so I won’t have to wear a body shaper under it.  My second and long-range goal is overall fitness and tone.

For my brain and body, I’ve been spending time knitting.  Studies have shown that knitting is good for the brain, as well as stress levels which positively impacts the heart as well.  I’ll knit about anything, and I’m constantly pushing myself to learning new patterns and techniques.  Last week I finished a long-term project – my first lace shawl.

Lace scarf made of a black wool-blend yarn spangled with multicolored sequins
Lace scarf made of a black wool-blend yarn spangled with multicolored sequins
2015-10-01 10.42.09
A close-up of the lace, both body and edge

Pair the relaxation of knitting with the absolute peace that comes from having a cat curled up next to you asleep, and that’s the way I end many of my days.  I’m so chill by that point that I can barely make it upstairs to bed.  This leads to a sound night’s sleep and a refreshed awakening, which is a great way to combat stress!

What do you do to just chill?