Symbolic Attire

I can’t think of too many things more symbolic than wearing a team jersey or uniform and knowing you belong to something bigger than yourself. I’ve recently been accepted to a women’s racing team (road, gravel, and mountain biking) and when one of my teammates and friends gave me this year’s jersey, I simply felt like I belonged. Perhaps for the first time in years, I belonged to something bigger than “me.”

There is symbolism in things we wear and put on every day. Wedding rings and bands are symbolic to a deep relationship between two people and whether those people are physically together or not, a bond exists. Men’s ties and other jewelry for men and women often symbolize high status in work or society. Wedding attire- the dress, suit, and tux- is symbolic to a huge life event in many people’s lives. Even the logos that represent the brands and companies that we give our money to say something about us.

There are many examples of symbolism in material things in daily life.

But for me, something clicked just a few days ago and I had a deep recognition of who I am and what I stand for because of that team jersey that was handed to me last month. And with that recognition came a deep sense of responsibility too.

By putting on a team jersey or work uniform you represent that organization, group, team, brand or company. When you wear your uniform or jersey, you’re proud. You’re making a statement to the world that these moments aren’t just about you as an individual, but they are about your team or organization beyond you. (I have to chuckle because maybe this is by default… you need a job and you have to wear a certain uniform for work, even if you hate it. I remember this being the case at times in my life as well.)

When I race, I get to wear my team’s name. When I ride for training, more people will see our logo and colors. I’m one part of a greater whole that matters and is making a difference for women cyclists in my area. One example of how this changes me is that I’m going to go out of my way to follow road rules and practice good bike etiquette, especially when I’m in my team jersey.

So too, the importance of the jersey I get to wear for my team doesn’t end when I take off that shirt at the end of the day. I’m still “me” and I still belong to that group, with or without the name and logo on my back for all to see. I should be practicing those road rules and etiquette always, not just when in uniform.

This idea of belonging AND representing my team well really struck home a few days ago. Whether I’m wearing my jersey or not, I’m still a part of a team and group. And I want to bring honor to the group at all times, not just when I’m riding with the colors and logo of the team.

Whether we recognize it every day or not, we all represent something bigger than us. Our families, schools, churches, teams, places of work all make up pieces of our lives and groups that we belong to. And my realization the other day was this: I belong and don’t want to misrepresent the team that is important to me. I want to build the team up at ALL times.

A side note, I think this is why social media can bring so many problems to people’s lives and why supervisors and companies care about following their staff on social media. The online world matters as much as the behind closed doors, private, offline world.

Awareness of belonging to a team and how to represent that well comes with a growth in responsibility and character. It lasts beyond taking the uniform off at the end of the day. Day-to-day, we need to be aware of how individual actions and attitudes reflect outward on those groups and organizations that we belong to, and to not let wearing a jersey or uniform change how we should be behaving and acting as representatives of our groups and teams. Even our families’ names matter… and to bring honor to our family means acting with wisdom and making daily, healthy choices that help and not hurt our families.

In the end, reflecting on belonging and who I represent matters. I don’t want any organization to be brought down because of me; I only want those I work for and with to be lifted up. As individuals a part of teams, our actions really do matter for the greater good, or downfall if we aren’t careful.

What groups are you a part of? Have you ever thought of how you represent where you work, or the teams you are a part of even when you’re not in uniform? Does this change your perspective on how you move through the world on a day-to-day basis?

{Q&A} Easy Advice With Big Impact

{Q&A} Easy Advice With Big Impact

Asia Major-Waithe is a friend from a long time. She is also a fitness powerhouse and has a wealth of information on how fruits and veggies work for your body. Asia earned her BA in Kinesiology from Penn State University. She currently is a Assistant Director at Power Train Sports and Fitness in State College, PA.

Outside of weight training for herself and others, she loves walking her dog Anchor, hanging out with friends, and eating healthy, delicious food. She also helps to combat human trafficking with work at a non-profit on the side.

Juliandra Jackson, Owner and Founder of Written Jewels

Q: You’re a group fitness instructor and personal trainer– what excites you the most about that career path? What excites me most about my career path is that I get to help people reach their health and fitness goals. I work with athletes of all ages to the older adult client that just wants to be able to play with their grandchildren.

Q: You have a long background in sports and athletics. How has sports added value to your life through the years? My background in sports/athletics has very much informed my career path. In my pre-college years I played soccer, ran track, basketball, volleyball, and played rugby in college. Being part of various teams has taught me discipline , hard work, and the value of team work. I have had to choose to learn from my mistakes when we lost a big game. Being able to pull something good/constructive out of a devastating loss is a hard, but good thing.

Q: Juice Plus+ is an amazing company featuring pure, wholefood nutrition and educates people about nutrition through high end research. You and I have been a part of Juice Plus+ for a long time together. How does nutrition play a role in getting to an improved fitness or general health level? I love Juice Plus, it has been a game changer for me since 2012. It helped me with recovery from my athletic endeavors, helped me get sick less often, sleep better, decrease in allergies, and improved my astigmatism. Nutrition is the “bread and butter” of your body. With a proper diet you can decrease your chances of disease, chronic inflammation, improved mental acuity, sleep, etc. Juice Plus+ can help do this as well because its just dehydrated produce! Anyone can use it, from a child to an 80 year old and everything in between.

With a proper diet you can decrease your chances of disease, chronic inflammation, improved mental acuity, sleep, etc. Juice Plus can help do this as well because its just dehydrated produce!

Asia Major-Waithe

Q: Is there any one thing that you could suggest as a positive step forward if someone doesn’t know much about fitness or nutrition and needs advice with where to start? A positive step forward would be to take some steps! If you aren’t [physically] active [every day] start walking. If you don’t eat real, whole food, start with eating at least one fruit or vegetable daily.

Juice Plus+ has a great saying: do “ One Simple Change”. Small changes over time become big changes and eventually lifestyle changes.

Small changes over time become big changes and eventually lifestyle changes.

Asia Major-Waithe

Q: One EASY question coffee or tea? I like both!

Q: Anything you’d like to add as a word of encouragement to those who want to take basic steps to improve their health for the first time? Remember, your body is your most valuable asset. Once you don’t have full function, are chronically ill, or just aren’t feeling well, you limit your ability to do and be things that you actually enjoy. Take care of your body (that includes the mind and spirit) and it will take care of you. Self-care matters!

{Q&A} Fitness, Nutrition or Both?

{Q & A} Featuring Rachel Mateo on Fitness, Nutrition, or Both?

Part one of a two part Q&A Interview with Rachel Mateo which answers the question: should you focus on fitness or nutrition more? It also touches on mindsets when it comes to body image and overall health.

Rachel has 15 years of personal training experience and a B.S. in Exercise Science. She currently works for Juice Plus+ as a Qualifying National Marketing Director, inspiring healthy living around the world by teaching on nutrition, and she is a certified group fitness instructor with Body By Rachel online and recently Fitology. She loves her husband and their dog May. She spends weekends traveling from Pennsylvania, her home state, to Rehoboth Beach in Delaware where she gets the freedom to run and play with the dog in the water.

Q: Weight lifting vs Cardio: How often do you get each into your weekly workouts? A: I do some form of cardio about 6 days a week and like to have variety in modality and intensity. This may include online cardio classes, running outdoors, body-weight/plyometric exercises, hiking, etc. As for weightlifting, usually 2-3 days with a focus on total body training each time… also gets the heart rate up which I feel is a great bonus!

Q: What would you recommend to a novice in the world of fitness in getting started on a workout routine for the first time? A: When first beginning to exercise, I feel it is very important to work with a professional (or at least someone you know who is seasoned and knowledgeable) to assist you in proper form and technique. Begin with the basics to build a good foundation. Try not to overdo the duration and intensity and give yourself proper rest/recovery in between workouts.

Q: What’s the most important thing to you when it comes to fitness and nutrition? Why? A: To focus on more than just your micronutrition (carbs, proteins, fats). These building blocks of any diet first and foremost need to be quality: Limiting/eliminating highly processed foods and anything artificial, while focusing on whole food. Your body, mind, emotions etc… will notice the difference when you flood your bloodstream with good, quality, nutrient dense foods and cut out the stuff that is unrecognizable and unnatural. Energy goes up and therefore you can have better workouts, better recovery, better results.

Your body, mind, emotions etc… will notice the difference when you flood your bloodstream with good, quality, nutrient dense foods and cut out the stuff that is unrecognizable and unnatural.

Rachel mateo

Q: How much do you recommend women eat calorie wise to maintain health when working out? Are calories even important? Why or Why not? A: There is something to be said for being aware of your calories in versus calories out, but it certainly should not be the sole focus. When you focus on eating clean, nutrient-rich whole foods you’re feeding your body what it truly needs so you can feel satisfied and maintain good will power. There can still be “too much of a good thing”, so when it comes to even your healthy, quality macronutrition, be aware of portion sizes, eat slowly and mindfully, and do not eat too late at night. I personally like to leave a 14 hour window from my last meal/snack of the day until my first the next day. When you stay within this eating window making health your priority in your choices your body has the chance to utilize these quality calories when they’re needed during your daily activities and then fully rest/recover at night.

Q: How do you fuel your body to work out each day? A: I live by the “WFPB” concept (Whole Food Plant Based). Not to say I’m vegan or vegetarian, but I’m mainly focused on trying to take in the most high quality nutrient and antioxidant foods. My complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and quality proteins come in the form of fruits, vegetables, nuts, nut butters,oats and gluten free grains, beans, organic vegan protein powders, almond milk, nondairy yogurt, etc. I do add in some eggs, fish/seafood and chicken from time to time, but not daily. So as an example, before a workout I’ll enjoy a light snack of an apple with almond butter or clementine with a handful of raw mixed nuts, and then post workout I’ll blend up a big filling smoothie with things like berries, almond milk, vegan protein powder, flaxseeds, chia seeds, coconut yogurt and cinnamon. Good energy in, good energy out!

Q: Do you put more value on nutrition or workouts? Why? A: Both are integral parts of total mind/body health, but when it comes to weight management, disease prevention, mood, energy, etc. nutrition takes the front seat. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “you can’t outrun your fork”? It’s basically to say that diet is about 80% of the equation when trying to lose weight. Same concept goes for when trying to build muscle or simply change the shape of your body. Workouts are certainly important for your metabolism and strengthening/building your muscles as well as creating a calorie deficit, but exercise alone could never get you there. At least not safely, healthfully and sustainably. We need the nutrition not only to repair the microtears in our muscles as we work them, but also play a huge role in recovery, neutralization of oxidative stress, decreasing of systemic inflammation, etc.

Q: How do you balance body image with being content with where you are and pursuing a certain look with being physically fit? What would you say to a woman struggling with body image concerns? How does mindset play a role in your own fitness and coaching? A: It’s not easy when we’re bombarded with images on tv, movies, social media, advertising… all putting labels on what is acceptable. We have to do our best to focus on our health and wellbeing first and know that our individual body type/shape is very unique. Instead of fighting an against the grain in an uphill battle to try to dramatically pursue a look that may not be the way your body is designed, try taking some time to really focus on the best YOU you can be. More intense/focused dieting and exercise routines (if done properly) may be ok for a short period of time, but it’s then more important to think of things in the long term. What is truly sustainable for real life? What diet and exercise routine will help you look and FEEL your personal best, physically and mentally? I recommend beginning and ending your day with some positive affirmations through meditation, prayer and/or self reflection. Then ultimately asking yourself: What is my motivation? Why do I want to look this certain way? If it’s centered around a positive, healthy result, go for it and seek professional guidance to help you in that direction. Also, choose an accountability buddy who also has similar goals as you. Having someone to talk to about your successes and struggles lets you know you’re not alone in your challenges and also makes it more fun to create your new healthy habits!

What is truly sustainable for real life? What diet and exercise routine will help you look and FEEL your personal best, physically and mentally? I recommend beginning and ending your day with some positive affirmations through meditation, prayer and/or self reflection.

Rachel Mateo

Normalizing Failure

Photo Cred: Amy Humphries

The number of times in my life that I have done anything at all, perfectly is approximately zero. I’ve done some things well, other things even better, but nothing in life have I executed or carried out perfectly. As a matter of fact, some things I’ve attempted in life… many things… I’ve absolutely failed in. I’ve failed to show up for friends and family when they’ve needed me. Failed in carrying out duties at work. Failed in my workouts and fitness life at times which I take pretty seriously as a lifestyle and habit.

And yet through my failures I’ve learned. Overcome. Transitioned. And grown. Through my failures I’ve seen things from a new perspective I didn’t know mattered. Through my failures I’ve been able to stand up and try again.

John Maxwell, a bestselling author and expert on leadership says, “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”

Applying this concept to my life, I’d like to introduce the idea of failure being quite normal even freeing. Because in failure we get the chance and opportunity to try again and overcome.

An example of this could be a child learning how to read or trying a sport for the first time. It would be insane to expect that child to perform a new task perfectly. The beauty of being a child is they are given the right (for the most part) to make mistakes in things, learn consequences if there are any, and get better.

I remember my first swim meet ever, I was 7 years old, maybe 8, and was supposed to swim a 25-yard breaststroke. I got to the end of the lane and popped my head up, thrilled to see I had won. For all of 3 seconds when the person running the timer in my lane said I was disqualified. I actually swam freestyle, not breaststroke. Oops! I learned the lesson and never made the mistake again I don’t think through all my years on a swim team. I had failed. But no one held it against me.

So why would we hold failure against ourselves as adults? Why do we take such considerable strides to HIDE failure on social media and with friends and family? I’m all about putting our best foot forward in life, but what if that is actually crippling us at the end of the day rather than living authentically with our stories of not being where we want to be yet that could be encouraging and helpful to so many people.

I submit to you now that failure is more normal than carrying out any task in life perfectly.

I’d like to see failure normalized, not hidden behind pretty social media posts and trying to hide our faults and failures to the enormous extent that we do.

Another example comes from my own life with working out and Triathlons. I used to compete in regularly 1 to 2 times a year in Triathlons around the northeast of the US in new cities and towns each race. My first year I had a HORRIBLE race time. I put so much effort into training and making a goal time for the race, yet I completely blew it the day of the race. I briefly thought to myself “I’m not made to do Tris.” I almost gave up this hobby and lifestyle because of a bad race. It took about two weeks until I missed the swimming, biking, and running and chose instead to say, “Well, it seems I have a lot to learn and become better in with regards to workouts and training. I can do better next time.”

I think giving into the first statement, “I’m just not made to do this” isn’t going to help me win and become better at the next thing I choose to focus my time and energy on. It isn’t going to help me succeed. It isn’t going to help me really at all. Though I failed in reaching all of my goals that first race, I chose instead to see my end time as a reason to adjust, get educated on workouts, include other people in my training by talking to a couple of other athletes who had done way more racing than I ever have.

I chose to realize that “failure” was just a matter of personal definition, not an absolute that determined an end to something that I really enjoyed— in this case swimming, biking, and running—despite my slow pace and poor choices in the race that really set me back.

Normalizing failure for any and all can be a way to rethink failure in general. If you personally “did bad” in something— could be anything from baking a cake that turned out horribly that you meant to give to someone for a special occasion, to showing disruptive and “bad” behavior at an event that in retrospect you realize you shouldn’t have acted that way—and you choose instead to learn grow and change based off of that perceived failure, have you really failed at all?

I don’t know a single person on planet earth that has done ANYTHING perfectly in life. But everyone I know has messed up in big or small ways around me my whole life, including myself, and the world still moves on.

Instead of getting caught up with our failures, beating ourselves up, ruminating on went wrong, what if instead we chose to focus on the positive that might be a result of that failure? What if that time we didn’t show up as we should for someone we learn the art of apologizing and making amends? What if we recognize that no matter how old we are, we are fallible human beings and failing is a part of life. Failing is actually… normal… and can bring about positive change including overcoming obstacles and achieving greatness in some area.

This new year, let’s embrace our “failures” as we might call them and realize that as Maxwell said, “The only guarantee for failure is if we stop trying.”

As long as you admit the mistake, change the course, make a new decision next time you’re faced with a problem or dilemma that you “failed in” then truly failure isn’t the end of the story.

I’m sure many people are making new year’s resolutions and vowing changes for 2021. Let’s not see 2020 as a failure, but a year of learning and growth. Let’s choose to walk into 2021 refreshed for amazing opportunities that if we keep going, don’t give up, and try again in we can have the greatest personal success imaginable, no matter what our goals are be them relational, financial, spiritual, physical, or any area of life that you may be holding onto failure in.

There is always hope. There is always room for growth and change. There is always a new time to keep the faith and change the course for better next time. At the end of the day, without failure we will never fully understand the deep feelings that success brings.

Balanced Triathlete

Balaned-Triathlete

Go. Go on days you don’t want to. Push yourself in training. Don’t be afraid of speed or injury. Fear will hold you back from most everything in life. Fear kills. Even fear of taking a break, a day off to recoup. After all, your body recovers during those breaks and reaches its max potential at rest! The R&R is what builds and strengthens for the next workout, which tears muscles and pushes heart and body to health.

But still.

If you want to rest well and work out well you have to know, it’s gauging what you want in your fitness goals with what you need to get there. It’s all about balance.

Training With Others & Knowing my Limits

I learned that I’m not the best –that I need others encouragement, motivation, and advice to become a better triathlete. But in that, not everyone knows what my body feels. If I skip a morning workout because I worked my body too hard the previous two days, that’s okay. I know that the best way for me to grow as an athlete is by sharpening and honing my fitness from others around me –but as I ask questions and learn from others, I judge what’s best for more. It’s a balance.

I’m in Control of my Body & Sometimes my Body Needs Grace

I learned that I’m in control of my body. But my body is also in control too. I need to treat it well for it to do what I want. I need to drink more water, take in more plants- fruits and veggies, and protein, and I need to train my body in the moment, to work with my mind. Breathing, posture, and burning in my muscles all matter to keep pushing and not give up. I am in control. But as I have that control, I guide and train my body with gentleness and patience when it doesn’t do what I want on a “bad workout day.” I cannot let those days get me down. It’s a balance.

Saying “No” to People & Spending Time With People

I learned that I need to be okay with saying “no” to people, to events, to even family when it is important that I sleep and take care of myself as I push. I feel like I’ve learned that “no” word a few seasons in my life, and once more it matters as I drive through the distractions in life. So often I feel I don’t want to be left out of an event, or miss a hilarious “you had to be there” moment. But that just means that I prioritize the fear of missing out, over the reality that I need to take down time to perform at my highest potential. Saying “no” is a way to get that down time, so I can get to that early morning work out, feeling rested and good about it, instead of grouchy and upset all day.

But I don’t want to be one track minded –that the ultimate, most important thing is going to bed and working out early, with work and even second trainings in between. People matter. Events matter. Life outside of training matters. It’s a balance.

Rejoicing in the Triumphs & Continuing to Push

Lastly, I learned that I need to rejoice in the gains I have made, while determining where I still want to go. I swim fast and bike hard, but run slowly that my feet feel like they are dragging, THAT’S OKAY. Rejoice in the swimming and biking, and look forward to tomorrow when I can run again on a new day. Rejoicing in today, while looking forward to and planning tomorrow’s workout. It’s a balance.