The Myth of Spot Toning

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Have you ever picked up a magazine because it promised a fix for a “problem area” in your body? One hundred crunches for a flat stomach, maybe, or 50 curls for toned biceps? Spot toning is such a great sell—and one that the fitness industry relies heavily on—but it’s not real. In fact, when it comes to shaping a specific part of your body, there’s no magic formula. The good news? Switching your focus from one isolated area to whole-body health will do wonders for both your body and mind.

Why Spot Toning is a Myth

The main reason spot toning doesn’t work is that muscle strength is only one part of the equation for your body’s overall health. Other key factors, like how you fuel and nourish your body, how you manage your stress levels, how well you sleep, and genetics all play major roles in how your body looks and feels. Even the most toned abs won’t appear that way if your body is fatigued, bloated, overworked, and under-nourished.  

The other reason spot toning isn’t the answer has to do with body balance. To understand this one, it helps to think about how the body functions. Muscles don’t work in isolation. Their job is to move joints and stabilize the body, and they work in conjunction with other muscles to do this. Strengthening one muscle out of proportion to the others can create an imbalance that could become dangerous to your body’s overall function. For example, your bicep and tricep work together to move your elbow, and they should be equal in strength. If you put hyperfocus on strengthening just your biceps, you’re going to jeopardize the way they work with your triceps (not to mention your lats and your core). You’ll also compromise flexibility and mobility.

So What’s the Answer?

Research tells us that the best way to strengthen your body is with multi-action moves. This doesn’t mean you can’t work a specific area of your body, just that when you do, it’s best to consider the larger network of muscles and how they function in your body.

Your core is a great example. When people want a flat stomach, they often assume they need to break out hundreds of crunches—but these only strengthen one section of your core. Because your core is made up of 40 muscles, you’re better off taking a 360° approach. Working your mid-core with crunches is great, but you’ll also want to work your obliques, your glutes, and your back body, and incorporate moves that get your blood pumping (hello, Bridge Lifts!). By working multiple muscles at once, you strengthen your body and posture, rev your heart rate, and help create mind-body connection—another intangible that spot toning doesn’t tackle.

Think Beyond the Studio

If you feel like you have a “problem” area that simply won’t go away no matter how much you exercise, take a look at other aspects of your life. Ask yourself: Is there anything I can do to be healthier beyond my workout? Am I nourishing my body with whole foods? Making time for sleep? Surrounding myself with people who make me happy and support me? These factors might not seem directly related to, say, toned triceps, but they all affect whole-body health—and that’s the most important part of this equation.

And if you find that you can’t stop obsessing over one particular area of your body, we encourage you to dive even deeper. Ask yourself: Why am I fixating on this one body part? Is it all about living up to an unrealistic ideal? Would my life truly be more enriched if I looked different in the mirror? When you shift your focus from the external to the internal, it can help you put your thoughts into perspective. Instead of focusing on how you want your body to look, focus on what it needs. Maybe today that’s not another burner of a workout, but something that fuels you in a different way, like a calming cup of tea or a soul-nourishing hang-out session with your friend.

Ultimately, it’s about living your best life, not about reaching some arbitrary goal the fitness industry has set for you. Perfection doesn’t interest us. Healthy, balanced living does. We’ll take that over magazine-cover abs any day.

 

The Power Couple Behind mindbodygreen

The Power Couple Behind mindbodygreen

I’m so honored to contribute to mindbodygreen as a writer and teacher, and I’m happy to introduce the couple behind the popular health and wellness site. Jason Wachob founded mbg when a back injury led him to yoga and sparked a passion for wellness. A few years later, his wife Colleen Wachob joined the company full time as its chief brand officer. I recently chatted with Jason and Colleen about what it’s like to work with your partner, their workout routines, and the trends they’re seeing on the health-and-wellness horizon.  

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Sadie Lincoln: What drove you to start mindbodygreen?

Jason Wachob: I played college basketball at Columbia, where in the off-season I did weight training and cardio for an hour a day. I stuck with this routine until I was 35. I used to think that if you were fit you were healthy, but I’ve since come to believe that health is more nuanced than that.

In my mid-thirties (I’m 41 now), I was running a company and trying to raise capital when I discovered I had two extruded discs in my lower back pressing on my sciatic nerve. I could barely walk and almost had back surgery. Looking back, it was probably related to stress combined with the fact that I was flying over 100,000 miles a year. Being 6’7″ and scrunched into airline seats didn’t help.

One doctor offhandedly mentioned that yoga might be a way to avoid surgery. I started practicing daily, and was very surprised that I loved it. From there, I got interested in a more holistic lifestyle. I ate organic and ditched toxic household products. I began to meditate. I started a gratitude practice. And after just a few months, I completely healed my back—without surgery.

It was a real awakening for me. I realized that health wasn’t about weight loss or looking good—it was a blend of how we treated our minds, bodies, and the environment. It was also the inspiration for starting mindbodygreen.

Colleen, in Jason’s book, Wellth (which I loved!), he talks about your accomplished career prior to joining him full time at mbg. When did you decide to go all in?

Colleen Wachob: I didn’t join mbg full time until 2013, when we were just starting to monetize the business. I had a full-time job (and salary and benefits) when Jason was starting mbg, which enabled mbg to grow slowly and methodically. I helped out at night and on the weekends, but gradually easing into being full time at mbg made the already stressful early stages of starting a company much more manageable, since one of us had a stable paycheck and benefits.

As business partners who are married, what are your strategies for maintaining work-life balance? What’s the best part about working together? What’s challenging?

Jason: It’s difficult! We are both so passionate about wellness that work and life tend to blend into one. Some of our best friends are also people who write for the site or are our business partners. I think when this happens and you’re able to share such a deep passion with your spouse as well as close friends, life and work can be pretty amazing. BUT, we have to consciously find time to disconnect and not talk about work! Shiatsu a few times a month is something that I love and definitely helps me disconnect.

Colleen: The best part is that we get to spend a lot of time together. We are often able to travel together for business, which makes being away from home more manageable and sometimes even fun. We travel a lot, which means that we get to keep up with our friends and members of the mbg community who are in the midwest or on the west coast.

What’s challenging is that it can really difficult to turn off work. There’s so much overlap between our work life and our personal life that we are always working in some capacity.

The most effective ways for me to turn off are acupuncture at Element Healing, walking or running along Brooklyn Bridge Park, and diving into novels that are totally outside of the wellness world and can get the creativity flowing more than non-fiction reads. I’ve recently read Sweetbitter and Modern Lovers, which were both great.  

Jason, you talk about your meditation practice in your book, Wellth. How has cultivating a mindfulness practice helped you? Do you have any advice for people who are new to meditation?

Jason: I literally feel like a mental fog lifts from my brain after each meditation session. I feel more relaxed. I’m calmer. I’m more in tune with my inner sense of knowing than ever before. I experience more coincidences. I also feel more intensely. If I’m happy, I feel almost ecstatic, or if I’m eating one of my favorite dishes, it seems to taste even better than I remembered.

Since I got serious about maintaining a daily meditation practice, it’s as if my life went from experiencing it through a black-and-white TV to HDTV with satellite—sharper, with color, and more channels! It’s my new favorite tool in my ever-growing health and happiness tool kit, and it’s something I hope everyone tries.

We have two amazing meditation classes online at mbg taught by the incredible meditation teacher (and my personal friend) Charlie Knoles. I highly suggest checking out either this class or this one.

What is the most important quality of a leader?  

Jason: Someone who leads by example.

Colleen: Passion for the mission is key, and someone who has a strong work ethic, takes ownership, and is a team player.

What’s your favorite way to exercise? Any tips for busy people who struggle to stick with their workouts?

Jason: Yoga! I practice at home every weekend. I love a relaxing 15-20 minute Vinyasa flow. Recently I’ve gone back to the bodyweight basics. I’ll do push-ups to failure, combined with dips and situps a few times a week. It takes me less than 10 minutes and seems to do the trick.

If you’re struggling, just pick something that you love to do and that you can commit to. This will make it easier to stick with. The best exercise is the one you actually do!

Colleen: I’m more of a fitness omnivore in that I love trying new things. I tend to always go back to my staples, which are running, yoga, and going on long walks in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Where are your favorite places to eat in NYC?

Jason: I love the Australian invasion that’s happening right now: Two Hands, Bluestone Lane, Sweatshop, and Five Leaves are all delicious and healthy. I also love Gran Electrica in Dumbo and their delicious ramp quesadilla.

Colleen: Jason covered a lot of my favorite places! When it’s a celebration, I love going to ABC Kitchen. I also love the gluten-free fried chicken served over collard greens at Wilma Jean.

What are you working on right now that you’re most excited about?

Jason: Our invite-only revitalize event, which will take place September 16-18 in Arizona!

Colleen: Ditto that!

What are the top three wellness trends today? What are your predictions for top wellness trends in 2017?   

Jason: Just three? There are lots of exciting trends to watch today that will roll into 2017. I actually wrote a piece about trends to watch in 2016 about six months ago.

But if i had to watch just three, i think athleisure is going through an interesting change right now. Wellness centers are cropping up everywhere. And nitro coffee is interesting—Starbucks just made an announcement there.

Colleen: here are so many exciting trends in the wellness world. I’m excited about how natural beauty products have moved to the mainstream, with stores like Target carrying many great brands like W3ll People and S.W. Basics. I think we are going to see more Traditional Chinese Medicine practices, like cupping, incorporated into natural beauty routines. I’m excited to see more healing herbs, adaptogens, and Ayurveda being incorporated into beauty and wellness too.

From a food-trends perspective, we are going to see more food innovators using what has typically been considered food waste (avocado pits, leaves and stems from broccoli,and the whole fennel) as part of the meal. And who couldn’t be excited about aquafaba going mainstream?

Is mindbodygreen on your list of favorite sites? What articles and courses have inspired you? Tell us in the comments! And if you’re not already a fan of mbg, check it out.

Four barre3 Workouts You Can Do at a Park Bench

Four barre3 Workouts You Can Do at a Park Bench

In these final weeks of summer, we invite you to get outside and enjoy parks and other green spaces as much as possible. That’s why we’ve developed four #barre3anywhere workouts that use a park bench in place of the ballet bar. You can bust them out anywhere there’s a bench or sturdy chair. Each workout is just 10 minutes and led by barre3 Founder Sadie Lincoln. Go meet her in the park and fire up a workout!

Sadie’s Go-To Park-Bench Workout

Sadie pulls together her favorite moves in this full-body, heart-pumping, athletic workout.

Turbo Park-Bench Workout

Vigorous and to-the-point! Sadie doesn’t waste a single second in this cardio-inspired, body-shaping workout.

Friend Park-Bench Workout

Working out with friends is a great way to stay motivated and accountable. Sadie and her friend Teal keep you moving in this efficient and targeted 10 minuter.

Balanced Yoga Flow Park Bench Workout

Sadie developed this restorative, yoga-inspired workout in Central Park in New York City. She designed it to strengthen your body, calm your mind, and increase energy.

Want more workouts that you can do anywhere? Join barre3 Online to access our workout library of more than 250 videos, including new workouts posted every week, and real-time instructor support.

9 Incredible Podcasts (Plus: The Episodes to Fire Up Today)

9 Incredible Podcasts (Plus: The Episodes to Fire Up Today)

Between road trips, longer evenings, beautiful weather, and (hopefully) a little extra downtime, summer is ripe with opportunities to get lost in a new story. Our favorite medium right now? Podcasts. Pop in your earbuds and tune in to one of these standout series.

“This American Life”

The details: Arguably the most popular podcast of all time, the weekly show typically centers around one theme—from political issues to the high school prom to fun comedy acts—and shares a few short essays and journalistic stories within that umbrella.

Why we love it: We’re bombarded with stories these days, but when you find an expertly told tale, one on an interesting topic with great characters, solid reporting, and thoughtful storytelling, it stands apart. This American Life is truly in a league of its own.

Start here: Three Miles, an episode tracing a program that brings students from two very different schools (one public in the country’s poorest congressional district, one private costing $43,000 per year), just down the road from one another, together.

“Dear Sugar”

The details: Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, and short-story writer Steve Almond field questions from listeners on everything related to love. Readers write in with questions and topics, and the duo offers “radical empathy” in return.

Why we love it: Inclusive, understanding, and forgiving, the weekly show illustrates that sometimes, you just need to talk things out. (And we could listen to Cheryl Strayed all day.)

Start here: Powerful Women and The Men Who Love Them. Another great one from the archives: The Two Stories We Tell, in which Cheryl opens up about how she felt when Vogue photoshopped her photo to the point where she didn’t even look like herself.

“Modern Love”

The details: An audio spin-off of The New York Times’ column of the same name, this podcast is relatively new to the scene, but lets us listen to the delightfully warm, funny, and emotional essays.

Why we love it: The topics touch on every aspect of love, from significant others, to family members, to being true to ourselves. Each episode, generally 20 minutes or less, is narrated by a different person, with stories read by celebrities like Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Connie Britton.

Start here: How I Got Here, Katie Couric reads Leslie Lehr’s essay on a love story that goes beyond feeling, and being, beautiful. (Have a few tissues handy!)

“Burnt Toast”

The details: The team behind Food52 began publishing their very own bimonthly podcast, as a way to share the conversations, debates, and mishaps (hence, that great name) that happened behind the scenes. They go deep on self-referential topics like “What Really Makes a Genius Recipe Genius?” and what food editors cook when they don’t feel like cooking (hint: tacos, eggs, and beans).

Why we love it: We didn’t know we needed another way to consume this fantastic food site until they rolled out this platform.

Start here: In Fat Isn’t Bad, Stupid is Bad, food writer Michael Ruhlman walks through the importance of knowing exactly what’s in our food and cooking it ourselves.

“Invisibilia”

The details: This podcast covers the invisible forces that shape human behavior. (Think thoughts, emotions, and assumptions). The second season premiered in June.

Why we love it: The trio of award-winning hosts, Lulu Miller, Hanna Rosin, and Alix Spiegel, work fascinating scientific research into fantastic storytelling. You’ll walk away from each episode with a new understanding, or at least interest in, how you and those around you behave.

Start here: Our Computers, Ourselves, delves into the question that keeps coming up again and again: Is technology changing us?

“Fresh Air”

The details: Another NPR standout, this podcast has been on the airwaves since 1987 and includes a different subject­—politicians, actors, authors, and more—on each show.

Why we love it: We could listen to host Terry Grose interview almost anybody. She asks fantastic questions and guides honest, intimate conversations but also sheds light on issues we might not have heard of.

Start here: Though this episode has a guest host, the title speaks for itself: Is Yellowstone National Park In Danger of Being ‘Loved to Death’?

“How to Do Everything”

The details: Think of this podcast as a totally modern survival guide. Hosts Mike Danforth and Ian Chillag answer questions from readers, and they say no questions are too big or too small.

Why we love it: They more than live up to that mantra: In a single episode, they cover how to get the best seat on the airplane, how to improve the most awkward moment of your day, and how to “get back” at misbehaving Facebookers.

Start here: Among dealing with how to end an online chat gracefully and how to survive a mob trial, the episode titles Burritos, Mobsters, and Texts shares how best to transport stinky clothes when you need to go about your day post-workout.

“Surprisingly Awesome”

The details: Adam Davidson, a writer a co-founder of NPR’s Planet Money, and Adam McKay, a film jack-of-all trades who worked on Anchorman and SNL, among others, challenge each other to prove that boring topics are, well, surprisingly awesome.

Why we love it: We’d never have guessed it either, but mold, that one-hit wonder from Chumbawamba, and interest rates are actually riveting. Seriously.

Start here: Broccoli

“The Splendid Table”

The details: Hosted by award-winning food journalist Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table might not the best podcast to fire up if you’re hungry. Through conversations with recipe developers, chefs, and more, Kasper covers not just what’s on the table, but the cultural and political implications of everything we eat.

Why we love it: Launched in 1997, long before eating locally and responsibly was a widespread trend, this show’s been on the cutting edge of all things food (but it’s not just for foodies).

Start here: Learn the best way to cut an onion, how to make homemade tortillas, and more in Biodiversity.

What are your go-to podcasts? Tell us in the comments below.

Posture Deep Dive: Incline Core

Posture Deep Dive: Incline Core

You know when we remind you to work smarter, not harder in class? Incline Core is a perfect example of what we mean. This efficient abdominal move is a great alternative to endless crunches; not only is it more supportive on your neck and back, it can be easily modified for more or less intensity. We also love it because it seriously fires up the abs while building balance in your core. So what’s the proper way to do Incline Core work? Today we’re breaking it down.

How to Set it Up

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your barre3 core ball in hand. Push your feet and lift your hips up into a bridge position. Place the ball under your hips, right at your sacrum (the bone that sits below your low back and above your tailbone). Rest your hips on top of the ball, then float one leg at a time up to a tabletop position.

Incline Setup

Common Do’s and Don’ts:

Don’t: Place the ball too high up on your back. This causes your hips to drop towards the floor and puts negative pressure on your spine.

Do: Place the ball under your hips so that you feel supported.

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Don’t: Place the ball too far forward under your hips. Not only does this cause you to slip backwards off the ball, it makes your abs stop firing and requires your hip flexors to do all the work.

Do: Keep the ball directly on the sacrum.

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Don’t: Tense up your neck and grip the mat with your hands. This can lead to tightness and pain in your neck muscles.

Do: Rest your hands palms down by your sides and relax your neck. Then try to identify what was causing the tension—were your legs to low? Were you feeling off-balance? Simple modifications can address these issues.  

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Here’s what Incline Core looks like when it’s done correctly:

Incline-Correct Form

Keep in mind that everybody is different. If you’re experiencing discomfort or having trouble connecting with Incline Core, there are plenty of ways you can customize this posture to suit your individual needs. Here are three modifications to try:

  1. To minimize lower-back discomfort, remove the core ball and work in a flat-back position.

Flatback mod

  1. If you’re having trouble with balance, instead of scissoring your legs or doing bicycles, keep one foot on the floor at all times and switch your legs.

Marches

  1. For a bigger challenge, move your knees farther away from your chest. To dial it back, bring your knees closer to your chest and work smaller.

HigherLegs

These are just a few of the ways you can modify Incline Core to suit your individual needs—for even more suggestions, ask your instructor in the studio, during your weekly Online Workout, or in the comments below. To get even more out of your practice, consider subscribing to barre3 Online for more step-by-step videos that show you how to achieve proper alignment in our signature barre3 postures.

9 Tips for Loving Your Morning Workout

9 Tips for Loving Your Morning Workout

Do you aspire to be one of those people who works out first thing in the morning? You’re not alone.

The benefits of exercise are undeniable. The New York Times, looking at a meta-analysis of “many, many randomized controlled trials,” recently called exercise “the closest thing to a wonder drug,” one that helps with everything from musculoskeletal pain and heart disease to chronic fatigue and depression. The question for most of us is not over whether to workout but when—and early-morning workouts eliminate the daily debate over how to fit in exercise.

But our mornings are precious! Early morning is the one time of day when no one wants a piece of us. Work hasn’t started yet. Our families are still asleep. And also, we’re tired! With the demands of life constantly vying for our time, getting up before 6am to take a class or go for a run can feel impossible.

The good news is, we can train ourselves to become morning exercisers. Here are 9 tips for learning to love morning workouts.

Plan ahead.

Every Sunday night, sit down and make a workout plan for the week. Choose the classes you’re going to take, or pick specific days for solo workouts, and put them in your calendar. This takes the thinking out of what you’re going to do every morning when your alarm goes off. Tip: If you’re looking for some inspiration, try using our weekly barre3 Online plans, where we hand-pick complementary workouts that balance the body.

Put out your workout clothes before bed.

Before bed, lay out everything you need to workout—and for wherever you’re headed after—so that you don’t have to think about it in the morning. This may help you sleep better, because your mind won’t be buzzing with all the things you need to do in the morning, and it’ll save you time when you wake up.

Prep your breakfast.

You can also save time by preparing your breakfast the night before a morning workout. This recipe for an overnight oatmeal-berry parfait is easy to make ahead or you can prep your favorite smoothie. Put all the ingredients in a glass container or Ziploc bag, and in the morning, all you need to do is pour everything into the blender.

Invite a friend.

Accountability is one of the best ways to stay on track with morning workouts (or any new habit). If you know your friend is expecting to see you at that 6am class or waiting for you on a chilly street corner to start a run, you’re less likely to bail.  

Prioritize sleep.

There’s nothing worse than hearing the alarm go off when you’ve been up tossing and turning all night. Set yourself up for success by avoiding caffeine late in the day, minimizing your screen time right before bed, and getting to bed at a decent time. Looping in your partner or roommate, by telling them why you’re prioritizing sleep, can help you protect the hours before bed.  

Set two alarms.

This will get easier with time, but when you’re first acclimating to morning workouts, set a backup alarm in case you sleep through the first. If you’re a natural born snoozer, try putting the second alarm out of reach from your bed, so you’re forced to get up to turn it off.

Listen to energizing music.

When you wake up, crank some energizing music that you can keep going throughout your workout. And no excuses if you live with other people—use headphones! Having a fun morning playlist not only gives you something to look forward to when the alarm goes off, but research actually shows that pairing music with exercise makes working out more enjoyable and helps us perform better.

Drink water when you first wake up.

Waking up to a tall glass of water is a great way to rehydrate from the night and to fully transition from sleep. It’s hard to stay bleary eyed when you’re guzzling refreshing water. Taking it lukewarm is gentler on the system, so skip the ice.

Visualize yourself succeeding.

Becoming a morning exerciser is largely a mental game. As you drift off to sleep, imagine yourself waking up with ease, putting on your workout clothes, drinking a cup of tea (we love this matcha tea latte!), doing your workout, and feeling satisfied after. After a while, working out in the morning becomes a way of life. It becomes less of a struggle and more just what you do.

Find What Works for You

Let us know in the comments how these morning-workout tips work for you! And remember that when it comes to working out, what matters most is doing it—not when you do it. Even breaking up your workouts into 10-minute chunks can be effective.  

All exercise is beneficial. The most important thing is finding a time that works for you so that it becomes something you can stick with and enjoy.

Let’s Change the Conversation About Aging

Let’s Change the Conversation About Aging

When my family and I were on our road trip through Utah this summer, we spent a full day hiking The Narrows in Zion National Park. Our adventure involved wading upstream for miles and navigating boulders and slippery rocks. The next morning when we woke up, the kids bounded out of bed. Chris and I just looked at each other and laughed. Our aching bodies were certainly not ready to bound anywhere just yet. I knew we were thinking the same thing: We’re old!

Sure, our bodies were a little (ok a lot) stiff, and yes, we were in awe of the ease with which our kids bounced around us, quick and nimble and full of energy. But why focus on the crick in my neck or the tightness in my hips? I’d rather think about how lucky we are that we can take on a challenging hike and share unforgettable moments with our children.

Lately I’ve been practicing a shift in my thinking: Instead of lamenting my 44 years, I am focused on being grateful for them. In theory this seems like a practical solution to aging happily right? I mean, we are all in this together so we might as well embrace it. But in reality, there is a constant negative dialogue around age that makes it difficult to remember something so obvious. I want to change this.

What if we turned every statement about getting older from a negative to a positive? Take, for example, my conversations with my girlfriends. I’ve noticed that often when we’re together, bonding and feeling candid, we’ll blurt out the “I’m so old” line—complete with eye-roll—or we’ll point out the telltale signs of aging. “Look at these crow’s feet!” “The skin on my hands looks like my grandmother’s!” I want to shift our perspective. Those crows feet are the result of years of laughing until I cried. Those hands prepare nourishing meals for my family—and they’re the same hands that support me during Plank when I’m in class. This simple shift turns aging into a source of pride, not of shame.

As I work toward shifting my own perspective about age, two things have helped me—and I would love to share them with you. The first is proactively surrounding myself with older women I admire. We get plenty of exposure to inspiring young women in the media, but lead roles for women who are middle-aged or beyond are few and far between. I am blessed because every day I walk into a barre3 studio and I get to hang out with smart, cool, fun women of all ages. The older women I gravitate to are not hindered by age, and they aren’t wasting any time fighting it off. They’re too busy being forces of nature, and that—not their age—is what I see when I’m with them. These are my leading ladies.

The second thing that has helped me embrace aging is learning to be present and in love with this body I get to live in. How? With a regular barre3 practice and a twice-a-day mindfulness practice. Barre3 has empowered me to find my strongest, most energetic self, even as my body changes with age, and my mindfulness practice has given me the tools I need to gain perspective. Instead of wishing my body were 10 years younger or worrying about how it will look in 10 years, I’ve learned to accept it as it is right now. Living in the present helps bring everything into hyperfocus, giving me a technicolor appreciation for all that I have. My younger self might have taken The Narrows hike for granted, but my almost 44-year-old self appreciated every step of it—and that’s why, when Chris and I woke up the next morning, stiff and sore, I was grateful. This is aging, and I’m so very lucky to experience it.

So for my birthday this year, I have one wish: I invite you to join me in working to change the dialogue around aging. We can start with seemingly small things like inflection. Instead of “I’m so old,” try “I’m so old!” When someone asks your age, answer with enthusiasm, not shame. When conversations about age start to go negative, friends one-upping each other about their newest wrinkle or latest age spot, throw everyone a curveball by talking about a positive aspect of aging—how much more comfortable you feel in your skin, maybe, or how you rocked your Sumo Squats that morning. And then get out there and do something that celebrates all the amazing things your body can do today. I promise to do the same.

barre3 City Guides: Where to Eat, Shop, Play, and More In 13 barre3 Cities!

barre3 City Guides: Where to Eat, Shop, Play, and More In 13 barre3 Cities!

We love how you’re taking barre3 all over the country this summer with #barre3anywhere! To help you make the most of your travels, we asked studio owners from 13 cities for their favorite places to eat, drink, shop, rejuvenate, and play in their hometowns. Check out all 13 city guides, and for those of you traveling to Portland—whether for a barre3 in the Park class or simply to explore the City of Roses—read on for all our favorite haunts, handpicked for you by team members Kimi Kolba and Candace Ofcacek.   

Eat

Lovely’s Fifty Fifty – “I love everything about this place—the great salads, the delicious sides, the awesome wood-fired pizzas, and the homemade gelato. Their ingredients are always so well-sourced and seasonal.” – Kimi

Prasad – “This is my go-to spot for a healthy breakfast or lunch. In the morning, I pick up the amazing breakfast parfait from the quick grab-and-go refrigerated section. For lunch, I love the Dragon Bowl—it’s so delicious and gives you a ton of energy to fuel your day.” – Candace

Broder Café – “Anytime someone visits from out of town, I take them here for brunch. It’s such a charming place with the most delicious food, like Swedish breakfast boards, delicious frittatas served right out of the iron skillet they were baked in, and lingonberry jam with toast. There’s always a line, so be ready to wait for a table.” – Kimi

Sweedeedee – “Does Sweedeedee also stand for the sweetest place on earth? Because that’s what this place feels like. Be prepared to hear the best music on vinyl as you sip your coffee and wait for your farm-fresh dishes to arrive.” – Candace

Ps&Qs Market – “This timeless little market is so unassuming—you could drive right by and not even notice it. It’s a combination grocery store and deli with a small, simple menu of delicious sandwiches and salads made from the freshest greens. I love to eat at their outdoor tables” – Kimi

Nostrana – “In a city full of amazing restaurants, this is definitely my favorite—and where I always go for special occasions. Everything on the beautifully curated menu of classic Italian fare is fantastic, but I definitely recommend the pizza—they give you scissors to cut it with!” – Candace

Laurelhurst Market – “This one is definitely an indulgence food-wise—more of a steak frites place than a kale-smoothie spot. But it’s so worth it! I love the amazing seasonal salads, and all the meat comes from the in-store butcher shop and is ethically sourced. They also have great desserts—often featuring fresh berries and fruits—and wonderful cocktails.” – Kimi

Kachka – “Get the dumplings! They are seriously amazing—and the perfect compliment to the infused vodkas. Dinner is always packed, so it’s best to either make reservations or go on the early side for happy hour.” – Kimi

Drink

Kure Juice – “This is my favorite place in the city to get acai bowls, and the Extra Mile smoothie is out of this world! The downtown location is a great spot to take a break from sightseeing or shopping.” – Candace

SIP Juice Cart – “A quick walk from the barre3 Southeast studio, SIP is my go-to spot after taking a class. I love the Maca Madness smoothie with kale! I highly recommend walking through the SE neighborhood from the studio to get a feel for the area.” – Candace

Tea Bar – “The entire team at barre3 is obsessed with this place—especially with their incredible matcha latte! I love how light and bright and open the space is, and it’s so nice to know you’re supporting a homegrown business.” – Kimi

Heart Coffee Roasters – “I love the atmosphere at Heart—you feel like you’re in an Instagram post! It’s the perfect place to take a break, grab an amazing coffee, people watch, and check email. Be sure to try their cashew milk in your coffee—it’s the best I’ve ever had!” – Candace

Shop

Solabee Flower & Botanicals – “I go here when I want to feed my plant-obsessed soul! Plants for as far as the eye can see, plus a fun build-your-own terrarium station and a curated selection of local art. I could spend all day here!” – Candace

betsy & iya – This is THE place to buy jewelry and to be inspired. Every piece is beautiful and unique, and it’s all made with love by Betsy and her team. The shop is a little out of the way but SO worth the trek. Make the most of your time up there by exploring the other shops on NW Thurman!” – Candace  

Lark Press – “I love handwritten letters, so this locally owned place is an absolute haven for me. In addition to the rows and rows of letterpress cards made right in the store, they also sell gorgeous prints, sweet little onesies and t-shirts for kids, beautiful wrapping paper, and Woodblock Chocolate bars, made just a few miles away.” Kimi

Ink & Peat – “Best. Gift shop. Ever. Anytime I want to pick up something special for a friend—or ok, for myself—I head to this amazing little spot. It’s full of the best candles, cookbooks, jewelry, lotions, dishes, you name it. Don’t miss the amazing caramels at the checkout counter—tiny but indulgent!” – Candace

Schoolhouse Electric – “This place feels like so much more than a shop—it’s a destination, an experience. You’ll find the light fixtures Schoolhouse is so well-known for, but also so many other treasures, from books to art prints to furniture. With the outpost of Ristretto Coffee at the entrance, you can turn your trip there into a full afternoon!” – Kimi

Shop Adorn “Division is such a special street, and Adorn is one of my favorite places to stop along it. Their collection is unique, unexpected, and fresh—I always find clothes that really speak to me. Look out for Wendy Westerwelle, saleswoman extraordinaire. She has the most amazing sense of style, and she’ll help you find your own! If you have time, head next door to Gilt, a new shoe store with an incredible selection of clogs, boots, and sneakers.” – Candace

Rejuvenate

Kanani Pearl – “Full disclosure, I haven’t been here YET, but two of my barre3 colleagues with glowing skin tell me this is the best facial in Portland. They love that Kanani is committed to using only all-natural products, and they love how beautiful the space is—and that it’s just a block away from the Pearl studio!” – Kimi

Löyly – “I like going here in the dead of winter just to feel warm and press the ‘reset’ button. You can do the basic sauna and steam, or you can add services like a massage or facial. The location on 21st Ave. is just down the street from barre3 Southeast, which makes the perfect exercise-spa combo!” – Kimi

Hair M | W – “If you’re taking a class in the Pearl, treat yourself to a massage at this amazing salon. It’s right in the heart of the city, but it feels like a sweet escape—the perfect place to steal away to if you want to feel centered and balanced.” – Candace

Play

Mt. Tabor Park – “On the eastern edge of the city overlooking downtown, this is THE spot to take in a Portland sunset. Bring a picnic and a frisbee, climb to the top, and enjoy.” – Candace

Forest Park – “This gorgeous park is my favorite place to go with my girl (and barre3 Communications Manager!) Kait Hurley. We especially love the Leif Erikson trail on NW Thurman. Wildwood is another one of our favorite trails. We start at the Portland Zoo and hike all the way to Pittock Mansion for the most gorgeous view!” – Candace

Revolution Hall – “Some music venues have a way of taking every concert to the next level, and this is one of them. Housed in a former high school built in 1906, the space is beautiful and full of character. In the warmer months they have shows on the roof deck—pretty much the perfect way to spend a summer evening.” – Candace

Work/Shop – “I love the set-up here—part workspace, part shop, all inspiration. Pop in to fill your creative cup and learn a new skill, like watercolor painting or Instagram styling!”

What are your favorite spots in your hometown? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Announcing the barre3 Anywhere Grand Prize!

Announcing the barre3 Anywhere Grand Prize!

When you send in your August barre3 Anywhere punch card with at least 10 classes stamped, you’ll be entered for a chance our GRAND PRIZE! One lucky winner will get:

A $300 gift card from Airbnb

This top and these pants from Beyond Yoga

This super-stylish planner from Day Designer

The Rose Water Hydrating Mist our entire office is obsessed with

Soy candles from Bisby

Be sure to get your cards to barre3 Headquarters by September 10th to be entered to win. We’ll announce the Grand Prize winners later that week. Good luck, and let’s finish #barre3anywhere strong!

August #b365 Tip: Be Present

August #b365 Tip: Be Present

Our August #b365 tip—be present—can help you savor the final weeks of summer and fill them with memorable, enriching experiences. This is important, because with August can come a sense of panic that we didn’t appreciate summer while it was here. Being present is a tool for experiencing moments more fully and really soaking up the rest of the season.

There’s only one problem: Living in the present moment isn’t easy. We have partners, kids, friends, and colleagues all vying for our attention. We have a constant distraction with us in the form of smart phones. We have appointments to attend and parties to plan and dinners to make. Even when we find time for the summer activities we enjoy, it can be hard to fully experience these moments because of the to-do list that’s lingering in the back of our minds.

There are many tools for cultivating presence, including turning off (or leaving behind) your phone during important conversations or events, avoiding multitasking, and blocking space on your calendar for uninterrupted time with loved ones or activities that inspire us. But our favorite tool for achieving greater presence is mindfulness.  

Mindfulness Leads to Presence

When we talk about being mindful, we’re talking about bringing awareness to the present moment. One of the best ways to improve your ability to do this is through mindfulness meditation, a practice of continually bringing your attention back to a specific object—often the breath, sometimes a sensation or sound. If you’re like most people, you’ll be flooded with thoughts when you try to do this. Mindfulness meditation teaches you how to notice these thoughts (without judging them) and redirect your attention back.

“Mindfulness meditation is not about emptying the mind or stopping thoughts,” says Kimberly Carson, a health educator specializing in therapeutic yoga and meditation at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), and the co-founder of Mindful Yoga Works in Portland, Oregon. “It’s about becoming present with whatever is here. That takes practice. In the same way that you slowly build strength in order to hold a longer plank pose, you need to build strength over time to be able to stay present.”

Research shows it’s worth the effort. The research on mindfulness meditation is overwhelmingly positive, with studies demonstrating that a consistent practice can help with everything from anxiety and depression to low back pain and menopausal symptoms. And Harvard Business Review recently concluded that women, because of how much multitasking and worrying they do, can benefit from mindfulness more than men.

“Mindfulness helps us respond rather than react to stress by interfering with our habits of thought and emotion,” says Kimberly, who has been involved with mindfulness-based research for over 20 years, including studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke University, and OHSU. “A lot of us carry around a baseline mode of functioning—for example, anger or anxiety, or judgmental thoughts—and we’re not even aware that we do it. Mindfulness practice gives us the tools of stabilized attention, which helps create awareness of our behind-the-scenes thoughts and emotions. Once we become aware of these habits of heart and mind, we have an opportunity to disengage from or even shift them so that they’re no longer clouding our ability to be in the present moment.”

How To Develop a Mindfulness Practice

Here are some tips for developing a mindfulness practice that can help you be present and make the most of the final month of summer.

Get comfortable.

Mindfulness meditation can be done in whatever position works for you, but traditionally, a seated posture is encouraged. Focus on having a neutral spine, and give yourself enough support under the hips so that you’re not sitting in a spine-flexed position. Close your eyes if that’s comfortable. It’s perfectly okay to keep your eyes open—just pick a fixed point and stare with a soft gaze. If it works for you, try having your palms up with your thumb and index finger slightly touching.

“There are esoteric explanations for having those fingers touching, but from a pragmatic standpoint, it is a proxy for attention,” says Kimberly. “If your attention wanders off and you get really lost in a thought, that thumb and index finger tend to drift apart. It can help set a certain tone to try holding them together.”

Focus on your breath.

The best way to start with mindfulness meditation is simply by focusing on your breath. Get in your seated posture and just concentrate on the natural in-and-out movement of your breathing. Inevitably, your mind will drift off. That’s perfectly normal.

“There’s nothing special about the breathing pattern or style,” says Kimberly. “With beginners, the focus is on building stability through bringing attention to the natural breath. The core intention is non-reactivity, so when you feel your attention wander off, rather than trying to judge or change your thoughts, just notice them and come back to the breath.”

Start with 10 minutes.

When you’re starting out with mindfulness meditation, it is important to commit to an ongoing practice. If knowing you only need 10 minutes makes it feel doable, start with 10. Kimberly recommends working up to 20 minutes—”The more you practice, the more benefit you get,” she says—but initially, commit to whatever you can do consistently.

If even 10 minutes feels hard, remember what’s at stake: “We don’t have time not to have a mindfulness practice,” says Kimberly. “This moment is the only one we are given—we are not guaranteed any others. We are a culture that is very successful at creating distraction. Mindfulness gives us the opportunity to be more present for the moments in our lives, but that requires commitment and discipline.”

Fit it in when you can.

Some people find that picking a consistent time of day (and place) is helpful for cultivating the habit, but don’t let that derail you. If you don’t get a chance to meditate on your cushion in the morning, catch 10 minutes in your bedroom before dinner.

“In this day and age, schedules are ridiculously complex,” says Kimberly. “A lot of people work full time (or full time plus!), they have kids, they need to make time for their partners and friends. There’s a lot to fit in. The most important thing is doing the practice regularly, not doing it at a specific time of day.”

Your Journey Begins

Mindfulness is a lifelong practice that can enhance your experience of the world. In recent studies, it has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve focus and memory, and boost energy and mood. You won’t experience these benefits all at once, but the potential is inspiring.

“The potential of mindfulness is insight,” says Kimberly. “With insight, we start to see things we couldn’t see before about how we react to certain people and situations—even ourselves.”

To learn more about mindfulness meditation, Kimberly recommends two books by Jon Kabat-Zinn: Full Catastrophe Living and Wherever You Go There You Are. There are also many other books as well as free podcasts, apps, and guided meditations available online if you’re interested in deepening your practice.  

Mindfulness can’t literally slow the clock on the remaining days of summer. However, developing a mindfulness-meditation practice can help slow down your mind so that you’re able to be present for the moments that matter.

Are you interested in cultivating a mindfulness practice to help you be more present? Let us know in the comments!