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Lululemon Elevation – 3 Days, 3 States, 3 Trails

“There simply is no pill that can replace human connection.  There is no pharmacy that can fill the need for compassionate interaction with others.  There is no panacea.  The answer to human suffering is both within us and between us. -Dr. Joanna Cacciatore

Picture by Ali Hoover:

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I learned a lot in the last 2 weeks of my life, but especially the last few days.  I was put on a bus with 23 other individuals that I had never met for 3 1/2 days while we traveled to 3 states and ran 3 different trails.  We didn’t know what we had in common besides a passion for running, a love for Lululemon and a heart for inspiring others.  Come to find out – if you take 24 strangers and drop them in the middld of the woods and tell them to go do something they love…well, that’s all you really need to make for a completely life changing few days.

I knew this trip would be amazing, but I didn’t know quite how amazing…  In fact, I’m still crying.  As I type this, salty streams run down my face.  Oh the tears I’ve cried the last few days…  They are tears of gratitude.  They are bittersweet tears from having to say goodbye to some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.  They are tears of pure joy.

For awhile I haven’t been feeling much.  I’ve been in a funk.  I’ve been overbooked and over-worked trying to juggle jobs and passions and relationships and ideas for the future.  I numbed out knowing that it would be easier to go through the motions, not have to really feel anything, and do the best I can and get through it. I’ve been thinking of all of the things that society says I should have by now that I don’t… Ummm…that’s no way to live.

The shift started to hit me with BQing the Geneva marathon…  breaking the barrier of FEAR that I couldn’t do it and then proving to myself that the human spirit is truly one amazing thing.  Then came this adventure… This trip where RUNNING – a solo sport – brought some people together in a serious way.  Take a bunch of people that love running, and put them in some woods with no expectations of a race, no clocks, no time limits…and it’s magic.

Day 1 – Amazing.  Best birthday ever. Mt. Cheaha, 2407 ft of elevation, 6 miles – the highest point in Alabama. 

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We met in AL, we talked, we drove and we ran.  But let me back up a little…  Sarah came to pick me up that morning, and then we picked up Mandy… oh Mandy…   Little did I know that this girl would end up being my roomie, my trail buddy, my twin, part of my poop troop, and a heart that I will always hold dear.

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So, day 1 happened to be my birthday, and it was just made extra special by being introduced to some people that would change my life.  Look at these amazing people…

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Below is a picture of me and Aaron (picture by Ali Hoover).  What an amazing man!!  He took the time to know everyone, what they did, what they do now, where they are from.  We had some amazing conversations on the trails, laughs, poops (haha)… he’s a standup guy with a caring heart for others and for Christ.

dsc_0356After the run we headed to dinner.  We were presented a beautiful backpack with a water bottle, a journal and letters from a few folks at each of our stores.  They sang happy birthday to me, and I got a special dessert…  I’m not sure how this birthday will ever be topped.  That night we stayed at the beautiful Serenbe, which is a sustainable farm, and I had to share a bed with a girl that I had just met…but it worked out just fine.  🙂

Day 2 – Humbling.  Mt. Springer, GA, 4100 ft of elevation, 17 miles.

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This day proved to be the hardest for me, and the most impactful and humbling.  We woke up in AL, had breakfast at Serenbe and then drove a ways into Georgia to get to our next run.

I was nervous – knowing that I get super dehydrated, I decided to try an electrolyte drink that I had had before, but it had been awhile…and a taste of salt.  I would tell my clients – BAD IDEA!!  Don’t try something new on days like this.  I thought though – it’s not a race…so I should be fine.

We ran somewhere between 17-18 miles and 4100 ft of elevation.  Not even half way, I went into what we will call “GI distress” and then over half way, more GI distress coupled with puking.  A lot of puking.  Like until there was nothing left.  Two people got stuck with me and didn’t leave me in the woods during all of this – Julio and Kelly.  They saw me at my worst.  While I was heaving anything that was in my system out of my body…  I thought – I just ran a MARATHON A WEEK AGO at not a slow pace and was FINE, WHAT is wrong with me?!!  I was broken down to not much, but they never left me.  If I took anything from this trip it was to be reminded of what community really means, and how we are not supposed to make this journey alone.  Accept help and support from others – it’s okay.

I feel like God had to break me down – ALL the way down… to where I didn’t have anything left – inside or outside…  I’m glad He let me BQ because it gave me the confidence I needed going into this adventure, but I haven’t been that empty, yet that FULL in a very, very long time.  It was the epitome of breaking you down to build you up.  Needless to say, day 2 was an eye opener.  Also, I would like to point out – I wasn’t the only one with “GI distress” and everyone who had it or left their mark on the trail was inducted into the Poop Troop.  Hey, you’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself, right?!

That night we stayed on a 14-acre house/resort.  We grilled out, had a bonfire and s’mores and sat around laughing and telling old stories, making up some new stories, and forging more friendships until about 1am.  Thank God I felt fine by then and was able to stomach 2 s’mores.  🙂

The next morning we made a community breakfast, packed up and headed out to our final destination.

Day 3 – Magical. Mt. Mitchell, NC, 3800 ft of elevation, 6 miles.

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This was the perfect end to a perfect trip.  Steep, technical, rooty, misty, beautiful.  I stayed with a group who mostly hiked it, and we enjoyed every second.  For it is in these times when you have nothing but everything you need, and friends that share a passion – that you are your true self.

We hiked, we talked, we took pictures, and we made it to the top where it was chilly and foggy.  While we were up there, the clouds started to break and blue sky shown through…it was perfect.

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We headed back to the cabins, showered up and headed to dinner.  At dinner we each stood up and told what the trip had meant to us, and what we learned.  The tears started flowing and didn’t stop for quite some time.  In fact, not until 2 days later…

Day 4 – Bittersweet.  We got up, packed everything up, loaded in and hit the road to a local coffee shop where we had breakfast and then Mandy and I said our goodbyes.  More waterworks.  My heart was a little broken wondering when I would see these awesome people again, sad that this journey was over, but proud to have been a part of it and excited to see what the future holds with some of these people.  Mandy, Sarah and I drove back to Nashville, and Mandy and I cried the whole way while we shared memories of the last few days and moments that opened our eyes.  When I had to say goodbye to her – I felt like a little piece of me had left too – THAT is the kind of connection I had with this gal.  The connections that all of us made this week were indescribable.

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“If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of.  There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” -Fred Rogers

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I had many eye-openers this week.  Some were by myself in the middle of the woods – where I was left to look at my life and ask myself what I’m missing, what’s holding me back, and be grateful for all that I do have.  Some were moments in the bus laughing with everyone, feeling a little car-sick, some were losing anything I had in my system and gaining everything in perspective.

I am so thankful for Lululemon.  Most people think it’s just spandex and yoga pants, but this company stands for SO. MUCH. MORE.  It’s a way of life, it’s confidence, it’s perseverance, it’s challenge, it’s growth.  They push the people involved in the company to be better, to evolve, to seek their dreams and their true potential, to connect with others who share a common life goal and a passion, which is exactly what Elevation was, what it is and I’m sure what it will continue to be…and for that – I am very, very thankful.

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Client Spotlight – Jena Hickman Layne – How She PR’d A Marathon

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This is one incredible woman!  An amazing mother, marathon runner, business lady, fitness enthusiast…the list goes on and on.  Jena approached me last year about helping her PR a marathon, and when she mentioned New Orleans – I was IN.   1 – because I hadn’t been and wanted to go get some BEADS (kidding), and 2 – most importantly – because I BELIEVED IN JENA!!!

Running a marathon can be an adventure…to say the least.  It is an emotional, physical and mental challenge for hours…  It’s something that can be an amazing experience, and heart-wrenching at the same time.  You can learn a lot about yourself over those 26.2 miles, and I learned that sometimes the most enjoyable time is when you are running for more than yourself.  Jena allowed me to run beside her for those 26.2 miles, coach her, laugh with her, yell at her (lovingly), and be there when she crossed the finish line.  However, my IT band started hurting pretty badly near the end, and in the last quarter mile, I told her to put her favorite song on, and she did, and then she TOOK OFF!!!!!!!!!!  I remember yelling at her…”you better let me cross that finish line with you – don’t leave me behind now!!!”  I think, to her surprise, she realized she had a lot left in the tank… and SHE DID IT.  SHE GOT HER PR!!!  She set out towards a goal, and accomplished it.

Jena, you are an inspiration to so many – but mostly to YOUR SON.  Jena’s son, Sam, would come to our sessions and watch his mom WORK, and encourage her all the way.  THAT is what it’s truly about.  Jena – you’re living a healthy life that Sam can look up to.  Thank you for being a beautiful person inside and out, for working with me, for letting me run with you, and for giving it your all EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.  Here’s to your best year yet, a lot more sweat, and many more PR’s!!!

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I asked Jena a few questions about her fitness journey, and specifically our marathon in NOLA, and here’s what she had to say…

I’ve been running long distances for a little over 10 years and when people ask me why I started running or why I run marathons, I usually give a casual answer of “It’s a fun way to stay fit” or “training for a race keeps me committed to a goal.”  But that’s not the entire truth.  The real story behind my running dates back to a muggy Saturday morning in the summer of 2006.  It was June 10, 2006, and the day that my world turned upside down.  I woke up early that morning and went for a walk/run around the neighborhood because I was just starting to get back into a regular exercise routine.  When I walked back into the house after being gone for about an hour, my husband at the time told me that he had gotten a call from my brother and there had been a terrible accident.  My Daddy had died that morning, doing what he loved, in a tragic farming accident.  In the days and weeks following my Daddy’s death, I started running because it was the only time I felt alive.  It became my therapy…my release…my healing.  
Since then, I’ve been through an eating disorder, a divorce, a job change, a year long cancer battle with my best friend and life’s ups and downs.  The one constant activity through all of it…running.  It still is my therapy…my release…my healing.  Every time I cross the finish line at a race…I am more alive than the last time.  Running keeps me going.
-How did you prep for the race and decide to go for a PR?
I’ve run 7 marathons since 2011 and my prep work always depends on my schedule…it seems like life gets in the way of following a strict plan.  However, I tried to get at least 30 miles a week in for the last few weeks.  Additionally, I went to see Audra Lance at Spine & Sport Rehab Institute to make sure I wasn’t getting too tight or sore.  I wanted to get a new PR because the old one was from Chicago in 2013…it was time to speed up!
-Tell me about the race – the highs and lows and the in betweens…The NOLA Marathon was an incredible race.  The weather was perfect, the crowd was supportive and lots of fun and getting to run with my running hero and Lululemon Ambassador, Megan Conner, was the best part of the day.  My theme song for this race was Sia, “I’m Alive” and the chorus of the song says “I’m still breathing…I’m alive.”  I probably listened to that song 10 times during the race and I was singing the chorus as I crossed the finish line.  I was most definitely alive.
-What was the best part and the hardest part of the race and/or the prep?  The hardest part of the race was between miles 14-18 because I had a really bad experience in Savannah (due to heat/weather) so I wasn’t sure that I could push through those miles.  However, Megan kept telling me that she knew I could do it and she was right.  We crossed the finish line ONE MINUTE ahead of my previous PR from 2013.  WOW!!
-How did you feel when you finished and saw you got your PR?  It was one of the most incredible moments…I had accomplished my goal and I had my confidence back to do more races in the future.
-Did you learn anything new on this race?  Pain is temporary and our bodies are capable of much more than we oftentimes realize.  It is so important to trust your training and overcome the self-doubt that can creep in when you’re facing fatigue and the finish line is still several miles away.
-What would you do differently?  In a perfect world, I would always add in more mileage.
-What are your goals going forward?  I want to do 50 marathons in 50 states, but I’m trying to pace myself and set reasonable goals for my current lifestyle.  My next race is in November in Philly…I plan on running the Rocky Steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and singing “The Eye of the Tiger” at the top of my lungs.
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#globalrunningday

If you only read one of my posts all year…let it be this one. I hope it will speak to you.  And, it just so happens that it falls on #globalrunningday

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Flashback to yesterday when it was just me and the track at 7:45am. Pros of not going at 5:30am – more sleep, track to yourself. Cons – you’ve got the track to yourself. At that point you have no one there cheering you on, you have no one’s energy to feed off of, you have no one to be accountable to – it’s just you, the sound of your shoes, your breath and those white lines.

 
You could easily give up, walk away, cut corners and be done with it. No one would know. But you would.

 
I had to envision myself crossing the finish line on September 10th in a few months – knowing that I had qualified for Boston…knowing that the training paid off…no regrets, no corners cut.

 
Sometimes all you need is a goal. You need something bigger than yourself – more than what you think you can do. Something that you have to work for.  Something that won’t be easy.  Something that may seem impossible right now.  You need to envision the end goal, and keep it close to your heart. I’m learning more and more that this is what life is about. Celebrating your life, achieving goals, believing in something, believing in yourself, inspiring others, saying “I did it.”

 

I encourage you to find something bigger than yourself, something you think seems unattainable.  It’s not… I promise. Keep it at the center of your focus, you’ll get there. Even on the days you think you won’t – you’ll get there, and you’ll be thankful you didn’t give up. It will be worth it. ‪#‎inspiration‬ ‪#‎track‬ ‪#‎bostontraining‬ ‪#‎marathontraining‬ ‪#‎run‬ ‪#‎running‬ ‪#‎runner‬ ‪#‎believeinyourself‬ ‪#‎sweat‬ ‪#‎fitness‬ ‪#‎training‬ ‪#‎trainer‬ ‪#‎personaltrainer‬ ‪#‎runnergirl‬ ‪#‎girlswhorun‬ ‪#‎inspireatrun‬ ‪#‎goals‬ ‪#‎worthit‬ ‪#‎believeyoucan‬

Client Spotlight – Brooke Bartley

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This is one amazingly beautiful girl, wise beyond her years, and smarter than just about anyone I know.  Brooke is a senior at Vanderbilt, majoring in chemical engineering and has already landed a job in Texas at Fluor as an associate process engineer.  Impressive, eh?  Well, duh!!  But that ain’t nothin’…

Brooke is one of those clients that can and will do ANYTHING I ask her to do.  Her fitness is off the charts and we all would give our left leg to have her bod – but she works for it, strives hard to do things right, and always has perfect form.  All of this good stuff that I’ve seen her do in the gym… well, I’m pretty sure that she carries all of it over into her daily life as well.  IMG_6965Since Brooke started working with me, she has toned up, lost a few lbs (although she didn’t need to lose any!), and has learned a few new “Megan moves” to take with her along the way.  She is always one to take her workouts and do them on her own!  One thing she left out of the spotlight is she has recently taking up cooking!  She has a passion for healthy food and has really taken steps towards trying new things and making her own recipes!  She also has really good taste in workout clothes… 🙂

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It has been amazing to see this girl grow and blossom over the short time that I’ve known her – not only in fitness, but also as a woman.  She is a true inspiration having learned such healthy habits at such a young age that I hope she will take with her into the next stage of her life.  I’ll be sad to see her move after she graduates, but I have no doubt that this gal is going to do amazing things!  Brooke – Zoe and I will miss you after May, but we are so proud of all you’ve done and ARE going to do!!

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Here are a few questions I asked Brooke about her fitness journey…

Why is fitness important to you?

Fitness, for me, is not only about staying physically healthy but also mentally healthy. Working out and staying fit helps me feel positive, powerful, and confident. 

-What have you learned from having a more fitness-oriented lifestyle?
I have learned how important fitness is to my lifestyle. Now that it is a part of my everyday life, my day doesn’t feel complete without some form of movement that gets my blood pumping. I have also learned how much it affects the way I feel and that it can be a great boost to my day no matter what.
-What are the benefits to having a trainer?

Having a great trainer (like you Megan) helps to motivate me to get to workouts on days I don’t really want to go. On other days, it makes me excited to be able to workout and have someone cheering you on the whole time. A trainer helps to push me way harder than I would push my self alone. 

-What’s your favorite exercise? 

I love all forms of exercise. I love changing my workout up through the week so I don’t get bored. I try to pick the workout that fits my body’s need for the day and gets me excited to go. My current favorites are barre, yoga, and working out with Megan (obviously). 

 
-What are some goals you’ve accomplished and what are your goals moving forward? 

So far I am really proud how I have used exercise to keep myself mentally strong. I have also accomplished my goal of staying fit and healthy throughout my college career.

Goals going forward include possibly becoming certified for yoga instructing, continuing to stay fit, and making time after starting work for my workouts.

-How have you balanced school and your workouts?
As a high school elite athlete, I saw the importance of exercising your mind as well as your body. I found though my experiences that only working my mind all day is not nearly as effective as if I took a break to work my body as well. Even if I don’t have a lot of time, I know even a little workout brings balance to my day.
-What advice would you give others out there looking to get more involved in fitness?  
Start small. Do what makes you excited about moving. Somewhere I read that celebrity said “if I don’t want to go, I tell myself that I’ll go for 30 minutes, and if after that I still don’t want to be there, I can leave. But that never seems to happen”  I tell myself to do a little at a time. But once you’re there and you start to feel good about yourself, that feeling will motivate you to keep going.
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Bucket-list… My Album

Today my album became live on iTunes for pre-order.  This has been a dream for a long, long time, and it finally became a reality because so many people gave their hearts, their dollars, their time, their support, and their love…

I’m in awe of how this project came together – from the songs, to the artwork to the vocals… I’ll go more into all of this later.  For now, I just wanted to share that you can pre-order the album by clicking the picture below, and if that doesn’t work, then you can click here… Pre-Order Beautiful World!  With the pre-order, you get the song that I co-wrote that Rascal Flatts recorded titled Aftermath.  You will get the rest of the songs on the release date of March 9th.  🙂

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Thank you all for your constant support and love!  It truly means more than you know!  I hope you enjoy the songs.

The Big D

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Smile.  Even if it’s crooked.  -Me 🙂

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There are so many ways that I could go with this title… So. Many.  But, peeps, get your mind out of the gutter, and the sewer because D does not stand for the dirty four letter “d” word OR diarrhea OR divorce.  I’m talking about DEPRESSION.

If you haven’t heard much from me lately, it’s the D’s fault.  If you haven’t seen much of me lately – it’s also the D’s fault.  I haven’t been blogging – it’s because of the D. If I’ve committed to something and haven’t followed through – blame the D.  You probably wouldn’t have dreamed that I would suffer from this…I may be the last person in the world that you think would be DEPRESSED.  I mean, my job is to motivate people, write music, share my life, teach people, have endless energy…  how could I be depressed?  

I was on the fence about writing this – about going more in depth about this, but I have a small platform of people that sometimes read what I write, and maybe it will touch one person.  Maybe one person will relate to what I’m saying, and if that happens – then its worth it.

So what does my depression look like?  I haven’t have many feelings lately, decisions are hard to make, I’m in a bit of a daze, and I’d rather be curled up in bed with Zoe, Netflix and a chocolate cake than do pretty much anything.  I haven’t wanted to see anyone, much less work out.  I have not had the motivation to work at all, but that’s really not a choice.  I want to just check out, buy a ticket to the beach and sit there with a floppy hat, a Diet Coke and not think about anything but the waves, what type of fish I’ll have for lunch and contemplate doing some yoga. Instead of running away, I put my face on every day, rally for my clients, and for myself. I’ve started back on anti-depressants and have gone to see my counselor.  Yes, I have done all of that. And, I’m not crazy (well, maybe a little of the good kind).  I’m also not ungrateful or not thankful for every single thing that has happened lately…no, that’s not it.  I’m actually very HAPPY… I look at my life and feel blessed.  So, how can I be depressed you ask?  I kind of wish I knew the answer…  I kind of wish I could just snap out of it.

In the midst of feeling like this – I’ve gotten to create an album of songs that I’ve wanted to put together for years… all because a bunch of awesome people gave some of their money and their faith to me in order to make it happen.  WOW. Like, WOW.  In the midst of feeling like this – I have had client after client come into my house looking to me for energy and motivation, proving to be better each and every time I see them, and after they each leave – THEY fill me up, THEY motivate me with their want, drive and energy. WOW.

But even in all of that good stuff – it has been a struggle to go to the studio, to muster the energy to sing or write a workout for someone or even to make small decisions. Every single thing seemed so overwhelming, and as a person that likes to give their all to what they are doing – I felt like I could only give about 40%. Once I started doing whatever task was before me – I always felt better in the moment, but I was just overwhelmed going into anything.  Herein lies the cycle…  you don’t want to do anything, so you don’t, then you feel worse and then you REALLY want don’t want to do anything and you don’t want to be around anyone and STILL don’t want to do anything and it just keeps going around and around.  Not good.

Depression runs in my family.  Two people in my immediate family members have committed suicide… don’t worry – that’s not me, I have a VERY mild case, but it is hereditary, and it is a REAL thing.  There are all types of depression and varying degrees of seriousness, but it can make you physically ill.  It can change your life, who you think you are and what you think about yourself, and it can effect your relationships.  WebMD says the following about just how common depression is:

How Common Is Depression?

It is estimated that, by the year 2020, major depression will be second only to ischemic heart disease in terms of the leading causes of disability in the world. But people with depression sometimes fail to realize (or accept) that there is a physical cause to their depressed moods. As a result, they may search endlessly for external causes.

To me, it’s simply a chemical imbalance in your brain that can be triggered by certain things, circumstances, seasons, or it might just run in your family. AND IT’S NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF. There are so many things to do that can help – whether you’re depressed or not! I’ve recently figured some of these things out, and I’m feeling better every single day.

  1. Exercise
  2. Reach out to friends
  3. Do the things you don’t want to do
  4. Seek guidance from a counselor or medical professional
  5. Don’t be ashamed
  6. Be open to medication
  7. Accept help

I’m feeling better every day.  Talking about it helps, being consistent, setting goals and getting out of the house…  Believe me, if you suffer from this – you CAN overcome.  You CAN.

I’m proud to talk about this because there is such a stigma about depression, treatment and medication and just the disease in general.  This stigma simply needs to be broken and talked about.  I feel courageous, I am accepting of this about me, and I am OKAY because this is a part of who I am – the good, the bad and the ugly…it makes me, ME.  I am more than depression.  I’m a work in progress. There’s so much more to me than this one thing – and if you suffer from this – try to hold on to that.  I am okay. This will make me stronger.  This isn’t all that I am, but it is a part of what makes me WHO I am.

The Scene’s Best of Nashville 2015

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Every year the Nashville Scene comes out with their list of “Best Of.”  There’s everything from best sex toy shop to best dentist.  It’s an entire magazine of THE best of the best of Nashville – anything you could want.

I was astounded, blown away, surprised….HONORED, to say the least, to find out that I had made the top 3.  To even make the list or get anywhere close to the list is a huge blessing, and I am beyond grateful.  The other two above me both have their own studios, which is a dream of mine, and I am taking steps every day to move closer to that dream.  To be on the list with them and in this issue is a dream in and of itself.

Thank you to everyone who mentioned my name in voting, who is a client, who has crossed my path, taken a class, who is a friend…  It means more than I can say to feel the support of this fitness community!  Here’s to a great 2015 and an even better 2016!

 

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