The sacred paws

I’m home in Pennsylvania for a few days, to celebrate my mother n’ law’s birthday. Just long enough for me to slip back into my Western Pennsylvania slang, dropping the “th” from words and calling everyone yinz.

“Yinz wanna go up ‘ere and drink an Iron?”

It’s good to be home.

Tuesday, like many days for me, was straight out. From 9:30 am to 9:30 pm I’d filled every minute of my day with something. And because I am so transparent with my feelings, everyone knows that I haven’t taken a break all day. I’m a WYSIWYG - what you see is what you get. Sometimes that’s fine, as I am truly, authentically me. I bring all of me into the moment.

But honestly, it’s also an area of growth for me, that I wear my heart out on my sleeve pretty much 24/7. I wouldn’t last a hot minute in a poker game, and no one wants their coach to have lemur eyes when they come in for a workout. 

When I don’t take a minute for myself, it’s just not pretty.

The thing is, it’s easy for me jam pack my days because I love what I do. I used to do it with three and four jobs, but now I’m hustling because I have so much I want to do. Between my own writing (big announcement coming soon), coaching, making Jane Fonda videos and doing podcasts, I have a lot of fun stuff going on.

Often, it’s like I’m drinking out of a firehose – now that I found my career my mind is bursting with ideas and spend my days in organized chaos. The inside of my mind is littered with post it notes.

I can get myself pretty out of balance in my days, despite loving what I do.

Tuesday when I walked through the door and flung myself on the dining room chair out of pure exhaustion, my 11 year old basset hound Rooney lumbered in to say hello. He sat, starting at me patiently until I leaned over and picked him up. He settled in to my lap and I nuzzled his head, breathing in the familiar corn chip scent of his that I’ve come to love. I used him as my weighted blanked, breathing out the day and finally, 12 hours after my day began, took a breath.

I was reminded of what Buddhists call the sacred pause. 

But in this case, it’s the sacred paws. 

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It’s one of the things I love so much about dogs, and Rooney in particular. He lays down in the sun, flops down in front of the heater, and groans long and loud when he wakes up from a nap. His presence is often my reminder to stop what I’m doing, bend over and scratch his ears, or pick him up, put him in my lap and just be with him. 

Seeing him, being with him, is always my reminder to pause. It’s my reminder to stop mindlessly, breathlessly pin-balling myself from moment to moment and losing myself not in my tasks but to my tasks. 

I’m grateful for Rooney – with his long floppy ears, sad droopy eyes, and easy-going presence to remind me of the sacred paws.

Today, as you go about your day - find a moment - close your eyes in the sun - turn up a song on the radio - watch your goldfish swim in his tank - and pause. 






Say yes to adventure

I read a post yesterday from a life-long fitness guru who talked about finally realizing one day that he didn’t have to spend every waking moment trying to “move the needle forward.”

Here’s the thing: I spend a lot of time reading posts from other professionals lamenting that I didn’t discover my calling sooner. But when I read this post, about how obsessed he was with checklists, I was actually relieved. 

Because quite frankly, I couldn’t be more different than the person he was describing in the first few paragraphs.

Not only did I hike most of Rocky Mountain National Park, but I tilted my head awkwardly for ALL of the photos. Also, hi Amy - hope you don’t mind that you’re on the interwebz.

Not only did I hike most of Rocky Mountain National Park, but I tilted my head awkwardly for ALL of the photos. Also, hi Amy - hope you don’t mind that you’re on the interwebz.

I don’t have a checklist. 

I’ve never really had a checklist. 

I’m not going to be retired on a beach in San Diego when I’m 50.

But you know what I have done?

Said yes to lots of little side adventures. 

I’ve joined a sorority because someone asked me too.

I took up the sport of lacrosse in college (and later for a scholarship) because someone invited me and I was bored with softball.

I left that sorority and joined a convent as a novice nun because that’s where my heart took me.

Then I took a low-paying job as a newspaper reporter and combined that with a job as a resident director at a small college because hell, how else do you make low paying jobs work? 

I haven’t made a ton of money in my lifetime, but the one thing I’ve never done is live by a checklist. 

And because I never had a checklist, I never said no to adventure. 

So I’ve been a college teacher, lived in New Mexico and Colorado, taught Sunday Schools and hiked every inch of Rocky Mountain National Park. I can’t say that I was married at 26 or owned a house by 30. 

But I said yes to opportunities when they presented themselves. 

This fitness professional spent a lot of time talking about his ability to accept adventure now, and I think that’s awesome. But the one thing that is easy for me to do these days is judge myself for not making more money, saving more money, or “moving the needle forward” every day of my life. 

It’s so easy to shame myself for what I haven’t done.

But I need to remember what I have done. 

And so do you. 

Everything you have said yes to is a life lesson. Everything you have said no to is a life lesson. There are people out there who live their lives by checklists, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But here’s the thing - there’s nothing wrong with living your life without a checklist. With living your life adventure by adventure.

It’s always easy to say that the grass is greener on the other side. 

Well, at 42 years old, I can say that no matter how green your grass is, I’ve had an adventure trying to make mine grow. 

And you know what? 

I can live with that.



To be brave again

“I want to be brave again.”

These words, when she spoke them aloud, stopped me in my tracks. 

To her mind, this client was speaking about her own goal, about looking for the courage to return to doing the things she loves after suffering an injury. But without realizing it, she was really speaking for every single one of us. 

To be brave again.

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I know the feeling of hesitation after suffering an injury. A few years ago I tore up my shoulder doing a particular exercise. And I have yet to return to that exercise, because even the thought of it causes me some anxiety. Any of us who have dealt with injury knows the feeling.  

But I also think of how much bravery and courage our day to day life asks of us. Sure there’s the big stuff - being brave enough to speak and stand up for our beliefs - brave enough to leave a miserable job when you don’t know what will come next. Brave enough to end a relationship that is unhealthy for you. 

But there’s the other stuff too. It requires bravery to wear the clothes we want to wear. For years, I dressed the way other people told me I should dress, because I was afraid of the judgement that would follow. It took me a long time to feel comfortable enough in my own skin to wear what I wanted to wear because I liked it.

It took time for me to be brave enough.

It takes bravery to allow ourselves to be photographed when we’re riddled with shame and self-loathing about our appearance. 

It takes bravery to change our hair, to ask someone out to dinner, to publicly admit we love John Denver (there, I said it, ok?), to try a new activity, or put our art and creativity out there. Brene Brown says it best when she she defines “daring greatly” as the courage to be vulnerable, to show up and be seen, to ask for what you need, to talk about how you’re feeling, to have the hard conversations.” 

To be brave. 

I don’t know what it will take for this client to feel brave again, about returning to her activities. I don’t know what it will take for you, sitting there reading this, to feel brave enough to maybe walk through our doors for the first time. Or make whatever change it is you’ve been thinking about making. 

I think it starts with creating a safe space. Safe for sharing, safe for feeling, safe for authenticity, safe for you to be unapologetically, unabashedly you, whoever that is.

And that is the space that we continue to try to create and hold sacred for each other. As best as we can. 

I think, I hope, that the more we can cherish one another with kindness and compassion, that we can help each other be brave.

It's time to break up with that number

It’s time.

You’ve been hanging on for months, years, maybe even decades. You’ve taped the picture on the mirror, made it the homepage on your desktop, and you look at it every single day. So I’m telling you now, it’s time.

It’s time to break up with that number in your head.

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We all have a number in our head for our “ideal” weight. A number that floats above us constantly, that lodges itself in the corner of our minds, wedges itself in all of our goals. We use that number as a marker for our happiness - I’ll be happy when I hit 160 pounds. I’ll feel better when I weigh 175lbs.  

But today is the day to call it off.

Even though I’ve never really struggled with my weight, I still had to break up with my ideal number when I took up strength training. I was in my early thirties when I first hired a coach, and I was quick to list out my main goal for training.

To get back to 125lbs.

Sure I wanted muscle and some strength and to stay healthy, but those goals were secondary to hitting my “happy” weight.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever said I just want to get back to ***lbs. Or, I was happy when I weighed *** lbs.

First of all, we need to stop training for the past. In my case, my “happy” weight was also when I was in the throes of my depression and wasn’t happy at all. I was skinny because I had no appetite, but it’s easy to forget that reality.

Second of all, that old number that’s in your head likely doesn’t account for your new strength. When you begin strength training, you are going to put on muscle. You are going to increase your bone density. And those are all great things that are going to affect your overall weight.

So it’s time to sit down, face to face with that number and have a real chat. “It’s not me, it’s you,” you might say. “You’re not reflective of my happiness. You don’t determine whether or not I feel good about myself. You do not own my self-worth.”

I don’t care what you say. And if you have to anthropomorphize the number to make the break up stick, do it. Whatever you have to do to make it happen, do it.

Break up with that old, ideal number. And move on.

Our stuff tells our stories

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Shortly after I graduated college - my favorite professor - who had painted an orange trapezoid in the breakfast nook of her kitchen just because she could - looked out her window and sipped her coffee.

"Your stuff is your history," she'd said. I didn't know much about her life, except that she'd had some very hard years after earning her Ph.D and was the quirkiest person I'd ever met. I don't know what I was telling her, but probably something about wanting to own nothing more in life than my guitar, Birkenstocks, and a few pairs of pants.

I wasn't interested in owning things, and once wrote of a salary requirement for a job that I just wanted enough money to pay my bills and have some left over to have dinner with a friend. I imagine the chuckles that an HR person probably had, seeing that I had just graduated from college and commenting to herself on my youth.

I had just left the convent where the nuns, for the most part, owned relatively little. Things seemed evil to me - having too much stuff seemed greedy, and like it could distract you from the things in life that were really important.

Even now, despite my well known affinity for shoes, clothes, and technology, I could probably be satisfied with my laptop, guitar and a small collection of clothes.

But I've never forgotten what my professor said that day in her kitchen. Our stuff is our history, and I've appreciated how right she is.

Two weeks ago, we got a new pub table at the gym. Did you notice? Probably not - it's the same style of pub table we had before. But as Josh was getting rid of it, I made him stop for a moment.

"My life changed forever at this pub table," I said. I'd sat with Doug at that pub table for the first time on February 12th 2015. I'd just started a job at Bates College, and knew that's not where I wanted to be. I met Doug through an online network (he had a former intern who worked there - his name is Trent Dubois). So on a snowy February evening, I sat with Doug and talked about my goals, my ambitions, and my dreams.

Exactly the way you have all sat at that pub table. With Doug Spurling, with Trent, with Chris or Mel or maybe me. And you've tried to answer the same questions about yourself - what do you want? What are your goals? What do you need? How can we help?

In so many ways, it's just a thing. A singular thing - a forgotten piece of furniture that, had I not been there to see it, would not have realized was even different.

But how how very, very, very right you were Dr. Marsters, that our stuff is our history.