Monday Motivation

It’s amazing how your body knows exactly what it needs sometimes. I woke up with a hankering for a good yoga class and had an awesome hour of asanas, stretching, meditation, and stillness.

In yoga, we are challenged to set an intention or dedication for the duration of the class. What do I wish to accomplish or what do I intend to do for the 60 minutes? If there are no intentions, we are to be ok with the circumstances.

Imagine what your life and body would look like if you decided to set an intention each day. It would bring new meaning and purpose, and even change your behavior.

Set an intention or dedication for your day, and life, today because a life without purpose is futile. Give it life!

Running Shirtless

One of my goals in life has been to run without a shirt. It’s not because I’m promiscuous or want to show off my body. But rather, it’s always been a symbol of freedom for me- freedom from caring what others think of me and being comfortable with who I am and what I look like.

I ran shirtless for the first time. For some reason, I woke up to run and decided not to put on a shirt. I just didn’t feel the need. There were people out. It was sunny. I couldn’t hide. Eeek!

Let me tell you, running shirtless makes you mindful of your core. It forces you to engage every muscle and it actually makes one run faster.  Try it, even if it’s running in place in your bedroom.

For one day I felt fearless. That attitude carried though the day, and lots of positive things were set into motion. I’m not superstitious, but I do believe a combination of a fearless attitude and just a minor change in my daily routine propelled me to approach my day differently thus leading to different results.

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Monday Motivation: Santa Claus, marathons and other magical things

I thought of you. Yes, you.

Sunday, Oct. 9, was the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

To say I am not a runner would be an understatement, but I know many of you Lean Girls are. Running 26-plus miles does not sound like fun to me. In fact, it sounds unnatural. I cannot think of one thing that would compel me to run a marathon.

Or, I couldn’t, until I heard Chicago attorney Brenda Russell’s marathon story that Monday morning on Chicago Public Radio.

Russell didn’t run the Chicago Marathon. She ran the Santa Claus Marathon in Rovaniemi, Finland, a place I previously was familiar with only from my favorite childhood Christmas movie, “I Believe in Santa Claus.” The poorly-dubbed VHS version I had actually was called “Here Comes Santa Claus” and came, courtesy of my mom, from some Christmas movie bargain bin. It’s about a girl and a boy who travel to Rovaniemi to appeal to Santa Claus to bring back the boy’s parents, who were, like, murdered in Africa or something. Anyway, the point being, Santa Claus lives in Rovaniemi. So does The Blue Fairy.

Russell’s story is every bit as crazy and magical.

The Chicagoan challenged herself to run a marathon on her 50th birthday, she told Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty-Eight. And the only marathon on her birthday was the Santa Claus Marathon, she said. So she traveled to Rovaniemi, alone, to run the marathon. Only… well, she found out she wasn’t really alone.

You’ll have to click here to listen to the whole story.

And then, tell us, what’s the craziest place where you’ve found encouragement?

Inspiration Starts with Me

I’ve been leading a running group with my church. And by leading, I don’t mean teaching running. I’m talking about organizing our meeting location, leading discussions, encouraging people to talk and be engaged…that kind of leading. I’m definitely not the fastest but it’s nice been nice knowing that I can run with runners of all levels now.

When I find myself with the advanced, athletic crowd, I often whine and get down in the dumps about where I am NOT. “I can’t do push ups.” “I’m not as skinny as that girl.” “I hate to exercise.” And the list of negative declarations goes on. If this is you, raise your hand (hand raised). The reality is that is not the point of running with the faster kids. You should always run and/or hang out with people who push you to be better. You never want to be the one in the front because it means you have nothing to strive towards.

Last night I ran with the beginner group. I may not have burned as many calories as I would’ve liked or logged my high intensity cardio for the week but I learned a valuable lesson.

My words are much more positive and encouraging with other people than for myself.

“You can do it.”

“One foot in front of the other.”

“It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you’re going, you’re doing it!”

“You’re doing great.”

I truly did believe that he could run 4.5 miles. I knew it was hard for him, but he had determination all over his face. He was going to finish, no matter what. So why did I believe that he could do something that was obviously a challenge for him, but when it comes to myself and my challenges, I have no faith in myself? Why can’t I be encouraging with myself? Why no faith in myself?

Sometimes when we look for encouragement we look in the wrong places. We expect people to give us a hand, to tell us we’re doing great, and to push us. Me. Me. Me. It’s nice when they do it, but it’s not their job.

When you take on the responsibility of motivating others, you’re challenged to lead by example. It makes you want to be better. It doesn’t cripple you and make you feel unworthy, but rather empowers you. When you are looking for inspiration and encouragement for yourself, be that for someone else! When you are looking for generosity from others, be generous first. When you are looking for kindness, be kind first. Whatever you seek in life, be that for someone else.

It’ll come back to you.

The Calm Before and After the Storm

By now you’re probably tired of the post-Irene coverage in the news: the death toll, the photos of fallen trees and floods, how much the damage is costing various cities but I’ll leave you with one thought.

New Yorkers are infamous for being rude. For the record, we are not rude. We are highly misunderstood, busy, stressed, and tired. New Yorkers are respectful of each other’s time and space, so when something or someone infringes on either of the two we get a bit edgy. If you follow me on twitter (@gracekelle), you might have seen me tweet about this in the last week but I can’t stress it enough. Irene has brought peace to NYC. The hours leading up to the storm, New Yorkers making eye contact with one another, telling each other to “be safe”, walking gently and being polite. While the grocery stores were a bit frantic, people in general were ki

The difference? People were living with intention. With purpose. It was almost as if Irene was bringing the end of the earth.

I’m happy to report that the damage was not severe. We were in some respect spared and I feared that the city would go back to thinking that we were impervious to natural disaster and invincible. I am wrong. The city in the last few days has been still. Silent. People are going to work with a different attitude almost. Maybe it’s because the rain has washed away the dirt and grime- it’s a fresh start. Or maybe it’s because folks are out of town. Perhaps the potential catastrophe of Irene reminded New Yorkers of one September day ten years ago. People are living their lives with kindness, purpose and intention again.

I know this feeling won’t last long. But it reminds me that this is the way we are supposed to live every day. For me, weight loss has less to do with vanity than it does about living my life the way it was intended. For you, it may be your current job, a boyfriend, your city, your (lack of) money, or anything else. The point is that most of us are strolling along in life with excess fat or baggage and it is keep us from living life the way it was meant to be lived. LeanGirlsClub is about shedding whatever is keeping you heavy, whether it be weight or not.

Each day brings an Irene, a cleansing and a new beginning. Every day you wake up is another chance to live life with purpose, to make decisions with intention, and to be kind. If you can remind yourself of this every day somehow, you can weather any storm.

Hope you all have a safe and wonderful holiday weekend.



Leadership: Skinny Is Not A Requirement

For years I’ve lead “growth” groups for my church, The Journey. Growth groups are small groups in which people meet during the week to build friendships and study the Bible. I’ve met some of the coolest people through these groups and still keep in touch with many of them. While I originally joined these groups to learn something and grow deeper in my faith, I was asked to be a leader nine years ago. I don’t know why. I was always the youngest person anywhere I went (and somehow nine years later, still am) and felt that I was the most inexperience in…everything. This summer I’ve been leading a running growth group. This isn’t my first running growth group. Two years ago I led a running growth group but it was for leisure. No one was a marathoner. We all stuck together. This time, I’m leading a group of runners who are definitely faster, stronger, and leaner.

Recently I was also asked to volunteer with the Urban Girl Squad (UGS) running groups. If you are unfamiliar with Urban Girl Squad, it is a networking group for women in their 20s and 30s that offers fun activities for women in NYC (fitness classes, cocktail nights, volunteering, etc) and you should definitely check it out!! UGS and Athleta, the premiere active apparel line, have partnered up and are offering free coached runs and then afterward the women are heading over to the Athleta store for refreshments. I’m NOT a running coach for these events. But it’s also intimidating to be a volunteer because of the pressure of setting a good example and wanting to encourage these women.

There is nothing I can teach either of these two groups of runners. I’m not the fastest, strongest, or skinniest. Who would want to follow my lead or my example?

Leadership and being a leader doesn’t mean you’re the best or the most skilled. One of my biggest insecurities in participating in any sort of fitness group or fulfilling any sort of leadership position is not being skinny enough. I know it’s wrong, but I judge fitness instructors who don’t have ROCK HARD bodies. Leadership is less about ability and more about attitude. It’s a willingness to encourage people, challenge them and help them. If ability has anything to do with it, it’s the ability to move people, to stir emotions deep within them that s/he would want to improve themselves and improve the world.

I may not be a great teacher, but I want to be a great leader. I want people to see how happy it makes me to run. I want people to run and exercise because it makes them feel great, not because they have to do it. Being skinny has nothing to do with it. It’s not the fat that’s weighing you down and holding you back, it’s your attitude.


What steps do you need to take to be a leader in your field?

Get Involved With Faith And Fitness!

In the two months (exactly!) since my wedding day, I probably can count the number of times I’ve been to the gym on my fingers. That’s not to say I haven’t been active: My husband and I honeymooned in Seattle, … Continue reading