movement Neurobiology and Behavior

Getting Stronger in 2018

Last year was a big year for me all around. Deciding to go back to school brought a slew of things to do and think about which, in itself, would take several blog posts to unpack. A second major area of growth was in my physical training – I got a whole lot fitter.


Tired of making the same fitness goals year after year? This post is for you. Read more at


If you follow along on Instagram then you’ve seen various snippets of PRs and workouts. You’ve probably also observed that I went “all in” on the Crossfit framework. In the past I’ve done bodybuilding, general strength training, hiit, and powerlifting – all of which play a role in crossfit programming – but I’ve seen an increase in intensity and volume plus the addition of monostructural (running, rowing, jump rope, etc), gymnastics (kipping pull ups, handstand push ups, etc), and olympic weightlifting movements. In the past I have dabbled but no real time spent acquiring skill.


With all that new stuff 2017 was filled with trying a lot of new things and getting stronger in order to be more successful (and stable) in those skills. I also had to adapt quickly to the intensity part. I humbly scaled weights and exercises for workouts, confronting my “I’m fit!” mentality for one that respects my current limitations and seeks effective ways to expand my capabilities. And I also pushed hard against my long-time avoidance of sustained elevated heart rate.


Despite stepping out of my personal training business over a year ago I continue to field questions and send out recommendations for programs and tutorials whenever I’m asked. Because of that, and in an effort to externalize what I’ve been thinking about in terms of strength goals and skill development, I’m going to spend some time over a series of blog posts talking about how to systematically gain strength in 2018.


Why getting stronger is more than finishing a program

While it’s tempting to view getting stronger as simply following a designated program – indeed, that’s how it’s often done – I think it’s important to note that you can complete a program without acquiring the skill of strength training. Just as you can take an algebra class, pass, and remain to recognize when and how to use it in everyday life.


What’s the outcome of finishing a program without understanding the concepts?

  • Making the same goals for your health year after year.
  • Continuing to go to the gym and feel insecure in your ability to effectively use the equipment / space.
  • Not being able to tell if you made any progress despite getting through the workouts.
  • Meeting your goal followed by a drop in consistency and re-gaining weight / losing muscle mass or strength.


Big idea: If you’ve tried various diets and workout plans but you still ended the year feeling like all your work hasn’t added up to significant change then you need to take a different approach altogether. One that emphasizes understanding *your* body and the relevant concepts to physical transformation.


One of my personal goals with coaching was always to produce clients who could make progress independently. There are plenty of reasons to use a coach or program, but you cannot outsource understanding your own body and its capabilities. This takes time and can happen faster through the help of a high quality coach focused on equipping you [rather than focused on making money off of your shame triggers] however you must fully engage in the process.


In order to have power and autonomy in your body you must have a framework for developing your physical capacity and transforming your body as you desire. To have a framework would mean you have to have a system of concepts and methods for getting the outcome you desire for your body. It would also mean that you can effectively problem solve when you come up against something like increased bloating when you change food intake or failing to see physical changes during a program.


A quick look at what a framework in strength training might include (not in any particular order nor all-inclusive):

  • Anatomy and physiology
    • Muscle, nervous, and skeletal system – knowing both their individual components as well as how they coordinate to produce force that can move a load
    • What muscle groups are being targeted in each movement? Where do they attach? How are they activated? What joints and movements do they drive (i.e. extension versus flexion)
    • What does proper movement look and feel like?
    • What are the important ingredients / players in each system? Where do they come from? How are they activated?
    • Key terms like hypertrophy, aerobic versus anaerobic,
  • Physics of movement / force output
    • What does it mean for the body to get stronger? How are each of the above systems changed? How does a change in 1 affect the other?
    • What determines the level of difficulty in a movement?
    • How does each system respond to stress/overload?
    • Why do we squat, press, pull, hinge? What are each of those anyway? What movements should be included in a movement?
    • How does weakness in one area (like the core) affect force output and susceptibility to injury?
    • Pain: Sign of injury or sign of progress? Back off or push through?
  • Other-system factors – how they affect outcomes
    • Nutrition
    • Stress
    • Sleep
    • Support / Community
    • Mindset
    • Cross-training (conditioning, accessory, mobility, gymnastics, brute strength, etc)
    • Menstruation, etc
  • Metrics
    • How do you know you’re on the right track?
    • How do you know when to add weight?
    • What kinds of changes should you expect and in what time interval?
    • What landmarks make sense for each stage of experience?
    • What do other markers, like sleep quality and heart rate variability, should be tracked throughout the day?


A framework gets developed over time with experience

If that list seems overwhelming, take a deep breath. Reality is that I can’t definitively tell you all you need to know about each of those items. And no doubt there are many more I could include. This gets at a major element of gaining skill: recognition that it’s a never-ending process. There are always more layers to uncover. There are countless movement variations and science cannot yet explain how all the various systems interact. So rather than feeling overwhelmed, see it as an opportunity – an area of your life that can provide endless exploration throughout your life.


As I progress through this series it will be a personal challenge to put out two or three stages of strength training skill and the concepts a person should understand at each stage (e.g. beginner, competent, proficient). I think that is about the most useful “download” I could give you. Over time I will develop similar downloads for nutrition and mindset as well.


What’s coming next

I intend to publish on the subject a couple of times per month until I’ve covered all I’d like to cover.

To end this first installment, I invite any questions you have about the above framework. Is there are particular area you’ve found to be difficult to understand? Any areas or concepts I didn’t mention that you’d like to hear about?


Finally, I’ll be making a resources page that I’ll keep updated with my recommendations on coaches, programs, and products I’ve found to be trustworthy.


Next time I’ll get into the essential skills of learning skills progressively.


To burpee or not to burpee – what you need to know

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in a burpee challenge with fellow MN-dweller, Leah Fontaine. The goal was 150 burpees throughout the day, ideally at least 15 every hour from 9am onward.

I decided to jump in for a couple of reasons – 1. I do most of my fitness stuff on my own. Knowing this would be a community effort felt good. And 2. I have a body and movement awareness that I can trust so doing a challenge at home without someone watching me isn’t dangerous — I modified when I sensed higher fatigue, stayed mindful of how my body felt, and employed recovery techniques to sore muscles.

Maybe that second reason sounds dramatic. Burpees, after all, are all the rage in at-home workouts and huge group classes. Why would a person need supervision? That’s why I decided to write this post.

Burpees are no doubt popular for getting your heart rate up but the complexity of this movement makes it easy to do incorrectly. Read more to see what you need to know to make the burpee work for you. More at


A little disclaimer:

I am not the burpee police. I don’t smirk at your group fitness class just because I’d rather powerlift or do pull ups. I have concerns about efficacy and safety based on my understanding of the body + what’s required for body change. Fitness classes are no exception to the “up the ante” rule of entertainment. It can be seen as entertainment as much (if not more) as it’s for fitness – often increasing risk to the user simply to attract new people…or including superfluous movement for similar reasons. In instances where someone is asking my opinion, I offer what I can in that context. This is largely why I have refrained from writing on movement in the past. In the end, if you ask me about your chosen fitness activity I’m going to ask “How’s that working for you?” And probably talk about how you can maximize results while minimizing risk. My preference for women is that we focus on quality before quantity of movement – choosing the movement + style that is most effective  for the given goal, not just assuming that if we move more we are guaranteed to get skinnier.

I joined this challenge knowing it meant I was agreeing that 150 burpees in a day is a fun idea. Here’s why: 1. The challenge itself is a small number in a given time frame, spread throughout the day. If it were “see how many you can do in 20 minutes and whoever loses has to walk outside naked” – I woulda been out of there quick and possibly sent a message to the organizer to talk about their proposal. 2. This challenge took out the push up at the bottom of the movement, a major cause of movement fault for beginners and fatigued intermediates. 3. There were no other movements involved – 15 burpees then rest for an hour.


Ok so what makes burpees so intense?

  1. Multiple movements in one
  2. Require Mobility + Stability
  3. Speed.

The unstable transitions the body passes through fast before achieving a new stable position make this a category 3 movement (most complex) according to Kelly Starrett. I actually didn’t include burpees in my later programs when I was a personal trainer because of these characteristics. Doing a single movement (with proper mechanics) fast takes skill let alone 3 movements done rapidly.


But since you’re doing them anyway, why not talk about it a bit and point you to good resources for scaling according to your skill level.


  1. Multiple movements in one

Not everyone includes the push up in the burpee but from start to finish here are the movements included:

  • Squat
  • Plank
  • Push up
  • Squat
  • Vertical jump


When I was teaching women in my home I taught them 1-2 movements at a time. Yup, that’s right. We would spend about 60 minutes drilling a couple of new ones and reviewing past movements. Movements like squats, push ups, overhead presses, and deadlifts require deep practice because our everyday life tends to result in decreased mobility and poor movement patterns, inhibiting our ability to achieve and maintain a stable position under load.

When you combine multiple movements into a single, fluid movement it’s important to start and finish each piece in a highly stable position. This sets up the next element until a single rep is complete.

If you do not know how to set up each movement, you perpetuate poor mechanics throughout. One effect of this is a loss of force output. You might not be thinking about that when doing burpees in your group fitness class. But a second effect is the cost of a compromised spinal position rep after rep after rep. Flexion and extension of the lumbar spine is a painful habit. [Trust me]

  1. Hip Mobility and Core Strength

The lumbar spine is made for stability. The muscles surrounding it are designed for isometric tension rather than the flexion or extension that we experience in the glute muscles or the thoracic spine. If we lack sufficient mobility in our hips or our T spine, the low back can round and the erectors are bearing load in an unstable position.

The burpee requires a person to get into a deep hip flexion position…fast. If the hamstring or glute muscles are unable to stretch sufficiently, the low back will flex in the squat. If you are unable to achieve a stable plank position due to a weak / poorly trained core, your hips will sag and your low back will extend in the push up position and hop back.

Knowledge of self is key here. When you hear a fitness instructor yell out “alright let’s see those burpees!” and you don’t realize you have poor hip mobility (or that it’s required for a successful burpee), you will blindly follow. However, if you know that your hips have limited flexion you can safely modify on the fly according to your skill + mobility level.

  1. Speed

When we are trying to force adaptation on the body we add stress. Increasing load or number of reps are two ways to increase stress. Speed is another.

When I was coaching clients we began with doing movements at a very slow rate. If a movement pattern is new to you (or you’ve never received coaching in it) it’s helpful to start with slow flexion and extension in order for build up the mind-muscle connection and look for points of fault in your mechanics. For example, when you perform the downward motion of a squat over the course of 5 seconds, you feel the pull of the hamstrings and glutes as you draw your hips into external rotation. On the upward path you can focus in on evenly distributing your weight on your foot and resisting the urge to let your hips internally rotate. This helps you form that mental image of what a successful squat feels like. This is deep practice [And in my opinion, this is mandatory].

In the burpee, you have multiple movements combined in a single “rep” typically strung together for a heart-pumping cardio-type workout.

Because of the speed requirement, it is likely that your form will break down over time unless you have a well-trained system (in which case the speed component is less of a stress and you’ll end up adding reps to tax the system).


I mentioned above that in this burpee challenge we weren’t doing any other movements, but that isn’t common practice. Usually the burpee is used throughout the course of a 30-45 (even 60) minute workout with minimal rest between circuits. This adds up to a lot of time under tension and therefore, a lot of stress on the body. Without a strong foundation, your burpee form is likely to break down pretty quickly leaving you looking (and feeling) like a floppy noodle. Then add in additional squats, push ups, lunges, etc and you find yourself less and less capable of establishing a stable core from which to move, putting your joints in jeopardy both during the workout and when you apply that movement to real life.


A workout has multiple purposes, one of which you likely don’t think about much: practice how to move. Because life isn’t about performing squats in a gym or your living room, right? It’s being able to hike the Grand Canyon simply because you’re there and you’re conditioned enough to do it safely (like we did last year). Burpees are a great functional fitness movement – which is all the more reason to practice them with knowledge of their complexity and attention to your movement patterns.



Burpees are a more advanced movement than you might be led to believe based on their prevalence in large group fitness classes. The fitness requirement on the individual can easily exceed skill. So what’s a girl to do? Skip her fave class or start looking down on those burpee-doers? Of course not. Use your intuition, friend. Now that you have more information, you can better listen to your body and consider your skill level. There’s ZERO shame in opting out of the burpees, slowing them down, or modifying. They are great for conditioning and a fun challenge. But the ROI needs to be considered in the moment. Avoid any extreme “burpee or die” mindsets and you’ll slowly accumulate the skills you need to experience the full benefits of the burpee. Like when you’re wrestling with your husband and need to quickly get back on your feet before he gets you in an ankle lock.


Looking for a good alternative to the full burpee? Jen Sinkler has a great video for you.

If you’re curious about where I get my movement mechanics information, my go-to resources come from Kelly Starrett, Mark Rippetoe, and Bret Contreras. When asked for good workout information I also always direct women to Girls Gone Strong, Jen Sinkler, and Neghar Fonooni. All of which have youtube channels with good instruction videos.

movement Nutrition and Meal Prep Raising Capable Kids Self Care

20 Ideas for Winter Self Care (fight the blues + prepare for spring)

Winter in Minnesota can be brutal. We are currently enjoying a short break from the bitter cold but it almost makes it harder – because we know very well that winter can last until June so it’s going to get cold again soon.

That being said, winter is also an opportunity. And I kind of love that it’s in the midst of winter when the New Year comes with all the looking at our progress and the freshness of resolutions. Winter is the perfect time to let go of all the stuff that was draining us dry. Summer and fall often bring lots of commitments and late nights but winter draws us inside where we slow down, cultivate our meaningful relationships, and get more sleep.

Ahhh, I love the rhythm of the seasons.

20 practical ideas for self care during the winter months - action steps for your mental health, relationships, fitness, nutrition, personal development, and home life. Read more:


We need to tailor our self-care to honor the pulling in of winter. I’ve said it many times but it’s always worth reviewing – self-care is about taking the actions that will help you do good work. No matter what occupies the bulk of your time – be it raising children, teaching students, health care, business-building, public service, etc – you need your “down time” to be about replenishing your energy stores and pointing you to your values + intentions. The categories I consider when I brainstorm ways to practice self-care include: general health (including mental health), nutrition, movement, self-development, relationships, and cultivating a life-giving environment.


20 Ideas for winter self-care

General Health (including mental health)

  • Start a bedtime ritualArianna Huffington talks bedtime practices in this Business Insider article and her most recent book, The Sleep Revolution.
  • Start a simple morning ritual – include light movement (yoga, stretching, bodyweight circuit), meditation (use Headspace to get started!) and drinking water.
  • Keep a houseplant (or 10) – select from this list for plants that can help purify your air.
  • Find a conservatory or zoo with indoor exhibits – the rainforest room and Koi pond at Como Zoo and Conservatory are frequent haunts for us as we start itching for spring! Seriously, it’s my therapy.
  • Say “no” to more commitments – practice filtering social engagements and opportunities through your values and goals before committing. Is it a relationship you are purposefully cultivating? Is it a cause that’s important to you? Is FOMO or guilt behind your “yes”? I recommend The Best Yes by Lisa TerKeurst to read more about this idea. Ultimately if you pack all of your down time with obligations (that don’t reenergize you) you are choosing the road to burn out.


  • Shake up your breakfast with nutrient dense + delicious foods I’ve pinned some make-ahead breakfast ideas that will give you a great energy boost as you step into your morning.
  • Increase your greens intake – Like this Kale-Pineapple green smoothie from Lindsey at Nourish Move Love.
  • Take a break from the sweets so you can better tune in to what your body is really craving. Whether you go so far as to do a Whole30 or 21 day sugar detox or not, creating new habits in place of the 2pm sugar-fix can help you with mental clarity, consistent energy levels, and boost your immune system.


  • Try a new workout style or class – keep your interest high by changing things up when the weather outside can make you want to skip everything.
  • Start a Saturday morning movement ritual with a friend! Hold each other accountable to fitness goals with a joint workout then spend a slow morning over coffee + breakfast! Fellow fitness-lover + coach Britany of Define Fettle has an awesome tradition of “burpees then brunch” (she even made a tank about it!). That’s a tradition worth stealing!


  • Say “yes” to more quiet reading – try a new genre or re-read a favorite fiction series instead of watching Netflix.
  • Learn a new skill just because you can – guitar, knitting, painting, your personal style, how to cook Indian food, mastering a new coffee brewing method, etc.
  • Pick an everyday task and turn it into a ritual – washing dishes becomes 10-20 minutes of listing everything you are grateful for, work commute becomes mindful preparation for your day, evening Netflix with roommates or significant other becomes an intentional point of connection before hitting “play.”


  • Initiate a weekly or monthly gathering with friends – trade off hosting – with emphasis on hospitality and deep connection – Shauna Niequist wrote a great book to both inspire + equip you in this area.
  • Start saving money for a summer vacation with friends – give yourself something to look forward to that doubles as incentive to be more thoughtful about your spending.

Life-giving environment

  • Declutter your spaceslet your mantels, corners, and countertops breathe (it doesn’t have to be forever)!
  • Try your chemistry skills: make your own household cleaners, makeup remover, body scrub, etc.
  • Buy fresh cut flowers – one of the beautiful things about our modern culture is a bouquet from California sitting on your kitchen table when it’s snowing outside.
  • Diffuse essential oils into your home – the olfactory nerves make your sense of smell the only sensory input that goes straight to the brain, making it the fastest physical sense to calm or energize!
  • Plan a garden for spring – we’re all thinking about the changing weather anyway so make use of it! Try planting some greens from seed or growing herbs in your kitchen window!
  • Get a head start on spring cleaning – tackle a room per week (or biweekly!) with deep cleaning. No doubt it will give you fresh eyes for your spaces! It may be “work” but it’s also very therapeutic to get rid of dust bunnies. Trust me.


As you can see, I consider a wide-range of activities to be self-care. I mean fresh cut flowers and spring cleaning in the same list?? But after 5 years of shouldering a start up business, becoming a mom, dealing with depression, anxiety, and general low energy – I’ve found that self-care is not the obvious things you think of when you’re on the cusp of burn out. Yes, a massage or weekend away can be helpful but it’s the stuff you do every day to align your life with what really matters that keeps you moving forward despite the responsibilities, stress, and fear. These are what fight against the winter blues, loneliness, and cravings most effectively.

The main roles we play in our lives require us to show up. Solving problems, nurturing people, making wise decisions – they can’t be done well when your time spent alone / away from work is a hodge podge of poor habits and trying to escape stress. Any one of the ideas up there can act as a catalyst for becoming a stronger, more capable woman.


I would love to hear about where you begin. Comment below with one thing (on or off the list) you are going to incorporate into your life in 2017 for better self-care.


movement Nutrition and Meal Prep Self Care

How to get started on your own wellness journey

How do you become the person you want to be? How do you take that image of your life that’s buried deep in your mind – possibly feeling like a long lost dream – and start to bring it into reality? A key ingredient to any “transformation” story involves a moment when the person first began to believe they could become the person they wanted to be. Perhaps it was through a health scare, a personal intervention, or the encouragement of trusted voices – each story is unique but contains this turning point where the status quo becomes unacceptable. You love your work. But it’s burning you out. It’s time to find balance + connection to yourself and your mission on your very own wellness journey.

We all love transformation stories. But how do you inspire your own life change? Learn the first step to starting your own wellness journey. Growth happens when we learn to give our own bodies, hearts, and minds what they need. Read more at


How can you encounter that moment for yourself?

Redefine “normal”

I want to tell you something: It starts with you. You looking at you. Your needs, desires, and where you are at in both right this minute. It’s tempting to look somewhere else – at your job, your kids, your relationships, your community – and try to arrange them *just so*. It’s harder to assess our own selves. Our behaviors, how we spend our time, the beliefs we hold that keep us from doing for ourselves what we really need to thrive and be truly effective in our work.


But I also see you setting too-low of expectations for yourself. Namely, for your level of well-being.


Sure, we joke about it all the time in our various spheres — that spread-too-thin feeling that comes just a little bit before the kids are in bed, or in the final weeks before Christmas break. I’ve come across plenty of memes and hilarious tweets giving accurate description to how our energy and passion ebbs and flows throughout the year. With the sad reality being a multitude of people living below their potential while they numb out on social media or Netflix because they can’t figure out how to nudge their lives into a sustainable rhythm of pouring out, taking in, and growth.


Don’t let these trends tell you what is normal.


Only having enough energy to make it to the closing bell or to the kids’ bedtime is surviving. We want more for ourselves.


Build a picture of where you are right now.

It’s difficult to go on a journey without a map. And maps require a starting point.

In our context we’re talking about a journey to better balance + connection in your life. We want to move beyond burn out into the habits and skills that allow you to continually expand your capacity for pouring out by paying special attention to replenishing your stores.

We often hear the word “self-care” thrown out around this time. I should know, I use it myself. But I tend to expand the word beyond taking physical care of your body. A massage or nightly face-mask sounds great but let’s dig deeper. Self-care is anything + everything you need to do to help yourself keep going on your mission. Maybe you can’t rattle off your very own mission statement but we’re talking about that thing you are investing yourself in. Might be your work, might be your kids — whatever it is, seeing your dream come to fruition requires a level of performance you won’t find by accident.


Self-care might look like:

  • The number of hours you sleep in any 24-hour period
  • The amount + style of physical movement you do each day
  • Calming techniques throughout the day that help you release anxiety + refocus your energy
  • The steps you take to keep yourself from getting distracted during the work day
  • The frequency + the way you spend time with loved ones
  • Your personal strategies for coping with disappointment, rejection, or unforeseen obstacles
  • How you prepare for the week / month / year ahead
  • What projects / roles you say yes to
  • The foods you eat throughout the day
  • Your morning + evening routines
  • The way you go about solving problems that pop up day-by-day
  • And more


In each area of your life you are taking stock of what will move you forward – increasing your own fulfillment as well as you efficacy. This information will help you start to see where your current journey is taking you. That clearer picture is what we need in order to draw a map from now —-> where you want to be. That is how you bring life to your wellness journey.


So, what’s the first step to starting a personal wellness journey?

We certainly can’t start to tackle every area of your life at once! You may have even tried that already. Research indicates that the best place to start when looking for change is to assess your starting point. Where are you now – what situations currently lead to a sense of fulfillment and what circumstances tend to leave you feeling lost, stuck, or confused? Then, you can start to zero in on these various circumstances and build the understanding + skills necessary to bring about the desired outcome.

Remember: We call this a journey because it takes a gradual one-step-in-front-of-the-other approach. The learning of new skills that develop into habits is its own beautiful science because it’s not a one-and-done kind of thing.


Your homework:

I’ll close our time together today with questions to get you started building your own self-awareness. The important thing is that you start to get curious about your current self – and that you be honest. You cannot grow if you aren’t willing to take a close look at the input / output of your life.


  1. What events or habits (that you currently have) leave you feeling refreshed + ready for action?
  2. What events or habits leave you feeling calm or content? What does the transition look like between these actions → getting back to work?
  3. What activities have you seen yourself grow in throughout the past few months? Where have you intended to grow but haven’t seen much progress?
  4. What behaviors do you tend to fall back on when you feel stressed? Sleeping more? Netflix? Eating out? Spending more time alone? Easily irritated?
  5. When you simulate the above behaviors and trace them backwards, what kinds of things tend to trigger them? Asking yourself what’s for dinner? Hearing your kids fight? Looking through Instagram? A difficult day at work?
  6. Write down a typical day in your life. You could even do this as the day progresses. How many times do you hit snooze, how often are you picking up your phone to check email/social media, how often are you experiencing those moments of awe + wonder that make our efforts feel worth it (and what situations does it tend to happen in), how do you feel prior to lunch / dinner, what’s your pre-bed routine, etc.
  7. What do you think about right before you fall asleep? What are your thoughts as you first wake up? What about at the end of the work day?
movement Nutrition and Meal Prep Self Care

A call to wellness: how you see yourself matters

What would it look like for you to value your wellness at the same level you value the people you work with? What if we challenged our typical view of always-trying-harder until we simply burn up?

We each contain within us a beautiful system of biological processes that enable us to do things like regenerate cells, find solutions to never-before-answered problems, and connect across space with other human beings. True wellness is the pursuit of living in this fully human experience. The better we get at understanding + supporting our own biology, the more we will be able to step up, engage, and connect with the world around us and our place in it.


You are more than a part to be consumed. Your personal wellness will become easier to pursue when you start to see yourself for who you are - biological processes and all. Here's why you need to stop seeing yourself as an organism. More at


There’s a statement I read in an article that has been turning around in my head for so long that I can’t find the article again. It went something like this:


We keep trying to treat ourselves like we are machines when in fact we are organisms. We, as organisms, move circularly rather than linearly.


We hum along in a rhythmic pattern instead of a droll assembly line. This is why we see so much of ourselves and our lives in the natural world around us – because they too live in rhythm.


As I dig in the dirt planting bulbs in the cool October soil I’m drawn to thoughts of how temperature signals my own biological systems to change up the priority scheme. Did you know that the fall is the best time to plant shrubs? It’s the time of year when they will push their roots deep into the earth and focus their efforts on a sturdy foundation, while in the spring and summer they are more focused on reproduction.


Whether we are hardwired to think in terms of seasons or if it’s more an long-standing + ingrained cultural norm, I’m not sure yet, but the older I get the more frequently the women around me talk about seasons. Harkening our minds back to the wise King who tells us there is a season for everything (or perhaps a rebellious Kevin Bacon is more your style?).


When I’m digging in the dirt or watching my children eagerly wait for the falling leaves, I’m soothed by this reality of seasons. Like the turning tide, it comes because we need it to. Because there are different processes that need to take place for fullness of life. As sleep is necessary on a daily basis for the regeneration + cleansing of our cells so we move through important human moments on a larger time scale.


But when I’m talking to fellow moms or women immersed in their own versions of “busy season” it sounds (+feels) more like a prison than the melodic orchestration of a Creator. Like Calvin, who yells at the sky demanding for snow to fall, we ache for the next season to get here. Like now. Right now. Or we resign ourselves to the lie that this is going to be the rest of our lives.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to manifest out loud to my husband that I’m anxious my son is going to be 2 for the rest of his life. As silly as it sounds (especially to the non-moms out there), some days just get us to the point where we think we might actually have to tear out of our skin if we have to live one more day in this season. One more day of anxiety. One more day of too-loud children. One more day of all our efforts making zero difference. One more day of no time for ourselves.


So we pat ourselves on the back and try to see a silver lining – “It’s a season!” An exhausting season.


How do we get to the point where we can sense the melody? How do we return to ourselves as organisms with bodies flowing + grooving to the beat?


I think it’s circular. When we see ourselves as organisms, we feel like it too. We hear the music.


A machine can go for a time without a repair. Once it’s built it can thrum along doing its job – giving its attention to others. No need to pay attention to self until its parts are consumed. Then replace them and keep truckin’. It doesn’t matter to a machine if it is day or night, or whether it is running a single cycle or a hundred. It runs the same.


But we are not machines. And it is a mistake to believe that we can go seasons without regular maintenance. We can’t just plug ourselves into the wall and go, go, go. We have to circle back to restore our cells and our hearts daily – even more than just during our sleep!


We are more like a tree than a car.

A tree can produce fruit because it receives from the roots and leaves at varying degrees throughout its life cycle. It does not stop taking in carbon dioxide or water while it pushes out flowers. This is actually when it is the neediest.


We are designed to regenerate on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis. You cannot expect to continue on successfully throughout your career operating as a machine. In your neediest seasons – the ones when you’re swamped with projects or your kids are struggling or your team is trying to overcome an unforeseen obstacle – these are the times when you have to double check your soil is good and get that extra bit of water.


But more often we feel the drought and decide it must be that we’re meant to go the long haul on our own. We let our external cues dictate our rhythms instead of the God-given internal cadence.


You are not a part to be consumed and replaced.

Your work environment might lead you to believe you are. Your work load might lead you to believe you have to. But that is not the melody you were made for.


The path to wellness looks different in different seasons. We wouldn’t call a leafless tree in January “dead.” But does your fall + winter lead to pushing up new shoots in May and a bountiful harvest in August? Or does it leave you clawing for oxygen and ready to sleep when your leaves should be breaking free? Can you rejoice during the holiday season or is it spent in recovery + anxiety?


Around here we won’t pretend that everyone’s wellness should look the same. But we will talk about wellness and performance as if you’re an organism that lives in a particular kind of rhythm. And I think you’ll find that when we talk as humans, you’ll start to see + feel the beautiful melody that envelops you inside and out. And you’ll want to dance to the beat.



movement Nutrition and Meal Prep Self Care

15 super-easy self-care ideas for creative entrepreneurs

Self-care can happen easily within the everyday business life. What it takes is remembering you are human – and that you don’t exist inside a business-running bubble. One way to incorporate self-care into your normal day is to step into the natural rhythms of the world around you – like the changing seasons.


So it’s spring now. Pretty great, right? I mean, parts of the midwest got hit with 12 inches (!!!) of snow last week but my tulips have started popping out of the ground and there are robins everywhere. Perhaps where you are winter doesn’t feel like a real season but up here in Minnesota I’m typically feeling the need for a significant change up in our routines once playing outside without 10 extra pounds of gear is possible.


There are certain habits that become “normal” with long + cold winter nights. Delicious + heavy dinners, snuggling up on the couch to watch a few shows before bed, and working long hours – because it’s warm here in this chair and it’s too cold to drive to the gym. Am I right? Well, my gym is upstairs and there are plenty of days where even that feels too cold.


Whatever your winter habits are, changing seasons can be the prompt you need to switch it up and get inspired by a new environment + new routines. So this week I’m going to give you a nice long list of ideas for daily self-care.


We all know we need self-care but what actions with actually help you refuel + refocus? Here are 15 super-easy to implement ideas for the creative entrepreneur. More at

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Before we jump in to the list let’s define a few things. “Self-care” has become a popular term and can therefore have a variety of definitions associated with it. The way I like to define self-care is the actions you take to prepare yourself to keep going. As a business owner, wife to a start up CEO, and a mom to two kiddos, stressed + tired is just a part of the job I signed up for. Personally, I think the adventure we are on is worth it. And research indicates stress is what we make of it. When people talk about self-care they are often looking for that elusive balance. Instead of balance though, let’s look at priorities. If you prioritize a refreshed + focused brain, your work, relationships, family life, and other hobbies will all benefit. Focus on the right things and the rest falls into place. Ultimately, you have to choose how to spend your energy + make time for the right things.
Related: 4 sign posts for building self-awareness into your day
Self-care is what you do to help you operate at your best. It’s recognizing your humanity and setting the tone of the environment so you can be free to BE HUMAN. For me, I safeguard my sleep. In fact, the other night I actually told my work “goodnight” even though I was still getting bombarded with to-do’s. I know that to be my best for my kids, I can’t be running on anything less than 7 hours of sleep. So on the days I wake up early, I take naps to catch up. It’s one of the big things that make our current life choices sustainable.
Last week I wrote about the positive effects of a walk outside on your productivity. Similarly, this list today goes back to principles of how the human brain works and the positive outcomes associated with practicing mindfulness, quality nutrition, movement, and experiencing nature. Remember, self-care doesn’t have to happen on a designated day. It can easily be sprinkled in throughout your work day. And when you do that – when you take time to release your mind and rejuvenate – you will boost your creativity AND make it easier to focus on the task at hand.
Ok, on to the list! (The ** indicate great options for the mompreneurs who are with their kids throughout the day. Getting yourself in the zone for short bursts of work is hard – use to rejuvenate while with your kids and use others to transition from mom-duty to work mode!)

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Spring-specific tips for self-care

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  1. **Keep a picnic blanket / towel in your car for a few minutes of sitting in the sun before / after an away-from-home workday or meeting.
  2. **Schedule a walk around the block – take note of the scenery changes as spring progresses
  3. **Read at the park instead of the couch
  4. Schedule active dates with girlfriends – drink your coffee while you go for a walk instead of sitting
  5. **Get to the farmer’s market — start getting to know some of the vendors – human connection win!
  6. **Buy a seedling of cherry tomatoes for a home grown snack through the summer
  7. **Plant some wildflower seeds
  8. Buy yourself some flowers weekly
  9. Drink your morning coffee outside on your steps listening / watching for the birds
  10. Open your office window and take a few minutes between tasks to focus on the fresh air and the sounds
  11. Use the natural rhythm of our agriculture to enjoy lighter, rejuvenating meals — spring time brings tons of salad greens, small radishes, snap peas, etc
  12. If you have a private area – like a deck or patio – try some yoga outside in the morning or on a work break.
  13. **Take some time during a spring rain to just watch the puddles form or listen to the pounding on the sidewalks
  14. Take a short nap (20-30 minutes) in the warm patch of sunlight streaming in on your couch — use that time to empty your mind, like a meditation. Even if you don’t fall asleep, you will feel refreshed. Be gentle with yourself – it takes practice to not just lie there ruminating on your growing list of tasks.
  15. **If you’re a pen + paper kind of planner, do it outside (bonus if it’s while the kids play by themselves!) — And remember to take some deep breaths + enjoy the world around you. It’ll help you get perspective while looking at the mountain you have planned for the day.




Here are a few more ideas that require a little bit more time but could really help you enjoy the changing season. How often does it seem like a season just passed you by (especially the transitional seasons like spring + fall)? Schedule in ways to enjoy the beautiful weather before the heat + humidity makes every activity require a pool or a beach!

Go to the zoo!

Observing the animals (the primates are our current favorite around here) can be a way to force yourself into the present. Don’t feel like you have to spend a whole day on it even if you pay to get in. An hour or two of walking around or even sitting and watching can be a great extended break. Bring a cup of coffee and just let yourself be.

Go on a nature walk!

The trees change so fast from bare to fully leaved. Make an effort to see the buds + celebrate the changes. There are plenty of analogies between the reawakening of the trees + our own human growth cycle. Take time to observe it and express gratitude for the many ways you also sprout + grow after winter-like life seasons. Plus, spring wildflowers are the best.

Clear the clutter in your house!

There’s a reason spring cleaning is a thing. At the end of winter our homes (and therefore our minds + hearts) can feel heavy. Don’t just put your winter clothes back in the plastic bag for next year – use the switch out to remove the items you never wore, are now worn out, or realized didn’t give you that oomph you were going for. Make a list of the things you might keep an eye out for for next winter. You can do the same things with kid clothes + toys. As they transition to playing outside more, think about what toys they will have outgrown by fall and just get rid of them. Or put away some of the ones that will last to be like new again later.

Important note: this will be an overwhelming task if you try to do it all at once. You’ve got a business to run and other projects should accommodate! So make a list of rooms / closets / items and just add a little thing to your list each week or an even littler thing each day. Make your “donate” pile while you fold laundry, separate toys as you clean up at night. When you’re growing a business, the rest of life should be simple. It’s the only way balance will happen.

movement Self Care

How to boost your productivity this spring

Productivity is a little particular. With all the pretty instagram pictures of work spaces, we seem to have a general idea that our environment matters — that it impacts our mood, focus, and therefore, the quality of our work. But did you know that nature can also have a profound effect on our work quality? Since it is the first week of spring (and Minnesota actually seems to be joining in the spring party despite a forecast for snow), I’ve compiled a list of some of the reasons that you should spend more time outside – even when there is work to do. In fact, especially because there is work to do. If you want to boost your productivity, you gotta be willing to step away from the desk.
You might think that in order to be more productive you must spend more hours at your desk but in reality there's a better way. Read on for a natural, everyday method for boosting your productivity. More at:
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Ready? Here we go. We’re going to run a simulation. Let’s pretend you’re going for a walk outside. Here are 4 things you can expect to experience:


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Presence of mind

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This may take a conscious effort at first but when you release your mind from planning or worrying about the future, you open up your mind to the stimuli your 5 senses are experiencing. Whether it’s listening to the birds, smelling the fresh blooms, or looking at the trees bud new leaves, your attention on the concrete world around you has an impact on your nervous system. Your body relaxes. A practice in mindfulness is said to reduce anxiety and depression as well as increase your ability to focus and fire up your creativity.
5 benefits of self-awareness 
4 sign posts for building self awareness into your day 
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You might not think of walking as exercise but it certainly is – especially when compared to sitting at your desk. Research indicates a two-fold effect of exercise on the brain. First, in the regulation of growth factors. Down the cascade this impacts your brain’s ability to strengthen + form new neural connections in the brain. (Research has been done on the effects of exercise in seniors on the development of dementia + Alzheimer’s). For the creative entrepreneur, your brain on exercise will be able to make faster connections between your experiences and lead to greater creativity + innovation. The second effect on the brain is in the reduced risk of diseases that cause degeneration in the brain in the long-term. In addition, when you combine exercise with being outside, research indicates a positive effect on depression.

When self-awareness brings hard emotions
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Deep breathing

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Do you breathe while you check email? In recent years a term was coined by Linda Stone, “email apnea.” After observing it in herself and many others, she set out to bring awareness to the effects of shallow breathing, hyperventilating, and holding our breath while we work. Ultimately, it increases the stress we experience. The way we are breathing can trigger our sympathetic nervous system, which controls our fight-or-flight response. Taking a walk outside where you are breathing in the fresh air is an opportunity to relax your nervous system and remind your body that you are not in danger.

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Connection with the vibrant world around you

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There are effects of being outside that science can’t completely account for. It lowers our stress levels and we aren’t really aware of why, exactly. One possibility is that beyond what I’ve listed above, the scent of flowers such as lilacs and roses as well as fresh pine can all have an relaxing effect on our nervous systems. So you should literally stop and smell the roses, ok?


Entrepreneurship can take a toll on the body. Sleep deprivation, chronic stress, more likely to eat poorly and not drink enough water are just a few things that tend to be common practice amongst business owners. A daily walk is something that can have a serious impact on saving your body + your brain for the rest of your life. As little as a walk around the block with attention paid to your breath + the world around you can increase your focus, decrease depression + anxiety, boost your brain for stronger + faster connections, decrease your stress levels, and boost your creativity.


It’s a habit that, though small, can increase your enjoyment of these hustling days and remind you of why you do what you do as you take in the real, live world around you. Your creativity is vital, no matter what kind of business you run. But the compounding stress of handling a business can dramatically reduce new ideas. This is why it is so important for you to think about yourself as you plan out your day-to-day life. So go take a walk.
Presence of mind:
Google talk by Dr. Ron Siegel
The Effect of Mindfulness-based therapy on anxiety and depression…
Exercise builds brain health…
Vitamin D and Depression…
Deep breathing:
Just Breathe: Building a case for Email Apnea
Connecting to the vibrant world
Here’s proof going outside makes you healthier