4 Ways I Balance Family, Fitness, and Fun!

 

Hiking in Yosemite with my daughters.

I would be lying if I told you it is easy to be the primary caretaker for my two girls, 4 and 1 years old, while working full time teaching 15 fitness and yoga classes a week, and serving as the Lead 200RYT Teacher Trainer and Director of Operations and TRX at Marin Power Yoga.    The struggle is real, but I am truly doing everything that I love!

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Here are some tips on how I try to balance it all:

1) Make Exercise A Priority

I have a hard time getting through a day without moving around, or stretching at the very least.  I feel restless, easily irritable, and end up having little to no energy.  I just feel bad.  When I do get to exercise, I feel like I am a battery that is fully charged and ready to go!  I have that much more energy (and patience) to give to my family.

Create a predictable and reasonable routine that you can follow every week.  Decide how many days per week and when is the best time of the day for you to exercise.  Perhaps it is at midnight like me after the kids have gone to sleep and finally all my work is done!  Set your routine, and make exercise a priority for your health, so that you can take care of your family.

2) Set Aside Quality Family Time Everyday

When I get home after a long day, I dread the endless list of chores I have to do – dishes, dinner, laundry, cleaning, lunches for the next day… I could easily spend the entire evening multi-tasking between these chores and spending time with my family.  Actually, up until recently, dinnertime looked like my kids eating at the table while I ran back and forth between the kitchen doing chores versus sitting down to have a meaningful meal together.

Now I am making a conscious effort to give my complete attention to my family especially during dinnertime as a priceless opportunity for conversation, as well as during bath time as a place for silliness and play, and during bedtime routines where we read stories together.  Set aside quality family time everyday with no multi-tasking, no interruptions, and no distractions (that includes the phone!).  It can be as short as 5 minutes one day, it can be an hour another day.  When you give your full attention to your family, they will notice and appreciate it.

3) Be Fit Together

When I started teaching at Marin Power Yoga, one of the open time slots was Saturday at 9:30am.  Right away I said no because I did not have childcare on the weekends.  Jamie, the owner of MPY, offered to open a concurrent kids yoga class so that my daughter would not only have childcare, but would also learn yoga too.  How could I say no to that?

We are role models for our kids, and when they see us leading active lifestyles, they will naturally too.  Everyday, my daughters take our dog out for walks with me even though we live on a big, steep hill.  I am often doing Yoga or TRX at home for my Instagram posts (@gracelingyu), and you see my kids playing around me or my older daughter trying some poses too.  What else is fun?  A DANCE PARTY of course!  Fitness and family time are not exclusive of one another.  We can be fit together.

4) Get Outside and Play

My most favorite way to balance family and fitness is to plan day trips or vacations together.  I literally go through my calendar and plan out these special family excursions or else it will simply not happen.

We just went to Yosemite with my sister’s family and my parents, and all of us from ages 1 to 70, went hiking for 3 days in a row.  We saw waterfalls, lakes, meadows, tunnels, and animals, and my daughter gained confidence climbing on logs, crossing bridges, and jumping off logs.  She learned to get back up after falling down, and most importantly, it was the best quality time with the ones I love, doing something active and healthy for all of us.  There are so many beautiful places right next door to you.  With the weather getting warmer, we have no excuse not to be outside in nature.

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I thank my parents for always being my role model when I was young.  I distinctly remember our evening bike rides after dinner, annual family trips to go skiing, and their support enrolling me in all my favorite fitness activities.  Even now, they wear pedometers and walk 10,000 steps daily.  I hope one day to be a role model to my daughters, and see them living healthy, active, fit lifestyles with their future families.

“Family, nature, and health all go together.”

~ Olivia Newton-John

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Best TRX Core Exercises Choreographed to Me and My Girls by Selena Gomez

trx core exercises plank to pike

TRX was absolutely foreign to me in the beginning of this year.  I had no idea what it was, not to mention what you do with it.  Well, well, well.  My studio, Marin Power Yoga, made the BEST decision about 9 months ago to invest in TRX and add this amazing workout into our class schedule.  It is a perfect complement to yoga because all the TRX exercises work on strengthening your core for poses like side planks or planks, plus strengthening your upper body and arms for chaturangas, inversions and arm balances, and of course your lower body and feet get stronger for warriors and balances.  Total body workout!!!  I completely credit my press handstand improvements to my dedicated TRX practice!

If you want to know more about TRX, here’s an old post I wrote when we first tried out Suspension Based Training using some test-run straps.

Of course with my dance and choreography background, I had to create a TRX routine set to music.  Of course.  This routine is NO JOKE.  My arms and abs were burning and I really could not go any lower on those push ups… I had this grand idea of getting all my “girls” at the studio to learn the routine and do it with me.  It worked out ok for the first half, but as you’ll see in the videos below… it is NOT EASY.  We were dropping like flies.  Haha!!!  But nothing wrong with that – it’s all about the progress, the determination, the effort!

Ready to learn it?   If you do memorize it and attempt the routine, please tag me @gracelingyu on Instagram or give credit to my website in your description.  Thank you!  Here are my choreography notes using the You Tube video times:

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Me and My Girls by Selena Gomez – TRX Core Routine

32cts, 4×8, 0:00-0:14: Intro – Feet into the straps.  GET PUMPED UP!!!

RIGHT SIDE LEADS

16cts, 2×8, 0:14-0:22: Down Down Up Up lowering to forearms and back up to hands, 4x.  On the last one, keep the L forearm down, and R hand down (funky plank).

16cts, 2×8, 0:22-0:29: Funky Knee Tucks Both knees tuck to the R elbow, 4x.

8cts, 1×8, 0:29-0:33: Set up Forearm Side Plank by moving R foot behind L foot and lift up R hand behind head.

16cts, 2×8, 0:33-0:42: Forearm Side Plank Oblique Crunch R elbow crunches down to meet bent L knee, 4x.

8cts, 1×8, 0:42-0:46: Transition to Knees to Floor, 5x Quick Claps and hit the floor for the Chorus.

32cts, 4×8, 0:46-1:01: 8x Mountain Climbers, 4x Alternating Pendulum Tucks, 2 sets

32cts, 4×8, 1:01-1:17: 4x Atomic Push Ups, 3x Atomic Pike, Hold Plank to Reset

REPEAT ALL ON LEFT SIDE 1:17-2:20

32cts, 4×8, 2:20-2:36: 4x Frog Tucks In and Out, 4x Frog Tucks Out and In

32cts, 4×8, 2:36-2:51: Locust Pose 4 Pulses Each: Arms Back, Arms Side, Arms Front, Push back to Plank

32cts, 4×8, 2:51-3:07: Spiderman Push Ups 8x Alternating

32cts, 4×8, 3:07-3:24: 4x Plank Jumping Jacks, 2x Wide Knee Tucks to Triceps, 2 sets

End in Crow Pose, releasing the straps from your feet!!!

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Below are 2 videos for you to learn the routine.  The first one is my initial attempt at testing out the routine and to see if it was difficult (YES.), and the second one is when I got together with some of my girls, Wendy, Araceli, and Laine!  #thestruggleisreal!!! Alright, leave a comment below if you try it out!!!

Lolasana (Pendant) Yoga Pose Drills Choreographed to The Chordettes “Lollipop”

Lolasana Pendant Yoga Pose

The full Lolasana (Pendant) yoga pose should have knees lifted about armpit height… HA!!!

What is my current least favorite yoga pose?  HANDS DOWN: Lolasana, or Pendant pose.  It’s just one of those poses that “looks” like something I should be able to do, but then when I go to try it, I press down on my hands and oh, it is SO heavy… why do my legs NOT lift off the floor???  FAIL.  I only recently discovered this pose on Instagram 7 weeks ago, and after several attempts, I was able to lift up probably a milimeter off the floor for just about a second.  It was tough!!!  So after that Instagram post, I went back to pretending Lolasana pose did not exist.

Well, if you have been working on Press Handstands like me, then at one point or another, you will need to face Lolasana pose because it is completely related to learning how to control floating up and down in presses.  ARGH.  So here I am now… ready to commit to working on Lolasana everyday.  What better way to practice then to create a silly choreographed routine that works on Lolasana drills???  Lolasana, Lollipop…yeah, sounds similar enough.

Some tips before you get started:

  1. Invest in some good sturdy blocks (NOT the cheap, flimsy, thin, terrible 2.5 inch width foamy ones I’m using – as you’ll soon see why!!!).  I literally just purchased these Clever Yoga Blocks on Amazon after I made the video because they were the highest rated!  I’ll let you know how they are!
  2. If you’re just starting out, place the blocks on the highest height, and then work to the middle height, lowest height, and eventually hands on the floor the whole time!
  3. Don’t forget to stretch out your wrists before and after.
  4. Yes, the toes are supposed to be pointed back and you are on the tops of your feet.  This automatically forces you to focus on putting LESS weight on the feet (ouch ankles!) and MORE weight into your arms and deep CORE!  Oh yeah!
  5. Enjoy!  This routine BURNS.  Do you feel it???

Instagram Challenge: #4WeeksOfCoreTreats

Instagram Challenge: #4WeeksOfCoreTreats

Alright, so I am officially convinced that Yoga Challenges work now.  A yoga challenge is a commitment to a daily, consistent practice on a specific skill or pose.  In June, I did my own Handstand Challenge and improved my handstand time from 1 minute 44 seconds to 2 minutes 50 seconds.  In July, I joined three different Instagram Yoga Challenges (#BacktoBackbends, #BendyByZuvi, and #BackbendNoEnd), and the picture above shows how my Wheel Pose changed within those 31 days!  Yoga challenges work!

I am blessed and thankful to have finally built a perfect teaching schedule that helps me balance my life as a mom of two.  I teach 15 classes each week, and to be honest, if I didn’t have kids I probably would double the classes if I could because I LOVE it.  However, my struggle with teaching so many classes is finding time for myself to be a student.   

I am a strong believer that everyone must always have a beginner’s mind and continue having the desire to learn and grow.  If we have no desire to learn as students, then we should no longer be teachers because that means there is a large piece missing – passion. For a few months now, I have been missing my own yoga practice, maybe taking one class a week, if I was lucky.  Without a strong personal practice, I was lacking inspiration and connection as a teacher to my own students.  That is not okay.

Since joining Instagram over 2 months ago, I have found some truly AMAZING yogis who I now follow and learn from.  These yogis are not only extremely talented and advanced, but also they are creative and inspiring.  I have been learning new poses everyday and I am a better teacher for it.

Therefore, with August as a new month, I am joining another Instagram Yoga Challenge called #4WeeksOfCoreTreats hosted by @cyogalab, in hopes of building up my lost core strength since having a baby 6 months ago, and in hopes of getting back my Press Handstand that I worked so hard on before baby!!!  If anyone wants to join me this month, find me on Instagram @gracelingyu!!!

Handstand Challenge June 2015

Handstands During Power Yoga Class at Marin Power Yoga

June Goal: Work on holding a handstand longer.

For the month of June, I set a personal challenge to try and hold a handstand as long as I could using a wall for support.  I timed myself on Day 1, June 1st, and got 1:44.  I will try doing a handstand everyday (rest days allowed!) and see if my time improves by June 30th.  We’ll see!!!

Here is some inspiration – In just 6 days, look at some of the improvements in time held:

Karisa – 0:16 to 0:24

Erika – 0:57 to 1:11

Jamie – 1:05 to 1:16

Danuta – 0:40 to 1:30

Lizzy – 1:26 to 1:39

Andrea – 2:00 to 2:14

Jill – 1:53 to 2:17

SO proud of these individuals!!!  If any of you want to join us, it’s not too late!!!  Still plenty of days left in June to work on your handstand!  You can do this challenge by yourself and keep track of your time, or if you need a little accountability, join my Handstand Challenge June 2015 Group in Facebook or follow me on Instagram @gracelingyu!

Happy Handstanding!!!

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UPDATE 7/1/15:

Well, got to be honest and say that it was TOUGH getting through the month trying to beat my times!!!  It is such a mental game and by the end of the month, I had all these little “tricks” to help me.  For example, I learned:

* what time of the day was the best for me (usually mid-afternoon a few hours after lunch).

* Also, I made sure to warm up before each handstand and stretch out my wrists because that would make a big difference.

* Finally, I learned I could not look at my stopwatch until the end or else I would get discouraged… imagine reading “30 seconds” and then thinking, “Oh, great, I need to hold it for 2 more minutes?!?!”  So instead, I actually closed my eyes and counted in my head.  At first it was to 100, then 200, then 300, eventually I would speed count to 400 before I “allowed” myself to look at the stopwatch, and then I could mentally try to hold the handstand for the remaining 30 seconds or whatever.

In any case, the Handstand Challenge worked for those of us that truly stuck with it…

I improved from Day 1: 1 minute 44 seconds to Day 30: 2 minutes 50 seconds!!!  The most improvement was by one of my students, Danuta, who improved from Day 1: 40 seconds to Day 30: 3 minutes!!!  Pretty incredible!  Until next time!!!

Instagram Basics for Newbies

Instagram Basics for NewbiesI really don’t feel that old, but when it comes to social media… I am!!!  Somehow, I got on Facebook “relatively” early, in 2008, thanks to my neighbor who was 10 years younger than me and convinced me to join.  Five years later, in 2013, I started this WordPress blog (woohoo, proud of myself that it is still going!!!).  Now, in 2015, I decided it is time to figure out this whole “Instagram” business and decode the mysterious #hashtag.  Seriously, what is the #hashtag?

This post is for those of you who are also Instagram newbies, and will give you just enough information to start using Instagram yourself.  Nothing fancy, nothing too detailed, I am all about fast and simple.  So here are my five steps:

Step 1: Take a Picture/Video

Press the blue camera button at the bottom of the screen when you are ready to add a new picture to your Instagram account.  You can either choose a photo/video from your saved photo library, take a new photo, or take a new video (up to 15 seconds).

Instagram Basics for NewbiesStep 2: Edit Your Picture/Video

In Instagram, media is automatically cropped into a square shape, so adjust your picture/video to fit inside the square screen.  Play around with the filter buttons at the bottom to magically edit your picture like a professional within seconds!

Instagram Basics for NewbiesStep 3: Write a One-Sentence Description

The purpose of Instagram is just to share a photo, and not read a paragraph about someone’s day, such as how Facebook gets used at times.  Describe your photo in one short sentence.  The end.

Instagram Basics for NewbiesStep 4: Add #Hashtags

Hashtags are categories, or I like to think of them as “imaginary blue folders”.  So if I post a yoga photo, I add #yoga to my description.  As I accumulate more and more yoga photos, they will all be sorted, or filed under the #yoga “imaginary blue folder.”  Other people in the world can also add #yoga to their photos, and all of our pictures would be grouped together.  At any time, someone can browse through a #hashtag category to find photos that they “like”, or they can even “follow” a person’s account.  This is how the Instagram community is built.  It’s all about connection.  (And then you find yourself making up all sorts of #hashtag names just because #hashtagsareaddicting #ilovethattheyarearunonsentence #andihaveahardtimewritingwithoutspaces #andibetyouarekindofhavingfundecodingthissuperlonghashtag #ofcourseiamexaggeratingtheuseofhashtags #enough).

Instagram Basics for NewbiesStep 5: Tag Friends

There are two ways to tag a friend to your photo or post.  One way is to use the @ symbol and type their Instagram account name in your post description.  This is usually done when you are mentioning a friend in your one-sentence description.  Another way is to tap the actual photo and identify friends specifically on the picture.  This will not only alert them that you have tagged them, but also will save the photo to their clipboard in their account.

Instagram Basics for NewbiesThat’s it!  Now you can post your photo/video!  Of course I am 100% sure I am missing some fancy tricks and tips to Instagram, but these are the simplest 5 steps to getting started.

My purpose of Instagram is to document my fitness journey as a student, teacher, and parent, and just for fun, my goal is posting one picture a day.  I am on Day 16, with 16 posts so far.  Not bad!!! Staying on track!!!

Follow me on my Instagram account @gracelingyu!!!Instagram Basics for Newbies