This is officially the longest I have gone without posting (over a month *gasp*!). Many of you have even asked if I am going to continue blogging while in school. The answer is YES, absolutely yes! And I am sorry to have left you hanging for so long!
theSTRETCHEDlife is all about balance. Previously, I was balancing long work hours (many of which were on the road) as a consultant with maintaining friendships, family, and my health. My friends often asked how I did it and I loved sharing tips and tricks so I decided to start theSTRTECHEDlife.
Now, I am entering a new chapter of my life and facing a new balancing act challenge. As an MBA candidate, I have slightly more freedom to make my own schedule, but managing priorities gets real. Do I want to sign up for eight clubs that sound interesting to me or become an effective leader in one of them? Do I want to go out with friends Tuesday night or be able to make my Wed 8am spin class? Do I go to the company networking night at the wings place or do I want to come home and eat the healthy dinner I meal prepped with my SO?
The list goes on and on. For the first month at school, (which included a party trip to Croatia with new peers, a week-long orientation, and completing two courses over a two-week pre-term) I have just dived in trying to get to know the people and culture as well as possible. This resulted in consuming more pizza and beer than I had in the entire year-to-date, but making connections early on was important to me and my MBA experience.
The Fall quarter officially started yesterday so I am starting to have a little more control over my schedule. But from what I’ve seen so far there will always be more activities available to me than I can imagine and the FOMO is real. With the first week of classes upon me, it is time to refocus on my goals and think of creative ways to fit in everything I want to while also keeping a healthy mind and body. Maybe that means just meeting friends for one drink (or a soda water!) on Tuesday night so I can make my Wed 8am spin class. Maybe that means having a healthy snack before the company networking event and then having a healthy dinner later at night.
I look forward to sharing new stories and advice with you as a result of my new experience and encourage you to continue to share yours with me and theSTRETCHEDlife community!
When I started thinking about writing about Wanderlust Festival it was somewhat overwhelming. At Wanderlust Festival Stratton, I went to over ten classes in two days and I took copious notes on many of them. The classes ranged from running a 5k with the first female American to run 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days to Dharma Yoga with legendary yogi Sri Dharma Mittra to cooking classes on how to use fiber for detox. And that’s not to mention the many informal, mind-opening, interactions in between with musicians, wellness vendors, and fellow Wanderlusters.
I mentioned to Alexis, the friend I went to Wanderlust Festival with, that I didn’t know how I would remember all the amazing insights from the weekend. She then reminded me of what Seane Corn told us during “The Yoga of Awakening.” The inspirational and internationally celebrated yoga teacher told us during our practice to not worry about remembering every single piece of advice we receive during the weekend. Instead she encouraged us to keep ourselves open, take it all in, and see what stays with us a few days later.
So, lucky for you, I won’t be writing a ten-page blog post on every detail of my amazing weekend at Wanderlust Festival. Instead I’d like to share with you some of the thoughts that have resonated with me one week after Wanderlust Festival. I can’t explain why these are the insights, ideas, and advice that have stuck with me, but here they are!
Laura Kay’s Wanderlust Festival Takeaways
Community is king. My Wanderlust Festival started with an early morning run alongside Becca Pizzi, the first female American to complete the World Marathon Challenge. There were just a handful of us so we really got to know Becca and learn about her incredible experiences. (And don’t
worry, she slowed down the pace for us!) After hearing Becca’s story about running 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days I couldn’t help but think that running must have been the easy part. The logistics of making sure she arrived in each continent before the start of each race (no, she did not have a private charter plane), finding a place to shower after each race, and securing armed guards to run alongside her in unstable countries were overwhelming. Luckily, it sounds like Becca had a fantastic team supporting her along the way and different family members met her in each country. Becca’s community in Boston even stepped up to take care of her daughter whom she had to leave at home for ten days, the longest they had ever been apart.
Stop waiting on someone else to and give yourself a massage. At the end of the first day, Alexis and I went to “Rolling in the Deep (Fascia): Full Body Surrender Self Bodywork.” The class included live music by Ida Jo, instruction by David Vendetti, and self-body work tools. The self-body work tools included magical balls and rollers that provided relief to my muscles from head to toe. Imagine foam rolling, but more intense. While I was definitely in a little pain after the class, my whole body felt lengthened and the idea of doing this every night was quite appealing. And as David (one of the funniest yoga instructors I’ve ever had) said, “You’re not going to find someone that loves you enough to give you a massage every day, so go buy yourself some self-massage tools.”
Stretch every day. This is so simple, and something I should already know given my obsession with stretching is one of the reasons I named my blog what I did. And I do already recognize the importance of stretching, but Wanderlust Festival was a timely reinforcement of just that. I had not been stretching as deeply the past few months and only had gone to a handful of yoga classes this year After just two days and six yoga classes, I came home feeling rejuvenated. My body was of course a little sore, but it was the kind of sore that felt good. Not to mention I was much more flexible!
Don’t mix fruit with starch. While showing us how to make Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding, Christa Orrechio shared a number of insights on how certain foods can affect your body. She spoke about getting enough fiber, the right mix of omegas, etc., but the most surprising thing she shared was that you should never mix fruit with starch. Did you immediately think of your banana on your peanut butter toast or the blueberries in your oatmeal? I sure did! Apparently when you mix starch with fruit the starch cuts off the fruit from digesting and the fruit begins to ferment. This causes most people to think they have gas or IBS, but, in reality, they just need to keep starches and fruits 30 to 60 minutes apart (30 minutes if the fruit is first, 60 minutes if the starch is first). Who knew!
Mindful eating can be a meditation. Nicole Centeno really spoke to me. It was pretty obvious why once she gave a little background on herself – a type-A, career focused woman that struggled with eating during college and then discovered mindfulness. When she started feeling anxious again later in life she tried to go back to the traditional meditation she had learned as a coping mechanism in college, but this time it did not work for her. Instead, she found meditation in cooking and eating. I could already totally relate. Today Nicole makes a conscious effort to eat one meal a day by herself in complete silence. This reminded me of how much I love waking up before everyone else and having my breakfast in silence. But Nicole takes it a step further – she turns her phone to airplane mode and puts in headphones. The idea of trying to fit this into my life is a little daunting but I can totally see the benefits of it and would love to at least try doing it a few times week. Not only would it allow me to meditate, but it would also allow me to really focus on my meal and how it makes me feel.
Yoga can still be tough without chaturangas. On Saturday afternoon we went to a class called “Look, Ma—No Hands” with Sara Clark. Sara knew we’d be doing a lot of chaturangas and down dogs throughout the weekend so she designed an entire practice without any of those. I suspected the class would be a little easier, a bit of a break, but Sara still found a way to lead us through a challenging Vinyasa flow. I still got sweaty and it ended up being one of my favorite practices of the weekend! Note: there were so many amazing practices throughout the weekend that focused on different aspects of yoga – I’ll likely need a separate post to share the highlights of each of them!
Believe in your gut. “Believe in your Gut” was the tagline on the chalkboard outside the “Find Your Food Fork” (or food demo) tent that was constantly serving up Tropicana’s new probiotic drink. This theme was carried throughout many of the cooking demos and Speakeasy talks throughout the weekend. The theme even carried into one of my yoga classes. While we moved through one of the more intense Vinyasas I’d ever experienced, Lauren Imparato shared her story around how she learned to trust her gut after the book publisher she was feeling uneasy about ended up screwing her over. It was ironic that this was the theme for Wanderlust Festival because it has also been a theme of my year. 2017 has been all about following my gut instinct – from starting this blog to choosing to leave my job and pursue my MBA in a new city. This year I have also been more in-tune with what I am putting in my body and how it makes me feel (see my posts on giving up sugar for Lent and taking a break from caffeine). Without going into too much detail, I’ve found that the better the food I put in my mouth moves through my body, the better I feel overall.
Okay, so this still ended up being a pretty long post, but I hope you learned something from it as well! And final disclaimer – I can’t promise that I’m not also going to write separate posts about individual speakers and classes that moved me : )
I just wrapped up an incredible day at Wanderlust 108 in Atlanta. Wanderlust 108 is the world’s only “mindful triathlon.” It includes a 5k run/walk, a 75-minute yoga flow, and a 30-minute guided meditation. And that’s not to mention the marketplace and extra activities going on throughout the day.
Two years ago, my friend (also named Laura) and I went to Wanderlust 108 Atlanta in Piedmont Park. However, it was a cold, rainy day, and we weren’t feeling yoga in the mud, so we left after the 5k.
We were both excited that today turned out to be beautiful and sunny so we could experience the full triathlon. Wanderlust 108 also moved to Historic Fourth Ward Park (right next to Ponce City Market) this year, and we really enjoyed the new location. Parking was easier than at Piedmont Park and the 5k route was a lot of fun.
While I wish I could have captured all the amazing moments from the day for you through my camera, it was impossible. Mindfulness is at the core of Wanderlust 108, and a big part of mindfulness is being present. Pulling out my camera phone in the middle of the spontaneous dance party that broke out mid yoga flow would have taken away from the special feeling that arose throughout the community in that moment. Regardless, I’ve tried to capture some of the highlights below.
After we checked our bags, we headed over the infamous Wanderlust wooden arch for the pre-run stretch led by Amanda Nurse. Before I knew it, I was running out of the park and up a steep hill with hundreds of other health nuts. While starting off on a hill was rough, I was happy to be coming down hill at the end! I also loved that the route took us along the beltline and past some of Atlanta’s best street art.
I have no idea where I placed, and according to my watch I didn’t even run a full 5k. But the great thing is that’s not what it’s about at Wanderlust 108! At Wanderlust 108, no one is competing. It’s about pushing yourself and enjoying the moment.
Once everyone finished the 5k, we all gathered back together in front of the main stage. Chelsea Korus guided us through a yoga flow which was enjoyable for experienced and beginner yogis alike. The practice was filled with laughter and good music.
My favorite part of the day was when the DJ took over the yoga session and we all crowded the stage jumping around to a mash-up of songs including Shout! The DJ didn’t just encourage us to let loose. He also encouraged us to bond with those around us:
“Turn and face the person next to you. This is the true Facebook. Link up with the person next to you. This is the true LinkedIn.”
We retreated to our mats after the dance party to finish off the yoga session. Next up on stage was Noah Levine, a Buddhist teacher who found mindfulness after being incarcerated and dealing with substance abuse for the majority of his childhood.
The sun was blaring hot by the time the meditation started, but I still found some peace of mind through the session. Having practiced mindfulness myself for many years, I enjoyed hearing Noah’s story and was reminded of how important it is to bring attention to the present moment.
Historic Fourth Ward Park was filled with various vendor tents for Wanderlust 108. During our break between the run and yoga, Laura and I checked out the free samples, merchandise for sale, and face painting. Given how many times we went back to try different flavors, our favorite tent might have been the Perfect Bar. The Blueberry Cashew was pretty delicious.
The samples helped tide us over after the 5k, but by the end of the meditation we were pretty excited to pick up our picnic lunches. The picnic lunch included a Wanderbowl, a Siggi’s yogurt, a La Croix, and a chocolate treat. I chose the vegan Wanderbowl – the vegetarian option included cheese and sour cream in addition to the brown rice, black beans, avocado, and mango salsa. It was all quite tasty, and even better, it came with a Wanderlust tote! (Can you tell I love free stuff?)
You could also sign up for afternoon activities such as AIReal yoga, AcroYoga, and Hooping. While these all looked fun, we decided to make our way home after lunch.
All the early afternoon classes were booked and we didn’t feel like waiting around in the hot sun. I used to try to stay at events through the end just because I felt like I should or that I might miss out on something. I realized recently that this can taint the memory of a great event. So today, instead of leaving Wanderlust 108 too hot and exhausted, I left feeling happy and accomplished!
This is Part III of III. To start at Part I, click here.
As I shared in Part I and Part II, I moderated a panel at my office on “Working Moms and Having It All.” Three moms from my office answered questions sent in from our female colleagues. The discussion tackled both challenges and changes at work as well as challenges and changes at home.
Listening to women at my office talk about their experiences with working while having kids was eye opening. I could easily relate to what they had to say because I have the same job they do. However, I think there are takeaways for everyone in their stories. The four key takeaways for me were:
Think about what makes you feel fulfilled when deciding whether you want to keep working or stay at home after kids – both are tough in their own way
Find a firm that will be flexible when you have kids – this will make your life much easier
Spend quality time with your kids when you are with them – quality is greater than quantity
Remember your husband when balancing work and kids – this relationship is important and can easily fall to the wayside if you aren’t deliberate about it
This is Part II of III. To see Part I, click here.
As I shared last week, I moderated a Women’s Panel at my office. The topic was “Working Moms and Having It All.” Three moms from my office answered questions sent in from our female colleagues. The discussion tackled both challenges and changes at work as well as challenges and changes at home.
This week, I will focus on the challenges and changes at home. See last week’s article for challenges and changes at work.
Challenges and Changes at Home
As a working mom, do you still feel like a good mom? How do you deal with “working mom guilt?”
Some days these women feel like a great mom and some days they don’t. When their kid is crying as the leave for a business trip, they feel like a bad mom. But when their kid is so excited to see them when they come home from work, they feel on top of the world. The best piece of advice they had was to not let this guilt get to you.
As a working mom, you will always have two things tugging on you and you just have to do the best you can. For one mom, that means making sure the two hours she spends with her son before he goes to bed each night are of a really high quality. For another, this means reminding herself that she could not be as good a mom to her daughter if she stayed home all day.
How does your relationship with your spouse change? Does your spouse end up being a third priority behind your child and work?
“Yes,” the women all said. Having a kid is tough and it is easy to take it out on your spouse. Each of these women found themselves bickering with their husbands much more after having children, and often over silly things like leaving a plate on the counter.
One of the women makes a conscious effort to go out to dinner with her husband twice a month. They get a babysitter, engage in real conversations with each other, and are reminded why they love being together.
Do you have friends who are stay-at-home moms? If so, does that ever create a strong dynamic between you?
I expected to hear that these working moms felt judged by their stay-at-home-mom friends. However, none of them said they felt that way. Rather, one working mom said she often feels weird about talking about work around these friends. The stay-at-home moms she knows struggle financially with only one income so talking about the luxuries two salaries can afford can be awkward.
At the same time, she occasionally feels jealous of her friends that stay at home and are able to grab coffee with each other in the middle of the day. However, she knows that over time she wouldn’t enjoy this as much as she enjoys coming to work each day.
Another mom actually found her husband getting more flak from his friends than she does herself. When her husband has to go bring their son to a doctor’s appointment, his colleagues ask him why his wife can’t do that and are surprised to learn that his wife has a full-time consulting job.
This is not a “mommy blog.” I am 26 years old, about to head back to business school, and nowhere close to having children. However, there is a high probability that one day I will want to have kids and I will have to figure out how to balance having a family with continuing to pursue the career I have worked so hard for.
This “balancing act” gives me anxiety as I know it does many other young women. Thus, today I am passing along advice from women I admire and appear to be pulling off the act pretty well.
This past week, I moderated a Women’s Panel at my office. The topic was “Working Moms and Having It All.” Three moms from my office answered questions sent in from our female colleagues. The discussion tackled both challenges and changes at work as well as challenges and changes at home.
This week, I will focus on the challenges and changes at work. Stay tuned for the challenges and changes at home.
Challenges and Changes at Work
Why did you choose to start working when you started having kids?
The three women at my office had similar reasons for coming back to work after having kids. They each valued adult interactions and “a chance to use their brains.”
At the same time, they actually found that staying at home and taking care of their newborns during maternity leave was harder than work in many ways. When something goes wrong at work, you have a framework for how to solve the problem. When your baby won’t eat her lunch, you don’t know how to fix it. Evidently, it is much easier to control work products than it is humans.
During maternity leave, these women found that staying at home wasn’t for them but recognize that it can make a lot of sense for some women. Both are challenging, and it just depends on what makes you feel fulfilled.
How did you work schedule change after having kids?
As consultants, our schedules vary quite a bit from week to week and project to project. However, each mom estimated that on average they work less hours than they did than before they have kids. However, the biggest change is the times that they are working. Rather than coming in at 8:30 in the morning and working until 6 or 7 at night, many of them come in around 9am and leave around 4:30pm to pick up their children. They spend from about 5pm to 7pm with their family and then get back online after their children go to bed.
They each noted that they have to be diligent about not checking emails during those two hours they have with their kids each night. Knowing they work and don’t get to spend all day with their kids, they want to make sure that those few hours they do have together are special. This means setting expectations with their teams up front that they won’t be available during those times.
Each of these moms also tried working from home for at least some period of time. One mom has enjoyed working from home one day each week for over a year now. She likes having the commute time back and being able to grab at least another 20 minutes at lunch with her son. Another mom found that working from home was too hard once her daughter became mobile. Her daughter wanted to play with her all day and it just wasn’t productive.
Quick Disclaimer: I am fortunate to work at an extremely flexible firm. The moms at my office have been able to adjust their work schedules to fit their lives. They all pointed out that this is not the case at all companies and have seen their friends struggle with this much more. Even if you aren’t thinking about having kids soon, I recommend trying to find a workplace that values work-life balance and will be flexible when one day you do have children!
How do you continue challenging yourself and moving up in the organization when you can’t necessarily make the work/life sacrifices you may have made in the past?
When I asked this question, the three women laughed. They had just shared a Glamour article on this topic with each other that explained it perfectly.
According to the article, you should think of your career as interval training. When you are in your twenties and don’t have children, you should work as hard as you can to push yourself up through the organization. When you have children, you will slow down for a little bit and can then start pushing the accelerator again when your children are more independent.
This comment reminded us of another piece of advice the women in our office learned when reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In together – Don’t slow down at work in anticipation of having children. You should keep pushing yourself right up until having kids or else you will fall further behind.
These women also found that they had become more efficient at work since having children. They may have had to reduce their hours, but the hours they are in the office are super productive as they have had to become more decisive. Unfortunately, this can mean skipping small chat with colleagues or leaving happy hours early, so they must be conscious of not letting work relationships suffer too significantly.
There’s no denying we live in a world where cell phone addiction is a real thing.
Each day, the first thing most of us do is roll over and check our phones. Having our phone next to us when we sleep is a problem for a number of reasons. As Simon Sinek tells us, stop making excuses for it and just “buy an alarm clock!”
One reason that is often overlooked is the anxiety it can cause us. You know the feeling. You wake up and see that little number next to your email icon in the morning and sigh, what do I have to do now?
Before you even have a chance to think about what you want to accomplish today, you are bombarded with work requests. Depending on the message, this can get your day off to a rough start.
Delay the Chaos
By taking time each morning to do something for yourself before checking your notifications, you will wake up happier. Each day, my colleague reads her daily devotional before checking her work email. Personally, I try to get a workout in before checking mine. Make whatever is important to you and keeps you grounded part of your routine.
Let your phone help you wake up happy. Set your phone to “Do Not Disturb” starting 30 minutes before you go to bed and 30 minutes after you wake up. Some days you may have something urgent going on and have to check it, but most days emails can wait until you’ve had your coffee.
Happier Morning Activities
You don’t need a long morning routine. Check out some of the ideas below and share in the comments what works for you!
It’s again time to look ahead and set goals for the New Year. I used to keep my New Year’s Resolutions, and the majority of my goals for that matter, to myself. As an introvert, I was too shy to share them with anyone. I often even felt embarrassed about my goals, worried that others would either think they were silly or unattainable.
However, I recently remembered something my elementary school music teacher told me:
“Share your goals with others.”
His reason was simple and logical. If you don’t tell others what your goals are, how do you plan to achieve them? I will be the first to admit that I have a tendency to want to do things on my own. Afterall, I’m an independent woman, right?! While that may be true, it doesn’t mean I can’t seek the help of others.
Benefits of Sharing
When you share your goals with others, you may be surprised what you learn. Do you dream of reliving a childhood memory and taking up dance again? Maybe your friend knows someone who owns a dance studio and can get you a discount on classes. Are you debating whether to get an MBA? Maybe your manager toggled with the same thought a few years ago and could connect you with peers that took different paths.