From Pyjamas to Gladiator: On Willpower & Learning to Kick Ass

If you’ve ever struggled to break a bad habit, this post is for you.

2013 will always be remembered as the year that I staged my very own “pajama-vention” – otherwise known as “that time I realized I was getting gross and decided to do something about it, and learned to kick-ass in the process.”

In December and January I participated in the Stratejoy Holiday Council. I learned how to let go of 50 things, made vision boards and set goals – some which I’ve already accomplished (!) I enjoyed the experience so much that when it came to sign up for the Stratejoy Willpower Council a few months later, I jumped at the chance. With my schedule now busier than ever, I knew I’d need to tap into my willpower to really “get shit done.”

One of our first tasks was to choose a bad habit that we’d like to change, or a good habit that we’d like to create. I knew right away what mine would be:

THE PYJAMAS.

As I’ve mentioned before, being a freelance writer and/or working from home does come with it’s shares of perks: a flexible schedule and dress code with a commute that never is longer than the distance between your bed and your laptop. The downside is that when you’re not even required to wear pants on a daily basis, things have the tendency to get gross pretty fast.

After almost a decade of working in a corporate office environment, when I started freelancing I embraced the novelty of being able to work in my pyjamas. However, what began as a fun and comfortable way to give the middle finger to my former office attire, soon evolved to the point where I was wearing my pyjamas all day, everyday. Unless I was leaving the house, I wouldn’t even bother showering or putting on clothes until late afternoon. As someone who is naturally prone to anxiety, my pyjamas weren’t just a wardrobe choice, they were like a security blanket – one that covered my whole body.

I jokingly nicknamed my well loved leopard print pyjamas my “freelancer’s business suit” and when I wore out my first pair, my Mom and sister lovingly purchased me new ones for Christmas complete with matching booties. You can file the photo below under “reasons I might be single.”

 I hadn’t realized how bad the situation had become until my Mom and sister sat me down and told me I needed to start wearing real clothes around the house again. I agreed, but then told them I thought they were enablers.

“If you want me to stop wearing pyjamas, why do you keep buying me such awesome ones?! I mean, the matching booties: genius.”

My sister looked me in the eye and said, “Put on some real clothes Simone or I’ll burn those pyjamas in your sleep.”

The irony is, when I envisioned what my life would look like as a freelancer I didn’t imagine myself wearing flannel all day. Instead, I imagined myself wearing cute, casual basics as I wrote and worked on projects in my fun, colourful office. In other words, I wanted my day to day life to look more like my Internet Idol & Girl Entrepreneur Crush Jen Ramos (top left & bottom left.)

I could totally be the kind of person who spent the day working in funky striped dresses or a pair of leather leggings & a fun top. I already owned these kinds of clothes, so what was stopping me?! However, instead I settled for some approximation of this:

I knew I had hit rock bottom when I caught myself doing a phone interview with the head of marketing of a major Canadian bank wearing only a pink nightie, with a brown blanket wrapped around me.

That’s the thing I have learned about bad habits: they’re self sabotaging. We want one thing but we do another. I picked out clothes that embodied the vision I wanted for life, but stashed them away in the closet and instead, did exactly the opposite because it seemed easier somehow.

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Do More of What Makes You Awesome

In December I participated in the Stratejoy Holiday Council and loved it. One of the things I found extremely helpful about the workshop was it helped me break down my goals for the year into easy to manage pieces. I decided to set goals for two months at a time so that every 60 days I have a different theme and specific things that I’m working on. This has been my theme for March-April:

Why I chose this as a theme: I’ve realized that I’m the best version of myself when I make time to do the things I love: being creative, writing, dancing, pushing my body & getting in regular sweaty workouts, listening to my favourite music, engaging with the world and learning new things. I’ve learned that when I don’t make time for these things, I feel depressed and bogged down.

Have you ever had the feeling like you no longer recognize your own life? Where you think of the person you used to be when you were younger and think “Where did I go?”. Where you spend whole days feeling guilty and discouraged because it feels like you’re not living up to your potential? I’ve had many of these moments. Actually, I spent a huge chunk of my twenties feeling this way. These moments are sad and they’re hard, but they’re also sobering. I believe that if you can recognize something is wrong, you can change it.

When I was a child I had so many diverse interests and things I was totally nerdy about. I swam, ran track competitively, took pottery classes, competed in public speaking competitions, collected stamps, read voraciously, sketched, painted, sang in a choir, played the cello and spoke fluent French. I also danced ballet. I didn’t think so at the time but I was a classic overachiever. Although a lot of my other interests fell to the wayside (when was the last time I made pottery?!), ballet was the one that stuck. By the time I was in my pre-teens I was in the dance studio 4-5 times a week after school.

Although I loved ballet and had the right body type, I didn’t have the stomach for it: the long hours, the constant, never ending criticism, the impossible quest for perfection. Ballet is part art-form, part psychological warfare. It’s a lot to handle when you’re not a fully formed adult emotionally. At some point in my late teens, ballet  just stopped being fun. I wanted to feel like a normal teenager – go out on dates, join the drama club, have a life outside of dance – so, I cut back.

When I moved to Toronto as an 18 (soon to be 19) year old, I swapped the dance studios of my childhood for underground clubs, my pointe shoes for platforms, and piano solos for the bumping bass of house music. Compared to an hour and a half ballet class in pointe shoes, dancing all night in 5 inch heels seemed like a breeze. The upside is that I developed an abnormally high tolerance for foot pain. The downside is that I eventually reached a point in my mid 20’s, where I was working in an office job I hated, swilling vodka on the weekends and wondering “What have I become. Where did all my interests go?!”

Although I took dance classes sporadically while I lived in Toronto, I never made it a priority. Even though I missed ballet, I think I was afraid of feeling of how I used to feel when I took ballet classes as a teenager: picked on, criticized, imperfect, never good enough. Instead of facing my fears, I made excuses as to why I wasn’t taking ballet classes: work, stress, school, relationships, money etc. When I was in my late 20’s I suffered a really bad back injury. My excuse then became “I’ll go back to ballet when my back is better.” However, since being diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease and arthritis, I’ve realized that my back is never going to be fully “better” and it seems silly to not do something that I enjoy.

To really be in love with my life, I need to dance. Just like I need to write. As I was telling my Mom the other day, I’d really like to take a ballet class where nothing is on the line, where the only person I’m trying to impress is myself. So, that’s what I have decided to do! I got so excited about the prospect of dancing again, that I the other night I dug out my old pointe shoes and took them for a whirl around the kitchen…

Since I haven’t taken a ballet class in a really long time, I decided to ease back into it by taking Barre Method. The classes are a blend of yoga, pilates and ballet exercises. I love it! As I was explaining to my friend Kate, “It’s like X-treme Ballet.” We do typical ballet moves but with weights, balls and lots of reps, all set to fun music. And oh boy, do you feel it. Like actual ballet, it’s hard work but the hard is what makes it good. In case you were wondering, it also gives you glutes and abs that could crush cans.

{Photo via Barreworks, Toronto}

It feels really good to move my body in this way again. Just like when I visit Quebec or France and immerse myself in French, doing ballet exercises again makes me feel like my body is remembering a language it learned many years ago. I’m starting with Barre Method so that I’ll be ready to take an actual dance class in the summer. Who knows, after that I may even brush up on my French!

Sometimes I wonder if maybe we get it right the first time. If what we are passionate as children is a reflection of our true calling in life. I was a kid who loved dancing, telling stories and learning about the world – which, essentially describes who I am now. I don’t think our essential selves really change that much from when were children, it’s just that life piles on so much bullshit that sometimes they get buried under other people’s expectations of who we should be. I imagine if we all peeled back the layers, we’d find our beautiful, shiny, awesome cores. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Do more of what makes you awesome: my new life mantra.

What makes you awesome? 

Happiness, Yoga and a Good Ass Kicking: All via your Laptop.

I don’t know about you guys but I find it so much more challenging to work-out in the wintertime, especially when you spend most of your winters in frozen Eastern Canada. When I was living in my old neighborhood in Toronto, I adored my local gym which was a 10 minute walk from my house. During the winter I’d brave the snow and walk there several times a week. I thought being in BC where the weather is warmer would mean more frequent gym visits however, I’ve actually been going to the gym less since I’ve been here. To get to my gym here I either have to walk for 30 minutes each way (a work-out on it’s own) or jump in a car. I’d really like to try some of the yoga classes my gym offers but when faced with having to travel there I often choose to just do exercises at home. It’s a conundrum that I’m sure a lot of us experience in the winter.

So, when Gaiam TV contacted me about trying out their new streaming video service I was excited because THIS IS A PRODUCT I COULD ACTUALLY USE RIGHT NOW.

Gaiam TV is the first streaming video subscription service designed to reach people interested in health, wellness,  yoga, fitness and personal development. With over 2,000 titles to choose from it’s basically like Netflix for your mind & body. With Gaiam TV you can access hours of online yoga, pilates and cardio classes plus all kinds of other world class health & wellness programming taught by well known instructors. In other words, it’s pretty rad.

I was worried that the selection might be limited (sort of like how Netflix is for Canadians) however, you can customize the programming to suit your fitness and wellness goals. Gaiam TV offers a “fitness studio” and “yoga studio” which each offer tons of different user friendly options to choose from. Viewers can customize workouts for weight loss, total body sculpting or increased energy and narrow down their options based on level, style, instructor and amount of available time. You can even make playlists based on what you enjoy. The best part? Unlike Netflix, you can watch hours of Gaiam TV without feeling guilty. You might even get a killer six pack out of it.

The best part about the service?

YOU CAN.

WORK-OUT.

ANYWHERE.

{All images found here}

Gaiam TV’s entire library of videos is available anytime, anywhere, all from the comfort of your computer, iPad or smart-phone. This means you can always work-out at home or take your work-out to go. Maybe it’s the West Coast hippie lifestyle seeping into me, but I like the idea of being able to watch a short relaxation or yoga video on my iPhone whenever I want.

I’ve been trying Gaiam TV for the past few days & I have to say it’s pretty cool. Although the idea of doing Yoga really appealed to me in theory, the videos I actually enjoyed more were the ones that made me sweat. I currently have Jillian Michaels on call, 24hrs a day to kick my ass into shape in time for bathing suit season and I’m loving it. If you don’t want to be yelled at by Jillian until you have buns of steel, there are lots of other famous instructors to choose from (Rodney Yee, Seane Corn, Jillian Michaels, Mari Winsor and Kathryn Budig etc.) There’s even a Reggaeton dance class which I totally plan to shake my white girl “Culo” to tomorrow morning.

If you would also like to give it a try, Gaiam TV wants to offer you guys a Free 10-day Trial, No Strings Attached  so you can see what it’s all about. In case you’re wondering, the regular subscription is $9.95/month for unlimited streaming, commitment free & you can cancel at any time. If I become addicted to Jillian’s yelling (as I’ve heard some people do) and she doesn’t actually manage to kill me with squats & lunges, I might turn into a full time subscriber.

What do you guys think? How do combat the winter work-out blues?

This post was sponsored by Gaiam TV and Single Edition Media. As always on this blog, all opinions are my own. 

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