Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2018-01-29

What People Are Saying About Fat Kid Dance Party and How You Can Help Launch The Next Stage!

The pre-sale for the first aerobics video ends on Thursday, February 1! I’m 74% funded and thought that I would let some of my class regulars and participants do some of the recommending!

“The Fat Kid Dance Party experience is unlike any other work out I have tried, and I have tried many! As a veteran of places like Jazzercise and SoulCycle, what Bevin offers is a healing love note to your body. It’s like a work out for your mind and physique. I love her rhetoric and how she infuses her class with messages of social justice, body positivity and absolute self love”
Marcy Guevara-Prete

Click here to grab a video four pack, a guided body love meditation and affirmations, or a whole workout accessory pack!

The inspiration from this photo was the cover of a Sweatin’ to the Oldies VHS I found at a yard sale. This pic is on my vision board now.

“I’m so grateful to have found your class! I’ve been working on loving my body the way it is for a while now but it’s all been very cerebral like like reading, podcasts, etc… It’s really nice to have a fitness/movement class to physically go to that supports my body love journey. I also really appreciate the community I’ve met there so far, people of all sizes in an inclusive and supportive environment…and class is SO FUN!”
–Laurel Hitchin

Click here to expand your body love journey!

This is from the number (to a Big Freedia/RuPaul song) where we reclaim our jiggle for healing! Photo by Shoog McDaniel.

“I go to school in Los Angeles and have tried going to the gym there. As a fat, trans boy it was always daunting to be surrounded by cis athletic bodies. I would constantly compare myself to them and it became a harmful, destructive cycle. I heard about Fat Kid Dance Party once I decided to join EVERYBODY and the class has been life-changing. To be in a room that supports not only my identity but my body shape WHILE allowing me to work at bettering my physical well being in a healthy mindset is something I never believed I was worthy of having. Bevin has taught me how to proudly take up space in this world through big movements and amazing music and for that I am eternally grateful.”
–Asher Tessier

Click here to join the party!

Class photo! (Halloween edition, but costumes are literally always celebrated!) Photo by Shoog McDaniel.

“I used to tell myself that I didn’t dance – and I believed it. I saw myself as awkward and without any mastery of physicality. My body just did what it wanted. Facing my fears at my first Fat Kid Dance Party class, I found myself having a blast learning how to do all the 90s moves I couldn’t figure out how to do myself in high school. After coming back multiple times I learned that I could climb through my bedroom window (after accidentally locking myself out) without hurting myself. Yay – newfound agility! I had never experienced joyful sweating until FKDP. Now, I frequently give myself mid day dance breaks and express myself through movement at home, work, everywhere!”
–Kate E. McCracken

Click here to become an early adopter of a fitness revolution!

Fat Kid Dance Party is for all ages, sizes and abilities to heal from body oppression! Photo by McKay!

“I truly look forward to exercising at Fat Kid Dance Party. I always feel better while I’m there and afterwards.

As I get older, I see less of my friends at the gym and usually feel a little out of place as the oldest one in the group. FKDP takes away that anxiety. Everyone in the class is supportive and Bevin makes all of us feel welcome and comfortable.

I love that Bevin combines movement through simple routines so the brain is exercised as much as the body. She incorporates somatic healing into the movements which is subtle yet highly effective. At some point in most of the classes, I will feel an overwhelming sense of emotional release to the point of tears–GOOD tears. Bevin has the ability to make everyone in the room feel comfortable and worthy. She inspires us to cheer each other on and to embrace any awkwardness as a good thing that represents change towards something new and healthy. FKDP is a safe space to let go of troubles and anxieties and embrace self care and healing while doing fun routines to fabulous music!”
–Jennifer

Click here to learn somatic healing dance moves!

Photo by Shoog McDaniel

“FKDP has helped me rediscover joyful movement. I walk all day for work, and FKDP helps remind me that I can move around, dance and let go of the negative energy that often comes with getting paid to do physical labor. I love it!”
–Sonya Mendoza

Click here to show your support for my work to make the world safe for people to love themselves!

THANK YOU to all of my beloved regulars who show up weekly (or more!) to party and heal together. It’s such a special class and I’m so honored to be part of people’s self care practice. Please join us!!

P.S. If you want to come to the in person party check out this page–I’ll be keeping it updated as I add new classes, special events and tour stops!

2017-05-05

LA Fat Fitness: My First Spin Class

I’ve been brewing this blog series for a year! When I first moved to LA from Brooklyn I didn’t have a gym membership (EVERYBODY, the new radically inclusive gym in Northeast LA, wasn’t open yet) and I was in the middle of a big transition. Exercise is crucial to my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well being. I didn’t know what to do in the absence of my previous exercise favs at the Bed Stuy YMCA so I decided to dabble in various modes of free or cheap fitness that LA had to offer.

I have since become an aerobics instructor at EVERYBODY and dabbling is still important. I learn from different fitness genres ways to strengthen my teaching and movement techniques to share with my students in class and readers (that’s you!) all over the world!

What it is:
You’ve probably heard of Spin before. From what I understand, Spin is being lead through a workout on a stationary bike, switching resistance and positions to get a full body workout. There are a lot of bells and whistles in Spin classes that make it more engaging/distracting from working out. This is really what group exercise is all about, learning how to make movement motivating, enjoyable and effective.

Like golf, people who love Spin REALLY LOVE IT. I have passed classes at other gyms before and heard the high energy music and yelling encouragement of an instructor but was not lured. I enjoy a recumbent bike and use that as my supplement to my go-to cardio on an elliptical. I have always been wary of stationary bikes. Years ago I heard a personal trainer giving advice to a fat woman on a TV show that recumbent bikes are better for supporting your knees. Multiple Spin instructors and friends tell me that Spin is actually not hard on your knees.

Since the bikes for Spin are always lined up against the wall in the MOVE room at EVERYBODY (so many caps in the branding) I kept thinking I should could* give it a shot.

What it Was Like:
My first class was with McKay from EVERYBODY. McKay and I have a special bond and I genuinely think it was fate that had their class right before mine on Thursdays. I’ve so enjoyed hanging out with them and having McKay take my class so I trusted them to walk me through my first Spin class.

Like hiring a lawyer, what you need and want in a group fitness instructor is skill at the modality/area of practice and a genuine feeling of trust and (maybe if you’re lucky) enjoyment of that person. There’s no point in hiring a lawyer you don’t trust and no point in going to a group fitness instructor you don’t trust and enjoy. Because I already liked McKay and would totally spend an hour or more with them, I figured their class would be great.

I arrive and they met me at a bike, personally walked me through setting it up to my specifications. We are both “G” height (where the seat meets your hip) and by using my forearm to measure, we put the seat at a 4.

I’m a G4 not a G6.

They also gave me some tips for first timers. They teach class in sections, three positions and three intensities, and showed me how to change intensity on my bike. They told me the saddle would probably be difficult and uncomfortable the first few classes and I could get up and shake my booty to relieve the pain. They reminded me to go at my own pace and gave variations on positions to use when on the bike during certain exercises.

The experience of Spin class was interesting. It is solid cardio, got my heart rate going and I was covered in sweat by 10 minutes in. I generally wear a regular push up bra to exercise because I find them more comfortable but this was the first modality where I think a sports bra to keep them strapped down was essential. Something about pumping velocity on my legs was making the girls almost hit me in the face.

We did various push-ups on the handlebars while spinning and some stretches, some getting out of the saddle and climbing mountains. I really liked that the harder intervals were over very fast, something other students in the class echoed was especially gentle of McKay and different from other instructors.

I adored McKay’s playlist, from Lizzo to Le Tigre to Britney and Beyonce, some of the songs overlapped with songs I’ve used in my class. I loved McKay’s motivation and spirit, they are just such a joyful sweetheart that it made me want to keep going.

I wouldn’t say that I LOVED Spin or it was the best thing ever, but I enjoyed the experience because of McKay. I also kind of get why people like Soulcycle so much and I’m curious to try that modality out and see what makes it special and spiritual. People in the class asked if I was coming back the next day, and these are folks who go to Spin a lot. I know I’ll regularly attend McKay’s Tuesday class but I don’t see myself being a multiple Spin classes per week person.

Class was 37 minutes of deep cardio with 5 minutes of stretching. The stretching was my favorite part, we used the bikes to balance for deep stretching.

So sweaty.

Cost:
$14 a la carte and gets less expensive as you buy class packages or get an unlimited menbership at EVERYBODY.

Special Equipment You Need or Might Like to Have:
McKay gave me a saddle cover/butt pad to help ease the pain of the saddle. I have my eye on this butt pad if I get really into Spin because it looks very cushy and it’s purple. You just bring it with you and put it on your saddle.

The next day, my butt hurt a lot, not unlike how it feels after a long bout of sex following a dry spell. You know how good that feels for your butt to hurt and then to be reminded of something hot every time you change positions? It was like that except more like, “Oof, Spin.” McKay said that was the best compliment about their class they ever got.

In addition, I suggest bringing water and a towel, everyone else had a sweat towel and I was for sure missing that.

Fatphobia Content:
None! EVERYBODY trains staff members about body diversity and McKay talked about our “personal fitness goals” but never talked about losing weight or body size and that is 100% correct for being inclusive.

Teacher’s Strength(s):
I really loved the individual attention at the beginning and the permission giving to take it at my own pace. I also like the honesty about what might be challenging, like the butt hurting and showing me how to shake my booty to release it.

McKay is also sweet and enthusiastic and teaches with their personality, which makes it feel more like a hang out and less like uncomfortable sweating.

Would I do it Again?

Yes, I will totally Spin again.

McKay is exclusive to EVERYBODY right now. You can take McKay’s class at 6PM Tuesdays, 6:30PM Wednesdays and Thursdays. McKay is always there a half hour early to get folks comfortable and is available for individual interval training on the EVERYBODY bikes outside of class. Follow McKay on Instagram! Or email them directly at McKay.Nield at gmail. Pronouns: They/them or he/his.

Additional Notes:
Taking a class in the same room I teach in was actually great because I could experience the ever-changing sound and light equipment from a student perspective. There’s definitely something UP with the wireless headset microphone because I had a hard time hearing more than every other word McKay was saying. I’m now deeply on a hunt to figure out how to improve my sound on a wireless headset and/or start bugging Sam the EVERYBODY owner to get us a better headset. I say a lot of really meaningful stuff during my classes (McKay does, too) and I want people to be able to hear every word!

*I always try to replace my shoulds with coulds, I find it more gentle and supportive for me as I work to eliminate negative self talk.

2016-05-04

Six Reasons Why I Love Aqua Jog

Hey there! I’m doing a pre sale for my Reiki Infused Tea Line now through May 10th. I have some important financial goals for the sale that also affect this website–I really need to move my blog to a new host and install a new theme because of these ongoing back end buggy issues that are not yet fully resolved. I also need to begin the build out for the website for my tea line, so this is all very tied together. The whole project will cost thousands of bucks, but I’m tackling it one thing at a time. The tea is delicious and supports me living my dream to support my art and activism through healing work. Please consider buying a tin for you or a gift, or sharing about the sale on social media!

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I approach all exercise from a Health at Every Size approach. Since this term has been co-opted by so many folks, I’ll tell you what it means to me. It means that all people, no matter what their size, should be able to have access to good, nutritious food and should have access to move in ways that make them feel good in and about their body. Health at Every Size to me includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. The way I feed and move my body affects all of those things for me.

Given that I am in a state of transition, having moved to the West Coast recently, it was super important that I find ways to move my body. There was a while where working on the house was all about the body–the renovations on my attic were so corporeal. In my last update on the transition post I talked about how I started swimming in the local pools. I am okay to swim laps but I find it a little boring. Really using a HAES approach means I want to be excited about the exercise I’m doing.

Since the local community pools have lap swimming and recreational swimming together and very few rules about what you have to be doing in the lanes, you can totally do aqua jogging instead of just swimming laps. Once I realized that I went for it.

I started aqua jogging at a class at my former gym the Bed Stuy YMCA. It’s taught by a community volunteer every morning at 9AM who has a spinal issue that really benefits from her exercising a lot but does not allow her to exercise on dry land. Aqua jogging takes water aerobics to a new level. Other than aqua boot camp (also at the Bed Stuy Y) I have not felt such a complete workout from water aerobics.

Here are all the reasons I love to aqua jog:

1. Working out in water is great low impact high resistance activity.
For folks who are recovering from injuries or who have tender bodies for a variety of reasons, the pool is awesome for movement. As an efficiency loving Capricorn, I also appreciate that I can work out in a pool and get more results than from the same period of time on land. Also, if you are the kind of athlete who is often nursing injuries that keep you from staying in shape, aqua jog is a great tool in your repertoire to help!

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2. The movements are really easy and help you diversify your workout so you don’t get bored.
Here’s a basic primer on aqua jogging. It includes instructions on how to do it if you don’t have any equipment.
This is not the workout I do but it is one to consider using the shallow end for part of it.

I learned to aqua jog from my instructor in Brooklyn so I do different movements based on what I learned from her, including backwards jogging, cycling, and different arm movement intervals with water weights. There are SO many videos on you tube to learn techniques for aqua jogging. I work hard not to link any videos or web content that have a weight loss focus because that is not the tone for my blog. (No shade to anyone who has weight loss goals–you do you!) If you can “take what you like and leave the rest,” there’s a lot out there to sift through in aqua exercises. I couldn’t find any videos that did what Dinette does but if I ever do find them I’ll come back and edit this post to include them.

3. You can listen to music.
When I was aqua jogging at my Grandmother’s pool it was amazing because I just threw on a Spotify playlist of songs I could sing along to and would enjoy working out to. Since she doesn’t have a clock outside I timed my workout based on how many songs it took to get to 35 minutes or more. (My personal workout timing goal is 35 minutes or more. On days I don’t feel like going past it I don’t, on days I have more energy I just keep going.)

waterdumbellWhen I finally got my dumbbells to add to my aqua jog workouts it felt so nice to get back to them! I didn’t realize how much I missed having my dumbbells after I moved away from the Bed Stuy Y!

4. It helps save your hair!
Swimming is great but I have high maintenance, tender, color-treated hair. (I’m not naturally Ginger Spice haired–my pals Garnier Nutrisse and 20 vol + bleach help me look this fabulous.) It is really difficult to keep hair dry even in a swim cap. “It is a fact that no swim cap can keep your hair 100% dry every time” says Swimcapsguide.com. The best you can do is a harm reduction approach to keep it kinda dry.

Mine is a cutie pie vintage rubber hat. When I’m swimming I manage to get about 50% of my hair wet which is better than no protection. I also have a classic Speedo cap (they come in so many colors) I got when my vintage swim cap was on a moving truck going from Coast to coast. The same exact results from swimming–about 50% hair wet.

Thus I prefer to work out with my head above water 100% of the time and aqua jogging helps me do that. I still wear the cap in the community pool because of splashing children and sloppy swimmers in adjacent lanes. My hair stays 100% dry that way. At Grandmother’s when I was just using a top knot to keep my hair out of the water it got damp around the hairline by my neck.

5. It’s easy to mix in ab and core work to an aqua jog routine.
I find it way easier to do sit-ups and crunches in the water than on dry land. This helps me strengthen my core and helps to alleviate back pain and lots of other barriers to dry land exercise. I do a version of this without the barbell under my knees.

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6. The equipment is pretty inexpensive and not a barrier to activity.
I did aqua jogging with no equipment for the first three workouts in our local pool and that proved to me I was serious about moving forward. I get paid a gift card every few months thanks to thoughtful blog readers (THANK YOU!!!) who buy their Amazon products through my affiliate links. Even if you don’t buy what I link, if you buy anything at all I get a tiny percentage commission and then that comes in the form of a gift card. I keep a link on the sidebar in case you’re ever interested. I usually use the money for something I want to try for my blog, so this time I bought aqua jog equipment.

I totally love what I got. In my Brooklyn aqua jog class we used water weights and floatation belts, so I got a six piece aqua fitness pack that included those plus some resistance gloves for only $29. I was nervous about the floatation belt being too small (some of the ones they had at the YMCA were not made for a plus size waist), but this one had plenty of room to spare on me and my waist is about a size 22/24.

The kit even comes with a routine! I’ve incorporated some of those moves into my workout and enjoy it!

I’ve used the weights and the gloves to jog and prefer what I can do with weights but the gloves are a good alternative for certain exercises.

aquaglovesThese are the gloves that came with it–kind of like having duck feet for your hands.

Another alternative piece of equipment I found in my aqua jog class that some of the folks brought in addition to what the YMCA supplied was Aqua Runners which provides more leg resistance for a harder workout. I look forward to stepping up my game (pun intended) at a later date with these $25 babies. They come in lavender!

It can be a little bit hard to be the fatty at the pool swimming laps and it can be even a little bit harder being the fatty at the pool doing weird water exercise with weird equipment. However, I try to mitigate my intimidation by not concerning myself with what people think, recognizing that every young person that sees a hot fat girl with tattoos and a pin-up girl bathing suit and vintage swim cap doing her thing and working out is possibly empowered. And also, because my self care is waaaaaay more important to me than what people’s judgments are.

As Prince said, “I don’t really care so much what people say about me because it usually is a reflection of who they are.”

PurpleReignVery excited about my Prince memorial teas (one caffeinated tea and one herbal tisane) and the wisdom they will include is going to be a prototype of how I will do the wisdom component for my teas in the future.

2015-03-12

Florida Keys: Big Pine Key, Key Deer and Kayaking

When planning our trip to Florida, I did a lot of crowd-sourcing. I feel very grateful to have a diverse network of folks in my life who are generous with information. One of the best parts of Facebook for me is information sharing with folks I don’t see often but who I get to stay connected with! When I asked the internet where in Florida would be gay-friendly and have nature and beaches they overwhelmingly answered the Florida Keys. I also got lots of recommendations for things to do, which really helped me come up with a loose itinerary.

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The rental car (which I managed to get even cheaper by doing a night before we left search on Orbitz, saving an extra $100 on the reservation for a total of $134 for the week rental) and flights were cheap but lodging in the keys for the first week of March was really difficult to find and pricey! In January I scoured all the Air BNB listings and VRBO type places and had a hard time getting something with any availability. I got really attached to the idea of staying on a houseboat in Key Largo, but they were all booked. I think I reached out to ten different managing companies. I am so glad I had trouble finding a place because we ended up with a sparkling jewel of a place to stay! (Also, this was a great reminder to me of the spiritual idea to just kind of listen when the universe gives me road blocks, that sometimes something even better is around the corner.)

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This tiny one room cabin on Big Pine Key in the middle of a National Key Deer Refuge came up in a search, having just been added to Air BNB. It was only $100 a night and luckily three of the days we were going to stay in the Keys were available.

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We had such a great time in this magical little cabin! I am glad we stayed somewhere unusual rather than in a motel or resort because I love having an adventure.

It was really a cross between glamping and a hotel room, as it is a room with walls, windows and a comfy queen size bed. But the sink, shower and toilet were all outside. The toilet is a fancy compost toilet in a screened in room. Dara was so skeptical about the toilet situations (I’ve had to sing to her to distract her from her hatred of a port-a-potty before).

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The Key Deer in the Florida Keys are an endangered species. The Overseas Highway slows down to 45 MPH during the day and 35 MPH at night through Big Pine Key to protect them. The population of the Key Deer dwindled to 27 in the 1950s and is now up to about 650-700. A few of them came up to us during our stay. Our Air BNB host (who shared a driveway with us, but otherwise our cabin was totally private and surrounded by Everglade forest) said that about seven will visit his house every evening and three come to the cabin, but we only saw one or two at a time. Our first morning I was up before Dara and our friend Doe came to visit.

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Key Deer are about the size of a small big dog. Smaller than a Great Dane, taller than a Golden Retriever. But SO cute. The first one I met followed me around the cabin as I took photos. Another one (although hard to tell if they were the same Doe or a different Doe) licked Dara’s pajamas.

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When I tried to drink sun tea outside and continue visiting with the deer I realized we couldn’t share space and food with them as they were waaaay into trying to eat or drink whatever we had. But still really cute and sweet about their relentless desire for food.

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Showering outdoors in a private paradise like this is such a luxury, and brushing my teeth with a deer hanging out next to me was wild. I also saw a tiny brown and white striped snake friend in the brush by the sink, several lizards and about 1,000 turkey vultures overhead. And one tiny spider that left Dara with 100 tiny bites she’s still recovering from on our last night in the cabin.

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We never pulled down the shades in the cabin and it was so wonderful to watch the sun go down and the moonlight shift through the little forest that surrounds the cabin. There was one night (after our catastrophic snorkeling trip that left both of us deeply nauseas) that we slept 13 hours and I remember waking up several times during the night noting different celestial positions based on the light coming through the windows. It was such an amazing form of natural intimacy, all from the comfort of a super deluxe queen size bed.

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Dara was a little freaked out by the Poisonwood that was along the nature trail leading to the cabin, but I kind of just trusted it would be fine. The noseeums (tiny, biting mosquitos) were kind of obnoxious on the last night.

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Our Air BNB host also gave us a print out with points of interest to go to. We went to nearly all of them. The Blue Hole, a freshwater pond made from an old quarry that has a few alligators. In our ten minute stop we saw one alligator, a butterfly and a bright green iguana scamper into the forest.

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That was the only gator we saw on the whole trip, in spite our many pre-trip queries to Floridian friends about what to expect from glamping in Florida. Dara was certain we would run into a gator that was trying to hunt the Key Deer but apparently that’s really unlikely and you’re more likely to be struck by lightening twice than get attacked by an alligator.

16739273036_4b3374f945_zThe gator was sleeping and came up for air once while I watched it.

On our last day on Big Pine Key we rented kayaks ($42 for two single occupancy kayaks for 2 hours) to cruise across the channel to No Name Key, a key with no electricity (all of the houses on there run with generators or from solar power). We didn’t see much when we were kayaking except mangroves and some pelicans in the marina, in spite of a little map the marina gave us with our rental. (The map yielded not much from two points of interest we tried.) I kind of wished I had done better research about where to kayak because there are a lot of paddling guides on the internet about where to paddle through the Florida Keys.

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16740608726_11cabfd888_zThe two photos above were from a secret, free, boat launch not far from our cabin.

Watching me and Dara approach kayaking was kind of hilarious, since I hadn’t done it in about two years and was a little nervous, and so was Dara. Luckily there was a couple who had their own kayaks simultaneously launching at the boat ramp (it costs $15 to launch from the marina we were at, but the little municipal boat ramp we saw earlier was free) and they gave us some quick pointers, which helped.

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As a fat person I am always mindful of my center of balance and new things, like a kayak, kind of freak me out. Having been in a kayak a handful of times has given me more faith in it as a vessel that’s not going to topple over when a wave hits it, but I’m still not at 100% confidence.

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My arms were really sore from paddleboard yoga the day before, so I was glad we only did 2 hours. Next time we go on an adventure vacation like this I’ll add some serious arm work to my prep, as my 3 times weekly elliptical to fight seasonal depression didn’t cut it.

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16740617196_38321a0466_zKayaking across the channel was daunting.

16559234107_e9399e5968_zThe mangroves, the trees that literally hold the land together, are so freaking cool.

Check out the rest of my Florida Keys adventure at this tag!

2015-03-10

Florida Keys: Paddleboard Yoga as a Paddleboard Novice Fatty

To escape the brutalities of New York City Winter and Seasonal Depression, I asked my mom to give me cash instead of a present for Christmas and my birthday this year. I parlayed that into a pretty cheap vacation to the Florida Keys (her gift was enough to cover my $180 round trip flight, share of our $130 car rental and 3 nights at our cabin). Part of the way this gift helped me combat seasonal depression was putting a lot of time into researching our vacation. I went down the internet and you tube rabbit holes about things to do in the Florida Keys many Winter nights. (The FloridaKeysTV you tube channel is a treasure trove, btw.)

IMG957561All photos in this post are by Tara McCabe, who lets the class send themselves the photos she takes during the class from her phone when you return to the marina!

It was a you tube video that brought me to Paddleboard Yoga! As soon as we saw it, Dara and I decided this was a top priority vacation activity.

I’ve been doing yoga off and on for six years but I’ve never been on a paddleboard. If I want to scoot around on water I prefer a kayak, where I can sit and enjoy the water while paddling. The idea of doing yoga on a paddleboard seemed scary in a fun way–I have a hard enough time with balance in the studio! Dara had never been paddleboarding, either, and she is not a huge fan of yoga but was totally sold on the adventure.

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We made a reservation with Lazy Dog Paddle Yoga (the studio? paddleboard rental place? featured in the video) and drove down to Key West from our cabin on Big Pine Key. The marina is not in the main tourist part of Key West and is right off the only highway through the Keys, the Overseas Highway, a 2 lane affair with breathtaking views.

We arrived 10 minutes before the class just in time for our instructor Tara McCabe, who founded the Paddleboard Yoga classes with Lazy Dog owner Sue Cooper, to give a paddleboarding basics class to those of us who are new to paddleboarding. A lot of the paddle mechanics were similar to kayaking but the positioning of the arms was different and I felt like I needed to have a lot more control over the paddle given that I was going to be standing up for travel. Tara mentioned we could kneel on the paddleboard while we were first getting used to how the paddle worked to navigate, which was really helpful.

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Since we were traveling from the marina to a little inlet off the canal nearby, where the yoga class would be held, we launched in groups of 3 or so from the boat ramp. As the rest of the class was getting outfitted with their boards and paddles Dara and I signed extensive waivers and paid the $30 each for the 9:30-11AM class. We could bring a towel and a water bottle with us strapped by a bungee to our board. I did some last-minute additional sunscreen application and left the rest of our bags inside the Lazy Dog shack.

We were handed one paddle each, sized to our height, and got on our knees to be shoved off into the marina. Dara went much faster than I did and I slogged along, getting used to the way the board moved. I followed Tara’s advice and waited until we were out in the canal and had made our hard right turn before I stood up on the paddleboard and began using the paddle in the correct holding from the top form.

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Being among last to arrive in the group, and the slowest paddleboarder, I felt okay about it. One of the lessons I learned early on in my yoga practice is that there is no way to “suck” at yoga, you just got at your own pace, paying attention to your own body and where your limit is. Running my own race instead of worrying about where my skills, physical ability and flexibility fits into the rubric of the class helps me just enjoy and settle in. I am often the least bendy yogi in a class but it doesn’t make me any less capable of getting all the benefits of the class and the practice. So when I was solidly holding up the rear of the paddleboard group coming into the alcove I was already fine with it.

Once in the alcove everyone dropped their anchors (these little heavy circles of some kind of metal that were clipped to the bungees on our boards) where Tara told us. She had a good sense of where the boards would drift and where folks would be best placed so as not to bump into one another. A couple of people chose to hug the mangroves for more access to shade. Mangroves are trees that line virtually every shore in the keys, with spindly roots that poke out of the water like stilts holding up the trees–mangroves are essential to the Florida Keys as they help secure land and prevent erosion. Dara was next to them during the class and said that sometimes the mangroves tickled her as she drifted into them on her board but it felt really nice.

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I intentionally wore a fatkini to the class. I sometimes am fat in public in a political way and sometimes I think showing skin is important to be like, I’m fat, I love my body and this is how I feel comfortable. But lots of people in the class, including some guys, were wearing clothes over their suits or wearing water clothing or something that you would buy in a surf shop.

Tara (pronounced with a long A) was an incredible instructor from start to finish. I loved learning paddleboarding from her, as she delivered the lesson with the patience and sweetness of a good yoga instructor. She made sure at the beginning of the class, when we all settled into our spots, that folks were reminded that yoga is not a competition and to run their own race. I know this already, but it is always nice to have a new-to-me instructor reinforce it as a class culture.

She provided great modifications to all of the poses and reminded everyone it was an all levels class. I tried to put myself into harder poses and would sense my limit and settle into wherever that was. Being in the middle of the board by the handle was the most helpful spot for balance. When preparing for this class Dara and I anticipated that one of us would fall into the water, and it turned out to be me while getting into modified Warrior 2. I don’t even know what happened or how but suddenly I was in the water. I was the first in the class to fall. (The only other person who fell toppled during a handstand and I think that was pretty badass.) Since where we were was very shallow it was really easy for me to hop back onto my board. And it did cool me off!

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I loved the sway of being on the board during poses. I loved the moments where she had us do a pose and stick a foot or a hand or arm into the water. I actually really enjoyed doing it on the board versus a mat, because I felt like there was more cushion on my board than a traditional mat (I think this was because of the type of board I happened to be on). I also found downward facing dog much easier on the board for that reason–I was most worried about falling

Tara’s meditations were great, too! At the beginning of the class she called out the full moon we were experiencing, letting go of the junk from the Winter and opening up to the coming Spring. What she was saying was definitely right-on for me. During our shavasana/end of class corpse pose, she suggested we put a towel over our head if we wanted to (which I did, it helped with shade) and put our hands out into the water. While floating there she said, “Bevin, I need you to pull your hand up,” so I did, very used to surrender during yoga to an instructor. I kind of thought she was paddling by me as she floated among the class a bit while teaching.

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It turned out there was a tiny snake that was slithering by and heading for my hand. The raise gave him enough startle that he headed in a different direction, into the mangroves. Tara said she was glad I didn’t ask why so that she didn’t startle the class with news of the snake during the shavasana.

And then before we opened our eyes she serenaded us with a ukelele version of “I Can See Clearly Now,” which was so profound, being in that beautiful, warm place with no clouds in the sky and melting away the agita of a long, cold Winter.

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My sunscreen game was NOT on point for this adventure. Next time I am going to load up on sport sunblock SPF 80+ and reapply right before shavasana. (I was using Neutrogena dry touch waterproof SPF 55.) I got a really odd burn in parts of my body (especially my knees, which from being on the board rubbed off the sunblock and then got burnt during shavasana).

After we all grabbed our anchors and delivered them to Tara’s board before we headed back to the marina, we stood up and paddled back. I was in the back of the pack, again this time on purpose to visit with Tara. She would warn us when boats passed about what kind of wake we were in for. Unfortunately, in a deep part of the channel one of the wake waves really got me and I kind of toppled to the side and fell from my standing position. It took a lot of work for me to get back on my board. Being a fatty, it can be hard to pull yourself back up onto a board or into a floating vessel, depending on your upper body strength. (I have some but not a lot.) Tara was ready with another modification for me, this time having me try to get back on the board not from the side but from the back. That part worked, with some patience and some wiggling like a seal on a surfboard. I made it back to the marina by staying mostly sitting on my board. It was faster when I was standing but I wasn’t ready to chance it again. Also, standing required a lot of tension in my thighs to hold myself balanced and they were kind of exhausted by the end of all of that paddleboarding and yoga.

Paddleboard yoga was a total trip highlight! Dara and I had so much fun and felt so peaceful afterwards. I was super achy later, mostly my arms because I hadn’t done any serious paddling like that in a long time. I would highly recommend Lazy Dog for all of your paddleboard and paddleboard yoga needs, and Tara for yoga! She teaches at Shakti in Key West, leads guided paddleboard meditations through Lazy Dog, runs Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga training and founded the Paddleboard Yoga at Lazy Dog!

Next time we go to the Florida Keys, Dara and I intend to try doing it twice during our trip as well as a meditation!

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2015-01-09

Five Ways I Shake Off Body Oppressive Rhetoric During the New Year’s Resolution Bandwagon

Having spent the last three weeks traveling, between a road trip for a meeting at Dollywood and a family trip to Seattle, I’ve been really off my game. I find it so challenging to travel and meet my self-care needs.

I manage a chronic digestive disorder (Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the Western diagnosis, but I know it’s more complicated than that) with food restrictions and I can feel when my digestion isn’t working. I can get away with not eating in alignment with my body for a little while but eventually it adds up and I’ll pay a price with intense flares and body pain. It’s hard to not want to eat all the amazing food you’re exposed to when traveling. Moderation works for me until it doesn’t.

I also manage my mental and emotional health with exercise. I am still not sure what alchemy I need to carve out time for more than walking the dog when I travel, but more often than not if I pack my gym clothes and shoes I won’t use them. I’ll end up cranky and spiraling by the end of a trip from not getting my angst out on the elliptical. I know that setting better boundaries and time management when I travel is a growth area for me.

15889385960_a7632fe2fa_zWe already had the Seattle trip booked when we got a meeting with the Dollywood Foundation to partner with them for silent auction prizes for Dollypalooza in September… We decided to just go for it and took a road trip, and fulfilled my bucket list dream to see Dollywood at Christmastime. It did not disappoint.

As I was preparing to leave Seattle I found myself really excited to go to the gym and drink green juice, smoothies and detox from sugar. And as I heard the same kind of “drink all the green juice!!!” and “get a new gym membership!!!” trumpets from the anti-fat mainstream media and billion dollar weight loss industry in conjunction with the new year’s resolution influx of people working to lose weight for the umpteenth time, I felt gross about it. Like, here I was wanting to participate in something that is also being used as weapons against bodies like mine.

I thought a lot about what was going on in my head about this stuff and how it was that I have herstorically dealt with the new year’s uptick in relentless weight loss commercials, before and after I began eating in alignment with my body and going to the gym. I came up with some ways that I’ve used to make sense of the complex and seemingly contradictory relationship I have with loving my fat body, hating the sizeist media and making choices that help my body feel its best. I share them below.

1. Run your own race

I like to remember that everyone has their own life and their own life challenges. It’s really difficult to live in a society that literally has a war on body types like yours. In my case, the war on obesity hits home, but other bodies are under attack–people of color, disabled folks, transfolks, aging people. It’s also true that oppression of any body affects all, so the fear of becoming fat, or old, or disabled affects the narrative and creates a society where no body is safe.

So that said, people who need to focus on diet and exercise to lose weight, I just let them do their own stuff. That’s their life path, not mine. I am very self aware and know that my choice to go to the gym doesn’t mean I think my fat body is bad. I also don’t expect some kind of wild body transformation. I do expect that as I keep going back I’m going to feel calmer and more at peace with my surroundings and the onset of Winter and the Winter Blah Blah Blahs (aka Seasonal Depression). (P.S. I’m writing this blog post while sitting under my NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy LampUV Happy Light.)

16085137075_a651db95c4_zSpeaking of lights, that’s a hologram of Dolly Parton playing the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Dollywood production of A Christmas Carol.

2. You are worthy of love exactly as you are.

All of the “NEW YEAR NEW YOU” rhetoric (actual graphic I saw on the itunes store app center thingy this morning) is basically shorthand for you’re not good enough. Remember there are multiple billion dollar industries that require you to feel insecure in order to sell you products. It is not in their best interest that you feel good about yourself.

But here’s the thing. Today, right now, you sitting right there. You are actually good enough because you are human and you are worthy. That’s something you can choose to believe.

There’s a myth that losing weight and modifying yourself is going to make you feel worthy, but self-acceptance is actually the surest way to make yourself feel that way. I know a lot of people who have lost weight in a myriad of ways, and the thing that seems the most common among them is that people who started out hating their bodies had a lot of self hate left once the weight was gone. Wild insecurities pop up when you lose weight and haven’t lost the hate for your body.

It’s not like we don’t all have ways we want to grow and change, change is the only constant in life. I’m a lifelong learner and self-developer. But I know even as I have “areas for growth” (I’m always working on improving my language to be more gentle with myself) I’m worthy right now. It’s just choosing to shift your perspective to believe that you’re worthy and accept yourself as you are. Maybe that’s a change you can work on for the NEW YEAR NEW YOU.

15897718658_474ccf4ff1_zThis kettle corn that I watched get made in front of me was very inflammatory and very delicious. Moderation in all things, including moderation, said Maya Angelou.

2. Be critical of the media you consume

When I was first getting involved in size acceptance I went on a complete media diet. I focused only on size positive or size neutral things. I obsessively collected pictures of cute fat people and put them around my house so I could see them. I trained myself to see fat as positive.

Now I’m able to employ lots of techniques for consuming mass media (that’s probably a whole other blog post). I work to be very critical of what I consume.

I was in the airport and saw the new Self magazine with a big headline of “Love Your Body.” I didn’t have the chance to read it because I was too busy being paranoid because I was accidentally high, but I went onto the website to find out if they were really joining the bandwagon of loving your body as it is. And I saw that the Love Your Body headline right where every other month has weight loss tips, and I looked through their website and saw all of their weight loss articles, so I realized they were just co-opting language to sell weight loss! Real classy Self magazine!

This time of year especially, I work my hardest to remind myself that mass media is not the boss of me and try not to get defensive or mad every time I see something that advertises quick weight loss or uses headless fatties to scare folks about fat. Getting defensive or mad is totally a valid response, though, and my rage does flow through, but rolling my eyes is better for my stress level. I remind myself that lots of fat people are really healthy. Health at Every Size is all about people at all sizes having access to activities that are good for your health. And that is an inconvenient truth for magazines that rely on fear of weight gain in order to sell copies.

I know that choosing to go to the gym is all about me loving my body and not about me losing weight in order to love my body, a complexity that seems contradictory but is actually not at all to me. I worked really hard to make peace with that.

I also know that people who are fat and don’t choose to go to the gym or restrict their eating are totally worthy of love, too! There is no “good” or “bad” way to have a body, it’s just a body!

16076930595_5d2229e69f_zMe and my fat friend Santa just hanging out on a porch in front of the Christmas buffet. I actually found the buffet meals to be full of food options for lots of dietary restrictions. In addition to a mac and cheese station.

4. Replace should with could

This is a wonderful strategy for treating yourself with kindness. I used to be the kind of person whose resting thoughts were always on the ways in which I needed to improve myself. “I should learn Spanish. I should eat better. I should be working on my book. I should get back into working on neurolinguistic programming.” That’s an actual transcript of my inner self abuser that I just tapped into. I can go DEEP into self-shaming with shoulds.

Because I’m still a work in progress and I believe language is so powerful, I have been working for about a year on replacing my shoulds with coulds. “I could learn Spanish. I could be working on my book…” It’s so much gentler. This constant New Year’s chatter of all the ways you should change keeps reminding me of the ways I want to change. But instead of hearing “You should go to the gym” I am hearing, “I could go to the gym.” I am hearing, “I could organize my room.”

5. Every BODY is different

Dr. Phil is full of complexities and I don’t love all of his messages, but he said one thing that really hit home for me when I was early in my fat activist days. I was in a place of “I’ll eat a cupcake whenever I want” as a way to express fat rage. (That’s still a totally valid place to be, of course, but I like to be strategic about my fuck yous and eating a cupcake more than once in awhile will cause me a lot of pain so I don’t.)

Dr. Phil said something on his show specifically about sweet tea that I haven’t ever forgotten. It’s that, basically, all bodies are different and he drinks a glass of sweet tea and gains weight and lots of folks drink a glass of sweet tea and stay thin.

His point was that he had no control over the type of body he has and he had to accept it. And that’s just kind of how things are. Like, it feels really shitty that I got this amazing huge gift basket from a professional colleague for the holidays and pretty much everything in it, wine, crackers, pretzels, caramel corn, hot cocoa, is all food that will make me sick. That fucking sucks. But I’m at a place where I am choosing to accept and love myself for who I am and that means cherishing the complex body I was given.

And I would love to eat a fuck you mass media cupcake, and I probably will eventually. But in the meantime I’m going to accept my body and do the work it needs to do to feel good, so that I can do the work I want to be doing in the world to change it. To create media that helps people feel good in the bodies they have and become the people they want to become by cheering them on instead of shaming them.

15890219499_633f4fb47f_zHow about a fuck you 25 pound apple pie from Dollywood?

Do you have additional ways you choose to shake off the body oppressive media this time of year and/or manage to strike a balance with your own personal wellness goals?

2013-04-29

Fat Babes Pole Dancing Class

My new friend Jacqueline proposed two things after I told her about my recent break-up: a tarot reading (which I took her up on) and finding a pole dancing class. She wanted to go with a fat and/or crip person (two things she identifies as) who was not already a stripper because what’s the fun in being a beginner with someone who can already flip around a pole like it’s no big deal. I love trying new things with other fat babes, so I was all in.

Doing activities in the erotic genre are a great way to reclaim your body in the wake of a break-up and feel empowering especially when you might not be getting laid as much as you’d like to, regardless of your DTF* status. It’s also a great way to expand your repertoire and enhance your fat sex!

The class Jacqueline found for us was at Sacred Brooklyn, a yoga studio and pole dance palace three blocks from my old apartment in Bed Stuy on the border of Clinton Hill. I tried the studio once, for hot yoga, which was the one and only time I have done hot yoga and I got injured. So I haven’t been back.

The classes are a little pricey–twenty bucks for 75 minutes. (The going rate for yoga and exercise if not included in your gym membership is $15 in that neighborhood.) In spite of the price I thought it was cool to try something new and I also was certain I would have fun doing this with Jacqueline.

She did some recon ahead of time emailing the instructor to ask about fat babes in class and the instructor, Roz, was very body positive in her reply so I was stoked. It’s a great idea to reach out to the instructor ahead of time if you have any concerns about the class. Most yoga and exercise proprietors I know want their customers to feel engaged!

Post pole dancing kitchen talk. On a stoop. #babestagram
Jacqueline’s outfit for pole dancing. She took off the scarf and leggings.

The studio emailed us instructions to wear no lotions or oils the day of class and to come in a tank top or sports bra and shorts. Neither Jacqueline nor myself are shorts identified, so I went with a sweat skort (a skirt made of sweats material that has shorts sewn in underneath–I have two of these and swear by them for summertime gym-going) and my Yes Fats Yes Femmes tank top and Jacqueline wore a black and white stretch pinstriped pencil skirt and tank top. She’s just a babe like that. (Also red panties underneath that were plain to see when we did certain moves. Oops and sorry not sorry.)

Roz came into class like a house on fire! She was so full of energy and enthusiasm. I loved it! I used to be extremely loud and enthusiastic when I was in my early twenties and I’ve never met anyone louder than me until Roz. It was refreshing and beautiful. She had on a new push-up sports bra she got two for one at Lane Bryant and I appreciated the shopping tip!

#Babestagram

The class had twelve people in it (which is the max I think), an instructor and an assistant instructor. The demographic was all over the place, tons of gender presentations, body sizes, races and at least a twenty-year age span. There were at least two folks I would have pegged as “masculine of center” on the street.

Roz admonished us to “stay in your lane,” meaning we’re all at our own level of skill and we should try to do what we can do and not focus on what other folks are doing. This is a good reminder for most physical activity! Also good because even though this was a beginner class there were lots of “regulars” who had been coming for quite some time.

We did a long set of good stretches to hip-hop and R&B slow jams, a genre I love. It was sort of like yoga with a groove. The introductory activity was a mirroring exercise, where they paired us off with the “divas” (more experienced students) and the newbies maintained deep eye contact and mirrored the dancing from one side of the room to the other. These dances involved sexy crawling, erotic arm movements, basically hot stripper moves. Because it’s more than just on the pole!

You shouldn't come around here singing up to people like that.
I tried out being a blonde last weekend, too.

Then we did some pole exercises. The first was a “crunch” where we used our upper back, core and arms to lift us up off the ground. It was a little intimidating, but Roz showed us a few different variations for success. There are four poles in the room so three of us at a time rotated. The “divas” did a much more complicated version and I watched them out of the corner of my eye. We were all so co-cheerleading! It was such a positive room, a win for one was a win for all (and when you’re watching other babes doing pole dancing, probably that’s a win anyway).

There is some pole maintenance, like putting on this hand drying stuff and wiping sweat off the pole. It’s really hard to lift yourself off the ground if your hands are sweaty!

Then we did a spin exercise. I liked it, it reminded me of spinning on a playground. Roz gave us an ass dancing tutorial (which was a version of a “twerktorial” I saw the week before at Rebel Cupcake) and then wanted us to practice it.

In the “circle of love,” Roz had us all sit in a circle and each of us took a turn practicing a dance for the group. It could be something we saw in class, something we saw on youtube and wanted to try, we could practice the ass dance, or anything. It was fun and goofy and hot and liberating. Everyone was still so supportive!

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The twerktorial at Rebel Cupcake. Photo by Kelsey Dickey!

The last move was a reverse spin, that the assistant instructor Rebecca said was easiest if you exhaled as you began the spin, which I found really crucial to loosening up enough to let myself spin to the ground around a pole. Not an easy thing to do for me, falling on purpose and doing it with grace.

We exited the class (which Roz warned at the beginning would run late and it was almost two hours total) doing another mirroring exercise. I thought it was an incredible experience! I felt so positive, challenged and embodied. I could be silly and try new things and use my body in different ways.

I was sore the next few days like I had athletic sex. My knees hurt from all of that crawling, my inner thighs and arms and back were definitely feeling it. Jacqueline and I are definitely going to go back (and try to bring more fat babe friends).

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Dancing at Rebel Cupcake/Sweet Fox with Zachary. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

*Down To Fuck. See this post.

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