Get a taste of Ecuador with Reina!

Get a taste of Ecuador with Reina!

I was in Ecuador for the month of February, backpacking with my uncle. He went to learn Spanish, and since I am fluent I decided to tag along. We love hiking and outdoor adventure so climbing mountains was one of our top priorities. We started out in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, for a few days before heading to Quilotoa to trek the Quilotoa Loop trails, which include a beautiful lagoon within a crater. The entire loop takes about 4 days, with lengthy bus rides on each end of the trek to get to the trails. After the loop, we headed south and explored cities like Baños with its mountains, Rio Bamba with its volcano Chimborazo, and then we spent a week in Cuenca. While my uncle took Spanish classes and I explored art galleries, coffee shops, book stores, and yoga studios. My uncle is a yoga instructor and I am a practicing yogi myself, so throughout our entire trip we tried out a bunch of yoga studios and the different classes/types of yoga/styles they offered. Cuenca, we decided, had the best yoga. Then we headed west to Las Cajas National Park for more hiking and thermal baths/hot springs before making our way to the coast. Here we stayed in Puerto Lopez, and lounged on the beaches of Montañita before taking an hour boat ride to Isla de la Plata, a small island sometimes referred to as “mini Galapagos.” We went snorkeling (a first for me) and befriended blue-footed ducks that inhabit the island. We headed back inland towards Quito, making a final stop in Mindo to explore its famous waterfalls.



Quilotoa: The crater rim was one of the hardest climbs I’ve ever done. At 4,200 meters in altitude I had my first-ever struggle with altitude sickness: intense pressure headaches and constant nausea. I was ill for about three days from it, making me climb at my slowest pace yet. But fortunately I was able to take my time, but I really struggled with accepting that I just could not go as fast as I am accustomed to climbing. Generally I feel very in tune with my body; I’m often sure I know what my body is trying to tell me, what needs haven’t been met and what I need to do to always treat my body with care. My body is my armor. I am so grateful to be in general good health, that allows me to travel and attempt these climbs. So I had to keep reminding myself of this gratitude while facing the challenge of feeling insufficient because I couldn’t keep up. Before leaving for Ecuador, I was trying to participate in at least one class a day at CycleYou to help prepare my body as much as possible. I did several cycling classes a week to help me with cardio training, and to develop a positive dialogue with myself that kept my determination strong even as I was ready to quit. I took yoga classes to work on my breathing and continue that dialogue with myself in a different setting. I took barre and TRX classes that worked my micro-muscles and deep tissue to get my body accustomed to all types of activity and improve my balance. And I dabbled with boxing classes to give my arms and core extra attention. All of this was in an attempt to get myself as strong and prepared as I could for my trip, where I knew I would be working muscles of all sizes and challenging all parts of my body. But altitude sickness is not a result of lack of fitness or preparation. It affects everyone differently and at different altitudes, regardless of other health factors. Needless to say, the thinner air and lower oxygen levels did not care how strong I was or how many exercise classes I’d taken beforehand. It decided to kick my ass anyway. But there was no use in getting frustrated with myself or being grumpy about not feeling my best. I was in a beautiful place, on an amazing adventure, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from enjoying every ounce of it. So I took breaks from climbing as I needed them, and I meditated. I visualized my pain and imagined it leaving my body in various ways like melting from my skin, peeling from my face, or evaporating from my stomach. Though I hadn’t had much experience with meditation before this trip, I am a firm believer in mind-over-matter. So I focused all of my mental energy and power on visualizing that pain and letting it go. It was extremely difficult for me to focus, and it took a lot of patience for me to keep it up. But each moment that I paid attention, even though it only lasted a moment, I felt no pain. So one moment at a time, I focused on this exercise until finally I started feeling better. After that, a whole new sense of accomplishment carried me through the remainder of the climbs. I wasn’t miraculously recovered, but the self-love that I had given myself, being gentle with my body and careful with my emotions, was such a gift. Probably the most challenging trek I’ve ever hiked. Definitely the most peaceful I’ve ever felt. Everything I gained on a personal level was extremely rewarding.

After the climbs we took a break from the elevation and hiked down to the lagoon and kayaked across the water.

Then we climbed some more.

In Baños we went canyoning, which is basically just rappelling down waterfalls backwards. And then I jumped off a bridge, tied to a bungee chord, free-falling a few hundred feet to the water below.


Las Cajas Parque Nacional:

Introducing PiYo at CycleYOU!

Mary Beth is a local runner and triathlete who has been working out at CycleYOU since the first test rides! She was also working out at FIT from the start at the Romany location – where she first tried PiYo. Now you can find her most often on the computrainer or in FIT Fusion. MB turned to PiYo to balance out all the running and cycling. PiYo’s combination of faster paced yoga stretching with traditional strength moves, and the learnable format, made this a training necessity! PiYo helps your body do everything else better. She loved it so much, she decided to be an instructor and teaches at Pivot Brewing and is super excited to bring PiYo back to CycleYOU! This is a 6 week class starting Tuesday July 11 @6pm. Sign up and Try PiYo, yo!

Funky & FIT Class

BIO: Jason Mitchell, has been involved in the world of musical theatre and dance since the age of 6.  He has been seen in regional productions and has toured both nationally and internationally performing as both a singer and dancer.  Locally, Jason has been a fixture in the annual production of “Grand Night for Singing” at the Singletary Center. Most recently, Jason can been seen on the floors of Dance Super Nationals, Just Dance and Bella Moxi dance conventions as he emcees these competitions involving dancers from across the country as well as dancers from the popular “So You Think You Can Dance” show on television. Jason’s involvement in the world of all-star cheer and dance spans several years and has taken him all across the U.S. and to Europe allowing him to work alongside some of the country’s most elite dance and cheer personalities.  

Resolutions Vs Intentions

It’s a new year. Most if not all of us feel the need to evaluate our lives every time the ball drops at midnight. I am no exception.  What comes to mind? Resolutions.  That word is so strong, so permanent, so resolute. It occurs to me my life has never been that secure, that sure,  that permanent.  Are any of our lives really that way? My life changes day to day. There is rain and sun, challenges and triumphs, good news and bad news, sometimes all in one morning. No, resolutions are not for me. I need more flexibility than that. Intentions. Intentions are more my style. I can have my best life visualized, I can intend to be kind to myself, I can intend to be kinder to others, even to those who are not on my side, I can intend to be more in the moment, more accepting of life.  Intentions can become reality, but also allow for those days and moments when I won’t measure up. When I lose my cool, when I am definitely NOT my best self. Instead of going down the rabbit hole of self- shame because I didn’t measure up, intentions allow me the understanding that it’s an ongoing process. That is the key. You don’t fail an intention. You just keep trying toward it. Intentions even get stronger especially when you misstep but still keep going. Some days you will trip, some you will trod, some you will walk,  and some you will have the wind in your hair as you run. How exhilarating!
So one intention for me for 2016. Take a day off. For the past three- years I have worked almost everyday, even on vacations. What I know for sure is if I keep this up, I won’t be any good to anyone. So it’s my intention to take one day a week. Sunday is Now MY day, for whatever and wherever my whims take me. I stand a better chance of being my best self on the other days if I take one day for me. I know you might be in a panic we will lose Super Soul Sunday every other week, we won’t cause I’m making it Super Soul Saturday!! Every other week on Saturday 9:30 AM I will rock Super Soul with you! 
As we move forward together, I challenge you to set your own intentions. And I hope one of them is to take a day for you. One day where YOU come first. You may stay in bed, read a book, choose a hike or a movie. Life needs joy to expand. You work hard.  Now take a day to be joyful and celebrate the fruits of your labor. Why are we working so hard, if we don’t experience the joy???


CycleYOU®…Where are we growing?!

noelle_backgroundAs many of you may have heard, today CycleYOU® officially announced franchise opportunities!

Please read our local and national press releases below. For more information and interest in owning a CycleYOU® franchise, please visit CycleYOU® Franchising

National Press Release

Local Press Release

Holiday Eating…she got it right!

We all stress about the holidays and more specifically what we eat during them. It can cause some of us serious anxiety. When I began to write this entry I started it numerous different ways and then I found the article below written by my daughter, Leah. She is an amazing writer. And this piece totally sums up holiday eating. So rather than recreate the wheel…please sit back, take a second, and enjoy!



The wisest piece of food advice I’ve heard lately is to not diet during the holidays. Why torture yourself? Why set yourself up for failure? Why inflict a “healthy” (AKA low-calorie, dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, ingredient-free, taste-free, satisfaction-free) dish on your family in the name of cutting calories? But here’s another thought: why diet at all?

Let me back up a little bit. Even though I’m a child of ’89, the word “diet” conjures up an image straight from the 80’s, complete with diet soda and a retro cookbook touting the outdated ideals praising only low fat and low calorie recipes. In my mind, it seems like an antiquated concept that must be solidly decided aloud: the declarative statement of a big haired woman saying to a friend with thinly-veiled condensation, “Oh, I can’t- I’m on a diet.” And with quite obvious condensation, I inwardly smirk and congratulate myself for progressing beyond this stereotype. But of course my ego carefully overlooks the diet mentality, which has become instinctual in our society yet rarely acknowledged in the open. And I’m certainly not immune from or an exception of its effects.

What is the diet mentality? It’s a pervasive, unconscious, and toxic belief that the body can not be trusted with food. If you’re one of those fancy folks with actual cable television, listen to the words used in commercials to describe food, especially the advertisements directed toward the female population. Here are a few common buzzwords: “guilt-free,” “indulgent,” “decadent,” “skinny,” “sinful.” This kind of language corrals food into two opposing categories: safe and unsafe, allowed and forbidden, salvation and temptation, should and should not, healthy and unhealthy.

And who benefits from the diet mentality? The people feeding it (wah wah) to you, from Big Food to every creator of the next big diet trend. As someone who hopes to become a dietician, I will also be making a career because of diet culture in a way- although I aim to end the cycle rather than perpetuate it for profit. Big food companies and diet companies ultimately don’t want me to get better or healthier; they want to make money. And the more I buy into the diet mentality, the more they’ll get.

I could rant on this topic for hours but I’ll keep my nutrition ravings to the above blunt statements (at least for this post.) Notice that this post uses personal pronouns, experiences, and beliefs- I’m not yet a medical professional and don’t aim to replace the advice of an actual doctor. I just know I wasn’t quite able to identify the problem or believe in a solution until I read and watched the experiences of others online with the same patterns. The same attempts at every new fad diet. The same cycle of eating “clean” with too few calories for a certain amount of time before gorging on calorie-dense “treat” foods- each phase punctuated by heavy guilt. The same wary judgement projected onto certain ingredients and macronutrients.The same false associations of weight gain to loss of value, attractiveness, lovability. The same held breath when stepping on a scale. The same silent but insistent fear of gaining weight. The same unquestioned mistrust of my body and my hunger.

Also note that these are feelings I’ve had reinforced since I was old enough to begin conceiving a body image- both before and after my full-blown eating disorder. These are feelings I’ve had with years of recovery from my eating disorder, years between me and my last binge and purge. I can’t even remember my last intentional restriction. While these feelings are certainly synonymous with eating disordered thinking, I believe they are a direct product of diet culture.

Shew. I hope y’all are ready for the good news because I certainly am after writing all that. As much as it honestly terrifies me, I’m ready to finally make my way back to my natural state, before I learned and believed all these problematic lies, back to simply listening to my hunger cues and responding honestly to them. Without binges, restrictions, fear foods, scales, guilt, or self-imposed perfectionism. The concept of intuitive eating seems to be my best bet.

Intuitive eating isn’t a new concept. It was popularized by the aptly-named book Intuitive Eating by dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. It’s currently Amazon’s #1 best-selling book on the subject of eating disorders. Admittedly, while I have explored and researched these concepts, I have yet to lay hands on a copy of this book as it remains not yet shipped from a certain eBay seller (side-eye.) In conjunction with knowledge of my personal history, my personal tendencies, and a bit of nutrition, I think these 10 concepts of intuitive eating (directly copied from the authors’ website) will help me not exactly to lose or gain weight, but simply gain peace with my body and dietary choices:

10 Principles of Intuitive Eating

1. Reject the Diet Mentality: Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently. Get angry at the lies that have led you to feel as if you were a failure every time a new diet stopped working and you gained back all of the weight. If you allow even one small hope to linger that a new and better diet might be lurking around the corner, it will prevent you from being free to rediscover Intuitive Eating.

2. Honor Your Hunger: Keep your body biologically fed with adequate energy and carbohydrates. Otherwise you can trigger a primal drive to overeat. Once you reach the moment of excessive hunger, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating are fleeting and irrelevant. Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for re-building trust with yourself and food.

3. Make Peace with Food: Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.

4. Challenge the Food Police: Scream a loud “NO” to thoughts in your head that declare you’re “good” for eating minimal calories or “bad” because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. The Food Police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created . The police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loud speaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. Chasing the Food Police away is a critical step in returning to Intuitive Eating.

5. Respect Your Fullness: Listen for the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry. Observe the signs that show that you’re comfortably full. Pause in the middle of a meal or food and ask yourself how the food tastes, and what is your current fullness level?

6. Discover the Satisfaction Factor: The Japanese have the wisdom to promote pleasure as one of their goals of healthy living. In our fury to be thin and healthy, we often overlook one of the most basic gifts of existence–the pleasure and satisfaction that can be found in the eating experience. When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting and conducive, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content. By providing this experience for yourself, you will find that it takes much less food to decide you’ve had “enough”.

7. Honor Your Feelings Without Using Food: Find ways to comfort , nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food. Anxiety, loneliness, boredom, anger are emotions we all experience throughout life. Each has its own trigger, and each has its own appeasement. Food won’t fix any of these feelings. It may comfort for the short term, distract from the pain, or even numb you into a food hangover. But food won’t solve the problem. If anything, eating for an emotional hunger will only make you feel worse in the long run. You’ll ultimately have to deal with the source of the emotion, as well as the discomfort of overeating.

8. Respect Your Body: Accept your genetic blueprint. Just as a person with a shoe size of eight would not expect to realistically squeeze into a size six, it is equally as futile (and uncomfortable) to have the same expectation with body size. But mostly, respect your body, so you can feel better about who you are. It’s hard to reject the diet mentality if you are unrealistic and overly critical about your body shape.

9. Exercise–Feel the Difference: Forget militant exercise. Just get active and feel the difference. Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie burning effect of exercise. If you focus on how you feel from working out, such as energized, it can make the difference between rolling out of bed for a brisk morning walk or hitting the snooze alarm. If when you wake up, your only goal is to lose weight, it’s usually not a motivating factor in that moment of time.

10 Honor Your Health–Gentle Nutrition: Make food choices that honor your health and tastebuds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts.

Scared yet? After hearing about these tenets- even though logically I knew that they would teach me how to have a healthy relationship with my body- an immediate mixture of physical anxiety and terror whirled in my stomach. I can’t do this, I thought. What if I get fat? What if I lose control?

The sad truth behind this thought is that while I continue to act and live with a diet mentality, I am not in control of myself or my body. Oh, that age-old recovery lesson of letting go; it just keeps popping up in every area of my mental health. And I’m finally comfortable and confident enough in my recovery to begin loosening my grip and trusting myself… even if it’s just for a month. Even if that’s what I have to tell myself to be willing to begin. Earlier today on Tumblr, I came across this quote and feel that it perfectly describes my overall goal with intuitive eating:

If you strip it of all the complex terminology and all the complex jargon, enlightenment is simply returning to our natural state of being. A natural state, of course, means a state which is not contrived, a state that requires no effort or discipline to maintain, a state of being which is not enhanced by any sort of manipulation of mind or body—in other words, a state that is completely natural, completely spontaneous.
– Adyashanti
Today was day two of intuitive eating for me. It hasn’t been perfect… I actually slightly over-ate while writing this post. Becoming enthusiastic and engrossed in the task at hand, the old habit of complete fork-to-mouth autopilot seamlessly switched on- plus this broccoli and salmon with lemon tastes so damn good. I’m also unsure of the exactly right approach to my Sunday ritual of weekly meal planning and prep tomorrow. But if my biggest problem today is that I gain a minute and therefore immeasurable amount of weight from a big dinner, then I’d say I’m leading a pretty good life. As a favorite quote from John Steinbeck said: “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
This post begins my new series The Body+ Project, which aims to address body acceptance, image, and peace through my personal experiences. After some more time practicing intuitive eating, I’ll be sure to write a follow-up post and link it here. In the meantime, if you’d like to follow my process on a more granular day-by-day level, I’ll be posting smaller and more frequent updates on my Tumblr under the tag ditch the diet. And if you’re a more visual person, I’ll tag relevant posts for intuitive eating on my Instagram with the tag #ditchthediet. Feel free to join in and tag me in any of your Ditch the Diet posts!
What are your thoughts on diet culture? What does a healthy relationship with food mean to you? What in the heck am I going to get at the grocery store tomorrow? Let me know what you’re thinking in the comments below!

Be kind. Live authentically. Practice gratitude. Hustle daily. Work hard. Stay humble.


Chances Are

You see them; the tall, lean or petite, “ideal” body type. You think, what are they doing that I’m not? Do they spend all their time in the gym? Do they eat nothing but kale and farm- raised chicken? You compare and contrast. You dissect. If they look that good, then there must be a defect somewhere else. Right? Right?!?!

Probably not. Chances are they’re genetically blessed. Yes, some have  to work really hard to look the way they do; but they are just like you and me. They carry the baggage from their past. They are in this moment dealing with something in their life that challenges them. They are not perfect. Chances are, even if they don’t admit behind a bravado or conceit they don’t feel any more the ‘ideal’ than you do. And chances are they wish you knew that.

Noelle Bio shot B_w

We spend so much time focusing on what others look like. When was the last time you looked at yourself? I mean really looked. Not with a critical eye that compares every body part with the mental image put in your mind by a reality show or magazine, but with a loving eye, an appreciative gaze, a quiet mind. An eye that notices the muscles in your legs, the strength in your arms, the bright gleam in your eyes, the curves of your hips, the smile that makes a room light up.

There is a lady I know who has been very thin her entire life. She struggles to keep weight on. Sounds like heaven for some us right? This wonderful women tells me all the time how she envies my curves. She would give anything for them. I was stunned. But it got me thinking; what would happen if we accepted the bodies we were given and focused only on appreciating them? What would happen if we stopped the comparisons and focused on the gratitude of what we have? Wouldn’t we do more right by our bodies? Wouldn’t we be more prone to flex it, move it and feed it the best if we LOVED our bodies rather than beat them up, & put them down?  Can you look past someone else’s “ideal” and love the “you” you are today? Chances are this one change in perception, can transform everything.