One Healthy Mud Runner

Introducing Candace Couper, a childhood friend of mine through horseback riding. When Candace’s posts about paleo recipes and mud runs appeared on my Facebook feed, I couldn’t wait to hear more about her transformation. I could feel Candace’s inspirational energy through her words, enjoy!

10353566_10202324567615865_2086178525415640473_n1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did ‘life as you know it’ come to be? How did you get into your profession? How did you get into mud runs?

I’m Candace. I’m from Boston and I currently live in Denver, CO with my awesome dog, Bruin. I came out to Denver for undergrad then ended up staying for graduate school and have been unable to leave.

I grew up horseback riding and have always loved animals. I got into social work during a high school internship. I originally chose the internship because the woman I wanted to work with was a massage therapist (and that’s what I wanted to do at the time) who also worked full time as a behavior counselor at a middle school for high-risk youth. After accompanying her to the middle school daily, I became passionate about helping at-risk youth. I decided to get my masters degree in social work when I learned about University of Denver’s animal-assisted therapy program. I thought it would be a great opportunity to combine my love of animals with my passion for helping people (and it was!)

I got into mud runs in May of 2013. I had done a few fun runs and 5ks previously and decided – on a whim – to enter the Rugged Maniac. I thought it would be a fun way to keep myself motivated. I thought I was in pretty good shape as I was running quite a few miles several times a week and riding at the time. However, Rugged Maniac kicked my butt. I was so sore afterwards that I couldn’t move for a week and was covered in bruises. Then, I happened to see a deal at Fitness Together (a personal training studio) for introductory sessions and I decided to go for it. I haven’t looked back since! This was the start of a complete lifestyle change for me. I’ve learned so much about exercise, nutrition and all around being healthy. I’ve lost quite a bit (weight, body fat, bad habits, etc.) but have gained so much more (strength, empowerment, courage, self-confidence, and more!) I’ve since participated in eight fun/mud/obstacle runs including the Tough Mudder!

9201924_race_0.5178423625966894.display2. Is there any overlap in your profession and your values for health, wellness, and challenging yourself? Do you ever combine the two? In what ways?

Yes! I’m currently working for an after school program focused on movement, nutrition, and mindfulness, which overlap quite a bit with my own core values. Within the social work profession, I am personally very interested in alternative therapies. I’ve utilized equine-assisted therapy, community agriculture, and food justice work with at-risk youth. In the future, I hope to combine my passion for health with my profession by using fitness as a form of an alternative therapy. It’s one of the best methods out there!

3. What is your favorite workout? Favorite weekend activity?

I go back and forth; I was doing a ton of HIIT, (high intensity interval training) which is great for cardio and strength in one and utilizes very little equipment. While HIIT is a very effective workout, I recently switched back to strength/weight training. My original goal when I first joined the gym, and committed to changing my lifestyle, was to get stronger, which is one of the many benefits of weight training. My favorite weight training exercises are squats and deadlifts. I love the feeling I get after a hard weight training session – I feel accomplished, strong and confident.

My favorite weekend activities are hiking and walking my dog. There are so many great hiking areas close to Denver. This past summer, I spent most of my weekends training and doing Mud Runs, including the Manitou Incline and hiking my first 14er (we actually did two/three in one day!).

4. As a young woman, hard worker, and athlete, how do you maintain balance in your life?

Balance has been one of the hardest aspects for me, especially while I was still in school. However, I’m a firm believer that if something matters to you, then you can make some time for it…even if it means going to the gym at 6am on a Saturday. Combining multiple aspects of my life is another great way I’ve found balance. For example, when my family came out for my graduation, I convinced some of my family members to do a mud run with me which was super fun!

5. Any great healthy/balance tips for other young woman?

Keep it interesting and find what you like! This applies to everything – fitness, nutrition, work, and your personal life. If you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing or if you’re bored, you’ll become miserable and less likely to stick with it. Figure out what works for you, (I like working out with a trainer and prefer to work out by myself. Some people work better when they have the support of a buddy or group classes) do it for yourself no one else, keep healthy snacks on hand, (I keep a bag of washed baby carrots in the door of my fridge so even if I’m mindlessly snacking, I am more likely to grab something healthy.) and be patient – with the process and with yourself.

6. What food items do you always keep in your house?

There are so many food items I always have in my apartment – being prepared makes cooking and eating healthy meals so much easier. I always have a wide variety of fresh and frozen produce (frozen is great for emergencies and frozen fruit is one of my favorite desserts.) I always have some sort of precooked protein on hand for nights when I don’t feel like cooking or I’m short on time. Other things I always have are eggs, chicken, nuts, and homemade snacks.

10629590_10202906037232242_5330012433469019646_n7. What is your favorite indulgence?

I’m a huge chocolate hoarder, especially when it comes to dark chocolate.

8. How do you make health a priority in your life?

Being healthy is somewhat of a new priority for me. At first, it was really difficult to stick with it, but I’ve discovered that being healthy really is a lifestyle. Meal prepping has been a huge help when it comes to eating healthy. In terms of fitness, thankfully, I live in a great place that emphasizes living an active lifestyle and a lot of my friends enjoy being active as well. That makes it easier and more enjoyable to make health my priority.

9. What is your FAVORITE thing about mud runs?

There are so many things about mud runs that I love. I love the physical and mental challenge. One of my favorite aspects, though, has to be the camaraderie. Every mud run I’ve done has focused on helping out fellow participants; there is always someone to lend a hand if you need it whether it be a fellow participant or a volunteer. Participants at mud runs tend to be so supportive and encouraging of one another, which lends to an amazing environment.

10. One Healthy Breakdown: Candace is one tough mudder we can all learn from! Whatever we’re working through in our lives, put health and yourself first!

One Healthy Mom

Enjoy this refreshingly honest and inspirational interview with local family life teacher, parenting coach, and amazing mother of five, Anastasia Gavalas!

meee1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a mom, family life teacher, author of WING IT: 6 Simple Steps to Succeed as a Modern Day Parent, and founder of the WING IT PROJECT. I live in Bridgehampton with my husband and five children (ages 15, 13, 11, 9, & 7.) Helping parents make life with children easier is such gratifying work and making a difference in the world through the WING IT PROJECT is something I’ve always dreamed of doing. I live my life in a wholehearted way where I am happy with myself and confident with the choices I make.

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2. How did ‘life as you know it’ come to be?

After I had my 2nd child I felt exhausted and couldn’t get out of bed. I was quickly diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, an autoimmune disease, that had been manifesting in my body for years. I took the prescribed medicine and it just didn’t help much. I kept plugging along but felt overwhelmed and emotionally drained. In 2003, we decided to move to the Hamptons and found out we were expecting baby #4… surprise! With all that was going on, on top of not having family or friends around for support, I quickly learned that I needed to change. I began searching for alternative methods that would support what I knew in my heart was best. I tried acupuncture, homeopathic remedies, and a new overall wellness approach for my health and for my family. It was out of necessity that I found a more organic way of living life. This included making my well-being a priority as well as teaching my children to be more independent.

3. What’s something you overcame and how?

My need to do everything perfectly and my fear-based reactions. Once I was able to recognize that the display of the “perfect” children or my role as the “perfect” mother was wearing me out and preventing me from living authentically, I let those ideas go. Perfection is based on other people’s judgements. I made a decision to separate myself from the concept of perfection to be happy. I practiced meditation starting ten minutes a day, carved out me-time every single day, and (just like I explain in the chapter, “Build Your Village” in WING IT) I began to surround myself with more supportive people who encourage my growth.

4. What is your favorite workout? Favorite family activity?

Dancing is one of my favorite things to do and I mix it with a brisk walk a few times a week. I get bored easily with exercising so I need to change my workout routine up all the time. As far as a family we like to swim (although 2 out of 5 kids hate the beach – not sure how that happened?!?) take bike rides, and go skiing. I have high-energy kids who are constantly moving and ready for adventure at all times so, we’re always moving & grooving.

5. As a career woman, mother, and wife, and how do you maintain balance in your life?

First, I redefined the concept of balance. Standing upright at all times isn’t realistic or worth the effort. But, remaining focused on a goal with a trusting, more joyful attitude will help balance appear in the most challenging of roles. I believe balance is about remaining flexible and knowing that, just as the mightiest of trees will bend and sway with the winds of world, so will mothers who strive for balance. At the end of the day, people just have to appreciate the flexibility and positions experienced.

5. Any great healthy tips for busy moms?

Yes, take time for yourself: get enough sleep, eat good food, sit down and take time to meditate so you can be the woman you were meant to be and the best mom for your children.

6. What food items do you always keep in the house?

Fresh vegetables and fruits – organic as much as possible, olive oil, different cheeses, good meats, gluten-free foods, and always a bottle of chilled champagne for those special occasions…because moms are people too!

7. What is your favorite indulgence?

Drinking tea in the morning, sleeping in (that’s happened maybe three times in the past 10 years… but, a girl can dream!) and long hot showers (alone.)

8. How do you make health a priority in your family without going overboard?

Practicing being healthy is a lifestyle choice. We spend a lot of time outdoors. I talk to my kids about nutritional balance. Four of my children are responsible for cooking one night per week. So, every night, we have a really good, balanced, colorful meal. Children learn by what they observe and I try to demonstrate a healthy lifestyle with the choices I make instead of badgering them with health talks.

9. What is your FAVORITE thing about living in the Hamptons?

The ease of living out here. There is an organic way to life. I love the diversity of people and the experiences it provides. It is a really special place to live with the most amazingly kind people. It’s a great place to raise children because you can be as tuned-in to what’s happening or tuned-out of the busyness of life as much as you want to be.

1094944_578046278901282_1736507745_nOne Healthy Breakdown: Love, laugh, play, learn, and live your life for YOU.

One Healthy Pilates Instructor

Enjoy this interview with Erika Bloom of Erika Bloom Pilates Plus for tips on balancing a business, (Erika’s Pilates studios in and around NYC & the Hamptons) family, and a healthy life!White Collar – Season 41. How did you get into Pilates?

I began Pilates when I was a professional dancer. It was recommended by my doctors to help with dance-related injury. I immediately fell in love with it and got amazing results, both as a dancer and after I stopped performing. I continually find that Pilates is the answer as I go through different phases in my life: to keep my dancer’s body once I stopped dancing, to counter my scoliosis as I age, to prepare for and recover from having children. Year after year, I love it more and more.

2. What do you find is the best benefit of Pilates? Tell us some other benefits too!

Pilates is the most effective way to perfect posture. This is so important because we all look thinner, younger, and more beautiful with good posture; and good alignment makes the body feel better and keeps it injury free. Pilates is also so amazing because it creates both strength and flexibility. It works the muscles in a way that sculpts the body to be long and lean.

3. What is your favorite non-Pilates workout/activity?

I practice yoga, particularly the Pranayama and meditation portion, and I love how it complements Pilates. I also love swimming in the ocean with my kids, playing paddle ball on the beach, stand-up paddle boarding in Gardiner’s Bay by our house, and taking long bike rides through the Hamptons.

4. As a mother, business owner, wife, and Pilates instructor, how do you maintain balance in your life?

It’s hard! It’s important to learn to say ‘no’ to work demands. It’s also challenging but really imperative to be ‘off’ work when I’m not at work so that I can focus on my kids when I’m with them and not have my head in two places at once. I have to remind myself that the world isn’t going to end if I wait until I’m back in the office to get back to someone. I’m also very lucky that I have such an amazing team around me both at home and in the office and that the type of work I do makes it easy to take care of myself. A day at the office includes a Pilates session, massage, or acupuncture treatment!

5. Any great healthy tips for on-the-go’ers?

The best thing we can do for ourselves is to breathe! When you’re stressed, rushed, tired, hungry, out of balance, take some time to focus on slow, deep breaths. Calming your nervous system in this way, helping to bring it from sympathetic to parasympathetic, improves immunity, digestion, lowers blood pressure and stress hormones, and more. It’s so simple, but so amazingly effective.

6. What food items do you always keep in the house?

I always keep tons of fruit in the house. It’s an easy, healthy snack that also squashes sugar cravings. I love apples, blueberries, plums, and pears the most.

MP900387864I also always have organic turkey and Ezekiel bread for a quick, protein-rich lunch for the kids. Brown rice, quinoa, fresh veggies, miso soup, hard boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, and almond butter are always on hand as well.

7. What is your favorite indulgence? (can be edible or not!)

Getting regular blow outs for my hair is my indulgence. I don’t like the effort and time waste of doing my own hair. I love how it looks blown out and I love getting scalp massages, reading salon magazines, and multi-tasking by catching up on emails during the blow out. It feels like taking time out to get pampered every week!

8. How do you make health a priority in your family without going overboard?

I don’t think eating healthy and getting exercise has to be about restriction. Healthy food is delicious and physical activity is fun! We make it a part of every day with the spirit of enjoyment and I’m proud to be setting this kind of foundation for my kids’ healthy futures.

One Healthy Breakdown: Lots of exercise, produce, living in the moment with family, and weekly blow outs? Erika’s balanced lifestyle is one we can all strive for. Start with a deep breath now!