Before I forget, I wanted to share a recent epiphany I had about almonds. I have decided to stop eating them in the name of healthier looking skin. Even though I love them and think they're an amazing source of protein and healthy fats - I've dropped them like a bad habit and I'll tell you why.
I've been fighting a skin rash on my cheeks and forehead for the better part of a year. Sometimes I can cover it with make up and sometimes I can't.
I noticed it getting worse right after I did my second Whole 30 in January 2018. On that 30-day diet you are asked to eliminate a whole lot of food groups to see if they are causing weight gain, bloating, skin issues, sleep issues etc.
I never had acne as a teen or young adult, but when I reintroduced all the old foods into my diet, my skin lit up like a Christmas tree, so I visited an allergist and a dermatologist and both agreed my skin issue was likely rosacea, nothing more. I used medicines both orally and topically and nothing made it clear up. Nothing. Some days it looked even worse.
I avoided the sun, alcohol and spicy or hot foods because that's what a rosacea sufferer is supposed to do, but continued to suffer.
And then, early last month, I ran out of almond milk for my coffee. A few days without it, turned into a week and then a switch to some coconut milk instead. And before I knew it - my face looked better and better. Truthfully, I only stopped drinking it because I was too busy to go buy more but the absence of it became too noticeable to ignore.
When I did the allergy tests at the onset of the rash, I tested positive for a cashew allergy. The other nuts were fine. So, how could this be?
Well - according to the internet - almonds can causes rashes for some who eat too much. I was definitely guilty of this. I drank two almond milk lattes a day, ate protein bars with almonds and snacked on them raw. Sometimes they were toppings in my acai bowl or salad. Bottom line: I think I was poisoning myself.
Deverly, my good friend and fellow instructor, told me she had a similar issue with coconut milk. It was causing a skin rash on her arms. She stopped drinking it and it cleared.
I still have some of the facial rash but I am thinking it's also related to eating some of the foods the allergist asked me to eliminate like corn and flour. Gonna try curbing those to see if I get a better result. I'll keep you posted.
On July 4, it occurred to me that I was really lucky to be standing in my own shoes.
I was creating my Dance Trance playlist and trying to nail down patriotic songs and routines. A few were obvious: Freedom (Nicole C. Mulins), or Freedom (Pharrell), but then I started adding others - Salute (Little Mix), which is a tribute to women and that made me add I'm Dat Chick (Kelly Rowland) a song about being able to make it alone as a woman, and that's when it occurred to me, 'I'm really lucky'.
I'm a lucky Latina girl from Texas who grew up to be a writer/journalist. I am lucky that friends and family believed in me for years and helped me now own my business and run it however I like.
I am lucky that I dance when I feel like it, in the street and on rooftops and I don't get arrested. I am lucky to drive where I wanna drive, vote in elections, have friendships with women and men, own a home, raise three soon-to-be men and on and on and on.
This is my July 4th blessing; Freedoms that are not waisted on me.
Nor, have I lost sight of the fact that right now - three Richmond-area gyms have shuttered their doors; A fourth studio is currently up for sale.
One of those shuttered businesses, Victory Lady, was owned by Wendy Campbell. I met her and worked with her while at WTVR in 2002. She used to be in a spot we produced at the station. I remember thinking it was really cool that she owned her own gyms. She would come in, though, and was all business and she had a reputation for being tough. It's probably how she sustained being open for 29+ years.
The fitness industry isn't easy. Like journalism, it's scary and tough and no one, I repeat, no one does it for the money. What money? You do it because you love it and you love your people, or you fail.
So, you can see - Wendy rocked it! Factor in that she was in a male dominated industry, and owned and operated more than one location for a long time and it all means she kicked major trail-blazing ass!
Taking all that into account, I am truly lucky. Lucky that I have been able to chase my dreams and share them with great friends and clients - some are both. Lucky that I live in a country (though not perfect) and a city that embraces those dreams.
Very lucky indeed.
Last month, I challenged myself to one of the toughest assignments yet; dancing with Richmond Urban Dance in their I AM HIP HOP showcase: Club RVA.
The showcase is like a dance recital but Mandy Helmlinger, the creator of RUD, hates when we call it that. So instead, let's say it's a dance concert or a dance showcase, but really - it's kind of a whole unique thing.
Students who have taken class with RUD are invited to perform their pieces on stage in front of an audience of parents, spouses, friends and just the general public. The music is bumping, there are videos that play in between sets, the dances flow from one to the next and there's no intermission. By the end of the show everyone is on their feet and you feel like you've just witnesses a revival.
When we launched the TURNt with RUD classes at TURN, Mandy had her wheels spinning about including TURN clients in the show. And when some of our routines included tribute pieces to Janet Jackson's choreography with Anthony Thomas - we couldn't exactly say no. So, we rose to the challenge.
We met every Tuesday for weeks, learning more and more of the routines, perfecting them, cleaning them.
I did mention it's Janet Jackson, right?
They are some of the most iconic pieces of choreography and we had 6-weeks to get them ready for a show on June 1.
And it wasn't just the 4:00 Janet stuff, we also did several other pieces we had learned in class like Tip Toe, Finesse, Bartier Cardi and Clinton's choreography to Bad Man.
When the day came, it was exciting, stressful and exhilerating. I was also super proud of us. A lot of us hadn't danced on stage in years. Some of us, me, are 40+ moms who got up there and did the worm and a booty drop with 20-somethings. It was amazing. And after it was all over, I was exhausted for days.
I say all that to say this: You can do anything you want. Repeat that: You can do anything you want. And if it brings you joy - do the shit out of it. Don't worry. It doesn't have to be perfect, just be enthusiastic about it. Just love the shit out of it and let the rest unfold like magic. That's my takeaway from the whole RUD show. Talk about keeping yourself young and fine tuned.
It was a wonderful way to kick off summer.
It was also a wonderful way to become closer to dancers from other groups who performed with us.
Shout outs to IDanzeFitness, The Brand, RVA Tap Troupe and of course, Richmond Urban Dance who are now and forever our dance cousins!
First, let me apologize for going on a bloggers hiatus. That's not really like me to just ghost. Been kinda busy making gains at the studio; Teaching more classes, planning events, updating a bathroom, collaborating and dancing with other studios and oh, yeah - did you hear I was on a podcast? I say all that to say this, I won't leave you hanging again. At least, I will try to avoid going so long in between posts.
Now, to the nitty gritty on these new Nike shoes I've been trying out.
First up - the Nike Free TR8. I gotta tell you. I really like this shoe. I mean - it's light weight, it's solid and packed with cushion in the heel and it's basically a sock on top so it's cool and hugs your foot. The bottom of it is smooth, with just enough grip to allow me to turn without slipping. I really think this is a fabulous shoe for fitness dancing. Kind of impressed.
There are some negatives on this one though. It does have a high fabric on your heel. It can rub and leave you with a blister, so that takes some getting used to. I also think it kinda runs a little small. If I hadn't ordered online, I definitely would have tried on a half size bigger. I wear an 8.5 and sometimes when I'm dancing I can feel my toes going numb. I thought this was because I wear orthotic insoles in my shoes, but it's the same problem when I go without. And finally the biggest drawback on this shoe is the price point. It retails on Nike at $100 right now. Yeah - I know. I did get a discount and that's how I was able to give these sweet babies a try. But I think that's pretty expensive for a dance fitness shoe. Alas, you can wear this in other fitness classes too!
Last but not least, I'm trying out the Nike Air Max 270 and wow! I mean WOW! It is an oh, so comfortable shoe. I'm on my feet almost all day and this past week I was teaching different kinds of classes, dance, Tabata, Ass & Abs, TRX and the shoe was killing it!
First, it fits your foot really well. It has more room in the toe than the TR8. In addition, it also pulls on like a sock but has thicker fabric so it really hugs the top of your foot. It has way more grip and width in the toe box so it keeps you stable when you're balancing on one foot or lunging from side to side. And finally - it has this air-filled cushion heel so when you jump, the shock is absorbed by the shoe and not your soles. I love it. I would buy another pair if it didn't retail for $150. Again, discount helped me afford these shoes. Emily Snow has this shoe too, in the cutest colors and the shoe is made for men too. So, you and your boo can match Em!
Recently, I did grab a pair of the Adidas Edge Lux in gray. I love wearing them as an athleisure shoe. That means, when I'm just hanging out trying to be cute. But, I've accidentally left them on to dance in, and while they are great for turns and pivots, they just don't have as much heel and arch support and the fabric for your upper foot stretches out quickly. Not to mention, the laces are basically ribbon. So, this is probably not the shoe you want to workout in. Just saying'.
Would love to hear what you're wearing and if you think I should try one of your faves.
Ready to get serious about some weight loss?
I'm going to tell you what I tell all my friends (because I had to learn this the hard way) weight loss is seriously 80% what you eat and only 20% about how much you workout. I know. I know. That's damn disappointing! I can dance and lift all week long, sometimes twice a day and it will never change my body like adjusting my meals.
For years, I was the girl that said things like, "I workout so I can eat." And so, there lies the problem. That line of thinking only keeps you maintaining weight. It will never lead to a big shift in how to change your body. Oh sure, you can do something drastic like avoid eating or use some dietary drinks and pills and you WILL lose weight, but it won't be a permanent change and it won't be as significant as you'd like it to be.
So what's a person to do? Especially when you're not 20 anymore, you like to eat out and maybe you have kids or bad influences stocking up your kitchen with a bunch of fake foods in boxes. Ugh - face palm.
Sometimes you need something like a Whole 30. If you visit a dietitian, they likely call it something else, but essentially I'm asking you to cut some major food groups out of your diet. Foods that lead to inflammation. Things like:
-Sugar (yes - diet soda too)
Some of you are already rolling your eyes. I know - it's a tough list. And it's tough to avoid those foods by yourself. I did it with a group of people last January and we had a support group on Facebook. I'm going to do it again this January and lead the page under TURN. I'd like for you to join me.
I can't promise you weight loss. But I can promise a noticeable difference in how you will eat going forward. A lot of us are overeating salt and sugar and it's just not good for our health. I mean - it's terrible for our skin, our sleep, our metabolic system - just bad, bad, bad.
Here's how we're going to make the journey even easier: We are partnering up with EatSmart RVA. Abbie Toner and I have wanted to do this together for a while now. She's going to measure out meals for you - lunch and dinner portions if you want and then you just have to figure out your breakfast and snacks. This should be an easier way to do this.
If you choose not to do the Whole 30 with Eat Smart's help - you can do it by following a few simple rules. Avoiding the foods above and doing it for 30 days. :)
Last note - the TURN client who shows the biggest change, and it could be weight, hair, skin, allergies etc - will win a week of FREE meals from Eat Smart RVA in February and a gift card to TURN for some merch. Yep - I'll be getting new gear soon.
Whatcha think? Let me know if you're on board to participating.
Here are links to Eat Smart's part of our Whole 30 Collaboration.
The TURN Surf Betties: Katie (left) and Beth
TURN is the only fitness studio/gym in Richmond that offers the Surf exercise workout on Surfset boards. And because of that, we thought you should learn a little bit more about it, and why we brought it to our studio. Who better than to tell us all about how great and beneficial this workout is, than our resident “Betties” (that’s surf lingo for girls who ride waves), Beth Roach and Katie Hoak. Beth an avid surfer and surf instructor in the Outer Banks and Katie who is a former ballerina and fitness enthusiast turned instructor.
Tell us about yourselves. What’s your name and where are you from?
Katie Hoak. I’m from Greenville, SC
Beth Roach. From Surry, VA - a rural town on the James River southeast of Richmond
What brought you to Richmond?
Katie: After ten years in NYC, my husband (Jerry) and I decided it was time for a new chapter. He went to grad school here and when he got a job offer at the Martin Agency, we decided to take the plunge.
Beth: My best friends from JMU all moved to Richmond right after we graduated so it was where I wanted to be - with my friends, in a city and close to home.
What brought you to TURN?
Katie: I wanted to get back into exercise and something dance related. I found a Groupon for TURN and decided to give it a try because it had a ton of classes that interested me. Ironically, Surf was the first class I attended and I was hooked.
Beth: Seo (Kelleher) recognized my love for the boards when the program was at Shockoe Slip Yoga. She took me under her wing when she helped launch the program at TURN. We took a chance on the program being more successful at TURN and we were right!
Why did you decide to teach Surf?
Katie: It became a bit of an obsession. I loved the challenge of adapting regular exercises to the board and mastering my balance.
Beth: A big part of my vision early on was to provide opportunities for people to get comfortable with the mechanisms of surfing and then use my connections at the beach to get them actually surfing in the water. I didn’t set out to become an instructor but it became a natural fit. Surf is fun and makes us happy. Happier people make a better world. We’re changing the world here folks!
What is the most challenging/rewarding?
Katie: The most rewarding has been watching my students have fun and get stronger/more confident each week. I’m a big proponent of “work hard, play hard” and I think this class gives you both but is also silly and fun. It is land surfing after all!
Beth: It has allowed me to be creative in unusual ways. 2.5 years ago we used a strict format. Now, the program has transformed into what you can expect from a real surf session. We paddle out. Work on catching waves. Then, finish with epic rides, poses, or dance moves. I spend a lot of time selecting my music too so my inner aspirations of being a deejay have finally come true.
What’s the most common misconception about the Surf program?
Beth: That surf is way too hard! There are modifications and amplifications for all fitness levels.
How comparable is it to real surfing?
Katie: Very comparable. It’s probably the best simulation you can find to help you prepare for any water sports. I went surfing for the first time in June (9 months after I started doing Surf Fit) and was pretty much blown away by how much the skills we were teaching in class helped me do what I needed to do in the water. The same was true with paddle boarding. My core balance is so much better than it used to be.
Beth: The movement of the board definitely mimics how it feels to move in the water. However, the water def throws some serious challenges. I can’t teach you how to read the waves on a Surfset board, but I can help you visualize and practice the steps you need to catch the wave.
How has Surf helped your health and fitness goals?
Beth: The first time I paddled out in spring after using the boards all winter, I felt a lot less rusty. I was sold then.
Katie: I feel like I’m stronger, more toned, excited for class and never bored.
What’s your favorite thing to do at the end of class?
Katie: Surf Drills! Which pulls together all the things we’ve worked on in class. We blast a really great song like Hawaii 5-0 and just go hard for 2-minutes!
Do you think this program has longevity?
Beth: Yup! I don’t think people will get tired of going to the beach ever. I hope that they are inspired to take a lesson some day!
What’s your favorite thing to do after class?
Beth: Enjoy Scott’s Addition watering holes and chill with the squad.
Katie: I love dragging the surf boards over to the TURN sign and taking photos. Especially Boomerangs of everyone together in different poses.
Surf classes with Katie and Beth take place Wednesday 6:30am, Thursday 7:00pm and Saturdays at 11am.
Deep breath. Deep breath.
I write this, nervous about sharing my progress images with you. No one is making me do this. I'm doing it as motivation and self support. While I'll pretty much answer any question you ask with pure honesty, and while I wear my emotions raw on my sleeve, it's not me to share swimsuit pics or many selfies of my bare skin.
So be kind.
I am that girl who always picks themselves apart. I am that girl that doesn't think she's good enough. I am that girl that needs to heal from years of being told she was overweight and the body image issues that followed.
A year ago, I thought I was doing a great job in my health and fitness. I bought that swimsuit and honestly it was supposed to be perfect. It wasn't. I didn't like how it fit or how I fit in it so I took the photo on the left.
That was after I returned from a family trip to Disney and a work trip to Atlanta. I resigned myself into believing I couldn't lose any more weight because I was in my 40's. That this pic on the left was the best I could do. But I wanted to try... a little. So, I jump-started the year with the Whole 30 diet, and I added some strength classes into my dance and yoga routine.
I'd like to tell you a year later I work out all the time and that I live on quinoa, kale and avocados. But I don't. I'd probably look better if I did.
I do eat cinnamon rolls. I do eat French fries and chips on occasion, I drink beer and I do sleep in and skip workouts. But those days are limited. I make better choices and some days I participate in a couple of fitness classes a day. I do what feels good. I try not to feel guilty about it. And if I'm injured - I don't push.
Again, don't get me wrong. When I took the one year progress picture today I picked it apart; I see the wrinkled damaged skin from carrying babies and I still see inches to lose, but I am trying to remind myself that this is a great body for me. At age 44, I'm succeeding on the path to being healthy, and I have to support myself.
Still working on it. Feeling better about it. If you need some support on your journey, let me know - I'm here for you.
Thanks for reading.
In May, my friend Amy Brachman, owner of SuperFun Yoga Pants, asked if I’d participate in a photo shoot, modeling the yoga pants she sells. The pictures would be used on her website: superfunyogapants.com for online shoppers.
Almost immediately I returned an email with a huge YES attached to it.
If you’ve ever purchased from SuperFun, you know – they carry really great brands, in really great prints, that typically fit… really great! They’re adorable for fitness and even more adorable to dress up or down. Plus, the pictures on her website are awesome and look so fun. I know many of the women who've been in the photo shoots before me, so I know how fabulous the pictures of them turn out. How could I not participate?
Amy does an awesome job of asking real women to help her with these photo shoots. She asks women of all sizes, body types, ages and professions to join in. And it always looks like a blast (see pic above).
But when I first arrived at the shoot, I admit, I did that thing. Where I listened to the self-doubt in my head. Ya know - the one that says you’re not pretty enough, fit enough, thin enough or even young enough to do this? It was just about to get the best of me, until we were assembling outfits to model.
I was asked to bring much of my own clothing and accessories: anything I thought would pair well with the SuperFun yoga pants. I loaded up a travel bag with my personal collection of shoes, shirts and accessories and was unpacking it all when the self-doubt broke.
I showed Amy and Walker Willow (who helps style these shoots) my Frye boots, Texas Forever t-shirt from Magnolia Market in Waco, TX and the GAP jean jacket I’ve owned since college.
“I was kinda hoping you had some western inspired pants for this ensemble,” I said.
They handed me a pair of Buffalo Princess leggings from Teeki (see above) and that’s all she wrote folks. Suddenly, I was in the game. I was ready to rock that outfit everywhere in town. As a native Texan, I felt good in the clothes. I also started having fun. SuperFun! And almost immediately - I shifted.
I’m a 40-something wife and a mom of three, 5’4” with a booty, Latina, and not as a fit as a fit-pro should be. I’m far from your typical model but I was feeling it that day. In fact, I was kinda like – ‘want me to model anything else?’
Really. I could have been there all day.
It was a great experience. I recognized that I was bringing something different to the table and that it was okay to just enjoy the moment and more importantly, stop criticizing myself. And because the pants and outfits were so fun and awesome, it worked. I left there feeling proud, happy and energized.
And most importantly, I helped my friend who's also a native-Texan turned Richmond small-business owner, sell her pants. How can I not feel good about that? Thank you, Amy. Everyone should get to be a model for a day!
So, if Amy Brachman ever asks you to be in a SuperFun shoot. Say yes. Hell – yes!
Let’s talk about shoes. And, what woman doesn’t like a good pair of shoes?
I’ll be honest though, – I don’t like to spend a lot on shoes. I’m pretty hard on them and it breaks my heart to see a $100+ pair of shoes destroyed because I accidentally stepped in mud, or went out in the rain or that time my former dog ate them?
Note… I said “former dog”.
So, I usually only buy shoes around $75 and under. I also apply this toward my fitness and dance shoes. When it comes to Dance Trance you can find a good shoe in the $50-range.
Here’s what I look for when I’m buying shoes specifically for DT:
Here’s my general set of rules for when it’s time to change your shoes:
So, what’s my DT shoe?
Lately I’ve been sporting some Adidas footwear. I love the Adidas Element Refine Tricot. Clinton and I have them, along with a few of our students and they’re great because they’re light, yet supportive and have just enough tread to keep you from sliding around but still allow you to spin and turn like a fairy princess. They also come in great colors. If you can find these, because they’re no longer manufactured, they’ll run you anywhere from $35-$80 and it’s usually an Ebay purchase.
I also recently purchased the Adidas Neo with Cloudfoam. I got them for $50 with tax on Amazon. They are more heavy duty than the shoe above. Heavier and wider, but they have tons more cushion and support too. They do run big and if I got them again, I might go down a size. They also aren’t as smooth on the bottom. It’s good if you know how to turn, but if it’s a bit humid in the studio, you’re going to stick to the floor. And last but not least, the tongue and the ankle fabric do have a high rise and rub your skin – so a potential blister maker.
Other options, the Nike Flex Run, especially the 2015 model. They are comfy, they cushion your jump and are easy to turn in. The only issue I have with these shoes is there’s a little more tread than I’d like and the toe box is a bit wide. Otherwise they’re great and I’ve owned three pairs of them.
I think the Nike Free RN would also be a good comparable option to dance in, but it is still sold in most stores for about $99 so I haven’t tried it.
I am also curious about the Adidas Arauana dance shoe created by Stella McCartney. Someone get these so I can see them in person. They are on sale right now at Adidas.com
If you have any questions and want to try on some shoes I own, let me know. I keep most of mine at the studio because I have forgotten them before and barefoot DT is just not a good idea. Ever! Or, if you want to give me your feedback on a shoe I haven't tried, please post below.
Have you been to TURN on our Beats and Brews night, our monthly partnership with both the community and area breweries?
We started it six months ago at Isley Brewing, the first local craft brewer willing to take a chance on this concept, I just kinda pulled out of thin air, and we’ve been rolling full-steam ahead ever since.
In fact, we’ve had a couple of craft breweries reach out to us asking when we’ll be at their facility. A surprising twist and err, TURN?
A lot of our clients are also happy that we do it, many sharing with me that they either love the concept, love that we support other small businesses or love the energy and fun atmosphere created when people try our studio that night.
We offer you free evening classes on a weeknight. Afterwards, you’re invited to join us at a nearby brewery that knows we’re coming and is excited to have us there.
Why we do it is pretty layered.
First, most of our clients gather together after working out, but they continue to frequent the same place time-after-time and even order the same things. Creature of habit mentality in play here, so we thought, ‘Why not expand the crowd and expand your palette?’
Next, most people won’t try something new unless someone else does (FOMO: fear of missing out), so if we go with you or give you reason to go there, it’s less scary. This is particularly true when it comes to women trying craft beers. Take a look for yourself – more men, less women walking in alone.
Last, I get a chance to mingle with everyone. We get to talk about TURN or the food truck or the beer we like best. When we went to Buskey we played games and I had several people come up to me surprised that they liked the cider so much, because it was the first time they tried it. I also love that I’m supporting the small businesses around me. I’ll say that one again, we’re supporting the small businesses around us and really expanding our community.
Beats and Brews is this Thursday, May 31st and then we are heading to Strangeways Brewery.
I hope you’ll consider joining us. Classes are nearly full, Urban Ballet is at 6pm and Dance Trance is at 7pm. So if you’re going to be there, sign up now and if you’ve changed your mind, please early cancel so we can get someone else into class.
About the Author
Sandi Cauley is a small business owner, fitness instructor, dancer and retired broadcast journalist. She operates Turn Cardio Jam Studio in Richmond, VA (founded in 2015) with goals to mesh dance + fitness and connect others with some of their youth. She is also a 3 x boy mom, a Tejana, a wannabe