Day One: CORE strength
Several years ago I participated in a yoga workshop that focused on core strength. We began the weekend with the question, “How do you define your core?” In a room full of yoga instructors, many of our answers were similar: “our abs, our abs and back, glutes, hips and abs, everything except our arms and legs.” Our instructor agreed with all of us but then pushed us to think about our core in a different way, beyond the physical interpretation. What other meanings can we assign to “core?” “Ah-ha”... we all nodded...recognizing where she was going with that thought. So we started throwing out other words and ideas that could represent “core:”
- our center
- our middle
- the center of an apple is called the core
- the nucleus
- the interior
- the heart
- something very important
- something on the inside
We then spent the weekend exploring core strength as it applied not just to the physical yoga poses but also to our lives off of the yoga mat. Needless to say this was pretty powerful and resonated loudly with me!
As I made a plan for this Stronger Than You Think Summer Countdown, I kept coming back to the idea of core strength. If the core is defined simply as the “most important part of something” then that’s where we have to begin. The most important part of YOU seems like the right place to start for our first day of a challenge that focuses on YOUR strength. And like all those yoga instructors in the room with me, I hope you can realize today, tomorrow or at the end of this challenge that core strength or YOUR strength can present itself in many forms....physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and so on.
Day One starts with two tasks, a physical and a mental one.
Physical task: wait for it..... Planks! Yay!
We will begin to build or continue to challenge our physical core strength starting with basic planks today and then progressing them as the weeks progress.
You will see pics here that I've shared before showing different variations of planks. Whether you've worked out already today, have plans to exercise later or need some help getting started..today you are doing a PLANK. Get it done friends.
Beginners: 30 seconds of plank
Experienced: 1 minute or more of plank
Mental task: think about what core strength means to you. Reflect on a time that you demonstrated strength in a non-physical way. Could be in the past..could be something you do now, every day. Take a few moments to truly think about this.
As with all of my challenges, I invite you to post any reflections or comments....or don't post. It is up to you. All I ask is that you complete both of these tasks today.
Have a great day.
You got this.
Beginning on May 31 and running through June 20, we will countdown the days to the first day of summer, focusing on my favorite mantra: Stronger Than You Think....aka "STYT."
Strength comes in all forms: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual....and the list could go on. Rather than focusing on getting a "beach body" for summer, I prefer to focus on getting and staying healthy and strong. My goal for this challenge is to work on building strength....in any or all of these modes. There will be daily workouts, motivational quotes, support and wellness guidance.
I hope you will join me. Spread the word!! Daily posts and challenges will be here and on my STYT Summer Countdown Facebook group. Feel free to invite friends and get ready to discover you are stronger than you think.
The weather is warm, the sun is shining bright, and we are heading to the lake for the start of our Summer 2016 SUP season.
This week I opened registration for my Summer SUP classes at Jordan Lake. You can see a complete list of my SUP classes scheduled to date on my Class Schedule page, and can register by clicking on any of the blue-highlighted dates and times. .
You can also find links to register for any of my scheduled SUP classes at my Maria Finnegan Fitness Eventbrite page.
There are 7 community class dates to choose from so far, with more to come! This year I’ll be leading most of my classes at two locations on Jordan Lake: Vista Point in Pittsboro and Farrington Point Boat Ramp in Chapel Hill. So far classes are scheduled for Sunday mornings, Saturday mornings and Thursday evenings.
In addition to daytime SUP Yoga and SUP Fusion classes, I’m offering Sunset Yoga on selected Thursday nights at 6:00 pm. There is nothing more relaxing or more beautiful than moving through your yoga practice, floating on the cool water, feeling the warm air on your skin and listening to the soothing summer evening sounds on the lake. It’s a lovely experience that I can't wait to share with you.
SUP Class Descriptions
SUP Yoga takes your yoga practice to a whole new place. . . On a paddle board. . . On the water. . . In a quiet cove on Jordan Lake. Together we will paddle, practice yoga, relax and paddle some more. No worries if you are new to paddle boarding, I will provide paddling and SUP technique instruction on land before getting you on your board. We will paddle for about 15 to 20 minutes before heading to our yoga spot.
And no worries if you are new to yoga. We will practice poses for all levels of ability. There are options for staying lower to the board to gain confidence and balance. With time, we
will move to our feet and practice standing poses and other more challenging postures. Our yoga practice lasts about 55 minutes and then we paddle for about 10 to 15 minutes back to shore.
The entire experience is approximately 2 hours, with 90 minutes on the board and water.
Each student will be encouraged to work at their own pace and practice patience and contentment as we experience yoga on the water. We will have lots of opportunity for rest and relaxation and a chance to drink in the gorgeous setting and notice the lightness of our bodies on the boards.
SUP Fusion is a total body workout experience that challenges your body and mind. Your board becomes a floating gym as we combines yoga, resistance training and cardio/core conditioning. After a land lesson where I review paddle technique and general instructions, we begin by paddling for about 15 minutes to warm up and and arrive at our workout cove on the lake.
Our workout lasts about 55 minutes during which time we will use a resistance band and body weight to strengthen and challenge our muscles. Yoga poses are incorporated throughout the session and especially at the end to stretch the muscles and wind down after our workout. We then return to shore with another 10-15 minute paddle.
The entire experience is approximately 2 hours, with 90 minutes on the board and water.
Each student will be encouraged to work at their own pace and practice patience and balance while strengthening their bodies and minds.
Yoga experience is helpful but not necessary to take my SUP classes. Nor is prior SUP experience a requirement. I will give you a lesson on land before we head out on the water and will guide and coach you through the entire session.
Private SUP Bookings
This year I’ve had quite a few private booking inquiries so my calendar is starting to fill up with groups who are interested in their own SUP experience. If you have a group interested in your own SUP excursion/class, contact me and let’s find a date to get you out on the water.
One thing that I firmly believe in is that exercise and movement can happen anywhere. I love being in the gym but I also love being outside those walls, and I am constantly searching for new spots to exercise whether it’s by myself or with clients and students. This summer we will be outside on standup paddleboards, in parking lots and driveways, in pools and in a brewery! Yes...fitness can happen anywhere, even in a place where they make beer!
On Friday, May 13, I teamed up with Erik, Paul and Amanda at Mystery Brewing in Hillsborough to offer our first of many “Poses and Pints” yoga classes in the brewery. This was our inaugural class and we had a fantastic time.
After a one-hour slow flow yoga practice in the brewery, we rolled up our mats and went over to the tasting side of the brewery for a pint of any of their fantastic beers. I happily enjoyed the Baton Francais! Yum.
So this is going to be a “regular thing” and we have three more dates lined up to get the summer going. Mark your calendars for:
We will post more dates as the summer progresses!
If you are going to join us...here are the details:
Where: Mystery Brewing Co, 437 Dimmocks Mill Road, Suite 41 (note that this is around the corner from the pub...we practice IN the brewery...remember...unusual spaces!)
What to bring: A yoga mat if you have one. I have a limited number of mats to share.
Cost: $15.00, which includes the cost of the class and a pint of beer.
Welcome to my newly redesigned website! I hope it will prove a good vehicle for continuing
to share the many exciting things going on in my world, and the exciting classes and opportunities
that I share with you all.
I’ve reorganized my site with the goal of making it easier to use and to enjoy. You will now see:
While starting afresh with my blog postings, I have retained the best of my posts from 2012 to
2015 in this first posting,, below. They are organized by category.
I hope you enjoy my new site, and I’d love to hear what you think.
Again, welcome! -- Maria
Favorite Posts from 2012 to 2015
Jackie’s Story – 200 words
This is my friend and bootcamp buddy, Jackie.
I’m honored to tell her story in 200 words.
Tried to exercise in high school.
Couldn’t breathe. Stopped.
No emphasis on exercise/fitness in my family.
Tried aerobics classes in college.
In the days of leotards and leg warmers.
Had a friend and went together.
3 times a week. Fun.
Graduated. Nursing degree.
Friend moved. Stopped exercising.
Work. Pregnancy. Too hard to start an exercise program when pregnant.
Years of yo-yo exercise. Hectic. Busy life.
Mom of three. Wife.
Full-time Nurse Practitioner.
Start. Had a goal. Look good on a family vacation. Vacation over. Stop.
Two years ago. First day of bootcamp in my neighborhood.
So scared to try another exercise program. Fear of failure.
Showed up late. Started to cry. Walked away.
Pep talk from a friend. Came back to the group. Finished the class.
Felt sore but good. Went back again. Again. Again.
Friends. Motivation. Accountability.
Signed up for a mud race. First race ever in my life. Finished. Wanted more.
Started running on my “off” days.
Ankle injury while running. Setback. Depression. One month. Healed.
Started exercising again. No more stopping.
If I can do this, anyone can do it.
A Story in 200 Words?
I’ve had some questions about the idea/evolution of my “200 words” stories so I thought I would repost something I wrote a few weeks ago and add a few more comments.
When I applied for the sponsorship in the fall last year, the first question was “Tell us your story…your athletic journey.” (You can read what I wrote on my “Home/About” page.)
We had a 200 word limit which was challenging but also incredibly insightful. Sifting through so many memories and life-experiences, I really had to choose only those that were the most important. It took a lot of self-reflection and I discovered that in telling my athletic journey, I really was telling the story of my life. Through the ups and downs and twists and turns of life, sports, fitness and athletics have always meandered along with me. For that, I am so very grateful.
Now I want to tell other stories. I have met many amazing and inspirational women through my fitness career and I want them to have a voice too. These women are not famous; they are not celebrities; but they are total rock stars to me and to their families and friends I started this week with my friend Jackie who discovered the physical and mental benefits of exercise through bootcamp and running. Jackie shared her story with me here at my kitchen counter. She spoke and I typed. After she left, my challenge was to pull the most important 200 words from our dialogue that would accurately tell about her journey. It was a privilege to write about this exceptional woman and it has been really fun reading all the positive comments we received after we posted her story.
I hope to write as many stories as possible this year. I have already interviewed two more fabulous ladies and would love to hear from you if you want to nominate someone or would like to share your own journey. I need about 30 minutes of your time for the interview and a photograph. Contact me or message me on Facebook.
Thank you. Can’t wait to hear from you!
Lynda’s story – 200 words
This is my friend and neighbor, Lynda. She has lost 50 pounds with exercise and healthy eating. I’m honored to write her 200 word story.
Athlete. Small village in England.
Biked everywhere. 3 miles to and from school.
Gym membership. 70 mile bike race.
Exercise was never a chore.
It was a way of life.
Baby. Priority shift. Babyweight. Work.
Second baby. More babyweight.
Less time for exercise.
Family time vs. Exercise time.
Family time won.
Home gym = expensive coat rack.
International move to U.S.
Wake-up call at doctor’s office. Seriously high cholesterol.
Family history of high cholesterol and heart problems.
Wanted to be healthy for my kids.
Role model for them.
Started walking with husband. Workout buddy. Accountability.
Began “Couch to 5K” app.
Was hard to run even 5 minutes at first.
Everyday. 5 days a week.
Walk. Run. Walk. Run.
Cold. Hot. Rain. Sun.
Began “Lose It” app. Tracked calories in and out.
Portion control. Subtle diet changes.
Tracked my running with “Nike Plus” app.
Over 700 miles in last year. Cut 3 minutes off average pace.
Ran 5K, then a 5 mile race.
Training for a 10 mile race.
50 pounds lost. Cholesterol normal.
Mantra: You can do it. With every step. You can do it.
Tabitha’s Story – 200 words
This is Tabitha. She told me her story while we both sat, sweat-drenched, after a cardio-interval class at the gym. I am honored to write her 200 words.
Lori’s story – 200 words
This is Lori, my dear friend from college. She told me her story over the phone. I am honored to write her 200 words.
Eleanor’s Story – 200 words
This is my friend and workout buddy, Eleanor. She told me her story sitting at her kitchen counter. I’m honored to share her 200 words.
Mom wanted me to be active. Sports. Enjoyed swimming.
Soccer. Softball. Not good.
High school track. Mean coach. Shin splints. Improper training.
Beginning/end of my high school sports career.
“Sports not for me.”
College. Graduation. Nursing degree.
First job. Stressful. Labor and delivery nurse. Night shift.
Fitness not on the radar.
Graduate school. New job.
Wanted to exercise. Excuses. No consistency.
Masters Degree. Love. Engagement.
Tried running. Injury. Gave up.
Marriage. PhD program.
Wanted to work out.
Illness. Thyroid. Bad back.
“Unhealthy and not athletic”
My mom died.
New home. New state. Joined a running group. Learned how to run. Gained confidence.
Pilates. Routine. Buddies. Ran a 5K and a 10K. Running FINALLY felt good!
More illness. Babies diagnosed with celiac.
I got sick. Lost weight. Two years of tests. Esophageal disorder.
Felt trapped in my body.
Made a promise to myself. Feel better and I WILL live a healthy life.
Medicine. Attitude adjustment. Physical effort.
Started running. Bootcamp. Workout buddies. Accountability. Team-work.
Negative feelings became positive.
Goals. Mud run. Races.
Exercise is me-time.
Proud. Role-model for my girls.
40. Fit. Fabulous.
I now believe I can do it.
Alan’s Story – 200 words
For the next few months, it is my honor to write and share the stories of friends who have lived with and battled cancers and blood cancers.
My first friend is Alan. I have known him almost my entire life. This is his story.
2005. First noticed uncomfortable throbbing in groin. Ignored it.
Noticed my right testicle was enlarged. Ignored it. Pain. Pain got worse.
Started running to get back in shape. Pain.
Couldn’t talk about it. Ashamed. Embarrassed. Hoped it would just go away.
Tried talking to a friend. Denial. It will go away.
East Coast. Sold everything. Moved to West Coast.
New job. New life. It will get better.
Met a girl.
2009. Four years of denial. No medical intervention.
Bachelor party. 2am. Drunk conversation with my best man.
“I think I have testicular cancer.” Tears.
Admission of truth. To myself. To my fiance.
Doctor appointment. Exam. Tests. Scans.
Stage IIB Testicular Cancer. 37 years old.
Metastases to chest and abdomen.
Radiation treatment. Determined. Exhausted. Determined.
Wedding. Love. Happy.
24 radiation treatments. Completed 10/13/2009.
Don’t wait. Don’t be ashamed.
Making up for lost time now. Running. Crossfit. 15K race. Marathon.
Lucky. Strong. Grateful.
This is a busy week for my team!
Please take note of the following dates and join us for any and all of these awesome events! All money goes towards my Woman of the Year campaign!!!
Tuesday, April 8, 2014: Chili’s Give Back Night, Durham, NC
Thursday, April 10, 2014: Fleming’s Steakhouse and Wine Bar, Raleigh, NC
Saturday, April 12, 2014: Yoga Party at Smith Middle School, Chapel Hill, NC
Welcome and thank you for visiting this site. I'm happy and grateful to have a place where I can write about fitness and wellness. In addition to blogging about exercise and sharing workouts, I also use this space to tell 200-word stories about the inspiring and amazing people I encounter in this career. I look forward to sharing as many of these journeys as possible, and would love to hear from you if you would like me to tell your story. You can contact me anytime. Thank you so much for your interest and your effort. Think fit...be fit...stay fit! You are stronger than you think. #STYT