Raleigh Group Fitness Ambassador + My First Pop Up Experience!

You may remember that not long after I moved to Raleigh a little over two years ago, I hurt my foot and wasn’t able to run for a little while. In an effort to find other ways to move that would both help heal my body and nourish my spirit, I took myself to some heated yoga classes at Core Power. I was also really feeling quite lonely at the time, given that I was in a new city/state and unable to run, and hoped that by trying out some group classes maybe I would meet some like-minded women in the process. As luck would have it, I became fast friends with my teacher Yael, who also happened to be a runner who had moved here only a year before I did and could relate to how I was feeling in so many ways. Truly, going there and meeting her was just what I needed, when I needed it.

Core Power was awesome for me at the time – it fed my need for building strength and working hard (when I felt up for that) but also gave me a chance to stretch and relax in a way I know I hadn’t been for months amidst the stress and strain of moving my family to a new city. It also was a great introduction to the fitness/wellness community in the Raleigh area, something I had been searching for and trying to get a grip on because I truly love the connections made with others and was missing that SO much.

When I discovered Raleigh Group Fitness a few months later, I felt like my prayers had been answered. Founded by two passionate, kind and whip-smart women (Brit Guerin and Ashley Liu Kirkman) who are on a mission to bring people in Raleigh together through fitness and wellness, RGF is dedicated to inspiring our community and offering all sorts of opportunities for everyone to move and nourish their bodies in healthy ways as well as connect with others. The work they are doing and providing, the message of health and inclusivity that they are sharing – it is truly special. Raleigh is so lucky to have them.

I felt an instant kinship with both Brit and Ashley via social media and when we met in person all of that was amplified ten-fold. I am so honored and excited that they have asked me to join them as an ambassador. We have some exciting ideas and I can’t wait to bring running opportunities into the mix of all the wonderful ways to move in and around our city. I also hope to share with you the many options for runner-friendly cross training in our city – there is a TON out there and some programs and classes are especially awesome for runners!

A couple of weeks ago, I went to my first ever “pop up” workout with RGF. It was in the warehouse district down town in a really cool space called Junction West. I had SO MUCH fun and was totally blown away by the attendance! There must have been 50 or so people there! We were led through an awesome workout – lots of body weight strength intervals (push ups, squats, lunges, planks – wow!) – divided into segments taught by Ashley and Brit and another RGF ambassador named Conner Traywick. You guys – this was KILLER! I loved it because the energy was electric (we had an amazing DJ!), the instruction was top-notch, and I felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself/my own workout while also really in tune with giving my body and mind what I needed that day.

Photo by Linus Johnson

After the interval workout, yoga teacher (and fellow RGF ambassador) Justin Anne Patterson, guided us into a wonderful yoga practice. She slowed things down while also challenging our core strength, and then brought us into pigeon pose – an asana that will forever be something my body needs and doesn’t probably get enough of. My hips are perpetually tight (especially on my overused right side), and this posture is incredibly good for me.

Photo by Linus Johnson

When we were done, Justin Anne had us sit with our eyes closed and invited us to place one hand on our bellies and the other on our hearts. As I sat there, feeling my heart beating and my soft belly relaxing, I felt a connection to myself that I had not allowed myself to appreciate or sit with in a long, long time. Then she spoke with tender joy and kindness to us about how we are perfect just as we are, about self love and compassion, about being whole and not bits and pieces … and I began to feel tears come to my eyes. Not tears of sadness. Tears of connection and gratitude. I felt seen and heard, though I had never met this woman and was WAY in the back of the room.

Over the last few years, really since moving to Raleigh, I have chosen to actively do the hard and deep work to heal from the inside out – a distorted and negative view and critical, internal conversation with myself about my imperfections, especially regarding my body and my abilities. It has been a tremendous internal transforming for me, a coming home to who I am, an incredible resilience forged from within…a path that has led me to and beyond acceptance and compassion … to love. So when Justin Anne spoke these words, they truly felt like a big beautiful hug. After the class I found her and thanked her, told her what her guidance meant to me, and goofily introduced myself too. I wrote her later and asked her if she had written down what she wrote and she happily sent it to me. I am keeping these words and want to share them with you, too:

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“Perfection”

All the parts that fit together to make you unmistakably you – that is perfection.

All the things you think are flaws. All the pieces you’ve tried to change – that is perfection.

Every inch and pound you’ve wished away, every ebb and flow of your body – that is perfection.

You are not just pieces and parts at all. You are a living breathing work of art. You are whole and you are perfect.

Exactly as you are.

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I hope that if you are in Raleigh, you will check out RGF and the pop up events that are offered. You will not be disappointed! Follow them on Instagram, sign up to be a member, and check out the classes and events led by ambassadors in the area! Stay tuned too for what I cook up for the Raleigh running community. We have some ideas in the works and I am excited to bring this into the magic of the RGF mission!

Have you been to any RGF events? What are your favorite ways to workout besides running? Tell me about it!

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