Monday, 8 August 2016

The Purpose...to Give Back...

Recently I was discussing the idea of 'purpose' with a family member.  Understanding and finding purpose in our lives and the deep connection to joy it holds has become very apparent to me over the past several years. Without it we often float aimlessly searching for something to fill an indescribable void. Often many turn to different vices (drugs, alcohol, etc.) as a way to numb the nagging feeling that we are here for something more.  
This is one reason why I feel the Fitness community has grown so substantially over the past several years. Training for a show, or an event, provides you with direction and purpose. You become part of a community, speak the lingo (WOD, Fitfam, PR, 16/3/1 week out) and understand the end goal. It is a mini-family of sorts that offers support, and encouragement. 
However, what I have also observed is once the fitness-event or goal has been reached there seems to be a struggle to keep that 'eye on the prize' mentality. Many people seem to lose the initial motivation that had previously drove them each day to push forward and excel. In some cases this can lead to an unhealthy cycle in which one aimlessly competes in multiple shows or events. 
So, if fitness training can provide you with much needed purpose, how then do we find a balance when its initial drive has waned? Although there is a “community”, much of the fitness journey is spent analyzing oneself and being self-absorbed. 
What I believe is that looking outside ourselves and learning to give back can be the key. Whether that be by sharing your story, helping others struggling on their journey, or even just encouraging someone in the gym who is new to fitness. There are so many ways to extend kindness and support to others in our community; a support that we ourselves often fall back on when things seem overwhelming. It is so easy to get wrapped up in oneself, but, often by helping others discover their own motive for health and fitness, we too can discover our true Purpose and Joy.


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Monday, 27 June 2016

Choices.....Happiness...

Choices. 

We all know the deal, the choices we make have a direct impact on what happens in our lives.  I am sure you, like me, have witnessed family, friends and even ourselves make choices that in hindsight were probably not the best. 

Many of the choices I make are a result of the goals that I have set out for myself. I have always had an expectation that in accomplishing my list of goals, happiness would ensue. However, this joy is often short lived until the next goal is achieved.

Recently I was talking to a work colleague and she shared with me an “Ah ha” moment that she had several years ago. She decided that being happy would be the top priority in her life. And, based on how her life is now and the joy she exudes, I would say she has succeeded.

That really made me think. What would happen if being happy became my life goal? Before each goal or decision was made simply asking myself “How will this bring joy to both my life and the munchkin?". Then from the answer generated by that question, decide if it is worthwhile to invest my valuable time pursuing it.

So what have I decided?

Going forward I am making a promise that happiness will be my top priority. Now, I understand that not everything in life is all butterflies and rainbows, but I want to be happy, blissful and show my daughter a life of joy…. This is the choice I make today.



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Sunday, 24 April 2016

Doing the Best I Can...



Brene Brown’s book “Rising Strong” is an incredible read. For those who you who are unaware of her work on Vulnerability, I highly suggest you watch her TED talk or pick up one of her books. Her message is profound.

In this particular book one of the topics she discusses is the idea that everyone is “Doing the Best they can”.
 Now, one example where I have this mindset is with my parents. When I was younger they were frustrated and concerned with my food consumption and childhood weight - an issue they tried to confront in often unproductive ways. With hindsight though, they both wish they had approached things very differently. But I’ve always accepted that they were doing the best they could at that particular moment based on who they were and what they knew..

However, through all these years I have never really applied that idea to myself. I have always felt a sense of expectation and self-judgment. I should be a better mother and work harder. I should have accomplished more for where and who I am today.....And in speaking with others they also share the same sentiment.....We should be better....  

Then, last night at 2am, I awoke and could not sleep so I tackled some emails and decided to read some of Brene's book.
As I read her section on understanding others and doing their best,  the sentence “YOU also were doing your best in that moment” stopped me mid sentence.. 
I really let it sink in.... in all my imperfect choices, and decisions I too was also doing the best I could at that moment….
Then why is it so difficult to give ourselves a break if we can offer it to others?

Especially as parents, we have such a huge responsibility in raising these little people. When I look at my daughter, I hope she grows up to be compassionate to others and more importantly, compassionate to herself. Leading by example and teaching her that although I am not always right Mommy is trying her best, is the key to her applying this lesson in her own life.

So, I will continue to raise the bar and march in the direction of my dreams. 
But what do I know for sure? 
Going forward when I start to feel self-doubt kick in I will repeat….

”I am doing and have done the best I can in every moment……and that is all I can ever do…..”
                                                                     




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Monday, 4 April 2016

So you want to represent a Brand...



13 years ago I sent my first Athlete package to PVL (Fit Foods) enquiring for sponsorship. I was a trainer at a very busy downtown Toronto gym and loved their products.
Back then it was a large manila envelope with my bio, goals, what I could do for them, several printed photo’s and a disk with more pics to showcase my look.
I must admit I did not get a reply the first, second, third or even fourth attempt. However, my perseverance prevailed and they finally contacted me.
I was determined to represent this company, I used their products, recommended them to my clients and more importantly I believed in them.
When the athlete relation’s manager (customer service at that time) finally contacted me I was over the moon.
They gave me the chance to demo at events, stores and shortly after I pursued an account manager position, which led to where I am today. 
Now I am no longer with Fit Foods.  However, I am still in the industry as a competitor and an account manager of 100+ stores. Roughly a year ago I also became involved in recruiting and working with athletes for two Social Media teams.
I often get asked for sponsorship and I have to say I am usually disappointed with what athletes present to “Sell” themselves.

So I decided to put together some tips that I believe are the necessities in pursuing sponsorship .…

1: Bio, your accomplishments, goals, what you can bring to the brand. That being said I don’t need to know what happened in the 3rd grade. Keep is short precise and engaging. If you struggle with this write a list of questions and answer those.

2: Good Pictures (NO IG selfies). Have some professional fitness shots. If you have never done a shoot make sure your first one is not all lingerie. (Unless Playboy is who you are looking at). Look at Inside Fitness, Muscle Insider, Oxygen and various fitness magazines for inspiration.

3: Know the companies products, message, branding. (Spelling the company name right is key…Trust me I’ve seen it happen)

4: Social Media: Post often, engage your followers, be proactive, and interesting. What is your message? What is your personal brand?

5: Watch your content. I know certain brands shy away from profanity, nudity etc…(know your target audience)

6: Try to stay as close in shape as you can. We all know there is a big difference between stage ready and real life, but trying to represent an active look is also very important. This also varies from Bodybuilder to Bikini. 

7: Be professional, look at this as your way to expand and grow, the more you give to a brand and show your value the more you will get out of it.

8: Remember people are always watching…You never know what opportunities can be arise, look at this as a job. Treat it as such…

9: Use the Social Media channels available to expand your audience. Twitter, Snap Chat, IG, Facebook, I know it is a lot but once you get into the groove it becomes easier. 
Work at your social media, follow, like, tag, and commenting, are all part of the social media game, dedicate sometime each day to build your following...

10: Find a brand that aligns with your own message. Don’t jump from brand to brand just seeking sponsorship. Be authentic and operate with integrity. Follow through on your commitments and most of all be persistent.  You don’t stop training if something does not change after one workout. You continue to improve and go back to the drawing board.

At the end of the day what most brands look for when signing athletes or ambassadors is what can you offer their company. Remember, with so many athletes looking for sponsorship, what makes you unique? How can you add to their team and more importantly their sales...

                                                   My First Banner over 10 Years ago...

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Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Who I am......Who I am not...




Recently many of us watched a vulnerable Ronda Rousey on The Ellen Show open up after her UFC Championship loss. In this interview Ronda the “tough, powerful” fighter broke down in tears as she confessed how the loss of her title nearly destroyed her. That evening, she said, back in the medical room after being defeated, she felt as though she had lost herself. In her exact words “What am I any more if I am not this....I was literally sitting there and thinking about killing myself.....I am nothing." 
This really hit home for me. Now,  I did not lose the UFC Championship Belt. However, this past year, both personally and professionally, many of the labels I strongly identified with have been stripped away. I admit,  I too was left raw and confused.
Asking myself “Who am I now….?”
Most of us identify ourselves by our titles, be it, Mothers, Fathers, Daughters, Managers, Girlfriends, Husbands, Business Owners, Athletes. These labels can be powerful and often ego based.  Experiencing a change or shift can leave us questioning who we are at all. 
 I was recently talking with my dad about some of these issues, and he said something very profound to me. “Aeryon, In order to figure out who you are…. you must first know what you are not”
Talk about an Ahhhaa moment…
I was spending so much time and energy trying to figure out who I was now, that, to be honest, I was going in circles. However, if I look at what I am not…. the answers seemed so much clearer.
I know, I am not someone who gives up, I am not someone who settles or who watches life pass by. Creating a list of what I know I am not has enabled me to see past those titles to the characteristics that really matter.
Now most of us will never experience losing a world championship belt. But, understanding that a shift in what we believe defines us can be rattling. 
So, perhaps by standing in what we are not…..can actually be the path to discover who we really are...
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Sunday, 28 February 2016

Don't be "That Guy" or "That Girl"....

This past week was Anti Bullying awareness day. Schools and work places across North America wore pink shirts to show their support and acknowledgment in bringing an end to bullying. 
My daughter and I have had many discussions regarding this issue. She understands that no one deserves to be made fun of, feel unsafe or have their feelings hurt. The analogy we use in our home is the "Emotional Bucket" from the children's book "Have you Filled your Bucket Today". The premise is we all have one and in our daily interactions with others we should be filling their buckets with positivity, not emptying them.

It was also last week that singer Keisha took Dr. Luke to court to gain control over her musical career and also alleged charges of Sexual Harassment and Bullying (amongst other things). So although we have such awareness of this issue it still seems to be ongoing, even as adults. I believe most just brush it off as a joke, suffer in silence and are too scared to speak up.  So if these allegations are indeed true, I commend her.  Stepping up to one of the biggest names in music would not be an easy decision or task. 

So with this, I began thinking about the conversations I have experienced recently with various athletes and friends regarding bullying and harassment within the Fitness industry.  They have shared with me that on occasions they have felt bullied, been talked down to or asked to do things that they did not feel comfortable with. Being part of a team or representing a brand is usually not your full time job, so I can see where the lines get blurred and there is a grey zone.  Everyone becomes friends, they laugh, joke and yes,  there probably are sexual innuendos thrown back and forth. 
This is just part of the fun….No?
But how far is too far and at what point does it stop being fun…..and more importantly who’s the one measuring this.

We are all aware that this industry is sexual in nature. Fit bodies are used for advertising the benefits of product and hard work.  I would possibly expect bullying from strangers or “haters” via social media. However, I never would have expected that the harassment would be happening internally. I believe whatever role you have with a company, if you are representing a brand or working as an employee there is a level of professionalism that is expected and required. 

I have been blessed with the opportunity to be an athlete for various companies over the years and I have never experienced anything in this regard. I have always felt respected and valued. I was never degraded, asked to send “private pictures” or preform certain tasks that made me feel uncomfortable. Now, could it be that I am employed as an account manager for these companies so maybe that changes the way I am treated? 
I don't think so....
I believe these positions should be viewed not only as a way to gain exposure, and further our athletic careers but also as jobs. In my day to day workplace I would never respond or entertain any derogatory language, therefore I would not accept it in my Fitness career. There is a level of professionalism that should be both given and received. I know there are many athletes out there that share the same sentiment I do.

 However, with this industry evolving at such a rapid pace and so many young men and women coming in with stars in their eyes, it is important that there is a standard of complete non acceptance of this type of behaviour. From both ends. 
I think of my daughter and how I would feel if I knew she was following her passion and being subjected to harassment. Her innocence and wanting to get ahead might lead to choices she may regret. Recognizing the importance of not accepting any type of harassment or bullying should not be a once a year event, but something we stand by each day.

I understand that everyone wants to become someone, but don’t lose sight of your actual worth, speak up when you feel disrespected, stand up if you witness bullying, and don't let someone pressure you to act in ways that go against your beliefs. 
More importantly Don’t be "That Guy” or “Girl” who encourages or empties  anyone's "Bucket"....


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Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Funeral Wishes



Recently I attended a memorial service for a client and friend that passed away a year ago. People stood up and shared their stories of how this person to this day still affects their life in a positive manner. To think that even a year after his passing people still wanted to gather and honor his contribution to their lives is amazing.

Which got me thinking, when people attend my funeral they will not be talking about my awards, or my sales records. They will not discuss my countless selfies, or Competitions…. There will be no “Wow… Aeryon did an amazing Instagram post”.
What people will be talking about is my integrity, my ability to be kind, loving, and the ways in which I impacted their lives. Just like the stories and conversations that were happening at my friend’s memorial.

So often we (myself included) get caught up in the day-to-day stuff, possessions, social media, the accolades from work and our peers…. We all know that we can’t take these things with us yet most of us count them for our worth. 

I guess one reason for this, I think, is that we don’t think we ever will be gone. I know that I tend to think I’m invincible. I see friends and family who have passed away but I kind of think "It can’t happen to me"….

But it will…

And as much as I want to 'Live Life to the Fullest,' 'Seize each Day,' 'Not Settle and Live My Best Life'…. One day this will be over, and what will remain is the impact I had on people.

How do I make them feel? When they leave me do they smile? Do they feel blessed with my friendship and with knowing me?

I know there are instances in my life where I have not always operated as my best self. I have said hurtful things, acted out of my ego, reacted in ways that I am not proud of. I believe we all have those moments; it is part of this human experience. 
However, owning up to our shortfalls, apologizing, acknowledging and growing from them is also a huge part of this journey. 
At the end of the day…what really matters is the laughter, joy, your integrity, how you inspired and made others lives better because you were part of it…

I only pray that years after I pass people will still gather together and share stories of the love they had for me…. and of my love for them…


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