My Journey to Zao

Many people who meet me these days just assume that I've always been strong and flexible. Not so. I've always been active, as I ran track and played volleyball in high school and then ran long distance for years afterward. But just because you're active doesn't mean you're strong. Not only was I not particularly strong physically, but I lacked a certain mental toughness. I was timid. Quiet. Passive. I often let others dictate how I should act and how to make decisions. And it really, freaking, sucked.

Have you ever felt like you are on the outside of life, looking in at everyone else who's livin' it up? Like a spectator watching that game you so wish you were playing? Yeah. That was me.

Ever felt like all you wanted to do was escape, but no matter where you go you are still imprisoned by your own mind? When you can't elude the constant self criticism, self doubt, and feelings of just not quite being good enough. It's the worst, right? I know. 

After graduating high school I immediately moved out to LA for school. (Yeah, that whole trying to escape thing started by thinking that sunny California would solve all my problems) By this time factors playing into my low self confidence were many. I had just started getting into long distance running and was training for my first race at the time. What started as a hobby soon became a full blown obsession. I was running almost every day, sometimes twice a day. Even when my body felt like a tired ton of bricks, I would still drag my ass out the door and make it move. With the same amount of unhealthy vigor I put into my running, I also applied to my diet. I didn't need to diet, by any means. Not only was I not overweight, but my body needed fuel for all the running I was doing. But it gave me control. Power.  I felt as though I couldn't control anything around me, and my internal world was in a constant state of chaos. But I could be the master over miles and calories and the number on the scale. There was a greedy monster in me that was never satisfied, even if I had run ten plus miles and only eaten a handful of grapes that day. And that greedy son of a bitch controlled me. As you might guess, this obsession quickly spiraled out of control until I found myself back home in Denver in treatment for a lovely assortment of eating disorders, depression, anxiety...you name it.

This was a pivotal time in my life. Working through recovery and nursing my body and soul back to health had more than a few low moments and was nothing short of gut-wrenching. But no matter how depressed or hopeless I felt, there was always a part of me that knew there was more to life than this.  The teeniest of fire deep inside nudged at me, whispering, "you were meant for more."

Every year since then has been a lesson of intention. Of listening to my body and soul rather than forcing it to do what I want. Of facing down fear after fear. Of speaking my truth. Of making decisions for ME. Deciding what is valuable to me and going after it with all I have. I had to turn away from some things that had been a part of me my whole life. I had to learn to (politely) say "Fuck off" to those who could not accept the new decisions I was making. I can no longer exercise or eat haphazardly because I know where that lands me. I must work to cultivate balance, health, and strength in my body, mind, and relationships.

And you know what?! Slowly but surely I came back to life. And I mean REALLY, FULLY ALIVE.   

Yoga and meditation were a huge part of my recovery process, and so I completed my first yoga teacher training at Asana Yogain 2010. I immediately began teaching yoga all over the Denver area. Shortly after I completed trainings in Ballet Barre, Cycle, and Yoga for Athletes. In the meantime I started studying nutrition at Metropolitan State College of Denver. I received my personal training cert from ACE and began working with individuals on both fitness and nutrition. But the real game changer happened in 2012 when I took an adult gymnastics class at the yoga studio I was involved with at the time. I was instantly hooked. The gymnastics strength training program was both fun and challenging in ways I've never experienced before. Even up to this point I still didn't possess a significant amount of strength, and in just a matter of months, I was seeing huge leaps in my full body strength and mobility. The definition in my abs didn't hurt either! Within months I completed the first and only gymnastics teacher training through Awaken Gymnastics led by Coach Orench Lagman. Not long afterwards, I completed my Nutrition Consultant Certification. Fast forward a year full of coaching, training, and consulting, and you have the birth of Zao.

Zao is the culmination of everything I do as a coach, instructor, trainer, and nutritionist. It is the expression of my passion for movement, nutrition, and the constant pursuit of adventure and vitality. My deepest desire is to pass on this passion that I've found. I now work as a personal trainer, adult gymnastics coach, and nutritionist. I train mainly out of Denver, though many of my clients work with me from all over the country through online training. I currently coach adult gymnastics at the first and only Gymnastic Bodies affiliate gym located in Denver, as well as teach yoga, cycle, and ballet barre at The Cycling Yogi in Lakewood. My main squeeze though is coaching individuals on both personal fitness and nutrition. My mission is to guide you into your own Zao Life, one that exudes confidence, strength, mindfulness, and of course, sheer badassery.

You have it in you, friend. Go get it.