April 29, 2016

Half Ironman 70.3 Brick Workouts

Remember that song by the Commodores, "Brick House?" Well, if you're a triathlete, your "brick house" is going to be built with a lot less dancing and a lot more pain.

In the last post, I talked about gear and how much you should borrow. Today I'm covering brick workouts, or bricks, as most of us call them. And just like the Commodores, I "ain't holding nothing back."

Bricks were one of, if not my biggest, sources of anxiety when I was training for my Half Ironman. How many bricks do I do a week? How long should my bricks be? Are they all going to feel terrible? Will this ever get easier? Am I really going to be able to run a half marathon after a 56-mile bike ride?

10-30 minutes

If you go back to my post on a 20-week training plan, you'll see my actual training plan, and you can see the brick workouts I did. I did a short brick during the week and a longer brick on the weekends. Everyone you ask will have a different opinion on the effectiveness of bricks. I think they're a must, otherwise your legs are not going to understand what you're asking them to do when you get off the bike on race day.

Scene: Race Day, mile 55 of bike course
Legs: WEEEEEE! One more mile to go. That wasn't so bad. You're welcome!

Scene:  T2, changes into running shoes
Legs:  Wait. What are you doing? Why are you changing shoes? You want me to do what? Bitch, I just rode 56 miles!

Because there are so many different schools of thought on bricks, I thought I'd bring in reinforcements. These are the people I went to during my training, to ask about bricks, and at least a hundred other things.

Also, you know if you're riding your bike this much, it needs regular tune-ups, right? Red Kite is my bike shop. In addition to keeping Truffle Butter (my bike's name is Truffle Butter) in tip-top, Shannon suggested purple handlebar tape for my race, which is hands-down the smartest thing anyone recommended to me. Out of 3,500 racers, I was the only one with purple handlebar tape, which A) made it easy to find my bike in transition, and B) afforded me lots of "Good job, purple handlebars!" during the bike portion. And if you know me, then you know how much I needed people to talk to me during that race.

Okay, on with the show.

Patrick Harkins
Co-Owner, Red Kite Bicycle Studio
Ironman Chattanooga 2014

As amazingly sucky as bricks can be, we need them for a couple of reasons. First, you just have to get your body used to running off the bike. That sensation you get the first time you run after riding - super heavy legs, like something is wrong, or that you've just made some terrible life choices? That actually goes away. Well, it gets better - much better. But, like anything else, you have to do it to get used to it. One thing that not a lot of folks realize about triathlons is that it doesn't matter how well you run. It matters how well you run off the bike. You may get close to running as fast off the bike as you do normally, but you have to practice and let your body adapt. 

The second, and maybe more important argument in favor of bricks has to do with energy allocation. A triathlon is an exercise in allocation - the more energy you use on the bike, the less energy you have left for the run. I learned this lesson in a very painful way while training for IM Chattanooga with my girlfriend, Wendi. Wendi is... let's just say she's the athlete in the family. She's an accomplished ultra-runner, but less experienced on the bike. We'd go on long training days together, and I learned that, if I tempered my effort VERY CAREFULLY on the bike, I'd be able to just barely hang on to Wendi during the run afterwards (seriously - barely). But if I went too hard on the bike, a couple of things would happen: 1) I'd be too tired to run well afterwards, and 2) Wendi would be mad, which made #1 a whole lot worse. I won't lie, there were tears. Luckily for me (and our relationship), I eventually learned my lesson and it served me well on race day. So - you need bricks because... if you learn to ride like there's a run afterwards, you'll be a lot happier. Just ask Wendi. 

Marne McLyman
Ironman Lake Placid 2008
Ironman Louisville 2009
Ironman Florida 2012
Ironman Chattanooga 2014

The term "brick" couldn't be more accurate for this type of workout. You hop off your bike after riding several hours, ready to run with the grace of a gazelle in the African plains. Your foot makes contact with the pavement and you start running only to discover that you are running more like a hippo in a mud bath versus that gazelle on the plains. THIS is a brick workout. It is evil. It is necessary. A traditional brick workout consists of a bike ride immediately followed by a run. The combo of distances will vary depending on what you are training for, but the bottom line is if you are signed up for a triathlon, a sprint distance to an Ironman, you should do at least one brick workout a week. I'm currently training for Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga. I do my brick workout on the weekend as part of my long training days. I'm about a month out from race day, so my brick workout is about a 55 mile bike ride and a 2 mile run. In the past when I've trained for Ironman races, I have done shorter rides with longer runs to mix it up. The main goal of a brick workout is to get used to that feeling of running right after you finish your bike ride. These workouts are also great for mental training because 9 times out of 10 your legs will feel like bricks... that hippo running through mud. You need the mental toughness training to gain the confidence that you can get through those first few miles. Your legs will wake up and that inner gazelle will come out. And if it doesn't... don't sweat it. Just put one foot in front of the other, one mile at a time. Ain't no shame in the Ironman shuffle!

Daniel Hudgins
Coach, X3 Endurance
Ironman Wisconsin 2013
Ironman Texas 2014

Brick workouts provide some benefits in training for any distance triathlon. Three great reasons to do them: 1) physical adaptations, 2) an understanding of how to run once you get off the bike, and 3) mental toughness. The cycling portion should contain periods of aerobic and anaerobic work. This will really provide some good strength since cycling requires a little more muscular strength than running. Reaching a high heart rate and high gearing combine to create a great cycling workout. The run portion will teach your body to transition properly from the very quick turnover of the legs in cycling to the slower turnover in running. A lot of triathletes tend to get off the bike and run too fast. I encourage people in training to start out much slower than they think they should on the run. Then pick up the pace. Aim to negative split the run, and you will do it in your race as well. In terms of mental toughness, cycling combined with running creates a really gritty mindset, too. It will leave you feeling like a champion just knowing you can run - and run well - once you get off the bike. 

I typically give my athletes one or two brick workouts a week.  

When: Mid-week
What: Bike to Run Brick
The Workout:
45-75 minute hard cycling session (preferably indoors on the trainer to ride hard enough consistently)
20 minute run, negative split (run faster the last 10 minutes than the first 10 minutes)

When: Two or three times near the middle and end of a 20 week training period.
What: A multi-brick workout on the weekend in place of a single long ride and a single long run. 
The Workout:
(3x brick) 
Try to ride and run smart - slightly increasing the pace each time.
Ride 20 miles, Run 3
Ride 20 miles, Run 3
Ride 20 miles, Run 3

Meg Willoughby
Ironman 70.3 Augusta
Ironman 70.3 Muncie
Beach2Battleship 140.6, 2013
Ironman Chattanooga 118.4, 2015 (inside joke alert)

Bricks are definitely not fun. No one looks forward to them. But I think it IS important to do them for whatever distance triathlon you are preparing for. People new to triathlons just don’t realize how odd it feels to get off a bike and start running. Your legs don’t know what to do. You’ve been sitting and using a certain set of muscles for the bike, and suddenly you are running and engaging another set of muscles to run. And your legs feel like jello. EVERYONE’S legs feel like jello. But doing bricks helps you to prepare for this feeling (and not mentally FREAK OUT) and learn how to push through. Because after about 10 minutes, your legs start to work again and you can find your stride. Bricks teach your leg muscles to transition, but they also give you confidence and the mental training to push through that crappy feeling on race day. Even running 10-15 minutes after a ride is good for a shorter distance triathlon. For a half or full IM, 30min - 1hour is good.


I hope this helps! I know bricks are what people have the most questions about when training for a triathlon, or at least I did. Post your questions and comments and I'll make sure you get the answers and information you need. And go get your bike tuned up!

April 23, 2016

High-Five, April Body!

So... back in January, like most people the month after Christmas, I was a little fluffy and a little mad. In a post titled Eff You, January Body, I wrote:

As I finished out 2015, I was doing 7+ hours of swim-bike-running a week, plus 2 personal training sessions and 1 yoga class. I have more or less been working out like someone training for a 70.3 triathlon for 2 years with no break. To say I'm burned out is the understatement of the world. I've got to figure out how to keep my body in the general vicinity of it's current size by doing things I want to do, and may even have fun doing. Stuff like hiking, or twerking. Or paying $10 a month to ride a cardio machine at Planet Fitness for 45 minutes twice a week. To be cont'd.

I'm happy to report, I'm figuring it out! About a month after I wrote that post, I read Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin and had an epiphany:  I do what I want! (said like a 4-year old, mid-tantrum). Gretchen writes about "being Gretchen". I really identified with that, but didn't like the phrase "be Kim", so I tweaked it to "I do what I want!" It also feels more positive to think about what I want, instead of focusing on what I don't want.

So what do I want? Glad you asked! I want to eat better, have fun exercising, and my clothes to fit.  I talked to my therapist, my trainer and I signed up for a meal plan from one of my favorite bloggers. I'm super into all of this and since so many people ask me about my trainer and my twerk class, I thought I'd share their info.

Personal Trainer

Rickey Taylor -- Xcelerated Training

I've been working out with Rickey twice a week since July, and there is a HUGE difference in my body. Huge! I've always been interested in women who lift weights and do strength training, but I've never known what to do, and whatever I did on my own, didn't change my body. Not now! You should see how strong I am and what my shoulders look like in a tank top. Personal training is a luxury, but at our age, most of us can afford a little luxury, especially in the name of strengthening our bones and living longer. ALSO, Rickey is doing my meal planning now and it's really working, so you get a lot of bang for your buck.

Twerk Class

Tisha Wilson -- b.fab.fitness

I'm new to this class, but I am obsessed with it. I've been going once or twice a week for a little over a month now. I take the b.fab.funk class at Coleman Park on either Monday or Thursdays at 7:00pm. I prefer the Monday night class, but my cycling team has a Monday night ride, so I'm going on Thursdays now. The class costs $3 and it is hands-down the hardest workout I do all week. It's also the most fun I've ever had in my life. If you want proof, here's a video of us dancing to "Formation" by Beyonce:  b.fab.fitness FORMATION by Beyonce.


Rachel Mathenia -- 12South Yoga

I started practicing yoga in New York after 9/11 when my doctor prescribed it for anxiety. I've consistently practiced for 15 years. I made the switch to Iyengar in 2014 when my sweet friend Paige invited me to her Thursday night class. The class schedule changed about a year ago and now I practice with Rachel, who I love dearly and am convinced I share a soul with, or at least the same core personality traits. I love Iyengar and highly recommend it if you have an injury, persistent pain, or if you just want your body to work right.

Meal Plan

Laura Agar Wilson -- Wholeheartedly Healthy

I'm currently working with my trainer on a meal plan, but earlier this year I signed up for Laura's free Two Week Quickstart Guide and I loved it! I've been reading Laura's blog for probably 6 or 7 years now and I'm a big fan. Even if you're not in the market for a meal plan, add her blog to your Reader. Her perspective and her writing style is very unique, very funny, and very real. Seriously, I love her.

My exercise in a typical week looks like this:

2 personal training sessions
1 twerk class
1 yoga class
1 bike ride
1 HIIT (high intensity interval training)

That's it! I'm real happy with all this right now. It's not overwhelming and it's not a week full of stuff I "have to" do. I do what I want!

April 18, 2016

An Interview with Community Engagement Director Katie Stone

I met Katie when our shared friend Heidi Huerta brought her to a Friday morning Pancake Run. Pancake is a tight-knit group, but we immediately fell in love with Katie and welcomed her into the Pancake fold. That was around the time I started doing triathlons and Katie wanted to try them too, so we started training and racing together, which is when I really got to know her.

If you've met Katie, you like her, because she's awesome. But if you know Katie, then you know the depth of her character and the soul-to-soul real talk she can throw down. Katie's answers in this post are what we bitches need to be shouting from the rooftops:  "You don't have to have all the answers! You are allowed to fail!" I wish I had learned earlier in life that you don't have to know what you're doing, you can quit fancy jobs that you went to expensive schools for, you can try new things, you can fail at those new things, then you can try a different new thing, and sometimes you can check the fuck out and get your mind right. Meet today's bitch, Katie Stone!

What is your job title and where do you work?

Director of Engagement, Leadership Tennessee -- I implement a grant from the Gates Foundation to create community engagement events on education, economic development, and healthcare issues in Tennessee. Essentially, we try to bring people back to the public square to discuss issues and work on data-driven, fact-based solutions at the local level.

When did you first learn about this field of work?

Eight months ago, I was a stay-at-home mom and desperate to get into the (paid) working world. I spent every day online searching for jobs and networking my butt off - anything to break up long days of breastmilk and poo. I had no idea what I wanted to do other than A) not practicing law, and B) anything that gave me a daily excuse to shower. I randomly came across an Internet posting for my job, and I still had no idea what it meant or entailed when I was offered the job 3 weeks later. 

How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I still don’t know that it’s my dream job, or a field I will stay in forever, but I love doing something totally new (to me) and I really adore my colleagues. Community engagement work is different than anything I've ever done, but yet something I knew I would be innately good at. I love schmoozing and I love connecting people with other people and resources. I love empowering people to take charge of the community in which they live, and it’s very humbling to see the challenges facing both large and small communities in Tennessee. I really do love this state and I love working to make it a better place to live, even in a tiny tiny way. 

And to be perfectly candid, I like my job a lot, but I love the work-life balance it provides at this point in my life. Flexibility for my family is hyper-important to me, and I love that I can work on a fulfilling project but still have the time and energy most days to be the wife and parent I want to be. 

What was your path that lead you to the job you have now?

When I was 22 and completely stupid, I decided to go to law school so I could “be a lawyer to help kids.” Little did I know that being a lawyer for kids meant A) being a trial attorney, something I had little interest in, and B) unethical caseloads of emotional brutality. 

I started my career as a trial attorney for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, and that wasn’t quite masochistic enough, so I become a Public Defender for juveniles in Davidson County. It only took 5 years of depression and wanting to ram my head into a cinder block wall before I realized I was so unhappy, if I stayed in this line of work I would be dead, either actually or emotionally. I have little ability to compartmentalize, so I brought every case home with me, every night. 

I moved to a job in non-profit administration just to get out of practicing law, but in a sick way I missed the challenge of making all the pieces of a case fit together. When my son was born a few years later, I knew it was the right opportunity to take some time to figure it all out and reset myself after almost a decade in jobs that made me actively miserable. One thing lead to another and after a year of wearing yoga pants and making up excuses to go to Target, I joined Leadership Tennessee. 

Favorite piece of advice, business or otherwise?

Just confront conflict head on. As women, I think we are so often conditioned to avoid conflict, smooth things over, or be polite and likable. It still isn’t second nature to me (I’m a Midwesterner by birth - we HATE conflict), but I’ve found that things almost always work out best if you just put issues out in the open and say what’s on your mind. People often respond far better and gentler than I expect, and we usually reach a resolution sooner. You can be frank and honest and still be polite!

Also, STOP SAYING “SORRY” for everything. We have got to stop that, ladies. No man says, “Hey, I’m really sorry to bother you, but...” Don’t apologize for existing. 

And finally, ask questions. Ask all the questions, all the time. Knowledge is power. 

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?

When I first began practicing law, I was a 26 year old girl-woman, greener than grass, and scared of everything. I let people - especially old, white, men - run me over instead of trusting my instincts and believing in my own abilities. I had one particular pre-trial hearing against a very intimidating attorney who was a known bully, and I was physically ill just thinking about going up against her in the hearing. The case involved a badly shaken baby and I begged another, older attorney at my agency to cover the case for me because I was so scared I would be too intimidated by the opposing attorney and lose the case. The other agency attorney handled the case, but he didn’t admit key evidence and the child was essentially sent home to the abusive parents. I knew that I would have admitted the evidence and likely would have kept the child from returning home, or at least we would have given the court every bit of information to protect the child. Years later, I learned that child was severely abused again by the same parents. I think about that case - that child - almost every single day. I failed her by being intimidated by someone who isn’t even worth my effort in typing this. Often, when I’m scared or intimidated, I say that child’s name to remind myself to stop being a wuss, to face scary or uncomfortable moments, and to trust my experience and knowledge. 

What would you do with 2 more hours a day?

Ugh. Exercise. Someday I’ll tell my kids that I ran full marathons and swam miles and did bendy yoga things, and they will laugh until they can’t breathe and then point at me and say LIAR. Glad I have some photo documentation of the time when I was a physical badass. 

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) in your professional life?

Walking away from a career that I know I was good at, but that made me very unhappy, and not being afraid to make non-traditional, non-linear moves. One of my favorite mentors shared with me that she never thought about career paths or climbing ladders, instead she just took jobs that interested her - She’s been an editor of a magazine, a nonprofit fundraiser, and she’s now a VP at a large Nashville bank and an overall badass. I’ve done some job-hopping, but it all lead me to a place where I have a weird skill set and know how to use it. Sometimes I miss working in a field I will always be very passionate about, but I learned the hard way that there are other ways to be helpful, find meaningful work, and create positive community change without sacrificing my own mental health. I still don’t even know how to explain what I do, but I’m having fun doing it, and that’s good enough for me.

What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning?

Ugh. Instagram. Effing Instagram. I love and hate her so. 

How do you decompress at the end of the work day?

Spending time with my son, Jasper. He makes everything better at the end of the day. It sounds cheesy even to me, but it’s so true! The simplicity of blowing bubbles or watching him giggle at his own farts is such a beautiful counterbalance to all the other bullshit of adult life. Sometimes when I’m really sad or overwhelmed, I sneak into his room when he’s sleeping and just watch him. It makes everything feel okay again.

And wine, of course.

What’s the hardest thing about your job that isn’t obvious?

Working on soft money is its own form of stress. There’s a lot of pressure to create successful programming, not just because I want to do a good job, but also because I want to keep my job. Grant-based jobs are great because of the flexibility, but stressful in that you’re always figuring out how to keep the program funded in addition to doing the actual work of the grant focus.

What is one thing everyone gets wrong about what you do?

Community engagement work can be so mind-blowingly frustrating. Everyone wants to complain, but very few people want to do the problem-solving work. Part of our strategic focus is to have broad community-level input on the type of events we put on, which means I run planning sessions for groups of community leaders across the state. The first few sessions are often a stage for people to complain about a community or statewide issue, but when my team tries to create a solution to address the complaint, people scatter. 

Part of my job is to empower people to make change in their own community, but we are so conditioned to think that most problems are too big to solve that we’re scared to take them on. I spend a lot of time and effort just listening to communities, and it’s hard to inspire and encourage people to be brave enough to tackle an issue, even at the local level. So many people are afraid to change the status quo or take on the establishment, but we really do have the power to create change in our own communities if we’re just willing to put in the effort (or at least try). Never underestimate the power of the proletariat!

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

TV: FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. All I want in life is to be Tami Taylor.

Snack: How do you pick one snack??? I tend to gorge on one thing for weeks at a time and then burn myself out, never to really love that particular snack again. Currently, I cannot stop eating a freakish amount of fresh blackberries and strawberries, but I’ve also been known to eat popcorn for multiple meals a day. And coffee. So much coffee.

All photos courtesy of Katie Stone

April 13, 2016

2016 Reading Round Up, Part One

I use Goodreads to keep track of what I'm reading and what I want to read. At the beginning of every year, Goodreads asks you to compete in their reading challenge by deciding how many books you want to read in the new year, and then they keep track of it for you. I usually average about two books a month, but I'm apparently reading more than usual because I've already read 20 books this year!

M Train
by Patti Smith

This book is so great. I'm a huge fan of Patti Smith's writing. I recently read Just Kids and loved it. M Train is great, but it didn't hook me as much. It's a little more scattered. Still lovely, and the writing is exquisite. Love, love, love Patti Smith.

by Stephen King

I've seen this movie, but had never read the book. Whoa - read the book! For as scary as the movie is, the book is so much scarier. The Annie Wilkes character is portrayed so differently in the book, and the violence and abuse that's so hard to watch in the movie is worse and more graphic in the book. But in a good way! If you're a Stephen King fan and haven't read this book, I highly recommend it.

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl
by Carrie Brownstein

This is an interesting book. I liked it even though I'm not a big Sleater-Kinney fan. My knowledge of Carrie Brownstein stems more from Portlandia. I think this book is probably really powerful to Sleater-Kinney fans because she talks so much about the individual songs, albums, tours, and songwriting. My only minor complaint is that I wish she had used plainer language. She uses big, fancy words and some of them are so obscure it takes you out of the story. Good book though. Glad I read it.

Outliers:  The Story of Success
by Malcolm Gladwell

This is an interesting book. It's outside the scope of what I usually read, and I was not enthralled by it. But it's interesting and a quick read. I may still try his other books. I like his writing style.

Happier At Home:  Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life
by Gretchen Rubin

I liked this book a lot. I haven't read The Happiness Project, so maybe you're supposed to read that one first. I read this book thinking it would help me decide if I want to move, or if I'm just mad at my house. The book doesn't address that, but it's full of interesting points that made me think about my current house and how I could be happier in it, even if I do end up moving. One note: much of this book revolves around her children (and husband), so if, like me, you don't have kids, there's huge parts that won't apply to you.

Daring Greatly:  How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead
by Brene Brown

This book is great. It's a good encapsulation of the first two books. Of the three, I like this one the best. I'm going to read Rising Strong next. This one ended oddly for me. The last 'real' chapter is great, but then there's a final chapter on her research process that kind of dampened the emotional reaction I had to the book. Amazing book, definitely read it, but maybe skip the final chapter on her research/writing process.

Year of Yes:  How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person
by Shonda Rhimes

Whoa - this book caught me by surprise! I did not expect the Shonda Rhimes memoir to have a profound impact on me, but here we are. This is not a fluff, PR book about saying yes for a year, or how she lost weight. This book is REAL TALK. Real talk about being taken advantage of, toxic friends, female success, feminism, motherhood, and saying yes to saying no. I think this book changed my life. You should read it.

Furiously Happy:  A Funny Book About Horrible Things
by Jenny Lawson

I love Jenny Lawson and think she is doing amazing work by talking openly about mental illness. I also think she is one of the funniest writers out there. This book was a little disjointed for me, but it's ridiculously funny. It's definitely worth the read. And if you ever have the chance to see her at a book signing or author event, she is fantastic live.

Just Kids
by Patti Smith

This is my first Patti Smith book (on waitlist for M Train). I loved this book! It has the components that all of my favorite books have:  coming of age, young love, NYC, and art/music. This book made me cry, which a lot of my favorite books do. Also, Patti Smith? What a national treasure! I had no idea. I really, really loved this book. Highly recommend. Five stars!

The Gifts of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
by Brene Brown

This is the second Brene Brown book I've read. I read her first book, I Thought It Was Just Me, prior to reading this one. I liked this book, but I'm glad I read the other one first. The other book has more meat to it, and I feel like you need the background of the first book before reading this one. This book reads as more of a how-to guide based on the stuff you learn in the first book. This review is confusing. This book is good, but it will make more sense if you read I Thought It Was Just Me first.

I'm going to assume it's okay to talk about my therapist in a review on a self-help book, so... I did a lot of the exercises in these two books and went over them with my therapist and it was immensely helpful in identifying my shame, my triggers, areas where I'm already resilient, and areas where I could learn to be more resilient. These books go to a whole other level when you talk about them with a good therapist.

Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I liked this book. I never read anything by Ta-Nehisi Coates prior to reading this, and I'm interested in going back and reading his articles in The Atlantic. The way Ta-Nehisi writes is really beautiful. The topic is hard, and the book is hard. In parts, I felt overwhelming sadness, and wanted to cry, and in other parts, I found myself feeling uncomfortable and defensive, which I'm sure is the point. His passage on 9/11 was especially challenging for me. This book forced a point of view on me that I'm grateful for. I think if you really want to support #blacklivesmatter, this is an important book, and an important perspective. And again, it's beautifully written. Highly recommend.

I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't):  Making the Journey from "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough"
by Brene Brown

This was my first Brene Brown book. A therapist friend who's well-read in Brene Brown and has attended some of her workshops and conferences said she hasn't read this one because it's before Brene had her "awakening". I liked the book and learned a lot about where I have shame, how I react to it and how I react to other people's shame. I recommend the book, though maybe I'll change my mind after reading her more recent books.

Everything, Everything
by Nicola Yoon

Whoa, this book! I LOVED it! You can easily read this book in a couple of sittings, which I highly recommend you do. Immediately.

by Rainbow Rowell

So fun and fast to read. I loved all the relationships and characters, but especially Levi. Highly recommend, particularly if you're snowed in and can't leave your house for a few days.

How to Love (Mindfulness Essentials, #3)
by Thich Nhat Hanh

This little book is great! I wish I could remember who told me to pick it up. If you're interested in this kind of thing (love, mindfulness, meditation), highly recommend this book.

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3)
by Robert Galbraith

Hooray! I LOVED this book! Definitely my favorite of the three. I really enjoyed getting more of Robin in this book, and the development of the friendship between she and Strike. I would recommend reading this book, even if you haven't read the first two. But you should really read the whole series.

Life Before Man
by Margaret Atwood

This is my first Margaret Atwood book. Wow, what an amazing writer! I liked this weird, 1970's book, but I'm anxious to read some of her more current and better known work.

Yoga:  the Path to Holistic Health
by B.K.S. Iyengar

This is a huge coffee table book, but I'm glad I read it. I've been doing Iyengar yoga for about 2 years now and enjoy it more than any other style of yoga. This book explains the philosophy of Iyengar, as well as each individual pose and what ailment it's good or bad for. It also teaches you how to do a home practice, which I need to start doing. Long book, fascinating read.

Knowing Your Value:  Women, Money, and Getting What You're Worth
by Mika Brzezinski

Read this book if for nothing else than the chapter on how to negotiate your salary, raise, etc. The whole book is worth reading, but that chapter is great. It's a short book and well worth the read. Highly recommend for all my career bitches, especially the ones with kids. Great book!

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (Cordelia Gray #1)
by P.D. James

I forgot to write a review of this book after I read it and now I can't remember what it was about. I gave it 3 stars, so I liked it. Sorry! I will say I've been meaning to read P.D. James for years and will read more of her books now that I've finally started.

April 11, 2016

An Interview with Hairstylist Courtney Risse

Do you live in Nashville? Do we know the same people? And do those people all have good hair? Well, you can thank Courtney Risse. For as long as I've known Courtney, which is a long time as she is the youngest member of Sister Team Krampf, everyone who's hair I've complimented is a client of Courtney's.

Courtney fun facts:  her legit godfather is Steve Perry (yes, that Steve Perry); she is somehow friends with the lead singer of Everclear, who I met at her wedding; she loves Bruce Springsteen; and she is OBSESSED with the New England Patriots, going so far as to dress as their mascot on game days. Courtney possesses some of my favorite qualities:  she's interesting, kind and quirky. Meet today's bitch, Courtney Risse!

What do you make and what is the name of your business?

I am a hairstylist and co-manager/co-owner of Salon Yaya. Hair is my medium; I sculpt and design while cutting, and paint while doing haircolor. I also am an independent contractor for Redken, teaching product knowledge and haircolor for the brand. 

When did you first learn about this field of work?

I learned that this could be someone’s career while getting my hair cut as a child. I was fascinated with the idea. My parents took me to a place called the Yellow Balloon in California. I cut and colored a lot of my dolls' hair when I was young. 

How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I started dyeing my hair when I was 13 and never quite stopped. In high school, friends encouraged me to give them haircuts, even though I had no clue what I was doing. It kind of was a natural talent for me, I guess. 

What was your path that lead you to where you are now?

I was all set to go to Middle Tennessee State University and start the Art program after finishing high school. Then, a strange turn of events occurred: one of my best friends (the first person whose hair I cut other than my own) was killed in a car accident on the way to MTSU orientation. I was supposed to be with him but backed out in the last second. I decided to not go to college after that. I needed time to re-group from the tragedy and the shock of losing my close friend at the age of 18. 

During that time, I kept dabbling in hair and thought, “Perhaps I want this to be my career, my life…..” I enrolled in cosmetology school in 2002, and shortly thereafter started working as an apprentice at Salon Yaya (it was the salon where my dad got his hair cut and he mentioned to his stylist/the owner that his kid had started hair school). It has been my salon home ever since, and it gives me great pride to say that I have been a “Yaya” for almost 14 years now! I became a shareholder of Salon Yaya in 2015. My team there is like my second family.

Why did you decide to start your own business?

Well, Salon Yaya is a commission salon, so it wasn’t technically “starting my own business”, however, I will say that building a clientele is like building a brand new business. 

What was the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

Pace yourself. As a stylist, you work a lot of long hours on your feet, carrying on countless conversations (almost like being a therapist) all the while being an artist, designer, and chemist. My boss/mentor Marilyn Lipsey told me in the beginning, “Don’t burn yourself out. Pace yourself. Work smarter, not harder.” 

What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

Building a clientele. It takes so much time. Also, to not take it personally and to move on when a customer is unhappy. It’s inevitable: you are NOT going to make EVERY single person happy. It is so challenging to gain someone’s trust, get referrals, then get THAT person to fall in love with you, and so on and so forth. Then one day, you wake up, and it’s like, “Holy s--t, I am booked for 6 weeks straight!” It takes much patience, but once you get there, it is the best feeling in the world. 

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

I learn a new lesson every day, honestly. I am never quite 100% happy with my work. I am always thinking of a way I could have done something differently, because there are SO many techniques out there. You can be satisfied with your work, but stay humble and open to new ideas, because the hair and fashion worlds are always evolving. The best lessons are the ones I can pass down to my mentees and the associates that I help train. 

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work?

I once had to do an updo very early on in my career. I was petrified. I did the best I could, but it still wasn’t the “glam french twist” the woman was looking for. I then realized that if I am going to do this for a living, I can’t turn away services simply because they aren’t my forte or they give me anxiety. So, I started watching tutorials and taking classes. I took control, instead of fleeing; I need to face these things head-on. 

What would you do with 2 more hours a day? 

Sleep. Again, the hair biz is exhausting!

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made? 

Time with my friends and family. I wish I could see them more, but between working 32 hours a week behind the chair, mentoring others, managing the salon, and teaching out of town on some weekends with Redken, it’s tough. My life is my work. Remember that advice about not burning myself out? I walk that fine line every day. Luckily, most everyone that surrounds me seems to be supportive and understanding. The true friends have stuck around.

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) related to what you make? 

Becoming a Redken Artist in 2012 was an amazing achievement, and that led to being on stage at the big Redken Symposium in 2015. I hope to continue to grow with the company; teaching others is really where my passion lies. 

What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning? 


Where do you go when you need inspiration for your work? 

Other hairstylists’ Instagram accounts; I steal new ideas all the time from them. 

How do you decompress at the end of the work day? 

A glass of wine and some TV with my husband. After a long Saturday I treat myself to a massage or pedicure. 

What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious? 

Knowing when to say no.

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show and what is your favorite snack?

I was a big Mad Men fan, and it’s almost time to start the series all over! I love to snack on Trader Joe’s Kettle Corn. That stuff is like crack. 

All photos courtesy of Courtney Risse

April 4, 2016

An Interview with Artist and Illustrator Caryn Cast

When I moved home from New York, I had one friend. I immediately went about the business of making a second friend. That second friend is today's bitch, Caryn Cast. Caryn and I have been friends for thirteen years. When we met, she drove sitting atop a pile of phone books, kept boxes of Cheez-Its in her backseat, and sometimes had a jar of pickles in her purse. I loved her immediately.

Caryn and I blasted through our twenties eating chips and dip, riding in her enormous Chevy Lumina, and dancing at Johny Jackson's Soul Satisfaction. When I started dating John, I was thrilled to realize that John and Caryn knew each other from MTSU, and that Caryn had secretly called him Mr. Gibson all through college. From then on, John became our chauffeur and Caryn became our beloved "backseat critter". Meet today's bitch, my talented friend, Caryn Cast!

What do you make and what is the name of your business?

I create art: murals, editorial illustrations, paintings, menus (handpainted + graphic design), and sidewalk chalkboards. I also sell art prints and my own line of Star Wars and country romance greeting cards. I am Caryn Cast Art & Design!

When did you first learn about this field of work? 

When I was little, I took art classes from a pastel portrait artist in an old frame shop where I grew up in Florida. That is where I discovered how much I love painting portraits! I spent many summers in that class with older women in their eighties painting still lifes - they were amazing! I was the kid painting portraits and eating snacks in the corner. Not much has changed.

What would you do with two more hours a day? 

Plant a garden and hope to keep it alive, and go to a chiropractor (long hours painting murals on a ladder are a doozy).

How did you know it was what you wanted to do?

Once my hand discovered pencils, my idea of having fun has always been doodling. I dabbled in some creative something or other for years without taking it seriously until one particular day. I was working in the music business in Nashville and came home one night, went up to my old dusty attic, and started painting a portrait to see if I still “had it.” The first painting: Bon Jovi as a vampire (God, please nobody ever find it, PLEASE). Within a week I had created two portraits and I just couldn't stop - I had so many portrait ideas I needed to paint and not enough time to paint them all! The drive to create was never going to go away; that’s the moment when I realized.

What was your path that lead you to where you are now?

When I moved to New York City, I began to explore other forms of art outside of painting pastel portraits. I went to Pratt Institute in Manhattan for Illustration/Design, and they would not let me touch a piece of chalk (which was a good thing!). I became obsessed with watercolors, acrylics, printmaking, and graphic design, which opened up so many doors once I graduated.

What is your greatest success (or something you’re most proud of) related to what you make?  

I have a series of dictator murals and illustrations. The first dictator I created is located in an amazing craft beer and cheese shop named Astoria Bier & Cheese in Queens, NY. They graciously gave me a platform for creating murals, chalkboards, wall drawings, and all kinds of art insanity - they are like family. There are now four dictator murals in their restaurants scattered throughout New York City and Queens! The first mural wound up in a discussion on the front page of Reddit, twice in Timeout NY, and in a fashion magazine in Geneva. Let’s hope Kim Jong Un doesn’t come after me.....

What was the best piece of business advice you’ve been given?

Learn how to say no, which is really hard, especially if the project pays well and you're broke. A couple of years ago I turned down a project because it really wasn’t a direction I wanted to go in, and the next day I got a call to paint a mural. Thank you, art gods.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

There are many, but communication is a big one. When I get commissioned, I want to make sure I have a *picture perfect* understanding of what the client wants, all the way down to the nitty gritty details. I used to just dive in without getting the big picture, which can drive both parties crazy. There will always be redo's and edits and corrections, but I really make an effort to get a thorough idea before diving in. In other words, I ask 1,000,000,000 questions before the pencil hits the paper.

Failure you learned from or that helped you improve the way you work? 

Staying organized/writing everything down is such a simple concept that took me years to get right! I have a lot of different projects to keep up with and it's essential to organize. Don't think I'm a sophisticated digital calendar expert though, because I'm actually a cave man and cannot do the digital calendar. I have to physically write things down with a pencil on a piece of paper on a gigantic list that I carry around in my purse with me everywhere.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made? 

That’s a toss-up between lack of sleep and appearance. I work best if I have a deadline, but when you’re working on three projects at once and they’re all due the next day, goodbye sleep and hello coffee! Also, painting interior murals often means painting after hours when the business is closed. Right now I think my sleep schedule is on Hawaii time. As for appearance, sometimes I wander around covered in paint looking like the swamp thing, but I really don’t mind. Keeps you warm in a New York winter.

 What’s the first app or website you open when you wake up in the morning? 

All of 'em! Then email, then the news. I am obsessed with the Diane Rehm show on NPR. Instagram is also a big one for me!

Where do you go when you need inspiration for your work?

I love going to museums for inspiration. But to be honest, a ride on the New York City subway on the way to the museum can do the trick too. Also, my friends are so talented, hilarious and always inspiring!

How do you decompress at the end of the work day? 

A glass of wine and good tunes. I go through musical phases where I get obsessed with one particular style of music. Right now I'm discovering the world of punk (I know, I'm behind). I can't get enough!

Lastly, and most important, what is your favorite TV show/movie and what is your favorite snack?

As for TV, I am officially 100% nerd: I grew up on Star Trek and have had the Star Wars trilogy memorized since I was a kid! Nowadays I watch documentaries on the food industry, anything about aliens (crop circles, what!), whales, wine, documentaries about the planet / Vice, and of course House of Cards. Snacks: I have a severe addiction to crunchy snacks and I had to cut myself off from potato chips (pita chips do not count). But really, my favorite snack = wine.

All photos courtesy of Caryn Cast

April 1, 2016

Body Shaming

This post is going to go in a couple different directions, but the overarching theme is body shame, particularly female, and particularly mine. Quick backstory, one of my favorite people is my friend Freya West, who happens to be the headmistress of Nashville's only burlesque finishing school, Delinquent Debutantes. You can read more about Freya and my experience with Delinquent Debutantes here. Freya is a magical unicorn sent here from another universe to teach us all how to love our bodies and ourselves. Spoiler alert:  she is very successful at this.

This week a member of Freya's tribe wrote an article for HuffPost Women titled, "Big Girls Can't Dance? Oh Yes We Can". The body shaming incident that sparked the article, as well as the response to both the shaming and the article from shero Stacie Huckeba, got me thinking.

I can't remember how early my own body shaming began, at least fifth or sixth grade, if not earlier. With the help of a great therapist and three Brene Brown books, I've realized my "disordered" perspective on my body is connected to shame. Like everyone who is alive and has parents, I received some bad messaging as a child. I believed I was selfish and mean-tempered. It's taken over two years of therapy and an astounding amount of out-of-pocket money to learn that I am neither selfish nor mean-tempered. But these two things are shame triggers for me, and when I get triggered, my body image issues flare up.

So what does this look like? Does someone call me selfish and I eat a carton of ice cream? I wish. I am currently disconnected from my family until I work through this and can re-enter as a healthy, wholehearted person. I'm not there yet, but I'm close. My mom turned 60 in January. I haven't seen or talked to my mom in a year and a half, which is a pain so acute that there are days I can't function. On the day of her birthday, I woke up, looked in the mirror and saw my old body - my body 40+ pounds ago. I stayed in that headspace until I could see my therapist, who had to reality-check me by having me weigh myself. It worked and I went back to seeing my actual body.

An important part of my therapy is learning how to create and maintain boundaries. In learning how to do this, I've struggled with what the people I've had to create boundaries around think of me. If I think someone perceives me as selfish or mean, I get neurotic about my body image. I'll spend a week telling everyone how much weight I've gained, restricting my calories, and restructuring all of my workouts.

You guys, that's shame. And no one is talking about it. Because I am a woman who lives not in a cave, I have friends who are struggling with their weight. A) I feel you. B) I want to ask you what messaging have you received that makes you connect your worthiness to your size? Is there a pattern? Does your body shame spike when you're worried someone thinks something about you that you don't want them to think? Mine does. Big time.

On a scale of one to ten, I'd say I'm a two on how much of a grasp I have on this, and I've had two years of therapy, not to mention the honorary LCSW I've awarded myself for reading three Brene Brown books. All of this to say, I'm no expert and this isn't easy stuff to navigate. But I need this conversation to happen. And maybe you do, too. I've learned that shame can't live out in the open; it needs dark, secret places to thrive. So let's get this shit out there. I don't know about you, but I've lived long enough believing things about myself that aren't true and measuring my worth by my pants size.

Optional Homework Assignment:

If you're in the Nashville area and can throw some money towards women who are empowering other women to reclaim their bodies and their self confidence, buy a $15 class at Freya's studio. You can find a class schedule here. It's easily accessible from downtown, and she has lunchtime classes for you Real Life Business Babes.


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