Like most wellness journeys, mine has been a long one. There have been pitstops and setbacks, building blocks and inspiration. I’ve been lucky to find some powerful positive influences that have lit my path along my way. Today I want to introduce one of them.
AJ Govoni is a yoga teacher, holistic fitness trainer and traveler. She’s an absolute inspiration to me, and has made a big impact on my life.
Last year, after I received my scleroderma (an autoimmune disease) diagnosis, I panicked. I was told that muscle wasting could be an effect of the disorder, and I was determined not to let that happen. I’m a do-er and a fixer, and I wanted to do everything in my power to fix this. I reached out to AJ because I know her and trust her, and I really wanted her to train me.After filling out an extensive health form for her, she told me that training wasn't the best thing for me at the time. She wanted me to go for easy walks, seek out restorative yoga classes and sit in a sauna.
At first I was like, WHAT?!I just wanted her to take my money and fix me. I will also admit that I was super nervous about putting on weight, about not having a structured exercise plan, about "giving up"...but I since I trust AJ so much, I decided to take her advice.
It was THIS that tipped the scales towards true healing. I laid down my dumbbells and sneakers in favor of a journal, meditation pillow and my bed (seriously, I was all about that rest). It was almost like I couldn't give myself the permission to rest, so I needed AJ to do if for me. And I was finally able to see that my push-push-push attitude was what got me into my health crisis in the first place!
Though we work in slightly different fields (her focus more on fitness, mine on food), our approach is similar in that we believe sometimes more is not always better. Sometimes more is just more.
Our styles jive so much, in fact, that a year ago we decided to collaborate on a project. I launched a 21 nutrition program called Fueled+Fit for her Girl Be Fit outdoor fitness group. Over the past year, Fueled+Fit has blossomed into a robust food and wellness program that I've led over a hundred people through, AJ being one of them. She recently told me, “Last summer, you helped me become aware of the HOWs of what I was eating, which, like you said, guided me towards the true healing.”
This sounds like a lot of girl crushing (maybe it is), but I also think it showcases how people can help one another, and learn from each other.
Today, I get inside AJ’s head a bit. I wanted her to share her philosophy and approach to fitness and wellness, because I think it’s SO important for people to hear and to learn from.
Keep up with AJ's class + event schedule her website. She’s doing a short stint on the seacoast this summer, so try to get to one of her outdoor workouts if you’re local!
To get a taste of her style, you can try out the workout she's shared with us today. This is one you can do at home in under 30 minutes - no equipment needed!
Tell us a little bit about yourself - your background, what you do, and why you do what you do.
I grew up on the Seacoast, and for the last seven plus years have been leading outdoor fitness and yoga classes. There are countless benefits to exercising outside, and at that time, no one in the area was offering it, so I started with just a small group that would meet twice a week in the parks by donation.It has grown, both in class style and involvement, every year. It's a community of people who commit to show up, maybe in different ways, but ultimately for the same thing. More recently, I started Girl Be Fit, an outdoor fitness program for women. After working at an all-women's wellness center in Exeter, NH (Thrive for Women), I recognized the importance of some good ol' fashioned, empowering female time, to exercise and have a crew to do adventure outings with. It's been amazing to see the motivation and networking made with women working in all different avenues around the Seacoast. My aim is these ladies not only get an effective, fun workout, but are informed and educated on fitness and holistic well-being. In addition to the above, I practice and teach Yoga in a number of locations, and have been traveling to different regions of the world as much as I can.
This summer establishment has supported me to work in a variety of mediums- event planning, writing, brand + business collaborations, charitable organizations, anything involving the ocean and travel. It can all be a challenge for me to personally navigate, but I'm consistently being opened to new experiences and get to work with inspiring individuals - from pro athletes to busy moms, and to cultures that completely transform my way of thought. Creativity, collaboration, and community have always played a big role into my endeavors, which is also the foundation on which Wild Vibes, a celebration of yoga, music, and art festival that gives back, was created. It was co-founded by myself and my teammates, Lauren Lee + Maggie Barrett, and this summer will be its third year. We are in the works of creating yoga + adventure retreats for 2017.
What is your overall life and work philosophy?
I see things holistically. Everything is connected, and that has became even more prevalent to me within the last few years. Spending time in different cultures and communities, being educated on foods and food practices, meditation and Yoga modalities, holistic and plant medicine throughout the world really shifted my view on health. It opened my eyes to how everything is interconnected. If stress levels are high, it's going to affect how you receive nourishment and metabolize energy, which is going to affect how your body holds onto weight, which is going to affect how you move and feel, which is going to affect your emotions and perception of yourself, which is going to affect your quality of life…you get the point. I work to create the balance; seeing what really needs some TLC.
I'm a big believer that all the tools to be and get to where we want to are within, it's up to us to do the work to make it work.
With my life, I think Nike nailed it: just do it. And, be free.
Tell us about your typical training schedule. How much emphasis do you place on rest and recovery? How do you find balance between digging deep/getting out of your comfort zone AND honoring your body's need to slow down? How do you determine how much is too much?
To be honest, right now, I don't have a structured training schedule. I'm more about making a habit of movement everyday. I make sure to get in activities that improve strength, mobility, and cardiovascular health. Sometimes that looks like restorative Yoga, a walk, hiking, paddle-boarding, a three mile run, or one of my HIIT circuits. I make the time for it, and to attend classes I really enjoy.
How has your training evolved over the years?
In the past, a driven attitude contributed to putting my body and mind through the rigger in workouts. I'd feel a bit guilty or shameful for 'resting' or 'not doing enough' (what I'd tell myself back then..). After I got hit with a laundry list of ailments and chronic fatigue not too long ago, I started to actually implement my own advice: slow down and less is more, into my own health and wellness prescription. When I did this, my body and world around me changed…for the better. I owe the majority of that awareness to travel and yoga, which really introduced me to holistic wellness. It showed me how that hustle-hustle mentality could negatively effect my overall health. Now, I exercise with the recognition that I am able to, I get to (not that I have to) and in ways that make me feel good. Most of the time that has nothing to do with lifting a weight.
How do you find balance between digging deep/getting out of your comfort zone AND honoring your body's need to slow down? How do you determine how much is too much?
You may have heard a Yoga teacher say, 'find the balance between effort and ease.' The rest and recovery is a form of doing, it's just as important (for weight loss, for sport, for LIFE), as the doing. I believe this to be true outside of an exercise program, too. I find it to be really important to renew and recharge, and to disconnect from work obligations/titles/roles/the internet. This doesn't have to be in the form of a week long retreat or vacation, but by hitting pause daily and creating a ritual to find the balance. Listen. That's something I'm continuing to work on. The body is a mastermind, it's designed to work for us. If there is an injury or a health concern that's rising, it's a pretty good indication that the body is saying that there's some aspect of life that needs paying attention to.
I saw how other cultures emphasized this idea of relaxation and how much more productive and content humans can be because of it. Make time for the things that can release the mind off of things.Surf, write, meditate, be outside, actually engage with those you love.
What is one piece of advice you wish you could give to everyone, everywhere?
Keep a mind that is open to everything, attached to nothing, and kind to all things.
Equipment-free At Home Workout from AJ Govoni
Run 5 Minutes
As Many Rounds As You can in 7 Minutes:
1) Walking Lunges: 15 each side
2) Incline Push Ups and Jacks: 10 Reps
3)Squat Jumps: 10 Reps[separator]
Run 5 Minutes
As Many Rounds As You Can in 7 Minutes:
1) Bench Step Ups: 10 Reps Each Side
2) Tricep Dips: 15 Reps
3) V-Sit Ups In and Out: 15 Reps[separator]
Run 5 Minutes