Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Don't let someone who has done nothing tell you how to do anything

I teach approximately 9 classes a week at 4 different studios not including an on an off corporate gig and teaching at prAna as an ambassador. I'm about to add 3 more classes to my schedule and did I mention I'm also a flight attendant and mom and run my own business? Needless to say I stay busy. I love teaching fitness and am constantly trying to think of ways to inspire my yoga, bootcamp, cycle and barre students. I'd like to think I'm a five star teacher....

At least I was.

I recently logged into my mind body online account at one of the locations I teach to find a student last week rated me as a one star teacher. Any location using MBO now has a feature that allows students to rate their teachers after class. It also has a spot where they can fill in any details about the class. At one studio I have comments like, "Natalie is the best" "Her classes rock" "Loved the 90s music" and some don't leave comments at all just 5 stars. When a student leaves a bad star review it drops your rating down. So now at this other studio instead of being a 5 like I am, I'm now at a 3. I did a little deductive reasoning and believe the student who left this review was one of my free week students. I remember him because after class I asked how it was and he said hard. He came into my cycle yoga sculpt class having never taken a yoga class or yoga sculpt and found the quick pace and terminology challenging. I encouraged him to come back and learn more.

Let me tell you something about teaching classes. I get to the studio at least 15-20 minutes before each session and stay 15-20 minutes after. I help students set up bikes, I wash and fold towels, I check people in and help them with their memberships. I set students up on bikes and preform adjustments during class. I remember people's names mostly and use them. I pay $1.99 per song on itunes and I make thoughtful playlists. I spend time choreographing my classes and making playlists. I sacrifice time away from my family to teach and I have spent over $2k on trainings and certifications. At most I make about $55 a class though if I'm there two hours that breaks down to about $25 an hour. I'm not doing this to get rich folks I'm doing this because I love what I do. I am rewarded by changing people's minds and bodies and inspiring them to live healthier lifestyles. I love my work and consider it an opportunity to give back to a community who has given so much to me. I have gotten to know many of my students on a deeper level of friendship and have connected others in the fitness world in ways I never thought possible. I pour my heart and soul into this.

It's not that I don't think there's a place for feedback. Please tell me if my music is too loud or you can't hear me or I didn't explain something well enough. I don't like non-constructive feedback. I can't help it if you don't like my music, my delivery, the way I talk or the fact you came in late and I didn't have time to set you up on your bike. I can't help if if the speakers act up, if your neighbor is annoying you or your bike was sticking. If you've never taken a cycle, yoga or barre class before of course your first one will be challenging and tough no matter who you take it from. I'm not for everyone and if you don't like me that's great because there's a million other teachers out there who might be better suited for you. I don't believe the old saying, "You have one chance to make a first impression" because I think students should give teachers multiple chances...

Maybe I just came in to teach tired, upset, sick or frazzled but I couldn't find a sub to cover for me so I'm having to suck it up and be there. Maybe YOU are having a bad day with your boss or spouse or child and you come in with a chip on your shoulder. We all have off days, teachers and students alike and it takes time to get to know someone else's style of teaching and class format. Give me six weeks before you give me a one star review.

I was talking to my mentor Dawnelle about reviews and feedback and as she says, "Unless you are doing what I'm doing and sitting where I sit, don't give me feedback." We agreed Yelp is pointless as it allows people to bring down small businesses with one individuals biased opinion. I of course, do not have Yelp but I did have a girl tell me this after I wouldn't give her her money back when she cancelled on my retreat and my policy says no refunds:

"I am shocked that you could even identify with a real yogi - I feel people who live and breathe yoga are people with empathy and understanding- you've shown none of those qualities. I won't recommend you to anyone ever again, and I have a feeling your retreats will continue to not fill up spaces with your business practices...."

I'd like to point out that my Nicaragua, Glamping and first Telluride retreat all sold out and that my Telluride retreat next year is almost sold out as well. This girl I'm sure would rate me less than one star and I know in my heart I'm not any of those things she said. I'm better than all of that.

So here's what I'm saying in all - I don't care about how you rate me and I don't care about your feedback. Seriously. Unless your name is Yogi Magee and you are running your own business, you teach 9 classes a week at four different studios and have a daughter and a husband and fly every night so you can teach during the day I seriously don't want to hear it. You aren't me so you aren't doing what I'm doing or try to go where I'm going. If it's something I can change - temperature in the room, noise level, the speed at which I talk or how loud I talk then tell me of course. If it's my personality, how I do business, how I structure my class or my retreats that someone doesn't like then move on and find someone who inspires you more.

Because I know I'm worth more than one star and I won't let that stop me....ever....

Monday, October 5, 2015

Never say never in mountaineering

“I’ll never do that.” – I should probably add this phrase into my vocabulary more when it comes to adventures because I find myself more and more doing what I never imagined myself doing. Five years ago when I was just getting into my journey hiking the 14ers of Colorado I wrote this blog and this about the mountains I feared. I wrote: 10 of the mountains are rated in the difficult category including Crestone, Longs, Kit Carson, El Diente, Maroon Peak, Snowmass Mtn., Mt. Eolus, Mt. Lindsey, Wilson Peak and Wetterhorn Peak. None of these really scare me except Maroon peak probably because in my mind there are 7 others to be much more terrified of, these include Mt. Wilson, Crestone Needle, Capitol Peak, Sunlight Peak, Little Bear Peak, Pyramid Peak and North Maroon Peak.

I also posted photos of Maroon Peak and underneath wrote, “not for me but they sure are beautiful to photograph.”

This past September my “never” turned into standing on the summit of Maroon Peak overlooking the valley below. In fact, looking back at my list of “maybe never’s” above, I’ve summited longs, kit carson, mt. lindsey, wetterhorn and pyramid. I think when I wrote that blog I had summited maybe 6 or 8 total 14ers and now I’m up to 42. With each summit, my confidence has grown and so has my knowledge. Nothing could have prepared me for these peaks except for time spent on the trail and while every peak is different, my courage has grown exponentially with each summit. In August, my little brother came out and along with three friends we climbed Castle and Conundrum in the elks. While not particularly hard mountains, there was plenty of snow to contend with coming down the saddle between the two and I cut my teeth, so to speak, on more glissading. Glissading can be done on rock but is traditionally done on snow and involves basically controlled sliding down the mountain on your boots or behind to expedite the process of coming down. While dangerous, if done right it can at times be safer than trying to walk on slippery wet snow. Wet pants however, are a small price to pay for getting down in half the time.

Maroon Peak, another elk range mountain, had been on my radar for quite some time and I decided to finish out the summer on its summit. In lieu of camping, Chad and I stayed at a hotel in Aspen Friday night that was close to the trailhead. The nice thing about the bells is the road is paved in and, given our 4:45am start time, we didn’t have to rely on the bus to shuttle us to the trailhead. We saw several other cars in the parking lot but it turned out to be all photographers gunning for a chance to shoot the bells at dawn. We were on our own then for the hike.

Let me be clear however, Maroon peak, and the bells in general, is more than just a hike but less than a climb. There’s no ropes involved because the rock is dangerously loose and rotten so finding a solid anchor would be next to impossible. They aren’t just walk up hikes though because after the hike up the ridge there is no defined trail. Even the trip report from suggests there are multiple ways to go to reach the summit so a knowledge of route finding is paramount to success. Just to reach the hard stuff you must subject yourself to what’s known as the “2800 feet of suck” which is a steep climb up the green ledges of the ridge of maroon peak. Chad fell at one point when we got off route and cut up his finger pretty bad in an effort to control his fall down a steep gulley.
2800 feet of punishment

Once up the ridge the real climbing begins. We had spotted a guy who was in front of us so we half followed him and half followed the trip report in combination with our own good judgement. My blog was partially right because 5 years ago there is no way I had acquired the skills needed to climb this mountain. While Pyramid is ranked a class harder than Maroon, I didn’t even think Pyramid was as tough based on the mileage (8 vs 13) and the relatively shorter approach. Everywhere you look, the ledges look the same and I would compare it to a labyrinth. Stop paying attention and you’ll cliff out and possible fall to your death. I don’t know if route finding is necessarily a skill you can teach but somehow I seem to have gotten the knack for looking at rocks and picking out lines. You have to be careful because there are some false cairns (piles of rock people make that are supposed to mark the way) that will lead you to nowhere. I can’t stress enough how much attention this mountain commands from the time you leave the trail behind Crater Lake until you arrive on the summit. Even at the top, I wasn’t sure I had arrived at the top yet because that mountain just would not quit.
still a ways to go

the chimney

steep, loose, rotten, confusing, it has it all

“Set a goal so big that you can’t achieve it until you become a person that can” – that’s the motto I’ve been living by after this adventure. Climbing this peak showed me that truly any summit is within my reach. In the past I doubted my abilities as a hiker and mountaineer because this is nothing like I’ve ever done before. You can’t take a training course in how to be a good hiker. You can’t go to a gym and learn how to read trip reports or follow cairns. There’s no guides along the route to tell you if you’re going the right way or not and even if you do have the luck to have someone ahead of you they might not know where they are going either. GPS, maps, trip reports, they can all give you clues but ultimately the summits don’t reveal themselves unless you have the courage and the power to get you to the top. Chad had a moment where he wanted to quit. I had a moment on the way down where we cliffed out and I thought truly we might be stuck indefinitely. What scares you in the mountains is totally different than what scares you on a day to day basis. You’re in pure survival mode and critical thinking is key. I’ve never had something give me such a rush before as climbing mountains.
the ledges

maroon lake- I wonder how many could see us on top?

chad looking like a mountain goat

had the summit to ourselves

The Maroon Bells are one of the most photographed spots in North America. People come from all over the world to take pictures of them. They are so famous in Colorado they are on the King Soopers loyalty card. As we came down the trail we drew stares and awe from those around us. Not only had we been hiking for 13-14 hours but we had helmets and hiking poles not tripods and strollers. People stopped us to chat and couldn’t believe we had been to the top. “It looks impossible,” they’d remark.

“That’s what I thought too” I replied.
with pyramid peak, last year's conquest in the background

beautiful hiking scenery we didn't get to see at 4am

I cannot wait to come back next year for North Maroon. While not an officially ranked 14er, it’s still one of the 58 and thus on my list. Now that I’m down to 16 and my list is getting smaller, the amount of hard ones I have left is greater. I know I won’t be able to hike with as many friends for the future because they don’t have the skill set I have. However, this journey isn’t really about anyone else it’s about me and my goal…and perhaps my husband helping me to finish as well.

conquered the left now have to come back for the right

After our hike we stayed in Glenwood Springs and ate at our favorite brewery and then soaked in the new Iron Mountain Hot Springs. Our legs were sore and tired and the heat was refreshing. It was such a trip to think those around us had no idea of the adventure we had been on the day before. They didn’t know we’d been to the edge and back and were thrilled just to have made it out in one piece.

That’s how mountaineering is though, you do it for the cause not for the applause. As one of my favorite quotes says, “Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambition to achieve, they are cathedrals where I practice my religion.”