It’s taken me four long months to gather my thoughts to sit down and write this post, but I am beyond ready to share just how much this amazing community, especially my sisters Kate & Jami, truly mean to me. Over the past three years life has thrown me several curveballs. Every time I have felt like I was finally starting to stand on my own two feet again, another wave would knock me right down, but these ladies have been there to build me back up and constantly remind me that I’m stronger than I think. The release and clarity I’ve found by sweating, and the never-ending support of my incredible friends, has been what has kept me going when it have been much easier to crumble.
In February of 2012, not long after I moved back to Baltimore and found the original BMOREtoned crew, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer, and passed away suddenly, less than 2 months after being diagnosed. Needless to say, losing a parent at age 24 is devastating in any situation, but being the youngest/only daughter in the family (I have two older half-brothers from my Dad’s previous marriage), I was especially close to my mom, and truly couldn’t imagine life without her. I just couldn’t understand how this could be possible, I mean this was the woman who worked full-time as an international flight attendant, yet still managed to attend every one of my Dad’s big games as a collegiate basketball coach, cook a healthy dinner that appeased everyone (I refused to eat red meat and my Dad refused to eat chicken, so good luck with that!), and help me with my homework – she was invincible, no way could cancer take her down!
Though she was an amazingly kind, patient and generous mother, first and foremost my mom exemplified what it meant to be a good friend, and from an early age stressed the importance of surrounding yourself with a strong circle of women that would be there for you in the good times and the bad. Needless to say she was THRILLED when I told her about all my newfound Baltimore “fit friends” and I distinctly remember her being concerned when Kate (who I met while working at Planit) moved on to the National Aquarium – “But Annie, WHO will you eat lunch with?!”
Though I hadn’t known them long, these ladies showed up in a MAJOR way when my mom passed away – reminding me to exercise/eat/take time for myself, answering many of the ridiculous/tedious questions most 24 year olds with little “real world” experience direct to their mothers (ie. How exactly does one cook a sweet potato? What do I claim on my taxes? Can this shoe be fixed? What is a proper bridal shower gift? etc.), being there for me when I eventually made the decision to end an unhealthy relationship, pinning pictures of my mom on my back when I did races in her honor and even being there for her memorial.
When I got the call that my Dad had a major stroke this past February, Kate & Jami were immediately on the case – letting all the studios where I teach know to find subs, checking in with my boyfriend to see how things were going, and keeping my network aware that I was spending precious time with family and to please respect that space. Sadly, my Dad passed away the following day, and these girls were the first non-relatives I felt comfortable seeing, coming over with a haul of prepared foods & juices, knowing I didn’t have the energy to feed myself. They were there for me through a very emotional memorial, and continuously check in on me and encourage me to go after my goals and work hard, but to make space to grieve and actually FEEL all the emotions associated with my profound sense of loss.
As I mentioned, sweating has been one constant in my life, when I felt like the rest of my world was falling apart. When I graduated college and experienced my first heartbreak, I distracted myself by diligently training for my first half-marathon. Even when my mom was in the hospital in Charleston, South Carolina, I would go for an hour run first thing each morning along the water to clear my head and prepare myself to be strong and sit by her hospital bed for the rest of the day. When she passed away, I came across an organization called Team in Training that solved my need to DO something, be PART of something bigger by training individuals to complete races across the world while simultaneously fundraising on behalf of the. I made some amazing friends thru the organization, and raised more than $5,000 in honor of my mom, while keeping my passions to travel and run alive by running the Bermuda Triangle Challenge in 2013 & Rock n Roll New Orleans 1/2 Marathon in 2014.
Most recently, teaching barre classes has become a BIG part of my life, and I am so blessed to have found second homes (and families, really!) in the studios that I teach at, REV Cycle Studio, M.Power Yoga, and Beachfit Baltimore. After my dad passed away, the first time I left the house was to go to a power vinyasa class at M.Power with our good friend Jessie, and I just remember feeling so incredibly lucky to have such a beautiful sanctuary where I could sweat and let myself feel vulnerable, without any judgement if I totally lost it in savasana.
That being said, I can think of no better way to celebrate this first Father’s Day weekend without my dad than by sweating in his honor with the amazingly supportive REVFam, and I am so grateful to REV’s owners for offering their barre studio for me to teach an hour long charity barre class, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer, an affiliate of the American Cancer Society. As a long-time college basketball coach, when my Mom passed away, my Dad vowed to fundraise and make a donation to Coaches vs. Cancer in her honor, but unfortunately he never got a chance to do so, and I would love to dedicate this coming weekend to fulfilling his wish. As it’s become a bit of a mantra for me, the class is called “You’re Stronger Than You Think,” with the emphasis being pushing through life’s unexpected challenges to discover inner strength – which I feel is a great metaphor for those moments at the barre when your legs are shaking and you feel like you couldn’t possibly hold a pose a moment longer, but you close your eyes, dig deep, and remind yourself that you are a ROCKSTAR!
I would absolutely love to have you join me for “You’re Stronger Than You Think” at REV this Saturday at 10AM to honor the lives of both my parents, and to celebrate that each of us can strive to achieve greatness and crush goals, no matter what the universe throws our way!