Things about me: by India Choquette

1. I have a cello in my shower.

2. I am not good at responding to texts.

3. I always have AT LEAST one gallon of maple syrup in my fridge.

4. I regularly use up pens because I write so much.

5. I hate driving.

6. Main things I own (in order of quantity): books, t-shirts, snacks.

7. Fresh blueberries are my favorite food and stacking wood is my favorite exercise. 

8. My college application essay was about a stop sign.

9. Between the hours of 4:30am and 7am are when I am most likely to order from Amazon.

10. According to an online quiz I took, red is my aura color. 

Spring by India Choquette

People change in the spring. Waiting on the subway platform, searching for ripe avocados at Trader Joe’s —we all become less rude. At the minimum. Some people light up and become unrecognizable from their bear-like hibernating winter selves. The sunlight and warmth are of course part of this change, but I think it is something more too....we are living through some giant metaphor in spring. The seasons prove that we can be reborn and transformed. Even after the soupiest, grayest, blizzard filled winter, the sun will feed the tulips in the giant ceramic planters guarding the entrances of the Upper West Side buildings. Seeing these blooms is good for all of us. It reminds us that nothing is permanent, and that no empty patch of dirt will stay that way forever.

Spring is hopeful. Contentment is surprisingly rare among the people I meet, especially given how much we have. Most of us are seeking growth or fulfillment or even total over hall. When we are stagnant and restless, knowing that time move forward can sometimes be the saving grace. Because true depression, I find, is when we despair that nothing will get better. We struck without hope of a personal spring.

On my walk home, I saw a little girl in a bright blue winter coat eating an ice cream cone on a park bench, her yellow rainboots dangling several inches off the ground. It was too cold to go without a jacket (at least for her dad to let her) but still warm enough to eat ice cream outside.

Transformation is deeply desired by us. I mean, it is how I make my living: people looking for better health (or, more honestly, a better body) hire me. I am part of the change industry that promises a better future. And I believe in change and transform constantly. I can barely recognize myself year to year, whether it be my body, my work, or my relationships. I live by the mantra that nothing is permanent, and we can pull the threads as they appear. We can be fluid in our definition of ourselves. “I learn by going where I have to go” is the refrain one of my favorite poems (“The Waking” by Roethke).

However, my goals are more like guidelines. I find that having an end in mind sometimes does nothing more than distract me from where I am supposed to wander. The possibility of spring is always there, and I can always transform, but sometimes the transformation I want and pursue isn’t the one that is given to me. And I try and be open to that outcome.

And the transformation we seek isn't always the one that would bring meaning to our lives. Often we want to change ourselves into something that someone else has decided we should be...because we should look a certain way, act a certain way, or be good at certain things. It especially makes me sad in the case of appearance. The way we look is only a portion of who we are as humans, and it is honestly one of the least impactful parts of our identity. And yet, our confidence is often defined by it. The work we make, the thoughts we express, the energy and time we give to our friends and our loved ones, our me, these are all more important than the way our hair falls or how much we weigh. And yet, when we think of transformation, most of us think of makeovers. Transformation is always just hours or weeks or months or years of work away, but that before we go chasing this idea of spring, what kind of transformation does what spring does? What creates joy and warmth and kindness and hope not hours of maintenance and isolation and rigidity? What create connections and art and strength and triumph? What kind of transformations are worth undergoing? 

I am not anti-beauty. And I am certainly not anti-health. We build our life on our health. But our physical impression is only one impression that we make on the world. I would love to see a drive to be stronger, smarter, kinder, and brighter in the same way we are driven to be beautiful. Spring is beautiful. But the beauty is only part of the special-ness: the hope, the freshness and the light are what touch me. 

Lightening by India Choquette

“Prostitution behind you,” the text read.

We were sitting at a long table in front of the bar. Front row seats, apparently.

At first, I thought if D hadn’t texted me from across the table, I would have gone the whole night without noticing what was happening behind me. But as we ordered another round of food, then drinks, I realized that even me, the least aware, wouldn’t have been able to ignore the old fat man saying, “Speak English!” to the two highly groomed Eastern European women. They would giggle and explain that they’d just been commenting on the sushi or something benign like that.

Our waitress was overly bright. Her English wasn’t great, but she was really trying to be helpful to the three of us obviously distressed and underdressed women: coaches dressed for comfort. And yet we were uncomfortable.

“I bet he voted for Trump,” D said.

I drank my wine and willed them to leave.


“See that?” K said as she tapped the window of the plane.

If we looked out, we could see the lightening in the distance. It was more like watching a storm on TV, because it was so far away and the window was so small.

“So cool,” K said. “Also scary. But mostly cool.”

K is young and brave and likes things that are a little scary. She is one of our athletes, and I think athletes tend towards wonder. They are nature too, sometimes moving in ways that is like seeing lightening from above. An impossible display of human movement.


Back to the bar. “I’m so glad the athletes aren’t here,” I thought and said multiple times to the other coaches. I never view our team as vulnerable, but suddenly in the face of these men—because now there were five or six—I became worried. These old fat men drooling over these women. I worried that our team would be meat for them.

“The men have wedding rings,” D noticed.


I’m on edge more than usual. Although he had been pushed out several months ago, I am still disturbed that another trainer at my gym—one I was friends with—was hunting women who came to take class. I should have guessed. But I was still surprised. I felt sick. I told him that and he had said, “Girls like it when a man appreciates them.” The he told me to leave it. But then he left so it wasn't my problem anymore. 

It is awful to have a woman’s body—I don’t care what anyone says. Every woman I train hires me because she doesn’t like her body or some piece of it. Even then, sitting at the bar, I was aware of my big shoulders and how undressed we were. Women want to sculpt and shape and starve and decorate their bodies in to something else. And my job becomes to teach her that her body is strong and useful and capable of incredible things. Change her perspective—her body isn’t ornamental, it is powerful. Like lightening from above.

We learn strength by being strong. The way to get better at pushups is to do pushups. When our goals become active—to lift ourselves high, to propel ourselves faster, or to stand firmer—we come into our natural form. If the goal is to disappear, then we lose ourselves and become images rather than humans.

I worry about my former colleague who thinks he knows what women want. I worry about society convincing my athletes that they should be beautiful not champions. I am depressed by my hope that men like these will die out. I want to fight the men at the bar, but what will that do? I’m just a woman who can do a lot of pushups. I can’t make them respect women.

And I think about our team, standing on the deck with goggle marks under their eyes. I want them to know they are lightening from above. I want them to avoid the traps I’ve fallen into, even though I’m only a few years older. I don’t want to be part of a system that encourages women to shave down their bodies until they disappear.

But I feel tired.

Recovery: Balance is the Only Way by India Choquette

“You’re looking jacked,” one of our athletes said to me the other day. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“Less than you think,” I said. “I’m pretty lazy,” I joked.

“Really? This is my eighth straight day,” he said.

              People should not be doing crossfit eight days in a row. Full stop. But in our worthy desire to get better, we sometimes mistakenly think “more is more” and push ourselves beyond anything that makes sense. All those Instagram posts about how we need to “embrace the pain” and how “everyone wants it but no one wants to work for it” don’t help. We believe that some sort of extreme struggle and maniacal commitment must exist for us to get to the next physical level.

              But in many ways, the science says otherwise. Exercise, by definition, is controlled damage to your body. You body then is required to repair that damage. That’s is why we get bigger muscles, stronger lungs, and more durable joints: it is a simple response to damage AKA exercise.

              When you fail to give your body sufficient rest, recovery, or nutrients, you body is unable to fully repair the damage. And if you turn around and exercise before you have healed, then you run the risk of increasing the damage without reaping the benefits.

              Now theoretically that makes sense—if you got a paper cut, you wouldn’t expect it to heal if you jabbed a butter knife into the cut every day. That being said, training can and should be challenging, and good work comes with a certain amount of pain. Soreness is fine and necessary to get stronger. It is a matter of finding a skillful edge—pushing yourself to get stronger but also facilitating an effective recovery.

              There are several factors that go into recovery. I usually categorize stress, sleep, nutrition, and recovery work as the main factors. (I’m not going to talk about nutrition—I am not a nutritionist and it is too complex and important. But know that proper nutrition is a cornerstone to athletic recovery.)

              Stress is everything. If your cortisol levels are through the roof and you are running on fumes, your body isn’t going to be able to recover. When we are stressed, our body goes into “fight or flight” mode. In this state, your endocrine system (AKA your hormones) diverts energy away from repair. From your body’s perspective, you are in survival mode and repairing damaged tissue isn’t a priority.  The kicker of fight or flight is that stress can be from any source: training, work, commuting …actually, most people in our society live a good portion of their lives in fight or flight mode because of increased stress. However, flight or flight is supposed to be a temporary state for our bodies. We are supposed to remain in it just along to deal with an immediate stressor. But we stay in it for prolonged periods which takes a toll on our systems. And when you live a good percentage of your life in fight or flight, it causes serious interruption to repair.

              So how do you manage stress? There have been thousands of books on this topic alone and it is too big a subject for a simple blog post. But the two main things I want to emphasize are sleep and the relaxation response.

              Sleep is sleep. Get it. Try to get eight hours within the same window every night.

              The relaxation response is the OPPOSITE physiological response of fight or flight. It encourages our restore and repair hormones, and they swoop in so that we can get the most out of our exercise. How do you encourage this response? In the same way a stressor cues fight or flight by creating an atmosphere of danger, the relaxation response is cued when we feel completely safe. The best proven way is meditation (check out THE RELAXATION RESPONSE by Herbert Benson or check out his steps to elicit it here). I find that restorative yoga is a more accessible version of meditation for many people and more and more yoga studios are offering restorative classes. Massages, walks in a nature, and watching the water can also encourage a meditative state. Anything that convinces your body that you are safe and calm.

              Which brings me to recovery work. Yes, recovery isn’t entirely passive. I am obsessive about training, but I don’t go hard every day. On my days on, I work HARD. On my days off, I do recovery work. On these days, restorative yoga counts as my workout of the day. Mobility work, getting a massage, a slow job in the sunshine…I count all of that as training. I will often do a circuit of corrective exercises when I never break a sweat (clamshells forever!). I consider all of this work as part of my training. And I do all this work on my rest days. It is the work that encourages repair and better movement patterns. You can’t be lazy about repair if you are going to do something as intense as crossfit.

              How many days of recovery do you need a week? It truly depends. Intense exercise is actually a sport of recovery: the better you are, the faster you recover both within a workout and between workouts. But it takes effort and time to train your body to recover. And, chances are, you aren’t a professional athlete who eats meals planned to the last red bean, goes to the chiropractor once a week, and sleeps nine hours a night. So you need better recovery not just from exercise, but from life. You need AT LEAST one day off from intense exercise. I do two or three days a week of active recovery, depending on how my body feels. For active recovery, I plan and execute some kind of bodywork (corrective exercises, a massage, long conditioning, etc.) I treat these sessions as any other kind of training and it goes in my training log. Psychologically, that helps my obsessive personality, and physically, it allows me to repair so that I am ready to go hard again.

              No single workout or day will make you strong, but if you can keep a wider view and manage your fitness in a balanced way, you will get strong without getting hurt. I know it can be hard to give your one exercise timeslot to something like restorative yoga if you aren’t used to it, but balance is the only way.

Once A Couch Potato by India Choquette

Sometimes I am too tired to workout. Or I am too sore. That’s what happened to me yesterday: I’m in the middle of a grueling work month, and while I usually go in on the same weeknight (one of my two nights off during the week) to train, I was very much not feeling it. And even though I go in every single week at this same time slot, I decided to skip it this once. Because I was tired. Plus it was sunny outside so I thought I might as well go for a run.

While I was not working out, I got a call from a friend who happens to be an old client of mine. She moved a couple of months ago, and in the middle of all the chaos, she got an injury. Then, when she finally healed, she struggled to find a place where she actually wanted to train. The gym at her work was filled with grunting bros, and the fitness studio with classes was so packed that each athlete was confined to a postage stamp size of real estate.  She shopped around at several places. Finally, she found a place that had classes she liked, so she went ahead with signing up.

Our conversation was about how she felt like she had fallen off the wagon. Which I found interesting. Because, to me, shopping around at studios, trying out gyms, and healing from an injury sound like the activities of someone very much on the fitness wagon.

We sometimes see ourselves as fake fitness people. When we are in this mode, any lapse or change in training is perceived as evidence that we are reverting to our “true” couch potato identity. But this isn’t the case. At some point (at any point really), you have to shift your vision: inactivity isn’t who you are anymore. Being INACTIVE is the temporary. That leads to the conclusion that ACTIVE is the permanent. If you miss a day or week of month of training, you are going to go back to it. Because that’s who you are.

It is a powerful mind shift. You aren’t an inactive person pretending to be healthy, you are a fit person who is taking a break because life is getting in the way of your identity at the moment. You aren’t going to lose drive, and don’t get down on yourself. Don’t use changes in training as evidence to back up an old identity. Sometimes when I come back from a vacation, one of my clients, who didn’t workout while I was gone, will say, “See? The second you are gone I’m back to being lazy.” Don’t tell yourself that! It isn’t helpful and it gets in the way of transformation. Life isn’t linear and it is impossible to adhere to the same schedule and progress forever. But if you understand yourself to be someone who is intrinsically active rather than inactive, every twist and turn becomes a short detour rather than an expression of your roots.

Active is the natural. Inactive isn’t who you are anymore. Breaks are fine. Changes are fine. Because you are always going to find a way to move.

Scarcity by India Choquette

"I haven't heard back from them, but I'm going to wait another day," my friend was saying.

Or I think she was saying. Because I wasn't really listening.

I was hungry, so that was pretty much all I could think about at that moment. I've always been that way: when I'm hungry, my brain pretty much shuts down until I've inhaled my next meal. And I know a lot of people are the same way. Otherwise the word "hangry" wouldn't have been invented. And I'm not trying to be rude and ignore my friend, but my brain is redirecting me to what seems to be the more pressing issue.

Now this scenario is particularly ridiculous because I am not going to go hungry. I don't struggle with hunger and I am fortunate enough to be able to feed myself more than I could even possibly need. My brain does not need to go into red alert mode: there will certainly be more food. On the other hand, I don't get to see my friend that much and time with her is precious. It seems that I should be able to refocus my attention on my friend knowing that food is imminent. But that's not how it works.

This is the phenomena of SCARCITY. When we lack food, time, rest, or money, it consumes us. We are creatures built to survive, so when we perceive that we are threatened in some way, it takes over our brain. It colors our behavior, shapes our thoughts and takes all our attention.

The hunger example is the more obvious, but the one I feel most (and I think many New Yorkers feel) is the scarcity of time. I have several jobs that I love and a person that I love. I also invest considerable time in working out and training, and while I am aware that I choose to do all of these things, it doesn't leave much unscheduled time for pursuing whims. And when I do have free time, there is always laundry to fill it. I'm not saying this to complain--I am 100% aware that my schedule is the result of my own choices, However, the result of these choices is that I am left with a scarcity of time. 

Scarcity of time is slightly different than scarcity of food in my case. This difference lies in the fact that I don't really foresee any point in the future when I am going to have swaths of free time to luxuriate and restore my soul. So the question becomes how do I manage my scarcity. Or, more aptly, how do I live my life without allowing my mind to be consumed with having so little time? Because just like hunger, my lack of time is all I can find myself thinking about.  But when I spend all my time thinking about how little time I have, I lose all my time. Does that make any sense? Instead of mining my day for pockets of useful time, I try and multitask and complain my way into a complete to do list, always thinking several steps ahead without being present. 

This scarcity of time is why I've allowed my writing to disappear for several months. Because I forgot that the only way to manage scarcity of time is to give complete focus to every moment so that I experience it fully. And when I do that, I can put the restorative, non rushing activities back onto the schedule when possible. I can't write if I am thinking about my next sessions, but I can write if I am thinking only about writing for twenty or thirty minutes. I can build time into my day to be creative, to read, to take a walk with no music. Whatever it is that makes me feel less frantic. But I have to plan ahead and be realistic. And when I'm writing, I can't be thinking ahead to programming or training or a hard conversation. 

One thing I notice is that, like a college student who should be studying, I feel guilt when I have downtime. But unlike a college student, this is my whole life, and I won't have a break once I pass the class. If I don't make an effort to do all the things I want to do but never seem to have time for, I never will.

I am lucky enough to have a full life, but that doesn't mean that I should shut up and stoically plod along going from one great thing to the next. I need to adjust that "hunger brain" that makes me lose my presence and focus. When I am always rushing to the next thing and trying to keep ahead of myself, I miss what my friend is saying in the moment. When I feel rushed, I forget to appreciate this full life that I have.

Life is always busy. The inbox is always full for me. So what am I going to do about it?

The New Year: Searching for Beginnings by India Choquette

When you are in my line of work, January means a lot. New year, new you—we see more people than ever. I have a particularly jaded friend who likes to remind everyone that time is a construct and that most people will fall off their new year’s resolutions by the time February rolls around.

I have many thoughts about abandoning resolutions and what we can do to help. But what I want to talk about is the spirit of these resolutions and why I think it is so powerful.

The human belief that we can reinvent yourselves and become something more is one of the more beautiful parts of human nature. The beginning of the year shows how we want to create new beginnings for ourselves, and that we have hope for a better and better life. For me, the most inspiring part of this belief is that it is completely true: our limits are smaller than we think. We can start something.

Searching for beginnings is profound in some way. I think we humans spend a lot of time imagining what will happen AFTER we accomplish something: after we make the money, lose the weight, find love, etc. But the new year highlights the excitement of beginnings. One of the most overused (and most true) ideas talked about in fitness is that “it is about the journey.” Meaning that the process is everything. We talk about lifestyle changes rather than diets, for example. But whether you are focused on the outcome or the journey, there is something to be said for that moment you decide to start something new and implement it. Enjoy this moment too.

Now that I’m standing at the top of 2018, I’m looking out at a year with what I hope holds many beginnings for myself, my clients, and my friends. Don’t be in a rush to get to the end of anything just year. The beginning is one of the best parts.

Grocery Shopping After Work by India Choquette

I am thinking hard. I want to buy almonds, but since this grocery store has two floors, getting almonds means that I have to go downstairs.

And my legs hurt.

Which is ridiculous, I know. Especially because I'm noticeably strong. I once had a cashier at Duane Reade ask me how I got my legs to look like they do (she meant my butt, but was too polite to say that). I taught her to squat in front of the Dentyne Ice. 

I decide the almonds aren't worth it. My legs are sore from working out, so that's reasonable, but my feet are flattened and exhausted from standing on them all day. From pacing and demoing exercises and walking between sessions. 

Now I'm just standing there. I'm next to the flowers, and I should buy some. For myself, I think. I'm tired and I left my apartment 15 hours ago and it would be nice to have something beautiful on my counter. But my counter is small, and I think if I had a vase there, I wouldn't have room for my coffee maker and coffee is everything.

One thing about me is that I seem to have endless energy. But the truth is I either have 100% or 0%. And I am good enough at my job that I usually can trick myself into staying at 100% while I'm in front of people. But I deflate the second I walk out the door. And when I'm at zero, I can wander around the grocery for two hours because I can't focus enough to make a decision about almonds. 

I watch a mom with her kids. She's trying to keep the boy in the cart, but he's absolutely having none of it. His sister is putting tiny cups of coconut flavored yogurt in the cart, one after the other, and the mom is trying to put them back on the shelf and keep the little boy from escaping at the same time. 

"I want a brother," the boy says.

"You have a sister," the mom says. The sister is still loading yogurt into the cart. She's loading and the mom is unloading.

"I want a brother," the boy insists.

"Two is enough," the mom says. "Stop it, Elise. We don't need all this."

"Give Elise away," the boy says. "Then have a boy."

"You want me to give your sister away?" the mom says. Elise, the sister, is not listening.

"Yes," the boy says simply and calmly.

"Well, I'll think about it," the mom says. "Enough, Elise."

The little boy looks satisfied. He's planted the seed.

I think about it. One thing about being tired is that when you are single and childless like I am, you can't really complain about being tired. 

I get my almonds and take the subway home.

Rules by India Choquette

I subscribe to one of those grocery delivery services that send you the ingredients for three beautiful meals that were planned by some reasonably interesting chef. They send you a little recipe book with beautiful full color photos of the quinoa fritters you are going to make this week.

Except I never make the fritters. In fact, most of the time, I don't even know what the meals are supposed to be. I just open everything up and then cook whatever I want with what's in the bag. 

I also never read instructions for anything. I'm happy to install my own AC without looking through the pamphlet with the tiny print. It's not really that rebellious, but my family does joke that I don't like being told what to do. Which is accurate. 

I was thinking about this today as I was making mint/mango/cucumber salad with lime (I seriously don't look at the recipes) because I had a person I train contact me and ask about rest days. They wanted to know how many days they should come to class and what day was the best to rest. 

If you are a professional athlete, then there is likely a more precise answer to this question. But if you are just a person who moves, there really are no rules. Yes, you need to rest. But if your rest day might be the day you have to pick the kids up from softball or it might be the day your legs feel like they are going to fall off. Because we don't program how we move in life (one day you might help a friend move the next you might be stuck in front of the computer for 10 hours), the answer to your question depends on how you feel. 

I know people feel safe with rules. People like to follow programs and recipes. But the problem with all these hard and fast lists is that they don't make room for life. Life doesn't have edges. You can be strict until the day you can't, and then what? But if you can be fluid with your training and adjust based on the moment, you leave room for creativity. You also become an active participant in your fitness--and the truth is, you are the only one who knows what you are feeling, which means that you are the primary expert in your body. Yes, having a plan is helpful, but planning also limits you. I notice frequently that when people miss a step in their very strict program, they are more likely to abandon ship. But that makes no sense. If you break one dish, you don't smash all the others. 

One thing my clients often lament to me when their eating habits falter or they miss sessions is, "I was so good." As if now they are bad. You are the same. You are just doing something different at this moment. You are not following a certain rule. 

Your month long detox or 6 week six pack program is finite. Hopefully, your health is not. So while it can be fun and important to be rigid, it's not sustainable. And the sooner you can learn to make your own rules based on your own experience, the sooner you can take ownership of your training. Rest when you need to, work when you can. Practice pullups and rollerblading, if that's what you want. Take a day off. Don't take a day off. Let it be your decision. 

Coordination and Skill Based Movement by India Choquette

"How do you get double unders?" one of my athletes asked me the other night. Consistently I find that jumping rope annoys people. Whenever it is on the board, I get requests for substitutions or I see them roll their eyes.

And I know why. The funny thing about jumping rope--whether it's double unders, double dutch or any variety of trick--is the almost 100% of the people who walk into my sessions are physically capable of doing it. With the exception of a few injured people, everyone I train is strong enough and able bodied enough to jump rope.

But that doesn't mean that they can. Why not? Because they don't have the neuromuscular adaptations that allow them to do it. In other words, they haven't practiced. And they never learned. And people are so scared of looking ridiculous that they would rather substitute the exercise than learn the skill. Admittedly, you might not achieve the intensity you want if you are constantly tripping over the rope. But intensity isn't everything. Coordination and agility are two the most under trained areas of fitness. I think coaches and trainers are nervous to program these kinds of exercises because we risk frustrating our clients. But much like learning a new language is incredibly powerful for the brain, learning a new physical skill can take our fitness to the next level. When you force your brain and muscles and nerves to coordinate in a complex way, you are changing your entire system. A bicep curl requires very little skill and while it can make your muscles bigger, it doesn't challenge your brain in the same way jumping rope does. 

In order to be truly fit, we have to challenge everything: cardiovascular strength, muscular endurance and strength, flexibility and mobility, balance, agility, and coordination. If we only ever train for cardio, strength, and endurance, we are missing out on the full capacity of movement. 

Why does this matter? Well, you could argue that, as you age, coordination is key to maintaining a mobile and independent life. But it's really not--our lifestyle is such where you can really get around without needing much complex movement. It's good for your brain to train coordination, but that rarely motivates people when you have a finite amount of time and just want to get as much work in as possible. Personally, I simply find it rewarding to master a new skill--it's a concrete reminder that time in and focus yields results. I also think it's important to be humble and to constantly challenge yourself. If you can become comfortable with being a beginner, you won't limit yourself to the known. And then jumping rope becomes bigger than jumping rope: it becomes an example of how you can triumph and master the strange.

In answer to his question: the way you get double unders is you practice double unders. You whip the back of your legs with the jump rope a thousand times, you try different tempos, you jump on one foot, you get tight calves. You allow yourself to be terrible. And you must be terrible at first. But I urge people to do the thing you are terrible at--it's good for you in many ways. Be the person falling over as you try to get your handstand. Be the person working with the PVC pipe as you learn to snatch. Be the person who allows yourself to be a beginner. 

Ladies Who Lift: Not An Excuse To Shame Other Women by India Choquette

One thing I've noticed since I've become part of the "strong" women community--meaning physically built--is that there's a strange amount of smack talk that goes on about "skinny sticks who do spin." It's upsetting to me because I think, generally, women who train hard are incredibly supportive and not threatened. We don't ascribe to society's beauty standards, and we enjoy moving. It's powerful. I know, for me, it has helped me shift from viewing my body as ornamental to an understanding of my own physical capabilities and strength. Many of us lift each other up, cheer each other on, and, although we might be competitive in training, we are truly supportive and lift each other up.

I was reading a really hateful post by someone I know--a lady lifter--that went on and on about the skinny women with collagen lips who go to cycling class and how she just wants to shove a hamburger down their throat. It was a disgusting and bitter post, which I actually wasn't that surprised about (given the person), but I was absolutely surprised how many of my peers liked it.

Pushing someone down never lifts you up. Never. When you are ashamed of yourself, you shame others. It is an insecure move. And, honestly, women get shamed enough. We have been taught to compete with each other, to be threatened by each other, that the existence of someone more beautiful will make us lose all we have. It's not true. It's total garbage. And it's total garbage to body shame anyone. If you want collagen, that's your choice. If you want to lift, that's your choice. If it's not hurting anyone, and it's something that makes you happy, you do not deserved to be shamed. 

I can't believe I have to write this, but humans are different. We have different bodies, we enjoy different things, and we ascribed to different values. If you find yourself making fun of someone who has made different choices, you need to examine yourself and see if you are suffering from shame or insecurity. It's not funny. It's weak.

Patience by India Choquette

IT IS INCREDBILY IRONIC THAT I AM WRITING THIS POST. Mostly because I’m the least patient person. When I was little, my stepmom used to say, “Thank goodness your name isn’t patience!” because I loathed waiting. For anything. For the subway. For the microwave. For people to show up for a casual lunch (it’s casual but still). For my toast to toast. For my pencil to sharpen in those pencil sharpener machines (seriously).

But patience is one of the many things I’ve learned from training. Our bodies are incredibly complex. In order to progress, when must make neurological advances to master technique, neuromuscular advances to apply that technique, skeletomuscular advances to get stronger or stretchier, respiratory and circulatory advances to support our work load, and psychological and behavioral advances to continue down our path. In the era of steroids and “6 week six packs,” it feels WRONG to invest in slow change. We are trained to assess experiences by results. We are trained to feel inadequate.

However, the complex adaptations that occur in training are just that: complex. It does not help to fixate on the end goal. Like most things in life, there actually isn’t an end to it. Especially with fitness: the hope is that we keep training and moving and learning our whole lives. So what is the point of being frustrated? It’s not a race.

I struggle with this frustration, especially when I lack technique. I’ve gotten to a fitness level when I expect to be good at most things. But if I’m new to something technical, I obviously haven’t doing the neuro training to get it together. Even something little like double unders makes me bananas. I am absolutely strong enough to do them, but I fail to string them together in any consistent fashion. There are two ways to approach this frustration: either to use it as validation that you are a failure, or have fun with learning double unders. So I’ll put on The Spice Girls (I have terrible taste in music and won’t apologize for it), and get hopping.

That being said, I know it is awful when you feel like you are hurtling along towards some impressive goal and your coach comes up and tells you have to fix your squat. Not loaded squat, just your air squat. Maybe they tell you your mobility is lacking, or your chest is falling forward, or anything basic issue, and all the sudden, you have to go way back to learning to squat. Is that frustrating? Yes. But you have, again, two basic choices: you can allow yourself to “decondition” slightly and focus your training efforts on correcting mechanics, or you can push ahead and ignore your form. Pushing through will not correct it. You will get stronger, but you also will likely get injured. And even if you avoid injury, you aren’t fixing the problem with your squat, so any gains you make will be limited by technique.

Which brings me back to fun. If you think of this as a life long puzzle, or even a life long game, then learning new skills or improving old ones becomes fun. You physical ability says nothing about your value as a human. It is simply a way to enjoy and experience the world. I don’t know if Mother Theresa could do a freestanding handstand (probably), but that didn’t make her inadequate. Keep training fun, and you will do it forever. Because the truth is time is the only way to achieve mastery.

DACA: Strength is Resistance by India Choquette

Strength is resistance: What is the point of being physically strong? Is it to do twenty unbroken ring dips, to run a marathon, to have a six pack? I train myself so I can be strong when something truly important is at stake. I have studied and worked alongside DREAMers. I now teach and train them. I've never had to ask how or why they are in the country, but I'm proud that we opened doors and allowed them to achieve and contribute. And now I see my students, who should be stressing about their term papers (term papers they studied for years to have the privilege of writing), stressing about their right to stay in their home country. It is counter the pursuit of happiness, the promise of America. 

've heard several people say that politics doesn't affect them, and that their lives stay the same regardless of who holds office. Lucky you. You are in the perfect position to stand up for the people who are threatened. Working out is about learning to tolerate discomfort and triumphing in spite of it. At the end of the day, if you are healthy, it doesn't matter how many pullups you can do or how much weight you can deadlift. But it does matter that you offer a hand when it is needed, that you advocate for those who aren't being heard, and that you are willing to get uncomfortable for the sake of others. Training without willingness to share your strength is simple vanity. We know that strength is resistance--that's what we practice in the gym every week. Be strong enough to resist this inhumane action. Especially if you aren't personally affected. Lending a hand is the greatest example of strength. And know, that if you choose to turn a blind eye and to be passive, other people are out there, calling, marching, donating money, writing letters, and becoming informed. They are rising to meet the challenge. And you are doing bicep curls. 


Biology and Effort: Bones by India Choquette

When I was doing my yoga teacher training in Bali last month, they showed a movie (and, forgive me, I don’t remember the name, but it had a bunch of slides of skeletons explained by a yoga guru with too many teeth), that discussed skeletal deviation and its effects on ability.

Our skeletons are as varied as any physical attribute. Our features, height, coloration, size of feet, etc., make up our unique appearance. We can see how different we are. On an athletic level, we can look at someone and identify them as a good sprinter with long legs or as having the shoulders of a gymnast. Genetically, certain people have a specific ratio of muscle fibers or a overall size/proportion that give them an advantage in some sports or training (I’ll write more about that some other time).

Our bones, like everything else about us, are specific to the individual. The shape of your pelvis, the placement of your hip sockets, and the length your femur all effect your movement patterns. Skeletal deviation is as normal as variety of hair color.

However, our bones are not as visible are our hair, and sometimes we assume that our skeleton should operate the same as the people training alongside us. It won’t. For example, if your hip sockets are forward facing, there’s a good chance that you will NEVER get your knees to lie flat on the floor in butterfly. Not matter how much you stretch. The shape of your pelvis won’t allow it. But if your sockets are on the side, you might be able to put your legs flat on the floor without getting any stretch at all. My person with forward facing hip sockets (me) has, likely, a better natural gait and is more predisposed to running and jumping in the sagittal plane. Mr. Side Facing Floppy Hip Socket is probably going to be a much more impressive yogi than I am (not that I'm bitter....).

Here’s another example: you know that stretch where you take your right arm up and over, allowing your hand to dangle between your shoulder blades, and then reach your left arm down and around, attempting to clasp your hands together? Google “Apley’s scratch test” if you have no idea what I’m talking about. Some people and give themselves this crazy reverse hug and tie themselves in knots. Other people cannot, under any circumstances, clasp their hands together. While flexibility likely plays a role in ability to achieve this ROM, the placement and size of the acromion process of the shoulder also contributes. It may be that, because of the nature of your bones, you will never be able to clasp your hands.

How do you tell if it’s bone shape or lack of flexibility? There’s a difference between stretch and compression. In a butterfly stretch—soles of the feet together, knees falling open—you should feel a stretch in the inner thigh and groin. If the sensation is located there, you have not reached your full stretch capacity and are still benefiting from the stretch. However, if you feel a kind of pinching, burning, or grinding on the OUTSIDE of the hip, that is compression, bone on bone. It means that you have reached the limits of your flexibility and are now compressing your joint. Stretch is the goal sensation (where you expect to feel it), compression is felt on the side OPPOSITE to the stretch. In Apley's scratch test, you should feel a stretch in the pecs and front of shoulder, if you feel pain in the back, around the shoulder blade, that's compression and you've reached your limit.

Why does any of this matter?

1.       Compressing your joints is not great. If you can protect the joint by decreasing ROM, you are better off. Or, if you have bones and joints that allow for extreme ROM, you may need to find creative ways to deepen a stretch before you get any benefits from training flexibility.

2.       YOUR FORM MIGHT LOOK DIFFERENT FROM SOMEONE ELSE’S. Expecting everyone to squat with their feet parallel makes no sense when you account for variation of hip socket placement or for femur length (for squats, take the stance that allows your knees to track over your toes). Don’t freak out if your body looks different while moving.

3.       The maximum differs between bodies. My max butterfly stretch is not Instagram worthy, but it has taken a lot of investment and training on my end. I benefit from doing that stretch even if my knees will never lie flat on the floor. Conversely, someone else might have to invest extra time to running gait and knee tracking. You might reach your “best” without looking like the ideal. And that’s okay. Don’t be frustrated. This is why they x-ray ballerinas’ pelvises to see if they are going to be able to perform (their pelvis determines their capacity for turnout)—our skeletons create limits for us. Don’t blame yourself for not working hard enough when it’s just your bones. If you are moving in a way that makes your stronger or stretchier and it feels good, then you are good to go.

Quality Movement by India Choquette

“Push your knees out as you go down.” I watch. “You are collapsing in. Push your knees out.” No change. I kneel beside the athlete and push my fist into the outside of their thigh. “Push against my hand as you come up.” They do. “There you go.”

My athlete just lost a precious 15 seconds in the AMRAP, but they are smart and know that improving their squat is far more important than winning the workout.

This mini story happens to me daily. It’s my job to correct form, to watch for movement patterns, and to teach when necessary. I love my job. It’s why I sit in my apartment at night, drinking tea, and reading articles debating proper knee tracking. I like what I do. I’m a fitness nerd.

When we talk about high intensity training, which is my jam, quality movement takes on an added importance. You never lose by having excellent form, but when you are training at your limit, your form is what keeps you safe. With the rise of competitive workouts (which is an extremely powerful way to drive intensity—“men will die for points”), I’ve started noticing a large percentage of athletes sacrificing form for score. This tradeoff is a lose/lose.

First off, if you aren’t doing a movement with full range of motion (the most common issue I see), you are scaling the movement and making it easier. If you are doing pushups and your chest isn’t reaching the floor or if you are doing pullups and your chin isn’t clearing the bar, you are doing a partial version of the movement. And that’s okay when you are building up strength, but if you can improve your ROM by taking a quick rest or slowing your reps, you should. Absolutely. You will be training harder even though you are going slower because those few inches or degrees add an incredible amount of intensity. If you can, you should. It will improve your fitness overall in a much more effective way than if you blow through 30 partial ROM versions. From my observation: pull ups, push ups, and squats are the most common partial ROM culprits. If you are struggling with body awareness (something that comes with training), use targets. Put a medball under your butt to squat to, take your chest all the way to the floor in your pushup.

To add on to the ROM discussion, if you need to scale to get full ROM, you should. If you are a tall person, lucky you, but pushups, squats, pullups, all of it, are going to be more challenging. It’s mechanical physics: your levers are longer, therefore workload is increased. This means that, to build your strength, you may need to do pushups on your knees. That’s ok. That’s better than bending your elbows 2 inches in a full plank and calling it a rep. Be humble and be precise. It will pay off.

The second reason, and the one nearest and dearest to my heart, is that if you are holding your form, you are doing all the things training is supposed to: building strength, promoting health, lubricating your joints, improving bone density, etc. If you are allowing your form to fail, especially at a high intensity, you are doing damage. You are hurting your joints especially. Now, I know that, when you are truly working at your max and you are in the heat of competition, your form gets a little messy. Your burpee might be a little ugly and your squat might get a little frayed. And that’s reasonable. And I don’t expect people to maintain pristine movement patterns throughout all portions of their training. In fact, you are perfect throughout, it means you aren’t at your maximum. But there’s an edge that is important. If you can do a full ROM push up, do it for the whole session even if you have to rest for a few seconds. If you cannot do 10 strict pullups, don’t do 50 kipping pullups where you repeatedly slam into your shoulder joints and fail to clear the bar. Be excellent and be humble. You should be able to hold form for 85% of the workout. When you master form, you master your body. If you can hold form, it means that you are likely going to stay healthy and continue your progress, for years and years. Injury should not be the rule, it should be the exception.

My last thought on this subject is that we all should listen to our coaches. They are our eyes when ours are blurred with sweat. Do not get frustrated when we adjust or scale. We are doing it because we know quality movement increases the intensity but decreases risk. And unless $1 million is on the line, it’s better to go for steady progress than winning a workout.

Intensity is powerful, I think it is the most effective way to train, but it’s only effective if it adds quality to your life. And if can only add quality if it improves your movement patterns. And it can only improve your movement patterns if you are precise.

People Are Not Landscape by India Choquette

Now that I'm 7 years in New York City, I think I may have pinpointed the difference between country living and city living. Over a year ago, I went to visit my parents in Vermont, and I was in the grocery store, wandering around like always, when someone yelled my name. I looked up and there was Felicity, the French teacher I knew from Saturdays at the community center when I used to live here. "India," she said, "I've walked past you 6 times and I couldn't catch your eye." 

And that's how it is: I don't really see people anymore. That's the city living effect. Most of the time if you asked me who I sat next to on the subway that morning, I'd probably have nothing to say--not even a loose description. City dwellers don't see people because there are so many. And even though we encounter hundreds or more on a given day, we don't see them as individuals, we see them as landscape. Or possibly obstacles. We use dating apps to shop for people like they are shoes. People are infinite, and therefore disposable. We don't have to worry about any particular interaction because, if it is unpleasant, we can find someone else. People are invisible because there are so many, and people are objectified because they are replaceable. This glossing over of humanity is dangerous. If nothing else, it makes us shallow and rude. It opens us up to casual relationships. Being casual reduces humans to profile pictures and selfies that work as masks to hide our complexity. 

I miss the scarcity of humans from my childhood. If I fought with a friend, we would figure it out, take time, forgive each other because we didn't have the perception of a replacement friend around the corner. In Vermont, I allowed myself to be friendly with people who annoyed me. I couldn't expect everyone to be subservient to my template of a worthwhile relationship. I had to accept differences because otherwise, I would be alone.

The joy (and struggle) of life is bridging the chasms between ourselves and others. Even though vastly different, we search for little oceans of commonality that allow us to connect. That's some confusing imagery, and this piece is very much a rant, but I upset that I've stopped seeing people as equally complex. I don't want people to swipe by my face or blend me into the background. I don't want to lose my ability to see the humanity of others. In New York, sometimes people melt into the landscape, but we are all much more vast and dense than any skyscraper.

Adventures Make A Summer by India Choquette

There's something magic about summer even though I haven't been in school for years. That special vacation feeling stays even though my work schedule is that same as the rest of the year. I think the summer vacation of when we were kids sets us up to see summer as a "something else" season. I don't particularly like summer weather--I'm more of a frigid winter person--but when spring breaks open and I shift my run earlier, it feels stupidly exciting. 

But now that I'm not a student, I realize how easy it is for summer to blend into fall without anything new happening. I read somewhere that "adventures make a summer." But the older I get, the more I find that I have to make the adventures in order to have the adventures that make my summer. Whether is only an afternoon thing of going to the movies or whether it's a trip or project spanning loads of weeks, make the effort to do something extraordinary. Let's keep summer. There's still a little time--I think September will be warm.

Disruptions by India Choquette

It's hard to develop a good habit. It takes me a lot of list writing, a lot of alarm setting, and a lot of calendar appointments to make a habit stick. But, once it's there, I lock it in. And I adhere to it. Exercise is like that for me now. Of course, it's my job, but when I have a disruption in my work schedule, the fact that fitness is my career just adds pressure. 

The biggest disruption to my training is travel. Which stinks because traveling is the best. But what we (all of us workout people) is that, even if we have a specific workout/class/program that we intensely follow, all movement works. Taking a walk works. Doing pushups on your motel floor works. Hiking works. Taking a new class in a new place works. We, as humans, just hate change. But rather than getting hung up on missing your routine, use a disruption as an opportunity to explore other things. Think of your vacation as a fitness vacation--not because you stop training, but because you explore something different. One of the best things about training is that there are some many ways to move: dancing, lifting, running, climbing, jumping, skating... And besides, it's usually uncomfortable and constricting when you try and maintain an exact program in a different setting.

Personally, when I get disrupted, I find it more interesting to keep the theme of the habit--fitness in this case--but explore within that category. Not everything has be about habit maintenance; it can be about habit expansion. And the ability to flow and change leads to a softer approach to life. It leads to less stress and pressure. Don't lose the habit, but allow it have variety. 

Deserving by India Choquette

This might be morbid, but when I am in a terrible situation, I like to brainstorm all the other things that would be worse than what I'm currently enduring. As I lean forward on this bench, I can see the moon, a misty moon, hanging above the subway platform. So I made a mistake. I wonder if I can fix it. Maybe, maybe not. I will try. But everything about this moment feels numb. I don't even feel angry. I don't feel sad. And I feel fairly even because I'd much rather deal with this inconvenience than having my parents die. My friend said I shouldn't put that energy into the world, but I find it comforting. And the moon here is nice, and even though I am exhausted, I am fine.

I had been planning this event for months and invested a ton of money. But money is just money and dreams are just dreams. At least my family is fine. And my friends. The thing that keeps popping into my brain, though, is how everyone, including myself to some extent, told me how I deserved this trip. 

People often tell each other "you deserve it" or "you deserve better." We say it to comfort. If someone feels guilty about eating a cupcake, we say, "You worked hard today. You deserve it." If someone gets dumped, we say, "It's his loss--you deserve better." It's a nice thing to say.

But no one deserves anything. And deserving is dangerous. It outlines a linear world that owes you things. Or even a world where things are earned and delivered. But it's not so cut and dry. When we say we deserve something, we are demanding something rather than building it. The world owes us nothing. We are here to create, not consume. We consume when we are too paralyzed to create. 

I do not know if I can fix my current situation. I don't know if this post will seem jaded in a week. But I'm glad my family is fine. And my friends. I am grateful to have a life where I can make a mistake like this--one that will simply deny me an indulgence. I am lucky to have this chance. And I know that, whatever happens, whether I lose this opportunity or not, I'll use my time to create something.

Soup by India Choquette

I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the role of soup in my life. Soup really is one of the great unsung heroes. In fact, sometimes I don't even consider ordering it when I'm out and about--I'm sorry, soup. I am seduced by avocado toast and goat cheese salad and forget that you have stood faithfully by all along.

In the romcom of my life, soup is the one that gets me in the end. But only after holding my hair back when I get massive food poisoning from that narcissistic sushi. And only after I reject the flashy circus antics of glamourous hibachi do I realize that soup has always been the one for me.

The first soup I remember is my mother's French onion soup. She would serve it to my sister, Jett, and me in glazed green ceramic bowls--hand turned, I believe--with a whole slice of bread with melted cheese floating like an island in the middle of the bowl. To be honest, I was more excited by the cheesy bread, and I would eat the underlying soup quickly without much enthusiasm. But I was young then and didn't understand that the beauty of the dish came from the warmth of the broth and the sweetness of the onions. I didn't know a lot about life then.

The other soup my mother made was Bugs Bunny soup--a pureed carrot soup. My mother is very clever. My sister loved both these soups and always begged my mom to make it. This preference partially explains my neutrality towards soup: if my sister liked it, I was blase.

My whole life, my sister and I have tried to be as separate as possible. We are two years and four days apart--both libras--and we've made every attempt to assert our individualism. She was "better" at drawing, so I acted in all the school plays. I was "better" at creative writing, so she had to be analytical and fact minded. She was the tomboy, so I was girly, sneaking lip gloss to school while she cut off all her hair.  I was sweet, so she was tough. She loved spinach, so I spit my portion into my mother's nice cloth napkins and threw it out the window (for reference, spinach stains and I got caught). We both wanted cheesecake for our birthdays, but she had plain and I had chocolate. I don't know why we felt the need to be different. Maybe it's because we look so different that we assumed that we must be. Or maybe we were trying to avoid competing with each other. Even when we both ran cross country, I dropped out of the team before we had a chance to run a full length race together. Which sucks because it would have been awesome to run through the woods of Vermont with her, the sun coming through the birch trees and we scanned the trail for roots. I would have really loved that. But we were afraid that if we did the same activities or liked the same things that one of us would come out as "superior," and we would rather be separate than compared.

And she loved soup. I remember her loving it and me rolling my eyes and asking for macaroni and cheese or something like that (actually, she liked mac and cheese too, but she liked it with way too much milk so that it was almost like soup whereas I liked a thick buttery paste).

When I was in college, I developed an impressive stress eating habit. But having  been raised as I was--by a good mother on a good farm in a green place--I understood that if I ate a package of oreos everytime I read an invigorating article about the theatrical traditions of oompa loompas (or whatever silliness I was studying), I would become as round as I was tall, which was not preferred because I was fairly shallow at the time. So I started ordering organinc dehydrated soup cups on Amazon (I was insufferable even then) and microwaving them in our suite kitchen that overlooked Riverside Park. Since one cup of soup was not nearly enough to sustain me through a four hour session of retyping my notes on Aristotle, I would supplement my small cup of tortilla soup (or whatever it was) with cartons of mushroom broth so that it became a giant fusion soup extravaganza that filled an enormous class bowl. I believe this bowl was designed to serve salad to a family of four, but it was microwave safe and gave me enough volume to keep me entertained. I soon figured out that I could dress up my soup with sprouts and peppers and peas and really anything--dried shredded squid from Chinatown even. I bought the squid when my sister was visiting for the weekend and we took a trip to Chinatown. We liked to go down there whenever she visited and go to the supermarkets. We'd buy a bunch of foreign snack foods and eat them on a bench in next to the groups doing Tai Chi. She liked to buy interesting but certain things--green tea kit kats, rice crisps--things we were guaranteed to like even though they were new. She didn't see the point in wasting money on weird things. I liked to buy something "scary"--like dried shredded squid--to see if I'd like it (I pretended I did no matter what). I still do this and she still shakes her head and tells me to "choose whatever I want" while giving me a disapproving big sister look.

When I lived in Prague, I ate soup everyday. I lived there for a year, and because I was acting and wanted to be skinny, I avoided the heavy Czech meat dishes and fried cheese. Czechs aren't big on vegetables, so the only reliable alternative was soup. By the end of my time there, I was fairly small but mostly hungry. I loved soup then because I loved how I looked, but I also resented it because it was a kind of restrictive monotone meal even though I got to eat it alongside my friends at the strange Czech bagel shop down the street from where we studied. It was also cheap which was wonderful because I ran out of money twice during my time there.

While I was in Prague, my sister was in Washington DC working all night at CVS to help cover the cost of university. Or maybe she had transitioned to Starbucks already, riding her bike in the dark early morning (and later, after hers was stolen, my bike) to work a shift before class. She ate a lot of cabbage then because it was cheap. She also learned to clip coupons, and I remember being surprised by how much she loved going through the newspaper flyers for Giant while making her very precise shopping list. I don't remember her making soup, but she made a lot of curry. She was also cooking for her boyfriend at the time, and he had very boring tastebuds being a midwesterner. He cramped her style in many ways,  and I was worried he would cause her to supress her power and turn her into a Ranch dressing corporate employee. But she dumped him and joined the Peace Corps because she is a bad ass. Even though it was hard and miserable for her to end it, she understood that she can change the world and no baseball stat obsessed boy can stife that drive.

I was a terrible sister while she was serving in Paraguay. My work schedule was out of control, and I basically ignored her for over two years. But while she was gone, she wrote a novel. Which was funny because writing was kind of my thing. It was what I studied in college, and I actually got a substantial grant to finish a book I was writing. My novel was--and is--a modern adaptation of Hamlet, and I was very proud of my female antihero. She's very unlikeable and has prevented any agents from representing the book to this day. So proud. Jett's main character was very noble, and I remember reading her draft and thinking that it was more complex than anything I'd ever write. I don't recall eating a lot of soup during that time, and I don't believe she did either--it was too hot in Paraguay.
When I first graduated from college, I only had one job: babysitting for cash. I paid $600 a month to rent a room in Spanish Harlem. I was going to be an actor, and I turned my nose up at any security in favor of jumping off the artistic cliff. Or slamming my face into the artistic wall as it turned out. I was constantly afraid I was going to starve, so I ordered a bulk order of Ramen noodles ($50 worth or enough to fill the bottom of my closet). I knew if worse came to worse, I wouldn't starve. I never used the flavor packets, but I would microwave the noodles in water and mix tomato paste in for flavor. I knew it was terrible for me, and I tried to avoid eating them frequently, opting instead to hoard them for peace of mind. I moved these noodles to two different apartments over the next years before finally donating them to a food drive only to have the kind lady point out to me that they had expired. My roommate at the time teased me about my expired bunker, but she didn't understand that I was poor, afraid, and proud, trying to make the choices that would lead to happiness. My sister understood. She'd been eating cabbage and rice and clipping coupons for years by then.

Now I'm 25 and she's 27. Our birthdays are just a few months away. She's preparing to apply to medical school and I'm sitting alone in a restaurant in Bali eating an unaplogetically large bowl of pho. I've been her for 20 days studying yoga, and I'm a trainer and writer living in New York City. I am creative and I like science. She is the same. My training career is solid, and for the first time, I have a little money to throw at life. I love eating alone and although I'm alone, I'm not lonely. This is the greatest pho of my life and I alternate writing and eating, holding both my pen and my chopsticks in my left hand. I fly home tomorrow. I fly home to nobody because, like my sister, I am still single. She works weekends as an EMT, and she posted yesterday that she's gone on over 50 callss now, which is a lot for Vermont.

Some people raised their eyebrows when I said I was going to Bali alone, but only the people who don't know me or my sister that well. We both work as a kind of healer--her with medicine, me with exercise. We both do whatever it takes and can live off cabbage and mushroom broth. We are both tomboys, but love to dress up and dance. We both cry at movies. We are both still libras and love music. We love soup and adventure and science and art. We aren't intimidated, but worry a lot. And I find myself slurping and thinking of the bank accout I've started so that when she gets to med school, I can Amazon subscribe and save dehydrated soup to her so that I don't have to worry that she's starving while she's learning to do the job that most people are too lazy to dream of. I'm eating pho in Bali, writing these sentences in between bites, holding my pen and chopsticks with my left hand, thinking about how soup and my sister are the unsung heroes of my life. And isn't it a nice life.