Being on a Spiritual Journey + A Prayer for Overcoming Fear

Every day it takes me about 40 minutes to walk to my classes, which gives me a lot of time for reflection. It's my guaranteed alone time where I can practice gratitude and put myself in a grateful headspace. If you follow my Instagram, lately I have been sharing a lot about Melissa Wood of Melissa Wood Health. I just started doing her workouts (in my tiny little room on the floor, lol) and everything she stands for is really speaking to me right now, so when I heard her recommend the book "A Return to Love" by Marianne Williamson, I immediately purchased it. I have been reading it a little bit every day, along with listening to Oprah's Super Soul Podcast. Today I was listening to an episode (click here to listen) that really shed a light on everything that I've been reading in A Return to Love and something in me just felt like I needed to get home and immediately write this blog post.

Going to Catholic school, we prayed before every home game, no matter the sport, and, as a senior, I got the privilege of reading the prayer. Instead of finding something online, I chose to write them myself, which sparked something in me that really began my spiritual journey. Normally, people constantly being on their phones is my absolute pet peeve, but, today, I was that annoying person that walks on the street on their phone without looking up because I didn't want to lose my thoughts and my prayer in that moment. I know not everyone believes in God or organized religion and that's totally okay, maybe prayers just aren't your thing. I believe every human is on their own journey and has the right to choose what they want to believe or read. I'm only sharing my journey and my experiences and, although I choose to talk to God, you can just as easily talk to the universe or your own inner self. I think that we all have that inner voice inside that can come out and make you feel afraid or like you're not good enough. What I've been reading and what I felt compelled to share (to myself and to you reading) is that we are capable of changing our own minds and (without getting too "woo woo" hahaha) really manifesting our dreams into our lives. Sometimes we just need a little help.

My Prayer Today:
Dear God, my prayer today is that you allow me to tear down the walls and barriers of fear that I've created in my heart that make me afraid to love and accept the much bigger plan you have for me. Allow me to be present in every single moment and carry gratitude in every breath that I take for all the blessings you continue to bring into my life. So often, I feel like my plan and the narrative I have created for myself is more important than the greater plan that you have created for me. When I feel afraid of all that I know I am created to be capable of, open my heart to LOVE your plan, whatever that looks like. I am grateful for your constant presence in my life and that you continue to provide everything that I don't even realize that I need. Even when I feel like I'm totally alone, I know that you are there. Walk with me and help me to choose to show up in every moment, so that I can be all that you have created me to be.

Sending you so much love,

Week 2: Getting into a Groove + London, England

September 11th is actually the National Day of Catalonia (kind of similar to 4th of July here), so we were off school that day. There were tons of crazy things, like protests, human towers, and rallies, going on in the city because of current political events in this region of Spain, so it was very interesting to experience that and having that go own literally blocks away from our apartment. We spent some of the day at our apartment pool (actually on the roof which is nuts...and yes, I know we are spoiled haha). I spent the rest of this week in Barcelona getting back into "school" mode and into a routine. 

London, England was our first weekend trip and we learned a lot to say the least.....First, I guess I should mention that our expectations were pretty high because it is a pretty iconic place. Second, obviously, we've never really traveled on our own before so we didn't really know how to plan a trip or know what we were getting ourselves into, LOL. SO, with that being said, here's what we did:

Transportation: We flew Vueling Airlines there and had no problems. This is what I was most worried about because I had never heard of this airline and have heard some horror stories about budget airlines, but we had a great experience there and back. We had to take the train and then the London subway (called the Underground) to our hostel from the airport, which was pretty expensive....we spent about $100 on transportation roundtrip, which we just weren't anticipating. We bought the 2 day Underground pass which was pricier than we thought, but it ended up being worth it because we never had to cab. 

Hostel Experience: I went with my roommate, Jess, and another sweet new friend, Nellie. The three of us had never stayed in a hostel, so again, had absolutely no idea what to expect. We stayed in an inexpensive hostel near Hyde Park/Kensington, which we didn't know, is one of the priciest areas in London LOL. The hostel itself was not sketchy or run down at all and we never felt unsafe there, which was obviously the most important thing. Looking back the whole experience of staying in a bunk bed room with 10 strangers was actually hilarious... Anyways, not really sure we will stay in a hostel again because the price of some Air Bnb's is very similar for way more privacy, but never say never.

Eating Out + Nightlife: First to note here is $$$$$$. Food, drinks, and even just getting into bars and clubs was absolutely outrageous. At one point, the bouncer to a club asked us to pay and we turned around and walked the other direction. We would get breakfast and coffee and think it was cheap in terms of pounds and then when I went to look at my bank account, the amount that cost in US dollars made me want to weep hahaha. In terms of the "going out" atmosphere, we didn't do a ton of research before hand because had high expectations because Barcelona is so amazing, so we were definitely let down a little bit.

What We Did: We paid for a Hop On, Hop Off bus which allowed us to see everything we wanted to see and get off when we wanted. I would highly recommend this if you have a lot of things you want to see in a short amount of time. Friday, we got to shop all around Regent Street and saw Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben (which was under construction which was a let down), and Tower Bridge, which we got to see lift up and that was really cool. Saturday, we went to see Abbey Road (if you're a Beatles fan) and explored all around Camden Market which was so cool. There were tons of yummy food trucks and vendors we could check out, so we really loved that.

What We Learned: Because we had high expectations like I said, our trip didn't really measure up to what we thought. Because there were so many "famous" spots, we didn't really feel like we had to plan that much, but we definitely learned how important it is to have at least a rough schedule of what we were going to do on such a short trip. We also definitely should've researched more about restaurants, clubs, and bars more geared towards our age and price range LOL. No regrets though, I'm still really glad that I got to experience the city.

I wrote this post on two different days, so hopefully I didn't leave anything out, but I just wanted to document this trip and share all my photos with my family and friends on my blog. Now that it has officially been three weeks, I have a lot on my mind that I want to share in more serious post, so I'm going to make time to write that this weekend while I'm not traveling. Unfortunately for my wallet, I've eaten SO much good food everywhere so make sure you're following my Instagram accounts for all the pics! If you're reading this and you're someone close to me, just know I'm thinking about you every day and I miss you! 

Sending sooooo much love,

One Week In Barcelona: How I'm Adjusting, Sights We're Seeing, and What's Up

Hola from Barcelona!!! I can't believe 1) that I'm finally here and 2) that I've already been here for one full week. I thought I would share some photos and a brief overview of what we've done each day so far to update my friends and family. But first, a little on my transition...

The transition into the culture has actually been a lot easier than I thought. Of course, it is obviously different than Kentucky and there is a language barrier, but the "intense" culture shock that I was expecting hasn't really hit me (yet anyways!). I'm hoping to pick up a little Spanish while I'm here, but because Barcelona is a bigger, more tourist-y city, I can get by with the bare minimum for now haha. 

I really have had a stress free time traveling here and navigating the city so far which I'm grateful for. I am taking all the classes that I needed to take for my International Business minor, but we've only had two days of class, so I can't speak on that just yet. Being in a city that is much bigger than Lexington has been a little overwhelming, but the public transportation and walking has been easier than I expected. I'm excited about continuing to build friendships with all the incredible people that I've met so far. It is a weird feeling making so many memories and meeting totally new people without my friends and family on the same continent, but I'm so grateful for the opportunity that I just want to take advantage of every moment. I actually just planned a trip to London for this weekend with my roommates, so I'm excited to explore England, which I've never been to before. Before that, here's a little glimpse of Barcelona!

Sunday + Monday 9/2-3: Travel days. I got in around 9am Monday, Barcelona time and took the bus with my group to where I'm staying. It's called a "residencia" and it's kind of like a dorm/hotel situation. I share a bedroom and (teeny tiny) bathroom with my roommate, Jess, and there is a kitchen on the floor that everyone shares. I tried to include a quick little video, so you can hopefully kind of see what it's like. There is a restaurant right next door that has super cheap croissants and coffee in the AM + tapas and sangria at night, so can't really complain about that. Monday night we had our first program meeting and after that decided to attempt to beat the jet lag with pizza and wine because duh. 

Tuesday 9/4: We got to sleep in a little bit, but we had another program meeting that ended up being pretty long, but when we broke for lunch, we headed to check out Placa de Catalunya briefly. We also got to do a bus tour of different parts of the city and then explored our area for a little bit. Tuesday night (after an obligatory siesta), we decided to go to a couple bars with other people in our program and eventually ended up at Opium, which is a pretty popular, tourist-y night club-- haha. It's been very interesting seeing how different the "nightlife" culture is. 

Wednesday + Thursday 9/5-6: I had a pretty chill day Wednesday, but in the evening, we got to tour La Sagrada Familia which was pretty incredible. Thursday was my first day of classes. I have two classes Monday/Wednesday and two classes Tuesday/Thursday. We discovered we are a 10 minute walk from a really awesome shopping mall (which could be dangerous...), so to celebrate our first day of school we headed over there and had the most amazing Italian meal and cava sangria.

Friday 9/7: I'm really lucky because we get a few tours and trips that are included in our program. Our first one was Friday and we started with a tour and tasting at Codorniu, where they make cava (the Spanish version of champagne). Then we spent the day exploring Sitges, a little beach town about one hour from Barcelona. Friday night, we siesta-ed and checked out Razzmatazz, which is another night club that's pretty close to our place.

Saturday 9/8: Another chill day. We got brunch and shopped around our neighborhood. We spent a lot of time planning our trip to London and mapping out what other countries we wanted to visit and the spots we wanted to see in Barcelona, so stay tuned for that!!

Sunday 9/9: I'm going to wrap it up quickly I promise.... Sunday we had a day full of sightseeing: Casa Mila, Brunch + Cake, and Park Guell. All must see spots in my opinion and I think the photos speak for themselves really. Also, I know I'm not Bella Hadid or anything, but I was really just having a moment in some of these photos LOL.

So that's all for now! It's been a really fun week and has definitely gotten me so excited for what's to come. I just want to reiterate how unbelievably grateful I am for this opportunity. I've been in such a great place in my life the last few months and this semester is no exception. There are always going to be high's and low's and different seasons of life, but this is a really good one for me right now and I feel really blessed.

I've been on Instagram a ton the last week updating stories and posting, so for more "personal" pictures and photos around the city, follow @baiginthiel . Obviously Balanced Baig is in full swing as I am eating my way through the city pretty much LOL, so click here to follow all the food pics.

Thanks for reading. xx

Sharing Strong Women: Sarah List

I'm back again with another awesome lady!! I actually got to know Sarah List when she was my high school chemistry teacher junior year. In addition to teaching, she is also the dance team coach and is soon to be a mom. Even when I was her student, I always saw her as an incredible role model in health and fitness and found her passion for teaching and coaching really inspiring. She has a lot of great advice today, so I hope you guys love it!

1 // Share a little bit about how you got into health and fitness and your journey.

My health and fitness journey definitely began towards the beginning of college when I started getting really sick before I learned I have Celiac disease. I experimented with lots of diet changes and met with lots of doctors. At the end of my freshman year, I started training for my first Miss Texas USA pageant and fell in love with health and fitness instead of just my usual—looking for a quick weight loss trick and yo-yo dieting. I then added a Health Science/Nutrition double major to my Chemical Engineering to learn as much as I could. Since then, I’ve just continued to love learning as much as I can (reading books & watching documentaries) about personal health and wellness and working to achieve a balance.

2 // I know you have Celiac disease and eat a gluten free diet. How have you been able to adapt your lifestyle to making those changes and how important has healthy nutrition been to you on your journey?

I definitely want to make sure to mention that a gluten-free diet is not healthier, and I only do it because I don’t have a choice. Limiting products with gluten is definitely a positive, but replacing them with gluten-free substitutes is not necessarily a healthy way of life. It was a challenge at first trying to eat gluten-free with such a busy, on-the-go schedule because you cannot find gluten-free, healthy options anywhere quick. I learned I have to plan ahead and bring healthy snacks everywhere.

3 // One of the main focuses of my blog is finding the balance between fit and fun. What is your routine like and how are you able to make time for health and fitness in your busy lifestyle, while still enjoying life and having fun?

This is the big question! I heard this saying early in college: “Find three hobbies you love: one to make you money, one to keep you in shape, and one to be creative.” It’s easier said than done. With a crazy busy schedule, it is near impossible to find the time for THREE hobbies. So, it hit me one day—find something that combines it all. This is when I started working at gyms teaching group fitness classes and dance classes. I made a little money, kept myself in shape (teaching the class and with a free gym membership), and got to design the class and keep my creative/fun side. Win-win scenario!

4 // Being a high school teacher and dance coach (and soon to be a mom!), how are you able to teach your students and dancers the importance of an active, healthy lifestyle on a day to day basis?

I have been blessed with the opportunity to teach a Nutritional Science course this year! The focus is on taking a holistic approach to health aligning with our school mission of Mind, Spirit, Body. We are looking at all the current nutrition controversies and topics will be addressed, including, but not limited to, fad diets, food labels, and eating disorders. I also love my opportunity to coach the dance team for the past 6 years. It is so wonderful for the girls to be a part of such a positive group of young ladies always pushing themselves to be their best physically, mentally, and in attitude. I just love my jobs! J
5 // Looking back on your college experience, what is one piece of (health and fitness related or not!) advice you would go back and give yourself?

Back then I used to obsess over calorie counting and analyzing every single thing I ate. It drives a person crazy and is so unhealthy! My outlook now is just making healthful choices and keeping a balance between carbs/protein/fat. I also used to over-exercise. Now I have learned the value in rest days. Our bodies need healing and a little TLC.

6 // Lastly, what is a healthy hack or tip (or snack!!) for the busy girl on the go?

I always keep a “treasure box” in my desk of healthy snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated like cashew packets, banana chips, and homemade superfood trail mixes. This way, if I’m starving between classes I will have a healthy snack right there instead of going to the cafeteria and getting junk food or candy. Another tip is drinking water ALL DAY. It keeps you full, helps with headaches and digestion, and you have better skin!

My Struggle with Body Image: Spilling the Tea #4

First and foremost, I do my best thinking in the shower. It's 10pm and normally by this time I would honestly be fast asleep, but I didn't want to lose my thought, so here we are.

When I was on vacation several weeks ago, I did a lot of thinking about why I write this blog. I came to the conclusion that, while writing is a creative outlet for me and I enjoy playing around with social media, the bottom line is: I've felt really out of place for most of my life and I want whoever reads my blog to know that they're not alone, whether that is 2 people or 2,000. Documenting my life on social media has really allowed me to be my most authentic self and authenticity has always been my #1 value. In striving to be my 100% authentic self, I felt compelled to share something in my life that is not a sunshine-y topic worthy of a pretty @balanced_baig Instagram post and that is: my struggle with food anxiety and my relationship with food. I felt that it would be kind of fake to wait years from now to write a post about this topic and be like "oh yep I'm cured here's the story!", so I'm choosing to share my journey from the beginning.

I don't need to give my whole life story, but I would say my senior year of high school was the first time I remember feeling negatively towards food, exercise, and my body. I (full disclosure) started taking birth control and it made me super hungry all the time. I gained ~15 pounds and, as soon as I realized it, I started counting calories and just being super nuts about working out and My Fitness Pal. Now I realize that, birth control or not, everyone's body changes as they get older and I was really just coming into my body, but, at the time, no matter how few calories I ate or how much I exercised, I always looked at myself as being chubbier than I was the day before. 

As I got to college, I stopped taking the pill and started learning more about health and wellness and got super interested in it, so I was focused on just being healthy and balanced, but I still felt soooo negatively about my body. I was around all these "perfect" sorority girls that had amazing bodies on their perfectly themed Instagrams and I got really down on myself about it for a long time. With the combination of so many new things on my plate and beating myself up about my body, I began feeling super anxious all the time where I couldn't sleep and didn't want to go out and be social and felt like that until right around May of this year. I had become super obsessed with health and wellness and just figuring out how to be the best version of myself and, with that new passion, I realized I was standing in my own way and holding myself back in literally every way possible.

In June, I started seeing a therapist every week and taking an anxiety medication. I'm figuring out how to work through my anxiety and how the overwhelming feelings I have really aren't about the food I'm eating or the way my body looks. Sometimes there are good days where I feel like I'm totally fine and other days I have to just take a few minutes to turn on my Headspace app and just take some deep breaths or cry. I have days where I think I could be a Victoria's Secret model and days where I get upset because I feel like a beached whale. But honestly, what inspired me to write this post was looking at a picture from the 4th of July today. At the time, I was like "my arms look fat" and "I just look chunky", but I looked at it today and thought "why don't I look like that now??". The thought that came to me (in the shower after looking at the picture hours before) is that, for the record, I weigh the same, my clothes fit the same, NOTHING is different about me. It's ALL a mind game that I play with myself. Before taking the steps to help heal myself this summer, I never realized I was just playing mean tricks on myself.

I'm getting rambly, but like I said, this is only the beginning of my journey. This isn't a post where I'm giving you "tips" on how to stop having food anxiety or negative feelings about your body. It's okay to ask your doctor or your mom or your boyfriend for help. It's okay to take medication for whatever you're struggling with (if you're prescribed it of course). It's okay to cry because you feel so stressed out and you can't figure out why. I've done all of these things (in the last month I might add) and I just want you to know, you're not alone or weird or out of place if you feel this way too. Bad habits and thought patterns take a long time to develop and I'm learning along that way that it's not something that is fixed overnight, but that's okay too.

I've never shared this piece of my life before because I've made this image and my Instagram off of being "balanced" and "healthy", so I felt like a fraud almost because deep down I struggle too. But I guess, at the end of the day, I can try the best I can to be my healthiest self, but nobody's perfect and my social media is the best photo of my best looking food. I post to inspire you guys to be healthy and also enjoy your treats because health and nutrition truly is what I'm really interested in and passionate about, but I also love cookies and ice cream and pizza. So, in conclusion, just know: behind the Instagram photo and "thought provoking" caption, I'm also encouraging myself to be a little better and a little more balanced every day. If you made this far, thanks for listening :) Until next time...

Thanks for reading xx

Sharing Strong Women: Dawn Scott

I am back today sharing another strong woman with you guys: Dawn Scott! Dawn is a business partner and motivator at CycleYou Lexington, co-owner of three Lexington restaurants, and a wife and mom of three kids. Needless to say, she has a lot going on, but is such an incredible example of prioritizing health and fitness in your busy lifestyle. I'm so proud to know her and am so grateful that she took the time to share her health and fitness journey on the blog today.

Share a little bit about your health and fitness journey and how you got started.

I have always loved fitness and group fitness classes. I love the energy of great music and a room full of people encouraging each other and working together as a team to be healthy. I always had a gym membership but found myself only using the group fitness classes and not really any other parts of the gym. As indoor cycling classes became more and more popular, I found myself having to get to the gym an hour early just to save my bike or spot in class and this was just way too time consuming and inconvenient. I occasionally took classes at Pure Barre and I loved the ability to save my spot ahead of time and to be able to take a class in a smaller and more intimate environment. I loved the "boutique feel" of smaller studios, but enjoyed a variety of workouts including cycling, kickboxing, barre, and strength training, so I began to research how I could bring a small studio to Lexington that offered a variety of workouts to keep you challenged in a small group and personable setting and also have the convenience to reserve your spot in class online. This led me to taking a leap of faith and I opened FIT in 2012 on Romany Road.

One of the main focuses of my blog is finding the balance between fit and fun. What is your fitness routine and how are you able to maintain a healthy lifestyle while still enjoying life and having fun?

I am a big believer that fitness has to be fun !!! That's why I'm a big group fitness fan. To me, it's all about creating a total body workout so that each workout gives you a cardio and strength component, so you're not stressing over how many days a week you do cardio versus strength training. I'm also a big fan of changing things up and doing something different so that you never get bored. In a week, I do TRX, cycling, barre, and a fusion strength training class and I never get bored. I think a great way to keep fitness fun is to have the right music to create energy, good vibes, and sometimes working out to the beat of the music. Music can absolutely make or break a good workout in my opinion :)
I think finding a balance between fitness and fun means finding a type of exercise that you actually enjoy. If you hate swimming, then obviously going to the YMCA to swim laps is not something that you're going to look forward to or make time for. There are so many ways to be active and if you just try a variety of things, you will find something that clicks for you and it will become enjoyable and something you actually look forward to.

I know you previously had another career. How did you decide to make that switch and what are some of the challenges you faced in the transition and how you overcame them?

I was a pharmaceutical rep for 17 years before making the shift to owning my own fitness studio. Towards the end of my career as a rep, I was not very happy and did not enjoy my job. I would dread going to work, I didn't feel a sense of purpose and was just going through the motions. I was about to turn 40 and I told myself one day that life is just too short to be miserable and that I wanted my footprint on this earth to be more impactful. With the support of my husband, my family and friends, I took the big leap of faith opening my own studio. It was scary, challenging, eye opening, and way harder than I ever imagined !!! I had a 3 year lease and although there were many days I wanted to give up, I was determined to make it and not give up on my dream. The first 3 years there were a lot of ups and downs, but then fate allowed Noelle and I to cross paths and I was able to merge with CycleYou and it has been an amazing partnership.

CycleYou is one of my favorite places and such a positive environment. What have you all done differently than other fitness studios that has made the business so successful?

Noelle and I both want working out to be a non-intimidating environment for all fitness levels and we truly want to make exercising as fun and enjoyable as possible. When we merged studios, we both had a vision to have a studio where you don't feel like you have to be decked out in make-up, hair done, and your best workout gear on in order to walk thru the doors. Noelle did a fabulous job designing the space and making it real and raw and imperfect just as we all can be on a day to day basis. Noelle is predominantly involved in the day to day runnings of the studio and she has always done a fabulous job of training the staff to give excellent customer service to our clients, keeping a clean environment and most of all making each and every client enjoy their "experience" from the time they walk in the door until they leave.

How do you manage your time running multiple businesses, being a wife and mom, and finding time to stay healthy?

Well, some days are better than others :) A lot of days I'm changing hats multiple times: teaching a class, delivering a catering order, then running Emily around, then teaching again, followed by planning workouts, making playlists, doing promotions for the restaurants, a little accounting work for Nick Ryan's...sometimes it's difficult to go back and forth but it's two things that I love and am just grateful each and every day to be able to do what I love and to work with and support my husband and our businesses. I admit I'm pretty bad at managing my time. I'm a bit of a procrastinator and sometimes it bites me in the butt!! But I think we all have crazy schedules and hectic lives juggling so many things and that's why I like to make sure the classes I teach are fun, welcoming, a little funny and not intimidating. It's so important to find that 1 hour of your day to dedicate to slowing down and making time for yourself and your health. I hope that people look forward to our classes at CycleYou as a place to unwind from the business of the world and focus on themselves.

What is one piece of advice you would give to young women trying to decide what they want to do and where they want to go in life?

It sounds so cliche, but it's so true- do something that you LOVE, that you're proud of, and that you're passionate about. When you do what you love, it never feels like work. there will always be challenges to any career or profession but as long as the excitement outweighs the frustration, then you're in a good spot. It's easier said than done, but don't let the financial part of life allow you to make career decisions that make you unhappy. Don't wake up dreading going to work every day just for the money.

Lastly, one go-to healthy tip or hack for the busy girl on the go!

I always say don't let exercise be something that you dread or think you don't have time for. 15-20 minutes is better than nothing at all. It doesn't always have to be a full hour workout. If you've got a super busy schedule and only have 20-30 minutes then hit the floor with some push ups, planks, tricep dips, ab work, squats, and lunges. All you have to do is MOVE!!!

If you are in Lexington and haven't been to CycleYou, it is the most positive and uplifting environment and I can't say enough good things about Dawn's classes and really all the classes they offer, so check it out!!! Again, a huge thank you to Dawn for taking the time to write for me.

Follow CycleYou on Instagram here!

Thanks for reading xx