Rachel Tavel: Following the Ola

I've always loved a good sweat-fest, but my deeper connection to the health and wellness world began when I joined the crew team in college. I spent most of college waking up at 5am to row under the Maine sunrise. I competed as a lightweight rower until I injured my back during my senior spring while carrying a heavy boat down a frosty dock. It was then that I discovered physical therapy. 

I instantly realized a desire to learn more about becoming a PT, but found out I had none of the 12 pre-requisite courses needed to apply to Doctor of Physical Therapy programs. I also had a passion for food, travel and writing, and landed a dream job working at Food&Wine and Travel+Leisure magazines. So, I temporarily put aside the interest in healthcare to pursue travel writing. My travels eventually brought me around the world, and eventually to Ecuador, where I worked and lived for 7 months. 

While I was there, my interest in healthcare only grew. After some incredible adventures, I quit my job working for a travel guidebook in Quito, moved back to NYC, took the GREs, applied to post-baccalaureate pre-med programs, and spent the next 5.5 yrs working non-stop towards my degree. I earned my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from NYU and am now working at an integrative, holistic health, wellness and movement studio in Downtown Brooklyn. 

While in grad school, I rediscovered running. I hadn't been able to run for 3 years because of a knee injury, but I "treated myself" and began running more than ever. It became my escape and my therapy during the most stressful experience of my life. Running has helped me challenge myself as a person and as a practitioner. Through it, I've met amazing, inspiring people and discovered new things about NYC and about myself. 

I've also learned about the power of group fitness. When I joined The Rise NYC during grad school, I realized how much joy could come from getting people together to sweat. I recently decided to launch my own website, combining my passions for travel and exploration with my newfound expertise in health and fitness. It's called "Ola" (http://followtheola.com). My goal is to create a sort of travel guide to health and wellness options in NYC. In doing so, I would love to bring attention to all the amazing workouts, products, and events run by like-minded people that are constantly happening in and around NYC. Ola is also about finding joy in the little things every day.

As much as I have always loved running, it has recently taken on a new role. Sadly, my dad passed away just before Thanksgiving of this year. I feel closest to him when I run, which has led me to want to run more than ever. I'm excited to take on my first marathon in 2018 and challenge my mind and body in new ways. 

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Because writing was my first love, I also freelance as a health/fitness/wellness writer, frequently contributing to the Huffington Post and Bustle. My goal is and always will be to LIVE THE DREAM, no matter what that dream is. Sometimes the dream changes, so you adapt. If I've learned anything about life, it's that there are always twists and turns. So, I'm just following the ola (Spanish for "wave") and riding it into the new and exciting unknown. I hope you will all join me!

Rachel Tavel is a National Fitness Day Ambassador. For more inspiration, NYC fitness recommendations, and "weekly happy" digests, follow her blog at followtheola.com!

Kim Bielak
Jen Cook: On How I Found, and Fell in Love With, Yoga.


Today we're sharing National Fitness Day Ambassador Jen Cook's journey into yoga. Find out what inspired her to get her certification, and check out her own blog for more inspo! 

I'm often asked how long I've been practicing yoga and how I got into it enough to dedicate a large portion of my last fall to teacher training. And I always wish I had a simple answer. For me, there was never a moment that I knew yoga was "the one", and to be fair, I still don't necessarily feel that way. I didn't take a class and walk out thinking that it was what I needed to do with my life. I took classes, then stopped, then started again, then found a different style, then stopped, then started again at a new studio, and so the story continues. 

I originally started practicing Bikram yoga when I was living in Arizona. I had recently moved to Scottsdale, knew essentially no one, and was looking for a way to meet people. Unfortunately I didn't find too many friends through the studio, but I did develop a deep love for the rigidness, challenge and stability of the Bikram practice*. If you're not familiar with Bikram, it's a 90 minute practice in a heated room (around 108 Fahrenheit) that travels through a set sequence of postures. The class is meant to be exactly the same in whatever studio you practice, and because of this, you always know what you're going to get. Although it's definitely not for everyone, I found myself comforted by the stability of the class - I always knew what I was getting myself into, I knew what was coming next, I could see from class to class the ways in which I was either improving or struggling.  There was comfort in the familiar, especially as I was going through a particularly unstable period of my life. Just days after ending a long term relationship in Denver I found myself driving to a place I had never been, embarking on a journey I had no idea would ever be in my path. Although in the end those six months I spent in AZ gave me some of the best times, best friends and best adventures - the grounding found through stability was something I was needing there more than ever. 

After my brief six month stint in Scottsdale, I embarked on a new adventure and moved to Paris to pursue a Master's degree. I'll be honest, I think I can count on one hand the number of times I did any sort of physical activity while I was living there (approximately 4 runs around Parc Monceau)**. Yoga was definitely not high on my list of things to do. That list, instead, included eating all of the food, drinking all of the wine, having all of the fun, and doing some of the studying. It was amazing and glorious and exciting and challenging and fun and crazy and hard and incredible. But after a year, it ended, and I came back to find work in New York City.

Moving to New York was huge. Since the first time I visited at age 17 I knew it would end up my home. The energy, the people, the diversity, the opportunity, the excitement - what's not to love? Turns out, a lot. As amazing as it is, it's also expensive, stress inducing, exhausting, overwhelming, angering and just all around difficult at times. Although it took me a couple of years to get back into the whole "working out" thing, once I started again I realized that it served as an excellent coping mechanism. Going with what I knew, I started practicing Bikram a few years ago, again finding comfort in the stability of the practice. After a colleague suggested I try this new fitness boxing gym (Shadowbox, it's great, go), I finally started to branch out of my comfort zone. Between finding boxing, getting back into running, and yoga, I realized that a large part of my happiness in New York was due to being active. But it wasn't just that. The community I found from not just yoga, but fitness in general, was incredible. It was inspiring. It was fun. It was a great way to relieve stress. I found myself craving that feeling you get after a great sweat session, especially as after a couple of rough years and crazy jobs and even crazier travel schedules and still crazier party schedules, life started to take a toll. An overnight visit to the ER not too long ago (see previous post), served as the wake up call I needed to try to reset a bit of my life. It was then that I decided to finally take the leap and complete my 200 hour teacher training. Although the idea of giving up my weekends (literally, 9-6, Saturday and Sunday, for 12 weekends) was not super ideal - being able to do something that I enjoyed, meeting a whole new group of people, and pushing myself to further break out of my comfort zone was enough to get me through. Those 12 weekends with that group of amazing humans was such an incredible experience. What we went through together and shared with each other could fill books, but it won't, and the bond that we will now all carry together will inevitably last a lifetime. Which really is one of the beautiful things about a yoga practice. You break out of your shell, challenge yourself mentally and physically, leave it on the mat, and carry it with you forever. So although it definitely may not be my one true love, it's been a journey, and the journey to finding it is often just as much fun as the journey of practicing it.


*Yes, I know Bikram himself is a major creep. It's unfortunate, and I struggle with continuing to enjoy the practice because of it.

**No, there is not really a "fitness" scene in Paris. Although it's starting to gain a little momentum, when I was there just six years ago I'm not 100% sure they even had a yoga studio.

Kim Bielak
Fitness & Wellness Holiday Gift Guide


Wondering what to get the fitness enthusiast in your life for the holidays? Look no further than National Fitness Day Ambassador Connie Kulczycki's gift guide below!

With the holidays quickly approaching, it seemed appropriate to release a Fitness & Wellness Holiday Gift Guide! Combined with some of my favorite products I’ve used over the past year and a few things I’ve been dying to get, you’re sure to find the perfect present for your runner, yogi, or all around fitness & wellness fanatic. And just FYI, I’m about to link to a lot of products, so bear with me, please and thank you.

1. Let’s start with something easy, shall we? A homemade Hydration Pack complete with a Nalgene Water Bottle ($10.99), NUUN tablets ($7.00), and a Mission Athlete Vaporactive Cooling Towel ($9.99). I know this may seem silly but I hear all the time how people say one of their goals is to drink more water and what an easy way to get that started by supplying them with a bottle that is big enough you don’t have to refill it a million times throughout the day. If you know me, I always have my Nalgene with me – I may have even cried a little when I dropped mine in Vegas and it shattered (I know I’m confused too, it must have been from over-excessive dishwashing and the extreme heat) so this is a perfect thing to pair with NUUN tablets that provide all of the electrolytes with less sugar and a cooling towel perfect for post-hot yoga or hot run.

2. Let’s keep it rolling with the drink theme and go for the Ninja Fit Single Serve Blender ($59.99). Why is this so cool? Because while shakes have always been a thing, Kelly LeVeque made them sexy with her book Body Love ($17.99). Speaking about the benefits of the “Fab Four,” she provides the best of the best smoothie recipes to feel and look great by eating well.

3. Want your fitness fanatic to always feel 110% post-workout, throw some Magnesium their way. Fueling your energy, bone health, and recovery, magnesium is essential for runners because it is lost through sweating. Pair this with other supplements such as Celadrin to reduce inflammation and L-Glutamine to aid in muscle growth and athletic performance, and you’re sure to see some PRs coming out of your athlete. *Note while there are thousands of vitamin brands out there, make sure you do your research before purchasing because they are not all created equal. My personal favorite is Wonder Labs, thank you Grandma and Mom 😉

4. More post-workout recovery needed? Roll it on out with the Intelliroll ($49.99). This is my favorite roller because it is actually shaped to fit all of your curves, even your spine. Best part is, use code CKULL for 10% off your entire purchase.


5. So your fitness fanatic isn’t concerned about their physical performance but rather their mental health? Introduce them to “Crystal Muse: Everyday Rituals to Tune in to the Real You” (Amazon: $15.55) a crystal healing book. I may have gotten some eye rolls there and while normally I would say that’s cool, this time I’m going to say don’t knock it until you try it. Self-love has been a big thing this year and a great way to start on that journey is by introducing some simple everyday rituals. This book has got your back. And while you’re at it, get the Rose Quartz Stone ($5.50), the ultimate love crystal that will open your heart up to every type of love possible.

6. Continuing down that mental health road? Essential oils are a must. Not only to they provide instant relief but they also smell great. Not sure which ones to get? Go with the Pocket Farmacy Oil Blend Convenience Kit ($59.99), hitting all of the favorites.

7. Okay now that we’re feeling good mentally and physically, let’s look good too. Any two piece outfit is a yes. There are so many options, it’s actually hard to choose but here are a few I have my eye on:


8. More look good gifts, it’s a silly one but I’m so serious about it. Socks. Runners love good running socks. My personal favorite are Swiftwick No Shows ($12.99). Want to do a little more? Get your butt to Etsy and make a personalized shoelace charm. This will be sure to pull on the heart strings of your runner.

9. Want to go big for your runner? Go Garmin ($119.99-899.99). Prices obviously vary quite a bit with this one so make sure you find out exactly what your runner needs out of a watch. If it’s just for time, you can go with a simpler model but if they want smart notifications, heartrate and all the bells and whistles, it might be a little pricier. 


10. Already have the Garmin, try getting some new watch bands because we know I absolutely love matching my watch to my outfit of the day. Head on over to Amazon, type in Garmin Watch Bands and have yourself a field day picking out the new colors.

11. Already have a Garmin but want to go big? The Aftershokz Wireless Headphones ($129.95-169.95) are the way to go. I cannot say enough amazing things about these headphones: they are bluetooth, lightweight, sit over your ears so you can still hear your music yet also everything around you so you feel safe, and they’re waterproof! If you don’t want to get them for your fitness fanatic, just do yourself a favor and get them for yourself.


12. And last but certainly not least, my absolute favorite book of 2017, “Not Afraid of the Fall” ($15.99). A true account of one couple’s adventures across the globe, it will force you to reflect and maybe make an adventure of your own.


For more tips, reviews and musings from Connie check out her blog here!

6 Goals to National Fitness Day 2018

By Rachel Goldman, Ph.D.

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With National Fitness Day 2018 (May 5, 2018) only 6 months away, this is a great time to think about setting goals and what you hope to accomplish in the next 6 months. It is always good to have goals, but several things are important to keep in mind when setting goals because you don’t want to end up like the majority of people who continue to set the same goals without ever accomplishing them.  

The first thing to remember is to always PLAN and set S.M.A.R.T goals. Your goals need to be:

Specific. For example, instead of saying “I will run more this week”, say “I will run 4 days this week.”

Measurable. Goals need to be something you can measure. The above example also pertains to this. At the end of the week, you know if you ran 4 days or not.

Action-Oriented and Achievable. Instead of saying what you won’t do, say what you WILL do. Additionally, the goal needs to be able to be achieved.

Realistic. Is your goal realistic? Are you willing AND able to do it? For example, instead of “I will never eat fried foods,” say “I will only eat fried foods one time this week.” Also, is your goal realistic to achieve at this time? Maybe you can not go to the gym 5 days this week because of other commitments, so maybe your goal for this week is 3 days.

Timely. A goal needs a time frame. If you want to run a marathon, when do you want to run it? Someday  won’t work and someday may never come.

Planning is important in order to achieve your goals. For example, if you say “I will run 4 days this week,” and you don’t plan, then Monday comes and goes, Tuesday you don’t feel like running…and before you know it there aren’t even 4 days of the week left. I always recommend picking one day per week, maybe Sunday night, look at your calendar, set your goals, and PLAN for that week. Know that your plan for this week may be different than next week.

Weekly goals or short-term goals are very important. Long-term goals are great to have, but they can be overwhelming and when things are scary they tend to not get accomplished. Therefore, if you have never run more than a 5K and your long-term goal is to run a marathon, then break down that goal. Start with smaller, more realistic, more easily attainable goals. Once you have accomplished a short-term goal, you have a sense of accomplishment and have the motivation to continue. If you only set a long-term goal, for example, of running a marathon and that takes months of training, then you don’t feel like you have accomplished anything for months and that can be very discouraging.

Now, remember life happens and sometimes your plan may not work. Maybe you got stuck at work and couldn’t leave early enough to get your run in, or maybe you had plans to run outside, but now you can’t due to horrible weather, or maybe you had plans to run with a friend and they cancelled on you. It happens- life happens. So, you need to be able to be flexible, think outside the box, and come up with a new plan at times in order to accomplish your goals. You could easily give up and say something to the extent of “it’s raining and cold”, “I can’t run by myself”, or “tomorrow is another day”, but instead re-examine your goals and find another option. It’s NOT what you CAN'T do, but rather what you CAN DO. Some times things get in the way, some times there are road blocks, but that is not an excuse to not accomplish your goals. Next time you find yourself at a road block ask yourself what you CAN do….plan, be flexible, tweak your plan, and you WILL accomplish your goal!

So, don’t keep setting unrealistic goals that you have probably tried to accomplish for years, instead think about what you want to accomplish and how you will accomplish it. Think about some short and long-term goals for yourself, make sure they are SMART goals and PLAN how you will be successful now….don’t wait. Today can be the first day of the rest of your healthy and new life. I challenge YOU to set 6 SMART goals today that you hope to accomplish by National Fitness Day 2018 (May 5, 2018). You got this!! Good luck and let me know if you have questions or comments.

Rachel Goldman, Ph.D., FTOS is a National Fitness Day ambassador and licensed psychologist in New York City specializing in health and wellness. Follow her on Instagram at @drrachelnyc or visit her site drrachelnyc.com.

Rachel Goldman, Ph.D., FTOS is a National Fitness Day ambassador and licensed psychologist in New York City specializing in health and wellness. Follow her on Instagram at @drrachelnyc or visit her at drrachelnyc.com.


Join our National Fitness Day Countdown Challenge by sharing your 6 goals for the next 6 months on Instagram! Tag @NationalFitnessDay and we'll be sharing our favorites!

Kim BielakComment
5 Steps to Fearless

Have you ever taken a moment to reflect on just how much "fear" affects your decisions? Think about the last few times you were nervous, anxious, or confronted with a big decision. Did any of the following play a role when you think deep down?

  • The fear of rejection, or what other people will think.
  • The fear of failing, or - sometimes even harder - the fear of not 'dropping the ball' when you're succeeding.
  • The fear of not making enough, having enough, or being enough.

The most incredible part about fear is it's not actually real. It's something we build up in our heads, based on pure assumption, and even though those assumptions can often be completely off, they can hold us back from some of the most interesting, fulfilling things in life.

Below are 5 ways to reframe your thinking so you can start taking fear out of the equation.

1. Before you even ask yourself, 'what's the worst that could happen' ask yourself, 'what's the best that could happen?'

Don't just weigh your decision based on how tolerable the worst case scenario is. Factor in just how much you have to gain. How could your entire life, from your career and relationships and down to how you feel every day, be different if you just told your fear to f*** off?  

2. Then remind yourself, 'what's the 'worst that can happen?'

Then stop dwelling on it. Realistically even if you fail, you're going to end up much better off than your worst case scenario, so chop it in half to make it feel less daunting. And don't forget, even if things don't turn out as planned, it's never permanent. You can almost always go back to where you were. You almost always have other options. It's never all or nothing

3. Ask yourself, is your fear based on your values, or someone else's?

Are you afraid of disappointing someone else, or that you won't meet certain expectations society has defined for you? Don't try to keep up with the Joneses - they're the most miserable people in America. Take the time to define what you want, value and believe, and let that guide your decisions, rather than the fear of not living up to someone else's idea of what you should be doing.

4. Reframe fear and failure as good things

If you're afraid of something, you probably have a pretty clear sign that it's something that's going to help you grow. If you're failing, you're on the path to much bigger and better successes. The more you expose yourself to your fears and opportunities to fail, the smaller and easier they become. Do it often and not only will you find you exponentially increase your rate of growth, but you just might start to find it a little fun.

5. Remember the 50/50 principle

Finally, you might be asking yourself, isn't fear there for a reason and aren't you sometimes right? For argument's sake let's just say that 50% of the time, yes, your fear is right - you totally shouldn't have taken that leap, texted that person, or quit that job. But then 50% of the time you're wrong - by going for it you got the career, significant other, or opportunity of a lifetime. If it's 50/50 either way, would you rather go around feeling small, anxious and scared by the world all day, or calm, confident, and like the world is your goddamn oyster? It's all a matter of mindset at the end of the day. Choose the one you want.

This week challenge yourself to go just one week without fear. Make believe you were blessed at birth as one of those freaks without the gene to feel it and just notice even the smallest things that might be surfacing from an underlying fear. Discover what you would do differently.

Special thanks to our friend and National Fitness Day ambassador Shanna Tyler for hosting an amazing conversation around the topic of fear to inspire this piece. Check out some of her own uber-motivational thoughts and musings on her blog here

Kim Bielakfear
Celebrate Body Empowerment With Us This October

By Kim Bielak, Founder of National Fitness Day

We're excited to announce that this month National Fitness Day is partnering with BollyX to celebrate Body Empowerment! 

I started National Fitness Day because I wanted to celebrate and share the way fitness personally made me feel: stronger, more confident, and more empowered. But as I dove further into the industry, I was reminded that this isn’t everyone’s experience with fitness, nor is it in fact most. Despite the explosion of new wellness trends, between programs that continue to promise bikini bodies, transformation photos running through our Instagram feeds, and influencers with bodies that still aren’t realistic for most people, we continue to surround ourselves with media that has us comparing our bodies to others’. So as the health & wellness movement continues to grow – and I wholeheartedly believe to a mostly positive impact – there is no more important time to have a more open conversation about body positivity.

When it comes to body positivity, I want to offer breaking it down into two parts: body acceptance and body empowerment. Working on both can be equally important.

Body acceptance is exactly what it sounds like - accepting your body as it is. But it’s hard work. It takes undoing years of negative perceptions or unfair standards you’ve placed on your body. And it takes patience and often an overall reframing of how you look at your goals.

As I mentioned, I started National Fitness Day not to celebrate the body builders or the fastest runners of the world, but to simply celebrate how fitness makes us feel. Many of us believe we’ll be happy once we have a certain body, and while this isn’t usually true – yes, even models continue to be plagued with insecurities and dissatisfaction with their own bodies – it becomes clear that the end goal is not actually the body, but being happy and feeling good.

Do you feel better when you’re in shape? Sure! But, just like your body is different from everyone else’s, what makes you feel good is also going to be unique. To one person it might be about getting stronger, while to another it might just be about releasing some stress after a hard day. For one it might be losing 10 pounds to get to a healthy weight, while for another it may actually be about eating well without so much anxiety around the scale. You have to accept that your body is different, and therefore your goals should be different. If we’re being honest, pursuing the same goals as the person you follow on Instagram more often than not makes you feel like crap, so stop comparing your goals to theirs start pursuing goals that make you feel good.

Lastly, the most important part about body acceptance is learning how to feel good every day, regardless of where you are in our journey, and that means loving and accepting your body where it is now. Goals are important, but we tend to get into the mindset that we’ll only be happy once we’ve reached them. But if we just agreed that the ultimate goal is simply to feel good or be happy, why can’t you be happy today? Just because you had a cheat day doesn’t mean you need to punish yourself with guilt until you get back on track. Give yourself a break because you’re going to travel and eat a bunch of crazy food, and you’re going to go out for a friend’s birthday and have a little too much to drink, and you’re going to live your life because there are other things beside your body that should make you happy, too. One of my favorite quotes is “don’t miss 95% of your life just to weigh 5% less,” so learn to love your body through the up’s and down’s and don’t forget to give yourself a break.

Don’t miss 95% of your life just to weigh 5% less

Then, when it comes to body empowerment, I want to start by breaking down what empowerment means in the first place. We often think of feeling empowered the same way we think about feeling inspired: we do something like work out and suddenly this feeling just happens to us. But it’s interesting to note that by definition the word “empower” means “to give” strength or power. It’s incredibly active, and it’s in your hands to give, whether it’s in the words that you say to yourself or the choices that you make about what you do with your body.

Body empowerment is taking it one step beyond just loving your body, and loving it enough to treat it well and give it strength. This means giving it good food and working out. Getting your blood flowing, sweating the toxins out, and strengthening your heart. Taking steps to strengthen your body is the ultimate way to feel good, because you’ll find that when you give your body the fuel it needs, you’ll do things like regulate your blood sugar and feel less moody. When you build strength or endurance, you’ll become more confident, and feel empowered to take on new challenges. And when you treat your body well, you set it up to keep working for you for years to come.

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At National Fitness Day, we believe that rather than focusing on what our bodies look like, we should celebrate what they can do. You are strong enough to run faster, lift more, or stretch farther than you could a month ago. Your body is capable of absolutely more than you know. And if you’ve ever been injured or known someone who has lost the ability to use his or her body the same way as you, you know that sometimes even simply walking is a gift in and of itself.

Together, we can change the conversation about our bodies. We can create a world where our daughters’ self-esteem is not defined by what they look like, and where we redefine our own goals to be simply be happy, and simply be healthy. Join me in thanking your body today for all it does for you, in loving it for all its jiggles, scars, and birthmarks, and in making taking care of it a priority – it’s with you for life.

Check out BollyX for more updates on how we're celebrating this month, including free classes, giveaways, and more!