Pairings Retreat: From Dream to Reality

One day, shortly after the beginning of the new year, my friend Cristina from Your Personal Producer and I were on G-chat as we normally are, sharing our dreams for 2018. She was in a funk and I was in a post-Paris high! 2017 had seen some serious ups and downs for both of us and we didn’t want 2018 to end up being the same old song and dance. You know…dream big at the beginning of the year, start off strong and lose it somewhere around mid-April.

In a moment of honesty, she blurted out: (paraphrasing) “I wish I could just get away. Go on a retreat and get my thoughts in order for 2018.”

And I said “Let’s do that!”

The funny thing is, it’s usually me who dreams beyond my reach and usually she steps in to tell me: “That’s possible.” But on this day our roles were reversed and soon our dreaming turned into a game plan!

She threw out a concept, I took it and threw things back at her and an actionable plan formed not only in our minds and on our proverbial cocktail napkins, but also on a shared Google Drive folder that would soon become an actionable itinerary for the retreat of our dreams.

Pairings Retreat

We started off with the dream of a beachy, intimate retreat filled with instagrammable drinks paired with vision board creations. Photo sessions paired with content calendars. Adorable products from bakeries like P is for Pie and brands like band.o to inspire our own creative juices. It all came together like the stories you hear of visionaries in restaurants spit balling ideas and then…one day, we have Twitter. Or in a parent’s garage and all of a sudden…Apple is born.

In fact, Cristina and I have this thing that happens to us when we really get going on an idea on G-chat. One of us will type out an idea and hit send only to find the other person has thought of almost the exact same thing as well. Leading to a lot of “GET OUT OF MY HEAD” and “HOW IS THIS HAPPENING?”

In moments like these, we are so like-minded that our dreams and visions become transcendent. Like somehow God is planting ideas in both our heads and because He had the good sense to make us friends, He’s smiling at His handiwork when we, humble creations that we are, realize how our ideas fit together just as they are meant to!

So fast forward through all of our pre-planning and big dreaming to the retreat itself.

Road Trip Reunion:

Cristina flew in early Tuesday morning. We didn’t want to skip a beat or miss precious time enacting our respective visions. I grocery shopped and product sourced ahead of time with a handy shared shopping list on the G-Drive (the thing that helps us get all things done.)

Pairings Retreat - a creative retreat for blogger by Cristina and Liz

The drive to Madeira Beach is about 2 hours from Orlando, so we had plenty of time to get our thoughts in order and make some plans ahead of our scheduled time of making plans. Plus, we had a chance to get important friend catch-up time in there as well, which is vital to a partnership like ours! We strive very hard to strike a balance between best friends forever and business partners. And that comes with equal helpings of dream casting and venting about elements of our everyday life.

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Werk Werk Werk:

Once we reached our destination, we were in for a penny, in for a pound. We wasted no time unpacking the car, setting up our rooms and our work spaces, making our first round of drinks and getting our hair into sensible work pony-tails. We had a quick lunch on the beach of Publix subs, because Publix subs are the be all and end all of sandwiches for any home grown Florida girl (and we both are!)

Pairings Retreat - a creative retreat for bloggers by Cristina and Lizzie

Next, we set about our goal setting. With the help of some materials Cristina brought along, we began to ask really tough questions about our goals. What we wanted to achieve in life? What was stopping us? What did we allow in our lives that caused road blocks we may not even be aware of yet? What emotional juggernauts did we each have to work on and overcome in the coming year to make space for big dreams? So…no big deal. Just the extremely big, life-altering questions of the every day life, right?

Visionaries:

Following that, we set to the task of vision boarding. Cristina’s board was and all-encompassing snap shot of the life she wants to create for herself. A sensible 11×17″ format that would fit nicely in her carry on and be easy to take home with her.

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My vision board…well, you know I don’t do anything the “normal” way. Mine turned into more of what I like to call, a vision journal. Each page representing a different aspect of my personality that I wanted to highlight or work on or change altogether.  (more to come on vision journaling!)

Sunsets are Non-negotiable:

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After getting a whole lot of WERK done, we made a rule about Pairings Retreat…Sunsets are non-negotiable!! So we walked out to the beach (which was mere steps away from the front door of our beach cottage) and watched as the day sank into nighttime. Sunsets are the best way to end a day, IMHO. They remind you that there is beauty waiting at the end of whatever you just went through. And they reminded us to consider that the world has so much to offer.

Winner, Winner, Pesto Dinner:

When pairing up with a Forever Friend and future business partner, it’s nice to combine skills. Some of which I have, some of which she has and some of which we share. But making a delicious Pesto Chicken Pasta for dinner…that’s all Cristina!

Throughout our day we were cognizant of the moments when we wanted to hunker down and get through our list, as well as making room for moments when we needed a little R&R to refresh us for the hard stuff. Pairings Retreat quickly became about so much more than scheduling blog posts and creating actionable plans for our future. It was only the end of day one and already we both had the feeling that we had stumbled upon something really special.

Second Verse, Better than the First:

We awoke at a reasonable hour in the morning on Day 2. Actually, I got up a little earlier to go sit on the beach and watch the day break. Breakfast was mimosas and bagels from Brooklyn Water Bagel, a local place in Winter Park and a favorite place of mine (shop small!!!)

Pairings Retreat - a creative retreat for bloggers by Cristina and Lizzie

We analyzed our schedule for the day over breakfast and made some adjustments. We wanted to have more time for photo sessions and wanted to take advantage of the weather in the morning. Being flexible in the midst of a set schedule became really important for us. We had things to accomplish, but we also wanted to be free to move with the day as we needed to.

Snap My Picture:

Cristina has gotten very good at taking my picture. From our days of working on my web series in New York to her constantly being my photographer for fitness series and fashion posts. Me…I’m not as good at it. But this was a chance to stretch myself. I’m usually the one in front of the camera, because I like to be there. She’s usually behind it, for the same reason. But Pairings Retreat is about challenging yourself. Creating what you need. And learning that the walls you have to climb are only as tall as you let them be. Learn to climb and you don’t have a wall problem anymore, do you!

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Photo by Cristina Fowler
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Photo by Cristina Fowler
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Photo by Cristina Fowler (she really is good at this game!)

Working Lunch:

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We continued to bump things around and change our schedule as our needs dictated for the day. Lunch became a working lunch. We put the finishing touches on our vision boards and started in on our writing session. Whatever that meant for each of us. We are both bloggers, but I took that time to continue filing out my questionnaire about my future, which became addictive and illuminating. I didn’t realize some of the things that were coming up in my answers and it allowed me a perspective on my future that I had not considered yet.

Treat Yourself:

Who among us isn’t energized by a treat? The mere mention of a cupcake in the vicinity and I perk right up! Prior to the trip, I had procured a couple special treats for us. Pies from P is for Pie, cupcakes from Small Cakes Cupcakery and extra large Hershey’s chocolate bars for each of us (milk chocolate for Cristina and dark chocolate for me.) We had a drink pairing for each portion of our day and delectable meals lined up around every corner.

Pairings Retreat - a creative retreat for bloggers by Cristina and Lizzie

We didn’t over eat. We didn’t get drunk or binge on sweets to the point of sugar comas, but we did enjoyed our time together to the fullest and took time to treat ourselves as we worked hard and got our check lists done! This is now a founding principle of Pairings Retreat. TREAT YOURSELF!!

Bring Me that Horizon:

As I  mentioned before…sunsets are non-negotiable at Pairings and we took the chance to get another photo session in before the sun took it’s bow for our last night on retreat.

On the Town:

To add a big, shiny bow to our fabulous and very productive 2-day retreat, we went out to dinner Wednesday night. We couldn’t believe we had only started the morning before. We had gotten so much done!

There’s something about fresh seafood on the porch of a beach town restaurant that is especially rejuvenating. We had more fruity drinks and more delicious desserts. And we talked about how we wanted to expand our idea for Pairings. What if we offered this experience to more bloggers who were looking for what we had found here?

To the Future:

It’s funny. After a certain age, things like camp and sleep overs and getaways become hard to come by because of life circumstance or frowned upon because of age. 30-something women don’t have slumber parties anymore. Adults don’t go away to sleep over camp. We grown-ups have it all figured out, after all. But I call shenanigans!!

Pairings Retreat - a creative retreat for blogger Cristina and Lizzie

We need to get away sometimes. We need to recharge our batteries away from the people who spend the most time using our batteries up. We need time with other creatives to spark our own adventures and dreams. That is exactly what Pairings became for us.

And even better, that is what Pairings can be for you too!!

If that sounds like just what you’re looking for, then…Stay tuned!

Pairings Retreat - a creative retreat for bloggers by Cristina and Lizzie

#AvengerinTraining – Iron Man Week

Introduction

I would consider myself a fairly fit person. I enjoy running and Soul Cycle and walking and when I’m vigilant, I eat marginally well. But then came the winter and I was discontent. Chilly weather caused my motivation to disappear. The running stopped. The Soul Cycle stopped. I still tried to walk and get at least my 10,000 steps a day. But I counteracted that by overeating fatty ‘comfort’ foods.

One day, I realized I had gained 20 pounds that I did not want on me (it may not sound like a lot of weight, but it sure felt like it.) Somehow I’d let the weight sneak up on me. And that wasn’t ok with me!! My sugar intake was at an all time high, due to eating a lot of macaroni and cheese and mint chocolate chip ice cream (my favorite comfort food!) And I am genetically at risk for diabetes, but I just didn’t seem to care. This was the heaviest I’d been in quite a while. All the previous progress I’d made in the fall was being wasted thanks to laziness and a complete lack of discipline.

One night, while watching Avengers (for the 19th time), I realized that if aliens did invade Earth or the zombie apocalypse finally happened or some other menacing force became reality, I’d be one of the first to go. And as I watched Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow kick serious ass on screen, I knew…that wasn’t gonna work for me!

So I embarked on a journey that would eventually become a transforming experience.

A lot of what I’ll share is not ground breaking. It’s not even new information. It’s constantly posted and reposted in many forms. You just have to tailor it to you. That’s what I did. I made something that would be fun, inspiring and made just for me!

Now, I prefer fantasy to reality sometimes…it’s true. But I know I’ll probably never be called on to fight for my life or to save another person’s. But if I ever was called upon, I wanted to be ready.

I delved into each of the 6 characters that make up the team known as The Avengers, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye and Captain America. I researched what each individual actor did to prepare for their roles, then I went about crafting a 6 week fitness plan that I thought would be fun and that I knew I could accomplish. Most of the workouts I found online that were based on the Avengers, were mainly geared towards men. The meal plans too. I’m not about to start eating 2300 calories a day. That just wouldn’t work for me. This plan is meant to be tailored to individuals, men or women. If you like it, keep it in the plan. If you don’t, take it out. (Keep in mind I am not a fitness or medical professional. Just a nerdy fangirl who wanted to make a change.)

I do not have the money or the time to dedicate to actually looking like an Avenger. (and I am not being paid by Marvel to do this either.) But I knew that I wanted to do more than I was at the time and I decided to use the inspiration I felt while watching the Avengers to help transform my lazy habits into constructive discipline.

Below is the complete breakdown of Week 1, including the things I turned to for inspiration, the weekly challenges I made for myself, my food shopping list, and the amazing classes I took all in my endeavor to get healthy and become an #AvengerinTraining

Photo by Cristina Fowler
Photo by Cristina Fowler

Week 1: Iron Man Week

Watercolor Art by Blule
Watercolor Art by Blule

The first Avenger on my the list was Iron Man. I decided to go in order of their introduction to the franchise. And who better to start it off, than the Iron Avenger himself. Robert Downey Jr., at 50 years old, is in the best shape of his life. Physically and in his career (as of 2014, RDJ tops Forbes’ list of highest paid actors in Hollywood). His onscreen alter-ego is Tony Stark who, after getting kidnapped by terrorists, witnesses the damage of what has become a destructive legacy at Stark Industries. While incarcerated in an Afghanistan prison, Tony discovers himself to be more than just the “genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist” that he always had been and starts down the road to becoming so much more.

To prepare for the role of Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr, “started training using the Wing Chun technique, made famous by Bruce Lee.” (MensFitness.com) He also cut way back on the cardio in favor of increased weight training. By the time filming for Iron Man began, RDJ had backed on 25 extra pounds of muscle. Check out his full training regiment over at MensFitness.com

Inspiration

Sometimes the hardest part is taking that initial first step out the door. Being inspired is a fleeting experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Movies and music are two of my favorite things to partake in. So while preparing to take on this 6 week challenge, I thought a lot about what would keep me moving towards my goals.

Movies

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Obviously, Avengers and Age of Ultron are on the movie list for each of the Avengers as they serve as inspiration for all 6 characters. For Iron Man Week, if I needed a little extra oomph of energy or motivation I watched some or all of the above movies. Iron Man and Iron Man 3 are also obvious choices. Spiderman may seem like an unlikely choice (Peter is a poor college kid, Tony is a wealthy man), but I think there are a lot of themes that overlap between Iron Man and Spiderman. And Casino Royale has billionaire, playboy written all over it. Plus I LOVE James Bond!!

Music

This list is comprised of music from Iron Man and music that makes me think of Iron Man. Anything to get me in the mindset while on a run in the morning. Hope it pushes you like it pushed me!

Meals

I created a meal plan (you won’t hear the word diet in this blog series, I don’t believe in them) based on the foods that Robert Downey Jr ate while training. Again, I’m not being paid by Marvel and I don’t have unlimited time on my hands. So I had the master list of items that I used to stock my refrigerator and pantry and then I made meals out of them that I knew I would enjoy and would be easy to make on a daily basis. I did a lot more cooking this week than I had been doing and I liked it!!

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Weekly Workout Challenge

For Iron Man week I chose a plank challenge. Here’s the daily breakdown:

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Photo by Cristina Fowler

Day 1: 2 sets of Kneeling Side Planks (60 hold second, rest in between)

Day 2: 2 sets of Kneeling Side Planks (60 second hold, rest in between)

Day 3: 3 sets of Incline Side Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)

Day 4: 2 sets of Front Elbow Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)

Day 5: 3 sets of Front Elbow Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)

Day 6: 2 sets of Full Front Planks (30 second hold, rest in between)

Day 7: 2 sets of Full Front Planks (60 second hold, rest in between)

When Iron Man week ended, I took the last day’s challenge activity and rolled it over into the next Avenger’s weekly workout schedule. So Day 7 of the above plan will be used for the rest of the 5 weeks of training.

Extra Credit

If you were to call me an overachiever, you might be right. Especially when it comes to doing things I love and enjoy. I’ll go the extra mile and I’ll run the whole way there. So when I came up with this idea for my time as an #AvengerinTraining I chose a couple different workout classes and gyms for each week that I thought might represent the Avenger of that particular week. For Iron Man week I did:

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu @ Lifestyle MMA Academy

Photo from Lifestyle MMA Academy
Photo from Lifestyle MMA Academy

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not for the faint of heart or the shy wallflower. If you are squeamish about being up close and personal with complete strangers… this isn’t for you. If you find the prospect of hand to hand combat daunting… turn the other way. But if you want to be pulled out of your comfort zone and challenged beyond what you think you can do… find the closest Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu studio and give it a try. Channel your inner Iron Man. And if you live in the New York City area, head to Lifestyle MMA Academy in Astoria. They will kick your butt. They sure kicked mine and, bonus, the first trial class is free. So you have no excuses!!

Power Pilates @ The Art of Fitness

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I’ve done pilates before, it’s one of my favorite ways to workout, but Power Pilates at The Art of Fitness will take your practice to a whole new level. And at just $10 a class, it’s a really great deal for a whole lot of workout!

Other options for Iron Man Week:

Rock Climbing

MMA

Stay tuned for the following Avengers: Hulk, Black Widow, Thor, Hawkeye and Captain America

And make sure to comment below with any questions, comments, etc!