Aloha to you, 2018

December 19, 2017

The fact that aloha means both hello and goodbye seems accurate right about now — these past few weeks have included waves of both, peppered with joy in anticipation for the new and the next, yet coupled with the nostalgic ache for what is now past. Friends, it is true. Finally, ten years after a dream was born in a little sunkissed blonde girl’s heart and buried in the sand of Poipu Beach, Kauai, it’s a reality:

Hawaii, here I come. Aloha, my new island home.

When preparing for my shoulder surgery and a solid month away from work and 3-4 months away from my spin studio, I received an encouraging text from my dear friend Dom after I frantically texted her while in a panic about my life being put “on hold” for a few months:

“You’re being forced to turn off, look inward, spend time with God. Get to know yourself deeply. And really truly turn off, unplug, and recover,” she wrote.

That’s exactly what I had to do. For once, walking down the hall was an excursion requiring super-human strength. My morning power-shower turned to baths, hair washed by my sister or my aunt. I slept nearly 18+ hours a day. I watched 3 seasons of Vikings in a scary-short amount of time. I lived off of toast and water for the first two weeks. I celebrated my 27th birthday in a drive from Santa Cruz to Sacramento, post-op doctor’s appointment and falling asleep during a movie marathon. I started (but have yet to finish) four different books.

Lanakai Beach, my new home beach

It was during this time my heart began to change. My mind said enough is enough! to all the dreams and the maybes and the one days and instead began whispering, now now now. And then God slipped under my skin and cracked my heart open back home in Colorado over Thanksgiving. Before I knew it my fingers  were skittering across the keys of my keyboard researching flights and facebook-posting a room for rent.

It all happened so fast: A one-way ticket to Honolulu on December 30. An inbox of house-hunters eager to begin their SF journey in the bay-windowed bedroom that saw me through so much. A gentle goodbye to my love from the past year, filled with hope and encouragement and nothing but the best wishes for one another. A two-week notice to the agency full of some of the most talented (and hilarious and amazing) people I know.

Whew.

Excited to be auntie to this fur baby for a few months!

Furniture is sold, books and knicknacks are in bags. Clothes are sorted and awaiting donation. An assortment of swimsuits, a couple t-shirts, 2 pairs cutoff shorts and the only pair of sandals I own make a pile on my floor. Many goodbyes have been said, yet others await for hugs after Christmas or big aloha snuggles with already-booked visits to see me on the island.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know exactly what to expect. My timeline is open as I walk barefoot steps to trust the Big Guy with whatever comes next. I’m grateful for my sister and a room to myself in her home, a furry companion to look after while she is away, and a car to drive. My computer and notebooks will accompany me, along with copious amounts of time to just write, finally freeing the words swimming deep down somewhere behind my bellybutton, pulling them to the surface once again.

2018, I am SO ready for you!

It’s been a tough year wrought with trials that knocked me off my feet and left me gasping for air — but finally I am slowly crawling back to standing. Writing is the way I not only continue my journey past these demons, but allows me to spread awareness that mental illness is a very real thing — but there is hope, oh so much hope, of brighter tomorrows. One just may have to take a step out of the ordinary to find it.

So yes — I’m back. I’ll be here weekly (#goals) and on Instagram @averykjohnson sharing my adventures from the land of aloha. It’s time for a new year, a fresh start, and a new chapter on an island where very few know my name. Through it all I am consistently reminded God didn’t give me a spirit of fear — so across the ocean I go.

Secrets of Being a Fitness Instructor

October 10, 2017

avery johnson, spin instructor

When I decided to audition for becoming an indoor cycling instructor over three years ago, it wasn’t about the money — it was about the lifestyle and community. Who wouldn’t love to work where yoga pants are the office dress code and sweaty post-cycle brunch is a regular thing? But as my career progressed, I realized — dang, this is hard work!

The truth is, there is a lot more to being a fitness instructor than just getting paid to work out.

I interviewed three of my dear friends and fellow instructors and twisted our stories together to share more of what being an instructor is really like—the good, bad AND ugly.

Whether you’re thinking of instructing or just want a peep into what your favorite fitness guru really does, here’s a look at what goes on behind the studio scenes. Read on, my friends.

READ IT ON POPSUGAR >>

Cardio-Induced Panic Attacks are Real—Here’s How to Manage Them

September 7, 2017

It was just another Tuesday night at the indoor cycling studio when it happened.

I stepped off my instructor bike to bid my clients goodbye, slapping sweaty high-fives on their way out. Suddenly I was overcome by a deadening squeeze in my chest and an overwhelming need to get away.

When I got into the locker room, I thought my heart was cracking apart and the world was about to end. My hands wouldn’t stop shaking and my vision grew foggy. I sat down hard on the tile floor beneath me and wanted to scream, but my lungs couldn’t gather enough air from my quick, shallow breaths to make a sound.

It was my first panic attack.

Cardio-induced panic attacks are real—but there are ways to manage them. Read the rest of my story and gain some knowledge from the experts in my latest post on POPSUGAR.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON POPSUGAR >> 

Stay up to date with my latest on Popsugar Fitness. Impacted? Pass it on! Let’s spread mental health knowledge to all of our friends, families, & coworkers. 

I’m Still Amazed at How the Whole30 Impacted My Life — p.s. I’m on Popsugar!

August 22, 2017

As a fitness instructor, I always thought of myself as more or less a healthy eater. I lived by the “everything in moderation” rule and dispelled food guilt with thoughts of I’m worth itTreat yourself girl! and Hey, I worked out twice today. I packed my lunches (when I remembered), tried to only eat out a few times a week, and blended as many fruits and veggies I could into smoothie bowls.

But in reality, as clean as my diet appeared, my lifestyle wasn’t working. I was sick.

For as long as I can remember I have suffered from digestive issues, migraines, acne, and ovarian cysts. I tried a myriad of medications over the years to no avail, often seeing only short-term relief — or feeling even sicker than before. I continued to try to eat healthy and work out religiously, but something wasn’t working. There were lifestyle changes I needed to make to bring my mind and body back to full health.

After thumbing through the Whole30 Cookbook at a friend’s home one night, I felt the conviction hard and swift: I needed a challenge and some discipline to get back on track. This would be my reset.

A few long, sugarless-breadless-wineless weeks later, this is what I noticed…

READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON POPSUGAR >> 

p.s. this is my very first post on Popsugar Fitness! Love it? Share it! Pass it on to your family, coworkers & friends. The power of food is real, my friends. 

The Any-Level-Hiker’s Guide to Half Dome

July 25, 2017

A few weeks ago, five of us pulled up to a dusty, pitch black parking lot at the base of a mountain at 3am. A big, huge, bucket list mountain, that is. Twelve hours later, we were pulling off our hiking boots in that same dusty parking lot in the mid-afternoon sun. Oh Half Dome, I hate that I love you.

If you’re one of the chosen few with a permit to hike Half Dome, you’re in for a treat. Who doesn’t want to hike 9 miles straight up into the oxygen-starved atmosphere with a few mosquitos and a bear or two? I kid.

In reality, summiting Half Dome was a check off my bucket list and a new top 5 memory to (hiking)boot.

When doing my own research to prepare for the trip, I found rather lackluster sites with more scare tactics than helpful tips (especially when it came to the cables.) The best advice I received was word of mouth from pals who conquered the trail before. After schooling my coworker on what to expect just a few weeks later on her own climb, I decided to compile all of our tips here, so you can be one prepared hiker when your turn comes.

So here we go–from me to you, the Real, Any-Level-Hiker’s Guide to Half Dome. Here’s everything you need to know (and pack!) before heading out to conquer the great granite summit.

GET YOUR PERMIT

Half Dome isn’t just a wake-up-let’s-do-this kinda adventure. Because of its popularity, the National Park Service limits the amount of visitors allowed up every day. While a few permits are released day-of, most hikers opt for the lottery in March for better luck. Applications are open from March 1-31 and results are posted in mid-April. When submitting, try for Sundays and less popular days, too–it’ll give you better odds.

half dome cables

PUMP SOME IRON

Get lucky with permits? Good. Start working those arms. Yes, arms. Along with getting your booty in gear with long walks or day hikes, squats on squats, or the stair master, get those biceps and triceps working. The cable portion of the hike uses much more upper body strength than expected! The better shape you’re in, the more enjoyable your hike will be–and the days following the hike.

GATHER YOUR GEAR

First of all–gloves are absolutely necessary to tackle the cables. Unless you want slippery, sweaty and scraped up hands, grab a set. Make sure they’ve got a good fit and a solid rubberized grip. We got these and they were perfect. Some hikers leave their discarded pairs in a basket at the bottom just in case, but don’t trust there will be a good set there when you go.

Invest in a Camelbak backpack (or off-brand similar pack with a water bladder) to hold layers, snacks, and plenty of water–you need more than you think. As for what to wear? I opted for my breathable, quick dry lululemon crops tucked into hiking socks, a tank top, a long sleeve layered over for the morning, and a rain jacket (for the Mist Trail). Check the weather before you go and be prepared for changing conditions! 

Your footwear is everything, and a sturdy set of hiking boots is certainly recommended. Make sure you break them in well before the hike to avoid blisters. While some may opt to hike in tennis shoes, it is not advised because the trail can be slippery–especially at the cables. If you do hike in sneaks, make sure they have a grippy, tough tread. No Nike Frees, please.

START EARLY

Half Dome takes longer to conquer than you think it will. If you choose the route beginning at the Mist Trail, which we did, plan on about 12 hours round-trip including breaks and a pause on the top. (We hung out at the summit for just over an hour).

Starting way before the sun gives you a better chance of tackling the cables without a crowd and avoiding any super hot summer afternoons or dangerous thunderstorms. It is pretty darn breathtaking to see the beauty of Yosemite gradually lighten in the morning light–and you’ll hit the summit before most people even wake up.

PACK PLENTY OF FOOD & WATER

Stock up on snacks on snacks to fuel you to the top. Give yourself a hearty variety, but a balanced one. I made the mistake of eating too many nuts and RX Bars… My tummy was in a world of hurt (and extremely bloated) trying to digest all the fiber AND keep me upright.

Pack some PB, honey and banana sandwiches, a package of salami, apples and Justin’s almond butter single serve packets, fresh fruit, and most importantly, a treat for the top. My sweet friend and veteran climber Amie passed on this tip. When we summited, I was never more excited to unwrap a Pop Tart in my life.

As for water? Bring lots of it. Drink it. We each carried a 3 liter Camelbak and multiple water bottles. I picked up some Nuun electrolyte tabs and a coconut water to switch up the flavor and replace lost minerals from sweat, as well. I drank it all and would’ve sipped more. I gave my past self a big thank you for leaving a few S’well bottles in the car for a cold drink of water post-hike.  

ENJOY!

If you’re lucky enough to snag a permit to hike this legendary peak, do it. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a nature person, do it. I was bursting with pride at my very new to hiking pal Kumar tackling the trail like a superstar.

And while they may seem like the scariest, most impossible things in the world to some, don’t be intimidated by the cables–just stare at the rock in front of you and move foot-over-foot, hand-over-hand to the top (and don’t hang around at the base and stare them down… you will psych yourself out, as we saw happen with numerous hikers.)

There’s a reason Half Dome is a bucket list peak with hundreds of thousands of hikers eagerly vying for a chance to climb it year after year. Like the Grand Canyon, its beauty is so stunning, it almost looks fake–like you’ve fallen into a painting or another world.

Half Dome is a challenge and a reward you will never forget (and your legs won’t let you either, for about three weeks or so after…ouch)–and it is worth every step. All 55,000 of them.

The last tip? Be sure to pack along your best pals– the ones down for adventure, who keep their spirits high in the face of long days and little sleep, that can laugh through the blisters and get you up the heights and keep the conversation going mile after mile, yet know when peace is needed and make a mean PB banana sandwich. These pals? They’re as necessary as water.