Robin Long is the founder of The Balanced Life, which started as an online platform for her to teach Pilates but has grown to much more than that. She is a well of wisdom when it comes to living in the balance of food + exercise. We often get into the mindset that “exercise equals all of these hard things, so I can’t exercise” or “well, if I licked a donut, then I might as well just eat burgers, fries and a milkshake for lunch, and also have pizza for dinner, and two beers.” But it doesn’t have to be that way. Having exercise fit into your life is the key to actually getting something done and making progress. My goal for this episode is to get you to actually do something. Anyone can listen, get inspired, and think they are going to do that. But I really want you to do it!
Disclaimer: In this episode, we discuss some things that you may not want your kids to hear, especially if you have a little girl who might be receptive to some of the things we are discussing. I encourage you to pop those headphones in and enjoy this episode. Robin is amazing and I am so excited for you to hear what she has to share!
In This Episode, Allie + Robin Discuss:
What “whole health” really means.
How to overcome the “all or nothing” mentality when it comes to food + exercise.
Practical ways you can implement small workouts into your daily routine.
How to get back on track after things fall off track (from vacations or busyness).
Meal planning + tips for healthier choices (especially with kids!)
Mentioned in this Episode:
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Mom life. We are surrounded with the message that it’s the tired life. The no-time-for-myself life. The hard life. And while it is hard and full of lots of servitude, the idea that motherhood means a joyless life is something I am passionate about putting a stop to. I’m on a mission to help you stop counting down the minutes till bedtime, at least most days. I want you to stop cleaning up after your kid’s childhood and start being present for it. Start enjoying it. I believe in John 10:10 “that we are called to abundant life” and i know mothers are not excluded from that promise. Join me in conversations about simplicity, minimalism and lots of other good stuff that leads to a life of less for the sake of enjoying more in your motherhood. I’m Allie Casazza and this is the The Purpose Show.
Hey friends! I wanted to pop in and talk a bit with you before I bring Robin on. Robin Long runs The Balanced Life. She is really special to me and holds a really close space in my heart. Robin had said “yes” when I asked to write a guest post for her. She was just so sweet and so excited about my message before everything took off.
My post actually ended up going viral. It was the one that was really crazy and was trending over the first Presidential Debate in 2016. It was such a big deal and it was so fun to watch it unfold. That guest post was on Robin’s website and we rode that wave together. It was really a neat experience.
She is so dear to me. She is such a sweet person, one of those people that you wished you live near so you could be really good friends and have coffee all of the time. Her philosophy of ditching diet culture, taking good care of yourself because you deserve to feel great, is something that I really love about her.
This conversation is really, really good. I encourage you to create the time and space you need to listen to it. We do discuss some things that you may not want your kids to hear, especially if you have a little girl who might be receptive to some of the things we are discussing. I encourage you to pop those headphones in and enjoy this episode. Robin is amazing and I am so excited to have her on!
ALLIE: Hey ladies! Welcome back to another episode of The Purpose Show! I am here with Robin Long, my friend who runs The Balanced Life. Hey Robin!
ROBIN: Hello! I am really excited to be here!
ALLIE: I have some real practical questions to ask you. I am looking forward to getting your expertise on exercise, healthy eating, and balancing all of that with motherhood.
Guys, The Balanced Life is really the perfect name for Robin’s business, your blog, and everything that you do. That’s your whole thing! It’s not “eat whatever, who cares?” And not working out, sweating an hour every day. Not “if this is what you want, you have to work hard, and sweat it out.” And also not “running so you can eat tacos”. It is a lot of hope, grace, and realistic advice. It is so real. I really appreciate your voice, especially as a busy mom. It is very grace-laced.
ROBIN: Thank you! That is exactly I was hoping people would experience, so thank you!
ALLIE: Robin runs The Balanced Life, which is a Pilates- based blog. Tell us what you do and a little bit about you.
ROBIN: Sure! I started as a Pilates instructor. I took that online originally as a blog and it has evolved into a membership site for Pilates’ workouts, specifically for busy women. That is the “meat and potatoes” of it. There are lots of great, efficient, work-at-home Pilates workouts.
In addition to that, my heart, passion, and what I have learned is that it is not just about the workouts in terms of what “whole health” is. There is a much bigger approach and picture that we incorporate into everything, a balanced approach, and what that practically looks like. It is one thing to say, “life balance” but what does that actually look like when it comes to how you feel about food, your workouts, how you talk to yourself. That’s what the Balanced Life site is about. My membership is called the Balanced Life Sisterhood. That’s where the majority of all of this takes place.
ALLIE: I am in the Sisterhood. It is such an encouraging space. Even from a business standpoint, I have often wanted to ask you how you keep it so positive. I feel like you are dealing with a niche that is very, maybe not controversial, but opinionated. You are talking about bodies and health.
What is organic. What is OK and not OK. It is just a really amazing space. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging and they are all at different levels. Some of these women have been doing Pilates with you for years. I saw one girl that was in there for 4-5 years! It is really neat. When they come, it seems like they just stay. They love it there because it is such a supportive community. It is really a neat place to spend time.
ROBIN: Thank you! We work really, really hard to keep it that way. It is helpful whether you are Vegan or Paleo. Whether you believe cardio is or isn’t essential. On top of that, it is related to spirituality for a lot of people. Emotion, relationships. It is definitely a challenge in terms of that but we are so dedicated to making sure that it is a safe place. It is something that I am really grateful for and proud of. We have great people.
ALLIE: You should be proud. It is such an amazing space. I recently took a trip to Santa Monica and it was nice in the hotel room to do even a 5-minute workout. It calms you down, and relieves your stress. You just feel like you got something done. Something is better than nothing which is a huge part of what you teach.
We would love to know, in general, how you fit in exercise in the midst of such a busy life?
ROBIN: I get this question a lot. It is funny how it has shifted over the years. As a Pilates instructor people assume you just do Pilates all day. The reality is even when I was teaching 8 hours of Pilates all day in the studio, once I started actually turning this into my career it became a lot harder for me to fit in my workouts.
Just like anything, you spend eight hours at the gym training other people, the last thing you want to do is spend another hour at the gym; you just want to go home. That challenge for me has increased in a lot of ways since this has become my career, adding children to the picture, and working from home.
For me, I really practice what I preach, which is small, short, effective workouts and really having to embrace that mentality that something is better than nothing. I still have to remind myself of that on a regular basis.
What does that looks like practically for me? Sunday, I spent most of the day thinking “I have got to do something today.” “I have got to work out somehow.” I was thinking that it was just not going to happen. We had church, lunch and then it was bath time. I gave the kids a bath around 3 in the afternoon, I propped up my phone, and told myself, “ten minutes at a time.” You know with kids you can barely get ten minutes before they are fighting in the bath. But you can at least try and I think that is the main thing.
I did ten minutes and they were still playing, so I did another ten minutes. Before I knew it, I had 30 minutes literally in the bathroom while they were doing their bath. It was a mixture of Pilates, triceps dips on the edge of the bathtub, bar, and then some light weights. And I felt so good when I was done. When I could have spent that time on Instagram thinking, “I really need to workout today.” It’s just that. It’s always about getting started.
Realistically again, Tuesday night I hadn’t done anything and it was 8 o’clock. So, I went in the bedroom, opened my laptop, and told myself 30 minutes of Pilates. I ended up doing 45 because it felt so good. Went to bed.
Yesterday, I sat my timer on my phone. My son was waking up from his nap. I didn’t think I would have time since he was already crying. We went out in the backyard so he could play quietly and I got my whole 20 minutes in.
For me, it is just that - sneaking it in. Obviously, I try to go to the studio when I can, when it works with my husband’s schedule, but that’s definitely not what I can rely on in this season of my life.
ALLIE: It feels good to hear you saying that because I respect you so much for the way you incorporate fitness into your life. You turned your livelihood into your business and you can’t even find the time to get dressed, leave the house, childcare, the whole thing. And it’s also really expensive.
You get the kids at the gym with the childcare. We did that for a while. And honestly, my kids have never been so sick! They were sick all of the time. You feel like “this is not worth it.” And you fall off the wagon.
You get into that mindset of “exercise equals all of these hard things, so I can’t exercise.” Then I would get into this phase, “well I will just eat in a way where I don’t need to move my body at all”, which is eating nothing. That sucks and takes away your joy. It is just this cycle of trying all of these different things, getting motivated, and trying something else.
The only thing that I have found that works is being in the Sisterhood. Sometimes I just put my headphones in sitting in the living room, with the kids going psycho around me. Whatever works and just fitting it in right where I am at, before I start the day or in the middle of the day. It’s not every day. Having it fit into my life is the key to actually getting something done and making progress.
ROBIN: Two things to mention really quick. Season of life matters so much. When the kids were little, I could throw them in the stroller and go for a walk or a long run. I am in the season right now where they just won’t sit in the stroller, so that is out. Unless I have someone to watch them, I have to be here at the house. Childcare is hard to come by. To use 1 ½ to 2 hours to get to a studio or a gym is time I could have spent working or getting things done, so that’s not an option right now either. But do something.
ALLIE: And feeling that your season of life won’t always be forever. Motherhood seasons are pretty brief. Your kids change and things ebb and flow all of the time.
I would like to know how you overcome that “all or nothing” mentality that comes after you eat something that you shouldn’t have, or you miss a workout? That “well, if I licked a donut, then I might as well just eat burgers, fries and a milkshake for lunch, and also have pizza for dinner, and two beers.” You get into that mode of “well, I already messed up.” How would you overcome that, because that’s a struggle for me.
ROBIN: I was thinking about that this morning because that was a huge struggle for me. I was always doing good or bad. Either doing good with my workouts or food. Usually it was never both at the same time. I can definitely relate to that. I was thinking, “why don’t I struggle with that anymore?” It’s what I teach, but I was thinking what practically happened that I don’t struggle with that anymore?”
I think in a lot of ways it is just literally putting the “ditching the all or nothing idea” into practice. The idea of doing a 10-minute workout every day. I am still tempted to not do it. Until I finish that 10 or 15-minute workout and I am reminded every time of the shift in the way I feel. After that workout, my energy is up. I felt proud of myself. There is a shift every single time.
I honestly believe that shift does help reframe your mind each time. Each time you do that it is like reinforced behavior. It does reinforce the belief that it does have a positive effect. It does overwrite those old beliefs and patterns that it has to be a killer long workout. I think a lot of times it is rewiring the story we have been telling ourselves for so long.
What that looks like is really just changing the story each day, over and over. I think its first the awareness of that conversation you are having and realizing that it doesn’t have to be your story. It’s continuing to change that conversation each time. It’s making it always about how you are going to feel after. After that 10-minute workout. After you decide, “instead I am going to drink some water, go for a walk, and see if I can overcome that ice cream.”
ALLIE: Sure. You can have things in moderation and live your life. I don’t subscribe to the whole diet way of doing things. It doesn’t work, at least not for me or anyone else I have ever talked to. Also, if you want to feel good, and you want to be happy with the way you look and feel, then you can’t just keep getting in that cycle.
What do you do, especially with things like traveling or moving? When we were moving it sent me into this 2-3 week spiral. I couldn’t get my house set up to get groceries and get back into it. That was really hard. Then coming out of that I felt myself almost feeling addicted to junk food. Getting back to how I used to be is hard.
ROBIN: You learn to trust that you will get back to your meal planning. For a long time I never had that trust in myself. Maybe I was just young and couldn’t see the whole picture. Maybe I hadn’t lived through enough seasons yet. You can get that belief back in yourself that this isn’t forever, then you can trust that and then follow through with that.
ALLIE: Going back to the workout part, I wanted to know why Pilates? What is that your main thing? What are the benefits of that? Maybe it is just me, but before finding you, Pilates is one thing I didn’t know a lot about. I always knew the benefits of Yoga. To me, Yoga is definitely less of a workout than Pilates. I just didn’t know much about Pilates until I found you. Can you maybe talk a little about the benefits of Pilates and why you are such an advocate of it?
ROBIN: Absolutely. Pilates doesn’t get as much “air time.” I can’t even tell you how many people, even that are close to me, still call me a Yoga instructor. A lot of the reasons for that is that it is not very accessible to take Pilates classes. Pilates classes, especially when you incorporate the equipment, is very expensive.
For a long time, it has been reserved for celebrities, people with a lot of money, people that can spend that money because they are in need of it for an injury or whatever. I think that’s one reason it hasn’t been as mainstream as Yoga.
What I love about Pilates, is it teaches you how to use your muscles, essentially to get the most bang for your buck. Every exercise focuses on alignment and proper muscle engagement. You are not just powering through doing exercises and 100 crunches. Instead you are doing 10 repetitions of one exercise. You are striving for proper form, proper muscle engagement.
But you are never really there. You can always lengthen your legs a bit more. You can always lift your chest a little higher. That’s what I love about it. You are always working and challenging those muscles. I fell in love with it because I saw results so fast because of that. You are actually using the proper muscles with proper timing and engagement.
You can get an hour of forced exercise in 10 minutes of intentional, precise, Pilates movement. In addition to that it is a mind to muscle connection. Because you are thinking about your form, your breath, what muscle, you are constantly thinking about what you are doing.
Essentially, you get the benefits of meditation while working out because you are focused. You are not doing Pilates right if you are just going through the motions and thinking about your to-do list. Instead you are thinking about your breath and your movements so when you are done, you feel surprisingly rejuvenated and energized every time. You literally get a high because you have trained your body and your mind at the same time.
ALLIE: That makes total sense. Thank you for clarifying that. I have always wondered about that.
What’s a way that you would say we could be active throughout our normal day routine. I know you said just focusing on the 10-minutes. Are there certain exercises that you will do anywhere? I started to do squats while I am waiting for my espresso machine to make the coffee because it takes forever. Unfortunately, I found that I can get in 45 good squats, so now every morning I am dying. We both work from home on a computer and we sit often. Is there anything that you would suggest like that. Maybe if you are not even in workout clothes.
ROBIN: First of all, I workout in non-workout clothes all of the time. I work out in dresses all of the time. We just have to overcome those excuses. We can’t be Pinterest people all of the time.
ALLIE: That was such a hard shift for me, but that’s how it needs to be so we can actually fit it in.
ROBIN: The big thing is that you don’t sweat that much with Pilates. When my kids were little and we would hang out on the floor, I would sneak in some ab exercises that I know from Pilates, or a few planks. I used to do that all of the time. Also, take the kids out to ride their bike or their tricycle, and I would get a walk in. And I do a lot during bath time. Bath time is gold.
ALLIE: Well, they’re contained. Any time the kids are contained is great.
One of my goals with this podcast is to get women to actually do things. Anyone can listen, get inspired, and think they are going to do that, but I really want them to do it. I think that was really helpful.
ROBIN: In a season of life where you are having trouble just getting those workouts in, I just commit to do pushups and maybe a plank every night before bed. Then if nothing else, that consistency adds up. You would be so surprised. Sometimes it’s just that simple.
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ALLIE: Ok, so let’s circle back to food before we wrap up. What is it like feeding your family healthy? What is your rule of thumb or go to? How do you handle healthy with kids and yourself?
ROBIN: We have always had an extra challenge because we are trying to work through some food allergies. For that reason, we have been forced to be really intentional. We can’t wing it that much because we always have to have something on hand for my son. He is off gluten, dairy, and all nuts. That’s pretty much everything.
At some point since I have been breastfeeding for the last five years, we have been on some kind of restrictive diet. That has really forced me to be a planner, to plan ahead. To make sure that we always have the kitchen stocked with options for everyone.
Pretty much every time we leave the house, I have a snack and waters. If we go to restaurants with my son, we have to have something for him because he can’t eat anything there. I would say in that way, just getting in that habit of always having a stocked kitchen with your healthy go-tos that your kids love. Always think one step ahead with what you might want to have on hand. That has been huge and helpful with keeping the kids fairly healthy. We are getting to the point with my daughter of trying to balance healthy food and not healthy food.
ALLIE: I can relate to that. My daughter has realized we have a scale now in the bathroom. She got on it one day and said, “Oh, 60, is that normal? Should I eat less?” We ended up having a really good conversation about food not being good or bad, but everything in moderation. It is such a hard balance with girls. Bella just turned 9 yesterday and it is so hard. I think what you just said is a good way to come at it. I feel like we could do a separate episode about girls and food.
ROBIN: You’re ahead of me in that. Your daughter has more of an awareness of that than mine.
One of the things we are doing (I honestly think this is from Sesame Street) we talk about what are the “all the time foods” and what are the “sometime foods.” If you follow me on Instagram you might think my kids eat all healthy, all of the time. That is not true. To me, I don’t want them growing up totally restricted in their life. We eat like normal kids sometimes. We use that “all of the time foods” and “sometime foods.” For example, apples are an “all the time food.” The gummy fruit snacks are a “sometime foods”. We are using that and trying to get away from that good/bad.
ALLIE: How do you do meal planning in your house?
ROBIN: Our routine is I will typically do it Sunday mornings. I write out Sunday through Thursday, breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. I pick a meal for each day. I figure after Thursday, we will figure it out. We will either eat leftovers or do take out because by Friday night I am ready for a break. Then I write down what I need to get and go to the grocery store on Sunday and stock up the house. Then ideally, if I can, I will come home and wash all the fruits and veggies, prep a meal or two and something that I can use for lunches. Something that I can grab and go – chicken salad, Lentil salad, egg salad.
In my four-week programs, this is the stuff that I really teach, what this looks like practically. We all do it together. I will do live videos from my kitchen. This is definitely something I have perfected over the years. It has become my world.
ALLIE: It is so helpful to talk with you about this. What do you do for breakfast? Any ideas?
ROBIN: I do a lot of eggs because they are healthy. It literally takes 3 minutes. With breakfast, I think “how can I throw in some nutrients?” Eggs are a great way. I throw in some spinach or peppers. Smoothies, because you can sneak in all kinds of things – greens, protein powder, chia seeds. Both are quick and packed with nutrients. And both put you in a great frame of mind. Rather than having a bowl of cereal while you are running out the door.
ALLIE: That’s the thing - you take in so many bad things but you never really get full.
ROBIN: That is the chemistry in our body. That’s something that I also teach in my programs. When you start your day with something that is more protein, fat, and good carbs heavy, you will stay more stable the rest of the day. I know when I have cereal in the morning that I will be more hungry the rest of the day. That’s just our bodies responding to what we eat. Having that protein and fat in the morning, less sugar, is going to help me all the way until bedtime.
ALLIE: What’s your take on coffee and caffeine?
ROBIN: I am a decaffeinated coffee drinker. I went through a season in my life where I really struggled with anxiety. It’s pretty paralyzing. When I went through that, I made some dietary changes and one of them was trying to eat more proteins and fats to keep my blood sugar and my mood stable. That had a huge impact to make sure I didn’t get that “sugar drop” during the day. I also cut out caffeine. I never really thought I was affected by caffeine because I wasn’t jittery or anything like that. But I noticed a huge difference in my ability to handle my anxiety and stress when I took out caffeine. I think that and being pregnant and breastfeeding, I never went back. But I don’t think caffeine is bad in moderation. Your coffee in the morning is not going to make or break your health or your weight unless you are doing the frappuccino with whip every morning.
Have your coffee. That’s not going to make or break you.
ALLIE: I used to have coffee with cream and sweetener. I would go and get the pumps at Starbucks and buy them for the house, but I got myself all the way down to eventually having black coffee. But then the acidity started to mess with my teeth and my stomach. Now I do a dot of raw cream and it’s fine. But I enjoy having something in the morning and in the middle of the day.
ROBIN: I think we all have our things like that. You just have to know what things in our lives we hold onto and balance that out in other ways.
ALLIE: Thank you so much! Where can people connect with you deeper?
ROBIN: My website it thebalancedlifeonline.com. There you will find my blog which has links to Youtube workouts, resources, articles. Then I am on Instagram quite a bit. @thebalancedlife. I run three Pilates challenges throughout the year. It’s a good way to give it a try. There is always a way to give it a try and get involved. Then you can decide if the membership feels like a good fit and something you would like to try.
ALLIE: We will link to everything that Robin mentioned and her Sisterhood.
This was an episode of The Purpose Show. Thank you so much for tuning in. If you are ready to uplevel and really take action on the things I talk about on my show, head to alliecasazza.com for free downloads, courses, classes and to learn more about what the next step might look like for you. I am always rooting for you. See ya next time!