When I was asked to write this blog post, I was deeply humbled and grateful for the opportunity, but also frightened because I certainly don’t consider myself an expert in growth. I’m very much on a journey full of challenges and struggles peppered with successes and failures along the way. So instead of writing it on the spot, I spent three months thinking about and meditating on growth from my perspective at the Renaissance Theatre, as a young mother/wife, and as a woman trying to figure out how she fits into the world. This is what I’ve learned:
1. Growth happens gradually
I’m not big on New Year’s Resolutions, but I believe in the value of self-reflection and goal setting. The holidays afford me the time to reflect and assess, so I set a few goals for myself that coincided with New Year’s. At the time, these goals seemed really lofty – I wanted to improve my overall health and train for a 5K. Context: I’d never run more than a mile in my entire life and my baby was 3 weeks old when I set this goal. In fact, I’m not even certain I’d run a whole mile start to finish – I always found a way to get out of running in high school gym class.
Little by little, day by day, I’ve made small changes. I purchased a gym membership and started going a few times per week. I started logging my food every day, even if I blew my calorie goal. I started small – spending a few minutes on the elliptical, or going to a yoga class, and eventually dared to step on the treadmill. I found something to distract me while running that felt like a reward. I started addressing my negative self-talk and turned off the negative voice telling me that “I am not a runner. I cannot do this.” Yesterday was the first time I braved running outside, off a treadmill, something I’d feared because I didn’t believe I could do it – I didn’t expect to love it so much. Daily, small choices that are easily made are making bigger life changes like tiny grains of sand in an hourglass. I haven’t achieved my goal yet, but I’m growing and soon I will.
2. Sometimes growth is painful
When I was a little girl, I vividly recall my mom massaging my shins while I cried – they ached terribly at night and within a couple of days I would be a little bit taller. Growing pains happen when you’re growing fast – and sometimes the pain requires that others come alongside you to help you through.
Last weekend I picked up a pair of pruning shears and went after the overgrowth in my flowerbeds. I am the world’s worst gardener – I am the grim reaper when it comes to plants – but on the occasional Saturday morning I convince myself I’m amazing and I dare to prune, replant, separate, and plant. Sometimes it’s successful.
Anyway, I was reading about pruning (after I had hacked the ever-loving daylights out of the bushes in front of my house) and I learned that while pruning is essential to the health and appearance of a plant, it first wounds the plant. The plant’s response to the wound is what helps it to fill out and reshape so well. As I was pruning, I said to my husband about a dozen times, “I’m certain I’m killing this plant. It will never recover. Will you be upset if this one dies? Oh gosh, I’m sure that was one cut too many!” Pruning is scary, and necessary.
3. We measure growth by milestones
Every time I take my 3 year old into the doctor’s office for her well visit, I fib. If you haven’t taken a child for a well visit before, or if it’s been awhile, let me tell you how this plays out: you go into the exam room and the nurse checks the child’s vitals and then asks you a barrage of questions about the child’s developmental milestones. Without fail, I’ll be taken by total surprise by a question like, “Does she know she’s a girl?” or “Can she stand on her head and recite the Pledge of Allegiance?” so I fib and say, “Yes, of course she can do that,” and I figure we’ll teach her to do that thing when we get home since I missed the Well Visit Study Guide.
The doctor’s office is just trying to check in to measure the child’s growth, of course, because it’s impossible to assess my child without surveying her milestones. As a parent, I do this too, of course, but my milestones are sometimes different from the doctor’s: when that sweet little sleeper is too small, or my daughter surprises me by politely asking for something using a complete sentence, or when I see a picture from a year ago and realize how much older she looks.
As we’ve experienced growth at the Renaissance, we are witnessing the milestones that indicate a resurgence of the arts and culture in our region: new faces, new collaborations, a major shift in our community’s conversation, an improved tone in the media, debt reduction, new projects… it goes on and on.
The sorts of things that we think are growth are actually the milestones. Growth is happening gradually, behind the scenes, slowly knitting our community together as the staff works late to make something really great, or a family decides to spend their day downtown, or a child feels accepted by their new friends at rehearsal, or a couple shares a laugh together in our lobby.
Colleen Cook has been on the staff of the Renaissance Performing Arts Association since 2012, first as the Director of Development and currently as the Director of Marketing and Communications. Before coming to the Renaissance, Colleen obtained her masters degree in Arts Administration at Shenandoah Conservatory, where she also completed graduate work in Contemporary Commercial Voice Pedagogy. Colleen spends her free time involved with the Richland Young Professionals, the Mansfield/Richland Chamber of Commerce, the Ashland Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Park Street Brethren Church. She enjoys cooking, reading great books, and traveling with her husband, Mike, and 2 daughters, Eloise and Coralie.
May is the month of growth. The grass is lengthening, the daffodils and tulips are blooming, and the trees are leafing out. Like most of us, I feel greater joy when I see the sun shining, hear the birds singing, and I know that another winter has passed.
Growth can take many forms, in this case, building a career in fitness. For this month’s Mind Body Align blog post, I spoke with Carrie Aquino, founder of Evolve Barre, Yoga, Pilates. Carrie’s story is about transformational growth, both as a woman entrepreneur and as a person.
Carrie started teaching step aerobics at 19.
She pursued multiple fitness certifications in Group Fitness, Pilates, Yoga, Barre, and Broga. My conversation with Carrie was refreshing in that I could hear many of my own experiences and beliefs. Carrie shared, “We came to Lexington to be closer to family, and after instructing a couple times a week, classes quickly filled, driving me to offer more.” When she reached nine classes a week, Carrie committed her full-time effort to building a business and career in fitness.
Carrie saw opportunity to bring a modern studio and quality instruction to the area, and she was candid about her approach, “I was too shy to open my own business right away.” She started by renting space from other fitness facilities, including the back room garage of Peak Fitness, where she taught yoga classes. She then left Peak to teach Barre classes. “I came into the area at the right time because Barre wasn’t here yet. It was good timing, as a small business owner, to get in on something that had not bloomed here.”
Carrie opened Evolve in 2014 when Dr. Douglas Darr, a Bellville chiropractor, wanted a yoga studio in his building. Evolve was originally designed with the female population in mind. “My goal was a clean, professional and welcoming studio with quality instruction. Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘Love what you do and you never have to work a day in your life?’ That’s me!
I don’t see it as work.
I love my job and what it does for others. Sometimes my clients laugh when I say, ‘it will be fun!’ To me, it is fun, I love every minute of the classes I teach, and I think that’s what helps to keep people motivated- an upbeat, fun atmosphere. That’s where I would want to work out.” After two years teaching in the area, the ground work was in place. Her vision and hard work met with success.
It wasn’t long before she outgrew the capacity of the Bellville location. A client offered to partner with her on a second location, and after a lot of contemplation and planning, Carrie transcended her initial fears. “I looked at all aspects,” she said. The addition of a partner was essential according to Carrie, and she added Alison Turnbaugh.“Alison has been a great addition in helping Evolve grow. I couldn’t have done it alone.” In October of 2015, she and Alison opened a second location.
One challenge was the addition of instructors to support the growth. She decided to hire people she knew very well. In fact, most of her instructors were clients first. “I watched them for a very long time before I asked them to be a part of the team. It’s very important to know the people that are going to be working closely with you.”
Another evolution of the business was adding yoga for men.
“I am the first officially certified Broga® Yoga instructor in this area and it has quickly become one of my favorite classes to teach. The guys have an easy going, laid back attitude that really creates an awesome vibe.”
To extend her reach, Carrie examined the possibility of offering a yearly membership. She decided to partner with local corporations, who will reimburse their employees for all or part of the annual fee. She also set out to build the market for her business. Carrie and her instructors joined a local Yoga Teachers Meetup Group. “The fitness industry can be very competitive. I would like to see how we can help one another. Even though we may offer the same thing, it’s not the same class. Let’s all work together.”
Carrie spoke candidly about some of her personal growth during the journey.
“I learned to stand up for myself. I learned how I want to treat people. And I ask myself, how do I want my team to feel? How can we all strengthen each other?”
Evolve Barre Yoga Pilates has two locations. Visit Carrie and her team at her Main Street location in Bellville, and in Mansfield at 1336 West 4th Street, next to North Central Golf.
Carrie A. Aquino is the Founder and Co-Owner of EVOLVE. She is Certified-bootybarre® and SCULPT®~Broga®Yoga, NETA Yoga Specialty Certification ~PiYo Live.
With over 14 years of instructing, a combination of yoga, pilates, BootyBarre and PiYo LIVE, she knows what it takes to keep you motivated and stick with it! Her workouts are fun, energetic and really work every muscle you want to tone!! Not to mention, its pretty addicting!! Her specialty is BootyBarre®! This class offers a flawless format, that is executed with precise, professional and easy to follow instruction making it accessible for all fitness levels. Combining light weights, resistance bands, balls and cardio, you will burn up to 600 calories in 60 minutes!!! Mixing up every class keeps you intrigued, yet using the same key words helps you learn the moves to be able to glide right through and guarantee you are working the right muscles safely!!!
She also loves sharing her passion with other like-minded instructors and training them to offer the best and most personable fitness classes around~Giving our clients a dependable, professional, and reputable staff to keep them motivated. After spending 8 years in the Columbus area, she is very excited to offer Bellville and Mansfield a fun and modern fitness option that gets results!
Annamarie Fernyak is the founder and CEO of Mind Body Align LLC based in Mansfield, Ohio. She is a certified life coach, mindfulness meditation teacher, and serial entrepreneur. The development of the MBAwareness Education Program was conceived while Annamarie was volunteering to teach mindfulness in a local middle school and found that the teachers and students were struggling to grow calm for their guest teacher, students seemed unable to pay focused attention, and the teachers were growing frustrated.
Annamarie’s focus was to create a program that would transform the lives of the students. She focused on hiring a licensed teacher to create and instruct the mindfulness-based social and emotional learning curriculums to elementary and secondary school students and teachers. Due to the challenges associated with global health concerns, Annamarie’s mindfulness education program is further now evolving into online mindfulness education focusing on teaching tools that reduce stress and support a life where people can feel more at ease. We also teach as a part of corporate wellness programs.
In 2017, Annamarie launched Align Mindfulness which is a FREE app downloadable from your app store that sends prompts a few times a day, bringing attention to what’s happening in your world. Intentionally simple, these reflections help you build a well-rounded “mindfulness” muscle by offering variety in where you place your awareness.