Meet Tami Reilly, mom of two, fitness guru, mentor, yogi, foodie, and our February Runit mom! This awesome woman had so much to offer I had a hard time editing down the interview to make it look more like a blog post than a dissertation. Please read on to hear what she had to say.
Tami’s Runitlikeamom Run-Down:
* I have two kids, Ellis who just turned 22 and Savanna who is 19.
* My main job is Associate Athletic Director for Fitness and Wellness at Quinnipiac University. My “side gig” in my fitness life is as master instructor for a company called Mad Dogg Athletics. They own Spinning®, Peak Pilates, and several other companies.
* On my own I still like to run, I love to practice yoga. I’ve been in fitness for about 20 years, so I’ve taught a lot of different things. I currently mostly teach Spinning® and yoga.
* My short-term fitness goal? Well, I’m old now, haha…I remember when I wanted to run a half marathon, and then saying “I want to run a marathon before the end of the year” and I did that. Now it’s more reminding myself to do things that are still hard. Like, using the TRX (wondering what that is? I was too, check it out here). And reminding myself to go to the gym, because you know, you do the same stuff over and over and you can get tired of it. So you have to find something new to get excited about, that makes you want to go. I think you always need some kind of a goal, but it doesn’t have to be huge.
* One funny thing I always remember is Savanna in the bathroom with me and she pulled out a tampon and said, “Ma, what’s this thing for? Does it make you pee straighter?” and still every time I see one I think, yea, that’s what that does. I also remember (this is more of a funny thing they did, not said) a day I was in the shower and Ellis was very attentively watching his hunker-ducky-dinger-jamboree (or whatever he was addicted to in that moment) and Savanna was on the cabinets with a hammer – scaling the cabinets with the hammer in her hands banging into things. Yea, she was crazy 😉
* If I were stranded on an island with my kids I would bring wine, my kindle (so I could load up a lot of books), and maybe a kayak – something that we would all enjoy together.
* My favorite indulgence is the beach and a book. I just love that, always and forever…the melody of the ocean and that salty smell.
I know you travel a lot and incorporate fitness with a strong focus on women and healthy lifestyle. How did that come about? Can you give us an example of some work you’ve done abroad?
Sometimes I do travel for the fitness stuff – I’ve presented in Jamaica and Bermuda, Europe, etc as a subcontractor…The other travel is through Quinnipiac. It’s not part of my job but service is a big component on campus and so I’m really fortunate that my direct boss allows me to do this. We weave the idea of wellness into these communities we’re working in – they’re indigenous, impoverished communities. Mostly I’ve been in Latin America, one thing in Barbados. That was really cool – it was a women’s professional development and wellness retreat…this organization picked 30-40 women who were targeted as potential victims of domestic violence. So through the shelter and this women’s association and the university, I did sessions on meditation and some on self-esteem, we collected business clothes and set-up a store for them to shop in, taught them how to do interviews, balance a check-book, a variety of things.
I’m in with a nice little group. My friend is the chair of the physical therapy department and the trips that I go on are typically with her kids – PT’s and OT’s (physical therapists and occupational therapists). We have two communities we work in and we’re with the families every day. It really is a family affair – the mother and all of her children come so it becomes more holistic wellness as opposed to just “treating the patient.” We do home visits too.
What is your degree in?
My undergrad is in Sociology and Anthropology and my graduate is in Professional Leadership. And then I have certifications for my fitness stuff.
I’m just thinking about all the things you’ve done, and wondering what your background was to make it happen? Or was it just how things unfolded?
For me, I’ve always been obsessed with different cultures and learning about different people and I’ve always had a fascination with that and I love to travel. I think because of that I’ve just been open to a lot of things. Some people are nervous about going into a community and not living in the best of conditions or they’re worried about what they’re going to eat and if there are bugs – and I’m not making light of it – for some people they know they can’t do that. For me, I wouldn’t want those things to get in the way of the experience.
You have to be open. There is also a ton of stuff that you can do here (in the U.S.)- there is always someone in need.
Fitness is such a big part of who you are and you have all of these different outlets for it. What would you say to someone, either older or with young kids, who wants to incorporate a fitness activity into their routine?
First I would say that our society as a whole says, “Tomorrow I’m going to be healthy and new and go to the gym every day and eat well!” and that’s not the way you do it. When I first started I would get 30 minute workout videos because it was just me with the kids. I would set out toys and enough things on the floor so I could get through a video. And if I could do that three times a week that was it. And then I started to like more (activities), and the kids grew, and I started teaching and then the kids would go to the Y while I taught a class. I just added a little at a time.
We’re not good, we’re not patient with ourselves. So I would say patience is number one – remember that often we go into it because of the physical piece, which is huge, especially as a new mom. Your body just never feels like it will be yours again or it just doesn’t feel “normal.” But really it’s about your peace of mind. So realizing that even if it ends up being 15 minutes that day, it’s ok.
We tend to just beat ourselves up, we are so “all and nothing.” But 15 minutes during the holiday season is a lot of time when you’ve got a million things – you’re working and worried about the kids and so women (this is from my years of running gyms), would tend to just not go to the gym because they didn’t have time. But you have time for 15 or 20 minutes. Even if you’re not going to the gym, something for yourself, remembering that is important.
The other thing I always did was to keep an exercise journal and I would write down what I did. Sometimes at the end of the week I would feel like I didn’t do anything, but when I looked back I would say, “Oh I did this, this and this! That’s awesome! I did get it in!” It wasn’t “I burned 24 calories” it was more that when I went back I could see how long I had been doing it and that was awesome.
I would also add, that not only do you journal but you reflect on it. For example,”I felt like crap when I first started doing this and I hated every minute of my 20 minute run. And now I just ran 30 minutes and it’s not so bad!” Reflection is an important piece of the growth and development, and as adults no one reminds us of that.
You said you still teach yoga and Spinning®. What do you say to people who say they can’t do yoga?
The biggest thing I get is, “I can’t do yoga – I’m not flexible.” But that’s the person who needs yoga. We think of yoga as a practice, really life is a practice, everything we do…there’s always something you can improve on. So the person who says they’re not flexible…that’s what they need to get out of the class. But if other people say, “my mind races” or “I like to sweat” they just haven’t found the yoga class that is right for them yet. I just encourage them to shop around because there is yoga for everybody…As a teacher I teach to who is in front of me. How I teach the men’s lacrosse team two days before a game is different from when I’m working with indigenous women in Guatemala and we have to do chair yoga because they’re all in skirts. What I’m bringing them is completely different.
So if you go to a class and you didn’t like the pace of it, or you didn’t like the heat, just try another class because something is going to click and be what works, and then from there you will grow with it.
Any other advice you would like to add?
Always be a student…and I don’t necessarily mean take an academic class, but find that thing you’re curious about and explore it, on whatever level. For me, as a Yogi, I am a student when I’m on the mat. It’s exploration, getting rid of judgment and just seeing where I am. That is so important, that whole piece, and I guess I would tell people to do that sooner. I didn’t have that as much earlier on. I was such a physical fitness person – I needed to sweat…I needed to run 20 miles that day. And now it’s become less of the physical. I remember one of my yoga instructors saying, “Oh just you wait” and I thought, “I’ll never be like that!” and now I totally see how it has shifted and how you need to be fed in other ways….I can now see the benefits of being the student of life and observing what’s happening inside of you.
The above is just a portion of the great things Tami had to share, so I’ve pulled a few quotes I found inspiring from the remainder of our conversation. I hope you do too.
On finding her job: As I got into fitness I just knew that I wanted to teach, I wanted to share that…help somebody else. You know…writing, sharing, working out…whatever it is that makes you feel good you just want to share it.
On being an empty nester: The hardest thing about being a mom is when all of a sudden, no one needs you. And you think “Crap! This is what I’ve done!” Even if you still have your job…something didn’t feel complete for me, so the service work has been an opportunity for me to give selflessly.
I’m doing it because I can and that’s what you do as a mom – you make those banana pancakes when they’re home visiting and you have to go to work and you don’t have time…because you still can.
On maintaining family traditions: I still make them suffer through a Christmas card. They ask me when I will let them stop and I say never!
Thank you, Tami Reilly, for being our February Runit Mom of the Month!
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