Inside the space where models have been getting Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show fit since early last year, you’ll find another angel—Dogpound instructor and MICHI Brand Ambassador, Dara Hart. The “petite powerhouse” lives and trains with a bare-knuckled approach rooted in the philosophy that, “healthy living through movement, strength training and mindfulness will not only make you fit, but will reflect your inner power and confidence.” Whether you’ve beat the odds against ditching your New Year's resolutions, or you need to counter(punch) negative habits, we weighed in with Dara for some strategies to unapologetically increase strength that you can start right now. Read on for the trainer's advice on setting goals, putting them into action and challenging your body and mind this year.
UP YOUR GOAL GAME
“The most important thing is to be consistent with your goals. Consistency is key, so set goals that are achievable. You can’t be too hard on yourself, so set your goals in increments to reach them. Create small goals and work on achieving them. These small goals will become small victories, and over time you’ll find you’ve created new healthy habits. Don’t overload yourself with too many changes all at once. But most importantly, don’t concentrate on failure. If you slip, it isn’t the end of the world. Focus on how quickly you get back on the right track. One bad day isn’t going to change anything—it’s the consecutive days that will create a habit, both good or bad.”
ONE MOVE AT A TIME
“First, figure out what your goals are. Whether it’s adding more strength training, altering your diet or creating a new mindfulness practice. Second, have them visible to you. Physically write them down—on your phone, on your mirror, on your fridge—make sure your goals are written somewhere you can see them. I hang mine on the fridge. Third, make a plan and make sure it’s attainable. Don’t set a goal to workout five days a week if your schedule won’t allow for it. Finally, set a date for when you hope to reach your goals. This isn’t a be-all-end-all, but rather a way you can keep yourself inspired. Check days off the calendar.”
DIVERSIFY YOUR WORKOUTS
“If you’re seeking a new fitness challenge, create a routine. Whether it’s strength training and cardio both 2 to 3 times a week if you’re a beginner, or two-a-days (with alternating strength training and cardio in the morning and evening) 4 to 6 days a week for the advanced, having a routine that you stick to is important. And then, mix it up. Create diversity in your fitness routine by adding a new skill or sport, a group fitness class, yoga or even something completely outside of your comfort zone. You’ll find that learning a new fitness skill is definitely challenging, and will work your body and your mind in new and different ways. Getting through a challenging workout—any workout really—is an accomplishment. Being stronger than you were yesterday is empowering.”
OCCUPY MORE SPACE
“Don’t worry so much about what others think of you. Don’t apologize unless the situation really warrants it. Women sometimes have this tendency to say ‘I’m sorry’ when they don’t need to—I know I do. So stop apologizing! We spend a lot of our day trying to stay out of the way, making ourselves smaller. It's ok to take up space! We smile a lot, even when we don’t feel like smiling. Express yourself honestly. I’ve found that studying self-defense has helped me to not only be physically strong, but mentally strong. You can start there. Take some traditional boxing, kick-boxing, mixed martial arts or krav maga. Do the things that make you feel powerful.”
CHANNEL YOUR ZEN
“Being mindful means that you are paying attention to every moment. When you aren’t worrying about the 'what ifs', or the stresses or the day, and are focused on the moment, you have an incredible opportunity to get to know yourself. Accepting your feelings, regardless of whether they are positive or negative, is probably the hardest thing you can do. A daily mindfulness practice—whatever that looks like for you (for me, it’s meditative yoga)—can help you quiet your mind and de-stress your life. This is a huge challenge for me. It’s super hard. Trying to accept all of my feelings—excitement, anger, stress, anxiety, even happiness—can be really difficult, but knowing that I can take a stressful situation, whether emotional or physical, and turn it into a learning experience and then a positive experience, is super empowering. This is something I'm personally working on—and it’s really f***ing hard!”
Setting intentions and taking actions towards becoming stronger can increase feelings of empowerment, whether you’re aiming to reach a new fitness goal, form a habit or integrate mindfulness into your routine. In Dara’s words, “When you set a goal and then work to achieve it, you are not only taking action, but you’re taking responsibility for yourself. You are deciding who you want to be. That’s something to be proud of right there. Trying to improve yourself or your quality of life—to make yourself a better person, a stronger person, whatever it is—is empowering. It isn’t about perfection, but simply accessing yourself and recognizing what works and what doesn’t work. If it doesn’t work, work to change it".
How are you challenging yourself to get stronger this year? Tag #MoveWithMichi
Photography: Jake Rosenberg