Guest Post: Amy Hardison Finds Her New Groove

Guest Post: Amy Hardison Finds Her New Groove

Dance Lessons For Grownups (1)


Like many adult women, my former client/now friend Amy Hardison took dance lessons as a child. Unlike most adult women, Amy has continued to dance.  Instead of toiling away in a gym or pounding the pavement running, Amy maintains her fitness in a creative, expressive fashion flying around the dance floor.  I’ve always been a tremendous proponent of finding fitness by doing what you love.  Read on for Amy’s story of rediscovering the joys of dancing.

As long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed dancing. Though I was not a huge fan of the ballet classes my mom enrolled me in when I was five, the experience sparked a lifelong interest in dancing.  Over the years I continued taking tap and jazz classes, joined a dance team, and even helped teach younger kids as I got into high school.  There was always some kind of performance coming up – the Christmas parade, or the talent show, or one of many recitals.  And, of course, the costumes!

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My first introduction to dance as an adult was through a friend from high school whose mom performed with a country western dance team. Watching her dance, I was hooked.  The idea that I could learn partner dances and dance with other like-minded people was very appealing.


I started taking classes and learning about the local dance scene near my then-home in Washington, DC.  I tried a little bit of everything – west coast swing, two-step, carolina shag, salsa & merengue – but I was really drawn to west coast swing.  I attended local dances, travelled to competitions up and down the east coast, and even went on a swing dance cruise organized by a number of champion dancers. I found the dancing fun and the dance community engaging.

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When the dot-com bubble burst in early 2001, I quit my job and decided to drive halfway across the country to move to Austin, Texas.  I made new dance friends in Austin, traveled to competitions in Texas, and even joined a performance team for a short stint. I met my husband in late 2003, and given that he wasn’t terribly interested in the dance scene, I started dancing less frequently.  


We got married in June of 2006, and I started focusing more and more on my career.  I contented myself with being a dance spectator at local performances and fulfilling my dance cravings with any type of exercise class I could find that had some choreography.  Although my husband agreed to (and participated in) a two-step class for a few months, his love of dance didn’t match mine. I admit it was partially my fault – I was pretty critical of him during the class.  


A few months later, I found out I was pregnant with our first child.  And so began our life as parents, and the familiar effect of all of said parents’ outside interests falling to the wayside.  Add in the second child a few years later, and my dance card was now filled with playdates, birthday parties, and playgrounds.


As I settled into my new role as a mom of two, I decided that I needed something for myself, once a week.  A friend was teaching dance classes on Tuesday nights, and after conferring with her about my background and rekindled interest, I headed out for what would become my new Tuesday night routine.


Though I don’t remember everything from that first night, I do remember being completely intimidated about going back after such a long hiatus.  What a relief that everyone was so friendly!  After the class there was also a dance, and a couple of advanced dancers asked me to dance and invited me to an upcoming event.  I immediately felt welcome in the community.  Not only was it a fun physical and creative outlet, it was (and is) great for me to socialize with people of different backgrounds and at various life stages.  


At first, I was so grateful to have an outlet that I thought I’d be content to just stay in the same class and go out every Tuesday.  But as time went on and there was more talk of competition, I wanted to improve.  There’s a competition in Austin every January, and I decided to go.  At that competition, I saw one of my classmates perform a dance routine with our teacher, and it blew my mind.  All I could think was “I want to do that too!”


When my husband and I went out for our wedding anniversary that June, and he asked me what I wanted for my upcoming birthday, I told him that I wanted to do a routine with my teacher at the next year’s competition.  Several weeks later, my teacher (who must have ESP) suggested that we enter a pro-am event together.  


The process started with us meeting once a week for a lesson to polish my social dance skills.  This was probably the hardest part, as there were so many technical things to fix that I wondered if I would ever be ready for a competition.  At the same time, we chose a song for our routine, and my teachers started choreographing it.  As I watched video of the pros performing the routine, I remember thinking, “Oh yeah, I can do that; that’s easy”.  


But let me tell you: once I started learning the choreography, it was anything but easy! 


About a month before the competition, we started practicing about eight hours a week.  I would watch the videos of our practice and think about how terrible I looked. I was really scared about performing.  As time went on and we practiced more, I got more comfortable with it.  With diligent practice and feedback from other dance teachers–and despite schedule challenges– we kept our focus on the event.


I also kept reminding myself: why am I doing this? I wanted to have fun and challenge myself while rediscovering that I can still enjoy things from my younger life.  Perfection was never the objective.


The 2 ½ minute performance was a total blur.  I remember being very nervous and stiff at the beginning, but then someone hollered supportively in response to one of my moves, and that loosened me up for the rest of the routine.  In the end, I made a few minor mistakes, but  I couldn’t have been happier when we were done.  And evidently the judges were impressed, too, as we placed second out of ten couples.


As it turns out, the end-point of the competition was really just the beginning!  With the feedback we received about our performance, we’re making a few minor changes,  and we’ll be performing our routine at several more competitions throughout the year.  And so the process continues.


I have learned that making space in your life for something that you really enjoy is incredibly beneficial. I spent too much of my married and parenting life thinking about why something I wanted wouldn’t work, or why the next step was too arduous.   But when I took the first step, I remembered how much fun it was to let loose and dance.


We’re Now Running On Balance

We’re Now Running On Balance

For several years I have had Move blog to self-hosted site on my to-do list.

This year, it got promoted to my goals list.

And now, here we are!

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Thanks to all of you who have followed onbalance for so many years.  Here at Running On Balance I’ll be writing the same types of posts, trying to keep a mix of practical workouts, essays about topical news articles relating to fit family life, notes on my training, vignettes from my real life, and general musings about health and wellness.

If you’re not already a subscriber, please follow me either by email notifications or in your RSS feed.  Posting at Running On Balance will happen on Mondays, most Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  It’s always my goal to share words of wellness and inspire you to bring balance into your life.

Good health and great happiness to you!



Camping in the Village

Camping in the Village


Last week a woman who was just starting out on her entrepreneurial journey asked a group of seasoned mompreneurs what their Number One Challenge was when launching a business.  Nearly without exception, each mom replied: “Reliable childcare.”

For many women (myself included), starting her own business was fueled by the desire to have a flexible schedule.  Rather than working in a traditional job with traditional hours, the flexibility can (ideally) allow women to have more satisfying work-life balance.

You know, that old unicorn you’ve heard so much about.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes every single villager to get the moms through Summer vacation.  While many of us designed our work lives with the intentional benefit of having more time with our children, school holidays throw a real wrench into the finely-tuned works.  It’s impossible to keep the work side of life moving forward and be a full-time parent and 24/7 entertainer, referee, chef, chauffeur, and snuggler to each child. As someone with three kids at three very different stages (preschool, elementary, and adolescent), I kind of want to tear my hair out trying to do the algebra of how I can keep them all safe, happy, and motivated in the summer while I’m working my odd-hours job.

Enter Nurture My Child, and Austin-based resource that presents a single site to help families find options for all of their child-related camp, class, and childcare needs.  The database is updated consistently and is the only place where a large majority of camps in Austin and the surrounding areas are listed and families can search by multiple criteria like activities, schedule, location, or ages.  The ease of use and reliability of information takes a lot of the investigative drudgery out of the parents’ hands.

If you’re in my village of Austin, put Sunday, February 28, 1-5pm  on your calendar.  Nurture My Child will host the annual Austin Summer Camp Fair at Norris Conference Center in north-central Austin.  Come by and meet representatives from Austin’s “best of” camps, including The Thinkery, Kidventure, Creative Action, Ballet Austin, and the Art Garage— there’s something for every kid!

This kid-friendly event will include booths from over 70 local camps, arranged by location of venue.  Two thumbs up from this mom who is more than willing to give her kid any great opportunity….so long as it doesn’t require a soul-beating, traffic-laden commute.

So as you’re pulling together your summer plans (I know it’s only January, but you can’t say you aren’t already starting to plan….), know that Nurture My Child can make your life easier.  Invite them in to your village, and let your kids go camping.

I was invited to attend a blogger’s launch of Nurture My Child.  I received no compensation for my time, and all opinions are my own.


Giveaway: The Trail of Lights

Giveaway: The Trail of Lights


When I was in grad school at The University of Texas in the mid-1990s, I let my roommate talk me in to going to the Trail of Lights.  I remember being grouchy most of the night, smooshed in a heaving mass of humanity shuffling slowly through the cold winter night.  It wasn’t my favorite thing ever.  I kind of wondered why everyone else in Austin loved the Trail of Lights so much.

This Austin holiday tradition in the heart of the city started in 1965 and has grown into a much-beloved event by generations of Austinites.  The annual transformation of Zilker Park into the illuminated trail is as must-do for some families each December as any other holiday tradition.  Despite my family calling Austin home for the last 11 years, we had never been to The Trail of Lights.  Truth be told: my disdain for cold and crowds had kept us away.

Until this year….

With a glorious weather forecast (mid-50s) and an invitation to a blogger’s preview night, I decided it was time to make my long-awaited return and introduce my family to the Trail of Lights.


That photo was taken by a volunteer, whose job is to be a “photo helper.”  How great is that?  (But how sad is it that this is one of only two photos of our family of five from ALL YEAR?!)  I was impressed by the friendly, helpful, and festively dressed volunteers throughout the Trail.

All it took was that one opening tunnel for my kids to decide this was going to be cooooool!  They loved the freedom of being outside and able to run from scene to scene.  I was thankful we were having a festive night out that didn’t involve eating sugary treats (and we even got some exercise!).

As a family, we were impressed by the bursts of color, the wrapped trees, and the creative displays.  Each vignette was sponsored by a business or organization, such as:

UT Austin (What starts here changes the world):


Travis County EMS:


Maudie’s Tex-Mex’s Jackalope:


Our family’s favorite stretch of the trail was the City of Austin’s Bat Cave:


There were also some fun giveaways along The Trail, which is something rare (but appreciated) at events like this.

Big Top Candy Shop had some cute candy machines the delivered peppermints and were staffed by sweet high school students:


And HEB had a super cute book train where each child received an age-appropriate book from a friendly HEB employee:


The food vendors weren’t open during our preview, but the token machines were humming with folks who wanted to ride the rides.  We didn’t ride the ferris wheel or carousel.  Honestly, the kids were enjoying the lights so much they didn’t even beg or complain.  Score!

And now I must admit something:  I was wrong about the Trail of Lights!  I now understand why so many Austinites love the Trail.  It is an honest-to-goodness fun family night out.  We enjoyed a beautiful, festive evening.  The Trail was just the right length– even The Stowaway (age 4) walked the whole thing (including to and from the car) without complaining.  What a treat to have a family activity that people of all ability levels can enjoy.

Mea culpa! If the good people of Austin Parks & Recreation and Trail of Lights Foundation and the presenting-sponsor HEB will forgive me for staying away so long, I’d love to come back with my family again next year.


How about you?  Want to go to the Trail of Lights?

GIVEAWAY (NOW CLOSED):  Congratulations, Amy!  You are the winner!

I have one FREE ZiP Fast Pass entry into the Trail of Lights, good for any night of the 2015 Trail of Lights.  The ZiP Fast Pass allows access to the trail starting at 6pm (before regular entry at 7pm) and access to the Home Away VIP lounge with cookies and hot cocoa.

If you’d like to be entered into the GIVEAWAY for the ZiP Fast Pass, leave a comment telling me what your favorite part of the Trail is, or what looks like the most fun to you.

This giveaway is open through Tuesday at 9am Austin time.  I’ll contact the winner and arrange delivery of the ZiP Fast Pass to you.  Good luck!

Thanks to HomeAway for sponsoring the giveaway and the blogger preview event I attended last night.



School’s Out For The Summer!

School’s Out For The Summer!


It’s the last day of school today!

The Monkey is wrapping up 3rd grade, and The Bear is finishing 6th grade.   I’m pleased to report that is was a fabulously drama-free school year.   The Monkey had a great year, reveling in his goofy kid-ness while doing well in his classes and keeping his energy focused on recess.  😉  He had a super awesome teacher this year.  He’s the kind of guy you wish every 8 year old boy could have as a role model: thoughtful, fair, kind, and unwavering in his expectation of excellence from the kids.  In fact, he’s such an inspiring teacher that I did something I’ve never done before (and swore I would never undertake), and I made a t-shirt quilt out of his old school t-shirts as a thank you gift.  The Monkey is so excited to present it to his teacher today.


The Bear really enjoyed his first year of middle school, especially his fine arts courses of theater arts and beginning band.  He’s a super strong math and science kid, so to see him enjoy the arts so much– while still doing well in his academic classes– was a real thrill.  So now he’s 1/3 of the way through middle school– how fast was that?!

Yesterday was the last day of school for The Stowaway.  And what’s the best thing to do to celebrate the end of the school year when you’re a four-year-old?  Going to a fairy tea party, of course!


We have an awesome independent toy store here in Austin, Terra Toys, and they throw this fabulous FREE fairy tea party at the beginning of summer.  My favorite fairy and I have gone the last two years, and it’s such an adorably magical afternoon.  Just the right way to kick off summer!

There are conversations forthcoming about summer chores and daily reading goals and daily activities, but for now, I choose to pause and take a deep breath of gratitude.  For all those teachers and volunteers who put in hours of work to help me raise inquisitive, socially-aware children, I am grateful.

Happy Summer, Y’all!

P.S.  If you’re looking for a way to keep your kids active and healthy this summer, check out our elementary school’s Summer MVP program.

Healthy Holidays

Healthy Holidays


It’s mid-December.  Are you running around like crazy?

I’m doing pretty well.  My tree isn’t up (that pic is from last year), no presents have been bought (it’s the grandparents who load up on the gifts for the kids), and the weather in Austin can’t decide whether it’s festively cold or unseasonably warm.  I’m still feeling the peace and joy, though.

In this season of often doing too much, I remind myself that sometimes it’s good to say ‘no’ and just enjoy a little downtime.

In that spirit, today’s blog post is a rerun of an oldie but goodie.

From 2009, I give you my best tips for a Healthy Holiday season.  It’s a survival guide for party goers and party throwers.  Take 2 minutes and give it a look.

Then enjoy some deep breathing before you leap back into your day.