Practice gratitude: Simply put, our mood and mindset is directly connected to the thoughts we choose to entertain. How might your day/week/life change if you filled your thoughts with gratitude for what might be going right in your life. I bet that list is a bit longer than the list of what isn’t.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Farel B. Hruska. With nearly 20 years’ experience as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and educator, Farel is presently the Director of Education & Culture at Chuze Fitness. Farel also helped grow FIT4MOM from 2002–2018 as the Global Fitness Director and Pre/Postnatal Fitness Director. Hruska has presented at fitness conferences around the world including AFC (Bangkok), MEFIT PRO (Dubai and Egypt), IDEA China and US. Hruska has been featured on CNN, New York Times, WebMD, Women’s Running Magazine, and Pregnancy.com. Her most meaningful accomplishment, however, is being a mom to her three daughters.
Thank you so much for joining us! I’d love to begin by asking you to give us the backstory as to what brought you to this specific career path.
Thank you for the opportunity to connect and share my journey, as well as this incredible initiative with Chuze Fitness. I’ve been an athlete throughout my life so the love of fitness and wellness kind of runs through my veins. I have always known about the power of healthy living from a performance standpoint, however, it was when I became a mom that I truly understood healthy living as a form of self-care…and a really important one at that! My time in the fitness industry has been spent in personal training, group exercise, education, and building & leading teams. Joining the team at Chuze Fitness as the Director of Education and Culture was truly what those years led me to.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you hope that they might help people along their path to self-understanding or a better sense of wellbeing in their relationships?
I am deeply passionate about the overall mission that we live and breathe at Chuze Fitness and that is quite simply to put people first. Our newest initiative to bring that into the light is our “September Chuze Self-Care” rebrand for the month. We know that “self-care” means different things to different people, so we are simply elevating the conversation to prioritize whatever self-care means to you. We believe that when we put ourselves first, we can then impact others in a more meaningful way. When we care for ourselves, we can then mom or dad better, work better, live better, friend better.
Do you have a personal story that you can share with our readers about your struggles or successes along your journey of self-understanding and self-love? Was there ever a tipping point that triggered a change regarding your feelings of self-acceptance?
Absolutely! I truly believe that I almost lost myself in motherhood. It felt like the most noble and natural thing to do…put my kids first, over everything else…even me! They became my life. I made their needs the most important. I was raising humans, after all, and you do that, right? The dance to balance my needs became non-existent and I felt very spent. Lost. When a very good friend asked me if I was prioritizing myself the way that I would want my children to, my answer was a resounding “No”. So then, why was I putting myself low on my own list of priorities? I KNEW I had to take care of myself (body, mind and soul) so that they could see what self-acceptance, self-understanding and self-love looked like. It was my most important job to do so.
According to a recent study cited in Cosmopolitan, in the US, only about 28 percent of men and 26 percent of women are “very satisfied with their appearance.” Could you talk about what some of the causes might be, as well as the consequences?
Honestly, those percentages seem high to me. That’s sad to even type but I have talked to and heard from a lot of people over the years and self-love or even acceptance is what so many struggle with. There are a few things that I think lead to this and the first is social media. I know it’s said a lot but let me explain. Most social outlets have become people’s “highlight reel”. The images posted are the best of the best (and probably filtered). I’m on many of those social channels/outlets and I get it, it’s great to share the fun and beautiful stuff. What happens is then we are living in comparison and/or in the quest for likes. The second reason I think people don’t find self-acceptance or love is that it has become “selfish” or cocky to believe you are good looking/strong/funny/smart. We have been conditioned to downplay or criticize ourselves, instead of believing we might be worthy of self-love. The consequences of this thinking transpire into devaluing our impact, our validity and ultimately our sense of self. Through our self-care initiative at Chuze this month, we’re encouraging community members to share self-care tips on social media, with the hope of reminding people that there are resources out there, and that social media can in fact be a place to learn and grow for yourself. Especially if you’re intentional in your use and contribution.
As cheesy as it might sound to truly understand and “love yourself,” can you share with our readers a few reasons why it’s so important?
Not cheesy, at all! It’s actually “mission critical” to understand and love yourself. The impact you can potentially have with the people in your life, your work and the world around you is directly affected by how you see yourself. A self-critical, second guessing version of you won’t have the same effect on others that a confident, self-aware version of yourself. Taking time for you often gives others around you permission to do the same.
Why do you think people stay in mediocre relationships? What advice would you give to our readers regarding this?
Interesting question! I think what we tolerate is a reflection of possibly our conscious or subconscious self-worth. Maybe we stay in relationships, either personal or professional, because we don’t think we are worth better. When our awareness and self-worth is low, we then tolerate a less than wonderful relationship. We allow what we may deep down feel about ourselves. Our value needs to be looked at in the reflection of each of our relationships.
When I talk about self-love and understanding I don’t necessarily mean blindly loving and accepting ourselves the way we are. Many times self-understanding requires us to reflect and ask ourselves the tough questions, to realize perhaps where we need to make changes in ourselves to be better not only for ourselves but our relationships. What are some of those tough questions that will cut through the safe space of comfort we like to maintain, that our readers might want to ask themselves? Can you share an example of a time that you had to reflect and realize how you needed to make changes?
I think the biggest perspective gaining question is to think about what you would say to a friend in a similar situation? If you could look at your relationship or self-care from the outside, like if it was a friend, loved one or child, what advice would you give them? I have found myself thinking about that a lot with my children. I’d ask myself, “If this was my daughter thinking or feeling this, what would I tell her”? It gives me immediate clarity!
So many don’t really know how to be alone, or are afraid of it. How important is it for us to have, and practice, that capacity to truly be with ourselves and be alone (literally or metaphorically)?
It’s pretty important to slow down and be with yourself often, that can be pretty scary though. When we stay “busy” or with others, life can get noisy which stops us from being connected to ourselves. The noise, even if it’s beautiful noise (children, friends, life-giving work), is a barrier to grounding yourself. Many people keep their lives noisy on purpose (maybe even subconsciously) to avoid having to be still with ourselves. Sometimes that stillness can lead to us taking a look at ourselves and if that hasn’t been done or isn’t a practiced practice, it can feel scary.
At Chuze we created an option for our members to lock up their cell phones while they workout or get a hydro-massage up for this reason. Our members are voluntarily disconnecting in order to re-connect to themselves.
How does achieving a certain level of self-understanding and self-love then affect your ability to connect with and deepen your relationships with others?
Simply put, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. When our focus is constantly on pouring into others, we will eventually empty and then not have energy to give to those who matter in our world. The work we do and the people in our lives will benefit from the version of you that feels that self-love. When we take care of ourselves first we can then work better, parent better and friend better.
In your experience, what should a) individuals and b) society, do to help people better understand themselves and accept themselves?
At Chuze Fitness, we impact our communities by focusing on individuals. From a micro perspective by defining and demystifying Self Care and a marco perspective by ensuring that all who walk in and out our doors feel empowered and inspired to take on whatever challenge they may be facing…in fitness and life. We, as thought leaders in this space, need to articulate the importance of self-care and make it our mission to prioritize it.
What are 5 strategies that you implement to maintain your connection with and love for yourself, that our readers might learn from? Could you please give a story or example for each?
1. Make disconnecting from devices a priority: I made the decision to put my phone away when I hear the garage open and I know my husband or kids are coming in. I intentionally disconnect in order to connect with them. I also leave my phone out of my bedroom. I want to decide when I will respond to the world and not wake up in reaction-mode.
2. Engage with empathy: Instead of reacting in anger at the driver that may have cut you off, consider an alternative to this behavior. Could they be heading to the hospital for a loved one? It’s possible. I may never know the truth, however, I can sit with empathy instead of holding onto anger.
3. Get your toes in the sand: While a beach might not be available, this tip is about connecting with nature…however that looks for you. Step outside and take a few deep breaths, put your feet on the earth or simply feel the breeze/sunshine on your skin.
4. Move: I choose/Chuze to run. Whatever your preferred form of movement, do that. It could mean something as simple as a walk down the hallway of your office or as epic as a hike. Our bodies are meant to move so find what brings you joy and get moving!
5. Practice gratitude: Simply put, our mood and mindset is directly connected to the thoughts we choose to entertain. How might your day/week/life change if you filled your thoughts with gratitude for what might be going right in your life. I bet that list is a bit longer than the list of what isn’t.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources for self-psychology, intimacy, or relationships? What do you love about each one and how does it resonate with you?
To be honest, my favorite way to fill my free time (the time I make to self-reflect) with music or meditation. My go-to music changes based on my mood but enhances each situation tremendously! It honestly affects those around me, as well. A seemingly chaotic morning with my kids changes into us dancing and laughing as we get ready for school…It’s magic! A meditation app that I like because it’s simple and easy to use it “Calm”. I love the ease of use and it seems to reframe moments with a new perspective.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? Maybe we’ll inspire our readers to start it…
The movement I would inspire is that of self-love and awareness. Our ability to impact our work, our families, our communities and, ultimately, our world starts with the awareness of how we are showing up in life. Are we taking care of ourselves, inside and out, to then care for others? When you think about it, it feels less like a selfish act and more of a responsibility to those around us.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you use to guide yourself by?
Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life and how our readers might learn to live by it in theirs?
My life quote is “Be the change you wish to see in the world” by Mahatma Gandhi. This has always spoken to me as a guide in family, work, relationships and self-guidance. If we simply stopped and repeated these words, our actions could bring a world that we hope for, one decision at a time.
Thank you so much for your time and for your inspiring insights!