i want to breathei want to grind

Me First….Always.

February 28, 2017 — by Toni Carey1


I’m an empath, and I think I’ve known that since I was in elementary school. I remember walking through Wal-Mart with my mom, you know, just being a kid, and we walked down an aisle meeting another child, around my same age who was disabled. I immediately melted into tears. And while, I didn’t understand it at the time, I eventually realized that I have the unique ability to deeply feel energy and emotions, good and bad.

[Read: 30 Traits of an Empath: How to Know If You’re an Empath]

Growing up solitude was my best friend. While most people would consider me to be pretty popular, I really didn’t say much and my friends list was pretty much non-existent. Although “loner,” has so many bad  connotations, I was okay with doing my own thing.

In college, the perception was that I thought I was “better than everyone else,” but really, it all circled back to needing the space that I subconsciously understood was important to be operating at 100 percent. Most days it left me internally screaming, “Why am I like this?!?!”

Accepting the accusations that I was anti-social didn’t happen without some age under my belt. I continued to keep my circle small and avoided large gatherings unless I absolutely had to be there.

Although challenging, working in public relations helped me grasp this phenomena a little bit more, but launching Black Girls RUN! truly helped me uncover what was really going on.

After events or meet and greets, I’d leave feeling completely exhausted and depleted. It was literally as if all of my life force had been sucked out of my entire being. After a few days of rest and deep sleep, I’d feel back to normal, but at the height of our growth, the frequency of events and appearances increased so much that some weeks (and months) I was never able to really re-charge.

And then one day, I had an “ah ha” moment. My personal energy levels were directly influenced by the amount of external stimulation I experienced from situations and people.

I started to become even more aware of how I felt after leaving certain situations or being around people. But even more importantly, I started to make subtle shifts, eliminating circumstances and people that tended to drain my physical and mental energy.

Have you ever met someone and you were immediately turned off, but not sure why? Or have you walked in a room and immediately felt overwhelmed, trying to find the first excuse to escape?

This is your internal wisdom telling you to run! If only we would listen to that voice a little more.

But it’s more than tuning into the people or things that are energy suckers. Could it possibly be key to your success?

The article, Why Is It So Hard for Women to Be Selfish?, suggests that protecting yourself of these energy suckers is the major key to being successful. The author says,

I have always believed in adopting a giving attitude toward relationships. Never keep score. Expect the ebb and flow of changing life circumstances. But, especially during life’s most taxing periods, you must get a return on your investment in order to stay sane. As the saying goes, “Givers must set limits, because takers rarely do.”

It all comes down to setting limits and boundaries. Knowing when to give, but being honest about giving too much. When you can put in those few extra hours of work, or when you need to end the work day early. When you need to pass on a night out with your friends and when you should give yourself a day to do absolutely nothing but sit on the couch with a good movie.

It’s putting yourself first…..always.

i want to sweat

When hiking goes good [and bad]

December 12, 2016 — by Toni Carey0


I’m a novice when it comes to hiking. Sure, I’ve taking the occasional hike, mostly on a whim, during the warmer days of summer, when planning isn’t really necessary (or so I think). And, If I were to be 100 percent honest, planning is not my strongest attribute. I usually leave planning up to my husband, and just tag along for the ride.

When my husband and I relocated to Washington, D.C., we promised each other that, no matter what, we’d make hiking and camping part of our regular routine. We would, never again, take our access to beautiful outdoor spaces for granted. After all, we had already missed out on the grandeur of the Smoky Mountains and Appalachian Trail during our time in Atlanta. This time, we were going to do things differently.

About two weeks ago, we decided to head back to one of our favorite places in Virginia, Shenandoah National Park. The last time we visited was in the fall of September 2011, when we rented a cabin at the Skyland Lodge. The views from Skyline Drive were breathtaking and we were looking forward to visiting the park again. This time we opted to check out the north district of the park, just an hour outside of Washington, D.C. The weather forecast called for sunny skies and highs in the 70s in the District, so we put on a few layers and quickly packed to get take advantage of the beautiful weather.

An hour later, we arrived at the park gate, with overcast skies, brisk winds and low temps. We both looked at each other.

Him: Did you check the forecast?
Me: Um, no. Not for the park.

Despite a strong headwind, we trekked our way to the visitor’s center to get recommendations on a relatively short hike in to see something, anything. Having only packed a few extra layers, we knew it wasn’t going to be the longest nor the most pleasant hike we’ve ever had.


A few minutes later, we were back in our car, headed to the Compton Gap Trailhead with the wind rocking our SUV back and forth.

The most beautiful sight of the day.
The most beautiful sight of the day.

There were two suggested hikes at the trailhead. The first led to Compton Peak, a moderate 2.4 mile T-hike, with a 835-feet elevation gain that could be completed in 1 hour and 45 minutes.

The second, the Fort Windham Rocks, was significantly shorter at less than a mile round trip hike, taking just half an hour.

Since we were so underprepared, we set out for Fort Windham Rocks while muttering about all of the things we’d do differently next time.

Our sad directions. To do: Purchase a book of hiking trails.
Our sad directions. To do: Purchase a book of hiking trails.

About 30 minutes into the hike, barely a soul on trail with us, and pellets of hail spitting in our faces, we decided to turn back before the weather turned even more unfavorable. We never reached the rocks, and the day felt like a big letdown.

Can you tell I’m over it?

Lesson #1: Weather can turn at a drop of a dime. Take the time to do all of your research ahead of time, and most importantly check the weather….a few times.

A week after our epic fail of a hike, we visited Crowder’s Mountain State Park in Charlotte, N.C. on Black Friday. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, with highs in the mid-70s and bright blue skies.


There were tons of people (and dogs) on the trail, as if we all had telepathically agreed that we would all work off our Thanksgiving meals and #OptOutside to hike King’s Pinnacle. After a 2-miles hike in, we reached the top of the beautiful King’s Pinnacle overlooking Gaston County. It was the perfect view to end a moderately challenging trail.


We couldn’t have asked for a better day or view to round out the Thanksgiving holidays.


Lesson #2: A “terrible” hike can be followed by a hike that will absolutely take your breath away. If you’ve had one bad experience hiking, don’t let it prevent you from getting back out there.

I’ve heard it time, and time again. “I hate hiking because one time….” or “I’ll never go hiking again, because…..” So many people miss out on the outdoors because they’ve had one bad experience, or planning seems like too much. And the reality is, things won’t always go as planned…even when you’ve planned.

If you’re also new to hiking, I can’t stress the importance of being as prepared as you can be AND having an open mind. As much as I like “winging things,” hiking is not exactly a situation where you want to wing it. There are too many variables that can change too quickly, that can make for a good (or terrible) outing. In extreme situations, it could mean life or death.

But, on the flip side, every hike won’t deliver epic vistas or memorable sunsets. They also all won’t be “easy,” or free from challenges, detours or epic failures.

However, one thing is guaranteed. You’ll definitely have good stories to tell.

This is a sponsored post by REI, but all opinions are my own. REI partnered with bloggers, such as me, to get the word out about its retail locations and products. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. 

i want to breathe

Saving Your Relationship From Holiday & Family Stress

December 7, 2016 — by Toni Carey0


"So, today, I want to focus on creating a game plan for Thanksgiving. It may seem premature and silly, but believe me, I receive the most inquiries after Thanksgiving and Christmas. So, we're going to do the work now."

That was from our marriage counselor during our last session before the holiday season was in full throttle mode. It did sound silly, but I also knew how miserable and awkward family holiday gatherings could be with or without a significant other.

I’m pretty sure my husband and I aren’t the anomaly. We usually power through family gatherings like powering through a workout. It sucks getting to the gym, but we ultimately know it’s better for us….at least that’s the hope.

As we both began to explore our “game plan” for the looming holiday dinners, I discovered, that there wasn’t a need to “power through” them at all. With a few adjustments and more planning, visiting family could actually be, dare I say, relaxing and fun…..?

But first……

1.) Open your mind, and keep it there
First and foremost you have to have an open mind, and that can be tough if you’ve previously had bad experiences or interactions with family members. I remember one of my first holiday dinners with my husband, and the subject turned to politics. As the only liberal person in the room, I eventually got up from the table, went to another room and cried to keep my alter ego, Nino Brown, at bay. It was something that had stuck with me through the years and I refused to believe there were any good intentions behind the comments that I took very personally.

As we discussed how to set ourselves up for success, I had to acknowledge that I didn’t have an open mind, and more importantly, that I had given up on trying. And while I’d rather go head-to-head with a lioness with a slab of bacon wrapped around me, I had to take a leap of faith, open my heart and mind, and be vulnerable, with absolutely no expectations on the outcome.

2.) Be open and honest about what could go wrong
What could possibly be the worst thing that happens? Who wants to think about that! But, if Auntie Deborah is notorious for bringing up your previous love interests, you should probably discuss your collective response before you get there. Or if his family knows you’re a health nut and it becomes the topic of conversation (and not in a good way), then explain why it bothers you. Thinking of the worst case scenario takes away the anxiety and brings perspective to what you’re really up against.

3.) Understand what it takes to make you both feel comfortable
It’s hard to feel comfortable in someone else’s home unless they are the ultimate hostess with the most-ess. But typically there’s small things, that can make the experience a little less jarring. For example, should you both roll in pairs? (As an introvert, I hate being left alone with new people). Or, would you feel more comfortable pitching in to help with prepping for dinner? Whatever the case, discuss what would make it more comfortable for the both of you.

4.) Create a game plan
“So, I want you guys to come up with a secret phrase. If things get too intense, or either one of you needs to be ‘rescued,’ I want you to have a word or phrase that signals to the other person that you need help.” It was genius. Not only would it help communicate with each other in a discreet manner if things were getting out of hand, I’m not going to lie, it was pretty fun coming up with our go-to “safe word”. But with so much prep work and addressing the items above, we never needed to use it. 

5.) Schedule time alone
By day two of any family gathering, it can start to become emotionally draining. Between the excitement, the catching up, and being “on,” schedule a few hours to get away solo or together. This year we decided to go hiking the day after Thanksgiving and scheduled a romantic dinner alone later that evening. Granted we only were able to spend a few hours with the family, but we needed some time to check out from family and  the previous work week.

With just a little bit of planning and open communication, the holidays can truly be a time to enjoy family and friends, and most importantly your partner.

i want to breathe

What Happens When You Do 30 Days of Yoga

December 7, 2016 — by Toni Carey0


After making the transition from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. I was in desperate need of normalcy. Moving, life changes, work, it was all in flux and I knew that yoga was the constant that kept me grounded and focused when I needed it the most. Not only that, but my physician and ayurvedic health specialist and long recommended subbing out running for regular yoga or tai chi due to adrenal fatigue (more on that later). Even though we didn't really have a place to live yet, I knew that my first and foremost priority had to be finding a new yoga studio.

After making the transition from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. I was in desperate need of normalcy. Moving, life changes, work… it was all in flux and I knew that yoga was the constant that kept me grounded and focused when I needed it the most. Not only that,  but my physician and ayurvedic health specialist had long recommended subbing out running for regular yoga or tai chi due to adrenal fatigue (more on that later). Even though we didn’t really have a place to live yet, I knew that my first and foremost priority had to be finding a new yoga studio.

It wasn’t long before I stumbled upon a studio within walking distance of our temporary home, and lucky for me, they were offering a new student special. $49 for unlimited yoga for 30 days. Not a bad deal. It was just the thing I needed to finally establish a regular yoga routine. Plus, I couldn’t quite remember having done anything for 30 days straight. What can I say? I get easily distracted.  But, I was committed. I was on a mission to do yoga every day for 30 days.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t hit my goal of 30 days, but I came VERY close, and frankly, it was the most consistent I’ve been with any type of workout in a while.

Although I didn’t make it to the mat every day, I was still quite impressed with the tangible benefits of consistently practicing.
Now, I’m not going to paint a super rosy picture about my experience. It was far from the beautiful, graceful and elegant pictures you see of yogis on Instagram. Between Chaturangas (low planks) and Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (pigeon pose), by day six, I felt like I had been training for a marathon instead of practicing yoga. Some days my body cooperated, and some days I resorted to child’s pose. Some days were easy, and many days, I just couldn’t will my body into doing what I wanted it to do. Intense? Yes. Amazing? Yes. Frustrating? Not in the very least bit.

But it’s worth mentioning here that this idea (your body may not always “cooperate”) is one of the foundations of yoga and that’s why you’ll often hear yogis refer to yoga as a “practice”.

There is no “nailing yoga” the first time around. Some days your body will bend and twist. other days it won’t.

The point is that the more you do it, the more your body will transform. You just have to practice, practice, practice, both literally and figuratively.

Can you remember the last time you felt pure joy? I’m not talking about the fake stuff. Happiness, deep down in your soul. It may sound corny, but by the end of the first week, it’s exactly how I felt. I’m not an overly happy person and I certainly can’t remember the last time I felt “joy”. (Trust me, there’s a difference between happiness and joy).  But on a random day, while walking home from yoga, I noticed something odd. Not only did I feel amazing, but I had a huge smile on my face to prove it.

“The opposite of [such] conditional happiness is unconditional happiness, a state that allows us to find contentment in any situation, whether we are uncomfortable in a yoga pose or stuck in a traffic jam. When we let go of our narrow idea of happiness and open ourselves to all experiences, we take the first step toward santosha (contentment). One of the guiding principles of classical yoga philosophy, santosha has been described as a ‘peaceful kind of happiness in which one rests without desires.'”  

Numerous studies have shown that santosha isn’t some yogic philosophy, yoga does have the ability to increase feelings of happiness. By being present, deep breathing,  and taking “power poses,” it all ads up to one blissed-out hour of going deep and unearthing what truly makes you happy. (Another spoiler alert: happiness can only be found on the inside.)

[Read: Be Happier with Seven Minutes of Yoga]

And last but, not least, I experienced a greater sense of clarity and groundedness. I can’t contribute this all to yoga, because I meditate on the daily, but decision making became a little easier, I was more in tune with my greater sense of purpose, and I was able to think more strategically both personally and professionally. It was like the antidote to cure my living in a perpetual state of entrepreneurial fog.

If you’ve ever considered yoga, give it a chance. I can’t say that you’ll love it right out of the gate, but I bet if you give it time, you’ll find your own reasons why it’ll become part of your self-care.

i want to sweat

From the ATL to the District

December 5, 2016 — by Toni Carey0


There’s two things you should know about me. I love the outdoors and I love food. It’s the reason why I’ve called Atlanta home for the past three years. Okay, not the only reason, but you get the point. There’s plenty of reasons why I love Atlanta and those three years can simply be summed up by miles and miles of hiking, biking, running and brunching. Atlanta may be a lot of things, but boring it not one of them. Let me paint a quick picture for you.

The city boasts numerous amounts of green spaces and parks such as Piedmont Park (dubbed the “Central Park of the South”) and Stone Mountain Park, known for its trails and attractions, while recently making national headlines with the development of its “glorified sidewalk,” the Atlanta Beltline. Not only is Atlanta just a short drive to Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains, it also hosts the largest 10K road race in the WORLD. If running, hiking and camping aren’t your thing, in just a few hours you can retreat to the beaches of Savannah, Georgia, where you might even explore a haunted house or two.

But, I can’t stop there. I can’t not mention the nationally renowned chefs and restaurateurs that have made “the A” home.

Outdoors, plus, food, equals a match made in heaven.

So, when my family made the decision to move to Washington, D.C., you can imagine my angst. At first glance, D.C., doesn’t have much to offer except politics, the television show Scandal, real life scandals, and general uncertainty about statehood versus being the District of Columbia.

Basically, Washington, D.C. and I had nothing in common.

But, while the city doesn’t flaunt itself as the place for people who love the outdoors, I very quickly realized that while it may have a lot of secrets, the biggest just might be it’s the perfect place if you love the outdoors.

I’m not an easy person to impress, but with just a few weeks under my belt, I’m already enjoying the current and future opportunities to get outside and play.

So, just what IS the big deal??

Capital Bike Share

It’s hard to miss the stations of red bikes sprinkled across the city. From southern Maryland to Northern Virginia, the Capital Bike Share system is one of the most convenient ways to commute and explore the city. For as little as $2 a ride, bikes are easy to pick up and drop off at your destination, or if you like, you can rent a bike for the entire day. The bike share’s website and other mobile apps make it relatively easy to find a station near you for a no-fuss way to get from here to there.

Walk Scores Count

Although finding housing in Washington, D.C. can prove to be quite the challenge, thanks to companies like Walk Score, it’s easier than ever to determine whether or not a neighborhood is pedestrian friendly, and ultimately a good fit for your lifestyle. The higher the score, the less you need to rely on having a car. (FYI, if you’re living  in Washington, DC proper, you may simply forfeit having a car at all. Finding and paying for parking can be brutal). If you’re like me and take every opportunity to get outdoors (even if it’s just to buy groceries), walk scores are a super convenient way to determine whether or not a neighborhood is walkable or bikeable.  

The Running Scene [& Scenery]

Like any running fanatic, when I travel, I unconsciously scope out good running routes and paths. Like, “Hm! This would be a good bridge to run” or “Huh. I wonder how long it would take me to run up this hill.”  Before we officially relocated, we spent a week exploring the area and my spidey senses were on full alert to size up how my running life would play out in this new city. Just a few miles into our drive from the airport  to our first stop via the George Washington Parkway, tons of runners and cyclists were taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather as they ran along the Mount Vernon Trail. In fact, The Trust for Public Land’s Park Score Index ranks Washington, D.C. as having the third best system of parks in the country (based on acreage, facilities and investment, and access). Atlanta is ranked 51.

Mountains or Beach? You choose.

If you could live near the mountains or the beach, which would you choose? Tough one, right? Well, if live in Washington, DC, it’s a decision you won’t be forced to make. One-fourth of the Appalachian Trail runs through Virginia, and Virginia Beach is just a few hours away.  You can literally have the best of both worlds, it just depends on what you’re in the mood for.

Get Your Row On…

I’ve always been intrigued with rowing and row clubs, and there’s plenty of it to go around. You can find both in Washington, D.C., Southern Maryland and Northern Virginia with training and programs for novice and advanced rowers, alike. I’m already thinking about spring.

…Or Hit The Slopes

But, I’m also thinking about snow. Learning to ski, has also been on my bucket list and I’m committed to hit the slopes this winter. If you are short on time, you can be skiing the fresh pow in around 90 minutes. If you have a little bit more time on your hands, head to one of the more popular resorts, like Snowshoe Mountain Resort. Hailed as one of the largest resorts in the Mid-Atlantic, it’s just 4 ½ short hours from the nation’s capital.

As a home grown Southerner, Atlanta will always hold a special place in my heart. But, I’m looking forward to the opportunities and adventures that living in Washington, D.C. will bring. Look for more of my adventures in the weeks to come, as I dive head first into making the District home.

This is a sponsored post by REI, but all opinions are my own. REI partnered with bloggers, such as me, to get the word out about its retail locations and products. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. 

i want to breathei want to grindi want to sweat

[Keeping] Balanced

December 1, 2016 — by Toni Carey0


Are you [Keeping] Balanced?

First, let me start by confessing that this project is long overdue. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a while, but life, fear, the need to be perfect, and a host of other lame reasons has kept this space at the edge my consciousness. Periodically, the universe would send signs or messages reminding me that I have a lot more to offer the world, but I’d find some way to side-step the calling and give myself 99 reasons why, at that moment, the time wasn’t right.

Well, you can only ignore the signs, messages, etc. for so long, plus after losing my job, I figured, what do I really have to lose. So, here I am and here we go.

Welcome to Keeping Balanced. Earlier this year, my husband, Kris (who you will hear a lot about, and occasionally hear from), sent me an article, Work, Sleep, Family, Fitness, or Friends: Pick 3, lovingly called the “entrepreneur’s dilemma by Randi Zuckerberg.

The idea is, that at any given time, you’re only able to focus on three things: work, sleep, family, fitness or friends. As I read the article, I knew immediately, what my top three were. I texted Kris.

“Sleep, Work, Fitness. I’m Sorry.”

His response?

“I know.”

See, here’s the thing. “Balance” is something I struggle with. I’m the “go hard or go home” type of girl. With work, I dive head first, working obsessively until I realize I haven’t pee’ed for 12 hours. With running, I’ll take a few weeks of training off, then jump back in with 5 milers and two-a-days, instead of easing back into my regular workout routine. And sleep…..I mean, I love sleep. Not much else to say about that.

As I proceeded to have a pity party because family and friends were nowhere near a priority for me, I realized Randi was absolutely correct. Certainly, for entrepreneurs, it’s impossible to have enough energy to to meet the demands of building a business, while prioritizing family, friends, catching zzz’s and health. But, my guess was it wasn’t just a challenge that entrepreneurs faced. I saw it over-and-over again with members of Black Girls RUN!, friends and family. There are simply too many things to do, with not enough time. So, byeeeeeeee family and friends. You’ll understand, right?

As my pity party continued, I finally settled on the big question. Is there such a thing as work/life balance? Heck any type of balance really? And if so, how do I best achieve that for myself?

Thus, Keeping Balanced was born. Now, I’m not proclaiming to have this down to a science, and I’m certainly still on a quest to define (and constantly redefining), what “balance” really means in all aspects of my life. But more importantly, how can I help others find this for themselves. If the demands of the world aren’t going to change, how can we still live our best lives with the cards we’ve been dealt?

Mind blow, right?

Here’s what I do know. The answers won’t be easy, and it will take some trial and error. But no one ever said that that wouldn’t be the case.

With Keeping Balanced, my goal is to share my learnings, experiences, failures, and successes with authenticity (I may drop an F bomb here or there), transparency (I’ll probably talk about my poop), and a little bit of humor (okay, maybe a lot) to help you find the balance in your life, while introducing you to concepts, theories, studies, products and people to help you gain even more clarity and actively pursue your own journey to keeping balanced.

If this sounds like you’re type of party, I invite you to come along as we all walk the tightrope to keeping balanced.

xo –


i want to breathei want to grind

Note To Self

December 24, 2014 — by Toni Carey0


Note to self: Graciously welcome closed doors.

ood truck asymmetrical Schlitz, Brooklyn hashtag Truffaut jean shorts umami authentic cold-pressed. Retro chillwave fanny pack, swag street art selfies sartorial distillery. Blog brunch Portland beard chia. Odd Future drinking vinegar letterpress hashtag, bespoke chia butcher shabby chic kogi keytar scenester.