Local company She.Is.Beautiful works to empower women with races and Self Transformation Day.
The most surreal part of my weekend occurred around 2 p.m. last Saturday, when I found myself in a room with some 75 women, dancing to the song “Walking on Sunshine.”
“See what happens when we do that?” shouts Dana Damara when the song ends, the breathless yoga instructor and woman responsible for making us dance in the first place.
Hearts pumping, out of breath, we all feel what she’s talking about—joy. “You should be living in joy every day, make time for it!” she says. Damara is in the middle of a lecture on “showing up for your own life,” and she is one of several charismatic, badass women leading us through the first-ever Self Transformation Day, put on by She.Is.Beautiful at Cabrillo’s Precision Wellness.
“The event was really inspired by my passion to encourage women to truly be in their bodies, not just in their heads,” says Melissa McConville, 29, who founded She.Is.Beautiful in 2011. “I feel like we go through life so quickly, and we get so much information all the time that we get caught up in it so easily. Taking a day to just focus on ourselves is important.”
Throughout the day we learn to eat healthier (and feed our kids better) with Joy Smith of Joy’s Kitchen, who explains phytochemicals, superfoods and other sexy plan-ahead nutrition tactics. A woman next to me confesses that her oldest son is overweight and pre-diabetic, and always complains there is no food in the house, and Smith tells us how she asks her own son to “just hold” a packet of carrots when she picks him up from school—and sure enough, he always eats them. We learn smoothie recipes with a dose of Ayurvedic wisdom from Talya Lutzker of Talya’s Kitchen, and sweat through a morning workout with Jenny Schatzle of the Jenny Schatzle program—who later delivers a juicy seminar on shedding our “toxic anchors”—from sugar and alcohol dependencies to being a “people pleaser.” It’s one of those “today is the first day of the rest of your life” days, and no one leaves uninspired to reach their healthiest and happiest potential.
I, too, left walking on sunshine, and—among a few other personal resolutions—determined to run the 10K and 5K She.Is.Beautiful Race, which takes place on March 22 on West Cliff Drive. The event is now entering its fifth year, and growing fast—when McConville started the race in 2011, 500 ladies signed up. It’s already the second largest local race after the Wharf to Wharf, with 6,000 running last year.
“I always saw my parents run, so I grew up around running, and I saw them coming back from their runs always feeling so good, and they always had much more energy than when they left,” says McConville, who grew up in Santa Cruz.
But it was watching her mother in particular that made her decide to try running as a teenager. “The connection that she had with her body just seemed so different than my friends’ moms; she was just really confident, and she took really good care of her body. But not in the way that she was on a diet or worried about it. It was like a tool for her, not an image.”
Wanting to share the empowering strength of running, McConville connected with the Walnut Avenue Women’s Center (WAWC), and over the past four years She.Is.Beautiful has donated $20,000 to the center, which helps women in times of crisis, including domestic violence. For the second year in a row, the WAWC has started a training team with 19 participants, with Fleet Feet in Aptos donating a new pair of running shoes to each.
“As the race progressed, I’ve realized that a lot of the women that come to the race, whether they are involved with WAWC or not, everyone is struggling with something. It’s just so amazing to see all these women come out, they’re just so empowered that day,” says McConville. “I think they walk away stronger and more inspired whether or not it was their best race ever or their first time putting on their race shoes.”
PHOTO: Santa Cruz-born Melissa McConville at her company’s first Self Transformation Day, just a couple months before the next She.Is.Beautiful Race. CHIP SCHEUER