Active Pup

Detective Leonard Briscoe Johnson. My pup. My super active pup. His second birthday is in October, and he is still very much a puppy. Boykin Spaniels live to be up to 15 years old, so they must just really enjoy their puppy-hoods, right? I keep hearing that he’ll be more mature at age two. And, I’ve said from the beginning as a joke (as the truth is said in jest) that “he’ll be a great dog when he’s four.”

AarikaActive Pup
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Ride the Wave

Per the quest to try new things in fitness and wellness, I have discovered a zen-ful place – WaveRoom Yoga in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I first learned of this studio from a former YMCA colleague Lori Skerjanz. She is the owner, entrepreneur and visioneer. She is also incredibly busy selling her brain-child, patent-pending product The Ravi, a heavy yoga blanket for practice and therapeutic use.

AarikaRide the Wave
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Aging: Part 3

I accept that I am older! Part 3 is about understanding the angst that merely the idea of aging brings to our lives. The key is finding contentment in where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going.  😉

A friend of mine has been 30 for a few months, and she recently admitted it was weighing on her. My response was, “Shut up. I’m 32.” In essence… I’m older, so if you say you are struggling with being old that makes me EXTRA OLD. But, I almost immediately regretted the statement.

I can’t write off aging like “woe is me / woe is all of us.” That’s not my style. I had to acknowledge that I felt that way too, that turning the big 3-0 was tougher than I imagined, that I still wonder if I’m doing well enough, if I’m as wise as I should be.

You have to ask why. Why do we get all bent out of shape with age 30? What significance does it really hold? Isn’t age merely a number?

I suppose 30 is THE AGE we are fearful of as we all approach. It’s the age that children reference as “old.” Literature, movies and music present a skewed reality. Industry and the workplace are certainly agist. Science says the body starts to decay at age 30 and keeps us fearful of reproductive decline and disease.

Top of the heap… Age 30 may be the “official adulthood” of recent generations. It’s the benchmark we achieve and then review our stats.

  • Domesticity – Partner, pets, kids, house?
  • Ownership – Property, cars, boats, furniture?
  • Liquidity – Travel, dining, apparel?
  • Work – Steady job, real career?
  • Fulfillment – Love, peace, joy?

Whoa, I did not mean to make matters worse right there. It’s just mind-blowing what all you start to measure about yourself, gauging if you have lived up to potential and if you are succeeding.

Anyway, the connotation means nothing. The real meaning of being a thirty-something is in the eye of the beholder. Take comfort in the rationale and positivity I am about the spread!

#1 A few of my own happy thoughts…

32 Years Young > I am taking great care of myself and have a goal to live to 100. I have 68 glorious years to go.

You Are As Young As You Feel > Yes, siree, I agree with this. It really shouldn’t matter what my birth certificate says or what I look like, if I feel like a spring chicken at heart.

Young As Your Heart Age > This quantifier has been all the rage in medicine today. “Heart age” refers to your body’s physical fitness. Movement is the fountain of youth.

#2 Some famous insights…

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” — George Bernard Shaw

“Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.” — David Bowie

“My face carries all my memories. Why would I erase them?” — Diane Von Furstenberg

( More quotes about aging from Senior Planet >> )

#3 To end with another personal story, this one more heartening…

When I was 10 years old, I was over at my grandparents’ house. My Papaw and I had walked to take the trash can up to the road. Headed back toward the house, and gleefully young, I asked Papaw if he wanted to race. He said, “Sure, first one to the house wins!” On our marks… Get set… Go!

We took off full force. Papaw on the inside. Me on the outside. I had a great stride, and I cut over to tag the corner of the house. I startled Papaw, and he tripped and fell down. I was so ashamed I hurt my grandfather. He got up okay, brushed off. We discussed the “house” finish line in detail – he thinking we were to just run past the house and I thinking we needed to touch the house.

We hugged, and no harm done. He said, “I know I’m 65, but (pointing at head) I still feel 45.” That exchange has always stuck with me, and means a lot more as I get older.

*This photo is from my wedding two years ago, about two months before I visited the dermatologist.


AarikaAging: Part 3
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Aging: Part 2

Welcome to the new anti-aging regime! Part 2 is about the information I gained with much research and testing. It’s still a very personal experience, but I hope I can make all you old people’s lives a bit easier.  😉

Yes, I got the Retin-A Micro. The instructions said to use it every day, or every other day if causing irritation. Well, my sensitive skin was not a huge fan. Using the prescription cream, my face got really red, felt dry and peeled later. For cell turnover, the price is kind of looking like a hot mess. I used at night before bed. But the next day, even a slight amount of sun exposure would burn the baby skin. I determined I would only use such a strong retinol twice per week.

This did not feel like an all-encompassing approach to anti-aging. So I went in search of more details about what my skin needed to be rejuvenated and protected.

I did not become an MD overnight. However, I did spend a multitude of hours online reading every article from experts on the subject. Day after day I was curious about something else – beauty myths, what a TV commercial promoted, the stuff in my products I couldn’t pronounce. I basically realized that all my old products were doing diddly-squat.

Next, I bought several items to try. The initial testing of each lasted weeks or months, depending on what it was for and the quantity – cleanser, lotion, serum, etc. I am not rich nor a wasteful person. I used every drop in my experimentation.

Overall, I surmise… Quality counts. Consistency pays off. Maintenance is way better than overhaul.

I may one day resort to Botox. But for now, I’m satisfied with topical solutions. What follows are my own opinions on skin care. Take with a grain of salt!


  1. Learn and form an opinion about what your skin needs.
  2. Remember your list of ingredients, what you’re looking for.
  3. Take time to read product labels. Seriously, all of them.
  4. Buy and try until you find products that fit you.


  • Hyaluronic Acid (moisturizing / look for “hyalu”)
  • Ceramides (cell bonding / look for “mides”)
  • Retinol (cell reproduction / look for “retin”)
  • Neuropeptides (cell functioning / look for “peptide”)
  • Vitamin C (brightening & tightening / a.k.a. “ascorbic acid”)
  • Vitamin E (antioxidant / a.k.a. “tocopherol”)


> Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Serum (day)

> EltaMD Renew Eye Gel (day)

> CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream (night)

> Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum (night)


There is a difference in products for eye area. They are made with special ingredients – not harmful or irritating to the eye, and usually a consistency that can be gently applied to avoid rubbing or tugging of delicate skin.

Sometimes I mix products for my own concoctions, like adding a bit of argan oil to a Vitamin C serum to prevent drying.

In an effort to minimize forehead activity, I began doing facial exercises. Holding the forehead muscles still while moving other parts of the face to condition the whole situation!

I also began watching myself in the mirror during the daily beauty routine – to prevent lifting my brow and squishing wrinkles for no reason while combing my hair, brushing my teeth, applying mascara and more!


AarikaAging: Part 2
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Aging: Part 1

I just had a birthday. I turned 32. Each year I think about the same thing now – getting older. It’s about time I write about my journey. So I decided it should be a three-part series of humor, research and enlightenment.

Don’t tread on my ego! Part 1 is a funny story about my thirtieth birthday, that all my close peeps know because I never miss an opportunity to tell of the shock and to get any scrap of affirmation about looking young.  😉

Upon turning 30, I felt an inclination of responsibility. There are certain things a person must now do in life when reaching this ripe age, no? I decided to go to the dermatologist for the first time ever and get a skin check. I got a recommendation for a local, reputable specialist and scheduled.

At the appointment, I did like the doctor’s personality. I explained why I was there – concern over early years of sun damage, new moles, preventing cancer. I was all geared up, swathed in the medical gown, for a thorough inspection.

First blow… The doctor quickly perused. “Hmm, hmm, hmm. Nah, you’re good.” I’m sure I made a disconcerted face because I felt barely observed. She simply said my skin looked fine, and that new moles will continue to appear until well into my forties, so no need to worry. (I guess she was saying she would not take my skin checks seriously, nor would I be at risk for cancer, until after I turn 40???!!!)

I was getting over the laissez-faire assessment and considering, “Cool, no issues. Great news.” When she began with the second blow…

Doctor: “I hope you won’t be upset. And I don’t normally say this, but in your case I feel there is a noticeable need. Or, I wouldn’t say it.

Me: “Okay.”

Doctor: “You have a very expressive face, and that’s awesome. But you also have a very active forehead. It moves a lot, and, unfortunately, that is creating premature wrinkles. See… [hands me a mirror]

Doctor: “Have you ever considered Botox? We do that here.”

Me: “I’m not saying I would never try Botox. But can I just start with a cream or something?”

Doctor: “Yeah, I can write you a prescription. But it really won’t stop the muscles from moving and doing damage, ya know?

Me: “Well, I would like to try that first.”

I left that office baffled and sad. Did she really say I needed Botox? I have a very active forehead? I have premature wrinkles? [sigh] [worry face] [cry]

My husband was incredibly kind to assure me that I was beautiful and look younger than I am and that he lost respect for that doctor and that she was only trying to sell some Botox. My family and friends were equally encouraging. I still got the Retin-A Micro at the drugstore within days.

I cannot even describe fully what an impact this encounter had on me turning 30. I have literally been talking about it for two years. Maybe I’m okay with aging in theory. But maybe I’m not okay with someone saying I look so old I need to inject botulism into my face to stop the deformity and hideousness!

I know. So Silly. I’m laughing now retelling this. (Oh, no, more lines!)

AarikaAging: Part 1
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Parts Unknown

I’m finally writing this. I hate that tragedy hit first. I dedicate this article to the late Anthony Bourdain, a man who inspired so many to seek and savor…

I joined my husband watching a random TV show on a Saturday morning. Hey, is that Anthony Bourdain? Hey, is that Charleston? What is this?

I didn’t know about the award-winning travelogue Parts Unknown until the explanation came. I knew the host, of course, from other work. I continued to watch and sip my coffee.

The episode was Charleston – instantly appealing, being South Carolina’s pride-n-joy. But soon I became fascinated. I grabbed a notebook from the kitchen to jot some thoughts down. Blog post in my future!

The big spark happened when Bourdain is talking with Glenn Roberts, visionary and founder of Anson Mills, who produce “handmade mill goods from organic heirloom grains.” Here’s my quick recap (as I found out, with even minimal research, that this could be enough material for a book)…

  • Roberts waxes poetically about the West African roots of southern food. Charleston is a pinpoint for this culinary heritage.
  • He states that the meaning of the phrase “soul food” really comes from a belief that food so good can awaken the soul.
  • He talks about the resurgence of nearly extinct varieties of grits, cornmeal, rice and flour, and how chefs in the lowcountry are now abundantly featuring these once-staples that lead to better tasting dishes and responsible, productive farming in the region.
  • He relates to the seed saving that slaves performed, a lost science and art today, but then a fundamental process for crop sustainability.
  • He ruminates about how much has changed in the food world in just the last 20 years – insight, interest and skill.
  • He names South Carolina as a pioneer, where the first nutrition laws in America were written. And he would have been remiss to not note the overwhelming health concerns in S.C. that led to such efforts.
  • He basically describes how processed foods were on the rise in the country but came late to the south. It seems like the era of mill villages and convenience was out of control. People went extremist with canned, packaged and frozen stuff. We took it too far.
  • He explores why southern food is the most “cartoonized.” Fried chicken and mashed potatoes. That anyone can close their eyes and picture some Looney Tunes version of what food represents us.

This was only a short segment of the show, mind you. But see how much I took away?! There’s power in understanding more about how we got here, and truly, how South Carolina is one of the poorest states on the health scale. Somewhere in that history has to be the answers for a better future. Perhaps all the “parts unknown” could help reveal a path.


“When you had your first forkful of proper rice, is there an instinct to go out and bludgeon the rest of the world into understanding what you had just come to understand?”  —  Bourdain questioning Roberts on what it feels like to discover Carolina Gold rice


AarikaParts Unknown
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Whole Fit Relaunch

In January 2014, I was doing major soul-searching about my career. I had a quality house and car and a solid, amazing romance going. They say when someone is no longer preoccupied with survival or love, the mind wanders to other worries.

I had been working since age 14, and along the way taking the necessary jobs. In high school, I worked towards college. In college, I worked towards the real world. Then, frankly, I took any credible job that would have me. I climbed the ladder with better and better job opportunities. Even though I dangled from a rung at times unsure if I would fall or jump off out of disgust, I was blessed.

It was imperative to move upwards, always. But there came this time when I was finally secure enough to look around, to ask existential questions. Determining a simple philosophy… If I’m going to spend one-third of my life working, it should be doing work that matters.

To make at least this part of a long story short… I decided that my biggest passion area was Health and Fitness. Health and Fitness, which are fundamentals of life for all humans, regardless of age, education, socioeconomic status, religion, race or gender. Health and Fitness, which have given me so much personal joy, that I wished to be a catalyst for change and to watch the ripple effect.

Now… I’m ready. My “first career” was in Communications. My “second career” was in Health and Fitness. I’ve been learning and exploring and honing and practicing. I’m blending every skill and experience for the Cause!

As of May 1, 2018, I relaunched my company Whole Fit, specializing in Wellness Marketing, Programming and Coaching. Why it works together…


What better way to help people than by helping businesses that help people? I believe branding and messaging are keys to opening minds about wellness, creating awareness and action.


Organizations prioritizing wellness will be the winners. Providing your group opportunities to lose weight, prevent disease and change behavior leads to healthy, happy people.


Knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things. The first step is education. The next step is continued accountability for the journey with eating well and exercising.

Wellness rules, and I am one person offering what I have to make a difference for you, your organization or your business. Soooooo… Check me out. Tell anyone and everyone. Call me if you have ideas!


AarikaWhole Fit Relaunch
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GX Thanks

Group Exercise has played a big role in my fitness life for about 14 years. I remember fondly my free access to the state-of-the-art “Strom” center as a student at USC. And, my goodness, I took advantage. That’s where I attended my first GX class – probably pilates. Then I was hooked forever.

All these years, I have participated like mad. There were times when I needed that setting and instructor to motivate me or I was just not going to exercise. As a seeker of variety, I’ve sampled almost every class type. Been ground up and spit out by the bootcamp instructors. Been soothed and flexed by the yoga instructors. Been thoroughly impressed with senior citizens that could outdo me.

I have been a personal trainer for about 4 years. It was not until my latest job that I ventured into group exercise instruction. Exhilarated with the new challenge, I still had to pace myself. I taught 1 class a week from August to December 2017. I taught 3 classes a week January to March 2018. Classes were Plyoga, Total Body and Pep Step.

The participants were my boos. I loved them all, grooving to my playlists, pushing to the max. I did it for them, right. They needed me, and the inspiration flowed both ways. But after only 3 months, I realized GX may not be my perpetual calling…

For one, I was having terrible body issues flare up. I did have a serious car accident last August that contributed. I was still not over some shoulder, back, hip ailments.

For two, I didn’t really get to baby my body in the process. Sure, I shared my journey with classes, but once adrenaline pumped I wasn’t so limited and aggravated things without knowing.

For three, it wasn’t about me. I was performing. I was on. I had to lead these eager folks in high kicks, lunges, planks and downward dogs. I could not be overly concerned with myself.

For four, the schedule was ambitious and demanding for me when I got up to teaching 3 days per week, back-to-back. The show must go on whether I was sore or sick or whatever. People relied on me, and my facility did not have a substitute. Eek!

For five, I realized how much time and care went into class preparation. I spent countless hours pooling music, writing routines, practicing and setting up the room.

For six, I spent many more hours promoting offerings, fulfilling registration and communicating with participants. Each class required tender attention. And, yes, I did want my boos to have access to me.

All this is to say… OMG, I DID NOT REALIZE WHAT GROUP EXERCISE INSTRUCTORS WERE CONTRIBUTING. I did not realize intimately before how much heart they all must have. To hustle through and through. To walk everything off. To keep a smile on their faces. To do all of this for the betterment of others.

I just needed to put it out there. Thank you, fabulous Group Exercise Instructors of the world! You have given so much. And you have shaped me personally and professionally.

Oh, by the way, ACSM’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2018 has Group Training listed at #2. The article states that although GX has been a long-time potential trend, it did not make the Top 20 until 2017.


AarikaGX Thanks
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Fluor Wellness

“Fluor is one of the world’s largest publicly-traded engineering, procurement, fabrication, construction and maintenance companies, offering integrated solutions for clients’ complex and challenging capital projects.”​​​ Fluor Enterprises in Greenville, South Carolina is one of the city’s biggest employers. And, thankfully, one of my closest friends happens to work in Human Resources and happened to be coordinating Wellness Lunch and Learns.

So, I had the honor of presenting at Fluor on behalf of Doctor for Life on three occasions. DFL has three service areas. Great fit. The January presentation was on Stress and Self-Care. The February presentation was on Office Life Nutrition. And the March presentation was on Office Life Fitness. I worked with my friend Natalie to tailor Fluor-specific lessons – based on their known health and fitness challenges, subject to an office environment and relentlessly busy schedules.

Sounds pretty straight-forward. But this was my first time presenting a wellness series at a major international corporation. Gulp. The personal enthusiasm… A no-brainer. I could talk about wellness all day. I was terribly worried I’d be boring to this audience for some reason though.

I was actually surprised at the vigor with which I development my topics and tweaked PowerPoints. Having the knowledge is not the hard part. Organizing information thoughtfully and conveying messages in an engaging way is the hard part.

I presented and Doctor for Life provided their Healthy Meals To Go. My favorite moments were interactive… Having participants write goals, share challenges aloud, provide helpful tips for each other and getting physical with self massage and stretches.

Turns out I did a fine job! I was overjoyed to hear that Natalie received a lot of pointedly positive feedback from attendees. Booyah! I feel relieved and proud. I am also now a big fan of Fluor. Any company taking initiative to bring employees Wellness is an innovator in my book.

AarikaFluor Wellness
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Whole Health Nation

Whole Health Nation is a new organization, defined as “ a group of herbalists, farmers, educators and artists bringing a sense of community and joy to cultivating a healthy and nature inspired lifestyle; using food as medicine, your garden as your apothecary, finding sanctuary in the streets of your city. Starting as a seed in the community of Greenville, SC. Spreading as a revolution across the world.”

The group’s founder June Ellen Bradley is captivating – artist, author, educator and naturalist. She reached out to me at Doctor for Life. We met for a long time, since we are both talkers and clearly passionate about offering people resources in health. She toured the facility – medical office, culinary lab and fitness center – and knew for certain that DFL was a special concept that should be shouted from the rooftops.

I attended the Whole Health Nation 2018 Conference Saturday, March 3 at Zen. Doctor for Life decided to sponsor this worthwhile event, and Dr. Cheryl joined as well. We were thrilled to be in such cool company – vendors and guests who already appreciate health and love learning – a little different than our average day at the office of “convincing.” Attendees were happy to meet us too, a medical practice thinking holistically and combining clinical with much-needed nutrition and fitness. The atmosphere felt perfect.

The best part… We had the pleasure of participating in all Discovery Classes during the day: Seed Saving, Culinary Herbs for Healing Meals, Mushrooms for Immunity and more. The keynote was on Emotions, Health and Eating. Dr. Cheryl and I could not have been more ga-ga over the topic, as it was EXACTLY what we preach.

How many like-minded souls! How many new referral resources! I, too, need a health community for sharing and vigilance and and encouragement.

I walked away enlightened. I also walked away with soap nuts from Shecology, a tincture from Wild Earth Botanicals, a sweet potato salve from Red Moon Herbs and a huge desire to plan a weekend stay at Adawehi. After about a week, Doctor for Life walked away with reinvigoration and at least four new patients. Win win.


AarikaWhole Health Nation
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