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Self-Care: Beyond The Bathtub

Sarah Webb
By Sarah Webb

Karen Shopoff Rooff is a Women’s Wellness Warrior who champions realistic approaches to living a fit and healthy life. After earning certifications as a personal trainer & perinatal fitness specialist, Karen launched Balance Personal Fitness Training in 2008.

In addition to in-person fitness, wellness, and health coaching, Karen facilitates self-directed ecourses and virtual bootcamps for clients worldwide. Her blog Running on Balance is known for excellent content regarding women’s health, particularly as related to the childbearing year and perimenopause. In her free time, Karen loves to travel to new places to run marathons and ultramarathons. But because she believes in balance, Karen is also an avid reader and backfloater (though not at the same time). Karen holds a variety of fitness, wellness, and health coaching certifications (listed from date earned):Personal Training, Perinatal Fitness Specialist, Group Exercise Specialist, Aqua Yoga Instructor, Prenatal Yoga Instructor, Women’s Wellness Coach , Aqua Yoga Specialist, Health Coach

Introduction:00:09Welcome to Plaid Radio by Plaid for Women and the #NoMeanGirls movement. Enjoy today's show and be inspired to change the world.
Sarah Webb:00:18Welcome to Plaid Radio. I'm your host, Sarah Webb, and I'm with today's guest, Karen Shopoff Rooff. She is a women's wellness warrior who champions realistic approaches to living a fit and healthy life. I love the ‘realistic.’ She's completed tons of personal training certificates and she's a prenatal fitness specialist and she runs her own blog Running on Balance where she talks about health, child bearing years, and peri-menopause. She's got kids and she's got just this full life and today we're going to be talking to Karen about her #NoMeanGirls conference breakout session, Self-Care: Beyond The Bathtub. Today we're going to get a sneak peek into that and find out a little bit more. So tell me a little bit about yourself and then let's jump into this breakout session.
Karen Shopoff Rooff:01:07Great. Well thanks for having me, Sarah. I'm so excited to talk to you today and to be at the #NoMeanGirls conference in September. A little bit about myself is that I'm just somebody who loves to learn and communicate and connect with people. I have a really varied background. My first career was as a professor of architectural history, which seems so completely random and so completely different from the health coaching and personal training that I do now, but it's all teaching. It's just a different subject matter that I deal with now and I kind of fell into this really by accident. My whole life I have always been a runner and have loved running and being fit and it's just been very intuitive for me to figure out how to balance my fitness endeavors with my life because I've just always done it. So then I got pregnant about 15 years ago and really got into the research of pregnancy and fitness because I'd spent the last four years before that on a pretty competitive road running team when I was living in Boston and so I was just doing all this research and getting into the hard science of training and running and what was happening physiologically in a woman's body and at the same time I was having all these friends say, “hey, I want to run a 5k, what do I do?” Or, “Oh Gosh, I noticed I'm not in college anymore and I feel like my metabolism is slowing down and I'm kind of putting on weight” or you know, as my friends were starting to have babies, they were like, “this is all awesome, but I don't ever feel like there's time for me anymore. Like how do you make it all work?” And I just kind of realized that what I was doing intuitively as part of my life was actually something that a lot of other people struggled with and that they really wanted to know more and so I started my personal training business in 2008. It was supposed to be kind of just like a fun little hobby job until my kids went off to school and then I was going to go back and get a real job again, like in academia or something, but I'm here 10 years later because it's been great and it works and it works well for my life and I love the women who I work with and I just really appreciate being able to do something that literally helps people feel better and so I just keep going.
Sarah Webb:03:32Mmm, I love that. It kind of makes me think of, you know, sometimes we have our path laid out, this is exactly what it's gonna look like. And then we have these weaves and turns since like you said, you're still teaching people, that’s still the core of who you are as a person. And so, when you were exploring this and starting to help friends, were you more focused on the fitness or the self-care?
Karen Shopoff Rooff:03:54I was really focused on the fitness and I was focused on the fitness for a lot of years and that was because that was really my original driver for… I started off purely as a personal trainer specializing in working with perinatal women. So, I was at the point in my life where I was pregnant and having babies. My friends were all pregnant and having babies. So that was sort of like my ideal client base and I really enjoyed doing that because I think that what I can see now looking back on it was that by really being supportive of women in taking care of their own bodies through the childbearing years, that's teaching them to weave self-care into their life. But as I've gotten older and now I'm in my mid-forties and I'm now in the thick of peri-menopause, I still am such a nerd. I just love the science and I just read and learn everything that I can. And so, the basis of so many of the unpleasant symptoms that women have in peri-menopause is due to stress throwing off your hormone levels. And so, if we can build self-care into the systems of our lives rather than just have it be something we do, like when we get that spare hour or half a day or whatever, then maybe we can start to change all of these other effects that are happening in our bodies. We won't have to deal with them. And I tell people all the time, the statement just sounds so completely ridiculous, but ‘when you feel better, you feel better.’ It sounds silly and it's basic, but it's something that we just sort of take for granted. We’re just kind of trudging through life and not sleeping and running from here and driving Carpool here and we just like going and going and going and going and there's so little time to pull back and be like, “Whoa, wait a minute, how can I reframe all of this so that there's actually me in my own life?”
Sarah Webb:05:57I love that.
Karen Shopoff Rooff:05:58And whether that takes the form of exercise or whether it takes the form of writing that novel that you've always wanted to or whatever it is. That's just gravy.
Sarah Webb:06:06Yeah. I'm trying to capture that, ‘when you feel better, you just feel better.” Because right now I'm on this eating plan that's all natural. That's high in vegetables. I'm like, what am I eating? I'm eating vegetables.
Karen Shopoff Rooff:06:22Cardboard!
Sarah Webb:06:23No, not cardboard, but even just after a week of cleaner eating, clean eating, I really do feel better and I wish I could capture that feeling in a bottle, something that would make me not go back to the way I was, I need to remember that feeling good, feels SO good. I like this little reminder.
Karen Shopoff Rooff:06:43Yeah. And that's exactly it because we're all so busy and we all get sort of trapped in the day to day of our lives that it takes that 10,000-foot view of “Oh my gosh, wait a minute. I made these small changes and I actually, I don't just feel better in my body, but I have more energy. I'm being nicer to people. I actually want to go and read that book rather than mindlessly scroll through Facebook,” or whatever your deal is. Yeah.
Sarah Webb:07:13Well talk to me a little bit about your breakout session, Self-Care: Beyond The Bathtub, because I do think that as women we think that self-care is taking a bath, drinking a glass of red wine or going to get your nails done.
Karen Shopoff Rooff:07:24Absolutely.
Sarah Webb:07:25And I can't always build those into my daily life. So you've really intrigued me. Give us an overview of your session, but I want to know what I can put into my daily life that's a little bit self-care-ie.
Karen Shopoff Rooff:07:40So this is like both the baseline and the hardest part all at once, right? Just like most things in life: Ask for help. It really is about... Self-care is about creating systems that support you. But here's the beautiful part, and I think women in particular, we are not good at asking for help because “Oh my gosh, I'm such a fantastic juggler. I can do everything so much better and so much faster than anybody else. So, I'm just gonna keep doing it all.” But the reality is your friends feel the exact same way. And so, what would happen if you said to somebody like, “hey, how can we help each other? I see your little duck feet under the water paddling like crazy even though you look super smooth on top. But I see it because my feet are paddling too. So, what can we do to help each other out?” You know what? Maybe it's as simple as, you kid's school is across the street from the grocery store. You’re going to swing by there after school drop off. Text your friend. “What do you need?” Because if you can save her the 15 minutes from running to the grocery store because she’s out of bread or milk or eggs or whatever, that's 15 minutes that she has to breathe in her day. Maybe it's literally setting up a Carpool because how many people do you know who are all driving to the same place at the same time? And how can you just eliminate the redundancy of the work that you're doing? Self-care can also be about literally… I have a saying in my house, ‘it's only Wednesday.’ Which means we don't have to have a gourmet meal every night. It's okay to have tacos. It's okay to have grilled cheese and salad and soup. It's only Wednesday, right? This isn't Christmas dinner. Nobody's getting married here. We just need to eat some food. We can have a ‘picnic dinner.’ Which means mom's feeling really tired, but we can throw out the meats and cheeses and the raw vegetables and have a little yogurt with it and hey, we're suddenly European! It's finding those things we tell ourselves in our head that we have to do. Like, “oh gosh, well I have to… I have to get this thing prepared for the presentation.” And then, “oh my gosh, I was supposed to take this to the event.” You know what? It's okay if sometimes balls drop. Allow yourself the grace and self-compassion to realize that we do not live inside of Pinterest. That only is not fantastic for you and your own stress levels, but it gives other people the freedom to be like, “oh wow, we don't all actually have to be perfect.” It's really liberating.
Sarah Webb:10:31So I have two thoughts on this. One is I have a six-year-old daughter, so we're developing a lot of… opinions.
Karen Shopoff Rooff:10:41Oh, yeah. I have a seven-year-old daughter, I get ya.
Sarah Webb:10:42So, we're in opinion phase on clothes and all these things and so when I'm working with her, maybe we have a little bit of a conflict. I step back from myself. I'm like, “mom, pick your battles. So, what if she wants to wear something that completely doesn't match, and her hair is a mess.” There are times, if it's just a normal day, I just let her go. She just looks like herself. Now on the day of her graduation or going to church or something like that, I'll pick my battle and we'll work on it. So, that kind of translates into myself like I need to be picking my battles with me. So, like you said you talked about your European picnic. Okay, we do breakfast for dinner when mom has those days and I think that's like the greatest thing ever. It's like I'm picking my battles and I'm probably much more cognizant of it when I'm talking to my daughter because I just have that trigger, but I really need to think about for myself, what are my battles? What are my, ‘I have to do this for our family.’ I call it my four walls. Like if my four walls are okay, then the rest of this doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that the laundry’s not put up or things like that.
Karen Shopoff Rooff:11:47You know what, that laundry is going to sit in that basket until you get around to do it. Doesn't really matter.
Sarah Webb:11:51I have a friend, Julia and I absolutely adore her because she's a normal person. She is not a Pinterest mom. She may be a Pinterest mom, she makes really cute crafty things, but like the other parts of her house are a disaster and she makes no apologies when you come into her laundry room that there's crap everywhere and I'm like, you're like a real person. We can be friends! I think we do have this pressure of putting up this front with people of like, “Oh, my house is spotless,” or, “I have it all together.” I'm just ready to be done with those barriers.
Karen Shopoff Rooff:12:23Yeah. And I think that that's really the ultimate self-care, right? When you have a whole mindset flip and you really start to believe that ‘good enough is good enough.’ Like there are times when you want to put maximum focus and energy and effort into things, but sometimes, it's only Wednesday, so who cares and being okay with that is so liberating. And it's a huge struggle, I completely acknowledge that for so many people, that being okay with it is… that's where the struggle lies.
Sarah Webb:12:57Yup. Absolutely. Well, we've talked a little bit about, obviously you're passionate about this, and some ideas, but tell me a little bit about starting your business. So, in 2008 you took this risk of… like you said, maybe it didn't come out fully formed as, “I'm starting a business.” You said you thought of it as a little side hobby. Tell us about some of the risks you've taken to build your practice where it is today.
Karen Shopoff Rooff:13:21Well, when I started I thought I was to have like a small little handful of personal training clients who I'd go and do sessions with once or twice a week, or whatever. And that's what I did for several years, two or three years. I had two boys at the time and they were still quite young, kindergarten and preschool. I was always very clear, from the very beginning, that my parenting was primary and that my business growth was secondary. I'm in the fortunate position of not having to be the breadwinner in my family and I have a very supportive husband who agrees that having a strong present parental role is so much more than just driving people places, even though it feels like that a lot. But I just grew restless with it. I'm a lifelong learner. I don't sit still very well. I just like to do things. And so I started blogging because I'd always enjoyed writing when I was in the academic world. And so, I started my blog Running on Balance and that was really intended just to talk about ways that I integrated fitness into my family life and ways that I kept myself motivated without… Because I wasn't doing anything externally. So, there was no carrot at the finish line sort of thing for me for the first time in my life. I wasn't racing regularly or anything like that. So how did I keep myself motivated? How did I find the time for it? How did I bring my children into my activity? Because it's always been absolutely, front and center, that I want my kids to grow up like I did, which is that exercise is just integral to your life. That it's not… I can't quite say I've never had a gym membership in my life because I did live in Boston for a while and I had a gym membership one very, very cold and snowy winter, but for me, it's always been about just like daily activity and that's what I want my kids to embrace. And so I wrote a lot about that in the early days of Running on Balance, which can I say that as somebody who's been blogging for nine years, I'm like a freaking dinosaur in the blogging world, it's still fun though. I like it because my interest is modulated a little bit, but once my business snowballed, it kind of took on a life of its own. I started seeing more clients. I wanted to keep my interest in prenatal and postnatal in those early years. And so I did a Prenatal Yoga certification, which I really enjoyed and worked privately with prenatal women and their partners to do private yoga sessions, which are always really lovely. And then in the last maybe four or five years, I've shifted more -as I've gotten older and started to investigate what's happening in my own body- into this world of perimenopause. And this is where it's really caught my attention that for so many women, so many moms in our generation, I feel like we're doing a really bang up job educating our daughters about their bodies and about the very normal physiological changes that happen during adolescence. Far better than what I received as the young tween and teen. And that women are very interested in having their daughters be very well educated and really normalizing the process of growing up, because it is just biology. While at the same time they're having all of these changes and crazy things happening in their own body and they're kind of like, “I have no idea what's going on.” And then they never ask questions and they're never seeking answers or what I've found more and more in the last couple of years is that they just don't know who to ask the questions to or they don't know exactly what the question is. And so I've really become more of a perimenopause cruise director where people can come and I have different education courses and different health coaching where they can sort of lay it out and say, “hey, this is what I'm experiencing.” And then I can reflect back to them, “well, you know, it could be this or this or this,” always advocating having proper medical testing done as baseline but sending them to physicians or healthcare practitioners who actually have training in this. Because, as you probably know, women's health is like a six-week topic in medical school, which is just ridiculous. And so, unless you find somebody who is equally passionate about specifically women's health, women's hormones, then you're likely not to get the kind of support that you're really looking for. So, I love to be able to connect people with the right types of practitioners so that in the end, my business has become so much more about education. There is still a huge fitness component to it. Fitness becomes even more important as we age, particularly for women when we're talking about both heart health and bone health. Many of the women who come to me come with the initial concern of like, “I haven't changed anything in my life and suddenly I'm 10 pounds heavier. What's going on?” So, then we drill down and look at what are they eating, how are they exercising? Because the modalities of exercise as you age, should change as your physiology changes. All that to say, that I started, thinking I was going to work very simply one on one with pregnant women and now here I am working with mostly women in their forties and early fifties and doing a lot more education than just... I'm not just writing workouts anymore.
Sarah Webb:19:20Well, it sounds like it was just kind of a natural progression of your interests. You as a woman yourself, aging as well as your client base. Like you said, ‘we were all having babies and then we transitioned.’ That's a different path. I always think, “Oh, I'll ask my mom.” Well, the other day I asked my mom when she started going gray and she was like, “oh, I don't know, I've been coloring my hair for at least 50 years.” And she's like, “I don't remember what that was like.” I'm just like, “okay, well that's not helpful.”
Karen Shopoff Rooff:19:52Right. Right. And while there are so many things in our bodies that are genetic and triggered by genetics, we still have individual perception differences and so what might be annoying to me, you're like, “what are you talking about? That happens to me every day and I didn't even think about it.” You know what I mean? And so, it's really hard to compare, but there is something that I've bumped up against a lot in the 10 years of working with women. It happens both related to pregnant women and postnatal women and perimenopausal women. And that is the, we sort of harbor a belief that if something is common then it's normal when that's not necessarily true at all. Just because the vast majority of women who have given birth wind up peeing on themselves when they jump on a trampoline, very common, it’s not actually normal and there are people who can help you with that which will greatly improve your quality of life even if you don't regularly jump on a trampoline. So you know, things like that. And so just trying to... So much of what I do is trying to just break open taboo kinds of topics. And I do think in some ways self-care has a bit of a taboo around it that it is seen as something that only privileged women do.
Sarah Webb:21:22Or even selfish.
Karen Shopoff Rooff:21:23Yeah, absolutely!
Sarah Webb:21:24You know, “you had 30 minutes to take a bubble bath uninterrupted.” Or, “you work out every day! How do you have time to do that?”
Karen Shopoff Rooff:21:33Exactly. Exactly. And I think that a huge benefit in my life is that I was born without the gene where I cared what other people thought. I kid you not, it's only been in the last three or four years that I've realized that other people have that. I was at that lack of awareness level and now that I see it, I'm like, “holy cow! I'm so lucky!” I never dealt with that kind of anxiety and the constant thought of, ‘somebody else cares about what I do. Oh wait, should I care that they care?’ It just never registered.
Sarah Webb:22:10So, let's just dig into that a little bit because a lot of what we're doing at Plaid for Women is really creating a space where women don’t judge each other. It's part of our whole #NoMeanGirls campaign. So, if you didn't have that, ‘I don't care what other people think mentality,’ did you kind of miss some bullying or did you just brush it off? Like did you have the kind of... Some of those common middle school high school experiences or...?
Karen Shopoff Rooff:22:33I was such a social chameleon in my middle school and high school years because I was an athlete. I was a smart kid. I was in the band. I had friends in every sort of social clique. That's not to say I was popular. Right. Those are different things. I just knew a lot of different people and so I could sort of weave my way in and out of different things. I guarantee you I missed a heck of a lot of people making fun of me because again, I just didn't have a clue and my gosh, what a blessing that was!
Sarah Webb:23:12Exactly! Part of our #NoMeanGirls campaign is about not being mean to yourself and dedicating yourself to that self-care. How ever that works individually, it's kinda different for everybody, but you kind of talked about women being very cognizant when we're talking to our daughters about their bodies and all of this. And I find myself… my little girl said the word ‘fat’ and I was like, “whoa.” I mean I had like an intervention.
Karen Shopoff Rooff:23:36Really triggering.
Sarah Webb:23:37It is really triggering, but then I kind of have this internal record to myself, “you need to lose weight, you need to…” So, kind of mean girl behavior to ourselves is another thing we're addressing and so, I'm really excited about your topic at the #NoMeanGirls conference. It's September 21st and 22nd in Southlake Texas, which is just right outside of the Dallas Airport. Participants can register at and sign up to attend Karen's breakout session. I know we got a little tidbit here, but I can’t wait to hear the full presentation.
Karen Shopoff Rooff:24:13I'm happy to be invited to be there. Thanks so much.
Sarah Webb:24:15Well if you could say something encouraging to other women, who maybe aren't dedicating themselves to self-care... what's one thing they could do to improve their lives?
Karen Shopoff Rooff:24:28Hold yourself and work from the place that collaboration is so much more profound than competition. If you're feeling the struggle, somebody else is feeling the struggle and so reach out to them, you could be their lifeboat. Reach out to them and say, "how can we work together to make this easier for both of us?"
Sarah Webb:24:52I love that. Thank you so much, Karen, and that's a wrap for Plaid Radio.
Sarah Webb
A bit about me, I'm a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, employee and volunteer. I am married and have two children - one who aspires to be a secret spy ninja and the other wants be a doctor for toys...Read More
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