Being Active and Accountable with Alicia Malcolm Anderson
Graydon: Hi guys! I’m Graydon Moffat, and welcome to our People We Love series, where my team and I interview bad-ass people we love, who are real disruptors and change-makers. And people who really make choices to be the best version of themselves and have secrets they can tell us, so that we can also be the best versions of ourselves. This week we have Alicia Malcolm Anderson, who is many things! She has been my trainer, she has trained as an Olympic-level athlete in beach volleyball, she’s a physiotherapist, and she’s currently working as a clinical pilates and yoga instructor at The Ace Sports Clinic around Yonge and St. Clair. So welcome Alicia!
Alicia: Hi Graydon, thanks for having me.
G: Let’s get to it, down and dirty! We haven’t connected in a little while, so tell me about your health journey and how that has changed since you've navigated out of beach volleyball into becoming a clinical instructor and physiotherapist.
A: Well, it’s great to be here. You inspire me when it comes to health, a little secret if you haven’t been here [to Graydon’s office], I’m always fed something that I can taste the love in and is super nutritious and healthy!
G: Or even water, [laughs] we’re having magnesium water today.
A: Yes, even special water! [laughs] So I always feel treated and nourished when I come here, so I can learn a lot about taking care of myself just from a small encounter coming here. As far as health goes, it’s been pretty easy for me since I’ve been training as an athlete for either running or volleyball since I was seven years old. Even my first job as a kid was doing a newspaper run, and my dad had got me a bike, but that was pretty jam packed. So I had a pram [baby carriage], that was a pretty curious sight, a 12-year old running around with a pram. So that became a run instead of a cycle. Just everything about my lifestyle was about health and fitness. My parents were marathon runners.
G: And you grew up in New Zealand?
A: Yeah, so every day of the week was some kind of physical activity. Being in North America and not being an athlete, has definitely been a different experience.
G: Well you’re still an athlete! Just not competing on a high level team!
A: Even winter, it just becomes more of a daily struggle. I think our motivation changes as we age, and in different times of our lives we want to exercise because it might be a sport to socialize, or incidental to go get something, or because you just want to explore the scenery. My motivation has always been sport. Even though I’m a health practitioner and I know the science behind sport and health of exercise, it’s a different conversation when you lay real-life, and jobs, and commitments, and priorities…
G: And family! You’re a wife, and a mother, and a daughter. You’re juggling a lot!
A: Exercise just looks different now, and how to prioritize it looks different. It’s not all me, me, me anymore.
G: Before we had this conversation, we were talking about getting real. You had some questions about what is self-care? What is this “no makeup-makeup” thing? I just wanted to say, thank you for being real. I like that you’ve come as you are in your natural, beautiful skin!
A: Thank you. It’s not easy to be natural. I think there's a lot of pressure in society. You see these gorgeous, natural faces that are actually made up! Coming here, I was like "oh, it's a skincare company, I should have really great skin", and I don't but I'm working on it from the inside out, rather than the outside in. It's more of a distraction to self care if I plaster on some makeup, but then it's just a mask. I find that I'm actually more me if I don't wear makeup, and have to deal with my insecurities in public. I'm much more present to it. I have some habits to address. Because I'm very tactile from being a manual therapist for a while, when something feels not right, that's my skill to fix it with my hands. The downside is that if I feel something not quite right on my skin, I have to smooth it out! And that means disrupting the healing process. I'm a skin-picker!
G: I self-proclaimed picker! I feel like as a mother, it's almost like a momma gorilla, I just want to pick it!
A: We have this natural addiction system! But it's tuning into why am I during that, and is it necessary? It's a good opportunity to address that compulsion. Addiction shows up in my life, I don't smoke or drink, but we all have addictions. Whether that's to work, or looking good, we all have them. I guess I'm looking more at what my mind is doing, not just what I'm putting on my skin. Even conversations that I have, how those conversations happen, what my context is, looking at my emotional health. Obviously we know that stress impacts the skin, but how does that show up? Does it appear in a croak in my throat, an increase in heart rate? And focusing on how to live that in every day moments rather than just on a yoga mat. Self care is often commercial, like it's in someone else hands and someone else's product, but it's about taking that responsibility back. No one else can take care of you!
G: Can you articulate some ways that we can practice genuine self care? Truly, how do you nurture yourself?
A: I did just recently have a holiday, like many people did over the Christmas break. I found that when I came back from overseas, I was fighting with jet-lag and my body was forcing me to sleep. Sleep is a good one! I was lucky enough to listen to my body for the first time in a long time. I was like "whoa! I didn't know I needed this much sleep!". It's always an expanding to do list, but that first time your body says, hey I'm tired, let's go to bed...
G: But what about those emails! [laughs] Okay so sleep...
A: And energy too. I have a lot of energy leaks when I worry about things I've said or how I've said them. Putting a lot of extra chit chat in my head to rest. It's great to be mindful, but not mind-overflowing is not a good space. Trying to establish if it's something worth worrying about, or how to put it to rest sooner. I find that it's about getting clearer with communication, and the clearer I become as a thinker, the clearer my life is, whether it be my schedule or even my skin.
G: It's funny that how our skin is a manifest of so many things that we don't even think about!
A: Which is why I'm sort of less inclined to cover it up!
G: I'm so glad to see you as you are. It's a bit of a cliche to say your skin is your largest organ, but it's true. We don't often think about it like an organ and how it's functioning. We pay attention to it usually for superficial reasons, which means we aren't connecting to the energy to the rest of our organs. When we have something wrong inside our body, we tend to turn towards the medical system for a fix, but it's usually not that simple.
You work using pilates and yoga as a modality to help and heal people. Your work is more clinical, and tailored to specific skeletal aspects. Could you explain that?
A: I guess that's where the word clinical comes from. There's classical pilates, but the way I teach it is through looking through the lens of injury and how to rehabilitate injury. I like that I can use my yoga knowledge and overlay that. Also treating people like people! I try not to have too much of a mechanical feel to it. I have a tendency to do that, probably because of my own athletic training to get form and technique right. It's something I'm learning to overcome, to allow healing in more than one column. Physical, emotional, and intellectual dimensions. I have been adding more research and education under my tool-belt to be better equipped for that, and teach others to be equipped to make changes themselves. Which connected back to what we said about skincare.
G: Exactly, like how you touch your skin, or what you put on your skin, body, and mind. Not just compartmentalizing all the different parts. One of the challenges I'm having right now is balancing sleep versus exercise. Sleep is definitely getting more attention! I know I work a little bit too much, and I do love my work, but actually tuning out when I need to is important. My only time for self care is usually in the morning. Maybe it's time for us to connect again and get my self a little check in, and prioritize some self directed movement!
A: I think that brings us back to even why we're doing this series, it's about community. I think as much I know what to do, you know what to do, more than finding someone who has a certain expertise, it's about connecting and accountability.
G: Accountability, yes. That's huge. I think I should start going on walks with my team during the day!
A: Yeah, team bonding!
G: That's super inspirational. Thank you for joining us today! I think that part of getting rid of old habits is shifting the conversation. If you want to find Alicia, you can find her on Instagram under @aliciamalcolmanderson