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The Practice and Intention of Living Kindly With Kelly Krause via Lauren Jade Lately - photo credit: Ben Sklar

When I first met Kelly, I couldn’t help but feel instantly energized. It was a business meeting, but I all I kept thinking was dang… I just want to hang out with this chick, she’s awesome! Her energy and kindness is totally contagious. Kelly Krause is the conference programming manager at SXSW, an avid cyclist (an ambassador for both the USA Cycling and Rapha) and has lost over 100 pounds. Tired and frustrated of not living life to her full potential she decided to make a radical change that would not only reshape her body but her entire approach to life – it was simple, but powerful: Live Kindly. Kelly and I are now friends – I’m always so inspired by her constant drive and when I was putting together this challenge I knew I needed to have her on as a guest.

The Secret to Living Kindly With Kelly Krause

Q: A few years ago you made a promise to yourself to ‘live kindly’. Do you think setting a more broad intention like that is a better way of achieving goals rather than one narrow, specific one? 

Kelly: I chose “live kindly” because when I finally made the choice to change my life, I realized it was the one thing that was missing. On the outside, I was happy-go-lucky with a glass-half-full mentality, and always put others before me. However, years of fad diets, followed by starving, overeating, exercising too much, not exercising at all, and the inevitable negative thoughts about myself proved I wasn’t being good to myself.

So I went big with this intention and I’m glad I did. It helped guide me one day at a time and proved useful in every single circumstance. Being over 300lbs at the time had its share of challenges. I couldn’t fit well in airline seats. I was breathless after walking up a small flight of stairs. And it was certainly hard and intimidating to be the largest person in a spin class. Embarrassed, sad, upset — you name it, I felt it. Thankfully, leaning on “live kindly” in those moments was a reminder that I was trying my hardest to be healthy and that I was good enough. 

I’m a big proponent of doing what’s best for you and that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer or approach, especially to something so personal. At times I feel like having one specific goal helps keep me focused. But I use the mantra “live kindly” all of the time.The Practice and Intention of Living Kindly With Kelly Krause via Lauren Jade Lately - photo credit: Jennifer Hartgrove Hancock

Q: You’ve worked at SXSW for 6 years now, what’s the one thing you do leading up to the week to mentally prepare for the craziness of the festival? 

Kelly: Sleep. I am one of those people that does not perform well with less than 6 hours of sleep. Like clockwork, once the clock strikes 9pm, my brain goes foggy and I start to “expire.” Every single time I try to outperform and stay up late to get something done, I pay for it for at least 2 days after. I’ve learned my lesson(s) — sleep is key.The Practice and Intention of Living Kindly With Kelly Krause via Lauren Jade Lately - photo credit: Earl Mcgehee

Q: Is there such a thing as work/life balance? 

Kelly: I believe in the ability to balance work and life, but understand that the idea of balance changes everyday. I try to plan as far out as possible, but life is unpredictable. There are moments that I can’t possibly prepare for the unexpected email, a friend visiting town or a last-minute event.

I like to think more about how I’ll respond in those moments that work is deadline-driven and crazy busy, or I’m training hard for a race and need to focus my attention there. “How can I take care of myself to make me alert at work” or “What can I do to make sure I make time for training?” (The answer for both is usually sleep). I’m ok knowing that work may get more attention than my personal life and visa versa — as long as it doesn’t carry on for too long.

Note: this is why I’ve established a routine of getting up early, working out and meditating all before 9am. My day is typically not interrupted that early in the morning. (Y’all Kelly is seriously the queen of the 4am wakeup snapchats! I never ceased to be impressed watching her stories. Follow her! )

Q: What do you think gets in the way of us consistently practicing healthy habits? 

For me, I find that when I establish a routine and have a plan, I’m successful. But perhaps even more beneficial is knowing what my triggers are. I’ll give you an example. I’m not a huge drinker, but without fail, after 3 glasses of wine or bourbon cocktails and all bets are off. Regardless of how well-intended I start the evening, after those drinks, I’ll reach for the nachos and I’ll skip my workout in the morning. Every.single.time.

Me: Omg. me too…. I think you accurately summed up what everyone woman goes through! haha.

The same thing happens when I don’t pack my own snacks for flights. Thankfully more airports are stocking up with healthy options, but during a 2-3 hour layover, if I’m not prepared, gummy bears and Cheez-It’s accidentally appear in my carry on.

Q: You monthly column on Camille Styles, Living Kindly, is all related to wellness and healthy living – Do you have an absolute favorite post you’ve written? 

It’s so hard to pick just one because I have some kind of personal attachment to all of them. Why You Should Stop Apologizing hit home for so many people. Not only did I love writing it, but I sincerely loved the feedback. The most surprising thing was how many men reached out to tell me that they could relate.

I probably had the most pre-writing fun with Back to Ballet. I took ballet for 15 years growing up and reconnected with it as an adult. It was humbling to attempt something that I used to do so well and surreal to be a beginner at something that used to be an everyday part of my life.

Also, the most recent piece, Are You Choosing the Right Friends created a nice dialogue on Facebook.

Q: Why the bike? 

Kelly: Something magical happens every time I’m on my road bike. I feel empowered on every ride. I’m hyper aware of everything — from my surroundings to my breathing, from how my legs feel to what my mind is telling me. I love the way I feel on the bike, even when it’s a tough ride and I can’t hang with a fast group of riders. I love the scenery and the roads the bike has shown me — from California, Oregon to Colorado. And I love the people I’ve met along the way — some have become mentors and others, lifelong friends. The bike has pushed me outside of my comfort zone, taught me leadership skills that no job can teach you and has reminded me what happens when you authentically share your passion with others — you help form a community and allow others to grow and shine. It’s beautiful.

The Practice and Intention of Living Kindly With Kelly Krause via Lauren Jade Lately - photo credit: Jennifer Hartgrove Hancock

Q: What gets you out of bed in the morning? (kelly is notorious for 4am snaps!) 
Kelly: I love the calmness of the morning. There aren’t many moments of the day that I get total peace and quiet by myself.

In the very beginning of this journey, I got up early to be one of the first people at the gym or on the trail so I could avoid working out in front of people. Now, it’s my personal sacred time.

And I know the thought of an early wake-up call can be hard for some. Our beds are always going to be cozier, especially if you’re like me and your room is your sanctuary (see, told you I like sleep!). But there is something so special about the stillness of the morning.

While everyone is asleep, I gather my thoughts, meditate, have a coffee and set out for my morning ride or workout. The city is quiet, the sun is rising and I just started my day on the best note. It’s the best feeling.

Q: Favorite coffee shop to work from in Austin? 

Kelly: I have three, but all for different reasons.

When I need to write and can go offline, I go to Josephine House and order an Iced Americano with a splash of their house-made hazelnut milk. They don’t have wifi, so it allows me to really focus.

When I need to be productive with wifi I go to Patika on South Lamar. They make a great iced coffee and their pastries are spot-on. Pro-tip: on Sundays, they make homemade donuts that are so good. (me: Patika is my Fav, so I second this one.)

When I just need to check emails, but don’t mind if I’m interrupted, I go to Juan Pelota and order an Iced Americano. I usually run into my cycling pals or friends that live downtown, so it’s a fun social work scene.The Practice and Intention of Living Kindly With Kelly Krause via Lauren Jade Lately - photo credit: Jennifer Hartgrove Hancock

Q: What’s one piece of mindful advice you’d give your 22 year-old self now?
Kelly: When I was 22, I was just starting Graduate School, working full-time, had a PR internship and was an Editor for a local magazine. I had a lot on my plate (some things never change), juggled a lot of different ventures and soon moved to LA. While I think I handled everything with grace and enthusiasm, I wish I could tell my 22 year-old self to meditate and take some time for “me.” I can only imagine how much I would’ve benefitted from that at such a pivotal time in my life. It’s calmed me down so much that I now respond vs. react.

Q: How do you relax after a long work day/week? Any fun/guilty pleasures? 

I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a Golden Girl, but here I go.

After a long work day, true relaxing is coming home, making dinner, throwing on my pj’s, a face mask and catching up with Netflix. Today was one of those long days of back-to-back travel, so I dimmed the lights, light a few candles (Le Labo Santal 26, for inquiring minds) and I’m listening to Alexi Murdoch’s Pandora station as I type this.
Thankfully I usually have a few dinners peppered in throughout the week to keep me connected and inspired. Once a month we do “Fancy Fridays” where we get dressed up and treat ourselves to a nice dinner and evening.
The weekends are my favorite. Early morning bike rides or spin classes, coffee with friends, a long bath while I listen to jazz (I know, cheesy!), a massage if I’m particularly sore and listening to podcasts while I cook. A small group of us usually does “Family Dinners” on Sunday evenings so we end the week on the best note.

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If you are now, totally obsessed with Kelly as I am, I highly suggest you follow her on Snapchat (@kellyjokrause) and Instagram! She was the perfect person to help me kick of the Mind + Soul series of the Take Care Challenge and I hope you feel as inspired as I do to set an intention, or mantra and begin putting it into practice.

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Photography credit: 1- Ben Skylar / 2,4,5 – Jennifer Hartgrove Hancock / 3 – Earl McGahee