Fitness, Inspiration, and Loving You: 10 Questions with Meghan Sullivan
As an acupuncturist I’m constantly looking for new ways to help people get in touch with and heal their bodies. As an expat Parisian, I’m also always on the hunt for fun/hip/rewarding activities in our beautiful city. Sometimes the two collide and when they do, I’m thankful I happened to be on the scene.
About six months ago I got a wild hair to start exercising regularly. I wasn’t a total couch potato, more like a cushion enthusiast, although being in health care I know better. When I heard about a hip-hop ballet-barre class, I signed up because I thought something new would help me maintain the regime. After one hour of sweating a lot, dancing badly, and working muscles I was sure didn’t exist, I was hooked. Because Meghan Sullivan, co-founder of Optimystic Movement and Paris Kindness Project, made it so I didn’t want to stop. But not just me—the whole class. We laughed at her running commentary of motivational support and off-color jokes, we high-fived after tough exercises. We applauded at the end, for ourselves, each other, and Meghan, and then we went to get drinks (coffee and juice, nothing naughty!) Instant addiction. Coming from a why-exercise-when-you-can-snuggle-down-with-a-good-book person, that’s saying a lot. But you know why it was so fulfilling? It’s not just about the exercise, which is a great workout in itself. It’s about inspiration, community, and connecting with your inner joy.
So since sharing great finds is part of what makes Paris exciting, I sat down with Meghan to get her perspective on exercise for the new-to-fitness set, motivation, and that quality she’s so passionate about, inspiration.
1. If you could tell the world one thing about fitness, what would it be?
Have fun! Make fitness a part of your lifestyle, not something you have to do for results. Find some sort of movement every day, as simple as taking the stairs or walking. Find an activity that is enjoyable for you. Seek motivation through a teacher or by going to classes with a friend. At Optimystic Movement we create a strong community. And most importantly, do not give up! Fitness never becomes easier, you only become better.
2.You work hard to bring out the best in people both inside the classroom and out, not just with the Paris Kindness Project, whose motto is “We are here to make every single human being feel loved through daily acts of kindness. We are all one.” Where do you seek inspiration?
Everywhere! My main inspiration is in music. It’s how I move through life and experience emotions. I find inspiration in urban culture, the streets of Paris, and studying the daily interactions of human beings. I find inspiration in the goodness of others. In acts of kindness. In selfless generosity. I’m inspired by traveling the world, by the support of people that surround me. My students inspire me with their unique individuality. Pain and suffering also inspire me, because it’s through difficulty that we are given the opportunity to rise above ourselves.
3.What’s the best advice for a newbie wanting to slim down and tone up?
First of all, give yourself time. Be patient. Results don’t happen overnight. Then find something you truly love, and stay committed. Experts recommend trying a new sport or habit numerous times. Find more patience! Next, get involved in a community sport where you are surrounded by like-minded individuals to support you on your journey, or hire an experienced coach or trainer to learn from. Think about your health dreams and recognize nothing is impossible. Be prepared to work hard, the results will keep you going. Beginners should aim for 1-2 classes a week to start.
4.What kind of workouts do you recommend?
I am a full believer in cross training and always spicing up your routine to keep the physical body conditioned. I love anything challenging. My favorite sports in no particular order are dance, yoga, yoga with weights, snowboarding, hiking, and swimming. Weightlifting for women is fantastic, any sport involving resistance gives fast results, just make sure you have professional guidance when lifting weights.
5.For the busy parent or the person who works full time, what’s the minimum you can do to get in shape?
Stay active for at least 30 minutes a day with the activity of your choice. Also eat a nutritious diet rich in vegetables and fruits.
On my days off, I do 100 squats (4 sets of 25), 4-minute plank (any style, just don’t drop!), 100 pushups (10 sets of 10, a good modification is to do it on your knees), and I meditate for a minimum of 5 minutes.
6.The pâtisseries in Paris are so tempting. Do I have to say goodbye to pastries?
No, not at all. I live to eat, but everything in moderation and balance. I adore mini desserts—it’s a way to skip overloading on sugar while still appreciating Paris’s finest treats. Pierre Hermes creations are heavenly. But try to limit yourself to one or two days a week to eat as you wish. I normally eat according to my body’s needs throughout the week, sticking to a Mediterranean-based diet and portion control. I include as many raw fruits and vegetables as possible. On the weekend I allow myself to indulge in whatever I feel like. Instead of feeling limited by diet and exercise, I simply eat and train and enjoy both!
7.How is the fitness scene in Paris, and what makes your classes different?
The health scene in America is more vibrant, but coming from Colorado I’m biased. Everyone there, or at least it seems that way, practices yoga. Here in Paris, it’s definitely up-and-coming. There is an exceptional number of dance studios and quite a few yoga studios offering many styles of yoga.
What I bring to Paris in my teaching is fusion-based movement, so the body never plateaus. You have to be smarter than your muscles. I enjoy mixing yoga with weights, kettle bells with martial arts, hip-hop moves into ballet-barre—essentially never getting stuck with rules. I teach alignment-based movement from the ground up, fusing creative sequencing, and teaching students how to express themselves with movement. No one class is the same.
8.Optimystic Movement focuses on supporting both the individual and group emotionally as well as physically. What does Mind-Body-Spirit have to do with that?
Mind-Body-Spirit is what human beings are made of, and we can bring them together in the form of fusion movement. Our bodies are divine intelligence, and when we strip away the ego that society forces us to adopt, we allow our thoughts to be aligned with our spirit. Mind-Body-Spirit is the essence of who we are. Strengthening this connection lets us experience a deeper and more fulfilled life.
9.Your message is all about building people up. What’s the one thing you see people do that you wish they wouldn’t?
Underestimate their potential. The infinite is possible if you believe in it! The worst thing you can do is doubt yourself. Also forgetting to breathe—it’s so important with movement.
10.What’s the best thing you see people do?
Love their bodies unconditionally, with no judgment. Seeing people commit to their routines diligently. And so importantly, I love seeing my students drop the ego and support others as well as themselves on the path to having a strong body and mind. We are all one. But the best thing I see people do is shine their inner light with confidence. It’s amazing when we embrace who we are, because beauty lies in our imperfections.
Meghan Sullivan is an American/Maltese Yoga, Ballet Barre, Strength and Conditioning Coach. Since 2008 she has taught her specialty fusion classes all over the US, Malta, Mexico, the UK, and now Paris. Her company Optimystic Movement offers a variety of classes for people at all levels of fitness who are ready to change their lives through movement of all forms, acts of kindness and meditation. The classes focus on developing positive self-esteem and encourage community-building and support, because the stronger we are as individuals, the stronger we are as a community. Meghan is also co-founder of Paris Kindness Project, a grass roots non-profit organization dedicated to making the people of Paris feel loved through random acts of kindness, as well as providing essentials to the homeless.