Right before Covid hit, Gympass member Christie Nakajima had just returned home from a long trip to Australia and New Zealand. There she hiked Ben Lomond and Roys Peak (both in New Zealand), among other lofty peaks. Through zigzagging trails and jarring changes of climate, Christie persevered and found herself at the top of both summits soaking in panoramic mountain views.
For a travel photographer full of wanderlust, these expeditions offer her opportunities to both feel like superwoman and capture the moment through a lens. No matter how many feet she is up in the air, Christie finds serenity in feeling small standing among vast surroundings.
Despite the pandemic, she was still able to chase her sense of adventure. In the past year, she’s hiked Mount Washington (New Hampshire), the Burroughs Mountain Trail (Washington), and Crystal Mill (Colorado), in addition to exploring her local sights and sounds.
Christie currently resides right outside of New York City where she’s a full-time consultant for PwC while chasing passions like hiking, running, dancing, photography, and matcha making.
She personifies being a multi-hyphenate. But, balancing it all isn’t always easy. Hear what role movement plays in her life, how she prioritizes self-care, and what motivates her to ascend mountaintops.
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You’re a runner, dancer, and hiker among many other things. How has exercise served as a therapeutic outlet for you throughout your life?
Nakajima: “Exercise resets me. It allows me to be with my thoughts and figure out what I need mentally. Sometimes, I don’t play music when I hike or when I run – I’m just with myself. I have to process the thing that I’m going through. Other times, I need to jam out, dance, or walk out those thoughts and feel what I’m feeling in the moment or be present. Exercise has provided a lot for me.
- It’s an outlet for me to block out everything that I have going on in my life and enjoy myself in the moment.
- It allows me to be with myself and my thoughts, and figure out what I’m going through in that moment as well. When you’re running and you don’t have music on, you’re trying to work through something that may have been suppressed for a while.”
While balancing a full-time job with other passions like photography and traveling, how do you find moments of calm among the chaos?
Nakajima: “This is something that I’m still trying to do. I’m not an expert at this.
The moments that I do get to travel and shoot dance are my calm.
Calm doesn’t have to separate from all those things. Being in the zone while shooting photos or traveling – these things reset me and that is my calm. It’s very hard sometimes. But, living in the moment, as cliche as that is, it helps.”
What has been essential for your self-care recently, physically and mentally?
Nakajima: “Something that provides me a lot of mental peace is doing something called “the spa shower.” It’s quick because everyone has to shower, but what I do is turn on some nature sounds on Spotify, light a candle, and turn off all the lights in my bathroom. It’s almost like a meditative exercise for me with the sound of the water. It’s very human to feel at peace when you hear these nature sounds. This has been very essential for my self-care recently.
I also enjoy making my matcha in the morning. I don’t make it every morning, but it’s very therapeutic. It’s good for you, and it’s mindful because it’s part of my routine and it allows me to just focus on stirring that matcha and pouring it into that milk.
Overall, I’m not a pro at wellbeing or health, but it’s a journey with lots of ups and downs. I’m trying to stay consistent with loving myself, prioritizing exercise, and being kind to myself.
It’s very easy to go into spurts of being good about self-care and then falling out of it because it’s too much maintenance to keep up. So trying to integrate small little things of self-care into my life is important.
I also noticed that intentionally blocking time in my calendar to go to a workout class or planning that workout class through Gympass keeps me accountable to actually go and I enjoy it. If it was just up to me at 5 pm and I wanted to go take that 6 pm workout class, 50% of the time I probably wouldn’t go. But because I already booked it and I’m already committed to it, that’s helped a lot.”
You’ve done some pretty challenging hikes. What gets you through the moments you want to turn around and walk back down the mountain?
Nakajima: “Hiking is not glamorous sometimes. It does take a lot of work to get 3,000-4,000 feet up.
It’s that feeling of looking down at the bottom of the mountain once you get to the summit, seeing how amazing the human body is that you can scale a huge mountain.
You get down to the bottom of the mountain and you think, “there’s no way that I can get up there.” But then, 4-5 hours later you’re up there. It’s a really beautiful moment to see what your body can do. In these moments of pain, I slow my thoughts down and try to enjoy the hike up because there’s a lot of beauty you don’t usually get to see in the city. Ultimately, it’s taking it slow, and having my moment. Once you get up to the summit, it’s like no other feeling.”
Dance has been a major part of your life, whether you are on stage, in front of the camera, or behind it. How do you continue to stay inspired by the art form?
Nakajima: “This is something I have been struggling with. Dance has kind of been my identity my whole life and it has always been an easy outlet for it since I began when I was 3-years-old. You go to creative movement, and then you progress up the different levels at your dance studio. Then in college, I was also part of a dance company. But, come adult life and when you don’t pursue dance, it’s hard to integrate it back into my life. Especially with Covid and the pandemic, all the dance classes were virtual and it wasn’t the same feeling for me.
Someway I’ve integrated it back into my life is through photography. I still enjoy shooting dancers and it’s a way for me to still be involved in that moment aspect. I can movement direct and it’s more of a collaborative effort since I’m a dancer and I’m also shooting dancers. It’s a cool way for me to be involved in the art form without necessarily putting that pressure of being a dancer and being all that I once was. It’s a great in-between, but definitely not the same as being in the studio, but it’s been a great outlet to be a part of.”
How are you planning on using your Gympass membership in the coming months? Which partners are you looking forward to trying?
Nakajima: “I just moved to a new city outside of New York City, and I found this studio Jan DO, which is a dance cardio studio. They focus on strength and also integrate movement with the beat. It reminds me a lot of dance class, it gives me a similar feeling of release as dance. It’s a part of Gympass, so I’m looking forward to taking more classes at that studio. I found out about the studio when I was living in my hometown. But then, I realized it’s also a studio in the city I live in right now. I’m excited to try to get back into those classes.
In addition to Jane Doe, there’s another studio I haven’t tried yet, SLT. That type of workout is very natural for me as a dancer. So I’m also looking forward to getting on those megaformers and trying out that class as well. The cool thing about Gympass is that you can try a bunch of classes that you might not necessarily get the opportunity to do otherwise, because you have to pay a bunch of different fees to join a studio or whatnot. But, Gympass allows you to be creative with your exercises, and it’s low commitment.”
Finally, have you had any wellbeing wins recently?
Nakajima: “Something I’ve gotten into during the pandemic is running. This is one of those things I hated as a kid. But as I’ve grown up, I’ve grown to love it. It taught me that what you put in is what you get out. During the pandemic, I didn’t have much to do, so I was running every day. Just because it felt good, not because I was pressuring myself. It became a part of my routine and that kept me sane.
I actually ran a 10k by myself. It wasn’t a race or anything, but it was something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time. It was a personal record, one of the best times, or mile splits that I’ve ever gotten.
To see the amount of training and runs I did that worked up to me being able to do a 10k comfortably and not feel horrible after it was something that was really rewarding.”