Why Everyone Should Study Martial Arts

I'm 6 weeks into a beginner, one credit martial arts course at American University.  

I spend the hour leading up to my first class obsessively reminding my roommate that I'm taking a martial arts class. 

"Just putting on my sneakers for my martial arts class" I say, not knowing yet that I wouldn't even need sneakers. 

There are a lot of electives in college. Classes like "The History of Drugs, Sex and Rock n Roll" and "The Psychology of Dating" are attractive to many. But a Beginner's Martial Arts? Not everyone's first choice.

So how did a 21-year-old-maryland-born-sorority-girl-film-major end up in a dojo? I'm a curious person. I do what I want. And what I wanted to do this semester was learn the art of martial fighting. 

I had zero interest in martial arts until I started watching a tv show that featured very specific styles of ancient Chinese martial arts. Then it started talking about chi and chakras and other words that are fun to say. Then I started to research it more and more and because fascinated. I thought it was so interesting how the body, soul and mind could be improved so drastically by the ancient practice of martial fighting. 

Growing up with four older brothers, I had to learn how to stand my ground at a young age.

I learned that 1. long nails are vital for self-defense and 2. everyone has a ticklish spot. 

Even though I didn't realize it until now, my childhood actually consisted quite a bit of martial arts. I attended my older brother's karate lessons and would try to follow along while my mom waited with the other parents (mom you should have seen I was a prodigy then why didn't you push me harder). I spent many hours watching my brothers play Final Fantasy and K.O. on Play Station.  When I picture myself as a child, I see a young girl with sticks in her hair and mud on her face crouching in my creek plotting out my next big move in the neighborhood pine cone war. I remember sitting in the basement watching my brother James do knuckle pushups and he would show me the machete he kept in his closet (he's a really peaceful guy I promise). I'm just now starting to realize it sounds like I had quite the violence-filled childhood for a sweet suburban family of 8, but don't worry. My brothers would always "turn down the gore setting" on Grand Theft Auto when I came downstairs to watch them play. We weren't barbarians! 

ANYWAY, despite my half-baked warrior princess of the Maryland bamboo forests childhood, I'd never been into fighting. Anyone who knows me knows I prefer to live my life conflict-free, I'm a mediator. I'm not going to even pretend to act like I know even the basics of Martial Arts, I really don't, I'm such a newbie. But in the 6 weeks I've been learning, it's transformed my life in ways that are hard to describe. 

Taking a Martial Arts course will be the most humbling yet most empowering thing you'll ever do. This didn't sink in until we received our uniforms, the "gi". I wasn't ready for the gi. Up until this point, my fellow pupils and I were just wearing work out clothes to class. But one day we walk in and they hand us our uniforms. We all trade in our Nike and Under Armour apparel for the fresh, stiff, pearly white gis. They teach us how to properly tie a belt (which I'm still practicing).

Look here's a picture of me in mine!!!!!! Pretty sure they had to order one made for a 5th grade boy for me!!!!!!!!!! Mirror pix 4 lyfe. 

I'm ashamed to say, that my first thought was, "oh wow, I have to walk through my college gym wearing this?!" My fresh white gi and pearly white belt weren't exactly the coolest thing to be seen in. Which is stupid of me to even think, because gis are a sacred uniform and should be worn with pride. But being a white belt means I'm a beginner, and beginners aren't cool. I know they say an expert in anything was once a beginner, but I forgot how humbling being a beginner at something actually is.

Moral of the story? Seize the day. Take your martial arts class, whatever that is to you.

Do something you're interested in, create room to discover new passions. Do something unusual! Sling shot yourself out of your warm, fuzzy comfort zone. 

Martial Arts is great because it challenges me to keep myself healthy (mentally and physically), teaches me self-defense and a specific set of skills. If putting "orange belt in Korean Tae Kwon Do" on my resume is wrong I don't wanna be right. Just kidding. Maybe. 




P.S. Shout out to my roommates for smiling and nodding as I show them what I learned in class. I know you don't care, but the smiling and nodding makes me feel loved and special. 



Angela + Matt's Annapolis Engagement

Angela & Matt's Engagement Photoshoot

Ang and Matt's late summer/early fall engagement session in Annapolis, MD. We had a gorgeous overcast day and Annapolis was hopping with yachters and locals, and the bars were packed with people watching college football. 


Ang is my brother-in-law's sister (does that make her my sister-in-law?) and they have shared custody (debatable) of the lovable pit Gus!

So he came along for a few shots :)


That lens flare + that kiss! 

Ang said she "didn't want a ton of ring shots" but wow, look at this gorgeous ring! (Good job, Matt ;)

Late summer sun, sitting on a beautiful dock listening to the seagulls and waves. 


Congrats, Ang & Matt!! I know you will have a beautiful wedding and even more beautiful marriage :)

All photos were shot in manual on a Cannon t3i with a 50mm lens. Photos by Erin McGoff. Do not use without permission. 

The Art of Mastering the Morning [Week 6 - Final Week]

HELLO loyal readers (mom)!

Welcome to my last blog post for my summer series :(

Let me start of by apologizing for leaving you in the dark the past two weeks - I got horribly sick the MORNING of my 21st birthday, yeah like pre-alcohol (except for a harmless bottle of champagne at midnight). Of course, I still went out which probably only made it worse and I had a fully-fledged flu for the next week. I missed my last week of work except for my last day when I went into the office and honestly it was all a blur because #DayQuil is my best friend. And then the next week I was babysitting everyday 8am-6:30pm so no fauxga mornings there, there was only room for pure hustle. 

ALSO: can we talk about something? When I was babysitting a 10 & 7 year old all they wanted to do was watch youtube videos of strange people playing minecraft?? Like this is the future generation of VR and this is how they chose to spend their time??? They thought it was "hilarious and interesting" but never laughed once??? Is this what it's like to feel old?? Are "all the kids doing it"???? Please let me know I'm very confused. 

Scientifically, what is the best cure for a hangover? 

Pounding headache, dizzyness, dry mouth, nausea, fatigue, achey everything - the hangover has been taking down good men and women since biblical times. So like I said, I'm going to write on my experiments with hangover cures because #science. I'm a strong believer that there isn't one end-all-be-all cure to the dreaded post-drunkard state of deterioration. I think whatever works for you, works for you. But there's definitely some that are stupid and we're going to talk about them. 

1. "Just sweat it out!" 

Okay, I get how you need to get out of bed. But a hangover is a direct result of you poisoning your body. However, our bodies are literally designed to filter out toxins all day and our bodies can't store alcohol.  Your liver filters out about 90-95% of alcohol in your body and the remaining 5% that isn't processed filters out through your breath, sweat and urine. I believe partnered with eating a healthy breakfast and drinking a shat ton of water, working out can lead to you feeling better. Full disclosure: it's also very convenient for us lazy people if this hangover remedy isn't effective. 

2. Chug Gatorade and/or Coconut Water

I personally am a huge fan of liquids when it comes to curing a hangover. Gatorade has the electrolytes and the placebo effect you need for that extra boost. I didn't like coconut water until I started drinking it when I was hungover and now it is like a precious nectar to me. 

Alcohol is a diuretic, which means its causes you to produce more urine. That’s why you have to go to the bathroom so much when you drink, and it also means you’re at risk for getting dehydrated.
— Danielle Hamo, a registered dietician and licensed nutritionist.

3. Pedialyte

Yes. It's gross, but it has all the vitamins and nutrition your body is crying out for when it's hungover. But let's talk about something: Pedialyte was designed for babies who have diarrhea. The company has since then realized it's ability to market to disgustingly hungover 20-somethings, but it was still designed to rehydrate sick babies (what's the difference, really?). So what makes Pedialyte so special?

 "A bottle of Pedialyte has twice the sodium and five times as much potassium as the same size bottle of Gatorade--with fewer than half the calories (around 100, compared to 240 in a sports drink)." So basically, Pedialyte has a tonnnn of sodium which tells your body to start retaining water and therefore helps you rehydrate better. It's not a mysterious savior, it's just a salty drink made for poopy babies. Perfect for hungover college students. 

4. Greasy Burger with Fries. 

As much as I hate this remedy, this is the route I choose after by 21st birthday. Well, not exactly. Replace a "greasy burger with fries" with "Chickfila chicken biscuit with hash browns and coconut water". Of course, it's a temporary fix. The comfort our favorite guilty pleasure foods give us supplies us with the psychological relief we need. But if we're going to suffer, can it at least be with a delicious breakfast in front of us? However, even though greasy food isn't a true solution to your hangover, food definitely can be. 

The best hangover remedy? The one that works?


5.  2 Advil and a large glass of water before bed

Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's medical school (and he's a Kidney specialist) said the root of hangovers isn't that the body lacks nutrients after a long night out. Instead, it's just that the body produces chemicals when breaking down alcohol that are toxic and pain-inducing. He claims no matter what you do, you just have to be patient and wait for the symptoms to pass while rehydrating your body. So if there's no cure to the hangover, what do we do? Take premeditative measures. 

Before you go to bed, take one or two Advil and drink at least 40oz of water. I also try to drink one glass of water between every alcoholic drink and whenever I'm able to pull this off, I wake up feeling great. The only problem with this avoid-based strategy is that drunk people aren't always the most responsible. But I live by the practice that if you're too drunk to remember to drink water before bed, you're too drunk. Balance, my friends. Be nice to your body and it'll be nice back. Binge drinking is an American cultural norm, but it doesn't have to be your norm. Know your limits, drink yo water, and enjoy a nice, headache-free morning. 


Reasons why you don't meditate and how to get past them:


1. "It's boring to sit there. I feel like I'm wasting time!"

I totally get how meditation is boring. When I first started meditating, I sought out some words of wisdom from our good family friend who is a professional yogi. She said that she once had a monk tell her that he wasn't "going to meditate" but he was going to "sit" because saying that you're "going to meditate" implies you're going to do something when, in fact, meditating is the act of doing nothing. But there's just one problem: people don't like doing nothing (myself included). 

Our society today pushes the idea that you always need to be doing something productive. There's always something to do. And that's just how it is, we live in the United States where contributing to an innovative society is ingrained into our culture. Being a driven, motivated, hard worker is not a bad thing. I'm completely guilty of saying this! Even I didn't meditate this morning because I thought "oh well I really just have to write this blog post and I feel like if I try to meditate I'm just going to be thinking about other things because I'm anxious and it's like super hot outside". 

So here's a solution: don't think of meditation as doing nothing. Think of it as an investment into your mental and physical health. 10 minutes a day. I stand in the CHIPOTLE line for longer than 10 minutes. Think of how many minutes you spend on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Reddit/Snapchat a day! 5-10 minutes? That's a minuscule amount of time to give for the incredible difference you will feel mentally, emotionally and physically. 

2. I can't concentrate for that long. 

Concentrating for a long time isn't what meditation is about. Honestly, it's almost better if you're easily distracted and meditation will actually help you learn how to concentrate better. Meditation is about the practice of cleansing your mind. It's about checking in with your physical and mental health. It's about learning how to be present. When meditating, the moment you get distracted but gently bring your attention back to the present you are doing exactly what meditation is designed for. Being "good" at meditating isn't necessarily a good thing - it's supposed to be challenging in a sense. 

3. I'm not into that spiritual, hippy-crap. 

You don't have to be, I'm not either. I'm not buddhist or hindu - I'm a Christian and I've actually found that the practice of meditating is a lot like the practice of my faith. Following Christ isn't about being a perfect sinless person (aka concentrating perfectly while meditating without distraction). Following Christ is about learning how to realize your flaws (realize you've been distracted) and coming back to the cross (coming back to the breath). 

Meditating can be purely a physical practice. Yeah, Jesus meditated. Yeah, a lot of mantras stem from Hindu and Buddhist teachings. But just because you don't personally believe in those religions doesn't mean you can't learn from their teachings. 

4. I don't have time. 

"I don't have time" translates into "it's not a priority" 100% of the time. 

"You should sit and meditate for 20 minutes a day. Unless you're busy. Then you should sit for an hour." -Old Zen saying

5. I don't know how to or even where to start learning. 

Down. Load. Head. Space. Download Headspace. Or Calm. Either app is amazing. They'll remind you daily to meditate and motivate you to come back the next day. They'll guide you through the practice and teach you techniques you can use everyday to become a happier, more present and calm person. 

Okay. That's the end. Thanks for following this series and making this summer wonderful. It forced me to research new topics, practice discipline and be more intentional about my health. I really enjoyed seeing all your snapchats, hearing about your morning routines and struggling in solidarity with me. Go forth and conquer this Fall. I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books:

When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.
— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

The Art of Mastering the Morning [Week 3 - Breakfast]

Hello my little lemons, how's everyone doing on this beautiful day?

So my first week, I outlined why I'm doing what I'm doing. Week 2, I finalized what I'm going to be doing. Moving on, I will be tweaking and experimenting with details.  

That's why this week, I'm Mastering the Art of Breakfast!

I'm asking the big questions. Like what do YOU eat for breakfast and WHY? Do you even eat breakfast? What can't you stand in the morning? Do you eat the same thing every day? Will the Starks arise and win the GAME OF THRONES? *side note: I finished GoT over the weekend ohhhhmyyyyyyywoooowwwwww #KINGOFTHENORTH** 

If you've been following me on Snapchat, you'd know this has been my go-to breakfast this summer. If you haven't been following me and want to, feel free to add me! (just @erinmcgoff, I'm a simple person). Follow me live as I live out everything I'm writing about. PLUS you get to see my grimy face first thing in the morning whilst working out in the humidity so I'm verrrrry purty!

  • My go-to breakfast: greek yogurt with honey, granola with dried fruits and some fresh chopped strawberries or blueberries (depending on my mood).
  • I'm usually not super hungry in the morning, but when I am, I'll have two Eggo waffles with peanut butter and honey (maybe a throw little flaxeed in there too if I'm feeling frisky).
  • My guilty pleasure breakfast is going to a diner and getting chocolate chip pancakes with OJ and a biscuit (also: chickfila breakfast.....ah!). 

After reading my blog last week, I had a few people ask me what I eat for breakfast and that's why I chose to feature that this week. But then I got the idea to start a conversation about breakfast. So I reached out on twitter and asked people what they ate for breakfast. 

I am so passionate about an NY everything bagel toasted with Chives cream cheese and a large coffee with milk and two packets of sugar with a side of fresh strawberries
— Gabi Gaujean

Some international breakfasts: My friends Rebecca Walcott (Trinidad and Tobago native) with a tropical breakfast and Amanda Farnan who's currently in Bolivia, so her breakfast is fresh coffee!

Is my morning routine of a small double shot latte in a real mug from the dav acceptable?
— Claire Russell
1 hard boiled egg w half a tomato w a lil olive oil and salt drizzled on it!!!
and iced coffee w almond milk
— @realsemple (the one, the only)
Whole grain toast, peanut butter, drizzle of honey, sliced strawberry, and chia seeds OH BABY
— Jasmine Nadim
Guilty pleasure: 100p chocolate chip pancakes with a Starbucks mocha and syrup those babies up
— Amanda Farnan

My friend Rosie always makes beautiful breakfasts, so if you need some inspiration... 

Another question that I got asked a lot after my last post was "why the lemon water?"

Here's why:

As I said in the beginning, everyone's body is different and everyone's taste preferences vary. I grew up in an OJ house; we didn't mess around with any of that "milk" or "water" crap--the 6 of us kids could shot gun a carton of Simply Orange OJ on command. So it's always been habit for me to have something citrusy in the morning.

However, there are wonderful benefits to drinking lemon water in the morning as opposed to another drink like OJ, chocolate/normal milk/juice/plain-BORING-water:

1. Low-calorie way to get vitamin C

2. Aids digestion and detoxes 

3. Lemons are a wonderful fruit

But do be careful to not swoosh the lemon juice in your mouth all day, because your teeth will break apart and you will be ugly and all your friends won't hang out with you anymore (#science)


So this week, I'm going to try 5 different breakfasts along with my routine:

Monday: the control breakfast, my typical greek yogurt with berries/granola (green tea and lemon water)

Tuesday: Egg with salt and pepper on toast w/ green tea [minimal, complex and high protein]

Wednesday: either going to try "no breakfast" - aka just tea [just to see how I feel]

                      OR guilty pleasure breakfast [high in fat and carbs - chocolate chip pancakes]

Thursday: protein shake - recipe tbd [what's it like to not eat solid food?]

Friday: smoked salmon and cream cheese on whole grain toasted bagel [big high carb breakfast]

I'll report back with my findings. 

Until next time, beautiful people. I wish you all a healthy and happy week full of many laughs and successes! Spend some time outside, buy a plant, get dinner with a friend you haven't seen in a while. You are in 100% control of your life and what you do with it.


You are already complete, already whole. You need nothing else.
— -Joey Koester (it was on the back of my kombucha bottle)