I've always loved to write, so here is my chance to share my thoughts with you. I plan to blog about topics like nutrition, my weight loss journey, running, and balancing a life with kids and a growing business that is my true passion in life.
I hope you enjoy reading my blog as much as I enjoy writing it!
Happy Holidays from Healthy Girl Fitness!!
Someday, we will talk about 2020 like we’ve heard other people talk about The Great Depression. People who didn’t live through it will roll their eyes and smile politely, but you’ll “remember it like it was yesterday,” just like they all did, and it will have changed you. This year has been the toughest 10 years of my life. I mean, it sure FEELS like it’s been a decade long. Our health and sanity have been tested in 2020 and it's felt like the weight of an elephant on our chests, or maybe a constant gut punch after gut punch, and we still don’t see the end on the horizon.
And that’s EXACTLY why it’s important now, more than ever before, to focus on the good and the things that we can control instead of choose to wallow in the bad stuff that only makes us sink further down in the thick and heavy mud. I mean, it’s OKAY to be sad and mourn all we’ve lost and continue to lose each day. But we can’t LIVE there. We have to live in the light like a plant or we won’t grow. No one wants to be a crusty old brown plant because that’s just sad. So here’s some good stuff.
1. Family. If there’s anything I’ve learned in actual practice (rather than just from sappy movies and greeting cards,) it’s this .. Family is EVERYTHING. It’s true that I get annoyed with mine .. Every. Single. Day. But I love them and they are the reason I get up every day instead of bury myself further under the sheets. I’ve learned new things about them that I was always too busy to notice before. For better or worse, this is who they are, who WE are, and it’s mostly kinda amazing. I’m getting a glimpse into the future of who my sons will be and seeing firsthand how they view things in the world. I’ve had some pretty healthy (though heavy and challenging) debates with my husband and my parents and many other members of my family and am trying really HARD to see life from all sides. And that’s a good thing, even if it’s not always peaceful. We have to do the hard things and we have to live through the bitter to reach the sweet to be a better person in this difficult world. We’ve had to make some really difficult choices that we never thought we’d ever have to, and it feels impossible sometimes. But it’s how we grow and how we see the beauty at the end of the rainbow and we must journey through that storm to get there. And it’s through the worst of times that you really learn who’s going to be there no matter what. Which leads to #2.
2. Friends. This is an extension of #1 because my friends have become my family. We have all had to re-evaluate our friendships this year and figure out what is worth saving and what is not. That’s not to say we can’t have those friends who you have fun with solely when you’re at the top of your game, but it sure is nice to learn who you’d reach for from the gutter too, not to mention those who’d jump in to give you a better grip. We’ve gotten more creative with our friendships, whether it’s socially distanced happy hours across a field or a computer, the “double bubble” circle of trust, or simply a text to check in. We all have comfort levels we’ve reached with people and they are all important in their own ways. “For better or worse” is more than just something you say during your wedding vows, and it’s the “worse” that really defines things.
3. We can stop and smell the roses. One of the hardest and most refreshing things about this pandemic for me was learning to SLOW THE FUCK DOWN. I’ve been in “Go! Go! Go!” mode for years and I actually thrive on hustle and bustle when it’s something I feel passion for. But what happens is that my parents will start to worry about me, my husband will get mad at me, and my kids will cry and fight. And then I’ll crash and burn every so often too. When the pandemic hit, I went from full days of running from appointment to appointment, living out of my car while my kids were in school, and being exhausted every night to a SCREECHING halt of activity. All of my clients. School. All of the day-to-day tasks, from making lunches to running errands to writing up exercise plans.. all erased. Suddenly, I could get up and stay in my PJs ALL day because NO ONE was going to see me except my family. Everyone was home, ALL the time. Everyone was bored and content at the same time. It was a shock, and I had a really hard time with it, but it was good for me. It forced me to re-evaluate things, and to consider whether some of those things really mattered. And the world didn’t crash around me. My priorities switched, and that wasn’t such a bad thing. That being said, I STILL do too much and I still can’t sit around. But I’m a work in progress and I’m trying to learn how to say “no.”
4. We came together for our community. We all find a way together in times of tragedy or trouble. If we don’t, we should. Everyone needs a hand sometimes, even the richest or strongest or most confident. No one saw these times coming and no one ever could have. Life, so much more than it ever was, is more about giving than receiving. I really saw the kindness of strangers when our world changed. Sure, it brings out the worst in some .. There are always people who will take advantage, no matter the circumstance. But overwhelmingly, I saw more good than bad, or at least an effort to try to understand. I really truly have faith in the belief that we are trying to change the world for the better. There are growing pains. There are people who don’t like change. There are people who will fight it every step of the way. But overall, on the average, I’d say most people just want to be happy and bring joy to their world and the world for others. This holiday, I chose to buy all my gifts from local and small businesses. It feels good to do my part. That’s a gift for myself and them so it’s a win-win.
5. We are healthy .. Or alive, at least. This may sound insensitive or “wrong.” Some of us ARE sick. Some of us have lost people. Many of us have experienced great pain in many many ways. I have cried so much.. For myself, for my family, for my friends, for complete strangers even. And some of those tears are relief because I could have it so much worse. My family could too. And quite honestly, someone always have it worse. It doesn’t diminish your pain. Not in the least. But make no mistake, we are the lucky ones. We are the ones still fighting. We are the ones still breathing. We are warriors. Soldier on, and find the end of that rainbow.
Stay healthy and stay safe. Happy Holidays!!
Nikki's 10 Golden Rules of Running
I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t take my own advice often enough. So absolutely NO judgement if you don’t follow any of the “rules,” because everyone is different. But I’ve done this running thing for a lot of years, so I feel it’s my duty to pass some knowledge along.
1. Find the right shoes. This is the most important advice I will give you. You MUST have the right shoes if you are planning on putting some miles on them, (and trust someone who has had running injuries solely based on shoe choices!) Don’t go to your local Foot Locker and pick out the shoes that are cute or on sale. Go to a running store and talk to someone who works there. A good running store employee will make you try on several shoes and have you run in front of them so that they can analyze your stride and gait and find you that perfect “Cinderella” fit. Expect to spend some considerable time there if it’s your first time. Don’t rush. If you are planning to do any sort of distance running, I always advise that you go up a size from your typical everyday shoe because your feet will swell the longer you’re in them for a run. I also advise that you choose to get fitted for shoes in the afternoon after you’ve been on your feet for a good part of the day, which is a more accurate representation of how your feet will feel for a long run. There are lots of great running stores in Portland, including Fleet Feet Sports, Foot Traffic, and Portland Running Company. PRC is my personal go to and you’ll get a 10% discount there if you mention Healthy Girl Fitness.
2. Find the right sports bra. The right bra is almost as important as finding the right shoes. Running causes some considerable impact on your chest. As with shoes, the right sports bra is not necessarily the most expensive one. I’ve had a lot of luck with the Champion Sports Bras found at Target, but I also prefer no underwire or hooks. That being said, I’ve loved the Brooks Juno Sports Bra, which does have hooks in the back. My new fave is the All Star Bra by ZYIA Activewear, but I am a representative for the brand, so I might be biased. It’s all really personal preference, but make sure you protect those girls. Try bras on, jump up and down in them. Experiment on shorter runs. Some will chafe in the rain, so body glide or Vaseline or something similar in strategic places will help as well.
3. Gear choice is a personal preference. As mentioned above, personal preference factors into a lot of my advice. We are all built differently and we all run differently. Test things out if you can and decide what works for you. A few things to consider are things like the following: Do you want to carry water in a handheld bottle or in a belt or vest? Do you want to wear hats or headbands? Buffs or gloves? Pants or capris? Running skirts or shorts? Jackets or arm warmers? There are so many choices now that it can be really overwhelming. As far as weather goes, I add 10 degrees to the weather when deciding how many layers to wear. So if it's 90 degrees, I prepare to dress like it's 100 degrees. If it's 30 degrees, I dress for it to be 40 degrees. That 10 degrees accounts for the sweating I'll be doing. I’m always here if you want suggestions, but you might not know what you need until you try.
4. Be seen. Safety should be your number one concern when you are out on the roads. If you have to get up to run super early in the morning or will be running in the evening (in which you need to consider the light at the end of your run, because it might be light when you start,) it can get pretty dark out pretty fast, especially in the winter months. Many running clothes now have reflective elements in their design. I have a couple super reflective jackets. I also own a couple reflective “Y” style strap vests. Noxgear has an awesome LED visibility vest that is on sale a lot. Flares, headlamps, knuckle lights, and flashlights are also helpful. RunLites, which are gloves you can insert lights into, are personal favorites of mine. There are lots of choices, and again it can seem like a lot to decide on, but I’d say the most important thing to note is that you should have something reflective from the front AND the back and you should have a light. It’s really great if the light blinks, because the movement helps when people in their cars are driving along mindlessly in the dark. Please don’t be “that” person that’s out on the road wearing all black and getting hit by a car. And just because you make eye contact with someone in a car, you should still assume that they might cut out in front of you anyway.
5. Hydrate. I’m the worst at this, but it’s so important. I’ve had a couple of occasions where I’ve almost passed out at the end of a run because I didn’t drink enough water. Remember that in the winter, you don’t notice you need water as much as you would in the summer because you don’t get as hot. But your body needs it. This means hydrating the day before a big run and after too. On run day, only you can decide how much you need. If you want to test if you're getting enough, weigh yourself before and after a run. If your weight doesn't fluxuate much, you're probably on the right track. If you weigh less after your run than when you started, you might want to try to drink more the next time you get out there. I typically have a rule for myself that if I’m going to be out for more than an hour, I need to plan for water. Either bring it with you, follow a route that you know you have access to it, or stow it somewhere on the course for yourself beforehand. Don’t risk it!
6. Fuel your body. You wouldn’t go on a big road trip without filling your car with gas, right? Think of running this way too. To avoid “boinking” on a long run you need fuel. If you’re going for a short run (anything less than an hour is a good rule of thumb,) I don’t think it’s as important to follow the rules below, but every runner is different. This is another occasion where I can’t really advise you specifically on what to do because what works for me might not work for you. Here are just a couple of things that work for me.
a. Before the run: I need to eat at least an hour before a long run unless I want to spend a lot of time looking for bathrooms out on the course. For me, oatmeal with chia seeds, bananas, and peanut butter will keep me fueled for a long run. I’ve also done overnight oats or peanut butter on toast. I have one running friend who eats sardines before her marathons. The lesson here is .. To each their own!
b. During the run: Whether you do shot bloks, gu, or “real food” like applesauce pouches, gummy bears, or trailmix, make sure you’re prepared. I find as I get older, my body doesn’t do as well with all the sugar in gels and bloks. I tend to gravitate toward pretzels or homemade energy bars that have simple ingredients like dates. I generally tell people to try to get something in them at least an hour into their run. The problem with fueling while you run is that it often doesn’t sound good and you feel good an hour in like you might not need it. The problem is that by the time you do feel you need it, you’ve already done the damage of depleting your body. Try keeping a little in at a time and you’ll have more success. During a race, stopping at aid stations can be a good reminder.
c. After the run: I try to always have a granola bar of some kind right after a run. Bananas or oranges work well too. Some swear by chocolate milk. I try to eat something more substantial within an hour or so after a run. I’ll eat a baked sweet potato or a breakfast sandwich or something along those lines. I love burritos or roasted veggies with quinoa also.
7. What you do before your run really does matter. Try to get 8 hours of sleep. Get plenty of water. Avoid alcohol. Eat well. Lay out your running gear and clothes the night before a race so you aren’t rushed and forget something. None of these things should be super shocking. Sometimes you’ll do all of these things and you’ll have a bad run. Sometimes you’ll do none of these things and have a great run. But more often than not, it’s good to try not to stack the odds against yourself. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found some of these things to be more and more important.
8. Recovery is as important as the run itself. This is another thing I’m learning more and more about as I get older. Make sure you do some plyometric movements before a significant run. Butt kickers, leg swings, lunges, etc are all good ways to get the body ready. Make sure you stretch after you stop running. Moist heat works great on sore muscles or achy bodies. Rest on rest days. Really. You could do more damage than good if you push it too hard. Your body has earned that rest, so take it. Overuse injuries are common. Don’t be one of them.
9. Nothing new on race day. This is a golden rule most runners know. Don’t use a race day as an opportunity to try new shoes or a new type of gel. Wear what you know is comfortable and do all things tried and true. Do what your body is used to on race day so you can enjoy the race.
10. Have fun!! If it’s not fun, why are you doing it? Embrace the journey and don’t worry so much about your time.
We Will Have to Pass Through the Bitter Water Before We Reach the Sweet
2020. Will this number ever mean anything to us but the year where everything in our world came crashing down? Will we look back on it someday and tell stories to those who never lived through it and talk about “those days” in the same way as when we’ve had to listen to people talk of the Great Depression or World War II? “Those days” that sounded so horrible but that no one could ever have a concept of if they didn’t live it, day in and day out?
If I look back on my life to this blog entry, the photos, the social media posts, or whatever serves as such nostalgia to our future, I will remember the year that my kids were in school one day and it was over the next. And not just for a week or two, like we thought it would be. Not even for the remainder of the school year, but bleeding into the next with no end yet in sight. I will remember that this horrible pandemic was something I myself had casually brushed under the rug as something that couldn’t possibly happen to the greatness of America until it had swept over us so quickly that we suddenly couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t hug our friends, where we had to wear masks to leave the house and stay 6 feet or more from everyone we encountered. Where people became so sensitive to everything that fistfights would erupt over stupid things that didn’t matter. Where we didn’t feel like we could be human anymore, where we were stuck feeling lonely and our kids couldn’t see friends and we couldn’t eat a meal in a restaurant. We watched businesses close doors, sometimes forever, and a cough from a stranger was something we feared. You couldn’t buy toilet paper or hand sanitizer, or flour for baking, or so many other puzzling things.
And then, George Floyd died. And both before and after him, countless others. He was the one that broke the straw on the camel’s back. People had fought for injustice far too long, had spoke up but found words doing nothing but falling to the ground in only a whisper. Peaceful protest turned to violence for some, rioting and fighting and excuses for chaos for others, and the people who wanted to make a difference and change things were the easiest to silence because they were like grains of sand in a vast desert where so much work still needed to be done. People became fearful and angry and misunderstood. People were tear gassed for standing in the wrong place, people watched their businesses get destroyed, and beautiful murals expressed the heartache and power of love and hate everywhere. It became a really confusing and mournful place to live.
I found strength in new places. I worked out more, ran in the quiet of the dark hours and enjoyed every inch of the fresh air I could find. I breathed deeply in places that I could so safely. I started teaching an outdoor fitness class in a socially distanced manner and found joy in being around people again. I hadn’t realized how much I would miss people until they were taken. And now, here we were, all in the same boat, all fighting the same exhausting fight, all in the same community. Things weren’t normal, but we were finding ways around the problems of the earth to find a corner of happiness.
Then the fires started. Huge winds and forest fires. First the power went out, and then the skies darkened and turned orange. The ash came floating down and the sun was pink. Before we knew it, Oregon, my home for my entire life, was burning. Pockets of our beautiful state were on fire and we had to stand helplessly and wait to the flames to die down. There was too much to do and our heroes did all they could. Friends evacuated their homes, not knowing if they would ever return to find them still standing. People worried about their animals and livestock, their most precious possessions, and all the things they’d worked their whole lives for. Restaurants and landmarks went down in piles of burnt cinders. We made a list in our family of what to take if we had to evacuate. We were only a couple of miles from the warnings, after all, and the levels of air quality had never reached such hazardous levels. If you’ve ever had to make a list like this, you know that even the idea of it is terrifying. How do you squeeze your whole life’s memories into one vehicle? And where do you go? Our eyes were on fire and my headaches raged. I stopped running. I stopped trying so hard to be healthy. It was all too hard. My family, my kids, me. We were all unsure of what to do next. How to proceed. Where to go. What to do.
But there’s always a reason for all of life’s battles. I’ve always said that we’d never appreciate life if not for it’s hardships. And here’s what I’ve learned, and here’s what I hope to never forget.
1. Have grace. We are all going through things. My pain does not diminish yours. It’s not a competition and none of us know what others are carrying on their backs, not really. It’s time for us to be patient with others, because if not now, then when?
2. Hope is our only option. I can’t think of a single horrible thing that has ever happened that I haven’t learned a valuable lesson from. It doesn’t mean I would do everything the same way if given the chance, but there will always be a bright spot somewhere as long as you’re willing to see it. We can’t control the things that happen to us sometimes, but we can control how we react. Hope is all we really have, in the end.
3. Love who you love and leave the rest. They say life is short for a reason. Some people are meant to be in your life forever and some are not. Some are there to teach you something for a short time, and some are there for the long haul. Lean in and prioritize. You don’t have to hang onto to everything. I’ve reconnected more with many through these trying times, and learned that it’s not always the people you expect you would open yourself to so completely. It doesn’t make anyone better or worse, but we all need what we need. I wasted so much time investing in things that ultimately didn’t matter before I realized I couldn’t do it anymore, and that’s a waste of everyone’s time.
4. As outlined above, our time is precious, as are our relationships. Invest in what fills your bucket, not in things that will shoot holes in it. It’s okay to waste a day in your pajamas if it’s what you need, but you don’t have to live there. Similarly, you don’t need to be productive every day either. Give yourself a break. You’d do it for others, so don’t be so hard on yourself. Just find the joy and the rest will follow.
5. Slow down. There’s no prize for finishing first. Smell the flowers, watch the sunset, spend an uncomfortable amount of time hugging someone in your bubble, color, doodle, watch bad tv, and dance in your living room. Kiss your loved ones, including your dog. It’s worth it.
6. Technology is the root of all evil and the savior to all. Without technology, we wouldn’t be having all these Zoom meetings with family we didn’t have time for before. We wouldn’t be wasting so much time commuting to work from home either. Our kids couldn’t go to school, as awful as distance learning is. It affords us a lot. However, we need to unplug too. Play UNO and sit down at the dinner table together. Soak it in. It’s fleeting, so don’t waste it.
7. Don’t just admit you are human .. Embrace it. Really. People will still love you. If they don't, they did you a favor and you can move on.
8. Tomorrow is a new day. Don’t waste today but realize you can try again tomorrow if you need a restart.
9. Family. That is all.
10. I’m here if you need me. Reach out. Really.
Enjoy the view, even if it’s the fire that caused it. It’s the least we can do.
Made of Steel
If you’ve ever seen the flick entitled “Unbreakable,” you know that Bruce Willis’ character walks away from a fatal train accident as the sole survivor without a scratch on him. After this incredible event, he evaluates his life and realizes he’s never really been hurt by anything. He’s had no broken bones or tragedies to speak of, and he harbors some superhuman abilities.
In contrast to the Bruce Willis character, Samuel L Jackson plays a character named Mr. Glass. He has a disease that renders his bones very brittle, and he is so extremely fragile that his bones broke even upon his very birth. He is the yang to Willis’ yin, his polar opposite.
I often think about these two extremes, and I feel lucky in life to find myself more in the “unbreakable” category than the “broken” one. This week, I was involved in a horrible car accident on the highway. The auto repair shop called me today after the truck came in on the tow truck and asked disbelievingly, “Are you okay?” He said it was the worst damage he’s seen to a truck from an accident in awhile, and I didn’t suffer any injuries, nor did the other passengers in the other car involved.
I’ve raced a thousand and one races, I’ve climbed mountains, I’ve been in planes, trains, and automobiles. I’ve been placed in danger many times. I’ve never broken a bone, I’ve never really injured myself despite how hard I push sometimes, and I’ve managed to always come out on the other side of a hairy situation relatively unscathed. That’s not to say things haven’t EVER happened.. my husband can tell you a story about that time I scared him to death after a bad bike accident that left me with a mouth full of broken teeth and a concussion. But, again, it could have been worse. It always can. I could have DIED.
I hear it a lot. You. Are. SO. SO. Lucky. And I agree, I am. And we all are, though maybe in different ways. We just have to choose to see it that way.
I’ll never forget the year I ran the Pacific Crest Half Marathon with my dear friend Rhonda and it was extremely hot that day. There was no shade out on that course and the sun was relentless. At a certain point, I looked over to her and asked jokingly, “Remind me why we are doing this?” And this runner behind us quietly said “We are doing this for all the people who can’t.” That. THAT shut me up. She was right. And when we got to the end of the race, we found out that someone died that day, doing the triathlon. He had drowned. There were also several people struggling over the finish line, dehydrated and staggering. We were fine. We were lucky.
My friend Rhonda can’t run anymore. Her knees are so bad that she’ll need surgery, and her racing days are over. She wishes she could complain like the good old days. Meanwhile, my body keeps trucking along, running more miles and taking on bigger challenges every year. I’ve had a few injuries here and there, but nothing debilitating. I haven’t had to give up on any of my races .. YET. I count my blessings.
So the point of all of this is this .. some days you are made of glass and some days you are made of steel. Cherish those days that you end up on the top, even if it was a rough road to get there. Always remember what you can do that others cannot, not because you are better than them but because your life affords it. Because some days for some things, you won’t be able to be the superhero. Luck has taken you far, but it won't always. And it's not JUST about luck. It's about hard work and doing the right things too. And sometimes it goes the other way and even if you do the right things, it still won't go your way. But however you get to the top of your mountain, enjoy every moment for what it is, even if you fell a few times on the climb. The views are worth the price.
Take mental snapshots of the good moments in life, whether it’s the feel of the breeze on your hair while running through the mountains, or the reach of your son’s arm around your waist. Choose to live every moment instead of struggle to see over someone else’s shoulder to anticipate what comes next. It couldn’t be as important. There's no reason why you can't be made of glass AND steel.
Mental Health for Monica
This week, I had a morning where I got up before the rest of the house and went for a walk through the neighborhood. I usually do this with the dog or with the kids, and I usually have music or an audio book or use it as a chance to answer emails or check up on clients. But this time, I did none of those things. This time, it was just me, just the quiet of the morning, and I made a concentrated effort to keep my phone in my pocket for the entire 4 mile walk.
There was a time when this was easier, when we didn’t feel so connected to technology and didn’t feel like there was such a need to multitask our entire days and squeeze in timeslots for everything. There was a time when we didn’t have cell phones or laptops or wireless anything. And maybe we didn’t get as much done but maybe we didn’t feel as obligated to do so much either.
There was a time where we didn’t have cameras on our phones and we relied more on our memories. The view from a lens is never as gorgeous as what it looks like live, but we try so hard to capture every single moment on our devices. Maybe those memories would be more vibrant if we watched it with our eyes rather than our cameras. Maybe we should try to just LIVE and just BE.
Full disclosure (as always,) dear readers: I take anti-depressants. Some people would tell me I shouldn’t tell you this. I have clients who rely on my advice and potential clients who might be reading this right now and thinking they would never hire someone to help them who needs help themselves. But I’ve never been good at hiding things about myself or my life. I try my best to always be authentic, and I feel that's only fair to the people who choose to be a part of my life.
I started taking Lexapro a few years ago when my dad died. I had resisted getting help for many years for anxiety and depression because I didn’t want anything to change who I was, at my core, as a person. But when my dad passed after years of suffering, I didn’t know what to do with myself anymore. If you’ve ever had one of those moments in life where you know you should be doing something but can’t remember what it is, you might know how I was feeling ALL. THE. TIME. There was a low buzzing in my veins and I couldn’t make myself slow down. This has always been a part of my personality. I’ve been called a “Monica,” which refers to the perfectionistic character Monica Gellar on “Friends.” There's an episide where she can't sleep at night knowing someone left a pair of shoes out in her living room, and that's kinda who I've always been. But there came a point where it felt less like a comedy and more like it was suffocating me. Eventually, I raised my hand and talked about it with my doctor and she put me on a low dose of the Lexapro.
Recently, I read Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed.” If you’re late to the party like I was and haven’t read it, make sure you do as soon as you are done reading this. It’s completely fabulous. She talks about anxiety and how it’s like the anticipation of going to the dentist can be worse than the actual drill procedure. When she was still married to her husband, her son asked him who he’d take to a deserted island and he said “your mommy.” When his son asked what he’d take with him to the island, he said “your mommy’s medicine.” Glennon is on the same antidepressant as me and she advises people to take their medicine and to keep taking their medicine if they need it. Glennon Doyle suggests you don’t get rid of your umbrella in a heavy rain just because it’s kept you dry so far. If it’s still raining, you keep yourself protected so you don't get wet again.
My husband doesn’t agree with taking medication for mental health. He thinks it’s a crutch. But think about what crutches are for. If you hurt yourself, do you use those crutches while you heal or should you walk around on your injury instead? How are you going to heal if you never have something to lean in on? Sometimes we need that strength when we are feeling weak until we can stand on our own again. The problem occurs with crutches when the people that use them don’t need them. We shouldn't shame those who do until we've walked around on that broken foot for awhile.
Not all issues people need medication for are evident from the outside. I have a friend with a horrible auto-immune disease and some days she looks and acts normal. Other days, she can’t get out of bed. She needs medication, but if you caught her on a “good day” you might wonder why she needs it. Why are mental healthy issues any different? We can’t see all the things that might be going on inside of people. Many of us have actual hormonal things going on that no one else can see. Some of us are also masters of hiding our pain, inside and out. Why do we want to make people feel bad for admitting that they need help and for seeking it? Shouldn't we applaud that?
We all have stuff. Too much stuff. And sometimes we need the quiet. I started taking an antidepressant not because I wanted to numb who I was or to rely on something to give me a shortcut in life. I just wanted to find myself and learn how to walk on my feet again. I still take the Lexapro I was prescribed a couple of years ago and I don’t plan to quit anytime soon.. That’s okay too. It doesn’t make me a worse mom, wife, friend, trainer, or runner. It makes me a human being.
There was a time I couldn’t have left the house without something to keep my brain occupied. I’m really trying to be okay with the quiet. There’s a lot of it these days, and also a lot of noise. It’s just a balancing act. As for that walk, I saw a lot of things that day I’d passed a million times and never really looked at. Life is going too fast to rush it more than we have to.
Life in the Fast Lane
We all have “things.” Things that scare us. Things that are easy for most people but hard for us. Things that make us grow if we can JUST get past them. Phobias. Fears. Unreasonable things that terrify us. For me, this always was driving.
I think I was about 20 when I got my driver’s license. I was not one of those kids who couldn’t wait for the freedom that having a license came with. The thought of driving on the road in a CAR with actual other PEOPLE on the road scared me. What if I got in an accident? What if I was a bad driver who everyone honked at? What if I got lost or had to actually parallel park?
Getting my license was a nightmare, as the guy assigned to my fate at the DMV immediately rolled down the windows in my car and turned the AC off in the 90 degree heat. He was hacking phlegm out the passenger side of the car .. No joke. He wasn’t very nice. He was really gruff and he yelled a lot. By the time the test was over, I was a ball of stress. He said I’d passed and he got out of the car and I started to cry hysterically.
Little things like getting gas, going through drive thrus, and parking caused me anxiety. I got nervous if other people were in my car or watching me drive. It wasn’t something I could explain, but my heart rate would race every time these things occurred. And there were two things I absolutely would not do .. Drive downtown and drive on the freeway. I let so many opportunities pass me by because of this fear, as this was long before Uber or Lyft. People thought it was silly, and I did too. But I couldn’t will myself to change things.
At some point, the best invention ever was at my fingertips and it solved so many of my problems. GPS was the anchor I’d needed all along, and it gave me freedom and bravery I’d never had before. It was then that I realized that though driving scared me immensely, it hadn’t scared me as much as the fear of not knowing where to go or getting lost.
Who I am, in a nutshell, is a planner. I want to know every turn ahead. It makes my loved ones crazy but it calms the voices in my head to know as much of the unknown as I can and plan for every scanario. Just going with the flow was never my MO. It’s caused so much anxiety over the years and it’s really hurt me at times. I’m learning now, maybe because as I get older I realize more and more what really matters, how to do all the things that Elsa sang about. It’s time after so many years of a white knuckled grip to let that shit GO. Because it’s really not worth it to sweat the small stuff.
I was the girl who was always the shy one who never wanted to speak up in class. And now, I’m the girl that stands in front of groups of people and tells them what to do. And they LISTEN. I’m the girl who still doubts her knowledge despite the training and experience that reflect it, and even as my nerves rage and I feel like my words will get stuck in my throat, I will speak up. Fake it until you make it, they say, but it’s not fake. It’s just the confidence needs to shine through and to to stop holding me back. It’s the same story as it was with the driving. I could park, I could drive, I could do hard things. I just needed to have faith in myself to go places. I finally learned how to take my foot off the brake and let it land on the gas. There’s no looking back.
These days, I drive on the freeways and it’s liberating. People take it for granted when they drive everywhere without fear, but I feel proud of myself every time I get out there. I say to myself “look at you, doing all the grown up things.” It’s not such a hard thing. But facing your fear, ANY fear, whether it’s taming wild lions or leaving your house, is a hard thing. And we should celebrate every step we take that gets us past that. Turn up the car radio and GO!
What Runners Do During Quarentine: The Goggins 4x4x48 Challenge
This was supposed to be my year of rest. After 2 marathons, 6 50ks and several (like A LOT) of races the last two years, I was going to take a break. This was before Corona Virus. Before the crazy came to us. Before homeschooling our kids and staying indoors and not being able to hug our friends. Before we needed to find ways to stay sane.
So running took on a new meaning in my house. Every day, after several exhausting hours trying to teach two elementary age kids math and writing and reading and all the things, I am always so frustrated and angry and out of patience that I need to find something to keep me from being an asshole to my family. My family, (being me, my husband, and our two spirited boys,) made the choice last summer to move into a big house with my parents. Though it’s perfectly lovely most of the time, being stuck inside with 5 other people has been really hard for me, especially since I’m not a “stay at home” kind of person while my kids are generally at school. Running has become my only release, and before I knew it, I had started running anywhere from 3-5 miles every day plus a half marathon or so every weekend. For the first time, I started signing up for virtual races. And then I decided I wanted to do one “thing,” just one big challenge during all this pandemic mess, that would be really memorable and maybe even kinda crazy. And that’s when I began to ponder the Goggins 4x4x48 Challenge.
Have you heard of the 4x4x48 Challenge? I hadn’t before a couple of months ago. David Goggins is a ultramarathoner (as well as an ultra-cyclist, triathlete, motivational speaker, retired Navy SEAL, and all around amazing bad ass) and he inspired this idea in his book Living with a Seal. The challenge, if you accept it, is to run 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours. That’s 12 runs totaling 48 miles in all. Crazy but somehow doable, right? I was intrigued by the idea of getting to do an ultradistance but spreading it out over two days, and getting the comforts of my own home during rest periods. It’s only 4 miles, right? Less than an hour on my feet at a time. I could do that in my sleep. And as it turns out, that’s what it felt like at some points.
What I hadn’t really anticipated, and what I never could have really grasped until I was in the thick of it, is that it’s a really a pretty big imposition to have to live your life in 4 hour segments, even if it’s only for 48 hours. I started to get confused about what day it was and I was in a constant state of anxiety because there was always another run coming, some sneaking up on me faster than others. And though I loved having the comforts of home, it was actually pretty hard to do something like this outside of a race environment. When you do a 2 day relay, for example, you are surrounded by bleary-eyed and stiff muscled runners going through the same stuff and it somehow makes you feel like you are part of a major warrior community. You get none of that with this challenge. It’s you against the world and life is not frozen in time like it is in a race.
In the end, it’s pretty awesome though. Once I got through leg 7 of this “one person relay on steroids” as a friend called it, I reached a state of runner’s euphoria that I’d never experienced in quite the same way before. It’s something I can’t quite explain, but I felt amazing and, for once, felt like nothing that life could throw at me would get in the way of this. This was an important lesson in the midst of a a Covid World, and I didn’t take that feeling for granted for a second. When all was said and done, I felt lucky to have endured it.
If you are considering doing a challenge like this, here are a few things I’ve learned along my journey.
1. Change your clothes after every leg. I made the mistake of not changing my pants after my 2nd run and took off for the 3rd leg thinking I’d save on laundry. Big mistake, as chafing ensued on my upper thighs and butt cheeks. Not a fun experiment.
2. With the above being said, make sure you have enough clothes to run 12 times. I was able to reuse a few sports bras by leaving them out to air dry. Other than that, I changed everything for each run after the above snafu. I did all of my laundry the day before the challenge so I’d have all my athletic wear available and I’d be able to complete a full load when I was done. And boy, did it stack up!
3. Eat. Eat well and drink plenty of fluids. Everyone has different tolerances when it comes to their windows of when to eat and drink surrounded a run and I encourage you to find yours. If I ate an hour before my run, that worked well for me, and I generally had chocolate milk immediately upon my return and a high protein snack 20 minutes after I was done running. Also plenty of coffee (Four Sigmatic makes my favorite adaptogen coffee,) Liquid IV, and the electrolyte of your choice are handy and don’t skimp on real meals, because you will need real food! Just time it appropriately and realize you will get hungry! Leg #7 at 9AM felt awful but leg #8 at 1PM felt great because it was right after lunch.
4. Find something to listen to that will motivate you. I went many years without running with music. When I started running every day, I discovered how necessary it was to listen to something to keep myself motivated. Do what works for you. For me, listening to the Peleton app on my phone helped immensely. I’d pick a 30 minute running workout, and generally the genre was rock because that’s what makes me move. I think it’s important to mention I didn’t actually follow the advice of the instructor on the workouts because doing speed intervals was not going to help me get through 48 miles. But I found the music kept me going and having the instructor throwing pep talks in my ear made me feel less alone. Since most of my runs lasted approximately 40 minutes, I’d have around 10 minutes left after the workout before I was done, so I enjoyed listening to an audio book on my library app for the finish. It was a nice cool down. Also I love my wireless Bluetooth Aftershokz. You could even have someone run “with you” if you want to arrange a phone call with a friend and listen through your headphones. Whatever propels you forward is extremely valuable.
5. Body Glide is your friend. As mentioned before, I had some chafing issues. First because of my pants and later under my arms when I wore tank tops. Lube up with whatever works best for you and try to catch it early.
6. Plan! I had clothes laid out for the night legs. That way I could set an alarm, wake up and change without thinking and get on the treadmill. I used a tread for the night runs only. Decide before you race what you will need for food and hydration and make sure they are easy to reach for and there’s not a lot of prep time. As everyone will tell you before a race, don’t let this experience be a time where you want to try something new. Eat and drink foods and drinks that you know don’t bother your stomach, and don’t use this as an opportunity to try a new bra or pair of shoes. Control what you can control and it will be so much easier.
7. Shower, rest, run, repeat. I didn’t want to shower after every leg because that was just too much, but I hosed off in the shower and changed into the same comfy clothes during my rest times. Wear what you know will make you feel comfy and cozy. Rest as much as you can, stretch and relax. You’ve earned it.
8. Don’t plan on getting much accomplished. This sounds naïve but I didn’t really get the full impact of how this would feel until I was in it. I thought about how I wasn’t going to sleep much and that I was going to have to run 48 miles in two days, but I hadn’t really considered what life was going to be like with having to stop life every 4 hours for 2 days. And since I started my internal timer when I started my runs, (and not when I finished,) a 40 minute run factored in plus shower time means the rest period only lasts 3 hours. It’s a lot. The first day was fine, but as I did more and got more sleep deprived, I started to feel a little loopy. If you’re a mom, think about what the first few months of having a newborn is like. If you’ve done a two day relay, it’s a bit like that too, though worse because you aren’t existing in a sleep-deprived world, as mentioned before. You’re in a dazed runner’s world where you will likely be surrounded by people who don’t really get what you’re going through. That being said, I was able to turn in my voter’s ballot and pick up Click Listed groceries, but it was during day #1 before I had my first night of no sleep. Plan accordingly, and realize your rest time should be for just that!!
9. Document your results. It sounds silly, but you might actually forget what leg you are doing and/or what time you’re scheduled to run. I kept a spreadsheet where I documented the expected start time of each run, the actual start time for each, the actual miles, my pace, and the time it took to complete. This helped me immensely. I could track if I was getting better or worse and I could easily remember what was my next step and when.
10. Have a support system in place. This is the most important rule, in my opinion. Without my running community, it would have felt like it never happened. If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, did it really fall? There was no race company to record results, no aide stations to check in with, and no other people in sight who would understand what I was doing. I have a running group on Facebook that I created 4 years ago, and a large majority of my running community have access to it. I started a post there before I started the 4x4x48 and announced I’d be putting updates there after every leg. I posted my thoughts and feelings as well as a photo with every post. It was so encouraging to come back and see everyone’s comments. I have the absolute BEST cheering squad! And runners GET IT. Some still thought it was crazy, but everyone was supportive through the whole thing. I felt like such a rockstar and it helped move me along during every single run. It reminded me of what it’s like to run a relay and to tell everyone in your van about your experiences after you climb in after every leg. I highly recommend you have at least one person that you check in with regularly. And if you have Facebook, there are even a few 4x4x48 pages dedicated to this very event.
Overall, I’m really glad I did the Goggins 4x4x48 Challenge. It was definitely the memorable experience I was after and it actually went really well. I kept my speed consistent and it only took about 24 hours to get over the soreness. I would do it again, though it would be super fun if there were a way to make this an actual even with other people. I don’t know what that would look like, but if anyone has any ideas, count me in!
Runner Superpower: Grit
When I worked at a chiropractic clinic as a stretch therapist, I saw all sorts of athletes come through the office. Every one of them was amazing in their own way, from the dancers who were endlessly flexible to the football players who’d broken several bones many times over. I, of course, related most to the runners with their stiff hips and tight hamstrings, and I understood the level of crazy some were willing to summit. I never really thought much of it until I had a great conversation with one of the massage therapists about how runners are different from every other type of athlete.
I should first explain that my personal belief is that there are two types of runners, and this post is about what I call “hardcore” runners. This is not meant to imply that the other type of runner, what I call the “recreational” runner, is not a “real runner” or fake in any way. They are complete authentic, and they have to go through many of the same battles that ANY runner does when they go out and get it done. They do races, they own running shoes, they do all the things. But maybe they do Hood To Coast because they think it would be a fun experience or they train for a marathon because it’s a bucket list item and they don’t run the rest of the year/only occasionally/ever again. There are also the people who go for a run because the mood just struck them that day, or it’s a means to an end for some other fitness goal. They aren’t regular with their running, and they don’t NEED to run and feel lost and weak when they don’t get to do it. They can do a race or a run and then chill on the couch for 9 months before putting their shoes on again without feeling like something is missing. They aren’t obsessed or called nuts and they don’t often feel guilty for not getting in their miles for the year, the month, the week, or even the day. The mindset for a recreational runner is completely different than that of a hard core runner. I mean no offense to either type of runner. Neither is good or bad. But for the purposes of this topic, I’m speaking to the “hard core” runners, and if you’re still reading this, you might relate.
So, back to my point. What makes a runner different than another athlete? Firstly, to this massage therapist who saw much more than I ever did at that clinic, real runners all seem to have one thing in common, and that’s a high tolerance for pain. If you really think about it, it makes perfect sense. I can’t think of many other sports where the athlete is, at the VERY LEAST, in a constant state of uncomfortableness. Even when it’s flat as a pancake on the road you’re on, even if you’re trying distract yourself with the pretty views or the conversation of your runner friends, you are feeling it. Even at it’s best, you’re working and you’re sweating, and you can feel it in your lungs and your legs. At it’s worst, there’s a steady burn of numbingly horrible pain, and if you don’t have a gift for handling that, you probably wouldn’t keep doing that to yourself day in and day out. I remember a comedian once saying he never understood why anyone would want to be a runner because they never EVER looked happy when you see them out there running on the side of the road.
It’s true that even when you love running, you kind of hate it. That you dread every run as much as you look forward to it. Even if you train really hard and it gets a little easier for you, some days will still always be harder than others. What’s both frustrating and exhilarating about that is that sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason as to why. Because despite how good you get, there will still always be pain, there will always still be good days and bad days, and you won’t know when to expect what. And it makes you appreciate the good days so much more.
The second thing that all runners and only some other athletes have is what I’ve always called “stubbornness.” My husband refers to it as “dedication,” and says it’s the quality in me that he admires the most. Not long after we got married, I woke up before a race and it was raining in sheets outside. He quite innocently asked me if the race would be canceled and I laughed out loud. He drove me to the start and was dumbfounded by the sea of runners, standing in the rivers of rain, waiting to do the race. If I’ve said I’m doing a race, I’m doing it unless my legs fall off before then. Others call it “craziness” or “insanity,” or even “pointless.” My co-worker didn’t say runners had any of these qualities. He called what runners had “pure grit.” If you’re a runner, it honestly doesn’t just come down to how fast you are or how many miles you put in. It has everything to do with the fact that you just .. Get. It. Done. No matter what. Rain, snow, heat, bad air quality, pandemic. It’s all the same for a runner. You might choose a treadmill (a whole different kind of badass grit that I could write a whole different blog entry about) or running around your block 40 times, or the nastiest hill ever. It might be ugly, but there’s no question it’s going to happen.
I’ve run through a thunderstorm or two, golf-ball sized hail, and ice (thank god for my YakTrax) not to mention all those 5:00AM (and earlier!) runs with my ladies at least one day a week. I might have gotten 3 hours of sleep last night, been up with a sick kid or at a holiday party, or just had a lot of “life” getting in the way, but I will STILL Get. It. Done. The same thing inside of myself that forced me to go to a cycling class a few hours after a root canal is the same force that made me a good candidate for being crowned a runner. I once ran 16 miles and then went to my apartment and spent the rest of the day moving into a new place after a breakup. You have to do these things to still have a life AND be a runner. No excuses. Ever. We don’t even think about it, we just lace up and go.
To be fair, that’s not everyone, and I know plenty of fair weather runners too. But in my opinion, which may not be a popular one, most “hardcore” runners get that because that’s what they do too. It’s not so unusual .. Unless you’re not a runner. Runners are passionate about their sport. More than wanting to run, they simply feel compelled to. There is no off-season for many. My husband mistakenly thought after I trained for my first marathon, that he’d get me back on weekends. But there’s always another run. And even if you don’t do races or have anything to train for, you still run.
Running comes easy for some, and many of those recreational runners are annoyingly good at it. But there are others, like me, who really work for it every single time. Gaining speed and stamina on a track, on the road, or out on the trails and giving up your personal life to train for hours at a time doesn’t come easily for some of us. Never being able to wear knee high boots that fit your enormous calves ever again is something we sometimes have to sacrifice. Runner's chafe means stratically placed "real clothes" and black toe nails mean close-toed shoes. Because we work so hard, we are invested, 100%. I’m not as genetically gifted as some. I know for a fact that I work twice as hard out there as some runners do, both recreational and hardcore types. But sometimes it separates the runners from the other athletes because we have to stick it out a lot longer than many of them do. And if we miss two weeks of running, we feel it. We lose those miles fast, so starting over again and again is something that takes grit also.
We don’t have a winner at the end of a game. The game is ongoing. And we lose a lot. Like A REALLY LOT for some of us. We know there are thousands of people crossing the finish line, and we aren’t the one breaking the tape unless we are phenomenal elites. But we persevere and we keep going, and even though we don’t win, the finish line always feels good. We can feel every inch of that race on our legs, our lungs, and our hearts when we stop. Even in last place, it’s an accomplishment. It’s about getting through it, not about getting the trophy or the cheers of the crowd (though we sure love our cheerleaders on the sidelines!) And the struggle is what makes the work to get to the end that much sweeter.
It’s the passion, the grit, and the tolerance for pain that keep us going day in and day out. It takes time and patience and perseverance to keep going, to run through shin splints, plantar fasciitis, knee and hip pain. We push ourselves to the edge even when it hurts, even when it could be dangerous. I’m not saying it’s always wise, but it’s what we do. We give up weekends and late nights for training and races. We literally stumble and fall and get back up bleeding and we keep going. There may be blood and sweat and even some vomit, but I have to finish before I give any attention to it. I’m sure there are other people that feel as much love for basketball or football or soccer as runners do about running, but I haven’t yet met anyone that commits like that. It doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. I just haven’t found them yet. Maybe because I’m out for a run. I miss a lot.
Nutrition 101 From Someone Who's Been There
The first thing I always clarify when talking about food is that I’m not a nutritionist. I don’t have any official certification on this subject, though it’s on my list of things I’d like to invest in someday. But like someone who hasn’t gotten a college degree but has worked in the real world, I have a lot of experience on this subject. I have been the girl who could no longer shop at regular clothing stores because I needed something larger than a size 18. I’ve been the girl who didn’t like looking in a mirror or getting her photo taken. I’ve been the girl who was embarrassed about what she looked like even though people loved me for who I was inside. It wasn’t the girl I wanted to be, and I changed it.
I’m far from perfect. I still struggle every. single. day. I still want to eat ALL the ice cream .. And the cake too. I still have days where I want to down 2 and 3 and more beers and a box of mac and cheese. I am human and my guess is so are you. I don’t want to count calories, I don’t want to feel hungry, and I don’t want to eat foods I don’t like. Does any of this sound familiar? If not, you are much stronger than I am. If you are, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.
- Don’t count calories, but… At bare minimum, keep a mental check on how much you’re consuming every day. If you don’t know how many calories are in something, find out. Look at the box (hint: If it comes in a box, it’s probably not as great for you as something that’s not) or look it up online. Knowledge is power. If you stop to consider how much you are eating every day, it can make a HUGE difference. Along with that point, check out #2..
- How much of that are you eating? Not only should you be aware of your calories, but you should be aware of your portion sizes. Sometimes we have no clue that we are eating 2, 3, or 12 serving sizes. The dishes we use can be a problem too. If I want ice cream, I put it in a cup instead of a bowl. Immediately, I have to eat less that way. And unless it’s a single serving sized item, don’t eat something out of the container it came in. For example, if you reach into a bag of chips, you’ll eat far more than you would have if you’d put a conservative amount into a bowl. And lastly, don’t eat off your kid’s plates. You’d be amazed at how many calories you are consuming this way.
- Think before you go back for seconds. Ask yourself: “Do I NEED this or do I WANT this?” Let it settle, eat it slow in the first place, and savor it. Pay attention to what you are eating when you are eating it. All of these things might at least make you pause before going back. SIDENOTE: The first 3 things on this list all have to do with the same thing.. MINDFUL eating. In my opinion, this is the SINGLE most important rule of eating healthy. Master it and you are halfway there. Acceptance is the first step. Think about it. If we are eating mindfully, we aren’t sabotaging ourselves.
- Plan your meals. I used to be adverse to services like Fred Meyer’s Clicklist because I didn’t want to waste money on the service fee. But I quickly realized that the convenience was more than worth that extra $5. I can build a list online throughout the week as I think of stuff, and I can spend 20-30 minutes at MOST planning at least 3-4 dinners and some lunch, breakfast, and snack items while I finish up the clicklist at the same time just one day a week. I usually spend less overall than I would shopping myself because I’m not reaching for things for my cart that I don’t need but sound good when I’m hungry. It’s super low stress and then I can focus on making some healthy meals. As far as those planned meals go, I’ll usually make a double batch of something and freeze half of it for the days that I don’t feel like preparing something. It’s really not as overwhelming or as time-consuming as you’d think once you get into the habit. Meals can be simple too. We often have burrito or taco night.
- Plan for your “Danger Days.” If you know you have a party coming up or a night out with friends and you know already you’re not going to follow your usual rules, plan for it. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Have fun. Do the things. Then get right back on track. Don’t look back, just keep going!! It’s the days where you’ve had a bad day and you binge eat everything in your refrigerator that you want to avoid, because those are the unhealthy behaviors. Planning for life is different.
- If you’re going to a restaurant.. Along with #5, if you know you’ll be going out to eat, look up the menu and decide what you want ahead of time. And maybe box up half of it immediately when you get there and you’ll have another meal for later.
- “Cheat days” are destined for failure. In #5, I said you should plan for occasions where you know you won’t follow your usual plan, but I don’t believe in cheat days. You don’t need free-for-all days. Eat what you want sometimes, within reason. If you deprive yourself, you’ll fail eventually because this is supposed to last the rest of your life, not just for a select amount of time. Set yourself up for success FOREVER. “Your diet,” as in your nutrition for the day, is not the same as “A diet,” which is not meant to last long term. Know the difference and plan accordingly.
- Recognize and plan for your triggers. Some people can have a cup of coffee a day and be fine, but I needed a few cups a day and was more tired than ever. I recognized this wasn’t healthy, so I gave it up. I still drink it on weekends or when I meet friends sometimes, but I don’t rely on it anymore. I replaced it with tea and an Arbonne energy stick. I still get the ritual I enjoyed but replaced the bad habit with a better choice. If you know you cave in the evening and want something sweet, plan to have something after the kids go to bed that won’t totally derail you. Recognize your weaknesses and have a plan in place to deal with them.
- Eat what you love, not the things you don’t. If you don’t love fish, don’t eat it. If you love brussel sprouts, go for it. Find the things you love that are healthy and make you feel good. And there are shortcuts everywhere. I love peanut butter, but I know that the sugar and hydrogenated oils aren’t good for me, so I started making my own with just peanuts. Know your strengths and go with them. Omit the things you know you won’t stick with long term.
- But remember, too much (or too little) of a GOOD thing matters. I had a friend who loved smoothies with avocado, chia seeds, peanut butter, and a bunch of other yummy stuff. After she added up all the calories, she realized that while most of the things she was putting in her smoothie were good for her, there were too many of them in one sitting. Her calorie count was much higher than she had realized. On the other hand, I was trying to cut calories and consuming smoothies with not ENOUGH calories and feeling depleted of energy while training for a half marathon. On a good nutrition plan, you shouldn’t feel hungry. So this rule goes along with #1 and #2 again. Be aware.
- Drink your water. The age-old rule of drinking water when you’re hungry is a classic for a reason. For one, it’s rare that most people would overhydrate. A lot of us are dehydrated and could stand to drink more water. If you feel hungry, chug some water and wait. If you’re still hungry in 20 minutes, then consider your snack. Mindfully, of course.
- Exercise. You knew this was coming, right? Our bodies were meant to move. If you need some help here, I know someone who can help you with that. Any guesses who?
- I don’t believe in scales. Really. Weigh yourself once a month if you must, but we all know our weight fluctuates every hour! I go more by how my clothes fit and how I feel. If you want to see your progress, I suggest measuring yourselves before you start a new plan. Your hips, your waist, your upper arm, and your thigh are all good places to start. Write the numbers down and check back in a month. And if it hasn’t budged as much as you like, KEEP going! All of our bodies are different and shouldn’t be compared to others. We are all on a different journey and our bodies all react to change differently.
- Try something for 30 days. New habits take time to become routine. A week is not enough. Give it time. The adjustment period won’t last as long as you think it will.
- Reward yourself. This is the fun part. Celebrate yourself. When you’ve reached a goal (You should have at least one.. And a realistic one!) treat yourself. Not with food, but something. A new shirt. Your favorite lotion. A pedicure. You know what you want. Earn it.
Ultimately, you need to plan your nutrition the same way you would anything else in your life. If you are planning to run a big race, you train for it so you don’t run out of steam on race day. If you are going to a job interview, you prepare for that too. Even in day to day life, you do things. You brush your teeth to avoid cavities. You work so you can buy the things you need to do to survive. Nutrition should be the same way. We ask a lot of our bodies every day. We should treat them well. We’ll never get another chance.
What the World Needs Now
What the world needs now is love, sweet love. It’s a cliché for sure. But many clichés are rooted in something very real, and I can’t think of a better time than now to love each other. What’s hard is that we have to love many from afar right now because social distancing has become a REAL THING here in America. This is something I never thought we’d face, because honestly, we have always lived a charmed life in the US. #firstworldproblems, am I right?
So here’s what’s going on today, March 19th, 2020 in Oregon. No more than 25 people in a room together, mandated by our governor. Schools closed until at least April 29th, and very possibly longer. Restaurants closed down. All large events canceled and closed. People working from home and businesses closing their doors. States on lockdown. No one allowed closer than 6 feet from each other. Grocery stores running out of toilet paper and hand sanitizer. And possibly the worst thing, hospitals ill equipped for what’s predicted to be huge masses of people coming down with a virus that we all reacted too late for. It’s a pandemic and most of us never thought it would happen like this. People are FREAKING OUT. We are facing economic ruin and kids will get behind in school and people will miss out on so many things. And so many are divided over how seriously we should be taking this. Some have shut themselves in their houses and some are still living their lives as normal as can be, with many shades of paranoia and indifference in between.
But good comes from this too. We are in scary times and it’s going to get worse, but there is much to learn from this and it’s not all bad. We can take a cue from our elders on this, those same elders that are at such a risk now of contracting this ickiness that can and will be fatal to many of them. They remember simpler times, and that is what we need in these complicated times. Ironically, we are using our electronics more right now, to video conference and work from home and download apps to help our kids homeschool, and thank the Lord for that technology. But. There is also a lesson here.
This is the time. The time to slow the fuck down and enjoy our kids. To hug them and snuggle with them and make them pancakes for breakfast. To take the time to be a part of their education and see firsthand what is in their beautiful minds. The time to enjoy sitting back and reading books again, writing, and creating. The time to tell stories and listen and learn.
This is the time to spend time with your spouse or your loved ones that you are at home with. The time to enjoy each other’s company and stop instead of run from one meeting to the next. To plan out dinner and sit at the table with one another and talk to each other like it's all new again.
This is the time to savor being outside, if you aren’t scared to go there. To enjoy your backyard or to take a walk around the neighborhood (safely.) To breathe in the air (again, safely) and block out the noise. To actually wave at the neighbors you never got to know before, because everyone was always too busy for a walk before. To realize now, we are all in this together. To put aside the left and the right and the hate and the bickering. Because despite all the chatter of the world, it's actually kind of quiet right now too.
This is the time to be creative, and to figure out how to live a new normal. A time to help your neighbors and fellow man and all the people who can’t help themselves. To buy from a local business because you can or to get groceries for friends or strangers in an attempt to flatten the curve by helping them stay home. Or to accept the kindness of others because your business is the one in trouble, and to learn humility and humbleness. To put down our shields of pride and allow people to reach out and come together in crisis because that’s what makes us human beings.
And though we can’t touch many people physically now, it’s the time where words and actions mean a lot. Where they replace the hugs we want but we have to wait for. This is the time to show everyone why we sometimes panic. Because that “why” is because this life is worth it and so are the people in it. This is the time. Time to learn about what really matters. Things will never be the same and that’s actually a good thing.
I know it’s hard. But there’s good in everything. This too shall pass and I have faith that we will come out on the other side better for it.
Stay healthy. Virtual hugs.
Self Care: Why Taking Care of Yourself is Everything
The first few years after I had kids, I found out what my true hair color was. Why? Because I stopped dyeing it. I also stopped wearing makeup, stopped dressing nice, and forgot to brush my teeth more often than I’d like to admit. I was focused on my family because that was what I’d signed up for and it was what I was supposed to do. I had quit my “real” job after having my second child, so I devoted my life to raising them. I joined a Facebook group for Stay at Home Moms, started frequenting all the playgrounds and playgroups in the area, and did everything I could to try to fit in with the “mom crowd.” And I loved getting to be there for so many precious moments in my kid’s lives and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. I still feel grateful for getting what so many other moms never do. But .. I wasn’t happy.
A lot of the moms on the Facebook group I'd found for support were judgmental. Some of them were great, but many of them had very strong opinions on breastfeeding, cloth diapers, organic food, and co-sleeping. I love strrong opinions and standing up for what you believe. But I also love that we are all different and we are all allowed to do what works for us. I believe in celebrating that wholeheartedly. When one mom accused another mom of child abuse for piercing her daughter’s ears and another said that circumcision was also abuse, I knew I was done. It wasn’t healthy for me to be there and I felt guilty enough for every mistake I made in daily life without the “sanctimommies” making me feel worse. These people weren't my salvation. I didn't feel like they were my tribe in the least. They made me feel ashamed for wanting more than what was within the walls of my home with my family. I felt that itch to get out and hear my own breath and stretch and find a place where I could do things that were just my own. Isolation does things to you. Some people are fine sitting at home in their pajamas working on home projects and watching Daniel Tiger, and I say GO FOR IT if that makes you happy. I have real respect for you for being able to hang out there in that world, but I just COULDN'T. And thankfully, I discovered that before I went completely insane. But who was I, if I wasn’t "just" a mom? I didn’t have a clue.
Then I changed the question and mustered the energy to ask, “who was I before kids?” I had let myself go for far too long, and before kids, I’d taken pride in getting fit and strong. Why couldn’t I shoot for that again? Because I felt guilt. The guilt, the guilt, the guilt. It gets so much worse after kids. Taking time to care for myself seemed beyond selfish to me. Doing stuff for the sole purpose of making myself happy? And taking time away from my family, which is what I had quit my job for, that was terribly unfair of me .. Right? But then I had a moment after a trip to Cannon Beach for the annual sandcastle contest. I had walked a couple of miles in the sand with the stroller and was sore for days and I realized .. I was not healthy. I wanted to be healthy for my family, and to be able to chase my kids around and keep up with them. That wasn't just me wanting to fit into skinny jeans. That was me wanting to be around for my kids for a long time. So I finally took the leap and joined a stroller fitness class. I could bring my kids to workouts with me and I finally started meeting other moms who were also putting a priority on their own health. Before I knew it, I was an instructor, and things began to snowball and I found a bit of the person I was before kids again. Finally I had an “aha” moment .. I was happy. And my family was too. When I took time to take care of ME, I was a better mother, wife, and person. The old saying was true .. You can’t make anyone else happy if you can’t make yourself happy first.
So, SELF CARE. Yes. Always. It’s as important to your life as getting sleep, eating better, and spending quality time with all the people you love. And these days, I take a lot more time for things that are for myself. I’m not going to lie, it’s harder when your kids are babies. When they have more independence, so do you. However, I wish I’d realized my lesson earlier than I did, (my youngest was 2 when I finally made that jump.) The longer you wait, the harder it is to find yourself. And, as expected, the sooner you start, the easier it is to find yourself again. But don't dispair, you're always still there somewhere. It's never too late.
As a fitness trainer and running coach, I’ll tell you, of course, that exercise matters. And I believe that A LOT. Being a runner is part of my identity, and has been both before and after kids. It's vital to me to never lose that. But there are other things that matter too. Here are just a few: 1.) Date nights. Not only with your partner, but with your friends. You gotta have those people who support and love you always, and you need to make memories with them too. 2. Clothes that make you feel pretty. Not clothes that make you feel too fat or too skinny, but clothes that you love for whatever reason that is yours. 3. Hobbies. God, I miss painting and drawing. I used to hole up with an easel for hours. I took a painting class recently and I was in Heaven. 4, 5, and 6. Simple things like long baths, good coffee, and little presents to yourself that you WANT rather than NEED. All of these things may seem shallow, but they aren’t. They are all little pieces of a bigger package and they all celebrate YOU. And guess what? I do these things and my family is still ok. Nothing has fallen apart. The sky didn’t fall. And I appreciate things more than I ever did before. I come home missing those snuggles from my boys. Because, as we all know, absence makes the heart grow fonder. And maybe they hug me a little tighter then too. How can you miss someone who's always there?
This year, I did something I never thought I would. I let my good friend Maya cosmetically tattoo me. She microbladed my eyebrows and gave me permanent eyeliner on the top and bottom of my eye. I don’t wear makeup all the time. In fact, I’ve only recently been starting to wear it again for my new part-time job. And I never would have considered it if I didn’t love Maya so much and know how gentle she is and how much of a perfectionist she is. I knew if anyone would get it right, it would be her. She’s a mom too, and I want to support her Mom Owned Business. She works hard, as all of us moms do. At the risk of sounding like an advertisement (and I swear I’m not a salesperson,) I’m so glad I did it.
I didn’t go get the cosmetic tattooing for my husband (who doesn’t really care for makeup at all) or to keep up with my friends or to look younger or more on trend. I did it just for me. It’s something I never needed or would have dreamed I’d want. I never thought I’d be the type, though now I don’t really know what that type is. And it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I love it. Recently I got sick and felt like hell, but I took a “poor me” selfie, and hey, my eyes looked good! The tattooing still made me look just a little bit pretty, even while looking awful, if that makes any sense at all. It makes me feel a little glamourous. It makes me feel feminine. Some days, I don’t always feel that otherwise. And though I love being “mom,” there’s more there, and this reminds me of it every time I look in a mirror.
So my advice to you, no matter where you are in life or who you are, get out there and do things that make you feel good. You don’t have to have a good reason for it. As long as it’s not hurting anyone and it makes you happy, go for it. 100%. Because in the end, the person stuck with you is .. YOU. And who wants to live with a grouch?
When Enough is Enough: Too Many Races
I’m a running coach, and here’s what I know: Running coaches are probably the worst clients when it comes to running. I have many “golden rules” that I’ve learned from others both in training and from hitting the road or the trail myself. One of the most important rules I preach is that rest days are part of your training. If you can’t treat your recovery days as a part of the process, you’re going to burn out, get injured, or fail on race day in some way. You have to decide which goal is the most important one when you train and focus on doing everything you can to keep from sabotaging that.
Easy to say. I’m here to tell you, as a coach who doesn’t listen to her own advice, that I’ve had a year of races that I wouldn’t advise ANY of my clients attempt. I’d tell every one of them that they were asking for trouble if they did what I did. This isn’t a poorly hidden brag about how strong I am. This is a lesson. A lesson in stupidity, perhaps.
This year alone, I’ve run 27 races. I’ve run four 5k races, five relays, eleven half marathons, two 25ks, one 30k, one marathon, and three 50ks. The three 50ks, all on trails, were only about a month apart from each other. Many races were on the same weekends I should have been resting up for the bigger races on my calendar. One of the relays was 27 total miles of hell on gravel.
None of this is something to be proud of. All of it was TOO MUCH. Too much time away from my family, too much mentally, physically, and emotionally. Too many hours, too many missed summer camping trips and weekends away. Too much to ever get back. I’ve been apologizing for it all year. And that doesn’t make it better, but at least I’m aware of it.
As I moved through the year, I watched my times get slower. I ran the last 50k while sick and it was miserable from mile one. I thought I wouldn’t finish that one, or the one before it. I also felt like I wasn’t going to finish my marathon. All of my friends left me behind at many of my races (as they SHOULD, BTW, because I didn’t want to hold anyone back!) because I just didn’t have the energy to keep up. I should also mention I had a busy year of races in 2018 as well .. My first ultra and then two more, another marathon, and several other races. Eventually, these things catch up to you. And when they do .. Boy, do they.
I took a training course in 2018 from Dr. Jack Daniels, the world renowned running coach and exercise physiologist and he talked a lot about recovery and how much we all need it.
"If you overstress some body parts, they may not get tougher; in fact, they may get weaker or break down completely. This brings up a very important part of the equation. When does the body accomplish the strengthening part of the stress reaction? It is during the recovery, or rest time, between bouts of stress that the strengthening takes place." (Daniels' Running Formula, Dr. Jack Daniels)
You can’t ever go back when you’ve gone too far. You can always add, but you can’t take away. I read once that in running, slower is faster. Anyone can run too fast or far or hard, and the result, eventually, is generally not great. Slower gets you where you want to be quicker than faster ever will. Faster might not get you where you want to be at all.
My biggest saving grace is that I learned a lot about my body and what it can do. I have gone through all these races, many of them very difficult, with no injuries. I think that says a lot about how I run, that I know how to be conservative and not give every race everything in the end. Am I winning the race? No. So it’s not going to matter what my finish time is and I shouldn't damage myself getting there. If you have one race you really want to get after, give that ONE what you have. But you can’t do that and excel at all the rest. You need to pick your race and make that “the one.” I decided I didn’t have one this year. I just wanted to finish all of them, and I did that. I didn’t hurt myself and I am grateful and I’m LUCKY. Not everyone gets out of this without repercussions.
What I did get, the price, was less love for the sport. To always feel like you have to go out there, for whatever that next race is, can be exhausting before you’ve even put your running shoes on. Even the easiest distances took longer than they should have, and I found myself finishing my 2019 marathon nearly an HOUR after my marathon the year before. It wasn’t an easy race but it still wrecked me more than it should. And all that time on the roads and trails was time away from my family. How can I justify missing that time if I feel I can’t at least give the race my best?
I was fortunate to have a lot of support out there. My family came out to Silver Falls and found me around mile 10 running under a waterfall and they were there to watch me cross the finish line of a half marathon the weekend after my tiring full 26.2 miler. I had a lot of great friends out there this year too, cheering me on from the furthest sidelines or through the training and races themselves. I wouldn’t give back any of those races, because there was so much beauty and struggle and learning in there.. And if I didn’t feel that, what good would it do me now to find regret? I had fun doing every single one of those 27 races, even though there was a lot of pain as well. The thing about running that many people who don’t run can never really get is that the grit it takes to run through the pain makes you feel so strong in the end.
I’ve promised my husband no “big” races in 2020. I will do half marathons because they are the perfect distance to feel challenged but to not take over your life training for. Balance. It’s all about balance in life, family, and running too. And I want to find that love for running again. It's out there somewhere, on the course.
The Treadmill: Friend or Foe?
It’s November. The weather is only going to get worse. So the question, if you are a runner, is how are you going to get it done?
When I started running, I did 100% of it on a treadmill. I am hopelessly directionally challenged and running on a treadmill was comforting because I didn’t need to pay attention to where I was going or worry about getting lost. It was also easier to track my progress, as I could always bump the speed up or down depending on how I was feeling. Back in those days, I didn’t run huge distances, maybe up to 4 miles at most. I could watch TV or even attempt to read a magazine while on that huge machine. Interval training was great too, and it helped the time go faster.
Then I started training for my first half marathon and my personal trainer said “you need to get outside.” She said there was no way I should attempt 10 miles on a treadmill, especially since my first race was going to be outside and I needed to get used to it out there. I was resistant, as I’d built up this safe cocoon on that treadmill and I didn’t know how to run outside. Where would I go? How much harder would it be on different terrain with various inclines? What if it rained? What if it was hot? Would people look at me? Would I get hit by a car? How would I track my miles?
Yes, back in those days, I didn’t even have a Garmin, an Apple watch, or any sort of tracking device. They were really expensive and I’d never needed it before. So when I finally committed to running outside, I got in my car and I tracked the mileage by the speedometer. It wasn’t a great route, really just an out and back in my neighborhood, but it did the job and I got my miles in.
After that, it wasn’t so scary anymore and I got braver and started exploring new areas of town to run. It was a great way to see the city in a different way. And when I tried to step back on the treadmill, it felt excruciating. Nothing beat the wind on my hair, the trees in Fall, or the sun coming up when I chose to run outside in the early morning. These days, I’d choose running in the rain over running on that belt most times.
The truth is, there’s no reason you CAN’T run 10 miles on a treadmill. There’s no reason you can’t run 20 or more. I have run so long on treadmills at the gym that I’ve reached time limits and had to get off. It’s not my preference anymore, but it’s great to have those options. On days where I’m stuck inside because my kids are at home, or there's ice on the roads or dangerous air quality, it’s convenient to have one. I also love the additional inspiration I provide to my kids, and they like getting on and trying to run as long as they can as well.
I’ve tried to make games out of treadmill runs, like covering up the display and only allowing myself to peek at the numbers every 10 minutes or so, or trying to run faster through the commercials on the TV. Sometimes that helps a lot and sometimes it drives me even battier. However, I have friends that prefer the treadmill and all the metrics displayed right there while they go. One friend will pick the treadmill over an outside run any day of the week so he can watch hockey. There are different strokes for different folks, and I can see the benefits of both methods in order to get your run in.
So if you want to get a treadmill, where do you start? Recently, an organization called Consumers Advocate reached out to me and told me that they had spent over 200 hours researching the treadmill industry. In addition to sifting through all the statistics, academic articles, and other resources, they also interviewed several people in the health and fitness world, including academic researchers and personal trainers. After researching and analyzing the differences between entry-level and high-end treadmills, they came up with a list of their top picks for durability, gym quality, and affordability. Treadmills have come a long way, and there are so many choices that it's often overwhelming. So if you are trying to decide which treadmill is the best for you and your budget and needs, take a peek at Consumers Advocate’s report on treadmills. They've done the legwork for you already.
Whether you choose to opt outside or lace up to run in front of your favorite TV show, get out there are get it done. We’ve got some icky months ahead of us, and there shouldn’t be any excuses.
Be The Example
Have you ever gone in to get your hair done and the stylist had horrible hair? Have you ever seen a dentist or hygienist with bad teeth? Be honest .. If you had, you’d kinda judge them, right? Because if they are going to get it right for you, shouldn’t they be the best example of what they do best?
I think about this every time I meet a new client. Whether they want to hire me to be a new personal trainer to get back into shape or they are coming to one of my seasonal 8 week run training sessions to improve for their next race, I think about what I look like and wonder if they are noticing a dentist with bad teeth.
I’m not saying that I’m grossly overweight. I know that I’m not. I couldn’t run as much as I do if I were. But I think people come to expect that if you are a fitness trainer of any kind, you should have a hard body and no visible fat on your ass. I don’t look like Jillian Michaels. I jiggle when I run. I’m sometimes okay with that, but truthfully, I’m mostly not. Because I wonder how people judge me. It shouldn’t matter, but it does.
There was a time, about two years ago, that I was in the best shape of my life. I was running races fast, I had never-ending energy, and I could keep up with or lead anyone in a workout. I could fit into a size 4 and sometimes smaller. I had enviable arms and actual visible abs. I could also do a 22 minute plank and I did a 60 minute burpee challenge after a long marathon training run. Does this sound like I’m bragging? That’s okay if you think so. Because I was really proud of how fit I was then. I worked hard for it, and it doesn’t come naturally to me like it does for some people. I earned every one of those muscles I gained.
The person I was then looked more like a fitness trainer than the person I am today. But that person wasn’t living a sustainable lifestyle. I have a family. I have clients. I have a life. There was a time that I was working out 5+ days a week on top of running. I was gone, a lot. I ate pretty clean, but I missed the things that made me happy, food and otherwise. What I was looked pretty in a pair of jeans but it wasn’t very happy inside. Proud, sure. Strong, yes. But joyful, no. Because it’s never enough. It’s never fulfilling in the end.
These days, I enjoy things more. I used to work out, and now I’ll take the kids to the park instead. Instead of watching every crumb that goes into my mouth, I’ll take my sons to a coffee shop and split a donut with them. I put my client’s workouts before my own. They invite me to work out with them, but that’s not why I’m there. I’ll take classes sometimes and struggle through them. If you were next to me in my Barre class, you would see I’m doing modified push-ups these days. I’d like to do them from my toes, but it’s more important to do them right than to worry about my pride. I don’t always want people to know I’m a trainer, because they might look at me and think “why would I pay HER to train me when she so obviously isn’t in shape either?”
But here’s the thing. I think some of my clients actually like that I look like a real person. That I have curves and soft spots. That I admit that I drink beer and eat ice cream after the kids go to bed. And I think back to when I was at my lowest point in my life, my most lonely and unhappy. It was also when I was at my most overweight. There are lots of people who are “fat and happy” but I was not one of them. Seeing the hardbodies at the gym when I finally decided to turn things around actually discouraged me because it was so out of reach for me. I wanted a trainer who’d been where I was. Someone who knew how hard it was in the trenches. The people that didn’t have to struggle for every inch lost, those that could eat what they wanted without a thought in the world.. Those people were awesome but they didn’t fully understand the journey that I was on.
I hope that I can be that glimmer of hope for even one person. I’m not perfect. I have decided to meet my curves halfway. I am not skinny, but I still feel healthy inside my soul where it counts. I still don’t like seeing photos of myself with the extra weight, but it’s all about where you’re willing to compromise. I can still run a marathon, it’s just going to take longer. And that’s okay, because it makes the finish line that much sweeter. And the beer at the end taste that much better too.
Mean Girls vs Healthy Girls
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. We must go through bitter waters before we reach the sweet. Cliché after cliché after cliché. And you know what? They are all true.
I probably shouldn’t be talking about this, and I won’t name names. There are people in my life, both past and present, who know exactly what this post is about, though only those close to me know what went down. I’m trying to move on, and I’m working on it. Every. Damn. Day. But I’m sharing this with you, my dear readers (is anyone out there?) because I have learned something from my experiences, and maybe I can help others who have been here before.
I’ve mostly always been the type of person that gets along with other people, even the difficult personalities that others can’t play nice with I’ve had a knack for being that empathetic friend that people would call crying in the middle of the night after a few beers. I’ve even had complete strangers break down and tell me their sad stories because they just needed someone to talk to. But despite this, I’ve had problems on occasion with mostly women who feel somehow threatened by me. This is not because I’m pretty or skinny or talented. This is not me tooting my own horn, not by a long shot. This isn’t about how great I am, it’s about how broken they are. Because there always have and always will be those people that feel the need to push your face in the dirt so they can stand in the sun.
It starts early in school if you are a girl. Mean girls. You’ve seen the movie, right? Those girls are real. The boys get into fights, but it’s always more up front and less emotionally taxing. I remember the very first mean girl who hurt my heart so bad that I couldn’t breathe. Her name was Hillary and it was first grade. She told me that she hated me and she ripped up the birthday invitation her mother had made for me to her party. Every kid in the class had been invited, but she said there was NO WAY she was letting ME come to her party. I still remember that and it was 1st f-cking grade.
There were lots of stories like that in my life. All through school, I was mercilessly teased because I developed earlier than the other girls, and I had my share of jobs with horrible co-workers and managers who held their knowledge over my head and made me cry. All of those experiences were because people were so insecure that they had to pounce on me and they knew I was weak. I was the nice girl, not the mean girl. But I guess the last straw came about a year ago, out of which Healthy Girl Fitness LLC was born from the ashes.
I’ve struggled most of my life for confidence in everything. I grew up with a stepmother who told me I was “bad” every day and who was both mentally and physically abusive. As a result, I second-guessed every choice I made and was terrified to be a bother to anyone at all. I never felt I was good at anything or deserved accolades for accomplishments, though I definitely enjoyed a good brag sometimes to help prove to everyone, including myself, that I could do things. And after losing 80 lbs and running a few marathons, I felt like maybe I had something to offer other ladies out there, those who had struggled themselves and didn’t relate to the trainers who had never had “fat jeans” or been embarrassed to run into people in public because they’d gained so much weight. I thought maybe I could give them something that the had lost.. Hope. This is the reason I decided to get certified to be a personal trainer. This is the reason that I got certified with the RRCA to be a running coach too.
I wanted to be the opposite of a mean girl. I was the nice girl, the one people could come to for support and positive feedback. And I found I had a lot to give. I finally felt like I could be among supportive women. Many of us were going through similar phases in life and it felt comforting to not be alone in it. And then after a couple of years, the tribe door slammed in my face.
There was one person there who felt threatened by me somehow, who always saw everything as a competition. Unfortunately, she had a lot of power over the group, and she wasn’t going to let me win, despite the fact that I wasn’t trying to compete for anything at all. It was 1st grade all over again, with the party invitation scattered at my feet. Some people never change, but their methods of challenging people change as they get older.
Because unnecessary drama had reached a point where I couldn’t do my job anymore, I had two choices staring me in the face. I could retreat and let the mean girls win. Sure, I could get another job in a different field. I’d done it before many times. It would certainly be the easier path. That's what the nice girl would do, right? But after years of letting people make me feel bad for things that weren’t my fault, after decades of egos and insecurities getting in the way of my happiness, I knew I had to take the bumpy road. I didn't have to be the mean girl OR the nice girl. It was then that I created Healthy Girl Fitness.
I think some people thought that I would give up and disappear, but I still had the same mission I always had, which was to help people. It certainly is harder to start a business when other people are sabotaging you, especially when they are fighting a battle you aren’t even trying to participate in, but I had people approaching me all the time asking for help.
I believe in yet another cliché and that is that there are different strokes for different folks. I was willing to offer them something different than what had been offered before. It wasn’t better or worse, it was simply a new choice. We should all have choices. And we should ALL support each other in this world, especially when we are trying to bring good things into it.
To be fair, there are mean boys too. I could write a whole different post on them. But this is primarily addressing the women of the world because we already have so much stacked against us in business and in life without us turning on each other. When our army is small but mighty, it makes no sense to turn and fight each other when we should be standing back to back.
I was told once that instead of getting angry, sad, or depressed, we should feel only pity when we come across people who want to see us fail. Because how sad are their lives that they need to crush us to make themselves feel superior? This is probably the best approach we can have towards a mean girl.
I can’t change the mean girls of the world, but I sure can try to rise above it and build something beautiful from the lessons I have learned in that toxic environment. It makes me a better a trainer, a better coach, a better wife and mother, and a better friend to all.
No more mean girls in this ugly world. Long live the healthy girls.
Live in the Skin You're In: Where the Healthy Girl Name Came From
If you know me or have read any of my other blog posts, you may know my relationship with my body is something I struggle with on a daily basis. I decided to post this pic of myself to show the “real” me, but even it isn’t totally real. I’m a chicken. I’m in a dark room and I tried to make it look pretty despite the “squishy” parts of my body that I can’t hide. I don’t look at my body in this very mirror every day and feel like I’ve succeeded. Often I’m disappointed in every flaw that stares back at me. But since I’ve started my own company and decided to call it Healthy Girl Fitness, I thought it was time to explain in more detail what the name is all about.
Growing up, I hated my thighs and butt. I went through puberty very young and by the time I was nine years old, I had all the curves in the places I didn’t want them yet. I had angry red stretch marks on my inner thighs, my hips, and my breasts because my body had grown so rapidly. I just wanted to disappear and look like all the other girls, but boys were already pinching me and snapping my bra straps. It was attention I didn’t welcome, and the girls were mean, saying I was a slut. I wore large flannel shirts and loose pants to try to hide who I was underneath.
When the teenage years came, I would go through periods of time where I’d practically starve myself on rice cakes and water. I’d jump on my parent’s stationary exercise bike and go around and around for hours. Then I’d end up binging on french fries and feeling like a failure. I was not fat but I couldn’t help but compare myself to all the other girls. I didn’t look like them, with their long, slender legs and their perfect perky boobs. That was never going to be me. I didn’t have boyfriends and didn’t even kiss a boy until my senior year in high school.
After high school, I gained a lot of weight once I found myself in a comfortable relationship. It’s the same story a lot of people have. I was in my 20’s and went to bars a lot, drank a lot, ate a lot. Didn’t exercise at all, came home and parked in front of the TV. The weight came on slowly but it felt like overnight that I couldn’t fit in “regular” clothes. I’d gotten to the end of the clothing rack in department stores. I needed to shop in the “fat ladies” section. I rationalized it to myself, saying I was happy and that I could still wear cute clothes even though they were bigger than they had been before.
But that was a lie. A lie to the world and a lie to myself. Some people are happy with those extra pounds, and I would never shame them for living their best life at a plus-size. But that wasn’t me. I felt sluggish and tired all the time and I wouldn’t look in a mirror. I hated getting my photo taken. I was embarrassed to see people. I just didn’t feel like me. So I joined the gym and I worked HARD. And I did it. I got back to the other side of the clothing rack again. And I felt good.
Having babies changed a lot. For some, it’s not until they get pregnant that they really understand that it’s about so much more than them. As soon as you have that baby inside you, you are immediately consumed with the fact that you have to do things that are best for him or her. Suddenly, you can’t eat certain things, or drink, or even over-exert yourself. And once they are born, you have more freedom, but if you are breast feeding, you’re still watching a lot of that. And caring for them means there’s very little time (or sleep!) for you. It’s easy to lose yourself in the shuffle. To put yourself last. To forget you’re something other than a mom.
My body has changed many times over in the 41 years it’s been on earth. I’ve been a size 2 and a size 20 and everything in between. Last year, I was probably at my skinniest and healthiest but it wasn’t easy to maintain. I worked out at least 3 times a week and ran at least 3-4 days a week training for long distances. I watched everything I put into my mouth. My body was strong and I had real muscles, and I truly felt healthy for the first time. But just as I’d felt in my heart at my heaviest, I wasn’t happy this way either.
I’ve decided to let some of that go. Really truly living is important to me. So I want to eat what’s healthy most of the time but to enjoy ice cream with my kids. I want those strong arms I had a year ago, but I also want to go for a walk with my family instead of go to the gym. My kids love my “squishy belly” and all the soft spots. My husband tells me I’m beautiful every day even after having seen everything while birthing our two sons. And my body has done amazing things, and it’s not really fair of me to feel anything but gratitude for that.
I’m not working out as much now. If I made it more of a priority, maybe I would be burning my way through that kickboxing membership I bought, but I’m just not. I’m still running. A lot. More than ever, maybe. But that always has and always will be my thing that’s for me. That’s not about being a mom. We all need that.
When I decided to start my own company, it was a big deal. The girl that hid behind all those clothes was not confident enough to stand in front of people and show her body, for better or worse. I had gone from being very unhealthy to “too healthy,” if that makes sense, and neither were a good fit for who I wanted to be. Because it’s all about balance. Finding that in-between and stretching into it and getting comfortable.
There are many names that circled their way around in my brain when I was deciding what to call my company. I knew I didn’t want it to have anything to do with being skinny. There’s a difference between being skinny and healthy, and I never wanted my clients to make any mistake in that. Healthy Girl was one name that came to me and stuck right away. It was simple but it explained who I aspired to be. Healthy is who I want to define myself as, in body and in mind. I don’t care about those size 2 jeans. That was not a healthy size for my body. I don’t want to be a size 20 either, because that didn’t make me happy either. I just want to feel good, and that doesn’t come with a size tag at all. It changes day to day, week to week, and year to year. Some days I feel like that girl that I was in my 20’s again. And other days I feel much stronger.
I don’t hate my thighs any more. They have taken me on the most marvelous adventures. They know how to go the distance and there are many people who can’t say that. My belly is soft but it held two beautiful babies. My body is not perfect, but right now, in this moment, it’s perfect for me.
Why do you run?
If you’re a runner, you know. Some people just don’t get it. They never will either. In 2006, I ran my first marathon and I printed out the course map and gave my parents all these directions and suggestions for places they could come cheer for me on the course. It was a big deal to me, and I finally wanted them to see what I’d been training so hard for. I’d gone through the breakup of a decade long relationship while training, had run my first 18 miler on the day I had to move, and had literally changed my life from the beginning to the end of this training. I had finally reached the end. So much LIFE got in the way that year, but I had kept running. I just wanted them to see why, even if it was just a glimpse.
That day, I kept looking for them on the course, but I never found them. I finished the race, sure I’d just missed them somehow. It was a big race, after all. I was standing around for close to 15 minutes after I’d finished when my mom found me. She said it was too much of a hassle, so they just decided to meet me afterwards, when I was done. She explained that they “knew I’d run it and everything” and that should be enough. I was crushed. That’s when I got it.
Over the years, I’ve watched eyes glaze over when I talk about races. I’ve bitten my tongue when people ask how long “that marathon” is and I try not to let it bother me when they don’t really care when I explain that every marathon is the same 26.2 miles. I’ve seen my husband get frustrated over my early morning starts on the trails and his lack of sympathy over my aches and pains after a hilly or long day. I’ve shrugged off the concerns for my knees and I try not to correct people who refer to my running as “jogging.”
Whether you are a runner like I am or you’re one of the non-runners I’m talking about, I feel like it’s time to answer the question I get asked the most. And that question is: “Why do you run?”
- Running is just for me. Running has always been the thing I do for myself to make me feel sane, and it’s become even more so since having kids. I feel like I give to other people all day long. To my family, to my friends, to my clients, and even to strangers sometimes. I need something in my life that’s purely self-centered. On occasion, I’ll take the dog with me or I’ll run a few laps with my kids, but those are what I’d consider “bonus runs.” The runs I do for myself aren’t necessarily alone. In fact, I prefer running with other people. But I don’t do it for anyone but myself. No matter what’s going on in my life, a run always makes me feel better and I’ll never regret the choice to lace up and get out there. Maybe it is selfish, but it does make me a much nicer human being, which others will benefit from as well. So it’s a win-win.
- Running means I never get sick. Before I became a runner, I was guaranteed to get sick at least once a year, generally in the winter. Now it’s very rare that I get sick at all, and often when I feel like I’m going to be a little under the weather, I’ll get a bit of a “mini-cold” before my immune system jumps in and takes it away. Many years back, I got into a horrible bike accident that cut me up pretty bad, but within a week, many of my wounds had almost completely healed up. I credit running with strengthening my immune system so that I can fight stuff off so much easier. When someone takes my blood pressure or checks my pulse, it sometimes has to be done twice because people are surprised it’s so low. When I was having my first son, every single nurse who came into my hospital room to check my heartrate remarked on it. I told them all I was a runner and they all said that “explained it.”
- Running means I see things I wouldn’t see otherwise. People have marveled how I can get up at 5:00AM to run, or even 4:00AM. Yes, I’m that crazy runner. But I’ve seen the sun rise on many runs, and it’s well worth those mental snapshots that I’ll never forget. I’ve watched the leaves change colors day to day and I’ve even experienced the seasons shift while running. This sounds like an exaggeration, but I’ve felt the temperatures drop and watched everything ice over while on a long run and it’s completely surreal. I’ve run through rainstorms, hail, and snow. Maybe this doesn’t sound fun to you, but it’s been exhilarating. I’ve literally climbed mountains, from Mt Bachelor, OR to Copper Mountain, CO. I’ve run through several states, on beaches, through forests, and on some of the most beautiful country roads ever, and I don’t think I could truly experience this beauty any other way. It’s not the same in a car. It’s not the same in pictures. I’m getting out there and feeling the wind in my hair and feeling the strength of being alive and it’s unlike anything else.
- Running gave me a life. Before I was a runner, I was overweight and desperate for some sort of direction or fulfillment in life. I had no friends or ambition. I met so many wonderful people by joining a running community and I felt accepted from the beginning. There are so many types of runners out there now, and we are literally going through the same things at the same time. Fast or slow, we are all putting in those same miles, running over those same hills, and tackling the same hurdles. I met people who have become some of my best friends through running, including the maid of honor at my wedding. Putting in long miles every week with people when you’re feeling tired and vulnerable bonds you like nothing else in life. Add this to the fact that you’re running side by side rather than face to face, with no distractions from phones and outside factors, and you have yourself something akin to a confessional. You also often have a standing running date, and maybe even someone to have coffee with afterwards.
- Running saved my life. I couldn’t go up a flight of stairs without feeling winded before I started running. I was at risk for diabetes and I was very depressed. When I pushed my body to do amazing things, I found out that I could actually DO amazing things. I went from being shy and lacking confidence to proving to everyone, including myself, that I was a force to be reckoned with. I found myself taking risks I never would have before I had the confidence to go the distance. The girl who was scared to talk in front of the class in high school was suddenly leading a group exercise class. The self-proclaimed “fat girl” was no longer following the running coach, she was leading the group and coaching them to do their best. I found myself. I never knew my body and mind as well as I did once I started running. The farther I’ve gone and the more miles I’ve worn on my feet, the more secure I am in what I’ve learned and who I am. When you think you’ve reached the bottom of what you can take, you dig deeper and find that there’s more inside.
- Running taught me to be grateful. Running is the most humbling thing. Even if you’ve put in the work, you’re going to have bad days. You’re going to have good days too, and sometimes there will be as little rhyme and reason for those days as there is for the bad ones. You just never know. That’s the frustrating thing but it’s also what makes you cherish the stuff you’ve worked so hard for. It’s just like it is in life, really. You wouldn’t appreciate the journey if it was always easy. The rough paths to the top make you appreciate the view so much more than you ever could if it were easy to get there. Do what others can’t. Every time a race gets hard, I think about all of the things in life that could be harder. It helps. Keep going.
For a bit more on this topic, read my blog post on Run Oregon.
You never know what someone else’s journey is, or where it’s taking them. You’ve heard that you should “never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” Maybe it has no meaning to you because you’ve heard it so many times, but it’s so true.
After I had my first son, running was difficult. Not only was I not getting any sleep and feeling sluggish all the time (to put it mildly!) my body didn’t seem to know what to do anymore. I felt all put together wrong. I was breast-feeding and to even consider running meant a lot of planning and timing everything just right. Sometimes it didn’t seem worth it for a short run, especially when I had to walk so much. Sometimes, I’d take my son out with me in a stroller and that was harder than I could have imagined. I couldn’t understand how some people out there with strollers made it look so easy, just gliding along like it was nothing. I was not a glider. I was a hot mess who looked like I needed a medic.
But at least when I had the stroller, I felt like people passing by could look at me and give me that knowing nod. They understood, on at least some level, why it was hard. But when it was just me alone, I felt I had no excuse. Forget the fact that I was only 5 weeks postpartum. Or even 20 weeks postpartum. What I wanted, more than anything, was a sign on the back of my shirt explaining why I was so slow. It would explain “please excuse me, I just had a baby,” (even when he wasn’t a baby anymore.)
The same thing happened when I had my second son, but it was even harder because I was still trying to catch up from having my first son 2 years earlier. I went for a walk on the beach pushing a stroller and I was sore for days, and that was my turning point. I worked hard, harder than I think I ever have, to get myself back in shape. I worked so I wouldn’t need that sign for my back anymore.
But here’s the thing, and it’s going to sound harsh. No one cares. No one but you. This is YOUR journey, and you have to do what makes YOU happy. No one else is even paying attention. I mean, sure people care about you. They want you to be healthy. But they don’t really need to know why you’re slower this year than you were last year, or why you’re not signing up for as many races. They probably don’t even notice, to be honest. They just want to know you’re okay. They’ve got their own challenges to deal with without concerning themselves with yours.
I’m currently gearing up for my 4th ultramarathon, and getting in back to back runs is an important element to my training so I can experience running on tired legs. So I ran a 6 miler recently the day after a 19 miler and my legs felt like lead. It was great training, but I felt like that postpartum runner again. And I felt it even more so when a super fit runner came blowing past me from the opposite direction without acknowledging me in the slightest. My first thought was that he was an asshole. But then I realized that was only because I felt like the kid who never got picked to be on anyone’s team in gym class. Which, by the way, I WAS THAT KID. And then I thought “I bet HE didn’t run 19 miles yesterday!!” And then, “well, maybe he did. How do I know? And how would he? And WHY does that matter anyway?” Because it really doesn’t. He’s got his mission and I’ve got mine.
I have friends who are overweight and run marathons. I also know some people that look fit enough to fly like the wind and it takes them twice as long to run a race than it would for me. I have friends with asthma and shin spints and injuries who still run. I have friends who have babies who get right out and run without skipping a beat and others who have never had babies and are still considered slow on their best days. I have fast days and slow days and mostly days in-between. All of it is great. All of it is getting it DONE. It doesn’t matter where the finish line is. It’s that you got there, whether you ran, walked, or crawled.
I have clients with lofty aspirations. Some want to run their first marathons. Some want to run a race a month. Some want to beat a certain PR. Goals are good. They help drive us and motivate us to push harder. But we always have to be careful because they can destroy us too, if we don’t get there right away or even at all. I never want to forget it’s about the journey to get somewhere that matters more than the destination itself. There’s another cliché saying for you.
I remind my clients that you can’t compare yourself to anyone else. What makes us great is that we are all different. I could easily compare myself to my friend who runs fast in an effortless fashion, but her legs are twice as long as mine. And there are so many other factors involved too. You don’t know what that girl on the track ate for breakfast or what she did yesterday that could affect her today. You don’t know if that guy had a good day today or a bad one last week. Because we all have “those days.” You don’t know if he has more fast twitch muscles or if she has more slow twitch muscles. You don’t know their struggles, their victories, or what’s going on in their lives either. And even if you do, those things aren’t yours. You do YOU. Make your goals, but make them for YOU. Don’t hold a yardstick up to anyone else. And if you don’t quite get to where you had wanted, give yourself some grace. It’s okay to fall. It makes victory so much sweeter when you get back up.
Fat on the Inside
I remember this day clearly in my head despite the fact that it was a day B.K. (“Before Kids” which seems like forever ago in relation to most things.) I was shopping for some new clothes and I held up a pair of size 6 jeans. They looked so tiny! I thought to myself that there was no way I could fit into those, but I felt I should at least TRY to get them on to see where I was in my weight loss journey. I added them to my pile and soon headed to the dressing room. When I got to the jeans in question, I slid them on and buttoned them. They fit.
I took them off and looked at the tag on them. Both the outside tag and the inside one. Both said they were, as I thought, a size 6. But how was that possible? Was this size 6 more like a size 10 or 12 somewhere else? Were they supposed to be a baggy fit or something? No.
This. This is what happens when you lose a lot of weight. Because even when your body changes, even when the workouts get easier, even when the scale number has changed significantly, and when people tell you that you look great and to “keep it up” and everything is less of a struggle and the mirror looks different than it used to .. Even when all of those things happen .. You still don’t get it. You still don’t realize it. Your brain hasn’t caught up to your body yet. You’re still fat on the inside.
I went from a size 20 to a size 6. I didn’t even feel the numbers going down because I didn’t buy all the “in between” sizes. It was too expensive and I was too cheap. And honestly, I didn’t know if I’d be able to keep the weight off. Just as many people have “skinny jeans” they aspire to wear someday in their closets, I had “fat jeans.” A safety net. So when I finally got to a size 6, I not only didn’t think there was any possible way that I could get my big thighs or enormous butt into them, but if I did, I didn’t know how long they would last.
People treat you differently when you lose weight. You don’t even notice it so much when you’re at your heaviest, though you are painfully aware of the fact that maybe that cute guy isn’t looking at you because he’s not interested in “your type.” But in everyday life, you’re just doing just that, living. And then you lose weight and people are literally opening doors for you. And looking you in the eye when they talk to you. And sometimes those cute guys are even checking you out. Some people are nicer to you. And other people, the more insecure ones, might even be not-so-nice. You start to notice these things, but you still might not associate it with dropping some dress sizes. Because you’re still the same person, right?
Except you’re not. You’ve changed. And people’s reactions to you have changed too. But what’s even harder is what’s going on inside your head, because you’ll never be able to see what others do. It takes time for you to change what you are, but that’s what you have to do when you lose weight. Accepting it is harder than you may have realized.
I used to go home after work and eat and watch TV. I started going to the gym instead and doing some more “mindful eating” and found a different lifestyle actually made me happier than the food used to. However, it took a long time for me to accept that life was different from here on out, that this wasn’t just a “phase” I had to get through before going back to my old life. Your brain is the last thing to make peace with those changes. There are so many things associated with the comfort of food and the rituals of eating. Memories are directly connected with smells and tastes. Acceptance is part of getting healthier, and this is a life lesson, not just something you connect with in AA. Knowing that you can’t go back is both exhilarating and scary. You have to mourn that life a bit in order to move on. You have to break-up with those bad habits. In my opinion, it’s okay to come back and visit sometimes so you don’t relapse completely. Just not every night, or even most nights. But if you think you have to live on broccoli and never get ice cream again, you’re going to go a little insane eventually. Like with anything, there’s some safety in moderation. And in limits.
To be clear, I’m not telling anyone that they have to be skinny to be happy. Happiness, love, and all the beautiful things in life come in every shape and size. And I am certainly not one to talk, because I am not built like a barbie doll. I have soft curves and cellulite and stretch marks and hips and thunderous thighs. And that’s, for the record, because I love food. All the food. Food will always be my biggest weakness. I can run 20 miles tomorrow, but I can’t leave that piece of chocolate cake in the fridge uneaten. But I also know I’m not willing to stop really “living,” and food and the happiness that goes with it is a part of that. No matter your size .. a size 0 or a size 25.. it’s what we were given and it might go up and down and no matter what, we should wear it. Stretch out and prance around in it. It’s a lot to be grateful for.