Category Archives: Motivation

Ankle Update

Well, it’s been a while since I mentioned my little ankle problem.  At least I hope it’s been a while.  I tried not to always talk about it or mention it on Facebook all the time because, well, who wants to hear someone whine about their injuries all the time?  I don’t.  Anyway, allow me to recap and then I’ll tell you how it’s been going lately.  More importantly though, I hope to also share what I’ve learned from this whole experience.
First of all, on June 6 – two days before Dude and I were to leave for vacation! – I sprained my ankle.  At the time, I thought it was merely a painful ankle roll and it would be healed and recovered after a day or two.  Uh… no.  Take a look back at this post to see a day after photo and read about just how bad it was immediately after.
Remember this picture?  This was the day after it happened, and had not even yet begun to give me problems.

 
I went on vacation and really took it easy.  Or as easily as I could on a vacation where hikes and other adventures were planned.  I didn’t hike, but I did walk on it.  I kept it wrapped at all times and just did my best to not let it get me down or ruin our vacation.
A week after the injury it wasn’t getting any better.  My spirits were low because while I was bummed that taking it easy on vacation and not working out were definitely on my agenda, I thought it would have improved by this point.  I was OK with changing my lifestyle for a week or two, but it was becoming obvious that this was much more than a little minor thing that would sideline me for a few days.
Here’s what it looked like a week after:

 
In case you don’t recognize one when you see it, that is a genuine cankle.
Ok, so upon my return to Pittsburgh I thought it wise to see a doctor and get a professional’s take on the situation.  I was extremely fortunate to get an appointment with Dr. Mares at the UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.  Let me say right now that obviously I am getting nothing from them to say nice things.  They don’t comp medical treatment in exchange for flattering blog posts (although, wouldn’t it be great?!).  The people there, Dr. Mares in particular, were positively fantastic.  The facility is beautiful, the staff is courteous, kind, and helpful.  And best of all, there seems to be no such thing as waiting in the waiting room for extended periods of time.  I have been there many times since early this summer and have never had to wait more than 2 or 3 minutes.  Unheard of!  Another cool thing about going there was that I felt like a legit athlete.  Ha.  I mean, professional sports stars go there to get patched back up so I figured if I’m going there, I too must be an honest to goodness athlete!  Maybe not, but I felt that way in my mind.

Anyway, my diagnosis was a chipped bone and some severe ligament strains.  I was given a home physical therapy treatment and some exercise bands and told to be faithful to the program.  And I was.
It was all I could think about each day.  I could walk around, but I couldn’t do all the things I was used to doing.  No CrossFit, no running.  I did go to Pilates because I wasn’t using my foot like I would be with my other activities.  I was so thankful to be able to do something.   I have mentioned before that I am a weak, slow runner and after doing the half marathon, I was actually kind of proud of how my endurance had built up and how strong I seemed to be getting.  I became kind of preoccupied with how that was all going down the drain. I knew I would have to start from the beginning again, not only because of my injury, but because I would have lost all that I had gained endurance wise.  This is why I started swimming.  I had to do something to keep myself going.
Six weeks later Dr. Mares was pleased with my progress for the most part, but I had developed some tendinitis because of my changed gait and compensation for the weak, injured ankle.  It was at this point that I started to get a bit discouraged.  I did not want injuries and ailments to pile up faster than I could recover from them!  Boo!  I requested some in-person physical therapy to get me back on track.
Enter Steve.

Honestly, I should have given this post the title “An Ode to Steve” because I give him all the credit for helping me get back to my old self again.  While Dr. Mares is a very good doctor and was at once patient, kind, stern, and realistic with me, Steve has been the hands-on guy to has spent the last several weeks reassuring me, answering my crazy questions, allaying my concerns, and most importantly, challenging me in the right ways to get my ankle back in shape.  A more kind, patient, knowledgeable physical therapist you will not find.  I’d be hobbling around crying like a discouraged jerk probably on the brink of divorce by now if it weren’t for Steve.  He literally got me back on my feet.
So, here I am  Just shy of 15 weeks since it happened and I am extremely (!!!!!!) happy to report that I am really starting to get back to normal now.  I just visited Dr. Mares last Friday and he declared me healed.  He said I could resume any activities I want.  Can I repeat that? He used the word “healed” and the phrase “resume activity”.  Awww yeah.  I’m going to finish out the month with Steve and from there I’ll be on my own.
And the best part of all this is that this past Saturday I ran my first post-injury 5k and didn’t do so badly!  34 minutes is hardly a brag-worthy time, but I was rather pleased with myself after I crossed the finish.
Now that I’ve had a chance to type all this out and see how far I’ve come in 15 weeks, I’ve also had a chance to really think about what this experience has taught me.  Everything is a learning experience, and I know I’m not the only person out there who has ever been sidelined with an injury or other setback.  Hopefully you can learn from my experience too.
Acceptance – I know that in the above paragraphs I kind of glossed over the physical pain that resulted from this.  To be completely frank, it still hurts now and again and according to Steve, it might very well hurt periodically for another nine months or year or even the rest of my life.  I did some damage to my body and given the severity of it, my age, and the nature of injuries like this I will always have to be extra careful because it will be weaker than my other ankle.  That is a truth that is kind of hard to hear.  I am 38 years old and this is the first time I’ve ever had an injury that may not ever recover 100%.  I may not be able to do another half marathon and I may not ever be able to run as quickly as I did.  I just have to keep working on it, be cautious, and hope for the best.
Patience – Let’s be honest, I have precious little of it.  When this first happened, I wanted it to heal immediately.  I wanted some kind of magic balm to rub on it that would give me a new ankle.  When that didn’t materialize and when it didn’t heal in a day or a week, I had to learn to be patient.  It’s been 15 weeks and I’m still learning to be patient.  The body takes time to fix itself and no matter what we wish for, giving it the time it needs to do its job is all we can do.  This has been a tough one for me! Did you notice I described both Dr. Mares and Steve as patient?  It’s a good thing they are, because I’m having a hard time.  I’m improving though!
Compliance – I did what the professionals told me to do.  Period.  I can’t stress this enough as one of the keys to my recovery.  When I was told to rest, I rested.  When I was told to wear supportive shoes everyday all day long, I did it.  When I was told to get orthotic inserts for my running shoes, I got them.  When I was told to exercise my ankle every single day, I did.  I figured that I’m not hurting anyone but myself if I didn’t follow instructions.  If I wanted to get back to CrossFit and to running, being lazy about rehabilitating my ankle wasn’t going to get me there.  I had to work hard and do what I was told.  Listen to the pros!
Determination – Throughout this whole ordeal I admit there were discouraging days.  I still have them and I anticipate a few in my future.  But I have to stay focused on my goal to be able to do the things I used to do.  I keep that in mind to this day.  I want to be able to run more races.  I want to be able to do box-jumps and double unders again.  I can’t lose my determination or focus.  I’ll get there!
Clean eating – I didn’t let this injury give me an excuse to let the rest of my health and wellness plans fly out the window.  In fact, after hurting my ankle it was more important than ever to stay on top of my eating for a few reasons. First and foremost, in order to avoid unwanted weight gain I had to change the amount I was eating because I wasn’t as active.  However more important than that, was that clean eating meant a more smooth recovery.  If my body was going to repair itself, I wanted to make sure that it was getting the very best fuel to do it.  What do you think my body used to repair my ligaments and heal my strained tendons?  The good stuff from the food I ate.  It would have been unrealistic of me to expect a full recovery and a like-new ankle if I had given my body junk food to use.  Who wants a house built with shoddy materials, termite ridden beams, and rusty nails and screws?  Nobody, of course.  I was extra vigilant about my diet for the last 15 weeks so my body would have the best resources I could give it to rebuild my ankle.
So, there you have it.  My life for the past 15 weeks.  I am curious to know how others out there have recovered from injuries and setbacks.  I am anxious to hear about the lessons you’ve learned along the way.  Have we learned the same things?  How did acceptance, patience, compliance, determination, and clean eating play a role in your recovery?  Share with me in the comments or on Facebook.

WWWSD?

Anyone reading this who knows me in real life has probably asked themselves why it took so long for a post with this theme to appear.

(source)

You see, I am an unabashed William Shatner fan.
I love the guy.  Sure he’s Hollywood’s clown, but he is also a fine Emmy-winning actor who has a terrific sense of humor about himself. He loves himself, that’s obvious, but somehow he manages to pull that off without taking himself too seriously.  Plus he’s Captain Kirk.  That ought to be all I need to say.
So, this past March Dude and I traveled to Cleveland to see him perform as he toured around the USA with his one-man show, Shatner’s World.  It was two hours of Bill on Bill.  I was in heaven.
He basically told his life story from birth and the seemingly off-the-cuff storytelling was interspersed with photos and video clips of performances and interviews, plus home movies and family photos.  Like I said above, there is no doubt that William Shatner loves William Shatner.  It was obvious that he loved just talking about himself.

(source)

So yes, Shatner’s World was great fun for those of us who are fans, however, there was more to the performance than just the ramblings of an 81 year-old guy.  There was a really cool recurring theme to all of his anecdotes and it was the theme for the entire show.  How did William Shatner go from unknown Canadian youth to the greatest actor in the world? (OK, that might be hyperbole and my fandom speaking, but he has had a long and successful career.)  He attributed it to one thing:
He always said yes.
As he retold two hours worth of stores about performing as a child in youth theater in Canada to selling his own kidney stone on eBay for charity (I kid you not), he said that he did anything and everything he could to stay relevant.  He said yes to everything.

(source)

So this has me thinking…. How can I be more like William Shatner?  I’m asking myself “What Would William Shatner Do?”
I think there is something to be learned from this.  How often do we say no to things?  How often are we closed off to new experiences, new opportunities, new adventures?  How often are we putting negativity on our own circumstances?  How many times a day do you tell yourself that you can’t do something, or won’t do something?
I know with my own life I fell victim to my own negative self-talk.  I was quite closed off to new people and new experiences.  I can’t truthfully say that seeing Shatner’s World changed my life, but it was very enlightening to hear from someone who has had a 60+ year career that the key to his success can be attributed to positivity and saying yes to nearly everything that was offered to him.
So today I’m going to throw this out to you.  Answer these few questions:

  • What have you said yes to lately?
  • What do you think will happen if you start saying yes more often?
  • In what aspects of your life can you welcome new experiences?
  • How has being closed off to new experiences or opportunities hindered your happiness?
  • How are you going to be more like William Shatner? (ha)

Share with me in the comments or on Facebook.  I can’t wait to hear how I’ve turned you all in to Shatner disciples!

Getting Back on the Wagon

Am I the only one who finds summertime to be a difficult time for health, and fitness, and eating well?  I mean, it would seem to be the opposite because the weather is (mostly) beautiful and there is tons of fresh food in season.  I guess even though I haven’t been in school for a while I still get into a vacation mindset and just get a bit more relaxed with my choices.
Yesterday the Healthy Home Economist had a post that was food focused and talked about the difference between an occasional indulgence and completely falling off the clean eating wagon.  It was brilliant.  Spot on.  And it kind of hit home for me.
Because of my ankle woes I have been (literally and figuratively) off my pins this summer.  My routine is wrecked, my workouts have had to change drastically, and it’s taken a bit of a toll on my attitude.  I think about this ankle everyday, all day long.  I want it to heal, and I want it to heal NOW.   I did get some good news when I went to the doctor’s office not long ago, but just because it’s on its way to recovery doesn’t mean it’s recovered.  I started seeing a physical therapist (Steve rocks!  I hope to write more about him soon.) and I’ve had one session so far where he was very honest about the fact that I have a LOT of work to do.  I’m on the right track, but the road is going to be long and difficult.
Fitness and food are my life and my job.  I can’t help but feel a bit thrown for a loop and upset.  I admit to wallowing a bit and I also admit to not having the cleanest diet lately.  What I have been telling myself is that I’m having the occasional indulgence, but after reading yesterday’s article, I realize I’m probably headed down the food bender road.  Not good.
So, what does a holistic health coach do when she’s recognized that the summertime vacation attitude plus the ankle self-pity party has added up to going on a binge and falling off the rails a bit?  She takes total control of the situation by recognizing what threw her off the straight and narrow and fixes it.
First order of business, I have to change my attitude about my ankle.  Yes, it’s a bummer.  Yes, it’s inconvenient.  Yes, it’s impinging on my lifestyle.  But instead of focusing on what I can’t do and how rotten I feel about it, I’m going to focus on what I can do and start kicking this up a bit in spite of my ankle.  I am feeling really confident in the pool these days, and I am going to continue to work on improving.  I’m extremely pleased with how strong I feel after a month.
I’m also going back to CrossFit this week.  I’ll have to modify and scale things to work around my injury, but so be it.  I’ve been afraid to go back and I can’t live like that.  Tonight, I’m headed back to the box.
My second order of business is getting my eating under control.  I’m not completely off the wagon, but I’m definitely hanging off the wagon and letting myself drag on the ground more than I should.
Luckily, I’ve been given a terrific resource for helping me to get back ON the wagon.  Did you catch my review of Practical Paleo?  I went on and on about how it’s THE book for getting your eating back in line and so I’m taking advantage of it.  I started following one of the 30-day meal plans from the book. Check out my breakfast:
That’s my version of the Swirly Crustless Quiche.  I omitted the swirls and opted for a standard “entropy” pattern, but it still tastes delicious.  😉
Today’s lunch is mustard glazed chicken thighs with a green salad.  After my Tuesday swim, Dude and I are having lunch together to eat a few of these babies along with some tossed greens.

I can’t quite say that this is going to be a Julie/Julia Project style cook through of Practical Paleo or even one of those blogs where each meal is photographed, but I do plan to keep you up to date with what I’m making and eating for the next month.
In the meantime, I’m going to leave you with some tips and hints for getting yourself back on track if you’ve fallen off course.

  • Stop, look, listen — Take the time to step away from the frenetic life we all have and take a long hard look at what is going on with you.  Are you happy?  Do you feel well?  Do you consider yourself to be healthy?  Are you doing everything you can do to live your most healthy life? Listen to what your body is trying to tell you.  It is essential that we take the time to look for the mental and physical cues our bodies are giving us to show us that we’re not on track.
  • Be honest with yourself — If you know that something is bothering you, don’t hide it or lie to yourself about it.  Face it.  It’s hard to admit our shortcomings, even to ourselves, but we won’t get anywhere if we pretend they don’t exist.
  • Identify the core issues — When you’re honest with yourself about what is going on, you can strip away all the drama and hurt feelings to uncover the real issues that are at the root of the problem.  For me, my ankle whining and my lazy summer attitude have put me in a spot that I don’t like very much.  I can say it’s a hundred different things, but these two things are the sources of my problems right now.
  • Form a plan — Because what’s the point of knowing what the problem is without having a plan to solve it?  It’s going to be a daily struggle to change my attitude about my ankle, but each day I am going to work on something that will make it stronger, plus I’m going to let it heal in its own time.
  • Be accountable — Tell your partner, a friend, a co-worker, or your health coach what you’re doing and check in with him or her regularly.  I plan on staying in touch with all of you and updating you with how things are going.  I hope you’ll hold my feet to the fire!

Now it’s your turn.  What has you down and off track?  Has a simple indulgence turned into a wagon fall-off of epic proportions?  What is your plan to get back on it?  Share with me in the comments or on Facebook.

Swimming

As I’ve mentioned a few times (here and here) my left ankle is sprained. It is interfering with my life and I don’t like it. I am very much inconvenienced by how long it is taking for it to heal and I find it frustrating that perhaps the length of time it is taking is in direct proportion to my age. Hmm…..
I have barely been able to workout for 6 weeks now. Immediately after the sprain happened Dude and I went on vacation and I didn’t workout at all, although I wasn’t exactly sedentary either. Casual walking at most, which to me isn’t a workout.
After seeing a doctor when we returned he suggested two weeks of no activity (except walking from the couch to the bathroom and to the kitchen and back, plus physical therapy). Talk about a drag. I mostly listened, although I started going back to Pilates because nearly nothing we do there involves my ankle and the few things that did I either modified or just didn’t do. It felt good to move my body again and challenge myself and be sore after doing something. (As an aside, isn’t it weird how you miss the soreness? Maybe I’m just an oddball.)
Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Pilates. I have the best instructor in Pittsburgh and classes are hard. But I’m used to a combination of CrossFit, running, and Pilates and not being able to do two of my three favorite things was starting to bring me down. I started getting depressed and feeling grumpy. All I could do was follow my doctor ordered physical therapy and wait. My spirits were flagging. I was hoping my quest for a pull-up would buoy my mood, but it really didn’t. I was losing my drive to do anything.
I posted a question in the Facebook forum for the Steel City Road Runner’s Club. Certainly someone there would have had a similar experience with a sprained ankle and impatience with it healing. I asked for advice on what to do and more than one person suggested biking/spinning and swimming.
Genius.
My Dude works at FancyPants U and they have a pool and as the spouse of a staff member I am eligible for a “sponsored” ID card and can use many of the campus facilities for free.

(Not the worst photo! I’m wearing my lucky necklace too.)

I got very excited and started researching pool workouts and looking for advice on swim caps and all that jazz. I was INTO it! But then I stopped to realize that although I do know how to swim, I was not sure just what I could do. This was foreign territory for me, for the most part. I had taken swimming in lieu of traditional “gym” in junior high school, but that was 25 years ago. My swimming life has mostly consisted of sunning myself poolside or oceanside and splashing around in the water to cool off. I wasn’t even sure I could swim a lap.
But this isn’t the time to be milquetoast about anything. I had to keep in mind everything that Coach Matt had pointed out to me. I lack confidence, I short change myself, I mentally quit and check out when things get tough or even when I perceive them to be tough. I need to conjure up some focus, determination, mental toughness, and intensity in all my workouts. Maybe I would really stink up the pool but I can’t let that stop me from trying. Life-long fitness is something I want and being a baby about swimming (or any workout) won’t get me there.
I showed up on campus, went to the fitness desk, showed my cute ID card, and got a wristband to wear that lets everyone know that I’m a swimmer. I had packed my sweet little gym bag with my suit, a towel, comb, hair dryer, my new swim cap, and goggles. I was SET. I had all the accoutrements and was accessorized properly. But I wasn’t quite mentally prepared for what happened next.
First of all, this was the first time I was in a locker room since high school, and duh, there were naked women in there. Now, I’m no prude and the sight of a naked woman didn’t faze me one bit, but the thought of me having to be naked in front of strangers did. There is an extremely small set of people who regularly see me naked these days and they include someone I’m married to and others to whom I give a copay before shedding my clothes. That’s it. I didn’t even consider any of this before getting there.

(Fresh green pedicure for pool workout one. These feet helped propel me a long way!)

But I just figured, “What the hell.” and took my clothes off and put my suit on. We’re all human females with all the same parts and nobody is really looking. Plus I routinely wear a two-piece swimsuit so I had no reason to feel exposed or anything. I got over myself quickly, showered off before heading out to the pool, and headed for the door.
I asked a guy wearing glasses while swimming (?) if I could share his lane with him and got in. I know most people swim the front crawl/freestyle, but I’m partial to breast stroke. It’s easiest for me and at this point I was looking to get to the other side of the pool and back any way I could to see how easy or difficult it was going to be. I just had no idea if one lap was going to be a piece of cake or a grueling, breathless pain in the fanny.
It turns out it was somewhere in between. My form isn’t the prettiest, nor am I fast or sleek in the water, but I made it. My ankle made its presence felt, but it wasn’t painful at all. I was being lapped by the man I was sharing a lane with plus the collegiate athlete in the lane next to me, but that was fine. I was in the pool pushing myself to get it done.
I’m not going to lie, there was some wheezing and some coughing and some panicked thoughts about getting to the other side without having to call upon the lifeguard’s expertise, but I did it. Several breast stroke laps, several freestyle laps, and two backstrokes for good measure. I channeled Coach Matt’s words of advice and encouragement and I have to say that I am kind of proud of how I did.

(I was in the lane on the far left. I figured pool workout one called for me to be in lane one.)

I admit to getting quite discouraged when I try something that is new to me and I’m not great at it right away. I also admit that when I want to accomplish something, I really have to push myself to do it. I’m not as naturally driven as some. But I am determined to make this work for me for several reasons.

  1. I don’t have many workout choices due to my ankle. I am back to Pilates and probably to CrossFit next week, although I cannot do everything I used to do there quite yet. Running is still out of bounds for me for a while and I want to keep improving my level of endurance (which is still quite sad in spite of running a half marathon).
  2. I need a challenge. What kind of life is it if there are no challenges in it? I don’t want everything to be easy for me because that means that I won’t accomplish anything. Plus, as I stated above, my default is to generally avoid challenges and I don’t like that about myself. Time to change that.
  3. It’s there. I have free access to a really nice pool and a swimsuit. Why NOT do it? It shakes up my current state of working out affairs and I can’t think of a reason not to give it a go.
  4. I want to prove myself. If Coach Matt saw my weaknesses then others saw them too. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by friends and trainers who like me and care about me in spite of my flaws so it’s not as if I am being shamed or called out all the time. But I don’t want to be the girl at the gym who is known for not giving her all. Plus, I’m a health coach, after all, and it’s my job to show others that challenges can be bested and obstacles can be overcome. I can do this.

So that is swim workout number 1!! In the books! The Thorpedo I’m not, but I’m out there trying.
Now, it’s your turn – What are the challenges you’re facing lately? What are you doing to overcome them? Who are my readers who are swimmers and what advice can you offer to a total newbie like me? Share with me in the comments below or on Facebook.

The Kick in the Butt

Last week in the 2012 Goals Project update, I mentioned that I’ve had to kick my pursuit of an unassisted pull-up into high gear.  Especially because I’m still mostly unable to do any kind of activity that involves my leg or foot due to my ankle sprain.  I emailed Matt, one of the trainers at my CrossFit box (who also happens to be a fantastic attorney!) and asked him for some help with what I could do to finally get my chin up over that confounded bar.
He wrote back a lengthy note and while it did include a LOT of great advice for what I ought to be working on, also contained within was a swift kick in my behind.
Um, thanks?
When I first read the note I was a bit taken aback and wondered why in the world advice on pull-ups was all muddled together in a really blunt note about my other shortcomings.  Yikes.  Here are some excerpts from his email:

First, as you know, GAIN CONFIDENCE.  Because of Pilates, you have excellent form.  The form is the basic movement that most people do not have the patience to perfect before adding intensity.  What you need to do is start adding intensity.  Have you heard the CrossFit saying, “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”?  I hate those cheesy sayings, but in your case, it applies.

The basic answer is to do more pullups.  However, you also have to concentrate on strengthening your entire body.  This means you have to come to CrossFit WODs and put forth the most intensity you can at each WOD.  You have to give up, “I am tired” or “I can’t do one more” or “I can’t lift that weight.”  You have to replace this with, “Can I do one more rep”  “I am not going to die if I do one more rep, so I am going to do one more rep.”  “85 lbs is going to be hard as hell, but I am going to accept the discomfort and do it.”  “I don’t think I can do one more pullup, so I am going to stop after my last full ROM [range of motion] pullup and take less rest time than I would if I attempted one more pullup and failed.”

The emphasis is mine.  I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss the part where Coach Matt called my weaknesses out.  How dare he do this?
But you know what?  I am SOOOOOOOOOO glad he did.  He is 100% right. Initially it was a bit of a bummer to see my flaws in black and white, and it was slightly embarrassing to know that someone else noticed them. But it’s turning out to be just what I needed.
I’m a baby.  I go to the gym and I think I try really hard and I’m all hot and sweaty after the workout and I’m out of breath and I have all the soreness that everyone else has.  I pat myself on my filthy, sweaty back and tell myself that I did a good job today.  And sometimes I did do a good job.  But since this wake up call from Coach Matt, I’ve had to ask myself if I regularly give it my ALL.
If I’m being honest, I don’t.
I think it’s a common thing hold back or take the easy way.  Most of the time it’s harmless – taking a shortcut to work in the morning or using some kind of time and energy saving something to make life go more smoothly. We all do it.  But it took this blunt email from someone I like and trust for me to see that in this case not giving something all of my effort was only hurting me in the long run.  My little issues and fears about collapsing or dropping dead or being sore or failing were NOT getting me to do a pull-up.  My distaste for being uncomfortable was holding me back and keeping me from achieving a goal that I really want to achieve.
I’ve also begun to ask myself if there are other parts of my life where I’m not giving 100% and letting lack of confidence hold me down.  Sadly, yes.
There is a really cool project that has been floating around in my head lately and I haven’t done much with it other than think about it because I keep telling myself that it would be “too hard” to do it.  This kind of defeatist attitude isn’t getting me anywhere.  I’m taking Coach Matt’s advice and I’m tackling this project head on.  I can’t wait around until the time is right or until I have somehow cultivated the right amount of confidence.  I’ve just got to do it.

(source)

So, now I’m going to challenge all of YOU!  This is your wake up call. This is my version of Coach Matt’s email.   You probably aren’t giving something all of your effort.  You probably have told yourself that you can’t do it.  You probably are afraid to get uncomfortable.  Drop that negative crap and get to it!  A cleaner diet?  Starting to workout?  That big work project?  Whatever it is, it’s time to give up the excuses and get on with it.
Share with me in the comments or on Facebook.  Let me know what you’re going to give 100% to starting today!
 
 

Unpacking

Hi!
If you’ve been keeping up with me on Facebook, you’ll know that I’m home from a week’s vacation.  I’m happy to be sleeping in my own bed again, and I’m super happy to be with my kitty Quincy again, but I wish I was still on the road!
Well, Dude and I had a fantastic time exploring the southwestern USA.  We have both been to a few cities in the area, but neither of us had ever really explored the region.  To say it is beautiful would be to sell it short.  The beauty is beyond description!  Since I am from the east coast where things are either gray or green, freezing or hot and humid, this was a real switch up for me.  And I’ve seen mountains before, but the Rocky Mountains were positively breathtaking.
Some highlights:

  • Visiting with our friend Cheryl in Boulder, CO.  Dude even got to workout at her home gym, CrossFit Roots.  (I was sadly sidelined with my ankle sprain.)
  • Visiting four national parks (Rocky Mountain, Arches, Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon)
  • Seeing the Four Corners monument
  • Just shy of 1100 miles alone in the car with my Dude.

As I mentioned in my previous (brief) post, we felt quite small compared to what we were driving through. Vast expanses, enormous mountains, and majestic beauty. Physically small, but also small on an existential level too.  Being among the landscape that has taken hundreds of millions of years to form and to see the awesome power that running water and wind has can really humble a person.  It made my sore ankle and whatever other complaints and problems we have seem quite insignificant.

And so I titled this post unpacking.  First because I still so have some unpacking to do (I’m terrible about emptying my suitcase after a trip!) but also, being out there in the wilderness, cut off from cell phone service and wifi, away from my comfort zone (I’m a city person!!), and seeing things that I couldn’t imagine has really given me much to mull over.  I’m unpacking my thoughts too.

This is something I love about travel.  It stretches you and makes you a bigger and better person.  You’re uncomfortable and out of your familiar element, but that is where change and growth happens.  The trip doesn’t have to be to a fabulous far-off land, but getting out of routine and finding the edge of your comfort zone is where the magic happens. Plus, you can have a grand time with the people you love most.  I like that part too.

Have you ever taken a trip that has changed you?  Did you ever feel different after having visited a place?  Share with me on Facebook or in the comments.
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And now for some housekeeping details:
1. It has come to my attention that Facebook is up to some shenanigans again and maybe you aren’t seeing my posts in your news feed.  We can’t have that.  I not only let you know when I’ve updated the blog here, but I also put little thoughts, photos, and links up there too and I know you don’t want to miss out on that goodness, right?  So here’s what you do:

  • Go to the First Comes Health Facebook page (click here to be taken to it)
  • Hover your cursor over the button that says “LIKED” (you do like my page, right?) and a little menu will appear.
  • Make sure that “SHOW IN NEWS FEED” is checked.
  • Bob’s your uncle.

Here’s a pic for those of you who are visual learners:

2.  The LadyFingers and First Comes Health dinner and live tweet event is 10 days away!  Please virtually join us as we cook another fab healthy meal and enter to win a chance to sit at our July table!  Here is how easy this is:

We can’t wait to show you what we have in store for this upcoming dinner!  OOOH!!!

Winning

(source)

I guess since Charlie Sheen went off the rails a few months back the term “winning” has taking on a slightly skewed meaning.  It’s started to take on a life of its own, where people tack it on to the ends of sentences (sarcastically or otherwise) to describe how great their situations are.   That’s entertainment and hilarity and maybe somewhat sad for good old Charlie, but today I’d like to talk about the original meaning of “winning”.  Victory.
Just for a minute I’d like to take the patina of competition off of the word winning.  I think if you take the strict definition of “to win” competition is implied, a loser is implied.  But let’s just put that aside for the sake of this post.
I think it’s important that we all win.
Now, I’m not talking about this phenomenon where everyone who participates gets a gold medal or a blue ribbon and we all come in first place.  I’m talking about the psychological boost we get when we achieve.  I think we all need it.
At my CrossFit gym there is a board on permanent display that showcases the athletes who have set records in specific workouts.  The top three males and the top three females are recorded for each of these benchmarks.  Around the gym it is a significant accomplishment to “get on the board”.  It is a public showing of the winners at our gym.
Tuesday, I missed being put on that board by 1.6 seconds.  Part of that day’s workout was a 500 meter row, and to make it on to the board as the third place female for that workout, I needed to finish in 1:58.  My final time was 1:59.6.  During the row, my coach Patrick PUSHED me hard.  He cheered for me and encouraged me and kept saying, “Just a few more big pulls!  Come on!  Get 1:58 and you’ll make it on the board!”  I gave it all I had. I rowed and grunted and pulled the hell out of that machine and I didn’t make it.
Now, I should have been positively THRILLED with a 500 m row time of 1:59.6 and somewhere deep down, I was.  But I wanted to make it to the board so badly!  (Do you realize how fleeting 1.6 seconds is?!  POOF!  That was 1.6 seconds!)

Immediately after the row, I needed a few minutes to recover and regain my strength.  I was wobbly and out of breath, and as I rolled around on the ground recuperating I felt so so discouraged.  I felt like I had lost.
It wasn’t until I recognized that I was feeling like a loser that I realized that I need to win something.  And I don’t think I’m unique.
Not all of us can be “on the board” literally or figuratively, and nobody wins or achieves all the time.  But the psychological boost one gets from winning something is profound and we all need it.  To put a finer point on this, I would argue that while winning something is great, the same kind of psychological boost that comes after achieving something from hard earned effort is better.   I think this is why I felt so low after trying so gosh darned hard at the row.
So, what can be done about this?  How can we all experience victory whether it’s in the gym or at work or with achieving any number of goals?  How can we all be our own version of Charlie Sheen? (kidding!)
Here are a few things that came to mind as I thought so much about winning and losing post-row.

  • Never stop trying – Maybe this is just me, but after I didn’t make it on to the board on Tuesday, my immediate reaction was to quit CrossFit and never touch a rower again.  (Did I mention I can be a melodramatic infant at times?)  Of course that is NOT going to happen.  I have to use that disappointment to inspire me and fuel me.  I have to remember how sad I was that I was 1.6 seconds too slow and let that drive me to push harder next time.  I’ll get there someday, but in order to do that I have to keep trying.
  • It’s OK to be disappointed – I admit I engaged in some negative self talk here and beat myself up for coming up short.  Then I beat myself up for beating myself up.  Then I felt doubly bad.  What a miasma of self pity and self loathing I was for a few hours on Tuesday!  It didn’t accomplish a thing.  Feeling bad is a normal, natural reaction and it’s perfectly fine to be disappointed and sad after something bad happens.  Wallowing in it for time on end probably won’t help and neither will calling yourself names. But go ahead and feel bad for a bit.  It’s an honest reaction.  And then go back to my first bullet point and renew your determination.
  • Find something you can realistically achieve – Be honest with yourself.  Can you really make the Olympic swim team?  Probably not.  That distinction is out of reach for nearly everyone in the world and setting that as an achievable goal will only lead to feeling more discouraged.  Right now I’m shooting for third place in the 500 meter row at CrossFit Confluence.  That is 1.6 seconds out of my grasp right now, but within sight.  It’s doable.
  • Don’t rest once you win – Let’s say I go into the gym tonight and break that record and make it to the board.  Then what?  I cannot be finished with challenging myself.  I cannot be finished with pushing myself.  I can try for second place.  Winning once doesn’t mean you stop trying.  Let it give you a taste for victory and let it spur you on to even higher heights.
  • Remember that another person’s victory doesn’t have to mean your defeat – Sour grapes aren’t sexy.  If someone in your life achieves his goal, that doesn’t diminish your effort and doesn’t prevent you from crossing your own finish line, whatever that may be.  There is enough applause to go around and we’ll all have our chance eventually.

I’ll keep you updated with my 500 meter row, and I’d really love to hear about your victories.  What have you won?  What are you trying to win?  What is that one thing that is just out of your grasp but within sight?  Share with me in the comments below or on Facebook.

Proactive

Up until a few years ago when I decided to quit my toxic job and start my own business as a holistic health coach I would have described myself as a reactive person.  In a lot of ways, I definitely let life happen to me.  I wouldn’t make a decision, I wouldn’t pursue what I wanted, I didn’t speak up, I didn’t stand up for myself, and I just dealt with the consequences.  The day I proclaimed a big loud “I QUIT” to my old boss and said goodbye to that job was the day I really grew a spine.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that shortly before I did quit I started working out and eating better.  I had taken control of that aspect of my life and it empowered me to take control of another.  And now that it’s my job and my business to educate people on how to be a more active participant in their own lives.
There is no point in kicking myself for taking 30-something years to start to do what’s best for myself.  What’s done is done.  I can only hope to show others just how worthwhile it is.  Having control over your own life and your own destiny is powerful and wonderful.  And I truly believe it’s never too late to start doing the right things for your mind, body, and spirit.
But you have to do it.
I don’t know what kept me in a fog of complacency for so long.  I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to take charge.  I knew better.  I knew that doing unhealthy things only hurt me in the long run.  I knew that reckless behavior would only keep me from living the long, robust life I hoped for.  I think the conclusion I had to come to somehow was that being uncomfortable was necessary if I ever wanted to be comfortable, that a little short-term inconvenience or suffering was worth the long-term goal, and that I was worth the effort.
Let me break those things down again:

  • I had to realize that being uncomfortable was necessary if I ever wanted to be comfortable.
  • I had to realize that short-term inconvenience or suffering was worth the long-term goal.
  • I had to realize that I WAS WORTH THE EFFORT.

Yeah, I broke out the all capital letters for that one.  I’m serious.
Taking a proactive stance with your own health is a matter of life and death.  Period.   Can I get any more blunt than that?  How about this:
Being careless and reckless with your health can kill you.
Choosing to ignore good medical advice can put you in the grave and rob you of the opportunity to enjoy life’s riches.
This is how important this issues is.  It’s time to not only take control of the intangible things in life (quit a crap job that brings you down!) it’s also time to take control of your health and your bodies.
In the best case scenario, letting things happen to you without taking control will eventually erode your quality of life.  But that’s the best case and that’s only temporary.
So, what can you do NOW, TODAY, THIS MINUTE to start to get control of your health?  Here are some quick, worthwhile steps to take that can put you on a healthier trajectory:

  • Start planning your meals and cook your own food – Planning for healthy foods at each meal can take you a long way towards a healthy life.  Knowing what to do in your kitchen is a life-long skill that will get you to old age. Get in control in your kitchen!
  • Move everyday – Walk, run, CrossFit, yoga, Pilates, boot camp, Frisbee golf, baseball, snow shoeing, soccer, P-90X, Curves, free weights, Wii Fit, laps around the mall, treadmill, jump rope, horseback riding, Zumba, calisthenics, swimming, aerobics, belly-dancing, tai-chi, surfing, spinning, rock climbing, hiking, cross-country skiing, ice skating, TurboFire, stair climbing, kickboxing, WHATEVER!  Just get up and do something each day.
  • Drink water – This advice is almost as old as the hills.  But it’s been around so long because it’s true.  Drink water instead of any other beverage, and do it often.
  • Deep breaths – Take time to relax and reduce the stress in your life, even if it is just for a few minutes a day.
  • Get enough rest.  We’re all busy busy busy and everyone has a full schedule and a full life.  You are not the exception.  Go to bed earlier than you think you should.  You need the sleep.

Now, here is what you need to do LONG TERM in order to take control of your health.  These are not quick and easy things, but they are essential actions you must take.

  • Listen to your doctor, health coach, and all medical professionals who are working very hard to keep you in good shape.  It is in your own best interest to become as educated as possible about any ailments, injuries, or diseases you may have and work very closely with the professionals to do what’s right to fix the problems.  A pill or surgery or other medical intervention isn’t always the right answer.  But sometimes it is!  Educate yourself, listen, and heed good advice.
  • Accept the fact that health, wellness, and a long happy life ARE things that you deserve.  They are things we all deserve.

I am curious about your stories.  How have you been proactive in life?  What spurred you on to do it?  What do you think you can do today and in the long term to take control of your life and your health?  What changes are you ready to make?

Simplify

There was a time in my life when I had a full-time job, I was going to school to work on my second degree, I was commuting over an hour (one way) to school, I was a newlywed, and I was maintaining and partially remodeling a big old suburban four-bedroom house with a big yard.  I wanted all of those things at the time, but honestly it was miserable.  I hated the days when I’d wake up knowing that it would be 18 hours until I got back into the bed again.  I was tired all the time and unhappy most of the time.  Dude was very unhappy with is job and eventually landed a new position that was in the city and had him commuting over an hour each way too.  He traded an unhappy position for another and added rush hour to it too.
Thankfully we have a low tolerance for stuff like that because Dude and I decided that being grumpy for most of the day wasn’t how we wanted things to go.  So we decided to simplify.  I had saved enough to quit my job and devote all my time to school, we sold almost all of our furniture and sold the house to move into a much much smaller place (one bedroom, one bathroom condo in the city), we sold one car, and divested ourselves of all the STUFF that was causing us to be grumpy, unpleasant, workaholics.  Dude looked for a new job (again!) while I finished my degree.  We basically went from living a complicated existence of juggling schedules, DIY projects, school, distasteful jobs, driving all the time, and spending the money we were earning on stuff we didn’t need or want to owning only what we truly needed and doing what we truly wanted to do.  Ahhhh!
Now, I realize that our story is a bit extreme and it wasn’t as simple as selling everything and moving.  Not everything fell into place as easily as it may seem in two short paragraphs, but after about 18 months of transition and making choices that would bring us closer to our more simple life, we were settled.  Everything changed for us. We were happy, fun-loving people again!  Our marriage became stronger, we started working out and eating right, we saved more money, and spent more time together.
I also realize that not everyone can take such drastic steps — selling most of your personal belongings was very hard to do and I know that it is not a possible scenario for everyone.  But the take-away message here is shedding away all the unnecessary stuff (whether it’s literally belongings and possessions or other, intangible static) can change your life for the better.
So, I invite you to examine the literal and figurative clutter in your life.  What is weighing you down?  What makes you unhappy on a regular basis?  What is the one thing you can do today to simplify your life?  A total life overhaul might not be what you need or might not be what you can do right now, but working on eliminating the small things that unnecessarily complicate your life will make a huge difference.
Here are a few things you can do to simplify:

  • Clean up and get it out. Choose 10 songs that you love and really get you going.  Play those 10 songs on your iPod, stereo, whatever.  While those 10 songs are playing devote that time to cleaning out a closet/drawer/room/desk.  Get rid of clutter.  Throw things away.  Donate things that are still usable but don’t have a place in your life or your home.  Enjoy your favorite music and take some steps towards completing a chore that you’ve probably been putting off.  Do this as often as you can until you’ve purged your whole house.
  • Say no.  We all want to be superheroes to our family, kids, friends, co-workers, superiors.  But if your resources are spread too thin, you’re not useful to anyone.  Take unnecessary obligation out of your life.  Focus on doing a few things well.  Devote yourself to doing what you love.  Say no to things that you don’t really want to do.
  • Stop spending your time and effort on negative people.  Having someone in your life who drags your mood down, complains all the time, puts you down, and hates everything is not accomplishing anything but making you that way too.  The people in your life should help you, not bring you down or make you feel bad about yourself.  Surround yourself with those with the same goals, the same attitude, and the same way of thinking.
  • Be present and grateful.  The past is the past and we can only do so much to prepare for the future.  Enjoy this day.  Enjoy what you have and be thankful that you have it.  Appreciating what is going on today can make yesterday seem so far away and tomorrow not so bad.
  • Treat your body well.  Taking the time to eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep is like putting money in a savings account.  It seems like you’re just doing something small and meaningless each time you deposit those pennies, but the interest accrues and compounds.  It’s the same with treating your body well.  Choosing to do what’s best for yourself might not seem like a grand effort at the time, but the cumulative effect will be so enormous and have such a grand impact on your overall life.  You cannot be productive if you’re not fueled and rested properly.
  • Don’t live outside your means.  I saw a poster recently that said, “Too many people spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need to impress people they don’t know.”  Is this true for you?  Before you buy anything, ask yourself if you really need it.  Ask yourself how this item will enrich your life.  Ask how this item will simplify your life.

What tips can you add to this list?  What is going to be the first thing you do to simplify?  What have you already done to make your life easier and how did your life change?  Share with me in the comments or on Facebook.

The Pittsburgh (Half) Marathon

Waaaay back in November I shared that I had set a goal for myself to run the half marathon this year in my hometown of Pittsburgh. “Health Coach Help Thyself!” I said. I set a goal and committed to it (and have been talking about it each month since the 2012 Goals Project started!) And this past Sunday, I followed through.
This was the first time I have ever run a half marathon and I really didn’t know what to expect. I mean, I knew that it was going to be long and difficult, and I was very familiar with the course (a portion of which I could see from my own living room windows!), but I had no idea of how my body would react to such an endeavor. I had no idea if the kind of training I had done was what I needed to get through. I had no idea how long it would take me.
I kept my expectations low for my first shot simply because I didn’t know what I could really do. When people would ask me what my goal was, I’d say “An upright finish”. When asked what my pace would be, I’d say “Whatever gets me to the end.” I did, however, have a super-secret goal of finishing under three hours.
In the world of serious runners, a half-marathon time of under three hours is hardly brag-worthy. I know that. But for me, this race wasn’t about impressing anyone or beating a time or any of those things. I just wanted to start when the gun went off and cross the finish line feeling alright.
My training for this event has been a bit non-traditional. I haven’t been running a whole heck of a lot, but if you’ve been following the 2012 Goals Project, you’ll know that I’ve been working hard at CrossFit for a long stretch, and since running is more of a mental challenge for me, I’ve been working on getting my attitude straightened out. Telling myself that I’m weak and can’t run anymore is counterproductive, wouldn’t you say? I had to get a handle on it. I knew that I could physically make it over the finish; I have endurance and strength and those things have improved greatly over the past few months. But the mental struggle was going to be the hardest part.
I was lucky to have a running partner by my side for the entire race. My husband, Dude (a.k.a. Brian R. from the Goals Project!), ran the race too and unlike other, shorter races we’ve done in the past, we decided to stick together the whole time. His support and encouragement were invaluable. I wouldn’t have wanted to do it without him!

(Check out those fancy running shirts! I wonder where you can get one for yourself? )

The first half of the race was fantastic! I was cruising along like I was born to run!! I felt like I was ticking off the miles like nothing. I wasn’t going fast at all (12:00 mile is hardly fast!), but I mentally felt like I was really doing it. My legs felt terrific and I was having a great time. I even found some money on the ground!
Just before the official half-way point we passed some friends who were among the crowd cheering everyone on. I can’t tell you what a mental boost this was! Even though I was still feeling confident at this point, seeing some of my best friends and getting high-fives and hugs meant the world. I almost burst into tears!

However, after that point, we got to a very large hill and then a long stretch of straight road where there were few spectators. I knew that I had passed up all of our friends, and I started to feel just a little tired and achy. To think that I was only half way finished started to play with my mind a bit.
Miles 8, 9, and 10 were a true struggle. Not even hilarious signs (“Worst Parade Ever!” “You’ve trained longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage!”) kept me going. I had hit a serious low point. Negative thoughts crept in and I even thought at one point that I might not make it. We had started near the very end of the pack at the starting line, so slowing down and even walking a bit didn’t help my negative thoughts. (Are we going to be the last people to finish?!) It was starting to get very hot and we were running into the sun. Between the heat and feeling like I wouldn’t make my under-three-hour goal, coupled with the long straightaway, I wasn’t in good shape.
This is where I was so grateful to have a running partner. I told him I was flagging and feeling weak, but my Dude kept pushing me. He told me to run as much as I can, take a little walk break, and then get right back up to running. I knew he was feeling it too, so we just did what we could.
The last two miles were a serious push and a serious test of all my mental preparations. Up until this point my body was feeling alright, although a bit tired and worn by the heat and sun. But by the last two miles I was starting to ache all over and each step just hurt. I had to tell myself that this — THIS! — this last push is what I had been training for all these months. Finding the inner strength to DO IT and kick the last two miles was what I had been preparing myself for since last November. I either had to conjure up the will to rock those two miles or I might as well quit. I just turned up my tunes and forged ahead.
When I was training for this event I envisioned myself sailing across the finish line like a beautiful track star. I thought I would look like a fresh-faced supermodel prancing over the finish like I was doing a bikini photo shoot on the beach. Nope. I kicked in the remainder of my strength for the last two miles and did what I could. I held Dude’s hand as we ambled across the finish like two sweaty, beaten-down, first-timers. I felt like a pudding pop. But you know what? We earned the title Runners of Steel.
2:46:33
A volunteer handed me my medal and I wore it around proudly like I was Usain Bolt.

Many things run through your head when you have almost three solitary hours to think. I came up with a list of things that occurred to me as a result of doing this race:

  • Sometimes getting uncomfortable – mentally and physically – is the best thing for you.
  • Always challenge yourself. Having this race to prepare for made me push myself harder in the gym and along the running trail than I would have had I not registered for it. I’m stronger in many ways for having done this.
  • There is always going to be someone better/faster/more comfortable/thinner/heavier/more experienced/etc. than you. You have to run YOUR race. You have to overcome YOUR challenge. There is someone out there who is envious of my 2:46:33 and there’s someone out there who would be humiliated with that time. But it was MY finish time and I’m proud of it because I ran my own race in my own fashion.
  • Never ever ever underestimate how wonderful it is to be cheered for, especially by people who know and love you. There is something powerful about a total stranger looking you in the eye as you run by and saying, “GO RUNNER! YOU CAN DO IT!” and there is something positively fantastic about getting high-fives and hugs from the people you like the most in the world.
  • Fitness challenges aren’t only about the fitness activity, and they’re not about winning. They’re about putting yourself into a new situation.  They’re about learning from mistakes.  They’re about having fun.
  • Don’t wait until you achieve some mythical level of supreme fitness to take on a fitness challenge. If all 25,000 participants in the Pittsburgh Marathon were elite athletes it would have been a crowded first place finish.  Also, if everyone who competed waited until they were in the ultimate shape of their lives, it would have been a very small crowd.  Train for it, but just get out there and do it.  Set a goal, work towards it, and give it all you have.  If you come in 25,000th, so be it!  You’ve done your best.

So, congratulations to everyone who participated this past Sunday – marathoners, half-marathoners, relay teams, wheelchair competitors.  We are all Runners of Steel!
Now, it’s your turn dear readers!  Share with me a time you challenged yourself.  Tell me all about a goal you set for yourself and then achieved.  How did it feel?  How did you get to the end?  What did you learn about yourself?  As always, let me know in the comments or on Facebook.

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