Category Archives: Movement

Half Marathon 2013

(Before I get into this post, just a quick reminder that I’m giving away a copy of Gather: The Art of Paleo EntertainingClick here to find out how you can earn SIX chances to win!)
If you’ve been following me and this website at all for the last couple of years, then you know that running is my Moby Dick.  I should say that running confidently and well (and fast) is what always seems to elude me.  I have a love/hate relationship with it.  I’m terrible at it, but that’s why I want to do it.  It is uncomfortable, but I have to learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I am Ms. Slowpoke McGhee, but I have to challenge myself to keep going.
However, one of my goals for 2013 is to become a more confident runner.  Still my expectation is low.  I’m not talking about becoming one of these folks who casually rocks out 14 miles on a workday morning.  I just want to be someone who feels good running 4 or 5 miles at a time without stress or fretting.  I want to be able to feel good about going out for 45 minutes or so and running and feel great after I’m finished.  That’s all.  I have no desire to break records, nor am I under any illusion that I will ever win anything with my running skill.  I just want to get out there and move and not have it be a major stressful event where I’m in agony before, during, and after.
Last year when I ran the half marathon portion of the Pittsburgh Marathon, I had some very difficult moments.  I went into the race not really knowing what to expect, I didn’t train properly or enough for it, and although I had a good time with it, it wasn’t exactly a shining moment of fitness for me.  I was proud of my (not-so-bragworthy) time of 2:46:33 because that was as well as I could do with what I had.  I told myself that I wasn’t going to do it again, that once was plenty and I should probably stick to shorter distances.
Then I hurt my ankle.
My doctor and physical therapist told me that I would probably be able to run again, but it would be a very very L-O-N-G time before I was back to normal – IF I could even get back to normal.  They were very candid about my ankle never being the same again.
So, here I am, NOT running, and all I can think about is how badly I want to run.  I would have dreams about it.  Just a month before I injured myself, I (kind of) swore off running.  Isn’t that the way it always goes?  You don’t want something, but the minute you are forbidden from having it, it becomes all you want.  Oh, Jill.  You’re so predictable!
September of last year rolls around and I’m finally back on my feet – running!  I ran a few 5Ks and they were really really slow.  But! I was doing it!  YAY!  Celebrate!
And then something happened.  I got swept up in the excitement of my fellow Steel City Road Runners Club members and I impulsively registered for the half marathon portion of the Pittsburgh Marathon BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE WAS DOING IT!  Is that the lamest thing you’ve ever heard?  I got all excited about the pretty significant discount I got on registration for being a member of the club and just did it. I even posted a photo of my registration on Instagram labeling it an impulse buy.  It totally was.
So, I was locked in to it.  I had mixed emotions about it after the fog of peer pressure dissipated.  Part of me was regretful.  Part of me was excited.  Part of me was dreading the training.  Part of me was excited about the challenge.  Part of me thought I acted too quickly and forgot about my ankle.  Part of me knew that my ankle was stronger each day and I’d be fine.
I immediately started training.  Casually at first, but then I kicked it up over the winter.
I don’t know about where you live, but here in Pittsburgh we had a really weird winter.  It lingered.  Temperatures were unusually frigid, there was a large amount of snow and rain, and it lasted much longer into the springtime months than normal.  This made for some frustrating training runs.  I got so sick and tired of running with 4 or 5 layers of clothing.  I was sick of being cold all the time.  I was starting to really second guess my judgement and kick myself for registering.
I was lucky to have a few different sources of support, however.  My friend Kelly and I started running together and that was terrific for me.  I had someone with whom I had to keep my running dates.  A small group of Pittsburgh area CrossFitters started a half marathon training group and I ran with them a few times.  They kept me accountable each week for long runs.
By this past Sunday, I was as ready as I was going to ever be.  I had run the training miles.  It wasn’t easy because of the weather, my ankle flared up a few times, and I am just painfully slow.  But, the work was in the books.

prerace(My pre-race selfie in my bathroom mirror.  Check out that snazzy First Comes Health shirt!)

I was nervous.  I knew what to expect, but I was afraid of the pain and the fatigue.  I didn’t know how my ankle would react.  Plus I was running it all alone.  Last year Dude and I stuck together the whole time. This year, I was out there all by myself.  Not really a big deal, but when you’re already nervous and anxious, the thought of doing something like this alone seemed quite daunting.
So!  The race!  Turns out, it was FANTASTIC!  I enjoyed almost every single minute of it.  There were times when I flagged a little bit, but I kept my thoughts focused on the goal of finishing.  There were moments when I kind of lost myself a bit, but a few deep breaths and a figurative kick in my own behind was all it took.

part of my cheer posse(A few members of my cheer posse!  Kelly, Ann, and my Dude)

Like last year, miles 8 through 10 were very tough.  I just wanted it to be over.  But breaking those miles down into little sections (Just get to the corner of Carson Street and Smithfield Street! or Run as fast as you can until you reach the block where Piper’s Pub is!) made them tick by like nothing.  There were even moments when I was whizzing past people and felt like I was flying.
Jill mid half marathon high fives

(Here I am at the halfway point high-fiving my cheer posse!)

By the end I felt really good.  There were a few moments when I had to walk for 10 or 15 steps just to regain a bit of my composure and reaffirm myself, but I crossed the finish in 2:35:47.  That’s a whole 10:45 faster than last year.  That’s a whole 10:45 faster than my pre-injury time!!!
I had a super secret goal of 2:30:00 or less and I didn’t tell a single person about it.  Obviously I didn’t make that, but I am really really excited and proud of how I did perform.  It may not be the most brag-worthy half marathon time, but for me, it’s everything.  I am really pumped up.
So, here are my final post-race reflections:

  • Don’t underestimate yourself – I do this all the damned time and I really need to cut it out.  Up until the moment the race started I doubted whether or not I could really do it.  But then the next thing I knew I was 5 miles in to it and I felt great.  Confidence, confidence, confidence.  Believe in yourself and trust in your own hard work.  This is what got me through the entire race.
  • I’m a real runner now – I wholeheartedly believe that no matter if you’re running your first 5K or your 20th ultra-marathon, you’re a runner. However, I just didn’t believe that for myself for some reason.  I don’t know what I thought I needed to accomplish before I could consider myself a true runner, but I just couldn’t allow myself to accept that title no matter how many races I’ve participated in.  But after this race, I feel like I’ve earned the right to really call myself a runner.
  • No more impulse buys – Sure, this one worked out for me, but I won’t get swept up in the madness again and register for any races without thinking about it first.  I don’t ever want to back down from a challenge, but there were times when I felt like I painted myself in to a corner with this race by spending the money on it before really thinking about it.
  • It is fantastic to have family and friends cheering you on – My Dude, my dad, my coaches from my CrossFit, and a whole gang of my friends were at the halfway point with signs and loud cheers for me.  I loved that!  It gave me something to look forward to and helped me shake off my nerves.  It also helped to know that another friend of mine, Ashley, was waiting between mile 9 and 10.  That’s where I really needed a high-five.  Seeing friendly and encouraging faces along the course really made my day.
  • Use visual cues to distract yourself when the going gets tough – You’ve heard it a million times (even from me!). Running is a mental sport as much as it is a physical one.  In order to overcome any self-doubting thoughts, I did everything I could to distract myself.  One of the tricks I picked up during my training was to plan to think of people or things each time you spot a predetermined object.  So, each time I saw someone wearing a running skirt, I thought of my friend Diane.  She wears them all the time!  I would see a woman in a running skirt (and I even did this with the few guys I saw in kilts) and spend then next several minutes thinking of my friend, how she would be cheering me on and encouraging me to stay strong.  I highly recommend this little technique.

final(Yay! I’m a Runner of Steel for the second time!)

So, there you have it.  2013 Pittsburgh (half) Marathon is in the books!  I’m really proud of my achievement, but I know I still have much work to do in order to keep improving.  My next running goal is to finish Pittsburgh’s Great Race 10K in late September at around 1 hour.  We’ll see.  I’m going to keep on running and I’ll keep you posted.

Am I Awesome Yet?

We are now well into 2013. How is it going for you so far?
Some of us have our goals established, written down, and we’re working on them.  If the 2013 Goals Project isn’t your thing, no worries, but I do hope that you have something you’d like to see happen over the next 12 months.
One of my goals is to become a more confident runner.  I’ve made no secret of this, and it was even on my 2012 list.  So, why haven’t I accomplished it yet?  I keep asking myself this same question.
During the last several months of 2012 I was very dedicated to running.  I was out there chasing the pavement all the time, and it felt great.  I mean, it was difficult for me still, but I could tell that I was improving.  Then the holidays came and I lost my mojo.
Now, I’m back to running regularly – three days per week – and I’ve added a new element to my training.  A running partner!
I used to hate running with other people.  I avoided it like the plague.  I joined the Steel City Road Runner’s Club and had every intention on going on their group runs, but I didn’t.  Partially because shortly after I joined I hurt my ankle, but I get self conscious when I have to run with others.  I am slow, I amble, and when I run with others, I feel like I’m holding them back.  Dude and I ran the 2012 half marathon together.  He is a much faster runner than I am, but we vowed to do it together.  I felt bad throughout the whole race and even told him to just leave me behind.  He didn’t, of course, but I felt weird.
So when my friend told me that she wanted to become a more confident runner too, I didn’t jump up right away and suggest we run together.  I thought about it for a few days and then just decided to go for it.  It turns out, we run at the same speed!
This makes me so happy!  Let me type that again – THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY!  (It deserves some caps action.)
So, we’ve been running together three days a week and I’m finding I’m getting back into my running groove.  It feels great!
There is a downside, however.  My own mental roadblock – lack of patience.
We are doing really well, and in the short time we’ve been doing this together, we have both regained some endurance we lost by slacking off over the holidays.  However, we’re both saying to ourselves, “Why aren’t we awesome yet?”
I have to keep reminding myself of all those corny cliches like “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.  It’s true.  I believe that.  I tell my clients this very thing!  In fact, a large part of my practice is based on this exact principle.  But it’s always more difficult to put it into practice than it is to say, right?
And then today started and my friend (and marathon runner) Shannon posted this article about patience on Facebook.  It is about yoga (another place where I need to be more patient), but I think the message translates really well to just about anything, workout related or not.
Yeah, patience IS a bitch.  I don’t have much of it.  I want to be a really good runner, like, today.  Or maybe even yesterday.  But it isn’t going to happen.  I have to be patient.  I lost some momentum over the holidays, but I’m picking it back up now and I have to earn each and every step.  I’m stronger than I was a week ago, and I’ll be stronger still a week from now.  But I have to work hard throughout that week or I won’t gain anything.
So, here are some patience building strategies I’m using to help myself become a better, more confident runner:
I’m zooming in – When I wrote the post about zooming in I talked mostly about ticking things off of my enormous to-do list, but it works for running too.  I’m not even thinking about the half marathon that’s coming up in May.  All I’m thinking about is my next run (tomorrow morning).  And when I’m in the midst of that run, all I’m thinking about it putting one foot in front of the other.  Stressing about the big picture isn’t helping me.  I’m zoomed in on what I’m doing NOW and that’s all.
Keep a log – I am actually keeping two logs these days.  One for my food, and one for my workouts.  It seems like a tedious exercise to keep a log of any kind, but it’s rewarding and motivating when you take a look back on a week or a month and look at all you’ve done.  When I see what I’m doing now compared to what I was doing a month ago, it is concrete proof that hard work is paying off and that makes me feel less impatient.
Stay accountable to friends – My running partner and I are supporting each other.  When I feel slow, she pushes me and I hope I do the same for her.  We’re reminding each other of how far we’ve come already.  Having someone to coach and motivate has been invaluable to me.  We aren’t in competition.  We’re just supporting each other.
half marathon shirt
Lighten up – Remind myself what you’re training for.  Am I trying to WIN this half marathon?  No.  I’m not even trying to earn an entry to the race.  I already signed up and paid.  I’m in.  Barring any kind of catastrophe, I’ll run the race.  So, why am I putting all this pressure on myself to be fantastic?  It’s unnecessary and I don’t need the stress.  I remind myself all the time to put this in to perspective.  Sure, I want to improve, but I don’t want to take the fun out of it and turn it into a chore by being impatient and cranky.
I don’t think I’m the only one who has set course on a goal accomplishing mission and is already asking myself “Why aren’t I awesome yet?”. Surely I am not the world’s most impatient person!  It’s your turn to share with me how impatient you are and what you’re doing to turn it around.  Leave me a comment here or on Facebook.

Half Marathon, I'm Coming For You

Remember last year when I ran the half marathon?  Well, I’m doing it again.
impulse buy half marathon2
A few months ago I put this photo on Instagram with a caption that said “Impulse buy.”  It totally was.
I belong to the Steel City Road Runners Club and as a member I get discounts on race registration.  I don’t know what came over me, but the SCRRC members got a really nice reduced rate, plus the ability to register a full day before registration was opened up to the general public.  Everyone was signing up and I got swept up in the moment!
I’m not beating myself up too badly for this because if I’m going to impulse buy anything, better that it’s a half marathon rather than something I don’t need and/or can’t afford.  Amirite?
Honestly, I am quite excited about this year’s race for a few reasons:
1. The Pittsburgh Marathon is a really great event.  I am really fortunate to live in a beautiful city with 89 unique neighborhoods and some really fabulous people.  The course winds through several different neighborhoods and across all three of our rivers.  The course support and cheering is fantastic and each area seems to out-do the one before.
2. The start line and the finish line are in my neighborhood.  In fact, the finish line is visible from my living room windows.  The energy and positive vibe of the day is so contagious that if I DIDN’T run, it would really make me feel terribly to see and hear the hoopla from my place.  It would almost be like there was a giant community party outside of my door and I wasn’t invited.  The event is so well run and so much fun that I feel compelled to participate especially because it is so close.
3. Last year, it was really really hard.  I’ve only ever run one other half marathon and let me tell you, it was a bear.  I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment for having done it, and like I mentioned above, the event is second to none.  But it was terribly difficult for me.  I didn’t train properly or enough.  I had no idea what to expect.  I am proud of how I did, but I know it could have been a better experience.  This year is my chance.
4. Triumph over injury.  Remember my horrific ankle sprain of 2012?  Awful.  A terrible setback that kept me from doing any running at all for almost 4 months.  But, I fought back and my ankle has improved greatly thanks to a few key people and my own stubbornness.  I have run four races (5k) since I’ve been allowed to get back out on the road, and I’ve run many many many more miles to begin training.  I won’t lie and say that my ankle is as good as new.  It isn’t and might not ever be back to normal.  But it gets stronger every time I run and it gets healthier with each step.  The injury took the wind out of my sails in a lot of ways and I want to come back from it a stronger and more determined athlete.  I might break down in tears after I cross the half marathon finish this year if I think about how hard it was to overcome this crazy ankle thing!
5. I am a weak runner.  There is just no getting around this fact.  Running does not come easily to me.  In fact, I could say that about any type of physical activity.  I am not a natural born athlete.  I have to work for each little accomplishment.  I have to truly earn it.  I really do envy those of you who can run a few miles, lift a few hundred pounds, bike a century, or swim a few dozen laps with ease.  I can’t.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t.  In fact, it’s all the more reason I should try these things.  There is absolutely no point in only doing things that come easily to me.  No benefit, no triumph, no victory, no pride.  I might come in last, but at least I’ll be out there trying my best.
So, there you have it.  Call it a resolution, call it a goal, call it stupidity, call it glutton for punishment.  I’m going to call it a victory.
Now it’s your turn to share!  What are you planning to accomplish this year? Are you motivated to try something new?  Are you giving a 2012 challenge another go like I am?  Share your plans with me in the comments or on Facebook.

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.


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.
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.

Down But Not Out

If you happen to be a CrossFitter, you know that being injured, getting cut, scraped, bruised, abraded, and sore is all part of the scene.  How many of us have shown off our callouses to each other?  Am I right?  In fact, just a few weeks ago I attended the wedding of two people who go to my box and so there were a fair number of CrossFitters at the reception.  We all looked so nice for the occasion, but yet our conversation eventually turned to bruise comparison, dead-lift shin scrapes, and post hand ripping healing advice.  My point is, getting a bit banged up seems to be the norm as does shaking off a bit of pain from minor injuries.
However, yesterday I really hurt myself.  And the strange thing was, it wasn’t a CrossFit injury, it was a fluke.  No rope climbing burns, no abrasion on my back from doing sit-ups.  I rolled my left ankle.  It could have happened anywhere but I just happened to be at CrossFit.  And man, does it hurt.  This is not going to be one of those easy-to-shake-off things.
I am very fortunate that one of my fellow athletes is a physician’s assistant and she took a look at it for me on the spot.  No breaks, I just really sprained the heck out of it.
So now I can barely walk.  It has swelled up like a small balloon, it’s extremely painful, and I’m really not happy about it.  I’m out of commission for a while – no CrossFit, no Pilates, no yoga, no running.  My job is to let the sprain/strain heal.  Oh, and did I also mention I am going on vacation tomorrow and was looking forward to lots of walking, hiking, and visiting at least two CrossFits on this trip?  Yeah, I’m REALLY not happy at the moment.

(Boo hoo!!  It’s all puffy and bruised!  Also, do you know how difficult it is to take a photo of the outside of your left ankle?)

This morning I woke up in foul spirits after a fitful, restless night.  “I’m tired!  My ankle hurts!  Our vacation is ruined! I can’t workout! I can’t even walk! WAA!
But then I thought about it.  I’m all about health and wellness, right?  I mean, it’s my identity, my lifestyle, and my job.  What is healthy about being an infantile whiner?  Nothing.  The only thing that whining and feeling bad for myself will get me is myself in a worse mood and I’d probably bring Dude down with me.
Health isn’t solely about eating cleanly and moving your body.  It’s about a good attitude and perspective.  It’s about keeping your emotional and spiritual side in good shape too.  It’s about mental health and wellness and not just physical health and wellness.
So, in light of this, I started listing some of the things that I have going for me:

  • This ankle injury is very minor and will heal quickly.
  • I am fortunate to be able to go on vacation at all.  We’re still going.
  • I will have one whole week with my Dude.  I won’t have to share him with his job for 7 days!
  • I have a great family and great friends who have already checked in on me today.

Now, I realize that mental and emotional health and wellness isn’t as simple as making a list of all the frown-upside-down jolly glass-half-full things in your life, but remembering the good before the bad is a good start.
Here are a few tips for staying emotionally well even when things aren’t going your way:

  • Let yourself feel badly – This almost sounds contrary to what I just said above, but it’s true.  I can’t stand when I’m sad about something and someone comes along to remind me of how WORSE someone else has it.  That does not take away my right to feel down.  Feel what you feel.  It’s ok to be sad, disappointed, angry, frustrated.  Recognize your emotions, know where they’re coming from, and feel them.  They are legitimate no matter what anyone else is going through. Your emotions are real and legitimate.
  • Be grateful – Yes, recognize that things could be better but there are inevitably things that are going well too.  Recognize those things and be thankful for them.  That’s what I did in my list above.  I am so grateful that I didn’t break my ankle and that I’m still going to be spending some time away with the person I love most in the world.  I’d say I’m coming out on top here.
  • Make the conscious decision to set a positive tone each day – It is said that the trajectory of each day is determined by the shape of your mouth.  Frown = down and smile = up.  Although rather simplistic, it’s also quite true in many cases.
  • Know your limits – I can provide you with a mile-long list of platitudes and inspiration to try to make you feel good about things, but there comes a time when achieving emotional and mental wellness is out of our hands and we need some outside help.  There is positively NO shame in asking a friend, family member, doctor, health coach, counselor, or pastor for a boost.  We’ve all been there.  If you can’t do it alone, find someone to help you because it’s worth it.

Please don’t skimp on this side of wellness.  Very often we are more than willing to spend money on a personal trainer or gym membership and all kinds of healthy grass-fed local wild caught organic sustainable free-range foodstuffs to keep our physical side in good health, but our intangible side needs lots of care too.
So, this is what I will be concentrating on today.  This, and sending all kinds of healing vibes to my ankle.  I also would love it if I got tons of blog comments and Facebook messages with stories about how you take care of your mental and emotional side.  Tell me all about how you overcame a crappy situation and turned it into a positive one.  Tell me all your stories!  I’m couch-bound today!

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.
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.

A LadyFingers Morning

Well, this post is going to have a theme, and that theme is LadyFingers! (Truth be told, it’s one of my very favorite themes.)
In my very first post about LadyFingers Private Chef and Catering and Diane, who IS LadyFingers, I mentioned that she is a total inspiration and CrossFitting force.  I admire her dedication to staying in good, strong shape and she is positively devoted to CrossFit.  Love that.
She’s also working on rehabilitating a wonky knee that has kept her from running and a few things we do at the box, so to help it get stronger, for the last several weeks she’s been going home after her 6am workout and climbing a set of municipal steps that are right around the corner from her house.  74 steps total and she does at least 6 ascents (444!) every weekday.  She threw out an invitation on Facebook to anyone who wanted to join her each morning at 8:30 am and has gotten friends and neighbors on the bandwagon!  Today I joined her.

There are a few things I’d like to say about this whole steps endeavor.  First, I think it’s fantastic that she’s created this daily event that’s open to anyone. Nobody is obligated to do more than they feel comfortable with doing, but rather it’s a really great way to get a community started with fitness.  It’s free, easy, and in the neighborhood.  Second, because there is a standing invitation for her friends to join, it’s built-in motivation.  Who doesn’t want to spend a little time in the morning with a friend chatting and getting healthy?  Even if you don’t have something like the steps in your neighborhood getting your friends to join you in a workout is a great way to keep the momentum and excitement going.
This was my second trip to the steps and we had a great time talking about today’s CrossFit WOD, Mad Men, and food as we marched up and down.  In fact, we were so into what we were doing, I didn’t even pay attention to how many ascents we did.  Eight maybe?  Not sure.  But what I am sure of is that Diane and I got to chat for a bit and we definitely worked up a sweat which is how I like to start a day!
Post stair climb we went back to her house (a 60-second walk from the steps) and I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the LadyFingers garden.  I LOVE gardens.  I’m not lucky enough to live in a place where I have a yard or even a balcony for a few pots so I live vicariously through others’ gardens.  To me, there is no better way to feel connected with the food you put into your body than to grow it yourself.  You know it’s fresh, you know where it’s been, you know how it’s been handled, and you cared for it yourself!
Obviously we are very early into gardening season so some of Diane’s plants haven’t even been put into the ground yet.  Something that really impressed me is how many herbs lasted through the winter and are still thriving.  Check out these photos!

(Beautiful culinary thyme)

(Gorgeous chives that Diane just cut back because they were flowering. YUM!)

(Getting ready to be planted – three kinds of tomatoes, two kinds of peppers, and a variety of herbs.)

(Diane and her pots where many of the herbs will go.)

The recipes Diane and I have shared with you for the last several months have always featured fresh herbs that came right from her backyard.
I promise to keep you updated with the growth of the LadyFingers garden throughout the summer and fall, and I want to strongly encourage you to plant something for yourself this year. If you are garden inclined, plant one.  If you have a black thumb instead of a green one, buy a little herb plant and give it another shot.  Getting up close and personal with your food is the very best way to really care about food.  There isn’t a better way to cherish your food or body.
And speaking of LadyFingers and her yummy fantastic food, this Sunday, April 29 at 5:00 pm we will start our live tweet festival while we make this month’s dinner!  AND! We will be hosting the winner from last month!  I am so excited. This morning we finalized Sunday’s menu and let me tell you, you’re going to be jealous of our April winner.  The meal is going to be fantastic!
Here’s the scoop on how you and a guest can get invited to May’s dinner:
1. Become a fan of First Comes Health AND LadyFingers on Facebook (both!)
2. Follow both First Comes Health AND LadyFingers on Twitter.
3. Follow our tweeting this Sunday starting at 5:00 pm.
4. Successfully answer a trivia question about the meal on Monday April 30. We’ll randomly draw from the correct responses and award someone the opportunity to join us at the LadyFingers table in May.
So, now it’s your turn to share.  Let me know in the comments or on Facebook how you and your friends get your sweat on together.  Share photos of your garden or share your planting plans with me!  And don’t forget to tune in to Twitter to win an invite to May’s dinner for you and a guest.  You will NOT want to miss out!


Yesterday was a big day at my gym.  In CrossFit speak, the WOD was 1-1-1-1-1 max DL and saw many PRs.  In regular English, the workout of the day was five chances to do the heaviest deadlift you could do.  People definitely rose to the occasion and there were many personal records set!  Even I set a personal best with a 168 pound deadlift.  Maybe.  I’m not really sure.  I think I did anyway.
There is no mystery in the fact that I did lift 168 pounds.  That happened.  But I’m not completely sure it was my best effort to date.  Why?  Because I (stupidly) don’t keep track of my workouts and my progress.
That’s got to change.  How will I know if I’m improving?  How will I know what my weaknesses are?  How will I know if I’m inching towards any goals if I don’t have a way to measure my progress?
There are many ways to record and measure your progress and the way you choose to do it will depend on what your workouts consist of and what your goals are.  Regardless of what kind of workout you do, it is important to track your progress. Let’s talk about different metrics.
In my health coaching practice I get a lot of people inquiring about my services whose primary goals are to lose weight.  They have weighed themselves on a scale, received a number, and want to reduce that number.  Weight is definitely a metric, but probably not the best metric by which you can measure your progress.
But wait, isn’t that pretty much the exact opposite of what you’ve always thought?  Isn’t weight the best way to show weight loss progress?  Isn’t weight plus height and body mass index the best way to show how healthy you are or if you’re overweight or even obese?
In short, yes, no, and no.
Because muscle has less volume than fat, the same amount by weight takes up less room in your body.  Check out this graphic:

The orange tangerines represent a pound of muscle.  The yellow grapefruits represent a pound of fat.  Each set of fruits represents the same weight, but each set takes up less space.
Now take a look at this photo:


The version of this woman on the left is akin to three grapefruits.  The version on the right is akin to the three tangerines.  Her weight is the same, but the amount of space she takes up (read: her dress or pants size) is drastically different.  Click here to read all about this woman’s transformation and how she figuratively went from grapefruits to tangerines.

So you see, the scale and your weight is a metric you can use to measure weight loss, but it isn’t really the best way to see how far you’ve come.  The scale can be a useful tool if you have a large amount of weight to lose and want to see how much you’ve shed, but it isn’t the most accurate or reliable way to measure progress especially if you are near a healthy weight to begin with.

Ok, so what are some reliable metrics?  How can you keep track of how well you’re doing and how quickly you are progressing.

If your goal is “weight loss”- and I’m putting that in quotation marks because as we saw above, you might not actually lose weight – taking your measurements is a great place to start.  It is difficult (coordination wise) to do yourself, so enlist a friend or a personal trainer to help you.  Here are some instructions for women and men on how and where to measure yourself.  As you can see in the photos above, while this woman didn’t lose any weight, her measurements certainly changed!

Keeping a workout log is also an excellent way to measure your progression.  If I had been diligent in doing this, I might know for sure if my 168 pound deadlift was actually a personal best or if I fell short.  No matter what kind of workout you do (and you DO workout, don’t you?!) it is very wise to catalog what you did, how you felt, track your times and weights, and record any intangible variables that you think might be important.  Here is a list of valuable metrics to know about workout performance that you might want to record in your workout log:

  • Speed — Timing yourself doing a particular workout each time you do it and seeing how your speed differs each time will let you know if you are indeed getting faster or not.  Run a mile and time yourself.  After a week, month, year of training, run the same mile and time yourself again.  How did you time change?
  • Strength — Shame on me for NOT doing this, but recording how much weight you can lift in a particular way (deadlift, overhead press, etc.) can give you an idea of how your strength is improving.  If I had recorded my deadlift from 6 months ago I would have known if I had improved and by how much.
  • Endurance — Writing down how you feel after a workout can show you how much endurance you have to complete the task.  If after that first one mile run you feel like your lungs are on fire and your heart was going to beat out of your chest, then knowing how fantastic you feel one month later is valuable to know.  You can see based on your log entries that over time you have improved your endurance.
  • Sleep — This falls under the aforementioned “intangible” category.  Our sleep patterns, how soundly we sleep, how we feel when we wake up, and how tired or energized we feel during the day can clue us in to how well our bodies are recovering.
  • Food — Logging what you eat and when can be an essential tool in determining how your body reacts to different fuel in relation to your workouts.  You ate a bowl of sugary cereal and a bagel for breakfast, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, and a pasta dinner and you’re wondering why you feel sluggish and heavy at the gym the next day? Maybe you can pick up some clues from your diet.  Of course I’m being extreme here to make my point, but you get my perspective.  What you eat can help or hinder your workout performance and you’ll want to know what works for you and what doesn’t.

I learned my own lesson last night when I had no idea if I had improved or not and I hope you take this lesson to heart too.  Logging, cataloging, and making notes on your health, wellness, and fitness doesn’t have to be complicated or laborious.  Just a few sentences in a notebook after each meal and workout.  Have a trusted friend take your measurements.  If you’re faithful to a healthy lifestyle you’ll see results in no time and you want to have something tangible to brag about, right?
Share in the comments or on Facebook your strategies tracking your progress.  What metrics do you use to keep yourself motivated and on the right track?

Shyness, Embarrassment, and Intimidation

After reading my previous post, I hope you have explored the idea of adding exercise to your health plan if you haven’t already done so, but I understand that there might be another obstacle or roadblock in your way before you ever really get going – shyness, embarrassment, and intimidation.
I have spoken with so many people about their healthy goals and almost all of them have said that they’d certainly join a gym or go to an exercise class, but they’re too shy/embarrassed/intimidated to do it.   I’ve also often heard of people wanting to get in shape before they go to the gym. Crazy.
I can respect the decision that a gym membership might not be your style.  That is fine if you truly find other activities more fulfilling.  But if the one and only reason a gym membership or fitness class is out of the question is that you’re shy, embarrassed, and/or intimidated, then let’s talk.
The first thing I want to say is that nobody, and I mean the all caps NOBODY, has the right to come between you and fitness.  Not even you.  Your health and wellness is the most valuable thing of all that you possess and there isn’t a soul in this world who has the power to keep you from it.  Everyone, no matter their fitness level, weight, or experience, has the right to join a gym.  It’s one of those places that should welcome everyone.
Did you see what I said there? A place that should welcome everyone.  If you are going to a gym that discriminates against you for any reason, especially one of fitness level or weight, then they’re jerks and you need to get out of there immediately.
Let’s break down some common reasons some feel awkward when going to the gym, m’kay?

  • Having no idea what all the equipment is all about, what to do with it — Yes, a standard gym is rife with with crazy contraptions, weights, and all kinds of stuff that you may not be familiar with.  If this is the kind of gym you are going to join, then it is in your best interest to get an orientation.  Almost all standard gyms have trainers on staff whose job it is to show you around, explain what they equipment is for and how to use it, and also to assess what your abilities are so you know just what to do when you get there.  Take advantage of these people!  It’s their job to help you and they will.
  • The place is filled with beautiful people who are in shape — That’s probably only a little bit true.  The gym is indeed a place where fit people go to stay fit, but it is also a place where people who aren’t yet fit go to GET fit.  See above – you have every right to be there too, as much as the “already fit” people.
  • Everyone will know I’m a newbie and look/laugh/stare/make fun of me — I’m here to tell you that the overwhelming majority of people at a standard gym or in a fitness class barely notice that there are others around.  They’re there to do the work and get out.  It’s natural to feel like all eyes will be on the new face, but trust me when I say that the other members are more concerned with their own sweat and awkwardness to bother with what you are doing.

Now here are some suggestions for things to do to make your time at the gym more fulfilling and less intimidating:

  • Remember that everyone was a new person at one point — Every person you see at the gym who you feel has a perfect physique was the gym newbie at some point.  There is no need to be intimidated by experienced gym goers because they were once in your shoes.
  • Go with a friend — Sometimes having someone with you can make you feel more comfortable in a new situation.  Find a workout partner who wants to join the gym as much as you do and together you’ll have no reason to be intimidated or embarrassed.  You could even take a friend who is experienced at the gym to show you around, introduce you to others, and help you out.
  • Take a class — This is especially helpful if you don’t know quite what to do yet.  You’ll receive on the spot instruction from a trainer, and blend perfectly into a crowd of people.
  • Try CrossFit — I have mentioned before that one of the workouts in my rotation is CrossFit.  I love it, and although it has the reputation for being very difficult, that is rather misleading.  Yes, it is definitely a challenge, but it is not the kind of challenge that only super-fit people can take on.  Besides, all the strategies I suggest above for finding a good gym and not being intimidated or embarrassed about are alive and well at your average CrossFit gym.
    Each session is lead by a trainer (or “coach”), and regular members are expected to welcome newcomers with warmth.  CrossFit gyms are not the kind of places where big gym egos live, and you’ll never have to wonder how to workout because you’ll get individualized instruction.
    You’ll inevitably find very fit people there, but because it is a non-competitive environment you need not feel intimidated.  As long as you are working as hard as you can to the best of your ability, you will be cheered for and encouraged.
    The workouts designed to be as difficult as YOU can handle.  In the CrossFit world they use the term “universally scalable”, meaning that every movement that is done and every weight that is prescribed can be changed or reduced to your own personal level of fitness.   At any given class you might have someone lifting 300 pounds next to someone lifting 50.  It is not uncommon to see 20-somethings working out along side 60-somethings at CrossFit.
  • Get over yourself — Yes, this might sound harsh, but if you’re still using shyness, embarrassment, and intimidation as an excuse that’s keeping you from being healthy, then it is high time you drop that attitude and get over it.  The fitter you is inside and it would be a shame to let hang-ups and excuses prevent him/her from coming out.  There are trainers, health coaches, friends, and even strangers who want to see you succeed.  Forget the naysayers, drop the negativity and excuses, and show the world that you can do it!

If you are a gym newbie, have you let shyness, embarrassment, and intimidation keep you from getting fit?  If you are a regular gym goer, what advice or tips do you have for those just starting out?  How did you get over any initial hesitancy you might have had when you first started working out?  Share in the comments!

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