Category Archives: Staying on track

Self Imposed Staycation

Hi everyone.
I owe you all an apology.  I’ve been falling down on my duties as blogger, teacher, and communicator. I just looked at this site for the first time in a while and it turns out I have neglected it and I’ve neglected YOU!  So so sorry.
During the past few weeks I’ve been sporadically busy and sporadically not busy.  I’ve been doing my best to do my best by Fermented.  I’ve been doing signings, book fairs, etc.  I officiated the wedding ceremony of my friends Hayley and Bill and I got to hang out with a bunch of the Paleo world superstars.
I’ve also been doing a bit of nothing.
It turns out, writing Fermented took it’s toll on me.  I’m not saying this for a whiny pity party woe-is-me-I-wrote-a-book kind of thing.  I’m telling you that my emotional health has suffered a bit.  It turns out a year of high anxiety, sleepless nights, wacky diet, worry, and anticipation will turn in to a bit of a crash when it’s all over.
Lately I’ve been getting up and feeling a sense of dread when I think about fermenting, Facebooking, Instagramming, blogging, etc.  So I decided not to do it for a week or two.  I mean, I have been around, but wasn’t doing anything I didn’t want to do for a few days.  And it was the right thing to do.
I used to scoff at people when they said things like “I NEEEEEEEEED a vacation!”  Who in the world NEEDS a vacation? I am eating those words now.  I needed a vacation. So I took a staycation.  Dude and I aren’t going anywhere for vacation for another few months so I decided to just to check out and watch The Office on Netflix and take a few naps.
And it was awesome.
So why am I telling you all this?  Because I think I owe it to you to be honest.  Nobody’s perfect and we all struggle.  Different things cause us all to check out and need a break from time to time.
Now I’m back and I have a few things planned.
First and foremost, is the long-ago promised giveaway for reaching 3000 Facebook fans.  That’s coming tomorrow.
Second is some regular recipe posting.  I have some good ideas coming up.
Third is more fermentation content.  I’m working on something really basic, easy, but extremely tasty.  Can’t wait to share.
So, that’s about all I have to report.  Thanks for understanding.  More soon. 🙂

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.

Book Making: What I Learned

If you follow me on Facebook, then you already know that yesterday was a monumental day for me.  One that I have been working towards for months and a significant milestone in my personal biography that won’t soon be forgotten.  I officially turned in Fermented to my publisher!
It was a rather easy process, although lengthy.  The manuscript took about 4 seconds to upload, but the 117 photos took over 5 hours, and even after all that I still had to manually upload a group of them one by one.  When it was all over, it was an enormous relief.  I was sitting on my couch, kitty nearby.  I was alone. All was quiet, it finished uploading, and that was it.  Months and months of hard work was sent through cyberspace into the hands of my publisher.
There are many steps to take between today and when it is available (August 6!), and I still have a lot of work to do, but the hardest part is done.  After it was finished uploading I sat for a moment and just thought about all that it took to get to that point.  I don’t know about others’ experiences, but for me book writing was very difficult.  These past several months have been grueling at times and more than any other experience I’ve had in my adult life, writing Fermented has been the most formative.
So, I’m going to share with you the reasons why.  I honestly don’t think these lessons I’ve learned are exclusive to writing a book.  I fact, I know they aren’t.  We all find ourselves faced with life altering circumstances, good and bad, and we learn from them.  I’m just listing what I’ve learned from all this and hoping that someone can relate.
You can do whatever you put your mind to – From the moment I was offered this book contract until I actually turned it in, I doubted my ability to complete the project.  Sometimes it was only a little sliver of doubt but in the first 3 or 4 months of writing and planning I made myself ill with doubt.  All I could think about was EVERYTHING I had to do before turning it in and I couldn’t figure out where I was going to find the time to do it all.  I doubted my ability to adequately research food fermentation.  I doubted my culinary skills.  I doubted my intelligence and my legitimacy.   Finally, around Thanksgiving, I told myself that I was on this book train, it was happening, people were counting on me to write it, and I had two choices: Write it, or don’t.  Really in my mind I had one choice and that was to suck it up and do it.  I re-purposed my doubt and turned my attitude around.  I was writing a book for heaven’s sake, not going to the electric chair!  From that point on, the words flowed more easily, the work didn’t seem like drudgery, and I started to really enjoy what was happening.  Obviously I finished it and I even turned it in early!  And these last several months of work were so much easier than the first several months because I believed I could do it.
Cut the static and noise out of your life – I had two sources of noise in my life.  The first was literal noise in the form of my next door neighbor’s seemingly always cranky baby and their yappy little dog.  The other was in the form of figurative noise – life drama!  How does that Internet meme go?  Ain’t nobody got time for that.  If I wanted to complete this project, I had to find a way to focus on my job, focus on my goal, and focus on accomplishing something great.
To solve the first problem, I found the best website ever created,  No joke, I thank them in the acknowledgements of Fermented.  Everyday I’d crank up some pink noise and it was like that child and dog didn’t even exist.  Easy solution!  Highly recommended.
For the second, I had to do something that did not come naturally to me.  I had to put myself first.  It was very difficult to tell people no.  It was hard to say that I didn’t want to be a part of things.  It was awkward to just disappear from life.  It felt unnatural and cruel to tell people that I didn’t have time for their problems.  But if I wanted to accomplish my goal, I had to make my needs a priority above those of the people around me.  Call it selfish, but I call it necessary at times.
Many people understood and were quite supportive of what I had to do.  Others weren’t, but maybe it’s just because they weren’t getting the attention from me they once were.  I had to stop feeding the drama and participating in others’ ordeals to get this book finished.
Now that I’m on the other side of the project, I’ve vowed to return to my previous habits of putting others first; however, not blindly so.  These past several months of living in a drama-free zone have been quite nice and have lowered my tolerance for unnecessary static.  I’m definitely adopting that new attitude for the long haul.
It is very easy to let your healthy habits fall by the wayside – I’m not proud of it, but there were days when I was eyeball deep in writing when my lunch would be a few medjool dates and some coconut butter.  And maybe a chunk of a chocolate bar.  And some chocolate chips.  There were days when, out of necessity, I had to skip workouts and there were days when I had just had my fill of not being lazy so I’d make an excuse (“I worked SO HARD today and wrote a zillion words! I just want to veg on the couch!”) and not go.  It all happened so fast and so easily.  Many times, I’d have a chocolate chip lunch and not workout and I wouldn’t even feel guilty about it.  Just being honest.
I don’t have children to care for and my only full-time job during this whole book endeavor has been writing, so it isn’t even like I had to write it AND hold down a job to pay my bills.  But still, the healthy habits flew out the window with remarkable ease.  Frightening ease!  It made me truly realize how quickly one’s health can get away from you!
I’m not completely out of shape and I haven’t even grown out of my clothes, so the situation isn’t extreme, but I do have some ground to make up if I want to be the fit and ripped 40 year old I say I want to be by the end of this year.
Sleep is your friend – Seriously, if I learned nothing else from book making it is that I need to get more sleep.  I had some weird sleeping rhythms before the book, but throughout the past several months my sleep habits were stressed to the max.  BTB (before the book) I would fall asleep very easily and usually stay asleep until about 5:30 or 6, regardless if I had gone to sleep at 9 pm or 1 am.  I just woke up and would be awake for the rest of the day.  DTB (during the book) I would sometimes fall asleep quickly, but often not, and then I would wake up for 2 or 3 hours at a stretch, and THEN I’d still wake back up at 5:30 or 6.  This went on for months.  Sometimes I’d get up and work/write in the middle of the night, but more often I’d just flop around wishing to fall back to sleep. Sometimes I’d cruise Pinterest in hopes of lulling myself away to slumberland (I know! Electronics in the bedroom mean no sleep!  I was desperate!).  I have developed dark circles and bags under my eyes.  My skin is dull. I’m doughy and I don’t have much energy.  I know this sleeping mess contributed to my poor eating habits, which contributed to my poor sleeping, which contributed to my poor eating habits, which….. You’re seeing my pattern here.  I have a lot of napping and sleeping to do to get back to normal.  I feel so tired and I look so tired.  I’m ready to get back to sleeping!
Lean on the people you love and trust most – No matter what’s going on or how busy I am, I always make dinner.  However DTB there were a few weeks where I was preparing for photo shoots and writing where I didn’t even think about meal planning or cooking dinner.  Finally I told Dude that he was in charge of dinners for a while.  And you know what?  He was great at it.  Just one example of how I had to let go of some of the things that I regularly control and put them in the capable hands of someone trustworthy. I’m not Wonder Woman, and I had no time or interest in trying to “do it all”.  I knew when I had reached my capacity and then asked for help.
In the midst of a crazy period maintain as much normalcy as possible – Although things were often turned around for me and my schedule, I tried very hard to maintain normal working hours.  For the most part, I wrote Fermented on weekdays from 8 to 5.  Now, there were MANY weekends where I worked, and there were the aforementioned middle of the night sessions, but I still maintained my workday no matter what.  I had to keep myself on a schedule in order to maintain some regular life rhythm.  I’m a schedule and routine person and without that I’d be lost.  I couldn’t afford to keep crazy hours and possibly allow the wheels to fly off my momentum train. I needed the regularity.
The same goes for my workouts.  I wasn’t anywhere near perfect with it, but I still managed to start training for my upcoming half marathon, go to yoga, and catch an occasional CrossFit WOD here and there.
Taking a mental health day now and again is really worth it – There were days when the words just wouldn’t come.  There were days when the ideas just weren’t there.  When this happened, I mostly just pushed through it and kept working.  I just kept typing and revising and typing and revising until something materialized.  But there were two or three difficult days when I just didn’t work at all when the going got tough.  I watched TV, I napped, I went on a drive.  And then I started up again with fresh ideas.  I felt guilty at the time, but realized that the break was just what I needed.  For my readers who are runners, I thought of it as the Galloway Method of book writing.
Crying is good – I am really not a crying type of person.  My mom gets emotional very easily, mostly at good things, but I have never been that way.  Sure, I cry now and again like anyone else, but it’s rare.  Funerals, tragedies, immediately after meeting the Farriss brothers, etc.  The usual tear-worthy events.  During the writing of this book, however, I cried a lot.  Sometimes it was hysterical panicked “How am I ever going to do this?!” kind of crying, but most other times it was just a release of pent-up anxieties.  It felt so good to cry a little bit.  I recommend it.
So, there you have it.  Like I said above, these are the lessons I learned throughout my unique opportunity, but they certainly aren’t unique lessons.  We’ve all been tested and we’ve all had stressful experiences that have changed us for the better.  I’m curious to know what you have gone through and what you’ve learned.  For better or for worse!  Please share with me in the comments or on Facebook.
Oh, and don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Fermented A Four Season Approach to Paleo Probiotic Foods!  You now have an insight into what it took to make it, and putting it into the hands of eager readers who are interested in food fermentation will make it all worth it!  Thank you!

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.

Zoom In


I don’t know about you, but right now I’m feeling quite overwhelmed.  We all seem to go through these phases where there is just so much on the calendar and so much to accomplish that it is almost painful to think about how everything will be accomplished, let alone how everything will be accomplished well.
For me, I’m juggling a few things right now.  Obviously, my first priority is my fermentation book.  It is the biggest undertaking of my entire life thus far, so obviously it is getting the majority of my attention.  I’ve never written a book before so everything is uncharted territory for me!  There are so many details to think about and so much work involved.  I’m loving it, but at the same time, I’m feeling the heat.
Beyond that I have my own goals to work on, a household to manage, a business to maintain.  I’m also a worrier so even though I’m not personally enduring a particular hardship, I do worry about my loved ones who are facing difficult times.  (I know I’m creating more stress for myself by doing that, but it’s just the way I am.  Working on it!)
Amongst all this hoopla, I am very fortunate to have some sane voices in my life.  Specifically Dude, my parents, and a few close friends.  I call them my own personal advisory board.  When I’m stymied over how to handle a troublesome situation, I go to them.  Often when I know I have to do something that is particularly painful and I just don’t want to do it, I go to them for the nudge in the right direction.  When I don’t want to face a harsh truth, they are the trusted people in my life who give me the straight dope.
Something that my advisory board has been giving me lately, is the advice to zoom in on all that is making me feel overwhelmed.  The reason I feel overwhelmed with everything going on is that I am looking at all of these things on my to-do list, all of the stressors, all of the things I’m worrying about, and I am trying to solve them all today and right now or five minutes ago.  Instead, this “zooming in” advice is telling me to focus on one thing at a time, one day at ta time, one moment at a time.
We’ve all heard the adage, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint!”  Yes.  Life is a marathon in so many ways, but even in a marathon nobody is running 26.2 right this very instant.  It is a prolonged task that is made up of one mile at a time and one foot in front of the other.
So that’s what I’m doing these days.  I’m zooming in.  I’m making lists and then I’m just choosing ONE thing on that list to focus on for this moment.  I’m going to do it well, and not worry about the rest of the list until it’s time.
I can get frazzled and frayed over ALL that I have to do before turning this book in.  I can get stressed out and lose sleep over buying a new house and moving.  I can get emotional about the new house deal falling apart.  None of this is serving me, however.  What’s the point?
Instead, I’m focusing on what I have to accomplish today, in this hour, at this moment.  The big picture is fine, but for now I’m zoomed in very tightly on today’s agenda and that’s all.
Now, it’s your turn to share your experiences.  Are you overwhelmed?  How do you manage everything when you’re feeling this way?  Who are your closest confidants and how do they help you when things get stressful?  Do you find that “zooming in” on one day or hour or moment at a time makes a colossal to-do list seem more manageable?  Share 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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!

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!

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