December 22, 2012

Still Waters and Amazing Peace

I don’t normally find myself at the pool on a Saturday evening, but today it just worked out that way.  There were a few kids playing in the shallow end when I arrived but then, after about 20 minutes, everyone left the pool.  No one else in or around the pool except for two lifeguards and me.  Swimming in a large pool solo was an unexpected gift on a day that I was feeling a little crazy and a lot stressed.  The holiday season is in full swing with our family and a day hasn’t gone by over the past week that I haven’t had a heavy heart for the schoolchildren that were gunned down last week in Connecticut – that I haven’t wondered whether or not I’m doing enough to keep my own 6 year old safe.

The water was perfectly still until I sliced my hand through it out in front for each stroke.  I could look up ahead and see yards of still water ahead waiting to be moved.  The water was quiet;  I could hear it sloshing over my head and ears to the rhythm of my stroke.  When there is no one else in the water, I can fully concentrate on my stroke, the way my body rotates, feeling the resistance of the water as my hands pull their way through it.  I needed that quiet water tonight.   I needed the repetition of following that black line at the bottom of the pool back and forth – no craziness, no chaos, no one else making waves.  After a good workout in that water, I felt centered, calm, and a little more at peace than I was just hours before.  I hope you also can find Still Waters during this turbulent time.
As I was cooling down at the end of that workout, I started thinking of one of my favorite poems by Maya Angelou – she wrote it for a White House Christmas tree lighting ceremony several years ago and it is timeless and better than any Holiday greeting I could send you…..

AMAZING PEACE by Maya Angelou

In our joy, we think we hear a whisper.
At first it is too soft.   Then only half heard.
We listen carefully as it gathers strength.
We hear a sweetness.
The word is Peace.
It is loud now.
Louder than the explosion of bombs.


We tremble at the sound.
We are thrilled by its presence.
It is what we have hungered for.
Not just the absence of war.   But true Peace.
A harmony of spirit, and comfort of courtesies.
Security for our beloveds and their beloveds.


We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace.  We look at each other, then into ourselves,
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation:


Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

November 3, 2012

A Lived in Life


I have a car that looks “lived in”.  On most days, I can swim, bike, or run on a moment’s notice because I have everything I might need in my car.  I’ve got snacks for the kids, power bars for me, water bottles, dress shoes, changes of clothes, my bike, etc.

I have a house that looks “lived in” also.  A pile of shoes greets you as you walk through the back door, beds are half made by the little people I live with, mail is stacked up on the counter, kids’ artwork hangs off of walls and dangles by strings from doorknobs.  It’s been challenging, but I’m learning to accept the lived in look – it’s hard to work fulltime, spend quality time with the family, train for an hour a day, and complete all of the day to day functions that keep a family of four in clean clothes, nourished, educated, employed, and relatively happy.   Sure, the house could always be neater or cleaner but that would mean spending more precious time with a broom, or a dust cloth and that, in turn would mean spending less of that precious time with the little people in my life and less of that precious time doing the things I love.  Not a good trade in my book.

I was in a store last week that had a sign for sale – “Don’t spend so much time making a living that you don’t have any time to make a life.”  It made me think about how busy we are and how I often feel like I’m trapped in a gerbil wheel – running and running - perpetual motion throughout the day – I’m sure you know the feeling.  That being said, the jam-packed nature of my days is by choice – I’m not “trapped”.   I often choose to fit many activities into small windows of time in an effort to live my life fully.  All to ensure that I don’t forget to make a life.  To be able to coach my son’s Little League team, to practice spelling words and play word games, to lay down with the kids at the end of the day and just talk, to participate in local government, to volunteer, to spend time with my parents, to take a bike ride after a long day at work and see one of the most amazing sunsets ever, to take the kids swimming, to sit down and enjoy their impromptu karaoke performances in the living room, to travel.

The result?  I also have a life that looks “lived in”.  It doesn’t look perfect (whatever that means).  You’ll never see me standing next to Martha Stewart making vegetable broth from scratch in a kitchen straight out of Better Homes and Gardens.  Some weeks, my husband and I spend more time talking on the phone with each other than we do in person.   My children will probably need some sort of therapy later in life because their time-crunched mother rarely got them to bed on time, forgot to give them breakfast before school (don’t worry – it only happened once and I’m not sure they realized it either!), and ran on the treadmill while helping them with school projects.  Clean socks are often in the dryer instead of in a drawer.  We eat out – a lot.  My kids don’t really know any other life – and I’m willing to accept its lived in appearance and reality to ensure that, down life’s road, I will be able to look back and know that I spent my short time on Earth doing the things that mattered most and gave me the most joy.

I’m happy and content knowing that, at the end of the day, even though the laundry hamper may be full, so is my life.

October 16, 2012

Changing Form

I’m working at changing my running form.   Why, after running the same way presumably for the past 40 years, should I change you might ask?  Only because I want to be faster.  I like to be towards the head of the pack.  I’m 42 years old and am willing to train myself to run with higher heels and better arm position to shave seconds (hopefully minutes) off of my 5K time.  

It’s not easy.   Every run, I start out well intentioned and focused and as I run farther, I start to drift off and fall back into my comfortable, less efficient form.  I berate myself for falling off the wagon, regroup, and continue on with the new form several times during a single workout.  Muscles being used in slightly different angles/positions start to protest.  I start to long for mindless running again.  But then, I realize I’ve engaged more of my body to run better.  I can feel my stride becoming more efficient, and I surge forward with renewed hope for success.

As I struggle to make this new running form my own, I realize that this is no different than other times in my life when I have “changed form” – leaving home and going to college, becoming a wage earning adult after college, diving into management of other people, getting married, becoming a mom, adopting a more fit lifestyle…it’s really all the same process.

Changing form requires motivation, patience, perseverance, and an ability to adapt.  It requires acceptance of the fact that various failures and some pain along the way are likely and that adaptation is necessary for permanent change.  We don’t just say we are going to change and it happens suddenly – we have to work at it.  Never expect to change form overnight – find your motivation and remind yourself why you are changing every day; be patient with the process and yourself; and persevere.  You can do it.

September 17, 2012

Curve Balls

We’ve all heard and used the saying – “she was thrown of curveball”, “didn’t see that curveball coming”.  It’s a change up pitch that is hard to hit; it’s an unexpected event  -  you know you’ll get one sooner or later, and will likely get many during a lifetime, but you never know exactly when it will come at you or what it will look like.  In the past couple of months, I’ve had a couple of curveballs thrown my way and plenty of time to reflect on them.

One curveball I was “thrown” happened during a big race weekend recently in which one of the races was a 1 mile open water swim.  It was an incredible race and I had been looking forward to it for months.  The opportunity to board a boat with about 100 swimmers, ride out in a lake for a mile, jump off the boat into the water to join an additional 150 swimmers for a race back to shore. The conditions were perfect.  Fabulous experience.  So long story short, I’m standing at the edge of the boat ready to jump in when I look down to put on my goggles and realize that a key goggle part is missing and they are unuseable.   Uuuugggghhh!  I had two choices of how to deal with that curveball – ride the boat back to shore, or race for a mile with no goggles.  Easy choice, but not any easy task.

Essentially I swam the entire way with my right eye closed (to protect it from the beautiful sunrise shining right into my unshielded eyes) and most of the way with my left eye closed (believe it or not, 68 degree lake water on unprotected eyes starts to feel a little “frosty” after about 15 minutes.  The hardest part was navigating the start with so many people in the water and really not being able to see due to all of the splashing.  I finished with a decent time.  I finished with a sense of accomplishment – that I didn’t step out of the batter’s box when the curveball came in, I dug deep and finished the race with a great pace all things considered.

The other recent curveball I experienced was really not thrown my way, but thrown straight at my dad….an out of the blue, stunning, OMG diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer.  The kind of curveball that leaves a knot in your stomach and so many thoughts in your head.  The kind of curveball, that due to its strength  could take a strong batter down.

I’ve learned that curveballs don’t define us, how we choose to handle the curveball does.  My parents have always taught me how to face problems head on; to hang tough.  Even in the face of the worst curveball ever, my dad has shown a grace and fortitude at which I marvel.  I can only hope that my kids learn the same from me.  It’s important to be able to handle whatever is thrown one’s way.

Curveballs…..we hold our ground, assess the pitch quickly and do our best to hit the ball – sometimes it will be a home run, sometimes it will be a 3rd strike resulting in the game losing out….most often, though, it will be a decent hit that we can be proud of.

July 10, 2012

Good Enough

Over the past few months, I’ve used phrases like ‘”it will have to be good enough” many, many times.  When one says “it will have to be good enough”, it implies that there is something better.  To me, it has always implied that possibly the best effort was not put forth.  Here are the recent “good enoughs” uttered by yours truly:

“I’ve fallen short on my training hours the three weeks prior to my first triathlon of the season.  Up to about 3 weeks ago, I was training very consistently….it will have to be good enough.”

“I cannot spend one more penny on equipment this year (even though many people have been prompting me to make my bike/myself a little more aerodynamic) and I already have a decent, safe bike….it will have to be good enough.”

“I didn’t have much time to practice my transitions (in particular changing the way that I transition the bike to the run)……my current T2 will have to be good enough.”

“I’m really tired and my knees are aching….not sure I can fit in my full 90 minute long run this week……60 minutes will have to be good enough.”

So in the midst of these good enoughs and many more, I raced in that first triathlon of the season and I found out that “good enough” can still be pretty great.
Although it rained in varying degrees for the entire event, the weather was good enough that 340 like-minded people were able to put their training to the test and complete the ½ mile swim/20k bike/5k run successfully.

A woman that I know who recently suffered great personal loss found joy in the fact that she was good enough to beat quite a few women in her age group.

I found that the training and equipment that I told myself would have to be good enough actually was good enough.  I came in 2nd in my age group of 30 women and achieved my goal of completing the course in less than 1:20.  I really enjoyed the entire event, camaraderie, and felt strong at the finish.

Good enough can be pretty great.

June 30, 2012

Types of cyclists

My husband has always said that there are two types of cyclists…those who have fallen, and those who are about to fall.  Well, I had a minor fall last year when I attempted to make a U turn, hit a patch of sand on the shoulder of the road and did a slo-mo fall to the ground as both tires slid out from under me.  It was a rookie mistake – sand and road bike tires don’t mix.  Good  news – there wasn’t a soul around to see my display of klutziness.

So, fast forward to this year….I’m still a relatively novice cyclist but definitely gaining on experience every week.  That being said, I have already fallen twice this season!!  The first time was relatively embarrassing; the second time – super embarassing.  I wear bike shoes that clip into my pedals.  Normally, a little kick out with my heel causes the shoes to unclip from the pedals and I’m good to step down on the ground when coming to a stop.  A couple of months ago, I was going to pull out onto a road, a car came along and I had to put on my brakes and stop so as not to have a collision.  I must have been daydreaming as I came to a complete stop and never once thought about unclipping so that I could put a foot down on the ground for balance.  I literally tipped over and fell right onto my side with my feet still clipped in to both pedals.  I scraped my knee and my pride; quickly jumped up (no, I didn’t look around to see if anyone saw me as I had just passed a group of runners and I’m certain they witnessed the entire event), got back on the bike and started off as quickly as possible.  The second time was just a few weeks ago.  I have been riding time trials with a local cycling club.  I’m still learning about lingo, ride types, equipment, etc. and I think that hanging out with people who really know what they’re doing is the best way to learn.  At these time trials each week, there are cyclists there who have been riding since before I was born.  Cyclists with tricked out bikes and equipment that makes them really fast and, seemingly, really cool.  I, on the other hand, have an entry level road bike, no cool bike clothes, and am a bit slow.   At a time trial, everyone lines up single file along the side of the road and the timekeeper starts each rider one at a time about 30 seconds apart.  It’s an 11 mile out and back ride that (I think) the objective is to ride as fast as you can back to the finish line.  As usual, I’m running a little late and am one of the last riders to arrive.  There are 15 people all lined up ahead of me as I ride to the end of the line.  Well, just before the end of the line is a set of railroad tracks.  In order to safely cross RR tracks on a bicycle, it’s very important to position your tires exactly perpendicular to the tracks.  For some reason that is still unclear to me, I decide to look down to re-set my bike computer at the exact instant that I am to cross the tracks.  Needless to say, as soon as my carelessly positioned front tire hit the first track, it caught in the ridge next to the track and I went down hard.  Super embarrassing.   I jumped up and looked at the line of cyclists in front of me and…..not a single one was looking in my direction.  This was either because they wanted to be polite and averted their gazes so as not to stare at the heap of middle aged momma with a bloody knee on the ground, or because they couldn’t possibly be bothered by such a novice puppy as myself who couldn’t even stay upright prior to the time trial even starting.  I think probably the latter.

Once I was back on my feet, I started to walk my bike to the end of the line with my head down, feeling that I was not worthy to be among this group as I had just made such an elementary mistake, wanting to turn around and go back to my car to tend to my wounds….but I made myself walk to the end of that line, raised my head high, and never once acknowledged the blood trickling down my shin.  I stood there waiting in line to start without a single person looking at me although one woman (without looking at me) did ask me if I was OK out of the corner of her mouth.
I had survived the fall, the embarrassment, and the perceived shunning.  More importantly, however, I learned that there are actually three types of cyclists: those who are about to fall, those who have fallen, and those who have fallen and gotten right back on that bike.

May 27, 2012

Flexibility

If one knows anything about exercise, it’s that flexibility and stretching are important.  Some people work on their flexibility before a workout, presumably to prevent injury.  Others focus on stretching and flexibility at the end of the workout – to gain the best stretch by capitalizing on warm muscles.  The idea is that improved flexibility will help prevent injury.  Flexibility is essential to a good workout plan.

For me, training has forced me to improve my flexibility….not just my physical flexibility, but my mental flexibility as well.  I always like to have a plan and it stresses me out if the plan is changed at the last minute.  I am learning gradually to be prepared and ready for change.  Importantly, to not let a change of events sabotage my training.

Training for flexibility:

After work, I had originally planned to ride my bike outside for an hour.  One look at the sky, which looked ominous, convinced me to go inside and take a spinning class and then swim afterwards at the YMCA.  Not exactly what I had originally planned, but still a great workout.

I usually attend a running group once a week at the Y to do a speed workout – last week, my schedule didn’t match up with the group so I convinced a friend to do the speed workout EARLY in the morning with me.

I’ve also been attending a Time Trial occasionally with a local cycling club (ride as fast as you can for 11 miles).  The other night I arrived and found that I had a flat tire!  The only other time I had changed a tire was for practice and it was the front tire which is so much easier (when it’s the rear, there are intimidating gears and the chain with which to contend).  I stood and looked at that tire and contemplated my options for several minutes…..1) to quickly throw the bike back in my car, drive off, and ease my fear of bike maintenance with an ice cream cone; or 2) tackle the flat and conquer my fear that, after attempting to change the tire, I would be left covered in grease with an inoperable bike.   I chose to change the flat…..and, of course, bargained with myself that if I was successful, I would still get that cone.  In changing that tube out, I somehow remembered to check the tire for the particular hazard that caused the flat in the first place.  I found the tiniest filament of metal had punctured the tube (picture something the size of a bristle on a hairbrush!).  It’s amazing how something so miniscule can create such difficulties!  A fellow rider took pity on me and assisted me when I was struggling with the chain.  Baby wipes took care of the grease smeared everywhere and I was still able to get in my workout.

I have become more flexible, less rigid in my plans.  I start out every week with a training plan but, at the end of the week, the completed plan rarely matches my original plans.  It’s uncomfortable, but I have forced myself to adjust to the curveballs that I’m thrown.  It’s getting easier – I jokingly told someone this weekend that I’m the “Excuse Eliminator” – instead of getting uptight when plans change or problems present themselves, I challenge myself to find a way around them.  I now refuse to let something the size of a hairbrush bristle derail my plans.  Flexibility is essential to a good workout plan.

April 29, 2012

Running into the wind

I have learned a lot from running over the past year.  I’ve learned practical tips – if I eat 2  waffles with peanut butter two hours before a long run, I will not hit the wall ½ way through the run.  I have to wear socks when I run – I experimented once with running sockless and ended up with 2 half dollar sized blisters on each foot.

I have also learned about running into the wind.

I went on a long run with a friend one spring weekend recently.  We’re always trying to plan our run to hit the right window during the day when weather and daylight are optimal (we tried running in the dark once and that didn’t go so well).  We opted for Saturday as it promised to be warmer than Sunday and relatively precipitation free……the downside to running on Saturday was to be strong winds.  We essentially ran in a big rectangle or some other variation of a parallelogram.  We ran north, then west, then south, until finally heading east and back to the car.  By some freak act of nature, we ran into the wind for what seemed to be ¾ of the run.   It seemed as though every time we turned a corner, we were still running into the wind.  We pushed through and kept on running – we logged in close to 9.5 miles which was our goal for the run.  It was laborious, but we finished without stopping even once.

That windy long run also made me realize that, sometimes in life, no matter what direction I take, the “wind” is going to be in my face.  I will be successful, but on some days there will be a constant resistance to progress.  I will struggle and stress, but ultimately I will finish the day.  I will simply have to encourage myself a little more to stand up against the winds I encounter.

Here’s to having the wind at your back; and when it is blowing into your face, the strength to keep pushing through….even when it’s coming at you in every direction.  You are strong.  You will finish the day.

April 21, 2012

Tony ROCKS!

I had a fabulous thing happen last weekend…..Tony asked me to go for a bike ride.

Let me tell you about my friend Tony.  He’s a good man.  He’s an athlete.  He’s a veteran.   Tony played basketball in Europe when he was in the service.   He’s 82 years old.  He is a cancer survivor….he battled that cancer with grace and determination.  Cancer that deposited a tumor in his brain that had to be removed last year and treated with many, many rounds of chemo therapy.    This year, Tony is back on his bike and he asked me to go for a ride.

Tony loaded up our bikes and we drove to a local bike path.  We rode side by side for an hour at a super steady pace and had easy conversation.  Tony taught me several things about the area, I learned a little more about his family and his own history.  He taught me about his love of biking and exercise.  And best of all, Tony taught me about quality.

Riding with Tony I was able to focus on maintaining good form on the bike.  I concentrated on maintaining a high cadence throughout the entire ride.  I didn’t worry about how fast I was going, or what my heart rate was, or how many miles we were logging.  I focused instead on the position of my feet as the pedals turned and the position my head and neck were in while I was riding.  I tried to shift my gears well to maintain the same cadence during the entire ride.  I focused on how great it was to be cycling and to be cycling well.  I focused on the quality of my ride and on quality of life for an entire hour.

Tony reminded me by example that, even though you may not be able to ride really fast or ride for a really long distance, the joy is in the ride.  He is a true role model for all of us.

Thank you, Tony.

March 16, 2012

The Perfect Storm

I had a total loss of control tonight.  It happens once in awhile.  I completely overeat.  Not only do I eat way too much, but it is way too much of all the wrong stuff.  Why do I never eat too much of the right stuff?  Although there may be gastrointestinal consequences, would eating way too many carrots or way too much broccoli ever really constitute overeating?  Anyway, tonight I ate sausage pizza, chicken wings smothered in blue cheese dressing, chicken parm, and baked ziti.  The one redeeming thing I ingested was a large glass of milk.  If only I had that first…….

I ate all of these things not in “small, I want to sample everything” portions, but rather in “this item is the only thing I’ll be eating for the next 24 hours” portions.  Yikes!  Why does this happen?  How does this happen?  How is it physically possible?  So many questions, so few take out boxes.
I’ll tell you what I think happens.  I’ll call it…….THE PERFECT STORM:
1)      I have had a really busy week.  Maybe a little stress thrown in from work or just life in general.  Definitely feeling like I don’t have much positive energy left.
2)      I (surprisingly) have had a really good week of training/working out (this helps to justify the excessive caloric intake).
3)      I don’t pay attention to my food intake during the day and by the end of the day/time for dinner, I’m starving.
4)      Someone (not placing blame here, but tonight my husband called in the order for delivery) places an extraordinary amount of carbohydrate-rich, sodium- infused, fat-laden goodness in front of me and, before I know what has happened,……..
I find myself swirling in The Perfect Storm and experiencing a total loss of control……someone throw me a life preserver!  Or at least an antacid!

March 13, 2012

11 Things

Several weeks ago I found out that I had been tagged by another blogger with a sort of blogging chain email.  I am a little short on the PC side of things when it comes to social media in general, so I immediately panicked.  Also, I have never followed through on a chain letter in my life; neither email, snail mail or otherwise.  But I decided that since this blog is sort of out of the box for me anyway, that I would go ahead and follow the directions.  So here, I share them with you.  Do with them what you will.  I am not going to tag anyone else, but if the mood moves you, you can post a response here on my blog if you want to put yourself out there......

Here are the directions I received:
1.       Post these rules
2.       You must post 11 random things about yourself
3.       Answer the questions set for you in their post
4.       Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer
5.       Go to their blog and tell them you’ve tagged them
6.       No stuff in the tagging section about you are tagged if you are reading this. You legitimately have to tag 11 people!
11 Random things about myself….
1.       I met my husband across a volleyball net playing co-ed grass doubles.
2.       At one point, I had 3 random jobs at the same time: lifeguard at a Sheraton Hotel; research assistant raising tent caterpillars; and washing dishes in a dormitory cafeteria.  That’s probably as random as my life has ever been.
3.       I really dislike spiders.  OK, actually, I hate them but I try not to use that word now that I’m a mom.  What I dislike even more is killing spiders so I usually put a glass upside down over the spider to trap it and then notify my exterminator (the husband) for proper disposal.
4.       I haven’t flown in an airplane since pre-9/11.
5.       I love train travel.
6.       I can only do a cartwheel by turning to the left (putting my left hand down first).
7.       I read National Geographic magazine.
8.       Some of my favorite movies are Amadeus, The Shawshank Redemption, and Seven Pounds.
9.       My outfit of choice is jeans, a black t-shirt, and flip-flops.
10.   I can list the United States in alphabetical order, but only up to Pennsylvania.
11.   I love ketchup flavored potato chips and have driven across the border into Canada to purchase a bag (well, two bags).
My answers to the posted questions….
1. What is the thing in your life you are most proud of?  My kids, of course.  As far as a personal accomplishment that I’m proud of…..I delivered both of them naturally without any drugs (and my son weighed nearly 11#)…..I still feel that it is the most fearless thing I have ever done.
2. What is your biggest regret?  Not completing my Masters degree when I was a mere 9 credits from finishing.
3. If you had to eat just one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?  Lasagna.
4. Do you give up things for Lent? If so, what are you giving up this year and why?  I am not going to give up anything for Lent.  If I were to do so, it would probably be trips to Wegmans grocery store.  I love Wegmans, but I don’t need it; I could get by without shopping there and it would definitely feel like a sacrifice.
5. What is your perfect evening? Sunset on the beach, in my chair next to my husband and my cooler, plastic glass of wine in my hand, kids playing in the sand at my feet.
6. Do you have siblings? Yes.  If so, do you buy into the whole birth order thing?  I’m sure I would buy into it if I could easily remember what the whole birth order thing actually says…..First born is more independent or less independent?  More of a leader or less of a leader?  All I know is that my kids are very different and I know that, in part, it’s because of nurturing and environment.  There is no doubt that when you only have one child (the firstborn) that her early childhood experience is very different from the second, third, fourth-born’s experience.  There is something to birth order, but I’m not clear that it is the same for thing for everyone.  (How’s that for a non-answer?)
7. What is your favorite thing to cook? Lasagna.  But my absolute favorite thing to make for dinner is a reservation.
8. In what kind of social situation do you feel most comfortable?  One on one with another person.
9. In what kind of social situation do you feel most awkward?   Large group of people that I may never see again.  Introducing myself and making small talk over and over again feels very awkward.
10. If you could go back to college, would you?  Only to finish that Masters degree.
11. What quality do you possess that makes you a good friend?  Some of my closest friends are actually the friends I see the least.  I think that good friends have an ability pick right up where they left off without much trouble.  We can go for months without connecting and it has little impact on the relationship.
My questions for you:
1.       What’s your favorite thing to wear?
2.       Is there anything that you find yourself doing that you would say is a waste of time, but you do it anyway?
3.       Is there anything that you would do if you only had the time?
4.       If you could travel to anyplace in the U.S., where would it be and why?
5.       Are you fun or funny? (You have to pick one or the other, not both!)
6.       If you have one, what is your favorite beach?
7.       Would you prefer more of the entrĂ©e or would you pick dessert?
8.       Swim, Bike, Run, or all three?
9.       If someone anonymous gave you $1,000, what would you do with it?  How about $100,000?
10.   Would you do something different with the money if you won it in the Lottery?

February 19, 2012

Partners in Fitness

We all have a lot of time constraints.  Some days I’m challenged with trying to factor in bathroom breaks once or twice during the day, let alone exercising.  That being said, I have transitioned myself from a person who wondered if she would exercise to one who plans out when she will exercise.  Something that has really helped me with figuring out when I will exercise is that I have a small network of workout friends/buddies with whom I can run or bike.  It makes long workouts more bearable and much safer.  It also builds in the accountability that one might need to ensure a workout actually happens.  After all, if you tell someone you will meet them at 7:00 am for that 3 mile run, you are much less likely to bail out when the alarm goes off.  I have also signed up for different group sessions at the YMCA not only to learn more about a particular event or workout routine, but also to meet other adults that are interested in a fit healthy lifestyle.

My wish for you is that you find at least one other like-minded person with whom you can run, bike, swim, aerobicize, kickbox, etc.  It helps if the person is not only like-minded, but also “like-bodied”….not that you look alike physically, but that you have similar abilities and physical goals.  Try to find someone that you will feel comfortable running with (e.g. not too fast, not too slow, not too chatty, or not too silent) or that has similar goals (wants to exercise to lose weight or wants to run in her first race this summer).  I have met some really great people and enjoy meeting up with them to train now – I have learned a lot from every person that I have met.
When you are looking for a buddy, it doesn’t have to be a friend that you are coercing to exercise….I’ve actually found this approach to be less successful.  One of the best ways to meet people is through a running group either with an organization like the YMCA, a fitness center, or a running club in your area.  It seems really intimidating at first, but the reality is that all sorts of people are runners.  You don’t have to be really fast or able to run long distances to be in a group.  Many of the groups cater to Newbies and will have beginner training sessions to ease you into the group.  It’s a great way to get started and to meet other people.  Even if you don’t stick with the particular group, you might meet someone or hear of other opportunities in the community.
It may take awhile, but you will find the right person or group…..whatever you do, try to build yourself a network.
Walking the (active) Talk:  Here’s my small, but growing, network (names have been abbreviated to protect the innocent): B – running buddy in my rural neck of the woods, early AM/weekend motivator; K – fellow triathlete, swimmer, and mom on the east side of town; G – fellow triathlete, running buddy on the north side of town; T and L – for out of town training (especially in VA J); B and L – haven’t actually trained with them, but great role models/sources of info for fitness; S – cyclist on the east side of town; YMCA – running group, spinning classes, TRX; CNY Triathlon Club – a great resource and endless supply of opportunities to train and meet other athletes.

February 1, 2012

Excuses

I have to challenge myself all of the time not to make excuses for my choices.  Battling excuses is practically a full time job….in addition to the paid one that I have and being a mom and wife.  You know the excuses I mean, right?  It’s cold outside – I can’t go running in this cold weather.  It’s hot outside – it’s too hot to run.  I’m too tired, exhausted, drained, stressed to think about exercising today.   I don’t have time for anything other than a quick stop for fast food for lunch, and if I don’t eat anything I’ll probably pass out in the middle of that presentation I have to give at 1:00.  You can give me any scenario of not doing what’s right for my health and I can come up with a perfectly reasonable excuse for my behavior.  You probably have no idea what I’m talking about……well, maybe a little idea…..
So I ask myself “Why do you not want to do what’s right?  Why make excuses for not eating better?  Why make excuses for not exercising or not getting enough rest?”   Because….it’s HARD.  Because….what’s right is not always what’s easy.  Because deep down inside, I want to eat chocolate cake and lay on the couch.
But instead of giving in, I work really hard to combat myself/my excuses on a day to day basis:
·         I try not to have chocolate cake in my house very often – if it makes its way into my home then I have an automatic excuse to eat it: I can’t let it go to waste.  
·         I figure out what I’m going to do for the week,  I write it down, and make a plan with my family ahead of time to work it in to our schedules…..swim on Monday, run on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday, volleyball on Thursday, strength training on Wednesday and Friday.   Then I’m less likely to say that I don’t have time and I’m less likely to overbook myself once I’ve already made a plan.
·         I set the alarm on my Smartphone to wake me up on the days I need to workout in the morning.  When the alarm goes off it reads “Get your a__ out of bed!”.  It always makes me laugh at myself a bit – at 5:30 am, that message is from me to me…..my healthier self from a more sane time of day telling my slovenly half-awake self to get a move on – I always get up out of bed when I read that.
·         I have a variety of healthy food/snacks stored in my desk at work and I try to bring lunch with me every day  – then when faced with a bagel, doughnut, or chocolate cake – I can’t use the excuse  that I had to eat a doughnut because I didn’t have anything else to eat with me that day.
·         I don’t let myself blame anyone else but me for not doing what I need to do.  The worst type of excuse would be to say that it was someone else’s fault that I gained 5 pounds, didn’t exercise enough, or ate a monstrous burger with fries.  For me, it’s usually bad planning NOT another person or event that results in my not following through with better eating or exercising.
Challenge yourself to not make any excuses – or at least make fewer excuses for not doing what you need to do.   Acknowledge that it’s not easy and make a plan to head off some of the excuses.  Hold yourself accountable and don’t blame other people, circumstances, your kids, etc.  I know you can do it!
Walking the (active) Talk:  I realized awhile ago that one of the biggest excuses that I had for not running more was that my kids are still too young to be left alone at home by themselves.  It was a legitimate reason for not running when my husband wasn’t home, but I didn’t let it be an ongoing excuse – instead, I bought a treadmill.  Now, I can’t let myself off the hook for not running – I can run 5-6 days a week and even hang out with the kids while I’m getting a workout in…last weekend I helped my daughter write an essay and practiced spelling with my son while getting in about 7 miles.  I can get up early before work, the kids are still sleeping, it can be snowing and pitch black outside but I can still do my run.  Excuses eliminated.

January 21, 2012

Celebrating Successes

I often forget to celebrate.  I get so caught up in the preparations, the machinations, the deliberations, that once an event or a success arrives, I don’t take time to enjoy it.  I have noticed this about myself not only in celebrating my own successes but also the successes of others.  I tend to move on very quickly once a task or project is completed.

Things are changing though….having children has changed this for me.  I want them to know how proud I am of them.  I want them to know that if they work hard towards a goal and achieve it, that they you should feel good inside.  That it’s OK to celebrate and enjoy the moment.
I make a point of bending down and whispering in their little ears to tell them how proud I am of them.  I tell them how strong they are.  I tell them that I am impressed with how hard they have practiced.  We have ice cream for dinner after a successful week at Tae Kwon Do or at school.
I always emphasize goal setting when I talk with others about weight loss and fitness, but also I focus on celebrating the success when goals are achieved.  Be proud about your accomplishments.  Enjoy compliments.  Reward yourself.  Have ice cream for dinner once in awhile when you deserve it. Feel good about even the small successes – they will sustain you as you work hard towards the next goal.
Walking the (active) Talk:  I really enjoy talking with others about their goals, how they are going to work towards them, how their journey is playing out.  I celebrate that I can encourage others to take better care of themselves and to improve their fitness. 

January 7, 2012

Goal Setting Part 2

Happy New Year!!!  Did you make a resolution?  Set a new goal?  If you did, was it a SMART goal (see Goal Setting Part 1)?   If you really want to help yourself stick to that resolution or attain that goal, do yourself a favor and build in accountability RIGHT NOW.  Having a way to hold yourself accountable for what you say you are going to do is really important.  Tell someone your goal and check in with them as often as you need to keep yourself on track….it’s one of the reasons Weight Watchers can be a successful program…..knowing that you have to step on a scale in front of someone else can be a big motivator to pass up that next doughnut.  If you don’t have a way to keep yourself accountable, your odds of falling off the wagon are much higher.
If you have a hard time sticking with your plan, consider a coach or personal trainer or, better yet, a friend who will help you keep yourself accountable.  Remember my friend’s Little Black Dress goal?  She picked a date that she wanted to be able to fit into that dress and I put it on MY calendar.  Now I can ask her how it’s going and she has another person to help her keep that goal in sight.
With a little effort, you can build in accountability in many ways……
·         Connect with a coach or personal trainer to assist in goal setting, setting up a program, monitoring adherence to your plan, etc.  This is a great way to get yourself started if you have never exercised before or just aren’t sure where to begin.
·         Recruit a friend or acquaintance with similar goals and work together to make sure you both show up to exercise, keep each other from making excuses not to exercise or eat better, etc.  Make a plan for how you are going to hold each other accountable…..whoever logs in the most walking miles gets treated to dinner by the other person or after preparing together for your first successful race, you treat yourselves to a spa day together.  Pick something fun and motivating!
·         Sign up for a race or event that will require you to train…..for example: if you have never run in a race before, sign up for a 5K race  (3.1 miles) and have a goal to complete the race in a certain amount of time, or to run (not walk) for the entire distance.  In order to do this, you might plan to walk for 30 minutes every day for 2 weeks, and then start to jog for 1 minute/walk for 2 minutes, etc. for 30 minutes until you can jog for the entire distance by race day.
·         If you have one, make sure your spouse/partner/significant other is on board with you, encourages you, and knows what your goals are specifically.  For example – my husband knows that I have to work hard at limiting my “white carb” intake (because I LOVE pasta, rice, and bread!) – he makes an effort to incorporate non-white carbs into meals he prepares and when we do have pasta or rice my portion sizes are small.  I know that he knows that I shouldn’t eat that ½ pound of pasta….so (usually J) I don’t.
Walking the (active) Talk:  Did you catch my own built in accountability in my last post Goal Setting Part 1?  I put my training goal for 2012 in writing and I put in on the Web for all to see (well, at least the 4 or 5 people who might be reading this!).  I’m planning on letting everyone know my results after that race in September so I want to be able to report success – thanks in advance for holding me accountable!