Posts tagged running
Posts tagged running
It’s been 60 days… what happens now? The questions have already begun. I’m not quite sure how to write this post or where to start…
Two months have flown by… I went into this with no expectations. A simple self-experiment in personal discipline. I view food as something loaded with emotions and memories. I wasn’t afraid of giving things up or telling people no, but I was afraid of losing balance and the thrill of living life. I came out with an expanded appreciation for clean eating… a tad fired up about the food industry… a flipped workout/life schedule… more energy, focus, and a better understanding of myself. It wasn’t as bumpy as I expected…
Honestly, I don’t plan to fall face first into pizza or ice cream on Saturday. I didn’t eat them routinely before and at this point just don’t find them as appealing anymore. I know how stepping out of bounds will make me feel, which makes a lot of foods way less attractive. Yes, I will likely throw back a few of those ‘temptation’ M&Ms or maybe a good glass of red wine as my ‘I did it’ celebration, but, while I may joke about the amazing flavor of Klondike bars while in tears on a Saturday morning, I am well aware that my tastes have changed. It wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying as it would have been to Sarah 1.0 years ago. I plan to only occasionally indulge in things I love… choosing wisely, savoring them, and rightfully suffering the consequences of my decision.
I use the word balance often, I’m realizing perhaps too much. Balance in life, food… I’ve embraced it due to my yoga practice: looking inward… physically and mentally finding a sustainable happy place. But over the past few months I’ve come to appreciate a more back to basics strict approach, tough love if you will. I can see how 80/20 quickly degrades into 70/30 and 60/40 and how at that point it doesn’t matter at all… all of the little choices add up. Which ones are worth it? An M&M here, a beer there, just one piece of pizza… I can now understand that living in the middle will never get extreme results. You can never negate weekend drinking through non-drinking weeknights and workouts. What you put in always matters. There is no short cut. It’s true that each of us has to find a maintainable place… something that works for us individually and aligns with long-term goals. So over the past few months, I’ve become a little less about balance and a little more about choices… personally accountability for my food decisions, morning routine, sleep, workouts, work.
I will never eat processed foods, but I’m sure that I will occasionally drink, fall into a sexy square of dark chocolate and re-integrate fruit and nuts, but I now have a better understanding of why I want to fall face first into something and what eating 100 percent clean real food feels like. I’ve hit an optimal operating level… a life buzz if you will… and I plan to use it as a benchmark for resetting myself if needed. It’s something I can come back to time and time again.
I’m waiting to see how I handle the ‘binge’ from (and with) some of my nutrition program companions. I feel like I might be resentful or upset…or pressured to indulge… perhaps feeling like we did all of this for nothing, wondering what we have learned, wondering what it’s worth if we all turn around and eat like crap… why did we do it to begin with? I have to remember that this program is about self-discovery and growth and personal choices. It doesn’t matter what they choose, but instead, what I do… We each have our own journey. We each learned something different about ourselves. How did I change? What is my course of action?
I honestly didn’t see many results until around weeks 8 and now 9. Proving that I did eat pretty well before… but I’m finally starting to see some abs (okay minimal abs but promise they are there), I’m doing pull-ups, I’m sleeping, I’m recovering faster, I’m seeing power and core strength in full force at yoga… By choice, I’ve completely flipped my workout routine: morning WODs, full work days, cooking dinner and sometimes adding yoga or running at night. My stress level is at an all-time low. I’m not finding myself running home through a trail of tears. I’ve met new Crossfit companions and I’m back to having fun with workouts… I’ve broken through the plateau that has plagued me for months. Not all of these changes directly correlate to the nutrition program itself, but they are all side effects of longer lasting energy and educated life decisions. It’s hard to explain, but overall, I feel more in control, motivated and empowered.
Despite my occasional (and recently increasing) cravings, I plan to stay the course, continue eating according to the meal template. For me, I think one of the biggest takeaways was my revamping of snacks. As I mentioned, I will re-introduce some fruits and nuts because if the worst thing I do is eat a peach, so be it, but plan to eat them sparingly and not alone as a meal. I have an updated understanding of sugar and how much we are addicted to it without even realizing… it’s pre-packaged into almost everything we eat. I’m not a big believer in supplements and shakes, because they almost go against everything I’ve build over the past few months, but the time is right to add in a recovery shake post-workout, just to see what happens. I plan to keep tracking and keep everyone posted about the continued self-experiment.
So on Sunday the pictures of food end. Week 9 will come to a close. I will go back to life beyond the spreadsheet. I think I can check off all the things I promised when we began:
I’m jumping in head first… without a net… it doesn’t stop here, it’s about life beyond these past two months. Week-by-week I’ve built a foundation… now it’s time to mold what I’ve built into a sustainable lifestyle.
Work, travel, time, stress… did you know that PR pros currently have 7th most stressful job in America? True, for me leaving the office isn’t a life or death situation, because it’s inevitable that Big Tobacco will still be there to fight in the morning, but my afternoons are often cluttered with last minute meetings or reporters calling to make news deadlines… In general, living in DC can be tough – you can easily lose yourself in the day-to-day hustle, a sort of type-A rat race comprised of commuting and commitments.
In the past year I’ve really struggled to find and figure out my work/life balance. I felt broken and stretched for time, trapped below the florescent glow of my office lights long after everyone else was already at the gym. Amongst missed metro trains and deadlines, there were many nights of trudging home in the dark leaving a small trail of tears in my wake. My stress quota would fill and my little world would explode into a thousand pieces.
Exercise is extremely effective in helping to manage stress and cortisol, I know this – for me workouts are therapy, going to the gym is like going to church… my time to unwind and decompress… tune in, soul search. I crave it, need it, feel lost without it.
I’ve written a few times about forcing myself into the darkness and pounding out miles alone on the city streets… running away the day… having a healing session with the stars. I hated missing my afternoon workout happy hour. And the more frustrated I became, the longer the workout plateau felt. Nothing was getting better, just stagnant or slow.
I forced myself to reframe my thinking. The action of holding myself accountable was more important; I stopped worrying about times or pounds or miles. I re-built from the inside. Small wins. Day in and day out. My 366 photos helped me do it. I was forced to find a piece of fit every day, whether I wanted to or not… whether here in DC, or on the road, I was on the hook for doing something… so I made my way to yoga studios, and found Crossfit gyms in the craziest of places. I ran with friends and sometimes just walked through the woods with my family and the bulldog.
I had fun. I tried new things and learned from new people. Through my adventures I re-discovered and renewed my enthusiasm. In the end, the rumpled routine helped me approach life a little differently. Life happened and I learned how to fit it in… I implemented survival strategies, achieved better balance.
Waking up early sucks most days, but since I can’t control my afternoon mayhem, I’ve learned and adopted morning workouts. Sure, I feel weaker, and sometimes I feel left out and miss the camaraderie of my afternoon workout crew. But my changed schedule equals reduced stress and a re-set mindset - I’m not needing to quick-change on the way from commute to class. My own time table. My own course of action.
Along the bumpy road, boom! I got my groove back.
There it is. The last one. 366 days of finding fit. I survived.
My intent was to document my life in photos for a year (a leap-year)… challenge myself to think about health every day by finding focus and fitness in places that I normally wouldn’t, and in some that I would. Be it Crossfit, or the high school track, or eating right, or remembering to take the stairs at work… The photos have held me accountable, pushing me out the door and into the darkness on nights I just didn’t want to run, and encouraging me to register for races I hadn’t researched. All for a photo? Perhaps sometimes, but most often… for myself. Figuring out exactly what the picture would be each day was just part of the journey.
In 2011 – I ran my ass off, raced until I couldn’t race any more. So at the start of 2012, I filled my life with intentions and promised that it would be a year of self-discovery – looking in and learning more about how far I could push, if I could find balance, keep myself engaged and continue to press out of my comfort zone. I realize that this year I’ve hit my stride, settled into my 30’s and finally feel comfortable just being me. In doing so, I’ve stumbled upon a deeper understanding of self-awareness and strength. Sometimes parts of the journey have been bumpy, but along the way, I decided to edit my definition of success, proving that: “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” And, I’m in this for the long-haul. A lifetime.
I wasn’t sure how I’d feel at the end, but I have to admit that I’m pretty emotional looking back through the pictures. It’s pretty cool to see a year’s worth of work… each moment is a memento…. a snapshot capturing a day or a workout or a race or a memory. The photos don’t only represent personal dedication or accountability for my actions, they each have a full backstory. An adventure. A day along the road to building a better me, figuring out my course for life. Behind them are friends, and coaches, and family members… wins and losses and firsts… achievements and rest-days… exploits and escapades. Whether it was Monday night rec hockey or the Tuesday night ‘run-for-fun club’… Skiing at nearly 13,000ft, finding myself in the midst of a Cold War or crossing off bucket list item #82, they each mean something special and I hold them close to my heart.
I’m sure that anyone who sees me daily would tell me that they are ready be done with me saying, “waiiit… I need a picture for today.” But taking the photos and remembering to share them became a part of my routine – a window into my world. Over the course of the year a few themes seemed to emerge, so I figured I’d list them here along with a few of my favorites.
Some days I struggled to find something worthy to share. Some of the pictures aren’t the best. The album may or may not have inspired others, but the comments that I got along the way fueled my fire and kept me posting. Kept me working. Kept me smiling. So thank you! And thank you to everyone who forced me to add 5 more pounds, go for a run, do one more rep, sign-up for a crazy race, keep jumping on that silly box or squeeze myself a little deeper into triangle - you know who you are and I wouldn’t have made it without you all as an inspiration, you are just as much a part of this as me.
I’d be joking if I said it won’t be a little weird not taking a picture tomorrow. It will be… I might have to take one anyways, just because. But the adventure doesn’t end here, it just begins in a different form. So I’m excited to see where I land on day 367 and then on day 731… 365 days from now. And I promise to post (a few) photos along the way.
Day 364: Talking our way through a brisk 5miles along the monuments. Ladies night run club style! Almost back to where we started.
41. The faded black sharpie on my arms is a reminder of the weekend. So are the stiff shoulders and sore quads. I completed 9 workouts, but walking down stairs seems almost impossible.
You could see our breath in the air when we’d arrived at the field house on Saturday before dawn. The pull-up cage in the middle of the arena was a very tall and daunting reminder of why we were here… a CrossFit-style Cold War. And man, was it cold. I don’t think any of us knew what to truly expect. For three of us, it was our first real CrossFit competition. But after our final strategy session on Friday night, we’d agreed that we were in it to win it - go big or go home. We’d spent the weeks prior loading our workouts with mile long buddy carries and sledge hammer strikes. We were prepared for the first few pre-announced WODs, but the others were a mystery. Anything was fair game.
The 2 days involved everything from swimming and air squats to carrying atlas stones, hanging from pull-up bars and leaping walls, to mile runs with weighted rucksacks. And, laughing… lots of laughing. This blog would be pages if I detailed all of the ins and outs of the weekend, so instead, here is a short highlight reel mixed in with some lessons learned:
For me personally, the toughest battle came on Sunday in the foggy early morning air. A mile ruck run as a team. I knew it was coming, but my heart sank when they made the announcement. Even though I’m a pretty regular runner and shit, I just did a GoRuck, I felt like the weakest link… I’m a woman of pace, damn it… and the last runner to cross the finish line would mark the recorded time. We’d toyed with having two runners run ahead, but decided to stay as a group and help each other push the pace. Joking before we took off that we were aiming for 8 minutes… are you crazy!? I think my fear of the mile run stems from High School. Those four stupid laps around the track in gym class have forever made me put added pressure on myself when it comes to the words “timed” and “mile.” Feels like some superficial benchmark of success. My goal on Sunday: just keep swimming… I mean running. The backpack felt heavy and awkward - I synched it tight across my hips eliminating my ability to breath. I couldn’t feel my toes. We took off along the path and the up a steady clay incline. The teams were taking off every minute on the minute, and we could see the team ahead crest the peak. Over a log and back on the grass… Dave and Jay took the lead, Steve stuck with me and pushed me to the finish… 7 seconds behind the team to take first in the event. Gerrrr! But, looking back and realizing that a mile felt pretty short was astonishing - a short 10:07 with weight. Great way to warm-up on a dewy and cold Sunday morning after a full Saturday of workouts.
We wrapped up the weekend with a good long chipper on Sunday night. After placing well in most of the weekend events, we knew that our score in the final Wod didn’t matter, we were landing on the podium either way. It took off a lot of the pressure and just let us have a good time. An out of the blue afternoon rain shower made our military crawl with a ruck muddy, and we got to close it out with buddy carries and SITUPS - boom! My wheelhouse!
Maybe it was the neon wrist band… or what we’d like to call the “dreamcatcher”, either way, we rocked the scaled division of the competition… and we gorged ourselves on pizza and a pitcher of beer as a Sunday night celebration. Aside from the bruised collarbone and added thirst/hunger/fatigue the past few days, I’d say we came out unscathed. Two loads of laundry, a good scrub, yoga and a full body roll out… Dave’s jeep still smells a little like weight plates and wet ruck sacks, but aside from that and the singlet wearing, barbell holding, little golden man sitting next to my TV, the weekend war seems like a memory. Back to business as usual. Another adventure for the books. It’s hard to believe that the Cold War came and went… and that we won.
Here I am, sitting at my desk the day before Thanksgiving… the office is quite. I’ve already printed my boarding pass to head home to Rochester for a repeat paleo fiesta and browsed through the most recent Backyard Burn race photos. For fun, I casually clicked through my own album of awesome. Nearly 366 days and a handful of blogs posts. Success is the sum of small efforts… repeated day in and day out… I’ve learned that. The photos and monologues are a benchmark of self-betterness. They flood me with memories… 2012 was cool. Where I think I’ve plateaued, they remind and illustrate how far I’ve come… all that’s been accomplished.
It’s crazy to think about where I am today. Life is in a different place. Ragnar 2010 served as a catalyst, catapulting me into a new sort of lifestyle that’s evolved over the past few years. From fitness to food… I finally feel settled into something sustainable. I’ve found balance by taking a step back, racing less, living more.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe that I’m 31…. and the fact that I wear sneakers and a backpack on my walk to/from work doesn’t help. Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that I can squat more than my body weight… or that I can throw around barbells like an Olympian. That I can hit a stupid green line with a decently heavy medicine ball… and how much that means to me in terms of personal achievement. That I’ve adventured through the night with bricks in my backpack… and that I’ve run a half-marathon through the mud at the same pace as I’d previously done on the road. I’ve busted my shin on a box and overcome some silly mental fear of jumping back on top of it. I’ve learned my limits and tested them. I’ve competed in a Crossfit throw down and had the guts to register for a second one. I’ve finally swung across the money bars. I’ve done an adventure race and a pull-up. I’ve written about food. I’ve taken finding fit on the road. I’ve trusted myself and others. I’ve laughed. I’ve pushed. I’ve loved. I’ve held myself accountable. I’ve cried. I’ve sweat. I’ve twisted. I’ve reminded myself to breathe.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to do all of it. For the journey in finding myself. For my family and my friends, both new and old. For my health. For the fact that I have people who love and push and inspire me on a daily basis both in and out of the gym. They keep me honest, remind me to smile, and force me to continue growing. Sure, I get beat down by my commute and job and stress… but when I really stop and think about all of it – I’m a pretty lucky lady.
This holiday weekend, I hope that you have the chance to celebrate of all the little pieces of your success… from fitness to food to families and friends. May your bellies be full of meats and sweets (and by sweets I mean sweet potatoes)… and whether you Crossfit your heart out to a Thanksgiving grinder, or turkey trot through your hometown, I hope that you are surrounded by strength and love and happiness… the determination to never say ‘can’t’ and the will to continue the journey.
With that, I’m shutting down my computer, leaving the florescent hue of the office, and attempting to squeeze in one more long WOD tonight before taking to the friendly skies. In the morning I get to see a very wiggly bulldog and three unconditionally loving, but super sarcastic Shanks. Thankful for a whole weekend to reflect and recharge. Happy Shanksgiving!
Day 311: Sometimes you have to dance with the devil. Necessary evil.
Day 303: AM run over the river and through the woods.