the soul knows

There are no coincidences. The soul seeks its own path. ~Angela Gwinner

The other day, I stumbled upon a box of treasures from my youth. Having no recollection of packing it all away, I was clueless to its existence. So, when I realized what I had found, I excitedly started digging through the old stash.

Tucked within the memorabilia, most of which was deeply sentimental, was this edition of Young Miss, circa 1980. Of the hundreds of magazines that I read growing up, this one was the only one that I saved. For real. None of the juicy gossip mags (hello, Tiger Beat) full of pictures of all the 80′s heart throbs and hair bands. Nope. Not those. Instead, I saved this one.

It’s funny because I was not a runner growing up. I would not become a runner for 33 more years after this magazine came out. Now, I cannot imagine a life without running. In fact, running has saved me in ways I’ll never fully understand. I guess my 11 year-old self instinctively knew what my grown up self would need? They say the soul knows. . .

I guess they’re right.

Advertisements

Facing Fears and Finding Me: 5 years later

It has been a year since I’ve posted here. I’m really not sure why it has been so long. There are a million things floating around in my head and scribbled in my journal that I need to write about, things that are bursting at the seams to leave my realm and hit the pages of this blog. I could provide an ample amount of excuses to why I haven’t been writing, excuses that would pretty much be all valid but I’ll spare you all and just dive in.  I almost feel it’s like a rebirth here with this post and if I’m being honest, it is.  2016 was a year of struggle, change, and growth for me but through it all, I am re-emerging. . .  

On January 23, it will be FIVE years since I began my journey to better health. Five years since I faced the scale and bared my soul in a blog about my struggles. Five years and 75 pounds! I remember that terrifying day like it was yesterday. . .

Change has abounded in that time and life is completely different now than it was back then. Many of those life changes I have written about and are buried within the recesses of this blog. Many more of those changes are scrawled across the pages one of my many journals waiting to be shared here, and yet others, I still have to process. In short, there is no way I could have foreseen what life would have in store when I began writing about my journey so long ago.

Every year since has brought its own successes and failures and 2016 proved to be no different, with the exception that my successes and failures this year unexpectedly came with a far greater meaning than they ever had before. Maybe it’s because I’m older and wiser now, or maybe it’s because I had just fallen so far away from myself that I needed some hard lessons to find my way back to me again. I’m not really sure.

The fitness flops of 2016 (that stupidly started with the failure to follow a training plan and spiraled downward from there) began to erode my self-confidence and eventually the failures began to chip away at my self-esteem. It didn’t take long for my already waning self image to erode rather quickly. It wasn’t too much longer after the erosion began that I started feeling pretty sorry for myself. (FYI: Self-pity is selfish and leaves no space for gratitude. Without gratitude, it’s hard to remember how far you have come.) Before I knew it, I was s-t-r-u-g-g-l-i-n-g with where I was at in my journey, especially when it came to running. It finally took a 17-hour mountain summit in late July (when 100 feet from the top I was absolutely sure I couldn’t climb anymore, but did it anyways) and a middle of the night 10.5 miler during a relay race in mid-August (in which I had a full-on mental breakdown complete with the old fat girl tapes playing loudly in my head, but finished the run anyways) for me to begin to really examine at what was going on in my life. The icing on this figure-your-shit-out cake came for me in September (after my second failed attempt at a 50k) when I was reminded of the the phrase our growth is in our struggle. I’ve been ruminating ever since. Our growth is in our struggle. . .

What I’ve discerned through it all is that is exactly that–our biggest growth always comes through our biggest struggles. Always. Failures are nothing but opportunities for growth. I’ve also figured out that growth only begins when self-pity ends.We just have to stop feeling sorry for ourselves long enough to figure it all out.

Cheers to the lessons of 2016. I am grateful for the struggles, and failures, and growth. And here’s to 2017. I am looking forward to another year of facing fears and finding me.

P. S. Thank you, as always, to all that have been there for me along the way. Our journeys aren’t meant to be traveled alone and for all you that have been along for the ride, I am so very grateful. Happy New Year. With love.

Two of my biggest struggles  growth moments, not only of last year, but probably of my life. Both of these photos are raw and at my most broken open of moments. Picture one is on the summit of Longs Peak ( 14,259 feet) in Colorado. I took this photo seconds after realizing my accomplishment, something I never could have imagined when I began my fitness journey five years ago. Picture two is shortly after I finished one of the most grueling runs of my life, not physically grueling, but mentally. Every old fat girl tape that has ever played in my head suddenly replayed during the first miles of a long, middle of the night relay run. It didn’t help that I was getting passed by runners like I was standing still. I recovered though and finished. 

Baby-steppin’ it to better health

3AM_SMART_1

Goal setting.

If you do a little Google search on the term goal-setting, you will find 28,100,000 results in .30 seconds. Literally. You will also see this toward the top of your search page:

Goal setting is a powerful process for thinking about your ideal future, and for motivating yourself to turn your vision of this future into reality. The process of setting goals helps you choose where you want to go in life.

The process of setting goals helps you choose where you want to go in life. . . 

images

Additionally, if you want to dig into it a little farther, you will find meme after meme stating things like this:

setting-goals-is-the-first-step

or this,

deadline

or this,

image-quote-goal-setting-set-your-dream-fitness-goal-today

To keep us alive? Ahhhh! And on and on it goes. It can get scary as fuck (pardon the language) quite quickly. If you aren’t careful you can go from simply wanting to make a positive change to being overwhelmed in exactly.30 seconds with 28,100,000 examples of how to do it. If I was new to goal-setting or to the fitness world,  I probably would have said fuck-it (done swearing now) after Googling goal-setting and walked away. But, I am not new to either one so I will tell you this. . . goal-setting IS a powerful tool that WILL lead to lasting and sustainable change, IF you are SMART about it.

The acronym SMART as applied to goal-setting means creating goals that are: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant/realistic, and time-bound. It may sound a bit intimidating but trust me, it isn’t. Using the SMART acronym to will help you reach the goals you have made for yourself and that, in turn, will keep you moving forward on your journey to better health. Let me give you a hypothetical example of setting a proper SMART goal and hopefully it will make better sense.

Goal: To run a marathon by February 25, 2016. That’s a great goal if you are already an experienced runner that consistently runs substantial miles every week.  The goal is specific (to run a marathon), measurable (26.2 miles), achievable (you are already an experienced runner), realistic (you’ve been logging the necessary miles), and time-bound (you have a specific date.) There is only one problem with this scenario–you are not an experienced runner. You are a 42-year old couch potato that hasn’t run since high school (which was me in 2012 when I began my quest to better health.) If I would have set a goal like this for myself early on in my journey, I would have failed MISERABLY. The failure would have likely set me up for additional failures because I was already feeling bad about the inability to achieve the first goal (albeit wildly unrealistic) I had set for myself. (Some of you know that downward spiral. A person can go down the drain of self-despair pretty quickly sometimes.)

Keeping with the hypothetical couch potato-to-marathoner scenario, what if the goal-setting looked more like this:

My goal  is to run a marathon in December of 2016. Currently, I do no physical activity so I will begin work on my long-term goal by setting smaller, SMART goals to help me achieve my dream of running a marathon. My first step will be to walk for 10 minutes per day for the next week so my body can begin to get used to moving. This small, short-term goal is specific (walking for 10 minutes per day), measurable (10 minutes), achievable (most any able-bodied person can walk for 10 minutes per day), realistic (it’s 10 minutes), and time-bound (one week.) The most important point here is that this small goal, with some effort, is achievable. With achievement comes a mindset for success. This success mindset will help you  to create your next goal, and your next goal, and your next until you suddenly find yourself cruising across the finish line in a 26.2 mile race. Make sense? You can dream big but to achieve great things, we have to start somewhere and that somewhere is usually small. And that somewhere always involves time and effort; but, starting small makes the big dreams possible. Think baby-stepping it small like Bill Murray did in the movie What About Bob?

baby-steps-meme1.jpg

e94c37a656f33295e04a82464f789fd3

Baby steps. Set small goals that are achievable (achievable not easy, there is a difference) and go from there. It really is that simple. Baby-steppin’ it to better health. We can ALL do that.

Where are you in your journey to better health? What goals have you or are you going to set for yourself in 2016? Write them down and go for it! One baby step at a time.

 

Facing fears and finding me…

The past few days I have spent some time reflecting on my weight-loss/health/fitness journey. And while reflecting on this journey is something I tend to do regularly, I have been extra reflective as I get ready to write down my 2016 goals. Adding to that, a good friend recently asked me for some weight-loss tips the other day which really got me thinking. . .

This was the very first honest post I wrote about my weight and my struggles. I wrote it on January 23, 2012 and I remember this night vividly. We had just returned home from Iowa after sending our youngest off to Oman to study abroad. I had looked at the going away pictures. I remember consciously trying to stand in a way that would make me look not as large as I was when we were taking the pics. Those pics were my tipping point. My surrender. Later that night I sat down to write this after I ordered my scale. Again, thank God for Amazon one-click or I may have chickened out. I am also not sure where I found the courage to hit the publish button that night. . . but I did. Facing your fears and owning your story, is the most empowering and freeing thing I have ever done in my life. Happy New Year. May you find yourself and be free.

Hangin' by a Thread



Part of truly being yourself is owning your story. Today, I’m owning a pretty big part of mine…


I did something today that absolutely T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D me, something I have avoided- successfully or not, depending upon how you look at it- for years. My heart is still pounding a bit, but thanks to one-click shopping at Amazon.com I didn’t have time to stop and think before I tossed it into my virtual cart. Boom, it was done. No going back. I had to face this once and for all.

Anti-climactic, I know, but the big, scary thing I did was order a digital scale, something I haven’t owned for years. For many people, hopping on the scale is not a big deal, but, as a person that has battled an eating disorder for a good share of my 40 plus years, the thought of owning and stepping on a scale is…

View original post 750 more words

Celebrating my year in fitness! (Even if I didn’t lose a single pound.)

bill-gates-quotes_12022-1

My journey to a healthier me began years ago, somewhere in the decade of my 30’s.  It wasn’t until 2012 though, at the age 42, that I finally worked up the courage to face myself and get down to business. I was literally out of excuses on why I was so fat and physically unhealthy. I was grossly overweight and in was total denial about my about the state of my overall health. The only thing I had going for me at the time was my mental health. I had done some hard work over the years and was finally comfortable being inside my own head. I had long since grown from a place where I felt unworthy of being happy and healthy to wondering why I ever attached my weight (among other things) to my self-worth in the first place.

Fast forward to almost four years later, and I barely remember my old self. Sometimes I see the old me in pictures and wonder who the hell that person was yet I no longer berate myself (something I would have done at one time) for letting my health spiral out of control.  I know exactly why I ended up in such a physically unhealthy state and I know exactly what it took to climb out of that hole of unhealth. I am grateful for having the strength, the courage, and the support of an amazing tribe to do it. And to keep doing it. A journey to better health isn’t one with an ending, it’s a constant trek–one that is full of twists and turns, peaks and valleys, and often times, rest stops along the way.

What I have learned along my journey over the years has been incredible, but perhaps the most important thing I have learned came earlier in 2015 when I was introduced to the art of celebrating, not my successes mind you, but my failures. Yes, I have learned to celebrate the times in which I suck, and unfortunately that is quite often. I have learned that it is not whether we reach our goals, instead, it is how we celebrate along the way, even when our journeys aren’t going the way we planned. We can wallow in our failures or celebrate them, learn from them, and ultimately move on. Thankfully, I am learning to celebrate. Although 2015 marked a year of many failures for me (many successes as well), I want to share two of my bigger “flops” with you in hopes that you can learn to celebrate the times when your journey heads down a path you weren’t expecting.

  1. 2015 marked the second year in a row that I did not lose any weight, and it is not from a lack of trying.  Zero pounds. ZERO! I am still roughly 25 pounds from my goal weight and have been for the last two years. TWO YEARS! Last year at this time I was wallowing in the fact that I had failed to lose weight for an entire year. This year? I am celebrating the fact that I have learned to maintain my weight because you see, even though I have lost zero pounds, I haven’t gained any either. That’s right. Zero weight gain. ZERO! For those of you that have been on the weight-loss roller coaster, you know the significance of weight-loss maintenance. For that, I celebrate.
  2. 2015 also marked a significant event in my journey–the first time I failed to complete a race. It was a big one, my first 50k, and I fell flat on my face. Literally. I hit the ground so hard I was surprised I didn’t bounce back up like a weeble-wobble. After a few seconds, I managed to get up and brush myself off. Other than my ego being a bit bruised I thought I was physically okay until a few minutes later when some aches and pains began to creep in. (Up until the point of my fall my body was relatively pain free and I quickly began to realize that what I was feeling was injury from my fall.) I kept going but as time wore on I realized my injuries were worse than I initially thought. With just under 18 miles to go at that point in the race, I had a big decision to make. . . trudge on at whatever pace I could muster, risking further injury and a prolonged recovery that could keep me from running for quite some time, or drop at the next aid station (which was still four miles away.) I slowly made it to the next aid station, waited for about 10 minutes as I lamented my pending failure, and then officially dropped from the race. A million thoughts rushed through my head about being a quitter, thoughts that included words like loser, wuss, and failure. But that train of awful thought didn’t last long as quickly I began to think of how far I had come in my journey. 3.5 years prior to that point, I could not run more than a couple of blocks. Now, I had just ran 17, smashing my previous PR for this distance by 15 minutes. And other than the pain from my injuries, my body as a whole felt great. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I would say I felt great after running 17 miles. Most importantly though, I learned that the health of my body is more important than a finisher’s medal. For all of those reasons, I celebrate!
12088023_10207739592107797_69352135088629784_n
Not too long after this, I fell. Hard. I ended up with a DNF behind my name, my first ever. Failure is a tough pill to swallow but the lessons learned are invaluable if you choose to celebrate.

I have many other failures from the past year that I have reframed and subsequently celebrated. The celebratory lens I now have to view my journey through has given me a renewed strength to continue on my path towards better health in 2016. Do I ever plan to fail or settle for mediocrity? NO! But will I wallow when things don’t go the way I hoped they would? NO WAY! Wallowing is a word that is no longer in my vocabulary. In 2016, I plan to celebrate every failure and then move on from there–growing, learning, and refocusing on new goals.

As you look back over your own fitness journey what failures can you reframe as successes? What about going forward? Will you go a little easier on yourself when things don’t go the way you planned? Cheers to you and a Happy New Year! Vow to celebrate wildly in 2016!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five reasons to love running outside during a Minnesota winter. . .

*****WARNING*****WARNING*****WARNING*****

(This post is nothing but a desperate attempt at positivity.) 
 

It’s November 10. Two days ago I s-h-a-t-t-e-r-e-d my 5k personal best and I am currently 169 days into a runstreak. I am desperately trying not to let this early winter storm–that has arrived in FULL FORCE–dampen my running spirits.  Now, when I am running better than I ever have, is not the time for winter to settle in. Why, Mother Nature? Why?

I rolled out of bed around 9:00 a.m. (As luck would have it, I had decided last week to schedule today off work.) I immediately peeked out the window. I could see through my curtains that the ground was white but I was intensely hoping that the weather predictions had been wrong.

UGH, even worse than I imagined.

So many inches already on the ground! I knew if I was going to get a run in I would have to do it now–or I’d likely succumb to the negative thoughts (it’s cold, it’s snowy, it’s slippery, you don’t need to run etc.) that were already creeping into my head. I’d soon cave to the negativity and then head on over to the neighbors who had graciously offered up their treadmill.

But, I refuse to succumb to the drone of the treadmill.

Well , at least this early in the season. Not just because I don’t like the dreadmill treadmill, but because my mental health requires that I get outside and run. Running outside soothes my soul like few other things do.

Not really seeing much of a choice in the matter, I bundled up and headed outside for my first winter run of the 2014-15 season. Alas, woe is me.

IMG_1659
Beauty of a look , I know. And yes, the white behind me is blowing snow.
IMG_1660
While these shoes work perfectly for winter running, I already miss my regular shoes.

I set foot into the snow and surprisingly my legs (albeit reluctantly) settled into a running form of sorts. I made it out of the yard without falling and headed down the road on some tire tracks. The snow was deeper than I thought and it was blowing hard enough that the visibility was less than two blocks. The snow stung my eyes and I ran the first block with them mostly closed. I’m sure I was a sight.

About a quarter mile in, I was already wringing wet with sweat. I had definitely overdressed.

About a half mile in, my calf muscles were screaming at me. “This is not normal! Why are we trying to run through this white stuff?”

At my turn around, my lungs were definitely more taxed than normal. I had forgotten how cold temperature affects breathing. By this time, the negative self-talk was beginning in full force. “Why are you running in a snowstorm? This is dumb. You are dumb. Go home. Head back to the gym.” And on it went, eventually progressing to a full-on whinefest in my head.

I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the things that I hated about winter running. Breathing is hard. My mile-per-minute pace slows significantly. Runs are usually shorter. I can never get down how many layers I need to stay comfortable. Shoe choices are limited. Running on the trails I love so dearly is nearly impossible.  And I slow down. (Oops, did I already mention that?)

Apparently though, I began to settle into the run because as I got closer to home, I made the decision to run a little farther (despite my crap attitude) than I had originally planned. I had realized that it was going to be one helluva long winter if I was going to be grumbling miserably already. I thought back to last winter. What were some of the things that I actually liked about winter runs? Was there anything?

Amazingly, I discovered,  there were a few things I actually loved about winter running.

5.  Winter running clothes are pretty cute (and black running tights, which I wear all the time, make my legs look rather toned.)

4.  Winter cross-training activities are a blast. Snowshoeing anyone?

3.  Running while it is lightly snowing is incredibly peaceful and beautiful.

2. Moonlight runs on a calm winter’s night are some of the most soul-soothing runs,      EVER.

1. Running outside in Minnesota in the winter is just plain, BADASS.

 And who doesn’t want to be badass?

What about you?

Winter running, love it or leave it?