Because I run. . .

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(Language warning.)

Because I run. . .

As I was slogging through my morning run today in this ridiculously toasty weather, I found myself lamenting about my current condition. I was hot, thirsty, my legs were feeling rather log-like, and I was kind of whiny. I was only a little over a mile in when I began thinking. . .

“Running is so hard.”

“This is so damn hard.”

“My legs felt worse today than a week ago when I was out for hours on an extremely tough trail.”

“NO WONDER people always talk about how they want to run, or used to run, or have tried to run–but it’s just TOO HARD, so they don’t.“

Dang, I get it. I get what they are saying. Running is hard. So hard sometimes. Running is one of the hardest things that I have done in my life, especially when I was taking those first steps years ago or on the days like today, when, for a million reasons or none, the run is damn hard.

Knowing I just had a couple of miles to go, I vowed to suck it up and get over myself. I remembered that I would be done soon, and I’d be relaxing on my porch. “Yeah, running is hard,” I thought, “but that hardness is temporary.”

T-E-M-P-O-R-A-R-Y.

As I kept running and working to get a better perspective about my current temporary condition, the words of a dear friend popped into my head. She once said, “Running is easy, it’s life that is hard.” (This is coming from a woman eats 20-mile training runs for breakfast, mind you.) For the rest of my run, I thought about those words. My mindset shifted immediately. She was so right. Running is easy. Life is hard. So fucking hard sometimes.

Job loss, cancer, mental illness, chronic pain, chronic illness, poverty, hunger, racism, sexism, sexual violence, divorce, homelessness, domestic violence, trauma, miscarriage, child abuse, emotional abuse, aging, addiction, separation, depression, anxiety, recovery, loss, death, grief, and all of the other hard things that life brings. That shit is hard. SO. FUCKING. HARD.

Running. . . yeah, that’s the easy stuff.

Running is what has created space in me to be able to face the hard things. I know in my heart that if I hadn’t become a runner when I did, I wouldn’t be writing this now. I’m pretty sure I’d be curled up in a corner, a sobbing, gooey mess most days. But, I’m not–because, I run.

I can be brave. I can face life’s challenges, even when I don’t want to–because I run.

I can grow from my struggles and be a better human. I can heal from the hard shit–because I run.

Because I run. . .

Who are you? What can you do. . . because you run?

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Illness and surrender

January 14, 2018

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Day bazillion of a wicked painful sinus infection that has left me very puffy and exhausted. I haven’t ran in a week and I’m kind of going crazy but trying really hard to be patient with the healing process.

Yesterday I surrendered to the Minute Clinic and finally got a healthy dose of antibiotics. It had been a ridiculously long time coming. If I’m being honest, I have been feeling rundown for the last several months, it just happened to be that December 12, 2017, was the day my body said, “I give up. I’m taking you hostage until you get your shit together.” Unfortunately, it has taken me until now to get it together. Well, mostly get it together.

It all started with a gastrointestinal bug that took eight days (as opposed to my usual two days) to “recover” from. After the bug, I had a window of a few days where things were looking up. Then, the frigidness set in on the holiday weekend. My nose got stuffy, my throat got raw, and my overall rundownedness flared again. I chalked it up to the weather, crappy holiday eating, and a long pre-Christmas week at school. But alas, I was wrong. A sinus cold soon set in and I spent the last days of 2017 sucking on cough drops like they were candy, with a box of kleenex attached to my hip to catch all the drips. By the new year, I thought I was over the hump. I was so crazy wrong, AGAIN.

Nine days ago, the sinus cold morphed into a full-blown, wickedly painful infection. I thought it would subside in a couple of days so I loaded up on OTC painkillers and toughed out the days. Instead, it got worse. Way worse. Until I just needed it to not be worse anymore. So, I surrendered. And I went to the clinic, something I rarely do. (Besides, my very wise friend gently suggested that it was probably time for antibiotics. And she is a nurse so I figured I better listen.)

Today, I impatiently wait for the antibiotics to begin working their magic. I’m staying in bed all day and doing a whole lot of soul-searching. The pain is annoyingly present but I’ve cut back on the OTC drugs, so I’m pretty sure I’m getting better, even though it doesn’t quite feel like it yet. The doctor said in 2-3 days I should be 50% better.  I can’t freaking wait, although right now, I’m having a hard time believing what she said will come true.

Through it all, I’ve been thinking a lot about the lessons of the last month. While I am extremely grateful to be a healthy person most of the time and while I know that my current state is temporary, I can no longer dismiss being ill for a month as no big deal. I do that a lot, try to pass things off as not important because what I have going on isn’t a big deal in the big picture of life, and it isn’t. Until it is. And I need to stop doing that. One month of being ill is something that shouldn’t be dismissed. I know that now. At least I’m working on believing it.

Physical pain shuts me down mentally so I’ve been in my own little bubble for the last week, saving every ounce of mental and physical energy for the most urgent of things. I’m kind of exhausted from being exhausted BUT from this moment on, right now, I’m vowing to listen to my body when it begins to whisper to me, instead of waiting until it is desperately screaming at me to pay attention. Self-care should always, always, always be our first priority and I know that. But so often, it isn’t. And we have a billion excuses as to why taking care of ourselves shouldn’t be a priority. And the majority of the time all the reasons are bullshit. 

So, while I’m healing, I’ll be refocusing and I will be working on making my health-mind, body, and spirit–a priority. ONCE AND FOR ALL. No more half-hearted attempts or making up excuses. For starters, I’m going to try very hard to manage unhealthy stress (which involves not taking on things that are not mine to take on), to clean up my eating, and to make rest a priority.  I am not exactly sure how I am going to wholeheartedly accomplish this yet, but I’m going to be working on it. Very fucking relentlessly. (Incidentally, this will likely entail a mental unraveling of sorts so stay tuned for more on this matter. Insert evil laugh here. Muhahahaha.)

How about you? Has every viral illness of this weird winter knocked you down? If so, why do you think that is? What are your best wellness tips? What are your best excuses?What do you do for self-care? (Sorry, bubble baths, wine, retail therapy and all of the other fluffy things don’t count.) What changes do you need to make in your life to move forward in a way that is more healthy for your mind, body, and spirit? What whispers should you be listening to? What is stopping you?

A gratitude adjustment

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Frosty hair and eyelashes on my first run of 2018. That stuff happens when it feels like 20 below. 

January 1- First Run of the New Year

I hit the trails today for the first time in weeks. It didn’t matter that the “feels like” temp was -20, ALL of my being just needed to be outside and moving, regardless of the weather or how I felt. (Multiple illnesses kept me down during the last half of December and I’ve not had the greatest of attitudes about it. Believe me when I say I NEEDED this time on the trails.)

The run was hard. The trails that I know so very well are now snow-covered, which added an extra element of challenge to the journey. At times, I struggled to find my breath in the icy-cold air. My legs, far from being at full-strength after minimal workouts over the last few weeks, felt like jelly after only a couple of miles. I was dressed in multiple layers, which kept me toasty warm, but the layers also made it difficult to move.

Midway through the run, I was struggling a bit. My outer layer of pants was twisting and it was irritating the crap out of me, not to mention making it even more difficult to keep pace. I found myself starting to get whiny but then I looked up for some reason and the sun hit my face. Even though it was frigid out, the sun was so warm on my skin. I stopped for a moment to soak it in, extremely grateful for that moment. Then, after a minute, I decided to fix my pants the best I could, but more importantly, I decided to fix my bad attitude.

Instead of being upset about trivial things like twisty pants and jelly legs, I decided to get over myself and just be grateful for all the glorious things I had going for me. I was grateful that I had legs that could feel my twisty pants and grateful that I had legs that could move, despite their current jelly-like state. I was grateful for my usual good health and grateful that my current illness, while annoying, is only temporary. I was grateful for the sun, And the snow. And the opportunity to be there, in the woods, at that moment, soaking up all of God’s beautiful creation.

I finished my run, twisty pants and all. It was far from fast or spectacular, but I left the woods feeling rather bad-ass anyways for getting out there and getting it done. And, of course, feeling grateful for the opportunity to do so.

Cheers to 2018. I will be striving to greet each day a grateful heart for all that life brings.

Do unto others

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Snapped this pic in the bus station bathroom shortly before my eventful lunch.

It was a beautiful late spring day in June and I was comfortably nestled into my cozy little outdoor table at a corner pub on Pearl Street.  I’m sipping my beer while waiting for my food and I’m people watching, marveling in the incredible eclectic-ness of this place. Locals, tourists, business folk, hippy-looking musicians of all ages, young families, wanderers, and homeless persons–strategically positioned amongst the high-end retail shops–crowd the old brick street mall. An early 20-something lady down the way is belting out an acoustic rendition of House of the Rising Sun. Her sweet, crisp voice echoes over the crowds. In the 30 minutes that I’ve been here, I’ve heard her sing this song twice, and nothing else. I wonder if it’s the only song she knows. . .

My attention soon turns to what appears to be a  homeless man. He is wearing a plain white tee that seems particularly white given the rest of his disheveled demeanor. The man in the plain white tee is harassing one of the city gardeners that is watering the meticulously groomed blooming baskets that line the street. The harassment began rather quietly but has definitely become more audible in the last few minutes.

My perfectly blackened turkey burger with equally as perfect deep-fried sweet potato fries has arrived. I take a bite of burger, then a fry, then a sip of beer. I eat and I sip and I listen and I watch.  At first it seems that the guy in the plain  white tee might be intoxicated or on drugs, but as I listen to him continue to verbally assault the gardener, (who he thinks, from what I can gather, purposefully got a splash of water in his eye) it becomes pretty obvious that the guy in the plain white tee is likely a person struggling pretty badly at the moment with mental illness.

The tension mounts. The bewildered gardener, who had been doing a splendid job of not engaging with the increasingly agitated man, walks off to continue watering the blooms. The man in the plain white tee continues ranting loudly to whoever will listen.  Now, he’s kinking the gardener’s hose, stopping most of the water flow, while continuing to yell.  For real. This is shit that you can’t make up, ya know. I eat and I sip and I listen and I watch. Not quite believing what I am seeing and hearing, but knowing that the situation is very real.

By now, I’m worried about the man in the plain white tee. I’m worried about the gardener. I’m worried about all of the unaware folks that are aimlessly walking through the mall. My years of emergency trauma training have kicked my brain into high gear. I contemplate if there is anything that I can safely do to alleviate the tension. I know that there likely isn’t, at least for the moment, so I continue to quietly observe.

The men seated next to me have been watching as well, although with a much different lens than me.  I had listened while they quietly mocked the man in the plain white tee. At one point, as the tension was mounting, one of the men got out his phone and stated that he’s going to be ready to video, “because this shit is going to go viral.”  For real. Again, shit you can’t make up. 

The heartlessness of the viral video men had me fuming. Even though they were wrapped up in the scene being created by the man in the plain white tee and not super aware of me, I made sure to glare them both down anyways, with the best angry resting bitch face I could muster, prepared to publicly shame them loudly if they dared to hit the record button. At about that same time, another diner said something unkind about the man in the plain white tee to the wait staff. I regaled him with my best angry resting bitch face as well.

The intensity of the situation began to wane, although it was only because the gardener had moved further down the mall. The man in the plain white tee had followed. Still yelling. Still kinking the hose. Still very much out of control. Thankfully, not long after they had moved from the pub area, a police officer arrived and was doing his best to kindly de-escalate the situation. I eat and I sip and I listen and I watch. I’m sad and angry and wondering about so many things at the moment. 

Suddenly, a loud yell comes from somewhere else in the mall. I look up in time to see a very large man wearing a hockey jersey, wielding a hockey stick, and yelling all sorts of obscenities into the crowd–he’s very obviously in the grips of a mental illness as well. I quickly say a prayer for him and for the man in the plain white tee and for all of the passers-by. I pray that no one will be physically hurt, especially the little ones and the elderly that are in the presence of these men.

My heart was so heavy. I wanted nothing more than to bring those men someplace where they would be safe, and medicated, and have the chance to get well. I knew nothing of their stories yet I knew that whatever their stories were, they had to be painful for them as well as for the people that loved them. I wondered what I could have done differently in the moment other than say a prayer and angrily glare the assholes down that wanted to film the next viral video. My thoughts soon shifted to lamenting about how far our society has sunken and I couldn’t help but wonder when we started seeing each other as the next viral video instead of as human beings?  When did this become normal? And, most importantly,  why the fuck are we okay with it?

I could write volumes more on all of this, especially because I am a  sociological geek that loves to theorize and research and study human beings and society but really, it all just comes down to this one thing for me–the Golden Rule.  You know, do unto others.  Nearly every religion in the world has its own version of this guideline for life but who wholeheartedly lives by it? We love to preach it but do we ever truly practice? What if we just loved and accepted each other as human beings? Simple as that.  

For now, though, I’ll leave you with this thought. . .

What if, in 2018, we all made a New Year’s resolution to humbly do unto others? Can you imagine what this world would be like? I guess that would mean instead of me glaring down the guys next to me with my best angry resting bitch face and judging them harshly on their lack of humanness, I would lean in and say, “Hey, maybe we should do something to help that guy in the plain white tee? It looks like he’s having a pretty rough day.”

Shalom, my friends. I’m challenging myself to be a much better human in 2018. Who’s with me?

 

 

A wellness journey evolving

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Me, five minutes after waking on the morning after a four-day holiday feeding frenzy.  Yes, I felt as rough as I looked. At one point I would have been so shame-filled about my overindulging that I never could have posted a picture like this. Not anymore. I’ve evolved. I know that most of the time I choose well. My worth is not defined by a temporary lapse in judgment. And neither is yours.

It occurred to me last night as my body was going into its post-four-day-holiday-feeding-frenzy total meltdown, that I realized that I really missed (and need to be) blogging about all the things health and wellness that I used to when I began my fitness journey nearly six years ago. So, here I am, back at it, determined to keep writing.

Six years. For real. It’s been that long. It was a journey that began with me just wanting to lose weight. Instead, it has evolved into a journey that I never could have imagined. One that has had me rejoicing on mountaintops to painfully falling on my face (literally), more than once, mind you. From taking life for granted to learning to navigate the grief and challenges that accompany a devastating loss of life. From not being able to run a mile to running marathons. And a whole lot of other things along the way including people. Amazing people have come into my life. Each twist, turn, celebration, and fall from grace that this journey has brought me on has been an opportunity to grow in strength, patience, courage, grace, humility, joy, and so much more. I am grateful for all of it. 

As with every departure from writing regularly that I’ve taken, it always feels a little awkward hopping back in. I always feel the need to recap the gaps in painstaking detail and catch y’all up to speed but that usually turns into a novel that ends up completely emotionally draining me mainly because I haven’t written for so long and I have so much to get out. (Most of the time–for a million reasons or none– I end up not hitting the publish button anyways! Ugh!) Naturally then, because of the mental angst,  I don’t write again for a very long time because it was so hard to write the last time. Which ironically doesn’t make much sense because writing is one of the things that I need to practice as part of my core-level self-care routine so, in theory, I should be keeping up with it. But, I don’t. Then I get caught in my own vicious cycle of feeling bad about things I should be doing to keep myself well but fail to do. Soon, because of my failure to do what I need to do for myself, the shitstorm of shame begins. (For the record, it’s a ridiculously vicious cycle to get caught up in as shame can wreak havoc in a person’s life. And as a side note in this parenthetical note. . .  I know that I’m not alone in this as I am guessing a whole lot of you reading this have your own shitstorm of shame stories to share when it comes to health and wellness. Life is a treat sometimes, isn’t it?)

So, I’ll spare you all the gory details of my hiatus and just recap the highlights of the last couple of years for you, in bulleted form. (Things always seem easier to digest in bullet form, don’t they? Also, I have managed a couple of yearly updates during this time so some of this might be familiar to a few of you. )

  • Since my first DNF (Did Not Finish) on my first attempt at a 50k race in September of 2015, I’ve failed two subsequent times, once in 2016 and once in 2017. Although there is a part of me that cringes when I think about those failed attempts, I’ve grown immensely as a runner from each experience. Considering six years ago at this time I literally could not run a block, the fact that I’ve attempted 50k’s seems like a freaking miracle. I’m trying really, really hard to celebrate how far I have come on my running journey, despite the many setbacks.
  • In 2016, amidst a whole lot of life-changing experiences, the old fat girl tapes started replaying in my head during a particularly tough long run.  “What are you doing? Fat girls don’t run. What are you trying to prove? You aren’t a real runner. Real runners don’t take walk-breaks. Look at those thin fast runners whizzing by you. Why are YOU out here?” And on and on it went in my head for miles. It took me over a year to get to the root of that break-down. Again, like my race failures,  I learned greatly from that experience although if truth be told,  it still haunts me a bit. 
  • I’ve discovered over the past couple of years that writing, practicing yoga, and trail-running are my essentials for my optimal mind, body, and spirit wellness. I need them all to thrive, to breathe. Unfortunately, I don’t practice what I need to. Although I run several times a week, I don’t always get to the trails, which is what soothes my soul. Writing and yoga? Well, they are sparse, but I know that I need them as much as I need to run.  I haven’t figured out what is exactly stopping me from doing what I need to do for myself, although I have a pretty good idea. (Hint, likely relates to the old fat girl tapes mentioned above and there is definitely NOT space to unpack that baggage in this post.) I can, however, wholeheartedly say that I am working on it all. 
  • With the exception of falling off the wagon briefly over the last few days only to eat meatballs and a bit of bacon (my brother and uncle both make incredibly delicious meatballs that I will never pass up and then, of course, there’s bacon, because bacon) I’ve stopped eating red meat and I really don’t miss it. At all. In fact, I feel better NOT eating red meat. Now, if I could just stop eating sugar. . .
  • Although I doubt that I’ll ever follow a completely vegan or vegetarian diet, I will be incorporating more and more vegan recipes into my diet. It is crazy how good food tastes when it’s not laden with a bunch of animal products. During the holiday feeding frenzy we baked/cooked/made the following vegan recipes:
    • Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting. It was decadent and was seriously one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever eaten. (Okay. A chocolate frosted cake is not really a healthy option ever, vegan or not. Just wanted to acknowledge that.)
    • Green-Bean Casserole. You know the kind with the crispy fried onions. Instead of the crappy canned cream-of-something soups, we used a recipe that made a cream of almond milk, garlic, vegetable broth, and a bit of flour. In my opinion, it was much better than the original version.
    • Vegan Monkey Bread. I must admit, I was a bit skeptical when we decided on this recipe, but WOW, I was blown away by the taste. While this was still a sugar-laden treat, applesauce replaced the butter making it a better option. It was incredible!
    • Vegan Waffles. Just as fluffy and delish as regular waffles.
    • Vegan Wheat Bread. Five ingredients. Bam. So good.
  • When I began my weight-loss journey in 2012, my original goal was to lose 100 pounds, a goal that I didn’t come close to reaching. I have, however, lost 70 pounds and kept it off for over five years. Although I know now that my original goal was likely one that was a little too lofty, I do have a solid 20 pounds that I want to be gone, not because I don’t like the way I look, but because I know that I will feel better and be able to move faster and farther. I’ve already unpacked all of the reasons and excuses as to why I’ve remained plateaued, and details aside, it comes down to the fact that I’ll need to return to the hard work of being mindful about what I eat (like when I began) and to commit to not being lazy about my choices. Because I am very active, it has been relatively easy to keep the weight off. Easy is lazy. Lazy is comfortable and fun. It’s easy for me to eat chocolate cake and then run it off. It’s not easy for me to NOT eat the chocolate cake and still go for a run. Flawed? Of course. Am I working on it? Slowly but surely.
  • I’ve learned that health and wellness are SO MUCH MORE than just diet and exercise. True health and wellness come when we are taking care of our WHOLE selves–body, mind, and spirit. Please know that self-care is not selfish. In fact, self-care is essential for life. When you believe that you are worthy of taking care of yourself, you will begin to experience life in a beautifully different way. It was when I was finally able to accept and love all 250 pounds of myself, as is, and then embrace all of my lived experiences wholly for what they were–nothing more, nothing less–was I able to commit to loving and taking care of myself. I’m still a work in progress and always will be. I’m okay with that now. I wasn’t okay with that when I began this journey.
  • I have learned that wherever you are at in your quest for better health, you are never alone. There is a wonderful health and wellness community out there, loving and supportive folks that will have your back. Find people that will be there for you along the way, people that will be there for you to help you through the struggles as well as celebrate wildly with you when you reach your goals. Be accountable. Don’t fall for the plethora of weight loss and health gimmicks available. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Be patient with the journey. Remember that you are worth it. You will gain a much better perspective on life when you stop beating yourself up. I know this from experience.

So, that’s mostly it in a neatly bulleted nutshell! And, I decided as I was writing this that I am not setting resolutions for the upcoming new year, as I do every year, instead, I’m setting them now: write often, run a lot, do yoga, evolve. Sounds like a tee-shirt. Maybe I should get one made.

P.S. Although I will hold myself accountable for my goals, accountability partners are always appreciated! What intentions are you setting for yourself when it comes to health and fitness? Share if you like!

P.S.S. THANK YOU to every single person that has been a part of my journey over the last almost six years. There are so many of you! I have treasured all of the runs, walks, talks, hugs, tears, recipes, challenges, workouts and everything else along the way. And I am looking forward to so much more of all of it!

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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

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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. . . 

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

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or this,

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or this,

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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?

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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.