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.

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Trail time

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As we say in our family, “It ain’t a trail run unless you’re muddy and bloody.” Today’s run delivered both and more…

Still feeling the lingering effects of a ridiculous sinus cold that set in a couple of weeks ago, I headed out on today’s run with no agenda. No set number of miles to complete. No time goals to hit. No anything other than just being outside on this glorious February day. I hopped in my car and headed south, not really even sure of my destination. I ultimately settled on the park that grounds my soul. Every. Single. Time.

The space of time between the snow melt and the new buds of spring gives opportunity to explore new trails, ones far less traveled than the paths that I usually traverse. Trails that are not visible during the overgrowth of summer, had now become visible and invited me in. Sites unseen, I opted out of running for the remainder of my time and instead settled on a fast hike as to enjoy the woods through a new lens. The eagles were soaring and the geese were gathering, honking loudly overhead as I eventually traveled back to the big river in the park.

No time in the woods is ever wasted but some runs are just a little more special than others. Today it wasn’t about the mileage or my mile-per-minute pace, but instead about so much more. I left the park with a grateful heart and a peaceful spirit, in awe of the gift of nature.

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.

 

Calvin’s adventure– So thankful for kind people!

I first published this on August 11, 2012. On December 31, 2015, my sassy, spunky little dog earned his angel wings. RIP Calvin, you will be missed.

Hangin' by a Thread

Calvin, my sassy, stubborn dog!

As I sit down to write this, I am procrastinating going on a run. So far, it’s working great!

Fast forward to three hours later. . .

It dawned on me when I sat down to write this morning that if I could create time to write, I could surely get my butt out there to run. I would probably write better after a head-clearing run anyways, so I got dressed, procrastinated a little more, then finally leashed up my dogs and headed out. I figured I would warm up by walking them and then head back out for a couple more miles.

When I walk my dogs I like to take them to a trail that runs behind the nearby creek– it’s only three blocks from my house. My dogs drag me down the streets until we get to the trail where they know…

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

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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!
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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those times that you think you suck at life. . .

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Me, after a morning meltdown that resulted in me stating that I suck at life. I got over myself pretty quickly and made it to the office–grateful and happy. After all life it too short to be anything else. Right?

This morning, I sucked at life, or at least I thought I did. Thankfully, it was a temporary suckfest that all started when I didn’t follow through with my original morning plan.

I told my husband the night before that I HAD to get up when he did. HAD TO. I wanted to get my run in for the day before the sweltering heat returned. I told him no matter what I said to him in the morning that he should make sure that I get out of bed. He should not listen to any excuses that I may offer on why I am not ready to get out of bed. (And for the record, I am fully aware that it is nobody else’s responsibility but my own, to get out of bed. But that’s beside the point, right?)

Well, the time to arise came and went. When he finally reminded me that I said I was getting up with him so I could run and that the time had definitely passed, I told him that I was going to run later and that I already knew I was going to be sorry that I wasn’t up yet because the heat was going to suck. He replied, “Well, as long as you know.” (Perfect answer, honey, perfect answer.) 

I reset my alarm. A full hour and a half and three snooze button hits later, I rolled out of bed. I had already decided it was going to be a “bun” day for my hair so I wouldn’t need much time to get ready, which was good, because the three snooze hits had really set me back. Then the suck began to snowball. . .

The bun didn’t work. What I had planned to wear didn’t work either. I poured too much milk in my coffee, and I had already started the defeatist self-talk that went a little something like this. . .

“Why didn’t you get out of bed and run? You are lazy. What is wrong with you?”

Which progressed to . . .

“That shirt looks terrible on you and shows your rolls. Yuck, start working harder on your weight loss!”

And kept going. . .

“Why do you have a closet full of clothes that make you look terrible? You supposedly had that all figured out. You need to get better organized.”

And so it went. Two pairs of pants, two hair-dos, six shirts, and three pairs of shoes later I was finally ready to head out the door, a full half-hour later than I needed to be. At least I was dressed and out the door, right?

At some point during the fiasco of the morning, I stopped the madness to check the time, which at that time should have been the time that I was leaving work but I was not yet dressed nor did I have hair that was anywhere near work ready. It was at that point that I said, “WTF, YOU SUCK AT LIFE!” And at the time, I believed it. Dramatic, I know. Ridiculous, yep. Nonetheless, I had went there and it really hadn’t taken that long, after all, I’d only been out of bed for a short time. Suck sure multiplies quickly if you let it.

I sat in that yuck for a minute or two and then took a breath and began to shake it off. I thought for a minute about the struggles that I had this morning and realized pretty quickly that it was no surprise that I had ended up in a mini mental suckfest. Life has been a little bit more intense than normal for me the last couple of weeks. This morning’s meltdown was simply the by-product.

For starters, there have been some big personal and professional happenings in my life, all good thankfully, but these goings on have zapped my energy. All of that has added stress to the usual amount of life stress. The added stress has taken a toll on me mentally. To add to all of that is the constant ebb and flow of grief in my life, which right now, of course, is flowing like a raging river. To top it off, I am trying really hard to cut excess sugar from my diet and to actually follow a running training plan, both of which are new for me. After reflecting, I realized pretty quickly that I did not suck at life (which I knew) but I was simply having a tough morning, which was the result of a few tough weeks. I took a deep breath and focused on the things I was grateful for (at the moment I was grateful that I had a closet full of clothes that fit me so I had options during my meltdown) and extended myself some grace for my shortcomings.

By the time I finally got my butt out the door, my mind was racing. I am a physically, mentally (although not this morning, obviously), and spiritually healthy person with an amazing support system and a stable life. My life is really good and yet I STILL struggle sometimes. Soon, my thoughts wandered to those times in my life that I have not been in a good place. A morning like this could well have triggered some really yucky emotional stuff that could have quickly spiraled out of control. Then, I thought about all of the people that struggle with this every day that are maybe not in a good place. What do they do when they can’t escape the suckiness?

I kept thinking about it while on my commute and soon realized that no matter where you are or what you have going on in your life, there is always a way out of the suck-fest.  I promise you that if you mindfully practice the following, you may begin to see the light at the end of the suck.

To begin with, BREATHE. Yes, BREATHE.  Close your eyes, inhale deeply, hold it in, then exhale forcefully. Repeat this. Again, and again and again.  Then repeat some more. Eventually you will begin to feel calmer. When you are calm, you can think more clearly which creates space for reflection. Besides, breath is a life-giving force, literally. Use it your advantage.

Next, with your newfound clarity, take a moment to REFLECT. Why are you thinking the way that you are? Any changes in your life recently? What is your stress level? Have you been practicing self-care? By taking the time to reflect on the happenings in your life, you should be able to figure out why you are feeling the way you are right now. Be honest with yourself and you will be able to gain some clarity.

After that, take a hardcore GRATITUDE check. The absolute quickest way to get yourself out of a funk is to make a list of all the things in your life that you have to be grateful for. Gratitude is the antidote to self-pity and every single one of us has something to be grateful for. If you can’t think of anything to put on your list, start with this. . . be thankful you have the ability to read this, that you have access to the internet, and that you are breathing.

Lastly, learn the meaning of the word GRACE. Life is hard, so hard sometimes! Most of us though, are doing the best we can with what we have been given. We can’t always choose what happens to us in life but we can choose how we respond to what does. Start by choosing to go easy on yourself. We are all human and we all struggle. Practice showing grace to yourself first and then learn to extend it to others. Eventually, you will find that grace is pretty amazing.

If all else fails, B-R-E-A-T-H-E again and remember that this day is only 24 hours long. You can get through it. For the next few hours, give yourself to permission to sit in your suck and then vow to begin the next day with a fresh perspective. Breathe in the good and breathe out the suck. Sleep it off, and the next day, start anew. Life is just too short and amazing to let it be otherwise.