Here’s to new friends, giant suitcases, and inspiring runs. . .

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(August 2014). As I stood in the chute waiting for my teammate to arrive, I wondered for a minute how I got here, to THIS very moment in my running journey. Dick Dale’s Misirlou was blasting from the speakers (BTW, one of the greatest songs ever https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIU0RMV_II8), people were cheering, and I was about to take off on a six-mile jaunt, in the sizzling hot midday sun, the first six of the 16 miles I would be responsible for in the next 24 hours or so. I was excited and nervous, not because I didn’t think I was up for the challenge, but because for the first time I was running with a team–a team of runners I barely knew. There were times I thought I might explode with nervousness (or maybe it was the carb overload I had going) but nonetheless, I knew I HAD to finish each leg of my journey to the best of my ability. There was no room in my head for letting my team down. I was prepared for blood, sweat, tears, and crawling, if needed, to finish each of my legs of the relay. . .

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(August 2016) I wrote those words two years ago, in the hangover stage (the hangover stage is the day after Ragnar ends and even though you are glad to be home, you can’t stop thinking about all the fun you had and you wish that you were back in the van for just a while longer) that occurs post-Ragnar. If you aren’t sure what Ragnar is, I lifted the official words from their website for you.

What is Ragnar?

Here’s what we do: long distance, team, overnight running relays that take place in the most breathtaking places in the world. Teams come together to conquer a course over two days and one night, and push their limits, on little amounts of sleep, with friends and a community of runners by their side.

In reality, or at least in Van Two of the Rusty Nuts team, Ragnar is 36 hours of six people crammed into what becomes a very smelly van over the course of two days. Sleep is minimal, hygiene is ridiculously sketch, and Wisconsin cheese curds suddenly become a food group of their own. F-bombs may or may not be dropped frequently and we have an arsenal of Van Two inside jokes that will live on for eternity.

As for the actual running, we journey just over 200 miles with our other six teammates, all taking turns on pre-assigned legs of the course. Each runner is responsible for three runs, including running overnight. The course is challenging, the weather unpredictable and often unforgiving. The mental and physical challenge of running with little sleep, no recovery time, and at least in our case, terrible fueling (said cheese curds for example) adds to the overall toughness of the event. At times, this race can be downright brutal. I’ve been near tears, thrown up (cheese curds and pizza and then ran for another eight miles in the dark), fallen face first on concrete in the middle of the night, been swooped by a bat, and currently, it’s extremely challenging for me to sit down and stand-up due to leg muscles that are screaming, “What the hell did you just do to me?” There is not a single mile that I could have logged without the support and care of my teammates. 

But, back to the beginning. When I first started writing about my very first Ragnar in August of 2014 (a bucket-list run for me) I had just completed that journey with people that I barely knew. In fact, I didn’t meet most of the Rusty Nuts until about a week before our first run. I figured that Ragnar would be a one and done. I’d have this fun experience with some cool people and then I’d check it off my bucket list and move on. Except, that’s not what happened. That’s not what happened at all. Two years and three Ragnars later, our team has morphed from a mismatched group of strangers that love to run into a little running community of great friends that love to run. That’s a pretty cool thing in my book.

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And now it’s 2017 (Yes, it’s taken me three years to write this.) After running in 2014, 2015, and 2016, for a multitude of reasons, the Rusty Nuts took a year off from Ragnar in 2017. The fact that our team stayed intact for those three years was a little miracle in itself (we only had one person drop from our original team after the first year.) At first, I was okay and ready for a break,  but as the months went on, I realized that I missed this race–A LOT. Really, a lot.

As far as running races go, the fact that I miss this race so much doesn’t make sense. For starters, the race is mostly on the road. It’s always hotter than hell. We get virtually no sleep, we eat crappy food and are stuck in a van for hours upon hours. And the smell. Oh, the smell!

What it is though, is simply this. It’s the people. The TEAM. This group of people that were strangers to me just over three years ago have become like family, a little running family.  I cannot imagine my life right now not knowing any of them. Crazy isn’t it? I am so grateful for every mile that we have run together over the years. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all you Nuts! I am looking forward to every single mile that we will run in 2018.

 

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2015 Rusty Nuts
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After Van Two’s finish in 2016.

 

 

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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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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.

 

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.

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Beauty of a look , I know. And yes, the white behind me is blowing snow.
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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?

Reflections on a 100-plus day run streak

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Me! After my 100th day run!

I’ve been streaking now for 100 118 days. . . (I fully intended to finish this on day 100 but fell asleep while writing. Over two weeks later, I am finally getting back to it.)

Inspired by the Runner’s World Magazine’s challenge (http://www.runnersworld.com/tag/rwrunstreak) to “run at least one mile per day, every day, from Memorial Day to Independence Day” (40 consecutive days of running), I set out on my streak journey on May 26, 2014. Those 40 days flew by, and before I knew it, Independence Day had come and gone. I am not sure when or why, but at some point I made the decision to keep streaking until I could streak no more. Here I am, 118 days later, still going strong.

As I was on my 100th-day run, I reflected upon my streaking journey. Even though I hadn’t thought about it much, I suddenly became very aware that I had grown as a runner over the last few months (for somebody that struggled to run a mile just over two short years ago, this is a pretty big deal) but even more so, I had grown as a person (for somebody that works hard at being a better human, this is even a bigger deal.) Despite the difficulties of this streak, I am so completely grateful for every step, both literally and figuratively, of the journey so far.

Here are a just few of the realizations I’ve had about the last few months. . .

   1.  I have gained the confidence to run in shorts, in public, in front of people. As a former overweight, eating-disordered person with body image issues, I cannot explain to you in this short blog what this means to me. The funny thing is, I don’t weigh much less than I did last shorts season but the confidence I have gained from running every day has given me the courage to run in shorts and more importantly, to be totally okay with however I look or wherever I jiggle. Perhaps though, most importantly, is the fact that somewhere over those 100 days I finally gave up being concerned about what others might think of my less than perfect, bright white, jiggly legs, and I just run. I just run! For a person like me, this kind of freedom is incredible.

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That’s me, in the green shirt and hat, with the bright white legs, (incidentally, I am the tannest I have ever been! other redheads get this) excitedly waiting for my awesome Ragnar teammate to hand-off. At one time in my life, this picture would have mortified me. Thankfully, those days are behind me.

 2.  Running every day has made me mental rockstar. There are some of you reading this that know EXACTLY what I mean when I say this. Even though there are days that I only run for a mile, the discipline of getting out there–regardless of what is going on in my head or my heart–forces my mental muscles to do work. And we all know what happens when we do work, we get stronger. Some days I use every ounce of mental muscle that I have just to just physically get through my run and other days I use my run time to reflect, plan, create, grieve, pray, give thanks, and gain focus. Then, there are some days when I just let my mind run free and I focus on soaking up every drop of beauty surrounding me. A couple of weeks ago, I even ran through a full-blown, grief-fueled anxiety attack. 4.7 miles later I was feeling fine and was grateful for the ability to overcome. (More on that run at a later date.) Being a mental rockstar doesn’t mean I don’t have struggles–because obviously I do have big ones–but having the mental capacity to deal with them and still thrive is something that I cherish.

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The wildflowers on the trails this year have been absolutely breathtaking. My favorites are the less than perfect ones–ones that despite their imperfections, still stand tall and proud–like these beauties here. Some days when running I soak up every single ounce of beauty surrounding me. Being in nature clears my head and soothes my soul.

3.  Running every day has made me physically stronger. I suppose that almost goes without saying right? That moving every day would make a person stronger? I am not the fastest or lightest on my feet but I can move for hours when I need to. Knowing this gives me the confidence to tackle physical challenges that I wouldn’t have previously. Which leads me to the next thing. . .

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Me, earlier this summer, standing at the top of one of the hills in one of my favorite places to run. At one time, I couldn’t make it to this point in the trail without stopping several times to gasp for air. Now? I can run to this point, without stopping, a feat I never thought possible.

4.  Running every day has given me the confidence to tackle physical challenges that I wouldn’t have had the courage to say yes to previously. Case in point. . .Ragnar. It has been just over a month since I had the amazing experience of being part of a Ragnar team. (In a nutshell, we relay ran 204 miles over two days.) I got the call to join when a last minute vacancy came up on a team of local runners, most of whom I did not know. Even though I was extremely nervous, hadn’t been training for the running I would need to do, and had a desperate need not to let a team full of strangers down, I still knew that I could do it. I had been logging the miles and had the mental strength to complete the challenge which enabled me to muster the courage to say yes. I am happy to report it was one of the very best yesses I have uttered. (More on this awesome, life-changing journey at a later date as well.)

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This is the amazing Ragnar team that I am SO completely grateful to have been part of! You get to know people very quickly when stuck in a van with them for 36+ hours. I woke up the day after, clean and comfy in my own bed, wishing I was back in the van. Yep, it was that good. Can’t wait to do it again. RUSTY NUTS, WE ROCK!

5.  Running every day has given me the opportunity to get to know my body well. I have learned when I can keep pushing myself and when I need to back off. I have learned when to step up the miles and when to ease off. I have learned how to hydrate and fuel my body for longer runs and have learned that I won’t die without water on the shorter ones. I have learned that some days my body feels like I’m young and other days, it feels like what I imagine it would feel like to be really old. Some days I feel like it’s my first day running, and other days, my I feel like I could go on forever. Every time I run, I learn something new about my body and its capabilities. Knowing my body’s strengths and weaknesses is empowering.

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Here I am with my beautiful Aunt Lori, who also happens to be one of the people that inspired me to start running in the first place. She got to join me in a hometown race this summer. It was during this race that I FINALLY was able to achieve my goal of breaking 30 minutes for a 5k. Running every day gave me the strength to push myself to do better than I had ever done before.

Although this journey has had many challenges so far, and despite the fact that I can procrastinate a run for hours (for instance, I have been dragging out the writing of this all morning), I have yet to regret a single run. EVER. Besides. . .the benefits have far outweighed the challenges. As of now, I have no plans to stop streaking. I guess I’ll know when the time has come, but until that day is upon me, I plan to make the most of every single mile and give thanks every step of the way. And now, I’m off to run. . .

Staying present when life gets crazy

Hello Blog, it has been a while. . .

Not the first time I’ve written those words on these pages for the world to see and probably won’t be the last. Luckily I don’t blog for a living. Whew!

My hiatus from the blogosphere started unintentionally, of course. Then one day, I realized that it had been a while since I had written. By then I had so many things on my mind to write that I didn’t know where to begin.

So, I didn’t.

Then, the pile in my mind of things to write got bigger and bigger.

And I became a little lot overwhelmed.

So, I stopped. . .

And I wondered why I was struggling to create space in my life for something that I love to do?

Then, I realized. . .

Sometimes life comes at us so fast that we barely have time to breathe. It’s in those crazy times that we need to just hang on and stay present so we don’t miss a thing.

So, I did. . .

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And a funny thing happened when I simply stayed present–in the midst of this crazy, amazing, beautiful, chaotic time–space had been created for awakening, change, and growth in my life. The uncomfortableness I wrote about a couple of months ago? Yeah, well, it settled in, created some angst, then finally allowed me to follow my heart and to make some tough changes. Even though some things have been messy, I have had faith all along that I am heading in the right direction. After all, God has yet to lead me astray.

Staying present throughout the insanity of the last few months has also allowed me to fully embrace the life I have before me and the person I have become. Life is SO completely different than I could have ever imagined it could be. As much as I have tried to compartmentalize my life, especially when it comes to writing about it, I can’t. Life for me isn’t about family, or friends, or faith, or grief, or joy, or loss, or running, or serving, or weight loss, or healing, or even about orphans in Uganda. My life is about ALL of those beautiful things wrapped into one. Even though there are parts of my life I would have never chosen, I couldn’t be more grateful for the beauty that has risen from the ashes. I have come to fully understand that life is truly what we choose to make it. We can’t change what happened a second ago, let alone yesterday, and we surely cannot, with any sort of certainty, know what the future has in store for us. We only have now. So, take a deep breath, stay present, and hang on for the glorious ride. You won’t want to miss one crazy, amazing, beautiful, messy, awesome moment of this incredible life.

 

 

A 15-tune, hard-rockin’, bad-a@@ playlist to fuel your workout

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It happened almost magically one extremely blustery Saturday afternoon late last November. I had been putting off getting ready for a run most of the day when the weather suddenly tanked, big-time. UGH. Not ready to face the frigid temps and gale force winds, which ironically would be no big deal at this point in the winter, I found myself forced indoors for a workout. (Yes, I understand that the word “forced” is a bit dramatic and in the grand scheme of life–who really cares–but, when running in the great outdoors is something you depend on for your health and sanity– yes, I mean that literally–this WAS a big deal to me. And no judging because I know some of you totally get where I am coming from here.)

At one time, I was a diehard workout-only-to-music person but over the last six months or so, I had gotten away from running with the tunes constantly pounding in my head. I had become accustomed to running sans music and had learned to appreciate the sounds of my feet pounding the pavement instead. I now crave silence and solitude on my runs but a workout indoors, that was completely different story. There was NO way I was getting through that kind of workout tune free! It, quite frankly, doesn’t seem possible to me.

Because I had spent most of the day “preparing” for my run, my motivation to move was quickly waning. I needed to get on my elliptical ASAP, but I had a major dilemma (again, a bit dramatic, I know.) My 1st generation hand-me-down iPod, on which I had spent years accumulating a wide variety of incredibly awesome music, had been reduced to only playing when attached to a power source. To make matters worse, I had just switched phones had not put any music on my new phone yet. I N-E-E-D-E-D music blasting through ear-buds, not from a stereo, to get through the winter workouts; besides, if I sat down to create my usual type of playlist, it would take hours. I would be done for that day, motivation bye-bye.

I scrambled to my phone and decided to see what I could throw together from my cloud. Much to my surprise, what I created in just a few minute’s time was nothing short of a hard-rockin’, bad-a@@ miracle. I rushed to my elliptical, hit play, and before I knew it, an hour had flown by. This little gem of a list had powered me through a 60-minute workout and I had been only hoping for a 20. What? I know. It rocked that much! I have listened to it on almost every gym workout since that day and I have yet to tire of it. It is a bit of a departure from my usual workout playlists–generally a mix of disco, rock, grunge, new-wave, and Christian rock–but it is apparently what I need to survive this brutal winter indoors. (It also may help to explain the lost, blank look I have on my face when I am at the gym.) Anyways. . .

After my inaugural workout, I knew I wanted to share this mix of mine. If you are looking for something rockin’ and different to workout to, you’ll appreciate these tunes. I even created  a YouTube playlist for your viewing enjoyment (which you can find here http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLJU6PG_tnWuu0rWdLowVnev_Al8T5pg2B). (Incidentally, it did occur to me as I was watching YouTube that this playlist is a little dark, a little hard, and probably is very telling of the dark, hard side of me. Nonetheless, there are some brilliantly catchy guitar riffs, screamy vocals, and great beats. A warning though for all of you 80’s kids like me–you may suddenly find yourself singing wildly into your faux microphone, playing your air guitar, and banging your head. Don’t ask me how I know this, I just do.)

For the record, to anyone that may happen upon this, I am NOT a music critic, so don’t bash unless you have an entirely valid argument. This post is just for fun. Music choices are completely subjective anyways, right? So what is to argue (unless you disagree on #6.) It is also important to note that this list is definitely not all-inclusive of the great hard-rocking songs that I love or would be great to workout to. The beauty of this list is that it came together without a hardly a thought. So, without further adieu (drumroll please), let the magic begin. . .

  1. “Animal I Have Become” by Three Days Grace- Great band. Great song. The second verse says it all. . . “I can’t escape myself. So many times I’ve lied. But there’s still rage inside. Somebody get me through this nightmare.” Have you have been to that place? I have, more than once.
  2. “Bleed It Out” by Linkin Park- I LOVE this band! The tempo on this song is perfect for a runner of my speed, especially when you are struggling and need a pick-me-up. Again, some of the lyrics are pretty spot on. “Bleed it out, digging deeper just to throw it away. . .I’ve opened up these scars. I’ll make you face this. . . I’ve pulled myself so far. I’ll make you face this now.” Sounds to me like somebody was gutting out a long, hard run when they penned these words. Whew.
  3. “Fire Woman” by The Cult- “Fire. Smoke she is a rising.” If you have seen me after a run, you have no doubt noticed that I look quite like a “firewoman” with my red hair, crimson face, and entire body radiating heat like fiery coals from hell. LOVE the guitar melody and the vocals on this song. Plus, the lead singer has very pretty 80’s boy band hair. What’s not to love about that?
  4. “New Year’s Day” by U2– Best. U2. Song. Ever.
  5. “No One Like You” by the Scorpions- Ahh, the 80’s. This band. The guitars. The vocals. The cheesy videos. A little change of tempo with this song. It’s good mid-workout when you need a bit of a breather.
  6. “Rainbow in the Dark” by Dio- Ronnie James Dio had one of the best hard-rocking voices, EVER. (If you argue that one, you are crazy. Just sayin’.) Anyways, the lyrics and guitar are STELLAR. “Do your demons, do they ever let you go? When you’ve tried, do they hide deep inside–is it someone that you know?” Crazy powerful words if you have ever been through some dark times. Consequently, this is one of my favorite songs EVER. (Two-versions on the YouTube list. The “official” video comes nowhere near doing the song justice. The live version is definitely better.)
  7. “Self-Esteem” by The Offspring- Another one of my favorite bands. Seriously, what would the 90’s have been without them? This song may be a little slow for faster runners but works great as a warm-up or cool-down. The video is classic 90’s and the retro Evil Kneivel footage brings me right back to the 70’s. Hello, who doesn’t remember sitting in your living room glued to the television when Evil made his ill-fated Grand Canyon jump?
  8. “Separate Ways” by Journey- My favorite Journey tune. The guitar and the beat make this a great running song. The video, however, is one of the cheesiest videos to emerge from 1980’s. FYI: If you love this song, don’t torture yourself by watching the video. PLEASE!
  9. “Turbo Lover” by Judas Priest- This is my second favorite Judas Priest song even though I can’t decide what my favorite song by this group is. The video is completely creepy but the beat and tempo make this a killer song on the run.
  10. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana- My favorite song by one of the best bands to have EVER rocked the planet. EVER. This song has motivated me on many a dreadmill treadmill run.
  11. “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses– 80’s kids, is it possible to listen to this song and not do a little Axle shoulder sway? I think not. This song is loud, hard, classic, and awesome. You will work a little harder when it’s blasting through your earbuds. I promise.
  12. “Youth Gone Wild” by Skid Row- Another lead singer with pretty 80’s boy band hair. Sigh. This song is hard, heavy, and in your face. Perfect for a workout (or an 80’s keg party, so I’ve heard.)
  13. “The Zoo” by the Scorpions- Yep, the Scorps made the list twice.  LOVE this tune but the video is. . . well, not sure what it is. Definitely not cool, and that IS for sure.
  14. “B.Y.O.B.” by System of a Down- This song is HARD and SCREECHY but has some amazing guitar work and the tempo changes are great for an interval workout.
  15. “Fight for Your Right” by the Beastie Boys- Yes, I saved the best for last. This song is the quintessential teen anthem and it brings me STRAIGHT back to 80’s keg parties high school. Fun fact here for ya– I know every single word to this song and can sing those said lyrics in an incredibly cool faux London/Brooklyn accent. “I’ll kick you outta my home if you don’t cut that hair!” I have solo concerts with myself to this song and you should know that I ABSOLUTELY ROCK! For real. Hence, I apologize profusely in advance to any friends or family members that may be near me if I happen to be in public, have had one too many adult beverages, and this song comes on the jukebox. Just walk away, walk away. It’s really okay. I’ll totally understand in the morning.

How about you? Any awesome running/workout playlists you want to share?