My #wcw

Today’s hashtag is #wcw. For “Woman Crush Wednesday”, a social media trend that invites people to share or tag pictures of women they find attractive or inspirational or whatever. I was looking at some recent photos of myself from my Crossfit gym… for what feels like the first time, I noticed how strong I look.

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For years, I have waged war against my body. I put on a bunch of weight partying my face off in college and when working with a personal trainer and running a little bit didn’t give me the results I wanted as fast as I wanted, I turned to extreme caloric restriction and ramped up my exercise. And I destroyed my physical, mental, and emotional health. I lost so much in pursuit of an arbitrary number. A number that I thought held the key to my happiness… if only I could get there, things would be better. I would be happier.

I became incredibly sick at work one night… but I stayed there because I was afraid to be alone at home in case things got worse. I decided I needed to do something different. I spent the next year working towards recovery.

After I left for grad school, it was all too easy to slip back into old patterns. I was working out 2 or 3 times per day,  not eating enough, and my health started to fall apart again. I knew what I was doing, I knew it wasn’t right, but I felt like I couldn’t stop. I became a vegan in part to save some money and partly because it was a socially acceptable way to restrict myself.

I came home that summer, almost as light and as sick as I had been two years prior. I met with a functional medicine doctor who ran a hormone panel and found that my hormone levels were similar to those of a woman who had gone through menopause. I was 24 years old. Scared that I wrecked my body forever. My dreams of having children someday gone.

I worked with that doctor for the next several months and I’d like to think we made some progress. If nothing else, I started eating adequately again and found a bunch of treatments that didn’t work. I spent the summer in physical therapy for a knee injury, so over-exercising was out of the question and perhaps a blessing in disguise, as devastated as I was to not be able to run.

I started grad school (again) shortly after and it was one of the best things that could have happened to me. I started running again and found Crossfit not long after.

 

I ran my fastest half marathon that spring and the possibility of running a Boston-qualifying time was now more than just a silly pipe dream. It was in reach. I would have to work my ass off, but I could do it. At the same time, I fell in love with Crossfit and pushing myself in ways I never would have before. Prior to both of those things, fitness had been 90% about my weight and what I looked like and what pants size I wore. Now I had goals. Big goals.  Things to work towards. I started caring more about my deadlift weight than my body weight. I started caring more about my mile time and less about my pants size. The Boston Marathon might as well have been the Olympics when I first started running and now there was a chance I could qualify.

If you have read other posts, you might have gathered that I did, in fact, qualify. I’m training for my 3rd Boston this year. And slowly but surely, my priorities are shifting. I still catch myself sliding back towards old habits and a destructive mindset, but I am doing my best to keep my thoughts in check. I love being in the depths of training because I focus so much more on what I am capable of and less what I look like.

I am about 9 weeks out from my race and I am trying to drop a few “vanity pounds” to get down to race weight. As the scale and I have a rough history, I have been so intentional about getting my head in the right place before I step on it. I ask myself if the number I am about to see is actually going to impact my worth as a person. And if the number isn’t what I was hoping for, I then ask myself if I am less worthy now. The answer is always no, but a powerful reminder for me.

Slowly but surely, I am becoming gentle towards myself. I am not only making peace with my body, I’m starting to appreciate all the things it does. The rigorous training it endures, the miles it has carried me. I ask so much of it and it gives me everything it can. I’m starting to appreciate my calves that don’t really fit into skinny jeans, the definition of my quads, my strong shoulders.

It’s not always perfect, but for the first time in years, I can honestly say that I am proud of myself. Proud of my body. I’m my own damn #wcw!

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Mind Games

Some of my hardest runs are the ones that say “easy” in front of them on my training plan.

The long runs are obviously hard as the time on your feet grows longer. The interval work is hard, but they are supposed to be hard. They are supposed to hurt a little bit.

But the ones that say “X miles, easy” are deceptive. They seem like they ought to be easy. What it doesn’t say is “X miles at an easy pace on legs that feel like they have been through a meat grinder”. “X miles at an easy pace on a body that is beat up and tired”. “X miles at an easy pace as you push through mental fatigue”. “X miles at an easy pace, which will take all of your mental fortitude”.

I talk myself into these runs by breaking them up into chunks. “1 hour run and then a 15 minute run”. “2 sets of 40 minutes”. “30 minutes, 20 minutes, and then 10 minutes”. “Just a 10k and a 5k”. I’ll change playlists every 30 minutes to break up the time – “just 2 x 15 minutes per playlist”.

Just to make it seem manageable. To focus on something other than the long lonely miles in front of me.

I felt mentally broken before I even started my long run today. My body hurt, my mindset wasn’t where it needed to be, and I can tell when I am especially unmotivated – I will find literally anything else to do besides run. I’ll starting cleaning out my closet or reorganizing things or taking care of bills or whatever is not running.

There is a great quote by General Patton – “Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

But what if your mind is tired?! How do you push through? Today I broke 21 miles down into 6 miles, 5 miles, 4 miles, 3 miles, 2 miles, and 1 mile. I changed playlists at the beginning of each section. I think it helped. It made me feel like I was making progress and not just running for an eternity.

How do you keep your focus during training?? I’d love to hear your ideas!

How to Train for a Marathon

I tell people that I am training for a marathon and the response is “I could never do that”. For the record, I have also uttered those words and here I am getting ready for my 6th marathon and my 3rd Boston. Never say never.

I am about 10 weeks out from race day and would like to share the wisdom I have gathered over the last few years.

How to Train for a Marathon (11 easy steps!):

1. Let yourself go a little bit insane.

Seriously, it’s easier if you don’t care about your sanity. 3 hours of running on a Sunday? Totally normal. Start saying “just” in front of every distance you run. “Just 20 this weekend”. “Just an easy 8 miles this morning”. “Just a half marathon”.

2. Obsessively check the weather.

Mostly so you can dress yourself. Also, in case you need a backup career.
If it is a rest day, it will probably be perfect running weather.
On a long run day, the wind will be blowing in your face whichever way you are facing, so checking the weather is pointless. Running in the wind is good for your character.

3. Eat all most of the food.

There is an overwhelming amount of information on what you should and shouldn’t eat, when to eat it, and so on. I’m not going to give you more.

Eat food that makes you feel good. Eat enough of it. Marathon training is a convenient excuse to indulge every now and then. Word to the wise – you can actually gain weight marathon training, so perhaps not every pizza needs to be a personal pizza.

4. Buy “fat shoes”.

Ideally in black, so they match everything. Your feet will thank me. Trust me, there will come a day when your feet don’t fit in normal shoes. You will have a new sense of sympathy for pregnant women. I like Sanuk shoes… they are made out of recycled yoga mats and stretch to fit nicely.Image result for stair chair

5. Move into a house with no stairs.

Those things are awful.

Or find yourself a chair lift.

 

 

6. Invest in body glide/aquaphor/your anti-chafing drug of choice.

Apply liberally and often. It’s like sunscreen… you think you have everything covered, and then you find out that your back muscles can get chafed by your sports bra. Surprise!

7. Be prepared to cry a lot.

Because breaking out of your comfort zone and doing something big does not only challenge you physically.Because you are hungry and tired and overwhelmed. Because your feet hurt and you need a nap. You will probably revert to a 3-year-old version of yourself. Your significant other will be thrilled.

9. Buy good shoes and socks. 

This is not negotiable. Unless you like your joints to hurt and you want a bunch of blisters. Go to a running store and get some quality gear. Trust me.

8. Wake up earlier than you want to most days of the week, work harder than you want to, and repeat for 12-20 weeks. 

I’m not going to pretend to be the most motivated person you know. I’m just dedicated. I’ve committed myself to doing this slightly ridiculous thing and I know how bad it hurts if you don’t train. I built a habit. I get up, I run, and that’s just what I do. It’s so much easier if you don’t have to think about it. You just accept it and go. Some days feel great, some days suck a lot, and some days are a little bit of both.

9. Break things into manageable chunks.

It’s not a 12 miler, it’s just two 10Ks. Or a warmup 5k, a 10k, and a cooldown 5k. My last 18 mile run was just three sets of 6 miles. An hour of running is really just 4 sets of 15 minutes. I’ve gotten myself through a lot of awful things this way. Runs, nasty Crossfit workouts, lectures that never seemed to end, long car trips, you name it. Break it down into smaller pieces and tackle the “mini-goal” at hand.

10. Find at least one person who doesn’t think you are insane.

Talk to them often. Let them remind you that you are actually doing a cool thing. Remind yourself that you are actually doing a cool thing.

11. Don’t quit.

Even if you really, really, really, really want to. The finish line is worth it. I have felt completely exhausted and completely invincible at the same time – it’s an amazing experience. And you can ride that glory train for the rest of your life.

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A new season, a less neglected blog

This poor blog. Sits quietly for months and months until I feel inspired to write. It is the first thing to get pushed aside when my life gets busy. It’s a good thing it doesn’t have to be a money maker. Just a place to share and be creative and do the things I enjoy – running, lifting weights, cooking, and talking about those things!

The last few months were no different. I got busy and this blog got pushed aside. I had these epic plans to start a nonprofit organization and it fell through because the other founder and I disagreed on the best way to run it. Everything was ready to go, our first board meeting was scheduled, and it became obvious to me that it wasn’t going to be a smooth ride if we continued.

So then I had this grand idea to start my own business – people ask me for fitness and nutrition advice all the time, so I might as well make a business out of it. And while I really enjoy doing that, I learned that the grind and hustle of starting my own business is perhaps not for me. I don’t want to think about selling myself and building my brand all the time. I know that it is usually for a short period of time, but I am a workaholic and every free moment will be spent “hustling”. And that’s not how I want to live my life.

Fortunately for me, a position opened up in the department that I used to work for/where I did grad school. And they were pretty adamant that I should work there. It’s been wonderful. A little busy and chaotic as I realized that I shouldn’t work two jobs, but things are settling down and it’s great. I’m remembering that I like doing science. I get to be home at night. Things are busy but I have a great team. I have time to run and lift. And write.

I miss writing. Hopefully this new season brings more time to do that. I got my letter from the B.A.A. informing me that I got into the 2017 Boston Marathon and I am so excited to start training for that! So many good things on the horizon for me. Stay tuned 🙂

An Ode to my Slow Cooker

I adore my slow cooker. It’s also a pressure cooker, but the slow cook function gets used way more often. It’s great for long days, it’s a nice way to avoid using the oven and heating up the house, and there are usually fewer dished to wash.

I’m not actually going to write an ode to my slow cooker. I’m not totally crazy. But it has been a life saver. I love coming home to dinner and there are few things as delicious as a slow-cooked roast or pulled pork.

I have this model. It was a birthday gift from my boyfriend and I don’t think he has ever gotten as much out of a gift that he bought for someone else.

Our lives will start getting more insane in a few weeks when school starts and I start my new big kid job and commute a little bit more. So it will be a lot more slow cooking and less time in the kitchen. Which is not a bad thing. I love being in the kitchen and cooking and being creative, but it’s also really nice to have those hours.

Here are my top 10 favorite slow cooker recipes that are always in rotation at my house:

  1. Braised Beef Ragu with Polenta
  2. Crockpot Pulled Pork 
  3. Crockpot Coffee Ancho Chile Short Ribs
  4. Lemon Pepper Chicken
  5. Honey Ginger Apple Shredded Pork
  6. Slow Cooker Pork with Noodles (I use tamari or coconut aminos instead of the soy sauce and sometimes chicken instead of pork)
  7. Crockpot Chicken with Thai Peanut Sauce (Vegetarian/Vegan option)
  8. Slow Cooked BBQ Ribs
  9. Jambalaya
  10. Crockpot Sesame Honey Chicken

What is your favorite slow cooker recipe?

 

Things you learn when you start running

I have only been running for the last 5 years. Prior to that, I only ran if I absolutely had to. Sports practices, mainly. And I was definitely one of the slow ones. I still am one of the slow ones, but now I can run that slow for hours. My forte is a moderate pace for a long time. I’m sure I could get faster if I worked at it… but I don’t like it.

Anyway, I have spent a lot of time on the road in the last 5 years and I have learned a lot about exercise and myself and training and the cities I’ve lived in. I’ve learned important things and trivial things and everything in between.

And then there are things that you only learn when you are a runner:

1. Your own clothing can make you bleed. Seriously, chafing is a nightmare. If you have never heard of BodyGlide, I strongly suggest you look into it.

2. Toenails are overrated. But the people at my nail salon are awesome. I currently have an acrylic toenail to replace one that fell off. It looks real, my feet look slightly less horrible, and I think it is absolutely hilarious to have an acrylic toenail.

3. Some foods and exercise don’t mix. Some people can eat whatever they want before/while they run and it is totally fine. I am not one of those people. I’ll spare you the details.

4. The location of gas stations within a 10 mile radius. And parks with nice bathrooms.

5. Exactly one mile from your house in every direction.

6. Exact distances between arbitrary landmarks. “Hey, it’s only 2.7 miles from here to [insert random location here]!” “This intersection means I’m only 1.35 miles from home!” 

7. You also learn how many people actually have no idea how far a marathon is. I cringe every time someone asks me how long my marathon is. Well, you know, marathon distance. Or when people tell me their sister ran a 5K marathon. With her unicorn, because that exists too.

8.  You learn that you do, in fact, have a favorite flavor of gel. Montana Huckleberry for this girl.

9. How many muscles you use when you walk down the stairs. Because all of them hurt after a race. Especially when that race is a downhill marathon.

10. Weird things you do when you run – according to my latest race photos, my right thumb likes to stay in a “thumbs-up” position. I also like to think about food (imagine that!). For a long time, I only felt comfortable holding my water bottle in my left hand. My ipod always gets clipped to my left hip.

11. More than you ever wanted to know about your training partners – how happy or unhappy they are at 6:30 am, their bathroom habits, and their chafing problems, among others.
On the other hand, some of the best conversations I have had were on the run. I have rarely found better listeners than my running partners.

12. That you will have to learn to evade small (and large) animals. Cats, dogs, snakes, geese, prairie dogs, turkeys… normal things.

 

What totally random things have you learned on the road?

 

Joy

For the longest time, I thought that joy would be found in my “goal weight”. In a size 4 pair of jeans. In being “the hot friend”.

It never occurred to me that my joy would come with calloused hands and calloused feet, with missing toenails, bruises, scars, blood, sweat, and tears.

I never thought joy would be found on a rainy road in the middle of Boston.

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I never thought joy would look like pulling a lot of weight off the floor.

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I never thought joy would be the product of early mornings, two-a-days, long runs, and workouts that crushed my soul.

But these things continue to bring me joy. Maybe not in that exact moment, but they bring joy to my life as a whole. I have found that I am happiest out on the roads or in the gym. I continue to surprise myself with what I am capable of. I mentioned in my last post that I don’t always like doing these things, but I keep coming back because they help me feel like my best self.

I have fallen in love with my own strength. The more I train and the more I feel like an athlete, the less I care about what size my jeans are. Plus the fact that I lift means that they won’t fit right anyway. The more I learn who I am, the less power the scale has over my happiness.

I know my strength and that enables me to act confidently and to be bold, because I know what I can do. I know what I can endure. I am able to trust myself and take chances because I know that I can surprise myself.

I hope you find the same. I hope you find something that brings you joy. Something that makes you feel strong and powerful and bold. If not, keep looking. It might be in the most unexpected of places. But you’ll find it.