Healthy Food Relationships

Happy New Year, blog readers! ‘Tis the time for New Year’s Resolutions, and with that comes a barrage of social media posts about fitness, health, and of course, food. No matter the time of year, I’ll always support people’s efforts to live happier and feel better. However, the topic of nutrition nags at me every time I see people posting about how they’re cranky because they’re cutting carbs, eating a low fat diet, or are unhappy with the quinoa salad on their plate.

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On the real, quinoa salad is delicious :)

In an effort to stop yet another person from developing an eating disorder, or beating themselves up for “falling off the wagon,” or spending every meal feeling like they’re a prisoner to their plate, I’m going to just cut through the bullshit, and give it to you straight: Stop dieting. Stop it. If you’re staring at a wilting salad, resigned to your new “healthy lifestyle,” then you’re not really living a healthy lifestyle at all, are you? If you’re committing to your health, then let’s stop the food problems before they start, and instead, develop some actual healthy habits. Here we go.

I’ll start this post by saying that I’m not a Registered Dietitian. But I AM a person who spent years battling an unhealthy relationship with food because I, like many people, started my fitness journey thinking that everything is all about calories in/calories out, low carb, blah blah blah. It took years, literally years, for me to undo all of the damage that mentality caused. I had to re-learn how to eat, how to recognize my hunger and fullness cues, and how to form a healthy relationship with food– I did this by finally embracing the idea of food as NOURISHMENT. That’s really what it is, at the end of the day. Would you believe me if I told you that you could be healthy, strong, happy, fit, not tied to a scale or a calorie calculator, and you don’t have to give up pizza, or ice cream, or whatever else it is that you love to eat? Man, that sounds like a sales pitch, but it is completely true. I am living proof that you can eat chocolate and still have a body-fat percentage in the athletic range. You don’t have to exist on 1,200 calories a day, or agonize over what you can’t eat. It’s not magic, and it’s not a secret. If you started 2016 thinking that it was time to make a change and get healthy, then here’s the solution… you ready?: Take care of yourself. That’s it. When you make a choice (and this really goes beyond food, this is for everything), ask yourself, “Am I taking care of myself right now? Is this behavior benefitting me?” If yes, proceed. If no, consider a different choice. And yes, sometimes taking care of yourself does involve eating a slice of pizza. Hold on, I’ll explain.

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Your body needs macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) and micronutrients (iron, vitamins, etc.). All food, whether that’s a cheeseburger or a veggie casserole, contains some combination of these things and will help keep you alive by fueling you. Thus, there are no good or bad foods, no foods that you necessarily should or shouldn’t eat (unless you have allergies), but some foods are more nutrient-dense than others. When you decide that certain foods are off limits, doesn’t that make you crave them more? It does for me. Kinda like when someone tells you you can’t do something… even if you didn’t want to do it before, now you kinda do, right? So, instead of telling yourself that you CAN’T have something, understand that you CAN have whatever you want. The key is to prioritize what it is that your body actually needs, while you consider what it is that you want.

For example, let’s say it’s squat day, and I need something in my system to perform the way I want to at the gym (Or if that’s not relatable, insert whatever other activity in there that describes your life– maybe your child wants you to play outside with them, or maybe you’re about to head out on a bike ride. Whatever, you get the idea). Let’s say I have the option of eating oatmeal, peanut butter toast, or a donut. All three choices will provide fuel for me… so what do I choose? In my case, peanut butter before a workout tends to make me sluggish, so mehh, maybe not that. Both the donut and the oatmeal will give me some quick carbs, which I need for energy– so which do I want? 9 times out of 10, I’m going to choose the oatmeal, because I don’t want the sugar crash that comes with the donut. But once in a while? Hell yes, I will enjoy the heck out of that donut (or two), if it’s truly what I want. Would I eat 5 donuts, or 5 bowls of oatmeal? No–not because I’m not allowed to, but because my body doesn’t need that much. That’s what I mean– there are no rules, only choices that you determine by asking yourself, “will this serve me?” Making food decisions based on how those foods make you feel, and what nutrients you need to perform certain tasks, will help you to understand the purpose of nutrition.

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I do think that it’s important to understand the nutritional profile of what you’re putting into your body (i.e. reading food labels), and to have a general idea of how much you’re consuming. By that, I don’t mean counting calories, I mean being aware of what you’re eating, and making purposeful choices. I usually check in with myself and think, “ok, I ate such and such today… hmm, I didn’t really get enough veggies or protein in my system, so I’ll have a stir fry with some chicken for dinner.” And if there’s something I really, truly want (not just because it’s sitting there, but because I actually want it), like a piece of chocolate after dinner or something, I’ll work it in. There’s a difference between being obsessive and being mindful. You don’t need to eat anything that you don’t like –restrictive dieting is unsustainable, and it will only lead to MORE weight gain once you stop sustaining it. So, just think about fueling your body with what it needs, balancing that with what you like/want, and nix the negative, restrictive behaviors before they start.

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It can take time to re-train yourself and to ignore all the media messages we get pummeled with each day. But in the end, no one knows your body better than you do. Listen to it, and treat it kindly.

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Happy 2016!

I’m very passionate about this topic, and welcome any feedback you might have. Questions? Comments? Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section, I’d love to chat with you!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

 

 

Why I’m Not Vegan Anymore

I’ve been dreading writing this post. The little voice in my head has tiny feet that are firmly planted in the ground, digging in its heels, shouting “I don’t wanna!” But it’s a topic that I know will resonate and possibly help others, and so, here’s the truth: I’m not vegan anymore. And I have a lot of complicated feelings about it.

For those who don’t know, I was a vegan endurance athlete for 3.5 years. I even wrote a handy-dandy guide for newcomers to the vegan lifestyle, and I still wholeheartedly support every word I wrote. Being plant-based fueled me through GORUCK Challenges, Tough Mudders, a half marathon on a mountain (where I set a PR), two triathlons and a Half Ironman. Not to mention, dozens of other road races and countless training hours. Suffice it to say, veganism was kind to me (and animals!) for years. Until it wasn’t.

Somewhere along the way, my head started getting very foggy. I was fatigued; constantly exhausted. But why? I was taking my B-12 every day, eating tons of leafy greens and colorful veggies, drinking bounties of water, working out reasonably, sleeping a normal amount… it didn’t add up. I went to a doctor and had my bloodwork done– everything was normal. Iron levels? Great! B Levels? Superb! They had no answers for me.

For several months, I had a nagging in my back of my head, gently poking me. I ignored it. And ignored it. And continued ignoring it. And then, I found myself covertly looking up “vegan to omnivore transitions” online… just poking around on the interwebs to see what showed up. After several weeks of this, finally, I made the decision to try — just try– eating meat again to see if it helped.

For anyone else who is thinking about making the transition back, I do not recommend doing it the way I did. I basically just jumped back in head-first– you really ought to take about 6 weeks and eaaaaaaaase your way back. The first non-vegan thing I had was eggs, and I wanted to die. Nooooo bueno for my stomach. Then I tried some tuna a couple days later. My stomach tolerated that a little bit better, but it felt very, very wrong. The next day, chicken. A week later, steak. RP was treating it like his own drama reality show, texting me “how’s it going? What are you eating next? Tell me when you take your first bite!” The whole process was strange and hard, and I say that with full appreciation for the fact that I am fortunate to have food to eat at all, and am grateful for the animals that gave their lives for my meals. Believe me, those things are not lost on me– I am grateful for both.

The first couple of weeks were the hardest, mentally. Physically, I feel better…and worse. It took about two months for my body to get used to everything. I’ve noticed that digestion is nowhere near as fast as it was before, but putting on muscle has been easier (though, I started 5/3/1 around the same time, so obviously that is a major contributing factor). I don’t feel bloated the way I did when I was eating beans every day, but I also don’t slim down as quickly as before (again, this is due, in part, to the fact that I am lifting heavy and running less). The fatigue and brain fogginess is gone, but I also don’t feel as light as I did while plant-based. So, as you can see, there are pros and cons to this transition. I don’t weigh myself (and even if I did, I’m lifting heavy now, so the scale would be irrelevant), so I can’t tell you whether that’s changed. I toned up a lot after switching my diet, probably from eating more protein and less carbs. So, it’s a trade off– I feel better in some ways, and not as good in others. But, getting rid of the fatigue and brain fog was extremely necessary for me to function in my daily life.

Emotionally, it’s very, very hard. Not only did I meet a lot of wonderful people through the vegan/vegan athlete community, but I don’t feel any different about animals than I did when I was plant-based. I love all animals. Factory farms are unspeakably evil, and should be eradicated. The conditions for “farm-raised” animals vary greatly, and either way, I don’t support killing sentient creatures– except, since I’m eating them, I guess monetarily, I do now? It’s hypocritical, really, that I would never be able to kill a chicken in front of me, and yet I’m willing to eat their meat when someone else does. As you can see, I do not feel at peace with my omnivorous decision, but for the time being, it is what I physically need. I take moments before meals to thank the animal I’m about to eat for its sacrifice. I do not eat unconsciously, and perhaps I will return to veganism again, someday. I’m sure this post will receive its fair share of opinionated comments from both sides — that’s fine. I don’t deny that my decision is a selfish one. But for now, this is where I’m at.

I would like to mention that there are many, many people who live happy, healthy, vegan lifestyles for 20+ years without problems. Every person’s body is different, everyone has different needs. I still advocate for veganism, and at the very least, conscientiousness as it relates to food, agribusiness, animal rights, etc. As with all things, you know your body best. Do what works for you.

Do you have any questions about vegan-omnivore transitions (or vice versa?) Comments? Anything you’re curious about? Please let me know in the comments.

And as always, Remember to breathe.

Lagree Pilates in NYC!

Hola mis amigos! I’ve got loads to tell you, and limited time because my mom and I have a Skype date tonight — we’re carving pumpkins!!! :D In the spirit of Halloween, I really want to share stories from my trip to Fright Fest at Six Flags Great Adventure last weekend, but I’ll save that silliness for another entry, because I have to keep my promise from a couple of posts ago and tell the tale of my experience taking a Lagree Pilates class in NYC!

I’ve been having a pretty serious love affair with Pilates for nearly six years, so I thought I was well-educated about it. Well, a month or so ago, I fell down an internet hole and stumbled on an article talking about the Lagree Pilates method. Saywhaaaat? Deemed “Pilates on crack,” it combines resistance training with isometric exercises, all done on a weird re-vamped pilates reformer machine called a “Megaformer”. Naturally, I was intrigued and NEEDED to try it. The method is only taught in certain cities, but I happened to be going to Manhattan that same weekend, so I found SLT in Midtown and booked a class– why not, right?

Midtown, NYC-- you're lookin' gawwwgeous

Outside of the studio. Midtown, NYC– you’re lookin’ gawwwgeous

Saturday morning arrived, and I ventured out to the studio feeling curious and a little nervous. I walked in and was greeted by blaring pop music, an instructor trying to scream directions over Katy Perry’s 110 decibel crooning, and 12 sweaty women of all body types and ability levels doing squats on top of these crazy moving platforms. Someone is definitely going to faceplant or break an ankle, I thought to myself.

The receptionist at the door was extremely friendly and welcoming, and after filling out some paperwork, she invited me to sit down on a plush white bench while I waited for the other class to finish. I wasn’t feeling too excited at that moment because I am anti-motivated by instructors that yell, but I figured it would be a new experience either way. I watched as the people in front of me bent down into lunges, simultaneously performing biceps curls with resistance bands that pulled their platforms forwardWell, this is interesting. 15 minutes later, class ended and the dulcet tones of Nicki Minaj finally quieted; everyone looked relieved.

Once the previous class cleared out, it was time to get started. After snagging a machine toward the left side of the room, the instructor (a different, much calmer individual than the previous class had) came over to talk me through the basics of the Megaformer. It wasn’t *too* complicated, but it had a variety of springs, levers and other movable pieces to keep track of. Fortunately, the instructors go around and adjust things for participants during the class so I didn’t have to worry about it too much. Music pumped through the speakers at a reasonable volume this time, and we were off.

We did some basic things like single-leg squats, rows, planks, bird-dogs, etc. all using resistance bands that attached to the machine. And we did a lot of non-basic things that I’m not even sure how to describe. At one point, I was holding side plank with one foot kicked out to the side, and one hand in a resistance band pulling myself forward on this rolling platform thing– can you visualize that? Probably not. IDFK, guys. It was weird.

I’ll admit, at the beginning, I was all “I totes got this, no problem,” because it felt easy. But by the end, I was sweating EVERYWHERE. And I mean, eeeeverrryyywherrree. The instructor came over to adjust something, and I watched, horrified, as sweat dripped off my forehead in a steady stream onto her hand, and there was NOTHING I COULD DO ABOUT IT because my appendages were busy trying to keep me from falling on my face. She took it like a champ though, subtly wiping her sullied hand on her pants, without outwardly grimacing, as she strolled to the other side of the room. Woof.

After 50 minutes of contorting my body in all sorts of bizarre ways on a machine that I assume was built by people who hate happiness, class was over. I thanked the instructor and gave my machine a thorough wipe-down before loading my drowned-rat self into the elevator with a group of girls who looked like powder-fresh ballerinas. Of course.

So, what’s the final verdict? While I’m glad I did it, and it was pretty fun getting to try something new, it’s definitely not worth the hefty $40 per class price tag (Note: I paid $20 cause it was my first time). More than that, it’s so far removed from traditional pilates that I don’t think the two should really be compared. While I moved my body differently than I ever have (or will probably ever need to), I was not sore from it, and I honestly feel that lifting weights and doing PiYo are a better use of time. I guess I feel like, while it was a cool thing to try, it’s unnecessarily complicated. You don’t need a crazy machine to get a good workout. You don’t need to do dangerous things like squatting on one leg on a moving platform to get results. Still, it’s interesting, and it’s worth trying to see if you like it.

And since I couldn’t take pics in the studio without being a major creeper, here’s a clip of me riding a *special* bike at a museum that RP and I went to. Bonus points if you know where we are in this :)

Happy Halloween!!!

Punkin!

Punkin!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

The Crazy Ridiculous World of BBB

A couple of days ago, I wrote about how awesome 5/3/1 is as a strength-training program (If you missed it, don’t worry, you can catch up here). But there’s an optional piece to it that I didn’t describe, called “Boring But Big,” or “BBB” for short.

BBB is pretty simple: After your normal 5/3/1 work set, you do 5 more sets of 10 reps at 50-60% of your training max (Learn all about this by reading up on 5/3/1 for free). Besides just getting stronger, it’s also nice because you have the chance to really focus on your form — it gives you the opportunity to see if you have any imbalances you need to correct. And most of us do have imbalances from things like sitting at a desk all day, or having one side of the body that’s stronger than the other. Hooray, right?

I’m going to lay it out honestly for you: Yesterday was my first time incorporating BBB on squat day. Doing so may make you want to openly weep. You might find yourself sitting down in the squat rack after your sets, seriously contemplating the meaning of the universe, or digging down deep within to find the will to stand up. It’s great, in a really terrible way.

And since sharing is caring, I wanted to post my workout from yesterday on here in case anyone is really jonesing for some lower body love. *Disclaimer: Do this workout at your own risk. Seek medical advice before beginning a new exercise routine*

Squat Day Warm up:

  • 5 x 40%
  • 5 x 50%
  • 3 x 60%

Work Set:

  • 5 x 65%
  • 5 x 75%
  • As many reps as possible at 85%

BBB:

  • 5 sets of 10 reps at 60%

Assistance:

I’m pretty adamant about not texting at the gym, but I made an exception for this one.

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Have you given BBB a try? Got questions or comments? Give ’em to me, I’d love to hear from you!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

I Pick Things Up And Put Them Down

Ahoy, Maytees! It’s been a minute since my last post, and I have so many new things to share with y’all. I’ve been going through a ton of changes lately, and I’ll delve into them all, but here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

1.) After 3.5 years of living a vegan lifestyle, I’m now omnivorous. And I have extremely mixed feelings about it.

2.) I went to NYC and tried out a Lagree Pilates class. It was sweaty and weird.

3.) I transitioned from triathlon/endurance running to life as a gym rat, lifting heavy with 5/3/1. Werkin’ on dem gainz, son.

There’s a lot to say about each of these subjects, so I’ll break them down into separate blog posts. I think sharing some thoughts around each of these experiences will be pertinent for many of my readers out there, so…Brace

Since I’m having a pretty backwards day today, this post will focus on #3 first: Talkin’ bout dat 5/3/1.

Story time! If you’re an avid reader of my blog (and even if you’re not, just read the last couple of posts), you may know that after many years of competitive running, I got completely burned out on racing this year and wanted to do something new. Enter, weight lifting. I started lifting weights when I was about 11 years old (weird, and probably unsafe, but that’s what happens when you have an older brother), but I’ve never dedicated more than a couple of days per week to it. So, when I started talking to RP about putting together a plan, he suggested I do 5/3/1.

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What’s 5/3/1, you ask? It’s a strength training program devised by a guy named Jim Wendler. Its tactics are used by bodybuilders, powerlifters, and regular folks who are interested in getting stronger. I’ve wanted to do it for years, but always had other goals I was working toward. Now, with no races or deadlines in front of me, I knew this was the time to go for it.

The principles are simple: Lift heavy four days per week, focusing on four compound lifts: Squat, Deadlift, Military Press, Bench Press. There are four weeks to a cycle, and each week you lift a certain percentage of your 1 Rep Max. At the end of four weeks, you increase the load you lift by 5-10 pounds. And so on, and so forth. Written out, it might sound complicated, but I promise that it’s quite straight-forward.

The key to this program is patience, and that’s oddly what I love most about it. It’s not a “quick fix.” You’re not going to bench 500 pounds after a month. It’s sloooooooow. But it’s awesome and effective. Each week, I find myself in the middle of a workout thinking, “There’s no way I can finish this workout,” or “I don’t know if I can beat my reps from last week.” But then I do. And many times, I end up doing way more than I thought I could. That’s a great F-ing feeling, guys. Even on the days where I don’t perform as well as I’d like (you can’t win every time), I still leave the gym knowing I gave it everything I had.

It’s also been eye-opening for me in regards to form. I always thought I had pretty good form on major lifts, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t going low enough on my squats, I wasn’t doing deadlifts correctly, and I’d never even done a military press in my life. Once I began watching YouTube videos and doing things differently, I started working muscles I didn’t know I had. And there’s always room for improvement, always more to learn. Which is mega cool.

You’re supposed to complement this training with assistance exercises. Wendler gives you some suggestions, but I also like to make up my own, and my workouts change all the time. Sometimes I do more, sometimes less. I usually try to add in circuits with some higher intensity stuff like burpees to get the cardio benefits at the same time. Here’s an example of what Bench Day might look like:

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There’s some simple math involved to figure out how much weight you actually need to lift, but if you hate math, you can use an app called “Big Lifts 2.” It makes it so easy, and it tracks your progress through graphs — everyone loves graphs!

The program is also cool because it’s very flexible. The major lift portion takes less than 20 minutes, so you have a lot of room to do whatever else you want to do. And since it’s only four days a week, that leaves two other days (plus a rest day) to go for a run, do yoga, play basketball, cage fight, etc. etc.

At some point, I’ll share my graphs and probably some embarrassing pictures, too. But for now, I’m staying focused. I’ve only been at it for about 2.5 months, and it’s a long-term/life-long program, so I’m looking forward to getting stronger. But my pull-ups are improving, my quads have become small bricks, and it’s been pretty fun to push boundaries.

The wide grip pull-up is my nemesis, but we're getting friendlier.

The wide grip pull-up is my nemesis, but we’re getting friendlier.

Anyway, this post is getting long, so I’ll end it here. If you’re interested in gaining strength, or trying something new, I recommend checking out 5/3/1. It’s not trendy, it’s not frilly or fancy, it’s very much a no-bullshit routine. Which is exactly why I like it. Read about it on Google or Reddit, and see if it aligns with your goals. Got questions or comments? Let me know what you think!

And as always, Remember to breathe

Embracing Change, Part 2

The fitness community is a funny place. Lately, my social media feeds are littered with updates from people about training, upcoming events, daily “accountability” posts, etc. etc. It’s awesome and interesting to see all of the different activities happening within my friend-groups. Just two days ago, I took a stroll downtown and ran into a friend and a group of his soon-to-be teammates, armed with rucks, about to embark on a GORUCK challenge. It was a surreal experience for me; shaking hands with the cadre, watching them line up and bust out burpees, explaining to passersby what was going on– I couldn’t believe it’s been almost three years since my own GRC. But, although there was a part of me that wanted to slap a ruck on my back and run with them for 12 hours, something bigger than that clicked into place in my brain.

GORUCK Class 1500

GORUCK Class 1500

A few months ago, I wrote a post on here about how my goals were shifting. How the idea of training no longer interested me, and races were becoming something that bored rather than excited me. And for the past several months, I’ve waited for that feeling to go away. I’ve felt some guilt over it, thinking, “This is who I am. I find weird-as-shit events, and I do them cause they’re fun. What’s wrong with me?” As I watched my friend and the group of strangers in front of me get ready to have this great experience, I felt nostalgic. And with that nostalgia, I finally got it: Nothing is wrong with me — I’m evolving, and this is the next phase of my journey.

I started running competitively five years ago. I thrived on the competition, the goal, the timeline. My anxious, neurotic personality was well-suited for the rigors of training. But over the years, exercise has become a pathway toward peace for me. And in the process of mellowing out a bit (in some ways), my goals shifted– rather than obsessing about being “race-ready”, my major goal is sustaining life-long health. I care about being fit enough to enjoy my life fully. If I get invited to participate in something like hiking a giant mountain, or going surfing, I like being able to accept with enthusiasm, without worrying that I’ll be unable to physically do it. My fitness goal is to simply have every awesome life experience that I can.

Like swinging on a tree-swing in the Dominican Republic, for example!

Like swinging on a tree-swing in the Dominican Republic, for example!

What has that meant for my workouts? Funnily enough, nothing’s changed. I still push myself on my runs. I still fling kettlebells around and wake up way too early to fit in some PiYo before work. These things make me happy– that’s the motivation. Do I want to do a tri this summer? Sure! But I’m interested in it because it’ll be a shared experience with someone I love. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up doing some crazy mountain marathon at some point? All I know is that I’ve finally realized that it’s okay to grow and change. It’s okay to go rock climbing instead of going to the gym. It’s okay to do backflips in the pool and body surf in the ocean for an hour without doing an organized lap swim, too. It’s okay to explore new avenues without having a schedule and an agenda attached to them.

Ocean runs are my favorite :)

After an ocean run– my favorite scenery :)

I’ve seen this issue come up with others lately as well, so that’s why I wanted to share this. Embrace wherever you are in your journey. If you’re knee deep in a training plan– awesome! Keep doing that! If you’re super stoked on your newest P90x adventure– cool! If you’re quietly practicing asanas in your backyard each morning with no other purpose than freeing your mind–fantastic. Allow yourself to just simply be.

And as always, Remember to breathe.

Embracing change.

Maybe this post doesn’t belong here, I don’t know. I started this blog four years ago for a class assignment, intending to fill it with some workout ideas and maybe a few nutrition tips for a couple of months. That’s nice, I guess. But I wish I’d known back then how much wellness starts and ends with the mind — We are a creation of our thoughts. I don’t think enough people understand the magnitude of that. So, forgive me for going off the beaten track a bit today, I’m in the mood to share it all.

Change is an interesting thing. Sometimes it’s welcome; sometimes, not. Regardless, it inevitably provides the opportunity to search within ourselves. For me, change has crashed over my life in perpetual, difficult waves throughout the past year. I’ve waded through soul-crushing grief, exacerbated by the burden of secrecy. I’ve experienced the joy of accomplishment, the hope of opportunity, and the anxiety of doubt. Empty journals that were tucked away in drawers of neglect are now bursting with emotional scrawl, documenting every painful or blissful detail. Why am I sharing this? Because I realized at some point how grateful I am for the ability to feel. Even when it’s excruciating. Because when we try to numb ourselves, or run away from our emotions, that’s when we start to treat ourselves like shit. Under-eating, over-eating, chasing addictions, drowning in work — it can take a lot of forms. Embrace your bruises and your jagged scars. Embrace your successes and growth. Wherever you are, be patient with yourself. Breathe. IMG_3935 Connecting this back around to fitness stuff: On the very first day of February, I was slated to run a 10-mile race. It was supposed to be prep for a half-marathon in April and a full marathon in May. I’d been running quite happily and consistently until a couple weeks before the race when suddenly, I lost interest in all of it. We got pummeled by blizzards, which didn’t help, but I just. did. not. want. to. do. it. Any of it. I was having so much anxiety about having to train, and I actually felt guilty for not going out in the snowstorms to run. Guilt? Seriously? What the fuck, man. No.

Clearly, we were really jazzed about this race.

Clearly, we were really jazzed about this race.

The morning of the race came, and I woke up from a night of no sleep with a fever of 101 and aches all over my body. And you know, what? I felt relieved. LB and I sat in my kitchen, clutching mugs of steaming tea and watching the sunrise over the city. Instead of running the race, we met up with my brother for brunch. I earned my first DNS (Did Not Start), and I was surprised to find that I didn’t feel upset over it. Maybe because I ran the course a couple weeks earlier, or maybe because the fever went on to ravage my body for two days afterward. I don’t know. But all I could think about was how happy I was to be warm in my favorite restaurant, in my favorite city, enjoying a meal with two people I love.

Getting sick forced me to take a rest I desperately needed, and with that came a lot of clarity. For the first time in 5 years, I ditched my race plans for the entire season. I want to deepen my pilates practice. I want to go paddleboarding every day in the summer if I feel like it. There are no rules, and that fills me with peace. Maybe I’ll race, maybe I won’t. The point is that I don’t want to plan for things anymore, I want to just take them as they come. This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to anyone else, but as a Type A person who has an obsessive need to plan everything, it’s a big change for me. Sometimes you need to give yourself space to realize what it is you really want, and what is healthy for you.

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We tried something new for LB’s birthday :) Change can be good!

Anyway, the point of this post was to encourage you to feel your feelings. Sit with them. Experience them, because sometimes the hardest things are precisely the things we need. Release the “shoulds”. Love yourself enough to be patient. Whatever it is, you’ll figure it out.

And as always, Remember to breathe.

Unbiased PiYo Review!

Have you ever heard of PiYo? It’s somewhat of a pilates/yoga fusion as the name suggests, but more intense. I heard about it while I was triathlon training, and was super intrigued because:

  • A.) Y’all know how much I love pilates-type schtuff
  • B.) I was looking for something different to add to my workout schedule.

After doing it regularly for a few months, I figured it was time to post a review. ReadySetGo!

I should start by saying that the PiYo program I’m reviewing is a BeachBody product, but PiYo itself exists outside of the Beachbody realm. They definitely didn’t invent it, and you can find a bunch of YouTube videos with free workouts if you want a taste of what it’s like. I’ll also tell you that beyond having a couple of friends/acquaintances who are coaches, I’m not affiliated with the company in any way (and to be honest, some of the things they do really irritate me). So you’re getting a completely unbiased review, which can be hard to find. Hooray!

Pro #1: PiYo is fricken amazing. Love. Lovelovelovelove. I noticed a marked improvement in my triathlon/running after adding it into my routine regularly. Not only that, but just basic life things got easier. (e.g. moving all of my belongings out of my second floor apartment and up to a third floor apartment sucked slightly less than it might have otherwise).  I never had brick legs during my triathlon, I sincerely enjoyed a half marathon that was mostly uphill, and my flexibility has increased substantially (meaning less chance for injury – woohoo!). So, that’s cool.

Pro #2: The workouts range from 20-45 minutes, which is perfect for waking up the body in the morning. When I was dealing with moving, I didn’t have time to go to the gym, and I only had 30 minutes a day to get something done. This program was a life-saver. Zero equipment, zero workout-dreads (You know how sometimes you dread doing a type of workout? Ugh, that’s the worst. Do something else if you feel that way).

Pro #3: It’s intense without being intense. I know that doesn’t make sense, but it’s hard to explain. Basically, you’re building solid muscle and working up a sweat without breaking your body. When my training mileage gets up pretty high, I stop lifting heavy because it impedes my progress. But strength training is SO important. This allowed me to increase functional strength, without feeling like I was killing myself to do it. Know what I mean?

Con #1: We get it, Beachbody. You want to sell Shakeology. Do you really have to put a commercial before every single workout? And do you really need to have Chalene Johnson talk about it before the workout is even over? And do you really need 5 commercials after it’s done trying to sell supplements and pills and whatever else? Cut it out!! I don’t need to listen to a sales pitch when I’m sweating all over myself. Put a flyer in the box, and call it a day, ok?

Con # 2: They market this program by saying there are no jumps or impact exercises, but there are a few workouts that include burpees, and ski jumps. You can obviously modify the exercise if you don’t want to be jumping around, and they’re not in there too often, but still. Just a heads up.

General Comment: There is one token dude in each video, and I’m almost positive a crew rubs oil all over his chest in between takes.  I mean, I laughed, but it’s also incredibly unnecessary, and probably a little offensive.

Overall, I’m a huge fan. I will say that I think it could be dangerous if you’re not coming from a pilates or yoga background. The first video teaches fundamentals, but if you’re new to these movements, you might not know your form is off. Plus, timing your breathing is HUGE with pilates, and they don’t really talk about that at all. So, I’d really recommend understanding form and breath and all of that before getting into PiYo, especially because the movements do flow together fairly quickly. By the way, it looks like they raised the price by about 20 bucks since August, but you can buy the DVDs for $60, which is a steal compared to how overpriced everything else usually is that BeachBody sells.

Now, I had originally put together a short, embarrassing video to give you a taste of what you can expect with this program, but my laptop died and the video died with it. So, instead I’m giving you a link to a different PiYo workout. It’s not the same, but it at least kind of gives you an idea.

So, what do you think? Have you tried PiYo? Want more information? Leave me a comment and let’s chat! And as always, Remember to breathe.

My First Half Ironman Adventure: Part 2, RACE DAY!

In case you missed it, here’s Part 1: TRAINING!

I will be forever grateful to endurance sports for teaching me the power of positivity. You can train your body physically as much as you want, but training the mind is so much more important. I firmly believe that being kind in thoughts and actions, not just toward others, but toward ourselves is the key to happiness. I’m sharing this here because being conscious of the type of thoughts I accept and embrace has had a profound effect on my athletic endeavors (and life in general) over the past year and a half. My attitude towards racing has changed a lot since getting into triathlon. It’s the work you put in before race day that is most important. All of those quiet hours you spend at the lake, on the roads, trails, in the gym or wherever, getting to know yourself, becoming the person you want to become, strengthening your body and your mind — those are what count. Of course we all want to have a good race, but race day is just the cherry on top of the whole journey. In the week leading up to yesterday, people kept asking me how I was feeling. Honestly, I don’t know that I ever gave a coherant answer because it’s not really a feeling I could describe. After spending months of ups and downs working so hard, I just wanted to see what I could do. I wanted to be out there with all the other athletes who love the same sport. I wanted to experience the feeling of sprinting down that finisher’s chute, knowing I poured my heart into it. I’m so grateful I got to do just that.

So, details! The night before the race, I laid out all my gear on the living room floor and walked through my transition/nutrition plan. While doing so, I realized I was out of Gu — d’oh!!! Fortunately, a local sports store was still open and they had plenty. Yea, I know I should use whole foods for fuel, but shhhh. I’m lazy and I trained with Gu and Cliff Bars, ok? We all have our vices. I also discovered a few weeks ago that my wet suit was way too big, but I really didn’t feel like spending $300 to replace it, so I just went with it. It wasn’t ideal, but it ended up okay. After my usual pre-race ritual of eating pasta w/ chickpeas and watching an episode of Gilmore Girls, it was time for bed! IMG_3704

3 a.m. rolled around and I got up feeling chipper and excited. I loaded up the car, ate a slice of bread with some jelly, and double checked my lists. I had the idea to write a few positive words on my arm in sharpie, and I am SO glad that I did. If I could share one tip with everyone gearing up for a big race, it’d be to do this. I must have looked at my arm 87,000 times throughout the race, and every time I did it gave me a happy boost. I decided on one word for each discipline:

1.) Courage for the swim.

2.) Strength for the bike.

3.) Love for the run. I wanted to complete the last leg of this journey entirely with my heart. Running just means so much to me.
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I also wrote the words Dream Catcher on my arm because it’s the name of a “Set It Off” song, and I wanted it in my head. There’s a line that says, “Does it seem out of reach? Hit the ground and run with both your feet.” and I knew it would help get me through. Have I mentioned that endurance sports are riddled with ridiculous mind games? We all have our tricks.

The car ride to the venue was filled with fun songs and obviously lots of car dancing. It was still pitch black when I got there, but cars were steadily trickling in. I set up my transition area, then headed down to look at the water and breathe. Despite being nervous and excited, this was the most peaceful I have ever felt before a race. I was just SO happy to be there and even happier to feel like I deserved to be there. No matter how the day went, it had been an incredible experience getting to that start line. IMG_3706

I headed back to the transition area to put on my wetsuit and choke down a few dates before the pre-swim meeting. As I looked up, I ended up locking eyes with one of my high school boyfriends who was standing on the other side of the fence– how random! We both cocked our heads to the side at the same time, gave each other a “what?? Huh??” look, and laughed. Turns out he was there to cheer on his girlfriend who was also competing. After a quick chat, I waved him goodbye and headed down the hill to get in a quick warm up swim, and wait for the start.

As I mentioned, endurance sports are all about playing mind games with yourself. Whenever I started getting nervous, I closed my eyes and pictured people I care about. It’s a weird trick, but picturing the smiles of wonderful people in my life always helps me stay calm. Finally, it was time to start! A girl started singing the national anthem, but then she forgot the words… so all of the athletes started singing with her. (This is why I love the triathlon community.) My brother and LB ran over 5 minutes before my swim wave started, with huge smiles and giant hugs. It was such a boost getting to see them at the start line!!!

I love these people so very much.

I love these people so very much.

We all piled into the corral, heard the “GO! GO! GO!” and jumped in. Unfortunately, this course was a loop swim, so right as we were starting, all the swim waves before us were looping around in the same spot, so everything was chaos. The most important thing in open water swimming is to stay calm, but I was definitely struggling with panic for the first 5 minutes. Arms and legs were flying on all sides, you couldn’t see anything with all the splashing, seaweed was getting wrapped around our bodies, it was insane. I just told myself to keep my heart rate down and sight every two strokes until I could push past people. I swam hard and finally broke free of the crowd and was able to get up a steady rhythm. I was so incredibly impressed with the course organizers for supplying us with adequate sight buoys. I was able to swim straight the entire time because they were so well placed. Thank you, race directors!!

I remember feeling so much joy during the swim. It was the discipline I was most confident about, and I kind of didn’t want to get out. But after no time at all, we were rounding the last turn buoy and heading for shore! A quick run up the big hill to the transition area, and it was time for some quality time with my bike :) IMG_3720

The bike course was challenging, but it wasn’t really as bad as I anticipated. There were plenty of good hills, but no super, super steep climbs. I’m a mediocre biker, so it’s always the hardest part, but I ended up averaging about 16 mph, which is quite good for me. Not going to lie, the bike course was a mind-EFF because you bike 30 miles (yay!!) and then realize you have to do another loop (no!!). My quads started yelling around that point, so I knew I needed to find a way to distract myself. I’m about to enter the TMI portion of this post –sorry, not sorry! Anyone who knows me knows that I have the tiniest little bird bladder on the planet. I had to pee the ENTIRE ride (which feels terrible every time you go over a bump, by the way), which spawned a very long, humorous commentary in my head about what to do about it that kept me laughing. People probably thought I was nuts. I also forgot I put my phone in my camelbak, so of course I got two text messages in the middle of the ride. Whoops! You’re not supposed to have any electronic devices, but it’s not like I was playing music, so I think it’s ok. Mile 40 was about the time I started going crazy, so I decided to start belting out some songs (Re-reading this is making me realize that I’m the most obnoxious athlete ever.). Most notable were “White Dress” by Parachute (“IIIIIIIIII wanna looooooveee youuuuu mooooooorrreeee!”), and “Crazy About You” by Artist Vs. Poet. Honestly, when you’re biking for over 3 hours, you have to find ways to entertain yourself. I spent a lot of time just appreciating the scenery, saying hi to the horses I rode past, and genuinely feeling happy to be there. I tried to compartmentalize each discipline, and not think about running 13.1 miles after. You really just have to focus on the task at hand and know that you’ll handle each piece as it comes. IMG_3718

Finally, I crested the last hill and was ready to start the run! After racking my bike, I grabbed my other camelback, race bib, and sneakers, collected solid high fives from my bro and LB, and raced out of the chute feeling super strong and full of smiles. I was averaging a 9 min/mile pace, and I knew I needed to slow it down because it was getting really, really hot out — PLUS, I still had to pee! Finally, at mile 4, at the very top of a big hill I saw a porta-potty, and I swear it had a brilliant glow and angels singing around it. Anyway, that was the only minute during the whole thing that I wasn’t running. I had made a race plan with myself that if I was really hurting, I’d do a 3 minute run, 1 minute walk strategy, but I always hate doing stuff like that because all the lactic acid builds up in your legs and it makes everything so much harder. Fortunately, I didn’t need to! I was so surprised how strong I felt throughout this entire race. I ended up running the whole thing, and felt really good on all the hills. I also really liked the run course because since it was a loop, you were always surrounded by other athletes. There were a ton of people who were very clearly hurting and walking, so it gave me a chance to yell words of encouragement and smile or clap for them. And you know, every time I did that, they beamed giant smiles at me. I’ve never felt so inspired like that before. All these incredible athletes just pushing with everything they have to finish. It was amazing to experience. The volunteers were phenomenal too. There was a turnaround where they had set up a boombox, so naturally I started dancing and singing, and the volunteers all joined in! Love it when that happens!

Around the 5/10 mile markers they had a long line of motivating signs that kept me laughing. Stuff like, “Your butt looks fantastic!” and “You’re smart…….” *10 feet later* “……And pretty!”. I should also mention that they offered sponges soaked in ice cold water, and they were such a life saver. There was barely any shade towards the end, and lots and lots of hills, so the heat was a concern. My calves started cramping around mile 11.5, but I knew if I took another Gu and kept drinking water I would be able to stay fairly steady. Because of the heat, I didn’t bother shooting for a pace time, I just focused on keeping my heart rate down and my breathing calm. Looking at the words on my arm reminded me just how much I love this sport, and how much I truly was running every step from the heart.

Finally, I could hear the cheers of the crowd, and I could see the venue in the distance. But the last .5 miles were up a giant hill. AGH! That was the only part of the race I was frustrated with. My calves hurt and I was sooo close. But before I knew it, I was rounding the corner and sprinting down that finishers chute, hearing the announcer call my name, seeing Nicholas and LB yelling for me, and feeling that whoosh of overwheming emotion. I did it!

Finishing!

Finishing!

IMG_3707All in all, the whole day was amazing. I feel a huge amount of gratitude for my family who came to support me with hugs and love, and to my friends who tracked my race or texted me well wishes. 900 miles, 5-6 months, endless hours of training. It’s been an incredible journey.

Thanks for reading my story! It was a day I will never, ever forget. <3

P.s. If you didn’t see it, here’s Part 1, TRAINING

And as always, Remember to breathe.

My First Half Ironman Adventure: Part 1, TRAINING

1.25 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run. That’s what yesterday held and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all. Even though it lasted over 6 straight hours, I feel like the whole thing flew by so fast! It was honestly one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I’m trying to figure out how to capture the feeling of it all in words. (Note: If you don’t care about the training portion, feel free to skip to Part 2: RACE DAY). Here goes!

This whole adventure started over a year ago when the idea of doing a long-course triathlon popped into my head. I thought a lot about the kind of experience I wanted to have, and I decided I wanted a community-type atmosphere rather than an Ironman branded event, at least for my first time. So, I landed on the Pumpkinman Half Iron. I knew it was extremely well organized, had great race swag, and since my bro and LB did the sprint last year, I knew how cool the venue was (Plus, pumpkin decorations everywhere? Um, yes!). I finally signed up in December, and it’s been at the forefront of my mind ever since.

So… training? In February, I participated in a beautiful 10-mile race along the coast as an incentive to keep my running endurance up over the winter. I fully admit that I did not bike a single time from October until March, but I did keep swimming at the pool once a week after last season ended. I had about a month of pre-season training in March where I started biking on my indoor trainer, getting back into pilates, lifting, and transitioning back into a structured routine. April 1st marked the “official” start to my training plan, but really it’d been going on for a while before that.

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Dis is da best gym :)

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We spent a lot of hours together this summer.

I created my own training plan based (very, very, very loosely) on Matt Fitzgerald’s post on Triathlon.com. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you probably know that I believe in structure with a lot of flexibility when it comes to training. It’s so important to listen to your body and adjust your plan based on feel. In general, if you have a bike ride planned on Wednesday, but you really just feel like swimming, go swim and adjust your schedule accordingly. There were a few times where I had speed workouts planned on the trainer or in the pool in the mornings, but I just wasn’t feeling them. So, instead, I’d drive up to the lake after work and play outside instead. It kept things fresh, and I didn’t feel like I was a slave to my training plan. As long as you get all your workouts in during the week, do what you feel like doing. Were there a lot of days where I pushed through fatigue? Of course. But that’s because I wanted to train my body and mind to be able to do so in a race situation. Yes, there are going to be days where you have to push your butt out the door when you don’t necessarily feel like it. But there’s a difference between being burned out and being lazy. It’s important to recognize the distinction.

Instead of typing out 5 months worth of workouts, I’ll just post pics of my dry-erase workout boards. I have to apologize in advance because sometimes the numbers refer to mileage, and sometimes they refer to time — I know what they mean, but it’s probably hard for anyone else to discern! If you have questions, please feel free to ask! Anyway, every week was different, but they all followed the same structure: Speed work in the middle of the week, endurance work on the weekends, bike-run bricks every other week, and a ton of pilates. The mid-week bike workouts were mostly from triathlon.com. Mid-week runs were mostly Over-Unders, intervals, or tempo runs, and mid-week swims were generally 40-60 minutes of 200 yard sprints, intervals, and drills. I made lots of time for fun activities too, like yoga classes and stand-up paddle boarding. Remember, fitness is all about balance! I should also mention that my friend introduced me to something called PiYo. Since I usually have to stop heavy weightlifting once my mileage gets above a certain point, I rely on bodyweight exercises to keep strong. I noticed huge strength/flexibility increases once I started doing this program, and I highly recommend it.

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You’ll notice that there are a few periods of time where I had several rest days in a row. I suffered a shoulder injury that took a really long time to heal (still hasn’t, actually), and I had to take a little bit of time off here and there to rest it. Also, there were A LOT of super highs and super lows throughout this training period. Triathlon can be a really lonely sport. In general, I like training alone, but sometimes taking on something so huge and spending hours upon hours upon hours with just yourself and your thoughts can be hard. I started to struggle a lot in July when it got hot and it completely stopped being fun. At one point I even “decided” I wasn’t going to go through with this race at all. I think I always knew in the back of my mind that I would bounce back, but there were two days in July where I fully intended to just walk away. I remember talking to a few people about it, and everyone was supportive of the idea of me not doing it, but I think subconsciously I wanted someone to push me. Finally, I went paddleboarding with my brother, and our conversation turned things around for me. I don’t even necessarily think it was about the words he said, because he was supportive either way, but talking to him helped me realize how much I really wanted that finish line. So, thanks, bro!

Anyway, the most important piece of this training that I want to share is that although I worked really, really hard, I also made time to have a life. Even during August when every aspect of my life got extremely busy, I still made it a point to go on dates, spend time with friends who were in town, travel, and see my family. Balance, balance, balance. Ok, time for Part 2: RACE DAY!

Have any questions about the training process, or have your own story to share? Leave me a comment! I love hearing from folks!

And as always, Remember to breathe.

 

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