Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My discovery (or, how I keep myself sane)

I've discovered that my attitude is in direct correlation to my activity level.  Sedentary = crabby.  Active = happy.  For the most part.  Exceptions do occur, such as being sedentary at the beach.  Vacation is a whole different mindset.

I discovered this today, when my plans for a grand "Tour de Chattahoochee River Area Parks" with the lil' guy were washed away by drizzle, wind and cooler than predicted temps; unfortunately, got it wrong again.  So, the toddler and I stayed home.  ALL. DAY. LONG.  I was okay when we were doing activities like reading, or playing trains, or constructing a NASCAR-esque race track for Matchbox cars out of a hula hoop, and when I was busy cooking or cleaning up.  During the lulls, like when said toddler refused to take a nap and I allowed him to watch Thomas and Berenstein Bears instead, I was bored outta my skull and grumpy.  When I decided on an impromptu game of "Hot Potato" using first a balled up sock, then a bouncy ball, then an actual potato (not hot, mind you), and we really got into it, running around the living room and tossing the objects back and forth, I was happy as a clam.  See?  Physical activity = one happy mollusk mama!

All day I was looking forward to Zumba tonight as an excuse to get me out of the house and burn off some pent up energy (and calories).  Oh yeah, and as an excuse to dance.  Barely 30 minutes into class, one of the staff members from the Playcenter at the Y came to get me and said the lil' guy was really upset.  I found him red faced with huge tears streaming down his cheeks, and he ran to me and clung to my leg.  Let me tell you that this NEVER happens.  In fact I don't think it has EVER happened, not even when he was much younger.  Turns out he was okay, just wanted his Mama for some unknown reason, but who can argue with that, right?  Nonetheless, I had to stop mid-merengue, put my mommy game face back on and walk out of there, dripping ponytail and all, carrying my 30-something pound mama's boy.  I was NOT happy.

So, my mood having turned from euphoric to bitter, I went home, performed the required amount of snuggling and put the lil' guy to bed.  Then I sat down with a glass of water and a catalog and tried to relax.  Nothin' doin'.  It didn't work.  I was angry, frustrated, and just generally PO'd that my precious hour of endorphin releasing cardio had been taken away from me.  STOLEN.  So, I got in the car, made the 5 minute drive (I may have run there if it weren't dark!) and marched my still slightly sweaty booty back into the Y.

After an hour and a half of weights, the medicine ball, a pilates ring (thank you, Lord, for that brilliant invention), some quality stretching and a few yoga poses, I was back to my old happy, bouncy, nothing-can-phase-me self.  Mission accomplished.  And realization discovered.  I. Need. Activity.  Unless I'm sleeping, or unless my toes are dug deep into the sand.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Roll (and run) with the changes

Often, if you want to see change in yourself, you have to make a change.  The countdown is on to my 2nd half marathon on March 18th, and I'm feeling the need to "buckle down", as my dad would say, and do everything I can to enhance my performance.  I'm also feeling the need to whittle my waistline a bit with Spring around the corner.  This blog from my friend Mari and a conversation we had about it inspired me to make the decision to cut out all alcohol during the week, initially, and see if that makes a difference in both performance and belly.  If I'm not a stark raving looney tune after this week, I may cut it out on the weekends, too, until after the race.  *Disclaimer: I realize this makes me sound like I may have a problem with alcohol, but I don't.  The only problem I have with it is all the empty calories.

So, I'm thinking I may need to find something else to help me wind down after the wild child goes to bed, and all suggestions are appreciated.  Decaffeinated green tea, perhaps?  Pull out the mat and strike a few impromptu yoga poses?  Watch some mindless TV, which I rarely ever do?  Help me out, people!

Another change I've recently made is to eat more bananas and drink green tea.  I never really liked the taste of green tea until I discovered you can get it in many different flavors; my current favorite is this one:

And yes, it's a subtle nod to my Facebook habits (wink, wink).  I read somewhere that beyond all the other benefits green tea boasts, it is a powerful metabolism booster, and after drinking it for a couple of weeks now, I believe it!  Bananas help fight belly bloat and are, of course, loaded with potassium.  Plus, at the exact peak of ripeness, they are just so yummy.  Particularly sliced over a toasted piece of Publix Whole Wheat Mountain Bread with a shmear of peanut butter, and a drizzle of honey on top.  My favorite pre-run breakfast.

Other changes I'm making over the next 3 weeks are to increase my carb intake (hello, whole grain pasta!), increase my water intake, make sure I'm in bed no later than 11pm every night and find some new tunes to add to my running playlist.

A quick aside, speaking of water intake, I recently stumbled upon a recipe (I suppose you'd call it that?) for berry infused water.  I made it last week and can't get enough of.  You just take a pitcher and fill it with cucumbers, mint, lime, strawberries and blueberries, and over time it becomes the most delicious flavored water you could ever dream of.  Slightly sweet, crisp and refreshing.  Try it!

I'm curious, what kinds of changes do you make in the weeks leading up to a big race?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friends in low places...and high places, and slow places, and fast places

Tonight I had the pleasure of experiencing a candlelit yoga class.  It was absolutely magical, and I wish it could've lasted all night long.  Some of the magic carried over to the fabulous wine and cheese reception after class (a Friday night that includes yoga and wine?  Sign me up!) where I talked to some dear friends, friends I've made through running and yoga.  As I was driving home, I found myself thinking about all the friendships I've made over the past year with like-minded people who devote as much time as I do, and in many cases, much more, to living an active lifestyle.  Getting to know somebody who has the same passions is such a thrill for me - I eat it up.  Getting to know someone while experiencing that thrill together - maybe during a run, at the gym or after a yoga class, is even more fun.  And, I have a feeling that some of the friendships I've made that are just beginning to blossom and grow may be some of the deepest friendships I'll have throughout my lifetime.  At least I hope so.  It's good to have friends who are a positive influence on your life, and who motivate you, inspire you and push you.  It's nice to have someone to talk to about all the things nobody else wants to hear about.  And, it's nice to commiserate with someone who "gets it" when you need a shoulder to lean on (sometimes physically)!

What's that famous quote, the one that goes something like "people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime?"  Right now is my season of healthy, active, positive living, and I plan to carry it over into the rest of my lifetime.  I'll need a lot of help from my friends to do it, so I hope you're all on board - you know who you are - because it's gonna be one helluva ride.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dreams come in different sizes and seaglass colors

I have been dreaming a lot lately.  Daydreams.  The kind that encompass you and make you forget what you were doing, in a good way.  95% of them involve the beach, so I'll admit I have a serious case of Spring fever.  I will share a few of them with you.  For those who know me well, they will likely come as no surprise, and for those who don't, well, here's your opportunity to climb inside my imagination and get to know me a bit.

In no particular order, the Things I Dream About:

Sunset at Santa Rosa Beach, FL
- Living at the beach and teaching sunrise and sunset yoga on the sand.

Santa Rosa Beach, FL

- Living at the beach and writing a book. *I've had this dream for as long as I can remember.

Martha's Vineyard, MA

- Buying an historic cottage in coastal New England (this one would do) and renovating it.  Then living out the dreams listed above.

Charleston, SC

- Owning a beach house where one half of it is living space, and the other half is either retail space for antiques and found goods, or an art gallery.  Preferably with beach inspired art from local artisans.  One of these could work.

Martha's Vineyard, MA

- Owning and running a bed and breakfast at the beach.  Something like this.

Chattahoochee River in Roswell, GA

- Becoming a yoga instructor here in my hometown (really? no beach involved?) and teaching in beautiful outdoor settings, particularly along the river.  *Okay, at least there's a water theme.

- Writing for a fitness magazine of some sort.

- Writing anything that will make me money.  *This is a dream that I'm really working on!

Other, more fleeting daydreams include becoming a broadway dancer, a personal trainer, an astronaut, and a closet filled with nothing but J. Crew and Lululemon.

What do you dream about?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Burritos, burgers and bloat - the trifecta of eating out

When I woke up this morning, I wasn't greeted with the flatter-than-normal belly that usually occurs first thing in the morning; rather, I mistook my tummy for a blowfish and thought surely I was still dreaming.  Didn't we just watching "Finding Nemo" recently?  That had to be it.  I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, brushed my teeth and realized I was very much awake, and very much bloated.  But why??  Oh...could have something to do with the three restaurant meals that I ate over the past 3 days.  Shucks. 

We almost never eat out.  Part of that is because we have a toddler, and for those of you with kids, you know exactly what I'm talking about.  Part of it is because we are on a budget, and part of it is because we like to eat healthy.  Generally speaking, with a few exceptions, eating out does not equal eating healthy.  Sometimes, however, when you are just too tired to cook or when you are toddler-free for a night, or when you've just run the most grueling 6 miles of your life, you gotta do it.  Let somebody else cook for you.

So, Friday night we had burritos from Willy's...mine with a whole wheat tortilla, only a smidgeon of rice, black beans, steak, a sprinkling of cheese (I can't resist entirely), salsa and guacamole.  I know, shoulda held the cheese and guac but then it's a pretty boring burrito, dontcha think?

Saturday we treated ourselves to Five Guys.  I had a cheeseburger with every topping I could possibly dream of, and some of the husband's fries.  Nuff said.

Sunday we had Thai takeout.  Red curry with beef and basil rolls.  The coconut milk in the curry was definitely NOT light.

So, come Monday morning, I felt like a deer who had spent all weekend enjoying a salt lick, and looked like a pot bellied pig.  I'm not really exaggerating here, folks.  I even considered looking up the nutritional information for everything I'd eaten all weekend, but decided against it because I KNOW it was bad.  I don't need a bunch of numbers to tell me so.  I don't really feel guilty because it was my choice - nobody was holding that 5 pound burrito to my head and saying "EAT UP!" - I paid for it and scarfed it down myself.  What I do know is that this week, ALL week, I need to clean up my act and do some food detox, which will include LOTS of water, bananas to help counteract the bloat, green tea to boost my metabolism, and tons of fresh fruits and veggies.  The mere thought of processed food makes me want to barf right now.

It's no wonder that not too many years ago, before said toddler came into the picture and the husband and I were both working full time jobs, we ate out a lot.  I'd wager to say that the majority of meals were eaten out.  It's no coincidence, either, that I put on 15+ pounds.

I do know there are exceptions, and some restaurants offer healthier options, but that's just it - the so-called healthier options are not necessarily healthy, they are just slightly less terrible for you than the regular menu options.  Don't believe me?  Look up the nutrition info for some of your favorite sit down restaurant or fast food dishes.  It's easy to find online.  If you are really looking to lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, stave off health issues like diabetes and high cholesterol or just generally take good care of your body, then do yourself a favor and cook your own meals.  Then treat yourself every now & then to a meal that someone else has cooked.  Just maybe not three in one weekend.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A humbling run

"Don't fall down the mountain."  "Just keep moving."  And lots of curse words that I dare not repeat here.  Those were my mantras this morning as I conquered the rocky, rooty, treacherous, hilly terrain that is the course for the Vision Trek 10K Trail Run at Lake Allatoona in Cartersville, GA.  When my friend and race director Mari described it as a "challenging" course, I should've known better because Mari is a true ironwoman.  Things that are challenging to the average athlete are a drop in the bucket to Mari.  I love her to death (er, possibly not the best term), but when she says something is challenging, you'd better watch out.  And maybe have the number to the local EMS on speed dial.

This morning was a practice run, and despite a forecast that called for a 70-80% chance of rain, the weather was sunny, breezy, and absolutely perfect.  Most of us were overdressed because after all, it IS February, but it was also in the mid-50s when we got started.  The trail starts from a beautiful park along the Etowah River and carves its way through the mountains (technically they are hills, but by my standards they are mountains) overlooking beautiful Lake Allatoona.  The views from the trail were breathtaking, particularly at this time of year when the trees are bare and you can see for miles.  Problem was, while running, we couldn't take our eyes off the trail for more than a second or we might've face planted, twisted an ankle, or actually fallen down the side of a mountain - hence my mantra.

At the trail head there is a nice little bridge, and some steps, and about 500 feet of nice, flat terrain before we began our vertical climb.  No lie.  I felt like I needed rocket boosters attached to my calves to make it up that hill, and an oxygen tank to keep me breathing.  After that, we climbed some more, and a little more, and then the trail turned into some rolling hills with very little flat terrain.  We stumbled upon (quite literally) many fallen trees across the path, and I shouted to my husband "IT HELPS TO IMAGINE THAT YOU ARE RUNNING LIKE A DEER!" as I leaped over them.  He thought I was crazy, but I'm into visualization, when it's necessary.  We finally reached the halfway point, which is right at 3 miles because it's an out-and-back course, and took a little break.  I was afraid to rest for too long, for fear that my body might not get up and move again.  So, I sipped some water, ate a couple of Gu Chomps and though to myself "we're already halfway there, we can totally make it back."

Then, at exactly 4 miles, my body was toast.  It wanted to shut down.  I found myself tripping more and discovered my reflexes just weren't as sharp, plus there was this burning in my glutes and my hamstrings that just wouldn't go away.  I told my husband, who was always about 1/4 mile ahead of me on the trail, mind you, because he is Superman, that I honestly didn't know how anybody who didn't strength train regularly could ever survive on this course.  I thought I was in pretty good shape, but these trails KICKED MY BUTT!  Literally.  It was very humbling.  My Garmin kept auto-pausing itself throughout the run, which it only does when you slow down to a near stop.  At one point I looked down and saw that my pace was 19:33.  Clearly I wasn't running, only barely walking, leaning forward and engaging my quads and willing myself to climb the hills.  I even visualized a rope pulling me up at one point, which helped for a minute or two, until my husband suggested I visualize an escalator instead, which made me laugh out loud and lose my concentration on the rope thing, nearly falling down the side of the mountain.  Doh.

For the entire rest of the course, I was saying my mantras aloud, alternating between them depending on the terrain: "Just keep moving!" or "Don't fall down the mountain!"  Then, at 5 miles, my brilliant husband yelled back to me, "You know what would be really good right now?  Five Guys!"  I haven't had Five Guys in over a year, and in that moment, all I could see, smell and taste was a glorious, delicious, dripping, meaty cheeseburger.  I swear that's what got me through the last mile.  I had 3 mantras in my rotation at that point, and thankfully nobody else was within earshot because they likely would've mistaken my cries of  "JUST KEEP MOVING!"  "DON'T FALL DOWN THE MOUNTAIN!" and "FIVE GUYS!" for a bad case of tourettes. 

We FINALLY reached the end of the trail, and just when I caught my breath, I remembered we had to run back to the pavilion where we started, probably only about a 1/4 mile away but it felt like running a 5K.  I have never wanted an ice bath so badly, to the point where I actually considered wading in the river, until I realized I didn't bring a change of clothes.  Drats.

So, we cooled down, rehydrated, and ate ourselves into oblivion at Five Guys, all while musing over how it was possible that somebody actually finished that race in under an hour when it took us 45 minutes just to get to the halfway point.  Our finishing time was 1:33.  It was truly a humbling experience and a reminder that a. though beautiful, trails are no joke; b. I need to focus on my quads, hamstrings and glutes more over the next 2 weeks, and c. I am not invincible.  And yes, that was the best darn cheeseburger I've sunk my teeth into in a very, very long time.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What scares you? Now, go do it!

"Do one thing a day that scares you."  I've seen this quote so many places.  It's a good one, because when we do something that scares us, we are venturing outside of our comfort zone.  More times than not we discover that the scary thing is actually the thing that will bring us the most positive results.  Case in point: the personal challenge I set for myself this week, to do a "double" on Friday morning, consisting of a 75 minute hot yoga class followed by a 60 minute hot pilates class.  May I mention that I haven't done pilates in probably 10 years?  And that after Isabelle's intense hot yoga class, I'm usually completely physically spent and ready to hang out in child's pose for the rest of the day?  Yeah.  So, I signed up, and I did it.  It helped that my friend Kate was there, always encouraging and inspiring, and just a fun person to be around.  Plus, she can totally rock a headstand.

So I donned my finest yoga garb, shlepped my awesome new mat to the studio, and set out upon my journey.  Turns out, the yoga class was the most challenging, sweaty, intense one I've done thus far.  I brought this measly little hand towel with me and it was toast by 20 minutes into class.  Beads of sweat kept running into my ears and eyes, and my mat was covered in pools of it.  The room felt like a rainforest today.  I worked harder than I've worked in a long time, and I executed a pose at the very end that I never dreamed I could do, and it felt so, so good.  SCORE.  I was so ready to go home and shower, and then I remembered that I was already signed in for Round 2: hot pilates.  Crap.  I took a bathroom break (no pun intended) and had a really hard time pulling my yoga pants back up around my waist because they were completely drenched in sweat - TMI? - as if I had been swimming in a pool.  Grossness.  Accomplishment.  Call it what you may, I was ready to call it a day but I forged ahead, back into the heated room.

Did I mention that I haven't done pilates in over 10 years?  Back when I did it, there was no such thing as a pilates ring.  This little doozie:

Turns out, that ring of fire (literally - it made my inner and outer thighs and abs feel as if they had been set ablaze) made all the difference in the workout.   A-ma-zing.  Might have to invest in one for my own personal use at home and at the gym.   Anyway, I had forgotten, until this morning, just how much I love pilates and more importantly, how much I RESPECT it.  Without using a single weight, only the weight of your own body, it sculpts your core, legs and glutes like no other workout I'm privy to.  I think I've fallen back in lust with it.  Lust, as in, I want it more.  Again.  Now.  Well, maybe not now, for I don't think my abs could take another gut wrenching second of it.  Because it was JUST THAT GOOD.

What I'm getting at here, folks, is the importance of venturing outside of your comfort zone.  My dear friend Mari is big on this, and I can see why.  It's when we push ourselves to do something outside of what we THINK are our limits, that we see the most results.  Case in point, when I got home from my double whammy today, as I was getting ready for a much needed shower I glanced in the mirror and saw more definition in my abs than I've seen all week.  A bit miraculous, really.  And I swear that my jeans felt just a tiny bit looser.  Could be the fact that I pushed myself through pain, hesitation and fear, and sweated buckets for 135 minutes today.  I ventured outside of my comfort zone and now, 8 hours later, I'm feeling quite comfortable.  Ecstatic, really.  So try it, you just might be surprised at how possible the seemingly impossible is.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Strong is the new skinny

Really, it is.  How many times have you wished to be skinny like so-and-so, only to discover that so-and-so's skinny arms can't lift a bag of groceries, or her skinny legs can't run up a hill?  Think about it, people.  Does looking like a toothpick that could be snapped in half really sound enticing?  Not to me.  I used to think so, but obviously I wasn't born with that DNA and now I'm honestly kinda glad.  I do wish that I didn't have to work so hard to keep weight off and stay fit, but it's worth the effort in the end.  After 36 years, it hit me tonight, like a ton of bricks, that I have my daddy's DNA.  My dad, my sister and I are all built exactly the same.  Short, with short limbs, and nothing long, lithe or skinny about us, but we can build muscle.  A lot of muscle, if we try, and we don't even have to try super hard.  I looked in the mirror tonight while I was lifting weights at the Y and saw something that impressed me: to my right was a pimply faced teenage boy, texting on his phone in between sets.  (No, that was NOT what impressed me.)  In front of me was me, lifting more weight than said teenage boy, muscles firing and and looking kinda awesome.  I was really proud of what I saw.  So proud, in fact, that I had someone snap a few pics.  Stupid and embarrassing, I know, but I'd rather be embarrassed while asking someone to snap a pic of something I'm actually proud of then having someone snap a pic of me in a not-so-proud moment.  Here you go.

The pics, taken on my cell phone, don't really do my back, arms and shoulders justice.  They help me every single day when it comes to picking up my 30-something pound son or holding the downward facing dog pose just a little longer.  They help me do push ups - the real ones, not on my knees, and they help my 4 foot 10 inch frame lift and carry things that normal sized people can do, no problem.  I may have been born with a disadvantage when it comes to height, but I was definitely born with an advantage when it comes to strength.

The other day I was reading a magazine and came across an article about how to dress for your body type.  Under the body type label "Athletic", it said something to the effect of "Downplay broad shoulders with X and minimize athletic legs with Y."  ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME?  Why would anyone want to minimize them??  I don't get it.  I have worked hard on my shoulders and my legs, and every part in between, and I would like to proudly display the parts of me that are toned and sculpted and beautiful, thank you very much.  Unbelievable.  Then again, the article proceeded to give highly informative (not) information on how to "enhance" every body type from twig to hourglass.  I wish I could find it and post it here, but I subscribe to 3 fitness magazines and 1 fashion magazine, so that might take awhile.

The bodybuilder/fitness model Jamie Eason posted this on her Facebook page today, and I think she says it best: 
"For the record, someone will ALWAYS say that you are too big, too thin, too lean, too fat, too whatever. In my opinion, they are too conceited to think that their opinion is going to change our behavior. A person with confidence won't be deterred! Keep after it!!"  

Her words are so true and motivating, and I urge you all to look past the standards of what society thinks you SHOULD look like (i.e., skinny), and discover what makes you feel good in your own skin.  Then, work like hell to make that happen.  If you treat your body right, it won't do you wrong.  I promise.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A night of music - just what the shrink ordered

I haven't watched a Grammy Award show from beginning to end in oh, probably 6 years, despite the fact that I used to watch them religiously.  Somehow, life and other priorities have gotten in the way, not to mention I'm not always the biggest fan of mainstream music these days.  But tonight, I had a hankering to watch it because I've also had a hankering to talk music with somebody this week.  Nothing in particular...just in need of one of those conversations that could go on and on until you realize it's 4am and you haven't slept because you've been discussing Doors lyrics all night long.  So, I was giddy to discover that tonight, while I watched the Grammys, I could have a seemingly live conversation about them and about music with many of my friends via Facebook.  I know, I know, I'm somewhat addicted, but hey - at times like this when you are just DYING to discuss your favorite topic in the entire world and you have a captive and engaged audience in the palm of your hand, literally, is it really such a bad thing?  I think it's pretty darn cool.

Music is the one thing that to me, is universal.  It's not so much the lyrics or the language in which a song is sung that's important, rather it's how that song makes you FEEL.  I'd be willing to bet that Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" would strike a chord with someone who couldn't even understand the lyrics, because of the fierce amount of passion behind it - do you agree?  I have always, for as long as I can remember, been passionate about music, almost to a fault.  It gets me past the past and helps me look to the future, and keeps me grounded in the present.  I always, ALWAYS have a song going through my head.  Even when I'm not entirely conscious of it, music is always there.  And there's nothing I love more than having a long, heartfelt conversation with somebody about it - it's cathartic and inspiring to me all at the same time. 

I used to dream of working with bands, be it as a publicist or a manager, or a rock journalist ala Cameron Crowe.  I don't think those dreams will ever come to fruition, but in the meantime I can be a lover and a student of the music.  Artists, bands, songwriters - please give me more, teach me more.  I need your talent to survive and stay sane and whole and grounded in this crazy world.  Sometimes that means that I need your music to escape.  So keep bringin' it.

This evening has been so fun for me, to connect with friends over music.  So the next time a song strikes your fancy or you're listening to your favorite band from way back and the memories come flooding in, email me, text me, or give me a call.  Let's talk about it.  Because music will forever be woven into the tapestry of my soul.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Neither cold, nor wind, nor snow, nor sleet will stop this lil' runner!

I had the most amazing morning.  I know, from the title of this post it sounds amazingly excruciating, but it wasn't.  When I registered for the Chattahoochee Challenge 10K several weeks ago, it was about 65 degrees.  This morning it hovered around 35.  Go figure.  My dear friend Stacey and I shlepped down to the river in our long pants, long sleeve shirts, jackets, hats and gloves, with these guys tucked warmly inside:

Needless to say, we did NOT look like "little hotties."  It was a function over fashion kinda morning.  When the race started, the air was nice and still and it really felt comfortable, until about 3 miles in, when it got windy.  I noticed a few little white flaky objects floating by, and it took me a second to realize those were flakes of SNOW.  Then, something hit me on the corner of my eye and stung, and I realized it was sleeting.  Seriously.  SLEETING!  Not to mention, we were running alongside the beautiful Chattahoochee River where the temp is generally a little cooler and the wind generally a little stronger.  The saving grace was that it was a BEAUTIFUL morning.  Think crisp, pure blue sky dotted with heavy white and gray snow clouds, the sun peeking through every now and then as if to wink at us and say "Sorry, not gonna warm you up today, suckers!" 

My run this morning was awesome.  I relied heavily on my new Garmin to check my pace and it helped immensely.  I kept a slower pace in the first half and ran hard in the second half - the magic of negative splits!  I am thrilled that I shaved 3 minutes off my previous best 10K time for a PR of 58:20.  YES.

I am even more thrilled, almost speechless, that I shaved ELEVEN MINUTES AND SEVENTEEN SECONDS off the time of my very first 10K that I ran in June 2010 - the exact same course.  In less than 2 years I have come a long, long way.  I remember the weeks leading up to that first 10K when I questioned myself about whether I could do it, cursed myself for signing up for it, and congratulated myself when I finished, just for finishing without walking.  Wow.  I have worked my butt off over the past two years and it shows! 

The point of this post is not to brag or boast, but to perhaps inspire just one of you who has been on the fence about trying something outside of your comfort zone.  Doesn't have to be running, it can be anything.  I truly believe that if you work hard enough at something, believe in your abilities, and tell those little voices inside your head that tell you you can't do it to shut the *%& up, you can do anything.  So try it, and see how it makes you feel.  I'm willing to bet you'll feel on top the world, like I do in this very moment. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The importance of untethering

Where do you take your smartphone with you?  Do you take it with you on a run?  To the gym?  To the park with your kids?  How about into the bathroom?  The bedroom?  Do you keep it within earshot at a restaurant?  On the golf course?  At the pool?  I'm just curious, because recently two things happened that made me realize I need to untether.  I am WAY too attached to my phone, and my Kindle Fire, and my desktop computer, for that matter.  The one I'm typing on right now.  Actually, if I had a camera within arm's reach I'd take a picture of my desktop (the physical one, from Ikea) so you could see that as I'm typing on the keyboard, my Kindle and my Droid are both about a foot away from me.  S-A-D.  But also a reality of many people today.  I'm pretty sure I'm not alone I right?

I knew I had become too attached to my phone, but a few days ago, my son made it painfully clear for me.  We were watching TV on the couch and my phone was on the coffee table.  We got up to go play trains at his train table, about 4 feet away, and when I sat down he brought my phone to me and said "Here you go, Mama."  I looked at him quizzically and said "Thank you, but I don't need my phone."  He just stared at me and again said, "Here you go," as if to say "I wouldn't want you to be too far away from your phone, Mama, because you have it with you 24/7 and you'd be lost without it."  Thanks, kid, for the reality check.  At that point, I actually took the darn phone, carried it into the kitchen and left it there.  Out of arm's or ear's reach.  I couldn't even see if the little green light was blinking to tell me I had an email or text, and that ignorance was bliss.  My son and I played trains for a good, solid hour that day, completely uninterrupted and completely happy.

I know I'm not the only one who is entirely too attached to her phone, because tonight in Zumba class I witnessed something rather appalling.  A girl in the class brought her phone with her and left it at the front of the room.  In between every song - and I'm not exaggerating - she ran up to the front to grab her phone, check it, and text somebody.  I kid you not.  Not only was this entirely distracting, it was frustrating to me because she was blocking my view of the instructor, who often previews the sequence for the upcoming song and I couldn't see a thing.  I'm really pretty easygoing when it comes to the whole phone thing because I know I'm guilty of obnoxious overuse as well, but this made me furious.  It was disrespectful to everyone in the class, especially the instructor!  And c'mon, what can be THAT important that you have to check it every 3 minutes?

This week I have made a conscious effort to spend less time interacting with my phone and more time engaging with real human beings.  Like my son.  It's amazing how when you just don't bring it with you, you can tune into your surroundings and the people you're with, and be PRESENT for them.  I urge you to do the same thing, because I'm willing to bet you may have a little attachment issue to your phone, too.  Put it down.  Leave it in the car.  Turn it off if you have to, and instead of looking (hoping, wishing, praying) for that little green light to blink, try looking into the eyes of the person you're with and really LISTEN to them.  It's amazing what you might hear. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Touchy feely hippie yogi, at your service

I've always been a bit touchy-feely.  It goes back to Ms.Tyson's first grade class where we learned about warm fuzzies and cold pricklies.  I think one of those warm fuzzies she had made out of pom poms and little googly eyes grabbed hold of my soul, burrowed itself way down deep inside, built a nest, and still resides in there today.  I also think I have a little bit of hippie in me, though I'm not sure where that comes from because neither of my parents were into that, and they are slightly mortified whenever I summon my inner flower child.  Anyhow, when I stumbled upon yoga last summer I was hooked after my first vinyasa flow, led by the dear, beautiful, amazing Lisa Flynn at Dance Stop Studios.  Funny story, at the end of my first yoga session (which wasn't even a true class, mind you, rather a 30 minute demo,) I cried.  Like, big fat tears streaming down my face when I came out of savasana.  I wasn't sure what to think; on one hand I was mortified that everyone was staring at me and I couldn't make the tears stop, and on the other hand it felt so darn GOOD.  I felt like someone had taken a syphon and sucked all the stress and worries and negative energy out of my body.  I felt CLEAN.  So, I went back.  I continue to go.  I've tried a few types of classes (both beginner and intermediate) with Lisa and the incredible Kathy Carroll, and now I'm trying a hot yoga class at Be Yoga with the inspiring Isabelle Casey.

Even in the short few months I've been practicing, yoga has changed my life.  No, seriously, it has.  It has made me more patient with my son.  It has made me friends - who knew the yoga community was so tight-knit, warm and welcoming?  It has made me realize that my body can do things I never imagined it capable of doing, including entering a state of complete and total relaxation (hello, bliss!), and it has most DEFINITELY made me a better runner.  When I first heard the term "hip openers" I giggled like a 15 year old girl, but I've come to adore them.  Painful as pigeon pose may be, it's my go-to remedy for tight hips and glutes from running.  And it works, every time.

Pigeon Pose, courtesy of yogijen:

The physical benefits of yoga are astounding; each time I practice, I feel like I've taken a year off my life.  For real.  But the mental, spiritual, emotional, soulful, touchy-feely benefits outweigh any warm fuzzy I've ever felt.  No matter how many people are in the class, once I get into the mindset, it's just me and the mat.  For 75 minutes I focus so intently on my breathing and my body, and try my hardest to get OUT of my head.  At the end I truly feel like I've entered a state of nirvana.  After the class is over, I wrap that warm, fuzzy feeling around me like the softest, coziest sweater and try to wear it every day until I practice again.  Added bonus: the sweater feels a little baggy now, thanks to the body sculpting power of yoga, too!

My beloved instructor Lisa once gave everyone in her class a handout with a compilation of quotes (courtesy of Lululemon, sprinkled with thoughts from herself and her family) about yoga, and this is one of my favorites: "Yoga allows me to come back to myself.  No matter how I hit my mat, I leave a better version of me."  That's what it's all about, folks.
One silly little piece of rubber like the one I purchased today (thank you Kathy and Kate for your recos!) can be your gateway out of stress, fears, anxiety and insecurities and into peace, harmony, positivity and bliss.  I urge you to try it - it does a body (and soul) good.  Namaste!