Back in January I submitted my Curvy 7 Interview with Anna Guest-Jelley of Curvy Yoga fame and it’s now my turn to be featured on her blog! First of all, thank you so much, Anna, for doing this! Second, I love the work Anna is doing by encouraging body acceptance for all shapes and sizes. Curvy Yoga is just one of several much needed movements within yoga to make it more diverse and reclaim it from the stereotypical thin, white, yuppies gracing the covers of Yoga Journal. Yoga IS for every BODY, whether you’re big or little and regardless of your skin color, age, sexual orientation, or gender classification. And Curvy Yoga is spreading that word like wildfire. Kudos to you & thanks again!
Yesterday, Caroline (fearless leader of the Running Bloggers) put up a post asking how we stay motivated. I’ve been told that this blog is very motivating for people. Some of my readers have begun yoga practices or started running because they see that if I can do it, they can too. This makes me happy because if people can avoid learning things the hard way just by reading something I’ve written, I’m happy to have helped.
Despite what others think of my blog and my journey to wellness, I personally have a hard time staying motivated for a lot of different reasons: my inner dialogue is nearly always negative; I see images of “beauty” every day that I’ll never fit; and it’s hard to stay objective about long-term goals when you’re in the midst of the work and can’t see results. These are just three reasons; there are so many more things that keep me down, mentally. I’ve said countless times on this blog that the mental part of a lifestyle change (in my case exercising & dieting) is the most difficult.
Because of the effort it takes to combat my inner negativity, I try to make my external environment positive. My workstation is filled with quotes, some of which are listed on my Favorite Quotes page. When I saw Caroline’s post, my eyes instantly went to this quote taped to one of my monitors:
The key to development along the Buddhist path is repetitive routine guided by inspirational vision. It is the insight into final freedom–the peace and purity of a liberated mind–that uplifts us and impels us to overcome our limits. But it is by repetition–the methodical cultivation of wholesome practices–that we cover the distance separating us from the goal and draw ever closer to awakening
American Buddhist monk Bhikkhu Bodhi said that, and though it is in reference to a Buddhist practice, I think it applies to lifestyle changes, too. For me that’s essentially what my Buddhist practice is–a way to change myself–to become skillful, healthy, and connected. I am inspired to observe my life and to recognize the cultural forces acting upon it, influencing it. I am inspired to both embrace my existence within this specific time and place as well as to abandon my culture’s influence on me. As it pertains to running specifically, I am inspired to one day call myself a long-distance runner. I envision myself running with the pack instead of in the back of it. This vision does help me overcome what I think are my limits (e.g., I’m overweight, which makes me slow & makes running harder.).
An inspirational vision isn’t enough, though; actual work is required. And the best way to stay committed to any goal is with a daily practice. By the “methodical cultivation of wholesome practices,” I have been changing my life. I’m not sure I’m any closer to “awakening” than I was when I started practicing yoga or running, but I know that the distance between my goal is less now than it was then, and that keeps me motivated that this journey is worthy.
Thank you for reading, and thank you, Caroline for today’s post inspiration. What keeps you motivated?
Remember how I got injured at the end of April? Yeah, I was in physical therapy for much of May. Instead of spending six days a week training and working on my speed, I spent three days a week in physical therapy and the rest of the week doing my exercises and stretches. At first the PT was really painful, but then it wasn’t so bad. All the time off, though, combined with a shit-storm of stress in May made it really tough to get back to training.
I probably could have returned to training last week, but I didn’t. I watched a lot of tv and had several dinners/pool nights with friends. Over the weekend, I recommitted to my training. This time, though, I’m doing it without the fabulous help and support of my coach at Knoxville Endurance (yes, I’m concerned about that). I’m almost a week into it, and for the most part, it’s been a complete failure. However, instead of beating myself up over it, I’ve faced the situation for what it is, and I’m moving forward. Here’s my step-by-step process:
First, assess the situation. I need to return to running for anxiety management and weight loss.
Second, establish goals, both long term and short term. Long-term, I still want to complete the Bluegrass Half Marathon on September 22nd. I also want to lose 30 pounds by then. Short term, I want to complete two weeks of my training plan without deviating. I also want to detox from sugar, carbohydrates, and alcohol until further notice, but most likely until September.
Third, identify specific ways of achieving those goals. I have developed a training plan that will get me back up to running long distances. This training plan includes four days of running each week, one day of yoga, one day of elliptical or Get Fit with Mel B cross training, and one rest day. I have also committed to tracking all calories consumed and burned with My Fitness Pal. This way I can see where my calories are coming from and make adjustments to my diet accordingly.
Fourth, stick to the plan and be flexible only when necessary. It’s easy to tell myself that today is not a good day to (fill in the blank). But that’s not true. Today is always a good day to be active, meditate, eat right, drink enough water, (fill in the blank). Rain or shine, humidity or not, I need to stick to my plan. Building good habits is just as hard as breaking bad ones. It takes a daily commitment and considerable time to change, but the only way it’s going to happen is with consistency.
Fifth, have someone hold yourself accountable. It sucks that I’m doing this on my own. It sucks that I don’t really have a “training buddy,” because having someone else actually sweating balls with you is hugely motivating. But both because of my schedule and my location, that’s just not feasible for me, so I’m turning to my blogging community to help me out a little here. This is why I’m posting all of this here. Please feel free to click on my Daily Mile icon to see if I’ve run or logged elliptical mileage. Check my Twitter feed for my Plank-a-Day challenge posts. And when you don’t see anything, call me on it. If you know my phone number, call me or send me a text. If not, I’m not giving it out, but you can email me, comment on my Facebook page or Twitter feed, or leave a comment here.
An Infographic for Perspective
I found this over at Fit for a Year. Man does that guy have great infographics! Check it out, y’all. Here’s the link to the actual hosted site, though. I’m definitely NOT going to take any weight-loss pills (shown at the bottom of the infographic). In my experience, the best way to make long-term changes with diet and wellness are to do it the old fashioned way: healthy diet and adequate exercise. Aside from that, everything else covered here definitely motivates me to get my butt in gear. I’m committed to cutting my calories, sugars, carbs, which should take care of the processed foods. I’m a little concerned about protein, though, because I can only eat so much chicken and fish before I want to return to vegetarianism; but legumes don’t like me nearly as much as I like them. Having enough variety in my diet is a huge challenge. Also to be considered in my diet is carbohydrate storage. I need to eat GOOD carbs to help me fuel through work outs, and I need something for refueling on long runs; but again, a lot of high-fiber carbs just ruin my GI tract, and I need to not rely on sugary nutrition like Gu during long runs. Finding the right carbs and the right endurance nutrition will require effort.
And without further adieu:
For new readers, I’m living in the middle of a lifestyle change, and I’ve been in it for at least the last two years. Reading through my posts will hopefully paint that picture for you, so please check out my older posts.
If you want to read more about making lifestyle changes that LAST, please check out Leo Babauta’s blog, Zen Habits. He’s been a great source of inspiration to me.
Here are links in chronological order for what I consider to be the most relevant posts to changing my life. Hopefully this collection of posts serves as proof from a person living in the midst of it that change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. There will be good and bad days. Sometimes good and bad happens on the same day. The good and bad, the arduous and easy: it’s all worth the work it takes; and it takes everything you have.
#3) …And Exhale…
#4) Cosmic Love
#11) A Life of Practice
#12) Life in Last Place
#13) My Bucket List
#14) I CAN Do This!
#19) Things Fall Apart
#21) Now Testify
It’s been too long since I’ve put up a proper post. Sorry about that. My hiatus can best be explained as follows:
April 1-7: Week leading up to the half marathon. Not a great week. It took a lot of energy to actually get myself motivated to look forward to the race. Perks of this week included all of the encouragement from my coach, my yoga teacher, and from my friends at church.
April 7: The half marathon. See recap below.
April 8-14: Recovering from the half marathon. See recap below.
April 15-present: Getting back in the swing of things. Busy with PIET work and the final push to Shiloh’s graduation.
2013 Knoxville Half Marathon Review
On Sunday, April 7th, I completed my first half marathon. The week before the event, I wasn’t nearly as excited as my coach and other runners. In the fall, I was looking toward this event as my goal, but training on my own was getting me injured; and I didn’t actually start training with my coach until February, which isn’t enough time to train properly. But, at this stage of my regular training plan, building a base running ability, I was scheduled to do almost 13 miles for my long run anyway. It was perfect timing to do a practice race, too.
Before this event, I’d only ever run 9 miles total; and I was mostly nervous about essentially adding on an additional hour of running without working up to it. Then, when I returned to Facebook and saw everything my husband had done in developing an “entourage,” I started to freak out a little. (My beloved refers to these moments as “onion” moments because I’m apparently layered like an onion. Thanks, babe.) But then my yoga teacher gave me a small dose of common sense. I focused on the running only, and didn’t think about any of the rest.
Of course the first time you do anything, it sets a record, but I set a few personal records at this event, too. For people not in the running world, my time is not impressive at all. For reference, a 91-year old man finished about 10 minutes before I did. He set a world record.(Side note: If I even make it to 91, I’ll want a medal.) What IS impressive is that I did it. I did it with ovarian cyst pain. I did it overweight. I did it as a former asthmatic. I did it as someone who used to be so crippled by depression and anxiety that I’d only ever leave my home to work (and sometimes not even then). So yeah, that’s pretty impressive to me.
3/20/13 Time: 14:28 Ran my first complete mile.
4/6/13 Time: 28:20 Two miles that included walking breaks. Faster than my 1 mile of consistent running.
4/7/13 Half Marathon Records set:
Overall time: 3:18:48
Fastest mile: 13:00 (First mile)
Time: 39:40 Fastest 5K (3.1 miles/First 3 miles)
Time: 14:47 Fastest Finishing mile; I finished way stronger than I thought I could.
Overall, I finished about 20 minutes faster than I anticipated based on my previous long-run performance. I’m pretty proud of that. But I’m also looking to knock at least 30 minutes off my time before my next half marathon, so I’m focusing on ways to improve.
I’d already seen my recovery week plan, so I knew it was going to be a light week. What I didn’t expect was that I’d be so exhausted for so long, and that I’d hurt for as long as I did. When I came home from work almost every night that week, I did restorative yoga and went to bed at least 2 or 3 hours before my regular bedtime. Even though I’ve been getting enough rest, since the race I’ve been waking up exhausted and feeling incredibly run down. My coach told me that it’s typical to have an immunity zap after endurance events; and I’m confident that’s true, but all the pollen doesn’t help either.
As far as pain goes, I know it’s just something that has to work itself out. I know I’m not injured, and I know that I mostly just have to learn how to tolerate a different kind of pain. I can help things along by eating right/frequently enough, drinking enough, sleeping enough, and being mindful while exercising. The week immediately after the race, I was scheduled to log 10 miles, but I only did 2, and I walked it at that. I didn’t stick to my plan because I knew my body was telling me to be gentler than the plan had detailed. So I did restorative yoga and foam rolled like a boss.
Back on Track
The thing about taking time “off” from running is that it sucks coming back. I’ve been “coming back” for the last 10 days. I remember posting something like “2 miles today seems like nothing compared to 13.1 tomorrow” the day before the race. And now, it’s everything I can do to complete a 4-mile run. My body is still kind of recovering, and I know I can push through this; but I have to keep moving to do it. If I take two rest days in a row, I’m such a wimp on the next run. So now I’m back to working the plan. It’s harder because I have a different kind of pain to deal with in the process, but it’s still worth it.
As I mentioned earlier, this event was a training run for my goal event. As you’ve noticed my race countdown in the margin, I was set to participate in the first ever Mountain Mommas ½ Marathon in Sevierville, TN on Mother’s Day (May 12th). Unfortunately, the race was canceled due to low registration, which is certainly a wrench in my plan. I asked my coach if we should focus on 5Ks and 10Ks over the summer and set another goal for the Bluegrass Half Marathon in Johnson City on September 22nd. That’s exactly what he wants to do. We’re going to continue to build a base running fitness and start working on speed. First step, reduce the walking breaks to 30 seconds, and walk more briskly & upright.
In the meantime, I’m updating my countdown for the September event because that’s my goal, but I’ll actually be participating in several smaller events before then. If you’re local and want to hang, here’s my schedule:
Saturday, April 27th Dogwood 5K
Saturday, May 11th Run for Clean Air 5K
Saturday, May 25th KTC Expo 10K
Saturday, June 1st, Run for the Rose 5K
Wednesday, July 3rd, Pilot Fireball Classic 5k
Saturday, August 10th, Color Me Rad 5K
Room for Improvement
Clearly, I expect to improve my performance over time; and to do that I’m sticking to the training plan because it works well. But I need to focus on at least two other areas, too: diet and yoga. Since February, I’ve significantly increased my cardio work as well as general fitness (pushups, core work, leg strengthening). The result has been a change in my metabolism, which affects my hormones and my ovarian cysts. These changes are good in the long-run, but any changes with hormones are difficult to endure even if the end result is positive. I’ve been advised to focus on a diet of low-glycemic foods to help regulate my metabolism, so that’s where I’ll start.
With yoga, I just need to do more of it. So far I’ve been focused on running and strength training geared specifically for running. I’ve done yoga, but it’s mostly restorative. I’m not knocking it because clearly my body needs it; but my mental health balance needs regular, moderately challenging yoga. I’m noticing the twinges of easy irritability and difficulty with meditation. I’m noticing more resistance to change and less mindfulness of the moment. Yoga has been the best thing for me in conquering these challenges. Like being thirsty though, once you recognize it, you’re already dehydrated. While I’m also working my way back into running, I also want to focus more on working back into a challenging yoga practice.
Realistic Goal Setting & Scheduling
So far I’ve mentioned three areas of focus (running, dieting, and yoga), and putting time and attention into this many things is a lot for someone who also works full time and volunteers part time. I’ve learned through reading Zen Habits that making lifestyle changes requires focus and action on small, frequent habits as opposed to large goals. Fortunately, my running plan is something my coach puts together. I don’t have to think about it; I just do it. I’ve also already got an awesome yoga practice; I just need to do it, too. Putting together a detailed diet plan takes several hours of research, planning, shopping, and meal prepping. If that’s the only thing I need to do on my own, it doesn’t seem like much; but the challenge lies in finding the time to do it all.
Because it’s starting to get hot, I’ll be returning to early morning practices. I hate waking up so early, but it’s the only way I can feasibly see myself running through the summer. It’s more of an environmental constraint than anything, and I just have to accept it. With early morning practices, I can focus on doing my restorative yoga on those afternoons/evenings. On cross training days, I’ll do the elliptical and yoga instead of either/or. I’ll be building the near-daily habit of exercising early every morning (cardio/endurance) and every evening (yoga). I’ll still take my weekly rest day, too.
So, I need help with the diet. Do any of you pay attention to glycemic index? Have you researched it? I’ve done the cursory Google search, but I’d like more than that. If you have any low glycemic index meals, please share the recipes! I’ll spend some time researching/planning on my next rest day, and I’ll check back here for any tips you want to leave.
Thanks for reading and come back for more on my Knoxville Half Marathon experience in The Friends Who Waited.