A Big Chicken

This weekend, I spent some time remaniscing about my youth and all of the things that I used to be so scared of, that I now realize were quite harmless. I visited the family cottage in “Up North, Michigan” where I spent many summers as a child. My dad came up to spend some time with the boys and I and we talked about how I used to be terrified of the minnows that nibble your toes when you get in the water, and of the spiders that adorn the windows of the cottage, and the sound of the pump as it kicked on after the toilet was flushed, and many other silly things. We had a good laugh about all of it.

Then, this morning, I was back in the small, farm town where I grew up. I needed to do an 8 mile run (thank goodness I have that training plan to boss me around) and I had had no luck in finding a willing running mate. So I set my alarm for 6:00am to get most of the run done before anyone was awake (and because I knew that if I saved it for later in the day I might not have the discipline to do it). 

There was a BIG part of me that was dreading running 8 miles on country roads, especially when I have been spoiled lately with doing all of my runs on the beautiful trails where I live. So I decided I would run the 1 mile trail that is in the city park, and very close to my sister’s house, to get started. I ran over to the park and around the paved drive. When I got to the trail entrance, I completely chickened out. It was dark and mysterious, and it seemed too overgrown to be safe (especially without my pepper spray and my boxer, who normally runs with me when I’m not with a friend).

So, I was back to running on the country roads. I headed out of the park, and out of town for an out and back run. It was a beautiful morning and the sun was shining over the corn fields and dairy farms. This wasn’t going to be so bad after all. I was keeping a pretty good pace, and feeling strong, when all of a sudden, as I approached an old farm house, a man came running off the porch and down his driveway. I quickly moved to the other side of the road and picked up my speed. He stopped at the end of his drive and said, “I’m wearing Michigan State shorts…and I HATE Michigan State!” (Nervous chuckle from me.) Then he said, “Have a great day!” and waved good bye.

Ok. That was weird, but I’m smart enough to know that this man wasn’t the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, and most likely was just trying to be a friendly fella. I continued on with my run, albeit at an accelerated pace for a little while.

But remember, this was an out and back run, so I had to run by the house again. On my way back into town I was feeling a little more tired, and I couldn’t remember which house it was that the man had come from. As I neared a couple of houses that I thought might be the one, my heart rate and speed would go up (big chicken, remember?). Then, I heard a screen door spring closed, and I knew I was back at the house. Sure enough, he came running to the end of the driveway. 

“You’re still running?”

Again with a nervous giggle, “Yup!”

“How long have you been running?” he was yelling because I was sprinting at this point.

“About 45 minutes,” I hollered back.

“HOLY MAMA!!!  Have a great day!” 

And I couldn’t help but smile as I continued down the dirt road. Why am I such a chicken?! I really need to work on being less afraid of things. Almost every time that I am afraid of something, it turns out to be much less dramatic and awful than I had made it out to be in my head. The next time that I am visiting my hometown, I WILL run that trail at the park. (I will carry my pepper spray though, so watch out!)

<3 Don't be a chicken. Laugh at your fears. Do things that make you feel alive, that make you forget your age, that exhilarate and excite you, and truly bring you joy.

I finished my 8 mile run this morning in 70 minutes. That’s the fastest that I have run that distance in a long time. I give credit to the guy who creeped me out, then made me laugh at myself for being such a chicken.

Here’s to doing the things that scare you!!! They are the things that will make you more brave, and more confident!
 

Starting From Zero

 
Some days it feels like I am starting from zero. Today is one of those days. I have been having pain in my right foot since March. At the end of March I self-diagnosed it as a stress fracture (I’m not a big fan of paying to go to the doctor, only to be told to stop running!) and took 6 weeks off from running. Not an easy thing for me to do, but I knew it was in the best interest of my foot (not so much my mental health…). I started back to running at the beginning of May, and much to my dismay, my foot began to hurt again after about 4 runs. Being the responsible adult that I am, (ahem) I decided I didn’t really care if my foot hurt and I was just going to keep running. After all, it wasn’t unbearable. 

Then, last week I attended my monthly Triathlon Club meeting. We had a guest speaker from “Good Form Running” that spoke about the importance of running with good form in order to avoid injury. I was quickly reminded of last summer when I was training for my Ironman and my sister Rondi, a physical therapist, helped me get through some injuries by having me work on my number of “steps per minute” as I ran. Sure enough, the “Good Form Running” guy reaffirmed that the correct number of steps per minute in order to run with the best form (and the least likelihood of injury) is 180. Let me assure you that if this is not something you have tried, it is not an easy thing to do. 

On Friday, I went out for my first post-meeting run. One mile into the run my foot began to hurt, and that little light bulb came on reminding me to turn on my metronome app and start running with 180 steps per minute. Upon doing this, my foot did not hurt for the rest of the run. However, I was completely bushed and panting like a dog. 

On my Monday morning trail run, I was running with a friend, and decided not to kill the ambiance of our run with the dee, dee, dee, dee, dee of the metronome app. The run was fabulous, peaceful, and much easier (even though it was longer!) than Friday’s 180 steps per minute run. Can you guess the problem? Yup. Sore foot.

So, today while the boys slept, I decided that I am going to have to stay committed to this whole 180 steps per minute thing. I headed downstairs to the treadmill, started my metronome app, and I was off. Changing anything with your form feels like starting from zero. My body is not used to (or happy with) taking 180 steps per minute. It’s a BIG change. Today I only ran 3 miles, and 1.5 miles in I had to take an emergency break because the laundry had to be switched! You get what I mean. It’s not going to be a fun change, but the to be able to run injury free will be entirely worth the struggle.

“The reward for those who persevere far exceeds the pain that precedes the victory.” -Unknown
Today it feels like I’m starting from zero, and it hurts. But the glory that I’ll feel at the finish line of my 50K on September 29 makes it all worth it.
Start today. 
 

Friends


Do you know what is quite fabulous? Friends. Girlfriends to be exact. In the last few weeks I have been lucky enough to spend time with girlfriends from many points in my life: some high school friends, college friends, work friends, “mom” friends, and triathlon friends (AKA retired greyhounds). Let me just say that I am blessed to have so many amazing ladies in my life.

This past weekend, specifically, I stepped back into my college, pre-mom days, for a bachelorette party. And this party was the real deal, complete with a fancy suite at the Motor City Casino, pre-Tigers game drinks at Cheli’s (with a table hand-picked by Chris Chelios himself!), Tigers Den seats for the Tigers vs. Red Sox game, dancing at a club after the game, and then back to the hotel at 2:00am. Whoa. I’m tired all over again just listing it out! It was such a fun time. Admittedly, however, I was left feeling exhausted on Sunday and realizing that that type of event should probably be a once a year occurrence for me at this point in my life. (You know, the “what was I thinking!?” self talk that occurs right before a 3 hours nap!)

By Sunday night I was experiencing the need to get back in the swing of things and recharge my energy for the upcoming week of being a stay at home mom. (Make a plan and stick to it!) So I sent a group text out (with fingers crossed) to my triathlon friends to see if anyone was up for a “crack of dawn” run the next day (I really wasn’t sure that I could get myself out of bed on my own). Sure enough, I had a taker!  Setting the alarm for 5:12am didn’t bother me one bit knowing that I was getting up to hang out with a great friend. And 8 hours later we were running through the woods, sharing stories of weekend fun, summer plans, work stresses, and race plans. I can’t think of anything I would have rather been doing at 6:00am this morning.

My friends are my motivation. They get me moving when I would rather stay in bed. They sign up for races with me to force me to stick to a training plan. They even remind me that I am still young and fun!  And they always lift me up when I’m feeling down. These are the type of friends that we all need. 



This is the Day.

 
Yesterday morning I was doing a yoga workout (Jillian Michaels on YouTube…that chick means business!) in the living room. My 4 year old son, Finn, was on the mat next to me trying to follow along (so cute). We were about 15 minutes into the workout and I was holding a difficult pose. Finn looked at me and asked why my arms were shaking. I responded that the pose was very hard to hold and my muscles were tired. In a completely serious tone he said, “Don’t hold it anymore Mom. You don’t have to listen to her.” I laughed and told him that I was going to hold it for as long as I could so that I could become stronger. He simply said, “Okay,” and that was that.
I like to think that in that moment, I taught him something. Just because something is difficult does not mean that we have to quit doing it. It is the difficult things that make us stronger. Unfortunately, I know that my kids are watching me all day long, and I’m not always setting the example for them that I want to set. I need to work on being more patient with them. I need to work on looking at them when they’re talking to me and giving them my full attention. I often wonder what they really think about me. If something happened to me today, how would they remember me ten years from now? 
“Today I shall behave, as if this is the day I will be remembered.” -Dr.Suess
I want to make this my new motto. If I were thinking about this more throughout my day, I’m sure that my behaviors would change. I wouldn’t hit snooze and go back to bed when my 5:30 alarm goes off for a morning run. I wouldn’t forget to send birthday cards in the mail. I wouldn’t tell my kids I was too tired to go play outside. Instead, I’d throw on a cape, pretend to be super woman, and always do what I knew was best for everyone else, not just what was easiest for me. Because I know that it is not the easy things in life that make us great. It’s the things that are the most difficult, that we do not give up on, that show who we truly are. 
 
 

Just a Wish.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” -Antoine De Saint Exupery

Today was a beautiful summer day in Michigan. June doesn’t get much better than this. 73 degrees with zero humidity and blue skies. The perfect day for a run. Luckily I had time to squeeze in a workout after work (officially my last day!) before picking up the boys. So Blu (my 1 year old boxer) and I headed out the back door and ran into Stony Creek Park. 

The first mile was a little rough, but I chalked it up to the fact that I wasn’t warmed up yet. The second mile was no different than the first. I wanted to take a walk break, and I knew my pace was too fast, but it was only the second mile so I kept going. By the third mile, the negative voice in my head was starting to chime in and taunt me about the 50k ultra marathon that I am planning to run in September. You know that voice, the one that tries to make you think you’re not capable of doing the things that you thought you could do.

Here’s the thing with those negative thoughts that were going on in my head today; they were pretty dead on. Over the last 9 months I have basically done whatever I have felt like when it came to working out. There has been nothing written down on my calendar to guide me or motivate me to run, ride my bike, or do anything else. If I felt like working out, I did. If I didn’t feel like it, I didn’t make time for it. My run was hard today because I haven’t run in a week! That inner voice was putting me in my place. 

I have a goal to run a 50k in the mountains of Vermont this September with some pretty amazing ladies. We keep joking that if we don’t end up being able to do the run, it will still be an awesome girls weekend! But I think I’m done with that joke (sorry girls!). It’s time to make a plan and make this happen. I have been saying for the last month that I need to put a training plan in my calendar, but I haven’t done it. Today I realized that it is time. If I don’t make a plan now, this will end up being just a wish that never came true.

This is the same for all of our goals in life. Whether your goal is to run a 5k, to get a new job, to move to a new house, to be more active in your church, to have a better relationship with your spouse, to lose that baby weight, to complete a 100 mile run, whatever it is, if you do not have a plan of how you are going to reach that goal, then that goal is just a wish.  

Don’t be afraid to say your goals out loud. Talk about them. Become comfortable with them. Then write them down and make a list of what you need to do to make them happen. Because there is nothing that feels better than working hard and meeting the goals that you have set for yourself. 

The Beginning is Always the Hardest

“Do not give up; the beginning is always the hardest.” – Unknown

Sometimes people are under the assumption that running, biking, and swimming are all easy for me. It can be discouraging to talk with people who brush off my successes with comments like, “ya, but you’re good at that” or “that’s easy for you.” The truth is, I’m definitely not a naturally talented swimmer. And often I feel that I’m not at all cut out for this triathlon stuff; it’s just that I’m way too stubborn to quit or give up on something that I want to do.

I completed my first triathlon in August of 2010. It was an Olympic distance (1500m swim, 24 mile bike, 10k run) race that I signed up for with my sister. The deal was, if I liked the race, I would sign up with her for Ironman Louisville 2011 the next day when registration opened. 

Unprepared and terrified are two pretty accurate adjectives to describe my condition the night before the race. I was staying in a hotel with my sister, her husband, and her husband’s parents. When my sister and I get together and are nervous about something (namely a race of some type) we get a little slap-happy. Let’s just say I may have thrown out a completely inappropriate “that’s what she said” comment to my sister’s mother-in-law. Yup. That’s what happens when I get nervous. Complete abandonment of sense and reason.

Moving on with the race story…

I. Was. Terrified. Swimming in open water is something that has scared me ever since I was little and my dad used to throw me off the dock in Higgins Lake into “the blue” where we could see pike swimming. I was sure that I’d be eaten alive at any second. Unfortunately, that unrealistic fear has never gone away. So you can see why I was a nervous wreck before the swim. And, if you’ve even done a triathlon and looked at the swim course before the race, you know just how unbelievably far it looks. You’re always sure that it must be marked wrong because it looks way too long. 

Luckily, I did not let the fear stop me from starting the race, and once I was in the water there was no going back. (There was a lot of going right and left and not straight, but not backwards. There’s no line at the bottom of a lake!) I have to admit that the swim was long and hard, and it took me forever. But I was so proud to run out of that water. My heart did sink, however, when I got to the bike racks and saw that my bike was one of the few left still hanging on the rack. I was pretty far behind after my less than speedy swim.

I pedaled my heart out on the bike, but didn’t manage to pass many people and was beginning to feel pretty discouraged and tired. By the time I got to the run I was really worn out. I hadn’t researched the course at all, and I was less than thrilled to find out that most of the run was on trails. Uneven ground is much harder to run on and I was exhausted. The course was a double loop, so there were a lot of people finishing their second loop as I was just beginning my first. Thoughts of doubt were clouding my head. Why did I even sign up for this race? How did I think I was going to do an Ironman when I was having this much trouble with an Olympic? I was really getting discouraged. And then, just when I wanted to quit, I realized that they were already starting to clean up the course. They had taken down signs and I had missed a turn. I had to back track to figure out where I was supposed to be. By the time I finished the race I had been in tears and wanted to quit more than once. It was not the ideal beginning to my triathlon career.

And that brings me back to where I started…

“Do not give up, the beginning is always the hardest.” 

If I had let that experience suck the confidence out of me, I would not be where I am today. Instead, it made me realize how much harder I was going to have to work to reach my goals. I’m not good at not being good at things. And there’s only one way around that; get better. Try harder. Give it all you’ve got.

The next day, my sister and I signed up for Ironman Louisville. And one year later we ran across that finish line and heard those words, “You are an Ironman.” But it wasn’t easy. 




 

Every End is a New Beginning

Do you know what a teacher’s favorite day is? The last day of school before summer vacation! Today is that day for me. It marks the end of my 10th year as an elementary teacher. But just like every ending, it is the beginning of something new. Each day for the next two months, I get to take care of my own two children instead of 23 children that aren’t mine! That should be so much easier, right? One would think…

So why is it that I enter summer vacation with a small amount of hesitation? The answer: Change is hard! Even if I know that the new “schedule” is going to be amazing, I also know that it will have its challenges. During the school year, I can squeeze in runs after work before I pick the boys up from daycare. I can ride my bike or run to baseball practice. I can multitask with the best of them in order to fit in a workout. But then…I enter the lazy, relaxed days of summer when I am a full time mom and there is no “squeezing in” a workout when the boys aren’t with me. They’re with me every waking moment! Summer months mean that my level of discipline has to reach a new level. 2-3 mornings a week I will be up with the sun, hitting the road for a run, and back home before the house is awake. My new schedule will mean earlier wake ups than during the school year in order to keep up my fitness. (Insert deep breathe.)

We all worry about the new, unknown, and different ventures that our lives bring us. Reluctance to dive in head first into a new beginning is normal. They say children thrive on routine; I don’t think that we as adults are any different. It is easy to keep doing what we’re doing, and what we’ve always done. Change is hard. New is hard. Different is hard. But sometimes we need to reset our thinking. Reset our goals. And come up with a new game plan. 

 

Tennis Shoes aren’t for Yoga

It is hard to try new things. Coming up with reasons not to try something new is considerably easier. I don’t have time, we’re just too busy with baseball/soccer/hockey/basketball season, I won’t be good at it, I have bad knees, I’m too out of shape. Sometimes, the biggest excuse for not venturing out of our comfort zone is the hardest one to admit. We are SCARED.

Tonight I tried my first yoga class in 10 years. I went once 10 years ago and I hated it. Of course, I can’t remember specifically why I hated it, but I definitely remember something about not being flexible enough, not being able to stay balanced, and not knowing the moves. Now that I am older (and so much more mature) I realize that what I need most to reach my fitness goals are flexibility and core strength. Hence the big, bold idea to try yoga again!

I didn’t even know I was scared to try yoga again until about 2 hours before class. Suddenly it hit me, what am I doing? I don’t have a mat. Am I supposed to wear shoes? Just socks? Do I bring a water bottle? How early should I get there? I don’t want to be the first one. I don’t want to show up late and not get a spot either! Panic! 

Of course, upon arrival, I learned lesson number one of the night: Tennis shoes aren’t for yoga. I walked in to a sea of flip flops and slipped off my Asics and socks. It all went pretty smoothly from there. Here are some of the other things I picked up on:

  • Downward dog looks easy. It’s not.
  • When the instructor says, “Gently welcome your heels to touch the floor” she is talking to me. And there is nothing “gentle” about it.
  • “Quietly hop to the front of your mat” isn’t going to be happening for me.
  • “Gently welcome the child’s pose” will become my favorite phrase and I will wait with baited breathe to hear those words.
  • Waiting with baited breathe will summons a reminder to “welcome a deep breathe.”
  • And finally, I will survive, and realize that it wasn’t even all that scary. And maybe, just maybe, everyone didn’t know I was a first timer. (But they probably did.)
Why do we get so intimidated by things? We let so many thoughts of doubt fill our heads. Do what you want to do. Become the person you want to be. Don’t let the fear of who you aren’t right now get in the way of the person you want to become.