Fit Friday Motivation ~ 5.6.16

Happy Friday!!  We have officially (almost) made it through the week!!  I know that I personally cannot wait for two entire days off of work in a row.  This week feels like it’s been dragging on forever.  What does everyone have going on this weekend?  Last weekend was so busy with the marathon going on, plus I had a hair appointment, plus Miss H had her 6-month shots, so I’m looking forward to a relatively relaxing weekend.  We are ordering pizza for lunch at work today, so I’m planning to cook a healthy dinner with my hubby tonight and RELAX with him and Miss H afterwards.  I’m going to do a shake-out run tomorrow at some point then do some super-clean grocery shopping afterwards.  My diet has been less-than-ideal lately, and it’s been taking a toll on my energy levels and my waistline.  It’s time to plan ahead and make some clean meals for the week.  I’m thinking oatmeal, grilled chicken salads, and sweet potatoes will be on the menu– I plan to make a “What I’m Eating This Week” post next week so I’ll update you then.  Sunday is my very first Mother’s Day, and I cannot wait to spend it with Miss H and my husband! I have no idea what we are doing yet– we’re last-minute like that– but I’ll be happy as long as we are together.  I’m really looking forward to it.

You may or may not remember that I have two half marathons on my schedule coming up in the next month, and I was waiting to see how Pittsburgh went before I decided whether or not I was actually going to do them.  Well, Pittsburgh went reasonably well for me (see my recap here) and was actually a good reminder of why I love running in the first place.  With a new baby in the picture, running has obviously been on the back burner for me for the past few months.  It’s easy to fall out of love with something when you aren’t doing it regularly, and I have to admit that I was falling out of love with running before the Pittsburgh half.  Which isn’t a good thing, since running is essentially a necessary therapy for me (read about why I run here).  Although I took a much-needed hiatus from running right before and right after Miss H was born and I have no regrets about that at all, I’m ready to start logging the miles again. I love the endorphins that come along with a challenging long run– they keep my emotions on an even keel and keep my stress levels manageable.  If I’ve learned anything about my return-to-running the past few months, it’s that a happy mama is a better mama, and I would give anything to be the best mother I can be to Miss H.  So, although spending time with my family will always be my first priority, I know that I need to continue running long distances whenever my schedule allows.  Miss H is on a more predictable sleep and nap schedule now, so it will be easier to plan my long runs for a time when she will be (mostly) napping or sleeping.  Since I am already signed up for the two upcoming half marathons, I have decided  that I want (or need, rather) to run them.  I feel like the picture below pretty much sums up how I feel about long runs, and it was kinda perfect for this particular Fit Friday post.  Enjoy.

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Source: Google Images

What’s on your fitness agenda for the weekend? 

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Why I Run – My Running “Story”

I know that everyone has their own “something” that motivates them to power through their workouts, whether it be mental (overcoming some sort of personal obstacle), physical (losing those last five pesky pounds), or emotional (a dire need for the effects of endorphins).  Those motivators can change over time, too.  Many years ago, I was plagued by a lot of negative mental, physical, and emotional motivators to exercise.  I lead a very unhealthy lifestyle growing up– I actually thought that going to the gym was something that only celebrities do (true story).

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I LOL every time I see this picture!  Me at my heaviest (135 lbs); before the break-up.  Obviously I wasn’t in photograph mode.

I started working out at the gym after a really bad break-up with my long-time boyfriend (we are married now, so we eventually made amends – more on that later).  My self esteem was terrible growing up, and my boyfriend had been the only person that ever really made me feel “good enough.”  All of a sudden, I was no longer good enough for even him.  My workouts and my actions were motivated by anger, low self-esteem, revenge, and a desire to change everything about myself entirely.  I wanted to look different.  I wanted to feel different.  I wanted to be different.  I wanted to be unrecognizable to my ex if I ever ran into him at the bar, at the supermarket– anywhere.  I wanted to show him that I was not the girl that he thought I was; that I was a girl that he would come to regret losing.  Proving him wrong became my sole goal in life; everything that I did revolved around him.  It was a completely unhealthy mindset that pervaded my entire lifestyle and sent me into a downward spiral of eating disorders, depression, binge drinking, and cigarette smoking.  All of this while getting “healthier” at the gym.  I exercised daily and furiously, driven by angry thoughts and angry music.  Once the pounds started falling off, I started meticulously counting calories.  I limited myself to 900 calories a day just to make the weight fall off more quickly.  This resulted in a host of other health problems, but that’s another post entirely.

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At 98 pounds, obsessive thoughts about food were taking over my life.

I lost the weight that I wanted to lose and then some, and I became a self-proclaimed “party girl”– quite the opposite of the sweet, reserved, shy, nerdy girl that I was growing up.  I had transformed myself into the exact person that I wanted to become, yet I was the unhappiest I had ever been.

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Binge drinking every weekend became a lifestyle.

Enter: running.  It was the fall of 2010.  I was previously living away but had moved home to be closer to my family, and I started working a new job with my cousin.  She loved running and had run several half marathons.  I had always admired her running skills, but personally viewed distance running as something I had neither the desire nor the ability to do.  I did run for exercise both indoors and outdoors, but always alone and always on a timer– either 30 minutes of steady-state cardio or 30 minutes of intervals.  It wasn’t something that I particularly enjoyed; it was more of a means to an end than anything.

I’ll never forget the first time she invited me to run on a local trail with her.  I hesitantly accepted (in my eyes, she was a “runner” and I was not.  I didn’t want to embarrass myself or hold her back).  She was eager to share her love of running with me, though, so I agreed to run with her.  We ran three miles together and talked the entire time, and I was shocked to find that I actually kinda enjoyed it.  We started hitting the trail after work regularly.  We didn’t run far– we were always chasing daylight, and daylight always won.  But we ran regularly, and each time it became easier and more enjoyable.  Eventually we started running together on the weekends, too, and with more daylight at our disposal, our runs grew longer and longer.  Finally– I was exercising not because I felt like I had to, but because I truly wanted to.  It was very enlightening to me, and I started to feel some sort of invisible weight lift off of my shoulders.  Although I was really starting to like running, but I still viewed it as a great outlet for my anger.  “If only my ex knew I was capable of running xx miles… He wouldn’t even recognize me now!”  I let those thoughts drive me to run faster and to run further.

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The entrance to the trail where my love of running first began.

After a few short months of casual running, my cousin talked me into signing up for a 5K.  “You’ll be addicted, I promise,” she said.  I was growing very fond of my new hobby, so although I was nervous I agreed to sign up.  I’ll never forget that first 5K.  I was inexperienced and started out way too fast in an effort to keep up with the other runners (the crowd was very small and competitive).  The course was tough, and my lack of experience was working against me.  Looking back, it felt like the longest 3.1 miles of my life.  I’ve run countless 5K’s since then, but none have ever seemed as long as that first one.  I can’t say that I was enjoying myself as I was running it, but once I rounded the final bend and caught a glimpse of the finish line I felt a sensation that I had never experienced in my life.  It was a perfect storm of relief, joy, and pride– all wrapped up into one emotion.  The goosebumps raised up on my arms as I pushed even harder to the finish, driven by the cheers of the small group of spectators that showed up to watch the race. Never in my life until that point had I felt so accomplished and so proud.  I felt my self esteem jump just a bit, and I liked it.  And just like that, I was hooked.  Just as my cousin promised that I would be.

I started running more and more after that, more for enjoyment than for exercise but still with an underlying sentiment of revenge and bitterness.  I started seeking out local 5K’s and registering for them– as many of them as I could fit into my calendar.  And, at the urging of my cousin, I did something the “former me” would have found completely crazy– I registered for the 2011 Pittsburgh Half Marathon.  I remember the thrill of clicking the “Register” button, fearing being unable to cover that sort of distance but excited at the thought of trying.  I didn’t have anyone to run it with me, but I didn’t care.  I was used to doing things alone, so this was no exception.

I tried to follow Hal Higdon’s novice half marathon training plan (which I highly recommend, by the way), but the bitter PA winter + my new-found loathing of the treadmill caused me to fall off the training wagon a bit.  I ran as often as the snow-covered roads would permit, but I had no clue if I had trained enough as half marathon day approached.  I didn’t care though– I had committed to running the half, and I wanted to at least try to run it.  I booked myself a room in a cheap hotel in the suburbs for the night before the half.  The only thing I remember from that night was being nervous and being bored– a combination which resulted in me smoking almost an entire pack of cigarettes in my hotel room by myself (which I highly do NOT recommend, by the way).

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The night before my first half marathon– my gear was ready, even if I wasn’t.

On race day, I was a bundle of nerves as I woke up a 4 am and started getting ready for the day.  I had no clue what to expect, and it was very exciting and rattling all at the same time.  I arrived downtown much earlier than necessary, so once again I sat there smoking cigarettes and fearing the journey ahead.

To make a long story {somewhat} short, the half was much harder than I expected it to be.  I hadn’t “respected the distance” in my training.  I was just simply unprepared.  I thoroughly enjoyed the thrill and excitement of the race during the first few miles– if you’ve ever run the Pittsburgh half or full, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  The entire city is alive, and it’s easy to lose yourself in the excitement of the crowds of runners and bystanders.  By Mile 10, though, I was struggling.  The cheering of the crowds couldn’t drown out the negative thoughts that were starting to creep up in my head.  My knee began hurting really badly, and I started thinking that maybe I wasn’t going to be able to finish the race.  Maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew.  Maybe I wasn’t cut out for running after all.  The further I ran, the more my knee hurt, and the more I told myself I couldn’t do it.  My emotions were amplified by the rush of endorphins that I was experiencing– but instead of those positive emotions that are fondly known of the “runner’s high,” my emotions were exactly the opposite.  Through all of the trials and tribulations that life had thrown at me until that point, I had never doubted myself as much as I did in that moment.  My rock bottom moment came right before the last water stop of the race– the thought occurred to me that maybe everyone who had ever let me down in my life was right.  Maybe I wasn’t good enough after all.  It was like all of the progress I had made towards bettering my self esteem those past few months went out the window at that very moment.  I felt angry.  I felt totally and completely defeated.  In my mind, I had already given up.

I remember holding back tears as I stopped to get a drink of water.  I didn’t want to go on, and I didn’t know if I could.  With less than two miles left to go, I just wanted to go back to my car and go home.  I realized, though, that the most direct way back to my vehicle was through the race route.  If I wanted to get home, I had to finish the race.  I wanted more than anything to give up, but the circumstances wouldn’t allow it.  Angrily, I started running again.  My knee hurt so bad that I could hardly bend it, but I knew that I had to keep going, even if I didn’t want to.

The closer we got to the the finish line, the more crowd support there was.  I focused on the crowd support and used it to help me continue on despite my physical and mental turmoil.

The greatest epiphany of the race (and arguably of my life) happened during the last mile of the course.  I’ll forever be thankful that I didn’t give up on myself before then.  I was running across the Roberto Clemente bridge and nearing the finish line when the spectators began cheering wildly.  I mean, really wildly.  I had no idea what was going on.  Although I briefly entertained the thought that they were cheering for me (wow, how did they know how hard I struggled to get here?!), I turned around to see if I could figure out what they were really cheering about.  It turns out that the first female finisher of the full marathon (Ethiopian Yihunlish Bekele Delelecha) was crossing the bridge right beside me.

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Yihunlish Bekele Delelecha (Source: http://www.post-gazette.com)

I’ll never forget the chills that came across me while watching her speed past me with so much determination on her face.  I’ll never forget how uplifting it was to hear the crowd roar as she went by.  Five years later, the memory still makes me emotional.

Her determination was contagious.  I realized the magnitude of what she was accomplishing, and I saw firsthand the determination she had to accomplish it.  I was beyond inspired as I watched her gracefully cross the bridge at a speed that I could only hope to run (for a much shorter distance) one day.  I suddenly realized how far I had come, not just in the race but also in life.  Although I was struggling, I knew at that moment that I had overcome the struggle.  Not just in the race, but also in life.  All I had to do was replace my self-doubt with determination.  If I could do that, then I could do anything.  The finish line was in sight, and I decided that nothing would stop me from reaching it; I wanted it too badly.  And nothing did.  I finished my first half marathon in 2 hours and 25 minutes.

Crossing the finish line was the proudest moment of my life up until that point.  It was more than just a physical accomplishment– it was an emotional and mental accomplishment for me as well.  It taught me that I am capable of doing so much more than I ever thought I could do.  It taught me that, with enough determination and persistence, I can achieve anything that I want to achieve.  I actually felt good about myself for a change.  I felt good about myself, and I didn’t need the approval or validation of anyone else to make me feel that way.  Finally, for the first time in a long time, I felt “good enough.”

Since that first half, running has become a regular part of my life.  I’ve run countless races and made a lot of like-minded friends along the way.  Running has allowed me to let go of all the resentment that I used to harbor and to find peace with my past.  It has allowed me to take control of my own life rather than to blame everyone else for my shortcomings.  Running keeps me happy and healthy.  I quit smoking and binge drinking years ago (although I still appreciate a good beer or two, especially after a long run).  I found forgiveness with myself and with my ex, and we are now happily married with a beautiful daughter.  I always say that running saved me from the downward spiral that was my life.  Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to find the peace and forgiveness that allow me to be the person that I am today.

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Finishing a full marathon in 2014 has been one of my biggest running accomplishments.

In short, I run because it teaches me that I can do more than I ever thought possible.  And that’s what motivates me to run and to exercise nowadays– a far cry from all of the negative motivators that used to pervade my thinking when I first started working out.  I used to run to try to change the person that I am; now I run because it helps me to accept the person that I am.      

What about you– why do you run?  What motivates you to exercise?  

Fit Friday Motivation

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Source: Run U Mother Facebook page

I think everyone has had these runs at one point or another– the ones where your defenses break down and you begin to doubt yourself, your abilities, and your training.  It might be during a race or during a training run.  And as much as I dread having this type of run, I never let it defeat me when it does occur.  I push through to the finish line because I know when I do, I’ll be a stronger person and a better runner.  These are the kinds of races, training runs, workouts that show us what we’re really made of.  They force us to put our heart and soul into them just to get to the finish.  They teach us things about ourselves that we never knew before.  They show us that we’re capable of so much more than we thought possible.  In my opinion, these are the runs that make a runner a runner.  They makes us stronger people and stronger athletes.  I dread the experience, but I love the after-effects.  =)

I hope everyone has a fun, fit weekend!! =) 

Fitness Friday and My Weekly Recap!

Hey all!  It’s been a while since I’ve done a Fitness Friday post.  Since it’s the start of a new season and the start of a new month, I thought it might be a good idea to seek out a little bit of fitness motivation and share it with you.  So here goes… You really can’t go wrong with inspiration from Nike!

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Seriously, when it comes to fitness {and all other things in life}, there’s no time like the present to get started on something you’ve been thinking about doing or been putting off doing.  Especially in the fall– with the inevitably colder temps and the busy holiday season approaching, it’s so easy to say “there’s no sense in starting now, I might as well wait for spring to get here.”  Um, no.  Get off your butt and get started NOW!  When the spring comes and you’re fitter, healthier, and happier than before, you’ll be glad that you did.  On a related note…

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Don’t prolong your goals.  Get started now, because in a month, a year, a decade– you will be glad that you did.  The passing of time won’t make you any more motivated than you are today.  The time will pass, and you’ll still be saying “I’ll start some day.”  So make that “some day” today!

With two 5K races and two half mary’s coming up in the next month, I’ve been running a good bit lately (much to my liking!).  Last Sunday, a group of us did a very scenic 8.5-mile loop full of uphills, downhills, and flats.  I normally do my long runs on my favorite running trail, which is a flat, soft-surface, rails-to-trails.  I knew I wanted to get in a tougher training run before my October 6th half marathon, and last Sunday’s run definitely fit the bill.  It felt great to check out a new route, get my heart rate up, and test my legs’ limits up over the hills.  I really wish I’d have had my phone on me to take pictures, but I didn’t– some of the sights we saw were absolutely beautiful.  We are planning on repeating the loop this coming Sunday, so hopefully I can snag some pics to share then.

On Wednesday, my bestest running friend Emily and I ran a nice-and-easy 10 miles on our favorite running trail.  Once upon a time, if you’d have told me I was ever going to say that a 10-mile run was nice and easy, I’d have laughed at you.  But seriously, we took it nice and slow and I felt great afterwards.  I love distance running, and I especially love feeling like I’m improving at it.

Last night, my brother and I went on an easy 3.1 mile run with a family friend who is training for his first 5K.  I treated it as a recovery run in preparation for tomorrow’s 5K race, but in reality our route had some nasty hills on it!  I was feeling the burn in my legs and the burn in my lungs from the chilly fall temperatures.

I did a little bit of strength training this week, but nothing to write home about.  I’m using strength training more for injury prevention now, but I’m hoping to kick my strength training up a notch once all this half marathon training slows down in November!

I hope everyone has a fun, fit FALL weekend!!!

=)

Fit Friday Motivation

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I saw this on a recent Facebook post and just knew it had to be the basis for my Fit Friday Motivation post.  Like many women, I, too, have suffered over the years with body image issues.  I went from being overweight and uneducated about health & fitness (the teenage years) to being underweight and still uneducated about health and fitness (the quarterlife crisis years).  Throughout my entire weight spectrum, I was never happy with my body’s appearance.  When I was heavy, all I wanted was to be thin and tiny.  I put my body through hell until I was finally the thin, tiny person that I wanted to be– then I was unhappy with the shape my body had taken.

Throughout all of the disrespect and abuse I put my it through– starving it of meaningful calories, pumping it full of fake sugars and other dietary toxins, and pushing my cardio sessions to the extreme– my body never failed me.  It carried me through each day.  My lungs gave me the oxygen I needed to survive; my heart pumped nutrients throughout my body, my brain gave me focus and clarity, my muscles worked together to make me capable of each and every movement, and so on.  But I didn’t see all of that– all I saw was the reflection in the mirror of a body that was not good enough.  I disrespected my body and I took it for granted.  Until I started running.

It’s like my body stood back and passively accepted all of my negativity and insults until I started running.  Then, it was like my body finally decided to stand up to me and say, “Hey, you think I’m not good enough– watch and see what I can do!”

Pushing my limits, pressing on when all I want to do is give up– those are the ways running has shown me what I’m really made of.  When I first started running, I was so surprised by what my body could do.  It could do things that I never thought it was capable of doing.  I was no longer disappointed in it; I was impressed with it.  Breaking barriers and reaching new goals was such a wonderful feeling.  And, over time, my relationship with my body began to change from a negative one to a positive one.

Running has taught me so much about my body.  It’s not inadequate.  It’s not weak.  It’s capable of so much more than I ever gave it credit for.  It’s stronger than I ever thought possible– not just physically, but mentally as well.

Now, three years after I first began running, I can truly say that I respect, appreciate, and love my body.  And I only have running to credit for that.  My body isn’t perfect– but my body is strong and it is healthy, and I respect and appreciate that.  I’m proud of it for carrying me through life the way that it does.  The fact that I can run 13.1 miles without stopping has a much bigger influence on my self image now than the number on the scale or the reflection in my mirror.  And that makes me happy.

I feel like many runners have had the same experiences since beginning running.  Has running had a similar effect on your life or on your body image??  

Fit Friday Motivation

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It’s Friday!!  You know what that means– the obligations of the workweek are {almost} over for many of us, and another summer weekend is almost here!

I don’t know about you, but this week has felt like it was never going to end for me.  I have been super busy– hence my lack of writing on the blog, sorry about that– but for a good, fitness-related reason (which I may or may not disclose after the weekend is over).

Despite my crazy-busy week, I have been able to squeeze in a few cardio workouts this week.  I ran some intervals on Monday with my younger brother, then I went for my usual Wednesday night run with my bestest running friend Emily.  My weight training has been slacking, though, so I’m looking forward to getting back on that bandwagon next week when my schedule returns to normal.  I always feel so much better when I’m weight training regularly on top of my running & cardio.

The weather’s been outrageously hot in this part of the country this week, but the weekend is looking to be much more comfortable.  I’m hoping to get in a bike ride with my lovey boyfriend this weekend!

I hope everyone has a fun, fit weekend!  See ya next week.  =)