Monday Motivation

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Yeah.. it’s Monday beautiful people. I know it came as a startling realization  as your alarm blared you to life and left you scrambling trying to remember what day it was and what planet you were on.

Nothing like shaking the sleep out… shaking the body out… and rolling into a Monday.

You’ve already got the to-do list planned and a weekly agenda lined out.

Perhaps, if you’re like many, you’ve decided today….today is THE day.

No.. not to quit your job….

The day you’re finally going to get started…get moving… do things differently.

It’s time to take back your life… to lose weight and get moving again ’cause you’re tired of being fat ( let’s just be honest here, ok? if I can say that about myself where I was 8 years ago… it’s ok… being real is the first step to success) and you’re tired of well…feeling tired. Or feeling sluggish and having no energy or getting out of breath doing simple daily tasks.

You can change all that. Really. It won’t happen overnight, but it won’t happen if you don’t get started.

I don’t care how young or old you are you can start doing things differently to impact your life in a better way.

So, if you’re one of the many who rolled out of bed today with this on your mind, may I offer a few suggestions? Ideas? Tips?

First… I’m super proud of you for wanting to improve your health! And if you’re going to do this remember…

Take one day at a time. I know that sounds rather…simple? But seriously…take one day. Don’t look six months out or think about how you need to lose a zillion pounds… that will intimidate anyone and make them wanna quit. Focus on the day you’re in and focus on making better choices for yourself. Don’t expect perfection just aim for improvement.

Eat a little less, listen to your body when you are hungry, stop when you’re comfortable, practice eating more whole foods, don’t completely deprive yourself.

You know… just little things through your day that will start to add up.

Then… in that same day…try and see how you can add more purposeful movement into your day. Take the stairs, park further out at the store, go for an evening walk, go to the park and really play with your kids.. get creative.

Now… you made it through your day… get up tomorrow…repeat process… only this time you’re gonna try and do just …. a little more….

Eat a little less, eat something more healthy, go for a longer walk, think of a physical activity you want to try and then do it….

And you will focus on caring for yourself one day at a time.

Oh, and if you have a day you don’t do so well with ? You will get up tomorrow and start again.  Do not quit.

Focus on one day at a time, with small goals ( focus on 5lb weigh loss increments) adding in healthier foods, allowing occasional treats,  and getting in purposeful exercise will have you moving steadily on your way to your goals.

From that point keep challenging yourself to do a little more each day, and each week. Measure success not just in weight loss but also in things like, inches lost, energy level, mental well being, lab/doctors visits, confidence and feeling empowered at tackling your days for your health and fitness goals, and overall satisfaction with how you’re feeling.

You can accomplish anything you decide to do =)

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Muscles Are For Girls

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I’m a wee bit competitive.  Ok, well depending on who you ask, perhaps I’m a lot competitive.

That’s not a bad thing, right? I’m a fierce competitor against myself and when my sons were younger and we had those side yard football brawls my middle son and I could either make a fierce team, or we were angling to take each other out as opponents 😉

That being said, when I’m around guys and they start talking about muscles and flexing their arms, I need to stop flexing mine 😛

I mean, why can’t I do show and tell along with them ?  ** note to self: don’t flex when you have more muscles… and you’re a girl….**

Seriously though… muscles are for girls.

In the beginning of my fitness journey, that never really crossed my mind. In the beginning it was all about losing that fat.

I guess I never pondered much the idea that there were muscles hiding out under the fat. Or that once it started to go away, I’d see those muscles that had been growing and changing.

But then one day I realized I could see definition in my arms, legs and other parts of my body. It’s taken time.

I often have women ask me what do I do or how can they get arms like mine? It’s usually said in a teasing way but they are serious.

I simply tell them I practice lifting heavy things.

I am kinda surprised how many women still worry that if they lift some weights they will be transformed into some kind of bulging hulk.

Listen, you won’t spend enough time lifting, and lifting heavy, or consuming the large amounts of food needed to get to that point.

You can get shaped, lean looking, and that illusive “toned” word that gets thrown around.

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Funny, but kinda true….

I was telling someone the other day when the whole arm convo was going on… go get weights that you can curl about 6-8 times before you can’t curl them again. Those are heavy enough for you to start with.

Forget those dinky little 2 lb pink weights… I’m not even sure why they were made. And even 5 lbs…forget it. Your grocery bags you carry in weigh more than that. The idea is to work and tax your muscles forcing them to grow and change.

Find your starting point and work from there. In the picture below is how I’ve progressed along the way…. and looking back… if I knew what I know now… those 5 lbs wouldn’t be there. Missing in the lineup are my 8 lb weights as a part of the group.

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Slow, steady progress over time….

 

 

These are my free weights I work with…35 being the one I primarily use. It’s hard for me, don’t get me wrong. It’s work. And that’s ok. The 15lb ones I use when I’m doing high reps. ( for the record I’m just showing one of each… they all have mates 😉

Now when I work with the bar I lift a lot heavier for things like squats, deadlifts, overhead presses and moves like that. I also have a bench that I do chest and leg work on.

I do strength training a couple times a week.. nothing crazy. Of course my other athletic activities have definitely contributed to muscle building. Running and cycling have really built my legs.

Alright, but other than muscles shaping our bodies, what about practical ways we use them ?

That strength you build is essential to the tasks you take on every day. Lifting, carrying, moving, pushing, whatever it is, you need to be strong for those tasks.  The practice of lifting heavy things prepares you for your daily life.

During Christmas, I had to carry my nearly 40 lb grandson blocks to the Christmas parade we were going to because we had to park a distance away from parade. I was easily able to carry him. Why? that weight was something I was accustomed to handling… I had practiced it enough that it was easy for me.

Ok besides the daily practical part… having strong “toned” ( and muscle is what gives you that look)  arms is high on the list for many women.

How to go about it? First, understand it takes time. You can see in photos below how my arms have progressed… but it’s within a span of several years…

 

 

April '10 arms
Aww…. baby arms.

 

 

Aug '10 (2)
Losing fat, finally getting some definition.

 

 

Sept '11
Finally… can I compete with these things ? 😉

 

 

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Second photo taken from Runners World photo shoot 2012
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Yeah that’s my arm they used in the cover story for the 2012 Body Issue
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2014
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Dec 2014
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Sweat time… Oct 2015

 

 

 

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And working out a few days ago…no flex in this pic ;)… Feb 2016

 

OK…so you know it takes time. Go get yourself some weights, start slow, but make sure they are heavy enough to make you work hard.

Oxygen magazine online has some great exercises with helpful tips and proper form photos for doing various arm exercises.

** oh and on a side note. You can use all kinds of things at home as weights if you can’t/don’t want to buy any. Milk jugs filled with sand work great…fill to the limit of what you can “lift”.

Spend a few days a week consistently working your arms and you’ll never consider buying clothes to cover them up again 😉

Those Voices In My Head

I was only a few miles into my ride yesterday morning when they started.

The voices.

Not the “I’m crazy and hear voices” kinda voices… although…. I am crazy… but in that good kinda crazy way…anyway… I digress….

I left knowing the weather was less than impressive. Foggy, wet, drizzling, soupy… overall kinda just yucky.

The kind of weather sane people stay inside  and OUT of.

bike weather

My thought was… “oh, it’s gonna be clearing out soon” but that thought was leaving me as I watched water dripping off my helmet and I had to repeatedly pull of my glasses to clean them ( yes, even on dark and wet mornings glasses are essential on a bike)

rainy cycling

The voices started talking…. suggesting things like…

“So this weather isn’t so nice, you can just do a short ride and head home”

“Do you really feel like riding so far out ? All those hills you know? in this weather ?”

“Do you really have the time to ride so far this morning?”

“Knocking a few miles off won’t really matter… really… it won’t”

The annoying chatter continued.

I started considering some of the things rolling through my head. I guess it wouldn’t matter if I cut my ride short… would it ?  And yeah, the weather wasn’t so impressive…

I began to mentally push those thoughts away, slowly and deliberately.

You see, I have had some experience with those “voices” as my athletic adventures have unfolded these past couple years.

Those voices offer excuses. They offer an easier way out. They try and convince you that you don’t have what it takes. They tell you that you aren’t strong enough, fast enough, young enough… whatever….They try and keep you happily in your comfort zone.

Our comfort zone is where we stagnate and die.

I first heavily encountered “the voices” during my first marathon in 2013. It was the end of November and a ridiculously hot 89 degree day. Running was brutal under the solid blue sky and unending sun. By mile 21 I was praying for deliverance. … but I am to stupid, crazy, stubborn to ever give in.

The voices started reminding me that the cool down buses were “right there” where I was running. I could go in and cool off for a little and then continue the race. It would be so easy.. just stop for a few minutes. After all, I had been working so hard. 21 miles was a long way, and even longer when the heat was so unbearable.

I passed one, and kept moving. The next one, the pull was stronger. The call louder. I did feel weak… weak against the temptation of what was offered and physically… I was getting depleted on almost every level and it seemed so  easy to give in to it.

But I knew better. I knew physically if I just stopped what my muscles would do. I knew how hard it would be to start again and go back out into the heat and finish those last 5.2 miles. I knew how I’d be so displeased with myself when my time suffered ( I’m so competitive with myself)

I stomped the voices down. I refocused on my goals. I dug deeper in myself beyond what I thought I had in me to finish that race. And I did… it was the sweetest feeling ever crossing that finish line physically, emotionally, and mentally spent. It was one of the most victorious moments of my life.

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Exhausted, yet feeling over the top victorious, after a brutally hot first marathon.

 

 

 

 

You know what I gained that day? Strength. Strength in knowing that I could overcome and prevail and I had more in me than I understood at that point. I learned that there would be times those voices would rise up to convince me I couldn’t do something or didn’t have it in me and that I had to fight right back against them.

Oh, there have been many other times since then. But now I know what they’re about…those voices are from the weakest part of me… to a great degree I’ve learned to tame them, stomp them down, and press on.

So back to the bike ride…. yeah… you know now what happened. I reminded myself that if I quit, how disappointed I’d be that I had given up.  I thought of how I was not only getting physically stronger, but mentally too. That if I was to get to my goals of doing a bike race it would take hard training and training in not so ideal weather. I reminded myself that I would run in weather like I had that morning, cycling wasn’t so different ( ok yeah maybe I shouldn’t take those curves and stuff as fast 😉

The more I pedaled, water dripping off me in the foggy morning, the more determined I got and the quieter the voices became.

I finished up my full ride of about 20 miles… and it felt pretty darn good on more levels than one…. and by the time I was done… I had dried out 😉

A reminder, perhaps to you. When you feel like giving up and quitting, don’t. Your biggest competitor is within you…. that is who you work against every single time.

When the voices rise up against you ( and I know… some of you will totally get this) push back, work hard, and don’t give in to them.

There’s a new, stronger you, waiting to emerge.

 

Running And The Art Of Surrender

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“Hey, how’s the running going?!” a friend inquired of me…..

I wanted to blab something like… “I’m training for a 100 miler next” or “I’ve got a couple marathons on the books”… heck I wanted to say I was doing the local 5K Bubblegum run… anything…something.

Instead my response was…. “it isn’t” and my blah, blah, blah that I’m still tethered by an ugly injury.

I shared with you, my lovely readers, in a post a few weeks back that my sports doctor told me ( again) it’s insertional Achilles tendonitis. I had been doing some (light) running and it got no better and no worse, and so like many runners  I had this ( stubborn) mentality, “if it’s not gonna get better, flip it, I’m running.”

But after seeing sports doc and his “no running” at the top of the list…

I had to take a hard look at some things. If I wanted to get old with running I had to surrender.

It’s funny, in the beginning, when one starts running, there is a surrender. You surrender to a call, a pull, to be on the road. You feel the desire to go longer and farther. The surrender of your body to push more…to reach deeper in yourself… in that surrender… you find yourself out there on the road.

In the dark early mornings. In the sunset runs. In the hot and cold. In joy and sorrow.

If you’re a runner, you know what I mean. It’s a surrender to yourself..an abandonment.

I guess I had an epiphany the other night.

Let’s call it the other side of surrender.  The “ok, I give in. I yield. I will do what I have to do. I surrender my plans, goals and visions…for now”.

I surrender.

Because if I want to grow old with running, and if I want to get out there and have another shot at a 50K, or train for another marathon, or work on kicking my speed up to drop my 5k time, I have to surrender to the time it takes to heal my body properly. I surrender to the fact it could be a long time until I can run again without the injury being an issue.

And with all that in mind… I will do what I need to do.. and I am. In fact, on some levels I can feel a difference already. And even though my heart longs to run, my body is being kept busy doing other things.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on my bike which gives me the miles and exhilaration I crave. That’s not a bad thing ’cause I want to do a duathlon someday ( a run, bike, run event).

I’m doing a lot more strength training and being careful to stay away from any activities that will irritate or cause it further stress. I’m icing, stretching, rolling my legs and feet a lot more.

Andddddd I’m super excited over my new cardio activity that’s coming to me….

I got a rowing machine (thank you amazing hubby who supports my athletic endeavors 🙂 rowing is a kick butt intense cardio workout that will fill in the gaps for me while I’m not running. It’s also non-impact/ stress on the tendons and joints so it will be perfect for me while I’m healing. I intend to spend some serious time on it.

When I get back on the road, my body will be strong for the task. Yes, I’ve already faced the frustration that it will almost be like starting over, but, if I’m at the point I can run, I will happily start building myself up again.

I did it once. I can do it again.

So for now, as hard as it is, I surrender to the process believing in the long run ( pun? 😉 it will all be worth it.

What about you happy reader? Have you ever had to come to a point of surrender in your life ? Was it worth it ?

embrace

 

The Skinny On Veggies

I wandered through the produce department tossing various veggies in my basket, once again struck by the amazing color and vast variety of goodies there was to choose from and perplexed at how so many people could ignore so much of this part of the store.

Ok I will freely admit my veggie consumption has increased …tons….in the last few years. True, I didn’t grow up a picky eater and learned to eat a good variety of foods but as an adult I’ve let myself really experiment more and remember the wise words of my Mom…..

“Oh try some… it won’t kill you!”

And again… Mom knows best 😉

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Veggies should be fun 😉

 

 

I will admit when I talk with people to see so many still kinda turn their noses up at eating veggies? ….or they consider veggies to be corn, peas, and potatoes? No.

Here’s my take on it….why you want more….

First, they all pack ridiculously low level of calories, while delivering high levels of vitamins, minerals and other body healthy goodness, why wouldn’t you go after foods that were that filling AND low in calories?

More food… more satisfied… build a healthy body… that’s a winning deal, right?

Yet so many people have weird hang ups with them, refuse to eat them, or eat very little of them.

So here’s what I’m gonna tell you.. and I might sound like your mom.. well .. I am a mom..so listen to me…

Eat your veggies, they ARE amazingly good for you and can be a key component in getting lean and staying lean. Not only that, high vegetable intake has been shown to reduce major diseases like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity and others.

Where oh where does one start if they’ve been living an anti-veggie life, or living a low-level veggie life ?

First, start with what you like. Don’t for the love of all things green choke down broccoli if you can’t stand it. There are a zillion types of veggies, you’ll find some you enjoy.

Aim for at least 2-3 cups at a meal, yes, that means some of you will be consuming a lot of produce. Don’t freak on me. When you learn to eat them at all meals you’ll see it’s not to hard.

Cook them in all kinds of ways. Roast, sautéed, grilled and steamed are  all  ways of enjoying them.

Roasting lately, is my all time favorite way to prepare them. For some reason it brings out the flavors and crisps them some and…yeah.. deliciousness. I have been hooked on roasted cauliflower lately.  The cool thing is, my kids wolf it down just as fast =)

When you fill your plate with a variety of veggies, you will need less of higher calorie foods.

Washing, cleaning and having prepared raw veggies in fridge will make it easier to grab them for snacks and salads.

Olive oil with some stone ground pepper, and a little sea salt are the secret ingredients to yummy roasted veggies.

 Some helpful tips for building more into your daily nutritional plan:

Learn to eat them at all meals. Sautéing mushrooms, spinach, and peppers together is very good with eggs.

Learn to incorporate all kinds into a lunch salad ( and remember to lose those crazy high fat dressings)  I honestly get the biggest bulk of mine at lunch on most days.

Look for recipes that sound good and experiment with something new.  I know that sounds like… a no brainer… but I’m surprised at people who settle for over steamed, wilted options … no wonder they don’t wanna eat them 😉

Remember, start small with your goal to gradually increase.

Ok and here’s a fun little cheat sheet for you to get you started cooking…

VeggieCookingCheatSheet

roasted veggies

The green one is a bonus sheet… or selfishly for me… I want to try a couple of these =)

Ok… I’m done preaching. Tell me.. are you a veggie lover? Do you struggle? Do you have fav recipes for some ? Share.

 

The Beauty Of Empowerment

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I’ve always loved words. I was a book worm as a kid and still enjoy getting lost in a good book. Today reading isn’t just in conventional book form but often takes place on my phone when I’m out on the go too.

There is always something to read that can entertain, inspire, teach, or simply amuse me.

It’s not a huge surprise then that there have been words along the way that I have attached to myself like invisible sticky notes that are “life” words to me. Words that have a depth and meaning to how I live, or to remind me of who I am, or what I’m about.

One word was strength. In fact, it became so full of meaning to me that I made my first commitment to a tattoo when I had it put on my body.

Not just physical strength, but mental, spiritual, and emotional. Life has forged a strength in me and it has become one of “my” words.

The other, last year, courage. It became the beautiful focus of my second tattoo. To live life takes courage. To go through trials, difficulties and pain, takes courage.

Another word that resonates with me, and has for awhile is the word empowered (actually that word in it’s various forms… empowering, empower, etc)

Here’s the definition for empower…. “enable… to promote the self-actualization or influence of”

empower

These past few years I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve accomplished things I never thought I’d do. I’ve taken on things that were larger than life to me.

And  I did them. And each time I accomplished something new … it was empowering. And empowerment builds confidence, and an empowered, confident woman feels like she can take on the world.

It builds a “don’t mess with me” take no prisoners attitude.

And I’ve realized how much I want to share and convey that to others… but the crazy thing is… it’s not something I can just “bestow” on someone .

The word empower is a verb. It requires action from us. To be empowered we must be active in what we want to achieve.

It requires a certain amount of reckless abandon to what we’re doing. It requires us to shut down the “sensible” part of our brain that questions what on earth we are thinking? It will mean getting out of our comfort zone. Often it’s taking on a task that seems quite formidable. I’ve found, those are the best places to be.

Let me give you an example. After I ran my first half marathon the question came… “so now you’re gonna run a full one, right?”

“Uh.. no. You realize that’s 26.2 miles right? No. Other people do that not me.”

Then I ran my second, third, and it was only after my fourth that I walked away with the idea in my head… I knew it was time… time to consider a full marathon.

I made the commitment to it and early on I had the thought go through my head… “oh my gosh… a marathon? Like… 26.2 miles??? Will you be able to do that?”

And I pondered my sanity….

And then… I quickly, swiftly, stomped those thoughts down and never let them rise up again. You cannot allow thoughts like that when you are attempting something so much bigger than you.

You cannot allow those thoughts to rule you or somehow convince you that you aren’t enough, or don’t have what it takes… if you do… you lose.

I trained hard. I trained conservatively with my goal to do it and successfully finish. And finish I did ( in 5:23) on an unseasonably hot November day that topped 89 degrees…brutal was an understatement.

And yes, when I crossed that finish line, with sunburn marks, sweat drenched, mentally and physically exhausted with legs begging to stop moving, I had never felt more victorious or empowered in my entire life.

I did it. I didn’t back down. I didn’t listen to the “voices”. I didn’t convince myself I couldn’t do it.

It takes those times of empowerment to show us we are capable of so much more than we often think we are.

You.. my reading friend… what are you thinking of doing? What thing seems larger than life, yet scares you to do?

Stomp down all the reasons why you think you can’t, don’t listen to the “voices”, and dive with reckless abandon into that thing which will empower you like nothing else.

You’ve got this.

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The Struggle

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The young woman talked easily with  me sharing  her struggles with weight loss and food  describing her various up’s and down’s with weight loss over the years.

At one point she said…. “Oh, but I’m sure you don’t  understand that” as she does  an overall gesture that covers me from head to toe, indicating that based on how I look now I certainly couldn’t understand her struggles, or that I had walked in her shoes.

Maybe not to the entire degree she had, but the physique I have today, I wasn’t born with nor have I had it most of my life.

I’ve had to earn it, and it’s only come about in the past few years working at it. Which is pretty much exactly what I told her. She hadn’t known me very long when our paths crossed so it was perhaps easy for her to draw conclusions that I’ve always been some kind of fitness queen.

How did I explain the struggles I had been through in the past, yet, had overcome? Like, the need to go through a drive thru for a “snack” because I was “starving”? ( please note: you won’t really starve before you get home to get something better than a drive thru snack) I’ve since learned to keep a few decent snacks stashed away, for emergency purposes 😉 how I’ve trained myself to eat slowly and savor my food, and understand that it doesn’t take a lot to feed your hunger? That I made a dedicated, focused choice in the beginning to exercise? That some days I flat out didn’t want to do it, but now, couldn’t imagine NOT doing it? To treat food with respect and know that it will still be around tomorrow and I don’t have to eat it all tonight? Coming to an understanding that eating good, healthy, nutrient dense food wasn’t a punishment, but life giving, energy inducing, age defying goodness ?

I shared parts of my story with her and let her know that I did indeed, understand struggles. In fact, I’m pretty sure there isn’t a person around that doesn’t struggle at some point.

We struggle with eating to much, not eating enough, not enough of the good foods, or  to much junk, getting our bodies out the door to exercise, whatever it is, there can be struggles.

I’m no different.

I thought about that today as I was grocery shopping. There are SOOOO many tempting treats… so many impulse items we can buy. I mentally slapped myself and kept going several times.

You know how I don’t eat certain things ? I simply don’t bring them home…which…well… kinda sucks sometimes when I’m trolling really wanting something and it’s not there haha it’s a cruel paradox.

Not that I don’t have treats… ’cause I do… I’ve just learned that to be successful means saying no to impulsive moments more frequently than giving in to them.

If I want something, really want something, I do get it. Some things I try to not bring home ’cause I know it’s my “trigger”.

For instance, I adore Salt and Pepper kettle potato chips…. adore them. One day I was shopping with hubby and  drooling as I walked by them and he said.. “well, just grab them”

He doesn’t understand… they are like… crack to me…or I’m pretty sure they have crack in them… either way… no matter what… I know once that bag is opened … it’s all over.

My plan is to have just a few… but somehow… I nibble that bag away till they are gone the next day.

I know my weaknesses. I’ve learned tricks to deal with some of those weaknesses. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes, not so much so.

As I shared with the young woman, I haven’t gotten where I am without my fair share of struggles.

What’s kept me successful is not giving up, giving in, or quitting. Not saying I had a “bad” day and I’m a failure and it’s not working so I should just quit.

I guess, at some point, stubbornness isn’t a bad thing.  It can lead to success….

I want to remind you that struggles along the way to getting fit and healthy are normal. But I also think we are refined in the process.

struggle  to success

We learn to make better choices, think things through more, decide what really matters to us.

I’ve learned to think so critically about many things I put in my mouth, but again, it’s been a learned process that has been born through struggles.

I know it’s almost cliché to use that “anything worth having is worth working for” but it’s true.

Every time you make a better choice, pass on something you know you really don’t need, say yes to healthier foods, get out and move , whatever it is, will make you stronger and help you take the next step to your goals.

 

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I want to encourage you, no matter where you are on your journey, the struggle my friend, is a part of the victory of success.

Don’t give up.