Guest Post – More Life Less Running

The last few months have been rough, I’m not going to lie. I’ve battled my share of injuries and illness (the flu, major IT Band pain and a sprained shoulder), as well as two family deaths and a couple other issues. All of which derailed my running to the point that since May 27, I’ve had my running shoes on a total of 4 times – and 3 of those came in the last week when I finally felt well enough to run again.

While I’ve missed running, really missed my running buddies, and started to panic about some upcoming races I haven’t been training for, it’s also given me a chance to enjoy other activities and more time with my family – time that normally I’d be spending putting miles in. So instead of running, I’ve been focusing on other outdoor activities that I can do with my husband and stepdaughters (none of them are runners – unless perhaps they’re being chased by something!).

My husband and I have been camping almost every weekend – we own a small motorhome, so each week we draw a circle on the map, see where we can go within 2-3 hours of our house, and head out. From our home near Lansing, Michigan, we can get to locations in Indiana, Ohio and even Canada pretty quickly. We’ve discovered new parks, lakes, historical attractions, hiking trails, and off the beaten path places we wouldn’t have otherwise. We both love hiking and biking, so we try to find places where we can do one or both activities.

The whole family owns kayaks, so we’ve headed out to local lakes to enjoy some family time away from our electronics. If you’ve never kayaked, I highly recommend it – especially on lakes, marshes or streams with limited activity. When it’s quiet you get to see things like turtles, heron, muskrat, river otters, water snakes, birds, frogs and more. It’s amazing what goes on in the water when you can just sit and observe.

While this isn’t a family activity, I happen to work at a university with an outdoor 50m pool that staff have access to in the summer. As a former competitive swimmer, I still find myself more at home in the chlorine than in running shoes, so I’ve been putting in as many laps as I can a few days a week. Swimming bonus – I’ve developed an awesome swimsuit tan on my back as a result! 😉

What being injured these past couple months made me realize was that running had started to consume me – and while I don’t plan to give it up anytime soon (I still have a couple goals to conquer), it forced me to find a balance to do other things, especially things with my family.

Some might not agree with me, but life’s too short to be spending it all working out. Take a couple nights or weekends off, grab your kids, lace up your hiking shoes, rent a kayak and get outdoor and enjoy life’s treasures. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Who is Jessi? Jessi is a runner, triathlete, Jaycee, chocoholic, Disney fanatic, traveler, Broadway addict, boardgame enthusiast, and sock collector whose favorite mantra is Not All Who Wander Are Lost. You can find her supporting her two stepdaughters in their activities, camping with her husband, doting on her cat, and spending her free time with family and friends. Read more about Jessi’s adventures on her blog www.runningthroughlife.wordpress.com

#REALwomenmove

#REALwomenmove

Real women move.  Yes, they sure do.  But what does this mean to me?  It means that it doesn’t matter what your body shape, size or fitness level is.  It means that you are getting off the couch and doing something.

When you think of an athlete do images of super fit people in Runner’s World come to mind?  Do you think of someone with either huge muscles or no body fat?  That is what media wants us to think.  But to me, it is someone that is strong.  Someone that has the willpower to get out there and try to weather their storm.  Someone who will try  to run their first 5K or a marathon, it doesn’t matter as long as they are becoming a better version of themselves.

There is a giant tree near my home.  I run by it as much as possible.  It is America’s largest Bebb Oak on record.  Some call her Grandma Bebb Oak.  She has her own Facebook page.  To me, she is strong.  Her limbs are heavy and her bark is brittle, but she still stands.   She is said to be well over 200 years old. To me she is strong and she is real.

I used to be a slave to the scale.  If a certain number didn’t come up, I wasn’t happy.  If my pant size wasn’t the right number, I was disappointed.  Now I realize that my body is strong.  I might not have the perfect amount of body fat.  I might be slightly overweight at times.  I have never been accused of being skinny.  On the flip side, I have been labeled as determined, hard core, and relentless.  My legs are more like tree trunks, like that Bebb Oak tree.   But those tree trunks get me to the finish line of 100 mile races.  I think that if you can believe it you can achieve it.

So get out there and do the impossible.  Do what you think you cannot do.  Don’t let others establish your limits because they see you in a different light.  Redefine yourself. Accept yourself, love yourself.   Prove people wrong.  Be strong and prove that #REALwomenmove!

#REALwomenmove is a new campaign by my favorite clothing company, Skirt Sports.  It is based on REAL women, REAL bodies, REAL inspiration.  Skirt Sports believes we all can and should embrace fitness and health.  We should be strong, confident and not judge, but rather encourage other women.  You can read more about #REALwomen move and check out their great running skirts and other great clothing items at skirtsports.com/realwomenmove

***Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for Skirt Sports.  They provide me with discounts on their products.  Regardless of this, I would wear their products and sing their praises.  It’s a company I believe in and am I’m proud to be a part of their family.

Sandy is an Ultra runner who’s on state 35 of her 50 state quest! She loves to push herself and encourage others to dare more than they dream. Sandy shares her running adventures on her blog, TheUltraFreak 

Guest Post: My First Marathon – Space Coast Marathon

About this time last year I got a text from my friend and running buddy that said “I think I’m going run a marathon”. My response was probably something like “Nah” to which she graciously told me I didn’t have to run it, but it was something that she wanted to do. I was fully prepared to cheer her on and be a supportive friend. I’m good at that.

In all honesty, thinking about running a marathon is pretty exciting and scary. I did think a lot about it before it was time for sign ups. Then, in February of this year, my stepfather unexpectedly passed away. He was the type of man who was always supportive of me, no matter what I did: running, school, career-wise…everything. So, I wanted to do a thing that he would be proud of.

We both signed up, had our initial adrenaline rushes and, well…then we forgot about it, to be honest. Being teachers, we do end up with some free time over the summer to plan and train. Of course, it doesn’t always work that way, does it? We would exchange texts telling each other to get into gear but it didn’t always work out. Once school started in August training became a distant thought.

Then it was October.

At first we debated whether we should even go or not. We thought about taking “The Wormhole” out and completing the half marathon instead. A couple of times we ran together after school and tried to stay accountable with our own long runs over the weekend. Eventually we just kind of decided we were going for it, training or not.

A few days before the race I was talking to my co-worker, Ali, who ran Space Coast and she mentioned that the volunteers dressed up as space-inspired groups, so I hopped on Amazon and bought a Star Trek pin, searched the stores for a yellow shirt, and put together a simple-but-nerdy outfit.

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We left for Cocoa Beach Saturday morning to make it to the expo and packet pickup. Most of our conversations were jokes about dying and hoping we didn’t injure ourselves because, you know, our training was limited.

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The expo was crazy busy, so we only really stayed long enough to pick up our packets and a couple of little things. (Snacks and headbands, of course.) After a dinner of beer and pizza (yes, really) we tucked ourselves in at 7PM.

By 3:30AM I was wide awake and kind of ready to get the show on the road. We got up, got ready, and with the help of Michelle’s husband and son made it to the start point… after a quick stop for coffee. We spent about forty-five minutes before the race started getting things prepped. I finished my bagel and peanut butter, tried to drink some coffee to wake me up, and took a couple of trips to the bathroom.

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By 6:20AM we were lined up at the starting point, listening for announcements and trying not to freak out. Michelle and I have run a lot of races together. All of our “first” races have been together, so this one was pretty big for us. Three years ago this time we were running our first 5K together. We’ve come a long way.

After the pledge and a short countdown video we were off! Since we hadn’t properly trained Michelle and I decided to focus on 2:1 intervals. There were a few Galloway pace groups in the race but we didn’t want to commit to a group that we might not have been able to keep up with. The intervals started out fairly well and we were both feeling pretty good at the start of the race. It helped that the Space Coast Marathon’s course is absolutely beautiful!

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Beautiful scenery!

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At mile six!

As we came into mile thirteen Michelle’s husband and son met us at the halfway point. They complimented us and said we were looking strong, then gave us snacks. They’re okay in my book! Truthfully, by the halfway point I was starving! I had a salted caramel GU at about mile eight, but was super glad I picked up some Stinger waffles at the expo. They really helped!

We passed “The Wormhole” as we came around mile thirteen and joked about taking, but we knew we were in it for the long haul. The course continued to stay beautiful and we got to see some of the half marathoners coming in on their way to the finish. Okay, there were also some marathoners getting ready to finish also. Michelle and I thoroughly believe in “slow and steady”.

At each mile marker after thirteen I said something like “this is the longest we’ve been” because it was true and it felt great! My body was protesting a little, but my mind was fully in the game. I was counting the miles and calculating the time as we ran on, but I didn’t get discouraged about anything. I was feeling good, not too sore, and was staying hydrated with the help of some great volunteers.

By mile twenty I was kind of starting to feel it, however. We had kept up our intervals and were doing great. Neither one of us had a real issue with taking a few extra minutes of walking every mile or so, just to take a breather. I could tell that we were both feeling it as we rounded to come back after mile twenty. Usually we can keep a conversation going, but it was getting tough!

As we headed toward the homestretch the wind picked up and kept us cool for the last six miles. The volunteers were still out, cheering us on and giving us snacks (M&Ms!) and water. Since the course was through a neighborhood a few of the residents were out in their yards also. Some had posted signs and left them there but a few were actually giving out candy, snacks, and, in one instance, shots and beer. It was tempting, but I don’t think drinking at mile twenty-two would have been in my best interest.

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I did find the greatest sign for my Captain Kirk inspired shirt at about mile twenty-four and we stopped moving long enough to snap a picture of it:

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Run long and prosper.

As we came into our last mile Michelle’s family joined us again and stayed with us until the end. Around us there were other people coming to walk or run in the last little bit with their friends or family. It was all very moving and a great reminder of how awesome the running community is. I know that it would have been a lot more difficult if I hadn’t had Mer cheering me on and other friends sending me their well-wishes.

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Rounding the last quarter mile was such a great feeling! Knowing that you’d made it nearly 26.2 miles is kind of mind blowing. When I started running three and a half years ago I never envisioned myself running a marathon. As we ran by people and heard them say “Way to go, marathoners!”, it just kind of hits you in the feels.

Crossing the finish line I felt equal parts of relief and exhilaration. I was hungry and tired, but also kind of hyped up because, you know, I just ran a marathon. After we grabbed out bags, changed our shoes, and loaded up with pancakes and eggs, I sat down and replied to a bunch of texts. To my best friends “Are you alive?” and my mother’s “Are you done yet?”. There were all kinds of notifications from friends online and the outpouring of support from everyone was amazing.

It was just as tough as we knew it was going to be, but still so very rewarding. It’s more than a medal and shirt, though those things are nice. It’s the fact that your body can do amazing things. That you can do amazing things! And that there are always people who you can inspire and who can inspire you.

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Now, I don’t know if another marathon is in my future…but I’m not counting it out just yet.

Happy running!

You can find me on Instagram and Twitter with @thisgirlash_ if you like to talk about books, cats, and running (sometimes). I also blog at Ash Does Stuff.

A Non-Runner’s First Mudderella

Friday night, I went to bed so nervous I thought I was going to be sick. Saturday morning, I got in my car and drove to Englishtown Mudderella 2016 praying to baby Jesus the entire drive. I was finally going to participate in my first Mudderella and I was petrified!

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My name is Ana and here is my story.

Last October, I signed up for my first Mudderella with my best friend and big sister. Two weeks later we had a team of 22 women! O.M.G. It just got real. I was no longer participating in an event with my two besties, now there were other people! I felt pressured!

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So I did what every logical human being would do. I trained for the event. I started going to the gym to run. Except there’s one problem… I HATE RUNNING! I mean, I seriously hate running. I have always hated running. Let me put this in perspective for you. In the twelve years that I played softball, my goal was to either walk or hit a home run because neither of these would require me to run hard. I quit the basketball team because there was too much running. It was that drastic…. and it still is.

But, I signed up for a Mudderella and now I had to train.

I spent many days in the gym running and trying to do pull-ups, push-ups, core strengthening exercises, and anything else my former Marine of a husband suggested. This lasted 3 weeks.

Then a kidney stone decided to take it’s sweet time and kept me out of the gym for about 6 weeks. But determined, I went back to the gym.

Then I sprained a rib from a nasty cough…a few more weeks out of the gym.

All of a sudden it’s April and being an entrepreneur, bouncing two kids to track (they don’t take after me) and band is kicking my butt!

Then May… at this point why even bother training.

Look! It’s June! This is when I renew my faith and start praying. No wonder I felt sick to my stomach last night. I am totally unprepared for my first Mudderella.

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Muddy sisters!

My sister and I decide to walk it. Our goal for the day was to complete the entire event without having to use our medical insurance benefits. And we succeeded! Yes, we walked the ENTIRE event! We also completed EVERY obstacle! I even got over the difficult wall without any help. But that was not a shocker to me. You see, I can do the obstacles. It’s the running that I cannot do.

So, as we walked through the entire event, I felt a little “pang” in my gut. I felt as if I was cutting myself short by not running the event. I watched women and men of all ages and sizes run past me, covered in mud and feeling empowered.

As we completed one obstacle at a time, I realized something. I realized that I still hate running and the only reason I wanted to run is because everyone else was running. In reality, who cares? So what if I can’t run, some of the runners couldn’t pull their own weight. That doesn’t make them any less competitive. That doesn’t make them less worthy of feeling empowered.

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Once again, my big sister taught me a lesson by smiling and being herself. One’s empowerment does not come from Mudderella. One’s empowerment comes from inside! It comes from being able to handle a wacky 11 year old, curious 15 year old, stepchildren, former Marine husband, being an entrepreneur, and let’s not forget the trying relationship between the dogs and cat.

Honestly, we should already feel empowered with our daily accomplishments. I doubt anyone could handle my life without crying, and I doubt that I could handle yours. We all have different emotional, psychological, and physical strengths.

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Retired in style!

Mudderella was a BLAST and I would totally do it again! I will try to train and probably fail again, but I will be OK with that. I love working out and being outdoors but running isn’t that important to me. Simply put, I don’t like how it makes me my body feel. One twelve minute treadmill mile is my personal best, and that’s OK. So, for all you runners: GO GET IT GIRLS! YOU ROCK! For all of you who like to read about running in hopes that you’ll be inspired enough to complete your first 5K or Mudderella: I’LL TOTALLY WALK IT WITH YOU WITHOUT SHAME!

Who cares how you finish the race? Whether you walk or run, the distance and obstacles are all the same. Besides, you still get the Mudderella Finisher t-shirt at the end.

I deem my first Mudderella a success! Next will be the Inflatable 5K… now that looks like a fun time!

Ana Soley is an entrepreneur who opened her own business with her husband, Fast Response Plumbing, LLC She’s having a great time raising 2 kids and 2 stepkids while trying to keep her humble abode from imploding. Loves the outdoors, kayaking, archery, walking the dogs, and hiking. She’s a big fan of a good sweat but hates running, as can be determined by this blog post.

A Few Lessons (Finally) Learned

Guest post from my girl Ang, who is a total rockstar, a working mama of two adorable kiddos, and one of the people who constantly inspires me.

I’m writing this on the corner seat of my couch, with a little guy stretched out next to me as his big sister (age 7) reads a book at the dining room table.

This little guy? He’s 2.5 months old.

Everyone’s fitness journey is different and I have had a hell of a time not being my own worst critic since he was born. It feels like I have a million miles to go to get where I want to be, but through that, there have been a few lessons regarding fitness (and hell, probably life in general) I’ve (finally) taken to heart, and I thought I’d share them here.

1. A 32 minute workout can take an hour and three minutes (Yes, this actually happened. I can show you on my Fitbit if you want to see.).

Babies get whiny. Kids get hungry. Phones ring. The world is rife with frustrations and distractions and messes and all manner of Other Things that need to be done.

And the thing is? That’s ok. What matters is being dedicated to yourself enough to finish that workout, that you finish, that you throw yourself into it.  Take life as it comes.

2. That chocolate in the pantry over there (Dove, of course) is absolutely delicious, but you’re going to be hungry in approximately 3.2 minutes if that’s what you choose to eat. Don’t do it.

This is the hardest part, right? Learning that you can’t outrun bad nutrition. This was my primary mistake when I started working out a few years ago. I ate whatever I wanted, so long as there were sufficient calories left to cover it. No bueno. It took me a while to learn that a treat was a treat for a reason. However….

3. You really, really have to treat yo’self.

Life is too darn short to not have the chocolate sometimes… Just not all the time, dig? Especially when your infant son has been crying for no apparent reason on and off all day and all Mama needs is a glass of wine to tone her neuroticism down.

3b. Life (and fitness) is all about balance, and the scale is an evil wench that likes to skew data mercilessly.

So if it’s been a rough week and you still managed to kill it, nutrition-wise?

Sure thing, lady. Have that margarita and a handful of chips with salsa.  Enjoy that ice cream cone.  Take the rest day. Love yourself enough to acknowledge what you need, when you need it. And remember: any and everything can impact the scale. Don’t obsess. Do you feel happy and healthy? Well, ok then.

Because at the end of the day, you have to take care of you. This is a mantra I have force-fed all of the women in my life: If you’re not taking care of yourself, how can you expect to be a great woman, mother, wife, sister, friend? If your basic needs are not being met – whatever they are – you are lacking and you cannot be your best self.

And all those people – especially your kids – deserve you at your best, whatever that looks like.

In a matter of impeccable timing, my Little Man has just started crying, so I better wrap this up, so I’ll say this:

Love yourself. Take care of yourself. And keep your chin up.

You’ve got this.

See? I’m inspired already!! Thanks, Ang!

The Unintentional Yogi

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I’m going to start right in the middle of my story.  I’m a 200 hour certified yoga teacher.  So, there’s that.  It wasn’t really a plan or a goal.  Not at first.  Actually, it was never even on the radar.

When I took that first yoga class, I was a disaster.  And, that is putting it mildly.  I had no clue what the poses were, regardless if they were being presented in English or in Sanskrit.  But, what I lacked in knowledge and skill, I made up for with total ignorance, a lack of pride, and sheer visceral-fortitude.  The fact that I DIDN’T know how to do anything only made me want to do it MORE!  Luckily I didn’t feel intimidated by the advanced students.  They actually had quite the opposite effect on me.  I saw them as inspiration!

I never knew that the body could be so strong and could be contorted in so many simple, beautiful, and unusual ways. So, I kept showing up to my mat because I liked seeing from practice to practice that I was making progress.  I eventually dove into beginner and fundamental workshops (which probably would have been a better place to start, but…hey, hindsight is 20-20).  I moved from practicing one day a week to two…and then to three.  I found changes happening in my body and in my overall mindset and well-being.  It took me an entire year of continuing to show up and put in the work to finally be able to hold crow pose (bakasana) for 5 breaths.  And, once that happened…I felt that anything was possible in my practice.

I was a regular at the studio.  I was “friends” with the teachers.  When a teacher-training was finally being offered at the studio location that I frequented, my favorite teacher suggested that I sign up.  I LOVED the idea.  I really wanted to expand my knowledge of yoga and to fine-tune my personal practice.  I didn’t have any desire to teach, but not everyone who goes through teacher-training actually wants to teach.  So, that wasn’t an issue.  When I presented the idea to my husband, he was fully supportive…in as long as I chose to MONETIZE my training.  He didn’t feel it was a great idea to spend a somewhat large sum of money to get certified if it was solely being used as a self-exploration and personal growth tool.  And, because I REALLY wanted to do this, I agreed to his terms, and I signed up (still not personally committed to the idea that I actually would teach).

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The five and a half months worth of teacher-training classes were set to start in September.  In July, I unfortunately was unexpectedly injured.  In a freak occurrence, I was bitten by my own dog.  I had to have a plastic surgeon brought in to perform emergency surgery on my mouth and face.  My upper-left-lip was mostly detached, and it took countless numbers of artistically placed stitches to put me back together.

Recovery was physically brutal.  I wasn’t able to eat for 10 days, and I was in constant pain.  Emotionally I was a wreck, too.  In an effort to make sure our young daughter (and everyone/anyone else) would be safe, we made the heart-breaking decision to say goodbye to our well-loved 12 year old fur baby.  Through the course of all of this, people began sympathetically talking to me about how sucky it was that I also now wouldn’t be able to go through with my yoga teacher-training.  That really struck me in an odd way.  That thought never even crossed my mind!  At that moment, more than any other, I knew that I HAD to go through with teacher-training…that I NEEDED it.  So, I stuck with that plan as I continued to move forward.

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I made my way back to my mat after a month of healing.  I slowly started to move through the practice and re-establish what yoga was to me right then and there.  Two weeks into it, I was feeling strong and motivated…so much so that I was engaging in a full-practice, including arm balances and inversions.  That is when another blow was delivered.

meganyoga3I was in side-crow, and I felt something “tweak” in my wrist.  That tweak turned into a whole bunch of pain.  Pain that didn’t get better.  Off to the wrist specialist I went where it was determined that I had torn my TFCC (triangular-fibrocartilage complex) and had perforated a ligament.  I was given a cortisone injection and was put in a fiberglass cast for 4 weeks, with the talk of surgery after that.  Again, everyone assumed that my opportunity to go through with the yoga teacher-training process was going to be inevitably delayed.  The way I looked at it, though, was that the universe was simply testing me.  It wanted to find out HOW MUCH I really wanted to do this….how much it really meant to me.  So, my game plan?  Show up.  Just as I had been doing, cast and all.  I determined that the only way that I wasn’t going through with the program was if one of the studio owners told me that I couldnt.  I wasn’t going to give them any reasons to think that I shouldn’t be there.  And, luckily, no one ever openly questioned my showing up .

So, TAKE THAT, UNIVERSE!  I plopped down on that mat cast and all, full of excitement and naive anticipation.  I’ll mention that there is no preparing for the mental and physical exhaustion that comes with yoga-teacher training, injury or no injury.  There are days that we practiced for the better part of 4 hours straight with little or no breaks.  I gritted my way through it all.   I modified my practice and did everything on my fists.  My knuckles were bruised and calloused.  But, I wasn’t going to give anyone any reason to say that I wasn’t putting in the work.  I wasn’t going to use anything as an excuse nor was I going to jeopardize my certification.  So, on it went.  10 hours a weekend for most weekends.  Time away from family.  Time filled with mom-guilt.  And wife-guilt.  Time spent not knowing if I would get through, because, shit, y’all…yoga teacher training is H-A-R-D!  But, it is when you push yourself through in the toughest of moments that you tend to reap the biggest rewards, and that is what I wanted.  I wanted the reward.

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When the cast came off, I again had to rebuild my practice.  I spent the entire teacher-training working to lift back into crow pose and fumble my way back into hand-standing.  Hell, down dog wasn’t even “easy.”  But, that is one of the beauties in yoga.  It is humbling.  You never know where your body might be from one day to the next…but there is still a place for you on that mat.  There is an opportunity to practice and progress, regardless of where you are at any given moment.  Drop the ego, pull yourself inward, focus, let go…and just see what happens.  That right there…that is what KEEPS me coming back.  And, that is what kept me going through the grueling and soul-searching process that is yoga teacher-training.  And, that is what eventually earned me my certification to teach yoga.

I just graduated in February 2016.  About 6 weeks prior to my final, I started teaching donation-based classes to get in additional teaching practice.  I taught my first “real class” the week right after I graduated…at the studio that has been my “home” for three years, the studio where I also took my teacher-training.  I’m not only teaching vinyasa, but I’m also combining my loves and am teaching running yoga classes!  And, I feel I am exactly where I should be, unintentionally or not.  Some things in life may not be planned, but they might turn out to be exactly what you need.  I discovered that I DO want to teach yoga.  I want to share my love of yoga with others.  I want people to discover that they have an inner-strength that maybe they have not yet explored or found.  I want people to know that yoga is accessible to EVERYONE, and that even if you can’t or don’t care to ever emulate all of the crazy poses that you see plastered all over Instagram…that you can still progress in your own practice.  That even in the most basic of poses, you are still “doing” yoga.  That it is ok to fall and to laugh at yourself, and then get right back up and try again.  I want people to know that yoga takes place on the mat, yes…but that most of the work of yoga takes place off the mat, and that is where the real magic happens.  I am a living example of that.  I am a healthier, stronger, more calm and patient, life-loving person than I ever thought possible.  My yoga practice makes that a reality.  I never thought at the age of 42 that I would be a head-standing, balancing on my arms, hand-standing, mantra-singing, peace-loving, breath-focused yogi…but I am, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

I encourage you to:  Throw down a mat.  Get on.  See where it might take you.  You might be surprised.  Om, shanti, shanti, shanti!  Namaste!

Megan currently teaches at Dhyana Yoga in Haddonfield, NJ. If you’re not close by (and even if you are) you can follow her on Instagram

New Orleans Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon

Guest post from Rachel.

When Meridith contacted me last week and asked me to write a guest post for Scoot a Doot about the New Orleans Rock N Roll Half Marathon, I was super excited! I had this natural high after finishing my first half marathon this year (and fourth half marathon since last June) and getting a PR! I love reading all the posts on this blog written by real women all over and the idea that someone would be interested in what I have to say is beyond me!

Then suddenly I found myself getting nervous and wanting to back out. You see, I have this terrible habit that I know no one else has: comparing myself to other people. Although I totally PR’ed in this race, I started thinking, “But for most people, it’s not a PR… for most people, my time is practically walking a half marathon!” Then I remembered that I’m not most people… I’m me, you are you and my fitness journey may not be exactly like anyone else’s and that’s okay! But let’s get back to the topic at hand, lest I ramble on.

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There are several reasons why I signed up for the New Orleans Rock N Roll half marathon.

  • It’s an amazing city filled with so much history and culture
  • It’s got all kinds of delicious food
  • this race is completely flat (none of those sly ‘rolling hills’ tossed in there)
  • One word: beignets
  • It’s the birthplace of jazz – where else are you gonna hear fantastic live jazz?
  • Have I mentioned the food yet?

On Saturday, February 27, I picked up my friend Chonda in Mississippi and we drove to New Orleans for the Rock N Roll Half. I flew from chilly Philadelphia, so stepping outside in the warm, southern sunshine was a welcomed change!

We headed to the Convention Center to pick up our race packets. Driving around downtown really wasn’t the nightmare I thought it would be (nothing compared to driving around Philly!) and there was plenty of parking around the Convention Center. The expo was not as big as other expos I’d gone to before.  I wish there had been more vendors, but packet pick up was well organized and we enjoyed walking around the expo. The rest of the afternoon we strolled around the French Quarter.

We got back to our hotel and realized we’d walked nearly 8 miles and our feet were tired. Probably shouldn’t have done quite so much walking before running a half marathon the next day!  Whoops! We stayed in the Holiday Inn – Downtown Superdome. It was a bit pricey, but we picked this hotel because it was only a few blocks walk from the starting line. We knew there would be a ton of road closures early in the morning and didn’t want to worry about transportation.

On Sunday, February 28, I woke up excited and ready to run. The 10k started at 7am and the half and full marathon started at 7:30am. We left the hotel around 7am in search of our corral, among the estimated 22,000 other runners. My biggest concern going into this was the weather. I’m not a summer runner – any kind of heat turns me into a complete baby. Thankfully the weather was perfect: a little cool before the run, but that chill quickly left a few miles into the race. I didn’t need any extra throwaway layers before the race; I was comfortable in just my tank and capris.

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Being the back of the packer that I am, I made my way to corral #20 where my friends were waiting. The corrals were divided by the 1000s and there were 22 corrals. They let a corral of people go every 2 minutes, so it took us a good 40 minutes just to get up to the starting line. I was excited to be at the front of my corral. In previous races, it was hard to get maneuver around walkers because I’d gone too far back. The race volunteers were fantastic and got us all pumped up and ready to run. The buzzer went off and I took off, but had to remind myself to take it easy. Since I typically go out too fast and end up walking several miles, my only goal was to keep a consistent pace and most of all, I just wanted to enjoy the race!

The first few miles ran through downtown New Orleans and were pretty quiet with not much to see. The next few miles ran through the Garden District. Studying all of the colorful, decorative buildings and houses as I ran, combined with the tree-shaded streets really made the miles continue to go by quickly.

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There was live music every few miles and I stopped to dance, twirl and strut at every single one! I mean, it’s New Orleans, how can you not be moved by the music?!

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I loved seeing the Disco Amigos along the way cheering us on!

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Another favorite was the bagpipers. I slowed down to a walk and listened for a few seconds and then remembered I was running in a race…get moving!

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From the Garden District, the race continued into the French Quarter.  I snapped plenty of pictures of the trees dripping with colorful Mardi Gras beads during miles 6-7 and around mile 8, there were more spectators which means plenty of amusing signs to keep you laughing and running.

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It was in the French Quarter around mile 9 that I looked down at my watch and realized if I kept up my pace, I was going to PR, even after all of my dancing and twirling and selfie snapping! I immediately started the pep talks to keep myself going.

I got myself through miles 10 and 11 by composing my “I just landed a new PR” speech…you think I’m kidding, but I had composed an Oscar-worthy speech in my head! The last 2 miles were the toughest for me as we continued into New Orleans City Park. The sun was blazing and there was not the slightest bit of shade to be found! But the all of the supporters and cheerleaders in the last 2 miles of the race were awesome!

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I crossed the finish line and happily accepted my beaded medal… then looked down to see my PR. I finished in 2:58:01. That’s over a half hour faster than my first half marathon last June. Am I happy I PR’ed? Absolutely. But more importantly, I had FUN! This race was an absolute blast and I’ve already signed up to do it again next year. Wanna join me?

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P.S. We rewarded ourselves with some post-race beignets

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Mer here again! Thanks so much to Rachel for sharing her experience with us and CONGRATS on such an awesome PR! Have you run a Rock ‘n Roll race? How do you reward yourself after a great race?