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? 

Race Recap: Rock ‘n Roll Portland

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Date: May 17, 2015

Location: Portland, Oregon

What? Rock n Roll Portland #RnRPDX

This was my second (or is it third?) time completing the Portland Rock n Roll Half Marathon. (Am I the only one that loses track sometimes of the # of times I run in my favorite places?!)

I will say though, I do remember that the course was “eeh” in the past.  But we love Portland, so we always sign up.

This year however, the course was beautiful!  They really do take runner feedback seriously and boy, did they make this course a great one!  But more about that in a bit.

We live in a suburb of Seattle, so it’s pretty convenient for us to participate in the Portland runs.  It’s about a 2.5 hour drive.  This year, we bought a 3 pack Tourpass knowing we would be running Portland, Seattle and Vancouver BC.  Not only do we love our bling, but with the Cascadia for doing all 3 above mentioned runs, plus the Heavy Medals – you just can’t go wrong!

Saturday morning we left and made it to the Expo when they opened, at 12.  This expo is much smaller than the one in Seattle, but just as organized. Conveniently located as well and near a TriNet public transit system line. We walked in, got our bibs, made a quick walk through the booths (grabbed a few samples) and got out. It only took us about 30 minutes.

Next stop, before we checked in to our hotel was VooDoo Doughnut. I don’t think I could write this without including VooDoo. The wait is always at least 30 minutes but worth it!  Plus, it’s become our pre-race fuel in the morning. Can’t go wrong with Maple Bacon before a run!

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We stayed at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront, which was one of the hotels listed on the RnR site.  We have stayed here for most of our runs. (We come back in October for the Portland Marathon and Half as well.)  No Free Wifi, but we are there for such a short amount of time that the other things about the hotel make it worth it.

They’re almost done renovating the rooms and we were pleasantly surprised to see how nice the room was this visit!

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The hotel is only a few blocks from the start and the finish line, and that’s the #1 reason we like this hotel. We can sleep in a bit, and it’s quick to get back before check out on race day.

Speaking of races….

When we woke up in the morning, the weather looked wet and cold but when we walked outside, it was actually perfect! We made the short walk to the start line, checked a bag, took the obligatory pre run photos, (and a selfie, of course) and headed towards our respective corrals.

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Last year, there was a delay at the beginning of the race due to a train. This year was no different, although they did get 3-4 corrals out before the train caused the delay.  No worries though!

This year’s course was a bit different than last year’s course. We started off running downtown towards the industrial part of town but quickly turned in to beautiful neighborhoods with pretty wide streets and lots of spectators out cheering us on.  There was even a proposal along the route! (Hope she said yes!!!)

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Last year, I remember being more in the city and I definitely preferred the scenery in the beautiful (and sometimes eclectic) neighborhoods of Portland.

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One thing that was a HUGE improvement over last year was that there was no stopping for trains or traffic.  Last year, I was stopped 4 times on the course and I know I wasn’t the only person that was a bit upset about it.

This year, they made a modification so the stopping would not be necessary. At one point in the course, Police Officers would send you to the left or to the right depending on the train schedule to avoid the train.  It just so happened that my running partner Emily and I were diverted. It was a bit confusing at first, because I had forgotten that it might happen but we were assured that we would be on the right course.

The fun part about that was that we were in first place for a few minutes!  Sure enough, when it came time for us to meet up with the rest of the runners, we were right back in step with the people we had been directly behind.   I say that was a great improvement.

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The course is pretty flat. There is a pretty good gradual, mile long hill but it was somewhat rolling and not terrible really.

The best part of going up, is that you must eventually come down.  And down we came, starting at mile 10.  What a great way to get some extra gas in the tank for sure!

The last mile of the course was over the bridge and water, gorgeous view and a hearing the finish line is always a great motivator to keep on pushing!

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At the finish line, (which was the PDX carpet, by the way!) there was plenty of Gatorade, Chocolate Milk (my favorite) Power Bars, Half Pops (another favorite) and of course our medals!

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The only slightly disappointing thing this year is that it seemed like there were fewer bands.

The website says there were supposed to be 10. I’m not sure what course they were playing on, but I’m certain I did not see 10 bands. It’s OK though. I had a great partner to chat with while we ran.

Portugal. The Man was the headliner. I will admit that I did not stop by and watch. My husband did though, and said they were good!

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Overall, I had a great time. I know I said it early on, but I’ll say it again. We love Portland.  We also love the Rock n Roll series.  This course became one of my top 5 courses (I’ve ran 20 races now) and I am not sure if they could even improve it for next year.   We’ll be back again to see though!

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Wife. Mother. Meal Prepper.
I don’t really like to run, but I do it anyways. 🙂
I do like to take pictures.
Shall we connect?
Instagram: http://instagram.com/tyranelson
Myfitnesspal: healthytyra
WordPress: http://healthytyra.com/

GUEST POST: Fitness Advice from A Formerly Fat Guy Who Loves Food, TV, and Lounge Wear

I am slightly less fat now. Apparently that qualifies me to give others advice now.  Take this with a grain of salt.  (But not too much, we want to keep your total sodium down.)

People I Hate
I don’t want fitness advice on how to eat, exercise, and be happy from skinny twenty-year-old fitness trainers who ran track in high school and have never been fat a day in their lives; I’m sure they’ll be heartbroken by the news.  And those biggest loser folks locked in a dorm with their 24×7 trainers? They work way harder than I ever will be willing to work, and get to dedicate their entire day to their fitness.  I’ve got work, household chores, and uh, (cough, sputter) TV, that interfere with my attempts to get fit.  I honestly wish I could find a fitness trainer who proudly displays his/her pre fit picture on an ergonomic standing desk and can fawn endlessly over Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, The Flash, and House of Cards.  It is not surprising, then, that I suddenly realize I roughly fit the description of my own perfect trainer.  So, though not remotely qualified, I offer up my own story and “advice.”

Damn you Dr. Oz
I am a 51 year old male who spent 25+ years working a computer job, had zero interest in exercise, and ate to relieve stress, boredom, and because I really, really, like food.  Over the years I went from wearing a size 36 pant to wearing a size 38, to wearing a size 38 with an expanding waist band, and finally wearing a size 40.  Ok.. a size 40 with an expanding waist band.  I was 5’10, 240 (ish) lbs, obese on the BMI scale, and winded taking two flights of stairs- and was not phased by any of it.  I looked in the mirror regularly, saw the same charming, extremely good looking, and modest guy I’ve always seen, and continued ordering fries with my lunch.  Dr. Oz ruined it for me.

What comes before beginner?
Dr. Oz convinced me the fat around my belly was bad.  And, he had a plan- walk 10000 steps a day, it’ll make you lose fat.  He had a lot of other advice on supplements, eating right, etc., but I pretty much zoned out after the walking bit.  I ordered “You on a Diet” and the “You Workout.” and..  failed.  Even the beginner workout was overwhelming.  I couldn’t get through the 20 minute Pilates and stretching type workout without pausing the DVD to breath, and then couldn’t do half the stretching moves fully.  I needed the dreamer workout, not the beginner one.

Advice 1: Walk
So I bought a pedometer and walked.  10000 steps is a lot.  So I started smaller.  I walked slowly, and not very far.  I figured I could spare 30 minutes, so I walked for 30 minutes.  Not fast, and not very far.  Never more than 30 minutes.   Having a number to hit made me keep walking just a little more trying to get to 10000.  I’d park my car a little further away for a few extra steps.  I’d get up once in a while at work and make the “long loop” around the building on the way to the diet soda machine.  (Did I mention my soda addiction?)

Advice 2: Get a Fitbit
In December 2012 I finally started hitting my 10000 step goal.  For me, seeing the number on my device was important, a fuel gauge doesn’t cut it.   Having to look at my phone is too delayed.  The app is nice, but get a numerical display.   The Fitbit site has great charts, great history tracking, and ways to add your friends and compete!  I bought a Fitbit.

Advice 3: Have goals
Have a goal.  Some of my past and future goals (in order of difficulty): extend my 30 minutes of walking to 60 minutes.  Up my walking from 3 days a week to 5 days a week.  Enter a 5k.  Do the couch to 5k program (probably should have done that before entering the 5K.)  Enter another 5k.  Jog continuously for 1 minute.  Jog continuously for 1 mile.  Jog continuously for 2 miles.  Enter another 5k (do better than last year.) Jog continuously for 3.11 miles. Put my socks on standing up.  Sit cross legged.  Touch my toes.  Some of these may seem ridiculous or silly, but I assure you getting up a ½ hour early to walk did not seem simple at 5:30am. There were days when I had to fool myself by saying “I’ll just do 10 minutes of walking today,” to get myself out of bed.   The point is that having the goal keeps me moving in the right direction.  Small goals are OK!  Full Disclosure: I still haven’t jogged continuously for 5k, and can’t touch my toes (yet.)

Advice 4: Watch TV
I am, it seems, the only human being to watch TV or actually eat at McDonald’s.  I have given impromptu surveys, and can’t find anyone who watches more than a few hours of TV, or has EVER eaten at McDonalds.  If, however, you, like me, like to watch TV- use that as an excuse to workout.  Get an app, download your program to your phone, tablet, etc.. and only watch when you workout.  This is harder to do while walking outside without walking into a tree, so probably you should confine the use of workout TV to the gym.

Advice 5: You can’t outrun your mouth
I started walking 5 miles a day, almost every day, two years ago. I started jogging some of that along the way. I walked over 3 million steps in 2013, 3 million steps in 2014, and lost roughly (tada) zip, nada, nothing. Damn you and your lies Dr. Oz! I’m not complaining, though, because I didn’t add any weight over those two years, either, and I improved my overall fitness. I no longer got winded going up stairs, could walk / jog (WOGGING™ is a trademark of Byron Ferguson Fitness Enterprises), and go up and down the stairs without holding the banister. Here are some potential reasons I didn’t lose some weight at the same time: I ate more because working out made me hungrier, I added muscle mass (ha!), I figured since I was working out I could eat stuff that was a little worse (ouch, painfully true), or my average workout burned only burned 300 or so calories. The truth is, if you really need to lose weight, you’ve got to pay attention to the food you eat. I knew that, I just did my best to prove it wasn’t true for two years.

Two years not much progress on weight loss. October 2014- Started paying attention to food.

Two years not much progress on weight loss. October 2014- Started paying attention to food.

Advice 6: Eat a little better, rinse, repeat.
Shortly after I started paying attention to what I would eat using the MyFitnessPal app, I joined the Whole Life Challenge with my sister ( https://www.wholelifechallenge.com/.) The challenge encourages different eating habits, and has different levels. The simplest level asks you to cut out bad oils, sugar as an ingredient, bread and pasta, beer, soda, diet soda, chips, fries, and a few other foods. (What the heck is left!) While doing this “cold turkey” might be challenging (not hard- cancer is hard, not eating something is not hard -WLC), try cutting ONE thing out for ONE meal.  If I gave you $100 to not have soda for one meal, could you?  Of course! One meal is EASY!    Now just do that three times and you’ve done it for the day.  Good?  Try two days.  Say to yourself, “I have had ______ all my life, I can not have it just this once.”  Got the soda down?  Do the same for fries.  (OMG I love fries!)  Keep making small changes and eventually you WILL see a huge difference.

Advice 7: Fail quickly, rinse, repeat.
Once I started really paying attention to food, I bought a scale and logged my weight. I set my goal high- lose just one pound. Not 75 pounds overall. Just one pound (Really I wanted to lose all 75 pounds in one week but that seemed just a little unrealistic.) At the end of one week I had lost one pound. Winning! Two days later I had gained four pounds. Fail. 🙁 I started again. This time I lost two pounds.

Obviously your weight is going to fluctuate daily, but weighing myself daily did three things for me. First, weighing daily made it impossible for me to hide going off the rails at that all-you-can-eat country buffet. Second, not hiding from the scale made me plan how I could go off the rails less (not less times, but like only going back for seconds ONCE at the buffet. Finally, this eventually made me go off the rails less FREQUENTLY! A way to measure, even an imperfect one, allows us to correct course and head in the right direction.

Chart showing weight loss via scale

Way off the rails in September. Restart. May looking a little rocky. Focus.

Advice 8: Jedi Mind Tricks
I’d like to think I’m too smart to fall for simple tricks, but the truth is I’m easily swayed. Here are a few mind tricks that made me make better decisions. If people ask me if I’m losing weight I never reply with “I’m working on it,” “so far,” etc. I say, “Thanks for noticing,” or better yet- “Only 20 more pounds to go.” Trying implies failure is still an option. There is no try; do or do not! At least tell yourself that. Also, stop telling yourself losing weight, working out, … is HARD! The Whole Life Challenge tricked me well by saying, “Cancer is hard, living a healthy lifestyle is EASY!” Tying hard to cancer made it impossible for me to whine to myself.. “it’s hard.” Finally, one last trick- when you’re at a meal and want those french fries, garlic toast, or other food non grata (not to be confused with au gratin,) remind yourself, “I am not a wild dog that has to eat everything someone puts in front of me. Just this once, I can not eat this.” I know, you’re thinking these are all silly word games. Words don’t matter. I’m not saying these. Yep. You’re right. Don’t say them. Don’t think of them. Oh, and don’t think of pink elephants today, young padawan.

Advice 9: Burn your bridges
I wore my size 38 expanding waist pants as long as my wife would let me. After she started calling me homeless man, I finally had to bite the bullet and start buying clothes. I hate buying clothes. I would much rather give my money to an obviously faking homeless guy. I could slowly transition, switching, as laundry required, between clothes that fit and don’t fit until I finally hit my target weight, or I could go all in. I went all in. I donated nearly my entire closet to Goodwill. My wife asked, “what if you put the weight back on?” I have in the past kept the old clothes, finished twenty pounds or so, and then put it all back. This time, however, I’ve made a full commitment. I’m not going back. The bridge is fully burnt. If I do go back, guess I’ll have to parade around buck ‘nekid. Nope. Not going back.

Advice 10: Don’t be done
The biggest problem with every other “diet” I’ve tried is that it was a diet. Oh, I told myself occasionally that I was doing a lifestyle change, but in truth, I knew it was a diet. The more weight I lost, the more likely I was to cheat. I’ve lost some weight, I’m entitled. My changes have started much slower this time, but every change I’ve made is something I can live with, and feel I HAVE to live with, forever.  I want to eat more real food, and less boxed stuff.  That’s not a diet, it’s a decision.  I want to eat less (or no) fried food.  That’s not a diet, it’s a decision.  The other problem with a diet was that after it was done, I was done.  Now I can go back to eating fries, etc- until I finally have to diet again.  This time I’ve made decisions that I will do forever.  And now, I don’t have to be done.  That change makes all the difference.

Do Something.  Anything.
I might be wrong.  Really.  If it doesn’t work, dump it.  If you keep doing what you’re doing you’ll keep getting what you already have.  I’ve gotten so much help from others online, I hope my story and advice will help someone.  Want to be my fitbit friend, email me telling me how much this helped?  My email is byron@byrini.com, and may the force be with you!

Byron Ferguson is a professional “computer guy,” who likes performing magic, building stuff, cooking, and hanging out with his family.  He does not like to exercise, but it a necessary part of his master plan to live forever.   So far his plan is going swimmingly. Byron currently lives in Parker, CO with his wife Toni and their two kids Nolan and Kyra.

 

Guest Post: That Time I Joined the Gym, Then Quit, Then Joined, Then Quit, Then Joined…

When it comes to joining gyms (and quitting them), I have quite the lengthy history. In fact, it goes a little something like this…

  1. In high school, I joined a gym. I quit the gym because I was headed to college.
  2. I went to college and worked out (a wee once in a while) in the fitness center.
  3. I graduated, moved home, and joined a new gym.
  4. I fell in love with spinning at said gym and religiously went to classes three time a week. I bought the shoes, the shorts, the whole lot. I was owning it.
  5. I quit the gym because I was moving away.
  6. I moved to Hoboken (with my then-boyfriend, would-be fiancé, would-be husband) and joined a gym. I loved it for awhile, especially one specific yoga class and teacher.
  7. I got engaged.
  8. I hired a personal trainer to get ripped and ready for my wedding dress.
  9. I got married. I went on my honeymoon.
  10. I came home and joined a different gym.
  11. My husband and I were moving to the suburbs so I quit the Hoboken gym and joined a gym in the ‘burbs.
  12. I got frustrated that I wasn’t going enough, so I quit that gym.
  13. I joined a cheaper gym.
  14. We got sick of the suburbs and moved back to Hoboken.
  15. I rejoined the Hoboken gym.
  16. I went pretty regularly for awhile and tried my hand at the various fitness classes.
  17. I grew frustrated.
  18. I stopped going.
  19. I quit the gym.
  20. I started purchasing various online vouchers for gyms and workout studios in the area. I had a blast redeeming them. I’d found my thing.
  21. I used up my vouchers so I joined rejoined the gym I’d quit a couple times before.
  22. I quit that gym again.
  23. I did a one-week trial at a new gym. I loved it. I loved it so much that I locked myself into a year-long membership.
  24. I don’ t love it anymore.
  25. And now I want to quit.

Also weaved in there were short-lived stints with running. But really, who’s counting?

I ran in the Phillips 5K the first year. I was slow, but heck, I finished!

I ran in the Phillips 5K the first year. I was slow, but heck, I finished!

I don’t mean to be hard on myself here, but man, that’s a lot of quitting. Looking at this list, I really have to laugh, too. It’s such a hilarious cycle. Each time I put my John Hancock on a gym contract, I really and truly believe in my heart of hearts that THIS IS THE ONE! And then I have a change of heart…

My latest fitness interest is hot yoga (there’s something quite fascinating about sweating, dripping, get absolutely drenched alongside 20 strangers). Who knows how long this interest in yoga will last, but I do have to figure out what I’m doing here (I can’t keep dropping money on one-off yoga classes when I’m still locked into about 9 more months at my gym.) As it stands, I Google “how to get out of a gym membership” daily.

So, yeah. When it comes to fitness, dedicated I am not. Will I ever get there? Your guess is as good as mine.

Oh, and sometimes I hike. Here's a snapshot of Sharon (left) and me (right) last summer.

Oh, and sometimes I hike. Here’s a snapshot of Sharon (left) and me (right) last summer.

Now I’ll tell you about something I AM dedicated to: Helping good people do good things. And “doing good” is exactly what my dear friend Sharon Phillips is accomplishing with the Christopher and Susan Phillips Foundation. This very special Foundation was started by Sharon in 2011 to honor her mother Susan (64) and brother Chris (27), both lost within days of each other from two separate cardiac-related events.

The Foundation hosts some fabulous fundraisers each year to help provide scholarships for students of Jonathan Dayton High School (the alma mater of the entire Phillips family) and Trinitas Nursing School (where Chris was studying to be a nurse).

Next month, on May 31st, the Foundation will host its 4th annual Phillips 5K/10K Run/Walk. This special event will take place at Lewis Morris Park in Morristown, NJ — and 100% of the race proceeds will benefit the Foundation and go toward future scholarships.

I’ll be there like every year, cheering participants on from the behind the microphone and helping to present ribbons to the fastest finishers. The day isn’t just about speed, though. It’s also about taking a few hours on a spring morning to come out and remember two lives well lived, two lives lost too soon.

Come be part of this special day. For additional details about the 5K/10K and to register online (pre-registration guarantees you a cool wicking t-shirt!) visit http://www.phillips5k.org.

So that’s where I’ll be on May 31st. Until then, I’ll be feverishly trying to get out of my gym membership. I’ll also be spending quality time with dear friends like Sharon — because when it comes to my friendship with her, I’ll NEVER call it quits.

Jodi Rigotti is the Senior Editor at Teachers Pay Teachers, an online marketplace for teachers to buy and sell their original lesson plans and other course materials. Her hobbies include cooking, exercising sporadically, and being nicer than some say is necessary. She currently lives in Hoboken, NJ with her husband (and college sweetheart), Dan.

Guest Post: Philadelphia Hot Chocolate 15k

Running for Chocolate is the SWEETEST of all victories…

Waking up at 4:30 in the morning to the sound of the wind howling, and rain hitting my house was not how I envisioned race day for running the RAM HOT CHOCOLATE 15k.  Shaking off the bad weather, I headed out at 5:45am to meet my friend and running partner Kate Fontaine at the PATCO station.

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Riding over the Delaware River in a full subway car filled with other runners, I was excited to see how this race would treat me. This would be my longest distance since running The Philadelphia Marathon in November of 2014 and I only got to 6.5 miles while training.

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We were greeted with clearing skies and no rain when we came from underground, but the 40 MPH winds decided to stay behind to be with us during the race.

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We made it to Eakins Oval in front of the Philadelphia Art Museum in plenty of time to check our gear and arrive to our given running corrals. Everything was organized and the volunteers were very friendly.

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After saying goodbye to the 5k runners, we lined up to begin our race with our fellow corral J friends.  With the chilly wind hitting our faces, we were off. Running around the Oval, we headed away from the Art Museum and towards Kelly Drive. The wind was blowing towards us for a couple of miles making it a challenge. Before the race I was back and forth about whether I should run my race without stopping or do walk and run intervals. After a powerful gust of wind hit me head on at mile 1.15, I decided to do run/walk intervals in order to conserve energy.

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The course was familiar (Philadelphia Marathon flashbacks) and the scenic course made me forget that the wind was howling at us. There were plenty of water stations for the runners, but I think because of the time of the race (8am) and the weather (windy and cold) the course didn’t have a lot of crowds to cheer us on while on Kelly Drive. However the spirit of the fellow runners, as well as the scenery kept me company. Once we got to the turn around after mile 5, the wind was at our backs and I felt relaxed and ready to get though the next 4.3 miles.

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In the home stretch, we were greeted by large crowds cheering us to the finish. This made up for the lack of spectators on the course. Even with my last minute decision to run intervals, I was able to finish the race at 1:36 and felt great at the finish line.  I met up with Kate (we separated during the race) who ran an awesome race and finished at 1:23, and we were off to get our chocolate grub on!

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Our finisher’s mugs were full of edible goodies. We received a hot cup of cocoa, banana, chocolate fondue with things to dip in it such as a Rice Krispy treat, marshmallow, and pretzels.

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As we sat eating our goodies while on the verge of a sugar coma, we talked about what we thought of the race.  We both agreed it was very well organized, a beautiful course,  and we enjoyed the chocolate party afterwards. My favorite thing has to be the medal of a half eaten chocolate bar with the Liberty Bell on it and our warm and comfy hoodie we received (who needs another tech shirt?).

hotchocolatehoodie

hotchocolatemedal

So if you like to run, you love chocolate, this race is perfect for you! Where else can you get runners high and a sugar high all in one?

Brandi B. Dockett, CPT, is an ACE certified personal trainer, AFAA group fitness instructor, Spin instructor, running coach, and Owner of B FIT FITNESS SERVICES, LLC. Brandi loves running, cooking, traveling, and spending time with her friends, husband and 2 daughters! You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Guest Post: Hooters Half Marathon

Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined.

hooters

That’s what Hooters says about itself. I say they have delicious wings, curly fries, and good beer. Also, they know how to throw a pretty sweet half marathon.

This past Sunday I laced up my sneaks and headed out for my second half marathon ever. Well, the first one was only in January so it wasn’t like I took a long break or anything. In fact, the Hooters Half almost didn’t even happen for me. I floundered back and forth about signing up until I finally just bit the bullet and went for it.

After I signed up I was feeling pretty stoked. I ran the Disney Half Marathon in January (and met Mer and Brooke, YAAAAAY) and had an amazing time with my running buddy. We kept a good pace and finished at just over three hours, which I couldn’t tell you if that’s a good time or not, I just know I made it.

I figured for my second half I should set some goals, right? Okay, after my running buddy texted me and asked if I had any goals I decided to set them. Basically my goal was to beat three hours. I figured that was a doable goal considering it was only my second time running this distance.

The week leading up to the race wasn’t anything special. I wasn’t nervous like I was before Disney. I had this, right? I prepped the Saturday before by carb loading. By that I mean I ate a lot of Boom Chicka Pop and pretty much an entire box of macaroni and cheese for dinner. (Note: this is probably not a post you should take advice from, just saying.) I watched some videos on how to apply KT tape for some pain I’d been having, then I made my sister help me. She’s a personal trainer, so she’s good for stuff like that. I also planned my outfit, because you can be cute and comfortable to run thirteen miles at the same time. Also, I’m single and you never know who you might “run” into.

You can't go wrong with Mean Girls.

You can’t go wrong with Mean Girls.

I went to bed at a decent hour, my alarm set at my normal-everyday-wake up time. For Disney my wake up time was 2:30AM. Thankfully, I only live about two miles from Hooters, so I didn’t have to get up that early. I was feeling pretty good the night before, but my nerves got the best of me Sunday morning. It probably had to do with the dream I had about my grandma beating me at the race. I blame the carbs.

Breakfast was a small event: coffee (because I do nothing without coffee), oatmeal, and a banana. I don’t eat a lot in the morning, but I know it’s important to fuel up before a long run. My nerves were still going crazy by the time I met my friends in the crowded parking lot. This year’s race had about 1,100 people sign up and, as per the results, 800 finishers. We made a pit-stop at the Port-o-Johns because there’s nothing worse than having to run long distances while having to pee. Side note: I ran a ten-miler in October with no bathrooms on the course. Uncool. Anyway, after a bathroom stop we headed to the start line, just as that beautiful Florida sun started to rise. Oh, and ran into these beauties.

Helloooooo, beer!

Helloooooo, beer!

My running buddy and I placed ourselves at the back of the pack, just to be safe. We both had goals and were prepared to help each other out with them, but we wanted to be comfortable with our starting pace and there’s really no pressure in the back.

Let's do this.

Let’s do this.

We got started just after 7AM with a pretty steady pace. Like I said, I wasn’t out to impress anyone but myself, but I was feeling pretty good at a twelve-minute mile. I know I don’t have a lot of speed, but what I lack I make up for in enthusiasm. By mile two I had to go to the bathroom, so we got water and I went. Water and bathrooms were both available every two miles, which was pretty awesome. The weather on this race (compared to 40s in Disney) was a little rough. It was in the 70s and muggy, typical Southwest Florida, but more difficult when running thirteen miles.

The course we were set on was nice, especially with the weather like it was. We had a great view of some nice neighborhoods on the river. The streets were flat, shady, and provided a nice breeze to counter the humidity. One of the things that I liked that most about running through the neighborhoods was the fact that people were hanging out in the streets cheering for us. Sometimes it was whole families, sometimes just a single old woman sipping her coffee (which I would have killed for), and once there was an innocent looking little girl with a sign that said: “Run fast. I just farted.” I’m still kicking myself for not taking a picture of that one.

I started feeling some pain in my taped leg at about mile five, but I pushed through. Pain is temporary, you know. The first seven miles were like a cake walk compared to what came at mile eight. I’ve ran the Edison Bridge three times and the Hooters Half makes four. It never gets easier. In fact, this was pretty much my downfall.

Actually the worst.

Actually the worst.

I had a GU at mile nine (Salted Caramel – yum) and some Gatorade because they were out of water at the station, and we kept on trucking. By mile ten my earphones died and I was left in silence.

Worst.

Thing.

Ever.

I’d like to blame the rest of the run on the fact that my headphones died and I had nothing to listen to so I couldn’t keep a pace or DO ANYTHING PRODUCTIVE. But, it’s probably more of the fact that I was starting to feel dehydrated and the pain I’d started feeling around mile five started to intensify. I told my running buddy to go on without me. I’m pretty sure my exact words were “Just leave me here to die!” so she did. She pushed me through those first ten miles and I was so, so grateful, but I knew she had a goal and I wanted her to reach it. I felt pretty good about still having her in my sight, like we were still going together, but eventually she turned a corner and I was on my own.

Of course, running is pretty much a solo sport, so it wasn’t too terrible. I tried to focus on the fact that I’d made it TEN MILES when this time last year I only had a few 5K under my belt. I ran-walked the last three miles, keeping up with intervals with a couple that was in front of me. (They were super cute and ran across the finish line with their kids.) At some point an elderly gentleman came up behind me and said something like “I’ve been following you for six miles, you can’t quit now!”

Game on, old man!

After that I pulled my phone out and just listened to my music on speaker. My pace was still under fourteen minutes and I was looking good to finish under three hours. By the time I came around the back of the mall and toward the finish line I could have cried. People (volunteers and spectators alike) were still waiting and cheering, which is a great feeling. My friends met me just a few yards from the finish and ran the rest of the way with me, because they’re awesome and the best people I could ever imagine running with.

Cute owl bling!

Cute owl bling!

Of course, being the Hooters Half, there was free beer and wings at the finish line. As much as I wanted to take part in those delicious things I settled on water and grapes. I was feeling pretty dehydrated and in serious need of a nap, so I passed on the yummies, which was a little sad. I mean, how do you run the Hooters Half and not eat the wings and drink the beer?

It’s okay, there’s always next time. I really enjoyed this race, even the last three miles that completely sucked. It wasn’t a big crowd and the course was nice, plus it’s pretty close to my house so the travel time is minimal.

And hey, a Hooters girl give you a medal. If you’re into that sort of thing.

Also, according to my Nike+ app my finish time was 2:57:47. So, I managed a PR on my second half marathon, beating my old (first and only) time by ten minutes! Now I’ve got two half-marathons under my belt, but I’m ready to focus on some shorter distances. I prefer 10Ks and have a few lined up for the year already. But, of course, it’s all about the swag.

swag

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.

Guest Post -The Bolder Boulder 10K

This Memorial Day, I decided to join about fifty two thousand other people and participate in my hometown race, the Bolder Boulder 10K. I was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado and grew up around this race but had never seen it in action. The entry makes this event the largest 10k in the country, and it is the largest Memorial Day party in the USA. I knew neither of these facts when I registered. Nor did I know that Runner’s World Named it “America’s Best 10k”, or that it draws elite runners from all over the world. The only thing I did know was that it was a 10K, the race motto is “sea level is for sissies,” and that I really wanted that on a t-shirt. Like, I wanted it yesterday. So I signed up, and lemme tell you, it was amazing!

One of my very favorite things about this race (which is saying a lot because there were many favorite things) was the packet pick-up. It was pre-race, and by pre-race, I mean weeks in advance. The Bolder Boulder rents a storefront at the 29th Street mall which opens weeks before the race. It’s brilliant! I was able to swing by on my lunch break and pick up my packet as well as do a little shopping. Usually, the packet pick-up location is an hour and a half drive from me and requires me to take off work early to manage the traffic. This option was the best thing ever, and an example of why this race has a reputation for running like a well-oiled machine. When I picked up my packet, I found the tribute bib which I was super excited about. My family has a rich military history and I was honored to run for these brave men in my family on Memorial Day.

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Race festivities begin the Saturday before the race and go through the weekend. Saturday and Sunday the Expo takes over Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall, a trendy pedestrian street lined with boutique shops, pubs, and restaurants. It’s beloved by locals and packed with buskers in the summertime. I made it to Pearl Street late Sunday afternoon, scored some energy gels, and picked up a great headband for the race. There were tons of deals on awesome running gear, but somehow I managed to refrain from purchasing the neon pink Brooks Pure Flow shoes. After the expo, my husband and I stopped at The Gondolier for a pre-race carb load.

Next best thing to running is shopping for running shoes!

Next best thing to running is shopping for running shoes!

IMG_0587

I love these homemade noodles!

The traffic in Boulder is annoying on a normal day. On race day, it’s uberdiculous. We devised a plan to drive to my office on the east side of Boulder and then ride our bikes along the Boulder Creek bike path to the starting line. This plan worked out perfectly. The weather was beautiful! It was in the low sixties and calm, perfect for riding and running! I got a bit of a warm-up riding my bike for about a mile and a half, and we didn’t have to deal with any stress of parking and maneuvering through the crowds. It worked out so well, this will be our plan every year! After we parked our bikes near the starting line, I found the porta-potties. There were so many there was no wait at all to get in. My husband Rick walked with me to my corral, which I’m always grateful for because his 6’ 3 sees over heads much better than my 5’2. I waited about 10 minutes before my start at 8:58.

Waiting to start and arguing with my phone.

Waiting to start and arguing with my phone.

I admit I was nervous about the crowds at this race. I was worrying about it in emails to Mer, and she, being the best cheerleader ever, assured me to just relax, let it happen, and most of all, to enjoy it. Race day was pleasant surprise. Although it was busy I wouldn’t have guessed that there were fifty-two thousand participants. The BB is so organized and the waves are so well spaced that it didn’t feel like a big production race.

My corral

My corral

There was plenty of breathing room in the coral, and once we set off it didn’t take long for the pack to break up as everyone found their pace.

 

And we're off! The beautiful Flatirons are in the background.

And we’re off! The beautiful Flatirons are in the background.

The course takes runners through the streets of Boulder, both commercial and residential. I loved the residential sections as it made the Bolder Boulder feel like a hometown race. People who live along the route are wonderfully supportive. I saw two girls holding a “free hugs” sign, and I had to take them up on their offer. They assured me I deserved lots of hugs. Awesome spectators bust out their garden hoses to spray heated runners as they pass. Some stood with huge bowls of Doritos, offering the salty snack to runners who need it. The Garage bands open their garage doors and play “We Are the Champions” and “Eye of the Tiger” to keep runners motivated. They even build slip-and-slides in their front lawns for added amusement and refreshment. Because really, who doesn’t want to slip-and-slide when given the opportunity? There was a drum circle drumming a rhythm for a troupe of belly dancers, who encouraged us with their sauciness (seriously, only in Boulder would you see this). I tried to get video of these beautiful ladies, but I utterly failed at correctly operating my iPhone that day. Plus my battery was quickly dying, and I needed to save some juice for my finish line pic and calling Rick afterward.

Love the small, neighborhood race feel to this event!

Love the small, neighborhood race feel to this event!

At the four-mile mark, I was feeling pretty good. That is also the Casey hill, named because it’s next to Casey Middle School (my alma mater), and it happens to be the highest elevation point on the course at 5.391 feet. By cresting this hill, I earned my “sea level is for sissies” t-shirt!

My husband is my personal race photographer, thanks honey!

My husband is my personal race photographer, thanks honey!

Not long after, a sharp pain in my right hip forced me to slow down and walk more than jog. I had registered as a “jogger/walker, mostly jogger” (yes, that is the actual category name) and I stuck to that until my hip acted up. The hip opening yoga sequence I had done before the race hadn’t kept this annoying pain at bay, but I was so close to the 5 mile mark that I pushed myself to run as much as I could the rest of the race. Someone held a sign that said “not all pain is significant” and that sharpened my mental focus. I relied on the encouragement of the crowd and volunteers as I jogged up the last not-so-little hill toward the finish line at the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field.

Running into a stadium full of cheering people was exciting. I got tons of high-fives from the people in the first row as I ran through and that helped me go a little faster those last few yards. I felt strong despite the pain and I was so proud of myself for this accomplishment. This was the longest distance I had ever run! I crossed the finish line in 1:29:28. I was not as fast as I would have liked, but I wanted come in under 1:30. 1:10 would have been better. That’s what goals are for though, right?  I managed to snap a finish line selfie before my phone died.

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Feeling hungry, and more importantly, thirsty (for beer), I made my way to timing tag return then grabbed my snack bag and Michelob. FYI, trying to find your husband in a crowd of thousands without your phone is really, really hard. So I did what any girl would do, I went to the expo! It was great until I realized that I didn’t have any funds with me, they were with missing husband. So was the real camera. Making my way back to my bike would be the best plan as he would wait for me there. As I hobbled walked back down the hill, I spied him sitting near the course not far from the stadium. Reunited at last! After the short bike ride back to the car, my legs were done.

Stick a fork in me.

Stick a fork in me.

It was well worth it, though, and I will be signing up for the 37th Annual BolderBOULDER 10K on Memorial 2015 in case any of you want to join me! Come on, don’t be a sissy!

 

Jenn is an asthmatic former smoker who never in her life thought she’d run by choice. She enjoys surprising herself with new accomplishments, as well as quilting, writing  fiction, working on her blog, sci-fi, and pugs. She can be found in her sewing room plotting costume ideas for the Disney Star Wars Rebel Challenge.

Guest post: Consider me Cleansed

pre-pubertyI grew up a latchkey kid in the cornfield-laden suburbs of the middle of nowhere, Illinois. I pretty much came and went as I pleased, within reason. I relied upon myself for at least half of my daily meals. The meals that I made consisted of whatever I found in the house, and what I found usually consisted of the white starch food group and the overly sugary food group. When my mom cooked, it was usually a meat, bread, and potatoes sort of presentation. Our milk was 2%, always. We were all a part of the clean plate club, and dessert was never something we missed. This was all well and good. I didn’t know any different, and I liked it. I was an active kid: riding bikes, playing soccer, playing softball, running around the neighborhood…you name it, I was involved. So, activity and ultimately crappy eating were excellent partners. Until. UNTIL I hit puberty.

Puberty was not kind to me nor was it a friend of my “questionable food group” diet. I put on weight overnight, I swear. My thighs grew so quickly that they produced stretch marks. I went from being a fairly thin and athletic girl to a chubby 130 pound 8th grader sporting a butch haircut. (The haircut has nothing to do with anything, but it was horrific enough to be worthy of mention.) This is where my battle with weight and food and self-image began.

chubster

I kept up most of my horrible eating habits right on through college. I added the food group “alcohol,” which might have contributed to making things a bit more than worse. I ate things called “beer nuggets,” and I ate them at 3am. I maxed out around 155 pounds. Just so you know, I’m not all that pretty at 155 pounds. Not gonna lie.

Sometime after college, as a working adult living on my own, I figured out that something had to change. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t feel good. I wasn’t comfortable in my own body. I had an epiphany that I simply couldn’t “have my cake and eat it, too,” AND be any combination of thin /healthy / happy. My metabolism didn’t work that way. My body knew how to turn a calorie into a fat cell faster than I could blink, and I needed to come up with a way to win the battle against the calories and fat cells. I needed a way to win the battle against myself.

It has been a journey of 15 or more years in the making. I have found balance. I still don’t know everything there is to know about food, and I don’t claim to be a health expert. I have learned that no one thing works for everyone. I have only learned what works best for me: overall healthy eating and eating everything in moderation. As easy as that sounds, it isn’t. People who have only known me in my adult life assume that I have always eaten well, taken care of myself, exercised, looked this way, etc. Appearances can be so deceiving! When you go on such a journey, you know that the journey continues. It has detours and breakdowns. It doesn’t end…it just goes on.

So, as much as I’d like to say I have it all figured out and that I never give into cravings for shitty food that are destructive to my body…it just isn’t true. I aim to have more better days than I have bad days. I run (when not injured, which is another story for another day). I go to yoga. I eat mostly well. But, I also falter. I also self-sabotage. I also suffer from body dysmorphia. If I gain 10 pounds or lose 5 pounds, I pretty much feel I always look the same: ok, but not great. That is me. I own it, and I am a work in progress.

Just before Easter, I had found that I was really giving into my cravings more than usual. My one or two bad days of eating turned into “I can just have something bad every day as long as I keep up my exercising…that is ok, right?” Once it starts, it is easier to just go with it. Sugar is addictive. It makes me want more and more and more. I’m seriously an all or nothing sort of eater (I eat all of the cupcake, not just a bite. I eat all of the Easter candy, not just a few pieces. I just can’t help myself, it seems). I adapt by eating the cupcake for lunch, that way the calories are still kept somewhat in check. However, my body can’t be fooled. Do that too many times, and the weight just jumps right back on, of course. I decided it was time to reset my body and get back on track. I didn’t feel good. I was up about 5 pounds. I wanted to gain back the control and the good feelings that good eating bring with it.

suja

Enter: the Suja Juice 3-day cleanse. Just so you know, I am not a proponent of cleanses in general. Most of them involve a ridiculous combination of starvation and explosive “colon-purifying” diarrhea. (I’m just sort of against both of those things at my wise old age of 40. Consider me silly, but that is my stance.) When I came across this particular cleanse, though, I realized it was different. Their 3-day cleanse involves drinking 6 juices a day, for a total of 1200 calories. The juices are designed for different purposes throughout the day. This company does NOT urge you to enforce the rule of “chewing is cheating.” If you are hungry: EAT! If you are more active and require more calories: GET THEM! The only guideline is that you are smart about your choices. They recommend eating raw fruits and vegetables, drinking clear broths, or eating things like a baked sweet potato or an avocado. The idea is to rest and cleanse your digestive tract, and these choices will allow you to stay true to that idea.

My experience with this cleanse was a good one. It is recommended that you set yourself up for the cleanse by reducing sugar intake, eliminating coffee and alcohol, and eating a bit more lightly in the few days leading up to it. Uh huh. Yeah. I totally didn’t do that. I drank coffee. I drank my nightly jumbo sized glass of red wine. I ate as much as I could at an Easter brunch the day before. (Remember when I said that I self-sabotage? Well, here you go.) I knew I was starting the juice cleanse, so I just went crazy beforehand. Consider it the storm before the calm. Sort of backwards, sure, but that is par for the course in my world. Way to go, me!

When I commit to something, though, I commit! I jumped right into that cleanse the next day. I started day one with a juice and a yoga class. I figured it was smart to exercise first thing, prior to my body only having liquid sustenance and being a bit energy deprived. All went well there. I initially thought that I wouldn’t be able to give up my coffee and wine habit, but I did! I think that I was drinking so much throughout the day that I didn’t really crave anything else that was liquid. The first day I did make the mistake of not bringing one of the scheduled juices with me when taking my daughter to a movie. Too much time had lapsed between juices (you are pretty much drinking one every 2 hours), and I found myself VERY hungry. I cheated and ate 3 large bites of my daughter’s soft pretzel. Eh, nobody’s perfect. The rest of the day went well. No other cheats. No other problems.

the cleanse

Now I will say, on day one, I was not used to the juices. I’m not a “juicer” in general, so I didn’t know what to expect. The first juice (Glow) has a bit of an overwhelming celery presence to it, but it wasn’t too bad. I managed it. The second juice (Fuel) is bright orange and has a light sweetish taste of pineapple and orange. For the record, I loved this one. The third juice (Purify) is purple, thanks to the beets in it. My first experience with it was a bit interesting. This one is “earthy” and a bit “dirty” tasting, as in it sort of tastes like dirt. Really. I plugged my nose when drinking it the first go around. Next up was Fiji. It has a lot of apples in it, so I thought it would be amazing. I was wrong. I wasn’t prepared for the STRONG taste of ginger. I drank 2 swigs and called it quits. I drank more water to fill up my belly instead. For dinner there was Green Supreme. It is definitely green, but the taste surprised me. It was very much like apple juice, and I welcomed that immensely! Last for the day was Vanilla Cloud. It is designed sort of as a dessert. It has hints of vanilla, coconut, cinnamon, and nutmeg. I liked it. It is tasty. Other people RAVE about this one, but I have to say that the grit of spices and chunky bits of coconut meat turned me off to it a bit. Just a personal thing, I guess.

Anyway, the rest of the cleanse went surprisingly well. The juices grew on me, and I found myself actually looking forward to them. I didn’t even have to plug my nose at all. In addition, I managed to drink all of my Fiji drink on day 3. I’m not going to lie, I still had to kind of choke that one down, but I did it! I was oddly proud. I found what worked for me was adding in raw carrots and celery throughout the day. I also would throw in a banana or some grapes. When I was craving something warm to eat, I made up some vegetable broth and drank it from a coffee mug. This satiated that need, and it also added a few calories and a feeling of fullness that helped me through the process.

Some things to note:

  • I really wasn’t hungry, per se. I more missed the process of putting something in my mouth and chewing it. This is where the raw fruits and veggies came in.
  • I was pretty tired the end of day 1. I even went to bed early.
  • I was COLD during this process. I am generally cold, so this isn’t a big deal, but I certainly noticed feeling a chill. The warm broth at night helped with this side effect.
  • My teeth were very sensitive by day 3. Although there are no added sugars in these juices, they do contain a ton of pressed fruits which means there is a lot of natural sugars in them. I have sensitive teeth to begin with, so the sugar did a number on them. I would recommend using a straw!
  • I took off exercising on day 2, but I did go for a run on day 3. I was sluggish and my legs felt heavy. I still managed it, but I definitely noticed the lack of energy.
  • I constantly had to pee. I mean it. All day. Middle of the night. All night. When you are drinking that much liquid, I guess it is bound to happen!

How did I feel in the end? Did I lose weight? Did I feel reset? Would I recommend juice cleansing to others? Well, I will tell you. I felt pretty great after it was all said and done. I felt a sense of accomplishment and a sense of peace. I know that might sound a bit weird, but I don’t know how else to phrase it. Weight loss is NOT the ultimate goal of a juice cleanse, but it is often a by-product of it. In my case, I lost a total of 6 pounds. (I lost 3 pounds after the first day. I lost an additional pound after day 2 and after day 3. Oddly enough, after resuming my normal diet on day 4, I still lost an additional pound. I am back to my “happy weight.”) The best part of the entire experience was feeling reset. This cleanse gave me a chance to get away from all the sugar and junk and put me back on the path of “mostly eating well most of the time.” Given all of my positive experiences with it, I would highly recommend trying out the Suja Juice cleanse! I know that I plan on using the 3 day cleanse a few times a year, and I will probably throw in a 1 day cleanse from time to time. They have a lot of wonderful juices that I also intend to use as an occasional meal replacement or as a snack just to get in some extra fruits and veggies. It isn’t a cheap date, but I do like that everything is already thought out, prepared, packaged, and ready for me to ingest.

finding balance

In the end, as we all know, there are no magic pills / diets / secrets that will turn us into picture perfect models of health and fitness. Every day we have to own our individual journeys and do our best to just keep doing our best. I am proof, though, that you can change your overall course. I’m not perfect, and I obviously still seek out ways to help me stay on track, or get back on track when I falter…but there is satisfaction in small victories and continued overall success. I find joy in sharing my experiences and offering up any tools that have worked for me, just as I embrace gaining similar knowledge from others around me who are also fighting the good fight.

So, have you cleansed? Do you have any tools that you use to battle cravings? What are different ways that you have succeeded in your journey to be healthy?

Megan Ritter is a stay at home mom, blogger and fashionista. She enjoys yoga, running, photography and the laugher of her daughter. Her secret powers include sarcasm and baking without a recipe. It’s quite possible that she was a cat herder in a past life. A Chicago area native, Megan now lives in Haddonfield, NJ with her husband, 4 year old daughter and dog, Batman.

Notes on purchasing Suja Juice: you can find / purchase Suja juice products and the 1, 3, or 5- day cleanse on the Suja website: http://www.sujajuice.com . Please note, when purchasing through their website the shipping costs are very expensive. This is fresh juice that must be shipped on ice overnight. I found and purchased the 3-day cleanse on Amazon.com, and I was able to greatly reduce the shipping expense / cost of the product. The price varies, but you can usually find a good deal here. You can also find many of the Suja juice products (and piece together your own cleanse) at your Whole Foods store.

Guest Post: The Good We Do (for Friends, Strangers, Ourselves)

I’m Jodi, and I’m on a mission to get a better butt. In fact, I’m deep in the trenches. I’ve been working these glutes of mine hard – and for a good few months now. Am I seeing results? Yes. Maybe. I guess? I’m not sure. You’d think I know, considering the amount of time I spend checking out my rear. My bedroom has a full length mirror and at least three times of day, I can be found back to back with it, my neck awkwardly twisted, staring. What a weirdo.

Am I, though? Am I weird for wanting a little gratification for my hard work? Perhaps not. But I may very well be weird for asking my husband a couple weeks ago to snap a photo of my bare booty using my MacBook Air computer. For the record, I took a quick look, then promptly erased the photo. There were just too many frightening scenarios running through my head. (i.e. “Hey Mom. Hey Dad. Take a look at our vacation photos. Here we are with a palm tree. Look at us here, all dolled up for dinner. And this one…OH MY GOD!”)

So, as I said, in between staring at my tush, and having people take pictures of my tush, I’ve been totally trying to tone it, too. I belong to a gym and tend to have a love-hate-relationship with the classes (but that’s a story for another day). So I found a bunch of tips, videos, and tutorials online and have been exercising on my own. In many ways, it’s super great. I started a new job in January in which I work from home, so I’ll often head to the gym around lunchtime and do an approximately hour-long routine of squats, lunges, step-ups, hip lifts, and a slew of other moves. There’s also an exercise I do called butt burns. Ne’er was there ever a more appropriate name. Holy freakin’ ow.

Yet, even with my steady gym attendance and my relentless dedication to butt burns, I’m not seeing as significant a difference as thought I would by now. Some difference? Yes. Enough improvement for my liking? No. I know these things take time, but I’m getting a little impatient (plus, I fly out to Turks and Caicos in mid-June. Just sayin’). So about a week ago, I decided it was time to kick things up a notch. I put a hold on my personal workouts and signed up for classes at a fancy boutique gym in town. I’ve been there before, so I can tell you, here’s what guaranteed: The workouts are incredible. Here’s what’s not guaranteed: When you smile at the other patrons, they’re going to smile back. That’s OK. I’m not there to meet my best friend. And that’s fine with me because I’ve got one already. Her name is Sharon. And she’s awesome.

We’ve been friends since we were 11. We met at an after-school cheerleading clinic (I promptly quit before tryouts even happened. I guess I wasn’t the rah-rah type.) But out of that short-lived experience came a lifelong friend – whose family opened up their hearts and home to me as well. Picnics, parties, weeks down the shore. If there was a Phillips event, I was there.

In July of 2011, the unthinkable happened. Chris (Sharon’s brother, 27) and Sue (Sharon’s mother, 64) passed away within days of each other. Every time I write that, or say that, it hits me like a ton of bricks. I still can’t believe they’re gone. I constantly do the would’ve, should’ve, could’ve in my mind. The truth is, I can’t change what happened. But here’s what I can do.

I can continue to get the word out about the Christopher and Susan Phillips Foundation, founded by Sharon herself, who was unwavering in her wish for the passing of her brother and mother not to be in vain. Through dollars raised from fundraisers hosted throughout the year, the Foundation provides scholarships to graduating Jonathan Dayton High School students (the alma mater of the entire Phillips family) and to Trinitas Nursing School students as well (Chris was attending school there. He was studying to be a nurse). Sue was a Pharmacist Technician at Walgreens. Customers used to ask for her by name.

And they're off! (The start of the Phillips 5K/10K Run Walk)

And they’re off! (The start of the Phillips 5K/10K Run Walk)

June 1st will mark the 3rd annual 5K/10K Trail Run/Walk. Taking place at Lewis Morris Park in Morristown, NJ, it’ll be an opportunity for folks to celebrate and remember Chris and Sue. Many knew them in life. Others, though, never met them but have been so touched by their story and the good that the Foundation continues to do.

So come on out – it’s sure to be a morning filled with affirmation, determination, and a whole lot o’ perspiration. There’s still time to pre-register (signing up by May 18 guarantees you a cool wicking tee, too). Or simply show up the day of. I won’t be running the race this year. I’ll be volunteering at the event along with others and may even take the mic for a bit. Look for the short girl cheering participants on, and making the occasional corny joke, too. (tap tap. “Is this thing on?”)

Medal recipients proudly pose for a photo.

Medal recipients proudly pose for a photo.

Affixed on the back of Chris’ Jeep was a bumper sticker: Life is good, it said. He truly and wholeheartedly lived by these words. So, here’s to Chris. Here’s to Sue. Here’s to Sharon and the beautiful Foundation she’s created. And here’s to never forgetting that although it may not seem like it on some days, there’s still so much good in this life.

To learn more about the Christopher and Susan Phillips Foundation, visit its Facebook page or the Foundation’s website.

 

JODIBIOJodi Rigotti is the Senior Editor at Teachers Pay Teachers, an online marketplace for teachers to buy and sell their original lesson plans and other course materials. Her hobbies include hiking, cooking, and being nicer than some say is necessary. She currently lives in Hoboken, NJ with her husband (and college sweetheart), Dan.