The Real (?) Thing

As I write this post, I’m sidelined: sofa city, sweethearts. Why? Last weekend’s 5K ended with
this happening at the literal FINISH LINE:

Yeah, ouch. (Jsyk: the doc said it was a mild sprain, and that two-ish weeks off should be
good. I have a very sexy ankle brace to wear, too. Meeeeeeow.) Honestly, though, my pride
was probably more bruised than my ankle; nothing like crashing and burning suuuuuuperpublicly!

But the funny thing is, in the aftermath, I’ve felt SO legit. Like this was my ticket into the Real Runners’ Club or something. Because when I explained why I was limping, or wearing a brace,
people nodded knowingly, as if to say, “She’s one of those people. She runs on purpose.” Is
running really that extreme of a sport these days, when on tv we regularly watch people with
2% body fat tackle giant monkey bars over a pit with ACTUAL FLAMES spurting out each
side? (If someone could explain to me what is actually happening on American Ninja Warrior, I
would really appreciate it, kthnxbai.)

Well, regardless of whether one sprained ankle really is enough for membership in the Real
Runners’ Club, I’ve had a hard time thinking of myself as an athlete since I started running.
Probably it’s my inner Fat Kid shaking her head in disbelief at the idea that I’m doing anything
that’s more strenuous than diving into the latest Maggie Stiefvater novel. All I know is that when
someone does refer to me as an athlete, I have to stop myself from looking behind me to see
who that person is talking about.

Do I have nagging self-esteem issues? Of course; who doesn’t? Although I’d love to say
running has somehow managed to instill supreme self-confidence in me, I’d be a liar if I did.
But something that has changed since I started running is my ability to appreciate what my
body can do for me. Sure, my thighs might jiggle more than I want them to, and my tummy
might not be practically concave anymore like it was in my twenties (sigh), but those thighs and
that tummy? They carried me through all the races I’ve run. Suck it, self-esteem issues.

What do I hope you’ll take away from this? Other than, “Wow, she sure does have good taste in
reaction GIFs”, I hope you’ll remember to be a little kinder to yourself the next time you’re
questioning your athletic ability (or your appearance, or whatever). More than likely, the hot
mess that you picture in your head is not what everyone else is seeing when they look at you.
Unless you’re featured on peopleofWalmart.com, that is.

Guest Post: You Are Full of Power

Several months ago now, I ran a half marathon, and Kyle asked if I would be interested in writing something about my training process. I would sit down and type a little bit, only to feel dissatisfied with what I had written, and ultimately, I never responded to her request. I don’t know what prompted this realization, but this weekend I figured out why I was hiding from expressing my thoughts and feelings.Despite training for and completing the half marathon, over the past year I’ve regained 45 pounds of an 80-pound weight loss, and I have felt like a failure. I have been letting a setback eclipse a huge success. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to celebrate my victories, and allow them to motivate me to rise up from my setbacks. From a lot of reflection this past weekend about the mental and emotional aspects of health and fitness, here are a few thoughts I want to hold onto, and want to share with others on the journey:

Every person on a health and fitness journey is qualified to be an encourager. My feelings of unworthiness to speak into someone else’s journey are based on a lie – that I have to “get there” before I can be a true encouragement to someone else. There are people who I find inspirational, who I look to for where I want to be, and then there are people who are or have been where I am now. Those people are just as important – they “get it”. They understand the frustration of having to redefine a relationship with food because it can’t be completely cut out. They understand the mental tightrope of eating to fuel your body vs. forcing yourself to exercise more than necessary so you can eat things in excess. We’re all walking this road together, and the people walking with you are just as qualified to speak into your journey as the people who go before you.

You are full of power. A friend told me this weekend that I engage in really negative self-talk, and that I should be kind to myself more often. Her son, a teenage boy in our church, had just been talking to me about my progress in my quest to learn how to play hockey, and he said to me, “Mrs. Katie…your body looks like you are full of power.” Sometimes I place so much importance on being honest about where I am and what I struggle with that I forget to repeat to myself the positive things that are true: I AM full of power. I am capable of reaching my goals. Fit your mantra to your season – my new season of self-improvement and self-empowerment, each lift and sprint and hockey drill, will be marked with a mantra of kindness to myself; the true and life-giving reminder that I am full of power.  

There are success factors in your life already. Give thanks for them, even as you struggle. I tend to get mentally trapped in the rut of what I can’t do and what I wish I could change. I think about how I’m not athletically inclined, not a person who loves yogurt and vegetables and healthy things, etc. But another realization I had this weekend is that in certain and really significant ways, I am set up for success. My husband will eat whatever Skinnytaste recipe I decide to make for dinner without complaining; he never pressures me to cheat on my meal plan; he will agree to make room in our budget for any and all fitness activities that I enjoy and think will help me progress. He never asks me to lose weight and only encourages me to do so for myself, so that I will feel better. He ran some really slow miles on his days off to help me get in my long runs during half marathon training. Whatever is against you – body type, health issues, busyness – remember that there are things that are working FOR you, and to give thanks for them. Gratefulness can combat the feeling of deprivation when you choose not to eat that thing that everyone else is eating. With regard to my half marathon – I ran the Savin Rock Half Marathon and despite the weight gain I’ve seen over the last year, I was able to finish and meet my two goals for the race in the process: to run/jog it all without stopping to walk and to do so in under 3 hours. I finished in 2 hours, 50 minutes and jogged every last insanely steep hill in the fierce spring winds of the Long Island Sound. One mental hurtle cleared, and now…I’m ready to crush my next goal, stick on the ice, head in the game, to be the first woman on my husband’s hockey team of Air Force bros. And I’m GOING to crush it, because I am full of power.

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.

Retired in style!

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

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
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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.