Monday, December 11, 2017

Focus on Fitness #2. Strength

They say you are only as strong as your weakest link. That is true in the body as well. We are only as strong as our weakest part in some ways. That is why strength training is vital to the body. Muscle burns fat. Cardio is important, but strength training is just as much so.

 I have now been doing TRX for almost 2 years. That is a little hard to believe, quite honestly. I truly love the workouts. I leave every time feeling I may have discovered a new muscle in the body because Steck (our teacher) has pushed the class with a creative new exercise. Like one handed planks. Or jumps on the wall. Or, once the body reaches a place of not feeling pushed, I can adjust my feet so that I'm once again pushing my muscles to new lengths. I really enjoy TRX.

 But just like with my running, I have experienced challenges in the TRX/strength training this fall as well. Perhaps it was the fact I had evening classes the night before my TRX classes so I was more tired going into the class. Or maybe it was that between some illnesses, events, or kids needs, I didn't get to every single class diligently, as I had been so accustomed to in the prior year. We have plank challenges every month, the first class of the month, and the goal is to make progress. It's a good "tracker" of how the body is doing, even if we know not every time can be an improvement or every time can't always be the same. And so truth be known, my plank time declined. While a part of me is discouraged about that, I am also encouraged, because I know that it could be easy to be frustrated by that and quit.

 But I am determined. I am a fighter. And I want to see improvement. So even when I don't see it, I keep trying. I want so much to see myself get back... and even better...  to my best hold plank times. It's hard, let me tell you. And it hurts. But the kind of hurt that feels good. The kind of hurt that makes me keep going back for more, knowing that I am strengthening myself in the process, mentally as well as physically. As my friend, Tammy says, "I done drank the koolaid" (I suppose that is a joke from class... sorry)

 Strength training is vital to growth. When I run, my body uses all the muscles. The core muscles control my breathing and my posture; the leg muscles obviously propel my body forward in running; my arms swing, giving perpetual energy and movement to my motion. Even my shoulders and my back play a role. Therefore, the strength of those muscles is vital to my health. Strength training is more important than it gets credit.

 So as 2017 comes to a close, I did not reach my goal of doing solo pull ups that I had desired to achieve. However, goals are about learning... and continuing to press forward. Perhaps 2018 will become the year of the pull up for me ;) Only time will tell.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Focus on Fitness #1. Running

It seems as though I have sat myself down in front of this screen multiple times, begun multiple blogs and walked away with white space, not happy with the turn of the words, or lack thereof.

 This fall has been a season which has been challenging, and in light of that, I have found myself so profoundly in thought, yet at a loss for how to share the lessons being learned, the thoughts rattling around in my brain. Today I want to address fitness. you'll forgive me if this becomes a spew of words, but sometimes that is how life is.

 You all who have been reading this for a bit know I love fitness. I enjoy running and TRXing. I have a wealth of knowledge at my fingertips because of my job. I am fortunate and I am thankful that I have those opportunities. But this fall, the struggle has been real. And I have been dwelling on how to verbalize this, because while at times it is challenging to be vulnerable, I know many others face this challenge. Over the month of December, on Monday, I am going to share with you my Focus on Fitness.  I want to share with you what I have been learning in 2017 in regards to fitness. Because I feel I have really taken in a plethora of lessons this year, this seems the adequate way to balance it out, rather than jamming your in-boxes the last few days of the year. Today, I share about running.

 I have completed since 2009, 13 half marathons, 1 full, 3 10K, 1 15K and a few 5K races. I don't say that to say "yay, me!" I share that because I want to establish that I really enjoy running. It is a passion of mine. I am no elite by any means; I have never won an age category; I don't even finish in the top 100 of my age group! But, I have gained so much along the way with this hobby.

I have learned confidence. I have discovered overcoming obstacles through perseverance. I have found new friends. I gained a beautiful job. I have raised funds for non-profits. I have lost weight (at times.) I have reshaped my body. I have learned so much about the mechanics of the body. Honestly, I never imagined that in 2008 as I sat as volunteer on the Air Force Marathon finish line and decided I was going to run a half marathon myself that it would become what it has for me. And my mom used to laugh and say "Of all my kids.. I never thought you would be the one doing half marathon races."

 It is a passion. It is a hobby. It is even my job. It is my therapy. It is my happy place in the mornings (yes, even when I fight to go out in the cold.) It is how I clear my head. It's how I work out my anxiety much of the time. It is one place I am free and where I can be me and where I can grow.

 So, why am I talking about this today specifically? What have I learned through this year about running and through my running? Here are some key things...
 
 1. I have learned to stop saying the word slow. It's a challenge for me at times, but honestly, who defines that?   One time when I was speaking with a pacer for a race and he asked me my projected time, and I told him, his response to me was "Oh! Cool! I pace the slow runners!"
  Really?? that debilitated my confidence for a minute and then I slowly (no pun intended) learned to get over it.
  Slow is what people make it. I might think I'm slow compared to say, some of those I discuss the topic with, but someone else might think they are slow compared to me.

 Who cares? Really..... no, really. Who cares? I am out there. And for me, with some of the battles I face, or maybe the things that are on my plate, this is still an accomplishment for me. Yep, I have to repeat that to myself more than one time a week, but it's truth. I've worked hard to eliminate that.

 2. Just like life, running has its seasons.
    I've been in a dry season. A struggle season. I haven't quit and I press forward, but it's been a struggle. Maybe it's been the events of my fall, or maybe other contributions to the decline, but it's been challenging. I think that's what makes it all the more beautiful to me. It continues to teach me, to be a metaphor.
   Truthfully... I really wanted a PR this year. That didn't happen. In fact, I lost ground. But... I gained a lot in the process. And I'm still out there. It's been a dry season. But without the dry seasons, I can't appreciate the better ones.  Will I get better? only time will tell.

 3. Rebuild the Base
    In light of losing some ground, I have decided to rebuild. I have all the knowledge (well, there are always things I can learn) but I have a lot of resources available to me. And so this year I have learned a lot, even in losing some ground. So for December, I'm rebuilding my base so in January I can really try to push for my best in a March race. One step at a time, I'll get there.
  After running now for this many years, I feel like I shouldn't have to rebuild. But... why not? I think it's a good idea. There is nothing wrong with going back to square one with new approaches and better insight.

   I may have lost ground this year in some of my finish times, but is that really what matters in the end? I'll always be competitive by nature in this regard (just ask some of those who know me best)  but.... in the end, in my heart, this is not what matters. I am not out there to win the race, I am out there to win my race. And what my race is looks different each time I toe the start line.

 This year,  Running has continued to grow me. One step at a time.

Friday, December 1, 2017

#TheLittleThings

Today marks the first day of the last month of the year- how is that possible already!? I can't believe it, really. But as we move into a busy season of the year with the hustle and bustle, I'm actually trying to slow it down. Next week my semester ends (yay!!) and I am enjoying getting creative this holiday season with my gifts.
 But as I end this week, it's time to recollect all the little things from my week.

1. Sun on my face.

 I am going to soak this in as long as I can, before the gloomy winter clouds settle in. Today I put on my coat because it was cold, but I enjoyed a nice walk at lunch in the sun. Worship music and sunshine and exercise... 3 of my favorite things :)

2. Christmas lights

 There is something quietly magical and peaceful about Christmas lights. I really do enjoy seeing the different displays, including my own simple one. I truly enjoy the lights, the scents, the memories, the treats and the fun that comes with it.

3. Family

 I am blessed with my family. And when a death happens, while it is always sad and hard to walk through, I love the bond it brings, too. Reconnecting better with my cousins and my uncle has been refreshing and a way to rearrange my priorities. Death has a way of doing that, making us view life differently. I am thankful for the family I have. My brothers, my sister, my dad, my aunts and uncles and all of them. I am blessed. I know not everyone has that experience.

4. Kentucky Farm and Hills

 In light of my aunt's funeral this week, we traveled to KY for the burial. I can say it was a peaceful, beautiful service. and the scenery was something serene, soothing.

 5. Reconnecting

 I know people tend to show up a lot in my little things blogs. But that's because people's hugs or comments or new friendships tend to contribute a lot to smiles for me. I also think that God's timing is perfect for the timing of when He brings a person - new or old- into our paths. This week my old friend Danette K. and I reconnected. It has been 25 years probably since I saw her, and we did not skip a beat. I am so glad to be back in touch with her. She is a beautiful soul, whose words warm my heart.

 6. Classmates

 So thankful for a couple classmates who also just "get it". 2 ladies have helped me survive this looney math class I've taken this semester. Ashleh and Monica, 2 ladies in different phases of life, but 2 women who have both taught me about laughter and tears and joy and gratitude.

  I also don't dismiss being grateful for a live Christmas tree. Or all the little ornaments that hang on my tree that are memories (like all my snoopy ornaments, some of which I have had since I was teenager. Or my favorite ornament from Holland, given to me by a customer one year. Or a beautiful ornament that is the outline of the church I grew up in. I love looking at my tree of memories.)
 

So many little things to be thankful for.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thankful... for the Little Things

As Thanksgiving comes to a close, and we gear into Christmas immediately, I don't want to lose sight of all the little things. I don't want to become ungrateful just because the day of thanks has passed.
 The Little Things is my (not as often as it should be) blog posts to help me keep all of that in the forefront of my mind. I am thankful for a down day yesterday and today. I've actually begun a little gratitude journal and I try to take time each day to write a few things in it. There truly is so much mess that goes on around us every day that it's easy to lose the attitude of gratitude. Today, here are a few things I am so grateful for as of lately....

 1. Provision

 God is so good in how he provides constantly. This year has been a dramatic change in income for our family. I don't say that to whine. I share that to magnify what God has done. Every time we've been down to the wire, I have watched Him provide. A Kroger gift card, a Speedway card, a random check from an old company who owed us some money we didn't even know about, just the right coupons or even something as simple as my silly coffee addiction I've been really good about not doing, but when I did, someone behind me stepped up to pay for mine. Those moments cannot go unseen or unrecognized. But there is one that has been an especially large blessing to our family. We have an incredible church. Let me tell you about the dessert auction...

 2. Provision through Desserts

 Our daughter is going to go to camp this summer with the church. It's reasonably priced, but still a little out of our range right now. Last Sunday the youth were having a fundraiser through dessert auction. Any of the youth that helped out would get to have a share of the money that came in from the auction based on how many hours they worked. I took her to the early service so she could work both services for the auction and I was blown away by the amount of desserts people provided. And not just that, but then how much those people loved on our teens. One cake went for a ridiculous amount of money and my jaw dropped. I knew it wasn't about the person wanting the cake so much as wanting to help out the teens, but wow... I was blown away.
 The next day I got a text from the youth pastor telling me that because of how much money they raised and the time Elizabeth put into the auction..... she only needed to pay $40!! Wow. I was amazed. But it got even better... about 2 hours later he texted me to say someone had given $40 for her and she was good to go!
 Growing up I had a lot of stories like that, how God provided for me and my family. God is faithful. He just always is. I don't know why I worry. I still have goose bumps about it.

 3. Cousin Love

 There's nothing like listening to my kids with their cousins. They sit and talk for hours, they play games together, they laugh, they tell stories, and they bond. I love when they spend the night and I get to listen to that.

 4. Warm Socks

 When the office is 63 degrees to start out the day.... warm socks are my best friend :)

 5. Stained Glass

 When I walked into the church the other day in which I grew up in, a flood of memories came over me. I love that place and all the nostalgia that comes with it. I think it's rare to find stained glass windows anymore in modern buildings and I'd really forgotten how beautiful I find that art. I sat quietly in the room for a few moments by myself enjoying it, and remembering about 1000 things to go with it.

 6. Wind Chimes

 I don't own any, though I used to. But there is something soothing and peaceful about listening to wind chimes dinging in the breeze. Perhaps a reminder of the presence we cannot see- both God and the wind. Or perhaps it's like a song being sung quietly and music is soothing.


 These are just little things in the scheme of all the obvious big moments I am constantly grateful for in life. I admit, some days it is harder than others to find these moments. But the more I look for them, the easier they become to find. Really, these are the moments that matter.
 One moment, one day at a time.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Believe....

Believe In Yourself.

 Three little words that hold far more weight than one would imagine possible.

 Over the last month, I have sat in front of my screen here several times and begun blogs that have been left mid-sentence. That is sometimes for lack of time, and other times for a lack of words for what was in my heart. My most read blogs or, I should say, the blogs I most enjoy writing, are the ones that pour from my soul. But I've been a little dry the last few weeks. So, today I sit here and share with the risk of vulnerability what this fall season has been for me on some days.

 When people ask me about my blog, I tell them it's really a hodge podge of thoughts, usually about what I am learning. Today will really be a hodge-podge, but it will boil down to three words: Believe in Yourself.

 Learning to believe in myself has been a theme I have had to constantly work on in the last few years, and God has allowed me to make significant progress in this area. Like a tree that gets chopped down one axe throw at a time, He's been chipping away the negativity and allowing it to come crashing down, using some beautiful relationships He's given me and new experiences He's put in my path. But along the way come doubts or old fears and sometimes even wounds I thought were healed that get opened back up, threatening to shift the progress I have made in growing into me more and more. Today, I want to take a moment to share some of these thoughts and the quiet battle I fight to rage against them so that I can keep on growing into the Lion that roars and not a little kitten, afraid of my own shadow.


 - Grief.

 Losing someone is not an easy road to walk down. When I lost my mom, I began this blog in 2011 because I needed an outlet. The Lord has allowed that to heal over time and be used a little bit to deepen my understanding of death, life, and the different paths people need to walk in the midst of all that.  For the first time since mom died in 2011, I have been walking the path of grief again.
 It has opened wounds all over that I thought had healed. Memories have surrounded me not only of the loved one I am saying goodbye to at this Thanksgiving season, but also of my mom. Grief is funny like that. Losing my aunt should not be about losing my mom, and very few people have understood why it looks that way for me. But in remembering my aunt, laughing about times with her, and gently letting go, I also have been remembering mom, walking down her last days and letting go of that a little bit again.
   And that's ok. I have had to tell myself that, as it felt sort of strange and even selfish. But grief is different for every person. It has its seasons and its lessons. I believe grief is still teaching me about life.

 - Dreams.

 I am a dreamer, but I have learned many times over the last few years how to begin putting my dreams into practice. Little by little. Some dreams I have to let go, or put on hold. (Like my dream of running a race in every state has slowed way down due to finances and life)  But in the wake of that, God lights up other dreams and brings them to reality. I remind myself that every day as I continue working on my school degree. This fall has been HARD. I have a looney math professor, who is so very kind I feel bad to say that, but it has made that class a challenge.  And yet in the wake of that challenge, I have made 2 sweet new friends, Monica and Ashleh. These 2 ladies are in very different seasons of life, both single moms, both working towards their goals and dreams and the 3 of us have connected to help each other along. I love when this happens.
  My sociology class has been really tough, too. Not for lack of enjoying what I'm learning there, but it's so much reading and with so little quiet, I find that difficult to do. But, again, when I stare this difficulty in the face, I also get excited and tell myself, I'm one step closer to the goal I really want to achieve: my degree. These dreams stretch me and some moments exhaust me and when there are some days lack of cheerleaders behind me, the fight to keep going is one I have to wage war against on my own. But it's worth every step, and I have to keep telling myself along the journey- believe in yourself.

- The body

 Ya'll know fitness is a huge part of my life. I love to run. I enjoy TRX very much and my health matters to me.I wrote a post a few months ago about the scale which was a lesson I was drinking in at that time. Since that post, I am having to re-read what I wrote because I need to remember those words, that lesson. I really struggle with this. I believe many of us do. There is so much pressure to be or look a certain way. And especially, sometimes I feel, as a runner. Perhaps that pressure comes from media or perhaps I put it on myself. But it's one thing to be healthy, and another to dislike myself because I don't fit into a certain size pants.
 The last couple of months, this has admittedly been a struggle for me. I'm not as fast (I've lost a lot of ground) and I probably .. no, i know, I am not as strong physically as maybe I was a year ago. I've gained weight.
 But... I've gained a lot of other things in the process. And this is a conversation I have had to have with myself many times over the last few weeks. I may not love the size clothing I'm wearing but I love who I am becoming, and this is the most important way to view myself. This topic deserves an entire blog, so... perhaps I will elaborate on this soon. The point is... I am reminding myself daily to believe in myself, regardless of my weight or size. There really is sooooo much more to life than this. Again, daily conversation... and balancing this with still working to be healthy.

- Holidays

 I really enjoy the holiday season. But let me confess a struggle I have this year: commercialism and gifts. I love to buy for others, do for others. But this year, our family has had a lot of financial changes and this year, I just can't do much. The pressure has a tendency to rise when people ask me "oh, what are you buying for your kids this year??" and I have to hesitate and say "oh, I'm not not really sure yet..." 
 Let me just tell you a few things about this. First of all, I have wonderful kids who are not the "giveme" type of children. My son had a lawn job all summer and has worked hard learning to buy for himself his "wants" and in the process has had a generous heart in his giving as well. Elizabeth is simple and she enjoys the handmade gifts as much as - really more than- the store bought ones. And I have become close enough with my Colombian family to know that it's not the things that matter. So, why do I still feel this pressure? This is another lesson I am drinking in right now.
 Life is not about the things. It's about the people, and it's about the love. And as much as I want to give all kinds of fun things to everyone around me this year because I truly enjoy that, I am finding creative ways to express my love. Ways that may take a little bit more time, but much less pennies and a lot more of my heart.


  This has been the hodge-podge of what's been in my heart and mind the recent weeks. I have had a little bit of brain cloggage, muddling my way through its messy moments, but every day, learning to believe in myself more. Regardless of all the obstacles along the way. I am a goal setter, so sometimes my setbacks frustrate me, but when I take time to work out the kinks I learn those setbacks are really just pushing me forward with Jesus as my every day strength and stronghold. I will walk as a lion, not a kitten.
 
 Here is a song that is my anthem in this season of needing to remind myself these truths:

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Columbus Half Marathon

It was a busy weekend, working at the Columbus expo, leading up to the race day. I enjoyed being in the city, as it had been a while since I've enjoyed the good capitol city of Ohio. I always enjoy talking to the different runners, whether it's about our race or about what they are wanting to do and accomplish at that particular event. The talk of the weekend was the unusual warm weather for October that the race was going to have.

 
 It was a little unusual for October. The start temps were set for 68. I decided to change my original idea of what I'd be wearing for race day.

 I got up at 3:15 so I could be on the road at 4 am. I admit, it was a little strange going to the event by myself, but the quiet ride gave me some good mental preparation time. As much as I didn't want to make this race about a finish time, it is very hard to knock the goal setter out of me. So I had a rough goal in mind.

 Parking was easy, so once I got there and beat the closing roads, I kicked my seat back and chilled out for a minute before going to the start line, which was roughly a mile from the garage.

 The temperature was warm and the air was humid, with rain on the brink of coming in. But the 68 degree temperature did not bother me. It was fairly windy, though.

 I have nothing but good things to say about this event. The organizers do a wonderful job. The corrals were well labeled, there were plenty of port o pots in each corral, and the morning emcee was great. Because I am not an elite runner, I was a few corrals back, so that may have been the only downside, which is not to fault any one or the race. It just is a full event, so when the start actually happened, it was nearly 20 minutes before I got to cross the start line.

 They had fireworks to start the event, which was really cool. And the ACDC song Thunderstruck opened up the event. When our group finally reached the start line, I set off with a decent pace, but I knew even then it was not going to be one I could maintain the entire event. But I decided to maintain it as long as I could and slow it down as need be. I know that is a backwards way to race, trust me... I know.  But I wanted to push for as long as I could and then just give it all I had for the rest of the event.

 That pace lasted me to about mile 6. I don't typically consume too much water when I run. I consume what I need to, but I am not one to stop at every mile for the water. But... it was warm and I know what I need to do (or not do) when it comes to this, so I utilized the water stops a few more times than normal. I kept pushing forward.

 At mile 8, I began to run with my heart, as the legs were tired. Around mile 10, as I took a short walk break, there was a lady doing this same and we chatted just for a minute. Her goal was "to finish" . Through the next couple of miles, she and I would take turns passing one another, evidence that we were probably feeling about the same and the fluctuation of our pace was similar.

 At mile 12.5, I came up on her walking, tapped her, and said "let's go." And so the last half mile, we didn't talk, we didn't cheer, but we finished that last leg out strong. I knew I wasn't going to make my (semi-loose) goal, so I adjusted it and just sat in to enjoy what was a finish. She had a final push a little stronger than I did, but when we got our medals, she high fives me, and we went out ways. I don't know what her name was, but that's the cool thing about the running community. There is a sense of camaraderie that is rare. Different goals, different stories, different lives, different journeys, but a similar experience had by all of us.

 I didn't finish with a giant smile, but I didn't have tears. My body was tired, it was a struggle, I admit.  but I was happy inside. I walked it out and called my family.
  It was not my worst finish time, but it was not my best. It was not even as good as my event a year ago on a course with lots of hills, but a year is a long time between the long distance events.

 Here's a little recap:
   1. I loved the race. It didn't have anything spectacular to look at through the course, but it was so well done. There was live music all over the entire course, water stops were well done, signage was good, and the volunteers were great. The course was flat (which I think led some people to assume I should just fly through it... but I knew my body and what I could do for this event.) Many people PR there. I did not.

 2. Yes, I had a little goal in my head. But the truth is, I knew going into the event right about the time I would finish, and I hit that pretty close. I am 10 lbs heavier with a life full of different obstacles at this point than this time last year, and I know those have played a role in my training and my body. So for me, this finish was another victory, another step in the direction of knowing I can do what I put my mind to, even when it is exhaustingly tough.

 3. I will spare the details, but my ride home was interesting as my stomach decided to settle down from the race, which means it actually decided to let loose all it had been juggling up. The body is a strange thing, how it responds to pounding the pavement, juggled nerves, and other minor physical components playing a role. I wouldn't change it though. I'd do it all over again.

  So, I can't say I love the question of "what was your finish time?"  because I don't like that we focus so much on that. But I can say that I finished well, with all my heart and all I had in me and I am so glad I did the race. To some it would be that four letter word I no longer use (slow), but it's my story, and for me, there are more reasons than one that this finish was a victory. I have some new goals in mind now, and the aim of not going so long between long-distance races.

Friday, October 13, 2017

#RaceWeekend

T Minus 2 days until my race. I am very excited. Here is what is on the brain today... just a quick rundown of it because I am short on time (Besides, I should probably learn to be less wordy anyway....)

 I am super excited for this race. A year has passed since my last half marathon.

 I am 10 lbs heavier, have faced some crazy life obstacles, have gained mental and inner strength I didn't know existed even if maybe I've lost a little of the body strength. I have a new perspective on who I am, what I want, where I'm going and the One who carries me through it all.

 A year does a whole lot.

Sunday my toes will touch the start line.


 I do not know what my time will be, but all that matters is how good of a time I have doing it and what I've learned and gained along the way.

 I am competitive by nature, so of course a part of me will be striving for perfection. And yet, I know I am perfectly imperfect in so many ways and that is what makes me me. And I will run with grace with that knowledge.

 I will finish, in spite of the little odds stacked against me.

 I will fight the negative thoughts probably sometimes, but that is when my heart will carry me through. I love running not because I am world class at it, but because through it I learn more about who I am and more about the One who created me. I find the fighter spirit in me when I run and that pushes through to other areas of my life.

 When I am told I can't, it makes me push harder to prove I can. When I fear failure, I fight the thoughts to grow stronger. When I am completely exhausted, I did deep to encounter the passion to push me. When my legs hit a wall, my heart reminds me to keep going.

 I am not going to win any awards this weekend. But I've already won...
 Perhaps that sounds cheesy to so many others, but I know that I have gained so much along this way, and running helps me have the miles and the quiet to reflect on that.

 I have a few cheerleaders strongly behind me this weekend who don't even know how much their words and support mean to me as I head out Sunday. And I will run with all I have and I can't wait to see how it goes and to share all about it.

 I am a fighter. yes, I am quiet. But I am strong. And I am not going to let heat, exhaustion, words, weather or any other thing or person strip that away.
 
   Here I come, Columbus :)
inspirational cross country running quotes - Bing Images