A therapeutic run

Have you seen some of the 10 Running Questions posts going around? I had planned to answer those this morning (thanks, Robin, for the tag!), but all weekend I was thinking about my friend Terzah’s answer to question number two: three words that describe my running.  She listed:

Freeing

Rejuvenating

Therapeutic

I experience one or all of these every time I run.  Even on my worst runs, getting out the door is always freeing. 

Nearly every run is also rejuvenating.  No matter how I feel at the start, my energy is revived, and I come home “sweaty and happy” as daddy and L like to say.

And it never fails that when I most need it, my run becomes therapeutic.

Such was the case with my 12 miler this weekend.  I was excited to finally be back to longer weekend runs, and the weather was cool enough for an old favorite trail that had been too sunny for the summer months.  I generally prefer to run in silence, as there is enough “noise” in my day and I value quiet time to think, pray, meditate, zone out… whatever is needed.

This weekend, I opted for music.  I chose a new RPM track I’m memorizing for spin, and set out.

The cool weather, upbeat music and change of scenery combined for a nearly perfect run.  I cruised along, feeling strong and lucky to be out, soaking it all up.  I was having a blast, feeling upbeat and energized.

And then something happened.

The last song came on, “93 Million Miles” by Jason Mraz.  The soothing, mellow song and appropriate lyrics struck me as I was approaching our house…

“To share this view of the night, a glorious night, over the horizon is another bright sky
Oh, my my how beautiful, oh my…father,
He told me, “Son sometimes it may seem dark, but the absence of the light is a necessary part.
Just know, you’re never alone, you can always come back home” [emphasis mine]

…and suddenly, as I began cooling down and stretching, I was overwhelmed with emotions and let the tears flow. “Home” can be interpreted various ways.  For me, it holds a faith component.  For others, it may be finding security in family, friends, within yourself.

The absense of light is a necessary part… I’m learning this over and over in life, there are stages where we cannot see what is to come, cannot possibly know why things are as they are, and this is okay.  It is a necessary part.  We are not in control.

My life is full.  I feel blessed.  I am content with what I’ve been given and what I have.  But there are times when I struggle with the future… with letting go of my plans… with the questions when things go wrong- in my life, my larger community or devastating news around the world.

And this ability to find my emotions, release them, and feel refreshed again is what keeps me coming back to running.  It was my mini-therapy session on Saturday.  And I’m ready to face the uncertainties of the future again.

93 million miles from the Sun, people get ready get ready,
’cause here it comes it’s a light, a beautiful light, over the horizon into our eyes…

 

 

 

Countdowns: Conference and Comebacks

A week from today, I’ll be sitting in a conference room in a Baltimore hotel, taking notes from the masters of blogging… or socializing with some of the dozens of blog friends I’ll finally get to meet in person… or trying my first Cross Fit workout… all with no toddler to rush home for nap, no house to clean up after, and no dinner planning to think about.

I. can’t. wait.

This is my first year attending Fitbloggin’ and the schedule of presentations, fitness events, and mingling time looks fantastic.  I am thrilled to be sponsored by Drink Chia to attend! Without their support, I doubt I would have justified the flight across the country.

If you’ve never tried Drink Chia and happen to be coming to Fitbloggin, find me at the conference for samples!  It is one of my favorite pre or post workout drinks, loaded with nutrients for endurance, recovery or regular daily life.  They have mastered the balance of a delicious, fruity flavor with very minimal sweetener.  Even my daughter loves it!

You can find my original review here and can find them online or in Florida, and a few places in the northeast.    I’m excited to help spread the word and see them grow – we need Drink Chia in Texas!

My second countdown is the one for my next race… four weeks from Sunday, I’m running a local 10-mile race.  It’s the first time I’ve raced this distance in years, so I know I’ll beat my old pr, but I’m not sure if I have enough time to be where I’d like to be.

This was the first week (since taking it easy in August) that I added both an interval and a tempo run in, and my shin is holding up just fine.  I think I can finally let out that breath I’ve been holding and trust that my body is ready to train again.

I did my intervals on Monday, using the 30-20-10 intervals from Runner’s World.  Ten second sprints are a blast- I never let myself fly like otherwise!  After spinning Tuesday, I headed out for a tempo run on Wednesday with my newest motivator, this gorgeous Oiselle (birthday treat) tank!

My goal was 6 miles, with 5 at tempo/race pace (around 7:30).  Not only is this shirt adorable and comfy, it is fast.  Most of my miles were right where I wanted them, but the last one came in at 6:56. It might become my new lucky race shirt.  🙂

After teaching spin again last night, I’m resting today in preparation for 12 tomorrow.  I’ve been easing back into my long runs, and hit 10.5 last week so I’m ready to add a little bit more.  Still plugging away at Tina’s boot camp, too!

So that’s where I’m at. Counting down to Fitbloggin, counting down to the ten miler, and loving my happy-shin legs.

Finally, I promised a winner today for the SPIbelt!!

 #104 – Heidi Nicole!

Congrats, Heidi! Email me your address so we can get it sent out to you.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Two magic words for running (and life)

Our whole family went out for a run early yesterday morning.  What a treat to all run together at an easy, conversational pace!  This last month has been a “cut-back” month for me, something I needed both mentally and physically.

The care-free country runs on vacation helped me to fall in love with running all over again. Now that my shin is happy again, I’m excited to pick up the mileage and intensity, but I don’t want to lose the joy of running.

I realized on our run this weekend that much of running (and life) comes down to my attitude.  We had a great run because I could say I “get to” run with the whole family.  Near the end of a training plan, that often changes.  I find myself saying I “have to” run 10 miles tomorrow, or I “have to” do a tempo run today.

I’m learning that “HAVE to” leads to attitude (and negativity).

“GET to” leads to gratitude.

It struck me how many other areas of my life could benefit from this simple word replacement.

I don’t have to cook dinner for my family, I get to provide healthy meals and have access to fresh foods.

I don’t have to wake up early, I get to savor quiet downtime or a workout before everyone else gets up.

I don’t have to stay home with my daughter, I get to savor this time and enjoy her every discovery.

I don’t have to teach spinning, I get to motivate others on their fitness journey.

I don’t have to be busy all the time, I get to choose how to spend my free time.

I don’t have to do and be all things for all people, I get to use my time and talents to love those around me and seek the peace of my city.

I don’t have to stress about our future, I get to enjoy today and can trust that everything will come together in time.

And tomorrow, I don’t have to get up early to squeeze in a run.  I get to energize my body, mind and spirit!

Do you ever feel like you have to work out , or have to run? Are there other areas of your life that can benefit from a change of perspective from “have to” to “get to”?

 

Healthy Travel Tips for Toddlers (and mamas!)

Being away from home for two weeks is a long time for a toddler, especially when it involves several long car rides and flights.  I knew we would have to be flexible with our schedule and eating habits, but was equally determined not to drop the ball on healthy living while we were gone.

Here are some of the things I used to keep us happy and healthy:

1) Healthy snacks!

It’s nearly impossible to avoid packaged foods when traveling, but we took along some of our favorite healthy snacks to avoid last minute junk food.

Yogurt smoothies, all-fruit bars, Annie’s whole wheat bunnies

I packed extra veggies for snacking, and brought frozen peas for L which have been a favorite of hers since she started solid food.

More travel favorites: Bananas, nuts, carrot & nut butter sandwich

I started both travel days with a spinach, banana, blueberry and yogurt smoothie for greens and protein.

2) Water, water, water

It’s always important to stay hydrated, but traveling makes water much less interesting.  Even a 2 yo knows that grandma’s kitchen has juice, and her usual sippy cups were rejected the entire time we were away.

We used “big girl” cups and I brought a few fun curly straws to make drinking more interesting.  Sometimes I add frozen blueberries to make water tastier and more tempting.

3) Stay active

Being trapped in the car or on a plane is miserable for me, and possibly even more challenging for toddlers.  Use every opportunity to run and get out the extra energy.  While waiting to board, we walk all our the airport and go up and down as many ramps or staircases as we can. We always take breaks on long car rides to run around, or stop at toddler friendly destinations with playgrounds or open grassy areas.

While on vacation, I was able to get out for some scenic runs and took more daytime walks. Thankfully, running is an easy activity that can be done anywhere.  It’s one of my favorite ways to check out a new place when we travel.

Toddlers will run around anywhere, but it’s helpful to plan outings where they will be free to do so, as opposed to an afternoon of shopping where they’re strapped in the stroller.  We took daily trips to the neighborhood playground and checked out the local children’s museum.

4) Probiotics

Even with the best intentions, our diet changes when we travel.  A few less veggies, a little extra sugar, and less fiber can cause some stomach distress.  Culturelle helps to support kids natural defense systems and reduces digestive upset.

It comes in tablets for kids over 50 pounds or dissolvable packets for those 25-50 pounds, and is sugar, dairy and gluten free.  This is an easy way to increase the good bacteria in their tummy.  L happily drank it in her milk or smoothies.

5) Sleep

Maintain a schedule as consistent as possible to the usual routine, with an early bedtime and planned naps.  A well-rested toddler is a happier toddler, at least in our experience! This makes the entire trip more enjoyable. (A well-rested mama is happier, too.)

6) Plan Down Time

We packed our trip full of social time with old friends, relatives, great-grandparents, cousins, etc.  It’s important to be flexible and take the opportunity to do new things, but constant stimulation is exhausting for both kids and adults.  We built in some down time for reading and free play every day.

Reading with grandma

Check out Jill’s for more Fitness Friday posts!  I was compensated for this post.  All opinions are my own.

What do you do to stay healthy when you travel, or to keep your kids healthy?

Home again! Vacation recap in photos

I’m exhausted, but we’re home.  Flying solo with a 2 year old yesterday went fine, other than her thwarting my toddler-will-crash-on-the-plane plan.  So three hours after bedtime, she was finally tucked into her bed… I’m hoping I don’t pay for it today.

We had such a great time away- one week with my parents in PA; a long weekend with my husband’s parents, three brothers and L’s cousins; back to my parents to drop L off for our 3 day getaway through the Finger Lakes; and a few more days in PA while daddy left for a conference in Denver.

Here’s a quick recap:

Running

As I mentioned on Friday, I feel refreshed with all the new scenery from country roads in Pennsylvania and New York.  My shins are pretty happy, and I’m ready to start training again.

 

 

Relationships

We met up with so many friends and family members, which was equally exhausting and refreshing.  The highlight was getting away by ourselves for three days to hike and relax in upstate New York at a bed and breakfast, while my parents kept L for us.

We got to connect again as individuals rather than as parents, which I think we needed more than we thought.  (Our 8-year anniversary is tomorrow!!)

Rest

L hardly let us do anything for her with “ma-ma” and pa-pa” around, so I did my best to sleep in a little longer than usual and enjoyed the break from wrestling her into clothes, diapers, pursuing potty training, and thinking about what to feed her.

Country living is perfect for kids! L loved running out to pick tomatoes and squash from their huge garden, and we counted the cows on our walk to the playground.

She also got to ride in the same wagon I had as a kid, and played with many of my old toys that my mom had saved.  Here’s hoping I remember how to chase her around and entertain her this week.

Definitely in farm country!

Two quick announcements: I started a “Tips and Training” tab to track posts that fall in that category.  And registration for the 5 and 10 mile Virtual run is still open- check out the great sponsors and prizes!

What did I miss? I tried to stay somewhat active in blogland but please let me know if I missed important announcements, posts, races, or yummy recipes!

 

Five ways to refresh your running

We’re nearing the end of our two week travels catching up with family and friends on the east coast, including a kid-free, unplugged early anniversary trip through the Finger Lakes region the last few days.

I’m feeling refreshed from the extra time for relationships, rest and care-free running.

One of the best aspects of running while traveling is the opportunity to explore and appreciate new routes.  After living in a city or small town for the last 7 years, I am in awe of the beauty of the countryside when we visit both sets of L’s grandparents.   It reignites my love for running.

Here’s a few of the scenes from my runs in PA and NY:

 

I incorporated some of my favorite ways to refresh my love for running in this trip:

  1. Fresh Scenery: Change up your usual route and take in your surroundings
  2. New running buddies: Thanks to willing grandparents, I got to run (kid-free) with my husband several times for the first time in years!
  3. Temperature changes: After fighting heat and humidity all summer in Texas, I was thrilled with the cooler mornings
  4. Go gadget-free: I accidentally forgot my Garmin and enjoyed not worrying about paces, even during my tempo runs and bursts of speed work
  5. Take a break from your training plan: I embraced the opportunity to run when I could, and ran for the enjoyment of the experience

Stop by Jill’s for more Fitness Friday posts!

Do you enjoy running on vacation? How do you refresh your love for running?

Corey’s running journey: From casual to competitive

I met Corey at the Houston Marathon where we chatted and walked the expo together, and since then she has become a good friend and inspirational athlete.  She was also one of the key people encouraging me to give triathlons a try! Although Corey doesn’t think she has much of a story to tell, hers is one that I think many of us can relate to.  Running has a way of becoming part of us and giving back to us more than we expect it to.  You can follow Corey’s training at Schnoodles of Fun.

I had the good fortune of meeting Laura in Houston in January at the Olympic Trials. I immediately liked her and for anyone who hasn’t been lucky enough to meet her in person, she is absolutely just as sweet and kind as she appears on her blog!

I had two thoughts when Laura first announced that she was going to start a Purposeful Running series on her blog. First, I thought it was a great idea and I have truly enjoyed reading the stories from some very amazing and inspiring women. The other thought I had was that it would be fun to participate in this, but I don’t have a good story to tell. I didn’t (and still don’t) see my reasons for running to be nearly as inspiring as some of the other women that Laura has featured.

So when Laura emailed me and asked if I would like to participate, I had to think about it before committing. I finally concluded that even though I don’t see my personal motivation as inspiring to others, I still have my reasons for running and a story to tell.

So here we go…

For as long as I can remember, I have always been an athlete. I played just about every sport out there before finally settling on volleyball, softball and swimming in high school. My junior and senior year, I played competitive softball year-round and went on to play Division I softball in college.

Through my participation in sports, I always ran. Sometimes it was for conditioning and sometimes it was for punishment, but never for pure enjoyment. I was always one of the stronger long-ish (we’re talking 3 miles here) distance runners on my team in college and I enjoyed running, but never thought much about it, beyond preparing me to compete in softball.

After college, I continued to run to stay in shape, but never really took it too seriously. I  raced one 5k and loved it but wasn’t bitten by the “race bug”. I always wondered why I wasn’t able to run further or faster even though I ran pretty consistently, but I also never really had goals or even tracked just how far or how fast I was going.

During this time after college, I knew something was missing from my life. I am an extremely competitive person and I felt an emptiness in the part of me that desired to compete.  I missed working hard to achieve goals, leaving everything I had in a game and walking away feeling proud and accomplished. At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on what this emptiness was, but it is easy to look back now and see what was missing.

In 2008, I moved to Hamburg, Germany for work and my running started to change. I started running more, and while I don’t think I got much faster, I started to try to run further at least once a week. Around this time, I also went to a great friend’s bachelorette party in Nashville and together we ran the Country Music 1/2 Marathon.

That’s me in the back giving the “V” sign

After that race, I was hooked! When I moved to Greenville, SC a short time later, I signed up for another half marathon and started taking training more seriously. I eventually found running friends, discovered speed work and went on to run 9 more half marathons and 3 full marathons.

Houston Marathon 2012 – My PR Race!

I absolutely love the feeling of accomplishment I experience after a good, hard run. I love it when my lungs and legs burn and I am sweaty like crazy and I don’t think I can go another step. But I can. And I do. I love working to get faster, then racing and pushing myself harder than I ever could have imagined. I love the high that carries me through an entire morning after a run, making me feel strong and happy and proud. I love that I have goals that drive me to wake up at 5 a.m. when I would rather be sleeping. Because all of my life working toward a goal is what drove me and when I lost that, it left a void. Running fills that void.

And the most amazing bonus is that running also keeps me healthy (even when I eat gobs of gummy bears), allows me to sort out my thoughts when something is troubling me or when I just need “me” time and connects me to a huge community of like-minded people, both in real life and in the virtual world.

When to call it quits?

I ended the Runner’s world running streak this week.  I’m not injured, but I felt my body accumulating a fatigue that I did not want to tolerate for another few weeks, so I decided to take a complete rest day to give me legs a chance to recover.  I made it over two weeks, which is a first for me-  I’m impressed with those of you who are still going!

Whew, it’s hot out there!

I was back at it yesterday, with an early morning soaking wet run- (you don’t have to work hard in the hot, humid Texas summers to come back with clothes you can literally wring out.)

I really wanted to complete the challenge, but my body said stop. So I did.  I don’t want to over-do it. Have you heard of over-training syndrome? It’s a real concern, and it can take more than a day or two to recover from.

Some over-training warning signs from your body…

  • Feeling exhausted, even after getting enough sleep
  • Heavy legs before, during and after runs
  • Emotional highs and lows
  • Appetite changes
  • Lack of motivation for usual workouts
  • Easy workouts consistently feel harder than usual

By paying attention to your bodies signals and backing off early, you can avoid injury and physical or mental burnout.

Have you ever experienced signs of over-training?

Any running plans for the weekend? I’m meeting up with a relatively new running group for nine miles Saturday morning, and brunch afterward to celebrate my running buddy May’s birthday.  And of course, Sunday is Father’s Day!  Otherwise, it’s a quiet weekend for a change.  I’m looking forward to it!

May recap

Happy June 1st! It’s time to revisit my 2012 goal post for another monthly recap.  Here’s May!

Running Related

  • May stats: 16 runs- total 122.25 miles; 9 spin classes- total 213 miles;  and weights 2-3x/week
  • May races: Sprint 4 Life 5k;  Astros 10k
  • Cross Training Challenge: I tried a few free, new-to-me yoga resources
  • Running Buddy: New buddy! No running picture of us yet, but we met up for our first 10 mile run together last weekend!

Personal and Family Balance

  • Evening quiet time:  Thanks to Terzah’s sleep challenge, I’ve been working hard at getting to bed a little earlier this month
  • Computer balance: I think I’ve found a good rhythm, with L’s naps and evening time for myself
  • Reading: Running related- read Running on Empty, which I’ll share more about soon.  Otherwise, I read several yard sale books when I was sick: A Thousand Acres; Good Grief; and Sundays at Tiffanys
  • Date Nights:  We finally made it to the local outdoor theater, and saw a medley of Motown hits, called “Dancin’ in the Street!”

Running-wise, I’ve finally added back my fourth day, which is where my legs are happiest.  I kept 3 days/week for months afraid of re-injury, and halfway attempting the Run Less, Run Faster plan.  But with no marathon on the calendar, I’m not strictly following any particular plan, and I like having a family recovery run Sunday morning.

Spinning-wise, I’m gearing up to complete a video tape of myself teaching RPM this weekend, which I have to submit as the final portion of my certification (although I already began teaching.)  I rounded up a few willing volunteers for Saturday afternoon. Local friends, if you want to come, let me know!

Last side note… I finally joined Instagram.  If you’re on there, you can find me at @mommyrunfast.  Check out other Fitness Friday posts here!

What were your highlights from May?

Purposeful running- Carrie’s search for healthy

Hope everyone is enjoying the extra long weekend! I struggled my way through a miserably hot 10k yesterday.  More on that later!

Today, Carrie has offered to share her running story.  She touches on a difficult subject for a lot of women- finding the balance between “health” and “thinness.” I admire her honesty, and am encouraged that running has helped her in this journey.  She wanted to share her story with the hope that it might help someone else.  You can learn more about Carrie on her blog, at Fueled by Plants.

I come from a long line of women who have struggled with their weight. I grew up being “the fat kind” throughout school. My family was very sedentary, and I learned to associate physical activity with gym class, which isn’t much fun when you are the fat kid and constantly being teased.

Fast forward to my college years. I was still overweight (almost 200 lbs), a chain-smoker, and I probably drank alcohol more often than I should have. I was tired of being “the fat girl” and wanted to start making some healthy changes in my life. I started simply – I ate more fruits and vegetables and I bought a few workout DVDs I would do in my living room. Slowly but surely I dropped 30 lbs. I was still a bit overweight, but I felt proud of what I had accomplished.

The old me

Let’s fast forward again: I was in graduate school (hello, STRESS) and living in a new city where I didn’t know many people and didn’t have a very good support network. I started to become obsessive over my weight. I was sure that if I was thin my life would be so much better. I meticulously counted calories, trying to stick to 500 a day. Every three days or so I would have a monster binge and then start to restrict my food again the next day. Sure I lost weight, but it was mostly muscle and I didn’t feel or look very good.

This binge-restrict pattern continued for a couple of years. I was getting horribly frustrated and tired thinking about calories and my weight all of the time. It was putting a huge strain on my relationship and I knew it had to stop. I started exercising again, only this time I turned to running. I would see joggers run through my neighborhood and they looked so fit, so healthy. I wanted that so badly!

I started with the Couch to 5K program and I was floored at how difficult it was. I couldn’t even run for 5 minutes straight, and this program claimed I would be able to run over 3 MILES? Ha! However, I stuck with it and eventually I competed in a 5K. This led to a 10K and then a half marathon, all within 5 months. I was hooked! I even started triathlon training. For the first time EVER, I was actually having FUN being active. When I was younger, physical activity (i.e., gym class) had been a source of torture and so I had nothing but negative associations. Finally, I was starting to build positive associations and incorporate my new hobbies into a healthy lifestyle.

I give a lot of credit to running for helping me become focused on my health, rather than thinness. Now when I eat, I eat to fuel my runs. Not to obsess over my weight and be the skinniest I can possibly be. I treat myself in moderation and I don’t have the constant nagging drive to binge eat.

So here I am. Sure, I still have days where I still feel like “the fat girl,” but overall I am well on my way to making peace with my body and focusing on my health.