Try to look on the bright side–friends, pinterest, and being hurt

One of the things I love about fitness is that it brings us together with people we might not have otherwise met. Last year at CrossFit, I met my friend Katie, who has been through many miles and Clif bars with me since. Even though we met at the gym, we realized that we are both the kind of person who wants to run to and from the CrossFit workout and who thinks the seat of a bicycle is a fine spot to spend a Saturday. Katie is always giving me someone to chase and her first Ironman this year kept me believing in my first half Ironman–and her advice got me through a lot of the things I am not sure I would have thought of along the way!

Now, a little cranky with my slow comeback from my back injury last month (I dropped a barbell on my back–the side, down low–which has affected my leg if I try to run, then my back when I did a little too much yoga, maybe, and now is giving me pins and needles at school when I sit for long stretches, and is generally keeping me from being as active as I normally am), Katie has proven to have a little life coach in her too. I didn’t ask her if I could share the text she sent me last night to cheer me up, but she is generally one of the most encouraging folks I know, so the world needs this and I’m sure she’ll understand:

“I think your injury might be getting you down. So I decided to make you a list of benefits of being injured. I’m sure you’ll consider yourself lucky after reading it.:

1) A perfect manicure lasting two weeks!
2) Hair that looks great 2 and maybe even 3 days after a wash
3) Callus free hands (see above perfect manicure)
4) Less time spent doing laundry!!
5) A chance to wear your ‘real clothes’ not just your latest lulu’s.
6) Less time showering and training = more time to spend with people you love!

And the best part of all…building up the desire and drive to train your way through the winter into next season!”

It was too good not to share, and it definitely got me out of my little pity party. Of course I still want to be training, but I remember again that the reason I train is not because my worth depends on it–but because it makes me feel good! Right now, it doesn’t. So it’s time to rest. It’s simple, even if it’s not easy.

Beyond Katie’s sweet text message, I also have been turning to pinterest during my breaks that might otherwise have been filled with workouts. Here are some of the fruits of my labour, specific to injuries and staying positive. I’ll leave out the ones of chocolately peanut buttery goodies or outfits that also seem to lure me in!

gym cute injury

truth lion injury

bulldog adorable

setback

positive pants

I will never be happy for an injury, but at least I can take Katie’s advice and try to find my positive pants every day! Yay for the interwebs, but more importantly, yay for friends.

What helps you get through injuries?
How do you stay positive when you’re feeling down about something?

Forced to pause: What I’ve been doing with myself–and my body

Since my race in July, I’ve been pretty quiet about what I’ve been up to. That’s largely because it hasn’t been much. Sad face.

About a month ago, I was going through a regular ol’ weightlifting workout at the gym. I was on my own and I’d just finished training some clients and having woken up early, I was feeling pretty tired but nothing too out of the ordinary for a morning training session. I did a couple of snatches after a normal warm up and I ended up dropping the bar behind me and not bailing quick enough. So, the bar landed on my lower back (off to the side) and since then, I’ve been dealing with it.

The first two weeks were tough and even though I tried, my body yelled at me to back off. Lifting weights was definitely out of the question, but I thought yoga might be alright. Turns out, nope. After a while, I started to go to yoga and take it at an easy pace. I tried some runs and realized they were out. I went to the pool and avoided looking at the clock in favour of appreciating that I could move.

Like I said, it’s been about a month. I went on my first bike ride last week, and it nearly killed me. I took a few more days off. I started to do some light weights, avoiding things that hurt me. I tried biking again—success. My runs have created some kind of hamstring, or maybe IT band pain that is all new for me. Ohhhhh, left side of my body, how you test me!

I’ve been impressed with my ability not to freak out over this. I had the week leading up to my thesis defence without the normal outlet/distraction of working out to keep me from freaking out, and I think I was more prepared for it. And as I’ve come back to my activities, I’ve realized which ones make me feel good. I missed riding bikes with friends. I think I needed a break after my half ironman in July, and I didn’t take it – I went right back into it and raced (not so hotly) at Bluewater two weeks later. Maybe some higher power dropped this barbell on my back like he was trying to hit “pause” for me—the button just needed a pretty hefty push, apparently!

slow down

For now, I’m focusing on being grateful when I feel good and being patient when I don’t. I know in the past, I was compulsive about exercise and would have lost my marbles—for the first two weeks, I did less moving than I had in a normal week during training for my half, and I had to work as a personal trainer and watch my clients all killin’ it on a daily basis!

Now I’m feeling a little lost. I had plans to run a big trail run in mid-October, but running hurts the most right now. I thought about training for my Olympic Weightlifting debut, but I’m obviously a little discouraged there. I think for the first time, I’m going to give myself a break from trying to peak for anything in particular. Sure I have goals—10 chin-ups, anyone? (I’m at six)—and some events that I would like to do—bike rides in the fall are my favourite—but it might be nice to just “work out” for a little in the meantime instead of always feeling like I should be training my face off. I’ve written before about how exercise should improve the quality of our lives and how health ought to be a platform for us to live our best lives from, not the sole focus of our lives—and remembering that has gotten me through all of this! I am however glad to be able to bike myself to school, which started today (yahoo!).

biking to school

I write this because it’s part of a long journey from not being able to take a rest day on vacation without losing my mind or bingeing to realizing that I can rest—and should rest! I’ve seen that my appetite matches my activity level, that I don’t immediately get out of shape or look like a different person if I take some time off, and that I can release stress in other ways. I’ve had some time to think about what I want to do with myself and my body and to start considering what will make me feel like I’ve spent my time, energy, and money on the best options. I have realized how lucky I am to still be able to do things and that this too shall pass (as always). It could have been so much worse. I am not fragile, and I will come back stronger. I’m looking forward to my next comeback, whatever it’s back to…

setback

Have you had an injury that took you out of commission for a little?
Did you learn anything from being injured?
What are you focusing on this fall?
What do you like to do besides train?

Owning it: Athletics as (a) source of self-esteem–and why we need to take a darn compliment

Lately, I’ve noticed a(n unfortunate) tendency for some of the most badass women—the strongest ones at CrossFit or the fastest or most experienced ones on the bike—to play a game of downplaying their achievements. They ask “Who, little old me?” when someone tells them that they’re great or assure people that really it wasn’t such a great job or that someone or something outside them was the reason for their success.

This makes me sad.

I know I’ve returned a compliment with the kind of downplaying I’m talking about. But this is an issue I’m working on. Ever since I had the experience of a friend telling me she was going to be “slow” and then proceeding to be much faster than me in a running situation, I’ve tried to watch how I talk about my own performances or abilities—whether I think they’re good or bad. I’m sure that my friend was innocently trying to appear humble—not to make me feel bad—but it certainly made me think about times when I’ve maybe done the same thing to other people.

This is cute, but be careful whose accomplishments you downplay.

This is cute, but be careful whose accomplishments you downplay.

I know some people who can’t just take a compliment are after reassurance and want to be told a little bit more how great they are. That’s fine. I want to talk about the times where it’s more about not being able to own up to how great we are.

My fellow blogger and cycling friend Sam and I had little bit of a chat about this issue as we watched a club race together last week. Our coach (a man) worked with two ladies to do really well in the race together. It was a men’s race. The gal who won absolutely impresses me with her talent and dedication, but I can remember the first time I met her being met with the kind of downplaying that I’m getting at. Sam pointed me towards “Self-Deprecation and the Female Cyclist,” which is certainly worth a read if you feel like you hold yourself back or downplay your athletic accomplishments and want a reminder to stop that right now.

Maybe for some of us, this comes down to perfectionism—or that ever-looming sense that we aren’t good enough coming back again. We focus so much on what we aren’t or on where we fall short that it’s hard for us to appreciate the things that are really worth celebrating in ourselves. You just ran a great race? Yeah, but it wasn’t as fast as my PB. You just did your first CrossFit competition? Yeah, but it wasn’t Rx.

But it was still badass.

It was still worth being proud of.

It was definitely worth celebrating.

While you’re at it, stop adding the word “just” to things. You didn’t “just” do a 10km when someone else did a marathon. You didn’t “just” go to the gym twice this week when you meant to go four times. Those things count for something.

I’m torn on whether or not I think celebrating our abilities is unquestionably the best way to build our confidence. I certainly don’t think that our only source of empowerment should come from our abilities.  But I do know that pretending that these things don’t make us feel good or don’t contribute to our sense of self-esteem would mean we’d miss out on a whole lot of potential. Maybe the answer is that we can’t base all of our self-worth and confidence on what we’re capable of (so that when we aren’t so capable, we don’t suck), but this kind of appreciation can be a valuable part of what fills up our confidence buckets.

redminer

Anyways, I don’t think that it’s fair to expect anyone—man or woman—to be confident all the time. But it’s my hope that we can think about the way that brushing off compliments or trying to convince people that we’re really not all that good is a habit worth getting out of.

What do you think?
What have you done lately that’s worth being proud of?
Where do you downplay your accomplishments, and what’s up with that?

Race Recap: MEC London Race Two 15km

I used to have a firm rule about putting a race recap out onto the interwebs by the end of the weekend. This was around the time when I was photographing most of the food I ate and talking about my day to day activities a lot more on my blog. Just like I’ve let go of the need to document every morsel I eat and ever mile I cover in my training, I have learned that a race recap is better done late than never.

Last week was the second race in MEC’s race series here in London. I didn’t do last month’s race, but I knew from doing one of the trail options last year that the events are well-organized, supported, and perhaps most importantly—affordable! While I’m all for budgeting and making our health and our health hobbies priorities, I like the idea that I can sign up for a whole series of MEC races for 75$–less than the cost of some of the single races around!

On Saturday, the weather couldn’t have been better. I pre-registered for the 15km option on Thursday, when I knew the weather would be good—and good it was! I was in a tank top by the end of my warm-up, which always makes me a happy runner. I know some people prefer it a little cooler than me, but I love sweating and was happy to finally break one after the winter that keeps hanging on.

image1

I was running the same event as my friend/partner in training crime, Katie. She’s a little faster than me and when we went to the portajohns together and I came out before, I joked that I had her beat in one race that day. …ha!

image6

Katie and I just before the race — look at that sun! And those smiles!

After a somewhat mishmash start (all of the 5 and 10 and 15km race options started at once), we spread out quite a bit over the course. The people running the 5km option raced off ahead and then turned around and raced back. I got to see my coach, Coach Chris, turn around and give me some encouragement as I carried on (he broke his PR that day). Everyone turned around after 5km and came back on the same route, with the 10km racers heading for the finish while we tacked on another route. As I got to the turnaround at 5k, I realized I was running quicker than anticipated. I went in joking that I wanted to be faster than my half marathon from back in the day (1:48ish) and knowing that 1:30 was a reasonable goal for 15km (6 minute kilometres feel steady to me and I’ve been walking a bit on my long runs). I decided to keep on doing what I was doing and see what came, and rather than end up feeling too tired, I managed to keep the pace up and even kick it up a bit after we turned around at ~12km.

I finished with a smile (?) on my face and maybe a little more in the tank than I might have wanted in 1:23:04. I liked coming in, even though there wasn’t much going on at the finish line. Someone did have a cowbell, and Brent came out to see me finish. Katie was there too, relishing in her 1:12 finish, so that was just grand!

Is that a smile?

Is that a smile? (Yes)

Some of my friends from CrossFit were running their first trail race. I also knew a few other people doing the 5k who enjoyed the weather and impressed themselves. I loved the feeling of community, the sunshine, and the way that the event felt welcoming. Having a chip time always makes me want to run a little harder (in case someone googles my finish?), so that was nice.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 5.10.32 PM

All in all, I was very happy with the race. I felt good the whole time, even though I’ve never run the distance. I think besides my half marathon, this is the first time I’ve gone that far. I passed someone in the last km or so, so that tells me I perhaps underestimated myself. I think that, assuming I can stay injury free, I like these longer races. I remember finishing the half marathon happy and having a fairly speedy recovery from it. Maybe it’s because with longer races, they hurt, but they don’t hurt like a 5km race or seem to be just another run like a 10km seems to be for me. The element of—will I make it? How will I feel when I do? Can I keep this pace going? is kind of the exciting part!

completes

My next race is my triathlon debut of the year at Woodstock. The race is a Sprint Distance Triathlon, which unfortunately for me usually makes me feel slow since I mostly go the same pace no matter how long you ask me to go for (this might be my greatest weakness, or my greatest ability, depending on how you look at it). At any rate, this is one of the early ones where everyone’s getting their cobwebs out. I’ll be happy if I make it out of my wetsuit without falling on my butt, or onto the run course without forgetting to remove my helmet after the bike. And if I can have a good time doing it, of course. Then I’ll have some time to gear up for my Half Ironman debut at Musselman on July 12. I’m not sure if I’ll like the half distance, but if this longer race was any indication of where the enjoyment lies for me, I think the chance to see if I can make it and how fast I can go without falling over sideways will be just the challenge I’m looking for!

I guesssss I'll take him as a prize.

I guesssss I’ll take him as a prize.

Have you done any races lately?
Have you ever done a MEC Race?
What’s your “big race” this year?
What’s your favourite distance to race? 

Running, vaccines, and trust

If we let every (interpretation) of every article out there that shakes up what we think drive us crazy, we’ll always be thinking we are doing the wrong thing. I know that diet books are designed to sell something, but I like to think I can have faith in the good ‘ol scientific method. That being said, when it comes to health, there are so many factors that go into things, so many ways that people can take an abstract of an article out of context, and so many people competing to convince you that their way is the right way that I think we need to take things with a grain of salt.

This week, there was research in the news about vigorous running being bad for you—as bad as sitting on the couch, apparently—while moderate running was better. Some media just reported on it, others tried to sort it out for people. Naturally, Runner’s World was on the side where the research was flawed.

Every day I seem to see things about vaccines in the news or on my social media. I don’t usually say much, but I saw on the local news website that 20% of Ontarians believe that there’s some kind of link between autism and vaccinations. I don’t know where the stats come from—they didn’t ask my house!—but I do know that this is one of those things that matters—a lot. I guess I feel like if you choose to run vs. if you don’t choose to run is not as big of a deal as being involved in a resurgence of an entirely curable disease. I don’t get it—even the journal that originally published the research that put the link out there retracted it, and there’s no one that seems to be able to replicate the original research.

But we latch onto ideas that are sold to us—by the media, by “professionals,” by our parents. Look at the way the Paleo diet has taken off, or gluten free diets for the average joe, or the way that people used to avoid cholesterol because they thought it was the reason they had heart disease. I can see when I’m reading a diet book that there’s a vested interest in convincing me, but I think given the way that everyone seems to be marketing themselves nowadays (hello facebook page as a serious means for self-promotion), there are a lot more sources out there to be weary of. Right now, I’m trying to convince you to be on my side—for no monetary gain, but simply because I, like so many other bloggers, like it when people are on my side. I also like it when people talk about things, think about things differently, or learn something from what I write (bonus points if they comment about it).

It is one thing to keep running when a bad study tells you that it will kill you earlier—besides your family, you’re not hurting anyone—it is another not to vaccinate your kids because a retracted study started an unfortunate trend and you got sucked into it—you’re hurting other peoples’ kids. I think what we need is to step back and think about what we believe, why we believe it, and what that all means for us and for everyone else. This kind of issue gets at bigger things—who should be able to decide if we are required to vaccinate our kids? Are we the ones in charge of our health and our health decisions? What’s different because we live in a country where we all share the health care costs?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I do hope they make us think.

PS Here is one of the “lighter” responses to all this debate on facebook – “I’m an anti-breaker”

Throwback Thursday: thoughts on Paleo, balance, and finding what works

This post has been on my mind for a while. I am going to use “Throwback Thursday” as the excuse for posting it now, even though my thoughts are still a bit scattered and I’ve got some apprehension about sharing…

Paleo didn’t work for me.

Before I started CrossFit and found out what Paleo, or Eat By Design, or whatever you’d like to call it, was, my eating was pretty balanced. I ate mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, (mostly lean) meat, nuts and seeds, and sufficient froyo with a smile on my face, and I’d been at a stable weight for a while, though I still didn’t have my period on a regular basis. I had been through my eating disorder, done a stint of vegetarianism (mostly because I read Eating Animals and got sad), and was in a super high stress state, but I was back on track—even if my body hadn’t totally sprung back to (hormonal) health just yet. Up from my lowest weight of 114lbs, I weighed a comfy 138-142lbs and when I look back at pictures, I think I looked healthy and athletic.

My half marathon, before anyone told me cardio was "bad." I ran it in 1:47 minutes.

My first (and only) half marathon, before anyone told me cardio was “bad.” I ran it in 1:47 minutes.

So what happened?

The “for me” part in “Paleo didn’t work for me” is important. I didn’t really do it right, but I did what I think a lot of people do. I also think the way in which I failed at “doing it right” is indicative more of the diet not being good for me more so than of me not trying hard enough, even if I’ve spent plenty of months telling myself I should just try harder.

When my bookshelf was stocked with The Paleo Diet, Primal Blueprint, The Paleo Solution, The Paleo Diet for Athletes, Practical Paleo, and Everyday Paleo, things changed. I told myself it wasn’t a “diet” in the traditional sense and that I was after health, which was true but I was also hoping for a six pack along the way and I certainly was not ready to gain more weight.

So, I started to make changes. I replaced the chicken, turkey, fish, and beans I ate with more and more pork, sausages, steaks and ground beef. While I did do a good job and managed to track down some free range organic sources on occasion, the vast majority of this meat was just from the grocery store.

When I ate grains, they were definitely not whole grains any more. The Paleo diet says white rice is okay if you train hard enough, so I ate more of it, usually with plenty of coconut milk and sometimes butter on top (FYI, this is delicious). But I also had the mindset that if bread was bad for me, I might as well have the white stuff, so I said farewell to the whole grain options I used to buy. French fries were healthier than a hamburger bun, right? Potato chips better than whole wheat crackers? If grains—or carbs, in my thinking—are bad, who cares about choosing well?

When I went for treats, I was never satisfied with a just a little. Dark chocolate became something like a food group for me, especially the kind of dark chocolate that I could somehow combine with almond butter, cashew butter, macadamia nut butter, coconut butter, sunflower seed butter, etc….I ate all the butters. And real butter! With a health halo around it, I started to put more and more butter on the sweet—not white—potatoes I ate. Without bread as a vessel, I’d find myself spooning nut butters right from the jar into my mouth. It’s good for me, right?

paleo desserts

I started to take heavy cream in my coffee. Formerly one to add milk and maybe a sweetener or spoonful of sugar, I thoroughly enjoyed the taste of the 30% cream and the looks on the Starbucks baristas faces when I asked them for the whipping cream to add to my highly caffeinated long Americano order (which is also delicious).

Some mornings, I’d crave oatmeal so badly that I would try to fake it. I’d microwave some combination of eggs, a banana, and almond butter. I remember worrying that I was having too much sugar and one day when I “caved” and ate two bananas, I was sure I fired up my fat storage and was doomed for diabetes. I’d make granola out of nuts to go on top of this, because the old recipe I’d used also included those oats, gosh darn it. Oats might not contain gluten, but they were still grains and everyone Paleo knows gluten and oats were probably bedfellows in manufacturing.

There were other changes, but I think you get the picture. I’d gone from what was defined as “conventionally healthy” to an attempt at a fad diet that I still think can be a fine choice—if you put in the time and effort (and moola!) to get the food from good sources, like eating meat, and are on top of food prep—that totally messed with what was a balanced approach. You have to know that I have an addictive personality and that as smart as I like to think I am, I can be easily persuaded. I took things to an extreme, and I used excuses like “It’s gluten free!” or “If I’m going to “cheat,” I may as well go big.” I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I also changed my exercise habits. I started to question whether or not “cardio” was good for me. I traded my daily swimming, biking, and running workouts for more and more time with the barbell. I loved the way I could focus on getting stronger. I also read things that told me that cardio was making me fat.

I hated this photo, but I was at least having fun with CrossFit. This was at a fun competition our gym did.

I hated this photo, but I was at least having fun with CrossFit. This was at a fun competition our gym did in the thick of my CrossFit as the be-all end-all days.

But I love swimming, biking, and running.

I love oatmeal.

I love chickpeas.

I love not feeling like I need to have a huge hunk of meat with every meal.

…I gained almost 30lbs in the process of switching my exercise and eating habits. I can’t blame CrossFit or Paleo, and I should add that I added muscle.

As strong as I feel when I am lifting a really heavy barbell, I still crave the feeling I get from going for a super long bike ride. Last year, I experimented with doing both. In the process, I found my body shifting a little more and I lost some of that weight (5-10lbs, depending on the day of course). Stepping back into the world of long bike rides and runs and dips in the pool, I found myself remembering some of the common sense nutrition notions that I used to ascribe to.

Back on the bike this year. One of my first rides of the year, in Colorado!

Back on the bike this year. One of my first rides of the year, in Colorado!

While I can’t blame the Paleo diet or the ideas about exercise that came along with it or the books or the people who exposed me to them, I can take responsibility for myself and my health habits. Instead of feeling stuck, I can work on shifting my habits and thoughts back to a healthier place. Those beliefs I picked up about carbs and grains and exercise were built. As sticky as they might be—because nut butter is delicious and sausage is amazing—,they can also be replaced—because feeling light and healthy and good in my skin is another kind of amazing.

So, I’m in the process. Today, I am “back on grains.” I eat whole grains as much as I can—quinoa, oatmeal, and rice are my favourites. I like bread and cereal, so I eat them and choose the whole grain options because I don’t think they’re rife with anti-nutrients anymore. I eat lots of fruit and plenty of vegetables, and I have less room for the meat on my plate. I still overdo it on the nut butters, but I’m working on it.

wrong road

I’m writing this because I think there are other people who have dabbled in Paleo or have given up something they love that makes them feel healthy and happy in the name of something someone told them would be better. I know that it’s hard to shift back—there’s still times when I think “how the heck did I eat that many carbs?!”—but it helps me to remember that I was happier with my body when I was eating all the carbs, and wasn’t thinking about them as a villain.

I hope your Throwback Thursday isn’t as intense as this, but I also hope that you take the time to check in with yourself and ask, about your health habits, that question I mentioned earlier this week: how’s that working for you?

Have you ever gone down the “wrong” road and wanted to get back to the fork?
What have you learned from trying diets or exercise programs that don’t work for you?

races and paces: Go the Distance 10km recap

Yesterday, I ran a 10km race here in London that just so happened to be in the name of Hope’s Garden, the eating disorders resource and support centre that I’ve decided to bike across the country fundraising for! People who register for Go the Distance can raise money that goes directly to Hope’s Garden and the race is part of a series here in London.

hg

I ran the race on my own, though last year I ran it with a friend (she couldn’t join me this year, unfortunately!). I haven’t done a 10km race since last spring and wasn’t sure how it would go, so I tried to just go in with a goal of feeling good during the run. I think that was a perfect mindset–and I had a great race on that front!

I ran most of the way comfortably and I was pacing along perfectly with a nice woman for the first 8km. We chatted a bit–mostly about running, but also about teaching since she is a high school teacher–and the kilometres flew by. The sun was out so it was hot, but there was a nice breeze and most of the course, which started at Covent Garden Market and went to Springbank Park and back, was flat.

I am definitely giving thumbs up here!

I am definitely giving thumbs up here!

My finishing time was 56:31–not my best effort on a 10km but not my worst. I know that a lot of people said that they were slower than they’d hoped, and I spent a little bit of time thinking “I should have run faster” but got over it pretty quickly when I was reminded (by that awesome boyfriend of mine) that:

  • my focus is on the bike ride anyhow
  • nobody cares about 2 minutes one way OR the other
  • I’m healthier and happier than ever before

I also know that doing the race was important. Exercising–and keeping it enjoyable–is a big deal to me. I know that sometimes people think of running as a sport where eating disorders can thrive–and that might be true. But running a race or just running around the block is a chance for us to use our bodies and to see what they’re capable of–something  I know is absolutely essential in making friends with your body. It doesn’t surprise me that people who don’t move in their bodies have a hard time respecting, appreciating, and loving their bodies, so I think that getting Hope’s Garden into the running community is a great thing. I also know that the more people can hear about it the better–and that maybe someone who needs it will find the brochure about the centre in their race kit and check it out.

I may not have run a personal best, but I had a good morning at the race running for something I care a lot about–and that feels pretty darn good! And, as a bonus, I got some pretty embarrassing sweet race photos out of the day!

This is the best of the bunch!

This is the best of the bunch!

Have you participated in a race in honour of something you care about a lot?

 

If you want to donate to my ride and to Hope’s Garden, please visit my Giving Page at https://www.canadahelps.org/GivingPages/GivingPage.aspx?gpID=37108. All the donations go directly to Hope’s Garden. If you want to get involved or have any questions, ideas, or other thoughts, please comment below! In the meantime, love your body and be happy and healthy. 

 

appreciating exercise (or why I’m ready to bike across the continent)

The other day, I was biking with a friend of mine and we got to talking about how training time—biking, running, swimming (she’s a triathlete friend)—gives us a way to destress. When she said something about how exercise has always been her way of keeping herself sane, happy, and healthy, I couldn’t agree more. There’s something about heading out for a bike ride or a run and getting to be outside, without your cell phone attached to you, with some space from the rest of what’s going on in your life, that’s oh so freeing.

More generally, I think exercise is a great way to destress. Letting it all out in the weight room. Processing thoughts in the pool. Thinking things over on a hike. These are all ways that exercise can give us that much needed break and time to just be in our bodies.

However, for a while, exercise was a source of stress in my life.

First: Am I doing enough? I should do more. This was the name of the game when I was really struggling with my relationship with my body and experiencing my eating disorder.

Then: Am I doing the right kind? I should do it all. Even through recovery, I’ve found that it can be a difficult balance to master: exercise is a place where I can learn what my body is capable of and where I have the opportunity to just experience it for what it does, not just for how it looks, but it’s also a loaded area where there are so many messages about what we “should” be doing.

But I’ve learned along the way that when it comes to deciding whether or not something is good for us, things aren’t always black or white. Going on a long run for one person might be about getting out and experiencing their body. For another, it might be about burning off a binge. We celebrate people who are dedicated to their recreational pursuits and sometimes we can go too far—for the average person who trains for health or just recreation, training through an injury probably isn’t necessary and seems counterproductive. It can be a slippery slope if you’re struggling with why you exercise—the compulsion is hard enough to kick, but add in acknowledgement from the world around us when we do come across as “hardcore” and things get even tougher.

That being said, I think it’s important to talk about how exercise, even for people who have struggled with compulsivity in the past, can be a part of taking care of your body. Our bodies are meant to move so learning a relationship with our bodies that allows us to exercise in life-affirming, health-building ways is essential. With so many messages about exercise as a way to control weight, it can be hard to flip the switch: exercise isn’t punishment or just about changing the way your body looks. The number of articles I’ve seen about quitting running because it’s not going to make you skinny just reinforce the idea that exercise is only about weight—it’s not. Running has other benefits—the mental ones I talked about at the start of this post, the other physical aspects that have no reflection in our body composition.

Exercising, in my opinion, is about using our bodies and keeping them moving in ways that feel good and that are enjoyable. It need not be complicated or intense. It shouldn’t come loaded with feelings of guilt and compulsion. It’s simple: exercise should make your life better—your physical, mental, emotional, and maybe even spiritual health (if you’re into that).

love your bod

If you’re a regular reader, maybe you’ve checked out my bucket list page. On it are some things that I’m making good on these days, namely biking across the continent. I didn’t really elaborate on my page, but ever since I wrote an article for Canadian Cycling Magazine in 2010 about a man who rode across the US and fundraised for brain and spinal cord regeneration research (he raised $26 052 to be exact), I’ve had biking across the continent in the name of eating disorders awareness on my long term to do list.

So, that’s why I’m uber excited to be planning this fundraising ride across the states. I’m sorting out the details now, with plans to donate the money that I raise to Hope’s Garden, the eating disorder resource centre in London that helped me so much. When I decided to ask for help with my eating disorder over five years ago, I used the Hope’s Garden website to find myself a therapist. I went to support groups throughout my recovery on campus and at Hope’s Garden itself. The Awareness breakfasts and special events that the centre offered kept me learning, committed, and passionate about my recovery. It seems only fitting that I do this in their name! My plan is America By Bike (the same company the man I interviewed used) and their “Fast America” tour in April of next year: 33 days, 3 457 miles, and a whole lot of awesome. I’ve been talking with Hope’s Garden (the woman in charge there makes me even more excited about all of this) about fundraising and setting up a donation page, looking for sponsors, and getting the word out about what I’m doing—and why I’m doing it.

cross country

If I hadn’t taken the time to think about what exercise means to me and to get my relationship sorted out with why I work out, I don’t know if biking for 33 days straight from one ocean to the other would be a healthy choice—my mindset of more is more is more in the past would certainly be raging. But I’ve earned back the right to bike my butt off by putting in the work and getting healthy. I had a good talk with my therapist (part of how I stay committed to myself and my health) about this. She (re)assured me that years ago, this wouldn’t have been a great idea. But given where I’m at now and what I know about exercise–I see it as a place to challenge our bodies and then to really appreciate just how much they’re really capable of–I know that this is one heck of an opportunity to focus on what my body’s capable of. It’s hard for me to think about how my thighs are looking in my biking clothes once I’m out the door and riding, and I trust more and more that the less I worry about how my body looks as a result of the exercise I do, the more I enjoy activity.

Like I said, I think it’s important to—and I’d like to serve as an example of someone who’s been able to—find a healthy relationship with working out that will keep us moving, happy, and healthy throughout our lives.

Stay tuned!

turn dreams

 

What kind of exercise helps you appreciate your body most?
What’s one item on your bucket list that you’re ready to make good on?

on the right foot: questions and appreciation

a life lesson, a coaching gem, some insight from my own experiences, a question to get you thinking–what better day than monday for a positive post?

So, I have myself a stress fracture.

Whomp whomp.

meme

The doctor’s orders are as follows: Take 4 to 6 weeks off of anything weight bearing. If it hurts to walk, I’m supposed to use crutches. I might be in denial, but I think it’s starting to get better. When I don’t have pain, ease back into activity (starting with 30 seconds of running alternating with 4.5 minutes of walking for 30 minutes total). Eat a healthy diet to promote healing. Don’t throw a shit fit.

I added that last part, but it’s mostly a joke. I threw myself a one evening pity party (in the form of crying for a bit, blogging, reading magazines, and ignoring my cell phone) and then decided that it was time to call in my appreciator, which I introduced in a post last month.

Coaching yourself can sometimes be a lost cause, but I did come up with some questions to help me move from the “my life is over” perspective into a more empowering place. Naturally, I included my word vomit insight.

What’s the gift in this situation? or What’s possible as a result of this situation?

I’m going back to school in approximately a week, which means that the more time I have to get my shit together organized, the better. On that note, not being able to work out as much as I’d like to (I can’t fathom swimming as often as I’ve been going to CrossFit, doing yoga, running, and biking, etc.) means I’ll need to find other ways to use my energy and other ways to fill myself up (exercise is my happy time). On my list of options? Journaling, reading, baking, cooking, writing letters and cards to friends, making a vision board, learning to knit (attempt #4) and playing my violin.

Another gift is a break from training that will give me the time to reassess where I’m at. This summer was a whirlwind in terms of what I was training for and how I was exercising—from CrossFit to soccer to yoga to running to kind of training for triathlon to going on my Outward Bound trip—and to be honest I’m a bit overwhelmed with what I should be doing and more importantly, what I want to do. This is sort of like a chance to start over. I very well might come back and instead of trying to maintain 20 different activities just be able to add in the ones that I really want to.

Getting hurt and being out of the gym also provided me with the insight that I wrote about last week in terms of looking at my self esteem in a different way–and that’s a pretty big deal!

The timing’s also something I’m grateful for—thank goodness this didn’t happen before my trip to North Carolina, which would probably have meant I couldn’t go.

What’s the lesson in this situation?

I’m learning that my body can only take so much and that overdoing it will eventually wear me down. I have managed to stay pretty lucky in regards to injuries even when I was exercising compulsively, but this is a big reminder to take care of myself. Along with making sure that I’m training in a healthy and sustainable way, this is a really good time to make sure I’m giving my body the nutrition it needs.

Who can I become as a result of this situation?

I’m becoming a cranky bitch for the next 6 weeks smarter athlete. I’m becoming more patient. I’m developing an appreciation for the ability of my body to heal. I’m becoming a stronger person mentally and emotionally. I’m becoming more dedicated to taking care of myself.

This is the kind of work that helps me get through things that bum me out and is the fastest way for me to start to get over it and see the bigger picture. I realize that in the grand scheme of things, 4 to 6 weeks is not a big deal, even if I am bummed that I can’t do Tough Mudder. In reality, this is a little thing–stress fractures suck but they heal on their own.

this too shall pass

I saw a woman in a wheelchair not too long after I left the doctor–instant perspective. I spent the weekend with friends who I haven’t seen as much of as I’d like to this summer because a friend of mine received health news last week that reminded me that we can’t take our health for granted and that life isn’t always fair and health doesn’t always make sense.

And if self coaching myself with some powerful questions doesn’t work, I’ve always got music that kind of goes with the theme.

Have you ever had a stress fracture?
How do you deal with things that bum you out?

Dog poop for dinner

 

Alternate title “Will run for nuts.” — I wonder which one would have gotten more attention?

Dinner 

I didn’t actually have dog poop for dinner, but I did make a bowl that looked a heck of lot like shat.

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banana, cocoa, honey, salt, coconut, almonds, chocolate…um yummmmmm

I blame PaleOMG and my friend’s reply to my facebook post earlier today.

 

Enablers–gotta love ’em! Unfortunately my avocado was not ripe so I just improvised…resourceful, no? I’m just going to admit it–I probably should have had meat and veggies for dinner, especially since I’d already had a nanner this afternoon, but I hate the word should…and what’s done is done! Note to self: don’t eat pudding for dinner on a regular basis if you intend to be a healthy living blogger ;)! Second note to self: do whatever you want.

Afternoon

Besides laundry (which of course is still ongoing–I swear I draw it out because I love it so darn much ;)!), this afternoon I took care of some facebook creeping emails and chores before I met Angela for a reunion/trail run on the trails I hiked with my pals yesterday. At running speed, the ups and downs were a bit more challenging but we took a pretty leisurely pace (thank god Angela’s on her 2 off weeks and is just moving her body for fun right now!) and I was loving being outside in the fall sunshine. We ran for about 50 minutes and I’m estimating that it was about 8km but that might be overshooting it…at any rate, it was challenging, especially after this morning’s squats! 🙂

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After the run, I went to the first meeting for Triathlon Club. Since I’ll be running a cycle session for them every Friday morning, I had to introduce myself. I think showing up smelling extra stinky and without thinking about what to say gave them an accurate impression of who I am…and I can’t remember how I introduced myself but I know I promised them a weekly dose of Britney in their playlist.

After the meeting, I had a good chit chat with a friend I haven’t seen much of yet this year before I finally made it home to the shower and my pudding ;). …now here I am in a chocolatey induced state of relaxation, with some mood lighting thanks to a candle, and with an episode of the Balanced Bites podcast playing in the background. My goals for the night: type my goals, read a section of my crossfit manual, and sleep. Lofty, I know!

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sexy

Do you ever eat dessert for dinner?
Have you ever made an avocado pudding?