My Motivation Left The Station.

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Fall in the Pacific Northwest means sunsets by 4:30 and rain on the daily. It means doubling up the dose of Vitamin D, warm beverages, and a loss of motivation when it comes to running…what?

This time of year, it is all I can do to lace up my shoes and get out that door when it’s both pitch black and raining. There are so many excuses I can muster up. Cold, wet, rainy, dark, I’m tired. Haven’t I mentioned all of these before? Lately, my middle ground has been to run on the dreaded treadmill at the gym. Gasp! I know. I’ve decided that it at least allows me to keep a solid pace. Which, I’m terrible at doing on both the pavement and trail. Not only that, but it is the biggest mental challenge to run on that damn thing.

Let’s talk motivation. Because that’s what seems to wane this time of year. When does the motivation seem to lack the most? When we need it the most. When we’re tired, when we’re not in a fully positive mood, when the gym or the running shoes seem a million miles away. When work was particularly long or difficult. How do we muster up that energy and get it done?

I cannot speak for anyone else but myself. When I start to climb on the doubt and negativity train, here is what I do:

  1. Remember your why. Why do I run? Why do I workout? Why am I even doing this? Why did I start?- I run because it is my therapy. I run for catharsis and mental clarity. I run for the challenge, both mental and physical.
    – I workout to grow. I workout to gain strength, agility, flexibility. I workout to cross train and better prepare for my runs. I workout to challenge myself and see how hard I can push to see change.
    – I started because I do not like to be stagnant. I need a challenge. I thrive on change. Especially when it comes to my own body. I started because I knew my body had so much room to grow.
  2. Reflect on and review goals. 

    – A sidenote about goals. They need to be clear, measurable, and achievable. ‘I want to run faster’ is a noble concept. However, how do you measure it? Faster than what? How fast you’re running now? Faster than a cheetah? Instead, one might say their goal is to run a sub 8:30 mile by the end of the year. This is faster than their current mile time of 8:45. By making our goals measurable and achievable, we are more likely to actually work towards them.
    – My biggest goal right now is to PR the Holiday Half Marathon this year. This means running a sub 1:55 or about an 8:40 mile. In order to do this well, I need to be pushing myself regularly.

  3. Find inspiration or accountability. -Finding someone who inspires you can help push you towards your goals and help you stay motivated. Just what we want, right? Currently, Oiselle and their amazing flock of runners are my motivation. Their zest for life, their zeal for running and their constant positive spirit keeps me going when the last thing I want to do is lace up. Their motto, “Head up, wings out” has kept me through more runs than I care to admit.-Accountability is also an important component to motivation. Tell someone your goals, post about them to social media, find a running or workout partner. Find someone to hold you accountable to your goals and aspirations. It is a powerful motivator.
  4. If all else fails, suck it up, buttercup. 

    What more is there to say? If nothing and no one can help you find that motivation, you have to find it within yourself. You know your goals. You know what you’re working towards. You know you just need to get it done. So, suck it up, buttercup.

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Rosie the Riveter, anyone?

Does anyone else have any tips for finding motivation?

Do It For The _____________.

 

Do it for the __________.

Why do you do what you do? When I embarked on this 6-week fitness challenge, I asked myself this. Each day, when I would get ready to workout, I would set my intention. Am I doing this to be stronger? To prove to myself that I can complete a challenge? Am I doing this for the after photos? The endorphin rush? Or am I simply doing this for me?

Whatever it is, there must be some kind of motivating factor. Otherwise, why would we do anything? We have to have something that is helping to kick us in the ass to say, you can do this. There needs to be an answer to the question why. This is exactly why there are cupcakes at the end of every race that I run.

The challenge kicked my ass. Prior to this, I would go to the gym and grab weights of the 5-15lb variety. Leg day consisted of body weight squats and running. To go from this to lifting heavy, and even doubling up days? Yikes. And supersets? What in the world are those? Needless to say, I learned a lot.

My why was all of the above; I wanted to prove to myself that I could complete a challenge, get stronger, and hopefully see some gains. I wanted to learn more about lifting, about strength training, and the discipline required. The endorphin rush was an added bonus. And yes, I was keen on seeing what kind of awesome before and after photos could become of this. Who wouldn’t be?

But honestly, the after photos weren’t as dramatic as I’d hoped they’d be. Before I go any further on the photos, watch this Buzzfeed video on faking before and after photos:

When the day came to take the after photos for this challenge, I was so excited to see the change I felt reflected on camera. Not the case. Not only had I just tried 3 different types of new protein that week (which all failed and gave me terrible bloating and indigestion. Yay bloat belly for photos.) But, the lighting was all wrong, and where the hell did my muscle definition go? I have abs. I can feel them! And, I swear there are biceps there that weren’t before.

 

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Awkward posture and terrible lighting, but there you have it! While the visible difference isn’t much there, let’s talk about how much different I feel; in the end, that is what really matters.

First of all, I feel so much stronger. Not only physically, but mentally. Muscle has started taking the place that fat used to occupy. While I did not lose any inches or pounds, I watched as muscles started to tighten up and define themselves in ways I’ve never seen before. Suddenly, I have triceps when I flex, and I can feel firm abdominal muscles under that troublesome layer of fat. And, oh my quad! I have these muscles that have taken shape around my knees. And my butt…well, I’m definitely happy with it. Here’s a ridiculous gym selfie to prove my point.

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Second, I feel happier. Not just the endorphin-addicted way. Not just because I feel myself getting stronger. Not just because I had another girl at the gym compliment me on my butt last night. No, it is because I make time each and every day to take care of me, whether it’s running, lifting, writing, or just taking a few minutes to just sit still. I took those first 21 days of the challenge and formed a habit. I take care of my body, so it takes care of me. I feel good. And when I feel good, I look good. It is amazing what a little self-confidence can do. I know I’m not at all where I want to be, but I’m working on it. Rhinocorn, remember? I suppose that is the third; I am more confident. I’ve developed the confidence to keep pushing myself to work towards new goals, to continue to try and fail and try again.

So often I feel as if I’ve become a stereotype of my generation. I always seem to expect instant gratification. When I started this challenge, I was so excited to get that sought after six-pack and defined shoulder muscles by the end of the challenge. I woke up every morning and ran to the mirror like this guy…

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I had to take a step back with my impatience and realize that good things come in time. Good things, result things, come to those who work their asses off. That takes time. That body I want, the one I’ve conjured up in my head, is going to take years to attain. And that is perfectly okay. I’ve learned this: Embrace the change. Embrace the changes I’ve made in my habits. Embrace the change I am seeing in my body shape. Embrace the fact that my ass is too big for my jeans, and I’ve now ripped two shirts because of the gains I’ve made. Embrace the happiness that comes from the progress I’ve made.

Jumping off my soapbox now. All I have to say is this: Love your body, please. It is your temple, your home, the only one you’ll ever own.

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Here’s a little glimpse into what I did for the 6-week challenge.

The Program

  • Monday, Tuesday: upper body (arms, chest, shoulders)
  • Thursday, Friday: lower body (legs, butt, lower back)
  • Saturday, total body
  • Wednesday, Sunday: cardio
  • First day, higher reps (15-25) and lower weight
  • Second day, lower reps (4-8) and higher weight
  • Abs 3-4 days/week
  • At least 3 exercises per muscle group
  • 1 minute cardio acceleration between sets

 

I have a lovely chart if anyone is interested in looking at the list of exercises that I did each week. It was kind of fun to chart progress! Here’s a glimpse at small, measurable improvements I made:

Before: 2 push-ups, 0 pull-ups, 0 tricep dips, benching 50 lbs. max, squatting 100 lbs. max

After: 15 push-ups, 5 pull-ups, 7 tricep dips, benching 105 lbs. max, squatting 205 lbs. max

 

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Next time you want to try something new, a challenge, a training program, a different skill, ask yourself, why.  Whatever the reason is, remember the most important one: Do it for you.

The Earth, My Butt, And Other Big, Round Things.

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I had a conversation with my legs yesterday. And my butt, for that matter. I was at the gym. I’d just completed another grueling, 2 hour workout of lower body and abs. I caught my reflection as I walked into the aerobics room to return my bosu ball. I looked at myself and thought, “hey, is that my butt? -Damn, these squats are doing me well.”

First of all, I’m not conceited, nor do I think I have a perfect body. But, I realized something as I stood in front of that mirror for a full minute, checking myself out; I love my butt. I’ve been fortunate enough to be one of those girls that has always had a bit of a booty. For the first time in my life though, it’s a strong booty. And the tree trunks underneath them? They’ve become just as strong. The phrase ‘working my ass off’ doesn’t apply here. I’ve been working my ass on to get these legs and this butt.

This transition has not been without growing pains. A couple weeks ago, I realized, one, only a single pair of my jeans still fit me, and two, I cannot continually wear yoga pants in public. So, I went shopping for jeans. Oh dear, what an adventure. To realize that you need to go up a pant size because your legs and backside have become bigger is somewhat of a humbling experience. After 90 minutes of failure, I felt like I needed to have a meltdown. The negative self-talk that inevitably takes over… Ladies reading this, you understand my pain.

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Except, in this case, jeans.

Trying on pants is a real test of the ol’ self esteem. I wish this was a story with a happy ending, but those perfect fit jeans are still eluding me. And, I still rock leggings most days. But I know those jeans are out there….somewhere.

I’m a runner. So, what am I doing spending 2 hours at a time at the gym? Well, it started with this guy:

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A couple glasses of this fermented grape goodness:

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And a challenge.

This challenge included 6 weeks of ass-kicking workouts 5-6 days/week. Two days of upper body in a row. Two days of lower body in a row. Two days of cardio, and one day of all over gym goodness. The point was muscle domination.

Upon first hearing about it, I laughed. It sounded like death. I am a runner. I prefer to be outside, and I loathe the idea of treadmills. Spending 10-12 hours a week in the gym sounded perfectly awful. I can handle 2 days a week in the gym, at most. And the words ‘leg day’ meant a good, solid run to me, not squats and Russian dead lifts.

And yet, the word challenge kept niggling in the back of my brain. Why not try it, I thought. I’ve always wanted to be stronger. Perhaps I could learn a thing or two in the gym. It can’t be that difficult.

Or, so I thought.

Here I am now, with two weeks left in the challenge, tree trunks for legs (ain’t no thigh gap here!), a round booty, and arms/shoulders that are becoming too big for my shirts. In fact…

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This happened. Yes, this is a bathroom selfie. Yes, that is a rip between the shoulders of my favorite shirt. Yes, this is from my lifting gains in the last few weeks. And yes, I did cry a little. I mean, come on. The last thing I remember, I was a runner who rejoiced when clothes became loose. I wore running shorts most days and had no clue how to bench press. A curl was what I did to bring the wine glass from the table to my face. The idea that I could become a strong, fit chick is continually appealing, but it’s taking a mindset adjustment as the clothes get a little tighter in weird places. I went from focusing on electrolyte consumption and carb-loading to getting enough protein and wondering if supplements are the way to go.

On the flip side though, the progress I’ve seen in my strength in just these few weeks is unreal. I can do 3 unassisted pull-ups and 7 unassisted tricep dips, whereas I couldn’t  do any of either a month ago. I went from bench pressing just the bar (45lbs) to breaking the 100lb mark just this week! I am almost ashamed to say this, but I actually enjoy going to the gym now.

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But, how could I not enjoy the gym in a shirt like this? Instant motivation. And an excellent Christmas present.

With that, I give you my current challenge. Before and after photos to be posted after the challenge is completed. (Did I really just say that?)

Next up? Marathon training, round 4, starts next week! I’m comin’ for ya, Bend Marathon!

Here’s a little self-love (but skip to almost a minute in for it to get upbeat):