Tough, but pretty.

I walk into the gym on a Sunday night. I’ve been stressed. I need this. Mentally ready to smash this workout, I turn on the appropriate music, Christina Aguilera. Headphones go in and I’m ready to tune out.

As I warm up, an older gentleman approaches me. I set down my dumbbells and pop out one of my earphones. The man proceeds to tell me in the kindest voice possible, “I’m not trying to flirt with you. But good, bad, or indifferent, you look a lot like Ronda Rousey, tough but pretty.” I thanked him, he wished me a good day, and walked away.

I stood there for a moment, somewhat taken aback. Oftentimes, I brush aside compliments. (Not to say that I receive them often.) I smile politely, thank the person, but I’ve always had somewhat of a rule to not let those words go to my head. Fear of too large an ego, perhaps. “Tough, but pretty” was different. It felt genuine and it not only put a smile on my face, but bolstered the rest of my workout. Tough was the last thing I’d felt in recent days, and how perfect was it to be both tough and pretty? The ultimate combination for this girl.

Random compliments are often the most genuine. However, I almost felt guilty for letting someone’s random (and heartfelt) words affect me in such a way. I had to stop and ask myself why though. Isn’t that what life should be about? In the words of Hannah Brencher, “It’s putting your selfishness on the back-burner to make sure someone else feels like they can conquer something today.” With those words, I felt like I could accomplish my workout.

It is often the small words that mean the most.


I spent a long weekend disconnecting in the beautiful PNW. I had to disconnect to reconnect, both to myself and to the world around me. The phone was put aside. The camera stayed (mostly) tucked away. I did not take many photos this weekend. Which, if you know me, is somewhat absurd and quite rare. I found myself wanting to savor the moments, the sights, the sounds, the emotions surrounding each place I visited. Instead, I took mental photos and relished in the disconnect from the stresses of the daily grind.

When the year started, instead of having New Year’s resolutions, I decided on a mantra. Something I could gently use to remind myself of what intentions I have for this year and my growth. “Do more of what makes you happy.” That is exactly what this weekend was about. Re-learning to love myself, appreciating my strengths as well as embracing my weaknesses. It was about finding happiness in the small things and remembering what it is like to show self-care and love.

So often I get caught in the day to day grind. It is all about how much I accomplish, how many checkmarks are made on the sticky note to-do list. It is about how I’m improving myself every. single. day. How clean the house is. How shiny my newest photo on IG is. Measurable daily accomplishments. At the end of the day though, I’ve started asking myself, ‘what did I do for me?’ I take ten minutes for myself and write. I set aside the phone, computer, and other distractions and pick up a paper and pen. I reflect on the day’s events and indulge in a little self-care. It is in these small moments each day that I find myself reconnecting to me.

I went for a run on the waterfront during this disconnect weekend. Nearly 7 miles of crisp air, beautiful sights, sounds, and catharsis. My lungs ached for more, more, in a way that only other runners can understand. My feet felt light and my body responded in a way that only happens once every 674 runs. Never mind that I received a number of odd looks as I was the girl in hot pink shorts in 45 degree weather with a giant smile pasted on my face. I was running happy.

It was on this run that I thought of Oiselle’s increasingly appropriate catchphrase: Head up, wings out. I used to run a lot of trails. With trail running, it is difficult to stare straight ahead. Your eyes have to be trained on the ground, lest you trip over a tree root, rock, or trip over your own two feet. I’ve done all three. I blame these trail experiences on my tendency to stare at the ground while I run.

On last weekend’s waterfront run though, I noticed just how much my eyes were trained on the pavement beneath my feet. Rather than brush it aside, I attempted to retrain my eyes to take in the sights around and in front of me. I thought of my dad when he was teaching me to drive, “Jessica, the best drivers are often looking 10 seconds in front of them to anticipate what they need to do next. Keep looking ahead.”

A couple minutes into the ‘retraining,’ I looked down at my run watch. I was running a full 30″ per mile faster by simply adjusting where I set my gaze. Let’s talk about the physical effects. Your head is up, thereby opening up your airway. Your lungs are actually getting more oxygen, which equates to more efficiency. Not only are you looking to what is ahead, you are aware of what is around you at the time, fully able to savor the moment.

How much can this apply to daily life? So often I get caught up in the day to day grind. Focusing on the to do list, the work schedule. Was this not said above? How much better off am I to focus on the sights ahead, head up and wings out.

So often, we let others’ influence and opinion govern our actions. So much of this last year, I feel as if I’ve been held back. Often chastised for my constant need to look to the future, to plan, to set goals and to set measurable objectives to reach said goals, I’ve hesitated to push for true growth. I am finally in a place in my life where I am again learning to stand on my own two feet and know what it means to be myself. I have realized how important it is to set my sights ahead and dream so big it scares my pants off. To realize that in order to enrich someone else’s life, I need to first learn how to enrich my own and be happy with me. Flaws and imperfections included. It is not weakness to be independent, opinionated, and goal oriented. I am focused. I am strong.

I am tough, but pretty.

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?

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Post…

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We interrupt our regularly scheduled, running-focused blog post, to introduce the newest member of the family. Meet Jax, our 7-week old miniature Australian Shepherd. So far, he’s a cuddly and curious little guy. He doesn’t care too much for the rain, he’s terrified of puddles, but he already loves a good ball to chase. Right now, Jax spends most of his day sleeping. I cannot wait to take him out on runs and hikes when he’s a little bigger and the walks to the end of the block don’t exhaust him.

Jax was somewhat of a spontaneous decision. We were out in Tri-cities visiting friends and doing a photo shoot (settingthingsstraightphotography.wordpress.com) and came across a listing in a local paper for mini Aussies. It was the best weekend I’ve had in a while. Friends, photography, road trip and a new addition to the family.

Heading out for a run before it gets dark. Then, it’s back to our regularly scheduled program. Enjoy the cuteness!

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First Bath!

 

You Spin My Head Right Round…13.

I haven’t decided which is harder, lacing up my shoes and walking out the door or running the actual 11 miles. The mental game is often times more difficult than the physical. I psych myself out, I find all of the excuses, I conjure up tummy aches and knee pain. I fall into the thought pattern that I’m just too tired, I wouldn’t be able to put 100% into it, so why should I do it? The mental struggle is real.

This round of half-marathon training is no different. I am currently in week 5 of my 13th round of training. Holiday Half, here I come! You would think that 3 weeks of zero running while in Central America last month would restart all of my motivation. (More on the trip later.) Not the case. This round of training has had an entirely new focus: speed. I am going to PR this next half-marathon. Track workouts once a week, tempo run once a week and a long run. I’ve gone from lifting heavy 6 days a week with intermittent running to focused running 3 days a week, lifting heavy 3 days a week and one active rest day.

It looks a little like this:

# Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
1 9/20-27 Track

8×100

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

7 L Off
2 9/28-10/4 Track

6×200

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

9 L Off
3 10/5-11 Track

8×100

 

Leg Day

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

5.5 

Tempo

Chest

Back

Core

11L  Off
4 10/12-18 Hill Rpt

5×30sec

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

12 L Body

Weight

 

5 10/19-25 1,2,3,4-

321

Ladder

 

LD 2

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

13 L Body

weight

6 10/26-11/1 Hill Rpt

8x30secs

LD 3

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 T Chest

Back

Core

9 L 3-5 E
7 11/2-8 8×100,

4×400

 

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

7.5 T Chest

Back

Core

15 L 3-5E
8 11/9-15 1,2,3,4,5

4,3,2,1

Ladder

 

LD 2

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

6.5 T Chest

Back

Core

13 L  Off
9 11/16-22 8×100

 

LD 3

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

5.5 T Chest

Back

Core

11 L 3-5E
10 11/23-29 4×400

 

LD 1

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

4.5 T Chest

Back

Core

9 L Off
11 11/30-12/6 8×100

 

LD Any

Core

Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.5 T Chest

Back

Core

7 L  Off
12 12/7-13 Rest or

Stretch

6.5 E Bi/Tri

Shoulders

Core

3.1 E Chest

Back

Core

REST! 13.1!

 

Track days included a mile warm up and a mile cool down in addition to 4 different dynamic stretches like walking lunges, squats, butt kickers etc.

Each of our gym days are a concentrated power hour in the specified muscle group. It’s heavy lifting and a killer challenge. The tempo run is typically 50% of that week’s long run and it is done at a 10k pace. The long runs on the weekend are generally run naked. That is, without a Garmin or headphones, so I can disconnect and actually remember why I love running.

Like I had mentioned, this round of training is focused on speed. I truly want to get better. But, let me tell you, the track workouts are a reality check! I consider myself an adult most of the time. I hate adulting, but I didn’t think there was much 5 year old left in me. I was wrong. Jess, the small child, comes out during track workouts. I must have thrown 3 temper tantrums during an hour workout. There was so much negative energy, pouting, arm crossing and throwing myself down on the ground. At one point, Eli made the mistake of asking how I was doing. I wailed, “I’m f*&%ing AWFUL!”

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I do give my best effort though. I push myself into asthma attack oblivion. I push beyond my comfort zone. That 5 year old can be quieted if I focus on the track in front of me. I keep my head up. My wings out. Thank you, Oiselle.

It’s all going to make me faster, right?

All of my complaining and failed adulting aside, I actually like track workouts more than I do tempo runs. I have the hardest time motivating myself to push hard for that many miles. Anyone else have such a complicated relationship with running?

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I am looking forward to seeing the improvements in my running. By designing this challenge, I knew it was going to kick my booty. I knew there were parts I was going to hate. What is that adage though, ‘if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.’ I’m ready to change. I want to run faster.

I also want to keep the balance. I love running. I love running for the mental clarity, for the run highs, for the happiness. I love running to discover new trails and to both lose and discover myself. When I push myself to run faster, I lose that joy. It becomes solely about getting through the workout and not the joy of the run itself. I’m working to find joy in the challenge.

Maybe it looks like this:

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Or, perhaps this is just what a break during a long run looks like.