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.

A Yarn About Running.

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Shorts pulled on. Shoes laced. Hair braided. Mind set. Go.

As I tie my running shoes and head out my door, I set my intentions for my run. Is this an interval run, a pace challenge, a hill run? Or is this simply a run because I need it? Am I running because I feel obligated to or because I want to? These questions set the tone for the run as a whole.

Tonight, I ran because I needed it like bananas need peanut butter. I ran because my muscles were tight and sore from my relay last weekend (more on that in my next post.) I ran because it was my therapy

I haven’t written in a while. Fact. Now, I could sit here and give you all kinds of justifiable excuses. But that’s just it, they’re excuses. School, work, relationships, board exams, the dog ate my keyboard…excuses. The real reason I haven’t blogged about running, cupcakes, and happiness is because I’d lost the groove.

I’ve said this more than once, I find my best inspiration for writing after I’ve had a good run. And, I simply have not been putting in the time needed to have good runs, to find that inspiration. Yes, I’ve been running. But, they have not been the feel good runs where magic happens.

Those runs are what make everything else worthwhile. The magic is when everything just falls into place. Your mind isn’t telling you to stop with every step forward. You aren’t worried about time. Or pace. Or distance. You just run. Magic.

It is on those magic runs that I have the best mental clarity.

A side note: You know when you have a skein of yarn that you didn’t bother to roll into a pretty ball? As you use it to knit or crochet, the skein becomes this tangled bunch of yarn. A messy mass of string. The more you tug on it, the worse it gets.

That is how my brain feels before a run. Tangled with the day’s stresses, worries, and the ever-present to do list. It is tangled with thoughts of everything else I should be doing besides running. It is tangled with guilt that I haven’t been more consistent. It is tangled with every bit of negative self-talk tinged with anxiety.

It is not until I’m a couple miles into my run that I can feel those knots start to loosen. I can feel that silly, negative voice in the back of my head start to calm down. The muscle tightness starts shaking loose. The daily stresses start to shake themselves off.

It is so often on these runs that I find myself living in the moment. Once the tangles have been undone and I finally have a pretty ball of yarn. It is then that I can keep my inner voice calm, focus on my breathing, and be thankful for the privilege to run.

This is how today’s run felt. Magic.

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This yarn about running can really be summed up this way:

Before Run = Sad Jess.

After Run = Happy Jess.

And sometimes, it just takes a small reminder to motivate us to keep going.

Set your intentions. Find the magic. Not every run is going to be great. But, remember that a run brings cupcakes, unicorns, and rainbows. Or an untangled mass of yarn. Your choice, really.

 

Never Trust A Fart

Trust :noun: Firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

Mile 17 of the Bend Marathon. We’re finally coming downhill from a 4+ mile climb. I’m sweaty, grouchy, tired, and my body wants to coast down this hill. I let myself relax….and it happened before I could even do anything about it. I trusted a fart. As I continued running, every backside muscle clenched, I wondered to myself the definition of trust. I trusted myself to maintain composure, I trusted my bodily functions to contain themselves and act appropriately. I was wrong. 

Thankfully, there was a port-a-potty within a half mile of the accident, so I was able to clean myself up the best I could. I never dreamed that this would happen in real life!

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When I try to think of how to describe the Bend Marathon, the only word that comes to mind is humbling. The course was humbling for even experienced runners; plenty of hills and trails to contend with. It humbled me, mind, body and soul. The 4+ mile long hill, that started around mile 12, humbled my mind into realizing that the mental strength I thought I possessed wasn’t adequate even if I tried to convince myself otherwise. It humbled my body into realizing that the 2-3 days/week (if that) of training was not nearly enough to prepare me for this race. This race humbled my soul in that not every person loves to run long distances. And, even if you love them for a while, you may not always feel that way.

I truly felt I loved to run long distances until I ran this race. Maybe it was the lack of training. Maybe it was the lack of happy vibes. Maybe it was the lack of good sleep the nights preceding the race. But, I finally learned what people refer to as “the dark place” when running long distances; that emotional, negative, pit of despair. It was the Blerch in all of his terrible glory. I had to run away from those feelings like the grim reaper (or the Blerch) was chasing after me.

I cried for the first time during a race. Less than two miles from the finish line, in the middle of a park with people around, I lost it. Big, heaving sobs and alligator tears when I told Eli that I just couldn’t do it. 

I still crossed the finish line. I still ate my cupcakes. But not without a small change of heart. I learn a lot about myself while running 26.2 miles. It was certainly no different in this race.

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A huge thank you to Ida’s Cupcakes for the frosted post-race deliciousness!

 

I learned what it meant to push yourself, even when there’s nothing left. Even when there’s no desire to even put one foot in front of the other. You separate mind and foot; you force the body to keep going. It is amazing how quickly weakened the brain can become in such a long race if you aren’t prepared.

I learned what ill preparation does to your mind and body in a marathon. I learned how important proper hydration is, and how much gummy bears really mean to me.

I learned that sometimes the worst side of you comes out during a race. I had a sailor’s mouth and a spiteful heart. The things coming out of my mouth after the halfway point…I truly don’t know how Eli kept by my side, repeating, “I don’t care what you say. We promised to cross the finish line together.”

In the week leading up to the race, I had to be honest with myself. Yes, we had fabulous shirts made for the race. But. The training was nowhere what it needed to be to run a solid race and potentially PR. I was accepting of that fact, and Eli and I decided to run this race for fun. And perhaps take a few selfies along the way…

 

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The above photo was a little more than halfway through, and about a mile into the 4 mile long hill. I was still feeling pretty decent, and even had the thought of beasting my way up the entire hill…Hence the face.

And, here we are, only a few miles out from the finish line. At this point, I think Eli hated the camera as much as I hated the thought of having to place one foot in front of the other. Where had all of our joy gone?

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I wanted to write an inspiring post. I wanted to put a positive spin on a race that did not at all go to plan. I wanted to write how loving, positive and supportive Eli and I were to each other throughout the race. (We were both buttheads.) But, sometimes, things don’t go as planned.

The Bend marathon was a beautiful course. A mixture of river trail, city streets, a daunting uphill climb, and a glorious downhill to the finish. More aid stations than I ever could have imagined, gummy bears galore, and energetic race volunteers. I ate my weight in bananas offered post-race, and the libations were perfection.

I thought the course did a wonderful job of giving a taste of the city of Bend, the beauty of some of their parks, as well as the Deschutes River. It gave those from out of state an idea of all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.

Aside from my bad attitude, the only other negative thing I can say about this race was the organization/flow. The 300 and something marathoners started at the same time as the 3,000+ half-marathoners. It made for a very crowded river trail, with passing a near impossibility.

Overall, I would do this course again in a heartbeat. I love Bend. The views were fantastic. The course kicked my ass. The aid stations and volunteers were wonderful. And, did I mention the giant wall-mount bottle opener for a medal?!

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We crossed the finish line holding hands, with smiles on our faces. We learned a lot during this race, both about ourselves and each other. The two most important were these:

Celebrate finish lines, not finish times.

And believe me, never trust a fart.

 

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.

Tutus, Snowmen, and Continuity.

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It was a clear December morning, and all I could hear was the rhythmic sound of my feet on the path, the thump-thump of my heartbeat in my ears, and the sound of each breath as I exhaled. With each exhalation, the fog of my breath steamed up my glasses. Crisp morning runs like these are my favorite. I ran without thought of pace or distance. I ran to let my mind flow with random thoughts. I ran to appreciate. I ran to reflect on the wonderful, beautiful year that is nearly over.

Last January, I wrote a post called Full of Good Intentions. Among other things, I wrote of New Years resolutions versus New Years Intentions. It made me smile during my run to think about the intentions I’d set a year ago. Last year’s mantra was, ‘wherever you are, be all there.’  The key was balance. Not only physical, but emotional as well. I think, even with my busy and sometimes ridiculous schedule, I managed to do a pretty good job of this throughout the year. One particular moment stood out in my mind. I was beyond stressed with school. -Multiple exams, large projects looming over my head, requirements in dental hygiene clinic to be fulfilled, not to mention an amount of family drama. Normally when I’m stressed, I either run or bake as therapy. In this case, I drove to the beach. With the sound of the waves crashing into the shore, the crunch of the sand beneath my feet, and the salty, brisk air slapping my face, I thought to myself, “wherever you are, be all there.” So, I did. I stood there, breathing deeply. I pushed out all other thoughts. I focused on the moment at hand, thankful to be alive, to think, to love. As my toes sank deeper into the sand, my stresses seemed to disappear with the receding tide. This is what is means to find balance.

This is not to say that I’ve achieved balance in life. Like happiness, I think finding balance is a continuous journey, as life is constantly evolving. That is why I want to set my intention for 2015 as the continuance of 2014 in finding balance. I want to find balance between school and play, social time and ‘me’ time (even if it means learning to say no), and balance between working out because it makes me happy and feels good and working out because I feel I have to.

My other intentions for 2014 were these:

  • Drink 80-100oz of water a day
  • Eat vegetables with every meal
  • Take more photos
  • Write daily
  • PR my next half and full marathon

I can happily report that I ate vegetables 3x/day and drank my quota of water >85% of this year. Now, where’s my skinny body?!

I also PR’ed my marathon in April, finishing more than 10 minutes faster than my first marathon. I did not, however, PR a half this year. The leg injury being a large factor in this.

Taking more photos and writing daily did not happen either. However, with this I provide a very well worded quote and excuse: “You can do anything, but not everything.” My 100% cannot be given to everything, and I had to decide where to place my priorities. Number one: school. Number two: keeping my sanity. I did take photos throughout the year (if the nearly 3,000 photos on my phone say anything.) I did write fairly regularly as well. (Whether this was blogging, writing in a journal, or the occasional bit of poetry.) But, I didn’t want to take two things I enjoy doing and make it something I was obligated to do. Admittedly, I should have blogged more often. I miss reaching out and helping to inspire and entertain others with my internet ramblings.

With that I say, bring on 2015! This year’s intentions:

  • Continuity of balance and personal growth
  • PR my next marathon (Bend Marathon on April 26th)
  • Run the entire length of Wildwood Trail in Forest Park (30.2 miles!)
  • Graduate Dental Hygiene school in August with my sanity still intact
  • Travel outside the country at least once
  • Continue making healthy eating choices (less processed food, more fresh fruits and vegetables)
  • Cross train! (I’ve actually already started focusing on this and cannot wait to share with you the small changes…in my next post.)

Goals. Goals should be measurable and achievable. Goals should have objectives. New Years resolutions are goals. New Years intentions are goals. Make them reasonable. Make them measurable so as to be able to track progress. I refuse to set myself up for failure.

Speaking of failing…

What does one do when it is the weekend before a Monday morning, 600 question, cumulative, all class, all day final exam? Run a half marathon whilst wearing a tutu, of course. Studying is for overachievers.

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I’m kidding. Kind of. I ran the half, yes. I also kicked out my house guests to explore Portland while I studied the rest of my weekend away. In case you were curious, I passed. Sweet relief.

The Holiday Half for the third year in a row. This was the race that started my running obsession in 2012, and this will probably be the one race I continue to repeat every year. The course is flat, the aid stations are wonderfully placed, the weather is unpredictable, and cupcakes never tasted so good as after this race. The flavor this time was chocolate with peanut buttercream frosting.

This year, I was joined again by my lovely sister, her new husband, and Eli. We all dressed as snowmen. Yes, with tutus. And buttons. And orange noses. And mini top hats. As many of you readers know, I have a particular love for doing activities with tutus (Especially this one.) I had only gone so far as to run a 15k in a tutu, but never a half-marathon. It worked out great. For the first time though, we made all of the tutus!

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Two bottles of wine, 15 felt buttons, 4 elastic waistbands, and 32 yards of shiny white tulle later, we had our costumes. The tutus took more tulle than I thought they would. But overall, I loved making them!

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The race itself was fantastic. The weather was perfection. Clear blue skies and brisk, but warm enough to wear shorts and be fairly comfortable. The four of us stayed together the whole run. However,  the dude on the far left of the photo above rocked the socks off his race way ahead of us. I’d like to think he would’ve run faster if he had worn a tutu…

The only downside to the race? My 3 asthma attacks. Yes, 3. And, I even had my inhaler. As I was struggling to breathe, I reflected back to my Pharmacology class and tried to remember what the maximum recommended dose of Albuterol was…to no avail. So, I took another pull off my inhaler. The struggle was real.

I am so thankful to my wonderful family for sticking with me through the entire race, even when I had to walk and wheeze. We ran, we laughed, we sang too many Frozen songs, but most of all, we enjoyed ourselves. -And ate cupcakes at the finish line. Because that is what running is about.

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Happy 2015, everyone! Here’s to another year of balance, growth, and many, many adventures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full of Good Intentions

This is where I spent the last days of 2013. Where it matters most: with family and the ocean. Two of the most amazing things in my life. This photo happens to have been taken on a run. With my sister. But more on this at another time.

Happy 2014! The second day of the year, and I already have six races lined up. One of which, I’m proud to announce, is in a little over two weeks! I’m running the Redding Marathon Relay. It was a Facebook cry for help from my 4th grade science teacher. She’d lost one of her relay partners and needed someone, anyone, to take their place. Sure, it’s a 6.5 hour drive. But how many people can say they’ve run a marathon with their elementary school science teacher? A phone call was placed, and decisions were made. Redding, here I come!

As it is just past the beginning of a new year, I thought it only appropriate to embrace the proverbial New Years Resolutions. After sitting down about a week or so ago to create my yearly list, I thought about deciding on things that I would actually stick to or continue working at to achieve. Telling myself I’m going to do 30 push-ups and chin-ups for 365 days straight isn’t realistic. Nor is making it a goal to run 6 days every week. Life happens. Which is why I decided to create a different kind of list in its entirety. It isn’t a list of resolutions, it is a list of intentions. At the top of this list is ‘Balance.’ It is such a broad term, and can be interpreted in a number of ways. But, for me, that’s the point. I want balance in the physical, walking across a tight rope sense. I want balance between school and play, between social time and ‘me’ time, and between training runs and running naked and free (no watch, no music, no Garmin, just for the pleasure.) Beyond that, my other intentions are fairly typical, but a little more clear and definable:

  • Drink more water (80-100 oz per day),
  • Eat vegetables with every meal (because everyone loves spinach for breakfast!),
  • Take more photos (currently embarking on a photo a day challenge),
  • Write daily (even if it’s only a sentence or two.),
  • and PR my next half and full marathon. (without becoming obsessed with pace and injuring myself again…)

I’ve many others, but these are the intentions worth mentioning.

Along the lines of New Year’s resolutions or intentions, I’ve had a number of people ask me recently how I got into running and/or how they could begin their (surely to be) lifelong love of running. A couple even made it a goal for 2014. I’ve been contemplating on just how to present this post for a while now.

How to get started running. It’s simple, really. Get off your ass. Put on some shoes. Walk out the door. Put one foot in front of the other. Get out there and go. Shut up and run. Push yourself a little. But is there more to it?  It took a little bit to formulate how I’d even begun running. When/how I even started. For those of you who haven’t checked out my About Me page, I’ll give you a little synopsis:

I’ve been a sporadic runner for a number of years. I ran track for three years back in elementary/middle school. I was slow. I was chubby. I was that kid who turned cherry red and ran into the nurse’s office nearly every practice because I couldn’t get my asthma under control. As years passed, I started running to rid myself of daily stresses and clear my head. Never more than 2-3 miles, and I never fully enjoyed it, I just knew it would settle me down.

I ran my first 5k race in 2010, finishing with a 10:15/mile pace. Proud of myself for even finishing, I decided to run the same race the next year. In Summer of 2012, I ran another 5k with a co-worker. At this race, I ran into a good friend, who has since fallen in love and subsequently fallen of the face of the earth. (We all know how that goes.) With this friend was Lexi, a badass girl who’d just moved home from Boston. We hit it off. We even became Facebook official friends. It was real friendship. In September, she throws out a post on Facebook. Something along the lines of, “Help! I’ve just been talked into a half-marathon. Who’s training with me?!” This girl, right here. I am. I called her, and the rest is history. Holiday Half was completed 3 months later, and here I am with another year gone by.

I’m a baby runner, for all intents and purposes. I’ve been consistently running for less than 2 years. I chat with those that have been running 10+ years, and they just give me that smile. You know the one I’m talking about. It says, ‘you’re so cute with your doe eyes and eager spirit. I remember those days.’ I have immense respect for those runners. Running has become a part of their lifestyle and not just a hobby. They have this store of knowledge in all things running, and I can only hope to get there one day. For now, I’ll take the inexperienced, doe-eyed look with the unquenchable enthusiasm for all things running related and impart it to you, dear readers.

With this and a giant smile, I present a little list of how to get started:

1. Find the motivation. The desire, the drive. Most of you have this if you’re even contemplating running. The hardest step is always the first. Cultivating the want to even begin something that is sure to be difficult is commendable in itself.
2. Make a goal. What kind of distance are you shooting for? Set objectives. Someday, you want to run a marathon, yes. But right now, you need to make it a goal to complete that first mile without stopping. Or to complete that 5k you signed up for in the spring. Whatever the goal is, make it clear and measurable. Make “I want to run more,” into “I want to run three days a week consistently.”
3. Make a plan. Be realistic. Training for a half-marathon in 2 months is not realistic if you’re still a couch potato. Runner’s World has a lot of awesome training plans for 5k, 10k and half-marathons.There is also the Couch to 5k program which is perfect if you’re just getting started. I think they even have an app. You could even rock on over to Pinterest and find a plethora of plans and info. Whatever you decide to do, make it a doable plan. The idea is not to set oneself up for failure.
4. Purchase running shoes. The real, real good kind. Don’t scrimp. These shoes are your equipment. The wrong fit could cause pain, injuries, discontent. Besides, people at running stores know what they’re talking about. They’ll get you into a proper fitting shoe. My bffs are the guys over at Foot Traffic. Like most running stores, they’ll analyze your gait and get you into the shoe that you need. They’ll answer your questions, and they have more info than you’ll know what to do with.
5. Download an app. The options are endless: Strava, Nike +, MapMyRun, RunKeeper, C25k. Keep track. But not always. This will give you an idea of pace, of distance. That way you can adjust accordingly. As you start running more, a GPS watch > phone apps. But it’s all about starting small. The app will help you to stay on track and see improvement.
6. Start slow. The first time you lace up those new shoes and step outside your door, please for the love of all that is good, don’t set yourself up for failure. This goes back to making a plan. Day 1 of 5k training should not be a 3 mile run. It’s starting out slow and easy.
7. Be patient. Expect setbacks. Don’t stop. Be kind to yourself, recognize accomplishment, and don’t be defeated by setbacks. Remember why you started running. Hopefully the reason was for yourself, for self-improvement, better health. Focus on those.

Run. Do yoga. Lift. Bike. Dance. Walk. Skip. Jump. Ski. Just MOVE. It’s the new year, a new start, a new smile, new intentions. Remember balance.

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