Guest Post: Sierra’s Journey

“Feeling healthy and feeling good about yourself is NOT a luxury – it’s an absolute necessity.”

In honor of May being National Mental Health Awareness Month, I asked my daughter Sierra to rehash a social media post she shared late last year about her own journey into better physical and mental health.

From Sierra:

At first, I was very hesitant to share my story of how fitness has positively affected my life because I am not very good at opening up to people but I was encouraged to share my story.

My sophomore year of high school, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I had always noticed when I worked out more often, exercise helped my symptoms. During this time, I was involved in competitive cheerleading and track & field, and I always felt my best after a rigorous practice. The summer before my freshman year of college, I was working out harder than ever. I was constantly in the gym and I felt amazing.

Unfortunately, as soon as I arrived to college, my schedule and habits changed and I completely stopped working out. I continued to be somewhat sedentary and ate unhealthily through my freshman and sophomore years. After two years of not working out and eating whatever I wanted, I had gained 20 lbs. When I realized how much weight I had gained and saw how great of shape Becky was in after a year of getting back into fitness and eating healthier, I became eager to make a change in my life. I was so afraid to begin though. At first, I didn’t know if I would even remember how to workout. I had also become very intimidated by the gym and was afraid to go. I felt as though I would be judged if I went.

In May of 2016, I started running and attending the HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) classes Becky taught at HIIT Like A Girl and eating healthier. Running was the main aspect that really sparked my fire. I had been a sprinter in high school and had never run more than 2 miles at one time. I also thought long distance running looked like torture and had no interest in trying it….until last May.

In the beginning, I started out by running/walking 3 miles a few days a week. Eventually, I was able to run the whole 3 miles. Then, I ran my first 5k on July 4th (Liberty 5k). Running a race felt so incredible and I was happy to finish in under 30 minutes!

When I came back to school for the fall semester, I decided I wanted to try and go back to the gym to start lifting weights. I began going with a friend who knew more about weightlifting which made me feel more comfortable having someone to workout with.

Since last May, my life has changed greatly for the better. Fitness has brought so much more confidence, motivation and positivism into my life. Dealing with anxiety and depression has always made it so hard for me to become and remain motivated. I’ve always had to work extra hard to get myself going every day, and even though I’ve been pretty successful in my life, I had struggled tremendously with getting myself there. I used to have the most difficult time getting myself out of bed before noon. I would often miss class or show up late because I just couldn’t get the motivation to go.

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Now, I wake up much earlier (usually around 8 am) and I even have been getting up at 5:45 am for sunrise yoga on Thursday mornings at my college gym. I find when I start my day out with yoga, I feel so much more relaxed. I also run 3-4 times a week and workout to HIIT videos on YouTube. Not only have I run multiple 5ks, but I have also run an 8k and a two 10ks within a year of starting to run. I would like to run a half marathon by the end of the year, which I would have never thought was a possible goal for me before. In addition, I lost the weight I had gained since freshman year. Goodbye Freshman 15!

It’s truly an unbelievable feeling being able to conquer longer distances and achieve personal records. I also sit down and eat breakfast almost every morning before beginning my day now. I was never really a breakfast type of person before but now I always make sure I have time to eat breakfast because it helps with my energy level.

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I barely missed any class this past semester and the class that I did miss was not due to mental illness. Now, I have the motivation to get through each day with a positive mindset. I’m constantly busy due to school, work, sorority, and working out. I don’t even have much time to watch TV, but I haven’t felt stressed like I would have before. I am so much happier and have set a goal for 2017 of continuing to better myself physically, mentally and spiritually. I want to improve myself in all aspects so that I can become the best version of myself. I would not be where I am right now if I had not started running last year. I am so incredibly blessed to have the ability to be able run and workout, and I want to continue to do so as long as I can. As for the future, I plan to continue learning as much as I can about fitness and nutrition so that I can continue a healthy lifestyle and help other people.

My advice to others?

Starting to work out can be intimidating, but it can be extremely beneficial for anyone suffering from a mental illness. If you’re just starting out and nervous, even a run/walk for 30 minutes 3 days a week can be helpful. I’m not saying exercise will completely cure mental illness, but exercise is a natural form of medication I strongly believe in. I still have bad days but even on my worst days, getting a workout in or going on a run can make a big difference for me.

For anyone who may be struggling with a mental illness, I just want to say I know how it can be stressful and sometimes you feel like there’s no way out, but YOU CAN’T GIVE UP. Keep pushing yourself to find ways to put more positivity in your life; fill your life with positive people who you can lean on when times are rough.

You are stronger than you think and you will get through it.”

Thanks for sharing Sierra!

Dare to Jump

“It is not failure itself that holds you back; it is the fear of failure that paralyzes you.” – Brian Tracy

Some days blog topics come easy, and some days I feel like I’m searching and searching for something to write about. Most of the time, the answer is right there in front of me based on an experience I am either going through or preparing for.

Later this week, I am going to attempt my first official speaking engagement, or rather share my story publicly which sounds way much less intimidating.

I absolutely DREAD standing in front of a crowd and speaking. The thought of doing this is probably just as bad as a fear of the dentist, or nails on a chalkboard.

Yes, that bad.

The thought of being in front of a gathering of people, all eyes on me, is paralyzing.

I worry about what I say, what people are thinking, wishing I was funnier, wishing I could crawl under a table and hide. Fear of judgement. Fear of failure. Fear of passing out.

I’m surprised I haven’t had the cliche dream about imagining I’m in front of an audience and I am only in my underwear….there’s still time.

Yes, I realize I teach group fitness classes and coach a kids running club, but that’s different. Once I’m moving, I get in the zone and my mind just flows better. Hmm, maybe I’ll do jumping jacks while I tell my story.

Back to this heart-pounding experience I am preparing myself for.

A wise man told me recently to be successful, I need to share myself with others. Go out and tell my story to anyone who would listen.

So, in a few days, I am going to put on my big girl panties and just do it. Tell a group about my weight loss and return to running journey. I don’t plan on writing out what I plan to say; just a basic outline. I want to speak from the heart and hopefully something I will say will inspire someone.

Do you share my fear of public speaking? Are you afraid of change? Do you fear being uncomfortable? Maybe you want to start working out but you fear stepping into the gym for the first time? Perhaps you have an idea for a business but you fear the jump.

I will tell you there is beauty in taking the road unknown. Every time we push ourselves into an area we fear, we have a great opportunity to learn about ourselves. Getting comfortable with the uncomfortable is important for personal development.

As I prepared for this post, I came across this article from Forbes: Why Feeling Uncomfortable Is The Key To Success.

An excerpt: “…when you go out of your way to experience new things, or when you let new things happen to you, your body creates brand new neural pathways that fuel your creative spark and enhance your memory”.

The article goes on to explain how we should embrace the uncomfortable. “Putting yourself in new and unfamiliar situations triggers a unique part of the brain that releases dopamine, nature’s make-you-happy chemical.” How about that!? Our fear may actually make us happy!

I challenge you to take a step outside your comfort zone into the fear zone with me. Make a plan and let’s dip our toes into the unknown ocean together.

Let’s give ourselves a chance to grow.

Remember, you are only confined by the walls you build yourself.

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And no… I am not telling you when and where this will speaking engagement will be. Maybe after I get this first one in the bag, another “Story Time with Becky” will come to your town soon 😉

Workout Wednesday: Core

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Runner or not, when the warmer weather arrives we all start thinking of trying to get tank top arms or rock hard abs. Abs may be made in the kitchen, but you still need to work on your core strength in the gym.

So, what do you consider your core?

Most obvious answer may be abdominal muscles, which are actually a very small part of the core. Our core consists of a variety of muscles which stabilize the spine and pelvis, and run the entire length of the torso including our glutes, hamstrings, obliques, and hips.  

In addition to rocking your summer attire, building a stronger core will also help you be a better runner. Benefits of adding core into your workout routine include:

  • Stabilizing muscles we use for posture. Have you ever had the opportunity to see your form at the end of a race; maybe a particularly difficult finish? Our postural muscles begin to fatigue just as much as our legs do. Maximizing power in your glutes and obliques helps create a better running posture and use less excess energy.
  • Stave off injury. Core exercises help reduce injury by helping to withstand the repetitive nature of running.
  • Create a solid foundation. Core exercises can help improve your balance which is helpful in missteps especially on uneven terrain.
  • And of course, you will look good in your racing attire.

Core for Runners V.1

Plank: Assume a basic push-up position. Rest weight on elbows and forearms flat on the floor. Raise hips and maintain a straight line from shoulders to feet. Position can be modified on knees. Hold for up to 60 seconds.

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Target: deep core and strengthen your lower back.

Running Benefit: Helps prepare core for hills and fatigue late in the race.

 

Reverse Plank:  Sit on floor with legs straight out in front of you and arms at your sides. Lift your hips off the ground and hold for up to 60 seconds.

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Target: work on glutes and hamstrings in this plank variation.

Running Benefit: Helps generate explosive power in the stride and protect against injury.

 

Donkey Kicks: Start on your hands and knees – hands should be under shoulders and knees under hips. Flex your feet. Keep the knee bent to 90 degrees and drive one heel up towards ceiling. Squeeze glutes, lower leg and repeat. Do 15-20 repetitions per leg.

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Target: hips, lower back and glutes

Running Benefit: Helps maintain a fluid running stride.

 

Fire Hydrants: Start on your hands and knees – hands should be under shoulders and knees under hips. Raise one leg out to the side, keeping the knee bent at 90 degrees. Raise, lower and repeat. Do 15-20 repetitions per leg.

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Target: hips.

Running Benefit: Injury prevention in hip and knee.

 

Windshield Wipers: Lie on your back on the floor and raise your legs 90 degrees. Spread your arms straight out to your sides for support. Rotate legs to one side, stopping short of touching the floor. Rotate to other side. Do 15 total repetitions.

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Target: obliques, hips.

Running Benefit: Strengthen oblique muscles will help minimize side-to-side motion while running. Less energy expenditure = more efficient runner.

Single Leg Lowering w/Crunch: Lie face up on a mat with both legs straight up in the air. Lower your left leg to ground and return to upright position. Do a crunch up towards legs then return to starting position. Lower right leg, return to upright and crunch. Repeat. Do 15 repetitions per leg.

Target: abs, hips, quads.

Running Benefit: Overall core challenge.

 

Try these exercises after your next run. You don’t need a rock-solid six pack to be a good runner, but a strong core will definitely help (and you’ll feel good too!).

WWPhotoContest

Make sure you take a photo of yourself doing one of the Workout Wednesday exercises then post on the Facebook or Twitter pages of RunningDad.com or RunaissanceMom to be entered to win a prize!

LEGEND® Compression Wear Review

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Several blog posts ago, I discussed how running gear has changed since the last time I hit the pavement approximately 15 years ago. One of the new types of apparel I was seeing runners wear were compression socks and compression leg sleeves. After running the Richmond Marathon and experiencing severe calf cramps, I did wonder if compression sleeves would have helped minimize the discomfort.

Knowing a little about the benefits of compression from being in the health field, I was curious as to the effect on running. One of the awesome guys over at LEGEND® Compression Wear asked if I was interested in trying a pair of their compression socks or sleeves and I was happy to oblige. Since I already have a favorite brand of running socks, I decided to try the leg sleeves.

legend-compression-sizing-chartThe website has an easy to follow guide on how to measure your legs to determine the size you will need to order. The 7 (soon to be 8) colors available are basic solid colors.

After receiving my pair, I wore them around the house for recovery after a relatively tough workout. The sleeves were easy to pull on and off; the material felt soft and hugged my calves. Snug; but not too tight.

16523605_10154254111602747_1633898455_oI tested out the sleeves on a long, slow run at first and also have worn during two recent 5Ks. Both races, I set a new personal record. Coincidence? Maybe. However, I can tell you I did not experience any fatigue in my calves while running. Due to my positive experience with the leg sleeves, I plan on continuing use during long runs, races and for recovery.

Key features and potential benefits of compression for runners:
– Improved endurance
– Increased power output
– Decreased shin splints and calf cramps
– Faster recovery time
– Reduced vibration
– Increased oxygen levels and blood circulation
– Moisture wicking and UV protection

LEGEND® Compression Wear differs from other companies offering similar products due to their background in medical compression therapy. All products are proudly made in the USA.

In addition to a great product, I also love their mission statement. “The mission of LEGEND® Compression Wear is to improve the performance of every athlete—from the casual jogger to the competitive triathlete. Our sports compression socks, sleeves & apparel are designed with you in mind so you can perform at your best. Our mission is to promote the notion that LEGENDS are created from great people, great courage and great accomplishments.”

Want to make 2017 LEGENDARY? Follow this link for $15 OFF your first order at LEGEND® Compression Wear. Why not try? There is a 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee – if you are not completely satisfied with your product, you may return free of charge within 30 days of your purchase.

I, myself, would be interested in brighter colors or patterned sleeves (runners like to be a little flashy). However, LEGEND® Compression Wear wanted to keep the focus on the athlete with a simple and understated design. So join me, and be a LEGEND.

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BQ Journey – Step 1: Find a coach.

“A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.” – Tom Landry

Although once a seasoned and competitive runner, returning to running after 1.5 decades was intimidating. When I was younger, I regretfully never kept a running log of workouts, which would have been great to help create a skeleton training plan. Now, older and out of shape, I had many worries. How do I start? How much is too much? Am I going to get hurt?After researching online, I decided to start with a popular couch to 5K run/walk program which definitely helped me as a beginner.

Prior to training for a full marathon, I Googled the heck out of marathon plans. Let me tell you, there are a LOT of sources to choose from and also a variety of training levels on each plan. Taking into account what I knew would be feasible for me, I created a patchwork plan sourcing information from about three different sites. My goal was simply finishing the marathon, so I chose what I felt would work best for me to achieve that goal.

During my early searches, sites for running coaches would often appear.  When thinking of coaching, I would just think of high school sports or elite athletes. Honestly, I was unaware adults were hiring running coaches. As I set my sites on looking to qualify for Boston, I began to consider having someone tailor a specific and personalized training plan for me. I enjoy creating my own plans for shorter races, but the marathon is a whole new ballgame.

My prior experience with coaches has varied from bad to good to best. The best running coach I had was in high school – he tailored the workouts to my needs (my body didn’t respond to traditional long distance workouts), he listened to my aches and pains, reined me in when needed and we communicated well. I’ve also been on the flipside with a coach I didn’t connect with – and honestly, I never performed my best (fault on both sides). Once I decided to have someone help guide me to BQ, I knew it was essential to find a coach that would mesh well with me and my goals.

One of my training partners just happens to be a Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach. Today, Coach Jeremy of RunningDad.com takes on questions I posed to him regarding coaching runners.

Who do you want to coach? Beginner/competitive runners? Would you coach kids?
 
Coach Jeremy: I have coached brand new runners and Boston qualifiers. No matter the experience level, I enjoy helping my athletes establish goals and plan toward meeting and exceeding them. 
 
With beginners, it is all about getting started and building off of each run, in a controlled manner. Doing too much, too fast, is the leading cause of injury for new runners. I collect as much feedback as I can from the athletes to either push them out of their comfort zone when necessary, or pull the reins when rdlogonecessary.
 
With competitive runners, it is all about goals and staying focused on those goals. There can be a lot of outside interference that can impede the path to those goals. My job is help navigate those roadblocks and determine the best way to reach the targeted outcome. 
 
I would love to work with coaching kids on their running. I have coached kids in all sports as my sons work their way through rec and travel sports, but I have not coached kids specifically at running. It is my goal to establish a kids running program under the Running Dad Coaching umbrella.
 
What is your coaching style like? 
 
Coach Jeremy: I would describe my coaching style as flexible, fluid, and fun. My athletes are not professional runners. I am not a professional runner. Work and family takes up a lot of time. I understand the time crunch and help my athletes establish a routine that works for their lifestyle. As opposed to finding an online training plan or one from a book or magazine, I cater each workout to the individual. Based on feedback from each run, I may change the upcoming workouts to best suit the athlete and what they have happening in their lives. I interact with each of my athletes and we have fun. Whether it is sharing a funny story from a run, a personal achievement outside of running, or just chatting about life in general – I try and keep my athletes happy and the training fun.
 
What can an athlete expect from you when hiring you to coach?
 
Coach JeremyAccountability. I care how my athletes are doing in their pursuit of their goals. I am invested in their success and share in their failures. I treat our relationship like a partnership. We are in it together to reach our goals. Having a coach that is invested in your success is a great motivator.
 
What do you feel makes for an effective coach/athlete relationship?
 
Coach JeremyCommunication is the biggest part of a coach/athlete relationship. I feel that the runners I have the most communication with are the ones that are constantly making the most progress. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of what will work best for my athletes and their lifestyle. Like any relationship, communication is key.
 
11187340_845998035454229_2191515153486588883_oWhy should someone hire you as a coach?/What should a runner look for in a coach?
 
Coach JeremyA runner should hire me to coach them to help navigate the path to their goals. I started from scratch, with no coach, just with a goal to lose weight. I made a lot of mistakes. I was often injured. I had no clue what I was doing. Then I hired a coach. My coach spent more time holding me back, than pushing me to my limits. That was a good thing, for me. I have come a long way, and I like to share what I have learned. I derive a lot of pleasure from helping people reach their goals. I feel my style of coaching gives an athlete someone they can trust to keep them on track and prevent injury. 
 
I am always trying to learn more about getting the most out of my running abilities. I share what I learn with my athletes and also learn from what they find works the best for them. 
 
When looking for a coach, I recommend finding someone who will take a realistic look at your goals and discuss what it takes to get there. If your ideas and philosophies don’t match up, move on. It is an ongoing relationship, and you need to be comfortable with the person that you have asked to help guide you in your running.
 
Give me your greatest strength in coaching and your greatest weakness.
 
Coach JeremyMy greatest strength in coaching is my experience. I went from couch potato to ultra marathoner. I learned a lot. I love to share that knowledge to help others. 
 
My greatest weakness that I am still working on is time management. I would love to dedicate more time to my athletes – to be able to actually run with them if they are local – to be able to be available for phone calls or video chats throughout the day. But with work and family, coaching is not my main focus; not my all-day job. I do the best I can and someday hope to be a full-time running coach.
 
What are your qualifications?
 
Coach Jeremy:
RRCA Certified Running Coach (Road Runners Club of America)
CPR Certified
 
Running Experience:
Boston Marathon qualifier multiple times
Sub 3 hour marathoner
Multiple ultramarathons – up to 50 miles and training for a 100 miler
Competitive times for my age group
 
How do you measure success?
 
Coach Jeremy: Success for me as a runner, and as coach, is to find a way to navigate life’s path without hitting the wall. Always moving forward, even if it requires a few steps back to find a new route. Roadblocks for runners can be injury, losing the drive to set and reach goals, or an unforeseen situation that keeps us from running. Every time I lace up my shoes and step out the door, or see an athlete complete a workout I prescribed, I see those as successes.
 
What made you want to be a coach?
 
Coach JeremyPeople had told me that my own personal transformation and successes as a runner were an inspiration to them. That made me feel really good about what I was doing, I decided I would like to help other people find their own successes and healthier lifestyles. 
 
What is your favorite workout? 
 
Coach JeremyOn the track, I am partial to Yasso’s 800’s. These are 10×800 meter repeats with an equal amount of rest time between each round. They give you comparable numbers from each time you do them, so you can judge your progress by looking back at previous workouts. 
 

Off the track, long slow runs with friends are hard to beat.

 

Coach Jeremy & Team Running Dad after the 2015 Richmond Marathon:
2 Qualified for Boston!
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Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to tell us more about you and why we should hire a running coach.

Be sure to visit RunningDad.com to check out a plan that might work for you whether it be monthly coaching or working towards a half or full marathon. I am fortunate he lives in the same city I do; but Coach Jeremy is able to coach you no matter where you live via apps, phone/web chats and more.

I am nervous, yet extremely excited to work with a coach to help guide me to a (hopefully) BQ time. I’ve selected an early September marathon, so look for BQ training updates to begin in early May. Game on!

Until next time,

Becky

The Mental Game

Fatigue whispered, you cannot withstand the storm. The runner replied, I AM the storm.

The distance doesn’t seem to matter – 5K up to a marathon – the battle is always the same. Mind over matter or matter over mind?

Some races I feel like my own counselor:

Me 1: Man, this is hard; maybe I should slow down.
Me 2: Why would you slow down? You feel great. Stay strong.

Me 1: Oooh, my IT band is kind of nagging.
Me 2: Your IT band is just fine; keep up the pace.

Me 1: Are we at the next mile marker yet? Why hasn’t my watch beeped?
Me 2: Woohoo, halfway mark; almost there!

We train physically; but do you train yourself mentally?

No matter if you are a novice or seasoned runner, I believe the mental battle always rages on. Thankfully, I do feel the little voice inside of you shouting negative feedback can be trained to be softer and softer.

Running is 90% mental and the rest is physical.

Whether you are running short or long, the mental aspect is always there. I feel once you start running longer races (half marathons, marathons and ultra), you have a lot more time to think about what you are doing and once fatigue starts to set in; you could easily start to struggle.

Let’s explore a few strategies to help you work on your mental game:

1. Visualization. Knowing what is to come can help prepare you mentally. Get a map of the course and try to run or drive prior to your race. Watch for changes of elevation and places where you can run the tangents. Using this knowledge and visualizing yourself on the course will help you strategize where you can use your strengths along the way.

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Coach leading me through a race visualization – ~1992

2. Find a running mantra. Consider finding a short phrase which inspires, motivates or relaxes you. Practice using your mantra during tough training runs. When your brain starts shouting negative thoughts at you, repeat your mantra to maintain focus. Even at the starting line, I have a specific set of words I run through internally to ease the starting line anxiety.
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3. Stop worrying about everyone around you. Run YOUR race. It’s no surprise; I am highly competitive. Seeing my competition on the line can spike my heart rate and increase my anxiety. However, I remind myself to run my race. I cannot race harder than I train and if I run my own race, to my best ability, the results will come.

4. Prepare yourself for the worst. Creating a couple of goals (Goals A, B and/or C) can help you stay positive. If you have just one goal and start to miss the mark, negativity can set in and you may not have a reason to keep pushing. Having a secondary goal can help; especially if you encounter the unexpected (blisters, cramps, GI issues, etc.).

Find something that works for you and start training that brain! Already training that brain? What works best for you?

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

TRM

What’s Your Why?

“For as long as there’s anyone to ask ‘Why?’ the answer will always be, ‘Why not?”
― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

In 2016, my mantra was to be intentional. If I was going to spend the time working out or running, why not make every second count? Mentally, I kept these simple two words in mind day in and day out. Staying mindful and focused on the task at hand truly helped achieve my 2016 goals.

As this new year started, I began to consider what my mantra would be this year. What phrase would keep me in check and continue to keep me motivated?

Sometime last week, my husband posted a comment on my social media and hit the nail on the head. With the goals I have set for myself this year, I am going to need to BE DETERMINED.

Determined: showing the strong desire to follow a particular plan of action even if it is difficult.

Honestly, I was a bit hesitant to add qualify for the Boston Marathon to the list. Although my 1st marathon was an overall great experience, a few of those last miles were ROUGH.

Committing to training to BQ was hard to say out loud. Thinking about shaving almost 10 minutes off my first marathon does make my heart rate pick up a bit and cause a little anxiety kick in. However, I think having a difficult goal that also scares you a little is awesome.

So, how am I going to stay determined and committed to my goals?

A few guidelines I created for myself:

  • Note down my goals and make them public
  • Surround myself with those who inspire me as well as help me become stronger
  • Remind myself why I run. Why did I start? Why do I continue?

Recently, I sat down to jot down a few reasons why I run.

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Nearly everyone who runs has attempted to answer this question at some point. Although running can be tough, it can hurt, and feel boring to some; an estimated 64 million people in the U.S. went running in 2016. And, many of us to continue to do so.

I want to know “What’s Your Why?” Do you have a mantra to keep you on track?

Please share!

Until next time,

Becky