It seems like just yesterday I was creating and posting my goals for 2017.
Here we are, already about halfway through the year and honestly, I haven’t looked back at my goals post since I published. So today, I decided to take a glance to see how I am doing.
Mile – I wanted to break 6 minutes and clock a 5:45. Last week, 5:21. CHECK!
5K – Breaking 20 was my goal for this year. Added in speed work as I had planned and ran sub 19 in May. CHECK!
Half Marathon – 2017 goal was to break 1:40. Shamrock Half was very kind to me in March – 1:29. CHECK!
Marathon – I mentioned I wanted to simply beat my 2016 time of 3:46 and possibly BQ. In progress… Training well underway for Erie at Presque Isle Marathon on September 10 and I am definitely chasing that unicorn.
Ultra? The thought was a maybe. However, all signed up for JFK 50 with Sara! In progress…
Train my husband for his first half: CHECK!
Find more opportunities in the fitness/running industry – started working full-time in fitness once again. CHECK! Also in progress, PT certification.
As I stumble upon exciting new experiences offered to me, I now hesitate for only a second before jumping in with both feet. Why not?
Unsure if I purposely found more opportunities or the opportunities found me! Since late last year, I’ve continued to grow in several areas – who knew I would willingly tell my story in front of a group (and like it!)?
Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a new project (I obviously do not have enough on my plate). On one early morning run, a business idea appeared in my mind. (Side note: anyone else find clarity while running? I find my best ideas and thoughts occur on runs).
Next thought – can this idea work? This little spark soon turned into a raging fire to determine how to put this plan into action. Like any unchartered path, there have been obstacles, excitement about the unknown, and a little self-doubt. However, I’ve been lucky to not have to blaze this trail alone.
The time is coming to let you all in on the secret.
With some collaborative sweat equity, a simple idea developed into more than I anticipated. I am so excited to share the plans which have been in the making for months and I hope you all will be excited as well.
Be sure to follow me on Facebook so you don’t miss the big announcement!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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 😉
A few months ago, I discussed the mental battle many of us feel when running whether you are a beginner or an experienced runner. A friend read my post and mentioned I should read How Bad Do You Want It? by Matt Fitzgerald.
So, during a cold winter weekend, I downloaded a copy and curled up on the couch to gather some knowledge about the mental game. I knew this book would speak to me, but I wasn’t prepared for the negative emotional effect.
I’ll admit the beginning of the book was tough for me to read. To be brutally honest, I was pissed off. Sometimes reading the truth and admitting previous self defeat really sucks.
In college, I felt like that athlete who “pulled up lame”. I was tired. I had lost interest. My passion for running was at a low. I’ll confess I claimed a fake injury once or twice during a race when I couldn’t hang. So many life changes had occurred when I was in college and some days I felt I was just a lost ship at sea. Or maybe I just stopped trying.
For years, my goal was to use my running talent to earn a college scholarship. Looking back, once I achieved this major feat, I don’t recall setting a new goal. No goal to win the 800m at ACCs or qualify for NCAAs. Did I stop dreaming? Was I just happy to settle and have college athletics be my final destination? Unsure.
I’ve strayed – back to the story.
This book is a collection of stories about athletes who share their experiences; their battles and the coping mechanisms they have used to conquer the beast within themselves. I especially enjoyed reading about a runner named Jenny and her disaster of a race at 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships. Later, you find out her married name – Jenny Simpson – who was just in the most recent Olympics.
Upon finishing this particular chapter, I thought, “thank goodness”. I am not the only one. This fierce battle between mind and matter even happens to the best of the best.
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone into the area where running is HARD is difficult for everyone. During a typical 5K, you have at least 3,000 steps to conjure up many thoughts – good or bad. And the bad tends to scream much louder than the good.
Since finishing the book, I have utilized a couple key tips while racing.
Embrace the hurt. Accept the fact that some of your run/race may be tough.
One of our local 5ks ends with a windy, gradual uphill about a half mile long. During the race, I knew it would be in front of me soon. I told myself, accept the challenge; yes – it will hurt. But you WILL run the hill and you will be finished soon. Fitzgerald mentions bracing yourself for a tough race or workout can boost performance by 15% or more.
Preparing yourself for the inevitable helps.
Also, reading and being reminded your brain is going to try to quit before your body is ready to give up. Studies show although you mentally feel you cannot take another step, your muscles are not at maximum effort yet. Mind over matter or matter over mind??
I encourage you to read this book if you’ve ever engaged in this mental war while running. You can admit you do – it’s more common than you think.
Whether you are an elite runner or a recreational jogger, I’m sure your mind has tried to make you quit before your body was ready. Arm yourself with a few coping tools and next time, you’ll be prepared to power through!
Now years later, my passion has been reignited and I’m back to racing. I feel as though I’ve been given a second chance to give it my all.
From here on out, and especially when I toe the line chasing that BQ, I will I ask myself, “How bad do you want it?”.
One day I woke up and decided I didn’t want to feel like that anymore, or ever again. So I changed. Just like that.
Sounds easier said than done, right?
I was tired of feeling tired all of the time. Tired of saying, “I’d like to”s.
I’d like to run again.
I’d like to lose weight.
I’d like to look fit.
It only takes a spark to get a fire going.
My runaissance has not had any boundaries; no finish line. Surrounded by those who inspire me on a daily basis, my spark has turned back into a raging fire. For years, my drive to succeed and be healthy sometimes felt more like a pile of smoldering ashes.
I’m not getting any younger. The days of becoming an elite runner may be behind me. Will this stop me? Probably not.
Some ask why? Why are you so competitive? Why not just run?
I reply, why not?
Why not show my children it’s never too late to try?
Why not see how far I can go?
Why not give it one last hurrah?
Recently, I watched the video below (by the way, this YouTube channel is amazing; you may become addicted to their vids). Check this out:
Wow, mind blown.
As mentioned, this message reminded me I may not even have scratched the surface yet of what I CAN do. I am willing to put in the work, even if it means waking up at 4 a.m. and working long days.
I am willing to risk failure in hopes of succeeding. I am willing to throw out lofty (but attainable) goals.
From the beginning of my return to running, my focus has not been trying to beat others. You may have seen me say I am chasing the old me. She was pretty fast and this may seem unattainable, but you can bet I am trying my hardest to catch her. Most of the time when I finish a race, a voice whispers, “maybe you can go a little faster.” Runner problems.
And I don’t feel this way just about running – this applies in my work life as well. Returning to the fitness industry has revitalized a passion for helping others. Sharing my story – the peaks and the valleys – has allowed me have the opportunity to encourage and guide others on their own journey. I love this. My mind is full of possibilities and dreams of where this can lead.
My soul is on fire.
Every morning when I wake up, I know there is someone else doing the same and possibly wanting the same success as I do; maybe even more. If I am not committed (some mistakenly call this obsessed) with getting better and doing more than everyone else, I may be left behind.
I hear footsteps every day.
Why someday? Why not today? I do not want to be left behind.
I feel forged by fire – stick around and see where my journey goes…
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to speak at our local running store, Runner’s Retreat, about the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for Runners. While I greatly enjoy instructing HIIT classes, generally speaking in front of a group of people just about scares me to death!
When I’m nervous, I tend to talk about as fast as I run, so I decided to record my presentation and share my feelings on how HIIT has helped me become a better runner. This way, if you were there and couldn’t figure out what in the world I was trying to say, or you weren’t able to attend – you can hear it all now.
Bear with me, stepping outside my comfort zone here!
In case you missed my key benefits, HIIT training can help:
Improve muscular strength in multiple planes
Increase performance potential and help prevent injuries.
Improve muscular stability to increase your ability to efficiently transfer energy.
Increase lactate threshold – work at a higher intensity longer before reaching fatigue.
Provide an awesome metabolic benefit – continue to burn calories and fat after your workout for an extended period of time.
Several days leading up to the Anthem Shamrock Half Marathon, the weather forecast looked less than ideal. Temperatures would be around 40 with winds and a high chance of rain. As race day neared, the hope of better weather diminished and I just embraced the suck.
My husband and I arrived on Saturday (day before the race) and headed straight to the race expo to pick up our race packets. The expo was small, but all the usual vendor categories were featured. I was able to meet the authors of Run Fast. Eat Slow.: Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky. My senior year of college, I ran against Shalane in the ACC Cross Country Championships, so chatting with her while she signed my cookbook was definitely a highlight.
As I was leaving the expo, I also ran into someone from my high school unexpectedly. Very cool.
My shakeout run was a little creaky. After a near 4 hour car ride, my legs felt stiff and I didn’t feel loose until after a mile. I felt nervous and anxious after the short run, but mentally, was ready to go. After a quick shower and a little basketball watching, we headed down to dinner. Our hotel served a simple pasta buffet meal for any Shamrock runners, so I filled up on penne and continued to hydrate.
Race morning, I awoke on my own at 4 a.m. As I pulled back the curtain to glance at the weather outside, I almost laughed out loud. Dark, steady rain, windy, cold. Somewhat fitting for March Madness weekend. I noshed on my pre-race breakfast (peanut butter toast, unsweetened applesauce and Nuun) and dressed in my Shamrock race kit. To stay somewhat warm and dry, I layered on some old clothes and a high-tech windbreaker: a hotel trash bag.
The awful weather quelled my nerves as I jogged up to the starting area. As I warmed up and dodged puddles, the situation made me smile. I joked with volunteers as I ran by – “it’ll be fun they said”. Near the start, I ran into my running partner/coach and another running friend from back home. We all stood around the starting line; trying to stay warm and prepare ourselves for 13.1 soggy and blustery miles.
About 5 minutes until gun time, we moved into our corral and begrudgingly took off our sopping wet outer layers. These last minutes honestly were the worst part of the entire race – standing in the cold, wet darkness as the breeze continued to pick up. Soon, the starters called us to the line. Coach Jeremy asked, “Are you ready?” Ready as I’ll ever be.
Approximately a week before the race, Jeremy and I discussed a race goal. Last year, I ran my first two half marathons and both were right around the low 1:50s. This time, my training base was much stronger and had also built speedwork into my regimen. We set a goal of 1:35 or faster and I set out to maintain a 7:15 pace.
Off the line, I could see the 1:35 pace group ahead of me and I increased my pace to bring up the rear of the group. Listening to our feet pound the wet pavement, we sounded like a pack of horses on a renegade mission. Our group moved as one tight pack through the first miles, knocking out a 7:05 pace. The winds blew, but I stayed tucked in behind the group and before I realized it, we were at mile 5.
At this point, the course started to turn back and the winds shifted direction. I was feeling pretty good and decided to pull away from the group. Mile after mile, I felt stronger and stronger. Glancing down, I could see I was dipping into the 6s, and truly was surprising myself.
Around mile 7, the wind was pretty wild. At one point, there was an opening between the dunes and sand was whipping through. Nothing like a little skin exfoliation while you are running. From this point on, I thought of my usual Tuesday/Thursday a.m. 6 mile runs – telling myself – “Alright, you got this – just on one of your usual morning runs to the park.” One foot in front of the other and the miles just kept flying by. I fell in step with another runner around mile 10 and we were stride from stride until we made the final turn which would take us to the boardwalk and ultimately, to the finish line. As I glanced ahead, I could see the clock was still in the 1:20s and I was full steam ahead. I crossed the finish line is 1:29:10; over 5 minutes faster than my goal and 20 minutes faster than my times from 2016.
Finish Line Fun – Coach Jeremy and I showing off our medals!
The Anthem Shamrock Half has been my most insane, but most favorite race. Looking
back at my stats and remembering what I powered through puts me back on my runner’s high. Sharing the experience with others was also amazing: my husband completed his first half marathon (HUGE!!), my coach/running partner shaved ~4 minutes off and set a new PR, and several other running friends conquered all Mother Nature threw at us. The memories will sure live on for quite awhile. And the icing on the cake – unexpectedly, it looks like I secured 1st place in my age group (as did Coach Jeremy) – awards will be mailed in a couple weeks.
There will always be conditions which are out of your control. I’ve learned to not stress about what I cannot change; but to accept and embrace the situation as is. Make the most out of what you are given. Just because the environment is less than perfect does not mean you cannot have the race of your life.
Before Shamrock, I had not run a long race since my 1st marathon in November and being able to maintain the pace I did has certainly boosted my confidence in achieving a BQ this year. Training is just around the corner and I continue to become more eager to start as the days near.
Big thanks to my husband who puts up with my running insanity, my coach who runs with me a few times a week at o’dark thirty through a myriad of crazy weather conditions and to all of my running partners. I continue to succeed due to all of you!