My Journey to Healthy and Happy, Part 1

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As I sit in my apartment in Portland, roasting Kabocha squash and cooking quinoa, watching silly TV, and thinking about the details of the marathon I am running in 2 days, I can’t help but reflect on how much my life has changed in the last 4 years.

I had started my career in social work by working and volunteering throughout college and felt I was so lucky to have found a field of work I was passionate about.  What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the emotional and physical toll I was putting on myself by simply doing too much for others.  I poured myself into my work and left little space for me.  On top of that, I was living in an expensive city and had to work two jobs after college to cover rent.  This left me a depressed, confused, and anxious young lady, not to mention the extra weight I had gained.  When Nick and I moved to Portland, we knew things had to be different in order for both of us to sustain our health and well-being while I attended graduate school for social work and public health.

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We took the opportunity of a new city and the unknown world we were entering to make some big life changes.  After a stressful couple of years, we took a step back and realized we had neglected ourselves, which greatly impacted our health and our relationship.  We had each put on at least 35 pounds and were no longer comfortable in our own skin.  We didn’t know that much about nutrition, but Nick had the Beachbody programs p90x and Insanity.  He did p90x for a while, got into the habit of exercising regularly and started to see some results.  He then started Insanity and I will never forget the day he told me I should start with p90x because he thought Insanity was too intense for me!  I’m the type of person who takes the doubts of others as motivation, so I immediately processed his advice as a challenge.

I started doing p90x work outs and slowly learning about purchasing whole foods and preparing food at home as much as possible.  At first the progress and my focus was slow.  By the summer of 2011, Nick and I were getting the hang of Portland life and I decided to go all in with my health and fitness.  I started Insanity and tried Shakeology for the first time.  I quickly realized how amazing I felt when I spent an hour a day doing something that was only for me.  Not only was I feeling stronger and so accomplished after each work out, but all those extra pounds I had acquired were coming off.  I replaced one meal a day with Shakeology and continued to learn about nutrition and clean eating.  I also started connecting with people who were also doing Beachbody programs and found myself as part of a community FULL of positive people who have the same passion for healthy and learning how to live their best life possible.

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As I continued through graduate school, I continued to incorporate exercise and healthy eating in my everyday life.  I’m not going to lie, it was tough.  I was working on two Master’s degrees, completing internships for school, AND working full time.  To fit this all in, I had work, school, or internships every day of the week.  There was a time when I would take a vacation day from work so I would get ONE day off in a month.  During my third and final year of grad school, I was working nights on top of completing school.  It was an absurd and unsustainable schedule, but I had to make it work.  In order to keep myself sane and healthy, I kept working out and learning about healthy eating and included those two things in my schedule just like I would a class or work.  I would find those couple of hours that were free each day to squeeze in a work out, cook, and pack meals to bring to work and school.  I kept at it because I could see and feel what exercise and healthy eating was doing not only for my body, but for my mind too!

Since the start of my journey to health and happiness, I have lost 35 pounds.  I have learned SO much about food and nutrition and I am no longer intimidated by farmer’s markets or the unfamiliar foods I may get in my CSA box.  I also don’t feel lost around a yoga mat, a set of dumbbells, or a stability ball.  I have run 8 half marathons and am a few days from completing my first full marathon.  I have been able to tackle longer and longer distances in my running because of the confidence that I have gained by completing work out programs like p90x and Insanity.  I have gained confidence in my body’s ability to endure and take great comfort in the community I have surrounded myself with that supports me wholeheartedly in reaching these goals.  I have literally watched muscles appear on my body.  This confidence transfers into other areas of my life as well, allowing me to feel more comfortable taking risks and making tough decisions at work.  Most importantly, I have learned how to balance my extremely hectic work life with time for myself.  I spend an hour every morning focusing on both my physical and mental strength and when I eat well, I know I am appreciating myself and my body.

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And I have done all of this from the comfort of my own home.  Nick and I now have an arsenal of work out programs and have been steadily building our home gym equipment, despite the tiny size of our apartment!  During the times when we were flat broke and could never have afforded gym memberships, having the option to purchase a complete work out program that we could use over and over again was amazing.  I still love working out at home.  My morning commute from bed to “the gym” is about 15 seconds, leaving zero room for excuses when I’m not feeling up for it.

What started as a challenge to complete that intense program from the infomercials has led to a whole new lifestyle for my partner and me.  We focus on our health, focus on time together and on creating balance between work and our other interests.  I am in a much better state of mind and can recognize when I need to take a break from the city or work life and get to the mountains.  It’s been a difficult, eye-opening, and rewarding journey that I still only see in the beginning stages.  I continue to strive to learn more, love more, and push myself farther.  Thank you to all of you who support me and join me in my journey to happy and healthy ❤

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Hood to Coast 2014!

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Every year since 1982, runners have been piling into vans and taking turns running 197 miles from Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood to Seaside, Oregon.  The relay race involves staying up all night, taking brief naps (if you get any sleep at all!) on the ground or in a van, and being crammed in that van with 6 other people and their belongings.  Sleep deprived and sore, participants must navigate all types of roads to meet their runner at exchange points and send out the next team member.  The race has grown to 1,050 teams with each team having 12 runners, some who have travelled from all over the world to participate.  Each member chooses a “leg” between 1-12, each varying by distance and difficulty.  Van 1 starts at Timberline Lodge and runners 1-6 complete their first legs.  At the end of leg 6, runner 7 from van 2 is tagged in and van 1 drives ahead to the end of leg 12 and rests until van 2 arrives.  This back and forth happens three times until runner 12 crosses the finish line on the coast of Seaside.

Starting line at dawn on Mount Hood

Starting line at dawn on Mount Hood

The logistics of Hood to Coast are mind boggling and most runners are pushed to their limits as they pound the pavement on open highways and breath the dust of gravel country roads.  It sounds completely insane and some (including my other half) wonder why the heck anyone would PAY to put themselves through such torture.

Those white dots are runners!

Those white dots are runners!

All done with a very dark and dusty leg 21!

All done with a very dark and dusty leg 21!

It’s hard to explain the answer to that question except by saying…Hood to Coast is some SERIOUS FUN!  I love the physical challenge of running on various terrain and various times throughout the day and night.  I love the camaraderie that is so quickly built between team members who are in this crazy thing together, all with the goal of taking care of each other and getting to that finish line.  The last two years I have done Hood to Coast, I have been on teams where I have only known 1 or 2 people before race day, and by the end of those two days together in a van, I have made 5 incredible friends.  I love the kindness I encounter from the other teams we see along the way.  Even the elite runners who are flying past me in the middle of the night offer encouragement and congratulations.  I also love seeing Oregon in a way I normally wouldn’t.  Driving to the coast is one thing, running various points along the way is another.  People get really into making the race fun and some of the team names crack me up.  A few of my favorites from this year include:

  • Scrambled Legs and Achin’
  • At Your Cervix (I think this was a group of ladies from a gynecology office.  They also had some really cute team shirts.)
  • Run?  I Thought You Said Rum!
  • The Agony of Da Feet (This won the award for the best team name)

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This year I ran leg 9, which means I completed legs 9, 21 and 33.  Here is what Portland Running Company has to say about Leg 9:

photo-25“Teams would be advised to put their strongest runner on this leg of Hood to Coast. Leg Nine’s runner encounters a scene from the Great Dustbowl in his or her second stage, and the third stage is eight miles long, which is, well, just plain long. Stamina, fortitude, and confidence are essential for this runner.”

Me?  The strongest runner?  Last year I struggled to finish my Hood to Coast legs.  I hobbled around the house for days after it was over.  I have spent the last year doing p90x, p90x2, and running lots of miles and it paid off in a huge way. Despite having a tough set of legs, I felt amazing the entire race this year.  My calves weren’t cramping, my IT bands weren’t tight, and I didn’t have to push my mind beyond its limits.  I felt so strong going into my last leg of the race and finished feeling over the moon!  I may not have the abs I want, nor the fastest half marathon time, but I have made huge progress in my strength and stamina over the last year.  Don’t forget to use varied ways of testing your fitness and progress.  I have found it very important to measure success in many different areas.  It is encouraging to see growth and change and its important to not get hung up on one or two ways of measuring progress.

Crossing the finish line as a team at Seaside, OR

Crossing the finish line as a team at Seaside, OR

If you have been thinking about running a relay race, I would recommend you give one a try!  It’s a hectic, exhausting and completely exhilarating experience!  See you at Hood to Coast 2015 🙂

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Blueberry and Minty Peach Vanilla Shakeology

Hello there!  I hope you had a lovely weekend.  Portland continues to bask in summer’s glory with sunshine, delicious produce, and SO many weekend activities!  It’s hard to keep up with everything that goes on throughout the summer!  

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I am now in week 12 of training for the Portland Marathon and seriously can’t believe the race is only 7 weeks ago!  On Saturday my long run was 16 miles.  16 miles!  That is 3 miles longer than I have ever run before.  It was by no means easy.  It was hot, I got tired, and walked more than I would prefer.  I did, however, finish and that is my main goal for the race.  I’ll keep trucking along and putting my best foot forward with each run 🙂

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Last weekend, Nick and I picked fresh peaches on a farm on Sauvie Island.  We came home with a box of huge, juicy peaches that entice me every time I open the fridge!  With those on hand, along with the huge bag of blueberries I picked on Sauvie Island and froze, I had the perfect solution for lazy summer days.  To keep cool on Sunday before heading to the second day of MusicFest NW, I headed straight for the blender and whipped up a Blueberry and Minty Peach Vanilla Shakeology.  Pure perfection.

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Blueberry and Minty Peach Vanilla Shakeology Recipe:

Serves 2

For the first layer, combine in a blender:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 handfuls of frozen organic blueberries
  • 1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology
  • Ice

Blend and split between two large glasses.  If it’s really warm in your house, place the glasses in the freezer while you make the second layer.

 

For the second layer, combine in a blender:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 organic peaches
  • 6-8 (or to taste) fresh mint leaves
  • 1 scoop Vanilla Shakeology

Blend and pour over the first layer in the glasses.  Stick a straw in there and enjoy!  ❤

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Running in Santa Barbara and the Vernonia Half Marathon!

Today was the Vernonia Half Marathon, the race I have been training for over the last 10 weeks!  After such a magnificent run last weekend in Santa Barbara, CA, I was skeptical about experiencing an equally beautiful course this weekend, but Vernonia, OR did not disappoint.

My training for this run was better than my previous runs.  I was consistent, mixed in a lot of cross training with p90x and Insanity, and didn’t let school, work, or the rain become an excuse to slack off.  I also learned to recognize progress and not allow my perfectionism to get in the way of appreciating my hard working body.

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101N, driving to my grandparents’ house

Breakfast at Grandma and Papa's

Breakfast at Grandma and Papa’s

As mentioned above, I got the opportunity to sneak in a training run in Santa Barbara while visiting my family there, and it really made me fall in love with running all over again.  After 9 weeks of running about 4 times/week, it was starting to feel like a bit of a chore and some days, I wasn’t running simply because I wanted to.  Do you ever feel like being tied to a schedule makes activities just a part of your ever-growing to-do list?  That is what happened during training this time around.  The run in Santa Barbara, however, gave me sweeping views of the ocean and mountains, a calm quiet atmosphere with the soothing sound of the ocean, and an adventure through the town where I met the love of my life.  Nick and I met while attending college at UCSB and revisiting it with him is always filled with nostalgia.  After the run, we did some push ups on the grass and got smoothies at a local favorite, Blenders in the Grass.  The rest of the day was spent with my grandparents, mom and cousin.  It was a centering and rejuvenating weekend, for sure.

A laid back run with lots of time to take pictures

A laid back run with lots of time to take pictures

Always being silly.

Always being silly.

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The Vernonia Half Marathon did not have incredible views of the Pacific Ocean, but it provided a beautiful run along a paved path surrounded by green mossy trees and a lake.  Unfortunately, I did not get many pictures of the course because I was concentrated on knocking out my best time for 13.1 miles!

On the bus from the parking area to the starting line.  When was the last time you were on a school bus?!?

On the bus from the parking area to the starting line. When was the last time you were on a school bus?!?

I had set out to complete this half marathon in 2 hours or less and after the first 9 miles, Nick and I were definitely on track to do just that.  However, a short time after passing mile marker

Walking to the starting line.

Walking to the starting line.

9, I was painfully reminded that I had obtained some pretty gnarly blisters last weekend while running in Santa Barbara and I had forgotten to put mole skin on those spots for this run.  For some reason, I got blisters on the insole of each foot last weekend and, because they had healed quickly last week, I completely forgot about them!  Although I had forgotten, my feet definitely did not and at the crucial part in the race, my insoles were on fire and each step was becoming increasingly painful.  As usual for me, when one thing goes wrong I immediately start thinking the entire project is ruined and my mind went into self-doubting, quitter mode.  The last 4 miles were a brutal combination of growing blisters and Debbie Downer thoughts, until Nick patiently walked with me, listened to my frustrations, and said, “This is just for fun and you are doing amazing.”  He also reminded me not to push so hard that I can’t do another run and I started to feel better although I could feel the minutes ticking closer and closer to that 2 hour mark I had set for myself.

Super gross foot picture!  It hurts a heck of a lot worse than it looks.

Super gross foot picture! It hurts a heck of a lot worse than it looks.

We ended up finishing in 2 hours and 11 minutes, which is by far the fastest I have run 13.1 miles.  I completed the Columbia River Gorge Half Marathon in October 2012 in 2 hours and 24 minutes, and although this course was a lot less hilly, I am still so proud of those 13 minutes I shaved off my time!  Looking at my splits, I am also stoked about how the race started out and am ok with the abrupt slow-down at the end given the pain I was in.  This was “just for fun” and I continue to learn things about long distance running to apply next time!

After the race, we met up with some friends who just completed a two day bicycling excursion for some beers (none for me, I had work this afternoon/evening!) and ridiculously huge burritos!  I am now hobbling around work with bandaged blisters and a tight IT band, but am feeling accomplished and looking forward to my next fitness adventure: p90x 2!  …and maybe another race 🙂

Refueling to the extreme.

Refueling to the extreme.

Appreciating Progress

Dave's Killer Bread Good Seed Bagel, cream cheese, capers, smoked salmon and lemon pepper.

Dave’s Killer Bread Good Seed Bagel, cream cheese, capers, smoked salmon and lemon pepper.

I woke up Sunday morning amped about my long run in my half marathon training schedule.  My training schedule called for 12 miles, which is the longest run until the race.  I have reached week 7 of my 10 week schedule and in the next few weeks leading up to the race, my runs are a bit shorter.  Because Sunday’s run would’ve been the closest distance I will run to 13.1 before the big day, it was my opportunity to test out my pre-run meals, clothing, chews or gels, and gauge where I am in my timing.  So with great anticipation, I prepped delicious oats and half a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon, picked a good Slacker Radio Station on my phone (lately, my running mix has been courtesy of the Of Monsters and Men Slacker station), and headed out for my half marathon test run.

Mile 1 went by with ease in 8 minutes and 49 seconds.

Mile 2 was similar.

Mile 3 slowed down a bit to 9 minutes 37 seconds.

Then things got ugly.  My legs felt like lead and my ab workout from Saturday left my core, especially my hip flexors, too fatigued to traverse the hilly neighborhoods I had chosen.  By Mile 6 I was at a 10 minute 15 second pace and negative thoughts about my ability to even finish a race started to creep in.  By the time I got to 10.5 miles, I was walking frequently and my mind and legs were on fire.  I was worried if I continued to push with poor form I would injure myself and that would really put a wrench in training.210

I finished the run at 10.8 miles and an hour and 50 minutes.  I felt defeated and frustrated about my time and my inability to finish.  I was angry and immediately began to go through all the ways I may have messed up in the last 7 weeks.  After the anger and frustration subsided, I realized mentally beating myself up was not going to help me improve my running or prepare for this race.  What would help, however, was reflecting on things I might do differently before a long run.

  1. Sleep: I worked until 3am that morning, and although I slept for 8 hours, it was still not my normal sleep schedule.  My work schedule has really been throwing me off, leaving me exhausted during my work week and I can definitely feel a difference in my natural energy level on the nights that I can go to bed at a more reasonable time (10pm).  The few days and night before the half marathon, I will not be working so I can get sleep at the times that feel most natural to my body.
  2. Exercise:  I missed a 4 mile run on Friday of that week, so I moved it to Saturday and decided to do sprints during those 4 miles.  I also did p90x Ab Ripper X prior to that run.  When I woke up Sunday, I had the usual soreness in my core from doing those workouts.  This soreness, however, was just enough to make my muscles fatigued quickly and I learned my lesson in taking rest days before a long run.  The day before the half marathon, I certainly will not be doing any strenuous exercise.
  3. Inner Peace: When I started to slow down on Sunday, my mind immediately filled with thoughts of self-doubt.  I thought about how “unprepared” I was and I recounted all the miles I might have missed in the last 7 weeks and which muscle groups I should have been strength training.  I truly believe these thoughts made me quit long before my legs were ready.  It wasn’t until I was home and stretching that I was able to think about the multitude of positive changes I have seen in my body and my fitness.  I realized that taking time to appreciate how far I have come already will be the most important thing I do as I finish training and run that race in 3 weeks.

IMG_3626When I started to take stock of all the progress I have made, I remembered that just one week prior, I had completed the Portland Shamrock 15k (9.3 miles) SIX MINUTES and 18 SECONDS faster than I did in 2012.  That is a huge improvement!  Also, I was upset about not finishing 1.2 miles on Sunday after already running 10.8.  When I put things into perspective, I felt a little ridiculous about being such a downer on myself, and started to appreciate the hard work I have been putting in to my fitness and health.  This appreciation led to a new confidence in my ability to not only complete this upcoming race, but dominate it!

Don’t forget to appreciate your accomplishments, no matter how big or small, and continue to look forward to just how far you’ll go.

With love ❤

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Half Marathon Training

I just started training for my third half marathon.  For each one, I have always followed this 10 week training schedule:

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This schedule is for individuals who can run for 30 minutes without stopping prior to starting.  For those who have very little to no running experience, there are 20 week or longer schedules out there to help you prep for those 13.1 miles.  I simply Googled training schedules and found a wealth of information!  I am still doing p90x and some Insanity, and this time around I am concentrating more on my speed so I’m trying sprints and interval runs as well.  I’m still figuring out how this will all work, but I’ll let you know when I nail down the perfect schedule!

Training hard last summer

Training hard last summer

I’ve never thought of myself as a “runner.”  You know the people who will run for fun or those who

can simply run for hours without much training?  That was definitely NOT me!  Yet, I continue to sign up for half marathons and other “fun runs” because I love the challenge and the reward.  Signing up for a run forces me to buckle down and stick to a training schedule, which produces some amazing results in a relatively short amount of time.  Over time, however, I have come to enjoy running as a form of stress relief, as a way to carve out time to clear my head and listen to music.

 

A group of coworkers motivated each other to complete the Columbia Gorge Half Marathon in Oct. 2012

A group of coworkers and friends motivated each other to complete the Columbia Gorge Half Marathon in Oct. 2012

I have several friends who love to run, so running can either be social and a way to spend time getting fit with others, or something I can do alone in a challenge to beat my previous times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

View from the Fremont Bridge during Portland's Bridge to Brew Run in 2012

View from the Fremont Bridge during Portland’s Bridge to Brew Run in 2012

Seeking out runs in other cities has given me the opportunity to explore gorgeous parts of Oregon that I may not have seen otherwise.  Various runs around Portland have let me see my own city from new and exciting points as well!

Columbia River Gorge Half Marathon

Columbia River Gorge Half Marathon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thousands of running buds at the Shamrock Run 2012

Thousands of running buds at the Shamrock Run 2012

It also doesn’t hurt that many of the runs in Portland end in super fun gatherings that involve craft beer, live music, and folks dressed up in all kinds of costumes!

 

 

I will be running the Shamrock 15k on St. Patty’s Day (March) and the Vernonia Half Marathon in April.  I will keep you posted on my training!  🙂

2012 Shamrock run medals were bottle openers :-)

2012 Shamrock run medals were bottle openers 🙂