Posts Tagged With: fitness

RACE RECAP: Runapalooza, Asbury Park Half Marathon

I’m still reeling from last week’s events in Boston, but I felt as though the only thing we runners can do to show our unyielding support for the victims and everyone affected by this tragedy — and a nice big F-U to the [insert expletive of your choice] who did this — was to just keep running.

IMG_6930So I ran my second half marathon this weekend, and, in a way, it sort of felt like it was my first — I completed my first half in Disney World, but I wouldn’t exactly call what I did “running a half marathon,” given the fact that I was stopping every half mile for photo opportunities! However, running the Miles for Music 20K in March gave me the confidence that I could actually RUN a half marathon…after all 12.4 miles is nothing to sneeze at, and I did manage to run the entire course with a sub-2 hour finish time, so I was feeling optimistic about my second attempt at 13.1!

I headed down to Asbury Park with my parents and sister at the ungodly hour of 6:30am on Saturday morning for Runapalooza, a race that benefits the Special Olympics of New Jersey; this year, some of the proceeds were being donated to help restore the Jersey Shore after the destruction Hurricane Sandy caused to our beaches.

We received several e-mails in the wake of the Boston Marathon advising us of security procedures — though I have to say, it was a little disheartening to see bomb-sniffing German Shepherds all over the place — and asking that we don blue and yellow to show our support. There were even blue and yellow ribbons and hairbands available for runners at bib pick-up, which I thought was really nice. I also pinned the Runner’s Unite for Boston race bib from RunJunkees on my back, and saw that lots of other runners had done the same.

I had to pick up my bib on race day, as I really don’t live close enough to Asbury Park to make the driIMG_6941ve twice in two days, nor far enough that I felt the need to get a hotel for the night. Those picking up their bib on the day of the race had to make a mandatory $5 donation to the Special Olympics of New Jersey; though I sort of resent the idea of being forced to shell out even more money (after my $75 registration fee!) just to pick up my bib, I was perfectly fine with writing a small check for a good cause.

The race also included a small expo — I know I’ve been completely spoiled with attending a runDisney race expo as my first! — and runners were awarded with a free beer afterwards (which I skipped…I hate beer). There were bagels and yummy mini muffins and bananas and other goodies to help us re-fuel afterwards.

IMG_6948It was pretty much perfect racing weather, other than being hit with a few strong gusts of wind (fine when it’s behind you, not so fun when you’re running AGAINST it!), and the course ran through lots of local neighborhoods with some lovely ocean views. It was unfortunate that a large section of the race took place on a main street, in traffic, where I had to run on the sidewalk at times…not an ideal option when it comes to preventing runner’s knee and other unnecessary aches and pains. However, everything was really well organized and there were plenty of volunteers to help cheer us on.

The race course usually runs on the boardwalk, but I knew they had adapted this year’s course to accommodate for the fact that, unfortunately, so much of the boardwalk was destroyed by the hurricane. I was definitely a little disappointed that we only had the opportunity to run on the boardwalk for the last quarter mile or so of the race — although it definitely was a nice way to bring us all home! — but, of course, that’s not the race organizers’ fault.

I went out pretty fast (which, for me, is about an 8:30 pace), and I held that for about the first two miles. I felt great, and my foot really wasn’t bothering me all that much, so I decided to juIMG_6996st go with it. I usually struggle with just how conservative to be during races, so this time I tried to push myself a little harder, and kept a close eye on my pace to ensure that I was holding about a 9:15 for the majority of the middle miles.

I was really enjoying the race and the first 10K seemed to fly by…but it always seems to be somewhere around mile 11 that I begin questioning WHY THE HELL I DO THIS TO MYSELF. I choked down a few Clif Bloks every few miles, but my energy really starts to dip in that last 5K…and like my first half, it was right around that point when I started being hit with stomach cramps that would. not. go. away. I wouldn’t allow myself to walk unless I was making a quick stop for water, so I’m thinking maybe I need to adopt a new strategy or continue experimenting with my race day fuel, since this isn’t the first time I was forced to slow down in the final miles of a longer race due to stomach issues.

As I was struggling with stomach pains and fatigue in the last 5K, I couldn’t help but think of all the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings. There were, of course, reminders of Boston IMG_7146everywhere, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one running with a heavy heart on Saturday. Thinking about the victims and their families, and the marathoners who never got to cross that finish line, really helped me to dig deep and finish strong. Who was I to complain about a little stomachache or a sore foot or feeling “tired?” Running is an incredible gift, and I was determined to run this race for all of those who can’t.

The good news was that I proved to myself ONCE AND FOR ALL that my 3:30 Disney Princess Half Marathon finish time can purely be attributed to my shenanigans on the course (still no regrets!) because I finished under my best-care scenario goal time of 2:05. My official chip time was 2:03:25, and I was beyond thrilled with the accomplishment…especially given my recent foot issues. Interestingly enough, my foot felt slightly sore in the first mile or two, and thenIMG_7167 the pain disappeared for the duration of the race, only to come back as soon as I started walking around after crossing the finish line. After some research into this phenomenon on-line, I’ve decided to try ONE MORE ridiculous self-treatment option — something so obvious as adjusting THE WAY I TIE MY SNEAKERS — and resting for a few days before sucking it up and seeing a doctor.

I’ve already submitted my shiny new half marathon PR to the folks at runDisney for Dumbo Double Dare…fingers crossed that it lands me in Corral A or B! 🙂

Does anyone have any tips on how to fight fatigue and finish strong in those last few miles?

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Weekly Workouts: 4/7-4/14

Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend! The enormity of what I’ve gotten myself into — registering for the Dopey Challenge as my FIRST marathon — is really starting to sink in now, and I found myself at Barnes & Noble yesterday scouring the running books for titles like “Marathon Running for Dummies.”

dopeydiamondsI know I’m in WAY over my head here, but I have to say that I am really excited about the journey. I know I really should have had at least one marathon under my belt before attempting to train for the Dopey Challenge. I know that I am probably a fool for taking this on. I know that training to run so many races in one weekend, including a FULL MARATHON, is going to be ridiculously hard and painful and downright terrifying at times.

But you know what? I am taking this challenge very seriously, and think I’m motivated and disciplined and and determined and just plain crazy enough to make this happen.

On that note, I thought I’d join every other running blogger and become a bit more consistent when it comes to posting weekly workouts. A large part of training for any race is consistency…and what better way to stay accountable that to share what I’m doing right here? So here’s what last week’s workouts looked like.

Sunday (4/7): Thai Kickboxing class, 10-mile bike ride. It was the PERFECT day for a bike ride, I couldn’t resist!

Monday: 8 miles, slow. And I do mean VERY slow…we had some unseasonably high temperatures here in New Jersey last week, and my body was SO not ready to run in 80-degree weather!

Tuesday: 5 miles

Wednesday: 3 miles

Thursday: Rest

Friday: A gross, rainy day, so I hit the gym I just joined that opened up around the corner from my apartment (Crunch Fitness). I ran there and back, and did a little speedwork on the dreadmill for a total of 4 miles, then did some strength training. I was reminded of just how much I hate running on the dreadmill…it really is pure torture!

Saturday: Thai Kickboxing class
2013-04-14 15.36.57

Sunday: Thai Kickboxing class and 10-mile run. It was my first long run in my new Sweat Pink laces, the weather was perfect, and other than a nagging pain in my foot in the last few miles (details below) and some serious soreness in my legs from doing a zillion squats and lunges in my kickboxing classes, overall I felt great!

Thoughts for this week:

I think I overdid it a little bit. I’ve been training for the Asbury Park Runapalooza on April 20, and I’ve noticed I tend to panic in the final week or two before a bigger race and try to do everything I can to make sure I’m “prepared.” I’m still new to all of this and never know if I’m running enough, or too much, or too fast, or too slow.

I was planning to run a few half marathons this spring, and have sort of been playing it by ear since the Princess Half Marathon in terms of keeping my weekly base up and getting in my long runs, but without the step-by-step training plan I used for my first half — since I really was starting from square zero! — I’m still not quite sure EXACTLY what I should be doing in between races if they’re, say, three or four weeks apart.

While my foot was starting to feel better in the last week or so, I think the combination of the kickboxing (you know, slamming your feet against a giant, hard punching bag) and the long run in the same day — which I NEVER do, by the way! — caused me to injure it again, because now it’s sore in a different part on the top of my foot. Meanwhile, pretty much every muscle in my body aches from all of the kickboxing (my instructor decided it was muscle conditioning weekend, and I had my ass handed to me!) combined with running.

Needless to say, I am NOT a happy camper right now. I’m going to officially call this week “taper time,” spend plenty of time resting my stupid foot and possibly take my bike out for a spin…and cross my fingers and toes that I’m feeling better by the race this weekend. There’s also a local 5K I already signed up for the day after the half (I figured it wasn’t too early to start getting used to back-to-back races!), so if I have to back out of that, I will. If things aren’t getting better, I will stop self-diagnosing myself and see a doctor…promise.

How do you train in the last week or two before a big race?

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My Incredibly DOPEY Decision

So yesterday I did something crazy. Like, real crazy. WAY crazier than my decision to register for the Dumbo Double Dare, which I thought was just pure MADNESS at the time (and now just doesn’t seem so scary after all).

disneyprincesshalfmarathon1Yesterday, I got completely swept up in the excitement of Walt Disney World’s Marathon Weekend. If you follow runDisney fanatics on Twitter or Facebook — especially as many as I do — you just can’t help it. I had been casually entertaining the idea of attempting a full marathon ever since I crossed the finish line of the Princess Half in February and proved to myself that I could make it through 13.1 miles without dropping dead.

Running a marathon, a FULL marathon, has always been one of those pie-in-the-sky, maybe someday, “you never know” type dreams for me. Let’s face it, in the grand scheme of things, I’m still a running newbie, and I figured that someday, SOMEDAY, I’d probably go ahead attempt a full marathon.

But there was one thing I did know for sure. I knew that if I WAS going to take on 26.2 miles, it was going to be at Walt Disney World. It just had to be. So I figured maybe I’d consider registering for the 2015 marathon…or 2016. Or, hell, 2017 — what was the rush?

Truth be told, when I read accounts of runners training for their first marathons on their blogs, I’d physically cringe. 20 mile training runs? Who has the time? Or the energy?

When I read countless recaps of this year’s “Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge” — running the half marathon followed by the full marathon in the same weekend — I shook my head. What the hell were these people thinking? Were they TRYING to get themselves injured? Or killed?

But yet I couldn’t help but admit to myself that I was so incredibly, amazingly in awe of these runners. I wanted to do it, too. I wanted to be a marathoner.

I knew there would be one minor road block standing in my way. I was absolutely, unequivocally terrified of the idea of running 26.2 miles. Who did I think I was even CONSIDERING the idea? A year ago I was struggling to finish 5ks, and I really only have a handful of distance races (10 miles+) under my belt…and now I’m sitting here fantasizing about running a marathon?

When I was in Disney World in February for the Princess Half Marathon, cast members were constantly asking me if they’d “see me next January” for the marathon. I would then proceed to laugh hysterically. “I’m not quite there yet,” I told them. In fact, I believe one of my first tweets upon hearing the news of the Dopey Challenge was something along the lines of, “good luck to everyone doing the Dopey Challenge, it ain’t gonna be me!”

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it. Even just a little bit.

Yesterday, my mindset shifted. Big time. I wrestled with a giant knot in my stomach all morning, watching the clock for the 12pm registration time for the Walt Disney World Marathon. Should I register for 2014? Is it too soon for me? Will I be able to do it? Am I ready? Will I EVER be ready?

The answer? Who knows. Is there EVER a good time to train for a marathon? Will I EVER be “ready?”

There will always be work and family and responsibilities, and I couldn’t help but think that if I WAS going to do this, now is probably as good a time as any. I have a fairly steady client base of both editors and piano students, so while I will never get rich doing what I do, I manage to live quite frugally (I still drive the beat-up old car I bought in college; it has 170,000 miles on it for crying out loud) and also have some money saved up from spending the majority of my 20’s working and living at home with my parents. I don’t have children or pets or a mortgage, and I make my own work hours.

Are YOU Dopey? Photo credit: www.talkdisney.com

Are YOU Dopey? Photo credit: http://www.talkdisney.com

Most importantly? I’m 27 years old, and in the best shape of my life…no physical ailments or health issues of any kind (knock on wood), other than the occasional minor running-related injury, of course.

So yesterday I had to ask myself the question: Why not ME? Why not NOW?

I’m sure you can probably guess what comes next.

I whipped out my Disney Visa (my poor, sad, TIRED Disney Visa), and registered for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon.

But, wait, there’s MORE.

In this moment of insanity, I couldn’t help but be seduced by the Dopey Challenge. In its inaugural year, it’s a challenge to run not only the marathon, but also the weekend’s 5K, brand-new 10K, AND half marathon.

That’s a total of 48.6 miles. In 4 days. The thought still sends chills down my spine. And not the good kind!

Was it it a good idea for my health? My sanity? Maybe, maybe not. But…runners who complete all four races receive not only a medal for each race, but also the coveted Goofy Challenge medal AND the brand spankin’ new Dopey Challenge medal. SIX MEDALS. Can we say BLING?!

So I thought for a moment. If I was going to put my body through months and months of marathon training…why not go ahead and celebrate my hard work with the ULTIMATE weekend of running?

Why not aim high? Why not take this chance? Why not believe in myself for once?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am nothing if not ambitious (and, also, just a little bit off my rocker). So…

DOPEY CHALLENGE HERE I COME!

I think what really sealed the decision for me is that I have truly gone through my whole life putting things off and doubting my ability to do what I wanted. “Someday” I’d “try” to be a freelance writer. “Someday” I’d “try” to lose weight. Of course, there was even a time when I told myself that “someday” I’d “try” to run a 5K…how long ago that seems!

I am TIRED of doubting myself. I am TIRED of putting things off. I want to be the kind of person who has the confidence and the courage to set a goal and then make it happen. I don’t want to “try”…I just want to DO. And I’d say this is a step in the right direction!

Okay, so who else is doing “Dopey?” Is it anyone else’s first marathon?

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Exciting Blog News: Sweat Pink and Versatile Blogger Award

Hope you all had a fabulous weekend! I sure did, because two pretty awesome blog-type things happened:

SPambassador4

1.) I was accepted as a Sweat Pink ambassador! It’s “where tough and girly come together at last” — so proud to be part of such an incredible movement.

2.) A fellow blogger nominated me for The Versatile Blogger award! Thanks so much, Andrea!

As part of the award, I was asked to share 7 facts about myself. So, here it goes!

1.) I am obsessed with all things Disney. And have been since…well, forever.

2.) I have two businesses: I’m a freelance writer, but I also moonlight as a private piano teacher, which pretty much means I work all day long…but I love what I do, so it never feels like it! Plus, one of the best bonuses of being my own boss means I can lace up my sneakers and go for a run whenever I want…I got 8 miles in this afternoon!

3.) I LOVE to read…especially true crime. Ann Rule is my favorite. I do like fiction, too, and when I find an author I love, I have to read every. single. one. of their books, and have effectively done so with authors like Kristin Hannah, Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin

4.) When I’m not rversatileblogger111unning, I’m taking martial arts classes…I study both Muay Thai kickboxing and Taekwondo. So…don’t mess with me. (Kidding!)

5.) There is little that excites me more than scoring a good deal, whether it’s when I’m buying groceries or adding new tanks or capris to my endless workout wardrobe. I always know what’s on sale and where, and am never without a stack of coupons (or, of course, phone apps like Retail Me Not).

6.) I have a younger sister, and we used to hate each other…but now we’re BFFs. We are the absolute epitome of that thing moms always say to their kids when they’re fighting…you know, “someday you’ll appreciate each other.”

7.) I have had the same two favorite bands since I was 12 years old: Hanson and Third Eye Blind. I pretty much stalk them both whenever they’re in the tri-state area, so I’ve seem them in concert about a zillion times…in fact, I just scored tickets to Hanson‘s two-night event at Irving Plaza in NYC this summer! EXCITEMENT!

I also get to pass the award along to 15 of my favorite bloggers — fun! Here are just a few of the awesome bloggers I follow…it was SO hard to narrow it down!

1.) Running & Singing in the Park

2.) Running Coastie to Coastie

3.) Sneakers and Fingerpaints

4.) Keep Running/Keep Writing

5.) The Beginners Runner

6.) We Run Disney

7.) Back at Square Zero

8.) Hello Fitness…We Meet Again…

9.) Road Runner Girl

10.) Barking Mad About Running

11.) Run and Write

12.) Run Eat Repeat

13.) 2 Princesses on the Run

14.) Live, Run, Grow

15.) It’s a Marathon AND a Sprint

Here’s how it works:

1. Add The Versatile Blogger award photo on a blog post

2. Thank the person who presented you with the award and link back to him or her in your post

3. Share seven things about yourself

4. Pass the award along to 15 favorite bloggers. Contact the chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

 

Thanks for reading, and be sure to check out these other bloggers…especially Andrea’s blog, I Run for Donuts!

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Bulu Box Review and Promo Code — Get Yours FREE!

If you took a look through my kitchen and bathroom cabinets, you would find tons of not-so-well organized health and fitness products, from snacks to supplements. I’m one to try pretty much anything, and in my quest to be as healthy as I possibly can be, that means I end up with a whole lot of products that I ultimately decide aren’t for me…and, unfortunately, that means my money pretty much goes to waste.

buluboxSo when I was contacted to be a Bulu Box ambassador, I was psyched! This is a company designed to help people like me identify the products that work best for them without shelling out tons of our hard-earned cash in the process. It’s touted as the first vitamin, supplement, and general health subscription sample box designed to help you feel your best, and because I’m now one of their brand ambassadors, I have a special promo code that will allow my readers to get their own Bulu Box for FREE!

But first, here’s how Bulu Box works: for just $10 a month, you get a box stuffed with 4 or 5 samples from top brands. As any health seeker knows, there’s TONS out there in the way of health products and supplements, and I can easily drop $10 on just ONE product — and if I decide it’s not for me, then I’m out the money. This way, your $10 covers a few different products, and chances are you’ll end up with at least one sample of a new product that you know for sure that you love before investing in the full-size version.

I received my first box over the weekend — love the motivational quotes on the packaging! — and here are a few of the products I received, just to give you an idea. Two of the products are all-natural sleep aids, and I almost wondered if somehow the Bulu Box folks knew that I’ve been having some issues sleeping lately! The box also comes with a booklet that helps explain exactly what each product is, how to use it, and how it can help you lead a healthier, more active lifestyle.buluboxproducts

The boxes will always contain a new mix of products for both women and men, from vitamins and herbs to energy products and sports nutrition supplements, and the samples are large enough for you to give it a try and decide whether or not the product is right for you.

The good news doesn’t stop there…shipping is completely FREE, and there are no shady contracts — if you ultimately decide you’re not into it, you can cancel your subscription any time. There are also a few different options to choose from: you can opt for a month-to-month, 3, 6, or 12-month subscription.

If you end up really digging one of the products you sampled in your Bulu Box, you can, of course, hit your nearest Whole Foods or vitamin/supplement store to buy the full-size variety…or, you can earn Rewards Points to cash in for your favorite products simply by visiting the Bulu Box website and sharing your thoughts on the products you receive. You earn Rewards Points (50 points per month equals $5) just for sharing your personal reviews and completing short surveys, and you can then trade those points in to purchase the full-sized versions of your favorite products via the Bulu Box website.

All sound good? I thought so, too! So why not give it a try? As a reader of The Final Forty, Bulu Box wants to invite you to get your hands on your first box completely free!

So go ahead and visit Bulu Box, enter your shipping information for the monthly subscription, and use coupon code BULUGAN004 for your free box!

Any other Bulu Box fans out there?

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Why I Love Running

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d proclaim the reasons I’ve fallen head over heels for running.

(I better love it, seeing as how ONE WEEK FROM TODAY, I will be headed down to Walt Disney World to take on my very first half marathon!)

1.) The way I feel when I’m done. Sure, sure, the running part is great and all, but whether I’ve gone out for a 2-mile run or a 12-mile run, there are no words to express the way I feel when it’s over. Call it runner’s high, call it endorphins, call it whatever you want, but I am addicted! I never feel more confident than when I can spend some time in my running duds and come home all sweaty and tired and sore and…proud.

2013-02-06 13.59.372.) The new relationship with food. It’s no secret that I used to have a serious weight problem; I spent most of my life struggling with obesity, and trying every trick in the book to gain control over my unhealthy eating habits, from fad diets to good old-fashioned starvation. Now that I’m a runner, I am forced to see food for what it truly is: fuel. Gone are the days when I obsess over every carbohydrate or scour the supermarket for the latest and greatest in fat-free snacks; I understand now that my body needs carbs and fats and all of these other nutrients — in moderation — to perform at its best.

3.) The sense of accomplishment. There is little in life that makes me as proud as the moment when I cross the finish line of a race, or when I head out for a 10- or 12-mile run and actually finish. It doesn’t matter whether I PRed or struggled through every mile — I get to constantly experience the joy that comes from setting a goal and seeing it through every time I sign up for a race or take on a new distance. There’s nothing like proving to myself over and over again that I CAN do this.

4.) The community. It has been so rewarding to communicate with, and learn from, fellow runners, who are always so willing to share their tips and encouragement. Coming in from a bad run to see that I have a new supportive comment on my blog or an encouraging tweet from another runner helps more than I could have ever imagined. It’s so much fun getting to share my new obsession!

5.) The stress relief. I’m definitely not known to be a relaxed, carefree person — I’m pretty much the exact definition of someone with a Type A personality, and have always tended to be just a tad high-strung. But not when I’m running. Lacing up my sneakers and going out for a run is a time for me to unwind, decompress, and maybe even work through the problems of the day in a calm, rational way as I’m traversing my usual running routes. Don’t get me wrong, running can certainly be physically exhausting, but it really can help soothe the mind. Even my mind.

6.) The body acceptance. Thanks to my lifelong weight struggles, I’ve always been pretty hard on myself about my body (read: I’ve loathed it with a passion). Even after my weight loss, I focused on imperfections like residual stretch marks or loose skin instead of seeing what was right there in front of me: a strong, healthy body. Running makes you appreciate everything your body is capable of achieving, and it has helped me develop an acceptance for what I have — and for that, I am eternally grateful. I’m not saying I have the perfect body, or that I ever will, but I’ve finally been able to break the cycle of striving to be “skinny” — instead, I focus on being the strongest, fittest (and, yes, even fastest!) runner I can be.

7.) The empowerment. I don’t think I need to say that running is HARD. WORK. But proving to myself that, yes, I could run a 10K, or yes, I could make it to double-digits in my long runs, makes me feel as though I could accomplish ANYTHING. Because running can be so physically grueling, and because it is a physical activity that was never, ever possible for me — someone who has always been obese — conquering my fear of taking on new distances and proving to myself every single day exactly what I am capable of achieving when I set my mind to it is incredibly, unbelievably empowering. I was the girl who couldn’t run the mile in gym class in high school, who was pointed at and laughed at for huffing and puffing my way around the outdoor track four times and still finishing last. And today…I am training for a half marathon.

8.) The travel. Of course, I had to mention this one! I can see now that running just pairs so nicely with my desire to travel and go places and experience new things. I am beyond thrilled to be able to combine my love of running with my love of, oh, I don’t know, say Disney World, and am excited to participate in races and meet other runners from other other parts of the country (and, no, I don’t just mean my upcoming trip to Disneyland for the Dumbo Double Dare).  My running journey has been nothing but exciting and fulfilling, and I look forward to where it might take me next!

Your turn. What do YOU love about running?

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Mastering the Art of Self-Confidence

This weekend, I earned my Bo-Black belt in Muay Thai kickboxing (in this program, it’s the belt right before black…and, not gonna lie, I’m excited because our names are embroidered on the belts).thaicertificate

As per my usual MO, I spent weeks freaking out about this test. Was I going to survive the workout? Could I remember all of the forms and self-defense moves? Could I break all of the boards? Was I going to fall flat on my face in front of everyone? Were spectators going to think I was strong enough, fast enough, fit enough, flexible enough to be a martial artist?

Then when I found out I was going to be expected to give a speech (mind you, a mere 60-90 second “testimonial” about what our martial arts training has done for us), that’s when I began losing sleep over the whole thing.

I know it’s only natural to feel butterflies before an event like this, but for me, I also happen to know that my nerves tend to run a little bit deeper than jitters.

After all this time, I still struggle with my self-confidence, and have to constantly force myself to believe that I CAN finish a 10K or ace a martial arts test or submit a great article for that new-to-me magazine. I waste an unbelievable amount of energy convincing myself that I’m not going to be able to do something — even when I know it’s ridiculous.

thaispeechOn Saturday, I had a few little amusing missteps — four attempts to break a few stupid wooden boards with a side-kick! — but you know what? I did just fine. Like I always do.

And that speech I’ve been panicking about? Thanks to the help of my my theater-trained sister, I was the only one who didn’t read straight from a piece of paper (which, by the way, I was told we were NOT going to have in front of us). I spoke from the heart about what martial arts has done for me, and all the words I had rehearsed just came pouring out. I even received a round of applause for my announcement about running my first half marathon next month, and several of my fellow candidates told me that I’m an inspiration and/or they had no idea I used to be overweight — both of which are still so hard for me to wrap my mind around.

I’m finding that every time I prove to myself I CAN do something, whether it’s crossing the finish line of a race or even having to (gasp!) speak in public, my self-confidence grows just a tiny little bit.thaiknee

Maybe someday I’ll be able to stop doubting myself and finally find my self-confidence, but for now, I’m thrilled with each and every step that gets me there.

In case anyone was curious, I thought I’d share the “testimonial” I submitted to be chosen to speak. Like running, I really do believe that martial arts has changed my life — so while it’s always a bit awkward for me to share the sordid details of my weight struggles, it really was an honor.

Shortly before I began the Thai Kickboxing program, I weighed almost 100 pounds more than I do today. I’ve struggled with obesity since childhood, and have always been 40, 60, or even 80 or more pounds overweight at any given time throughout my life.

 thaifrontAfter losing 90 pounds on Weight Watchers in 2008, I found myself getting bored with the treadmill and my usual gym routine.  I was terrified of gaining my weight back — as I had done so many times in the past — and wanted to find something that would keep me motivated and ensure that I never again returned to my old ways.

After my first Thai Kickboxing class, I was completely hooked…and today I can’t imagine my life without martial arts.IMG_1404

My training ended up doing so much more than helping me maintain my weight loss.  Today I’m in the best shape of my life, and feel both physically and mentally stronger than I ever thought possible. It has helped me break the cycle of constantly obsessing over my dress size, the number on the scale, or the need to be “skinny” — all I care about is being the healthiest person I can be, and pushing myself to become stronger, faster, and more physically fit.

Proving to myself that I could succeed in this program has given me the confidence to pursue my career goals and try other things I never thought I could do; I’ve recently started taking Taekwondo, and I’m training to run my first half marathon next month. 

thaithumbsup Five years ago I never could have imagined that I would enjoy waking up on a Sunday morning to endure an agonizing kickboxing workout, or head out for a 10-mile run.  My training has inspired me to live by principles like perseverance and self-control, and ultimately develop the tools I needed to conquer my weight problem once and for all.thaikick

I want to thank all of the instructors for always motivating us to improve, and for pushing us harder than we think we can go. I also want to thank you for the words of wisdom and motivation you share with us during class.  They are truly powerful for people like me who need the reminder of how far we’ve come — and why our health and physical fitness is worth fighting for.

What are some things you’ve done to help boost your self-confidence?

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How Self-Discipline Makes All the Difference

In my Muay Thai kickboxing class, the instructor talks a lot about discipline. The cornerstone of martial arts training, self-discipline is even part of the “Student Creed” we have to recite before leaving class (along with things like perseverance and honesty), and he often ends class with a speech with cutesy quotes like: “A disciplined life is a happy life.”

But there’s one saying that always seems to get me. Recently, he ended class by saying: “If you have self-discipline, you can have anything.” And now that I am officially training for a half marathon, and — I don’t want to jinx it — the scale is budging ever-so-slowly in the right direction again, I can say with absolute certainty that self-discipline is the absolute most important quality I’ve had to develop along my health and fitness journey.

As I’m sure any runner would agree, it takes a special kind of self-discipline to pull yourself out of bed before the sun rises to log miles, or to lace up your sneakers after a grueling day at the office. And anyone who has ever attempted to lose weight knows that there’s often nothing standing between you and that extra slice or pizza or a heaping bowl of ice cream except your own ability to tell yourself no.

To me, self-discipline is about saying you’re going to do something — and then actually doing it. It’s about making yourself a priority, and keeping your own promises. It’s about setting a goal and not allowing yourself to quit. It’s about developing the strength to deny yourself something that may be easier or more fun — e.g. skipping your run to lounge on the couch, opting for the cheeseburger instead of the salad — because you know it will only hinder your own success.

As someone who used to tip the scales at over 260 pounds, I can tell you exactly what it’s like to not have any self-discipline at all. While I was always an over-achiever in the classroom, when it came to my health, laziness was the name of the game. If I didn’t “feel like” doing something, I didn’t do it. If I had a sudden craving for a milkshake, off to Baskin-Robbins I went. I’d promise myself I wasn’t going to overeat at a restaurant, but then proceed to order the greasiest, most unhealthy option on the menu — fettucine alfredo was my go-to meal of choice — and polish off the entire plate. My short-lived attempts to exercise were always lackluster at best — I could stick to a walking regimen for about a week, tops, before allowing myself to quit.

In some ways, I’m sure it sounds fun to do (or, in my case, not do) whatever you want, whenever you want. There’s a certain freedom that comes with giving up on yourself and having no goals. By the time I started college, I had completely resigned myself to a life of obesity; I figured I was “meant” to be fat, so I did absolutely nothing to stop piling on the pounds. It’s just oh-so-easy easy to stuff your face with whatever happens to be in front of you, and never have to worry about the ramifications to your health.

At first, developing self-discipline meant having the strength to say “no” to the temptation to skip a workout or eat something that I knew would come back to haunt me on the scale. But these days, the ability to set my own goals and stick to them has proven more rewarding that I ever thought possible…and I’m finding that it’s getting easier.

Last week, I earned my brown-tip belt in Muay Thai, which in my school is granted after approximately 18 months of training. This week, after returning from a weekend getaway (more on that later), I went out and pushed my body through five miles. Every morning, I plop myself in front of my laptop in my home office, even though the TV is just steps away and sometimes I just don’t feel like working.

Sometimes, self-discipline means sacrifice. But to me, developing self-discipline has proven the only way to really have everything I’ve ever wanted in life.

What are some ways you’ve practiced self-discipline to reach your goals?

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The Thing You Think You Cannot Do

There was a one-credit course I was required to take during my senior year in college — “Personal Fitness” — and as part of our final test at the end of the semester we were required to run one mile around the indoor track in the campus’ recreation center.

The humiliation of that day is seared into my memory. I remember I had completely forgotten my change of clothes, so I showed up at the gym wearing those Skechers sneakers with the platforms that were “in” at the time (and I commuted, so it wasn’t like I could go back to my dorm and change my footwear). At least I was wearing sweats, since that was pretty much all that fit me at the time.

I weighed at least 250 pounds by the time I graduated from college, quite possibly more (I wouldn’t know, because I avoided scales and mirrors at all costs). I grew winded walking across campus to the library, and did nothing but study and work, hitting the drive-thru hard between classes and munching on vending machine snacks whenever the mood would strike.

I think it goes without saying that running was a physical impossibility.

To make a long story short, not only did I come in dead last on the mile that day, but I never even finished. As I was grunting, sweating, and trying to ignore the blisters forming in my platform sneakers, some of my classmates were jogging up beside me to lend their encouragement and chant “you can do it!”

By the time everyone else had finished and I still had another two laps to go, I pretended like I was done just so I could leave the track and rush to my car and burst into tears. That mile felt like a marathon to me, and I was so ashamed that I was the only person in the class who seemed to have such trouble completing the test. I know the instructor knew I hadn’t finished, but I saw the pity in her eyes when she let me call it quits.

And that, my friends, is just one of many of my not-so-wonderful memories associated with running. It was always something that I simply could not do.

That is, until now. I don’t remember the last time I wanted something this much. And the difference now is that I can.

I am officially registered for the Disney Princess Half Marathon, and I’m also lining up a fall racing schedule that includes at least two 10Ks. I’ve never competed in any race longer than four miles, but I want to get used to running longer distances — and, more importantly, be able to submit a 10K proof of time to the folks at RunDisney to qualify to start in one of the earlier corrals on race day.

This weekend, I ran seven miles — my longest run to date. Mind you, I pretty much shuffled through the last mile, but I made a decision to complete seven miles on my “long run” day, and I actually did it. Yesterday I went out on a five mile run, as if it were the most normal thing in the world for me to do on a Tuesday afternoon. I can already feel myself getting stronger and faster.

There is something that feels damn good about doing something you never thought possible. With running, my success is even sweeter, because it literally was something I could not do. Meanwhile, I had all but given up on myself before embarking on my most recent and final weight loss journey. I never thought I would be able to beat the obesity that has plagued me since childhood, and experience life as an averaged-sized person.

I’d be lying if I said the excitement I feel when I see my byline in a magazine isn’t, in part, caused by the fact that I was told over and over again that I could never be a writer: “it’s too competitive,” “you’ll never make any money,” “you need to get a real job,” etc. This has been my dream since I was eight years old, and I relish the fact that I am doing what I love every single day and proving all the naysayers wrong.

Don’t get me wrong: going into business for myself was scary. Joining Weight Watchers for the umpteenth time was scary. And the idea of running a half marathon is downright terrifying. But I’m starting to realize how important it is to embrace that fear.

I know now there is nothing more gratifying than doing something you thought you couldn’t do. That’s why I will keep lacing up my sneakers and training for that half marathon!

Is there something you do now that you never thought possible?

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Stop Making Excuses…and Cheating Yourself Out of Success

If you want to ensure that you never reach your goals, do exactly what I’ve been doing: let your life be taken over by excuses.

On July 4, I ran the local Firecracker 4-Miler race in my hometown for the second year. Despite the fact that last year’s event was my very first race ever, and that it was the exact same course and we were experiencing very similar weather (hot and humid!), I showed absolutely no improvement from last year. In fact, I came in at almost exactly the same time, to the second. I struggled from start to finish, and couldn’t keep myself from stopping to catch my breath or surreptitiously take a break to “tie my sneakers” during the race.

As I was beating myself up afterwards, and trying to come up with excuses for not achieving what I thought would be an easy goal for me — beating last year’s time — I couldn’t help the niggling feeling that I was simply trying to not take responsibility for not working hard enough. All this time, I’ve been going out on 2 or 3 mile runs here and there. I wasn’t being consistent — sometimes weeks would pass without running at all — and I wasn’t exactly adhering to any of the advice I was skimming in my monthly issue of Runner’s World or any of my countless running-related Google searches about how to improve my speed or perform better on race day.

In short, I started to think about how I’ve been making excuses and only doing things “halfway” for quite some time…and how running is only one example.

It sometimes takes months for me to send out a fresh batch of article pitches to my dream magazines. I’m constantly telling myself I’ll e-mail that editor “tomorrow,” or finish that story query “after I do more research.” But then I end up convincing myself that it’s a stupid idea, or the editor is “just going to ignore me, anyway,” so it never actually gets done. Meanwhile, I always make promises to myself about blogging more often, since it’s something I love to do…but take one look at my past posting history and you’ll see that I can’t seem to manage more than one post a month.

When it comes to Weight Watchers, my attempts to reach my goal of 100 pounds lost are quite laughable. I’m only casually counting POINTS, and I’m doing way more guesstimating than ever. I still measure out everyday staples like 3/4 cup of cereal, but then when it comes time to enjoy some frozen yogurt after dinner, I somehow seem to forget where the measuring cups are located, because “I worked out today, so I deserve a treat.” I’ve also been allowing myself a few-too-many binges on weekends, from extra glasses of wine to munching handfuls of Angie’s Kettle Corn on the beach. That excuse is an easy one: “It’s the weekend!”

For months, I have been putting in shorter and shorter workouts (when I’m not in kickboxing class, that is), justifying their brevity with classic excuses like “I don’t have time.”

But then I wonder why I’m never landing those writing assignments, why the scale won’t budge, and why my fitness level (or ability to run a 4-miler without wanting to die!) has completely plateaued.

So, I decided to do something to take down the Excuses Monster once and for all. I decided to start by choosing one goal — in this case, being a better runner — and not allowing any more excuses.

I’m proud to report that I have chosen quite a lofty goal, and for the past three weeks, have been diligently working towards making it a reality. With no excuses!

It started with stumbling upon some race recaps on running blogs about the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Feb. 2013, and knowing that it was something I absolutely, positively had to do. I have harbored a deep-seated Disney obsession since I was in diapers, and running through the Magic Kingdom would be a dream come true. I just have to do it.

That’s right. I am going to run a half marathon.

Before I convinced myself that “I’m not good enough, fast enough, experienced enough, etc. to run a half marathon,” I set out in search of a training plan and for the past three weeks have been running 5 times a week, with mileage ranging from 2 miles to 6 miles. I invested in a Dry-Erase board to chart my monthly training runs, and I became a member of the Daily Mile to track my progress on-line. I created a little inspiration corner in my office with photos, brochures of races I want to run, medals, and even a painting my sister made of me crossing the finish line, and I use them as a daily reminder of how much I want to reach this goal.

And it’s already paying off. I competed once again in the Downtown Westfield 5k and Pizza Extravaganza, and the race that took me 33:03 last year only took 29:15. It wasn’t easy, and the course was incredibly hilly, but I didn’t once feel the need to stop. I felt comfortable and confident, because I knew, deep down, that I had put in the work…and wasn’t letting anything stand in my way.

There are no end to the excuses I could make to talk myself out of training for a 13 mile run — especially when the longest race I’ve ever participated in was a measly three miles. Aside from the physical agony and very real possibility of me not making it to the finish line, it’s out of state and extremely expensive…and basically another excuse for me to take a vacation.

But if I’m ever going to move forward, whether it’s in my writing career, weight loss, or fledgling attempts at running, I have got to stop talking myself out of everything…and cheating myself out of my own happiness.

Have you ever made up excuses or talked yourself out of doing something you really wanted to do?

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