Friday, October 31, 2014

Finding Balance

When I set my mind to try to find balance, suddenly I'm Dory trying to find Nemo-- very determined, but easily distracted, and often forgetting exactly what it is I'm supposed to be finding.

I'm not sure that we ever arrive at the place of balance. I feel more like it's a constant striving. Like balance is such a very precious thing and our hands are just too big and clumsy to ever secure it.

I'll tell you one thing... a sure way to get out of balance is to commit (even to yourself) to blogging every day for 31 days. I think it's made me a little crazy. But it's revealed a deep truth about purpose.

Life is too short to commit to doing things just for the sake of doing them.

Don't say "yes" to something out of guilt.

Decide what you want and pursue it.

Don't get distracted.

Do take time for other people, but don't get lost in pleasing them.

Love God.

Love people.

And that means yourself, too.

I think I won't be writing a blog again for a very long time. I think I'm starting to ramble...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Goliath Gauntlet Race Review

On Saturday, October 25, 2014, I ran the inaugural Goliath Gauntlet a race designed to provide a quality event, but more importantly to raise funds to support a great non-profit, Sheridan House.

I was so very impressed with all aspects of this race-- you would never have guessed that this was a first time event. Obstacles were well-built and challenging, the course was great, organization, parking, registration-- the usual trouble spots seemed to be trouble-free. I think the biggest reason this race was so well done, because it was a charity event-- organizers and investors wanted a high quality, family fun, yet challenging event that would exhibit excellence and promote Sheridan House. There was no one behind the scenes looking to make a big profit, cutting corners to save some money.

My thoughts on the specifics:

Parking/Registration/Pre-race...
Communication was great-- instructions were clear. We were sent a complete race guide, including a course map, complete instructions, bib numbers and start times. Packet pick-up was offered Thursday before the race. Parking was close to the start line and FREE! I even saw a shuttle for the people who had to park a little farther away. Check-in was smooth-- plenty of volunteers were onsite. Bag check was FREE! And very organized AND indoors.

And maybe the best part of the starting of the race-- it was ON TIME! Waves weren't crowded; the women's competitive wave was only 5 deep. So, if you are interested in competing, this is definitely a race to put on your calendar for 2015. I've not see a race that was more fair in the competitive division.

Photo courtesy of Goliath Gauntlet
The Course...
The 3.5 mile course wound through and around the campus of Sheridan House. Obstacles were very well constructed and offered a variety of challenges. Competitive racers were required to complete every obstacle in order to take 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place with cash prizes. Volunteers were stationed at each obstacle with clipboards to record the bib numbers of any racer in the competitive heats who failed an obstacle. All other racers could do 10 penalty push ups if they couldn't complete the obstacles.

The advertising claimed 20 obstacles, but it was actually 20 stations of obstacles. They didn't count each individual wall as an obstacle as some races do. For example, the first obstacle-- The Sand Flea-- had racers climb one structure to enter a sand pit, crawl through tunnels, and then crawl over another tall structure (some race organizers would count 3 obstacles). Another section-- Saul's Walls of Pain-- is listed as 2 obstacles, but in actuality, there was a series of 3 tall walls to climb over and 2 walls to crawl under and through a tire.
Photo courtesy of Sheridan House

For a small, first time event this was probably the toughest course I've raced. Lots of walls, rings and the final warped wall made the race especially challenging. But the friendly volunteers and the option to complete push ups made this a race that even beginners could conquer.

Finish Festival Area...
Food trucks were present and some local gyms and CrossFit boxes were on hand. Only water was given at the finish line, but our goodie bag contained a granola bar.

I absolutely can't wait to see what next year's event will be like. I've not heard negative reviews on any aspect-- except that one guy the day of the event who claimed the 3.5 mile course was just way too long and built for endurance athletes. That it was just impossible for strength athletes to succeed. He admitted to being a first timer when I explained that this race is one of the shortest courses offered in the OCR world.

I will definitely be back next year to defend my first place finish. But I know there will be many more competitors on the start line in 2015. I hope to see you out there on the course!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Just a Little Patience

Aren't we all so very impatient? I mean, we have drive up ATMs, for Pete's sake.

I've been so very impatient with my progress in the weight room. I entered this whole CrossFit thing with not much strength. I mean, I was sitting at machines and going through the motions. But just recently I watched a Youtube video I made about 18 months ago. I looked like I was struggling with a 155 lb. dead lift. Today I'm struggling with 280.

I still have plenty of areas that I'm working at improving. And I'm still far from being at the top in CrossFit competitions, but I am getting to the place where I'm starting to see some real progress.

So, I just want to say to you:

Hang in there!

Keep doing what you do. 

Keep pushing forward. 

You may not be where you want to be yet, but you're not where you were yesterday.

Sit for a minute and think about ALL the little things that you can do better today than you did last year!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sometimes You Need to Wear a Tutu

I got a little uncomfortable today. Ok, really uncomfortable. You see, I'm more of a mud, dirt and sweat kinda girl than a high heels, pink and fancy kind of girl.

But I've learned that the only way to grow, the best way to get better is to step outside the comfort zone. And that pretty much translates to all areas of life. Some time ago, I made an offhand comment to my mom about wearing a tutu while running my birthday race. I didn't really do anything to actually follow through on that plan. But then my birthday box showed up at my door earlier this week. My mom sent me a tutu she made-- actually sewed-- for me, with a tiara and a princess wand.

And I showed up for my 10k like this:
Running in a tutu can be a little distracting. I was so worried about getting my tiara, my tutu and my "I'm 40 button..." that I forgot my iPod. But I survived the race just fine. And I think I smiled more during this race than any other.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

In Like a Lamb, Out Like a Lion

I ran a 3.5 mile obstacle course race today, on this last day of my 30s. At some point out on the course, shortly after I took the lead in the race, my thoughts turned to this being my last day in my 30s. I considered what I was like at age 30, compared to who I am today. And this is what I concluded... my 30s came in like a lamb and is going out like a lion.

Things I've learned in my 30s...

  1. Your husband should be the most important person in your life. Not your kids. One day they will become independent, and you will be left alone with your husband again. Date him now like you did before you got married.
  2. Be a great Mom, but don't let that be your identity. If your biggest concern is pleasing your children, you are out of balance. 
  3. Eat dinner together every night. At the table. And talk to each other. This is probably the single best thing we've done as parents.
  4. No cell phones or other electronic devices at the table. 
  5. Don't let your kids be your best friends. I cringe when I hear parents say this. Your burdens should not be theirs to bear. They don't need to know every detail of your personal life. 
  6. Talk openly with your kids. All of the time (but see #8). Ask specific questions about their day-- one of my favorites was, "What was the best part of today?" And "I don't know" is not an acceptable answer. Don't settle for "Nothing" in response to "What did you do today?" or "What's wrong?"
  7. Have "the talk" with your kids. It starts when they're young and make it age appropriate. If you wait until you're ready or you think they are, then I'm guessing you're about 2 (or 10) years too late. Talk about difficult things.
  8. Don't act shocked by anything your kids tell you. Remember, you're trying to keep communication open. Freaking out because they finally open up about something just confirms that telling you was the worst thing they could have done. And you can be certain they won't come to you next time.
  9. Be a spy. But don't be a jerk. My kids will have privacy when they move out. They know that I might enter their rooms and rifle through their stuff at any time. Have I ever? No. But I just might.
  10. It's never too late to become an athlete. I thought I was done being an athlete when I left high school and organized team sports. But being an athlete is about training your body with purpose, not just going into a gym and sitting on machines and moving your arms and legs for a bit.
  11. Working out can be FUN. Really. I'm not lying. If it's not fun, then you need to find something that's fun for you. Life is too short to have miserable workouts.
  12. Love your body. Treat it well. Consider ALL the things it does and has done for you. Those scars and stretch marks and imperfections tell the story of your life.
  13. Food is not the enemy. Food is the fuel that you need to sustain your activity. Don't skip meals. Don't obsess about calories. Enjoy it. In moderation. 
  14. The scale is the enemy. Just throw it away. The number on that scale does not tell how strong or fast you are. That number doesn't tell how beautiful and determined you are. 
  15. Laugh a lot. And at yourself frequently.
  16. Enjoy the little things. A hot cup of coffee. The feeling of grass on your feet. A deep breath. 
  17. Forgive often. Especially yourself. 
  18. Say you're sorry. Often.
  19. Pray. All the time. 
  20. Believe. You've heard the quote: "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Getting Old(er) is Awesome!

Day 24 in my 31 Days of Blogging... find my Fitter at Forty series here.
1 more day left in my 30s, so I thought I'd reflect a little...

Getting Old(er) is Awesome because...

  1. The alternative is to NOT get older. (Think about it.)
  2. I'm wiser. I've made lots of stupid mistakes and learned from them.
  3. I just don't care as much anymore. About what other people think, that is.
  4. I'm braver than I once was (see #3)
  5. I've learned not to take myself or life too seriously. (ok, still working on this) 
  6. I now qualify for the masters division in CrossFit.
  7. I've met so many interesting people
  8. I've found more friends.
  9. I've traveled more.
  10. I've made more memories.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why Paleo? an Admission of Guilt

In May of 2013, I wrote Why not Paleo? And it really is true-- you should never say never. Especially in print for all the world (or my 3 readers) to see.

But admitting you are wrong is a sign of maturity (BOOM! There's the "Fitter at Forty" tie in), so I was wrong. Sort of. I find myself now recommending the Paleo diet. If you aren't really sure of what the Paleo diet is, go check out this great Infographic from PaleolithicDiet.com.

When I wrote my first post, I primarily did not support the Paleo diet because of the healthy foods that are excluded from the diet-- brown rice, white potatoes, and oatmeal. However, I thought it was time to explain why I've changed my mind and recommend it. Paleo calls you to...

  1. Focus on whole foods. True Paleo calls for a diet full of foods that are consumed the way they are found in nature i.e. non-processed. 
  2. Consume mostly vegetables and fruits for carbs. One of the main reasons Americans are overweight is because we eat large quantities of processed, simple carbohydrates (breads, grains, crackers, cookies, etc).
  3. Limit sugar. Raw honey and stevia are allowed in moderation. But we should retrain our taste buds for food in its natural state. 
  4. Add healthy fats. Eating Paleo means getting plenty of heathy fats in your diets from nuts, seeds, avocado, fish oil and grass-fed red meat.
  5. Avoid dairy. Dairy products in America today are very different from what they once were. They are highly processed and full of antibiotics and hormones. 
*Please note* if you are attempting to eat healthy on any "diet" you should be limiting your intake of sweets and junk food regardless of the label. Yes, I'm talking about all those Paleo pancakes, puddings, cakes and muffins. Just because it's labed "Paleo" doesn't mean that you should eat it.

More Paleo info:

**I'm not a certified nutritionist-- just a fit chick who's tried way too many different diets and done tons of research.

Monday, October 20, 2014

K.I.S.S. (Updated)

I originally wrote this post in April of 2012. I thought it was time to revisit the original post and update it.*

“Purity and simplicity are the two wings with which man soars above the earth and all temporary nature.” 
-Thomas Kempis

So, you want to finally clean up that diet of yours. Visiting the bookstore, library or researching on the web can be quite overwhelming. Here I've collected a few steps to help you clean up your diet without losing your mind in the process:

Keep It Simple, Silly. 
Do: 
Take Baby steps. Make changes in the way you eat slowly. Instantly cutting out all of your favorite treats and cheats will only frustrate you and cause massive cravings. 

Snack. Yes, snack. Good healthy snacks keep you from overeating at meal times. Eat a small snack between every meal-- a handful of almonds, an apple with almond butter (be sure to check the label for added sugar and salt), Greek yogurt, home made granola, etc. Your body is the most complex machine on the planet. Keep it well-fueled.

Drink water. Not soda. Not Crystal Light. Not sweet tea. My exceptions are coffee and green tea, sweetened w/ natural, stevia based sweeteners.

Eat protein. Make sure you get enough protein in your diet. If you're exercising, you should be consuming daily about .7 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. *If you choose a ketogenic diet, you need less protein. *If you aren't active, you should be.

Eat fiber. Fiber will make you feel full and also helps clean your system. Studies have shown that increasing your fiber intake, reduces your chances of getting certain types of cancer. Oatmeal is a great choice for breakfast and can be very versatile: add apples and cinnamon, or bananas and peanut butter, or pumpkin and pumpkin pie seasoning with walnuts, or blueberries, or a few dark chocolate chips. I also add a scoop of protein powder to get a complete meal.

Eat "real" food. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Choose fresh or frozen fruits and veggies. You will be amazed at how good real food tastes and how fake processed food tastes. 

Read labels. "All Natural" can still mean added sugar and salt. "Contains Real Fruit Juice" can mean 5% juice (Fyi: fruit snacks are just glorified candy.). "Zero Trans Fat" can still mean high fat, added sugar, added dyes, etc. And that's just to name a few. Check the ingredients. If you can't pronounce it, then do you really want to put it in your body?

Eat more fat. Low fat, high carb diets have helped Americans get fatter. Companies who produce low fat products replace the fat with sugar or chemicals. Butter from grassfed cows, beef, chicken thighs, avocados, nuts, 

Don't:
Don't Diet. Your best chance for success is to begin modifying what you already eat. You will have to say good bye to some foods, but I have found that restriction-- creating a list of "do not eat"-- only creates craving and obsessing about the forbidden. It's human nature, really. We want most what we cannot have.

Don't Eat processed food. The more packaged it is, the more processed. If you absolutely can't give up the processed foods, then switch to whole grains. No white breads or pasta. Whole wheat pasta and brown rice takes some time to get used to, but it's more flavorful than white and more nutritious.  

Don't Eat deep fried food, sugar and artificial sweeteners. Stay with me and breathe. Ever notice that all fried food tastes pretty similar? It's because it's usually cooked in the same nasty oil. Gross! Use olive oil to sauté your potatoes, or zucchini, or chicken. Just don't drown it in oil. As for sugar and artificial sweeteners, sugar (including simple carbs) causes blood sugar spikes. Artificial sweeteners trigger cravings. Use honey or stevia. 

Don't Skip meals, especially breakfast. Skipping meals will make you HANGRY. Your body needs a constant energy source throughout the day. 

So, this is where I started. I've noticed an improvement in the way I feel-- balanced, not as many energy spikes and lulls, and not as many mood swings. I allow myself a cheat meal or two during the week, and I don't beat myself up. I don't  get on the scale and obsess about my weight because I know that if I am feeding my body good, healthy fuel in reasonable amounts (watch serving size!) and working out regularly, I will stay at a healthy weight. 

*I'm not a registered dietician-- just a healthy chick who's done a ton of research and tried lots of diets.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bucket Lists and Morbid Things

Because I like to do hard things, I'm in the middle of a 31 days of blog writing challenge. Supposedly, this challenge is on one topic: "Fitter at Forty" for me. But I'm just rebellious enough to say that if I'm writing for THIRTY-ONE days IN A ROW, I will choose my own topic, thank you very much. (That was a bit of a disclaimer for my fellow 31 dayers who might be offended that my blogs mostly haven't been about being or becoming "Fitter at Forty." They also seem to ramble.)

I turn FORTY exactly one week from today. So, I thought maybe I'd sit and write down a list of things I'd like to do before I die. (Not that approaching 40 feels like my life is nearly over.)

At first, the bucket list seems pretty morbid. It says, "Death is coming. Before it hits, I need to get busy doing these things." Or maybe it says, "I've not done anything very interesting in my life. Here is a list of things that will never happen, but I wish would." Hopefully, that's not is at all. Ideally, your bucket list causes you to reflect on all you've done in your life and inspires you to do a little dreaming and goal setting.

Amy's Bucket List:
  1. Write a book
  2. Have my book published
  3. See the Northern lights
  4. Visit Alaska
  5. And the Grand Canyon
  6. And San Fransisco
  7. And Boston
  8. And Seattle
  9. And NYC
  10. And Hawaii
  11. Visit my Canadian friend (love you, T.)
  12. Tour Australia
  13. And Israel
  14. Backpack in Europe
  15. Go on a safari
  16. And a mission trip to Africa or India
  17. Learn how to surf
  18. Swim with sharks
  19. Learn a new language
  20. Get a tattoo
(I think I could keep going on. I see that most of my items involve travel... so, I'd better get busy!)

What's on your bucket list? 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

FIND a Personal Record

Have you ever seen the movie Pollyanna
It's about this girl who always finds something to be glad about in any situation. 

That's pretty much my husband. Yep, he's Pollyanna. He always sees the good in everything. I am a pessimist. We are good for each other. But mostly he is good for me. 

As a pessimist, I am very easily frustrated by my progress-- or lack of it. I tend to focus more on all the things I'm not doing well. I look at the failed attempts at big lifts. I see how much faster someone else is. How much heavier some other person is lifting. How much weight someone else has lost. 

Not my husband. He shrugs it off. He's too busy finding a PR of some kind. 

When I think PR, I think big-- fastest 5k time, heaviest 1 rep max dead lift, most double unders ever done without stopping, finally achieving that muscle up. 

He thinks broader-- Did you run farther than you could last week-- even by 100 yards? Run faster at any distance? Did you lift the same weight for 1 more rep this week than you did last week? Did you do 2 more double unders today than you did yesterday? Did you do an extra pull up? An extra push up? Did you try something new? 

So, with that mentality, PRs are everywhere. You just have to find them.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Aging Backwards

I feel better now than I've ever felt. I'm in better shape than ever before. I don't at all have all the answers, but I thought I'd share some things that help me feel good: 

1. Nutrition 
Without a doubt, what I eat has the biggest impact on how I feel. I avoid processed food, sugar, simple carbs, soda. Basically, avoiding processed food covers it. Eat food in its natural state. Simple carbs, including sugar cause blood sugar spikes, which impact hormones which impact moods. *But that's so rigid. So hard.* Yeah, well, living with the effects of a nasty attitude because you eat crap is harder.

2. Hydration
Drink water. All the time. I drink tap water. #truestory

3. Sleep
8 hours. Each night. 

4. Exercise
The more I move, the better I feel. It teaches me to be disciplined, as well as providing the obvious physical benefits. 

5. Believe
My faith in God gives me peace, teaches me about sacrifice, and helps me love. I believe that with God all things are possible. And if all things are possible, then everything is going to be all right.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Competition Prep

So, at this point in the 31 days of blogging... well, I'm just a little sick of myself. (If you are sick of me, too, then just skip down to the motivational clip at the end of the post.) I have nothing really clever or witty to say. (And forgive me for the grand assumption that I ever have anything clever and witty to say.) I'm just going to do what I do when I don't want to do something. I do it anyway.

Right now, I'm training primarily for competition. Which means nearly always pushing myself. And for the last two weeks at the end of the week, I've nearly had to force myself to the weight room. I'm just tired.

Last week's main lifts saw us (my blessed partner in torture-- my husband and I) doing this:

5 sets of 5 reps at 85% of our training max. Followed by 5 x 10 at 50%.
(50% of your training max seems like a delightful break. Not so much.)

This week's main lifts are this:

5 x 3 at 95%. Followed by 5 x 10 at 60%.

Did I say those are the main lifts? That doesn't include the bonus work of Olympic lifts, some supersets of bodybuilder type lifts. And my morning runs or weighted "rucks."

Am I whining? Bragging? Talking to myself?
I'm just saying. You have to know what you want and go after it with everything that is in you. Even when you don't want to. Even when you're tired. Even when there is a multitude of other things you'd rather do.

Or this one:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hey, Beautiful. Yes, You Reading This...

Not my typical frivolous racing, training, general craziness post.

I'm typing this as my friend is in ICU fighting for her life.*

No, actually that's not true. She's not fighting. She's tired of fighting. So tired, in fact, that she put herself in ICU while attempting to end her life. Her story is actually more common than you would think.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2012, an estimated 43.7 million American adults were affected by a mental health illness. That's 18.6 percent of adults. And those are just the adults. Those are just the American adults. And those are just the cases that are reported.

Here's what I know. Some people who struggle with depression or anxiety or any mental health disorder feel that there's ultimately something broken and wrong in them. Many don't know what's wrong, what makes them sad, what makes them feel so broken. How do you explain to a person who's never felt it that you feel like there's a giant hole within you? A darkness inside that smothers you like a blanket. Usually they try to cover the feeling by using drugs or alcohol or exercise to find brief moments of happiness... or maybe just moments of less darkness.

If this is you, I'll tell you what I've been telling my friend for the last year that I've known her...

You are beautiful.
You are a priceless treasure.
Your beauty and worth is not based on anything you've done. It's not based on how you look or how much you weigh or what you say or think.
Your beauty and worth is based on your Creator. You were made in His image-- pure love and light.

You are broken. But we all are broken. All of us are broken and in need of our Creator, our Father to gently pick us up, clean us out, and set our world right. He finds no fault in us. In His eyes, we are beautiful and pure and perfect. We don't need to work for His love, repay His love, earn His forgiveness. He heals our brokenness and covers our ugliness because of His great love for us. Because Jesus willingly chose to give His life, to be punished instead of us. And through this great gift we can find healing.

You will be ok. Everything will be ok. Just hold on. Share your pain, your struggle, your journey with others.
You are not alone.
You have a great hope and a future.
You are dearly loved.

*Update: she is awake and alive, physically. But still so very raw inside. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How to Run and OCR, Part 3: Post Race

First, let me introduce you to the DNF (Did Not Finish). Sometimes, well, it happens. And for a variety of reasons... injury, illness, friend/racing buddy's injury or illness, not making the cutoff. Sometimes you just DNF. AND THAT IS OK. You are not defined by one race. That's the beauty. I really love this article by an awesomely tough woman, Ekaterina Solovieva, that will challenge your thinking about the dreaded "DNF."

Once you cross the finish line...
Beware! If this is a chip timed race, someone may quickly approach you with sharp objects-- it's ok-- they just want to remove your timing chip (some races charge a fee for unreturned chips, so be sure you return it).

Accept your medal, smile and thank the volunteers. Actually, be sure that all along the course, you are thanking the volunteers. Look for water and other refreshment that might be offered at the finish line-- some races provide bananas, coconut water, or even a free beer. (If you choose to drink, have a designated driver!)

After catching your breath and your swag, find the clean off station. Ideally, either check a bag or leave one with your spectator (pack a towel, flip flops, a clean change of clothes-- sweats if it's cold, a garbage bad for muddy gear, and I always bring a water and snack-- just in case). I rinse everything as thoroughly as possible, but don't spend hours-- this isn't the spa nor the laundromat.

I know you are tired but keep moving. Do some stretching (I'm the weirdo who is using the hose off station to both get the mud off and the knots out) and then some foam rolling when you get home.
At the finish line of my son's first OCR.

Later...
Immediately after an OCR is NOT the time to go out for a celebration meal. Chances are, you've been crawling/swimming through all kinds of stuff, and you've probably collected some bumps, scrapes and bruises. You need to get home, take a real shower with real soap (using dish soap can remove any oils that might be left behind by poison ivy or oak), and then treat any cuts and scrapes with some antibiotic ointment. THEN meet up with your friends for a celebration meal.

The next day... 
Wear your race shirt to the gym (if you didn't put it on after the race)! Some people wear the medal, I'm just not a fan. I said gym-- but consider taking a day off. Do not pick the day of or the day after to be a total slug. This will only cause your muscles to stiffen up. Walk, bike, swim, jog, etc. Get the blood flowing and do some stretching.

Get back on your clean eating plan. You ran one race. Yesterday was the celebration meal. Unless you did The World's Toughest Mudder, the Spartan Death Race or UltraBeast, or an Ironman, you aren't allowed to continue using the race as an excuse to indulge. (Preaching to myself here.)

Many races will publish results and photos online. Be patient. You weren't the only racer, the photos will be there soon. If there aren't official photographers, watch the race's social media pages for amateur photographers who might post race photos.

Part 1 of this series.
Part 2 of this series.

Monday, October 13, 2014

How to Run an OCR, Part 2: During the Race

Part 2: During the Race

Read Part 1: Before the Race 

Trust Your Training
You've put in hours of training to get ready for this. You will be nervous, but don't mistake those butterflies for a sign that you shouldn't or can't complete the race. Get out there and have a great time.

Respect the Course
  • If you haven't trained like you should have, then this is not the time to decide to go all out. If your typical pace per mile is 12 minutes, this isn't the time to start running 8 minute miles. 
  • If you are not a swimmer, use the life vest provided or take the penalty to skip the water obstacle. 
  • Be sure to follow the course markers and don't throw trash down. If there aren't any trash bins, tuck the trash (another good reason to wear snug clothing). 
Respect Other Racers
  • Please pay attention on the course. In my last race, as I was climbing onto the monkey bars, a man moved from his lane into my lane, nearly knocking me backwards off the ladder. He apologized, and I know he felt bad. No hard feelings toward him, I know I've been guilty of doing the same thing. 
  • If you are on a narrow trail, remember that people might want to pass, so keep to the side if you are moving slowly. 
  • When approaching a runner from behind, give warning before passing, "I'm on your left." 
  • If you see someone struggling to get over a wall, give them a boost. If someone gives you a boost, return the favor for someone else on the next wall. (You can even climb the wall and run back around to boost your helper over.)
Slow and Steady on Obstacles
You should be making the most progress during the running portion of the race. Don't try to make up time on the obstacles (unless it's a barb wire crawl, tire flips or wading through water). Most obstacles will require careful placement of hands and feet, concentration, and relaxation. As you approach each obstacle:
  • Look. How are others completing it-- what seems to work/not work? Find a path through/over that is less crowded AND less muddy. 
  • Stop. If the obstacle requires your grip-- such as monkey bars or even the rope climb, you want your hands as dry as possible. (Don't rub them on your wet clothes. Yes, I've done this, not thinking.) Grab a handful of dry dirt to rub on your hands. This will help prevent you from slipping. Take a deep breath and work through the obstacle. Pay attention to every place you're putting your hands and feet, especially if this is a wall or obstacle of any height. I've never fallen but have had a near miss.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

How to Run an Obstacle Course Race, Part 1

Part 1: Before the Race
I frequently hear people say, "I could never do an obstacle course race."

If you are one of those people who've said those words because you're intimidated or don't think you're fit enough or whatever the reason, this post is for you!

Train. I posted about how to train for an OCR here. You want to be doing some strength training and running. (But you should be doing that for general health!)

Choose. There are a variety of OCRs out there-- large, small, long, short. Do your research. Check their Facebook page and website to see what type of reviews the company has earned. Here are the national companies are pretty solid:

  • Spartan offers 4 distances around the country. 
  • Warrior Dash is great for beginners. 
  • Merril Down and Dirty offers a 5k and a 10k option.
  • Tough Mudder is long (10-12 miles) and filled with mental challenges as well as obstacles.
Nutrition. Don't do anything new the day before or the day of the race. Eat whatever you would eat before training. You don't need to carb load. And trust me, you don't want to go into a race with an upset stomach. If you will be out on the race course for longer than an hour, you will want to bring some fuel-- GU, gel, etc. are most racers' choice. Because I eat high fat, I prefer a Justin's Honey Peanut Butter packet.

Hydration. You should already be drinking 1/2 your body weight in ounces each day (if you weigh 120 pounds, that's 60 oz of water). The few days before a race, I usually try to up my sodium (I don't eat processed food, so tend to be a little low in sodium) and water intake a tiny bit. If the temps or humidity will be high, bring water on the course-- a Camelback type device works best. Most races will offer water on the course, but I've been to more than one small races that have run out of water.

Invite. Create a team. Misery loves company, right? Just kidding. You will have a blast, but it will be even more fun to share the journey with friends. You can help each other over obstacles and encourage each other on the course.

What do I wear?
Avoid cotton. You'll be getting muddy and/or wet-- cotton absorbs water like a sponge and will be heavy (and droopy). I personally like tighter as opposed to looser clothes that might snag on the obstacles. Chances are, you'll be crawling at some point, so if you want to prevent your knees from scrapes, capris are a great option. I personally also like to wear tall compression socks-- they provide support for your lower legs. I've heard of people who wear knee pads, gloves and other forms of protection-- I don't believe any of that is necessary. It just seems uncomfortable. 

SHOES-- I ran my first race in an old pair of running shoes and did well. You don't have to spend lots of money on fancy OCR shoes. However, if this OCR thing becomes a habit, I would definitely invest in some trail shoes. Everyone has her favorite brand. I bought the trail version of the brand I wear for road running and love them.

Read Part 2: During the Race
Read Part 3: Post Race

Saturday, October 11, 2014

OCR Review: Trojan Race Series

The Miami Terminator
Amelia Earhart Park, Hialeah, FL
October 11, 2014

Having been burnt by 2 smaller obstacle course races last year, I've been too nervous to sign up for any small local events. I took a chance with the Miami Terminator because it was a Living Social deal with a discount on top of that. *Buyer beware of small races offered through the online coupon sites. Lots of entries are sold, and it's been my experience that the smaller companies sometimes struggle with organization and having enough volunteers.

I actually really enjoyed this race. Registration/check-in definitely needed more volunteers, and as a result the heats were all delayed about 30 minutes. But I have no other complaints whatsoever. I'll break down the review...

Registration
I purchased my entry through Living Social, so got a great deal. The evening before the race, they had onsite registration and a course preview, where racers could test the obstacles. I chose not to drive down for that. Communication was great-- I received an email 2 weeks before the event, and another 2 emails in the week before the event.

On race morning, check-in was slow. I arrived the recommended 1 hour before start time-- parking was good, except for the $10 fee. Registration was well-organized, they just needed more volunteers to speed up the process.

Bag check was offered for free (bonus!). I don't remember seeing any advertisement for it. We were also given a pretty nice tech t-shirt.

The Start
I ran in the chip-timed, competitive heat. The timers were all set and ready to go at start time. There was some delay-- supposedly the owner of the race company was also running the first heat, and we were all waiting for him to get to the start line. After about a 25 minute delay, "God Bless America" played (the deluxe version-- don't ask me why they 1) didn't play the National Anthem and 2) chose the longest slowest rendition of the song to play), and we were off.

The Course
The 3 mile well-marked course was obstacle heavy (the website boasts 40) with water obstacles, which I'm finding I love for the variety. I'll just list as many obstacles as I can remember:

  • logs to climb over (about 4 ft. tall)-- a series about 50 feet in, so there was some back up on the first few before the crowd thinned
  • wading through a culvert
  • lily pads-- hop across until you fall off and swim the remainder
  • swim/pull through water 
  • giant pvc tunnel--slide/crawl through
  • multiple (4 ft, 5 ft. and two 8 ft.-- height is my best guess) walls to climb 
  • rope climb-- with or without knots
  • cargo net climb
  • climb over stacked tires
  • monkey bars
  • rock wall climb
  • tire flips
  • "the Terminator"-- massive obstacle with 3 different options-- decline/incline monkey bars or 2 other America Ninja Warrior style monkey bar type crossings
  • rings
  • slanted wall (don't know the technical name-- 45 degree angle, run up, grab the rope and climb the ladder down the other side)
  • barbed wire mud crawl
  • ice crawl
There did appear to be "course marshals" out at the obstacles, making sure they were completed or at least attempted. At the rope climb, rings, and the monkey bars, I saw people doing 10 burpees for failed obstacles. Those penalties were given at the obstacles-- no instructions were given prior to the start. 

The Finish
We got a little medal with the race name and shape of the state of Florida (this race has also been held in Texas) and a water bottle. Wash off station was TINY, so I just waded out into the lake to get the mud off.

We were promised a free beer at the finish-- were even given wristbands for it, but I didn't see it anywhere nearby. (I also wasn't really looking for it, as I travel alone to races and wouldn't be drinking, anyway.) Some food trucks were on site, but I wasn't looking to eat.

Overall
For a small race, I thought it was excellent! I personally had a great race. I haven't yet seen the official results, but there were only 3 mud covered females around the finish line, so I believe I came in 4th. I'm most proud of my domination of the obstacles-- I opted for the no-knot rope climb instead of waiting for the knotted one and successfully completed all obstacles, including the rings (which usually give me trouble) and the decline/incline monkey bars. 

I will definitely register for this event again when it comes back to South Florida.
From the Key West event on the beach-- 
but some of the obstacles were the same.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Day 10: Today is THE Day

One of the biggest problems that we have with our fitness, I think, is our inability to just live in the moment. To just live for today.

People! Don't start Monday.
Don't even start tomorrow.
Start right now. 

People! Don't worry about what happened yesterday.
Don't worry about this morning.
Focus on right now. 

If you messed up yesterday.
Bummer.
Move on.
Don't make the same mistake today.
Be better right now. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Day 9: CROSSFIT!!!!

I. LOVE. CROSSFIT.

I really never ever thought I'd say that. When ESPN first televised the Games back in 2011, I watched with curiosity and concern. Like many people today, I thought much of the workouts looked dangerous-- the weights too heavy to be moved so fast safely, and the kipping weird. But I was a little fascinated. I mean-- check the 2014 Games out. ESPN is airing them or find clips on Youtube. There are some incredibly fit people performing some amazing feats.

I tried it for myself.
My 1st competition (I'm in the foreground)

And this is why I love it:
1. Constantly varied-- no two workouts are the same. After years of going to a gym, sitting on machines and performing the same workouts for weeks and months on end, CrossFit adds welcome variety.

2. High Intensity-- there is no not sweating in a WOD (Workout Of the Day). Workouts involve constantly moving and challenging yourself each day to a new level. Of course you need to know your limits and not push too far past them.

3. Functional Movement-- the entire body is engaged in moving in ways that are used in everyday life. Dead lifts-- picking something you dropped off the floor. Squats-- sitting down and standing up. Cleans-- lifting something from the knees or the ground and getting it up to shoulder
My most recent competition
level to carry. Plus-- if there's ever a zombie apocalypse, you'll be ready.

4. Community-- typically workouts are done in classes. Some boxes (gyms) offer open gym time to practice skills or do other work, but for the most part classes mean that everyone starts together and moves through the workout together (at his or her own pace).

5. Competition-- scores are recorded so that you can be a better you today than you were yesterday. Yes, of course, someone finishes the workout first and someone finishes last. But the biggest and best competition is you vs. you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How to Train Effectively

Short and sweet.

Most people think the longer the training session, the better it is. Eh. Here's the thing-- like any machine, our bodies need fuel to work. You wouldn't get in your car with a full tank of gas and attempt to drive across the country. In the same way, our bodies hold a limited amount of glycogen that fuels our workouts. Once that's gone, our bodies need more fuel, and if we don't provide it, the body begins using muscle, not fat for fuel.

Long, lower intensity exercise sessions will definitely burn lots of calories. And they will build your overall fitness. But you can achieve better fat loss, more effectively in a shorter amount of time by doing high intensity interval training (HIIT).

If you are one of those people who go and sit on the exercise bike, or elliptical or treadmill for long periods of time (more than 45 minutes), try changing up your workouts and see what happens.

Sample Intermediate HIIT workout:
High intensity training has made me a better runner.
This was after my first 1st place win in a 10k trail race.
5 rounds (complete the workout without taking a break-- unless you have to-- it should be difficult-- you should be sweating-- and breathing heavily):
15 push ups
25 sit ups
10 burpees
15 body weight squats

(Adjust the numbers for your fitness level.)


Some extra reading on cortisol:
http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-cortisol
http://www.shreddednation.com/cortisol-response-to-exercise/
http://chriskresser.com/why-you-may-need-to-exercise-less

Bonus reading on long, low intensity cardio:
http://stronglifts.com/cardio-fat-loss-hiit-vs-long-duratio-cardio/
http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/8-cardio-myths-are-making-you-fat

*I'm not a registered dietician or a doctor. I've got years of experience, a husband who's a CSCS, lots of research under my belt and am a level 1 CrossFit trainer. Get cleared by a doctor before beginning any exercise program. And start slowly and build your fitness.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How to Train: Obstacle Course Race (Day 7 in the Fitter at Forty series)

I love obstacle course racing for MANY reasons:

  1. If feels more like playing than exercise.
  2. You get to climb things, run, and crawl under, over and through things.
  3. You get dirty. AND it's ok.
  4. It combines my favorites: running and strength. 
  5. You get to face some of your biggest fears and challenges.
And that's just to name a few. I've also met some of the most amazing people at races and events.

You really should do an obstacle course race if you've never done one. Mostly for the reasons above, but also because training for one can be incredibly fun. Yes, I said training (aka exercising, working out) can be FUN!

If you have access to a CrossFit box (gym), then I'd recommend you join it. (More on that in a later post.) CrossFit + Running is great training for OCRs. If you aren't a regular gym goer, you can get some great training in your own backyard.

OCRs require a good amount of upper body strength-- you might be climbing ropes, walls, dragging heavy things, carrying heavy things, flipping tires, etc. Aside from practicing those things, great exercises that will help you prepare are:
  • running!
  • push ups
  • pull ups
  • burpees
  • body weight squats
  • lunges
  • sit ups
  • planks
  • yoga (for balance)
  • kettle bells (swings, cleans, goblet squats, snatches)
  • more running!
In addition to some strength training, you should follow a running plan that is for about the same distance as the OCR. 

It's also a great plan to mimic your race in training. Do some workouts where you mix running and strength work-- intervals. As you get stronger, increase the time/distance running and the amount of strength stops.

This morning's workout for me:
10 mins of easy running to warm up. Then...
4 Rounds:
400 M run (around my block)
climb the wall into my backyard
10 burpees
1 lap in the pool (fully clothed-- with shoes)
10 burpees
wall climb back out

Share your OCR experience in the comments! Tell me your favorite race and why.

Read Part 1 of a 3 part series on running an OCR.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Day 6: Goooooaaaaaaaaallllllllllllll!

I'm pretty sure I'm an off the charts high Type A personality. Actually I'm quite confident that I'm a Type A+. Setting goals is just something that comes very naturally to me. I don't really even think about it. I just must get better. I must do better. I must push forward into the next thing.

Sometimes I hear people who want to get in shape/lose weight/make a positive change in any way say, "I just don't know where to start."

Well, you start with a goal. No. You start with a specific goal. I'm not going to go into the whole SMART goal thing here. Instead, I want you just to think about what you want from life. Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? I believe too many people just throw their hands up and say, "I could never..." and quit before they even scratch the surface of their potential.

I never dreamed that at almost 40 I would be in the best shape of my life, competing in athletic events, and happily married with 2 teen boys.

So, what do you want? Don't say "to lose weight" or "to get in shape" or "to be more awesome." Be specific and set a goal that you can achieve in a few weeks. Think baby steps. Plot those baby steps out and start walking forward.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Day 5: That time I called my husband in the middle of a marathon.

Ok, so it wasn't in the middle of the marathon. It was at the proverbial mile 18ish wall.
Our younger selves around the time of
my first marathon 2010.

First, let me say everybody needs a Craig Lawson in her life. He's the best darn husband, coach and training partner a girl could ever have. He's a true life partner. And I try his patience to no end, it's a miracle he hasn't booted me out. Anyway...

I had the perfect marathon strategy:

  • I had (mostly) followed a great training plan from Runner's World. 
  • I had my gels, my Sharkies, and my water. 
  • I was running as a fundraiser and had a notecard with names of people for each mile who had sponsored a mile and whom I was committed to praying for during that mile. 
  • I had watched inspiring youtube videos ad nauseam. 

The first problem came when the course split around mile 12. Dear Miami Marathon course planners, this is a swift punch in the gut. Watching my friend and the rest of the half marathon runners trot off happily to the finish line (and bagels, bananas and beverages) is just cruel.

But it was ok. "I'm feeling strong," I told myself. (Use of mantra- check.)

And then somewhere around mile 17 the wheels fell off. And when I say fell off, I mean flew off and left me shuffling along in a crazed zombielike state. For a few miles I stumbled into every port-a-potty on the course; I didn't even have to go-- I believe I was hoping they were secretly time machines that would transport me to the finish line. I sent mental messages to every police officer I passed, willing them with my mind to pull me off the course and take me... I don't know... to prison?

Finally I found the solution. I would call my husband. My knight in shining silver car would find me on the course and rescue me from all my pain and misery. (And this thought proves just how crazed I was.) The call went something like this:
"Hello?" (My shaky, near hysteria greeting)
"Hello?" (His confused response)
"Where are you?" (Translation: why aren't you feeling my troubles and finding me. We are ONE!)
"I'm on my way to pick you up. Are you done already?" (Unknowingly rubs salt into the wound)
"I'm at like mile 18. I don't think I can finish." (Now sniffling and voice barely audible to prove how desperate the situation.)
"I'm driving to the finish line. I will pick you up there." (Translation: there is no way you are quitting)

And THAT is really why I called him. I had done the training-- the weeks and hours of long runs, longer runs, and speed work. Really, I knew he wouldn't come and pull me off the course. I knew he would give me the kick in the pants I needed to fight through and finish.

Let me say this about marathons... yes, they are painful. But they are worth it. 26.2 miles is no joke, but they will teach you about yourself and about the power of the mind. My problem out on that course was mostly my mind.

Please share any non-traditional race stories you have!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Day 4: Body Image.

(This post could contain triggers.)
Let's drag out that skeleton, shall we? It's going to get ugly.

I've always had a love/hate relationship with my body. Ok, that's a lie. Sometime in middle school (or maybe earlier?) something shifted in my brain, and I decided that I pretty much hated myself. Not just my body, but everything.

I look back now, and I'm sad for that little girl who was terrified to speak in class, who didn't want to play at recess for fear of being laughed at, who hated sleeping over at friends' houses because it meant leaving my safe place of home and being vulnerable for a whole 24 hours.

By middle school that had morphed into an obsession with my body. I tried to stop eating. Thank God the internet wasn't invented yet, or I would've starved myself into a hospital. As it was, I heard some tricks about how to hide the fact that I wasn't eating and became a pro.

I'm not sure what changed. But at some point I discovered that food could be an amazing comforter. And so I started eating. Lots. Instead of hiding what I wasn't eating, I had to hide ALL that I was eating. I hate barfing, so I wasn't a successful bulimic. Never once could I make myself vomit no matter how many times I tried. So, I took diet pills and laxatives. Fast forward to today...

Remnants of all those old feelings continue to haunt me. I'm driven to perfectionism. I mostly do not weigh myself. Quit for about 10 years, except in the doctor's office yearly, when I had to be weighed. I just know the scale summons demons for me.

A few years ago when I discovered running, my body transformed into a runner's body. I was at my lightest weight since middle school, but this time through healthy habits. And then I discovered CrossFit and competitions, which led to a strength building program. And I love it.

Here is the hardest part-- not the heavy lifting, or the brutal WODs (Workouts Of the Day). The hardest part is sometimes loving my new body. I have built muscles in places I've never had them. I've also put on about 15 pounds. My jeans barely fit on my butt and thighs. And I love it. And I hate it. I'm at my lowest body fat percentage ever, but my mind feels tight jeans and goes, "OH MY GOSH! YOU ARE GETTING WAY TOO FAT." Ok, that's not my mind-- it's those scale demons again. Because my mind answers with, "YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL AND STRONG AND FIT AND HEALTHY... AND LOOK AT THOSE ABS! (You've never had abs that you could see before.)" And my husband frequently echoes that.

Stop looking at the scale. Stop obsessing in the mirror. You are beautiful because of WHO you are. So, get out there and be beautiful! Focus on the numbers of weights you can lift, miles you can run, people you can impact. 


Friday, October 3, 2014

Day 3: When I Hate Training

It's Friday. I got up this morning and did NOT want to do my morning session. Did NOT.

The only thing that seemed acceptable in my mind was sitting at the kitchen counter, drinking coffee and catching up on social media. Ok, that was my second choice. My first choice was returning to bed and sleeping an extra hour.

But I did what I always do when I don't feel like it. Yep, I did it anyway. I've blogged about this before. And given some tips for overcoming that lack of motivation.

This morning was pretty much a nice easy hike with 4 bricks (yes, real bricks) in my back pack. 50 minutes or so, just walking at a decent pace and listening to The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes. Pretty inspiring stuff.

Anyway... thank the Good Lord for my husband/coach/training partner. Wednesday I REALLY didn't want to go to the weight room after school. Really DID NOT want to go. AT ALL. But I went. And he pretty much grabbed me with a twinkle in his eye and said, "Come with me." And here is what we did... (on a day when I HATED TRAINING... until I did it. And it was fun!)

5 rounds...
1 Legless rope climb (only about 10 feet)
15 yard sprint
30 yd "buddy" (40 lb wrestling dummy) carry
15 yard spring
10- 75 lb push press
40 yd heavy bag carry (60 lb)

Then:
3 rope clims w/legs (20 ft)

Then...
5 rounds...
200 M row
5 box jumps (24 in)
7 TTB (toes to bar)
9 hand release push ups

And THIS is what my husband and I do for fun.

video


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Day 2: About Me

I guess I should introduce myself to those visiting...

I started blogging because I had always wanted to be a writer and finally realized that "Someday" actually needed to have a starting point. And I also wanted to track my training (some what) and running. From my blog title, you can tell that I was primarily a runner when I began the blog. (And I use the term "runner" loosely-- I'm not super fast; I just love to do it.)

Since beginning the blog, I've discovered CrossFit, which I've fallen madly in love with. And according to my husband, my body is composed of lots of fast twitch muscle fibers, which makes me better suited for short bursts of work (lifting) than longer endurance exercise. Anyway, don't be confused by the "Running for One" blog title. (And by the way, the "One" is God-- it's a reminder to me that He is the only audience that matters.)

Right now my goal is to qualify for the CrossFit Regionals in the masters division. THAT would be the #1 reason that I'm excited to be turning 40. I now get to compete in the old lady division. No more 20 year olds kicking my butt with their seemingly unending supply of energy and strength.

Not the best picture: this was my most recent competition, The Raid Games on 9/13/14.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fitter at Forty: 31 Days of Blogging

Because I need one more thing on my plate...

I joined this crazy 31 Days Challenge.

31 Days of blogging daily during the month of October.

I'm doing this because I turn 40 this month. And to say I have mixed feelings about it would be the understatement of the century. On the one hand, I feel great. I'm happier and healthier than I've ever been before. I feel secure about who I am and what I'm doing. So, 40 is a huge thing to celebrate! On the other hand, I have two teens in high school. And I have these deep moments of nostalgia where I can't believe my babies are nearly grown, and I realize that those baby days are getting farther and foggier.

So, 31 days of reflections on being Fitter at Forty: a little bit CrossFit, Obstacle Course Racing and Training, Nutrition and Aging.

Here we go.

Day 2. Who I am.
Day 3: When I Hate Training
Day 4: Body Image
Day 5: That Time I Called My Husband in the Middle of a Marathon
Day 6: Goooooaaaaaaaaallllllllllllll!
Day 7: How to Train: Obstacle Course Race
Day 8: Howt to Train Effectively
Day 9: Crossfit!!!!
Day 10: Today is THE Day
Day 11: OCR Review: The Miami Terminator 
Day 12: How to Run an Obstacle Course Race: Part 1
Day 13: How to Run an OCR Part 2: During the Race
Day 14: How to Run an OCR, Part 3: Post Race
Day 15: A Serious Post on Depression
Day 16: Competition Prep and Lacking Motivation
Day 17: Aging Backwards
Day 18: Finding a Personal Record
Day 19: Bucket Lists
Day 20: K.i.s.s. (updated)
Day 21: Why Paleo? An Admission of Guilt
Day 22: But Doesn't Eating Fat Make Me Fat?
Day 23: TBT-- Who Made Off With My Mojo?
Day 24: Getting Older is Awesome!
Day 25: In Like a Lamb; Out Like a Lion
Day 26: Sometimes You Need to Wear a Tutu
Day 27: Pumpkin Walnut Butter Recipe
Day 28: Just a Little Patience
Day 29: Find Your Passion
Day 30: Goliath Gauntlet Race Review
Day 31: Finding Balance