A little blast from the past, here is me and my best friend Stu right before heading to Senior Prom. While I may be smiling in the picture, I was pretty miserable. I was squeezed in that dress (my dream dress) with a corset type thing around my waist and miserable, feeling fat and ugly. As awful as that was, it was a time that I learned I had to really respect my body.
In high school I was a Varsity Cheerleader which entailed 2 hours of practice a day running, jumping, and lifting girls above my head. It was intense exercise and while in season, I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted and stay the same size. Come the spring, when I was out of season and not working out daily, I continued to eat whatever I wanted and wound up gaining 8-10 pounds, leaving me frustrated and unhappy come prom season. By the summer I got myself to the gym and watched what I ate and lost some of the weight. It was then that I found myself at the other end of a valuable lesson. Whether I like it or not, I have to either watch my diet, or workout intensely if I don't want to gain weight. And losing weight requires both diet AND exercise.
So why am I glad I'm not naturally skinny? Because, now, at the age of 25, I've spent years learning how to eat right, making exercise a part of my regular routine, and improving my health as a byproduct of trying to keep my weight in control. While other kids went off to college and gained the freshman 15 and then some, I worked hard to try and keep the pounds off. And as I get older, while some people are finding their metabolisms suddenly won't let them eat everything in sight with no consequences, I have already figured out a balanced diet. Not everyone who is thin is healthy, but even a few pounds overweight, I was usually in good shape and could run a few miles without trouble and lift decently heavy weights. As of today, I'm in the best shape of my life!
My most recent transformation (as seen in the cover photo of the website homepage) came from seriously increasing the intensity of my workouts and cleaning up my diet a bit. Sometimes it gets tiring and frustrating knowing that I'll never be able to completely slack off, but when it comes down to it, I'm grateful for it. This body I was given has been a blessing because now that I'm the leanest and most toned I've ever been, I'm also the fittest and healthiest I've ever been. For me, the two are closely intertwined and that means that whether working out and eating right for my health or my vanity, I will gain both.
So as you struggle to create and/or maintain the body you want, remember to be thankful for all that your body does and for its ability to show you when you are not doing what it needs to be healthy and happy.
Success has ruined many a man.
It is so essential for our own progress that we set goals and challenges for ourselves. Things that are tangible, but push us to work harder than we normally would to achieve what we set out to do. We need to work, step-by-step towards our objectives, inevitably bettering ourselves along the way. But what do you do when you've achieved that huge, at one point far off, unbelievable goal?
That's what I've been faced with recently and while I have some plans in mind, getting back that fire and drive has been challenging. I spent months training for a marathon. It consumed a good part of my time and I had a concrete plan to follow along the way. Race day came and went, and while I am so proud of myself for accomplishing what I set out to do and for crossing a major line off of my bucket list at only 25, I'm left with a void that needs to be filled. I just ran a marathon, what do I do now? There is no desire in me to try and run further than 26.2 miles, and I've had my fill of running for a while, so I'm not looking to start training again for another one, so what do I do?
My answer is two-fold. In regards to fitness, I plan to get back into weightlifting which I really missed while training these past few months (long distance running and heavy lifting aren't extremely compatible, especially when you're nervous about your first marathon ever). Really, I'm more excited than I thought I would be to get back to lifting, so I'm looking forward to that and focusing on really sculpting my body the way I want it this time. But there is no major life accomplishment at the end of that path. So, I've made a new "life-altering" goal that is unrelated to working out.
While I love working towards a new physical challenge, it is really the idea of challenging myself, pushing myself, and striving to make myself better that thrills me. Taking a risk and being willing to fail along the way to accomplish something I really want is the best feeling one can get and when you succeed it is that much sweeter. So I'm on to bigger and better life goals. And maybe when I finish them, I'll go back to a fitness related goal. As long as you keep trying new things, keep expanding your comfort zones and your abilities, you will continue to grow and succeed and accomplish things your younger self could never have imagined happening.
So what's your goal? And what are your goals after you finish that goal? Think about it, make a list, and be ready because once you accomplish one goal, it always feels easier an
Yesterday I fulfilled a bucket list item and successfully completed a full marathon (that's 26.2 miles!). It was one of the most challenging things I've done so far in my life and required months of training and both mental and physical fortitude. I believe that's why is was so incredibly rewarding to cross that finish line. There is no better confidence boost than setting your mind to something and actually accomplishing it.
Have you had that experience? If you haven't set a goal for yourself, one that scares you, and then gone after it, it's a life must. While I was very happy with my time and overall performance, it is the simple fact that I finished that matters. I have impressed myself with what I can accomplish when I put forth the effort necessary. That being said, this is a fitness blog, so let me go over my thoughts post-marathon about my race experience.
The first couple of miles felt a bit slow, but that ultimately was good because it meant I wasn't starting out too fast and likely to hit a major wall. The first 12 miles were smooth, chatting with my two friends crazy enough to run a marathon with me. Around mile 13 or 14 I started to feel my body. Nothing seriously uncomfortable, but I could FEEL my hips and FEEL my quads working. By mile 16 there was some soreness and while we stretched at mile 12 the relief didn't last as long as I would have liked. Mile 20 is when things really got rough. It was uncomfortable to run, and just about as painful to walk; the course thinned out a lot with almost no crowd support or water stations between miles 20 and 22. This is where the mental challenge of running a marathon really came in. At that point there really wasn't much further to go, but everything hurt and every step was the result of my forcing my body onward.
This is where I really started to understand the statements fitness professionals make about pushing your body and working through the pain. Nothing was injured or broken and nothing ACTUALLY kept me from running, but I felt some level of pain pretty much everywhere. For me, I just had to keep running. Stopping and starting back up again just wasn't an option as I found starting to run again a much greater mental challenge than convincing myself to not stop. This mental battle is certainly going to be different for everyone, but I'm confident that everyone running their first marathon will experience it. I'm proud of myself for pushing forward and running essentially the whole thing, and I now appreciate just how mentally tough I am and how much my mind really does control my body.
Tips for future marathoners:
- Drink at every or almost every water station. I may have ended up with a dehydration headache at the end, but it was less severe than the one I got after my 18 mile run during training and I'm sure the improvement came from drink so much more during the run.
- Be sure you know what food/fuel they will be providing on the course so you know whether or not to pack your own. During training I tried a few options and found what worked best for me and my stomach and since that wasn't what they offered during the race, I carried what I would need with me.
- Try out your clothes on a long run beforehand. I knew it would happen, but I didn't have time to find something else to wear and try that out, so I got some lovely chafe burns on the inside of both biceps from my t-shirt sleeve seams. It hurts and definitely makes the race more uncomfortable, so try your stuff out before if you can.
- Remember why you are running a marathon. Like I said before, it is a mental battle, so being clear on your goal is essential. Going for a specific time, just want to finish, want to prove to yourself and everyone else that you can do this? Think about it when moving gets tough.
- Know that even if you don't do as well as you might have hoped, you trained hard, you attempted something few have even tried, let alone accomplished, and there is no reason you can't try again if you're really unsatisfied with your performance.
- You will hurt immediately after the race and a day later I'm still very sore. It's worth the pain, but if it's your first one I wouldn't recommend making any extravagant plans for after the race.
If you have any questions about my experience, the food I ate, or the gear I used, leave a comment below... And Happy Marathoning!
lover of fitness, sweets, veggies, adventure, travel, and feeling confident.