What Am I Doing Here?

Standard

My personal training certificate is through the NSCA, the National Strength and Conditioning Association. To keep your certification, you have to renew every 3 years by completing 6 CEUs. It doesn’t sound that hard, except .1 CEU=1 hr. Ok, so every 3 years I have to spend 60 hrs on continuing education. No big deal. Except the NSCA puts a cap on how many CEUs you can receive for one activity. And there are categories (workshops, at home studies, other certifications) with their own limits of how much you can do. In other words, I have to spend a lot of time in conferences, reading books, and taking tests in order to maintain my status as an NSCA-CPT.

This year is a certification year, so I’m scrambling to complete my CEUs. On Saturday, I attended the Illinois State Clinic. It was a day of lectures from various professionals in the field. I love these types of conferences. There’s something about being surrounded by like-minded people and getting inspired by what they’re doing. But I was filled with anxiety as I drove up to Chicago for the day. What if someone asked me where I work? It’s a question you would expect someone to ask, especially at an event like this. Well, I’m a stay-at-home-mom.

So what are you doing here?

I had my obvious reasons. We all were attending because we needed the CEUs. That was a sufficient excuse to be at this conference. But for me, that implied another question: why do you need to remain certified?

Sure, my son is an infant and someday he’ll go to school and maybe then I’ll enter back into the work force. Or we’ll have more kids and need the additional income. Or someday I might go crazy at home and we decide that the best thing for the family is for me to get a job. All reasonable arguments for me to keep certified. Except I renewed my certification 3 years ago like I was supposed to, but I had just quit my job as a trainer. In the last 3 years, I have had a lot of jobs but none of them were training or even in a related field.

There are a lot of things keeping me from pursuing a job as a personal trainer, even at a part time level. The hours are awful; I mean really horrible. Most people want to train first thing in the morning before they go to work, or in the evening after work. In other words, the time my family has together would become prime working hours for me. But also, it’s really frustrating. People hire personal trainers expecting to get results just because they showed up to their session. I can work a person to the bone but if they go home and binge on the crap food they keep tucked away, they just aren’t going to get the results they want. And they always blame the trainer. In some ways my experience as a trainer brought me back down from my ideal world into reality: it’s hard work and sometimes people fail no matter what you do.

So why to I keep spending the time and money for a certificate that has little value for me? I don’t know. Honestly, I have no idea. Right now I’m just holding onto faith. Faith that it will become meaningful to me again. Faith that my failures as a trainer will someday be redeemed. Faith that I will understand how to better motivate my clients to be compliant. And faith that I will find my niche as a trainer. But none of that will happen if I throw it all in the trash today.

So I’m doing the work to keep my certification. I’m going through the motions and trying not to worry about the future. But that’s always been my biggest struggle: taking things one step at a time.

Advertisements

Failed, But Not A Failure

Standard

I failed. My goal was to run a 3:30 marathon in Indy, but I finished in 3:42. I didn’t reach my goal. I failed.

I can make excuses. The weather was pretty terrible; 18 mph winds are not ideal for racing a marathon. When it feels like 30 degrees and your fingers are frozen, it’s difficult to open your GU. Milo had gotten a cold the week prior to the marathon and graciously shared it with me. What if things had been different? What if it wasn’t so windy? What if I hadn’t spent my taper fighting illness? What if it’s not my fault I ran a 3:42?

Who cares? I can imagine a million different scenarios in which maybe I could have gotten the 3:30, but in the end it really doesn’t matter. Sure, I’m disappointed. I was 7 minutes away from qualifying for Boston. That’s frustrating! But that’s life.

When I was studying to be a personal trainer, we learned how to help our clients set goals. One important factor that is often overlooked is that goals should have a 50-50 chance of being reached. You might get it, you might not. This time I did not. Call me crazy, but I think it’s good for a person to fail every once in a while. If you are always hitting your goals, I think you’re not setting good ones. You’re playing it safe, afraid to fail.

Well I failed and I failed big. But you know what? That was one of my best races in years. I shaved 45 minutes off my time from May. That’s impressive in it’s own right. My attitude was also completely different. There wasn’t a moment during the 26.2 miles in which I doubted my ability to finish or quit having fun. I enjoyed the run, which is a lot more than I can say about the last couple marathons I completed. And then there’s the fact that I’ve finished 2 marathons since having Milo, and he’s not even 1 yet. I’m proud of that accomplishment regardless of the times.

I’m okay with my failure because it doesn’t make me a failure. It was one race; there will be others. If I let one time define me and my ability to run, I would have no reason to keep lacing up my shoes and hitting the road. I believe I am only limited by my own persistence and discipline. I may not be the runner I want to be, but I’ll never get there if I don’t keep at it. Sure, there will be more obstacles. But if there is one thing I’ve learned over the last year, it’s that I have the ability to come back from anything. If I put in the work and be patient.

So what’s next for me in terms of racing? I don’t know. That’s a conversation I need to have with my coach. But today I’m supposed to go for a brisk walk and, while it doesn’t seem like much, I’m going to do it. Because each step counts. Because even a brisk walk can make me stronger. Because my failed attempt has not defeated me. And the best is yet to come.

IMG_3510.JPG

I’m Not Giving 100% Anymore

Standard

As I settle into my role as SAHM, I struggle to understand what success looks like. When Nick asks me how my day was, my response is usually one of two options: “It was good. I got X, Y, Z done” or “It was awful. I barely got anything done.” I obviously measure the quality of my day by the quantity of accomplishments. And I’m realizing that this is exhausting.

Already this week I’ve scrubbed both bathrooms, vacuumed twice, washed and put away countless dishes, swept and mopped the kitchen floor, grocery shopped (bonus points for doing this with Milo), baked treats for small group, and done 2 loads of laundry. That’s in addition to my daily tasks of making lunch and dinner, going for walks with Milo, and running. Today when I woke up, I felt depleted. As I made my coffee, I pondered what should be on my to-do list. There are a million things I could do, but I decided that today I’m only giving 70%. Because giving 100% is stupid.

Now you might be thinking that sounds lazy. Or that your boss would never accept 70% from you on a given day. But let me illustrate this for you using running as an example.

I follow a training schedule for running. On Tuesdays, I do speedwork. This is usually a mid-distance run that is really intense. Wednesdays are a short, easy run. Thursdays are another mid-distance run that is usually a tempo run. So it’s one that I pick up the pace and push a bit. Fridays I take a break from running and strength train. Saturday is the long run. This is a tiring day because it’s usually 3 or more hours of running, but I’m not running hard enough to feel exhausted. Sunday is another day of low miles and an easy pace. Then Monday is a complete rest day.

Every day has it’s own goal and purpose, and not every day is 100%. There is a balance between all out efforts and rest. When someone is new to running, they will often try to run at 100% everyday. They think that’s the way you get faster. In realty, that’s the way you get burned out or injured.

So why wouldn’t other aspects of life follow the same principles? How long can a person give 100% to their job, relationships, etc before it all becomes too much? What if I stopped judging my day by how much I get done, and start assessing it by the way I feel at the end of the day? Could success be a day in which I give 60%, but my family is fed and I feel restored emotionally?

That’s my plan. To give 90-100% some days, but in between those days have ones of 70-80%. And to appreciate the rest days where I do nothing and wear sweats all day. This will be a challenge because as a novice SAHM, I want to give my all every day. But let’s face it, my all is becoming less and less with this mentality. Let’s trash 100% and start living with lower expectations.

There’s Still Hope

Standard

The tattoo on my inner bicep says “Love Always Hopes.” It comes from 1 Corinthians and is my daily reminder to not be afraid to keep hoping. That in times of doubt and dismay, hope can still remain.

I’ve had several years of bad running. Three years ago I had gained so much weight I was not in racing shape. Two years ago I had two foot surgeries that kept me from being able to run for 3 months. Last year I was pregnant and sick as a dog. This year I’ve been recovering from labor and deliver, trying to rebuild what was damaged.

Throughout all of this, I’ve kept running. Even though I was overweight, I trained and showed up to the races. The surgeries prevented me from running for months, but 2 weeks after my return to running I ran a half marathon. My pregnancy left me weak and discouraged, I had to take an 8 week break from running at the end of my first trimester and into the second. But that didn’t stop me from running 5k’s at 20 and 26 weeks pregnant, and even a half marathon at 31 weeks. I thought my big break would come once my son was born, but I didn’t realize how much labor and delivery would decimate all of the muscles in my abdomen and surrounding my hips. It was a long, slow, tedious process getting back into running. But that didn’t stop me from completing my 11th marathon at just 5 months postpartum.

I’m proud of those accomplishments. I’m proud that, in the face of struggle and doubt, I showed up. I put in the work to the best of my ability. But I’m tired of just showing up. I want to race; I want to compete.

And so I’ve started training hard again. Getting out to the track and running repeats, logging the miles, signing up for races. And while my body is getting back in shape, I’ve struggled mentally. My mind has been holding me back, telling me to be careful. Saying lies about how I’ll always run, but never be fast again. I’ve believed the lies. I’ve let myself think that the hard years have done me in, that there will just be more setbacks, that I need to just settle for mediocre. But that all changed this weekend.

I ran the We Care Twin Cities Half Marathon in Bloomington on Saturday. It’s the same half marathon I ran last year at 31 weeks pregnant. My goal was 1:45, an hour faster than last year. Granted, 1:45 is still not great for me. But it’s a lot faster than I’ve been in the more recent years. I felt like if I could get out of my head and push myself, I could at least come close to my former self. That’s all I needed, a glimpse of what used to be.

It was a really tough race. I forgot what it’s like to pace myself for such a distance. The course also goes on a bike path and there are other runners using it at the same time. I would find myself trying to race them only to realize they weren’t even participating. By mile 4, my mantra had become “run your race.” Quit worrying about everyone else and just do what you came out here to do.

It was a straight out and back. They had a clock set up at the turn around. As I made my way around it, it read 51 minutes. I could do it. I could reach my goal. A few miles later, back on the bike path, I stepped on some kind of shell and rolled my right ankle. Fortunately I didn’t injure it, but it did leave me more cautious and I slowed down until I got off the path.

When I was down to the last few miles, my mantra was “give it all.” Don’t hold back, don’t doubt, just go. I crossed the finish line at 1:43. It was an amazing feeling to see the clock as I crossed the line. Plenty of runners finished before me and I wasn’t an overall winner for the day, but that didn’t matter. Because for the first time in years, I had hope. I believed in me and I believed my best wasn’t behind me. That I could keep moving forward and improving with every run.

So I’m going to keep heading out there, putting one foot in front of the other. There might be setbacks and I might not ever be as fast as I once was, but there’s still hope. And that’s all I need.

IMG_3215.JPG

Me Time is Essential…And Not Just for Me

Standard

Me time. I read a blog a while back stating that me time is not essential. It states we cannot separate ourselves from the rest of our lives (spouse and children). At the time I read it, it resonated with me. I even shared it on Facebook. I was a new mom and everything else was changing; I thought my desire for me time would change as well.

For the last several months, I’ve had very little me time. I would feel guilty for wanting me time. After all, Nick would be at work all day and needed some me time. I would use my me time to cook dinner. Or do the dishes. Mow the lawn. You get it. Me time was simply any time that Nick needed to care for Milo.

I quit taking baths. I quit reading. I quit making fun stuff like body scrubs and bath salts. I took care of my home and squeezed in my runs.

I became exhausted and unpleasant. I felt trapped. Not resentful. Nick didn’t force this situation on me. In fact, he was always encouraging me to take some space, enjoy a bath. But I couldn’t shake the guilt.

While this was going on, Milo was growing increasingly attached to me. Truth be told, I wanted him to want me. I worked hard making that child, the least he could do was love me most. Right? But the more attached he became, the more I would feel guilty at the thought of letting him go.

Fast forward to the present day. I’m getting into the deep part of my marathon training. Long runs are no longer just an hour or two. I’m out on the road for at least 3 hours. That’s 3 hours of Nick and Milo, toughing it out without me. This past long run, I got home to find Daddy and Milo doing just fine. When I came in, Milo made no attempts to flee Daddy and head for Mommy’s arms.

So I took advantage of the situation and took an ice bath. (Not the same as a relaxing bath, but it sure did feel good on my legs!) We had lunch together and, as Milo napped, Nick let me nap. He promised to care for Milo if he woke up early. It was amazing.

By the time the late afternoon rolled around, I felt like I had barely spent any time with Milo. I was worried that I had hijacked Nick’s entire day. Until we were sitting at dinner and Nick said the most amazing thing.

I feel closer to Milo now than I did at the beginning of the day.

He didn’t feel resentment towards me. His day hadn’t been ruined. He got to spend the day with his son, building their relationship.

So here’s what I’ve learned about me time. For one thing, I need it. It is essential to me, not just for its own sake, but because I’m highly introverted. I can’t be around people all of the time and continue to function. The same is true about my family; they don’t get to be exempt from my nature. I’m a better person when I get sometime alone and I’m a better wife and mom the same way.

Secondly, when I don’t take me time Nick doesn’t get quality time with his son. Sure, I want to be Milo’s favorite but I don’t want him to not want his Daddy. Father/son relationships are just as important as Mother/son relationships. But a smothering Mom can impede the fostering of the Father/son relationship.

I won’t be feeling guilty for me time any more. It’s not selfish, not when it’s used in moderation. The flip side is still protecting Nick’s me time. It’s difficult to balance it all, but we’re working on it.

It Took You 9 Months To Get That Way

Standard

The first time I read it it made me so angry. Every time after that I got a little more angry. It was all over mommy/baby websites. Moms would ask about how quickly you can lose the baby fat and “get my body back” (spoiler alert: never. Your body is never yours again). The advice always given: take it easy. Remember it took you 9 months to get this way.

I felt like it was an excuse; a free pass for new moms to not worry about their bodies and just enjoy not being responsible for the shape they’re in. I pictured women saying, “I’m only 4 months postpartum; I don’t have to worry about exercising for another couple of months.”

I had no grace for other moms because by the time I returned to work I had lost all of the baby weight. Within months after that, I was under my postpartum weight. I was pulling clothes out of my closet that I hadn’t worn in years. Do you get that? I had clothes that I couldn’t fit in long before Milo and now they fit! It was glorious!

I worked hard for these results. It started before Milo was born; I ran all the way through my pregnancy with the exception of 7 weeks at the beginning of my second trimester when I was too sick. I would run and tell myself that it would make getting back to running easier. I would be stronger because of it. And I believe I was, but I also had no idea how long it would be before I was strong again.

I went for my first run 5 weeks after Milo was born. Those first few weeks were worse than running at 39 weeks pregnant. Within 2 months of Milo being born I started the tedious process of training for another marathon. At just 5 months postpartum, I ran my 11th and slowest marathon. It was grueling and frustrating. I may have lost plenty of weight, but I had also lost a lot of strength.

What I learned is that losing weight can be easy; it’s regaining your strength that is tough and those results don’t happen overnight. You can do a 3-day detox and shed several pounds, but after 3 days you’ll have no more muscle to show for it. And as great as it feels to be skinny again, I want speed. I want to be strong. I want to show up at a race and be a contender for the win. Forget the size 0; I want the trophy.

So here I am at 9 months postpartum. Running is completely different for me; before I was just logging miles and getting by. Now I’m doing tempo runs and repeats, and I can actually feel myself getting faster each week. And the clock says I’m getting faster too.

But my stomach is still a sensitive topic for me. It’s common for women to carry extra fat around their waste, it’s the exact location where your baby was nesting for 9 months, and it’s usually the last place to “tone” up. My stomach bothers me from an aesthetic perspective, but also physically. I can’t hold a plank as long as I used to, or do as many pikes as before my pregnancy. I’m working on it, but it’s no joke that delivering a baby wrecks your body.

I keep running harder and longer each week. I’m diligent about my diet, which means I also diligently splurge. And I try to keep offering myself grace. It’s ok if I’m not where I want to be; I need something to always be striving for. It was a long road forming Milo, but there’s still plenty of road after him.

Let’s Give Light to a Dark Topic

Standard

It’s tough living with depression; it eats you alive. You get swallowed up by it and, try as you might, your head starts bobbing and you feel yourself going under. It gets too tough to fight and you just lose all of your energy. You’d call for help, but you can’t because the first rule of depression is you don’t talk about it.

There is shame in suffering from depression. Some people don’t deserve to be depressed; life is too good or you’re too rich. Unless you’ve lived through a trauma, you have no right to be depressed. So you keep silent and don’t tell anyone how painful life is.

And then there are those who are too blessed to be depressed. We are too filled with the Spirit to let depression in. We have a new life in Christ, so how could we possibly be depressed?

I’ve wrestled with the guilt of depression. I’ve accepted the disease only to question God as to why I can’t be cured. I try to stay as silent as possible about it.

But then Robin Williams succumbs to depression and kills himself. I’m grateful that at the end of most of the articles surrounding his death there have been messages for the suicide hotline, that we are aware this doesn’t have to be everyone’s story. But I’m a little enraged that all we’re talking about is suicide and whether or not Williams’ took the “easy” way out. Even now we can’t talk about the disease that killed Robin Williams?

Depression is ugly. It’s a parasite that sucks the life right out of you. And it’s more prevalent than we think. So instead of conversations about what a shame it is to lose such a talented actor or how “cowardly” he was, could we talk about depression itself? Could we have honest conversations about its symptoms and treatment options? And if we insist on arguing about affordable healthcare, could we talk about the price of counseling and affordable options so that everyone can have access to proper treatment?

If you are suffering from depression: you are not alone, you are loved, and
depression doesn’t have to win.