Hi Yogis and others,

Yoga and writing to me have been inextricably linked from day one. Bikram’s teaches me so many things, and I get excited about them and feel like I need to share my insights. Blogging is my way to document my mental growth.

Yoga is most certainly a form of exercise (especially Bikram’s) but, what I’m sure is already abundantly clear to you all, is that yoga is also an exercise for the mind. Learning how to overcome pain, and push through drama and difficulty to attain success; to build up your sense of self efficacy, boosting your confidence and driving you to become mentally healthier. Yoga helps you practice being in the moment, not getting caught up in the transitive phenomena we are confronted with daily, and hourly. Yoga is an incredible workout for the brain. But I don’t have to tell you that.

Do you know who I have to tell that to? The teachers at Bikram Yoga Seattle in Fremont. I’m not linking to their page, I’m not trying to slander them. I know I have discussed before the reasons why I dislike that studio (and the reasons why some people might prefer it!), but that is where Kaleesha and I ended up doing our 30-day challenge. Just to recap: there was a groupon sale that got us an incredible deal on unlimited yoga for a month at the Fremont studio. I decided to go for it, even though I knew I hadn’t particularly liked that studio in the past, and that was a huge mistake. I didn’t particularly enjoy the classes there, I didn’t get that same incredible spirit lift there that I do going to the Sweat Box. I didn’t know why that was for a while, but I soon realized that it is because the Fremont studio completely ignores the mental aspect of the practice.

I will admit I did an awful job of documenting my most recent 30-day challenge, but it’s because a massive part of my practice was missing. I didn’t have anything to say, because my landscape of epiphanies was stark. My hopes for that strength of mind, and greater wisdom that comes with a challenge like that were sadly unfulfilled.

Right after I finished my month at Bikram Yoga Seattle, I went directly to the Sweat Box and began taking classes there. I finished my challenge at the sweat box in October, and since then I have been attending classes at the sweat box about 3-4 times a week. I feel so grounded, and so comfortable in my own body right now, and I am definitely in better shape than I was in over the summer. Most importantly, despite the fact that I have been working in a preschool, my back is in wonderful shape (that’ll be a topic for another post!).

I am so happy to report that unlike my 30-day challenge three years ago, I have been able to continue to work my yoga into my life post-challenge.

Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful holiday, filled with friends and family and love.

Namaste!

-C

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Hi Readers,

I did something a little different today.  

As some of you may know, I haven’t snow boarded in a long time.  A long time as in about 5 years.  In fact, last time I was on a board I was in high school and I broke my wrist and hurt my back, and I have been uncharacteristically terrified to go back ever since. Today, when my parents left for their instructor training clinic (I happen to be part of a family of snow-sport instructors!), I thought to myself, f**** it.  I’m going too. Of course when I got to the mountain I realized I couldn’t even remember how to lace my boots right, much less consider riding down the hill, so I swallowed my pride and decided to take a private lesson, and my instructor was Zach Reifert from the Summit Learning Center at Snoqualmie Pass. (Note: pretty sure that’s his last name! Great instructor, not so great handwriting)

Usually I just write about my challenges, but since I have been a terrible blogger this year, and since I don’t currently have a formal 30-day-challenge in the works, and since Zach was such a great instructor, I thought I’d write about my experience today.

I was apprehensive about signing up for a lesson. I always think those situations where you’re hanging out with someone who is being paid to be nice to you tend to be awkward, but Zach wasn’t awkward, and more than that he was an excellent teacher. He has an almost scientific understanding of the physicality of snowboarding, and he’ll explain it to you, with his somehow humble seeming disclaimer: “let me know if this is getting too technical!”

I appreciated the fact that he seemed to understand where I was coming from, having had an injury, and he was the perfect balance of encouraging, and respectful of my limits. I have always said that what makes a a person a great teacher, is being able to read and respond to a student’s needs. That is definitely what makes Gary my favorite teacher at the Sweat Box, and it is what I strive to do as a teacher. Zach has that gift.

A good instructor is something valuable beyond measure, so when I find one, I obviously have to share the wealth! Hopefully some of you yogis also happen to like snow sports, and if that is so, I have to recommend Zach as my top pick for a private lesson. He’ll have you doing 180s on your first day!

-C

My 8k is coming up and I am nervous, plain and simple. I ran my first practice 8k last week, and it went horribly awry: my allergies acted up, my shins hurt like crazy, my clothing was uncomfortable, and I felt discouraged and let down. I kept thinking to myself I’ve been working at this for nearly 6 months, and 5 miles is still challenging. Why am I even doing this? I want to quit. I’m going to finish the last out of everyone and feel terrible about myself. But I finished my run (if you could call it that), and I felt like I knew my worst case scenario.

Feeling sorry for myself, unmotivated, and disappointed, I sauntered into my house to check out facebook (where better to seek comfort?) when low and behold, an update from Jamie: a picture with the caption “Nat on her 40th km today in the BMO.” Ok I’m sitting here feeling bad about running an 8k and Natalie is on her 40th km of her marathon? I am in awe of this woman. All my negativity instantly went away, and was replaced with inspiration and motivation. I could get there one day too! But how? Well, ladies and gentelman, without further ado, I present to you my Q and A with the amazing, inspirational, and very very fast, Natalie Chomin herself.


Claire: How did you start running and why do you love it so much?

Natalie: I started running in elementary school and realized I loved to race, so that’s when I decided to try Cross Country and Track. I competed until I graduated High School [and did] other sports at the same time. When my High School days of running were over, I found myself craving that racing experience and decided to do my first half marathon. I really enjoyed it, and decided to start racing in triathlon, which I did for the past 5 years along with running shorter races. Last year I decided to take it up a notch and sign up for a full marathon and the rest is history!

Running is a funny thing. Sometimes I wonder “why do I do this every single day?”….especially when I am losing toenails, chaffing, blistering, missing out on social events, watching my diet and alcohol consumption and giving up my days off so I can run, and recover from, my weekly long runs which got up to 35 kms. But that’s what I love the most about running–the challenge and the high I get from achieving my goals. Nothing is comparable for me, and many people wonder why, but it’s become my escape.

C: What was your very first race like? How far was it and How did you feel after?

N: My first race outside of High School was the Victoria Half Marathon. It was 21.1 km, and it was a bit of a letdown. I had trained extremely hard and enjoyed that aspect immensely, but race day was a thumbs down. The weather was terrible, and I went out too fast with the built up adrenaline and hit a wall around 15km. After, I was happy I finished and overall it was a good first race, but I learned a lot from it.

C: What is the last week before a marathon like? In the days before the BMO marathon, what did you do to prepare?

N: The last week of training before a marathon includes tapering. You hit your highest weekly mileage around 2-3 weeks before the race then all your runs get shorter and less intense. In the days before the race, I focused on making sure my diet was getting a lot of simple carbohydrate for immediate glycogen stores, getting a lot of sleep and mentally preparing. I was extremely nervous, barely able to think/talk about anything else.

C: What types of cross training do you incorporate into your workout routine?

N: I like to do yoga 1-2 time a week, as well as biking or hiking; in the summer I do the Grouse Grind as one of my cross training days. I also do a core circuit twice a week, as having a strong core really improves your running performance.

C: What is normal running pain like? Where do you feel it most when you run for long distances? Shorter distances?

N: Pain is one of the biggest topics in marathon training. I thought I knew what it was like to experience pain from running before marathon training….but I was wrong. In long runs, one of my biggest issues was chaffing. I would literally be bleeding in the shower from the rubbing of my heart rate monitor, sports bra and sometime shorts/long spandex. Long runs also bring on cramping in the calves, and hamstrings, not to mention lactic acid build up occurring in the upper body. Tempo and speed workouts were just painful because they were tough cardiovascular workouts and I would get some acute muscle soreness afterwards.

C: What gets you through the tough times? When you are training what motivates you? When you are actually racing what pushes you to go faster and keep moving?

N: I go through some tough runs and tough stretches of time while training, which all runners definitely experience. On one of my long runs I was seriously questioning my decision to run a marathon. Why am I doing this? Why do I go through all this pain? Will I be able to finish the race? Maybe I should just do a half…..but I always am motivated by the one fact that never changes, I love a challenge, and achieving that goal is one of the best feelings in the world. Hands down. In a race, the adrenaline and the pounding of footsteps by the other runners around me drive me forward–knowing that pain is temporary, and pride is forever. I had a cross country coach tell me “run until there is literally no gas left in the tank”. Lots of times I have to dig extremely deep to find that bit of energy, but it’s there, and sometimes you have to get through times like that mentally when physically, there is nothing left.

C: Any final words of advice or encouragement for newbies like me?

N: I love it when I hear that someone is picking up running. Having confidence is very important when beginning a new sport. You have to know that YOU can do it, and no one else can tell you otherwise. I never thought I’d do a marathon…it was just too long of a distance, I used to think. But when I realized that the only thing holding me back is myself, I went for it. I would suggest signing up for a 5k, or whatever distance you feel would be a challenge and start training. I love having a race in mind, it motivates my workouts every single day. And when I am finished that race, knowing I achieved something that I set out to do, is an amazing feeling!

Happy Running!

Thanks for the interview, Natalie! You are phenomenal and I can’t wait to hear about what you do next!

Happy training to all my readers, whether you are a runner, a yogi, a swimmer, or a bob sledder.

Motivationally yours,

C

February. The month of love, and romance, and chocolate truffles. The month of chicken wings, and bbq, and Superbowl Sunday. The month of… another fitness challenge?

Well kiddos, it’s true. I was invited by my friend Kaleesha to participate in a little Facebook event called The February Challenge, and I encourage all of you to participate as well. I’m not a health nut, I’m not a gym monkey, but I do love a challenge, especially a group challenge.

**click on the link now and check out the challenge, otherwise this will simply not make sense beginning now**

I haven’t entirely decided what my challenge options will be yet. As most of you know, I like to set goals that are challenging, but not unattainable. I like the idea of doing 7 hours of cardio a week, for example, but I’m pretty sure it won’t happen. Five, on the other hand, I could probably do.

I’m joining in with Kaleesha on my bad habits: eating at night and chewing my nails. Even just those things alone will do wonders for my health. I’ll keep you updated on my other picks!

I like the idea that you can do anything for 28 days (yep it’s a short month, remember?). I love the mentality of one day at a time, one step at a time, one millimeter at a time, if you’re walking in the right direction eventually you will get there. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of what you can do.

Competently yours,

-C

So on Wednesday I went to the gym.

I’m going to let you process that for a minute…

ok?

Those of you who follow this know what a big deal it is that I went, because in the past, I have been the first to say how much the gym sucks. The thing is, it has been snowing here in Seattle. Snow derails my (already mediocre) ability to run outside.

When my dad and sister said they were going to the gym, I decided to go along. I bought a ten visit card for $10 at Prorobics, which is a lovely facility just West of Laurelhurst (all of my $10 went to Children’s Hospital btw!). Truth be told, I could not bring myself to run on the treadmill. I had every intention of doing so, but when I walked into the room, I couldn’t. Running makes me feel a little self-conscious to begin with. The treadmills, shiny and metal, computer screens flashing, were all lined up in the very front row of the gym. They placed the machines, strategically it seemed, right below the televisions where the other patrons glued their eyes. No way was I going to turn my pathetic jog into a performance art. No way, no how. So I grabbed a copy of Vogue, chose an elliptical machine, furtively entered my weight, and pressed the button for cardio workout. Easy as pie.

The workout zoomed by, and I stayed warm doing it.

The thing about training for something is, the day of reckoning is going to come whether I am ready or not, and I want to be ready. I want to say I did my best, and I want to be able to run that whole entire 8K. Run, do you hear me? Not walk. So since I’m going to have to find a way to train, whether it’s snowing or raining, or 90 degrees, I’m going to have to make peace with the gym. I’ll have to get brave enough to try the treadmill too, but I think for now I’ll be proud of myself for just going. My plan is to try the treadmill and get comfortable on it at a time when the gym is not busy, that way I won’t feel like a stand-up comedian with a tough crowd.

What is your favourite piece of gym equipment?

-C

Sometimes when I read over what I have recently written, I am able to get better perspective on my own advice. I think I have a lot to teach myself, for example, on October 25th, I wrote that the hardest part about running would be making the time to get dressed, leave my house, and hit the pavement. Once I get to that point, I’m going to do the gosh darn run – it’s inevitable. On October 28th, I wrote about the good aspects of running for exercise, and I now have that bookmarked on my browser, because I find it heartening to read.

Today I cross trained for 30 minutes, and tomorrow is another running day. I am telling you all now, I am not going to skip tomorrow’s run. It’s going to happen, because I know (and I think you all know too) that I am more than disciplined enough to make myself put on a pair of shorts and runners and trot out into the cold (has everyone else noticed how freaking cold it’s gotten?!).

Something one of the teachers said during my last class at Bikram Yoga Seattle, was that the main reason they ask you not to leave class, is that if you allow yourself to leave class once, leaving will always be an option. If you don’t ever leave, it’s never an option to leave. The first time you do it is the hardest, after that it just gets easier and easier. The truth is, it is easy to skip a run. The world doesn’t end, time doesn’t stop, I haven’t been smote down by any God yet, but it does make me feel kind of bad about myself. That is arguably worse than most other consequences.

So some things I am going to do for myself this week:

*Make a new absolutely killer running playlist. Song suggestions appreciated and welcome btw.

*Drink more water. Since I’ve worked in the school district, I have drunk so much less water! I feel significantly worse because of that, and I need to get back in the habit. I used to drink 10 glasses a day easily, now I’m lucky if I get 3.

*Plan, plan, plan, and plan. I need to schedule my days better, right now they are too unstructured to be productive.

*Lastly, I am going to try my hardest to get more sleep at night. I need to wake the eff up.

So with those four goals in mind, I will depart. I hope to have a much more positive, successful, and fulfilling week this time around. What are your goals to make yourself healthier this week?

-C

I have skipped runs. I have never been a person who believes in excuses, but I witnessed something really scary two weeks ago Tuesday, and I am afraid to run in the dark. My recent slew of days where I am leaving my house before 8, and getting home 12 hours later, have made it nearly impossible for me to find daylight to run in.

I’m disappointed, because I don’t like feeling like I haven’t met my goals. I was supposed to increase my distance this week. I am curious about the amount of progress I would have made by now, had I run more in the past two weeks.

I can’t change where I am now, but I can change my behaviour starting tomorrow. First of all, I’m going to look at my schedule, and see how I can fit runs in during the day. If that means packing running clothes and bringing a back pack, and jogging all over West Seattle every day after work, I’ll do that. If I must, I’ll even consider joining a gym, although you all know how I feel about gyms (see this post).

This is the first time that I have shared a failure here. I love to share my successes, but I want to iterate to all of you, and to try to convince myself, that sometimes it’s ok to fail. When I was working at Lululemon last year, a bit of wisdom they imparted upon me, was that when you’re setting goals, you should set them so high, that you don’t reach about 50% of them. That’s a tough bit of info to digest. My jerk reaction to that is that it’s crazy, but maybe that reaction is really just a reflection of my fear of failure. Maybe the possibility of failure is something I have to open myself up to.

Running has put me out of my comfort zone in so many ways. My yoga challenge was difficult, but for me the yoga studio has always been a safe, comfortable place to be. I’m good at it, and I like it, and it relaxes me. Running is not something I feel good at, it isn’t particularly relaxing, and I don’t get as much instant gratification from it. Writing this down, and realizing I have so far to go in this endeavor, is making me feel frustrated and kind of sad. I want to be confident in my ability to do this, and I want to believe I have the discipline to make myself continue this challenge, but I am not feeling very positive about any of it at the moment.

Hopefully this week will bring about some positive changes. Send me good energy everyone… I am sending it right back.

-C