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

There was an interesting editorial piece in the Seattle Times today, by Vicky Hailett, about the difference between men and women when it comes to exercise. The article claims that men exercise for the sake of exercising; “for guys to sweat is a badge of honor,” writes Hailett. Women, on the other hand “[look] at being active as a means to have wine with dinner.” EXCUSE ME???

As you can probably tell already, I don’t agree with this. I have never worked out in order to eat more. I have never worked out to be social. I have never been afraid of sweat; and I have never been unwilling to “hoist a dumbbell.”

As you probably have gathered from reading this blog, I actually love to sweat. I love to work out not because it allows me to indulge in sweets and wine, but because it makes me feel good, inherently.

What this article seems to profile is in fact two types of people who work out in unproductive ways. First there are the people (the women, according to Hailett) who don’t like exercising; who exercise as a means of achieving better health, and so they can eat a little more without gaining weight, but who have not found the joy in exercising. Second are the people who over extend themselves because they are image conscious: these people want to be seen going to the gym, lifting the heaviest weights, and running the furthest, but they do it without regard for their health or capability. These are the people who end up injured.

Another aspect of the article that I take offense to is Hailett’s reasoning. She argues that women tend to not be able to find the joy in exercise, because most of them have been brought up to be inactive, and not to value fitness. The unfortunate thing is, that according to the Women’s Sports Foundation, 62% of all children ages 9-12 report that they engage in no physical activity after the school day ends. That’s not very many boys or girls who are regularly participating in physical activity as children. Girls who take part regularly in sports make up 32.4% whereas boys make up 49%, so yes, there are more boys participating in sports, but the girl’s reasons to participate include “having fun […], improving skills, and doing something they are good at (22).” Since only 10% of girls who are not active in this age group will become active by the age of 25, I would argue that most women who are active, have not been brought up devaluing sports and physical fitness. I would say they definitely have found joy in being active.

I know I am generalizing a lot here, but I really find it hard to believe that I am in the minority when it comes to women valuing exercise outside of its ability to give them a slimmer physique. I love to move my body, and sweat, and run, and cook healthy food, and eat a cookie sometimes, and brush my teeth and give myself downtime to decompress. These are all equally important ways I take care of myself, and I assure you that when I do eat that cookie, I’m not calculating how many miles I will have to run to work it off.

Am I alone here? How do you fit in to this? How do you view exercise in your life?

Contemplatively yours,

-C

All statistics taken from: http://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/binary-data/WSF_ARTICLE/pdf_file/191.pdf

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

It’s a shame that I actually am having to force myself onto my blog today after nearly a month of utter internet silence. It’s a shame because this past month I have made such major progress towards becoming a runner.

Briefly, I’ll give you a running update, and after that I’ll get to the more interesting stuff:

1. My 10:36 minute miles has dropped to a 9:56 minute mile – that is a :40 second difference in just a month! A lot of that was made possible because I am learning how and when to push myself in running (which, for the record, is SO different from in yoga).

2. I have gone from thinking of the treadmills as “vicious, evil, monsters who like to revel in my humiliation” to being able to go into the gym and jump up on one like he’s my favourite pony and I’ve ridden since I was born.

3. The shins. Ohhhh the shins. ouch. They aren’t really getting better, but I do find that with a 30 minute warm up on the elliptical the pain is significantly reduced. I also find alternating between running a mile, walking for 2-3 minutes, and running another mile helps immensely.

4. I can finally say I am at a place where I know if I had to run Beat The Bridge tomorrow, I could do it. I probably wouldn’t be particularly thrilled with my performance, but I know I could finish it, and even probably run the whole way.

Now to the juicy stuff. It’s a new year (2011! Yeah!) and since this blog so much focuses on setting goals, and achieving them, you are probably expecting some epic resolutions for the coming 12 months. The fact is, that is simply not the kind of goal setter I am. As you may have noticed, I set my big goals kind of randomly, when the timing feels right, and when the right challenge comes along. This very seldom coincides with December 31st (actually, it tends more to coincide with November, for whatever reason). One of the mantras I do live by, however; is “keep setting goals and achieving them.” This mantra is what drives the rhythm in my life. I set goals, small ones and bigger ones, every single day. Take a look in my day planner, and you’ll see what look like mini to do lists on almost every page. I am a goal setter, that is who I am, and the beginning of a new year does nothing to encourage that or discourage it in any way. Goal setting gives my life meaning.

This year, however, I would like to add a bit of a theme to the goals I will set, and that is I want each of them to make me a better person in a new way. My big goals I’ve blogged about so far have been athletic ones, but the new big goals I am going to tackle are not. I have a few ideas, but I haven’t quite fluffed them out yet. In this way, this new year will be different. I will continue to set goals and achieve them, I will continue to challenge myself both physically and mentally, and I will continue to let this add meaning and value to my life, but I will expand my ideas of what can be thought of as a goal.

As a quick refresher, remember to set goals that are SMART. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and have a Timeframe! Good luck with your own resolutions, and I wish you all the most productive, successful, SMART, New Year you have ever had!

-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 had about 3 1/2 hours of sleep last night… off to a great start. I was thinking, as I started my day sans planned AM run, that I could start tomorrow instead, but then, at 9:38 AM, Amanda Marcus texted me. “Just got back from the first 2 miles…” it read. That was that, I knew I had to stick to my guns.

Tonight I learned that, like yoga, the hardest part of running is making the time, and getting out the door. If you can manage to get yourself changed into your workout clothes, and on the pavement, you’re not going to turn back; so with my iPod charged, and my puppy companion in hand, I set off down the driveway.

I ran about half the way, which probably isn’t much to all you marathon runners out there, but I’m proud of myself. I actually did better ,and felt stronger than I anticipated I would. I’m going to try to keep this short and sweet, so I will leave you with a few observations.

First of all, my ability to tune out pain amazes me. Yoga gave me the mental strength necessary to push my physical limits, and trust that my body can do the things I want it to. Even though my lungs were burning, my calves were aching, and my lower jaw was throbbing (is this normal??) I did not stop. The only time I stopped running and walked instead, was going up and down the big hills, and that was mostly because I was afraid of falling.

On that note, the hills are a huge problem. I am all for running hills, but the route I chose (using http://www.mapmyrun.com) happened to be exactly half composed of enormous hills. I think I will do my other route next time, and hopefully I will be able to run more of it.

Tomorrow is my cross training day, and I’m planning on doing 30 minutes of biking, walking, or swimming. Swimming would be a nice change of pace to try sometime, but probably not tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will bike for 30 minutes.

Wish me luck!

-C

So the title of this blog is “30 days of yoga…1 day at a time.” What you may not have noticed, is the subtitle, “Addicted to self improvement.”

Some of you may read this blog because you love yoga, more of you probably read this blog because you love (or at least tolerate) me. My goal in writing what I do is three fold:

1. Help people become inspired to challenge themselves in their own lives,

2. Help people feel like they are not alone in their struggles, whatever those struggles may be, and,

3. encourage people to find healthy and productive ways of working through the aforementioned struggles.

Since these things are not yoga-specific topics, this blog is about to seriously evolve.

I have recently begun to deal with a struggle of my own in my life, and that is Type 1 Diabetes. For those of you who are unfamiliar, type one diabetes is a genetically based, incurable, auto-immune disease. In brief, when a person has diabetes, the body is unable to produce insulin, and the cells of the body are unable to use food for energy, resulting in starvation. In order to counteract that, people with Type 1 Diabetes take insulin injections.

I hate these videos, but if you want a little illustration, here you go:

So in dealing with the fact that I have Type 1 Diabetes, I have begun to get involved in some of the Juveneille Diabetes Research Foundation’s (JDRF) events, and one of them is Beat the Bridge, an 8K race to raise money for JDRF.

So here it is, my new goal for self improvement: I’m going to run the 8K Beat the Bridge race to beat Diabetes.

Don’t worry, yogi’s, I will still blog about yoga too, but I am comfortable doing yoga. Yoga is part of my life, it is part of who I am, and this blog is supposed to be about stretching my boundaries, and expanding my capabilities, and that is what I’m going to start doing. Right now.

-C

Yeah.  I said it.  This blog has been about…. the physical and mental challenge of yoga so far.  I have avoided talking about personal things.  I have avoided discussion of the emotional impact of yoga.  Now it’s time to get personal, because that is a big part of how this class tonight went for me.

I knew it was going to be a tough class from the start.  We began with the breathing exercises and 6 breaths in I was gasping for air already.  Partly I think it’s that I’m a little bit under the weather (with a cold no less and only allowed to nose breathe? ugh…), but partly it’s that yoga makes you release all the toxins out of your body.  Yoga makes you release all the toxins out of your body, but in order for that to happen, they have to flow through your body, which means you have to experience them and that can often be painful.  Bikram always says that the poses that are the most challenging, the ones that hurt the most are the ones that you need the most.  I have always kind of thought of this as being purely physical, but tonight it got very emotional.

Maybe I have been holding on to a lot more than I thought I was.  I actually made it through the standing series, but right after tree pose, lying in my savasana (dead body pose), it was all I could do to not burst out crying.  I am not a person who cries a lot, or who cries easily.  I am a person who distracts herself, moves forward, dislocates herself from her problems, but I found myself lying in my yoga class with tears in my eyes and I didn’t know why.  Then I started thinking.  I started accepting that this pain that I was feeling (and it was a deep, emotional pain) was just like the physical pain I was in during certain postures.  I thought to myself that in order to get stronger, I was going to have to be present and feel this pain… and do you know what?  I started realizing (really really realizing) that it was ok to be sad… because I have done a lot the past few months.  I am coming off of a broken engagement, moving away from everything I know and love, missing all of my best friends in the world, jobless (and other things but let’s not wallow too much)… and aside from all that, even if none of that was there, it would still be ok to cry.

So this class, tonight, for me, was about realizing the appropriateness of being sad sometimes, and crying sometimes.  I thought a lot about the importance of being present, and allowing one’s self to feel whatever is there.  My very first yoga instructor ever once told us to stop  categorizing our feelings.  She said there are feelings.  There are no bad or good feelings, just feelings.  She said if you are feeling pain, allow yourself to experience those sensations without categorizing them, and you will be suprised how much you can handle.  I’m allowing myself to be present now, and I think that will do a lot for my psyche.  I didn’t just expel physical toxins tonight, I expelled emotional toxins as well.

So why get personal now?  Why expose my innermost feelings to the world wide web?  I guess I hope that other yoga practitioners, and anyone else who is reading this, might realize that it’s ok to expel some toxins of their own.  Maybe I am looking to see whether or not I am alone in feeling this way.  Maybe I am running out of people who will listen and I am throwing my thoughts out into the ether in hopes that someone will catch them and say “I get it.”  Either way, it feels like the right thing to do tonight.

Sincerely,

-C

Hi Yogis!

So today is day 15 which means after my 4:15 class today I will be half done with my yoga challenge. I feel that today it would be a appropriate to make some reflections on my progress over the last two weeks, but I’m not really sure it is that interesting. I could make a million teeny tiny observations about little bits of progress I’ve made – ultimately they will add up to big progress – but I think the best change I have seen has been in my mental health.

Never have I felt so level headed, happy, and content. I was taking anti-depressants before I started this challenge, and something I noticed (even just doing yoga sporadically), is that after class I always felt super happy (endorphins, blood circulation? I don’t know…), and one of the things I was hoping is that through this challenge I would get more of that feeling. I slowly weaned myself off of the medication, and now I’m taking none. I know it’s only been a week off of them, but so far I feel better than I ever felt with them. I feel so much less manic; just super stable and happy. I’m not having awful mood swings, I’m not wanting to stay in bed all day. I’m really truly happy.

I think some of this is chemical. My body is producing endorphins, fresh blood high in oxygen and nutrients is flushing to my brain and reactivating my neurons, etc etc., but some of it comes from other things. You can get an incredible sense of self esteem, for example, knowing that you’re body is capable of doing things you didn’t know were possible. It gives you such an appreciation for your entire system. It puts much more of an emphasis on what your body can do than what it looks like, and while making your body look better too! I can’t wear my belt anymore because I have lost weight. That isn’t the point of this challenge at all for me, and I didn’t really want to even go into it, but I do think it is all a part of my body functioning more effectively, and my health improving overall.

In addition to this, yoga encourages me to make healthy choices in my diet, bedtime, everything I do contributes to the type of class I have. Ultimately, yoga trickles down to effect everything in my life in a positive way.

I can honestly say that I feel better than I ever have. I feel kind of like I did the first time I got glasses. Like before I started this challenge I was just ok. I was well enough to function, and I didn’t really realize I was missing anything. When I first put on my glasses I was amazed at what I had been missing. Street lamps, people, trees, my body, my dog… it all looked different. I was living in this crisp, clear world and it was incredible! Similarly, I didn’t know how my body was supposed to feel. I was functioning… but I was only just functioning. Now I feel so much more alert, so clear and comfortable with myself and my surroundings. I’m way happier in my relationships and I’m much more confident in myself.

Who here is familiar with Albert Banduras concept of self efficacy? It is different than just self esteem because it isn’t about measuring yourself up against others, or deciding if you are good enough, it is about believing in yourself and knowing that you have the ability to do whatever it is that you want to do. Bandura’s therapy that he provided was designed to improve a person’s self efficacy beliefs, and this combated anxiety, depression, and other cognitive disorders. Yoga for me has done that. It has improved my self efficacy, it has improved every area of my life.

I owe Kristine a pretty big thank you for dragging me to Bikrams six and a half months ago.

-Claire

P.S. Just a quick note before I forget to tell you this! So I was sitting in class on Friday, and I noticed that on the palms of my hands, my wrists, and my fingers, I could see all of my veins. Not in a gross sticking out way, just that I could see them under the skin full of richly oxygenated blue-black blood. This is so awesome because the thing I have been most worried about with diabetes is my circulation, and I’ve noticed so much that my hands and feet aren’t as cold all the time. It is so amazing!

P.P.S: On Joe’s birthday I chipped in with his brother and mom and sister in law to get him Guitar Hero World Tour. He got so excited that he ran over to kiss me, and in his drunkenness, he bent my back over the side of our couch and it cracked in like 5 places and it was soooo painful. I was pretty sure I was going to be paralyzed and I started crying, but of course I ended up being fine. The funny part of all this is that after that incident, my lower back pain has decreased by about 80%. It’s still there but wow do I feel better!

xoxo

Remember to always look on the bright side of life…