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Chasing Beauty: The Balancing Act of Being Healthy and Fit

29 Aug

I am the first one to post quotes on Facebook like: Never Give Up, You Only Achieve What You Think You Can Achieve, and Get Fit-Yes You Can.  I take pride is pushing myself in every realm of my life in an effort to achieve the goals I’ve set and help others.  With that though, I often also experience the “it’s never enough” feeling. I know there must be many people out there that feel these same feelings.  You set a goal, work hard, achieve it, and then immediately begin to compare yourself to those around you who are one step farther.  You pay little mind to the external factors that determine why, you just think you need to do more.

This feeling, at least for me, is often illustrated in the realm of fitness and body image.  I think back seven years ago to my initial goals of losing weight and feeling healthier.  A size 14 at the time, my dream was the buy a sleeveless dress and feels good wearing it.  I wanted to wear a bikini at the beach and feel comfortable.  Slowly over time I dedicated myself to the goal and got there.  I was temporarily happy, yet quickly set a new goal.  I can be leaner, maybe a size 6 would be nice, maybe I ought to be a little more toned in my upper body and that will be perfect.  So I worked at that, got there, and then revised again.  Some of my revisions had a lot to do with career goals I was chasing and other’s opinions of me.  I let that guide me to some degree.  I am acutely aware of the societal pressure that exists to look a certain way to be accepted.  I know the stigmas attached to beauty.  Working in the modeling world, I certainly feel a tremendous amount of pressure in this sense.  Sometimes I get so confused I am not even sure what the ideal is anymore.  When this happens I go right back to this: The ideal is feeling healthy and being balanced.  I can’t say I think that’s always the ideal in other’s minds, but for me it is.  I’d go crazy trying to achieve an unobtainable goal if it wasn’t.

As I work to take the next step in my career, I’m strongly dedicated to improvement but firmly committed to balance.  Having been at every spectrum of the health, weight and image scale I know exactly where I am happiest.  I know that there will always be things about my physique and my looks that are not my favorites.  I often look at the girl next to me and think “she’s got it all” when in reality there are things she struggles with as well.  We each have a unique beauty about us, it’s most noticeable when we strive for health, when we chase the goal and not the image and when we accept that there are things about us, no matter how hard we try to change them, that just are. Beauty is most obvious to me in people who smile, who are self-confident and who are grounded.  I’ve noticed I find those qualities to be the most attractive part of a person both physically and spiritually and that’s the goal I want to chase.  I certainly want to be an athlete, healthy, fit and strong, but I don’t want to kill myself trying to change the smallest of things, to achieve a goal that really will not matter much as soon as I check it off the list.

At the end of the day, I remind myself to define my health and fitness journey by how I feel, not by how others think I look.  I know where I need to be.  It’s a place where I am physically, mentally and spiritually balanced.  I am not starving, I am respecting my body, and I am pushing my physical capabilities at a reasonable level.  Wherever that takes me is where I’ll go and I’ll be content there.

The Joggin’ for Frogmen Race – A Salute to Those Who’ve Served

31 Jul

I had the good fortune of running in the Joggin’ for Frogmen race, a race held in honor of 31 fallen American Warriors.  The race was the first annual, and held one week before the first anniversary of the August 6th, 2011 Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan, which took the lives of 31 of our American Warriors from various branches of our military.  The race was held on the beautiful campus of San Diego State University.  Men, women and children came out to the support the cause!

The Joggin’ for Frogmen 5k teamed up with the BOOT CAMPAIGN (www.bootcampaign.com) to raise money for the Navy SEAL Foundation and the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. The BOOT CAMPAIGN profits, race registration profits, and donations will go to these foundations for them to fulfill their own missions in helping military families.

The thing that struck me during this race is the role running plays in promoting community development.  Finding a cause or something you are passionate about can help develop your fitness goals.  Many people attending today were personally vested in the event as they or someone they love has served in the US Armed Forces.  Surrounding yourself with a group of passionate people at an event like this can go a long way toward prompting health and wellness.  In addition to running the 3.3 mile run, attendees had the opportunity to see the Leap Frogs jump from a plane and parachute into the field to join race participants, one of the highlights of the morning.

After I caught my breath from a hilly run, I headed over to meet Bestselling author Sean Parnell, who was talking to race participants and signing copies of his book, Platoon Outlaw.  Hundreds of people lined up to meet him and he took time with each one of them.  I walked away with a signed copy of his book, dedicated to a friend of my husband and I, who served overseas.

I had a few moments to talk to the race coordinator as well as second place overall women’s finisher Jen Skakiw.  I asked Jennifer her advice for runner’s training for a 5K run and she shared that an essential part of race preparation is to incorporate speed training into your routine.  A 5K for people looking to perform well is a very faced-paced race.  Out of the gate you are running at nearly a full-speed pace and by the start of mile two you are running all out.  In some way running a 5K almost feels harder to me than a half marathon, as from the start it moves quickly.  Warming up is important because of this, so aim to get in a few minutes of running before the start of the race.  Jennifer also recommends working in hill training as you prepare.  The Joggin’ for Frogmen race course was rather hilly.  I was suddenly glad for the hills I’ve been training on.

This event was a great opportunity to bring out community and support an important cause.  For those looking to incorporate running into your fitness routine, consider finding a race that supports something you care about.  You’ll be more likely to get others involved as a result, train hard and enjoy the event!

Top Four Ways People Sabotage Their Fitness Efforts

25 Jul

Image copyright Doug Berry available on istock.com

1)      Starting Too Big: Dreaming big is good.  I want to lose 50 pounds, I want run 10 miles, I want to hold a plank position for 2 minutes.  Achieving, however, is attainable by making small steps towards your goals.  Health and fitness should be a lifelong pursuit, not one that lasts a month.  Just like weight loss, if you want it to last, you need to take one-step at a time.  Begin with a reasonable goal. If you are not a runner and desire to develop your skills, set a goal that you will run/walk one mile three times a week.  That’s it.  Don’t go out and try and run three miles on your first attempt.  You’ll disappoint and loss motivation to continue.  Bottom line: Like building a house, develop a strong foundation.  Start one brick at a time and move up from there.2)      Failing to Develop a Support Network:  People are much more likely to stick to a goal and succeed in achieving it when they are surrounded by like-minded people who offer support.  There are many ways to develop a support network.  Commit to fitness goals with your partner.  Create challenges for each other and register for a class you can do together.  Become part of an online accountability group.  These areas are often good places to share ideas, ask questions and gain support.  Find a smaller gym where you are more likely to get to know the individuals or join a running group or hire a trainer to help keep you on track.  Bottom line: People never succeed in isolation, they succeed in groups.

3)      Doing What Others Say You Should:  A lot of people will offer advice when you become vocal about wanting to get in shape.  They might tell you the only way to do it is to lift weights, or to do cardio an hour a day.  The reality is that you will not stick with it if you don’t enjoy it.  Keep in mind that it will be difficult at first.  You can’t say “I don’t enjoy any exercise at all”.  Pick something that seems to suit you.  Maybe you love tennis, or you like walking your dog.  Try a yoga class and start with gentle yoga as to not overexert yourself.  If you like the outdoors consider hiking.  Create obstacle course for your kids in the park and participate with them.  Bottom line: In some form or fashion start moving.

4)      Exercising Purely for Weight Loss:  Many people decide to exercise to lose weight and when the weight doesn’t come off quickly they become disappointed.  Your body takes time to adjust to new patterns.  It has a strong desire to hold on to fat and pounds, especially for women.  Choose exercise for health.  Years ago a friend of mine told me about her commitment to start runing.  Day in and day out she ran, everyday seeing the same image in the mirror.  Not a lot was changing physically for her but fortunately the main reason she chose to start running was for her health.  She felt better physically and mentally regardless of what the scale said.  This motivated her to stick with it.  She still exercises daily and now has an incredible physique.  It didn’t happen overnight though.  It built over a series of years.  Bottom line: Exercise for sanity, not vanity.

Five Tips To Preparing for Your First Race

21 Jun

So your thinking of doing a race?  Signing up for a race is an excellent way to help you stay motivated to run.  Realistically you could show up at nearly any fitness level and participate, but for most people simply knowing that you are going to be surrounded by others working to achieve their best will help you gain some motivation to work hard.

If you are new to racing, here are some basic tips that will help you ensure a successful and fun experience.

1) Search www.active.com for a listing of races in your area.  If you have never raced it’s nice to start with a local race.  Your body has likely acclimated to that climate and you will have a better chance of performing well.  If you have never ran at high altitudes, try it out before you place yourself in an environment where you are trying to perform.  There are races happening all the time everywhere so find one near you and enroll.

2)Set a goal.  You are likely to run faster on race day then you typically do.  Your adrenaline will kick in, you’ll be surrounded by motivated people and hopefully you will be rested.  That said, get an idea of your pace based on your practice runs and set a goal completion time.  During the race watch the clock and work to stay on track.

3) Carry water. Many races do not provvide water along the race route.  Make sure you find out ahead of time and carry water with you if needed, particularly if you are running over a 5K.  Ask anyone who has found themselves on a run dehydrated and without water and they will tell you it’s not fun.

4) Find a quality pair of shoes and use them for a while before the race.  Running shoes require you to break them in over time.  Never purchase new shoes right before a race.  I really enjoy shopping at stores specifically suited to runners when purchasing running shoes.  If you are in AZ, one of my favorites is  http://www.runnersdenaz.com/

5) Cold?  Shop your local www.goodwill.com store for some great prices on sports jackets.  You can probably find one so inexpensive that you can take it off part way into the race and leave it.  Many runners do this.  $2 to stay warm before a race is a great investment.  You can also put a hole in the top of a large plastic trash bag and wear it.  This will block the wind as you wait for the race to begin.

Making your first race a great experience is important to keeping your momentum.  Within a week of completing the race sign up for another one, in order to keep you on track.  Don’t be afraid to ask people for tips prior, most runners are happy to share their insights and experiences with new comers.    Good luck, have fun and Run for Life!

Simple Health and Fitness: A Life Approach

24 May

What sells?  Magazine covers that read “5 minutes to a better body.”  Cookbooks that are titled “Eat what you want and lose weight.”  Diet plans that advertise “Take this pill and get fit and firm”.  That sells because it’s an easy fix, but the reality of getting the body you’ve dreamed of and the level of health and fitness you desire is simply not a quick fix.

So, with that said, the first thing you need to decide is do you really want to achieve this?  I’m going to give you some very good reasons why your answer should be yes.

While it’s very challenging to begin, in the long-term you will feel better about yourself, be more productive and able to navigate life more effectively.

Being healthy is not only a positive change for you but also for your family and friends. 

Being fit and healthy helps boost self-esteem which paves the way for success in other areas of your life.  It’s not just a matter of how you look; it’s your ability to realize you are stronger than you think.

Eating better makes you feel better.  We were not designed to eat fast food and chemicals.  Eating healthy and clean allows your body to function more properly.  When your body does that so does your mind.

There are plenty of reasons to work on achieving health, so why aren’t you doing it?  It comes down to this: We live in a faced paced society that has encouraged you to do everything quickly.  We attempt to accomplish ten tasks at once, we go till exhaustion thinking we will get ahead in doing so.  We eat on the run and fitness easily drops off our priority list.  We fall into these patterns and at some point usually step back and say “I’m not sure I’m really happy.”  True happiness is achieved through balance, mindfulness and purposefulness.

If you have read this far you probably agree with what I am saying and want to change this pattern.  You want to live healthier, be happier and more productive.  If you are going to make a life-long change for the better you are going to have to do it in small steps, period!  Here are ways in which you can move forward in achieving this:

  • Stop eating fast food.  Give yourself license in the beginning to keep all your old habits but just stop eating fast food.
  • Change one eating habit per week.  Swap out a product for something healthier; eliminate something from your diet that isn’t good for you.
  • Begin an exercise program that requires you to do ten minutes of cardio at a time.  Ten minutes, that’s it.  You can make ten minutes a day.
  • Simplify your life.  Life gets cluttered and clutter takes up a lot of space.

Example 1: Clutter in your home.  That actually pulls your attention from other things.  It’s hard to manage life when you are surrounded by things, and piles of paper and undone tasks.  Change that pattern and de-clutter your home, car and office space.  This will help you focus.

Example 2: Clutter in your life.  This comes in the form of people, activities, and commitments.  Sometimes less is more.  We tend to give of our time to so many things that then we really are not offering anyone anything much of value.  Or, we are offering a lot to others but in the process neglecting ourselves.  Simplify commitments.  Pick your top 5 priorities and do those!  Make fitness one of them.  Pick the people who you want in your life and make time for them.  You can’t make time for everyone.  The reality is that some individuals are actually a drain on your productiveness.  Begin to recognize that and make the necessary changes.

People often think health and fitness is basic.  You exercise, eat right and achieve it.  That is the foundation, but taking a closer look at what prevents us from doing that is the way we can actually achieve these goals.  Fitness and wellness is a life approach.  It’s a philosophy.  It is less about an act and more about a mindset.  If you can get to that mindset, the rest will come easy.

Running Tips: Creating Your Own Beginner’s Luck

22 May
Photo Copyright Drew McKenzie

Photo copyright Drew McKenzie http://drewmckenzie.com/

Ask any runner and chances are if they haven’t been running from a young age they will respond “I didn’t like doing this when I started”. Beginning to run can be challenging but it can provide great benefits over time. When you get started don’t think of running as winning races. Think of it as moving your body just a little faster than you usually walk around the mall. Anyone has the potential to do that. Decide today that you are going to incorporate it into your routine.

To Get Started:

1) Commit – just decide this is something you are going to do. Don’t think too much about it or you will talk yourself out of it. Put on your tennis shoes and just head out.

2) Pace Yourself – When you begin run as far as your body will allow. When you reach a point where you can’t go anymore stop and walk for a bit. Pay careful attention to how your body reacts. Don’t try to overdo your training the first month. If you start slowly you are more apt to continue.

3) Improve – Each day you run go just a bit farther than you did before. Maintain this pattern until you are running greater distances with ease. Don’t think about the entire run as you get started; just convince yourself to go for one more minute.

To Keep Going:

1) Schedule – Figure out what the best time of day for you to run is and stick with that. For many it’s early morning. Getting it done early ensures that you make time.

2) Fuel Positive Energy. The “I think I Can” attitude is always what allows us to accomplish our goals. Make a point to put quotes on your bulletin board, read success stories of runners, and subscribe to blogs. These things will keep running fresh in your mind and help you stay focused.

Overcoming Challenging Days:

1) There will be days when you struggle to get going. Just commit to five minutes and allow yourself to stop if you can’t make it. Generally once you get started you will keep going until you get to the end.

2) Enlist a support group. Join a running club, find a partner or become part of an online accountability group. These will foster support and motivation.

3) Reward Yourself. Set goals and when you achieve them do something nice for yourself. You might decide to treat yourself to a new running accessory every time you reach a certain distance. 4) Use mantras. Positive self-talk while you are running is critical. You CAN do this! Use phrases such as this:

Every day I get a little stronger and a little faster.

 I will not see results immediately but that doesn’t mean I am not making progress.

 I am worth it. I can do this.

I am improving with every step.

Want to read runner’s tips? Check Runner’s World Magazine at http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-238-267–14131-0,00.html  for more info. Good luck in your journey. Remember, once you get started, you’ll never look back!

Exercise of the Week: Activate Those Glutes!

10 May

It’s been said that one of the things that can help you go from a good athlete to a great athlete is developing your glutes.  Working with resistance bands is highly effective in helping you achieve this goal.  This exercise, if done properly, can produce excellent results.  Beginners should start with one band around their ankles.  Advanced individuals can add another band just above the knee for added resistance.

Step #1: Start with your feet hip width apart .  Place the band accordingly, squat down and ensure your toes stays inward.

Step #2: Push through the heel and take a step.  Alternate sides.

Everytime I do this exercise I feel my legs and glutes building muscle!  As a runner, I tend to lose a good deal of my glute muscles and this exercise helps to maintain and build.  In addition, come race time it also helps me develop the strength to power through those last miles in a race.

Thank you to Scott Keppel and Kelli Michelle from Scott’s Training Systems http://www.scottstrainingsystems.com/  for demonstrating this exercise.