Half Marathon Training: Week 4

When I decided to train for a Half Marathon, I wanted to utilize training as a way to incorporate a more stable running routine into my lifestyle. I knew that the following helped: being outside, being around people, exploring the city, exercise, listening to music, taking deep breaths. With running, I could do all of these things at the same time. These simple pleasures coupled with the influx of endorphins are a major component of what keeps my brain from feeling like sluggish mush buried under 10 feet of black goop.

I failed to estimate the challenges of caring for sore muscles, using intense mental energy, attending to detail to avoid injury, REMEMBERING TO STRETCH. But the Buddha said if there is pleasure there must be pain, and so here we are- completing Week 4 of Half Marathon Training, noticing the pain, but focusing on the pleasure… and adding in some hard hitting speed and strength training to really squash that Week 3 plateau before heading into some serious recovery work.

Here’s what Week 4 looked like:

  • Sunday: Run 7 miles
  • Monday: Yoga
  • Tuesday: Stairs (a mile distance)
  • Wednesday: Arm Strength Training
  • Thursday: Yoga
  • Friday: Sprints
  • Saturday: REST

My most intense workouts for the week were stairs and sprints. I join many city residents at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, channeling my inner underdog to mindlessly run up and down the Rocky Steps.

These are the rear Art Museum steps

I usually do about 11-15 rounds of the steps, which usually equals about a mile of stairs. As for sprints, this cardio addition is just a way to increase overall pace. Similar to the speed workout in Week 3, Sprints include alternating between running and sprinting from block to block until I reach my distance goal.

Lesson of the Week: Acknowledge the pain, but focus on the pleasure. I love running for the improvements in mood that I have experience since adding regular exercise into my routine. I have been so thrilled with feeling both physically and mentally healthier that I sometimes fight the urge to push myself too far. Remembering that a major part of training for a half marathon is avoiding injury so I can actually do the half marathon has been the key for me to monitor my pain and take extra care of my body.

Which leads me to my question for the runners out there in Wellness Warrior World: What is your key to avoiding injury?

How to Stay Motivated

My dad always says, “Find something that puts a fire in your belly.” Teenage Me would often roll my eyes, turn up the volume on my latest self-burned punk/emo mix CD and let Travis Barker’s drum beats muffle the unappreciated wise words of my father. As an adult, I can finally understand the sentiment of embracing motivation and passion while pursuing goals. I can also recognize a possibly unintentional deeper meaning here- if left without fuel, fires burn out.

Establishing a goal is the easy part. Hard work comes with actually following through with the steps required to achieve that goal. Maintaining motivation can be difficult, and I always say that building motivation is somewhat of a catch-22. The best way to increase motivation is to just do it (insert Nike symbol here). We feed motivation by reflecting on how we feel as we complete steps toward a goal. Even if the motivation begins as a small flame, we can turn it into a bonfire. Here are some tips for building and maintaining motivation while working toward goals:

  1. Remind yourself of your goals.
    • Write your goals down and display them in a place you look at often. Make sure they are specific and detailed to better organize steps necessary. Take away the “Oh, right, I forgot I wanted to do that” moment and shoot directly for goal achievement. Goals can be easily pushed to the side and forgotten about if we don’t make a point to keep them in our focus.
  2. Discover the WHY.
    • Any task has a number of good reasons behind it. Even small things can be analyzed to find something good. Consider washing dishes. We don’t complete the task for no reason- we complete the dishes in order to have a greater sense of cleanliness and organization (and it helps keep little pestering pests away, but that’s a different blog post). It’s all helpful in creating an image of the bigger picture we are striving for.
  3. Partialize your goals.
    • If we view our goals as one large chunk, it can become overwhelming and cause a person to shut down or give up. By breaking goals down into smaller pieces, we can more easily set targets and obtain a greater sense of achievement. Additionally, developing a deadline for each step can be crucial in maintaining momentum.
  4. Acknowledge your achievements.
    • Track your progress and celebrate benchmarks along the way. Congratulate yourself when you have completing a smaller chunk of the overall goal. Acknowledging progress made toward your goal can propel you forward to the next step.
  5. Be flexible.
    • I have said this so many times that I feel like it should be my new tag line, but: BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF. If something is not working, be flexible and try it a different way. If you find yourself frustrated, stressed, or overwhelmed, be flexible enough with your deadlines that you can allow yourself a moment to step away and regroup. Achieving a goal looks differently for every person. Don’t just find a process, find YOUR process.

What helps you stay motivated?

Half Marathon Training: Week 1

If someone told younger Kelly that I would be training for a half marathon, I would have been crippled with laughter. That being said, here I am typing a post after successfully completing Week 1 of training. I am so excited and proud of myself for taking on this challenge, and I am eager to share progress updates along the way. It is my hope to share my experience with each week of training leading up to the race.

While developing my training schedule, I heavily researched important fitness workouts for distance runners/half marathon training and tailored them into a routine that fits for me.

Here is what my Week 1 looked like:

  • Sunday: 4 mile run at an easy pace
  • Monday: Pilates
  • Tuesday: 3 mile run at an easy pace
  • Wednesday: Plyometrics
  • Thursday: Yoga
  • Friday: 3 mile run at an easy pace
  • Saturday: REST

The day before I started Week 1, I completed a 5k race with 25 obstacles, so during my 4 mile run on Sunday, I was feeling the burn! But that didn’t stop me, and I was proud to have run the longest distance I’ve ever completed without having to take a walking break.

For the workouts on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I simply used YouTube to find workouts. I typically refuse to spend money on workout tapes, because I am so picky about the routines I complete. I really want something fun, active, and challenging. Although I have developed independent routines at times, I find that I perform best when working out alongside someone who is encouraging and positive– so I turn to YouTube if I can’t find a training partner.

By the time Thursday came around, I was SO EXCITED for my yoga day. While I felt strong and powerful, I also felt that my body needed a relaxing break and a deep stretch. This week really motivated me to take extra time for a deeper and longer stretch after workouts and runs throughout the week. Although I struggled with time management and getting the run in on Friday, I adjusted my schedule to complete my 3 miles bright and early in the morning (not ideal for me, but we make changes where we must).

If I had to change anything about Week 1, I would probably have switched yoga and plyometrics. In retrospect, I think yoga in the middle of the week would have nicely split up the routine and led to a greater sense of balance. As well, I think a more active workout on Thursday would have pumped me up better for my last run of the week on Friday.

Lesson of the week: Find your motivation.

Is anyone else training for distance running? I would love to learn tips and tricks from more seasoned distance runners (and I have had this crazy fascination with researching training routines…… who am I???!!).

I Quit Social Media and This is What Happened

The power of social media can be an amazing tool. Through the click of a button, we can share ideas, connect with friends and family, and facilitate political change. Although it’s a useful tool, it can also be a dangerous one. Excessive social media use can lead to addictive behaviors, increased mental health concerns, and challenges in time management. It may be important to explore the role that social media plays in our lives to better determine the purpose it serves. After noticing myself grow increasingly frustrated with social media, I decided to take a break. I deactivated all of my social accounts. This is what happened:

1. I stopped comparing myself to others.

  • People only post the best parts of themselves on social media. Realistically, I know this, but that didn’t stop me from noticing the feeling I got seeing other people’s perceived happy lives flash on my screen consistently (getting married, growing families, buying homes). It seemed impossible to not feel behind. After deactivating my accounts, the invisible clock stopped ticking. I could more easily focus on accomplishing my goals without putting unnecessary pressure on myself. 

2. I lived in the moment.

  • The most significant change I noticed was that I spent less time posting about what I was doing and became more engaged in what I was doing. I no longer had to show that I was having fun, but I could simply focus on doing just that: having fun. I engaged more with others, stopped using my phone as a distracting crutch in uncomfortable situations, and felt more connected to my surroundings.

3. I put my phone down.

  • If there is one thing I already knew before starting this project it’s this: social media can be a gigantic waste of time if one allows it. And I allowed it. Oh, boy did I allow it. Being unable to fill my spare time with Facebook scrolling, deep diving profiles, and the like allowed me to fill my time with more productive tasks. I redecorated my apartment, read books, listened to more music, and procrastinated WAY less.

4. I connected with others in a more genuine way.

  • In therapy, I made my own connection between socialization and my mood. I am a person who really benefits from quality time spent with others. It’s my love language, if you will. I realized how distant social media had made me feel from my loved ones—like I was watching their lives scroll by from the outside.  By taking social media out of the equation, I found more effective ways to keep in touch with my loved ones. With my friends and family, I stayed connected through phone, text, or in person, and I felt growth in my relationships that I largely contribute to taking a more active role in maintaining them.

5. I embraced my authentic self.

  • I have always been the weird drama kid with tie-dye shirts, lime green jeans, and Chucks thrown together into what I used to call “fashion.” I have never been the person who cared for others’ opinions and have always prided myself on marching to the beat of my own drum, but somewhere I got lost. As I grew older, I started focusing more on how I was perceived by others, and it took doing this experiment to notice that social media played a significant role in that. I am already someone who puts a ton of pressure on myself, and by comparing myself to others on the internet, that pressure grew even bigger. After putting my phone down, I stopped caring. It made it SO easy to focus on myself, my hobbies, and my goals. 

It has been about two months since I have logged into my Facebook account, and I don’t see myself scrolling in the near future. Of course, social media can be a great tool and resource for staying connected to others, and I can only speak from my experience in learning that social media impacts my life in a way that is not always so great. If anything, this experiment has taught me to be more mindful of how I am spending my time, and I encourage others to examine what aspects of their daily routine may not be serving the best purpose. Have any Wellness Warriors out there eliminated anything in their lives that turned out to me more hurtful than helpful? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!

How to Overcome Regression Toward Goals

Picture this: It’s been a months-long streak of hitting wellness goals. You go to sleep at a normal time and sleep well, embrace a healthy diet that a few years ago you would have scoffed at, and actually find yourself LOVING engaging in regular exercise. And then, boom—you go on vacation, your car gets totaled by a deer, stress builds. Routine goes out the window, and it feels like all of the progress that was made is quickly crawling away from the fires that have engulfed your once safe little nest. 

The thing about fires is that they go out eventually. The flames may burn us, but we can avoid the spiral of negativity and douse the fire with water and positivity until we are left to lick our wounds and move forward. Most of us know how difficult it can be to get back on track when life happens.

Here are 5 powerful strategies to moving forward after hardship attempts to derail progress.

  1. Identify the root of the backslide
  • Before we can find a way back, we need to identify what contributed to our slide in the first place. This can include increased stress from life changes, self-defeating mindsets and behaviors, illness or injury, challenging or more frequent life events, and/or challenges in time management. For example, my car recently got totaled. Working out daily was impossible when I needed to spend my free time looking at cars, talking to my insurance, taking my car to various inspection sites. Attending to my car had to become my priority, given that I commute to work by driving.

2. Try a different approach

  • Maybe while you were exploring the root of the backslide, you discovered some real barriers to working toward goals. Maybe you’ve been planning to exercise in the mornings, but can’t go to sleep early enough? Maybe you’re finding difficulty keeping up with a healthy diet due to limited variety of fresh foods at the grocery story you go to. Achieving goals may require some changes in approach, and that’s okay! Methods are going to look different for everyone. It’s all about finding what works best for you and using that to your advantage.

3. Create a schedule

  • I love schedules. I mean it— I LOVE them. Nothing makes me feel more organized than having a plan—even if it’s just loosely followed. My Sunday routine includes sitting down and planning the week—exercises I want to focus on, meals I want to eat, self care activities I want to do, and other tasks or errands that need to be completed. I create a schedule based on what my week looks like and then try my best to stick with it—but life happens, so I’m always gentle and understanding if my schedule changes in small various ways as the week goes on.

4. Find accountability

  • Studies show that the more people that know about your goal, the more likely you are to work toward it. Working toward holding yourself accountable is monumental in achieving goals, but better yet, finding other people who can hold you accountable creates a whole new layer of support in actually doing what you say you’re going to do.

5. Be gentle with yourself

  • Imagine me shouting the following from the tallest rooftop: Embracing positivity toward self and challenges can make or break the ability to overcome obstacles. Understand that backslides happen. Working toward a goal will not always be a forward motion—sometimes it feels like two steps forward, one step back. Negativity and frustration toward self or circumstances can cause one to shut down and can be a deterrent to finding motivation to work through failure. If needed, go back to the basics until you start to feel your groove again.

As Wellness Warriors, it’s important to put more emphasis on the sense of accomplishment we have when achieving a goal and decrease the focus we may put on barriers. We can choose to interpret hardships as an opportunity to utilize healthy coping skills and celebrate our strength, resiliency, and power. 

Happy Tuesday, Wellness Warriors! Here’s to hoping that the schedule I have outlined for myself allows me the ability to port more consistently now that my car fiasco is resolved!

Creating My Happy Place

This week, I had one goal: plan and create a mini oasis in my tiny, tiny backyard (or backcloset, as I say). This would be a place to read, meditate, drink wine, and relax. The ultimate self care corner!

This is what my little backyard space looked like before the project:

I started the week religiously geeking out over IKEA, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Walmart trying to map out the perfect outdoor space. Trying to find a way to utilize the small space was tough, but well worth the time spent brainstorming.

When the weekend rolled around, I started my Friday night with Goodwill in the suburbs. If I was going to take on designing a small, relaxing space, I was going to do so on a budget. If you’re near Philly, you know that the suburb thrift stores are where the goods are, and it truly did not let me down. I left feeling like I’d hit the jackpot, uplifted by that thrift store adrenaline rush. Here’s what I found (photobombed by a curious, handsome fluff):

Saturday morning, I got started bright and early at my happy place: IKEA. I spent two hours stuck in the euphoria that is Home Goods Heaven, and another two hours back and forth between Home Depot and Walmart.

I slowly hit a point where I was both satisfied with my purchases and anxious to get back home and out of the Saturday store scuffle that many people experience in the city (too many people for a considerable amount of time truly tests my patience!!).

When I got home I went to work building, organizing, making sure things were going perfect. That is, until a freak thunderstorm decided to rain all over my parade and all over my oasis.

When the rain cleared, I resumed my work. I set up my little hammock chair, placed my plants how I wanted them, and hung up lights. Here was the end result;

I am so happy with how it turned out! I got to sit outside last night and drink wine and relax. This is the PERFECT little Self Care Space, where I can drink tea, meditate, listen to the birds. Although my mom thinks my backcloset looks like a burial plot, and my brother-in-law joked about this being smaller than a prison cell, I am so happy with how it turned out! These are some snapshots from last night’s relaxation time during my first night of having my little oasis:

This post serves as my encouragement to design yourself a comfortable space where you can relax and recharge. And if you already have, please share! I’m always looking for interior and exterior design inspiration. Happy Sunday, y’all!!

Taking a Time Out

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I am currently on the road with Cape Cod, MA as the destination. My sister is driving with mom in the passenger seat, and I’m in the back tucked in tight between my brother and my nephew. We woke up bright and early and rolled into the car at around 6:30am. After realizing I hadn’t taken significant time from work in over a year, I set the goal to make this trip an opportunity to recharge and spend time with the people I love. I thought it might be useful to jot down a few “Self Care” goals that I’d like to strive for over this long weekend.

1. Unplug as much as possible. I’ve already spend most of the ride with my phone off, so I definitely want to make taking a break from screens a priority.

2. Reflect. I’ve been in the middle of some pretty important and scary decisions lately. I brought my journal and a handful of pens to organize my thoughts and feelings. Remembering to treat myself gently as I consider what I want and need out of like is pretty key for this goal.

3. Listen to as much music as possible. Music has always been an immediate mood boost for me, so of course this has to be toward the top of the list. I’ve been a little jittery lately thinking about the decisions mentioned in #2. My mood has not been low by any means, but part of self care is maintenance and prevention, which is where this goal comes in.

4. Relax. There is nothing like meditation to make my brain clear and calm and doing so on the beach just seems like it would be amazing. I also brought my yoga mat and sneakers, so I can run and do yoga as much as I want. I have face masks and books and everything that makes me feel relaxed to utilize.

Aside from having a blast with my family, these four goals are what I’d like to focus on this weekend. Some key themes are just being present in the moment while remembering to take time for myself. I will be sure to check back in soon with the progress made toward these goals! Have a great weekend, everyone!