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That fitness thing: pt. 2

Hey kids! Happy Saturday 🙂 I’m currently writing this post at work… so there’s that. Perks of working the front desk at a gym I suppose, being paid to blog and do homework – just finished up my stats homework prior to deciding to write a post!

In my last post I told you guys that I’m changing things up in terms of fitness and goals around competing (more specifically, what I hope to compete in again). I’ve moved from a solid strength and lifting focus blended with some endurance work to really structuring my workouts to become the best endurance athlete that me and my body can be. I’ll be getting into more detail about what exactly I’m doing at the end of this post (so scroll down if you literally just want to see how I workout… but that’s only half the fun).

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Elevation profile of 2012 ultra… THIS = my jam. This stuff makes me giddy.

Quote from my last post to lay the format for this current one: “You can push until you can’t push anymore, but if the energy which drives the engine is negative, anxious, depressed, over-worked, stressed, and unsure deep down then the engine will only produce so much force before something breaks down. Our greatest goals cannot be forced.” This sums up my feelings about getting back into running and focusing on that aspect of my life versus pursing anything else especially at if it’s going to be from a competitive angle.

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Casual

I know for me, lifting helps my running tremendously – the answer lies in the capacity in which I’m lifting (e.g quantity vs. quality and then taking intensity into consideration). Running now compared to running in 2011/12 feels light years different – I feel SO MUCH stronger endurance wise, my engine is bigger. This is likely twofold: 1. increased capacity due to being just stronger in general from lifting, and 2. prioritizing self-care.

I’ve found that there are a set few characteristics from previous programs I’ve followed (which were strength based) that I’ll still implement. I like the set up that I’ve been using for legit forever of 5 weeks “on” and 1 week “off”, off meaning deload. I’m going to keep using this with lifting. It works super well for my body in that I feel like I’m staying healthy, not over-doing it, and able to then rest and repeat on the gain train. The only difference between now and past is my goals with having weightlifting be part of my weekly routine: then it was gaining as much strength as possible, now it’s maintaining, stabilizing, and increasing muscle endurance. Additionally, I’ve shifted from lifting four days a week (deadlift day, bench day, leg and accessory day, press day) to three days (see below). Frankly, I DO NOT NEED to lift four days a week if my focus isn’t there. Also, the more frequency the more risk for over-taxing and that just isn’t worth the risk. As mileage increases with running I will likely move to two days per week as/when needed!

Definitely going to be a trail and error so to speak for a little bit as I get back into the endurance world. That’s ok, it will be a real-life research experiment on my own physical capacity. I kind of dig it.

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Smiles for miles

Ok, enough with the novel… can you tell I like to really delve into things and explain them? 😉 Onto what I do inside and outside of the gym!

Monday:

  • lift (lower body) capped at 60 minutes
  • cross training endurance in the form of cardio kickboxing #yassss

Tuesday:

  • run – 45-60 minutes

Wednesday:

  • rest day

Thursday:

  • lift (split – upper and lower body) capped at 120 minutes
  • run – 30-45 minutes

Friday:

  • HIIT/cross train (usually come up with a workout on my own – I LOVE programming metabolic conditioning workouts… Or I’ll find a metcon on crossfit website that isn’t super taxing but which gets my HR elevated and blood flowing for a bit). Working different energy systems and challenging myself in ways other than longer cardio workouts!

Saturday:

  • hike or snowboard or easy recovery run

Sunday:

  • lift (upper) capped at 60 minutes
  • run – 45-60 minutes

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Right now my mileage is on the lower side, I’m getting my body used to running consistently again and using a slow and steady approach to this. I find that if I go completely gung-ho my body has a bit of a hissy-fit and ain’t nobody got time for that. Not like I signed up for a 50 mile ultra in five weeks so the slow and steady approach will work just fine. Ideally I’m looking at getting back into racing in May (25k, errrr 15.5 miles) and then July-August for anything of substantial distance. I’m in this for the long run. Endurance stuff speaks to me in a way that lifting doesn’t. It’s my zone.

“Don’t let a day go by without asking who you are…each time you let a new ingredient to enter your awareness.” – Deepak Chopra

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Cultivating your power

Hi all!

This post could also be titled, “that fitness thing: round two”… If you’ve been a reader for some time now you might remember a post back during the summer titled “that fitness thing”, I talked about my routine at that point and gave insight into what I was doing inside the gym. If you don’t remember or you’re a new reader (hello!) , that’s a-ok because that post is history.

Let me explain.

Lifting is an integral part of my life. I LOVE it. I feel strong, powerful, capable, and in the zone when I’m lifting. It focuses me. It helps me push myself and grow. It’s therapeutic and is a great method for getting some angst and extra energy out. But that’s “it”. For the longest time I tried to convince myself that I wanted to focus on lifting from a competitive angle. That I should be competing because, well, I can lift a good amount for my size. As someone who has been on and off involved in competitive sports since age 5, convincing me or me convincing myself to pursue that isn’t much of a challenge. I’ll accept quite easily.

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I’m on the left although Erika & I were twins at this stage of development… national jump-rope competition circa ~ 2007/08.
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2011 Vermont Spartan Beast
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2012 Peak Ultramarathon

The challenge lies in truly gaining my interest. Sure, I might absolutely be head over heels for something (e.g lifting), but there is a very big difference between loving something and wanting to pursue it competitively. It’s deeper than it may seem too… isn’t everything in life? It’s not just wanting to pursue it competitively, it’s trusting myself. I was an endurance athlete. Why did I all of a sudden begin to pursue a strength sport? I mean, that happens, it’s not uncommon. It seemed legit to me. I was missing something though, while I was lifting lifting and more lifting I was still going to kickboxing, doing metabolic workouts, running – I couldn’t give that up. I didn’t want to give it up. On the other hand, I knew that I wanted so badly to compete again. I felt very confused during this time. Stuck in a place which while it was working for me… it wasn’t really working for me.

The truth of the matter is: I want lifting to be the thing which helps me be a stronger endurance athlete. It’s my therapy. It keeps me grounded, centered, and balanced. As of right now I don’t want to pursue it competitively.

In my last post I talked about why I love running. After a bunch of events in 2011 and 2012 I dealt with a handful of injuries from a combination of over-training, under recovering, and still dealing with a subtle grip of my eating issues. I stopped running cold turkey, relapsed, got stuck mentally, went into treatment, changed colleges, and forgot about running. I left it behind. I wanted nothing to do with it. I felt like it was my past, something that felt and sounded bitter. But the thing is, we tend to go back to what we love. I’m at a point now where I understand and accept that it wasn’t running which left me injured, nor did it lead me to relapse. There were so many other factors involved. It was running while not taking care of myself as either an athlete or a human being. Accepting that has been groundbreaking.

As I mentioned in that post, running feels amazing lately. I swear each time I lace up my shoes and hit the road it gets better. I know that will unlikely happen forever, there will be tough runs, either physically or mentally, but the fact that I’ve consistently felt at my prime is a very big sign that I’m moving in the right direction for me. Nothing feels forced. It’s very natural. It’s almost creepy because up until a couple months ago I hadn’t been running much if at all… for years.

I recently came across a quote. It’s such a simple set of words yet it made everything clear to me. Almost if, upon reading these 9 words the entire world made sense again. That seems crazy, but realizations can be crazy.

“Self care is how you take your power back.”

Oh, hey. That makes sense. Yes, yes, yes. It’s so obvious. Those 9 words staring me right in the face like a deer in the headlights. I keep complaining that I’m not “happy” or “fulfilled”. I’m an anxious ball of energy. My mind races, circles, catastrophizes, and I move forward but not necessarily in the direction I WANT to me moving. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I miss competing. I miss my niche. I miss having that one thing that is not only my escape but my passion and drive. What differentiates me saying this a year ago from saying this now is that I realize what was missing: self care.

You can push until you can’t push anymore, but if the energy which drives the engine is negative, anxious, depressed, over-worked, stressed, and unsure deep down then the engine will only produce so much force before something breaks down. Our greatest goals cannot be forced.

If you haven’t picked up on where I’m going with this post yet it’s that I am going back to my roots. I’m going back to pursuing endurance sports, more specifically, running.

“That fitness thing: round 2”… that’ll be my next post..

“your mental health is a priority
your happiness is a priority
your self-care is a priority
your existence is a priority”

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Mental health updates & living effectively + sustainably

Why must I use fancy words in my title? Well… #nerdlife

Effectively (adv): In such a manner as to achieve a desired result

Sustainably (adv): In a way that can be maintained at a certain rate or level

* source

I’m a huge proponent of waking up and feeling excited about life. Aren’t we all? Lately it’s been a lot of waking up content, going to the gym, and then heading to school. Fine and dandy, except when it’s not fine and dandy. I need to be capable of excelling in my day to day life without it being draining or daunting. I need to be effective. I don’t feel these two things right now. I want to reach my goals (we all do), but not destroy myself in the process of doing so. I’ve nearly destroyed myself before, a few times, and I’m not open or accepting to that experience ever again. Sure, I might be served a “shit sandwich” as Mark Manson likes to call it, but it’ll be my own preference and therefore I’ll roll with the punches. I want to be able to sustain my lifestyle, actions, inactions, and values.

Recently I’ve been pretty stressed regarding the future. Okay, I’m still pretty stressed, tbh. BUT, I’m becoming more accepting of the whole process, trusting my instinct (which changes… like daily), and letting things just ebb and flow. I’m a junior in college studying neuroscience and nutrition. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and that is entirely OK. I always had my mind set on something in healthcare, and I still hope to work within that field in some capacity or another. Ever since I was last in treatment for my eating disorder I’ve had my sights set on medicine (prior to that, for the bulk of my existence it was physical therapy). I’m not going to say I want to be doctor because I hope to help people. I mean, yes, that’s true, but it’s so so so much deeper than that. I want to teach people to take care of themselves before it’s too late, or before they get sick, so prevention. I want to help people love themselves. I want to show people that you can be in pain for years, decades, and still come back from that. I want to be the person who can answer the same questions I once had myself. I’m also insanely interested in the brain, microbiome, biomechanics, and the immune system. Oh and I think reading research papers is fun, almost as fun as histology. So essentially I’m a wee little nerd with a plethora of interests. Yep, nailed it.

I thought pursing medicine would be my thing, my niche. Maybe it will be, that I’m not sure of, but I want to broaden my horizons with new ideas. Perhaps becoming a physician isn’t the only way to do all of the previously mentioned goals I hold for myself. I sometimes wish I could just buckle down and say “ok, I’m going to be a doctor”. Close curtain. End of story. I can’t say that because I’m not sure. I know I’m capable of it but I’m not sure it’s the path to reach my goals, personally and professionally. I am working to expand my scope and explore different directions which are more in line with my life and other interests.

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I recently was listening to a YouTube interview with Dr. Allison Brager where she said “plan your career around your lifestyle not your lifestyle around your career”. This REALLY hit home. It struck a chord which hasn’t been struck in quite sometime. The job description of physician jives with my goals. However, the lifestyle of a physician does not come close to the life I hope to have 15-20 years from now. If there is anything I’ve learned from my past, it’s that not living true to myself doesn’t work. Destroying myself while trying to please myself won’t cut it. There’s always another road, another option, another direction for growth. Perhaps letting go of the one single idea I’ve held for years and replacing it with others is the best move I can make. It drives me absolutely crazy that I know I am capable of practicing medicine, but that the lifestyle and schooling process isn’t for me. I’m letting that go, because holding onto that feeling isn’t helpful. I have to remember what I want, not just career wise, but life wise. Ultimately, it comes down to trusting myself.

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I haven’t been really active on social media lately, which has been a positive thing. I’ve used the space to create a better sense of awareness of my goals versus being stuck in the image I’ve held for myself out of comfort. I’ve been spending my free time hiking, running, journaling, lifting, with friends, and reading. I feel like I’m “re-finding myself”. This may sound crazy but I think the last time I was in treatment, while it was extremely beneficial in terms of staying on the path of recovery, I lost a bit of who I am. I lost touch with the free-living, easy going, open, never quitting, curious, passionate side of Sarah. I still had the same interests but the way I approached life was safer.

I learned how to protect myself from relapsing, which in part translated to protecting myself from the world. I’ve been too comfortable, which has lead to extreme discomfort in my life. I’m not saying I have a bad life, I don’t by any means. I’m extremely grateful for all that I have, and the opportunities I’ve been given. But with all the positives I’m not content with what I’m doing. For too long now I’ve been doing what I feel I “should” be doing. While some “shoulds” is essential for getting though college and into graduate school, abandoning many dreams in the process should NOT be part of the equation. This safe avenue has lately been seeminly another way to not live in a way which is allowing me to thrive. I feel out of touch with myself. I’m doing great by the standards of society, acing my classes, working three jobs, sleeping 5-6 hours a night, working out most days, having volunteer positions, but honestly it feels off. I’m excelling in my academics, but they aren’t helping me to find myself. I’m not happy with what I’ve been doing academically and that is beginning to take a major toll on my mental health, between the time commitment and financial investment. Additionally, I feel as though I’m not pursing my real goals.

Stop taking pride in your ability to destroy yourself.” – Michelle K.

I believe personal experiences change people. For me, I’ve definitely learned a boatload about myself throughout the past four years with the past six months likely being the most notable. I’ve been hiking a lot since July. More than in my 23 years all together. It’s been and is an amazing experience. It is teaching me so much more about myself, my values, and my goals that I could ever imagine. I’ve never discussed much of my past on this blog besides that I’ve competed in jumprope and adventure races and am in recovery from a decade long eating disorder. That’s about it. Growing up my family camped a lot – tent, camper, cabin, you name it. We did a lot of outdoor activities – hiking, kayaking, general exploring. I loved it. I participated in softball, soccer, cross-country, jump-rope for sports. Other things I enjoyed were outdoor trips organized by my home town recreation department. We would go on weekend long trips once or twice a month, from snowboarding, camping, bike riding, horseback riding, farm maintenance, to hiking. I loved being outdoors. It was freedom.

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I’m a neuroscience major. It’s cool, yes, but not my passion. When transferring from community college to my current four-year university I decided on neuroscience versus kinesiology or nutrition because 1. I wanted to be a doctor and felt this major would be the best preparation, and 2. I was still in the treatment of my ED and was very interested in the neurobiology of psychopathologies. I don’t find myself learning what I want to be learning. I have enjoyed some of my classes thus far, they are “cool”, but I’m not gaining skills that I foresee myself utilizing much in the future if that makes sense. I’m excelling in my coursework, however I think I’m able to succeed not because I love the course material, but because I’m a disciplined and focused student. While not easy, they aren’t a real challenge either.

I’m tired of being comfortable. I’m tired of the safety net I’ve created. I’m sick of being anxious, depressed, irritable, and angry. I miss feeling amazing and like I could take on the world because I was living true to my own world. I want to explore my dreams again, because by doing so they could be more than dreams one day. I miss just going with the flow, accepting things, and seeing what comes from life. I hate being comfortable… there’s no growth, no newness, no change. It’s this stange viscious cycle.

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For a while I was feeling really stuck and still am to a degree. Althought by spending more time with friends and outdoors I feel better overall. I’m rekindling my relationship with myself, and while I have miles to go the progress at this point feels true to Sarah, not true to what society finds normal. I’m working to make note of the things which make me truly happy long-term, not superficially. I want to understand why I find myself more anxious in certain situations and have the strength to let go of them if need be. One main thing I learned in treatment was to let go. While I may have become too safe in my general approach to life, letting go is a skill which will likely come in handy. My goal at this moment is working to get back to my roots, and living in a way which feels both effective, supportive, and sustainable for me.

“You must go on adventures to find out where you belong.” – Sue Fitzmaurice