Picking Your Truths

Maybe you have a goal that you’re totally psyched about — you’re inspired, super focused, and it’s on your mind all the time. That’s fantastic! It’s a satisfying and productive headspace to be in.

 

But, maybe that’s not the case for you right now. Maybe you’re at a low point, and, although you had this big goal (whether in sport, academia, career, [life] etc), you’ve gotten a little off track, made a few mistakes, or simply lost your drive. For whatever reason, you’re doubting yourself.

 

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Right now, you’re not sure if you can do that big scary thing you want to do.
This isn’t a fun place to be, and it can be hard to come out of.

 

But here’s the cool thing I’ve realized:
You get to pick your truths.

 

The other day, Dr. Jessica Grahn gave a presentation at Western about bias. There is bias all around us. These biases come from our surroundings and they perpetuate our own self doubt. Often, these biases/doubts are subconscious — they’re so ingrained in our psyche, that we don’t even realize that they’re guiding our thoughts and dictating our actions. For example: when I think of a successful person, the image that pops into my head is a well-groomed, well-dressed, white male. I’m not alone in this (just Google search images of ‘successful person’ and this will become clear), and it’s not a choice I’ve consciously made. Twenty-three years of living in the Western world have made this choice for me. That’s just one example.

 

A bias is based on something we perceive, so it is not false, but it’s also not necessarily true. Recognize this. We’re empowerful when we can recognize our own biases. When we recognize our biases, we can locate the origin our self doubts and see that these doubts are based on information that is neither true nor false (for example, even though I picture the aforementioned man as the figurehead of ‘success,’ it does not mean that I can’t be successful, and it does not mean that you, regardless of gender, race, knowledge, etc can’t be successful).

 

Then the best part: we get to pick what we want to be true (ie: I can be successful; I can be strong; I can be fast; I can be creative; I can be intelligent. Better yet: I am successful).

 

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Since nothing is truly true in this world (everything is coloured by perception), we pick our own truths. Often, we choose to go with the bias because it’s our knee-jerk reaction. But remember that there is always another option. We get to pick what we believe and which thoughts we nurture.


The thoughts we nurture and the stories we tell ourselves are the truest truths out there because they dictate whether or not we persevere; we have to choose which thoughts to nurture because those are the ones that will bloom. We have to be aware of our own biases so that we don’t limit ourselves (or others).

 

So if you’re doubting yourself, question your bias, and pick a new truth.
You are good enough.
You can do that thing you want to do.
You can be that thing you want to be.

 

 

Challenge: Notice negative self-talk and stop it in its tracks! Pick a new truth. Choose to believe that you can do that terrifying, exciting, wonderful thing. Perception is the only thing that’s stopping you. Change your lens. Welcome your fears, acknowledge their origin, embrace them… but then set them to the side, get excited, and dive into your new truth.

 

Have You Ever Been Hangry?

I certainly have. If I don’t get food when I need it, it can be a rough time for the people around me! Food and nutrition are so interesting to me — the idea that we have to constantly consume in order to function; the fact that our bodies are made of what we put into them; the fact that this necessary ‘chore’ is an enjoyable, often social event — it’s all just so wonderful, strange, and fascinating to me.

 

Anywho, I love food.
But… I’m writing this on a Wednesday, and today (and tomorrow, and Friday morning) I can’t have any food!


Let me first say that I am not dieting. I’m participating in a 6-week protein requirement study for endurance athletes. Leading up to the study, we took measurements of my weight, height, body composition, VO2 max, and resting metabolic rate. Then the study itself began!

 

The study only affects me 3 days of the week: Wednesday and Thursday (‘Adaptation Days’) as well as Friday (‘Test Day’). My diet on the adaptation days is based on my individual needs and is 100% controlled.

 

Like I said, I can’t eat… so what am I consuming?
Well, my diet on Wednesdays and Thursdays is 100% liquid.

 

I’m given a number of milkshake-type meal replacements based on my caloric needs (which factor in the amount of training I typically do on those days), as well as additional fibre, glucose, protein, and a multivitamin. I can drink as much water as I want, and I can have black coffee and/or tea. MMMMM!

 

(Note: when I say diet, I’m simply referring to what I’m putting into my body — this is not a “diet to lose/gain weight. The adaptation days simply prepare my body for the test day.)


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The first Wednesday morning! It’s basically bacon and eggs.

I was excited to start the study! As much as I love food, I like experimenting with nutrition to see how different foods/diets affect my body.

 

I will admit, I was also a little nervous going in. I’ve tried liquid diets before. One summer, my dad and I did a 10 day juicing challenge to see how we’d feel. I remember how I felt.
I. Felt. Hangry.
I specifically remember returning home from work on the 5th day, beyond grumpy, and promptly making myself a sandwich.

 

So you can imagine my hint of hesitation going into this study. Will I be hungry? Will I be hangry? Certainly I’ll have cravings. What if I can’t do it? It’s only 2.5 days a week for 6 weeks. I can do that… right? 

 

 
As it turns out, I didn’t have to worry! Although I’m only taking in liquids, my body’s caloric and nutritional needs are being met. I don’t have cravings, and I’m genuinely not hungry. It feels a little strange not having meals (I just sip consistently throughout the day) and not taking in solid food, but I actually feel incredible.

 

While I eat quite healthy on normal days, I found out that I’m actually not eating enough of what my body needs. I can feel the difference in my energy during the adaptation days — I feel light, happy, and healthy. I’ve noticed a few other things too. Situations that would normally frustrate or annoy me don’t seem to bother me as much. My mind is sharper and I listen more intently. I spent last Thursday night at a friend’s house making adorable Valentine’s cookies, and (although I would have liked to have tried one), I had no problem just cutting out the hearts. (You have to know… this isn’t normal for me! When I make cookies, I’m typically one to eat half the batter and then some of the finished product. But I was completely content with my shake!)

 

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Pretty cute, right?

 

I’m not suggesting we all switch to liquid diets. Definitely, definitely not! Food is fun, and it can do so much for our bodies! This study is really helping to remind me of the difference it makes when I make the choice to give my body what it needs.

 

Challenge: Think about your diet this week! Are you getting what you need? Do you know what you need? It can be so confusing! Maybe you’ll decide to do some research, try a new cookbook, experiment with lentils, introduce more water into your diet, or put some time into prepping balanced meals. Try making small changes and pay attention to how they make you feel! 

 

Happy Eating!

When Was The Last Time You Did Something For The First Time?

University life is pretty wonderful. As a student, I have access to so many free and low-cost resources that aren’t necessarily easy to come by outside of the university bubble. Health services, academic counselling, career workshops, and the occasional free midnight breakfast during exam season are a few of these perks.

 

Throughout my undergrad, I’ve also had the opportunity to meet and hear the stories of so many inspiring people. This past Tuesday, Clara Hughes visited Western’s campus — an event that was free for all students and faculty to attend.

 

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For those of you who don’t know who Clara Hughes is, here’s the quick version:

 

Clara is a Canadian athlete who has won 6 Olympic medals:

 

Two in the Summer Olympics for cycling, and four in the Winter Olympics for speed skating.
(I know, I know… you’re fan-girling aren’t you? Excelling at just one thing is extraordinary enough!)

 

But Clara’s story is so much bigger than her athletic achievements. Speaking openly about her struggles with depression and disordered eating, Clara is the spokesperson for the Bell Let’s Talk campaign — a Canadian campaign that aims to shift mental health conversations to a state in which they’re comfortable, common, and stigma-free. Clara is also an Athlete Ambassador for Right To Play, and a member of RTP’s International Board of Directors.

 

Image from: http://www.righttoplay.ca/Learn/keyplayers/Pages/Athlete-Ambassadors.aspx?ItemId=420

Image from: http://www.righttoplay.ca/Learn/keyplayers/Pages/Athlete-Ambassadors.aspx?ItemId=420

 

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes catch myself subscribing to the notion that elite athletes have it all together. My Instagram feed is filled with incredible snapshots of incredible athletes doing incredible things, day in, day out. Their lives as I know them through TV screens, Instagram filters and other social media channels are entirely focused on and dedicated to their craft. From my couch, it’s easy to forget that these people are, in fact, people, and (like you and me) they are not immune to pressure, stress, illness, insecurity, masochism, injury, and self-doubt.

 

Image from: http://www.canada.com/olympics/news/canadas-olympians-not-exempt-from-depression-and-anxiety-even-with-success

 

While Clara’s book Open Heart, Open Mind, does share the triumphs of her athletic career, more importantly, it provides insight into what was really going on off the screen and inside Clara’s head throughout her career. (If you haven’t read the book, I can’t recommend it enough. Plus, all the money raised by the book goes straight to charities like Right To Play and Take a Hike!)

 

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Anywho… back to the event. The Q&A portion of the event was small and intimate — we all cozied up in a circle and Clara took off her microphone. After reading her book, I had so many questions for her, but I opted for one that had been running through my mind consistently. In Open Heart, Open Mind, Clara wrote that

 

“… as a pro athlete… narcissism was defined as ‘commitment.’ It became an invisible cloak I was encouraged to wear.”
I think there’s a fine line here for anyone that’s trying to pursue something at a high level — athletic or otherwise. Whatever your passion, it takes time, energy, and focus to become your own version of ‘great.’ For example, as athletes, we need sleep, proper fuel, and time for both workouts and recovery. Where is the balance between healthy commitment and unhealthy narcissism? How can we remain committed to continuous improvement without becoming self-absorbed?

 

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Image from: http://canadiens.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=639196

 

I don’t know what I was expecting Clara to say — maybe something about meditation, consciously grounding ourselves, or not taking ourselves too seriously — all of which make sense in theory, but aren’t entirely tangible and are much easier said than done.

 

Her advice was not what I was expecting. It was simple and practical. If you want to maintain your humanity, try something new. Get outside of your comfort zone —  your daily grind — and try something new: something difficult; something that will kick your butt; something that will remind you of your own humanity, and will bring lightness and perspective into your life. Humble yourself. For Clara, this was achieved through hiking the Appalachian Trail, but for you or me it might be through rock climbing, learning how to oil paint, or taking up yoga.

 

Simple, yes, but a great reminder to keep ourselves human. There comes a point where we might begin to treat ourselves as machines, forgetting that variety is, indeed, the spice of life!

 

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Challenge: You already know… This week, try something new! Recognize that joy can be found in places that you haven’t looked yet. In the process, be kind and light with yourself — remind yourself that you are human — you are not defined by your sport or your ‘skill;’ you are more.
Earth is a big place. Go explore! 

My Fave Muffins.

Who doesn’t enjoy a good muffin? These ones are my favorite! 

 

Not only do they make a great little post-workout snack, but they’re easy to make and they taste pretty darn fine too. Perhaps the best part about them is that you literally can’t mess them up. You just can’t. They’re resilient little creations! You can alter them in almost any way, and they’ll still turn out tasty (if you’re a student like me, that’s like music to your ears).

 

Don’t have a spare orange kicking around? Perhaps you have cinnamon. Throw some of that in there instead. Pumpkin seeds aren’t your jam? Mix in a bit of pumpkin puree and add a few more oats to balance it out. Or, embrace a pumpkin theme and add the seeds and the puree. No sunflower seeds? Well, who needs those anyway?
(Pro tip: I suggest not skipping the cranberries. They’re the best part.)

 

Below is a variation of the recipe I use most often, but play around with it! Throw in some ground flax, shredded coconut, or what-have-you. Not into butter? Applesauce works too, though the texture will change — maybe half of each is a good compromise for you.

 

These muffins aren’t sweet or strongly flavoured, so once you’ve got the base mixed up, have some fun and toss in whatever your little heart desires (and your cupboard has to offer)!

 

This time around, I decided to add in 1/2 cup of diced apple, a dash of nutmeg, and some cinnamon. I substituted 1/2 a banana and 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce for the margarine. I omitted the orange rind and the sunflower seeds. I used coconut almond milk because that’s what I had, and they turned out great!

 

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Cranberry Seed Muffins
(courtesy of my lovely grandmother)

 

Mix:
1/2 cup butter/margarine
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1cup milk
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

 

Then throw in:
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
2 tsp grated orange rind
1 1/4 cup dried cranberries

 

Bake @ 350F for 22-25 minutes. You should be able to make 15-18 muffins. What you do from there is also up to you. Top it with some jam, honey, butter, or just enjoy the tasty goodness on its own.

 

 

 

 I like to freeze mine and take one out in the morning before my run. Then it’s ready and waiting for me afterwards!

Let me know how you change the recipe to create your fave muffins! 

 

 

Enjoy!

 

The Highway to Health

So I’m taking a course this semester called ‘Highway to Health.’
I know. It’s a jazzy title.
It’s essentially a survey course on topics in health: nutrition, exercise, sleep, relationships, spirituality, drugs, disease, etc.
You know. The basics.

 

To be honest, I enrolled in this course to fulfill a prerequisite. Since I’m not in the Faculty of Science, this was one of the only Health Science courses open to me, so I signed up.

 

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Doesn’t the Highway to Health look appealing?

Going into the class I was a little skeptical, and to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting to learn much. I thought: “I lead a fairly balanced and healthy lifestyle — I’m not sure that I’ll learn much from this course.”

 

(I should know by now that there’s always, always something to learn).

 

While broad in scope, the textbook is highly personal, if you allow it to be. It’s set up, not as a document of facts and figures, but as a sort of guide. Each chapter concludes with a self-assessment and reflection on personal wellbeing related to a particular area of health. A lot of students skip these sections, but given my status as a part-time student, I always have that little bit of extra time to read them. I’m glad I do, as they’ve brought out a kind of curiosity in me!

 

As it turns out, the course is indirectly teaching me to question the components of my own health. What does it really mean to be healthy? It sounds like such a silly, fundamental question, but I’m realizing that the answer isn’t simple.

 

I’ll get more into that later, but for now I just want to share one of our assignments with you:

 

We’ve each chosen a small, sustainable lifestyle change to integrate into our lives over the course of the semester. Some people chose to drink more water. Others want to watch less TV. Some have chosen to exercise three times a week. Others want to go to bed earlier.

 

I hummed and hawed for days. There are a lot of lifestyle changes I want to make, but which one to choose? Which one is small enough to maintain and turn into habit, but significant enough to be a real, valuable challenge for me?

 

Finally, I settled on my big challenge: Reading before bed.
Okay, maybe that sounds weak to you, but it’s a big deal for me! I often struggle to fall asleep because I’m trapped in my own mind — there’s a lot swirling around in there! Reading allows my mind to slow down after a busy day, and it gets me out of my own head for a bit. I can get into someone else’s world, stimulating my own creativity and sense of curiosity.

 

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I’m at a time in my life where I often feel as if I’m just going through motions and adhering to structure — like I’ve lost my own ability to think critically and be creative. Giving myself just 15 minutes to read — to let my mind simultaneously deflate from the day and expand in perspective — is proving to be beneficial for both my mental and physical health. I’ve never really made time to read recreationally in university before, but now’s the time!

 


Wait. This is ‘Athlete On Fire.’ Why are we talking about reading?

As athletes, we boast healthy lifestyles, but sometimes we forget that healthy means balanced. While your physical health is important, your mental and social wellbeing are equally salient. Don’t forget about them!

 

Challenge: what’s one small, sustainable change you can make in your life today? Maybe it’s adding a stretching routine into your schedule. Perhaps it’s sitting down for a weekly family meal. Maybe you want to start writing in a journal before bed, or you just want to take the stairs more. Start small — pick something attainable that won’t fall apart. That’s your best chance at developing a new, healthy habit! 

Turns Out I was a Drug Addict…. What I did about it and the unexpected results

Clawing my way out!

My first step on my journey to “getting my groove back” was supposed to be conquering insomnia and getting a good night’s sleep.  But…  I stumbled upon a somewhat bigger concern right out of the gate.

You’re doing WHAT?  Are you KIDDING ME??

Too exhausted to even walk on the treadmill, the subsequent conversation with my trainer started the way it always did… “Why aren’t you sleeping?” “How’s your caffeine intake?”  “What about stress?” “Are you managing technology?” …  And then the big one…   “What are you taking?”

Karen's nightly drug routine

Karen’s nightly drug routine

I thought he was going to have a stroke as I recounted my nightly medication regimen. Yes, of course I knew that Advil Cold and Sinus tablets and Afrin are stimulants.  But, given a choice from staying awake from the stimulants or staying awake because I couldn’t breathe, I chose the stimulants.  Yes, yes, sure my doctor knew.. In fact, throw in a doctor-recommended double dose of Zyrtec and an occasional Benadryl for good measure as well – this in spite of the fact that the allergist declared my sinus issues non-allergy related.  And then came the question that knocked me over, “How long have you been doing this?”

No one had ever asked me that before ….

As long as I can remember; that’s the answer. As long as I can remember, and I’d not ever let myself think about it until that moment.  I’d been taking Advil Cold and Sinus, often multiple times a day, for over 35 years.

And, that behavior brought with it some pretty serious consequences.

“Insomnia and other sleep issues, headaches, constipation, dehydration, hormone imbalances, mood disorders, stiffness… possible major organ damage…”  Those are just some of the side-effects of taking the medications I was on for a prolonged period of time, and they pretty much summarize the major issues I’d been battling for years.  I think that somehow the fact that a medication is sold “over the counter” gives us a false sense of security that it is safe and a license to misuse it.

It was time to make a change

I quit cold turkey.  The first week off the medication was hell; thank goodness I was on vacation at the time.  My sinuses swelled shut, my head was pounding, I was only able to sleep about 3 – 4 very restless hours a night.  I developed a mantra that I would repeat to myself over and over as I lay in bed awake and miserable, “My body knows how to fix this; my body will fix this.”

By the second week of being drug free my headache was completely gone, and I was able to sleep longer, but still restless.  I went through 2 days of intense itching and period of time each afternoon when my head felt foggy and my throat would hurt a little.  This was my cue in the past to take a pill; it would clear me right up.  But, I wouldn’t let myself do that, and I just paced until the foggy feeling went away.

Unexpected Outcomes

I’ve been off the medications for over a month now and some of the results I’ve experienced have been quite surprising to me and very positive.  Almost immediately my chronic constipation cleared up and my sinuses have improved. One of the biggest gains is that my depression lifted; most of the time now I feel optimistic and well, … happy!

Hiking in Moab

Hiking in Moab

The biggest surprise though has been a quite notable improvement in my athletic performance.  My endurance and strength have both improved significantly; I’m running up the hills I always used to walk, and I’m enjoying getting out there again!

Unfortunately, I’m still struggling with some sleep issues. It could be that I just need to give it some more time.  The next steps I’ll share include participation in a sleep study, experimentation with meditation and a look at some holistic remedies.


Karen Adler is…

An educator by trade, runner, hiker and adventure-seeking fitness enthusiast by passion. She explores what it means to be fit after fifty along with the multiple joys and trials that come with age. She is truly an Athlete On Fire!

Making Peace With Winter

My name is Kalli Frissell, I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, and I hate the cold.

 

I HATE IT.

 

Or, at least I thought I did.

 

Though I think winter is stunning, and I enjoy winter sports, I feel like I’ve always had a bit of a war with winter. You know. When you look out the window five minutes before you have to leave the house only to see a blizzard… and Old Man Winter is just there, grinning his stupid grin.
You know.

 

When I moved to southern Ontario for university, I thought I’d be good to go. Sure, London gets a lot of snow, but on the whole, it’s not as cold as my hometown, and the winters are shorter. Clearly my London friends had the same assumption about me:

 

‘Brrr it’s cold out. You must be used to the cold being from Edmonton, right? Haha’
‘Haha… yeahhhh…’
*…as I stand at the bus stop, frozen to my core, unable to think about anything other than the likelihood of me dying in the cold.*

 

(You get it. Always cold. A big baby when it comes to cold.)

 

It makes sense that I’ve always been one to hit the treadmill in the winter.
People actually run outside when it’s below 0 degrees celsius? Nope. Not for me.

 

…Until this year.
This past fall I instructed a Learn To Run clinic at the Running Room. It was an incredibly rewarding, 10 week experience from October – December. I enjoyed the program so much that I decided to sign up to instruct the 10k clinic, beginning in early January.

 

The first week of January wasn’t so bad, but then things started to cool off, and I started to question my decision. This is it. This is my nightmare. The cold is my worst enemy! I don’t know how to dress. How can this be fun?? I’ll probably slip on ice and die. How am I going to do this?!

 

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But, I signed up for this, so I put on multiple layers of the warmest gear I had, and headed out the door.

 

We did our 4k route as a group, and yes, I was cold, but by the end of the run, I wanted to keep running. So I decided to run some trails on the way home to keep the momentum going.

 

As I was running, I realized that I couldn’t exactly feel my legs (you know that tingly ‘pins and needles’ feeling?)…. But I also noticed that, for some strange reason, I didn’t really care. The wind was coming head on, and my face was frozen — but I just felt… good? Breathing comfortably, I started to relax and sink into my run. Focused on the quiet, snow-covered path and the foggy exhales in front of me, I thought:

 

So, this is what it feels like to be at peace with winter.

 

It was a beautiful run, but I know it won’t always be that way. (Actually, it’s probably going to get a lot colder). I know there will be days that winter will kick my butt. But it was such a great surprise to discover that we don’t always have to be at war.

 

Challenge: So if you’re like me and dread the cold, be brave, bundle up, and head out — you might surprise yourself! And, if you need an extra kick in the butt to help you get outside, our friends at Nike have a couple words of wisdom:

 

“The bad news? Winter is coming. The good news? You are not a bear. That means you don’t have to hibernate. You don’t have to hunker down, curl up, or stay in. You don’t have to binge-watch seasons 1-4. You don’t have to let holiday traditions trip you up. You don’t have to get cabin fever. You don’t even have a cabin. It’s the weatherman’s job to tell you what’s headed your way. It’s your job to not let it get in the way. You can’t choose the weather. But you can choose your winter.”

My Terrifying and Exciting Dive Into… Pool Running!

Let’s talk about bravery. 
Being ‘brave’ doesn’t mean you will or should be fearless. To me, being brave is a) acknowledging that a fear exists, b) breaking it down into its component parts, c) analyzing those components and questioning their legitimacy, and finally, d) making a decision that’s right for you. So how does that work in your daily life? Here’s an example from mine. 


In October I earned myself a super fun case of shin splints (not recommended!). I decided to take a break from running and shift my focus to cross-training. In the middle of a somewhat painful bike session, the possibility of hitting the pool crossed my mind: ‘Hmm. I know pool running is a great option for injured runners — I bet that would feel a lot better than this bike does.


That thought was quickly smothered out by others. ‘Nah, I’m a terrible swimmer, and I’ve never tried pool running before. I’ll just look ridiculous — my lack of coordination will make sure of that! I’m sure I’ll benefit more from the elliptical if I take it easy. Plus it’s such a hassle to haul my towel and swim gear to the gym. It’ll just be a waste of time.

 

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Wait. Rewind. Every single one of those thoughts was an excuse. And none of them were even good excuses! Once I started paying attention to my thought process I started to realize that I was actually just afraid of trying something new and looking silly. Okay, so those are manageable fears. Then I started to look at how legitimate they were.

 


Most of the people at the pool are swimming, not pool running. When I go to the pool to swim, my head’s in the water most of the time. I hardly notice anyone else. Why would anyone even pay attention to or care what I’m doing? Okay, like any new activity I’d probably feel a little ridiculous at first, but it’d be okay to laugh at myself through the learning curve. Maybe it’d even provide some good entertainment for the sleepy lifeguards on the 6am shift. So really, the hardest part would be having the initial courage to put on the belt and slip into the pool. 100% manageable.

 


So I did it.
I put that silly belt on, slipped into the pool, and away I went…. and I had an awesome workout! That tiny moment of bravery — when I chose to acknowledge and break down my fear — helped turn something new into a regular, beneficial, and surprisingly enjoyable part of my training.

 

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Change is a journey into the unfamiliar, and the unfamiliar can be terrifying! It’s easy to come up with excuses or reasons why we shouldn’t try something new, even if it’s a change we could benefit from.

 


So here’s a challengethe next time you catch yourself battling a change or commitment — whether it’s a new workout, a terrifyingly large project, taking a new step in or out of a relationship, or shifting career paths —  I challenge you to dig into your rationale, be 100% honest with yourself, and find out if your fears are valid. Whether they are or they aren’t, you’ll gain confidence in your decision.

 


Acknowledging and then isolating my real, underlying fears is something I’m learning to do in my daily life, and I’d encourage you to try it too! I bet you’ll feel empowered. It’s definitely not always as simple as convincing yourself to strap on a floatation belt, but it’s always rewarding!

Why I Fight – Some Thoughts on How to Get Your Groove Back ….

Fighting to get my Groove Back

My biggest challenge as a new athlete is truly understanding what that encompasses.  I get what it is to train hard and know what it is to compete.  I understand commitment and dedication; I’ve had the satisfaction of winning – even if all I beat was my own record.  I’ve fought through physical challenges such as plantar fasciitis and a strained Achilles..  I’ve worked through pain and have experienced success.

 But, what I had not experienced, at least not until recently, is what it is to really struggle.  The idea that all athletes have physical and emotional battles, hit peaks and valleys, have set-backs and experience failures from which they must fight back is new to me.

For me,  this struggle quickly led to despair –

I mistakenly attributed the fact that I was recording slower times, experiencing more pain and having less energy to my age and to my recent diagnosis of degenerative arthritis in my hip.  I was ready to give up and had decided that my last half marathon would be my last.  

Last mile of the Bear Chase Half Marathon

Last mile of the Bear Chase Half Marathon

 

But, in fact, it marked a new beginning. …  

It is true that I’m getting older and my hips hurt whether I run or not; I might even be slower.  However, it is also true that when I was training for my last half marathon, I was running exhausted in the hottest part of the day, dehydrated and on poor nutrition.

Being an athlete is so much more than training hard.

What it really means is getting the mental, physical and emotional aspects of our being all lined up and working together.  For me, that means focusing on 5 key areas as I move forward:

 

  • Sleep – I need to vary both my schedule and my routine to ensure that I’m sleeping well and getting 7 – 8 hours a night.  If I don’t get this right nothing else will be.
  • Nutrition – I’m only just beginning to understand how incredibly powerful proper nutrition is, not just to our performance as athletes, but to our overall sense of well-being.  I’m addicted to diet soda, sugar and processed foods.  It’s time to get “real” when it comes to food!
  • Recovery – It does take me a bit longer to recover than it does a younger athlete.  For me recovery means mixing up my routine, stretching, foam rolling and rest.
  • Strength and mobility exercises – Other than maintaining a healthy weight, this is one of the most important things I can do for my hips – and for aging well in general.
  • Reflection – Even if it is only five minutes before I go to bed, I know that I must take time to unwind, reflect and to express gratitude every day.

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All athletes struggle; all athletes age.  Most of us will eventually have arthritis if we live long enough.  Ultimately, I fight to continue my journey as an athlete not for the events or the races, but for the quality of life that I have now and that I want to continue to have for many years to come.  I fight for the sheer joy of running on a mountain trail, riding my bike around the reservoir or paddle boarding in the ocean.  I fight to continue to experience new adventures and for the simple happiness that comes with wellness.

I plan to journal and share my experiences as I work through each of the key areas mentioned above; I’ll start with sleep.


 

Karen Adler is…

An educator by trade, runner, hiker and adventure-seeking fitness enthusiast by passion. She explores what it means to be fit after fifty along with the multiple joys and trials that come with age. She is truly an Athlete On Fire!

Sweating The Small Stuff

Our bodies are supremely complex, ridiculously cool machines! As I’m learning more about the body, it’s becoming clear to me that when I ignore mine, it’s pretty easy to blow off ‘good practices’ if I’m feeling okay. For example…

 

  • I don’t have time to stretch today.
  • I don’t see the benefit of this drill.
  • I exercise so much that it doesn’t matter what I eat.
  • I don’t need to warm up today.
  • Sleep is for the weak!
  • Rest day? Meh, I feel good — I think I can fit in a workout.

 

Admit it, we’ve all done it! The thing is, just because we feel ready for a workout, it doesn’t mean our bodies are. Just because we think we can get by on 4 hours of sleep, it doesn’t mean our bodies have had enough rest. Just because we don’t see an immediate benefit, it doesn’t mean our bodies aren’t undergoing important changes behind the scenes.

The body is constantly working and quietly carrying out essential processes so that we, as a) humans, can continue on with our daily lives and, b) athletes, adapt and improve over time. To harness our potential, we have to respect and listen to our bodies. I suppose, if we want want to reach our true potential, we have to pay attention to detail. We have to sweat the small stuff.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m not an extremist by any means! I believe in a balanced lifestyle, an imperfect diet (is it possible to live without chocolate?), and the occasional obscenely late night. I’m not promoting perfectionism, but I do want to treat my body well and gain a deeper understanding of it. Perhaps you do too.

 

So, to help us all out, I’m cooking up a series of bite-sized videos called Sweating the Small Stuff. In these videos, I’ll explore some of the fundamental concepts that most of us are familiar with, but might not exactly understand. Like: what are our bones busy doing while we’re taking rest days? Or, proteins — yes, we all know they’re essential in muscle repair, but why, and how? Getting a better grasp on these concepts can help us all become better informed, and as a result, higher performing athletes.

 

I’ll be posting STSS videos biweekly on Wednesdays and blog posts weekly on Fridays — stay tuned!