This upcoming Saturday I have the Montgomery Half Marathon. Last year I was late to the start because one of my players was in the hospital. So this year I am excited to have the chance to run it again. I know the course, I know where the hardest parts are, so I’m ready to attack it.
I love half marathons, but admittedly I haven’t trained for one as much as I did the first 1/2 I ran. I’ve been able since November 2014 to maintain my fitness level to a point where I can run 10 miles pretty okay, but it is a struggle to get to 13. But with a little pre-work out and a couple weeks of training, I can get there. I tucker out around miles 11 and 12, and then pick it up for the ending.
I’m ready for this Saturday. I ran a half marathon 3 weeks ago, and I know my body is capable of the push. I am looking forward to the run. But I’m starting to look long term too. I’ve hummed and hawed about doing a full marathon, but I’m starting to lean into it. I want to attempt the monstrous run. What’s holding me back? Is it time commitment to training? I have a sturdy base level of fitness I can build from. So what’s the mental gap? I need to sign up. It’s the next evolution in my routine. It makes sense. I know I can complete it if I tried. To go with ease, not worry about time. I worry about my time with half marathons. I want my splits to be better and better. Close to 8:00 mile splits or around there. But a marathon. The goal will be to complete it. Not to worry about time but to worry about pushing through the pain to achieve what few are capable of doing.
It’s time. Marathon is training will commence. I want to challenge myself mentally, physically, emotionally through the training process.
October 2017, it’s time to for a marathon bib to be incorporated to the stack.
I’m coming around to the 3 year mark of when I made the commitment to exercising regularly. In two days, the 50 Mile Running Challenge begins, but what piece of advice will help newer runners achieve their goals? There’s a ton of different levels of runners in the group, and I’m so excited to see the advice, encouragement and support everyone provides. Such an eclectic group: we have people training for marathons involved, those who’ll be doing half marathons, some who are new moms looking to get back in shape, former college athletes, people looking to make lifestyle changes, and then some who are rehabilitating their injuries or coming back from surgeries. So much variation, and it’s going to be incredible.
But back to the point: What kind of advice would you give to a new runner?
I’ve been scouring Runners World Magazine, Livestrong.com, Competitor.com, Active.com, Fitness Magazine, Shape Magazine for some suggestions, and here’s the top 8 most useful tips and suggestions for new runners:
- Join a Running Group, virtual or local— Many beginning runners go solo because they might feel overwhelmed, nervous or intimidated by running with others. But gaining a running partner or a support running group will allow for the run to be more enjoyable, help inspire and stay motivated. This is really important in the very beginning on a plan because having a partner or a group support can really help push someone to try new distances or activity level. (source: Runners World)
- Have a strategy— If you are going from running 0 miles to a new program, it’s so important you are mindful and are listening to your body. Many people get hung up on speed to begin with, but you need to focus on progression. No one is judging you and it’s so important you worry more about how you feel rather than pace. My personal suggestion is to set up a “running time.” For example, look to do a duration of 20 minutes total “running time.” As you are in your “running time,” if you run for a minute and need to walk to catch your breath, try to be mindful of your running to walking ratios. As the program progresses you’ll notice within that 20 minute “running time” you will see steady improvement after 2 weeks. And you’ll know by listening to your body when you can begin to gauge distance rather than duration. (source: Runners World/ Personal experience)
- Log Your Runs— Running is a introverted and solitary activity. You’ll recognize your mind will sort through lots of things and you’ll feel a lot of emotions too. Probably very difficult ones in the beginning because it will be mentally draining and add a lot of stress physically. Document your starting weight, some feelings during the runs, thoughts, distances, times, pace, etc. You’ll be thankful you did. It will also keep you on track. (source: Competitor.com)
- Buy a good pair of running shoes— If you are using old pair of running shoes, you’ll notice after a few first walks or runs your knees, joints, and calves will be incredible sore or painful. This can really hinder the running experience, and turn you off from completing the challenge and reaching your goals. Having a fitted pair of running shoes is actually INJURY PREVENTION. Running shoes have thicker soles for cushion and stability. Your feet may swell when you run, so trim your toenails. (Source: Runners World, Active.com, Livestrong.com, Competitor.com, Fitness Magazine, Personal experience)
- Don’t be afraid to walk— It is okay to walk. The fact that you’re outside, or on a treadmill and working is a huge accomplishment. If there is a big hill and you are tired, it’s perfectly acceptable to walk up the hill. As you progress and increase your cardio levels in time your walking will decrease, but in the beginning, do the program and style that works for you. (Source: Active.com, Fitness magazine)
- Be sure to get rest— You are putting a lot of stress and demands on your body when you are first starting out. Many new runners will start too much too soon, and because of it they’ll suffer from shin splints, sore knees, hip flexor pulls, tight hamstrings, etc. You’ll also feel your energy levels will take a dip too. It does get better, but as you feel run down take a rest day, recuperate and recover and before you know it, you’ll feel fitter, stronger and more energized. Rest allows for your muscles to rebuild from all the micro tears in your muscle tissues which occurs during any new workout plan. Body has to adapt and it does take 2-3 weeks. (source: National Academy of Sports Medicine, Runners World, Fitness Magazine, Shape Magazine)
- Proper fuel and hydration— I’m plugging something personal in here. I take amino acids an hour before every run and have noticed it keeps me energized through out. After I run I also take amino acids to help with faster recovery. Hit me up if you have questions.– What I’ve read from sources regarding fuel and hydration: As you start to get into the thick of your running regiment, you’ll notice you’ll be hungrier more often. It’s imperative you consume nutrient dense foods, because it will help heal your body, strengthen your bones, and replenish your glycogens storages. Which will also allow for weight loss. Try not to use running as a reward to indulge in bad food. It will be counteractive to your progress. It also will lead to your muscles getting more labored or fatigued the next time you run. Ladies, consume high-fiber and complex carbs 30-60 minutes after your run, Gentlemen look to consume more protein dense foods 30-60 minutes after your run. Our genders are not equal when it come to replenishing and how we heal. Replenishing electrolytes and minerals following a long run is imperative to your recovery. Runners World recommends Advocare Rehydrate as the best go-to recovery drink post work out. You can buy some from me here: Advocare Rehydrate (source: active.com, Runners World, personal experience, National Academy of Sports Nutrition)
- Set up achievable goals— When you make daily, weekly or monthly goals make sure they are achievable. Be proud when you accomplish them, brag about it in your group, to friends, and write it down in your log. Hitting goals will allow for this whole experience to be enjoyable and fun. Have fun, share your accomplishments, and load up on lots of memes to describe your running experience. (source: personal experience, Runners World, Livestrong.com)
My former college teammate and I have been doing this monthly challenge for years. We try to get 50 total running miles in a month. We will self report to each other and it was a way to help kick start our fitness regiment. It has helped me reach the fitness level I am at now. I feel healthier than I ever have before and I want to share it with others.
So many people want to get in shape, lose weight, get fitter but they might not know where to start. But with doing a challenge it provides a little structure, plus being a part of a group setting allows for greater results and has proven it allows for a higher percentage in reaching goals.
Setting up daily goals in the days and weeks after my husband passed away provided me with a purpose. It gave me a reason to get out of bed every day because I felt self-motivated and I knew if I hit those little milestones eventually it will turn into a habit. With this 50 Mile Challenge, I want to pass along the lesson I learned and gained. I want to help others reach their goals too.
How will I help you and others reach their goals? Well Facebook of course! It’s self reporting style, and there’s more and more joining the challenge each day. Do you want to start on your journey to bettering yourself?
Check out my 50 mile challenge! Begins February 16 and ends March 31. 44 total days to get 50 total miles running or walking.
Also check out my Instagram at @flippingsteier
This afternoon I arrived to the gulf coast side of Florida to see my 90 year old grandmother. She isn’t doing well, and she’s in the midst of congestive heart failure. Her watery cough is one that’s far too familiar. She looks at me with her sky blue eyes and she tries to smile, but her breaths are too shallow and trips her. And there they are, those watery coughs. I snuggled into that part of my brain today that protects me. I distracted myself with work and looking up nonsense online. I know these are signs of denial. I just don’t want to face the grief that will be washing ashore again soon.
Family is arriving tomorrow, we’all keep each other afloat. And I’m so glad I have Bodie here with me. I’m also thankful I packed my running shoes. It’s time to hit the road for another lengthy trot. Those endorphins are my best weapon against the unpredictable demons that grief carries with it.
The three year mark came and went on November 25th. It was a weird lead up to it. I felt the anxiety, I leaned into it, cried, then it just went away. I’m sort of numb from it all, I’m neither happy nor sad, I’m just existing. There’s some things that I’ve pushed aside to focus on myself though. Right now I need to be focusing on my scheduling for 2018, but I’ve decided to use these days off as days off to recharge. So when I get a scheduling email I just respond back I’ll take a look when I’m back into the office on Monday. Coaching creates a very loose and nontraditional routine for work. I usually dig it, but right now I need some Julia time. I need some grief time.
Grieving is a lot like working out. There is no one path that is correct. Everyone does it differently and which ever helps the most is the right way for that individual. Some people like therapy for grief, others like to meditate. Some like boot camp style work outs, others like running. Which ever way the person chooses to deal or heal, that is okay. Not doing anything at all is the problem. So on the 25th I led a 90 minute spin class, and though it was slim attendance, it felt good. I felt my muscles burning, my heart pumping and my mood improve. I watched a movie that day too and just being there felt good. I did think about George and losing him and the morning of his passing. But I also thought about how beloved he was. How many lives his warmth and incredible disposition influenced and touched in his short years on earth. And he is a gem. I do feel lucky to have loved him. I do feel lucky to have felt a passion so great that it continues to impact me daily. I am lucky and I need to remember and remind myself of it when the tear soaked labyrinth appears.
Note: I started this post almost a month ago and never finished. Will be choppy.
For awhile I floated through the days with little care because nothing could be worse than losing George. I lost my purpose and my life for the time being had no meaning. I wanted to stop existing. I remember on Christmas Day 2013, staring out of my hotel window wanting to just throw myself out of it. Defenestration was appealing but the result was not. I didn’t want to stop living, I wanted my life to be suspended. Put on hold until I could process what was happening to me. Or some way figure out how I can rewind everything back. But there I was, staring down at a massive Christmas display in downtown LA waiting for the day to be over and the nightmare presses on. My only expectation then was to make it to the next day.
Eventually all those days I bobbed through began to add up. And soon I was 3 months out, then 7 months, a year, two years and so on. But somewhere during the journey the mindless day began holding meaning. This Friday I didn’t cry myself to sleep, so let’s see how tomorrow will go. And soon I found strength to will myself to improve. Began walking Bodie for miles at a time. Those little bits helped. Started cycling a few times a week. Those little bits helped. And soon I had self-expectations to be active for a minimum of 20 minutes a day. Because those 20 minutes helped my mind process the loss. And soon all those little bits started adding up, and mentally, physically and emotionally I was steady.
The expectations of others has always fueled me as well. But like so many it’s hard to live up to them. But one thing that is not difficult to ask of me was something my mom kept harping on me about: go through George’s boxes. I would roll my eyes and say I’ll get to it. But we both knew I was a coward. It bothered me I wasn’t strong enough to do it. Even as the two year mark came and went, I couldn’t do it. Opening those boxes, seeing his pictures, finding the memories, reliving losing him, I wanted to spare myself from it all.
I went back to Connecticut in the middle of October. The three year mark is just a month away and it was time. I knew I had to go through what I’ve been avoiding. I expected it to be as painful as the day he passed. Feeling lost, hopeless, and confused. But when I opened the first box and saw lyrics to a song about me, I wasn’t afraid. I wanted to find more. I wanted to swaddle myself in his love again. I could read his thoughts and feel him. I ripped through those boxes, shuffling his pictures, pulling and turning pages of his notes. Seeing his handwriting, reading his thoughts and immersing myself in the love we shared. I expected it to be so agonizing but it was rejuvenating. Pleasant and peaceful to be connected to him.
and then I realized, where I am now is because I have high expectations for myself and who I want to be. But expectations can also prevent me from taking those necessary steps to becoming the person I am meant to be.
The months after George passed I wanted so badly for time to rewind, and everything to go back to normal. Getting out of bed each day was a struggle, but there isn’t any other choice but to put both feet on the ground and keep moving forward. I’d be mindless through the days, running on autopilot, but when the fog lifted and realized I was powered by memories of a past life, I had to figure out how to remain positive under unbearable conditions.
This is when I started using fitness as a tool for displacing my grief and stress. Looking back, I believe I used and still use fitness as an avoidance, or an emotional replacement for my loss. But hurling my body up a hill when all I wanted to do was cry felt amazing. It gave me power, it allowed me to sort my thoughts and begin to believe tomorrow will be better than today. No matter how bad the grief was, the next day it would be better, and fitness showed me that open door. Clipping into a bike and sprinting for 30 seconds wasn’t enough, so the instructor challenged the class to 45 seconds. Could I do it? Of course, because I believed at the end it would be better then what it was at the time.
Believing you are worthy of happiness, worthy of satisfaction can change the outcome of any situation. But there’s a different between being worthy and entitled. Only one person can control how you feel. I had to make myself believe I could be strong again. Grief is powerful and how it’s channeled can mold your new life. I wanted to feel strong, so I chose to also transform my body to look strong. The changes also impacted my mind and self confidence. I knew I had to go on. If you think you can’t go on, you’re already defeated. Kill or be killed. So if you look forward to what’s around the corner, there might be a new lifestyle, adventure or path that awaits. Sometimes we need to be willing to step out of our comfort zones, make necessary changes and see what will happen. Even in during the darkest days, there’s a sun behind those clouds.
“There is a pain so utter that it swallows substance up
Then covers the abyss with trance—
So memory can step around—across—upon it
As one within a swoon goes safely where an open-eye would drop him—
—Bone by bone” ~Emily Dickinson
The weeks and the first couple months immediately after George passed are vague and hard to remember. One of the only reasons I can recall them is because of this blog. The words from my early posts read like another person wrote them. The voice is so foreign to me and the dealings are as if another person that wasn’t me went through it. Yet the two weeks prior to his death are crystal in my mind. I remember the meals I ate, clothes I wore, conversations I had with work, his mom, my parents, his friends, it’s so interesting what the mind will do in order to protect oneself.
Disassociation is a common term that’s thrown around during the grieving process. It’s when your mind separates from what is going on around you. Most common disassociation is daydreaming. During those weeks, I would just stare off, never really being fully present. I have no idea how I went back to work a week after he passed, nor do I fully comprehend how I coached the 2014 lacrosse season. But I did, and rather well if I can toot my own horn here. But as I’ve learned more about disassociation, I’ve realized this is just the minds way of protecting against traumatic events. Almost like a crutch to get by and not really process the thoughts and information that is occurring at that time.
Disassociation can be seen most often at gyms. When the music is blaring, while someone is humming to a song as they lift, or when they’re running with their headphones in. These are all ways to disassociate. There’s an entire fitness movement dedicated to disassociating which is one I love and that’s spin or SoulCycle. Becoming part of the tribe, finding your soul, joining a community. It all centers around leaving all your stresses outside of the classroom doors. And it’s how I jumped into this health and wellness, and why I feel it’s important to embrace that feeling of separation from time to time. Especially during those harder work days, or work outs. Grit your teeth, lower your eyes, acknowledge it will be tough, and know you can do it. Know you’ll give it your best shot, because anything less won’t suffice. So jam those headphones in, stare off in the distance during your yoga classes and count the seconds until you change poses, because what makes us work doubly hard now will pay off down the road. Sprint, jog, walk or crawl, what you need to do to get there, that’s your pace to decide. Don’t allow anyone to judge you on the path you take unless they are walking that journey along side.
For the past month I’ve been having a difficult time falling asleep without using melatonin or other sleep supplements. So as I type this I’m laying in bed at 1a waiting for them to kick in. I’m sure I’ll be extremely tired and irritable tomorrow. Coffee will be my savior, and I shall drink several cups guaranteed.
Today I was invited to try a new gym in Montgomery and see if I like the boot camp style. I’ve done boot camp classes before but this one was a bit different and was mentally very tough and the workout varied. So it wasn’t as aggravating as other boot camp style workouts I’ve done in the past. I was asked if I’d like to teach one a week at a super early time slot. It’s under consideration. I have to say, I love love love teaching and coaching fitness. It truly is my calling and seeing how hard people work and get the results they’re looking for swell my heart.
But that’s not the point of this post. The workout was tough and many times I wanted to stop but kept pushing through. I did the workout with my new assistant coach, and she too was feeling beaten down by the exercises. But we both sweated our butts off and we completed it. She mentioned how she was impressed how quickly I got through it and would complete an exercise and move on to the next station. I was impressed with her resilience and ability to adjust, and not quit. I loved that actually, she just didn’t quit until she finished. I think my players will really admire that about her too because this day and age it’s rare to have. But I sat and thought about her words and my mind set during the work out.
the physical pain of any workout can never match the emotional pain I’ve been through. I don’t focus on how bad I hurt during an exercise, I just look forward to when it will be done. Sort of like grief, I always wanted the next day to come hoping it would be better. With working out, I will never skip a rep or compromise my form, because it will be over and I control it. With losing George, I was out of control. Losing him has continued to fuel me and has forced a different midset as I venture into every day life. Part of my every day is exercise and fitness. He’s shaped my work ethic and how I approach it. He’s like my motor. It’s pretty cool when you sit down and really think about it.
I’m my harshest critic. I over analyze how I react, how I look, my behavior, everything. I’m unforgiving to myself when I know I’ve made a mistake, and this summer I feel like I’ve made several. But my counselor tells me I can’t be so hard on myself. I need to learn to be gentle. Understand that mistakes are all a part of living and growing. I like to think I have high expectations, but then the question came of are they high or unrealistic?
It’s hot here in Alabama. Almost unbearable. I take a shower and go outside and begin sweating almost immediately. It’s that time of year when Im trapped inside and I feel like a slug. Last year when I moved to Bama at this time I could barely run a mile in this humidity. The heat was oppressive and I felt terrible about my fitness level and then I started thinking all my hard work was unraveling. Turned out it is really hard to run in humidity. But those feelings are creeping back even though I know it’s just humidity getting to me. But I’ve started adopting other indoor forms of fitness and I’m feeling pretty good. Fitness certainly helps balance my emotions, and gives me a feeling of worth. It’s my thing and I’m good at it and I love the results. So lately I’ve been doing the stair stepper, lifting 2-3 times a week and I recently started doing the kettlebell AMPD classes I was certified for back in April.
Im not comfortable with the Kettlebell AMPD structure, but im having a lot of fun learning and getting better at it. It’s a format very different from teaching indoor cycling, but I feel like it’s making me more aware, focused and a better instructor. Being uncomfortable is forcing me to change and become innovative. And I like it. I love how I feel when I figure out a good routine. I’m proud when I complete a good run through. Im also learning more about sculpting and how to target big muscle groups. It’s really fun for me to be learning. And I feel it’s permeating to other parts of my livelihood. Work has been more enjoyable, and I feel like I’ve found a groove. I’m happier as of lately and not feeling so bogged down like I was in the beginning of summer. I’m piecing myself back together and I’m thankful for the support I’ve had. I think the changes in my routine in the gym has contributed to my mood as well. The grief tore me down for a bit, but I kept pressing on and found clearer skies. I just need to be gentle to myself and remind myself how far I’ve come. I also can’t wait for October weather to get here.