Right now I’m at the Women’s Coach Alliance conference in Denver, Colorado. There’s an incredible aura throughout this entire event. Amazing speakers, strong women from all walks of life and different backgrounds. Today, I lost it and I do get embarrassed about it. But what people view as vulnerable, in actuality it’s my strength. Vulnerability would be me hiding from the truth. The inability to accept what has brought me to this point in my life. Being widowed is my fabric, and it makes me strong. It is not my weakness.
We had a sports life coach come up this morning to give her presentation and she talked about living our lives as 10s. Always aiming to live in the 10 moments. At that point she asked the room what are some 10 out of 10 moments. People discussed winning a championship, impacting players lives, getting married, birth of a child, etc. And my brain flickers with a story board of moments. All of them landing on 1 specific moment and that was when I spoke in Time Square for the kick off of Cycle for Survival on 9/19/14. What would’ve been my first wedding anniversary.
My stomach clenched, my heart began racing, my palms were sweaty. I was back reliving that moment as I sat in the back of the classroom watching her ask if there’s any other moments. My hand ascended up and I began telling the story and then the tears dribbled down my cheeks and my voice became lost in my throat. I could only display the emotional effect of that day. The power, the value, the meaning and the importance of standing in Time Square talking about the greatest love story there ever was replayed behind my eyes.
I recently wrote an article for Hope For Widows Foundation, check it out:
But I’m getting more and more of these memories returning back to me and evoking such a tremendous emotional response. Is it because of the returning loneliness due to the deployment? Am I beginning to process grief? Did I not process it well enough the first time? I don’t know what’s happening to me. It might be because I’m out of coaching and for once I’m taking time to myself. I have no clue. But it’s a weird mixture of sadness, excitement, power, and resolution. I feel invigorated, refreshed and prepared for the next grand adventure to see where it’ll lead me.
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)
Once in awhile I wonder what was the purpose of writing this blog. I did it because George and I loved blogging together, we had two food blogs, so I felt it was a way for me to continue a connection with him. But over time, the appeal and shine loses its luster. But recently I revisited those old posts and to know how far I’ve come in this journey is incredible.
I’m trying to organize my thoughts and posts a little bit and try some fluidity with them. But very much like grief, things just happen and there’s no control over them. I look at the old posts and they flip flop between miserable, excited, self-loathing, angry, manic, numb, and just getting by.
New Years is around the corner and I haven’t had a lot of luck with New Years. I think my first New Years after George passed was one of my best ones, just because I was with my friend Lindsay just reflecting on the shit year we had (2013) and how perhaps 2014 would be better. Little Chinese food, wine and One Tree Hill. It was memorable and she’s still one of my best friends and I love her for being there to do nothing with me as the calendar year flipped.
Good friends make suffering better. Always remember that. A strong support system will hold you up, even during the worst storms.
Today would’ve been three years married to George. A undercurrent of sadness lingered around all day. I cried on my way to work, cried in my office and then cried on my way home. I taught spin class tonight and sitting astride the bike I felt so happy for having the opportunity to feel so much love. I just feel his presence whenever I’m riding. I can’t explain it. It’s just there. A calmness takes over and I feel it in my muscle fibers and it burrows deep into my bones. He loved biking and when my legs go round and round, I know I’m doing something I was programmed to do. I’m making memories with him still when I’m on a bike, indoor or outdoor.
This was my first anniversary where I’ve spent it pretty alone. The first one I was at Times Square cycle for survival and then went to sacred heart’s alumni game. Last year I spent the second anniversary out on the town with my boyfriend. And this year, went to work. Nothing eventful. And I’m happy I did nothing. I felt like I could really sit down and reflect. Think about George and how much I miss him. Think about the day we got married, how exciting and emotional it was. Seeing all the interesting people at the Manhattan court house. This life I’ve been living without him and how different it is. Wonder what it would be like if he was still alive. I allowed my brain to wander. It was peaceful, and I’m glad for once I didn’t try to distract myself from the chaos.
life moves forward, and so have I.
I love you George. And I always will.
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.
im beginning to lean toward changing this blog or just starting a new one focused at health and wellness. Though going through grief opened up this new love of helping others, taking care of myself, and trying different avenues of fitness. I don’t think I’m an expert by any means. I think I have more to contribute to an arena like that than continuing the course of this blog.
ive been asked several times if I want to do a figure transformation and possible do a fitness competition. I’ve said no, but I also like stretching my body and pushing it to places and levels it’s never gone before. As I’ve continued with circuits, and boot camp style workouts I’m beginning to think I can achieve that physique that is so elusive. I dropped 50lbs after George passed away, maybe I’ll look to drop my body composition to less than 12% fat. Still humming and hawing but beginning to lean tilt toward possibly trying.
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.
On Friday I got dolled up and headed out. I grabbed a purse that I don’t use tremendously often but I did year ago when I first got it. My sister gifted me a George Gina and Lucy purse in 2009 and I remember being so excited for it. I would carry that thing everywhere. George would comment about how it’s in my favorite color purple.
Before I headed out, I checked all the pockets to see if there’s any old receipts or trash. There were some old coffee and metro receipts, and I think one movie ticket. But then I dug deeper into the front pocket and pulled out a buckeye. Hard little round nugget with a darkened slit that looks like an eye. I remember walking past Rockefellars grave in the Cleveland cemetery and George picking up the buckeye. He handed it to me, grinning, and reminding me how the nut looks like a bucks eye. I dropped it in my purse to remember our trip to his hometown of Bay Village, just outside Cleveland.
Today I found a towel I used when we lived together in Jersey City. I pushed my face into it and it smelled like George. His scent stung in my nostrils and my heart swelled. But then it cracked like a glass in boiling water. It was too much.
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.