50 Mile Challenge

image

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.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/runningchallenge50/

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.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/runningchallenge50/

Also check out my Instagram at @flippingsteier

Transformation of the Year

Warning: The hubris is real in this post. There is no competition, no election, no votes, because without rival I have won the Transformation of the Year Award. Challenge me for it, I dare you. I destroyed 2014.

Facebook had the audacity to try and compute the “best moments” of my 2014 year, but from where I began January 1 to now cannot be collected in a montage of pictures and post that received the most “likes.” WordPress tried to sway me by showing me my “Year end review” as today’s post, but I wanted to take control of deciding the highlights of this year rather than social media telling me what’s up.

This was my first full year without George. The thought of it on December 31, 2013 shook me so deep that I felt it in my bone marrow. And I’ll be completely honest, with 2015 just 26 hours away, heading into another full year without him sucks too. But this suckage is going to continue for a lifetime. And that’s just the way it goes. Life without George sucks, but I’m making the most of it.

Get ready for a plethora of pictures, because as I said, the hubris is real.

IMG_1447

I’m not sure where to really even begin. I honestly gave up on life November 25th, 2013. I thought with George gone, I would certainly wither away into oblivion. It was wishful thinking to vanish in those early weeks and months. I returned to work just a week after he died, but when winter break hit, I went back home to grieve with my family around. When it was time to return from winter break back to the office, I was only wearing George’s sweaters. It was the way I wanted to deal with the loss of my husband, and it also was a way for me to be hidden. Tucked away within oversized sweatshirts.

IMG_9078God I hated myself at that time. When looking for pictures for this post, I honestly have very few from November-February. I just veered away from cameras. Once Drew was back in session and lacrosse season commenced my life had purpose again. In a Jay-Z kind of way, every single day I had 99 excuses why I never wanted to leave my apartment, but there was 1 reason why I did: Drew women’s lacrosse team.

IMG_8043When I was splintered and cracking this team helped me stay together so I wouldn’t shatter. No matter how badly I wanted to just say to hell with all of this and just not show up, I would mosey into the field house at 6am with tear streaked cheeks from sobbing and massive bags under my eyes from lack of sleep, and these girls would be ready to go. Most the time. They would buy me a coffee in the morning, and my assistant would tell me something completely out there from what happened to her the night before. It was the best life support I could have asked for. Throughout the season we had amazing experiences which will forever warm my heart.

Like going to the Super Bowl Halftime show at the Meadowlands!1660297_10100343770538369_746299047_nIMG_5690

We participated in Cycle for Survival, where all the money raised goes directly to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to help perpetuate cancer research and treatments. As a team we raised over $11,000 for rare cancer research, something that meant the WORLD to me because George believed so much in everything they were doing for him at MSKCC, and I wanted to continue his fight against cancer even though he was no longer with us.

Screen Shot 2014-02-08 at 11.12.03 PM

February 8, 2014 changed my life completely. Having the team surround me and support me on this cause, and seeing how much they believed in it, it set in motion my gradual physical transformation. I felt so damn good sitting on that bike and riding for George. I felt him in all my muscle fibers just telling me to be a little stronger and fight a little harder. If you wanna to learn more or donate to our team at http://mskcc.convio.net/goto/TeamKraynak

IMG_8522Right before our first game on February 27th, I made the move from the apartment George and I shared to where I am now. The stress of losing George and then moving was far from easy. It was a fast reality that life unfortunately goes on, and I needed to start figuring out how to live by myself. Cooking for 1 was something that took some getting used to, but finding ways to occupy my time and mind became a necessity for survival. And that’s where SoulCycle came in.

IMG_6120The energy, community, friendships and strength I gained during the classes at SoulCycle changed my personal outlook. During the time from when I found out George was dying to February 8th, I stopped caring for myself. I had put on a tremendous amount of weight because I just was so depressed, and so empty inside. The moment I sat in on my first SoulCycle class I knew it was going to impact my year. I loved the sensation of my legs screaming at me as I tried to keep pace with the instructor. Dropping my elbows on the downbeat of the music, and closing my eyes just so I could feel the love swell inside me. I hung on to those feelings from the classes for days. I returned weekly to SoulCycle until I was making daily visits and sometimes twice a day visits. I felt safe within the community, and they encouraged me to better myself. They wanted me to be the best person I could be that day. And even when there were days when all I wanted to do is curl up into a ball and cry my eyes out, I would throw on the yoga pants and a t-shirt and head to Short Hill to ride.

IMG_7139Eventually, there started to be some noticeable changes. I was happier and had more energy. The tireless nights and the tears started to subside, and my life was starting to come together a little bit. But unfortunately I still was very unstable. But through the instability, I made sure to keep my off days consistent, and I made sure to go to Coney Island to go swimming with the Polar Bear Club. Again, many of George’s friends do polar bear swims and it was another way for me to feel him. But running into ice cold water was another way for me to control my grief. I wanted to feel the discomfort of the water, and I also loved the support the community offered me. Encouraging me to go a little deeper, stay in a second longer, to embrace the excitement of rushing down the gritty beach, and kicking the sand up as you step into the lapping ocean water. The shock of the water awakens every neuron and cell in your body.

1498782_10152560235034377_1267205832_oOnce the lacrosse season ended, my daily routines were shook up and I ran off to Europe. Throughout the first 6 months of 2014, I felt a lot of my time was spent to holding it together and to working, and I needed to take the time for myself to fall apart. So I packed my bags, and headed to Germany and Switzerland, where I got to visit the Alps and touch the sky and see the beauty of everything that surrounds us. And once again, as I looked out at the snow caps, and the green plains below I realized that this life is so massive, that these moments we have together are suspended in time. Just dangling there like a puppet in our memories, just waiting to be revisited and played with. Regardless of how painful. Our time together is unique to only us and we define them any which way we want. And as much as I would get angry that George was gone, I wouldn’t trade our moments and memories at all. So much so, that if I had to go back in time and do it all over again, I would because it led me to him.

imageUpon returning from Europe, I returned to NJ and made a vow to take care of myself over the summer. It was time for me to figure out how to maneuver through this journey and life. The weapon I chose was exercise. I became spin certified. I started lifting with my good friend and neighbor, who also work at Drew. Finally a work colleague/friend asked if I wanted to do a triathlon and that’s when my brain lit up like a halogen lamp. I loved biking, I had been doing SoulCycle and had just been hired at a gym to teach spin. I had started running again a bit more in late June, so it made sense to incorporate swimming into the regiment. Training for the triathlon gave me direction and purpose which I had been lacking since lacrosse season ended. Plus it forced me to be more militant and disciplined with my exercising. My body transformed quickly and as my body was transforming my mood and grief became more manageable.IMG_7170IMG_6463IMG_6956In the middle of my workouts I traveled back to Connecticut where I became an aunt and met my niece for the first time. During this time in my home state turned out I had mono… Anyway, when I saw her beautiful face and the cutest smile, she melted my heart. I felt that unconditional love again, and I started to feel alive as I was heading into August. I cannot even describe to you how callous I was prior to meeting her. It was instantaneous, I saw her face and my heart just filled up. She’s my best little buddy.

IMG_7317IMG_7194IMG_8343

Then in August I got the most amazing opportunity. To ride in the Cycle for Survival Times Square Takeover and tell my story on why Cycle for Survival is so important to me. Never in this lifetime did I think I would speak in the middle of Time Square! And as Fall approached, many of the first anniversaries were going to hit hard. But with the Time Square Takeover, I got to spend my wedding anniversary on a bike while raising funds and awareness for rare cancer research. The one thing that first gave my life purpose back in February. It was the most poetic way I could imagine spending George and my wedding anniversary.

10690080_685294978228734_1519184977747720339_nIMG_7729IMG_7751A week later I competed in my first triathlon with my good friend and work colleague. I finished second in my age group. But most importantly, I set a goal to finish under 3 hours, and I did. As I crossed the finish line, never did I think I would do a triathlon in less than a year after George passed, and I most certainly never thought I would actually enjoy every second of it!

IMG_7906

After the completion of the triathlon, my buddy and I decided to start training for a half marathon. I talked about wanting to do a half marathon when George was alive but never had the discipline or drive to train for one. But during the triathlon training, I realized the long runs, the biking helped me sort through my woes, grief, and strengthened me more than physically. I was becoming an entirely different person. Something I hoped for during my darkest days. I remember thinking I would love to be someone other than me in those first few weeks of widowhood. But now I had become someone that wasn’t me. I was a better version of myself. I was a person I know George would be so proud of, and when he catches glimpses of my accomplishments he knows that I’m a survivor. That I am strong and that I will flourish and thrive.

I did my first half marathon 2 days before George’s death anniversary, and then I did my second half marathon the day before George’s funeral anniversary. I’m still in disbelief that all this has been accomplished in just a year!

I talked about running a half marathon when he was alive, but never did. So doing the Philly Half Marathon was one of the most satisfying and euphoric days.

IMG_8723

IMG_8547

You want to know what the greatest transformation is out of all of this? Yes, the physical transformation is apparent, but the emotional and mental one is what I reflect on the most. I remember so vividly how miserable I was a year ago at this time. I remember the hurt and the unforgiving jaws of grief. And today, I look back and holy shit, I cannot believe how far I’ve come. I have changed my ENTIRE life in a year. I did not allow his death to define who I am, instead I allowed his death to reshape me and push me forward to be better. To be the best person I can be. And I wish he was here to see this, but I’m also aware that if he were here, these changes would not exist. 2014, you started off as the most miserable year of my life, but ended as one of the most fulfilling. I’m going to obliterate 2015.

IMG_3278

Thanksgiving 2012

December 2013

December 2013

December 2014

December 2014

Second Christmas

imageThere are no firsts anymore. Each day is a repeat. Last year on Christmas I was in California sitting outside in the sun watching Netflix on my iPad as everyone opened gifts and spent family time together. I wanted to disappear. I didn’t want to exist a year ago. Christmas last year was the one month mark since George died. Today it’s the 13 month mark since he was in my life.

In a year so much has changed. I remember demanding to be taken back to the hotel last year because the hate, dread and sadness that swallowed my soul was too much to bear. I was suffocating with each breath. My life meant nothing without him.

Today I reflect back on that time and though the struggle was horrendous, it has made me who I am now. I dont think I can convey how dark those early months were. I just didn’t wish to be present. I was stuck between the devastation of reality and the yearning for the past. But today I look forward for the wonders of tomorrow. I love each day, regardless of how difficult they can be.

I have transformed my life simply because I couldn’t continue to loath. I would feel guilty about being so sad because I know All George would want me to be is happy, and when I felt those blips of contentment I would feel guilty about not grieving enough. I sound like a broken record but I had to relearn how to live and embrace the opportunities that present themselves.

imageThis year has been a whirlwind, but when I look in the mirror, when I think about where I was at this time a year ago, I just can’t help but be completely proud of how far I’ve come. It’s imperative during the grieving process to find one thing that provides you the feeling of control. Something that will help steer as everything you know begins to fall and reform. It will never feel normal, nothing will ever be the same, but change shouldn’t be feared. As much as you may want everything to remain, that life and reality cannot exist without that one person. So it’s every individuals job to carve out a new path, a new route in this journey that provides stimulation and meaning. Today I am proud of myself for surviving this first year without George. But as time comes between us, his love and our time together will always be the paving on my journey. I think about him and tell him I miss him everyday.

I felt him on my 9.5 mile run today. I heard his voice as my legs began to cramp up, because nothing in this world can motivate me the way he does. He’s my guy. He’s my fuel. A love so powerful that it goes beyond this world.

My second Christmas as a widow. The pain does lessen but the love is still strong.

Holiday Distractions

I can’t believe I haven’t updated this in almost 2 weeks. This holiday season has been INSANE! I feel like I’ve been caught in this whirlpool of activity every day. With the semester coming to an end a lot loose ends with work had to be tied up, which makes the days fly by. I’ve been working on my team’s winter lifting packet, which I’ve been doing to see if the weights and lifts are doable. I’ve actually really enjoyed using myself as a guinea pig with that because personally I think they’re relatively easy, but I also think running 8 miles is a cake walk.

This time last year I have a filmy remembrance of the holidays. I only went to one holiday party at my former bosses house and I just recall afterwards I probably shouldn’t have gone. Well I went to it yesterday and seeing everyone again from then to now and they were just in awe of my transformation. I also had nice arm candy. It really is staggering how much things have changed in a year besides the obvious. The hardest thing about this entire journey is accepting George’s death and then moving forward. I didn’t fear change, but I did fear stagnation.

I wasn’t the most social person when George was alive. I was very fickle when it came to parties and attending events. One day I would be all about it, and then the day of quickly back track. After the last week of classes, I decided to commit to attending SantaCon in NYC. George LOVED dressing up as Santa and he usually would attend and try to convince me to go. Which of course I would protest profusely. Well, I headed to target and bought an elf costume, and hopped on the train and went to SantaCon this year. I went for George. He was my motivation and through the drunkenness of college students and hostility of shop owners, I had a marvelous time. I loved seeing all the costumes, from the creative to the “called it in” outfits. That day was just so perfect and wonderful. From there out, I had a plethora of holiday parties I had been invited to.

Every day this week I had a holiday party except Thursday. I cannot remember when I was invited to so many, but I think a large portion of it might simply be I never really wanted to go to holiday parties. But this year, I wanted to be festive, I wanted to enjoy myself, I wanted to be gregarious. Most importantly I wanted to show myself how far I’ve come in this first full year without George. This whole thing sucks, and I get that it’s unlucky. But I find myself to be very lucky to have loved someone so deeply that even in passing they still impact me daily. Think about that for a second. Yeah, losing him was the worst thing imaginable, but how he still inspires me is simply tremendous. I just hope when my time comes, I can have the same affect on someone’s life.

George was and is larger than life.

10850025_10100563904692759_2649082589227888289_nIMG_0385