On Being Humbled

I think there is a stereotype in our world that if you are not working out every day (or most days), then you aren’t really working out. You aren’t really making your health a priority. You aren’t really a “real” person who works out. I know it sounds silly, but don’t you think there is a bit of truth to it? We tend to look to the people who do more than us for inspiration and motivation, and for good reason. Those who are wiser are the ones who CAN inspire and motivate us. But don’t you think that what you are doing is enough? Can’t you inspire and motivate yourself? I would like that for you. And for me, too. 😉

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I woke up on Saturday determined to go for a longer run. I am not training for anything right now, but I really felt like hitting one of my favorite trails (Mt. Vernon Trail) and spending the morning outside. I like the feeling of accomplishment that a long run on a Saturday brings! Now, this was not going to be any kind of record setting long run. Last week, I was knocked down with one of the worst sinus infections of my life (I’m not exaggerating) and I had a fever. So to say my workouts went well last week…well, that’s just not true. My workouts were nonexistent and then they were low impact. There was no way that I could workout in the condition I was in and then when I finally felt better, I didn’t want to do anything crazy for fear of taking my weak self right back to the land of the sick and pathetic. When our bodies are sick, they need to rest. They need to rest before we even get so sick that we are unable to do anything. I think part of my sickness stemmed from the fact that two weeks ago when I noticed I was getting sick, I just kept pushing through. I went to work every day, I tried to drink a lot of water but didn’t pay extra special attention to my hydration, I worked out HARD every night…I was just careless. And my body said no thank you.

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Still nice and green in DC! Fall, where are you?!

On Wednesday, I ran a mile and did some strength training. On Thursday, I tried a new class called “Metabolic Resistance Training”. And on Friday, I went to Elevate, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite fitness studios. It’s a high intensity treadmill, rowing, and strength training class. I like it because it’s very challenging and it incorporates so many different kinds of exercise! With those three workouts under my belt, I was feeling confident to go into a longer run on Saturday morning even though I haven’t been running long recently. I have still been doing challenging workouts often, so I don’t think I have lost too much fitness. And besides, I had no time goals. I just knew that I wanted to make it to my destination: The Jefferson Memorial. Then I would stroll around the National Mall and take the metro home. My favorite part about living in DC is being able to workout with such beautiful scenery and monuments in the background!

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This is when the Mall first comes into view from the Mt. Vernon Trail. I was still feeling good at this point…but around 4 miles, I started to seriously struggle. I could feel every muscle that I worked in my other workouts last week and I could feel every muscle that was still in relaxation mode from the days I didn’t work out while I was sick. So what do you do when you are in the middle of a trail and your start and end point are equidistant away? Well, you take some pictures, you give yourself a pep talk, you text your mom and your best friend, and you let yourself walk.

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Say what?! Maybe this is not a big deal to you, but when I go for a run, I typically like to…oh, I don’t know…actually run? It’s kind of a hypocritical statement because I tell friends who are just starting their running journey that it is perfectly acceptable and fine to walk. In fact, when I AM training for something, I do walk on occasion. And when I am racing, I walk through every water station. So I know that it is perfectly fine and acceptable to walk while you are out for a run…but I had about 3 miles to go until I got anywhere near the metro. And if you had asked me in that exact moment, I would have told you that I wanted to walk the entire rest of the way, which seemed a little unacceptable to me. Surely, I could not WALK three miles while I was out for a run.

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Well, guess what? I already told you I’m not training for anything. And it was a great 4 miles before I started to mentally and physically lose it during this run. So I really just had to convince my brain that it was “okay” for me to run and walk and run and walk the rest of the way. I was not going to actually run 7 miles. I was going to run 4 miles, and then I was going to do a combination of running and walking to the finish. That was such a hard pill to swallow! It’s a humbling feeling to realize that you are not ready for what you are trying to make yourself do. But that is the story of running. You will always feel humbled, even on your best days. There is a lesson in every run…and I truly mean that! You realize so many things about yourself as an athlete and as a person when you run. And if you’re not a runner, maybe there is something in your life that makes you feel like that. But all I had pictured was the happy feeling of running and being out on my favorite trail and celebrating not being sick anymore. I did not anticipate the feeling of “I can’t do it” halfway through the run!

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And then I finally started to spot some fall foliage!

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Here’s the thing about the above quote. My legs actually WERE giving out. There comes a point in every workout, or really anything that you are doing in life, when you have to stop and consciously realize that you know what is best for you. So you need to listen to yourself, and in this case, your body. In order to make it through some really challenging workouts, sometimes I have to modify. When I am lifting, that means I use lighter weights OR I use heavy weights and do fewer reps. But when I am running, maybe that means doing a combination of running and walking to get to my destination. Did I still get there? Yes. Was it still challenging? Yes. If I had forced myself to continue running, not only would I have been miserable, but I probably would’ve gotten hurt because my body wasn’t ready for that distance. In reality, I had no business trying to run that far. But what’s so bad about covering the long distance in whatever way I can, whether it’s running, walking, or crawling? Nothing! Nothing at all. Anything that I give…anything that you give in a workout…is our very best. So we should continue to listen to our bodies and do just that. Give our best.

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Oh, and since I know you are dying to know, I finally make it to my end point. 🙂

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And I took a little break to ENJOY being outside. Because that was the point of going for my run in the first place, remember? I also had to try “holding” Jefferson up. How did I do?! And just so you know, white marble is FREEZING to lay on (yes, I was laying) when it is 50 degrees outside. I think I am in for a big surprise this winter. I’m still not over last winter, so I’m unprepared for this change of seasons. 😉

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And of course, I had to photograph the weird shadows and gray clouds surrounding the Washington Monument. It was a beautiful day for a 7 mile run/walk. 🙂

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Do you push through workouts or do you cut yourself some slack?

Is it really “fall” where you live yet?!

5 Ways To Make Your Workout Happen

Social media is a wonderful tool for connecting like-minded people to one another, but I think that too much connection can make us put some pressure on ourselves. There are so many articles, pictures, and pins on Pinterest about eating healthy and working out that I think sometimes we think if we are not 100% “on” all the time, we are doing something wrong. Because isn’t everyone else doing all that healthy stuff? The most important thing to remember is that working out is bettering YOUR health and YOUR body. A workout is not something to just check off our list or tell others that we accomplished, it is something that changes us mentally and physically for the better! We need to strive for balance, not perfection. Still, whether you are having a busy day or a “regular” day, here are five tips that will help you balance your life vs. your workout.

Decide what you are going to do the next day the night before.
I cannot stress this enough! You must decide what you are going to do and when you are going to do it the night before, or else it is all too easy to let the day get away from you. If I know that I have commitments right after work, like a meeting or my grad class, then I label that a long day and I KNOW I will not be waking up early. I will want to sleep as long as possible so that I have energy. Therefore, I will be working out when I finally get home…and that means I must pick a workout that I enjoy doing that is short. Am I going to feel like going to an hour-long Spin class after a 14 hour day? Definitely not. So be realistic with yourself. Maybe it is easier for you to wake up early and do something before your day begins, but if you are like me and save your workout for the evening, have a plan to do a short workout so that you don’t give yourself an excuse to skip it. I give myself many options: I do 30 minute workouts on Beachbody OnDemand, I know which classes at my gym happen in the 7 o’clock hour and are only 30 minutes, I give myself the option to run…but I always choose one of those options the night before. So, when you are laying down at night and going over all of the things that you need to accomplish the next day, decide what you are going to do when you finally get home and have time to workout. Short and sweet is key!

Workout as soon as you get home.
If you are a morning person, you can skip this one. Ha! If you are an afternoon or evening exerciser, I can’t recommend anything more than changing into workout clothes as soon as you get home and starting your workout right away! Maybe you drive straight to the gym instead. Whatever it is, do it right away. If you sit down on your couch, there will be no getting up! 😉

Schedule your workout!
In conjunction with the point above, you must decide the what and when of your workout, but what better way to make sure you get yourself moving than by actually scheduling it? Some gyms and fitness studios require participants to sign up ahead of time so that you don’t arrive at the gym and find your favorite class full. Likewise, these “sign ups” usually come with a late fee. If you sign up for a class and don’t show up, you are charged a small fee. Who wants to pay extra for not showing up!? That is definitely encouragement for me to show up, unless I have a legitimate reason not to go, like being sick. If your gym doesn’t require you to sign up or you don’t belong to a gym, schedule your workout by making plans with a friend. When I have plans with a friend and I am not looking forward to going just because I am being lazy, there is nothing like seeing a text message that says “Can’t wait to see you later!” or “We should run on ____ trail tonight!” Someone else is expecting me to show up and work hard with them, so I will! And you will, too. 🙂

Choose to do something that you really enjoy.
This stems from what I was saying above about doing what you think you are “supposed” to be doing. Your workout is changing YOU for the better, so you need to choose to do something that makes you happy. Obviously we all want to see results from our hard work, but you will be much less likely to see results and/or stay consistent if you don’t enjoy or look forward to what you are doing. I am a runner, and right now I really don’t feel like running. In fact, I signed up for Classpass for the next month so I can try a whole bunch of different studios and classes (it seems to be offered in big cities only so far!). Think about the workout you have scheduled for later today: are you excited about it? Do you enjoy that activity? Your answer should be “yes” to both of those questions. I know that yoga is so good for my mind and body, and I enjoy doing yoga, but I would never make myself do it by myself working out at home. I don’t enjoy that. I have tried many different online videos, but I am the happiest little yogi when I am at the studio. So figure out what you like and do that thing.

Give yourself a break.
I mean this in the most literal sense. If you are working out, you obviously need to incorporate rest days too, but that is not what I mean. I mean actually let yourself skip a workout AND not feel bad about it if you don’t want to do it or you really just do not have time. It is not our life’s work to spend every day in the gym. Some people love working out so much that they do make it to the gym every day, and others of us are like, why do I have to do this? I saw this article on Huffington Post recently and it really spoke to me:

“Losing weight is not your life’s work, and counting calories is not the call of your soul. You surely are destined for something much greater, much bigger, than shedding 20 pounds or tallying calories. What would happen if, instead of worrying about what you had for breakfast, you focused instead on becoming exquisitely comfortable with who you are as a person? Instead of scrutinizing yourself in the mirror, looking for every bump and bulge, you turned your gaze inward?”

Read the full article here.

How true is that? I am a religious person, so I am always working to be the best version of myself. The person that God made me to be. But even if you are not religious, isn’t your character so much more important than anything else? We are not meant to spend our lives fretting over being the most fit person, although social media can make that all too easy. We are meant for so much more. And that might start with letting ourselves be “okay” with missing a day at the gym or having a weekend full of indulgent food. Balance, not perfection, remember?

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