What You Gain when You Lose

As I was in the midst of my 17 mile long run yesterday, I was thinking about all the comments I have gotten lately about how I am crazy, how could I run such long miles every weekend, you are just torturing yourself, etc. For awhile, I thought maybe they are right. Why am I doing this to myself? But, then I realized, this is not something I have to do. I don’t dread running every week. In fact, I actually look forward to running. I crave it when I can’t. I enjoy being outside on Saturday mornings running by myself, listening to what I want to listen to, enjoying nature and just feeling alive in my body. I feel amazing afterwards. Endorphins are flowing. The feeling of accomplishment. The thought of how my body is adapting, getting stronger. This is not a punishment at all. It is a gift. I can do what a lot of people can’t do. I just absolutely love my life and body.

I think a lot of people look at weight loss as a dreaded process of counting calories, forcing yourself to the gym, not being able to eat your favorite foods. And, honestly, I think that is why it took me so long to want to even attempt to lose weight. It just didn’t sound like very much fun. That cheeseburger from McDonald’s sounded like a lot more fun. But, that cheeseburger maybe gave me 2 minutes of fun. Then, probably hours of guilt and a lifetime of constantly not feeling good. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think one McDonald’s cheeseburger is going to totally steer you on the path to unhappiness. I do, however, think it is easy to get into a habit where you look at food and other unhealthy habits as quick fixes to being happy. It wasn’t until I started getting my act together health wise that I actually experienced happiness that stuck around. I found the joy in being healthy.

I guarantee you that if you start your weight loss journey with the thought of deprivation, killing yourself at the gym, not enjoying a night out, etc., you are going to give it up almost as soon as you start. Because, let’s face it, if it isn’t fun, why do it? Instead, I would encourage you to look at everything you gain when you change your lifestyle. Look for things you want to do instead of things you feel you have to do. For me, I love food now than I ever have in my whole life. I love looking up recipes, I love trying new foods, I love cooking, I love sharing food with others, I love going to new ethnic restaurants and smelling/tasting a new spice I have never experienced. And, yes, I am vegan and absolutely love my food. I am not going to explain all the positives of veganism in this post, nor do I think you have to be totally vegan to be healthy, but my point is that you can enjoy healthy food. If you start looking at all the positives of healthy eating versus the unhealthy food you are giving up, you will stick with it forever.

This afternoon alone, I have really enjoyed a quiet day at home cooking granola, making a tempeh stir fry, cutting up fruit, etc. My whole apartment smells amazing. I have enjoyed snacking on delicious food all day. I enjoyed picking my food out at the grocery and looking at all the different fruits and veggies. I am going to share some of what I made today with my Mom and she is going to share some other vegan dishes with me. I feel amazing because I know everything I ate had what my body needs. It is making me stronger, I have energy, I feel like going for a run. Or, I could have just went and bought something unhealthy and enjoyed it for a couple minutes, have it not done much for my body, and felt horrible later on. When you look at it from this perspective, it is easy to choose healthy.

Now, I do want to be honest and say I didn’t turn this way over night. Oh my goodness, I had the cravings in the beginning. I used to love sweets, cheese, fast food. That is what I looked forward to all day. But, after a couple weeks, I stopped craving those things. I have read that unhealthy food is just as addicting as cocaine, heroin, etc, and I totally believe it. But, once you get it out of your system, you start feeling better almost immediately. So, if you are just starting out, hang in there for a little while. It does get so much easier. Then, you get to the point where you crave the healthy food. In the meantime, find other things that make you happy. Find a new hobby, go somewhere new, talk to an old friend, start a new book. Remember, this is a lifestyle change, not a diet. Most of all, I would encourage you to find some sort of exercise that you love. I started out walking because that is all I could really do. Plus, it just felt good to move, clear my head, and relieve stress. Maybe you would enjoy walking too, Or, perhaps you have a sport that you used to play or one that you have always wanted to start. Just find something that makes you happy.

Exercise does so much for you. Sure, it can help you lose some weight. Although, I really think diet is about 75% of weight loss. What exercise really does, though, is make you feel amazing. There is nothing like the feeling of a good workout. If you are not enjoying your workout, do something else. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and try something else. Trust me, I tried a lot of different types of classes and found things I really didn’t like. For example, passing out in hot yoga class was not one of my prouder moments. Don’t force yourself to do anything. Keep trying new things until you find what fits you. What your best friend is doing may not be what you like. Although, exercise is a great way to form new friendships or strengthen old ones. I have made a lot of friends through running and it has helped me to reconnect with a lot of friends I hadn’t talked to in awhile. Every time you try something new, you are becoming more of who you are. Remember that. Find what brings you joy. Find what makes you you.

So, becoming healthy is not a death sentence. You gain so much more than what you lose. You get your life back. You feel amazing. You enjoy things. You get to the point where you really don’t care about that piece of chocolate cake because the rest of your life is so much better. You get to the point where food doesn’t control you. You find your happiness in so many other places. And, if you do decide to eat a piece of chocolate cake, that is okay too because you are living a healthy life. If you deny yourself something, all you are going to want is what you told yourself you can’t have. There are no rules. This is your new life. Own it and love it. Love the healthy and don’t let the unhealthy control you. Find the new, happy you! You are worth it!

Running Week January 20th-27th

Overall goal this week: Climb up to 17 miles on Saturday and start increasing overall mileage throughout the week including tempo runs.

Overall Miles Planned for the Week: 40 (Up 2 from last week)

Weeks until Marathon: 14

Something I am Curious about and want to Learn more about this Week: I have been doing a lot more cooking lately and am thinking about starting an herb garden. I think now would be the time to plant some seeds in time for the Spring.

Update: I bought some basil, thyme, mint, tomato, rosemary, and oregano seeds. I also bought some starter seed trays and plan on planting them this week. My plan is to set them near the window and put them out on my balcony once it gets warmer. Lots to learn, but I think it will be a fun hobby.

Struggles this Week: Overall, it was a pretty good week. I did end up buying a new pair of shoes this week and broke them in during my long run on Saturday. Probably not the best idea. My feet have been a little sore, but nothing major.

Positives for the Week: I really enjoyed my long run this week. After running 16 miles on the treadmill last week, it felt so good to be outside for my long run this week! It was a little chilly, but otherwise a really beautiful morning. It was snowing a little bit and really was just able to let go, listen to some nice podcasts, not worry about pace, and just enjoy myself. Plus, I didn’t even feel that sore or tired this weekend. Bonus!

Something I learned this Week: Runners are seriously some of the happiest people on the planet! I knew this before, but it was made apparent this week. There was some sort of racing event going on where I went running and I can’t tell you how many waves, thumbs up, and smiles I got from total strangers. Even in the midst of the hard task of running, they were all just so happy. Must be all those endorphins!

Running Week January 13th-19th

Overall goal this week: Climb back up to 16 miles on Saturday and start increasing mileage after a lower mileage/recovery week.

Overall Miles Planned for the Week: 38

Weeks until Marathon: 15

Adjustments I had to make to my plan this week: I had an appointment scheduled on Friday, so I ended up doing my miles for that day on Sunday.

Struggles this Week: Thursday I wasn’t feeling too well and was very tired after work. It was a struggle to get through all 6 miles, but I felt much better after I did it. Also, the weather did not cooperate this weekend and I had to do all 16 miles on a treadmill. Ugh!!!

Positives for the Week: Although I had to run on the treadmill, I did it with my awesome running club. They are amazing! Although tired, I wasn’t sore at all after my long run this week. All about perspective!

Something I learned this Week: I need to drink more water! I focused on drinking more water throughout the week and felt so much better during my long run. Running on the treadmill allowed me to hydrate easier and I felt a lot better. I need to figure out how to hydrate more when I am running outside on my long runs. It is super important!

Something Delicious I ate this Week: Granola! I could seriously live off of granola. It is my favorite thing to cook, and you can customize it for you any way you choose. I always make sure to add peanut butter, chia seeds, flax seeds, lots of nuts, and dried fruit. Sooooo yummy! Eating it with fresh fruit and almond milk is my favorite breakfast. This is the batch I made this week.

What I am Reading: I just finished listening to Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness. This was written by Scott Jurek, one of the greatest runners in the world. He has competed in some of the toughest races in the world, many hundreds of miles long. It was very inspiring how he viewed his struggles throughout childhood and how they made him into the great runner he is today. I also enjoyed learning about his journey of nutrition and how he changed his diet and overall view of food to help him become an ultramarathoner. Definitely would recommend!

Spanish Phrase of the Week (Because I love learning Spanish!): You can do it: ¡Puedes hacerlo!  Puedes (You can) Hacer (To do) Lo (It)

Overall Training Plan

So, for anyone curious about what a marathon training plan looks like, I am posting my overall plan. I read a lot about the different types of runs, how to increase mileage and taper off, etc. My running coach has also given me a lot of great advice. This is an overall plan, but it may change seeing how my body adjusts and what not. In other words, we shall see if my body can keep up and actually function at points, haha. Someone told me that all you will want to do during training is run, eat crazy amounts of food, and sleep. I am starting to think they may be on to something. Also, I want to say that I developed this with me in mind. Everyone’s body and schedule is different. Everyone’s training plan should be different. You have to start from the point you are at for any type of training.

Types of Runs Explained

Marathon Pace: Running at an easy pace I plan to run the marathon in. Right now, training for a 10:30 pace. This may change!

Speed Intervals: Running at a very past pace for short distances and recovery time in between. This helps increase overall speed. I do this most weeks with my running club.

Tempo Runs: Running longer distances at a faster pace. Again, this is to increase overall speed. I usually try to run these at a little over 9 minutes a mile.

Rest Days: These are just important as everything else! I try to do some strength training on these days, because I really believe building your muscles and strength is super important to prevent injuries and make you a better, overall runner.

My Story and why I Decided to Write a Blog and Run a Marathon.

First of all, thank you to anyone taking the time to check out this blog. I have decided to start this as a way to document my marathon training and share it with anyone who may be interested in the mechanics of it, the reason behind it, or perhaps just the crazy ups and downs that are sure to come along. Although I decided to run this marathon completely for me, my students inspired me to start this so I could share the experience with them. They inspire me every day and perhaps they will get a little inspiration from seeing their teacher run some crazy miles. Or, probably more like it, realize how completely crazy their teacher actually is, haha.

            So, I want to start with what led me to this point in life where I have decided to put myself through this crazy training plan. The last two years have been a time of big change in my life. One morning I found myself waking up with my heart racing, super pale, and I just knew something was very wrong. I ended up going to the emergency room where they told me that it was probably a panic attack or severe anxiety. My blood pressure was also super high and I soon found out after I was close to being pre-diabetic. At 30 years old, I knew I had to make a change. What is weird, I don’t think I really even fully grasped the situation I had let my body get in before that moment. I just got used to that being my norm. There were a lot of things that probably led me to get to that point, because let’s face it life happens. However, I decided from that point on I was going to make big changes with the goal of just feeling better and being happy. It is funny how I am super grateful for that super low moment now because it pushed me to this moment.

            The next day I started walking around my neighborhood. I remember thinking that it was so hard and exhausting, but I was excited to get started. Then, the next day I walked a little bit more, and just kept building up. At the same time, I started counting calories and getting some of the weight off. Although within a few months I had dropped a lot of weight, no one really noticed right away and that was fine because I was starting to feel better. This encouraged me to keep going. I read more about nutrition and weight loss, walked almost every day, started taking classes at the Y. After about a year I had probably dropped about 100 pounds. Then, I really got motivated.

            Something one day told me to start running a little bit. I could only run about 30 seconds, but I knew that if I gradually kept building like I did the walking I would improve. So, I built up to a minute, 2 minutes at a time, etc. Before I knew it, I could run a whole mile. I was so excited the first time I ran a complete mile without stopping! Then I decided my next goal was to run 3 miles. I signed up for my first race and had so much fun because a lot of my work crew decided to join me. They, among others, have been so encouraging the entire time. After that, I really started to enjoy running and had dropped another 50 pounds by summer.

            I decided to go to Ecuador for the summer and ran a little bit up in the crazy altitude, but surprisingly one of the many things I learned about while there was about food and nutrition. I fell in love with different types of ethnic, healthy food while in Quito. When I got back home, I was not only excited to get started with the running again, but also to focus on the nutrition. I had really cleaned up my diet by then from before, but I was dedicated to learning more about it. I used to totally be addicted to fast food, sweets, and so much cheese. In fact, growing up, I totally despised vegetables.

            Now, I am enjoying healthy cooking and meal prep so much and feel so amazingly better. I cannot praise the effect exercise and nutrition can have on every part of you. Physically, in the last couple of years, I have went from 287 pounds to the upper 130’s. I have lost more than I weigh. Super crazy to think about! I don’t have headaches anymore. I am not sore anymore. I am not on any medication, my blood pressure and blood sugar are perfect, and I just feel super great. I can tell my body has so much more energy, I recover super quickly from long runs, my hair is thicker, my skin has improved, I could just go on and on. In fact, this is a before and after picture of me. People I run into that I haven’t seen in awhile often don’t recognize me.

However, although that is great, what I truly would like to praise more than anything is the mental clarity and happiness it has brought about. Sure, I know some of that is self-confidence, but I also know my brain has healed physically just as much as the rest of my body. I am always happy, have no anxiety, and just have the focus to do everything I want to do. I finished my master’s degree, learned conversational Spanish (at least enough to survive), had the courage to spend 5 weeks in a foreign country by myself, volunteered pretty regularly, and spent a lot more time with family and friends doing fun things. I don’t say this because I want to brag and say that I am awesome, I say it because I know I would have never done any of that before.

            Now I find myself at the point where I am training for a marathon. It may sound weird, but I am so happy and excited about it. After a few more races under my belt, I just love the accomplishment of getting better. I know that if I work hard at it, I will improve. That is the awesome thing about running, and perhaps life in general. Once I got to the point where I knew I just had to keep improving, no going back, the natural next step was just to sign up for the marathon. I had it in my mind to run a half marathon race next, but once I was to that point, there really weren’t any ones coming up so I just decided I had the time to go ahead and train for the full.

            I am not going to lie and say it is easy. I am putting in a lot of miles and am only going to be increasing. It takes a lot of time. The end of those long runs can be pretty painful. I have had to educate myself a lot about running. I have to eat well. But, I am totally enjoying it and feel awesome. I have been so lucky to not have any injuries and surprisingly haven’t been sore for more than a couple of hours at a time. My attitude is going to change depending on the day, lol, but overall I can’t praise running enough. I always wondered why every runner I encountered always seemed to be natural happy, and I am starting to understand. There is no better feeling than finishing a super long, hard run.

            So, if you are still reading this super long blog post, I want to make it clear that I really don’t want to give the impression I am writing this to brag about myself. In fact, I usually entirely loathe talking about myself. I decided to do every bit of this change for me, no one else. I really haven’t been that vocal about it the entire time. People notice, sure. But, I usually just don’t like being the center of attention. However, I have had a lot of people recently tell me that the little I have shared has helped inspire them. I have also seen my kids at school get excited about it. With that in mind, I have decided to share more. I believe vulnerability is a strong quality that is often overlooked, and it is definitely an area I want to improve on.  I figure if just one person gets a little out of it, it will be worth getting out of my comfort zone and sharing.

            If you have decided to or are thinking about making changes in your life, please know you are totally worth it. Decide why you are doing it and stick with it. Don’t make it about pleasing anyone else or losing a certain number of pounds if that is what you want to do. Make your goal being happier and healthier in many ways. If that is your goal, you can only improve and are not going to be discouraged when you don’t lose any weight that week, get a certain score, hit that certain number. As long as you keep going and stay pretty consistent, you are improving. Every work out you do, every healthy thing you eat, everything you learn or do is a step to improvement. Focus on what you do right, not every little thing you think you could have done better on. What I personally found is that the more you develop healthy habits, the more they just become your new norm. It becomes easy and fun! I know it may sound weird, but I totally crave running and healthy food now. I know I would feel horrible without it!

And, most importantly, don’t compare to others. Trust me, I am in no way going to be breaking any records with this marathon. But, I am going to finish and accomplish something I could never have done before. That is enough. It is all about perspective. I don’t have a perfect body, never will, but it is going to carry me 26.2 miles. I have a lot to learn about a lot of things, but I can learn and so inspired to do so. Just keep going forward. Life is totally awesome! You don’t know where it will end once you start. If you would have told me 2 years ago I would be training for a marathon, I would have died laughing. You don’t have to see the whole picture, just get started! It will carry you to amazing places. Every single person reading this has had their own struggles in life. The trick is, to not let those things define you. Or, if they do, look at them as they made you who you are today and celebrate them for that.

            I think Martin Luther King Jr. said it best. “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”