Fall is on the way….on the winds of change

Regrettably, I’ve been absent from writing here these last few months. Summer came, school let out, we moved out of our house and into a rental….Bill went to school for 6 weeks, came back and immediately began work. Then somewhere along the way I discovered a likely lifelong issue with my lower back. It’s been a whirlwind. I’m so thankful for God’s provision through all of this. Although things seemed questionable along many points on the road, He lined things up just as He always does.

The thing is….as the sinner I still am, I doubt. I fall back into thinking I’m the one in control. That through consternation and worry, I can actually change something. Ha. After 41 years on the earth, and most of that spent as a believer, you’d think I’d have a grasp on the topic. But I still turn to my own thoughts, I still think I can intellect my way through the roughest roads in life. Instead of surrendering, instead of trusting…..instead of hitting my knees or reading scripture I sit and stew. Overthink. Replay events. None of which has the slightest chance of impacting anything that’s next.

But here’s whats beautiful. He knows this and yet He still loves us fiercely. Despite every flaw, every falter, the numerous times we flee and try to hide our faces. He loves. All He wants is for us to chase after Him as intensely as we try and flee. Most of the time that isn’t an easy thing to do, and there are stories in Scripture just to that point, such as the most famous ones in the book of Job. But in those same stores you see the peace, the love, the outpouring of love God still has for His children in those same moments.

For one second I don’t believe that change is done with me yet, that those cool winds that blow in with Fall won’t bring more decisions to make or points to ponder. But with every round I relinquish a little more of my own need to fix things on my own, to turn over the these things to the One who’s never letting go. As I look back through every obstacle I’ve faced along this path, He’s never left, always taken care of me.

Thanks for letting mr share what’s on my heart today. -m

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2016 FRESH 15K Race Recap

Fresh 15 RecapThis past weekend I participated in Tyler’s FRESH 15K race, which has become a fast favorite of mine. It is hands down, the best local race I have ever been a part of, even in its inaugural year back in 2014. I wasn’t able to run it last year but decided back in the fall that I was going to get back into running some races and this would be my first one.

The holidays came and went. The start of my 12 week training plan approached and I was so excited.

And then the theme of this whole race preparation began, if you can even call it a theme.

As most of you know, I coach and participate in CrossFit regularly. And you might also know that the CrossFit Open begins the end of February. Also not too tough to guess how much I love CrossFit and what a big part it has had in my fitness journey the last two years. So I began my dance of trying to stay on top of everything. Not that I’m at the point of being remotely a master’s qualifier, I just want to put the very best effort into what I do, especially when the Open comes around. The plan I thought I had in place just didn’t go well. It just didn’t. I’d miss a training run, then get back at it. Got sick. Flareups with my back from an old issue. And the weeks into the training plan kept ticking by. I should also add that we are preparing to sell our house, so free time has been filled with cleaning up, organizing, putting things away….you name it.

Weeks tick by until I’m a week out of the race. Realization sets in that I’ve managed to log a single “long run” topping out at 4 miles as compared to my training plan that finishes with 8. The highlight of the week is when my Newton Gravity V’s arrive (sent to me for review which will be posted in the coming weeks, yay!) so I take those out for a spin or two. They feel fantastic as expected, but I’m beginning to adjust my race expectation. Pick up my race packet two days before….and I’m abnormally nervous.

Then race day is upon us. The morning after one of my nearest and dearest friend’s wedding. I arrive early, without family in tow, park and make my way to the corrals. It did take me more time to park and get things together at my car, so I get to the starting area with not as much time as I anticipated to spare as I’d have liked. And every runner knows where I’m going with this…..the potty line is LONG. So forget it. In a few minutes we are off. I hold back on purpose remembering when’re my long run topped out, in reflection, probably a little too much.Before really settling in before then end of the first mile it’s pretty clear I need a potty stop or I’m going to be hopping on one leg.

At mile 2, I stop. And there’s a line. Of course. what else I gong to do. so I wait, mission accomplished, and back on track. Pretty uneventful up until mile 6 or so. Thinking I feel better than expected! This is good! Shoes are feeling fantastic! See some familiar faces along the way. Remembering why I love the race experience so much.Then we head down Grande and hang the left into Hollytree. It was then I felt that my finish would not be near what I hoped or wished for. It was just going to be what it was. For those last just over three miles. I prayed. I rallied and I faded. And rallied again. I ran some hills, walked some hills. As we crossed back over into Fresh, I knew without even looking at my watch that I was not going to improve nor match that first year’s time. When you’re competitive with yourself, consistently demand improvement from yourself, and are a perfectionist, that hurts. But somewhere in that final 1/4 mile, I made a decision.

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I will celebrate the finish.

Because, you see, there was a time it hurt to run. When 200 pounds didn’t want me to run. When I was trapped in what someone else I loved’s idea of what I should be. Yeah, it wasn’t a finish I was proud of. But it was a finish. A finish that those who can’t run would have loved to been able to claim as theirs. I had nearly forgotten, in the frustration of a training plan gone wrong, why it is I love to run. Because when I took those steps at 200 pounds, running is what saved my life. Putting one foot in front of the other, kept me off meds. Kept me from losing my mind. Gave me myself back.

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So with a smile I crossed that line. For the rest of the day I celebrated that medal, that finish. Appreciating the fact that my fitness is at a level in which running 9 miles without ideal preparation is possible, to that I owe CrossFit. And when I resume training runs in the next few days, I will be working a different plan, still thankful for the lessons learned in those 9 miles, committed at a different level because I owe it to myself. Heartbreak Hill, I’ll be back.

And yes, still thankful for the finish. -m

 

 

Saturday Special Edition: SKINS A200 Tights!

Skins review

Happy Saturday, guys! This week I’m featuring a review of some compression tights I received from SKINS over the holidays. You may have seen the long version of these tights featuring the Doughnuts and Deadlifts  logo around the CrossFit or Olympic lifting world. Been eyeing these for a while and wanted to give them a whirl during some running and CrossFit workouts. They certainly did not disappoint!

I chose to try out the women’s A200 3/4 length tights. With our crazy weather here in Texas, I figured that length would be appropriate for most of the year. When placing my order it was easy to determine the size needed, as they provide a sizing chart based on your height and weight on the website. The A200’s out of the box looked even better in person! The come in several different color selections, but I chose to go with the basic black pair. I was impressed with the stitching on all the seams as well as the quality of the reflective accents and logos. If you’ve seen my closet, you know I’m all about some flashy colors, patterns, cool branding, or something like that, so I was pretty pleased with the overall look of these. Truly a compression fit, I found that the sizing was definitely spot on, but not so compressing to the point of discomfort. Score! My usual complaint on compression fit is how overly tight they feel while still refusing to stay put after I start moving around. Length was also perfect, I’m roughly 5’3, and these stop at about mid-calf. A couple other features include a small hidden key pocket and drawstring inside the waistband.

 

During my first outdoor run in these I was happy to discover they did not roll down, move or slide. Stayed breathable, almost like cooler air entering them as I ran, while keeping my muscles warm at the same time. I cannot say enough about the support! Right amount of compression during the entire run. Definite score! In addition, I went through several CrossFit workouts in them. Lots of squatting, bending, jumping, and they still stayed put without any waistband roll! No tugging or adjusting during the workout, it was fantastic! I felt like they were able to stretch and move with me in all the right places. I’m a pretty sweaty creature when I workout, so I definitely encounter issues with tights working themselves down. Normally I catch myself tugging and pulling them up between sets of burpees and such. Not with these!

Because of the fact I’m a sweaty mess after any workout, I knew that these would have to withstand lots of laundry time. After washing, logos and seaming stayed intact, no hint of sweat odor at all! They came out of the wash looking brand new and ready for the next workout.

Ok, so what sets these tights apart from all the rest? I know there are tons of options out there to choose from, so I’ll say this. These A200s truly provide support during a variety of activities, keeping your muscles fresh during the entire workout….while looking good too! I’ll definitely be wearing these through most of this year during all my indoor and outdoor workouts. -m

Disclaimer: The awesome folks at Skins sent me a set of these tights at no charge to me for review. However all opinions contained in the this review are completely mine and based on my personal use of this product alone.

At the finish line of 2015……

Every year has its ups and downs. This one hasn’t been any different in that regard. Financial burdens, career confusion, decision to downsize and sell our home….. sure it’s not been easy. But I must say, I feel hopeful, optimistic, and excited about what’s to come in the new year.

I praise Him for the good and the bad…blessings come from the darkest places sometimes. As the optimist in me is writing today, here’s the celebratory highlight reel and what’s in store for 2016.

This past year I got somewhat away from running races, but closed out the year with a local Turkey Trot and friends. Running is where my change in fitness  very first began, so this year I’m looking to run a few races, first one being the Fresh 15K in March.

CrossFit has been a huge presence in my life this year. The GymFed family I train with is just none other than amazing. My job doesn’t really feel like a job, and watching our athletes continue to grow is just the best feeling evah! My personal fitness has continued to grow. After a last place finish in my first ever CrossFit competition, I decided there was a level of fitness I needed to strive towards before entering another one. And that I did, improving to an overall sixth place finish at Festivus. The question is, will there be more competitive appearances? Most likely, yes. The CrossFit Open begins end of February, that will be the initial focus, and then go from there. I’d like to do some others, even a team format event, but much is still in the planning.

Nutrition was and has been a huge stumbling block for me in the past. Through two Whole30 resets and adopting a mostly Paleo lifestyle I’ve managed to gain consistency. Still continuing to adjust things out to improve my workout and encourage muscle gain. Rediscovered coffee. Mostly eliminating grains, sugar, and dairy has done so much for me. Sleeping better. Workouts better. Feel so much better overall. Along the same lines I’ve been moving towards the use of more natural products and essential oils. Did I mention I rediscovered coffee? Kicking off Whole30 number three on Monday.

Towards the end of the year, I began picking back up on the blog again. I’ve received the opportunity to write some reviews on some great products which will be featured here pretty soon. With growing my blog I’ve been working on a larger social media presence, and recently found out I’ve been named a Sweat Pink Ambassador where I’ll be able to network with a community of fitness folk! And I’m super pumped to have been added as a contributing blogger for East Texas Moms Blog that will be launching very shortly! There will be some amazing content and resources for moms out there crafted by some pretty incredible ladies.So very excited to see where both these projects go!

And last of all…..I can’t list all these great things out and totally leave off what a blessing my family has been. How we have been more intentional at the end of this year about our faith together, praying together, studying the Word more together. Having Dani bring up questions and comments about Jesus, asking to be baptized, and was baptized in October. This is the part that matters. I can’t wait to see how it changes and shapes each of us.

So as we break that finish line tape on 2015 today, celebrate. All of it. The beauty is in the whole year, not just the Facebook version of 2015. Maybe there’s loose ends in your 2015, and that’s ok. Just because 2016 is arriving in a matter of hours, doesn’t mean those ends won’t get tied up. Tonight, reflect. Ready yourself. Prepare for the excitement a new year brings! -m

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Why YOU should be doing mobility, every day

mobility

Mobility. It should be part of your workout routine every day, just like packing your gym bag or mixing up pre workout. Most of the time stretching or mobility work is looked at like extra stuff or for the older crowd. Well I’ve got news for you….it’s for everyone.

Let me illustrate this by asking a few questions. Do you have issues holding the barbell overhead in the correct position while squatting? Are the bottoms of your upper arms parallel to the floor in the front rack position? Does your stride shorten when running? Do 400m runs cause your outer thighs or ankles to ache? Do your heels come off the floor when squatting? Most athletes I work with would answer yes to at least one of these or I would be able to note them during a movement to some degree or another. Here’s what we do. Every day we work to grow muscle, drop body fat. Get stronger, right? Now this is not a super scientific explanation, so bear with me here. This process of creating small tears in our muscles and allowing them to repair themselves causes the muscles to get bigger, and without any stretching or mobility work, shorten. Shorter muscles decrease the length of your levers, thereby affecting our range of motion. Now this problem is not restricted to muscle alone, but tendons and ligaments suffer similarly as they are pulled on by the ever shortening muscles. Months and months of this go on, as we hop into our cars after a tough WOD or lifting session without taking a minute to stretch or use a foam roller. Muscles tighten, we lose flexibility.

If you’ve watched any professionals in weightlifting, CrossFit, or running, you recognize that they are efficient movers. Weightlifters go to a bottom squat position where they might as well sit on the ground, athletes execute pullups and toes to bar in easy rhythm, and runners elongate their stride and strike each foot softly on the ground. None of these things are possible by strength alone.These folks work their mobility, daily.

So where and how does one start to build mobility into a daily habit? Here’s a few tips to get you started!

  1. Identify the areas where you feel you lack mobility. Think about where you struggle during certain movements and that can clue you in onto where to start. Better yet, have a coach observe you in a few different movements and give you some feedback.
  2. Set a goal to spend 5 minutes working on one area after each workout. Don’t get overwhelmed here, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Pick the area you feel needs the most work and start with that. In the beginning it may feel like you’re not accomplishing much in that period of time, but as you get more proficient at the techniques you’ll be able to work through a routine faster. In addition, I suggest you do these after a workout or at least after a warmup like running or rowing. Warm muscles respond much better.
  3. Dig into some resources. There’s lots of information out there, but my favorite source of all things mobility comes from Kelly Starrett of mobilityWOD.com. If you prefer the printed word, he has a couple of books written on the subject, one of which is more focused on running. He’s a CrossFitter himself, so he understands the issues a lot of us have. In addition, don’t forget your trainer or coach should be somewhat familiar with these exercises and can definitely help you figure out some things to try. If you need pointing in the right direction I can help you out with some exercises to start out with.
  4. Invest in a couple tools. Some of these techniques can certainly be done at home provided you have the right items at hand. Over time, accumulate a lacrosse ball, foam roller, and maybe a voodoo band and some resistance bands. Without a large investment you will have what you need to work through these exercises. Some stretches don’t require any equipment.
  5. Start with one area, be consistent, and test your progress. Keep it simple here. Work with one muscle group, get a few sessions under your belt, and test how it’s working. If you’re struggling with tight hip flexors that limit the depth or comfort of your squats, try out some air squats to see how things feel after each session.

Okay. Hopefully mobility isn’t so scary to you anymore! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much better you’ll feel after just a few sessions, no matter your age or current ability. It all comes back to why we choose fitness, to live a better quality of life. Utilizing mobility is just another way to keep us moving well throughout the rest of our lives. Roll out! -m

 

Keeping focus on the season with new Advent traditions

AdventIn years past, we have attended church regularly during Advent but never celebrated or carried the Advent candle tradition on at home. This year my home church, Grace Community Church, held a women’s event last month called “Prepare the Way” during which we worshipped, listened to encouragement about centering our hearts on Jesus during this time, made an Advent centerpiece to use at home, and received a copy of “The Greatest Gift” by Ann Voskamp. I believe this was His “gentle” nudge that this was the year to start some new traditions.

We have a week under our belt, singing, reading, praying, lighting the candle together. Standing singing in our kitchen felt a little awkward at first, but we quickly got past that. It was an emotional experience for me, mostly because I began to really think why haven’t we been doing this all along….. This Sunday we will light the second candle.

In addition, my quiet time every day involves working through each day of “The Greatest Gift” and building my Jesse Tree. Each day there are words that jump off that page to me, and I am reminded so much of the things that really matter.  It’s arranged as a devotional, with a reading, questions and maybe a small activity along with adding to your Jesse tree for each day during Advent. If this interests you, check out Ann’s page at www.aholyexperience.com.

As moms, we feel like the burden of the holiday falls on us, the cooking, the shopping, events, pictures….the list goes on. The rest of our families will follow our lead, the tone we set for these next few weeks. Society has made this confusing for our kids, and for us. There’s so many commercial distractions, so much Santa. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying eliminate all of that….but shift the emphasis. The more we keep the focus on the true reason we celebrate, the more the real gift becomes unwrapped. Adding in a tradition like the Advent readings and wreath, or you spending some time alone in a devotional, help you keep that focus in sight. Some of you reading this may agree, some of you may not understand, and some of you may not know the story of this baby Jesus born on Christmas, and that’s ok. All I hope that when you read this you will take one step further from where you are right now in understanding exactly why there’s something bigger to celebrate at Christmas. -m

Finding Balance

December 1st. Confessional. I want to do it all.

Every year, every month….who am I kidding. Every day this happens. My desire to DO IT ALL. Every fun run, every holiday party, every plan for a goal. All of it. I want to do all of it. But I know I can’t, nor should I. Indeed, I know the outcome. It’s not pretty. You see, all my life, I’vfinding balancee struggled with the same principle of diving in, taking too much on, doing it all.

Because I want to do it all.

And not in just one area, it is everywhere. Especially with my own fitness, as my capacity grows, I want to keep pushing my limits. How much more? How much faster? How much farther? An then you add extra work for specific goals and it turns into trying to do every plan for every goal at once. And that just doesn’t work well. Overtraining happens. Fatigue. And possibly injury. Burnout.

Today I wrote myself out a list of goals for the next couple of months. CrossFit gymnastics skills, weightlifting, and distance running are all sitting there in black and white. Urge to do it all is there, especially seeing those words on paper. But then I stop and remember…..I am a mother, a wife, a daughter of the King….and I use my fitness to live my life, make it better! My life is not defined by this list, but made better by the list! It is December, leading up to Christmas. There are so many distractions, and that’s ok. It’s about finding the right amount of work, finding that balance. Creating a schedule, making and keeping appointments with yourself. Determining that point at which you are putting in consistent, meaningful work but not consumed by it.

So here comes the question. Where is that point? There’s no blanket answer. It’s different for everyone. it comes from trial and error, paying attention to what you can mentally and physically handle. A few posts back I was discussing setting goals and why right now is the perfect time to start working toward those goals. That hasn’t changed, but this is where the element of creating reasonable goals is important. Prioritizing those goals even more so. Pick out what you want to accomplish that will fit into the time you have. Know that yes, you may not keep to a plan perfectly, but also remember this is not the time to throw all caution to the wind. Don’t use that same mentality to turn an off plan meal or missing a workout day into a multi meal feast or a long workout hiatus. Keeping effort consistent and knowing you can maintain a plan will set you up for the coming mother-of-all-goal-setting days, January 1st. You can look back proud that you started going after what you want now instead of putting it off.

So here’s your homework. Take out that list of goals and your calendar. Budget some time to get to work, budget some time to go live that life! -m

Trotting, Thanking, and Turkey-ing

Interrupting my normal blogging schedule this week (oops and last week too) because, well, life is crazy.

Last week we started on replacing all the carpet in the house. Oh. My. Word. That pretty much took all my attention and fired up some OCD. Whew. At least we are in shape to holiday decorate now (after Thanksgiving). Then this week here comes Thanksgiving. Massive cooking.

So last year I skipped the local Tyler Turkey Trot. Then got bummed looking at everyone’s Facebook statuses and pictures. So this year I decided to hop back in. We assembled a team for my CrossFit gym and it will be a lot of fun running with these guys! No expectation of a time, just fun. Dani will be doing her second kid’s race which is also exciting!

This year I have so much to be thankful for. My health, my family, my incredible friends, the opportunities….I could go on and on. This month marks a year since I joined the GymFed family of athletes and coaches, for which I’m very thankful for. Tomorrow as we run, we feast, we work, let’s take a minute to really be thankful. To meditate on the things that God has put in our lives. maybe they weren’t our plan, but His plan, and that’s ok. Maybe unexpected, planned blessings.

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Thank Him.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya’ll! Watch the blog next week for the race recap!-m

 

Time….would you slow down, because my GIRL IS ALMOST NINE!

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This weekend (Sunday, actually) marks Dani’s ninth birthday. Are you kidding me? Last of the single digit years. It can’t be. But it is!

I lost my own mother back in 1997. Dani would have captured her heart just as she has mine. Now I can understand every emotion I saw my mom go through when I neglected to do what I was supposed to or didn’t come home when I was expected. All out of love. When I first became a parent to this little girl, I couldn’t even dream of the love I have for her. Life changing. She is absolutely the best thing I have ever done with my life. When her dad removed himself from first my life, and then hers, I couldn’t imagine what I was going to do. Many days I questioned, but then I saw her. It wasn’t about living for just me anymore. In the darkest times, she is why I keep going. More than anything she needs to learn that life will knock you down, but you keep standing back up. Keep trusting God. Keep praying.

This kid. More personality packed into one place than should be allowed. Enthusiastic, generous (well except with ice cream), compassionate, and intense. Makes you laugh even when you don’t want to. This year has been a big one for her…. baptized, elected to student council, taking her first year of ballet. I seriously cannot wait to see how God uses her and what is coming next.

Dani, I am so proud of you. I love you very much and we are going to have such a great weekend celebrating you! -m

 

Goal Digger

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Lately, goal setting has been on my mind. As a coach, I hear a lot of “I wish I could” or “I want to be able to” fill-in-the-blank. My response is usually to ask, “when is the last time you practiced” or “have you been spending time outside of class”? CrossFit is so effective because it’s highly varied, but if you’re focused in on one particular movement you want to nail, you can’t always wait for that one thing to come around in a class. Our focus should be on well rounded-ness, but I get it personally, there’s those particular things that in your mind you say, I’ll really be an athlete when……and I totally understand. One of the things about CrossFit I love (and shake my fist at sometimes) is how there is always another level to shoot for, a new skill, a new layer to add. If you’re goal oriented at all, then this process of building to the next level can drive you crazy.

So here’s a few tips on setting goals, in CrossFit, in running, fitness in general. It’s been said that a goal is just a dream with a deadline…so true. Goals have meaning when they are specific, they have a timeline, and they are reasonable. So let’s elaborate on that.

First, define the goal reasonably. For example, if I’ve never run more than 2 miles, my first race distance shouldn’t be a marathon. Or if I just started CrossFit, the muscle-up goal wouldn’t be realistic if I couldn’t do a pull-up or a ring dip. Sometimes the first goal is just the first step to a bigger goal. That’s ok! Get after it, mark that sucker off the list and hit the next one.

Second, set a timeline. Don’t get scared here. Lots of folks don’t do this part because they don’t want to disappoint themselves. Think of it this way, even if you fall short on the date, if you’ve been putting in the work, you’re way closer to that goal than when you started. Adjust the timeline and keep going.

Lastly, be specific. Use numbers or benchmarks. It’s like saying I want my legs to be stronger versus I want to back squat 200 pounds. This is the part the scientist part of my brain loves, because frankly, I love specifics! (ask my husband) You’ve got to nail out details here with weight, reps, whatever the case may be.

Once you’ve outlined the goal then it’s time to go to work. This is the part that might not be the most fun, but it’s where the magic happens. If you aren’t sure what this work should consist of for the goal you have in mind, consult your CrossFit coach, a trainer, or someone with expertise in that area, say a running coach. Consistent work gives big changes. Sometimes it is surprising what you can do in 5-10 extra minutes a day. Double unders are a great example. A few minutes a day in practice does so much for perfecting that skill. Other goals, like increasing mileage over time, might require more of a time commitment a few days a week. Carve out what’s reasonable, plan it, schedule it into your day.

Alrighty! Now here’s the fun part. What do YOU want to accomplish in the coming months? It’s exciting to think about, right? If you’re scratching your head about how to put together your goals, reach out! I’m here to help you get set up for a successful start to the new year! Dream big! -m