Friday, May 11, 2018

A Brutally Honest Look at the Past Month

“By seeking and blundering we learn.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I have a confession to make: I am human and I make mistakes.


That’s right friends, you heard it here first: Despite all evidence to the contrary, I am not perfect. I know you are shocked and maybe even a little disappointed. But it’s true – I am flawed.

Of course I am being facetious since obviously no one is concerned with how flawed or flawless I am, but the truth is that no one is harder on me than me. I am a total perfectionist and when I make a mistake (and it happens often), I get pretty angry with myself. It often creates an indescribable storm inside my head that pushes me into a tug of war between depression and anxiety. I have lived my whole life trying to come to terms with the fact that I am not perfect and it is an ongoing battle. But I am getting better at accepting my imperfections.

That being said, I’d like to share a story with you.

In mid-April I was in a car accident. I was completely unharmed, as was the other driver who was involved with the accident. Unfortunately my car was totaled and I was pretty devastated about that (I get very attached to my vehicles and that car was definitely my favorite). But life goes on, right? More than anything I was/am sincerely grateful that no one was injured and the other driver’s car wasn’t even scratched (she clearly had a more robust vehicle than I did).

About a week after that accident I went on vacation with my family, and while on vacation I decided to have a couple of beers (as you may recall from my previous blog post, until that point in time, I was actually choosing to abstain from alcohol for various health reasons). At the time I rationalized that I was on vacation and deserved a couple of drinks. Then I had a couple more drinks after I got home from my vacation, because I was still trying to maintain that good, relaxed feeling. And then last weekend I went on a pub crawl with some friends, which led to even more drinks, because it was Cinco de Mayo and, well, I felt like celebrating. These were all choices I made; I was in full control of my decisions, just as I was in full control when I chose NOT to drink. I’m an adult and I can do whatever I want – right? Well, yeah, but…

As soon as I resumed consuming alcohol after having a period of abstinence, I noticed some things about my health: my headaches returned, my acid reflux came back, my skin broke out, and my anxiety became considerably less manageable. Surprise, surprise – I proved myself right – alcohol consumption, whether in small or large quantities, does not play nice with my system. In fact, it completely throws off my equilibrium both mentally and physically. And it thrusts me into a loop that I strongly dislike: I consume alcohol to relax, and I end up feeling more anxious, so then I consume alcohol to relax, and I end up feeling more anxious…it goes on and on. To me, it’s just not worth it to feel this lousy. Plus, when I feel this unhealthy, I stop exercising and eating well too. And we can’t have that happening on top of everything else!

Quite honestly, looking back on this past month, I think the real reason I decided to step away from my "non-drinker status" was to cope with the stress and frustration of my car accident. Sure, I was “on vacation” when I gave in and had a couple of beers, but I can be on vacation and not have alcohol. I can do anything sober and still enjoy myself (I went to a beer festival last month and was the designated driver for my friends - and it didn't suck at all. So if I can hang out for 4 hours at a beer festival, drink water the whole time, and have fun - then I can do anything without booze!). So when I decided I wanted to have a couple of drinks on vacation and the weeks following that vacation, I was going through something. I realize that now.

Remember what I said earlier about being flawed? And about how I often get pissed at myself for being flawed? That car accident I was in was an error I can’t take back and it is one that cost me a car that I loved. And it cost me some money too. Even though the accident wasn’t technically my fault (it was a wrong place, wrong time situation), I was still left with that angry storm in my head, and I was quite busy beating myself up over it. And in an effort to relax some of that storm in my head, I ignored what I knew was good for me. Flawed humans sometimes do that, I hear. J

Now that I realize the real reason I gave up on my non-drinker status this past month, I know I need to get better at giving myself a break once in a while. Perhaps I should try treating myself the same way I treat others – with a great deal of open-mindedness, compassion, and forgiveness.  And I need to get back to focusing on healthy ways to cope with stress. Running is my favorite way to cope with everything, and so that is exactly what I have been doing this week (and will continue to do going forward). I ran 2 miles this morning before work and you have no idea how great I feel. 

Even though this past month was a little rough for me, I am glad I went through this. We can’t necessarily undo our mistakes and as humans we are all bound to make them once in a while, so the best we can do is learn from our experiences and try to do better next time. I have learned a lot about my health over the last couple of months, particularly where alcohol is concerned. I know I don't need alcohol to cope with difficult emotions anymore...and after a little trial and error, I now know that I am the best me when I embrace life as a non-drinker. I feel like Dorothy when she was told she always had the power to get home from Oz. J

And now that I have this knowledge, what will I do with it? The answer is simple: move on, make healthier choices in the future, and forgive myself for the mistakes I may make. It's all I can do.

Friday, March 30, 2018

"Off The Sauce": Living Life As A Non-Drinker

I recently made an important and somewhat life-altering health decision...after a lot of deliberation and soul-searching, I have decided to embrace the world as a non-drinker.

I confess that the decision didn't come easily to me. In fact, I have been considering it for about a year. Yes, that's right, I said a year. Why so long? Well, I am the type of person who likes to think and plan and ruminate when it comes to making changes in my life, and believe me when I say that choosing to be a non-drinker was something I really wanted to research and explore before I decided to put it into practice. I wanted to truly think about how it might change my life. Or not change it.

It started with a pondering ("what might life be like as a person who doesn't drink alcohol?"), then reverted to a rejection of the idea ("but I would miss beer and wine too much, I couldn't possibly!"), then eventually morphed into something in between those two thoughts ("well, maybe I can do this, but should I? And if I do this, what will become of my social life?").

I do love beer. And I do love wine. And if I'm being honest, whiskey is my drink of choice. But the biggest reason this change seems so monumental to me is because of the phrase "I am giving it up". I'm the type of person who, when told she can't have something, decides that one thing she isn't "allowed" to have is the one thing she must have. I'm like a toddler in that regard. For example, I am not much of a dessert-eater. But if one day I declared I was no longer going to eat desserts, you better believe my chocolate cravings would spike.

So instead of saying "I'm giving it up", I am saying that I am "choosing to be a non-drinker". See what I did there? The first phrase is more Lenten. It sounds like I am being punished and having to withhold from consuming alcohol. The second phrase puts me in the driver seat - I am choosing this lifestyle. I don't have to, I want to. In my mind, there is a big difference.

You might be wondering why I am doing this. The easy answer is my health. I just turned 40 years old last month...I recognize I am now entering the second half of my life and I want to make it good. I don't just want to live a long life, I want the quality of my life to be excellent. I don't want to be saddled with chronic illnesses and a body and mind that begin deteriorating long before they should. I understand I can't fully control my health (a hard lesson I have spent 40 years learning), but there are some things I can control that can put me at less risk for disease and other health issues. I can control how I treat my body, what I put into it, and my  attitude towards my life.

The not-as-easy answer is that in the last year or so, I began worrying a little about how I was handling my anxiety, and I was concerned that I was relying too much on alcohol to self-medicate as a method of coping with it. Using alcohol to soothe anxiety is counterproductive because consuming alcohol can actually cause more anxiety (and depression). So really it's the type of situation that can become a vicious cycle and can spiral into addiction. I'm not saying that was the inevitable outcome for me - or anyone else who might be in my situation - but it was not outside the realm of possibility. 

I consider myself a fairly introspective person who is not afraid to confront my own weaknesses - and who is not afraid to search for solutions to help overcome those weaknesses - and so I decided to take a break from consuming alcohol for a while and in turn, research ways to be more mentally fit (as well as physically strong), and educate myself on how to do so - without the use of alcohol.

I have done a few challenging things in my life that I am quite proud of: I'm a mom (hardest job I have ever done 😉), I got my master's degree while working full time, and I have trained for and completed 2 full marathons (and am in the process of training for my 3rd). But the decision to become a non-drinker is up there for being one of the most challenging projects in my life so far. Why? Well, one reason is because we live in a culture that embraces social activities that are very alcohol-centric: wine tastings, beer festivals, all inclusive packages on cruise ships, the list goes on and on. How does a non-drinker socialize in these situations? Is it boring to be at a wine tasting without a glass in your hand? I have no idea! I have never explored this before now (aside from when I was pregnant and nursing - but then I was doing it for the baby and not really for my own health, this time I am doing it for me), and I am learning a lot about myself.

I am a bit of an introvert (this a huge understatement: I am the poster child for all introverts), so socializing without a glass of wine or a beer bottle in my hand is new territory for me. In the past, holding that drink would give me confidence and would also serve as a protective armor sometimes. As a non-drinker, I can still be at a party with a cup in my hand, but now it will contain seltzer water or diet soda instead of booze. Off goes my chain mail and my helmet, and here I am, just me - being me. It's scary but I am enjoying the challenge of learning how to be the real me with people. A skill I never really gave myself a chance to hone.

Like training for a marathon or taking a graduate course, embracing this new lifestyle forces me to be a little uncomfortable, to feel like a novice, and to be a little scared. When I was younger I shied away from challenges like these. I used to run from the things that made me uncomfortable - the path of least resistance was my favorite path. But now as I am getting older, I am learning to step outside of my comfort zone, because I recognize that is where I can grow. 

So why am I writing about this? Well, why do I write about anything concerning health and wellness? 😊 I enjoy sharing my thoughts about being mentally and physically healthy. And also, by sharing this with people, I feel like I am holding myself accountable. I don't have to share what is or is not in my cup, that's my business...but I wanted to share it.

So, you may be wondering how long I plan to be a non-drinker. Is this a permanent thing? Am I "off the sauce" for good? Truth is, I don't know. I am not assigning a timeline to it. And I am not saying that as a way to bail on this lifestyle when it gets tough or if I get bored of it. I am saying that because my decision to not drink alcohol currently has to do with my physical and mental well-being. I feel like I need this hiatus from consuming alcohol and I don't know how long that hiatus will be. Could be days, weeks, months, or years. All I can do is focus on what I need right now, today. And today this is what I need. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Give Yourself a "Why"

I have been a long-standing, nearly-successful member of Weight Watchers for over a year. Truth be told, I have been on and off the program a few times over the last 8+ years (since my youngest son was born), always getting close to reaching my goal, and then quitting just as I get close, each and every time. Except this current membership is my longest yet - I have almost quit a couple of times in the past year - but being off of the program would mean I'd have no guidance whatsoever in living a healthy lifestyle, so in the past year even when I have fallen off track with the program, I have remained a member of Weight Watchers. I always say my worst day on the program is still better than any day off of it - because even when I am off track, I am still on confusing as that sounds, it's true. If I weren't on Weight Watchers now, I am certain I'd be a lot more than 15 pounds away from a healthy weight.

Yet, here I am - still not at my goal weight. So what's the problem?

This week at our Weight Watchers meeting, the topic was about identifying your "why". This is defined as your ultimate reason and driving force behind your weight loss journey. Sure you want to lose 50 pounds, but WHY? When Weight Watchers first introduced this concept I shrugged it off. I want to get to my goal weight, do I really need a reason why?

But while sitting in the meeting this week, I listened to the other members talking about their "why"s and it got me thinking about my own journey.

In the last couple of months I have started working on reframing my thinking and asking myself the reason behind the healthy (and unhealthy) things that I do. I am using this tactic to help myself stay motivated with my goals to train for long distance races and to achieve new personal records when I run. I am also making an effort to cut out unhealthy habits and to remove toxicity from my life...understanding the reason I drink too much when I am anxious or stressed or the reason I used to let people manipulate me can help me be more aware and to take more mindful approaches in the future. See, I have already started giving myself a "why" in many areas of my life. And it has definitely helped.

So, I have not reached my weight loss goal in nearly 9 years. Reaching that goal would put me in the top range of a healthy Body Mass Index, which is why it's so important to me. I have literally come within 5 pounds of my goal several times, and each time, I stop eating healthy and revert back to unhealthy habits, which always results in a weight gain of 10 to 15 pounds. Why is this happening? I used to think my body was incapable of reaching a healthy BMI. I do have hypothyroidism, which can make it hard to lose weight sometimes. But I am on medication for thyroid disease and my levels are all good, so the whole "my body can't lose weight" excuse doesn't really fly.

Again, I ask myself, "so what's the problem?"

I had an epiphany during my Weight Watchers meeting this week - not having a defined "why" might be the underlying reason for not reaching my goal weight all these years. Because when you define a "why", that "why" can give you the strength and motivation to keep going when you have moments of wanting to give up.

Giving yourself a "why" is good for all things, not just weight loss goals. Why do I go to work every day? Why am I giving up meat and becoming a vegan? Why do I choose to abstain from drugs and alcohol? Why should I quit smoking? Why stay married? Why get divorced?

It's important to understand our reasons and motivations behind our actions. Or the reasons and motivations behind our goals. This way, when life gets in the way or if challenges appear (and that will happen, it's a fact), you can revert to your "why" to help you stay the course - or to help you make a necessary change.

I know now I need to give myself a "why" for my weight loss goal. Without it, I am just out there, floating aimlessly, hoping to attain something without any real reason to keep going. Telling myself I just need to do it without putting an emotional reason behind it essentially sets me up for a fall. And I am tired of coming close to my goal and not achieving it.

I will reach my goal weight in 2018. I am turning 40 this year and more than ever, I am realizing how vital my health is. If I continue to neglect my health, as I get older I will be contending with more than just a 15 pound weight loss goal. Being overweight in the second half of my life could cause heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, and a slew of other health problems. It's important for me to take care of myself now so I can live a long life - but not just a long life - a long life full of quality. If I am lucky enough to live into my 80s or 90s, I want to be mentally fit and physically strong. I know that losing 15 measly pounds won't guarantee any of this, but it's a step in the right direction for sure.

So that's my "why". 

I'd like to thank Weight Watchers for their program that supports and encourages mindfulness and a well-rounded healthy lifestyle. Even though I haven't yet reached my goal weight while on their program, I know that is on me and not them. Their program uses science and psychology to help people of all walks of life learn to lead a healthy lifestyle that is 100% sustainable.

And just to be clear, I am not a spokesperson for Weight Watchers and they haven't paid me in any way to talk about them in this piece. In fact, I am the one paying them - every month. 😁 But that's all going to change soon once I reach goal and then "lifetime status". Because now I have something I never had before - I have my "why".

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

So...How Was NYC?

“So, how was it?”

What? Oh, you mean the NYC Marathon that I completed on November 5th? Um, it was a-maz-ing. 
I have hesitated on writing about it for the past month because it’s been difficult to convey in words how awesome of an experience it was to participate in this race. So let me give it a try…

Imagine the best sex you’ve ever had, or the most delicious ice cream sundae you’ve ever tasted…yeah, just kidding, this race was not like any of those things. It was awesome, but it wasn’t THAT awesome.

Here are the mental notes and reflections I made as I traveled over 5 bridges, through 5 boroughs, on that fateful day:

First of all, it’s New York City. This city in itself is a symbol of strength, resilience, and the American-freaking-dream. To have the opportunity to run through this city while thousands of spectators stand by and cheer you on (singing, dancing, eating, drinking, high-fiving, fist-bumping, clapping, playing instruments, playing the radio, and holding up signs) is quite possibly the coolest thing a runner can experience. Even though it rained that day, people still came out to support the runners and even after the sun went down and the temperature dropped a little, there were still tons of people on the sidelines cheering us on. It choked me up a little, I won’t lie.

I ran for the first 2 hours of the race without any earbuds/music and I ran for the last hour without any earbuds/music. Before this race, that was unheard of - to run even a 5K without music blasting in my ears was a rarity. But during the NYC Marathon I didn’t want to miss anything going on around me. As previously mentioned, the crowds on the streets were fun and engaging. As I ran into Brooklyn, the residents on the street were blasting Beastie Boys “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” on a huge speaker. When I approached the 20 mile mark, someone had put up a sign next to it that said, “Keep going, naked ladies ahead”. At one point I passed by a live band playing the A Flock of Seagulls song, “I Ran”, which made me laugh as I pictured them playing that one song over and over again all day long for the runners.

With this race, I truly wanted to soak in the experience leading to the finish line. Which is a very different approach to running for me – normally I get so focused on wanting to just finish the race that I miss the opportunity to look around me and take it all in. Before I even put my sneakers on for this marathon, I told myself to remember to look around and enjoy NYC, because I knew this would be an experience like no other. As a result, I had a much better race than I have ever had before, both mentally and physically.

You guys…I never hit the wall. Not once. Not even a little bit. What I’m saying is that in 26.2 miles, I never got to the point where I wanted to quit. I never felt defeated. I never had the sense that I might not make it. Don’t get me wrong, it was super hard - I’d go so far as to say it was the hardest thing I have ever done physically (including giving birth to two children). So I am not saying it was easy-peasy - but as hard as it was, I felt good THE WHOLE TIME. And have I mentioned that it rained? And then there were all the hills. And the bridges. But through all of that – I. Felt. Awesome. My muscles didn’t cramp up (my hydration was on fleek and I was good about stopping to stretch every couple of miles after the halfway point), my stomach and digestive system never had issues (learning from my previous marathon, during training I made sure I ate and drank whatever I planned to eat and drink on race day so there were no surprises for my stomach), and my head was totally in the game.

What helped get my head in the game was a meeting I had with the Team Animal League runners the day before the race. The captain of our team had run NYC 9 times previously and he had a lot of helpful tips for us newbies. He told us where all the toughest hills were, he warned us about the dreaded Queensboro Bridge (aka the bridge that never ends), and most importantly he reminded us that regardless of our finish times, we were all going to get the same medal and have the same glory of telling people “I finished NYC”. His words really made an impact on me. After listening to him speak, I knew I was ready to tackle that race.

Another common question people have asked me since the NYC Marathon is “How did you do?” – and every time they ask that, my answer is, “I finished!” Finishing the race is always my goal, if I happen to get a PR in the process, well, that’s just icing on the proverbial cake. In this case, I did technically get a PR – I finished one minute faster than my previous marathon. Hey, a PR is a PR, right? 😁 But for me, the biggest win was that with tougher conditions (hills, bridges, rain, and darkness (as I finished after the sun went down)), I ran harder, stronger, and better than my first marathon. And not “hitting the wall” once during this marathon was what made this my best run yet. Trust me when I say that I have struggled with even the easiest 5Ks, so to be able to say I held on strong mentally and physically for 26.2 miles is just astounding.

Wait, I take that back, by using the word “astounding” it indicates that it’s beyond belief. Let me correct myself – to say I held on strong mentally and physically for 26.2 miles is evidence that I trained well for this race and that I am improving on my long distance running overall.

Ten years ago I was just starting to dabble a little in running but never envisioned anything would really come of it. Twenty years ago I couldn’t even run a mile. As I approach my 40th birthday, I am now a two-time marathon finisher. Seriously, though, how cool is that?

If you are considering running a full marathon, I highly recommend NYC. It’s literally the largest marathon in the world (50,000 participants!) and it takes place in one of the best cities in the US. If I could bottle that energy and save it for other races, I totally would! Don’t get me wrong, I am a Boston girl through and through (I even wore a “Boston Strong” t-shirt for the NYC Marathon), but I really mean it when I say, I NY.

And I can't end this blog post without giving a special shout-out to my girlfriends who came and cheered me on during the NYC Marathon. They stood outside in the rain for over 6 hours waving their cowbells and reminding me that I could finish the race - and for that I will be forever grateful. I'm not sure I would have felt as good as I did after that dreaded Queensboro Bridge if it weren't for knowing those ladies were standing right at the end of it. Sometimes you need your tribe for that little extra boost and I am glad mine was there that day. Love you girls! 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Benefit of Being Uncomfortable

If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram - or if you know me in real life - you should be aware by now that I am planning to run the NYC Marathon in less than 2 weeks. When a person decides to run a big race like this, it becomes all-consuming. And so you couldn't possibly know me at this point in time and be unaware of my plans to participate in "the big dance" on November 5th. It has (annoyingly so) become my whole life.

A huge part of training for a marathon of this magnitude is the mental preparation for such an event. When I was a month away from the race, something started happening in my head that I was not happy about - I started psyching myself out. Suddenly long runs and short runs both became extra challenging because I just couldn't get excited about doing them. In fact, I dreaded running. For weeks leading up to this point I had been doing great - so what happened? 

I think the reality of the race rapidly approaching began coming into focus and since this marathon is really important to me, my nerves started to get the better of me. Instead of rising to the challenge of that anxiety, my fight or flight response began kicking in and my brain started telling me I should quit. 

What?! Not on my watch, brain. We are doing this thing and we are giving it our all.

I knew that I needed to get my head in the game before race day or I would be doomed. At this point in time, I am most definitely physically ready for this marathon - but if my head isn't in it, this will be the longest, most difficult 26.2 miles anyone has ever run. 

So how do I get myself psyched up and mentally ready for the challenge that lies ahead? First, I use logic. I am a person who needs facts and evidence to truly believe in something (love me some science), so one way to convince myself that I am capable of completing the NYC Marathon is to remind myself (over and over again) that I have done a full marathon before and I can absolutely do it again. Sometimes it's a mantra I find myself repeating to myself as I am running, "You've done this before. You've got this." If I need additional convincing of my capabilities as a runner, I review my training log over the past 13 weeks and read in black and white print the evidence of my hard work. Long runs, short runs, hills, trails, treadmills, early mornings, stair work - I have been pushing my body physically and mentally for weeks now; I can do this because I have put in the time and effort to prepare for it.

In addition to using actual evidence to get psyched up for the marathon, I also work on mentally pushing myself to a place outside of my comfort zone. For example, I went for a 5 mile run this past weekend and during that run I did not listen to music, nor did I use a GPS to track my pace. For an hour I ran on the streets of my home town and the only sounds I heard were my feet pounding the pavement and my rhythmic breathing. Did I mention there were hills involved? Oh yeah, there were. I hate hills (who doesn't?), but I tackled them - and I did so without any music to distract me.

You may wonder, how does this help? Running in silence is very uncomfortable for me. Actually, doing anything in silence is uncomfortable for me - I fall asleep listening to music or TV every single night. I even listen to the radio during the day while I am at work. I tend to feel anxious if I don't have some kind of noise playing in the background of my life. Running is hard and music tends to help distract me from how hard it is. But sometimes I need to unplug from everything and let myself marinate in my discomfort. (Now there's an image, huh?) 

I think that sometimes I need to push myself into a place of feeling uncomfortable so that later, when I am back in my comfort zone, it feels a million times more awesome than it normally would. And oddly enough, this type of mental exercise can pull me out of a funk when I am starting to psych myself out. Being uncomfortable is often times my much-needed "control-alt-delete" to get mentally charged up for a big challenge. Spending time outside of my comfort zone is like a reminder that things could always be worse. What if I have to run the entire marathon without music? That probably won't happen - but imagine if it did! I now know I can handle running for long periods of times in silence, and if I can do that, I know I am mentally strong. I can handle this race. And just like that, my anxiety is mitigated and my head is back in the game.

This mental exercise probably sounds weird to some. But I will tell you this - after running for 5 miles with no music on Saturday, I ran 2 miles today listening to my marathon playlist and I felt super energized and happy. 

Pushing myself a little helped get me back to a good place. I can't fully explain why this worked, but I am glad that it did.

Like a lot of people, I actively choose to be comfortable most of the time. I don't enjoy adrenaline rushes or feelings of being scared or uncertain. I tend to choose the path of least resistance a lot of the times, it's just my nature. But there is a benefit of being uncomfortable. If there weren't, why else would I choose to run marathons? 😊

Monday, August 14, 2017

In Defense of Zumba

At the time I am writing this, I have taken exactly two Zumba classes in my entire 39 years on this planet. So I am clearly not a seasoned expert in this type of exercise. But regardless of my lack of experience in Zumba, I feel compelled to share my thoughts, because I think a lot of people disregard these classes and in doing so, they are totally missing out on the fun.

I know many people who are true Zumba enthusiasts: they teach it, breathe it, live it, and love it. These friends own Zumba footwear and Zumba clothing and they are Zumba-tastic at Zumba-ing. I myself had always wanted to try it (I absolutely love to dance) but felt completely intimidated to even sign up, never mind walk into a class. I’m not even sure why – I took dance as a young girl and can actually count and move on time to a beat. Truthfully, I think it was just my fear of the unknown scaring me off; that and I just didn’t know how I’d measure up to all those Zumba enthusiasts out there – I didn’t want them to think I was some kind of Zumba poser

But then a friend of mine (one of the non-Zumba enthusiasts) who has similar coordination and athletic abilities as me, asked me to join her for a Zumba class. I figured now was my chance to give it a shot, because humiliating myself with a friend seemed a lot less terrifying than doing so by myself.

In the few times I have taken any type of dance class as an adult, I always feel like I can relate to Jennifer Grey’s character Baby in the movie Dirty Dancing. When she’s first learning to dance she is completely distracted by everyone else around her, letting the people who are more experienced and more expressive intimidate her. She also feels a lot of frustration when trying to understand and learn various dance moves throughout the movie. When I first started  Zumba class, that was totally me. I wanted to get every move right on the first try (kind of hard to do when you are a newbie) and not being able to do so made me feel like a Zumba failure. Why was everyone else getting it and not me? (By the way, this was all an illusion – I was not in a room full of professional dancers, they were all regular people like me, sometimes getting the moves, sometimes not. But in my perfectionist head, everyone around me looked like Gene Kelly and I felt completely out of sync).

Then I remembered something the teacher said when she first introduced herself to me at the beginning of class: “This class is what you make it. Even if you don’t get it right away, just keep moving, and most importantly – have fun! Getting the steps right isn’t as important as enjoying the exercise.”  So I took a deep breath, stopped looking at the people dancing around me, and just let my body move to the music. And you know what? It was fun! Once I stopped overthinking it, the dancing came easier to me. And even when I missed a step or two, I just kept going - and it really felt good.

At the beginning of Zumba, this was me:

“I carried a watermelon”.

Then by the end of my second class, I was here:

Okay, not quite. But after completing two classes, I definitely started to get the hang of it and I learned a little something about getting out of my own head and having fun. It wasn’t “the time of my life”, per se, but I really enjoyed it and got a good sweat on.

So if you love dance and are looking for a new and fun way to get a full body cardio workout, I highly recommend Zumba. And don’t be intimidated by the Zumba enthusiasts out there, learn from them – they are the best leads to follow when you fall out of step in class. And here’s the biggest secret of all – they are having the most fun, because that's what it's all about.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

I'm Going Over The Edge

I saw the above quote posted on social media today and I thought, "wow, that is so deep, and so true." Then I looked it up (because when I see a great quote, I obviously want to know its source) and I discovered that this is a quote from the TV show One Tree Hill. 😩

No offense to One Tree Hill but I was kind of hoping this quote came from a more meaningful place. I never even watched the show when it was on. Oh well. The quote still speaks to me and I like it.

Regardless of where this quote hails from, its appearance on my Facebook newsfeed is very timely. You see, I was just given the incredible opportunity to participate in the 2017 New York City Marathon, taking place just 15 weeks from now. Um, what?!

On a whim, I applied for a race bib through the North Shore Animal League America, a non-profit animal shelter that is the world's largest no-kill rescue and adoption organization. If accepted, I would have the chance to run the NYC Marathon and raise money for this very worthy cause. As an animal lover and an ongoing supporter of NSALA over the past couple of years, I decided to take a chance and reach out to them about getting an entry into the one marathon I have wanted to participate in for many years. So imagine my surprise when a representative from NSALA contacted me yesterday, letting me know that if I wanted to do some fundraising for them, I would be able to run in the NYC Marathon!

As I mentioned previously, the marathon is happening in 15 short weeks. Fifteen weeks might not seem like a short amount of time for some people, but for a person who needs to train for a full marathon and raise $3,000 - believe me, it's short. Initially when I received the email from NSALA with their offer, I was torn. Can I train in just 15 weeks? Am I able to raise money for such an important cause? Do I have the confidence to pull all of this off? I decided to sleep on it and give myself 24 hours to make my decision.

When I woke up this morning, I made a pro and con list to help me decide - and the pattern was obvious: all of the pros were about how badly I wanted to do this (the fundraising and the training) and how great it would be if I did, and all of the cons were about how worried I was that I wouldn't be able to pull it off.

Then, as I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw two things that helped me make my decision: the first was the quote at the top of this blog post. It forced me to ask myself, "If not now, when?" I could wait another year, but why wait if I have the chance now?

The second thing I saw on Facebook that spoke to me this morning was an image of my husband's aunt rappelling down a 22 story building in Boston. Someone captured a photo of her as she gracefully glided down the side of a building, you guys! This woman fearlessly participated in the "Over the Edge" rappel to support the Special Olympics of Massachusetts and even though I think she is totally nuts for doing this, I am one hundred percent impressed and inspired by her bravery. As soon as I saw that photo of her, I made my decision: I am going to go for it. I'm going over the edge, too! I mean, not literally - I would never climb down a building. But I will run another marathon and do so for a very worthy cause.

Holy crap, I am running in the NYC Marathon in 15 weeks!

You never know where your inspiration will come from. It could come from a One Tree Hill quote. It could come from a relative rappelling down the side of a building. It could come as an offer from an amazing non-profit organization that saves animals lives every single day. Whatever it is, seize it. Because someday is today, and this is your life.