What Running Does for Me

Our lives have been crazy busy lately. Whose hasn’t, am I right? Over the last couple months we have had school events, PTA meetings, church retreats, dance class, homework, illness, housework, and the list goes on and on and on. All leading to a general lack of time or motivation to keep up with exercise. On my drive home from work yesterday I realized how gorgeous the last evening of summer was. All I wanted was to get outside, take a break from EVERYTHING and enjoy it!

So I did. I got home. I asked hubby if he was cool with eating dinner a little bit later, which, of course, he was (that awesome man of mine). I changed out of my work clothes and into my running shorts. Side note…my dog totally knows when we are going for a run. She starts going nuts the minute I put on my work-out clothes. It’s pretty hilarious. Anyway, I grabbed my water bottle and then the dog and I headed out the door. Nothing fancy. Not enough time to drive out to a trail. It was a simple road run, but it was EXACTLY what I needed.

My runs are where I find clarity. There are days when I don’t mind the road runs because they are obviously less technical than a trail run. I don’t have to concentrate so much on where my feet are going or worry about stabbing my eye with a tree branch. It’s kind of nice because my brain can go wherever it wants to go. I can think without interruptions about whatever pops in my head. I can be angry without having to rationalize. I can feel without guilt. I can have thoughts without having to talk about them. I can have conversations with myself and work through my own mental struggles or emotional hurdles.

Those hurdles seem to show up all over the place. It’s exhausting.  Am I a good mom? Am I a loving wife? Am I a considerate daughter? Am I valued? Do I respect others? Am I teaching my children virtue? Am I helpful? Am I patient? Am I enough? I have so many questions and so many concerns reeling in my head all the time. I feel like it’s because there is so much pressure to be perfect at everything. And from who? Other moms, coworkers, church acquaintances…all people who haven’t really taken the time to get to know me. When I’m running I can let it all go. It’s just me and the dog. I don’t have to impress anyone. I don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations but my own. I don’t worry about other people’s opinions of me or thoughts of who they think I am. I can just be.

Aside from the mental release, there’s something so exhilarating about running. Yes, it is hard. Yes, sometimes I can’t breathe and I need to walk for a bit so I can catch my breath. Yes, my muscles burn. Yes, I get all sweaty and stinky. Yes, it is worth it! I can’t tell you how giddy I get when I notice my own improvement. It is thrilling when I can go a longer distance or knock a few seconds off my time. It makes me want to do more. It boosts my confidence and makes me feel strong. I get to push myself and I get to see and feel real results. It’s awesome!

My runs are my time to better myself. The 30 – 40 minutes of self-indulgence is not selfishness. It’s taking care of myself. When I run I’m taking care of my body. I’m taking care of my spirit. I’m taking care of my mind. I’m allowing myself to be my own person. When I take the time to do that, it allows me to be better at all of the other things I worry I’m not good enough at.

Like I said, last night’s run was exactly what I needed. I needed to take time to reflect on everything going on right now. I needed to relieve some of the stress that has been creeping into our lives more and more. I needed to think about the grief I usually feel this time of year. I needed to be ok doing something alone since we’ve had less and less time with friends lately. I needed to remind myself how strong I am. I needed to reassure myself that I am doing ok.

Ways to Make Yourself Feel Better When You’re Feeling Blah

Do you ever have those days where you just feel kind of bored with the monotony of life? Like when your energy is basically non-existent and you aren’t motivated to do anything. Or when, for no particular reason, you feel frumpy and frustrated. How do you snap out of it? Whether you’re getting through a break-up, having a bad day, you’re a mom who’s been busy caring for everyone else, or you just need a pick-me-up, here’s a few of my favorite ways to fight the funk when it rears its ugly head.

nailsPaint your nails –Simple and barely costs a thing. Painting your nails is an easy way to add a little vibrancy on those days you’re feeling dull. It’s such a great way to pamper yourself. It doesn’t take up too much time and whatever fun color you pick will last a few days.

Try a face mask – Again, so easy and cheap! You can buy a one-time face mask for $1 – $8 or you can even make your own at home! Afterward your skin will be silky smooth and you can put your best face forward!

Take a bubble bath – Are you noticing a theme here? A good soak with some scented salts is a fantastic way to sooth your soul. That time in the tub gives you time to relax and reset, giving you a fresh perspective.

Wear sexy underwear – Go ahead. Giggle all you want, but I’m serious. Slipping on some silky or lacy lingerie is an instant way to boost your confidence and make yourself feel sexy. No one ever has to know. Fancy panties aren’t for anyone else but you so pick a style that makes you feel pretty and poised.

knitLearn a new skill – Sometimes when we lack motivation it’s basically because we’re bored with the things we usually do. So, teach yourself how to do something new. Thanks to Youtube and Pinterest, I have learned how to braid hair, crochet, apply make-up so I don’t look like a cross between a French whore and a clown, correct my running form, learn new songs, make flower arrangements, make my own candy, and the list goes on. You could also check out a free class at a local art store, library, or community center. When you learn something new, not only are you stimulating yourself but you’re giving yourself another life skill. Not to mention it’s a great feeling to have that “Ah-ha!” moment when everything clicks together.

Go for a hike – This one will take a little effort. Yes, you will have to put pants on. However, I can promise you that I have never gone on an outdoor adventure and wished I hadn’t. Fresh air, mild exercise, and new scenery can be just the change of pace you need to adjust your outlook on life.

Watch your favorite movie – You know that movie you could watch over and over and never get sick of? It’s time to pop it in the DVD player. My picks? When I need a good sing along/cry at the end movie I watch Moulin Rouge or West Side Story. If I need to laugh, I watch Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion or Saved. And then of course, there’s the horribly cheesy, inspirational Center Stage. Ok, so I like a lot of movies. The point is, sometimes taking that 90 minute time-out to relax and watch something you enjoy is just the reset you need to get past that pessimism.

pretty-woman-in-field-820477_640Dance it out – In the words of James Brown, “Get up offa that thing, and dance ’till you feel better!” It’s really hard to stay in a bad mood when you’re dancing. You can put on whatever kind of music you are in the mood for and just let it out. Plus, it’s really fun.

Check your diet – Ok, so I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m feeling a little down I want junk food. Bring on the pizza, mac ‘n cheese, chocolate and ice cream! Honestly though, none of it is doing me any favors and usually it only makes me feel worse and even more lethargic. Perhaps it’s those poor food choices that are making us feel this way in the first place. When you feel blah, ask yourself am I getting enough vegetables? Am I eating too much sugar? Am I getting enough iron? Try a healthier choice and see if it helps boost your energy.

I know that it can be a challenge to even get out of bed on the days when you feel blah. Next time you’re having one of those days, I encourage you to try something on this list. You may surprise yourself.

3 Easy Ways to Get Fit For Next to Nothing

First of all, when I talk about getting fit my focus is not merely losing weight. That’s not to say that losing weight is a bad goal. In fact, the things I do to stay fit have helped me to do just that, but to me, being fit is so much more. When I think of being fit, I don’t only imagine my body pre-the fun house mirror image that having two kids has turned it into. In my opinion, to be fit is to be strong, to have endurance and to build mental fortitude. It is to boost energy levels, mood, and metabolism. Being fit encompasses my entire well-being. So with that, please know this post is not going to tell you how to drop 5 pounds with a snap of your fingers.

I wanted to write about what I do to stay fit because I made excuses for years before I finally took action and started being productive in this area of my life. I mean, I blamed the kids, my work schedule, our lack of money, my lack of energy, my own insecurities. It’s hard to push yourself past all of that and decide to make a change for the better. Below  is a list of what I (a full-time working wife and mom on a budget) have been able to keep up with despite all of life’s obstacles. So here goes…

1. Go for a run.

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Gasp! What? Why would I say such a hurtful thing? But seriously, running has transformed my body. Plus it is free! You do not need a fancy gym membership. You can brave the elements and run outside! When you dare to run in different types of weather, running becomes a mental challenge as well as a physical feat. Getting home after a run in the snow makes you feel like you just conquered the world! Extra bonus…you get a dose of vitamin D and fresh air. Gotta love that!

Additionally, running does not require the latest threads from Athleta or any expensive equipment. You don’t need fancy workout clothes to run. T-shirts and sweatpants will do the trick. We all probably already own a pair of sneakers to start out in. If you can afford it, it really is worth investing in a good pair of running shoes. I will say, that if you do pop for new shoes, make a special trip to a running store and have an associate help you pick the best shoes for you specifically. Your hips and knees will thank you and you’ll be supporting a local business.

Back to the point. What I love about running is that you can see and feel improvement in a very short amount of time. Listen to your body, but be willing to push yourself. A great way to start is to try the walk/run method. I highly recommend starting out this way so you don’t injure yourself. You will find that you can increase your running endurance and give yourself time to correct your form and breathing when you take turns walking and running. Contrary to popular belief, running is not about how fast you are. If you are running as a way to take healthy steps in your life, your time should not matter one bit. What matters is that you get out there and experience personal improvement. I am slow, slow, slow, but over time I have been able to walk less, run more, run longer and run farther. I’ve lost a few pounds and gained some muscle. It’s easy to stay motivated because I can feel the change.

2. Practice Yoga.

yoga-1146277_640I got really lucky and found a Groupon for a local yoga studio. I was able to purchase a punch card good for 20 classes for only $38.00! So maybe that was a once-in-a-lifetime steal, but I do know that other yoga studios frequently have drastically discounted options available through Groupon. Also, there is another local studio that offers classes on a donation basis. They have a suggested donation of $10 per class, but no one will bat an eye if you can’t give the full suggestion. In the warmer weather months there are also classes that are offered outside at local parks.

If you’re not quite comfortable with the idea of practicing yoga in the same room as other people, or if you can’t afford studio classes, you’re in luck. You can borrow yoga DVDs from your library or even watch videos on the internet. There are so many free resources online that can explain everything you need to know to expand your personal practice at home.

I really enjoy yoga. I find it calming and relaxing, yet still challenging. I love the idea of using my own body’s weight and resistance to build strength. You will find that you can improve your coordination, circulation, and flexibility with regular practice. Yoga is low-impact so you can work and stretch your muscles without intense pain after your workout. Just drink lots of water! I really like how in tune I feel with my body after a good yoga session . It makes me feel centered and usually leaves me eager to practice again.

3. Dance.IMG_3340

I love dancing. Until recently, I did this completely for free too. There’s nothing quite like turning on your favorite tunes and just shakin’ it. You’ll burn calories, boost endorphins, and have fun! It’s really a blast when you get your kids or husband into it too so you can’t use them an an excuse not to do it. If you’re looking for something more structured but still free, there are dozens of YouTube channels ready to teach you any kind of dance you can imagine. You can learn proper technique or new choreography, whatever suits you!

I know that some dance studios offer promotions through Groupon as well. If it’s in your budget, this is a great way to try out a class at a studio to see if it’s a good fit. Often times studios can give discounts on tuition if you decide to continue classes once the promotion ends. You can also ask if your studio gives discounted or free classes if you have multiple family members enrolled. Our studio is amazing and will allow a third family member to dance for free after you pay tuition for the first two. This was how I was recently able to finally take a dance class myself. It was already it in the budget for my son and daughter to take classes and now I get to take one too. Mom win!

So there you have it! Those are the three things I have been able to do to stay fit that don’t break the bank. I hope I’ve inspired some of you to try something outside your comfort zone. Really though, choose something you enjoy so you’ll stay motivated. Getting fit and staying fit is all about finding what works for you.

Be a Friend, Not a Frenemy

Do you ever feel like there are people in your life who might be bringing you down more than lifting you up? The term for these people is “frenemy.” You know… the people who act like your friend in person but every time you’re around them you just pick up on some really negative energy. You can never call them out on it either because they’re always perfectly nice to your face. They haven’t actually given you a basis not to trust them, but for whatever reason you just have a gut feeling that they are not interested in truly being a friend to you. I mean, making friends as an adult is hard enough. No one needs or wants it to be one-sided.

Maybe I’m just paranoid. Or maybe I’m just honest. While I can’t go so far as to say that I’ve purposely neglected to be a friend to someone who may have valued my companionship, I will say that I know there are a few relationships that I let dwindle rather than fueled. Part of that is different schedules, uncommon interests, or simply oblivion. Often times, though, it seems pretty mutual.

So how do we get past this as adults? How do we dive deeper? How do we stop hurting others intentionally or not? How do we stop getting hurt?

1. Support the people in your life. This is probably the easiest thing we are all capable of doing. If you’re lucky enough to see your friends often, ask what’s happening in their lives. If you see someone struggling, ask if you can help in any way. For friends who we don’t get to see in person, it takes all of five seconds to shoot an encouraging text. Social media has made it easier than ever to keep in touch. If all else fails, you can simply “react” to the posts in your feeds, or leave a brief comment.

2. Be real. Be honest. Be open. Pretty self explanatory but I’ll go a little further. There’s a difference between being polite and being fake. Don’t lead people on if you have no intention of investing in that friendship. You will only hurt them more in the long run. Alternatively, if a friend does something that upsets you, tell them so you can both work through it. I don’t know about you, but I can’t read minds. I would much rather face a potential bit of conflict than let some silent resentment build up until it completely destroys a friendship. When you are honest with your friends, you’re showing them that you value them. You allow them to be honest with you in return. You build a foundation of trust that will ultimately strengthen your relationship.

3. Make time. This one is hard. We all have way too much going on. I get it. Everyone has a full plate all of the time. This is by far the biggest challenge I face in my friendships. I try to invite friends to do things that we all need to do anyway. If you can meet a friend during a lunch break, do it. If you can invite a friend over for dinner, do it. If you can break away for coffee, do it. If you want to do something special and know it takes a lot of advanced notice for an evening out, plan it.

Ladies Night

 

A few weeks ago a group of us gals got together for an evening hike. I planned it well in advance so everyone who wanted to come could make necessary arrangements. It was awesome!

Spending time with friends is important and it’s fun when you finally get to do it!

4. Show your gratitude. We all know how unpredictable life can be. Tell your friends how much they mean to you. Let them know that you value their friendship. Share the love.

Some say that friendship is in all the little things. It’s a little thing to show support, to be honest, to make time and to show gratitude, but those little things fill our lives and our hearts. Those little things become the big things over time.

Feels Like Fall

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It’s that magical time of year when there’s a chill in the morning air. Pikes Peak already got its first dusting of snow. The aspens in my yard are starting to yellow. The sun tucks itself in for the night a little earlier each day. Soon we’ll enjoy pumpkin flavored EVERYTHING accompanied by the sweet aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg. We’ll bust out the comfy boots and cozy sweaters. I’ll be putting the crockpot to use in as many ways possible.

It’s also the time of year that the kids have just returned to school. That means new, unfamiliar germs are invading our home with even more vigor than the spiders who try to do the same when harvest season hits. I am the germs’ latest victim. I’m not quite sure what I’m fighting, but whatever it is hates my stomach. That said, I stayed home from work yesterday and today so my body can rest and recover from having the life force drained out of it.

I don’t know about you, but when I am home for too long and don’t have the energy to do anything, I tend to analyze my life. I think about work, my family, my faith, all of the to-dos around the house, you name it! As I evaluate each aspect of my life I realize that I really have nothing to complain about. Honestly though, I still have moods and feelings of inadequacy. I have desires for more whether it be more time with my husband and kids, more strength in my friendships or faith, more money (hey, I’m being honest here). I think most people have ambitions that haven’t come to fruition just yet. I can’t be the only one.
So, in this brief time that I have been home, feeling kinda blah and thinking about all this, I’ve realized what is missing the most in my life right now more than anything else is a release for my creative energy. I’ve always been a bohemian at heart. I love to dance. I love to sing. I love to write. I’m weird and quirky, and I love people even if I don’t always want to be around them. I’m a free-spirit who has become tethered down by practicality and responsibility. It’s not a bad thing at all. I’m a mom, and a wife, and a hard-worker. Sacrifices come with the territory.
As we welcome the fall, I’m entering my own season in life where I need to reclaim my creativity. I need to express who I actually am. I need to allow myself to feel my way through my emotions instead of burying them underneath a facade that tells everyone else I’ve got it all figured out. I need to be vulnerable. I need to be passionate. I need to laugh and cry. I need to fall down and get back up again. I need to make mistakes. I need to learn and I need to grow. I need to take chances and I need to challenge myself.
So, how am I going to do it? Well, I recently started taking a contemporary dance class. I am LOVING it so far! I probably look like a complete goof trying to get my body to do what it used to do over a decade and two kids ago, but it is absolutely exhilarating. The other thing I would like to recommit myself to is my writing. My husband always jokes that I don’t talk all that much, but I have so many ideas swirling around in my head. Writing is my outlet and the easiest way for me to write consistently is to blog. Get ready folks! I’ve got a lot to share.