Mindset Matters

Mindset Matters

In the past, I primarily lived with thoughts of all the things I couldn’t do well.  Negativity permeated every inch of my inner dialogue.  I couldn’t run as fast as my friends, I couldn’t run without experiencing pain in my ankles and feet afterwards and I couldn’t lose weight as fast as others could. When asked to slow down my heart rate during runs, I whined about how slow I had to run and called it slogging (slow jogging). Listening to this week’s podcasts reminded me that my power to succeed resides in my mindset, therefore developing it must be a critical part of any training plan.

As part of this type of training, we must tap into our inner dialogue and begin to shift it.  I’ve begun shifting my thoughts and tapping in to focus instead on all the things I can do.   Filling my head with all the things that were going well has helped me remain positive about my training.   Here are some simple ideas to help change your inner dialogue and develop your mindset.

Meditation

I wish I could say I do this regularly, but I don’t.  Research does suggest that meditation has major benefits to many areas of overall wellness.  Mindspace app is one of the tools I downloaded.  I’ve used it during the night when I can’t fall back asleep, but I’ve yet to develop a regular routine.  I do, however, think of my long runs as meditation as I am in a mindfulness zone and think deeply.

Podcasts

There are tons of podcasts you can listen to for developing your mindset.  I have found many motivational speakers and love to listen to podcasts on long runs.  Sure does make the time pass by with less focus on the struggle.  My favorite podcasts right now are put out by Another Mother Runner and Running Lifestyle.  Find what speaks to you and listen to learn.

Read

One of the best books for me was recommended by my yoga teacher a few years back.  It still is the one that I reread when I need reminding of the power of mindset.

I wrote a summary of this book here Life Change

How has your mindset affected your training?  What have you done to develop and harness the power of positivity?  Please share in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

Try Something New

Try Something New

When you find yourself in a rut and can’t seem to snap out of it, try something new.  Step outside your comfort zone and you may be surprised by how it rekindles your workout motivation.  That’s been my mission these past two weeks and I slowly feel myself getting excited again.  This week alone, I tried two new things Galloway running and Orangetheory.  Both were enjoyable and both proved to spark my motivation levels.

Galloway running is based on the premise that continuous use of specific muscles and tendons can lead to exhaustion and injury.  The Galloway run-walk-run method builds recovery into your runs. You should be able to continue a training regimen for a whole season leading up to your goal race without injury and wouldn’t that be a nice change!  I actually joined this running club last year, but never attended a session.  My mindset was one that if I am running, I need to run.  I rarely took any walk breaks over my distances.  During one very hilly 10K distance race last year, I allowed myself to walk up the steep hills and run the downhill and flat sections of the course.  Imagine my shock when I had the fasted 10K time ever that day.  I did think there might be something to this walk/run idea but still didn’t embrace it.

This week, I decided to go out and try it.  A local club member agreed to meet me out at the park and take me through the paces.  It was an enjoyable three mile run for me and I felt refreshed and ready for the full day ahead of me.  We conversed the whole run and I wasn’t worrying about when it would be over, or even about my next breath.  It didn’t matter to me if the run signal came midway up a hill.  I thought I’d hate the stop and start nature of the run, but it felt fluid and natural.  I will most definitely do this type of run again, hopefully next week.

Last night I decided to take a free class at a new local box gym – Orangetheory.  The sales girl has been calling me for over a year, but I’ve never gone.  Since many of my friends have been going and talking about it, I decided to take the plunge and add it to my, Try Something New list.  The group class is conducted wearing a heart rate monitor and your results are projected on a screen for all to see.  I guess they think that’s motivational to the competitive ones in the group.  Me, I couldn’t even see the screen without my glasses so not so much.  My friend was next to me during the 30 minute treadmill segment and she was looking at it and updated me a few times.  The workout is high intensity interval training, keeping yourself in the right heart rate zone throughout the sessions.  It is a 60 minute group class split into cardio and strength training.  I started the class on the treadmill doing what was comparable to the walk/run workout I did in the park.  I alternated between slow jog, push pace and all out running for 30 minutes under the direction of the instructor.  I then moved to a rowing machine segment and strength training.  We rowed for a bit, then did some TRX work, push ups, squats, planks, then back to rowing.  It was a fun, fast paced work out.  For me, I don’t need the competition aspect, seriously who cares what anyone else is doing.  I did like the equipment, music and change of pace though.  I did commit to doing one of these classes per week.  I would have done two, but the price to me is over the top.  Once per week will have to do and I will count this workout as one of my weekly runs.

Overall, doing new things does add spark to your life.  I felt better this week than I have in a long while.  I think it’s the combination of trying new things and being around people.  I am looking forward to this week’s workouts and will continue my climb back from the long winter of broken toes.   What have you done this week to step outside your daily rut?  How has it helped rekindle your motivation?  Be sure to leave your comments below.  I look forward to reading them.

Sleep Your Secret Weapon

Sleep Your Secret Weapon

My sleep struggles are well known to anyone who has received an email or text from me at 3:00 AM.  My midnight musings are well documented and laughed about.  Sometimes I find people during the day and say, “Last night I was thinking..”, followed by my latest idea.  It seems that my mind is very active during the night and some of my best ideas come to me then.  I really was never concerned, or annoyed by it.  I’ve just come to accept the fact that I don’t sleep more than 5 hours a night.

I first wore my Fitbit to track steps, but soon discovered a second benefit to this little gadget.  Fitbit trackers have a sleep cycle option that provides you with data on the quality of your sleep.  While I doubt it’s totally accurate, it sure does open your eyes about how well, or not, you sleep.  The report also shows how restless you are, as well as how many hours you are likely in REM sleep.  All this data got my attention because I noticed I was very restless and not getting much REM, or deep sleep each night.  This was troubling because that is the restorative sleep that is so needed by my body.

After reading and researching issues with sleeping, I came up with the following plans:

Find Out How Much Sleep I Really Need?

I used the data from my Fitbit to establish how much sleep I really do need each night.  While I like to lay in bed and read, I was really only sleeping 5-6 hours a night.  Knowing this made me realize that going to bed at 8:00 PM would always have my body waking at 2:00 – 3:00 AM, making this nothing to stress about.

Establish a Sleep Cycle

Creating a routine has been very helpful to me.  I actually like waking at 3:00 – 4:00 AM.  I find it to be the most peaceful, yet productive time of day for me.  I like to have an hour or so to read and write.  I like to have an hour or so to exercise.  I like to not feeling rushed in the morning.  Knowing that I want to be awake by 4:00 AM the latest helped me establish a bedtime.  I am in bed ready for sleep by 9:00 PM each night, unless of course we have an event.  Thankfully my husband likes the early morning too, as does my dog, so it’s all good.

Establish a Nightly Routine

Unplug your technology, including the phone, prior to bedtime.  I unplug by 7:00 PM each night to allow myself time to unwind.  I open the window to make the room slightly chilly as this can improve your sleep.  In the winter I turn down the thermostat slightly.  I am not a fan of television but do like to read in bed.  This works perfectly for me as it also helps me to fall asleep, unless it’s a thriller!

It is important to sleep in a dark room, so black out the room to improve your sleep.  Research has shown that exposure to blue light greatly affects your sleep cycle.  Blue light, or light that comes from most of our devices, suppresses the production of melatonin more than any other type of light.  This is why it is critical to unplug at night to ensure better sleep.  If you simply must use your devices at night, they sell orange glasses that you can wear to block the blue light.  They are quite funny looking, but who cares if they work.  I keep a pair on my night table for nights I want to catch up on email.

Improving sleep can greatly improve your health.  Getting adequate amounts of sleep each night can help you lose weight and gain strength.  When you are not getting adequate sleep, your body can produce more cortisol causing weight gain.  When you get adequate sleep, your body may have an increase in testosterone causing strength gains.  This sounds like a win-win to me, making it worth the time spent improving my sleep cycle.

How are you sleeping these days?  If you could improve your sleep with a few simple changes, would you?  Please share below.

Mentioned in Article:

Avocado Oil

Avocado Oil

People tout the many health benefits of using coconut oil.  Some even suggest eating it as a super food.   Others say you should swap it for your olive oil when cooking, or on salad.  I tried cooking with coconut oil and noticed it changed the taste of my food.  Coconut oil has a very distinct flavor and using it in my recipes changed the taste of my meal and not always for the better.  Even in my super food coffee, I noticed a different taste when using coconut oil.  This sparked me to start researching oils to see what other options were available to me.

Cold pressed olive oil is still a staple oil in my home, but no longer my first choice.  In my personal opinion, the best choice for a healthy oil is avocado oil which is produced from the avocado fruit.  This oil is made from the pulp surrounding the pit, not the seed.  Avocado oil doesn’t have a strong flavoring that overpowers, or competes with the flavor of foods.  It also has a high smoke point which makes it ideal for cooking.

When choosing an oil for cooking it is extremely important to learn about its smoke point.  This is the temperature at which your oil begins to smoke in the pan.  Healthy oils, like olive oil, can become unhealthy when they reach their smoke point because it begins to break down and nutrients are lost.  Further, dangerous compounds can be created which are detrimental to your health.  I always used olive oil in my cooking and had no idea about this!  I no longer use olive oil for cooking and have replaced it with avocado oil.  Unlike coconut oil, this oil does not overpower my food.

When using any oil for cooking, it is very important to consider the smoke point (the temperature at which the oil starts to be visibly smoking in the pan) of the oil. Even a healthy oil like benefit-rich olive oil becomes unhealthy when it reaches its smoke point. When an oil reaches its smoke point, the structure of the oil begins to break down, nutrients are lost, flavor is changed and most dangerously, compounds can be created that are damaging to your health. Avocado oil’s high smoke point make it a top choice for any frying, browning or sautéing recipes.

I use avocado oil on my salads, as well as cold pressed olive oil.  I find the oil to be very versatile and it has become my go to oil for cooking.  Further, there are said to be many health benefits to using it including improving heart health, lowering cholesterol, arthritis support and skin care.  I buy my avocado oil online, but I have seen it available in Costco.  I don’t like to purchase super large containers of oil as I prefer my oil to be fresh.  I also don’t purchase oils in plastic containers ever!

Spend some time learning about the oils you use.  I think you will be shocked by what you learn.  I never knew there were so many different types of oils, or the dangers of using the wrong oil for cooking.

What type of oil are you using?  Please share your experiences below.

Avocado Oil I Use:

Weakest Link

Weakest Link

A consultant I work with professionally has stated, “As a District, you’re only as good as your weakest school.”  Clearly, his philosophy aligns with mine in that he’s saying we are meant to lift others up, rather than leaving them to struggle.    During my morning run I reflected on this as I thought about my body.  Surely this thinking could also somehow apply to my physical wellness.  Therefore, I began to think about how I am only as strong of a runner as my weakest link.

What are the weakest links in our bodies and how does leaving them to struggle impact our mindset?  I can tell you these weak links can have a huge impact on they physical body and the mindset.  Pain is never welcome in our training plans.  The constant struggle with it invites those negative voices to start yelling inside.  You’re never getting past this, you’ll always get hurt, blah, blah, blah.  Ignoring the problem clearly hasn’t worked for me.  Being proactive and wearing certain shoes has helped somewhat, but not enough to eliminate the struggle.  Warm up and rolling has also helped, but still I’m experiencing some swelling.  This leaves me thinking that it is indeed about strengthening that weak link – lifting it up to join the party.

This connection really helped me focus today as I’ve been experiencing pain and swelling in my ankle near the site of my peroneal tendon.  I’ve been getting super nervous about it too.   Thinking about the weakest link theory, I spent the morning researching ways to strengthen my weakest tendon.  Yes, I’ve been rolling and stretching after runs, but I’ve done little targeted strength training for this tendon.  As I sit her soaking my ankle in Epsom salt post run, I’m excited about the new plans.

I found some cool exercises on Youtube that are perfect for me.  They involve my foam roller, bands and Bosu. These are all tools I have in the house so I was able to get right to work today!  It’s amazing how having a plan has already lifted my spirits.  I’m feeling hopeful that I will get this in control and not reinjure the tendon.  I ran a little faster today and lighter.  Here’s my current plans for my ankles and feet.   If you are suffering with any issues, feel free to join the party.  I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a good one.

Warm-Up

I’ve been doing the Silly Toes warm up for over a year now.  It most definitely helps me stay healthy in my feet and ankles.  It’s super quick and fun.  I never skip the warm-up no matter how late I am getting out.  My new addition is to do this every single day, whether I am running or not.  A quick way to start the day off right.  Here’s my running coach demonstrating it beautifully.

 

Strength Training

I plan to incorporate strength exercises daily. They are super quick and can be done before bed, or after a run. I can even do them in my office if need be. For the resistance band section, I put both feet in my resistance band (red).

 

Post Run

I’m adding this to my rolling sessions after each run. I already shared my rolling protocols for my feet/ankles, but definitely will be adding this. I already did it today.

 

Stretching

Three times a week, if not more, I can do these stretches. I already tried them today.

 

In addition to all of this, I currently do try to do yoga toes pose after each run.  I can try to up this to days I don’t run as well.  It is quite an intense pose, but one I’ve come to love.  I guess what doesn’t kill me does indeed make me stronger.

 

What’s your weakest link?  Can you create a plan today to strengthen and lift yourself up?Please share below if you’ve already done so, or plan to start.

Resources Used in My Routines

Sunlight for Healthy Training

Sunlight for Healthy Training

I am an early riser by choice.  It’s just a habit I’ve formed over the years and I’ve actually never set an alarm clock in my life.  My body just has a sleep cycle that’s developed over time.  I was super excited to read and learn that many experts are now highly recommending early morning, outdoor exercise for important health benefits. My early morning workout time is peaceful and now linked to improved health, how exciting is that. Just look at my morning view, this alone can improve my mood and make me so grateful to be alive.

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Many people are now being found to be Vitamin D deficient, myself included.  I was pretty surprised when my doctor told me just how depleted my levels of Vitamin D were in lab testing.  She explained to me at the time that Vitamin D is critical for correct hormone function and brain health. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to many types of cancers including breast cancer.  I remember wondering if this deficiency had been a contributing factor of my mom’s Alzheimers disease.

When my doctor diagnosed this deficiency, I remember telling her that I really don’t spend a lot of time in the sun by choice.  While she told me the benefits of exposure to natural light, she explained that it would be nearly impossible for me to get all the needed amounts of vitamin D just from exposure to sunlight.  We talked about foods high in D (fatty fish, cheese, eggs) and supplementation plans.  It took me several front loading doses of vitamin D3 to get my levels into acceptable level ranges.  I have been on a maintenance dosage for two years now and continue to monitor levels through lab testing (blood tests).

When reading about Vitamin D, I came upon some interesting links between lack of natural sunlight exposure and wellness.  I learned that exposure to sunlight during the day can actually help you sleep better, improve hormone function and increase endorphin production.  Light sends a signal to your body and brain to wake up and also helps regulate your body’s circadian clock.   It has been found that your circadian rhythm could impact your metabolism as well.   This coupled with eating foods known to be rich with Vitamin D and proper supplementation can improve overall health.

It is said that one of the best times to be exposed to natural sunlight is between 6:00 – 8:00 AM.   You only need about 20 to 30 minutes of morning sunlight to reap the benefits.  Getting at least 30 minutes of sunlight each day boosts serotonin levels, which will help improve melatonin levels at night and could improve sleep cycles. I remember sharing this information with my dad as a means to help my mom with sundowning, a common occurrence in Alzheimer’s patients, caused by sleep disturbance. It was recommended that she be exposed to this early morning light as a means to reset her circadian clock.  Recently, I read that it’s also linked to increased benefits during exercise through improved metabolism and vitamin D levels.

This week’s training tip is to move your early morning workout sessions outside, increasing exposure to natural light, for maximum health benefits.  Even in the winter anyone can go for a short walk, perhaps not at 6:00 AM as it will be dark, but certainly before noon.  Make this your new health habit for some important lasting benefits.  Lace up those sneakers and go for a walk, or jog each morning.  Your body will thank you! I’m heading out right now myself.

Are you already a believer in early morning exposure to natural light?  Please share what you have learned on this topic in the section below.  I look forward to learning more about this topic in my quest to improve my health.

Supplementation

My doctor put me on Vitamin D3, but after several front loading doses, my levels didn’t improve.  We paired K2 and D3 and my levels finally tested in the correct range.  There is some research that demonstrates a link between the body’s ability to absorb D3 when taken with K2.  After years of taking them separate, I came across this product that has combined both into one pill.

Vitamin K2 (MK7) with D3 Supplement – Vitamin D & K Complex for Strong Bones and a Healthy Heart – 5000 IU of Vitamin D3 & 90 mcg of Vitamin K2 MK-7 – 60 Small & Easy to Swallow Vegetable Capsules

Further Reading

http://www.medicaldaily.com/sun-exposure-vitamin-d-and-other-health-benefits-sunlight-246487

Revise the Plan When You Must

Since I broke my three toes on Christmas, I’ve been struggling to get back into a running rhythm.  Anyone who has broken toes can tell you just how painful this injury can be.  I thought I had it under control as I pushed through on the elliptical in my boot and running on the treadmill with super wide shoes.  I laughed in the face of this injury and anxiously awaited warmer weather to get back outside.  Sometimes though, life has other plans.

Following my first outdoor runs, I quickly realized this wasn’t going to be so easy.  I felt like the months of easy treadmill runs did little to maintain my conditioning.  I felt like my foot and ankle were in a constant state of pain.  I felt like it was two steps forward, three steps back.  I felt like my head was spinning with the bullshit stories I tell myself.  Finally, I felt like I had to pull up my bootstraps and get this fixed.  My plans were in need of a major revision.

First, I needed to address the pain in my ankle because that is super scary to me.  I do not ever want to have that surgery again.  I think I knew the trigger for the ankle pain.  Over the winter, I was trying to switch over to zero drop shoes and believe this was putting unnecessary pressure on my peroneal tendon.  The shoes seemed to work fine on the slow runs on the treadmill, but outside training was just not the same.  I’m now back in my trusted Hoka shoes and hoping I didn’t do any damage to the tendon.

Next, my toes are still causing some pain in my foot.  This concerns me greatly and I’m hoping there’s no nerve damage.  I’m trying to incorporate the yoga toes pose back into my cool down protocols, as well as foam rolling religiously and hoping this will help.  If not, I definitely need to get an MRI in the coming weeks.

Finally, I definitely needed to revise my pre training plan to build up my strength for running.  I’ve been trying to get off some extra pounds gained during the long winter break.  Not too bad, just need to get about 10-15 off for my optimum running weight.  This week I’m down 5 pounds using the Weight Watchers app to track my eating.  Again, not a fan of plans but chose this one because I can eat real food that I cook.  I don’t agree with the severe limiting of healthy fats, but I’m incorporating what I know is right for my body with the plan and so far it’s keeping me honest about my food choices.

I’m using the Couch to 5K app to warm up my body and am on week 2 of the plan.  The pain in my ankle is still there at night, but I do feel like it’s subsiding.  As I do the couch to 5K plan (similar to the one I just finished, Run for Weight Loss, but less intense) I reflect on the walk/run strategy.  For now, I think this may be just the perfect revision to my running training.

Run/walk programs are an effective training method that can help increase fitness.  The stigma attached to it is that it’s not “real running”.  This stigma overlooks the fact that when alternating running with walking, you decrease the amount of impact on your body and potentially decrease risk of injury.  Further, using this strategy you recover quicker from your workouts as your body has built in recovery breaks.  It is also a form of interval training and can increase caloric burn during your workouts.

Running as we know is a high impact sport.  The continuous use of any muscle used the same way (running long in my case), increases muscle fatigue more rapidly. Continuing to run with fatigued muscles, will greatly increase the chance of injury.  Knowing this it makes total sense to me to use a run/walk program to build my fitness for the marathon.  During the walk portion of run/walk, your body has a chance to recover – both heart rate and muscular recovery.   Walking using different muscle groups than running and allows for some muscular recovery during these sessions.

Run/walk interval training is easy to implement.  Basically you run for a designated portion of time, followed by walk period, then repeat the cycle a certain amount of times.  The free couch to 5K app tells you when to run or walk.  I find myself looking forward to those beeps during my runs now.  I was worried I’d have trouble running after a walk period, but it’s actually quite the opposite.  I look forward to the run beep knowing it’s only for a short period of time.  Mentally this method is motivating and the time flies by.  My pace is even slightly faster over the long runs as when fatigued my pace tends to slow down to a crawl, often slower than a walk pace.

I’m excited to see if this method helps me get back on track without pain, or injury.  Are there any run/walk converts out there that want to share their story?  I’d love to feature your story here in an upcoming blog.  Let me know and please feel free to leave a comment below.  Looking forward to hearing your stories.

Great read to learn more about this method of training:

The Run Walk Run Method·