Category Archives: learning

Changing Habits: Flossing is not hard

I think about habits a lot – how and why they form, why I do some things that someone else never would, why I don’t do other things. What motivates our habits? How do our personalities influence our habits?

The list goes on. My brain spins.

Most of my day-to-day {wellness} coaching focuses on helping people change their habits. It’s relatively easy to find information on nutrition, exercise and stress management around the internets. You could do your research and know what to do. The how is the stump – sometimes the mountain. Plenty of people will start a conversation with, “I know what I’m supposed to do…”.  This is typically followed by something they feel they “should” be doing, but, “it’s hard”.

Nope.

Whole 30 quote

 

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Eating healthy isn’t hard. Low-intensity exercise a few days per week isn’t hard. Taking a deep breath instead of letting stress add another victory notch to its belt is not hard. It’s a personal challenge to change your habits, which can be humbling, frustrating and rewarding, but is it not hard.

But I’m still working on convincing people of that. Myself (sometimes) included.

I have a few personal habits that I’m constantly working on, and sometimes wonder why I can’t manage to hit that magic balance when I can help others do so all the time! Ah, the irony.

For example: every time I go to the dentist I’m reminded that I do not floss often enough. For the next few weeks I’ll do so somewhat diligently, usually half-heartedly, and then suddenly, I just don’t. Bye, floss.

Flossing is not hard. It usually takes less than 5 minutes – we only have so many teeth-gaps, the number doesn’t change (if it does..well, another day another problem). I always brush my teeth, so why don’t I remember to always floss?

The truth: I rarely forget, I just sometimes decide to skip it. I sometimes look at that unassuming box of floss and do a mental “nope”. I’d rather get into bed, or not make my gums bleed (but yes, I know they wouldn’t be as sensitive if I did it more often), or just simply don’t feel like spending the very little amount of energy it takes to pull out a string of floss, and pull it between my teeth. ….?! Oof.

I listened to an episode of “The One You Feed” a few weeks ago that mentioned common things people do that either help or hinder their habit-building intention(s). Two that resonated with me:

1) Build a streak
2) Don’t let yourself fail twice.

In relation to my seemingly insignificant flossing goal: Start noticing how many days in a row I stick to it, but if I skip one day? Don’t feel derailed – just do not skip the next day! Don’t do it. Simple as that. Get the brain & motivation in check –  like, C’mon you guys, this is simple! Do not let a thin piece of string beat you. Do. Not. Pull, cut, floss, repeat. Do it.

I’d like to proudly state that as of today, my happy (non-bleeding) gums have been flossed 27 days in a row (not a coincidence that it’s January 27th).

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There are so many unique ways to do this and we’ll all respond differently to varying techniques and strategies – add that to the challenge of coaching habit change – but I think that’s a positive for people working on habits. If you’ve tried something that just flat-out didn’t motivate or inspire you, try something else. (Insanity won’t do us any favors, yo.)

What habits are you having a “hard” time changing?
Or what type of habit seems to continuously elude you?
Any unique strategy / tips?

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More on this ish:

No Meat Athlete’s “Roadmap” for building a new habit

Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project Blog: Why Rewarding Yourself May Be a Bad Idea, For Habits

(Gretchen also has an entire book devoted to this coming out soon.)

MarieTV’s “One Simple Habit to “Fast Track” the Life You Want

 

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I am (not?) patient

Now that both of our big goal races have come and gone, our laundry basket has just a few less sweaty shirts, shorts, and socks, and our calendar boxes have a few less intense workouts. This stark difference in weekly routine was amplified by my hanging out in the injured runners’ corner.I think the knee & I are close to having that little episode behind us (knocks-fiercely-on-wood), but I now know nothing is ever guaranteed!

45 min run_DOTR

Things are certainly looking up. Sloooowly, but surely, we’re making progress. After learning to train by heart-rate this year, I am no stranger to long slow miles. I’m all-too familiar with the frustrations, the walking, the slowing down more than you physically knew you could slow down.

I’m still working on the patience part.
Add injury-recovery to that equation? Oof.

A few years ago, I went on a weekend retreat with a large group of DC/Baltimore lululemon fitness ambassadors (just as amazing as it sounds). We chatted, set goals, reflected on life things, made s’mores and chatted some more. One particular “session” stuck with me. I still use it in my Nutrition and Health coaching, and when I need an attitude check: we talked about declarations.

How do you identify yourself? (“I am…..”)
How do you introduce your characteristics to others?
How does your inner monologue of declarations read?

One gal offered up an anecdote that shows the power of this so simply: I own a {fitness} studio, and to create a sense of community I need to remember peoples’ names. I used to say “I’m just not good at remembering names! So I’ll probably forget yours”. But I realized that wasn’t gonna work. So, I started saying “I remember names really well”. And now I do.

Seriously. As simple as that. She just reversed her mindset. Does she remember everyone’s name ALL the time? I have no idea. But for the day’s sake, it simplified what we were aiming to achieve.

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My point? After a month of burying my heart-rate strap in a drawer and agreeing with the Coach it would be useless for a while, so we can take a break, I had to dig it out this week. On Tuesday I had it on but didn’t have to worry about it. But today I had to “keep it under 150”.

We’ll skip the gory mental details and just leave it at this: I wrote to Katie that it would be “very generous” to consider what I did today a “run”.  Maybe a shuffle, mostly a walk, but definitely not a run. It was aerobic, I’m sure, because nothing my legs could do to keep my heart-rate under 150 could be considered strenuous by any stretch. The diligent and accepting attitude I once had towards this process has faded quite a bit.

rainbow run_12.18

I saw this on my walk/shuffle back home. It’s faint, but it’s there. Just like the tiny deposit of patience I continuously deplete and try to refill. By nature, I am not a patient person. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not patient. It means I can choose to work on having patience, or I can spend a LOT of time being frustrated. They’re both exhausting in their own ways, but at least the former gets me somewhere. The latter is just annoying for me and everyone else.

So, for now, I am patient. I’ll see this {lame} recovery-thing through, because I know I want to. And I know that by the time I get to reach for my puke-threshold just before the next Finish line, it will seem ridiculous that I ever thought this was difficult.

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Exceeding the Minimum

Over the past few weeks I haven’t had a lot of wiggle room with physical activity. If something hurts my knee, it’s off the list. If the Coach suggests 20 minutes the spin bike or pool running, I do exactly that. If she says “2 x 10 squats”, I do exactly that. If the PT says “Foam roll for 1 minute”, I hop right off of that torture tube at exactly 60 seconds (because I hate it).

This may be exactly what I need to do for this injury treatment – which is progressing pretty well, for now – but it’s made me extremely antsy. I haven’t worked out for more than 45 minutes in about 4 weeks. A routine that once supplied a consistent load of endorphins to my system has turned into one that seems resistant to them. A brain that was once happily occupied with a detailed training schedule is now spending way too much time thinking.

Thinking back to my training throughout this entire year, there are a few trends. When I started working with my Coach, I completed most of the workouts, while consistently skipping – or, “not fitting in” – a few of them(cough, strength training, cough). I spent way too much energy focusing on how slow my pace was. Then I realized maybe a few of those skipped workouts may have been important. Then I realized maybe the few beats of HR over MAF I consistently ran at may have done more harm than good. Then I realized I actually didn’t train very consistently at all.

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Fast forward to July – October, and I filled as many workouts in as “completed” as I possibly could. I could probably count on one hand the number of days I didn’t do what was prescribed, and there would have been a damn good reason for it. But I also just did exactly what was written out. Rarely less, but never more. (One exception: the 100 minutes of plank of September.) Katie was running me to the bone, and I feared anything extra would be a mistake. If it wasn’t planned on my schedule, written out in exact numbers, or approved beforehand, it did not happen.

I never exceeded the minimum of what was put out there for me to do. I stayed where I was comfortable. I never said “this is getting easy – give me more!”. I only tested limits when I was explicitly told to do so.

We’ve got a few new ideas to put into place next year, and one of them is that I’m okay with a few extra nudges, a few extra pounds on the weights, and even a few extra days of those gym sessions. But really, what I’m realizing now, is that I can’t always put that on someone else.

Sure, I love having the guidance of a coach. But during the 26th mile when I’m running solely on faith and the boxes I’ve checked up to that day, I only have my mind. And if my mind can’t get past the minimum required of it, I’ll lose worlds of possibility.

2014-11-24 11.17.48

Photo credit: @stravarun instagram.

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For the Nth time this year, a new page has turned. We’ll see where that gets me & these recovering legs…

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Recovery & Resilience

This year has taken my running+racing ego for a wild ride. Let’s just say this:  I severely underestimated the cumulative effect of taking 2013 “off”.There’s not one single thing I would change about that decision, or any of the other ones I made in that calendar year (‘twas a great one, indeed),  but set me up for peak physical fitness it surely did not. Noted.

2014 started off like a rocket: taking the RRCA running coach certification course, signing on to work with a Coach and subsequently starting to train for a marathon (after a 10 day trip to Africa, of course).  If you’ve hung around for a while, well, we know how that turned out.

Desire to Change_Dietitian on the Run

Right away my name was thrown into the MCM lottery just to see what might happen.  I knew that my body had more to give. I also knew that was a lot more to be learned from MAF, my coach, and my favorite sport.

I ran MCM with a goal to re-qualify for Boston. It wasn’t a huge stretch, but it certainly wouldn’t be easy (and it’s not supposed to be!). I let Katie whoop my butt from July to October, and have never been so happily exhausted.

Aaand, now we know how that turned out, too.

Katie reminded me that I took a huge chunk of time off my spring vs. fall marathons in one year; I did what I did on that day. And it’s up to me how to move forward from that, how to recover.

Resilience_Dietitian on the Run

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this year, it is this:  whether or not you choose resilience will teach you a lot about yourself and your strength. It won’t give you measurable pounds lifted or minutes per mile run or a specific race time. (At least not right away….) But every time you choose it, you run a meter that deposits a lot of emotional energy in a bank with an incredible interest rate.

When you choose to be resilient after your perceived failures, set-backs or let-downs, you’re recovering and coming back stronger.  You’re soaking in a mental ice-bath – letting the sting of the situation-at-hand cool down, become numb, and eventually dissipate. It’s absorbed into your muscle and brain tissue to rebuild and get ready for what’s next.

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It took a few days and enough time to accept, absorb and let go of a race day that wasn’t what I expected it to be, before finally giving credit to a few things. I didn’t enter this year with the fitness base I’ve had in the past. I didn’t keep building on the successes of 2012, and because of the year I did chose to have ( think: more fun less fitness, in a great way), I entered this one as a different athlete. I’m rebuilding. And it’s a long, tedious process that involves using a lot of patience that I didn’t think I had (still debatable, I s’pose). 

But it’s way more exciting to be resilient – to chase endurance and strength and speed on my own terms – than to throw in the towel.

courage_Dietitian on the Run

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Marine Corps Marathon Training: The Things We Did Differently

Let’s say the training for this fall marathon actually started in January, with an e-mail to a friend-turned-coach that included some stubbornness on my end and a LOT of patience on hers. Let’s look back at life one year ago and question whether/not I’d ever choose to be tied to my HRM and the numbers and science of running? That’s a definite “No, thanks!” 

Let’s just call it like it is – things are a bit different around here these days.

- I frequent the (once-boycotted) gym, and know how to properly do a dead-lift so that I can walk normal the next day.
- I haven’t looked at, or thought about, my total weekly mileage in months.
- I have an entirely different running vocab in my brain now. (MAF!)
- I know a lot of math and science go into a sport that I once considered pretty simple. (At least I’m not the one doing it, though.)
- I ignore my pace on most runs, and usually couldn’t care less about it.

image

What does that mean? All of the following made up 16+ weeks of training in a way I’ve never fully trained for a full(-marathon) before:

imageBuilding the base, and dedicating an appropriate amount of time to the 26.2 mile distance.

image Strength-training workouts, twice each week. Exercises that focused on building the running muscles we need when fatigue really sets in.

image Running mostly by time, and allowing my heart to become more efficient so that within that time frame, more and more miles were covered.

imageKeeping stress really low, as much and as often as possible. Life stress affects training stress, which means you either progress or regress – your choice.

imagePaying very close attention to nutritional detail. See above: stress.

imageTrusting the whole process. All the time.

BONUS image: Reading through this book to do a little self-education on the training method that was running my life. Pun-totes-intended. That was a game-changer.

One thing has stayed the same: I have a lofty goal, and I’m pretty damn excited to chase it down.

Marine Corps Marathon Goal 2014

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It’s worth mentioning that this central California lifestyle we’ve adopted is also quite different than that of DC living. Our little Monterey community is slow and quiet, sunny and peaceful. Not better or worse than DC (you know I love me some District days!), but nowhere close to as busy or bustling.

Then we went and dumped California trail races on the calendar, because oh-my-god they happen all the time and we gotta run on all the dirt! Big thanks to the Coach for letting all of these sneak in there.

2014-09-06 10.58.05 2014-09-14 14.11.45

2014-08-02 07.27.05 2014-08-18 06.45.31-2

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And now…

My brain is absolutely in taper-mode-overdrive, dripping little doses of anxiety here and there every time I think about running for 26.2 miles yet again. It’s a funny thing our memory does – to mostly forget the worst, but remember just enough of it to invoke panic in a moment of weakness. Taper becomes a focus of pushing those moments into the dump, and being like “Brain, CHILL OUT. We know what we’re doing!”

There were so many things done differently with this training cycle, and therein lies just enough mystery for wonder. But either way, I wanted to be more dedicated, run stronger, run faster and run MAF into the ground. Check! 

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Filed under balance, cross training, learning, marathon, running, training