Celebrating strength (in running)

I think we should celebrate our strengths. 
…a helluva a lot more often than we’re accustomed to.

So today? I’m celebrating the strength I found in running this past weekend. 

I ended up running three days in a row, something I’m not known to do often or at all, really. I like to give my legs time to rest, coming back stronger the next go-round. However, after a few days off from running last week and the way my plans ended up rolling out this past week/weekend, I ended up running Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I will say that I had every intention of nixing the Sunday run, pushing it to sometime later this week if I needed to. But I woke up bright and early on Sunday, sun was shining, and I was ready to run.

Ready to runafter two really good, really strong runs the previous two days. 
I celebrated that strong moment. It was a brief celebration, but I made sure to stop and note it in my mind before Scott and I took off for our run. (note: we saw the cutest little bunny on this run, he was a little guy, so soft and furry…it took every ounce of self-control not to run after the bunny in an attempt to befriend him).

Backing up a bit. Saturday’s run. Our first “long run” of our official Chicago marathon training plan.
We ran 8 miles. I was wicked PMS-y (sorry, TMI for the male readers). I legit thought I might puke near the last mile and a half.
…and then, it happened.

I started to let go just a little bit more. A little bit more than I have in a long time as a runner. My mind freed itself from all the crazy thoughts that typically run around up there. And I focused. On the strength I was finding in my legs. As I rounded the final turn and we made our way the final half mile, I felt my legs pushing off the ground, gripping the surface, drawing energy from the pavement and plowing along. I have never felt that before. The sensation of the muscles in my legs working — stabilizing me, centering me, propelling me forward.

I felt strong. It felt so awesome.
(but, I won’t lie — I was really glad to see these 8 miles done, I was hurting by the end. Nothing a bowl of oatmeal and a picnic in the park later that day wouldn’t fix!)

Backing up again. To Friday’s rundate with my fit bestie, Steph. We ran a familiar route to us — one we used to run every single week the first time we trained together for our first half marathon. It was our ‘long run route’ at the time. On Friday, we went with a 7.5 mile route. And made sure to ‘save up’ a few topics to discuss on the run to make sure the time would go by quickly. And lemme tell ya — that trick totally worked. What also worked? That I was feeling so rested from those few days off, and despite my best attempts at jinxing myself with Friday’s post, it was a killer good run.

Again, I walked away from that run feeling strong.

Strong is beautiful. Strong ought to be celebrated.

So today, I’m celebrating my strength and urging each of you to dig deep today to find your strength — and when you do, please own it, please share it, please embrace it.  

Source: tumblr.com via Lauren on Pinterest

#PROOF @the barre

This is what a back-to-back sweat sesh @the barre looks like (plus a super sweatastic morning class I taught earlier that day…):

(granted, we look waayyy too chipper for just getting our asses handed to us, but still – work with me here, mmk?)

If that’s not #PROOF, I don’t know what is. 😉

But seriously — what’s the point of my post today? It’s a really good reminder (and note to self!) that a killer workout comes in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t have to be a ridiculous cardio-fest like running or spinning or something. A strength training session or strength-based studio class (or two of them, hell why not?) is just as much — if not more — of a sweatastically awesome workout.

Just because you didn’t sweat the same way you did after <insert cardio ‘poison’ of choice here> doesn’t mean that the workout wasn’t effective.  Last night’s workout was reminder #4,000 to me that strength training (of the barre variety or otherwise — I promise I’m not *that* biased towards the barre ok maybe I am) is incredibly important, needed, and ridiculously awesome (and sweaty too!).

And really? Strong is beautiful.
…and it’s pretty badass, not gonna lie.

This from the chick who pretty much rode a barre-high all day long. The class I taught in the morning was especially energetic and sweaty and FUN (and I got to meet Melissa finally — hooray!! And I do believe she’ll be back — yay for that, I didn’t scare her off!). That plus the barre-date with fit bestie Steph and my day ended on a wicked strong high note.

Strength training makes me feel strong and confident and fit — and it’s soooo important to fit it into your life, in some shape or form. Pretty please, if you don’t already — do it, and embrace every single strength-filled second.

<<steps off soap box>>

And as you’re reading this now, we should be off on our rundate to end the week on a high note. If you follow me on Instagram, you can expect to see another #PROOF pic of our rundate sweatiness — because who can get sick of seeing sweaty, glee-filled faces up in here. Am I right?? 

Happy #PROOF-tastic Friday, friends! <–make it a sweaty one  (TWSS??) 😉

Running + barre: revisited

Last May, less than two weeks into the 60-day barre n9ne challenge, I wrote about running + barre and how great of a combination it was turning into for me. At the time, I was still very, very new to barre and had barely scratched the surface in that post about just how amazing of a pairing barre workouts can be with running.

I have been meaning to revisit the topic for awhile now but after seeing this fab friend posting on Facebook that she was adding barre and yoga work to her (first-ever!) half marathon training plan, I knew it was time to get crackin’ on this post.

So, in no particular order, here is what makes running + barre an awesome marriage (at least IMHO…)

Strong hammies and glutes = happy knees. It’s no secret that I’ve had my fair share of knee issues over the years. There was an ITBS flare-up after my first half marathon (that required PT) and then there was a fairly minor case of patellar tendonitis after my second half marathon (sensing a trend here, are we?).  In both cases, the real issue wasn’t my knees but the muscles surrounding my knees. They were weak. Underdeveloped. In need of some serious muscle conditioning. Since taking barre classes this past year, would you guess that my knees have never been happier? My third half marathon in October did not follow the same pattern as my previous two: I didn’t come away from the experience injured. Quite the opposite. I walked away healthy and fit and strong. I owe it to the barre (n9ne).

Endurance, like whoa. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll refresh your memory again. The barre n9ne method (as well as similar barre styles) relies heavily on endurance-style muscle conditioning. In other words — a shitton lots and lots of reps, done with very light handweights or just the weight of your own body (at the barre and on the mat). That endurance requires focus and mental strength to push through all those reps, to allow your body to do the work your mind is trying to tell you isn’t possible. It’s the same endurance (mentally and physically) that’s needed when it comes to running miles (long, short, speedy, or otherwise). My interval workouts are speedier and more powerful and my overall run-durance is way better than it’s ever been (particularly this winter when I really, really wanted to keep my mileage up during the colder months of the year, always a struggle for me int he past). Again, I owe a lot of that to the endurance and mental strength I’ve gained from the barre (n9ne).

Smabs. <—for those of you unfamilar with my lingo, that’s code for “some abs” or “smabs.” Prior to barre n9ne, I had a really hard time connecting with my core, and because of that, I often underworked that part of my body when it came to strength training. At one point, I hated core work. Hated. Did anything in my power to woopsie, skip that part of my workouts whenever possible. Now? I’m working my core daily for hours at a time. Hours?? Yes, hours. Every single barre class I take or teach requires constant vigilance in maintaining a strong, engaged core. During the upper body work, while at the barre working the lower body and glutes, and most definitely during the core-specific segment of the class. In reality, you should be working your core the entire hour of the class. So you can imagine the difference I’ve seen in my core strength after a year of classes. Not gonna lie, while changing for my interval workout the other night, I actually did a double-take in the mirror — I’m rockin’ some serious ab definition. ((ME? Smabs? Who knew?! )) But I digress — back to running + barre and why this all relates. The core is a huge factor in how you run strong. It keeps you centered and sturdy and able to push up and down hills and into those wind gusts It’s partially why I don’t fear hills and don’t totally hate running in the wind (sure, it’s not *fun* per se, but at least I know I can push through it with strength). Once again, I owe it to the barre (n9ne).

Botton line: It’s all connected. And barre n9ne, combined with running, has more than proven that to me. It’s all connected. It all matters. It all works together in perfect harmony.

Running + barre = happy knees; a centered, focused mind; and the strongest body this girl has ever had. ❤
(…how’s that for enough reasons to give this pairing a try some time?) 😉

Strength is…

Strength is…

…pushing past boundaries. Boundaries you’ve set. Maybe without realizing it. Or maybe you have. Or maybe those boundaries were set by someone or something else. And you push past. That is strength.

…choosing to challenge yourself. With intention. And purpose. Not going halfway and stopping. But taking it all the way. Not just completing a challenge, but crushing it. That is strength.

…embracing discomfort. Stepping way outside of your safe little world and into a world of unknowns. And charging forward. With courage. Even if that means ‘faking it until you make it.’ Because getting uncomfortable enacts change, evolutions. That is strength.

…Dream. Dream. Dream. And then turn those dreams into your reality. That is strength. 

Strength is…

<Editor’s Note: This post came to me after a really solid day at my new job, where I found myself stepping outside of my world and embracing the discomfort. And it was followed by a particularly intention-filled barre n9ne class. Where I felt focused. Sure of myself. And most of all? I felt strong.

…I must say, this ‘year of no limits’ is off to a damn good start. Rock. On. >

Paying it forward – my way.

A big reason I tend to write with such passion on this blog?

Paying it forward – my way.

Sure, I may not be certified to be your personal trainer. Or offer you RD-approved nutrition tips and tricks for healthy eating. But what I can offer? Personal experiences that have evolved me into the woman I am today: the fit, healthy, strong, happy and confident woman I am today.

This confidence and strength didn’t happen overnight. Don’t let me fool you. It’s taken me years and years to get to a place where I can look in the mirror and say “I like that person smiling back at me, today.” This is my proudest moment to date: the day I stopped being afraid, the day I befriended the mirror, the day I fell in love with myself. A day I never thought I’d ever see — something only dreams could possibly be made of.

So I pay it forward – my way.

On this blog. I write from the heart. I draw from personal experiences alone. I strive to help others in any way, big or small, that I can. And, if something I say on this blog resonates with just one person. Just once. I’ve paid it forward.

Through the weekly barre n9ne rundates my sister and I host at the studio. To help other beautiful, strong, fit women recognize their own inner strength through running. My heart soars every time I hear them talk about building up their run-durance, doing the run/walk thing and sticking to it, feeling proud of every minute they ran vs. walked. It reminds me to always stay humble, to always appreciate and show gratitude for my own ability to walk, to run, to race – 5ks, 5-milers, half marathons, and soon – a full marathon.

In the barre n9ne studio and on the barre n9ne challenge forum – our budding little home for words of encouragement, inspiration and rounds of applause as each woman achieves a new milestone. It could be sticking it out during the shake at the barre; or losing an incredible amount of inches after their own 60-day challenge (like mine); or learning to love their food log for the tool that it is — a tool of empowerment, where food becomes a tool, a fuel-booster, and not something that controls you in any shape or form.

And, as a FitFluential Ambassador – something I haven’t delved into too much just yet on the blog, but let me tell you – in the short time I’ve been a proud member of this community, it has opened my eyes to a whole new world of opportunity to continue to pay it forward.

…which is what this blog is all about – my “audition” if you will, to pay it forward on a much grander scale. To write for a broader audience than my own – drawing from my personal experiences that have lead me to this place: a place of strength, passion, and conviction.

Because if this blog — EatDrinkBreatheSweat – stands for nothing else – it stands for breath(ing): Breathing in your own inner beauty. And drawing strength from it. Breathing in every moment of your day as if it were your last. And showing gratitude for each day. And, Breathing through those moments in life that become life changers, evolutiondrivers. Much like the moments I’ve described above that brought me to this amazing place I am in today.

Paying it forward – my way.

Sooo…”cross training”

This is one of those posts I mentioned on twitter that I had been mulling over. I needed to let it “percolate” if you will, lots of back and forth going on in this brain of mine.

The topic? “Cross training”

I put it in quotes because I think part of my problem with the concept of cross training is that I was trying to jam it into a more conventional context versus looking at my own approach to my workouts and realizing that I already *do*cross-train.
…just not in the way I was thinking I had to or needed to.

What am I talking about??

Well what else could be on my mind by the marathon that’s um ohhhh a YEAR away. Yes, I can’t freakin’ stop thinking about it. I hope you guys don’t get sick of me too quickly because I have a feeling 26.2 is going to be mentioned in far too many posts in the next few months or so.

But anyway, you all know by now that I’ve been thinking about how I want to approach the marathon and training for it. I’ve already mentioned that above all else, I want this to be a fun experience and not *just* a shitton LOT of work.

But other than that, I want to approach training my way. As per the usual, I’m not a huge fan of someone else creating a training plan or regime for me. What can I say? I guess I’m not into rules (even though I’m so Type A, odd…)? And part of training for a marathon (or any big endurance activity, really) is training smartly and making sure not to overdo too much of a good thing.

So I was sitting here thinking…

…Do I need to start adding another type of cardio into the mix? Spin? Elliptical? Something else?

…But where would I fit that in? I don’t want to be doing cardio five or six days a week…especially not on top of  the miles and miles of running, and the barre n9ne classes I take each week.

…Which reminds me…barre n9ne. Hm, wait a minute. That *is* a form of cross training (in my book), duh, why didn’t I think of that?

…Ok, so maybe I don’t need to add *another* type of workout in, I just need to continue to embrace focus. On running. On barre n9ne. On rest days.

…And if my knees or joints yell at me? That might mean an extra rest day. Or one less day of running each week.  And  just being flexible.

Ok, it’s settled. This is how I’m gonna approach this marathon. Just like any other race I’ve trained for and killed run.

My way.

Enough overthinking. It’s time to trust my instinct. Stop falling into the comparison trap. Stop trying to force fit workouts into my schedule just because I feel like I *have* to incorporate spinning or the elliptical or something else low-impact. Why not just be content with the endurance, flexibility and strength I’m gaining from barre n9ne and let that do the trick? And instead of fixating on how “other people” do it…simply remember what my body is capable of. Letting my mind go, and trusting my body to do the work, all 26.2 miles of that work.

…is it time to start training yet?? 😉

Well, now what?

…so there’s that PR I can’t stop talking about.

…and that little marathon thing I can’t stop thinking about.

…and barre n9ne that I’m still totally and utterly in love with.

Well, now what? 

I’m finding myself stumbling into an “in between” spot — no races to be training for, no barre n9ne challenge to be focused on (not “officially” anyway…always in barre n9ne mode in some shape or form). No “something” to be working towards, near-term.

So, knowing me, I’ve been doing lots of thinking. About what I want to focus on for the next say, six months before officially throwing myself into marathon training (y’know, after I can actually register for the Chicago Marathon…minor detail!). 

And I’ve decided that I have three goals for myself – they probably won’t surprise you.

1 – Maintain my running endurance as best as I can this winter (aiming for a long-ish run per week all winter, for the most part)

2 – Make sure to properly mix in intervals to work on speed. (I hear a certain Jim over at RunBikeSurf has a killer interval workout he and Sam at Because I can are planning to post soon…ahem!)

3 – Stay focused in barre n9ne, constantly improving my form, core strength and flexibility.

Sounds pretty well-rounded…and kinda similar to what I’ve been doing, yeah? The difference to me is a subtle one. But it’s an important one to me. I’ve worked SO hard to get myself into the best running “fitness” of my life and I feel like I’m in a really good place. So I want to hang onto it like hell. 

I’m also so grateful for what barre n9ne has done for me — it’s totally transformed me, and continues to change me every single day. Physically but perhaps even more so mentally. So I want to hang onto *that* like hell too. 

The only difference in either scenario? No hard and fast “schedule” or “training plan” for the next few months. And I’m cool with that. It’ll let me mix up my weeks a little bit more than I have been the past few months. But it’ll still be focused, which is so important to me.

For example – this week has been solely focused on barre n9ne while I give myself a running break (my joints are thanking me!). And maybe there will be a week or two where I’m more focused on running and intervals/speed and less so on barre n9ne. Who knows.

Either way? I have my eye on the prize – 26.2 next October. The next year is going to be a rollercoaster (like whoa). And I’d like to start that rollercoaster on solid (strong) ground. Strong legs, happy joints, conditioned core.  Run-smart. Train-smart. Live-smart. 

…so this is my non-plan of a plan. I dig it. 

Of head-clearing workouts and barre “ownership”

I’ve aptly titled this post “of head-clearing workouts and barre ‘ownership'” for one reason: 

Last night, I hit up barre n9ne in the hopes of clearing my head after a kind of “meh” (for lack of a better word) day. And I limped walked away from last night’s double session with a clear head and an open admittance that the barre totally “owned” me last night. 

(and you thought it was me doing the ‘ownership’ last night, huh? Umm, no. It totally owned me last night…but more on that in a sec)

I really needed last night’s head-clearing, first of all. And as usual, Tanya’s words during class hit me right where I needed them to. She kept reminding us to “focus on you” during each series of moves she took us through (at rapid-fire pace last night, holy god, she was on roll!). And the more she said to “focus on you” the more I not only made sure to do just that by checking my form and tightening it up where needed; but I also took that message to heart. I used last night’s double session to (re) focus on me. I had let the day’s frustrations get the better of me, and my head was a cloudy, frustrated mess of thoughts.

But the more that I sweat through each series, and the more that I focused on the experience itself, the more all of that frustration and cloudy thoughts started to disappear. I was truly focusing on me…in more ways than one. 

However, I will *not* call last night’s sessions at the barre a case of me kicking that barre’s ass and taking names. Nope. Last night that barre had my name on it and it was ready to beat me into submission. Hells yeah. I was shaking. I was struggling. I was pushing. I was sweating. And by the end, my legs were about to shout “no more!” when the second class ended with the most welcome stretch ever.

But it’s those sessions at the barre, when you walk away feeling totally “owned,” much like those really challenging runs that leave you antsy to go back for a do-over, that enact change.

So last night’s barre ownership? And the fact that my name is not yet on that barre? Totally fine by me – I felt transformed last night. Head clear. Body worked. Focused on me. 

It’s all connected

Remember that song from childhood that talked about the “ankle bone’s connected to the shin bone, the shin bone’s connected to the leg bone…”? 

Well for the few of you who know what I’m talking about here, that’s the song that came to mind during the barre n9ne intensive I took on Sunday morning.

It’s all connected.

That’s what I walked away from the intensive thinking about. That and very sore abs, glutes, shoulders…well, everything. Hurts so good. 😉

Julianna used the intensive yesterday to show us exactly how to perfect our form (or come as close to perfect as anyone really can), and not just physically perfecting our form, but mentally perfecting it too.

Because, it’s all connected. 

Your mind. Your body. Your glutes. Your legs. Your shins. Your abs…well, you get the picture.

It’s all connected. 

Just one tiny move or shift in body weight, can change the impact of a glute raise from just going through the motions of that glute raise to totally intensifying that move so that all of the effort is placed on the muscle you’re working.

…just one tiny move.
…a whole lotta breathing.
…total focus.

It’s all connected. 

And that, my friends, reminds me of the beauty of barre n9ne…
…because you’re constantly learning.
…constantly challenging yourself.
…constantly progressing.
…constantly enacting change. 

And because it’s all of that “stuff” combined that I’ve not only used to my advantage during the countless barre n9ne classes I’m bound to take each week, but it’s something I’ve applied to my running and it’s definitely changed my running form and ability in endless ways.

…The focus I’ve harnessed in barre n9ne is the same focus I use during that last half mile, when I’m staying “there.” 

…The endurance and strength I’ve used to stay in a pose, no matter how much I want to give in to the burn, I’ve applied to the longer runs leading into the final weeks of half marathon training.

…The importance on breathing, and breathing through each move versus holding my breath, but also on breathing hard but strongly when I run.

It’s all connected. 

And it’s kind of very cool to me to think about the other connections that exist in life.  And how I can apply those connections – whatever shape those connections take – to other facets of life. Kinda makes you go “hmm” doesn’t it?

In one month, 13.1 (again)

In one month from today, I’ll be meeting up with my dear friend 13.1 once again, and I’m really hoping that I’m smiling as big as I was after yesterday’s sweatastic 5-ish mile #rundate with Steph:

(Melissa – ask and ye shall receive! Me in all my sweaty “I heart Sweat” glory, Ali – I’d like to put in a request for one of these in every color you have. They are amazing!!)

Honestly? It’s crazy how good and strong I’m feeling right now.  If it’s possible, I feel even stronger and more confident with one month to go before the Green Strides half marathon than I did just before the YuKanRun half marathon.

I’ve approached this “training cycle” (if you can even call it one) so differently. Mostly because I was already conditioned for higher mileage having just come off the half in August that really, the past month or so has been about sustaining the momentum more than anything. And this training cycle is also different because, well, all training cycles are different, right? And in my case, I “train” by my own rules, by a loose training schedule – four runs per week, averaging between 5-7 miles to upwards of 10 or 11 miles, with intervals mixed in for speed.

And I honestly think these two things combined are what have given me such a happy, confident outlook on running lately.

And a main reason why I’m all about finding a marathon to own in 2012…
…because I’m happy and confident.
…because I’m learning to “just run.”
…and I’m finding such joy in that. 

I even noticed more strength and endurance during last night’s series of barre n9ne workouts – particularly during the first class,  long & lean legs. A class that kills me everytime but that I love dearly because it *does* kick my ass everytime. I was able to go deeper in the moves (TWSS moment??), hold each poses longer and more effectively, allow the shake to happen.

It felt a bit like a turning point. I felt – and feel – like an athlete. A phrase I’ve always admired – in others – those that I’d define as “athletes.” But me? An athlete? I never thought of myself that way. Until now.

It’s all of these things combined – the confidence, the happy (and strong)  runner in me – that’s making me really excited for this 13.1

I’m not nervous.
I’m not anxious.
I’m looking forward to October 23.

The day I meet my 13.1 (again).