Endurance

Thirteen months and thousands of miles of training had all brought him to this moment. He approached, for the fifth time, the blue tarp, makeshift tent adorned in Christmas lights, welcomed by a blue dinosaur wearing a Santa cap. The volunteers working the aid station were tired, but cheerful, trying to keep each runner that passed through their establishment as comfortable as possible on their quest to reach 100 miles. This landmark was the 15.5 mile marker on a 20 mile loop and this was his last time approaching it, putting him at mile 95.5.

The thrill of the race had been lost to the trail hours before. Every step was pure agony. The repetitive impact of feet meeting trail, rock and root had taken its toll on every ligament and bone. The well of adrenaline was dry. The desire to be done was overwhelming, but the thought of taking just one more step inconceivable. At this point in the race, even with all the effort, determination, focus and training the thought of stopping is there. It’s human response to this type of physical exertion.

So what then, when all the glory of the finish seemed like a mirage, and the pain of enduring 4.5 more miles felt crushing, transpired to propel forward motion? The answer to that question is the topic of this post.

Any time we set a goal, or take on a new project the excitement and newness of the challenge generates an energy that almost effortlessly moves us forward. We are on track, getting it done, proud of our work, patting ourselves on the back and the goal seems well within reach. As time passes we see some results of our efforts and those results fuel the focus to keep pushing. Often the gains that we may have experienced early on begin to slow down, the going gets tough. The option of quitting is there beckoning us back into the hole of a comfort zone we crawled out of in the first place. We question why we ever thought we could do this, how bad do we really want it, is it even possible, we make excuses and we procrastinate. This is the brain’s defense mechanism against doing something it knows is going to be uncomfortable or difficult.

When the newness wears off, the results go unnoticed or unseen, and we arrive at what seems an insurmountable wall separating us from our own personal finish lines, practicing endurance is what eventually delivers the dream. Endurance is the ability to resist, withstand, recover, and have immunity from hardships, disappointments, fatigue and boredom. Developing endurance is achieved by placing ourselves in situations which require us to practice overcoming the aforementioned obstacles little by little. No one who wants to be successful jumps straight into a 100 mile race. Months of training at shorter distances, building endurance is what allows finishers to run, walk or crawl across the line.

The pursuit of any goal in fitness, relationships, career or nutrition requires endurance. Maybe you have been “good all week,” with your nutrition plan and suddenly someone brings your favorite dessert into the office or friends suggest a night of heavy drinking. Perhaps you’ve been busting your butt at work for recognition and a promotion that doesn’t seem to be happening, so you feel like giving up and rationalizing mediocre work. What if you’ve been putting a ton of effort in with your spouse only to feel like there is no reciprocity and you are tempted to resign yourself to a lackluster relationship for the sake of harmony? Those situations are in that moment your mile 95.5. What will you do? Will you exercise endurance and finish the race, or will you disqualify all that you have already invested for the sake of what momentarily feels more comfortable?

Peace, love and running.

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One house, different metabolic needs: Creating harmony

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To begin let me say that I love my husband. Based on the images above you can probably imagine where my inspiration for this blog comes from. You see the guy I live with is not only a card-carrying member of the ectomorph tribesman, but as an ultra marathon runner he is also likely a chief. Let me now also say that I love my family heritage. However, there are many unhealthy, overweight and non athletic people chilling in my family tree. While my other half has to consistently strive to simply maintain rather than lose weight, my battle is definitely against the billowing bulge. So how is it that we are able to coexist under one roof and still get what we need from our nutrition? Well, it’s a process.

If you are an ectomorph living with an endomorph, I’m sorry. If you are an endomorph living with an ectomorph, I’m sorry. The first thing to realize is that navigating nutrition at either end of the spectrum is a challenge for both poles. The endo may see the ecto as being lucky to be able to eat as much of anything as they want, but in reality a true ecto has to really struggle just to avoid being underweight. The ectomorph likely feels bad sometimes that they can eat whatever they want while watching their co habitation partner fight ice cream, cookies and cakes like they are fighting an invisible demonic force. The point is, it can be difficult, in different ways for both parties.

Breakfasts should be pretty easy for each person to get what they need without outside influences. Ectos load up on the carbs and starches, i.e. oats, cereals, breakfast burritos, bagels etc. while endos fuel up with high proteins and whole carbs like protein smoothies, eggs, chia porridge, fruit etc. Next stop of the day is place of work. Ectos thrive in this environment with ample choices supplied by a wide array of snack dealers. Endos can successfully step through booby snack traps by having their own stash of treats that specifically work for their needs, i.e. fruit, raw mixed veggies, paleo muffin or cookie, larabar, pb&apples, smoothies etc.

Lunch time again, can be easy for both extremes. It would be great if both parties prepared lunch at home for their individual needs, but there are many half way decent options at popular lunch places. Again ectos need the high carb options like subway sandwiches, pastas, rice/beans etc. while endos will want to veer towards lean meats, veggies and complex carbs like sweet potatoes, Ezekiel bread or whole wheat tortilla that fit within caloric needs. Afternoon snacking should resemble the morning snack time.

And that brings us home to dinner and more snack time, the final challenge of the day. Because of the very different needs of both, different options need to be available to both for dinner. One easy-ish way to do this is with side dishes. Ectos can decorate their meat serving with whole wheat home-made biscuits, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes or pasta of some kind etc. Endos will want to gravitate towards one serving of quinoa, 5 oz. of sweet potato or mashed rutabaga as their starch option. BOTH types need vegetables and I am of the opinion that half any person’s plate should be filled with green vegetables. The other method is to prepare 2 completely separate meals. Typically this resembles some sort of one pot casserole type meal for the ectomorph that includes protein, carbs, fat and vegetables. The endomorph’s plate would look like the above description. Preparing the meals separately sort of draws a line, “This is your meal, and this is mine,” and the line is so clearly drawn that it does require conscious effort to step over it because time was taken to prepare both.

If you are at one end of the spectrum living with the other end let me just encourage you. We are not all built the same, and because of that we simply can’t all eat the same. Once that is accepted and even embraced, we can be free to take care of our own individual needs while also being aware and sensitive to the needs of others. Take care of you this holiday season! Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or calls normal. You are the captain of your physical body, keep that ship on course!

More Revival, Less Survival

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here!!!!!!! The last bits of Halloween candy have thankfully bit the dust, the sparse leaves are fighting to hang on through the frosty, late fall air and every commercial entity is bursting with the message that the holiday season is blooming! There are so many great resources available offering insight and tips on how to survive, “The most wonderful time of the year,” but this little word nugget is here to encourage you to use this holiday season as a reminder to revive your fitness and nutrition decisions now and arrive at January 1, 2015 in the greatest thriving condition you’ve ever been! Yep, that’s right, I’m challenging you to not only make this the hap happiest season of all, but the health healthiest season of your LIFE!!!!!!

Society has somehow taken the day we reserve for thankfulness and transformed it into a day where gluttony, over indulgence and waste is not only socially accepted, but expected. Ouch, yeah it’s the truth. Think back to the poor pilgrims and Indians on the first Thanksgiving. Their binge meal was likely the equivalent to half of our first plate on Thanksgiving day, and they probably felt as if they were living like kings. Half those pilgrims starved to death their first winter. We are blessed with such great access to food now that we lose authenticity in our appreciation of it, because we do not know what it feels like to really, “starve to death.” I encourage you to recognize that as you sit down to dinner this turkey day. Instead of the mindless inhalation of thousands of calories, serve yourself a few of your favorite things, and allow yourself to experience a sincere gratitude for having those things at your table. While taking part in the holiday, remember to be thankful for your health maybe by doing a workout that morning or going for a walk after dinner. The world may condone sloth and gluttony, but you can choose how you want to celebrate, and you can still celebrate while practicing moderation and mindfulness!

Many people report feelings of exhaustion, stress and depression in the last 2 months of the year and the first month of the next. Since they know these feelings are coming, and they are just “too busy,” they allow themselves to,”take a break,” from routine exercise. I cannot verbalize enough how detrimental to your physical and mental health this sabbatical is. First of all the body does not adjust itself to accommodate the holidays. The metabolism doesn’t do overtime to burn the unnecessary calories, and the muscles don’t get up and work themselves. Secondly, the mind doesn’t stop needing the release of endorphins and feel good neurotransmitters that come with exercising. So discontinuing exercise as a means of reducing your stress levels will end up doing the complete opposite. If anything, I encourage you to take this holiday season by the french horns and recharge your energy by elevating your exercise endeavors. Do you want to feel like the dead brown needles at the base of the Christmas tree, or do you want to be the shining star that spreads a glow of warmth, light and love to everything surrounding it!?? YOU get to choose! The holidays are not something to be survived, they are a wonderful time to embrace love and life and to allow yourself to thrive.

I am thankful to you for reading this and I wish you a wonderful, happy and healthy holiday season. I love you!

Series: The 4 “P’s” of Personal Progress – #4 Perseverance

Anyone can get in their car with the intent to commute themselves to a destination. Usually there is route we intend to follow which serves as our plan and we have gas in the car which prepares us to arrive. So what gets us from our driveway to our destination? The other 2 P’s! Personal patience is the underlying theme that is required for all of these other steps to function effectively. We must be patient when we come to a detour in the road, or we hit an all terrain situation our tires were not ready for. Take a deep breath, breathe through that frustration and embrace your inner patience. When we are patient, planned and prepared the last thing left to do to move forward is to persevere. 

Sometimes this is hard to do because maybe if we had truly known all of the obstacles we would face in pursuit of this progress we would not have set out upon it. We can all learn a lesson of perseverance from the misfortunes of Clark Griswold on his quest to Wally World. He had a plan, was prepared, and really had a good way of shaking things off and seeing the upside of horrible situations (sounds like patience.) But, what if in spite of all of those qualities he checked out when the obstacles came into play? Long story short, what if he drove all the way across the country, arrived at the gates of Wally World to find them locked and allowed that to defeat his dream of the ultimate family vacation? He would not have gotten to be the hero of the day standing upon the dragons he had slain along the way to make this dream come true. 

It’s so easy to say, “I want to become a doctor,” or, “I want to lose 25 pounds,” or, “I want to get a promotion at work,” or,”I want to run a marathon.” The space between saying it and making it happen involves all 4 of the “P’s,” but without perseverance it will not happen. Lets look at the goal to be fit and healthy – if we set the goal and then justify skipped workouts and sloppy nutrition saying we’ll start over tomorrow or next week, we are not exercising perseverance. This type of cycle can go on for YEARS!!!! Most of the time when it goes on like this we refuse to look at the real reason we aren’t seeing results. That reason is that we weren’t seeing results fast enough and grew impatient, life kept putting us in situations that didn’t coincide with our plan, we weren’t prepared for the unexpected and didn’t seek help from someone who could help us through it. So we then just gave up and did not persevere because we allowed ourselves to accept a life that is less than we deserve. 

This formula can be applied to any goal of personal progress, so before setting the goal it’s a good idea to be girded for success. Knowing that it will take patience, planning, preparation and perseverance and investigating how those things will be accessible to you at the times they are needed will allow you to more easily sidestep ambush and sabotage. The self satisfaction of realizing your potential many times comes with a fight, but the fight makes you stronger and makes you recognize the worth of whatever it is you are striving towards.