National Running Day 2015

GUYS. IT’S NATIONAL RUNNING DAY!

So obviously I’m going to take the time to ramble about my relationship with running.

You see, running and me, we’ve come a     L     O    N    G    (pun intended) way.

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It didn’t always use to be this way.  In fact, it used to be the exact opposite.  I used to run because I didn’t honor my body.  I ran to escape my mind.  I ran because I felt like I had to.

I had very high expectations and very low self respect.  I ran and ran and ran to prove to myself I was something.  The (not so) funny thing about that is the more I tried to prove that something to myself, the higher my expectations were.  These expectations were unrealistic, unhealthy and unattainable.

Eventually, I shifted away from running.  I took the time to heal my body and my mind.  I needed to build mental and physical strength. I knew that eventually I would return to running, and when I did, I’d run for the right reasons.

Now, my runs are my time to be mindful, to be aware, to embrace my surroundings.  It’s the time to soak up the sights, the sounds, the scents around me and simply be. It’s my time to practice presence.

My runs remind me of my past.  My body has overcome a major struggle.  I don’t look at the past with regret.  It simply is. And because it is the way it is, I am the way I am.  My body is powerful because of it. I spent ten years being being guided by negativity and stress.  I’m dedicating the next fifty+ to being surrounded by happiness, mindfulness and presence.

I run to honor my body and free my mind.  Why do you run?

Running of the Bulls 8K: Race Recap

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Yesterday, I had the pleasure of venturing through downtown Durham.  Despite the high humidity (90% to be exact…) the race was a success!

And, although, I’m very proud of my pace, and overall placement for age group and gender..I’m measuring the success of this race in a different way.

I know what pace my body is capable of. I commit to long distance runs every Saturday morning and have easily sustained an 8 minute pace for 9 miles.  I didn’t go into this race with a pace goal.  I didn’t set myself up to meet an expectation.

Instead, I made a commitment:

to smile.

to be aware.

to breathe.

I wanted to soak up my surroundings.  My focus was to be aware of the bliss and gratitude that surrounded me when I ran.  I centered on the sights, the sounds, the scents that were present; that were a part of this journey with me.

At one point in the race, I told myself to keep my head up.  And I did just that.  I looked up, peered around at the sea of people surrounding me and soaked up the empowerment that came from recognizing I was one small part of this big community.  Pretty powerful stuff.

So rather than trying to control my pace, my body, my breath…I just let it be.  I ran. I smiled.  I enjoyed my time on the road with my fellow runners.  I truly believe this is why I had a successful run.

That and my fuel.

There are many components to living a balanced life style.  Creating a balanced mindset is probably the most necessary, and difficult to achieve.  Balanced nutrition is key, especially for athletes.

Night Before the Race

I planned my meals the day before the race to allow myself to have most of my carbs at night.  Carbohydrates provide stored energy.  So, I had strawberry banana protein pancakes followed by some oatmeal for dessert. And water. LOTS of water ALL DAY LONG.

Morning of the Race

Coffee.  And more water.  Followed by Shakeology with half a serving of whey added to it.  I’m the odd one out who has to eat right before a work out.  Shakeology before my runs has proven to work for my body.  It provides me with TONS vitamins and minerals. It leaves me feeling energized and ready to go!

Post Race

2 Chia Bars (1 acai berry, 1 chocolate peanut butter), 1 banana, 1 sesame seed bagel with 2 egg whites, 1 cup of greek yogurt with a scoop of strawberry whey protein and 1 cup of protein fiber almond flax granola from Whole Foods.  I. Could. Not. Get. Full. When your body burns calories, it’s VITAL to restore those calories.  I may not have gotten full…but I also never got that post race crash…because I fueled my body properly! Restored my body with carbohydrates and rebuilt muscle with protein!

Here’s some ramblings of me talking about the race.  Other topics coming soon:

the value of quality race gear

and

why I’ve stopped blasting music during my workouts

Life Narratives: Construction & Destruction

It’s no secret that people are exposed to society’s pressures.  From a young age, we’re taught our routines, pushed to paint this picture of our future and start paving the path.  At what point do we get too caught up in writing our life narratives that we’re forgetting to live our lives?

I’ve been there.  I had my whole narrative planned and written out since I could remember: from high school to college and back to the classroom as a teacher. College was a blur.  No, not due to a large consumption of alcohol.  On the contrary, it’s due to the fact that I was always, always going and going and going.  Working, studying, working some more…I rarely had down time.  I thought this was good.  I thought it meant I was going after my goals, I was being ambitious and earning my way into my career.  These habits continued through my first year of teaching.  I was in go, go go mode.  Constantly busy, work was always on my mind.  But I was “living” the dream, right?  I was in my career! I was happy…right?

Eh, not so much.  Actually, not at all.

I was so busy constructing this narrative of my life that I forgot to actually live my life.  I was so busy creating these thoughts, these images of what my life shoulda-coulda-woulda been.  Finances. Jobs. Relationships. I let these thoughts define me.  I clung to them, to the narrative of Devin Gaynor: super teacher, super girl friend, super daughter, super sister, super friend etc; etc; etc;

The funny thing about thoughts is…they are just thoughts.  Our lives are simply bigger than just thoughts.

So, rather than clinging to these thoughts of what woulda-coulda-shoulda been, we need to build awareness of what was and what is.  We need to be at peace with the existence of these thoughts, of these feelings, of the situations that present themselves.  From there, we can build on possibility.  We can create our reactions.  We can create our choices.

So, I vow we accept the construction and destruction we’ve built with our life narratives.  Accept what was, what is. Let go of these self-created expectations and make the choice to live your life.

 

Selfing

We live in a society filled with selfing.  No, not selfies, although those are plentiful (guilty), but selfing; we make things ours.  And its limiting our presence, our awareness, our mindfulness. 

I was recently gifted the book Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  Merely halfway through the book, I am already so thankful for it’s guidance during my this journey into a more mindful life style (thanks Sherry Hall!)

You see what I did there?  My journey.  That right there, is selfing ladies and gents.

We are so quick to claim things as me, mine, or my.  This includes thoughts and emotions.  By claiming these moments in a selfing manner, we are attaching ourselves to them.  All thoughts and emotions (the good, the bad, the ugly) are not ours to claim, though.  Rather than empasizing them as our own, we need to simply be aware of their existence.

Thoughts and emotions, whether positive or negative, hold us back from being fully aware.  If we are in a not-so-lovely situation, we find ourselves dwelling on the negative.  I’m sad, I’m lonely, I can’t believe this happened to me.  It’s a thousand times harder to let it go when we’ve made this distinct claim that it is ours.

Claiming moments of pure joy, bliss or happiness as ours isn’t exactly beneficial either.  By doing so, we’re creating expectations.  And, in my opinion, expectations can be toxic.  When we claim these moments, these thoughts, these emotions as ours and that they are our sources of happiness, we create an expectation to be able to claim them again.  When this doesn’t happen the second go around, we’re left disappointed.

Mindfulness is awareness.  Awareness that thoughts, moments, feelings are present.  Whether they are good or bad, you are simply at peace their existence.

So, I challenge you to catch yourself in the act of selfing, and shift it.  Those thoughts, emotions, they are not your own.  They are simply thoughts and emotions and you are aware of their presence.

 

The Power of Self Praise

You’re awesome.  You’re perfect the way you are. You’re amazing.

You’re making excuses.

Self praise is powerful.  Not always in a good way, though.  In my opinion, self praise can be more harmful than it is helpful.  When things don’t go according to plan, or turn out for the best, we turn to self praise.  It’s okay because I did my best.  I’m still amazing. In turn, we forget about the power of our choices and self responsibility.

Que the difference between self love and self respect.  When we constantly shower ourselves with love, it’s easy to make excuses for ourselves.  We allow mistakes without considering how to grow, how to create change.  We make it okay because we love ourselves.

On the other hand, when we respect ourselves, we reflect on the choices we’ve made that brought us to the current situation.  Take, for example, going on a run. The first approach: I go on a run and it destroys me.  I’m short of breath, I feel exhausted, I’m having to push myself beyond what I’d expect.  So, I slow down or shorten up the mileage.  I think it’s okay, everyone has their off days.  Better luck next week! The second approach: How was my nutrition this week?  Have I hydrated properly?  Have I given my body proper rest and sleep?  What choices did I make prior to the run?  What changes can I make?

This concept can apply to any and everything.  I practiced a lot of self love during my first year of teaching, yet had very little self respect.  I let work consume me.  I made the choices that led to putting work first, my students first, and I was always, always last.  I was proud of my work and my efforts.  However, days quickly turned into weeks.  Weeks turned into months.  The year flew by.  When I actually took a second to look back and reflect, I was scared.  I lived 10 months consumed by my job.  Little to no time was set aside for myself, for my friends, for my family.  I was constantly exhausted and stressed. I refused to live another year like this…let alone the next ten.

This was when my self respect journey began.  I started to reflect on what I wanted.  What choices I would make.  It did’t come easily.  Like everything else, it took practice.  Now, reflecting on my choices is second nature.  I also take the time to consider where my choices will lead me before making them.  I can’t control what happens to me, but I can always control my reaction and where I go from there.

The choices I make are a reflection of the respect I have built for myself.  My self respect has grown into an awareness of the life I’ve created for myself.

So, before you take the next opportunity you have to praise yourself, reflect on the choices you’ve made that led to this point.  What changes can you make? How can and how will you grow?

 

Weekend Presence

I never understood the true value of weekends until recently.

Weekends used to be two days in the week where I could never quite relax.  I had a very odd mindset.  Saturday, to me, was the only real weekend day.  I could sleep in (which never happened) and I could stay up late (which never happened).  Sundays stressed me out.  I always had the looming feeling of the work week ahead, and would sit there and say to myself, “Okay, now you have 7 hours left of your weekend….now 6…now 5…ugh it’s getting closer to the time where I have to do prep work for the week” It was awful!

This stopped when I chose to let it stop.  It stopped when I chose to be more present and add more value to my weekends. It stopped when I left work at work and let myself have a life.

I don’t remember the last time I brought work home with me, especially on the weekends.  Even the small things, like printing, I leave for work.  My home time has become so valuable.  It is my time to refuel, to love and appreciate the life I’m creating for myself.  It also allows for me to avoid that “burn out” feeling.

I’m feeling especially grateful today for my resolution of making 2015 the year of presence.  This weekend, Adam and I are venturing home to Asheville to visit family.  In the past, I would’ve allowed myself to be stressed out.  “Will I get this and this done?  What time will we be home Sunday?” This destructive, stressful mindset made it impossible to be present, enjoy and value the time I had with our family.

I’ve shifted my perspective of weekends.  And, it’s shifted my life.  I am SO looking forward to not even thinking once about the work week ahead.  Instead, I’m looking forward to a 3 hour car ride, listening to NPR and music with my boys followed by a weekend filled with love and laughter with our beautiful family.

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What or who will you dedicate your presence to this weekend?

Want, Need, Share, Succeed

Happy Weekend, Friends!

Rather than sulk about the dreary weather in Durham today, I took the opportunity to put my goals down in writing.  Check out a snapshot of them below:

Goals

I’ve declared 2015 to be my year of presence.  I’m working towards living in the moment, soaking up my surroundings rather than constantly looking ahead.  I noticed a big break through during spring break, a week spent porch-sitting, rocking chair reading and yoga bending. It was the first time I fully embraced and enjoyed my time off.

I’ve decided to lay out what it is I will want, need, share and succeed in 2015.  Here’s the dirty deets:

Want

What I want in 2015 is to travel/vacation abroad with Adam. We have big plans for this year.  It’s been years since we’ve gone on vacation. A well deserved get-a-way is without a doubt the near future.

Need

What I need in 2015 is to mindfully eat, whole organic foods that fuel my body.  While I’m not into the diet scene, I am into fueling my body with what’s good for it.  I’m letting go of foods that don’t serve a purpose to nurturing my body.

Share

What I will share in 2015 is inspiration to empower others to lead a balanced life. My goal is to reach as a many people on how to mindfully think, speak, listen and act. When we first take care of ourselves, we are then able to take care of the world around us. Through social media, fitness & social circles, my goal is to inspire others to be the best, balanced version of themselves.

Succeed

What I will succeed in 2015 is run a half marathon sub 2 hours.  My fitness journey has had it’s ups and downs over the last 10 years.  I’ve finally found a balance between running, lifting and bending.  I’m in the best mental and physical shape of my life for it.  I’m ready to tackle a half marathon.  Who knows, maybe a 26.2 is in my future!

Oh, and I still really want to start a book club. THIS WILL HAPPEN.

What will you want, need, share and succeed this year?

Having Your Cake & Eating It Too

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, diets are not my cup of tea.  They promote this stigma of bad food vs. good food, when in reality we need to focus on fueling our bodies.  We need to eat food that has a healthy purpose.

This doesn’t make it easy to stop eating foods that we’ve gotten into the habit of consuming.  Like the boxes of cookies I used to consume on the reg. Just because I’m thin does not make this okay.  Foods high in sugar destroy your energy levels.  Sure, they give you than instantaneous joy, and maybe a sugar rush.  But, that crash is sure to follow.  Why eat foods that ultimately bring you down? Food should fuel our bodies, fill us with nutrients and make us feel energized.

Being a teacher (or really, just a professional), it can be challenging to stay fueled throughout the day.  I’m constantly on my feet, on the go for 8+ hours a day.  It’s easy to get that “2 pm feeling.” You know, the one where your eyes can’t stay opened and you feel like an actual couch potato. You get grouchy…perhaps even hangry.  (The hangry struggle is real people).

Well, I’ve found a way to conquer these lack of energy. And the best way to describe it is as having your cake and eating it too. I know, it’s supposed to be impossible to have both.  But with Shakeology you can.  I’ve decided to add Shakeology to my morning routine, right there with my cup of coffee and big ole glass of water.

Shakeology is a superfood shake.  It’s made with all natural, whole food ingredients and literally tastes like a milkshake.  Hence the whole having your cake and eating it too.  

I’ll admit, at first I was hesitant.  In fact, I only ended up trying Shakeology because I really really wanted to try Piyo.  Piyo is a pilates-yoga at home workout program.  Sometimes, I’m just not feeling the gym after a longer day, and wanted to have an at-home alternative.  There happened to be a special going on at the time, so I decided to give these super food shakes a shot. And I’m so happy I did.

Here’s why I’m in love:

  • I actually stay full until I’m able to sit down and enjoy a snack or lunch.
  • I stay energized all day.
  • It’s delicous and filled with vitamins, minerals and proteins.
  • It’s reduced my cravings for sugary foods. (I’m no longer a self-proclaimed cookie monster)

My go to recipe at the moment:

  • 1 serving of either chocolate or vanilla shakeology mix
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp of peanut butter
  • 1/2 a banana
  • ice for thickness

All blended up!

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I not only look my best, but I feel my best.

Let me know if you’re interested in giving it a shot! 

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Sorry. No shame in my mirror selfie game.

Something Old, Something New

A year ago today, this happened.

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This day symbolized so much more than getting tatted up.  It represents creating my own happiness.

This tattoo represents my decision to quit my first teaching position. I would finish the year out and then discover other passions, a new path.  Little did I know, my new path would lead me back to my original passion, but with a lot more balance.

I throw the word balance around a lot.  Balance is a life style and a mindset. It is so much more than eating right, exercising, or practicing your hobbies. Its the ability to be present.

How do you achieve presence?  By letting go of expectations and external sources of happiness.

There are many people who claim work-life balance is a myth.  However, I respectfully disagree.  The power of that work-life balance is a power within yourself, the result of your choices.

Think about it: what motivates you? Is it praise and approval?  Is it recognition?  Where does it all come from?  While receiving these from external sources can be highly motivational, they can be toxic. What’s the point in constantly working for applause rather than a cause?  What’s your purpose?

I thought my purpose as a teacher was to change lives.  It was to give my all to my school and my students.  Having this mindset, though, was exhausting. My first year of teaching was spent letting success get the best and rest of me.  Claiming to be a go-getter in all actuality was an excuse.  I thought my obsessiveness with perfection, with kicking ass at my job was the result of constantly being on the go, physically and mentally. No. No. No. No. 

All this did was result in restless nights, an exhausted mind and body, and the lack of a social life.

I can be am able to still dream big and conquer goals without the hassle of stress. It took practice, but I leave work at work, and  stopped thinking ahead.  This does not mean I stopped planning.  You can still be an avid planner, but be able to enjoy the here and now.  It just takes practice.

Now, I see my purpose as a teacher with completely different eyes.  My purpose is to provide my students with the example and tools of being an independent, life long leaders. In doing so, I practice what I preach.

Here’s some tips on the dos and don’ts of bringing balance to your life:

Don’t constantly focus on what went wrong. Do find a small success in every single day.

Don’t compare yourself to others. Do try to improve the person you were yesterday.

Don’t thrive off of external praise.  Do take the time to value your own hard work and success.

Don’t dwell and constantly plan how to change. Do seek opportunities to learn and grow.

Always, always, always, remember to breathe and take a long hard look at your surroundings. 

Because you never know how adjusting your sight can take something old and make it very new.

My passion is old, my vision is new.

Mindful Monday: 002

I’ve always loved the many wise words of Buddha.  One concept of Buddhism has been on the forefront of my mind lately: attachment.

Attachments play a big role in our perspective. Our perspective influences our ability to mindfully think.

Attachments come in various forms: relationships, material things, hobbies.  We often become fixated on the idea of something, on our routines, on our expectations.  So much so, that we lose sight of it’s true value, and focus on solely on the emotion the attachment provides us. It becomes our external force of happiness. This attachment shifts our perspective, our view of the world around us.  Our decisions are influenced by this attachment whether we realize it or not.

You are not your attachment.  You are you.  Once we become more mindful of the way we see ourselves, the self that is free of the attachment, you are able to not only let it go, but appreciate it more.

Here’s an example of an attachment I’ve recently “let go” of: fitness.

No, I didn’t stop working out.  But, I shifted my perspective of fitness. I’ve always been an athlete: softball, basketball, volleyball, running CrossFit.  Two that have played a role in my life are the later: running and CrossFit.  They are the two that I grew very attached to. They were my external source of happiness.  My level of happiness was dependent on a successful run or WOD.

It wasn’t healthy, physically or mentally.  My worth was is not equivalent to my abilities as an athlete.  When I stopped focusing on my image as a runner/CrossFitter, when I stopped looking at them as things I had to do in order to be healthy and happy, I became healthier and happier.

I shifted my perspective.  I mindfully thought about who I am and who I want to be.  I thought about how I can maintain a peaceful, minimally stressed mind. I freed myself of my own expectations.

We can shift our perspective on many things.  Whatever the attachment is, visualize and acknowledge yourself free of that attachment.  Know your strengths and values as an individual.  To quote Elsa, “Let it go.” (You know you’re a teacher when…)

What are you attached to that’s taking up space in your mind and heart?  How can you shift your perspective of this attachment to be more free?