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Running For Elephants & Education

A couple of weeks ago, I was on a long run and began contemplating my audacious goal: 13.1×10.  I go through many inner ramblings on my runs (a big reason why I consider running to be my Meditation in Motion).  I wanted this goal to be big…to have a true impact on not only myself, but the local and global community. So, I decided I’m running for elephants and education.

I’m very much so a “big picture” kind of person.  I have to really focus when it comes to narrowing down the details.  To do this, I practice what I preach to my students and follow what I like to call the Cycle of Mindful Leading. It allowed me to organize the thoughts around me and to make the details more clear on this new, exciting goal.

The Cycle of Mindful Leading:

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I created this cycle to guide my students in building their awareness. Using this cycle allows for us to build our self awareness.  Once we have self awareness, only then can we have peer awareness.  From there, we can work together to have community awareness.  Communities can come together to build global awareness.

So, with these two concepts in mind, I present to you the ramblings that created Running for Elephants & Education:

Mindful Thinking

I am privileged in having the opportunity to not only my basic needs, but to an endless amount of possibilities.  Running not only creates the space for me to build this awareness but it is also one of the many privileges I am fortunate enough to have in my life.  I am aware that  I want to use my privilege to help others meet their basic needs.

Mindful Speaking

Now that I am aware of the thoughts around me, I can communicate that I want to run races to support local causes.  While running can help locally, I can do more to help globally.  Shoes are not only a privilege that take me on all my running journeys, but they provide me with an overall daily wellness as I walk all over.

Mindful Listening

People all over do not have the basic privilege of owning a pair of shoes.  I not only own multiple pairs to take me through day to day living, but I’m privileged enough to own pairs of shoes to take me through all hobbies as well.  Around the world, people are inhibited by their lack of shoe ownership.  They are unable to walk to school, they are unprotected from environmental pathogens. They need this basic privilege that so many of us take advantage of.

Mindful Acting

For each race I run, I am asking for a sponsor.   However, I’m asking for a different kind of sponsor.  This sponsor will donate a pair of shoes.

These were the thoughts that then led to a Service Learning Project.  Throughout the year, my students do research based on specific second grade social studies and science standards.  Each quarter is filled with projects.  They spend weeks asking questions, researching, collaborating, creating and educating each other on the different topics.  This year, all of our projects will tie into Elephants and the Elephant-Human Relations Aid.

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The EHRA is an organization that provides education and support in Namibia.  They work to allow for peaceful coexistence between the elephants and civilians while also protecting the elephants from poaching and hunting.  This organization has also done a lot of work in renovating local schools.  These students are who we will be donating the shoes to.

I’m a firm believer in the power of education (obviously…).  Each race was already going to be dedicated to a group of students.  To further their role in this project, students will also have a goal of obtaining a pair of shoes to donate.  They will use their projects as a means to educate other classes as well as community members about elephants, the organization and why people should care about this cause.  Even if they are unable to donate a pair of shoes, they will be playing a HUGE role: educating their community on such a major issue!

So, not only will I be able to meet a personal, physical and mental goal, but I will also be guiding my students in understanding how they are global citizens who have the worlds most powerful tool to create change: education.

Some details are still in the works, BUT if you are interested in being a sponsor for one of my races (aka donating a pair of children’s shoes) PLEASE contact me ASAP.  The total number of shoes we need is in the ball park of 40. Shoe sizes will be known soon.  But, please still let me know if are interested in donating once these details are confirmed.

Happy running and educating!

PS. I’m totally running every race in a elephant-ear headband.

Meditation In Motion

Meditation has become a part of my daily routine. While this word may freak some people out, to me, meditation is simply taking the time to focus on my breathing and find inner peace and calm.  It allows me to create a space in which I’m able to be completely present, surrounded by gratitude, bliss and awareness.

I’ve deemed running as my “meditation in motion.”  I’m able to get lost in my own running world as I become aware of the sights and sounds around me.  It’s an absolutely beautiful experience.  However, it’s beauty is only prevalent if I’m in the right place mentally.

Since announcing my audacious goal of 13.1×10, people have shown a huge amount of support. (Which I am entirely grateful for, and my heart is so full!) A major question I find myself being asked is “Which will you actually race.”  And I respond honestly with, “I haven’t thought about it!”  I began exploring this question deeper: which ones should I run at race pace?  On yesterdays 13 mile run, I found my answer:

None of them.

As soon as I start to think about that phrase, “race pace,” I lose sight of the meditation and running just becomes a motion.  Narratives get created in my mind and I find myself surrounded with self judgement and criticism.  I recognized these thoughts surrounded me as I found myself looking down on my run yesterday.  The pavement (and therefore the run) seemed never ending.  Right away, I knew this is not how I want to feel on this run, or any other run whether it’s a mile long or 20 miles long.  So, I took a deep breath in and looked up.

 Now, rather than endless, my run seemed limitless. 

So, I let go of all those thoughts consumed with self doubt and criticism.  People say the only person you should be in competition with is yourself, but I respectfully disagree.  I don’t want to compete with myself from the past, creating these beliefs of how I should and could be running.  So,  I stopped.  No more reflecting on my run history from the past or creating narratives for the future.  It’s time to focus on the now and realize how perfect and beautiful this run, and any run, truly is.

PRs will come without a doubt.  Some races will be better than others.  I’ll be forced to face the heat, the hills, some wind and rain, too.  But, with my focus being meditation in motion, I’ll be able to love each and every moment, and the awareness it brings me.

I’ve found my soulmate pace: my pace in which I’m able to push myself but still have control and awareness of my breath and my surroundings.  For me, keeping a solid 8 minute pace allows me to stay in a meditative state.  There’s moments where I get lost in the run and naturally pick up the pace.  But, for me and for this goal, it’s not about pushing the pace.  It’s about staying in a place of gratitude, bliss and presence as my body carries me down a new path.  It’s about finding balance and persevering mentally.  It’s about showing my students that goal setting comes in different shapes and sizes, each ambition unique to the individual.  It’s about keeping my runs limitless.  It’s about meditation in motion.

Am I still nervous?  Of course.  Mindfulness is a practice.  Each course will bring it’s own set of challenges, it’s own way of trying to take me from mindful to mindless.  I’m confident, though, that with my purpose and students in my mind, I can and will persevere, enjoying each most steps I take.

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What does meditation in motion mean to you?  How do you use motion to create a space of presence and bliss?

The Health and Fitness Fad

Health and fitness is a touchy topic.  Mostly because there are so many views of what determines how fit and healthy you are. However, among the various opinions and trends, there is one thing that is fairly consistent within the health and fitness fad:

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The food we eat.  The muscles we flex.  How many of us are creating an image of health and fitness without truly leading a life of balanced wellness?  At what point do our lifestyles go from balanced to obsessive?

I speak from experience.  It took me years to actually become aware of the fact that I had disordered habits.  Why? Because my actions were masked by the image of health.  I was a runner, so obviously I was thin, right?  Wrong.  I was thin because I barely consumed enough calories to keep my organs functioning.  On top of that, I excessively worked out, obsessively doing workouts throughout the day, especially after every meal.

If you looked at certain statistics, you could claim I was healthy.  I was a fast runner.  My fastest mile was 5:40. I could do movements like push ups and squats. But, I was far from healthy.  Because I was so mentally unhealthy.  

My physical activity was sparked by anxiety, stress, and the need to feel in control.  What started as a hobby became an obsession.  Fitness consumed my life.

If you were to look at my social media pages today, you would see pictures of my food, of my muscles, of my yoga poses. It’s a way to advocate for this life style change I’ve created for myself.  Health and fitness is still a major part of my life, but in a very different way.  I’m still an avid runner.  I lift weights.  I practice yoga daily.  My love of fitness has not changed.  What has changed is my perspective of it.

We assume that working out makes us stronger, faster and better.  I went from running and doing body weight movements daily with no true nutrition to working out just 4 days a week.  Yes, I hop on my mat and stretch daily, but I only do intense activity 4 days a week.  Because that’s what keeps me balanced. 

However,  it’s not all about exercise. It’s so so so much nutrition (like literally, mostly nutrition).  I don’t work out to eat…I eat to work out live.  I need proper nutrition to fuel my body.  Not just for exercise, but for life. I went from consuming barley 1000 calories a day to a minimum of 2000+ and this is the best I’ve ever looked and felt.

None of this would be possible if it weren’t for balancing my mental health.  I had to shift my perspective of my body before I could become passionate about taking care of it, respecting it.  I meditate, I become aware of the thoughts and feelings around me.  I listen to my body.  I research and educate myself.  I try new things.

So, among all the advice, the fads, discover what best fits you, mentally and physically.  You can practice yoga all day physically without ever truly finding peace within awareness. You can flex day in and day out without ever having an ounce of respect for the strength your body demonstrates on the reg. Life is a journey. Your health and fitness can either enhance your growth or hinder it. Grow in your awareness of how you treat your mind, body and spirit as well as why you treat them this way.

Because what’s the point of going through life looking good without feeling good?

13.1 x 10

So, I just set a goal.

A very audacious goal.

I’m running 10 half marathons during the 2015-2016 school year; one each month.

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Each one will be dedicated to a pair of my students.

My relationship with running has recently evolved.  While running used to be my escape, it is now my me time.  When I lace up and hit the trail, I’m given the opportunity to build my awareness.  I grow mindful of my breath, of my surroundings, of all that I have to be grateful for.  I’m amazed at how this relationship has changed and how movement can be so meditative.

Why 13.1? 

Goals are meant to challenge you.  For me, personally, the distance of a half marathon will allow me to both mentally and physically challenge myself.  By no means is the plan to PR each and every race.  In fact, most races will not be ran at race pace.  While I’m destined to gain at least 1 PR from this (since I’ve never ran one before…automatic PR woohoo!), my ultimate goal is to focus on my breath, soak up my surroundings and smile at the opportunity on the paved paths ahead. And, yes, I’ve heard…races are expensive. But, not with proper budgeting! Rather than placing extra money in my “spending money” category for movies, dinners and drinks, some of that cash will be dedicated to the newly installed “race” category.  While I focus on leading a life with a balanced body and mind, balanced finances are important too. It’s a win-win in my eyes when my money goes to investing in that balance.

Student Dedications

Goal setting and mindfulness is a major part of the curriculum I teach in my classroom.  I’m excited to share my journey with my students, to provide them with an example of goal setting, perseverance and healthful living.

2015 Races

Here’s a list of Halves I am committed to:

August 23: Hotlanta Half Marathon (signed up!)

September 19: Race 13.1 Raleigh Fall Half Marathon

October 17: Bull City Race Fest
November 15: Raleigh Rocks the Green Way
December 5: Winston Salem Mistletoe Haf Marathon
The plan is to keep the races local, a way to give back to the community.  The first and last half will be the only ones not ran locally…a way to celebrate the beginning and end of this journey!
Cheers to a happy, healthy body and mind!

Sweating Right: My Must Haves

I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity.  Okay, maybe I do both quality and quantity.  But, hey, how can you not justify multiple quality purchases?

Whether it’s fuel for my body or my mind, I’m going to make sure it’s a good investment.  And, that includes my sweaty gear.  When you lead an active life style, you want comfortable, functional, cute gear that’ll last through your many sweaty adventures.

Here’s a list of my “Must Haves” when it comes to sweating right: 

1: lululemon’s What the Sport Shorts

Runners…you MUST check these shorts out.  There are MULTIPLE reasons I’m in love with these shorts.

  • side pockets for my phone, keys and mini water bottle (they stay in place!)
  • they are the perfect length…not too short, not too long
  • internal drawstring incase you’re like me and your booty is a bit bigger than your waist so sizing can get complicated
  • waistband pockets for running goos, your key, chapstick etc;

I literally do ALL my long runs in these shorts.  They’re perfect for race day, too! Gone are the days of carrying your belongings in your hand…or bra.

2: A Good Pair of Shoes 

…and more than one pair.  Your feet do A LOT for you.  Treat them right.  Whether you’re a runner, weight lifter, CrossFitter…whatever…pay the money for good pairs of shoes.  Also, do your research on shoes.  And I don’t just mean read other people’s reviews.  While this is helpful, everyone’s body is different and has different needs.  Just because a shoe did/did not work for them doesn’t mean it won’t work for you.  Test the shoes out, and see how your body reacts to them.

For me, I LOVE my Brooks adrenalines.  I’ve started running longer distances on the weekends, so I needed to find a shoe that was going to support my body along the way.  I also just invested in a pair of Mizuno Wave Paradox…stay tuned for a review of those 😉

3. lululemon’s The Mat

My mat is my everything.  Split Pea has taken me adventures my runs couldn’t even dream of.  The Mat absorbs sweat and stays in place.  I can’t imagine perfecting my downward dog on any other type of mat!

My Towel Mat is also fabulous.  A holiday gift from my boo, it has been the perfect accessory for hot yoga, tanning pool side and relaxing on a sandy beach. It’s easy to wash…and it’s the perfect length!

4. Tracking

I by no means look at myself as a “serious” athlete.  Well, actually I am.  “Serious” in the sense that I’m serious about taking care of my body.   I work out to honor my body, to free my mind.  However, part of honoring my body is understanding what my body is doing.  So, I invested in a Polar watch and Heart Rate Monitor.  These two purchases have been my most expensive investments, but the most worth it.  My watch helps me monitor my milage, pace, sleep etc;  My heart rate monitor allows me to track how many calories I burn during my yoga, pilates & weight lifting sessions.  It was important for me to know this so that I could properly refuel my body before and after each workout. (See below)

5. Fuel

As I’ve added long runs back into my weekly routine, staying proper fueled is SO important.  I made sure to invest in a mini water bottle from Bull City Running Company (also where I purchased my adrenalines!) I just squeeze and the water pours perfectly into my mouth.  Plus, it fits perfectly into the pockets of my What the Sport Shorts I bragged about earlier.

I’ve also started consuming carbs while running.  My body burns through food quickly, so it’s vital I keep it energized.  I’m loving Clif Shot Bloks.  They give me the burst of energy I need as the miles add up on my runs.

Your body needs fuel all day every day…not just when you’re working out.  My nutrition is without a doubt what keeps me sweating right.  If you’re just fueling up the day before/day of…you’re doing it wrong.  How can you expect your body to do all that it does (like live…) without the proper nutrition?  Just like my gear, I invest in my food.

Sure, sweating right can get pricey.  But, when you’re treating your body to quality products…you can’t go wrong!

Here’s a picture that includes almost all of the above:

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Happy Sweating!

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