To Grow You Must Struggle

“Strength and growth can come only from continuous effort and struggle.”

I came across this quote and could not agree with it more.  Struggling stinks and it hurts but it is the key to being a better version of your present self.  I usually think of struggle as those workouts that just take everything out of you and you need to fight extra hard to finish it out..and you’re usually throwing in curse words.  But right now, the struggle isn’t a workout, it is accepting the unknown future of Boston 2 Big Sur and placing my continuous effort elsewhere; the struggle is not having a plan; the struggle is mental.

 I spent the first half of January having the biggest pity party and being a grumpy persona and version of myself that I really don’t like..and I am sure those around me don’t particularly enjoy it either. That has finally changed –  I am embracing the lack of schedule and having fun with all the things I can do and all the strength I can gain from this setback. Spin class..sure why not!!! Swimming..sure this could be fun! I have freedom to try a bunch of new cross training activities in addition to crossfit (granted they don’t irritate the hip).

I am not a typical runner in the sense that I do so much more than run. My passion is spread out across Crossfit, running and yoga.  This can be exceptionally hard when marathon training and trying to balance everything but it is tremendously helpful when I have running setbacks or lulls.   When I am training for a marathon, I yearn to get back to Crossfit and lift heavy. I get so frustrated having to scale workouts so that my running isn’t affected.  I always say, “As soon as this marathon is done, I am focusing JUST on Crossfit and I am going to see how strong I can get!”…but then I finish a marathon and that marathon high has me leaping to my laptop and signing up for another.  And the cycle continues…..training begins, Crossfit is scaled and the words “after this marathon..” come out knowing darn well that my post marathon high will most likely prevail.  Well, here I am, for the time being I can only do crossfit and cross training so why not capitalize on this opportunity to finally focus on all my Crossfit weaknesses.  But of course, the psyche has a tendency to fixate on all the things the body can’t do.  You always want what you can’t have.  Well I am taking what I can have and running going with it. I’ve been getting in the pool and loving the random workouts I have been doing.  I have been embracing every Crossfit workout and giving it 110%.  I have improved my form on different movements.  I have come to peace with what may or may not happen in the Spring and just reminding myself that comebacks can be pretty darn sweet and almost worth the setback.

Let’s flashback to 2014.  

I focused more on counting macros, losing weight, body building, HIIT cardio workouts and did little running.  I sometimes like to pretend this stage of my life never happened but sometimes I am glad it did.  It serves as a constant reminder of  how you can be so blind to how out of control you are being.  So maybe my abs look pretty nice in this picture, my quality of life was the opposite  I stressed out about food, workouts and the reflection in the mirror.  Spending time out was less about the people around me and more about how my abs would look after.  ANYWAY…despite little running I managed a 1:29 half marathon at the Disney Princess Marathon. (Feb. 2014)

imageI got increasingly focused on running and decided that maybe I wanted to do a summer marathon.  I signed up for the 2014 San Francisco Marathon in July but did not get far into training before I was hit with a knee injury.  I pushed off going to the doctors which was not wise because I found out from PT that it was just a result of tight quads and within 2 visits I was able to hit the roads pain free….but had only 2 weeks until the marathon! haha..

San Fran Finish

At the expo I made a last minute decision to drop the half.  Part of me wanted to see what I was capable of but pushed my ego aside and realized that a first marathon is very special and I did not want it to be a crawl across the finish line.  It was the best decision because I had so much fun running those San Fran hills and was pretty darn sore after 13.1! Around this time, my boyfriend urged me to start crossfit so I embarked on my running and crossfit journey in the summer of 2014.  I had a phenomenal fall….I was loving crossfit and clocked some crazy half marathon times…and some nice checks! 1:26, 1:27 and 1:29 in a span of 45 days.

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Hartford Half Marathon 1:26
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Newburyport Half Marathon – 1:27
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Monson Memorial Half Marathon – 1:29
I took a bit of a break from running due to a mild injury and spent the rest of 2014 and the start of 2015 focusing on Crossfit. My mom and I had the Disney Princess Challenge in February so I did my best to incorporate as much running as I could while treating my injury. It all worked out and I made it to Disney injury free and had such a fun Winter competing in my first Crossfit (in-house) Open.  The warmer weather and watching the Boston Marathon got me back on the running grind and I decided to try again with this whole marathon business.  I registered for the 2015 San Franciso marathon.  This time I walked into the expo with no doubts and a solid training base.

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This Picture. This Day. This Race – THAT SMILE.  It was the best 26.2 I have ever run. I can honestly say that my first marathon was the best race of my life.  I have never felt more proud of myself. 2014 wasn’t my time and I am glad I didn’t force it.  I waited it out. Embraced the half marathon distance a little longer and came back when it was my time.

Maybe 2017 Boston 2 Big Sur isn’t my time. Maybe I have to wait it out.  But I can do big things in the meantime…and when it is my time…it will be fricken awesome.

So maybe I had an Instagram story of me in my MRI gown…whatever. Let’s not focus on that. Let’s focus on the fact that the last two Crossfit workouts that I did were repeats of previous workouts to see my growth and where I am at. On Thursday I did one from 2 months ago and today I did one from when I took part in the 2015 Crossfit Open (scaled). I crushed my previous time/reps in both.  Each time I get in the pool, I am swimming longer, doing more sprints and getting acclimated with the sport.  I am seeing growth but most importantly, I am having fun.  I can’t always say those words when I am marathon training.

On the food and health front….I am obsessed with 3 things at the moment.  Vital Proteins, Kombucha and Bonafide Bone Broth.

Every morning before 6am crossfit, I blend up a scoop of Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides, a teaspoon of ghee, almond milk and coffee.

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It is foamy, delicious and gives me the perfect amount of nutrients and fuel to hold me over.  After crossfit is mayhem – I am getting ready for work in 5 minutes and only have time to inhale a banana and some hard boiled eggs/egg whites.

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If I do have time to actually have sold breakfast after crossfit…aka Saturday. I have been boiling up almond milk and blending it with cacao powder and Vital Proteins (I choose the collagen with Whey for post workout).  Tastes like hot chocolate and goes perfect with a rice cake with almond butter and chopped banana!

Kombucha….I actually love it and find it thirst quenching even though some will disagree entirely.  Last night I had a wild Friday night and stopped into Whole Foods.  It got even more wild when I passed a sample booth that had Kombucha…alcoholic Kombucha. He gave me two samples and then I got carded when I bought my two bottle…I told you it was wild night! ūüėČ  If you are not a fan of regular Kombucha, there is something extra delicious about the alcoholic ones and surprisingly the sugar is only 4g for the entire bottle so the better taste isn’t coming from added sugars.

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Lastly, bone broth has been happening frequently around here.  It is another drink that is interesting and the taste may turn some people away but I like the savory component to it and will usually drink it with a vegetable stir fry to add some protein to my meal.  I also like to add turmeric and pepper for added benefits.  My favorite brand is Bonafide Bone Broth which can be found in the frozen section of Whole Foods.

Well that just about sums everything up! I am happy to be happy again and out of my little injury rut!…don’t forget…

“Often times it is the deepest pain which empowers you to grow into your highest self”

Taking Injuries One (Slow) Step at a Time

The time has finally come….Winter Vacation¬†is here!!!and now almost over, what!?!¬† I have been putting off blogging until break because the few weeks leading up to this week off were insane and the insanity turned into stress and panic mode. ¬†If I were to explain the month of December in the most dramatic way possible, it would look like me hanging to a rope and the rope was fraying with each passing day until it was a thin thread and I just needed that¬†tiny piece to stay intact until Friday the 23rd at 11:25am when¬†the school bell would ring¬†for winter break!

Aside from that depressing analogy, December was full of wonderful moments that were simply overlooked¬†by two very large collegiate projects due, many¬†math department documents that needed to be worked on,¬†and my job as a¬†teacher. ¬†It felt like there were not enough hours in the day to get everything done. ¬†This is the part where a bystander would say, just get work done¬†after-school and don’t go home to run and workout.ūüėĎ ¬†

Yes, that would seem like the logical answer for solving all my¬†problems. ¬† But I’ll take¬†the stress to fit in time to do the one thing I love most. ¬†Running and working out are the 1-2 hours in the day that are sacred to me. ¬†They keep me balanced and sane. ¬†It is in those hours that¬†I can relax, calm down and devise a¬†plan for handling my workload. ¬†The adrenaline energizes¬†me and gives me the clarity I need to go home and tackle the long checklist of tasks.

After a paragraph describing my love and need for running, I will tell you that there was a week in December where the weather got the best of me and runs were becoming dreadful and getting out the door was becoming a challenge. ¬† During the¬†week of the 12th, the weather was either in the single digits or there was a snow storm. ¬†I spent Wednesday¬†evening¬†driving around to find a clear track or just a flat space to do 400s, Thursday I had to change to a rest day¬†due to a night class and early morning low temps. Friday rolled around and I was eager for the weekend but was¬†not¬†eager to finish the school day with a 60 minute run in single digit temps. ¬†I dreaded this run¬†all day. ¬†I didn’t even go home after school because I knew it would just procrastinate the process of getting out the door. ¬†After the bell rang, I put on every layer of clothing I packed (pretty much my entire closet) and got going. ¬†To my surprise, it wasn’t unbearable and the miles were passing quickly. ¬†My negative attitude changed¬†and I told myself to use this run as a future reminder that most dreaded runs are¬†not as bad as they¬†seem once you just get going. This positivity slowly slipped away as I was turning onto my street and was minutes away from finishing the run. ¬†My knee suddenly had¬†an aching pain on the inside. ¬†I was a bit worried but was more overjoyed that the dreaded run was over. ¬†My happiness of being done trumped the fear I had with knee.

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I woke up Saturday morning to unplowed and icy roads and realized that my speed work was going to have to be pushed to Sunday. ¬†I thought Sunday’s 45 minute run would be manageable for Saturday in the snow. ¬†It was slow and the snow was about 5 inches deep but I kept chugging along. ¬†I almost called it quits at about 25-30 minutes but I plow truck came through so I figured clear roads would get me through the¬†final stretch. ¬†That’s when I felt my knee again. ¬†I tried to shake it off but it wasn’t happening. ¬†Luckily I was just doing quarter mile laps around my Crossfit gym so I wasn’t far and just walked back. ¬†I was frustrated and felt defeated.

It was a week of trying so hard to make this running plan¬†happen despite wanting to just skip runs and go to Crossfit. ¬†I stayed true to my schedule and kept persevering only to be handed¬†a lovely injury. ¬†@Katiefitscript said it perfectly in her post¬†about her hamstring issue – it is so frustrating when you just want to compete and train at the highest level and your body isn’t letting you do what you want. ¬†That could not be more spot on. ¬†I am not someone that goes out for a 4 mile run and is like,¬†yay done for¬†the day, what a good¬†workout. I want the intensity, the sweat and the adrenaline. ¬†That is what fuels my love for Crossfit. ¬†A workout may be only 6 minutes but that 6 minutes is hell. ¬†This love and need for adrenaline, speed and strength is what leaves me feeling fatigued and tired in other training cycles. ¬†Part of the reason for getting a coach to train for¬†Boston 2 Big Sur was to have structure and guidance. ¬†I needed to learn how to find comfort in¬†the intense/painful workouts. ¬†But really, I needed to find comfort in just going slow and short.

Fast forward through some car cry sessions, lots of strength work and Crossfit sessions, 2 weeks after I first felt my knee…

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Yay!!! I am happy but still remaining weary and patient. ¬†In the 3 runs that I have had knee pain, it flared up after about 35 minutes and this run was only 33 minutes so I haven’t ventured into danger zone yet. ¬†Right now, I just need to get my confidence up and need a good running day. ¬†I went to ART after this run¬†and she did a phenomenal job releasing all tightness around my knee. ¬†I do not have a doctors apt. until the 3rd but I am hoping that this is all a result of tightness surrounding the knee and some ART work and a slow buildup will help get me back on track.

It is safe to say that injuries SUCK.  They not only derail your training but they mess with the mind more than they mess with the body.  You are upset but trying to put on a strong front because deep down, you know that a little knee pain after 35 minutes of running is far from depressing relative to the issues that most people deal with.  But the selfish and pity-party side of you wants to curl up in a ball, cry and say WHY ME (even though its not just you!).  Tina Muir has said it multiple times on her podcast and from past and current experiences, I 100% agree Рinjuries keep us grounded and they give us additional knowledge that we need to improve our running.  I have been working with mini-bands and weighted ankle weights for the last few months to help strengthen my hips.  These short but effective drills have caused past hamstring issues to subside by improving muscle imbalances.  My knee injury taught me that I need to focus on strengthening my quads and the muscles surrounding my knee cap by incorporating wall sits into my strength.

Poor¬†biomechanics and muscular imbalances that become clear with each injury help¬†with future injury prevention and provide us with tools to make us stronger and more effective runners. ¬†However, the humbleness that comes with each injury is far more powerful than the muscular insight. ¬†That troubling week of running leading up to my knee pain was frustrating and I had moments of just wanting to throw in the towel and stick to strength and Crossfit. ¬†I questioned my ability to tackle the demands of my¬†training plan even though I felt the strongest I have ever felt as as runner. ¬†The weather was beating me down and I was starting to crumble. ¬†This injury gave me the chance to spend two weeks doing strength, Crossfit and cross training indoors and away from the cold. Yet during those moments, I would have given anything to be able to step outside, all bundled up and run. ¬†Marathon training is mentally and physically draining¬†and that is the exact reason why I love it. ¬†It tests my ability to ward off negative thoughts, remain positive and stay grounded and grateful. ¬†These qualities and lessons learned (hopefully) transpire¬†into my personal life and make me a better and stronger person for when life’s obstacles are far bigger and taxing¬†than running injuries.

To lighten up this blog post, I will just give everyone a friendly reminder of what Christmas in the 90’s looked like for a family of runners…yay for watches that start and stop!!!

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It is a bit¬†sad that this generation of runners will never know what it’s like to make your parents drive around and clock the distance of your running route. Haha ūüėā

¬†Have a fabulous New Year’s Eve and stay tuned for a much more positive and fun New Year’s post reflecting¬†on all the incredible moments in 2016. It will be a long one because this year was incredible! ūüėĀ