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Attitude of Gratitude – Appreciating Your Journey

Sixteen months ago I wrote a blog that documented my running achievements thus far and gave a few tips on staying motivated and inspired in your journey.  At that point I had ran my first three half marathons and I was getting ready to take Dawn Brell, the winner of my first “How Do You Celebrate Success” contest, to run the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland.  I’ve learned a few things since then.

Sometimes life changes and things can get a little crazy.

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I started working full time as a professional weight loss and wellness coach in an all-women’s gym facility and the time I used to have to write about everything I was doing suffered greatly, as all my extra time outside of work was being spent on trying to get my own exercise done and getting acclimated to my new situation.

My days off became the days I had to run errands and get things done around the house and all that free time I once had thanks to my old work-from-home, set-your-own-hours life started to dwindle. Finding the time to be a runner, a blogger, a puppy mom and a good girlfriend sort of took a back seat to my career.

In March of 2014, I held the second “How Do You Celebrate Success Contest” and my winner Amy Smith and I were off and running. First we were doing a couch to 10k program to get ourselves ready to run a 10k that we would submit as our pace time for coral placement and next, we were training for the Wine and Dine Half Marathon.

 

Sometimes the biggest struggle is admitting you need support and being able to ask for it.

10724109_374080759417401_1504303184_nI lost myself somewhere between June and October. A really horrible bout of anniversary grief took me for a tail spin in June and it really took quite a while for me to recover.  I learned a valuable lesson though. I’m not impervious to falling into old bad habits and I don’t deal with the time of year that my Father passed away well when I try to do it alone.

But I had obligations to people that were important to me.  I had a commitment to Amy, as well as a commitment to a client of mine, Megan Hyler, to run the half marathons with them that I had helped them train for.

As the time for the first half marathon I had to run approached I was terrified. I wasn’t sure I could do it. I was convinced that all the time I had let go by between June and September had cost me my cardiovascular endurance and I’d lost the confidence that I could actually run 13.1 miles so I did what I normally do when I start doubting myself.

 

Sometimes you gotta pull up your big girl panties and deal with it.

20141111_130318So I went out and ran a half marathon, by myself, with just my dad and the music as my chip and time-keeper and I reminded myself that though it might be hard and I might have to push myself, I could indeed still do it.

Two weeks later I ran my fifth half marathon next to Megan Hyler at the Wake Forest Haunted Hallowed Half and pulled a PR of 2:31:59

Two weeks later, I was on a plane to Orlando to meet up with Amy, her friend Stacey as well as my dear friends Tammy, Heather and Joy, to do the Wine and Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World where we all got to experience Heather running her first 5k. I learned so much about myself in that experience. I grew as a person and a coach thanks to the amazing women that were there to help support me.

Then came December, my first Christmas away from Oregon, and depression and sadness started sneaking their way back into my world. I sort felt like taking on a new career had taken over my life and put a dent in the things that were once a top priority for me, running, writing and sharing my journey with others.

11008270_783898281695301_76359475_nMy next half marathon was supposed to be in March. I had committed to running with a member of the gym that had tried to train for a half marathon two times before and had to stop because of injuries, and as March started creeping near I doubted myself and my ability to run a half marathon.

So I pulled on my big girl panties and signed up for another half marathon. I’d ran 3 half marathons in 2013, 4 half marathons in 2014 and now to try to get 2015 started right and convince myself I still had what it took, I did a last day registration for a local half marathon and got up early the next morning and went and ran the Wilmington 13.1 Half Marathon.

Less than a month later, with a lot of babying an unpredictable knee issue I ran my 9th half marathon alongside Ashley Hunt at the Quintiles Half Marathon

Sometimes you don’t realize your achievements until you write them down.

11023209_1581836505434143_1648585778_nThat half marathon really put some things in perspective for me. That morning Ashley and I went into that half marathon both a little unsure of what our bodies were going to allow us to do. When we finished that half marathon Ashley said something to me that will stick with me forever “Thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you.”

It was the first time that I had the experience of running beside someone who really needed me there to help push them. Most of the other women I have taken to a half marathon already ran one before they ran with me. They had done the same thing I had done, proven to themselves that they could do it first.

But crossing the finish line with Ashley as she completed her first half marathon was a new experience for me.

That’s the point that I sat down and started to look at what I had really accomplished. Since I started my new career this year I’ve had the privilege of giving several of my clients their first taste of running.

In the beginning of 2014 I had a goal to help inspire others find the love of achievements like your first 5k, your first 10k and your first half marathon. I had held these two contests on my site in order to help facilitate that dream and I had accomplished it. Being a part of Dawn and Amy’s journey to their first half marathon was amazing.

Through my career this year I have also been able to walk beside two women who are very special to me in their first 5k at the Wilma Dash with Jamie Martin and her amazing daughter Kylee.  I’ve been able to run beside Nichole Marshall and Whitney Umberger in their first 5k at Color Me Rad. I got to be a part of Megan Hyler’s amazing journey from first 5k to first half marathon and got to cheer her on as she continued to take on her first full marathon and soon, her first ultra-marathon.

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of running beside a new client turned friend, Sarah Hanson as she ran her first 5k. Sarah had taken on the personal challenge of running her first 5k in honor of her mother. Nervous and unsure of herself I decided to take the pressure of trying to do it with everyone watching off and take Sarah to run her first 5k with me the weekend before. Completing that 5k with her was really special, I got to see Sarah realize what she is capable of and though she swore to me she’d never run a full marathon, she didn’t exclude running a half marathon, and that brought a smile to my face.

Last weekend Sarah ran her second 5k in order to honor her mother and to do something healthy to deal with the anniversary grief of her mother leaving this world instead of falling back into unhealthy habits. In order to support Sarah two of her fellow Weight Loss Boot Camp ladies Crystal Conklin and April Turner took on running their first 5k alongside her.

I had led the entire group in a stretching warm up routine before the 5k started and one of the gentleman there told us that he was running his first 5k. We noticed him several times along the route and gave him the thumbs up every time we saw him to encourage him.  Once all my girls had crossed the finish line I decided to go back for him and see if he needed a little encouragement or support. When I told the girls I was going back, Crystal and Sarah decided that they were going to go back with me too. April would have gone too but she was nursing a really bad blister.

Let me just say that for someone who has lost weight and changed their entire career in order to help others fight obesity to see my clients come out to support one another and then go back to encourage someone else like this is one of the biggest emotional rewards I have ever received. Thank you ladies, it makes my heart sing to know that my clients are adopting the same pay it forward mentality that I have.

Sometimes you just have to stop and breathe and be grateful for what you have done.

Being a part of all amazing women’s journey has been a blessing for me this past year. It’s taught me more about who I am, what sort of coach I am, and it’s shown me that almost every experience that I have gone through during my own weight loss and running journey holds the value of experience that I get to pass on to others.

To each of you ladies that have chosen me as your friend, coach, and running partner. Thank you. Each of you has gifted me with something that is absolutely priceless, the experience of seeing you grow into healthier and happier versions of yourselves and celebrating your successes with you.

Each of us has a personal story, our journey is one big book and we write each chapter as we go. While I am always amazed by how my story can help motivate and inspire others I am even more amazed by how being a part of your stories motivates and inspires me.

I think one of the most important things for us to remember is that even though things might be scary and thought we might doubt ourselves sometimes it’s important to remember that sometimes life gets crazy and we have to roll with it and sometimes we just need to stop, look at what we have done and appreciate the journey and be grateful for it.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies, a Motivational Speaker and Exercise Instructor at a women’s only fitness facility in Wilmington North Carolina.

To Run or Not to Run- Understanding Cardiovascular Training

Due to the recent buzz about the How do YOU Celebrate Success Contest, where my sponsors and I are giving away a Half Marathon Adventure valued at over $1,400.00 to one very lucky Desperately Seeking Slender reader, this question has come up.

When we start talking about which exercise programs are better, I think first and foremost it is important to note that the only exercise program that will work for you long-term is the one that you adhere to and normally that means the one that you find fun.

107853560ac511e38faf22000a1f99f9_7As a weight loss coach, when we start talking about cardiovascular training and prescription, we try to incorporate three key ingredients in our program:  overload, specificity and progression.

In order to make gains in cardiorespiratory fitness, meaning we want to improve our cardiorespiratory health (which also improves a long list of other things such as, cholesterol levels, body fat percentages, resting blood pressure, diabetes, high blood pressure) we need to either exercise more frequently, for longer periods of time, or at higher intensities. This is the concept in “overload.”

“Specify” means we train in certain modes and according to the goal at hand.  So for example, if your goal is to run a half marathon then we train in running, not in swimming or cycling even though both are good forms of cardiovascular exercise.

The theory of “progression” implies that we must increase the overload gradually to avoid injury and burn out and to combat the lack of adherence to an exercise program that is too intense for you to perform.

When we start to get serious about Cardiovascular Prescription we often used targeted heart rate to determine the rate of overload and progression that we design into a client’s cardio routine. After all as my mentor Bobby Whisnand teaches “It’s all Heart,” meaning, it’s all about your heart rate, and boy is he right on the money.

Now here is where we start to understand the FITT model a little. Let’s envision cardiovascular exercise like a prescription for weight loss.  Let’s consider cardio a weight loss antibiotic for a moment. If you take an antibiotic for a long time what happens? You’re body builds up a resistance to it and uses that medicine less effectively. The same thing happens in cardio exercise.

DO-SOMETHING-TODAY-THAT-YOUR-FUTURE-SELF-WILL-THANK-FORThe fitter you are the FITTer you need to be and in order to achieve that you need to alter your cardiovascular prescription by either adding frequency, intensity, time preformed or by changing the type of exercise you are doing. Your body needs change in what it does. The same exercise preformed over and over, at the same rate of exertion, for the same amount of time, eventually, becomes less effective to your body in regards to cardiorespiratory fitness and weight loss as well.

Let’s use me as an example. At 420 lbs I first got on a treadmill and told myself, I will walk a mile or 30 minutes whichever comes first. And for many weeks, 30 minutes came first. I walked 30 minutes at under 2.0 mph and my body burned approximately 238 calories in that time frame. I was tired, breaking a sweat, breathing heavy and my heart rate was up in the 120s and reaping all the rewards of the exercise I was doing. If I did that same exercise, at the same pace, for the same amount of time today at 165 lbs and with three years of cardiovascular training under my belt, I would never reach my target heart rate and I would burn on average 94 calories in the exact same amount of time exercise.

Now let’s say that I walk that same amount of time at a faster pace. Let’s say I walk it twice as fast at 4.0 mpg and my heart rate is in my target heart zone. No surprise here! I burn twice the amount of calories and will end up burning approximately 187 calories in the same amount of time.

And now let’s say I run that same 30 minutes at an even faster pace, say 5.0 mph which is basically a 12 minute mile and my own personal goal. My heart rate is going to go up because I have increased the intensity of the exercise and now I am going to burn approximately 299 calories in that same 30 minutes.

So it’s very easy to see why we need progression, how our bodies adapt to the cardiovascular exercise and how increasing the intensity means we get more out of the exercise and burn more calories in the same amount of time… which really helps fight those weight loss plateaus when you’re trying to increase your caloric deficit.

Understanding progression is important because we don’t want to hurt ourselves when we are training. That means we want to add progression slowly. If you are thinking about starting a serious cardio program I suggest you consult with your doctor, a personal trainer or a weight loss coach like me who is educated in building cardiovascular programs.

But if you are out there on your own, there are a few basic guidelines you should understand and follow. The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) suggests you engage in moderate intensity exercise 3-4 days per week, for 30 minutes totaling 150 minutes a week in order to see the health benefits of cardiovascular exercise.

If you’re trying to lose weight, those recommendations go up, because more exercise is required to create larger calorie expenditures. So the ACSM recommends progressing that exercise prescription to 50-60 minutes 5 days a week–totaling 300 minutes–in addition to reducing your caloric intake by about 500-1000 calories per day.

When we see these numbers, we’re talking moderate physical activity. That’s where your heart rate is increased in a range that is about 40-60% of your heart rate reserve.  Those numbers go down if we raise the intensity, and eventually progress to a vigorous intensity, which means we are achieving more than 60% of our target heart rate. Knowing your target heart rate and how to check it is extremely important during exercise. If you don’t know how to obtain your heart rate or what your Target Heart Rate is, my mentor Bobby Whisnand has a great video that will teach you as well as a chart that will help you find your own target heart rate.

When I exercise now, after 3 years of progressing my cardio program, I shoot for hitting 75% of my Target Heart Rate, for me that’s about 136 and to achieve that, I do interval running.

Interval running or run-walk-run is a concept introduced by US Olympian Jeff Galloway, who also happens to be the official RunDisney Trainer where you basically build up your running intervals to paces that are comfortable for you, beginning at a run for 5 seconds and walk for 55 seconds ratio. His run interval suggestions change based on the time you are trying to achieve, but if you are looking for a 15 minute mile pace, which is the recommended training pace for RunDisney events which have a 16 min/mi pace requirement, his interval suggestions go up to running 1 minute and walking for one minute (Which you can all ask my first contest winner Dawn Brell about, because we tried REALLY hard to get her to those interval times).

We’ve talked about all the physical aspects of walking, running, and cardiovascular exercise prescription, but now let’s talk about the mental aspects. Because let’s be honest, I’m a huge Chris Powell fan and my weight loss and wellness coaching often incorporates his “Transform your mind,” concepts.

Have you ever heard the quote “Exercise would cure a guilty conscious?” Plato said it. Or what about “Strength of mind is exercise, not rest,” Alexander Pope said that.

According to an article published in the Harvard Men’s Health Watch in Feb, 2011, [Exercising to Relax] discussed the mental benefits of aerobic exercise and among the list you’d find relaxation, stress relief, assistance with anxiety disorders and clinical depression.

The basis behind this theory? It’s all neurochemical based. Exercise reduces the levels of stress hormones in your body. We’re talking about hormones like adrenalin and cortisol. Exercise also increases the production of happy hormones, or endorphins, which are your body’s natural pain killers.  This can also be valuable information to your weight loss journey, as studies are starting to show that an overabundance of stress hormones can play a significant part in weight loss plateaus.

il_570xN.487756649_bs14This is the sensation that you’ll also hear a lot of us refer to as “Runner’s Zone”, “Runner’s Zen,” or “Runner’s High.” It’s the rush we get in the middle of a good run, and it often lasts quite a bit after. The endorphins our body releases are what cause that feeling.

I have found for me personally that I no longer achieve that feeling if I am just walking. Without some interval runs in there that shoot my heart rate up and really get me going, I don’t find that runner’s zen that I chase after when I run. For me it’s a place where I feel connected to my late father, a place where I feel like my mind is silent instead of full of to-do lists, a time when I have some of my most peaceful conversations with myself, set my goals, and work through my emotions and struggles rather than turning to food to stuff my feelings.

All this talk about running has me itching to get out there and get some exercise in today. It’s 9am, 53 degrees and sunny in Wilmington, NC today and this Wellness Coach as a day off from the gym. It’s definitely a day an outdoor exercise cardio day for me. Would you like to join me? Now that you understand what it’s all about, make a promise to get out there and get a little cardio in there yourself today. Why not try to jog for five seconds a few times and see what you think?

When you get home you can write your essay for the second “How do YOU Celebrate Success” Contest. I’d love to see you enter and today is your last day to get those entries in.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.

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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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