Monday, December 8, 2014

losing weight and keeping it off
Why did I write a book...
For the money?  No.  
For the fame?  Nope.  
Because I am an expert at weight loss?  No.
Will it be a best-selling book?  No.
I simply wrote the book to share my story.  Hopefully, it will help a few people that can relate to my story and will help them overcome their weight loss struggles.  

I also wanted to accomplish one of my biggest goals and fears, writing and publishing a book.

Monday, December 1, 2014

This week's success story is from Darcey, who recently just completed her first marathon.  I have known Darcey for a while now on Google+.  We have become pretty close "virtual friends" because we are around the same age, she is a runner and she has dealt with some similar running challenges.  

When I was asking for "success stories", I was very happy that Darcey was willing to share her story because I knew there would be many people who could relate with what she was willing to share.

I hope you enjoy it.  If you want to share your story like Darcey and Justin have so far, please send me an email (check my contact information).

If you get a chance, please also visit her website and read some of her well written blog posts, I am sure you will enjoy her writing.

Please tell us about yourself... 

My name is Darcey Corkins-Elias and my blog is, For the Love of Me! I first started writing my blog in 2010 when my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Watching her die opened my eyes to how short life really is.  I instantly got it. I knew I needed to make some major life changes and find happiness but I wasn’t sure how. Writing helped me grieve my mom. It helped me get clear on how I was feeling and what I wanted. It helped me find my voice. And it put my thoughts and dreams out into the universe. 

Once I did that I was amazed at what the universe gave back to me. It was more than I could have ever imagined. I found my passion. I am so grateful for the wisdom, connections, and people that have come into my life as a result of doing something I love. It truly amazes me every single day.
I live in the beautiful Finger Lakes Region of upstate NY. I am married with two daughters. I have owned my own small business for twelve years. I started the business while my daughters were little as a way to work from home.

Finger Lakes region of New York

As they have gotten older, I have started to realize and pursue some of my own dreams. I recently started working again in an area I am passionate about. I am currently working as the Director of Operations for a non-profit organization. I am also pursuing long distance running and writing, hoping to write a book in the very near future. 

Were you active as a kid?  Did you run around a lot? 

I was pretty active growing up. Being the only girl in a neighborhood with mostly boys, each day I found myself playing either kick ball, capture the flag, “Yahoo”, a very weird game where we were chased by someone on a bike! I was always a free spirit. 

I remember liking to run and being pretty fast for my age. There was one boy in particular that was also pretty fast. He once challenged me to a running race after we got off the bus. It became the talk of the neighborhood. Everyone met the afternoon of the race at our bus stop. I beat him pretty badly fair and square. So, he did what any boy that had just gotten the pants beaten off him by a younger girl would do……he told everyone it was because he didn’t have his new sneakers on :) Ironically he never had the new sneakers on so we could race again!

In high school I tried out for cross country. It was my first time in an organized sport other than cheer leading. I actually wrote a blog about this when I started running. Funny story!

I was 15 or 16 years old and my friend and I decided to try out for cross country. Our reasoning for doing this escapes me. Here we were girly girls with zero experience in any sport other than cheer leading, huffing and puffing, dead last behind a pack of runners that had become black specks in the distance. I vividly remember the coach driving by as we happened to be resting by a tree asking each other why the heck we were doing this. 

“Come on ladies,” he shouted. “Move it! At the very least walk”. 

Man did that tick me off! I remember thinking, who the heck is this pudgy little man driving in his teeny tiny compact car to tell me to move it? So we did what any other immature teenage girls would do. One of us watched for him and we hid & rested behind random parked cars when we saw him circling by as we made our way back to school. And that marked my first and last time running for 25 years! “When the student is ready the teacher will appear”

When did you begin running as an adult? Why did you start running? 

I started running in 2011 at 39 years old for many reasons. I was struggling with the death of my mom in 2010 as well as having permanently moved out of my hometown for the first time in my life. I was unhappy in more ways than I could count. I was overweight. I had spent years putting everyone else’s needs first and not prioritizing myself. Most of my weight gain was the result of that. I also think I used the extra weight as a protection. There was a big part of me that was afraid to look physically attractive. It took me a really long time to overcome that. I had very little self confidence back then. A friend introduced me to the phone app program called, Ease into 5K in 2011. I think I stopped and started it 2 or 3 times. The rest is history. I immediately felt better. I felt stronger. I made the decision to prioritize myself and pursue my own happiness and dreams for the first time in my life. And I became addicted to running! 

Why I run… 

What benefits have you seen from running?
Running has totally changed my life. Physically, I have shed about 60 lbs in all. I feel stronger and I have tons more energy. Running has taught me to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’ve learned countless life lessons through running!

Running and training have given me the courage to set goals for myself and dare to dream big. The physical successes have formed a foundation of confidence for me that has transferred over into my personal and professional life. My running continues to fuel my creativity and my writing. Marathon training specifically has taught me about commitment and how to set and achieve goals. It has taught me how to name my dream, chase it down, and make it happen! To quote my faithful and wise running partner, “Dreams are simply plans in packaging.” Running also creates some much needed time and space for me to reflect on my life and my deepest desires. I said this before but it is so true, running somehow connects me to something so much bigger than myself.

The best visual illustrating one of the biggest benefits of running is my before and after picture. The “after” picture was right before I headed out on a marathon training run in the heat of the summer. I’m still fairly shy about posting selfies but since I run around town like this I decided to be brave and share it! I can barely recognize the “before” girl.

What are your biggest running accomplishments?  What are you most proud of? 

My biggest running accomplishment was training for and finishing my first marathon this past year. It was a long time coming after a failed attempt the year before due to an injury. It is my biggest running accomplishment but also my biggest personal accomplishment as I have grown as a person in ways I never imagined as a direct result of marathon training. You can read about the details of my big day in a post I wrote!

How have you fit running into your life?  How do you balance it with other priorities? 

Running fits really well into my life. I love how I can squeeze it in anywhere. I can run on my lunch at work if I have to. I can throw my clothes on and run at the loop around the field while my daughter is at soccer practice. Running works best for me because I can do it on a whim without driving somewhere or getting out of work on time to make a class, etc.
What keeps you motivated to keep running? 

The hardest part of running is, not running, if that makes any sense! Injury is the worst. I am currently injured and it is making me cRazZy!

I keep running because I have grown to love it and I can clearly see now how it has changed my life. It connects me to something bigger than myself. It makes me feel alive. It helps me relieve stress. It helps me learn lessons and grow. It is goal oriented and it keeps me looking forward rather than backward. Plus runners rock :) I have met some awesome people through running, one person in particular has become one of my closest friends.

I also stay motivated for my little running buddy in the international group I am a part of, I Run for Michael. The group matches runners up with kids with disabilities who are unable to run. My match lives in England and her name is Chantelle. She is amazing and running races for her reminds me every run to be grateful. I hope to be making a trip to Europe for a race in the very near future. It’s one of the next dreams on my list!
Are there ever any days you don't feel like running?  How do you overcome them? 

There are definitely some days that I don’t feel like running! I usually overcome them by looking for support from the friends I have made in an online running group as well as from the support system I have built around running.

Sometimes all it takes is posting on social media that I don’t want to do the run ahead of me and I will get the needed kick out the door! Ironically the runs I want to do least, typically end up the most energizing when I’m done! I know all this and yet I still at times procrastinate!

Do you have a mantra you like to review on a daily basis that keeps you motivated? 

My personal mantra is, All will be well. I use that to help me stay positive and focused and keep faith. I also use a word association exercise I learned in yoga to help me relax while I am running. The instructor used it while we held warrior pose, to get us to stand firm but relaxed in our stance. It helps me relax my shoulders while I run.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to begin running? 

My best advice would be to stay positive and stick with it, taking it one day at a time. I am a huge believer in the running app, Ease into 5K. It builds your physical stamina and strength slowly but it also builds your confidence slowly. Running is as much psychological as it is physical. For me, if I looked too far ahead in the training, I would get overwhelmed. 

My self-talk would be something like, “You will never be able to run for 30 minutes without stopping.” But each day I stuck with the program building slowly, running 5 minutes, then walking 2 minutes, etc, and I ended up doing just that and so much more! 4 hours, 55 minutes and 42 seconds to be exact :) It was beyond my wildest dreams!
What are your go to songs for running?  Or do you listen to podcasts or books? 

I’ll start with podcasts because it’s the easier of the two to share! I’ve just recently started listening to Freakonomics podcasts.   

Occasionally I listen to that or a downloaded book on a run. The last book I listened to was Lean in, by Sheryl Sandberg.  

Most of the time I am a music girl! My music is crazy diverse! I like old school as well as newer stuff and some sappy stuff too ;) Here’s my latest playlist with some of my faves since I’ve been taking it easy. A few to get my heart pounding and a few to slow it down, reflect and mellow out. 

- Brave, Sara Bareilles
- Blow Me One Last Kiss Pink
- Perfect, Lady Gaga
- Firework and Roar, Katy Perry
- November Rain, Guns n Roses
- The Tide is High, Blondie
- All about that Bass, Meghan Trainor
- Baby Got Back, Sir Mix a Lot
- Run, Leona Lewis
- All of Me John Legend
- Home, Phillip Phillips
- Good Riddance Time of your Life, Green Day
- In My Dreams, REO Speedwagon
- Imagine, John Lennon
- Hallelujah, Rufus Wainwright
- Pachelbel Meets U2, Jon Schmidt
- Christmas Shoes, NewSong
- All I Want for Christmas, Mariah Carey
What is your favorite book(s)? 

One of my all time favorite books is, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. The universal themes settled right over the story of my life like a template, putting all my crazy thoughts and dreams exactly where they belong. My journey just seems to make sense now after reading it.

You should really read the book.

best quote in the alchemist

Do you cross-train(weightlifting, cycling, etc)? 

I have been really bad about cross-training this past season. A year ago, I was lifting weights, kickboxing and doing yoga in addition to running. I started slacking off the regimen and my body really notices the change. 

My goal this winter is to focus on strengthening my core and getting back into my gym routine. I’m hoping to get in a yoga class and also try a spinning class. Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in a day, and then I remind myself I need to re-prioritize and make the time. Next up….Buffalo Marathon this May!

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Monday, November 24, 2014

chicago lakefront medal

"I know you are an ultra-marathon runner, but you should no longer run" is what my orthopedic recently told me.

A few weeks ago, my orthopedic reviewed my x-rays and MRI and broke the news that my right knee that has given me issues since after my 50K in April is due to me having bad arthritis.  Really bad.

Monday, November 17, 2014

child obesity

In an Huffington Post article earlier this year, it was reported that childhood obesity has increased over the last 14 years in the U.S. to 17.3%.  The study covered children from ages 2 to 19.  

Some people believe that the current generation of kids have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.  All of this information may be true, but I am not sure how much people are paying attention to it and/or taking action to prevent it.

Monday, November 10, 2014

before and after weight loss picture

As I stated in my last post, I want to begin sharing stories of other people who have implemented changes into their life to become and live healthy, overcome personal struggles or conquered a goal they never thought was achievable.  I am willing to interview and write about any type of fitness story you believe was a success and will possibly help and motivate at least one person out there.

The first post in the "Success Story" series comes from Justin who I met on Google+.  He was willing to discuss how he used running to lose weight but also the challenge to balance life and to be sure he runs just enough to continue living a healthy and active life without overdoing it.  In the interview below he shares some great advice for new runners to embrace and possibly apply to their life.

A lot of what Justin says in this interview I can relate to.  I have learned that running too much can be "unhealthy".  However, there is a line you need to push your body to, to experience all the physical and mental benefits you get from running.  There is nothing wrong with going past that line once in a while, but I truly believe if you stay too long on the other side, that is when runners get injured and burnt out.

Please visit his website if you enjoyed hearing his story and want to learn more about him.  

Hope you enjoy this and please contact me if you would like to be featured in a future post.  Remember, if your story can influence one person's life, you will have made it worth your time.

Tell us about yourself...
My name is Justin Virly. I'm a high school teacher. I teach Economics and Geography and have been for just about 5 years. I live in Townsville, Australia, but was born and raised in the Toronto area of Canada. I moved here almost 7 years ago to finish up grad school.  I'm recently married as of July, no kids yet but that should be in the works within the next little while.
I've recently started blogging (No me and no you), mostly as a way to develop my writing skills in somewhat of a controlled and deliberate manner. I'm also interested in learning a little bit about analytics, programming and design, branding and everything else related to establishing a presence. Although, the writing thing is the primary focus.

What was your childhood like, were you an active kid?
I was very active as a kid.  I played a lot of baseball from age 4 until age 16. From 12 to 16 I was competitive at a relatively high level representing the city and traveling a fair bit in tournaments. Baseball occupied every weekend and 5-6 hours during the school week. My summers were almost 100% baseball.
I would spend days riding my bike with my friends like most kids did, but the evenings were always games or training.  I also played a lot of basketball in high school, but was never as good there relative to baseball.

When did you begin running?
I didn't start running deliberately until I was 21. By "deliberately" I mean running being the main activity, beyond gearing up for other sports. It's been 8 solid years as a runner, though I do take weeks and even months off from time to time. I tend to fluctuate in desire. I can clock 30+ km a week for 3 months and then just not feel like it for the next 2.

Why did you start running?  
To lose weight, mostly. Although I was really active as a kid, when I was 18 I fractured my foot playing basketball and was in a cast for 4 months. I spent those 4 months sitting and eating. I then went to university which consisted mainly of nocturnal studying and bad food and drink habits. All throughout high school I was in around 190 lbs., but the year I graduated university I was 274.
Running was the first bit of exercise I started doing to lose weight, although I also bought one of those "6 weeks with a personal trainer" deals at the local Goodlife Fitness Gym so I could properly learn how to put together a routine.
The other reason I started running was that I just admired runners. Despite the tiny shorts and ugly reflective clothing, I was always impressed by the determination, but more so just the idea that they loved it.

I love when people do things that are good for them, but especially when those things aren't typically fun and action packed. No, I'm not saying running isn't fun, I certainly love it, but it's monotonous and time consuming.
It also doesn't involve group interaction or "excitement" the way most other sports do. The average person can understand why basketball, soccer, or any other sport is fun. Running puzzles the average person, but these people do it, and find joy in it. I always thought that was awesome.

Much like people who do yoga, meditate, read extensively, write for leisure, or paint. Where everything these days needs to be loud, full of action, chaotic, destructive, expensive or fast paced, there are a few activities, like running, which is a stable, simple and peaceful way to spend time, and I always wanted to be like those people that did it.

weight loss and running
(Justin's story was featured in his local newspaper.)

What benefits have you seen from running?
As I've alluded to earlier, I lost a fair bit of weight running. Granted running was combined with strength training and proper eating, but that was the biggest benefit by far because it leads to many more.

Related to what I admired about runners, is the idea of mental fortitude. I have always associated distance running with an inherent mental toughness. It's taught me perseverance and patience. It's allowed me to be at peace with my thoughts and appreciate the world around me. Going to new places, exploring new trails or just trying new methods are all ways I can mix things up. Running with or without music, counting my steps or breaths, or just looking around and allowing my mind to wander.  

Running allows me to collect and organize my thoughts and really help me "iron things out" internally.

What are your biggest running accomplishments?
In 2010 I ran the Gold Coast Marathon. It was the only one I have ever run, and likely could be the only one I ever do. I loved every minute of it, but absolutely despised the amount of training. As much as I enjoy running, I just am not the type that enjoys 10 to 15 hours a week of running leading up to the race. To be honest, I don't like the idea of spending 10 to 15 hours a week of doing any one thing.
The race was fantastic though. I don't remember my time exactly, only that I wasn't able to beat 4:30. My goal was to beat the "Oprah Time". I came pretty close though. I think I finished at 4:40 something.
On top of this though, the thing I am most proud of is just being a runner. I like being able to tell people that I can run, sometimes for over an hour straight. I like that I can honestly say I find it relaxing, meditative and generally therapeutic, many are confused and don't understand it. And that makes me like it even more.

How have you fit running into your life?  How do you balance it with other priorities?
I really just try to keep it flexible. I run when I really have the urge and that's about it. Since the marathon I haven't kept up with training plans or routines. Despite the incredible amount of holidays I get as a teacher, when school is on free time is a bit scarce, which means I don't have a very regular schedule.
My wife and I are also one year into our first home, which is a tiny 70 year old cottage we're renovating and expanding. And as I said, we're a newly married couple so there's a lot of work involved in sorting out and establishing the type of home and family we want to raise, and the foundation of marriage we want to build.
So, this means I generally just run when I feel like it. This usually means early morning or night runs. I live in a pretty hot climate so doing anything in the sun for a prolonged period of time is pretty treacherous. And due to the aforementioned time constraints, flexibility is key. Sometime I go out for a 15 minutes in a moment where I'm a bit antsy and feel like putting excess energy to good use.
Other times I will look forward all week to the 1 hour 10km session I have on the weekend. I find that this allows me to keep things going without the stress of a strict workout plan and more importantly, the disappointment in missing a workout.

Why do you keep running?  What is the hardest part of running for you?
I enjoy running more than most other forms of exercise. Even with basketball, which I play more than anything else, after 30-40 minutes I'm over it. Running can keep me entertained for longer than anything else. 

The hardest thing is being aware of the trade-offs. My knees are pretty bad and despite my efforts to take proper care of them, I can feel them worsening as time goes by. I've tried other forms of lower-impact exercise like swimming, beach running, and walking, but nothing gives me the same joy that running does.

Do you do any other type of exercise?
For the last couple of years I have been adapting the Primal Blueprint (coined by Mark Sisson) into my health regime. The foci are built around "Lifting Heavy Things", "Sprinting Once in a While" and "Moving frequently at a slow pace". To me, this translates to body weight exercises such as pushups, squats and pull-ups, sprint training and short interval runs, and as much walking as I have time for. 
I'm currently going through an internal struggle with my distance running as Primal fitness argues against the need for it and actually points towards advising against "chronic cardio" of that nature. Long story short, I love running, but do subscribe that my habits are more about that than about needing it as exercise. I'm also very aware of the pounding my knees continue to take.

Are there ever any days you don't feel like running?  How do you overcome them?
Absolutely. I usually just don't bother on these days, but remind myself the importance of living healthy so that even if I don't run for a while, that means I should be extra diligent with someone else related to my health, primarily, my nutrition.
In times when I feel like I really want to push myself, or if I made a commitment or something, I load up a new album or set of podcasts I've been meaning to listen to.

Do you have a saying or mantra you like to review on a daily basis that keeps you motivated?
Perfection. I don't have anything specific for running, but more a life thing. Perfection of course is impossible; we all have our flaws and weaknesses. But, that doesn't mean you can't be someone you are truly happy with and proud of in every possible way. It may not really be perfect but we can achieve a personalized sense of perfection. If the main things we want for ourselves are health, financial security, to be well educated and close to God...well, we can. We just have to do them. Running is something I want to do. It gives me benefits I want to have and brings me closer to the type of life I want to live.

What keeps you motivated to keep running?
The Google+ Running Community helps a lot. It's great that you and everyone else on that forum contribute so heavily and care so deeply about it. It's important to have people to share passions with.

What is your go to song(s) for running? What are your favorite podcasts?
I think unlike most runners, I don't have too many specific songs or a specific genre I prefer to run with. I generally listen to the same music I listen to under normal conditions as opposed to have specific running lists. My favorite acts range from U2, Keane, Jay-Z, Kanye West, The Killers, TV on the Radio, etc so I'm usually happy to just hit shuffle and see what comes up. 
I'm actually more of a podcast person because I have many interests and I find them educational. My staples are the BS Report with Bill Simmons for my sports, the Primal Blueprint podcast for health and fitness and Android Central for my tech news. 
I find with music, I get more distracted by time, perhaps due to the changing of the songs. This tends to make the run less enjoyable relative to a podcast, or simply going with no music and just honing in on a peaceful, lucid thought cycle.

If you are a reader what is/are your favorite book(s)?
As much as I try, I'm coming to terms not being one for fiction. I've started, but not finished about every mainstream classic series there is from Harry Potter to John Grisham - although I do like Lee Child's Jack Reacer series. 

I am really big into lifestyle/self-help/history booksDr. Gordon Livingston is a former military doctor (served in Vietnam) and is now a psychologist. He has several anecdotal books that I've really come to love.
My favorite book of all time is the "Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch.
Scott Jurek's "Eat and Run" is another keystone in my library. I just really love anecdotal stories of interesting people that have accomplished fantastic things. I like taking bits and pieces of their outlooks on life and working them into my personal goals. 

What advice do you have for someone who wants to begin running or a beginner runner?
Embrace it as a permanent part of who you are. Setting goals and ticking them off is great, but, with that comes an inherent sentiment of "this is temporary and when I get to the end I'll stop". Don't run. Be a runner.
This is probably a better way of explaining my "perfection" rant. If you are able to condition yourself, even if just artificially at first, to be a runner, the pain at the beginning, or any failed goals will dissolve quickly. You won't beat yourself up over a skipped workout if you have truly accepted being a runner. It doesn't matter if you don't like it now. It doesn't matter if you aren't running today. At some point you will, because it's just who you are.

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