Friday, June 27, 2014

Restoring Balance: Lessons Learned From Yoga

It's been a busy at times chaotic start to 2014. In January, we visited Haiti and shortly afterward, I jumped right into training for the Shamrock Marathon in March. April-May brought changes in management at work and longer hours and higher stress. Throw in triathlon training, adjusting to and managing a new home and keeping up with friends... it can all get very overwhelming!

Balance is very delicate, especially for us endurance athletes who have a way of pushing limits! I know I've posted on this subject before here and here. One thing I've learned, it takes a conscious effort to maintain: one must know when to push, when to step back, often reflect on what's working and what's not and make educated decisions in moving forward. Right now? Definitely a good time for me to scale life back a bit :)

Yesterday, while on an overnight work trip in PA, I had the rare opportunity of a (much) later start to my day and nothing on the agenda. I opted to do a few strength exercises then quickly kicked myself out of that stuffy hole of a hotel gym (it was tiny!), took my coffee and towel outside decided to SLOW DOWN, RELAX and BREATHE in the fresh air. Breathing is good you know!

It was a conscious decision to 'let go.' I turned on my yoga Pandora station and soaked in the beautiful scenery. I enjoyed a spontaneous mini personal yoga session overlooking farm fields, bare feet in the grass with a cool breeze blowing and wondered "why don't I do this more often?" Really, who wouldn't want to start their morning like that?

A picture perfect backdrop for some morning stretching and yoga.
This tree offered it's canopy for some shade.

Those who have partaken in yoga know that the balance exercises especially require focus and a SOLID foundation on which to stand. While I am not a regular yoga attendee, I've done it enough times in the past to fully understand its many benefits. It's empowering, relaxing, often cultivates inward reflection and brings your to focus to the present moment. Yesterday, my mini session had me reflecting on the need to consciously cultivate a solid foundation upon which to build upon for the remainder of my season. We endurance athletes tend to focus on things like working hard, being dedicated to our workouts and mental toughness in enduring tough training sessions, but what about the supportive factors that allow us to be successful in the pursuit of our goals? Family and social support. Wisdom. Positivity. Mental Toughness. Patience. Flexibility. Perspective. Vision. Priorities. Faith. Did I mention the importance of REST and Nutrition? What am I missing?

My favorite yoga position, dancing warrior! [Image Source]

Getting sick was a bit of a wake-up call for me. I had been dragging for a while beforehand and while many other factors likely contributed, I'd be blind to not acknowledge the role of stress, an impaired immune system and just generally being off-balance. Lucky for me, I had a quick turn-around, but really, let's not go there again please? 

It feels wonderful to "feel wonderful" again for the first time in many weeks. My workouts have gone well over the past few days and I am my normal HAPPY self again. My load at work is leveling out and I'm feeling more supported in that arena. All good things... and I want it to last. How? I am consciously scaling back a bit in areas that I can, reminding myself to slow down at NOT constantly run at full speed and working to build upon the strong foundation I will need to rely on over the next several months. I have a long road of hard work ahead in prep for ironman. Right now? I am focusing on the here and now and enjoying each moment.

Happy Friday! Hope you enjoy a relaxing weekend!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Mantra: Moving Forward...

Ready or not, life moves forward. Last week this time I was dragging and recovering from my pleurisy ("pluritis") and I'm happy to say I'm feeling much better. I never did end up taking time off work, but did take it easy throughout the week and more especially with training. After finishing a 5-day course of antibiotics my pain has resolved, my energy levels are bouncing back and I'm feeling a bit more like more normal self.

Wedding weekend in Charlottesville: Good food, Good fun! Oh, and Go Hokies!

This past weekend was spent in the lovely town of Charlottesville. Yes, this HOKIE called Charlottesville assured Blacksburg is still the BEST ;) Saturday morning as I drove through town I couldn't help but notice that there were literally TONS of people running... They were everywhere! To say the least, I was inspired and used it as motivation and drive to get through my planned 65 minute run later that morning. Longish run without the lingering fatigue and shortness of breath = very happy Kristen! And yesterday I worked in a late evening 55 minute brick workout where I actually felt spunky running off the bike...even better. I am oh SO glad to be moving forward (cautiously, but happily)! It's a good thing too, because I have some longer races coming up and I would really like to put in some quality training beforehand.

Moving forward... I've had some good training sessions and not so good training sessions (i.e. zeros in the book) in the past month. Overall, I feel "behind" in my training and have more than a few points of doubt as to whether my upcoming goals are attainable and realistic (Overwhelming fatigue will certainly do that to you). But the past is the past and, with my return to being healthy, I am looking forward with optimism, not backwards with regret :) Setbacks are setbacks, and these things I know to be true:

I've come a long ways already this year...

I will continue to be optimistic and work hard and trust in the plan, and...

The rest of the details will just have to take care of themselves!

Image credit goes to Brooke Griffin

One positive of my down time: It has given me to the opportunity to sit back and reflect on what needs improvement as I move forward. Honestly, while nutrition is my area of "expertise," with the stress of the past 6+ weeks of work it has not been a strong point more recently. Eating on the fly works some days, but is not really to optimal in ensuring I'm getting enough of the right foods. As I move forward towards longer training sessions, I know it will be a KEY factor in my fueling and recovery and overall energy levels. So the past two weekends I've spent collecting my sports nutrition knowledge, applying the evidence-based research and formulas to hash out my own personal nutrition plans. This is long overdue for me something I feel will be crucial in getting the most out of my training. Since I am a nutrition nerd, I have found building such plans to be quite fun! I thrive off structure so I am excited to infuse a bit more regime into to this aspect of my life again.

So yea, things maybe have not gone according to MY plan, but I am reminding myself of the importance of keeping faith through the ups and downs of training and that life will continue to move forward (ready or not!) according to God's plan :)

Here's to Monday... and moving forward... with optimism!

Monday, June 16, 2014

When Life Gives You Lemons...

You make a kale salad... duh!

Not quite following my logic there? Me neither, but that's okay.

So it's been 3 weeks since my last blog post...oops :) Life's been a bit busy, and more recently, very tiring. Earlier this week I thought I was finally feeling "better" and was tapering towards the Varmit 1/2 Marathon, which I was suppose to have run this past Saturday. But, sadly I paid a lovely visit to urgent care the night before never made it to the starting line :(

I have a fun thing called Pleurisy (or Pleuritis), an inflammation of the lung tissue. I had never heard of it before, but now I most certainly know what it is! People have told me it's painful and I would agree. Radiating chest pains are no fun. I am short winded, easily fatigued and overall just plain weak. And bummed that I missed out on my race, or a beautiful weekend weather-wise that I could have spent training.

But when life gives you lemons, you make the best of it, right? So I made my favorite kale salad, thanks to a lovely gift of greens from my neighbor, and choose to spent the weekend resting, eating well and being productive in other ways. Have I mentioned how greens make me happy?! Such a dietitian type thing to say, huh?

I took full advantage of the forced rest to be productive in some computer work. I finished an Ironman nutrition plan for a friend (his first ironman, June 28th!) and kept on rolling to go ahead and plan out my own ironman nutrition plan. So now when I'm feeling better, I will have a set plan in place to start practicing and tweaking. Yay productivity!

I spent time chatting with my sister who will be running her first marathon AND racing a triathlon this fall. Go sis! She felt overwhelmed at the thought of balancing the two, so I took her marathon training plan and adapted it for some triathlon-based cross-training.

And I spent the majority of my Sunday writing an extensive lecture on enteral nutrition for the class I will be teaching this fall! Hours upon hours were spent reading evidence-based research guidelines, thinking about tube feeding formulas, complications and standards of care. Yea, I feel like a major nerd now. Just another day in the life of being an RD :D

On a different note, another "fun" mishap of the weekend: Our 50-galloon fish tank catastrophically failed...meaning there was a slow leak that went unnoticed by one very sick Kristen while the hubby was out of town. So "we" (meaning HE) discovered the damage when he returned Sunday afternoon. The positive? New flooring for the living room and laundry room! Oh the joys of homeownership, and thank God for insurance. 

So, no training for me this past weekend, but I did invest my time resting and being productive in other ways. I don't know how long recovery from this will take, but I am investing in my health and trying to stay optimistic. So next time life gives you lemons, take them and make something delicious! Would you like the Kale Salad recipe now?!

Ingredients (serves 1)
1-2 c fresh kale greens, stems removed
1/4 c. chickpeas (if canned, drained and rinsed)
1/4 c. edamame (if frozen, steamed and cooled)
1/4 fresh avocado, diced
A sprinkle of dried cranberries
Lemon zest, optional

1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tsp italian seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste

Combine salad and dressing ingredients separately. Drizzle dressing over salad and garnish with fresh lemon zest (optional). Enjoy!

BTW-- homegrown kale greens > bagged kale greens. :D

Have a great week!

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