5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Post-COVID-19 Fitness Program

As the globe creaks back to life, the fitness industry is following suit. Gyms are re-opening, group classes are resuming…and we’re gradually reemerging into a much different world – one where we evaluate everything in terms of risks and cost/benefit.

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re certainly not out of the woods yet.

This can be tsough when it comes to fitness, because goals, consistency and dependable routine are the stepping stones to success.

But instead of throwing in the towel on 2020, why not re-calibrate your fitness strategy with a new set of goals? Here are a few questions to use as a jumping-off point:

  1. Where am I now? Take an honest assessment of where your fitness stands. Did you spend quarantine in maintenance mode? Did your body and mind need an extended break to cope? Did you find solace in setting and pursuing challenging goals? There’s no one correct reaction to a global pandemic, mind you.
  2. Where do I want to be? In an ideal world, what did you have planned for this time, and for the near future? Is it realistic to still get there from where you currently stand, or are you better served setting an interim goal to help get yourself up to speed safely? Or has your goal now changed completely?
  3. Who am I now? There’s no denying that this time has changed us. Have you transitioned to Zoom classes, or abandoned the group fitness scene altogether? (It’s ok to break up with the gym. Really. And this is coming from my friend Al, a seasoned fitness trainer). Has your motivation waned, or were you inspired and invigorated to pursue something new?
  4. Where do I see myself in the future? Identity and fitness are often intertwined, and this time for pause and reflection has allowed many of us to reevaluate whether our goals align with our true desires. Were you “not a runner” who has now developed a jogging habit? Are you a “marathoner” who has had to abandon your typical fall race? What are you identifying with nowadays?
  5. How will I get there? Getting successfully from Point A to Point B always requires a plan. Your original route may have fallen by the wayside, so what are the steps needed to get you to you new goal? How will you go about taking each step? Who can help? What stands in your way, and how can you overcome any obstacles? Why are you motivated, and how can you maintain that momentum?

As you can see, there are no right or wrong answers here.

But going through the process will help you design a goal that will stretch, thrill and inspire you. And when you’re working toward something with that kind of meaning, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.

Six Simple Ways to Incorporate (More) Movement in Your Life

Exercise is more important than ever right now. Not only does it boost the immune system, prevent weight gain (hello, Quarantine15) and improve sleep, but it also (and perhaps most importantly) reduces stress and anxiety and supports mental health.

But what if you’re stuck in rut or not feeling particularly motivated at the moment?

First, I don’t blame you. Now is the time to give ourselves grace – not extra pressure. And second, that said, it’s still important to move your body as regularly as possible with the current constraints.

So here’s the plan: Al Painter, 19-year strength training veteran and owner of Integrate Performance Fitness, and I teamed up for six quick tips (three physical & three mental) to help you get back in the game.

Three Ways to Put the ‘Physical’ Back in Fitness (c/o Al):

  1. Twenty is plenty. Ready for the fitness revelation of the ages? You DON’T need a 60-minute ass-whooping of biblical proportions with each workout. Keep it short and sweet; 20 minutes is more than enough to make a change.
  2. Use compound movements. Pick 2-3 exercises that will use every muscle in your body – preferably from the push, pull and squat departments. For instance, body-weight squats are a great option because there are so many varieties. You could even go with something as simple as a crawling. Throw in some lunging left and right, and you’ve just put together a full-body workout in a very short amount of time.
  3. K.I.S.S. The rule of thumb here is that basics work best. Don’t try and to combine your favorite CardiogaPlyolatesKickBoxSculpt-X classes in your workouts. Trying to get better at everything in the same workout leaves you better at nothing over all.

Put it in action:

Here’s how Al describes one of his favorite “Twenty is Plenty” circuits with an exercise band:

  1. Squatting with an alternate arm pull because this gets my glutes, obliques and every muscle of my pull chain.
  2. Stepping and pressing with an alternate arm pattern because it looks like running, walking and skipping and lets me hit damn near every muscle in my body at once in an incredibly functional way.
  3. Anti-Rotation Lunges because this hits all of the muscles that stop rotation that will reduce your chances of having lower back issues. Plus this is a left and right side exercise so you can get an additional bang for your buck with more movement.
  4. I like to set a clock for :30 of moving and :30 of rest and a total set number of 20. This gives me just under 20:00 (19:33 to be exact if you’re keeping score at home) of movement.

Three Ways to Up Your Mental Game (c/o yours truly):

  1. Give yourself a goal. Set your sights on something S.M.A.R.T. – that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Once you know where you want to go, it’s easier to make a plan for how to get there. And being able to break that plan into small, incremental steps will help you focus your efforts and stay motivated.
  2. Try it for 21 days. Whether or not you subscribe to the fact that it takes 21 days to develop a habit (one study says it’s more like 66, on average), three weeks is a great starting point when making a new behavior part of your life.
  3. Peer pressure FTW! Groups are great for accountability and morale, so find a like-minded community to help you go the distance. If that’s no an option, try recruiting friends and family to help keep you honest; their support – and cheerleading – can go a long way when it comes to achieving your goal.

Put it in action:

Here’s an exercise I like to use when setting up a S.M.A.R.T. goal; just start small and go from there:

  1. Specific – What do you want to achieve exactly? The more detailed, the better. If you commit to more speedwork in your running, saying “I’m going to join X group on Monday nights for their coached track workouts each week” is much better than “I want to work on my speed.”
  2. Measurable – Define criteria for measurement (if your goal is weight loss, say a pound per week), which allows you to check your progress regularly and make adjustments as needed. Smaller increments are more manageable, meaning you have a better chance of staying on track.
  3. Achievable – The best goals stretch you outside of your comfort zone but aren’t so unattainable that they become demoralizing. On the other hand, go too easy, and you may never find out what you’re truly capable of. Find the middle ground, and go for it.
  4. Relevant – Pick what’s personally meaningful, not necessarily what’s most popular, and you’ll be willing to work towards it. Don’t set your sights on a marathon if you can’t stand running long distances; instead, find something that suits you and your investment will be that much higher.
  5. Timely – Give yourself a deadline. When your goal is time-bound, you’ll stay motivated, focused and on schedule. Ahead of schedule? Great! Pat yourself on the back, then adjust your goal and keep moving toward that next milestone.

If you’re interested in testing out these tips for yourself, Al and I have a proposal for you: We’re launching a Core Commitment Challenge starting June 15 and would love for you to join us.

It’s 21 days of just 20 minutes of movement per day. Short, sweet, simple. Designed for people who are crunched for time but want to add some movement to their life.

Register here (use code 21DAYS to get the challenge for just $14 if you register by 6/11/20). It’s open to everyone, and we can’t wait to get moving with you!

Why KISS Should Be Your New Fitness Mantra


Well, hello! It’s been a while, but it’s great to be back. Time away to reflect (and raise two tiny humans) has given me a renewed mission: to inform and inspire, along with igniting a passion for the process of getting fit. It’s not about letting go of your dreams, aspirations and ultimate goals; it’s about gaining the perspective to maintain a healthy balance while pursuing them. Curious about this new outlook? Read on…

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and that’s where we’re at with the fitness industry these days.

Set goal –> Achieve goal –> Set bigger/longer/faster goal –> Get injured –> Recover –> Set even bigger/longer/faster goal –> Achieve goal (maybe) –> Get injured again –> ???

Sensing a pattern here?

Now, I’m not knocking goal-setting. It’s great to test yourself every now and then, both in relation to your former self and to others. But solely focusing on the achievement of a goal (or string of goals) isn’t just short-term when it comes to fitness; it’s short-sighted.

I’m guilty of this myself. After my son was born, I couldn’t wait to start training again; I had BIG GOALS for a half marathon PR. I thought I was being responsible, doing preventative PT, easing back into running and even going as far as to hire a coach to help rein in my training mileage.

But now I realize that a need to prove myself combined with a narrow focus was ultimately my undoing; I was still missing key strength components to help my new (postpartum) body navigate training.

The PR came, but at a cost: a stress fracture that left me wondering what it was worth.

It turns out there’s a fine line between relentless and reckless. And you don’t often know you’ve crossed it until it’s too late.

Over the past 20 years (I started my writing career at Windy City Sports magazine in Chicago during the early 2000’s), I’ve seen the industry evolve in a way that’s become a lot about ego: followers, PRs, races, workouts in “beast mode.”

The common thread? Bigger, better, stronger, harder, longer, faster, more, more, MORE!

We push-push-push to validate ourselves, thinking that we’ll finally feel the sense of worth that comes with PRs, qualifications, nailing skills or hitting certain levels.

But, the truth is, we still won’t feel good about ourselves, and the finish line just keeps running away.

I’ve talked about this extensively with Al Painter (a friend, colleague, 19-year fitness industry vet and former mountain bike racer), and we commiserated over the shared experience of chasing the elusive “win.”

“When I raced my mountain bike, getting faster was never fast enough. Every ride had to be a training challenge,” Painter told me.

“Winning races weren’t really victories because the second I crossed the finish line, I realized I had to start training for the next event, keeping me from feeling good about the one I just finished.”

We agreed that it’s high time to stop putting pressure on ourselves for PRs, and us competitive-non-elite-athletes are in desperate need of a mental shift.

Whether it takes getting sidelined by a major injury or being quarantined at home due to a global pandemic, we should be utilizing this time not to bemoan missed races, but to re-think our current routines and get back to valuing – and celebrating – the basics.

But don’t basics = boring?

Nope. That’s just your ego talking.

Think of fitness like a pyramid. At the bottom are things like adequate sleep, good nutrition, postural alignment, structural imbalances, etc. When we master these things and are doing them consistently, only then should we gradually layer on other training components.

The top of the pyramid is reserved for elite athletes; not only are they invested in conditioning their bodies for super specific niches, but they also benefit financially from doing so.

“If your livelihood depends on a certain level of fitness to get paid to perform a demanding physical task, you’re playing by an entirely different set of rules,” Painter said in a recent Red Delta Project podcast interview.

For the rest of us, we need to have an honest conversation with ourselves about training our bodies for the life we are living. Or, as Painter says (and I’ve since adopted as my mantra), “You’re not getting paid to play; you’re paying to play.”

I used to measure my fitness in running PRs, but now I define it more broadly: Running’s always been my therapy, so can I keep doing it and stay pain-free, with the occasional race thrown in? Can I lift my toddlers without tweaking my back? Can I go into each day feeling my best, so I can show up for myself and my family?

My challenge to you (and myself) is to take a simpler, kinder approach to your fitness. KISS, if you will. And here’s how we can start:

  1. Define why, then what. There’s no better time to do some soul-searching. What’s are your motivating forces, and how can you translate them into improving your health in ways that make you feel genuinely good about yourself?
  2. Develop body-listening skills. Pain isn’t something to be ignored, pushed through or “dealt with;” it’s your body trying to communicate something. Instead of trying various ways to shut it up, have the courage to converse.
  3. Identify blind spots. Your least favorites are usually the things you need to focus on most: core work, strength training, mobility, posture, etc. Turning weaknesses into strengths is the game-changer. What are you currently resisting?
  4. Learn what advice to take. And, more importantly, learn who to ignore. There’s a big difference between “expert” and “influencer,” so do your research.
  5. Reframe fitness success. Mastering one skill is impressive to people who are also concentrating on that one skill – i.e. running. But, again, unless you’re operating at the elite level, it’s not real life. Are you able to touch your toes, do yard work, take a dance class or throw a ball with your kids?

Think holistically, and the way you define yourself, your fitness, your successes and your failures fundamentally shifts.

Don’t stop dreaming; there’s a time and a place for goals. But just don’t base your self-worth on the achievement of them because it’s a slippery slope.

Channel your excitement into what it takes to get from here to there, and then that PR will simply be icing on the cake.



October Goal Check-In


The end of October is always a little bittersweet, isn’t it? As exciting as it is to really settle into fall and celebrate Halloween, now we’re suddenly barreling towards the holiday season and a brand new year is just around the corner.

And has anyone else seen all the holiday commercials already?! I’m the first to admit I’ll be cranking up the Christmas tunes before too long…but October 26 was just too soon to start seeing ads about Santa and stuffing stockings.

All that aside, I’m still focused on sticking loosely to my 2016 goals before setting new intentions for 2017. So here’s an update:

1. Health & Fitness: In terms of a typical week, I’m now trying to move at least four or five out of the seven days. With a baby’s schedule and Portland’s rainy season to factor in, this means taking whatever I can get whenever I can get it: Namely stroller jogs, treadmill runs, cross-training on the Nordic Track (yes, you read that correctly; it was left behind by the previous owners of our house), plus a smattering of free weights.

And as much as I miss the accountability of a training schedule, it’s been refreshing to exercise for general fitness for a change. If there’s a day where a workout just doesn’t work out, it’s a relief at the moment to be able to take it in stride versus fretting about getting behind schedule.

2. Training: Speaking of schedules…just last month I mentioned there wasn’t a race on the horizon, but that may soon change because I’m mulling over a potential spring marathon. It’d be a change of pace from my usual summer training cycles focusing on fall races, and this time I’m also considering working under the general guidance of a coach to train smart and stay healthy while ramping up mileage.

3. Community: Our 2016 Team LUNA Chix Portland Run season has officially ended, and we celebrated with our annual party at Title Nine Portland on October 24. In addition to a fantastic group of community members joining us this year, I’m proud to say that we also managed to raise nearly $3,000 for Breast Cancer Fund.

As for next year, we’ll be changing things up a bit, so stay tuned for details! We’re opening applications for team leaders for the 2017 season in early December, so if you’re interested in getting involved with a dynamic group of women who are making a difference in the Portland area, along with getting in some great workouts and making new friends, like our Facebook page for updates.

4. Career: This has been an area where I’ve been feeling reenergized as of late. First, Fit4Mom Cedar Mill hosted a very cool “Mindful Mamas” event this month where we worked out together and then sat down with a life coach to talk about time management and priorities. Lesson learned: Make sure what you’re spending your time on is truly aligned with your goals.

Second, I signed a new boutique fitness client in the Portland area, and we’ve been hard at work on messaging, positioning and PR planning. I love working with business owners who understand the importance of connecting — not only with clients to help them get fitter and feel healthier, but also with the community to give back. So inspiring!

5. Life: Finally, I need to do a whole in-depth post on the glory that is ‘sleep training.’ But for now, I’ll just say this: If you’re having any trouble getting your little one to sleep — whether it’s through at night or just for regular naps, it’s a total game-changer. I’d go as far as to say it’s the best baby-related investment we’ve made because it provides the confidence to do what you need to do to help everyone get some more zzz’s.

The woman we worked with was simply amazing (parents, ping me if you want an intro), particularly because she specializes in minimizing the amount of crying during the process. I had heard horror stories of people having to camp outside of baby’s door enduring hours of screaming, but our experience was quite different. We had a total of 12 minutes of crying in protest the first night before Wyatt slept 12 HOURS.

There’s a lot that goes into it — both in terms of preparation and consistency in order to develop new habits, plus (duh) you’ll still have the usual hiccups now and then — but, overall, it’s been nothing short of life-changing. Chronic sleep deprivation (seven months, in our case) can leave you in a pretty dark place, so it’s pure joy to finally come into the light at the end of the tunnel.

Ready or not, here we come: Are you excited for the final stretch of 2016?

Fall Off the Wagon? 5 Tricks for Getting Back On


During our final LUNA practice of the season, I was jogging along with my teammate Syreeta when she asked for the low-down on whether or not I really eat clean and work out all the time. Because I work in the fitness industry and blog about healthy habits, she wondered if it was, in fact, realistic to be disciplined 100 percent of the time.

Much to her relief, my response was a laugh as I walked her through the previous weekend’s activities and eats: Thanks to a combination of travel, a busy workweek beforehand, some minor pregnancy aches and pains, a football game and crummy weather, I’d not only missed my workouts but also ate anything but what I’d call “clean” or the previous 48 hours.

But I explained my philosophy: Falling off the wagon — whether it’s an unplanned off day or a weekend of heavy eating — isn’t necessarily the worst thing ever. You don’t get points for being perfect when it comes to a healthy lifestyle; you succeed by making incremental, sustainable changes and by being consistent.

Not only was Syreeta already doing everything right by choosing workouts that get her excited and keep her coming back for more, but it was also a great reminder for myself that there’s a big difference between losing one battle and winning the overall war when it comes to staying fit, healthy and happy…especially right now!

So here are my five tricks for getting back on track when I fall off the proverbial wagon, be it working out, eating clean or otherwise:

1. Wake up, don’t beat up. Get out of your head; you’re not weak or flawed, you just suffered a minor setback. I find it helpful to focus on quickly correcting course and asking myself what I can learn from the experience (i.e. if I don’t work out first thing in the morning, I know now that it likely won’t get done later in the day).

2. Worry less, act more. Rather than fretting about whether you’re strong enough to commit to certain changes, it’s a lot more productive to use that energy to make a game plan for fixing whatever’s broken in the current system. I used to get upset with myself for missing a scheduled workout, but now I accept that it happens and move on, making a plan for my next one.

3. Accept and appreciate. Everyone has cravings or days where they don’t feel motivated. I just try to notice when they happen and figure out what’s going on (am I over-tired and craving a sugar pick-me-up? over-scheduled and not leaving time for self-care activities?) so I can address it in a way that establishes a new, healthier habit (a brisk 10-minute walk during the afternoon slump or an appointment in my calendar to work out with a friend).

4. Learn from success stories. We all have strengths and weaknesses; while I’m good about workout goals, I tend to have less patience when it comes to cooking (especially during the week), so I lean on friends for advice. I’ve got several girlfriends who have a knack for whipping up healthy meals mid-week, so I hit them up for tips and aim to model their behavior at least 80 percent of the time.

5. Above all, be mindful. Huh?! Well, ever feel like you go into a trance when you bust open that bag of chips? Or say yes to any invite before considering how it’ll impact your schedule? That’s auto-pilot, where it’s easy to let urges drive your actions. Instead, I try to stop and think about a decision’s impact, which makes it easier to keep myself accountable.

Remember: We all fall off the wagon at one time or another. What separates those of us who are successful from those of us who end up in a vicious cycle is the ability to “fail fast” and then get back at it.

Got any tried-and-true tips for getting back on the wagon when you fall off?

My 7 Favorite Strategies for Slowing Down

Source: Huffington Post

Source: Huffington Post

Beware the barrenness of a busy life. ~Socrates

Now that I’m taking a short breather from training and racing, you’d think I’d have all this extra downtime with which to play, right?

Wrong. Somehow I quickly filled up all those extra hours — and then some. 

Granted, launching your own business isn’t exactly conducive to oodles of work/life balance, but being “busy” is something I’ve been pondering a lot lately.

Whether it’s with respect to work, relationships or just life, in general, I grow increasingly anxious as my calendar books out weeks in advance. Days fly by, to-do’s add up, appointments are made…and somewhere lost in that shuffle I find myself hoping that time will stop flying.

So I’ve decided that it’s time to take a stand.

Let’s rebel against our hectic schedules, reassess our priorities and take some time to actually enjoy the life we’re living instead of constantly looking ahead for the one we think we should have.

That’s not to say we should delete our social media accounts, pack up, head for the hills and live entirely off the grid; it’s more about eliminating the automatic ‘yes’ from our vocabulary and being mindful about how, where — and with whom — we choose to spend our time. It’s a precious resource, after all.

Wanna join me? I wrote previously about why I’m slowing down, but I wanted to talk a bit about how with some of my favorite strategies. Here are seven of ’em:

1. Do less. 

What sets successful people apart is not that they do a lot, but that they don’t do a lot. I’m making a conscious effort to try to filter out extraneous “stuff,” and deliberately choosing to focus instead on just a few important tasks to make meaningful strides instead of feeling like I’m running in circles.

2. Just breathe. 

Life coach, lifestyle guru and friend Ashley Paquin gifted me with an invaluable tool for bringing myself back into the moment. Her “5-2-5” breathing technique — breathe in for five seconds, hold for two, breathe out for five, hold for two, and repeat — works wonders by quieting the nervous system and taking the body out of fight-or-flight mode.

3. Be mindful. 

I know, I know. It’s become a bit of a buzzword. But paying attention to my thoughts and sensations — and accepting them, without judgment — has helped me tap into a whole new level of awareness that’s been incredibly helpful and empowering.

4. Limit multitasking. 

Sometimes this feels more like an addiction — especially when I’m toggling back and forth between 17 open tabs while on a conference call and absolutely getting nothing accomplished. Going cold-turkey is tough, though, so I’m easing into the art of “single-tasking.”

5. Be present. 

Slowing down doesn’t help much if you’re not mindful of what you’re doing at the moment. Again, I put Ashley’s sage advice into play: When I find myself thinking about something I need to do, or something that’s already happened, or something that might happen…I gently tug my mind back to the present moment, like a playful puppy on a leash.

6. Disconnect. 

Being constantly tethered to computers and phones where you’re either distracted by or at the mercy of others is hardly conducive to being able to focus. Whether it’s weeknight phone-free dinners or weekend traipsing out of cell service range, Ben and I try to unplug every so often.

7. Enjoy nature. 

Warm sun, serene water, salty sea breezes and the damp musk of the forest are all good for the soul. I try to exercise outdoors as much as I can, whether it’s running the trails, hiking the mountains, wading in the river or simply rolling around in the grass with our four-legged family members.

What are your favorite ways to live life in the slow lane? 

On Giving Yourself Permission to Slow Down


Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. – Ferris Bueller

After a blur of races in 2014, better judgement prevailed for 2015 and as you’ve heard me say a few times now, my mantra has been “train smarter, not harder” with five forward-looking goals for the year.

But, as they say, the best-laid plans of mice and men oft go astray…

Because somewhere along the way I talked myself into thinking that a century ride and an ultramarathon within a two-week span this summer was also part of this program.


For the record, I give full credit to my body for finally knocking some sense into me; my SI joint, which previously only felt sore after long marathon-training runs last fall, decided enough was enough and put the kibosh on pretty much all speed and distance work this spring.

Try as I stubbornly might to power through, I’ve gotten to a point where all the strength training, chiropractor appointments, cross-training, and core work in the world aren’t helping.

So I’ve decided to do something different for a change: Nothing.

Novel concept, huh?


Well, long story short — and two cancelled races later — I’ve realized that taking a break isn’t just about giving your body time to recover. It’s also about keeping the passion for your sport alive…and sustainable for the long run.

I run because I want to, not because I have to. And that desire is something I want to protect; not just for now, but for a long time to come.

That’s not to say I’m completely clearing my race calendar; it’s just that I’m wiping the slate clean and being more mindful about which events I choose and why. Put simply, I’m making a conscious decision to get off the further/faster/harder bandwagon that’s so easy to jump on when you’re working in the fitness industry and constantly meeting people who are all doing incredible things.

So instead of literally and figuratively racing my way through my first Oregon summer, I’m slowing down. Training will continue, but at a more leisurely pace.

And you know what? Those 2016 goals will be right there where I left them if/when the time comes to pick ’em back up.

Or — who knows?! Maybe taking a step back will inspire me or give me the perspective to define entirely new ones, such as tackling my old high school PR in the (highly-underrated; I completely agree with Lauren Fleshman) 5K distance.

But, either way, having a choice in the matter and being mindful about my running is what makes — and has always made — the endeavor such a delight. And I’d like to keep it that way.

To slow down or not to slow down: Is that a question you’ve asked yourself?

On Edge? 4 Steps to Lessening the Effects of Stress


It’s sad but true: Stress has become so commonplace that it’s now a way of life.

In fact, as Tim Kreider noted in The ‘Busy’ Trap, one of my all-time favorite op-ed pieces in The New York Times, our “busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

In small and infrequent doses, yes, stress can be beneficial. It fueled our ancestors’ survival instincts, and it motivates us to perform well under pressure (hello, race-day nerves!).

But when it becomes a constant, both your mind and body pay dearly for operating in non-stop emergency mode.

“While our society is the most technologically advanced on the planet, leading the way in economic growth, technological innovation and standard of living, we are paying the price for this success with unprecedented levels of chronic stress,” says Peter McCarthy, a former military officer and commercial pilot, whose book, Adrenaline Nation, explores the subject and its effect on Americans.

Our being in a chronic state of flight-or-flight disrupts nearly every system in the body, leading to serious health problems. On top of spiked blood pressure, suppressed immunity, heightened infertility rates and increased risk of heart attack and stroke, stress also speeds up the aging process and, in same cases, can even rewire the brain, leaving us more susceptible to anxiety and depression.


But before you get anxious at the mere thought of what all this stress is doing to you, the good news is that there are four steps you can take to lessen its effect:

  1. Learn to recognize signs of stress. The American Institute of Stress lists these 50 symptoms; some may surprise you!
  2. Stop and listen to your gut — literally. There’s a reason you’re feeling uneasy, so pause and assess the situation.
  3. Take steps to manage your triggers and reduce their harmful effects. Try a few of these ideas, for example.
  4. Incorporate other mindful ways for handling stress, which allow you to cope with the inevitable more effectively.

Of course, we all know that the best method for reducing stress is to try to prevent it in the first place. But that’s not always realistic, so stress-proof your body in advance by being sure to get enough sleep, eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, avoiding excess stimulants and exercising regularly.

And for those times when everything just goes to hell in a handbasket? Well, try to keep it in perspective by uttering the advice from Reinhold Niebuhr’s serenity prayer, “Grant me the courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Have you found effective ways to cope with stress? 

March Goal Check-In


Time for a reality check: Now that we’ve officially “sprung forward,” we’re one quarter of the way into 2015.

I wrote previously about the five goals toward which I’m working this year, and here’s my update on how things are progressing:

1. Seeking Balance

I’m still slowly building out my race schedule for 2015 with a focus on quality over quantity. Ben and I are currently in the process of building up mileage for the Corvallis Half Marathon mid-month; instead of all-out racing it, though, I’m using it to train into May’s century bike ride (my first 100-miler!) and 50K.

It may seem like we’re peaking early in the season, but we’re doing these events more for the experience (and for a good cause, in the case of the ride) than for time.

2. Training Smarter

Thanks to ClassPass, I’ve been doing all kinds of cross training and am starting to see tangible gains. From completing rope climbs to balancing in side crows, I’m stronger all over — although I’m still working toward that elusive unassisted pull-up.

The one missing piece of the puzzle is mobility, however, so I’ve started seeing a chiropractor to help with my range of motion (my mid-back seems to be stuck…the dreaded desk-job computer hunch!) and am also trying to be more disciplined about stretching, foam rolling and yoga to balance out all the strength training.

3. Facing Fears

Zip. Zilch. Nada. Whoops. 

To be honest, I’ve been in a total mental funk when it comes to the pool, so I haven’t been pushing it. But I’m hoping that this will change in April, especially because I could probably use more non-impact activity in my days.

4. Pushing Myself

I’m officially registered for my second 50K, my first century ride and my first duathlon this summer. For some reason, the pursuit of a PR in what I’d call my “usual” running events (half marathon, marathon) isn’t as motivating to me at the moment; what I’m most excited about is trying some new disciplines. Bonus: If it’s a new event, it’s an automatic PR!

I’ve also been making some headway in another direction with meditation classes. After stumbling upon the wonderful HUSH Meditation community, I ended up adding mental fitness to my weekly workout regimen. It’s a simple act — literally, 45 minutes of stillness one evening per week — yet the process has been transformative (more on that soon in another post).

5. Giving Back

And, finally, we’re officially kicking off our 2015 season with the Team LUNA Chix Portland Run team next Monday, April 6, at 6:30 pm at Lincoln High School’s track here in Portland. I’ll be leading a workout, and it’s open to the public, so everyone is welcome!

Come join us; make some new running friends and fuel up after with free LUNA bars; how can you say no to that?!

How are your 2015 goals coming along? 

Fight the funk: Thriving in an off-season full of SADness

Source: Benjamin Brink/The Oregonian

Source: Benjamin Brink/The Oregonian

After living in California’s year-round sunshine for the last decade, the one thing everyone warned me about when moving to Portland was the winter — aka a half-year of clouds and rain. Like some inescapable boogeyman, they all seemed especially wary of it, issuing the same words of caution every time: It’s coming, and you can run but you can’t hide.

Hrmph. I brushed off what I thought were idle threats, feeling pretty confident in my plan for dealing with the lack of sun. No Vitamin D? No problem. I create my own endorphins during morning workouts, after all. It worked during San Francisco’s foggy days, plus having my fall marathon to prepare for meant I’d be keeping busy with a solid schedule of cardio, cross-training and PT work.

I’ve Got That Wintertime, Wintertime SADness

And when I got home from my travels post-marathon, I really did relish those first few lazy mornings. But then a week of planned rest days turned into two…and by the third week I found myself seriously struggling to get out of bed in the morning. That’s when I started to get concerned.


Of course I’m just self-diagnosing here, but I think it’s something along the lines of Seasonal Affective Disorder, which, when combined with the fact that I’ve got nothing on my race calendar in the foreseeable future, can be a dangerous combo. Plus, factor in post-marathon blues that are hitting just as I’m taking a good chunk of time (4-6 weeks) off from running, and I knew I’d have to take matters into my own hands to keep from sliding down a slippery slope.

Making a Training Plan for the Off-Season

As I was explaining my predicament to Hubby the other day, he suggested that I create a loose plan for the next few weeks since he knows I’m goal-oriented and thrive on having the structure of a training schedule. You see, the off-season isn’t really off at all; quite the contrary, it’s a break from the typical training volume and racing intensity, but cross-training to stay fit and active is still fair game.

So while I’m taking a mental break from the rigors of racing and allowing my body to (hopefully) heal once and for all from a few nagging injuries, it’s an ideal time to rejuvenate, plan for 2015 and work on getting stronger in ways that will compliment next season’s running. Here’s what my rough plan looks like for the next few weeks:

  • Monday – Yoga for flexibility
  • Tuesday – Cycling for cardio
  • Wednesday – Weights for strength
  • Thursday – Pool for non-impact
  • Friday – Freebie to explore different workouts & studios
  • Saturday – Long ride for endurance
  • Sunday – Rest day


What About Other Goals?

Usually I try to eat pretty healthy, but ever since the marathon I’ve all but abandoned that bandwagon. A glass of wine…or three? Sure, why not! Bacon and buttered breadcrumbs on top of that mac & cheese? Yes, please! An extra helping of dessert? Don’t mind if I do! While it’s important to not get too uptight about this stuff, I do feel better when I eat fresh, whole foods, so Hubby and I are making a concerted effort to get back on track with our eating habits.

I’m also participating in a fun Holiday Sweat Challenge from the folks at RuntotheFinish, SweatGuru and Fit Approach. It’s chock full of workouts, healthy recipes and an extra dose of motivation to get us through the holidays without packing on the pounds — not to mention, there are some pretty awesome prizes up for grabs. If you want in on the action, register here!

Other stuff that’s been on my to-do list:

  • Set some short- and long-term work-related goals
  • Spend some quality time with our dogs
  • Finish setting up and organizing our apartment
  • Cook, bake and experiment with new recipes
  • Get more sleep — still in search of that eight hours!
  • Explore the local fitness scene & review classes
  • Get together more often with friends and family
  • Keep consistent date nights with Hubby
  • Start planning for 2015 for myself and the LUNA Chix PDX team

So there you have it. The holidays are here again, and it’s time for making merry, spreading cheer…and, yes, even squeezing in some killer workouts so we can fight the seasonal funk, build on this year’s successes and start 2015 off on the right foot!

How do you feel about off-season, and what are your tips for making the most of it?