February Goal Check-In

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And, just like that, my last month before baby is a distant memory…

Despite the desire to squeeze as much as I possibly could into the past four weeks, my body (thankfully) kept me in check. Waking up at two-hour intervals to pee pretty much every night and getting contractions when you exert yourself with more than a gentle stroll will tend to do that to a person.

So, yet again, we are adjusting goals, resetting expectations and wading into what appears to be the “new normal” — at least for the foreseeable future. And this is all pre-baby, so I can’t imagine what March’s recap will be like!

Read more about the five goals toward which I’m working in 2016.

Here’s where things stand currently:

1. Health & Fitness

February was all about listening to my body. And, boy, did it have a lot to say. 

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This extra 30 pounds I’ve gained earned over the past 10 months really started to take their toll (in the form of back pain, hip pain, foot pain…see a theme here?), and I could tell my body was getting prepped for the main event (contractions!). So while workouts remained consistent, I’ve definitely tapered things off in the past two weeks.

I credit regular movement, however, for helping me stave off a host of other pregnancy-related conditions (swelling, and other random maladies, etc.), so I’m thrilled to have been able to be active well into the home stretch. Especially since it’ll be a while before I can resume my usual activity levels…

2. Training

Nada at the moment, but I am making tentative plans for a half-marathon relay with a mama runner friend, Tiffany, later this summer. We may not be the fittest or fastest out there, but we’re determined to put one foot in front of the other and just keep moving.

Getting my 2016 Coeur Sports team kit in the mail was another major highlight this month. It got me super excited for when I can ease back into some kind of training schedule. Eventually.

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In the meantime, I’m so thankful to be working with a company who supports women of all levels, abilities and stages of life! This really is the year of the #coeurbaby, and I love how we can show that healthy mamas = healthy babes.

3. Community

While our Team LUNA Chix Portland Run season hasn’t officially kicked off (stay tuned — April!), our planning sure has. The team’s 10 leaders gathered on February 20 for a retreat, which included some movement and food in addition to the business at hand.

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We’re really excited about going bigger and bolder this year, so keep an eye out for all kinds of great sweat sessions, events and activities. We’ll be resuming our FREE Monday night workouts (6:30 – 7:30 pm) in April, so follow our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts for details.

4. Career

After a bustling January at Pulse Creative, February was all about wrapping up open projects and getting everything set for maternity leave (always a double-edged sword when you work for yourself!). My tentative plan is to step back for two months (March and April), which makes me nervous in the short-term, but I know it’s what’s best for our family in the long run.

As a girlfriend put it, there’s no use in half-assing work, baby, family and self-care during such a tumultuous time. No one will win in the end. And sometimes a step back helps you take a leap forward, so I know a little time off will further inspire me when I resume my work with clients later this spring.

5. Life

My grand plans for Kondo-izing our apartment before baby were a big, fat fail this month. While nesting instincts were in overdrive, I simply didn’t have the energy to tear everything apart and do a big purge.

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So instead of following the guidelines in “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” to the letter, I settled for a weekend closet clean-out. I ended up with one bag for Goodwill and another for eBay, and I’m happy with that for the time being.

After all, we’ve got the rest of our lives to clean — and our last month as non-parents had to take precedence, right?!

How are your 2016 goals coming along? 

January Goal Check-In

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Ok, 2016 — ready or not, here you are. Although it feels like we’ve just begun the year, we’re already a month in.

I’ll admit, pregnancy has given me a more leisurely attitude to this year’s goals…well, at least at this point in the game. And purposefully so.

Not only do I want to be kind to my body right now, but I’m also trying to stay present, cut down on unnecessary stress and enjoy the final weeks of Ben and I being responsible for no one but ourselves. All that’s about to change, and I know we’ll get back on track and into our competitive pursuits again eventually…but until then I’m making a concerted effort to keep things casual.

Read more about the five goals toward which I’m working in 2016.

Here’s where things stand at the moment:

1. Health & Fitness

Until Baby H’s arrival, I’ve been hoping to be able to stay active. That means continuing regular workouts with a mix of cardio, strength and flexiblity work throughout the week with one day off to allow my body to rest.

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Fortunately, my doctor’s fully in support of this plan. Despite some minor aches, pains and first-time-mom freak-outs (Me: “There’s a bruise around my belly button; what did I do wrong, and should I stop working out?!” My doctor: “Nope, that’s just pregnancy.”), she’s great with the fact that I keep moving so the baby will keep moving…ideally into the correct head-down birth position.

2. Training

As I mentioned in my initial post on 2016’s goals, I’m signed up for the Portland Marathon and am considering a few smaller races leading up to that (recovery permitting, of course). Since then, I’ve further revised this goal so it’s more about completion than competition; meaning, I’m going to train to be able to finish events without any expectations of times, PR’s or age-group placements.

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While that’s the stuff that typically gets my juices flowing when it comes to training, it’s been a relief to let it go and give myself permission to not feel like I have to push so hard to prove something. And in the meantime, I’m working on maintaining a solid foundation on which I can build post-baby with an ultimate goal of remaining injury-free.

3. Community

Earlier this month, we officially announced the new roster for 2016’s Team LUNA Chix Portland Run. It’s a fantastic group of women of all ages, abilities and interests…but the one thing they all have in common is that they’re stoked to be able to once again connect with the community, promote the sport of running among women and raise money for our charity partner, the Breast Cancer Fund.

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Next up is our team leader retreat next month where we’re setting some goals and doing a little bonding before the season officially starts in April. Mark your calendar! We’ll be resuming our FREE Monday night workouts (6:30 – 7:30 pm), and you can find up-to-the-minute details via our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

4. Career

Now that the holidays are over, things have been ramping up again work-wise at Pulse Creative. I’ve got several projects in-progress with clients, including website audits, messaging workshops and content creation, along with ghostwriting articles for Forbes and other outlets on behalf of C-level execs — flexing my old journalism muscles has been especially fun!

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But as I attempt to wind things down for my maternity leave, I’m already contemplating the direction I want to take my business when I return. In other words, what really lights my fire, work-wise, and how can I do more of that? 

It’s been something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately — not only in terms of where I can make the most impact for clients, but also how I can continue to create a sustainable career that allows me to find fulfillment yet maintain a healthy work/life balance. I want to continue to do this same type of project work, but I’m also exploring how to package up my favorite services for clients so I can serve them even better in the long run.

5. Life

Despite being proudly Type-A-organized, I will admit to having what I jokingly call a “Monica’s closet.” Look closely and you’ll see a bike helmet hung next to blazers and a hydration pack mingling among my purses. Yep, #fitpeopleprobs + #cityliving = interesting storage solutions.

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While my original goal was to finish  Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by mid-month so I’d have an update on it being in action for two weeks now, I’m behind schedule. I finished the book, but I know that one month isn’t realistic to be able to follow all the instructions laid out in it.

So I’m revising my timeline — this is about year-long goals, after all — and am aiming to tackle step no. 1 (my clothing) by the end of February. So if you don’t see me for the next few weeks, you know where I am…or what I might quite possibly be buried under!

How are your 2016 goals coming along? 

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 Edge? 4 Steps to Lessening the Effects of Stress

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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.

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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? 

6 Simple Tricks for Squeezing in Holiday Workouts

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Have you fallen prey to the “Grinch Who Stole Fitness” this season? Well, the good news is that there’s still time to turn things around before 2015.

If your goal is to celebrate without completely abandoning your regimen, I’ve got six simple strategies for staying on track so you won’t have to dig yourself out of a hole come January 1st:

1. Get the worm. 

Figuratively, that is. Being at the mercy of friends’ and family’s schedules isn’t always conducive to regular workouts, so force yourself to develop a healthy morning routine. Prioritize exercise, and not only will you be more likely to get it done, but you’ll also reap the benefits of extra energy throughout the day.

2. “Run” your errands.

Or walk them. Or park farther away. Or take the stairs. Or lap the mall. However you do it, the idea is the same: Incorporate some additional activity into your to-do list to kill two birds with one stone.

3. Ditch the all-or-nothing attitude. 

I used to think I needed an entire hour in order for a workout to count, but that led to too many skipped sessions during the holiday time crunch. So now I take a different approach: Commit to just 10 minutes of cardio or one mile on the treadmill, and then reassess. If you’re still not feeling it, then stop, but there’s a good chance you’ll keep going once you get some momentum.

4. Make it a family affair. 

There’s no need to sequester yourself in order to break a sweat; instead, make a new tradition of embracing the great outdoors together. Whether it’s ice skating, snow shoveling, sledding or a snowball fight, the whole family can get in on the action. And give each other the gift of a healthy habit in the process.

5. Embrace bribery. 

Sometimes I’ll end my long run at the coffee shop or inspire myself to hit the gym by testing a new piece of gear. The trick is to find out what motivates you, and use that in your favor. Numbers-driven? Try hitting a daily pedometer goal. Competitive? Challenge a friend to a 30-day fitness routine. Bored? Commit to trying something new each day between now and the New Year.

6. Book a race. 

If you’re a regular reader here, this last one shouldn’t come as a surprise to you…because it’s my solution to almost everything. Not only can a holiday-themed race help keep you on your toes, cardio-wise, this time of year, but there’s also no better way to kick off the New Year than with a January race.

And when all else fails, there’s always another of my favorite holiday workouts…

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Happy, healthy holidays!

Have runs, will run: Tips for easing that race-day anxiety

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“Any runner who denies having fears, nerves, or some other kind of disposition is a bad athlete, or a liar.” – 1950s British Olympian Gordon Pirie

The bad news? Pre-race jitters are inevitable. The good news? It’s a normal part of the process. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran aiming for a new PR, or a rookie concerned about just getting to the finish line, nerves are natural and can add an element of excitement to your race.

But when pre-race fears become more than just nervous energy, it’s important to nip it in the bud before your performance is affected and it starts to take all the fun out of racing. Regardless of whether it’s a string of bad races, a layoff due to injury, or merely a lack of confidence in your level of fitness, here are a few tips to help keep you on track come race day.

Prepare properly

You may not appreciate the importance of setting out your race-day gear the night before the event until you make a critical mistake…and then you never forget.

A few years back, the gun went off at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco when I realized that I had, in a cloud of nervous forgetfulness, left my timing chip in the hotel room a mile or so away. Without any time to go back, I ended up running the race chip-less, finishing sans official time or record of my participation.

Lesson learned; now I lay out everything the night before and do a double-check before bedtime.

Practice visualization

Walk through every aspect of the race in your mind’s eye, from warming up at the starting line to navigating the course and crossing the finish line triumphantly. Expect a certain amount of discomfort or pain if you’re pushing your limits, but know that you’ve mentally rehearsed it and can handle anything that comes your way.

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When all else fails, imagine your worst-case scenario, and how you’d cope with it. Chances are the reality won’t be half as bad as what you can dream up.

Chew wisely

Race-day nerves can wreak havoc on your digestive system, so tread carefully when it comes to what you ingest in the hours before your event. Skipping a meal is not an option (especially for longer endurance events), so look for foods that are easy to digest and have a mix of nutrients, such as bananas, sports bars, oatmeal or even bagels and toast with peanut butter.

If you’re wary of how something will set, do a trial run during training to work out the kinks in a more controlled environment.

Line up correctly

There’s nothing more unnerving than realizing that you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time on race morning.

Avoid angering the elites or getting stuck behind slower runners by lining up according to your closest predicted finishing time. This way you can start with people who are at a similar pace, which will help you relax and focus on your own performance.

Channel the tortoise

I’ve witnessed all too many nervous runners who shoot across the starting line like jackrabbits when the gun goes off, only to slow to a shuffle 200 yards later when their adrenaline wears off and oxygen debt sets in.

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Regardless of how good you feel, resist that temptation. Hold back a bit in the early stages to find your pace, and once you’ve relaxed into a rhythm, start pushing.

Run your own race

I’d argue that only a small part of the race is physical; the rest is mental. Fight the urge to compare yourself to those around you. Unless you’re a top-ranked elite athlete, there will always be someone faster than you. And on the flip side, there will always be someone slower than you.

So pick your route, stick to your plan and race against the most daunting competitor: Yourself.

Think happy thoughts

Above all, it’s important to focus on what you already have achieved, rather than what you might not. Whether it’s attempting a new distance, making it through a grueling training schedule or just having the guts to step up to the starting line, you’ve got something to celebrate.

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How do you deal with race-day anxiety? 

DIY Beauty: Soak away sore feet

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After a long day on your feet (or an intense run), there’s nothing that’ll keep those tired dogs from barking better than a tried-and-true remedy: Epsom salt.

Athletes swear by the stuff, which is used in all sorts of soaks to help relieve pain, reduce stiffness and get rid of odor.

It’s one of my favorite parts of the post-run ritual; just add a few drops of your favorite essential oil, and you’ll be good to go in no time at all.

Soothing Epsom Salt Foot Soak

Ingredients: 

  • Water (heated to a comfortable level)
  • 1 cup Epsom salt
  • Essential oil of your choice
  • Unscented lotion

Directions: 

  1. Fill a bowl with enough water to cover feet (test temperature with your hands first!)
  2. Dissolve Epsom salt in water, and add a few drops of essential oil (my favorites: lavender to relax or peppermint to energize)
  3. Soak feet for 10-15 minutes. Pat dry and moisturize, adding a few drops of essential oil into your lotion