It’s Your Call

Bell Let’s Talk day is coming up January 29th so I’m extra mindful of the importance of engaging in conversations on mental illness and mental health awareness. The deeper I dive into this world, the more I see stigma’s far reaching effects. I hear first responders poking fun at one of their own. I know of military personnel labeling fellow serving members with their mental illness. I see teachers berating parents for behaviours that instead need compassion and understanding.  We’re all good at preaching destigmatization, but we suck at practicing it.

I have often found myself in the position of being someone’s confidante: as a recreation staff at a private boarding school, as a kinesiologist in a physiotherapy clinic, as a teacher, as a running friend, and as someone on social media. Maybe it’s my personality or the roles I assume, but more than one person has reached out to me with the weight of the world on their shoulders.

I listen and am often pretty good at showing compassion and holding space for someone in need, and I’ve told more than one friend to reach out anytime day or night if they need to talk. Sometimes, though, that weight is shifted to your own shoulders and you find yourself in a difficult position. This is where preaching needs to translate to practicing and therein lies the rub.

If a friend or family member or client or patient disclosed to you that they were contemplating suicide, what would you do?

He or she is successful and respected. She has tons of friends and always has something on the go. He is able to get through work and even fits in time to attend your bootcamp class and looks like he’s got his shit together.

It’s 11:30pm and she posts an out of character message on social media. You know the challenges she’s been facing and you wonder if it’s a goodbye or a cry for help or maybe she just polished off that bottle of wine herself. Would you call the police?

You think about it and go back to the series you’re binge watching on Netflix. But it nags at you. After all, I’m not that close a friend. Surely their family will act. This isn’t my responsibility…right? You’re watching Joe lock someone in his plexiglass box but it’s there nagging at you…what if tonight is the night and I’m too late calling? Do people even do that? Will the police laugh at me? 

Luckily I have a wide circle of awesome friends including paramedics and police officers so I asked for expert advice. I was told that they often to receive calls from concerns family and friends to check on the welfare of someone, but I wasn’t convinced I’d be doing the right thing.

Will the neighbours all talk when the police show up at her door this late at night? Maybe I should reach out to mutual friends instead…good idea but I seem to be one of few night owls out there and no one responded. No…she won’t actually go through with it tonight…will she? She’ll be so embarrassed and will hate me forever for humilating her this way.

This is where stigma hides, folks.

If I knew that Joe Goldberg was on his way to her house I wouldn’t hesitate, but contemplating suicide is so much quieter. It hides beneath the surface and taunts its host like a dark parasite. Would I be concerned that her neighbours would look at her differently or avoid her at the grocery store? There’s nothing embarrassing about murder so why does suicide get regarded as something to be ashamed of?

That dark parasite was making me question my own gut instincts so I  reached out to another friend…he asked if calling the police felt like what the deepest part of my soul was asking me to do. Without hesitation I responded Absolutely! Make the call, he said.

That was the hardest call I’ve ever had to make. Knowing I might be too late already. Knowing my friend might be so angry at me she’d never talk to me again. Knowing her entire life might change because of this one phone call. But I care too much to not act.

My practice kicked in and told my preach to take a back seat: I’d rather be ignored by my friend then make sure her favourite song is played at her memorial service. Make the damn call.

I called dispatch and expressed my concerns and shortly after, received a call from the officer on duty who wanted more information. I felt like I had to convince the officer that my concerns were justified and I refused to assume the role of over reacting hysterical woman (I was fairly calm, actually). He said he’d let me know how it went and the 15 minutes I waited for that phone call had me angry and scared and I was literally dizzy.

“Your friend is just fine, ma’am. Thank you for calling and have a good night.”                        I immediately rolled over and fell asleep, exhausted. In fact, it took me a couple of days to come down from the whole thing.

Helping professions are not for the faint of heart. I am including fitness trainers and coaches in this group of teachers, nurses, medics, police officers, et al., because helping someone along their journey of physical transformation has a huge mental and emotional component that cannot be ignored. We often meet people when they’re vulnerable and in need of acceptance and compassion and they look to us for guidance and safety.

We can receive professional development on mental health first aid and stigma still makes us hesitate. We worry about the effect on his reputation and on our relationship moving forward. We doubt the depth of her crisis. We attend workshops and conferences and read everything we can get our hands on, but when it’s real and weighing you down at this very moment, stigma holds us back.

When someone shares the weight of the world with you, you end up bearing some of that weight yourself. You need to prepare yourself to do the hard thing and to assume the costs of doing so. You might lose a client, but you might gain one for life. I’d rather lose a client but know that they got the help they needed because of my actions.

mental health is as important as physical health

Acknowledge that mental health is as important as physical health. Show yourself the same compassion you show those around you and seek help processing the weight of what you’ve just gone through.

Practicing what you preach takes strength, but it’s your call.

 

 

Why I’m Ditching The Resolutions This Year

This goal digger has decided to kick off 2020 by not making any resolutions. As a lifelong overachiever this feels awkward and strange but I’m ready for a new challenge. No resolutions, just a word.

You read that correctly: one word. No fad diets, no cleanses, no subscription workout plans…just one word and one focus.

I chose this word a few weeks ago and it will guide my path throughout the next twelve months. My word for 2020 is PEACE. You’ll remember my post about my car accident in November and how it brought about a sense of calm and peacefulness, and the freedom I felt wrapped in that feeling.

I’m being bombarded by the ads for shakes and pills and miracle waist trainers just like you are but they don’t bother me. You know why? They won’t bring me peace. I’ve been invited to join workout challenges and “teams” and received offers on gym memberships, but I haven’t even been tempted to read them. They won’t bring me peace.

Why I'm Not Making Any Resolutions This Year (1)

My focus for this new year is to do what brings me peace, what fosters peace, what spreads peace.

I am rededicating myself to a yoga practice because it calms my body and mind.

I am running to reconnect my body and soul and if that means slowing my pace, then I welcome it.

I am untangling myself from the judgments and expectations that have weighed me down. The labels that others give me belong to them and I won’t wear them anymore. 

I am following my own path and investing my energy in those who value me. I will spend time and connect with people who accept me as I am and treasure the contribution I make to their lives.

I am learning to be comfortable spending time alone because it brings with it a lot o quiet. This hushed silence opens the door for me to read, and write, and get back to who I forgot I was. 

I want peace in my home, my family, my workspace, my body and my thoughts. I know there will be moments when I waver and fall off the peaceful wagon, (I am in the midst of a divorce after all), but one word is easier to focus on than a dozen rules we set for ourselves.

So, will you consider ditching the rules and follow a word through the next year?

 

 

The Dirty Truth About Self Care

That peace I found during my car accident is still there in some respects (I’m not freaking out about the ambulance bill), but it slowly dissolved into mud and murk. And that’s why I’ve been avoiding writing lately: I felt too dirty to share with you.

The dirty truth about self care is that it isn’t always as simple as running a hot bath or having a latte at your favourite coffee shop: it’s uncomfortable and awkward and can require more strength than you think you have. Self care may bring you to the very limits of your self awareness and push you over the edge. I needed to fall before I could pick myself up again, and I didn’t do it alone this time. I lay there face down in the mud before I took the hand that was offered to me. Self care is real and raw and honest, even when you’re begging for someone to lie to you.

I remember slowly crawling on to the stretcher and hearing my mom (yes, she drove to the accident scene to be with me because she’s Mom) tell the paramedics that I had sustained 3 concussions in the past. The fact my head was hurting was a concern to both of us…her probably more about long lasting brain damage and me about my run goals for the remainder of the year.

It’s been five weeks since the accident and I’m forgetting a few words here and there, only in French though and my students forgive me, and when a friend asked me to determine his half marathon splits I struggled for a couple of minutes but math has never been a friend of mine so no big concern. The running, however, is another story.

I kept setting dates to attempt a run and the day would arrive and the headache and brain fog was still hanging around. This happened maybe 3 times before I admitted (temporary) defeat and allowed myself an entire 48 hours of rest and darkness. My grey matter needed the rest but my soul needed the light. I’m a runner afterall…how can I promote myself as a fitpreneur when I can’t get out and move?

*My family doctor said I could run once I felt “good enough to run”, but my concussion knowledge knew I should be at least 3 days symptom free. I should address this in a future post, but please seek advice from a health professional TRAINED in concussion protocol!!! Most GPs know less than many children’s hockey coaches do.

I texted a friend one day saying “I’m pretty sure I haven’t had a headache in two days!”  He laughed that I wasn’t sure, but the cloudiness and ache had become so much a part of me that I sorta lost the idea of what “normal” felt like. I knew that when I got back to running, I would feel like myself again.

I’m grateful for Jeff’s Birthday Challenge which served as the incentive for me to lace up and push myself again: I adjusted my original goal of 50km in a week to 20km and completed my kilometres earlier than expected! I even indulged in cake as directed by Jeff, but once the challenge was over I realized the darkness wasn’t clearing.

I felt disconnected from my body and it started to feel like the bridge between my body and soul was crumbling. It’s not an exaggeration when I say that I feel most alive when I’m running: it’s the freedom and the discomfort that work together to remind me I am human. Running is my time to think and feel and process things, so when a friend confided some very heavy news to me, I fell under its weight.

This was one of those falls where you can’t believe it just happened because you’ve been so graceful for years. One which triggered my deepest insecurities and left me feeling exposed and alone, but like it was happening on stage in front of an audience. I lost sight of my worth and my purpose and questioned what business I had in sharing my story and speaking to others with a view to motivating and inspiring change within them.

 

A mental health advocate who encourages others to speak openly and #endthestigma and I’m feeling embarrassed and ashamed I don’t feel like myself?

Someone who inspires others to see the bright side and know your worth feels dark and worthless?

I promote self care and was unable to show myself compassion and kindness when I needed it most?

 

I held it together until my weekend alone when the kindest friend I wasn’t sure I had gave me the permission I was craving to let it out. Once the tears washed away the mud and murk, there was room for me to return. I got up the next morning and went for a run.

She was brave and strong and broken all at once.

Holy sh*t, that run felt hard but I felt the sun on my skin and the wind in my face and I felt so happy to be home. I’m grateful for the ability to run because it’s more than my activity of choice: it’s at the very core of my mental health. I am grateful for my friend’s gift of acceptance and for seeing me when I couldn’t see a damned thing. I set aside my shame in exchange for vulnerability (who reads Brene Brown?) and it was the detour I needed to find my way back.

 

 

 

 

The Impact of Silence

I was involved in a motor vehicle accident yesterday morning after dropping my kids off at school. I was alone in the car when it happened, thankfully, but I’m writing about it because it was an experience I’m having difficulty describing. It’s true what they say about things moving in slow motion when you’re in an accident. It’s like time is warped and curves around what is happening while your thoughts move in hyperspeed.

Milliseconds before the collision occurred I knew there would be impact, and what happened next wasn’t an out-of-body experience: it was more like I became so deeply rooted in the very depths of myself that the force of the truck hitting my wee little Kia knocked me into myself.

Metaphysical enough for you?

Let me go back to the day before for a moment. Those of who you have been following my divorce journey know the last few weeks were spent preparing for a settlement conference and I re-committed to a yoga and meditation practice as part of this. I kept up with my running and checking in with my support system, but I believe this dedicated quiet time of reflection fortified my body and soul for the events of this week. Setting aside 20-30 minutes a day to quiet my body and slow things down seemed to calm my anxiety and sent my mind trotting back to where it needed to be.

The day of the settlement conference I went for a run then treated myself to a chai latte and decked myself out in my royal blue Calvin Klein dress. This isn’t just any dress: it’s has the ability to transform me into a superhero,  and I encourage everyone out there to invest in an outfit that does this.I received messages of encouragement and support all morning and I walked in that courthouse with the gait and grace of a woman who knows her worth.

When the negotiations ended without a resolution, I wasn’t shocked by his behaviour but more so by my own. I was calm. I’ve been so anxious the last 18 months that I’ve been losing hair like crazy and yet I smiled throughout the experience. I felt confidently rooted in what I knew to be right and true. I didn’t shed a tear. I didn’t feel anger. I felt peace. Ummmmm…who is this new person???

Back to the accident now. I felt the impact in the driver’s side and the side curtain airbag deployed and hit me in the head and I shifted sideways. The sounds were muted and I thought to myself how odd it seemed to feel. It was quiet and peaceful.  I knew instantly that I was okay and that things would be okay.

I let a witness call 911 while I called my mom. I cried a little telling her what happened but I don’t feel like I shed tears. I remember being bummed that my friend Jamie, a paramedic, wouldn’t be the one to come to my aid and how much I craved a friend in that moment. I felt so still within that I haven’t shaken that sensation yet. The best way I can describe it is to say I felt a completely foreign sense of calm wash over me and a wave of gratitude crash into me. 

I sat there and waited and things started to happen. I heard voices around me and I remained in my seat, unmoving, and let the ocean of humanity at its best drown me. The nearby garage owner directed traffic around the scene while a sweet LPN opened my door and covered me with my coat and reminded me to stay still. She checked me over and kept me talking and I acknowledged the chaos around us and told her that I was embarrassed to have created a traffic situation, which she quickly reminded me was not worth a second though. I know there was noise but all I felt was peace.

The LPN did her best to keep me warm and dealt with my insurance papers and the police. An ambulance arrived and the medic introduced himself and reassured me while cut away the airbag and put a collar around my neck. No one made a move without asking for my consent (I think I need speak to consent in another post) and I knew I was in good hands. In my head I was thinking that I should be bawling instead of smiling right now. WTF is going on here?

I was transported to the hospital where the medics covered me with heated blankets and my head injury concerns were taken seriously. I didn’t have my health card in my purse but the nurse found my records in the computer. My blood pressure was a bit high but my pulse was fine. My body may have been stressed but my mind was not. Someone was by my side the entire time.

When I was released from the ER and was settled at my parents’ house, I message my current “spiritual advisor” ( Love you, Chris!) that I was feeling oddly peaceful about everything and indicated that I felt like I had reached a new level of Enlightenment. I knew he’d understand and not roll his eyes at me like I’d finally lost it. I knew he would see what I had experienced, and acknowledge the freedom that literally crashed into me. He validated the gift I had received.

I’m full of gratitude for everything this week has brought me. I am grateful for a lawyer who sees the choice I made as one of strength and courage. I am grateful for the unconditional support of my family. I’m grateful for everyone involved in assisting at the accident scene yesterday. I’m grateful for the well wishes of the cab driver who picked us up at the hospital; for the insurance agents and towing company and auto body shop. I’m grateful for the flood of messages from friends and from people I only know on social media. I’ve been surrounded by nothing but love and kindness.

I am grateful for the strength I embraced within. I am grateful for the peace I have found. I am grateful for the acceptance of whatever the universe is sending my way. I am grateful that I have discovered the power of silence in a world full of noise.

let silence be the art you practice Rumi

I’ve spent the last 24 hours realizing the importance of finding quiet and being grateful for it.

In the noise of a contentious divorce and the noise of car crash I was able to find silence and stillness and become firmly rooted in who I am and where my life is headed.

I ran 21.1 kilometres today and it felt very different than any other half marathon I’ve done. It was slower than my other races yet it went by so quickly. I didn’t stop to pee and I cruised up the hills. I feel like I could go back out there and keep moving.

You all know I’m focused on mindset and being asked to pace this mornings’ race required a whole new mindset for me. This run wasn’t for me…it was for everyone else. It was for True North Pacing and for Shelley from Bedford who stuck by my side and reached the finish of her very first half marathon with a smile on her face. It was for the kids who shouted they liked my bunny ears and for the other runners who needed a boost along the way.

pacebunnyshannon

I took my bunny duties very seriously and ran with one eye on the road and one on my pace. I tend to be about 30 seconds a kilometre faster than my assigned pace so it was a mental challenge for me to stay on target and it was the experience I needed.

I truly believe the Universe sends me what I need and when I need it, and the bald eagle soaring overhead at the 5k mark reminded me of that. After my last race I wasn’t sure what to do next then this opportunity came along and I was tickled (it’s been a quiet goal of mine to pace a race).

I needed to slow down.

I needed to focus on those around me instead of what’s been floating around within me.

I needed to run with a goal of guiding others to their finish.

I turned around about a half kilometre before the finish to run alongside some other racers, but once I crossed the finish line myself, Shelley from Bedford was there with a smile, a hug, and a huge thank you. I thanked her for sharing the most perfect morning with me and for the opportunity to get to know her a little on the way.

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada and I have a heart full of gratitude today. 

Thank you to True North Pacing for the opportunity to wear the bunny ears.

Thank you to Shelley from Bedford for sharing the morning with me.

Thank you to everyone who made signs and gave high fives and handed out water and cheered us all on.

Thank you for this beautiful gift of putting one foot in front of the other.

 

 

Today is not for us. It’s for you.

It’s World Mental Health Awareness Day and I know there are so many millions like me who are all too aware. We are so constantly aware that it’s impossible to ignore. It’s something we live with 24/7, 365. We don’t need a day, but the rest of you do.

You need a day to acknowledge that not everyone’s brain works in partnership with the rest of the body. Oftentimes, my brain works against my body. I was diagnosed with clinical depression and generalized anxiety disorder 20 years ago and while those diagnoses sound vague and rather benign, their effects were not.

I am fortunate enough to be able to look back over 20 years of struggling and recovering from a place of health but I can remember the fight to get out of bed in the morning. The kind of fight that won’t listen to motivational quotes. The kind of fight that turns into shame and guilt after friends and colleagues call to ask where you are because you didn’t show up to class or work.

I’ve gone through rounds of cognitive behavioural therapy and have been on varying doses of anti-depressant for two decades. I have read more books and listened to more podcasts than I can count. I have attended workshops and conferences and I have taken an active role in my growth. And I acknowledge that not everyone can do what I did.

For me, today is about showing love and compassion for those who don’t yet understand what they’re facing. Empathy for those who, deep down inside their very soul, wish they could fix everything and go back to the way things were, but struggle against that invisible force keeping them locked in that dark place.

empathy is a quality of character that can change the world

Being told to “shake it off” is easier said than done. I am at a place where I can tell myself to do just that and it works, and that’s because I’ve spent half of my life working to get to this point. I know that my brain is working in partnership with my body 90% of the time now and that’s a victory many will not achieve.

I feel a responsibility to be brutally honest about my experience because I made it through when so many haven’t. There are times when I wish I didn’t feel so much because I cry every time I read about a suicide and it hurts to feel helpless. It hurts to see those left behind lose themselves in grief because they don’t know that choosing to end one’s life didn’t feel like a choice at all.

Today is for you to be aware of the distance we put between ourselves and others. We have stopped seeing fellow humans as fellow humans. We see them as case numbers or obstacles to avoid or headlines. The police officer arrested for domestic violence isn’t a heartless criminal. The mother who abuses her child is herself an abused child. The drug addict overdosing in the bathroom so desperately wants to live a pain-free life.

Mental Health Awareness Day is for you. Be aware that you don’t understand. Be aware that because your brain doesn’t tell you lies, you can’t feel what we feel. Be aware that we know we are hard to love sometimes.

It’s for you to remember that just like cancer cells ravage a healthy body, mental illness attacks someone from the inside out. There is no switch that instantly sheds light on the darkness. Your carefully chosen quote won’t fix things. Your text message won’t stop the pain. Your invitation to the movies won’t quiet the screaming voice of shame. But please don’t stop. 

Please don’t stop seeing the person you love. Don’t stop seeing the human soul behind those lost eyes.  Please don’t look away. See us and remind us that you see the “us” inside.

I felt seen by special souls along the way who guided me back to myself. Maybe that’s the difference between me and those who stay lost. I have people who keep me moving when I falter, so I choose to pay it forward.

To those of you lost in the shadows right now, I see you.

I will never stop seeing you.

nothing is more important than empathy for another human being's suffering. Nothing. Not career, not wealth, not intelligence, certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we're going to survive with dig

Bear with me as things change

fallteachesus

 

I love summer. Shorts and sunscreen and more freckles than I can count and I miss it. Autumn arrived a week ago and while I’m still not emotionally ready for long pants and hoodies, I’m ready for change.

The changing leaves are especially beautiful here in Nova Scotia (if you haven’t visited our part of the world yet, what the hell are you waiting for, an invitation? Here it is!) and I’m choosing to focus on the beauty of change instead of the fear that comes along with it.

I changed my business name and while I ask you to bear with me as I sort out the website and branding, but I think you’ll agree that the change was long overdue. Shedding the Meraki name in favour of Mindset Events feels like I’m becoming more my true self…any entrepreneur knows that as a sole proprietor your business is so entwined with your own goals and vision that it’s often an extension of yourself. I scrolled through my social media over the last year or so and it all comes back to that word: mindset.

The events I choose to work on. The driving force behind the Run For Your Life Podcast and the lesser known Shannon Out Loud podcast. The messaging on the tshirts and tank tops I wear. The books I read. The quotes I love. The songs I listen to. My mindset is what powers me through my long runs and is keeping me going as my divorce date looms.

I had someone recently tell me I was “too sunshiny” and someone also chuckled and commented that I’m a “glass half full kinda gal”. My reply was that there’s no other way for me to be to get through life on a day-to-day basis.  I endured a dark depression but it didn’t crush my hope. I lost a pregnancy and it didn’t kill my faith. I’m going through a divorce and it hasn’t made me bitter. How? Why not? MINDSET.

I guess you could say my mindset is my super power (as my 6 year old son runs around the house in his Captain America costume). I find purpose in everyday and a lesson in every challenge. I am able to look at someone’s damaging behaviour and see the hurt behind it. I am able to let people go from my life and trust that the universe has my back.

 

I still put my heart and soul into my work, but Mindset Events better captures what I do and more importantly, why I do it.

meraki

Change can be scary but it’s also exciting.

Call me sunshiny or mock me for being glass half full, but I wake up eager to greet the day and go to sleep with a grateful heart.

What change can you embrace this fall?

Growing hurts, Mom!

My 9 year old daughter, Aurelia, recently came to be with tears in her eyes complaining of sore legs. This has happened a few times in the last year and we figure it’s growing pains because she’s been outgrowing pants like crazy. When reminded of this, she said “Growing hurts, Mom!”

Ain’t that the truth, though?

 

Growth is uncomfortable. Even painful at times. But it’s necessary if you want to get where you’re going.

I’ve been working on the Keji Multisport Festival and Triathlon again this year, and I’ve been following the training of our badass group of ambassadors: women chosen to represent the event and share their training journey and event experience with the world. I hadn’t seen much from one of our athletes so I set up a lunch meeting to have a chat face-to-face.

ShannonAndShannon
I’m keeping this picture really big because it’s a great picture of us both! Shannon Seeley on the left and me on the right

I was excited when Shannon chose my favourite craft brewery for lunch (love you Schoolhouse Brewery!) and I had been connected with her on social media for ayear or so and had yet to meet, so yay for beer lunches and new friends!

We chatted about mutual friends and motherhood and ultimately how training for a triathlon is an intimidating undertaking. You don’t need to tell me that: the swimming part alone freaks me out! The world of swimming then biking then running is new to Shannon and watching some of the other ambassadors posting their training progress was discouraging to her. Keep in mind that a group of these women are NOT new to triathlons. Yet here she was falling prey to comparing her ability to theirs.

It wasn’t Shannon’s ability that was the issue at all…it was the perception that she needed to have expertise to have a story worth sharing.

Think about it for a second…how many times have to tried something new and put pressure on yourself to master it right away?

This is where growth hurts.

It hurts to feel out of your element.

It hurts to feel like the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on.

It hurts to not be performing at peak levels.

But this is where growth happens!

The folks I know who live and work in the fitness and wellness space are keen on self-improvement and on pushing their limits. We’re not content with the status quo and I honestly have a hard time understanding when someone is satisfied with the same old, day in day out. I thrive on setting new goals and reaching new heights.

We choose to embrace the discomfort that comes with growing. We wake up and go. We get finished work and decide that even though sitting in front of Netflix with a glass of wine sounds wonderful, we lace up and hit the road instead. We take on the fear of swimming and get wet anyway. WE CHOOSE TO GROW.

what we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do

Shannon, my friend, you are growing.

And because Shannon’s choosing to grow, her kids will learn from her. The community around her is growing. Her choice to embrace the pain of learning how to transition from swimming to cycling and from cycling to running is teaching other women that it’s okay to make time for yourself. It’s teaching us all that maybe even we can take on something a little (or a lot) scary.

In our conversation, Shannon mentioned how she had heard Rachel Hollis mention the importance of pushing yourself physically, and I couldn’t agree more. Those last few kilometres of every long run are the hardest, most painful, and most liberating! Every training session is a celebration of your ability. An expression of gratitude for the freedom to move. A reminder that growth hurts, but it hurts so good.

Rachel Hollis

 

 

So, when Aurelia comes to me in discomfort with growing pains, I give her a big hug and remind her that I want her to grow and part of that growth means she’ll feel uncomfortable sometimes.

Drink some water and stretch, I offer, but never stop growing. 

 

#dontfighttheawesome

Sometimes you need to turn things around and try something different, so today I checked out 360fit in Dartmouth. I’ve been pretty focused on my running and have been neglecting strength training, which motivated me to book a session with my friend Coach Laura Albert and have her introduce me to the basics of lifting.

women-lift-weight-training-do-you-evenWhen I say I’ve neglected strength training, I mean I haven’t done much more than an occasional bicep curl in the last 8 months. I’m a tad embarrassed but I’m owning up to it and acknowledging that I need strength to be fit and to be a better runner so here goes…

After a warm-up on the rower and some girl talk (I haven’t seen Laura in two years so we had some catching up to do) we got started with the squat, then the bench press and finished off with the basics of the deadlift. Now, just because I studied kinesiology and have my personal trainer certification doesn’t mean I’m confident enough to consider myself an expert in strength training. It’s better to ask for help and get it right, than to try to figure it out on your own and get it wrong.

I pride myself on having good posture and knowing how to hinge at the hip properly, so it was reassuring to know I wasn’t getting everything about lifting wrong.  I’m a good breather, and while that sounds ridiculous to many, proper breathing during strength training is as important as it is during running or yoga. Laura observed my biomechanics from every angle (well, it’s not called 360fit for nothin’) and with some minor fixes and spot-on cuing, I felt a significant difference from any other strength training session I’ve had in the past. (I learned that my foot position and placement on the floor during the squat was all wrong and no one had ever taught me to press my legs/feet into the floor when doing a bench press!)

As a runner with a lazy ass, glute activation is a big deal for me and engaging the core (did you read my last post about my upcoming surgery?) is critical. It’s going to take a little practice to get my lats and core and glutes to work together without consciously whispering that little checklist to myself (tripod feet, set my lats, brace my core, hinge at hips…).

We focused on three exercises in our hour session, and it was time well spent. Working with Laura helped reduce the intimidation factor of going to my local gym and lifting by myself. Yes, I get intimidated! Plop me on the treadmill and I’ll kick its ass, but plunk me in front of some weights and I’m praying no buff dude focused on making gains or getting swole watches what I’m doing in the mirror!

I feel ready to get my lift on at the gym next non-run day and today was a good reminder that sometimes, even a trainer needs to be trained. Heck, even Laura admitted that she takes video of her own lifts so she can analyse her technique. I’m not as strong as I want to be, but I took the first step to getting there.

lauraselfieThank you to Coach Laura and the awesome staff at 360 Fit High Intensity Fitness in Dartmouth for the great morning! #dontfighttheawesome

 

If you own a uterus or know someone who does…read on.

My runs this week have been governed by my uterus. That little internal nest has been the focus of the last 4 days and inspired this post (obviously).

I don’t think I was aware I even had a uterus until Grade 4 when I read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. While it remained silent for a few years after that, the weight of what my uterus held in store for me sat at the back of my mind. Once I had my first period (like why in the hell did I ever want that day to arrive?) I knew I was locked into a decades-long dysfunctional relationship.

Why the hell am I writing about this? What does it have to do with fitness and wellness? Well…as far as I’m aware all (except in rare cases) women have a uterus and all men know at least one person who have a uterus. I find there is so much mystery and silence surrounding gyno matters and I need to be able to talk about things openly to process them. If you run a gym or train clients or are a healthcare provider, chances are you will encounter a human being in possession of a uterus so get used to it.

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My body has let me down again and I’m facing a hysterectomy in the near future and I’m going to need some support and encouragement. My uterus let me down in 2012 when I had a missed miscarriage at 11 weeks and I discovered how miscarriage is shrouded in secrecy and silence. I had to go searching for support so I’m using this platform to open the discussion or at least enhance understanding of what some women are experiencing.

Over the last year, I noticed bleeding after intense activity and my family doctor informed me I had a friable (Merriam Webster defines it as “easily crumbled or pulverized”) cervix. An ultrasound showed nothing. My pap test was clear. A colposcopy with biopsies and swabs came back clear. So what the eff is going on?

Well, your guess is as good as mine, but my miscarriage taught me that there’s not always an answer to “why?” So, my body is betraying me again and I have to plot my course through this bitch of a stormy sea. The biggest concern aside from the potential of a future prolapse (look it up, dudes…and ladies: do your Kegels STAT!) is how am I going to cope with the 4-6 NO RUN recovery period?

That’s right…I’m about to have my cervix and uterus removed and I’m wondering about my running! I’m on a training schedule which has me run Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays and this week has been all screwed up! Monday’s run was cancelled (my gynecologist surprised me with a uterine biopsy) so I ran on Tuesday instead which was a mistake. I felt like I had been kicked in the vagina, and kicked hard. I skipped Wednesday and am feeling like I’m myself again today (Thursday) after making it through a 5k without discomfort.

I am my best self when I’m running. It may not be fitness for everyone, but we all have something that makes us feel like a better version of ourselves and when that’s interrupted or restricted, it can seriously mess with your mojo. I have heard trainers and coaches say to take an ibuprofen and push through it, but after feeling that uncomfortable heaviness and ache for the last few days, I know I can’t push through my post-surgical recovery. So how the hell am I going to cope?

myfacewhen

This is where I’m at folks.

I made the mistake of Googling “hysterectomy” and just freaked myself out with potential complications and the actual how of removing my inner goods so I ‘m choosing to focus on strengthening myself mentally and emotionally. I don’t even have a date for my surgery yet (don’t even get me started on the current state of our health care system), but I know myself well enough to know I’m gonna have more difficulty coping with not being able to run the roads than with any physical pain.

IDGAF if some troll thinks this is TMI, you’re all gonna hear about all of it over the coming months…join me as I get ready to lose the organs that have allowed me to bring life into this world and as I get ready not to lose my mind doing so.