The season of transition

Over the past 3.5 months, I have been buried by my full-time job as a organic cafe manager. While rewarding and educational, it’s also been stressful and exhausting. During this time, I have continued my triathlon training with the help of Coach Heather Hagan @ Entelechy Coaching. I’ve found that full-time work and triathlon training/injury prevention requires immense focus and dedication. Something I knew I had but also didn’t quite BELIEVE I was very good at either. After successfully completing an Olympic triathlon in August and placing 5th AG, I realized I had reached a new point not only in my training/performance but also in my personal/professional career. I realized that if I want to race a half or full Ironman race, I would need more time to train and energy to train physically, mentally and emotionally. I was now ready to look for other work options that kept me close to my training requirements physically and nutritionally but also fed my spirit and inspired others.

As a result, old and new friends began to present cooking and teaching opportunities that I had left behind a few years ago. The Universe indeed has a way of bringing us back to the people, places, and things that feed us and need us. So now I am about to transition yet again to a different work environment, new schedule, and new training volume that I could not have imagined before. It’s too easy to doubt but even more rewarding to hope and see what comes your way when you’re willing to change and grow despite the discomfort.

What areas of your life are pushing your buttons and urging you to take a leap of faith? What do you need in order to take the first step? Remember that support and help are only a phone call or email away. I know I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it hadn’t been for the support and encouragement of many.

Happy transitions to us all!

Advertisements

Overcoming & Accomplishing…Mind over Matter

On Saturday July 13, I begrudgingly drove to Carrollton, GA, to scope out my next triathlon, the Carrollton Sprint Triathlon on July 14th. Unlike my last race, I hadn’t been training as much, mentally or physically, for this one, and despite it being a simple lake swim, my nerves were already drowning me. We previewed the course and took a quick swim which was filled with good strokes followed by gasps and coughs. Fortunately, I have enough memories of successfully choking through swims and conversely, swimming smoothly through courses. Whatever was to happen would happen and I would survive the swim.

mass swim startI’m not sure what it is about the swim, but when I get to races, think about races, see OW swims or photos, my heart races and my body freezes up. When I played competitive tennis in high school, the same thing began to happen at the end of my career. The pressure to win, succeed, or something, caused me to freeze and literally forget how to swing a tennis racquet. Now I forget how to swim, trying to sight and breathe at the same time which gives me a mouthful of water and a headful of fear and panic. As a Master Scuba Diver and Lifeguard, I know how to handle stress in the water, rescue people in the water, perform CPR, etc., but I turn into a panicked child who can barely dog-paddle. Ugh!

20 seconds before the race started, we found out that the gender-based wave starts would be changed into one mass start. So with 10 seconds left, I had to figure out where to position myself and how to keep myself calm. Oh shit! So with those positively pleasant and calm thoughts the race began! I got about 10 strokes in before I started sighting and simultaneously trying to breath at the same time. Big mistake! As I began taking in big gulps of of water versus big gulps of air. Safe to say the panic began along with half-assed dog-paddling and one-legged breaststroking….with over 400 yds to swim. At the first buoy I saw a young guy flip over and start backstroking. I knew I could go faster and maybe calm down this way, so I followed suit and began swimming as fast as I can on my back. Towards the end of the swim course, I tried to return to normal swimming which half-worked, allowing me to exit the water with a horrible swim time and a head full of negative, self-defeating thoughts.

LR carrollton bikeAt this point I assumed I’d have to be satisfied with simply finishing the race versus placing or even winning (right?!). Relieved to be out of the water, I tore off on the bike with my pre-race goal of a 40 minute bike split on my mind. Unlike my last race, I didn’t really watch my speed, simply focusing on keeping a fast cadence and steadily tracking down the people in front of me. I passed a few women, one early on a hill because her chain came off, then a young girl who was drafting with her father. I saw my wife up ahead as finished the last mile or two. Coming into T2 together was a welcomed relief after a crappy race start. As we headed out onto the run, I got my next (positive) surprise of the day. A spectator yelled out, “first female out.” My head spun around and I asked him if he was kidding. Nope, we were the first two females on the run course. Not only first female but fastest female bike split of the day (under 40 minutes). My first thought was, “HOLY SHIT! I could actually win this race!” Finally some positive thoughts!!

I’m a fast runner but many are much faster so I knew I had to run faster than I expected to win this race. For the first 2 miles, I kept the lead. Remember that chic I passed on the bike whose chain had come off? Here she was again! We ran together for the next 1/2 mile up and down some brutal hills. I finally needed to slow down, afraid I might have to walk if I didn’t. I kept her in my sights and tried to calm my breathing and savor the fact that I was still in 2nd place overall. Wow! Thoughts of settling with 2nd place came and went, supplemented by the fact that I could still win since she was less than 50 yds ahead of me. At that point I began to fill my mind with positive affirmations and memories of sprints and chasing people down in other races. I told myself to just, “shut up and run!” I began to pickup the pace about 100 yds before the last turn uphill to the finish. As I made my turn, she was only a few steps away from me, until a spectator yelled, “Here she comes behind you!” THANKS! She glanced back then picked up her pace. I knew this last 50 – 100 yds would be an all out sprint…and it was. Sprinting uphill is like torture, but I felt like a bicycle switching into easier gears in order to pickup the cadence and hopefully pickup my speed. With only a few yards to the finish line, I began to pull past her, crossing the finish line for the win by .05 second! Excited, exhausted, and in disbelief I congratulated her on a great finish then wandered off to the adjacent track to let reality settle in. “I did it! I can’t believe I pulled out a win, especially after such a disastrous swim start!” I cried and laughed and shook my head in disbelief, along with the occasional fist pump that decided to make a comeback from my tennis years. I couldn’t wait to tell Laura, who gave me a high five and told me to take off and win it when we started on the run earlier. I was hoping she would win her division as well so we could both celebrate individual wins (and she did :))

What started as a racing disaster turned into an experience of overcoming and accomplishing something I have been seeking since I began recovering my physical health 2 years ago. I learned that my mind is probably more powerful than my body and impfinish line closeupacts me more in racing and training than I had realized. All the years of yoga and mental training now had another use besides the curbing of general anxiety and depression. I must train my mind as much as if not more than my body because when it comes down to race day. If my mind is weak and unprepared, then I might as well not even step in the water. Recently, I picked up the book, Mind Gym, which is filled with stories and exercises pertinent to mental strength via rehearsal, visualization, and affirmations. Check it out here along with some of my other recommendations for gear, books, magazines, etc.

See it, believe it, then DO IT!

PHYSICALLY FIT but MENTALLY EXHAUSTED

This past week was a recovery week which gave my still recovering hamstring a chance to rest from running and focus on gentle strength work.  I think the more I train the calmer my moods and more focused my mind becomes, so when training slows yet life speeds up and fills in the gaps, I scramble to push back in order for some mental/emotional R&R.  Let’s just say that this week was stronger than me, and as I faced another last minute change of plans this morning (which could rob me of a much needed long ride & time of mental peace), I had a meltdown.

melting clocks

Dali’s melting clocks that are simultaneously drowning seemed to appropriate image for this experience.  Not only is there seemingly not enough time but the pressures and demands and expectations have me up to my eyeballs with negative self-talk.  “You’re not good enough.”  “Why didn’t you do it right?”  Rejection, mistrust, doubt, FAILURE!  Hard to find the goodness and the grace and the gratitude when it feels the world & your mind is betting against you.

Or so it seems.  The mind and body are so intricately linked yet we tend to focus on them as separate identities.  Yoga means ‘union,’ and the yoga postures and pranayama (breathing practices) give us the opportunity to harmonize and experience both simultaneously.  When I absolutely cannot bear another moment of life’s constant swirling, I fall to my “mat” – the carpet, the tile, the grass, the earth – a focus on syncing gentle movement with controlled breath.  I give my mind permission to only pay attention to how it feels to move and breathe as one.  Within minutes (or hours, depending on the size of my meltdown), I’ve found my center, my Self, and my sanity.  It’s easy for me to see why I spent almost 3 solid years practicing yoga and meditation every day for at least 2 hrs.

Personal Flow-poster

In that deep awareness and understanding of mind-body connectedness, I will devote this day to realigning my mind, body, and spirit so that Week 5 of 70.3 training won’t end like Week 4.

 

How do you balance the demands of life and leisure and training?  What are your reset buttons when you reach meltdown status?

How to Calm the Chaos: Inner & Outer

This weekend started on Wednesday morning and will end late Saturday night for me. It is one of those long weekends that you hoped would be relaxing yet somehow felt busier than being home (but without the familiarity & comfort of home). The funny thing about it was that I enjoyed most of it. I would’ve liked more rest, more quiet, a bigger bed, and less activity, but I know I got what I needed. I had the opportunity to try new things, meet new people, unexpectedly see long lost friends, reconnect with family and appreciate what I have and need, like relationships & quiet time.

So how are your weekends? your vacations from work & chores? For most people, they don’t know how to rest, relax, let go and enjoy. I have family and friends who would rather push themselves into exhaustion than sit still and even worse, sit silently alone. It makes me wonder and want to us, is it louder or scarier inside than out? I know it can be for many us. At various points in our life, the inner chatter is so critical and confusing that keeping busy feels like the only solution. When we get to this point, it’s hard to make any changes without support, whether that be from a loving friend, partner, or professional. The important thing is to reach out and remember that you’re never alone and that living in constant chaos outside to avoid the chaos inside is no way to live – in fact you usually can’t do it very long without getting sick in some way. I know that tasks, goals, productivity is important but when the cost begins to outweigh the benefit, trouble is afoot.
I had someone ask me lately to help with a tendency to overcommit – a problem over half the population has while the other half can’t seem to commit to anything. I consider over-committing or over-scheduling a product of the above at times. Over-doers are usually either trying to fill an inner void yet avoid the inner critic while others are trying to “be all they can be” because they truly want to help or create. There is probably an overlap though in these departments though. It seems that even when we truly want to participate there is usually a piece of a “should” or “ought to” attached to it that is actually rooted in an even deeper judgment of self about what our critic and others will say or believe if we DON’T participate or have to “turn it over” to another person. Where is the compassion for self and the awareness that sh*t happens; meaning, sometimes things come up last minute and truly keep us from doing what we had planned or wanted to do OR sometimes in the 11th hour we are hit by the spiritual 2×4 and realize we can do another thing or we will fall over or bite someone’s head off with our words.
The remedy to this tendency or at least potential softener is the practice of transition periods. How often do you truly schedule in adequate transition time and space as you go from one place or activity to another? I saw counselors for years who scheduled clients back to back seemingly all day. When I became a counselor I realized I was doing the same thing, which gave me maybe 5-10 minutes tops, to breath, remember myself, stretch, grab the next file, brief it, then jump in again. After the 4th client I was about to have a panic attack or melt into my chair as if I was watching a movie. Since then, I’ve made it a point to never schedule more than 3 without a 15+ minute break following and to take mini “awareness breaks” between all sessions where I breathe, body scan, and determine what I need and how I can give it to myself before the next session in some form or fashion – even if it’s just writing myself a note of encouragement or doing one yoga pose. All my activities and adventures outside of work are considered “penciled in” unless they are super super important…but even some of those have been abandoned in the end if I was too cooked to do another something. My determining factor usually has to do with how present and alert am I right now. Can I feel the energy and breath in my body? Is my mind feeling alert and open? If I cannot answer these questions and give myself thorough details as if I were an observing witness and an experiencer of them, then I probably need a break. Sometimes, a slow short walk with deep breathing will do it, other times, it’s a 30 minutes nap, a few yoga poses, free-flow writing, or even having a relaxing cup of tea or more elicit beverage quietly on the back deck.
What items on your schedule can you begin to pencil in? Remember to evaluate how each event supports you or stresses you. Don’t take out the ones that support you, even if they feel like the ones that are somehow “optional” – like a walk over another 30 minutes of work. Build in some transition time between each event then double the amount of time you think you need. We usually short ourselves on the good things and overdo the unhealthy ones. After a week, see how you feel then decide how you want to go forward.

For confidential support, call 205-908-1247 or email me awakenedliving2010@gmail.com.

May you know peace, happiness, health, and freedom from suffering.

Listening to Your Body

Body awareness & mindfulness are becoming hot topics and key words especially in athletics, medicine, health, & spirituality, to name a few.  But what does it mean to “listen to your body” or “be mindful”?  It doesn’t mean the noises one’s body makes at times, although they can be helpful nor does it mean to fill your mind with more chatter….I’m pretty sure it’s full enough (remember yesterday’s post on anxiety in America).

On days like today, it feels like all I can do is listen or respond to my body because it’s refusing to do anything except lay on the sofa.

Listening can be done through….

  • performing a body scan by bring attention to each body part
  • practicing yoga/breathwork/meditation with a teacher/group
  • feeling sore or tired more than usual
  • FORCE via screaming, loud physical symptoms that you can’t ignore

Ideally, we would check in aka listen with our bodies on a daily if not hourly basis to make sure we are in tune with our insides as much as we are our outsides and surroundings.

As much time and attention we spend externally on our looks, our workouts, our clothes, our courses, our equipment, we have abandoned or at least neglected our internal home that we carry around with us.  And the truth is that our internal home, our bodies & all that fills them, are what will make us or break us in the end.  By listening, nourishing, & responding to the signals we receive as soon as we receive them, we create fertile space for mental strength, physical performance, & emotional balance to blossom.

This pyramid of health & wellness must be equally balanced for us to live happy, healthy lives.  By constantly evaluating & observing each part, we can make manageable adjustments along the way.  If we wait until “wailing and gnashing of teeth” then well, get ready for a longer road to recovery and reframing your lifestyle.

So here I lay on my sofa, aware that the signs have been present but I’ve consciously IGNORED them.  Hopefully, after this day of mostly rest & hydration, I will re-commit & follow through in the practice of greater mindfulness through daily yoga & meditation.  All any of us can do is constantly re-evaluate and re-commit to our personal sadhanas (practices).

Namaste & good luck practicing.

Self-Coaching & Stubbornness

As a kids I was always so eager to to follow the directions of a coach or teacher.  Starving for knowledge and attention, I absorbed it like a sponge from whoever was offering.  I was the kid who was the teacher’s pet or the coach’s favorite in other people’s eyes, but not for kissing ass.  My parents were supportive & present, but I wanted more involvement which is why I befriended teachers, coaches, their kids, & anyone connected so that I could spend more time learning from them.  I was the kids who dreamed of being an Olympic athlete…in a variety of sports from softball & tennis to triathlon & marathon now.

My dreams of being a “pro” or sponsored athlete haven’t faded much despite a strong dose of reality that I turn 30 in 2 months and time is a tickin.’  Whether or not those dreams become a reality isn’t the point anymore but working towards them is.  The only problem now is that I bounce from teacher to trainer to coach like a bouncy ball, sort of.  Some might say I was learning what I needed to from each along the way, but part of me craves consistency and stability just like I did as a kid seeking guidance.

Every time I get a schedule or a workout, I “ugh.”  Ok, well not every time.  Mostly when I think it’s too hard or too easy or doesn’t fit my schedule that day.  Sometimes I follow it as written, other times I tweak the time or distance, or change the entire day & type of workout.  I must say that I do this because I’ve read too much and looked through too many plans, books or articles that give me a false sense of “knowing what I’m doing.”  I suffered from this a lot as a the kid of a doctor & lawyer who felt the same way about himself.  Like father like daughter.  It got so bad so when someone as school got hurt or sick, they’d come running to me asking for a diagnosis & a solution.  Sad thing is I gave one, and even worse, often times I was right or pretty close.  Adding insult to injury or swelling to an already swollen head.  Over the years as I began to reflect more about life, goals, strengths, and weaknesses (companies love to ask about these), I realized that practicing honesty with myself and others was going to be important in prioritizing my life.  From then, when people asked me something I didn’t know for sure, I’d just say, “I’m not really sure.  I can give you a best guess, but I really have no idea.”  And if I made up something & spouted it off confidently without recalling my commitment first, I’d immediately go back and say, “I’m sorry, I just made that up.  I’m not sure what the truth is.”  Believe me, I got some crazy looks and a lot of laughs but I learned a lot and I think it gave others permission to be human as well.

So when it comes to knowing & acknowledging my limits today, I still struggle.  Whether it’s because former coaches let me down or I just didn’t have the mental strength to succeed, I don’t know 🙂  All I know is that I want to improve, and every time I meet with or see my current coach, John Hanna of E3Tri, I feel seen, supported, grateful, and confident.  The results are blinding for me, yet I still buck authority after being my own authority for years as I got more connect to my own mind, body, & spirit through yoga & Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy.  As an athlete and human being, I have to balance my need for self-support & the support of others.  Learning to trust & let go or stand strong & step up.

What challenges have you encountered in your training?  Not just training for a race but in training for life…the much harder game to play.

Coping with Pain…of all sorts

Being alive has it’s own hazards and happinesses.  Pain – physical, mental, emotional – is one of those undesirable yet unavoidable hazards of living.  We all experience it and yet many athletes & non-athletes seem to live with it on a daily basis.  In an interview last week after the first round of Decathlon competition, 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist & US Decathlete Trey Hardee (@treyhardee) from Birmingham said that he’s been injured since 2003 but that’s normal and he was feeling good about his performance so far.  Pain-free is rarely the norm of athletes and even non-athletes of today.

I was reminded of my own journey of pain & healing (repeat) this week when I woke up with a stiff neck and shoulder.  A pain that plagued me from my 25th birthday until last year when I started seeing Dr. Lou Ann Hedden, a amazingly gifted chiropractor in Hoover.  Over the past year the pains left and the strength increased.  I went from 3 visits/week to 1 visit/month over the past year.  Then on July 6, 2012, she suddenly died.  The past 5 weeks have felt like forever and yet I haven’t “needed” anything except moral support.  With the re-surfacing of this “old painful friend,” I am reminded of how much pain I used to be in and how much relief I have experienced the past year.

Now the turning point, I need a doctor again & have a few names from people I trust.  But I feel disloyal, as if she were still here and her death was just a joke, a mistake.  The therapist in me knows this is the DENIAL stage of grief and there is no way around it except through it.  So I cry in sadness and in deep, heartfelt gratitude for how she helped me, then I pick up the phone and call Dr. Ellen Witt to begin a new journey with her and continue on the healing journey I have been on for years.

When the pain comes, let it come in.  And here the words of Rumi…..

 
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.~ Rumi