Community: (re)defined

The concept of community has been all around me the last couple of days in particular, but really — community has been on my mind for weeks now. I started to think about how I defined community the last time I wrote about it here:

So now when I think about “community” — my definition is quite different.  It’s about finding common ground. Above all else. Kind of like this amazing fitness and healthy living community that I am damn proud to be a part of. A beautiful phenomenon…another community where I’ve made friendships that I cherish, with awesome women (and even a few guys!) who I’d never ever have met if not for this blogging thang.

As I read and re-read my words from that post, it dawned on me: I was writing about it from a very different perspective — the perspective of the student surrounded by a loving, warm and supportive set of mini communities. But today, I sit here thinking about community from the perspective of instructor or teacher.And while I still define community in a similar way to how I wrote about it over a year ago, I’m coming at the concept of community from a (re)defined perspective today.

…as a barre n9ne instructor.
…as a forever student of this fit lifestyle I’ve grown to love.
…and as a quasi-’teacher’ of what fit can mean if you apply it to all areas of your life.

Community means…support without strings attached, just lifting up your fellow friends, clients, family, etc., because you want to. Period.

Community means...learning from eachother. Whether it be at the studio and figuring out how to connect with your core better, or through fit friends who show you how to run with heart and soul (yep, that’s you Meaghan).

Community means…putting yourself out there and knowing that those in your personal community will be there to catch you if needed. This happens all the time with fit besties Steph and my sis Jo. Anytime I’m having a moment of personal struggle, no matter how big or small it is, they are there to remind me to think bigger, to pull back and look at the situation with a new perspective, and usually it’s a fit perspective at that.

Community means…leading by example as an instructor, in the hopes that at least one client will be inspired to reach for a higher goal, push a little harder in class, or simply smile at themselves in the mirror when I tell them to focus on the work they’re putting into that plie or bicep curl.

Community means…beautiful friendships, connections and memories built on that common ground, and with a foundation of trust and support above all else.

Community is beautiful.

And, as we near the end of 2012, I am damn thankful for the various communities that make up such a big part of my life today.

Source: toms.com via Jess on Pinterest

Ruminations (#1 of…)

So I’m titling this post ‘Ruminations (#1 of…) for a specific reason (you know me, I always do things with intention, right??).
…I’m leaving myself room to expand on this into a series if I so choose.

You see, lately I’ve been struggling to collect my thoughts, to find focus. There are many reasons for that, none of which I care to dive into here. Generally speaking, you all know pretty much why that is. Why I’ve been so focused on simplifying, finding or re-creating a new sense of balance, etc. So while I’m figuring out my flow over here, I didn’t want to just plain stop blogging entirely. I have lots of thoughts going on, none all that cohesive per se, but some that are totally worth sharing here, in rumination format instead of my usual ‘themed’ posts.

(wow was that a long preamble to today’s post! Man.)

Ruminations (#1 of…)

Seeing this girl absolutely CRUSH 50 miles on Saturday was an honor and a privilege.  Other than inspiring the hell outta me, she also restored my faith in running joyfully, because you LOVE it, above all else. This girl absolutely lives and breathes running…and I adore that in her.

#runsherpa duties are no joke. I mean, seriously — it was *such* hard work passing time in between Meaghan’s 12.5 mile loops by basically bar hopping in between loops three and four. <wipes sweat from brow> But seriously, it was SO much fun seeing her pass each loop, giving her whatever she needed in the way of support — healthy bites (fueled by Healthy Bites woo!), gummy bears (so glad I packed those from Scott’s secret stash!), refilling her gatorade, handing her love notes to read along the course and shouting words of encouragement as she jetted off for the next go-round. Jo and I were seriously working hard as can be in this pic, hmm? (note the photo bomb by a certain #teamsutera member…)

It similar running related news — I’m scarily excited to run intervals tomorrow morning. Now that I’ve gone into totally unstructured territory with  my running, and because I have much less time to dedicate to running lately, I gotta make every single one count (#makeitcount!). Plus, I’ve neglected speed work for so long that it’s oddly fun to get to that puketastic/sweatastic point. While I DO miss endurance running, I know I’ll get back to that in a couple weeks once things settle down at the Sutera Manor (more on this later), for now — quick and dirty is the way to go (TWSS). Let’s hope I feel this way post-workout in the am. ;-) (I’ll report back, don’t you worry)

Speaking of endurance…ya’ll have to quit running marathons and writing such inspiring race day recaps. It’s making me want to run another marathon. Wait, I didn’t say that…ohhhh but I did. NO news (yet) buuuut #teamsutera is definitely mulling it over just a teensy bit. Not gonna lie. #arewecrazy #maybebutwhatelseisnew #notcommitting #runsimplyisourmantra

“Me dinner” nights are frickin’ tasty occurrences up in here. Tonight’s dinner was jammed full of veggies, apparently my body was majorly craving them given this ‘kitchen sink’ style stir fry I whipped up. In it you’ll spy: mushrooms, summer squash, yellow beans, tomatoes, chicken sausage (woops, that’s not a veggie) and mashed sweet potato with plain greek yogurt stirred in. I’m pretty sure as soon as I took this pic, my plate was clean. #hungryhorrors up in here.

In other foodie news — pretty sure this will be happening shortly: a red velvet ‘cupcake’ made with red velvet cake mix and a can of pumpkin stirred in. Two ingredients — ridiculously tasty and equally ridiculously low calorie (approx. 150 cals in this sucker…a titch more if you add a tsp of melty nutella on top like mine will have tonight…). 

And because I can’t get enough of barre n9ne – my #b94lyf gush-fest of the night? I am way, way, way too excited to be teaching a heck of a lineup of classes this week due to some subbing I offered up, y’know because I’m such a team player and all. ;-) I’m in the studio every single day this week except for tomorrow. I kinda love it. (and don’t worry, I will not be running a lot this week; nor am I taking any classes this week — teaching a ton means pulling back in other areas so as not to burn myself out…remember: balance is good. I loooove balance.)

Hmm. Apparently I had more to say than I thought. This may not be the most organized or theme-driven posts of all but it still follows my blogging personality quite nicely — goofy, honest, real and still with intention, per the usual. ;-)

(here’s to #1 of___ to come?)

#Runsherpas: the #teamsutera way

By far one of the best aspects of marathon training for Scott and I (aka #teamsutera) was the amazing outpouring of love and support from loved ones — not just family but ‘IRL’ friends and bloggy friends alike. It was nothing short of incredible.

Between that and all that Scott and I learned during our 18-week marathon training journey together and we’re both *still* feeling very grateful for the entire experience.

One of the coolest phenomenon’s ever was the forming of the #runsherpa support group that sort of started small and snowballed before we knew it. In case you aren’t sure how this all came together, refer to this post please. :-)

So when #teamsutera (and fellow #runsherpas, my sis and M!) had the opportunity to pay it forward by becoming #runsherpas ourselves, we jumped at the chance. And who better to #runsherpa for than for Meaghan — who is staring down her first ULTRA marathon tomorrow: the Stone Cat 50 miler. For those of you who do not know Meaghan — you are sorely missing out. Not only is she freakin’ hysterical and an awesome, awesome, AWESOME friend ‘IRL’, but she is ridiculously inspiring.

Just SIX MONTHS ago this girl was recovering from compartment syndrome surgery. A surgery that had her basically starting from scratch. From ground zero. From the very beginning all over again. No matter how long Meaghan had been running, none of it mattered post-surgery. She was starting fresh. As in one foot in front of the other, slowly but surely.

And today? She’s prepping for an incredible challenge — 50 miles. And oh yeah, it’s a trail race too.
(see?? I told you she was pretty amazing, did I not?)

To this day, I count Meaghan as THE most passionate runner I have ever met. She absolutely glows anytime we talk about running. Her words are dotted with joy whenever she’d share training advice and tips (something she does very sensitively I might add — she is *not* a know-it-all kind of runner AT ALL…and she’d have every right to be one given how experienced she is). It was her words that stuck with me on that epic 22 mile training run that Scott and I absolutely crushed this summer. (and it was her post that made me bawl like a little baby when she wrote about seeing my marathon journey from the outside looking in…)

Her words? So simple yet incredibly powerful: Let the run come to you.

That phrase still gives me goosebumps.

ANYWAY. Now that I’ve gushed for this entire post about the awesomeness that is Meaghan, it’s clear that I seriously cannot wait to #runsherpa for her tomorrow. Scott is getting in on the action too, naturally. He’s taking his post-race pizza making duties *very* seriously. And I can guarantee that he’ll be the loudest #runsherpa of all time…and probably the loudest spectator at the race tomorrow overall. Just a hunch. ;-)

So tomorrow? I am honored, proud and SO excited to #runsherpa the hell outta Stone Cat while Meaghan crushes her first ultra. No matter what, she’s going to cross that finish line with pride. She may be hurting. She may be utterly exhausted. And she’ll definitely be emotional. But what I hope she never forgets is where she was just six months ago — and a smile of joy and gratitude crosses her face as she finishes all 50 miles.

Run proud, run happy, run strong Meaghan. You GOT this.
Love,
#runsherpa Jess (and Scott ala #teamsutera fame)

“Sticking your neck out for what you believe in…”

Listening to the radio this morning, one of the guests on the show I was tuned into mentioned something his grandfather told him on his deathbed. It had to do with giraffes and how he admired them as animals — not just for their grace and strength but for sticking their necks out even in the wilderness where they faced the threat of attack by far more vicious animals like lions or bears. To him, giraffes signified a mantra he tried to live by always: “stick your neck out for what you believe in.” 

And you know what? That guy was a very wise man.
…sticking your neck out for what you believe in is an incredibly powerful concept. At least it is to me.

Which got me thinking this morning…what do I believe in, anyway? 

I believe in the power of faith and blind trust in our paths, created by Him. Even if faith can be scary or hard to wrap my head around sometimes. I believe in it. Firmly.
(just this week I was reminded just how important faith can be, as some big time prayers were answered…more on this in a future post)

I believe in the beauty of marriage, of building a partnership, a best-friendship, a love story together. Playing “wifey’ to my husband is my favorite ‘job’ of all.  #teamsutera <3

I believe in the strength of the human body. How it just knows what to do if you let your mind go and trust your body to do whatever ‘work’ you’d like it to do.

I believe that sometimes all it takes is a good sweat to shake off a bad mood. Sweat is good. 

I believe that it’s ok to say ‘no,’ to put yourself or your needs first sometimes, and to not let guilt steal the joy of those quiet ‘me’ moments.

I believe in living a life as free from regret as possible. I may not be perfect at living this way, but I’m constantly working towards that ‘no regrets’ mindset.

I believe in fueling my body with delicious, whole, fresh ingredients, and not being afraid to say “I LOVE FOOD!” because good food (and let’s be honest, good wine…) brings me joy.

I believe that we all deserve to chase our dreams, big or small, for as long or far as that chase takes until we snag that dream.

I believe that everything happens for a reason. Even the bad things in our days. We might not see that ‘reason’ for awhile but trust me, it’s there. And it’ll smack you in the face one day and then you’ll say “ohhh, no wonder. Now I see it.” <—-this happened this week too

I believe in myself.

Now. Belief is a beautiful thing and I hope you all have a list just as long (or longer) than mine. Share it here if you like. Mull it over this weekend. Blog about it if you wish. Or simply: just believe. Let that sense of belief wrap itself around you like a comforting cozy blanket on a chilly fall day. Find strength in your beliefs. And stick your neck out from time to time, it feels good.

 

<<Editor’s note: Happy weekend my friends! I hope you find one thing this weekend to believe in, big or small. I know who I’ll be believing in this weekend. One of my bestest blog friends ever: Heather. She’s running a half marathon tomorrow and I hope you’ll all cheer her on with me!! I’ll also be cheering for all you MCM-ers running the marathon on Sunday. Hurricane Sandy, steer clear please!!>>

On breaking the mold…and making it your own

The one thing that marathon training has taught me — make it your own.

Or — as the Dove chocolate wrapper I opened the other night said, break the mold.’ 
…I don’t know why but I totally dig that phrase.

To me it signifies so much more than just where my head is at marathon training-wise…but I’ll get to that in a second.

First – my thoughts on marathon training and why making it my own has become incredibly important, particularly these past few weeks.  I truly believe it’s why this process has been a totally joyful experience for me. And quite possibly why I apparently make training look ‘easy’ to some of you. ;-)

It’s truly because I’ve made it MINE.

I created my training plan from scratch. 
…based on what I know will work for me.
…what my body will respond best to (hi, no injuries here please!)
…and based on what will give me good balance between my ‘working out life’ and the rest of my life (because there’s a LOT going on there right now too…)

I don’t use anything tech-y to get me through my training runs. 
…no garmin to obsess over my pace (afterall, I just want to run 26.2 proud, no real time goal in mind…)
…no ‘rules’ as it relates to when to fuel/hydrate or what to fuel/hydrate with. (when my body says ‘I’m tired’ it’s time for fuel, when my body says ‘man my throat is dry’, drink please!)
…and no incessant daily mile updates to publicly track how many miles I ran week-by-week. (to me, that’s sort of personal and not something I feel the whole world needs to hear about from me.)

I *try* not to compare myself to other runners, particularly those training for a race like me. 
…I don’t need to start putting doubts in my mind about how effective my training plan is compared to theirs.
…or wonder if I’m working hard enough as they are.
…and most importantly, I don’t ever want to steal the joy out of this process for myself by letting comparison games rule my mind.

I feel the need to preface ALL of these thoughts by saying that this is simply what works for me, what I believe in for my own training goals, my own approach to running and fitness — my own.

Because honestly, no matter what you’re training for, no matter what your fitness goals may be, no matter how structured or unstructured your weekly workouts are — you should always, always, always make it your own. It’s so easy to get lost in the cluster of how everyone else ‘does it’ and by default, either confusing the heck out of yourself, or losing a little piece of you in the process.

So my message to all of you today is simple — Break that mold, lose all sense of preconceived boundaries, remove the limits from your days, and make it your own. 

This week, more than ever, I am truly living that ‘no limits’ mantra I set for myself at the beginning of 2012. And I believe it’s in large part to my continued focuse and commitment to breaking the mold, questioning boundaries and just going for it.

…life is simply too short for anything less. 

(take a deep breath, step off that ledge, have some faith and just go for it. Note to self.)

Self-reflection.

I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection lately.
Observations, really. And making tweaks (in training, in perspective, in paths), along the way.

A comment from my dear friend (and super-insightful blogger!) Lisa got me thinking:

What a great reflection. It does make sense that the reasons for (and meaning of) running will change over time. Many people don’t take the time to even consider it—but doing so probably makes the good effects and meaning even better and more!!

I guess I hadn’t really thought about it but she’s right — how many of us don’t ever truly take the time to reflect on what we’re doing and decide 1) if it’s worth continuing, 2) if we’re doing “it” for the right reasons and 3) if it’s making us a better version of ourselves (because really, don’t we all want to be our best selves?).

So it’s not just reflecting — but applying those reflections

 

This year has been all about testing boundaries and removing the barriers, walls, limits from my life — whether I’ve put them there or someone/something else has, as the case may be. And as part of that? 2012 has been an incredibly rewarding and very full year for me.

I dig that.
…and I owe it in large part to the reflecting, applying those reflections and becoming much more intention-filled than ever before.

What I have noticed lately, though? That some of my loved ones – IRL and of the bloggy variety – either don’t often take that time to step back, or haven’t done so in a very long time. And not that I’m the poster child for self-reflection by any means (for reals!), nor am I one to judge others based on how they lead their lives. I promise you that. That is definitely not the intent behind my post today. 

But honestly? Regular self-reflection has become this little “thing” of mine that has proven to be one of the most valuable and rewarding (and simplest) things I’ve ever done for myself.

…and I guess I just want to see my loved ones doing the same.

Not just following their path, but embracing it.

Not just checking off the boxes in life, but doing so with purpose, intention.

…and definitely not just “existing” but truly living.

I’m not suggesting you all should go out and make crazy major life decisions or anything, per se. I’m just saying — self-reflection is an amazing gift to yourself. And it’s free.

So that’s my message for today — do yourself a favor: look in that mirror and reflect. And smile as you do it. Even if the person who stares back at you tells you that some (good) change needs to be made, at least seeing your own smile will remind you that you’re doing this for YOU. And nobody else.

In.

In.

…run the mile you’re in.

…run the run you’re in.

…love this life you’re in.

…embrace every opportunity you’re in.

…be in the moment. Every moment.

…Be In.

So you all know my favorite running mantra is “run the mile you’re in” right? Well, my blog bestie Heather so thoughtfully reminded me the other day to always remember to also run the run you’re in, not just the mile you’re in, but the run you’re in. Not the one coming up next weekend, next month, or this fall (ahem, Chicago…).

It was a reminder I needed leading into this weekend’s half marathon. It’s no secret that my mind has often skipped ahead to Chicago this fall everytime I’m in “long run” mode. I start to freak out about it, worried as hell that I will never make it all 26.2 miles. So the “run the mile you’re in” mantra comes in really handy for me during those times…but now this “run the run you’re in” concept is another goodie I plan to tuck into the back of my mind for the next training cycle. (thank you, Heather, what would I do without you? Seriously.)

But once I got to thinking about the whole concept of being “in” whatever it is you’re doing, running or otherwise, it all started to come together for me. Being “in” is something we could all use a really good dose of. I know I talk a lot about being present, and taking disconnected or unplugged weekends from time-to-time, but I honestly think we all need to do more in the way of being “in” this life we’ve been blessed with.

…it could mean being more “in” the moment during your next workout. Focusing on the mind/body connection. The way your body moves and changes and transforms with every step, every drop of sweat, every punch, kick, jab or plie.

…it could mean being more “in” it to win it — going for that dream that always seemed so out of reach. Saying “effit” and just going for it.

…and sure, it could also relate to running. But I think we already covered that one. ;-)

Bottom line: “In” is a really great place to be.
(This post courtesy of the “Chronicles of things I’ve learned through Running.”)

 

Because you love it.

As I was reading through and responding to comments on my post on Tuesday (which were awesome, thank you guys!!), one of the comments stood out to me, in particular the very last sentence in that comment:

Tracey Leffler

I think that is a good plan. You can do this and you will do this. You just need to trust yourself and remember whatever the outcome you are doing this because you LOVE it.

We do, we chase, we follow, we thrive…because we LOVE it.

…or at least that’s what should be driving us in every single aspect of our lives.

But does that often get lost in the shuffle in the chaos of the moments, the days, the weeks, the years that make up our lives?
You betcha.

So while at first Tracey’s comment got me thinking and re-thinking how I approach running (something I love, obvs), it also got me thinking big picture too.

Everything we do in life ought to driven by love. Not necessarily love in the traditional sense, but love in the broader context.
…of living life to the fullest everyday.
…of remembering that we only have this one life, this one body, this one chance.
…to live our best lives now. Not “someday.”
But now. In whatever shape or form that takes.

With that context in mind, I got to revisiting how my life is shaping up right about now. Is it everything I hoped and dreamed it would be? Am I blooming right where I’m planted?

Am I doing…because I love it?

And you know what? My answer today is a resounding YES to all of the above.

Had I asked myself that series of questions a year ago? I can guarantee my answer would be very, very different. But today? I’m doing…because I love it. And it’s been by design, truly.

I’ve streamlined all areas of my life to make sure that everything from the friends I choose to interact with, to my approach to my (relatively) new job, to my approach to my new (beloved) role as barre n9ne instructor, to how I look at running/racing/marathoning, and even to how I approach blogging.

I do all of this (no matter how hectic it gets!)because I love it.

Bottom line. Life is too short to be doing anything in life if you don’t love it.

Sure there are obligations in life that nobody loves, I’m not trying to be all puppies and rainbows here — nobody can solely live life only doing the things that they love (though, that would be pretty great,  huh?). But by and large — we should all be striving to be doing what we love, loving what we do, loving this life we’ve all be blessed with. <–I’m a firm believer in everyday being a gift

So I guess my point is this — next time you’re struggling to wrap your head around a training run, or to motivate yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and go after that new role at work, or to simply understand how important (or not) certain relationships are in your life, ask yourself one question.

Are you doing ____ because you love it?

Fill in that blank, answer that question, and I’m pretty sure you’ll wind up much happier in the long run.
…just a hunch. ;-)

On quieting the mind.

So after getting back from Little Rock on Tuesday night, I ended up feeling very restless.
…and anxious.

I could not quiet my mind.

There were a ton of reasons for all that chatter going on in my head, but mostly — my mind kept going back to those dreams of mine I’ve been chasing. My mind was gravitating towards fear. Not exactly an emotion you’d typically equate with dream catching, right?

And then it dawned on me (with a little help from the hubs – he gives the best ‘tough love’ pep talks, I swear): why let fear hold me back from reaching my true potential? Why is my immediate reaction to get scared and want to step back, far away from my dreams instead of racing towards them?

…because chasing dreams is hard. It goes back to getting outside comfort zones, getting way outside of your cozy little life and putting yourself out there. Like really out there.

But then, isn’t that what dreams are made of? Your dreams are little bits and pieces of all the things you’ve always hoped your life could be and making them a reality. Your reality.

So rather than fear that new reality, why not embrace it with joy and excitement and enthusiasm? Versus letting fear steal away the joy that chasing and catching a dream should be all about?

Afterall…not many people get the chance to make their dreams a reality. If ever.

So this is me – banishing fear in favor of joy and making those dreams of mine a reality. My reality.

*****This post brought to you by one of the most mind-quieting runs I’ve ever had. Seven solid miles. 40 degree temps at 7am in February in Boston. My favorite running partner by my side. The cool air rushing past my face. My mind quieting with every step I took. An incredibly quiet, but amazing runner’s high. One my mind needed even more than my body.*****

Strength is…

Strength is…

…pushing past boundaries. Boundaries you’ve set. Maybe without realizing it. Or maybe you have. Or maybe those boundaries were set by someone or something else. And you push past. That is strength.

…choosing to challenge yourself. With intention. And purpose. Not going halfway and stopping. But taking it all the way. Not just completing a challenge, but crushing it. That is strength.

…embracing discomfort. Stepping way outside of your safe little world and into a world of unknowns. And charging forward. With courage. Even if that means ‘faking it until you make it.’ Because getting uncomfortable enacts change, evolutions. That is strength.

…Dream. Dream. Dream. And then turn those dreams into your reality. That is strength. 

Strength is…

<Editor’s Note: This post came to me after a really solid day at my new job, where I found myself stepping outside of my world and embracing the discomfort. And it was followed by a particularly intention-filled barre n9ne class. Where I felt focused. Sure of myself. And most of all? I felt strong.

…I must say, this ‘year of no limits’ is off to a damn good start. Rock. On. >