The little things

Yesterday I went for my run in the late morning after getting everyone off to school. It was really hot and sticky out – by 9am around here at this time of year it’s just how it goes. I am really looking forward to the cooler temps rolling in; I think that will completely change how I feel about having to go later than sunrise. My miles yesterday were all to be easy effort – so I decided to listen to a podcast which usually keeps me pretty mellow. I found one interviewing James Clear, the author of the book Atomic Habits that I mentioned yesterday. The podcast was called “Ten Perfect Happier” with Dan Harris – I later learned that he wrote a book by the same name about his meditation practice and how it has helped him cope with anxiety and addictions and other aspects of his mental health. I enjoyed listening to this conversation about how to cultivate better habits (and eliminate bad ones!) in lasting ways in our lives. Ultimately to work towards being the best version of ourselves, improving who we are and our quality of life. The concept of each one of our actions being like a tiny vote we are casting for ourselves really resonated with me. It’s the idea that little things matter, that they are almost ALL that matter – we don’t necessarily feel the changes overnight but if we keep going, keep choosing well for ourselves, keep picking ourselves up when we falter, we will transform and we will get somewhere better. Not entirely unlike training for a marathon, right?

I have been thinking about the cultivation of habits a lot lately. There are some I have in my life that I really love, that feel like ME, and that I know I’ve worked hard to do regularly and make a part of who I am and how I DO life – running is one of them, my Pilates practice (which I do for a min of 5 minutes a day and I know helps me even when it’s only 5 minutes), drinking water … but there are areas that I feel I want to work to incorporate more good habits into my life (such as reducing social media consumption, putting my phone AWAY at night, and just being more mindful/intentional with that, reading more books, making time to create (draw, needlepoint), writing, and getting two strength workouts in each week).

Mr. Clear said to start by aiming for 2 MINUTES of doing something you want to make into a habit. It sounds so TEENY and pointless but he swears it makes a difference. He said you have to ESTABLISH a practice before you can work on IMPROVING at it. That makes sense to me. So it’s like rather than trying to eat the whole elephant you just take little bites. Rather than saying you’re going to run a marathon, you run just one more mile. And the next thing you know, all those daily tiny steps you’ve been taking have made you a marathoner. It’s who you are.

Habits are all about consistency, or they wouldn’t be habits at all – they would just be something you do every now and then. So start small. I do believe in that. It’s so much less overwhelming when you think about it that way, too. Here’s to a new day, and to doing the little things that make us feel better, be better.

New routine, where are you?

Robert flew to Atlanta yesterday afternoon for work travel for a few days. Work travel for him is going to likely become more of our “new normal,” along with many other changes to our routine this fall (new school schedules – 3 kids 3 schools 3 commutes, new sports schedules – 3 kids, 3 teams … 3 practices for one, 3 practices and a game for another, 2 practices for another just between M-Th). I am not begrudging any of it, really, because it is all for very good reasons and the adjustments while hard are not impossible. I think I am just ready for a routine and rhythm and am struggling to figure out a way to establish that. This morning I was on facebook (probably not the best way to start my day, I admit!) because I was curious about Jacki Carr’s book club book choice this month. It’s called Atomic Habits (James Clear) and is apparently all about how we can create better systems for ourselves to help us achieve our goals. That it’s not that we are lazy or unmotivated – oftentimes it’s more a matter of having a bad system/structure for our daily doings. The thing is, one of the habits I want to cultivate more of in my life is reading books. Yet I am basically failing miserably at that. Sitting down to read sounds/feels like such an indulgent luxury for me right now, and when I do carve out the time for it, I feel like I should be doing something else and have a hard time focusing or allowing myself to just dive in. So I have stacks of partly-started or near-finished books on my nightstand and in various areas of my house … the thought of ordering another one just makes my stomach hurt. I thought maybe I would do the audiobook instead, and listen to it while I run on easy days? But for a book like that I think it would probably be more helpful to actually READ because I imagine I would want to highlight/underline stuff. But maybe not.

My morning routine is sacred typically but I’ve lost my roots with it lately and feel frazzled. This morning Gus was up just before 5am, Abby was up shortly after, the dog needed to go out … and now it’s almost 6:30 and she is already on the bus, Gus is dressed and ready for school (despite my efforts to get him back to sleep) and is practicing his scooter tricks in the garage at the moment…seriously I do not know where he gets the energy but it does probably mean he will be tanking hard by the time dinner rolls around (and at that time I will be taking him with me to Will’s soccer practice which goes from 7-8:30pm… so it will be a long day). I just heard Will’s alarm go off, so he will be down here soon.

I think that’s the thing right now – the morning is chaotic and by the time everyone gets off to school I am here with a long to do list, chores, work and wanting to fit a run in too. I have to get everything done by 2pm because that’s when my carpool driving kicks off. I am home from that today around 4pm (yes, 2 hours in the car driving all over Raleigh!) and then take Abby to cheer at just after 5pm, and we leave for Will’s soccer at 6:30pm. I have to figure out dinner for everyone too. Gah. It’s a lot and I am having a hard time wrapping my brain around it all and figuring out how to feel both relaxed and at peace AND productive and able to get everything, or at least enough, done. It used to be that my morning sunrise miles kind of set the tone for the rest of the day, and as crazy as the day would get later I would feel this sense of inner peace and calm because I had carved that out and gotten it done. Now I can’t usually leave for my run until 9ish, and often later than that and I am feeling anxious about getting the run done in time so I can accomplish my responsibilities with work and family things I have to do before 2pm. But it is a priority and I know I am probably blowing a lot of this out of proportion. I need to break it down and then I feel better.

Anyways, it is what it is and I will figure it out! I think step one right now is accepting that this is how it is and embracing it. Looking at the blocks of time that I do have and making a plan and sticking to it. Identifying the roadblocks, the things that suck my energy and willpower and make me feel less than capable…so I can anticipate them and give myself some tools for thinking beyond them. Maybe I will get that book after all lol.

Have you read Atomic Habits? How do you structure your morning routine? Do you have teenage kids? This is harder than I expected it would be both logistically and emotionally, but I know that it’s not impossible!

If you’ve read this far, thank you! It feels good to journal here and just get things out 🙂 Have a great day!

XO Jess

Wake up and write

Two months from today I will run my 21st marathon. That’s the plan. It’s what I’ve been working for all summer, kind of all year, from a running perspective.

Things are different this fall. I have a high schooler, for one. She wakes up at 5:15 and we are walking to the bus stop together by 6. I decided to trade in the pre-dawn running routine I’ve been at for the last several years so I can instead be home for her. She doesn’t really want to talk much that early in the morning, but says it’s nice to have my company. I enjoy it too. I get home from the bus stop at about 6:20 to a quiet house. My middle schooler will be up soon, so this quiet time in the kitchen alone is here just for me to fill however feels right. So … I thought … maybe I should try writing now?

When I went to Bird Camp a few weeks ago, Lauren Fleshman mentioned something about what she calls “wild writing” – I think the idea is we write uncensored for a set aside period of time and don’t criticize it or try to polish it or make it “just so” … and then maybe something will come of it that will feel right and help us process or get more clear. Honestly I think part of what holds me back from practicing writing is feeling like I am not good at it and nobody will want to read it, and also not having the time to do it. Once Will is up and down here and needs me, Gus is up shortly after that and then the day gets busy. So maybe this early morning time is the best option for me. It’s quiet. I’m alone. So anyway here I am.

So two months from today I will run my next marathon. Training has been going well. I am feeling strong, feeling capable. The last few weeks my mileage has been around the 60 mile/week range and my long run has been 16-17ish miles long. I am getting into the gritty endurance building work. It’s hard, and satisfying. I know I am lucky to be able to work like this, and to feel progress especially considering the road I have taken to get here. About 8 years ago, I started really seeing progress with my running. Those were weird and exciting days but also dangerous – every race was a new PR and I was losing minutes as well as inches and pounds at a pretty astonishing rate. It was reckless, and ultimately resulted in me fraying at the seams, my body waving a white flag. Thankfully I woke up to my destructive behavior before things got too bad – I worked with both a nutritionist and a therapist to repair my body and heal thinking and behavior patterns/habits that hurt me and the people who loved me.

Now I am running strong again, and making very different choices around my running and my life. I don’t know if I will ever run as fast as I did when I was unhealthy. I used to think that was the goal, that if I could do that I would be able to prove to myself and anyone else who can relate or who is stuck thinking they need to be extreme to succeed in this sport, that it’s possible to come back from overtraining and under eating and run your fastest – even in your 40s – without returning to such extremes. I still want to strive for that if I am being honest, but the numbers aren’t necessarily going to tell the whole story and I know that. I think this training cycle is showing me it is possible for the numbers to reflect it though, eventually – I am running strong and not having any GI issues while running, which is H U G E L Y different from my running during those years when I was 25 pounds lighter than I am now! My marathon pace right now is somewhere around 7:45ish, even in the heat I am capable of that right now so with ~7ish weeks more of hard training to go (taking 2 for taper, I am guessing?) plus the weather cooling I think that’s realistic and perhaps conservative for an ideal day. I think my pace for my PR marathon was something like 7:20…so surely I have more work to do to change the numbers, if that were the goal, but I believe if I can stay healthy, do the work and be patient … IT IS POSSIBLE. No matter what though, I am enjoying the heck out of the journey even with the road bumps. I feel present and happy and healthy for it and that is not something I could say with honesty several years ago. And THAT is the stuff that REALLY matters. The biggest point to make with this, for myself and anyone else, is that we can return to running well and doing hard honest training without being reckless or harming our bodies or mental health!

Alrighty, time’s up. I feel like I ripped off the writing band aid. Will try again tomorrow.

Happy Monday!
Jess.

Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit – Feb 1!

There was a little meme that went around the social media world that said January was a “free trial month” and that 2019 was going to begin on February 1. When I saw it, it really resonated with how I was feeling all month. In hindsight though, I realized that despite feeling that way I actually did accomplish a lot and January was a good start for me. So why was I feeling that way? I think it was because I never sat down in the beginning of January to set goals for myself or think about what I wanted to accomplish. When the new year began, we had my sister and her family visiting us and it was SO fun but also made it hard for me to carve out space and time to do goal setting (for the year OR for the month), and I felt out of whack all month as a result both personally and professionally.

When it comes down to it, I am someone who does like freedom and flexibility but I need it to exist within structure. I have anxiety or feel like I am missing something without a framework, without goals. It doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t accomplish things, it just means that I will probably either avoid things that need to be done or feel like I am floundering even if I am succeeding.

So, for February I am taking some time today to think about some things I want to accomplish this month AND how I am going to go about it – on both personal and professional levels.

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Here’s a snippet of what I am thinking about for FEB:

1. Relationships: go on a date with Robert (scheduled it already – a double date with our good friends!) and go on a date with Abby (we need our girl time – I want to schedule a time for us to get our nails done, go out to a movie or dinner, maybe do a craft class together at Michael’s!). I also want to plan specific 1-1 time with each of my boys.

2. Financial: we have some debt to pay off and have been working on this for a while, making huge progress in 2018. I can’t even begin to describe how good it feels to be making a difference here. This month I want to pay it down more. To do this, I am committing to not buying anything for myself that I do not absolutely NEED and also focusing on growing my income and contributions to my family on a financial level.

3. Professional:

Beautycounter – I stepped away from Beautycounter in the new year. I think I was partially just tired from working so hard at it toward the end of 2018, and the break was good for me, truthfully – however at the same time I started this work because I need the income and when you don’t work your business, guess what happens? You don’t make money. SO – I am committing myself to getting back to a rhythm with this, reminding myself WHY I do this – to make money for my family, to reduce our debt and afford the lifestyle that’s important to us! I love and believe in the products and mission of the company wholeheartedly. When I decided to do this work, my reasons were twofold – I needed the money but wanted to make it in a way that was both flexible and aligned with my personal values. Beautycounter fit that bill so I am going to stick with it! In November, I made Director and had my biggest paycheck ever – which felt amazing! I get squirmy and have a hard time selling sometimes…I think this is where my roadblocks have been in the past. It’s hard and uncomfortable, but the rewards personally and professionally are great. On that note if you are reading this and want to learn more – please reach out! I would love to introduce you to it and help you and/or have you join me and my team!

Coaching – I currently have a roster of 20 athletes and am LOVING the 1-1 work with my clients. This work makes my heart sing and I love what I do so much! I have been growing my coaching business slowly because my vision for it is and always has been to be able to provide very personal attention to each athlete. I don’t want to have other coaches under me, or make mass plans for people. It’s just not how I operate. That being said, I do feel I have room and time for a few more people so I need to talk about this and share that with all of you! Again, shy about “selling.” But being a business owner/entrepreneur requires that you market yourself! So in February I am going to make more of an effort to share the work that I do as a coach, the accomplishments of my athletes and their amazing stories and how we work together, as well as letting you guys know that I have room for a few more!

Art – well this is a new one for me! I need a creative outlet on a personal level and have always dreamed of somehow combining my passions for running + making art. Well it has come to be! I am working on 10 orders right now of personal custom illustrations of running photos and I want to do MORE of this! So once again I need to promote/share/talk about it and let you guys know I am doing this and want to do more 🙂

4. Health/Fitness: I am focusing in 2019 on building strength, power and endurance. In Jan I consistently went to my strength class 3x a week and am feeling the progress in my running too. I don’t see changes on the outside yet, but I think when you build muscle the way I am trying to, it takes time and consistency. So in February I am dedicating myself to the process and focusing on being steady with my weekly strength workouts, core work and run training. I have some big hairy scary goals for my racing this year (I see you, 26.2!) and I want to have a robust and STRONG body to tackle them.

5. Writing: welp, this is the last one I will share for now 🙂 I started this blog YEARS ago (I think it was 2009? Maybe 2008. I need to check) in order to connect with others who loved running. A space to share my journey, maybe inspire others, make connections, process my thoughts and chronicle the ups and downs. Over the years I stepped away. I want to return to it with consistency. Writing is as hard for me as selling is … I just get so critical of myself, nervous of judgement of others, etc etc etc – but ultimately it is good for me and I feel it helps me grow in so many ways. So I am dedicating myself to this more consistently in February. I am setting a goal of writing 3x a week. I think I can do it!

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That’s it for now. Thank you for reading if you have made it this far! Off to hop on my treadmill for a hill workout! Tomorrow is my buddy’s 8th birthday and I am going to his school for lunch today! My mom flew in late last night and he has NO idea that she’s here – so he is in for a big surprise when Nana shows up at his school today!!!

Happy Friday, friends. And HAPPY FEBRUARY. Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit!

Raleigh Group Fitness Ambassador + My First Pop Up Experience!

You may remember that not long after I moved to Raleigh a little over two years ago, I hurt my foot and wasn’t able to run for a little while. In an effort to find other ways to move that would both help heal my body and nourish my spirit, I took myself to some heated yoga classes at Core Power. I was also really feeling quite lonely at the time, given that I was in a new city/state and unable to run, and hoped that by trying out some group classes maybe I would meet some like-minded women in the process. As luck would have it, I became fast friends with my teacher Yael, who also happened to be a runner who had moved here only a year before I did and could relate to how I was feeling in so many ways. Truly, going there and meeting her was just what I needed, when I needed it.

Core Power was awesome for me at the time – it fed my need for building strength and working hard (when I felt up for that) but also gave me a chance to stretch and relax in a way I know I hadn’t been for months amidst the stress and strain of moving my family to a new city. It also was a great introduction to the fitness/wellness community in the Raleigh area, something I had been searching for and trying to get a grip on because I truly love the connections made with others and was missing that SO much.

When I discovered Raleigh Group Fitness a few months later, I felt like my prayers had been answered. Founded by two passionate, kind and whip-smart women (Brit Guerin and Ashley Liu Kirkman) who are on a mission to bring people in Raleigh together through fitness and wellness, RGF is dedicated to inspiring our community and offering all sorts of opportunities for everyone to move and nourish their bodies in healthy ways as well as connect with others. The work they are doing and providing, the message of health and inclusivity that they are sharing – it is truly special. Raleigh is so lucky to have them.

I felt an instant kinship with both Brit and Ashley via social media and when we met in person all of that was amplified ten-fold. I am so honored and excited that they have asked me to join them as an ambassador. We have some exciting ideas and I can’t wait to bring running opportunities into the mix of all the wonderful ways to move in and around our city. I also hope to share with you the many options for runner-friendly cross training in our city – there is a TON out there and some programs and classes are especially awesome for runners!

A couple of weeks ago, I went to my first ever “pop up” workout with RGF. It was in the warehouse district down town in a really cool space called Junction West. I had SO MUCH fun and was totally blown away by the attendance! There must have been 50 or so people there! We were led through an awesome workout – lots of body weight strength intervals (push ups, squats, lunges, planks – wow!) – divided into segments taught by Ashley and Brit and another RGF ambassador named Conner Traywick. You guys – this was KILLER! I loved it because the energy was electric (we had an amazing DJ!), the instruction was top-notch, and I felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself/my own workout while also really in tune with giving my body and mind what I needed that day.

Photo by Linus Johnson

After the interval workout, yoga teacher (and fellow RGF ambassador) Justin Anne Patterson, guided us into a wonderful yoga practice. She slowed things down while also challenging our core strength, and then brought us into pigeon pose – an asana that will forever be something my body needs and doesn’t probably get enough of. My hips are perpetually tight (especially on my overused right side), and this posture is incredibly good for me.

Photo by Linus Johnson

When we were done, Justin Anne had us sit with our eyes closed and invited us to place one hand on our bellies and the other on our hearts. As I sat there, feeling my heart beating and my soft belly relaxing, I felt a connection to myself that I had not allowed myself to appreciate or sit with in a long, long time. Then she spoke with tender joy and kindness to us about how we are perfect just as we are, about self love and compassion, about being whole and not bits and pieces … and I began to feel tears come to my eyes. Not tears of sadness. Tears of connection and gratitude. I felt seen and heard, though I had never met this woman and was WAY in the back of the room.

Over the last few years, really since moving to Raleigh, I have chosen to actively do the hard and deep work to heal from the inside out – a distorted and negative view and critical, internal conversation with myself about my imperfections, especially regarding my body and my abilities. It has been a tremendous internal transforming for me, a coming home to who I am, an incredible resilience forged from within…a path that has led me to and beyond acceptance and compassion … to love. So when Justin Anne spoke these words, they truly felt like a big beautiful hug. After the class I found her and thanked her, told her what her guidance meant to me, and goofily introduced myself too. I wrote her later and asked her if she had written down what she wrote and she happily sent it to me. I am keeping these words and want to share them with you, too:

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“Perfection”

All the parts that fit together to make you unmistakably you – that is perfection.

All the things you think are flaws. All the pieces you’ve tried to change – that is perfection.

Every inch and pound you’ve wished away, every ebb and flow of your body – that is perfection.

You are not just pieces and parts at all. You are a living breathing work of art. You are whole and you are perfect.

Exactly as you are.

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I hope that if you are in Raleigh, you will check out RGF and the pop up events that are offered. You will not be disappointed! Follow them on Instagram, sign up to be a member, and check out the classes and events led by ambassadors in the area! Stay tuned too for what I cook up for the Raleigh running community. We have some ideas in the works and I am excited to bring this into the magic of the RGF mission!

Have you been to any RGF events? What are your favorite ways to workout besides running? Tell me about it!