Sun’s Out, Run’s Out

This past weekend brought a heatwave to Northern Michigan and much of the country.  We went from lots of snow and 20 degree temperatures to mid and upper 40’s.  After dreary and cold days, it felt amazing to see the sun shining and the snow melting.

I woke up with a bit more energy.  I felt happier and was also much more motivated.  I met with several clients over the weekend and they all mentioned that they felt so much better.  There was more motivation to get to the gym and they were happier in general.

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I felt like this all weekend!

Now, I’m not going to say that the groundhog was wrong.  Having grown up in the Midwest, I know that Mother Nature is just giving us a brief reprieve.  We can easily still get dustings of snow into the middle of May. But spring has started to show a little hint of itself and it feels great.

One of the most difficult parts of winter is the shorter and much colder days.  Even our dog doesn’t get outside as much.  It is very difficult to go for walks when your face freezes and the ground is covered in snow and ice.  We naturally start spending more time inside and less time being active.  Even as a runner, my step count isn’t nearly as high during the winter months. The cold weather and darker days also tend to make us want to hibernate.  It is much easier to curl up under a blanket on the couch with the family.

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When the sun starts peeking out from it’s winter hibernation, it is a great reminder that it is time to dust off those walking/running shoes.  Throw on some rain boots and walk around in the melting puddles left from the snow piles.  Take the kids out to make one last snowman.  Find some cleared sidewalks and join the family for a walk.  Yesterday we took two family walks.  Both times we finished by letting Mary splash in puddles until it was time to strip down and change clothes.  All of us had a blast playing in the melted snow.

The weather is getting a touch warmer and that can feel absolutely awesome.  Step outside at lunch and walk for a few blocks.  The fresh air and sunlight will wake you up and leave you feeling more motivated for the rest of the day.

The sun is setting later.  I love when this happens.  On my drive home the other night, I noticed that it was almost 7:00pm when the sun finally set.  Take advantage of this.  Even if you get outside for the last 5 minutes of the evening, just run around in the yard.  Throw a ball with the kids or a friend in your driveway.

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That’s what I’m afraid of…..

It has been a long winter.  Let’s take advantage of every bright and sunny or warm day.  Find some time to enjoy a few extra minutes outside.  Breathe in the fresh air.  Move a little bit more.  You will soon notice that everything starts to feel a bit better and you will set the tone for an active spring and summer season!

Did you enjoy the weather this weekend?  Were you able to get outside for a bit?

Lead Heavy Legs and Race Training

I recently was going through my website and found that one of the most searched topics on my site is “legs feel like lead during training.”  I did a post on this a few years ago and since it seems to be so popular, I thought we should touch upon this again.

Running is one of my favorite things to do.  That doesn’t mean that it is always easy.  Sure, some days are easier or better than others.  There are also days when every step is a struggle, and every minute is a process of me pleading with myself to keep going.

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Regardless of how many or how few miles you have logged before training for a race, one thing is almost certain, race training will exhaust your body.  Your legs will in fact feel like they are full of lead.  Your muscles will likely ache and you will probably fall in and out of love with the sport during your training cycle.

Training for endurance races is an involved process.  Plans will have you doing various types of runs that might involve both short and long mileage, speed work, tempo runs, and perhaps even sprints.  Each of these serves an important purpose in making you a stronger and healthier racer.

You will also notice that most plans follow a periodized pattern.  This involves a gradual increase in mileage over time.  The increased distance is meant to slowly train your legs to endure the large amounts of mileage you will face on race day.    In order to do this in a healthy manner and to hopefully avoid injury, you will spend many weeks of higher mileage training.

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This type of training and mileage will in fact, exhaust your legs.  In order to make your muscles stronger, you have to push them.  Just as your muscles get sore and tired when you lift weights, your legs must go through this same process.  In order to build muscle in the gym, you gradually lift heavier weights and for longer periods.  The result of this is tired and achy muscles, just like you feel after endurance training.

There are two things that you need to do during this period.  First, you must approach your rest and recovery in a manner that allows you time to heal and recover.  Respect your rest days.  Don’t run.  Stretch and do some light activities.  Drink lots of water and eat plenty of bright red and green fruits and veggies as well as plenty of protein.  Remember that a healthy diet fuels your training.

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Once you have ensured that you are resting and recovering properly, you then need to push through those heavy legs.  There will be days and even weeks where you legs and body feel absolutely exhausted.  You will have to continue training through these tired legs.  Your pace may slow down a bit.  Don’t push it too hard and be patient with your body.

Finally, know that this won’t last forever.  Trust that this process is meant to build your body and make you stronger for your event.  It will be difficult and frustrating at times.  With patience and diligence, you will soon find that you feel like yourself again.  In fact, you might even find that you are stronger than you were just a few weeks ago.

What is your best advice for dealing with tired and heavy legs?

Runner’s Amnesia

I recently heard the term “runner’s amnesia” and it has had me chuckling all week.  If you are a runner or have ever run, you most definitely have suffered a case of running amnesia.

The onset typically starts when you first begin.  Each day you struggle to breathe and push yourself through a workout.  The entire time you curse yourself for ever considering running.  You constantly remind yourself how much you hate this.  You swear that when you get home you are throwing your shoes away and never running again.

Somehow, by the time you wake up the next day, you seem to have forgotten about that run and you are at it again, cursing your way back through.  In fact, you might even go out the next day and see a cute running top or a shiny new pair of shoes and decide that you must get those for training, despite having just said you would never do it again.

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As a coach and a runner, the most common case of runner’s amnesia that I tend to see involves endurance races.  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard about a runner crossing the line of a half marathon and swearing they will “never do that again” only to sign up a week later.  Even better is when they decide that “never again” meant they might as well tackle a full marathon while they are at it.

Years ago I proposed doing a marathon to my husband for the first time.  I told him it was a bucket list item that we should do.  His response was that he would train with me and run a portion, but not the full race.  Today we have done multiple marathons and together coached hundreds of half and full marathoners.  Funny how quickly things can change.

As a matter of fact, I remember the morning of my first (and supposedly only) marathon.  I was sitting eating a bagel and these strange words slipped out my mouth without me realizing what I was doing, “Next time we do this, we should……”  We both looked at each other and had a scary moment.  We both knew right then that there would be a next time.

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So what is runner’s amnesia?  I believe that it is this wonderfully sick mechanism in our brains that allows us to suffer our way through a difficult run or event.  It allows us to curse ourselves, our bodies, and our poor judgement.  We can even say we will never run again or never do a particular race again.  And at the time, all of this is absolutely fair.  We are miserable.  Our bodies hate us, our minds hate us.

However, by the next morning, our brains have somehow erased most of those terrible memories or somehow recharged them so that we can laugh about how we stumbled across the finish line or threw up into our shoes.  Suddenly we are amused by our terrible experience.  Less than 24 hours later we think, “It wasn’t that bad!”  We start contemplating our next event or planning a revenge.

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While it might be a safety mechanism in our brains that allows us to erase terrible, horrible memories, it also is that strange mechanism that makes us runners totally weird.  It allows us to forget just enough to get back out there and keep going again and again.

What is your best case of runner’s amnesia?  Were you ever unable to not completely forget a bad run or race?

Make Yourself An Informed Consumer

Over the past few months I have worked with many clients who are trying to live a healthier life.  One thing that has become increasingly common with food logs is the general misunderstand about what is “healthy” and “unhealthy.”   There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding diets and well being.

One of the best ways to ensure that you are an informed consumer and healthier eater is by looking at food labels.  These is a standard format for all of the foods we purchase and consume.  All food labels look alike and show you the same information.

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The first thing you will notice at the top of a food label is a description of what the serving size is and how many servings are in each package.  This information is extremely important.  Serving sizes are not determined by anyone other than the company who produces the food, meaning that each company can determine how large a serving size is.  Next you will want to know how many servings are in a package.  It is not uncommon for a small package to have multiple servings.  If you did not realize this you might think you are consuming far fewer calories than you actually are.

Next on a food label, you will see calorie and fat content, followed by the percentage of calories that come from fat.  This information is also very valuable.  A snack with less than 100 calories per serving is considered a low calorie food.  Any snack with 100-400 calories per serving is considered a moderate calorie food.  And a snack with over 400 calories per serving would be considered a high calorie food.

Below the breakdown of nutrients on each label, you will also find a full list of the ingredients.  These are listed in order of largest amount to smallest.  It is always recommended to look for ingredients at the top that you recognize.  If you find words that you cannot decipher or do not recognize, they are most likely preservatives.  Aim for eating more whole or recognizable foods in your diet.

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Do you recognize most of these ingredients from your pantry?

You will also see a list of potential allergens.  All allergens must be listed.  The most common that you will find are peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, dairy, eggs, and gluten.

Buyer Beware!

Please note that while the government does regulate food labels and most food claims, it does not regulate everything.  Just because you find “whole grains,” “organic,” or “healthy,” or “natural,” does not necessarily make them great choices.  Sugar laden cereals can also contain whole grains.  Organic food can also be full of added preservatives or sugars.

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All of these claims are legal to place on the cover of packaged food.

While a food label may make certain health claims, it doesn’t mean that it is completely healthy.  Before you assume that a food is good for you, read the label and check it’s serving size, calorie and fat content, amount of sugar, and ingredient list.  Compare food labels and always opt for the lowest sodium option between foods.

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I may have tried to convince my husband that these are “natural” but we both know it’s not completely true.

Serving sizes can be very misleading.  Some small bags that appear to be a single serving can actually hold two or three servings.  If you did not realize this you might think you are making a wise choice.  However, knowing just how much you are consuming might change your decision.  I recently came across a granola that was listed by the ounce.  Do you know how small an ounce is?  The granola had 40+ servings in a small bag.  That to me, is almost scandalous!

Be aware of certain foods that can appear to be healthy but labels might show otherwise:  Some of the leading culprits (but not all) are cereals, granolas, fat free candies/chips/crackers, energy bars, energy drinks, smoothies, juices, and trail mixes.

While reading food labels might seem tedious now, you will likely find it eye opening.  Once you get used to reading labels, you will soon find that you will naturally give it a quick scan and gravitate towards healthier choices.

What is your best recommendation for being an informed consumer?

Picking The Right Training Plan For You

It seems that now is the time of year when everyone starts nailing down their racing schedules for the spring, summer, and fall.  While the snow might still be on the ground and it feel a little early to start thinking about summer running, training plans will have you back at it in the next few weeks.

Many runners come to me wondering just what type of plan they should be using.  Some people want a customized plan.  Others want to find a free plan online.  Both can work well for just about anyone, but there are many factors that you should take into consideration before choosing the best fit for you.

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Pick your race and then decide on a goal.  Is your goal just to finish?  Or do you have a time in mind?  Basic cookie cutter plans are typically a great way to go if you are looking to simply finish a race or try a new distance.  However, if your goal is to PR or qualify for another race, you might need to consider a plan with specific speed training based on your goals.   A coach can also help you determine what paces you should be using for different types of training runs.

What can you commit to realistically with your schedule?  Running and training for races takes up a lot of time.  Work, family time, and social activities require time.  Be realistic about how much you can actually commit to training.  If you know that you only have three days per week to train, don’t try to cram in 5-6 days.  You will quickly become frustrated and feel as if you are failing.

What level runner are you?  If this is your first race, don’t select an advanced training plan.  While this might seem like a great way to meet your goals, if your body is not already accustomed to this amount of mileage, you are running a recipe for injury.  Don’t rush your training.  There will be many more races.  Start out slow and build your way up.

Know your limits.  I used to think that I needed to run 70 miles per week to be at my peak.  The reality was that anything over 60 miles per week caused overuse injuries.  I know my limits and keep my training mileage for marathons at around 50-60 miles and my non-training mileage at 40-50 miles.  While it might seem that 70 miles would make me stronger and faster, that certainly won’t be true if I am injured.  Instead, it is important to know your limits and train smart within those boundaries.

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Don’t fall victim to recycling plans.  Just because a plan worked well for you once, doesn’t mean you should just repeat that plan over and over.  Every race has different conditions and elements.  Chicago is flat while NYC is full of hills and bridges.  Following the same training plan for both races might not give you the same or best results.

Also keep in mind that as we continue to train, we change as runners.  We get older.  Sometimes we get faster.  Our goals change.  Our needs change.  Listen to your body, your goals, and the race and then make changes accordingly.

Understand what the race your training for will be like.  If you are training in the winter for a summer race, you might want to do some indoor runs on the treadmill to simulate warmer conditions.  If you are in a flat area but training for hills, you will want to look for hills or find some inclines.  You might also consider some cross training to build up strength in your quads as declines can really wreak havoc on these muscles.

Keep in mind that no two plans are perfectly alike.  Do your research.  Speak with a coach.  Most coaches are happy to give you a free consultation to discuss what you might need and expect.  Never settle on a plan and always be willing to make adjustments when needed.

What is your best advice for finding the right training plan?

A Lapse Isn’t A Relapse

Many of us head into the New Year with great intentions to get healthy or lose weight.  We often take on exercise plans, begin weight loss programs, or start a diet.  It is not uncommon to start off feeling very motivated.  We keep to our plans and see progress being made.  But as the weeks pass by we slip up a bit and sometimes the weight comes back on.

This can be frustrating and discouraging.  We think that we have failed or even consider ourselves to be failures.  However, part of taking on new programs or making lifestyle changes is making mistakes.

Many of us look around and see people who appear to have unstoppable amounts of will power.  They appear to be able to hold off from touching everything that seems tempting.  However, the truth is that each of us has a set amount of will power.  It is not an unlimited thing.

Will power diminishes as the day goes by, meaning that when we wake up in the morning, we are at our peak amount of will power.  This is why it is so much easier to make great decisions like eating well or hitting the gym earliest in the morning.  Later in the day, we have less will power and it is far more difficult to make these difficult decisions.

Stress is also one of the biggest causes of derailment from our healthy plans, quickly diminishing will power.  When we add this to our hectic schedules you can see that is very easy to find ourselves making poor decisions.

When this happens, it is important to remember that a lapse from your healthy plan is not a relapse.  One mistake or a few mistakes does not make you failure.  It does not send you back to square one.  We can all learn from these mistakes.

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Take a step back from your situation.  Why did you make a different decision from what you had planned?  Did stress cause these decisions?  If so, it is important to figure out what triggered your stress reaction and then find a way to plan for the next time this might occur.

When we understand our triggers, we can make a game plan to sidestep these potential derailments. 

Don’t get down on yourself.  You are not a failure.  Do not compare yourself to others.

We often look at celebrities and see how they always eat healthy and always look great.  While this may be the case, remember that this is what they do for a living.  They have a healthy living entourage to keep them on track.  Celebrities have trainers, nutritionists, and even cooks to achieve their goals.  And when all else fails, they have stylists and doctors to help them too.

Just as athletes need coaches and students need teachers, anyone who is trying to make healthy living changes needs a support crew.  That includes family members, friends, and peers at work.  Let people know what you are trying to do.  Ask for their assistance in supporting you.  Maybe a friend at work would be happy to join you in the lunch room instead of grabbing fast food.  Perhaps your family would join you for a walk after dinner each evening.  Enlist your crew.

Don’t forget your biggest asset.  You are the biggest and best support you could possibly have.  Don’t get down on yourself for making mistakes.  Remind yourself that this is part of the process.  When things don’t go as planned or you are having a rough day, be your best friend and sit back and help yourself assess the situation.  Figure out where things went wrong and help yourself determine how to make everything work better in the future.

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Enjoy life.  Learn from your mistakes and move forward.  Don’t dwell on the past and remember that a lapse is most definitely not a relapse.

How do you get yourself back on track when things don’t go as planned?

Back On The Team

Happy Monday!  We had a wild weekend full of lots of work and family time.  Super Bowl Sunday is always a favorite for me because, like most runners, I love food!  Pizza, dips, wings…I want it all.  Mary, on the other hand, was a bigger fan of the Puppy Bowl.

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This past week was another full one at the gym.  I had been putting in plenty of extra hours on the fitness floor, working with new training and health coaching clients.  It was great,  but I am really looking forward to a slower upcoming week.

I of course also managed to get in lots of mileage this past week, mostly on the treadmill.  Actually, it was exclusively on the treadmill.

On Friday I received exciting news that I was accepted back onto the Simple Hydration Running Team for 2017.  I am so excited to be a part of this great group once again.  I really love the Simple Hydration bottle and truly believe that it’s founder, Brian Hock, is a great business leader.  He has done so much for the running community and takes great care of his team of runners.

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I also love that Mary has discovered this bottle and enjoys using it!

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I’m also excited to be on the team again this year with Elle of A Fast Paced Life.  We got the chance to meet briefly in Central Park last spring while Mary ran wildly around in the grass.  It was so fun hanging out with a fellow team member and blogger and I am looking forward to another fun year with her and potential race meet ups.  If you haven’t already, stop by her blog and give it a like!  I love reading about her running adventures and enjoy living vicariously through all of her races.

I plan on being back much more this week with some running tips, healthy living ideas, and life adventures.

How was your weekend?  What was your favorite part of the Super Bowl?

Veggie Based Dessert Dip

Happy Monday!  I hope you had a great weekend!  I spent a long week working at the gym and playing in the snow with Mary.  A fellow trainer mentioned that she was at Sam’s Club earlier in the week and found dessert hummus.  I asked her about it and she couldn’t stop raving.  It might sound odd but she said she was in love and her so were her kids.  In fact, she had to ask her husband to hide this new version of dessert.  We discussed what went into this and both agreed that it could be made at home.

This was perfect because Mary has recently taken to dipping everything.  She loves to dip her pancakes in syrup (as well as her cereal).  She always asks for ketchup with anything we are eating.  And if we want her to eat something, we add dip on the side.  This girl loves chips and salsa!

I have recently made it my goal to find healthy dips for her to try.  So why not dessert dip?  I made 2 versions; peanut butter and chocolate peanut butter.  Both of these took less than 5 minutes to whip up.  I then pulled out pear and apple slices, celery sticks, and animal crackers for her to test out.  She ended up eating it with a spoon.  I can’t say that I blame her.

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These recipes are deliciously sweet, high in fiber, full of healthy ingredients, but also low in calories.

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Check out the two recipes below!

Peanut Butter Hummus

Ingredients:

1 can garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)

2 tablespoons peanut butter powder (such as PB2 or Jif Peanut Powder)

1-2 tablespoons syrup

Optional tablespoon coconut oil

Chocolately Peanut Butter Black Bean Hummus

Ingredients:

1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)

2 tablespoons Jif Chocolate Peanut Powder

1-2 tablespoons syrup

Directions:

Combine ingredients in food processor.  Blend until well combined.  Enjoy!

The black beans have a little bit more of a wet consistency and do not require any extra oils or liquids.  I ended up adding a little extra peanut butter to the black bean concoction for a creamier peanut butter flavor.

What would you add to your dessert dip?

Busy Days and Weekend Adventures

I seriously have not forgotten about this space.  Life has just gotten rather hectic lately and I decided to take a week to stay busy doing other things.  A co-worker broke her leg on our icy streets and I have been covering lots of extra hours at work.  No complaints here, as I really enjoy my job.  But I do hope my co-worker is feeling better soon.

At some point during the middle of last week, Rock suggested that I go with him to teach skating in Central Park for the weekend.  After some schedule juggling and some very kind offers from my parents to watch Mary, we were off to New York City for a few days of skating and lessons.

The weather was astounding!  It stayed in the 50’s all weekend and there was no snow in sight.  This was a delightful break from the constant snow we have been getting in Michigan.  It felt like spring!  I took a few days off from running and just enjoyed working as much as possible.  When I wasn’t working, I spent my time wandering the city.  It had been a long time since I just walked around and enjoyed the sights.  I felt like I had a renewed appreciation for everything.

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My office at 6am.  Not a bad way to start the day…..after a cup of coffee.

Rock and I stopped into St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  We wandered Central Park and the Time Warner Center.  We watched the skaters at Rockefeller Center.  That brought back special memories for me because we went there on our first date to see the Christmas tree.

We ate delicious food.  Thursday night we had a late evening slice from Artichoke pizza.  If you are ever in New York City or Queens, I highly recommend a stop here.  I covered my craving for sushi and beef shwarma.  And I of course enjoyed some delicious NYC bagels for breakfast.

Sunday came quickly and I boarded a plane back to Detroit.  I had the luck of getting an upgrade to first class.    After a long delay at LaGuardia, which ranks in my book as the worst airport to be stuck at, I walked down the ramp to board the plane.  Half way there, the pilot sent me back and announced all flights were in a ground stop to Detroit due to fog.  Flights had been canceled all day and it didn’t look good for us.

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Fortunately we managed to board the plane after a surprisingly brief wait.  We then sat on the tarmac for what felt like ages as flight plans were made and changed.  I managed to make it to Detroit by evening and drove three and a half hours home in dense fog.  I arrived home in the wee hours of the morning and woke to early cries from little Miss Mary.   Fortunately, she was game for an hour of snuggles in bed, before it was time to start the day.

With a few hours of sleep and a few extra miles in my frequent flyer program, it was back to reality and back to the gym for work.  What would a weekend be without some fun adventures?

Quick summer trip planner for you.  Did you know that National Geographic just named our area with one of the Best 21 Beaches in the World?

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The Rockefeller tree may be pretty awesome.  But Rock outdid himself by proposing to me here.  Then National Geographic chose it.  Coincidence?  I think not.

How was your weekend?  Did you have any fun adventures?

Take A Look In The Mirror-Like What You See

Happy Monday!

The other day while training a client, I placed us in front of a mirror.  I believe mirrors are a very useful tool for working out.  I was mentioning that we should watch ourselves to make sure we are performing sets properly and that we should also focus on good posture.  It is important for us to roll those shoulders back and keep them down.  We often tend to slouch as a way of hiding and also tense up during the day, causing our shoulders to rise.

It is very important for us to maintain great posture as we get older.  We also need to roll those shoulders back and not slouch, as a way to gain and portray our confidence in ourselves.

I was surprised to see my client shed a few tears and apologize, saying that she doesn’t like to look in the mirror.

This stopped me in my tracks.  Here was a beautiful woman, with a wonderful personality.  She is kind and full of life and to me that creates a great sense of confidence.

I myself have always had a rough relationship with mirrors.  I tend to let my eyes wander in yoga classes and constantly compare myself to others.  I usually see myself as much bigger or heavier than those around me.  Like many of us, I tend to quickly focus on what I perceive as my flaws.

On Saturday I headed into our basement to use the new treadmill that finally arrived.  After last weekend’s 14 miler that left me chafed pretty much from head to toe, I knew that I needed to wear something a bit more suitable.  YEARS ago, Rock gave me a pair of Nike compression running shorts.  I honestly never wore them before because I felt my legs and butt were too big.

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I pulled them out for the first time and put them on and gave myself a shrug in the mirror.  Rock was happy to see me using my gift for the first time and asked how they felt.  He of course said they looked great.

As I ran on the treadmill, I began to notice that these shorts felt fantastic!  It made me feel a bit silly for never wearing my gift.

As a coach and trainer, I often speak about how we need to love our bodies and work to gain confidence.  Sure we all see faults in ourselves, but we also need to seek out and acknowledge the great things we have.

Most of the time we tend to be our harshest critics.  We look around at others and believe they don’t have the same insecurities that we carry.  The truth is, we all have insecurities.  Many of us spend far too much time worried about what others think.  We need to spend more time focused on telling ourselves what we like about us.

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The reality is that most people are far more concerned with themselves and don’t have time to think about your faults.  Most people don’t even see these things that we spend time hating about our bodies or whatever it may be.  And generally speaking, any person who takes any time to mock or tease you, is suffering from many more insecurities than you are.

Stop worrying about what others think.  Take more time to glance in the mirror and focus on what you love about you.  Spend a little bit more time lingering and seek out those things you never even realized you like about you.

Stand up straight.  Roll your shoulders back.  And put a smile on your face.  You owe it to yourself to love what you see in the mirror.  If we can spend a little more time focusing on the positive, we will spend a lot more time enjoying life and loving ourselves.

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