What The Ruck Am I Doing?

Oh……..you guys.  I’ve been doing something cool.  Well, at least I think it’s cool.  You know me…..my brain wants to love endurance and running, but when it comes down to showtime, I just loathe it.  I want to be that ultimate athlete  that can run and bike and swim and lift like a beast, I just won’t want to do that run and bike and swim stuff.  Well, actually, the bike and swim stuff I don’t mind.  I just don’t enjoy the running part.

Which used to make me feel ick.

But now I found something else!

Rucks.

I am totes becoming a Bad Apples Mother Rucker.

Outdoors being outdoorsy!
Outdoors being outdoorsy!

So last spring/summer I threw a 10 pound dumbbell into my husband’s hunting backpack and took it for a few spins.  It was cool, but then I had a lot of other stuff going on to take it too seriously (RKC).    So I thought about A LOT over the fall, and it always stayed in that thinking stage and never committing stage.

So I up and committed in January.  Bought a serious backpack that could double as a laptop bag if I wasn’t cut out for this ruck business and then I wouldn’t have “wasted” my money.  Did the most logical thing and googled every combination imaginable about rucking, ruck walks, ruck challenges, how to ruck, and the like.

Found out that rucking is just walking with a weight.  Mostly from military stuff about having all your gear on you and available at all times and using your body to get you from point A to point B.  And then all these google searches advised me to “ruck more” and “just get out and ruck” and some were like “only do this once per week” and some were like “you only need to ruck to stay fit.”

Well……I’m not an idiot.  I know how to program weights and such because I do that for a living.  I know that I can make these be super slow and heavy as heck, or a lighter and ruck longer.  And….I knew that if I kept googling too long the backpack would become a dust magnet and I would just keep wondering about this ruck business.  And you know what?  Walking (which is what you do when you ruck) is just another Original Strength reset, only a “loaded” one.   How bad could this be?

Turns out, if you just start, you learn stuff fast.  Most sources I checked into (SFG, Team Spearhead) suggested between 15-25 pounds weight, or 10-20% of your bodyweight.  Well, I did a few stints at 10 pounds last year, so I opted for 20 pounds in January, because I happened to have a sand bag weighing that much that wasn’t getting much use at the time.  I’ve contemplated completing a GoRuck Challenge for some time, and I know that if I do….the load I need to carry is 30 pounds.  So….I spent a few weeks at 20 pounds doing two miles at a time, and then increased to 30 pounds while keeping the mileage the same for awhile.  Side note – 30 pounds is a LOT different than 20 pounds, and 20 pounds is a LOT different than 10 pounds.  To your body….it is the same as gaining that much weight overnight and then carrying that weight for an extended period of time (however long you are walking that day).

So, of course, upon rucking for a solid month and loving it…..I did the absolutely most sensible thing on the planet.  I signed up for the Team Spearhead Pathfinder Training Program which is designed to get you ready for a ruck event.  Even though I’m not signed up for a ruck event, I thought what the heck could it hurt?  I mean, it is completely sensible to go from zero to 60 and commit to a minimum of 75 ruck miles, right?  Yes, that is how I roll….go all in instead of dipping in a big toe first and getting used to it :)

As part of this challenge, I have to do a bunch of things……ruck a minimum of 75 miles in the three month period, complete 20 ruck workouts (workouts wearing or using your ruck), complete three workouts as team leader, complete at least four Pathfinder challenges.  The challenges I’m targeting are taking and passing (or keep assessing) the Army Fitness Test, completing a 12 mile ruck in 3.5 hours or less, a 15 mile overnight ruck, and rucking 36 miles before/after ruck workouts.

Aside from this challenge, and biting off a LOT of things I need to chew in the next three months, I think rucking will stick with me long after this challenge is over.  So far, in the winter, it has gotten me outside and sweaty and cario-ized and I’ve loved it.  I think it’s helping me keep winter blues away too…..the outside part anyway.  It is also endurance MY way, maybe slower than running, but strapping a bunch of weight on my back.  That’s how I like to roll, you know?

Here are some notes that I have so far for people considering this type of thing:

  1.  Your backpack needs to be comfortable and sit close to you and generally lower on your back (the weight anyway) but everyone is different and sometimes I like mine up a bit higher.
  2. You don’t have to purchase anything fancy to load your backpack with, you might have a random dumbbell laying around, or you might have some landscaping bricks.  Use what you have.
  3. Increase your load OR mileage, not both at the same time.  Give your body time to get used to this business.
  4. Pay attention to your footwear, because adding an extra load to your body changes how your footwear feels.  I’m noticing hot spots in places I normally wouldn’t.
  5. Make sure you can walk well and for awhile WITHOUT LOAD first!  You have to walk well before you can ruck.
  6. Moms carrying babies might be TOTALLY down with this, and your ruck might actually just be your baby in the carrier.
  7. Combining rucks and workouts inside a regular lifting program means you need to pay attention to overdoing things and taxing your energy systems.  Respect your body and feed it and give it rest!
  8. Focus on your posture!  Walk tall and don’t lean forward.  You will definitely feel those muscles working FOR SURE.

Aside from all that, going for a two mile ruck feels WAY different than a two mile brisk walk.  I’m not used to this game yet, so my body is getting used to it.  This is making me HUNGRY!  Ruck days, I could eat the house down :)  Some days I do!

So, I’ll be checking in as I continue on with this challenge.  I’m excited, but scared to death.  I mean, I’m practically scared of the dark, and doing a 15 mile overnight ruck in the dark scares me a little (a lot!).  So we shall see how this all goes!

PS – I keep getting auto-corrected.  Turns out, iphone thinks I’m saying DUCK.  It isn’t confusing Ruck for the OTHER word though :)

 

Lucky 7!

IMG_2374Seven years ago, I married this guy.

Seven years ago, he was still over a foot taller than me (we don’t take selfies well because we don’t fit in the frame together).

Seven years ago, he was already my BFF.

Seven years ago, I didn’t actually know that I could love him MORE when he became my baby daddy.

1796983_10152777398679807_2857736466229576861_oSeven years ago, I didn’t know that I would think in seven years how REALLY AMAZING it is to share a life with someone who STILL chooses you even after they know you and all your faults.

Seven years ago, I didn’t know that marriage really IS work, but if you keep plugging at it day after day, and learn how to start letting the little shit go, that it is REALLY a gift.

Seven years ago, I didn’t know that this is how our life would look, and while it isn’t they way I used to “think” it should be, it is the best life for us and we found our way here all by ourselves with the help of God.

Seven years ago, I didn’t know that in seven years, I would be still be learning cool stuff about my husband.

Seven years ago, I didn’t know that I would dance to our wedding song on our seventh wedding anniversary during dueling pianos in a bar in Minneapolis because you requested it :)

Todd, I know I drive you NUTS with my cat and dog and when Emma and I crank up the heat to 71 degrees in the house when you leave for work in the winter, and 67 in the summer.  I know it is a little crazy to trip over kettlebells in the living room sometimes and that is not your favorite way to stub your toe.  I am very much grateful for the way you provide for our family.  I love watching how you are the best daddy to Emma.  I know that we have a good balance of I love you mixed with you drive me bonkers mixed with I wouldn’t spend this life with anyone else.   Love you!

Review: Stitchfix #4

Got Stitchfix #4!

To be honest, I liked #3 better.  Here we go:

IMG_2271I asked for greyish black distressed jeans to be fair.  But these are a bit TOO distressed for where I would wear them.  But I do like them…..just not so much distress stuff.  So they are going back.

IMG_2261

I like this one!  But I also like the fact that I’m sticking to my budget and this might still fit into that budget.  I think I will wear it quite a bit if I keep it.  So, if a magical fairy comes to visit with a pile of cash in the next two days, I’ll keep it.  If not, it is going back.

IMG_2262I know a bunch of people who I think this would look cute on, but it is too much for me.

IMG_2268I REALLY love this shirt.  My shoulders fit into it, and it is pretty and dressy and jazzy.

IMG_2270But….it is a zipper back, and I have too many back muscles to wear this kinda thing I think.  Zippers are bullshit.  Side note – not fitting into something like this a few years ago would have sent me straight to “I need to diet” mode.  Today, this shirt is just inferior to my muscles (to quote a cool strength training chick I read from).  I call that a Life PR.

And, I’m going to leave you with my most favorite picture of all time:

IMG_2258Look!  I’m a Golden Girl!

IMG_2288This wasn’t my favorite fix, but oh well.  I don’t think I get another one for like 2 or 3 months.  I am noticing that I really do wear the pieces I have gotten in other fixes though!  So that is good!  They aren’t sitting around in my closet graveyard never to be seen again!

 

Tackle Tuesday: A Plan!

Welcome back to Tackle Tuesday!

Are you tackling anything this week?

We have been eating more and more meals at home lately, but to be honest, meal planning has slightly escaped me.  I’ve been reacting to being hungry and mealtimes, versus having a bit of a plan.  When I “react” like that…..usually I find myself wanting to make things with ingredients we don’t have….or things that don’t require cooking, which usually means they are more convenience factor and less whole foods than I’d like….so either it requires a trip to the store (and spending more than what we’d like on food each month), or a challenge to keep a meal a meal instead of a fast food spread.

So, this sounds super silly, but my Tackle Tuesday is a briefly sketched out food plan for the week – at least two big ticket items to prepare that can sit in our fridge and get pulled out as necessary for random lunches and a few dinners.  And can be paired with other stuff easily.  And….a huge reminder to pick up some eggs so we can have another quick option on hand.  Today, I put together this crockpot meal, and I doubled the recipe.   It is still cooking, and I can’t tell you if it tastes good yet, but it sure smells good!  We will be pairing this with rice and veggies.  And to be honest, I’ll probably be eating this for breakfast tomorrow because that’s how I roll.  Tomorrow I’m gonna throw together a slow cooked bbq pork roast to pair with potatoes and veggies and shred over salads later this week.  No grocery shopping required for any of these meals, and I just need to grab some eggs from a family friend so those are easy to whip up too.  Presto, a plan!  Eating is easy, sometimes planning and preparing is the hard part :)

Oh yes, and I also sketched out my ruck plan for the coming weeks.  Yeah, I’ve sort of been obsessed with my ruck walks these past few weeks.  So much so that I did the most rational thing on the planet, and joined up with Team Spearhead on their 12 week challenge beginning February 1st.  Of course, I signed up before actually sketching out if it REALLY fit into my life.  Thankfully it does.  So if you are near me, and want to do some walking with me, hit me up!  I will for sure be logging the miles from now through May!  Or, if you want to ruck….get a backpack, throw some weight in it, and hook up with me :)

I have to say, having a Tackle Tuesday on my calendar is making me a little geared up to get shit done, and clutter cleared out, and being proactive!  Maybe it is because I’m “reporting” it to you all, or maybe because it makes me want to keep tackling more things, who knows.  I’m digging it!

 

Winter Self-Care: Easier Than Last Year!

Hey all!

About two months ago, I wrote about my plans for keeping a bit of a detailed self-care plan for these winter months here in MN.  Typically, from November through whenever it begins to get nice out in spring, I can usually bank on the funks at some point.

To be truthful, while I HAVE had days of the funks here and there, they are much, much less than last year.  First off, in my opinion, we are having an easy winter here in MN.  Yes, a few really cold days, and yes a lot of days of no sunshine, but it hasn’t really felt unbearable like some years have.  Not sure if that is just me, or if those are the thoughts of others who can get down and out this time of year as well.

Here is what I know for sure.  I am really planning my self-care time.  Seriously.  I keep a dry erase weekly calendar in my kitchen next to the door.  I see it all the time.  I have to walk past it to get in and out of our house.  This thing keeps me organized (well, sorta) and getting the tasks done that I need to.  And I’ve really been prioritizing daily self-care tasks.  I’m actually sort of proud of this, because I feel pretty good, and I KNOW I’ve been really prioritizing feeling NO or LESS FUNKS this year.

So, I thought I’d share what is really working for me.  Maybe you can take a piece of it and make something work for you.

First and foremost, I think scheduling ME is a huge piece of the equation.  I try to look at my week and plug-in my norms like workouts and such that make me feel great mentally, but also plug-in days where I get to do those things that help my brain – anything from writing, to playing piano, and…..I’ve been coloring!  I seriously put this stuff on my weekly calendar so I remember not to forget ME in the shuffle of busy life stuff.

I’m finding myself playing piano again.  Not “practicing” but more like breaking apart a page or a few lines of music and just going with it.  Oy.  Piano is like movement…..you can mask how poorly you are playing/moving by going fast.  OR, you can slow down and do it deliberately and find the weak links.  Side note – after sitting down and playing piano for a while, I find it SUPER DIFFICULT to text, type on a keyboard or anything like that where I have to re-accquaint my fingers and brain with different letter assignments from keys on the piano.  Weird?

Third biggie……my workouts are happening on schedule.  Some days I feel like them, and some days I don’t.  But I know my brain feels better when they happen.  Even if it is a “bad” workout, my brain still feels better after having done it.  And, I’ve incorporated a new favorite….that has nothing to do with barbells or kettlebells or anything like that.  Ruck walks!  Basically, walking with a weighted backpack.  OUTDOORS.  Always outdoors.  I’ve hit some cold days, and some warm days.  To be honest, it doesn’t really matter what temp it is as long as you dress for it, but that dose of cardio PLUS being outside makes my brain and my mood happy.  I’m seriously digging this, and thinking about re-vamping my training plan to include more of this for a while, and less of my usual stuff.  I do this twice per week (I still walk without weight on other days too), and I look forward to these sessions.  So far they are with my tunes or a podcast, but I might start going no noise soon too, because I think there is huge value in being alone with your thoughts without distraction.

Fourth biggie for me….we are focused on eating more at home meals and less restaurant meals.  We do still eat out our fair share, but we are doing a great job of eating more meals at home lately.  And when we are running errands, it doesn’t always mean eating in the car….we will often bring snacks or eat later/earlier.  I love a good meal out, but mostly I just love the ambiance of a night out, not necessarily the meal itself.  I like how I cook, and I feel better (and my clothes fit better) when my meals are at home.

The final piece here for me is watching my consistency.  I’m running a challenge group where we focus on just a few things, but we focus on doing them consistently.  We have a tracking sheet for this group, and this has been a huge thing for me.  I have my sheet on my fridge, and each day I log my stuff.  It is super fun to see my consistency related to workouts, my protein intake, my meditation time, etc.  I can FEEL when my consistency is dropping.  My mood changes then.  I’m motivated to keep that consistency UP for the good mood only.

One thing I feel like I should really note here is that I also supplement during this time of year.  I supplement with Vitamin D, and that is 5000 IUs for me each day.  I supplement with liquid fish oil as well, a tablespoon each day.  A multi-vitamin too.  I try to keep up with fish oil and the multi the rest of the year too, but I know my consistency on that has dropped in the past.  Right now though, my supplement game is strong, and I don’t know…it’s working for me.

I know this probably all sounds rosy and great and fun, but there are some funks in there too.  Those days aren’t fun.  There are days where I loathe the thought of getting moving or getting out of my house to be productive, but my mood generally changes when I get moving.  My sleep game is STRONG right now too.  I think that’s easier when it is dark and cold at night and crawling into a cozy bed feels amazing!

The thing that I hope you take away from this is….please take your self-care seriously.  It doesn’t matter if your self-care looks like mine….it really shouldn’t, it should look like yours.  But I think we owe it to ourselves to make sure our mental game is just as much of a priority as our fitness game and food game.  There isn’t ONE thing that makes or breaks your “wellness.”  It is a lot of moving parts, and those parts require a bit of attention, you know?

 

Tackle Tuesday: Live Lean?

Welcome back to Tackle Tuesday!

Ready to watch me clear our clutter?

Our coat closet is a disaster. No hangers left, and it doesn’t matter anyway….because we can’t fit more in there if we wanted to.  Normally, we just stuff our things in and shut the door as fast as possible and pray the doors don’t bust open.

IMG_2189[1]

See?
See?

 

Turns out, there is a bunch of things in there we don’t wear….and haven’t for like three years.  Oh, and there are like two years worth of outdoor clothes in there that are too small for the babes.  And like eleventy billion gloves without matchers.

Peace out, random things we don’t use and wear!  Got a HUGE basket of things to donate and to consign.

I think this space looks a little leaner, don’t you?

IMG_2191[1]I’m starting to realize we are surrounded by things we never need or use.

Time to live leaner, and ditch the “stuff.”

Are you leaning out your “stuff” too?

Give Yourself Credit!

Sometimes I find myself thinking that I’m so happy I found my love of lifting.  And to be honest, I will often hear myself say (or think) something along the lines of “My life is so much better because I lift.  I have so much more confidence.  I have muscles.  I move better.  Because of lifting.”

And……I think I need to stop saying that (and thinking it).

Lifting didn’t make me awesome.  I made me awesome.  I leaned into the struggle and did stuff that made me feel awesome.  I made changes to my habits and learned how to re-prioritize my time in a manner that works for me and my family to make me better, and to make my family better.  Lifting was a huge catalyst here, because it taught me that struggling is acceptable and so is pushing around some heavy stuff.  But lifting didn’t do the work for me.

I showed up and did the work for me.  Showed up to lift, and showed up in a variety of ways and capacities in my life.

I’m calling this a Life PR.  I’m giving myself credit where credit is due.  Sorry, lifting, you sure were a big driver, but I did this, and I’m taking credit for it.

Hey YOU!  What are YOU giving yourself credit for?

Maybe you’ve been beasting it out swinging kettlebells in your living room for the past year and realize that you are pretty dang awesome.  YOU did that, not the kettlebells.

Maybe you’ve been taking a walk a few times a week to rack up Fitbit steps and realize that you actually like to walk.  YOU did that, not the Fitbit.

Maybe you decided that you are worth respect and time and effort and are actively surrounding yourself with people who get that and you are feeling pretty awesome about your tribe.  YOU did that.

Take a peek around at your LIFE PR’s lately, I bet you have tons that you might not be giving yourself credit for!

Mindset: Heather’s Story

I have a Lady Beast in my gym by the name of Heather.

FullSizeRenderI met Heather in September 2014.  She began taking my group classes then.  First off, showing up to a group class can feel a little unnerving – you can feel like everyone is staring at you, or that you are the oddball because everyone else knows what is going on (when in reality, everyone is pretty much focused on themselves and their lifts).  Heather is pretty good at mixing right in, though, and soon became a regular at our classes.  Things that used to suck for her – planks and any sort of lunge or single leg work- soon became part of her norm and started getting easier.

Coaching Heather has been SO FUN.  I am SO PROUD OF HER.  Having been an athlete in her high school days, it is fun to really see that athletic fire come back.  Having gone through not one but TWO knee surgeries as an athlete, it can be so tough mentally to have pain or weirdness when doing things because of what your body has gone through in the past.  We started with pretty much ignoring most single leg work for months….getting those muscles stronger and her more stable overall.  Pretty soon, we were incorporating split squats without pain.  Finally, I remember one day we tried lunges and I kept asking “How are the knees?” and she said fine.  We got through the battle and found out she can actually do single leg work very well!  This is HUGE!  Soon other little competitive fires started showing up……one day she pressed a 14kg kettlebell overhead.  Then, while on break, she was pulling out heavier and heavier ones to see if those would go up.  Squatting bells kept inching upwards and upwards and squat form was ON POINT.  Over the summer, we had a one night class focused on deadlifts, and she had her first date with the barbell.  I could see her get more and more addicted to watching what she COULD DO.  I think she pulled her last deadlift that night (mind you, it was her first time with a barbell!) at around 125 pounds.  From mid-summer through early fall, we focused on push-ups….there was Heather, busting out full push-ups on the floor in sets of 10.  The physical strength gains that Heather has made in this short time frame is awesome….and it came from her consistency.  She showed up.  A few times a week.  Week after week.

Heather has made some strength gains for sure.  She has also made two very big transformations that I can see – a physical one AND a mental one.  I thought it would be so fun to have her tell us all about this stuff.  Everyone has something that drives them to keep moving forward.  Her story might resonate with you!

Lets hear what she has to say!

How did you know you needed/wanted to begin a fitness journey?

In 2013, my now husband (boyfriend at the time) and I started talking about marriage and purchasing rings and I knew that I needed to make a change in my life.  My original goal was that I did not want to be a “big booty bride.” I started weight watchers in January of 2014.  I really wanted to start incorporating working out into my life but I told myself that I wanted to lose 30 pounds before I joined TM.  I would drive by the gym garage as it was only a few blocks from my house and I couldn’t wait to join.  When I was at 32 lbs down, I was dragging my feet a little about joining but I knew that it was something I HAD TO DO! I e-mailed Amanda in September of 2014 and I have made her classes a part of my weekly routine ever since.

How have you changed….inside AND out….in the past few years?

I think the biggest thing for me is how I treat myself and how I talk to myself.  I used to be so mean to myself.  I had bad anxiety and even went to the doctor at some point in 2013 for medication (which I am since off of all medications.) I ate crappy and talked crappy to myself.  I noticed that when I started eating better, I talked to myself better, and then I felt so much better! My eating isn’t always 100% on.  There are days that I make creamy soup, or a noodle hot dish and eat the heck out of it and I don’t hate myself afterwards for eating it.  But I also don’t binge on it and eat all the leftovers as I’m cleaning up.  There is a balance that I have learned through this process.  I don’t deprive myself, but I don’t over indulge in every meal I have either.  There is a healthy balance, and I like it!

Talk to us about your mindset….what do your thoughts surrounding yourself, your fitness accomplishments, your physical transformation….what do those thoughts sound like?  Has your mindset changed in the past few years?

I feel like even though I was much heavier than I used to be (about 60lbs heavier) I always “carried it well” or told myself that I did.  The physical part of losing weight can be challenging.  There are days that I don’t feel or look any different to myself.  Then there are days that I walk by a mirror and hardly recognize myself! I have to remind myself that it is a process.  It is a slow process and slow changes add up.  I know there is no finish line.  I’ll never be done working out.  I’ll never be done talking nice to myself.  I know that even on my worst days in this body will never feel as bad as my good days felt in my old body.  I want to be the best version of myself.  I want to be the best wife I can be and someday the best mother I can be for my future children.

One tiny fitness accomplishment that I have noticed is that my family has been working hard on building a large shed.  In September, I helped wheelbarrow 4 cement truck loads with the guys and was the only woman doing so! This for me was HUGE! To have once been the girl who was out of breath from the walk from the car into Target, to lifting, pushing, and moving heavy ass loads of cement for hours; was a pretty awesome day for me! And I didn’t quit until the work was done! ☺

You have been kicking butt in the gym lately, tell us how you prioritize your workouts and fitness in your life?

I make myself a priority.  Although there are some days that I do not want to go to class, I know that as long as I get myself there, I’ll nail my workouts, and feel like a million bucks when it’s over.  That feeling is what keeps me going!

What advice would you give to someone beginning some sort of lifestyle or physical transformation?

I was so honored and flattered when Amanda asked me if I’d answer some questions for her blog regarding my “transformation.”  I used to look at people who have lost weight and made changes in their lives, and wish I had the strength to do it.  I’d look at their before and after pictures and be so amazed.  I’d think to myself, “Why can’t that be me?” I don’t know how to tell someone to start.  For me, I started, and failed, at diet after diet.  I highly dislike that word anyway. Diet.  For me, it was doom from the start.  I’d have a mindset like, “I’ll start my diet on Monday.”  And then eat everything in sight over the weekend, feel horrible on Monday, eat very little for a week or so and be so hangry that I’d cave, eat everything in sight, and then hate myself because I failed at it.  It was a revolving door that weighed so heavy on my mind 24/7.  I would tell someone beginning their own journey to just start.  Start somewhere.  Make small changes.  Start with your eating.  Incorporate fruits and veggies in every meal.  Be aware of what you are putting in your mouth.  Eat pizza once in a while, and enjoy it! Once you have the eating portion under control, start moving. Walk.  I bought a fit bit at the start of my journey and I love it!  It makes me aware of how much I’m moving.  I love to track my workouts, and I love to be able to see how many times I work out in a month.  There are still days that I feel I am failing at this. There are weekends that I eat crappy, and that’s okay.  There are days that I don’t work out, and that’s okay too.  I know that there is no ending.  I’ve come too far to ever go back to my old habits.  Although old habits do try to creep in at times, I know that on Monday afternoon at 4:45, I’ll be back in the gym getting my sweat on and loving it!

And, true or false…..you check out your gun show in the mirror?

So very true! ☺

What about your favorite food?  What do you love eating?

Favorite meal, without a doubt, is tacos.  I could eat them every day.  I have switched from using white rice to brown rice with them, and flour tortilla to wheat, and I still love them the same!

What is your favorite lift in the gym?

My favorite exercise at the gym is kettlebell swings. I think they’re so fun, get your heart rate jacked, and it doesn’t even feel like work to me!  I like working in short bursts, with rest in between.

How do you know when you need a rest day from working out?  On the flip side, how do you know when you need to push it a bit?

I know when I need a rest day when I’m dragging.  My legs are the first to feel it, and on those days, I take a day off.  I know when I need to push it in the gym when the weights are feeling light.  As easy as it would be to stay put at light (for me) weights,  I know I’m not doing myself any favors if I were to do that. I love to see what I’m capable of.  I love to push myself.  I try to indicate when the weights are feeling light on my training log and then up the weights the next class.

Heather, thank you for giving us a little insight into your physical and mental transformation.  It is so awesome to hear all of this, and I’m sure everyone reading can totally relate to things you have said.  You rock!

 

Tackle Tuesday: One Thing

Welcome to Tackle Tuesday!

Or rather, help Amanda focus on just one thing she puts off every week.

In this week, it is clutter.  Oy, I hate clutter, but I have a lot of it and feel too overwhelmed to do anything about it because clutter sucks.  And clutter makes my brain feel cluttered.  So today, I tackled the first big pile of clutter I see when I come in our door.  Kitchen counter clutter.  Blah.

For the record, I dig the “do just 15 minutes of cleaning each day” mentality.  But 15 minutes EVERY DAY is too much for me to think about and I know I won’t do it, so I deem myself to failure before I even start.  So I’m devoting one timeslot per week to do the thing I’m either dreading or have been putting off for too long.

Tuesday.  Tackle Tuesday that is.

What kitchen counter makes you feel more relaxed?

This one?
This one?
Or this one?
Or this one?

You might be thinking, what the heck does this all have to do with health and fitness and food and exercise and deadlifts?

EVERYTHING.  I instantly felt more optimistic when I look in my kitchen now, and I want to keep it less ish (please let this feeling last!!).   Upon tackling that stupid counter top, I cleaned my other counter tops and picked up a bit, because I felt like it.  So that’s cool.  And then, instead of getting sucked into Facebook or something stupid, I did my 15 minute mini kettlebell workout instead.  More productive too!

See you next week!  Want to tackle something with me?  Do it!

 

Everyday Inspiration: Meet Jenn!

We have another Everyday Inspiration interview!  As you know, an Everyday Inspiration is someone who inspires me (and likely others!) to keep pushing on in my quest to live a healthy, whole, happy life.  These inspiring folks are day in, day out living their lives with an extreme investment in themselves, and are committed to healthy habits that work for them.  Every single day.

You guys, I found this awesome lady from my amazing daycare provider.  You just never know how you will cross paths with people, you know?  She was telling me about her cool friend who was in Australia about to compete in some big race, and how she was so proud of her.  Then she keeps telling me about this lady, and you can tell she is SO PROUD because she was just going for it, this Lady Beast duathlete she called her friend.  I think I heard “My friend is a BEAST!” at least 10 times that night via text message.  It was AWESOME.

So, of course, I had to ask my dear Megan (daycare provider) if I could be a creepo and stalk her friend and ask her to do an interview for us.

I mean, we had to meet this Lady Beast, right?

Right.

So, here we go.  Time to meet Lady Beast Extraordinaire, Jenn Scudiero!

Jenn, have you always been an athlete?

I think that depends on your definition of athlete, but I have been active most of my life.  Sort of a tomboy when I was younger, I always wanted to go run around.  My neighborhood played a lot of games: two hand touch football, sign tag, running around in the woods, biking, night games, etc.  I started official sports with dance and gymnastics when I was really young.  I eventually started playing softball and running in both track and cross-country.  In college, I mixed it up a bit by playing rugby.  After college, I went back to running and then eventually got back into biking.  Oh how I love biking…

transition1

Tell us about your athletic endeavors!  We hear you “do” duathlons.  What exactly IS a duathlon?

Duathlon has been my sport of choice for the past 5 years or so.  It consists of a run-bike-run format similar to triathlon, except replace the swim with a run.  With duathlon, every day is leg day!  I was a runner from a young age.  I used running as an escape from the challenges of growing up.  It’s my emotional release and helps keep me grounded.  After college, I got back into running and thought I should try a marathon.  I enjoyed it, but after 7 marathons, I figured I should add in something else for a little cross training.  That’s when I fell in love with biking, again.  I feel like a little kid when I ride my bike.  It’s so freeing and such a great way to experience new places.  I sure hope that I can take my bike with me on some (or all) of my future trips.  But enough about how much I love my bike (seriously, I love my bike)…back to duathlons.  I was a bit intimidated to try my first multisport event, so I found a women’s only duathlon in the cities and decided to just go for it.  I am so glad I did!  It didn’t go perfectly, and I definitely should’ve trained more before hand, but I loved it so much.  I was addicted and started doing more and more.  So many, in fact, that in 2013 I actually raced in 11 duathlons.

Um, recently you competed in Australia.  Like…..you actually qualified to compete there.  Amazing!!  Tell us the story of how you got there, and how did your event in Australia go?

In 2011 I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, so I didn’t really race much that year, or sleep for that matter ☺  I spent most of 2012 trying to get my bearings back and get back into training/racing.  It was also the year that one of the Minnesota races was lucky enough to be selected as the Duathlon World Championship qualifier.  I had always wanted to go to the World Championships and this was the perfect opportunity to try for a spot on Team USA.  I raced and qualified to represent Team USA in 2013 in Ottawa, Canada.  The year 2013 was pretty crazy for me.  I raced 11 duathlons.  One of those was the ITU Duathlon World Championships.  I placed 5th in my age group and 13th overall female.  Later that year, I also raced in my first USAT Duathlon National Championships.  It was the last race of the season, and it was quite the finish to 2013.  I was the overall female national champion!  It was also the year I was named US Female Duathlete of the Year.  After capping the season off winning the national championships, I had qualified to represent Team USA in 2014 at the World Championships in Spain.  Unfortunately, my first run after returning home from the National Championships, I ended up tearing my soleus muscle.  With the World Championships in 2014 being so early in the year, I had to pass on my spot.  I was still able to race in 2014, but it was a frustrating year. I was lucky enough that St. Paul had been selected to host the National Championships and it was a bit later in the summer, so I was recovered enough to race.  It was there that I qualified for the 2015 ITU Duathlon World Championships in Adelaide, Australia.  I didn’t think I would be able to go, as I wasn’t going to take a 4-year-old on a trip to Australia and it’s also a very expensive trip in general.   I’m not sure how I got so lucky in life to have such amazing people in it, but I am an extremely lucky person in that regard.  I have the most incredible friend, she’s been through thick and thin with me pretty much all of my life.  I was telling her about my doubts on the trip and she offered to watch my daughter for 2 weeks!   After figuring out a few more details, the trip was a go.  And what a trip it was!  The trip was an adventure in itself.  But the icing on the cake was taking 22nd overall female and winning a bronze medal in my age group!

podium

What does your training look like when getting ready for specific events?  How about off-season training?  Do you have a coach or do you coach yourself?

In 2013, I knew if I wanted to have any semblance of sanity, I needed to hire a coach.  I did a lot of research and found Jason Digman and Dig It Tri.  Having a coach helps me in so many ways.  He knows all of the field research and focuses my training accordingly.  He has talked me down from a few freak outs before races (wait, did I just say that out loud?!).  He plans my workouts for me, gives me feedback, motivation, checks in, dials in, and gives me a piece of mind about my training, so I can focus on other things in life.  Speaking of training, I’m in training most of the year.  Unless I’m sick or injured, I typically only have a few weeks for off-season.  Those weeks are a great mental break, I will usually still work out, but nothing is structured and it’s whatever seems fun on the day, even if it’s nothing ☺  After those few weeks, it’s back at it.  I have phases of training I go through depending on when my races are falling in the year.  My workouts will get more sport specific as a competition gets closer.  Workouts will focus on more race-paced intervals and brick workouts.  Brick workouts focus on getting your body used to the multisport transitions.  For example, warm up with a run, and then go straight into short race-paced bike-run-bike-run-bike-run sequence, with a bike cool down.

Nutrition….I assume that eating food is important for your training (ha!).  I mean, you can’t be a beast if you eat only 7 almonds everyday, right?  Tell us your approach to nutrition and making sure you can be a beast when you need to be a beast.

Ha! Let’s see…7 almonds a day…I’m trying to imagine the hanger that would go along with that, yikes!  I’m a very food driven person.  My husband jokes that when I say, “I’m hungry” it means we should probably find some food, in the very near future…better yet, now!  It’s also fairly well-known among my friends and family that I will usually finish my meal and I guard food.  You may lose fingers, a hand, or worse, if you attempt to take food off of my plate without asking first.  All joking aside though, I do need to eat at fairly regular intervals.  That usually means I have to be bringing food with me places in case I need an emergency snack.  I try to eat fairly clean, but I’m not perfect.  I do make sure to fuel myself properly before workouts, but it is a learning experience to find out what that means for each person.  I have learned some lessons the hard way on what does and doesn’t work well for me before/during a workout or before/during a race.  I guess I see nutrition as a journey.  Each step you learn something new and adjust if needed.  Food is definitely fuel; I can tell the difference if I haven’t fueled properly.  It really can make or break a workout and definitely make or break a race.

What do you do on days where you “don’t feel like being a beast” but you know you need to train?  How do you maintain your training program but also listen to your body and take a break when needed?

Another great thing about having a coach is you have to answer not only to yourself, but also to someone else.  You know when you miss a workout, but now someone else does too.  It was motivation enough to get me working out consistently.  In that process and through my coach, one of the things I’ve learned is consistency really is the key.  Being consistent in your workouts will make more of a difference than pretty much any other variable.  Eventually, it became such a habit that it’s not even a question anymore.  It’s part of my plan for the day.  When am I going to get in my workout?  It is always a priority for me.  It’s not always easy; I have done workouts at 4am (I’m not a morning person) and at 11pm before.  There are definitely days when I’m tired, or my legs are tired, or I just don’t feel like it.  Those days are tough. I don’t have any magic advice, but I have sat down and thought of all of the reasons I work out and pull them out when I don’t want to get out there.  Sometimes I have to tell myself that it will wake me up, help me level out my emotions, take a break from it all, get my alone time, enjoy nature, enjoy time with a friend, help me feel better about myself, etc.  Of course, I will try to think about the next big race.  If you don’t put the time in for training, you won’t get any of the rewards from it.  Training also helps me be a better mom, a better friend, and a better person in general. But I am pretty careful about when I’m feeling sick, or way too tired because my 4-year-old was up multiple times at night.  I do try to listen to my body and run it by my coach when I am just too run down or overwhelmed.  He is pretty cautious and likes to play it safe and take rest if needed, so I can come back to training faster.  I know myself fairly well, so I can usually tell if I’m just feeling unmotivated (usually the case) or actually need to think about a day off.

You are a mom!!  How do you balance mom things, family things, work things, downtime, AND being a competitive athlete?

I am very lucky to have a fairly flexible work schedule.  Most days, especially in the summer, I am able to get my workouts in over lunch.  On the days I can’t, I try to fit my workouts in so they cause the least disruption for the family.  My daughter is so used to me working out.  If I’m working out inside, she will sometimes bring me snacks, dance for me, or be my cheerleader.  She’s a pretty neat kid ☺  It’s hard admitting this, but we also forgo things like cable television so we can get the house cleaned.  It really frees up so much time so I am able to enjoy family and free time.  My schedule is still super busy, I’m not going to lie.  I have multiple Google calendars: one for my workouts, my calendar, my husband’s calendar, and our joint calendar.   It makes it easier for everyone to see what is going on when, and to plan out days.  I was once told that you should pick three things to focus on at a time.   Right now those things for me are family/friends, workouts/my health, and work.  I keep those three things in mind while planning my days; right now they are my priorities.

KatelynandJenn

 

Let’s talk positive mindset, body image, self-confidence, etc.  You are a woman, and you are raising a beautiful daughter.  Sometimes us ladies can tend to be a little critical of ourselves and our bodies.  How do you approach being the best “you” you can be as a woman, AND as an athlete?  How do you try to “teach” that to your little girl?

Wow, what a great question.  I think it’s important to realize nobody is perfect and that is the joy of living a life as a human being.  We are all different and beautiful in our own ways.  Learning to love our bodies, and ourselves just as we are, in the now, is one of the greatest gifts we can give to ourselves.  I have learned to love things about myself over the years that I thought were unlovable and it has changed so much for me.  Learn to forgive yourself for not being perfect and use it to change for the better.  Change should come from loving yourself enough to want it for yourself, not because you think you’ll finally love yourself when you get there.  The process is a great learning experience and changes so much.  Have I completed the mission of loving everything about my body and me yet?  No, some pieces are just a lot tougher than others, but I sure hope to keep working on it and get there.  My hope is I can help my daughter learn how to do this for herself.  I am very careful about being critical of myself in an unhealthy way in front of her.  I know that is not enough as she grows, but right now I don’t want her to learn those patterns of self-criticizing from me.

I also want to show her, by example, how to grow and be better.  If I feel like giving up during a race, skipping a workout, skipping out on plans with friends or family, etc. I think about what it is teaching my daughter.  I want to be a positive role model.  She is a motivation to do better and be better, even when I don’t feel like doing it for myself.  Children watch what you do and learn from your actions so much more than they ever will from words.  I want her to know there will be failure, set backs, and mistakes.  Without those, you can’t learn to grow and better yourself.  It’s how you handle them that make all the difference.

How do you take the struggles of everyday life and use them to make you better?  I mean, everyone has bad days, life is GREAT but it can also be MESSY.  How do you use that “stuff” to learn and grow?

It’s true everyone goes through big and small struggles in life.  I may get stuck in down place for a little while, but eventually, I need to pull myself out of it.  I am ultimately responsible for myself, my actions, how I treat others, and for the most part, the things that happen to me.  When I am tempted to make an excuse for anything (big or small) or blame someone else for something that happens, I try to take recognize my part, apologize if necessary, and figure out how to keep it from repeating.  Sometimes the things that happen are truly out of the blue and I have no control, but for the most part, it is usually a result of some decision I have made, and it’s up to me to learn and grow from it.  I just made that sound so serious, but great things can come from messy situations.

I have talked a little bit about the awesome outcome of the ITU Duathlon World Championships in Australia, but it was quite the adventure of challenging events that led up to it.  On more than one occasion, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to start the race…the race I have been training for and focusing on for a year and a half.

About a month and a half before the race, I got a cold.  It wasn’t too bad, but I decided to take a few days off to try to keep it at bay.  It started to subside, so I started training again, only for it to come back.  This pattern repeated over and over again.  Three days before I left, I had a horrible run.  I could barely breathe and couldn’t even finish.  It was very scary.  I went straight to the doctor, where I was told I had walking pneumonia.  After a chest x-ray, two z-packs, and an inhaler, I left.  I had a talk with my coach about the possibility of not racing, or depending on recovery, I may have to just view the race as something to experience and not push.  Accepting those possibilities was very difficult.  I left a few days later for Australia.  My chest was still pretty heavy, but I was excited to get out on my first bike ride.  I was staying in downtown Adelaide, and I didn’t get my bike put together and ride-able until afternoon rush hour.  The hotel said I shouldn’t have an issue, so I put a map in my pocket and went out for a ride.  It was a horrible experience.  I was brushed by a bus, knocked into a parked car, and finished sitting on the curb.  Luckily, nothing was hurt other than my pride, but I was really shaken up.  The next day I tried for a run, where my lungs still didn’t feel great and I slipped and fell in the dirt.  The following day was pouring rain, but I had to get out and pre-ride the bike course.  I was pleasantly surprised it went well, no falls, no lung issues. Finally, 2 days out from the race, I was starting to feel better.

Fast forward to race day.  I already had my bike checked in, so I took my time getting down to the transition area.  I tried to stay fairly relaxed, set up my gear, and get ready.  About 10 minutes before transition close, I realized I hadn’t pumped up my bike tires for 4 days.  I was scared of getting a flat tire, or having low tires affect my race, so I decided to go ask to borrow a pump and pump up my tires.  They announce a “4 minutes until transition closes” warning. Borrowed pump in hand, I figured I had enough time.  I start to get the valve ready and the valve stem blows off my tire.  I’m sitting there staring at a completely dead tire.  I went into panic mode.  They are pushing people out of transition and down to the start line and I have a completely flat tire.  I admit, there were tears and the fear that I just traveled all the way to Australia, got healthy enough to race, and now I can’t even start.  A very nice fellow Team USA member came over and helped me try to change my tube.  We were having trouble because it was so sticky from not being changed out in a few years.  She reminded me that they had let the team mechanics into transition this year.  They made her leave transition, while I ran my wheel and new tube to the mechanics.  The Team USA and Team New Zealand mechanics were great; they not only fixed my flat, but also gave me a hug and tried to calm me down.  The race crew was nice enough to allow me to put my wheel back on my bike, even though transition had long since closed.  I was still nervous, as the tube I used to replace my blown one was the only spare I had.  I was just hoping I didn’t flat during the race, or I was done.  I had just enough time to run the ½ mile or so up to the start.  A few seconds later, the horn blew to start my wave.  I was off, and finally racing.

The first few minutes of my race consisted of me trying to calm myself down so I could pace my first run.  I started that race with a kind of fire that I hadn’t had before and I had to focus the energy correctly or I would ruin the race.  With everything that had happened in the week leading up to the race, I felt like there was something out there that really didn’t want me to race, but the truth is, I was able to overcome everything thrown at me.  I was at the starting line when I needed to be and I was going to make the most of the opportunity.  I’m glad I focused, paced, and used it to push me.  I’m pretty sure I’m more proud of the accomplishment because of it.

Are some of those things a result of decisions I made days or months before?  Absolutely, but when it all comes at once it can be overwhelming.  You just have to focus, deal with it, and go back later to see how to avoid it in the future.  There has been a lot of reflection since then and I hope I’ve learned enough to not repeat that experience leading up to a race again.

What advice would you have for someone who maybe has a little self-doubt but WANTS to do something cool like train for an athletic competition, or just find their inner BEAST?

Go for it!  Seriously, there is no time like now.  Want to train for something?  Find a group, a trainer, a coach, a friend, or better yet, go watch a competition.  You will find that there are so many supportive people out there and nothing is more motivating that immersing yourself into the atmosphere of a competition.

Have big goals, but keep changes small.  Small changes and daily decisions add up and create lasting habits that produce real change.  Never give up on yourself or what you want for yourself.  You may stumble, and that’s normal and ok, but you have to pick yourself up, brush yourself off and keep going.  Try to figure out what motivates you and use it, then have a plan for days you’re not so motivated.

I like to keep quotes around.  Here is a great one to remember:

Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.”

-Jon Acuff

If you have a little time, read the article he wrote for Michael Hyatt here, it is a very good read.

Also, here is another quote to think about:

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”  

– Theodore Roosevelt

I love connecting with new people and talking racing, health, motivation, anything!  Feel free to follow me on my website, facebook, or reach out!

Check out Jenn’s website here: http://www.jennscudiero.com/

Jenn, we thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to talk to us and share about your racing and your life!  Good luck to you in the future!

Originally this was my journey to Tough Mudder…now it's my record of all things fitness and health!

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