Monday, May 21, 2012

Taking things to the next level

This seems to be my motto lately: Taking things to the next level. Being never satisfied with purely sitting still, but also realizing that the world cannot be conquered, I've been struggling to find a good balance. Something to keep my mind engaged and my body moving forward. I started to realized that when I took care of my body, my mind finds calm.

The Jamie Eason LIVEFIT fitness challenge not only got me to a happier weight, but I have found that I am now stronger and able to push myself in ways I was afraid to do before. The LIVEFIT challenge was all about weight lifting and spending innumerable hours in the gym. Believe it or not, I have not lifted a single weight, dumbbell or otherwise, since I finished that last fitness session. But that doesn't mean I have stayed still. Quite the contrary, I can no longer sit still. On those days I give myself a "rest" I feel lazy and bloated, which has been a great motivator to keep me active.

I have been running - A LOT. I have worked on my stride, and I push myself much harder than I have in the past. My running has improved dramatically. I also made a discovery that changed everything with regard to my training: my shoes. Seriously, running in shoes that are too small is a great way to discourage yourself from training. When I was doing all my marathon training (now almost a decade ago - holy crap!) I was incessant about having the "right" shoe. You can't run 26 miles in the wrong shoes - you just can't. I went to running clinics and had professionals look at my feet and watch me run, and I finally found the "perfect" pair of running shoes. I stuck with these shoes for all three marathons I completed and all of the training leading up to them. It was what my feet were comfortable in.

These perfect shoes can't work if they aren't the perfect size though. If you are doing something you normally love and you are in severe pain, your body is trying to tell you things need to change. I had ordered new running shoes during my LIVEFIT training, and I was so frustrated that they were too small. WAY too small. It dawned on me that those were the first pair I had ordered since little r was born, and when I measured my feet at a shoe store, I was faced with the nasty reality that my feet grew a whole size! Yeah, one of those fun little side effects of pregnancy. Why your feet grow when you are pregnant is beyond me. Must have something to do with preventing your body from falling over on your face.

Faced with the reality that I needed to order new running shoes (AGAIN), I decided that I should re-evaluate the shoes altogether. I overpronate (yeah, sounds like a TMI, right?) and the Brooks I had been running in were really aggressive to correct this issue. This time around I ordered trail runners and shoes that were a little less aggressive. These are my new FAVORITE shoes. Brooks Ravenna 3 - amazing!!! My feet are unbelievably happy. It is UNREAL how awesome it feels to run. I can push myself to levels I never knew before. Is it possible I ran all three marathons in the WRONG shoes? It is, and boy is that unfortunate. I'm just glad I discovered this before I wasted away this short amount of time we have here where I can run on all these awesome trails.

But it's not just the running that's keeping my mind calm, it's the yoga. I've been doing a lot of yoga lately. Not every day, like I would like, but pretty close. I have two dozen different yoga sessions downloaded on my iPod and I try to sneak in a session whenever I can - even if it's for 20 minutes. My friend, K, has also started teaching yoga at the gym on post, so I try to get to her class at least once a week if not more.

With my yoga though, I realized that I really wanted to take my practice to a different level. This is something I never thought I could do, but when you start practicing regularly and challenging yourself, it's amazing what your body is capable of. When K showed me how to do a headstand, my whole yoga world changed. It was amazing! Your body doesn't have to be flexible to become a yogini, you just have to practice yoga regularly and learn how to do these poses correctly.

K, as my savior and ultimate challenger, encouraged me to go to a yoga clinic at the last minute right when I returned home from my trip to Italy. It was a clinic taught by American yogini, Simon Park, and it was being offered at a yoga studio just outside of Nuremberg (which is less than an hour away). Big R told me I needed to do this and he'd make it work, and he did (man, I really love my husband!). Then this past weekend I attended another workshop taught by Gina Caputo. This was the best yoga of my life - hands down, the absolute best.

To all my yoga friends, have you ever gone to a workshop or yoga challenge? We did 2-3 hour yoga sessions, which seems like a lot (and I suppose it really is), but the luxury of time and the experience you put your body and mind through is like no other. I never thought this would be such a life-changing experience for me, and it truly was. I was able to achieve poses and arm stands I never before thought possible. I left the yoga studio feeling refreshed, calm, and my body carried with it a euphoria. The endorphins you release through your body doing an intense yoga session must be extreme because I felt phenomenal.

When we were in the middle of our strenuous class on arm balances with Gina Caputo, she had us doing a million exercise to "light our fire," which essentially translated into making our abdominals scream. The room was dripping and we were suffering through the intense abdominal exercises. So, she stopped us and gave one of the best motivational speeches I have ever experienced.

Gina said, "do you trust me? I need you all to trust me." She basically said that she is the instructor. She is trained to help us take our yoga to the next level. She knows it is difficult and challenging, so she needed us to trust that she wouldn't make us do something we weren't capable of doing. That we need to trust her and fight through the difficulties and focus on the breathing. To do what she said for as long as she asked us to, and not to give in or take a break until she says to. "Your mind will give you 108 reasons for stopping, don't listen to it," she said. "Your mind is lazy, but your body is strong. Trust your body, and ignore your lazy mind and work toward your challenge." It's crazy, but she was so right. She also told us that our minds need the challenge to avoid getting bored. We need to work toward something seemingly impossible and show our minds that we can achieve it. "If you tell yourself you can't do it, you are right. If you tell yourself you can do it, you are probably right." I fell in love with this woman. She was amazing and I wish I could afford to take her workshops all over the world! (I'm paraphrasing based on my memory, of course, so it's not ver batum, but it just sounds more powerful when I write it as her words.)

I hope to keep pushing myself. Running faster and longer, achieving new yoga challenges and attending more workshops and yoga classes. When your mind is calm, the other stresses that life inevitably brings feel easier. Life seems less hectic these days, even though I know in many ways it's more hectic than it has ever been. We have a crazy summer full of plans, including a big trip back home for a couple weeks for my little sister's wedding - YEEEEAAAAAHHH! I want to bring these calming activities with me. My running shoes and my yoga mat are finding their way into my suitcase - that you can count on.

What do you do to keep your mind calm?


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