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HEALING ON THE TRAILS // MEMORIAL DAY MILES

29.5.17

Hello everyone! This weekend was Memorial Day weekend and to me it is always a somber time because of it's significance-- the day we remember the men and women who have given the last measure of devotion.  I have lost friends and colleagues in the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq, and it never gets easy.  And every year I try to make a point to honor them and their sacrifices.  

This year I was asked to be the main speaker at the Memorial Day Remembrance for the city of Red Wing, Minnesota.  It was my first time there and the ceremony was amazing.  So moving that at one point I was all chocked up.  After my speech and the ceremony I had many people to come and introduce themselves, but especially younger girls who thought it was "awesome" to have a female Lieutenant Colonel as a speaker and they had many questions especially about being a leader.  And it struck me as surprising that I never realized how much younger girls need mentors and leaders to guide them.  To me the Army was a way of life (I just retired a few months ago) so maybe I took it for granted.  Every day I try to live a meaningful life even in the simple little things and yesterday I made a promise to myself that I will look for a way to use my leadership skills to mentor other young women .


The other way I tried to honor America's best is by running.  I am part of an organization called Wear Blue: Run to Remember.  Their whole missions is to honor the fallen and their families through running.  As a way of grieving collectively for the loss of our military men and women. And we do so simply by running.  All throughout the year people gather and run together for the fallen, their families and the mission.  A few years ago WBR2W started a Memorial Day Remembrance event where runners and walkers pledge miles to run/walk on Memorial Day in honor of specific or general service members who have died.  It is an amazing event.  And this year, I chose to do my miles-- like every year-- on trails.



It is said that nature is good for the soul... and I have to agree.  Running for Memorial Day is always a bit emotional. My mind automatically goes to the events that took the life of the person I ran for.  They memories come hard and fast.  Yet I find that once I started running on the trails for Memorial Day, I was able to just let it go.  There is something about being in the moment connecting with nature while trying to muddle through the emotions building inside of you. Trails brings you to nature in it's purest form.  And being surrounded by nature always allows me to reflect and just feel.  I have cried in the trails on my own thinking of the many people that has been lost in the war, because while I do not know most of them, to me they are brothers and sisters in arms.

This year I chose a 4+ mile trail in the Whitewater State Park. The trail, which goes through limestone bluffs and is basically uphill the entire time, is challenging but it is so rewarding, especially the views at the top.



And it is in that challenge, that I find the grief I need.  Through the memories, tears, laughs and acceptance, my soul finds cleansing.  I am able to push through and breath.  Trails are such a fitting allegory for life.  Through peaks and valleys we go, in life and in running, and it is in the ability to rise that we become stronger.  I don't fear feeling when I am on the trails.  It gives me life and it gives me strength.

 I may be joining one of these awesome ladies: Week In Review / Sunday Fitness & Food / Fit Fashionable Friday / Friday Five 2.0 / Tuesdays on the Run/ Wild Workout Wednesday /

DID I GET BODY SHAMED! // I HAVE A RUNNER'S BODY

21.5.17


This is me two years ago during our honeymoon in Norway.  Since this picture was taken my weight has been all over the place.  It has been insane and it has been a struggle. Not only is it because I want to look great but because it affects my body, not just physically.  I can tell when I am gaining weight because it is extra weight that I am carrying and believe me-- the body feels it.  That being said, I am an avid fitness fanatic.  I like the gym and strength training but I LOVE RUNNING. 

When I was in kindergarten I ran in my first field day and I remember my dad telling me "go out there and run as fast as you can, but I want you to also have fun".  I did and that day not only did I walk away with four ribbons for our "track field" day but also with a love for running.  I was hooked.  That love for running continued in middle school and high school, and I was good enough that I went to college at the University of Puerto Rico on a track and field scholarship. Then when I joined the Army, I kind of despised running because it was not fur the joy of it but it became a job. I am going to be honest-- it has been a back and forth between love and hate.  But in the end my love for running always wins.

Why do I write all this? Because last week, I was body shamed by a running snob.



I went to a running store in the Twin Cities and I was looking for the new Hoka Hupana.  This sales girl in her twenties came to assist me and when I told her what shoes I was looking for, this is how that conversation went:

"I would recommend these other shoes since you are just starting running"

"Umm... how do you know I am just starting?" 

"Well, you just don't look like a runner.  I've worked in this store for a while and you get to recognize people who are serious runners."

I am going to be honest.  Her words stung because they pissed me off, then I got pissed off at myself because I felt embarrassed with my weight gain and wanted to leave the store.  But I did not.  Did she display enough judgement to not make such a generalization? No. But was she wrong? Not at all especially if we go by the what we normally see in running magazines.

She was right.  I don't look like the runners you see on magazines.  I am 6'1" and 210.  I AM NOT A PETITE WOMAN. Yes I'm overweight.  In triathlons I would be considered a "Clysdale" division (by the way, WTH is up with that?).  I have reasons-- not excuses-- as to why I gained weight and am working damn hard on getting healthier.  I go out there and give it my all when I work out. No I'm not skinny with chiseled muscles that make me look ripped. 





But she was also wrong.  Simply because I don't look like a pro runner does not mean I love running any less and I am not a runner.  I love it with all my heart since the first time I tied my first pair of shoes. I am a runner and just because some people deem my body type "non-runner like" doesn't mean anything. 

But here is why the snobs of the world need to be careful what they say-- not only does it give the sport a bad name but comments like this can make someone who is thinking about giving running a try, hesitant about taking that first step.  However there are good news ladies and gents-- and that is that no matter what body type you have, the minute you start running, no matter how slow or fast, you ARE a runner.  So don't you EVER let any running snob tell you otherwise.  Instead, put one foot in front of the other and show them what grace under criticism looks like.   Happy running!


 I may be joining one of these awesome ladies: Week In Review / Sunday Fitness & Food / Fit Fashionable Friday / Friday Five 2.0 / Tuesdays on the Run/ Wild Workout Wednesday /

Adjusting Gait and Focus On The Run

15.5.17

Hey everyone!  I hope your Mother's Day was a good one.  Mine was really good considering that you know, I'm a stepmom. :)  But I am a doggie mom and that counts a WHOLE LOT.  Don't get me wrong, I like my stepkids but I will forever be doggie momma extraordinaire-- I was single most of my adult life and doggie momma is one of the best things I have ever done. 

Being momma to this 15 years old sweet boy is the best! #bestjobever

This week has been a week of adjusting.  So two weeks ago as part of my thorough physical, my doc took some x-rays of my knees.  During the physical she pushed a spot on the inner right knee and let me tell you, it was so damn painful that I actually yelled "ouch!".  The crazy thing is that I did not even know it hurt until she pushed her finger to that spot.  So, off I went for an x-ray and was diagnosed with slight medial compartment narrowing bilaterally-- basically a fancy way of saying I have osteoarthritis. So, my doc knowing I am increasing my mileage from the past 8 months, recommended I do a gait analysis because my knee mostly hurts when or after I run.  I am sure the fact that I am carrying around extra weight is not helping but thankfully, I have started to lose some of the weight.  Thank goodness for awesome endocrinologists.  Anyhow, I went ahead and did the gait analysis.

The pic below was from my camera from the top and you can tell that I am a heel striker from hell.  And the side view also shows the same. The sport medicine technician explained that by changing my gait, the shock absorption site will change from my knees where it is right now due to my heel strike.  If I adjust my gait to be a forefoot striker, the absorption site then changes to the ankle which truly I have never had any issues with.  So the plan is over the next three weeks to run mostly on the treadmill as I work to change my gait.


I have also been running outside combining asphalt and trail runnings.  And I have to admit that while trails tend to be more unstable, they are so much better on my knees!  Plus there is something about running the trails. It is just you and nature. I don't even need headphones. The music from nature is just inspiring.


I write those words and I am amazed because if you read a few posts ago HERE, you read about the medical issues I am having but ever since my doc came up with a plan of action, I am super motivated to get better and start feeling like myself... and I am already starting to feel better. 

And the fact that Minnesota is finally warm has me giddy. We straight up skipped spring and went to summer. And I am loving it!  Especially because I am focusing on a race. I am not a racer. I rarely participate in races because I do not like crowds; gives me the hives just thinking about it.  But I went ahead and signed up for the Twin Cities MedCity 10K in September.  I decided on that one because I have never ran a 10K race. It is a distance that intrigues me.  Plus the weekend promises to be fun and I don't know-- I have really been feeling like doing a race. I get that feeling once in a while.  This time I think it is about proving to myself that I am getting back to being the old me.  And I am ready to do just that.

I may be joining one of these awesome ladies: Week In Review / Sunday Fitness & Food / Fit Fashionable Friday / Friday Five 2.0 / Tuesdays on the Run/ Wild Workout Wednesday /

Life of a Stepmother Runner #stepmomtribe

9.5.17


Mother’s Day is this weekend and while I am a stepmom, not an actual mom except to my wheaten terrier Jack, I have found that life changes a lot when kids are involved.  It was quite a change going from being a single girl with her own schedule to a full stepmom of three.  And that changed when and how I did my runs. Especially when my husband was doing National Guard (he just retired last month) for a week or on weekends.  This picture was taken a year and half ago... and life has changed A LOT...



How did my life change?
  • Running in the morning.  Not possible unless my husband is at home or the kids are staying somewhere for a sleep over.  Here is the thing—the kids are 8, 11, and 13 and probably I could leave them alone for 40 minutes, however it is really different when the kids are NOT YOURS.  I am always paranoid that if something happens, the biological mom (in Florida) and everyone else would be judging me as the evil stepmother.  Sorry but it is the truth.

  • Running whenever I want.  Not possible unless you synch your calendars—there is band practice, soccer, basketball, track and field, debate speeches.  And whoever does not go to the events, probably stays home with the youngest one, so there goes that.  #thatslife
  • Relaxing after running.  Not going to happen…immediately.  There is always something that needs to get done. ALWAYS.  So relaxing happens mostly after the kids go to sleep. 

  • Most of my FItBit steps are not achieved by running.  Between work and house stuff and kids stuff... ya know?

    I get questioned by little people about my fitness clothes spending habits. My answer? What's the problem? I don't question you about your Lego's spending habits?

  • Wine has become my running reward.  I know I sound like a lush but I am not.  Since I became a stepmom, there is something comforting about having a small glass of wine after the kids go to bed… or before.  Truly it all depends in the mood I am in.  I used to drink a lot of wine but about 7 months ago I cut wine because of medications I am taking.  But especially after a run, I reward myself with a small glass of wine.

  • Running in circles around our neighborhood park has become an option.  Yes, we have a neighborhood park across the street from our house and I have had to use it when I really want to run but the kids are asleep.  We live in a small town and its very safe.  But I like that I have visual contact with the house and I get my workout done… even if I have to go around a zillion times.

  • Running is my escape. I have to put my foot down when it comes to kids running with me.  Running is something that connects me to my previous life, and I love it.  But one of my biggest peeves is running with people.  I love running alone.  I am a loner.  Running with people distract me.  That includes kids.  But above all, running is my escape.  Stepmotherhood is hard especially when they are with you 24/7 (which was not part of the plan in the beginning).  So when I need to escape reality, I lace up my shoes and off I go! #SorryIAmNotSorry
This my friends, is life in the tranches of stepmotherhood! Stay strong and Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there but especially to the stepmoms who day-to-day also step up to the plate to care and raise their stepchildren.  While some may never get a thank you from them, what you do matter.  And this stepmom, appreciate you. Keep running!  #stepmomtribe

PRE-RUNNING SNACKS << BEETELITE ENERGIZING GUMMIES >>

6.5.17

Have you ever had a scheduled training run and you just have no energy? For many reasons sometimes our bodies just run our of energy.  One of my favorite pre-workout products is BeetElite.  BeetElite shots are goodness is a shot.  This product is awesome.  It is organic beetroot in powder form and you drink it as a shot.  It aids with sports performance, endurance and recovery.  It is concentrated and fast acting.  I personally like to take it between 25-30 minutes before my workout.  By far the black cherry flavor is the best.  What I love about it is that I get energy without the jitters from caffeine.  Then lasy year I saw an Instagram post from one of my favorite endurance runner's, Amelia Boone-- the Queen of Spartan races (yeah, that's my name for her-- she is that awesome!).


She posted about these gummy bears she made using BeetElite powder and it totally picked my curiosity.  Why?  Because I LOVE gummy bears.  And if I can get any product into gummy shapes, I am sold.  They are so delicious and fun to make! Plus honestly, they are super cute! To make them, I adapted a recipe from Stupid Easy Paleo.  Here is the original recipe.  Below, is the adaptation using BeetElite but really, you can use any all-natural juice of your choice. 






BeetElite Gummy Bears (adapted from Stupid Easy Paleo)

Ingredients:
  • 1 scoop of BeetElite
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 tbsp gelatin
  • Silicone candy molds or an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish

Steps:
  • Pour the water into small saucepan and add the scoop of powder. Heat gently until the powder dissolves.  Make sure it is warm but that it does not boil.
  • Turn off the heat, and pour the gelatin-- one tbsp at a time-- into the liquid, whisking as you do this until it is combined.  
** If you are using a mold, I recommend adding 1 more tbsp (for a total of 3).  This will help makes them harden a bit more which you want with gummy bears.
  • Pour the mixture into silicone molds.  How many gummy snacks you’ll end up with depends on how big your molds are. These bear gummy mold holds about 50 and hold about 1 drop of the dropper the mold came with.  I have three trays so I triple this 
  • Refrigerate the gummies for at least 2 hours, then pop them out of the molds. You may want to freeze them for 15 minutes before you try to unmold.
  • Keep these gummies refrigerated in a covered container. They keep for 3 to 5 days.

I may be joining one of these awesome ladies: Week In Review / Sunday Fitness & Food / Fit Fashionable Friday / Friday Five 2.0 / Tuesdays on the Run/ Wild Workout Wednesday /




My Top 5 CALIA Items for Spring/Summer 2017

4.5.17

As we look forward to summer (I'm convinced spring will completely skip Minnesota), I'm ready for some cute fitness clothes.  I'm convinced that you can get motivation from having cute clothes-- call me shallow.  And this spring/summer season I'm in love with CALIA by Carrie Underwood.  I have a few Calia pieces and love them, especially their tights.  I am curvy and have some junk in the trunk, in you know what I mean, and her tights don't feel like they're about to rip on you (hello LuLaRoe).  They are well made and the fabrics are great quality. They keep everything in place when running.

And Calia's new limited Bahia line is everything this island girl loves in fitness clothes. Cute styles, fun fabrics and fairly good prices especially if you compare to brands like Athleta, Lululemon or Under Armor.  And today I'm sharing with you my top 5 favorite pieces from the Bahia collection. 


No. 1 Women's Essential Tight Fit Printed Capris (Floral Geo) ($65)

What is not to love about these tights? Let's start with the obvious-- the fabric and colors. This Floral Geo design is so tropical and fun. I'm not crazy about light colored tights but I will make an exception for these.  The tights come in two different colors, but this one is my favorite.  The tights also have a pocket on the waistband for your keys or iPhone which is very handy. This is my favorite piece of this collection.



No. 2 Stap Back Muscle Tank Top ($41.25 on Sale Right Now)
I'm sure you can tell immediately why I love this tank top.  Give me a cute tank with a built in sports bra and I am there.  This is super cute and I like that it is a looser fit than most tanks. Definitely a must for me since my belly is not my best asset.



No. 3 Flowy Strappy Printed Tank Top (Floral Geo) ($33.75 on sale)

I love a higher neck tank top! Not only do I think it's flattering but it covers more especially if you are doing exercises where you are bending forward.  And this one has the same beautiful fabric motif as the tights.  To top everything off, is the back.  I love a back that's a little different in the design to add more interest. 




No. 4.  CALIA Classic Tote Bag (Dark Ocean) ($37.49)
I heart tote bags with a passion and this one has everything I look for in one: big size, roomy, good design and... it is super cute! Enough said.




No. 5 Effortless Foldover Waist Capris ($32.99)
Nothing makes me happier than comfy lounge type pants and these are beautiful and comfy (I tried them at the store but had to order online because it was a display).  I mostly wear them when I want a cute look but more relaxed... which has been around the house because it has been freezing outside.



And there you have my favorites for spring/summer from CALIA. Do you have any favorite fitness clothing you are drooling over this season? Do you own any CALIA?



The Running Gauge: Why Running Is My Way to Tune Into My Health

3.5.17

Running has been part of my life since I was in kindergarten and took those first racing steps at my field day.  That days i fell in love with running.  It has been a constant in my life.  Through good times and bad ones, through boyfriends, breakups, deaths and births-- running has been my safe heaven.

So, it should not come to as surprise than in many ways running is my gauge when it comes to my health.  A lot of my well being is define by how I feel running.  Sounds crazy? Probably.  But think about it.  If you go for a run and your joints are hurting, you just know something is not right.  If you get fatigued in a way that just leaves you spent after only a few minutes at a moderate pace... and this happens more than a few times (and you are not over training), you know something is... off.  And I use "off" for a reason.  Well, let me begin at the start.


"This is Angie.  Angie is always unusually tired and stiff after her runs and so she always ends up sitting down on the ground.  Angie didn't push her doctor for the truth. Don't be like Angie.


For the past two years I have not been feeling well.  Actually even before that but the past two years I have really noticed it.  But prior to two years ago I was in the Army.  And let me be honest, whether you are a man or a woman-- complaining about aches and pains comes with the territory and if you really complain then you are THAT Soldier who is whinny.  But the whinny and "weak" label really takes a whole new level if you are a female. Let's call a spade a spade. And as an officer, the pressure is more to be hardcore.  We live by the "suck it up, buttercup!" mental motto.  I have an entire box full of my Army records; it has been recorded yet I have had doctors who brushed it off and many ways made me feel like I was imagining my ailments.  And it always came back to "I can tell when I run because..." and looking back I think they thought I was trying to get out of running when in reality it was the opposite.

I am not saying I was deathly ill. I just was not feeling healthy.  But after a while you just ignored it and when I did go to the doctor it was for minor things but never really address the feeling of unhealthiness I was having. Now fast forward to two weeks ago. Because I now have an awesome health insurance I was able to make appointments at Mayo Clinic.  Unfortunately TRICARE, what I had in the Army while good it was very restrictive on who I could see. Anyhow, I went to see internal medicine for an endocrinology referral and I got a two-hour physical. Don't get me wrong, I am so happy I did but it was not what I was expecting. And for the first time EVER a doctor actually listened to what I was saying. I could tell as we talked that she was digesting the information I was giving her.

Eight tubes of blood and others test the results came back. I was so nervous. What if something was terribly wrong? Turns out that while nothing is terribly wrong at the moment I do have some serious issues going on. Here is quick list of what's happening so you have an idea of why I am unhealthy:

  • My thyroid levels are off the chart... even though I don't have a thyroid.
  • My cholesterol is through the roof.
  • I have arthritis on my right knee. Thank you for this one, Army!
  • I have a gastrointestinal bacteria that can cause ulcers.  Let me stop right here for a moment because at a race when I lived in Kansas 4 years ago I had a bunch of stomach issues and the doctor told me it was just heartburn.  Since then I have had stomach problems.  And not once did any of the docs treated me for this bacteria.
  • And I also have thoracolumbar dextroscoliosis... basically I have a type of scoliosis plus degenerative disk disorder.  



Yes, I am a freaking mess!  But you know what?  I now know that I was not imagining things.  The Army broke me down. Broke me bad. My body is a mess but we now have a plan of action and I could cry with happiness.  So I keep pushing and keep on running.  Not only because I love it because I owe these discoveries to running. This plan of action to address the medical issues has me feeling like I am have a some control over my health. I look forward to continued improvement of my health but especially my running. And even with all that needs to happen, I tell you what-- I am a happy girl.  Because at the end of the day I am alive and I am able to run.  And that is always great news.

Tell me, has running been in some ways, a gauge of your total well-being?