Friday, September 27, 2013

Make a list, check it twice

A New Year’s Resolution doesn’t need to start on New Year’s Day.  In fact, you can start a new year anytime you’d like.  There’s even a few perks of starting off your commitment to change during the “off season”.  A big plus is that you won’t be part of the resolutioner rush at the gym.  You also won’t have as many doubters that think you’re just doing it for the month of January, when you start during a random month people tend to take it more seriously for some reason.  

Last year for my birthday I made a book full of promises to myself.  I literally found a tiny notebook and on each page wrote something that I wanted to accomplish or experience.  My list ranged from learning a new language to getting a driver’s license.  Yes, I’m 26 and I’ve never had a driver’s license.  The first on that list though was to do a 5k race and follow it with at least one race each month.  As each month passed I tore out that page from the book and wrote a new.  My 5k page went to 5 mile, followed by obstacle race to eventually half marathon and triathlon.  Now my race goals are a full marathon and an Olympic distance triathlon.  I still have a ways to go before I’m ready for either of those, but writing it down and keeping them on the horizon ensures that I continue to work towards those goals.  

Writing down your goals is important in all aspects of your life really.  Some of the things I listed were silly like have dinner at Medieval Times or reorganize my room, but having them on paper helped me keep track of them and gave me great pleasure when I was finally able to cross them off.  (By the way I still haven’t had that dinner at Medieval Times so if you’re interested let me know!) A big goal that I’ve had for some time now is to go back to school.  At 17, when I was fresh out of high school, I moved away from everything I knew and started a new journey.  At the time I thought I had everything figured out and that I knew exactly what I was doing with my life.  I was wrong.  It was truly humbling when I finally had that moment of realization that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or where I was going.  Rather than waste time and money by continuing on a path that no longer inspired me, I dropped out of school right before finishing my last year in college.  It’s a decision that I often regret, but now I’ve finally come to peace with.  I realized that I needed to spend some time away to truly grasp what I wanted to do and to appreciate the opportunity to even be in college.  

As of this week I am officially a college student once again.  It took a lot for me to put my pride aside and take the plunge back into the unknown.  I’m on the right track this time around and am more determined than ever to finish.  Most people assume that I graduated and never ask so I just let them believe what they’d like so I haven’t shared this with very many outside of my close friends and family.  The momentum of this new chapter in my life was so strong that I decided to take another chance and stop by the DMV to take my written and vision tests to get my learner’s permit.  I passed with flying colors!  Now I just need to get some time behind the wheel so I can go back and own the road test.  

All of this has taught me some important things; it’s never too late and you should never give up on your dreams.  It doesn’t matter how hard it seems, if you keep pushing eventually they’ll give way.  So make a list, write down all of the things you’d like to do or learn or experience.  Check it every so often to stay on track and make any changes.  I still have 11 more major league ballparks to visit, continents to touch and courses to run so as long as I keep writing, I’ll keep dreaming new dreams to make reality.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Speak your dreams into existence

If you don't ask, the answer is always no. 
If you don't step forward, you're always in the same place. 
If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it.

I think one of the biggest obstacles people face when taking on a new goal is clearly defining it.  You start off with this wishy washy idea of what you want but if you don't take the time to foster it and care for it chances are it will just slip away.  This has happened to me time and time again, the idea is born and then fades just as quickly as it appeared.  I struggled for a long time with following through because I was never sure if I was making the right choice.  I've finally realized that as soon as that spark is ignited I need to kindle the flame until it's a roaring fire.  When it's a tiny little ember is when it is most fragile and needs the most attention, safety and love.  This is true for all areas of your life, not just weight loss.  For me, weight loss was one thing but I have other dreams I'd like to see come true as well.

My first attempt at a facial prosthetic (home made)
Something not everyone knows about me is my love for movie monsters.  I am absolutely entranced by old school movie magic, the practical effects that makeup artists were able to achieve before CGI was and still is truly breathtaking.  I've always had a fascination with art, and for me makeup artistry is like living, breathing art.  About a year ago I started playing around with a few things and soon learned that I actually have some natural talent.  I kept practicing and more than that doing TONS of research.  I traveled to makeup shows, subscribed to makeup magazines, and bought whatever post-Halloween clearance goodness I could get my hands on.

Day of the Dead inspired makeup

It sounds expensive, but you find ways to save.  For instance, any conventions I wanted to attend I asked if they needed any extra help in return for admission to the event.  Some of them I was not only given an all weekend pass but was also paid.  The connections I made at those conventions has been invaluable.  I met some amazing friends who continue to support and guide me today.  A few have helped with the birth of this blog, others offer encouragement along the way, and then one even made a connection between a film maker and myself.  Now I have the potential to work on an upcoming horror film and all because I took the time to work as a volunteer at a comic convention and met some amazing friends while I was there.  Always Always Always be nice to whoever you meet, aside from just being a good human being you never know who you might encounter and how you might be able to help each other.

Sweet swag from the Women Rock Race
Saturday I was a part of the Women Rock 5k/10k/13.1.  Team Ortho puts on this race and they impressed me so much that the following month when they needed volunteers for another expo I jumped at the opportunity.  A great perk of working for them is that you earn credits towards race entries (which if you're a race junky like me, this is a thing of pure beauty).  This weekend I signed up to work for them, not just for the credits, but also because there is always a great group of volunteers.  This time there was a new volunteer that I befriended and I am so glad that I did.  Turns out she's a casting director and was impressed by my makeup work.  She said I have a great raw talent that needs to be fostered and asked me if I would be interested in working on set for her  next film.  I'm sure you can imagine how excited and awestruck I was. 
And of course a little eye candy...

The point is, if you start with an idea and help it blossom into something bigger the momentum will carry itself after awhile.  When you truly desire something the universe has a way of conspiring to help you get it.  Continue to pay it forward and you will see all of that effort and positive energy come back to you in leaps and bounds.  I feel so blessed, all of these incredible opportunities keep presenting themselves to me and I can't help but think that each smile, or hello to a stranger helped to get me here.  I constantly have that feeling you get when you sense that you're on the verge of something tremendous.  I'm not sure where my path will take me, but I will always be willing to give back and help those who have strayed from theirs.  Trust that what you are doing is the right thing and accept any detours as blessings in disguise because they might just help you more than you know.

((if you'd like to see more pictures of my makeup experiments head on over to and let me know what you think!  I'm always looking for feedback or new ideas to try out))

Thursday, September 19, 2013

It's all in your head

What's your secret?  How'd you do it?  Did you take anything?  How many calories do you eat a day?  Help me!  These are the most common questions I get each time I post a progress picture of myself.  I figured I would address some of them here because maybe those answers can help anyone out there too shy to ask.  (Which by the way, don't feel shy, I'm super friendly and always willing to help!  I may not have any personal experience with it but I've done TONS of reading and research so I just might have an answer)

So let's get started, the very first thing to focus on is deciding you want to make a change.  This may seem silly and you might be thinking "of course I want to change! I'm sick of feeling (insert negative emotion here).    I've been thinking about my change for years now, I've wanted it and thought about what I could do to get there.  The problem was that I never really focused myself enough to get it done, mostly because I didn't have a goal in mind.  Your brain is the most powerful resource you have.  Whenever your body is tired and you feel like giving up, its your mind that has to overcome the pain and keep pushing you to your limits.  Truly the hardest struggle is the one that happens inside your head, you will convince yourself of all the reasons and excuses to not workout, justify eating something you shouldn't or trick yourself into thinking that you don't have what it takes to make it to your goal.  Get your mind in the right place and everything else will follow, that positive attitude will take you farther than you expect.

Now that you've got your head in the right place it's time to get the rest of the body rallied up to take on those pesky pounds.  Next up on the list is your stomach.  Contrary to what you may believe, your stomach is actually pretty small and it doesn't take much to fill it up.  Try slowing down when you eat to make sure you're stopping when you're actually full.  I don't count calories so my best advice as far as diet is concerned is try to balance your meal in a way that you're eating mostly vegetables, a good sized portion of lean protein and then a smaller portion of a whole wheat grain or other complex carb.  I also limit my fruit to just mornings/mid afternoon so that I don't have too much sugar late in the day.  If you're not a huge veggie fan, try mixing them into a smoothie so you still get the benefits without the taste.  Another important thing to mention is the "cheat meal".  I'm a big fan of rewarding yourself with a cheat meal, it keeps me sane.  The rules I follow when indulging in a cheat meal: 1. limit how much of it you consume, remember you don't need to eat it all, 2. ENJOY IT!!!  You've earned it so enjoy the heck out of that cheat meal.  Don't punish yourself or feel guilty, that defeats the purpose. 

The final stop is the rest of your body.  You may hate your body now but you need to learn to love it.  Yes, your current body.  The skin your in is what will get you to where you want to be.  As much as you might want to be that coveted size or weight, this body is the one who will do all the work and should get all the glory.  Blood, sweat and tears?  It will all be from the person you are now.  Keep that in mind along your journey, it's good to remember where you started and how far you've come.  Just as much as you may hate your body and the way it looks, when you start pushing it to get through workouts it will hate you just as much.  You'll hurt, you'll want to give up, you might cry or collapse, but as long as you keep going it will get easier.  The moment you are able to quiet that little voice of doubt and replace it with the persistent voice of determination you will notice the difference.  Personally I like to vary my workouts to always keep my body guessing.  I don't want it to get complacent or lazy so I keep throwing new things at it.  Weights, cardio, obstacle courses, triathlons, distance runs, plyometrics, anything to get my heart rate going.  Eventually you'll learn to love the burn.  It's like the badge of honor you wear from getting through a killer workout so don't be ashamed of walking with a limp or waddle after leg day, OWN that because you EARNED it.

In case you sort of skimmed through everything and ended up here at the end (I apologize for the long winded post) the MOST important thing you can do is focus on your mental state and staying positive.  Stress and negative energy make your body think that there is some kind of disaster and it needs to be prepared.  The way it prepares is by storing fat and not burning through it.  Love yourself, just as you are, because you are the only one who can get you to where you want to be. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The weight loss warning I wish I had

When I started my weight loss journey I prepared for the worst.  At least I thought I did.  I had countless pep talks with myself about not letting negative energy from others get to me, or ignoring those who didn’t believe in me.  I knew that my change in appearance would bring about a change in those around me but there were a few things I didn’t account for.  There is whole side of losing weight that people don’t publicize, and that’s the toll it can take on you emotionally.

My biggest fear was that I would lose friends as I lost the weight.  I had heard countless stories about women who started losing weight and the ladies in their life became jealous and turned spiteful.  I knew that none of my closest friends would have this reaction but I couldn’t be sure that others I weren’t as close with would be as supportive.  At first not very many noticed a difference in my appearance.  It took a few months before people really saw the change and I got nothing but positive feedback.  People I hadn’t spoken to in years would send me messages of encouragement or congratulate my efforts.  With every “like” on a picture or share of a post I felt overjoyed that I wasn’t experiencing the dreaded “hater effect”.  I sort of felt invincible, like maybe people just liked me enough that they couldn’t help but be happy for me.  For the most part, that was true. 

I’m thankful to be surrounded by the amazing people in my life.  My family has done everything they can to support me and show me how proud they are of me.  This is the same with my work family, my coworkers aren’t just colleagues, they’re my friends and they continue to amaze me with their kindness and generosity.  By far my friends have shown so much more love than I could have possibly imagined.  They all want to be a part of it whether it’s running a race with me or just cheering along the sidelines.  This bubble of bliss they’ve surrounded me with has gotten me through the bad days when all I want to do is give up.

When I started this journey I didn’t have an end goal in mind.  I didn’t want to reach a certain weight or be a certain size.  We had a competition at work and I just wanted to win.  Along the way I realized how much better I felt when I took care of my body and vowed to make it a lifelong change regardless of the contest outcome.  I’ve stuck true to that well after our final weigh in.  This isn’t a diet, this isn’t a fad, this is my life.  I’m dedicated to being the best person I can be both inside and out.  I’ve never paid much attention to pounds or dress sizes; I’ve always felt comfortable in my own skin and confident in my body. 

This might come as a surprise to some, but I wasn’t unhappy before.  I loved myself and have actually started feeling more insecure as the pounds have come off.  In a weird way, that extra layer of fat was sort of like my armor and protection from fake people.  I suppose subconsciously I always felt like if people liked me just as I was then it was for the person that I was and not for my outward appearance.  I never had a shortage of suitors, there was always someone trying to get to know me.  I went on more dates then than I have now.  Now that my body is slimming down there has been an assortment of men in my life who have suddenly shown interest when there wasn’t before.  My mentality on it has and will continue to be “if you didn’t have time for me then, I don’t have time for you now”.

I try not to let it bother me.  I assumed that there would be a few of these guys around who chose not to notice me until I fit what their idea of beauty is.  I understand I wasn’t and still might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean I should be treated like a charity case.  The most unexpected reaction has been a few select men who have approached me with the attitude “oh you must not have gotten any attention when you were bigger so now that you’ve lost weight you should be thankful that I’m showing interest”.  This is the most ridiculous, delusional mentality, so preposterous in fact that I hadn’t even considered it in the realm of possibilities.  I mean seriously, what makes you think that your condescending and degrading approach would make me swoon for you?  I wish I could share some of the messages I’ve received but they’re too vulgar and shameful to even post.  Most people worry that the worst part of weight loss is all the money you’ll spend on new clothes, I could never have expected all of the emotional damage I would be subjected to.  It’s not something a lot of people talk about, but we need to.  There is more to weight loss than just the struggle you feel in the gym and in the kitchen.

Monday, September 16, 2013

I'm a runner

Do you like to run?  Then you're a runner.  It doesn't matter how fast or how slow you go, a 15 minute mile is just as far as a 4 minute mile.  If you like to run, you're a runner.  It's really simple.  You don't even have to run very far to be a runner.  Runners come in all varieties.  Lately I've had a lot of people tell me that they're too afraid to try a race because they don't think they can make it.  Here's the thing, running is probably one of the simplest things to do.  You don't need any equipment or training, it's a natural movement for your body.  We were meant to run.

Another reason people give me is that they're concerned about other runners judging them.  I've done about 20 races now and I haven't felt judged at any one of them.  The only thing I've felt is hopeful and encouraged.  At every single race that I have run, there has been a handful of people who take a second to say something uplifting.  Now that I have some more experience, I do the same for others.  "You're doing great, you're almost there, nice pace..."  These are all things I've heard along the course or said to other runners.  I've gotten high fives, smiles, and all sorts of positive reinforcement but never an ounce of negative energy.  There have been times when I've pushed people who are walking to just jog with me for a bit to keep them motivated which in turns helps to keep me going.  Granted, some of us are faster than others (I'm in that slower category myself), but running is all about YOU.  Every runner has a different journey to get them to that starting line on race day and there's no use comparing yourself to them.  The only competition you have out there is the voice inside your head that keeps telling you "I can't".  You can, and you will.  Once you learn to silence that voice of doubt your body will follow wherever the mind leads it.

I used to think I wasn't a runner or that I couldn't run.  I was wrong.  I prove to myself every day that I'm a runner and I was meant to do this.  I'm always at the back of the pack for races and that's just fine with me.  If the zombie apocalypse ever does come then we'll probably still be faster than the folks who don't want to leave the couch.  For you fast runners, if you do ever get the chance to, try slowing your pace and running a race at the back.  I can almost guarantee that it will change your perspective on things.  The people that I've met while running have brought me to tears, inspired me, and most of all changed me.  Listening to what brought them there to that race and continues to push them to run is awe inspiring.  There are cancer survivors, parents who run for the children they've lost too soon, and people who have overcome such adversity it's a miracle they even find the strength to get out of bed.  We all have the same outlook, it isn't about how fast you run, it's about making it to the finish line.  

Monday, September 9, 2013

All it takes is heart

The other day I heard someone say "I may not have a runner's body, but I have a runner's heart and that is all you need". This statement has never held more true than this past weekend.  It took awhile before I really considered myself a runner. I always thought that I didn't run fast or far enough to be counted among so many elite athletes, I didn't feel worthy of the category. Thankfully I've been able to get rid of that notion and embrace the title. I am a runner. Over the last 3 days I ran 3 different races and while my legs may have started the race, it was my heart that got the job done.

At this point you might be thinking 3 races are you crazy? Well, yeah, runners can be a little crazy sometimes and this was one of those times. Friday night I did the Electric Run 5k which is a night time race held at McCormick Place. It was my first night time run and there were so many people it was tough to get a good pace going. Per usual I got up early Saturday morning to head to Field Museum for my volunteer shift working with the kids. Normally I don't do much else for the day because I'm pretty worn out after that but I was already downtown so I stopped by for a second day of helping out the Women Rock booth at the Half Marathon Expo. I guess you could say I just like being around other runners and hearing their stories. It feeds a part of your soul that can't be reached in other ways. After everything was packed up from the expo, I headed over to Grant Park for the Firefly night time 5k/10k. A couple friends were doing the 5k and I signed up with another group doing the 10k. I started to doubt myself and almost ran the 5k instead but this little voice kept telling me to just tough it out and do the longer run. It wasn't my worst 10k, but it certainly wasn't pleasant. The course was pitch black in some areas and I kept having issues with my legs or feet. The only thing that kept me going was that stubborn part of me, unwilling to quit or be conquered. So I pushed on, my little runners heart just kept on beating til I made it to the end.

Now, this is where the story turns, because Sunday morning there was nothing more I wanted to do than to sleep in and have a lazy Sunday. I didn't sign up to run the race with anyone so what's the harm if I just decided to skip it? Sure, I knew other people who would be there but they would all be running the half marathon and wouldn't even notice that I hadn't been there. I was my own worst enemy, it was just like in the cartoons where you have the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other trying to influence your decision.  That bad side was coming up with every excuse imaginable for why I needed to stay home. Ultimately the good won that round and I reluctantly rolled out of bed to get ready. The journey from my apartment to the race site took close to 2 hours and every minute that passed I regretted my decision even more. I had to shake away all my negative and just stay focused on trying to channel all of the positive energy I could muster (which is really tough at 5am).

As soon as I got to the race I knew I had made the right decision. The energy of race day consumes you. The instant I was surrounded by people I felt all of their excitement. As I walked to the starting line I ran into a friend who was there to watch and our talk gave me the last little boost I needed to get started. I'm not gonna lie and say I PRed, or had this amazing race. It wasn't. It was long, I ran slow and my body was ready to shut down.  Every single step was a battle. I toughed it out and kept on pushing until I saw the finish line. Normally I'd sprint to the end and finish strong but I just didn't have it in me. I kept the same pace and crossed that line when my body was ready. I got my medal and wandered over to the festivities to take a break before the long journey home. Since I didn't have any friends there I sat and talked with a friendly stranger who is training for her first half marathon. I shared my story with her to help quell her fears about her big race. Finally it was time to make my way back home and as I was walking I ran into one of my sorority sisters who did the half marathon. She hit an unofficial PR that morning and was overjoyed. Moments like that make it all worth it.

Once I got home I was able to enjoy my lazy Sunday and slept pretty much the whole day after having lunch. I missed phone calls and text messages until I woke up this morning. I kinda wish I would have seen them so I could have shared in the excitement last night, but it was still just as good this morning. Turns out I'm kinda famous. Well not really, but in the news coverage of the race, my friend and running buddy Abby caught a sweet shot of me running to the finish line. So this morning that's what I woke up to, a post on instagram from Abby with the hashtag #SoProudOfHer and it made my day before my day has even started.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

You can't always do it alone

What gets you to the starting line is a huge part of running any kind of race, but what gets you to the finish line is just as important.  For someone who doesn’t have any family in state, like myself, support can be tough.  You grow up with the love and encouragement of your parents, siblings and extended family but then you move away and find yourself growing your network with colleagues, friends and classmates.  It’s tough, picking up and moving to a brand new city where you don’t know a single soul.  I took that plunge 9 years ago when I was just 17.  Barely more than a kid, I gathered up my stuff and started on a new adventure after graduating high school.  My time here in Chicago has been nothing short of spectacular.  Sure I’ve missed out on some things back home, or missed things here in the city when I’m back home visiting the folks.  If you always look at life from the scope of missed opportunities you’ll never be happy.  Just learn to embrace the chances you did take and where they lead you. 

Throughout the years I’ve spent in Chicago I’ve met people through school, work, volunteering and a whole array of different activities I’ve been involved with.  Most (if not all) my friends would tell you that I’m a social butterfly.  I have no problems talking to strangers and approaching new people.  This has served me well throughout the years as it has contributed to endless opportunities that I continue to encounter every day.  The best part about it is all of the amazing people that I have grown to love so deeply that they have truly become family to me.  There are a handful of people that aren’t related to me that I would be willing to travel to the end of the world and back if they needed it. 

When I began my fitness journey I never dreamed that I would be calling myself an endurance athlete or much less a triathlete.  I wanted to make healthier choices and be more active.  Short, simple and sweet.  I didn’t have a specific goal weight in mind or even dress size.  I just wanted to feel better when exercising.  Setting new goals for races helped me get there but the biggest part of my success can be linked to the overwhelming support of the network of friends and family around me.   

I know I’ve said that I had everything I needed inside myself, but they’re the ones who helped me dig to find it.  I couldn’t imagine getting through everything without them.  Hearing their voices cheer me on, or passing friends along the course and giving each other high fives, these little things give you a boost that gets you just a little bit farther or makes you go a little bit faster.  Sometimes it's not even people you know, but volunteers or other spectators cheering along the sidelines.  

When I ran my first half marathon I didn't tell anyone I was doing it.  I was afraid that if I told anyone I wouldn't be able to chicken out at the last minute and just do the 5k where the race split.  A part of me wishes I could have had someone there to share in that milestone, but it helped me realize that I could do it even if the only people cheering me on were strangers.  The point is you have to have something or someone to help get you through the tough times.  Even during the triathlon, I knew I would have support there but had no idea where they would be along the course.  Every time I felt myself slipping to a dark place during the race I would just keep my head up and smile at the other families there to cheer on their loved ones and pretend like it was my name they were calling out. 

Through everything, I’m so thankful to be blessed with the greatest cheerleaders.  Whether they’re out there on race day or send a text to say good luck, take a minute to appreciate the people who helped get you to that finish line.  Don't forget to thank the volunteers either, they get to the race before you to make sure everything is set up and you have that cup of water to cool down with when you reach their station.  Well after you pass them they're still there keeping runners hydrated and then clean up after our mess when the race is over.  Celebrate your accomplishment and remember to share a piece of that victory with all of them, because in one way or another they were part of what got you there.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Who do you run for?

Runners and other athletes often use the mantra "There will come a day when I can not do this, today is not that day".  It's simple yet profound.  Embrace your ability to do what others can't and don't let the opportunity pass you by.  I've been thinking about that quite a bit lately, all the years I spent thinking I couldn't do something because I was too afraid to try and fail.  Sometimes I wish that I had just found the courage to push past my doubts and done things sooner, but at least I've found it now.

The more I run and am blessed by countless opportunities, I feel the need to give it back to the universe in some way.  Pay it forward.  I was doing my usual internet browsing on the train ride home from work when I stumbled upon  The story of two friends encouraging and inspiring one another through running touched my heart in a way that goes beyond just the joy of the sport.  One comment on a post on Facebook gave birth to a whole new movement.  The idea is pretty basic, there are people who can not run and people who love to run, so they get matched up together to uplift and motivate one another.  I've spent the past few days reading through the posts by both sides and can't make it through more than 5 posts without crying.  It's seriously amazing.

For those of you who may not know, I have a special place in my heart for kids who are differently abled.  In elementary school we had a unique experience in that the only 2 groups of students who attended were either placed in the gifted program or in the special needs program.  I'm sure any of my Webster Wildcats who follow me here would have to agree, going through a school like that changes you.  I think Justen & Katrina might be the only Webster Alum to keep up with my fitness journey (and I'm super thankful that you do!), but I have no doubt that they have a similar outlook.  Helping students in the special needs program with lunch or teaching them about managing money gave us a completely different appreciation for things most of us take for granted.  Ever since then I have always felt a bond with special needs kids and had told myself that if I ever had the means I would consider adopting. 

Obviously my next step was was to sign up to be matched immediately.  I filled out the form and anxiously awaited a reply.  I got a response saying Congratulations I had been accepted and now all I have to do is wait for a match!  It's sort of like being in line at Hogwarts waiting to get placed by the sorting hat.  All of this excitement building and you get to see everyone around you burst out in joy when they finally get their match.  I have to say, this feels like one of those defining moments in life.  You know that something great is about to happen and the anticipation for that moment builds every second.  In the meantime, I'll be dedicating all of my runs to anyone out there who needs it.