Walking A Mile In My Skinny Jeans

Pants, specifically jeans, have always been a little harder for me. I know I “shouldn’t” complain, but I struggle. This last winter, I was too scared to try on my pants. One day, I started to pull up one leg and I could tell at the calf that it wasn’t going to be pleasant. I stopped there, and I didn’t deal with my jeans all winter. I tried to face it, but I couldn’t.   In March, I needed to find something to wear for my birthday and I decided maybe I’d just buy a new pair. Many of my clients know that me trying to shop for jeans is just as scary as me trying on my own, and they offered encouragement along the way.  After a minor panic attack in a dressing room, I ended up with something. We joked, however, that the best fitting pair of pants was a size double 0, relaxed fit, curvy skinny jeans. What the hell does that even mean?

I still haven’t worn those jeans but I purchased them because they were on clearance. I had a conversation on a run about this with a couple women – we all range in age and size, but I didn’t feel like anyone was judging me. Many of the women in the group have struggled with their weight or have set weight loss goals, so they understand my fear of not being able to button my jeans.

This past weekend I had a conversation with one of my clients who also recently had to go jean shopping. While she has lost a lot of weight, she’s not yet at her goal and still isn’t comfortable in a dressing room (though who is). She knew it would take a little longer shopping because she didn’t know what size she was and that it still wouldn’t be pleasant because she isn’t yet the size she wants to be. To top it all off, she was in a time crunch. She ended up finding something and being in a smaller size, but that’s not the point of this story.

She told me that while shopping she saw the rack of size 0s and 00s. She even saw the curvy size 00 and had a giggle. And then she said the most comforting and beautiful thing I’ve ever heard as a coach. She said, “I looked at the 0s and 00s and I couldn’t hate them. I know them because I know you. I know real people that are that size, and you know what – I now realize it isn’t any easier being that size. You struggle just as much as I do in that dressing room. You are fighting the same battle. There is just as much pain and discomfort in the 0s as there are in the other sizes.”

Had we not been at the end of a run, and had I not been so tired, I may have cried. Her realization is true. It is very easy to look at someone else and think their life is easy, but that isn’t always the case. I think I relate to my clients so well because of my past and because of the battle I fight every day. I get frustrated when I see people post something about finally being a perfect size “4” or “6” or “8”. I get upset when they show pictures of themselves in their old jeans or pants to show how much weight they lost. Those pictures and posts don’t tell the whole story. Some of us have to learn to be okay in whatever size happens to fit and that happiness doesn’t come from fitting into a certain size or pair of pants.

I’m sure plenty of people have been inspired by those pictures of people in their old jeans that are too big. However, I think learning that despite major differences we are all fighting the same battle and can all help each other – that’s a much greater reason to be inspired. They say that before passing judgment on someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. Well, I guess we’ve changed that saying in my group. I will forever be grateful for the women who had the courage to walk a mile in my skinny jeans.  Thank you for not judging me, ladies.  You truly are an inspiration.

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The Best Run Of My 20s

On the night before I turned 30, I ran the best run of my 20’s. It wasn’t a personal best, it wasn’t a race, it wasn’t a comeback run, and it wasn’t even really my run. At 29 years, 364 days, and approximately 20 hours old I experienced something that I don’t think I’ve experienced since crossing my first marathon finish line or Boston Marathon start line over 12 years ago. Joy, pride, and pure exhilaration! I started running when I was 14, and while I wasn’t great when I started, I spent the next 6 years hitting all kinds of running milestones. Between my first and second 10miler (and half marathon) is a 30 minute difference. I qualified for Boston on my first try, and would take another 30 minutes off that time before I turned 20. I ran cross country in high school and college, so I had a constant source of people telling me how big my accomplishments were. It is hard to keep up with that level, and so by my early 20’s I was fighting for every second off my times I could get. It also wasn’t a big deal anymore. I’d experience many running lows. There were multiple serious injuries, life threatening illnesses, and a few “we’re not sure you are ever going to be able to run again” moments. Don’t get me wrong, I had many great moments too; I ran Boston 4 more times, I ran a couple more personal records, won a couple more races, and I ran hundreds of races. But nothing ever felt like it did when I was younger. I tried to repeat it, but it didn’t happen. It was sort of depressing to think about running in my 30’s wondering if I’d ever get that feeling of being “good” again.

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I’ve had lots of memorable moments in my twenties. Here are just a few.

That night, I just finished up coaching two groups and sent them to the track to walk a cool down. I came face to face with someone from my past who made me feel very … unsettled. One of those people who I use to try incredibly hard to impress, to fit in with, to get approval from, and it always back fired. One of the people who are so insecure in themselves they will put you down and hold you down. Very little was said, but it was enough to upset me. While I know there was nothing I could do to show my strength, my success, my happiness, or my health since we’ve last seen each other, there was an urge to find a way. While this person walked the track and all of my athletes were cooling down, I was still a little bothered by our two sentence conversation, and I wasn’t ready to walk away just yet.

I looked across the track, and there was one of my long-time runners. She had already done her own workout and then helped my advanced group. She was getting ready to leave, and I’m not sure why, but I asked her if she could give me one more half mile. She looked at me a little hesitant at first, but then shrugged her shoulder and took her backpack and jacket off. “I need you to run this pretty hard. And I need you to run past that walker over there really strong.” She didn’t argue and she didn’t question it. Later she told me that I don’t ask her to do something like that very often, so she figured there had to be a good reason behind it.

We started the run. I went out about half a step in front of her in the lane outside of her and she grabbed onto my stride. At 200 meters in, I knew this was a lot faster than we’d normally run this. We passed the person at about 240meters. Right after that she mumbled something about slowing down, but I told her to hold on. She did. At 300 meters, I started to get a little worried if I had taken her out too fast and if she’d be able to hold it. I didn’t want her to feel like she had disappointed me, and I knew she would be upset with herself if she had to stop. At 400 meters, I realized we were running a pace she hasn’t run in my 18 months of training her. It was right around there that my mindset changed. I was no longer focusing my energy on trying to show some random person from my past that I was good enough or strong enough.  I wasn’t worried about what some random person thought about me. I focused my energy on who mattered. I wanted my runner to feel good about herself, and I was going to get her to hold this pace until the finish. I realized how connected we were, and that if I gave myself and my energy to the right people, they would give it all right back to me. I needed to believe in her and trust her, so that she trusted me and believed in me enough to keep going around that track at that pace.  It was a dance around the track. Our strides were matched, and every piece of effort, energy, and will she gave to me, I gave right back to her. We were completely in sync. I had to forget about everything and everyone else at the moment; we were all that mattered.

And a few of my other favorite running moments this past decade.  A great walk down memory lane.

And a few of my other favorite running moments this past decade. A great walk down memory lane.

We ran that half mile an entire minute faster than she has ever run a half mile. As we walked the cool down and as she started to catch her breath she managed to get out, “Happy Birthday,” and I managed to give her this awkward side hug. We both thanked each other. Her eyes were watering because her lungs were burning from not working that hard before and my eyes were watering because I was seriously moved.

It might sound silly, but those 5 minutes it took run a half mile and catch our breath is one of the most defining moments of my life. It may have started with a wish and desire to prove to someone else that I’m good enough. To prove that I’m strong enough, happy enough, healthy enough, and successful enough, but in the end I got to take part in someone else’s triumph, health, and happiness. I got to help show someone else her own strength and power, and that’s what uncovered mine. When I saw it in her, I could see it in me. Could she have done that on her own or with another coach? Maybe. Probably. She’s a pretty determined and strong individual. However, I also know that no one else asked her to do that that day. I discovered my value in those couple laps. In pushing others to push themselves to a place they have never been, I push myself to a place I have never been. In always giving my best, they will always give me their best.

It may have taken a decade to have that run, but it was worth it! Unlike my first marathon, winning a race, my first Boston Marathon, my elite marathon start, or a regional cross-country meet this is a joy I can do any day I want. All I have to do is give a little of myself to the right people and be receptive when they give it back. We both ran through pretty thick walls that night, and it was worth it! We walked off the track, both of us standing a little taller.

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Over Dedicated Or Not Medicated

A Different Perspective on some common motivational quotes and one liners.

We’ve all seen them.  Those motivational quotes that are supposed to make us want to get off the couch and go to the gym.   Those catchy one-liners shared on social media that are supposed to inspire us to put down the French Fry and grab a carrot stick.    I’m all about a little motivation but some of these are more likely to motivate me to throw my phone across the room rather than lace up my running shoes.  Some I just don’t agree with, and others put people down instead of lifting them up.  I thought I’d share a different perspective on some of these common one liners and quotes. Mostly, they frustrate me because they promote unhealthy behaviors or thoughts.  I don’t think anyone intentionally sets out to make someone feel guilty or bad about themselves, and I don’t think fitness enthusiasts or professionals are trying to inspire unhealthy behaviors. However, I  wanted to show that it is possible to have your cutesy inspirational quote do more harm than good.  Here’s my alternative view on the most recent ones that have made me scream profanities at my computer screen:

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This is the quote that inspired me to write this.  I’ve actually had two clients tell me that this specific quote has made them feel bad about themselves.  It has made them feel like they aren’t “as good as” someone else.  When you are feeling down on yourself, it is a lot harder to get yourself to do something positive.  It is a lot harder to get yourself to face the crowd at the gym, the running group you may feel like you aren’t as good as, or to start a program you think you can’t do in that moment. My response was this:  “In college, I worked 3 jobs, took 20 credits a semester, spent at least an hour in the gym 5 times a week, and still managed to run 80-100 miles a week.  AND I RAN THEM WELL!  It wasn’t that I was better than you.  I was fricken CRAZY!  It wasn’t that I was more dedicated, I just wasn’t medicated.” Stop comparing yourself to other people.  You don’t always know their story.   Focus on your goals and your workouts.  If you worry about what everyone else is doing, it will destroy you.  And definitely do not compare yourself to crazy people!

regret2                                                 noregret1

All of those workouts I should not have done, I REGRET THEM!  I hate to admit it, but there’s a lot of them.   That time I was having heart palpitations and decided to go for a run, and ended up having to run right to the ER.  Yeah, I could have done without that one.  The day my hip was hurting a little bit but I decided to run on it anyway, and I ended up fracturing my femur.  I TOTALLY REGRET THAT WORKOUT!  That workout that took me from slight hamstring pain to a tear and out of commission for just about six months. 18 months later it still doesn’t feel right. Regret!  And on top of that, I don’t regret giving up a workout to spend time with my friends or go to a special event.  I don’t regret dropping out of that marathon a decade ago just because “I wasn’t feeling it.”  I don’t regret cancelling practice that random Saturday morning and buying my running group coffee instead.     Sometimes, it’s okay not to workout.  Sometimes, your “excuses” don’t stink; they are legitimate.  Some things are more important than that one workout – your sanity, health, time with a loved one, or a little rest.  Of course, if you are debating between watching “The Bachelor” and doing a workout.  Do the workout, probably not a decision you will regret.

getoffyourass                                      new diet pill

This one has never rubbed me the right away.  Achieving your healthy weight is so much more than will power.  It is so much more than just being able to “get off your ass.”  It’s nutritional, emotional, and physical.  It is finding a solution that works for you, and that solution may not work for everyone else.  I agree that there isn’t a quick fix – no single magic cure all.  Good for you if you were able to just get off your butt and achieve your goal, but for most of us it isn’t going to be that easy. Some of us may need a little more help or it may be a longer struggle, and there’s nothing wrong with that.   I needed a lot of help. Heck, I still do!  I needed the magic pills  to help my mind and body do what it couldn’t do on it’s own (they aren’t magic though, my physician prescribed them).  I needed the secret diet written out for me to follow (though it isn’t really a secret it is just personalized to fit my nutritional needs and health goals). I need the special shakes so that my breakfast is high quality, nutritious, and easy (though the only thing special about them is I like them and they work for me).  Take all the steps you need to find a solutions that works for you.  That person telling you how easy it is to simply “get off your butt,” probably hasn’t a walked a mile in your shoes before.

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Seriously?!   Have you ever tried unpasteurized cheese?  Jambalaya in New Orleans? Croissants in Paris? Homemade pumpkin cheesecake? Or really good pizza?  All of those things, in my opinion, taste pretty fricken awesome.  What the heck does skinny feel like anyway? Is it confidence or pride? Or is that being so cold it hurts?  Or losing the sensation in fingers and toes? Or feeling like you are going to pass out every time you stand up?  Guess it depends, but can you really compare a taste to an image to a feeling? Personally, the best food I’ve ever had definitely tasted better than how I phsycially and emotionally felt when I was at my ‘skinniest’.    A different approach, I often ask myself, “Is this worth it?”   Is that meal or food option worth the calories?   The extra workout?  The risk that you’ll ‘fall off the wagon’?  How does this action align itself with my goal and my plan.  If it’s something super awesome, it might be worth the extra day or two working on my goal, or having a salad for lunch, or getting in an extra workout.  Maybe I don’t even have to worry about having good food or being skinny,  and  I can have my delicious cake and eat it too.  Anyway before I get too frustrated and break my computer with this one I will leave it with this, I try to remind myself and my clients that the goal is to be healthy.  To me, being healthy means being able to enjoy a good meal.

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“Dedicated” is the word I used when I was defensive and in denial about being “obsessed.” Obsessed means you have an unhealthy relationship with a person, place, thing, or idea.   When I start comparing myself to the person I use to be; I have to remember what I told my client earlier, “it wasn’t that I was more dedicated then, I wasn’t medicated then.”  Being a little older and a little wiser now, I see this happen to people and they just don’t realize where they are.  They don’t have the knowledge and in the beginning phases those around them actually support the obsession as dedication.    I’m sure there are occasionally self-conscious people who make claims about dedicated or healthy people.   However, I think that this doesn’t just come from those who are “lazy” it can come from anyone with any insecurity, including those calling people “lazy”.  The way we chose to label something is important..

Be careful with your words; they are powerful!  This includes what you say to yourself.  If these motivational quotes work for you, go ahead and use them.  However, if you use them to beat yourself up, try something else.  If you do find yourself inspiring, teaching, coaching, or motivating others, please remember that those of us who see the world a little differently may not get the message you are trying to send.   Those of us who may be a little over dedicated, under medicated, self-conscious, a little more sensitive, take things too literally, or need a little more explanation than a simple one liner, let’s  take these quotes off of our fridges and our cell phone and lap top screens. Replace it with something that truly inspires you to be the best version of yourself! – Ashley Kelso