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Holidaze

We are here.

The 12 days of Christmas, 8 crazy nights, chocolate season-whatever your fancy. How are you dealing?

Every year since I was 8 ( that was the year I learned the truth about S-A-N-T-A), the holidays have gotten a little less magical and a little more stressful. There are always more things to juggle, more things to buy. This is going to be my first married Christmas, and I’m feeling the stress of managing two families. However, it is one of my big goals this year to set a mental health PR through the winter, and I know that managing my stress level has a big impact on my endurance and mood through the season.

Here are a few simple things that are helping me through:

Protein packed breakfasts help me manage cravings, sustain energy until lunch, and say no to all of the extravagant holiday cookies that will spike my blood sugar and then leave me in a slump.

-Daily mindfulness activities help me keep perspective on what is important. Mindfulness means different things to different people. For me, it is a few minutes in the morning when I practice deep breathing and make a list of 10 things I’m grateful for. Here is some inspiration.

-The gym. It is cold, it is dark, and I can’t always make myself go run or ride outside. That’s ok. I’ve been hitting up yoga, cycle, fusion, and even a barre class to get my sweat on during these short and busy days.

-Challenges. I’ve challenged myself to maintain my weight through the holidays, entering a contest through my beloved gym. I’ve challenged myself to maintain 8 out of 10 healthy habits per day with the healthy holiday challenge. And I’ve challenged myself to work out at least 3 times per week through this busy time. I know I’m going to be inspired to ramp my fitness up full-tilt once the new year hits and focus on some new projects, so these challenges are helping me be true to myself through the stress of the season.

How do you manage the holidaze?

 

 

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Indoor plants are good, outdoor time is great.

True to form, I was reading the New York Times Well section this morning when a headline caught my eye: “Do Indoor Plants improve our Health?”. Well, do they? Over here on the hill, we love our indoor plants. We had friends over last weekend and one noted that we had “A basil, a rosemary, and, like, TWO orchids” in an awed tone. We laughed because the orchid count is more like ten at this point. We’re a little obsessed.

I love the idea of something so simple and soothing as a few indoor plants to boost wellness. However, this article says that evidence is spotty as to any clear health benefits. Boo! We do know that plants can improve air quality, a definite plus. What the article does note is that getting outdoors has significant health benefits. All you need is a short walk out your door to come to this scientific conclusion on your own, but if you’re a skeptic, here is a great study done by the National Recreation and Park Association. It delineates how time outdoors can improve symptoms of stress, depression, anxiety, attention deficits, and more. Doctors are even prescribing outdoor time to some patients!

Overall, I was a little disappointed in the article itself, but I needed a good reminder to maximize my outdoor time during this cold, rainy week.

How do you get in your outdoor rx?

 

 

Healthy Holiday Challenge

Whew, the holidays are in full force around here! After a whirlwind weekend of football and Thanksgiving celebrations, I felt a little less than my best ( read: I did NOT stick to my one-slice limit on pie!) I decided to take on a little challenge to get me through to the new year. I know that this time of the year is tough for me in terms of health, wellness, and mood. I also know that there are tried and true strategies I’ve used in the past to remain healthy and active in the winter months.

Here is my little challenge for the month of December, starting TODAY!

Each day I plan to do at least 8 out of 10 things on the list:

-Exercise for at least 30 minutes.
-Drink at least 64 oz of water.
-Get at least 7 hours of sleep.
-Eat at least 5 servings of vegetables.
-Avoid preservatives and  fried foods.
-Avoid added sugars.
-Have one or less alcoholic drinks.
-Take a multivitamin.
-Finish eating by 8:30PM at night.
-Limit non-work related screen time to no more than 1 hour.

I’m going to try to get 9 or even 10 out of 10 on most days, but I do plan on indulging at holiday parties and get-together, so this plan gives me the flexibility to splurge a little while still keeping other areas in check. For example, if I want to get a little tipsy one night, I’m not going to let myself get tipsy, eat a bucket of cheese fries, AND destroy a bin of cookie dough at 3am. Moderation.

Will you join me?

 

Why I write…

I felt alone when my college roommate locked me out of our tiny room. I felt alone when I rode the smelly #7  bus to talk to a clinician in a sterile office. I felt alone debating the pros and cons of life at 4am. I felt desperately alone when people that I trusted told me I was “ too much” or that they “couldn’t deal” with me.

However, I know I am not alone. Mental illness is pretty damn prevalent- according to NAMI, about 1 in 5 adults will experience some form of mental illness in a given year. I hear people mention it to close friends or start slurring about it at bars, using euphemisms like “ down” and “ blue” or maybe saying that someone is “ having a hard time”. I’m not alone in my struggle with depression and anxiety, and I’m not alone in having experienced the traumas underlying my diagnosis. I know I’m not alone in wanting to find folks who can relate. In wanting to speak openly about the fact that mental health needs to be maintained just like hygiene or diet or exercise routine. I’m not alone in wanting to feel less alone, so I’m writing about my personal experiences here. For you to read, relate to, share, and respond to. I am writing so maybe someone else will realize that they are not alone.

Pile on the Miles 2015

When cool weather rolls around ( especially cool RAINY weather) I need some extra motivation to stay active. This is the time of the year that I like to set lofty goals, start thinking about events, or sign up for a challenge.

This year, I’m trying Pile on The Miles with Run Eat Repeat! RER is a very fun, very real blog by a runner named Monica. She shares running recaps and tips plus lifestyle, fashion, and nutrition posts. This annual event has been going on for a few years now, but this is the first time that I feel like I can enjoy it ( Goodbye, grad school!). Pile on the Miles is a friendly challenge ( not a competition) that allows you to set a fitness or mileage goal for the month of November. I love the idea of staying motivated through the holidays, and this is the perfect set-up to get ready for a turkey trot or some other fun holiday event.

I made it my goal to run, walk, or hike 100 miles in the month of November. Lofty! I wanted it to be a challenge. I’m training for a half marathon right now, so I already know I’ll have relatively high running mileage, and I think this will be great motivation to walk and hike more. Those two things are great for my happiness but I’ve been slacking on them lately. With the beginning of the weekend looking like this:

weekend Forecast

I shouldn’t have any problem getting out the door!

What about you- Think you’re up for the challenge? You can find all the details and sign up here.

Schwinn Cycling Certification Run-down

Saturday morning, rather than burrowing under the covers and taking a lazy day like I wanted, I woke up at 4:30 and headed up to the DC area for my cycling certification. I love teaching cycling – I taught for about a year at Appalachian State, and I’ve just been hired to teach at a local club in CVille. The club requires a cycling-specific training on top of my AFAA primary group fitness cert. At first I wasn’t happy about shelling out the $$$ for another cert, but after Saturday’s training I feel a lot more confident and prepared to lead great classes.

I spent a good bit of time looking for good training programs and really not finding anything in my area, so when I saw this one  I jumped on it even though it was a little driving than I would have preferred.
Here is my review of the training:

Pros:
-The Master trainer, Robert, was amazing. His experience in the industry really made a difference in every aspect of the training.
-Schwinn has a ” real outdoor riding” approach, so no hovering, jumps, push-ups, or any of the other silly things some styles incorporate. I want to teach classes that help people become better cyclists or inspire folks to get outside. Schwinn’s approach is perfect for that.
-This style recognizes that each participant has individual goals, so it does not advise instructors to give targets for resistance. YAY! I hate being in a class with a giant male instructor telling me to turn the resistance up to 20 and try to hit 80 RPM. Its not going to happen. Schwinn takes into account that folks have different abilities based on goals, fitness level, and physiology. We were told to never touch a participant’s resistant knob- Phew! That is not my style and I wanted a training that allows me to focus on participants as individuals rather than trying to bludgeon everyone into peak physical condition.
-Everything was based on actual sports science, research, and logic. I particularly loved the overview about how long to make each segment for moderate ( 3 minutes or more), hard (no more than 2 minutes) , or anaerobic work ( no more than 30 seconds). We had a great discussion about why recovery is important and how much recovery to give between segments.
-There are some awesome tools in the guide, like pre-planned rides ( with music) and information about the Schwinn Class Tamer app that can help with class planning and music selection. The information on effective coaching was really valuable, as was the segment on giving people a ” high performance fit” on the training bike.

Cons:
– I’m not going to be teaching at a facility with Schwinn bikes, so some of the training on the bike console and special features was lost on me.
-I felt like we spent too much time on introductions and “getting started” stuff. The second half of the day, focused on coaching basics and ride planning, seemed rushed.
-We were scheduled to have two 45 minute segments of riding, but we only got one- again, it seemed like we went long in the morning and had to make up for it in the afternoon.
-I was totally grumpy for the first half of the day because I had trouble finding the studio and didn’t want to be late…. and I got up at 4:30…, so I didn’t really get my groove and start having fun with the training until about 3 hours in.
Overall, I would highly recommend a Schwinn training to anyone who wants to teach cycling classes that mimic real training. I just recommend you try to find one without the Mpower/ Wattage stuff unless you’ll definitely be teaching on Schwinn bikes. The master instructor really knew his stuff, Schwinn is a well-respected name in the industry, and the personalized approach will keep people of all ability levels coming back to your class.

Training for a mental health “PR”

In sports, it seems like people are always going for a PR ( Personal record) or PB ( Personal best). Lift more, run faster, run farther.

What I love about these terms is the P- they’re personal. It’s not about competing with a pro or comparing your time with another athlete’s. It is about comparing your current performance to your past performance. It’s about improving based on your own circumstances and your own abilities. ANYONE can train for a PR.

The other important part of the concept- one that doesn’t get applied to mental health enough, in my opinion- is the training. You can’t just hop off the couch and expect to run a mile faster than you ever have before ( well, maybe you can, but I’m still trying to beat my own presidential physical fitness test results from elementary school…). In terms of athletic pursuits, its just kind of a given that you will need to train. Some train better, faster, or longer than others; some are just naturally talented athletes, but most people realize that if they want to beat themselves, they’re going to have to do something different than they were doing before: log more miles, be more consistent, spend more time time on a skill, etc. Why not apply the same concept to mental health?

Many folks have settings, times of the year, events, or interactions that are incredibly challenging- a crux of sorts.Personally, winter is always a grind. I tend to hit a low point around the shortest day of the year where I just want to give up and crawl into bed forever. I lose productivity, skip workouts, slack off at work, put less effort into relationships, and feel less “me” in the dead of winter. Winter is, without question, my mental health crux. We can talk about SAD another time, right now let’s talk about training for a mental health PR.

I remember my best winter in the past decade: 2011-2012. It was a glorious winter. Basically no snow, few truly cold days, and plenty of comfortable conditions for outdoor adventure. After a few years of over-work and under-activity, I was training for my first half marathon. One could argue that it was the weather, BUT I had spent the past winter in San Diego with no coat, infrequent rain, and daily outdoor time. One could argue that it was the work schedule, BUT I was still working 60-70 hours per week. The major advantage  I discovered that particular winter was consistency. I worked to be consistently social, consistently active, and consistently positive. There were bad days. However,  with an active lifestyle, a healthy diet, and a close-knit circle, I was able to pass the most carefree, optimistic, hopeful winter of my life.

A baseline. I had some tough winters after that, and I lost sight of the things that had made me successful. This year I’m going for a PR. My training plan will include at least 3 days of exercise ( which fits perfectly with my training plan for #cvillemarathon2016- see what I did there?), at least one day a week of socialization with friends, daily writing, and sticking to a healthy diet. If I get off track, I will resort to yoga and my gratitude journal, two lifesavers that have helped me through tough times.

What about you: What is your mental health crux? Think about your personal best- was it intentional, happenstance, did it occur before onset? How could you plan to set a new PR?

Hello!

“The wound is the place where light enters you”

– Rumi

I’m Mary. I live in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, where I work in mental health and fitness. I’m here to advocate for the idea that the two should go together more often!  

I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, and self-injury since my teens. When I finally sought help I wanted to know how to heal, not just how to mask the symptoms. I turned to healthy eating, fitness, and the outdoors as big parts of my journey. I am not here to counsel or give medical advice; just to share my own struggles, successes, and inspirations. I am happy to say that I’ve made my health a priority and I feel better, stronger, and fitter ( inside and out) each day.

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