fitness, mental health, adventure


October 2015

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:

-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.

– 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?


“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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