It looks like 2023 is shaping up to be my year of challenges. After two months of push-up challenges and another month of the 10/10/10 challenge, I took the leap and signed up for the Mt. Everest Climbing Challenge. The goal is to conquer 29,032 feet of elevation on my bike by April 29th, the height of Mt. Everest.
I’ve pondered this challenge before, but never felt quite ready or confident that I could squeeze in the time to do it. Also, that’s a heck of a lot of climbing. This year, for whatever reason, I’ve decided to test my mettle.
So if you’ve heard some giddy woman’s voice wafting through the sky, belting out Aretha’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” that’s me–gobbling up hills, one day, one ride at a time, enjoying the views and the journey along the way.
My first goal is to reach Base Camp at 17,700 ft.
Then it will be on to the Ice Fall at 22,000 ft.
• Lhotse Wall at 22,300 ft.
• Death Zone at 26,000 ft. (that’s not scary at all–haha)
• The Summit at 29,032 ft.
Send me your good vibes, as this is a bit of an ass-kicker, and life is especially full these days. Even though it’s a stretch to squeeze it all in, I’m taking my own advice, which is not to wait until the “perfect time,” because there is no perfect time except NOW.
Ride on! xo Becky
PS: There’s still time to join if you want to be part of the fun! The more the merrier! Click HERE for all the details.
Some days it’s easy to put everyone and everything ahead of your own health and well being. I’m just going to leave this here as a gentle reminder to prioritize your week so you are able to feel your best. Do that yoga, go for that walk, run those miles, lift those weights, eat that healthy food. Do your thing. Then embrace that feeling, smile from the inside out, and watch as everything else falls into place.
Last Friday I completed a 31-day fitness challenge called the 10/10/10 Challenge (10 push-ups, 10 squats, and either 10 minutes of plank rotations or 10 minutes of core exercises). I intentionally created this challenge to be “short & sweet” so that with some effort, it was completely doable. The goal was simply to be disciplined and work hard every single day of March to get stronger, no excuses.
I’m happy to say “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!” In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I was inspired to extend most workouts to more in the range of an hour with multiple sets of push-ups, squats, and other assorted core exercises. In 31 days I ended up doing over 900 push-ups, 1000+ squats and lunges, dozens of plank rotations as well as a variety of core exercises with body weight, bands, and dumbbells.
Besides the fitness gains and the mental toughness gains, I learned a few things during this challenge, which I thought I’d share with you. Here are my thoughts . . .
• Action begets motivation. Don’t wait until you are motivated to get started. Just get started, even if you don’t feel 100% ready or your life isn’t 100% lined up. Starting is the first, and most important step. Once you take the plunge, you will be surprised how motivated you will become, especially when your consistency starts paying dividends in terms of energy, strength, and confidence. The more you do, the more motivated you’ll become.
• Focusing on progress over perfection makes it all the more enjoyable. Instead of getting discouraged by how far you feel like you still have to go, just show up and do your best each session and give yourself grace, followed by big kudos for your effort. The results will come. The joy is in the journey.
• If you are trying to improve your strength and do it without straining or injuring yourself, I highly recommend getting a selfie tripod for your phone so you can film yourself–especially if you work out where you don’t have a mirror. It may sound narcissistic, but filming yourself makes it easier to see your form as well as your imbalances and weaknesses. You may feel like your hip is at a certain angle, your leg is at an optimal height or knees are aligned, but until you actually see yourself doing each exercise, it’s hard to know, especially when you are trying new moves. It’s like having an impartial review at your fingertips, which is invaluable.
• Making yourself and your workout environment “happy” will make your session all the more motivating. Put on your favorite pump up music, open the blinds or turn up the lights, wear your favorite workout gear (if you’re like me, bright colors make you feel cheerier and more energized). Make sure your body is properly fueled and hydrated so you feel good instead of trying to complete your workout while running on low. It’s often the little things that make the biggest differences.
• Have your gear organized and laid out the night before so you don’t waste your precious time looking for items. When you have even the smallest elements of friction in your routine (ie–having to search for your shorts or find your watch, keys, or dumbbells), it sets a frustrating tone, and it also leans into procrastination. If everything is ready for you to hit it without thinking or working too hard, you are likely to get it done and not be pulled toward other things.
• Mixing up your routine and your workout locale can keep things fresh and interesting. Even if your goal is simply to do squats and push-ups, there are many variations of these exercises, which are equally beneficial. Why not mix up sumo, goblet, regular, and one-legged squats? Change it up to avoid getting bored. Google, Instagram and YouTube are excellent sources for new ideas. In terms of location, even if you are a creature of habit, always going to the gym, or always going to the track, or always working out at home, changing your routine every once in awhile will add a spark to your workout. I highly recommend getting outside. Fresh air and blue sky are intoxicating.
Below I’m sharing a few snaps from our recent 10/10/10 Challenge, representing 12 of 31 days of fitness. I hope your fitness journey is filled with untold joy and your strength grows day by day. Power on, my friends! I’m rooting for you all the way!
Back in December 2021 I challenged myself to cycle every single day of the month to get my legs back under me and begin building my mental and physical base to kick off Ironman Training. I chose the difficult month of December because I knew how hard it was to be consistent during the holidays, special events, and less-than-spectacular weather.
Riding 31 days in a row seemed epic at first, and there were definitely days I did not want to get on my bike, especially in the pouring rain. But because I committed to this personal challenge, and shared my goal with my friends and family, and Instagram connections, I dragged myself out the door and onto the road every single day (or on a spin bike at the gym, or my bike trainer in the garage). I didn’t miss one ride, and by the end of the month I had logged 809 miles and over 14,000 ft. of elevation. More importantly though, I reminded myself that I could do hard things and indeed loved doing hard things. Mission accomplished.
• • •
Fast forward to the beginning of 2023. After successfully completing Ironman California in late fall 2022, and letting my body recover for a couple of months, I launched a push-up challenge to work on my much-needed upper body strength. Push-ups have always been my nemesis, even though I strength train and swim. If you want to read the full details of this challenge, you can pop back to my previous blog post HERE. In a nutshell, it was a simple concept: starting with one full push-up on the 1st of January and working up to thirty-one full push-ups on the 31st. To build strength along the way I also added knee push-ups and inchworms and Pilates push-ups in addition to other usual fitness exercises.
I won’t lie. It was hard. Really hard.
What made it less difficult though, was inviting my friend Emma to do it along with me. We cheered each other on and held each other accountable, and when we completed our challenge, we hooted, hollered, high-five’d and celebrated over a tasty meal at a wonderful restaurant.
When our January push-up challenge wrapped up, Emma and I both knew we still had a lot of work to do to improve our strength and form–especially getting ourselves all the way down to the ground, so we decided to repeat the same thing in February. This time I invited my friends Janet and Robert, my brothers Tim and Scott, and my sister-in-law Jess, who were quick to join the fun. Our little group plugged away each day, doing our daily push-ups on top of our other personal fitness training, sending each other photos or videos, cheering each other on, and checking in when someone got quiet. Once again, we got it done. Having a larger group made it all the more fun, especially celebrating each person with a virtual mini trophy and Rocky music.
Today’s post is brought to you by a whole lot of joy and a big sense of accomplishment for doing something hard every damn day of the month of January. 💥💥💥
“What was that?” you ask.
While this is most likely only exciting to me, I share it with you in case it might stir up some ideas about something you’d like to challenge yourself to this year.
On January 1st I kicked off a much-needed 31 Day Push-up Challenge. Even though I had worked up to doing 10-minute plank rotations during Ironman training, could do upward and downward dogs until the cows came home, and could swim 2.5 miles, I could not do one freaking full push-up. It was shocking and quite frankly, embarrassing. Clearly I hadn’t worked those muscles, and perhaps even babied them more than necessary when coming back from a torn rotator cuff.
Sooooo after inviting my fabulous friend Emma to be my accountability buddy, we launched our challenge on January 1st.
Here’s how our simple concept worked:
Day 1: Do 1 full push-up.
Day 2: Do 2 full push-ups.
Day 3: Do 3 full push-ups… you get the idea…all the way to 31 push-ups on January 31st.
The first one was shaky, frustrating, and nowhere near the ground, but it was a start. ✔️ Day 2 wasn’t much better, but I followed each day with 20 knee push-ups, which I could do semi-fairly okay—even though they were also shaky–continuing that for the rest of the month.
On Day 4 and going forward, I also added what I called “ get-ups”—laying flat on the floor, then pushing all the way up to standing. I started with five then after two weeks I progressed to ten each day after my full push-ups and knee push-ups.
Today is a cause for celebration because on Day 31, after being fully dedicated to the process, and being inspired by Emma who has been there every step of the way, I was able to do 31 full push-ups in a row, 20 knee push-ups, and 10 get-ups.
Are my full push-ups perfect? Not even close, but I’m choosing an attitude of progress over perfection. Because I’m starting where I am at and working toward where I want to be, in one month I’ve become a whole lot stronger just by doing my best and giving myself grace.
Here are my January totals…
💪🏼 496 full push-ups
💪🏼 620 knee push-ups
💪🏼 211 get-ups
🙌🏼 1,327 TOTAL
When I totaled this up today, I was bowled over by how quickly each little bit really did add up. Doing over a thousand push-ups in various forms suddenly felt kind of badass, no matter how hard it was or how shaky they were.
What this has reminded me of is that difficult things are absolutely doable if you break them down into small chucks, commit to the work, and don’t give up on yourself (even if you are whining and swearing the entire time). Having an accountability buddy makes a huge difference too. Thank you Emma!
February’s challenge is now to reset, starting with one full push-up again, focusing this time on getting my chest all the way down to the floor. #ithinkicanithinkicanithinkican I’ll also continue doing knee push-ups and “get-ups” and likely add other forms of push-up fitness like burpees–along with all my other usual cardio and strength workouts.
If you’d care to join Emma and me for February’s challenge, we’d love to have you along! Before you hesitate or say no, just remember Day 1 is simply doing 1 push-up. From there you just take one day at a time. 🙌🏼 And if you think it sounds time-consuming, the most time I spent doing this each day was 7-9 minutes.
Cheers to pushing up and through our own personal challenges, getting stronger, and celebrating progress all along the way!
It was 4:30 Monday afternoon when a text dinged my phone. Trying not to be annoyed by it, but too curious to ignore it, I opened one eye and squinted, barely lifting my head as I struggled to find my phone. I had been curled up on the couch battling the virus from hell for several days now—the kind where your ribs are so excruciatingly filleted from coughing, you wonder if you may broken them.
When I saw the text was from Planet, however, my other eyelid popped open without complaint.
Reaching for my glasses, and blinking to clear my eyes, I delved into her lengthy message. It didn’t take long before a huge smile swept across my face. The gist of it was that after watching the New York City Marathon the day before, she was reminded of how badly she had always wanted to do this Bucket List Race, and how she had finally decided the time was right. I knew that feeling well. Things hit you at just the right moment and then there’s no turning back. The best part was that she asked me if I’d like to come along for the ride.
“OMG LOVE IT!!!!!!!!” I answered a bit later after the fog lifted from my brain. “It’s such a fun race. I have the bug too. I have literally been googling marathons for the past few days. Let me give it some thought…”
I had just completed Ironman California two weeks earlier, and although I still recovering, I was already thinking about my next adventure. Running New York with Janet (Planet) would be a hoot, and an honor, and the perfect challenge to share with my dear friend whom I’ve known ever since we were thrown together as roommates our Freshman year in college–mind-bendingly, thirty-eight years ago. How is that even possible—especially since we often both still act like our shoe sizes?
The last big adventure Planet and I had done together was a girls trip to Tibet and Nepal in 2000. Journeying to Lhasa, Mt. Everest Base Camp, Kathmandu, and points in between was a trip that will forever be seared in my memory. We had always hoped to do more epic adventures together, but life has a way of getting in the way.
A half hour later I texted her again, “The more I think about it, the giddier I become! I ran my first NYC Marathon 25 frickin’ years ago…it would be such a blast!!! EPIC!!!”
That’s really all it took.
“Shall we hit the register button?” I asked after another round of OMGs, pump up emojis, and exclamation points on both ends.
“Let’s do it!” she replied.
Thus began Janet and Becky’s Next Big Adventure! November 5, 2023 is now boldly marked in red on our calendars
Because we were afraid to take our chances with the lottery in February, we both joined the New York Road Runners charity team, Team for Kids, which raises funds for youth running and community programs. Being a youth running coach myself, this felt like a perfect fit and a meaningful way to give back to the sport that has given me so much over the years.
The countdown is officially on! Three hundred and sixty days until we head to the Big Apple to toe the line on Staten Island!
Now my ribs have even more motivation to heal quickly!! 🙂
Those are the words I repeated over and over throughout the day.
Also, “Breathe and believe,” which is something I had written on my aerobar hydration bottle ahead of the race so I would have it front and center throughout the bike portion.
I knew I’d have to rely on mantras and other mental toughness strategies at least a few times during this race, but Ironman California proved to be even more epic than I had imagined, even though it was a flat course and I had trained for it for ten months.
Before I share the details of the race though, I want to express my deepest gratitude for all the good things this year of training has brought. So much joy in pushing forward, doing the hard work of healing broken wings, and rediscovering how much fun it is to push outside my comfort zone. I couldn’t have done this without the unwavering support of my number #1 support crew, Jeffrey and Olivia, and my incredible coach, Matthew Tague. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Now to the race…IMCA was massive, with nearly 3,000 participants. The transition area was held in Sutter Health Park, a large baseball stadium near the Sacramento River. The day prior to the event we racked our bikes and dropped off our bike and run bags. Experiencing the scale of the transition area made me both chuckle and contemplate the best way to tackle this beast during the race. I made sure to at least memorize my row and identify landmarks in the stadium, knowing I’d be fuzzy after the swim and bike.
RACE MORNING: I awoke at 2:00 am filled with excitement. Race day had finally come!!! I drank my beloved coffee (aka elixir of the gods), ate breakfast (not easy), stretched, foam rolled and got my mind and body ready for the long day ahead. Jeffrey and Olivia arose at 3:00 am to take me to the transition area at 4:00.
After arriving at the stadium, receiving good luck send-off love and hugs from my peeps, I stood in line with other early bird athletes before beginning the long walk down to where all the bikes were racked at the bottom of the stadium. There I pumped up my bike tires, filled my bottles, and double-checked my gear. Next I dropped off my “Personal Needs” bags with volunteers a block away. Each athlete has a bag they can access half way through the bike course and another one for the run course. You try to put things in that will keep you going if/when things get tough (spare tube, food, band-aids, chamois cream, Advil, arnica, Tums, sunglasses, long-sleeved shirt, Red Vines, etc.).
Next I boarded a shuttle bus at 5:00 to get to the start of the swim on the American River. I was happy I got on one of the earliest buses because I heard later the shuttle situation turned nightmarish, with some people arriving just minutes before the start of the race, and some even after the race started. This was Sacramento’s inaugural IMCA, so first year event kinks will certainly be worked out for next year.
I tried to keep warm while waiting for the 7:00 am swim start, hopping up and down and from foot to foot, still shivering uncontrollably, even wearing my wetsuit. No matter, I enjoyed meeting other athletes and sharing our nerves and excitement as we anticipated finally getting this party started.
I also heard numerous stories about last year’s Ironman California, which was cancelled just as the race was about to start. The story goes that everyone was standing in their wetsuits waiting to enter the water when a massive bomb cyclone hit. The torrential rain and wind made it too dangerous for the event to take place. All I could think about was the time, energy, effort, and finances all those athletes (and the Race Director) had invested, especially those who had traveled from overseas. It was devastating, but a year later, those who came back had great humor and perspective about it all. True IronSpirit on display.
SWIM: Those stories made me especially thankful when my wave finally started at 7:35. I was also grateful that instead of a chaotic mass start, it was quite civilized, with five athletes walking across the timing mats and entering the water every 5 seconds. With the humidity and cool air temperature, the 65 degree water temperature felt nice.
All in all, it was a great swim, even with the small yellow buoys many people struggled to see, and the one large orange turn buoy at the convergence of the American River and the Sacramento River that drifted in the water so we had to try to swim upstream a bit to get around it. With the river current, which felt oddly imperceptible most of the way, every athlete I heard from PR’ed by insane amounts. I took nearly a half hour off my last Ironman swim, which was an uplifting way to start the day.
TRANSITION 1: The transition from the river back to the the bikes was about .75 miles up long ramps, then on to concrete, then across the street, and finally on to rough textured flooring in the stadium. This pretty much erased all the time saved in the river, but how can you complain after a swim like that? I was happy I had placed some old shoes by the swim exit in the dark hours of the morning, because running barefoot on concrete seemed like a really bad idea after having had a foot injury not that long ago. Although I had little hope they’d still be there when I got out of the water, after the wetsuit strippers peeled my wetsuit off for me, I spotted them (!!!) and did a happy dance before I slipped them on and headed back to the stadium, but not before soaking up a joyful moment seeing Jeffrey and Olivia and hearing them cheer their hearts out. I love my people! The. Best. Support Crew. Ever.
Inside the top deck of the stadium, I grabbed my bike bag with all my gear and ran all the way over to the changing tent on the other side of the stadium.
After quickly drying off, slipping on my tri top, arm sleeves, and a light wind jacket (trying to warm up after the swim, and not wanting to waste energy being cold on the bike), I donned my helmet and glasses, jammed my wetsuit and swim gear in a bag, then ran down to the bottom of the stadium once again to drop my bag and get my bike. This time I was shuffling in bike shoes. Good times. All told, we ran an extra 1.15 miles in T1 before we even mounted our bikes. We all laughed about it (some cursed), but in the end, it was all part of the challenge.
BIKE: Next came the real challenge of the day–the wind. It had been perfect conditions the day before, and it was once again the day after the race, but on event day, there were sustained winds of 20-22 mph with gusts of 32-37 mph coming from all directions as we made our way from the city out into the open farmland area along the delta. It turned the two loop 112-mile ride into a sufferfest at times. If it had been a headwind one way and a tailwind the other, that would have been much less brutal, but this came head-on, sideways, head-on again, a tiny bit from behind, then sideways again and head-on all the way back. Yeehaw!
Without the wind, it would have been a lovely ride, as it meandered along the delta, through a pretty rural area on mostly nicely paved roads. I tried to look up and soak in the views as much as possible, and also marvel at some of the other athletes–especially the blind athlete powering along on a tandem and the elite athletes blasting past like rockets. At times though, it felt like we were riding through a historic photo of the Dust Bowl with dust swirling and tumbling, bottles and debris flying from aid stations onto the course. I have never gripped my aerobars so hard for so long. As I write this, my jaw is still sore from clenching my teeth for hours. I was just thankful I didn’t get blown over, which nearly happened on more than a few occasions. I saw several bad crashes during the day on the narrow two-lane road we navigated, which on this day did not feel quite adequate for the number of athletes, especially with steep drop offs in places, and a long section of rough road through Babel Slough, which was littered with broken hydration bottles throughout the day when cyclists hit a pothole hard and launched their hydration system from their bikes.
There are many things you can’t control in an Ironman, and weather is one of them. The only thing you can do is focus on what you can control–things like your attitude, your fueling, and clothing choice. Because it was often hard to safely ride with one hand and try to eat with the other, I ended up stopping more than I had planned. The last thing I wanted to do was take out another rider by losing control of my bike.
The toughest part mentally was knowing we had two loops to do when the first one was a beast. I was grateful Coach Matt and I had talked on the phone the day before the race. He told me to keep in mind that when things get tough, remember it won’t last forever. I repeated this over and over in my head as well as, “Just keep moving forward.” I was also happy that he reminded me to focus on maintaining a moderate to high cadence rather than grinding out the miles in a harder gear, which would have torn up my legs for the run.
The volunteers were the biggest heroes of this day. They were out there for hours for all of us, always smiling, helpful, encouraging, even when it was unpleasant. I thanked them profusely every time I stopped. Not only them, but people who were just out there for the day cheering us on. One trio of older women will forever be seared in my mind. They were standing on a corner where there was absolutely nothing around them (the area reminded me of the scene at the end of Castaway when Tom Hanks is delivering a Fedex package to a woman in Texas where there’s absolutely nothing but open space and dusty roads–IYKYK). Their hair was whipped up into crazy ‘dos from the wind, but their hooting and hollering as well as their bright lipstick, bright shirts and even brighter smiles lifted everyone out of their misery as they passed by them. Just incredible.
As I mentioned, the course was flat, which I thought would take 6.5 hours on a good day, 7 hours on an average day, and maybe 7.5 on a tough day. It ended up taking me 8 hours 23 minutes. My experience was similar to many other athletes. Even though it was soul-sucking at times, the positive part is that I never completely fell apart. It was just a grind. I stuck to my plan, focused on fuel and hydration, kept my head down, and just kept going until I got it done. Having said that, I can honestly say I’ve never been so happy in my entire life to be off my bike.
TRANSITION 2: Back in transition, I gleefully re-racked my bike and re-set my mind. The wind was still a factor, but my feet were back on solid ground, so I was feeling positive, even if I had expended far more energy on the bike than I had planned. Running shoes on, fuel belt on, visor on, it was now “Time to suck it up Buttercup, and get this thing done.”
RUN: Seeing my people again and having Olivia run alongside me for a few steps while cheering me on, helped lift me up, as did knowing there were only 26 miles left to go. As the sun set low, I settled into my run pace, which also included walking for a minute every mile.
This run course was a toughie mentally, especially since I started it as the sun was nearly setting, and there were few easy places for spectators to cheer after the first few miles. I’m guessing earlier finishers may have enjoyed the run much more than I did, but I did try to focus on the positives as much as possible, like the pretty sunset, the amazing volunteers, and all the other athletes overcoming their demons and powering on like champs. It became a huge stretch though, as we were sent down several long “out-and-backs” on dark, desolate paths through some sketchy areas of the city (along the freeway and in parks with encampments and no lighting). I was actually humming the banjo song from the creepy 1970’s Deliverance movie through parts of it. Ha ha. You just have to laugh, dig deep and keep on going.
I was glad I had brought a headlamp and another mini clip-on light, along with my disco shoe lights, which were a big hit. Many people didn’t because we were told it would be well-lit. My headlamp died at about mile 15 though, as did my Garmin. It was not a good tech day. At this point, a holy crap moment exploded in my head: I took so long on the bike, I need to stay totally focused to get this thing done in time, no matter what. I never imagined I’d be remotely close to the cut-off, but here I was, and without a watch, I had to keep asking volunteers what time it was, then calculate the pace I needed to keep to finish by midnight. Just keep moving forward.
My stomach was unhappy most of the run, having consumed Gatorade and gels for eight hours on the bike, along with salt pills, bananas, pretzels, dates and a PBJ halfway though. Ack. Balancing what and how much to consume on the bike in preparation for the run is an artform, which I clearly still need to master as the fourth discipline of endurance triathlon–especially when riding for so much additional time. I mostly chewed gum, then Tums and drank water on the run until I reached an aid station with chicken broth (THE best), then Coke, then Red Vines, which I had put in my Personal Needs bag. It was a low moment when the aid stations ran out of both Coke and Chicken broth. I tried to go back to Gatorade, but it made me almost lose my cookies. Mind over matter. Just keep moving. You are getting there!
The final push around Mile 20 took us past an elaborate homeless encampment in town playing lively music for us, which was fun and surprising. Music makes everything better. Then we reached the Capitol Mall area where the final 4 miles included multiple laps around the mall, passing near the finish line twice where you could hear the crowds, music, and announcers, but knowing there was still a long way to go, then down a weird little out-and-back in some random alley twice, then FINALLY down the finish chute.
Thankfully the throngs of people cheering as I entered the chute made all the weirdness of the run suddenly melt away.
There is nothing quite as magical as the finish line of an Ironman and hearing Mike Reilly (aka the Voice of Ironman) call out your name: “BECKY AARONSON YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!”
This day may not have unfolded exactly how I was expecting, but it definitely gave me everything I needed–the joy of reclaiming my fitness, the empowerment of pushing through and finishing no matter what, and the thrill of adding a beautiful exclamation point to an incredible journey this year. Mission accomplished.
Thank you to all of you who cheered me on from near and far, and who made a difference in so many ways. And thank you to all the volunteers and event organizers. My gratitude runs deep.
Let me start by saying that I do not believe in “diets.” They may work some short-term magic for some people, but long-term health and happiness demands moderation in the food department and a boatload of exercise. Period.
Having said that, you may wonder why in the world I would try the Whole30 program. The answer is simple: I was desperate to get my body feeling good again.
After completing my first Ironman six months ago (my, how time flies), I got completely off track as I battled niggling injuries while preparing for a May marathon–all in the midst of dealing with an extremely stressful and exhausting family medical/life situation with my elderly in-laws.
I was fueling my body with all things “comfort” instead of all things “good nutrition,” and I paid the price, feeling like dog doo, running on fumes, and piling on five extra pounds.
My brother had mentioned this program to me about a year ago when he was training for ultra marathons, and he said he never felt better. I could never muster up the desire to do it back then while training for IMAZ, but I finally reached the point where I wanted to make a change.
So what is the Whole30 plan exactly? It’s essentially a nutrition plan that eliminates all the processed crap we often put in our bodies, making us think long and hard about what is “real food.” There isn’t any calorie counting, point systems or portion control. It’s simply being conscious, reading labels and eliminating items that often negatively impact our health and fitness.
The number one rule is to EAT REAL FOOD.
“Eat moderate portions of meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables; some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re whole and unprocessed.”
Eliminate: added sugar in all forms (real and fake), alcohol, dairy, grains, processed or prepared foods, legumes, MSG. You can read the rest of the rules HERE.
Extreme? Hell yes.
Worth it? Totally.
Here’s what the Whole30 program did for me:
I lost 5 pounds in 30 days.
I slept better than I have in many years.
My thinking was less foggy (probably due to better sleep).
It broke my endless sugar and carb cravings (this was HUGE).
I had energy to get me through another VERY tough, stressful month (the third in a row), which would have otherwise walloped me.
I lost inches in my waist, arms, hips, and thighs.
My fingernails grew long, strong, and healthy.
My mood was brighter because I felt better and I was able to let stressful things roll off my back more easily.
It was fantastic “mental toughness training” because it was definitely not always easy (sometimes you just want to enjoy a nice glass of red wine with your dinner after a long, challenging day).
It made me conscious of the crappy food I’d often reach for in my pantry when I was running out the door, tired or lazy. Now instead of a cracker, I reach for an apple or snap peas. Instead of a cookie I have a sweet potato.
It made me realize that a turkey burger is just as satisfying without a bun, poached eggs with spinach, bell peppers and carrots do not require toast or a bagel to be yummy. Sweet potatoes are just as delish without butter. Balsamic vinegar makes everything taste better.
My family wasted much less food during the month of May. My rock star husband goes to Farmer’s Market twice a week, so our fridge is always full of fruits and veggies. Sometimes he gets a little too enthusiastic though, and food goes to waste, which drives me batty. While on the Whole30 plan, we ate every last strawberry, lettuce leaf, snap pea and peach.
My family didn’t join me on this extreme cleansing odyssey, but they did support me 100%, and I did notice as a whole, our family ate much healthier. When I had after school fruits and veggies prepped for my daughter, she’d gladly reach for those before something less nutritious. And salads for every dinner set the tone.
I felt more energized and looked forward to working out, rather than dragging myself out the door.
What did I miss the most? I realize this is going to sound ridiculous, but I REALLY missed the splash of sweetened vanilla almond milk I put in my coffee every morning. Black coffee just doesn’t cut the mustard for me. But I did it, and I’m glad.
This paragraph from the Whole30 website helped me most:
This is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Birthing a baby is hard. Losing a parent is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You’ve done harder things than this, and you have no excuse not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth—the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime.
One of the reasons it worked for me is because it had a finish line: 30 days. Give me a goal with a definitive time frame, and I can put my head down and crank it out one day at a time. I would tell myself, “I can do anything for 30 days.” I’m sure you can too.
The other reason this worked for me was timing. After spending the past several months in hospitals, nursing rehabilitation centers and assisted living communities with my in-laws, I have been immersed in environments that smacked me upside the head with what I could look forward to if I didn’t treat my body like a temple. The plague of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer were front and center, and it was not pretty.
Drinking black coffee and not stuffing your gullet with bread is nothing compared to completely losing your independence and your ability to enjoy life at its fullest.
Perspective is a powerful thing, my friends.
So, here’s to hitting “reset” and getting back on track.
Happy trails, my friends…
Question: Have any of you tried the Whole30 plan? If so, how did it work for you?
I’m sorry my blog has been silent for so long. I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been off on some far-flung adventure, but the truth is I’ve been in a funk. I don’t want to get political, but the madness that has enveloped our country has left me frustrated beyond belief and struggling to weave together sentences I’ve felt worthy of sharing, knowing what readers want most is to be inspired.
While my head and heart still continue to wrestle with a tangle of emotions, the one thing that consistently unravels all the BS and brings me back to my usual happy center is my fitness.
I’m sure you know what I mean when I say pure joy washes over me in the simple act of moving my body, breathing hard and sweating it out. It’s the perfect reminder that no matter what’s going on in the world, there will always be remarkable moments of aaaaaaaah that fill me with gratitude and remind me that life is freaking great.
Here’s what else is keeping me happy and sane….
1) Breathing in crisp, fresh air and reveling in the beauty around me, and exhaling all traces of the day’s latest toxic news. Being a speck in the universe always has a way of keeping things in perspective.
2) Setting goals–especially ones that make me stretch beyond my perceived boundaries. One in particular has me fired up right now–trying to qualify for Boston, and I’m happy to report I’ve got Matthew Tague in my corner again coaching me for a late spring marathon. My gut tells me this is the year to finally make this Boston thing happen, and I’m happily working my butt off to get my feet moving faster again after a year of Ironman endurance training. I think I can. I think I can. Bring. It. On.
3) Celebrating tiny victories like choosing a healthy kale, raspberry smoothie with protein over a vanilla latte, or a platter full of veggies during the Super Bowl instead of a pizza; or dumping Facebook off my phone to distance yourself from the craziness; or getting in bed early to immerse myself in a phenomenal book instead of watching mind-numbing television, knowing I’ll be far more inspired and also sleep better.
4) Coaching young runners and being surrounded by unrelenting joy and pint-size goodness. Kids always have a way of showing you how to be in the moment and enjoy what you’re doing while you’re doing it. There’s no overthink anything. There’s just unbridled energy and enthusiasm as they take on new challenges, and a huge sense of accomplishment afterward when they realize they can do hard things.
5) Acting like my shoe size, having a blast running in the pouring rain and reconnecting with my Oregon roots.
My poor dog wasn’t born with webbed feet like me, so although he’s a good sport, he still usually gives me “the look” on days like this.
6) Racing! While I always know it’s going to be a sufferfest, racing gives me a chance to push it hard, see where I’m at with my fitness and also celebrate our running community. There’s no happier place to be than the end of a race when everyone is flooded with endorphins and reveling in camaraderie while celebrating a sense of accomplishment, knowing they’ve started the day off in all the best ways.
7) Surrounding myself with a multitude of badass athletes in our local running community and being inspired by their energy and unstoppable attitudes. There’s no better way to keep you focused on being the best version of yourself than Continue reading →
Training for your first Ironman can often feel daunting, but as somebody who recently finished her first Ironman, I want you to know that it is abso-freaking-lutely doable if you put your head down and do the work. The minute I crossed the finish line and experienced the thrill of hearing Mike Reilly call out my name, I knew I wanted to pay it forward and share what I’ve learned with others who might be starting their Ironman journey or those who are contemplating signing up for their first.
Here’s what I learned about the SWIM...
• If you’re not a swimmer when you start your Ironman journey, you can, and will be one, if you make the commitment to put the time in in the pool.
• When you first start, you might be discouraged by how hard it feels, possibly being out of breath after just a few lengths of the pool. Don’t despair, it does get easier. Just keep at it. The more time you spend in the water, the better it will feel. REALLY.
• Celebrate each tiny victory. Some days it might just be getting to the pool. Other days it could be swimming one more lap or taking a few seconds off your 100. Or it might be that it felt a tiny bit easier or your stroke felt a little smoother. Celebrate it all. You are making progress, and that progress will eventually add up to you toeing the line of your first Ironman.
• Like all disciplines of triathlon, the key is to build up slowly and steadily so you avoid injury. The path to the starting line is long, so be patient.
• Consistency is key. I repeat, consistency is key. Don’t short-change yourself by skipping swim days.
• Watch as many swim technique videos as possible and read articles and books with tips on breathing, sighting, kicking and stroke technique.
• If you can join a master’s swim class, or take lessons from a coach, you will have more fun and perfect your stroke much faster.
• It helps to have somebody videotape you so you can see how you swim and what you can do to improve.
• The more relaxed you are, the smoother you will be and the faster you will go. It’s about alignment and gliding, not thrashing frenetically.
• Scope out more than one pool and have their schedules printed or handy on your phone. This will give you a back-up plan if your first choice is unexpectedly closed. You don’t want to give yourself any excuse for skipping your workout.
• Keep an extra suit, goggles, cap and towel in your car in case you get all the way to the pool and realize you forgot these essential items. Your mind will get fuzzy at times in the midst of intense training, and you will forget things. Again, no excuses.
• If you find it boring to swim laps, music helps A LOT. A waterproof iPod can change your outlook on pool time.
• Fins, paddles and kick boards can all help keep it fresh and also help you get stronger in the process.
• Investing in a tri watch like a Garmin 920xt or Suunto Ambit 3 can be a good motivator and also be extremely helpful in keeping track of your times and distances.
• If you loathe the first few seconds of plunging into a cold pool, you’re not alone. EVERYONE hates it–even Olympians. You just gotta suck it up Buttercup and get through it. It helps to do it as quickly as possible so you get the initial shock over with and get on with your workout.
• Your new perfume will be Eau du Chlorine no matter how hard you scrub after your swim or how much fragrance or lotion you slather on afterward. Get used to it. It will remind you of your awesomeness.
• It’s essential you find goggles that fit your sweet face so you are comfortable in the water. It may take trying several different pairs. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. Swim masks worked for me and it took trying six different pairs before I finally settled on them.
• Your hair will likely feel like straw and possibly turn a new shade of green. Getting your hair wet and putting conditioner on before you put your cap on will help.
• If you have long hair, you might want to use a cap made specifically for long hair (yes, they make them).
• Once you become a strong swimmer in the pool, practice open water swims often. It’s a completely different beast than the pool (ie: no lane lines and nothing to hold onto) and you will feel much more confident on race day knowing what to expect. Doing this with a group will give you the best practice.
• Invest in the best wetsuit you can afford. It’s all about comfort and buoyancy. While the least expensive version may be tempting (believe me, I get it), the next step up will likely last longer and make your open water swims much more comfortable.
Photo credit: Ironman Instagram
• You will likely want to eat everything in your refrigerator after you swim, but keep in mind that swimming doesn’t burn nearly as many calories as running or cycling. No fair, I know, especially since swimming feels like it should burn triple the calories. Refuel once you get out of the pool, but do it wisely so you don’t sabotage your body with unhealthy choices.
• If you swim in an outdoor pool, don’t neglect sunscreen. While having SoCal swim tan lines might make you feel all Ironman’ish, having melanoma will take all the fun and coolness out of it. Be smart. You’re going to be in the pool for hours during this long journey to your first Ironman.
• Your shoulders will ache at times as you push beyond your previous boundaries. Stretch them, ice them, and get a massage if your resources allow for it. It’s all about recovery and being able to get in the pool again to put in another solid workout.
• The swim is a great time to get into Zen mode and focus on your mental game. Your stroke and breathing can be hypnotic if you get in the right frame of mind. Practice mantras, count strokes, sing songs…this is what will help you on race day too.
• There will be a point somewhere along the way where your dread for going to the pool suddenly turns into something else. Yep, believe it or not, you will eventually start looking forward to it, as it feels good to glide through the cool water and get into a rhythm that makes you feel strong and smooth.
• The day you suddenly swim the full 2.4 miles in training is one you will never forget. From that day forward you will carry a massive bucket of confidence with you from which to draw each time you need a boost.
• Remember the swim is the shortest portion of the race. You absolutely need to train hard and respect the distance, but keep in mind that it will be over before you know it, even if it takes you the full two hours and twenty minutes. I will share more about race strategies in another post. In the meantime, believe in yourself that you WILL be able to do this, and keep putting in the work. You’ll be be surprised at how strong you will become, both mentally and physically.
As you begin (or continue) your first Ironman journey, know that I am rooting for you all the way! When you use your doubts and fears to fuel your motivation, you will suddenly discover that you are unstoppable. Now go out there and get it!
Tri on my friends…
PS: Next up will be Ironman Bike Tips for Newbies. If you missed my first post in this series, here’s the link: Things I Know for Sure About Doing Your First Ironman: THE JOURNEY.