The Importance of Self Care

My body and I have a long history. A whole lifetime, in fact. As a child I thought very little about my body. I was too busy running, jumping, playing, screaming, crying, laughing and being a kid to think about it.

Fast forward through puberty, weight gain, weight loss, dieting, stress, grief, injury, therapy and college, and here I am, figuring out adulthood and what it means to take care of myself. There are the basics–work, shelter, food. But as I’m finding out, the real kind of soul nourishing self care has to come from a place of self love–a somewhat unfamiliar territory for me.

2016 had a lot of ups and downs for me. I accomplished goals I never thought I could  and other goals turned themselves on their heads, leaving me feeling more confused than ever.

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In the past, “taking care” of my body came from a place of hate and insecurity. I ate healthy and exercised to lose weight, not to thank my body for all that it does. I took my body for granted. I pushed it through sleepless nights to finish papers and to party with friends. I bottled and dismissed my emotions when they didn’t fit into the image of who I wanted to be. And in the end, I always ended up unhappy and far from the life I wanted to lead.

Within the past year I’ve come face to face with growing pains and had to get real honest with tough choices. It’s been uncomfortable to say the least but I’ve begun to realize the value of patience. I like to think I know patience with others but I have never known patience with myself.

Patience with yourself and your life and your journey is the foundation of self love and self care. Buddhism teaches that the desire to end suffering causes more suffering. We need to sit with our discomfort to know contentment.

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If you’re like me and think “well what the hell does that mean?” when you read that, I can’t say I have all the answers but I can tell you what it means for me.

For me it means that life is shitty but it’s not shit. I can suffer and feel pain but it does not mean my life is bad. I can experience confusion and guilt and jealousy but it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong. To be human is to suffer and to be alive is to be in a constant state of flux. Pain will flow in and out of our lives and it doesn’t mean life is bad.

So, with that understanding, I am coming to know self care. These days, self care for me is sleeping in until I feel fully rested, even if I have a day-long to do list. It’s eating nourishing, enriching food when I’m hungry because I genuinely feel better when I do. It’s journaling regularly to check in with myself and unravel the jumble of thoughts in my brain. It’s running at my own pace, for pleasure, or not running at all and resting when I need it.

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I saw a quote once that said something like “A lifetime is a long time to hate yourself” and I wondered then if I’d ever get to a place of self love. I am still on that journey but it feels like a sigh of relief to at least know what it really looks like.

But, perhaps most importantly, I believe that self care and self love is different for everyone. What makes me feel good and nourishes me  might not be the same for you or even your loved ones. Recognizing that my self care isn’t the same as someone else’s has been half of my battle.

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It’s so easy to idealize someone else’s version of healthy and neglect yourself and your needs in the process. So, that being said, take some time to be honest with yourself about what makes you feel good. Not “I would feel good if I could make myself do this because it would align with the idea of who I should be” Things that you do because you enjoy them and feel a little lighter afterwards.

For example, I avoided yoga for a long time because I didn’t regard it as a “real work out”. I figured if I wasn’t sweating out calories on a treadmill or building muscle with squats and sit ups, it was a waste of my time.

Within the past few months I sought out yoga, not as a work out but as a way to calm my nerves, and I’ve really fell in love with it. It feels like I’m taking care of my body and my mental health.

But maybe you hate yoga. Or self care for you is spending time with your loved ones. The point is, make space in your life for the things that make you feel good, outside of your self improvement goals. Then, go from there.

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Training, Nutrition & Tips for Healthy Eating

Temperatures are dropping, coats are coming out and Fall is finally here! Call me cliche if you must but autumn is my favorite season and October is my favorite month of the year.

One of the best things about October is the beautiful and *perfect* running weather. Sunny skies, cool breezes and leaves littering the trails makes getting myself off the couch and out for a run so much easier than in sweltering summer heat.

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Ok, I won’t totally give up sunset runs.

Another thing I love about fall (& the change of seasons in general) is the new produce available / the ability to use my oven. I love looking up recipes that use pomegranates, Brussels sprouts and all sorts of squashes.

With my race just a little more than a month away (it makes my stomach flip just writing that,) cooking and finding inspiration in new recipes is more important than ever. I’ll be honest, I haven’t been the most diligent this summer in making sure I was properly fueling my training. I regretfully admit that many times I used running as an excuse to eat like a garbage truck.

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I know that life works for some people – but I’m not one of them. Although I haven’t noticed any weight gain or dramatic consequences, I can definitely say poor nutrition has negatively affected my training. The biggest thing has to be energy levels. Training for a marathon can be draining on its own. Rest, as much as exercise, is crucial to getting through it. However, it has become very clear to me that eating the right stuff and eating enough of it is really important too.

On the days when I didn’t have enough fruits, veggies, and water, I came home from work starving and exhausted. In that state of being, I usually didn’t have the energy or appetite to whip together something healthy so I perpetuated the cycle of poor eating. It was only when I stayed healthy throughout the day that I found myself mentally and physically prepared for a strong run.

So how do I stay healthy? Let’s be real – it’s hard. So many people, myself included, struggle with healthy eating on a regular day to day basis. Layer heavy exercise on top of that, and you find yourself hungry all the time if you’re not dedicated to providing your body the correct nutrients.

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  1. One good thing I find with healthy eating is that I do actually crave junk food less if I eat healthy meals so it might just take an initial strong push to pull you out of a crappy cycle. Alternatively, sometimes when I find myself in a rut I try to make at least one meal a day really healthy. Usually that one meal makes it easier to make healthy choices at the next meal, and so on.
  2. Another way I stay healthy is by looking up recipes and meals on Pinterest/Youtube. I follow a number of people who inspire me and I watch their “what I eat in a day” videos to get a look at realistic meal plans. As much as I love a good food blog, I have a hard time believing that bloggers have carefully crafted, beautiful meals every time they sit down to eat. And I don’t have the time for that anyway.
  3. Although I could be better about this, it definitely helps to plan out meals on some level. I’ve never been one to mass produce food and separate it into color coded Tupperware (I do love those photos though.) However, picking a recipe or two and making enough to last me a few days does save me time and effort.
  4. Keep healthy food in the house. Whenever I go to the grocery store I make sure to keep my apartment stocked with a number of items I consider essential. I do my best to keep 2-3 kinds of fruit (enough to last me 3-5 days,) 2-3 different vegetables (kinds that I know I like and could easily throw into a recipe,) and basic items to glue recipes together – rice, pasta sauce, peanut butter, nondairy milk, etc. This helps the most on days when I don’t have anything planned and can throw together something simple and mostly healthy, like pasta and roasted veggies. 

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    Lunch today: a heaping plate of roasted veggies + lemony vegan alfredo
  5. Keep junk food in the house. –Okay, I know this seems like a contradiction and if you’re the type of person who swears by “out of sight out of mind” then keep doing what you’re doing. But if you’re like me and will go out and buy junk food when it pops into your head, this might be helpful to you. I usually keep one junk food item at a time in my house — for me it’s sweets. Sometimes it’s a bar of chocolate in the freezer or a package of cookies in the cupboard. That way, when I’m craving sweets I can satisfy that craving with a cookie or two without going out and demolishing a bag of mini donuts. It keeps me in check before I get out of hand.

I hope these help you & I’d love to hear how you guys stay healthy during training, or in general!

chelsea

 

Ways to Stay Organized & Stress-Free During a Busy Week

Whether it’s finals, the holidays, or tax season, we all have weeks when it seems unreal that so much can be expected of us in so little time. Here are a few tips to help make your life a little less hectic when you’re going a mile a minute.

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  1. Determine your priorities
    As much as we’d like to be, we are not super heroes or time travelers. Sometimes everything we want to do simply cannot be done in a certain amount of time.  It’s important in these situations to look at the big picture and identify what, realistically, we are able to accomplish.

    For example, there times I find myself stressed because I’m not able do everything I would in my normal routine on top of everything required for work. It’s in these situations that I have to step back and take account of what is necessary and what is desirable. Often times my “priorities” aren’t things I desire most but that would cause me the most grief or trouble if not finished.

    It gives me peace of mind to know that I am accomplishing everything I determined to be of priority and it is extremely liberating (though difficult,) to say “I can’t do that this week, and that’s okay.” An essential part of being successful and doing your best is knowing your own limits.

  2. Prep & Plan
    Once your priorities are laid out, look ahead at your week and identify the periods you might be overwhelmed. Write down what you need to get done and when it needs to be done by. Not only are people more likely to achieve what they set out to do when they write down their goals, but by doing this you may actually find that a) your schedule isn’t as overwhelming as it seems and b) there is time in your schedule for you to fit in some of the more desirable tasks that didn’t make the first cut.

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    Next, brain storm what you can do to save yourself time. A huge thing for me is making sure I have meals planned out so that I’m not scrambling around or reaching for convenient (read: unhealthy) food.

    Each night I take 20 minutes to prepare some fresh fruits and vegetables and take stock of what’s in the fridge for my meals the next day. I also like to make sure the coffee is ready to go and turn on the automatic timer. This way, I won’t wake up in panic or find myself scrambling to throw something together, only to be disappointed (and hungry) later on.

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    Another way I try to simplify is I check the weather for the next day and think about what I’m going to wear. Honestly, I usually pick out my outfits when I’m in the shower. I have a pretty good idea of what’s in my closet and even if I don’t end up wearing exactly what I planned, it still helps going in with an idea of what I’m looking for.

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    Miso- always has to be at the center of everything.
  3. Know your bed time.
    Super important but very easily disregarded. Sleep. Is. Crucial. There is nothing that can make a busy week worse than being tired. Fatigue makes you irritable, irrational, and underperforming. Aim for a solid 6-8 and count back from when you need to wake up. Make sure you’re in bed by that time, with screens off.

    I know all of this sounds obvious but far too many times have I gotten into bed at the right time and then played on my phone or watched TV for another hour. That doesn’t count as sleep! If you’re too wired when you hit the sheets, try reading a book or magazine. I can feel my eyelids drooping within 30 minutes almost every time.

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  4. Be Flexible – and forgiving
    Even if we planned out every day for the rest of our time on earth, things still wouldn’t go exactly as anticipated. Such is life. That’s why it’s important to always be reassessing the situation and how it relates to our priorities. Maybe the bus is late. Maybe it rains. Maybe a project takes longer than expected. Shit happens. Do what you can.“We can’t direct the wind but we can adjust our sails” Someone said that.

    I personally have a hard time going off the script. It stresses me out. But it can be helpful to adopt a “go with the flow” mindset. For example, exercise is high in my priorities so if I know I have a lot of events after work, I’ll switch to a morning work out schedule instead of exercising at night. Or, if I’m not able to squeeze a work out in at all, I’ll walk to work instead of taking the bus. It’s not what I originally planned, but it’s something and it’s better than nothing.

    On the flip side, some weeks I’m so stressed and exhausted that I can’t even think about going to the gym. So I give my body rest instead and I don’t freak myself out about it. Like I mentioned before, being successful is about knowing your limits and knowing when to give yourself a break. When life gives you lemons, take a nap. Then get back up and crush it.

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    I hope these tips are helpful for you guys! I’d love to know what helps you during a busy week. Let me know in the comments 🙂

Weekend Recap

Welp, I finally got to a doctor after injuring my foot about two weeks ago. It’s been painful to walk on and I was going off the idea that it was plantar fasciitis but the pain hasn’t gotten any better with massage or rolling it out so it’s looking more like a stress fracture. The doc put me in a boot for the weekend and I’ve got an appointment with a specialist tomorrow. Wish me luck.

After the advice of many, I finally bid adieu to my beloved minimalist New Balances and picked up some Brooks at Marathon Sports. I haven’t been able to run in them yet but so far they’ve been comfortable to walk in. I’m hoping this is the last complication I have.

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Being in the boot did have its advantages–it gave me an excuse to sit in Copley Square and pick up some rice and refried beans from the Baja Taco truck.

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That night Chris and I packed up and drove to New York. It’s hard to coordinate plans because our work schedules are so different but it feels good to get out of the neighborhood sometimes.

We headed out to Long Island, where his family is from, and spent the next day at the beach. First trip of the year! I’ve got to say, it felt really liberating to strip down to a bathing suit and feel comfortable in my own skin.

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Afterwards, we went to a family cook out. It’s difficult and feels rude to be picky on holidays or at family events when it comes to food. I used to by bothered by these situations but sometimes I see it as an opportunity to, as Chris likes to call it, “junk out.” Hotdogs, hamburgers, and sangria aren’t ideal for the waistline but it can be valuable to indulge once in a while without worrying about how it fits in to your diet. If it becomes a habit then begin to reconsider things –but after a day spent eating junk I usually am craving healthy food. It’s about getting to know what’s right for you. Indulging every once in a while doesn’t mean you’re weak or you’re “cheating.” If anything, being able to eat a little unhealthy sometimes without falling off track is a sign of strength because it shows self-control and the choice to return to healthy habits. All or nothing mentalities can be harmful to weight loss efforts and your self esteem. Guilt will keep you from growth and at the end of the day, none of us are perfect. It’s okay to embrace that now and then.