Why I’m Not (Completely) Crazy for Running a Marathon

3 1/2 years ago, I crossed the finish line of the Portland Marathon and promised myself I’d never do something so stupid ever again. I would tell everyone I knew the same thing…at which point they would roll their eyes and sarcastically say, “Sure, whatever you say, Nicole.” Seriously though, never again.

And until 3 months ago, I was sticking pretty hard to that tune. I’m a half-marathoner. It’s a much more reasonable distance, and you can actually race it. And, feel perfectly fine the next day. But somehow, a friend persuaded me to train for another marathon, and to my surprise, she didn’t have to twist my arm very hard for agreement. I think it’s because deep down, I have been bitten by the marathon bug like so many other runners before me, and I wanted to try it again.

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While the race still sticks in my mind as probably the most painful form of exercise I can ever remember doing (and I weirdly find pleasure in running long distances, speedy track workouts, and heated yoga classes), I think the most intriguing part of the marathon isn’t the race itself, but the training that goes into it.

Training to run 26.2 miles requires a tremendous amount of self-discipline. It’s (at least) a 4-month commitment to a running plan, with scheduled short and long runs, speed workouts, hills, and rest days each week, all slowly building up for the big race. After all of the hard work, the marathon race is a reflection of that dedication. For the goal-setters among us, the marathon reveals the ultimate grit asked of a person.

Speaking of grit, saying that you’re a marathoner will put you among a special class of people. Though more and more people are running marathons each year, it is by no means an achievement to scoff at. In fact, most people have a degree of admiration or respect for anyone that can put themselves through this unique brand of torture.

But it’s not just for the bragging rights, or the cool t-shirt that we runners put ourselves through this (though sometimes I joke it is). Everyone has their own reasons for running the marathon – health/fitness, time, another check off the bucket list, etc.; but ultimately, it’s about testing our limits. Whether it’s your first marathon or a twenty-first, it will challenge you mentally and physically, bring you to face the depths of your being.

And if you can train and race a marathon, what can’t you accomplish?

8 Things to Beat the Wintertime Blues

For many of us, February is a long, dreary month. Before Christmas, winter is a majestic season, with the crisp, cold air giving a refreshing cleanse to the earth; however, this side of the holidays, winter becomes an irksome cold that seems never-ending. Snow and slush becomes cumbersome to drive and walk in, and it’s just so unreasonably cold, preventing you from going out and doing things!

Many people get into a slump this time of year, myself included. But looking forward to the spring doesn’t make it come any faster. Here are some ways to beat the Wintertime Blues:

1. Try a new healthy eating regimen. Meal plan at the beginning of each week to incorporate healthy foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables. Though it’s enticing to eat carb-loaded junk food this time of year, it will only leave you feeling sluggish. Look for healthy, easy, quick recipes online, and utilize your slow cooker!

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2. Spice up your exercise routine. Try a new group exercising class, or for those on a budget, buy a new workout DVD. If you belong to a gym, try out new machine or go for a swim. Change will get you excited about exercising again.

3. Dance like a fool. That’s right. Blast your favorite tunes and start moving. It will instantly boost your mood! Spectators not allowed.

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4. Organize your space and time. Laziness begets laziness, and vice versa…so start turning those tables and you will automatically get re-energized! Start by cleaning your house or apartment. Organize your receipts. Create a system of cleaning/organizing that works for you, and stick to it! Use a planner to schedule what you need to do and when. Make sure to include your exercise and personal time in your schedule.

5. Let yourself self-indulge a little. Recharge by treating yourself to a hair trim (or cut if you’re ambitious), brow wax, a couple hours soaking up the scene and browsing your local B&N…whatever makes you feel good about yourself and won’t break the bank!

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6. Do something for someone else. Cook a meal for a friend. Babysit a family member’s kids for free. Give someone advice, or help them with a project. Most importantly, get over yourself.

7. Read a kids’ novel…or a few. There are some really great stories out there, and it doesn’t have to remind you of your college lit class to enjoy reading them! I recently read Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth, which was engaging and I learned about a different culture and era – even if it was written for middle schoolers. I highly recommend it! Also a good way to relax without rotting your brain with TV as you spend more time indoors.

8. Let your creative juices flow. Creating something to be proud of will lift your mood and get you excited about pursuing your hobbies. Write lyrics to a song (a.k.a. a poem), make a vision board, learn you to crochet a blanket…the possibilities are endless!

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In Defense of Fairy Tales

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Fairy tales are more than true! Dragons come in all shapes and sizes in our lives – no one was dealt with the same hand in life, but that doesn’t mean we can’t conquer those dragons. At a young age, we hear about how “the little guy” can turn out to be the hero, despite the expectations (or lack there of) of other people – think of David and Goliath! These are the type of lessons we can take from fairy tales, young and old.

However, as we all know, fairy tales sometimes get a bad rap. Some say that women are always looking for their “knight in shining armour,” as presented to them in youth, and their life won’t be complete until there is a man in their life that fulfills it. This past week, there was an interesting article about Mercy Academy, an all-girls Catholic school in Louisville, Kentucky that launched a new ad campaign that bashes fairy tales pretty harshly, in order to promote its mission of helping its students become independent, productive women in the real world. Ads like “You’re not a princess…but you can still rule the world,” “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Be more than just the fairest of them all,” or “Don’t wait for a prince. Be able to rescue yourself” all may be very empowering for young women of our age, but I sentimentally wonder, what about the dragons? 

Sorry ladies, I have to agree with G.K. Chesterton on this one. Great lessons can be learned from fairy tales. Women face dragons in those stories too – and learn how to battle them. They may struggle in different ways than men, but isn’t that just like real life? I don’t believe the majority of little girls grow up thinking they are pampered princesses and expect to be rescued by men. What I do think fairy tales teach is that you deserve to have someone fight for you.

Far too many modern messages echo the ads of Mercy Academy, telling women to just get a grip and be independent. But what are these messages really saying? Of course it’s important for women to learn how to take care of themselves independent from the fact they are in a relationship or not, but how far is too far? If we feed young girls with slogans bashing men, then they are going to, in turn, treat men – especially gentlemen – as enemies trying to prey on their weakness and deprive them of their “independence,” which has become the ultimate symbol of freedom. They will fail to see that having someone stand up for and fight for her – even if she could really do it herself – is actually the highest compliment that anyone could have paid her.

Instead of faulting fairy tales with the problems of women, let’s take a closer look on the lessons we can gain from these stories. After all, fairy tales are real, because they teach us that dragons can be defeated.

New Month, New Me!

Happy October lovelies! October is one of my favorite months, mainly because of the beautiful changing leaves and the crisp autumn air! I like to re-evaluate where I’m at with my personal goals at the beginning of every month, and I realize that over the summer months, I’ve been concentrating a lot in some areas (like my career search, which I’ll go into more later) and have been neglecting, or have been stuck in a rut, in other areas. So I’ve decided to take a step back today and make some goals about areas that are important to me – Career, Exercise, Nutrition, Prayer, and Life. These are my more specific areas of Mind, Body and Soul.

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Career: I’ll go into more details about this in an upcoming post, but for just a brief preview of what’s going on, I’m currently looking for new job opportunities. This summer I spent a lot of time figuring exactly what I want in a career, so now I am on the road to making that a reality. Like a lot of twenty-somethings, it’s been so easy to feel lost after college with no clear direction, and I am in the process of finding that direction. My goal is to find a new job by the end of the year (3 months to go!) and here are some of my actions for the month of October:

  • Create a list of target companies and apply to specific jobs online. Follow these companies on LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • Reach out to 2 people per day on LinkedIn and request informational interviews.
  • Apply to 2 jobs online per week.
  • (Re)write my cover letter and have a friend edit it.

If some of these things don’t make a whole lot of sense, look forward to an upcoming post where I’ll go deeper into my job searching journey.

Exercise: I love to exercise. Motivation to go for a run honestly isn’t a problem, I’ll gladly run 10 miles! However, I confess that this last summer I was in a bit of an exercising rut. I haven’t been challenging myself. I was busy, so I just stuck to basically the same routine almost every day. Usually, I have one big race scheduled each year, and I keep to a training schedule that keeps me challenged and has variation, but this year, I didn’t sign up for a race because I wasn’t sure where I was going to be! Unfortunately, I’ve been keeping some aspects of my life on hold due to the uncertainty of my career, and this has been something that’s suffered. So, I decided that even though I may not be signed up for a race, that doesn’t mean I can’t be training for one! Here are some exercise regimens I’m going to start keeping in place this month:

  • Follow Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Training Program – Intermediate. I need to look at this a little more closely, because the program starts at a place that seems a little too easy for me, so I may need to adjust my starting point. I’ve used Hal’s training programs for previous races I’ve done, and I’ve enjoyed the workout routines.
  • AM workouts – Jillian Michaels DVDS. Ok, so I’m a little compulsive. If I don’t do at least a short workout of some sort in the morning, I feel “gross” the rest of the day. I’ll have to look at my training schedule to decide if I will run before or after work, but if I decide to run after, I’ll probably do a quick 20 minute DVD workout in the morning just to get my blood pumping. And hey, a little extra strength training won’t hurt!
  • Power Vinyasa Yoga – As I talked a little about in this previous post, I really enjoy this core/strength building type of yoga. I will go to a yoga class 2 times/week this month, on the days I have strength training scheduled in my training program. Perfect cross training!

Nutrition: Ok, I have a confession. My relationship with food has not always been the healthiest. I developed anorexia in my early high school days, and my recovery led to having occasional – ok, let’s be honest, frequent – bouts of binge eating. I also developed some not-so-great habits in college, and need to make some changes. Right now, I need to do some research about a healthy food schedule that I know I will keep to. I usually opt for healthy foods, but it’s when I get in binging bouts I throw moderation and nutritious choices out the window. This has been my downfall, and I need to do some research about how to make some lasting changes. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Prayer: Spiritually, I have been lacking this past summer. I am a Christian and a Catholic, and Christ is the center of my life…at least, he should be, and I need to focus on making him a top priority in my life. Here are some commitments I am making for the month of October:

  • October is a month of Mary and the Holy Rosary, so I will commit to praying the rosary every day this month. I have a nice long drive to work in the morning, so it will be the perfect time to turn off the radio and pray – no excuses! The rosary is great for meditating on the life of Christ. Lately my prayers have been a grocery list of things I want, so meditating keep me centered on what is important and give me an opportunity to listen.
  • I’ve found it very therapeutic to journal when I pray – I’ve done this since I was in junior high. I feel like this way I’m having an easy flow of conversation with God, telling him my thoughts, my worries, my dreams. However, I haven’t been very good about consistency. This month, I will journal once a week.

Life: This category is more about miscellaneous things. Something I need to work on more is budgeting. Last month, I kept all of my receipts and categorized them by the type of purchases I made. This month I will do the same, and start tracking them in an excel spreadsheet. This way I can be totally honest with myself about how much I’m spending and where I need to make some cuts (yes, I try not to look at clothes and makeup…but they’re such good investments! So I justify myself…) This is something that I acknowledge I need to work on as part of becoming a functioning adult.

These are some of my October goals, or goals in progress, and I’m exciting to get started! Do you make monthly goals to re-evaluate and “start over?” What are your goals? In lieu of a New Year’s Resolution, it’s a monthly resolution!