The beauty of examining the ugly

I was mortified.

Snap from my running form reel

Snap from my running form reel

Earlier this month, I had the awesome privilege of enjoying a 5-day running camp with ZAP Endurance in the beautiful mountains of Blowing Rock, NC. One morning, after a fun speed workout in a humid, misty park, coaches captured short videos of us running to review later and assess our running form in action.

I had assumed we would review those clips with the coaches one on one.

I assumed wrong.

We would be looking at those clips as a group. I had a minor internal panic as I realized all my weaknesses would be pointed out in a public setting.

My stomach tightened as we sat down in the lounge to watch the videos on the big screen. I felt myself trying to melt into the couch cushions. I imagined Coach Pete and Matt shaking their heads as my clip appeared on the screen and saying something like, wow, this woman is a hopelessly terrible runner, or suggesting perhaps I should dump this running thing and take up knitting.

I had all these feelings despite all my accomplishments as a runner, including achieving progressively faster marathon times year after year, qualifying for the Boston Marathon at my last marathon, and zillions of hours of rehab/prehab in the gym, barre studio and pool to build myself into a stronger runner.

When my clip came up, I felt my face get hot. Then the coaches asked really insightful questions, a few light jokes were made (apparently I’m a gifted performer of the Marathon Shuffle!), and areas that need work were pointed out, along with specific exercises I can do to work on my weak medial glutes (damn glutes!). It was extraordinarily helpful.

This session also reminded me is how unbelievably brave my clients are.

Every time I meet with a client, I ask them to lay out all their dirty laundry for us to pore over. There is such tremendous courage shown and benefit gained in laying it all out there, looking at facts without emotion, and learning where we can improve.

Check out all the cool goings-on at ZAP here, and please be in touch if you have questions about this experience, or working with me to build healthful lifestyle and diet habits that stick!

Are our genes our fate?

My grandmother Shappy partying hard on her 99th birthday, July 2017

My grandmother Shappy partying hard on her 99th birthday, July 2017

This is a strange time of year for me: Over a span of less than three weeks, I celebrated my maternal grandmother's 99th birthday, observed the 14th anniversary of my dad's death, and I'll soon celebrate (celebrate?!) my 40th birthday. 

At this time of year, I can't help but think about that age old question: Are my genes my destiny?

My maternal grandmother was sharp as a tack right up until she was about 97, when she had her driver's license revoked, began losing her memory and started showing signs of dementia. She was always tiny and slim, and looked fantastic dressed up for her 99th birthday dinner. My father, on the other hand, was a giant man, literally and figuratively, who was obese for most of his life, yo-yo dieted for decades, developed type 2 diabetes, and died very suddenly at 57 (which was all at the same time a huge shock and yet wholly predictable).  

Surely genetics play a role in the health and lives of my dad and my grandmother. My grandmother smoked for decades before quitting sometime ago after a health scare. But she also has habits that support her longevity: She's always eaten like a bird. No meal is complete without a pile of tomatoes on her plate. Up until she was no longer able, she was mobile, loved to travel. And she kicks the butt of any fool willing to play her at Scrabble. 

My dad was a Division One football player in his youth but was completely sedentary in adulthood. His diet was lousy despite my mom's attempts to serve the family "green stuff." The cause of his obesity was no mystery, though the reasons he leaned so hard on food are sadly complex. 

I may have genes from my dad's side that make me X% more likely to become obese or to develop type 2 diabetes. I may also have genes on my maternal side that protect me somewhat from the damage of long-term smoking or otherwise promote longevity (alas, I can confirm I did not get the Scrabble gene). 

That said, there are habits I can practice today to support my long-term health: I can move my body regularly. I can fill my diet with nutritious whole foods: Vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds. I can make sure I get enough sleep (still not as consistent as I could be here--work in progress!). I can limit risk factors like consumption of red meat, processed meat, added sugars and refined carbs, and I can avoid serious risk factors like smoking.

My genetics are my floor and my ceiling, but I have the power to determine how high off the floor I can rise. I have no plans to hang out on the floor. 

An open letter that big chain store about your checkout area

Dear big chain store containing items for the bedroom, bathroom and other areas beyond those rooms:

I came to your store to purchase a couple kitchen items, and found exactly what I needed! Here is what I did not need: The gauntlet of perfectly organized, brightly colored, carefully arranged snacks lined up along the line to the cashiers. There were gummies, chocolate(ish)-covered pretzels, tins of weird little candies, combo packs of crackers + Nutella, chocolate truffles, and even crap-filled "energy" bars to make me feel like I was making a virtuous choice in the midst of all the junk.

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You forced me into a maze that required me not just to walk past said food, but to stand in the midst of it as I waited in the slow moving cashier line. I felt the strong pull to snack, even though I'd had a perfectly reasonable meal not an hour before I came to your store. I watched as a couple women and one college-aged young man stood with their carts and basket, at first just glancing over at the racks, then casually picking up items, then loading up several items.

Thanks again for the great selection of organization tools in your store, but can't I just buy our "As Seen On TV" items without having to dig in and use all my willpower to make it through the checkout? 

Sincerely,

Lauren Shafer

 

Mastering patience

Thanks again to everyone who’s emailed, texted, posted on social media and otherwise checked in on my recovery since I tore a tendon in late March (in case you missed it and are interested, I break down the not-all-that gory detail of my injury during a 30.5 mile race HERE and a bit on my recovery plan HERE).

I ditched the crutches weeks ago and said goodbye to the ugly boot. The wicked swelling is gone, and I’m not limping. In fact, if you didn’t know something happened, you wouldn’t guess by looking at me.

But this injury was a doozy, and on the advice of my orthopedist and physical therapist, my body isn’t ready to run.  

In my mind, on repeat, I’m giving myself the same advice I give my health coaching clients with big health and fitness goals…

Trust in the process that professionals are guiding you through, and for the love of all things holy, BE PATIENT!

I truly empathize with how frustrated my clients feel when I give them this advice when they’re facing what seems like an insurmountable goal. And I have a BIG goal: To recover from my injury mentally and physically stronger, to have a great fall training season and to run a fall race I can be proud of.

It’s tough to delay that runner’s high I know a short run will bring. It’s been a real adjustment dialing down my diet to accommodate a less active life (oh, how I miss you, pre-run carby breakfasts and giant, fruity, peanut buttery post-run smoothie bowls!).

As much as I’m tempted to get out there for a short run, as tempting as it is to whip up a ginormous starchy, maple-syrupy breakfast on Saturday, I know that those actions keep me further from my BIG goals.  

So I’m resting, walking, and eating a solidly nutritious diet with fewer treats (not NO treats, but fewer). And if I treat my body well now, there are plenty of runs and starchy meals in my future. I’m counting on it!

If you need support in mastering the art of patience and making changes to achieve you health and fitness goals, let’s talk!

Update: When shit happens

From running a 50K to running my mouth to my acupuncturist! Heather is checking my pulses before applying needles to chill me out and promote healing.

From running a 50K to running my mouth to my acupuncturist! Heather is checking my pulses before applying needles to chill me out and promote healing.

Thanks to everyone who's been in touch to commiserate since I shared I tore the ever-loving stuff out of a tendon during a 50K race and am sidelined. I've had a few folks tell me that "Everything happens for a reason," but I'm unconvinced the universe is sending me a message by tearing into my connective tissue. I AM a believer, however, in the High Church of Shit Happens (HCSH).

You may think that as a practicing member of HCSH, about 4 weeks out from the day of my injury, I'd be feeling helpless, frustrated and irritable. That would not be wholly untrue (ask the most patient man in the world, aka my husband John).

But I'm trying to compartmentalize those feelings into brief moments. I'm also super motivated to do everything in my power to heal quickly:

I rested, iced, compressed and elevated for DAYS. DAYS!

I made big adjustments to my diet, which supported someone running 40+ miles a week, and now reflects my much less active lifestyle (sigh). 

I wore my giant immobilizing boot for three weeks, stomping around at first, eventually mastering a more graceful hobble. I am now bootless, and if it weren't such an expensive little accessory, I swear I'd hold a party to burn it.  

I visited my physical therapist Brett (BIG plug for Lifestrength PT!) weekly. While acknowledging the seriousness of the injury, Brett has been very encouraging and has not a shade of doubt I'll be running in a manner of weeks.

I made a visit to my acupuncturist Heather (plug for Heather Johnstone Acupuncture--she's great!) to help bring more blood flow to the injured area and to get some stress relief. Because apparently I'm a little on edge. 

And finally, I'm back at the gym trying to catch that runner's high by working on my weak upper body (so weak!) and doing boring core exercises. I'm not catching much of a buzz, but there's some satisfaction in knowing I'm priming my body for the day when I get the go ahead to crank out 5 super slow minutes on a treadmill. And then the next time, another 5 minutes, then a couple miles and a couple more.

So thank you again to everyone who's checked in on me. Shit most definitely happens, and though I can 100% guarantee more will happen in this lifetime, I'm finding some peace of mind in taking action where I can potentially make an impact.

Give yourself four weeks!

I'm ready to get to work! Who's in?

I'm ready to get to work! Who's in?

My clients come to me with big health and fitness goals. If all these men and women needed was an explanation of what a healthful diet is, we'd only meet once or twice. I'd explain a healthy diet is about 50% vegetables and fruit (heavy on the veg), about 25% lean protein and about 25% whole grain or starchy vegetable. Then they'd be off on their merry way to go achieve their goals. 

But knowing what to do is the easy part.

Eating a healthful diet and living a healthy lifestyle requires applying knowledge in our messy, emotional, convenience-driven human lives. Lives in which delicious, cheap and easy food is EVERYWHERE; in which our culture and memories are formed by and around food; and in which we receive a constant flow of new and sexy information about food and diets that may or may not be true. 

What if you decided to do an experiment? What if you gave yourself a finite period of time to work with an expert to hone your knowledge and rigorously work on building new healthy habits? And what if you had not only support of an expert, but also the support of a group of peers working toward similar goals?

Eating for Wellness is that experiment. Join me for four weeks beginning the week of 3/20, and let's focus not on what you're supposed to do, but how to build new habits and apply your knowledge in your busy life!

Got questions? Please be in touch!