Anyone Can Cook: a Plant Based Cookbook Recommendation

If you’re thinking did you just quote Ratatouille in part of that title? Yes, yes I did. Who doesn’t love Disney movies and food!? Also if you read “anyone can cook” in the same accent as the French chef then bonus points for you.

Anyway, its been a while since I’ve been able to post on my blog. Starting a new job, keeping up with the gym and a healthy routine, and making time for friends and family meant that something had to give.

But in a way I’m glad I had the chance to step away from writing since it gave me the idea to write this post. One thing I noticed about my routine is that even when I was running on empty I never compromised on cooking myself and family a healthy dinner.

Despite being terrible about posting on my blog the last month I kept up with posting pictures on my personal Instagram account of the dinners I was able to make. I wish that I was one of these people who just had a natural knack for tossing ingredients together and end up with some amazing new dish. That is just not a talent in my wheelhouse. I need direction and exact measurements otherwise cooking can get ugly, fast. So I thought I would share a cookbook that has become one of my go-to resources.

Trial and error is a good thing

If you read my last blog post, you know that one of the ways I keep any anxiety about food at bay is to make cooking as enjoyable as possible. For me, that means being as creative as possible. The big challenge for me right now is to make sure my healthy meal choices mean that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on foods I love.

I’m currently exploring the differences between vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. So that means a lot of cooking triumphs and whole lot of epic fails *sigh* The failures are especially disappointing when you’ve come home from a long day at work and the meal you made just simply sucks.

So I’ve learned that choosing a great cookbook to follow seems to work a lot better than just printing a recipe off the internet. I once tried a vegan & gluten-free muffin recipe I randomly found online. I never knew that muffins could come out flat on top and soggy in the middle. Let’s all say it together: Eeewww.

To be fair, it was my first attempt so there was probably some of my own mistakes thrown into this recipe too. But since I was making them for a holiday breakfast the night before it was pretty much a disaster.

I think it’s experiences like this one, that label cooking as super difficult; especially when you’re venturing into the uncharted waters of vegan cooking. But with the right guidance you can feel good about how you’re fueling your body and actually enjoy amazing food.

Don’t be afraid to eat your greens

I remember talking about these concerns with a friend of mine who has been vegan for well over a decade. That’s when she gifted me But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan! by Kristy Turner.

Not only do I love the taste of these recipes but the book is great for someone new to plant based cooking. I actually enjoyed reading it too because Turner’s writing is so relatable when describing what it’s like to introduce a vegan diet to your family.

Once I saw section titles like “My parents don’t understand why I won’t eat my childhood favorites” or “There’s no way vegan food can make everyone happy at once” I felt like this cookbook could work for me. I think so many of us who have tried to continue a healthy diet have heard some criticism from an unsupportive friend or family member about “eating rabbit food” or “where do you get protein without meat?”

Not only does this cookbook stomp out those stereotypes, it also has a great break down of what pantry staples you need and how to use them. It also has a great glossary section to explain ingredients like liquid aminos or aquafaba.

Dishes for every diet and deadline

I’m a big believer in using recipes that can be versatile with ingredients. This is important to me because I have several family members who struggle with severe food allergies or autoimmune issues that require a specific diet. You can look at each recipe to see if it can be gluten free or nut free etc.

I’m a meticulous “Type A” planner because I’m juggling a lot in my life. So being able to meal prep is one of the ways I ensure healthy meals are quick and easy. This cookbook will help you with that too. There are labels to point out when you have to plan ahead or which meals make great leftovers.

Feel good food 

I have received several messages from people wondering where I get the recipes I use every week so that was a big motivation for me to write this cookbook recommendation. Plus, I truthfully have enjoyed cooking with this book and it’s a great feeling when the end result tastes amazing. I want everyone to feel that good about what they eat and make cooking something to look forward to.

I haven’t been able to try every recipe yet but you can check out the photos below to see how some of the food I made turned out. And with the holidays coming up I’m looking forward to trying more than one dessert recipe at once. I mean, you have to taste test them all before bringing them to holiday dinners right? Can’t say I’m mad about that 🙂

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If you’re interested in learning more about writer and recipe developer Kristy Turner or want to get her cookbooks then check out her food blog here.


Food Fight: Finding balance with healthy food

Last night I had Chinese food takeout for the first time in over 2 years. I’m talking fried and greasy takeout. If you’re thinking “congratulations?? Why is that a big deal?” I get it. To most people it really wouldn’t matter. For a lot of people getting Chinese food takeout or swinging into a McDonalds drive-through is a commonplace action when it comes to fueling the American diet. Don’t take that as me judging, I used to eat an unbelievable amount of greasy takeout food (especially through out college) so I’m just like everyone else who craves a deep-dish pizza at 11 PM.

Food is tradition

I grew up in an Italian family where you had to make sure you were eating meals that “stuck to your ribs.” Trust me, a side salad was a tiny afterthought to lasagna, baked ziti and Italian cookies. I was never the kid at school who had a bologna sandwich and chips; I’d show up with left over chicken Parmesan and spaghetti. None of the kids would trade their Lunchables and Oreo cookies for that (sigh).

Okay getting back on track, my point is that I never learned healthy eating habits. My family wasn’t purposely trying to steer me in a bad direction; I know now they really had no idea about healthy nutrition. Even now, my parents sometimes balk at the idea of replacing comfort foods with healthier versions. This is because to many people “healthy” has become synonymous with “bland” or “gross.”

Now that you understand my previous knowledge on nutrition, I think you may relate to where my health journey has lead me to today when it comes to food.

Please not another meeting

I always struggled with my weight and food choices were truly at the crux of that issue. But having never been a thin person, I’d been trying to diet even from a young age. I saw my first nutritionist when I was about 11 or 12 because I was overweight for my height. I was so embarrassed and it ended up being a really bad experience. Every medical professional I remember talking to never spoke about health and happiness; it was “lose weight” and “don’t eat that.”

As I got into my teen years, I even tried calorie-counting programs and went to some programs where you have group meetings. I found the counting and measuring stressful (plus I hated math) and having to show up to meetings made me feel like there was something wrong with me. Now, I’m not trying to put down those options. These programs can be really beneficial and motivating to people. So if you think that kind of structure would work for you, talk to your doctor, then give it a try!

These just weren’t my thing, plus being a teenager I was already self-conscious and the idea of talking about weight or food was anxiety ridden. Looking back, my mother did the right thing by bringing me to those doctors and programs but she had no control over what they said or how it would impact my view of myself.

So as I progressed through college and grad school, I had this “no f#&%s given” mentality about what I ate. I mean I had always been overweight and, whether I dieted or not, it never made a difference, so why not just eat what I wanted? That was not smart . . . not. at. all.

No it’s not the flu

By the end of grad school and entering into the work force I failed to notice that I had gained about 40 pounds. I’d always been at least 20lbs over a healthy weight so that’s a total of 60 pounds over (at least I got the math right!). When I say, “failed to notice” I guess I should say “didn’t want to deal with.” Truthfully, I hadn’t been eating any worse than usual so the weight gain seemed inexplicable but I was “too busy” to deal with it. It wasn’t until I caught what I thought was the flu and was having trouble eating and breathing that I went to the doctor.

That’s when the bomb was dropped that I had a severe thyroid disorder and had 9 nodules (similar to tumors) on my thyroid gland. The Endocrinologist informed me that this problem had most likely been slowly getting worse for years and was missed in my yearly physicals. Also there was a high risk of cancer. I was 23, living alone and nearly 1,000 miles away from my family. That news was earth shattering and terrifying.

This lead to an emergency lifestyle change: I needed to go on several medications because my resting heart rate was dangerously high. I was restricted to no travel, no working and nothing but walking for exercise. My digestive system was like a yoyo, I never knew what food I could keep down and I was immediately restricted to a certain diet. This was all so I could get to a place where it would be safe to operate to remove my thyroid because there was no saving it. I would be on medication for the rest of my life.

I was lucky that after surgery the results came back that I did not have cancer but my life would be forever changed: I would be forever changed.

Supermarket meltdown

The stress of having all this happen in a period of months put my body through some serious shock. I now had to continue to lose weight, and learn a whole new way of looking at healthy food. I didn’t have a choice because my body was still reeling from the disease and there were foods I could no longer eat (and still can’t eat to this day).

I wasn’t sure how to deal with those emotions and I let anxiety take over. During my long recovery process, I manifested that fear into control over food and exercise. That wasn’t healthy for me either because I was afraid to eat or miss an exercise session. This lead to anxiety and self-loathing, which could have meant a one-way ticket to a full-blown eating disorder.

I used to have panic attacks about eating. Yes, paralyzing, fear filled panic attacks. Probably the worst moment was when I was visiting a friend and she took me grocery shopping. My friend took me to the health food section because she knew about my new lifestyle and was being unbelievably supportive. There in front of me was an endless array of options, which you would think I would be thrilled about. But instead I started to pace and feel completely overwhelmed then I just burst into tears.

What if I picked the wrong thing and got sick? What if I picked something unhealthy and gained weight again? It was totally irrational but that was just the way I was feeling. Luckily my friend handled the situation with such poise. She calmed me down and told me something extremely important that day. She said “progress isn’t linear there will be peaks and valleys.” She was right. When it came to food all I could do is make the best choice I could and when I slipped up I needed to forgive myself.

Climbing out of the valley

It’s taken a long time for me to climb that mountain and slowly feel freer about balancing food choices. Here are some ways that I learned to cope with this anxiety:

  • Make cooking enjoyable. I download apps, buy cookbook and pin new recipes constantly. It makes it challenging and fun to try new food that I know is made with ingredients I can eat. I especially like taking my favorite comfort foods and making them into vegetarian and vegan dishes.
  • Being upfront with my friends and family. I told them about what I can and cannot eat. I’ve had a great response from all of them, they’re great about choosing meals or restaurants that have options for me too.
  • Treat yourself. If I want to eat something that’s not in my nutrition plan I make it into a once in a while treat. But I choose the healthiest option possible so I don’t get completely off track. That’s how I ended up eating the Chinese food takeout yesterday and not beating myself up for it.
  • See a nutritionist. Yes even after my bad experiences I searched for a registered dietician that I felt comfortable with. I’m so glad I did this. My doctor didn’t make me count calories or make plateaus in my weight loss was feel like I failed. Instead, she talked about portion size and food journaling. That worked for me, but talk to a registered dietician to find what works for you!
  • Use meditation and yoga. These activities keep me grounded so I don’t feel so high strung about food. I listen to a 5 to 10 minute relaxation session and do 20-30 minutes of yoga before I start my day. This helps me to stay focused on what’s important, not irrational worry.

If you’re dealing with food anxiety some of these might work for you. They may work for you even if you don’t have anxiety and are just struggling to keep up the balance of everyday life and healthy eating. No matter what you do, remember that healthy food can taste amazing and eating those foods can be fun. Now that I’ve changed my lifestyle I’d never want to go back to fast food everyday. But I’ve also learned that when I slip up it will be alright because I know how to make good food choices.


Unplugging from the daily grind

I’m someone who is always on the go and I like it that way. I am actually more productive when I’m busy because I know I only have a short time to accomplish what needs to get done so I’m hyper focused. But having this mentality has a huge downside. It’s one where you’re so focused on where you need to go you’re not always aware of what’s happening to your body along the way.

I’ve been known to push myself until I’m just physically too tired to continue: leaving me either exhausted or battling a full-blown cold. Take it from me, running on empty just to check things off your list is neither healthy or motivation to continue with activities that are actually a positive influence in your life.

I make it a goal to workout 4 to 5 days per week, cook and eat healthy meals everyday, find time to blog, read, and have a social life. Cramming all that into a week while you’re working full time means you need a schedule to keep everything running on all cylinders. But let’s be real, no one can keep that pace forever. So I decided to test for myself ways to unwind and make sure I was actually enjoying everything I was doing throughout the week.

Power down

I started making notes and “checking in” on how my body felt throughout the day. I noticed that in the morning I was exhausted even though I was getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. I had heard that watching television, working on your computer or scrolling through your phone can affect your sleep quality. So I thought why not try to unplug from devices at least an hour before bed and see if that makes a difference?

I tried this little experiment for the last month and I can honestly say I felt a difference. Before I started I noticed more restless sleep, and I’d wake up with my jaw clenched. Honestly, what was my mind so worried about to be stressed in a dream?! I can be an anxious person by nature so I could feel that being stressed or feeling like my mind was always racing cannot be good for my body. So every night I put my computer away, shut the television off and put my phone on the other side of my room. Then I’d pick up a book, magazine or even work on an art project at least an hour before I went to sleep.

It sounds simple but it made all the difference. Over the course of the last month I’ve woken up less tired and with less tension in my body. I’m not a doctor or a sleep expert and you should always consult with your own health professionals but this is something that is relieving my stress so I’m still continuing with this practice because it works better for my body.

Gym guilt

 During this time trying to “unplug” I was also balancing preparations for a vacation and starting a new job (all while continuing with the obligations mentioned before). Isn’t it strange how getting ready for a vacation can actually stress you out? But the added changes meant that something had to give on my packed schedule. Truthfully the part that was cut back the most was my time at the gym. And before you gasp in horror thinking, “BUT AREN’T YOU SUPPOSED TO PUT YOUR HEALTH FIRST!?” I’m going to ask that you just take a breath and read on.

Yes, of course your health is paramount because without your health you really do have nothing. But there are different ways to approach the healthy commitments you’ve made when life throws in something unexpected. I made a commitment to keep up with getting my body moving in the time leading up to my vacation and getting through the long training hours at my job. But instead of the long gym sessions during the week I moved my most strenuous activities to the weekends when I knew I’d have more time and energy. I made sure to stretch and power walk throughout the week because it kept my body moving while not leading me to total exhaustion.

Overtraining is a real thing

When you’re already exhausted and try to push past your limits you increase your risk of injury. I’m a big believer in recognizing when you need to modify your routine because you’re doing too much for what’s going on in your life. Normally overtraining means that someone can experience increased resting heart rate, decreased hunger or disturbed sleep over a period of several days. When this happens it’s necessary to decrease the intensity or frequency of exercise.

When I first started my health journey I personally experienced this issue. I was so worried about going backwards I was working out 2 times a day 5 to 6 days a week, and walking as much as possible. I totally burned myself out and crashed. I was totally discouraged because I didn’t know about overtraining. It wasn’t until I got advice from doctors and fitness professionals that I understood the importance of recovery time. Without recovery time you’re likely to crash and unlikely to see your desired results.

Eat smarter not faster

What I didn’t compromise on during the time crunch were my eating habits. Instead I changed the plan. I love to eat a lot of vegan or vegetarian meals but being new to the process of cooking this way it can take me a little longer to meal prep for the week ahead. Being in a time crunch, I decided to go to my local vegan/organic market and café to get some great pre-packaged healthy food that I could just heat up or put on a plate.

Now, I realize not everyone has access to a local place they know makes quality grab-and-go. So if that’s the case for you, prep the best you can. If you have to swing in somewhere for fast food don’t beat yourself up, and try to choose the healthiest item on the menu. I’ve gotten caught in that trap myself and all you can do is get right back on track for the next meal.

The bottom line is when life throws you a curve ball, do not be afraid to swing; sure you might strike out or you could hit a home run. What I mean by this is that changing your healthy routine as your life changes is a good choice. Don’t stick with the routine because it’s familiar if it’s not actually working for you. Refusing to change your routine could lead to overtraining, unhealthy eating or discouragement from continuing your health journey. So make sure you’re always listening to your body and embrace that needed recovery time.

Time to unwind

By the way, that vacation I was prepping for? I’m so glad I gave myself recovery time before I left. I went to Denver, Colorado and we had awesome weather! I took a walking tour of the capital, saw a concert at Red Rocks, hiked in Boulder, and even tried CrossFit for the first time. I did so many great activities there’s no way I would have made it through them all if I neglected my recovery time and didn’t “unplug” from stressors.

Here’s a little peek at some of the things I saw:

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Grotto Treasure

If you’re interested in a great fictional read on where life can lead when you don’t unplug from your electronic devices checkout The Circle by David Eggers. You can read my review of this novel in The Grotto.


Motivation isn’t just for Monday’s

Being motivated to exercise and make positive food choices is crucial to living a healthy lifestyle. But how do you find the motivation?

Positive Attitude Means Positive Results

It can be tough to find motivation to exercise, especially when first starting your health journey. You know those people you see on exercise infomercials who are just unbelievably jazzed about doing some insane exercise routine? And you’re sitting on your couch watching them and thinking, “Seriously?! If I did that right now I’d keel over . . . there’s got to be a better way for me to start exercising.” I totally get it because I’ve been that girl on the couch without any motivation or direction.

A very valuable lesson I’ve learned is to look at that situation from a different mindset. Instead of looking at that program from a defeatists point of view put a positive spin on it. Maybe think of it like this: “I’m going to set a goal to take a High Intensity Interval Training class just like that one because I know I can achieve that.” I found that line of thinking makes you more likely to research how to reach that fitness goal whether through group classes at a gym or personal training sessions or whatever safe method works for you.

Remember starting small is actually really smart. Setting mini goals on your journey to achieve the ultimate goal will help you to stay in that positive headspace. I can tell you from personal experience that achieving the smaller goals is what kept me going (especially on days I didn’t want to get moving). Everyone starts at different levels so talk to a fitness professional to see what intensity level is going to start you on a path to success.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic: what motivates you?

There are a couple of ways to classify what motivates you to participate in exercise. If you’re extrinsically motivated that means you’re exercising because of an external goal. You may be hoping to lose weight, participate in an athletic event etc. When you experience intrinsic motivation you’re exercising for the enjoyment of the experience.

When I first started I was extrinsically motivated to lose weight and regain my health. But I found that was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster because a lot of my exercise was driven by fear. I was afraid of exercise not helping to combat my illness, gaining more weight, developing Type II Diabetes (I was on the brink); the list could honestly go on. These anxieties took the fun out of being active so I felt under pressure to always have a stellar session or guilty if I worked late and didn’t get to the gym.

It’s really easy to fall into this trap so cut yourself some slack, being as active as you can is better than sitting on the couch. It wasn’t until I found the activities I really enjoyed participating in that I noticed a shift in my motivation. I looked forward to going so I didn’t have to drag my butt to the gym. This helped me to stick to a consistent routine so now I actually need exercise in my life. It’s not anxiety or guilt tugging at me, my body just really needs to get up and move.

Squad Goals

But even with all the positive self-motivation you can muster sometimes relapsing back into inactivity can happen. Don’t get discouraged; life happens just get up and try again. One of the best ways to keep from relapsing though is to have the support of your friends and family.

Group classes or activities are a great way to hold yourself accountable for your health. You have people right beside you to support you through the exercise and you can even make plans to be workout partners during the program. I’m personally working on taking more group classes to make sure I don’t get bored with my own routine.

I was too nervous to attend a group setting in the beginning so I just decided to work with one of my closest friends. We didn’t live in the same area so we couldn’t work out together but instead we would exchange workouts, talk about our goals, and what issues we were encountering. This helped me because when I had a tough session my friend was there to keep me going. So if you have someone who has the same interest in health (whether near or far) ask them to get on board with your health progress!

LaurenandMe

My friend Lauren kept me motivated all the way from Arizona. One of my many friends supporting my efforts 🙂

I was very lucky to have such supportive friends and family. I actually sat down with those closest to me and explained that getting healthy was crucial to my happiness. I told them how important it was to have their support as I tried new activities or for them to be flexible with the restaurants we went to so I could have healthy meals. The biggest thing is to speak up. Once those who love you know how important this is to you, you might be surprised how quickly they’ll help out.

 

momandme

My mom was my biggest supporter at the start of this journey and still is today!


No Photos Please: why I entered an amateur modeling contest

I’ve been apprehensive about writing a body positivity post because I’m not an expert. In fact, I’m a young woman still trying to find her own sense of what it means to be confident about her own body. I have mixed feelings about what beauty and body positivity actually mean. So I thought the best thing to do was to share my journey up to this point.

The heavy chick that loves Harry Potter

Up until the last year or so I’ve known my “label” in society. I was the heavy girl who participated in activities but never said much: forever keeping my nose in a book (mostly Harry Potter) out of concern about being noticed too much. It’s not to say I wasn’t social, I definitely was but in a much less confident way. To me, social gatherings meant photographs; whether it was pre-game photos with the girls before a night out in college, a team photo at a sporting event or just a friend wanting to take a selfie. Cameras were everywhere and internally I wanted to hide.

Dress-up is only for dolls

I conveyed a false confidence but secretly dreaded getting dressed up because being “plus-sized” meant limited clothing choices. This is partially because although I was heavy I’ve never been curvy so most clothes I liked in my measly section of the store weren’t made to fit my body. Plus I’ll be honest some of the designs they put on clothes sizes 14 and up can just be heinous and ghastly. I can’t tell you how many times I threw something back on the rack in disgust thinking, “Who in the hell picked this pattern?!”

I honestly said to my mom after a particularly frustrating shopping trip, “I feel like designers are taking left over scraps of crappy patterns, stitching them together in the dark and then putting them on the rack to be sold to girls like me.” In other words, I felt like the fashion industry didn’t give a crap about my self-expression because I wasn’t in the straight-sized category.

Dad advice

By reading this you may be thinking, “wow this girl is insecure.” When it came to my own body image I absolutely was but not when it came to other things. I grew up in a household where hard work and your smarts were paramount. So in the grand scheme of things focusing on being beautiful wasn’t made a priority.

I remember when I was younger and got my heart broken for the first time because a guy chose the girl that was “thinner and prettier” by societies standards. My Dad told me something I didn’t realize was going to be very important for me in my life. He said, “You don’t need someone to complete you. You’re already a smart, independent, driven young woman – go after what you want and the rest will follow.” He was right and YES I’m actually admitting that Dad. So as I got older I shifted my focus to what made me happy which was building my career and entering into those situations with confidence. But instead of conquering my issues with body image I buried them.

Don’t give someone a compliment by putting yourself down

When I went through a health crisis that meant it was necessary for me to lose a large amount of weight so all those body image issues were brought to the surface for the first time. It was a real battle to find my footing as I shed pound after pound through healthy eating and exercise. In one way I felt positive about the direction of my health but my body wasn’t the same. Where did I fit in? What was my label?

Now at a size 10-12 (depending on the brand) I was seeing a stark difference in the way society looked at me. Now I get compliments on an outfit or told how pretty I look or how muscular my legs are. It’s unsettling to hear things like that to me but I’m learning that taking compliments is a crucial part of body positivity. But I’ve noticed that a compliment I’m given is often times followed by that person saying something negative about his or her own body. Please remember your words are powerful. What you say about yourself is what you start to believe so be kind.

Show me your best Blue Steel pose

Realizing my need to build body confidence I began searching for ways to show myself I could be comfortable in my own skin. That’s when I saw an ad for an amateur model competition for women who were sizes 10 and up. Having my picture taken was always my worst nightmare so why not take that fear head on? I reached out to my friend Caitlin to help me with this new venture. So armed with only a camera, zero experience, and Caitlin’s knowledge from watching America’s Next Top Model we headed to a park. I had done my hair and make-up to the best of my ability and put on my favorite dress and we just started snapping pictures.

Honestly, Caitlin and I had a blast! I’ve never had more fun taking photos where I’m in the spotlight. I was so grateful that she made this experience relaxing for me. We were just two friends goofing around with a camera without worrying about how professional or beautiful the photos looked. That’s when I realized I could have done this even when I was 60 pounds heavier. I didn’t need to wait to be thinner to enjoy an experience like this with one of my best friends.

No labels needed

After that I was excited to submit my photos to the contest. It doesn’t matter if I hear back or not because that’s not the point. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know what “label” I’m supposed to fall under because I don’t want to be categorized. I finally did something good for my body that didn’t involve excelling at a sport or exercise. It was just simply getting to stand there in a favorite outfit and smile from ear to ear because I felt confident in my own skin.

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HPSelfie

And in case you were wondering yes I’m still a Harry Potter nerd! That’ll never change 🙂


Milestone: Running your first road race

It’s just not my thing

“I’m just not a runner. I could never do that.” That’s what I would say to anyone who suggested I try competing in a road race or run to keep in shape for other sports. Don’t get me wrong, as an athlete from the time I was a kid and through college I did my fair share of sprints and off-season training. But running was always introduced to me as a punishment for letting the ball drop in volleyball or missing a free throw in basketball. It was a negative connotation that made me view distance running as an unattainable sport only meant for those people who had a slim build and were “naturally fast.”

Negative connotation

Although my negativity towards running kept me from truly understanding the sport, it was the idea that it was impossible that led me to running my first 5K. I was always a kid who had more power and strength than speed and agility. So most people who pushed running on me did it because “I needed to lose weight” or I was “too slow.” But during my recent weight loss journey I learned that my body could be pushed to amazing limits and achieve success. This is when I learned that distance running for your health isn’t about speed, it’s about what my body was already designed to do: use my natural power and strength to persevere.

This revelation allowed me to set the goal of training to finish my first 5K. This was something I would never have been confident or brave enough to try so I knew crossing the finish line would help to crush any nagging self-doubts.

Sweat equity

At this time I was recovering from an illness and had not been able to exercise for months. That meant I had very little stamina and strength. So I started small. All I did was walk. That’s right, I built up to power walking 3 miles. From there I began to incorporate strength training to help my body build up my muscles. Soon I was doing 10 rounds of a combination of one minute of walking, and 30 seconds each of jogging and running for a total of 30 minutes. Gradually the amount of walking decreased until I was able to run the whole time.

Hitting that goal meant that I could switch my focus to pushing my body to reach the 5K distance. I think the most important aspect of this training is that I never worried about the time. It was about finishing the full 3.1 and improving my health. The finish line would still be there whether I came in first or last.

Runners ready

On race day, it was bitterly cold but I don’t even remember shivering because I was so excited that all my hard work had led me to the starting line. As I ran through the course I felt: strong, not tired, my breath easy, not labored, and I was actually smiling as I rounded the corner near the finish line. I had accomplished something I had told myself (and let others convince me) that I could NEVER do because I just wasn’t “built for running.” I’ve never felt more empowered than I did in that moment.

Where do I go from here?

It took me about a year to really regain my strength and be race ready. Before you get completely discouraged, that is not how long it will take everyone! Each person is at a different level of fitness, which will dictate how long it could take to train.

If running intimidates you like it did for me, then reach out for help. Check out if there are local running groups that help people go from 0 to 5K or make it a goal with a personal trainer. Or if it’s something you want to do on your own – try an app that guides you or see if your gym has a free training worksheet you can follow. I’m actually using one of those free worksheets to keep me on track for my next milestone: a 10K.

Always remember your body can accomplish amazing things when you have the self-confidence and the drive to go after what seems like an unattainable goal.

5KShirt

5K finisher t-shirt

Grotto Treasure

If you want to learn more about getting started in athletics check out a little literary treasure in The Grotto.

“Big Fit Girl” by Louise Green