Who needs to feel their toes, anyway?

It was a late season decision to finish up with a late season race.  Beach to Battleship 70.3 was my first half-ironman distance race last, ever, last year.  I wanted to go back to the same course and see what I could do.  This year, Justin wasn’t able to join me because of his ship’s schedule and his duty schedule so I solicited the services of my good friend, Renee High, to fill Justin’s race sherpa shoes.  As a professional athlete and dear companion, I knew I could trust Renee to take good care of me before, during and after the race… and she did NOT disappoint. 🙂

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Here we are, ready to roll, for our girls’/race weekend!

On Friday, the day before the race, I took my bike for a test spin prior to checking it in to T1.  The test spin did not go well.  My back tire shifted after only a few pedal strokes so that it was entirely jammed up against my bike frame.  I got off, readjusted the back wheel and tightened it, tried again, same result.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  I should have immediately gone to the bike mechanic at T1 but, instead, I called my coach in a panic and fought back tears while he told me to go see the bike mechanic at T1.  haha.  So, I went to see the bike mechanic at T1! 🙂  He immediately recognized the problem, said that the spacer screws had shifted.  That was distressing since they had just been readjusted after Vegas 70.3 and before that after Nationals.  Anyway, it was super nerve wracking and it took a lot of effort to calm down after that.

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Renee, ever the optimist, assured me that my bike was A-OK and that I need to pose with some ‘tude in front of T1.

Race morning was CHILLY!  I spent a lot of time Friday night thinking about my clothing for the bike.  It was going to be in the 30’s early on race morning and I estimated it would be in the mid 40’s by the time I got on the bike.  I decided to dry off well after the swim and then add a vest, arm warmers and gloves with the finger tips cut off.  First, though, I had to make it to the bike!  The swim start was frigid.  We had to be bussed there and spectators were not able to come out that way until they walked or biked.  Much to my surprise and absolute joy, my friend and riding buddy, Bill, showed up near the swim start with his car (heated seats and all)!  He invited us to warm ourselves for the more-than-an-hour prior to the race start in his vehicle.  Image

<3!  Thank you, Bill!  My buddy, Tom, and I took full advantage of the lovely heated seats! 🙂 I’m still donning my trash bag and fleece in this pic!

Last year’s Beach to Battleship participants enjoyed a rockin’ current.  I mean, I friggin’ flew through the swim with terrible technique and a small bit of panic.  This year, I was terribly grateful for the improved technique because there was only a bit of a current, primarily a slack tide.  I felt confident throughout the swim and I sensed that I was toward the front of the most massive part of my wave, which is a big step up for me.  Thankful for the hard work of my swim coach, Juliet!  Finally got my sub-40! Toward the end of my swim I noticed that my toes were almost entirely numb.  I tried to wiggle them to get back some sensation but it was futile.  There was a long run from the swim exit to T1 and the timing mat was somewhere near the T1 entrance rather than the water exit so I’m not sure of my exact swim time but my split reads somewhere around 36 minutes.  I didn’t wear my garmin for the swim so… the world may never know.  Also, the splits were off because of a failure within the athlete tracking system so I’m not really sure of my exact splits but I know my T1 was a bit long because I made such an effort to dry off and put on all of the layers.

My clothing for the bike worked out perfectly.  The only discomfort I experienced was in my numb feet.  I accidentally pulled my shoe strap out of the loop when I was trying to fumble my numb tootsies into my shoes so I had to stop for about 15 seconds and thread it back through os that was annoying but I think I fixed it rather quickly.  The toe covers on my bike shoes weren’t quite enough but there was nothing to be done.  I also started to feel a bit uncomfortable on my saddle toward the end of the bike leg, which has been the norm for me lately so I’ll be going in for a bike refit soon.  There was a headwind building up as I headed out on the bike.  It wasn’t too bad early on but it seemed to pick up the longer I was on the bike.  It was a struggle to maintain more than 20mph.  It was discouraging because I did so much better on the bike last year but I reminded myself that the conditions were very different from last year’s race and that I had no idea where I was placement wise compared to the other women.  I shook it off and I focused on getting in my nutrition.  I knew I would need to be ready for the run.  The last 20 or so miles, there was a lovely tailwind and I cooked along at about 23-24 mph but it just wasn’t enough to make up for more than 30 slower miles.

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I got out on the run and I just KNEW.  I felt great; great enough to give a big smile and a “hang loose” to Renee when I passed her near the end of the first mile.

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Feeling good as I headed out for the majority of the run!  Great job with the photos, Renee!

My watch was a little off because I wasn’t sure exactly where the transition matts were and I was sort of randomly switching through my multi-sport settings.  Also, T2 required running through the convention center and going indoors had my garmin grasping for a signal.  I wasn’t entirely sure of my splits but I knew I was running sub-8s and felt strong.  I wanted to pick it up some but I knew I still had a long way to go and a lot of miles on my legs so I decided to just hold a steady pace.  Out on the run course I had the pleasure of passing by several other Virginia Beach athletes.  Fellow Final Kick Tri Club member, Joel, took 3rd place over all and I snagged a high-five from him on my way out and his way in.  I also passed our friend Scott who placed in his age group, as well.  I was along for most of the run, though, and was super excited when Bill and his friend showed up, again, on his bike to offer some encouragement!  They looped back to me a few times and I really enjoyed it!  I ran past Tom and we high-fived, though I was tired at that point and it was the sloppiest and most painful high five I’ve ever given anyone.  I can only hope that it wasn’t so uncomfortable for him! lol  Only a few miles away from the finish line and I knew I was going to PR, even if it was a close call.  I actually had to reign in my emotions because I was so thrilled to have finally held it together for such a solid run that I was beginning to cry.

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This picture shows the scrunched up face I had crossing the finish line.  I had to assure the gentleman volunteer that I was actually just emotional and not in need of medical attention. haha

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An accomplished smile!  No, not as fast as I had wanted but quite fast for the conditions and a true reflection of my training!

I was just over the moon.  After the rough season I’ve had, this was a fantastic finish.  I was 18th overall female last year and this year I finished 9th overall female.  I also moved up from 3rd place in my AG to 2nd place.  I’d love to say I’m going back next year for this late season fun, but since I don’t know where I’ll be or for whom I’ll be working this time next year, that decision cannot be made just yet.  We’ll just see how it all plays out but I’d love to go back!

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At the awards ceremony with my race support crew! Btw, She happened to have a fan-freaking-tastic 16 mile run that morning.

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On the podium, 2nd in Age Group for the 30-34 women.

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Another pose for my race support/sherpa/photographer!

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And, as my Coach Dai says, what a difference a year makes!  Cheers, folks!  I’m off to fatten up a bit (at least for the next week) before commencing my winter training.

ADDENDUM

Official results were just updated.  Looks like I was 7th overall and my splits have been corrected!  http://setupevents.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=event_results&id=3892

Winter Cycling: How To Keep Your Hands Warm

This is some great info! I’m looking at my second winter if cycling, ever, so I’ll take all of the tips I can get.

All Seasons Cyclist

Note: This is the fifth installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I hope to have the entire series finished by November and then publish it as a free PDF book that you can download from this website (the working title is, “A Guide To Winter Cycling”).

One of the hardest pieces of winter gear to find is the right pair of cycling gloves. Some cyclists try to use gloves that were designed for hunting or skiing, but most of the time they are disappointed—those gloves are insulated to keep your hands warm, but they are usually not windproof and as soon as your hands start to sweat the inside of the gloves turns to ice. I own more than twenty pair of full finger cycling gloves and in this article I want to highlight my favorite gloves for fall and winter cycling. I have included the…

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Eat to Train, Train to Eat?

I’ve spent the last year working on improving my nutrition, not just to be a better triathlete but to be healthier in general.  I know how to eat well for a relatively active individual.  I know how to eat to not gain weight.  Apparently, what I did NOT know was how to eat to fuel multi-sport training.  I knew I was missing something but I just couldn’t figure out what I was missing and it seemed to be getting harder and harder to make the right choices.  SO… I went to see Jim White of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios.  When I met with Jim, one of the first questions he asked me was what was more important to me “performance or physique?”  I’m happy to say that I responded, without hesitation, “performance.”  I told him that I wanted to lose body fat but only if that resulted in improved performance.  He said he could help me and a few days later, I had a nutrition plan.

I was both excited and nervous to receive my nutrition plan.  I was a bit nervous about being told what I could and could not eat.  Any picky eater would understand my fear. haha.  It didn’t turn out to be as bad (strict) as I had imagined.  Jim worked with my preferences and gave me several options for each meal/snack.  It actually made meal planning MUCH easier.  A few weeks after my visit with Jim, Justin went to see him as well.  What we were both surprised to learn was that we had been under-eating.  Well, I don’t think either of us were surprised that Justin was under-eating because he was WAY under-eating, but I was rather surprised to learn that I needed to eat more.

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My first dinner on the nutrition plan, a bowl of homemade vegetable soup, some chicken and a freaking TON of quinoa!  I had no idea I was supposed to be eating that much carbohydrate.

In addition to needing to eat more, I needed to eat things that I wasn’t all that crazy about.  It turns out I was getting virtually no protein compared to what I need.  I told Jim I would give chicken a try.  I don’t like chicken.  I know that’s weird… I mean, who doesn’t like chicken?  Well, I don’t.  Or so I thought.  I have jumped in with both feet and have tried (and liked!) five different chicken recipes!  Justin has be very helpful in finding and creating these chicken concoctions that taste as little like chicken as possible.  I also have the option of eating tofu, lean red meat or fish but chicken just seems the easiest to make and reheat, etc.  Anyway, I’m always telling my patients to try new things to stay healthy and fit so this was an opportunity to practice what I preach!  In addition to chicken, I’ve also tried different grains (it turns out that I do NOT like farro) and I’ve begun drinking Kombucha, a fermented tea, in an effort to reduce my afternoon coffee cravings.  Jim told me Kombucha was an acquired taste… so I’ve set about acquiring it.

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This was my first experience with Kombucha.  It was lavendar-flavored and quite good, though it has a very odd kick to it.

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Enjoying some Kombucha during a rainy day of work-related writing.  This was a “green” flavor that included forms of sea weed.  Very healthy.  Not very tasty in my opinion. haha.  I probably won’t be purchasing any more of this flavor.

While I was excited to hear a dietician and fitness expert tell me I could eat more (I mean, I LOVE eating), it was still kind of difficult to wrap my mind around how much food I am supposed to be consuming.  Having spent most of my adult life worrying about my weight and the contours of my body, it can be a bit scary to start loading up a plate.  I had to check in with Jim a few times for reassurance, especially on days when I felt especially hungry.  He encouraged me to tune into my body so that I could make intuitive decisions about when to eat more and when to back off.  He told me to look at my success in workouts as a gauge of the accuracy of my nutrition.

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Enjoying a post-four-hour ride refuel with french press coffee and whole wheat banana chocolate chip pancakes.  I actually felt pretty good about diving into these because my ride had gone really well, despite windy and rainy conditions.  I was pretty confident that this was a consequence of my eating the day before and the morning of the workout.  I had consumed rather healthy portions of… everything and it paid off so… cheers!  Btw, these pancakes were SO GOOD that they did not need ANY syrup. 

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A few weeks into my nutrition plan, I PR’d a half marathon at the end of a hard week.  I ran a 1:40 and some change in some unexpectedly hot/humid conditions on tired legs.  My previous PR was a 1:49:40 (from approximately 2 years ago – hadn’t run a half since then).  My energy level was much higher than usual at the end of such a tough week; the increased carbohydrate and protein intake was already starting to pay off.

Now it’s just two weeks until my last triathlon of the season.  Last week was my final hard week and I’m wrapping up a medium week this weekend before heading into taper.  I already have a follow-up appointment scheduled with Jim White a little over a week after my race.  I wanted to give myself time to relax and NOT think about nutrition or training, etc so immediately after was just a bit too soon. 😀  Anywho, I’m looking forward to making a plan for my nutrition and training through the winter season.  In preparation, we’ve made a few purchases.

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I’ve been using a less than stellar, cheap-o magnetic trainer for the last year.  Don’t get me wrong… it works.  However, it isn’t ideal and it basically sounds like there is a plane taking off in our living room the entire time I’m using it and my husband and furr-kid are less than thrilled with this.  CycleOps Power makes FANTASTIC trainers and I was very excited to see my new trainer kit (including climbing blocks) sitting at my front door!  Bring ooooon winter.

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Justin bought me a pair of photochromatic lenses so that I can begin my ride with glasses on, even if it’s dark, and they will provide UV protection as my ride progresses and the sun comes up!  When they came in the mail, I was so happy that I told Justin I would wear them on my next long ride, even if the rain didn’t let up and I had to ride the trainer.  Well, I wore my photochromatic lenses! haha

As I said, only a few weeks away from my last race of the season!  I’m looking forward to racing and I’m definitely looking forward to recovering. 🙂  Happy training, everyone!  How do you manage your nutrition?  How do you know you’re eating enough?  Anybody else ever consult with a professional regarding nutrition?

The Myth of the Perfect Body and Lies We’ve All Been Told

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to teach 15 girls about the importance of healthy habits, including healthy eating.  First of all, let me tell you that the other Girls on the Run coaches are all moms and/or teachers and they make it look incredible easy to instruct more than a dozen children when it REALLY is NOT easy! Herding cats, I tell you!  Anyway, when the girls were asked to talk about some of their healthy habits, I was surprised to hear many of them talk about restrictive eating… “do not eat a lot of chips, do not eat a lot of sweets…” One girl even said that she made up for “eating a lot of sweets one day by eating mostly vegetables the next day.”  Girls on the run teaches the importance of moderation for fats, oils, etc, but these girls already know more about how they should NOT eat than how they OUGHT to eat to be healthy women.  And that is exactly the kind of relationship I had with food when I was fourteen years old and began starving myself.

It didn’t last for too long… maybe a year, if that.  My parents figured out that I hadn’t been eating when I bought them outrageously nice Christmas gifts; my only “income” at that point was the money they gave me for lunch and it had clearly been spent elsewhere.  After that, my mom tried to enforce my participation in dinner but my parents really couldn’t control how much or how little I ate when I was at school.  I looked at the girls who were popular, who had boyfriends or guys who wanted to be their boyfriends, and they had a lot of things I didn’t but one thing they had that I could, too, was a thin body.  So that’s what I set out to achieve.  I was so malnourished that my body even began to develop a fine downy hair, called lanugo, which is normally found on a newborn baby to help keep the infant warm.  Lanugo also develops on severely underfed individuals, frequently anorexia patients, because they lack the necessary body fat to maintain warmth.  My boyfriend at the time had his hand on my back one day when my shirt had come up some (this was long before the era of tunic blouses, mind you) and commented that my back was hairy.  I was mortified… but had no idea at the time that I had caused the hair to grow by refusing to properly nourish my body.  Finally, one evening before I left to watch a high school basketball game, my little sister came up to give me a preemptive goodnight hug, and I came to a turning point.  She wrapped her arms around my waist and said “Oh, Courtney, you’re so skinny!”  That’s why I knew I was doing something wrong.  I knew I had to start eating, again, and stop setting such a terrible example for my little sister.  Thank God I love that little brat so much.  I had been of the mindset that being feminine was being wispy and light… even weak.  But that is not what I wanted for my sister.  She probably saved my life.

Somehow, I just sort of drifted away from the self-deprivation strategy.  I began to eat more and I compensated by working out.  I found that I could eat comfortably and not gain weight if I were physically active on a regular basis.  I joined the cross country team, which I had been a part of in junior high, and I also participated in track and softball.  I put on some weight but I was okay with it.  I was still self-conscious and monitored my body very closely but I felt no desire to starve myself.  Then, my freshman year of college, I gained a lot of weight when I laid in bed for nearly two months with mono (yea yeah, the kissing disease… I was a college freshman, what do you expect?).  I was in the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) on scholarship at the time when the Marine Officer Instructor informed me that “You are fat.  You are an embarrassment to your uniform.  Lose weight.”  Now, I certainly was out of shape and bordering on overweight but a simple “You really need to get into fightin’ shape” would have sufficed.  My restrictive pattern of eating began all over, again, though not with the same rigor as my efforts in high school.  Instead, I supplemented with exercise this time and began running to and from all of my classes with a book bag packed with my heaviest text books.  I lost the weight and started keeping up better on our weekly group runs.  I was praised for my efforts.

In 2010, I began more goal-oriented running and no longer looked at the activity as simply a means of staying in shape.  Since I was running more often and with purpose, food began to take on a different role.  I needed to be strategically fueled for my workouts, but there was still an element of food-as-reward that led to “earning” treats.  This isn’t a horrible strategy for weight maintenance but when I became injured in 2011 and was unable to run consistently, I put on weight and became very restrictive during my efforts to get back down to my pre-injury size.  In fact, I broke down in tears when my then fiance gave me an Easter basket with candy because I had just discovered that I had a fractured heel and couldn’t run for three months – the candy, I said, would only serve to make me fat. *sigh*

But then came cycling.  After months of pool running and using the elliptical, I begged my coach for a way to get outside and get in my workouts.  Dai loaned me a crossbike and… I fell in love.  The rest, really, is the history of my nascent triathlon career.  What is most astounding to me, though, is that triathlon totally transformed my relationship with food.  Within the last year and some change, I’ve finally begun to focus more on what fuels my body NEEDS.  Suddenly, I was thinking less about what I “shouldn’t” eat and more about what I “should” eat.  And another thing… I started putting on more muscle.  You know what?  Strong abs are NOT flat abs.  My body changed drastically when I began Crossfit last winter, SO much so that I did not even understand the changes.  “Flat abs” and “Flat stomach” are all over the media.  Those words are highlighted in women’s magazines and they float across the advertisements at the side of my Facebook page but when my I started to get stronger, my abs did NOT flatten out.  In fact, they became lumpy in places… because they were becoming more muscular.  This was so new and confusing to me that I HONESTLY thought I had matching hernias on either side of my lower abdomen/groin area.  It wasn’t until I saw another female Crossfitter sporting some low-waisted shorts that I realized I was just developing muscles I’d never really used before…  I literally almost made a doctors appointment because I was so clueless about what a strong female body actually looks like.

More and more, I’m finding that my experiences are not unique.  And the most frustrating part is that there really isn’t an ideal body!  Depending on the sport in which you participate, there might be an expected body, a supposed ideal… AAaaand women are told contradictory things.  “You should be skinny, skinny is attractive.”  “You should have large breasts.  Large breasts are attractive.”  Ummmm… I do realize there are some exceptions but… breasts are fat and, generally, the stronger and leaner you get the less of them you have!  We need to start paving a new road for young women and girls who don’t yet know better.  Let’s give voices to our struggles and let’s call out the myths about having the perfect body.  Let’s focus on what makes us strong and healthy and UNIQUE!  I’ve asked some of the most amazing women I know to share their experiences with body image, athletics and life.  They all come from different backgrounds and they all participate in different sports with different ideas of the “perfect” body type.  They are brave and strong in their openness and honesty.

RACHEL

Rachel is a professional triathlete.  She and her husband specialize in long-course triathlon and both are on the Zoot Ultra Team for multisport athletes.  I’ve only known Rachel a short while but she is full of life and determination.  Below, she is pictured before running her first 5k, finishing her first Ironman, and competing in her first race as a professional triathlete.  You can learn more about Rachel and her husband and their sponsors by visiting their blog, Team Jastrebsky.

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Growing up, I was always little, which may make the reader wonder why I would be writing a bit about body image. I was really little though, scrawny little. I was teased for being so scrawny. I remember eating a butterfinger after every cross country practice and still nothing. Once I hit junior year in high school and developed certain assets, all of a sudden the boys that had teased me were talking to me. Throughout high school I was never very sensitive about my weight, but then again I didn’t care much about appearance overall. I wore somewhat baggy clothes, never matched and didn’t even learn how to put makeup on until I was 18. I didn’t really follow trends and was terrible at “accessorizing.” It wasn’t until college that I started to worry about my appearance. I started to notice things. For example I became sensitive about my muscular legs, something I had been super proud of in high school. I felt like I was too muscular, which now seems ridiculous. I didn’t want to be labeled as “butch.” Once I started to become more competitive in triathlon, I realized that it didn’t really matter what my body looked like, but it did matter if it could help me accomplish my goals. It became more a matter of what my body could do rather than what it looked like. Recently I’ve noticed a sort of movement towards fitness rather than starving. I love these signs of strong women going around that say “strong is the new skinny.” We are moving towards a society that accepts strong, fit women as more attractive than the starving models. I now understand that those muscular legs that I was sensitive about, are carrying me towards accomplishing my goals.

DAWN

Dawn currently owns and operates her own Crossfit gym in Virginia Beach.  While working enthusiastically with the Crossfit community, she is also pursuing personal goals in running and recently completed her very first ultra marathon.  She is pictured below at the point when she consciously decided to make changes to her body, during her peak in fitness competitions, and in a more current photo representing who she is, today.  You can learn more about Dawn’s Crossfit training by visiting the Crossfit Unparalleled website.

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I’ve done it for so many years that it seems second nature. I’ve called myself an ex-fat girl, and I AM in fact an ex-fat girl. It’s a label and persona I’ve given myself that I realized has done two things for me. It has served as a badge of honor and it has acted as a really sneaky excuse of sorts and a “security blanket” at times. The badge of honor part has always been apparent. I went from someone with no real confidence that was scared of everything…to a woman that still gets scared but knows I can face any challenge. I went from overweight and UNFIT; trapped in a body I hated…to a person that is fit and can be proud to walk down any beach in a bikini. As for the other part…well it’s the part that not many people see; the part that is hidden by confidence that is sometimes real and sometimes fake. It is the sneaky part that lives in my head and takes up space that could be better used. It’s the part that still sees woman in magazines or in physique or fitness competitions who have the “perfect” body, and then sees myself as that same ‘fat girl’ in the mirror. You see, I realized that as long as I keep thinking of myself as an ex-fat girl…it gives me an excuse to settle…because ANYTHING is better than where I was right? WRONG. It’s been 5 YEARS since I started that journey and honestly, I don’t know why I keep that girl in my head and heart. ”She” does nothing but bring me down and make me see things in the mirror that are not there! “She” makes me afraid and “she” allows me to settle and/or do things that are against what I know to be healthy in order to prevent becoming that “Ex-Fat Girl” again. I don’t like that. I know that I have allowed the media and my insecurities to cause this battle I’ve had within myself. I WILL conquer this, as it has no place in me and I want all of the women who read this to know this is a battle no one should have… don’t allow it!

It’s like climbing a mountain. You want to look up and focus your energy on rising rather than constantly looking back at the ground below. There’s a reason that when you are high up, they tell you not to look down. It scares you and makes you start thinking about “what ifs” rather than taking it one foot upward at a time. I don’t think this is any different. I’m afraid that I have lowered my expectations in some ways and been too hard on myself in others. Sounds confusing, right? You should live it. It’s time to tighten the harness and look UP. It’s time to let go of the past and all the hurts and disappointments that got me fat in the first place. It’s time to fight for even better and believe that I deserve it it. I think of my ex-fat girl as a “nearly 70lb weight” pulling me down slowly…making it harder for me to continue to progress and be truly happy and strong. This is essentially that weight tied to me by rope. There’s no one to cut the rope but me and it’s time to find a knife.

Don’t drag old things with you. Let go of past hurt…of the old you…and move forward with greater ease. Allow yourself to reach new goals and stop letting those things be a silent excuse to be less than you want to be. Look up, not down and allow yourself to be strong.

Even more so, don’t let the media ruin the beautiful way you see yourself both inside and out! Healthy, fit, strong and beautiful bodies are not what you see in magazines! They are not the bodies of women in the fitness contests necessarily either, as they often have been on crazy unsustainable diets to get them stage ready, and they are usually not eating the type of diet someone could sustain on a daily (lifestyle) basis. The negative type of ‘self talk’ or negative ‘self portrait’ saps your energy and drains you of you true strength.

Embrace the beauty of what eating a healthy diet and leading an active lifestyle brings you. Many of us who started our journey to be healthy, fit, and stronger have come to realize the image we had in our mind of how we would look is not like that of the a cover model. Yet, we are lean, strong, and beautiful. This is the image we should all embrace and love … true beauty.

RENEE

Renee is a local celebrity in Virginia Beach as she is one of the top local female runners.  Only a few years ago, I could be said to have a “girl crush” on Renee.  I had only briefly met her out on our local trails but I was in awe of her and her talent as a runner.  She and I have since become close friends and I now respect her and stand in awe more than ever.  She is pictured below winning the Disney Marathon (which has won the last two years in a row), cuddling one of her pups, being goofy with some of her closest girl pals, and smiling with the love of her life and best friend, Andy.  You can learn more about Renee, her training and her sponsors by visiting her blog, VB Runner Girl.

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I’ve had body image issues since I was really young. I can remember being around 10 years old and being told that I was scrawny. I remember being told I’d never have boobs. And I remember my grandparents calling my aunt fat and my mom overweight. So even at the age of 10 I knew being overweight was bad, not having boobs was bad, and that my 10 year old scrawny figure was not attractive either. I was constantly comparing myself to older women in fashion magazines and the tabloids and wishing I looked like them. So by the age of 10 I already didn’t like the way I looked. I had already learned to not like myself. As I grew, I became more and more unhappy with my figure. I wanted to be skinny and attractive. I didn’t like any part of myself (including hair, face, body, the whole package). I didn’t love myself.

When I entered high school I decided I wanted to take charge of my figure and I tried to make myself skinnier. I kept looking at myself thinking I was fat. I began starving myself. I would go through these binging and purging episodes. I don’t think I ever lost weight but I do remember it made my eyes look sunken in and made the circles under my eyes darker. My mother found out about my binging and purging and tried to help me through it. She would watch me eat. None of this really helped my body image issues and my unhappiness with my body was still there. I had been interested in running since I was 10 and I decided to really throw myself into running. I joined the cross country and track team. I quickly found out that I had some talent when it came to running and I was addicted.

I loved running because it made my body feel strong. I liked feeling strong and healthy. Running was my way of being strong and healthy. I knew that because of running I’d take care of myself and stay healthy. Running has kept me healthy. Running has taught me to live a healthy active lifestyle. Through running…I learned that I was likeable if not loveable. Running and my problems with food has helped shaped my career choices as well. Because of these issues I’ve become very interested in sports nutrition and the wellness of women. It will continue helping me down the path toward my future goals. I’m not saying that today I look at myself and I love what I see. There are times I still struggle with the image in the mirror. But what I’ve learned after 32 years is to love myself and to be kind to myself. I’ve learned to love who I am and to embrace every part of me. And I’m good with that.

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Did these women speak to you?  Please, don’t be silent about your struggles.  Let’s get this out in the open.  Let’s dispel these myths and work together to set a strong and healthy example for the next generation!