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A time for reinvention

imm-blake-boldon

Use the new year as a way to reach your deeper potential.

Blog by Blake [Race guru, runner, motivator, coach]

Over the next few days, many of us will go through a familiar ritual: making a list of resolutions for the upcoming year.

While it might seem cliched, it’s also exciting. Every new year offers the opportunity to reinvent yourself.

In the fitness sense, the possibilities for reinvention are endless. You can become a seasoned triathlete or a long-distance cyclist. You can evolve from a first-time yogi into a seasoned practitioner or become a certified yoga or Pilates instructor. You can hike a mountain or trail or lose that extra 15 pounds.

And you can run a race -- like a marathon, half-marathon or 5K. In my role with the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, I’ve had the privilege of seeing many people through this kind of new year reinvention.

For the first time last year, the Monumental offered a discount for people who signed up for the race on January 1 and 2. I remember checking a few minutes into the new year to make sure the registration process was proceeding smoothly and feeling my heart beat a little faster when I saw people signing up at midnight. It inspired me even more to watch them prepare for the race in the year that ensued.

Hundreds of participants shared about their training journeys on the Monumental’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and through their personal blogs. Our staff received emails from people participating in the race for the first time. And I had the opportunity to meet some of the thousands of finishers as they crossed the finish line.

To me running is a particularly special way to remake yourself in the new year, partly because it’s possible to achieve something remarkable in a relatively short period of time. I’ve met Monumental participants who have lumbered through their first 5K one year and a mere two years later have completed the full 26.2 miles.

Even for seasoned racers, there’s always the possibility to push yourself a little harder, to shave seconds off your time, and to experience the joy of running a race in a new way.

I’ve made it my own personal goal to finish the Boston Marathon in 2014. I’m already excited to think about the experience of participating, but I’m also invigorated by the process of self-improvement that it takes to prepare for the event.

So for anyone considering a fitness goal for 2014, make it your mission to find something that challenges and stretches you to become a better version of yourself -- and to see yourself through to completing that goal.

That’s the power of reinvention -- and the beauty of a New Year’s resolution.

Blake Boldon is the executive director of the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon and a former competitive runner and collegiate running coach.  He lives in Downtown Indianapolis.  


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My journey toward self-acceptance

Glenna Nall

I used to overexercise to feel in control. Now I use exercise to tap into my deepest self.

Blog by Glenna [Invoke Pilates/yoga instructor, runner, swimmer, rockstar]

Life is a journey, not a destination.

I’ve seen and heard this phrase many times. I never really paid attention to what it means until the last three years, when a transition from a traditional career to a full-time pursuit of my passion for Pilates and yoga led to a major identity struggle at has helped me tap into my true self.

In 2010, I got married, changed my last name and left my full-time job. I was working to finish my masters degree in Public Health while starting Pilates teacher training.  I thought I had everything under control.   I never knew how much all of those changes would shake my identity to the core.

All the change at once made me feel I needed to clamp down on one thing I thought I could control: my weight. I became obsessed with my physical appearance, my weight and diet restrictions.  In preparation for our wedding, I dropped nearly 30 pounds and several dress sizes. And as I shrank in size, I began to withdraw from friends and family situations -- often cancelling plans with friends if it meant I would miss a workout or be in a situation with tempting food.  I thought of my day only in terms of when and how I was going to exercise and when and what I was going to eat.  What had been a desire to lose weight for our wedding had turned into a full-blown obsession.

After two years of this struggle, I accepted that I was losing the battle with control of my weight.  I credit regular attendance to yoga classes with initiating my desire to change.  One of the main tenants of a yogic life is ahimsa, or non-harming.  I knew that with my extreme exercise habits and bulimia, I was harming my body.

I began to research signs and symptoms of eating disorders and found myself calling a treatment center in Indianapolis.  I made an appointment with a counselor and my primary care doctor.  I decided I wanted to be happy, and my current methods were failing.  I decided to tell my family and friends about my struggle.  I remember the tearful conversation with my husband -- the first honest conversation I had with someone in months.

My journey toward self-acceptance hasn’t been easy. I am still sometimes embarrassed to see friends and relatives, especially those who have not seen me in several months or years.   I know there are some people who doubt my ability to be a good pilates or yoga teacher because I am overweight. But I know that my issues have made me a more compassionate teacher, a trait that cannot be taught. That doesn’t mean I won’t challenge my clients to push to the limit, but it means I know when to push and when to let go.

Taking away the shroud of my eating disorder has made me rethink friendships, reset priorities, and change my relationship with the external world.  There are relationships that have been strained a little because I recognize trigger behaviors in some of my close friends, who are as competitive as I am.   I also still struggle with perfectionism, a common trait among people with eating disorders.  For example, I recently came home after a yoga class that left me feeling frustrated with my inability to do a certain pose.  Intellectually I recognize that being able to get into side crow or transition from crow to headstand has absolutely no bearing on my self-worth,  but I still felt like a failure.  The difference is that now I can reflect on those feelings rather than turning to food.

As I work through challenges, breakthroughs happen. I feel like I am able to be myself around more people and am finding new friendships that honor me.  I still love to exercise, but it doesn’t control or define me.

Making exercise part of my job has allowed me to to appreciate its power for good -- rather than the control it previously exerted over my life. Through my job teaching yoga and Pilates, I help people find a deeper connection to their body and mind.  I know I make them smile.

It has been a winding path so far, and I expect things will continue to change as I continue the journey through life. Now I know I can handle those changes -- and thrive.

Glenna Nall is a yoga (RYT-200) and comprehensively certified Pilates instructor who coordinates Invoke’s Pilates program. She also coaches swimming and is an avid runner and swimmer.  She lives in Downtown Indianapolis with her husband, Alex.  

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This post was originally proposed as a piece to describe how I changed careers, but  it became much more. I did not intend for this to be a story about my eating disorder, but without inclusion of that angle, this piece would have been a half truth.  If you or someone you know is struggling with disordered eating, I encourage you to contact a professional for help.  Resources can be found at http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/. Locally, I recommend contacting the The Charis Center for Eating Disorders at 317.295.0608.

 


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Learning to exercise sleep

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Morning workout, or morning rest? A really good question.

Blog by Francesca [Loveinvoke blogger-in-chief]

Here’s a conundrum that occurs at least once a month.

The alarm goes off at 6 a.m. I feel exhausted and hit snooze. Then I spend the next nine minutes until the alarm is sure to go off again debating the ever-important question: to work out, or get more rest?

Most mornings, I choose the former, driven by a type-A personality and the realization that I’ll feel better -- at least until 2 p.m. -- with some morning endorphins.

But some mornings, I give in to the exhaustion. Typically that happens when I’ve reached my breaking point and rest is virtually inevitable. Lately I’ve been grappling with the need to get a better monitor on my bodily energy gauge to avoid reaching that point. But how do you know when to back off and rest and when to soldier through?

It’s a common challenge among the morning workout contingent. After all, when an early-wired bodily clock bolts you out of bed, you want to make good use of it. And it’s hard to argue with the post-workout high that is equivalent to several cups of coffee and helps propel you through the morning.

But sometimes pushing through a workout when you’re overly tired can reap negative consequences for the rest of the day. For example:

  • You become tired by early afternoon and resort to nibbling on sugary snacks to get you through the work day.
  • Getting up early to work out becomes a chore, and you stop enjoying the experience of exercising.
  • You burn out of the morning workout routine altogether and find yourself on a workout hiatus.
  • Simply worn out, you hit a wall and are so exhausted that it’s hard to even be productive.

The latter happened to me this past week after a week of a few early workouts, a crazy work schedule, and some overall stress. By pushing myself past the breaking point, I found myself needing to catch up with two consecutive nights of 10 hours of sleep (I’m fortunate that I was able to do this).

This has happened to all of us. And it’s by no means a warning against exercising -- including early in the morning.

It a reminder, though, of the importance of one of the basic tenets of yoga that should be a guiding principle in all exercise: listen to your body. Sometimes “powering through” can be the perfect thing to do. But by ignoring messages your body is sending and running yourself ragged, you can do more harm than good.

So the next time your alarm goes off at 6 a.m., don’t engage your brain in thinking about what would be best for you. Instead, take a moment in your sleepy state to scan how you feel. And respond accordingly.

Jarosz is a former journalist who loves to write, practice/ teach yoga, run, and lead communications efforts for The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit. Follow her on Twitter @francescajarosz.


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Running for the long haul

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How yoga helped me tap into the deeper joy of running

Blog by Francesca [Loveinvoke blogger-in-chief]

I’m getting ready to start training for a few half-marathons this fall, so I’ve begun psyching myself up for going on runs that last more than 45 minutes.

I used to run decent distances -- seven to 10 miles on weekends -- pretty frequently almost year-round, but since I’ve gotten deeper into my yoga journey, I’ve traded long trips on the Monon for shorter jaunts in my neighborhood to allow myself time to get to my mat.

While I’ve cut the duration of my runs, I’ve grown dramatically in how much I enjoy them. And I have yoga to thank for that.

I’ve always cherished running time. When I’m running with other people, I enjoy great conversations and a sense of bonding over the shared experience and challenge.

On days I run by myself, I relish the opportunity to tune out the stresses of everyday life, the need to be “on” and to converse. I simply let my mind focus on whatever it grasps at the moment – whether that is imagining how the next five years of my life might unfold, contemplating the lyrics of a song on my playlist or just enjoying the feel of the pavement against the soles of my shoes.

It’s not exactly a meditation, but a basking in the state of the moment.

Through yoga I’ve strengthened my ability to tune out unpleasant or stressful thoughts and tune into what my body is feeling. I’ve built the mental discipline to endure physical strain – remembering that it, like most things in life, is only temporary. And I’ve stopped focusing on the end game so much – the muscle toning, calorie burning and other superficial motivations that in the past have driven me to exercise. Instead, I’ve started really enjoying the act of exercising itself.

I incorporated these principals into my training for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon last fall. When I was doing super-long runs to prepare for the 26.2 miles, I would tell myself that I was really just going on a long road trip and that I should prepare myself to enjoy a great playlist and the scenery along the way (those 20-plus-mile runs, after all, took me about the same amount of time it would take to drive to visit my parents in Springfield, Illinois - more than three hours).

I would not allow myself to anticipate reaching the last mile but kept my mind engaged and focused on the journey as it unfolded. And I when I felt pain, which was frequently, I would remind myself that it would be over soon enough. A few hours, after all, is really a short time span in the scheme of things.

What did bringing these elements into my running do? It enabled me to run 26.2 miles and have a great time doing it.

I’m looking forward to incorporating those principles into training again this fall. And I expect they will be easier to hone now that I have an even stronger passion and appreciation for running – and my yoga practice that enhances it so beautifully.

Jarosz is a former journalist who loves to write, practice yoga, run and lead communications efforts for The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit. Follow her on Twitter @francescajarosz.


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