Say goodbye to my little friends…

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The sneakers, not the pug. Another pair bite the dust- and have destroyed my arches in the process. Treat your feet well and they will carry you far!

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The Note

I keep an ongoing note in my cellphone which tracks my runs. It traces more than the dates, times, and miles. Reading between the lines shows achievement, pride, and strength. It also bears witness to difficult days, or illness. And while I cannot pinpoint where or when it happened, I slowly lost my dedication to this journey.

My friends, the days of the three miler warmups are long gone. And is it just me, or is it hard to  swallow pride and realize you aren’t where you once were? Can’t I go Dorothy on this running thing, click my heels, and voila- run a 10k for fun?  Not because I must be a masochist? This ongoing list which once fulfilled a void began to claw its way into my ego, making me feel as though I failed myself. I scrolled back further, wallowing in my losses and I became transported to my past.

And then it happened. I was delivered to a place where the sun rose up and kissed the boardwalk as I ran my first mile. A place where I sat crying by myself not in sadness, but in awe. I cradled my knees against my chest as they moved rapidly up and down against the pressure of my breath. I listened to the deafening white noise of the ocean as it mixed with my inhalations and exhalations. Having grappled with chronic illness and its effects, I felt more alive in that moment than I had in years. I needed this.

Running was never easy for me. It was always a frustrating, exhilarating, endorphin releasing blessing. Being back to square one can only temporarily derail me. Plus, now I have a new note in my phone that says “5k Training: Times for One Mile.” I have given myself a goal, and it’s small, but it’s better than no goal at all. And yes, at my core I won’t lie and pretend I was not dispirited, but I’m less disappointed in myself now than when I felt like quitting altogether. Here I am, clocking in another one miler at 10:49.

Tomorrow I’m cracking 10:30.

Inflamed but Unashamed (spoiler alert)

Urgent family text message: help, I want to do the Lupus walk on May 6, but we need a team name. And a team. I can always count on my brother to be simultaneously creative and offensive and with that, I braced for the worst. Then, I prepared to laugh. I firmly believe that when it comes to auto-immunes, you have to find the humor when it presents itself. Which is rarely to never, because diseases sort of suck.

Soon, the ideas rolled in and my brother didn’t let me down:

  1. The Autoimmune Police
  2. Looping Laps for Lupus
  3. You can Lupus, but you Can’t Coop Us!
  4. Grabbing Life by the Lupussy

I may have been the executor of one of those genius ideas, but a lady never reveals her secrets. The fourth, I wrote the fourth. Ultimately I settled on the one I identified with second most, and… we had a winner!

:::drumroll please:::

Inflamed but Unashamed

And with that, I welcome myself back to a few of the things that make me, me.

Back to the world of running.

Back to the world of writing.

Back to the world of advocating.

I missed you.

 

Happy Fall

Not to rush the seasons, but when I hear Septemeber, I think fall. Yes, I know we have until the end of the month until summer is “technically” over, but wake up! It is now dark out at 8, CVS is selling Halloween candy, and pumpkin beers are in full swing. It’s fall. Fall has classically been my favorite season- I’m a typical New Yorker so I will tell you that “I love that we have our seasons.” The vibrant autumnal colors and knee high boots get me every time- what can I say, I’m basic.

What makes this time of the year even better, you ask? Running.

A true runner can run in any condition, right? Well, I can’t. 

I get dizzy when it’s too hot.

I get a pounding ache in my ears when it’s too cold.

If it’s too bright outside, I feel blinded and miserable.

Essentially, I am goldilocks and I’m looking for my perfect conditions. The perfect conditions are September. Is there anything sweeter than a warm September air with a cool fall breeze? And for that reason, I love a nighttime run in the fall- not too hot, not too cold… it’s just right. So that’s what I did- called a bestie and went for a nice, slow paced, 2 mile run on a toasty fall night.

So happy fall, and happy running!

Pobody’s Nerfect

I grew up under the impression that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I was, and am, a hopeless romantic that trusts body chemistry, pheromones, and a little bit of luck will bring us to the right person if we allow for love. What is attractive to me might not be attractive to the next person- and that’s alright. It allows us to find our person both emotionally and physically. That may also be why I am under the impression that I have the prettiest dog in all of the land, but my dad calls her Frankenstein. And strangers call her a “little porker.”

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Where am I going with this? Well, I have a gripe to pick and I’m not sure who it’s with- men, women, society, culture, Kim Kardashian?! Blaming Kim K would be too easy for this, it’s the fault of us all. We are a population in love with a very elite definition of beauty. A simplified and stupified definition of beauty that puts unreasonable pressures on us all. My frustration came to a head this morning due to a commercial for waist training.

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It’s fairly self explanatory- you suffocate your internal organs to “train” your waist so it hates existing. And this movement, endorsed by qualified nutritionists and health connoisseurs reality television personalities (see: Kardashian Klan and Snookie) is actually being sold on television now too. Because, really? Who doesn’t love the sensation of losing sensation? And who actually needs ribs? Or correct organ placement?

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Even during the Victorian Era they had a sense of humor for the ridiculous nature of “tight-lacing“. They also understood the need for an adorable partner in crime (the dog).

So here’s my issue: WHY? I understand body modification, clearly. We all know I’m not exactly opposed to plastic surgery. But what is wrong with your natural waist line? As I write frequently about health and working out, I continuously reflect on the reasons behind why I do it all. Health for my body and mind are paramount. But then there is this lingering obsession with physical confidence. Does it come from me? Or does it come from society? So deeply ingrained that we cannot envision a world without the fixation.

This internal dialogue recently came to a head with wedding planning- ladies, have you felt the pressure?! My hairdresser innocently asked me what my workout regimen was now that I’m engaged. I felt slightly ashamed that the night before I downed a “super burrito” and the two sides I chose to eat with it were french fries and macaroni and cheese. I wonder how many people have asked John how he plans on sweating for the wedding? I have a guess- zero. Did John feel guilty about what he ate? I have a guess- no. And this is not a criticism of him, or me, or my hairdresser. Because, not to completely generalize, as a society this is what we expect from men and women:

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Leonardo DiCaprio does not need to worry about his “dad bod.” Leo can always galavant with a model or two. Or a tribe of models.

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My mom always told me: Pobody’s Nerfect. Not many people are built like Dita von Teese- but neither is Dita von Teese. I want to workout because it makes me feel stronger and healthier, but not because I feel bad about my body. And there are days that I do, as delusional as that may be. How do we fix that? A society that spends millions, if not billions, of dollars telling us we can be prettier, skinnier, curvier, more muscular, blonder, tanner, stronger, sleeker, and more wedding ready.

Perhaps we find the reasons we respect ourselves. We admit something we love about ourselves. And we allow other people to love those things about us too.

Smile

Over the past two years I have fallen victim to the cult of yoga- I chant “shanti, shanti”, om, and listen to a harmonium… it looks a little an accordion and a mini piano had a baby. I wear yoga pants and yoga shirts, and I hate socks and shoes. One thing I love about a good yoga class is the inspiration you can take from it. Every teacher has their own practice and style, but I love a good story before a lesson.

In class today, my teacher discussed the nature of life in general and how it can have a propensity to become overwhelming. She’s a new mom and spoke to that, something I can’t fully embrace at this point in my life, but I’m sure it’s more challenging than a 30lb pug mix. It was an authentic dialogue and wonderful to hear from a yoga instructor when often they appear as though they have it all figured out – like life is simple once you find the balance and can hold a scorpion pose.

I recognize the ignorance in that statement, because who really has it figured out? I don’t want to butcher my teachers words, or put words in her mouth, but today spoke to me. When your life becomes overwhelming it is easy to half-ass (she didn’t say that, but see, you get the message) anything and everything. We become susceptible to falling victim of that crushing sensation and rather than fighting against it, sometimes we give into it. So what did she suggest today? Smile. Persevere, fighting through it, be the best version of yourself and give all of yourself to everything you do.

As the summer winds down and I transition from the easiest days where the sound of an alarm clock is sinful to days of actually having responsibility, I know i will have to fight against some anxiety associated with deadlines and grades and observations. So is life. It’s a generous reminder to myself that when I wake up in the morning I have to thrive and rise to the occasion. We have all had a woe is me moment, and actually, I’m not against wallowing in those waters for a little while. But at a certain point you do have to overcome. I write as a reminder to myself that I am a human, but I want to be the best version of myself that I can be as often as I can be. So let this be a reminder to smile – a mental note on a more taxing day.

0 Miles per Month

Get it? GET IT…?! Because I ran zero miles for the month of July! I probably could have, but I was already slowing down with my running schedule as it was. Prior to hopping on the Bikram band wagon cult, I was completely and totally lethargic. The longer I got into yoga and making sure I went each and every day, the more I did not want to run in fear that it would exhaust my body. I tend to forget that I have lupus and cannot push myself like others can- doing both at that frequency seemed like a poor life choice. The longer I went without a daily run, the longer I missed running.

Truthfully, I was fearful that I would no longer be able to run and that my body would have to retrain itself. I was hoping 105 degrees of torture would help to prepare me. Not only do I feel physically stronger than I was, but mentally I was continuously challenging myself to push through and each day I did. My new attitude: If I could do it, I can do it.

Following my 30 days of Bikram, I did give myself one day off from working out entirely, but I was pumped to lace up my sneakers and hit the boardwalk. It was actually a craving- I know, hard to imagine, I usually crave ice cream, not running, but I needed my fix. Day 2 post Bikram and I was ready for a change. I rode my bike west, met John for a 2 mile run on the beach, and rode home, totaling 11 miles on my bike. I felt alive again. I woke up this morning charged to go- making sure to take a gratuitous ring next to my sneakers photo.

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dirt and sparkles = love

Taking to my beloved boardwalk I ran, blasting oldies but goodies- yup, I’m talking about you Tricky…

And it felt freeing. Not easy, but freeing. Running, I love you and I missed you. I will never leave you for that long again! Today, I finished 4 miles in 40 minutes, not too shabby for a month hiatus. The muscles and brain do not forget, so maybe it has been a while since you last had a good workout, but it’s better to start sooner rather than later. Because, why not?! That’s the best logic I have for you.

I can’t even deal. I might literally die. For serious.

I might as well make a lame title because I feel like this

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because of this…

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Once upon a time I was told by many people: you don’t have to do this. Their intentions were all out of love as they saw me whine, moan, look like a hot mess. They were absolutely correct. I didn’t have to do a thirty day challenge. And I don’t want to mislead the masses and have you believe that everyday i walked into class with the Rocky music playing, head held high, a slow clap that moves into a fast clap playing in my mind. Let me reiterate: I was a whiney, moan-y, hot mess. One time my friend actually asked why I do it if I complain so much. I just like yoga and complaining… leave me alone.

Despite my complaints, I had every intention on prying myself off of my couch with my air-conditioned living room each and every day. Part of this is my love of a challenge. Every once in a while we need to sit back and remind ourselves that we can accomplish more than we give ourselves credit for. I needed a reminder because I have been feeling like a waste of necessary oxygen for the planet as of late. [cue my mom calling me to ask me what’s going on. I’m fine.] 

And now I’m here. On my thirtieth day. Twenty-nine classes done.

Today I hope to make it through every posture giving it my [honest] all. I hope that if I struggle, I am kinder to myself than I usually am. I hope that I lay in savasana and allow a smile to spread across my face. I hope I don’t cry- I nearly cried at the movie Trainwreck last night on 3 separate occasions. I have no good reason for that one. What I do know is that achieving things makes me feel feelings, and I’m not about that life. I’m having a difficult time finding the words to express how nerve-cited I am. With that, I will save it so that I have the ability to process these past thirty days.

I would really appreciate good energy right about now- so whatever you would like to direct at me, go for it.

In three hours I will be walking into my last [self] mandated day of Bikram yoga. And in 5 hours I will be toasting to challenges, accomplishments, and sweating my ass off. Literally and figuratively.

Guest Blogger: My Jess!

The following post was made by my love, Jess. Today she finished the 30 day challenge and I couldn’t be prouder:

Today marks my 30th day of the Bikram 30 day challenge and I feel great! This is my second time doing the 30 day challenge, however this time is different for a few reasons:

1) I am partaking in July instead of January

2) New 60 minute classes have been offered in addition to the traditional 90 minute classes

3) My body is different

4) My mind is different

1) The first time I tried Bikram yoga was in July 2013, however I did not go every day consecutively and I was also doing other exercise: kick boxing, zumba, running, surfing, weights, etc.  My first 30 day challenge was in January and I had to worry about getting into my car wet, bringing a hat and gloves so I wouldn’t get sick and really looked forward to the 105 degree hot room.  I knew the heat would be a challenge but to be honest, the only time it made a difference was when I was not hydrated enough.  For example, if I was in the sun before class, I would feel horrible.  Or if I had too many margaritas, it seemed as though alcohol was seeping out of my pores.  So I changed my habits and limited both- come out of the sun earlier than usual, drink alcohol minimally and drink water plentifully when possible.  Out of the 30 classes, I had 4, maybe 5 truly awful classes.  At the time, I wanted to blame either (in order from lamest excuse to probable excuse) the teacher or my body, but in reality I knew it was actually the mind (see below).

2) Traditional Bikram classes are taught in accordance to Bikram Choudry’s 90 minutes of “hell” as he calls it; 26 postures, done twice in 105 degree carpeted hot room 40% humidity.  There is no music, there are no candles, there are no props.  Everyone is expected to give their 100% all the time, even if this means they accomplish only 1% of the pose.  I was inspired to become a yoga instructor myself and when faced with the decision of where I wanted to train, I did not choose Bikram as my guru.  The more and more I hear about the man, the more I really disagree with his morals and ethics.  I also have a very different vision for who I believe yoga can and should reach and I don’t believe that everyone should be expected to participate in the conditions Bikram yoga lays out, even though I enjoy practicing it and it feels good for my body most of the time.  He has, however, inspired many good people to teach his sequence and the Bikram Yoga Long Beach crew has become family  to me (being from out of town, I see them more often than my actual family!)  My instructors are always concerned with student health, never pushing anyone to a point of injury and I trust them.  Many studios, however are limiting their affiliations with Bikram himself and are dissociating from the Bikram studio name, calling themselves “Hot Yoga” studios instead.  The Long Beach crew is not going this far, however they do find value in offering a shorter series to students who do not have unlimited time to practice (see Talia’s entry on how much time Bikram yoga actually takes out of your day).

My first challenge, there was no such thing as a 60 minute class.  Each class, day in and day out was 90 minutes.  There was no anticipation of what the next day might be, because we knew it would be exactly the same as the day before.  At the time, we didn’t even anticipate who the teacher might be.  Now, with the addition of the 60 minute class, the planning freaks among us rejoice.  And have the potential anxious moment when we realize we can only do 90 minutes each day.  Now we can even scope out who the instructor is for the day.  Don’t get me wrong; overall it is really nice having the option of 60 minute classes and picking out an instructor I know will help me reach my potential.  But there was something nice about the routine, the anonymity of the instructor and the realization that the day before you completed the exact same class.

The 60 minute classes and 90 minute classes are both enjoyable; the 60 goes a bit faster, but you get out of the room faster, meaning I can usually reason with myself a little easier to give my entire effort during the last half hour of class.  With the 90 minute, the two sets of each pose gives me time to breathe more slowly, slow my heart rate down, work on deepening my poses and relax greatly in savasana.  If beginners are giving Bikram yoga a shot, I suggest trying the 90 minutes for the first few then switching for an authentic experience and learn where the body and mind are as a starting point in something so challenging.

3) My body is different.

When I began the 30 day challenge a few winters ago, I was still learning how to do the poses correctly.  Yoga never came naturally to me and one thing I really liked about Bikram yoga is that the instructor tells you exactly where to put your body from an anatomical perspective.  I saw major progression over the course of January 2014 as I explored each pose.  Now, in July 2015, I do not see the same type of progression.  I understand how my body works better, I have seen my body at its full flexibility and its tightest and have learned that if I do not accept it for what it is at that point in time on that day, I could either become unnecessarily disappointed or worse, injure myself.  When going for vinyasa yoga teacher certification, I vowed to not let yoga “stress me out” as that would be an oxymoron.  I remind myself of this when I get down for not reaching what I think is my full potential and instead try to accept myself for where I am that day.  No, I do not look the same as I did that January, yes I have improved in some areas and maybe become tighter in other.  But my body tells a story of what each muscle has learned over time and expresses itself differently each day.

4) My mind is different.

Probably the most important thing for me to recognize is the impact the mind has over what the body can do.  If I say I can’t, then I won’t.  If I can, then I must.  I struggle with this time and time again, but often give myself a pep talk ahead of time saying, “Today is a new day; do not write the end of the story.  Do not think about what happened yesterday or ten minutes ago.  Live in the now, Jess.  Right now”.  Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.  While lying in savasana between sets or poses, when I feel my mind wander, I meditate on my breathing, the ceiling tiles, a “bright white light”.  Bikram has taught me how to focus like nothing else has.  “Bengal tiger strength, bull dog determination”.  Sometimes I stare in the mirror not to focus on a particular body part, as the dialogue says, but to keep an eye on myself as a whole.  As a being who is strong all over; that if I can do this, bring my knee up straight to my forehead in front of me in a humid, hot room then perhaps I can do many other things under pressure.  I found Bikram yoga at a particularly uncertain time in my life and it has lead me on a path of healing.  For some, that healing is physical, but for me it is absolutely mental and spiritual.  To realize that I amount to more than I was feeling at the time; that I could do things physically that I never thought were possible.  Yoga is therapeutic in many ways.

During my January challenge, I started dreading going to class at the end of the month because I had over exerted myself and allowed my mind to take over my body.  I couldn’t wait to be through and take a day off.  This challenge was something I looked forward to each day, even when it was inconvenient, even when I had a wedding to go to in 20 minutes after class or showed up to social functions with wet hair, still sweating from class.  It was all worth it.

Most importantly, this challenge was much more enjoyable than the first because I did it with my best friend.  Talia and I started together in July of 2013, thinking we were both crazy for going to a hot room in the summer.  Spending 30 days with someone you trust, can commiserate with and who knows exactly what you are going through is nourishing to the soul.  We brought each other up during the month, rooted one another on, agreed when we had a particularly horrific class and got to spend quality time going to and from class which builds a bond that one never forgets.  I started one day before Talia and she will be finished tomorrow but I am very grateful that she was there by my side almost every single day!

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Cheers to finishing the 30 day challenge!

What’s your poison?

Let me start by stating the obvious: I’m a teacher on summer break. I have a lot of time on my hands… in theory. I want to explain there are natural constraints with doing a 30 day challenge when you have a little something called a life.

Bikram yoga is usually 90 minutes, however, my studio offers the 60 minutes. As much as I would like to exclusively take the 60 minutes, I somehow feel this pang of guilt, like I’m cheating the system. I know that seems masochistic, but it’s the (unofficial) way they roll. So let’s treat today like a math lesson- which will more than likely be a total failure because math was most definitely not my forte.

3 hours prior to class: have a meal. do not show up to class full- you will feel it. This doesn’t seem too hard, unless you are taking a morning class in which it’s very difficult. Also, I refuse to sacrifice coffee. Mama needs her coffee. I also find scheduling a meal challenging when I’m taking a night class. I need to plan the type of food I’m eating and how much I’m eating around yoga. Don’t have enough? Feel light headed. Have too much? Feel nauseous. I’m also chronically hungry, so there’s that.

15 minutes: The time I need to get ready. Do not wear makeup. Do not worry about your hair. Do not worry about your outfit (love this). Have you ever walked into the gym or a vinyasa yoga studio and it looks like a Lululemon advertisement? This is not the place. In fact, when I wear bright colors I feel out of place. It’s as though everyone is wearing the color of their emotion- grey. Who needs to look pretty when you are going to sweat it all off after the first breathing exercise? I give myself 15 minutes simply because I always forget everything and need the time to rush around grabbing each necessity I forgot.

Mistakes i’ve made by following my 15 minute rule? Rushing home to “power get ready” straight from the beach. Lesson learned? Hop in the shower and wash off that sunblock because it will make you slip (more) in yoga and it will get into your eyes.

15 minutes: The time I give myself to ride to class and get settled in. By settle in I mean pee for the millionth time- the amount of water you drink is unfathomable. You will pee like a pregnant woman if you are drinking the appropriate amount of water in a day… then again maybe I’m getting water poisoning. But really, who knows?!

90 minutes: Sweat, cry, plot your escape, think about death, see the light, accept you will survive, experience bliss at the feeling of air conditioning. Very tumultuous experience.

15 minutes: Ride home, meander around my living room or sit on my porch until I stop sweating as much. For your TMI pleasure, this is the kind of workout that makes you continue to sweat. You can shower, sure, but you will continue to sweat after that shower. You are better off giving it a few minutes to allow your body to decompress.

1-2 hours: snack, eat, a possible nap. When I first started Bikram yoga, I would come home and crash nap for about 2 hours after each class. Now I actually feel rejuvenated to a degree and experience more energy, but buffer for exhaustion as a newbie.

Every hour of every day: make sure you are drinking water. Do not forget to drink water. This is the real deal. Dehydration is no joke and I say that from experience. Though I haven’t experienced it during yoga, I have in life- it was accompanied with cold sweats, a fever, and hallucinations. Now imagine adding a 105 degree room to your day for 90 minutes without enough water? I’m good.

So there you have it, the math proves that Bikram yoga will encompass your life and eat up every hour of the day. Or, at least two hours between class and transportation.

And maybe Bikram isn’t the workout for your lifestyle because it does encompass a lot of time and is a huge commitment, but that doesn’t mean don’t give it a shot. And this is why, despite my friends saying “andddd why would you do this in the summer?!” I’m doing this in the summer. I don’t have the time I’m willing to sacrifice during the school year to do this every. single. day. But for now I’m excited to accept the challenge. Would I do it again next summer? Definitely. And this is why I got into running- after 30 minutes and 3 miles I could call it a day and be satisfied with what I’ve accomplished. Pick your poison, but pick one. Life is short, make it a good and healthy one.

Oh, and one more thing… save time for my personal arch nemesis: Laundry.

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