He’s in the Waiting

So much life has happened since I last wrote for this blog.

So much joy, so much rebirth, so much transition, and so much brokenness.

One thing has not changed, though. We are still in the waiting.

In the waiting. What exactly does that even mean? Couldn’t we all be in the waiting for the next chapter or big life event? Sure, if we allowed ourselves to live that way.

What I mean, more specifically, is waiting for our family to grow. We have been waiting for a long time now, but the difference is, that season was marked with much hope, excitement, and anxiousness.

Now, the waiting looks a little different. A lot different, actually. You see, the past couple of months have been incredibly difficult. We found out that we cannot get pregnant. There is a medical reason for why we have been waiting so long, watching everybody else announce sweet babies, all while grieving the loss of one that never was. Never will be.

Infertility is more than just sadness. It is much more than anyone can imagine it to be having not walked the path personally. I never wish this pain among anyone.

Without going into the nitty gritty details of our infertility, I will just say that our world has been rocked. The pool and depth of emotions we have tried to navigate the past couple of months feel surreal, frankly. Medical tests, doctors, endless questions, pits in your stomach as results are shared, fear of the financial burden that would potentially grant us a child…

Overwhelmed. We are overwhelmed. My normally not emotional husband has had to weather these storms and process his emotions in a way he’s not used to. My overly emotional self has had to control herself from crying at the drop of a hat.

But, it’s been no accident that God has graciously surrounded us with an amazing community group through Brookside Church. It has been no accident that Aaron’s work schedule has finally allowed him to attend worship on Sunday mornings the past couple of weeks, and we have both left in tears every time. It is by no accident that today was Orphan Sunday. It is by no accident that there are several prominent families in our community who have fostered and adopted–not just because they navigated the roads of infertility, either. It is by no accident that God has always placed adoption on my heart – ever since I can remember. It is by no accident that God graciously allowed me to travel to several different continents and become passionate about other cultures and beautiful orphan children. It is by no accident that God encouraged me to talk about adoption before I married Aaron, and he has always been 100% for it. It is by no accident that we half jokingly started an adoption fund (penny jar) when we got married. It is by no accident that when I was an angst-filled teenager, I swore up and down that “I didn’t need a man and hoped I couldn’t have children anyway so I would be forced to adopt.”

It is by no accident.

Today, both of us left with our hearts feeling true hope for the first time. This doesn’t mean we had no hope before. We did. Hope is an anchor for our soul, and it’s what has gotten us through. Hope and faith-we cling to these. But, sometimes hope feels more tangible than at other points. This head knowledge hope became heart knowledge hope this morning.

God is in the waiting… He is preparing for us a beautiful family. He is sharpening us, refining us, and molding us in this journey. We are trying to take up our crosses daily and pray that one day in the future, we can continue to take up our crosses and foster to adopt.

It won’t be easy. There is no doubt in my mind that this journey we are embarking on, praying to enter foster care into adoption, is one that is going to be excruciatingly painful. Joy will fill the moments in between, but undoubtedly, it’s going to be hard. We are learning, over and over, that pain and hard draw us nearer and closer to the Lord. Growing pains.

Friends, please join us in prayer as we pray for our future, whatever God’s perfect plan may unfold to look like. All we desire is to glorify Him in our decisions. Please pray for current and future foster care children, their families, and everyone affected by brokenness with infertility. Please pray for those also in the waiting, whatever that may look like.

He’s in the waiting.

 

 

Letting Go

I declare this the summer of freedom.

I am on a quest to find my own sense of balance and navigate the waters of nutrition and health on my own without any specific guidelines. I have reached the point where I need to trust God, myself and the tools I have gained along my health journey. I need to let go of following any particular programs or specific ways of eating, give this area to God completely and allow Him to be glorified in the nourishing of my body on a daily basis. No strings attached. No lists of ‘cans and can’ts’. No credit to any program.

There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these programs I speak of. In fact, I am thankful for all that I have gleaned through utilizing particular programs. Programs often propel people in the right directions, teach them important and valuable information, and steer them along paths that help them be successful and reach goals. Weight Watchers and the Whole 30 have helped shape and transform my relationship with food, my body, and nutrition. Weight Watchers taught me the value of portion control (though an increased appetite from increased activity may indicate otherwise..), moderation, and balance. Clean eating is fantastic. I have learned so much through completing the Whole 30. You feel fabulous and energized. Food has never tasted so exquisite. I genuinely love fresh, whole foods. Cooking has never been more enjoyable! But there’s danger—at least there was for me—and I am attempting to heed to these warnings and unsettled feelings in my heart that I have felt the past couple of months.

For someone like me, someone who has struggled in the past and been bound by the chains of perfectionism, obsessive tendencies, extreme rule following (holla at me, all of you fellow rule followers!) and a related unhealthy mindset, a program is something that can easily turn toxic. In fact, I feel like the whole clean eating phenomenon is a double-edged sword—wonderful for the health benefits but dangerous for many people mentally. When you come from one extreme of unhealthy living, it is easy to go to the other extreme of the spectrum—and in my opinion, neither is healthy. There is an ideal to uphold, unrealistic expectations to be met consistently, and often times a too large dose of worry to accompany the standards. The structure is so appealing to me because it is comfortable and safe. Everything is directly laid out for me. This is where I thrive.

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I must say, I would still recommend these programs in a heartbeat to those seeking a place to begin in their respective health journeys. But for me, there’s a time and place for these programs. And that time and place has passed. Personally, I don’t want to live the rest of my life dependent upon following any given “rules” or parameters of a program. I just want to live. FREELY. Eat to live. A natural process…not something that requires worry, anxiety, too much of my thoughts, or anything else that seems extreme.

Maybe there will be a time and a place once again where I fall back on the structure of these programs (such as post-partum, etc.), but for now, I am striving for my nourishment to be intuitive, balanced, and free.

This why I am letting go…letting go of these proverbial training wheels and learning to ride my own bike. He has brought me this far, and I feel called to take these steps, and I know He will be faithful in carrying me evermore.

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Ultra Marathon Recap: Fools Trail 50k

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Once upon a time, I had the brilliant crazy idea to register for an ultra marathon (any race distance over the full marathon 26.2 miles), having only run one full marathon prior to deciding this. My husband thought I was a little nuts (what’s new), but he told me to go for it if I wanted to. So I did, registering for the Fools Trail 50k in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Training was a roller coaster, that’s for sure, full of many running highs and lows (the lowest low being my foot injury that we all thought would prevent me from running on race day). Fast forward to race weekend, and a ball of nerves I surely was.

We were blessed to have Aaron’s grandparents close to the race location, so we stayed with them the night before and scoped out the actual starting and finishing area. Once we got out of the car and trekked over to the area where we would be starting and finishing, reality sunk in, and it wasn’t all feelings of sunshine and rainbows. To be honest, doubt and fear flooded every crevice of my being. Coming off of an injury, I felt very undertrained and prepared. I know I had done my best throughout the four months leading up to it, but somehow the flat landscape of Findlay, OH paled in comparison to the challenging hills and technical terrain of the course. Just what was I getting into? All Aaron and I could both do was laugh. Nervously laugh. Like….both of us fearing for my life kind of laughing. He knows just how graceful I am (read: not at all), so the terrain made up entirely of mud, rocks, roots, and rolling hills….I guess they didn’t name it the FOOLS trail run for nothing.

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After a delicious dinner with our sweet grandparents at Olive Garden (where I promptly stuffed my face with carbs—breadsticks and spaghetti, sign me UP), we made a pit stop at the store to pick up some items I had forgotten in my ball of nerves state (FYI, remembering to bring deodorant with you on race weekend is super important…). We hurried home so I could get everything ready and prepped for the morning. I still hadn’t made my race playlist, so I was frantically compiling a list of tunes that I was praying would be both motivational and therapeutic. Finally, with only 6 hours until I had to be up, I tried to get some sleep. Falling asleep was hard but staying asleep was harder. I’m always paranoid that I will somehow oversleep on race day, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what I was getting myself into!

Race morning was pretty uneventful. We arrived and parked with plenty of time, enough time for me to change my outfit 3 times in the car. Literally. Aaron was getting so annoyed with me 🙂 The weather was hard to dress for—freezing in the morning, but I knew it would be warming up pretty significantly throughout the course of the race. I underdressed the first time and then added too many layers the second time, but finally found a happy medium just in time to use the restroom one last time before gearing up. I also remember making a comment about feeling very inferior to this woman in the car next to me—she looked like a natural born trail runner, and I just looked like a bright orange flamingo (?) that should be knocked over in a zoo. Let me tell you, I was feeling ALL the optimism that morning. 🙂 I met up with a group of runners that I ‘knew’ from a Trail and Ultra Running group on Facebook, so we chatted and somehow my nerves were a little calmed by our conversation. The start was very anti-climatic, unlike most road races. We were basically just a group of crazy looking people huddled together, trying to stay warm, and as soon as they said “go,” we were off, trampling through the frozen grass before entering the woods.

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One of my biggest concerns about the race was the possibility of getting lost because I had never run a trail race before and wasn’t sure how well the course would be marked. So, I vowed to stick with at least one of the women I met right before the race. Plus, company is always so much more enjoyable! For the first however many miles, we stuck right by each other, chatting our time away—no need for music, just conversation and learning about each other’s lives. Lisa was wonderful to run with! I knew I was taking it very easy the first part of the race (for fear of burning out in the first half—needed to conserve the energy), but it wasn’t until our first aid station when I saw my husband that I realized how slow our pace really was. He innocently asked if everything was okay (since it took me a lot longer than he expected to reach that point), and I glanced at my watch for the first time and thought…wow, guess I do need to pick up the pace, Molly! However, at that point, I was still in the best of spirits and just plain having FUN. The course was icy and slippery from being frozen over, but it was manageable, especially with a running buddy (though we gave each other mini heart attacks many times from near falls!). I had no time goal for this race because trails are so much more challenging than roads…and I truly didn’t know what to expect with my pace. At this point, I felt that my priorities were to have a blast and not die, both of which I was accomplishing by running with Lisa. But around mile 10, Lisa was having some problems with her foot that she had landed on wrong. I stuck with her for a while, going really slow but not wanting to leave her. After a while, she began pleading with me to run and go ahead because the group she came with was still behind us and would be coming up, anyway. I didn’t want to abandon a fellow runner, but she kept reassuring me to go ahead because she felt that she had been slowing me down anyway. When I told her I truly didn’t care (even though it was the truth, I didn’t feel the least bit tired at this point) and that company and having fun were more important to me, she practically yelled at me to listen to her and go ahead 😉 I was fearful of getting lost, but I used these fears to pray aloud to the Lord and ask for Him to guide my footsteps.

I picked up the pace quite a bit and felt God’s pleasure as I ran through the beautifully breathtaking national park. The sights were awe-inspiring! As I was running along, I decided to turn on some music to keep my heart and mind focused. When I went to select my playlist, my phone turned OFF from the cold temperatures. I had forgotten to bring a hand warmer to keep my phone warm, and when it shut off, I may have shed a few tears. I have always been heavily reliant on my music to keep me going. I rarely run without music, let alone doing a LONG run without it. It was at that point where I felt very afraid for what was ahead. Without music, I felt alone, even though I knew in my heart that I wasn’t. The lyrics of music allow me to focus my heart and thoughts on Jesus, not on the pain of running or any other worldly concerns. Though I was upset about the lack of music (not to mention not being able to take ANY pictures of the stunning surroundings), I knew I had no choice but to keep running ahead.

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The miles were a true blur on the first loop because everything was new and exciting. The twists, turns, being sensitive and aware of the (very) tiny arrows occasionally marking the course….everything made it fly by, music or not. I knew I was nearing the end of the first 25k loop, and I was feeling quite excited/proud that I had yet to fall! It was a miracle, that’s all I could say. But, the temperature was warming up quite drastically, and by the end of the first loop, everything was thawed and muddy. And then it happened. I completely WIPED out, hurt my elbows, and immediately burst into laughter because I tried unsuccessfully to get up and slipped again. I was thankful that there was another woman nearby who helped me up, and we chatted for a while, the conversation starting with “well I just had my turn, guess it was your turn to fall…” I found out that she had done several ultras before and was currently training for a 100 mile race. How incredible! She was my inspiration to keep going. We both got to see three deer run only feet in front of us across our path! Goodness…what a treat. We slowly ran up the last hill of the loop that led us to the grassy area right before officially finishing half of the race. There was a giant mud pit at the exit of the woods, and of course in front of all the spectators, I managed to get myself STUCK. I fell on my butt, and each time I tried to get up, I fell again. It was both hilarious and pathetic, and I’m sure my husband had never felt more proud of his wife than at that moment, driving the struggle bus through that mud pit… 🙂 Once I reached Aaron (who was accompanied by his grandpa, his buddy and buddy’s fiancé), I was exasperated and didn’t really know what to say besides “please get a honey stinger waffle out of my pack….oh and ps, my phone died, so if something happens I’m in trouble. And no music. Dying.” They gave mostly encouraging words, poked a little fun at my muddy butt and such, and hugged me as I left for the last half, the hardest half.

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I was feeling quite dehydrated, but I was also purposely not drinking a ton of water because TRAILS. No bathrooms. Did I mention I was a trail newbie? I basically had no idea what people did when they needed to relieve themselves. I had seen a few people walk back from the middle of forest area, clearly having done just so, but they looked like they were experienced in that area. Like it was norm, relieving themselves in the middle of a national park with risk of getting poison ivy on their behind. I didn’t feel like trying that out for the first time in the middle of a race and risking flashing somebody, so I drank water very modestly.

Enough about the water. As I began the second loop, my spirits were not very high. In fact, I was practically crying out to the Lord, wondering HOW I would possibly endure another entire 15.5 miles of this course without music or company. I knew the course now. I was dreading the challenge of it, especially because my muscles were beginning to feel very fatigued and my quads were on fire. Not to mention the MUD that we were now facing….don’t worry, you will hear more of that later. I kept moving forward, despite not having the best attitude, because I was NOT about to throw in the towel or throw away months upon months of training for this. Embrace the suck, Molly. It’s SUPPOSED to be hard…the hard is what makes it great. Focus on thanking God for the ability to run, the gift of sore muscles, the heavy breathing means you’re alive….basically, I was giving myself a pep talk while still trying to hold back tears from physical pain and mental exhaustion.

And then an angel in a bright orange long sleeve shirt appeared. That’s what it felt like, at least. I slowly gained ground on this woman ahead of me, and as I passed her, I offered a friendly hello (because I was pretty much desperate for human interaction at this point). She smiled and chatted back, but I continued on ahead. And then a few minutes later, she caught up to me and went ahead when I had to stop to fix my sock that was falling down (seriously, I had never had this issue before race day..figures #blistertrauma). I caught her again, and I asked if she minded that I ran with her for a while. “Not at ALL! Please do. You have no idea how much I need human interaction right now” were her words. She held out her arm and prevented me from falling a few times in the first several minutes of running together, to which she apologized for being such a “mom.” It was then I knew I was destined to finish this race with her 🙂 Our conversation flowed so naturally, and I knew Jen was a true answer to my prayers and cries out to God. He knew I NEEDED her, and He knew she NEEDED me. She told me she was so, so close to calling it quits after the first 25k loop. She hadn’t had a very good experience, and we were able to listen to one another and offer encouragement. We WERE going to finish this. The sheer joy of the race began flooding my spirits again, despite the harsher course conditions. The mud was horrendous, and we had to slow down and walk for a much larger percentage this time around. I even walked straight out of my right shoe at one point. Words (or pictures) can’t appropriately convey the thickness and intensity of the mud…it was almost like trying to run through molasses. You were working so hard yet barely gaining ground. However, despite the insanity of the course we were dealing with, we managed to truly have a blast together and bond over the pain we were feeling. We talked about everything and anything, from family, running (duh), school, work, etc., and we even found out that she lives in the town where I work! What a small world. I’ll say it again. Jen was an angel sent from the Lord, and I can’t thank her enough for the friendship and camaraderie she offered during some of the toughest moments I’ve had to endure.

My worries about my lack of music, getting lost, or finishing in a crappy time all disappeared while we were running. I was soaking in all the stories and experiences Jen was sharing and trying to focus on the friendship, not the mud obstacle course the race was becoming. Jen helped me up the many times I fell (I lost count, but that mud did me in gooooooooood). The miles dragged on a lot slower than they had the first loop around, but I expected that to happen. However, what I didn’t expect to happen was getting lost when I was with somebody. Just as soon as I remarked to Jen how happy I was feeling once again (mostly because we were exiting a particularly challenging couple miles of the course), we crossed one of two roads of the entire course only to come across a woman who looked upset, confused, and downright angry. She told us that she thought she missed a turn, because based on mileage, she shouldn’t have been at that point of the course yet. Jen and I soon realized that we must have missed the turn as well, because our mileage was the same. Crap (for lack of better words). There was NO WAY we were continuing forward and cutting the course short. That would be cheating myself, my training, and the other runners. So, we reluctantly turned around, trudging back through the hills and mud we just thought we were finished with. The other woman was absolutely angry about the situation. Jen and I were also upset, but our emotions were mostly derived from weariness—not straight up hatred/anger. We kept moving forward, realizing we missed an entire section and the fabulous aid station (that had grilled cheese and pb & j!) where both of our families were waiting for us next. We planned on turning around and running ~2.5 miles one direction and turning back around to make up the missed mileage, but those plans were also thwarted. We found the spot where we all got turned around, and though I AM directionally challenged, this was actually a mistake on the course’s part. It was a fork in the trail where you had to turn one way for the 25k and the other direction for the 50k, but neither of those were specifically labeled as such (also, the arrows on the markings were 2in x 2in. TINY!!!! and easy to miss!). As we were running back, we decided that we needed to call both of our families and let them know what was going on before they started to worry too much. My husband just laughed when he answered to a “hello, this is your directionally challenged wife who got lost…”—Jen’s husband did the same. Both families left to go get food to eat so we knew we probably wouldn’t see them again until the finish line, whenever that would be.

Our strategy kept changing. Do we just make up the missed mileage and turn back? Or do we completely go back and run EVERYTHING we missed, which would add miles to our course? We opted for the last one, but the other woman was hating the entire world and split off from us because she didn’t want to do .1 mile more than she had to (I don’t blame her, but her attitude was a bit scary). It was just me and Jen running together again, laughing and crying at the situation. Both of us were in such physical pain (mud, hills, burning legs and glutes, Jen lost two toenails, I earned several blisters), but at least we were able to keep encouraging one another (or sometimes gripe a little together :)). My mental state was not all that great, so I was trusting Jen for the path. Jen decided that it was a sure sign from God that we needed to stop and take LOTS of pictures if we had to re-run part of the course. Might as well, I guess… I wasn’t going to complain, even if it was adding a lot of time to our pace. At this point, we both knew that our time was going to suck, so we decided to embrace this opportunity to lengthen our time on these beautiful trails. We stopped and posed for many pictures along the way. I am so grateful for Jen initiating these picture opportunities….I will treasure them forever!

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Once we got back on course (well, as much as we could—I’m still not sure I could map out what we ran), we had added 5 miles to our total. I got to see my husband once more as he was camped out in a chair directing runners the correct way (seriously, he will attest that the course was poorly marked). I was so excited to see him, but from the pictures, the pain of what had just happened was more consuming than my excitement. 🙂 Real life struggles.

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We were only 5 or 6 miles from the finish!! Hallelujah! At the next and last aid station, I literally hugged the volunteers when I saw they had DONUTS cut into small chunks and Coke. I can’t even describe the emotions. I have never ever fueled with donuts or Coke, and you’re not supposed to do anything new on race day, but I had never wanted that chunk of donut or Coke more in my entire life. It tasted glorious. Clearly, I wasn’t fueling myself well enough, but at this point, crossing that darn finish line was my sole focus. What was done was done!

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I thought those last miles would be a little kinder to us because we were in such good spirits from being so close to the end, but they were downright awful. The last 5 miles felt like 20 to us both. The terrain of the last part of the course was the worst the first time around, but by now, the mud made it so sloppy and difficult that I was constantly falling and couldn’t run very well. There were slopes and ledges that were highly dangerous, and one wrong slip could have landed me a nice thirty or forty feet fall. I kept remarking that I must have blacked out during this last part the first time around because I truly didn’t remember it being that long or challenging. Both of us were struggling, but the random runners that we would encounter kept us moving forward. The group Jen had actually carpooled with ended up passing us in the last mile. We chatted for a while, and the group of 3 men were nothing but encouraging. One of the guys looked really familiar, but I figured I was just delirious by that point. Come to found out after looking up the race results, it was a guy I used to work with many many summers ago at Cedar Point! How funny.

I do remember one point after falling that I just sat there and told Jen that I wasn’t getting up and that she should go on and finish without me 🙂 Of course, she didn’t and I eventually got back up, but my mind couldn’t even fathom what I had put myself through. Our families were both waiting for us at the top of the final hill, and as I made it to Aaron, the only words I could muster were “I am never ever doing this again.” He found that pretty entertaining 🙂 (but I must say, removed from the situation, I WOULD do it again) We were a lot closer to the cut off time than I ever would have anticipated, but with getting lost, I had to accept it. Aaron tried to sprint ahead to the finish line to get a picture of me crossing the finish line, but I didn’t know he was trying to do that and interpreted it as he was trying to get me to run faster with him. So I ended up sprinting ahead of him, missing the picture opportunity, but SO relieved to have finished. There were immediate tears and hugs to both Aaron and Jen. Really, the finish line was such a blur that I don’t remember much, but I am SO GRATEFUL that God got me across that finish line. And it sure wasn’t by my own strength, because that had been spent a long time before that—it was only by His strength and grace that I finished an ultra marathon. 36 miles of hills and terrain crazier than I was prepared for.

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Going into this, I knew it would be a difficult race, knowing that I couldn’t fully fathom the challenge it was going to be. The course conditions made it more challenging than it should have already been, but what an AMAZING introduction to the world of trail running and ultra marathons that race was. There were many miserable moments, that’s for sure, but the moments where I felt joy more intensely than I had EVER before—those moments made it all worth it and more.

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Uplifting & Motivational Christian Running/Workout Music

Christian songs blog post

Running is a time and opportunity for me to worship, and there’s nothing I love more than pounding the pavement to some uplifting, encouraging Christian music. Listening to Christian music while running allows me to focus my heart and mind on Jesus and eternity. My best runs fill me with such intense joy that sometimes I feel like my heart may actually burst…and I attribute that a lot to many of the songs I listen to. I feel refreshed, uplifted, and encouraged after listening to many of these songs. They are packed with the ultimate motivation—glorifying God and praising Him in ALL that we do, including exercise. Christian music doesn’t have to be boring, old hymns (though nothing wrong with hymns—there are some great ones!—it’s just most people wouldn’t choose to run to them…) The list below includes many of my current favorite Christian songs to run to.

There is something wonderful about hearing the right beat to uplifting messages as you break your body physically to build it back up. I pray you are blessed and encouraged during your runs through the music you listen to!

{In addition to these song titles, Pandora has some great Christian radio stations that I occasionally listen to if I tire of my playlists. Also, check out the free app RockMyRun for motivational music—you can pick from high energy mixes, including a couple Christian music mixes!}

*Press On (both regular and CB Ultra Run remix) – Mandisa

Good Morning – Mandisa

Stronger – Mandisa

My Deliverer – Mandisa

Overcomer – Mandisa

*Eye On It – tobyMac

Unstoppable – tobyMac

Get Back Up – tobyMac

The entire Hillsong Young & Free album

*Stronger – Hillsong

Great Are You Lord – All Sons & Daughters

Let There Be Light – Bellarive

*Overwhelmed – Big Daddy Weave

Gold – Britt Nicole

*Ready or Not – Britt Nicole (feat. Lecrae)

*Drops in the Ocean – Hawk Nelson

Faithful – Hawk Nelson

Courageous – Casting Crowns

Thrive – Casting Crowns

Lifesong – Casting Crowns

Whom Shall I Fear – Chris Tomlin

White Flag – Chris Tomlin

Where the Spirit of the Lord Is – Chris Tomlin

Everlasting God – Chris Tomlin

*How Great is Our God (world edition) – Chris Tomlin

Here for You – Chris Tomlin

Awake My Soul – Chris Tomlin (feat. Lecrae)

You Lifted Me Out – Chris Tomlin

Our God – Chris Tomlin

How Can I Keep from Singing – Chris Tomlin

Everlasting God – Chris Tomlin

God’s Great Dance Floor – Chris Tomlin

Holy (Wedding Day) – The City Harmonic

Manifesto – The City Harmonic

Fix My Eyes – For King & Country

*Shoulders – For King & Country

The Proof of Your Love – For King and Country

He Knows My Name – Francesca Battistelli

Feet Don’t Fail Me Now – Needtobreathe

Multiplied – Needtobreathe

Awake and Alive – Skillet

*Because He Lives – Matt Maher

Build Your Kingdom Here – Rend Collective Experiment

More Than Conquerors – Rend Collective Experiment

Carry Me On Your Back – Leeland

Closer to Your Heart – Natalie Grant

Come As You Are – David Crowder

Cornerstone – Hillsong

*Do Life Big – Jamie Grace

*Forever Reign – One Sonic Society

*From the Day – I Am They

Fully Alive – Flyleaf

*Great Are You Lord – All Sons & Daughters

*Great I Am – New Life Worship

*Greater – MercyMe

He Knows My Name – Francesca Battistelli

*I’m Going Free (Jailbreak) – Vertical Church Band

Keep Making Me – Sidewalk Prophets

Love Take Me Over – Steven Curtis Chapman

*My Heart is Yours – Passion

My Lighthouse – Rend Collective

*My Reward – Kristian Stanfill

*Never Once – Matt Redman or One Sonic Society

*Your Grace Finds Me – Matt Redman

Open Up the Heavens – Meredith Andrews

Restart – Newsboys

*Soul on Fire – Third Day

Sovereign Over Us – Michael W. Smith

Weak Man – Leeland

Well Done – Moriah Peters

You Carry Me – Moriah Peters

God is Enough – Lecrae

*How Can It Be – Lauren Daigle

Outta my Mind – Anthem Lights

Move – MercyMe

Do Everything – Steven Curtis Chapman

Crazy Love – Hawk Nelson

*All Because of Jesus – Fee

Your Love Never Fails – Newsboys

Every Good Thing – The Afters

The Lost Get Found – Britt Nicole

Strong Tower – Kutless

One Thing Remains – Jesus Culture

He Said – Group 1 Crew

His Kind of Love – Group 1 Crew

One Girl (Can Change the World) – Shuree

*current top favorites

What are your favorite Christian songs to listen to while running or working out?

Training Update: Facing a Setback & a Reminder of God’s Sovereignty

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I feel like I should begin this post with: do not ever ignore abnormal pain in training. Don’t make the silly mistake I did. I had been having some foot pain for the past couple of weeks during and after running, but I pushed the pain aside and largely ignored it because I didn’t want to be a “wimp.” To some extent, runners usually expect some sort of pain through the training process. And we push through it…because we are of the determined nature and don’t like scaling back. At least, I’m speaking for myself. When I set out to run this ultramarathon, I set out to do it. Nothing was going to stop me! …Or so I thought.

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The pain grew a little more intense each time, but once I rested it for a day or two, it usually felt okay enough–okay enough to pound out more mileage and rev up the training engines again. But then my normal shoes started fitting too tight and hurt me to wear. Hmmm..inflammation. I came down with the flu so I ended up taking two rest days, so once I was better again, I tried my best to make up for the missed training sessions….which is not a good mindset. I went HARD on training, combining a hill workout, full body strength training, and cross training all in one session with high intensity. And throughout training, ever since I joined the Glass City Marathon training group, I have sacrificed much of my “easy” training run days for speed work or other intervals…rarely ever allowing myself to truly take it easy. And then this past Thursday after an 8 mile run, I had some awful shooting pains through both of my feet. And that’s when I knew…something had to change or else I could seriously hurt myself. All the red flags were there. As much as I hate going to the doctor or even calling to make an appointment, I knew it needed to happen if there was still hope for my 50k at the end of March.

I asked around and received recommendations for a certain chiropractor in town who has a great, solid reputation for treating runners. I called in the morning and was able to be seen only a short couple hours later. See, I hate going to the doctors because I always convince myself that somehow this pain isn’t actually real and I’m just crazy. Or a wimp. Or both. Fortunately (only for the sake of trusting my sanity!) and unfortunately, after the chiropractor’s assessment, it was evident that I was, indeed, injured. He started throwing around terms like stress fracture, confined to wearing a boot, no more running, definitely not running an ultramarathon…and I immediately started panicking. A lump formed in my throat and I was legitimately fighting back the tears. You see, I have poured my heart and soul into this training. Countless hours and miles of unwavering commitment, the struggles, the sweat and tears….but it’s been so much more than that, even still. The miles pounded on pavement (or snow or the treadmill) heal my heart one step at a time. They are my therapy, my time with God, and He meets me there. Every. Single. Time. You can’t run away from your problems or losses or struggles, but you can process them while running. And pray. Lots of praying. Running is my one true confidant  next to my husband. I have yet to be able to share the burden and weight of a recent loss with anyone else, but running has allowed me to heal bit by bit until one day I can.

The thought of that being taken away from me….well, it was heartbreaking and scary. Not to mention having already paid the (non-refundable) registration fee for the race. ANYWAY, I digress. Then my ears perked up at sound of “Well, fortunately, that is the worst case scenario. Want to hear the good news?” Um….YES please, right now! Don’t wait another second!

The good news is that my chiro can’t formally rule out the stress fracture possibility without further assessment, testing, and x-rays, but he is hopeful that it’s only soft tissue damage that can be healed with proper treatment (active recovery treatment). I have quite a bit of adhesion, which are usually small micro tears in the muscle that are typically able to be repaired with adequate rest and recovery. However, mine were large enough tears that they weren’t being repaired and only worsening in several muscle groups. There is a lot of grittiness where it’s supposed to be smooth, and it prevents me from having a normal range of motion. He also mentioned suffering from plantar fasciitis, which is a common running ailment. I wasn’t surprised to hear that. He used this metal instrument to help “fix” me, and let me tell you, it was very uncomfortable….but I will do just about anything right now. Desperation.

But, I am hopeful. Optimistic even! I will be receiving treatment 2-3 times a week, and my chiro is also hopeful that I will be better in time for the race in 5 weeks…maybe. I’m clinging to that hope. He also permitted me to run easy this weekend, cutting back on my mileage and reassessing honestly how my feet were feeling. I was thrilled to hear that I could run this weekend! However, when it came time to meet up for my group long run this morning, I knew deep down that it wasn’t a wise decision to go. The pain was rather intense in my feet.I knew that our route would take us out on country roads. I also knew that once I started running, I wouldn’t be likely to stop halfway through the run even if the pain became severe–because again, we would be far out on country roads. So, I made the decision that scaling back on running right now was far more ideal than having to in the future when I had possibly hurt myself worse. Instead, I went to the gym and biked 40 miles (and completely underestimated how much my backside would be hurting after a long bike ride!).

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Injuries are frustrating but they can serve a greater purpose if we (I!) allow them to. This has reminded me of God’s sovereignty. Of how HE is in control…not me. I can put forth all the effort I can muster, but ultimately, He has all the power. He determines my steps and my paths. His plans are always greater…better. And He can teach me through all circumstances. There is blessing in every storm. Because you never become a skillful sailor without learning how to navigate stormy waters.

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I cannot change my circumstances right now, but I CAN control my attitude and perspective on the situation. I’m not going to pretend I’ve taken this all with sparkles and rainbows and unicorns, because there have been many tears and upset rants, but I am trying my best to be joyful always. Pray without ceasing.

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Ohhhhh we’re halfway there…

…and yes, I’m still livin’ on a prayer! {I hear the pity chuckles from here.. 🙂 }.

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I figured I would give a quick halfway point reflection on how training has gone so far. I just finished week 8 of my 16 week 50k training program.

1) I am most thankful that so far, the Lord has kept me injury free and overall healthy. Even on the days where I don’t want to run, I can still appreciate that I am ABLE…and that’s usually huge motivation to keep going. I pray I never take this gift for granted.

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2) Running with a group of others truly enriches the journey. I am grateful that I was able to join the Marathon in Training group through Dave’s Running Store. Though our section is small (only 12 or so of us as opposed to the 300 in Toledo!), we have a great group that supports and encourages one another. Tuesday Track workouts have turned into my favorite workouts of the week, and I love running with the group on Saturday mornings. The conversations are entertaining and make the time pass more quickly. There is no better camaraderie than the running community!

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3) In month 2 of training (January), I logged 209 miles of running (excluding my cross training/strength workouts). 209 miles! That is a huge accomplishment for my running journey. My highest prior to this was 176 miles (if I remember correctly) during my peak month of marathon training. I remember being incredibly exhausted that month and thinking a month of 200+ miles seemed impossible. I’m not sure if I’ll reach that number again this month considering it is 3 days shorter, but we will see. I do know that I will be running a full marathon as a training run…I’m excited/anxious for that!

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4) Mental training may be of more importance at this point than physical training. I am trying to strengthen my MIND just as I am my body because in the end, it is your mind that carries you through to the end. To help with this, I have completed two long runs on the treadmill (16 miles and 22 miles). Though running on a treadmill for a long run is not ideal, it is fantastic mental training. For the 16 mile run, I watched Netflix to get me through. For the 22 mile run, I challenged myself to no Netflix and only ran with my music and thoughts. To get through these runs, I broke them into manageable chunks in my head. For instance, I thought about the 22 miler as 6 miles 3 times and then I just had to complete a short 4 miler. Seriously, perspective is everything! It wasn’t as grueling as I thought it would be. But I learned that people will give you funny looks if you eat a snack (refuel) while on the treadmill at the gym 🙂

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5) Speaking of fuel, fueling is still tricky and something I need to focus on nailing down within the coming weeks. I don’t feel comfortable with running nutrition yet and what I should use/how often/how much I need to refuel on my long runs. Goal for February.

6) I now remember what it’s like to feel training tired…and RUNGRY. Like a bottomless pit. Both of these just hit this past week or so when I realized simple housework tasks seemed a lot more difficult and required more effort than normal. My poor husband, he is so gracious…

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7) I am already thinking about what will be after running this 50k in March followed by a full marathon in April. I am pretty sure after this I won’t be doing any distance running besides a half marathon here and there (or shorter races), especially considering I have a crazy number of weddings in the fall and hopefully a new teaching job/moving. I absolutely love this training for the challenge and growth it brings, but I also recognize that it is not realistic for me to maintain this level of training year-round. No way..no desire, either. So, I will give it my all through these races then probably cut back to leisurely running and maybe look into running a half marathon (or shorter races) for fun. 🙂

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Above all, I am GRATEFUL for this journey because it challenges me and teaches me everyday. I cannot do this by my own strength and continue to rely on the LORD to persevere.

What I Ate Wednesday

Time for another edition of What I Ate Wednesday! I realize that last week I didn’t do a good job of explaining what everything was…I apologize for that (I was short on time and  had a lot of pictures to catch up on). This week I will caption each photo 🙂 I’m not so technologically savvy with blogging and formatting, so please forgive the poor formatting. I hope you’re able to overlook it and just enjoy the content 😉

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This journey for better health has been a blessing to my life for the sole reason of deepening my relationship with God. He is so gracious.

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This is what I strive for–a life of healthy habits, not restrictions. No food is off limits, but I do believe in balance and nourishing my body most of the time.

Breakfast:

Though it requires an extra little bit of time in the mornings, I make it a priority to eat a nutritious breakfast. It starts the day off on a good note, sets the tone for a healthy day, and keeps my tummy happy until lunchtime!

Recipe for the turkey blueberry muffins was found here. Check it out, even if it sounds pretty repulsive, because they are surprisingly DELICIOUS! Bonus–they are all natural, so if you’re a fan of clean eating (or doing a Whole30), these are right up your alley. Husband approved and convenient for meal prepping. And they have fantastic reviews!

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1 egg + 2 egg whites scrambled with spinach, zucchini, & yellow squash (all seasoned with Mrs. Dash) and topped with avocado + uncured turkey bacon + strawberries/blueberries

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Sometimes I eat weird things for breakfast. 🙂 a microwavable sweet potato topped with almond butter (favorite brand is the Target brand..all natural and tasty!!), yellow bell peppers, brussels sprouts, & a tuna salad packet

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Perfect long run fuel! While doing the Whole30, I had to completely eliminate all grains and found myself super tired/lethargic and lacking in energy for my ultra marathon training. Endurance training without any sort of grains can take a toll on your body! So, I made the decision to add them back and it has made a difference. 1/2 cup oats cooked in dark chocolate almond milk/water + almond butter + banana + strawberries + a raspberry for garnish

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One pan meal 🙂 Aidell’s chicken apple sausage + broccoli + sugar snap peas + butternut squash + yellow squash + mushroom + onion all sauteed in spray coconut oil and served with one fried egg

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Breakfast at my parents’ house: 1/2 sweet potato with almond butter + chicken lunch meat + hard boiled egg + berries + banana

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Chicken apple sausage (I could eat one of these everyday! So tasty…found at Kroger and Target) + butternut squash + sugar snap peas + yellow squash + kale + green peppers + celery + 1/2 an apple sauteed together in spray coconut oil + raspberries/blueberries

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Turkey Blueberry Muffins! I realize these sound disgusting and don’t look that appealing (especially with poor lighting and a messy pan), but TAKE MY WORD, THEY ARE AMAZING. Even my husband says so–and he was VERY reluctant. They are perfect to reheat in the mornings–fast and convenient. These will be a new staple around our place!

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Two turkey blueberry muffins + a hard boiled egg + brussels sprouts/onion/mushroom sauteed in spray olive oil + strawberries

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Lunch:

Most of my lunches are eaten at work, so I prep and pack them the night before or occasionally during meal prepping on Sundays.

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Leftover bacon, spaghetti squash, & parmesan fritters (see recipe in Dinner section) + fresh veggies with one wholly guacamole pack + grapes

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Chicken stir fry cooked in liquid aminos (a healthier alternative to soy sauce), topped with cashews and served on a bed of spinach/kale + raspberries/blueberries + mixed raw veggies with cauliflower hummus (link to recipe in snack section)

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I call this a Grinch lunch with all the green 🙂 salad with romaine, kale, spinach, chicken chunks, green pepper, tomato, fresh lime juice, guacamole, & salsa + grapes + broccoli/grape tomatoes

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One yellow bell pepper sliced in half and stuffed with a mix of chicken chunks, one mini wholly guacamole pack, and salsa + carrots + grape tomatoes + an apple with PB2 (powdered peanut butter mixed with water–45 calories per one serving of 2 tbsp)

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For National Fun at Work Day, one of the (very sweet) teachers I work with decided to treat us to lunch out at one of the local restaurants. I ordered my favorite veggie wrap–spinach, carrots, cucumber, sprouts, tomato, black olives, and mushroom on a sun dried tomato wrap served with fresh fruit. Instead of using the ranch they provided for dipping, I used my side of cauliflower hummus. YUM

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Snacks:

One of my new favorite snacks is this cauliflower hummus. I was introduced to it at our church’s lifegroup (the lifegroup leaders eat Paleo and have discovered that we enjoy a lot of the same foods :)). The men remarked how pleasantly surprised they were by the hummus. I predict I will make this almost weekly now…it pairs so well with fresh veggies! I love it!

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I tried the new Quest Bar flavor after my run this weekend. Smore’s Quest Bar…my new favorite flavor! These are great protein bars with only 1 gram of sugar (which is way better than most protein bars). One of the best brands on the market…chocolate chip cookie dough and white chocolate raspberry are also good flavors.

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This is a great protein shake option for before or after a workout. I used 1 cup unsweetened cashew milk (I now prefer this over almond milk), 1 banana, chocolate PB2, and 1/2 scoop of vanilla protein powder (cheap brand found at Wal Mart)…all blended together with some ice. Tastes like a milkshake!

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Fun finds at Target 🙂 You know those addicting Brookside dark chocolate pomegranate treats? Well, now they come portion sized in 90 calorie baggies! I haven’t broken into them yet but was excited to find them. And these boomchickapop snack packs are awesome–I’m a sucker for fun flavored popcorn. A fun indulgence and portion control–I’m all for that.

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Veggies dipped in cauliflower hummus…I am addicted to this Paleo version of hummus. And this new devotional is wonderful so far!

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Sometimes a girl just needs her Starbucks (especially when she has gift cards burning a hole in her wallet ;)). A skinny vanilla latte for a Monday morning!

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This was actually a lunch one day (grab and go kind of frazzled morning), but these are all good snack choices. Blueberries, cuties, grape tomatoes, and an Rx bar. These Rx bars are Whole30 approved and all natural protein bars, made with egg whites, dates, figs, and nuts.

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Dinner:

We tried a new recipe this week called bacon, spaghetti squash, and parmesan fritters. These might be life changing they are SO good. We already enjoy spaghetti squash, but this took it to a whole new level of awesome! They are a little messy to make, but they are worth it (and that’s saying something because I hate messy recipes). We actually argued over the leftovers 😉

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Simple dinner throw together at my parents’ house while visiting. Salad mix with rotisserie chicken lunch meat, all the veggies, and BBQ sauce. I LOVE BBQ sauce! 🙂

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Spaghetti squash boats topped with spinach and pesto marinara sauce with ground beef. To make spaghetti squash, we cook ours at 425 for 40 minutes–but for the boats, we only cooked it half an hour, then shred some of the squash in the boat, and add the meat sauce. Return back to the oven for another 20 minutes, reducing the heat to 350. Aaron added cheese on top of his before putting it back in the oven.

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Pizza night at the Brown’s! A flatout flatbread topped with sauce, mozzarella cheese, spinach, onion, green pepper, broccoli, black olives, mushroom, & 1/2 a chicken sausage. We baked the flatbread pizzas at 375 for 12 minutes. They were delicious!! Satisfied a pizza craving in a healthy way

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Bacon, spaghetti squash, & parmesan fritters served with broccoli and grapes (because we didn’t feel like making fancy sides after making the fritters..haha). Also, notice we ate off our coffee table because we had made a mess in the kitchen 🙂

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A turkey burger served over spinach/kale and topped with guac/salsa + green peppers + 1/2 sweet potato with cinnamon + tomatoes + grapes

What I Ate Wednesday

After seeing other people share their food ideas and such in a series called “What I Ate Wednesday,” I decided to join in on the fun! Now, I am absolutely *not* a food blogger/photographer/chef/guru or anything of that sort, but I do enjoy some good healthy eating (with the occasional treats thrown in for – balance! -) and sharing this passion with others. What you eat has a HUGE impact on how you feel – truthfully, nutrition affects much more of your life than most people realize! It has taken me years to finally find a good, healthy balance in my eating, but I am committed to fueling my body with as much nutritional goodness as I can while still enjoying the occasional not so healthy items. Simply put, eating well makes me feel good from the inside out. I want to feel good about what I am putting into my body. Sadly, my cooking skills were about zilch when we got hitched, and I never really had the desire to learn…up until the past couple of months. It’s a long process, that’s for sure, but I am enjoying experimenting more in the kitchen. One thing you may notice about most (if not all!) of my food is that it is simple. I’m just not the kind of woman who seeks out complex, beautiful recipes. 85% of the time I don’t even use a recipe…I just throw what sounds good together and pray for the best 😉 Breakfasts tend to be pretty standard (eggs, veggies, fruit, with the occasional oatmeal or other item to mix it up), lunches are packed and eaten out of Tupperware at work, and dinners are typically (but not always) planned out. We will usually aim for 3 dinners a week that are a little more “involved” and the rest are quick and easy.

Let me assure you–eating mindfully and healthy does NOT have to be boring or taste bad. There are some seriously delicious healthy recipes out there (husband-approved), and honestly, I only eat what I genuinely enjoy. Find what healthy foods you like (which may involve branching out and trying new things!) and RUN with them!

(some of) my favorite healthy foods:

  • sweet potatoes
  • avocado
  • eggs
  • zucchini (especially making zucchini noodles)
  • spaghetti squash (a great, healthier alternative to spaghetti)
  • Aidell’s chicken apple sausage (I could eat one everyday!)
  • bananas
  • almond butter (Target brand is without added sugar or other ingredients and super tasty)
  • tuna
  • NomNomPaleo slow cooker Kalua pig
  • any sautéed veggies (we use olive oil spray)–yellow squash, broccoli, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, onions, peppers, etc.
  • Paleo chili / sweet potato chili
  • almond crusted chicken fingers
  • tomatoes (especially the snacking grape tomatoes)
  • salsa and guacamole for “dressings” or toppings

Enough chatter. I hope you can find some inspiration in the pictures below to create some easy, healthy meals that are packed full of nutrition. There is no shame in simple…I thrive on it (and repeat a lot). Remember that food is fuel to nourish and strengthen our bodies so we may live to glorify Christ!

***The pictures below are from the beginning of January through now. My husband and I  started (and ended, more on that later) a second round of Whole30 at the beginning of January, so much of this food is “whole30 compliant” (no sugar, dairy, soy, alcohol, legumes, etc.–all whole, unprocessed foods). Normally, there are more “treats” thrown in for a healthy dose of moderation and balance! Sorry to overwhelm you with so many pictures right away. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments!***

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How To Start Running {5 Tips to Get You Started and Keep You Going}

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Do you want to start running but feel overwhelmed and clueless about where to begin? Well, I hope this post helps you. One of the most common questions I am asked is “How did you start running? Any advice or tips you could offer to help get me started?” – so I thought this would be an appropriate topic for my first blog post. Now, I am clearly NOT an expert, and I am sure you could Google the question to find better “answers.” However, I will write out of my honest experience and share what has helped me along the way.

For 22 years of my life, I never would have associated myself with anything related to running. I did not have any interest or desire to begin running, much less the ability to do so. If you were like me, the farthest I had run was to chase the bus before I missed it in the morning. Running can seem very daunting, even if you are in pretty decent shape…which I was not. Running does not come natural for many people, and let me assure you, it definitely did not come naturally for me. I had to work for it, stay focused, and keep going even when I wanted to give up.

Even if you feel like you will never be a runner, you must remember that whatever you set your mind to do…you CAN. It requires practice, making it a priority, and a relentless pursuit, but you CAN!

Here are 5 tips I would give an aspiring runner based on my experiences:

  1. Set a Goal – I knew I wanted to get into better shape, and since I didn’t want to spend a ton of money doing so, I decided to try running outside at a local park. Don’t wait until you’re in good shape to start running. For so long, I thought I had to have a runner’s body to run. NOT TRUE! When I started, I couldn’t even run 2 consecutive minutes without stopping to catch my breath and walk. But I challenged myself to log 50 miles over the month of June. Setting a mileage goal was motivating for me because it kept me accountable to staying consistent throughout the entire month. Maybe you set a mileage goal for the week, or maybe you set a mileage goal for the season. Or, maybe you set a time goal—such as running “x” number of minutes throughout the week or month. Whatever works for you, but keep it realistic yet challenging! I kept track of my miles in just a simple note on my phone, but there are many free apps that allow you to keep track, too (such as mapmyrun, Nike+, runkeeper, etc.). I used mapmyrun to keep track of each run, but I liked keeping a running total of my mileage in a note that was easy to access. The sense of accomplishment from adding up the miles after each run (run/walk, really, but I’ll explain below) was incredibly motivating. {**in that first month, I logged 104.3 miles—over doubling my initial goal! I went a little crazy…see #3 :))
  1. Focus on endurance over speed – It is important to go slow in the beginning. Otherwise, you risk injury and burnout. Do not be afraid to go slow, keeping your runs shorter in the beginning and gradually building them. Obviously, you will not go from a non-runner to a marathoner over night, so baby steps are critical to the process. Some people may even prefer to focus on minutes instead of miles/distance. Personally, I found intervals really helped me build my endurance. I wasn’t worried about how fast or slow I was going—the point was that I was just going. {I have also heard that it’s very difficult to simultaneously build endurance and increase speed. Pick your focus. When I was just starting, it was all about endurance!} When I was running, I would pick a point that I wanted to reach before taking a walking break—such as the next mailbox, tree, or curve. I would push myself to make it that far, take a short walking break (however long is for you to decide), and then begin again with my next running interval. Each day, I would focus on trying to make my running intervals just a little longer, even if it was only by a few seconds. The seconds add up over the days! It was a fun challenge to see if I could make it to a farther landmark before walking again. I will never forget the day I ran my first complete lap around the park—the day I ran my first mile without stopping!

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  1. Stick to a schedule – If you’re like me, you might be very eager to dive straight in and run allllllll the miles RIGHT AWAY. The excitement can consume you to the point where you want to run everyday. Or, maybe you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum where you’re not feeling super motivated. Regardless, I suggest planning and sticking to a schedule. Schedule your running days, make time for them, and don’t back out! Also, it’s important to include scheduled rest days from running, especially when you’re first starting out. I would recommend at least 3 or 4 days a week of running with a couple off days mixed in. I consistently ran about 5-6 times per week, but I made sure that I was pushing myself with healthy boundaries (i.e. not trying to run 10 miles each time). I didn’t personally use any program, but I have heard that the program Couch to 5k/Couch to 10k (free apps available for your smart phone) can be very helpful and beneficial, especially if you’re looking for more structure and a set schedule.
  1. Create accountability – Accountability is huge. If you are able to hold yourself accountable, that’s awesome, but if you aren’t, that’s okay too! There is no shame in that because most people need some sort of outside accountability, particularly in the beginning. I held myself accountable by posting my 50 mile challenge to Instagram. It sounds silly and trivial, but I knew it would keep me committed and on the right track. Tell your friends, family, neighbors, the entire world—whoever you want!—because we could all use that extra dose of encouragement, support, and accountability. If it works for you, find a buddy to go running with you. I didn’t have a running buddy (nor do I think I wanted one in the beginning!), but I know it helps to have a partner for some people. Another source of accountability could be signing up for a local race. I didn’t start running with any intentions of ever running races (yet now I’m addicted), but again, for some people this is very motivating. Having a race on the calendar inspires you to get out there and keep going, but don’t feel like you ever have to run races, either. (Are you sensing the theme of “find what works best for YOU” yet?! :)) Lastly, I didn’t do this in the beginning, but I wish I had—join running groups. I’m not talking about local running groups where you meet every Saturday for morning runs (though you could definitely go that route if you wanted!!), but I’m referring to running groups on social media. The running communities on both Facebook and Instagram are amazing, inspiring, and encouraging. Favorite Run Community and Run JunkEes on Facebook are communities that keep me personally inspired and passionate. My newsfeed is 85% running related posts, and let me tell you, I wouldn’t want it any other way! The stories shared there will continually motivate you to take those steps out the door.
  1. Make it fun! – I started my running journey at a local park (and will forever be nostalgic towards that place). In the beginning, I was a creature of habit and solely ran at this park. I felt safe, comfortable because there wasn’t a lot of traffic or people there, and at peace in the great outdoors. The paved pathways and loops helped me, and it was fun spending time outside rather than on a treadmill. I genuinely looked forward to this alone time, what I called my free therapy and time of worship/prayer. Make a fun, energizing playlist of music to keep you going (or if you’re like me, include songs you like regardless of beat—I run well to some of my favorite slower songs!). Do everything you can to view this as sacred fun time. Endorphins, music, sweat, and getting lost in your own thoughts/prayer/music—what more could you ask for? 🙂
  1. Invest in Quality Running Shoes – Not all running shoes are created equal. I would recommend going to a running store specifically (not just a sporting goods store like Dick’s) and getting fitted for shoes. Proper footgear can make or break a running experience because different shoes provide different types of support based on your running style. Seriously, who is going to stick to running if your shoes hurt your feet?! I was absolutely clueless about this for a long time, but fortunately, the pair of Asics I picked up on sale at Kohl’s served me just fine. Even though you might prefer to stick with a pair of sneakers from Payless (I tried that before!) because you don’t want to shell out a bunch of money on a pair of running shoes, I would highly, HIGHLY encourage you to spend the pennies on good running shoes. There are many brands and styles out there, and the employees at these specialty stores are trained to fit you for these shoes. Worth every penny (and more). I guess I could also add that fun workout gear can be super motivating, too, but if you’re trying to save money.. 🙂

Above all, I encourage you to be and stay disciplined, to be PATIENT as you start, and to wait for the improvement that will inevitably come. It may not seem like progress is being made, but TRUST THE PROCESS. It is. There will be good runs, horrible runs, fantastic runs, and runs that make you want to throw in the towel. Just make a promise to yourself that you will keep trying your best no matter what!

patience running

Remember that everybody is once a beginner. June 1st, 2013, the day I took my first running steps, changed me forever. I ended that summer with a couple hundred running miles logged and a half marathon medal earned (very unplanned, ran it with only a couple day’s notice), but most importantly, I had gained a newfound passion. The feeling I get from running is indescribable, but God has given me this passion for a reason, that I know. I have run 4 half marathons and 1 full marathon, and I am currently training for a trail 50k ultra-marathon and my second full marathon–all glory be to God who changed my life through the simple act of running.

“I run because it’s so symbolic of life. You have to drive yourself to overcome the obstacles. You might feel that you can’t. But then you find your inner strength and realize you’re capable of so much more than you thought.”