THE DAY I STOPPED ASKING WHY - A Guest Blog Post

Hello my fine-feathered Heifer-Friends (just go with me on that, I'm uncalfeinated).

A few days ago I shared another guest blog post from my friend Brett. It's called LIVE IN THE LIGHT.  Click that link to read it.  No really. Before you read this one, go click and read. (thank you!)  Gosh, I'm bossy today. I'm excited to share with you his next blog post: 

THE DAY I STOPPED ASKING WHY

It appears that after a certain point the realisations come thick and fast. This is the second in as many days.

Exactly when I stopped asking ‘why’ I’m not sure. But I know it was a conscious decision. Think about it, as a kid that’s all we do, it was certainly all I did. I was hungry for information. At any given opportunity I asked ‘why’? I was a sponge. But, sponges get saturated and maybe that’s what happened for me.  I don’t know.

What I do remember are episodes when asking ‘why’ seemed to set me apart from other kids in a way I didn’t enjoy. I remember once going to a party. There was a ‘punch and judy’ show which i was encouraged to watch. I knew that the puppets were controlled by a man behind the curtain. The other children seemed enthralled whereas I sat there dissecting the mechanics behind the facade. I knew this wasn’t ‘normal’ behaviour so, to please my parents I played along.

I’m in a car with my family. It’s late. My father has been drinking. A lot. He is driving home and doesn’t seem to care. My mother is worried. She is asking him if she should drive. He laughs a drunk laugh and says he’s fine. He isn’t. He can’t handle a corner and instead goes straight over a corner. I ask why? I’m young, but I’m not stupid. I understand the risks he is taking.

Years go by and I’m with my family. Conversations at various social gatherings inherently descended into ‘piss’ taking where the ability to apply any level of intellect was totally unheard of. Nobody seemed to want to ask ‘why’? They seemed content with just ‘being’.

We move forward. A friend commits suicide, the breakdown of a relationship, the Manchester bomb, the Victoria Station bomb..... the list goes on. My mind is now continuously whirring and the issues with my family that have haunted me for so long are added to the list. I hit sensory overload.

At that point, I decided to stop asking why. It was a totally conscious decision. There just too much input, too many unanswered questions. I wanted to understand everything and couldn’t. But as I stopped asking why I think the child inside me became sad.

For years, decades actually, this is how I existed. I was, in effect, dumbing myself down. My mind, or at least some of it, became quiet. But it didn’t work. My mind wouldn’t accept the off switch and every so often something bubbled up. To cope I started reinventing myself. It kept me busy. Metaphorically, and in some cases physically I ran. I moved cities, I changed jobs, I had girlfriend after girlfriend. I even travelled and ended up working in the Catskill mountains, north New York state, desperately trying to find peace. I even thought I found it once. I was lying on my back on a football pitch somewhere Catskills looking up at the bluest sky. The pitch was empty and for that moment I felt at peace. That moment is the reason for the tattoo on my back.

But you can’t run forever. You can’t keep reinventing. Sooner or later the mind finds a way to break through every wall you put up.

Eventually, whilst living in Leeds I hit rock bottom and finally sought out the help I so desperately needed. That was the start of the journey.

It’s got to be ten years later and I’ve stopped running. I mean properly stopped running. Yes, I run now, more than ever and love every step. But this is REAL running and I’m not running from anything, I’m running to a better place every step I take. Does the running still quiet my mind. Yes, absolutely. But that’s okay as it allows me to focus on things positively. Do I now ask ‘why’? Yes, all the time. Is the child inside loving being able to ask why? Yes, absolutely, yes. Can I cope if I don’t know the answer? Yes.  

Nobody can run forever. Nobody can shut down their mind forever. For me it was time to reboot and it feels amazing.

ABOUT BRETT: Brett is a father, a teacher, a runner. He completed his first triathlon at the tender age of 17 and has gone on to run every distance from sprint mile to marathon and aims to complete his first ultra marathon in 2018 at the not so tender age of 47. 

He is open about his battle with mental health and since hitting rock bottom 8 years ago has been on what he would describe as being a life changing journey ever since. He is a firm believer that through sharing and support anything is possible and that above all else we must strive to de-stigmatise mental health.   You can follow Brett on Twitter HERE.

 

It's Not Me - It's You: 5 Tips for Taking a Break From Running

Hello to the HeiferHood! Y'all know I love sharing content with other awesome blogs - and today is no different.  My BFFs over at Hey Little Rebel were kind enough to share my article on taking a break from running.  Here it is below, of you can click the link above.

5 Tips for Taking a Break From Running

 

What if someone, or everyone, is telling you to take a break from one of the most important relationships in your life?

What if that relationship isn’t with your boyfriend or wife or new bestie at work? What if that relationship is the one you have with running?

In every runner’s career, even those of us who embrace plenty of walking and sometimes never get above a slog, someone will tell us, “you need to take a break.”

It might be a doctor. It might be a therapist or a friend. It might even be ourselves. Nearly every runner out there will have to slow it down or stop completely at some point, and for a lot of us, that’s really, really hard.

Running is definitely a relationship. It can be a crazy, drama-filled relationship with all sorts of colorful characters. It can be a sweet romance that is hopeful and new. It can be a friendship of many years, where you take each other ugly parts and all. But for everyone I know, it’s a solid relationship.  Like every relationship I know, it has its ups and downs. There are the good times, when you can’t get enough of each other.  There are the boring moments, when you look elsewhere (cycling, I’m checkin’ you out). There are the tough times when you hurt each other and have to retreat to your corners and lick your wounds (or tape a heel). It’s a fluid relationship that takes work, commitment and sometimes a little time apart.

Whatever the reason for the break (an injury, an extended work trip, illness), there are ways to make the time off better and to come back stronger, healthier and ready for the next stage of the relationship.

So, what do we do when we have to cut off the relationship for a while? What do we do after we’ve said the famous phrase: Um…I need a break?

Here are my Top 5 Tips for Taking a Break From Running:

Realize the Reason

Look, any challenge sucks a little less if you have a clear idea why you’re doing it. It’s the same with taking a break from running. Most times, when we have to take a break, it’s not because we want to; there is a reason outside of ourselves suggesting it, pushing for it, screaming sometimes because we didn’t listen to their early, calm and rational pleas. If we look at the reason for the break, understand the value of it and embrace that it exists, we can bide our time a lot better.

Anger, frustration and irritation are normal feelings when we’re injured or sidelined, but they don’t help us get back in the game any faster. If you’re injured, realize what led to that injury and focus on building new habits to avoid it in the future. If you have life events limiting your schedule and thwarting your running routine, look at those events and understand why they’re important. You might be investing in family time or building a career. Taking a break from running to invest in something equally good isn’t always a bad thing. If you take a sec and dig deep (I know, you can roll your eyes), you can find a lot of motivation in using the time wisely instead of just slogging through.

Get a New Girlfriend

You know when a guy breaks up with you and gets a new girlfriend a week or two later? Yeah, do that. Make her kind of shiny and new.  Seriously, though, when you’re a regular runner and you have to take a break, there is a gap. That gap needs to be filled. We run for all sorts of reasons beyond burning calories and getting our hearts pumping. Running calms some of us down from the chaos of life (have I mentioned I have 4 kids?!). I know people who run to sort through work issues or decompress after a long day. Whatever the reason(s) you run, there will be a gap to fill when you take a break. Think about how you want to fill it because if you don’t fill it, that break will really suck. This might be just the time to try cycling, swimming, walking or weights. If you’re physically able to try something new, do it.

Embrace the Break

There will be the times your doctor says to lay off all physical activity for a while. It sucks. Slathering it in frosting won’t make it any better; you just can’t sugar-coat this one. You have to sit out for six weeks and heal.  You’ve got two choices here: resist or relent. I’m not normally one to relent, but in this case, resisting isn’t going to get me anywhere. If I have to take a full-on exercise break, I try to focus my energy on a new project. This helps keep my mental state in check, because as well all know, running is as much a mental game as it is physical. I focus on my piano or a new book or a project at work. I throw myself into it with some serious gusto, which helps the time pass quicker and lets me forget that I’m benched. And I realize that in embracing this break, I’m letting myself heal properly so I can avoid the same thing in the future.

Factor in Food

Many of us use running as a checks and balance system that goes something like this: I run three miles so I don’t have to eat like a bird when I go out to the Cheesecake Factory. I know I can’t outrun a donut, so I don’t ever think I can ignore diet, even if I’m running. But I do know that running burns several hundred calories. If I ignore that fact while I’m taking a break, the scale will creep back up. This is when we have to adjust our sails (which makes me sound like I’m writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul).

Seriously, though, it’s worth looking at our food intake and finding a few hundred calories to cut for a few weeks. It’s not forever. And it’s not about restriction or punishment. It’s just a tweak or two, and it’s for a specific period of time. Cutting out a snack or eating a smaller portion will limit the snowball effect of overeating and lack of exercise, which is hard to get back on track. Adjusting calories-in can help compensate for a break in exercise or for the fact that we’ll be moving slower and maybe less for a month or two.

Focus on Healing

If I’m sidelined from running because of an injury, I try to focus on healing. My body is telling me something that my doctor is probably also telling me, and if I don’t listen, I’ll be hearing this story again in the near future. The story is simple: heal. Rest. Stretch. Rehab. Focusing on anything else is misusing our energy. Sure, it’s okay to find a new exercise routine or assess snacking, but the overall focus really does need to be on healing. Doing what my doctors and therapists tell me to do is key. I’m no physical therapist or exercise therapist. I’m a mom with four kids and two dogs and a husband, hustling all over Phoenix, trying to survive 120 degree heat. I want to keep myself healthy and fit, which means pushing when I need to push and pulling back when I need to do that. I focus on healing in the moment so I can focus on pushing in the future.

Relationships aren’t always rainbows and sunshine. They all have ups and downs. Our relationship with running is no different. There will be frustrations, plateaus, injuries and splinters from being benched. That’s life. That’s what it means to be in a relationship. But like all relationships, if we can stick out the tough times and embrace the struggle, we come out stronger in the end.

These 5 tips help me remember the reasons I run, the importance of it in my life and the value of making the most of any break I have to take. By embracing the break and understanding the reasons behind it, I can actually use the time to heal my body, explore new projects or exercise and tweak my diet so my injuries or life events don’t spiral into a complete meltdown but might actually lead to something better down the road. Seriously, people, I’m turning that frown upside down!

Parties, BBQs, and Food, OH MY!

Melissa's No Bull Tips for Partying Hard…But Smart

Okay, Heifers.  You guys know what’s around the corner, right? No, not the season finale of The Bachelorette (admit it: you watch)…..but the good ol’ American classic:  Fourth of July.

What does this mean? Aside from flag bunting, tube tops and lugging your lawn chairs around for fireworks….this means food. And drinks.

Lots and lots of both.

ERMAGAWD Get In My Belly!

ERMAGAWD Get In My Belly!

I don’t know about y'all, but I love to celebrate American independence with all sorts of unhealthy  options. Flag cake. Ice cream sandwiches. Potato salad. Open bags of Lay’s BBQ potato chips.

The list is as endless as the tables it’s piled onto.

Years ago, I didn’t think twice about a hot dog, baked beans, macaroni salad and a serving (or four) of Paula Dean pound cake topped with sugar-soaked berries and Cool Whip.

Today, though, times have changed. When I began eating healthier and getting serious about fitness, I first changed my daily habits. That was fairly easy because I had some control over my food and always had healthy options to choose from. But then, the inevitable holiday would roll around and healthy choices were harder to come by. I’d find myself face-to-face with a table full of crockpot mac & cheese, brownie bars and fancy cheese platters.  

If you’ve ever struggled to maintain a healthy diet during a holiday, you feel my pain. In the almost six years that I’ve been maintaining my weight loss, though, I’ve developed a few tips and insights into not just getting through holidays but enjoying them without binge eating and having to ride home with my pants unbuttoned.  I do that just to embarrass the kids.  

Here are my Top 5 Tips For Healthy Holiday Partying:

  1. Pick Your Poison - You have to choose how you splurge all the time, but especially on holidays. There are just too many options for going off the rails. There is alcohol. There are sweets. There is cheese. Endless options to go off plan. The thing is, pick one.  Just one. This serves two purposes: you have a clear idea of what it is you’re splurging on ahead of time, and you get the satisfaction of looking forward to that splurge. It’s so much more mindful than promising yourself you won’t touch a cookie or cocktail and knowing, deep in your soul, that you’ll do exactly that. When you pick your poison, you get to look forward to the treat, enjoy it and keep the other stuff in the corner, where it belongs.  I’m tempted to put in a Dirty Dancing joke here, but I’m going to refrain. Because that's how I roll. 

  2. Channel Your Inner Scarlett - If you know you’re heading to a BBQ or party where all those treats will be staring you in the eye, plan ahead! A good offense is the best defense, Heifers. Remember that scene in Gone with the Wind, when Scarlett is going to the BBQ and she’s instructed to eat beforehand so she won’t disgrace herself with unladylike public binging?  Yeah. Do that.  Have a high protein snack before you head out, and add some fat to that to keep you full. Then, when you hit the buffet line, you won’t be shaking and faint, grabbing for the first spoonful of pasta salad you can reach.  Drink some water, too. It fills you up and keeps you hydrated, which is important not just for good food choices but also so you don’t pass out after the beer bong.  I mean….so I’ve heard.  #afriendtoldmethat

  3. Know Your Weakness - We all have a weakness, that one thing that gets us every time. I have a friend who, after one cocktail, physically attaches herself to the food table and leaves claw marks when her husband finally pulls her away. Alcohol is her weakness. If she just sips lemonade, she can eat reasonably. If she swigs a Moscow Mule? Curtains.  I have a weakness for sweets, myself, so I have to be careful near the dessert table. One brownie turns into two and then three and then I talk myself into the cookie display because I’ve already trashed my diet so….why not really celebrate? Yeah, so I have to know ahead of time that I’m going to steer clear of the dessert table. My friend knows to have the lemonade or sparkling water. You might have to turn away from the cheese platter. Whatever your weakness, identify it ahead of time and steer clear. This way, you get to enjoy the other stuff without opening the proverbial floodgates.  

  4. Know When It’s Not About the Food - Social functions can be landmines of anxiety and awkwardness. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’ve felt out of place myself a time or two (read: often). When we don’t know anyone or we’re uncomfortable or we don’t know what to say, sometimes it’s just easier to eat. It soothes our nerves and fills a void when social anxiety hits, and I think it can hit for even the most social among us. If this might be a possibility, just think about it ahead of time. We’ve got options here. We can try to find someone we know to hang out with if it’s a new crowd. We can talk to our spouse or friend and ask not to be left hanging for an hour while they talk shop. We can think of a few topics for discussion to arm ourselves with, which sounds totally cheesy and like I got that tip from my therapist, but it works. Whatever we do, it’s good just to go into social functions aware of how we’re feeling and whether or not we’re tempted to use food to deal with those feelings. When we’re aware, we make better choices. It’s cheesy and it’s legit.

  5. Chew Gum - When all else fails, chew gum. I know: you think I’m weird. That may be true, but aside from that, chew the gum. It gives you that little bit of sweet you might be craving after a meal, and it keeps you from swiping another brownie bite on your way to the bounce house.  I do this at home, too, when I have to give my kids snacks or when they’re eating yet another meal outside of designated meal times.  I chew gum. It’s really hard to eat Cheezits and Trident together. Trust me on this one.

That’s it.  I think the theme here is just being aware and, with that awareness, planning ahead. Holidays are fun. BBQs are a good time. I love a well-made brownie, or a slice of brie slathered on a Keebler cracker.  

I don’t love waking up the next morning with a hangover: alcohol or food induced.  So, I use these tips to ward that off but still enjoy myself and celebrate.  

Do you have any tips you use to get through holidays with your good intentions intact? Leave me comments, tips, suggestions and questions below.  I'll share them in our facebook group page