Empire Run Up Life Lessons

It was an honor and extreme privilege to be invited to the invitational heat of the Empire Run Up for the 4th year in a row. The best climbers from around the world were there. After a not so stellar performance Tuesday night, along with kicking myself in the ass for not realizing where the finish line was, I initially experienced a wide rage of emotions.  But with that comes perspective on what really matters. 

With race #32 in the books I have had so many life lessons in the stairwell. One of the most important has been that at the end of the day this is about so much more than how fast I made it to the top.  It’s about our resiliency in life. It’s showing up even when roads have taken us off course. It’s about being a warrior for not just ourselves but for others. 

I’m beyond grateful to have a strong & fit body that took me up 86 floors and 1,556 steps. It doesn’t come easy. I put in the work, no matter what obstacles come in my way, physical and mental.  And recently, I’ve had to make  major adjustments in my training.  We all have individual challenges that come our way when we least expect it.  That is all part of our journey of life. 

As I reflect on my race Tuesday night I know I did my best.  It may be different than last year but I gave it everything I had.  And that’s what life is about.  Putting in the work to achieve whatever goals you have.  And knowing that even if you have some speed bumps or detours that may take you off course, as long as you know you gave it everything you had, then you are a winner. 

“You are stronger than you believe. You have greater powers than you know.”-Antiope (Wonder Woman)

Where it all began in 1978. The most iconic race in the world.
Pre race photo op!

Me and Christine Soskins from California. One of the fiercest competitors out there. And one of the best Step Sibs I know.
Team Charlotte, Suzanne Bergen, myself, Meg Santanna & Stephanie Hucko. All a part of the Invitational Heat!
My own personal sponsor.

The Sweet Life

As many of you may already know, I’m passionate about health and fitness. If I could create a new job for myself I would be a Health Educator.  Come to think to it, it’s never too late to start! I guess my blog is as good a place as any to share some of the latest information out there.

This first post in my new position as your Online Health Awareness Educator, is All About Sugar!  That’s right, sugar.  No matter how sweet it is, the research shows that sugar is not something you want as a main staple in your diet.  Diabetes, Heart Disease, Liver Disease, Cancer and Obesity are all health issues that Sugar plays a major role in.

This is a great article explaining how Sugar impacts the body and contributes to the health issues I referenced above.  http://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/too-much-can-make-us-sick/#.XI_Tti3Mw1g

Unfortunately, Sugar is the master of disguise and comes hidden in many forms such as honey, agave, high fructose corn syrup and evaporated cane juice, just to name a few. In addition, sugar is added to so many popular convenience foods, even the “healthier” ones.  Many people think they don’t have a sweet tooth but don’t realize how much added sugar is already in their diet.

Another important thing to pay attention to is the difference between Glucose and Fructose.  Glucose can be metabolized by almost every cell in the body, Fructose is almost entirely metabolized in the liver.  So, if you think heavy alcohol consumption is the only danger to the liver, think again.  Check out this link for a simple breakdown of the types of sugar and what you need to be looking for.  https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/56-different-names-for-sugar#section2

While I’m used to mass marketing of sugary products by major manufacturers, which is a huge impact of our rise of disease, what also frustrates me is what I see on the internet. Particularly in the land of social media and local “celebrity” bloggers.  There are many supposed “healthy” bloggers out there who talk about living a balanced lifestyle.   I’m sorry, a half a cup of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey has 300 calories with 28 grams of sugar.  That means 1/3rd of that half a cup is all sugar!  The recommendations from the American Heart Association on daily added sugar is 25 grams/6 teaspoons for women and 36 grams/9 teaspoons for men. Click here for more info:  https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugar

What bothers me most is many of us, myself included, follow blogs.  Being an amateur blogger myself, there are so many great ones out there that I really enjoy following.  But remember, many popular bloggers out there are not experts in nutrition, especially many of the Fitness Professionals, be it a Personal Trainer, Pilates Instructor, Yoga Instructor or the like.

And just because they are incorporating baked goods, sweets and decadent ice cream into their day, it doesn’t mean you should be doing the same.  Don’t get me wrong.  Of course you are going to have special celebrations, parties, and holidays where you should let yourself enjoy your favorite desert.  If you care about your health, they shouldn’t be daily occurrences, whether you are trying to lose weight or not.  Just because someone is “skinny” or looks super fit, does not mean their insides are healthy.  Remember, heart disease is the #1 Killer of Women (and men)!  Sugar is a big deal when it comes to your heart health.

There are so many ways to satisfy your “sweet” tooth that don’t involve compromising your health. I’ll conclude with this short but powerful segment on sugar that I hope you will ALL take the time to watch.  Remember, your health is worth it. http://www.cbn.com/tv/1570293751001?mobile=false

In good health my friends!

A Season In Time

In Chinese Medicine they believe in living in harmony with the seasons.  There are five seasons, winter, spring, summer, late summer and fall.  As the seasons change so too should some of our daily habits, in order to create more balance with ourselves and the environment.

Winter in Traditional Chinese Medicine is associated with the kidneys. The kidneys are where the fire is inside us…the source of energy for our entire body.  With the colder weather, less daylight and changes in nature around us, it is a time for us to “slow down” and nourish ourselves, both physically and mentally.   A time to go inward in order to emerge refreshed and renewed come spring.  To learn more click on this link. https://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/nutrition/seasons/winter/

In this winter of 2019 I am finding myself wanting to stop all the external noise and step away, doing some deep refection and soul searching, opening up some pain and sadness that is all too often muffled and silenced by the world around us.  And by the “busy” lives we often choose to live in, in order not to stop and listen. 

In addition, I’ve felt the need to step away from social media, Facebook and Instagram.  It was all consuming for me and keeping me more present in other people’s lives, and less my own. The funny thing I’ve noticed is how “connected” we stay with even our closest friends and family via social media, as since some of my relationships feel almost distant.  I can’t blame anyone but myself for that, as I take full responsibility for not making phone calls, coffee or lunch dates or meeting a friend for a workout. 

With the days being chilly and sometimes raw, rainy with lack of sunshine, I feel the pull of the season and have chosen to retreat to the comforts of home and my immediate surroundings.  Having moved recently to an apartment complex that provides just about everything…. a 7000 square foot gym, a sauna, social activities, walking distance to my yoga studio, supermarket, etc, it’s easy to not “go” anywhere!  So, with the season of Winter upon us and my own innate tendencies to be a homebody, I know Spring is right around the corner.  With that comes the bright sunshine which I will soak in and relish. The long walks with Oliver, easy runs, Freedom Park workouts, and Al Fresco dining are just on the horizon. And even sooner will be the time change, and that extra hour of light makes all the difference. But for now I will honor my inner voice and make the necessary shifts in accordance with how I feel and be in tune with the season of winter.

Instead of allowing myself to feel limited by the shorter and darker days, I have used this time to expand my creative juices by writing again, reading more, researching some new opportunities, indulging in some marathon Netflix, from documentaries to love stories, and oh my, “Grace & Frankie”, all while wrapped in my cozy blanket with a cup of tea and my sweet Oliver curled up beside me. Our little Ragu, almost 16, sleeps in his warm bed and our sweet Gabby, over 18, curled up in the closet. It’s always interesting how our furry children know exactly what they need as the seasons change.

This season of Winter has taken on a new meaning for me, one of enlightenment and gratitude. Without the changes of the seasons and ultimately the changes we go through in our lives, we cannot fully embrace who we are and who we are evolving to be.

2018 Holiday Survival Guide

It’s been several months since I’ve written a blog.  Somehow life has just gotten in the way, but in a good way!

With Thanksgiving this week, I think it’s time for an updated Holiday Survival Guide!  This is the time of year everyone overindulges, be it in food, alcohol, late nights out…you name it!  Of course most of this goes hand in hand.  In addition, we also go through a lot of stress and pressure.  Family events, business parties, social obligations…getting it all on the calendar and keeping ones sanity doesn’t make it any easier.  In addition, many people do not have joyous holidays and often feel alone and sad.  Unfortunately, it’s not all the “Hallmark” Holiday Movies many of us get caught up in.

All of this often can lead to making decisions that we may not normally make.  Unfortunately, most of us experience a tremendous amount of guilt when this happens.  Often it’s delayed…we think about it but say, well, it’s the holidays!  I’ll make “changes” come the New Year.  We all know resolutions are not worth the time it takes to make them.  Research shows that it’s the small steps we take every day that help us accomplish and maintain our successes in life.  So, back to my tips and tricks to survive November and December, so you avoid the dreaded “holiday hangover” on January 1st!

As most of you know, I’m a foodie!  My motto is:  Simple, Healthy and Delicious.  I’m also a bit of a fitness fanatic!  But I believe strongly that you can enjoy great food and wine and not send yourself over the edge.  So here are some of my tips!

The holidays are meant to be enjoyed.   Honor your body, spirit and mind.  By doing so the transition to 2019 will be a much smoother journey.

Moving On

This past Sunday marked our four week anniversary with Oliver, and what a joy he is is.  With so much loss and sadness since losing my dad on November 5th and then Wesley on January 18th, it’s hard to believe that you can shake the incredible amount of sadness & emptiness you feel.  But with life comes loss.  With loss comes pain, and often, hopelessness.  And it’s not something my husband or friends can take away.  It’s there.  I acknowledge it, and yes, sometimes I cry in the closet.  But, by allowing myself to accept that unconditional and unwavering love that only a rescue can provide, well, life does move on.  And we grow…..we move forward.  

While I would do anything to change the course of events since my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer in July 2017, I do believe that everything happens as it’s supposed to.  Why?  Maybe to move us closer to who we are and what our purpose in life is.  Maybe, just maybe, they were here in our lives for the time they were supposed to be.  My dad lived to be 80 years old.  He had a lot of health issues throughout his life, but we shared such a special relationship and spent so much time together.  I know a lot of people don’t have the kind of relationship I did with my father.  For that I am forever grateful.

And then our sweet, sweet Wesley.  My intuitive told me that Wesley came into my life to open up a part of me that had been closed for a long time.  That his “work” was done in his previous home and he was here for me.  She was spot on.  When we lost him 368 days later, she told me he couldn’t be here any longer.  If he was I wouldn’t be able to move forward and open myself up to receiving love and accepting help.  

She was right.  Boy was she right.  

The course of our lives is filled with experiences that make us who we are.  I’ve learned a lot in the past year.  With love, comes loss.  Always.  With hope, comes despair.  With success, comes struggle. We can’t have one without the other.  

When we posted on social media that we were adopting Oliver, who was a puppy mill rescue, I was concerned that people would think it was so soon after losing Wesley.  But then I realized, it doesn’t matter what ANYONE thinks.  My heart was open and ready to fill the rest of this little man’s life with nothing but love!  I didn’t realize how much I had to give until I realized how much I had lost.  It’s all part our your individual journey. It is indeed the circle of life.

Why I Don’t Make New Years Resolutions

That’s right. No New Year’s Resolutions for me. Honestly, who needs that kind of pressure? And this year the big day falls on a Monday! Yikes!
Seriously, all joking aside, It’s been at least 10 years since I subscribed to making resolutions. It’s a clear road to failure.

The biggest resolution made every single year is to lose weight. People go on diets. Fast. Cleanse. Give up sugar. Set unrealistic goals. The list goes on. They join the gym. Take classes. Hire a trainer. They’re all in and then about 6 weeks later, if not sooner, their motivation has diminished and they are right back where they started.

A relatively new trend is picking your “word” for the year and then elaborating on that. For example, the word “passion”. So that could be interpreted in so many different ways depending on the individual, but at least it’s a way they want to feel, which can then be applied to different aspects of their life.

Instead of making resolutions this year, why not focus on a word that resonates with you? What feelings enable you to achieve your daily goals, dreams and aspirations? Determination? Resolve? Fearless? Joyful?

A friend recently told me her word is healing…spiritually, emotionally, physically. Wow, that’s pretty powerful if you ask me.

With 2018 upon us, I hope you will remember that no matter what changes you want to make in your life, right here and now are exactly where you are supposed to be. If I have encouraged you to step away from the resolutions, and instead, pick a word, choose one that illuminates the fire within you.

The Circle of Life

As some of you know, but most do not, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer in early July, thus all my trips to California.   Early 2017 my dad started having pain in his sciatica and pelvic region.  He immediately went to his doctor and then to one of the top neurologists in Orange County.   In no particular order his doctor sent him to a chiropractor, physical therapy, put him on steroids, and finally heavy duty pain killers. As months went by things got worse.  My dad had an immense amount of trust in his neurologist, a man at the top of his field.  Finally after the pain could no longer be managed, Dr. Boyd scheduled a CT scan which revealed a lesion.  A lesion = cancer.  That then led to a biopsy.  My dad has a condition called Monoclonal Gammopathy, which can be a precursor to Multiple Myeloma.  Given the pain in his bones and the lesion found, we thought it had progressed to MM.  Very, very sadly, that was not the case.  Instead the biopsy revealed lung cancer.  It had already metastasized to his pelvic region.  As the Pet Scan then revealed, it was in his left hip, ribs and spine, bilateral in his lungs, etc, etc.

My dad was a smoker.  He quit 40 years ago.  My dad is a heart patient.  First open heart surgery when he was 32, the second when he was 45.  Angioplasties, Atrial Tachycardia, the list goes on.  Yes, heart disease runs on my father’s side of the family.  My grandfather and his 3 siblings all died before 55.  That is why I am so passionate about overall health and wellness.  That is why my heart breaks when people I care for don’t care for themselves.

Lung cancer is the worst cancer out there.  Why?  By the time one finds out they have it, it’s too late.  The oncologist told my dad with a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy he could have 12 to 16 months, without, 6 months.  What the oncologist didn’t tell my father was how awful chemo would be.  All my dad could hear was the amount of “time” he had.  After two rounds of chemo he ended up in the hospital for 9 days.  His blood pressure was extremely low, he went into atrial fibrillation, and his already existent edema manifested.  Once things were somewhat under control he was released.  He went home and the next day went into hospice.  That was a month ago.

I would never have imagined how awful this would be.  From the initial diagnosis and how the healthcare system “handles”  terminal illness, to the heartbreaking decline of my dad’s health.  My family has been through a lot over the years with my father’s heart conditions.  But nothing had prepared us for this, nothing. It’s not pretty my friends.

For those of you who know me well, I’m very private about truly personal things.  Stair climbing, working out, yoga, travel, cooking, my furry children & husband, that I’ll shout from the rooftop.  Motivating and encouraging others to live the best lives they can, well, I’m all about that.  But when it comes down to situations like this, I’ve always had this belief that you only share with those you are closest too or on a need to know basis.  Even then I never want to “burden” anyone.

I’ve debated writing and posting this, but I’ve learned over the past 4 months that the more I keep to myself the harder it is.  So, I’m letting go.  I’m so incredibly grateful for the unconditional love & support that Jeff provides me and my family.  And I don’t know what I would do without my dearest friends, both in Charlotte and in California.  They have been my lifeline.

To embrace a full life we have to face all of it…the good and the bad.  It’s how we face it that defines who we are and how we overcome things.  Never judge someone by the smiles you may see via photos on social media, by the conversations or emails & texts you have.  You have no idea what someone is going through and how they need to deal with it.  I say this from experience on both sides.  This journey of life continues to teach us lessons, the most important ones sometimes being the hardest.

I’ll leave you with this. “Lung cancer is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women; about 1 out of 4 cancer deaths are from lung cancer. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.” https://www.cancer.org/cancer/non-small-cell-lung-cancer/about/key-statistics.html

A New Journey Unfolds

Last month I embarked on a new journey that I was both excited and scared of at the same time. Yoga Teacher Training. The first question/statement  I got once I shared this was, “Oh, I didn’t know you wanted to teach yoga?” Or, “You’ll be a great yoga teacher!”  The funny thing is, I didn’t sign up with my main focus on being a yoga teacher. It was a mixed bag….personal growth, taking what I’ve learned and offering to my clients, and maybe teach.  As I’ve since learned, I’m not alone.

My yoga practice has been 1 to 2 days a week for the past year or so. In the last 6 months my mat has been “calling” for me on a more regular basis. Honestly, I never envisioned that happening to me. There are two places I feel a sense of peace & calm in my mind, but incredibly fierce & powerful in my body simultaneously.  In the stairwell and running.  Yes, that concrete cave does that for me. And now, yoga.  One of the beautiful things I’ve discovered is my yoga practice is always with me.  When my mind stops racing I then start being. Being more of who I am.  Listening to my heart, hearing what it’s beating for, owning it, letting things go….gaining perspective.

With 2 teacher training weekend intensives under my belt and an ongoing immersion of physical, mental & emotional growth, my life has shifted in so many ways.  I feel like I’m back to being the girl who took risks without the fear of failure, lived life on my own terms, no matter what anyone else thought.  Being fearless.

Most importantly, I am feeling more grounded, steadier in my thoughts, words and actions.

My dear friend and yogi guru, Suzanne Bergen, has been a guiding light on this road to teacher training.  She told me it would be a journey unlike any other.  I nodded my head in agreement, not really knowing what she meant.  With some unexpected turn of events that have unfolded in my life, I now get it. I’m so glad to have found what I didn’t know was missing.

So, that brings me back to teaching.  I’ve realized that one of my greatest passions in life is helping others be the best they can be. Something tells me I will now have so much more to offer.


Giving Yourself Permission!

Oh yeah, I can speak to this with plenty of experience.                     Experience in not giving myself permission!

Here’s a perfect example.  A few months ago I went out with my great group of friends to celebrate the first of many celebrations of my husband’s “50th” Birthday.  Now, I don’t eat cake.  It’s just not my favorite thing.  And, I rarely eat desert…I’d rather enjoy more wine!  Oh yeah, and let’s not forget, I rarely have any gluten!  Why?  It just works better for my digestive system.

So, let me get back on point.  No 50th birthday would be complete without a birthday cake!  My husband, Jeff, has two favorites…peanut butter and carrot cake!  A coconut cream would probably take home the bronze.  Because I already had another surprise planned with a carrot cake, I went with Peanut Butter Kiss from my local Whole Foods.  So after enjoying great food, and wine, and a little more wine, well, the cake looked pretty damn good to me.  Oh yeah, and I love peanut butter.  So, I indulged!  Not just a bite, or two, but my own slice!  It. Was. Perfect!

That said, my typical day after would have been..WTF???  I would have beat myself up over it and all the guilt that goes along with that.  But I woke up and that didn’t happen!  We had an early morning yoga class and I was on fire!  I even came home and went for a run as it was such a beautiful day.  That begged the question, hmmm, burning off the indulgences or, better yet, I was on a carb load!  Let the overthinking begin!

I’m in the process of reading the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  I read it years ago and just recently I took a mediation class and we discussed some of the book.  Ruiz talks of the “Book of Law”, which is essentially our belief system that rules our mind.  Whatever our personal book contains, is our truth.  And then comes judgement, of ourselves and others.  And with that comes guilt.

Guilt….yup, one of best friends.  This can be from a decision I make, saying no to someone, and yeah, eating something that I consider an unhealthy indulgence. And it all comes from our past, and what we experienced and then ultimately are conditioned to believe.  The past year has been full of self growth for me.  And that means letting go.  Letting go of expectations of myself and others.  Giving myself permission to try something that scares the hell out of me and possibly fail at it, saying no, not compromising my values, and yes, eating a piece of cake.

2017…Bring It!

Two weeks into the New Year and I ask myself, where does time go?  It seems the “older” I get the faster days, months, and years go by.

With a New Year upon us everyone is busy making their resolutions.  The most popular being to “lose weight” and “get in better shape”.  Then there are are career goals, things we want to accomplish in our lives and simple changes we want to make.
Well, I’m a firm believer in NOT making New Years resolutions.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Like most people I definitely start the New Year thinking about all I want to do, accomplish and be.

All that said, I still don’t make resolutions as I consider my life a work in progress on a continual basis.  What can I do today to make a difference?  What can I do today to achieve my fitness goals?  How can I spend more time with my family?  You get where I’m going.  Rome wasn’t built in a day!

My advice?  When you wake up in the morning first be grateful for everything you have in your life.  If it’s 50 pounds you want to lose, set up an action plan that makes sense!  Do the research necessary to be successful!  Join a group such as Weight Watchers to help you learn more about what, why and when to eat, as well as getting support from others.  Move!  Don’t just join a gym and then drop out 6 weeks later.  Again, set up an action plan.  Do you love to dance?  Find out where you can take a Zumba class.  In the meantime, dance in your living room!

Love cycling?  Sign up for spinning.  Want to work with a personal trainer?  Interview them!  Don’t just sign up with anyone.  And lastly, don’t beat yourself up.  If you made good decisions 80% of the day that’s success!  Behaviors don’t change overnight.

It’s your life to live and no one else’s.  Don’t worry about what anyone else is thinking.  It’s not about them, it’s about you.  Don’t be afraid!!  Fear gets in the way!  Run it over with a semi!  Put one foot in front of the other.  That’s all it takes!  Believe in yourself and you can and will achieve anything you put your mind to.

So forget this, “New Year…New You” that I keep hearing about.  Yes, it’s a New Year filled with New Adventures, New Journeys, New Challenges!  You were awesome last year and you’re even more fabulous this year!  Make it a great one my friends!