Wednesday, May 30, 2018

100 Days of Blue

100 Days of Blue. To be in, near, on or under the water for 100 days consecutively between Memorial Day and Labor Day (ok, plus one extra day if you're truly counting). It's all in the spirit of Blue Mind, the growing science that behind how water not only positively impacts our lives but our minds as #waterismedicine.

We spent 4 days with Wallace J. Nichols over Memorial Day. Many hours sitting in casual conversation with others, in, around or near the water. A recently divorced mom of an 11 year old struggling to find balance, connection, herself. A counselor of vets with PTS and children with anxiety, constantly giving her all to others and not considering herself. A wife, mom, sister-in-law and grandmother, all rolled into one, and consequently carrying the hardships, pains and struggles of a family of over 25 people. A young woman dealing with a chronic auto-immune disease who is discovering water to be her solice, her source of movement, her secret for less pain. The administrator of a school for blind children, seeing, carrying and bearing the load of so many.

As souls were bared so were the stories - of water. What it had done to reconnect relationships over the weekend; what it had done to fulfill a torn soul and empower it to move forward; how it had immersed a family together to realize that their water heals, hosts and keeps their family together. 

These stories probably are not all that unique, as we all have a story, don't we? But they would never be heard if the question was never asked: What are you bringing to the water? What's on your mind? What's on your heart? Where are you at in life? Or as J. Nichols asks, what rocks are you carrying?

Ask the question. Then listen. And ask again, how does it make you feel to be around the water? Today? Yesterday? Ten years ago? Twenty years ago?

We take going to the water for granted. Sitting in the sand. Looking out to the lost horizon. Floating on a paddleboard gazing into the ripples. Being. Fulfilling. Connecting. But it's the conversation that provokes the message - that water truly can be and is our medicine.

Talking about it, asking the questions, using it in your own life, the lives of your children, your parents, your friends. Take them to the water - intentionally - and tell them why.

Monday, October 23, 2017

60 Mile Lake Travis PTSup
The day after. Three days, two nights, 60 miles of paddle boarding with 10 other friends, now teammates, Foundation 1023 Team PTSup. The first to ever navigate the length of Lake Travis 60 miles on paddle boards.

Launching in Marble Falls, Texas at Camp Creek at dawn on a Friday and heading south toward Mansfield Dam, ending at Emerald Point Marina at 4pm on the following Sunday. Personally, almost 40,000 paddle strokes, over 11,000 “paddling” calories and 60 amazing miles on a Texas River that I adore and have lived out my entire life on.

Most know that this event was a bucket list item that Kristin McLain and I had imagined 3 ½ years ago. What I didn’t know at the time was the story wouldn’t begin or end as it was originally scripted. But that is life - and as I have learned, “Things do not happen for a reason, but it’s what you do with what happens that becomes your reason.”

Through the course of the weekend and at the wrap up of our accomplishment, I’ve been asked countless times, “What would Kristin think of your journey?”

Kristin was an athlete and as with the best of them, she was  always trying to raise her own bar. When you have that inner drive, you’re always “driven” by other’s accomplishments - that is how we continue to grow ourselves and reach higher levels. Kristin would have been inspired to go do something similar or something greater - to raise her own bar, increase her own potential. 

“Jealous?” I’ve been asked. No, “Driven” I’d respond.

Similarly, she would have been our biggest fan. Kristin was in the profession she was as a flight nurse because she truly cared about the wellbeing of others. She was a caretaker and a cheerleader all rolled into one. She was a planner, an organizer. She paid attention to details and made things happen. She would have helped plan, pack, organize and cheer every last team member to the line. Encourager.

Since we’ve finished I’ve received so many messages, so many social media postings that Kristin would be “so proud”, “so honored”.

I've struggled with those. Proud? Honored? Kristin was very humble. She was a backstage “doer” - not a front row “spotlight”. She’d roll her eyes at most anything, but especially at the statement or thought of putting herself to the forefront. She was the person that while you were busy thinking of how to get it done, she would have it done and already written the report. Focused.

Friday was a beautiful day to paddle. No wind, no waves. What seemed like hundreds of herons; dozens dive bombing, hunting osprey; and gorgeous white egrets galore. And the single monarch that flew with us the entire day. Even a double rainbow which arched the horizon, one from Kristin, one from Jessica. Who gets that on an October morning on the river? We even had a homemade rotary “flying object” come up the river high above us, pull back, hesitate, then dive bomb straight from the sky in front of us, to our jaw-dropped questioning stares, pulling up just in time to fly parallel to us 50 feet above the water and give us a huge old fashioned fist pump. Ecstatic.

Saturday night we got walloped on the houseboat with a rogue windstorm. Those of us sleeping on deck battened down to not blow off - literally. It subsided by daylight - somewhat, so we decided sporadically to explore Cow Creek and get almost six miles in. A half mile from the mouth on our return a fisherman yells out, “Hey, are y’all that group paddling dam to dam that I saw on the news?” “Yes,” says a teammate. He shouts out, “Do you know Cindy Present?” “Eddie??”  I shout and paddle over. It was a water ski mentor and friend that had escaped death’s door several years ago and helped me reframe my life one day as I nudged him from his hospital bed to do another hot lap down the hall with me. Little did I know he was meant to find us in a small cove off Lake Travis out in the middle of nowhere this windy morning, to let me know angels are always around us. Perspective.

The rest of Saturday was brutal. Gusts of 10-25 for almost 22 total miles. Eight miles into our day, Brett and Joey, Travis County Sheriff Lake Patrol, and one of only two boats on the lake that morning, came roaring up the lake, see us and sharp turn over to us. They never left our sides - or our bow - for 14 more miles. Blocking wind, letting us draft in their wake, helping us as eleven people would get scattered with severe gusts, doing all they could to even stay atop the boards, sitting or standing. It became a mental game as we broke into teams, half with the Sheriff and half with our own support crew. We had help so we could divide and conquer. Passing the Gnarly Gar, all in the restaurant either stood or came to the edge, applauding, shouting us forward. Stamina.

Sunday morning a Texas Northern came barrelling in at 6am. After strong rains, wind and some hail, it pushed through leaving in its wake north winds up to 30mph. We knew there would be a straight away of three miles with direct head winds. After a one mile brutal battle to the northwest shoreline, we regrouped and proceeded as a Team, on our bottoms, outrigger style, digging one paddle stroke at a time with 18” swells coming over the front of our boards, skirting the shoreline so at any moment's notice we could put our feet down to hold our traction. It became mental warfare. Mindset.

Sunday afternoon we got to the far north shoreline and the cliffs blocked the severe wind. It began to calm, perspective regained, souls re-freshened, "Team" renewed. We ducked in, finishing our few miles playfully and eating (anything and everything we could) in Devil’s Cove. Composure returned, dawning of what we had all just gone through to get to 59.5 miles. One half mile to go - yet none of us knowing it would end as the toughest.

As Foundation 1023’s Team PTSup, we created a paddling floatilla and slowly moved the last half mile across the lake to the finish, Emerald Point Marina. Once in the protection of the docks, our SUPport boat followed with the tunes of Proud to be an American echoing. We slowly paddled, taking in the hoots and hollers of those on the docks and decks, “honoring” our accomplishment. Humbling.

As we rounded the corner of the marina entrance, Captain Dan, boat handlers, board handlers, marina boat owners and a crowd from the balconies above cheered us on. Then probably not to anyone's surprise, a great blue heron was sitting there - just waiting - on the rocky edge by the No Wake sign. As we neared, she rose, banked, and flew across the front of our group, then led us to the center of the docks. Affirming.

Within minutes the cheers were drown out by the rising sound of a StarFlight helicopter, coming from behind us across the lake, following our path, to meet us at the marina. There she was. As it did multiple circles above us with the crew's arms extended, waving through the windows, we all stood, paddles raised, tears flowing. The dream was realized - not just for 11 paddlers and crew, but for all involved who knew and loved Kristin. Afterwards, as we celebrated the journey of PTSup, we learned that the crew Kristin flew with the night of her accident had been adamant that they fly this mission, their first since the accident, for Kristin. The waves, the cheers, the fist pumps were not about any of us, but about the triumph of the past 2 1/2 years, all of us overcoming, and now there to live out the dream of the sweet, sweet girl that we had paddled through sunshine, rain, wind - and now - time for. Honor.

One of the many messages I received today was from Jessica Hollis’ best friend, Shannon:

“Sending an extra hug your way on this 10/23 day. You honored Kristin in an incredible way this weekend.”

This one was the first to resonate, to bring me to tears. The first time the word “honor” had been used as a verb.

Yes, it was a “privilege” to paddle in Kristin’s memory. Yes, it was out of “high respect” that we did it. But as a verb, I drop to my knees why I did it:

Honor: v. to fulfill (an obligation) or keep (an agreement).

Missed you, Kmac. We got it done.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Accomplishing A Bucket List Item For Two

Three years ago a friend and I were recovering from doing a 21 mile paddle board event the day prior, savoring in the joys of accomplishing a goal and now wondering what was next.

"If we could paddle the distance of Lake Austin, how about we paddle the distance of Lake Travis next?" In a mere nano-second later, we were both "in", already conniving how we should do it the following summer. Before the sun set that day, we not only had a new bucket list item, but we had already shared with our significant others our excitement, much to their dismay. (Of course, anyone that knows me also knows that my "what if's" more often than not include a luring of my poor husband to the ends of the earth on multi-mile endurance expeditions! Needless to say he was not so thrilled, as he automatically knew it was in his future!)

Less than a year after that item went on the bucket list, Kristin, my friend that shared the same dream, was killed. We had already been training and planning for a 5 day paddle board event in the Netherlands when she had her accident and I immediately knew that I absolutely could not - and did not want to - take it on without her. However, the idea of paddling Lake Travis has lingered and beckoned for some time.

Tomorrow twelve of us set off in an attempt to fulfill the dream of paddling the distance of Lake Travis. As a native Austinite, the Highland Lakes have always been a special place to me, and by spending 3 days, 2 nights and 60 miles paddling the largest lake of them, I feel like it's the best way to connect and be part of this magnificent waterway even better.

Tomorrow we embark on 60 miles of achieving dreams and goals - a bucket list to not only go dam to dam on this amazing lake, but also be the first group of paddle boarders to achieve it. We plan to paddle approximately 25 miles Friday, 20-25 Saturday, then finish the final distance at 4pm Sunday at Emerald Point Marina @ Ernie's on the Lake.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

My Alter-Mermaid….And The Science Behind Why Water Inspires & Fulfills My Soul

Anyone that knows me knows that I LOVE mermaids. I’ve always felt I should be a mermaid – the peace, tranquility and flow that water must mean to this aqua-loving species. How water must influence their entire life – not because they live in it, but how it must make their soul, their spirit, their mind feel and respond to everything else that surrounds them. Simply watching a mermaid “flow” has a synergy, a tranquility to it. (Yes, “I believe” ;-)

Mermaids thrive in, around or on the water. They live because of it. I do to. I’ve always lived by the lake – except for a hiatus of show skiing at Sea World when I didn’t live by the water, but worked by it, in it and on it 8-12 hours a day. And I never “worked” a day in my life because I was by the water. And I still don’t. I’m blessed enough to not only continue to live on the lake, but I also paddleboard almost daily to Lake Austin Spa Resort where I’m Director of Fitness and Activities. My life is surrounded by water.

And that gives me a peace I cannot describe. I also recognize that same glow when I see it in others. You don’t have to be a Get Out Girl – outdoors and on the lake on an hourly basis – to know that water can leave you more rested, at peace, invigorated, inspired and renewed. I run into people all the time who grew up with family lake houses and haven’t been near the water in years. They come visit us at Lake Austin Spa Resort, at our home, or for Get Out Girl events I organize and I see these huge smiles from the soul radiate across their face. It’s the memories and the bliss of water means to their lives. But why is that?

I’m a follower of Wallace J. Nichols a marine biologist, believes that we all have a “blue mind” — as he puts it, “a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment” — that’s triggered when we’re in or near water. In short, there is a huge ripple effect of positive mental wellness impact that occurs from being in, on or near the water.

“We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us, increase innovation and insight, and even heal what’s broken,” Nichols writes in Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, published in July. “We have a ‘blue mind’ — and it’s perfectly tailored to make us happy in all sorts of ways that go way beyond relaxing in the surf, listening to the murmur of a stream, or floating quietly in a pool.”
Here's some of the science behind our “blue minds” as Nichols shared with The Huffington Post, otherwise known as my alter-mermaid.

Water Boosts Creativity.
I get some of my best ideas or inspirations when I’m paddleboarding. Not only is paddling a “flow” sport that allows my brain to relax, but doing this activity on the water allows my mind to slip into a different mode of engagement, as Nichols calls it, where my brain can rest and wander freely – mental “frolic” if you will.

When we give our minds the chance to do this, the brain switches into a different mode of engagement, known as the default mode network — the brain network associated with daydreaming, imagination, consolidation of memories, self-referential thought, insight and introspection. The default mode network is extremely important for creativity — which is often why we find that when we turn off our brains for a moment (many scientists refer to getting into a warm shower), activating that default network, we suddenly come up with the insights and ideas that eluded us while we were sitting at our computers racking our brains for solutions.

“The shower is a proxy for the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean,” says Nichols. “You step in the shower, and you remove a lot of the visual stimulation of your day. Auditorially, it’s the same thing — it’s a steady stream of ‘blue noise.’ You’re not hearing voices or processing ideas. You step into the shower (or on the water) and it’s like a mini-vacation.”

Rather than switching off, when you’re showering, your brain switches into a different mode — and while the brain is in a more restful state, suddenly you’re able to make those new or unusual connections. The “Eureka” moment comes at last — the insight or solution “feels like it drops out of the sky and into your head,” says Nichols. Thus, the inspiration that water stimulates the mind.

Exercise By or On The Lake is “An Outdoor Gem”.
Exercise in any setting can improve physical and mental health on a number of different levels, and can be an excellent way of reducing stress. But take that same type of workout near or on the water, and the health benefits are exponential to what you'd receive indoors.

“We know that water — being surrounded by blue space — helps us relax, and we know that exercise is good for our bodies and our brains,” says Nichols. “If somebody is experiencing a number of problems that exercise and stress reduction may help with, [water] is a good add-on. Find a river trail and run there, or get on a bike, or row or swim.”

Being outside near water while you’re exercising can give you more of a mental boost than exercising in a crowded, indoor “box” environment with TVs in front of you and people all around. Many people feel intuitively that being in the presence of water provides tangible benefits for their well-being, and as Nichols explains, their instincts are right.
“It’s almost too obvious, and it gets overlooked,” says Nichols. “But the health and neurological benefits of exercise by water are very real.”

Water Is One of Nature’s De-Stresser.
Being around water gives our brains and our senses a rest from overstimulation.

“The sound around us, from an auditory perspective, is simplified. It’s not quiet, but the sound of water is far more simple than the sound of voices or the sound of music or the sound of a city,” Nichols tells the Huffington Post. “And the visual input is simplified. When you stand at the edge of water and look out on the horizon, it’s visually simplified relative to the room you’re sitting in right now, or a city you’re walking through, where you’re taking in millions of pieces of information every second.”

When we’re near, on, in or under water, we get a cognitive break because there’s simply less information coming in. Our brains don’t shut down — they keep working, but in a different way, according to Nichols. “When you have that simplified, quieter ‘blue’ space, your brain is better at a different set of processes,” he says.

Water Induces Mindfulness.
When we’re by or on the water, our brains are held in a state of mild attentiveness. Wallace J. Nichols refers to it as “soft fascination.” In this state, the brain is interested and engaged in the water, taking in sensory input but not distracted by an overload of it, as we might be with the “hard fascination” we experience while watching an action movie, driving a car, focusing on life.

Being in a mindful state — in which the brain is relaxed but focused — benefits the mind and body on a number of different levels. A growing body of research has found myriad benefits associated with mindfulness, including lower stress levels, relief from mild anxiety, pain and depression, improved mental clarity and focus, and better sleep quality.

What Changes Your Mind.
It changes the way you view your world – is your lake half full or half empty? Positive perspective and mind set can change your life. In addition, being surrounded by something bigger and greater than ourselves changes our perspective and connects us to a much larger picture. And being around water soothes the mind. While in the restful, contemplative state associated with observing or interacting with water, it’s also common to experience feelings of awe, Nichols’ research has found. The emotion of awe invokes feelings of a connection to something beyond oneself, a sense of the vastness of nature and an attempt to make sense of the experience.

“That switches you from a ‘me’ orientation to a ‘we’ orientation,” says Nichols, citing research findings that feelings of awe can increase our capacity for connection and empathy.

“When you experience that feeling of awe, you get that ‘one with the universe’ feeling,” says Nichols. “You feel connected to yourself, the world around you, and whoever you happen to be with. That puts you in a ‘we’ state of mind.”

Thus, it is no coincidence that many of life’s most ceremonial, “life” moments take place by the water — engagements, weddings and honeymoons, and after earth life rituals overwhelmingly occur in waterside locations.

“We hold important ceremonies by water. Both in life and in death, we gather by water when we can,” says Nichols. 

Water Reduces Depression.
Just hearing or seeing water helps put us into a meditative state, giving us a cognitive break. Life is full of stimuli; hearing or seeing the water is a simpler state of mind and thus, more calming. It gives us more mental clarity and helps reduce stress and or depression. I use water to take individuals out who are experiencing stress, illness or loss in their lives. Our nonprofit, Foundation 1023, takes First Responders on the water who are battling PTS. Another Foundation I support, Flatwater, using water to help mental perspective for individuals battling cancer. Water helps us be more mindful and present while reducing stress and depression.
ps....Did I mention Wallace J. Nichols may be coming to Lake Austin Spa Resort this summer?? This is one excited mermaid!
*Blue Mind, Wallace J. Nichols
*Huffington Post, February 2016
*Blue Mind Institute,

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What Is Your Rock?

I've biked, run, ridden horses and hiked this trail my entire life. And on every excursion throughout my half century life, I've either hurdled, bounded, carried my bike or lowered my horses head to give him rein to cross the same rock. Year after year after year.  ​

It's passable. Maneuverable. Jumpable. But it's always anticipated, always awaited, knowing it has to be navigated with a bit of caution hit it on the fly and keep moving. 

Two months ago I took it - step, jump, launch. Vault. Land. And it dawned on me "The Rock" has been here my entire life. A life that has seen love, accomplishment, loss, pain, change, injury, new generations, lost generations, lost friends. And that rock is still there. Just like the trail. My rock. My go to. Where I release, find solace, escape and ground in what is right, what is good, what is real, what is bigger than me that gives me purpose, hope and a larger connection. 

I've run this trail in exuberance, in tears, in a quandary, in celebration. And through it all I've had My Rock. My foundation to reset, remind and reconnect to continue down this trail of life.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Paddling for Peace of Mind

This past Monday was our 7th year to paddle 21 miles in The Flatwater Foundation's Dam That Cancer event. 48 hours later I was on a plane to Denver for our First Annual 10 mile Kristin McLain's Get Out Girl PaddleJam in Frisco, Colorado. PaddleJam benefits The Flatwater Foundation as well as Foundation 1023, a nonprofit we began this year to parallel what Flatwater does, but providing similar benefits and services for First Responders who are dealing with illness, stress or loss.

Both of these nonprofits are near and dear to my heart as they help people find positive mindset to deal with the difficult times that come our way of which we have absolutely no control. As a very active, outdoors girl, physical health is of constant topic in my career, household, and client base. However, what I know after personally training and competing in many Ironman, endurance paddle, run and cycling events as well as coaching many individuals in the same activities, the difference between "surviving" - not to mention "flourishing" in these types of events is the mindset. And what I know now is that is the same with someone that is the backbone of a family member or friend battling cancer, a first responder dealing with an amazingly stressful, tragic career, a person hearing a diagnosis for the first, second or even third time, or someone having to get up every day putting one foot in front of the other after a devastating loss.

Paddling 21 miles in a head wind is nothing compared to dealing with these pivotal life moments. I've looked down at mile two and helped someone sitting on their board, paddling, in tears because they "didn't know it was going to be this hard." I've also looked someone in the eyes a year and a half after losing a first responder family member and have heard the same thing. It's hard.

Getting on that airplane Wednesday late night to fly out to Denver for another paddle event, I was pretty tired, done from paddling DTC, then working two more days, putting our gear away from the event - as well as much of the safety and support gear it took to run the event. Then packing myself and my son up to head out in 48 hours. We arrived about 2am and after a quick 3 1/2 hours sleep in the mountain home of dear friends outside of Denver, I awoke to 45 degrees, crystal clear skies and a semi-dirt road beckoning me for a high altitude 8500' run (of sorts - heavy panting was more like it). I set my VivoActive for a quick 5k distance. When I glanced at my tracker to see the distance marking my turnaround, I looked to my left to see this sign marking my place. "Peace of Mind". The reason I was here, the reason I paddled DTC, the reason I am paddling another 10 miles Sunday, the reason we have created and been approved for a new 501c3, Foundation 1023, which will model and share best practices of The Flatwater Foundation, and the reason I want to continue to inspire and encourage others with opportunities for mental wellness either through counseling, outdoor opportunities and serving others. Our physical bodies eventually change and give out, our life deals us obstacles we can sometimes never imagine or predict - but our minds give us the fuel, the power, the peace to move on.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Predicting The Future

I was teaching a TRX class of "transient" clients today, people I only get to teach a single class to while they are on vacation. I asked a woman to squat a little deeper, challenge herself a little more. By looking at her, she was average height, weight, cute little $$ workout outfit, matching shoes, coiffed hair. But as soon as I asked her to get out of her box and challenge the depth of her squat, before I could get the words out of my mouth, she said that "fingernails on the chalkboard", debilitating four letter word, "I can't". And she then followed it with, "I will never get back up."

Can't. Never.

I knew I would probably not see this lady again - or at least in the next six months. But there was so much I wanted to tell her that she said that was setting the stage for the second half of her life in two very short statements. 

"I can't."
Well, yes, actually, you can. Your arms are connected to two straps with handles. Use them. Use your legs. Use them both. Use your body. Use all of your might. Use it like your life depends on it. Because you know what, it actually does. And if you don't, you may...

"...never get back up."
And I mean that honestly. As we age and as we limit ourselves, what once was "I will never get back up" becomes absolutely just that: an individual who is not able to rise from the floor unassisted. There goes independence, functionality, and quality of life. And in addition to that, there is also research from a 2012 Brazilian musculo-skeletal test on 2002 men and women which correlates directly to mortality: the less assistance one needs to get off the ground correlates to a longer life expectancy.

Now I don't know about you, but there are so many things "out of my control" when it comes to life expectancy, that I definitely want to control those that I can control. 

If I tell myself I can't, guess what? I'm predicting my future. If I tell myself I "never will", then your second guess is also correct, it's not going to happen. And if I allow my mind to tell my body that something is not going to happen, then your third prediction is also coming true: my body is not going to respond or perform.

So there you sit. Stuck on the floor. You are now in your 70's or 80's, your kids live across the country, your neighbor is at work, and where are you: stuck on the floor - or in the chair, or worse yet, on the toilet. Remember back when you were working out in your 30's, 40's or 50's and you predicted this would happen when you insisted that "you can't"? Or in some cases, I hear 8, 10, 12 year olds predict it, too: "I can't do that."

My mom took a spill in her back yard a couple months ago. She was fine, just landed on her bum. But the worst, most humiliating, most painful part for her (and me watching all of this take place) was she had to sit there for almost an hour until someone heard her calling for help. Not medical help. Just "help" to get off the ground. It took three of us to slide a blanket under her bum, hoist her into a lawn chair, then get her to her feet. Never going to be you? Well, it may if you choose to not consider how the consequences of what you say and do today effects what happens in the next decade or two or three.

What are we working out for? Most of us are not cashing in a performance or professional athlete paycheck to get out there and workout (now that's an entirely different blog ;-). When it all comes down to it, as adults, we are really working out for longevity: to stay healthy, to stay mobile, to live long and able. 

So enable yourself now. You Can. Frankly, you Need To. Change your Mindset, Change your Attitude. Get Out of your disabling mental box. Get Up. Get Down. And Repeat. Again and Again.

Because You Can.

Monday, August 31, 2015

She Believed She Could So She Did

My clients, friends and family know there's one word that gets under my skin more than any others: "can't". I should have been counting, but over the past 2 1/2 years in any training groups I have coached, if I heard that sneaky little word, as a team, we have all done 50 push ups as a reminder of how we use our words. I kid you not, we have done thousands of push ups during that time, hundreds in certain workouts.

I'm a believer of mind over matter. What you tell your mind your body will live out.

"I can't do 50 push ups."
"I can't reach down to tie my shoe."
"I can't keep from drinking diet coke."
"I can't run 1 mile."

When I hear the "c" word, I literally cringe because I know that the user is debilitating themselves with one little four letter, contracted word: "can't". Ouch.

My mom is 85. In a conversation with her yesterday, I bet she said "can't" a dozen times - in just a few minutes. It struck me that her ability, mobility and willingness was being paralyzed but how she was choosing to view the situation - she "couldn't". She was physically being disabled by the words she was using. 

Similarly, I coached a small group of little 8-9 year old wake boarders this summer and after 30 minutes had to take a time out and ask them to listen to their words. The C Bomb was flying. Of course, once I pointed it out to them, it became a game for them to see how many times they could say it because they knew it was getting under my skin. But truly, with the amount of time and money we spend on our kids assisting them to run faster, jump higher or surf farther, as a society, if we helped them empower themselves through their words, wouldn't that be one of the best gifts of all?

We believed we could so we did.
Yes, we can.

(and yes, I ordered the bracelet ;-)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Living Out Our Choices

My parents are now in their mid-80's. It is so odd for me to think of my parents nearing the last chapters of their lives. To me, my timeless memories of my dad will always be racing me on horseback up canyon walls that had my stirrups dragging the ground and my face buried in my horses main we were at such a steep angle; him pushing me down so I'd have to get back up to win a sprint across the yard with him; building a backstop so he could teach us how to connect with a baseball; and always telling me "If you're not falling, you're not learning."

My lifelong mom memories are of her nurturing us and our friends - weekend after weekend, feeding us almost every other hour when we'd come in off the lake "starving"; always making sure the fridge was stocked to host the revolving door of lake friends that would come over; and then when my kids were born, having never-ending energy to be the first one up and over at the house checking in on what the plans and needs of that day would bring. Always there, always helping, always supporting.

As mom and dad age, their health needs have increased. Both mom and dad have macular degeneration (a horrible disease that I pray finds a cure soon). Dad's is worse than mom's and he's actually lost about 95% of his eyesight because of it (with the help of a racquetball that I connected into his cornea in the late 80's. Yikes. Guilt Trip. Always wear safety glasses, friends.) I find myself now reaching to dad's hand to guide him to the touch of a paper, a cup, his fork, the handle on a door. This disease was one he had no control over. My dad's in great physical health. He stretches, moves, used to canoe, ride his bike, and most importantly, just stayed moving because he was always doing his own "chores" and never hired anyone to help. Losing vision in your mid-80's is not only physically debilitating to someone that is extremely independent, fit and active, but also mentally and emotionally compromising.

Mom's macular is not as bad, but she struggles with painful hips. She's been diagnosed with "arthritis", but arthritis does not always hurt to the point of disability. Sciatica and limited range of motion due to becoming sedentary can. And I believe that is a bit more of what we are dealing with.

As I went to physical therapy with her last week, I found my "soap box" within minutes of watching her deal with the basic therapist requests. I got hot flashes, my palms were sweaty, I had that awful taste rise into my mouth, my stomach sank. I was dealing with a rush of emotions. So watch out, friends, I'm coming after YOU!

You hear me cite research about mobility and how "the time it takes to get off the ground" has been found to be directly related to how long you will live. Can I tell you I saw that unfold before me during that physical therapy appointment? Even more poignantly, the "amount of time it takes you to roll over from you back to stomach" on a physical therapy table must absolutely, positively be related to mortality!

It was an awful experience to sit in a chair as a witness, watching your 82 year old mother take minutes, not seconds, to struggle, get stuck, work on getting unstuck, have her arm stuck under her body, then her face scrunched, smeared, stuck, then unstuck from the therapy table, as she suffered, winced, pained, moaned, and grunted her way from a supine position to a prone position. And I'm not talking prone, like "on your elbows, supported and ready to plank up." I'm talking "I can't find my right arm that I just rolled over on, nor can I see it because I cannot lift my head as I've slipped into a gravity vortex that I have no strength or mobility to overcome."

Is the picture clear?

I'm not painting it to let you know what a horrible condition my mom is dealing with. That's something we're working on and I love her dearly, so trust me, there's LOTS of working going on. But I share this painful vision with you because, as I step up on my soap box, friends, NEVER allow yourself to slip into such condition while you have the ability to NOT go there!

SOMEONE in your family or support community will be helping you exist one day. PROLONG the day they have to help you physically move your body in basic fundamental motions.

More and more I become tuned into "physical activity" vs exercise. Fundamentally, the human body was designed for physical activity. That was our ancestry of hunters and gatherers. "Exercise" would not even have been fathomable to our hunter and gatherer ancestors. Why the heck would one "exercise" when they'd been chasing antelopes, fishing, gathering herbs, cultivating land, raising cattle, building homes, tending to family needs, and leading communities. There was no time to sit down! "Exercise" was not even a word that existed - and didn't need to! Their lifestyle was one of being physically active to just exist. (This is my dad.)

Then came the invention of the "almighty chair." Then the desk. The car. White collar jobs. Technology. Thus, the "have to" of exercise became a must to keep us moving and mobile. (This is my mom.)

As our 6 For 60 draws to a close, I'm humbled at the awareness and accomplishments made by all. Some nailed all 6 pillars weekly. Some consciously made a choice to nail 2, 3, 4 or 5 pillars. And that was a HUGE win for them! Frankly, just hearing the "ah-ha's" of "THAT'S what they are putting into my "food?!?!" is one of the biggest wins of all for me! Knowledge is power and for you to have the understanding, knowledge, power and control over what someone ELSE is choosing to put in your food is huge! You now have the knowledge to make conscious choices over what you choose to eat.

So beyond the nutrition pillars that you've established, I pray that you'll do everything in your power to be in control of your physical health. Don't let your lack of desire, (soap box, please) your lame excuses, (yes, I called your excuses lame) or your apathy become someone else's problem in the future. When your kids, friends, or significant other has to physically roll you over on a table because of the choices you are making now, that's (I hate to say it, but) self-centered (and friends, rolling 150-200 pounds of "dead, unassisted" weight over is virtually impossible not to mention a very horrible scenario to experience).

My "soap box plea" is that while you are ABLE, do whatever you CAN to remain MOBILE & ACTIVE. You do NOT have to plan a workout. Just Get UP - Get DOWN - and Get Back UP again. You get the picture. You have the tools now. You have the knowledge. You know what to do. MOVE and be MOBILE.

1) Mobility. Stretch, Flex, Move Your Joints, Trigger your fascia
2) Core Strength. Keep it. It does not take long every day, several times a week, to keep a strong core.
3) Strength. Whether you're sitting or standing, lift something repetitively. And if you don't have something to lift, lift YOURSELF. Up/downs in a chair, up/downs on the floor, up/downs jumping up and down. For pete sake, Up/downs and ROLLOVERS on a table!
4) Cardio. Physical Activity. Keep moving. It does not have to be "breathtaking", it just needs to require a bit more "breath" than just sitting.

And here's the kicker - NO ONE - absolutely NO ONE - cares what you do in your spare time right now. But friends, when we all reach those last chapters, anyone and everyone near and dear to you will absolutely care what kind of physical condition and mobility you possess because they will be actively involved in caring for you. Period.

I'm stepping off my soap box now to join you in the commitment to do something EVERY DAY which will improve my quality of life in the last half of my life. I shudder at the day I have to look into the eyes of one of my boys as they reach around me to move my body. I DO NOT want to see into the eyes of their soul them asking, "Why did you let yourself get like this, mom?" I want them to always know I will not become their burden by my own choices but will live to the utmost of my own power until something else takes me down.

Monday, February 16, 2015

What Are You Doing With Your Health?

Friday I read an amazing article about the Marathon Monks. (and will definitely be getting the book by John Stevens, The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei.)  

If you haven't heard of these monks, I'm quite certain there is no comparison of any individual "endurance athlete" I've ever heard of.

These Buddhist Monks of Japans push the boundaries of endurance limits in search of a higher plane of spirituality. And after five full Ironman events, I can definitely say that 140.6 can become quite "spiritual" - I cannot even fathom the level of spirituality that this would send you into :) Here is the 7 year commitment they make:
  • 1st year: 100 consecutive days of 26.2-mile marathons, beginning at 1:30 a.m., each day after an hour of prayer
  • 2nd year: 100 consecutive days of 26.2 mile marathons
  • 3rd year: 100 consecutive days of 26.2 mile marathons
  • 4th year: 100 consecutive days of 26.2 mile marathons - performed twice
  • 5th year: 100 consecutive days of 26.2 mile marathons - performed twice
  • On the 700th day, the monks undergo a 9 day fast without food, water, rest or sleep - a mind-boggling feat which would result in certain death for most human beings, before having a short rest of a few weeks and increasing their gruelling schedule
  • 6th year: 100 consecutive days of 37.5 mile marathons
  • 7th year: 100 days of 52.2 mile marathons and 100 days of 26.2 mile marathons.
However, it is not just the relentless running that they are disciplined by. It also includes stopping at different stations along the way to recite prayers and perform ritual chants. Upon completion of each day's marathon, they don't stop for burgers, get a massage and go home to lay on the couch the rest of the day (mind you, they have been up since 1:30am). 

The monks perform chores, clean the temple and continue to pray until going to bed at 9:00 p.m. The ritual begins again a few hours later. Alarmingly, if at any time the monk finds himself physically or mentally unable to complete the 100-day ritual, he is duty-bound to commit suicide by hanging himself with the belt from his robe or through ritual disembowelment.

Amazing. Unimaginable. There are so many words that come to mind, but there is NONE that I can find that really describe what these individuals are doing.

I read this article right after helping a client/friend fine tune her mental and physical training for an upcoming Ironman. Prior to that, I read an email from a person who was throwing in the towel on "challenging" herself to Get Out 30' a day OR eat 8 fruits/veggies a day. Too "hard" she said.

Within about ten minutes of reading about the Monks, I opened my email and saw a blog update from Brandon Marsh. He and his wife have raced pro in half and full Ironman events for some time and represent Austin quite well. In December, Amy was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). As you would expect, they were both shocked that her "exhaustion" was not typical post-Ironman season fatigue, but something much more intense. Amy is fighting hard at MD Anderson awaiting a stem cell transplant.However, the point of what I'm sharing follows. It's Brandon's perspective on how a super-fit, elite Ironman triathlete shifts gears and does what he can when he can - and not take his health for granted while "Taking Care of Himself" so he can be a caretaker of his wife. 

"My ideal minimum (of exercise) is 20 minutes, 7+ hours of sleep, and at least 1 big greens based salad meal a day. Some days my minimum has been a few trips up a full 7 flights of stairs at Seton. Others like yesterday it was 30+ minutes of walking the halls at MD Anderson. Everyone with 2 workable legs can walk. Everyone. Everyone can put down their fork or order something with a few less calories. Everyone can grab for the carrots instead of the cookies. To go from 20+ hours of actual training a week to 6-8 hours of exercising has been an adjustment. 
To go from 2 plates of food at each meal to 1 has been a bigger adjustment! 
My average week has probably been 6 hours of exercise. 1 day every 7-10 days that might be considered a zero in most books. I've hit the gym...2x a week.Amy was inpatient at Seton for 45 days. 45 days. Over the course of those 45 days her initial fitness helped her handle the chemotherapy. She probably averaged a 20 minute daily walk outside of her room, and on some days she rode an archaic Schwinn Airdyne 10-30 minutes.
20 minutes a day for 45 days while undergoing chemotherapy. What's your excuse?"
Would Brandon, or sweet Amy, fighting through the biggest endurance event of her life, prefer to be logging 25-30 hours a week of Ironman training as opposed to this? You know that answer. But when anyone with any level of "good" health doesn't prioritize staying "healthy" there truly is no excuse.

Amy Marsh, Pro Ironman Athlete
Amy Marsh, No Excuses