Challenge: Week 11

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Do you ever find yourself wanting to experience more of life? Wanting to really soak in every experience? How can you shift your life to really take it ALL in? I’ve learned over the years that there are a few ways to become a true experience seeker. I’ve taken on a minimalist way of thinking, and in many ways, wanting and having less, has added so much abundance to my life.

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I don’t crave things. I don’t attribute happiness to ownership or possessions. Yes I like nice things, and yes I own nice things, but I don’t allow these things to dictate how I am feeling. How I interact with the world. Part of the reason why I attempt and complete endurance events and adventure experiences is that I want to take advantage of every wonderful opportunity that life offers.

And so this week I challenge you to be a less little focused on things, and a little more focused on experiences. Can you structure your weekend to include more genuine, quality interactions with friends and family? Can you minimize your holiday stress by eliminating items from your gift list?

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This week my new experience was track cycling. I had always been intrigued by cyclists who raced on the track – there was something fascinating about riding on an angled track and racing so closely to other athletes. There was also something inherently beautiful about the speedy pace lines. I wanted to know more about the sport, and discovered that there was an introductory course at the Milton Velodrome, just outside of Toronto. The velodrome was built and used at the Pan Am Games in Toronto in 2015, so the facility is new and modern, and a perfect place to explore this new sport for the first time. I invited some friends and we all eagerly took our first certification classes this weekend.

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Curious to try it out? The first part of the certification course is 3 hours long, split up into two sessions. You bring your cycling gear (or fitness clothing), shimano or look compatible cycling shoes (or runners) and your helmet. Don’t forget a water bottle too – the velodrome is quite hot and the workout is definitely sweat inducing! You can be a complete beginner but most riders were road cyclists or triathletes who wanted to try something new. Only one guy in our group had previous track cycling experience, and we all felt comfortable handling a road bike. The instructors were great – very knowledgeable, and attentive to our differing levels and needs.

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Riding the black line. Nailed it! (Thanks for the picture Nancy!)

The strangest feeling was to ride a fixed gear bike with no brakes. Not to mention racing up and down a wall! But you quickly get the hang of it, once you realize that riding this bike is not exactly like riding any other bike! There is a lot of thought and strategy in this sport – how to pace yourself correctly, how to lead a pace line, and how to speed up and slow down using the wall, rather than your brakes or gears. Trust me, it’s fun and thrilling!

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Post-ride smiles! Thanks for joining me ladies.

And so, with this one new experience checked off, will I continue on to the second part of the certification? Although some of my friends would answer with a resounding YES (Have you bought that TT bike yet Shawn?), I have to think about whether it is realistic for me to add in an activity that is an hour away, and whether I would actually use the membership to the velodrome.

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Kids warming up pre-race.

The investment of the two part course allows you to use the drop-in sessions. You still need to rent a bike (or bring your own) and pay for the drop-in, and/or for the membership dues. You have the option of renting out lockers for convenient storage, and you can also use their walking/running track, and fitness facilities.

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For now I will complete the second part so as to be fully certified, then see how the track cycling fits into my schedule. I’m happy I tried something outside of my comfort zone, and added in an additional experience into my life repertoire.

What will you add to your experience list? Have you always wanted to try something that was a little or a lot out of your comfort zone? Add abundance to your life by  focusing more so on experiences than on things. Let me know what you choose to try! I would love to add a few more cool, new, and different activities to my list.

Happy minimalism-ing and experiencing!

xo

 

 

 

 

 

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Challenge: Week 10

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There are only 3 weeks to go on the Health Challenge! If your fall has been anything like mine, your days have turned into weeks, which have then turned into months. I can’t quite believe that it’s already December, and we’ll be welcoming another New Year in a few weeks.

Now is a perfect time to challenge ourselves to think back over the last 9 weeks and really ask ourselves if we have pushed ourselves to go after our goals. Have you wanted to change something in your behavior that you are unhappy with? Do you want to have more or less of a particular experience in your life? Do you crave love, belonging, career success?

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Before we turn the page and welcome 2018, let’s spend some time determining what we can still do in 2017 to be our healthiest selves.

For me health is not solely about eating well and exercising. If anything, it’s about so much more. It’s about self-care, about spiritual fulfillment, and about vulnerability. When we live our true lives, as our true selves, everything seems to fall into place. But why do so many of us fear our own selves?

Challenge yourself this week to think about something that you have been putting off, for fear of the consequence. By letting go of that fear, and taking action, you are coming closer to living more authentically. Part of my challenge this fall has been getting back into a workout routine, but I’ve finally realized, 9 weeks in, that my body and mind need an actual break. I don’t need to write out and follow a specific plan. I don’t need to have a race goal just yet.

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It’s ok to be living day to day, still being active with walks and runs (are you doing the Run Streak with me?), and occasional swims (made the mistake of signing up for group swims when I knew how hard it would be for me to stay up late on dark fall days!), but going from an Ironman plan to no plan is what my body needs right now. And that’s ok. And so I’m not signing up for any big races yet. Nor am I committing to any big physical goals. Life goals? Yes. Career goals? You bet. But long endurance goals? I think I’ll let the completion of my Ironman goal take center stage for a few more months. I’m allowed, right?

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Soaking in this finish, for just a few more months.

What about you? What are you wanting to change in your current situation? Single but want to find your life partner? Think about ways in which you can live an adventurous and exciting life, one that allows for new connections to be made.

Unhappy with your work situation? Write out the kinds of skills and talents you want to employ on a daily basis, and start researching positions that better align with your goals.

Take the time this week to think about your true self, and your true goals – have you made the effort in the last 9 weeks to really go after your dreams? To achieve balance in your professional and personal lives? Why are you stalling in taking the first or second step? Often we know exactly what it is we need to change or do, but for one reason or another we choose to wait. To ponder. To convince ourselves that now is not the right time.

To help you out I’m once again posting my Reflections worksheet.

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Print it out and see if your current reflections match your previous ones from Week 1. I’ll be back next week to talk about minimalism and how to have a minimal but abundant (oh yes it’s possible!) holiday season.

For now, enjoy the rest of your week!

xo

 

Challenge: Week 9

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I came across a New York Times article today that spoke about how to be happy, and the little things that we can do on a daily basis to shift our mindset when we are feeling less than stellar. My favorite suggestions are to try and rewrite your story and to practice optimism. Physical activity is of course also mentioned, as is mindfulness.

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Try this exercise to rewrite your story, from the NYT article mentioned above.

More and more in today’s culture we hear about mindfulness, and about the need to quiet the mind in the overwhelmingly hectic world. By being so plugged in to technology we do not give our minds the time to reflect, pause, and be quiet. Mindfulness is not simply the trend-du-jour as some might believe. It is a way of living, when you take the time to be present, to be grateful for the moment, and to push aside certain negative or obsessive thoughts.

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Doing the Run Streak challenge (see Week 8) has reminded me of the power of movement, and how it helps clear our minds of the unwanted fuzzyness of ‘busy’ lives.

In many ways diabetes and athletics – both very significant parts of my life – have allowed me to become someone who is mindful and present. Living with Type 1 Diabetes forces you to be acutely aware of your body’s mechanisms and symptoms. You become sensitive to every feeling and sensation – you know the many shades of hunger and thirst, of tiredness and vitality.

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Endurance athletics teaches me to be more mindful too. It allows me to focus on the here and now.  If you find yourself seeking out more mindful moments, you are also likely craving more balance in your life. Are you content with your current situation? Are you happy with your relationships? Your work? Your life? Taking the time to quiet the mind will also allow you the mental space to re-evaluate your priorities.

For this week’s challenge I want you to practice some mindfulness exercises. They are actually simpler than they may at first seem. (Here I borrow from a previous post I wrote about mindfulness):

And so how do you start? What are some simple actionable steps to be more mindful, right here, right now?

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1. Unplug.

Are you used to looking at your smartphone or tablet while commuting to work? Ever notice how almost everyone is attached to his or her device? Try making all (or at least a section) of your commute time a ‘no-technology’ time. Unplug. Look up. Interact with the world around you. No need to start up a conversation, but allow yourself to be a part of the environment. Allow your mind to wander.

2. Tune In.

Our senses are inundated with too many stimuli throughout the day. We listen, we feel, we touch all day long, and yet often we are unable to discern any particular sound, emotion, or sensation. Try tuning in to one of your senses, while setting the others aside. Close your eyes and think about the sounds that you are hearing – from the typing of an adjacent keyboard, to the pedestrians crossing the street. Then shift your mindset and think about your body and what it is touching – is your blouse soft and delicate on your shoulders? Are your shoes warm and comforting on your feet? Tuning in to our senses for a few minutes, a few times per day, can retrain our minds to focus on the present moment. Want to try this exercise at home? Soak in a tub and think about the sensation of the water on your body. Sleep in the nude and feel the sheets and pillows as they touch your skin.

3. Share Gratitude.

You often hear about the importance of practicing gratitude in order to live with a positive mindset – the trick here is to also share gratitude. How do you do this? Thank others out loud a few times per day and let them know why they have made you feel grateful. Thank your colleague for helping you complete a task on time and tell them that it means a lot that they were able to set their priorities aside in order to support you. Thank your partner for doing the dishes and let them know that it makes you feel relaxed that there are fewer chores for you to do. Being grateful on a daily basis is key to your own happiness. Sharing gratitude matters too – you are choosing to spend a few minutes in a positive headspace, with another individual. You’ll be amazed at how this positive energy translates to being more present.

4. Slow Down.

Spend an extra few minutes in bed – cuddle with your partner, your dog, stretch, think about what you’d like to accomplish in the day ahead. Spend an extra minute in the shower and let the water wake you up. Eat slower and pay attention to the tastes and the texture of your food. Walk an extra 5 minutes to pick up your coffee and breathe in the outdoor air. Slow down and notice yourself being more present. Feel rushed for time in the morning? Head to bed a bit earlier and set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier. That’s really all you need to start the day off on the right foot, and at the right pace. Slowing down forces your body and mind to reset, and take a step off of the hamster wheel. And no one wants to be on that wheel all day long.

Let me know how it goes – with less than a month to go until Christmas you are likely in need of these quiet moments. So have an open mind and give these mindfulness exercises a try.

 

 

 

Challenge: Week 8

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It’s hard to believe that it’s week 8 of my challenge series. There are only 5 weeks left until the Christmas holidays. This is a busy time for everyone – from holiday parties, to gift shopping, to traveling for the holidays – and often physical activity gets placed at the bottom of our ‘to-do’ list. For myself personally this time of year is challenging because of the dark nights and the colder days. It’s a lot easier to go outside for a run when it’s sunny and warm out, right?

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Oh hey sunshine!

 

And that’s probably why I often sign up to do the Runner’s World streak challenge – to run a mile from American Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. It forces me to get outdoors, or go to the gym, and makes it a little bit easier to get back into a training routine come January.

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Don’t forget to wear bright colors when heading out for evening runs!

The running streak doesn’t have to last from one holiday to another. Start off by choosing an activity you enjoy, and challenge yourself to do it all week. Spend 7 days this week focusing on you, and on an activity that you enjoy. Run for 10 minutes every day. Do yoga every morning for 20 minutes, and so on.

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I will be doing the streak challenge and starting up on Thursday. If you want to join me and the others participating, just look for the #RWRunStreak on social media. To help you out, Runner’s World shares some of their tips here. My tips for a successful streak?

  1. Aim to complete your run early in the day – Run in the morning so that you won’t be thinking about your run when you’re out gift shopping in the evening, or at a holiday party. Aim to get your run in, and enjoy your glass of wine too! Win!

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  1. Invite friends to join you – It’s always easier to get out of the house when someone is waiting for you.

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  1. Keep track of how you feel pre and post-run – You’ll quickly notice that your mood improves after your runs, and the written reminders will help get you off the couch the next time you’re procrastinating!

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Since I am also starting work on my book (Book? Yea! I’m taking the plunge and writing a special guidebook and cookbook for athletes with diabetes!), I will also challenge myself to work on my content and my recipes every day for at least 30 minutes. It might not sound like much, but it’s the consistent actions that will help me fall into a writing routine too!

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#Spotthepump

If you like the idea of a run streak, then join me! Unsure, but tempted to try? Give this week a go with 7 days straight of short activities that you enjoy. Then decide how to tweak the streak to make it work for you and your schedule.

Happy streak-ing!

Challenge: Week 7

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In the spirit of Diabetes Awareness Month, and World Diabetes Day (which is tomorrow the 14th) I wanted to repost a blog I wrote a few years ago about why everyone, and not just those individuals living with diabetes, should care about the condition.

The challenge this week is therefore not so much a challenge, but a reflection. Our challenges in life are far more often mental than they are physical. The fear that we have to make a decision AND act upon it (Want to start a business? Quit a job? Go to the gym more often?) is often holding us back. Stressed about your health? Your relationship? Your family? Living with too many challenges may lead to mental burnout – when the mental load of the work we do becomes overwhelming. We can be crippled by the mental work and become undone.

My main mental work revolves around managing a chronic condition. A diabetes advocacy organization, Beyond Type 1, recently asked their social media followers whether the condition was more mentally or physically challenging. The result? 80% agreed that it was more of a mental challenge to manage the condition.

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What about you? What brings you the most stress and unease? Is there a way that you can lower the mental load of your day to day life?

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By managing what you can control (Yes you can go to the gym more often or walk every night for 30 minutes before bed) and acknowledging what is out of your control (No, you cannot stop paying taxes or your mortgage), you start to realize that you ultimately have the choice to let certain things affect you. Choosing health is therefore up to you – and that’s why I speak often about choice.

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And so, time for a rewind to a few years ago. Here’s my post for World Diabetes Day – it’s fun to see that triathlon was then only a big goal, and now, I’m an Ironman! Take a read, and think about your own life and your own challenges. What can you choose to do differently? How can you shift your mindset to lower your stress?

A personal post for World Diabetes Day: Why today matters, and why you (and the media) should care.

 

This year, for World Diabetes Day, I decided to share a different story of the disease that has lived with me for the past 25 years. I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes as a young child, and have very few memories of life without the condition. From summer camps, to marathons, from graduate school, to living abroad, my life has always revolved around my goals, and not my diabetes. I chose to live and study in Paris and Poland, I chose to become a doctor, I chose to complete marathons as well as set my sight on triathlons. Ultimately, I chose life.

I did not however choose Type 1 Diabetes.

My medical training has made me more than aware of the consequences of poorly controlled diabetes – the numerous complications that can arise, and the ways in which individuals, and society at large, are affected. Our healthcare system is immersed in chronic disease – every department and specialty seems to imbibe a sickness serum. Physicians have little choice but to treat illness, rather than support health. As the number of people living with both Type 1, and predominantly Type 2 Diabetes soars to 347 million, our ‘ill’care system is overwhelmed, struggling to provide care that will restore wellness to our entire community.

Everyone, regardless if you live with diabetes or not, is affected.

In addition, as an individual living with a chronic disease, I am more than aware of the necessity to treat illness – prescribe and dose medication effectively, manage side effects and detect complications. Medication treats my physical ailments, replaces my hormones, and normalizes my physiology. Medication however does not treat my soul.

In order to heal chronic disease, we need to begin by healing our minds.

Type 1 Diabetes is far more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge. The disease is unique in that the patient must self-dose a life-sustaining medication (insulin) multiple times a day. This medication has the acute ability to cause severe consequences. Severe hypoglycemia – a low blood sugar level – can be fatal. I cannot think of many diseases that present the patient with this responsibility. Our thoughts, our behaviors, and ultimately our insulin dosage have the ability to kill us. Reflect upon this statement – and imagine living with this possibility 24 hours a day. Do not be mistaken though, the condition is perfectly manageable – and there are many days that seem to ebb and flow without a single concern. There are however also days and nights that remind me of the condition’s desire to flirt with randomness, and my body’s fragility.

It is no wonder that individuals with Type 1 Diabetes have the propensity to reflect upon life with a touch more optimism, a greater sense of adventure, and a wonderfully contagious view of life. My family of type 1 friends has grown throughout the years, and I am continually inspired to breathe a little deeper, and live a little more, when I am amongst them. Support invigorates me.

My reality is hence one of thought, rather than one of action. Diabetes exhausts my mind, not my body. My attitude must constantly shift from frustration to acceptance, from resentment to gratitude, from anger to happiness.

Today, a day that is dedicated to a disease, is not only about life with diabetes. It is not only about wearing blue to raise awareness. It is not only about supporting individuals and the parents who must monitor glucose levels, give injections, count carbohydrate intake, or change a pump site. Today is a day about attitude. About health. About choice.

I did not choose diabetes. But I can choose life.

What will you choose?

 

 

 

Challenge: Week 6

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Inspired by the marathoners in New York, including Shalane Flanagan’s winning performance, I am excited to get back into a fun but challenging workout routine! I even think I may have chosen my next athletic goal, so keep reading!

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Getting into a new routine can be tough, so let’s go over a few simple ways to make it stick. This week’s challenge is centered around rediscovering what you enjoy – from running to swimming, to walking and dancing, and everything in between. Here’s a little secret – working out should make you feel good! There are different ways and reasons to feel good. Here are some of mine, as I start reshaping my routine after a break:

  1. Pushing your body – Interval, speed, and resistance workouts make me ‘feel’ my body – my muscles ache, in a good way. I feel good after pushing myself to become a stronger and faster athlete.
  2. Pushing your mind – Try something new, or increase your distance or workout time. Do something that at first seemed impossible. Crossing the finish line of an Ironman with Type 1 Diabetes? Yea. You guessed it. That, for me, felt good!
  3. Social activity – Doing something with friends, or making new friends, and creating a crew of like-minded athletes brings all the good vibes!
  4. Leaning out and being stronger – A leaner and stronger body will allow me to be faster, more efficient, and recover more easily (without injuries). It always feels good to be comfortable in your skin and feel strong.
  5. Being your healthiest self – Getting in more activity means that you have decided to put yourself first. You are prioritizing your body, your health, and your life. Respect your body. Respect your life. Take a moment to think about how good it feels to know that you are loving yourself and your life.

With that in mind my challenge to you is to pick 2 of these ways and reasons to feel good and set out to choose activities that will help you get there! Set up a group run for next weekend, go to the pool with a friend, find a speed workout to really push yourself on your next run, or do some research to incorporate more strength or core work into your routine. Check out the neighborhood community center. Sign up for a trial pass at that yoga studio. Invite a friend to go rock-climbing with you. The options are endless!

I’ll start out by:

  1. Signing up for an indoor track cycling course with friends.
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I doubt we’ll look like this, but a girl can dream! #vroomvroom

2. Trying out a local yoga studio and a rowing gym.

3. Researching some trail ultra races for next year! I’m adding this goal to my calendar for next year. I love to run, I love the mountains, and I want more running and less cycling in my future training plan. Have you participated in a trail race that you have absolutely loved? Let me know. I would love to hear all about it! (Nothing longer than 50km though!)

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4. Re-start some of my winter training classes – I’ll be doing some early morning indoor cycling workouts throughout the winter, to get back into a more consistent routine. I will also allow myself to sleep in some other weekends though. The joys of not training for a full Ironman!

So have fun with this one – have you ever wanted to try something entirely different from your current favorite activity? Do you want to get back into a routine? Choose activities that make you FEEL good and you’ll be surprised by the ease in which you will want to continue the new behavior.

Have a great week and keep me posted on your progress!

xo

Challenge: Week 5

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It’s check-in time! A month has gone by since I started this challenge and I sometimes feel like I just started it yesterday! Why? Because although I’ve gone through the process of mapping out my ideal day, my goals, and started on healthier habits in the kitchen, I feel like I haven’t really kick-started my challenge yet! And there’s a reason for that – the whole build up of this challenge is focused on looking inwards, on examining our resources and our motivations to achieve certain goals. Far too often goal setting (and achieving) goes something like this:

  1. Day 1: I have the BEST idea and I’m SUPER motivated! (Think of Jan. 1st and your big resolution.)
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Oh how motivated I was in my first month of Ironman training!

  1. Day 2: I can do this! It’s the second day of the rest of my life! I will change everything in order to be successful this time!
  2. Day 3: I’ll put off my new actions until the end of the day – this morning is far too busy.
  3. Day 4: Am I still motivated to make this change? It just seems so hard.
  4. Day 5: You know, my life is actually pretty good. I don’t really have to change it in order to be happy.
  5. Day 6: I’ll start next Monday. Yes, I will get back on the horse and start next Monday.
  6. Day 7: Tomorrow is the day! I can’t wait to get started!
  7. Day 8: Repeat day 1 – 7…

Sound familiar? Why is it that we so quickly fall off the wagon?

Decide. Act. Repeat.

  1. We are too hard on ourselves. We think that we can simply turn that motivation switch ON and we will be set to go, checking off one action after another, in order to get to our destination. We don’t realize that changing behavior is about far more than our individual journey, and our internal thoughts. We need to acknowledge that our environment and our networks heavily influence our behaviors. Where we live and work, where we socialize, where we interact with others matter more than you think. Make it a habit to examine your surroundings and check-in with yourself – does my environment support my goals? Do the people that I hang out with lift me up to be a better person? Do they support my goals?
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So grateful to have the best friend (and mom) support crew for twenty plus years!

2. We are not truly connected to our goals. We fall into the trap of choosing goals that are better suited for others, and not ourselves. We don’t spend the needed time to really examine our lives and think about what makes the most sense for our goals, and our family’s goals. We watch as others climb a corporate ladder but we don’t take the time to think about whether we want to be on that ladder too. They said to climb, so you climb. Society has a way of influencing our decisions, so be sure that you take the time to really reflect and think about your individual goals.

3. There are hidden reasons that keep us from changing our habits. The solution with this one? You guessed it. You need to uncover these reasons. Think about the costs and the benefits to staying the same (ie. not changing your behavior) vs. making the change.  Sometimes we don’t act out of fear – fear of changing our current situation, fear of losing friends, fear of starting down a new path – rather than letting the fear excite us, and push us forwards. What is the cost of staying the same? What is the cost of changing? What are the benefits to changing? What are the benefits to staying the same?

This week’s challenge is to check-in with yourself – are you following your heart and choosing goals that make sense for you and your life? Are you defining your goals in a way that gets you excited, and helps you take repeatable action?

 

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Hemp heart croutons anyone?

 

Where does this leave me you might be asking? Last week I focused on getting back to basics in the kitchen, and I came to realize that food preparation and sports nutrition is something I am really passionate about. Through my own Ironman journey as a type 1 Diabetic I searched both on and offline for resources to help me tackle my diet as I trained. From books to blogs, to dietitians, I gathered so much information but couldn’t find a specific resource for type 1 diabetic athletes.

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Numbers. Numbers. Numbers.

I needed to know the exact carb count, I wanted to know the true effect that certain recipes would have on my blood sugar and my training, the list goes on. And so I have been brainstorming these last few days and am excited to go down a new path – and write my OWN resource! I have no idea how to go about publishing a book (I’m letting the fear excite me!) but it’s been a goal in the back of my mind for awhile now and I feel very connected and passionate about this topic. I can’t wait to go down this path and bring you a book that is part memoir, part guidebook, and part cookbook, to help you lose weight, feel great, and be strong, so that you can perform at your very best as an athlete!

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Do you know anyone who has written and published their own book? Would love to connect with them – let me know in the comments.

Now, time for you to go and re-connect to your goal! Make yourself a table of pros and cons of staying the same, versus making the change, and examine what needs to happen for your mindset to shift.

I’ll be back next week with a new challenge. It’ll be focused on physical activity, and getting back into a routine, so be sure to come back to check it out.

xo