Have a Healthy Holiday

You can have a healthy holiday season! I love to indulge over Christmas – there is just so much good stuff to try! But I also love knowing that my New Year’s Day isn’t going to be filled with regret and too-tight skinny jeans. This holiday season I am striving for balance. Balancing cookies with smoothies; nights on the couch with hot yoga or massive walking sessions with my sister; and long ‘to do’ lists with periods of stillness.

Let’s all have a happy, healthy holiday this Christmas 2014 and get 2015 off to a nourished start!

smoothie ingredients

Keep it healthy when you can: FOOD! Glorious FOOD! It is everywhere at this time of year, and you just know that I love me cookies of all kinds, candy canes, whipped cream on pretty much everything, and big scoops of ice cream to help beat the heat. From the office to the shopping centre to parties and everywhere in between this time of year is all about the food. I am okay with that. When I can though I keep it super healthy: yoghurt and fruit for breakfast, big salads for lunch and dinners when we are at home, and minimal snacking. That way when I do indulge I can enjoy it and know that I am going to be back on track at the next meal.

Make it about something other than food: I know what I just said above, but sometimes all the FOOD gets to me and I need to remember that there are so many other things to enjoy about this season: time with family, visiting people’s Christmas displays, more time for reading, seeing friends – there are so many other things to focus on other than the food. Put in some quality time with the ones you love and leave the cookies alone for a while if you need to.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting | Gluten Free | Thoroughly Nourished Life

Let yourself indulge: When you do indulge, absolve yourself of guilt. Don’t even let it in the door. The best way to ruin a Christmas get together with friends and family is to worry about how many calories you are going to eat, and how you are going to burn them off. Trust me – I’ve been there, and worrying about food is the best way to trigger a binge and suck all the fun out of the indulgence of the season. Take a deep breath. Let yourself enjoy the yummy things your friends and family have created to enjoy with you. Eat your favourites, try something new and delicious, and rest assured that you can indulge without getting off the rails.

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Get a Quick Fix: I love long walks on the beach while I’m away, but I also need to work up a bigger sweat sometimes in between cookie, wine, or cheese consumption. HIIT is the perfect answer for holiday workouts that really deliver results. For an at-home workout I write down a list of 10 exercises – a  mix of weighted exercises (like squats with shoulder press) and cardio (skipping or step-ups onto a sturdy chair) and then run through it for 15 minutes without stopping. Rest for a minute and repeat. 30 minutes later I am sweaty and happy!

Try something new! I love trying out new types of exercise with my sister. We are both totally uncoordinated and willing to laugh at ourselves (and each other) so working up a sweat becomes a laughing session as well – it must burn some extra calories! We just finished up a free trial of some gym classes and this summer we are going to work on our balance with some hot yoga classes. Hilarity shall ensue. Find a friend, find a class that you haven’t tried and work up a seasonal sweat! You’ll be ahead of the game when the new year comes around – and you might have just found an exercise buddy to keep you motivated well after January 31st.

walks with storm and Jess

Check yourself before you wreck yourself: I am the queen of stress, the empress of loading myself down with way too many things to accomplish. I have learned (with a lot of help from Chris) that I need to check in with myself and ask myself whether all the things on my ‘to do’ list are necessary. Will people be disappointed because I only baked cupcakes and didn’t get time to do the cookies? Or am I better off making the cupcakes and enjoying myself, and leaving time to watch ‘West Wing’ with Chris? I’m learning that I cannot do it all, and that’s okay. So take a red pen to that ‘To Do’ list and cross out the overload.

Take some time to breathe: Further to my point above – take some time out of the shopping, baking, wrapping, visiting – and just spend some time on yourself! Find the quiet corner of a cafe, order a seasonal beverage and let yourself get lost in a book; schedule a massage and let the therapist work out the seasonal tension from your body; line up your favourite snacks along the side of the couch, make yourself a cup of tea, pop in a Christmas movie, and settle in for the slow down; pop in your headphones, turn up the Mariah Christmas album (you have it, everyone does) and walk until you have zoned out. Just find an activity that makes you feel nourished inside, away from the hustle and bustle and unnecessary pressure.

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Take time to enjoy the moment: The most important part of the season is family and friends. Stop, look around, and realise how many hearts touch yours and how many people you have to be grateful for in your life. Be in the moment with those loved ones, and carry that gratitude in your heart all year long.

Okay folks, these are my tips for a healthy Thoroughly Nourished Life holiday season! What are your tips for staying healthy and happy over the festive season?

Gratitude List Week Five

Well, this week took an interesting turn. And even though I could have (and did) spend a little time feeling sorry for myself, most of the time I was overcome with gratitude at all different angles. I think sometimes life throws these challenges at you to see how you handle yourself, which path you wander down – acceptance, humour and good grace; or, fighting the flow, bitterness, and anger. I would like to think I chose the former path. I believe that there really is nothing I could do. My situation was already decided. There was no point in fighting what was going to happen; rather, I just had to sit back and observe the ride, be thankful for the love of all those around me, and grateful that the medical staff were competent, quick, and caring. Today I am resting comfortably at home (thanks to a combination of caring from my family, and painkillers) and taking the opportunity to find out what will nourish me back to good health. I have taken some short, slow walks to keep my blood going; I am eating healthy food (with a sprinkling of sugar of course); and relaxing and reflecting on all that I have been grateful for this week. Here I present my Nourished Life Gratitude List Week Five.

Monday: Grateful for a public holiday so that I could share some time at home with my family and make delicious sweet potato and wild rice cakes for dinner. (Recipe to come very soon.) Oh, and eat one of these for dessert.

Tuesday: My whole run this morning was wonderful! My speed was perfect, the music selection was right on, and then when I got to work I had a wonderful refuelling breakfast. Tonight I got to come home to Chris and we spent some time together doing chores on the car – when you really love someone it doesn’t matter what you are doing together, as long as you are together. Grateful that I have a love like that.

Wednesday: The sky was painted dark this morning so I went to the gym for my run. I have been feeling stronger and stronger the past few weeks and I am grateful that my body is so strong. All day long I dreamt about Balsamic-Glazed Onion Tacos and tonight that dream came true. I was grateful for a wonderful evening of taco eating and Colbert Report watching with my darling Chris. Keep an eye out for the recipe this week.

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Thursday: I’m sure there’s a saying about bad news coming early in the morning. At 4.30am this morning I woke up with abdominal pain. I am so grateful to Chris who insisted on taking me to the emergency department. Chris stayed with me while they poked and prodded and tested me. I don’t know how I can express how grateful I am that Chris remained calm under pressure and was completely in charge of the situation while I was unable to care for myself. When we finally found out my gallbladder was the issue we relaxed a little. While Chris went home to get something to eat and take a shower, Casey came and sat with me. I was grateful that she was there when the surgeon came to see me because she knew the right medical questions to ask, and she let me sniff her chips and gravy because I wasn’t allowed to eat anything. I am also grateful for the excellent medical care I received during my stay at Sunnybank Private Hospital. I was in surgery by 3.00pm that same afternoon and grateful that Chris, Mum, and Casey were all there to kiss me goodnight before I fell into peaceful post-operative sleep. I was also grateful to my school friend Michelle who works at the hospital and made sure to come and see me before she went home.

Sexy and I know it.

Sexy and I know it.

Friday: Apparently my body clock doesn’t switch off even for hospital stays. Up at 5.30am I was grateful that Chris had brought my iPad down to me so that I could do some reading. Mum arrived at 10am and stayed the whole day to keep me company. I was grateful for our little walks around the ward and cups of green tea. In the afternoon Caroline arrived to visit me and then Chris turned up as well. Grateful that I have such amazing friends and loved ones who gathered around me so fiercely with love that I didn’t feel much pain at all. Then I got to go home! Grateful to see my Dad again, and Jess, and yes, Miss Molly too!

Mama at ER

Saturday: Today I was grateful to be at home again. Mum and I shared breakfast and then after a rest (apparently just showering takes a big effort) I managed a turn about the block – thanks to my walking partners during the day I managed a whole 1.8km! I was grateful for Jess popping over to see me in the afternoon, and then Chris came for dinner! We played Scrabble and went for moonlit walk and then he stayed until I fell into sweet dreams. So grateful for this man who takes such good care of me and is always precisely what I need.

Sunday: I went for walk this morning! I ambled down to the park to meet Mum and Dad and Molly and then we ambled back home. It’s frustrating to realise that it will take me time to get back to the peaks I was reaching in the past few weeks, but at the same time I know that it is fundamentally important that I listen to my body and the surgeon and take it very slowly getting back on course. I am grateful that I am so young and healthy and that this is just a temporary obstacle. Soon I will be back in the game, but for now it’s about gently nourishing myself back to full health.

Where I live

Where I live

This week is going to be quiet (hopefully) and full of rest and recovery. I am hoping to get back to work sometime later this week, and I will be keeping you all updated with my progress back into running again! Have a thoroughly nourished week everyone.

Tell me, dear reader, what are you grateful for this week? Any times when you have just had to let go and trust in the process and have faith that it will all work out?

Hot Kipfler Potato, Capsicum, and Basil Salad (gluten free, vegetarian)

Let’s talk about potatoes. I am a picky potato consumer. My mother is Danish and my father Tasmanian (i.e. two of the biggest potato-based cuisines on earth), so as a youngster there were a lot of potato-related dinner time issues. Luckily I have matured and come to realise that it is not that I don’t like potatoes, just that I am particular about the type of potato and how it’s carbohydrate laden beauty is prepared in a dish.

My rules aren’t complex: I like potatoes that have flavour: Kipflers, Dutch Creams, ‘New Potatoes’, and Royal Blue are among my favourites.

I am not a fan of boiled potatoes at all. I love buttery, piled high on the plate mashed potatoes and crispy-skinned roast potatoes. Potato salad and I used to have a loving relationship, but now the thought of mayonnaise coated potatoes makes my stomach turn.

See – not a potato hater, just a picky potato consumer.

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This warm potato ‘salad’ is more like a potato sauté.  The potatoes are first cooked until just firm, but not crunchy, then they join a host of other vegetables and the final flourish is provided by fresh basil, crunchy pine nuts, and a coating of crumbled feta.

I piled my plate high with this salad for dinner and Chris paired his with some grilled lamb chops. By the way, this man has a secret talent for food styling – just check out his artfully arranged lamb chops.

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Hot Kipfler Potato, Capsicum, and Basil Salad

If you cannot find Kipflers, or already have some other potatoes hanging around the house, you can substitute another kind of potato. Preferably a potato that hold up well and doesn’t turn to mush when cooked – try Coliban, Desiree, or ‘New’ Potatoes.

Serves 2-3. Easily multiplied.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 medium kipfler potatoes (about 750 gram total)
  • 1 medium red capsicum
  • 1 cup button mushrooms
  • 1 small brown onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • Large handful basil leaves, torn
  • 75 grams Greek fetta, crumbled
  • Salt and black pepper

Method

  1. Scrub potatoes very well to remove all the dirt. This is important as we are leaving the skin on. Slice potatoes into rounds about 1.5-2 cm thick. Place in a large microwave-safe container. Add about 2cm of water in the bottom. Cook for 10 minutes on ‘High’ in the microwave stirring halfway.
  2. If potatoes are still a little crunchy in the middle microwave for a further 2 minutes. Once cooked drain very well and reserve until needed.
  3. While your potatoes are cooking prepare capsicum by slicing in half, removing core and seeds, and halving again and thinly slicing. Quarter button mushrooms, and thinly slice the onion. Peel and crush garlic.
  4. In a large fry pan heat 1 tablespoon of oil over a medium heat. Add capsicum, mushroom, garlic, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent and the capsicum has softened.
  5. Add potatoes, remaining oil, and pine nuts and cook until potatoes are starting to crisp, about 10 minutes.
  6. Remove pan from heat. Season with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle basil leaves and crumbled feta on top and serve.
  7. This is delicious re-heated the second day as well.

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This dinner is perfect if you are busily preparing for the end of the working/school year and just want something healthy, simple, and delicious for dinner. Naturally gluten free, vegetarian, vegan (if you leave out the feta), and hearty enough for the omnivorous there is something for the whole family to like.

 Tell me dear reader, are you a potato lover? 

Nourished Body: The Weight of All Things

Please note: the article below contains my thoughts, and details my own personal journey. This should not substitute for medical or health care professional advice. Also, this is long. Make a cup of tea and bear with me.

My sister does not own a pair of bathroom scales. She doesn’t want a pair in the house.

I have a pair of bathroom scales. They have been with me like an old friend for a very long time; though now, they lie neglected beneath my bathroom cabinet and only make an appearance once a week. Gone are the days when I would weigh myself every morning, obsessively, and sometimes again throughout the day as well. I don’t know when I felt the shift from focusing on that number, to focusing on other cues to tell me if I am maintaining my weight. After a long journey of weight loss, weight gain, and weight loss again, I have come to a place where I am comfortable with my body. I am happy with the way it moves through the world, and the space it occupies. I am a healthy weight for a person of my age and stature, and just as importantly: I am at a healthy weight for my mind.

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I was listening to Jillian Michaels on the way to work this morning and she had a caller ask her ‘when do you know you are at a healthy weight, and you should switch to focusing on maintaining your weight?’

I was intrigued, after all the focus there is on BMI and waist measurement, what Jillian would say in reply to this. I really liked her answer. She congratulated the woman on her progress so far, and then told her that the healthy weight was the one at which her blood test results showed that her cholesterol and other blood measures were healthy, and when her blood pressure was in a healthy range. Essentially, when her physiology read like that of a healthy person, rather than a number on the scale. Jillian then went on to imply that sometimes a weight range could be helpful when you are setting weight loss and maintenance goals, but that eventually your body will reach a steady state at the weight it prefers to sit at. Health practitioners call this ‘set-point theory’.

When you are eating a healthy and balanced diet and exercising regularly at an appropriate level your body will rest naturally within a certain weight range – this is different for everyone and even different for people of the same height (check out this great article). The science behind ‘set-point theory’ postulates that adults can maintain their body weight over long periods of time due to an internal feedback mechanism that is complex and multifactoral.

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My body has reached that point. It is most comfortable within about a  two to three kilogram range. I can starve myself and exercise like a crazy woman and get to the lower end of the range or below it, but I am only faced with the rebound of feeling tired and low in energy – and hungry – which are all signals that my body needs to re-calibrate, rest, and re-nourish itself and it returns to that range again. I can stuff myself full of food and not exercise enough and I reach the higher end of the range, which has the same result as going too low. At both ends of the spectrum there are signals that I need to pay a little more attention to how I am treating my body. How I am nourishing myself with food, exercise, and a healthy attitude to both.

When I was working as a health professional I did use numbers to guide my patients, but instead of just being driven by two points on a BMI chart I encouraged them to set small weight loss goals to bring them down gradually into the healthy range. When they found a weight within that ‘healthy range’ that they could maintain through moderation of diet and exercise, a point where their body naturally stopped losing, that this was what they should aim to maintain.

Numbers about weight are easy to find: BMI, BMR, RMR, MRH, waist measurement, body frame measurement, body fat percentage – the list is endless. The problem with numbers is that there is no ideal exact number for everyone. Take my little sister and I as an example. I am only a tiny bit taller than she is, but my healthy, natural weight, is ten kilograms more than her healthy, natural weight.

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The easy and horrendous trap that exists is in the comparison we make between ourselves and others when it comes to body shape and weight. Celebrities are splashed across magazine front pages with their weights emblazoned beneath them, or speculation on how much they have gained or lost, and by just typing ‘(celebrity name)’s weight’ into Google you can compare your weight to the rich and famous.

How is any of that helpful to maintaining a healthy attitude about your body? The answer is simple: none of it is helpful.

My advice, as someone who has learned not to be number-obsessed?

  • Focus on internal feedback from your body – energy levels, how you feel after a meal, sleep patterns – listen to your body.
  • Remember that worth is not measured in pounds or kilograms. If you don’t believe me, read the obituary pages of the newspaper – see the measure of a life.
  • Look at your lifestyle as a whole, rather than reducing your whole outlook down to the dimples of cellulite on your thighs – look around you for ways to see the bigger picture of your life and the way you are living – are there ways that you can change your habits for the better?
  • Forget your scale for a month. Live in your body. Eat moderately, exercise moderately every day, smile at your reflection when you walk past the mirror. Pay attention to how you feel in your own skin. At the end of the month, you may be surprised that you are the same weight that you started at.
  • Learn what eating and exercise habits work the best for you and your circumstances. No one is the same.
  • Be kind to yourself.

Tell me dear reader, do you watch the numbers carefully? How do you keep sane in a numbers obsessed world? 

A Nourishing Spring List

The mornings come earlier and brighter. A new clarity has settled over the air and the night winds don’t bite sharply but rather whisper gently through my bedroom window. Spring is here and I am ready to slip out of my winter cocoon and step into the sunshine. Every year winter seems to bring opportunities to grow and learn about the new depths and heights my mind can reach. I wrap myself tightly in my thoughts and burrow into my kitchen amongst the stained cookbooks and overstocked baking cupboard. I keep busy with small things and explore my inner world, sometimes too much, and recently this has been a trigger for anxiety and second-guessing my own happiness.

At the end of winter I am ready for spring. I await the First of September with the same anticipation I feel on Christmas morning. I know a date is really arbitrary when it comes to the actual season, but it is there, a marker, ready to announce that warmer weather and kinder, longer hours of sunshine are here. The dry, bone-aching winter nights are ready to be washed away by spring thunderstorms that nourish the earth and encourage the buds of my garden to burst.

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Spring is also a time to sweep out the old. Break the cobwebs of the cosy season and send dust and excess possession scuttling out of my house. Spring is a time of putting into practice all that I have learned over the winter and expressing a new way of and commitment to nourishing my body, mind, and soul.

Today I present you with a list of some of my spring inspirations for nourishing every aspect of my life.

Nourished Body:

I ran outside in winter this year. Pulled on my beanie and my hooded sweatshirt and braved the cool mornings with podcasts or music in my ears to accompany the crunching of the frost-brushed grass beneath my feet. However, despite the running, there was also a matching increase in the consumption of buttercream frosting and decrease in my strength training. This spring I am recommitting to my healthy lifestyle, especially incorporating weight sessions into my weekly training schedule. To fit in around my schedule I need short, sharp weights sessions that I can fit in post-run or before bed. I have been squeezing in three minutes of ab work (it’s a start!) after my run most days, using this YouTube video.

On weekends I am planning on using this longer version, which actually looks like fun.

As for the rest of my body – I love Jillian Michaels’ DVDs and I have modified some of her moves to use in the gym after my treadmill sessions.

I have also planned my next race! I will be competing in the January 2014 Cadbury Half Marathon, and after my great experience last year in Hobart I can’t wait to return.

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Nourished Mind:

I have books stacked seventeen deep on my floor and three deep on the bookshelf, but why not keep adding to my ‘to read’ list? This article about Gill Hornby’s first novel has my interest piqued ). At the moment I am plowing my way through ‘The Shining Girls’ – I have finally moved out of my ‘can’t finish a book’ rut. Bring on the summer binge reading sessions.

Do you think it’s ever appropriate for a boss to comment on your weight or suggest that you take better care of yourself? This article from The New York Post  had me wondering about whether that conversation is ever appropriate with an employee. As a former weight loss intervention dietitian I don’t know how I would ever broach the subject with someone who didn’t ask my advice first.

Nourished Soul:

If I ever have a daughter (or a son for that matter) I hope that I can follow this advice from Sarah Koppelkam. I think the advice is also useful in the way we talk about ourselves with our other female intimates. How many times does an innocent meet-up over coffee with girlfriends descend into a whinge-fest about “nanna flab” under our arms, our less-than-taught tummies, or the thickness of our thighs? I don’t think it’s about being perfect in our relationship to our bodies all the time, but being conscious of how we approach speech about ourselves is a huge first step.

Also nourishing my soul this spring is the thought of having one of these cocktails on a Friday after work accompanied by a slice of this Grilled Asparagus and Ricotta Pizza and followed by one of these Roasted Strawberry and Toasted Coconut Popsicles  for dessert (our strawberry season has been epic!).

So dear reader, how do you feel when spring approaches? Any cocktail advice for someone who is usually a white wine drinker?

Lunchbox Love: Springtime Beetroot, Asparagus and Feta Salad

Saturdays in Spring call me outside. They whisper of the delights of the increasing heat of the sunshine and the new green shoots poking out of the earth. They tell me to put on my prettiest dress (without winter tights) and brush my hair and gather some of my favourite ladies together for a lunch date where we can laugh and drink sparkly bubbly things and talk about the important and unimportant facets of life. On Saturday just passed my sister and I went out on a lunch date with our grandmother (Mormor as we call her). We sat at an outside table of a local cafe and my sister and I sipped Diet Cokes while my grandmother enjoyed a well-earned glass of Moscato (she just had her second knee replacement five weeks ago and she has already ditched her walker!).

Mormor and Me

Mormor and Me

My grandmother is an interesting and inspirational woman and I was so thankful for our Saturday lunch. Two generations of women learning from each other’s individual experiences and wisdom and feeling blessed for the shared time and the spring sunshine. We talked about men (boy talk!), and love, and babies and marriage, and politics, and how great it was just to be together. I had an amazing salad for lunch (good job updating your menu Coffee Club) and I wanted to recapture the feeling of freedom and spring in my weekday lunch box. With a few little tweaks I made it my own and now I am sharing the Lunchbox Love with you.

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Springtime Beetroot, Asparagus, and Feta Salad (Vegetarian, Gluten Free)

Packed in individual containers for lunches this will last 3 days in the fridge. If you want to ensure that your lettuce doesn’t get soggy, put dressing in a small container and dress the salad just before eating. That being said, I am partial to soggy lettuce every now and again – please, don’t judge me.

Ingredients:

  • 3 pre-cooked baby beets (find them in the produce section)
  • 4 packed cups of mixed salad greens
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 400 gram can butter beans
  • 75 grams Greek Feta, crumbled
  • 1/2 small salad onion, finely diced
  • 1 small bunch asparagus
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch of salt and black pepper

Method:

  1. Dice baby beets into dice-sized pieces and place into a large bowl with mixed salad greens and walnuts.
  2. Drain butter beans and rinse thoroughly and add to the bowl along with crumbled feta and salad onion.
  3. Chop the woody ends off the asparagus and slice into 3-4cm long pieces. Place into a small microwave-safe bowl with a splash of water and microwave for 90 seconds. Immediately remove from the microwave and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well and add to the salad mix.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together lemon juice, oregano, salt and pepper.
  5. Dress salad, toss well and serve.

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Tell me dear reader, what sort of Springtime Adventures have you been on? What’s on your Spring ‘To Eat’ List? 

And tell me, please, did anyone else jump up and down when they saw the first locally-grown asparagus available in the supermarket?

No? Well…okay then….I’m off to eat my salad….

Exercise Anxiety: I’m still learning about balance.

Can I tell you a secret that’s not really a secret? Sometimes, I get overly anxious about my exercise. Sometimes I tune out from what my body really wants and needs and I can’t stop myself from thinking ‘you should be out there running, you should be at the gym, how many times have I exercised this week, how many calories have I burned, what is my target again, have I hit that, maybe I should increase it because I’m sitting down all day at work…’ and it goes on and on.

I lie in bed awake in the middle of the night panicking that I will miss my alarm and I won’t be able to fit in my run before work. I worry that I have stayed up too late to really get out there. I worry that the temperature will be too cold and my asthma will decrease the quality of my run when it clenches my airways shut mid-stride. I worry that I won’t make time for exercise after work. I worry that the years that it took me to become a runner and be comfortable with my body and learn how to maintain a healthy weight will be wasted because I haven’t made enough time to exercise.

Sweaty and smiley

Sweaty and smiley

My exercise story started late, and when I finally understood the way my body responds to exercise and how to teach it to love running, I took off with vigour and passion. I became a runner. I became a woman who knew what it took to balance my food and my exercise to control my weight. For the first time in my life I was in control.

But learning doesn’t have an endpoint. True and valuable learning continues over our lifetime.

But there are two sides to this story. Two sides to the truth.

One side of the truth is: I feel best when I have a high amount of exercise.

The other side of the truth is: I feel even better when that high amount of exercise is complimented with an appropriate amount of rest.

And the third side of the truth is that I am still learning how to achieve this balance. Last week I ran my heart out – four days in all. I cycled too, and yoga-ed, and walked, and ice-skated – and I felt great. But on Monday morning I knew that I couldn’t subject my tired and sore legs to their normal six miles at sunrise, and on Thursday I didn’t have time, didn’t have energy – I needed to sleep and rest. My body was asking for something, and this time I listened.

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The anxiety was still there, is still there, but I’m tempering its drive with some solid, self-loving reason. I am not going to put on twenty kilos overnight because I missed one run. I am “allowed” to have two rest days in a week. I have all weekend to go for a lovely long run and a lovely long walk, and next week I will plan a little better. After a heavy week, a light week should follow: an ebb and flow like the tide.

The aim of my exercise, the learning objective if you will, is to create a practice that I can sustain over a lifetime. Ritual and routine is important, but so is flexibility and freshness.

So I am learning that while running will always be at the core of my exercise practice, other forms of movement can be just as nourishing, and challenging. Yoga was an awakening: my balance is poor and someone came along and replaced all my stretchy bits with concrete it seems. Ice-skating was another awakening: how long had it been since I had really scared myself, really challenged myself, to learn a new way to move my body? Too long.

Cold and snuggly on the ice.

Cold and snuggly on the ice.

Both of these reminded me why I fell in love with exercise in the first place: it connects me to the physical, reminds me to live fully and truly in this body, to be grateful to my body for carrying me over this earth, holding me here, giving me capacity to love and help. Exercise isn’t always about burning calories or training hard for a goal. Sometimes, in our increasingly cerebral and digital world, it is what connects us back to the vessels that we take for granted – we feel our breath, hear it move in and out of our body, we listen to our heartbeats rise in our ears, our muscles burn, they learn and grow, and we remember that this space, the inner/outer of a body is truly where and how we live our lives.

So while anxiety will always be my partner in exercise, as it is in so many other aspects of my life, its voice is no longer the only one I hear. I hear the voice of reason and self-love telling me to rest for a day. I hear the voice of a tired body saying, have a nap. I hear the voice of an overfilled mind, just go for a walk and tune out the world. I hear a chorus drowning out the guilt and the worry and reminding me that a truly nourished life is about balance in all things.

Tell me, dear reader, how do you find balance between exercise and rest? Do you get anxious about not fitting in enough activity, or are you at peace with your practice? Do you have a favourite way to exercise? Are you a routine or by-the-pants person?

Nourished Life Gratitude List Week Fifteen and Gold Coast 2013

They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, I am sure it is written somewhere that it takes a village to raise a runner. I am so grateful for all the love and support I have felt over the last few weeks while in the final stages of preparing for the Gold Coast Half Marathon 2013. My parents, my darling Chris, my little sister, and all my friends and social media buddies were just as important in reaching that finish line as each running session. Yesterday Mama, Dad, Chris and I were all up at 3:30am and headed down the coast. Each had their own special part to play in making sure I got to the starting line – and I am so thankful. I am also super grateful to a new running buddy – Annie – who I met at the starting line and ran with the entire race. We were both injured pre-race and so our goal wasn’t for a specific time, but just to cross the finish line under the three hour cut-off. Together we conquered those 21.1km and made it in at 2:33. Not bad for someone with mashed up knees (me) and bashed up toes (Annie).

As I mentioned in my pre-race post last week: every race teaches me something. This race taught me that it doesn’t matter how broken you think you are, how certain you are that you cannot achieve your goals, or how disastrous you believe yourself and your story to be: you can always triumph. When everything becomes real, when you cross that starting line and head out on the long road ahead – there is no turning back and you will find the strength deep inside yourself to just keep going. You are stronger than you know.

strong

 

In the lead up to the race, here is what made my Thoroughly Nourished Life Gratitude List this week:

Monday: I met up with Caroline for morning tea. Just the thing to get my week off to a good start. There is something special about conversations with someone you have known since childhood and who knows you as well as you know yourself. Grateful for a chance to catch up with one of my best friends.

Tuesday: Grateful for time to spend in the kitchen making Snickerdoodle Cupcakes for Chris’s work – oh, and sampling the cinnamon cream cheese frosting was a treat! Also grateful for an evening spent curled up watching movies with Chris and reading food magazines.

Wednesday: Another perfect day at my internship at The Australian Writer’s Marketplace and then homemade vegetable curry for dinner.

Thursday: Grateful for helpful government employees and a beautiful, if challenging, run outside. Then traditional pre-race baking of banana muffins – carb-loading the Amy way.

photo (28)

Friday: My last run before the half marathon was perfect; everything aligned. I also picked up some fascinating books from the library – yay winter reading lists.

Saturday: My darling Chris surprised me with gold class movie tickets to ‘Man of Steel’ which I had been anticipating since we saw the trailers early in the new year. Thank you for a great rest day and the best hot chocolate I have had in a long time.

Sunday: Gratitude overload today. Grateful for: the run; the weather; my new running buddy Annie; good music to make the miles fly; the people on the side lines with funny signs (e.g. ‘pain now beer later’ – can I have cake instead?); my Mama waiting at the finish line with a hug and an ice-cold soft drink; my Dad for taking some great photos; and Chris for giving me hugs and making sure I had a nap and rested my knees; and my little sister and her husband for meeting us for a burger-filled refuelling lunch (mushroom burger on a gluten-free bun with crispy chips – oh so good).

photo (27)

 

And now, now it is the week after.  Now is about rebuilding my muscles again and focussing on some other activities that I have been putting off because of half marathon training: ice skating, learning to ride a bicycle, increasing my strength training, swimming, and yoga/pilates.

So, thank you very much to everyone who wished me luck and supported me in anyway. Here’s to the next race!

post race snuggles

Running: Past, Present, Future

On Sunday I will be running my third half marathon. This will be my second outing at the Gold Coast Half Marathon, and as I sit through the final days of training and tapering and preparing for a 3am start on Sunday morning I have cause to sit and think about my running journey thus far.

As a child I am sure I ran free. I remember summer afternoons when I would come inside breathless, sweaty and grass-stained after a day spent out in the sun running around our backyard. When I grew older I was a more sedentary child. Less interested in play, more interested in reading and thinking, unsure of my peers and a little more comfortable with those older than me. As a teenager I was plump and uncomfortable with my body; this followed me through university and I fought demons in my head with a head first plummet into food. It was while I was at university though that I first became interested in running, I ran my first 5k while I was at uni and I fell in love with the sport. By running and righting my relationship with food I shaped my body and learned how it liked to be treated; I learned how to nourish myself physically and emotionally with a healthy diet and plenty of movement. My body metamorphosed from something I regarded with contempt, something I felt the need to control and punish, into my way of moving through the world, a vessel for acts of love and kindness, a wonderful playground that needed to be shown care and attention so it could run and jump and twirl.

At the invitation of a dear friend I joined a running group, and although I was the slowest of the gaggle (my running partner was a 70 year old man) I felt like I had found a tribe that I could belong to. Even though I prefer a solo run I enjoyed those early Saturday mornings and I thank those runners for pushing me to go further, and believe that I could achieve my running goals. I wasn’t the fat kid in Phys Ed class any more.

Dawn on the streets of Rome

Dawn on the streets of Rome

I have taken running with me everywhere I have gone. My sneakers are the first item I pack whenever I pull out my suitcase. I have run through the quiet streets of Rome as the sun rose over the spires of the churches, scrambled over rocks and dirt scurrying up the sides of canyons in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, paced myself along the waterline on a hot summer morning on Christmas holidays at the beach, and watched all ‘the beautiful people’ while jogging in gyms in Las Vegas. Running is the sport that doesn’t require anything of you but a pair of shoes and a surface hospitable to humans.

I ran my first half marathon in 2011: my first outing at the Gold Coast. At the finish line my Mama burst into tears and I clutched her with my salty arms and cried a little too. I could feel that I had left something of my old self behind and gained something precious. Those first 21.1 kilometres were my coming of age tribute. I ran every step for me. For the old me who had changed so much, and for the Amy who had been born on the road.

At the start of my first half marathon in 2011

At the start of my first half marathon in 2011

Last year I took a year off from training as my study load was high. My sister and I ran a few shorter races, including one of my favourites: the Mother’s Day Classic. Every step I shared with Jess was wonderful. We distracted each other by talking about inane things, and I would coax her up the dreaded hills by chanting dirty rhymes at the top of my longs only stopping when she reached me. Together we conquered mountains. Thank you little one.

Earlier this year Mama and I shared a grand adventure and flew down to Hobart so I could run the Cadbury Half Marathon. I learned my lessons from that road too – more hill work is definitely needed in my training programs. Still, that was a race I felt very prepared for, I had the longest training run I had ever done and I felt strong and sure. The day was beautiful, the event was wonderful, and refuelling with handmade fudge from the local sweetshop was divine reward.

At the finish: smiley, salty, satisfied.

At the finish: smiley, salty, satisfied.

When I returned from Tasmania my body broke down on me a little. The iron in my body was barely detectable (no wonder those magnets kept falling off…), my thyroid was chucking a tantrum, and my lungs had welcomed back their old friend asthma. So off to the doctor it was, every week for the next three months. Now, please, this is not a pity party. I realise that all of these things are fairly fixable, certainly survivable, and definitely curable – they were just a pain in the behind (quite literally in the case of my iron injections) and they all affected my running. Then, two weeks ago I did something silly and injured myself. I am so thankful that my knees were not completely mashed just pummelled rather unpleasantly.

life begins

On Sunday when I line up at the start I will be at the back of the pack. This race is not about beating my finishing time, or seeing how fast I can fly over the course reeling other runners in and being queen of the overtake. This race is about proving to myself that I can sit in that uncomfortable place and reach deep within myself for the strength to make it through. This race is about fighting to achieve my goals, about proving to myself that no matter what curve balls life throws at me I can make it.

This race is about remembering that I am built for life. There is no day but today. Today to hunt it down. Today to make the road my own. To run my life. There will come a day when I won’t be able to run. Today is not that day.

When I cross that line on Sunday I will have left every part of myself behind. I will see my soul broken down into a million little jagged pieces and rebuilt again. I will run, walk, or crawl across that final hurdle and be in love and wonder with what my body is capable of. Then, I will set about replenishing, re-nourishing, re-training. But first, I will eat ice cream.

Tell me dear reader, are you a runner? What does it mean to you?

What does your finishing line look like, racing, or in life? What pushes you to achieve, drives you through the pain?

Finding Balance in a World Obsessed with Extremes

Yesterday one of my dearest blogging friends Kate wrote a wonderful post entitled ‘Death to Thinspiration‘.  Go on, head over to Kate’s website for a few minutes, I’ll wait.

You’re back. Wonderful.

Kate’s post got me thinking about a lot of things. I’m sure over the next week or so there will be more posts on here provoked by Kate’s beautiful honesty.

Today I want to talk about finding balance in a world obsessed with extremes.

Everyday we are bombarded with images and messages of the extremes ends of humanity.

Be skinny! Super skinny!

Fit your high school jeans!

Get big! Build muscle! Protein, protein, protein!

No carb! Paleo! Vegan! Raw! Gluten/soy/dairy free!

Sugar is evil!

No longer is it simply okay to just eat a well-balanced diet with a weekly treat. No, we must eat clean 24/7, cut out whole food groups, eschew macro-nutrients and eat diets that push out healthy foods because they don’t fit someone’s ideal criteria.

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Even those who promote balance have developed it into an extreme form of living. You aren’t truly balanced unless you eat clean 100% of the time; drink only water, coconut water, or home-made kefir. You must make time for relaxing. You must eliminate all chemicals and toxins from your home. You must, you must, you must.

Sometimes these routines don’t seem all that balanced to me in the end.

I try to live a life of balance. But as Oscar Wilde said  “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

To which I say: everything in balance, including unbalance.

Most of the time I live a very healthy life. I don’t smoke. I exercise at least five time per week. I don’t eat meat. I rarely drink alcohol. I eat a lot of vegetables and fruit. I take care of my mental health. I have close family and friends. I read and write and exercise my grey matter. I sleep at least six hours every night. I use mostly natural cleaners and cosmetic products when I can.

But, I’m far from perfect. Far from completely balanced. Sometimes I slack off on a healthy lifestyle:

I eat too much sugar (I like sugar, and sometimes sugar is my god);

I eat too much cheese some weeks (the cheesemonger at our Farmer’s Market drives down with local produce and I can’t always resist);

I love my Maybelline mascara (best brushes ever);

I over run and forget about cross-training and stretching;

I disinfect things with high-powered disinfectant because I harbour a deep-seated fear of food poisoning (with my track record this is understandable, believe me) and other germy things;

I watch too many re-runs of old cop shows and not enough news (for some reason I crave the 80s/90s when I write – no idea why),

And sometimes I can’t stop myself from comparing everything I do to someone else’s version of ‘ideal’.

Enjoying strawberries in the sun.

But I can’t inflict another person’s version of balance on my own life. I am trying to find a balance that works for me. Balance Amy style. Some days this looks like healthy choices all day with a super workout, time for my journal, cleaning duties, and relaxation. Some days other priorities need to come in the way of a carefully constructed balance. I have family and friends who need me more than I need to hit my fifth workout for the week. I have university assignments that come in the way of accumulating my required hours of sleep. I can’t stomach another plate of broccoli and I just really, really want some cake and ice cream.

Here I am!

Here I am!

Balance is about finding the ratio that works for you. You are the only expert on what it takes to live your life. Not just survive from day to day, checking things off some arbitrary list, hitting goals important to someone else – but actually living your life.

Find the core things that matter to you the most. What elements of your life help you to feel the healthiest? Not by someone else’s scale, but by yours. Take balance and make it your own. A ship doesn’t sail on tracks over the ocean. There are peaks and troughs. Pitching and yawing. Centre yourself and ride out the highs and lows of life. A ship that tilts to one extreme or another will soon capsize. There’s a lesson in that.

Find your own balance. Find your centre.

Nourish your life your way.