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How Can I Improve

A lot of my internal conversations revolve around goals. I’ve blogged about my fondness of lists and my aspirations for the future and my mind that just won’t shut off. Much of this comes from a deep desire to constantly better myself, continually look for opportunities that will help me with a successful career, and a genuine passion for living a happy life.

Most recently I used this passion to go after an internship that didn’t yet exist —> “You Get What You Work For”

So there are many times I ask myself “How can I improve?” As a student, a friend, an intern, a daughter. But today I’m specifically speaking about improving fitness. Because that is what this blog is all about, isn’t it? You don’t come here to read about another 20-something’s wanderlust and “dreams.”

How Can I Improve my Fitness / Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep, Mental Health and Motivational factors (Stronglikemycoffee.com)
In order to improve…
…you need some unit of measurement. A quantitative value you can use for comparison. A gauge to tell you if you are, in fact, becoming faster/stronger/leaner/better.

I’ll give my personal goal as an example for these areas of improvement that can be applied to anyone:

Area of improvement: I WANT TO BE A FASTER RUNNER. (I think that is the goal of every runner. To be faster.)

Unit of Measurement: 3 mile time trial (weekly.) AKA Tempo Tuesdays. I’ve been running the same 3-mile course at 5am for the past 3 Tuesdays and here’s how it’s going:

Week 1: 18:39 // Week 2: 18:45 // Week 3: 18:42

I’m nothing if not consistent! Overall, I’m not unhappy with these times…but they don’t represent the downward trend I am striving for. So, cooling down from my 6:14 average pace this week, I asked myself “HOW can I improve?”

We cannot expect to see improvement in our fitness level if the effort is not put in to justify it.

 If something doesn’t change in your your diet, exercise, sleep or mental health, you cannot expect to grow and become more fit.

Nutrition: I love talking about nutrition. You already know this. I do not pretend to know everything or have a perfect diet. But I do believe I make a good balance of clean whole foods, healthy nutritious meals, and splurges here and there. You can read about my typical daily diet here.

How to Improve your Fitness through nutrition, exercise, sleep, mental health and motivation (Stronglikemycoffee.com)

Things to consider:

  • Are you eating enough before a workout to fuel yourself? Are you eating enough afterwards to recover?
  • Are you eating too much, to sabotage your efforts?
  • Can you cut back on soda/fried food/processed snack consumption?
  • Do you eat breakfast?
  • Do you keep a food journal?
  • Are you getting a good balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats?
Exercise Routine:
  • Do you warm up before each workout? Do you include dynamic stretches before exercise and static stretches after?
  • Could your routine benefit from more variety? If you are a cardio junkie (guilty!!) then try scheduling a couple strength-based training sessions into your weekly agenda. If you are camped out in the weight room, try venturing over to the pilates class. Sometimes we hit a plateau in our training and it’s important to incorporate variety into a training program.
  • Are you resting enough? You might even have to CUT BACK on workouts. If you are in the gym and on the treadmill 7 days a week every week then your energy could be depleted faster than it can handle. Rest days are recharge days so schedule them wisely!

"How Can I Improve my Fitness?" On the Blog ---> Stronglikemycoffee.com

*For my goal to improve my 5k time, I am adding a weekly speed workout. 400 meter, 200 meter, and 100 meter sprints at “interval” pace. (All out.) I’m also going to be more diligent about post-workout static stretches!

Sleep:

  • This only requires one easy question: are you sleeping enough? If you constantly feel fatigued or tired, your body needs more hours of sleep before you can expect it to perform.

Mental Health:

  • How is your attitude? Positive?
  • Do you look at fitness as a challenge or a chore?
  • Are you happy with your body, your energy level and your diet?
  • Do you believe that your goal is attainable or does doubt cause you to get off track?

How to Improve your Fitness on Stronglikemycoffee.com

Mindset has a lot to do with results. It’s not just some cheesy cliche – the body achieves what the mind believes is as accurate as it is cutesy. Fitness and health should have a positive connotation, not viewed as a laborous chore to suffer through. In the end, it’s up to YOU and your own mind to motivate you to reach the goal.

*Achieving a mindset that is intrinsically motivated is a habit that I have formed over years of being the Straight-A Student, the Scholar Athlete, and the Over Achiever. I don’t work hard for a reward or for attention or any other tangible reason. It just makes me happy.

Assessing the different areas in your life and setting goals is part of lifelong happiness. And of course once you CONQUER a goal, the feelings of pride and accomplishment will only increase your motivation to do better. That is what lights my fire to run.

"How Can I Improve?" New Blog Post ---> Stronglikemycoffee.com

I’m thinking about creating a series of similar posts…next being How Can I Improve as a Blogger. Stay tuned!

Marathon Mode

I’ve been keeping a secret and I can finally let it out.

For the past month, I have begun training for my first marathon (The Phoenix Rock n’ Roll Marathon in January). I’ve been training for this instead of track. That’s right. I am no longer an NCAA Division 1 athlete. (Not gonna lie, that was hard to type.) The decision to leave the team was all mine, and I waited until the end of cross country season to talk with my coach about my decision to leave the team. (I’m trying to avoid the word “quit” though I am fully aware that is technically what I have done.)

Quit: a word that doesn’t often come up in my vocabulary when I’m talking about myself. I haaaaate that word (more than the word “moist”…bleh).

7 years ago I was a high school freshman, dead last on the JV cross country team, and not the least interested in a future of running.

3 years ago, a senior in high school, I was being recruited by a couple dozen universities across the country and I started to like the idea of being a collegiate athlete.

Yesterday I ended that career, and today I started training for my first marathon.

When I was 17, I signed my Letter of Intent on National Signing Day in front of my team, coach and family at a little ceremony at my high school. One of my proudest moments ever!

National Signing Day 2011

Over the past three years at NAU, things just didn’t turn out how I expected. Overuse injuries plagued not just me but our entire girl’s team. In three years I was hit with three major setbacks and it feels like I spent more time injured and recovering than healthy and competing. Instead of training with a team and coach, I spent weeks at a time in physical therapy rehab sessions and substituted running with the bike and elliptical.

Conference 10k 2013 (stronglikemycoffee.com)

So now that my body is back to pre-injury shape, I’m not going to risk another “overuse” issue. I’m taking my training into my own hands and looking forward to my first ever 26.2 mile race in just 60 short days.

goofy team picturesObviously I’m going to miss having a team to train with! Since I was 14, I have had designated “practice” schedules, workouts dictated by a coach and a handful of teammates to run next to. Yesterday had a bittersweet moment emptying out my locker and realizing I’m no longer a collegiate athlete. Sigh, weird, ugh, ahhhh, what, okay getting over it.

team cheerSo here come the weekly marathon training updates, protein smoothie recipes, core and strength training sessions.

P.S. I hope this post doesn’t come across as regretting my decision to join the team/quit the team. I’m so appreciative of the opportunity to come to NAU as a student-athlete, work with the amazing athletic trainers and meet some incredible athletes. I only wish things had worked out differently, I’d been able to actually compete to my full potential and take advantage of my hard work and summer training. That being said, Long-distance Training > Track Workouts. No more spikes! :D

Paper Cup Pick-Me-Up

Today’s caffeination came in the form of an Iced Tazo Passion Tea, just as bright as today is shaping up to be! (That sounded a lot cornier than I intended.)

My mom is coming up to my school for a visit tomorrow, so last night I made her a canvas painting to liven up her desk at work. Just a little whimsical and colorful decorative piece. With the passion tea and sudden urge to paint, I got to thinking about where inspiration comes from. For me, there are many people who inspire me to be healthier, fitter, happier. I know as girls, we tend to compare ourselves to others but I think it’s healthy to aspire to those around us who are more successful at things than we are. I’ll share first:

  • Taralynn at Undressed Skeleton inspires me to bake healthy! She’s always recreating delicious desserts with less fat, sugar, calories, etc.
  • Lauren Conrad inspires me to put together cute outfits and matching accessories.
  • My leg workouts are inspired by Carrie Underwood (that girl is toned!)
  • I will forever be aspiring to Jillian Michael’s Abs.
  • To be as comfortable with my body shape as Miranda Lambert
  • To be as disciplined in my workout plan as any professional athlete

Now it’s your turn. :) Who inspires you and why?

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