Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

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Finding Your Happy

happiness-quotes-sayings-happy-smartA huge shout out to my good friend Laur (whose paleology101 blog I have linked to my page!) for bringing me in to the following challenge:

FIND YOUR HAPPY!

What is it? 100 days straight of finding something – anything – to smile about, no matter how stressed out, busy, sad, annoying, chaotic or downright apocolyptic the day. The link to the website is here: http://100happydays.com/#what. Each day, participants in the challenge will post pictures, quotes, words, updates, etc. on various social media sites indicating what made them happy that day, no matter how big or small. It could be a good cup of coffee, picture with friends, pet, pretty sunset, your bed – anything! At the end of 100 days, if successfully completed, participants get an option to receive a booklet capturing their 100 days. Sign me up!

Why do I think this is important? As somebody who’s had a very hectic couple months trying to get a thriving practice up and running, there were many days I forgot to smile. Not only did I forget to smile, but I forgot to recognize that life was still handing me nice moments amidst the stress. I notice this is something that seems to challenge my clients – finding their happy.

Being happy is something that, actually, should come pretty easy to us. After all, in any given day, how many times do you read something funny on Facebook, laugh at a TV show, enjoy a song on the radio, etc.? Then BOOM – before we know it – the phone rings, the baby cries, the bills pile up, your co-worker says something snarky, you fight with your significant other, and the warm fuzzy feelings are gone. Turns out, it’s really hard to sustain happiness.

Trouble is, when we don’t sustain it, our minds get used to operating in a stressed-out state. We’re just anticipating the next let down. Kind of sad, isn’t it? I think this challenge pushes us to anticipate the next thing that will make us smile, instead. Sounds like a much better way of living, to me. I really encourage everyone – clients, friends, family, co-workers, and strangers alike, to give this a try. Let’s get the dopamine (happy hormone!) flowing and remember that no matter how dark, there’s always a glimmer of light to get us through it.

Happy Happy, everyone! And stay tuned for my weekly posts on how the #100happyday challenge is going. You are welcome to follow me on Instagram at cmlangan #100happydays to get a glimpse of my happy pics, and please comment if you decide to take the challenge and post yours!

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Finding Your Emotional Fitness

Hey CGRC people, remember this feelings chart throwback?!

I’m a guilty of a couple things:

1.) I jumped way off my healthy-diet-Paleo train over the holidays

2.) I may spend my entire Saturday catching up on “The Bachelor”

3.) I have NOT been diligent about updating this blog! (I wouldn’t say these items are in any particular order, but I woke up this morning and said, “TODAY, you NEED to update that thing!”)

My apologies – guilt is a tricky thing, and I’m sure it will promote an increased frequency of posts to come…

January has brought a lot of awesome events and happenings into my life (including a 30th bday, whoop whoop!). One particular happening right now is a challenge I’m coaching through my work with CoreFitness called “Commit30”. We kicked off on 1/13, and 40+ clients – both old and new – embarked on a 30 day mission to commit to fitness, nutrition, and emotional well-being. We gave them nutrition challenges (clean eating, Paleo, or Whole30), provided bonus workouts outside of our awesome-as-always bootcamp classes, offered small group training, and developed an online community via Facebook where participants can chat with myself and the other coach, Yajaira, AND each offer each other support and suggestions. It’s been really cool to watch unfold!

The thing that I (being a therapist at heart) love about this program, however, is how we’re speaking to sustainable change by asking people to look at not only their fitness, but their behaviors and emotions. I’ve coined it “Emotional Fitness”.  We ask people to find their emotional and behavioral fitness in an effort to keep them on a healthy track they can carry out through life (looking at things like emotional eating, stress, gym behavior, etc.) This by no means is a Websters definition, but it looks something like this:

EMOTIONAL FITNESS (n): One’s ability to exhibit and express healthy, situation-determined emotions in most aspects of their lives in a way that does not interfere with normal, daily functioning (Source: The Caitlin Langan Dictionary). See also “building STRONG emotions” Ex: Caitlin is actively working on her emotional fitness through the Commit30 program by identifying stressors that cause her to become anxious or depressed.

All-in-all, how emotionally fit you are is dependent on how often you “exercise” healthy emotions and intervene on the negative ones. Sure, we are all going to have bad days, mood swings, stressful patches… But, the difference between an emotionally “fit” and “unfit” person is our ability to recognize and respond to our feelings appropriately. There was a period of time in my mid-20’s where I’d get frustrated, stressed-out, have crying spells, etc. and wouldn’t bring myself to say, “Hey, can I talk to you about this in a few minutes? I’m upset right now, and I don’t want to lash out at you for now reason”. Instead, I’d find a way to blame others, pick arguments, or cry over spilled milk without addressing the real issue. What did this lead to? Problems with relationships, stress, feeling negatively about myself and my actions, etc.

The intervention that helped me find my emotionally fitness was therapy, actually. I had to actively work on being present with my emotions – examining why I was feeling how I was, why I behaved as I did as a response, and, most importantly, recognizing what motivated me to change the way I expressed myself AND process negative feelings that were slowing down my “emotional growth” and maturity, so-to-speak. Basically, I had to look at my baggage, deal with it, and recognize how it had previously impacted my every day life. THIS is an exercise in emotional fitness – recognizing where the problem is, responding to it, revisiting it (and practice feeling differently), and, eventually, rise above it.

Recognize, respond, revisit, rise above. There are still time I act like a brat (admittedly). There are still moments my frustration gets the better of me. But it’s drastically reduced – Much like somebody who embarks on a mission to change their diet, or the shape of their body in an effort to become “fit” (and who will inevitably be met with setbacks and hurdles along the way), finding your emotional fitness is a similar journey.

Recognize what feelings are keeping you from being your best self: Are you constantly depressed? Stressed out? Anxious? What led you here? When did it start? What situations in your life support these feelings?

Respond: Take a look at patterns and repetitive instances in your life – Is your job making you completely miserable? Are you in a toxic relationship? Do you constantly have somebody’s voice in your head telling you “You can’t” or “You aren’t good enough”?  Begin to shift your pattern of thinking and feeling. Remove the stressors you can from your life (even something simple – like changing your commute to work so you don’t have to sit on a busy highway, or moving your desk so you’re not stuck next to your pessimistic co-worker). Respond, respond, and respond again.

Revisit: Once you’ve begun to intervene, pay close attention to things that make you “slip up” – Do you keep yourself close to toxic people? Why do you do that? When we find ourselves revisiting our negative emotions, we’re better able to see what keeps us stuck there. It just takes some thought, and perhaps some change and growth. This could be the tough part (much like when one hits a “plateau” in physical fitness, or finds themselves constantly crash dieting, etc.)

Rise above: You may not be totally rid of negative emotions, but you’ll most certainly be able to own them, handle them, and move on easier from them. It’s almost second nature these days for me to say, “I’m sorry, I’m stressed out right now. I’m not irritated at you – I just need space for a minute to calm down”. In fact, I’ve been told I tend to “over apologize” for being stressed, probably in an effort to make sure the person knows I’m not trying to be a “B” and to be almost hyper-aware of how I’m showing emotion!

But seriously, you will rise above it. It just takes a little work in Planet Brain-Fitness to get you there. Emotional Fitness. Boom. Blog Post 2014. Speaking of healthy feelings, I feel a lot less guilty after completing this post and updating the blog. I guess I can now go watch Juan Pablo find fake TV love in peace 🙂

Happy Feelings & Healthy Minds, everyone!

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Why January 1?

Where in the world did 2013 go?! Does anybody else feel like they blinked and year went by? Maybe it’s just me and my insanely roller-coaster-y year I had, but it’s hard to believe I’m already sitting in my parents kitchen smelling Christmas cookies when it feels like just yesterday I was ringing in 2013. Time to start looking ahead to next year!

Being in the fitness AND counseling world, this time of year, I’ve noticed, gets a lot of people thinking. It also brings a lot of excuses (myself included) to put off those thoughts until January 1. This phenomenon always puzzled me – why, when we feel a need for growth or major change, do we put it off until a “new year”? Yes, the holiday season is full of parties, cookies, shopping, family get-togethers, and various other tasks that tend to make us busier and less thoughtful of ourselves. That being said, a lot of people take time off thinking of their personal needs to care for others during the holidays too (not at all a bad thing, and I love seeing the acts of charity and kindness that happen this time of year). Still, I often question why hitting the gym, let alone taking care of our minds & bodies, takes a backseat until 1/1.

This is especially puzzling to me given the number of New Years resolutions that have to do with bettering our physical and mental states. Ideas like, “I want to be more patient”, “I want to reduce stress and lower my BP”, “I want to take more time for myself” are not uncommon. So… maybe THAT’s why everybody at the local mall seemed so darn MISERABLE!? (See previous post). What promises did we make to ourselves the PREVIOUS New Years that we’ve totally lost by December? This is my concern for these (once hopeful) goals we create for ourselves.

Here’s my plea: Make yourself a realistic, motivating, and growth-promoting list for 2014 – and start now. Take a look at what may have fallen apart last year (for me, I vowed to stretch and relax my body more, and I am now writing this with a muscle stim machine on my hip and a tube of Biofreeze nearby…. oops.) Think about what it will take to carry these resolutions all year long, so that when 2015 rolls around you can look back and stay “I never stopped working on ______, good for me!” Pick something for your body, something for your mind, and something for your relationships. Be that person who is STILL at the gym come April when everybody else has dropped off, or who has finally committed to a therapeutic or mentoring process to combat emotional/mental blocks once-and-for-all.

You can now ALL be my accountabila-buddies, because I’ll share with you some of my 2014 items that I’m working on AS we speak:

1.) I want to feel confident, comfortable, and financially secure in my career after taking a major leap of faith in 2013.

2.) I want to bounce back from some muscle wear & tear and obtain a new PR for a half-marathon in April (which will require LOTS of TLC on my bod… something I didn’t do enough of last year)

3.) I want to reduce sweating the small stuff, thus reducing irritability & stress.

These are all things I’ve been striving for all year long (minus being nice to my body… I learned a LOT of about muscle fatigue and compensation this year and what NOT to do!!!), but will dial it up in 2014. It has been an amazing year with many ups-and-downs, and who knows what 2014 will bring for you or for me. But, I ask that you (as I will be doing) use your resolutions as a foundation for your year, not just a suggestion of something you will try. Ground yourself in them. Think back to them when June rolls along and something has gotten away from you. Call them “life resolutions” and discover what will help you continue to grow with them as years pass. What’s the old saying? “Don’t put off to tomorrow what can be done today”?

I wish all my readers, friends, family, clients, co-workers, neighbors, and MORE a very, very, healthy and happy holiday season!

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Self-Care and the Holidays: Making Time For Yourself

Tis the season to be…jolly? Right? That’s what the song says? Then why the heck are we all so stressed out!?! holiday stress

I was recently strolling through one of the area malls that was maxed out to the umph degree with Santa, jingle bells, twinkling lights, and, of course, EPIC CHRISTMAS SALES (I haven’t even had Thanksgiving turkey yet!) when I made this stark observation: Everybody around me looked miserable.

(Okay, so miserable may be a bit of an exaggeration) Regardless, while “Have Yourself a Merry Little Chrismtas” played through the speakers, there was a noticeable amount of stress in the air. Disgruntled parents toting tired children, pushy kiosk sales reps, people looking rushed yelling into their cell phones like, “Well, you’re the one who told me to head to the mall today and get this for him!” (yes, I heard that). The therapist in me started to think, “How many of these people are here today out of pure enjoyment?” Remember when shopping was a stress-buster? Remember when the holidays meant yummy comfort food with the ones we love? Singing carols hand-in-hand around a Christmas tree a-la “WhoVille”?

I’ve recently had the opportunity to present on stress & self-care at various agencies, offices, and health centers over the past few weeks, and the response really made me recognize just how may people neglect to take care of themselves during the holidays. Here’s why it’s so important to remember that the word “HOLIDAY” was once related to R&R:

1.) When you are stressed, you make yourself vulnerable to illness and fatigue. Stress triggers two hormones in the body, adrenaline and cortisol, the put your body in “fight or flight” mode. These hormones have an evolutionary purpose: Cavemen needed them to run from saber-tooth tigers (pretty stressful!). Your body gets the same reaction when you begrudgingly stand in line for a Black Friday sale or try to decide whether paying the bills or buying your loved ones gifts is more important (Pay your bills, folks). If this episode is “acute”, and you come down from the stress after a short amount of time, then no harm is really done (our bodies are okay with that and ready for it). BUT if EVERY DAY you find yourself standing in line for a Black Friday sale, your body has to constantly work to fuel your state of alarm, which neglects it’s ability to pay attention to other important parts of your body – like your immune system. I guess this is why colds and flus are quite prevalent during the holiday season!

2.) When you are stressed, you have less ability to control your emotions. It’s no suprise that people under stress are quicker to anger, frustrate, and annoy. Look around that Black Friday line – are people snapping at each other? Unnecessarily scolding their children? When we’re stressed, our brains feel taxed, leaving us less room to tolerate “the little things” that might not annoy us otherwise. In a time of “merriment”, we’re all a bunch of scrooges. This is probably the easiest thing to combat when we talk about stress.

3.) When you don’t take care of yourself, others around you are affected, too. I use the old saying, “Put your oxygen mask on first” when I present on this topic. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, what kind of example are you giving to others? In a room full of therapists I presented to, many agreed that they often feel pressure to take care of everyone else before taking time for themselves. But…wait… won’t that make you more stressed? Snappy towards your kids? And sick? And if you’re angry and sick…  what does that do to the relationship around you?

The good news is, despite stress being unavoidable, it’s a relatively easy demon to combat. SELF-CARE involves just that – giving yourself time (even moments a day) to regroup and attend to your needs so your brain & body get a chance to rewire. I, of course, promote movement & exercise as a means for rewiring the body (a chemical hormone called “GABA” is released in your body through movement that actually tells your brain to “CHILL OUT!!”), but there are many other things you can do that will add up to a less-stressed you:

Taking a stretch break at your desk, playing with your pet, reading to your kids, LAUGHING, listening to music, taking a lunch break, silencing your phone at night, watching some stupid reality TV show that makes your life seem better, cooking, sipping tea, reading… the list goes on and on. And all of these don’t take an epic amount of time (I like that word: epic). 

When you exercise, let alone do any of the activities about, the end result is a release in dopamine and serotonin into your brain. These are “happy chemicals” (see previous post on “When the Blues are Hard to Beat“) that tap into your pleasure center. It’s kind of like when the cavemen found a hole in the ground safe from the saber-tooth tigers and thought “Okay, I’m safe now” (right? exactly the same thing as coming home from a hard day and reading a book…).

I emplore you all to take care of yourselves this holiday season. Remember, at the end of the day, it’s not about how much you spend, how much you cook, how decorated your house is, etc. I hope that picture around the tree reflects a happy, healthy, dopamine-filled family 🙂

Oh, and if you go to the mall, how about a smile?

Happy Holiday Season, everyone!

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Competition vs. Camaraderie: The Marine Corp. Marathon

racepicOn Sunday, October 27th at 7:55 AM in Washington, D.C., 30,000+ runners took to the streets to participate in what is known as “The People’s Marathon”: The Marine Corp. Marathon. I was one of them (#25912, to be exact!).  This was my second marathon, to date (and in the same year as my first one – sorry, legs!!) but, while Disney was absolutely “magical” back in January, this race brought a whole new humbling, inspiring, and straight-up tearjerking experience. I’ve been in all kinds of races since the beginning of my running days, but have never witnessed the camaraderie among athletes quite like what I saw on Sunday.

Let’s first have a quick English lesson: Merriam-Webster defines “camaraderie” as a.) a feeling of good friendship among people in a group, and b.) a spirit of friendly good-fellowhsip. It’s synonymous with “comradery” which had it’s first (known) use in 1879 to describe the spirit of brotherhood that existed among soldiers in combat. Hmmmm, kind of sounds fitting for a race honoring Marines, don’t you think?

Next, I’ll note that I’ve been in athletic events where competition was prevalent. Heck, three or four Sundays prior to MCM, I busted my butt to try and be #1 female finisher in a 5K. I’ve also been elbowed out of the way in races by people who seem to think getting ahead in the pack is more important than enjoying the ride (ummmm, sorry Mr. 9:00 min/mile pacer, do you really think scooting me out of the way is going to help you catch up with all the Usain Bolts in the front?). And, “Marine Corp” Marathon sounds pretty hardcore, right?

Talk about people giving off positive energy – this race was oozing with it. I’m a firm believer, as you know, of the power of positive support when it comes to athletic feats. Many people (primarily female) asked me if there would be hot marines cheering us on as we ran the course, saying things like, “Woooo! That would be my motivation!!!” (Yes, and there were ;)) But the title of this blog post isn’t “Why Hot Marines Make You Run Faster” (maybe tune in next week?)

As soon as the starting gun went off, I was met with cheers, hoots & hollers, claps, and words of encouragement from fellow athletes. I passed family members wearing pictures of lost soldiers, ran alongside wheelchair participants, and people with shirts on that said things like “Feel free to chat with me!” or “If I can do this, so can you”. At mile 13, halfway there, just when my random calve cramp decided to kick in (and the course was in a particularly spectator-free zone), one man yelled out “We’ve got this! Can we do this? Let me hear you!” and EVERYBODY cheered. I don’t think I can recall a time, short of maybe watching Ironman Lake Placid back in July, that I felt so inspired by the people around me (and somehow my cramp felt less apparent)… And let’s not forget the row upon row of servicemen dolling out high-fives and you-can-do-its. OH and the SPECTATORS were flat-out AMAZING!

The race almost didn’t happen due to government shutdown, and my training regiment this time left me knowing more about my leg muscles (and how much they can hurt) than I ever wanted to know. The night before, I was filled with anxiety that something would happen causing me to not cross that finish line. The marathon itself, however, made you forget about everything painful and difficult along the way. From taking in the sights of the nation’s capitol, to honoring our military, to witnessing how many first-time marathoners came out to tackle 26.2, the day ws nothing short of amazing. If anybody out there is considering running their first marathon and is nervous about the mental-toughness to do so, I highly, highly recommend registering for MCM 2014 (but be warned – it sells out in like, 2 seconds… now I can see why).  It’s true that sometimes competition drives us, and I’m no stranger to that, but I’m 99% positive the spirit of camaraderie was a huge component driving my legs and heart to finish the marathon that day.

Oh…. and this happened at the end:

racedaypic2

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Teens and Exercise

On Tuesday of this past week, I had a tremendous opportunity through my personal training work with CoreFitness to teach a fun fitness bootcamp to the students of New Foundations Charter School. First of all, major applause to the youth who participated with great enthusiasm and smiles on their faces (despite having to withstand my sick love for burpees). I was happy we had such a great turn-out of 8-10 kids, as in the past I know the school (and other school programs) have found challenges in getting teens to enjoy exercise.

It got me thinking about the epidemic we face in our country ever day: Regarding teens, since when did fitness became lame, weird, something only skinny people do, OR something only supermodels can obtain… or, best yet, a non-preferred activity? Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of great high school athletic programs out there that promote healthy competition, staying in shape, eating right, etc…. but what about the average high schooler who does not land themselves on a sports team?

Well, here are some jarring facts about that:*
  • Nearly half of American youths aged 12-21 years are not vigorously active on a regular basis. About 14% percent of young people report no recent physical activity.
  • Participation in all types of physical activity declines strikingly as age or grade in school increases.
  • Only 19% percent of all high school students are physically active for 20 minutes or more, five days a week, in physical education classes.

Why? All types of reasons… PE/Health classes are loosing funding and/or priority, stress and emotional issues among teens are on the rise (creating a lack of energy to participate in physical activity), AND “screen time”, as they call it (video games, computer time, tinkering around on an I-Pad), is becoming increasingly more ‘awesome’ than, say, a walk in the park. I feel like when I was in middle/high school… all I did was walk around (seriously, high school friends… do you remember how much aimless walking around we did? Let alone the miles into the woods we would hike for “social gatherings” (sorry mom & dad)).

The facts & figures above demonstrate why I find it so important to help bring a joy of fitness, heck, MOVEMENT to teenagers. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The majority of teens out there today are quickly prescribed psychotropic medication when they show even the slightest signs of anxiety, depression, or mood disorders (heaven forbid we have a moody teenager out there!)… and what do those medications do? Increase “happy hormones” like dopamine and serotonin in the brain to (supposedly) make children feel better. But – wait Caitlin, doesn’t exercise make us happy, too?! Well, YEAH!! Which is why I find such importance in helping youth find a holistic, natural way to find happiness. Who knew that a kickboxing class could make the grumpies go away? (Yes, I called it the grumpies. No, I would not tell a teenager her/she has “the grumpies”… unless I wanted major eye rolling or “psshaaaas” coming my way).

I digress… Parents, help your children recognize the importance of movement. I’m not talking a 60 minute vigorous spin class or making them run 5Ks every night before dinner. But, please, get them moving. Family walks together. Group classes at your local Y/gym. Encouraging them to get OUTSIDE the house with friends! (No mischief, of course). Heck, help them train for a 5K (talk about wonders for confidence!).

The reason I started “Healthy Mind, Healthy Body” was because I saw an incredible need for a new, healthy way to tackle the stress and emotional issues youth (and adults!) face. I also recognized that exercise carries a stigma with it. and the majority of children/teens feel awkward, frustrated, or insecure when they attempt it. My goal is to provide an experience void of that stigma, and help spread the gospel of healthy living that I live by every day.

I can’t wait to continue my classes with New Foundations Charter School, and I’m hopeful those teens will continue to have an awesome experience with each class.

Until next time!

*statistics provided by: medicine.net

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STRESS MAKES YOU FAT!!!

…Now that I have your attentionStress-test-cartoon

If you just had a moment of panic – don’t worry, it won’t truly make you fat. Turns out, though, if you feel chronically stressed, it has a profound impact on your health – more than you may realize.

I was recently invited to speak at my previous employer’s staff wellness day coming up on November 5th (Gotta love Child Guidance showing an old Family First-er some love!!). I’m incredibly excited about the opportunity to tackle a subject I frequently practice AND preach: SELF-CARE. Since I’ll be yapping at (and hopefully entertaining) my former co-workers for 90 minutes about this, I won’t turn this post into my lecture, but it’s definitely a “sneak preview” to something I’ll address.

A major part of practicing self-care is, first of all, recognition you NEED it!  It seems there is a rise in 14 hour workdays, lack of sleep, consumption of unhealthy food/beverages to get us through those days (I’m looking at you, people-who-drink-Monster-Energy-Drinks-at-10:00AM-to-stay-awake ), AND negligence to attend to the needs of our minds, bodies, hell – our souls. Now, 14 hour workdays aren’t the enemy here (I’m no stranger to them). The enemy is your STRESS.

The video below discusses a study done with baboons exposed to consistent life stress (as I’m sure living out in the wild, spending every day worrying if a lion is going to eat you, is quite stressful) and what happened to their bodies. Chronic stress (as opposed to acute stress, like sitting in traffic, getting a root canal, or waiting in line at the DMV) actually increases a hormone called cortisol in our bodies that causes fat to collect in our midsection. This, as the video suggests, is one of the most dangerous areas on our bodies to carry unhealthy fat. Why is that bad?

The middle of our body is where we carry our vital organs – if you have fat there, you’re essentially smothering them. Having fat around your internal organs translates into a myriad of health issues – heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes to name a few. Excess belly fat is one of the main causes of death by heart attack because of the problems it’s directly linked to.

OOOHHHKAAAYYY…now that we’ve played Debbie Downer, there’s good news… tackling chronic stress is ACTUALLY an easier problem to address than you think. We’re not talking about battling major illness here, folks. We’re talking about making small lifestyle adjustments (to start, at least) that have profound long-term benefits. The video below ends with the idea that people today need to re-evaluate their values. “People glorify the person who can multi-task”, they say. Well sure, it’s awesome to have that skill – but don’t let it come with a price.

Take a moment to consider a SMALL part of your day where you can add some zen. Take stretch breaks at your desk, get outside for lunch, call your family and have pleasant conversation instead of business-talk for 5 minutes… WHAM! There goes 5 pounds. Okay, it’s not that miraculous, but you catch my drift – a little self-care can go a long way on your path to well-being.

To my CGRC crew, I can’t wait to share more of this with you on November 5th. To the rest of you, please take a look at this film and feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns, or advice on how to begin making small, stress-free changes in your life that, I assure, will lead to a better you.

Happy de-stressing, everyone!!

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Who Needs “GU” When You Have Gratitude?

A really interesting phenomenon happened to me while on my epic 20-mile training run this past week (with Marine Corp Marathon less than a month away now, I’m happy I won’t see this type of distance again until the race!) Now, one might think that the fact my IT bands didn’t explore was miraculous in itself, but the thought worthy thing that happened to me wasn’t about my body pushing me the distance, it was my mind.

My younger brother shared an old You Tube video with me (see below) for a study done on happiness in 2005. The therapist in me LOVES to come across this type of stuff – I think it can greatly help my clients while simultaneously taking me back to my values and core beliefs! The study explored how something as simple as expressing “thanks” caused an increase in pleasure and happiness for the study’s participants (and, the video got me choked up a bit just watching this experiment play out!)

It’s something so small, yet so profound. How often do we stop and “thank” the people in our lives? How nice is it when you hear somebody thank you for your hard work or efforts, whether it’s warranted or not? Hell, I’m appreciative when I hold the door for somebody and they give me so much as a smile. But what does this have to do with (undoubtedly crazy) act of running 20 miles?

My boyfriend (bless his heart) has taken on the task of being my bike escort and/or running buddy for my long runs throughout my training. Knowing this latest one would, without a doubt, be the most trying, he pulled out all the stops to encourage me to keep going. What was most impactful, however, was mile 17 to 18. At this point, my legs feel heavy as lead, my left knee is screaming obscenities at me, and my mentality is “maybe I can just stop now”. He says to me, “How about we list the things we’re thankful for, like that YouTube video?”

Boom. Not only did I spend a mile thanking everything from him, to my friends, to my family, to the folks at Rock Tape, Brooks, and Honey Stinger, but when the Garmin beeped at mile 18, I realized I hadn’t even thought about my aching legs, and I actually had a renewed sense of hopefulness and energy. The power of the mind, man. Blows me away every time!

So, in sum, check out this video, and try a dose of gratitude the next time you’re feeling gloomy. You may be surprised how you feel.

Happy Thanking, everyone!

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“Accountabila-Buddies” (aka Partnership & Fitness = Success!)

running buddiesNod up and down if you are guilty of any of the following scenarios:

1.) You are out on what should be a 3+ mile run and for a variety of reasons (fatigue, weather, your IPod list is not pumping you up, etc.) you decide to turn around at mile 2 and “call it”.

2.) You are at the gym and turn a “10 second rest” into a 3 minute long visit to your e-mail on your phone.

3.) You second guess your ability to use the 8 pound handweights at the gym (even though you’ve successfully done so before), so you think “Eh, I’d rather not overdo it” and reach for the 5-pounders.

4.) You hit the snooze to the point where you don’t even have time to exercise before work.

Now, I can’t see if you are nodding or not (therefore, cannot hold you accountable) BUT, I’m guessing, if you’re anything like me, one of these scenarios rang a familiar bell. Enter this week’s post: The importance of your accountabila-buddy.

I will childishly admit that I stole this term from Butters on “South Park”, but regardless, I think there’s something to be said about having somebody to support and encourage you as you work towards your fitness goals. I am a huge advocate of the idea that it’s up to YOU to ultimately achieve your goals, but that being said, I’ve learned first hand the importance of coaches, friends, partners, and fitness class-mates in providing an extra “boost”.

When I first started running, I was that girl in scenario #1. In fact, the first time I ran 6+ miles, I remember complaining about 75% of the time. However, I didn’t turn around. My “buddy” had decided since I was tackling a new goal, it may be important to run alongside me and provided encouragement. Turns out, this REALLY helped. Just somebody to say “You can do it”, “Keep going”, or “Try and pick up the pace” not only helped me complete 6 miles, but made me feel proud of this accomplishment, too. From here, I joined a very supportive Crossfit (see my post on that sense of community http://healthymindhealthybodyblog.com/2013/03/25/turning-i-cant-into-i-did-the-power-of-positive-thought-and-support-in-fitness-success/) and continued to recognize how people believing in me and supporting my goals only fueled my drive to succeed. Now, as I train others, I work hard to hold them accountable to what they set out to acheive – from being a better runner, to feeling stronger, to being able to jump from a 3 lb to 5 lb weight – It’s been shared with me that having a weekly “reminder” of why a trainer was contacted in the first place provides more motivation then goin’ it alone.

Aside from the wonderful coaches, trainers, counselors, and mentors that are out there to hold you accountable, many of us have loved ones that can do the job, as well. I came across an atricle entitled, “The Perfect Workout Partner: Why Couples Who Sweat Together, Stay Together” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/09/workout-partner-healthy-couples-valentines-day_n_2638571.html) and felt it spoke to the importance of motivating your loved one through his/her goals (and accomplishing them, together!). Making your partner your “accountabila-buddy” means when you go to hit the snooze, he/she blocks your hand and throws you your running shoes. It means there’s somebody who every day can say “You’ve got this” and is there to hand you the ice pack after a tough workout (or, give you a massage if you’re lucky!). I love training couples. Not only can you have fun with it (did somebody say “partner burpees”?!), but it’s awesome to watch people motivating and believing in each other throughout the workout. I can attest to the fact that I run harder, better, and feel stronger, when my “accountabila-buddy” (aka boyfriend) is present and/or watching. You know that person would never look down on you, but it makes you want to try that much more to give them another reason to be proud.

I’d love to hear stories of “accountabila-buddy” success! Who inspires you? Do you remember a particular coach, mentor, trainer, or teacher that helped push you to reach your goals? Feel free to leave your experiences in the comments below. In the meantime, go grab a buddy and continue to work towards being a better you!

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Some of my favorite “accountabila-crossfit-buddies” … wouldn’t have as much gym success without their everyday support and inspiration!

Happy Buddies, everyone 🙂

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Leaps of Faith: The First Step is to Jump

leap-of-faithThe inspiration for this post came to me from an unexpected source: My dentist (whose dental practice is awesome, might I add). During my routine cleaning this week I was updating him on my recent career endeavors, and how psyched I am about finally taking the steps to start my own personal training/counseling practice and immersing myself in the world of fitness, at present. His response continued to echo in my brain long after I left the exam chair: “You just made my day by sharing that with me… Taking a leap of faith… you just don’t see people do that anymore. It’s so good to see somebody going for what they love”. (Aw, thanks dentist!)

Whether it be in therapy or exercise (or life, in general), he’s right: I’ve come across many people, from all walks of life, who stare out from a door of opportunity, stick one toe out, and immediately retract to the comforts of their “status quo”. Maybe the goal seems too lofty, too big, too risky… Maybe with change means letting go of an old identity, saying goodbye to relationships that no longer work, or “closing a chapter” that a lot of effort was put into. I get it. I’ve been there. In fact, I think I can count numerous times in my life I’ve had to go on blind faith, hoping that if and when I land, the impact won’t break me. Well, in the worlds of the great Elton John: “I’m still standing! (Yeah, yeah yeah)”, and I’ve learned that listening to your heart (and that ever-nagging gut feeling) always ensures you land softly… even if it’s a bumpy ride down .

Let’s bring this back around to what tends to happen to clients I’ve worked with in the past, and how I use “leaps of faith” to push people out that aforementioned door of opportunity. This is why I am so passionate about fitness and emotional/behavioral work being so connected: Both involve taking a risk with yourself, and both involve taking ownership over your life to create change. Committing to a healthier you – whether mental or physical – requires a critical, inward look and a readiness to be honest with yourself and what no longer works for you. “But Caitlin! That’s TOO SCARY!!! I’d rather NOT!”, you say. Of course! And enrolling yourself in a fitness or counseling program doesn’t mean you show up for session one and your life is forced to change. Hey, I always say that the first step is just reaching out for help (that takes bravery in itself! And heck, that’s the first part of a leap!)

The next step is breaking down your “leap” into something more manageable and less scary. When somebody says to me “I want to lose 50 pounds in 30 days and feel better about myself”, you can best bet my answer is something like, “Wow! I love your ambition. But, let’s start small – how would you like to feel in, say, two weeks? More energy? Increased positivity?” I didn’t jolt myself awake one day exclaiming, “TODAY I START A PRIVATE PRACTICE!!!” I developed small goals that were a means to an end – from trying to get one new client a week, to exploring where to set up shop, to figuring out how in the world “tweeting” is effective… There were probably multiple times in the last 3 years I could have left my job, but I didn’t “make the leap” until more pieces came together. And, my gut and heart said GO. So that being said, a “leap” can be made up of many small “jumps” that eventually make up your overall goal. That being said, you gotta jump to begin with. 

Having support, guidance, friendship…whatever… along the way is very important, too. My leap of faith felt far less scary when I knew I had oodles of support from loved ones, colleagues, new business connections, etc. It’s important to remember who isn’t going to leave you feeling alone when you begin to create change. I frequently preached this in my family therapy work: Who is going to help you when you start to feel scared or overwhelmed? As a personal trainer and a therapist, I constantly feel blessed to be put in this role for people time and time again.

In sum, recognize that leaping is scary, but listening to what’s best for you and OWNING THAT (even when it looks ugly) is far worth the jump. And, go see my dentist, because apparently if you share the fact you’re embarking on your dream with him, he’ll be your first supporter 🙂

Happy Leaping, everyone!

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