Friday, July 21, 2017

Why I Am So Invested In My Health (and why you should be too)

Lately I've had this discussion with a few different clients/friends.

So, I'm a healthy person. I eat clean foods and limit processed foods. I actively work at reducing the toxic load in our home by not using chemicals. I make our own cleaners and body products. I don't wear perfume or makeup. I put a lot of care in the quality of products I put both on and in my body. I do the same for my children. I move my body in a way that feels good every single day. That may include weight lifting, hill running, volleyball, golf, hiking or yoga. There are certain things I refuse to consume or buy for my children, such as pastries, white bread, pop, frozen dinners, most cookies and crackers, and most granola bars. I'm very selective about the things that go into my grocery cart and into my home.

And you know the sad truth about all this?
I'm seen as someone outside the norm.
I'm the abnormal one.

And I have a hard time wrapping my head around that.

I teach workshops at a local cancer support center every month. I am highly passionate about my time there and the energy that circles all these people who have faced their own mortality in a way I cannot fathom. It's inspiring. And you know what I say every time I am there?

Be an advocate for your health.

And you know their response? A resounding "hell yes!" (or something along those lines). It is something they have learned through facing the possibility of death sooner than they had hoped or expected. It is something they wish they could go back and understand before their diagnosis. this fast paced society we have completely forgotten about the fact that our bodies are our vehicles in this life to carry us through the world. We treat them like shit and get angry when they don't work properly. And we find the quickest, easy fix to patch it up and continue abusing the heck out of it - through drugs, alcohol, a shit ton of food, sugar, processed chemicals...and so on. We loathe who we are because we are embarrassed of the reflection we see in the mirror. Yet our behaviour and choices are what lead us to that reflection in the first place. It's not our body's fault. It's ours. So what do we do out of frustration and resentment? We abuse our body some more. Through crash dieting. Through self loathing. Through starvation. Through working out excessively. Through diet pills. Through extreme detoxes. Through overeating illness-promoting foods. Through(insert your own current or past abusive behaviours here).

It's so sad to me. And infuriating.

There's a child in this world whose legs were just amputated because of disease. Or war. He or she would give anything for one more opportunity to run down the road freely. Yet we sit on the couch for hours, or take the elevator, or park as close as we can to a building. Just so we don't have to walk.

There is a Mother in this world who was just given the news that she has 3 months left to live. She holds her child closely, wishing with every fiber of her being that she could live just 5 more years to watch her precious baby grow. Yet we smoke, do drugs, use chemicals or stuff our faces with crap, knowing the effects on our health, knowing the carcinogenic effects of such habits. We play Russian roulette with our lives through the destructive choices we make.

For the love of God, it needs to end.

Our bodies are incredible and we need to make time every single day to find gratitude for all it does for us.

How lucky am I to hop out of bed, go for a run, lift heavy things and feel good?
How awesome is it that my body carries me on field trips with my kids, and to the park to play freely with my children?
I can climb, hike, play volleyball, wrestle my kids, practice handstands, kick a ball, and jump around.
I use my body to teach yoga and fitness classes to amazing women who fill my life.

Holy fuck I am blessed. I remind myself of these things daily. I am humbled even more so when I pass by a wheelchair, or someone who clearly struggles to move unrestricted. I have freedom in my body. And I'll be damn sure to both appreciate and honour that as long as possible.

This is why I am an advocate for my health. I have seen the effects caring for my body has on my every day life - energy, lighter moods, clear skin, a vibrant aura, strength, stamina, resistance to illness, quicker recovery, regulated thyroid levels, better ability to manage stress....(shall I continue?)

In working with so many women, I also see the effects of not being a conscious health advocate: low energy, mood swings, depression, anxiety, frequent illness, disease, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, infertility, and the list goes on. I have mentioned this lots in the past but my Mom died in 2004 of lung cancer. She didn't take care of her health. And the consequences of that have been more impactful than I could ever put into words.

Our health is (mostly) in our control. We seem to have this belief that fate, or genetics are what determines the course of our well-being and that simply is not the case. There are so many actionable steps you can take to ensure your days are not only extended, but full of vibrancy, joy, energy and vitality. It isn't normal to feel sluggish or irritated on a regular basis. If you only knew the possibilities and power your body would never again disrespect it or take it for granted.

It all begins with gratitude, awareness and a vow.

To be kind.
To be loving.
To be patient.
To make choices from love.
To be the best version of you that you are capable of being.

Repeat and rinse every single day, and feel the abundance of energy and joy that floods into your life.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Empowerment or Validation?

Empowerment: the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one's life and claiming one's rights (Google Search)

Empowerment is a concept I hold close to both my life and the work I do. Underneath all that I do, this term underlies it all. I strive to experience it as often as I can, and strive to provide both tools and space for my clients to feel it in their own lives as well.

I had an incredible experience a few weekends ago. I participated in my fourth Spartan race (third time for the Super, I've also done the Beast). Every year I train a group of women who want to push their limits and test their strength. We drive the couple hours up together and split off into similar abilities, and work together to get through the 13K challenge. It is seriously one of the highlights of my year every single year. There is nothing like the sisterhood that develops, and the deep respect for one another that inevitably happens through facing obstacles that challenge both body and mind.
This year, instead of running with the group, I decided I would just venture off on my own to see what I was capable of doing on my own. So we began race by hiking up the first of MANY black diamond hills, and tackled the first obstacle (a wooden wall), before I took off.

After dealing with the effects of a sluggish thyroid and high stress that had affected my appetite on and off for months, I was concerned. I promised myself I would push hard but not to the point of sacrificing my health. I would rest when I needed to.
So, with that vow to my body, off I went. I crawled and ran through mud, pulled my body weight over walls, carried a log over my shoulder up a hill, dragged heavy things, lifted, pulled, heaved, climbed…and felt surprisingly good. When I began feeling a big sluggish halfway through the race, I dug into my Camelbak and ate some energy chews. Immediately I felt better and more energized. My feet went back to running.

For every obstacle skipped or missed, you have to do 30 burpees. I came to the javelin and knew burpees were coming. In the years of doing this race, I haven’t once even come close to landing that one. I grabbed the stick (I'm sure there's a more technical term) with 2 hands, set the rope up on the other side of the barrier, envisioned a clean hit and threw as hard as I could. I watched the stick sail through the air and hit the middle of the hay bale. I did it! I cheered aloud for myself and gave a random guy high five and ran past the line up of people doing their burpees. Shortly thereafter I came to the monkey bars. The dreaded monkey bars that I almost pass every year but always slip off near the end.

I climbed atop the hay bale under the first bar and asked the girl behind me for a boost. Even with a jump I wasn’t able to reach the first one. Hanging on to the first bar, I looked to the end, took a deep breath and silently whispered “you’ve got this Rachel. You can do hard.” The people beside me started dropping off like flies while my eyes focused on the bell at the end. One bar at a time. I swung madly from one bar to the next, and before I knew it, I swung at the bell that marked the end and whooped along with its sound. I did it! I again, cheered loudly for myself and continued on.

The whole race went that way. Up those dreaded black diamonds that tortured my hamstrings, I kept putting one foot in front of the other and kept going. I passed buff men who had to pull aside to break. I passed girls 10 years younger than me who could no longer breathe. Steady paced, eventually I hit the top and didn’t require a break, not even once. At the top I walked for 30 seconds or so to recover and went back to running.

In the end, my goal was 3 hours.
I crossed the finish line in 2:26:54
Of my age group, I was 3rd of 103
Of my gender, I was 8th out of 531
Overall, of 1416 people, I was 122.

I was (and am) insanely proud of these numbers. And while I don’t love numbers, and don’t promote valuing your worth by numbers, these ones…make me feel amazing. I killed it. I totally killed it. Despite some health concerns. Despite feeling as though I’m not in the best shape.

And I am fueled. I have not felt this empowered in a very long time.

Here I am – 36 years old. I have 3 children. I am a busy Mama and business owner. I don’t have a trainer, nor did I specifically train for this event. Yet evidently, I am in the best shape of my life. And I know I could have even managed a faster time had I understood what I am capable of (seems like an ongoing lesson for me - to quit underestimating myself!.

Then I got thinking about the things that empower me. There have been a few that stand out:

This race and all the races I have done, similar to this. There is seriously nothing like crossing the finish line after a lengthy struggle (metaphor for life, right? There's nothing better than the good that comes from the flames of hardship).

Giving birth to my 3 children without drugs. I followed my body’s cues and managed through the experiences without a tear, or a single intervention for any of them.

Competing in a fitness competition. I trained hard for a good year and stepped on stage with a bunch of girls much younger than me. I had a 4-year-old and an 18 month and I stood on stage, alone, in a skimpy bikini, feeling amazing.

Anytime I serve my clients, whether that be through classes or workshops. The energy starts to flow through me and I feel incredibly full and blessed.

Empowered. It’s a feeling I NEED to have and it’s a feeling I strive to bring to all the women I work with. There is no better way to fuel passion and spark inspiration. And it trickles into the hearts of everyone around you.

Then I think about validation, and lately have been researching the lines between the two.
Validation is confirmation of worth. It comes from external sources. It's effects are short term, requiring further validation for the same "high."
Empowerment is internal. It's effects are longer lasting.
Let's give an example.

Me running the race and getting through those obstacles on my own, using my own strength, will and determination by believing in myself and telling myself I can do it is an example of empowerment.
Me posting my results on Instagram, waiting for the likes and comments from others so I can feel good about myself - that's validation. Needing someone to compliment me to feel good about myself and confirm my worth.

Which do you think ends up filling and which ends up depleting? It's obvious, isn't it?

So what's the strategy here? Simple.
Do more of what empowers you and less of what causes you to seek validation

List out all the things you have done that made you feel good about yourself that did NOT require a word or gesture from anyone else to affirm your belief and confidence in yourself.

When do you feel strong?
When do you have lots of energy?
What is something you do that you would do even if you were a millionaire?

Immerse yourself in these things. Over time, you will notice your need for validation decreases while the effects from empowerment increases. Before you know it, you'll be riding a steady high. And it will all come from within.

Everything you need is already within you.

Know this.
Feel this.
Honour this.
And nurture the shit out of this.

Know your worth and your capability. Accept nothing else.