Category Archives: Healthy Habits

The New Year’s Revolution Challenge

First things first – CONGRATULATIONS to all of the participants of the New Year’s Revolution Challenge! You all blew me away with how hard you worked out and how committed you were to eating a Whole30 or Paleo-compliant diet. For those of you who have read my blog before, you know that I have done Whole30 several times and I know firsthand the difficulties this kind of lifestyle change (it isn’t a diet!) can bring. Asking me to give up chocolate is a big deal! But I also know firsthand how incredibly rewarding it is to truly care for your body by nourishing it with whole, natural foods. I know how much better my body feels on Whole30 – during the day when I’m active but also at night when I sleep…so it was very exciting for me to see so many of my clients experience this change for themselves. In total, participants lost a combined 54.3 lbs and 27.9% body fat. Holy crap!!!  That’s so awesome!  Here are the final results…  special congrats to Emily for being the overall winner, and to Derek for hitting his goal of going from 12% body fat to 8%!!!  

Name

lbs lost

Body Fat % lost

Emily 18.8 7%
Brian 8.2 3.9%
Allison 8 5%
Derek 6.1 3.4%
Katie 5.2 2.6%
Lyndsay 5 4%
Liz 3 2%
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Emily’s before & after

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Derek’s before & after

People – I don’t sell a bikini body, I promote a HEALTHY LIFESTYLE…and that’s exactly what these incredible people did in just 6 weeks.  THEY CHANGED THEIR LIVES.

I realized how much my diet affects every single aspect of my life.”
-Allison

One of the most common statements in their responses after this challenge was the realization that what you eat makes such a significant difference. Most people have heard that getting and maintaining a healthy body is 20% exercise and 80% nutrition, but it is a hard claim to believe that until you live through that change yourself. And it isn’t just about losing weight. We TRULY are what we eat, and I think Whole30 makes you really realize what you’re putting in your body MATTERS.  The food we consume is what gives us energy to go about our lives, so the better food we eat, the better lives we are  going to have.

To read the full responses of some of the participants, just keep scrolling!

1. What did you learn/experience from this 6 week challenge?

Allison: In the six weeks, which included Whole 30, I realized how much my diet affects every single aspect of my life – from my sleep to my moods to my mental sharpness and my energy for workouts. Changing my diet made every part of my life better and gave me the energy I needed to work out harder and more often.

Emily: I learned that it really IS all about what you eat. I had always been able to exercise my way around all the baked goods I wanted to eat, but after getting older and having a baby, that just didn’t work anymore.

I also learned that you can do anything for 30 days/6 weeks. I really DON’T need a glass of wine (or 3) after a long day. I really DON’T need a snack every time I walk through the kitchen. I really DON’T need to bake (and eat) brownies to make myself feel better or to show others I care about them.

I have also given up my guilt about food, for the most part. I used to feel so bad about myself and bad in general when I would over indulge. Now, I have a few chips or a glass of wine and don’t beat myself up afterwards. I also don’t punish myself for a “bad food choice” by saying I have to run X number of miles the next day because I ate something.

I also don’t reward myself with food or alcohol. Instead of saying “Megan really killed me today in our training session, so I can eat whatever I want tonight”, I enjoy the way that I feel and don’t want to mess it up. So I’ll try to go get a pedicure or go shopping (which is fun again!) or go to bed early knowing I’ll sleep like a baby until the baby wakes up.

I am also so much more aware of what I’m eating. I’m obsessive about reading labels and now know that just because something is organic or purchased from Whole Foods doesn’t mean there’s not added sugar. I also don’t unconsciously finish off my 1 year old daughters Mac and Cheese or muffin, etc. All the little things really do add up.

I’ve learned that how I feel now is the best reward that I could ask for.

Brian: I became more aware of what I ate and how my body responded to it. I felt like I had good results and became more disciplined on every aspect of my life because I wanted to see and more importantly feel the change.

Derek: Meaningful changes can occur in a short period of time

Katie: I learned how my body feels running on different types of food. The whole 30 process was really eye opening.

2. What was the hardest part of the challenge?

Allison: The hardest part was losing convenience. I did not have cravings for non-compliant food, but I craved the convenience of takeout or a sandwich instead of planning ahead to make sure I was eating clean foods.

Emily: The biggest challenge was the pressure of social situations. It’s really no fun to meet girlfriends for happy hour if you’re not drinking or eating chips and dips! I told lots of folks that I’d need to take a raincheck on their invites until mid-February! I really became a bit of a hermit for the first part of the challenge because I didn’t trust my willpower and didn’t want to be seen as “not fun”. But by the end, I would go out and just drink water and eat before I went so I wasn’t tempted.

It was also a challenge when I would go home to visit my family and have to turn down my Nana’s sweet tea, my mom’s delicious cooking and my dad’s stellar wine cellar. All of which are things that I associate with being at home.

Brian: Learning to relearn the power of food and not just looking at the big picture but just one day at a time. Small victories lead to major wins!

Derek: The diet; It was the hardest but most important part.

Katie: Finding time in my day to workout and then having the motivation after a long day of work!

3. What would you say to/advise someone wanting to make changes?

Allison: My advice for anyone challenging themselves with a certain goal “deadline” like a six week kickstart program is to have a game plan for after your goal period is over. I had such success in my six weeks but I have struggled to stay committed in the weeks after because I realize now I had no goals or plan for my life after the revolution period. 

Emily: [M]y advice for others embarking on this journey: you need a village. I would not have been successful if my partner wasn’t committed to this as well and was eating, and for the most part, preparing our healthy dishes. The encouragement from the FB group made a huge difference as well – knowing there were others who were doing this as well or had done it before. When I did go visit my family, my mom made sure she stocked up on things I could eat and no one ever pressured me to “just have X”. My friends all told me how proud they were of me when I would meet them out and drink water.

Brian: Get your mind right first. You need to want it in order to make it really happen. Baby steps and have realistic goals. We all want instant results, it’s more of a lifestyle change which long term will provide a heathy, happy life. Having a support system/ coach def helps! It’s a team effort.

Derek: Make small, attainable goals so you don’t get discouraged.

Katie: Try the whole 30. If you are focused on being healthier it is the way to go. You have nothing to lose!

4. What will you continue to do from here on out?

Allison: I am continuing to make better choices in my diet and working out more often. I have mixed in Orange Theory and Bar Method along with my Megan workouts and trying to be more active. I plan to do Whole 30 again soon! 

Emily: My plan going forward is to stay Whole 30 compliant 80% of the time but not sweat it when I go off plan. But I’m also not going to go all out and “eat all the things”. I’ve added back in some sprinkles of cheese on salads, a few glasses of wine here and there and, ok, a few margaritas, but only one at a time! I’m still trying to avoid gluten and sweets/baked goods. But when you feel this good, it’s really not worth it! I’ve heard that for years, but now I really believe it. This momma needs a good night of sleep every night!

Brian: I want it more. This process has opened my eyes more than you will ever know. You only get one body/ one life, why not maximize it? The past 6 weeks has improved my life on every level and allowed me to achieve more. It’s been unbelievable and like I mentioned before eye opening. It’s not easy but it’s about the commitment.

Katie: I have transitioned a little to Paleo. I have also kept up with weight training three days a week.

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Can you believe these amazing people?!  It makes my heart beyond happy to share what these people did in just 6 short weeks.  Most of them have set goals from PRing a half marathon to losing a few more to building some serious muscle…  THIS is what makes me grateful every day to do what I do.  THESE PEOPLE continue to inspire me and hopefully you as well.  Stay tuned – I will be doing another 6 week challenge soon!  Congrats again to everyone who participated and changed their life – I am SO proud of you, and so grateful to be a part of  your journey.

**HUGE THANKS to Fleet Feet Nashville, GetFit615, Vigor and Audra Lance for being part of the prize package!  These people worked hard and deserved it!!!  Thank you for supporting this challenge!

Candace White and Her FIRST MARATHON!!!!

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I don’t even know where to begin with this amazing woman…  I met her in Key Largo 6 or 7 years ago (Candace, I can’t even remember), but from the first time down there – the people in Key Largo quickly became my family.  Candace and her sweet family were no exception.  So, when I was at their house in May of last year and she said, “Megan, I’m going to run a full marathon.  The Disney Marathon in January 2017…”  I smiled and said – “You can do this.”  I told her if she wanted my help, I’d be there to help her out with training.  Sure enough a few months later I got an email, and the rest is history!!

Candace – your strength, your heart, Paul and Birdie and your brother got you through those 26.2 miles.  I hope you know what a huge accomplishment this is.  It’s a memoir to your brother, an inspiration to so many out there, and a testament to yourself that you are capable of anything you want to do.  Thank you for letting me be a part of your journey – I truly can’t tell you how much it means to me, and how very grateful I am for your family and all of my Key Largo family.  I love you all so much!

I asked Candace a series of questions, and I’m going to let her answer them all below…  Wait until you read her story, wait until you hear HER WHY…

Tell me about yourself – who you are, what you do, and all of that jazz!  

My name is Candace White, I am a 42-year-old woman living in the incredible community of Key Largo, Florida. I was born and raised in another incredible small town in West Tennessee, Dyersburg.

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I have a few roles in life. I am mom to my seven-year-old daughter, Birdie. My love is my husband Paul. Life is a beautiful mix of raising my daughter, being a best friend to my husband, teaching Spanish part-time at my daughter’s Montessori school and pursuing my passion for creative writing. I was pursuing a degree in Spanish but that’s on hold for now so I study with a teacher from Guatemala each week instead. I constantly follow and educate myself on social justice issues. I love to read, particularly literature on spiritual teachings, religions, culture and social justice. Our family loves to travel around the world with friends, experiencing cultures, languages and people. We own our own consulting company, The Helping Company and through it we assist with education and medications for a young girl I met in Africa in 2004.

What made you want to run a marathon?  What was your WHY?

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A friend approached me about the Disney Marathon in June of 2016. I ran two half marathons years earlier with her so I thought “why not go for a full together?” When I trained for my first half those years before, I bonded with friends and it was beautiful achieving our race goal together. A mom friend had trained us all, Amie Tucker, who is now a fitness instructor in Murietta, California at the Y. She actually ran the race with me, by my side, the entire time. I was over 200lbs when I started training with her and was very hard on myself and judgmental about my body. We would meet early in the morning in the dark to train. We shared about our lives and became good friends. She always knew I could do it when I doubted. It is a powerful experience when someone believes in you and loves you to a goal, especially a physical goal. I came away having lost weight and with so much more confidence and insight into my body.

So for the Disney full, after it was all said and done five other friends registered, we all committed to our first full marathon together. One friend was diagnosed with an illness years ago and she went for it, too! She’s an incredible inspiration to me.

Also, I habitually overeat and over-do-it with sugar so anytime I can exercise and keep pursuing a healthy lifestyle I try.

So that was the initial WHY for this marathon – bonding with friends, achieving a goal, run for health, strength, confidence and as a bucket list item, I could say I did it. Also, I am 30 pounds overweight and it was important that my daughter see me try to be healthy and achieve a fitness goal.

Then by August, my WHY for the Disney Marathon changed.

I preface this to say my spiritual life is the center of my life. My spiritual identity is the center of who I am and I feel a deep responsibility to stay true to that.

I found through the years that running and interval training is another way to train my mind and also to keep energy and emotions moving through my body. Running those distances helped me become a student of my body, to start to learn it, learn where it stores tension and learn to move feelings and pain through my nervous systems, to learn what impact feels like, what core strength feels like, what release feels like.

I began a committed meditation practice in 2009 and found that running gave me insight into what happens to my thinking when life gets hard.

Before this marathon, life got hard.

Over the summer my dad was diagnosed with cancer again and had a glossectomy (tongue removal) along with reconstructive surgeries. I went to stay with him for a week in the hospital in early August to help my mom and brother with his care. He had throat cancer fourteen years before and used an electronic larynx to speak. With this surgery, he could no longer speak or swallow and he left the hospital feeding himself with a feeding tube. I transitioned him home, he settled in then I returned to my family in Key Largo.

August was here, dad was healing, school was starting, we were back in routine and it was time to begin training for the marathon.

I contacted Megan to see if I could do this with only a few months to train. She said absolutely, four months would be plenty of time. Honestly, I didn’t believe her but I was willing to go for it.

Then, on August 30 my husband called me one afternoon and said my brother had taken his own life.

My brother committed suicide.

Life stood still. I flew home to help my family and begin grieving. After his funeral in Tennessee, I returned to Key Largo and reached out to Megan again and she said I could still do it, that I really really could finish this marathon.

Now, I didn’t only want to do it, I needed to.

Megan set up my plan and I started to go for my runs. I ran to grieve. I needed to keep moving forward, to keep moving emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. I ran and cried, I ran and prayed, I ran and meditated.

The week after his funeral I went for one of my training runs and would cry then smile, cry then smile, my brother’s spirit with me every step. I ran into my pain, I ran into my sadness, I ran into memories, I ran into fears, I ran into the realities of life now that he’s not here. I needed to keep moving. I have a daughter to love and a husband to love and now I am my parents’ only earthly child.

I ran into a deeper understanding of myself, the power of love, forgiveness and compassion. Relationships in my life also began to change after my brother’s death, I was changing as a person and still am. It has been a confusing time but also a time of deep personal discovery. The emotions intense and also the Peace within. I hold on to a meditation practice and I have learned to allow myself to receive love from people in a way and at a depth that I had not allowed myself to receive before.

I ran for contemplation. I would contemplate suffering and breathe in all the people right now suffering like my brother suffered, all the people right now grieving loved ones, I contemplated the love that people need, the forgiveness and compassion. The love I was receiving from people. My spiritual readings suggested saying blessings and prayers for people as I passed them so I would do this and in turn experienced my own energy lift.

After my brother’s death, I watched my dad grieve not only his son, but grieve the ability to eat and the loss of speech. Then, during the months I trained I drew from my dad’s resolve and determination as he and my mom endured deep despair. In a few months, my dad in his grief taught himself to swallow and today no longer uses a feeding tube. He also learned to communicate through voice apps on his iPad.

How did you choose the one that you did?

Aside from our group running this one together, our family enjoys Disney. The Disney marathon is a low-pressure, fun race with 25,000 people, most dressed in costumes, running through all the parks. It is well supported for first time marathoners with food, lots of water stops, surprises and entertainment all along the course.

What part did training play in your marathon?

Essential. Crucial. Everything Megan said was right on, down to the science. Megan’s plan was great because training is a big time commitment. I needed someone to guide me to monitor progress and adapt my plan when my schedule went haywire.

I needed the support. Whenever I had doubts, Megan assured me. She said over and over, “don’t quit, you can do this.” I worried about being overweight and out of shape, she always said I could do it. Everything on her blog was useful and a one stop resource. Her enthusiasm and passion for fitness is contagious. She also told me the truth, “it’s going to hurt, you’re going to feel this way and this way, prepare, but you can finish.” I hydrated like she said and I know it made ALL the difference before, during and after.

Even writing the reminders to “keep going” and my “why” on my arm helped, like she does for her races. I looked at my arm a lot during the race, especially the word breathe and my brother’s name. I have lots of great memories from when we were little kids so I wrote my childhood nickname for him, too.

She was on call for me during the race, tracked me the entire time and texted encouragement.

Give me a run down of the race – highs/lows…what did you think?   

LOWS: 

– The temperature, literally. I sat in the 36 degree weather in my corral for almost an hour before our start time. I had one thought of “I didn’t want to do this” then I committed to stay mentally positive the rest of the race. By mile four, my body warmed up.

– For women, and as they say in India, I had my “monthly holiday” (period) so my hormones were elevated. My hip was hurting and inflamed. I was seriously nervous about my physical condition the week before. My hip was hurting from nerves and overuse. I needed to fuel up on iron, stretch, and roll out my leg and hip. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! My friend gave me essential oils which helped a lot. Megan told me to rest it. I did the day before especially. I rested and drank water literally all day and had some meditation time with a good friend.

– The last three miles were the toughest for me. I felt like it wasn’t going to end. We ran through Epcot with people watching and some cheering, high-fiving us. A couple of people told me to smile. The last three miles I started getting desperate for it to be over. It was hard to smile.

– I thought it was a low that my head phones died at mile 20, my techie husband bought me some snazzy Bluetooth headphones but when they ran out of charge it was a blessing because it was just me, my inner thoughts and attitude the last six miles with friends texting encouragement. I would read texts for a few minutes then zone.

HIGHS:

 – When I crossed the start line I knew I would finish. I knew. I really wholeheartedly knew. I knew my brother’s spirit was supporting me all the way. I knew it was in me to do this even though my training was messy and I skipped runs and had a hard time staying consistent with my training plan. I still knew I had enough to do it. I wanted to celebrate the life my brother and I shared and also mark that it was time to forward.

– This race was about shedding beliefs about myself. It is about being the most authentic person I can be and not neglecting, evading or hiding that. Life is too short. The race was a way to respond to the challenges of life with love and strength. It was about empathy and compassion for my parents.

– It was about enjoying life and having fun, the paradox of having both joy and pain at the same time.

– Breathing. I caught myself at one point taking short breaths and holding. Fear-breathing. It was a gift to be aware and adjust it to harmonize it with my pace, slow it down and make it rhythmic.  Having my mind and body in harmony felt amazing. I judge my body and think negatively about it. This race was about stopping that. My brain feels so oxygenated and clear today, my blood feels like it’s fully oxygenated today, the day after. Feels wonderful.

– Bonding with my husband. He is my number one supporter. He is a kind kind soul. He came to cheer me on with my daughter to three spots on the course in addition to the finish. At the final six he said “go within, meditate your way to the finish.” It was exactly what I needed to hear. No band or Disney character or music or anything external was going to get me to the finish line. I had to go within myself.

– Choosing my thoughts under challenging physical conditions. Jesus said “take no thought.” The Yoga Sutras of the Pantanjali say “starve a thought.” It was wonderful to do that when a negative thought came. My mom always said “can’t never could do anything.” So “I can’t” was not an option. Nor was it the truth. I could and I knew I could at the start.

– This race was a symbol of running toward what I’m passionate about and stop limiting myself with certain beliefs I have about myself. It’s time to deepen my trust of my spiritual journey and to follow my heart to create art. The race signified the start of a new season of my life. To forgive myself and others.

– My goal for the race was to keep a smile on my face. I had practiced smiling as much as possible in training (when I wasn’t crying or processing emotions or worrying about my body). I read that even fake smiling can produce serotonin in the brain. My meditation teachers said the first thing to do when you start meditating is to smile. I smiled until the last three miles or so. Those were tough. But I still tried.

– How much I ran. I trained with intervals which I did pretty steady for the first 13 miles. I walked longer stretches when I needed to conserve energy. Then in the last half of the race I found my legs felt best at a slow jog instead of walking so I was excited to run as much as I did. I feared I would walk too much and stiffen up but I didn’t.

– My daughter. She saw me train. She saw me grieve. She saw me finish healthy. She saw me smile. It felt incredible to model this for her.

 If you could give anyone advice thinking about running a full what would suggest?  

 Trust the training plan and follow it as much as you can as consistently as you can.

I would say embrace pain, make friends with it, be open to discover its purpose for yourself and others.

Use the training to shed the past or run toward a hopeful future, to question and test beliefs about yourself, to train the mind and body to be in harmony then use the race as a celebration.

Connect with life, Spirit, those you love, your Faith that there’s something bigger. Stay present. Don’t think about the miles ahead, starve those thoughts, don’t look behind. Focus on the present step. My friend went to Tibet and said the monks never looked more than seven steps ahead. I practiced that especially when it got tough. I found it to be a very meditative experience. My mantra during was “Peace” and “Forget your legs.”

 What did you learn from this experience?

 Fear and worry waste time, energy and they affect my physical health.

Enjoy my body, stop judging it.

Focus.

Trust life.

I made a commitment to myself to grieve my brother as unaltered as possible. I do not drink or smoke. I do not take any mind or emotion altering medications. I do use food and sugar for emotional comfort. Training and the race definitely gave me another way to channel my grief and cope with emotions in a positive way.

Change is good.

Love.

What was the hardest part of doing this?  What was the best part?

 Hardest was the discipline to stay consistent with my training. I know I made it harder on myself than it needed to be.

Best part was knowing I was going to finish at the starting line and the inner peace during the race.

What will your next goal be?

 Nothing planned for running. I want a consistent exercise schedule (yoga, pilates, walking, and Nia) and make a true healthy lifestyle change to eat more plant-based and limit or abstain from sugar and processed food.

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Candace – I saw this picture on your Facebook page yesterday…  thank you for inspiring others.  Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your amazing story.  Your brother is with you…I hope you can see him and feel him everywhere.  Just in this picture I can tell he was with you in that moment.  You’re an amazing human.  Thank you for sharing your story.

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Client Spotlight – Brittany Dobbs and How She Climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro

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For her 30th birthday Brittany Dobbs decided to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro – the highest peak in Africa.  NBD…  

I’m not going to say much because every word of this spotlight is intriguing and amazing, and you need to take the time to read it all and hear her story. I just have to say – Brittany – you are my hero…in so many ways.  Your heart for serving and your will when you set your mind to whatever it is – is truly unbelievable.  Thank you for chasing this dream down, doing it, and letting me be a part of your incredibly inspiring climb to the top.  

Now here is the rest in Brittany’s words…

At 7am on Saturday, July 16th, as the sun was rising over the highest mountain in Africa, I reached Uhuru Peak on Mount Kilimanjaro, which stands at 19,341 ft. (13.3 Empire State Buildings high). It is almost impossible to try to explain the elation, exhaustion, and sense of accomplishment I felt after spending the last year planning and training for that exact moment.

Give me some background on your love of Africa.

If you’ve ever met me, you know that I’m not the most outdoorsy person. I hate being hot, and I love air conditioning. Based on those facts alone, my deep affection for Africa may seem surprising. It certainly was for me.

I first traveled to Africa to volunteer in October 2014. I was in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, where the temperature was at least 100 degrees EVERY day and night. At the time, I was living the dream in New York City; I loved my life, my friends, and my job. I had always wanted to work with children in Africa, so I decided it was time to gain some perspective and see what life was like on the other side of the world. I started my research, like most of us do, on Google.

Exactly one month later, I had received all my shots and planned my itinerary, and I was headed to the unknown in Zimbabwe to work with African Impact. I met the most amazing people from all over the world while working in The Rose of Charity Orphanage and Monde Primary School. As volunteers, we would split our time between the orphanage, the school, and a few other projects, but my favorites by far were teaching and playing with the children. It was such an eye opening experience. These kids had nothing, but they were still full of joy and life. They didn’t wear any shoes, and most of them were dressed in the same ripped and dirty outfits everyday. On the days we went to the orphanage, the kids would scurry down the street as we pulled up in the van. When we arrived, we would have a child grabbing each hand and others wanting to carry all the bags that contained the toys, crafts, and coloring books. At the school, we would have to bring all the paper, books, pencils, and anything we wanted to use for the lessons because they didn’t have any resources. We would bring candy or treats and would be swarmed when handing them out from excitement.  

This experience rocked something deep in my soul. I fell in love with Africa and returned to the states with a completely different perspective on the world. When I landed in NYC, the first thing I witnessed was two women fighting over a taxi cab. I thought, “How insignificant.” I felt so moved to do something bigger, but what could I do?

I couldn’t get Africa and the children I worked with out of my mind. Months passed, and I moved back home to Nashville. With Africa still on my mind and heart, I returned the following summer – this time to Msaranga village right outside of Moshi, Tanzania (at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro). I spent my days with the most amazing 2-5 year olds at the First Chance Education Centre – singing, playing games and teaching English. Their eagerness and excitement inspired me, especially given their limited resources. These children had no toys to play with and only a concrete floor to nap on and yet, they were so happy and content. My heart and soul reached out to these kids from the moment I arrived, specifically a little girl named Amilen. She was 3 years old and had a magnetic personality. Even though we couldn’t communicate well because of the language barrier, we became the best of friends.


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One of my favorite memories is from my last day at the school: I was holding Amilen, while the other kids were running around, sliding down the slide, and circling the see saw. She turned to me and started counting in Swahili…Moja, Mbili, Tatu…like she was trying to show me what she was learning at school. It brought tears to my eyes. From that moment, I knew I had to go back to Tanzania to see her again.

The people I’ve met from Africa and around the world along with the beauty of the countries I have visited are a few of the many reasons I have fallen in love with Africa.

How did you decide to climb Kili?  Why did you choose this particular mountain?

On my first trip to Tanzania in the summer of 2015, I arrived at the Kilimanjaro airport in the middle of the night. I had no idea the magnitude of this mountain. I saw the mountain for the first time the next day from the volunteer house. It was so beautiful! Many of the other volunteers were going to climb Kilimanjaro on their trip, which I hadn’t considered on this trip. At that point, I was extremely out of shape and wouldn’t have been able to complete the climb, but I had a plan.

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Summer 2016 would mark my 30th birthday, and I set a goal to climb Kilimanjaro to kick off the new decade. I decided I wanted to return to Tanzania, see the kids I had fallen in love with, and conquer this seemingly impossible physical and mental task. On July 25th, 2015, I texted my friends, Natalia and Ingeborg (whom I had met in Zimbabwe two years before) and I asked them if they would be interested in joining me on this crazy journey. To my surprise, they both said yes! Thankfully, I had started training with Megan a month or so before I went to Tanzania in 2015. When I returned, I let her know that I wanted to climb the tallest mountain in Africa the next summer – dream big, right? And with her help and a rigorous training program, I began my training to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro.

It was more than just a physical goal, or even a bucket list item to check off. I did it for the children – for Amilen and the rest of the kids at the school. I used the climb as an opportunity to raise money to support First Chance Education Centre. Through my “Climbing for the Kids” campaign, I raised $4,080 from 70 donors. This money provided a safety wall around the school, sent 5 new students to school for the next year, and repaired the children’s toilets.

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How did you prep and train?

Determination. Dedication. Motivation. Megan. All were necessary for this training. Also, #allthepeople. I had so much support from family, friends, co-workers, and people I met along the way. The main thing was that I held myself accountable. I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from getting to the top of that mountain, not even the emergency stomach surgery I had to have in March 2016.

My training program was built from a few 12-week online training programs. But basically I did anything and everything I had time to do. Megan was a huge support and motivated me through all the training. We did strength training for 45 minutes, 2-3 times a week, which consisted largely of step ups. I cursed through most of the hundreds of step ups she made me do, but I did text her from the mountain to thank her. I used the training as an opportunity to try a bunch of different studios in Nashville and New York. My favorites are SoulCycle, GetFit615, Title Boxing, Body By Simone, Barry’s Bootcamp, and 305 Fitness. Do yourself a favor and try them all. Once a week, I climbed stairs in an eleven-story building for 2-3 hours usually joined by my sister, Hayley. #bestsisterever! Friends would hike with me for hours on the weekends at Percy Warner and Radnor Lake, while I wore a weighted vest and a full backpack (around 40 pounds total). A few weeks before the climb, I hiked Gray’s Peak (14,270 ft.) in Colorado for elevation training with Melissa, one of my co-workers. Also, I started Weight Watchers for the nutritional aspect. This was a key part of my training because the better the food I put in my body, the stronger my motivation to do my workouts each day.

 

Tell me about the climb itself – how many days, who was with you, your guide – give me as much as you want here!

As I sit here and try to write about what the climb was like, words won’t do it justice. But just know, this is a mere dent in how it felt to climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro.  

When I landed in Tanzania, Mount Kilimanjaro was completely visible, and all of a sudden it became very real. I was terrified. There was this incredibly beautiful but massive mountain in front of me, which I was going to climb to the very top.

Natalia, Ingeborg, Heather, and I met our two guides, Jackson and Kevin, the day before we began. They came to brief us on the next seven days that we would all spend together trekking the Machame Route. And, they needed to check all of our gear to make sure we were prepared. Approved. Ready to climb. Ready to climb? Ah, this was actually happening.

We drove an hour the next morning to get to the Machame Gate (5,905 ft.), where we would begin the route. Our 12 porters were waiting for us at the gate, where they would pick up our large bags, food, water, cooking supplies – everything we would need for the next week on the mountain. There were 12 porters on our team plus our 2 guides. It took 14 people to get the 4 of us up the mountain! Too bad they couldn’t carry me.

The first four days were exciting, exhausting, but totally manageable. We would wake up early, have our breakfast of porridge, eggs, sausage (hot dogs), and toast, and then hike for the next 6-8 hours per day. Each day was spent trekking through a different climate zone: rainforest, heath, moorland, alpine desert, and arctic. The porters would run(!) past us with their 50lb sacks on their heads as we slowly headed to the next camp. When we arrived at the camp in the evening, the porters would have our tents set up, have warm “water for washing,” and a snack of popcorn, ginger cookies, and hot chocolate ready for us. We were so tired that we would wait for dinner, eat, and go straight to bed, hoping we didn’t have to wake up and make the trek to the “toilets” in the middle of the night. Well, there actually weren’t any toilets, but there were buildings or shacks with a hole in the ground. I’ve never appreciated a toilet as much as I did after this experience.

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Summit night deserves its own paragraph, maybe its own spotlight. We started the ascent to the summit at midnight on the 16th from Barafu Camp, which is at 15,092 feet. Only 4,249 feet more to the top, the most elevation gained in one day. We were equipped with our water bladders and water bottles (for when the bladders froze), and wearing every piece of clothing we had in our bags, plus our backpacks, snacks, and last but not least, our headlamps. It was so incredibly cold that I couldn’t imagine how it would get colder as we slowly climbed up the last bit of the mountain. But it did. We were walking over rocks, and it was so steep that sometimes I thought I was going to fall right off the mountain. But I didn’t. Slow and steady wins the race. It was hard to breathe and only going to get harder. It was so cold I wanted to cover my nose and mouth, but then I had an even harder time breathing. Not to mention, all of our noses were running incessantly the whole way to the summit. However, the night was so beautiful. It was almost a full moon, and we were literally at the height of it. I looked to my left and was taken aback at how close we were to the moon. And the stars! We were under a blanket of stars. I’ve always loved the African sky at night.

After the first couple of hours, Ingeborg and I had to break off from Natalia and Heather so that we could walk at a slightly faster pace up the mountain. Then, it was me, Ingeborg, and Jackson, our guide. He would let us stop about once an hour for a short break, a snack, and a long drink of water, but if we stopped for too long, our bodies would get too cold and our chance of making it to the top would diminish. There was one point, 18,045 ft., that Jackson said he would let us know when we got there, and this was the point where our bodies would really start to be tested. Well we got to that point, and I was like- WHAT? WE ARE JUST NOW AT 18,045FT?! My body had already been dying for the last hour. Jackson wouldn’t ever tell us the time or how long we had been walking, but I think we had been walking for about 5 hours. Only 1,296 feet more to go. This is when shit got real.

I had made it this far, and I didn’t have any of the major signs of altitude sickness (diarrhea, uncontrollable vomiting) that would make me turn around for good. If I didn’t make it, it would be on me and me alone. I was thinking of anything and everything under the sun to motivate me to get to the top of the mountain. All the people that trained with me, all the people I told I was summiting Kili, the remarkable little kids I raised money for, my dad and how he used to cheer me on at my sports games, and I even pictured my guardian angel, Stan (hello altitude, meet hallucination). I cried like 5 times. I could barely move my legs. I was using my walking poles to literally push my legs forward. It was the most bizarre, out of body experience that was mentally, physically, and emotionally draining. We stopped to rest, and Jackson told us we had less than 10 minutes before we reached Stella Point, the point of no return, at 18,652 ft. He said if we could get there, then we were guaranteed to make it to the summit.

So we did. The three of us reached Stella Point around 6am as the sun was beginning to rise. OMG! The sight of the sun breaking the horizon and making its way above the sheet of clouds. How was this real life?!

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Ingeborg and I took a bathroom break at Stella Point, took a couple pictures with the sign, and then, as we were about to start the hour long walk to Uhuru Peak, we heard Gerald, our summit porter, call out to Jackson. Natalia, accompanied by Gerald, had made it to Stella Point. I’m pretty sure we all cried at that point. Heather had gotten too sick to carry on, but Natalia was determined to make it to the top with us. The five of us – me, Ingeborg, Natalia, Jackson, and Gerald – reached Uhuru Peak, the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa, at 7am on July 16th.

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After all that build up, I had completely forgotten that we had to get down. We were at the summit for no more than 15 minutes. Then, we began our descent. We took a different route down because people were still coming up the summit. The path was so steep and made of volcanic dust, and I basically fell down the mountain for those 3.5 hours on no sleep and legs like jello. When we got back to Barafu camp, we were able to rest for about an hour and eat lunch. Then, we had to walk another 4.5 hours to our final camp on the mountain. It’s never felt so good to sleep!

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On day 7, our final day on the mountain, we had about a 3 hour walk out in the rainforest. It was so muddy and slippery, and I started out walking pretty slowly. My legs were so sore, and it felt like we were walking forever. I asked Jackson if we had made it halfway, and he said we had about another 30 mins before we were halfway. That means we had only been walking for an hour. I saw all the porters with the 50lb sacks on their heads running past us, and I don’t know what came over me. It could have been all the extra oxygen, the adrenaline from the day before, or pure excitement to have a shower. But, I started running after the porters, right in line with them, until I caught up with Kevin, Ingeborg, and Natalia. I had planned on joining them for the rest of the way. Instead, I kept running, and I ran straight off that mountain!

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When you got to the summit how did you feel?

Can you imagine being on top of the world? That is how I felt as I reached the summit of Kilimanjaro. Every time I look up now, I can’t believe I climbed so high that we were above the clouds and what felt like being aligned with the moon. I was completely exhausted and my body was barely moving. But the last hour from Stella Point to the summit, I had a renewed energy as the sun had risen and I was SO close. People that were coming down from the top were congratulating us as we passed them, which made me even more excited to get to the summit.

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What did you learn from the climb?


When I got back from climbing Kilimanjaro, one of the main questions people would ask me was, “Did you have fun?” Fun? No, “fun” is not the word I would use to describe the climb. However, it was beautiful, unbelievable, and rewarding. This experience made me realize that I can do anything I put my mind to. After being so emotionally, physically, and mentally stretched beyond what I thought my limits were, I got comfortable with the uncomfortable. I had never hiked any mountains before I started my training, and I may or may not hike any after Kili. But whatever I do next, I will do it at 200%.

What is your next goal?

I have so many things I want to do! First, I am creating a 501c3 nonprofit organization to help fund First Chance Education Centre in Tanzania (more info to come!). As far as travelling, I want to see the northern lights in Norway and the pyramids in Egypt. My next big fitness goal is the Tour de Tuli, a four-day bike ride through the wilderness in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. #hurryupandlive!

What advice would you give to anyone looking to accomplish hiking Kili or something similar?

Just do it! But don’t half ass it. You have to want it. If you fully commit to your goal, you will achieve it. I feel so empowered after this experience, like I could do anything in the world.
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I’m A Trainer That Likes to Eat Cake – My Whole30 Experience In a Nutshell

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Well, it’s finished, it’s done.  30 days of only whole foods…no alcohol, no dairy, no sugar, no beans, no grains…  It’s done.  It’s day 31, and I’m still Whole30 complaint.  I’m not sure what to do with myself.  Do I eat paleo?  Am I ready?  Am I still going to have great energy and be able to sleep through the night? Am I going to feel like crap or poop myself if I eat sugar or grains or ice cream?  So. Many. Questions!!

This is embarrassing for me to post… because trainers are supposed to have perfect bodies.  Trainers are supposed to have 6-pack abs, and run really fast and lift really heavy, and post half naked pictures of themselves.  Trainers are supposed to wear bikinis and show off how hard they workout in classes…  Well, none of these things are me.  (I can run decently fast every now and then, but that’s about it.)  I’m a normal human being who likes to eat cake, who likes to travel and seek balance, enjoy life, and BE HAPPY.  I am a human being who loves inspiring other people to be their best, and striving to be better myself every day knowing that I’ll probably never have the body I want or enough money, but in the end – none of that matters.  I preach this to my clients ALL OF THE TIME…  That fitness is about a REALISTIC, ATTAINABLE LIFESTYLE, and something that can be maintained.  Fitness isn’t a bikini body that you have to starve yourself for.  Fitness isn’t   Fitness is HEALTH.  Fitness is happiness, and being the best version of you.  THAT is much more than 6-pack abs.  So, I’m putting it out there…I’m far from perfect, and I wanted to share with you my “I just got back from a week in Florida and California and maybe I ate an entire bag of peanut butter cups before doing Whole30” picture…

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The second picture was about 20 days in when I was really on it.  I’ve since had the special time of the month and have maybe fallen off a little…  oops.  🙂

As I’ve gotten older, things have gotten a little harder to keep in place.  I ventured on this Whole30 journey for more than the physical changes, though.  I still weigh the same, but there’s a little difference here…  To me, the changes inside outweigh any physical changes I experienced.

I’ll be honest – I didn’t do a good job of reading the book or really reading much about re-introducing foods back in, but this way of eating wasn’t too far off from how I was eating before.  I’ve totally rid myself of processed stuff though!  Literally nothing processed has been in my body for over 30 days.  Kind of cool.  So, on that note, I’m just going to jump right in and share a few of the things I learned along the way that may help you decide whether this is something you’d want to try.

  1.  Sugar is in EVERYTHING!!  I had NO idea just how prevalent this little drug is in our society and, well, it’s in everything…  from milk to almond butter to the obvious chocolate to bars to well, I could keep going, but you get the picture.  It is everywhere, and it’s a total drug.  Whol30 opened my eyes to this more than ever.
  2. Whole30 teaches you how to read labels – REALLY read them.  If you decide to do Whole30 – read the book!  They will show you what to look for on labels and how to decipher if it’s compliant or not or even what is good for you going forward.
  3. When you’re putting good stuff in – you’re going to get something GOOD in return.  (And I don’t mean a good poo!)  To me – THE GOOD STUFF –  is probably the main benefit that I’ve experienced from this program.  The CLARITY – emotionally, mentally and even spiritually – that I’ve had over the last 30 days has been second to none.  I’m going to explain more on this below, but wow.  Just WOW.
  4. Sleep is a beautiful thing.  I haven’t been able to sleep for more than a year without taking something – not melatonin – no, the hard stuff – ambien, actually!  I can’t take a whole one, but I can sure take a little piece!  However – since about halfway through this program – I HAVEN’T HAD TO TAKE ONE AT ALL!!!  I never dreamed this would have happened, and I’m so thankful.
  5. Waking up is NOT hard to do.  Since on Whole30 – I’m up at 6:30am every morning (or before) ready to rock the world!!!  Might I add – WITH NO ALARM.  Those of you who know me – know that this is a very, very unheard of thing.  Well, life has changed!
  6. Give yourself grace.  I didn’t follow the plan exactly like I should have.  I run a lot more than the average Jane, so I ate when I was hungry.  I didn’t feel as bad about shoving a bowl of fruit in my face face as I have before after a Sprinkles cupcake, but I probably did overdo the fruits and overeat a bit.  I just kept telling myself that “at least it’s not a cupcake!”
  7. No, REALLY give yourself grace.  Using fruit for sugar is looked down upon as well on this program, but again – read the book.  I didn’t read it, and grilled bison burgers and fresh corn one night for a friend… oops… I figured corn would be considered a starchy vegetable like a sweet potato or even a banana (which is a starchy fruit), but nope.  Not on the plan.  When my friend told me – I started sweating.  I had just failed Whole30, and it was completely by accident!  Some strict Whole30ers will say START OVER, but I really believe that’s a personal choice.  It’s not like I binged on a bag of chips or made out with a chocolate cake.  No.  I had fresh, grilled corn with ghee.  Still – it was a mistake, and you have to decide if/when you make an ACCIDENTAL boo-boo if you want to start over the next day.
  8. READ THE BOOK. Have I mentioned read the book?  After I finished my 30 days – I realized a couple of the nut butters I used weren’t complaint…  Again, did I fail miserably at Whole30?  Not in my eyes.  Will I do it again and be more aware next time?  Hell yeah.
  9. Farmer’s markets are the bomb.com.  When you can only eat certain things, you really appreciate those things, and the freshness becomes important.  I take off Tuesday afternoons so that I can go over to the farmer’s market and get my fruits and veggies.  The taste of these fruits and veggies are insane.  There’s just nothing like locally grown, fresh-farmed food.  And on top of it all – you’re supporting the local economy and farmers!  It’s a win-win.

Here’s one meal totally from my farmer’s market finds…

IMG_862910.  Finding new ways of making food is cool.  I’ve discovered some awesome new recipes that will now be staples in my weekly eating itinerary.  Knowing what goes in your food and how it’s prepared is SO important.  Every single little decision you make COUNTS, so finding new ways of approaching recipes is a great thing, and can be super fun too.  I’m still not done adding the recipes up – so keep checking back.  Here are a few more beauties I made that I will be posting soon…

Those are just a few things that I personally realized over the last 30 days.  To me, the biggest, most amazing changes have been in my heart and mind.  I believe that this program kind of strips you down to just what you need.  There is no fake shit, no processed, additive-filled food that you’re putting in your body, and THAT translated directly to my life.  It made me take a real look at the “processed, additve-filled” stuff in my life.  It made me take a real look at my relationships, my heart, my faith, my job and my future.  I had mental clarity like I’ve never had before.  I had the strength to let go of some things that I needed to let go of.  I reconnected with God and centered Him in my life again.  I came up with a business idea that I’m now moving forward on.  I wrote one of the best songs that I’ve ever written…  yes, the phrase “you are what you eat” has never been more true to me.

So, there you have it folks.  30 days of super clean eating.  The queen of baking, the champion of non-restrictive eating gave up sugar and all of that other stuff for 30 days, and I didn’t miss a thing. Trust me, if I can give up sugar for 30 days – YOU can do ANYTHING.  I would definitely tell anyone who is thinking of trying Whole30 – DO IT.  It changed my life.  It could do the same for you.  I sure hope it does.

Farm Fresh Challenge

One of the main things that Whole30 is teaching me – is just how amazing REALLY fresh food is.  I’m not talking about going to the grocery and picking up some “fresh vegetables.”  No sir.  I’m talking about going to your local farmer’s market and buying locally grown, farm to table, fresh, just picked from the dirt FOOD.  The difference in the taste and freshness is second to none, and I can only imagine how our bodies love all of the nutrients.  Not to mention when you buy locally, you are supporting the local economy, community and farms.

Yesterday I made breakfast 100% from food that I got at the farmer’s market.  2 fresh eggs, strawberries, blackberries, peaches from The Peach Truck, and sweet potatoes roasted with garlic scapes and topped with homemade Whole30 ketchup and fresh cilantro.   The taste of one of these strawberries alone will blow your mind – they are NOT your store bought berries!  They kind of change your life.

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My new obsession is garlic scapes – how pretty are they?!

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You can roast them, sauté, make a pesto…  Stay tuned – more to come from these beauties.

So, this is just a little post to encourage  you to go to your local farmer’s market and BUY SOME FOOD!!  Challenge yourself to make an entire meal from what you get from your local farms.  I may just never go to the grocery again.  🙂  If you end up taking on this healthy and delicious challenge – share your pictures and tag #farmfreshchallenge. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

#globalrunningday

If you only read one of my posts all year…let it be this one. I hope it will speak to you.  And, it just so happens that it falls on #globalrunningday

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Flashback to yesterday when it was just me and the track at 7:45am. Pros of not going at 5:30am – more sleep, track to yourself. Cons – you’ve got the track to yourself. At that point you have no one there cheering you on, you have no one’s energy to feed off of, you have no one to be accountable to – it’s just you, the sound of your shoes, your breath and those white lines.

 
You could easily give up, walk away, cut corners and be done with it. No one would know. But you would.

 
I had to envision myself crossing the finish line on September 10th in a few months – knowing that I had qualified for Boston…knowing that the training paid off…no regrets, no corners cut.

 
Sometimes all you need is a goal. You need something bigger than yourself – more than what you think you can do. Something that you have to work for.  Something that won’t be easy.  Something that may seem impossible right now.  You need to envision the end goal, and keep it close to your heart. I’m learning more and more that this is what life is about. Celebrating your life, achieving goals, believing in something, believing in yourself, inspiring others, saying “I did it.”

 

I encourage you to find something bigger than yourself, something you think seems unattainable.  It’s not… I promise. Keep it at the center of your focus, you’ll get there. Even on the days you think you won’t – you’ll get there, and you’ll be thankful you didn’t give up. It will be worth it. ‪#‎inspiration‬ ‪#‎track‬ ‪#‎bostontraining‬ ‪#‎marathontraining‬ ‪#‎run‬ ‪#‎running‬ ‪#‎runner‬ ‪#‎believeinyourself‬ ‪#‎sweat‬ ‪#‎fitness‬ ‪#‎training‬ ‪#‎trainer‬ ‪#‎personaltrainer‬ ‪#‎runnergirl‬ ‪#‎girlswhorun‬ ‪#‎inspireatrun‬ ‪#‎goals‬ ‪#‎worthit‬ ‪#‎believeyoucan‬

I Woke Up Today at 5:55am!

I must say – I woke up at 5:55am this morning.  WHAT?  Everyone who knows me will think the world is coming to an end…and, that was with NO alarm.  Again, WHAT?!  Maybe it was the impending doom of the track workout I have to do today, or maybe it’s Whole30…  We may never know.

It’s Day 12 of Whole30.  So far, so good on this new plan.  Honestly, it’s not too far from how I already ate (minus all of the healthy baking I do/did).  I think the coconut sugar and chocolate chips are getting lonely.  But, they aren’t calling my name from the shelves…yet.  I’m still waiting on that.

Am I following it to a “t”?  No.  Do I have too much fruit and eat too often.  Ummm..yes.  But – I’m not eating donuts.  I just keep saying that – I’m not eating donuts.  I haven’t had any intentional slip-ups, but I’m planning on doing another blog later this week about giving yourself grace.  I had a little slip-up and didn’t realize one “vegetable” was not Whole30 compliant.  I definitely have some things to say about this.  🙂

The best things about this program, and really any healthy dietary challenge that you find yourself in, is finding new ways to eat, new foods you enjoy, and a new way of approaching food.  Although you’re not supposed to have a ton of fruit, I haven’t been feeling great the last couple of days, and all I’ve been able to stomach are smoothie bowls. I’m also on the hunt for dragon fruit – looks like I’ll be making a trip to Whole Foods today!

Look at these beauties –

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Check out the “treats” section for these recipes!  The first one is a Green Smoothie Bowl, and the second is a Banana Mango Smoothie Bowl!  (If they aren’t up exactly when you read this blog – they will be up soon!)

One other quick and easy trick for you sweet potato lovers out there…  food process your potato to dice finely, heat up your waffle iron and spray with coconut oil spray, then put those puppies in, and let the iron do the work.  In a few minutes, you’ll have sweet potato hash browns!  Top with a fried egg, and a side of fruit, and it’s a breakfast you won’t be mad at!  I promise if you eat this amazing, natural, whole food – it WILL satisfy you.  Just keep telling yourself “at least I’m not eating donuts.”  🙂

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