The first time I left my daughter was over Labor Day weekend in 2016, when she was four months old. I didn’t just skip town; I left the country.
One of my closest friends had her bachelorette party in Vancouver, B.C., and I was excited to spend three days celebrating with my girlfriends. Perhaps even more, I was excited to get a few uninterrupted nights of sleep for the first time in what felt like forever.
I was the only mother on the trip, and thus the only one pumping breastmilk in the car as we waited in the interminable line to cross the border into Canada. That kind of set the tone for the trip for me.
For some reason when I think of that trip, I don’t remember so much about the restaurants we visited or the bars we hit. The things that jump out at me are all the places I hid to pump while the other girls played party games and refilled their wine glasses; the careful management of my ice packs and the refrigerator/freezer situation between one hotel room and one Airbnb that were inexplicably located a car ride away from each other; the endless math of figuring out when I’d need to pump next and whether to save the milk or dump it (thanks to my own refilled wine glass).
I also remember the twice-daily FaceTime calls with my husband and Evie, and how my quiet, gentle missing of her suddenly became a gut punch the moment I saw her.
I particularly remember one video call I made to Aaron while pumping. I decided it would be funny to train the camera on my chest when he answered the call, and then I quickly realized my mother-in-law was right there looking over his shoulder. I think I moved the camera quickly enough, but oh man, I sure never did that again!
The other reason I remember that call is because Aaron and Evie were at my in-laws’ house, and Evie was dressed in a new outfit they had given her. Sweet, right? I’m incredibly grateful whenever anyone gives her a gift, but at the time, she suddenly looked like a completely different baby to me. She was wearing an unfamiliar headband, top and pants, and somehow that made her look so much more grown-up. Since I’m her mother and The Organizer of All the Baby Clothes, she had never been dressed in something I hadn’t at least seen ahead of time.
I’m not sure why this affected me so much. It wasn’t about the clothes themselves, but the visual reminder that she was experiencing new things—and thus growing—without me. It was only for a few days, but in the scope of her existence at that point, a few days was not nothing.
I’m pretty sure I confined my tears to wherever I was FaceTiming and didn’t make a big deal about things among the larger group of girls, but I still remember the exact feeling. I felt it again just a few days ago.
The weird thing was that I felt it when I returned home after five days away. It was the longest I had ever been away from Evie, and I worried beforehand that I would break down into FaceTime tears again and again throughout the trip.
Maybe it’s because we’re no longer tethered by postpartum hormones and milk, or because my trip was busy and her little life is busy—with school, with friends, with endless viewings of Monsters, Inc.—but I was happy to see her on FaceTime and then happy to continue about my day. I was so excited to cover her squishy cheeks with kisses when we were reunited at the airport, but I wasn’t counting down the minutes.
It was only when I saw her then that the tears came. She’s always been the most beautiful thing in the world to me, but somehow she looked even more angelic now: blue eyes, smooth skin, hair curling into perfect chaos.
I told her how happy I was to see her. She asked me for Goldfish.
My in-laws (not the ones I almost flashed) picked me up, so I sat in the backseat with Evie on the way home. I studied her and found so many changes more permanent than a new headband. Her hair was definitely longer. She’ll grow out of those shoes any day now. Her previously broken sentences were more complete; someone who remembers how to diagram all the parts would approve. All this in five days. Five days.
That evening, after dinner and before her bedtime, we had a family snuggle on the couch while watching—what else?—Monsters, Inc. Aaron sat on the far right of the sofa; I squished in as close as I could without being on top of him; and Evie’s body molded to my lap, her head resting on my chest. As nice as it was to get away, sleep a little bit more and have a little bit less responsibility, this… this was the very best.
I didn’t realize I was part of a puzzle until I found myself nestled in with the other pieces.
Last week I attended a creative conference in Nashville called STORY. I’m lucky to work on a creative team that values travel and experiences, and thus sends members of the team on several “creative inspiration” trips each year. Groups have gone to SXSW in Austin; Art Basel in Miami; conferences in Venice, Berlin, Dublin and more. Nashville was my first opportunity to take one of these creative trips, and I was thrilled!
For one thing, STORY is extremely relevant to my work as a copywriter. The goal of the conference is to reawaken wonder, to unlock creativity and to encourage creatives to take the reins of writing the future of our culture.
For another, Nashville has an excellent food scene. Armed with my corporate credit card, I was ready to experience five days’ worth of the city’s best restaurants. Also, it was warm enough there to completely avoid wearing pants (70 to 100 degrees), which is perfect for fully experiencing the food scene. 😉
In addition to seeking inspiration and motivation for my professional creative work, I hoped to find the same for my personal writing. I have lots of ideas for this blog, but haven’t dedicated the time to realize them. I’m a perfectionist when I write and tend to edit myself as I go along, so a writing stint can easily grind to a halt if I find myself stuck on the perfect way to express a thought.
I also tend to write with the intention of publishing the end result on this blog, so any number of doubts can stop me from actually finishing a post: Is anyone even going to care if I write this? What if people do read it, but it’s too ______ (boring, negative, annoying, etc.)? And so something I began writing as a way to express myself becomes weighed down by my concerns about what others will think of it. I toss my ideas into a bag, add a few boulders of self-doubt, push it overboard and watch it sink into oblivion.
The good news is that I did get some inspiration and strategies for doing fearless creative work. And the even better news is that this blog is entirely mine—I’m not beholden to advertisers or sponsors who are concerned with what I should or shouldn’t say—and it really doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. That’s hard to remember in this day and age when trolls are everywhere, sharing their unsolicited thoughts on how everyone should live their lives and how they should or shouldn’t share them online, but I’ll try.
The main thing holding me back from writing right now is the fact that I’m not running. I’m frustrated. I’m sad. And I don’t want to be the injured runner who dwells on it and spreads negativity. I don’t want to be ungrateful about the fact that my injuries are not nearly as bad as any number of other people’s injuries.
But still, I can’t deny the way I feel. I know reading about the experiences of an injured runner isn’t nearly as exciting or inspirational as reading about successful training runs and getting faster, but the people who don’t want to read it can skip it. Now more than ever, I need to write.
It’s difficult to sum up everything I learned at STORY—although I’ll have to do just that for a presentation at work—but here are a few nuggets of wisdom that are inspiring me now:
“Don’t be so obsessed with perfecting your craft that you lose your creativity.“ —Brad Montague
"Your worth and value are present right now [as a caterpillar]; don’t wait for a beautiful butterfly transformation.” —CJ Casciotta
“Process > perfection; being real is important and valuable.” —CJ Casciotta
“Don’t talk about it, be about it. There are a lot of talkers and not a lot of doers. Which one are you?” —Kevin Carroll
I first heard about Kayla Itsines and her Bikini Body Guide (BBG) in July 2017. My friend who’d had her second child not long before posted on Facebook that she was starting the workout plan to get back into shape, and I was intrigued.
For the longest time, I felt like I was stuck in my postpartum fitness journey and needed something to get me back into gear—a goal, a plan, a commitment. I read the comments on my friend’s post and saw that several other women had experienced great results with BBG.
But I wasn’t ready to go all in just yet. I did plenty of research first, reading various online reviews and looking at lots of before-and-after photos on Instagram. I longed to have an “after” photo, to look and feel more like my old self again. I was sick of stepping on the scale and seeing that the same extra 10 pounds were still there. I was sick of trying on my pre-baby jeans “just in case” and finding that they weren’t even close to slipping over my thighs, let alone buttoning at the waist. I thought back to the hard things I’ve done in my life, like running five marathons and traveling the world alone for three months, and knew it was time to take on something hard again—and that I could succeed.
I looked through the details of the 12-week plan and felt pretty intimidated. At the time, I couldn’t do a single pushup, let alone all the variations of pushups that the plan calls for in the later weeks.
But the workouts were only 28 minutes long—four blocks of 7-minute efforts. The idea of completing three workouts a week for 12 weeks sounded like a huge effort, but thinking of it as just one 28-minute workout at a time? That felt doable.
I tried the very first workout one evening and thought I was going to die. I think it was the burpees.
But I had no doubt it was an awesome, effective workout. I was sweaty and breathless during, and sore after. I was finally all in.
We went on vacation at the end of July, and then started the plan for real in August, when Evie was 16 months old. Aaron decided to do it with me, which really helped me stay motivated and committed. There were so many times when I wanted to flake on a workout, but didn’t because he was there, ready to go. And I’m sure I coerced him into completing a few of the workouts that he didn’t really want to do, either. We worked out in our home office/gym on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, just like the plan prescribes, after Evie went to sleep for the night. I think I only missed three workouts out of 36, due to illness.
That’s not to say I did all the exercises perfectly. Some exercises were too hard for me to do at all (like triceps dips with legs up on a chair), so I modified them as needed (regular triceps dips with feet on the floor). I certainly did a lot of pushups on my knees. Better to do modified exercises than not do them at all! “Perfect” is the enemy of “good"—and "good” will still get you results.
You can easily do BBG at a gym if you belong to one, or at home like we did with some basic equipment.
1. Jump rope:I had to buy one, since I hadn’t jumped rope since my school days, but there are so many for $10 or less! This one has great reviews.
2. Free weights: we have this set, and I set them to 10 pounds each. Any weights, like these, will work.
3. Weight bench: an essential for any home gym! This one is a reasonable price. You could also just use a sturdy regular bench or ottoman (you’ll be both lying down and stepping up on it for different exercises).
4. Step:I have this one. Evie loves jumping off it, so it doubles as toddler amusement.
5. Medicine ball: I borrowed an 8-pound ball from a friend to complete the first round of BBG, then got this 15-pound ball for Christmas. It’s almost a little TOO heavy! 10-12 pounds seems like a happy medium.
The guide also calls for a second weight bench (who has an extra one lying around, really?) and a Bosu ball, but I just made do without those. I used a sturdy chair instead of the second bench, and just did the moves that called for a Bosu ball… without a Bosu ball. 🙂
Of course, you also need the Bikini Body Guide itself. Kayla Itsines offers the eBook version for about $50 USD, which I think is totally worth it—especially when you compare that price to 12 weeks of classes at a gym, or 36 sessions with a personal trainer. (It’s worth noting that rather than 36 different workouts, BBG is made up of 18 workouts repeated twice: the workouts in week one are repeated in week three, weeks two and four are the same, etc.).
Of course, you don’t get the inherent motivation that a class or personal trainer provides—that has to come from you. I suggest recruiting a friend or partner to commit to the plan with you so you can keep each other motivated.
Kayla also has an app called Sweat that offers a short free trial, then charges $19.99 per month for continued use. If you want access to a lot more workouts, instructional videos, etc., this may be the route for you. I haven’t tried it myself, as the original BBG plan is more than adequate for my needs.
Back to that: BBG also calls for two to five days per week of low-intensity steady-state cardio, like walking, but I ran two to three times per week when I completed the plan last year. Since I’m currently unable to run, I’m now walking.
There’s also a separate 12-week eating plan ($50), but I had no interest in it. I’ve learned over the years that sticking fairly close to a Paleo way of eating works for me in terms of shedding extra pounds and feeling my best, so last year I did that Monday through Friday and was more lenient (but didn’t go nuts) on the weekends. I also tracked all my food using the free My Fitness Pal app, as I needed help adjusting my portion sizes and snacking habits since I was no longer pregnant or nursing. Two years of “eating for two,” plus several years of training for marathons, had gotten me in the habit of eating quite a bit more than a person should if they’re trying to lose a few pounds.
Tracking my food was certainly eye-opening and key to jumpstarting my weight loss after being stagnant for so long. I was not super-restrictive with calories, though, and always made sure to eat if I was hungry—even if that meant going over my allotted calories for the day.
After 12 weeks of BBG workouts and watching what I ate, I lost 7.5 pounds, gained visible muscle tone and finally fit into my pre-baby jeans! Most importantly, I felt so much stronger and like I was in control of my body again. When I looked in the mirror, I recognized myself—not as the exact same person as I was before I had Evie, but as a person who went through many changes to bring a new little person into the world, and then worked her way back to fitness.
Finally, I had my “after” photos, and I shared them with the world via Instagram, even though my “after” certainly wasn’t (and will never be) perfect. But I was proud of my progress, and wanted to share it—and maybe inspire others who were thinking about working on their fitness, too.
A few weeks later, I woke up to a bunch of Instagram notifications and realized Kayla had shared my progress photos on her official account, which had somewhere around 8 million followers at the time. If I was a little nervous to share my photos with a few hundred followers on my account, imagine how I felt when I knew MILLIONS of people would see them! I steeled myself for nasty comments galore. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost all of them were positive, and the only one that wasn’t was just kind of neutral (“I don’t see a difference” or something like that—and someone called that person out, ha!). So, yay for a supportive BBG community!
I was so pumped about my results that I wanted to start BBG all over again, as many people do. Some women I follow on Instagram have done BBG back-to-back for YEARS. But as 2018 rolled around, I realized three days of BBG per week just wasn’t compatible with the amount of running I needed to do to train for the Orcas Island 25K and other races I had on my calendar. For a while, I dropped down to two days of BBG (arms and abs only, to save my legs for running), and then just tried to fit it in whenever I could as I ramped up with marathon training.
Now that I’m sidelined from running, I’m five weeks into another round of BBG and feeling good—definitely getting stronger again! I haven’t been as diligent with healthy eating as I should to see major results, but I’m fine with that since I’m still at a happy weight where I fit comfortably into my clothes. Once things start feeling too tight, then I know I need to pay more attention to my eating. I’ve definitely had to adjust the kinds of things I’m eating and my portion sizes now that I’m not marathon training or running at all. I do miss the food freedom I enjoyed when I just automatically burned everything off thanks to my training schedule! I’m looking forward to that again someday. 🙂
Anyway, I hope this has been helpful if you’ve been thinking about trying BBG! I’m not the greatest at sticking to workout programs, but I think this one is really worthwhile and effective if you give it your best shot.
P.S. I have no affiliation with BBG, but the links to gym equipment are Amazon affiliate links.
When I began training for the Jack & Jill Marathon, I was certain there would be one of three outcomes: I would finish but not PR (maybe); I would PR (probably); I would qualify for Boston (hopefully).
I never once considered a fourth outcome—the one that actually happened—that I would never even make it to the start line.
My training was going so well—better than I ever could have hoped. I was hitting my goal paces, feeling great during speed workouts and long runs, and not having any issues with a much more rigorous training schedule and higher mileage than I’d ever attempted before.
That is, until the end of week 14.
I ended week 13 (one of my peak weeks, with 56 miles of running) feeling awesome and looking forward to the lower mileage of week 14 (just 43 miles). I cranked out a handful of easy runs Monday through Wednesday, then nailed my 9 x 800m speed workout on Thursday. Aiming for 3:30 intervals, I ran them all between 3:21 and 3:29. I felt on top of the world.
Then on Saturday, after an easy 6-mile run, I noticed my hips felt a little tight. We had Hallie and her husband Patrick over for drinks that night, and I asked her about stretches to help relieve the tightness (she’s a personal trainer and fitness instructor). My 12-mile long run on Sunday went fine, but I had the same tight feeling after that one. I started stretching, foam rolling and trying to release my piriformis with a hard ball like crazy.
Week 15 was meant to be my final peak week, ending with my third 20-miler on Sunday. I felt a little off as I began each run that week, but then felt fine after I got warmed up. The hip tightness and a strange feeling of weakness in my left glute plagued me every night. I continued stretching and cursed myself for previously not being more diligent about stretching after every run, and for not doing any hip- or glute-strengthening exercises throughout my training.
We drove up to Whistler, B.C. on Wednesday, the 4th of July. It was a 4.5-hour drive. (I later learned that my injury is exacerbated by long periods of sitting). My run on Thursday did NOT go well, but I thought that was because it was meant to be a tempo run and I accidentally did it on a very hilly trail.
Saturday was supposed to be my final 10-mile run at marathon goal pace (8:00 average). I shook off the weird tight/weak feelings in the first few miles and had a great run nearly on pace for the first four miles or so. The path then turned into rolling hills and I started feeling discomfort in my lower back, just above my left glute. At mile 5, I stopped to stretch. By mile 5.4, I was in a LOT of pain and knew I shouldn’t run another step.
I was five miles away from our condo, so I called Aaron and asked him to come pick me up. It was raining. I waited inside the vestibule of a grocery store and tried stretching some more. When I realized stretching did nothing to help the pain, I started crying. I didn’t want to believe it, but somehow I knew my race was probably over.
I Googled like crazy to try to figure out what my injury was, and anything I found with symptoms similar to mine came with a recommendation to stop running for 4-6 weeks. The marathon was three weeks away. More tears.
We drove home from Whistler that day, and it was the most uncomfortable car ride of my life (other than the car ride to the hospital to give birth, but that was only about 5 minutes long!). This one took 5+ hours, thanks to the looooong line we had to wait in at the border to get back into the U.S. Sitting felt horrible, so I constantly squirmed around trying to find a better position. Putting a small, hard ball under my left glute felt somewhat better, but still not great.
The next few days were quite painful, especially in the mornings. I was super stiff and tight, and even something as simple as getting into the car brought me to the brink of tears. Bending over to pick up Evie was excruciating. Sitting for any longer than 10-15 minutes was uncomfortable, so I ditched my desk at work and took my laptop into the kitchen so I could work standing up at a tall counter. (I did that every day for a month or so until I finally got a standing desk.)
First I went to my chiropractor to see if he could figure out what was wrong with me, but I quickly realized I needed to see a physical therapist. I had my first appointment on July 11, during which the PT diagnosed hypermobility of my left sacroiliac (SI) joint going into anterior rotation, so that when I run and my left leg extends behind me, it forces my pelvis into an anterior rotation beyond the normal limits of the joint.
He recommended no running for 6-8 weeks and weekly physical therapy (along with daily exercises at home) through August, but he also said that since I’d been injured for a short amount of time (one week), there was a chance the issue could resolve in a short amount of time and I’d be able to run soon. Did that mean running a marathon on July 28 was a good idea? I didn’t know for sure, but probably not. I tried to stay positive and keep an open mind. I had come too far in my training to give up just yet.
My glute and lower back felt better every day as I continued my physical therapy. I was wary to even attempt to run until the day I woke up completely pain-free, in fear of ruining the progress I’d made, so I just walked in the evenings or used the elliptical or adaptive motion trainer in my office gym at lunchtime to try to keep up my fitness.
On July 20, my PT had me do a test run on the treadmill, and I ran ¾ of a mile with no pain. I was very hopeful. But then on July 22—the Sunday before the marathon—I attempted a run outside and didn’t even make it two miles before I felt the familiar ache of my SI joint and knew I should stop.
The funny thing was that I stopped my run right at the finish line of the actual marathon course. I looked at the empty trail that would soon be filled with timing mats, spectators and an announcer shouting out the names of finishers and Boston qualifiers. They would all be there—but not for me.
I let go of my dreams for this race knowing that I had given it my all. I gave it my all in training and I gave it my all in attempted recovery. Whether you make it onto the race course or not, that’s all you can do in a marathon. The rest just is what it is.
I’m tearing up as I write this, even though it’s now September and this all happened more than a month ago. I had hoped to be running again by now. I had hoped to be training for a December marathon by now. But it looks like I have to let go of that one, too, and put in more work before I can set another big goal.
My PT cleared me to run a few miles at a time starting in mid-August, and he gave me some cues to correct my running form and hopefully avoid future injuries. But either I’m doing something wrong or it will take time for my body to adjust because I started feeling pain along the inside of both shins that my PT says is posterior tibial tendonitis.
So now my SI joint feels fine, but here’s this new thing holding me back. I’ve added a new exercise to my PT routine to help with it, and tried to run through it a few times, but now I’m just done. I’m taking time off from running, focusing on walking, continuing physical therapy and doing the Bikini Body Guide over again. I’m planning to work with a running coach on my eventual return.
It’s frustrating to still be sidelined, but it doesn’t feel good trying to force my body to do something it apparently doesn’t want to do, either. I’ll stick with what feels good, which—for now—is not running.
I’m fortunate that I’ve been running since 2010 and am only now dealing with injuries, and I’m thankful that they’re not so bad in the grand scheme of things. I believe pain-free running is ahead for me. I just need more time—and more help—to make it happen.
Thanks for following along and for your encouragement. I still like to see other runners out there killing it. It makes me happy, and gives me hope.
Note: Week 13 was June 18-24. I did not run the marathon on July 28 due to an injury suffered in week 15 of training, but I want to post these training recaps I had written for posterity—this is the last one! Next, I’ll share all about my injury and what I’ve been doing to fix it (spoiler alert: lots of physical therapy). In the meantime, you can get up to speed on Instagram @dev.on.running.
Welcome to peak week two of three! The marathon is FIVE. WEEKS. AWAY. Suddenly it seems so soon. Maybe because I’m suddenly in the middle of these high-mileage weeks that I stared at for so long on my plan, and they feel like they’re going by quickly. Before I know it, I’ll be tapering, then toeing the line.
It’s also nearly time to start getting really disciplined with my nutrition. Usually about a month out from a big race, I stop drinking alcohol, cut out most sweets, focus on eating lots of high-quality protein and veggies, etc. I want to feel like I’ve done everything I can to help my body feel and perform its very best on race day. I wish I were disciplined enough to do this throughout the entire training cycle, but… no. I gotta live! So the final month it is. My last hurrah will be the 4th of July, and then it’s all optimal fueling from there.
MONDAY: 5.3-mile easy run at 9:12 average pace.
It was 84 degrees. The sweat was real.
TUESDAY: 10.5-mile easy run at 9:08 average pace.
Another weeknight 10-miler. (The extra half-mile was me running to Hallie’s house before and then back to my house after!) Thank goodness I had Hallie to share the miles and gross bug encounters with. She got a huge bug in her mouth, and I got little gnats smashed up in both of my eyes. The body count is high on the road to the marathon.
WEDNESDAY: BBG arms & abs, plus 4-mile easy run at 9:13 average pace.
I started the evening with a BBG workout so I wouldn’t be able to talk myself out of It after my run, which is what I so often do! I miss the strength I once had from doing BBG three times a week, and it’s so humbling every time I do a workout from week one or two of the program that seemed easy not too long ago; it definitely does not feel easy now!
The Ali on the Run Show featured an interview with BBG creator Kayla Itsines this week, so I listened on my run! It was great to discover that she is super nice and genuine on top of being beautiful, fit and successful. Go have a listen!
THURSDAY: 5.5-mile tempo run at 8:08 average pace.
They can’t all be great runs. This wasn’t a bad run per se, but it wasn’t smooth and effortless like my tempo run two weeks ago. It was… effortful? I ran a 9:12 warmup mile, then 7:52, 7:34, 7:38 and 7:47 with a half-mile cooldown at 9:10 pace. That’s perfectly fine on paper. It just didn’t feel awesome, which left me a little unsettled.
SATURDAY: 10-mile marathon goal pace run at 7:56 average pace.
This run eased any worries I had after that tempo. It wasn’t too long ago that I really had to bust my butt to hang in the low 8s for these goal-pace runs, but now I’m finding I can run high 7s without feeling like I’m pushing too hard. I did this run on a fairly flat trail, so I’m excited to see what I can do on the downhill course come race day.
SUNDAY: 21-mile long run at 8:55 average pace.
Thank goodness Hallie and I ran our second 21-miler together—not just because it went by so much faster with a friend to chat with, but because we crossed paths with a bear! Hallie spotted it on the trail ahead and stopped us immediately; I just saw the tail end of it as it slowly ambled into the brush. We waited about five minutes, hoping it would continue on its way away from the trail, then made a bunch of noise to make it known that we were coming through. We continued on slowly (still yelling), and luckily it seemed to be long gone by the time we passed the spot where we had seen it. Phew! That was my first bear sighting, and hopefully my last for a long time.
In other news, Hallie and I both forgot to bring headlamps, so we used the flashlights on our phones to light our way through the tunnel. We won’t make that mistake on race day! The weather throughout our run was cloudless and warm—very different from the rain showers I ran through last time. I have a feeling the weather on race day will be similar, and full sun/heat brings its own challenges. The race starts at 6:30 a.m., and I’m planning to wear my hydration vest so I’ll always have water available, so I’m hoping potentially high temps won’t have too big an impact on my race.