Be the Strongest, Healthiest You

About a month ago I was at the Y for a swim workout. After making small talk with some of the women in the locker room, one of them said “I wish I was skinny like you.”

“No you don’t!” I exclaimed. “You want to be the strongest, healthiest YOU. And that will look different from anyone else’s version of strong and healthy!” I explained, and then headed out to the pool. There were a dozen responses I could have given that woman, and I felt good about the reply I gave. Except for one thing…

I was a hypocrite. For all my talk about how important it is that you strive to be the best version of YOU, and why that won’t look the same from person to person, I was falling short in my own pursuit of being the healthiest, strongest version of SARA!

For all my talk about focusing time and energy into what makes you stronger and healthier, and embracing what makes you unique – your skin, your curls, your curves, your lack thereof – I was not completely walking the walk.

Under a small frame was an injured, weak runner! One who obsessively ran through pain because I thought that made me tough and strong. It didn’t. It just left me sidelined with a labral tear in my hip. A runner who often hated her own body, but not for the typical reasons. I hated it for failing me, and getting injured. I hated it for its limits, and for letting me down when I expected to run faster, or further. I called my hip stupid, and believed my body was something I had to fight against.

“You want to be the strongest healthiest YOU!” I reminded myself. And it was time to take my own advice.

So after seeing a post on Instagram about a German trail runner getting a Functional Movement Screening, I looked into it. And that’s how I found Seth Thomas of Albany Movement and Fitness.After getting my Functional Movement Screening, and talking to Seth about my fitness, my goals and my concerns, I committed to a three month Functional Strength program.

It’s been one month since I started the program. For the first two weeks, my workouts were a mix of functional strength training, swimming on the off days, and NO running (which I thought would kill me)! During that time, my body had the chance to heal up from the marathons I put it through this fall. I broke the unhealthy habit of running through pain because I thought that was strength, and have replaced it with a new definition of being STRONG during my Personal Training sessions.

This was the ingredient I’d been missing. With STRENTH in place, I stopped hating my body for what it couldn’t do. I no longer compare it to others, and their abilities. I am amazed at the things my body is able to do – Bear crawls, pushing and pulling a power sled, kettlebell deadlifts and a whole new world of exercises!

And now I can say to that woman at the Y “You want to be the strongest healthiest YOU. And that will look different from anyone else’s version of strong and healthy!” with complete sincerity. Because I finally took my own advice to heart, and believe what I say!

So, in addition to Functional strength training, here are a few ways to be the strongest, healthiest YOU, and show your body love, not hate!

1) Speak positive 
This was a huge hurdle for me to get over! When I’m doing my strength training, and I can’t get through the turkish get-up because of hip instability, it is SO tempting to mutter “Stupid hip” or “My f@^*#$ labral tear!” under my breath. But I bite my tongue, because I know that words are SO powerful! When referring to my hip issues, if I constantly said “my labral tear” then I am owning it, and giving it permission to be part of me. When I replaced it with the words “my healing hip” something definitely shifted. Which brings me to…

2) Be grateful 
Take the focus off the things you don’t like when you look in the mirror, and what you can’t do by listing what your body does for you.  Grab a pen and write it down! “I’m grateful that I can walk, and that I can take the stairs instead of the elevator at work.” Or “I’m thankful I can dance at my friends wedding this weekend!” It doesn’t have to be epic. But it does have to be part of your routine.

3) Get sleep 
Last Wednesday, I was in a complete, paralyzing funk. I was disappointed about my slow run that morning, nothing was going right, and my list of goals for my day and my life just seemed pointless! Sound dramatic? Yeah, my husband thought so too! “Maybe you should go home and take a nap,” he suggested, pointing out that I hadn’t been getting much sleep. So I did. And guess what? When I woke up an hour later, I thought about my trail run earlier that day – how peaceful it was out there, just me and some wildlife – and found that I was thankful for where my body can take me! It’s amazing how sleep can so radically change our perspective on our body and our life!

4) Drink water 
If you are striving to be the strongest, healthiest you, you’ll do what it takes to prevent injury and illness, right? Do you know being hydrated helps with ALL that? Water acts as a shock absorber for joints and keeps muscles flexible, protecting you from injury. Drink sufficient amounts of water and you’ll prevent dehydration, which increases inflammation and lowers your immunity. Drink water before a meal and you won’t feel as hungry, and be as tempted to overeat. Water even sharpens your mind – Research shows that when we’re hydrated we have more active areas of the brain! Check this out for more on drinking water for a healthier brain and body!  https://breakingmuscle.com/fuel/why-and-how-to-stay-hydrated

5) Cardio 
As a runner and triathlete, this is my groove! Cardio workouts strengthen the heart and lungs. And there’s something about workouts that leave me out of breath and sweating that make me feel like a rockstar. No number on my scale could compromise that “I am the best SARA I can be” feeling that I get from those intense workouts where I red-line it!  400s on the track, or 50s all-out in the pool, boot camp, running, spin class, and even weight training can be cardio. If it raises your heart rate, you’re doing cardio.

6)  Stretching 
You don’t have to be flexible enough to do this —>
to get a good stretch. With the FAI present in my hip, I may never be able to pull off the poses my yogi friends can execute flawlessly. And while I admire them, I will NOT compare myself to them, or judge my own body. Because I know that a set of simple stretches will increase blood blow and circulation. That means my body is healthier. And my brain gets an oxygen boost too, which leads to clear thinking and a better mood in general. So I can have that zen outlook without dislocating a joint!

7) Strength Training 
Without training to condition your body to literally be strong, how can you be a strong, healthy version of you?! It seems so obvious, yet it was the puzzle piece I was just too busy (and stubborn) to fit in. With STRENGTH in place, I no longer hate my body for what it can’t do. Because strength training has helped

  • Improve my ability to take on daily tasks. Giant box from UPS on the front porch? I don’t have to wait for Jeremiah to get home because I can carry it inside myself!
  • Improve my balance and stability. I use to think I was just awkward and kind of a klutz. But I have had less incidents of falling into and over everyday objects lately, and that can’t be a coincidence!

 

  • Although it is a myth that you can lose muscle from running by burning it, adults DO lose between five and seven pounds of muscle every decade after age 20. Yikes! Good thing strength training can prevent muscle loss, and even rebuild damaged muscles!
  • Improve my body’s ability to burn calories. Strength training increases the body’s metabolic rate. Yay! That means my body will burn more calories throughout the day!
  • Strengthen my heart by allowing it to beat more efficiently! This in turn prevents high blood pressure down the road. The bottom line is that a Strong Heart = A Strong, Healthy ME!

I hope you want to be the strongest, healthiest YOU too. Cheers to showing your body some love and pursuing the best version of you!

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