How do you stay motivated?

“How do you stay motivated?”

amy half marathon

When it comes to exercise, I get asked this a lot.  If I had “a A + B = C” answer, it may only work for a certain few and not pertain to your situation.  Honestly my motivation waxes and wanes.  Since I have been running off and on for fifteen years and dabbling in triathlon for three, I feel like I am at liberty to share a few things.

1) I need rewards:  I was reading this spring that we make our decisions based on rewards.  We may do something that is not always pleasant and maybe not fun because we reap the reward it provides.  For instance I hate cleaning but I love looking at my sparkly organized kitchen.  Running is the same.  In the very beginning and for many years afterwards it was unpleasant and I didn’t enjoy it.  But I loved the accomplishment afterward.  That reward motivated me for many years and still does during tougher weeks.

2)  I need more tangible rewards:  I was trying to incorporate track runs into my marathon training and I hated the anticipation of doing them.  Often I would skip them all together.  Because Jamba Juice and Dutch Brothers coffee are both close to the track, I would reward myself with a juice or coffee after a track run.

3)  I need to be running with others:  It took many years to find people to run with mostly because of my unpredictable schedule with babies and toddlers.  Now I love the fact I have to get up and meet my friend for a run.  It is a waste of her time to leave her on a street corner waiting for me.  I’m a bit of a people pleaser and in this situation it works in my favor.

4)  I believe our bodies were made to move:  Our ancestors had to endure physical labor or they would starve or freeze to death.  No one had to go for a run because they worked their bodies all day long.  Now with many desk jobs and work from home positions, we spend a lot of time sitting.  I don’t believe God created everyone of us to be an athlete, but I do believe we are to honor Him with our physical bodies.  Part of taking care of our bodies is getting out and moving.

5)  I need activities too…not just my kids:  The kids sporting world is overwhelming to me this day in age.  There are many options and so much pressure to be a star.  I honestly think some moms should have their children take a season off from sports and they as moms should pursue their own activity or sport.  Many moms I have spoken to share how running or going to the gym helps them be better moms because they are getting their exercise time in.

6)  I want to set an example for my kids:  My kids see me run and do triathlons and support me in my endeavors.  I don’t know if any of them will be runners or triathletes, but I am exposing them to it.  As a kid I remember my dad going to the gym or taking me on bikes.  If exercise is part of our normal lives, it makes it much easier for them to incorporate it in their lives as adults.

7)  I believe it is more than image and weight loss: I do not agree with weight loss companies that heavily focus on image and pounds lost.  That rarely motivates me.  I do not weigh myself on a regular basis.  I have found that when I do, I get too obsessed with the scale.  I get overly discouraged and I am more likely to quit and start eating whatever I want.

8)  I need healthier ways to cope with my anxiety:  I’ve struggled with anxiety pretty much my whole life.  Soon after I picked up running, I was working for a church as a youth director.  I was on the phone with someone I was trying to plan an event with and we were not seeing eye to eye on an issue.  I told this person he/she was not treating others fairly.  I have a difficult time standing up for myself.  I also tend to communicate with too much emotion.  I managed to hold it together but it was exhausting.  I hung up the phone fuming with anger.  I went for a run and pounded out four miles at a fast pace.  I felt amazing afterwards.  I remember telling my friend, “I had no idea running could do that.”  It really clears your mind and in some ways brings you back to reality.  So often anxiety clogs our brains making us only see anxious thoughts.

9)  I need to be outside:  I have appreciated the seasons, God’s creation, my own neighborhood, weather in general, and quiet mornings since I took up running.

10)  I am out there and trying and sometimes that is enough:  I’ve heard some moms don’t want to run outside or go to the gym because they fear everyone is watching them.  You may not believe me, but people aren’t watching you. Even if they are–who cares?  You’re out there and you are trying.  Some moms don’t want to enter races because they don’t want to be dead last.  Even if you are dead last, you are still faster than the person who is sitting on the couch doing nothing.  Focus on your own goals and don’t worry so much about what others are doing.  Really they aren’t watching you!  If anything they are cheering for you.  The running community is a pretty friendly one.

So there you go.  10 motivators.  Go tackle that run!


Goals for the Fall

Ok so I have to admit I am a little obsessed with the “Why are we so much busier than 20 years ago?” question.  Especially with technology making life convenient.  I discovered that this question has a multitude of answers.

I decided this year I would try to make my life less overwhelming and cut out the “run around crazy.”  Come mid August anxiety set in.  I didn’t feel ready for the work, life, church balance.  Now that we’re three week into the school year, I already made some progress.   It helps to record it here, but my fear is a few months it will be a whole different story.  Here’s some changes I made:

  • Saying “no.”  I had to say, “no” to a few small things already.  Even though they were minor things, it was painful.  It made me realize I am a huge “people pleaser” when it comes to extra tasks & projects.
  • Exercise:  I will still exercise (and I have been consistent) 5-6 mornings a week because it does give me a mental boost and it’s my best use of “alone time.”  I came to the point a few years ago where my thoughts were, “Ugh I need to go exercise.  I SHOULD really go and do it” to “I NEED to do it and I WANT to do it and I can’t imagine NOT doing it.”
  • No fall sports:  Our kids are at the age when they don’t need to be doing sports year round.  They are pretty young.  So rather than push swim team or soccer, we will  continue to run 2-3 times a week for 15-20 minutes maximum…although we took the month of September completely off.
  • Praying about our schedule & pursuing God:  I have prayed about our time commitments and activities.  I am striving to seek the Lord first in everything (not just my schedule) before seeking Facebook, friends, etc.
  • Not talk about being busy:  It has become a status symbol to declare how busy you are and walk around in a frazzled state.  I am trying to be thankful for the opportunities God has given me and decrease the pressure put on myself.
  • Eating!  I am in three weeks into a pretty significant change in eating.  You can read it about on my exercise blog.   I am striving to do so without having to purchase products I cannot really afford right now.  My goal is to eat clean foods.  This is a quote from my gym’s website:
  • Clean food is basically food without any added unnatural or processed ingredients. If you can’t find the ingredient or food in nature, then it probably isn’t clean. For example, an orange is a better option than orange juice (processed and added sugar). And orange juice is better than an orange creamsicle (who knows what is actually in one of those). The more steps food has to take from its natural state, the less clean it tends to be.Clean foods are the best because our bodies are designed to thrive off real food.

It has helped that we have so much fresh vegetables and fruit in the house right now from our garden and other people’s gardens.  I am determined to keep it up throughout the fall and winter as well.  My reason is not weight loss but basic health.  I struggle with anxiety, severe PMS, and I am around kids all day with runny noses.  We’ve already dealt with one stomach bug already that I thankfully only had mildly.  It is too early to tell if the diet change is making a significant difference, but I can tell you I lost two pounds and my anxiety has been minimal.

So bring on the fall!  I am not sure what this school year will hold, but it’s been a good three weeks already.

I Survived the Hagg Lake Triathlon

Triathlon is an amazing sport because you do not put continuous strain on the same muscles.  Swimming, biking, and running all work different parts of your body thus preventing overuse and even worse…injury.

The challenge for the newbie triathletes like myself is was what to focus on.  If I did not have much of a life, I would run, bike, swim, lift weights, and do yoga twice a week.  Being a mom of three and not wanting to wake up at 4:30 AM every single morning and feeling ready for bed at 8:30 PM when the sun hasn’t fully gone down, I can only focus on one or two areas.  I chose open water swimming.


After nearly crashing head on into a dock last summer and literally swimming in circles, I knew I had to tackle this.  I had the wet suit (bought super cheap on ebay), the nice goggles (Mother’s Day gift), and access to a private lake.  After several practice swims this spring and summer, I knew I was ready.  A week before my triathlon, I swam in my friend’s lake and did not fasten my wet suit properly.  I felt something dragging and rubbing against my neck, but ignored it.

IMG_1153The next morning I woke up with a chafed neck.  My husband looked at it and had the nice response of:  “Woa it looks really really bad.” Thanks. And it hurt like a neck injury.  I could not fully turn my neck to the right without pain.  Thankfully chafing heals quickly and by Saturday morning (the morning of my race) it did not hurt anymore.

I drove to Hagg Lake and left my house at 5:15 AM.  I printed out directions from Map Quest, from the race website, hand wrote directions, and programmed the GPS.  Obsessive?  Probably.  I almost missed the start of the Portland Marathon in 2006 because we were overconfident we could find the starting line in downtown Portland having only lived in Oregon one month.  Never, ever again.  I can still feel the panic.

I signed up for the “tri-it tri” which is for the novice triathletes who are first timers.  We swim 1/4 mile while the sprint triathletes swim 1/2 mile.  However we bike the same 12 miles and run 3.1 miles. I found out quite a few of my tri-it competitors were not first timers–they were just scared to swim 1/2 mile.  I cannot say I blame them.

All we had to was swim to a green buoy, swim across to another green buoy and then swim back to shore.  They gave us the instructions like four times which I was very thankful for–I think I need them that many times before it sticks.

We were the final wave of swimmers.  When the gun went off it was a big crowd of people all swimming towards the buoy.  I kept bumping into people and finally found a spot where I could push forward.  At one point I looked back and there was hardly anyone behind me.  Oh well–my goal was to swim open water not get first place.  My anti-fog goggles fogged up the entire time but I could look up and see the green buoys.

I made it out of the water and headed up to transition.  I’ve learned the art of transition and had all my items laid out in the order I put them on.  This would be my first triathlon biking in clips–the last two I wore regular shoes and biked on the clips (which is probably more dangerous because there is very little pedal–but I felt safer).  Running with the bike in clips is challenging and hopping on the bike and clipping in is nerve wracking, but I made it.

The best place to eat and drink is on the bike. I learned that on a Triathlon 101 video.  I taped a packet of peanut butter gu to my frame.  I ripped it off immediately and some of the gu got all over my fingers which got on my handle bars thus creating a sticky mess.  And what I am supposed to with the empty packet?  The video never said.  I threw it to the side of road afraid I was going to get yelled at for littering.

Then I made Rookie Mistake #1.  I grab the bottle of Gatorade, drink it, reach to put it back in the water bottle holder…and miss.  It goes rolling down the road settling in the middle of the bike course.  There is a whole slew of bikes coming.  Do I leave it?  Do I stop and get it?  Because I am such a cheap skate and it’s my favorite water bottle, I stop and almost forget to clip out which would have sent me crashing on the bike course thus creating another barrier.  I grab the water bottle just as bikers are coming and I yell, “Sorry just getting my water bottle,” feeling like a total dork.  Later on the course I saw someone’s water bottle to the side of that road so I wasn’t the only dork.

That was the least of my worries.  My friend told me this course is really hilly.  No problem.  I bike on hills.  “No, like people actually walked their bikes up the hill.”  Oh come on–how bad can it be?  Wow!  The uphills were massive.  I actually cried (thankfully not too loud) on the last hill.  But it wasn’t just the uphill it was the downhill too.  I am terrified of going at full speed down those hills.  I see myself wiping out or crashing into someone.  I know I shouldn’t, but I still ride the brake.

It doesn’t help I did crash my bike on a hill in high school and messed up my face–and blacked out.  I don’t remember falling.  I remember seeing a kid in the road and the next thing I remember is being in the bathroom wiping up the blood streaming from my face.  It also doesn’t help an elite triathlete who has given me advice and swims at the same pool as me had a bad crash a couple weeks ago.  I was so grateful I made it and I didn’t have to stop.  I just kept climbing up the hills.  I was proud of my orange road bike that has nice low gears for climbing.

It was a relief to get back to transition and strap on my running shoes.  Running–I can do this!  Then I made Rookie Mistake #2.  I pinned my number to my biking shirt which I was wearing over my tri suit.  I didn’t want to wear my biking shirt in the run because it was getting very hot out.  So I had to unpin the number and re pin in to my tri top.  I had to choose  running in layers when the temp is getting to the 80’s or get the worst transition time.  I chose the latter and yes, I had the worst transition time of all the tri-it triathletes.  But at least I was comfortable on the run.

The running course was partially trail, partially road, and a few rolling hills–pretty normal.  My time was about 9 minutes more than what I normally get on a 5K.  I had to take a few walk breaks because that bike ride nearly wiped me out.

My final time:  1:49:45.  Of the 21 tri-it triathletes, I got 8th place.  Of the women I got 5th.  Of my age group I got first (ha ha–there were only two of us).   Not bad!

What’s next?  I have no idea.  Probably no triathlons anytime soon and that isn’t because I don’t want to do another one.  It’s more of a scheduling and cost reason.  But maybe another open water one in the future?  Lord willing, I’d love to do it again.  And have my training focus on bicycling.


My relationship with swimming

I took up running in 2000.  I enjoy it.  Unless it’s blustery rainy cold wet weather, I look forward to it.  It took many years to get to this point.

But swimming is hard.  I like it, but I hate the fact it takes so much skill.  And it doesn’t come naturally.  And that I still have much to learn.  And that I never fully learned it as a kid.  And that I am probably going to have to take more lessons.  And that I can’t swim in the open water.  This is often my inner dialogue before I go swimming…

Reasons why Amy does not want to swim on Wednesday mornings…

1)  She is naturally a night owl so insanely early mornings are slow and difficult

2)  She can’t keep up with most of the other swimmers and therefore must figure out what part of the workout they are at and half it or quarter size it down.

3)  She can’t do breaststroke.

4)  She really doesn’t understand drills and either fakes it or makes up her own.

5) She attempts flip turns and often gets disoriented…and has to figure out the direction she’s supposed to be going.

6)  She’s a little intimidated by the fact she’s only done one sprint triathlon and everyone else has done Half Ironmans.

7) She only learned to swim a year ago.

8) The water feels really cold in the mornings.


1) There has never been a time she has gone and regretted it.  It’s always the complete opposite.

2)  The people are super nice, encouraging, and really don’t give a care that she can’t swim as fast as they can.

3)  You will never find success unless you break through that fear barrier and do it.  You will never become better at something unless you do it over and over and over…and fail at times.

Story of a triathlon mom…

In the winter of 2011 when I put my oldest in swim lessons for the first time, I realized I desperately wanted to do a triathlon.  I had run two marathons at that point and several shorter races.

I wanted to try something different.

There were several problems.  Number one I could hardly swim.  If you threw me in the deep end of the pool, I could tread water or float on my back and do a sloppy freestyle. I did not know the breathing patters or proper form.

Number two I only owned the mountain bike I received for my thirteenth birthday–and it was in very bad shape.

I thought I would tackle the bike problem first.  I felt like the little child who prays to God to give her a brand new bike.  I shopped for bikes on Craig’s List and put money aside, but I had no idea what I was looking for.  Then I discovered  my friend Jim was starting a biking business.  He knew way more about road bikes.  I asked him to shop around for me and gave him a price range.

In the winter of 2012 he found my bike!  He did extensive work and rebuilt parts of it.  I have always loved the color orange and was thrilled my bike was orange!


The previous owner also turned in her biking shoes and helmet so I was able to acquire those too.  I had no idea biking shoes existed and that you could actually clip into the pedals.  This is something I am currently practicing…and not  quite ready to tackle the road in clips.

I knew nothing about bike maintenance at that point.  I did not even know how to pump up my tires.  I did not even own a pump.  Which became a problem.  I got my first pinched flat this fall because I was riding on tires that were too low.  After some instruction from Jim, buying a pump from him, and watching a bunch of You Tube videos, I am learning to fix flats, put chains back on, and pump up my tires with hopes to learn even more.

This previous fall I took swim lessons.  I was in good shape and had endurance from running and biking.  Once I got the form down, I could swim!  I am still a slower swimmer and it is probably my weakest of the swim, bike and run combination.  Recently I decided to swim with triathletes one morning a week and this has helped.


So this past Saturday morning I accomplished my goal and did my first ever sprint triathlon!  My final time:  1:39.50.

Checking into a triathlon is quite different than a running race.  There is gear to set up, numbers for the bike helmet and bike, body markings and figuring out your swim lane.  I felt a bit disorganized, but was grateful for the gracious volunteers at the registration booth.


There was sprinkly rain when I checked in but was assured it was not going to rain hard during the race.  The volunteers were right.  I felt a slight sprinkle of rain during the biking portion, but nothing major.


The people in my swim lane were awesome.  We all went about the same pace.  If you want to pass someone you tap their foot.  I was passed by both of my lane buddies the first lap, but then I passed one of them later on.  The buoyancy made me dizzy at points.  I am not used to swimming with so many people in the pool.  However, I felt better and increased my speed halfway through.


I kept my spandex pants and shoes in the locker room.  I changed into them right after the swim.  I didn’t realize that counted towards my swim time.  If I had to do it all over again, I would have left them by my bike outside.  There were many people wearing flip flops or sandals into the pool.  It did not cross my mind at all to bring those.  A friend once told me to practice the transitions.  It is a big part of the race.  Good advice!  Next time…


The husband did not get any pictures of the bike portion because he was enjoying a nice breakfast with the kids at Mc Donalds…which was along the bike course.  I did not see him when I biked past.

The run portion was my best.  It is completely different running after you have swam and biked.  My abs and chest was sore.  I had side stitch at the beginning, but not bad enough that I had to stop.

I was thrilled that my run time was only about 1 minute and a half more than my regular 5K time.


I was thrilled to have all three of my kids there.  They all high fived me when I cross the finish line


They are my own little “triathlon” kids as my oldest loves to swim!  She has loved the water since she was a baby.  The second child spends hours on his bike.  I am not sure about third but she was running laps around the park last week yelling, “Mommy, look at me run!”


I always say my medals partially belong to my husband.  Running, swimming, biking–exercise in general is not possible without cooperation and teamwork with him.  Tri training and running is important to me so it’s important to him.  Just like his karate (he earned his brown belt in March) is something I have tried to always encourage him in.

What is next?  Open water tri?  Maybe.  I did just buy a wet suit!

Happiness Project: The Rest of April

So I realized I have not blogged in several weeks.  I did not throw my happiness project out the window…quite the opposite in fact.  Those precious moments of blogging have been taken over by everything else.  In April I focused on health and wellness.  Here are the goals I did not blog about yet.


I wanted to attend an exercise class I never attend like step aerobics or zumba.  The problem I ran into is that these classes are offered at times that conflict with our families schedule.  I have the cheapest gym plan that does not allow me to use the gym on Mondays and Tuesdays unless I pay $7.00 each time.  I also do not use the child care.  I also guard our family’s dinner time.  So this leaves me early morning (which is when I usually go) or later in the evening.  The classes I normally go to (power lifting and cycling) are offered during these times, but the others ones are not.

However, since I joined a triathlon club in March (and I will be doing my first triathlon a week from Saturday!)  I have gone to track workouts and a swimming group.  A little intimidating as they run and swim much quicker than I do.  I went to the track workout back in mid March and it was frustrating being one lap, sometimes two behind the crew.  I made myself go at least once in April.  This morning I went again and did not worry about lagging behind.  I did the same workout as everyone else at MY pace and I loved it.


I’ve been very successful in getting up early.  I love the quietness of the morning and “the alone time.”  It is hard for me to get up early when I do not have an exercise class to go to, but I will always be a work-in-progress.  Naturally I am a night owl, but it does not fit my lifestyle anymore.


I still struggle to log into My Fitness Pal.  It would be much easier if I had a smart phone or iPad.  My weight has not changed in several months so I know I am eating well.  I struggle with whether it is worth it to count every single calorie if I not seeking to lose a lot of weight.  However, it does hold me accountable.