What I love about comeback stories, part 1.

You may have noticed that – ahem – Every48 took a little break for a bit of time this month. Baby Bear and his parents escaped for a few days to Hawaii, and it was lovely. Then we came back to Seattle, cold and rainy and thoroughly winterized. Sigh.

I’ve been thinking about comeback stories.

Working on a comeback? So am I. Pull yourself up every day and move forward. Every little bit counts. (Image courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Working on a comeback? So am I. Pull yourself up every day and move forward. Every little bit counts. (Image courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

So…as the post-pregnancy comeback continues, I began thinking about comeback stories. They’re all over the sports world, and they’re legitimately inspiring, I think – even for the super-duper-superstars, like Peyton Manning coming back from neck surgery and being cut from his team to find another team and get back to the Super Bowl. (Everyone in Seattle missed that one because we were too busy cheering the Seahawks, who beat the P. Manning-led Broncos in Super Bowl 48, but it was a huge, huge story. Massive comeback for an athlete who could easily have hung it up right there and rested on his laurels.)

So, comebacks. Here’s what’s inspiring about them: they’re hard. They’re hard not just because it’s hard to improve as an athlete, but it’s also mentally hard, I think, to constantly compare yourself to how much better you used to be, before whatever happened to get you to a place where you had to make a comeback.

It’s a relatable thing right now as I dream of a comeback marathon and getting back to racing weight after pregnancy. This week I finally crossed the healthy weight threshold – a BMI of 25 – but that still leaves me with 18 pounds to lose to get to a good training weight for my height, age, and bone structure (5’4″, early forties, small). It’s hard not to compare myself to what it used to feel like in my body before pregnancy. I was running well, I felt light and strong, and now…not so much. I huff and puff. I’m slower. I have an oddly-shaped tummy with most of the excess weight just sort of hanging there, encased in loose skin decorated with stretch marks, and not seeming like it wants to go away anytime soon.

It took three months to lose the first ten post-delivery pounds. (That’s after the 13 that came off during delivery and post-delivery.) Three months for ten pounds. The first time around, when I was losing forty pounds on the way to almost qualifying for the Boston Marathon, losing ten pounds took one month.

I’m slower by a factor of three than I was six and a half years ago.

But I still strapped on my running shoes in Hawaii and huffed and puffed through a few workouts. I ran on the beach. I celebrated being alive and healthy, with a new baby son to inspire me to take care of myself. Getting back to where I used to be is going to take time. What I’m doing right now is making a positive step forward, as often as I can. That includes my Every48 workouts, as often as I can do them. It’s not perfect yet. I’m not yet back to 60 really intense minutes of exercise every other day of my life. But I’ll get there.

That’s why I love comeback stories. Because I’m in the process of becoming one of them, and it’s nice to know that even though it seems hard, it’s also possible. That’s what I’m thinking about this Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

More on this idea in future weeks. Best wishes for a great week and a great holiday.

Sometimes, you get a fitness freebie. Take it.

Sometimes, when it comes to your health, you just get free stuff. Take it. (Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Sometimes, when it comes to your health, you just get free stuff. Take it. (Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

When I was running my personal-best marathon in 2011, I noticed that a couple of the later miles actually felt pretty easy. They were downhill, or maybe just not uphill, or maybe the crowds on that part of the course were extra-fun. Whatever it was, those particular miles didn’t feel as hard as the ones right before it, or the ones right after it, for that matter.

They were “fitness freebies.”

A fitness freebie works like this: you get something that your intellectual self says you didn’t “deserve.” Like, when you’re working on losing your baby weight (ahem) and you lose weight in a week when you didn’t work your program completely, perfectly well. That’s what happened to me last week: I expected the scale to go up, but it went down. That’s a freebie.

So, what does it mean to take the freebie?

Simple. When you have an unexpected positive outcome, you just take it. No questioning, no wondering what you can “get away with” next time, no head-scratching. Our bodies do their thing on their own schedule sometimes, and trying to assign direct cause and effect actions and outcomes can get really tiring sometimes. Also, those little mind games can be startlingly inaccurate.

Weight loss is one of those games. If I eat a heavily-salted meal the night before I weigh myself, it might look like I gained three pounds overnight, when all that happened was that my cells retained water in order to preserve the sodium equilibrium inside and outside of my cell membranes. (Yes, biology geekdom is rearing its head at Every48 today!) It doesn’t mean anything else. And, yikes, some weeks you can eat really well and exercise really well, and the scale doesn’t show it…until the following week. That actually happens. A lot.

So, today’s Every48 takeaway is this:

Take the freebie.

When you get a nice result that you weren’t quite expecting, that’s okay. Just remember it when you have an unexpected disappointment down the line, and then realize that it’s all a big cycle and that as long as you’re seeing the progress you want to see over time, you’re doing just fine.

And now, the meme of the day:

This is the mantra that helped me change my life. (The beautiful image for this meme is courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net; the words are an Every48 original!)
This is the mantra that helped me change my life. (The beautiful image for this meme is courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net; the words are an Every48 original!)

Best wishes for a great week!

Recent Every48 workouts: Finally got outside for a 2-mile RUN on Sunday in Seattle. Awesome, finally, to be moving again in my favorite sport. Still working on the pregnancy pounds, but this is a really good development, because running makes me happy. Today’s plan: a strength workout at the gym while Baby Bear is at the gym’s child care center. Thank you, thank you, thank you, every gym in the world that offers child care. It makes a huge difference in our ability to take care of ourselves, especially in those first critical postpartum months.

Back in the Saddle: The Fitness Reset Button

Here’s the 14-weeks-postpartum fitness report from Every48 Central:


After the most insane and incredible life change I could ever imagine, and after twenty of the 42 pounds I gained during the pregnancy decided they wanted to, ahem, hang around (in some places, literally) longer than they were welcome, I’m more convinced than ever of the value of vigorous exercise. When we can do it, and however much we can do it.

Back on the horsie...in a most contemplative and slow-but-steady way. (Image courtesy of TeddyBear[Picnic] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Back in the saddle…in a most contemplative and slow-but-steady way. (Image courtesy of TeddyBear[Picnic] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
There will come a time in the not-too-distant future when I can really live the Every48 way again: an hour of intense exercise, every 48 hours, no questions asked. Right now, that’s hard on multiple levels. I’m bigger than I’m used to being, and that means more force and pounding on my joints when I run. And, I have this small tiny human to care for as well, which makes planning workouts (let alone being energetic enough to do them) a big, big challenge.

Perhaps you can relate? It could be pregnancy and the arrival of a new baby. It could be an unexpected surgery, or an injury, or an illness. It could be a weight gain after a period of stress in our lives. Whatever the cause, there are times when we just have to stand back and press the fitness reset button and say, hey, I’m getting back in the saddle. I may not be as fast/strong/limber as I was Before That Thing Happened That Caused This Situation, but I can definitely do something about it, even if it’s shorter, less intense, and therefore less impressive that whatever it was I did earlier in my life. The key? Consistency, and doing what I’m capable of doing, right now. In other words, not making excuses, and not selling myself short.

I have now had two triumphant treadmill workouts, in the 14 weeks since Baby Bear made his appearance. Both of them were 30 minutes each, and in both of them, I was only able to run a pace that’s about three minutes slower per mile than my top racing pace for short races (5K’s and such things). That’s where we are right now.

The next step in my fitness playbook will be consistency and variety of motion: sun salutations and the Daily Dozen from Fit by Nature in the morning, aerobic exercise that gets my heart rate up into that nice 60-80% of maximum heart rate range at least 30 minutes at a time, at least every other day, and some light strength training at home with a resistance band. That’s what is possible right now.

Every time I work out now, I’m amazed at how much it affects not only my sense of physical confidence (even with the twenty extra pounds), but also my mood, sense of optimism, and my ability to think clearly, even on the perpetual lack of sleep we new parents all experience.  It helps me feel confident that I’ll be able to model good health behaviors for my baby, so that he has a great start in life with healthy parents who are teaching him how to take care of himself, in all circumstances, no matter what life throws his way. This week’s lesson learned: Fitness is simply an extraordinary medicine for living well. 

So, get out there (or stay in and put on a fitness DVD or a YouTube workout), and do something. Do whatever you are capable of doing right now. Then, do it consistently. That’s how we’ll get from where we are now, to where we want to be—together.

Best wishes for a great week!

Recent Every48 workouts: Yesterday, a TREADMILL WALK/RUN at the gym for 30 blessed minutes. I didn’t even look at how far the machine said I’d run. I just looked at my heart rate monitor, saw that I worked hard, wiped the sweat from my brow, took a triumphant shower, and went on the with the business of the day.



We’re baaaa—aaaack! And with a new team member in tow.

Okay. Guilty as charged. Right in the middle of the holiday season last year when you were anxiously awaiting the next installment of the 12 Gifts of Fitness, Every48 sorta kinda dropped off the map.

It was temporary. And it was, in the end, for a very, very good reason.

I was suddenly unbelievably exhausted – like, needing to take multiple two-hour naps every single day. Utterly unable to string together 60 minutes of exercise at once, or some days, even half that amount. My eyelids were droopy, my energy was zero, and to top off all the weirdness, I was suddenly completely grossed out by, of all things, coffee. And I’m part Italian. I spent December 2014 eating Cheerios and saltine crackers.

Here’s why:

Nicole_22 weeks 4 days

Yup. After five years and four months of living life happily and healthfully at a healthy weight, my body decided it was time to add another team member to the Wellness Playbook/Every48 squad. On social media we call him Baby Bear, and he was born in July. (Gratuitous adorable baby photos to follow in future posts.) Finally, almost 13 weeks later, I’m ready to get back into the game, blogging at Every48, and working on the last 22 of the 42 pounds I gained during the pregnancy so that I can be race-ready for a certain awesome marathon next April in Boston. I ran two miles last Monday evening at the gym at 11:30 pace. And it felt AWESOME. I’m ready for more!

You’ll be a part of this journey as I share the details of what it’s like to lose weight, get fit and healthy, and then gain weight for an entirely different, super-healthy reason and then take it off again. You might see a few more resources here and there for women in my position: wanting to get fit for our children and recovering from labor and delivery in the process. Along the way, Every48 will be updated weekly, not daily, as time is of the essence these days. (Ask anyone who cares for a kid how many free minutes you get per day when said kid is not (1) hungry, (2) poopy, (3) drooly, (4) sneezy, or (5) just wants to cuddle and play. I rest my case.)

Welcome back to Every48. Look for an update in this space every Tuesday at 10 a.m. U.S. Pacific time. Great to be back!

Current Every48 workouts: I strapped on my FitBit three weeks after Baby Bear made his appearance and finally have hit a little bit of a groove with walking and other light daily activities. There have been a few spin classes in there as well. I’m looking forward to getting back to the Every48 lifestyle: 60 minutes of activity, vigorous whenever possible, every other day of my life.

Is Monday really the best day to start a new workout plan?

Really? Is Monday really the best day of the week to start a new lifestyle change? It could be a workout plan, or a nutrition plan (not a “diet”), or a change in how we live or work or do something that seriously affects our lives. The Google search for “why Monday is the best day to start a diet” (there’s that “diet” word again) turns up a massively long list of articles proclaiming just that.

Ah, Monday. Is it really the best week to launch a lifestyle change? Read on. (Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Ah, Monday. Is it really the best week to launch a lifestyle change? Read on. (Image courtesy of arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

But I’m not sure that’s a great idea, to tell you the truth.

As the adage goes: “The best exercise for you is the one that you’re actually going to do.” I think the same thing applies to making a life change. The best day of the week to get started is the day on which you’re actually going to be motivated to start, and to navigate the inevitable rough patches, especially in the early going.

That’s why, when I decided it was time to lose weight once and for all, I started on a Saturday. That’s the beginning of my work weekend, so it’s a day when I have time to concentrate on non-work-related things. At the time (February 2009) I was consulting for a company where I had to be on site most days of the week. So, one of my challenges was going to be this: How do I pack healthy meals with me, or otherwise eat healthfully during the work day, when I’m on site at a client facility?

That took a couple of days to figure out. It involved some nice new food containers, an ice pack, and a cute little cooler—as well as a fairly significant grocery store run to stock up on the good stuff. That first week, there was also a social event to navigate on Tuesday evening, so starting on Saturday instead of the following Monday gave me a two-day head start on figuring out how to best deal with it.

But that’s just me. It worked to start something big on a weekend, because that weekend, I could concentrate on the task at hand. If you don’t work on Mondays, or if your schedule just works better for you when you begin a new “thing” on the first day of the traditional work week, then coolio—go for it. Just know that those first days and weeks can be, well, interesting, so give yourself the best possible chance to succeed by starting at a time when you’re most likely to have the energy to keep going if you hit a small roadblock on the path.


The 12 Gifts of Fitness, Day 7: A Brain Reset

True confession: I’m writing this post when I should be at my swim class. I was super duper massively tired today and gave myself permission to take a little bit of rest…but something tells me I could have just as easily been okay if I’d jumped in the pool and done what I could do. Because one of the gifts of fitness is that the act of exercise—especially a decently challenging aerobic or strength workout, one that leaves you panting (at least some of the time) and sweating (most of the time)—creates a Brain Reset.

Brain Reset: Kind of like that red pen thingie in Men in Black

Vigorous exercise gives us a brain reset. Works every time. (Image courtesy of dream designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Vigorous exercise gives us a brain reset. Works every time. (Image courtesy of dream designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

You know the red pen thingie? That little flashy thing called a Neuralyzer that Will Smith’s character flashes at people when he wants them to forget whatever they just saw? That’s what a good, solid, hard workout does for me, every time.

If I was frustrated before the workout…I’m happy afterwards.

If I was tired before the workout…I’m energized afterwards.

If I was crabby before the workout…I’m oozing positive energy afterwards.

Never once, not once in all of the time that I have made exercise a part of my regular routine, have I ended a workout feeling worse than I did when I started it. (Well, there was that one time in October 2014 when I took a nasty fall while running the day after a massive windstorm and tripped on a fallen branch…but that’s a major exception to the rule.)

What’s the science behind this one? Pretty simple. Vigorous aerobic workouts give the feel-good chemicals in our brains a big ol’ boost: endorphins, neurotransmitters, and endocannobinoids…say that last one five times fast. And check out the Mayo Clinic article that expounds on the value of exercise for alleviating depression symptoms. Even if you’re not “depressed” by clinical standards, all of us have our mental ups and downs. Exercise provides a brain reset, and that’s one of its greatest gifts.

(And yes, there is an actual Wikipedia entry about the Men in Black Neuralyzer. Really. I just had to share that, because it’s awesome.)

The 12 Gifts of Fitness, Day 6: Resilience

“If you have one bad mile, don’t worry. Just run as comfortably as you can through it. The next mile might feel a whole lot better.”

Marathon running is like climbing a mountain. The goal is spectacular; but not every step will feel perfect. The key ingredient: Resilience. (Image courtesy of moggara12 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
Marathon running is like climbing a mountain. The goal is spectacular; but not every step will feel perfect. The key ingredient: Resilience. (Image courtesy of moggara12 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

That quote right there is a paraphrase of what my running coach taught me about marathoning: it’s not all over if you have a “bad mile.” You can regroup, run a little more slowly, relax, breathe a little more deeply, and see if your energy comes back. The key to marathon running is to train the resilience to see the race through to its end, no matter what happens between the starting gun and the finish line.

Ah, resilience.

I’m thinking about resilience today, and how fitness gives it to us in spades (and for a whole lot more than our fitness lives, too) because a friend lost her job recently in a corporate-layoff situation that involved a lot of people. Difficult industry, tough times, and finally the company had to do what companies have to do from time to time: take out the spreadsheets and figure out how to cut costs. This time, a talented person whom I respect deeply was on the unfortunate “cut” list. The company won’t be the same without her.

But resilience will get her through it. And, wouldn’t you know…she’s an athlete. I have tons of confidence that she’ll bounce back better than ever.

Thinking back more than five years ago…it was October 2008, when the real axe of the Great Recession had just hit the U.S. economy, when I saw a number on the scale that I’d never seen before and had no idea what to do next. Forty pounds above my healthiest weight. And, no work to speak of; when the recession hit, companies went into lockdown mode and froze hiring. I was coming off a big work contract and figured the next contract was right around the corner. As it turned out, it was more than six months away. And I had a mortgage, on my own, to cover. And I was overweight.

Today, things are better. Much better.

What happened? It turned out to be a great time to start taking care of my health, in the end. I could cook at home (the better to be both healthy and frugal). I could take time to figure out what I really wanted from my work life going forward. And as I started to drop the weight (gradually and on my own at first, and then more effectively with a solid program to follow), I felt more confident and more sure of myself. I knew what career moves I wanted to make, and which ones to steer clear of (hint: the ones I’d be doing just “for the money”).

And I embraced fitness, in a pretty major way. I didn’t give up my gym membership; instead, I used it more often. The gym gave me the chance to be around other people, to be in a positive place, to set a daily goal and reach it. (My philosophy: workouts are pass/fail. If you showed up, you passed.)

Moral of the story: If you show up to your workout on a regular basis, you’re training resilience. That will help with the tough times. Guaranteed.

Recent Every48 workouts: SWIMMING and SPINNING have been my mainstays recently. There’s just something about swimming, especially when your mobility has been impacted (by injury, inactivity or other reasons – just check with your doctor before starting). I’m just loving the pool these days: two hours a week, minimum, with a group of like-minded swimmer people. Love it.


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