My Past, Present, and Future

Hello friends,

Over eight months ago was my last rambling in this lovely space, and I feel … stuck at how to begin telling you about the major transformation my life has taken in such a short time.

It’s like these stairs in my new neighborhood…

Singer Hill Creek Stairs
Up and up and up and up…
There have been challenges.
Physical pain.
Heartbreaking loss.

After it all, I have continued to climb this hill, and find myself in a very happy place.

I now own a home. I am finally running again! And a new sense of purpose is subtly finding a place in my mind, rolling off my lips, and it is finally time to make space for this new adventure on a page.

After the broken toe (and spirit), the healing solo vacation, and buying my first home, I now know what I need to do.

While I was on the journey through Yoga Teacher Training two years ago, I found myself contemplating creating (what I thought was) a new career: healthy lifestyle coach. I found so much joy in talking with my peers about what they really wanted to do and encouraging them to step forward, plus I was exploring cooking and baking without sugar, with success! And I really want to share my ideas and recipes with you, my friends.

So this is when I get to tell you: I am starting a new project.

Alwayslovinlife has fulfilled her purpose for the time being. She will stay here, and perhaps I will visit from time to time with notes or pictures from my running adventures (because I do plan to have many more).

This is a new adventure to share my real life with you (not just the running highlights):
– Recipes created without added (processed) sugar (using REAL FOOD)
– Reduce/reuse/recycle ideas and DIYs (Save the Planet!” because I have always been that   way. And now I have a house that needs furniture and fixing – on a budget!)
– Relevant ideas regarding mindfulness & self-care. This is a practice that is difficult for me to maintain, so I am asking you to help hold me accountable.
– And more developments to come, once I catch my stride in the new space!

That’s the scoop! I am happy to finally have the processed enough of the stuff of last summer/fall/winter, and have the mental clarity (and drive!) to start moving forward again. One step at a time.

Look for another post coming soon regarding where to find more updates from me in the near future!

(To all you friends and family that I have been talking about starting that food blog: Yes – it will be live within a week!)

Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive and patient with me as I spent time with myself, in my mind, in workbooks, staring out windows, and painting furniture to work through my grief for all this change, and process how to make my next steps. I appreciate all of you so very much.

Much love,
~Alaina

Lessons Learned in 2014 & Intentions for the New Year

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2014 has been a year of discoveries.  Much of what I have learned has been due to self-exploration, understanding, and acceptance.  Pushing my body to new limits, learning how food affects my mind and spirit, and learning what really matters to me for the first time in over thirty years.

And this has changed my life. 

Permanent change, and change for the better.  Here are a few of the important lessons of 2014:

1. My body can travel great distances on foot.
I ran a 50K this year.  Holy crap!  Not only that, but leading up to race day my body was able to keep moving through 3 marathon-length training runs with a 10 mile run the very next day. I always knew I could do it, yet looking back on this feat feels really kind of awesome.  Makes a girl wonder what else she can do…

2. I am a runner who likes to do yoga.
After completing Yoga Teacher Training – and feeling stronger than I have felt in many years – I can honestly say I have no desire to teach yoga classes.  I really enjoyed the personal journey the experience of 200 YTT took me on, the new friends I was able to meet, and the new limits I was able to push past while learning the Ashtangas, and the broader and more considerate perspective I gained on life, how we treat one another, and my personal actions and their affect our planet.  It was totally worth the work, lack of social activity, and even the horrendous anxiety that I experienced that kept me from sleeping before each early morning class I taught.  The lessons I learned from Yoga beyond the moments, are immeasurable and invaluable, and therefore, this experience was highly important in helping me to change.

3. I may, in fact, be a good teacher.
Despite the fact that I am not interested in teaching Yoga, I love sharing what I know and teaching others about diet, exercise, and healthy habits. These are things I love to work on in my own life, and cannot stop talking about when asked – and I look forward to the opportunity to share my knowledge with others who are seeking ways to improve themselves.  Somehow, over the past year, people have started coming to me with questions.  I suppose this is how it all begins…

4. I LOVE running.
When I committed to yoga training, I knew I would have to cut back on running, and for the first week (maybe the first two), I made myself run three times during the week.  While attending four yoga classes, and eleven hours of teacher training AND working a full-time 40+ hours/week day-job.  And there was no way I could keep running in my habitual manner.  So I let go of running.  For more than three months. I missed it terribly.  Running is my meditation, my break from life, stress release, and a way to tour this beautiful city I get to live in, and I am SO happy to have the time in my day to re-incorporate running in my daily life.
Thank God!

5. Cooking delicious, healthy meals for myself is SUPER important.
I have always loved to bake.  And when I started cooking, I realized it was another form of meditation, to take good food and make a delicious meal for myself.  It is like this gift at the end of a long day to have the ability to spend time in the kitchen, singing, and dancing around while chopping onions and garlic. (Don’t worry – I put the knife down while I was dancing!)  Over the last five months or so, I realized not only is this a pleasant activity, it is vitally important to me to take the time and make meals happen.  I actually find I feel guilty when I buy my lunch in the café at work.  Cooking and Food Prep = Must Do (As much as possible) for sanity, to feel good, and to calm my mind.

6. I can make changes to how I live to become the person I want to be.
My mother can tell you that in the past I was a very disorganized person.  With piles.  I have always had piles.  Clothes in the corner.  Papers heaped on the desk.  I am now eliminating the piles. Organization is a new skill, and I am working to cultivate and keep this one going for years to come.  Shrinking stacks not only means donating unused or unloved items to charity, it also means finishing projects.  That dress I started five years ago, the painting started four years ago, the receipts I need to file, the blanket I intend to make for my niece for Christmas… (Do you have any of these things on your list that have been there, moving down in priority slowly over time?)  I am now checking them off (starting with the painting), and letting go of those that no longer call to me.  Freeing the mind and getting rid of clutter – I have much more important things to ponder over in that mind space, and worry and that nagging knowing that “I need to finish that project, and that, and that…” can stop.  Now.

7. It is ok to say “No”.
I will admit that for a lot of my life, honestly almost all of my life up to this past Spring, I have been a people-pleaser.  Always saying “yes” to every invite, all obligations involving friends, and putting myself second.  Or third.  Or fourth. Finally, 32 years (nearing 33) into my life, I have learned that I can consider my own needs and wants when making decisions.  And most of the time, I will feel better, other parties involved will not be concerned about my “no”, and the energy of the whole deal will just feel so much more clean.
Honesty –  To self and others, it’s totally the way to go.

8. Self-care is extremely, vitally important.
I have been experimenting.  With diet.  With exercise.  Learning what works.  (And learning what does NOT work).  And beyond learning that my body and sugar do not get along in any way, shape, or form, I have learned that it is incredibly difficult to maintain my own happiness if I do not prioritize myself Every.Single.Day. Feeding myself, drinking lots of water, getting in some form of exercise, and spending some time in meditation or reading – somehow furthering the strength of my mind – are essential activities that help me to live well.  In turn, taking care of myself allows me to be available to others when they are in need. It is incredibly simple, yet so hard to maintain.  This is why so many teachers and gurus have their own Daily Practice.  Do you have a daily practice? Has it become habit, or is it still a challenge from time to time to keep the routine?

9. I still do not know what I want to do when I grow up, but I know I’m getting closer.  Since landing in Portland after college, I have kept myself occupied taking lessons.  In retrospect, I have sought out one Guru after the next – first in dance lessons, then voice, then energy healing, and finally in yoga training.  Oddly enough, two of my Gurus have moved away in the last year, rather suddenly, and I certainly wanted to learn more from them … Yet, I feel almost as if this is the way things are supposed to be.  Kind of a little shove for me to start moving forward on my own.  Like the Universe is telling me “You’ve learned enough – now go do what you are meant to do.”  Being in this place – nudged to go out and do ‘my thing’ – is a little awkward, uncomfortable, and scary, but I’m learning to push through the discomfort and really share my perspective, knowledge, and who I am with others.

10. Running has taught me to stop worrying and take a chance.
I suppose it goes without saying that running any extraordinary distance of your own volition will teach a person something about themselves.  I have certainly learned that I am much more able-bodied than I have ever imagined.  And through the physical tests endured, I have learned that so much of what I used to fret about and stress over really is the small stuff. I’m not sure how I leaned that running, but when you are in a state of constant movement and all that really matters is nutrition, hydration, and putting one foot in front of the other, prioritizing is much more simple.

11. When you respect yourself, you make better decisions.
Last year, I went to an end of 2013/beginning of 2014 ceremony.  During this process together, we chose words for what we are letting go of in 2014, and what word we are claiming for the year to work on and hold as our intention for the year.  Honestly at this point I do not remember what word I let go of, but I chose “Self-Respect” as my intention for 2014 – and I have done pretty well on that account for the year.  It’s funny, you’d think that self-respect is pretty basic, and that everyone has that for themselves. For me, the process of learning to say “No” was a form of self-respect, and while I have made a few choices that went a little beyond what I really wanted, I have not done regrettable things this year.  Every choice was thought out, weighed, and carefully responded to from a place where I felt no nagging or pulling in my heart or gut.  Much more happiness this year.

Now here we are at the beginning of 2015 – a fresh start to choose to let go of something else, and a new word of intention for this brand new year.

For 2015, I choose Health for my word of intention.  I have been making small changes here and there throughout the past few years, and with the lessons I have learned in 2014, there are bigger changes I want to make (which I look forward to sharing with you soon!) that will have a big impact on my life – happier digestion, better energy levels, and overall feeling good in my own skin.

I will be letting go of material things – for the last 3 months of 2014, I made a promise to myself to not make any purchases that were not necessary.  And not shopping gave me so much more free time (not to mention saving me $$$ so I could spend on more important things, like Organic Kale), I intend to do the same for the entire year of 2015.  No unnecessary purchases of clothing or home items – and thrifting, consignment, and getting creative (literally – making things) will be where I do get things when I need them.  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – three of my favorite words.  2015 will be a fantastic year!

What is your ‘word of intention’ for 2015?
What will you let go of this year to give yourself more freedom and happiness?

I’d love to support you on your new endeavors – Let me know in the comments below!

As always, move forward through each new day with Joy!
~Alaina

The One Month Feat; and Noticeably Different Feet

A couple of days ago I glanced down, looking at my feet.

And it was like I was gazing down at a stranger’s.  They looked… grown up.  Strong.  Beautiful.  …And yet, so alien.

I have arches.

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Look at the lift at the inside of those feet!
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Flat-footed pre-Yoga Teacher Training (and dirty speckled, post Siskiyou Outback 50K race)

Throughout my entire life, I have had the flattest feet of anyone I have ever known.  And now, after completing five weeks of nearly daily physical yoga practice, my feet are strong! It’s incredible how quickly the body adapts to the changing physical demands we ask it to accept and work through.

I used to think that running strengthened my core quite a bit – breathing is hard work when you are running 20 miles over the course of three and a half hours.  Certainly it takes some strength to accomplish this task!  Yet, now, not only is my core tremendously stronger, and I feel shy saying this, …I actually have some definition in my abs…!

Part of the changes I am noticing is due to the fact that I did a cleanse (no sugar/starch) for nearly one month.  AMAZING transformations happen when you eliminate sugar and anything with more than 5 ingredients or containing any preservatives or unpronounceable compounds.  I have never felt so good.

But.  (Did you know that was coming?)
Everything is not all hunky-dory.  Nope.

About two weeks ago, my thighs started going numb.

Weird, right?  The tops of my thighs, and the skin covering them, all going numb.  This is something I have noticed for years if I found myself laying on my back when waking up in the morning.  I would just roll to my side and all would be well, feeling returning to my upper legs.

Now, I found myself in a lunge pose in a yoga class – and the top of my back leg went numb.

A couple of days later, at a standing meeting around a desk at work, both legs went numb on the thigh.  And over the past week, it has become a daily occurrence of sleeping/waking legs.  So frustrating. I finally went for some body work – and apparently I had some tight muscles, and even after releasing the fascia from the muscle tissue and detaching things that had adhered together and become stuck, I am still experiencing the same darn numbness.  At this point, I am pretty sure the cause is a ligament in my hip crease area stretching over a nerve and cutting off feeling.  Now, I simply need to locate the point and figure out how to bring more flexibility and release the tension on this ligament so it stops pressing on the nerve…

I knew this yoga journey would teach me new things about myself, stamina, strength, and health of the mind, body, and soul.  I did not think I would be given incentive to learn about nerve paths in the body.  A somewhat uncomfortable, and totally interesting experience.  (My legs are feeling numb less often, now; I am paying close attention to any changes, please do not worry about me!)

This journey is helping me to look at my life – practices, choices, ways of living and consuming in this world – and make conscious decisions about how I choose to live.  I had no idea that my mind would be challenged to change.  Nor did I know that my body would change so much – my feet starting to look like a yogi’s.

This will be an interesting journey, indeed.  

Have you ever started a new activity to be faced with unforeseen challenges?  Was it something totally off your radar?
How did you approach that roadblock?

I would love to hear your story!

as always, with joy,
~Alaina

2014 Newport Marathon Race Recap

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The Newport Marathon was fantastic.  Arriving at the start line, it was great to be in a “small” crowd of 1,000 people.  I don’t think I have ever participated in a race with such a cozy, community feel.  I came across a fellow blogger at Move Eat Create at the start.  She has been training so hard, I knew that I would see her on the course later (and that she would be passing me on my way out, while she was on her way back). And I did, and she did coming in with a truly great time.  Congratulations, on a great race, my friend!

I always start a race on a cool day with a long sleeve on, but despite the cloud cover and the slight breeze, Saturday morning was warm.  So, throwing caution to the wind, I left my long sleeve with my jacket in my drop bag. . .

Thank God that I did!

The clouds burned off about an hour and a half into the race.

And it was beautiful…!IMG_0492

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A short while into the race, about half a mile after the maze of neighborhood that was the first three miles, I met a few new friends, and quickly discovering that they will be running the Siskiyou Out & Back (the 50K) in July!  I got caught up talking with them, and decided to keep pace.  I knew it was a little faster than I could probably maintain for 26 miles, but I thought I’d give it a shot.  My lungs were content to keep the pace, but my legs… my legs need more training.

By mile 12, I let my new-found friends take the lead, and kept moving forward solo.  Looking for my Grampa the whole way, especially after mile 13.   He started the race at 6am with those walking the marathon, so he had an hour lead on me.  I did not cross paths with him until the turn around at mile 15!  We had a Big Hug moment, and stuck with each other and chatted for a little while.  A few minutes into conversation, he said “It is such an honor to run with you, and to be passed by you!” and encouraged me on.  So, I did go on.  In the end I only beat him to the finish by a few minutes, as I walked a lot of the last six miles.

So, I learned I need to stretch.  Stretch more.  Stretch at all.  I’ve been neglecting my muscles, and it shows.  Lesson learned.  

Have you ever experienced an unexpected slow-down during a race?  I’d love to hear your story.

One of the most remarkable things about my experience at this marathon in Newport was that I had no head game.  I had no doubts about finishing, no moments of dislike that I was still running.  I enjoyed myself through the pain.  Regardless of the tightening of this band that made me limp, hop, and walk more times than I could count, I would keep breathing, countdown, look up, smile, and run on again.

Two days past race day – I’m a little sore, but  I have a smile on my face and I am still lovin’ life!

Happy Running!  🙂
~Alaina

Countdown Begins: Five Days ‘Till the Newport Marathon

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This morning, Brandi and headed out to Fullerton to watch my Mom’s fiancé play a match of Racquetball.  It was the first time I have ever watched him compete in his sport, and I tell you – the man is focused, fair, and very respectful for this game and his opponents.  He is a great athlete to watch, and a fabulous source for inspiration.

As the Newport Marathon quickly approaches, I am finding myself under-enthusiastic about running this race.  I can’t quite put my finger on what is nagging at me, this race is close to the beach (which I love), my Grampa will be there with me, and we get to enjoy the surf, sand, and sea for one more day before heading back into town to return to ‘real life’ – a.k.a. My day job.

Part of my hesitation about this race is that for some reason, I feel less prepared than I was for St. George last year.  But frankly, I used the same training g program.  At this point in time, I am prepared in just the same way as that race seven months ago, and in fact, I am faster than last year.

So what is keeping me from the excitement?  The anticipation?  

Overall, I know I am not as prepared as I wanted to be.  In my mind, before training began, I wanted to max my weekend workout run at more than twenty miles, to get in more weight truing, and practice yoga twice each week to maintain (and re-gain) flexibility.

The truth is, I hope that after today, I can harness some of the energy I saw this morning at the Racquetball match.  Those gentlemen really know how to have a good time, and how to concentrate on the task at hand.

How do you stay motivated until you race?
Have you ever felt simply exhausted and let that “I don’t care” mentality creep into your mind?

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With hope for fun runs to you all,
~Alaina

Running vs. Racing – Pleasure or Prowess

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When I tell people I am a runner, they often seem to immediately assume that I am fast.  And for some reason, I am always quick to jump in and tell them just how not-fast I am. I plod along comfortably, breathing easy, taking in the world around me, and simply enjoying the movement of my body through space.

I think my explaining stems from the desire to let everyone know “yes, you can run, too” regardless of speed, just setting foot outside your door is wonderful, healthy, and it can be fun! For years I hated running.  Until my first high school cross-country meet, the fastest mile I ever ran was an 8:30 min/mile pace set when running one mile in third grade.  The faster mile I ran in cross-country was the first of a 5K race; Mile one was 7 minutes, Mile two was 10 minutes, and mile three was 13 minutes.  No consistency, and I certainly started that out too fast.  I have yet to meet the third grade pace and maintain it for over a mile.

I am not one of those runners who checks their pace on their wrist to see if each mile is coming in at the same pace.  I run by feel. If I am out of breath, starting to heel strike, or feeling uncomfortable, I know I need to slow down to be able to maintain energy levels for longevity.  My goal has not ever been to race.  It is to relax, keep moving, and enjoy…

The more running literature I read – blogs, articles, books – and conversations I have with other runners, I learn that I have a very different perspective than my peers.  In fact, I would call it an extremely abnormal point of view and desired outcome for Races I enter.

Sometimes I wonder, am I just content to be running at the same pace indefinitely?  Is there anything wrong with that?  

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Could it be that I do not have the motivation that others feel driving them to accelerate?  Or that I’m missing some gene that makes you want to push yourself?  I will admit, there have been only a few times that I have really pushed myself – and neither of those times was during the Marathon I ran last year.  Yes that was hard, and I ran a whole marathon distance of 26.2 miles, but as far as speed is concerned… I kept it easy.  I pushed myself to pass other racers in the last half mile stretch of the Pints to Pasta race a couple of years ago, and that was fun!

I guess, overall, I have never really attempted to race.  Not against myself or other racers.  Perhaps my delight in the well-known, comfortable easy pace is partially due to my hesitation to step foot into the unknown.  What if I lose my stride, and start to heel-strike, again?  What if I injure myself?  

What if… I CAN go faster?

What would that be like?

One of my greatest fears – throughout my entire life – has been succeeding.  Doing something well enough that other people notice.  Raising expectations.  Being authentic.  Being vulnerable.  Letting myself be seen, heard, and known.  So, I have always done well – but never really allowed myself to excel – at anything.  I stop before I move beyond good to really good.

I love dancing, and shortly after moving to Portland, I got quickly immersed in West Coast Swing and Blues – getting to the point where I taught a “Mini” Blues lesson (after knowing the dance for only three months!).  Less than two years later, I stopped going dancing.

I also love singing, and recently took lessons with some amazing teachers at the Transformational Voice Institute, and I have learned SO much, improved greatly, and then abruptly stopped taking lessons – and have not pursued any other singing venues since.

Now, I run.  A solo activity.  Running at my pace, there will be no comparisons with other runners.  I’m not fast enough to really compete.  I do truly enjoy getting out each day to do my duty pounding the pavement – my movement meditation, but I wonder if running is now my activity to help me hide from my other great loves, desires, heart callings by easily making it priority over the others.  What would my life be like if I could make time for all of these wonderful activities?

Do you find yourself choosing one activity over another that really calls to you?
How do you decide which to prioritize?

Tomorrow I have another five miles in the morning … Meeting a friend super early on the other side of the river, so I am off to bed before midnight for the first time in a week!  (If I were out dancing, I would not be home until after midnight – West Coast Swing Wednesdays go late!).

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Please, have courage to do what you love with gusto.  Feed your heart and your spirit with joy, and allow yourself to succeed!  This is SO important. To being authentic…!

with joy and heart,
~Alaina

Saturday’s Run: a.k.a. “Get Your Rear in Gear”

Last Friday, when the weekly email came from our local run-planning-expert, I scanned the email to find our starting point, check the distance, and was thrilled with the scrumptious words and double-digit numbers my eyes brought into focus.  We were starting at the Farmer’s Market (and ending there – fresh breakfast, anyone?), and doing 10-11 miles.  Perfect!  The initial email had no map of the route or elevation map, so I just planned to follow the group, no biggie.

Later that evening, a second email with more details arrived to my Inbox, and again, I paid it little heed, knowing I would do an extra 1-2 miles prior to the run, I was focusing on going to bed so I could get up a little early.  To be honest, I am happy I didn’t look to closely at the route or see the elevation map, or I would have been a little more nervous about the words at the end of the message that declared: “This is going to be a butt-burner!”

Yep.  And, man oh, man, that was no lie!

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The day started with a beautiful sunrise…
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Halfway through our run, we were off the pavement, and onto trails…
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…which soon became muddy and slick as the rain poured down on us!
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We saw a little Newt! (I know it looks like a worm, but do you see his little legs?)
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After the first summit to reach the Vista Bridge on the way out, the second summit up the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park, we found that getting up Vista really was another LONG uphill…
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The view was TOTALLY worth it.
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By the time we saw our destination, stomachs were growling, mouths watering; we knew we would be at the Market shortly!

We all made it to the end of this run.  A day later, I felt soreness I have not felt in… Months, truthfully, probably not since last year’s marathon at St. George.  I learned that my ‘hills’ on my daily run are nothing compared to what we conquered Saturday.  And that was only (I say only because I know what I am up against in July for the Siskiyou Outback) 400 feet gain/loss (albeit three times!).  

In June, I plan to tackle some serious hills, and some altitude.  Does anyone want to join me for some long runs at Timberline?

After our run, and perusing the Farmer’s Market, I made my way home and took a bath.  The first bath I’ve taken in over five months, and the first in this new home.  I love this tub, and I do not know why I ever “forget” or do not make time for baths.  Self care is SO important!  (and it was SO deliciously relaxing…)

Rest Rejuvenate Bath

Next weekend, we are being treated to a flat course.  For this, I am grateful – I am scheduled to run 17 miles, and I do not know how I would make it through 17 miles of hills like last weekend!

What distance are you tackling this weekend?

Until next time, Happy running!  And always remember to treat yourself with care.  🙂  You deserve it!!!

with joy in movement (and in rest),
~Alaina