The only thing stopping you from accomplishing your goals is yourself. We let fear and doubts hold us back. During this exercise we ask that you give yourself the space and freedom to show up as you are and remember that progress over perfection is always the goal. You were put on this planet to do some pretty special things my friend, so let's go conquer them!
Going through this exercise and writing down your goals will help get you one step closer to accomplishing them. “People who very vividly describe or picture their goals are anywhere from 1.2 to 1.4 times more likely to successfully accomplish their goals," says Mark Murphy, founder of www.LeadershipIQ.com and a New York Times bestselling author, in his Forbes article, “Neuroscience Explains Why You Need To Write Down Your Goals If You Actually Want To Achieve Them."
Now that you have your worksheet downloaded, follow along as we take you through 5 steps to take charge of your goals today the ULA way.
Step 1: Brainstorm
This is the fun part and sets the foundation for taking actionable steps. Take some time to envision what you want your life to look like in 3-5 years. Play some inspiring music, light a candle or diffuse some essential oils, and let’s start the process. Some questions to help you brainstorm. Think in terms of 3-5 years.
Once you better understand how you want to feel and what you want your life to look like, this will put you in the right head space to start brainstorming actual goals. Jot down all the goals that come to mind that will help you get closer to that version of yourself.
Get real with yourself to determine if each goal is unapologetically you.
In order to stay committed to your goal, you need to ask yourself if these goals are truly UNAPOLOGETICALLY YOU? Do not... I repeat DO NOT, set goals because "everyone is doing it". If running a marathon doesn’t do it for you, then GIRL don’t make that one of your goals. What a waste of your precious time. If it will make you feel how you want to feel, then CHASE THAT GOAL! This is not a competition, this is your life. BE YOU. Don’t try and impress anyone, this is for you.
Don’t hold back and write down the goals that have been on your mind for awhile!
Of the goals you brainstormed above, let’s circle 3 of them to focus on and for the purpose of this exercise, pick the one goal that will drive the needle. The one goal that if you focused all of your energy on, would get you the closest to that upgraded version of yourself!
Now let’s dig deep to help keep you MOTIVATED. Your why holds the most power in determining whether or not you will accomplish your goal. If your why is not strong enough, you will not be motivated to stay on course when it gets tough. So take some time to ask yourself what your greater why is.
To give you a personal example, I am working towards gaining my pre and post natal exercise certificate. One level deep, my why is because I want to help women have a healthy perinatal experience through pregnancy, birth, and recovery. To take it a second level deeper, I know that without proper diet and exercise I personally would have been a hot mess from a mental standpoint during and after pregnancy. Food and movement have always aided me in being the best version of myself, especially when faced with adversity. To take it a third level deep, I had a TOUGH birth and recovery due to some complications and I had a realization in the shower in the hospital room after my delivery, that I went through this experience for a reason. That reason was to help other women during this phase of life. To empower them and be a resource for support. To go even deeper, I would eventually like to create a flexible career and business with the knowledge and tools I begin to obtain so that I can spend more time with the girl that changed my life, my daughter. You probably get the picture by now, I essentially want you to dig DEEP AS HELL and KNOW YOUR WHY for those moments of doubt or for those moments when you want to give up. We all have those moments and the difference between those who don’t give up and those who do is simple, it’s how strong your why is.
Step 2: Set SMART Goals.
Okay, now let’s make that goal ACTUALLY HAPPEN by making it SMART. I know, I know… you have all had to set SMART goals since middle school, but this old school practice is tried and true. For those of you who may not be as familiar, SMART stands for the following:
T: TIME BOUND
The worksheet you downloaded will help you unpack and write down exactly how to make your goal SMART.
To use the same personal example from above, here is how I made it SMART:
Step 3: Maintain Focus
This is imperative!
Write down potential obstacles and solutions for each. Also, know upfront that you will need to be flexible. Obstacles will present themselves and it’s okay to pivot. As long as you stay committed to yourself, give yourself grace to keep marching forward.
For example, I know that I have a busy life and that in the evenings my husband will want to hang out. As much as I want that time with him, I know that I need to set up specific days where I will be committed to studying and get on the same page with him to ensure he feels valued, while still understanding my why to achieve this goal.
Obstacle: I won’t have enough time for family.
Solution: Set up precedent to get my family on board and understand my greater why. It’s for them!
This should be an ongoing exercise. Check in and look at your challenges each month. Determine how to modify your goal, plan, or priorities.
For example, I have had to push my date back due to other priorities, but by being honest with myself and determining how I could re-prioritize, I was able to get back on track. Specifically, I downloaded the Kajabi app and started using my bus commute to get through the lectures and then got granular with when and where I would study.
Step 4: Take Action
This is where pulling out your calendar comes into play.
Seriously do it!
We don’t realize how busy we are until we look at our commitments and dedicate chunks of time to working towards our goals. This will help you determine whether or not your goal is achievable and whether you have realistic timing.
Reverse engineer your goal. Determine the steps that need to be taken. Whether that is the number of miles you need to run each week or the exact action steps that need to be taken by certain dates.
For example, if you are trying to incorporate meditation into your daily routine, talk through what action steps need to happen:
Step 5: Find Accountability
Last but not least, bring someone along for the journey. Going through the above steps is great, but once you tell a friend who will keep you accountable, the likelihood of you completing that goal is significantly higher.
I personally told Ives about my goal and asked her to keep me accountable, funny enough she is also obtaining the same certificate so that helps! I have also made my community aware that this is one of my goals.
Okay friends, we hope you found this helpful! We are here for you. Let us know if you give this exercise a try and feel free to share your goals with us below to help keep you accountable!
I am NOT an expert on mindfulness or meditation.
I am a novice. We all need to start somewhere.
To Regain Control, You First Need to Recognize You Lost Control
Losing the ability to run and workout the way I am used to pre-pregnancy meant losing more than just a physical workout. It also meant not having as efficient of an outlet for stress or my many, MANY daily thoughts. This meant a further loss of control. From what I hear, pregnancy is all about preparing you for motherhood aka you are no longer the priority. Your time, for the most part belongs to someone else as it should. However, you still need to find and create time and space for yourself. It just may look different.
I realized quickly that this loss of a physical and mental release, coupled with the shifts in identity that were already happening as I embark on this WILD journey of becoming a mama were not setting me up for success in my day to day. I needed an outlet for my perceived stress. I still wanted to have a recurring goal or task to check off the to-do list (to replace work out, since low intensity work was not cutting it). My husband suggested meditation.
I have always struggled with meditation because in my mind it needed to happen first thing in the morning. I tried it twice before and after 1 or 2 lessons, I would give up. I had a million excuses and no commitment. My morning routine was anything but "routine". Given my 2 jobs —fitness instructor and pharmacist, as well as this side hustle, there is little consistency throughout the week. Add a nice layer of pregnancy fatigue, misc. medical and personal appointments, a dog/husband, and all of life’s other curveballs and I felt like I was going to fail at meditation because I could not commit my morning routine around it.
My Morning on Mon/Wed/Fri:
4:10 AM alarm goes off, scroll through texts/email/instagram
4:20 AM get ready to teach (make up, bathroom, etc.)
4:35 AM make coffee, feed dog/let him out, check daily "to-do" list
4:45 AM en route to Barry’s
5:00 AM get to studio and teach by 5:15 AM
*Wed & Fri* get to Harborview by 8 AM for my pharmacist job (maybe take class at 6:15 AM, based on daily tasks)
*Mon* stay at the studio to teach 8:30 AM (converse, work, or workout in between)
My Morning Tue/Thur:
No consistency, but usually up by 7:00 AM (between 5:30 AM - 7 AM, based on when I decided to workout that day)
Scroll through texts/email/instagram
Review daily “to-do” list
Get up and get ready (make up, bathroom, etc.)
Either go work out or sit down to work on ULA/Barry’s/Pharmacy work
*Every other Thur* get to Harborview by 8 AM for my pharmacist job
So yeah, kinda difficult to create a routine of meditation around all that and we are not even touching on the variability of the weekend. I am also not at the point where I am willing to commit to waking up every day at 4:10 AM because some nights it is really hard to fall asleep.
Despite what may seem to be organized chaos and trying to embrace the changes of pregnancy, I desperately needed a way to feel in control again.
In Order to Disconnect, I Needed to Connect
Ironic statement. We live in a society that is very connected by technology and social media. I am not here to stir the pot on the great debate about whether social media and technology is "ruining" society. However, I will say there are definitely unhealthy relationships with social media and technology. Should we be attached to our phones 24/7? No. Should we log in to Instagram or Facebook before we get out of bed? Probably not. However, social media can also introduce us to new, healthy habits. For me, one of those healthy habits is mindfulness and meditation. I am able to meditate anywhere with the help of an application.
Meditation is Similar to Running
Conveniently, just when I was told by my OB GYN to chill on my workouts, Barry’s started a challenge this month and a perk is access to the Calm app for mindfulness and meditation. Serendipity, maybe? One of the lessons in the 7 days of Calm discusses using your breath to refocus when thoughts intrude. You focus on the inhale and mentally count "1" at the end of the inspiration. As you exhale, you say "2". When you recognize you have become distracted, you nudge the misc. thoughts out of the way, restart counting, and can rely on your breathing to ground you. This is very similar to how I utilize running. When I go on a run, thoughts will race in and out of my head about stressors, tasks at hand, the day, goals, how I am feeling etc. But as I pick up speed or approach an incline, I become breathless and the thought that was occupying my mind is scooted aside so I can focus on and control my breath. I used to embrace my lack of routine for what it was. I now realize just how much I relied on running and physical exertion as therapy to make my lack of routine bearable.
There is NO Preferred Time to Meditate
I don't know why I was under the impression that in order to meditate, I had to commit 20-30 minutes of my morning to meditation and journaling. I believe this just stems from hearing so many people, including my husband, share how their day is better when they meditate first thing. I would scoff at that and think umm okay let me just wake up at 3:45 AM (haHa). I recognized that for most people, it may make sense to dedicate time in the morning because they consistently have time available or can wake up slightly earlier (but not 3 AM early) to incorporate this into their routine. For me, the afternoon or evenings are more consistent and realistic.
Like all of my goals, I had to add "Meditate" to my daily to-do list. My type-A, Scorpio tendencies mean if it's a goal and it's written down, I am more likely to accomplish it. I also shared my desires with my husband, who asks me each evening if I meditated yet. Speaking this goal out loud to him meant having more accountability to accomplish it. I have been meditating nightly, usually in bed, for 2 weeks now and have missed the lesson 2 times. I didn't get upset, blame myself, or give up when I skipped the meditation. Reminder: it takes time and repetition to create habits. It is also a personal goal that is meant to reduce stress in my life and not add stress by perceiving missing one day as failure. If you tried meditating previously and didn't stick it out, ask yourself why? If you feel out of control, stressed, anxious, are sleeping poorly, or just want to integrate this into your day it may be the time to try it again.
How to Successfully Start Meditating
1. Shop around for your favorite app.
This article reviews two of the leading apps for meditation --Headspace and Calm, but there are many more out there. Look at the layout and find what appeals to you.
2. Analyze your day and determine the best time for YOU.
Morning, bedtime, in between --it does not matter. You typically need 10 minutes, sometimes even less and a comfortable place to sit. It does not need to be a quiet space. Meditation is about being able to refocus even with the distractions.
3. Write Meditation as a task on your to-do list.
You are more likely to achieve a goal when you write it down. Hold yourself accountable and make this a "must do" or "need to do" versus an "I'd like to do" on your list.
4. Do not give up if you miss a day. Show up again tomorrow.
It's not an "I'd like to do" on your to-do list, but give yourself grace. Sometimes even with our best intentions, life gets in the way. If things didn't go as planned at work one day, you wouldn't just decide to not go in tomorrow. Have the same attitude about your personal goals.
5. Create accountability.
Tell a friend or significant other what your goal is and ask them to help you stay on track.
I am in no way sponsored by Calm or any of mindfulness apps, but in the 2 short weeks that I have been meditating, I do notice the benefits. I want to continue forming this habit in the months to come and will share my personal successes with meditation in a later blog post.
Are you ready to run mama? Before we dive into the strength test, I want to share that I am currently studying to obtain my Pregnancy and Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist Certificate through Dr. Sarah Duvall's online course. Along with my ACE Group Fitness Certification, my hope is to add more knowledge to my arsenal so that I can empower women and mamas specifically with evidence-based research and tools needed throughout pregnancy and beyond. Being a mom of 1 (and hopefully more some day) I have learned both through my own personal journey and research that the perinatal population is severely under served. My passion for fitness and the pregnancy & postpartum journey is what led me to begin obtaining this certificate.
To give you a little insight into who I am learning from, Dr. Sarah has rehabbed thousands of women with pelvic floor issues, diastasis recti, SI joint dysfunction and low back pain. She is a doctorate and has over 19 years of experience in the health and wellness field. I chose to learn from her not only because of her experience, but also because of her evidence-based approach. My hope is to begin sharing more with this audience through blog posts and today I am going to equip you with three strength exercises to perform before beginning to run postpartum.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH RUNNING:
College is where I found a deep appreciation and love for running. I was not a college athlete, but it was the exercise that felt the most natural for me after dancing competitively in high school. Since, I have ran 4 marathons and more than a handful of half marathons. If you are interested in my marathon journey, check out my "Boston Bound" blog post, here. After I had my daughter a year ago, I wanted to get back into it as quickly as possible. With a birth injury, where I pinched my femoral nerves and lost feeling in my my legs from the knee down, I also lost a tremendous amount of quad strength and had to build strength before I could run again. I craved being able to hit the pavement, run outdoors, and sprint until I was breathless. In full transparency, I am still gaining strength as working full time and breastfeeding, plus being a new mama has made it hard to retain muscle on my naturally lean and lanky body. I have taught treadmill and strength based classes and also absolutely love to incorporate running intervals on the treadmill or outdoors in my personal workouts. I say all of this to get the point across that running strength is VERY important to me. I want to keep mamas (including myself) safe and we have to keep in mind that running is a single leg dynamic activity, so it takes a solid foundation of strength to run with correct form and without wreaking havoc on your Pelvic Floor... AKA compensating for lack of strength by putting too much pressure on the pelvic floor. If you haven't yet... do yourself a favor and go see a Pelvic Floor Specialist if you feel any pain during the below strength test or just as a safety precaution after giving birth even if you feel no pain. There was added pressure and whether you had a vaginal birth or a C-section, it's good to have someone check how your movement patterns have changed. Feel free to message me or comment below and I can recommend a PT in the Greater Seattle area!
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO BUILD STRENGTH BEFORE RUNNING AGAIN?
Running is a plyometric movement and works the entire body. The muscles we are testing include the muscles that absorb the most impact when running and stabilize your pelvis to ensure the pelvic floor is not overworking. This includes:
BACK TO RUNNING STRENGTH TEST:
Let's get into it. If you are newly postpartum and wondering yourself whether you can start running, I want you to try these 3 very simple strength tests before hitting the pavement
Perform 30 of each of these exercises, on each leg. I will demo these moves on Instagram and save them to our highlights for future reference!
FORM TO CONSIDER WHEN PERFORMING THE ABOVE STRENGTH TEST:
When performing these exercises, make sure your knees do not collapse in, your hip does not collapse under one another, and you have good posture. If you cannot perform these moves without your knees and hips collapsing in and/or under, without good posture, or without taking a break it simply means you need to build strength before you begin running again.
If you are in this boat, I feel ya sister. It takes time if you lost muscle mass and I am here to tell you that you with patience and persistence you will be able to gain strength back. To give you a little motivation, I will remind you that I personally couldn't walk down the stairs without heavy assistance from a handrail for over 1 month postpartum and at 8 1/2 months postpartum I was able to PR (personal record) a half marathon which I couldn't have done without strength work prior or Ives pacing with me, thanks sista for being fast, fierce, and supporting my running goals!
WHAT IF YOU ARE UNABLE TO PERFORM THE STRENGTH TEST?
As noted above, if you are unable to perform these moves, more strength in the muscles that absorb the impact when running (muscles noted earlier) is needed. To begin building strength, you can perform the above strength test exercises 2-3X per week. Start with a rep amount you can perform with good form and add 1-2 reps each week until you can perform 30 of each. There are of course additional exercises that strengthen your running muscles that we can go into in a different blog post, but this a great place to start!
As always, if you ever feel pain during any of these movements or when you begin to run again, schedule an appointment with a local PT (Physical Therapist), who specializes in women's health and the pelvic floor. I recommend seeing a Pelvic Floor Specialist and PT to take a look at your movement patterns postpartum before beginning any workout routine.
Please note, we are all individuals and our needs vary. For healthy adults that are looking to get back into running postpartum, these exercises will help you determine whether you are ready to run again or if you need additional strength assistance and hopefully encourage you on your journey!
NEXT STEPS TO BUILDING MORE RUNNING STRENGTH:
In the next few weeks, I will also be sharing dynamic moves you can add to your workout routine to further aid in running strength, once you are able to perform the above strength test. Once it is complete, I will link it here. Please drop a note if you have any questions or comments about this subject! I would love to hear from you!