Girl Power

I’m not going to lie, I feel like a feminist just by deciding to WRITE this post, but here’s the deal. Apparently it is ‘Women’s History Month’ and I have one more day to capitalize on this. AND I am now a proud, proud Ambassador of the Movemeant Foundation (I apologize, but you are going to hear a lot about this organization this year…take it or leave it)…which is completely centered around empowering women through strength, movement, fitness, body confidence, etc. Makes sense that I am about to showcase the top 10 influential women in my life, doesn’t it?

I feel that as March comes to an end, it is only appropriate that I pay some well-deserved homage to the top 10 women, both ever-present in my life and that I admire from afar, who inspire and influence me in one way or another. In a world where we are often times our own biggest critic, watching others who are successful at paving their own way or doing something worthy of accolade is like adding fuel to the fire – it ignites something within us. Mankind is extremely symbiotic in that regard – whether we know it or not, we all need each other.

Read below for the women in my life that I am inspired by…and enjoy!

My Mom, Kelley Granger. This feels like a pretty cliche one, no? I admire this woman because while she has made some mistakes in her life (who hasn’t?), she has found a way to gracefully remedy those and ultimately come out on TOP, becoming one of the most cherished people in our lives. One of the biggest lessons I have learned from her is how to repair, grow, and maintain relationships. Life hasn’t always been perfect in the way of a “mother daughter” relationship with us, particularly when I was an adolescent, but this woman has shown me and taught me so many things about resilience, about ‘letting go’, about having faith, and about LOVE. She is one of the most beautiful, successful, insanely happy people I know…and it’s because she did the work on herselfShe’s also MY biggest cheerleader, and ultimately one of my best friends. I literally do not know what I would do without this woman.

 

Kristina Ohlson. A fellow Sheepdog and total badass martial arts expert/instructor, Kristina came into our GoRuck workout group as the 2nd female behind me. At first I was honestly a little skeptical, hoping this wouldn’t be some girl trying to show me up or worse, weak. Kristina blew me away – not only by her grit and strength, but the things that resonate the most with me are her ability to see life situations with a level of objectivity, her honesty, and her ability to relate to every single person she encounters. Beyond her physical strength, her mental maturity and strength truly inspire me to be a better, more understanding, more balanced person. I am truly blessed to call this gal a friend.

 

Paige Bowie. I have never met her, but she is a GoRuck legend as the only female to ever finish Selection (a 48-hour individual GoRuck event where ONLY the best of the best, the strongest of the strongest, finish). This alone classifies her as someone who is worthy of admiration. To mentally survive this type of event requires an insane amount of strength. By trade, she is also a Firefighter, which in and of itself is an admirable trait – she thrives on saving lives. Overall, I hope to become half as strong as this woman in my athletic and personal endeavors.

 

Chrissie Wellington. An absolute Ironman legend as a 4-time Ironman Kona World Champion, she’s known as ‘that athlete’ that not only wins everything, but she does it with an insane SMILE on her face. This is the part that I admire most about her. She cherishes every single part of the experience and absolutely loves what she does. She is humble, thankful, constantly positive, leads a truly passionate existence, and is what every athlete hopes for themselves. She also proves that this is possible with the right attitude. I plan on channeling Chrissie many times throughout my first Ironman.

 

My cousin, Whitney Peek. Whit is a nurse, an athlete, incredibly dedicated to her family, and one of those people you just cannot dislike. She is my age, and was diagnosed with MS last year. The amount of grace she has handled this life altering diagnosis with is awe-inspiring. It’s as if she said “Ok, so this is how it’s going to be, well let’s adjust and keep living.” Perhaps things are upsetting or hard for her, but this woman (in true Dal Porto fashion) puts on a brave face, makes the necessary changes, and keeps going. She’s an admirable, beautiful woman I am proud to be related to.

 

Leslie Kelly. Leslie and I climbed Mt. Shasta together a few years ago with the Breast Cancer Fund, and while I learned a lot about her story…what I took away was her insane strength. She’s suffered from Breast Cancer for many years, and has a history (that she is very open about) with alienating people and things in her life, but her motto now is to “show up no matter what.” She is vulnerable, open, hopeful, loving, active…and the true definition of “being strong through adversity” for me. I am so lucky to have witnessed a part of her journey, and I follow her as she fights her terrible disease very closely.

 

My Aunt Tina. I don’t think either of us will ever forget, when I was a child and she was pregnant with my now-cousin, she had a very difficult pregnancy that almost took her life. My “Thanksgiving wish” was that “my Aunt Tina didn’t die.” It touched her heart then, but she really touches my heart now. She’s insanely intelligent, strong, resilient, funny, witty, gorgeous, and one of those people who, for some reason, I have always looked up to. What I love about her is her strong personality. She is “unapologetically herself.” It is a state I constantly strive for and look up to her for, and alongside overcoming extreme adversity, she exemplifies this for me.

 

Amy Schumer. We all know who she is, and probably all admire her for the same reason – she’s comfortable in her own skin and she inspires us all to be as well. She’s also adorable, funny as can be, and talented. What I love is that she teaches girls that beauty is not just about being a size 2. You can be loved, admired, adored, and successful at any size. I think this is a message that women need, a message that is long overdue, and one I need to remind myself of from time to time. I adore her for living this message out in true authenticity.

 

My Aunt Sandy. She passed away just shy of 2 years ago, and it was one of the hardest things I, and my family, have likely been through. Sandy was the DEFINITION of strength as she fought her extremely rare disease, giving it everything she had and then some. Sandy was the matriarch of our family, and one of the strongest, most giving, beautiful hearts I have known. She had every single person she met wrapped around her finger, but the greatest thing was that she did so by being 100% genuinely HER. The other thing that I love most about her is that she really took care of the Dal Porto heritage. Her family and our history was something she held very close to her heart, and not only that, she made everyone that came into the family feel loved. She will be missed more than words can ever express.

 

Christi Leong. A former/fellow Cal Triathlon team member, everyone looked up to Christi. She was not only president of our team, but one of the most fun-loving, fiercely loyal, inspiring athletes on the team. She is a multi-time Ironman, but boasts such a welcoming and calm demeanor, and is somehow able to see  humor and happiness in every situation. Goofy yet serious, dedicated yet not rigid, she embodies a lot of traits I work really hard on. She’s always been an inspiration, as well as a friend, to me for years and I imagine she will be for years to come.

 

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Check yourself before you wreck yourself

**In an effort to help other women (and people) who may experience some of the same situations I do, I want to try and use this blog as an honest and open assessment of things I go through on this ‘Road to Couer D’Alene’, and in life. Some of it isn’t wonderful. Recently, I have been battling depression for the past few months, and I have made an incredibly enlightening correlation between my mental state and my physical Ironman training.**

Curious as to how? Read on…

I’ve always been an impatient, relentless, “can’t sit still” type of person and anyone who knows me is probably chuckling to themselves right now saying “Yep.” When I was a senior in high school, my aunt actually said to me (after asking about all of the activities and sports I was doing) “You’re going to be on Prozac by the time you’re 30.” Little did she know how right she was…and little did I know that my “relentless restlessness” was probably contributing to the declination of my health.

When I began seriously training for this Ironman, a good friend and mentor of mine, Troy, told me to try and get ahead of the physiological side of my training program. Particularly, to take control of my hormone levels, because chronic stress (any kind of stress, mental or physical) tends to screw with those levels – and intense training creates both kinds of stresses, let me tell you. This was an aspect of fitness I had never, ever considered…hmm. He told me that being that I am a “life-long competitive bad-ass” (aww thanks Troy), it would serve me well to get on top of these issues and prevent any fluctuations that would keep me from performing at and being my best. Initially, I took light interest, but inevitably brushed it of and kept doing what I was doing. Sometimes I think I know everything…well, I don’t. Wrong decision.

Fast forward about 2-3 weeks into my training plan (I am currently about 1.5 months in), where I was working out in volumes I hadn’t touched in a long time – the weekly hours probably doubled, almost overnight, from my regular workout program. The positives? I started to drop weight, the distances of the race felt mentally less daunting, and I saw my training as a “distraction” from my personal woes. The negatives? I was really struggling in a lot of areas that were NOT body related….and I was depressed as hell. I had memory fog, sleep problems, a feeling of numbness, all things associated with depression. I was simultaneously experiencing some very upsetting personal life situations as well. I blamed those situations, and this is why I saw my training as an escape…so I dove in head first. The hardest part of all of this is that as someone who genuinely has a lot of things to be grateful and happy about, this whole state was/is very frustrating. It’s as if you are standing outside your body, looking in and shaking your head. It didn’t make any sense. I had been able to shake things before, but this time felt very different.

When you are stuck in a rut, you tend to hit a point where you become almost angry at how you’re feeling and you’ll do anything to escape the dark place. ‘I am better than this’, I thought. ‘I have every reason in the world to be happy. Be happy.’ I took some action and saw a doctor, began taking antidepressants, but it was right about when I hit this frustration point that I began thinking about what Troy had told me regarding hormone imbalance. I began to research. What I found out…was life changing.

So. My drastic increase in training volume is referred to as Overtraining Syndrome…noted from one of my research sources:

“Mood changes are an early and sensitive marker of OTS. Emotional disturbances usually occur before a noticeable drop in performance and parallel an increased training load. Depression and chronic fatigue represent the most common OTS condition observed in highly fit individuals.”

Isn’t overtraining just being tired and sore a lot?…hmm, well…about 2-3 weeks after my mental state was at it’s worst, I hit a week where I was sleeping in every morning, swapping my normally cherished morning training sessions for half-assed evening ones. I had not been that tired in a very, very long time. And I’m like…really sad. Huh.

‘Ok, so what is going on inside my body, from a scientific standpoint, that is causing this to happen?’ I wondered. As it turns out, endurance athletes are very likely to suffer from out-of-whack Cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone that is released when your body or mind is under chronic stress (read: mental stress, physical stress…basically anything psycho or physiological). The more stress placed, the higher your levels are. According to this, and knowing myself, I have likely been operating on very, very high cortisol levels for most of my life. Wow! No wonder I felt like such shit!

(The other thing I had to research was if the chemicals released into your system from antidepressants interfere with your hormone levels and body chemistry. No real evidence on this, but I couldn’t help but wonder if one was affecting the other).

A secondary  yet equally interesting side effect of high cortisol levels, is decreased testosterone (this happens because Cortisol is recruited from OTHER hormones when you hit a certain level of stress and your others are depleted of it…thieves!). Important to note, this inhibits muscle growth, which can obviously lead to an increased chance of injury as well (and in women, it can really mess with your cycle…which causes a whole other set of issues). Suddenly, it made sense to me…strength training for endurance athletes is not only important to keep you functionally strong and balanced, but the secretion of testosterone when you weight train ALSO keeps you, well, more sane. Holy shit. (Ben Greenfield has EXCELLENT resources on how to incorporate weight training into endurance sport training. I highly recommend you read his stuff. He talks about these hormone imbalance issues well).

Ok, so, now what? I can’t cut my volume, or I will never get in shape. I am not going off my medication just yet. Well first and foremost, it is very recommended that one has their hormone levels tested to see what imbalances you have. So there’s that. Then you can troubleshoot from there…

What I found, for the most part, is that there are a ton of alternative additions and changes I can make to my life and training to help regulate these levels and ultimately my mental and physical state while keeping up with my program. I have started to do the following, with almost 180-degree turns overnight:

  • Focus on RECOVERY, both mental and physical – foam roll. Ice-cold showers and lot’s of stretching
  • Meditation (foreign to me, but trust me the power of controlled breath is kinda strangely miraculous)
  • Go to bed earlier. No seriously, just do it. And do anything you can to improve the quality of your sleep (I revamped my curtain situation so that zero light now gets in).
  • Drink less alcohol – this one for SO many reasons, but within the last week I have stayed further away from it and it’s really, really helped
  • When your training calls for an easy run, GO EASY. Decrease the 110% efforts you do. Relax your mind, smile at the people on the trail, walk up the hills if you have to. GO. FUCKING. SLOW sometimes. Crazy how effective this one is…it also helps you maintain Ketosis (more on that, and it’s benefits in endurance athletes, another time)

Am I blaming my depression solely on hormones? Absolutely not. You have to “Do the Work” (READ THIS BOOK) in all aspects of your life. Is it a contributing factor? Yes, I believe it is. Regardless of the causes, I am definitely walking away from my learnings with a greater sense of self, a better understanding of the contributing factors to my performance and well-being, and a more concrete plan on how to move forward with this ridiculously crazy endeavor I am on. I’d call that a solid W.

 

 

 

So Ironman training is…

Fun. Hard. Time consuming. Annoying. Exciting. Scary. All things everyone who has ever trained for anything, ever, knows.

I think the thing about the training that I am most surprised by is my mindset shift. When I “started” the training program, aka had a daily/weekly plan that I “officially” implemented into my life…I had zero concept of the volume. It had just been way too long since I had trained for something like this. It was intimidating as all hell. With GoRuck HCLS, I honestly relied on sheer fitness and luck to get through the intense amount of mileage we covered (over 65 miles total). When I began this journey, the HOURS you spend swimming, running, cycling, etc…seemed daunting. Now, they feel doable. And I get excited about some of the days. All good signs. Signs I have turned completely nuts. I’m one of THOSE tri-nerds now.

This whole “your life becomes training” ordeal people speak of, it’s completely true, and I’m a huge fan so far. I have found the love of engulfing myself into it, great timing because I happen to be going through a pretty rough and depressed emotional state for some personal reasons, and I have to say, that training is saving me. When I get down or sad or angry, I literally pop my laptop open and google search training plans, biking tips, ironman tips, all that stuff. It keeps my mind focused on the prize and away from going down a rabbit hole. Who has time for that anyway. When I swim, I feel calm. Cycling class occupies my mind and leaves me breathless. Running is my savior, it has always been the best dose of therapy for me. Training is saving me.

I ALSO GOT A NEW BIKE. New toys make for better moods too, am I right? She’s a 2016 Specialized Ruby Sport…and she’s beautiful. You can check her out on my Instagram. 🙂

What else is happening…well I am in love with my work and it’s going REALLY WELL. I feel accomplished, important, very successful, more of an adult than I ever have, oh, and guess what else, I moved to Walnut Creek! I think I love making fun of the suburbs JUST as much as I love living there. Space! A garage! A yard! Lucy can run around without abandon (kinda)! She also has a perma-friend (my roommate has a dog) so that keeps me sane as well. I actually enjoy driving to places like Target. And I live super close to my family. And my little morning routine of smoothies after a tough gym workout at the foo-foo gym snack bar are like, uh, amazing. It’s waspy and hilarious, but I am in love with suburban life. For now.

I miss San Franciscan life sometimes…Postmates (aka anything and everything on demand and delivered to you, always), really good coffee, lot’s of amazing cocktail spots, walking anywhere, those bridge views, the fog (yep, the fog), feeling apart of a “bubble”, insanely interesting people…actually, one hilarious differentiation I have made between SF and the burbs is the dating scene. I am on a few dating websites (Tinder and Bumble, for those in the know), and in SF, every guy you encounter is CEO or CoFounder or VP of this or that, and in the east bay…it’s more like “Construction” or “Teacher”. I haven’t really been out on many dates since living here so I can’t judge too much, but it’s a noticeable difference and somehow makes me think that the stereotypes about SF dwellers being know-it-all brats is true. That would make me a know it all brat. Really? Really. But now I am in the burbs being a know it all brat, so I’m like a hybrid. I’m a Fiat 500e. Sweet.

Lastly, I have some REALLY fun news! I was selected to be a Movemeant Foundation Ambassador for 2016 – 1 of 30 women across the country that will stand for women finding strength, self-love, and power through fitness, getting out of their comfort zone and getting active. I am so proud and honored to be a part of this elite group of women. I will be hosting some events, doing some promotions, and getting to walk alongside these incredible women in this journey to get women moving and be proud of their bodies….more to come so stay tuned!

Love and forza,

Lindsey