Embrace Forward Motion

Wellness, fitness & personal growth


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Before Rushing Into New Year’s Resolutions…

It’s time for an End-of-Year Review!

End-of-Year Reviews give insight into the past year. New Year’s resolutions are more meaningful (and hopefully longer lasting) if we take time to evaluate our previous year.

Reflection is part of growth and self-improvement, so why would we want to miss out on that?

An End-of-Year Review allows you to:

  • See how you started, how you’re doing and where you’re headed
  • Record progress and personal growth
  • Compare numbers (speed/distance/time) or how you felt throughout the year
  • Notice patterns
  • Identify successes and challenges
  • Brainstorm New Year’s resolutions

Ways to get started on your review:

  • Think chronologically. Take it one month at a time. How did the year go? Which patterns, successes and challenges come to light?
  • Reflect back on last year’s resolutions. How did those turn out?
  • Identify new activities or interests you picked up. Note ones you just tried out and others you continue to do. The new keeps it fun.
  • Time to brainstorm! What would you like to accomplish in the upcoming year?

Ongoing reflection throughout the year keeps you successful. Check out how to Track Your Progress and Start a Fitness Log.

If you’re eager to get started on your resolutions, learn how to Make Physical Activity a Habit.

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DO’s and DON’T’s of Overcoming Injuries: A Personal Discovery

Injuries are unexpected and inconvenient. As a typical 20-something, I sometimes feel like I am invincible. Nevertheless, a recent injury put a halt to my duathlon training. I present to you DO’s and DON’Ts, which I’ve discovered during my recovery, of overcoming injuries, as well as a narrative… because who doesn’t love a good injury story?

Two weeks ago I was out on a training run. Diverting my attention to the side, I stepped where the sidewalk meets the grass. Ungracefully, I fell and sprained my ankle. As I watched my ankle swell up and felt pain in my arch, thoughts of “well, that was stupid” and “there goes my race” flooded in. First lessons:

  • DO watch where you’re going when running.
  • DON’T put yourself down. Recognize mistakes and move past them.

After limping back home a few blocks, I dug up my ankle brace (saved from a previous ankle sprain and foot fracture on my other foot) and RICE’d up my day– Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. And of course, sadly canceled plans and sat at home at a loss of what to do.

  • DO RICE–Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate–the injured limb.
  • DO keep braces, crutches or other injury “accessories”– you may need them again.

A week went by. I used my ankle brace daily, and a crutch the first few days. After talking to trainers and runners, hearing a few “I-wish-I-would-have-taken-care-of-my-injury-when-it-happened-because-now-I’m-doomed-with-weak-joints” stories, and recognizing that I intend to continue running, I set up a visit with the podiatrist.

  • DO go see a doctor if the injury is not improving, getting worse, or you want to figure out what’s wrong exactly and treat the injury accordingly.

Doctor’s advice: Ankle ligaments will take six weeks to heal completely, and the plantar fasciitis should be relieved with stretching. Until then, no running, no biking, no race. Of course I tried to bargain on the biking, but she remained firm with her answer. After giving it some thought, I decided: I’m planning on keeping a well-working ankle for the next 70 years… relatively, six weeks is not that long.

  • DON’T rush your healing time. Cutting off recovery and rehab time will highly increase chances of reinjury.
  • DO think of your recovery time as an investment: one extra week now may translate to an extra year for your limb to properly work years down the road.
  • DO recognize your body has limits. Respect them.
  • DO be realistic about safely resetting goals.

If I had to pick my top two lessons from this experience, these are it:

  • DO stay positive.
  • DO embrace this time as an opportunity to explore new areas of personal growth and wellness.


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Setting Up For Healthy Sleep

A good night’s rest makes all the difference in our day. Good sleep improves our mood and performance, recharges our bodies and minds, and helps us grow.

So how do we get good sleep? To begin, we need to establish the right setting.

In his book Sound Asleep: The Expert Guide to Sleeping Well, Dr. Chris Idzikowski, BSc, PhD, FBPsS, recommends the following tips for setting a healthy sleep environment:

Simplify the Space

  • Reserve the room for sleeping and sex only
    • No work, electronics or pets
  • Eliminate clutter
  • Consider painting walls with calming colors or rearranging furniture (such as Feng Shui)

Regulate the Temperature

  • Maintain a cool room
  • Use breathable natural fiber linens and sleepwear

Keep it Dark

  • Block outside light with heavy curtains
    • May leave a small gap for sunlight to filter in the morning (if preferred)
  • Avoid bright lights
    • Includes phones, TVs and tablets
    • Before bed, turn off the ceiling light and turn on a lamp
    • Opt for night lights with a red, instead of white, glow (if needed)

Nourish the Silence

  • Outdoor noise may be reduced with white noise, heavy curtains, earplugs or closed windows

Pick your Mattress

  • Choose the right firmness for your needs
    • When buying a new mattress, lay down and try different positions. Do not be embarrassed to lay there for 10 minutes–you’ll be spending a lot of time on the mattress you buy

Although some of these items may seem no-brainers, plenty of us are still not getting adequate sleep. Likely, we are not doing all we can to purify our sleeping space. Trying Dr. Idzikowski’s suggestions and changing one aspect of our sleeping environment may just be what we need to be more successful tomorrow.


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Strategies for Sparking Change in Physical Activity

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Change challenges us and helps us thrive, as individuals and as a community. Pursuing and maintaining a physically active lifestyle will allow us to be healthy, happy and productive people.

It’s easier to progress our personal growth when we have direction. The five Stages for Motivational Readiness for Change, as explained in my earlier post Making Physical Activity a Habit, guide individuals on creating lifelong habit changes in physical activity.

Here are strategies you can implement to move up the stages and spark change in your current levels of physical activity:

How to advance through the Stages of Change

1. Identify which stage you are in (for guidance, click here).

2. Read through and consider the following selection of recommendations from Motivating People to Be Physically Active (Forsyth & Marcus, 2003) on how to advance through the stages. Many of these are cumulative and continue to apply as you move up the stages; some are specific to the stage.

If you are in…

Stage 1 – Inactive and not thinking about becoming more active

  • Write down how your sedentary lifestyle is affecting you and your loved ones
  • Determine benefits of physical activity and how much these matter to you
  • Look back at past attempts at behavior change and identify learned experiences

Stage 2 – Inactive and thinking about becoming more active

  • Expand knowledge on benefits of physical activity
  • Identify excuses and issues that prevent you from engaging in physical activity
  • Create achievable short-term goals

Stage 3 – Doing some physical activity

  • Create a plan to substitute 15 minutes of sedentary time in the week with an simple, enjoyable, active option
  • Decide on a reward for achieving your goals
  • Brainstorm ways to overcome excuses that shy you away from physical activity

Stage 4 – Doing enough physical activity

  • Note how you have benefitted from physical activity
  • Think about future obstacles that may prevent you from engaging in physical activity and develop a plan on how to address them
  • Expand your horizons and try out new physical activities

Stage 5 – Making physical activity a habit (maintaining Stage 4 for at least 6 months)

  • Launch long-term goals and track progress on a log
  • Consider becoming a role model to someone who may need motivation to advance through any of the stages
  • Remind yourself that if for some reason you need to pause physical activity, you will be capable of resuming

Most importantly, always remember to praise yourself for your efforts, diligence and dedication. The only one who ultimately can enable your personal growth is you!


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National Running Day: Why Do We Run?

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Every first Wednesday in June is National Running Day. This year, it’s today–June 3rd.

This day showcases the love runners have for running and expands national awareness of the running community.

The theme this year, as organized by National Running Day with their logo (above), is to have runners complete the sentence “I run…” and post it on social media with the hashtag #NationalRunningDay. This can take the approach of “I run because…, in order to…, so I…”, among others.

Whether you are just starting a wellness routine (not even necessarily running) or have been maintaining one for a while, I encourage you to think about why you do it. Get specific about why you favor certain activities over others, and decide what effect those reasons have on you on your personal growth–in mind, body and/or spirit. For example:

  • If you bike every day to lose weight, why do you want to lose weight? Which feelings are you trying to attain?
  • If you like outdoor runs better than running on a treadmill, what is it about the freedom of the outdoors that sparks your enjoyment?

Identifying and evaluating the basics can allow us to refocus and reassess that which fuels our motivation. Ultimately, recognizing why we do what we do can give us a renewed drive to pursue growth and keep us moving forward.


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Track Your Progress: Start a Fitness Log

The best way to assess progress is to track it. Logging fitness will benefit you in various ways:

  • See how you started, how you’re doing and where you’re headed
  • Have a visual of your progress
  • Compare numbers (speed/distance) or how you feel throughout the month
  • Notice patterns
  • Identify successes and challenges
  • Record your personal growth

Here I offer four ways to keep fitness/wellness logs: using a calendar, planner, journal and websites/apps. Feel free to choose the one(s) that best fit your lifestyle.

Using a calendar

As simple as it gets: focus on numbers, not words, as you fill in the boxes.

Ex: Mon, Feb. 1st – Run 2 mi, Tues, Feb. 2nd – Rest, Wed, Feb. 3rd – Bike 20 min.

Using a planner

A planner with daily and weekly entries allows you to record what you physically did and what you are mentally thinking about as you work toward your goals. Some days it can be just factual or include explanation:

Ex. Ran 2 mi on trail, lifted weights ~20 min

Ex: Ran 2 mi on Cedar Lake Trail. Beautiful day, ~70F. Felt good and energetic the entire time. Lifted weights in gym ~20 min after run, focused on upper body.

Suggestions for Daily Entries:

  • What did you do that day? Include work out AND rest days.
  • How did you feel? Did you perform how you expected?
  • What was the weather like?
  • Did you have an insight? Found something that motivated you?
  • Was there a particularly good or bad experience?
  • Recovering from injury or soreness from the previous day? What are your steps for treating it?
  • Is there something new you wish to explore?

Suggestions for Weekly Entries:

  • How did the week go overall?
  • Did you complete a weekly goal, if you have one?
  • What challenges did you perceive or overcome?
  • What do you want to focus on next week?

Using a paper or digital journal

Journals allow for a more expanded version than the Daily Planner Entries, as these tend to be filled in paragraphs of text, rather than short sentences. Ideas flow more freely and may be more expressive.

Ex: Today I biked 3 miles on Cedar Lake Trail. The weather was a perfectly sunny, but a hot 85 degrees, with no wind. The route struck me as boring, and there was a lack of shade. I’ll have to look into other routes in the area that may provide a change in scenery, and hopefully more shade.

Using websites or apps

The best websites and apps I use and recommend for recording fitness are MapMyRun, Endomondo and S Health. For more information on the websites and apps, check out the Resources tab.