My First Triathlon and What I Want to Remember

IMG_9557I did it. My first triathlon. It was “only” a sprint length, so 1/3 mile swim, 8 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run, but it was a HUGE hurdle for me to face mentally, considering I was and AM only comfortable in 1 of the 3 disciplines. And I only trained for 4 weeks (see my previous post Triathlon 101 – Step One: Commit). And I got a head cold 3 days beforehand, and a migraine the day before (and still have one). And I taught a cardio dance class at 7:30pm the night before.

Beginner poor planning problems.

But I did it.

And for the first time in a long time, I am really proud of myself. I did something… for ME. Something really really scary… TO me.

I want to remember this moment.

I want to remember the BEFORE: that I cried every week for the past month.  I want to remember the DURING: what a panic attack feels like.  I want to remember the AFTER: what a high it is to make it across the finish line, and that high is still going!

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BEFORE: I cried every week for the 4 weeks leading up to the race.

Week One: Crying at the Pool

On my second day of swim training, I had to bring my 7-year-old daughter with me to the pool. I gave her some dive toys and told her she could just play while I swam. And I told her I was going to swim 33 laps non stop.

Well, we got in the pool, and I went off. I did TWO laps. I stopped next to her, and I was on the verge of tears because I couldn’t keep my breath calm enough to continue. I was so disappointed and so upset at myself for not being able to do the 33 laps nonstop like I set out to do. Two. I did only two laps nonstop.

I looked at my daughter and said, “Mama can’t do it. I can’t do it.” I pretty much gave up on the triathlon at that moment.

“Yes you can Mama! You can do it!” she shouted to my surprise.

I had given up but my daughter had not. She gave me that extra push of hope and inspiration to try again. I gave her a big hug and told her, “Thank you cutie.” And I started swimming again, with a new refreshed determination. This time I did it. 33 laps nonstop.

She probably does not even remember this moment, but I will forever. She believed in me.

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Week Two: Crying at the Stoplight

I bought a starter bike three weeks before the race – my first bike since I was 12 years old.  Needless to say, it was my first time wearing cycling shoes and using clip on pedals, and figuring out how to use gears.  On my first real ride, I did a 17 mile loop where the race was going to take place.  It was a great opportunity to check out the terrain, and practice how to shift gears.  Everything was going great.

On my way home in the final few miles, I had to make a left turn at the stoplight.  It was tricky to lift up my left hand and merge to the left turn lane.  That already made me nervous.  But I made it to the lane and unclipped my right foot, ready to stop.  Unfortunately, my weight was shifted to the left, and… because my left foot was still clipped in, I completely fell over like a tree being chopped down.  With cars lined up behind me.  Shocked and embarrassed, I picked myself up, half laughing half crying.  When the light turned green, I didn’t even attempt to get on the bike.  I ran on the crosswalk pushing my bike along – avoiding all eye contact with the drivers around me.

Then I did it again a few stoplights later.  Unclipped my right foot, fell to my left.  Again.  It’s mortifying.

Week Three: Crying at my Dance Class

Two weeks to go and I got most of my gear at this point, including my new Synergy wetsuit, Orca thermal swim cap and Mack ear plugs.  My friend Lizzy and I decided we should do a test triathlon at the actual race site so we could swim in open water for the first time, and see how the bike and run felt afterwards.

I was so nervous that morning packing my car with all the gear I needed for swimming, biking, and running.  I had stomach problems.  I had to pee all the time.  My heart was racing.  I couldn’t focus.

Oh, and I had to teach my dance class first.

Well, I showed up at the dance class, trying to keep my mind focused on what I was going to teach.  But then I made eye contact with Lizzy, and at that exact moment, we both lost it.  I burst into tears because my nerves were out of control.  We wanted to do this test run, but we didn’t too.  I had to share with my dance students what was going on with me because I was a wreck.

Week Four: Crying at my Yoga Class

My theme for my yoga classes this week was “Overcoming Your Fear.”  I taught a wall class on handstands and inversions for my power yoga class.  I found quotes about facing your fears.  I made playlists with songs about confidence and bravery.  I shared honestly about my triathlon and my fears of swimming, or drowning, or simply failing.  And in my last yoga class before the race, I realized that I couldn’t just share about my fears anymore, I was really going to have to face my fears.  Very very very soon.  And yup, you guessed it, tears.

Looking back, I was anxious the entire month before the triathlon.  Some days were just worse than others, but I was constantly anxious.  I don’t cry often.  Maybe in some movies, or once or twice a year… but this month, once a week.  And now I know when I am truly scared, that translates into crying.

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DURING: The panic attack while swimming is REAL.

I want to remember that the swim portion was just as terrifying as I had imagined.  I started the first 100 meters of the swim probably way too fast for my pace, and at the first buoy turn, it got way too crowded. Someone grabbed my leg. There was splashing everywhere. I panicked and just treaded water waiting for the crowds to pass. But then I couldn’t calm down. I was gasping for breath. I refused to put my head in the water. This next 200 meter section was an ugly mix of breaststroke, sidestroke, backstroke, freestyle with my head out of the water, treading water, and doggy paddling. Yes, doggy paddling. I really didn’t think I could keep going. I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to climb onto the kayaks and give up. I told myself I’d never do this again. I told myself I couldn’t do it. I hated that moment.

Then I turned the final buoy (still doggy paddling) and remembered my swim experience with my daughter 4 weeks ago.  I didn’t want to fail my kids, who were watching me swim and cheering me on.  I couldn’t give up.  And I didn’t want to doggy paddle to the swim finish line.  So somehow that mental switch composed me and I was able to catch my breath.  I told myself to finish slow and steady the final 200 meters just like I have been training. I swam freestyle the final third, simply motivated by the fact that I was so close to getting out of the water.  I was calm and happy getting out of the water.

But those few minutes in the middle were seriously MISERABLE.  Panic attacks are no joke.  A few minutes felt like eternity.

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AFTER: Believe in yourself.

After the slowest swim ever, I made up a lot of lost time on the bike ride. Somehow I relied on my strength and muscles and just went for it. As fast as I could. And I LOVED it. Surprisingly, the bike ride was my favorite part by far and I had a huge smile on my face the entire ride.

The run was consistent and steady as expected.  I was surprised I held an 8 minute pace even though it felt like a 10 minute pace.

My finish time was 1:08:03 and what in the world? I was 54th overall and got 3rd place in my age group (females 35-39)!!! I seriously was just trying not to be last! I left before the awards ceremony but for sure that would have been my first podium!  HA!  Now THAT was unexpected.

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I want to remember all of this while it is fresh.

My highs.  My lows.  My super highs.  My super lows.

Wow, what an experience.  WHAT. AN. EXPERIENCE.

Now the question is… do I keep training and try it again???  Can I compete my best effort next time versus having a panic attack?  Or was the swim that terrifying that I don’t want to put myself through that again?  Or should I just go back to my handstands?

Or both?  =)

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Thank you thank you to all of you who have read my post to here… who have silently cheered me on this past month.  Thank you for believing in me.

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Halloween Family Costume 2018: Finding Nemo (again), Jellyfish, and Daddy Shark Do Doo Do Do Doo

I posted our Finding Nemo Halloween family costume 5 years ago when my older daughter was Nemo, I was a sea anemone, and my husband was a scuba diver.  Well, fast forward to this year, and now my younger daughter fits the Nemo costume, so we had to revisit this aquatic theme again since the Nemo costume is so cute.

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It was perfect because I actually just got a new Synergy wetsuit for an upcoming triathlon, so I found our original US Divers snorkel set and remade the scuba diving backpack and accessories for my part of the costume.  Here is my original post on how to make a scuba costume.

Halloween Costume Scuba Diver Tank

For my older daughter, we made a jellyfish costume that I thought turned out so wonderful that I don’t want to take it apart now that Halloween is actually over!  I am thinking of hanging it on the ceiling in their bedroom!

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So because I am too busy and overscheduled, of course this all got put together the day before Halloween.  Actually, the EVENING before Halloween.  We went to the Halloween store first to see if we could just buy a Dory costume for my daughter, and a shark or turtle for my husband.  But we couldn’t find anything.  So at 6:30pm, we drove to Michaels and bought:

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  • A large sheet of turquoise felt or fabric 36×36 (if needed)
  • 2 large googly eyes (optional)
  • 2 different loop yarns of varying turquoise colors
  • Turquoise duct tape
  • That’s it!  We already had a kids umbrella at home, so we didn’t need to buy one.  If you need an umbrella, I really like this blue clear umbrella so that you could skip step one altogether!

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1. Cover the umbrella with turquoise felt or fabric (if needed).

Measure the umbrella and make sure the fabric is large enough to cover all the surface area.  36×36 was perfect for my kids’ umbrella.  I cut a little hole in the center for the tip of the umbrella to poke through.

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My daughter and I used the turquoise duct tape to secure the four corners of the felt first.  Then we taped the sides until no fabric was loose or hanging.

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Nobody sees the inside, so don’t worry about making it pretty.  But do use lots of tape!

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2. Make the jellyfish eyes (also optional).

So actually, jellyfish don’t really have eyes like we do.  Except for the box jellyfish which has 24 eyes, but 2 of them kind of look like ours.  My daughter wanted eyes, so… we put eyes on!  Originally I was going to buy white felt and black felt, and make large eyes, but then we saw these perfectly matching googly eyes and decided to get them.  They are 4 inches tall.

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3. Make the tentacles.  

This is the most important part of the costume in my opinion!  We looked through thin yarn, thick yarn, wooly yarn, all sorts of yarn, and finally found these looped yarns, which had the most dimension and “waviness.”  It was the perfect choice!  You really have to see and feel the different varieties to see what you like.  My daughter chose these because she said they were so soft.

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My daughter is 48 inches tall so I measured and cut the tentacles to be about 36 inches so that they wouldn’t drag on the floor.  Then my daughter used the duct tape to tape them all around the umbrella.   We used 24 strands of tentacles.  The remaining pieces of yarn we made into a necklace for my daughter to wear with tentacles hanging down.

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That’s it!!!  Here she is during the school parade.  LOVE this jellyfish costume so much!!! Now can you imagine it hanging from the ceiling in their bedroom?  I think it would be such a fun decoration!

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OK… so 3 out of 4 costumes done.  Dada’s turn!  Da-ddy Shark Do DOO Do Do DOO…. “Dada can you be a nice shark?” asks my little one, AKA Nemo.  Ok Nemo, ok.  He won’t eat you, but he will eat your candy.

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1. White Belly

My husband approved of this costume, because, well, he got to wear sweats and a hoodie.  Which is what he would have worn trick-or-treating anyways.  So why not just “decorate” his hoodie???  I found one of his old grey hoodies and had to cover up the USC logo in the front.  Perfect, because a shark needs a white belly!  I only had 8.5×11 white felt, so I used 2 sheets to cover up the logo, but ideally if you have a larger sheet of felt, one sheet would be better.

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Just round out the corners so there is a vertical oval on the belly.  Since everything I make is usually temporary, I stick with duct tape versus sewing or gluing.  Temporary.  It works!

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2. Shark Mouth

I found a thicker white felt sheet that was stiff versus flimsy, and it happened to have shimmer.  I cut a large zig zag line across the center (vertically).  These are the shark teeth, one on each side of the hoodie.

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I took the duct tape and taped on the even ends to the inside of the hoodie.  Nothing pretty.  Just securing the teeth as much as possible!

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Next, I cut one red felt sheet in half vertically and rolled up duct tape to stick the red lining on the inside of the hoodie (covering up most of the duct tape I used to stick the white teeth down).  I like the red accent to make it really look like the inside of a mouth!

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3. Final Touches

I saved 2 thin strips of red felt and cut them into thirds.  I rolled up duct tape to stick the red felt onto the sides of the hoodie to make it look like shark gills.  I used 3 on each side.

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Then I used a pair of googly eyes at the top sides of the hoodie.

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Finally, I made the fin with a thick black foam sheet.  I couldn’t think of anything else but using duct tape to hold the fin in place.

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So hard to take a selfie and capture the entire shark!!!  But you get the idea!  Now let’s put all our costumes together!

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Happy Halloween!!!

 

Previous Halloween DIY Costumes:

Halloween Family Costume 2013: Finding Nemo

Halloween Family Costume 2014: Turtles

Halloween Pregnancy Costume 2014: Turtle

Halloween Family Costume 2015: Pandamania

Triathlon 101 – Step One: Commit

Tandem Electric Bike Around Angel Island

The last time I rode a bike was renting this tandem electric bike to ride around Angel Island for my mom’s birthday. Not a triathlon approved bicycle, I’m sure.

What in the world did I just commit to?

I went on a run a few weeks ago with my fitness twin, Lizzy (both of us were born on March 10th, although I am 5 years older).  We run regularly once a week for an hour or so.  We’ve both run a marathon before (for me, it was a one-time 26.2 miles when I turned 26 years old).  Yeah, so I’d say we’re average runners.

Lizzy told me that she started taking swim classes in the start of September (and like me, she had never officially swam a lap before), and she had worked up to swimming a mile each class.  And… with this new “skill,” she had a goal of training for a triathlon.  Not just any triathlon, but the Ironman one day.

Lizzy knew she could share this with me because I would understand.  I know she can do anything she puts her mind to.  I know this goal is attainable.  She can absolutely do it.  No doubt.

Problem is, this is where the twin factor comes in, because now I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  Ok, obsessing about it.  A triathlon?  I’m turning 40 in 6 months and do I want to do one too?  It was like a switch in my head that I never knew was there.  And now that switch was ON.

  • No, I don’t swim.
  • I’ve never swam a real lap before.
  • I don’t even have goggles.
  • I never go in the ocean when I am at a beach.
  • I really really really do not handle cold well.
  • No, I don’t ride bikes.
  • When was the last time I rode a bike?
  • I don’t even know how to switch gears.
  • I don’t have a helmet.
  • Forget the helmet, I don’t even own a bike.

Thoughts and thoughts kept circling my mind.  More and more No’s.  More and more stop being crazy.  More and more why do you want to torture yourself?

But just one YES.

A persistent, determined, gritty YES, I can do it.

No!!!  Stop!  Ok, what exactly are the distances of a triathlon?  Let’s get realistic here.  Approximate distances:

  • Sprint: 0.5 mile swim, 12.4 mile bike, 3.1 mile run
  • Olympic/International: 0.93 mile swim, 24.8 mile bike, 6.2 mile run
  • 70.3 Ironman: 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run
  • Ironman: 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run

Given that information, I gave myself a “test run.” After teaching a cardio dance class (I equated it to a short 3 mile run), I took a 40 minute indoor cycle class (covered 14 miles), and then attempted to swim.

Ok let’s break down my swim.  It was a 25 yard pool.  I put on my 7-year-old daughter’s goggles.  I swam 2 laps (back and forth), and could not breathe without huffing and puffing.  I had to adjust my goggles every other lap until I found the right fit so that water wouldn’t leak in.  By then I probably had gone 10 laps (with stops), and I was OUT of breath each time.  I looked around me and all the swimmers around me were lapping nonstop, until finally the lady next to me rested.  I humbly asked her to give me some breathing tips.  She told me to work up to “bilateral breathing” which means taking a breath every 3 strokes and switching sides.  Right stroke with breath, left stroke, right stroke, left stroke with breath, right, left, etc.  I tried.  And failed.  I couldn’t breathe to my left without flailing or gasping for air.  Ack.  So I asked another woman for advice.  She said to just breathe every 2 strokes on my right to start and build endurance.  Then work on drills for my left after.  Ok.  By then I had barely survived 20 laps and basically concluded the triathlon was not possible.  But I was determined.  I wanted to swim for the entire hour.  So I took the 2 stroke breath technique and told myself to slow down my strokes, keep a steady, calm yoga breath, and just go as long as possible.  No rushing.  Yoga breath.  “Just Keep Swimming.”

Miraculously, from 20-66 laps, I did it.  Over half a mile nonstop swimming.  Somehow, breathing often and mentally calming down helped me find a rhythm, and that’s what worked for me.  I was shocked I did it.

Which meant, I can do a triathlon after all, well sort of, if you count a pool swim, an indoor bike, and a dance class.

Ok, so IF this really is possible….. then a triathlon is a huge investment!  It’s not just a one time thing.  With running you can get a good pair of shoes and clothing, and you’re off.  A triathlon requires a lot more upfront costs on things that you should be using again and again.  I thought through what I might need (Note: this is from a Beginning Triathlete point of view):

Swim:

  • Water cap
  • Goggles
  • Swimsuit
  • Wetsuit

Bike:

  • Triathlon padded shorts
  • Fitted top
  • Helmet
  • Wrap sunglasses
  • Cycling shoes
  • Bicycle

Run

  • Running shoes
  • Socks

Yes that will add up.  But at this point, doing a triathlon was something I just couldn’t shake off.  I justified the cost as an early 40th birthday present to myself.

Moving on.

Researching races.  Conveniently (or absurdly), there was a local race in a few weeks.  The Marin Triathlon Sprint on November 3rd, 2018.  A perfect test to see if I could truly survive the cold water and swim, ride a bike, and then finish with a run.  And if it works out, the goal is doing an Olympic triathlon in the Spring, followed by the 70.3 Ironman in Santa Rosa July 29th, 2019.

So that’s where I am at today.  I am in too deep now to backup.  At the very least, I signed up for the Marin Triathlon Sprint.  What I choose to do after is uncertain.  But this is a start.  And we all have to start somewhere right?

I am terrified people.  I am really scared of the water and I don’t want to let anyone down if I can’t do it.  Please pray for me.

And a teeny tiny part of me is excited and giddy.  I am determined.  I am focused.  I am proud of myself for trying to conquer some major fears of mine. I can do it.

Time to go shopping.

Original post written on October 12, 2018.

 

12 Rules While Visiting Japan

Some people may think that Japan has many “rules,” but I think it creates order and a sense of calm. I love rules and I love when people respect and follow rules. I was a Kindergarten teacher after all 😛. These were some of my observations from my one week vacationing in Japan last week:

1) Stay quiet in tight spaces like subways, buses, or elevators so as not to distract the sound space we all share. I remember boarding our first bus after getting off the plane and it was crowded. Like really crowded, standing-room only. And it was completely silent. I was in awe in the best way. Welcome to Japan!

2) Carry your own trash and dispose of it at home. Most people carry plastic bags to carry bigger trash like food containers. There are very few garbage cans. Definitely none are on the streets or in every corner like we are used to. This was my second realization because I was holding an empty water bottle from the airplane all around as we got our luggage, figured out the subway, and got to our hotel. The whole time I was thinking, “Why can’t I find a trash or recycling bin?”

3) Eat in designated areas like benches, tables, or picnic blankets, not while walking around and definitely not in indoor spaces like department stores. I am so used to eating on the go, especially if I buy a hot snack or something. Nope. Resist eating it right away and walk to the side of the road to find a more private spot. Goes along with probably why there is no trash (or crumbs) on the floor.

4) Line up in the order you arrive. Seems like a straightforward rule right? But where else in the world do you see clear, distinguished straight lines for getting on to the subway? Less than a handful of other places I would think. I personally LOVE this unspoken rule because it makes me so anxious in other Asian countries where a huge crowd just forms in front of the subway door and it’s a pushing game. Ugh.

5) Walk on the left, yield on the right. This is the opposite direction for me, but you get used to it. Even on the escalators, everyone lines up on the left side, generously leaving space on the right for anyone who is in a rush and wants to walk up the steps. No need to say “Excuse Me” to pass by. People are just always thinking about each other.

6) Keep your body to yourself. How does such a crowded city like Tokyo manage to walk by each other without pushing or shoving shoulders? Yes, during rush hour the subways will be completely jammed and you will be squished like never before (when this happened for the first time, I started getting a laugh attack because I had never been so tightly packed before, ever, but I kept it a silent laugh because, well, it’s silent on the subway, which made me start to cry and sweat profusely). Even so, it wasn’t creepy. Everyone just looked away, stood still and quiet, and stayed respectful.

7) Respect your elders, and each other. I saw 2 geishas walk by each other, and although they both bowed, the “younger” one clearly bowed deeper. And when you start to observe two people saying goodbye, one bows, the other bows, then they continue bowing back and forth as they walk away. It was so interesting to watch. Ok more about bowing next.

8) Body attention. You know when you talk to someone and then you see their eyes looking somewhere else, or they look down at their phone, or they fidget, or they interrupt, or you generally feel like their attention is just not fully there? Well in Japan, when you greet someone, it is a full on eye contact and physical bow to acknowledge the other person. Somehow the “arigato gozaimasu” or thank you, combined with a full attention bow is much more powerful. For our last night we ate at Kikunoi, a 3 Michelin Star restaurant in Kyoto. At the end of dinner, we had a special tour by the chef. He brought us to the kitchen where all the workers were eating after a long night, and they all immediately stopped eating, stood up and froze looking at us. Complete stillness, complete respect, complete attention. Wow.

9) Bring hand sanitizer and a handkerchief – one thing I wish I had brought. To go along with the no trash rule in number 2, bathrooms have no paper towels to dry your hands with and many do not have soap either. Just a sink with water. I would keep Kleenex too just in case because some public tourist spots did not have toilet paper. Generally however, Japanese toilets are the best. They have warm seats and a million buttons to play with, like even a “music” button if you need more privacy going poop. Ha! And babies? Many bathrooms have built in booster seats for babies so you can go potty without figuring out to hold your baby at the same time! They think of everything!

10) Be prepared to walk. I averaged 12 miles a day just walking around Japan, and that includes a ton of stairs! What I noticed is that elderly Japanese people also walk. I mean, their food is already pretty healthy, so you combine that with the amount of walking they must do??? Easy recipe for a naturally healthy long life!

11) Be on time. My best example is the train system. It is so efficient and the trains are so precise, like 10:52 is your time? You can be sure your train will not wait until 10:53! Even if half of your party is on the train and the other half are trying to get on – those doors will close. Yes we learned that the hard way – I was left behind.

12) Finally, just be observant. When I visit another place, I am an ultra sensitive person to trying to fit in. Probably too much so. You don’t need to completely conform to that culture, however, we just have to remember to be respectful. To open up our eyes and our ears and be willing to change some of our old habits while we are visitors.

Of course there are exceptions to what I wrote above, and these were just my experiences. Yours may be different. But I do hope that you find the Japanese culture as one to admire. I really felt safe. I felt clean. I felt like they were doing something right. Want to know the unemployment rate? It is 2%. That’s something right.

10 Tips For Migraine Relief


So you suffer from migraines too?

I’m sorry… I understand.  I really do.  And for the first time in probably 25 years, I’ve finally figured out how to find *some* relief.  Some.  And if you truly get migraines, you are like me and desperate for ANY relief.  So read on…

I started getting them in my teens, about every 6 weeks, and consistently for 3 days each time.  For 24 years.  Yes the dark room, yes nausea and throwing up, yes please crush my head with some metal plates.

Not my finest moment, but I documented my last migraine attack:

 


Just like everyone’s symptoms and frequencies are different, relief comes in different combinations.

Combinations.  There is not one thing to relieve migraines.  It’s a lot of factors.  I am convinced I get them because my personality is go go GO, so much that I am anxious and stressed all the time, not sleeping enough, not eating regularly, saying yes to everything and then the migraines hit because it is the ONLY way I become forced to do absolutely nothing for 3 days.  Well, I do the bare minimum like go to work still and finish my responsibilities (while literally dying inside), then running home and crashing on the bed not because it makes me feel better but because I  just need to close my eyes and dig my fists into my temples. Sound familiar to anyone?  Oh and you have kids too?  Forget about it.  Worst mom ever.

Wow that was a lot of venting.  Moving on.

Here are 10 tips (or superstitions) that have worked for me:


1) Stay really hydrated.  I literally chug a glass of water about every hour.  Don’t believe me?  This is my water bottle, I mean 64 ounce jug.  I put my daughter’s 8 ounce cup on the side for comparison.  I don’t care how much you hate water.  That’s why I said chug.


2) Goodbye caffeine!  When I got pregnant with my first daughter 6 years ago, I gave up caffeine. If you really need coffee, switch to Decaf and just  let the flavor convince you that there’s a caffeine kick.  Otherwise, tea.  Decaf tea has worked for me… but make sure the tannins in tea are not your trigger.


3) And that is my husband’s wine collection… yup, goodbye alcohol.  Remember, do you want a migraine???  I’m sorry… but it’s the truth.  Alcohol is definitely a trigger…


As a side note, if your significant other is like mine and loves wine but now has no one to enjoy it with, you must get them a Coravin.  It is a device that allows you to pour out a portion of wine through a little needle without popping open the cork and the wine stays fresh.  Pretty innovative!


4) Uh oh.  I know you hate me now.  I hate this post too.  My weakness: chocolate… mmm chocolate.  I love chocolate chip cookies.  I love chocolate ice cream.  I love these chocolate covered caramel macadamia nuts.  $&@!  Everything comes in moderation and is a trial and error PER PERSON.  My solution is everyday I have a whey protein smoothie that uses natural chocolate flavors and it has worked to satisfy my craving without triggering my migraine!  Whew!


5) Aspartame: An artificial sweetener used in lots of drinks or foods is a trigger.  I used to love having Diet Coke everyday.  Or Barq’s root beer.  Reach for that glass of water instead.  Chug chug chug!!!

6) Eat regularly and eat natural foods more often than not.  Fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, basically the less processed the better.  Opposite of fresh food: hot dogs. Sausages.  Those also have nitrates which I know trigger my migraines.  Opposite of fresh food.  Ramen packages that I grew up on and crave, but also have MSG, another trigger.  Natural, fresh, I know where this came from and how it was made or what ingredients it has… and eat regularly, aka let your body have a little bit of nourishment throughout the day.


7) Sleep enough.  Like my girls.  Strict bedtimes.  Full night’s rest.  Ha!  Guilty guilty guilty.  I said I had some ideas for relief… but trust me it’s hard!!!  I went to Hawaii and slept in, took naps, felt great, and the first day I get back?  5 hours of sleep.  Went straight through teaching 3 intense classes in a row plus 4 loads of laundry, cleaning the house, cooking dinner, catching up on work, all while taking care of my 2 and 5 year olds who were cranky from the time change.  Slept 5 hours at the end of that day.  How can I not expect to get a Migraine?


8) Bodywork.  I knew I always loved deep tissue massages but now I know that regular bodywork actually helps prevent migraine attacks.  I carry so much stress (as most people do) in my neck and shoulders.  I used to get massages randomly as a special treat, but a year and a half ago, I started seeing my amazing friend Bill Vrabel at Marin Power Yoga regularly as a form of treatment.  And he’s not a “follow a sequence I was taught” type person.  I don’t have to say anything about where it is hurting and he can follow the energy lines in my body to know where I am tight on any particular day.  You need to find someone like that.  And see them regularly.  My home treatment?  Lying on random tennis balls or using this truMedic massager at home.  Better than nothing!


9) Medication.  I tried meds before and they never worked because I would always take the pills too late.  But I kept taking them in hopes of some magic.  I stopped meds when I became pregnant and was off meds for the past 5 years… and my migraines were worse than ever.  Just last year I was desperate and restarted Sumatriptan.  The difference is I know my body better now that I have had migraines for 25 years.  I know before the migraine is coming.  I know that cloudiness that begins to fog up my brain.  I know that general whole body unwell feeling and loss of appetite.  If you catch that moment BEFORE your migraine, the medicine is magic.  At least it has been for me… and I completely believe my yoga practice has been what has helped me distinguish a deeper level of mind and body awareness.  I am more in tune with my body when it starts to drift into migraine mode.  On to my final tip: #10.


10) Do you do too much?  Are you constantly thinking?  Are you running around like a headless chicken most of the day?  If so, you need some form of stress relief that lets your brain stop thinking.  I recommend yoga.  And just like bodywork, you have to find the yoga class and teacher and studio and community that resonates with you.  You’ll know if you take a class, and simply feel better afterwards.  That’s it.  You’ve found something good.

I started yoga 15 years ago in hopes of relieving my migraines.  But I still drank coffee, alcohol, didn’t watch what I ate, basically did not follow anything else on this list… so… yup still had chronic migraines.  But it’s the combination of all the above.  Maybe it’s because I am a mom now and have to take care of others… that I started to really notice what I needed to do to take care of myself.  You know, like how they say on an airplane to first put on your oxygen mask before your child’s?  All I know is I cannot live with migraines and I cannot take care of my kids when I get an attack.  I needed to find relief, so for the past year I have committed to this list above.  Not perfectly by all means, but *more often than not.*
And for the first year in 25 years, I had only FOUR migraines in 2016 compared to an average of TEN each year (of 24 years!!!) before.  This year, it is April 2017 and boy am I due for one… but *knock on wood,* I haven’t had one yet.  I must be doing something right.

And to me, that shows there is HOPE.  The only reason I wrote this post spontaneously is because for the very very very first time in my entire life, I found hope with my migraines, and I pray that you do too.  I feel you.  I understand you.  These steps are not fun nor easy, and they do absolutely take commitment, but I wish for your healing.  Please leave a comment if any of this has helped.

Love,

Grace

PS #11) Do NOT do no-handed headstands.  They are absolutely a trigger for me!!!  Bad Grace BAD!!!

Mommy and Me Yoga Poses

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Double Butterflies

Our kids just want to spend time with us.  They want to come to work with us, join our date nights, and help with errands.  In my household, I am always doing yoga, so therefore my kids want to do yoga with me all the time!

Teaching our kids yoga can provide them with so many benefits including: having healthy exercise habits, learning body awareness, and building strength and flexibility.  In addition, kids learn emotional skills such as: determination, patience, and focus.  Perhaps the most important lesson is learning how to breathe, and teaching our children to take slow deep breaths when they are faced with challenges to stay calm.

Next time you step on your mat at home, instead of practicing alone, try out some of these fun mommy and me poses!  I guarantee you will both love your time together!

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Double Upward Facing Dogs

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Double Planks

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Double Boats

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Double Chairs

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Double Trees

And one more if you are feeling adventurous… have fun!

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Supported Cobra Pose

 

How To Do A Sun Salutation

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So what exactly is a Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar)?  There are several variations, but in general a sun salutation is a series of poses that flow continuously with your breath, and are often performed in the beginning of vinyasa yoga classes to warm up the body.  The most common sun salutation A consists of 8 main poses:

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  1. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

This is your starting and ending pose.  As a stand alone pose, your feet can be hip distance apart, although in a sun salutation flow, your feet can be together.  Spread weight evenly through the four corners of your feet (outer edges of balls and heels of feet).  Engage your kneecaps, lengthen your spine and lift the crown of your head towards the sky.  At the same time, draw your shoulders back and down, and engage your ribs and naval back towards your spine.  Ignite energy from your feet to the crown of your head, and energize your fingertips towards the floor.  Take as many breaths as needed here to become grounded and still.

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2. Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)

On your inhale, lift your arms up towards the sky and perhaps come into a gentle backbend.  Think of backbending from your upper back, lifting from your sternum versus collapsing in your lower back.

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3. Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

On your exhale, fold forward by hinging from your hips and keeping your spine long.  As you fold, your arms can either swan dive out by your sides, or you can bring your hands together in prayer as you fold.  Soften your knees if

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4. Halfway Standing Forward Fold (Ardha Uttanasana)

On your inhale, lengthen your spine.  Your fingertips can be on the floor or on your shins, and your knees can soften as much as needed to create the extension in your spine.

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5. Plank (High Plank)

On your exhale, step back into plank, keeping your shoulders over your wrists and heels stacked over the balls of your feet.  Engage your core as you continue to lift your naval up towards your spine and prevent your hips from sagging.  Push down through your palms and lift your back side towards the sky.

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6. Low Plank (Chaturanga Dandasana or Four-Limbed Staff Pose)

On that same exhale as your plank, shift your weight forward so that your shoulders move beyond your fingertips and your heels glide forward over the balls of your feet.  Bend your elbows at a 90 degree, hugging your elbows to your ribs.  From the side profile,  your shoulders, elbows, and hips should be in a straight line, and your elbows stay stacked over your wrists.

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7. Upward-Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

On your inhale, press down on your palms and place the tops of your feet on the ground.  Engage your triceps as well as your quadriceps so only your hands and feet touch the floor.  Lift the crown of your head towards the ceiling and draw your shoulders down away from your ears.  Keeping the legs active will prevent “dumping” weight into your lower back.

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8. Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

On your exhale, use your core to lift your hips away from the floor and roll back onto the soles of your feet.  Press weight evenly throughout your palms, especially your fingers.  Straighten your arms and externally rotate your upper arms and shoulders, making space around your neck.  Move your chest towards your thighs and lift your tailbone towards the ceiling, creating as much length in your spine as possible.  Continue to draw your ribs in.  Reach your heels towards the mat, but it is not important for them to touch the mat.  Sometimes softening the knees will help you feel more length in the spine.  Rest for 1-5 breaths.

To return back to the starting Mountain Pose:

9. On your exhale, walk or hop your feet together between your hands.

10. On your inhale, Halfway Standing Forward Fold.

11. On your exhale, Forward Fold.

12. On your inhale, soften your knees, keep your spine straight and reverse swan dive to your Upward Salute.

13. On your exhale, return to Mountain Pose.  Stay for 1-5 breaths and complete the whole Sun Salutation A cycle 3-5 more times.  Feel the warmth in your body that you have created.

“As the sun spirals its longest dance, cleanse us.

As nature shows bounty and fertility, bless us.

Let all things live with loving intent

And to fulfill their truest destiny.”

~ Summer Solstice Blessing