National Running Day!

Today is National Running Day! I encourage everyone to go outside and run. You don’t have to run far or fast – a few blocks is better than nothing. Bring a friend, spouse, or the kids! it’s a day to celebrate fitness, fresh air, and taking a little time away from our computers and favorite television shows and to enjoy the long summer days! Happy running!

New Website and New Offerings

img_6984-editGreetings runners and fitness enthusiasts! As you can see, “Coach Corky Runs” got something of a face-lift over the weekend. I hope you like the new website. A few more things will be added and changed in the next week or so. Feel free to bop around it and give me some feedback. Something you want me to add? Something that’s hard to find? Something you love? I welcome your comments!

I’m planning to add more to my “resources” tab, with links to sports doctors, massage therapists, local running stores, etc. So if YOU offer a service geared toward athletes, send me an email and we can talk about adding your link to my “resources” page!

A tab with links to all of my publications will be added.

I’ll be adding more “news” about my own upcoming goals and training, fitness modeling work, and my clients’ recent achievements!

As Spring is finally starting to slowly show her face here in NYC, Coach Corky is offering group classes! For more info, see the tab at the bottom of the page. I don’t know about you, but I am REALLY excited about that one!

You can also anticipate a few guest blog entries from one of my runners, as she’s preparing for her first marathon! I know she has a lot to share, and unlike many of my athletes, she lives 1500 miles away! She also happens to be my little sister. I think her perspective on running, things she’s learned and tips she can share will be especially beneficial for newbies and folks thinking about their first marathon! I am incredibly proud of how far she’s come in the last year of running, and she hasn’t even hit the marathon starting line yet.

I am *hoping* to start working on a book – but don’t hold me to it. I’m so busy running around that it might not be finished for a few years. I am also thinking about working on a podcast or weekly/biweekly vlogs. I’d love to share more info with all of you, and have on some amazing guest speakers!

Happy running!

Coach Corky

“The Biggest Loser” loses big

Liz-Corkum-516Unless you live under a rock, you have probably heard about the recent “Biggest Loser” scandal. If this is the first you’ve heard of it, kudos to you for being too busy with more important things! Let me preface this blog by saying that though I have watched seasons in the past, I did NOT see this season, so all of my information is from news articles, video clips, twitter, Facebook and conversations with clients. I should also be clear that I don’t personally know any of the trainers or contestants who have ever appeared on the show.

What I like about “The Biggest Loser” – the show has motivated thousands of people to get off of the couch and to get active. That’s a great thing. I am a fan of anything that positively motivates people to do something to better their health, life, priorities and mental state. There’s no denying that ‘The Biggest Loser” has become a vehicle for weight loss. I remember watching “The Biggest Loser” before I was a personal trainer, before I had run my first marathon, and before I had run my first race. I also remember feeling inspired to never cut a workout short or to give any less than my best. I’m sure part of that inspiration came from inside me, but the show always gave me a kick in the butt.

That’s where the warm and fuzzies stop.

First, let’s talk about the role of a Personal Trainer. A personal trainer’s job is to educate, motivate, create a training/nutrition plan, and to SAFELY guide their client to their goals. The trainer is a teacher. They are the expert, often educating their trainee on basic nutrition, exercise and health. This is a huge responsibility. I can personally say that as a Personal Trainer myself, I take my responsibility extremely seriously. I realize that another human being is entrusting me with their health, goals, and life. I educate my clients on nutrition, workouts, rest and recovery. I make sure they understand basic nutrition, how to correctly use machines and go through drills and workouts, and I explain the purpose of the workouts and the training plan. Fitness and nutrition succeed when they become part of your lifestyle. There is no magic pill or crash diet that will give my client what they want in a healthy, sustainable way. As a Personal Trainer, not only do I worry about injury and injury prevention, but also the mental state of my client. Yes, being a good Personal Trainer takes a lot of care and work, but it is worth it. There are lots of excellent trainers out there, changing the lives of people everyday. Personal Trainers also motivate their clients. Personally, I am a believer in positive reinforcement. I will NEVER call somebody fat, lazy or slow. If I need to be firm, I tell them to dig deep, focus on that workout, and remember how far they’ve come and how far they want to go. Positive energy is contagious. The trainers who yell and belittle their clients are assholes. Period. Personal trainers create workout and nutrition plans, often looking at the big picture and not what can be achieved in the first few weeks or months. The clients dietary needs, likes, dislikes, and workout demands are factors that go into the plans I create. As you can see, being a Personal Trainer has to be a labor of love. A Personal Trainer also needs sound scientific, nutrition and medical knowledge – even if just on a basic level.

On the “The Biggest Loser” Ranch, the contestants live an extreme lifestyle. If you think people can safely drop the percent of bodyweight achieved in the amount of time the contestants are on the show, you’re wrong. Consuming an extremely reduced caloric intake – around 1,200 for women, 1,800 for men, and sweating out calories for SEVEN HOURS per day is simply not sustainable or safe. Yes, that insane combination will make for drastic weight loss and captivating television. Sure it can be done, but should it be done? No. Besides, no sane person left to their own devices would put themselves through that lifestyle on their own.

As far as Rachel’s scary weight loss, she played the game. Yes, if she were my client I would be very concerned about her wellbeing – both physically and mentally. No, I don’t know all of the details regarding who she is, how she trained, and what she’s eating or not eating. I can guess and speculate, but that’s not fair to her. Frankly, I feel bad for her. She transformed from an obese, self conscious young woman into a thin woman under fire. She felt judged for being fat and now she’s judged for being thin. Let us remember that “The Biggest Loser” is a game show with a cash prize. It is also a show where people put their lives in the trusting hands of health professionals. As far as the game goes, she did what she had to do to win. Arguably, if I were in her shoes I might do the same thing. Again, there’s a big cash prize. Perhaps the problem is at the core of the show’s concept: its a game show first and foremost, and the health and wellbeing of the contestants is not the priority.

Let’s also dig up the motivation of the personal trainers on the show. All of the trainers have book deal, workout videos, cook books, guest appearances, and huge endorsement deals with unproven and potentially dangerous weight loss supplements. They have all created fitness empires. Folks look up to them as experts, and will buy anything with their faces and names on them. They are brands. Part of me says “good for them.” They have used their platforms to educate and motivate others. They have also used their platforms to make a lot of money. All the trainers also have decent contracts with NBC and “The Biggest Loser” brand. So I think it’s fair to say that while as trainers their #1 priority should be their trainees, the trainers on the show have a lot to gain and a lot to lose.

I’m sure everyone over at NBC and “The Biggest Loser” will say that the contestant’s wellbeing was their first priority. Let’s get real: ratings and the future of the show is the first priority. And perhaps that’s the problem. I am shocked that as of the date I am writing this blog, none of the trainers have come forward or spoken out about Rachel’s health, training or nutrition, or to voice their concern. Instead, the entire team has kept quiet. I cannot honestly believe that if this woman’s health is the priority they would keep quiet. As a trainer, it would be irresponsible, especially when you have such a platform and fitness empire, to keep quiet at a time like this. It’s not the pleasant part of being a trainer, but it is our job to voice concerns, praise progress, and keep our trainees healthy. Especially with the platform they have built, if these trainers spoke out, everyone would listen.

Now I understand that many people love “The Biggest Loser” and admire the contestants and the trainers. If you are still trying to defend the show, here are a few more ugly facts: This season, Jillian Michaels cheated by giving her contestants caffeine pills without doctor’s permission or clearance. Michaels and Harper claim to advocate “diet and exercise” on the show, yet both are endorsing weight loss pills. You can read more about that here. How can you have it both ways?!? Numerous accounts of the contestants using diuretics and other forms of dehydrating themselves during their time at the Ranch have surfaced many times over the years. Stress fractures, heat stroke, mental breakdowns, hospitalization, peeing blood – just a few of the dangerous conditions that have happened on the show. The trainers are often shouting in the faces of the contestants, bringing them physically and mentally to their breaking points.

I suppose we all need to remember that “The Biggest Loser” is a game. It was a show created for ratings. Sadly, contestants like Rachel are the folks who are perhaps no better off than the day they showed up on the Ranch. That poor young lady has been torn apart every day since the finale. I sincerely wish her well. And perhaps if we choose to watch “The Biggest Loser” we need to remember that the trainers on the show are using it as a cash cow, laughing all the way to the bank. I’m not saying that the trainers don’t care about the contestants. I hope to god they do. However, I think their credibility and motivation as trainers can be questioned. Yes, they are brands and the face of an extremely successful television show. All it cost them was their reputation as Personal Trainers.

Wilhelmina Fitness Model Finalist

Models: Pipko and Jasmina, Assisted by Jesse Rosenthal and Andrea HeapSome of you may know that when this coach is not training herself or others, she is also an actor and model. This blog entry is going to give you a glimps into a recent experience I had in a fitness model competition.

Back in November, Wilhelmina Model Agency launched a national search for fitness models. With 15 minutes left before submissions closed, I decided to toss my hat into the ring. Like most opportunities in the acting in modeling world, you have to let it go the minute you walk out of an audition or you will go crazy. Unless you live under a rock, you probably have an idea of how competitive the entertainment industry is, and how much of the outcome is about luck, timing and who you know. So I more or less forgot about submitting for the Wilhelmina contest as soon as I hit “submit” on my computer.

A few days later, I received the news that I was one of 20 semi-finalists, and needed to submit additional photos, a video demonstrating what I do to stay fit, and an essay explaining why I should be the next Wilhelmina fitness model. I scrambled to make a video, which wasn’t easy as it was a FREEZING weekend in NYC and I wanted to share how much I train outside. I also briefly filmed a few moves I do at the gym, and then recorded a few exercises I can do in my apartment. I had lots of fitness photos in my portfolio, and writing comes naturally to me – so the video was the most challenging – especially because it had to all be submitted within a few days, and Chris and I had a VERY busy weekend.

Once again, after I sent in all the material, I tried to forget about the competition. The only catch – the four finalists would be selected by judges and one finalist would be a “fan favorite,” so voting was important. I told myself that if I wasn’t a judges pick, I didn’t want to be in the top five. Personally, I hate asking and begging people to do anything for me – especially voting for something online. I am asked CONSTANTLY to vote for friends, donate to fund films, art projects, charity races – I didn’t want to be another person using social media to ask for folks in my network to vote for me. However, I bit the bullet and posted to link to the contest a few times, and to my surprise, a few friends shared the page, reached out to their friends, and were extremely supportive.

Again to my surprise, I made it to the finals. To my relief, I was a judges’ pick – though I REALLY appreciated the votes. If the judges hadn’t picked me, my votes might have gotten me the fifth and final spot. I don’t know for sure, but either way I was grateful for the support.

The finals took place this week in NYC. The other four finalists were warm, friendly, fit and fun people. It quickly became clear to me that I was in good company – but that also meant that it was anyone’s game. We were also each extremely different, with extremely different athletic niches, looks, strengths, weaknesses, experience, etc.

Here’s an abridged version of what the two days looked like:

Tuesday: I woke up at 4am to go coach one of my marathon-bound runners out in the 13 degree, dark, windy morning on the 6th street track. At 12pm, the other finalists and I had lunch and toured the Wilhelmina office, and met a few of the folks there. We got to know each other a bit over lunch, and learned a bit more about the role of a Wilhelmina fitness model. From there we were dropped at NY Sport and Racquet Club for a grueling hour-long boot camp class. I don’t know if it was the early-morning pacing, or the miles I’d clocked the last week (and the Goofy Challenge 10 days ago!), but my legs were shaking, weak jello within the first 10 minutes. I lost count of the amount of pushups, planks and burpees we did, but let me tell you – I have never felt so weak. I would have rather gone out into the snow storm and clocked 20 miles, or speedy repeats on a track. The bootcamp did not show my strengths, and played on my weaknesses. Having the judges watch me struggle certainly didn’t help. After bootcamp, we went back to our hotel to clean up and then we were off to Catch for dinner together and with the folks at Wilhelmina. it was nice to chat in a lovely restaurant, and a relaxed atmosphere.

Wednesday: At 8:30am the finalists and I were off to our fitness shoot, which would be followed by meeting with the judges and then the announcement of the winner. The production team was awesome – everyone was fun, professional and supportive. As the five of us took our turns shooting, we all played on our strengths. It set in during the shoot that the odds I’d win were very slim. Here’s why: the other two ladies are dancers and extremely flexible. They could get their bodies into poses I could never even dream of getting my body into, the the poses photographed beautifully. The guys were both incredibly strong, and though they didn’t hit moves like the dancers, they we both great and holding workout poses that amplified their muscle definition. Then there was me. How many times can a running run through the shot in a white studio and make it impressive? I tried to relax, but when asked about posing and stretches, I felt like an ass hole. As a fitness model, I would certainly benefit from some time in yoga or dance classes. The interview with the judges made me nervous, and in hind sight, I wish I had opened up a bit more.Models: Pipko and Jasmina, Assisted by Jesse Rosenthal and Andrea Heap

I wasn’t surprised when the winner was announced and it wasn’t me. Sure, I was disappointed, but like I said – the competition was fierce and it was anyone’s game. We are all so different, it was like comparing five different kinds of fruit.

I am extremely thankful for the experience. Everyone at Wilhelmina was so incredibly nice, and I can’t think of anything negative to say about the experience! It was quite the adventure, and out of the 2500 people who submitted themselves, I was in the top 5. I suppose I’m pretty okay with that.

The Perfect Match?

2013-06-25 21.48.17-1It was recently suggested I write a blog about finding a coach and/or personal trainer. Always aiming to fulfill blog requests, here’s my thoughts on the subject.

There are many, many coaches and trainers out there. Heck, there are thousands in New York City alone. Choosing one can seem as daunting as dating, or finding the perfect doctor. You could go crazy going through different data bases, viewing websites, and reading reviews. Hopefully my few tips here will help you feel slightly less stressed out.

– It sounds silly, but it matters to most people if their trainer/coach is male or female, and also the age/experience of said trainer. What’s right for you will be different than the next person. Just be honest with yourself with what you are looking for, and that will help narrow your searches.

– Go with your gut. If you find a trainer/coach who’s website, personality or reputation seems like a good match for you, make contact and see where it goes.

– References are great. If you have friends who are stoked with their trainer/coach and the results they are achieving, maybe you should reach out and see if that trainer is right for you.

– Every person is different. Which means every trainer is different. Ask questions that will help you decide if you two are a good match. After all, your trainer needs to be someone you trust, will listen to, and enjoy working with.

– Look for a trainer/coach who specializes in your needs/goals. If you are looking for a cross fit type of routine, a trainer who specializes in pilates or triathlon coaching may not be the best fit.

– Find a trainer who can give what you need. If you need a trainer/coach with a lot of time for one-on-one attention, a trainer who is already swamped and juggling a bunch of clients may not be able to give you what you need. Then again, a trainer is busy for good reason – so there’s that.

– Remember that you need to be able to be very honest with your coach/trainer. If you don’t feel personality-wise that you can be completely open and honest – about everything from diets and guilty pleasures to mental and physical struggles, that person may not be the right coach for you.

– Consider why you are looking for a coach and what your expectations of a coach are. Is the potential coach able to fill those needs for you?

– If you reach out to potential coaches/trainers and they are either extremely pushy about getting you to sign contracts, or difficult to get ahold of, consider looking elsewhere. Trainers shouldn’t be car salesmen or out of touch. A happy medium is often best.

– Research certifications and ask questions. It’s important your coach/trainer knows what they are doing. Once again, you need to be able to trust them and the program they create for you. If you question their knowledge or process, run away!

If you have any other tips you have for finding a coach/trainer, please share with the class.

Lastly, if a coach/trainer isn’t working for you, speak up. Perhaps with some communication, that person can better assist your needs. Or maybe that person simply isn’t the right coach/trainer for you. At the end of the day, don’t settle until you find someone who motivates you, and gives you the tools you need to achieve your goals.

Read Smart, Exercise Happy

corky6-460x306Recently I have noticed that headlines and magazines are making some fairly scary claims regarding our health. “Sitting is the new smoking” (Runner’s World Magazine), “Pregnant weight lifter debate” (NY Times), and a bunch of other articles debating different diets, cleanses, and workouts. It’s enough to make your head spin.

Remember, publications are written to gain readers. Not to say that there aren’t decent, well-written articles floating around out there with lots of medical evidence to back them up – because there certainly are. However, the driving force behind what’s written is viewership. Money. So before you jump onto the next trend you read somewhere, or watch on a daytime tv show, be skeptical and look for real evidence.

One thing that almost every article, regardless of source, has in common – being active and getting outside is good. All medical evidence points towards exercise being GOOD. I say go out there and do what makes you happy. Just do something. Our bodies are designed for movement. What you choose to do, what you like, is uniquely you.

Love to run with your dog? Great. Surf? Rad. Join a local softball team? Awesome. Become a die-hard Yogi? Namaste. Do what floats your boat, what feels good to you, and what makes you happy. There is not quick fix or magic pill that will make you drop 50lbs., or lower your cholesterol, or increase cardio capacity – those results come from doing. So stop buying into what somebody publishes in a magazine, newspaper or blog (except this one, of course! Kidding.), and tap into your body and soul.

Hola, Honduras!

Leading the class through some ways to use the foam roller. It hurt so good!

Leading the class through some ways to use the foam roller. It hurt so good!

Recently this coach did something new: she packed her bags, flew to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, and taught a 2-day running seminar. It was a wonderful weekend, and I met some passionate runners.

While I have been to Central America before (years ago I went to Costa Rica), I was nervous about a trip to San Pedro Sula. If you don’t know much about this city or Honduras, do a quick “google search” and you’ll understand why. I should also mention that I don’t currently speak any Spanish, making me that much more vulnerable in a dangerous city. However, after a lot of research, chatting with my host, Jorge Marcos, emailing friends who live in Honduras, and chatting with a fellow non-Spanish-speaking New Yorker who has taught seminars in San Pedro Sula multiple times, I decided I wanted to go. Thankfully, my host (and arranger of the program) took great care of me, and I notified the US of my travel plans – just to be safe.

While I never spent any time in the “dangerous” parts of town, security is huge. People hire security guards to watch their houses and tote rifles. Small children beg in the street, pressing their faces again the glass window while stopped at a traffic light. Wild dogs roam the street. Some of the athletes I taught run with a guard in a car, following them for safety. The safety and freedom I experience everyday in NYC is a completely different world from those in San Pedro Sula.

Before I get into the coaching, I will say this: What I saw and experienced was no different from what I had experienced in Costa Rica. In fact, the neighborhood where I stayed was definitely safer (the neighbor has an armed guard) and prettier (at the base of beautiful mountains) than the home I stayed in in San Jose, Costa Rica. Not to say that bad things don’t happen here in this neighborhood, but everyone I met at the stores, coffee shops and restaurants were friendly, smiling people. I never felt unsafe. Of course that doesn’t change the reality that San Pedro Sula is indeed, a dangerous city.

I should also mention that in my brief time there, it was beautiful. Lush mountains everywhere, often with clouds covering the peaks. I hear the beaches are beautiful, and hopefully some day will make it there. Honduras is so beautiful, and I very much hope this country improves economically.

1273009_10151640537086761_830008827_oThe seminar was held over a weekend at Cross Fit, SPS. All of the athletes were bilingual, so there wasn’t a language barrier with them. They were all smart, passionate runners, eager to learn more and to share their experiences with me and the rest of the group. I have to say, I was a bit nervous that my lack of Spanish would be an issue while teaching. While I certainly was helpless in terms of ordering food on my own, I was totally capable of talking about my favorite sport.

I must also confess that I typically work with individuals on their training, not teaching seminars in foreign countries. Was I going to be able to speak about running for 8 hours? Would I be clearly communicating? Would I confuse newbies? Would they lose focus? Honestly, I didn’t know exactly how it would go, though I was confident in my knowledge of the sport and knew I was walking into the seminar with information and a passion they would hopefully appreciate.

If I could teach seminars every week to groups of runners, I totally would. I enjoyed it so much. I loved hearing about their race goals, their previous experiences, and taking them out for a short run. I loved making them laugh as I shared some of my own experiences – especially the mistakes. The entire seminar was great.

So much thanks to the athletes in San Pedro Sula, Jorge, and the folks at CrossFit SPS for what was a truly great weekend.

Fat Facts

img_6105-editLet’s face it, everyone wants to have abs. Just check out people at the gym, and the ab machines are constantly in use. I am also going to bet that most of the folks on the ab machines, or on the floor hammering out crunches will give up sooner or later, no closer to that six-pack than when they started.

Here’s the thing: you will never see that six-pack unless you reduce your overall body fat percentage. Everyone has core muscles. Some are obviously stronger or larger than others. But as long as your body fat level is too high, you won’t see them. Just to be clear: in order to see your abs seriously pop, your body fat has to be very LOW. So saying that your body fat is too high to see abs doesn’t mean you are fat. It just means your body fat level is too high to see your core.

So, while strengthening your core is beneficial for lots of reasons, you will have to drop some fat to see those abs. If you are already in great shape, shedding those few extra pounds can be a struggle – especially for women. Ladies, we simply have bodies programmed to hang on to fat, so we have got to be strong and extremely motivated to shave that fat percent down.

The cool thing: the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. So those ab workouts are indeed beneficial. Just be patient and stick with it. Cutting calories a bit can help too. Just remember to cut those empty calories, not nutrient-dense foods your body needs while training.

Cruise Control

IMG_2916I recently left dry land, my cell phone, email, and normal life in NYC for eight beautiful days sailing and exploring the Western Caribbean. I documented my trip, and will post the video blog in a few weeks. That blog will give some tips of staying active and on track with a training plan, and unfortunately how difficult that was. More on that later.

Folks, I think we can all agree that America is, in general, an overweight culture. If you don’t agree, go on a cruise. Seriously. The health risks so many of the passengers are putting on themselves due to what they put in their mouths – it’s so sad.

I am not saying that everyone should be thin, or feel pressured to look a certain way. The stigma if what is “attractive” causes so much emotional damage, and is never positive even as weight loss motivation. Frankly, looks have little to do with it. I am not talking about people carrying around an extra 10-20lbs., but those carrying around an extra 100-200lbs. You cannot hide the evidence of your lifestyle while walking around in swim wear.

Perhaps I was so baffled by the reality of just how out of control the obesity issue is because in NYC, though there are certainly obese people, the number of obese or morbidly obese was nothing like it was on the ship.

I am not judging those who are obese, morbidly obese, or even over weight. However, as someone who is passionate about health (physical and mental), and reversing this obesity epidemic, my heart breaks to see folks slowly kill themselves. If anything, the cruise reaffirmed how strongly I feel about the need to reverse the course Americans are taking, and how I want to be a leader in that movement.

The first step is recognizing and acknowledging that we need to change. How we manufacture, market, understand and prepare food needs to be questioned and examined. Education regarding nutrition and exercise are practically non-existent, and many medications (which are dished out left and right!) have many side effects that can contribute to depression, change in mood, and difficulty losing weight. How we view happiness, self worth, confidence – so many of us turn to food for these things. I’m part of the class, folks. Don’t believe me? Check out the recent blog entry “Comfort Food” where I share my own personal struggle with food, body image and self worth. We are all in this together.

I guess what I am taking back from the cruise is this: America is fat. Liking “going to slowly kill ourselves while stressing the health care system” fat. It makes me sad. It makes me angry. Not at the fat people, but at the manufacturers, advertisers, and media. It makes me want to help.

If YOU need help, it’s out there. Yes, it takes some major work to admit you need help, ask for help, and follow through with the plan. It’s much easier to ignore it. But I PROMISE you, if you can extend your life by a few decades, and more importantly the QUALITY of your life, isn’t it worth a little work?

Comfort Food

We all have different relationships with food. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you are in control of how you choose to eat, and how food fits into your life. This blog was prompted by going through some old home videos and seeing how I looked 10-6 years ago. I was floored by the person I saw on camera. That person isn’t me. That person is completely different, and has a completely different relationship with food than I do today.

Me in 2004. The years of birth control, diet pills, starving and bingeing. Not a happy person.

Me in 2004. The years of birth control, diet pills, starving and bingeing. Not a happy person.

I am going to get a bit personal here in hope of connecting with you and reminding you that we all struggle, we all fail, but we can always pick ourselves back up. Okay, so here we go….

I began using food for comfort in high school. I was bullied a lot, and found food to be a way to cope. I would eat healthy food at home, but would stop on the way to school, home from school – whenever, and pick up food. Often it was fast food, or bags of chocolate, or swedish fish, or bags of chips, or pints of ice cream. I would eat to calm myself. Luckily, thanks to good genetics, and dancing 8+ hours per week, I was never considered “heavy” or overweight. I recall at my heaviest point topping the scale under 150lbs., a size 6-8, and a 36C at 5’7″. So no, I was never obese or anything.

However, my relationship with food wasn’t healthy. Honestly, I was extremely damaged due to being bullied, so by the time I went to college I had this concept of perfection and felt like a disappointment. The hours I would spend going through outfits, trying to find something that I didn’t feel pudgy or awkward in – all for what? I didn’t like myself. When you don’t like yourself, and at times question your worth, you can become desperate.

It’s a bit of a miracle that I didn’t balloon in college. Perhaps going to the gym daily, out of fear of gaining weight, or not being cast in a show (I was going to school for a degree in Musical Theatre), kept me out of the Freshman Fifteen Club. Because in college, I did not eat well. Midnight pizzas. Tons of booze. Pina Coladas were a favorite. Lots of bagels and granola. This was also when I experimented with weight-loss pills. It was a sick cycle. Popping pills. Hours at the gym. Midnight Pizza and booze. And I wasn’t happy. I was self-loathing. Insecure. Miserable. I dreamed I had the money for Lipo.

It should also be noted that I was on birth control pills, which in my experience, can have a HUGE effect on weight loss/gain, mood, sex drive, confidence, and more.

When I realized the diet pills weren’t doing a darn thing, I went to crash diets, and upping the amount of gym time. I began cutting calories, writing them down, and feeling like a disappointment if I consumed more than 1200 calories per day. ironically, I never dropped any weight while “starving” myself. Maybe the birth control? Maybe the fact that I’d binge on food after a week of doing “good” threw everything off. Whatever the reasons, I was counting every calorie and judging myself if I wasn’t “strong” enough to control what I ate, while sweating at the gym everyday, not losing any weight, and loathing myself even more.

Looking back, I made a couple huge mistakes. First, I put WAY to much value on being judged due to my size. I didn’t enjoy my time at the gym, but went because I felt like if I didn’t go I would gain more weight. I had some basic nutrition knowledge, but I made some TERRIBLE dietary choices. I also always ended up ‘falling off the horse,” feeling defeated, terrible, and extremely frustrated.

At the age of 23, I went off birth control pills for the first time in five years. As soon as I went off the pill, I dropped weight. It was almost laughable how easy it was to lose weight, thanks to cutting that stupid pill out of my life. My mood and self image changed too, and I began to actually enjoy running and working out for the sake of the experience. I will NEVER go back on birth control EVER again. I could write a blog about how toxic that pill can be.

Flash forward a few more years, and I was running regularly. I still didn’t consider myself a “runner,” and was terrified of the concept of entering a race, but I ran almost daily. It was my sanity. Going through a bad divorce and a few other terrible experiences, running was my time to clear my head. Sweating was cleansing, and something I looked forward to every day. I also stopped using food as a coping mechanism the way I used to, perhaps due to being off the pill? Don’t get me wrong, I would still stress eat, but it was more of a “choice” from here on, and didn’t happen regularly.

Then, at 26 years old, I decided I would run my first race: Philly’s Broad Street Run, a 10-miler held along Broad Street. Before I toed the line for my first race ever, I signed up for the Philly Marathon. My goal: Qualify for the Boston Marathon. I had turned over a new leaf. Suddenly, I had this desire to test myself. To see how strong I could be. To tackle something that scared me. To no longer care about looking silly, or embarrassing myself, or failing. I somehow decided to let go of all the weak, insecure, damaged feelings I had about myself. I chose to make a change.

Me in 2013. Happy. Strong. Loving food, and no longer obsessing.

Me in 2013. Happy. Strong. Loving food, and no longer obsessing.

Since that first year of racing, my relationship with food and training has evolved. In general, I view food as my fuel for running – which causes me to usually make smart decisions. I decided that if knowledge is power, I wanted to learn about nutrition. So I studied to become a Sports Nutritionist. I also started viewing exercise differently. It suddenly wasn’t about “being thin” or “looking good,” it was about getting fitter and faster. Ironically, any extra weight seemed to melt off me as I trained to be a better runner. In fact, two years ago I dropped so much weight that a few people in my life were concerned. My body had done a complete 180 since my college days, and I had become a calorie-burning machine. I had to force myself to consume MORE calories than felt necessary.

To be clear, I STILL binge eat when stressed. Last week, thanks to a Boston Marathon Bombing PTSD-induced panic attack, I consumed TWO pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, a 6-pack of beer, and a bunch of spring rolls – all within a few hours. Food is still my comfort in a lot of ways. I love food. I always will. Sure, I sometimes wake up with regret the morning after a binge-fest, but I don’t beat myself up over it anymore. One reason: I burn so many calories training for races that I can afford some binge days now and then. The other reason: I don’t care. I mean, I care about my body and don’t want to poison it, but I don’t care the way I did back in college. In the big picture, it’s no big deal, so why hate myself for it?The crazy thing is that I am now the body type I would have killed for back in college. I’m a size 0-2, 32A/B, 130lbs, 5’7″ and STRONG. I used to put so much value on my dress size. Now, it rarely crosses my mind. I am so incredibly comfortable in my own skin that I cannot identify with the girl I was not so long ago. Unlike that college kid, I don’t spend much time at all thinking about my weight, body fat, waist size – it doesn’t matter to me. Instead what I care about is feeling strong, healthy, and working to be the best athlete I can be.

So, there’s my little story. I hope it helps you in some way. You are not alone. We all have our own demons. But you can conquer, or at least tame them. I swear. If I can find ways to change my relationship with food and exercise, you can too. Take a deep breath. Smile. Laugh. And take it one day at a time.