Ultramarathon Life Lessons

4 Life Lessons from running my first Ultramarathon

I’ve read a good number of race reports in the recent years as I have gotten more into trail running and longer distances.  I always enjoy hearing about what people learn about themselves on these adventures and generalizable life lessons.  Having just ran my first long distance of that kind, I wanted to reflect on some key points that I was able to take away from my race.

What intrigues me about ultra running is similar to what intrigues me about therapy.  I am fascinated with humans and what we are capable of both physically and mentally.  Being a therapist I get to go on so many journeys of people’s most vulnerable, darkest, intimate, thoughts and feelings and ultra running facilitates vulnerable, dark, intimate thoughts and feelings! Running is just one component in my life that I use to understand myself, life, pain, humans, and internal processes.

Why running and not something else?????  – Because I’m not coordinated. Haha :-P

Without further ado, here are my life lessons learned from running my first ultramarathon:

1. Say, “I’m not Okay” when you’re not OK.

To make a long story short the course was harder than I expected it to be and I fatigued earlier than I expected I would resulting in feeling defeated sooner than I hoped and the slew of negative emotions that came with it.  I realized the course was harder on the first loop.  I ignored it.  I ignored it so much I ran slightly faster the 2nd loop.  I started to realize I couldn’t keep that up and ran the 3rd loop well, but not as fast.  Then I was TIRED! And only halfway through.  It wasn’t until a couple miles in my 4th loop at the midway point aid station that I finally exclaimed “I’m NOT Okay.”

It’s important to give yourself permission to not be OK and voice it.  Society seems to look down on us when we don’t have our shit together.  This adds a lot of stress because not only do we not have our shit together, but we can’t even admit it and have to live this fake life of having your shit together… causing even more stress.  It’s a vicious cycle.  Pretending everything is fine gets you no where….

By finally accepting I wasn’t Okay and voicing it out loud I was able to address it and receive support from others which brings me to my 2nd point.

2. Accept help from others

Americans have an unhealthy attachment to independence so much that I think we progress slower as a society because we are not a team that works together but an independent, narcissistic, power hungry, capitalist competition machine…. But I’m not going to go down that road.

We don’t get ahead in life alone, we get help and it’s OK to get help, it’s normal to get help and hell, life is easier to receive help, so accept help from others (which can only be had by admitting we need it and we aren’t OK – see point 1).

Anywho, back to my run.  On my 4th loop after I exclaimed “I’m not Okay,” I was able to receive encouragement and support from others.  One particular runner was very helpful by giving me permission to slow down, let go of my ego goals, recover, and focus on the main goal at hand – finishing.  This leads me to my 3rd point.

3. Be flexible

I’m a stubborn person and if I’m determined I don’t let up.  This leads to things like never ending arguments with my husband if he doesn’t agree with me… I don’t let up.  The first 3 loops I was determined to get to my goal of under 7 hours clocking a pace that would get me there for sure.  After I admitted I wasn’t OK, and got support from others, I was able to be flexible with my goal and settled on my main goal of finishing.  I had to detach from whatever ego goal I had that had no bearing on my self-worth and just focus on the task at hand – finishing.  So I was still determined and making progress, but not so hard and rigid with myself.  Because as Brandon Boyd so eloquently tells us, “to resist is to piss in the wind, anyone who does will end up smelling.”  This leads me to my next point.

4. Be kind to yourself

To recap: I’m not okay, accepting support from others, being flexible with my goals, and as a result need to be kind to myself.  I couldn’t beat myself up for slowing up and doing what my body needed to recover because beating myself up would have resulted in more negative self-defeating thoughts and it’s hard to run an ultramarathon with negative self-defeating thoughts.  Also, it’s hard to live a happy fulfilling life with negative self-defeating thoughts.

I had to say thanks body.  You’ve gotten me this far.  You can get through 31 miles – I know it. I will help you out by walking for a while and recovering as I should have listened to you the first 3 loops when I realized the course was harder than I expected for my sub 7 hour time goal.  So I was nice to my body, and kind to myself, and my body rewarded me!  How awesome is that.

By the time I got to the aid station again where I had had my mini breakdown, I was feeling better.  My body recovered and I was back to running and feeling good again like I did in the beginning.  I had lost too much time to meet my time goal, but I finished my race and felt strong though the finish line.

By being nice to myself I was able to finish with a smile and feeling good rather than feeling defeated and unworthy. Kindness goes a long way.


So those are my life lessons from this particular 50k.  I’m really thankful for that difficult time I had during the race because I learned more about myself and the lessons I outlined above.  If everything was hunky-dory, I wouldn’t have had that experience.  It is the experience, and in those rough moments, that the learning happens and the process of overcoming that makes being human super awesome and super special.

Thanks for reading my fun random life lessons.  Not planning on running another 50k in my immediate future if you’re wondering.  Going to focus on work and family for a while, but may visit a 50k again sometime in the future. :)

Can I afford to invest in therpy?

Can I afford to invest in therapy?

What if I told you that by investing 5% of your annual salary in YOURSELF for 1 year could significantly change your life?

That’s what therapy does, and that’s roughly how much it costs.

When the topic of therapy comes up it’s always followed by “but it’s sooo expensive…. But the cost…. I don’t have that kind of money…. Therapy is only for rich people….” and so many more things.

Honestly, I often feel deflated when these topics come up.  Even around my own friends and family.  But I remind myself, it’s not about me.

More honestly, I used to think that way too! **embarrassing moment** I did not value myself enough to invest in myself. I realized I unconsciously took on the same views and beliefs of my social influences, without really looking into if for myself and developing my own thoughts and opinions around it!

The purpose to this blog post is to shed a different view on things… on investing in your health. I think information on this would have been valuable to me personally and wish I had realized it much sooner! So hope this helps others!

I provide psychotherapy in the Rochester metropolitan area. Most of my clients are from Monroe county but I have some that live in Wayne, Orleans, and Ontario county as well. The median household income for this area is about $52,000 – $53,000 a year. If the Average Rochesterian saw a therapist at $100 a session (oh hey, that’s my current rate, how did that happen?) and went to therapy every other week for a year, that comes out to be 5% of the person’s annual income!! WHA? 5 percent?! That’s so little!

Stacey, I got some serious shit, I think I need to come weekly, how expensive if that?! Well, if you saw me weekly at $100 a session that’s 10% of the average person’s salary, but there is a good chance your household likely makes more than that. Score! Also, I take time off, you take vacations and I’ve never seen anyone weekly for a year. Not mainly due to vacations, but because my clients are surely feeling better in the first year to the point that they don’t feel they need weekly therapy anymore and move to biweekly sessions. If you still want to come weekly I’m not gonna kick you out, but we will talk about what is healthy, what is needed and what is appropriate. Cause, therapy addiction is a thing. Wait, I just made that up. I don’t think that’s a thing. (but anything can be addictive right?!)

When I finally put some of these numbers into perspective, it helped me to be able to invest in myself.  I know we all have monthly bills of all sorts of kinds and some we can’t give up (you telling me to cut my Netflix?!) but I noticed things change for me when I invested less into things I that didn’t help my well-being and personal growth and started investing into things that do help my well-being and personal growth. (Beat bugs keeps me sane).

Therapy isn’t the only well-being investment out there.  I invest in other things too like workout classes, yoga, massage, pedicures, fresh vegetables…. etc….. But really those investments are ongoing every year!  Therapy is often intensive (weekly – bi-weekly) during rough times and transitions and less intensive during stable times (monthly, quarterly, not at all).  So one year therapy might cost you $5,000 and the next year it might cost you $500! (so on and so forth with a variety of combinations from a lot of money to no money at all).

That investment in yourself is priceless (in my opinion) as what you learn in therapy stays with you forever.  Granted you change as you grow so tune ups are sometimes desired by clients, but usually the core work has been managed and your life is much more enjoyable due to that initial intensive investment!  So really, therapy is the gift that keeps on giving :-P

What if I told you, you might even make that money back financially?!

Everyone has different struggles and goals in therapy, but I’ve seen a good portion of my clients grow into higher paying jobs, or more financially fulfilling businesses. How so? For one, increased confidence goes a long way when it comes to jobs as well as being more productive due to managing your emotions and life more effectively.  Think about how time an energy consuming it is to have relationships, or experience the death of a loved one, or to be struggling with depression or anxiety.  A LOT of time and energy.  So managing that well can lead to a more productive life in many ways.  Some clients end up saving money in other ways because they are no longer trying to buy their happiness and spend money wisely.  So in many ways, my clients earn back their investment in therapy. How cool is that?!

Stacey, I make less than $50,000 a year. What does that mean for me?

Well, some therapists work on a sliding scale.  Meaning if you are making less than the average income the therapist set the fees in line with, you could potentially qualify for a discount, as long as it is income based.  This all depends on what your income is and if the therapist has any sliding scale slots open. (we often put a cap to the amount of slots so our entire caseload doesn’t end up at a discounted rate).  So it doesn’t hurt to inquire about a sliding scale that you might benefit from, otherwise finding another therapist or a therapist on your insurance panel might be a good option. Not all therapists charge $100, you might find one that charges $70 and that is more in line with your income.

Funny you mention insurance Stacey. I pay a monthly premium for my insurance company.  Aren’t I entitled to use my insurance? I’m already spending the money.

Well yes, but let me explain a bit about that…..

Your insurance company sees mental health as an illness. A mental illness if you will. They want to see you NOT sick, and functioning. Not necessarily functioning well, but functioning. Working under the insurance model doesn’t accept working on self-esteem to be a real goal

(side story: I was told that once in my early years as a therapist “Stacey, self-esteem is not an acceptable treatment plan objective” I was lost and confused as to what job I signed up for)

or working on steps toward landing your dream job, or developing deeper meaning in life, or establishing meaningful, connecting relationships and all those wonderful things that people want to get out of therapy.

What insurance companies look for is if you are eating, sleeping, getting out of bed in the morning, taking a shower, not attempting to kill yourself resulting in ED visits, and not being a threat to others and so forth…

You might be struggling with some of the things insurance companies cover, but once those are improved, insurance no longer covers the services. Working on fulfillment in life will not be covered by your insurance company.  I am glad that insurance covers these services, as they are necessary for people, but then it comes to an end when you’re managing and honestly, that’s not why I became a therapist. I’m not about managing; I’m about enjoying!!

You definitely can find a therapist that takes your insurance and benefit from therapy, but I would encourage you to think about your treatment goals and objectives, shop around for the therapist that you feel like you could connect the best with and make your determination from there.

If you are in need of someone who takes your insurance panel, I’d be happy to help point you in the right direction!

I’m willing to pay fee for service therapy but I’m finding therapist charging anywhere from $60 a session to $200 a session.  Why such a difference?

There are so many factors that go into pricing for therapists.  Often newer therapists charge less and experienced clinicians charge more, but I’ve seen less experienced clinicians charge more and very experienced clinicians charge less so if you are looking to pay for experience, it is important to look not just into years experience but advanced training and ongoing education you therapist is getting.  Remember all these licenses and ongoing trainings are quite costly and factors into your price.

Some therapists rates differ so much pending on their own personal needs and lifestyle. Some people are supporting themselves, some are supporting a family. Some are doing it on the side for extra money, some it’s the only source of income.

Some therapists have a lot of overhead, some don’t have as much. Some offer more amenities, some don’t offer any.

For whatever reason you will find a HUGE rage of fees from therapist to therapist.  It is important that you do your research on finding the best therapist for you and feel you are getting you money’s worth in regard to investment.  Obviously the more you make, the bigger pool of therapists you have to choose from.

In closing, I encourage you to think about therapy as an investment in yourself. Look at your income and what a reasonable cost is for you, considering the benefits that you gain from therapy, and find a good match for a therapist within your price range.

Body Compassion Athlete

How Body Compassion helped me to become a better Athlete

Some of you know that I’m training for my first ever 50k.

I tried to do something different during my training and since I’m currently tapering, I’m especially focusing on it now.

It’s body compassion

What is body compassion??

It is self-compassion focused specifically on the body.

If you asked me if I hated my body I would tell you “no.”  But after becoming more aware of my self-talk regarding my body you would really question that answer because I realized I don’t say anything positive to my body and have been pretty demanding toward it. I’m sure if I never said anything positive to you and only negative and demanding things, you probably would think that I wouldn’t like you.  I realized my body must feel that I don’t like her.

How do you be nice to your body?

Compliment it, thank it, recognize its achievements and accomplishments.

Now, I’m going to be completely honest with you guys, having a baby really helped me to start my body compassion journey.

I think it was the first time ever in my life I was able to say, “wow body, you’re freaking amazing. You just made a baby and you continue to sustain its life by providing all the nourishment it needs.”

You don’t have to have a baby to practice body compassion, it helped bring my awareness for me personally that it was something I needed to work on.

Endurance sports or any sport or physical activity is a great means to practice body compassion. I think if you do engage in sports it is beneficial or I would say even necessary to practice body compassion! It has really helped me to enjoy the sport better and sit in the positives rather than getting caught up on the negatives.

Compliment it, thank it, recognize its achievements and accomplishments….

I do a weekly workout called FIT1, an outside boot camp of sorts with this super awesome instructor named Gustavo.

I often struggle with body compassion during FIT1. Because I am asking my body to do difficult things, it is easy to be MAD at my body for not performing to expectations. For WANTING and EXPECTING it to do more.

DON’T BULLY YOUR WAY INTO IMPROVEMENT

I have realized that when it comes to working out, I have constantly been bullying my body into becoming a better athlete. And let me tell you this, IT DOESN’T WORK.  At least not for me

What does work?  How are you coming a better athlete?

Body compassion.

I know when I think of working out I think of PUSHING HARDER.

GO PAST YOUR LIMITS

DO MORE

DIE AND KEEP GOING

Society somehow taught me this.  No one specifically told me to do this.

I pushed…..for years….. and as I did I experienced Injury after Injury….

Which just increased the body shaming……“You piece of shit body, you can’t do anything, you can’t even RUN and that requires no skill”

Body shaming was at its peak and I was in a downward spiral of injury and negativity.

Compliment it, thank it, recognize its achievements and accomplishments….

The difficult part is that improvement takes time. It took me a couple years to finally say to my body, “great work on consistently performing double bunny hops; you couldn’t do them for so long. I understand it was hard for you to do and I’m grateful you can do them now, even at the end of class when you’re tired.”

You don’t have to be making improvements to be compassionate.

“Thanks for getting me through my workout today, I noticed you were struggling more than normal, WHAT DO YOU NEED?”

Instead of berating your body for not meeting your expectations, be compassionate and find out what it needs in order to perform better.

Is it rest? attention? love? nutrition? relaxation?  Who knows, talk to your body and listen for the answer.

Stacey, my body can’t talk, you’re crazy.

I disagree.

Your body is talking to you all.the.time.

Listen to your body.  What does it need? What is it telling you?

Might seem weird, or “hippie” like but really, listen to it, watch it, notice it, get to know it so when something is wrong you are more aware of it and can respond to it appropriately.

I have to do this with my daughter.  Being pre-verbal it is difficult to communicate and understand what she needs.  So I have to learn her, know her, and be in tune with her body in order to respond appropriately. Even as her verbal skills are emerging, it is my job as parent to help her connect within herself so she can best communicate her needs.

Children need this – you need it too.

When you connect with your body and give it what it needs it will reward you by performing better and it will be happier.  A happy body helps promote a happy mind and a happy mind promotes a happy body!

So next time you notice yourself start to berate your body for not meeting your expectations I challenge you to be nice and compassionate to it.  Thank it for the hard work it expelled.  I’d be interested to know how this changes the dynamics of your workouts and your relationship with your body and yourself.