Nutrition and Recipes

Veggies Most: Getting Creative with Spaghetti Squash

I love all things spice. In my younger years of unstoppable optimism and blissful financial ignorance, I spent a great deal of money on travel (work in the summer, transfer my box of dollar bills into American Express Traveler’s Checks, and dart off for the fall). I spent a good deal of time in South East Asia, savoring the red skies and spices of India.

There is nothing that can compare to the vibrancy, the intensity of South East Asia – from the people, to the streets, to the food, every part of one’s day, every moment, is saturated in vivid intensity. Every flavor, heightened; every sense and sensation, rising to meet it.

The bad is that much worse, but the good times? They are branded into my memory and my soul (and that goes doubly for the food).

Sadly, American-ized South East Asian cuisine lacks that same vibrancy – the colors, the ingredients, the flavors are there. But they are almost always missing something. 

When pregnant with my son, Atticus, I went on a spice binge of epic proportions. I craved curry and pad thai. I longed for Delhi street foods and pomegranates. I dreamed of samosas and butter chicken and even that bite of fennel at the end of an epic meal.

I worked with what I had. I would routinely order an already spicy and delicious red curry with tofu from a little restaurant in Crested Butte (legendary among ski circles) known as Ryce. I would order it extra extra EXTRA spicy… with extra EXTRA veggies, and then add my own spices for good measure.

Now, a tad more comfortable in the kitchen and a bit more conscious, I am convinced that the secret to a great bit of spice lies in the cooks and the hands that prepare it. The right mindset, that slow consistent effort, that dedication to simple things done with passion – that is the secret to a good, spicy bit of heaven.

That, and a lot of veggies.

Yes, it’s true. Veggies are the spice of LIFE. They provide nourishment and joy. They make every meal better. And they make my body sing and my spirit shine.

Rice and noodles, I have found, just dull all that spicy goodness. Like a sponge, they steal all my flavor into a bed of dully beige “bleh.” And, after all, I’d rather have more room in my belly for the “good stuff.”

Thus, a bit of creativity, a lot of love, and more veggies later, I have perfected it: my spicy, veggie most, all the GOOD stuff, Pad Thai.

Trust me. You want some (did I mention it’s pretty healthy? There is literally no down side to my favorite meal – I’d make it every night if my husband would permit it…and sometimes I do – just for me).

Are you ready for this? It (and spaghetti squash) might just change your life for the better.

NOTE: Spaghetti Squash is an amazing vegetable. If you have never had it, you need to change that – immediately. When cooked it has the consistency of rice noodles (just with a LOT more flavor and nutrients). What’s more, the squash does not get soggy when saturated in curry-goodness, and it does not change its texture when re-heated. It’s my miracle plant (and I cannot WAIT to grow a few hundred of them in our garden this year).

Veggie Most: Spicy Pad Thai

Pad Thai with Spaghetti Squash

Prep Time     20 minutes

Cook Time    1 hour 30  minutes

Total Time    1 hour 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2-4 tbs water
  • 2+ tbs siracha
  • 3 tbs cornstarch
  • 2 tbs oil (peanut oil is recommended)
  • 12 oz. extra-firm tofu, cut into small cubes
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, beans, or other veggie
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 green onions, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbs. chopped peanuts
  • Jalopeno, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • lime wedges
  • cilantro
  • Crushed red pepper
  • fish sauce (optional)

Instructions

Preparing the Squash

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.

  2. Place squash on a parchment lined baking sheet. Poke squash 2 or 3 times with a fork. Bake for 60 to 80 minutes. Cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds. Scrape flesh into stringy noodles. Set aside.

Preparing the sauce

  1. Combine vinegar, water, honey, and sriracha in sauce pan. Hear over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Add fish sauce if desired. Add additional water if needed.  Add more/less of honey and heat according to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preparing the tofu

  1. Coat tofu in cornstarch in a small bowl; mix.
  2. Heat large skillet over high heat. Add oil (peanut oil preferred) and coat pan.
  3. Add tofu.
  4. Watch diligently, stirring frequently until all sides are brown.
  5. Remove from pan and set aside.

Preparing the eggs

  1. Add oil to pan; coat.
  2. Add eggs; cook over medium heat. Create a thin omelette. When cooked, chop eggs with spatula. Remove from heat and set aside.

Putting it all together

  1. Add oil to pan; coat.
  2. Add garlic and onion. Saute over medium heat for 1 minute.
  3. Add jalapenos (if desired) and red pepper (or other veggies).
  4. Add spaghetti squash in layers. Cook each layer for 1 minute, stirring frequently until squash is warm and golden brown.
  5. Fold sauce into squash. Mix.
  6. Add green onions and bean sprouts. Mix.
  7. Add tofu. Cook for 2 minutes while stirring frequently.
  8. Transfer to a serving platter. Serve with peanuts, lime wedges, cilantro, and crushed red pepper. Serve immediately or store for later.

pad thai recipe with spaghetti squash

Recommendations

I like to double, even triple, the sauce (and quadruple the spice) – but that is up to you!

You can substitute the tofu for more veggie or chicken (I recommend marinating the chicken the night before with some lime and yogurt).

This meal stores well for about 3 days. Prep ahead of time and enjoy a savory lunch for DAYS!

While nothing can compare to the “real thing,” with a bit of love, this healthy, scrumptious dish comes close. Enjoy with the people you love!

Fitness Challenge, Nutrition and Recipes

Ready 2B Fierce and Free: Mindful Eating Program Launches Today!

Let’s establish a few facts:

  1. Life is more than beautiful – it is all there is, all we have, and the only thing worth fighting for as all else depends upon it.
  2. Life is also chaos, but that chaos and uncertainty is what drives innovation, growth, and possibility. You may not control the whims and winds of the universe, but you CAN control your own story. YOU dictate who you are, where you go, and how you get there. Things happen – but you control what that happening means and where it takes you.
  3. Your body tells a story; it is the vehicle through which you move through the world; it is a temple, a miracle – it should empower you to celebrate the gift of your life and to move through the world (and all its possibility).
  4. To live your best life, you must nourish that body, write your story, and take responsibility for your health and wellness.
My best life? Big sunglasses, bigger earrings, a hearty brew, and a beautiful, healthy baby boy to snuggle.

These facts leave us with two critical questions: How do you live your best life? How do you write your story?

In the world of fitness, we hear the world “control” a lot. And for good reason.

Control, aka awareness and purposeful action, is essential to realizing any goal and to living that best life.

You must know what was, what is, and what you want/need to realize your best life, to make critical choices, and to manage and direct your thoughts, emotions, and actions.

But control alone is dangerous and, well, miserable. It leaves no room for possibility or transformation – for detours or growth, for the unexpected. It does not allow for life to happen (and these happenings are essential to your becoming).

Control MUST be balanced with self awareness and flexibility.

Flexibility cultivates vision and compassion – the grace needed to bounce back, to expand out, to adapt, and to move forward.

Self awareness empowers you to see yourself as you are and as you might be without filters, without guilt, and without shame.

Control then ensures that you craft an effective “plan of attack” for realizing that best life and the determination to see that plan through.

One does not work without the other – but in the fitness world, “control” is usually all you get.

Most fitness programs demand that you CONTROL what you eat (your portions, your calories, even when you can eat). They demand that you CONTROL your nutrients (eliminating entire food groups), that you DEPRIVE yourself to the point of starvation. That you DEPRIVE yourself of the joy and connection that food provides (birthdays, holidays, dinners out, wine Wednesdays, etc.) and that you replace that joy with fear, shame, guilt, and self-loathing.

thin woman's back, naked, spine protruding
Dieting is self-induced starvation; stop the cycle.

While some control is a good thing, too much not only damages your body, it fosters a dysfunctional and negative relationship with food and nutrition which makes living a healthy lifestyle (and that best life) impossible to realize in the long term.

During my last challenge, I was obsessed with losing weight and being successful. So…I didn’t do anything. I didn’t go anywhere for two months. I didn’t eat out. I didn’t have lunch with family or friends; I didn’t go to birthdays or out with my husband. I didn’t do anything but count, obsess, and worry that I was still eating too much (or not enough).

You can control your calories, exercise, and food intake to the point of obsession for weeks, months, maybe even a year…but eventually real life is going to happen. Your control and best laid plans will falter. And without flexibility and self-awareness, they will break, leading to an ongoing cycle of starve-binge-starve-binge, marked by the latest diet trend and an unhealthy dose of shame and guilt. You will lose weight – then gain it back. You will blame yourself. You will develop a collection of internet memes, telling you to just “be stronger, have more control, be more disciplined” and then next time will be different. You will believe that you are not good enough and that your plateau is a sign of your inadequacy.

STOP.

This cycle isn’t one that is meant to be broken. It will NEVER be different unless you change how you see yourself and food. You will NEVER be healthy if you do not have a positive and nurturing relationship with food and nutrition as your baseline.

What is a healthy relationship with food?

It means being able to realize a healthy weight without starvation, obsession, fad diets, cleanses, or restrictions.

It means building self awareness and self love.

It means resolving the underlying issues that lead to disordered eating, binge eating, emotional eating, and stress eating.

It means enjoying food without guilt or shame.

It means balancing that control with flexibility and a bit of grace and compassion.

It means mindfulness, tuning in to your body and its specific needs.

It means no more despair or self-loathing, no more counting calories or containers, no more “kitchen ab” memes.

It means STOP – stop abusing your body, stop the guilt trip, stop the cycle.

And it means breaking free – to rediscover balance. To stop fighting your body and to start nourishing it; to STOP obsessing over your life and to START living it.

Let me show you how.

Enjoy your life (and all the brews that come with it!)

The Ready 2B Fierce and Free Mindful Eating Program Registration is now Open! Day 1 begins May 14.

Exercise is not required (but is optional and encouraged). There is no calorie counting, no portion containers, no restriction, no starvation, no gimmicks. It is a knowledge and education based program meant to foster self awareness and flexibility while building confidence, promoting healthy weight loss, and ensuring a positive relationship with food and thus, with yourself.

Are you ready to break free of that cycle, abandon the guilt and gimmicks, and embrace a new way of eating, living, and most importantly, of celebrating you?

Click here to connect and to learn more.

Mountain Adventures

How Mountain Biking Saved My Life (and Can Do the Same for You)

Ask around. Particularly now as winter melts into mud season and the desert starts calling. In the mountain community, you will find nearly every lovely mountain mama you meet shares a few things in common:

A necessity for summer adventures in Fruita, Colorado
  • An affinity for plaid flannels and beanies
  • The requisite Girafficorn hat + a craft beer sampler
  • A strange addiction to carbon and a growing collection of Shredly shorts
  • A disastrous story of one’s first attempt at mountain biking
  • Then, a love story about that same bike, that same trail, and that same sport

The “dirt pow” and the wheels that traverse it hold a unique place in my heart. I have never been more terrified or broken than at the hands of my pink handlebars; I have never been more alive or liberated. There has never been more doubt or uncertainty; there has never been more courage or confidence.

I have never been dirtier or more elegant than at the back of my Minon DHF tires.

In fact, in all the ways that mountain biking has broken me (literally – from ankles to ribs to shoulders), it has built me back up, creating someone new, someone bold – all while fostering a deep appreciation for life, for mountains, and for my beautiful + badass babes (and the men who love them).

My story with biking was a horror story; it began with a flurry of rocks and endos aboard a cheap, $50 Craigslist bike (a 20+ year old Trek with a busted front shock). My then boyfriend (soon to be husband) took me and that glorious bike to a trail in Boulder known as Bitterbrush for my first run (one of “the most technical trails in Colorado” – thanks babes). It was a maze of rocks and ledges, of narrow cliff bands and long descents. I would consider that trail to be oodles of fun now…then? I wore a climbing helmet and a pair of vans sneakers; I managed the rock gardens with a death grip and the smell of burning v-brakes; I almost died. I emerged hours later, bruised and battered. I admit- there were also a few tears. At the edge of a rocky switchback upon which I KNEW I was about to meet my own, bitter end, a kind man with dreads and a Jamaican accent (who also possessed a fancy Yeti and turquoise shorts) told me to, “walk to day; ride tomorrow. The trail will always be here when you are ready.”

I was broken; I was humbled; I was hooked.

How does this sport (in which nearly everyone has their own horror story) inspire such devotion and joy? Why did I emerge from my near death experience with the competing desire to throw my bike into a lake…then swim out, retrieve it, and try again?

Regardless of how, over the past decade, mountain biking has saved my life and my sanity more times than I can count.

Here’s how:

1. It is hard.

Yes. This is a reason WHY mountain biking is so addictive and transformative.

Challenge. Sweat. Humilty. There is nothing easy about mountain biking. To quote a friend and former amateur cyclist:

It never gets easier. You just get faster.

Sweaty and happy in Crested Butte, Colorado

I remember moments of defeat – where I carted and heaved and lugged myself and my bike up and over rocks, jumps, logs, and streams. There was fear and apprehension, a sometimes brutal wakeup call to my limitations. There was always sweat and the thrill of pushing my body to its edges and beyond. Sometimes, there were bruises, tears – but always, there was the challenge. That challenge meant that there was opportunity and possibility. the room for growth demanded growth – guaranteed it. With every triumph came humility; with every humbled moment came possibility – the chance to grow, to learn, and to try again.

It is hard. And that’s the point. With easy things, you start and end and stay right where you are. With hard things, you end up somewhere else – you become someone and something more.

2. It is fun.

You know what makes those hard things less impossible? When they are also fun.

It’s simple, really.

Riding bikes is fun. It is the joy, the thrill, the possibility of childhood personified. Close your eyes. You can almost feel it, can’t you? The wind in your face, the sound of rubber on pavement, then dirt – the promise of summer. Simplicity. Friendship. Every good thing. Spinning.

That promise? That joy? It is still there, and I rediscover it every time I leap to my bike seat.

It is fun to climb mountains, to stand atop distant ridges, to soar back down. It is slap happy, giddy, irresponsible, beautiful, liberating, glorious FUN – from ear to ear.

3. It is freedom.

Susan B. Anthony said it best.

Independence is happiness

That’s what riding is: freedom. As a child, my single speed huffy provided the freedom to go, to explore, to travel, to wander in search of life, friends, and adventure. When I received that pink tasseled steed of glory (aptly named the B.G.M, aka big green machine), I gained a certain degree of independence. I could now test the borders and boundaries of my quickly expanding world (and I could put a few internal boundaries of my own to the test as well).

As an adult, cycling also represented freedom – this time from self doubt and depression, from cubicles and rush hour traffic, from pain and disappointment, from anger and uncertainty. It was a way to reconnect with something innate and primal within my soul; on my bike, with the sky above and the wind behind, I was utterly and completely free.

Ms. Anthony went a bit further with her take on cycling, crediting it with the rise of the Women’s Liberation Movement.

You see, in the Victorian era, the fashion of the day (tight and tighter corsets, long heavy skirts, etc.) made walking, running, and most physical activities nearly impossible; it served as a reminder and as a metaphor for the limitations placed upon women who were expected to be physically, economically, socially, politically, and intellectually subservient to and dependent upon men. When even breathing is a chore, how could one even begin to imagine something more? In the early 19th century, however, the bicycle emerged and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Everyone had a bicycle. It was the “it” thing to do – particularly among women. And despite some inevitable backlash and criticism, the tour de force of bikes and ladies continued to gain momentum (literally).

Women began to use bicycles to, well, go places – to shop, to travel, to wander, to run errands, to visit friends. Fashion changed, making movement easier and more accessible. Women’s ankles were being exposed (the horror!). And with the ability to move freely, women discovered something even more profound: the empowering thrill of independence and agency.

I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have felt like—in an age when American women were still decades from the right to vote and inundated with men’s opinions about their ankles—for a woman to to go outside, hop on her bicycle, and ride as fast as she could wherever she wanted, leaving the rest of the world wondering where she might go.

Today, man or woman, adult or child (and everything in between), recognize this simple fact: the ability to move = freedom. And freedom, the ability to move as and where one chooses, by the strength of one’s own body and the conviction of one’s own heart = happiness.

4. It simplifies.

Bikes (particularly of the modern variety) have gotten more complicated. But riding bikes? It is the most simple thing in the world. There is simply you, your body, your breath, and the trail beneath and before you.  There isn’t room for much else.

Jobs and careers, mortgages and rentals, cars and dinners and conference calls and zip codes and fine denim jackets – all that silliness that divides and steals our time and energy, that robs us of unity and focus? It doesn’t matter on the trail. Not in the least.

And while, at the trail head or behind your keyboard, you may gawk at equipment, shorts, chamois, brake fluid, garmins, and whatever other silliness we have tacked on to the biking industry – on the trail itself? All that “stuff” fades into the joy of simply moving, simply breathing, simply riding.

5. It is meditative.

When riding, all else falls away. It must, to an extent. Daydreaming about bills, errands, and that morning-argument with my SO, is a surefire way to start a much more physical argument with an Aspen tree (ouch).

Mindfulness means living in the moment. To quote a former Zen master, “when you sweep the floor, sweep the floor. When you run, run. When you sit, sit. When you eat, eat.”

Too often, our bodies are doing one thing while are minds are off, doing a million others. This division breeds stress, anxiety, depression, and a host of negative emotions, thoughts, and actions. Meditation seeks to resolve this division, and thus, provide us with a way to reconnect with our bodies, to live in the moment, and to foster awareness and gratitude.

This may be why sports like mountain biking are so addictive and therapeutic. When biking, your mind and body are working together, in the moment, on the very specific task ahead of you. It is a kind of meditation – of the much more thrilling and exciting kind. There is nothing more than you and the trail and your bike. In the moment, your mind is clear and present, your body is moving, and you are truly and fully living within that moment, soaking in every ounce of its joy, color, light, and potential.

6. It is adventure.

Taking in the open views in Sedona, AZ

The open road – you can see it, can’t you? Admired and traversed by wandering gypsy souls, a metaphor for American ingenuity and spirit, the greatest symbol we possess of freedom and possibility. Here, you can be, do, and go anywhere.

That road. Navigated. Adored. Feared. A place that was not a destination as much as it was a journey – less a thing and more an opportunity, a tool to be used to whatever end.

Today, the American road, unfortunately, is less “an open race towards freedom” and more a “grid commute.” But the spirit of that metaphor lives on in a different way in the wildness of dirt roads, singletrack, and aspen groves.

Because, at the edge of that trail head, out there, is adventure and possibility – things happen. And in wandering those spaces, you get to be a part of those happenings. Riding, is simply a microcosm of those open road and their figurative possibilities. Whether your ride is ten minutes or ten hours, a causal ride on familiar terrain or a week long excursion into unknown places, you will do things, you will explore, you will meet people, you will challenge yourself, you will experience something.

And that something? That unknown, mysterious possibility? That is exactly what life and living are all about.

7. It is wilderness (and wilderness is good for you).

There is something about the mountains, about nature and wilderness. It reignites our souls and our imaginations. It nurtures our spirits and strengthens our bodies. In the wilderness, we are able to focus and align ourselves with something greater than ourselves. We discover humility and purpose; we sweat and we learn. And we emerge from those lessons renewed.

The benefits of getting out into the wild spaces of our souls isn’t limited to the emotional and irrational world of us gypsies, however. Nature is energizing and restorative. Getting out of the “box” and out into the open spaces of the natural world increases both mental and physical well being, increasing our sense of well being and vitality while warding off exhaustion and depression.

Wilderness is not only good for your spirit; it is essential to your physical health. In fact, according to the 2010 issue of Journal of Environmental Psychology and professor of psychology, psychiatry, and education, Richard Ryan:

Research has shown that people with a greater sense of vitality don’t just have more energy for things they want to do, they are also more resilient to physical illnesses. One of the pathways to health may be to spend more time in natural settings

8. It builds community.

Human beings do not function well in isolation. In fact, isolation is akin to torture and can rapidly undermine both our mental and physical health. Loneliness can kill you – literally. To guard against isolation, we surround ourselves with people, with social media, with “things” – but it turns out being alone isn’t where we go wrong; being lonely is. You can be in the center of a crowded room and still be lonely; you could have the world at your fingertips and still be isolated. To guard against isolation and loneliness, we need and crave meaningful connections with living things (and adding more insta followers isn’t going to cut it).

“We have a natural connection with living things,” says Ryan. “Nature is something within which we flourish, so having it be more a part of our lives is critical, especially when we live and work in built environments.”

Mountain biking cultivates connection. Even when riding alone, one is never alone. There is the connection you have to the natural world around you, the connection that you feel and foster within your own spirit and body, and of course, the connection that you foster within the larger cycling community. Mountain bikers are a social bunch; we are passionate about our sport and thus, passionate about each other. I have never met a stranger at a trail head. I have experienced the greatest kindness on singletrack laps – from those who stopped to chat and share their glory to those who have, in the past, picked up my mangled steed and helped me to repair a chain, a tire, a cable. While biking, my walls are down, my mind and heart are open; the world rushes in and I rush back to meet it with a smile, a nod, and a genuine, deep-in-your-soul kind of joy.

Go to any trail head. I dare you. See for yourself. Like minded people, connected by a shared joy for nature, wilderness, and all things rubber?  Now that is fabulous.

9. It will make you stronger (and fitter).

Look at those guns! Getting ready for Captain Ahab in Moab, UT.

Mountain biking is hard. And doing those hard things does wonders for your body.

Biking is, simply, an incredible work out. It increases endurance, transforms those little lungs into massive cauldrons of athletic glory, and strengthens your heart. It strengthens nearly every muscle in your body.

And, did I mention that is far easier on your joints than high impact sports like running (or even high impact workouts, like plyometrics)?

What’s more, biking is the kind of workout that doesn’t feel like work. Sure, it’s hard. Sure, it gets your heart pumping and your body moving. But it is fun – and that fact means you are far more likely to jump on your bike over the years than hit the gym.

10. It breeds self sufficiency.

Wilderness sprawling in every direction, the open singletrack, my bike, myself and the adventure before me. And to traverse those spaces? I needed to be self sufficient. Because the freedom that mountain biking offers has a cost: that cost is your willingness to take responsibility for yourself and your actions.

Getting out and celebrating strength – of all kinds.

Because, while your community is always there to provide guidance, support, and knowledge – at the end of the day, your ride, your bike, and your journey belong to you.

You need to know how your bike work and how to fix it. You need to know where you are going. You need to know how to take care of yourself (and others). You need to be prepared to take responsibility for a poor decision (and to learn from it). You need to analyze what is and plan for what might be. You need to think, act, and do – sometimes all on your own.

On the trail, you cannot hide behind someone else, you cannot slink into the shadows of another’s decision. It is your body, your bike, your ride, your future. You must be your own line of defense against injury and hazards.

And it is this mentality, the need to be aware, responsible, and sufficient as a mountain biker, that has had the most immediate impact on my professional and personal life. Because, the person that I am on my bike (confident, prepared, aware, resilient, free, and capable) – that person is still there at home, in the office, and in the classroom. I found her and discovered her strength on the trail. And because of my passion for riding, I get to develop that strength and bring her back with me.

In conclusion…

There is always something about the mountains that transforms fear into courage – that, in showing us our weakness and humbling our pride, reveals our true potential. In daring to strip away our ego and shower our mangled bodies in a shower of sweat and dirt, the mountains provide a path and an opportunity to let go of all that which truly does not matter.

And in this way, in this sweaty, muddy, bruised and battered way, every dirt path promises only one true thing: freedom. This freedom, this sport, saved my life – through injuries and poverty, through homelessness and despair, through bad relationships and eventual romance, through the struggles of marriage and baby making, through the joys of motherhood and the difficulty of finding a balance, through all the trials and celebrations of my life now and into the future, mountain biking has been my center.

It can be yours (dare I say it…it should be).

Let’s ride.

Mom Life

A Love Letter to my Post-Baby Body

A Love Letter to My Post-Baby Body

Pregnancy isn’t all glamour…though it is a whole lot of love

Pregnancy – there were too many words and then, too few. My language, desires, passions, along with my energy, were swallowed into a growing chasm of possibility – a darkness bathed in the light of a dozen competing dreams and ambitions, of what ifs and maybes, a growing lump of futures and pasts, a million different stories with a million different endings, written in the flesh of my expanding body.

I had been an athlete, riddled with muscles and scars. I had been too hard for the possibilities of my child and our future, and so, my body shifted and pressed outward until those hard places collapsed into jelly. I became soft and pliable. Every inch of me shifted, like water, and my skin bubbled out into radiant balloons and clouds, dreaming just beyond the horizon of my son, his future, our family, our future – my story told in the third person, by me but for someone else.

I was a walking, talking embodiment of every duality and hypocrisy: simultaneously strong, then weak, empowered and powerless. The world moved forward with and because of me…and regardless of me and what I thought I wanted, nature would, at some point, take over.

In birth, there is a death: the woman you were before fades and the mother you will become follows your child out into the world. You take your first breath together.

As an athlete and as a poet, I had always been focused on questions of the body. From how it worked (and how far it could take my extreme desires and goals) to the stories it told and transcribed; from mountain descents in spring to my graduate dissertation and several largely un-read books of poetry.

Inspiring labor with exercise: 24 hours to baby

Thus, my pregnancy created another opportunity, not only for me to reflect on my body, but for others to share in its struggles, triumphs, and transformations. Pregnancy was my first realization that my body, built by and for me, was not solely mine. It was of me, but it did not belong only to me. It was a part of some greater dance, of some larger purpose and reality, of the wilderness without and the communities I built against that wilderness.

Thus, for nine months, we discussed how motherhood transforms your life and career; we also discuss, at great lengths, the various troubles and awkward situations that pregnancy itself creates – from morning sickness and swollen feet, to weight gain and back pain. And while there was discussion of getting my “pre baby body” back, of the bike and ski trips that would follow, of my silly claims that I would be back in the saddle (literally) in just a few short weeks – no one mentioned the obvious: that person and that body were gone, replaced instead with the mother I became the instant my son entered the world and landed, like a bird, onto my chest.

Perhaps this is what so many fitness professionals, well meaning grandmothers, and ill advised athletic trainers misunderstand when it comes to motherhood and the postpartum period…

After a day of pre-labor, two hours of the universe repeatedly breaking my pelvis awhile squeezing my stomach with barbed wire, and a dramatically quick series of pushes, my son was being weighed and cleaned while I was stepping out of the tub and back into some new world. Naked, in a maze of midwives, grandma’s, and soft baby voices, I looked in the mirror.

From the outside, it wasn’t pretty. I was caked in sweat and fluids, my hair was a nest of anxiety and humidity, my breasts swollen from the sudden rush of motherhood, my body exhausted and strained. And yet, standing there, I took my hands and passed them over my stomach. I pressed it in to my spine, feeling the sensation of empty air and taking in with that sensation, my new body. I was light, free, filled with an impossible confidence and irresponsible satisfaction. Appreciative, perhaps. Liberated and new.

My world had changed; so had I. And my body had shifted along with it, emerging from the dark pain of labor with a new strength and thus, a new form.

48 hours into the world, stealing sleep, healing

There was no getting my  pre-baby body back. That person, that body, that story was over. Something new had emerged in its place. And discovering that body, living in it, learning to love it, occupying it? THAT was what my fitness journey was and became.

Not losing weight.

Not regaining my figure.

Not jumping back into racing or mountain adventures.

But, instead, resting, regaining strength, discovering this new body in all its forms, and learning to adore and appreciate its unique beauty and possibilities.

There were frustrations, of course. Fears. Sadness. The sleep deprivation, anxiety, uncertainty, and of course, the pain of my recovery. There was also my inability to let go of who I was. I loved her, of course – that gypsy of a woman. I mourned her. I had spent 32 years building and defining who I was (and the body that encapsulated and expressed her). The thought of rebuilding seemed impossible.

And yet, piece by piece, day by day, choice by choice, the painful, boring, and sometimes exhilarating process of rediscovery and re-imagination took hold.

Piece by piece, rebuilding a life x2

Perhaps that is what my journey as a coach, a mother, was; perhaps that is my love letter to my post-baby body and the insight I bring to the new mamas who join me. I was someone; I became someone else. And my body, my brilliant, flawed, captivating, compelling physical form, still soft and pliable, shifted and slowly empowered me to become that someone new –

A mother

An athlete

A coach

A writer

…and so much more.