Category: Inspiration & Reflection

Amanda Allen – Proving Fitness and Well-Being Can Begin At Any Age

What things come to mind when you think of the fittest people in the world?  I would bet that a 43 woman would not be in that list and that’s because you haven’t met Amanda Allen.  Amanda has won the CrossFit Games Masters Division (40-44) for two consecutive years and is here to prove that fitness and well-being can begin at any age.

Amanda-Allen-CrossFit-Fitness

Amanda’s story isn’t that of a typical athlete.  After years of struggling with alcohol addiction and depression, she decided it was time to make a change at the age of 34. Amanda dove head first into a new adventure and became a World title triathlete.  From there, she took on the sport of Kneeling Canoeing which had recently become an Olympic event.  She devoted herself to the sport with the hopes of making the Olympic Team and turned CrossFit while training as a way to increase her strength.  She did not make the cut, but the story doesn’t end there.  At the age of 41 with only six months of training under her belt, Amanda qualified for the CrossFit Games and placed 19th among the fittest women in the world, some of which were half her age.  AMAZING.

Amanda-Allen-CrossFit-Masters-Box-Jump

Photo Source: Amanda Allen

Amanda has continued to get stronger and better at the sport.  Not only has she won the Women’s 40-44 Masters Division at the CrossFit Games in 2013 and 2014, she signed with the National Professional Grid League team the Philly Founders, which has brought her to the States from Australia for an extended stay.  Since the coach of the Founders is also the Owner and Head Coach at my gym, CrossFit Milford, we have been lucky enough to have had her training here for the past few months.  

Photo Source: Amanda Allen

Photo Source: Amanda Allen

Amanda was awesome enough to sit down with some of the female athletes at CFM to talk about training, nutrition, and overall mental health one Saturday afternoon and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear what she had to say.  She shared her journey to the CrossFit games, training techniques and nutrition regimens.  She talked about the “controlling the controllables” which are basically nutrition, hydration, sleep, recovery and perception.  We learned how to best fuel for workouts, new recovery techniques such as floating, how tracking your menstrual cycle can help improve performance and a ton of other useful information specific to women athletes.

While all of this information was wonderful and what I had expected out of the seminar, I found that what resonated with me the most was Amanda’s outlook on self empowerment and positivity.  We have 100% control over our mindset and how we choose to live our lives, so why not choose a positive outlook.  She reinforced that being selfish isn’t a bad thing and that in order to become successful and truly happy we need to empower ourselves.  We should strive to find inspiration everyday and in turn inspire others.  She has even begun her own “Positivity Project” by writing down 3 positive aspects of her life every morning to get her in the right mindset everyday.  

None of this would have been possible without CrossFit.  Amanda says that it is the most empowering thing she has ever done and sees how it changes lives around the world.  I know it has changed mine.  It has helped Amanda become mentally, emotionally, spiritually and overall physically stronger everyday, and I couldn’t agree more!  

Photo Source: Amanda Allen

Photo Source: Amanda Allen

What a privilege to chat with a professional athlete and feed off of her energy for an afternoon.  While much of her nutrition and competitive training advice was a bit extreme for my goals, her advice on self empowerment and positivity is something that I can start working on right away that will make a HUGE difference in my life.  I am making an effort to fill my life with positive people and to cut out all of the negative shit.  Coming to the realization that being selfish isn’t a bad thing can be difficult to embrace and for others to understand, but you can’t be there for others if you don’t take care of yourself first.  Setting priorities and goals are what got Amanda to the top of her game and if I can harness a fraction of that determination, who knows where I can go!         

To learn more about Amanda Allen, visit her website and her Facebook page.  She also has two books that are on my must read list for the near future: Eat, Perform, Win and The Time of My Life.  But right now, you should check out this great video of Amanda in action as she trains for the 2013 CrossFit Games…

Signature 100x75

Help Save Lives AND Win a Pair of Reebok CrossFit Nano 4.0 Custom Kicks!

Remember last year when I took on Grace at the Barbells for Boobs fundraiser?  I raised $420 to help people gain access to proactive screenings and diagnostic procedures to prevent breast cancer.  Then I lifted 95 pounds 30 times in 6 minutes and 42 seconds to show my appreciation to everyone who donated!

025 B4B

Well this year I want to kick it up a notch and so does Barbells for Boobs!  I was inspired by my friend and fellow CrossFitter Megan, who survived breast cancer at an early age because of early detection.  Here is Megan kicking Grace’s ass last year!

020 B4B

This year, Barbells for Boobs is giving fundraisers that reach $1,200 in donations a killer pair of Custom Reebok Nano 4.0!!  No seriously!!  Check these beauties out!!

B4B-Reebok-Nano-4.0

And guess what…I want YOU to have them!  That’s right, if I get to the $1,200 mark, I will be raffling off these shoes to one lucky donator.  And don’t worry, they will be in your size.  I will order the winner’s size!  So here’s what you need to do…

  1. Donate a minimum of $15 to my Barbells for Boobs donation page by October 31st.

  2. After you donate, come back to this page and leave a comment telling me who or what inspires you.  Use the Rafflecopter widget below to let me know you did both and you will get 5 entries into the raffle!  

  3. Get 5 additional entries by tweeting about this giveaway and liking us on Facebook & Twitter!

A couple of rules: I will be matching all donation names with entries.  Anyone who enters the giveaway without donating will automatically be disqualified.  The blog post comment is mandatory to enter. All other entries are optional.  

Pretty easy right?!?  Remember this raffle will ONLY happen if I get to $1,200 in donations, so the more you donate, the closer we get to those awesome shoes!!  Let’s help save some lives people!!

I will announce the winner on November 1st, which is also the day that I will be tackling Grace for the second time.  I’m doing this for my mom, Megan and all of those who have suffered and will sadly suffer in the future from this hateful disease.  My goal this year is to get it done in under 5 minutes…can I do it?!?!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Signature 100x75

Is Honesty Really The Best Policy?

It’s been one of those weeks…where words either bite you in the ass or slap you in the face!  Either way it stings…

pinocchio-honesty-IG

I had a jaw dropping encounter yesterday that stopped me in my tracks and left me on the verge of tears for quite some time.  It also left me contemplating not only the words of others, but MY words.  

Yesterday I went to CVS to pick up my monthly prescription of Mesalamine.  I’ve never been shy about talking about my Ulcerative Colitis.  I want to share my ups, my downs, my crappy days…literally.  I’ve found comfort in talking with others who struggle with this disease and I hope to do the same for others.  However being open about talking about my disease does not mean it’s cool for others to make jokes about it.  Most people are on an oral form of this drug, but not me.  It’s believed that the oral form is what 7 years ago caused Acute Pancreatitis, a life threatening inflammation of the pancreas…no bueno.  Since I can no longer take the medication systemically, I now have to give myself nightly enemas.  Yup…this has been my reality for the past 5+ years. Does it always work? No. Does it keep my symptoms at bay for the most part? Yes.  Have I ever declared this publicly? No. It has been something I’ve only shared with my close family and friends, and here is why…

Ok really?  Do I have to explain why?  There is something taboo in our society when it comes to talking about your bowel movements, which is kind of ridiculous because it effects ALL of us!  Yes, we all poop…let’s get over it.  Well maybe I should listen to my own advice.  

Back to picking up that prescription of 4 giant boxes of enemas yesterday.  Because of the stigma associated with it, it’s never the most comfortable experience, but over time I’ve just learned to deal with it.  That was until today when the dude behind the counter said, “What, is this all for a party?”  Really?!?!  You work at a pharmacy and this is what you say to someone??  I wish I had some witty comeback for him, but I was so shocked that all I managed to say was “I wish!”  Ugh.

I left as quickly as I could, got back to my car and was rattled.  I texted B to tell him what happened and he immediately had that witty response for the dude to made me chuckle, but I was still upset for most of the day, which got me to thinking…  That dude didn’t mean any harm, at least I hope he didn’t.  I think he was just trying to lighten an awkward situation, but just didn’t do it in the best way.  In a way, he was just being honest.  Which led me to start reflecting on my own honesty this past week.  

In the span of one week, I have managed to seriously offended two of my closest friends due to my honesty.  When I get close to people, I don’t hold back.  I share my true feelings and I’ve come to realize that it can be a bit harsh sometimes.  Maybe my delivery comes out cruel when it was meant to be joking, or maybe a truthful remark is just too harshly conveyed…I’m not sure.  Maybe that brutal honesty isn’t always the best policy, even if I think I’m just being funny, helpful, whatever….maybe it’s just hurtful.  Hurtful like the CVS dude was to me.

I have since apologized to my friends and hopefully they aren’t holding resentments (they told me they weren’t so I hope not!!!) but that doesn’t mean this past week hasn’t been an incredible learning experience for me. It’s important to choose your words wisely, especially with the ones you love because those words mean even more to them.  I would never purposefully hurt them…I love them.  However this doesn’t only hold true just for the ones you love…we should be kind and thoughtful to everyone, even that douchey CVS dude 😉  We all have our faults, but I hope and believe that most humans actually give a shit about each other and want to be kind.  But with that, does it mean that honesty isn’t always the best policy? 

I love my friends and family…more than I could ever express in words, but sometimes maybe too much where I say things that shouldn’t be said, or that could be just softened a bit.  I find it hard to find my filter at times, but all I can do is learn from my mistakes and keep getting better.

Signature 100x75

How Do You Stay Organized?

How-Do-You-Stay-Organized

Staying organized and on track is a constant battle.  It is something I’ve struggled with my entire life starting back in my school days and now into my personal and professional life.  Now that I’m working for myself, it’s even MORE important that I stay on top of things and prioritize my days and weeks.  

I’ve always been a big fan of spreadsheets, lists and color coding.  I know…I’m a nut, but I like to write down what needs to be done and check it off as I go.  Seeing everything laid out in front of me has been a good way to wrap my head around what lies ahead.  It’s always a good feeling to see a red line through a bunch of things…to feel like I accomplished a goal.  

I was feeling like my phone wasn’t cutting it (probably because I couldn’t physically cross things off), so last year I purchased a giant planner from Erin Condren thinking that having every thing always right in front of me would help.  Look at this thing…it’s gorgeous!

Erin-Condren-Planner-Cover

Erin-Condren-Planner-Inside

It’s so colorful and has tabs and stickers and ALL THE THINGS!  I bought myself some colorful pens and went to town organizing my life.  It was wonderful…for about 3 months and then I didn’t want to lug it around anymore.  After having everything in my phone for so long, why was I going back to this?  It just wasn’t working.

So I went back to what I knew worked for me, but tried to perfect it a bit.  I bought a small notepad that I could bring along with me to jot down notes or ideas, and I came up with a better electronic calendar system.  I’m still color coding, but now it’s all in my calendar.  At present, I have 6 different categories and always keep my calendar in the background for quick reference.

Staying-Organized-Calendar

I also utilize Dropbox A LOT so I can access my documents from anywhere.  It has become a real life saver.  Yes, I still make lists with little check boxes to mark off…I don’t think that will ever go away, but I feel like everything is a bit more streamlined now.  

So even though I’ve found this system that is working, I’m not sure that it is the best.  Are there apps out there I should look into?  Are there workflow programs that can help with better timeline organization?  I’m pretty sure that organization and time management are going to continue to be a struggle for me in my business, blogging and personal life as I keep looking to be better in these areas.  I wonder if there is some sort of magic out there to get my brain in order???

I would love to hear how some of you stay organized and any tips and/or tricks you might have up your sleeve to help you be more productive.  Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Signature 100x75

How One Day Can Change Your Life

Here I am…on the longest flight I’ve been on in over 10 years, writing to you at over 36,000 feet.  I’ve shocked myself today.  I woke up focused and had very minimal anxiety getting to the airport and even boarding the plane.  Maybe I was just THAT tired or maybe I’m actually dealing with this better.  I took an Ativan once seated so I could take a nap for a while, but that only lasted about 1.5 hours and once again…I’m ok!

This all might seem silly to a lot of people…this fear of flying thing, but it really is rooted in a not so pretty place that I’ve never gone into detail about here.  You see, I wasn’t always liked this.  I LOVED to fly when I was younger.  I traveled all over the U.S. including San Francisco, San Antonio, and Denver.  I traveled internationally to England, France and even spent 2 months abroad in Ireland.  Traveling was exciting…so many opportunities are available once you step off that plane!  

But when I was 21 years old, the world changed….September 11th happened.

33-Gold-Street-World-Trade-Center

On that day I was living 5 blocks from the World Trade Center in a studio apartment at 33 Gold Street.  I had just started my final year at New York University and I was working in the Box Office at the Hammerstein Ballroom, one of the top concert venues in NYC at the time.  To say I was loving life was an understatement.   Well you know the story of the day so I won’t rehash that business, but to say the events greatly effected me is an understatement.  And it didn’t happen right way either…  

Soon after 9/11, I traveled quite a bit…to England, Arizona, Florida…but with each trip my anxiety grew.  I moved out of the city to Hoboken, NJ across the Hudson river, but I was still commuting in for work and school every day.  Soon I started having trouble on the subway, going through tunnels and being on bridges.  This is a problem when you have to use at least one of those things to get in or out of NYC.  My fear of being trapped, like I was on 9/11, was becoming overwhelming and crippling.   

I ended up having to leave NYC because the stress of having to go there everyday was too much.  Well that wasn’t the ONLY reason, but it played a large part in our decision to move to CT.  However the problem with that was now that I no longer had to face those fears everyday, my reactions were 1,000 times worse when I actually did.  I would have a full on panic attack driving over the George Washington Bridge.  I wouldn’t take the train into NYC or take the Subway for almost 8 years.  Getting on a plane was out of the question.  B and I actually DROVE to Florida for our Honeymoon…it’s amazing that man actually married me.  And the worst thing about all of this was that it was affecting my health because all of that stress would cause my UC to flare on a regular basis.

It was after that long drive to Florida that I finally woke up.  I couldn’t live my life like this anymore…I was missing out on LIFE!  B also turned to me and said, if you ever want to go to Disney again we are flying.  Well that right there is motivation enough to change! 🙂  With the help of a low dose of anti-anxiety medication and the will to face my fears, I am slowly working through all of my fears.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I need help here…

Now look at me.  As I finish writing this, I am sitting in my hotel room at the Disneyland Hotel after taking a non-stop flight from NY to LA.  That’s almost 6 hours on a plane people!!  I am having a blast at The Happiest Place on Earth with the love of my life and later this week I get to go the the CrossFit Games!!  How could I have denied myself these experiences?  

Sarah-Disneyland-2014

I’m not saying it’s easy, it’s far from it!  Last week I had a panic attack just thinking about traveling, but I’ve learned how to calm myself down and try to relax a bit.  Exercise really helps!  I’ve also learned that talking about it helps.  Sometimes you just ned to get all the crazy out because you otherwise feel like this…

Sarah-Disneyland-2014-Wild-Animal

So there’s the backstory to all of the anxiety-ridden posts you’ve seen and probably will continue to see over time.  It’s amazing how that one day almost 13 years ago completely changed my life, but looking back now it has only made me stronger.  I’ve had to overcome some major shit, but I’ve been trying to do it with a smile.  🙂   

Signature 100x75

Next Page »