Three Life Lessons From the Past Year–My Birthday Present to You

To sum up my 32nd year, I think Charles Dicken’s quote, “It was the best of times and the worst of times” summarizes the past year.

My birthday year started off rough with the unexpected passing of my mom July 10th and, then a few days, later the stroke of my 25 year old “healthy and fit” brother.Dustin and mom fm4l gear

Lesson #1

Life is precious, health is precious and we aren’t guaranteed another day. We do our best to stay as fit and healthy as possible but that doesn’t guarantee anything. My mom was the pinnacle of health but it couldn’t prevent her massive brain aneurysm. My brother ate pretty healthy and exercises regularly but somehow it didn’t prevent a clot from reaching all of the way up to his brainstem.

Grief is real, but so is joy, and joy can come after grief. Our family is closer than ever and my dad is doing very well and starting to get a clearer picture of what life looks like as a widower.

The Transformation Center saw incredible growth over the past year with the launch of our Fit over 50 small group training program. We have had over 340 (mostly women) join the program the past year and have seen incredible improvements in their health, weight, strength, balance, energy and confidence.

I got back into town early this morning (at 2:30am) from Phoenix where I was presenting at the Functional Aging Institute International Conference. I was honored to be acknowledged as having one of the best and most cutting edge fitness and health programs for 50-90 year olds. Many thanks to everyone who has played a role in this.

Lesson #2

Success is a team effort and we can’t do it alone. This is a lesson I have been learning over the past 12 years in business. Starting out, I had to wear every hat, but as things grow I am able to find people who do certain things WAY better then I could.

There are times in life when we need help and we need to check our egos at the door and ask for help. This year I have had to ask for help more than ever before and my friends, team of trainers and staff, and clients have helped out so much and I am grateful for that.

When we ask for help, we are also letting go and putting trust in someone else. There are things in my life and business that I have clung onto not wanting to let it go, but I am slowly giving those things up to others and it has been scary, uncomfortable, and nerve-racking at time, but it is necessary for growth to happen.

Each year, I try to train for something different, to keep me excited about exercise and to keep my body improving.

With the death of my mom, I decided to commit this year to doing something I really didn’t think I could do, participating in Ironman Wisconsin. This was mostly because I didn’t know how to swim at all and the thought of a 2.4 mile lake swim seemed beyond daunting. I also have virtually no experience with running.

With 3 months to go until the Ironman, I am feeling extremely prepared and confident.

Lesson #3

There are SO many lessons I can share on this topic, but will save that for another day, but the one lesson from this that I want to share is to DESTROY the lies in your head that you “aren’t” or you “can’t” do something.

For 32 years I told myself, I told you, I wrote about it in my book and blog that I “don’t do cardio,” as well as I can’t swim.Dustin run pic

These beliefs stifled any chances of me being able to do it because it eliminated me even asking the right questions.

Once I had decided upon the desire outcome (finish Ironman), I had to ask myself a new set of EMPOWERING questions like:

1. Who can I hire to teach me how to swim?
2. What type of running mechanics do I need to make sure my troubled knees can handle it?
3. Who specializes in creating a program to get me to the finish line of IM?
4. Where is there a community of triathletes in Madison that I can spend time with?

These 4 questions might not sound like much but they opened the door for possibilities.

Since that decision, I officially started training in November giving it my 100%. There have been ups and downs but the trajectory has mostly been up!

At 33, I can say I feel like I am in the best shape of my life. I am not as strong in my upper body as I have been before, but my dramatically improved cardio, leanness and increased energy I have gained trumps it all.

Thank you so much for being part of my life, during the ups and downs. I hope in some small way I can educate and inspire you to not only go after new physical challenges, but in all areas of your life, strive for improvement.

Cheers to another year together.

Lessons from My First Triathlon

I just competed in my first triathlon. My coach, Blake Becker, told me that since this is my first race that I should have no expectations going into it and that things will go wrong and it is a learning experience.

For those who don’t know me very well, I am highly calculated, highly competitive and analyze everything.

The truth was, I DID have expectations and pretty high ones at that.

The Lake Mills sprint triathlon is a 400M lake swim, followed by a 16 mile bike ride and a 5K run to finish up.

This is the first of 4 races this summer for me building up to Ironman Wisconsin, which is the big race I am training for.

I will share with you my race report and then, towards the bottom of this post, some of my lessons that I hope will help you in whatever health and fitness goals you have.

It was a special day for me, my dad came from Minnesota to cheer me on and see what this whole triathlon thing was. He heard me talking about it and the training I have been doing, but he said nothing prepared him for the specialness of the day.

I signed up under male novice, meaning someone who has three or fewer triathlon races under their belt. This started me in an earlier wave, which is what I preferred.

A couple minutes before the start of the swim, out of nowhere, a huge storm blew in with 30 plus MPH wind gusts, black clouds, and a little light rain. The lake, which had been quite calm, turned white capped and was pushing the waves onshore.

This was going to make the first 100 meters out much tougher.

Now, some of you have been following my swimming journey. In November, I began adult swim lessons because I never learned how to swim as a child. By the end of the first lesson, I was able to get across one length of the pool but my heart rate would be well over 180.

I began swimming 3-6 times per week for the next six months with an average of about 4-5 miles each week. One week before Lake Mills, I put a wetsuit on and did some open water swimming. I found the wetsuit really helped keep my legs higher, which is what I was really struggling with.

So given my background, I wasn’t too pleased to see large waves heading for me. There were 60 men in my wave and the gun goes off and I run into the water quickly, hoping to get in front of the main pack, even though I figured I would probably get passed up soon.

The next few minutes seemed like a blur, but wave after wave kept crashing over me as I battled against the current. I would pop my head up from time to time to make sure I was swimming out to the first buoy.D post swim pic

I rounded the first buoy and then had a 200M swim across the shore line…a little easier but still very turbulent. I couldn’t really see any other swimmers around me except for some of the novice women who were really struggling in the water having gone out 10 minutes before me.

I made the turn around the final buoy and quickly got pushed into shore. I got up a little tipsy and more out of breath then I felt like I should have. I had no idea if I was in the front, middle, or back of the pack, but grateful that I stayed very calm in the water and had no fear or anxiety.

After the race was over, I discovered I came out in a relatively fast time of 6:25 in second place, only two seconds back of first place.

As I ran to my bike, I felt quite nauseous. Fortunately, I didn’t swallow any lake water, I think it was that my HR was high and going from swimming to running was something I had yet to practice.

My wetsuit got stuck around my ankle with the timing chip and I was forced to go to the ground to finally get out of the suit. This ended up being one of the only glitches of the day and might have cost me 15 seconds.

My bike was going to be my strongest part of the race. I have been biking for 2 years and really love it. I am a student of aerodynamics and have trained in an aero position quite a bit this year.Dustin bike pic

I have trained with a power meter on my bike for over a year and had a goal of 280-300 watts average for the 16 miles. If I did that, I figured I could ride under 40 minutes which would put me at about 25 MPH average.

I had never trained biking right after a swim, though, and was surprised at how tough the first mile or two was because my HR was well over 160 getting onto the bike. For reference, in my tough bike training days, my HR rarely goes above 160.

My HR soon went to over 170, but my legs started to feel better. After about 5 miles, I felt like I was in a good rhythm and stayed in my aero position the entire time except for a couple sharp turns.

It was very windy out, but I have been training all spring in high winds so it didn’t bother me at all.

My watts were around 275 at the half way mark and I tried to push it just a little harder to get to my minimum goal of 280, but each time I did so, my HR would creep towards 180, which I knew was too high to sustain.

For the first time ever, my legs wanted to give more, but my cardio held me back, in training it is always the other way around.

At mile 12, I was averaging a blistering 25.5 MPH, but had the final 4 miles into a strong headwind. I kept my head down and finished my ride in 38:59 which ended up being about 25 MPH average.

The only bike mishap happened on the final mile when I got confused with bikers just starting the ride and took a wrong turn at about 30 MPH, I had to slam my breaks on, and do a U turn and go back, this might have cost me 20 seconds.

After the race, I discovered that I had the 10th fastest bike time out of around 700 riders. This included some professionals that were competing. I was very pleased with that!

My HR was about 174 as I quickly change into my running shoes.

Running is something I started in Dec, and have very little experience with. I struggled early in the spring with a few minor foot and leg injuries, which slowed my training down a bit.

My goal was to run a 7 min mile pace which is about as fast as I have run in practice on fresh legs.

Dustin run picFirst mile, I took slow as I found my running legs and did a 7:20. My HR stayed in the mid 170s, so I increased my pace a bit for the second mile and did 7:10. My HR was now about 180. I knew from experience, I can only stay above 180 for 5-10 minutes before my body shuts down.

I picked the pace up and finished with a very strong kick and did a 6:55 ish final mile and then threw up moments after I crossed the line, this seems to be a theme of mine. :]

Total time was 1:10:30 and I won my novice category by about 3 minutes and placed 25th overall out of close to 700.

Most things went according to plan, which I was grateful for. I credit my coach Blake and team BBMC for helping me train and prepare for the race, and for the extended amounts of time I prepped and visualized my ideal race.

1 hour and 10 minutes was my BIG goal time and I pretty much achieved that.

My swim surprised me with how good it was, my bike lived up to my high expectations, and my run was a touch slower than I had hoped and WAY slower than I need to be competitive in the future.

To put it in perspective, if my run was as strong as my bike, I would be running 5:40 min miles for a 5K, instead of my 7:10!

Lessons Learned

1. You are only as good as your training and preparation. There is a saying in triathlons and probably most races, that you aren’t going to magically run/bike/swim/ much faster than you have in training, in other words there are no positive surprises. The goal is to execute the race you have trained for.

This is so true. My swim might have been a few seconds faster than my best in training but not by much. My bike was right around my training times, and my run was too.

2. Be grateful for the body you have and what it can do. Whether you are first or last to cross the finish line it doesn’t matter, what matters is that you are having fun, enjoying the great outdoors, and living life to its fullest.

Halfway through the bike, I was in a nice rhythm and I had a big smile come over my face as I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude to have a body that is healthy enough to move it and to experience life in the way I was experiencing it.

3. Community is everything. I was blessed to have a handful of clients come out to cheer me on, and 5 of my staff and clients raced with me and did their first tri. It was so special to share that moment with them.

4. There will always be challenges and unexpected bumps in the road, how you handle them plays a huge roll in how you experience life. Fortunately, I didn’t have too many unforeseen challenges, but the large waves, wetsuit sticking, and the wrong turn were things I didn’t expect, but stayed calm and did my best to overcome.

5. Have fun! If I didn’t love the training, camaraderie, and racing of triathlons, I wouldn’t be doing it. But I LOVE doing the work and look forward to continuing the journey this summer.

6. Be well rounded. I think it is good to have many different hobbies, and interests. I struggle with this because I like to do things I am really good at. For triathlons though, I need to be good at all three disciplines, so I will be putting more of a focus in on my running. I still plan on biking a lot and hard, but my run is my glaring weakness. I have discovered my love of open water swimming and especially swimming with a wetsuit. 🙂

Thank you all for your support, love, and encouragement. It means the world to me as I discover more about myself and who I am and who I can become. I hope that in some small way I am able to inspire you to go after your goals and dreams with a passion and intensity that you have never had before.

Feel free to reach out to me with questions or “wins” that you have had in your own life.

Lessons Learned from Staying Active Every Day

We’ve always been pretty active as a family. But this year, I wanted to be more intentional about it.

I’d noticed that it was too easy to stay indoors on our short, cold winter days in Wisconsin. And, especially on those days, our boys had too much extra energy and acted out a lot more.

Plus, I recently read Younger Next Year, which is a great read that talks about how critical it is to do something active each and every day, especially as you get older.

As our lives have gotten busier, my husband and I have found this harder and harder to do…

So, on New Years Day, we decided as a family to commit to getting outside every day, even for just a little bit.

I’m tracking our progress and posting pictures a couple of times each week on Instagram with the hashtags #365outside, #activeeveryday and #outsideeveryday. (You can find me at h88emily.)

While we are only two months in, it has been a great experience so far! Here are a few of my early take aways:

  • Getting outside helps the mood and behavior of our boys. One of our sons is on the autism spectrum, and some days can be really challenging. Getting outside, even for a short period, can really help. I remember one evening in particular, where a walk on a dark, cold night saved us from hours of awful outbursts.
  • Skating

  • We think about new things that we can do as a family outside. This challenge caused us to discover geocaching, for example, which has been a blast and an easy thing to do together. I’m not sure I ever would have tried it otherwise.
  • We’ve had some spectacular moments, like this evening on the ice on a perfectly glass smooth lake. The ice was so smooth that it didn’t make a sound under our skates. It. Was. Amazing. I’m not sure we’d have been out there to discover that without this challenge..
  • Our house is messier because we get outside in all kinds of weather. We are in mud season right now as the snow melts in Wisconsin and there is A LOT of mud in our house and our front yard is a disaster. So we spend a bit more time cleaning… I still think it’s worth it.
  • It’s been easy to stay unplugged. We’ve never had a lot of screen time in our house, but the kids have watched almost no TV since we started this in January. And they haven’t missed it!

While it hasn’t been easy every day—some of those short, cold, Wisconsin winter days were tough, especially when they are in school most of the day—it’s been worth it to actually think about when we were going to get outside and what we were going to do. Although it’s not too planned most of the time—there’s a lot of creative play that happens in the sandbox and the snow banks. But knowing that we made this commitment causes us to be very intentional to think about how and when we are going to get out.

We’ve only missed one day so far. It was well below zero, with a 30-40 below wind chill, and while we could have gone out, I decided that it just wasn’t worth it. We went to an indoor pool and went swimming instead. So, still active… just not outside. =)

It’s been totally worth it for us and we’ve seen benefits already in time spent together as a family, time being active, and our kids’ behavior.

Plus, it doesn’t usually cost us a dime!

What can you do to get more active as a family? It’s a lot easier to stay in shape when you can do it together!

Post your goals in the comments here and connect with me on Instagram so we can hold each other accountable!