The Brave Athlete: Calm the F*ck Down and Rise to the Occasion

Have you ever stood on the shore of a lake and stared into the calm water in absolute terror because you are getting ready to start your swim workout in open water? I’m not even talking about a race scenario; I’m talking about a training swim. Do you tend to screw up your nutrition in races due to overthinking? Do you start freaking out race morning and wish you never entered the race? Well, I can answer honestly to all those questions with a resounding, “Yes!!!” and add “What the heck is wrong is with me?”

Well, Simon Marshall and Lesley Paterson have the answer in their book, The Brave Athlete: Calm The F*ck Down and Rise to The Occasion. According the them, it’s my “chimp” side of my brain bullying and taking over my “professor” side. Love it. It’s a great book that not only helps the crazy athlete first understand what is happening but also provides ways to coerce both “chimp” and “professor” to live in harmony. Please note that this book not only applies to athletes but to anyone who is putting off huge goals, unrelated to sports, in their lives—that would be me, too.

The book begins with a warning, “To all the confident, motivated, well-balanced, and happy athletes . . . This book isn’t for you.” Do those people really exists? I think not.

The main breakdown of the book is in the first chapter with an explanation of the chimp vs. professor brain. A brief explanation in my own terms is that the “chimp” side is the flight or fight mode and acts on instinct and also is the loudest, especially when you are pushing your body. It’s the bully, and it will take over the “professor” side of your brain, the logic side. One of the best pieces of advice in the book is to not fight the chimp side because the chimp will win every time. It’s true. Totally true.

The book is divided into four sections: The Basics, Heart, Wings, and Fight. Each section, such as Fight, which is about leaving your comfort zone and learning new battles skills, is filled with chapters that offer solutions to distract the chimp side so that the professor side can step in and say something logical like, “Ellen, you will not be eaten by a shark because you are swimming in a lake.”

Well, I’m still standing on the edge of the lake, and the chimp side is talking to me, “Ellen, you know bull sharks live in lakes, and what about the snakes and the alligators?” Here’s where the solutions come in to balance out the chimp and the professor, and these solutions really work if you apply them.

For example, in the Heart section, which is about finding your motivation, your “why,” I used an exercise that helped me get out the door. In this section, the authors acknowledge that as athletes, we usually don’t have a problem setting goals; the problem is actually doing them. Yep. Here’s my chimp, who is saying, “Are you really going to swim the entire course?” or “Are you really going run 10 miles? Seriously, there’s not way.”  Marshall and Paterson suggest to bring in that professor side to distract the chimp, who is in pure nasty mode because you are planning to push your body out of your comfort zone. The professor side says, “I’m only going to swim to the buoy and turn around.” or “I’m only going to run to the two-mile rest stop and turn around.”  The chimp is distracted, and you walk out the door.  Well, we all know what happens. Once you’re at the workout, you usually complete it, but you keep telling your chimp, “Hmm. Just one more buoy.” or “Just one more rest stop.” It works. I did this exercise for a 10 mile run, and I kept telling my chimp that I was running to a rest stop. Total distraction.

The last section, which is called Fight, offers some golden distractions for that chimp in chapters like, “I Don’t Like Leaving my Comfort Zone,” and “I Need to Harden the F*ck up: Learning to Embrace the Suck.” Solutions range from thumb tapping and counting during a run to mantras during a swim. Yes, these solutions do work. Remember, you are distracting that chimp when the chimp yells, “Your calf is about to explode and separate from your leg. You need to stop on this hill. Just walk up it.” Yes, my calf did cramp up on a hill on mile nine of ten, so I tried a visualization exercise with an app that the authors suggest to use for breathing, and I found myself laughing, and I ran up the hill.

That breathing app is one of about five apps that Marshall and Paterson suggest using for distracting the chimp. Most of the apps are free, and they work with visualization or, really, let’s call it what it is, “meditation.” There is one app that I bought for $3.99, and it the app that made me laugh when I was running up that hill. It’s called Breathe, and it looks like some psychedelic light show to help your breathing, but it works. I thought is was stupid until I used it on that hill to quiet the chimp, who was begging me to stop.

Some of the best chapters are about prerace day and race day.  I tend to have the best freak-outs the night before a race. In fact, it’s just part of the planning. That’s the chimp inside me taking over and doing a head game. The authors have great solutions for distracting that chimp,  including giving the chimp a voice for 15 minutes the day before the race to just go berserk with crazy thoughts. Only 15 minutes. Then, you allow the professor to step in and answer the chimp. It’s all about balance and distraction. I can get used to watching a movie the night before a race instead of freaking out, and my family staying far, far away from me.

So this book is a great read, and you can skip around and read parts that pertain to you. It’s different from other self-help books because instead of saying, “Just do it,” which Marshall and Paterson emphasize does not work, as well as those other motivational mantras on Facebook, it gives you tips to help you actually chip away at your goal and not let that chimp rule your mind. Overall, you can’t fight the chimp because it’s part of you, but you can distract it.

So, I’ll still be standing at the edge of the lake and thinking about the swim, but at least I will have some solutions. They are working for running, so it’s time to try them out on the swim and the phantom sharks, who live in the lake and in my chimp brain.


Tribute To My Mom

As many of my readers already know, my mother passed away on a cruise ship last Monday, July 2, 2018. Her Memorial Service was today.

Thinking about my mom, I am grateful that she introduced me to reading for pleasure. She was an avid reader, and she saw how bored I would get with children’s books. She introduced me to Stephen King when I was twelve years old. Today, that introduction does not seem like a big deal because kids are exposed to adult issues at a very young age, thanks to social media and Netflix. Back in the Dark Ages when I was twelve, we had books, the kind that you held. Back in the Dark Ages, I found out about sex, like graphic sex described in detail, by reading Stephen King.  My mom took a risk and let me read adult books, and little did she know that she would set me on a path as a writer.

I remember she had two bottom shelves in her bedroom that were filled with Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and she said you could read any of these books. That was it; I became lost in stories of horror, and I ate it up. I had no idea that people actually made a living about stories that were scary and so much fun to read. I started with, of course, Salem’s Lot, then Carrie, then The Dead Zone, and just kept going. Two books, The Shining and The Stand,  showed me the power of words and how a writer could master a technique in words that could just slam the reader. In The Shining, there was a scene that involved animal topiaries–you know animals cut in shapes from bushes. They moved if you looked away from them, and they came closer. Think of the Weeping Angels from Dr. Who. That whole scene involving those bushes cut into animals gave me nightmares. In The Stand, it was a sentence that made me almost vomit, and it was simply a sentence that described  how a character overdosed on pills and choked on his vomit in his sleep, but the way it was written came out of the blue and hit me in the stomach.

As I read stories that entertained me, I began to look at the layers underneath the stories. I learned about symbolism. I began reaching for other writers, and mom introduced me to Harlan Ellison and my favorite line of all time, “I have no mouth, and I must scream.” I remember in high school, I loved writing papers about Virgil’s Aeneid (I had to translate the damn thing) because I was able to connect the symbolism and the foreshadowing underneath the plot. To this day, the books I enjoy are those with layers, and the television series that I enjoy are those series with layers and a complete running story from beginning to end. Blow my mind. I want A Game of Thrones “Hold the Door” moment, where I did not see that end coming. It’s little wonder that I pushed myself to earn a Ph.D. in Humanities with a specialization in Literature and wrote a book that was filled with symbolism.

So thinking back about my mom, I can say that she introduced me to the power of a good story and set me on a path as a writer. That’s something to be incredibly grateful for–to be set on that path of creativity.

I will miss her.

Review: InknBurn Stars and Stripes/Happy 4th of July

INknBurn:  Love These Clothes!!!

Running shorts that look like denim and can breathe through the Texas heat? No chafing or riding up the thigh and no fidgeting with the fit?  And a sports bra that holds everything in place and matching singlet?

Here are the links to this outfit:

Star Denim Shorts:

Stripes Sports Bra:

Stripes Singlet:

I tested this outfit for 10 miles in the Texas heat. My run was awful, but what a joy it was when people passed by me and said, “Cute outfit. Where did you get that?” or “Is that InknBurn? Do you like the four inch shorts?” or “You know, denim shorts are not the best clothes for running.”

The shorts do like denim,  and you get a bunch of second looks when people are trying to figure out if you are running in blue jean shorts. Add the colorful singlet and matching bra, and you have a killer workout outfit to keep you going uphill at mile eight in the Dallas heat.

Did I mention that I wear InknBurn for Pilates, Weight Lifting, and even going to the store? Sure, I love this company because their workouts clothes are functional and cute, but the real reason is that when I put on InknBurn, I feel  either stylish or I feel like a bada$$–well, it depends if I’ve had my coffee.

Here’s the website and happy shopping:


Dallas Morning News Feature: Blast From the Past

Here’s a blast from the past from an article from The Dallas Morning News about quick workouts:

It popped up again today as a feature for workouts inside in the air-conditioning and out of this Texas heat.  It’s great timing because it’s almost 100 degrees in Texas, and these workouts are great for working out inside, where the cool air is blowing.

Leslie Barker, Senior Writer for Health and Fitness for The Dallas Morning News, wrote this article, and I was so happy to be contacted and featured. That’s me on the cover, and I was terrified about how I would look for the video and photos. How silly. It was a great experience. Enjoy the article.


That’s me for a section from the video. So fun!!

When You Have a Bad Run

When you have a bad run, you either turn around and say, “Screw it,” or you just keep going. For injuries or dehydration, use common sense and turn around or get some help. For mental breakdowns, push through it, and that’s what I did on my long run over the weekend.

I had one of those runs where everything went wrong. I think I had mentally blown off the run because it was a low-distance week for marathon training, and that meant a short run of six miles. Well, six miles without your running group at 5:30 in the morning, without your water stops, and without the group motivation is a very long and very boring six miles.

I had to make my rest stop my house, so that meant two loops. I forgot my water bottle, which is major act of stupidity in the Texas heat. Of course, I forgot it because I was too busy fiddling with my headphones, which broke the first half mile. Going out for that second loop when I was home was quite difficult with all the mental whining and “I’ll do the run tomorrow” excuses.

The bad runs make you mentally tough for race day. You just push through it and stop the mental games. Easier said than done, but it’s a process to change that stinking thinking.

Giving Up Diet Coke

So I might have a little issue with Diet Coke. I drink it on and off, and then it builds to one per day, and then I add in more per day if I am stressed out. Soon, I substitute it for water until I realize I have to detox again. What in the world? It’s Diet Coke. It’s not that big of a deal, but it is. When I get off of it, my face clears up, my sweet tooth fades, and all that water I hold, comes off. That’s just for me.

I started drinking Diet Coke in high school or maybe I started in college. I don’t know. I just know it was always there as a comfort: it helped soothe my anxiety when I wrote undergraduate papers, and then my dissertation, and, finally, my book. It helped settle my stomach when I went to Friday classes after late Thursday college nights, and it settles my stomach now after long runs.  It’s that carbonation and sweetness that hits the spot of any hunger that I have. Add that caffeine to the mix, and that’s a powerful drink, filled with memories and jolt of happiness.

As I detox once again, here are some substitutes that I use:

Unsweetened Green Iced Tea: It’s caffeine loaded, and you can sweeten it any way you want. Plus, it tastes really good when you are thirsty.

La Croix Water: I like it because it’s carbonated and a good alternative if I want something to settle my stomach.

A Big Gallon Jug of Cold Water: There’s nothing like ice cold water to satisfy that thirst.

Nuun Tablets: I throw about three of these tables into my gallon of water the day before a long run in Texas, especially during our summers. The tablets help with dehydration. I’ll start drinking the water with the tablets the day before my long run, and then bring it with me for after the run. It really helps. Oh, and the tablets make the water carbonated. Some of the tables are caffeinated, another bonus.

These products are what I have used and will continue to use to detox off Diet Coke yet again. Will I drink another Diet Coke ever? Sure, I will. What I have to watch out for is that I drink them in moderation, like once a week, as opposed to every day because then it starts to become an addition again.

Good luck to you in your own Diet Coke Addiction.




InknBurn–My Two Cents on Some Cool Workout Clothes

My InknBurn Outfits

I like this brand of workout clothes called InknBurn:   The fit is flattering and fun, and it’s comfortable. I started wearing the brand about a year ago when a running friend told me about it. I bought a pair of shorts and became hooked. It’s pricey compared to what I would pay, but the brand is worth the price because the colors do not fade even with all my sweat, and the fit is great. The 6 inch and 4 inch shorts don’t ride up and neither do the shorts in the running skirts. The bras and camisoles don’t chafe, and the singlets and long shirts are comfortable. I have not bought a short-sleeved shirt yet, but I have my eye on a Medusa design.  I really like the capris and tights because they’re not all black and boring; there’s some cool designs. The clothes are fun to wear. I also wear them to the gym for weight lifting and to Pilates reformer classes. I’m hooked on the brand. I usually look for the sales and the new designs that come out usually once a month. However, I have to be be quick because if the design is popular, it sells out fast. There are also designs on Poshmark and Ebay, but I have to be fast because if it’s an older design or anything related to Star Wars, it is snatched up quickly either to be worn or resold on Ebay for double or triple the price. Yes. Those designs can be very popular.  Workout gear doesn’t have to be all black and drab; it can be comfortable and fun.

Seasonal Depression Sucks


Seasonal Depression Sucks. It’s called S.A.D. Yes, it is sad. It’s depression. It’s not happy.  For me, it hits in January to the end of  February. By March, the sun starts to come out , and the weather gets warmer.

Don’t tell me to snap out of it. Um, you don’t snap out of depression. You are not cured overnight. It’s a process. I know that depression is a part of me, and I refuse to be in a constant battle with it. Life is way too short to be at war, fighting your inner demons, all the time.  I acknowledge the depression, give myself a break, and then slowly start using my coping devices to work my way out of the funk. Yes, it’s sometimes chocolate.

Don’t tell me how to get over my depression. Don’t give me any advice. I’ve had depression long enough to know what it is and when it hits. I know what to do. But there’s the rub. When I’m depressed, it’s hard to get out of it because I’m depressed with a huge weight sitting on me. It’s a slow process. I have the tools, but  when it’s hitting me, it’s hard to get off the couch and go for that run. It takes baby steps. There is no snapping out of it and no overnight cure. If anyone tells you that there’s an overnight cure, that’s not depression.

Let me take my baby steps. Do not pressure me. Writing is part of the baby steps I take. I am acknowledging the depression, accepting it. Once I accept it, then I can start taking my steps. Of course, working out is another baby step, including working out outside even when it’s cold. Who wants to get out in the cold? Getting my light box out is another step. I know I need to get that light box out of the drawer, so I will. I’m taking those baby steps to climb out of the hole.

Don’t judge me. I advise you not to judge me or anyone else for your own sanity because of the simple rule of karma. If you don’t know what karma is, then look it up. I’ve had karma kick me in the butt so many times when I have judged that my booty is really sore. And karma is a hard kick in the ass. Of course, karma can come in a good way, too.  That’s what you want to focus on–karma returning good experiences to you.

I can only speak about myself because I have been dealing with depression pretty much since high school, and I’m way out of high school now.  I’ve had years and years and years of therapy and still am in therapy. It’s a process. I’m fine, and I have the tools.

Most people are like me when they are dealing with Seasonal Depression and maybe even their own depression. If they have lived with it all their lives, then they know when that depression raises its ugly head; they know what to do. However, some people have no clue about it. If you happen to find someone who is struggling and cannot figure out why, then suggest help for them. You’ll  know it because you’ll feel those red flags in your gut. However if you encounter someone like me and notice that my personality has become darker than what it usually is, and my personality is pretty dark and dry, then know that I’m good. Yes, I will appear as a bitch until March, but then the sun will come out, and all will be right with the world again, well, maybe not the world.




Our Spirit Airlines Saga: Part Three/End of the Nightmare

Here is the last installment of our journey with Spirit Airlines. Oh, I am so happy to be home.

So Happy To Be Home

Thursday, January 4th

Remember when that Spirit employee asked us on January 2nd if we wanted that January 4th American flight directly to Dallas? We were so regretting not saying yes, especially when we had to wake up at four in the morning to catch the 6 a.m. American flight to Charlotte. Checking intro American Airlines was slightly scary because my daughter and I did not have assigned seats. In fact, the ticket attendant told us that we would have to get our seats at the gate because Spirit is notorious for placing their passengers on American flights that are already full. I was shocked and very worried that we would not get back to Dallas because we didn’t have seats on our first flight to Charlotte, but luck was on our side. For our seat assignments, Anya and I had the coveted emergency exit seats. We had so much room that we stretched our legs and fell asleep even before the plane took off. In Charlotte, all my family had seats that were in different places on the plane to Dallas, so I asked if Anya and I could have seats together since she was a minor. Luck was on our side again or maybe because it was American, but the ticket attendant gave us seats on the last row of the plane, which was fine with us. We had to wait an extra hour due to de-icing on a plane coming in from Orlando. American was upfront about the delay and kept us informed, unlike Spirit where we had to figure out what was happening. When we did board the plane to Dallas, we had plenty of room and an empty seat between us. We stretched out and enjoyed the flight, which actually included free drinks and snacks, and we could upload a movie. These added benefits felt amazing, especially after flying Spirit.

Anya with Kirby and the Cats
Group Shot

We did make it home and picked up our animals, but we had to board both the two cats and the dog for two extra days. It was more added cost. Thank God for my neighbor, Katie, who handled our animals and other appointments that I missed since I could not make direct calls because we were out of the country.  We will not fly Spirit again. I think Spirit is good for a direct flight in the United States, but when you have connections and international flights, it is not worth money that you save. I am so happy to be home, and thus our journey ended.

Our Spirit Airlines Saga: Part Two

This installment is Part Two  of our adventure on Spirit Airlines. Perhaps “adventure” is not the correct word, but “nightmare” would certainly fit the description.

Wednesday, January 3rd

With smiles and stinky clothes, we hoped that Spirit would have it together, and we would be back to Dallas. We were wrong. When we arrived at the airport in Bogota again, we checked in with little problem and received our connecting flight information. We would fly to Fort Lauderdale, and we had plenty of time to go through security to get to our connecting flight. We waited. Plane was delayed until 1:00. We waited again. My daughter and I knew all the shops in the airport now. There is only so much you can do in an airport. We waited some more. Flight was delayed until 3:30. We had been at the airport since seven in the morning. Once again, Spirit never told us why the delays. Finally, we were ready to board the plane, which had been sitting at the same gate with our luggage since yesterday. However, we first had to board those dreaded buses and travel the long journey to the actual plane. Three buses pulled up to our plane, but the doors would not open. They left us on those buses without anywhere to sit for 45 minutes. Yes, 45 minutes. The few seats, at least on our bus, went to the mothers with the small children and the older passengers. We sat and stood and stared at the plane.

Waiting on the bus for 45 minutes

At one point, the captain came out of the airplane and started yelling to see what the problem was. He looked very agitated, and we applauded because at least it was something to entertain us.  Finally, we were able to board the plane, and we found out that Spirit was waiting for a flight attendant, who was coming in from the 3:30 flight. The only reason we actually found out why the flight was delayed was because the flight attendant told us. When we asked him why the flight was delayed, he said, “It was because of me.” That was the first honest answer that we had received from anyone at Spirit. No one could be mad at him because he was the only one who was completely transparent about any delays. When we arrived in the States, I think some of the passengers started crying. Even the captain come on the microphone and commented that we were finally in the United States. The passengers applauded when the plane landed, and I think all the passengers were so hopeful that perhaps we would make our connections even though our flight was delayed eight hours. We did not have a chance at all.  Like ants or more like zombies, all of us on that plane went through immigration. We had our passports stamped again. We waited for our luggage. We waited a long time. Ticktock. Ticktock. Ticktock.

At this point, after our family finally picked up our luggage, we said our goodbyes with a shake of the head in the universal “unbelievable” sign to the rest of the passengers, and they shook their heads with the same response. They had their own own road to travel with Spirit, and I wished them good luck.  Our family (Gabe, Anya, Michael, and myself) headed out to the next part of our journey: the connecting flight back to Dallas. We were so hopeful that we actually could make the flight back to Dallas until we hit security. Not a chance. After security, we raced to our gate to Dallas, and it closed right before when we got there. Spirit could not have waited five minutes, knowing that people (our family, as well as others) on that Colombian flight were trying to make that connection to Dallas. My guess was the flight was already sold out, and there probably were not any seats for us anyway. I would not put it past Spirit. We were devastated. We were still in our stinky clothes that were two days old, and it was late in the night, and we were exhausted. Our luggage was on that flight to Dallas. The thought of staying in another hotel in the same clothes again was just insane.  I was worried about our luggage landing in Dallas without us and walking away without us. With buried heads, we headed back to the Spirit ticket counter.

Unfortunately, our flight came in right before a  big storm  in the north was about to slam into New York and all the surrounding areas, and the Spirit ticket area was filled with lots of angry Northerners. The endless lines of angry people looked like one of Dante’s circle of Hell, where those who can never get flights are forever punished trying to get flights. The whole atmosphere was filled with chaos and yelling.  It was terrible, and I finally lost my cool. There was no way I was waiting in another long line again when Spirit had royally just screwed us over by closing that door to our Dallas flight with our luggage already on the flight. Yes, I lost my cool.  I went up to one of the employees, who was directing the traffic of angry people, and told her what happened and asked for her to help us. Yes, there were tears. Sometimes, hysterics are appropriate. She moved us to the front of the line. We were placed on flights not to Dallas, but to Charlotte and then to Dallas. Those flights were tomorrow, and they were on American. What was really irritating was that they did not place us on flight to directly to Dallas. We had to fly to Charlotte first and then to Dallas. Ridiculous. They gave us hotel vouchers again. Thank God that Gabe’s father lived in Fort Lauderdale. His family took us in around midnight, and they gave us pajamas. We showered, washed our clothes, and ate the best arepas I have ever had. I also had some whiskey, which was much needed. We had to wake up at four in the morning to catch a 6 a.m. flight to Charlotte. At least, we did not stink.

Best Arepas I Have Every Eaten

Part Three/The Conclusion will appear in the next installment. It will be a happy ending.

Bad Mother Runner