Winter Blues?

This whole blog thing is not as easy as I thought it would be. I had wanted to start a blog long before I actually started one. I have been told many times that I’m funny and I tell a good story. I’m not shy. I’m very passionate about fitness. I love sharing. Perfect I thought, all good reasons to start a blog! A few posts in, a couple of followers (ok friends), told me that when they are reading my posts, it’s like I’m right there with them, telling them my story, chatting with them, face to face. The positive feedback right from the get-go led me to believe I’d be able to post on a regular basis, ya know, engage those reading with some quick wit, a sad story or two, and perhaps a little bit of motivation and inspiration. There’s a problem though. Ok, actually there are a few problems.

It’s not always easy to put my thoughts into words without sounding like a complete goof. Even as I’m writing now, I think I sound like a complete goof. Do I sound like a complete goof?!?! Maybe that’s just me being too critical of myself. I don’t always have something fascinating to share. In other words my life these days is a total snooze fest! My day to day routine is monotonous. There’s the morning gym visit before anyone in the house has opened their eyelids. I run. I cross-train. I lift weights. I do yoga for runners. Nothing many of you don’t do yourselves. There’s my full time job. I’ve been there 26 years. Nothing exciting to talk about, well…except for the new single-cup coffee machine and the variety of flavors and brews I’ve been trying. Dark and intense is how I roll these days! My nights and weekends are filled with house chores and spending time with my family. Don’t get me wrong, I love to clean and my husband and kids are a hoot, but there’s nothing that comes to mind that they’d appreciate me blogging about. So, do you want the real reason I think I haven’t blogged? I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. This weather has really got me down and quite frankly, I just haven’t felt like sharing. I’m pretty sure I have a case of the winter blues. I can’t remember a winter I hated more. I’m missing my outdoor weekend runs. I’m dying to run outside without fear of injuring myself. I miss feeling the cool breeze as I run while the sun is shining down on my face. I miss sharing a nod, a “good morning” or an “enjoy your run” with the dozens of other runners along the trail or the lakefront path. The next time I have an opportunity to get out there I’m going to ditch the music, just listen to my feet hit the ground, concentrate on my breathing and think about all I have to be thankful for. I’m sure it’s exactly what I need to cure my case of the winter blues.

I’ll finish my post with a spoonful of motivation… I was successful in my December Runstreak. I ran every day of the month. 31days. No less than 2 miles a day. I logged over 100 miles. I was even able to shave 50 seconds off of my average pace per mile. My weight through the holidays held steady. Most importantly, I set a goal, stayed focused and committed and I succeeded.



Yep.  A #Runstreak.  For the month of December.  Every single day.  No less then 2 miles.  Who’s in?  I am!!  I already got a few Twitter followers to join me. Posting it on Twitter daily and telling each and every one of you that I’m doing it will hold me accountable.  The Cleanse got me through November without gaining a pound.  I’m hoping a #Runstreak will get me through December without gaining a pound.

Last Fall, on Twitter & Instagram, I would see posts about folks doing a #Runstreak.  Some for a month, some for a year, some for 1,000 or more days.  It inspired me.  How hard could it be to run at least 2 miles every day?  This would surely keep me on on track since I had no marathon or half-marathon training plan to get me out of bed every morning.  Nothing fitness-wise to keep me motivated.  It was getting a little easier to think of excuses not to get up out of my nice, warm, cozy bed and work out.  It’s too cold.  I didn’t get to bed early enough.  I’m too tired.  I decided to join in on the fun.  Guess what?  My one-month #Runstreak turned into 75 days! I may have it a little easier than some of you do to commit.  My kids are old enough to get dressed and get themselves out of the house on their own.  If my run had to be after work, they could wait just a little longer to eat dinner.  On Christmas morning they are not up at the butt crack of dawn waiting to open presents.  They sleep in.  The hubby didn’t mind.  He supports every single, crazy, goofball idea I have.  I was able to sneak out of the house at about 5:30 a.m. and log 3 miles for the day, already working off some of the calories that I’d be consuming while we scarfed down tamales for breakfast. Yep, tamales.  It’s been an Oliva family tradition for as long as I’ve been a part of the Oliva family – 22 years. I also didn’t feel guilty about eating the pierogis we’d made with my in-laws and cousins, or the sauerkraut, dumplings and out of this world stuffing I only get to eat on holidays.  I had a few glasses of wine and of course desserts. . . which, at any holiday gathering are fabulous and not to be skipped.  I did not deprive myself.  The best part?  I didn’t gain a pound.  In 75 days I logged 242.2 miles.

I’m challenging you to join me.  Maybe running is not your thing. Maybe there’s something else you can do every single day in December.  C’mon, it will keep you on track too!




Motherless Daughter

Back in May, I was overwhelmed with feelings of sadness. Not every day, and not all day long, but there would be moments I’d just lie or sit there and cry. In my bed, in the dark, waiting to fall asleep. Alone in the car, stuck in traffic and even a time or two, at my desk at work, when I had a few minutes to just let my mind wander. These feelings were nothing new for me. Mother’s Day, as well as my mom’s birthday (5/13), had arrived. I have been feeling this way, around this time, for many years. 22 of them in fact. I lost my mom to suicide in September 1991. I was the one who found her. One would expect that once I became a mother myself, things would change, and those feelings of sadness would lessen or maybe even be replaced with joy and happiness. After all, I was a mom and now the one being celebrated. Well, I’ve been a mom for 20 years, and guess what? This past May, the feelings of despair were still there, perhaps even magnified a bit because of conflict I was having with a loved one.

I decided it was finally time, and worked up enough courage, to seek help. September would be rolling around soon, and this is another month that always gets me down. The anniversary of my mom’s death (9/8), my birthday (9/16), and the day my dad lost his battle with cancer (9/20), all take place in September. You know that song by Green Day, Wake Me Up When September Ends? The title alone makes me think it was written especially for me. Anyway, I wanted someone, preferably a professional, to tell me these feelings were perfectly normal…even after all these years.

Somehow, I found myself the perfect therapist. There I said it. My secret is out. I saw a therapist. She opened the door to her office and I just about died. She reminded me SO much of my mother. She was about the same height, weight and age as my mother the last time I saw her alive. She wore glasses and walked with a cane, just as my mother did before she passed. I felt eerily comfortable immediately. The 45 minutes on her couch passed so quickly, yet I felt she had heard my whole life story. She recommended that I see her again the following week, and suggested I pick up a book that she said would help me – Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman. She reassured me that yes, what I feel year after year is PERFECTLY NORMAL.

I saw her only a handful of times after that first session. The book was a real eye opener for me. I even highlighted some sentences and paragraphs to refer to again and again and to share with my husband. I felt that he too needed to finally be reassured that these feelings were not out of the ordinary. He knows better than anyone what I put myself through. He goes through it too now that I think about it. I learned that a loss of a mother can shape a woman’s identity. My own feelings of rejection throughout my life stem from my mother rejecting her own life, and at the time, what I thought, her family. Me. The guilt I feel to this very day, of not doing enough to prevent her death, is common, but certainly not fair. I couldn’t have stopped her. Most of all, I have learned that this type of loss can, and often does, last a lifetime. Every anniversary of her death, every holiday, every birthday, every single celebratory occasion in my life leaves me longing for my mother’s presence. It’s ok to be sad. It is perfectly ok.

Although I would certainly love for her to be around to see the parent I’ve become, and the relationship I have with my own children, I must take comfort in the hopes that she is watching over us all, and carry on, because as a mother, it is what she would want me to do.


The Cleanse, continued.

After 18 weeks of marathon training, and eating, oh I couldn’t even tell you how many pounds of pasta, and well, a lot of anything and everything I damn well felt like eating, I am seriously grateful I decided to do this cleanse. Here are just a few reasons why:

1) I’ve read that sugar and carbs go right to your belly. I believe it now! Almost every pair of pants I own, with the exception of what I call my “tiny” ones, fit loose in the waist. Some I’ve even folded up and set aside for now. The “tiny” ones, now fit perfectly. Some belts are even too big. Get this, the scale never even budged after I lost the 3 1/2 lbs in the first 2 weeks either. I’m thinking if I would have exhibited a little more self-control with the “healthy” snacks, or watched my portions at lunch and dinner, I could have easily dropped a few more lbs. I’ve decided, and I hope I can stick to it, that I’m not going to worry about that number on the scale again. I’m feeling pretty comfortable where I’m at now, even though I don’t see that magic number when I look down. It’s just a number anyway.

2) I’ve discovered I love some new foods, as well as some new food combinations. All of the squashes – butternut, acorn, and spaghetti are now favorites of mine. Brown rice, quinoa, almond butter, Stevia and coconut oil will remain on my shopping list. Guacamole with zucchini slices or carrots instead of fried tortilla chips aren’t so bad. I’m going to keep introducing new-to-me foods to the family. I’m confident that one day we’ll all be on the same page.

3) This cleanse has made me less inclined to grab a meal out. I’m not one who enjoys cooking. In fact I hate it. I do it only because it’s my motherly/wifely duty. It’s actually been kind of fun though trying new recipes. Just this weekend I made a southwestern spaghetti squash “pasta” dish that I totally made up. It was a good substitute for chili mac, a total winter comfort food for me. My husband even said he loved it! My girlfriends and I are now passing “cleaner” recipes on to one another. One day I may even be able to say I love to cook!

4) This last reason has nothing to do with food. Although I had some reservations about having my teenage daughter participate in the cleanse along with me, it was a great decision. She was a great support to me. It was nice having someone in the house who was feeling what I was feeling. Someone who was able to say “Step away from the Nutella!” As a mom, it’s so rewarding to finally see her making good decisions – all on her own. She’s decided to continue on, which isn’t easy, I’m sure, when she’s sitting at a lunch table and all of her friends are eating junk, and she pulls out her brown rice, chicken and steamed veggies. She will still have her cheat days….and so will her mama. I can’t tell you how proud I am of her!!

Who Me?!

We are all guilty of it ladies. How many times has someone paid you a compliment and you respond with a negative answer. That dress looks great on you! Who me? This dress is as old as the hills?! You look like you’ve lost weight! Who me? You’re crazy, I’ve actually gained a few pounds!


I think I know why it is so hard for me. I wasn’t always in shape. There’s been times in my life when I’ve been slightly overweight. Senior year in high school I tipped the scale at 187 lbs. Besides the two times I was pregnant in my twenties, this was the most I’ve ever weighed. I was so not cute either! For many years, compliments about my appearance were few and far between. In my household I was criticized all the time. I was the chubby sister. The younger but bigger sister. Yes, I was even called fat. I’m not complaining. I’m sure I did my fair share of dishing out insults. Decades later though, it’s still there, inside my head. There are days I think I’m fat. There are days I’m beating myself up about one thing or another. It’s unnecessary. Right?

It’s been 7 years since I’ve been visiting the gym on a regular basis. I worked hard to get fit and now that I’m older, work even harder trying to stay fit. So why does it feel so wrong believing that someone might actually mean what they say when they are saying something nice? I’ve decided to make a conscience effort to NOT respond negatively, starting right now. Perhaps in the process I might even start to believe some of the positive things that are said.

Ladies, if you’re not already doing so, you should start too! We deserve it. Don’t we?!

The Cleanse.

A few months ago a girlfriend of mine and I were at dinner and she asked if I’d be interested in doing a cleanse with her. A cleanse huh? She told me she’d done it twice before and had positive results both times. Weight loss and increased energy to name two. I asked her to give me a little more information about it and told her I’d give it some thought. She’d printed something called Clean, Cleanse Manual and had it ready and waiting for me in her car when dinner was over. I’ll be honest, a cleanse/detox is something I’ve never given thought to for two reasons. One, I have never, ever, ever been able to follow a food plan or diet for any period of time, and two, I enjoy chewing food!! Anything I’ve ever heard about detoxing involves some sort of liquid meal, and I am not one to stick to anything that has me drink my breakfast, lunch or dinner…or so I thought. Over the next few days I took time to look over the manual. It seemed like something I could work with. A 3-day pre-cleanse, followed by 21 days of the cleanse, finishing with a 7-day reintroduction period. Plenty of food that I already purchase and eat was on the “Eat” list. No sugar or processed foods is what scared me, but maybe I’d finally be able to stop my addiction to ALL THINGS SWEET!!! Oh, what the heck, sure! I let her know I’d give it a try. Before I knew it, a book arrived in the mail with a note that read “Enjoy! I look forward to our Cleanse – you will love this and find out a lot about how your body reacts to certain foods!” She took it a step further. She enlisted several other friends, who also enlisted friends, to take part in the cleanse. She created a private “Cleanse with Friends” group on Facebook so that we could share ideas, issues, thoughts, recipes, etc. with one another. Genius!  

I decided it’d be a good idea for my teenage daughter, a senior in high school, to come along for the ride. Of course it’d be a little more stressful on myself because I’d now be responsible for two, but she’ll be going away next year to college and perhaps she won’t fall victim to the “freshman 15” if she changed some of her behaviors now. Away we went, list in hand, to the market, and loaded up on some things to begin. Coconut water and oil, almond milk and butter, Stevia, raw nuts, seeds, plenty of fish, frozen fruits, and new-to-us veggies like spaghetti and butternut squash, etc…

It’s been 9 days since we began the cleanse. It hasn’t always been easy, yet it hasn’t been that difficult either. I realized a couple of things two days in. I was not able to drink TWO meals and I was not able to give up coffee. I have however, been able to drink ONE meal and cut down on my coffee. The smoothies made with fruit, almond milk, coconut water, and protein powder are a more satisfying breakfast than I thought they’d be. Coffee with almond milk and Stevia is delicious. I may not be perfect, but I’m seeing positive results so my thought is some is better than none. I have already dropped 3 1/2 lbs and it may sound absurd, but I haven’t been craving sugar. I’m now snacking on nuts, seeds and avocados instead of chocolate chip morsels or dry cereal. I’ve experienced a few side effects in these first days. I’ve had headaches, I’ve been weak, I’ve been very emotional and have had several bouts of sensory overload. All normal and totally worth dealing with for the end result…a cleaner lifestyle. 

My daughter is doing amazing. She has lost 6 lbs, her sleeping habits have improved and her skin is smooth as can be. It’s given her the nudge she needed to start thinking healthier about food before she leaves my wings. Most importantly, it seems as if she’s feeling a little more confident about herself and her body. I cannot wait to see the changes in her after all is said and done.  

Since I began this cleanse, several friends of mine have hopped on the bandwagon. A few of my husband’s female co-workers have asked him to get more information about it from me. It has also sparked some interest amongst my daughter’s girlfriends. She’s since added them to the Facebook group for some guidance. I’ll be honest with you. I’m sure it’s been easier for all of us because of the interest and support of others. Having the group has been wonderful. Even though some of us are complete strangers, we are all holding one another accountable. It’s actually been fun! It’s far from over though, so I’ll be sure to share more about my experiences over the remaining weeks of the cleanse.



Life doesn’t always cooperate.

There are times when it isn’t easy to stick to the workout routine we are used to. There are times life just gets in the way. I’m a total morning workout kind of gal. In fact, my alarm has been going off for so many years at 4:30 a.m. on weekday mornings, sometimes come Saturday and Sunday I’m ready to start my day at that same time. I literally have to force myself to stay horizontal until a reasonable morning hour, like 6:00 a.m. Anyhow, I had a very stressful start to my week and for two mornings I was not able to get my workouts in. I decided to just chalk Tuesday up as a rest day and was a bit more conscience about what I put in my pie hole. Who am I kidding? I was not. I believe (actually, I know) at one point Tuesday night I ate raw cookie dough that I had found in the freezer and defrosted with no intention of making cookies. Oh like you’ve never done this?! By Wednesday afternoon I was getting texts from friends asking if I was ok because they hadn’t heard from me. (I have the best support system I’m telling you!) I was quiet, short with people and suffered from a headache. On the commute home a girlfriend sent a text telling me her workout plan for the night. I responded that despite the rain, I was going to go for a run. Telling her would hold me accountable. Once I got home, I changed into my running clothes, prepped dinner, stuck it in the oven and hit the streets. I knew I’d have plenty of time to quickly shower, finish dinner and eat with the family. I feel too guilty giving up family time just to get a workout in!

The run was only 4 ½ miles. Nothing spectacular to you all I’m sure. However, in my mind, it was one of those runs so epic that Morgan Freeman should have been narrating it. I know what you’re thinking. Faster than normal pace? Negative splits? Something that would give me a reason to categorize this run as epic? Nope. Not a thing. Maybe it’s because I had stepped out of my comfort zone and ran in inclement weather. Mind you, I’m the gal that has always scheduled my training runs around crappy weather. Two marathons, three half marathons, a dozen or more smaller races and I’ve never actually ran in the rain before. A little drizzle for a mile or two here or there, maybe, but never in rain from start to finish. Perhaps I felt this run was so epic because I was risking my life dodging drivers in their cars, whose visibility had been greatly diminished by the precipitation. Maybe it’s because I was jumping off of curbs and desperately trying to avoid piles of wet leaves so I wasn’t chowing on cement instead of the chicken I had put in the oven moments before I left the house. A bit of an exaggeration I know. But this run was epic. It was liberating to run in the rain. Instead of wearing headphones, I just listened to my breathing, the sound of my feet hitting the pavement and the raindrops falling on the awnings hanging from the houses. It seemed as everything I had been stressing about for two days had just been washed away by the rain. I was happy to have kept my promise to myself to run despite the weather.

Guess what? I woke up today feeling a little less stressed.


Friends who motivate & inspire.

I wrote this story in 2008 with the intention of mailing it to a fitness magazine.  A success story of sorts.  I never did.  I came across it the other day.  I thought I’d share.
     In October 2006, my girlfriend Susi and I were at the mall, standing in line, ordering fancy (and no doubt fattening) coffee drinks, when we decided to have a “Biggest Loser – Couples Edition” contest of our own.  If our husbands agreed, the plan was to weigh in immediately – why wait if we’re really serious about losing weight and getting healthy?!  They agreed (like they had a choice) and that evening, the four of us hopped on the scale in front of one another.  That had to be one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do in my life – weigh myself in front of three other people! Great motivation I guess. Susi and I were surprised to learn we were within just a few pounds of one another. Again, great motivation!  The four of us sat and talked a little bit about exercising, nutrition, our goals, the weigh-in date, and most importantly – the reward.  We decided on a nice dinner out at a restaurant of the winning couple’s choosing.  Susi and I even got on the internet and checked out the group class schedule at a nearby gym, which she already was a member of, but hadn’t gone in awhile. We picked a night and time we’d go to check it out, and even talked about what we’d wear since neither of us had many workout clothes. (Truthfully, I didn’t have any!)  I got a week pass at the gym and decided if I was still serious about this at week’s end, I would take the money out of savings and join for an entire year.  Hey, if my membership was already paid for I would have to go, right?!  My plan worked.  Susi and I went faithfully for the days, weeks, and months to come.  Since we live near one another, we took turns picking each other up – a huge reason not to miss.  We did both cardio & toning group classes.  We walked on the treadmill and gave some of the weight machines a try.  To mix it up, every now and then, we’d meet at the gym at 5:00 a.m., before work, to either lift weights or run a couple of miles on the treadmill…something I never thought I’d do, much less enjoy!  We would feel guilty if we had to miss a workout.  Almost immediately it seemed as if the pounds were just falling off.  We both felt as if we really weren’t dieting, just watching our portions, saying no to seconds and eating snacks in moderation.  Most importantly, we stuck to our work out plan.  Many of our conversations centered around nutrition, exercise and the need for new clothes.  We shared tips, recipes and fitness magazines.  By the middle of March of 2007, Susie and I had lost close to 30 pounds each!  It’s been two years since the dreaded night we stepped on that scale and we’ve both managed to keep the weight off.  We still work out together when our schedules permit, and when they don’t, we’re motivated by the fact that the other is hitting the treadmill or making it to a group class on another morning or night.  I can’t end my story without letting you know which couple won the challenge.  In my opinion, we both won. Susi & I transformed our bodies and changed our lives. We both have more energy and confidence than ever before.  But for the record, the night the four of us went to dinner, my husband and I didn’t have to pay a dime! 
A few years ago Susi moved away. As time passed, we started talking less and eventually lost touch.  Just recently, her name & picture popped up on Facebook as someone I may know so I sent her a friend request. She accepted and sent a message.  She saw that I was an avid runner and told me she just finished her first 5k that very day!  It was as if no time had passed between us.  We met for dinner and caught up on everything we had missed out on in one another’s lives.  We learned we still have so much in common, especially fitness.  Once again, we are inspiring and motivating each other each and every day!

It’s not always about me.

I can still remember that “I’m on top of the world” feeling after crossing the finish line for the first time. I immediately knew I’d be running more races and further distances. It took awhile for me to realize that I was inspiring others to start running as well…

My sister’s husband, who’d been there to support me at that 5k, told me he was going to give it a shot at that same race the following year. I promised I’d get him to the finish line if he was serious. He joined a gym and started running. Just as he said he would, he registered for the race, and just as I said I would, I stayed with him to and through the finish line. I didn’t care about a PR. I was just happy to be a part of his “I’m on top of the world” experience.

A few months later, after finishing my first Chicago Marathon, a gal from high school sent me an inbox message via Facebook. She told me she was inspired by all of my marathon related posts and wanted some advice on getting started. I shared with her everything I knew. She set running a local Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning as her goal. Sure I had to get my ham in the oven, but I didn’t want to miss her first race. I made a sign and my husband and I stood out in the cold waiting to see her finish. She was hooked! We weren’t close in high school, yet her and I have talked, texted and/or e-mailed one another almost every day since she sent that message. She’s now one of my inspirations and we support each other in every race.

Last year my very non-athletic teenage daughter told me she wanted to complete a 5k. Honestly, I didn’t think she’d take it seriously, but I went ahead and registered the two of us for a Run for Pie 3.14 race, in hopes she’d follow through. She downloaded a running app, borrowed some of my running clothes and began. It wasn’t always easy, but she stuck it out. We ran that race together. We crossed the finish line hand in hand. We did another 5k this past Mother’s Day. We’ve decided to run these two races every year. Together. I treasure these times with her!!

Most recently, my niece asked me if I’d take her for some good running shoes as she had recently started running. I did. Occasionally she’d check in with me letting me know how she was improving. I told her if she felt she was ready, I’d pay her race fee and we’d run a 5k. I signed us up. Again, not worrying about a PR we crossed that finish line side by side. She’s already talking about another.

I’m currently mentoring a new runner friend. She texted me just days ago telling me she secretly signed herself up for a half marathon next September. You can bet your dupa I’ll be there as she crosses the finish line!!






I’m a huge believer in signs. Signs from loved ones who are no longer with us. I see signs always. Especially from my mom. Silly to some I’m sure, but not to me. I find comfort in these signs. Some signs are more obvious than others. Some totally freak me out. Signs from my mom are usually the numbers 513 and 13. My mom committed suicide in 1991. Her birthday was 5/13. For my 40th birthday, after I’d been seeing these numbers for years, and quite often, I decided to get a tattoo. The number 13 surrounded by 5 lilacs, her favorite flower. Symbolic of her birthday and the numbers 5/13.

These numbers seem to pop up always and everywhere, especially when I’m racing. Maybe it’s a stretch. But they are there and they comfort me. My first half marathon for example. My 5 digit bib number was #11641. (Add those 5 digits together and it’s 13. Yep. 513). This year’s Shamrock Shuffle my average pace was 9:22 (add ’em up. Yep. 13!) and my finish time was 46:30 (add ’em up. Yep. 13). This year’s Chicago Marathon was no different. It was on 10/13/13. Two 13’s already! I also PR’d by 13 minutes (4:47:29). The unofficial results posted that day show I placed 1313 in my age group. It has since changed. My running partner and I separated somewhere around mile 19. His finish time was 5:11:15. (add ’em up. Yep. 13). All incredible races.



I could go on and on with similar signs in my everyday, ordinary life. I welcome and treasure these signs. Maybe that’s why I see them. I truly believe that my angel mother is always with me, especially when I’m racing. . .