balance

5 things to help get it done and beat the odds

About 50% of people who start a Ph.D. program never finish. I’ve seen some of the brightest Ph.D. students struggle to finish their dissertations because they’re too busy doing something else important.

 

I had a unique graduate school experience in that I was simultaneously training for the Olympic trials. I joined the doctoral program for two reasons:

1)   I wanted to further my professional career in special education

2)   I thought it would be a good compliment to professional running

 

My first year was challenging because of the intensity needed to do well in both.  More often than not I felt like quitting one to focus on the other. One day I wanted to quit track the next day I wanted to quit school. But I didn’t want to become a part of the all-but-dissertation statistic. I needed to figure out a way to beat the odds.

 

Incoming Ph.D. students often ask me “how did you balance a Ph.D. with training for the Olympic trials?” I don’t think there’s one right formula that works for everyone, but I did find five things that helped me. This blog is for anyone who is looking to get it done by beating the odds.

 

1)   Find a cheerleader

On the track my coaches have always challenged me to push my body beyond my expectations. In my Ph.D. program I was greeted with a similar stimulus, but instead of physical it was intellectual. I would spend hours preparing for meetings as my professors pushed my mind beyond my expectation. Every team needs two types of people — ones who will challenge you and ones who will cheer for you. I knew I needed a professor on my team that I didn’t have to prepare for and one who could support me emotionally. Having a cheerleader is such an important part of building confidence. On the track my cheerleaders have always been my family and friends. Why should a Ph.D. program be any different? Make sure your support network has the right people who will push you and who will sit on the sidelines cheering for you.

 

2)   Compete with yourself

On the track I had seen some previous success, but I often questioned whether I was fast enough to be a professional runner.  Similarly, like many students who start a graduate school program, I had seen some academic success, but I was often unsure about whether I belonged in the Ph.D. program.  It’s common for successful people to compare themselves to other successful people, especially as they move up to more competitive fields. Sometimes successful people, especially women, say they feel like a fraud in their new job. One of the best ways to combat this feeling is by setting self-improvement goals. Tell yourself you belong even if you don’t believe it, yet, because one day you will feel like you belong. Stop comparing yourself to the people around you. Focus on you being better today than you were yesterday. Become your biggest competitor.

 

3)   Quality over Quantity

On the track I would watch my teammates sneak in extra miles just to end up hurt in the long run. Similarly, in my Ph.D. program I saw my peers take on every publication and conference opportunity available to soon become overwhelmed and drop out. Sometimes it’s more important to spend your time engaged in one or two projects rather than worrying about the number of papers you can publish or the number of miles you can run. Too many projects without a clear purpose can jeopardize your ability to get things done. Sometimes is the quality over the quantity that matters most.

 

4)   Don’t save the world

On the track I would wish for today to be the day I shocked the world with a break-through race. When I started my Ph.D. program I wished for the same thing. I remember wanting to write this all-encompassing break-through dissertation. I wanted my research to have a lasting impact on the field. But few achieve fame through their dissertation. Just as few can predict the day they have a break-through race. The dissertation is a learning process. Each step has a specific purpose. Focus on executing each step and not on “saving the world.”

 

5)   Enjoy the Process

This one may seem like a cliché but it is by far the hardest cliché for me to remember. On the track I experience just as many successes as failures. Although I always try to learn something positive from each failure, the unsuccessful races always leave a lingering hurt. My coaches tell me to “enjoy the process”. But what exactly does this mean? So I broke it down. The process is the natural ups and downs in life. Sometimes after a bad race I want to say the heck with the process. I want to experience only ups from here on out. No more downs. In my Ph.D. program I had similar days when I wanted to throw my computer against the wall and days when I couldn’t stop writing. I learned that life will always have it’s ups and downs no matter how hard we wish for only ups. Might as well enjoy. It’s more fun.

 

I hope you make room for these 5 things in your life as they could help you get it done and beat the odds. Please send me your comments. I would love to hear from you.

The Tao of the 800m

There’s an old Taoist story about Confucius, a Chinese philosopher and teacher, who witnessed an old man slip and fall into river rapids that led to a dangerous waterfall.  Confucius and his followers rushed downstream to save the old man, despite the likelihood of his survival. To their surprise, they found the old man unharmed, walking along a path, and singing to himself.  Confucius approached the old man and demanded to know his secret, “how does one survive such a fall?” The old man replied, “I go down with the water and come up with the water. I follow it and forget myself. I survive because I don’t struggle against the water.”

The old man learned about the balance of nature in his youth, and he has been practicing it ever since. My blog “finding your stride” is about my journey to find equilibrium.  We can’t expect running to go smoothly all the time and the same things goes for life.  Breaking barriers can’t be forced, instead we have to practice flowing with the river rapids. Here is my take on the Tao of the 800m.

What is the 2-minute barrier?

For a female one of the biggest barriers in the 800m is the 2-minute mark. For a runner to accomplish the 2-minute barrier she’ll need to average just under 60 seconds per lap. Now, let’s put this feat into perspective. Last year, 5 American women ran faster than 2 minutes, and 9 American women clocked in right at the 2-minute mark.

Chasing the 2-minute barrier reminds me of the old man is the story. You go up with the water (good races) and you go down with the water (not-so-good races).

About a month ago I had a not-so-good race (2:07 at the Oregon Relays). Naturally, everyone was asking me what happened. I was even asking myself the same question. I spent the next few hours trying to figure out what went wrong before realizing I was wasting energy.

Two weeks later I raced at the Payton Jordan Invite and ran a season best (2:02).  Good and not-so-good races are a part of chasing the 2-minute barrier. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing because when you do nothing, and just flow with the river rapids, things always seem to get done.

I am racing at the Oxy High Performance meet in at Occidental college in Los Angeles, tomorrow, May 15th. Please visit the official website for entries, results and live streaming: http://oxyhp.runnerspace.com/

My race strategy this Thursday is to do nothing.

Thank you for reading! I hope this story adds value to your journey of “finding your stride!”

The Bad: There Is Always a Right Time

 

All athletes experiences “the bad” at some point in their career, and “the bad” always seems to sneak up on you, coming at the wrong time.  In fact, I just experienced “the bad” last week.

The Sunday going into the Husky Classic I had my most intense workout of the season (running my last 300 in 40 seconds). Two days later I started to get a sore throat. NOOOOO! Not before a big competition!  Is there ever a right time for “the bad”?

fortune

The Sochi Winter Olympics has shared many stories about the “the bad.” One of my favorite stories is about Olympic alpine skier, Dominique Gisin. At the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Gisin fell during the competition suffering from a concussion.  Over the course of her career she endured 9 knee surgeries!  At the 2014 Olympics in Sochi the Swiss Olympian skied her way to a gold medal with Tina Maze from Slovenia. Gisin’s road to gold was anything but smooth.  But it was Gisin’s bumpy road that made her destination that much sweeter. After the competition she was quoted, “I am overwhelmed with emotions. I am so happy – What a day.”

Every person has a different “bad”

For this blog, I could write about my 8 stress fractures or how I got sick 7 times in one year (the inspiration behind AmPurity). But I think I’ll tell a different story.  A story that no one has heard except for a few close people.  I hope my story illustrates that maybe there is a right time for “the bad.”

In 2007 I went through a 3-month phase. A phase where I would eat soft foods (ice cream, rice crispy treats) so that when I threw them up later it wouldn’t hurt.  How does a phase like this start?

That year I moved out of the dorms and into off-campus housing. My roommate at the time was suffering from a severe eating disorder. One of my best friends was also suffering from a severe eating disorder. In fact about 10 girls on my college team were suffering from some form of disordered eating. This behavior became the norm. It became contagious.

It was not until I started getting cuts on my fingers that I realized my occasional binge and purge was turning into an everyday occurrence.  At that moment I knew I needed help. I went to a psychologist who specialized in eating disorders. She told me to write down my feelings before, after, and while I was eating.  Soon my every thought became consumed with food. What to eat. What not to eat.  This experience only made “the bad” worse.

Mid-semester I decided to move out and try a new environment.  My new roommates were not on my college team. Instead, they were bright students that hadn’t played a sport since high school.  I also hung out with a close friend who ate when and what he wanted.  I surrounded myself with people whose thoughts were not consumed by food. Within 3 months I was able to re-learn how to eat healthy, which is why I call it a 3-month phase.  I am not suggesting that you have to hit rock bottom to feel happy or experience an eating disorder in order to learn how to eat healthy, again.  For me, this “bad” was a natural part of my journey. I am suggesting that every person has a different “bad” and that that is okay.

The right time for “the bad”

The feeling of joy that fills your body when you get a job promotion or straight A’s on your report card is defined by that feeling you had when you lost a job or failed a test.  The up is only put into perspective by the down. The bigger the struggle the more fulfilling the celebration.  For example, if a runner didn’t need to train everyday to get into shape, then it would be hard for him or her to assign value to winning a race.

Our purpose is not to avoid obstacles or setbacks that keep us from accomplishing our dreams; but instead, our purpose is to rise up to the challenge, be resilient, and enjoy the ride which in turn makes accomplishing the dream that much more rewarding.  There is always a right time for “the bad.” If that time is right now then that is okay because “the bad” is merely a part of the journey.

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” – Confucius

Thank you for reading

The Good: 3 Things I Learned While Training On My Own

 

This 3-part blog series is happily titled: The Good… The Bad… and The Ugly… of Running

 

Part 1: The Good of Running shares 3 things I learned while training on my own.

 

In 2010 I finished my college eligibility and was left wondering (like the other 3% of athletes who turn pro Source: Business Insider) Do I want to keep training? If so, where will I train? Who will I train with? And will I have a coach?

 

If you are reading this blog then you already know that answer to the first question was YES!  The next series of questions were a bit more challenging to answer.

 

The first year as a pro was rough.  My college coach gave me a few workouts, but for the most part, I was making things up on the fly.  I was running but not hard. I was eating but not well. I was sleeping but not enough.  I ran 2 races — 2:12 and 2:20 something for 800m.  I’ll let you in on a little secret: if I ever run over 2:20 I NEVER look up the results, so I always run 2:20 something.

 

After a disappointing first year out of college, I knew I needed to change my approach to training, especially if I wanted to call myself a professional runner and not a recreational runner.  So I found a coach, Ben Rosario.  Although he lived in a different state he told me exactly what to run everyday, and he held me accountable.  I found a training partner.   Although he only trained with me for 3 months it was the best three months of my life.  But he left me to get his master’s in mechanical engineering at Stanford.  WHAT THE HECK?  I guess I can’t blame him for moving on.  That left me training on my own.

 

Here are the top 3 things I learned while training on my own.

 

1. Run one day at a time

I went into professional running with one goal in mind – to be the best runner in the world – but I failed to focus on the steps that get you there.  Like any other day I arrived at the track to do a workout. But on this particular morning when I got there I started crying.  I waited 30 minutes to calm myself down, but when I went to warm up I started crying again.  The other thing on my mind was school and trying to be the best student in the world.  I thought there was no way I could do both at a high level. I thought I had to quit one, so I could focus on the other.

These “best in the world” goals had to change and inevitably evolved into – be the best runner and student I can be, today.  My new live-in-the-moment mindset served as my framework for setting intermediate goals.  When I arrived at the track I would close the door to the classroom; and vice versa, when I arrived at school I would close the gate to the track.  I focused on one task at a time… eat a good breakfast, read a journal article, or go for a run.  This allowed me to maximize my happiness and enjoy the journey.

 

2. Say “I think I can” when running up a hill

I think it is safe to say that most athletes are competitive people by nature. I am no exception.  There is always someone who will run faster than you and there is always someone who will run slower than you.  Comparing yourself to others can lead to negative self-talk, bitterness, and can be detrimental to your self-esteem.  Running on my own helped me learn the importance of strengthening my mind and “filling my basket” with self-confidence and self-efficacy.  It gave me the opportunity to practice positive self-talk during a hard workout or running up a hill.  Just like the Little Engine That Could who said ““I think I can” when he was traveling across treacherous mountains to his destination.

 

3. Run through the finish line

Courage is hard to find and everyone is searching for it.  I have yet to meet a person who does not want the quality of bravery.  I would argue that courage is the most in-demand quality a person can have.  I committed to running professionally right after college when the decision was easy, there were no hardships, and everything was looking up.  Over the next year running on my own became increasingly hard.  I often thought about giving up.

 

Then I looked up the definition of courage

 

cour·age

noun \ˈkər-ij, ˈkə-rij\

the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous

 

And the definition of commitment

 

com·mit·ment

noun \kə-ˈmit-mənt\

a promise to do or give something

a promise to be loyal to someone or something

the attitude of someone who works very hard to do or support something

 

Commitment IS NOT the act of making a decision when the decision is easy. It is the courage to make a decision when the decision is tough.  I became inspired by these definitions and courageously committed to professional running.

 

Thank you for reading!

 

Running and Running a Company

 

The story starts…

3 years ago, I called my mom with, yet, another fever.  At the time I was living in Columbia, Missouri working on my PhD in special education and training for the Olympic trials.  The next day I was driving to St. Louis for an appointment to see one of my mom’s doctors.  The verdict!  My white blood cell count was below the normal level.  It seems my lifestyle as a professional runner and student was compromising my immune system.  But how could this be? I was eating healthy, sleeping plenty, and taking my vitamins!

This compelled my mom and I to search for a supplement that could boost my immune system.  We found one with a little of that and one with a little of this, but we couldn’t find one with a little of everything.  We decided to ask my dad.  Fortunately, my dad has over 30 years of experience as a research biologist and is the founder of a successful biotechnologies and life science company.

We spent the next year researching and developing a formula based on clinically studied ingredients at clinically studied doses.  We knew we could deliver the first comprehensive immune support supplement to the public.  The products on the market just weren’t as effective as our formulation.  We also knew our product was unique enough to stand out above the noise with a specific message, we wanted to make sure we were giving everyone’s body a fighting chance!

Then in 2012 I co-founded AmPurity Nutraceuticals with my family and a team of very talented researchers and medical doctors. In 2013 we released our first brand, ZAMboost, the immune support supplement behind it all. So what’s it like running and running a company? It’s above and beyond my wildest dreams and expectations!

AmPurity was born because of my passion to live an active, healthy, and well-balanced lifestyle.  If you would have told me three years ago when I was in my car headed towards St. Louis that I would be the president of a nutraceutical company I would have thought you were crazy.  Running has always been a part of my dream but running a company was not a part of that plan.  

Now, I spend every day learning how to connect with the public. I meet super smart doctors and health professionals. I bring samples of ZAMboost and our other science-based products to grocery, pharmacy, and supplement specialty stores. I call store managers, attended health and fitness expos, and the best part, I meet people like you interested in taking steps to improve your health! Meeting you is when I realized I had a real company. 

Then for a few hours a day I forget I have a company, and I focus on my second life as a professional runner with aspirations of making the 2016 Olympic team.  I moved to Eugene 6 months ago to run for the Oregon Track Club elite.

I am having a blast challenging myself, learning, and growing alongside AmPurity and the OTC elite! None of which is possible without the support of my friends, family, coaches, and super fans, like you!  

Thank you for reading!

Artist of Balance

Three years ago I asked my coach, “What are my options after collegiate running?”

I believed I could make the Olympic team one day, and I wanted to see how far I could push my mind, body, and sprit towards that goal. Like many semi-professional runners the resources are limited, so I enrolled in the PhD program and committed to the student-athlete lifestyle one more time.

I quickly learned that my new lifestyle as a student-athlete was not going to be the same as my last one. Below is a brief recap of the past 3 years.

Year 1:

  • I learned that I love research and that I was going to make it a lifelong career.
  • I learned that my first year was going to be a learning curve. I often got sick from studying late into the night or from an intense workout.
  • I consulted with my family to create an effective immune support supplement.

Year 2:

  • I learned how to balance a career in research with a career in running.
  • I worked on an amazing research team (SCI), completed my PhD coursework, and worked as a early interventionist.
  • I competed at the 2012 Olympic trials.

Year 3:

  • I learned that the art of balance was far from mastered and that it required me to continue to practice perseverance. Year three was composed of many emotional and physical achievements as well as challenges.
  • I competed at the 2013 USA championships and 4 days later I defended my dissertation.
  • I co-founded a company, AmPurity Nutraceuticals LLC, and an immune support supplement, ZAMboost.

Three years ago when I began this journey, I did not think becoming an artist of balance was possible. I remember one run in particular, I told my dear friend, Anne Shadel, with tears in my eyes, “You can choose to either give running 100% and perform at your highest level on the track, or you can give school 100% and perform at your highest level in the classroom. But you can’t give each 50% and expect to perform at your highest level in both.”

Anne, determined to change my mind, said, “Yes you can.”

From that day forward I use each day that God gives me towards becoming an artist of balance. To me the definition of an “artist of balance” is a person’s ability to give each one of their passions equal amounts of time and energy so that each passion remains an active, enjoyable, and a valued part of one’s life. Please share your definition of an “artist of balance”.

artist of a balanced lifestyle

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading, Shannon 

 

bal·ance
ˈbaləns/
noun
  1. an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
    “slipping in the mud but keeping their balance
    synonyms: stabilityequilibrium, steadiness, footing More

  2. a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
    “overseas investments can add balance to an investment portfolio”
    synonyms: fairness, justice, impartiality, evenhandedness, egalitarianism, equal opportunity; More

verb
  1. keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall.
    “a mug that she balanced on her knee”
    synonyms: steadystabilizepoiselevel More

  2. offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another.
    “the cost of obtaining such information needs to be balanced against its benefits”
    synonyms: weigh, weigh up, compareevaluateconsiderassessappraise,judge More

Why do I blog

Dan just asked, “Hey Shannon, what are you doing over there?”

 

“I’m blogging,” I respond in my most convincing voice.

 

“You’re blogging?” he returns as a half question, half statement.

 

“Yes, that is what I just said,” I quietly mutter under my breath.

 

Hey fellow readers. I am at it again. I am officially adding blogger to my growing resume.  I created an office and everything [pictured below].  Although I share my office with the dinner table, it works.

My desk/kitchen table

 

Currently, I identify myself as a professional runner, entrepreneur, researcher, and now, blogger.  I define all these areas as my passions.  Similar to how your passions may include: mom, author, artist, violinist, yogi, to be decided, etc.  Thus, this blog is about balancing your passions because I believe no single person should have one passion, but rather we need to create time to practice balancing many identities. In short, my blog takes us down a journey where I attempt to search for a well sought out feeling know as equilibrium.  And I encourage you to tell me your stories of perseverance along the way.  Because ultimately this blog is about “Finding Your Stride.”

 

Finding Your Stride

This is my first “official” blog. I have attempted to blog numerous times before but I never thought my stories were interesting enough. I want to thank my team for encouraging me to stick with it.
**Tips to being a successful blogger**
Write anything and Write often.

**Why someone might be an unsuccessful blogger**

Time management issues and/or difficulty sharing interesting and emotional stories on paper.
Side note: actually, I am a very emotional person. You will be happy to know that my problem solving is strictly based on emotions not logic. In fact, I often credit my success as a runner on my intense emotions.
Nonetheless, I have struggled with starting and writing this blog. Then about a month ago I was talking with one of my mentors about the importance of balancing passions with other passions, and he suggested “finding my stride” as the title of my blog.  He also encouraged me to write both my interesting or boring stories. What better way to share my journey about the art of balancing student, runner, professional, friend, sister, etc.? I hope with this blog I learn how to find my stride and I inspire others to find their stride.
For the past 2 and a half years I have been spending countless hours studying in the library. Wait… scratch that with the inventions of the internet and online databases I have been studying in coffee shops (a student’s office).   I am a PhD student in special education, or what my dad likes to call me “a professional student.” I have been in college for 7 and a half years and I keep receiving hint to get some type of real job.  But I think studying and running are real jobs.
For the past 2 year I have also been training as what I like to call “a professional runner.” I found a coach through Big River Running and he coaches me via email and text message.
Without the endless support of my coach, Ben Rosario, the professors at Mizzou, and my friends and family my dreams would not be possible.

**A list of my current dreams**

  1. Run in the Olympics (a dream I have had since I was 10 years old)
  2. Become a researcher for kids with special needs
  3. Inspire others to find their stride
Thanks for Reading, Shannon