Life After Sleeping Pills

Life After Sleeping PillsAbout 10 years ago, I had a little diet soda problem. I also had a little anxiety problem. Neither of which were actually little.

The diet soda issue started when I was searching for a new career. I decided to go back to school to be a secondary science teacher. I started taking classes at school and online while working more than full time, building my own business, training for an ironman, and coaching and subbing at the local middle school to get to know the teachers/admin to help get a job after I got my certification.

Studying was tedious, time consuming, and boring, so I began mindless snacking to keep me awake and alert. I quickly gained 5 pounds in the first month, and if you know me, you know that freaked me out. I pondered my options and came up with nothing positive, including the one I chose. I actually thought I was brilliant!! Diet soda!! I could sip one while I was studying to stave off boredom with the added bonus of caffeine to keep me alert. I was so smart!

Well, needless to say (again…if you know me) one can daily quickly turned into a six pack. No biggie though…it was cheap, no calories, and got me through my days. In fact, I even started losing weight (bonus). I ended up at one of my lowest weights as an adult which sparked a long, torturous love affair with diet soda…but that’s a whole other story I’ll share one day.

About that same time, I was also feeling more and more anxious in my life (as if you couldn’t tell…I think my anxiety went up just writing the last 5 minutes). I had spent all my adult life (and half my childhood) feeling an overwhelming need to perform and be better. I was a deeply empathetic perfectionist which was a recipe for disaster. I was feeling like a failure in my relationship and my career and my highs were getting higher and my lows were getting lower.

My therapist referred me to a psychiatrist who prescribed 3 pills, one was a sleeping pill. A half a pill a night would take the edge off, but she also told me to stop loading the caffeine, especially in the late afternoon/evening…like that will happen!

Since I was much smarter than my doctor, I decide a better solution for me (since I know myself better than she possibly could in one visit) was to keep the sodas and take the whole sleeping pill to counteract the effects if the caffeine! Genius!

Fast forward 2 years…I dive heavily into personal growth, decide I don’t want to be a teacher, quit my job, stop my meds cold turkey, and start working toward creating a life I love. Sounds perfect right?

Except now I couldn’t sleep…oh, and I was still addicted to diet soda.

So I started taking over the counter sleeping pills. They say “non habit forming” on the container which is hilarious because if you sleep with them and can’t sleep without them, you will take them daily…that sounds like a habit to me!

Where were we? Oh yes…sleeping pills. So for the past 7 years I have been taking OTC pills to sleep.

About 85 times I have “tried” to stop, but there were so many more reasons to keep taking them.

Between getting a good night sleep leading up to a race to sleeping through snorers at retreats to making sure I was rested while traveling, I always found a reason why I needed to take them “just one more week”.

Over the past year I have been making small changes in my life to cleanse my mind and body more and more. I live a pretty clean life and I got to the point where there wasn’t much left to take out so I decided at the beginning of this month that when my bottle ran out, I was DONE! Time to work on relaxation or meditation or whatever it is I need to do to help my body unwind and sleep the natural way. I am ready to trust that when my body needs it, it will sleep.

I am super nervous because when I am tired I under-hydrate and overeat. When I am tired I am cranky and emotional. When I am tired my skin breaks out and my legs itch. When I am tired I procrastinate and am unproductive. All these things scare me. But using sleep as an excuse to continue being/feeling this way isn’t who I want to be, so I am willing to give up those stories and start taking 100% responsibility for 100% of my life.

PHEW! I’m exhausted! Of course…it is 3am…couldn’t sleep…

Please share your best sleeping tips here! I need all the help I can get!

Why I Have to do Another Ironman

Why I Have To Do Another IronmanI said I would take a break from triathlon after the Ironman World Championships in Kona…and I will…but I know AT SOME POINT I will HAVE to do another Ironman. WHY? Because I feel like I failed at my last race. Not because of my time or my age group place…I wasn’t expecting to place high at the World Championships, I was TRULY grateful just to have qualified and am proud of myself and understand that just being there was an honor and a great accomplishment.

Here is where the problem lies…

I let the race beat me mentally. I had a much harder bike leg than I anticipated and by the time I got 10 miles into the run, I had talked myself into walking most of the remainder of the race, convincing myself that running wouldn’t really make a difference since I knew I would finish well under the time cut off even with walking the entire 2nd half of the run.

And it worked, I finished in just over 14 hours (cut off is 17 hours), and was happy I finished since it was a long, hard day. I was proud of myself for being there, but I did NOT give it all I had. I cannot honestly say I gave it everything, that I did all I could do that day, that I left it all out on the course…and 3 weeks after the race, that isn’t sitting well with me at all.

I am a big proponent of the Four Agreements. The fourth is “Always Do Your Best”. And I do in most areas of my life on most days. So when things don’t turn out exactly the way I want them to, I am fine with it because I did the best I could at that given moment.

But on Saturday, October 11th, I did NOT do my best, I did not give it everything I had, and I want to. I want to make it up to the sport, to pay respect to the race, and to KNOW in my heart and soul that I gave all I could in that situation on that day.

I know some of my besties will tell me I am being too hard on myself, but I also know that my tri geek peeps will totally get where I am coming from. I appreciate and need both groups of people in my life.

I am grateful for those who challenge my type A, 3 on the enneagram, perfectionist tendencies so I know that what I do and how I perform don’t make up WHO I am and are the only basis’ for how much love I deserve and receive.

On the other hand, I am also thankful for those in my life that make me feel like I’m not the crazy, OCD, addict and can get behind my decisions and fire me up when I need a little extra energy to move toward my goals and dreams.

I have for sure learned a lot about myself from this race and this experience and will take it all so that next time I can finish knowing I gave it ALL!

If you haven’t watched my race report, here it is…

Thanks again for being in my life!

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I Will Never Do That Again…

For those of you interested in hearing about how the day I have been dreaming of for the past 13 years ended up…

The Kona Ironman - I will Never Do That Again!

Fitness : Why it took me 13 years to make it to the island of Hawaii

Fitness : Why it took me 13 years to make it to the island of HawaiiYes, it took me 13 years to get to Kona!

I guess I could have just bought a plane ticket and traveled to the 50th state at any time during my adult life, but that’s not how I wanted to get over there. I wanted to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI that goes on every year in October.

Let me back up a few years. Here is a brief recap of my life as a triathlete…

  • 1999: Did my first sprint distance triathlon and was hooked
  • 2001: Did my first ironman distance triathlon and was hooked
  • 2001: Watched the airing of the Ironman World Championships on TV and wanted to BE there
  • 2002: First year I trained with the ambition to earn a qualifying slot (typically top 2-3 in each age group for women)
  • 2002: Placed 22nd in qualifying race
  • 2003: Placed 28th in qualifying race
  • 2004: Placed 45th in qualifying race
  • 2005: Placed 22nd and 28th in qualifying races
  • 2006: Placed 29th in qualifying race
  • 2007-2009: Took a break from racing altogether
  • 2010: Placed 38th in qualifying race
  • 2011: Placed 31st in qualifying race
  • 2012: Broke collar bone and had to forfeit qualifying race ☹

2013: Placed 3rd in qualifying race and EARNED A SLOT IN HAWAII!!!

So as you can see, it took me 12 years to earn my slot into the Ironman World Championships in Kona, HI. And what an AMAZING road it was! I’m not by nature a patient person, but it makes sense to me why it took so long.

I am naturally an average athlete. I am very active, love competing, have been in sports since I was about 6 years old, am obsessed with nutrition and exercise, and was a full time personal trainer and fitness instructor for 15 years of my adult life, but by no means did I have “natural” ability. If I did, I would have qualified at my first qualifying race like my BFF Wendy did when she was 19 and had no clue what she was doing!!

There is a NY Times best-selling book called OUTLIERS: THE STORY OF SUCCESS by Malcolm Gladwell. Throughout the book, Gladwell repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

I subscribe to this theory and have seen it work in my own life in my relationships, businesses, personal growth, and of course, athletics. I train “in season” an average of 25 hours a week, “off season” an average of 15 hours a week. This averages out to about 1,000 hours a year. This means I would hit my 10,000 hours in about 10 years. Since I took a couple years off in the middle, it makes sense it would take me a bit longer.

So 12 years after I set in motion my dream of earning a Kona qualifying slot, I finally made it. I talk in detail in my book TRAIN SMARTER FOR BETTER RESULTS (www.KirstenMcCay.com) if you want to know HOW I did it and what I learned over the years, but it really boils down to the “10,000-Hour Rule”.

So whatever you want in life, KNOW what you want, WORK toward what it is, and be PATIENT as it takes time to become a master at anything. My favorite part is that I have control over the time and energy I put into something. So although it may take me 10,000 hours to be great, I get to decide if 10,000 hours happens in 5 years or 30 years. Like I said…patience isn’t my strength.

If you want to follow my entire “Road to Kona”, check out my videos at www.YouTube.com/FitnessDivaKir

Fitness : The First Day in 28 Years that I Loved my Body

Fitness The First Day In 28 Years I Loved My BodyWhen I started Junior High, I was “HUGE”. I mean I wasn’t overweight or anything, but at 5’7”, 130 pounds, and size 9 feet, I was SO much bigger than all my 5’ nothing, size 0, no hips, size 5 feet friends. So at the ripe old age of 12, I started hating my body.

To add insult to injury, I was a swimmer. So I was ALWAYS in a swimsuit, and I think as a female athlete, there is added pressure to have less body fat as it is. I was pretty much doomed from an early age to constantly battle my disordered body issues.

Fast forward…to 1999 when I become a competitive triathlete, another sport where low body fat is favored. Every time I didn’t make my goal or get the time or place I wanted, I always blamed it on my body. “I guess I’m just too big to be a competitive athlete” or “If I lost 10 pounds I could run so much faster”. Whether these statements are actually true or not, makes no difference AT ALL because I believe they are true, and as long as I continue to accept that as truth, then it will always be true for me.

Fast forward AGAIN…to 2013 when I am 40 years old and have spent the last 28 years beating myself up for not having the body I want. And by the way, after 28 years of telling your body it’s not skinny enough or strong enough or fast enough or tight enough, it doesn’t matter what is ACTUALLY going on, your brain will never believe when you actually ARE skinny, strong, fast, tight, etc. It’s extremely heartbreaking to see this happening to so many people because I know firsthand how it feels to be living in a body that can never be what you think it should be. It’s a painful and hopeless battle you are constantly fighting with yourself, usually silently and alone.

September 15, 2013, six weeks before my 41st birthday, one week before racing my 10th Ironman distance triathlon, I was complaining to my husband (he’s a saint BTW for putting up with my eating/body issues for 18 years and counting) that I wasn’t at my goal race weight and I was such an idiot for not cutting calories during taper and I felt huge BLAH BLAH BLAH!

September 22, 2013, race day is here! Air temp at the start of the race was in the 30s…FAHRENHEIT. In my age group out of 174 women, only 103 finished. Most either took so long to warm up after the swim that they missed the bike cut off time or just couldn’t get warm enough to start the run after the bike. I had an amazing race and never got cold enough to even consider a DNF (Did Not Finish). Many of these DNFs were world class athletes and I finished! I was so proud of my amazing body and what it accomplished that day!

And if I’m being 100% honest, it would probably have a little bit to do with those “extra” pounds I didn’t lose before the race.

PS…If you are struggling with any sort of disordered eating/body image issues, PLEASE tell someone! You are NOT alone and there are so many ways to get help. You don’t have to fight this battle forever. PLEASE PLEASE reach out!!

Fitness: Why the Birthday Present I gave my Mom on her 50th made her cry

[Fitness blog post] Why The Birthday Present I gave my mom on her 50th made her cry I love telling this story…not because I like to see my Mom cry, but because for me it’s an inspiring story and it gives me ammo for people who tell me they “can’t” do something that I KNOW they can do.

The year was 2002. I had been a Personal Trainer since 1990 and always helped my friends and family with any health/fitness/nutrition related stuff, so they were used to that. In 1999 I did my first triathlon, and became instantly obsessed. I ended up not only doing an ironman distance triathlon 2 years later, but also got my triathlon coaching certification and started coaching immediately after.

Instantly I was signing all my friends and family up for triathlons, they were NOT used to that.

A bit about my mom…she is a teacher, a Mom, and an amazing Grandma. She is kind and loving and one of the most unselfish people I know. One thing she is not, however, is an athlete. As far as triathlon is concerned, she can swim to prevent drowning, she can cruise along on her fat tired, fuzzy seated monster of a bike, and she can walk, but not run, due to arthritis is both her hips and knees.

So when she opened her 50th birthday present and it was an entry into the Danskin Women’s Triathlon for the following year with all the training she would need to make it through, she was speechless, and scared to death, and that resulted in a silent but deafening cry.

I promised her I would train her enough to get her across the finish line. And I did just that.

We had 10 months to get her strong, fit, and confident enough to swim .5 mile, bike 12 miles, and run 3.1 miles. And we SUCCEEDED!

Watching my mom cross the finish line was incredible…now it was MY turn to cry! She is proof that it doesn’t matter how old you are, how out of shape you are, how inexperienced you are, or how scared you are, if you WANT something and COMMIT to getting there, you WILL succeed! Awesomeness!

My favorite part of this entire story is that BECAUSE of her, I have “convinced” hundreds of women that they too can do this. I would have never been able to get them to even consider the idea if I didn’t have my Mom’s victory to inspire and encourage them.

Because of my Mom, I have helped hundreds of women accomplish something they never would have imagined possible. Now THAT’S something to cry about!