Category Archives: OTHER

Thank You Facebook!

There’s a new trend floating around Facebook being referred to as- Then and Now,  The 10 Year Challenge, Aging Challenge, or Puberty Challenge. The premise is simple- users upload their first Facebook profile picture and their most recent one side-by-side to see how much they have changed and what type of transformation has occurred over the years.  

Some people have had issues with this challenge and were upset that the focus appeared to be primarily about one’s looks.   However, I took it as an opportunity to reflect on my life and how far I’ve come over the last ten years, as well as how FB has helped to change my life and grow my business.  

Facebook launched in 2004. When FB first started I was not a huge fan. I had no desire or interest in it and to be quite honest didn’t really believe it would be around as long as it has. In fact, I didnt even create an account until 2008, almost 4 years later.  

Now, I have to say that FB and social media has become a big part of my life- both personally and professionally.  

The rise of social media and networking has made it faster and easier to access information around the world and communicate with one another.  Whether through a simple tweet, post on Instagram or a status update on Facebook, we can instantly be made aware of different issues around the world.

For many, especially business owners, social media has moved from a “nice to have” to a “must have”.

FB in particular is a great tool to help you communicate and connect with friends, share your story or opinion and as a business, connect and engage with customers, provide great customer service by responding to customers in real time, and a great tool to help hire new employees.  

I have no doubt social media is changing and will continue to change our society. This change is permanent and upcoming generations won’t even know a world where social media does not exist.  While social media has its advantages and disadvantages (like everything else) it’s up to the user to decide how he/she will use it.

Just like with the challenge- is it about looks or an opportunity to see how far you’ve come and share your dreams and goals for the future?

I am grateful to have FB and particularly like looking through my memories and photos. Gone are the bulky photo albums from my past to digital albums online.  What a great way to document one’s life and legacy.

For the Then to Now Challenge- I uploaded my two photos and what I see is a girl who was more fearful to try new things, content with the status quo, stuck in a job she didn’t like, and not very athletic… to a woman who doesn’t back down, quit her job to pursue her dreams and open her own business, competed in several athletic events (even a full Ironman in July 2018), and tries to live each day to the fullest without any regrets.   

Thank you FB for giving me this opportunity to reflect, for storing and saving my photos and memories, and for helping me to stay connected to those around me.

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Birthday Reflection!

Today is my birthday. Believe it or not, I am 37 years old!!!

Sometimes I stop and wonder how I got to be this age and where the time has gone. I remember when I was a kid and thought that people in their 30’s were old and over the hill… lol

Now it’s dawned on me that I am in my late 30s. But I am much too young to be 37, right? I mean I don’t feel 37.  But what does feeling 37 really mean? I have no idea. All I know is that I feel better now than I did in my twenties. I am fitter, healthier, and so much happier in my personal and professional life. I feel positive about life and excited to see all that my future holds!

I can say that my thirties have proven to be, so far, the most fulfilling, enriching, meaningful and life-enhancing decade of my life. Not only have I found more peace and love within and for myself, but I also found the courage to change careers, open a business and make fitness my full time gig. I started running, swimming, and completing in numerous endurance events around the world, traveling to over 10 countries. I’ve started on this brand new and exciting journey that has completely rejuvenated me and I could not feel more proud, excited, and grateful. I think that I have found my calling and purpose in life, and have to say that when you find it, magical things happen.

I know that I am a very lucky lady and feel truly blessed. I wake up every day and thank god for my life. And as I take a moment to reflect on the last 37 years here are some words of advice that I have to offer.

A few words of wisdom from this 37 year old- (in no particular order)

1. Stop wasting or wishing your life away. It’s time to stop existing and start living!

  • Hate your job? Find a new one.
  • Want to run a marathon? Do it!
  • Want to visit another country? Charge it and go.

You’re not getting any younger and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so live today.

2. Stop getting in your own way! You are the only one stopping you from living the life you want and the life you have imagined. Things may get tough and when it does, you can give up or you can continue to preserve and follow our dreams.  It is up to YOU!

3. Don’t work too hard. There is more to life than your job. Spend time with family and friends, take time to travel and explore, just be present and live in the moment.

4. Let go of negativity- people, things, whatever it may be. Don’t allow others to bring you down or hold you back. Surround yourself with people who encourage you, support you, and inspire you.

5. Try something new. Ten years ago, I never thought I had a runner’s body and I was deathly afraid of the water, but now I run marathons and compete in triathlons. I’ve realized that I am capable of so much more than I gave myself credit for. So try something new, step outside your comfort zone, you may surprise yourself.

6. Take time for you every day. Go for a walk, run, yoga class, read… whatever it may be, remember to care for yourself and do things that fill your cup.

7. Love yourself and be kind to yourself. Stop with the negativity and putting yourself down. Stop hating yourself for everything you aren’t and start loving yourself for everything you are. You are special and have many things to offer this world. Believe in you!

8. Pain is temporary. Stop allowing yourself to be hindered by it.  When you hit rock bottom, you feel like you are never going to be able to crawl out from that hole… but that’s not true.  Bad things may happen but you cannot let them define you or have a lasting impact on your life. Learn from the pain you endure, but then let it go.

9. Karma is real. I’ve seen it happen personally and for friends. If you give more, you’ll get more. The energy you put out is what you get back, so be good & do good.

10. Gratitude is the key to happiness. It’s powerful and it works! Always be grateful for what you have; no matter how bad things seem, there’s always someone who has it worse. “Gratitude is an attitude!”

 

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Do Hard Things

You have to do hard things to be happy in life. And doing the hard things is a skill to be honed.  At the basic level, it’s the ability to overcome distractions and get the right things done, even if you don’t want to in that moment.  Doing hard things is a sacrifice and one that may not offer immediate satisfaction. However, you need to trust that those hard things are going to help get you where you want to be.  And in order to excel, live your dreams and be your best, you need to do the things no one else is willing to do. The things others can’t do for you. The things that make you question how much longer you can hold on and push forward. That’s when you know you’re on the right path. If your dreams don’t frighten, they arent big enough.  

When I wanted to open a yoga studio, everyone thought I was crazy. They asked, how are you going to pull that off? Do you have enough money? Why leave a good and stable job in education, a pension? But I didn’t care what other people said, I new what was right for me and trusted that the Universe had my back.  

Was opening a business easy? Absolutely not. Was it scary at times? Definitely. It’s hard to quit a job and move forward into the unknown. I spent 2 years in limbo wondering what the hell had I done. However, I was able to figure it out, because if there is a will there’s a way. Things weren’t and still aren’t perfect, I have challenges like anyone else, but I embrace each challenge in stride and continue on my path, unwilling to give up or back down. The hard things are what lead you to where you are meant to be, you just have to be willing to take the risk, have patience, and faith that it will all work out.

Those hard things in life are what define us.  Taking the risk and doing hard things is the difference between existing and living… between knowing our path and walking our path. It’s the difference between an average life and the living the life of our dreams, filled with success and happiness.

Most people avoid the hard things, they procrastinate, make excuses or pretend like they somehow don’t apply to their life or situation. However, the truth is that ordinary people can achieve immense success and happiness if they are willing to step out of their comfort zones and do the hard things that others don’t have the courage, drive or determination to do.

I dare you to stop sitting back and watching your life happen and take control.  Start doing those hard things TODAY. I guarantee, you will be amazed at how strong and remarkable you really are and just how amazing your life can be.

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Happy Planksgiving!

For the month of November, Empower Yoga students and friends have been participating in a Planksgiving Challenge. It is 30 days of giving thanks and planks.  No prizes are awarded, it’s more about having fun, creating community, challenging ourselves and of course giving thanks! Each day our plank holds get a little bit longer. We started with a 20 second plank and are working our way to a 3 minute hold on November 30th.

Planksgiving is one of my favorite holidays! Planking is not only a really great way to activate and strengthen your core, but a great way to work your whole body!

Are you ready to jump into our #Planksgiving Challenge? Don’t worry if you find it too difficult to hold, you can plank as long as you can and break it up into smaller parts. Try to hold a few more seconds each day! Remember to stay aware of your form- it’s quality, not quantity that counts. Challenge yourself, but not to the point of injury.

Why you should be thankful for the plank:

  • No equipment needed
  • Improves your posture
  • Promotes a flat belly
  • Works more than just your core
  • Reduces back pain
  • Burns calories
  • Builds strength
  • You can do them anywhere

How to safely do a plank:

  • Start out lying on your stomach with your hands flat on the floor, directly below your shoulders
  • Have your legs out straight and toes curled under
  • Press your hands into the floor, squeeze your core, and come up into a straight arm plank position
  • Don’t allow your hips to sag or your butt to come up
  • Think about squeezing your core and drawing your belly button in towards your spine, and pressing your hands into the floor the entire time
  • Try to keep your head and neck in line with the rest of your spine
  • You can do most of these on your forearms, too, just place your elbows directly underneath your shoulders!

Click for 35 fun plank variations!

Happy Planking 😉

 

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5 REASONS TO GO ON A YOGA RETREAT!

Ever wondered whether a yoga retreat is for you? Often thought about it, but never found the time/money?

Here are 5 reasons I think you should make sure that this year is finally the year you go on that long dreamed about retreat.

1. TIME OUT FOR YOURSELF:

There is a huge difference between going on a vacation and going on retreat.

Going on a retreat allows you to take a step back, focus inward, and give yourself a time out so you can rest and rejuvenate.

Vacations are often centered around families and can be busy, with little time to relax and rejuvenate. Often times vacations aren’t centered around what YOU may want to because you have to make compromises to ensure everyone is happy.

Retreats can help encourage you to leave the outside world behind, step away from all the stressors in your life and leave behind drains on your time and energy, so you can focus on yourself and what you need. The nice thing is that on a retreat, you can always participate in as much or as little as you want. You make the rules.
At the very least, a retreat will give you a break from your day-to-day life and will hopefully leave you refreshed, renewed, empowered, and inspired.

2. DEEPEN YOUR PRACTICE:

A retreat can help take your yoga practice to the next level. Maybe you’ve been practicing yoga for a while now, experienced its amazing benefits first hand, and are looking for more. Or maybe you’re new and wanted to better understand what it’s all about and experience its positive effect on your mind and body first hand.

Whatever the reasons, retreats can help you to further increase your strength, flexibility, and your awareness of your own practice.

The main gift a retreat gives is that it takes you out of your comfort zone. Most of us are creatures of habit.  We like routine. We like our regular teachers, we like to practice with certain friends, and we have our certain spots. Well on a retreat, it’s completely new.  You get to meet new people, maybe try a new teacher or type of yoga, and get to explore and appreciate new surroundings. It’s the perfect time to explore your boundaries, change things up, and step outside your comfort zone.

3. MEET LIKE MINDED PEOPLE:

You get to hang out with like minded people who enjoy the same things as you.  Most people are often nervous to travel alone or even with people they don’t know, but on a retreat you don’t have to be.  The nice thing is, is that you already share a common interest. You spend time together, bond over the yoga, other activities, & shared meals, and by the end of the week, inhibitions fall away and strangers become lifelong friends.

4. LEARN SOMETHING NEW:

Take your yoga off the mat and into the world.  Try new things (activities or food), learn a new skill.  Learn how to swim, surf, dive, paddle, whatever it may be…  Expand your mind. Step outside your comfort zone and begin to discover how strong you truly are and what you are capable of. Take your new interests and carry them back home with you.

5. DETOX YOUR LIFE:

Looking to cleanse your mind, body and soul? Retreats are designed to help you feel good.

MIND:

Clear your mind- turn off your electronics and unplug.

Take in the beautiful scenery and be present.

Practice yoga

Meditate

BODY:

Workout and sweat. Get rid of all the toxins.

Enjoy the delicious food- fuel your body with foods that will help nourish and cleanse you from the inside out.

Get a massage and pamper yourself.

SOUL:

Meditate

Practice yoga.

Sit in silence.

Reconnect with your inner self. Speak to your soul and allow it to help find the answer you seek.

READY TO SIGN UP?

Rather than make excuses as to why you shouldn’t go, spend the money, take time off, etc…. Decide that you are worth it. YOU, more than anyone else deserves to be taken care of. Remember that we need to continue to fill our own cups.  If you aren’t happy, healthy, and inspired, you can’t help others, because you can’t fill from an empty cup. By doing this for yourself, you actually get to give back to all those around you too.

YOU deserve to invest in yourself.

BONUS:

My Mexico Retreat is coming up this June!!

That’s right. I’d love for you to join me for my 5 night Yoga & Fitness Retreat in Tulum, Mexico.

This retreat is all about moving and manifesting. With daily workouts & yoga for all levels, sound meditation, clay ceremony, goal-setting, cultural excursions, delicious meals and plenty of time to relax, this retreat will be a dream come true.

To learn more and to apply, visit our website. We’d love to have you!

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This is ME!

My name is Keri Mandell. I am a yogi, crossfit coach, marathoner and Ironman, but I wasn’t always these things. It wasn’t until much later in my life that I discovered my passion for physical fitness and health.

The Keri in my past is way different than the Keri most of you know today. She wasn’t always the driven enthusiastic girl she is now.

Here’s my story…

I was born in January, 1982, 2 months premature and only weighing a few pounds. I spent the first part of my life in an incubator until it was safe for my parents to bring me home. I grew up in Clifton, New Jersey.  As a kid, I was much more quiet, reserved, and introverted (if you can imagine that). At that time the only form of physical activity I really enjoyed was playing softball. I played softball from the time I was in elementary school until I graduated high school. I was in a travel softball league and we played all year long and throughout the state. Once I went away to college, physical activity was not really my thing.  I spent the majority of my time studying, working, and socializing with friends. It wasn’t until my late 20s that I truly found an appreciation and love for physical fitness, health, and nutrition.

I began my fitness journey when I got engaged to my husband Dan. I decided I wanted to lose weight for our wedding. At that time I was a size 12/14 and weighed over 175 lbs. I joined Weight Watchers and started attending bridal Boot Camp classes at the local YMCA where we lived in Boston.  At that time, I also dabbled a little bit in running. I never thought I was much of a runner nor did I think I had a runner’s body. I started to slowly run, going one block at a time, alternating between running and walking, building up until I was able to run for longer/extended periods of time. I wasn’t the biggest fan, but looked at it as a way to help myself lose weight.

After I got married in July of 2009, I still tried to remain physically active. I joined a new gym, started taking spin classes, trx classes, and hired a personal trainer.

During the fall of 2009, I found out that I had cancerous cells on my cervix that needed to be surgically removed. I became ill,  suffering from a serious infection after the procedure. I had to take a leave of absence from work and could no longer workout. On top of that, the doctor told me that I would probably never have kids.

Could you imagine being told something like that? As a woman I had always dreamt of having a family, but here I am as a newlywed and all of our plans for the future were crushed and washed away. I was angry and devastated. I told my husband we could get a divorce so he could remarry and find someone else to have his children. I became severely depressed and suicidal. What I had imagined my future to be had changed in an instant. I wallowed in self pity for a while until one of my friends got me out of the house and made me go with her to take a yoga class… that class literally saved my life. Now I’d practiced yoga a few times, but it wasn’t until that moment that yoga became such a huge and integral part of my life. I often tell people that it was yoga that saved my life. It taught me to live in the moment, to find peace, to love myself, and it showed me that body was capable of so much more than I thought.

I started to come out of my depression and stared to re-evaluate what my life was going to be. So my body may not be able to bare children, but it sure as hell could do other things… and there it began. I wasn’t going to let my body or anything else for that matter get in my way of living my life. I immediately started to look for ways to challenge myself and challenge my body. I wasn’t going to allow it to hold me back. My goal was to try to see how fit I could be.

In 2011 we moved to NJ. My dad and stepmom owned and operated a business, Monmouth Mobile Home Park. They both became ill- she had lung cancer and breast cancer and he had bone marrow cancer. They needed someone to help run the business so my husband and I moved to Princeton, NJ to help. A few years after we moved down here, they both passed away within a few months of each other.

During our time in NJ, I continued on my fitness journey. I joined Can Do Fitness where a I met my good friend Hilary. I would attend spin and bootcamp classes in the mornings before work. Each day when I arrived, Hillary would be on the treadmill running with a sweatshirt and/or weighted vest. Having seen her numerous times, I decided to go over and approach her. I asked her what she was training for and she stated the Boston Marathon. I started to arrive to the gym early and walk on the treadmill next to her. She intrigued and inspired me. Her drive and dedication to her sport was like nothing I’ve ever seen. So each morning, I’d arrive at the gym early in hopes to see and talk to her. In time, I would slowly start to jog next to her. We would talk about running and the running group she was a part of called Run Around Princeton or RAP as it’s often referred to. Hilary convinced me to join her one Saturday morning at their weekly long runs and also sign up for the Broad Street 10 miler in Philadelphia.  

When I started running with the group, they would give you a slip of paper that had the route with turn by turn directions. I was always last. At that time, I think I ran a 12.5 or 13 minute mile. By the time I got back to the lot everyone had already left. I would cry. I hated being last and I hated running, but I committed to doing a 10 miler so I stuck with it. Eventually I got a little bit faster and was no longer the last one in the group. I ran the 10 miler on May 5, 2013. After that, I decided to keep running. I signed up for countless half marathons and even started training for a full. I completed my first full marathon that November, the Philadelphia Marathon.

I caught the running bug. From there, I started to run several marathons a year and eventually decided that I was going to complete all of the World Major Marathons. I just completed my final World Major Marathon this February, the Tokyo Marathon. Since 2013, I have run over 30 half marathons, 10 Marathons, 2 ultra marathons (50k) and an Ironman!

For a few of the races, I joined a charity team. I decided to run and raise money to support charities such as the Special Olympics and Autism Speaks.  As a Special Education teacher, these charity’s where near to my heart. Running and raising money for charity was a great way to bring awareness to the charity but also to travel and see how far my body could go. During a marathon, you often feel like you are going to die, but you don’t and when you cross that finish line there is no better feeling. I started to crave the high that running gave me.

In addition to running, I knew I had to incorporate strength training into my routine. In 2013,  was also the time I discovered Crossfit. I loved it so much that I went to get my level one Crossfit certification so I could coach. In 2014, I started an internship at Crossfit Nassau and started coaching part time at the gym in 2015.

Additionally, I was still taking yoga classes.  Yoga was a great tool that helped me with running- it helped increase strength, mobility, flexibility, allowed me to work on my breathing as well as my mindfulness.  In 2014, I decided to become certified to teach yoga. Yoga had given me so much over the years that I knew wanted to give back. Fast forward to 2016, I quit my job and opened my very own yoga studio, Empower Yoga. I decided that health and fitness was going to be my full time gig.

In 2014, my husband suggested that we try to complete a triathlon.  We signed up for the New Jersey State triathlon. He thought it could be something fun for us to do together. Now, I didn’t know how to swim (I hated swimming and was terrified of putting my face in the water)  so I was a little afraid prepping for this race. However I figured it was a great way to force myself to learn. I took swimming lessons and practiced swimming regularly at the pool in the clubhouse where we lived. I was nervous for the race, but excited to give it a try. During the race I panicked in the swim. A woman in my group panicked too and got on top of me, pushing me under the water. All I could think about was that I was going to drown and regretted not telling my parents I loved them that morning. I eventually broke away. It took me over 30 minutes to swim 500m because I doggie paddled. I was never so happy to be on land. At least when you’re running and you need to stop you can walk, but if you’re swimming and you need to stop, you drown. It was scary. Unfortunately, the bike wasn’t much better. I started to ride my bike but when I went to take sip of my Gatorade I didn’t put the bottle back in the cage correctly and I dropped it. I proceeded to roll over my bottle and fall off my bike. Unable to clip out in time, I fell off my bike and cut open my knee. It was gushing blood. From there, I went on the run. It was incredibly hot that day and the sun was beating overhead, there is no shade. When I crossed the finish line and my friends were there cheering for me they asked, “how do you feel?“ I said “I fucking hated that. I will never do that again.” The following year my husband completed a few more triathlons while I watched on the side lines. In 2017,  I decided to give triathlons another try. I decided that I wasn’t going to let triathlons get the best of me and I wanted to work hard to be and do my best. I decided to sign up for a half Ironman, I figured go big or go home. I reached out to several friends and asked about training plans. I piecemailed a plan together and started training. I joined a Master swim program near where we lived and bought a road bike. That summer leading up to my 70.3, I knew that the swim was going to be challenging for me. So I decide to sign up for several smaller races in order to prepare. I basically raced every weekend that summer forcing myself into those uncomfortable positions at the swim start- adrenaline pumping, heart racing, large crowds, flaring arms, people kicking you, and swimming over you- I needed to get my nerves under control. Towards the end of the summer I start to get stronger, faster, and better… Even placing in my age group in a few races.

Prior to even competing in AC 70.3, I had decided to sign up for a full Ironman. Always down for a challenge and a way to get better and stronger, I knew I just had to do it. I wanted to see what my body was capable of. In such a short time, if I could go from being afraid to put my face in the water to swimming over a mile, I knew I could do anything. Less than 1% of the population complete an Ironman and I wanted to be one of those people.  My husband (and prob the rest of the world) thought I was nuts. I hadn’t even completed a 70.3 race yet, what if I hated it. Why sign up for a full? I said that even if I hated it (which I doubt I would) I would do it anyway because completing an Ironman quickly catapulted to the top of my bucket list.

When I have an idea or want something, there is nothing getting in my way, and I wanted to be an Ironman!  After AC 70.3 I was hooked on triathlon racing. I was anxiously waiting to start training for my next goal, completing Ironman Lake Placid.  I knew I needed some help and expertise to really go the distance and get the most out of my race, rather than piecing a plan together like I did for AC. This was something I didn’t want to wing and I knew it would require hours of work each week for my body to get there. So I hired a coach, Chris Draper ( who was referred to me by my good friend Hilary, who has stuck with me over the years)

Training for an Ironman takes lots of time, sacrifice, and dedication.  Training wasn’t always roses and butterflies. It was hard, grewling, time consuming and left you at times beaten up and bruised. Even though it was challenging, I have to say that I loved every minute of it. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and more badass.  There is nothing in this world that compares to 15 hours of non stop physical activity and finally running down the shoot to the finish; where you here your name- Keri Mandell, you are an Ironman!!

Since my Ironman, people of been asking me what’s next? Well how about The World Marathon Challenge?!  A few years back, I heard about the World Marathon Challenge- An event where competitors must run the standard 42.2 km marathon distance in Antarctica, Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, South America and North America within 168 hours (seven days). The clock starts when the first marathon begins in Antarctica. This event started in 2015 and since then, 103 have people have finished the challenge. When I first heard about it, it sounded incredibly scary and exciting at the same time. Now, the more I think about it and read about it and hear the inspiring stories like Becca Pizzi from Boston, I know that I need to do this too.

The World Marathon Challenge is next on my bucket list. In order to do the challenge I need to raise $52,000. I’m currently seeking sponsors to help make this dream a reality. I want to continue to surpass my mental and physical limits and see how far I can truly go. I want to help encourage and inspire people to live their best lives and know continue that anything is truly possible. Will you help me?

When you are ready to contribute, please visit my Go Fund Me page to donate!

Donating through this site is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to make a contribution!! NO donation is too small and every little bit helps.  Thank you for your donation and for taking the time to read my story.  I appreciate the support!

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Road to Ironman Part 3

PART 3: My top 10 Ironman Moments

Ironman was an incredible journey. While I have a ton of favorite moments and wonderful memories from the weekend, I thought I’d highlight my top 10.

10. I had a BLAST shopping at the expo. I couldn’t wait to get my
official Ironman  backpack and some new gear. While at the expo I came across Rapid Reboot (which is a compression boot for athletes). They are great for recovery as well as pre workout activation! Halfway through the run, my husband  surprised me with a pair! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him standing there holding them.

9. The pancake breakfast with my friend and teammate Eileen. On Saturday before the race, Ironman held a special all you can eat pancake breakfast.The pancakes were fresh and delicious. Eileen was in Placid volunteering for the race. It was so wonderful to have an opportunity to see and talk to her before the big day.  She offered pointers and words of encouragement. It was great to know she’d be there cheering me on!

8. Walking into the water with my friend, Amy. As we got ready to start, we took a moment to relish in what we were about to do. She turned to me and said, “thanks for being a part of this journey with me.” and then we started our race. That was a special moment, one I will never forget!

7. Seeing my coach right before I finished the second loop of the bike course and again right before the finish of the run. On the bike, you hit a major hill before returning to transition, it’s a tough part of the course so it was great to have him there to help give me a little push. Seeing him again before the end of the run was awesome too. He ran about a ½ mile with me. It helped add a little pep to my step, which is hard to do after spending over 14 hours on your feet. His support ment a lot.

6. I had a few friends and teammates running the race with me. One in particular was Christina. I had seen her at certain points throughout the day and towards the end of the second loop of our run she caught up to me. The second half of the run was tough, my brain was a little fuzzy and my legs were pretty tired, but seeing her gave me a little push. She helped me to pick up the pace, especially for those last three miles when all I wanted to do was walk. It was nice to have someone to be with and I appreciated being able to run and talk to her.

5. The incredible spectators and awesome volunteers. They were not only motivating and encouraging, but truly looked out for you. I was particularly grateful for the women in the tents who helped me get undressed and dressed during transition, packed my gear, and made sure I had what I needed before exiting. I could never have gotten into my sports bra without them!

4. Seeing a crow during mile 92 and 106 of the bike. After my dad passed a crow started to appear- on the golf course with my husband, at the yoga studio literally tapping on the back door, outside our house, near my car… We started to say it was my dad, he wanted us to know that he was there with us. Well during the race, wouldn’t you know that on mile 92 and 106 of the bike a crow dropped down into the middle of the street and cawed at me. I couldn’t help, but smile. I knew my dad was there cheering me on.

3. Having my husband and bestie Beth cheer me on throughout the day and especially there at the finish line to see me cross and then spray me with champagne, that was really special. There are moments throughout the race you begin to question yourself, life, basically everything and seeing them made me smile and helped bring me back to the present moment. It was nice to have them there to celebrate such a huge accomplishment with me.

2. Being able to compete with so many incredible and inspiring athletes. I LOVE triathlons. Nothing is better than the people you meet and the friendships you create along the way. This sport has introduced me to so many awesome people. Their energy and equal drive & dedication helps fuel me. We are in this journey of life together. We support and look out for each other and that’s pretty incredible.

 1. Running down the shoot, seeing the Ironman red and black carpet, bright lights & having my name called out and the words you are an Ironman, was unlike anything I have ever experienced. It was a huge sense of accomplishment for me. I couldn’t help but feel ecstatic and proud.

I have done some pretty incredible things in my life so far and completing an Ironman was certainly on my lists of favorites.  You’ve got one life, why not do it all. I can’t wait to see where I’ll go from here, but get ready, because this girl isn’t slowing down any time soon!!

You can be an Ironman too… ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

 

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Road to Ironman Part 2

PART 2: What it takes to go the distance.

Training for an Ironman can be an extremely rewarding and life-changing journey. However, it requires lots of preparation, a strong commitment, and some sacrifices.

Here’s what you need to do to prepare:

MONEY:
My new Felt try bike! Getting read for Eagleman 70.3
  • Training for Ironman is not an inexpensive thing to do. The racealone can cost close to $900 just to enter, but then you will need the proper gear/equipment- clothes (bathing suite, bike shorts, tech tees, running shorts, socks, etc..), swim goggles, wetsuit, a road or tri bike, helmet, a pair or 2 of running shoes, and an indoor bike trainer.
  • Then there’s everything you’ll need over the course of your training: gym or pool memberships, specialized nutrition gels/drinks/bars, bike parts and maintenance (i.e. spare tire tubes and tune ups), sunscreen, chafing creams, first-aid materials, food, doctors copays, entry to shorter races to help prepare you for the big day… the list can be endless.
  • Slowly but surely, other costs will begin to sneak in so be prepared to spend a pretty good chunk of change.
TIME AND TRAINING:
A few of my dt+n peeps. Love my Saturday morning computrainer classes!
  • You’ll need a plan that maps out what sport to do each day, for how long and what type of workout to do.
  • Be ready to train 25+ hours a week.
  • Be prepared for early morning workouts that last 2-3 hours- I got up everyday at 3:45am to swim, bike, and/or run before going to work. On the weekends you can expect to go longer; upwards of 6-8 hours if your doing a long ride or long brick (when you do two sport in one day, i.e. bike & run).
  • I highly recommend hiring a coach (you can add this to the list of expenses). Ironman is no joke and not something you should go into lightly. If you’re going to do it, do it right! (Chris Draper of dt+n)
NUTRITION:
Prepping for my century ride!
  • All the training in the world won’t prepare you for a race that youaren’t fueled properly for. A big key is not only to stay hydrated, but to be sure you know your caloric needs so that your body can go the distance. Figure out how many calories you need to take in every hour for your long training sessions. For me, I shoot for 300 calories an hour.
  • You need to start practicing nutrition very early on in your training. You need to train your body to digest the fuel you’re using so you don’t suffer from any GI problems on race day. I am a big fan of Cliff blocks (salted watermelon) and Honey Stinger Waffles (choc/vanilla) along with GU Roctane that I add to my water. Proper fueling is CRITICAL. You could get away with not fueling for a sprint or an olympic distance race, but not an Ironman.
SLEEP:
  • Sleep is critical to help with recovery. You need your sleep and should try to get at least 7 hours a night.  
  • No more late nights or parties on the weekend. You need to think about how your spend your energy. Is it worth sacrificing your training the following day?
MENTAL STRENGTH:
Yoga very damn day! Empower Yoga NJ!
  • As with many challenges, the right frame of mind and mental toughness can make a big difference. Your longer rides and runs are the perfect time to practice mental toughness. Find a positive mantra you can repeat to yourself when the going gets tough. Know that everyone has low points during a race, dealing with them, keeping moving and staying positive will carry you a long way.
  • Yoga is a great way to help with mindfulness, in addition torecovery. Take a yoga class, learn how to stay positive, be present, and keep breathing. These tools can be incredibly helpful come race day!
SUPPORT:
My doctor and teammate!

It takes a village. When you train for an Ironman you never train alone.

  • Get your family and friends involved. You’ll need people to help support you when your tired, question your sanity, feeling unmotivated, or just need a little pick me up. Plus it’s nice to have people who will listen to your endless talks about triathlons and training!
  • See a doctor. Be sure to check in with your physician before you tackle such a big endurance event. Make sure your body can handle all the stress you are about to place on it. And during training, if an injury should arise, take care of it immediately. Seek professional help and support rather than trying to take care of something on your own. It may suck in the short term, but will help you out tremendously in the long run.  My sport medicineguy became my best friend. He helped me with all my plantar fasciitis troubles so that I could still train and not suffer further injuries. Also, tell your coach if something’s going on. He can always substitute workouts for you and keep your training right on track! (Dr. Peter Wenger)
  • Find a good chiropractor. I saw my guy every week for adjustments, ultrasound therapy, and graston treatments for my foot. He was a critical piece to helping making sure I got to the start line. (Grossman Chiropractic)
  • Treat yourself to monthly sports massages. I saw my massage therapist at least once a month. Sports massages can reduce recovery time, promote flexibility, reduce fatigue, improve
    My girl Natalie! Her hands are magic!

    endurance, help prevent injuries and prepares the body and mind for optimal performance. (Natalie Johnston of Run Fit)

  • Acupuncture can do amazing things! I went every other week to help loosen my glutes, IT band, calves and feet. It was amazing!  (Relief Acupuncture)
  • Find a good bike shop, one that you trust and will be there to help prepare you for race day. Be sure to train on your bike regularly so that you know how it handles and rides. Get used to shifting gears, changing tires, etc… Make sure you have your bike serviced before the race to ensure it’s in working order. (My fave is Halter’s Cycles)

After all the money and time you will put into training, remember that the race is the reward. Go into it with a positive attitude. Embrace each moment and be sure to thank your body for its incredible work & always showing up, and all of the people who have been a part of your journey.  Smile at all you have accomplished and be sure to enjoy every step. You CAN go the distance and in the end when your name is called out with the words YOU ARE AN IRONMAN it will all have been worth it.

 

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Road to Ironman Part 1

Over the next three weeks, I’d like to share my Ironman Story with you. This week, I’ll fill you in on how I got into the world of triathlons and what made me sign up for an Ironman.  Next week, I’ll share what it takes to be an Ironman, and finally my top Ironman moments…. I hope you enjoy!

PART 1: Why Ironman?

For those of you who are new to the sport, an Ironman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a marathon 26.2-mile run, raced in that order and without a break. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. Ironman started in 1978 and since then, has come a very long way.  What started as an idea on the back of a napkin is now calling to thousands.

I had started to learn about Ironman a few years ago when I entered the world of triathlon racing. Having had no experience swimming and limited experience biking,  the Ironman was so far off my radar that I had no idea what it was or even entailed.

It wasn’t until 2015, when I signed up for my first sprint triathlon as a way to not only force myself to learn how to swim, but also, it was something fun and active that my husband and I could do together.  After completing my first race (NJ State sprint- 500m swim, 11.5 mile bike and a 5k run), I vowed never do one again, I hated it so much. I got swam on top of and nearly drowned, I doggie paddled throughout the entire swim (taking over 30 min. to complete 500 meters, which I can swim now in 8 min.), fell off my bike and tore open my knee, and hobbled my way across the finish line. When I crossed the finish line, I cried. Now, these were not tears of joy but rather of pain and frustration. I couldn’t believe people actually enjoyed doing this sport.  

The following year, I watched my husband compete in a few races as I cheered him on, happy to be on the other side of things. Then in 2017, I decided to give triathlons another try. In my yoga classes, I always talk about stepping outside your comfort zone, facing your fears, and never giving up. So after some internal debate, I decided that triathlons weren’t going to get the best of me. I was going to face my fears and prove to myself that I could succeed and get better at this sport. I was prepared to work my butt off until I gained the confidence and skills I needed to complete a successful race.

Now at this point, I had only completed 1 sprint triathlon, but decided to up the ante and register for Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City anyway (figured I’d go big or go home). Now to prepare for a race of this distance, I knew I had a lot of training ahead of me.  With no real direction as to what to do, I downloaded a bunch of 70.3 training plans and made up my own; picking and choosing what I thought was a good fit for my schedule and had enough volume that I felt like I could finish the race.

To start, I joined a masters swim program at a local pool in Princeton, swimming 5 days a week,  rode on my road bike 3 days a week, and ran 4-5 days a week. However, I new this wouldn’t be enough. I was terrified of open water swimming. I went a few times to some local open water swims in my area and did ok, but this didn’t totally help prepare me to swim in a race when your adrenaline is pumping and you have hundreds of people around you… so what did I do? I registered myself for 8 sprint races and 2 olympic distance races that summer, basically racing every weekend). No better way to train yourself how to handle open water racing than to throw yourself right into it. Now the first few races I still panicked, but towards the end of the summer I was actually swimming and placing in my age group!! The races helped me get over my fears and taught me how to remain calm and in control when someone hit, kicked, or swam over me. By the end of the summer, I was feeling so confident in my skills and was proud of how far I had come, that I knew I needed to keep going and to do more. So prior to even completing in AC 70.3, I had decided to sign up for a full Ironman. Always down for a challenge and a way to get better and stronger, I knew I just had to do it. I wanted to see what my body was capable of. In such a short time if I could go from being afraid to put my face in the water to swimming over a mile, I knew I could do anything. Less than 1% of the population complete an Ironman and I wanted to be one of those people.  My husband (and prob the rest of the world) thought I was nuts. I hadn’t even completed a 70.3 race yet, what if I hated it. Why sign up for a full? I said that even if I hated it (which I doubt I would) I would do it anyway because completing an Ironman quickly catapulted to the top of my bucket list

When I have an idea or want something, there is nothing getting in my way, and I wanted to be an Ironman!  After AC 70.3 I was hooked on triathlon racing. I was anxiously awaiting to start training for my next goal, completing Ironman Lake Placid.  I knew I needed some help and expertise to really go the distance and get the most out of my race, rather than piecing a plan together like I did for AC. This was something I didn’t want to wing and I knew it would require hours of work each week for my body to get there.

Training for an Ironman takes lots of time, sacrifice, and dedication.  I had interviewed several coaches before deciding to hire, Chris Draper of dt+n. Immediately when I met him, I knew that he was the right person for the job. Chris is incredibly smart and talented. He’s honest, real, and straight forward. While he can be a hard ass at times, he is also incredibly attentive, supportive, and encouraging.  Chris developed appropriate and well balanced workouts to develop my strength and my skills across all three areas. Training wasn’t always roses and butterflies. It was hard, grewling, time consuming and left you at times beaten up and bruised. Throughout my training, I had been suffering from very bad plantar fasciitis so it was a delicate balance for a while to insure I could help my foot heal, but also continue to develop the endurance I needed for such a long event. And even though it was challenging, I have to say that I loved every minute of it. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and more badass.  

Chris’ smart training helped me to not only be able to get to the start of my race, but across the finish line. There is nothing in this world that compares to 15 hours of non stop physical activity and finally running down the shoot to the finish; where you here your name- Keri Mandell, you are an Ironman!! I think Chris will be stuck with me for a while, because triathlon is something I have grown to love and not seem to want to live without. Who knows what’s next… but I will tell you that it will entail, swimming, biking, and running.

Here’s to chasing your dreams and making the impossible, possible! 

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Yoga For Endurance Athletes

Yoga can be a very effective tool to help endurance athletes make huge performance and recovery gains by adding yoga to their training.

One of the best forms of yoga for athletes is vinyasa yoga. Vinyasa yoga is a type of moving meditation that links movement (asana) and breath (pranayama). Through breathwork alone, taught in a yoga class, athletes can begin to increase their cardiovascular and physical endurance, help them lower their heart rate, decrease anxiety, create more mental alertness, and even better proprioceptive balance.

When most people think about yoga, they think about a bunch of boring stretches. However, yoga is more than that and can be very fun.

Endurance athletes, such as triathletes, should consider adding yoga to their weekly training schedule.  Yoga is a great way to help triathletes prevent injuries to settling pre-race jitters. Yoga can help you achieve a sense of balance, allow you to become more intune with your body, increase flexibility, balance, strength, prevent injuries, as well as help with mental toughness.

HERE’S HOW:

Flexibility:

Flexibility is a big part of yoga because practicing the different postures will help to stretch tight muscles and encourage use of your full range of motion. Tight muscles are more prone to acute injury, (i.e. muscle strains and tears), so loosening up those tight spots will help prevent such injuries.

Beyond physical flexibility, yoga also helps increase flexibility of the mind. The poses, breath exercises, and meditation practices all encourage focus on the present moment which is a great benefit during a race.

Strength:

Yoga helps create whole-body functional strength and encourages greater awareness of the body and the breath.

Yoga helps promote joint stability and trains the muscles and tendons to stabilize the joints, which will help greater power and fluidity in sports.

Yoga also increase core strength, not just in poses that specifically target the core, but also in standing and balancing poses.

Holding challenging poses also teaches mental strength. On the mat, you will observe your mental and emotional reactions to your physical situation and learn ways to manage intensity. When you encounter similarly intense situations on race day or in life, you’ll have experience with using your breath and your form to find strength.

Balance:

Yoga helps with balance of the body and the mind. There are many balancing poses that help strengthen your body, but also make you more aware of your body’s center of gravity and how to move as a unit. Yoga helps you move through different planes and through dimensional balance, rather than just in a linear pattern. Yoga also teaches you to find stillness, quiet your mind, and be more present. This can help build the mental strength athletes need to reach their goals.

Injury Prevention:

A regular and well-rounded yoga practice will help bring the body into symmetrical alignment, correcting flexibility and strength imbalances in the soft tissues. Yoga poses also facilitate a self-awareness that can help you notice your own skeletal misalignments.

Yoga can do wonders in addressing underlying unbalances and instabilities that lead to overuse injuries. When we train a lot, our body become stressed and this can over take the sympathetic nervous system (which prepares you for fight or flight) and the adrenal glands. Instead, yoga can help you engage the parasympathetic nervous system (which allows you to relax and save energy) and restore balance to the body. This in turn will help you to sleep better & recover faster.

Mental Training:

Yoga teaches you to remain calm and breathe in intense situations/poses i.e. heart opening or hip opening poses. It helps you to bring your awareness to your form and your breath to make the situation manageable. This skill is invaluable when you encounter a similar intensity in training. Yoga will help teach you to cope and manage difficult tasks.

What are you waiting for?

With a small commitment to yoga, you can increase your flexibility, strength, focus and, most importantly your balance. There are many ways in which creating balance in your every day, as well as in your training, can help you as an athlete.

Ready to take a class?

Visit Empower Yoga!

Empower yoga is hot vinyasa style studio. During our vigorous flow, students will move with breath and begin to build muscle tone, core strength, and increase their endurance. It is very strengthening and detoxifying. Each class is set to inspiring, fun, and upbeat playlist. You’ll leave feeling stronger, empowered, and renewed.  We make all of our classes challenging, fun and accessible!

 

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