National Girls and Women in Sports Day

February 6, 2013 is National Women in Sports Day!

Girls With Sole is thrilled that the importance of sports- how they empower girls, and improve their health- is being recognized across the country.

Thousands of sports educators, coaches, athletic directors, recreation directors, association directors, students, and parents across the country will show their support of the Day and of this year’s theme, “Girls in Sports, An Investment in the Future.”

Girls With Sole programming empowers girls and invests in their futures every day.

We bring free fitness and wellness programs directly to our girls, where they are, and reinforce the importance of believing in themselves and their abilities, and how athletics can help them “Lace Up for a Lifetime of Achievement!”

 We’re happy to be part of this special day for girls across the country by participating in a free program to promote the participation of girls in sports this Wednesday at Timmons Elementary in Bainbridge Township.

The event is offered to moms (or special female person) accompanying girls in grades three through five to participate in activities offered on this national Day of Girls and Women in Sports. It’s a great chance for the girls to hear about Girls With Sole, the importance of participating in sports, and to experience yoga, Zumba, tennis, lacrosse, track and cross country, basketball, yoga, softball and volleyball.

  Moms ~ be a role model for your girls!

We hope this special day inspires everyone to get out there and find their way to play, and what moves them,  for a lifetime!

Just a few more reasons to reinforce the importance of this great day!

  • Young women who play sports are less likely to be involved in an unwanted pregnancy; more likely to get better grades in school and more likely to graduate than girls who do not play sports.
  • As little as four hours of exercise a week may reduce a young woman’s risk of breast cancer by up to 60%; breast cancer is a disease that afflicts one out of every 8 American women.

  • One out of every two women over the age of 60 suffers from osteoporosis (brittle bones).  Females today  should not desire to relive the experiences of previous generations of women who were not permitted to play sports or encouraged to participate in weight-bearing exercises that are necessary in establishing bone mass.

  • Females who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self esteem and lower levels of depression.

  • From childhood to adulthood, females who play sports have a more positive body image and experience higher states of psychological well being than girls and women who do not play sports.
  •     Sport is where the males traditionally learned about teamwork, goal setting,   the pursuit of excellence in performance and other achievement -oriented behaviors critical for success in the work place.  In an economic environment where the quality of our children’s lives will be dependent on two-income families, the women of today cannot be less prepared for the highly competitive workplace than men.  It is no accident that 80% of the female executives at Fortune 500 companies identified themselves as former “tomboys”- having played sports.

A Girl’s Best Friend

Most runners love to share their sport.  We like to spread the wealth  of optimism that comes from running and its culture, which is probably why there are so many adult running groups and clubs, and also why my dad was my first running buddy. 

I love to run with friends, and thoroughly enjoy the laughter, inspiration and camaraderie that it brings.  It’s always great to have a running buddy that you can count on to get you to a workout, and also, sometimes, through it as well. It’s the best form of therapy I know, and much cheaper than the more traditional forms available. 

One of my running buddies is quite an amazing athlete, a very fast runner, and I must say, he is also quite handsome and funny. He’s great company on a run, and has proven to be a wonderful listener.  His name is Rico, and I can tell him anything.  No matter what I say or do, not only does he refrain from judging me, but he also stays by my side, and he always looks up to me.  

Okay, fine, he looks up to me because he’s only about a foot tall.  Rico is my rescue dog and the great love of my entire family.  I know that diamonds (and maybe even shoes and chocolate) are supposed to be a girl’s best friend, but I would forgo all of it for my best friend, Rico. 


Rico running in the Fall Classic with a Girls With Sole participant

He’s really a great sport to humor me that we’re even running together, when in all actuality he is simply walking fast.  I love the way his big ears fold back onto his head and bounce to the rhythm as he happily trots along. 

Much like me, Rico doesn’t have a family history to speak of, even if he could speak.  He was a homeless dog eating garbage off the street, which resulted in a horrible case of “garbage belly.”  (This occurs when dogs can’t keep anything down because their digestive system is messed up from eating too much spoiled food or garbage.)

A few different times, Rico was taken in by families who decided they didn’t want to keep him.  Rico and I have so much in common, it’s uncanny.  He had his name changed by a previous owner from Samson to Rico, just as my name was changed from Tammy Ann when I was in foster care, to Elizabeth when I was adopted. 

Rico’s adoption fee was around $150.00, and recently I discovered that mine was $600.00.          

   Who knew that bargain basement prices could buy such awesomeness! 

Rico is quite proud of himself after crossing the finish line at Bay Days as First Overall Dog!

It  was definitely meant to be that two misunderstood, high-energy, and good-hearted “pound puppies” would find each other. Rico and I both know what it’s like to be displaced and to wonder how it could be that people failed to see the good in us.  My friend Susan was fostering Rico and posted his picture on Facebook, letting her friends know he needed a good home. She gave fair warning that he is obsessed with playing fetch and that he needs a lot of exercise. I took one look at his picture and knew that he was my dog. His ears are something to behold. 

Rico is both regal and sweet, and the smartest dog I have ever met.  His crazy combination of physical attributes illicit many people to ask what kind of dog he is.  We have decided he is a “Ferro Hound” because he’s one-of-a-kind, and he’s ours. In fact, his full name is, unofficially  Rico Suave Ferro.

Running with Rico lights up and warms my heart much like the way the sun reflects warmly off his rusty brown scruff that closely matches the color of autumn leaves. 

He runs so proudly and happily with his head held high, and it makes me laugh when he looks back at me every now and then to make sure I’m still there. Rico and I get each other. 

We both know what it’s like to finally trust someone with your whole heart, and, after feeling displaced and discarded, to be in the happiest place you could ever imagine. 

 

 

 

 

Dream On

Today’s Girls With Sole post is taken from a chapter of my book,

 Finish Line Feeling

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.”

~Henry David Thoreau

Dreaming at night is one of my favorite things to do. I love the crazy movies my subconscious mind reels out while I’m recharging for the next day. Since I don’t watch a lot of TV, my dreams serve as late-night entertainment, without all the mindless snacking. It’s multi-tasking at its best.

Most of my dreams tend to blend into one another, and as cool as they might be at the time, I still can’t remember them when I’m awake. There are only two dreams I have had which go beyond just being memorable- one o which, I’m not sure was even a dream.

The first of which is a dream from my childhood, and although it probably wouldn’t faze anyone else, I will never forget how realistic and horrifying it felt to me, deep inside my heart.

In the dream I was lost in the mountains in Germany. It felt as though I was really there, and the fear of never finding my family again gripped me and took over my body like an illness. I kept hiking higher and higher, searching the unfriendly and peasant-looking people that inhabited the villages below. I searched each stranger’s face for my mom, but none of them belonged to her. The day was beautiful and full of crisp mountain air, warm sun, and the bluest of skies, yet somehow the villagers were drab and gray.

Near the top of the mountain, I reached a meadow with tall green grass and beautiful little yellow flowers growing in clusters everywhere. There were women in German dirndls scattered about, but their heads were all facing down as they picked the yellow flowers and placed them in their aprons, skirts, and baskets.

Because the women were bent over, I couldn’t see their faces, yet somehow I clearly spotted my mom among them all. I was positive it was her, and overcome with happiness to have found her, I ran toward her screaming, “Mom! Mom!”

When I reached her, she wouldn’t look up at me, so I placed my hand on her shoulder and said, “Mom?”

She snapped her neck in my direction in a grotesque bird-like manner, and I could see that it was her, but she was monstrous-looking, dark and frightening. She growled at me in an inhuman voice that chilled me as she spit, “I’m not your mother.”

I don’t scare easily…but I must say that dream scared the crap out of me and I will never forget it. You don’t have to be a professional dream analyst or a therapist to determine where the dream stems from.  It’s obviously rooted in my past experiences of foster care, adoption, and sexual abuse during childhood.  But where the dream came from wasn’t what scared me…it was the the way it made me feel even after I was awake that bothered me the most about it. A frightening chill came over me and lingered like a ghost breathing down my neck.

The second dream I will never forget is the one that I’m not sure is even a dream. Let me preface this one with the fact that although I was raised Catholic, I’m not at all someone who would be considered devoutly religious. In fact, it seemed to me that all the years of parochial education and church homilies may have been wasted on me.  Whatever joyfulness in my heart, or peaceful strength they were supposed to invoke, try as I may, I never felt it.

But when I go for a long run, to me, that is quite spiritual in nature.  Running is meditative, brings joy to my heart, and makes me feel like a better person.  All the things that I think you’re supposed to feel in church, but I never have.

That being said, I truly believe that Mary came into my room one night and paid me a visit.

On the night that Mary was in my room, I remember that I wasn’t dreaming anything at all.  It was a peaceful and dreamless sleep until I was suddenly startled out of it. It was the type of thing where you wake up with eyes as wide as saucers, and an awful (and loud) snort reverberates through your nose and throat. (Which is probably why you remember it happening!)

I was fully awake and when my eyes opened, I saw Mary standing next to my bed, holding one arm outstretched before her, pointing in a forward direction. She was so beautiful, with a luminous face and soft, long, brown hair. Her blue and cream- colored robes hung all around her and I could see that she was telling me to go forward, and then she was gone.

At that time, I had been worried about starting Girls With Sole. There were a lot of people who doubted that the organization, or my attempts to start it, would be successful. Negativity regarding the entire organization, including its structure, mission, and approach, was cast upon me by people I knew very well, as well as those I didn’t know – and hadn’t asked for their opinions in the first place.

I kept telling myself that if Girls With Sole didn’t work out, it couldn’t hurt to at least help a few kids along the way, and then I could let it fizzle out on its own. There was no harm in trying, and inside my heart, I wanted to follow my plan and my dream – but I was letting the negative voices creep in, causing me to question if I was doing the right thing.

Mary, being the smart and strong woman that she is, came to tell me that I must move forward. I don’t think she cared what religion I did or did not practice, or if I went to church. I think she came to me as a woman who had to believe in herself, and who had to know she was right even when everyone said she was wrong. She wanted me to know that I was going in the right direction and that I should keep moving forward.

In our short existence, Girls With Sole has succeeded faster and helped more girls than anyone could have believed.  Quite often, events and circumstances that have contributed to irs success seemingly fell into place as if it were on a path or course of its own, which no one could impede upon even if they tried. I am often reminded while I’m out running….that Mary is pointing the way.

Dream on, my friends!

Why do you run?

Not everyone embraces running, or understands why someone could love it so much, when for many people, it seems like a form of drudgery or punishment.  More often than not, non-runners will look at me sideways and ask me what the heck “this runners high is all about”.  They truly want answers, because they have never felt it.

I think the runner’s high is very different for everyone, but if I had to explain it, I would say it’s like the cycle of a wave that builds with energy, strength and power ~ literally washing over your body and soul during the course of your run ~ until it crests and breaks, leaving you with a very tranquil and “zen-like” feeling after the run is over.

That’s what it’s like for me, at least.

I can’t speak for anyone else ~ but I do believe that each person’s run will grant them what they need from that run ~ and that is their high.

I find great inspiration in learning what my fellow runners gain from their runs, and what motivates them.

Girls With Sole is happy to have GUEST BLOGGER, and fellow runner, RUTH COFFEY, to share this awesome post with us today!  Enjoy!

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“Non-runners frequently ask those of us with the running bug, why do you run?  The responses range from fitting into a specific pair of jeans, to physical benefits of being fit. During this week before Christmas I am reminded that, without running, I don’t think I would have survived some of the toughest times of my life.

There are instances when we can share what we’re experiencing with friends or family. They can be very compassionate and empathetic but no-one can take sadness or grief and carry that for you.  Running has allowed me to know that even in the worst of times I can still go outside and put one foot in front of the other.  My breathing may start out short and choppy.  My legs may have turned to lead.  I  may only cover a single mile but at the end I’ll know that I’ve accomplished something.  Something normal that hasn’t changed in spite of whatever life changing event is weighing on me. 

 

I went through a divorce after a long period of nursing my first husband through a life-threatening illness.  Our marriage had been a place of hospitals, oncology reports and what felt like endless waiting for results.  It then became a place of strain and distance, of recriminations and regrets, until it fell apart.  When we parted ways 12 years ago,  I felt lost and rudderless.

 The first morning I woke up alone, I knew nothing other than to lace up my running shoes and slowly set out.  I barely managed to place one foot after the other.  I sobbed the entire time I ran.  My heart ached with every step.  But I ran and it was something familiar, something that was mine.  Covering a few short miles was one thing I did not need to beat myself up about and I craved that self-acceptance so much.

 It was at that time that I decided to sign up for my first marathon.  Holding myself to that routine, having to get out of bed and face the world, having to move and cover the miles did far more than make me physically stronger.  It allowed me to see something good in me.  I was able to do something right. 

Running built my confidence and gave me a reason to live.  It has continued to be there for me in that way.

 

I write this as we approach December 23rd and the fifth anniversary of my precious Dad’s death.  He was an avid sports man and I remember the pride in his voice when I called to share my finish time in that first marathon.  Hearing his delight down the phone almost made my heart burst.  Every time I run, it allows me to feel a connection with him.  As I run, I feel his energy and coordination.  When I want to quit, I know he wouldn’t and it spurs me on.  It is when I am most aware of how much of my Dad is with me all the time.

 I am now lucky enough to be married to the love of my life.  My artist husband is so talented and creative, it can be easy to question what he sees in me.  Running allows me to acknowledge that I have strength and endurance.  It reminds me I’m determined and that I will push myself to achieve.  These are attractive qualities! The night my husband and I met was the night before a half-marathon.  I had to leave the party we were at a little early because of my run the next day.  That was his excuse to walk me to my car ….. we’ve been inseparable ever since. 

So next time you go for a run, take a moment to think about why you do it, the people you’ve met through running, those you are close to because of it.  It truly is a gift to be able to run and to enjoy all the benefits it brings.”

 

“Why?!”

Anyone with a  young child can tell you the word “why” is one so overly used that a frazzled, sleep-deprived parent might begin to wish it was never inducted into the English language in the first place.

It’s amazing how many times a small child can ask “Why” in one day – and how 99 percent of those questions are posed in the most inopportune and embarrassing scenarios-  such as in front of the subject of the question- or on a quiet elevator.  Examples include, but certainly are not limited to:

“Why is the sky blue?”; “Why is that lady so fat?”; “Why did you fart in the car?”;  ” Why do dogs smell butts?”; “Where does the sun go at night?”; “Why do I need to eat lunch?”; “Why are peas green?”; “Why is there a hair coming out of your mole?”; “Why does that man smell like cheese?”

Hey, you can’t blame an inquisitive little person for wanting answers and information in their rapidly growing world.  As adults, we aren’t too far off from wanting to know “Why” just as often as a little kid does.  We might be slightly more discriminating in the way we go about finding our answers, but it’s still the same basic gist.  Instead of embarrassing our mother or father in a check out line at the grocery store, we extinguish our desire to know why on our Smartphones, or with Yahoo and Google. It’s the world we live in. We want answers and we want them now!

Well, if you’ve ever wondered why girls need sports and fitness programs, I have a list of reasons that should more than satisfy your curiosity.  There were actually so many valid reasons that I had to compile a condensed list. The following list was comprised by information taken from the National Girls and Women in Sports Day.

In fact,

On February 6, 2013, thousands of sports educators, coaches, athletic directors, recreation directors, association members, sponsors, students, and parents across the country will show their support of the Day and of this year’s theme, “Girls in Sports, An Investment in the Future.”

Athletes like Martina Navratilova, Candace Parker or Jessica Mendoza who played or are still playing are making a difference, overcoming difficult circumstances, breaking records and making things possible.

Girls With Sole is more than proud to be a big part of this special day! We’ll be at Timmons Elementary School in Bainbridge on February 6, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. for their event!

So……

Here are the top 20 reasons WHY girls need sports and fitness in their lives:  

20. Regular exercise improves overall quality of life.

19. Sports is where girls can learn goal-setting, strategic thinking, and the pursuit of excellence in performance and other achievement-oriented behaviors – critical skills necessary for success in the workplace.

18. Women who exercise have lower levels of blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, and have lower blood pressure than non-exercising women.

17. Recreational physical activity may decrease a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer.

16. Research supports that regular physical activity can reduce hyperlipidemia (high levels of fat in the blood).

15. Teenage female athletes are more likely to experience their first sexual intercourse later in adolescence than female non-athletes.

14.  Girls who participate in sports have higher self-esteem and pride.

13. Playing sports teaches girls how to take risks and be aggressive.

12. Research suggests that physical activity is an effective tool for reducing the symptoms of stress and depression among girls.

11. Sports teach girls teamwork.

10. Girls and women who play sports have a more positive body image than girls and women who do not participate.

9. Sports help girls develop leadership skills.

8. Regular physical activity in adolescence can reduce girls risk for obesity.

7. Teenage female athletes are less than half as likely to get pregnant as female non-athletes (5% and 11% respectively).

6. Physical activity appears to decrease the initiation of cigarette smoking in adolescent girls.

5. Research suggests that girls who participate in sports are more likely to experience academic success and graduate from high school than those who do not play sports.

4. Women who exercise believe they have more energy and felt they were in excellent health more often than non-exercising women.

3. Women who are active in sports and recreational activities as girls feel greater confidence in their physical and social selves than those who were sedentary as kids.

2. Women who exercise miss fewer days of work.

1. Sports are FUN!

Emotions Running High

Have you ever experienced a truly emotionally run?

Sure, there are days when you squeeze a run in when you can, and it suits the purpose to get in some mileage, get home, showered and on with the rest of your day.  You’ve got things to do and the run is just something you do right before the next place you need to be.

Then there are the runs that help to jump-start your mind. These are the highly productive runs that can make you feel like an Olympic athlete, mom of the year, and CEO all rolled into one. A mental house cleaning run enables you to get inside your head and visit each room one-by-one, prioritizing and creating mental “to-do” lists.  These runs are pretty awesome, and always bring about a huge sense of accomplishment because you feel like you not only got your run in, but you simultaneously sorted through your life’s worries and changed your mental “to- do’s” into practical “to- done’s”.   No list is too great when you’re high on Endorphins. You can do it all.  Bring it.


Once in a while I even have a run that I would consider to be a serious training run.  These are the runs where the entire time my legs are moving and my heart is pumping  hard within my chest,  I’m concentrating  on an upcoming race, and mentally preparing myself for how I might feel on race day.  These runs are comprised of mental body scans…connecting directly with every twinge or ache that might be talking to me and sending little warnings from my hip or Achilles to my brain.  I go inside my head and think about what race day may bring- the mileage that day; the heat or weather;  and how I will feel in my head, and my stomach, and, of course,  crossing the finish line.

Then there are the emotional runs.  The ones that feel like I’m the only person on the planet, and my legs feel powerful and strong but my mind is a blank canvas – until I hear a certain song on my iPod, or a very emotionally charged thought pops into my head, and stays there like a cement kite.  The thought runs with the rhythm of my legs and moves me emotionally, often times evoking tears that make my even breathes feel like exercise induced asthma.   I can count on one hand how many times I have burst out into an audible sob while I was running.  Today  I added one more to that count on my virtual Abacus.

The weather today is cold, so I had to psyche myself up to go outside to run.  Often times these end being my best runs – much like the nights when you don’t want to go to a party, but you tell yourself you’ll only stay for an hour, and end up staying until 2:00 a.m. I stepped out into the crisp early January air with the hope of getting a 30 minute post-holiday mental house cleaning run, but ended up with an emotionally driven and empowering 90 minute run instead.

At about 20 minutes into the run I was feeling quite tall, and my legs were machines set to auto-pilot.  I wasn’t cold anymore, and everything seemed right in the world.  Even the sun came out, causing me to squint like a happy, rebellious Vampire.   My IPod was set to shuffle because I like my music to surprise me, and to see how my body reacts to the random eclectic playlists that are chosen for me.  When Swedish House Mafia’s “ Don’t You Worry Child” played in my ears- I was instantly transported into my soul, and felt that the song was not only written for me from my father, but that it was specifically chosen for me to hear today- while my mind, body and soul had its full attention, and could properly receive its message.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_psKVhHWaWw

As a child I had some trauma that wasn’t dealt with properly, and as a result there were some pretty dark times in my life as a young, blossoming adult. I was a hot house flower with a hot head, trying to survive in an (often self-imposed) cold world.  I never felt sorry for myself, which is a good thing, but there were some out -of -control years that I’m not proud of, with the period between age 21 until about 28 among my worst.  These were the years that the anger, self hate, and feelings of worthlessness reared their ugly head and I was given the choice to do the work and slay the beast, or to become the beast.  I was admittedly scared.  It was extremely frightening to think about where my life was going to end up, and to face the long road of confronting my inner demons, and forgiving those who wronged me, while learning to love myself.  These were daunting and seemingly impossible tasks at that time.

The one and only person who always stood by me, even at my worst, was my dad.  He was my rock, and he always told me that heaven had a plan for me. He used those words.  He believed in me when no one else did, and constantly told me that I didn’t need to worry.  My father is no longer alive, but his love for me- and the messages he wishes to remind me of- are often placed in my heart while I’m running.  This time I heard it loud and clear, even though I keep my iPod volume way too high, and I burst into a sob.  My legs just kept going (while my breathing was chopped to bits) choosing to ignore the cries, as if they had their own set of ear buds with the volume cranked too high.

The tears weren’t all about me, however, and the message was two-fold, because it brought to light the many emails, phone calls and conversations that come from so many of my girls in GWS.  They often tell me how scared they are; how out of control their lives feel; and how they fear their feelings of worthlessness or ugliness will never go away.

It’s now my turn to be the rock and to let them know there is a plan for them.  The plan is to show them that there are people in their lives that care- and that I know things can seem hopeless, but if you take care of yourself and stay healthy and strong with exercise and hard work on yourself – anything is possible.  The plan is for me to be there and to bring Girls With Sole to them, so that, they can bring themselves across life’s many finish lines.

“Don’t you worry child, see, heaven has a plan for you.”