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I neglected my self-care again

a pause on the KCT, cr. David Moskowitz

a pause on the KCT, cr. David Moskowitz

the practice of self-care is a constant awareness; we must regularly return to core rituals that nourish us.

one-third of my mission and my engagement strategy with clients for the past five (almost six!) years is the practice of self-care. though I understand and heartily preach the benefits of strategic rest, paring down unnecessary activities in one’s personal life, time alone, meditation, eating well and often, and getting enough rest, sometimes I don’t practice what I know to be true.

my recent bout of work and personal travel, though inspiring, drained me. you know why it drained me? I neglected my self-care.

for the last ten days I did not take the time to cook beautiful meals for myself. I meditated but only short, requisite sits, not the long somatic work I am in need of at this time of my life. I didn’t do my mat work. I ran in shoes that fit me poorly and ignored the pain of the blisters they gave me. I spent joyful time caring for my beloved tribe of people but, aside from some euphoric desert runs, didn’t spend time on myself.

most importantly: I didn’t spend a single day alone. for me alone time is crucial for my recovery process and to recharge my creativity. my spirit requires a heavy dose of lonely in order to do its gnostic work; to give without resentment to my baby; to show up with total presence for my friends, family, and clients.

self-care, in pop culture parlance, is often mistakenly equated with this 'treat yo self' phenomenon. especially women are told to get their nails done, to buy a new outfit, to get dressed up, and these superficial, consumerist gestures are considered to be caring to oneself. perhaps these actions, done with presence and appreciation, can be caring gestures but self-care doesn't have to cost a thing. self-care also often does not have an external representation of having been completed - mostly because completion is not the goal with a practice.

the practice of self-care is a constant awareness; we must regularly return to core rituals that nourish us. this balance is not static, it is not 50/50, it is not attainable so that we can forget about it having accomplished it once and for all. like any practice, self-care requires us to learn, to un-learn, to regress, then return to what we know of ourselves and do the simple hard work again and again.

so today, tomorrow, and part of the next day I am taking to be almost totally alone, holed up in my little cabin, caring for myself.

in wellness,

Brittany Raven

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My favorite apps

 

Headspace: I began using this app when it first came out and have enjoyed watching the content available evolve into the robust array of meditations and articles on mindfulness. I found the content and rhythm of this app helpful for me, a meditator with seventeen years of formal mindfulness training, and my clients have found it appropriate when learning to meditate for the first time. The app includes meditations for all of the common mental health challenges my clients face from anxiety to insomnia to depression. New on the app is a series of meditations specifically designed for athletes. They offer a free ten-day trial period and I suggest you try this out.

Expectful: Specific to the childbearing year, the Expectful app is designed to help TTC, expectant, and postpartum mothers develop a meditation habit. I simply enjoy the folks over at Expectful and was even featured on their super useful podcast last year. Think of this app as more than a meditation app but also an excellent place to find support and evidence-based information on how mindfulness can benefit you and your new human. Big ups to Expectful leadership for offering access free-of-charge to moms in need - they also offer a free fourteen-day trial.

Nike Training App: Over the years I've tested a variety of websites and apps for ready-to-do circuits, yoga classes, and stretching routines both for my person use when I travel and to recommend to my clients. This is the app. Available free of charge the Nike Training App offers tailored workouts relevant to your goals and fitness level.

Clue: For those of you who have an unmitigated menstrual cycle, you have already heard me talk ad nauseum about the strengths of your cycle. Clue is an excellent tool to use if you're interested in getting pregnant, not getting pregnant, or if you simply want to gain a better understanding of how your cycle impacts your mental health and your athletic performance. This awesome resource is also free.

Elite HRV: Using any Bluetooth heart rate chest strap, you can send your data to this smart app. HRV is the single simplest piece of data when I try to determine whether or not a client with whom I'm working is overtrained. Also integrates with performance tracking and training journal apps like Training Peaks.

 

The one app I will not use nor recommend? Strava.

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The ego and the universe

This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated “egos” inside bags of skin.
— Alan Watts (via Brainpickings)

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Me too

Camp Muir 2009

Camp Muir 2009

In light of the recent 'me too' outpouring and the reconfiguring of our collective attitudes toward gendered violence and oppression here in the United States, I'd like to share again a conversation I had with Gale Straub of She Explores back in 2015.

Here's hoping our mountainous places, as well as our boardrooms, bars, streets, and homes, become more hospitable to all people.

Brittany Raven

 
Kautz Glacier 2009

Kautz Glacier 2009

 

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These quads

Kettle Crest Range 2017, cr. David Moskowitz

Kettle Crest Range 2017, cr. David Moskowitz

these quads are boss bitches, for real.

these quads are also sometimes difficult for me to accept; though most of the time I’ve learned to love them. as a young ballerina, I was told they were too big to create the aesthetically lean, long lines expected of a serious dancer. when I switched from high-altitude load humping to ultra distance running my body shaved off every extra piece of bulky muscle it could - my quads remained stubbornly stout. I’ve carried hatred for their thickness and only recently, and through a serious process of learning to tolerate, accept, then love, have begun to celebrate them.

these are the thighs between which Rumi sticks her head when she’s scared. these are the same fleshy ribbons my lovers crave wrapped around their bodies; the ones every one of them has fetishized, coasting gnarled hands over their deceptively-smooth and scarred surface. my massage therapist calls these gleaming pistons my marble columns for they are certainly strong enough to hold up the roof of the Pantheon.

these are the quads that shook as they fired my legs straight in the top step of my etrier on my first aid lead. these are the legs I trusted to carry me through twenty-six solo, unsupported mountain ultras. these are the quads that helped me squat steadily for four and a half hours while I pushed my perfect Rumi into the world on my bedroom floor; the legs that were so resilient that after that final push at the end of twenty-seven hours of active labor they still allowed me to catch my emerging babe and stand with her in my arms at ten seconds old slippery, bloody, and perfect. 

this right leg in particular endured sixteen stitches to remove a cancerous lesion when I was twenty-one. these are the knees that forced themselves into the balls of my first would-be rapist, a varsity football player at my high school, when I was a flat-chested fourteen year old then again into the balls of my second would-be rapist, a celebrated Himalayan guide, at the age of twenty-two.

tattooed, stretch-marked, bulbous, unevenly-tanned, blessedly hairy: thank you, beautiful thighs.

who said thin women have no use for body positivity?

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Placental processing, supplements, productive pain, oh my

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I had no expectations that were limiting and I had no expectations that were striving so I was able to just do what was healthy for my body.

Universe curse Methow Valley cell phone service! Nonetheless if you're interested in placenta smoothie recipes, my postpartum recovery curve, the connection between the nervous system and birth, how to productively relate to your pain, and setting expectations for your postpartum recovery take a listen to my latest podcast feature with the lovely Colleen of Prokreate Radio.

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Reporting out on my summer of heat training

my private trail network, Location Undisclosed

my private trail network, Location Undisclosed

On April 20th I took my first shirtless run of the season. On May 2nd I told my IG followers that I was going to undertake purposeful heat training for the summer. On September 18th I next wore a shirt on a training run. 

This was a hot summer. I clocked over thirty runs at temperatures exceeding 95F - ten in a row over 100F. Adding to the heat was the impenetrable smoke which forced me to wear a ventilator on runs through all of August and part of September. The ventilator, much as it did an excellent job of filtering the smoke, also acted as a hypoxia-inducing mechanism by limiting the in-flow of oxygen as I went.

I'll back up and also confess: I have historically loathed the heat often telling friends and clients I'd rather be hypothermic than even a little warm. However, after choosing the Methow Valley as home, I had to befriend the heat if I intended to keep running - and I intend to keep running. 

So back in May I suspended my loathing of the heat long enough to devise a loose program of heat acclimation intended to increase my tolerance. As I researched how to acclimate to heat, I found a litany of other benefits of heat training: increased tolerance of cold, increased VO2Max in hot and cold conditions, and training adaptations similar to those I have experienced at altitude. The mechanism for all these useful changes? Increased plasma volume (a la pregnant blood doping!). 

smoky run, Cutthroat Pass

smoky run, Cutthroat Pass

For the month of May, I purposefully waited until the hottest part of the day (which was around mid-eighties) to do my runs two days a week. On those days, I took it easy but made myself keep running in what felt like sweltering heat for at least ninety minutes. On those runs I was sure not only to refuel but to rehydrate and to pay attention to my micronutrient intake as well. As May's temps ratcheted up in June, I felt more comfortable running in the heat already. During the month of June I tacked on to the end of every hot run an ice bath in whatever creek or river was nearby. I also began to do a hot epsom bath after one run-ice bath combo per week.

Beginning in the end of June and early July, my body started performing really well in the heat. I still took my hardest and longest runs at higher elevations and at cooler times of the day but by that point in the summer I was running four or five days a week in temperatures exceeding 90F. After every run beginning in mid-July I did a full-body ice bath in the Chewuch River or Deer Lake.

At the end of July the Diamond Creek Fire flared up a few miles from home dumping an obscene amount of smoke into my little river valley so I began to wear a ventilator (read more on running in wildfire country). Not one to complain about challenging conditions I chose to view my ventilator as yet another cardiac challenge to my strengthening system. Through all of August I ran at least four of my runs per week in the ventilator in temperatures over 95F - and damn did some of those runs feel tough.

As the heat persisted through the first weeks of September I began to feel markedly more at ease in the triple-digits. I found myself looking forward to runs on hot days and even found myself not feeling overheated on my last hot hot run on September 14th.

Now, as the cold rolls in and the ground I now run on is covered with snow, I feel more well-adapted to running in freezing, damp temperatures, too. My body feels like it is using much less energy than in past seasons keeping me warm despite being vastly leaner this autumn versus years past. And dammit if I'm not pining for those sultry runs in the smoke with Moose.

So after four months of shirt-free, sweat-heavy, hot AF runs I'm pleased to announce: I loved it! Truly. After a lifetime of not performing well in the heat I now miss my hot 4pm runs on sun-exposed dusty trail. I'm also performing better in the cold this autumn AND feel my overall cardiac capacity increased. Now let's see how that heat training translates to high altitude movement - I'll keep you posted.

 

read more:

how to run in wildfire country

heat training while pregnant

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Dispelling myths event in Seattle - 6:30pm November 8

Hey preggos, partners, and birth professionals,

Come on out this Wednesday evening to Seattle Bouldering Project's West Wall Bar. Patagonia Seattle will be there raffling off some sweet gear, the kombucha will be flowing, and we will get nerdy about my dispelling myths content. Bring your questions and your kids!

Brittany Raven

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RIP, Fred.

Fred regaling me with tales of his first ascent of the Angel Glacier, seen in the distance.

Fred regaling me with tales of his first ascent of the Angel Glacier, seen in the distance.

I’ll join the chorus and say: RIP, grand master of stone and ice.

in 2009 I had the privilege of traveling to the Canadian Rockies to climb with Fred and two other fine gents (to whom the credits for these photos go and whose last names I have totally forgotten, mea culpa). during those short weeks, Fred became one of my top five mentors as an alpinist and athlete.

we rolled slowly north and as we went Fred deployed his considerable network of friends to give the four of us a place to sleep and some delicious meals. his organization systems and deep concern for cultivating strong relationships were amazing: he had a card listing the names, birthdays, and favorite desserts of each of our hosts. we charmed families in Sandpoint and Spokane by showing up with the relevant pie and stories from the mountains. upon arriving in Jasper, near our climbing objective, as darkness fell, Fred let us know his plan was to sleep in the city park like he did in the 60s while he and Yvon climbed there. since it was likely we’d get kicked out of the park by the cops in 2009, we decided to head to the local bar and figure out what to do next.

we must have looked like a strange crew because the drunkest Canadian in the bar approached us within ten minutes of us sitting down by slurring: “you folksss look interethting. do you need a place to stay?” Fred, who had feigned deafness much of the trip, quickly answered for all of us: “yes! where’s your house?” his wife may have kicked us out at 4am when she discovered four stinky climbers sacked out on her living room floor but quickly invited us back after her climber nephew explained who Fred was. we ended up sleeping on this family’s floor sporadically through the next two weeks between forays into the mountains and our hosts became like our surrogate Canadian family after the trip was over.

setting up camp

setting up camp

these pictures are from our trip up Mount Edith Cavell. during the climb Fred constantly impressed me with his intellect and his mountain witchery. his most recent time in the area was during the aformentioned trip in the 60s but that didn’t cloud his memories of the appropriate streams to drink from, the exact mileage from trailhead to camp to summit and back, and even the weather patterns in this remote corner of the Canadian Rockies. during our trip he nuzzled ‘snafflehounds’ who regarded him as kin, called me ‘the girl’, and cooked a mean alpine curry during our nights at high camp. Fred demonstrated masterful ways to coil a rope so it laid flat over the lid of a pack as well as the optimal coil for keeping a rope from snagging while bushwhacking. he shared his theory on how rockfall works while climbing these chosspiles.

I will always treasure the time I got to spend in the mountains with Fred and I promise to never, ever call him a dirtbag.

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Pregnant Athlete: "You're so small."

In learning how to connect with other athletes, I realize that telling more of my story is vital. I'm an introvert and tend to be careful with whom I share my journey, believing it to be rude to 'vulnerability spotlight' you dear readers with my internal process. I also rely heavily on evidence to validate the recommendations I make to my clients, rather than relying on my own lived experience as a mother/athlete and my experience as a coach.

Storytelling is how we connect, stories give flesh to the hard structure of good data. So here I'll share a short reflection I wrote back in April 2016 when I was thirty-six weeks pregnant. Look forward to more personal stories - and a continued dedication to the science of endurance.

Brittany Raven


I look 'small' (whatever that means) to most people. I'm thirty-six weeks and most people just started being able to tell I'm pregnant. the baby measures large on ultrasound, my fundal height is normal for my place in the pregnancy, and I attribute this to my elite athleticism, strong abs, and really long torso (I'm 5'10"). I'm one of those freakish moms you see on TV who has a six-pack at full term. this is not because I starve myself or even really care to have abs at this point, it is only because my life, my job, all of my time is spent as a mountain runner, backcountry skier, and climber.

yesterday something pretty awkward happened. another woman approached me in a coffee shop in my hometown - really small place - and said how neat it is that we're both pregnant and about the same due date. after chatting for a while I mentioned the upcoming birth and how excited I am. she looked shocked and told me she thought I was seventeen weeks pregnant like her. I reinforced that we all carry our babies differently but felt simultaneously judged for my appearance and as though my smallness had automatically judged her beautiful, round belly.

this sort of comparison feels terrible to women like her and terrible to women like me. anytime someone exclaims: "oh you're so SMALL!" I feel my effort building this baby over the last nine months is invalidated; somehow if I'm not bigger I'm not actually pregnant. it makes me feel judged and even if others may perceive this as a positive judgement it doesn't feel good to me. 

I wish we could embrace each woman's unique way of incubating her baby. whether she is huge or tiny, has visible abs or cellulite; as long as she is healthy, feels good, and is caring for her baby we should all just celebrate. or mind our own business.

 

read more:

Dispelling Myths Series

postpartum climbing

Seattle Times feature

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