Tag Archives: 5k

Running On Glass

I’ve been running lately, and so far, it hasn’t killed me or completely destroyed my joints (maybe). Fancy!

With nice end-of-summer weather, I’ve been walking along a quiet, hilly country road that takes me past pastureland and farmland, farm houses, small streams, and churches. I have a sheaf of small stories about the bucolic delights of my exercise, from shutting off my music to better hear Mennonite churchgoers sing hymns in German to collecting red clover for some inquisitive horses to photographing butterflies.

Sunset in the country: this beats the pants off running in a gym.

Sunset in the country: this beats the pants off running in a gym.

One day, while walking down a long hill, I tried to pick up the pace a little to get my heart rate up more and to tax my leg muscles more than walking does. That turned into a very light jog. I was surprised, delighted – words you don’t usually use when you talk about working out. “This should stop soon. When is something going to start to hurt?”

I ran for maybe a full minute. As someone who hasn’t tried running since a failed C25K attempt in 2006, a minute felt like a long time to run. I had so much fun that when I caught my breath, I ran again. I didn’t attempt to go up any hills and did a lot of walking, but every time there was a downward slope, I ran a little more. I shaved 15 minutes off my usual 5K walk lap time and soaked in the tub when I got home.

With two jobs, my time is stretched a little thin, so I don’t run more than once or twice a week – which is great for me, as it is probably wise to let my body rest and heal for several days between those workouts.

The ankle brace and knee brace are necessities, of course. I tried running without my ankle brace a little over a week ago, which turned out to be a mistake. I went out on Sunday afternoon, and I had shooting pains in my ankle while I was walking up a hill – to the point where I seriously considered calling my boyfriend to come pick me up. I stopped for a moment and rolled my ankle in circles, tugging on the elastic at the top of my ankle. The pain quickly subsided, and it felt all right enough that I actually ran on it again before the end of my walk. When I got home, I soaked in the warm tub for a while, then propped my ankle up and wrapped it in a cold pack while I watched TV.

Will I keep running if I’ve hurt my ankle? Probably not. I don’t want to do lasting damage. I’ll give it some time to rest, and then, the weather will get really cold, and I won’t want to run or go outside, and I’ll get halfway through winter before I’m bitten by the exercise bug again, and I’ll put on all my braces and my neck gaiter and 14 layers of flannel and go out and run two miles and feel awesome, and then I’ll slip on black ice into some horse poop in the road and break my leg. And my phone.

Horses! You are so beautiful! Why are you so treacherous? I have not forgotten the time a horse threw me into a tree. Yeah, an "accident."

Horses! You are so beautiful! Why are you so treacherous? I have not forgotten the time a horse threw me into a tree. Yeah, an “accident.”

The constant thought I have as I’m running, besides “Just get to that tree shadow/driveway and then we can stop and walk… JUST KIDDING, go to the end of that driveway! I should REALLY eat breakfast before I run! I don’t know how I’m going to make it home!” is that I’m on borrowed time with this body. I feel like my brain is tricking it into doing things that could break it. It’s easy to be a hypochondriac and easy to be reckless. I’ve got to find the balance between having the gumption to test my limits and having the common sense to know when to stop and how to take care of myself properly when things do go wrong.

It Is Still Fresh Air, Even If It Smells Like Manure

The out-of-doors in the summer. It’s gorgeous! It’s covered in bees! It’s covered in kudzu, wildflowers, horses, crops, and cows, too, as far as I can tell.

Ahh, the countryside.

Ahh, the countryside.

The temperature has been more than reasonable most of this week – 75-80F (24-27C), partly cloudy, breezy. The place where I live has gentle, rolling hills and shade trees and farmland all mixed together. It’s ideal.

I haven’t been walking much the last 7 months, ever since I moved into my own house with a yard that didn’t leave dog-walking as a necessity anymore. Moreover, I took my dogs out a few months ago, and we were attacked by a dog that came off its chain down the street. So there’s been precious few dog-accompanied adventures, and until recently, precious few adventures undertaken solo.

I have enjoyed walking down to the flat bridge over a nearby creek. I’ve only been on that walk a few times, though. Part of that is the mental battle I have with that steep-ass hill that leads down to the creek. The 1.3 miles down to the creek is almost completely downhill. The trip back up is not really a lot of fun. The creek is usually lovely and enjoyable to watch for a few minutes. I have rediscovered my love of skipping stones on the water, and I usually come away with a memento, such as a little geode I plan to clean up and put on my desk at work.

Flat bridge ahoy! So beautiful and calm! And at the bottom of a mile-long steep grade! Bleh!

Flat bridge ahoy! So beautiful and calm! And at the bottom of a mile-long steep grade! Bleh!

The main problem with walking down the main road to work out: traffic. I’m not very keen on sharp hill crests and turns where I could be a surprise object in the roadway. I try to cross the road, or walk in the tall grass in ditches on the side of the road, if I hear a vehicle coming. But there are a lot of ticks in this part of the country, and they sometimes hang out in the tall grass, waiting. Planning. Scheming. Hungry. The ticks and I are at war. There are no survivors once they are found in my house, on my pets, and especially on my person. The first line of defense is a good offense, and that means walking on the road when I can.

Being an explorer and a self-preservationist, I decided to walk in the opposite direction of the bridge the other day, opting for a nearby single-lane, paved, quiet road that winds through the main Mennonite settlement in my county. It was a good choice. I mean, the county where I live is just chock full of natural beauty anyway; it’s really nice to be able to walk slowly through it and appreciate it up close without fear of being run over by an F-250 every two minutes. While on this slender thread of pavement through lush farmland and riotous green woods, I gave directions to some lost folks in a pick-up and waved politely at anyone who passed me, whether they were in work trucks or open-air horse-drawn buggies. I felt that I looked out of place, walking along a road mostly traveled by farm workers while in my bright teal workout shirt (get your rear in gear!), headphones, hiking boots, sunglasses, and knee brace. But I was also very at-home in my surroundings. I spent some of my childhood summers on a sprawling farm just outside of town: riding bikes down dirt roads, looking at the cows, trying to rescue birds from oil ponds bubbling up next to little-used derricks, and picking blackberries. I’ve always loved the outdoors, and living in a place where I can more easily appreciate it year-round is a gift I will always cherish.

Wide open spaces and a seldom-used fork in the road.

Wide open spaces and a seldom-used fork in the road.

Meeting house, complete with water pump and hitching posts.

Meeting house, complete with water pump and hitching posts.

I photographed all kinds of wildlife while I was out earlier this week. I was delighted to find a small waterfall lurking behind foliage, trickling slowly into a creek that wound under a bridge and into a pasture where several beautiful honey-colored horses grazed in the midday sun. I marked that bridge as my halfway point to make an approximate 5k (~3.1 miles) from my starting point. When I reached that point again today, the horses were gone, and there was something very dead by the creek. It smelled terrible, and it persisted for a tenth of a mile. Then, on my way back to my starting point, the wind had shifted to where I was upwind, and I managed to be in the path of the breeze after it had passed over every single pile of horse manure on the road. I took it in stride in the name of better health.

I had a great couple of walks, though I know my calves are going to be sore for a few days. Months of activity followed up by three 5k walks in a single week? Not without consequences. At least I had the foresight to wear my ankle brace and my knee brace both. And sunscreen, most of the time.

Future home of freckles.

Future home of freckles.

Now, it is time to talk tragedy. My amazing hiking boots that I got last fall, which have seen me through many miles with my dogs and on my own, suffered an eyelet loss earlier today. Quel dommage!

ALORS. Now my laced-up boot looks ridiculous.

ALORS. Now my laced-up boot looks ridiculous.

I’ll figure out a fix – it may involve heavy-duty glue, or an awl, or something. The boots are otherwise fine, and I might even be able to get away with still wearing them in their current, stupidly-laced state for a while yet to come.

Another lesser tragedy: my old sports bras are now in dire need of replacement. They are not structured at all; I bought one at Target, another on sale at a sporting goods store, and I bought them both to wear to physical therapy when I was 40 pounds heavier than I weigh now. It’s going to be a while before I can afford a really good underwired upgrade, so I may either tailor one of them or buy something inexpensive to get me through the fall at a big box retailer.

My less-than-sturdy body parts are doing well; little ankle soreness, no knee complaints to speak of, and even my surgery scars are all right. I am still ever-mindful of too much exercise straining my abdominal surgery scars. No pain so far after my third walk in a week, but it could take a day or two for that to still happen.

Couch to Ouch

Glorious fall. In Texas, fall counts as when the temperatures stop regularly cresting 100 degrees Fahrenheit. A high in the mid-80s brings people out of their homes in droves. Including me! Although it’s still very strange to see the September sun and be sweating like a pig, it’s comforting to know that time does, indeed, pass, summer doesn’t have to last forever, and you can go outside without immediately desiccating.

I went for a walk on Sunday. About five minutes into it, I thought, “Self, let’s get out the stopwatch app on our phone here and try out some Couch to 5K-type intervals!” “Well, all right,” I replied to my brain, “as long as we run on the grass and don’t go too crazy. I want to be able to move my muscles tomorrow.”

Sticking to medians, the grassy playground of the nearby school, and other unpaved common areas, I did eight 30-second sprints during my walk, covered 2.2 miles, and felt pretty damn good at the end of my 36-minute outing.

A woman's legs in ankle brace and knee brace and sneakers.

Post run relaxation, aided by my chief medical officer, the cat.

When I got home, I iced down first my bad knee, then my bad ankle. The next day, those joints were just fine.

The only things that really hurt were my right foot (I broke a bone in it several years ago, I think; never got it treated, and who knows how it healed) and my abdomen. I’m still kind of healing from this summer’s injury, which my doctors determined was probably torn scar tissue from my gallbladder surgery two years ago. So running was not the wisest thing I could have done, even though it felt ok at the time and was a major mental victory.

I’ll have to keep moving slowly until I’m fully healed up. If my abdominal problems persist after a few months of taking it easy, it will be time to go to the doc and ask whether I can get an ultrasound or something, investigate whether there’s a tear that needs to be addressed with either stitches or magic.

As many people who live with chronic injuries or weirdo conditions or undertreated medical problems know, it’s a pain trying to stick to a regular workout routine when you don’t know how  your body is going to react each time. A setback can either be a few days of pain, a month of nausea, six weeks of limping, weeks of physical therapy, surgery, or nothing, and you never really know what time bombs are lurking, waiting for you to twist a joint the wrong way or aggravate a weakness or latent problem enough that it comes to the fore of your consciousness through physical exertion.

I think all we can do is keep going and keep trying to improve our health. We can be afraid forever of testing ourselves, or we can reach too far and hurt ourselves, and we never know for sure which it’s going to be. I hope that I can get past the limitations of my body and run one day. My obstacles are not insurmountable. I just have to find out what my problem is and deal with it. A trip to the doctor in the next few months may be in the cards. I’ll have to wait until everything settles down a bit first – my personal life is about to undergo a huge upheaval – but I intend to take care of myself to make my goals more attainable.

Staggered Sign-Ups and Long-Term Physical Training

I’ve got a handful of pet causes for which I like to do 5k walks (my body isn’t up for a run yet at all). Now that the weather is calming down after another blazing summer, reminders have been going out for my favorite events, each peppering a different weekend from now until the end of November.

I don’t want to overextend myself through commitment to things I’m not sure I can see through, I don’t want to hassle friends and family for donations, and I don’t always have the cash on hand to register right when I think of it, so I’ve had to set up email reminders in Google Calendar to remind myself of when to register for events. But I’m excited to participate in them, not only for the altruism and community-fostering aspect, but also for the accomplishment of performing a physical feat.

This fall, I have plans to participate in:

  • The Undy 5000 colon cancer event
  • A non-Komen-affiliated breast cancer event
  • St. Jude Children’s Hospital Give Thanks. Walk.

As I have said, my plans to participate in running (not walking) events of any kind are contingent upon my preparing my body to be able to run without further injury. My running will only happen after I’ve worked to ensure that my core is strong, my shoulder is rehabbed well enough to allow me to wear a sports bra without pain, my feet are regularly stretched properly to prevent plantar fasciitis pain, and my knee is well-supported and protected by muscles and my continued weight loss.

To those ends:

  • I’m resuming my 3x/week 45-minute shoulder physical therapy routine at home.
  • I’m adding small parts of my pilates exercises to my routine, evaluating how much further to go based on the presence of pain the next day.
  • I’m getting back on the total paleo-ish eating plan again, since I put on several pounds from emotionally-driven and laziness-driven cheat meals.

I am sorely in need of physical activity again, besides taking the stairs at the office. After my first physical therapy workout in months, my arms have been sore from all that lifting and manipulating three-pound and five-pound weights and stretch bands. I would be more embarrassed about my weakness, but at least I intend to do something about it, and I have the tools, knowledge, and motivation I need to do it.

It may be next spring before I can run in an event, but I want to use the cooler weather months wisely, as my training period, and make myself ready to face whatever challenges I present to myself when I feel I’m ready.

Is My Knee Up For C25K?

My doctor took a look at my knee last summer during my first-ever visit in order to evaluate my knee pain. I tried to shove aside the embarrassment of having missed a spot when shaving my legs earlier that day and listen well to what he said so I’d know how to proceed with my fitness goals… and whether I really had arthritis, as I self-diagnosed myself as having in my early twenties, since one of my siblings with similar knee problems had arthritis already.

After extending it and palpating the sides, he said, “Feels like you may have a torn meniscus.” That’s not arthritis. That’s not so bad, right? He said he could do more tests to find out what was going on, if I cared. I could do physical therapy for it (not a high priority at the time, since I was still suffering frozen shoulder and was totally focused on that). It was possible they could do some surgery to repair or rig up something, but once you start in on the knee, he went on, it’s pretty much surgeries for the rest of your life. “Well, you don’t do a lot of running, do you?” Wait, how could you tell, me being obese and having knee pain?

All photos of me being active over the last few years depict me in a Velcro knee brace that minimizes the pain during the activity, and I elevate/ ice my knee down after anything strenuous just in case. That joint has been behaving rather well for all dog walkings and the several 5k events I’ve done since I began losing weight. There’s been less stress on it and therefore fewer instances of pain. I’ve even been taking the stairs up to my office as much as possible, partly to save electricity, partly to add just a little bit more exercise to my life, and partly to benefit my leg muscles.

A woman in athletic clothing and a knee brace

From Komen 2010: “Braaaaace. Brace? Braaaaaaace!”

When I did the local 5K in May with my dog, we ran in short bursts, and it was a lot of fun for both of us. And it didn’t hurt me that much; I elevated and iced my knee right after the race, and I was fine the next day save muscle soreness, which is a whole different, wonderful beast than joint soreness. It would be fantastic to take both my dogs out to run more often… once the Texas summer is over (so, in October? Sigh).

I tried the well-known Couch to 5K program back in 2006, but I was a little bit more out of shape and was about 40 pounds heavier than I am now, and I didn’t own a knee brace or an ice pack. I lasted about two weeks before it just became too painful. It didn’t help that, at the time, I lived on the third floor of an apartment building with no elevator, so when my knee hurt, I had to tough it out and walk back up those stairs. Exerting oneself to build strength and test strength is one thing; stressing a body part that needs to heal is another. As a previously injured person, I wasn’t doing myself any favors by trying too much, too soon.

An MS Paint drawing in the style of a video game looking at a tower of stairs.

BUSTED KNEE TOWERS: THE VIDEOGAME didn’t sell very well, for some reason, despite its graphics being slightly better than Ski-Free and Donkey Kong.

I wonder now if I’m ready to start running. I would love to test it out, though I’d rather start in a field on dirt and grass. And maybe I should get my strength up in other ways, too – start out with a month of pilates to work on my core and get everything used to moving again. And I should continue with my at-home physical therapy for my weak shoulder. I have missed a few workouts due to being ill the last several days, but I feel better when I get it done.

I go back to my doctor in a month or two. I will start preparing myself to run by continuing shoulder therapy, doing pilates at least twice a week, and researching exercises I should be doing to strengthen the muscles supporting my knee. Then, I’ll discuss it with my doctor. I hope to have lost even more weight by the time I see him, blowing right past the goal weight he set for me back in February. I’m sure that will help my chances of being able to run more comfortably and with less chance of seriously hurting myself if I start running.

If running is completely taken off the table, I’ll have to suck it up and content myself with walking, which I already love, and weightlifting, when my shoulder is ready. I’ve got a backup plan based on my current reality, but I am shooting for a goal that’s seemed out of reach for most of my adult life.

Image

5K With The Dog

A woman in t-shirt and shorts walking a dog during a 5k event.

Taking my dog out on a beautiful morning for a brisk 5k walk!

I took my dog with me on a local 5K walk last weekend. She did so well! And I felt great at the end. We were both exhausted but happy. It was a bonding experience for the two of us, she kept our pace pretty brisk for the entire walk, and she made friends everywhere she went. I plan to take her with me on more 5K walks once the weather cools down.

Walk for a Cause, Walk at Random, But Hey, Walk

My knee’s been old and busted ever since I tore my meniscus in my early twenties, so it’s been difficult for me to run for any length of time for a little over a decade. Days of remorse usually follow a lengthy jog. I gave up on Couch to 5K in the second week because it hurt so much. I will run to chase after an escaped dog, which happens more often than you’d think (looking at you, boy dog).

Walking, however, is completely all right, given I’m wearing my knee brace and my ankle sleeve. One of my favorite things in the world is to get kitted up and go wandering around my neighborhood in the spring and autumn. Music is completely optional. I’ve usually got my cell phone; I send out occasional tweets, I take pictures of the sky, and I keep it on me to make it easier to track my whereabouts if I disappear into the back of a windowless white van or space ship or whatever. Long walks are one of the few opportunities I have to listen to music in a fairly quiet setting, given how loud my old sedan is getting. I love the wind in my face, seeing the moon if I’m walking at night (which I used to do quite a bit), enjoying the nature around me. I’m glad that I’ve found such a low impact sport that’s good for my joint health and that I enjoy. When I get to be a little old lady, as much as I can stand to, I’m taking myself and my little fluffy, yappy dogs to the park every day for walkies.

Because I am an aspiring (if usually broke) philanthropist, eager to offer information, money, and effort to the causes I support, I completely get behind races and walks for charity organizations. I’m not really great at fundraising, but I try to contribute most of my fundraising goal myself and concentrate on enjoying the event. I’ve participated in two events yearly for the last two years. In 2012, I plan to double the number of walk participations I’ve done and perhaps add more. Because the heat in Dallas is so awful during the summer, I’ve tried to stick to events in non-summer and non-summer-adjoining months.

The events I’ve done:
Komen for the Cure for breast cancer screening/research

A woman in outdoor walking gear wearing a race number for the Komen Race for the Cure.

Dallas Komen for the Cure 2010

 

Give Thanks. Walk for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Close-up of a woman outdoors wearing a t-shirt for a St. Jude Children's Hospital charity walk.

Dallas Give Thanks Walk 2011

 

The walks I plan to do for the first time this year:

  • Get Your Rear in Gear, a colon cancer event. I’m participating, perhaps against my better judgment, in the June 23rd Dallas/Fort Worth event in Fort Worth. The heat will probably be completely miserable, but I’ll deal with getting myself into that situation come June. Other events in the U.S. are listed in the right sidebar.
  • Twitter Road Race, an event this coming Saturday, January 21st. It is a self-motivated 5K without a cause, open to Twitter users around the world.

At this point, I hope you’re not rolling your eyes and thinking, “Ooh, look at me, I’m Eve with her stupid fitness blog self-promotion, I go OUTSIDE and do THINGS that are more important than anything anyone else has going on!” I really don’t want to be that person, rubbing my participation in charity events or fitness events in other people’s faces. I am not better than anyone else for doing these things, nor do I want to come off that way. I just get excited about being helpful, because I’m a dork, and I get exuberant about exercise, because I love being active. These are things that make me glad to be alive.

A cartoon of Twitter's Fail Whale in red sneakers mid-air.

Twitter Road Race unofficial fan art. (Please don't sue me, Twitter.)

I know a couple of people in meatspace who are doing the Twitter Road Race, which is an event that has no cause, has no entry fee, gives no t-shirt, and has no official ribbon color. Its mascot may be a sneaker-clad Fail Whale, for all I know. The event doesn’t mean much, perhaps, except to the participant, who takes away a sense of accomplishment at having fulfilled a commitment to themselves to be active. But it does have its own cause to support. The blog writer who started the Twitter Road Race asks his readers why we run. Here’s my answer:

If I could run, I would. Injury has made me know how important it is to keep the machine that is the human body working correctly and how much I took it for granted in the past. I walk and exercise in order to improve my health and to keep myself as fit as possible for as long as I’m on this earth. I participate in these walking events because my life has been touched in important ways by the diseases they fight and by the people fighting them, be they friends or strangers. I walk alone on dark week nights or sunny Sunday afternoons and with strangers on the other side of an internet connection because each of us is our own caretaker; we’re investing in our own long-term health.

We can’t predict, control, or stop every awful thing that time, disease, and accident do to our bodies, but we can fight the good fight as long as we are able. Allons-y.