Tag Archives: running

Just Getting There

I’m almost at the end point of my year-long running challenge, my forty 5ks by 40. The finish line is so close that I can practically touch it. But there are days it’s hard to put on my shoes and get going.

I can get overwhelmed. Depression, anxiety, and stress can bog me down. Usually, I find a way to get things done, do my duty, go anyway, perform the tasks that are needed, accomplish the bare minimum. Exercise is a way for me to perform self-care. Sometimes, I don’t even do that.

I just completed 5k number 70, and my goal is to double my goal to 80 by early-mid October on my 40th birthday. If I run every other day or every 3 days, I can make that goal easily. If I run every other day or every 3 days, and if I don’t put it off, find an excuse to not do anything, or wait until I have several days in a row when I must work either too early or too late to run in decent weather.

Cracked lips, graying temples, begrudging look on my face – must be one of my running workouts.

September is here, yes, but it’s still summery outside this year, with a few days here and there of fall weather brought about by cold fronts and rain. It’s harder to stay indoors when there’s a break in the weather if it’s not raining hard enough to keep me inside. It’s easy to stay indoors when the high is in the mid-80s and stays hot even after the sun has been down for an hour. It’s also easy to stay indoors when I have to work at 6am. I give up, and upon reflection, that’s not entirely healthy. Yeah, everyone needs rest days and time to recharge, but there’s a difference between active rest when you have to slow down, and passive rest when you’ve reached a state of inertia or internal helplessness or lack of will.

One of my goals recently has been to work on physical strength again, and with that in mind, I picked up the New Rules of Lifting for Women book I’ve had for about a decade and started doing workouts again. I just have dumbbells, not barbells and weight plates and a full gym. I do the best I can with the equipment I have. My long-term goal is to get a barbell and some plates, and maybe even a weight bench, but that’s maybe something for next spring or summer just because I know it will be an investment, and I’ll need a place to store it. I did, however, buy an inexpensive exercise ball that is useful for some of the movements. It was several days before I got the right equipment to inflate it. I bought some sports ball needles that were too narrow to work, and a bike pump wasn’t going to do the trick, so I went back to the little store where I bought the ball to begin with and bought a flimsy pump for $4 that was the only place I could find something with the right nozzle attachment. I almost gave up and returned the ball, even though it was something I’d low-key wanted for a long time. It’s so easy to give up, and it shouldn’t be when just a little effort will put you where you want to be – or let you know that the activity just isn’t for you after all despite your best effort.

I was listening to a podcast on my begrudgingly-taken run this morning and listened to someone speak of acceptance of bad things and moving on, of accepting disasters, setbacks, and difficulties, bad things, as a thing that happened that cannot be altered and finding a way to go on despite it. It made me think about conversations I’ve had recently about rolling over and taking a bad situation as the new normal and accepting that as well. I’ve done too much accepting, and I wonder if a lot of that isn’t just baggage from my childhood as part of the working poor among people who never talked about their feelings and only expressed themselves in avoidance, stoicism, tearful outbursts, or violence. If you shut down, you can stay afloat and intact until things get better or something changes fundamentally. When you’re an adult, you have autonomy, and the choices you make or don’t make ultimately shape your life. If you opt out or shut down, you’re left with a lifetime of being shut down, nothing accomplished, nothing experienced, little happiness, and only the bars of a cage of your own making.

This morning, I made myself put on my running clothes and shoes, stretch out, find my earbuds, and go for a run even though the sun was a little higher in the sky than I wanted it to be. I had a little trouble breathing at the two-thirds mile mark, but the longer I ran, the easier it was. I opted to take a hilly route to make my legs work harder on the uphill, and I even tried a few uphill sprints (before my lack of breakfast started to catch up with me). It was also a simple in-and-out without having to double back, check my mileage to make sure I’d get in my full 5k, worry about dogs. The biggest problem I had was listening to the podcast, which was recorded on a busy city street with lots of traffic. I run in the countryside on an unpainted road frequented by horses and buggies, work pick-up trucks, large trucks hauling farm equipment and hay and chemicals, and nobody else. I would scramble to the side of the road at the sound of a large vehicle approaching, not sure whether it was just in my earbuds or if it was an actual vehicle approaching from behind. Kept it lively.

Who would skip running outside and seeing this morning sight? Ok, lots of people? Fine.

Who would skip running outside and seeing this morning sight? Ok, lots of people? Fine.

Trying helps you to grow. Doing is better than not doing, almost always. There are stakes to existence; sometimes they’re high, but usually, they’re low, but they accumulate over time, and the choices we make shape us into the people we turn out to be. I don’t want to be a coward who never tries. I don’t want to be scared of my own shadow, defeated by the smallest obstacles, ready to let myself lose the things for which I’ve fought or worked just because it’s easier than struggling. I’m not going to miss my goal of 80 run/walk distances when I’m so close to achieving my goal. This isn’t a sunk cost fallacy thing where I can just shrug and give up. This is my life. It’s going to count, and I’m going to be present for it.

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#forty5ksby40 is on the path to being doubled

On my 39th birthday last year, I officially began my goal of running or walking forty measured 5k distances by the time my 40th birthday rolled around. I hit the mark in May of this year. Go me!

A woman in a neon tank top and turquoise sunglasses holds up four fingers indicating a 40th 5k distance run. Text is via the CharityMiles app; 3.3 miles run to benefit Habitat for Humanity, sponsored by Blueprint Fit.

I completed my fortieth 5k seven months into my challenge (taking into account winter, my busy season at a desk job, injuries and illness). Next up: doubling my goal by October.

I have approximately two months from early August 2018 to double my goal. I have 24 more 5ks to complete an even 80. If I complete a workout every 2 to 3 days, I’ll hit the goal exactly. If my body doesn’t give me more trouble, if the weather cooperates, if I find time between work and life, I can accomplish it. And if I don’t hit the mark, well, that stinks, but I will have tried.

The heat and humidity this summer have affected my breathing, and any increase in breathing difficulty decreases my speed and stamina. It’s been hard for me to complete some of my runs, and a few have been truncated to shorter training runs that I obviously didn’t count toward my total. Luckily, my feet haven’t been giving me too much trouble, any knee pain has gone away quickly, and my stretching regimen has kept me from having many sore muscles and injuries. It could all go to hell tomorrow, but for now, I’m doing fine.

Heat has really been a barrier to my athletic activity this summer, so to try to take my mind off my depressingly slow times, I’ve experimented with interval training while on training runs, but mostly I’ve just been trying to complete my distance and not die. Additionally, I’ve been listening to the Charity Miles podcast The Extra Mile on my last couple of runs, and I come away inspired and entertained, often laughing at the personalities that Gene Gurkoff interviews on the podcast.

A note about the photo: You see my picture is emblazoned with text and logos, and that’s just par for the course for me lately as part of my favorite altruistic fitness tracking site. I’ve been using the Charity Miles app now for nearly 5 years. I logged a whopping 12.95 miles in 2013. As of this morning, I’ve logged 1,628 total miles for them, both running and walking, and even just walking indoors during the course of a normal work day. I used it one holiday season when I was working retail as a departmental lead and going 8-12 miles per day around my store; I logged a third of my miles that year alone! Charity Miles is not only a good distance tracker, it’s also a way to generate corporate sponsorship money for a list of charitable causes that range from the ASPCA to Soles 4 Souls to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I’m not affiliated with them in any way, but I’m a big fan and use the app whenever I know I’m going to be walking any distance. I even use it to log for MS Society at my main workplace. I turn it on when I walk to the other end of our block to retrieve the mail from the locked mailbox and then walk the circumference of the nearby park to stretch my legs a little.

If you’re on Instagram and want to follow along with my trek toward doubling my #forty5ksby40 goal and turning it into #eighty5ksby40, you can find me @treadmillofsisyphus.

My mediocre but achievable 2018 running goal

I’ve made a completely arbitrary decision that, starting in October, I’m going to run a 5k nearly every week so that I run 40 5ks the year before I turn 40. “That’s not 52 weeks!” Yeah, I know! But I’m planning ahead for failure, weather, and illness, so hush!

These won’t all be race events. Frankly, I can’t afford $25-50 a week in entry fees, and winter has a dearth of race events, too. Plus, my job has me incredibly busy the first two months of the year.

I think this goal will keep me on the road as much as possible when I’m not that busy and help me be mindful of training that will keep me from being totally out of shape and help me maintain my mental health when I’m really busy at work. My trusty exercise bike will help me get through the coldest of days. It runs on batteries, so even if the power goes out during one of the 11 polar vortices that wander our way now that our climate is unpredictably crappy, I will be able to keep myself warm for at least a half hour and keep my leg muscles strong for when we the survivors climb out of the snow a week later when the temperature swings to 70F with tornadoes. Yay weather!

I would love also to be able to shave some time off my 5k. I’ve started adding hip stretches and leg lifts to strengthen my hips, and I’m alsoadding lower body plyometric exercises to my routine to try to strengthen my leg muscles. I’ve missed this past week’s workout because of being social three evenings in a row, then being full of food and a little alcohol after being social, then being sick. I’m doing the Body Shop video linked here, not the 30 burpees per day business, and I’ve had to modify the exercises to minimize the impact on my legacy injuries (ankle, knee, wrist, foot, shoulder). The first time I did them, I definitely felt them the next day, though the soreness wasn’t unlivable or as much as it is when I start up weightlifting again (which I can never stay consistent with for some reason). I felt faster the last time I ran, and I came pretty close to my race day PR speed for an everyday workout.

A good way to start it out: I plan on buying my first pair of nice running shoes around the time of my birthday. Working for a department store, I sometimes get good deals on running shoes, but I’ve always had to be very mindful of sales price, which has gotten me burned on occasion when the shoe I can afford wasn’t the shoe that was necessarily best for my feet. However, I’m getting a budget upgrade for my birthday, and I’m going to do it right. I’m researching now what brand and style would do me best, though it also depends on what is in stock and what recommendations I get as to where I settle, and there’s no one perfect shoe – I’m sure my feet aren’t so special that a variety wouldn’t give me great benefit. I would love to patronize a local running store for my purchase, too, to both get the benefit of an in-store fit and to support local brick-and-mortar sports outfitters for their expertise and accessibility. Most of the shoes I’ve been looking at have nearly identical prices in store and online, and I would rather know I’m getting a shoe that fits and suits my needs rather than get something, go through the bother of returning if it doesn’t work, etc.

So there we are – new shoes for a year of consistent running. I hope to achieve my goal or learn something on the way there. And I look forward to joining the cool kids club when it comes to sneakers.

No Substitute For Self-Care

There’s no way to fool yourself into not being broken down, injured, or tired. Sure, you can give yourself all the pep talks you want, but when you feel like you’re walking on pins and needles, when you’re so tired you can’t even get off the couch, when you have small shooting pains in familiar places, it’s time to take a step back and rest. Rest, damn it. This is your only body, and sometimes, the reset button is broken, so you have to take the cooldown instead to let everything recharge, even if it’s not going to go back to where you want it to be.

Recapping my summer: I progressed well through 6 weeks of New Rules of Lifting for Women. The program calls for a barbell and some gym equipment, but since I don’t have access to much of anything but barbells and bodyweight, I did what I could with the materials I had on hand, and I put out a request on social media to borrow weights. I misplaced my 10-pound dumbbells and had only 2- and 5-pound weights to dink around with. A friend had 15-pound weights and 25-pound weights she let me borrow, but no 10. Another friend let me have her single 10-pound weight. And since this is the summer of being broke, I did what I had to: I tied my 5-pound weights together with a shoelace and lifted for a while with that. GOOD ENOUGH.

Sadly, my feet began hurting not terribly long after this. Contributing factors include taking on a role at my part-time job where I walk around the building quite a bit more, and the shabby shoes I’ve made work over the last several months are showing their fit issues, their age, and their quality at last, and the result was aching feet. As someone who let a broken foot go untreated years ago, I was not about to go down that road again and decided to take some time off from lifting. It was time for my rest week anyway, which I took advantage of quite gladly. Sadly for me, the rest week has turned into more than a month of not lifting weights.

However, there is a silver lining: my guts healed enough that I could run again, and it didn’t happen until I had been working on my core through NROLFW for those six weeks. Should I directly credit lifting weights with closing up the hole and helping me to be able to run again without abdominal pain? There is strong enough circumstantial evidence that I will take it on face value and call it good enough.

We had a temperate July, all things considered, to the point that I had to wear a light jacket to finish mowing the lawn on the fourth of July. This is usually a day of sweat, sunscreen, and humid warmth. It turned out to be a day I took the dogs for a nice cool walk in the mid-afternoon, and it was downright chilly in the afternoon shade. With all the great weather, plus a purchase of obnoxiously bright and wonderful new shoes (and some awesome free socks and new sports bras), I went for a lot of walks that sometimes turned out to be walk/run events.

I started tracking on four apps at once: Charity Miles, to donate to Feeding America; WoofTrax, to donate to my local animal shelter, Runkeeper; and MapMyRun. I have been getting inconsistent distance readings from one app to the next, so I like to multi-track to get a more accurate average. For instance, today, my apps disagreed by 0.3-0.4 miles. That’s a huge difference.

I’ve also been tracking small walks on the Charity Miles app in an effort to get a free t-shirt and support Team Red, White & Blue and the Wounded Warrior Project. The app is issuing more small challenges that scale up where participants can earn prizes from corporate sponsors for tracking a set number of days for particular charities. If nothing else, it’s a great daily reminder to work out, even if just a little bit.

My weight is still not in a place where I want it to be, and my stomach in particular is not where I want it to be – it’s making wearing some of my cute pants less possible, as some pairs cut into my gut in a way that they didn’t used to. I recently discovered that my favorite diet soda (I know, I shouldn’t be drinking any diet soda, I know! Jeez!) has concentrated orange juice as a main ingredient, and a diabetic woman who pointed this out to me said it messed with her sugar levels. She says this is the only diet soda she drinks that affects her; others that have plenty of caffeine do not affect her in the same way at all. While I’m not diabetic, and my doctor never diagnosed me as pre-diabetic, I have been watching my sugar for going on three years now, and Alzheimer’s and diabetes are in my genetic destiny, and I need to remember that even the diet “cheats” that I think are safe are only ok in moderation. I’m bad at moderation. So I’m going to cut back drastically and see how I can diversify my natural treats and go back to drinking diet tea and water instead. I’m discouraged, though. It feels like I’ve strayed from my original path, and it’s even harder to get back into good eating habits than it was to make them in the first place.

Finally, I am really getting old. I push mowed the lawn the other day. The yard is fairly large, and the grass was wet, so it was hard work, and it took me 3 hours to finish (I took plenty of breaks, too). I wound up with bruised palms, muscle soreness all over my body, a slightly aggravated ankle, pain in my left pointer finger from lifting the mower to scrape wet grass out from the inside so the blades would spin, and right wrist pain from turning the mower. And my feet hurt like hell the next day after I stood around at my retail job, then took the dogs for a walk. Even my magic new sneakers couldn’t save me from hurting myself.

Getting rest, making sure to eat before undertaking big physical efforts, resting body parts that hurt, and remembering I’m not as invincible as I think I am or want to be seem to be the only ways to age gracefully while maintaining some amateur level of fitness. But this is why I continue to work out: so that when I’m older, I’ll still be mobile enough to take my dogs for walks, to enjoy being out in nature, and to live independently as long as possible.

Pin on the Map of Summer 2014

I’ve not updated my blog in a while, so I’m going to do a little check up to see what’s new with me!

1. I’m still eating mostly Paleo. I had some lapses over vacation that undid some of my progress – not a lot, but enough to piss me off to where I doubled down my efforts and have gotten back to near my plateau weight again.

1a. Foods that I’m trying to cut out of my life a little more: starchy sweet potatoes and bananas. I love sweet potatoes, but I’m going to be transitioning back to carrots and sweet peas for lunch, and though I was glad to discover my body could once again handle bananas several years out from my gallbladder surgery, I discovered that my weight started to creep up again when I had so much starch in my life.

2. Running is still off the table for a while as I wait for my body to heal. I did a walk/run two weeks ago, and while it wasn’t as painful as an attempt in March, I decided that I was really pushing my luck. I don’t want to really hurt myself just because I think I’m invincible.

3. I started playing with a hula hoop about a month ago. I am not consistent in using it, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.

4. I also picked back up my copy of the book New Rules of Lifting for Women, which is a good progressive set of strength workouts. I have some of my old printed workout charts in the book still, and they tell me the last time I worked out with the program was April 2011. So it’s been a long time. I don’t have access to a gym anymore, but I do have dumbbells, and the first set of exercises does include dumbbell workouts for alternative exercises. I’ve been doing those. I forgot how much DOMS hurts. I forgot how much squats can suck if you haven’t done them for a long time. But it’s muscle ache, not body pain, so I’m glad to not have hurt myself trying to do too much, too soon. I’m in my 30s, and my body isn’t going to bounce back the way it used to do.

10 Years Aboard the Treadmill of Sisyphus Later…

My weight loss collage, showing my body from 2003 to 2013, lumps and all.

My weight loss collage, showing my body from 2003 to 2013, lumps and all.

I recently posted this image on my social media pages. It showcases my history over the last two years, as well as gives me a clear-eyed view of how my body has looked in the past and how far I have come since I completely changed my diet. Here is the text I put with it:

For most of my life, I’ve struggled with my weight. I’ve been winning the war these last two years, and it’s still a bit strange to see my wish outside of myself at long last. Most of my friends here in Kentucky only know me as the more svelte, healthy-eating person they see today instead of the person I was during my college years in Memphis and my decade of grown-up life in Dallas. I worked hard to get where I am today, and I’m grateful to have had the right circumstances to make my commitment easier, the ability to afford to eat the way I do, the push from my doctor in the right direction, and the unwavering support of my boyfriend to help me get here. There is a part of me that will always be that insecure, overweight person who was always worried about the numbers on the scale and how well jackets worked at disguising abdominal fat. I have a history that informs who I am today, just like everyone else does, and this is my tale, told in photos taken over the last decade.

I took pains to not try to fat-shame myself in the past or anyone who looks like me. I am glad that I shed weight, as I much better like my health, my appearance, and the way the world treats me since I got thinner, but I don’t want to disparage who I was in the past, paint my life as perfect now (your problems don’t magically get better as you weigh less), or put down anyone who is still going through their own body struggle. Not everyone is me, the same methods won’t work for everyone, not everybody is the same. And I didn’t lose weight *at* anybody. I lost it for me, for the sake of my health and to help my boyfriend’s insomnia.

It was work giving up foods that I love that weren’t always healthy, and it is work now trying to pass up sugary sweets and justify to myself eating food that’s not on my diet. I’m not perfect, and I’ve definitely hit my roadblocks along the way, be they motivational, related to family tragedy, or health-related.

But I’m still going strong. I’m still happy as a participant and moderator of a Reddit community based around fitness, health, and life goal achievement. I’m happy making nutritious soups from scratch that fit closely within my dietary parameters. I’m very happy putting on my shoes and running as often as my body and the weather allow me to run.

The Hole Inside

I got sick over the winter holidays. It happens to most of us, right? Typhoid Mary gave Dirty Santa a whole new meaning this year, and friends and family alike were struck down by the same bug right around Christmas. And masked by the illness at first, my hernia showed up again to put a damper on my exercise.

The day before this mess started, I was lying on the couch watching TV, and my 30-pound dog jumped directly onto my stomach with his full weight. I felt a sharp pain, to the point where after a few minutes, I took pain reliever to, well, relieve the pain. I went to my part-time job in retail the next morning. I started out the work day just fine, but after an hour of being on my feet, I completely lost my appetite, felt feverish and nauseated, and still had to put on a smiling face to process customer returns on the weekend after Christmas for another 6 hours.

I had a case of the holiday season retail employee illness going-to-throw-up-on-your-receipts blues.

I had a case of the holiday-season, unwell-retail-employee, going-to-throw-up-on-your-receipts blues.

I was down with a bug for the next week, but even after I got over the fever and the tossing of the cookies and the aching of the body like the rest of my family was suffering, I was still feeling mild nausea at least once a day — mostly in the morning if I hadn’t eaten breakfast. And that’s a sign of… hernia! Aw yeah! Wait, that’s bad! No! Ugh!

Given my history of abdominal surgery and spending most of the summer of 2012 miserable and curled around a bottle of ginger ale, any abdominal weirdness puts my mild hypochondria into overdrive. Living in the U.S. without healthcare insurance, this turns into fruitless worry and hoping very hard that nothing is wrong.

Happily for me, I haven’t had any pain since the first night, and the nausea is getting a lot better. I’ve been taking antacids as needed, eating foods that will reduce the hydrochloric acid in my stomach, and not exerting myself too much.

Sadly, the weather shaped up beautifully over this weekend, and as much as I’d LOVE to be out for a run, wishing I’d bought a pair of fingerless gloves last night, I’m taking a rest to let my body heal. I don’t want to power through it and do more damage.

There's a hole in my innards. (Not to physical scale...kind of to mental scale.)

There’s a hole in my innards. (Not to physical scale…kind of to mental scale.)

My day job is about to get super busy, so I’m disappearing down the rabbit hole of work. But I am hoping that once the hole in my innards is healed, I can get back out on the road and keep on pursuing the sport I’ve fallen in love with to keep myself sane and remind myself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it is a filing deadline that must be met.

And depending on how long it takes me to heal and how much of my life has been eaten by my job by early March, maybe I won’t need to outfit myself with fingerless gloves after all. That would leave a 3-month gap in my workout history, unfortunately, so maybe I should go ahead and get some outdoor sporting-appropriate gloves in case I feel mended enough in a couple of weeks to put my running shoes on during one of these 38º F days.

I’d like to give a shout out to chicken broth. You complete me. When I am feeling sick and trying to avoid pasta as per my doctor’s standing orders two years ago, you are chicken soup in the purest, most digestible form. I love you.