Running Remix

Sometimes in life, we need to step back and reevaluate our intentions. Whether we examine relationships, careers, or fitness, we need to realize our goals can change in spite of us. I am at a point at which I have to reevaluate my running, and believe me, it isn’t by choice. My knees seem to be rebelling, which infuriates me. I am trying to do something good that will keep me mentally and physically healthy, but my body doesn’t want to cooperate.

 

For non-runners the answer is easy — don’t run. Runners understand that it just isn’t that simple. Though I haven’t always been a runner, after six years it has become part of my identity. My friends run; my husband runs; I want to run. Running is an emotional release after a challenging day at school. It’s a way to celebrate life’s little joys. It’s a way to deal with tragedy when I don’t know what else to do with myself. Running gives me confidence, strength, and pleasure. Running makes me angry, disappointed, and frustrated. I love going for a run with friends, and I love running alone because it allows me time to process whatever is happening in my life at the moment. In running I find peace. Simply put, I cannot imagine my life without it.

 

I had already decided that I wouldn’t run a spring half marathon. My plan was to let my knees rest by sticking with shorter runs. After running the Kentucky Derby Half Marathon the past four years, it will be difficult knowing my friends are there and I am not. I do, however, plan to run the Virginia Beach Rock n Roll with my step-daughter Labor Day weekend. After my past couple longer runs, that was even questionable. Once I would reach 4.5 miles, my ‘good’ knee would begin to stiffen up – IT band. It felt exactly the same as my right one did two years ago prior to surgery. I hobbled to get to 5 miles (I’m not sure why I have to end on an even number), and ended up disappointed that I couldn’t go further.

 

I am currently reading Tales from Another Mother Runner by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. It is their third book together, and since I loved the first two, I knew this would be worth my time. One of the essays struck a chord. The woman had knee problems. Ahhh…a sister in pain. She began inserting walking into her runs, and was able to complete her runs. Even though the thought of walking part of a long run, or God forbid, a race, goes against my prideful spirit, I knew I had to try something, or I’d never be able to run long distance again. Yesterday was my experiment.

 

It was going to be a warm sunny day, so I was really looking forward to the run. I had to mentally prepare myself to walk. I know myself well enough to know that if I weren’t disciplined, I would try to run as far as I could, and then I would end up in pain and angry. I decided to run the first two miles, and then walk 2/10 of each mile for the rest of my ‘run’. I didn’t know how far I would go because I just didn’t know how my knees would hold up. I had in the back of my head that I wanted to try to go seven miles because my friends who are running the Derby Half were running seven (again, my brain works in mysterious ways). I found that inserting the walking made the outing enjoyable. I looked forward to the breaks, enjoyed the beautiful weather, and didn’t stress over my distance. Each time I took off running, I knew I only had to run 8/10 mile. I ended up going eight miles – with no knee pain. I ran 6.8 miles, and walked 1.2; that’s further than I’ve been able to run in months. Even with the walking, I averaged an 11 minute pace, which isn’t that bad. Did pride step in? Of course. I was hopeful that no one would see me walking; afterall, I’m supposed to be a runner. In the end, I was very content with my effort. And I was figuring out what finish time I would have if I did that at Louisville. I think my husband might just kill me if I suddenly decide to jump in the race because he hasn’t been doing long runs. But we do have a hotel room booked. Just in case.


This is when I have to ask myself, what are my intentions in regard to running. To stay healthy? Or to compete? To spend time doing something I love? Or to beat people? The responsible answer would be that I intend to stay healthy while doing what I love, and I do, but I also want to run well. I want to have respectable times. I want to PR. In short races, I want to place in my age group. Is that going to be possible? I just don’t know. I would rather walk some if it will allow me to continue running, but my pride will have to adapt to this new vision of who I am as a runner.

Here we go again…

Well, it’s January. Once again, we have a chance to start all over. We can make resolutions, start a new fitness plan, set goals. The year is ours; we can make it the best year ever. “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” Blah, blah, blah. Why is we start the new year off with great expectations, work towards those goals, and then our enthusiasm fizzles out as the year progresses.

Working in a gym, I see this trend every year. In January when resolutions are made, there’s not an empty treadmill or elliptical in sight, and classes are jam-packed with enthusiastic newbies. We are excited! We are going to lose weight and get buff by summer. We’re going to finally get that washboard stomach, get rid of our jiggly arms, and hell, we’ll just run a marathon while we’re at it. And then we discover it’s hard work. And it isn’t quite as fun as we thought. And the Bachelor is on, and it’s so much easier to sit on the sofa and watch these already buff young women drool over some egotistical man with finely tuned abs and great hair. We’ll go to the gym tomorrow. But then Idol is on, and the kids have homework, and…well…maybe the gym just isn’t for me. Who really wants to sweat on purpose? By February classes are full, but not packed, and by March it’s back to normal. We might have a few newbies who found they enjoy the results of their hard work. They realized that those rock-hard abs and Michelle Obama arms take time, and they’re willing to work for it.

Those who stick it out make it through most of the year maintaining our routines; we run races, go to classes, watch our diets, and encourage our friends to join us in the new healthy lifestyle. Then the holiday season hits. And it hits hard. Personally, I held it together really well until November 2; November 1 I ran a half marathon – I was in optimal (middle-aged-nana optimal) shape. After that I cut back on my running, but continued to teach Tabata and HIIT. Along comes December: parties, baking, and dinners…oh, my! I was still teaching and running a little (very, very little), but I was eating everything in sight. I begin baking Christmas cookies in mid-November, and I eat them as they come out of the oven. Somebody has to make sure they’re fit for human consumption. The cookies bring pounds. The pounds bring chub. The chub brings tight clothes.

This year was particularly rough. My father-in-law was very ill over Christmas, so we spent our time either sitting in the ICU waiting room or making the 2 1/2 hour trek to the hospital. My plans of running every day of our break went out the window. Cafeteria food, fast food, and cookies went in my mouth. One day I was feeling especially frisky, so I managed to walk a mile worth of laps at the hospital. I got some strange looks from the staff, but I needed to move. It still amazes me that it takes so long to get in shape and feel comfortable doing squats, burpees, and push-ups, but take one week off and I have to start all over.

It’s now 2015, and like many Americans, I have vowed to get back in shape. I run the Biggest Loser competition at our school, and the first weigh-in is tomorrow morning. I ate chicken bacon ranch pizza for dinner. Four pieces. That was totally unnecessary (but gosh, it was GOOD!). I’ve gone to the gym every morning before school, even a morning that I didn’t teach, so I could’ve slept in. (On a side note, I find it completely depressing that I now consider sleeping until 6:00 am sleeping in.) I am not going to be on a Biggest Loser team, but I am going to do the weekly weigh-ins and try to get to where I need to be. I am going to try to eat healthier (I say that every year). But really, 2015 is going to be the BEST YEAR EVER. Until December, and then 2016 is going to be the best year EVER!

About Running…

This is how I felt after my first run of 2014!  The only thing missing is a dialogue bubble with cuss words in it!

This is how I felt after my first run of 2014! The only thing missing is a dialogue bubble with cuss words in it!

I went for a five-mile run yesterday to end 2013.  Because I hadn’t run much in about nine months, I was determined to get a decent run in.  I have surely missed my running life.  It wasn’t a terrible run, but it was difficult.  My stomach didn’t feel great, my right knee (the one I had surgery on) hurt a little, and my endurance has not yet returned because I simply haven’t run enough.  At four miles my left knee began to hurt, and I recognized the symptoms.  I had that same tightness behind my knee that I had when my right knee began to bother me.  I had to stop and walk at about 4.5 miles, and then hobbled through to be certain I ‘ran’ five miles.

When things got really tough and I became frustrated, I thought about two young people from our community, Sarah and Jacob, who were both involved in accidents in November, and both are relearning to walk.  I thought about how difficult it must be for those two athletes to start all over learning to do what they had done for years.  They have both worked so diligently, and have faced so many obstacles.  I cannot begin to imagine the range of emotions they have gone through.  And so I pushed on and ran.

I also have two friends who are currently battling breast cancer, Larky and Pam.  As I struggled along, I thought about their battles, and the fear and frustration they must feel.  I thought about their positive attitudes and the strength they’ve shown.  And my pain seemed mild.

I finished that run, and though the realization hit me that I will probably never run another half marathon, I was grateful for those few miles.  I so enjoy being out in the fresh air, having undisturbed time, and feeling strong as I run along in solitude.

I decided to go for a run again today.  I had ended 2013 with a run, and I wanted to begin 2014 the same way.  The very first step brought pain in my surgery knee, but it was tolerable.  I hadn’t run up Mozart Hill since March, and that was today’s goal.  I had decided that even if I had to walk, I was going to make the attempt.  I ran up that monster of a hill, and I did not walk.  As I rounded the corner at the top, I felt that sense of exhilaration that comes with running.

And then I hit the two-mile mark, and the pain in my left knee hit.  I hobbled a little further, while a thousand thoughts swam through my head.  Why?  With our new insurance, I can’t even afford to go to the ortho.  My surgery knee isn’t perfect, so I wouldn’t go through another surgery anyway.  Why can older people run with no knee issues, and I can’t?  I am going to have to stop running.  What the hell will I do?  When will I see my friends?  I run with my friends.  That is what we all do, and I won’t be a part of that any longer.  Crap.  I walked for a couple of blocks, and then ran again so I could at least get three miles in.  I was so angry when I finished.  I have fought my right knee for a year now, I didn’t complete one race in 2013, and had looked forward to a decent return to running in 2014, but it seems that isn’t to be.

I truly feel that I am going continue to have problems, and though I don’t want to give up running, I might find myself with no choice.  And that sucks.  I wish there were alternatives that appealed to me, but right now, there aren’t any.  Gary has talked about getting more into biking, but thus far, I have no interest.  It takes so long to burn the number of calories I can burn running.  I enjoy my Tabata Bootcamp, but I need cardio, too.  Zumba is a blast, but honestly, it’s taking a toll on my knees.  I guess this saga will continue, and I will work to find what will work with my body.  I will also whine.  A lot.

Here we go, 2014!  Please be kind to me!

Really? How did that happen?

This was me when I looked in the mirror this morning!

This was me when I looked in the mirror this morning!

 

Do you believe it’s possible to age overnight?  I mean literally – gain about 15 years in an eight-hour span of time?  I swear that’s what happened to me last night.  I went to bed looking my normal middle-aged self – some wrinkles, gray roots shining through, saggy skin.  I have pretty much accepted this evidence of years gone by (though I don’t embrace it).  This morning I awoke, headed to the bathroom to ready myself for church, looked in the mirror, and there was a more elderly-looking woman staring back at me.  It was darned near my mother.

While you might think I am exaggerating, even my husband, who is very careful with his words, noticed the transformation.  I had these huge dark bags beneath my baby blues, and under my left eye, I had a red, puffy pouch.  Oh. Crap.  Perhaps once I put my contacts in, I would see it was just my imagination.  Nope.  I still had the almost-black bags of a woman much older who hadn’t slept in a week.  The problem was I had slept well (I’ve had a long snowy weekend – of course I’ve slept!), I don’t have a cold, and I don’t have a sinus infection.  I felt fine…until I looked in the mirror.  Foundation – that’s what I needed.  I began to smear and rub and add and smooth and…there wasn’t enough make-up in the world to cover those hideous dark bags.  Is this it?  Is this how I am going to look from now on?  I can’t afford a plastic surgeon.  What can I sell?  A third job?

As I have wiggled my way into middle age, I have realized that there are many things no one bothered to tell me about when I was younger.  We all expect the gray hair and wrinkles; we expect to lose some of our energy; and we even expect (or hope) to become somewhat wiser.  There is, however, so much more to the aging process.  There are things our older friends fail to tell us; perhaps they had to figure it out the hard way, and feel that we, too, should have to learn as we go.  I disagree, so I am going to enlighten you.

1.  You might have heard that it is more difficult to keep weight off once you hit 40.  Well, let me tell you, it is super hard.  I exercise at least five days a week, sometimes two or three times a day when I am teaching at the gym, and though I don’t eat the healthiest of foods, I don’t eat a lot.  And yet I battle that scale every single day.  My sister, who is 11 years older than I, says if she eats one normal-sized meal, she will gain a pound.  My mother, who is 80 and still very conscientious of her weight, lives on very little because normal meals will cause weight gain.  That fact does jive with the fact that I also like to bake more the older I get.   Just because weight was never an issue in your twenties and thirties, don’t make the mistake of thinking your immune to the middle-age spread.  It will find you!

2.  Eyebrows.  What young 30-something mom worries about her eyebrows?  Sure, waxing or tweezing are part of life, but trimming and filling in?  Did you know that in your 40s your eyebrows begin to do weird things?  There will be some that grow long and need to be trimmed (often).  And there are those that disappear leave patches of skin showing through.   Really.  Aren’t you glad I warned you?

3.  Saggy skin.  We expect wrinkles on our faces, and maybe even our chests.  Did you know your leg skin wrinkles and sags no matter how toned your muscles are?  Yup.  That’s something to look forward to.  When I wear shorts and do a plank, I try to avoid looking down at my legs because the skin is sagging in an attempt to rest on the floor.  And should my belly be exposed for some reason (in the privacy of my own home), well, that’s just disgusting.  It looks like chicken skin.  Saggy, nasty chicken skin.

4.  Despite all of the crazy things going on with aging skin, you can still get zits.  I think that is just cruel.  If we have to be tolerant of wrinkles, we should at least be free of zits – save those for the teenagers.  So, now I have dry, oily, wrinkly, zitty, saggy, bags-under-my-eyes skin.  That’s attractive.

5.  About your bladder.  Now, I am fortunate that I haven’t had leaky bladder problems, but I hear my Zumba ladies talking about having to be careful during jumpy songs.  Even though I haven’t had issues, I had to have my non-issues checked out before my hysterectomy so if there were a problem, the doctors could fix everything at once.  Do you want to know what that test consisted of?  It was humiliating, to say the least.  The lovely nurse stuck probes in two out of three places I don’t want probes to go, and then I had to jump and stretch and cough and push as if in labor….you get the point.  But, hey, I passed the test.  Ask me in a couple of years.  Thankfully when a Depends commercial was on the other night, Addison told Gary and me she’d be happy to purchase them for us when the time comes.  Thanks, kid.

6.  While I was able to avoid doctors through my twenties and thirties, unless I was expecting a child or my allergies were in high gear, I find myself spending more time at doctors’ offices these days.  Heck, I’ve had two surgeries in two years.  And besides my hysterectomy and knee surgery, I have had a recurring staph infection in my eye, and numerous other inconveniences since reaching 40.  In the late winter and spring of 2013, I had something wrong with me every other week – and I am not a hypochondriac!

Enough of the ugly.  Now, what is good about aging?  Lots.  But that’s for another blog.  I gave you younger people a lot to absorb.  To plan for.  To dread.  You’re quite welcome for the warning.  Enjoy your young supple skin, strong bladder, normal eyebrows, and energetic body.  It can be gone – overnight.  While you sleep, instead of the tooth fairy, your own personal middle-age fairy will be visiting.  Prepare, my friends – take down the mirrors, purchase Ponds and anti-acne wash, load up on workout capris, purchase an eyebrow pencil and little scissors.  It’s coming…

old-lady-driving

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