Running Newbies

Friday evening, I needed to do a long run, and I had to do it by myself. Most of my running friends would be running the Kentucky Derby Half or Full Marathon the next morning; I would not. I had accompany a group of students to Academic Bowl, so I had to opt out of the race. Given the rainy weather that morning and that my team placed 2nd, I was happy to be at the academic competition.

After working all day, I didn’t really feel like listening to music as I ran, and didn’t really want to listen to a podcast, which is usually what gets me through solo runs, so I had plenty of time to think. I spent some time thinking about…running. I thought about what advice I would give new runners, even though some days I still – after seven years – feel like a new runner. It was then I decided my next blog would be an advice blog. This advice has absolutely no medical or professional standing; it’s based upon my personal experience, and on the stupid mistakes I’ve made over the years. So, below you’ll find my advice, or in most cases just random thoughts, on running.

  1. Running sucks. But then it’s great, and then it’ll suck again. Seriously. I’ve heard many people who try running say that they just don’t enjoy it. I hated running for the first six months, but when I finished a run or met another goal, I loved it. I felt accomplished. I felt invincible. I still have runs that are really hard, and I don’t enjoy the run itself. When I push through and finish the run, I feel proud that I stuck it out despite how difficult it was. My favorite mantra is ‘If it were easy, everyone would do it.’ Running is not easy. Stick with it and it will be worth it!
  2. Body parts are going to hurt. When I began running, my youngest daughter was young enough that she was happy to massage my legs and feet – thank goodness! I was sore for months. I don’t have any running friends who haven’t had some sort of running-related injury. I’ve had knee issues that led to surgery, but I still run. Those friends who have had injuries? They still run. Runners are pissed that they can’t run when they are injured, but they don’t give up. Take care of yourself, and take a break if necessary, but don’t give up. And the chiropractor will be your friend. Find a good one!
  3. Don’t be apprehensive about signing up for a race. I’ve run nine half marathons, a few 10Ks, and a whole bunch of 5Ks. My first race was a 5K, and my goal was to not be last. It was in July, and it was hilly; I was prepared for neither. I ran that race, and I was not last. I wasn’t fast, but I finished. When you run in a race, no matter the distance, you will see people of all shapes, sizes, and speeds. No one cares how fast or slow you go, as long as you keep going. You need to walk? No one cares. You cross the finish line last? No one cares. Think about how many people never cross a finish line in their lives. The support and camaraderie of the running community is amazing. We all started somewhere, and everyone appreciates the effort it takes just to get out there. And races are fun! Spending time with a group of people with a similar interest is very rewarding. Some of my best running memories are of races that were particularly hard. I ran the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon with my niece Erin, and it was 15 degrees at the start (and finish if I remember correctly). We were cold, but running my niece’s first half with her was so worth it. This past month I ran the Hoosier Half Marathon in Bloomington with another niece, Emily; it was her first half. And, despite it being April, there was about a 20 degree windchill that day. It was miserably cold. Again, sharing my niece’s first half marathon with her was worth freezing my tush off (but I did begin to wonder if I should stop running with my nieces).
  4. When my husband and I began running, we thought it would be a cheap form of exercise. Do not fool yourself. Running is not cheap. Plan on spending at least $100 on shoes, which will need to be replaced every few months. One thing we decided early on was that we had to take care of our feet. I’m very picky about what I wear. I have to be completely comfortable or I will obsess when I run. Chafing is serious, so the right shorts, shirt, and bra matters. I’ve chafed when wearing certain shirts. On that recent Friday run, I actually chafed on my inner thighs, and I was wearing my favorite running shorts. The only reason for chafing that I could come up with is that I’ve gained a few pounds, and now my inner thighs rub. What the hell?! Rather than lose that weight, I bought new shorts. It was easier. Socks. Good running socks are expensive, but gosh, they are worth it. My husband kind of scoffed when I first told him he should get some better socks. He didn’t think socks mattered. Once he tried them, he found out I was right (duh).
  5. The benefits you’ll reap from running go far deeper than health and weight loss. Of course, any type of exercise will help you get healthier, and running torches calories. But the mental impact of running is even better. Running makes me happy. I can have a terribly stressful day at school (I do teach eighth graders), and when I go out for a run, that stress seems to leave my body in the form of sweat. I can process my problems, think about my students, plan lessons, or just think about my blessings. Running has given my confidence in every area of my life. If, in my forties, I can run 13.1 miles, I can pretty much do anything I work for, or at least I’m willing to try.
  6. While running, I have laughed, talked out problems, listened to friends’ joys and trials, and cried. I have run when I am celebrating, and I have run when I am mourning. I’ve run when I needed to be alone, and I’ve run when I needed the comfort of my friends. I’ve run to see how fast I can go, and I’ve run to raise money for St. Jude. I’ve run for myself, and I’ve run for others. Finding your reason, even if that reason changes, is critical. If you don’t have a ‘why’, you won’t have the will. When I started running, it was because I was out of shape and needed to get fit. Now I run to stay in shape, and because it’s become who I am.
  7. Running friends are the best friends! Just about all of the friends I spend time with are runners. I have wonderful non-running friends, but we don’t really spend time together. I’m not one to just go out with friends for an evening, but I will go for a run with my friends. On a run, we can talk about anything. We can share our most embarrassing stories, our heartaches, and our joys. Or we can fall into cadence side-by-side and not talk at all (that really doesn’t happen very much). I truly love my running friends, and value their love and support. I’m proud of their accomplishments, and hope I can always be a source of support for them. They keep me accountable. Even when I don’t feel like running, a text from one of them can get me out the door.
  8. Read running materials. Subscribe to Runner’s World or Women’s Running, order books about running. They are very motivational and can offer some super advice. Ask lots of questions. Runners LOVE to talk about running! But be sure you have lots of time because we have lots to say!

Empty Nest?

As my friends and I work our way through middle age, I often hear the term ’empty nest’ tossed around. As children approach high school graduation and move on to college, many parents post their tear-filled moments on social media, bringing on a barrage of dismal responses. I, myself, posted a few photos last spring as my youngest daughter went through the rite of high school graduation. I was to be an empty nester.

And I was excited about it! After years of being a chauffeur, maid, laundress, cook (or drive-thru driver), I was finally finished! Seriously, folks, why get so upset? You’re getting your life back…your life. Not the life that is solely dedicated to making certain you don’t end up on Dr. Phil with your kid telling the world how you screwed him or her up, but the life where you can actually watch Dr. Phil uninterrupted if you choose. You can eat cereal for supper every night if you want. You can make dinner plans without checking your kid’s schedule. No more parent-teacher conferences, sleep-overs (I managed to avoid these. My kids didn’t want their friends to see me when I was tired and cranky. Bummer.), prom dress shopping (Is that hell or what?)…And you think you’ll miss that?

And then there’s this…

IMG_4659

It’s clean, and it will remain that way until my young college student comes home. I had no idea there was carpet in that room. And that quilt has several shades of blue that haven’t seen the light of day in months. I’ve heard some parents say they would miss the messes once their kids were gone. Really? Not this momma.

Full disclosure…I am not totally an empty nester. Did you know they sometimes come back? It’s like this cruel joke. You finally get rids of all of your kids, and you make plans with your spouse to do all the exciting things you’ve sacrificed for years (and years and years), and then someone returns to the nest. With the cost of college, and subsequent loan payments, starting out in a new career is hard, and sometimes not very well compensated. Our middle daughter is in that situation. She has a bachelor’s degree, landed a job in her chosen field of education, and now she is poor. Financially, living with us just makes sense. Dammit. We have told her that we are going to sell our house and move into a one-bedroom apartment. She just smiles. Every time she buys something, I say, “You’re going to live with us forever, aren’t you?” “Yes.”

As I analyze my feelings about the potential to have an empty nest, I wonder why I am not saddened like my friends. Am I that heartless? Do I suck as a mom? Do my children hate me? Do I hate them? Without a doubt, I know that the answer to two of those questions is no. I’m afraid to ask my daughters the other two questions. I became a mom when I was 21. At that time in my life, I thought I was so old and so mature. I was a child. For the next 27 years, my priority was my daughters. I attended all of their many activities no matter how boring (golf); I encouraged, supported, disciplined, cared for, and loved with all my heart. I laughed, cried, screamed, and cheered. For 27 years.

Now that they are grown, I can enjoy them as adults. I can cuss in front of them  (It was a struggle to control that for 27 years), tell them inappropriate jokes, and act as their friend instead of their mom. There is a difference (although some parents don’t seem to get that concept). Do I still worry about each of them? Absolutely. Do I still want to boss them around? Yup. Always will.

I think my situation is a little different because I am a teacher. I am still around kids all the time, and I still attend numerous school events and ballgames. I do miss Addie. When activities that she was involved in at school take place, I miss seeing her there. Then I just come home and look at her clean room, and I’m okay again. I also have a lot of hobbies and jobs. Between school and working out and coaching cheer and an academic team and real estate and the gym…I don’t have time to get all weepy.

So, parents of the Class of 2016, do not be sad. Make plans. Move that kid of yours to college and reclaim your life. They visit. Clean his or her room and then just sit there and bask in the lack of smelly, dirty clothes, dishes that have been in there for weeks, and piles of clothes that could be clean or dirty – who knows? You’ve done your job. If you did it well, your child is ready to be independent. Be proud of that. Isn’t our goal to raise strong, independent, successful, and kind people? And someday you’ll have grandkids, and let me tell you, they are way cooler than kids!

Running Life

Once again, time has gotten away from me, and I haven’t written for entirely too long. This week is spring break, and while my friends are in Florida on the beach or at Disney, or in Georgia enjoying the warmer temps, I’ve been home. Honestly, I don’t mind. I’ve redone our living room while scoring some deals online shopping (Wayfair? Wow…a new favorite! My husband is not so happy I’ve discovered this plethora of everything for the home!). I’ve also cleaned my frig, which is in my top five of most detested household jobs. Seriously, there was more moldy food than edible. Since my mother is coming for Easter, I figured I’d better not risk her disappointment in finding I’m not the clean freak she is. The woman still scares me.

Today I shampooed our family room carpet, which I do on a pretty regular basis. This also makes the top five just because I am so disgusted when I empty the water and see how filthy our carpet was. I can’t imagine what it would look like if I didn’t clean it so often. We don’t even have small children or large dogs. Just big kids and a little wiener. .

So, about running. After seven years, I still haven’t quit, which completely amazes me. There have been times when I wasn’t running as often as I should, and times I felt invincible. I am currently training for the Hoosier Half Marathon, which is April 9; it will be my ninth half marathon. My niece Emily, who is a student at Indiana University, hasn’t run a half and asked me to run it with her. How could I say no? I had the honor of running my niece Erin’s first half with her, and am excited to share this experience with Emily.

I am not very excited about the hills. The website describes rolling hills, and Bloomington is quite hilly. I’ve worked pretty hard the past couple of months to prepare. I’ve incorporated challenging, make-me-swear hills into every long run, and have been going to my husband’s Spinning classes in addition to teaching Tabata classes. Gary has taught Spinning for a couple of years, but it was never a class I enjoyed. I thought the hill work my improve my running, so I sucked it up and went (and I dragged my daughter with me). It was tough. If you’re a girl and you’ve never taken Spinning, you should know that your girls parts (undercarriage) will hurt. I mean really hurt. But after a couple classes, it doesn’t really hurt anymore. Thank God. I’ve come to enjoy the class. Gary plays great music, which can seriously make the class. There’s typically at least one or two points during class that I don’t like my husband. When he instructs us to turn up the tension more when I can hardly turn the pedals with my already-burning legs, I want to yell at him to shut the hell up. But then when the class comes to an end, I feel pretty amazing. And I love him again.

My running has gone well. I’ve run more miles on my long runs than usual. My last three long runs have all been 10 miles, and I’ll run 11 or 12 this weekend. My knee has done pretty well, but I take Aleve and some homeopathic joint meds before heading out. I’ve been very lucky to have some friends run with me. When I do a long run alone, I listen to podcasts; they seem to keep my mind occupied and the time goes quicker. I really don’t know what to expect come race day. Considering Emily’s literally a foot taller than I, I just hope to be able to keep up with her long, young legs. I also hope I don’t die on a hill because that’d probably ruin Emily’s first half marathon.

In May Gary and I are registered for a 10-mile race that goes across a bridge over the Ohio River. We’ve always talked about running this race, but usually had kid activities that day. Now that the girls are grown, we don’t have to plan our weekends around their activities, which is reason #101 why I don’t have empty nest syndrome. Don’t judge. I became a mom at 21, and I did my time and enjoyed it. It’s time for Momma now.

One of our goals when we began this whole fitness thing was to get our kids and grandkids interested in exercise and living a healthier lifestyle. We have had some success. As I said, the upcoming race will be with my niece, and I’ve run several races with Erin. I’ve run a 5k with my oldest daughter, and Gary has run one with his granddaughter, Molly. Two weeks ago I ran a 5k with my middle daughter Bethany. She is 23 and teaches 5th grade. This school year she has begun to make time for exercise and has started running. She is learning that it isn’t easy, and that it takes dedication. She is now seeing the results, not only on the scale, but in her attitude. Running and many other types of exercise cause one’s endorphins to just create a happier disposition. I’ve always said that running is as good for me mentally as it is physically. Bethany has committed to running the Schweizer Fest 6 mile race and a half marathon this fall. Of course, that means I’m running both with her, which will be pretty amazing. I’m thrilled to see her so excited about her running, and to see the confidence she’s gaining. Since we are all on break this week, Bethany and I made Addie go to Spinning last night. Addie said she couldn’t wait to tell her friends that the one thing we did as a family on spring break was a Spinning class. We know how to have fun!

I cannot fail to mention that the Hoosier Half is also my friend, fellow English teacher, and fellow cheer coach, Amanda’s first half marathon. She has been working hard and also going to Spinning. I am so excited to see her cross that finish line! I know the pride and satisfaction she’ll feel, and hope she is hooked.

If you actually read all of this, thank you. I tend to go on and on about nothing. I need to take time to write more often so my posts won’t be novel-length. Spring is here – set some goals and make every day count! Love completely, keep criticism to yourself, and build others up. The world doesn’t need any more negativity. As I tell my students, don’t be a jerk. That covers it all.

My 50th Year

How in the hell did that happen? This past Saturday I celebrated (I use that term quite loosely) my 49th birthday, and am now in my 50th year of life. This has caused me to contemplate this whole aging thing. It’s an odd process, but I truly believe that age is a state of mind, and my mind says I’m not old.

Seriously, in my head I still feel the same as I did 20 years ago. Oh, I am wiser, and some of my opinions have evolved. I used to really care what people thought of me, but now I don’t care so much. I am who I am, and I’m not likely to change at this point. I care deeply about people, and will help anyone who needs it, but I also learned not to waste my time with negativity or drama. Yuck. I don’t like mean people, and won’t pretend to. I can’t stand when people lie, and won’t be friends with people who do. I stand up for what I believe in, and am not afraid to voice those beliefs. On the flip side, I will also listen to the opposing views, as long as the opposition isn’t a jerk or a bigot.

I still set goals. I believe when I stop setting goals, I will stop living. Always having something to work for gives me motivation and purpose. I still strive to be a better person. I am working to improve my fitness level and my financial management. For this – my 50th year – I hope to begin digging out of some debt. I also agreed to run a very hilly half marathon with my niece, so it’s quite necessary to strengthen my legs and core so I don’t cuss at her the entire race. She is 21 with long legs; she’s almost a foot taller than I! Maybe I should invest in a stretching machine or some growth hormones.

Let’s talk the physical aspects of aging. They suck. I mean really suck. Although my mind says I’m not old, my body doesn’t seem to agree. Because I feel sort of young on the inside, when I look at my hands and see the same hands I used to see on my grandmother, it’s just shocking. They’re getting vainy and boney and just ugly. I used to play with that loose skin on my grandma, and now I’m that grandma. And then there’s the skin on my legs. I think I’d get a skin lift on my legs before I’d get a face lift. My legs are one of my better assets because of running; they aren’t chubby or too flabby. The skin, however, is really old looking (and please don’t message me trying to sell your expensive, magical lotion).

Eyebrows. Did anyone ever tell you what happens to your eyebrows when you get old? No one told me. I think those ahead of me on this journey just wanted to sit back and laugh as my eyebrows disappeared. The first phase was when they began to grow wildly. I’d get these long, hag-like eyebrows that needed to be trimmed. That phase lasted a couple of years. Now I’m in the lose-a-few-more-every-single-day phase. Those suckers are now disappearing. I always wondered who bought eyebrow pencils (besides the people whom I thought plucked them all out only to draw them back on – but now I’m not so sure). True confession: I now own – and use – an eyebrow pencil. I try to take it easy so it isn’t obvious, but if I didn’t use it, good Lord, it would not be pretty.

Bushy eyebrows

Gray hair is something to be expected, but that doesn’t make it cool. I actually started getting gray hair when I was in my 20s. How unfair is that? Thankfully, I was a hairdresser for 17 years, and could take care of that at work. It’s now so prevalent that I have to color my hair every three weeks. I am about 90% gray in the front, but don’t tell anyone. I am very grateful for the creator of hair color…Mr. Clairol? Ms. Loreal? Mrs. Wella?  My husband has asked me (several times) how long I’m going to continue to color my hair. Duh. Until the day they put my cold, dead body in the ground. That’s how long. And there’d better not be any gray roots showing at my visitation. And someone had better draw some eyebrows on my face. Julie Bishop, take note.

hair color

Lips. Those also fade out into oblivion. Those once red lips that appeared so kissable become virtually non-existent. Lipstick will be your friend; you won’t leave home without it. Of course, you also have to be careful with that lipstick so it doesn’t ‘feather’ into the wrinkles that are now surrounding the area where your lips used to be. Of course you’ll have wrinkles there; you can’t just have them surrounding your eyes and criss-crossing your forehead. That would look ridiculous! You should try to figure out where your lips meet your skin; drawing your lipstick on the outside of this area looks a little silly. This is valuable information; you’ll thank me someday.

dark-lips

granny kiss s

Another side effect of aging is weight gain. Oh, it doesn’t have to happen. If you don’t eat any complete meals ever, exercise every single stinkin’ day, and stay the hell away from dessert, you can maintain your pre-middle age weight. Each year, it gets more difficult to maintain a sensible weight. Each year, I can eat a little less. Shouldn’t this work in the opposite way? When we are young and feel like exercising, we struggle with keeping it off, but when we are older and just don’t have the energy, the weight just stays away? Shouldn’t there be a time in our lives when we don’t have to worry about calories? My mother is 82 and still watches everything she eats. She actually said these words: I’ve found that if I don’t eat bread all week, on the weekend I can have a slice of bread, and I won’t gain weight! Seriously, Mother! You’re in your 80s! Eat the damn bread! Her plate at the holidays is almost comical. One bite of each thing. It’s Christmas! Eat the turkey! Bask in the joy of mashed potatoes. Smother your tastebuds in pumpkin pie. I’m thankful that my mother is healthy and takes pride in her appearance, but I wish she’d let loose once in awhile and just enjoy some dessert.

dessert-for-dinner

Another unexpected aspect of this aging process is that I get up early. I have never been a morning person. I really enjoy sleeping. A lot. When I have a cold, I look forward to a Nyquil sleep all day long. Surgery? Sure. That’s the best sleep ever. I even trained my daughters to sleep in when they were small (that back-fired). Now I get up three mornings a week at 4:30 A M – that’s in the morning – to teach classes at the gym. Yes, I get up and exercise before school. Before I go to work, I workout. And the really scary thing is I enjoy it. I love my early-morning crew, and waking up to their cheerful smiles. I like starting my day out by sweating. Sometimes I still cuss as I am driving into town, but as soon as class starts, I’m glad to be there. Of course, getting up so flippin’ early means I also go to bed pretty early. I like to head to bed at 9:00, read a little, and lights out by 9:30. My mother goes to bed at 6:00 and is up when I am. I hope I never get to that point. Many evenings we aren’t even home by that time.

All-in-all, I plan to attack this 50th year of life by continuing to set goals, working to improve myself, and loving the little moments with family, friends, and students. I hope to set a positive example for my 8th graders, and teach them that one is never too old to grow, learn, or set goals. I plan to laugh, be silly, and tell- sometimes inappropriate – jokes (hopefully at appropriate times) (and parents, never to your kids). I figure I’ve got one shot at this life, and I’ve always tried to live with no regrets. When making a decision, I always imagine what I’d be most likely to regret. It generally works (and has failed me terribly a few times). So, this nana is going to be a super-cool, super-fun nana. I’m going to run and play until my body no longer allows me to do so. I’m going to enjoy every moment I have with my husband, even if it’s just sitting side-by-side scrolling through Facebook while watching Criminal Minds. Live with no regrets, Folks! Be glad you get to experience the little annoyances of aging; it means you’ve been blessed to stay on this earth a little longer. Take the gray hair, crazy eyebrows, wrinkly skin, and extra pounds and know that you’ve earned them. And for goodness sake, EAT DESSERT!

 

St. Jude Half Marathon

This blog is so long overdue, but with December came holiday preparations, and then came company. It’s a little difficult to write with a two year old and four year old running around. And so, it’s January and I’m writing what should have been written in early December.

On December 4, my friends Katie, Kelly, Jennifer, Mary Jane, and I traveled to Memphis for the St. Jude Half Marathon. We had been planning for months, and were anxious to begin what would be a pretty incredible experience. Our weekend began with a tour of St. Jude. We have all seen the children of St. Jude in the heart-wrenching commercials, but to see these kids and their families in person is indescribable. Katie is a St. Jude survivor, and is still a patient for follow-up tests. Seeing where she has spent so many hours – certainly the worst hours of her life – was both moving and inspiring. Witnessing her return to the place that has come to mean so very much to her was a privilege.

Touring St. Jude Jennifer, Mary Jane, Kelly, Me, and Katie

Touring St. Jude
Jennifer, Mary Jane, Kelly, Me, and Katie

The hospital itself was an amazing place. They have thought of everything to make the children as comfortable as possible. Their artwork lines the hallways; the reception desks are at a child’s level; the colors and murals are bright and cheerful. The doctors, nurses, and all staff members are truly heroes. To go to work each day knowing that their patients are young and cancer-stricken must be so trying. To spend their days comforting families must be exhausting. They build true, loving relationships with the kids, which was evident by the joy in their faces as they saw Katie walk in. It was like a member of their family had come home, and truly she had. No wonder she loves that place.

Long before race day, we five had decided that we were sticking together no matter what. Katie cannot run far distances because of the damage done to her lungs, so we had planned to walk all hills and to stop often for photos. I have to say, this race was the best race I have ever run. We had fun the whole way, even when moments of tears crept in, and the weather was perfect. There were spectators along the whole course, and many were parents of St. Jude kids. Because those of us who raised money for St. Jude wore special shirts, and the spectators were aware of that, many people thanked us as we ran by. That was so humbling.

At one point in the race, the course winds through the St. Jude Campus. I knew this would be difficult and emotional, and it was. Just nine years before, Katie had an autologous stem cell transplant and had watched the race from her hospital window. Now, she was running the race. She had fought back and won! How could we not shed a few tears at that moment? How could she not? Determined to have fun and not get caught up in emotions, we regrouped once we passed through. And then…and then…at mile six they had doughnuts! I wasn’t interested (I would have vomited), but the others had just said they were hungry, so they were thrilled.

At each mile marker, we stopped and had someone take a picture of us. They turned out great and are a wonderful reminder that we completed that journey together, one mile at a time.

mile12

While each race I’ve run has been special for one reason or another, I can’t imagine anything topping our St. Jude experience. It was fun while being solemn at times; it was rewarding; it was humbling. Running it and spending the weekend with my four friends could not have gone better. We ate, we talked, Kelly and Katie rapped (seriously), we shopped, and we worked as a team for a greater cause.

At the finish

At the finish

The St. Jude race was my eighth half marathon, but more importantly, is was my best half marathon. No, I didn’t run fast. I didn’t place in the top 20%, but I finished with my friends and gained so much more than a PR. It was an experience I will never forget.

Again, thanks to all who donated to our team! Start saving your pennies as we will be collecting donations again this year!

Aging Gracefully

aging

I’ve been thinking a lot about aging recently. Having turned 48 last month, I keep thinking about turning 50. Fifty used to seem so old; now it seems quite young. Vibrant, in fact. I guess since many of my friends have already reached that milestone and didn’t suddenly become old, boring men and women, I’ve learned it’s all a matter of having peace with our lives and our choices.

Recently, I was thinking about the team at Everbody’s Fitness, where my husband and I are both instructors. We have an awesome team that cares about our members and celebrates members’ achievements, both small and large. But do you know what’s really inspiring about our team? We have twelve instructors, and nine of them are over 40! Several are over 50, and my husband will be 65 this summer. I believe you can ask any member who has attended our classes, and you will find that age is not a factor. Our classes are tough, and young folks  can attest to getting a kick-ass workout. Personally, I can hardly keep up with my husband in Spinning. Kathy, who is a 50-year-old Spinning instructor has recently added triathlete to her resume. Tabbie, a 40-something jack-of-all-exercise, can out work both men and women half her age. Many of us also run; we participate in races ranging from 5Ks to half marathons to marathons. We don’t let a number define us.

Personally, I am in the best shape of my life. Sure, I have about five pounds I need to drop, but as far as strength and fitness, I am in better shape at 48 than I was at 28. I didn’t even begin to exercise until I was 42. I had spent the previous 20 years raising kids, working, returning to college, starting a couple careers, blah, blah, blah. I have every excuse for not taking care of me. Of course, until my late thirties, I really didn’t have to worry about my weight, and then suddenly the scale began its ascent. Though I was eating no differently, those numbers increased. And then I noticed that when I went up a flight of stairs, I was out of breath. What? I quickly learned that being thin did not mean being in shape or healthy. I’ve since learned that not being thin did not mean being out of shape or unhealthy.

Throughout the past six years, I have run (lots of 5Ks, a few 10Ks, and six half marathons), taught Zumba, and now teach Tabata Bootcamp and HIIT classes. Admittedly, it’s much easier to fit in my workouts since my girls are grown and I don’t have to worry about finding someone to watch them. I don’t know how I would have pulled it off when they were all young, but if I’d made it a priority, I could have made it work. I think many of us, especially moms, get our children to the point that they can care for themselves, and finally decide to take time for ourselves. We realize we’ve let ourselves go, and it’s time to take control of our bodies and our health. For me, my wake-up call was turning 42. My father died of a heart attack at 42, and his brothers also died in their 40s or early 50s. My family history was not going to work in my favor. I made the decision to take care of my heart; I wanted to be here for my kids and grandkids.

Grandkids. What a joy! Gary and I have six between us, and each one brings us a level of happiness never before experienced. Then I look at myself as a grandmother, ‘Nana’ as I am known. As I don my Under Armour shorts, sports bra, tank top, and Asics, I picture my Grandmother Allen in her homemade cotton dress and thigh-highs. I think I saw my gram in pants one time. I picture her cooking up fried chicken and baking eclairs, sitting watching the news, and going to church. I loved her dearly and spent a lot of time with her, but don’t really remember her playing outside with me, and certainly don’t recall her exercising. My Grandma Greenland was a chubby lady, who happened to be the BEST baker. She could bake anything – butterscotch pie (my personal favorite), a plethora of cookies and cakes…yum. She enjoyed swimming. I can still see her in her blue flowery one-piece and matching blue swimcap, doing the side-stroke (I don’t think that’s an official stroke, but she rocked it). I wonder how my grandkids will remember me. I hope they remember that I got out and played with them, and inspired them to always set goals. I hope they remember my running races and living life to its fullest. Grandmas and grandpas today are forging their own paths. We are not content to sit back and let life just pass us by as we age. We are working to maintain our health and fitness so we can be integral, active members of our families.

Despite my efforts at staying fit and healthy, there are some parts of aging I can’t control. That’s bothersome. This whole saggy skin thing really ticks me off. I was well-aware of face wrinkles; we see those on our older family members and know they are inevitable. It’s what’s under the clothes that we don’t know about until it hits us. The other day I was sitting on the floor, cleaning the toilet, and I looked down at my bare foot and saw the foot of an old woman. Seriously! It looked wrinkly, dry, and just OLD. It looked like my mother’s foot. And then there’s the sagging leg skin. My legs might be well-toned for my age, but I can’t control the wrinkles and crinkles. When the sun is shining in when I am dressing, all I see is saggy old skin. When I look in the mirror, I see my mom. She is 81. I don’t want to see her in my mirror until I am 81. In an effort to remove my mother from the mirror, I even ordered Nerium, you know, that magical anti-aging concoction. I’ve seen some pretty amazing before and after pictures, and thought what the hell? I think I’ll bathe in it.

Another issue of being middle-aged is what to wear. When I was younger, I always wondered why people my age often tried to dress ‘young’. Now I know. In our minds, we are young. I don’t feel any older. I’m just me, and I’ve always loved clothes. I really have to be careful because I see young girls and think Wow! Cute outfit! I bet I could wear that! And then I realize I am almost 50, and just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. The problem is, I love most trendy clothing. Because of my height deficit, I have to shop in the petite section, and in many stores, the petite clothing looks as if it were made for my mother. Elastic-waisted polyester pants just aren’t my thing. Flowing, flowery tops…nope. Trying to find that balance of stylish, but not too young can be tricky. Thankfully, my daughters are good at letting me know what works and what to avoid.

Overall, I love the age I am. I enjoy my daughters as adults. I like the free time I have and the time I have with my husband. I would not want to go back to an earlier decade. My forties have been filled with many joys and sorrows, many changes, and many life lessons. I have enjoyed them immensely, and actually look forward to what my fifties will bring. So, no matter your age, take care of yourself. Don’t let life pass you by – you can never get these days back. We spend far too much time waiting for the weekend, waiting for summer, waiting for vacation. And then we complain that life is going too fast! We wish it away. What about today? Enjoy today. Do something for your health TODAY. Embrace TODAY.

This picture has nothing to do with this post. It was taken a couple years ago when this tall lady tried to pass me at the end of a race. Not happening. This NANA was gonna kick her butt! (I beat her)

This picture has nothing to do with this post. It was taken a couple years ago when this tall lady tried to pass me at the end of a race. Not happening. This NANA was gonna kick her butt! I couldn’t believe Bethany caught the moment. I just think it’s funny.

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!

A Change in Plans

After the Chicago 10k – actually, at mile 2 of the Chicago 10k – I decided that there was no way in hell I was going to run the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon. At that point, I didn’t know if I was going to make it six miles, so 13.1 would be impossible. As soon as the race was over, I told my husband that we would not be running the Indy race. No way. No how.

And then I came home with my nice medal, jacket, and necklace. I ran Tuesday, and it was not a good run. I had to walk some just to get through three miles. I ran again Wednesday morning with some friends, and that run felt so much better. So yesterday after school I was home alone with time to ponder. I thought that maybe I could just run/walk the Indy race…if I could sucker someone into doing it with me. Gary really wants to run it, and he always does things for me.

I have tried to talk my niece Erin into running a half in the past, and she was pretty adamant about not ever running one. So I texted her. I asked if she’d be interested in meeting me in Indy to run/walk a half marathon. Her answer was quite shocking and unexpected. Her text read, “Ok, if walking is involved then yes.” Seriously. I didn’t have to talk her into it at all. And then she registered right away! Crap. Now I was stuck. I won’t back out on my niece. I am going to participate in the Indy Half. I truly doubt I can run 13.1 at this point, but I am pretty sure I can walk it. Heck, Erin and I ran 6.2 Saturday, and then walked 3 miles back to her apartment, so we just need 4 more miles. Piece of cake! ‘

Now the real training begins. I need to drink more water (as I am sipping on a Diet Pepsi), eat less junk (I ate a bag of Milky Way nuggets on the way home from school), and run distance. I plan to run nine miles Sunday morning. Please, Old Sore Body, cooperate! To celebrate this decision, I believe I’ll get some new running shoes, which are always motivating. I will also blog this journey because it keeps me accountable. You can expect lots of whining, a few victories, and probably some details you don’t care to know.

Sometimes Running Sucks

My running has been less than stellar recently. Considering I ran a 10k this past weekend, the timing is bad. I haven’t had a run that felt good in quite some time. Even three miles is somewhat of a struggle, so running over six was much more difficult than I anticipated.

I was thrilled to be in Chicago with my husband visiting my niece. Being from the ‘region’ in Northwest Indiana, which is only about thirty minutes from the Windy City, Chicago has always held a special place in my heart. I love the skyline, Lake Michigan, the museums, the shopping, and the architecture. It’s truly a beautiful city. I registered my niece and myself for this race a few months ago; we decided on the 10k rather than the half marathon, which turned out to be the perfect decision. Though I have run along the lake while visiting the city, I was excited to run a race there.

Gary and I arrived in Chicago Friday afternoon, dropped our things at Erin’s, and hopped on a bus to go downtown and get our race packets. That might sound simple, but we were slightly anxious that we would end up in the wrong neighborhood nowhere near race headquarters. As we exited the bus – on the right street – we began to take in life in the big city. Gary and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to country life versus city life. As he was commenting, “I could never live in this city,” I was saying, “I could so live in the big city!” Realistically, it would probably get old, so for now I’ll enjoy visiting Erin. That evening we met up with Erin for a pasta dinner, and went for a walk down to the lake. Since we had to get up early for the race, we were in early. One of us practically passed out while talking. I won’t mention a name, but it wasn’t one of the old ones!

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Saturday morning the three of us caught the bus, and took off for the race. While I am usually really grouchy the morning of a race (my nerves get the best of me, and I don’t like to talk or be talked to), I felt unusually calm. Even when we realized we had missed our stop and had to walk about 1/2 mile back to the start, I didn’t get stressed out. In my highly-anxious mind, that’s impressive. As we approached the starting line, there was a sea of pink. Although I typically wear pink, I went against the trend and wore yellow. This was my first all-female race, and I didn’t want to over-do the girliness. Tutus were not an option for Erin and me. No way.

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My goal for this race was to run it in under an hour. If we kept a 9:30 pace, we would do it. Our first mile, we ran a 9:08 pace – perfect. The second mile we ran a 9:13 pace, which was still good, and left us room to slow down during the second half. The third mile I began to struggle. STUPID. This was a 10k; I have run five half marathons; this should be easy. One huge mistake I made was not drinking any water on Friday. STUPID. In my mind, I was only running a little over six miles, so I didn’t need to worry about hydrating or nutrition. STUPID. I always need to worry about hydration and nutrition. Third mile: 9:40 pace. Crap. I told Erin to go ahead because she was running well. She wasn’t going to, but I told her I didn’t want to feel guilty for holding her back, so she went on. During mile four, I kept telling myself to enjoy the beautiful day; I was running in CHICAGO! I had the gorgeous blue lake with sailboats scattered about on my right, and the picturesque skyline on my left. There were runners everywhere. This race was different than any I have run because the course wasn’t closed. There we literally hundreds of other runners who were not participating in the race along the course.

Mile four….9:27…back on track. Lord, I was tired and my legs felt like I was trudging through wet sand. Mile five…I could do this. It was only a 10k. What was my problem? Why did I feel like I was not going to finish? And I was definitely not going to register for the Indianapolis Monumental Half that Gary and I had planned to do. No freakin’ way. Mile six. The last full mile. 10:05. For Pete’s sake, I just kept getting slower and slower. But I was not going to stop. The finish line was within my reach, and I was not going to walk. As I approached where I thought the finish line was, I picked it up a bit because I thought I was going to meet my goal. When I realized where the finish line actually was, I knew I wasn’t going to make it. My official time was 1:00:22. I missed my goal by twenty-two seconds. If you don’t run, that might not seem like a big deal; if you run, you understand just how frustrating that was. But it was over, and I hadn’t walked. (Erin and decided to walk the three miles back to her apartment. This picture shows her cooling off in a random fountain. Yes, I dared her. I didn’t even have to triple dog dare.)

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What I don’t understand is why my running has gotten worse since I quit running every day. Shouldn’t my legs be rested and ready to race? The last 5K I ran, my pace was 8:47. My pace at an August two-miler was 8:04. Now I am trying to decide if I want to keep trying to increase my distance, or if I want to stick with shorter distances and work on getting faster. On the way home from Chicago, I read an article about the benefits of 5Ks. Perhaps that was my sign.

When the results were finally posted, I saw that overall I placed 133 out of 977, and in my age group (40-49) I placed 33rd out of 301, which isn’t too bad. Erin placed ninth in her age group, and 75th overall, which is outstanding! She doesn’t usually run races, which makes it more impressive. So in the end, it was worth the effort. For our efforts, we got really nice jackets, necklaces, and medals. We also got to share some special time together. And we celebrated with Giordanno’s pizza that evening; I’d run another six miles for that.

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So, what’s next? Right now your guess is as good as mine. We are going to go watch some friends finish at the Evansville Half Marathon this weekend. I will likely attempt another long run Sunday. And if it sucks, I am never running again. At least not until the next week…or day. I hate running. But I love it, too.

I’m Going to Chicago (but not on the Megabus)

The weekend I’ve been planning for is finally here! Several months ago, I saw a post on Facebook about a race called Women Rock Chicago. There’s a 5k, 10k, and a half marathon, and it’s a girly race. Because my niece Erin lives in Chicago, and Chicago happens to be one of my favorite places, I registered my niece and myself for the 10k. The route winds along Lake Michigan, which is an amazing place to run. My favorite run took place when I was in Chicago for a conference a couple years ago, and I was able to run along the lake. Having the water on my left and Chicago’s incredible skyline on my right as I ran along made for a memorable run.

Gary and I are leaving in the morning. Gary will be driving. If you remember, my girls and I took the *&%^ Megabus to Chicago over spring break. I don’t think I could survive that twice.

Thankfully between my sister, brother, and daughter, our house and dogs will be cared for. We will go through the area in Northern Indiana where I lived when I was young, and plan to stop for lunch at Miner Dunn, which is the best burger dive ever. We hope to get into the city before rush hour, and will even attempt to take the bus from Erin’s apartment to the race expo. Though Erin sent very specific directions, I have a fear of getting off in the wrong neighborhood, which could be trouble in Chicago. Lord, help us!

The race is Saturday morning. I’d like to say I am ready and expect to run well, but that just hasn’t been the case recently. If you read this blog regularly, you know that this summer I ran 101 days in a row. Once that challenge was over, I scaled my running back to about four days a week, kept up with three to four days of HIIT, and took a day or two off a week. One would think my running would improve because I am rested (at least that’s what I thought), but, in fact, the opposite has happened. I ran much better and felt better when I was running every day. I have been trying to do long runs on the weekends, and got up to eight miles two weeks ago. Gary and I were planning to run the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon on November 1, so I was training for that while training for Chicago. I thought I had planned well. My body is not cooperating with my plan. And my knee hurts.

I don’t know if my knee just won’t be able to handle longer distances any longer, or if it will adjust to the distance and eventually stop hurting. I do know it makes me angry. I just want to be able to do what I love. So, what is my goal for this race? I won’t know until I start running and see how I feel. My eighth graders don’t really understand these types of races. Here’s the conversation I had with one class:

Kids: Mrs. Stath, we hope you win your race!

Me: Oh, I don’t run these races to actually win.

Kids: What? Why wouldn’t you want to win?

Me: I won’t win. That isn’t even a possibility.

Kids: Well, with that attitude you won’t!

Oh…If only it were that easy. One group of boys had me write down what place each one thought I would come in. I have to take a treat to the one who has the closest guess. It is a great feeling to know that I can show them that one is never too old to reach for goals, and that doing my personal best is what really matters.

I would like to finish in under an hour. If my knee holds up, my stomach cooperates, and my legs don’t feel like logs, I think I can do it. That would probably put me in the top 20% overall and in my age group. However, if I have to slow down or take walk breaks, so be it. It’s about the experience, right? I thought about not worrying about time at all, and taking time out to take pictures along the way, but once I get into my race zone, I know I won’t want to stop for photo ops.

While I am excited to see my niece, to eat Giordanno’s pizza, and have a weekend away, there is a downside to all of this. When I am running Saturday morning, my youngest daughter Addison will be teeing off at the golf regional, which she qualified for this past Saturday. Yes, sign me up for the Bad Mom Award. It’s her senior year, possibly her last golf match of the year, and I won’t be there. As much as I’ve complained about the boredom of a golf match, I hate to miss this one. We made these plans months ago, and as soon as the golf schedule came out, I saw that I would miss, and let Addison know. I am grateful her dad, who doesn’t mind a bit to watch five hours of golf, will be there to cheer her on, and to transport her from the golf match to the evening band contest…yup…missing that, too. So, Good Luck, Sweet Addison! I will be thinking of you as I run!

You can bet there will be an ‘after Chicago’ blog post. Until then..Run On!

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