Training Hard…Or Not

I have struggled with whether or not to run a half marathon this spring. I have run one – the Derby Mini in Louisville – the past four years, but just didn’t want to run it again this year. I wanted to try a new race, but I also wanted to run a race that none of our friends were running. I know that sounds odd, but I get really nervous at races, and much prefer to be anonymous. My husband suspected I’d throw a race at him, so he began doing long runs before we had even found a race. Because I have a senior daughter with a crazy busy schedule this spring, our options were limited. Gary received an email about a Biggest Loser Half Marathon in Crown Point, Indiana, which is about five or six hours from here. It also happens to be near my hometowns of Hammond, Hobart, and Munster (I claim all three since I had lived in each place by the end of fifth grade). This particular race also claims to be a great race for beginners, and has a walking division. I am not really a beginner, but after running six half marathons, this will be the first in which I work in walking. Walking.

Because of all of my knee issues, long runs seemed to be out of reach. I had tried to do a couple of longer runs, and at about 4.5 miles, my knee would lock up – IT band. I had decided I’d have to stick with no more than five miles, and running 5Ks. I wasn’t happy about it, but knew if I wanted to be able to run at all, I had to be sensible (I am not usually sensible when it comes to things like that). Once I’d made that decision, I received the book Tales From Another Mother Runner compiled by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea. One of the essays told of a woman who also had knee issues. She began working some walking into each mile, and was able to complete her long runs. Although I don’t want to walk, I really don’t want to quit running. I want to run half marathons. The atmosphere at a half is unbeatable, and runners don’t receive medals at 5Ks unless they win their age groups. I would travel to run a half marathon; I doubt I’d travel very far to run a 5K. And so I walked.

I came up with a plan to run the first two miles of my long runs, and then walk 2/10 of each mile thereafter. I’ve had to really make myself stick with this plan. Since I am walking some, my knees feel fine, so it’s hard not to just go ahead and run further. The last few weekends, I’ve stuck with my plan, and have been able to complete ten mile runs; this Saturday I will complete eleven. I tend to stress out over really insignificant things, so, of course, I worry about things like what to tell people about my runs. I can’t say ‘I ran ten miles this morning’ because I didn’t run ten miles. I only ran 8.4; I walked 1.6 of the ten. I did ten miles? I ran/walked ten miles? I completed ten miles? What the heck am I supposed to say to people? I stress when people see me walking. I swear I’m running, too. I’m only walking a little. I’m still a runner. My knees hurt, dammit! I stress over the fact that I will post my slowest time at the half marathon. I wonder if there are any running therapists out there?

I have found there are some advantages to walking part of each mile. When I begin to get tired, I know that I only have to run 8/10 mile, and then I can walk again. For some strange reason, it seems to make time go quicker even though it’s taking me longer to complete my runs. Another thing I’ve done to add interest to my running is listening to podcasts instead of music. My daughter actually told me that’s what she does, so I gave it a try. I listen to Jillian Michaels, Another Mother Runner, and All Things Comedy Live Podcast. I’ve found that I really pay attention to the podcasts, whereas with music, I tend to listen on and off. Focusing on the podcasts also makes my runs go faster, and they are very motivating. The comedy one isn’t motivating, but it makes me laugh. Laughing while running alone seems to be frowned upon. Passersby give me mortified looks when I just randomly laugh as they drive by. If they only knew I had Sinbad in my ear.

On Tuesdays I do a three-mile training run after school. I sometimes run with students, and one of my eighth graders asked if she could run with me this past week. We met after school, and took off. I had told her I wasn’t fast, and she said she wasn’t either. Seeing her black Converse on her feet, I wasn’t too concerned about keeping up. After about a half mile, I was quite winded. I couldn’t figure out why I felt so tired. We kept trucking along, talking about her desire to run a 10K and her goals for speed. I was getting more winded, but blamed it on not quite feeling up to par. After about a mile and a half, she wanted to walk a little. Praise God. Sure, Sweetie, if you need to walk, that’s fine. [pant, pant, pant]. Once she was ready, we ran again. When we got back to school, I checked our time, and saw that we had run the first mile and a half at a 9:17 pace. No wonder I was struggling! I’ve been running a 10:00 pace or slower since I am trying to build endurance. Those darned Converse kicked my butt! Well played, Ashley.

Tomorrow is a rest day; Saturday is an 11 miler. After that I’ll just have some short runs, a seven or eight miler, and it’s race time. As much as I am looking forward to crossing that finish line and earning another medal, I am also looking forward to sharing this experience with my husband. It’ll be the first half marathon we have run in which none of our friends or family are there. I hope it goes well for both of us (or it will be a LONG ride home!).

I do want to wish all of our wonderful badass friends who are running the Derby Mini Marathon the very best of luck! We plan to be there to watch you finish. May the weather be perfect, your food digest well (you poop before the race), your legs feel strong, and your spirit carry you through.

#NeverGiveUp

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.

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.

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