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!
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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.

The Great Soft Drink Experiment

Last summer I challenged myself to complete a running streak; it began with a 40 day streak, and then I stretched it out to 80 days. Once I hit 80 days, I decided to make it 100 days. I ended up running at least one mile every day for 100 days. It was a challenge that reminded me I had to stay dedicated to my goal, avoid whining, and run no matter how tired I felt.

This summer I am taking on a somewhat different challenge. My entire adult life, I have drank soft drinks. When I was young and didn’t need to worry about my weight I drank Coke and Mountain Dew. After a couple of babies and some post-baby chub, I began my long-term relationship with diet soft drinks. Diet Mountain Dew has been a favorite for many years, but I also like Diet Pepsi (in a bottle) and McDonald’s Diet Coke. After a great run, I wanted a diet drink. When I needed to wake up, I wanted that caffeine boost. Mealtime? Diet Mountain Dew. I’ve drank as many as six or seven a day, but probably averaged four to five. I would read all of the research about how bad it is for me, but justified my addiction (it truly is an addiction) with the fact that I work out, I drink little alcohol, and I needed that one vice. And I love it. I craved it. And dammit, I needed it.

7-bad-side-effects-of-drinking-diet-soda

I decided that this summer my challenge would be to at least cut back. I tend to drink more water in the summer, so it seemed to be the right time. The first couple of weeks, I would cut down to one or two a few days, and then I’d be back up to three or four. Last week it was time to get serious. I read more articles that stated diet soft drinks can cause me to retain belly fat (who wants that?), causes my teeth to erode (eww!), gives me belly issues (I don’t need help with that). Diet soft drinks are just not good for us. I was ready.

I began by allowing myself only one soft drink per day. That helped me to avoid the caffeine withdrawal and accompanying headaches. I would drink my one treat sometime in the morning, so by that evening a headache would set in. I took Aleve and the headaches were tolerable. Friday I decide to wait until lunch to have my one drink. Guess what! I didn’t want one. So I decided to wait until supper. By dinnertime, I realized that if I’d made it that long, I could make it the rest of the day without my beloved Diet Mountain Dew.

Friday was literally the first day in my adult life that I didn’t drink a soft drink. I was pretty proud – that is a huge accomplishment! I haven’t had a soft drink since; today will be day four. As I was pondering this challenge, I remembered the things I’ve learned through attending AA meetings with my husband. ‘One day at a time’ is one of their mantras, and though my addiction is not as strong as one’s addiction to alcohol or drugs, the mantra surely fits my situation. I can only worry about today. It isn’t easy. Saturday night my husband and I went out for our anniversary, and I craved that fizz and deliciousness of an ice-cold Diet Coke. When I pass the coolers at the grocery store or Walmart, I long to reach in for a Diet Pepsi. As I drive past Circle S, my arms twitch wanting to turn in and purchase my bottle of caffeine.

Besides all of the health benefits this change will provide, I think of the money I will save. Not only do I buy cases of Diet Mountain Dew at the store, but I stop in Circle S once or twice a day to get a Diet Pepsi, which costs $1.74. If I buy 10 a week, that’s $17.40 a week, and over $64 a month! That’s just stupid. I can get two pedicures with that. I can get an outfit with that.

I cannot promise I will be successful with this challenge. My hope is that I can avoid diet drinks long enough that if I do try one, it will taste awful (although I really don’t know if that’s possible). If I can finally begin to lose these few pounds I’ve been at war with, it will certainly give me more incentive to stick with it. If you see me grabbing a soft drink, please feel free to remind me that my teeth will rot and it will add belly fat. Or just rip it out of my hand and throw it far, far away. And then run.

On another completely different note, I’d like to say Happy Father’s Day to my husband and my ex-husband. Together, we three have raised some pretty spectacular kids. I am so blessed that my husband chose to love my daughters when he married me. He has always been there for them, supported them, and helped me with the running, homework, and daily stress. I am also blessed to have a great relationship with their dad. He and I have always made decisions based upon what is best for the girls. We have truly had a successful partnership in parenting. I have witnessed far too many divorced parents who spend so much time hating one another that they forget that at one time they chose to have children together. I have seen the suffering of the kids. My ex-husband and I did not criticize each other in front of the girls, even when others did. We never tried to keep track of time spent with one parent; the girls were free to spend as much time as they chose with each of us. We’ve sat together through matches, graduations, and contests so that the girls didn’t have to decide who’d they would sit with. I know that my girls’ father loves them and I respect that love. Now that our daughters are adults, they have told us how much they appreciate that they’re divorced parents get along so well; after all, they didn’t choose to be in a divorced family. Thank you, Randy, for being a great dad! Thank you, Gary, for loving all of us!

The Race Report

Before the Race

Before the Race – Look how happy we are!

This past Sunday, Gary and I ran the Biggest Loser Half Marathon in Crown Point, Indiana. We had chosen this particular race because we wanted to run something other than the Derby Mini, which we had run the past four years. The Biggest Loser Half was in the Region, and since I’m from that area, we thought it would make a nice weekend getaway before all of the end-of-school-year-my-baby-is-graduating festivities. We left for Indy Friday after work, checked into our hotel, and had a healthy meal of roasted chicken, veggies, and potatoes. While this might seem inconsequential to most, in our world it was a rather big deal. We are more of a burger and fries couple.

On Saturday, we checked out the house I lived in in Hobart, went to the cemetery (What’s more romantic than that?), shopped (we bought 13 pounds of candy at a candy factory), and went to the expo to get our race gear. The expo was somewhat disappointing, but it wasn’t a large race, so we shouldn’t have expected much. Dinner that evening was at Teibel’s, which is somewhat of an iconic Northwest Indiana restaurant.

Sunday morning arrived; the sun shone brightly into our room. I had very low expectations for the race. My plan was to run the first four miles, and then walk 2/10 of each mile thereafter. My IT bands begin to tighten up after four or five miles. I wanted to complete the race, and knew that a fast time just wasn’t possible. This was my seventh half marathon, and my third since having knee surgery in 2013. I hadn’t trained too hard for this race, but felt that I was ready. I was not. Not even close. Living in Southern Indiana, I am used to hills. I have plenty of hills to train on, but had avoided them because Northwest Indiana is flat. Why would I train on hills to run a flat race? I have never been more wrong in my life.

The first several miles of the race, I listened to the soundtrack of the stage version of Mary Poppins. I’m pretty cool like that. Actually, my family will be involved in the production this summer, so I thought I’d begin to learn the music. People don’t really expect to hear Step in Time in the middle of a race. I tried to not sing out loud, but sometimes it just sneaks out. There were several small, manageable hills in the first few miles, and I kept thinking that surely it would flatten out. Where did those hills even come from? This was the north.

And then it got worse. Miles eight through thirteen were just brutal. I don’t typically cuss (okay, I do), but the expletives were flying. I even texted my running friends on one of my walk breaks just so I could complain to someone. Here is a good picture of how I was feeling in the second half of the race:

joycehillcrown

Not quite as happy as the prerace photo. My plan had been tossed aside. I walked whenever my legs began to scream, which was at the beginning of many hills. I certainly wasn’t alone as many chose to walk up the hills. I was getting passed by lots of runners, but I really didn’t care. At one point a guy in a Spiderman shirt passed me, and I thought It’s okay – It’s Spiderman! I can’t expect to be as fast as Spiderman! 

At several points during the race, I asked myself why I thought running half marathons was fun. I was miserable. My legs were absolutely killing me; my calves were tied in knots. I just wanted this hell to be over. It was also pretty hot out compared to what we had been running in. I got water at almost every stop, but still felt so dry. And then I’d spot yet another freakin’ hill. Are you kidding me?? Can I just crawl now? And did I mention that hills really put a strain on IT bands? Mile 11: Someone was stabbing a knife into the side of my knee. And twisting it. Damn, it hurt. I stopped and rubbed that area hoping for enough relief to keep going. I walked most of that mile. I then alternated walking and running until I finally reached the finish. I don’t think my legs have ever hurt so much at the finish of a race. I would never run a hilly half again.

I actually lived!

I actually lived!

Gary and I then had a five-hour drive home. As we discussed our ‘adventure’, he also complained about the hills. After cooling off and getting our heart rates back to within a reasonable range, we were actually pretty proud of ourselves. That was undoubtedly the hardest half we have ever done, and although our times were not impressive (2:23 for me), we didn’t stop, nor did I puke. The next morning I had to teach a 5:15 Tabata class, and hadn’t planned to participate. When we started, I went ahead and worked out with the class, figuring I could stop at any point. I ended up completing the class and…running! I actually went out and ran about a mile and a half just to see if I could.

Do you know what else I did the day after the race from hell? I registered for the St. Jude Half Marathon! More info on that will follow in the coming months (because our team is fundraising and I’m sure you’ll want to donate). I would compare running a half marathon (or a marathon for some) to childbirth. It is so very painful as we are going through it. Breathing is labored, body parts we weren’t even aware of suddenly scream with pain, and we cuss like we’ve never cussed before. And then when it’s over, we realize how badass we are, and begin to forget the hell we endured. It wasn’t that bad. When can we do it again?

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.

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!

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