Here I Go Again…

Menopause. It’s a rite of middle age. Actually, post-middle age because I doubt I will live to be over 100. I’ll probably drown in a puddle of sweat in my own bed. Menopause can make life pretty tough, especially when in my head I am still young and thin. Unfortunately in the mirror I am aging and chubby. I volley back and forth between acceptance and disbelief. Somedays I think I’ll just roll with it and buy bigger clothes and invest in better wrinkle creams, and other days I just want my old body back – the one that didn’t sweat profusely several times throughout the night, and fit nicely into skinny jeans. The body that could run a decent pace and could do – and enjoy doing – burpees.

I thought I understood hot flashes until I actually had one. When I was young and birthing children, I thought what I experienced was hot flashes, but I was just hot most of the time. A menopausal hot flash is different. It always awakens me as I begin to get restless. Then when I am awake enough to fully experience the heat, I can feel it start at my core, and then it spreads throughout my extremities until sweat is pooling under my boobs and my hair is wet. I kick the covers off, or at least attempt to. Two dogs sleep with my husband and me, so sometimes kicking covers off means sending a dog sailing off the bed. I’ve found they don’t appreciate waking to my flailing arms and legs as I work to extract myself from the sheet and comforter that suddenly feel as if they’ve caught fire.

My nightly hot flashes became so regular that my husband bought a king-sized bed. Not only do the dogs keep me from cooling off, but my husband feels like a furnace when I am already hot. One touch of his hand makes my arm feel like it’s melting.

Another effect of menopause is weight gain. For me, this is much more difficult to deal with because I’ve been petite my whole life. It took no time after having a baby for me to get back to my pre-baby size, and I didn’t exercise back then. I thought the weight gain was bad in my forties, but could still control my weight with exercise and sensible eating. Now, however, it’s getting out of control. I find myself buying only loose-fitting tops and dresses and I finally gave in and bought a larger size pant. I don’t want to just give up, but damn, I can’t eat anything good. And when I am trying to avoid crap, every other commercial is for Blizzards and Monster burgers.

So, how am I going to combat menopause? Wine is an excellent option. But it also has a lot of calories. I do believe that menopause is the reason so many middle-aged women enjoy a glass or four of wine regularly. If we can’t be skinny, we might as well have fun. Drink enough wine and you won’t notice those wrinkles when you look in the mirror and you’ll be happy to wear leggings and a tunic (Thank God for that style!). My dear friend got me a wine Tervis that says, ‘This wine is making me awesome!’ Yes. Yes, it is. But I still need to workout because I can’t drink wine every day.

To try to get in somewhat decent shape, I am going to run two half marathons this fall. I had about given up the idea of distance running because it’s just getting harder and harder, but rather than quit, I am just going to have to accept that I will never run a half marathon in close to two hours again. I will have to accept that I might even have to walk a portion of the course. I’ve completed 13 half marathons so far, and I’ve never regretted any of them. I hated a few of them (Hoosier Half in April – 20 degrees and hills!), but I was always glad I finished. I am going to run the Monumental Half in November with my daughter Bethany, and before that my husband and I are going to run the Purdue Half in October. It wasn’t in our plans, but we will be there that weekend for his class reunion, so why not? My training for the Monumental had me running ten miles that weekend, so I might as well add three point one and get a medal. I hope the medal goes with the dress I’m wearing to the reunion.

So, menopause sucks. I can’t find one positive thing to say about it other than every woman seems to survive it. It would help if I had some sort of timeline. If I knew there were an end in sight, I could suck it up and take one for the team. I could promise my husband that this craziness would end soon and he would get his wife back. But no, there is no timeline. This crap can last years. I really wish Eve hadn’t eaten that damn apple.

 

Advertisements

Over 50 and Training for a Mini

I haven’t blogged about running in quite some time, and there is actually a reason for that. Throughout the winter, I was a slacker. Like most slackers, I have a host of excuses, and some pretty valid reasons. Both my brother and my mother became ill at the same time. Trust me – I have told them how much I appreciate their timing. My brother was in the hospital an hour away for 27 days, in a rehabilitation facility for 10 days, and then he lived with us for four months. My mother hasn’t been hospitalized, but has had numerous doctor appointments, also an hour away, and I was her transportation and her advocate. I was exhausted, and despite the fact that exercise probably would have done my emotional state some good, my time was limited.

Before all of this, I had quit teaching Tabata Bootcamp classes at the gym. After four years of early morning classes, I just couldn’t do it anymore. Two mornings each week of getting up at 4:30 seemed to set the tone for the whole week, and packing all of my gear so I could get ready for work in the locker room became tedious. I had no idea what Tabata had done for my body until I was no longer doing it. Although I don’t really weigh any more, I have lost all muscle tone, and my abs are now buried under a roll of flab. I have back fat that hangs over my sports bra, and flabby arms. And my clothes no longer fit.

About a month ago, I had a dressing-room meltdown – at a most inopportune time. My husband and I had taken a romantic weekend away, and had a great time – until my meltdown. I decided to try on dresses at Banana Republic for my daughter’s upcoming graduation from college. Last kid – Mom deserves a new dress. I knew my clothes had been snug, so I grabbed a size larger than I had been wearing. Still didn’t fit. Not even close. And everything looked awful and seemed to accentuate my gut. I cussed. I fought back tears the rest of the day. I was grouchy. My husband knew not to say much, so his only response was “I guess we aren’t going to the Loft?” Hell, no, we aren’t. And that day I decided I had to make some changes. I had to take time for myself, and apparently I needed to stop eating.

I had registered for the Indy 500 Mini back in the fall, but because I hadn’t really run much all winter, my running sucked. I had pretty much decided I wasn’t going to run the race. But then I had my meltdown, and decided that I needed to run; I needed incentive to get out and train. The last few half marathons I ran were for other people. I ran my nieces’ first half marathons with them, and my daughter’s with her, and I ran the St. Jude Half with my friends. I needed to run the 500 just for me. After months of caring for others, it was time to care for myself.

I began to make exercise a priority again, but gosh, it was so much more difficult. I had not stopped running over the winter, but had run less. As I tried to increase my miles, I realized I was much slower than I had been, though I had never been very fast. I began to wonder if at 51, I should just accept that I am going to gain some weight and get flabby, and if I should just be glad I can run, and not worry about my pace. That’s all pretty difficult to accept. And I’m pretty stubborn.

So it began. Long runs on the weekends, and more consistent running during the week. My long runs have been less than impressive, partly due to the extended winter, and partly due to my being out of shape and slightly lazy. I have continued to push through, and this past weekend I ran 11 miles – without walking! That was a huge boost to my confidence. It was really slow, about an 10:53 pace, but I didn’t stop, and I felt great after. This will be my 13th half marathon, and I have run anywhere from a 9:04 pace to a 10:35 pace. I’d like to run around a 10:10 pace, but I would have to knock a lot of time off, and I should probably focus on just finishing without injury. A 9:04 pace? That was the one time I ran a half in under two hours, and it will be my only time. I still don’t know how I pulled that off, though I remember I had to go to the bathroom most of the race, so that might have contributed to my speedy time.

As I was running my 11-miler, I listened to a podcast to occupy my mind. When I train alone, I listen to podcasts rather than music. I’ve found it keeps me more entertained, and I focus less on minor discomforts. I had chosen the “Another Mother Runner” podcast. I’ve read Sarah’s and Dimity’s books and blogs, and have followed their podcast for a long time. I enjoy their honest, down-to-earth look at running, and have learned a lot from them.

As I was running and listening, I thought about how many of their topics don’t apply to me as much since my kids are grown. They talk a lot about juggling raising kids and working in runs. I am busy with teaching and extra-curriculars, but it isn’t a big deal for me to find time to run. I find my challenges have more to do with aging at this point in my life. I wish there were a podcast for runners who share those challenges, and even considered started some type of social media group or webpage for ‘older’ female runners. I’ve seen pages for females who are mother runners, runners who went from being over-weight to fit, runners who are in phenomenal shape and share workouts and nutrition information – everything but over-50 females who are now facing empty nests, menopause, grandkids, and aging parents.

So where do I go from here? I don’t know how to start a podcast, and don’t know that I have time to add something else to my schedule, but I’d consider it. I could start a Facebook group, but how do I get others interested? This blog is already up and running; I just need to write more often. I’ve been writing, but not for the blog. If you are a middle-aged female runner, share your thoughts. What would you like to see? What type of format would you be most likely to follow? Please share this with your friends, and let’s get the conversation started. How can we best reach and encourage middle-aged women who run?

The 500 Mini is in less than two weeks. No matter the outcome, I plan to have a fantastic weekend. My husband and I are going to Indy the day before, staying in one of the best hotels in downtown Indy, and we have tickets for Wicked for that night. I want to enjoy the moments without worrying about the finish. I want to take in the views and admire each step as we run around the 500 track. I want to embrace that I have legs that will carry me 13.1 miles.

Again, please give me your feedback, and share this post. Thanks for reading!

The Thing About Middle Age…

For some reason, middle age has been nagging at me.  I have no idea why.  I am certainly not middle-aged.  That’s what I thought anyway.  And then a couple years ago, my husband said something to me about being middle-aged, and I was highly insulted.  Because I had already embarked on my forties, my husband asked me the logical question:  Just how long do you expect to live?  Hmmm….He had a point.  I just don’t feel like I am in mid-life yet.  I am healthier and in better shape than I have ever been.  I still like to stay active.   I guess I always pictured middle age according to the previous generation’s version of middle age.

When my mother was in her forties and fifties, she just didn’t seem to have much fun.  She spent her days cleaning (every single centimeter of our house – not a dustball in sight), and (despite hating it) feeding her family. She was fortunate that she did not have to work outside the home, but I also think that for her, that wasn’t necessarily best for her.  She might have been happier had she gotten out amongst people.  She didn’t do a lot with my sister, brother, or me.  She rarely attended my sporting events or band contests.  I love my mother, but, Lord, she was boring.  I don’t want to be boring.  I will try just about anything – except rides that spin.  That would make me puke.

Now my  <older> friends are beginning to turn 50…50?  When I was in my twenties, I thought 50 was old.  Now I look around at those embracing mid-life, and I am so impressed.  Our generation is in the gym, both taking advantage of classes, and leading groups and teaching classes.  We’re out running 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, and marathons.  We’re biking an incredible number of miles, swimming, and dancing.  Most of my friends are also in the best shape of their lives.  My friend Debbie just turned 50.  Over the past year I have observed as she has worked her tail off to get in shape and lose weight.  She looks absolutely incredible.  She has always been beautiful, but now she has confidence, and radiates grace and contentment.  She not only rocks the classes at the gym, but she is also a runner!   What an inspiration.

My friend Jackie will turn 50 in January.  She has been one of my running partners and best friends for years.  She, too, is in amazing shape, and one would never suspect her being near 50.   She is a strong runner, who usually drags her sister and me along, and we are both younger.  She is setting such a great example for her sons by showing them that she is worth the time she takes to be healthy.  Our kids might not buy into this yet, but someday they most certainly will.

I have also seen a few people who are around my age who seem to be caught in their parents’ mindset.  They move slowly, avoid much activity, and just seem older than their years.  I suppose that is the life they choose, and it’s their business, but it makes me sad.  We only have one shot at this life; I don’t want to waste it being unhappy or boring.  In all I do, I try to live without regrets.  When I am at the end of my days, I want to bask in the memories of all I did, not regret all I didn’t do becauses I thought I was too old.

As for me, if someone had told me even five years ago that I would be able to run over 13 miles, I would have cackled.  And teach fitness classes?  Heck, no.  I didn’t even like to exercise.  Don’t get me wrong; I was never lazy.  I ran a business with my good friend while raising three daughters, and then returned to college full-time, while still working.  During my thirties I earned a bachelor’s degree, changed careers, and got remarried.  In my early forties I earned my master’s degree (and stayed married).  Exercise never fit into that schedule.  I did well to shower daily and make sure the kids were fed.  Take time for myself?  There was none to spare.  I couldn’t even pee without a little girl’s voice screeching, “MOM!”

Then the girls got old enough to stay by themselves, and I began to take some time for myself.  What began as wanting to get some exercise and lose a little weight, became a whole new life.  As I was driving to the gym last night, I thought about how much time I would have if I didn’t exercise.  Seriously.  We do some type of workout five to six nights a week.  Last night we were at the gym from 6:00 until 9:00.  And I loved every second of it.  I was with my husband and daughter; I was with my friends; and I was working my butt off.  I am sore today, but as I tell my friends, it’s a good sore.  I don’t want to imagine my life without exercise.  It is a part of the middle-aged me, and I rather like that part.

Middle age?  It’s what you make of it.  As far as I am concerned, these are the best years of my life.  I love the relationships I have with the girls; I love being a nana; I love my marriage to a pretty terrific man, and I love the person I have become.  I am comfortable enough in my skin that when someone speaks badly of me (imagine that!), I can let it go (okay, sometimes I dwell on it, but I eventually let it go), and I know what I stand for and whom I want to spend my time with.  I know now that the trials in my life have made me a stronger person, as well as given me more compassion toward those going through their own trials.  I am not afraid to take risks, knowing that sometimes I will fail.  I know it’s okay to fail.  Am I perfect?  No way.  Far from it.  I make mistakes (almost daily), and I make bad decisions.  I am – and always will be – a work in progress.  If we stop growing, we stop living.  Why would I want to do that?

Of course, middle age brings some friends:  gray hair (that’s what hair color is for), wrinkles (earned every one of them), saggy skin (no amount of exercise can make my skin look good during a plank.  When in a plank position, don’t EVER look at your legs or belly.), aches (Ibuprofen in bulk), hot flashes (avoided those thus far), and out-of-control eyebrows (no one bothered to warm me about those).  It’s part of the process, so there is no sense getting my panties in a wad over them.  The only alternative to aging is dying, and I surely am not ready to check out just yet.  I have more races to run….more Zumba to teach….more friends  to make….more kids to teach………more life to live!  Now get out their and live yours!  What have you always wanted to do?  Do it!  Live with no regrets.