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!


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!


Every once in awhile…

…I have one of those runs. It isn’t particularly fast or incredibly long, rather it makes me appreciate my body’s ability to just get outside and run. Today I set out to run six miles. While that typically isn’t a big deal, today was also my 49th day straight of running, and I had run hard at a 5k yesterday, so my legs were tired. I haven’t run six miles since I embarked on this summer running streak; I wasn’t sure I could do it.

I should have gotten up at dawn and taken off before the Southern Indiana humidity engulfed the streets making it difficult to breathe. I didn’t. I slept in, which these days means I was in bed until 7:15 (that’s my momma coming out). I was in town by 8:00 ready to run. Because I had run a race yesterday, and I actually ran kind of fast (8:55 pace), I didn’t plan to worry about my pace today. I just wanted the mileage. I put on my running playlist, hit the Runkeeper app, and took off. Usually my first mile sucks. This morning, it wasn’t too bad. I kept a slower pace, embraced the sunshine, and tried to get lost in my thoughts.

I made it through to the four mile mark without incident, and found myself at the entrance to the river greenway. I decided to run down the greenway and back because that would be my last two miles, and I could walk back to my car, which was about 3/4 mile away. One mistake I had made was not taking water. Usually if I go for a longer run on a hot day, I take a bottle along, but this morning I didn’t even think about it. There is a fountain at the end of the greenway, so I stopped for a quick drink before finishing the last mile. The last mile. That’s when I had that running moment that I value so very much. 

As I was running along the greenway with the Mighty Ohio River on my left, I looked down at the boat ramp. There were two men fishing, and they had a dog with them. The dog was playing in the water, right at the river’s edge. I don’t know why, but it was just a beautiful moment. I then looked out at the vast river, and was reminded of how fortunate we are to live in such a quaint community along this beautiful body of water. I run along the river so often that I take it for granted. As I continued to run, I noticed large birds gliding above, and a small bird perched atop the floodwall. I thanked God for putting these beautiful creatures along my path. A little further along, I peered out toward the river, and there was a barge making it’s way upriver. An American flag held its position on top of the tugboat. The barge truly is a symbol of an American way of life, and I was taken by its simple beauty and strength. After a short distance, I had finished my six miles. The last mile was my favorite, reminding me why I love running. 

Running makes me not only appreciate my health and determination, but also my surroundings. We all live such busy lives, and are always worried about getting to our destinations, whether it’s a kids’ baseball game, band competition, practice, work, the grocery store…you get the idea. We don’t even notice the uniqueness of our own neighborhoods or towns. When I run, I notice. I see homes being remodeled, kids playing with friends, animals dodging traffic, and the beauty of the moment. We always make it a point to run when we are on vacation or away for work. It is the best way to ‘tour’ a new place because I have time to take notice of more than when we drive by. I have run in Chicago, Virginia Beach, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, and Indianapolis, to name a few. I can’t really say which was my favorite because each holds special memories and unique qualities. 

Get out and explore. Notice the beauty around you and appreciate the little things like lovely trees, small critters, and laughing children. You don’t have to run; just go for a walk or ride your bike. Maybe you’ll have that special moment, too. 


Rainy Night Thoughts

It’s rainy and I am home alone, so it’s the perfect night to blog (even though I have nothing specific on my mind, so prepare for a bunch of random thoughts). I am still in recovery mode, but not from a big race; I am recovering from our eighth grade class trip to Washington, DC. We left last Thursday at 5:30 pm, traveled all night on a bus, and spent three full days and evenings seeing everything we could possibly squeeze in. We then loaded the buses at 10:00 pm Sunday, and arrived home at 10:30 Monday morning. We had a fantastic trip; our 80 students were incredible. I hope they all realize how fortunate they are to have had that opportunity.

So, for those days, my exercise was walking. Kelly, my friend, DC roomie, and coworker, wore her Garmin (she is also a runner), and we walked over four miles Friday, and that doesn’t include the walking we did indoors at four different museums. On Saturday we walked over six miles. I didn’t get the count for Sunday, but that was the day we went to Arlington National Cemetery, so there was a lot of walking, and it was hilly. Usually when I stay in a hotel, I try to hit the workout room, but after waking up before 6:00, touring all day, and returning to the hotel at 9:30 at night (and we still had to monitor halls while the kids were up), I was absolutely beat. I also planned to run Monday afternoon after I had napped. That didn’t happen. I was exhausted, so I skipped the run. And I skipped running on Tuesday. Yup…I was still tired. 

Today, I had no choice but to go to the gym. I am the instructor; I had to go. I taught a HIIT class this morning, and again, had planned to run two or three miles afterward. That didn’t happen. Perhaps I would run tonight. Nope. I found all kinds of excuses: it’s raining; I don’t want to run on the treadmill; I have laundry to do; I’m still tired. Tomorrow morning I teach two Tabata classes, so I will get a good hour of high intensity intervals in. Saturday I WILL RUN. I have to get back into a routine, and I have to stop making excuses.

Considering how difficult it can be to make myself run or workout, why do I even try? What motivates me to stay fit? I do it for so many reasons; I will attempt to explain.

First, why did I even start exercising? My father died of a heart attack when he was 42; I was seven. When I was 41, I began dreading my birthday. I didn’t think I was going to die, but all I had ever associated with the number 42 was my father’s death. At that point in my life, I didn’t exercise at all, and it was beginning to show. I was completely out of shape, and gaining weight. My husband knew that I was becoming depressed, and (in the kindest way) told me I needed to get a grip or get help. We both decided to exercise, and our sport of choice was running because several of our friends were runners. We also thought it would be inexpensive, which has proven to be a false assumption. We started out just trying to get to one mile, which seemed to take forever. Since 2009, we have run countless 5Ks, a few 10Ks, several half marathons, and Gary has run two marathons. We have both become instructors at Everbody’s Fitness, and have helped others on their fitness journeys. That brings me to the next reason I continue…

Once one puts it out there, whether it’s on Facebook, a blog, an ebook, or in conversation, she is committed to sticking with it. People know that I run and workout, so they ask about it. I can’t imagine saying I quit. People depend on me to encourage, teach, and share. If I didn’t teach early morning classes, I can just about guarantee my butt would stay in bed on those cold winter mornings and those rainy spring days. Knowing my friends are waiting for me motivates me to get up as soon as the alarm sounds. Once I am at the gym, I am always glad to be there. 

Friends…nearly all of our friends either run or workout. My best friends are all runners; we just understand one another. We speak the same language, keep secrets, know we can depend on one another, and love one another. On a run, people tend to open up. We talk about topics that are taboo in our other circles of friends. If I don’t run for a few days, and I see my friends posts about their runs, I know that I need to get out and get moving. When I begin to doubt myself, I know that one of my friends will step up and encourage me, or give me a kick in the rear. 

Confidence. Talk to any runner who got a late start, and I would bet she would tell you that since beginning to run, she has gained confidence in all areas of her life. I know that if I can set a goal, such as running a half marathon after knee surgery, train properly, and achieve that goal (especially at my age), I can also accomplish goals in other areas of my life. 

My body. I have never been proud of my body. Honestly, I always thought about what I wanted to change. I wanted to be taller [in DC, the girls in my group had trouble finding me because they thought I was one of the kids]; I wanted to get rid of my freckles; I wanted to be more shapely; I wanted different hair. Now that I know my legs can carry me over 13 miles in a race, my lungs can support my running, and my heart continues to be strong, I appreciate my body. Is it perfect? Heavens no. But now I appreciate the fact that I don’t have to invest in expensive sport bras; the cheapos do just fine. ‘Nough said. I appreciate that although my legs are short, they can run. Now that I have been doing Tabata for several months, I appreciate that my arms have a little definition (not Michelle Obama arms, but better than they were), and I can easily bust out squats and burpees. For a nana, that isn’t too bad!

My family…Gosh, I love my family. Gary and I are blessed with five incredible kids (38, 35, 25, 22, and 17), and five energetic grandkids (13, 10, 7, 2, 5 months). I want to show them that age is truly just a number. I want them to see that one is never too old to set goals or to challenge her body. I want them to be proud of me, and I think they are. I hope that we are setting a positive example, and that they will always go after their goals. I hope they will always be willing to work hard for what they want. I want to play with my grandkids and be around to see them all marry. My father wasn’t there when I graduated, married, had children, or earned my degrees. I don’t want my daughters to feel that loss when they go through important life events. I want to stick around. 

It makes me happy. Really. As much as working out improves my physical state, it also improves my mental state. I can be in the worst of moods, go out for a run, and come home with a whole new perspective. Sometimes the smallest thing can change my mood when I am running: a student yelling, “Hi, Mrs. Stath!”, an animal that crosses my path (except a skunk – that just annoys me), flowers, or a wave from someone I haven’t seen for some time. 

Running makes me feel strong. Don’t get me wrong – some runs suck. Sometimes I feel like I am going to puke. Sometimes I think I need to find a new hobby. But much of the time, even if it isn’t the best run, I feel awesome when I finish, simply because I can finish. I can do something the majority of the population can’t do, and that feels really good. I thank God for my health and for the ability to workout. I know of far too many people battling illness or injury who cannot walk five miles, let alone run that far. I appreciate what my body can do, and I don’t take it for granted. It won’t last forever, so I will value each and every day that I can get out there. 

I run for me. I see so many parents who live their lives through their children. I love my children immensely, but I also want to have my own life. I want to accomplish my own goals. I have seen parents so wrapped up in their kids achievements, that they act like crazy people. I am proud of my kids, enjoy their activities, cheer when they’re successful, and wipe tears when they’re not. But I recognize that there is always tomorrow, and they need to also experience failure in order to appreciate success. They need to understand that sometimes life isn’t fair. They need to know how to stand up for themselves, and that Momma isn’t going to make everything alright. They don’t have to win in order for ME to feel successful. I have my own ‘stuff’. 

Gosh, now that I have written all that, I want to go out and run! What makes you feel good? Confident? Proud? What do YOU do that you’re proud of? 



Staying Motivated

In my previous post, if made the analogy that running a big race, such as a half marathon, is much like Christmas. Runners spend months planning, purchasing gear, and anticipating their big day. The day comes, and with any luck, lives up to the hype, and then in a couple hours, it’s all over. It can be somewhat of a letdown. The anticipation is half the fun. I am now ten days post-race, and wondering what’s next. I might do a couple of shorter races in the coming months, but my next big goal is the Women Rock Chicago Half Marathon in September. I still need lots of work on my endurance and speed, so this summer I have my work cut out. Hills. Lots of hills. Knowing my next big race is along Lake Michigan will be an awesome motivator. That, my friends, is one of my very favorite places.

I am part of a women’s running group on Facebook; there are about 12,000 members, so there are always posts. Some are motivational; some are questions; and some are from women who need to vent and can’t do it on their personal pages. I have been surprised by the number of women who have begun running or just trying to get in shape, and feel no support from their friends. Many have had friends post negative comments about their running or fitness endeavors. While I am sure there are those who get tired of running and fitness posts, I have never had anyone post negative comments, and have actually had the opposite: I feel very motivated by the encouragement I have received. It has made me so grateful for my family and friends. I feel that we should all be supportive of one another, no matter what our pursuits. I really don’t understand why anyone would be critical of a friend – Facebook friend or otherwise – who wants to get healthier. Shouldn’t we celebrate that?

Which leads me to my job as a fitness instructor. I started as a Zumba instructor, but now teach Tabata Bootcamp and HIIT. If anyone had told me a few years ago that I’d get my lazy butt out of bed at 4:30 AM and drive to the gym to teach classes, I would have busted a gut laughing. I am not a morning person. But here I am, teaching five early-morning classes a week. So, why do I do it? Several reasons come to mind. I get a great workout in to start my day. Every person who is there wants to be in my class (unlike the 8th grade language arts students I teach all day! Believe it or not, some teens don’t like language arts). But the most important reasons is the joy – and I mean pure joy- I get seeing people struggle and drip with sweat. Just kidding! I love seeing people do things they never thought they’d be able to do. I love seeing the pride on their faces when they’ve held a plank for just a little longer, or when they’ve done one more push-up. I hate when they are discouraged, but love how they still come back. I love having a small part in their getting healthier and stronger. I love challenging participants, and having them tackle that challenge. Being a fitness instructor, in my opinion, doesn’t mean I am perfectly fit and strong (far from it), or that the workouts are easy for me. I often struggle right along with my classes, and I let them know I think it’s difficult, too. I am no better than they are; some are much stronger than I. But I will do my very best to keep class challenging, interesting, and fun. Yes, fun. We might have to adjust our connotation of fun, but working out can be fun!

What do you want to do to improve your life? Do you need to work on fitness? Do you need to spend more time with family? Do you want to learn a new craft? Write a blog? Meditate? Pray? Study the Bible? Do it. Don’t let life pass you by; live it now. And support your friends and family in their dreams. If you know someone is trying something new or working to lose weight, encourage him or her. Your words are powerful. Choose them wisely.

Running and Being a Kid…

Kassie Jackie Me

My mind works in mysterious ways.  I can jump between subjects in a conversation faster than my listener can keep up.  In my head, I have gone from one thing to another, and it makes perfect sense.  To the average listener (or my husband), I am sure what comes out of my mouth seems completely random.  That’s how my mind was working last night.

The two ladies pictured with me are my very best friends, Jackie and Kassi.  We grew up three houses from one another (Jack and Kass are sisters), and have been through all the ups and downs of life together the past 35 years.  Wow.  35 years.   That’s a long time to maintain a friendship – how very blessed we are!

When I began this running journey, Jackie decided to join me.  Together we pushed beyond what we thought were our limits.  Together we crossed the finish line of our first half marathon holding hands.  Once we began building mileage, and our love affair with running began to be noticed by others, Kassi took up running.  She quickly built her endurance and speed, and the threesome was begun.  Where we used to run the streets of Tell City as obnoxious teens, we were now running as fit and not-so-obnoxious moms.  Our favorite and most sacred run was our Wednesday Night Religion Run.  Kassi’s and Jackie’s kids had religion every Wednesday night, so they had a free hour to run.  We met at St. Paul Church, and managed four to six miles.  We have run in bitter cold and sleet; we have run in rain; we have run in blistering heat.  There wasn’t much we let get in the  way of our ritual run.  When I was asked to join the church choir, and I said I couldn’t because I run on Wednesday nights when they practice, I was asked why I couldn’t just run another night.  Sorry, Wednesday Night Religion Run is a priority, and God understands because the word ‘religion’ is in the name of that particular run.

Because of my knee issues and eventual surgery, I had not been able to run on Wednesdays since late March or early April.  I desperately missed my friends.  On those runs we have laughed at our own stupid jokes (we get each other’s humor), and we have cried because of some trial one of us was facing.  We have almost gotten hit by cars, and we have cheered for ourselves at the end of a great run.  We have walked when one of us is tired or hurting, and we have sprinted when Jackie commands us to finish strong.  We talk about our kids, our loves, our jobs, our poop, our snot, and other not-to-be-blogged-about topics.  Do you understand why I would miss these runs?  Why I did not want to give them up?  But I had to heal.  I couldn’t keep up.

I began running again about three weeks ago.  I started out running a slow mile.  The next week I ran two and then three miles.  Last week I ran four miles, and finally on Sunday I ran five miles.  After thinking I was going to be starting from scratch, being able to run five miles was an absolute thrill.  Tuesday I took off for a run after school, and it was my first pain-free run in nearly a year.  I could feel the runner in me emerging, and she was ready!  I texted Jackie and Kassi, and told them I was ready for Wednesday.   On Wednesday, October 23, I ran the Wednesday Night Religion Run with my friends.  It felt amazing, and by that I don’t so much mean the run; I mean just being with my friends and talking and laughing.  I know I am not completely healed, and will have to be careful to not push too hard, but I now have hope that my running life will resume, and I will once again be running the streets of our fair town with my friends.

Here’s where the random thoughts run amok….I was driving home from my run, all giddy and emotional, and I thought about Kass and Jack.  I thought about how we get to reminisce about our childhood.  We played outside all through junior high and high school.  We played hide and seek in our neighborhood until we graduated, and we rode bikes, and did a few things we shouldn’t have done (that’s on the not-to-be-blogged-about list).  In the summer we sat in Kassi’s and Jackie’s backyard with Sun-In in our hair (or lemon juice), playing Scrabble.  On snow days we played Monopoly and watched movies or found a vacant hill upon which to sled.   Jackie taught Kassi and me how to drive (I was apparently a better student because Kassi was always running into something).  Kassi and I ate popcorn and watched the Love Boat on Saturday nights.  We got all of the neighborhood kids together and played truth or dare, or we just sat outside and threw rocks at the bats by the street lights (which doesn’t seem very smart now).  Thinking about all of this on my drive home, led me to wonder what today’s kids will store in their memories.  How many teens do you see ‘playing’ outside?  They are so wrapped up in video games and computers that I wonder what memories they will share with their friends?  I find that sad.   We had such a fun neighborhood, and most of us are still friends today.   That’s where my thoughts stopped – just wondering about kids today.  I hope they are making worthwhile memories and taking advantage of their young, healthy bodies.   I hope their only memories aren’t of avatars and shooting and stealing cars on some stupid video game.  I hope they can sit down and have an actual conversation with their friends and not purely rely on text messages.

And you?  You’re not too old to continue making wonderful memories with your friends and family.  Get out and do something with them.  Go for a hike and enjoy the beautiful fall foliage.  Play kickball or shoot hoops.  Step away from the TV and computer and really live.  You only have one shot at life; make it memorable!

Peace and Love…

This photo has nothing to do with my blog, except that he is my gorgeous grandson, and I plan to make lots of memories with him!

This photo has nothing to do with my blog, except that he is my gorgeous grandson, and I plan to make lots of memories with him!

I Ran Today…

…and I mean really ran!  The last time I blogged, which was not long ago, I was running a slow mile.  Today I ran five miles, without walking, at a 10:07 pace!!  I was pretty much to the point that I regretted my surgery, and felt I’d never be able to run again.  I just couldn’t accept that, so I kept plugging along.  That first week, I ran twice, a mile both times.  I was happy to do anything, but longed to run farther.

Last weekend my family was in Lake Tahoe, which just so happens to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  The lake is just incredible, and the mountains and trees make a perfect backdrop.  The homes are all made of cedar or stone, and fit right into the landscape, and the air is crisp and clear.  And the one thing I wanted to do while we were in Tahoe was run.  Whenever I travel, I love to go out for a run because it’s such a great way to experience new places.  We miss so much when we just drive through new areas.  When we get out and run, we can take time to take in our surroundings, smell the fresh air, and embrace the opportunity to just be in the moment.  Because my knee still hurt and I hadn’t done any substantial running, I was afraid I would be unable to run while we were gone, but I was certainly going to try!

Friday morning Gary and I got up well before the crack of dawn to head out on a run.  It was 21 degrees – a brisk morning to say the least.   We had packed our cold-weather running gear, so we suited up and headed out.  It was dark, but we took off toward the lake.  As we were running along the main road that runs alongside Lake Tahoe, the sun began to emerge over the mountains.  Ahhhh….those are the moments I absolutely love.  We stopped to peer out over the lake, take in the scenery, and just thank God for the chance to experience his handiwork.  That morning, with my husband nearby, I ran just over two miles for the first time in months.  I ran those miles in Lake Tahoe.

The next morning, Gary was going to play golf with his son, so I planned to run on my own.  I waited until it was light, and took off along the same route.  This time, the sun glistened on the lake, and the snow-capped mountains shone in the background.  I was in awe.  I looked at the detail in the homes I passed, enjoyed the magnificent pine trees that claim this land as their own, and breathed in the cold, clean Tahoe air.  I didn’t run fast; I was really too busy taking in the beauty.  And there is the little issue with elevation.  I didn’t notice it being too much of an issue, but when we got back to Indiana, I noticed it was easier to breathe while running.  That morning, I ran three miles.  Three beautiful miles.  My knee was pretty sore when I stopped, but I really didn’t care.  I had run in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  What’s a little pain?

When I returned to Indiana, I wanted to be sure to continue to run.  I went out alone Wednesday after school.  My knee hurt.  A lot.  And I was angry.  I cursed as I limped along, and felt that I had, once again, taken several steps back.  I am not sure how far I ran that day, but I think it was between two and three miles.  Friday I tried it again.  My sister/friend Jackie was free, and I was determined to run with her.  We went out and ran four miles, with a bit of walking in between.  I cannot begin to express how wonderful it was to be back out pounding the pavement with my friend.   As much as I’ve missed running, I’ve missed my running friends even more.  I love these ladies, and life just didn’t seem right when I didn’t see them regularly.

Today, Sunday, was a picture-perfect running day.  By afternoon, it was in the 60s, and the sun was beckoning me to get out there and soak up its rays.  I went out with no real plan.  I had hoped to be able to run at least three miles, but I really just wanted to run and enjoy the day.  I had eaten two pieces of gooey butter cake and drank two diet soft drinks, which can often be a recipe for disaster (or at least stomach issues).  I put on my favorite playlist and my new shoes (Did I mention I bought myself some gorgeous new Asics?  New shoes can be very motivating.), and took off on one of my favorite routes.  My knee didn’t feel great, but when the little voice in my phone informed me that I had hit the first mile, and I had run it in 10:03, I just knew it was going to be a good day.  I began to tire in the third mile (I found I got out of running shape really fast), but I wanted to get to at least three miles without walking.  Once I got there, I decided to try to get to four miles without walking. I hadn’t yet done that, and knew it would be another major post-surgery accomplishment.  I was just about to the turn-off for four miles, when I decided to keep going.  I knew I could always stop and walk should it be necessary, so why not?  It was such a great day, and no one was home, so I had the time.  I kept going, and when I realized I could make it to five miles, I was ecstatic – almost to the point of tears.  Today, I ran five miles without stopping.  Today, I knew I was back.  Today, I thanked God for helping me heal, and for giving me the drive and determination to keep trying.  It would have been very easy to give up.  When I have tried to run and my knee hurt like hell, I could have easily given up running.  But I can’t.  Running has become part of who I am.  I love pushing myself to run just a little farther.  I love the feeling of accomplishment I have when finishing a run.   I love the time with my friends when we can talk about absolutely anything, and know it’ll go no further.  I love the time alone to process my thoughts and to remember how very blessed I am.  I love the calorie burn running provides.

Another thing I love is the support of the running/fitness community.  Without all of you, I might have given up.  The running/fitness community is an amazing group that supports the very best, and encourages everyone.  We get such a natural high from our fitness endeavors, and we want to share that with anyone who will listen to us.   When Gary and I began running, I kept expecting to quit.  I always had.  I would get on an exercise kick for a few weeks, and then just quit.  The past four and a half years have changed our lives.  It isn’t an exercise kick, it’s a lifestyle change.  I cannot imagine my life without fitness.  My running has led me to become a Zumba instructor, which I love, and most recently, a Tabata Bootcamp trainer.  Through running and fitness, we have made the best friends.  I am blessed to have my incredible husband by my side through all of this, and to have such amazing friends who have never given up on me.

Did I mention I ran five miles today?

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