102 Miles

Dear Body,

Thank you for putting up with me through thick and thin, through fast and slow, through pain and injury and self-doubt. Thank you for totally killing it this month. You are the best!

Love, me.

Goal: Run 100+ miles in a month. Results: Killing it!

Goal: Run 100+ miles in a month. Results: Killing it!

Runner Down!

I took a fairly bad tumble this week on mile 2 of an 11 mile run. I think it is funny when people ask me how I fell, since I can easily trip on any flat surface. In this instance I was distracted by a leaking water bottle (I wear small flasks on a belt)  and I was trying to figure out why when I tripped and went down hard.

Small scrapes and bruises, but no real injuries. Very lucky for me!

In addition to knocking the wind out of me, I scraped up both palms and my left knee, jammed two fingers, bruised my chin, and managed (somehow) to get what looks like a rope burn on my left shoulder. I’m thinking the rope burn was caused somehow by my sports-bra, but I’m not sure. It could have been much worse. None of the scrapes were deep, blood was minimal, and within a few minutes I was up and running again. I ran 9 more miles, so I couldn’t be too badly injured.

Normally I do my long runs on Sunday because that is the day I have very little else to do, comparatively speaking. However, this week I’m leaving for a business trip on Sunday so I decided to do my long run on Friday. My sister was having a birthday dinner at her house. According to Google she lives 11.2 miles away, so I thought that would make a great destination. This would be my longest run yet – two miles further than my previous record.

runningI like the idea of running to a destination, especially for long runs.  When I run a course or a there-and-back run, I always struggle on the “back” part. Running to someplace is infinitely easier than running back. I thought that running to a party had infinite appeal – Something that would carry me through the final few miles. I had arranged for my mother to bring a change of clothes, packed my utility belt with emergency cash, water and gummy bears, put on my wireless headphones, and hit the road.

And when I say “hit” the road….This was one of those life experiences where you get to see the kindness of strangers. I was on a major local street when I fell and, surprisingly,  three cars stopped immediately to help me out:

  • “I can call the police” the soccer mom in a mini-van full of kids offered. “Please don’t” I replied, completely embarrassed.
  • “Don’t be alarmed, but I think you hit your head badly,” said the older gentleman who got out of his car. “I think we need to get you to a hospital.” I assured him I hadn’t hit my head – the red mark on my forehead is a birthmark and not a sign of concussion.
  • The pretty college-aged girl just offered her hand to help me up off the ground and looked worried.

fallI assured my good-samaritans that I was not badly hurt and that despite the growing collection of bruises and scrapes, I had every intention of finishing my run.  I surprised myself by how little time I spent making that decision.  I was close to home (relatively speaking) and I’m sure soccer mom would have given me a lift if I needed it. Old guy wanted to bring me to the emergency room. If I had been seriously hurt I would have done just that, but just a few scrapes? No way! I wanted to finish my run.

I took it nice and slow for about a quarter mile, making sure everything was working the way it was supposed to and then kicked back up to me regular long-run pace. Getting up and finishing my run was empowering. Anytime I felt like slowing down or taking a walk break, I thought about falling and getting up again. I don’t think I ever felt more like a real runner.

My Plan Is Not For You

magic_pill

A few weeks back I wrote about (among other things) that people are always asking me about my weight loss. Most of the time I don’t want to talk about what I eat or my exercise program because I feel like people think there is a magic pill and that I’m keeping it a big secret.

If I do actually get into a conversation with someone (a close friend or someone who is obviously in pain and self-doubt) I usually try to steer back to my core beliefs about addiction and self-love. But it rarely goes well:

  • First, they just want to talk about the changes in habit, not the changes in mind.
  • Second, everything I tell them seems to require some type of argument or excuse.

Here are a few examples:

What I say… What they say… What I think…
I don’t eat (wheat, sugar, preservatives, etc.) My doctor told me to eat… or, I have this important dietary reason I can’t eat what you eat…  So talk to your doctor, not me!
I eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day I would get bored and give up after 1 week or I don’t like that thing you eat (yogurt, almonds, brown rice, black beans, etc.) I really don’t care what you eat.
I run several times a week I can’t run because of this important physical issue, or I can’t stand running.  Did I ask you to run? Find your own fun.
I use my fitbit to track my steps daily My phone has an app that works better than your fitbit. But it hasn’t changed my habits.  Ummm…..Why are we having this conversation?

There is a sexiness to this one, that isn't overt. Just enough...

It doesn’t matter how many times I say, “This works for me and my body but may not have an impact on you or your body.” It doesn’t matter when I say, “You absolutely should talk to your doctor about what may or may not work for your special physical or health issue.”  And it really, really doesn’t matter how many times I say, “For me it’s about never being on a diet again and just finding a way to be healthy and whole.”

There is no formula. I haven’t invented the next fad diet. I don’t want to convince others to do what I’m doing. And I’m certainly not judging what you are eating or if/how you are working out. I found a way to balance my life and feel strong and beautiful and whole.  You can find it too, but not by looking at me.

No “Rest Days” for the Wicked

minionTo prepare for my upcoming half-marathon I’m following a training program from mapmyrun.com (my favorite app/site for running). It tells me how far to run, which days to take an easy run, which days to work on pace, etc. It also tells me which days are “rest days.” Oddly enough, when the program tells me to run 6, 7, or 8 miles I’m fine. It’s the “rest” I’m having trouble with.

It’s not that I run every day. On a good week I get in 5 runs, but most weeks I average 4. Generally speaking, though, my reasons for not running have to do with living an actual life: Work obligations, family responsibility, social engagements, etc. The app is somewhat flexible in that it lets me re-organize my week so that I can coordinate rest days with life events and everything is fine. But what happens when I have a rest day on a day when I have nothing better to do?

Charliebrown-1-

I’m really not good at resting, even when it is for my own good.  Rest days are important because they prevent injury and enables your immune system to repair muscles and joints. I know I can do other things: walk, yoga, swim… but all I keep thinking is, “I should be running.” And sometimes I do run on my rest days – even though I know better.

rest dayI’m smart enough to recognize that my body wants to rest. Too many days of running with no breaks makes my muscles tighter and I actually run slower. But inside I feel badly about not running: Like I’m lazy. Like I’m goofing off. Like I’m back-sliding. As if one day of rest is going to undo my months of training. (Actually research shows that it takes about two-weeks of not training to impact fitness and performance)

I know this is ridiculous. Even as I type the words I’m thinking, you are being ridiculous. But there you have it. It is just one more way I sabotage myself. So here I am really, definitely, positively not running today. Probably.

Wow, You Look So “Not Fat”

ambivalentOver the past few weeks I’ve had reasons to see people I haven’t seen in a long while, including some work colleagues from other parts of the country that I only see once or twice a year, a long-time friend who lives in another state, and someone I used to go to school with and haven’t seen in years. At each event I’m greeted with the shocked-surprised comment about my looks and I’m surprisingly ambivalent about it. Sure it is great when someone sees you and says, “Wow, you look fantastic!”

Except there’s a subtext. What I actually hear is, “Wow, you look not-fat!” When the comments come from most men or thin women, they usually follow-up by repeating the sentiment in different words so that I know it isn’t a platitude, but that they really, truly mean it. When the comments come from women who struggle with weight (and occasionally men who struggle) the follow-up is always “How did you do it?” Both sets of comments make me uneasy but it is the latter that makes me the most uncomfortable.

On a scale of 1 to Four Weddings and a Funeral, how uncomfortable do you feel?

On a scale of 1 to Four Weddings and a Funeral, how uncomfortable do you feel?

Here’s the thing: losing weight wasn’t the goal so much as the by-product. I wanted to get away from my food addiction, feel better and stronger, and get healthier. I felt older than my years and tired all the time. That was my original motivation anyway. As time went on I learned more about loving myself and my body and caring for myself. I focused on feeding my body the nutrients it needed, exercising for fun, and being gentle with myself. I try to be my own best friend instead of my own worst enemy. I’m breaking a lifetime of bad habits.

And along the way I lost about 90 lbs. It came off very slowly and at a certain point I stopped losing. (I suspect there is a correlation to running very long distances, but it could be that I’ve achieved my correct natural weight). I’ve been hovering around the same five pounds for the last six months, not gaining and not losing (a heretofore unknown phenomenon) and I’m happier than I’ve ever been, not because I weigh a certain amount but because I don’t really care what I weigh. So how do I respond to the unsolicited comments?

I usually try for a simple “thank you, I feel good,” (move along people, nothing to see) and some of the time that is enough, but most of that time my compliment-er doesn’t want the conversation to end there. How did you do it? is a whole, long conversation. If I’m dealing with an acquaintance, I usually stick with something like “healthy eating and exercise” which has the advantage of shutting down he conversation, but makes me feel like I’m feeding into the system of body policing – as if the goal to be thin is understood and accepted by all. If I don’t speak out, I’m part of the problem, aren’t I?

dear dietSometimes I say, “I gave up dieting and started focusing on self-acceptance,” which has the benefit of being truer, but almost always launches a much longer conversation than I really want to get into. I’ve told a few close friends, “If you want to know more you should read my blog,” and a few have, but most are really looking for easy answers about what I’m eating and how frequently I’m exercising.

I think I look great because I’m happy. I smile more. I get more sleep. I worry less. I still have lines and wrinkles and varicose veins (when did they show up??) and bunches of fat around my belly, but I feel strong and empowered and whole. So why, then do comments about how good I look invariably make me feel that it is just because I’m not-so-fat anymore and (for now) am fitting into what is “normal” and “acceptable.” And why does that make me feel so uncomfortable?