Steps vs walking

Literally the high point of my week.

Wednesday  was a rough day. I could have ended up with fewer than 1,000 steps. But I didn’t. I pushed myself to walk before bed. It was a hard decision. Between work and family I didn’t have 5 min to myself until about 9 pm. 

I could have justified going to bed. It was late. It was dark. It was freaking cold out. I was tired. But I went out anyway and walked until I hit 8,000 steps.  

If  I had skipped the walk that night, I’m not sure I would have gotten up early yesterday morning to do my 20 min workout (more about that later). I thought about what had motivated me in the past and one thing that worked was to get 8,000 steps no matter what. I know most people have a 10,000 step goal but I think if I had to try for 10,000 when I’m at 800. For me an 8,000 step goal is so much more attainable. 

So I did it and even though it was cold and I’m glad I did it. Every positive choice leads to another positive choice. Each negative choice gives permission for other. Festive choices. 

Having said this, getting in my steps is a stop-gap at best. It isn’t fun and if I do that every day this whole thing will unravel again. It will become a chore. 

So yesterday I made a choice to take a walk.  Unlike getting steps, taking a walk is about taking time for me. It is enjoyable. It builds me up. I chose the middle of the day, in sunshine, and at the beach. There is nothing that I enjoy more. Because of work my time was limited, but I left feeling ebullient. 

Today I tried to get my walk in, but the whole day was a disaster from beginning to end. At 6:30 pm, with a mountain of work still to wade through, I decided to walk. I have to go back to the emails and spreadsheets before bed, but squeezing in a walk while there was a smidgen of daylight seemed better then squeezing it in as midnight approaches. 

And I’m really sure that if I had skip today, I would have been undone again. 

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Goal 1: Accountability. 

Pursuant my previous post,  I can’t tackle everything at once or I risk yet another failures. So I’ve decided to pick one goal each week.  

I’m starting this week with accountability because it feels like everything stems from that. For me this means tracking: exercise, steps, food, caffeine, and sleep. I can’t see improvement if I don’t keep track. Notice I didn’t say weight, inches, or clothing size. If my goal is increased energy, those factors aren’t the right measures. 

I have a Fitbit to track steps and feel fairly comfortable using the Fitbit app to track food and exercise. (Steps and exercise are not the same IMHO). But I think I can’t ignore those other measures, so this week my goal is to figure out the best way to track. 

I’m also going to commit to weekly (or more) blog posts.  I find blogging the best way for me to (a) work out my thoughts, (b) stay accountable and, (c) boost my mood. 

Deciding Not To Run

maybite

Or burst into tears. Either/Or

Last week I was at a family function and someone asked (innocently) how my marathon training has been going.  I finally spoke the words I had been avoiding: “I’ve decided not to run this year.”  People expressed shock and support and generally tried to be helpful. Have you tried this? Have you done that? I responded with tears. I had to leave the party. I just couldn’t stop crying.

Up until that point I thought I had come to terms with the decision, but realized there was one part left: grieving.

I started noticing the pain in June.  At first it was uncomfortable, especially after a long run.  I’m increasing my  mileage, I thought — of course there is discomfort. That’s normal.

ebibinjuryBy July I was searching for answers. Between talking with other runners and self-diagnosing on the Internet I decided I had plantar fasciitis. I developed a laundry list of cures from creams, to braces, to foam rollers, to bottles of ice. I bought new shoes with expensive inserts. All of it helped a bit, but not enough.
And I kept running.

By August I tried “scaling back.” Running shorter distances. Keeping my mileage low. Taking more break days. But the pain was getting worse, and I wasn’t convinced it was plantar fasciitis andy more.  My calves were killing me, even when at rest. Sometimes my legs would seize in my sleep, waking me up.

“You’re 50 years old,” I thought. “Of course recovery is harder.” And I kept running, but the doubts were creeping in and the marathon date was looming bigger and bigger.

madrunnerAt the end of August I did a 6 mile hill run. I felt fantastic on the run, but the minute I stopped I knew I had gone too far.  For 3 days after I could barely walk. I stopped running for a week. It still hurt. After the second no-run week I  made an appointment with a doctor.

This week he delivered the news: What started as a bone spur caused a number of problems, including plantar fasciitis, pulled tendons, strained muscles, etc. By running through the pain, I had most likely altered my stride and affected everything.  The verdict:  We can likely fix this with meds, PT, & no running for at least 6 weeks.  No marathon in November, but no reason to think that we can’t get back to it at some point.

When I first had the pain, it didn’t even occur to me that not running the marathon was an option. Of course I would run. No matter what.

runinjury1The first time it occurred to me that not running was a possibility was when I couldn’t complete one of my long runs because of pain. I had missed running goals due to fatigue, illness, and general weariness, but this was different. The thought came into my head that I might be doing more damage than good by continuing my run. It was upsetting.

“What if I’m not ready by November?” I thought, but I kept the thought to myself.

Over the next few weeks the thought came back a few more times. I tried sharing it with a few people.  Most people’s responses could be summed up as “Of course you can! We have faith in you!” Others provided more advice, most of which I had already heard before. Their responses were genuinely meant as support, but I started to panic. What if I couldn’t run on faith and determination alone? What if I couldn’t will myself to finish? What if I hurt myself trying and couldn’t run again? What if….

Luckily for me, not everyone tried to blindly bolster me or fix me. My sister and my mother both heard what I was tentatively saying and actually listened. Care for your body, they told me. Don’t put one race above your love of running. They didn’t council quitting, but rather helped me look at the bigger picture. It was terrifying, heartbreaking, and necessary.

therapyYesterday I took the running magnets off the back of my car. BF didn’t understand. “But you earned them?” he protested. “Not running for a few weeks doesn’t take away what you have accomplished” Of course not, but right now it is too hard to look at them. I have to break up with running for a few weeks and looking at those bumper magnets just makes it more painful.  Instead, I need to focus on healing, on finding new ways to stay fit and active and healthy.

 

 

Selfishness Required

selfishIn the interest of full disclosure, the title of this post is intentionally “click-bait.” For me, “selfish” relates to your relationship to others (lacking consideration for others). What I’m referring to here is more about “self-care” which relates to your relationship to yourself (providing consideration for yourself).

Sometimes I lament that I didn’t get into running earlier in my life. How much better might I feel (and perform) had I figured out how to take care of myself (nutrition, exercise, empowerment) when I was in my thirties or even my twenties?

But I don’t think I could have done it then, and here is why: Taking care of myself requires a level of self-care that I didn’t possess when I was younger. I didn’t even have a concept for this.

141256472.tiagBCsKI admire women who possess this trait without abandoning their responsibilities – a very tough tightrope to walk. My sister, for example, has 4 pre-school age children (triplets no less), a full-time job as a teacher, is working on her second masters degree and still manages to run regularly and gets in date-night with her husband every week. I’m not sure what she deals with internally to get everything done, but I’m pretty sure it means making tough choices and putting herself first when necessary.

I’ve always struggled with that, frequently working myself sick trying to take care of everyone but myself. The list used to look something like this:

  • My daughter
  • My partner (when applicable)
  • My family
  • My job
  • My family
  • My family (I have a very big family, so there is always someone needing something)
  • My close friends
  • My colleagues
  • Acquaintances, strangers, random people
  • Myself

Sometimes the order changed. There were weeks where my job leapfrogged to the top of the list or when a close friend edged out a family member. What didn’t change is where I was… way, way down at the bottom. Obviously my daughter always came first, but it went so far beyond that; I needed to make sure I was there for friends, family, partners, employers. Often there was nothing left over for me.

 

oxygenBut I’m working on changing that paradigm. At this point in my life I’m willing to put myself first and invest time for myself, but I have to think about it and make a conscious decision to put my needs before others. Of course, even today if I have to choose between something for my daughter and something for me, I will still pick her every time. Luckily I’m at a stage in my life and she is at a stage in her life where I don’t have to pick very often. More than that, I’m learning to say no to family, to bosses, even to my bf, when I have to.

Part of my awareness that I needed to invest in self-care occurred because I got seriously sick. I needed to learn to say “no” just to get through that. It was very freeing, but it may have been short-lived once I got healthy. I actually think the fat-acceptance movement was a very important part of moving me to this awareness long-term.  As I started to come around to a mindset that I was worth something – in spite of being fat – I also started thinking I was worth taking care of.

Consider training for the NYC marathon. I regularly spend 12, 15, 20 hours or more a week. It isn’t just the hour or three of actual running: There is the getting ready to run and the post run recovery time. (I’ve been known to lay in bed for a few hours after a long run – don’t judge). There is the time spent posting about my runs, time spent researching running, reading about running… I’ve probably spent 20 hours researching GPS watches and I still haven’t bought one. And most of the time I feel like I’m not doing enough.

me post run

This is me, post-run. How long I lay there depends on how tough my run was and how much time I have. I always factor the post-run crash when deciding how far to run.

I’ve gotten to the point where I lie about how much time I spend running. They are small lies: “I’m going for a quick run” means I’ll see you in an hour or so. “Going for a long run” means don’t even look for me for the rest of the day. “A short run” can be up to 6 miles and “We can do it after my run” means I’ll probably be late and most likely useless when I get there. I think my BF is on to me. The last time I said “I just need to get in a run first,” he laughed and rolled his eyes. “I know what that means,” he said.

In spite of everything I’ve written here, sometimes I still feel like I’m selfish – putting my own needs above pleasing others. What I’m slowly learning to recognize is that these feelings aren’t true. It isn’t selfish to take care of myself; it’s actually healthy.

A New Year Start

happy new year2015 was a great year for me, health wise:

It may be the first time in my life that I maintained my weight (staying within 5 lbs) for a solid year. No drastic ups or downs – just clean eating (mostly) and pretty relaxed about diet.

I learned a lot about accepting my body this year. I’m appreciative of my health and not so wrapped up about my weight.

It was definitely a banner year for me in terms of meeting my fitness goals:

  • I ran over 1,000 miles (1,023.3 to be exact) and walked over 4,000,000 steps (4,361,000, but who’s counting?)
  • I completed my first half marathon in under 3 hours (2:35:58)

2015 running monthlyI have to be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to make the 1,000 miles. The last few months the only thing that got me out running was the fact that I really, really, wanted to hit the 1,000 mark. It took me until late December, but I’m so happy I did it!

My third goal for the year was to write weekly about things I’ve learned. That didn’t quite happen. I used this blog quite a bit to get ready for the half, but then life, work, and other things took precedence, and I haven’t posted since September.

In all, I only wrote  9 truths and with only 14 weeks until I turn 50, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to (or even want to) meet this goal anymore.  I am going to re-read the ones I did write, because I think it will help me get back into that head space.

The thing about meeting (or not meeting) goals is that you always have to set new ones.  I can’t just repeat my goals from a previous year. Where’s the challenge in that? So here they are, my official 2016 goals for the year:

  • Run 1,250 miles because I totally have to up the ante, and I want to commit to running at least 100 miles each month.
  • Finish a marathon in less than 6 hours which sounds both totally doable and completely insane.
  • Complete 50 hours of yoga because I see that my body needs more than just running, so this works out to about an hour a week.
  • Grow something to eatThis one is a little bit out there, and was inspired by a cool blog post (10 Food Resolutions That Don’t Involve Body Shame). I do not have a green thumb, I never grow things, and I rarely cook, but I thought this might take me out of my comfort zone a little and I like that idea quite a bit.

So there you are! What are your goals for 2016?

Be accountable.

31 weeksGoals are important, but unless you are accountable to those goals, they may not mean much. Writing down your goals makes them more real than just thinking about them. Sharing your goals with others is even better.

mapmyrun

There is no way I would ever be able to run 1,000 miles this year if I didn’t keep up with this blog.

I have several levels of accountability when it comes to my lifestyle changes. Probably the most important is this blog (and to a smaller extent my twitter account ). I don’t have an extremely high readership by any stretch, but once I post something, it becomes real to me. Sometimes I backtrack on what I write (yes, I made up with peanut butter) but the act of writing makes me more thoughtful on what I commit to.

Tracking is another great tool for me. I use Fitbit® and mapmyrun to track my daily, weekly, and yearly progress. I may want to skip a run or just stay in bed for a week, but just looking at my own numbers keeps me moving. For example, my daily step goal is 8k steps and many nights I’ve looked to see only 5k, 6k, or even 7,599 and decided I better just finish off my steps. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken an 11 pm walk just to get the numbers on my Fitbit over 8,000. Not just because friends and family are following me, but because the numbers remind me how important my goals are to me.

accountabilityAnd it’s not just exercise.  For the last two years I’ve written down everything I ate. It may seem strange since I pretty much eat the same thing every day, but I find that if I don’t write it down, it doesn’t count in my mind. No one sees my food log (and a food log may seem very diet-y for a non-diet person) but when I don’t write it down it is easy to fall into old habits and slip in the foods that de-rail me. For me, this also lets me be more non-diet.  If I want to eat something not on my program I do and don’t worry about it.  For example, on my recent vacation I enjoyed some brownies and an absolutely delicious piece of cheesecake. I tracked and moved on. No regrets, no guilt, and no pretending I didn’t do it.

And that is the ultimate accountability – to myself. Whether I track my progress or share my goals, I need to be honest with myself. I owe it to myself to invest the time and energy into myself.

Set Good Goals

34 weeksI never realized the importance of goals, until I didn’t have any.

In a few past posts I’ve discussed a time in my life when my world fell instantly and irreparably apart.  In some ways I will always be healing from that time.

goalOne of the things that was so devastating was that everything I thought I was working towards was instantly taken away from me. I lived for more than three years without any goals at all. (Unless you count getting through the day a goal, which, I guess it was.)

I was spinning out of control without goals.

When I started to heal, I also started to make new goals. At first they were very small goals. In 2011, for example, I wrote down these three goals:

  1. I will walk two times per week or more. Any length walk will count.
  2. I will enter some type of race or walkathon to celebrate my new activity.
  3. I will continue to blog about my life, paying more attention to the Wins than the Fails.
goals

Click this image to learn more about writing goals.

I didn’t reach any one of them in 2011.

Except I have reached all of them. Eventually. It may have taken me a lot longer to get the strength I needed, but I did achieve these amazingly simple and yet insurmountable goals.  And I continued to make new goals.

Here are some of the current goals I’m working towards:

• On September 13th I will complete a half-marathon in less than 3 hours.
In 2015 I will run 1,000 miles.
• Before my 50th birthday I will post 40 things I’ve learned in my 40’s.

I also have some family, education, and career goals, that are shared in different places and with different people. What are your goals?

Goals Update

tryharderI missed making a New Year’s resolution this year, but in April I Dusted Off My Blog and set some serious goals for 2015:

  • One: Run a half marathon (Suffolk County Half Marathon in September) in less than three hours. (Note: I added the time limit after I signed up for the race.)
  • Two: Run 1,000 miles this year.

This past week I added a third goal:

It’s hard to check my progress on goal number three (being as it hasn’t even been a week), but I thought that since half the year is gone I should check in on goals one and two.

Goal number one is going pretty well. I’m officially signed up for the marathon and I’ve been clocking in some good runs. In June I ran my longest run (11.2 miles in 2:02:19) which makes me think that if the marathon were tomorrow, I could totally rock it. What I need to do now is maintain my current enthusiasm, and not get hurt!

miles_runGoal number two is where things look a little -iffy. In order to run 1,000 miles in one year, I would have to run at least 85 miles each month. Unfortunately June was actually the only month where I met my running goal of (I ran 102, actually!) At this rate I will have to run 102 miles (my best ever) every single month for the rest of the year to make my 1,000 mile goal.

Last year I found myself in a similar situation with my step goal during the first few months, but by the time July rolled around, I had bounced back and was confident I could make it (which I did!).

believe-quotes-11I guess there are two ways I could approach this. On the one hand, I didn’t make my 2015 goal until April, so I could technically make it 12 months from April rather than a calendar year. Totally legit, justifiable response, right? Or….

Or I could just suck it up, and try to hit more miles over the next six months…

If you have been reading my blog and paying attention I think you know which one I picked…

I’m totally going for it! 

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.