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Working While Not Working

This title may be a little misleading. This post is about what I’m doing while out of work for social distancing, but it’s also about aging and the challenges of taking care of myself (I’m not saying I’m old, but I am older than I was). I guess with more time alone each day I’ve had a chance to contemplate and try to understand it all a bit more.  I really want to grow old gracefully and be healthy for years to come. I want to stay active into my old age and die peacefully in my sleep one night, not from some preventable disease. I want to “rage against the dying of the light.”

Like many others right now, I’m not working. But I’m also not sitting on the couch, binge-watching Tiger King with a family-size bag of Cheetos in my lap. In fact, I still only watch tv in the evening, and then I try to exercise my brain with a puzzle or something stimulating while I sit.  I still set an alarm, just in case I don’t wake up early on my own, so I can get up and work out before I start my day. As my weeks at home have stretched past a month, I am also putting more time into my daily workouts.

Why? Once I blew out the candles on my 40th birthday cake, it really was like a switch had flipped. All my life, I was always the thin girl who people tried to make feel guilty for it. And no, I really didn’t have to think about what I ate (other than being a bit hypoglycemic); I did not gain weight from chocolate cake or second helpings of pizza, or anything, really. I just had a really good metabolism. But just like all the curses I used to receive, such as, “Just wait, it’ll catch up with you one day,” warned, when I hit forty, my luck ran out, I guess. I gained at least 10-15 pounds, and it does not want to go away. My running pace and my metabolism both suffered at the kickoff of my fourth decade on this blue marble, and I’m a couple years into it now.

I used to be able to just work out a little more or eat a little better and see huge results and quickly.  It’s just not that easy anymore.

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I am not at all comfortable posting anything where I don’t have make-up on.

These pics of my arm muscles (please ignore and don’t get too judgy about the sweaty no-makeup mess that is the rest of what you see of me in the pics) might lead one to believe I’ve got a rock solid body to match. I will be honest. I only took pics of my arms because they tone and show definition much faster than the rest of me (and I do laugh when I cannot wear the shirts I’ve had for years because the sleeves and shoulders are now too tight). I do not have it all together, but I’m working on it. This is my progress in the last month. I think I finally figured out how to speed up my metabolism a little. I try to mix and balance cardio and strength training. Most people think just cardio will do it, but when all I do is run, it is not enough. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest, so you can get even more out of those cardio workouts if you also have muscle, right? I do know my energy level has increased.

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I ramped up the calorie burn in April and am off to a good start for May.

So I’m gaining muscle, but my body weight is not really changing. I hope this is because muscle is more dense and maybe I hadn’t been trying quite hard enough until about a week ago, but I really need to get rid of my gut and the flab in my thighs. I had no idea it would be so hard. So there I was in mid-April, thinking I should be looking better with more workouts and fairly healthy eating, except my husband works at a grocery store that carries amazing chocolates and cookies, and it was Easter candy season. Basically, if it’s in the house, I WILL eat it because I like yummy stuff and because I’m super cheap and will make sure my money has not been wasted. So he brings it home, I eat it. I told him to please stop. We have agreed on that. Also, we had to slow down the beer drinking. I’m not a drunk, but I do enjoy a tasty beer, or a few of them. Limits. I must have limits! We eat well all week, and we allow ourselves a cheat day over the weekend. We have just implemented this…again.

I refuse to partake in any diet that cuts out any of the main macro-nutrients (fats, carbs, proteins). Our bodies were meant to have a balance and there are far too many health risks involved in cutting out all of any of the above. Our bodies were not designed to function at their max capacity with these deficits, especially not if we are also exercising. If you have found a quick diet to lose weight, it is probably damaging your body in a way you just may not know yet, and the weight loss will not be lasting, though the damage to your organs may be. I want a diet that isn’t a diet, but a way of life. But when I do settle down in the evenings, I like to snack. No more of that. I have decided to have tea in the evenings instead. Hopefully this little Jedi mind trick will work. And I’m eating more, but smaller meals. I learned long ago that this helped with my hypoglycemia, but I got out of the habit. It is also supposed to help your metabolism work more efficiently.  I already drink and pee a lot of water all day, so I’m good there.

Goals are important, so I have come up with a number I would like to see on my scale ( I will not share that here). But I am mostly looking to attain goals in the inches I can lose and where I can lose them. As I build muscle and lose weight, my proportions should change. I’ve always weighed more than people thought, so that number is not the important one. I want to carry it well. I also signed up for a challenge to run as many miles as possible in May. I believe I opted for 75 miles as my goal, but my real and secret goal is to reach the 100 mile mark (shhhh). I like to have a goal, but I don’t want to beat myself up over it either, so a secret goal is good for me. If I hit it, I look like an overachiever, but if I only hit the slightly lower goal I still know I accomplished something good.

So now I’m running more. The past couple times I increased my mileage, I also injured myself. This made me realize I need to create a better balance in the types of workouts I’m doing and to let certain muscles rest more between. Part of me just wants to be a beast and run five miles every day while also doing an hour of weight training. But I know I cannot do that without hurting myself in a bad way. I need to cross-train, but I don’t need to die. This morning, I ran a mile as a warm-up, did a twenty-ish minute upper body workout, and finished with a half hour of yoga stretching. I didn’t want to go that easy, but my muscles had been so tight, I knew I needed it. I felt amazing when I was done, and I’ll be ready to move and burn calories tomorrow without injuring myself.

These are my struggles and self solutions. Maybe this can help someone else. I’m just being honest about me. We are all different. I do recommend a couple resources though. I love the workout selection at fitnessblender.com and it’s not too late to sign up for the challenge to run, walk, or treadmill (boring-zzzzz) as many miles as possible in May. You can enter your miles up to two days behind and it’s only the 4th now. You get a cool shirt when you’re done and the feeling of accomplishment. Plus the Facebook group that goes along with it is so supportive. https://runsignup.com/Race/FL/Deland/MilesdeMayoChallenge?fbclid=IwAR3el7TzZbG9DsqENrZ-mc5pXsH3mzb5vNGUCSl2A2kZzympMRfjOcqXKgo

View the Uphill from Under the Hill

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In Florida, we don’t have hills, but we have bridges. On my out and back 5 mile training run, I began the tackle of the bridge and was at the peak when I hit mile one. I could say it was smooth sailing after that, or all downhill from there… but I hate cliches. I felt great though. Sure, it was humid, but the temperature was a good ten degrees cooler than my usual Saturday morning runs, so I considered that a win. The path I chose had small rolling hills, but nothing I couldn’t handle that morning. I guess I was in the right place mentally and physically.

I did the turnaround at 2.5 miles and headed back towards that bridge. I knew I would hit mile 4 right before I got to the peak. The run had felt exhilarating and I figured I’d just blast up that hill, er…bridge and be done with it.

The thing is, though, that for some reason I saw the bridge looming ahead, and it seemed more intimidating from this side. The incline is steeper headed inland, and my legs suddenly hurt. My breathing got out of whack. I was floundering. For about ten seconds, my mental battle just about clobbered me physically. I thought I would throw up. I began to fear being able to run over that bridge twice the day of the half marathon I am training for.

But I wouldn’t let myself quit. I wouldn’t allow myself to walk. I hated myself for those ten seconds, but I knew that I could do it if I just kept moving my legs. I had the strength. I was almost to the top, and I only had one mile to go. Downhill would be so much better, if I could just make it to the top. And then I did. I wanted to have a Rocky moment, but that would have held back my time if I stopped to jump up and down with my arms in the air at the top of the bridge, so I just smiled and kept plugging.

That has been my life for the last couple years. I have scaled, hiked, crawled, and run hills I thought would defeat me, but I have tried to remember that I am not in it alone. Peter walked on water. Maybe not for long before he doubted himself, but Jesus was there to catch him, and when I feel like I cannot crest the next hill, and it hovers over me, I remind myself I have never really been alone. Jesus is always there when I cannot do it by my own strength. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). I want to picture myself running into His waiting arms at the top of the hill.

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Then, when I completed my run, I stretched and walked along under that bridge that had almost defeated me, and I saw it from a different perspective. I saw its height and vastness, and I knew I had made it over the top, and I now rested in its shade. Getting over our hills can be a mental, emotional, or physical challenge, but once we make it to the other side, we can rest in its shade.

Being a Hero

I know nothing about being a hero. Really. Until I became one unintentionally. I would confess here that I’m not a cape-wearing superhero… but sometimes I actually do wear a cape. Or I did last weekend anyway (three if you count my socks). Seriously.

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My family participated in the second annual Superhero 5K in support of the little one’s previous school (VPK) and her teacher from last year. She got to see old friends, and give Mrs. Natalie some big hugs, and run her own kids’ race. My husband announced the 5k runners as they crossed the finish, including me.

I used to run quite a bit, but life happened and I have had a really hard time getting myself committed to it again, so I declared a little over a month before the race that I would do it because I knew I needed a reason to run. I still had a hard time making time to train, so more than two miles was a challenge. My goal going into the race was just to finish. I felt that might be attainable.

I felt good at the start of the race, and I began thinking about the little girl waiting for me at the end and how she seemed more excited that I was running the race than I was to be running the race. Then I started thinking, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if I actually placed in my age group and she could see me get a medal?” But 3.1 miles began to kick my butt,  and my next goal became not to throw up.  As I crossed the finish, I felt I had not only let myself down, but let down my little girl. I was fourth in my age group, just out of medal ranking.

Here’s one of the greatest things about our girl: she is an encourager. She didn’t care if I won a medal. She told me I won my race because I finished. In fact, she spent the rest of the weekend telling people, “My mommy ran a 5k, and I ran the Super Loop. We both won.”

We teach her not to give up,  the importance of committing to something, and knowing it may take hard work to get there. Character is a strong value in our home, and I am so proud of our girl’s. We both ran with our capes on last weekend because she is a young superhero in training, and she thinks I am one already.

I very often just feel like a regular woman who constantly makes mistakes and struggles to get it right, but a little girl who CHOSE to call me her mommy, even though she understands she didn’t get her actual life through me, said to me after the race last weekend, “Mommy, I want to be you when I grow up.” I told her she can be better, but what a compliment.

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Our girl makes me always want to be better and inspires me daily. Running is just a part of it, a sort of symbol of the race we call life.  But I plan to run more and win medals, both literally and figuratively, because someone important is watching, and she wants to be me because she thinks I’m a hero.

It’s the Final Countdown

In just three weeks from right now, I will be participating in my fourth Ragnar Relay, where eleven friends and I will divide into two vans and each run three times for a total of 200 miles from Miami to Key West.  It’s an awesome experience.  It may not sound fun, but oh, IT IS!

I had a scare going into it this year though.  While training for a half marathon I was supposed to run just over a month ago, I injured my leg, leaving me not only unable to run my half marathon, but I was unable to run at all.  I’ve had to cross train with my bike, elliptical machine, and do pilates and yoga to try to compensate while my leg had to heal.

Two weeks ago I decided to give a short run a try because my leg wasn’t hurting too much anymore.  The results were less than desirable.  The run itself didn’t feel so bad, but my leg hurt fairly constantly for the next three days.

Now, through lots of prayer, essential repairing vitamins and supplements, and cross training, I have decided it is time to try it again tomorrow.  My leg has been completely pain free for the last three days, and that is not something I could say about any of the days before this, so I think it’s time.  I’ll start with a few short runs and keep on supplementing with other exercise, but three weeks isn’t much time, and I think I’m finally ready.

The first two years we did this race, my running name was Terrinator and we ran for Love 146.

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Last year and this coming race, I’m part of team Ragnarrhea and my running name is Excretia.  I know it’s gross, but if you run (pun intended), you get it.

Take a look at what the Ragnar experience is all about with this video by my teammate, Josh, a.k.a Poop Dust, the runner formerly known as Deuce.

Runner’s High

I’ve been called a pessimist before; however, if that were true, would I be sitting at my computer, writing a blog post about how much I love running while I’m icing my knee because I went running? No.  I have found the positive in a sometimes painful personal sport.

The personal part is what I first learned to appreciate about running. When I run, I think, clear my head, and concentrate on the beauty I am generally surrounded by when I run (I saw a dolphin last weekend as I ran over a bridge over the intracoastal waterway).  I was never a team sport kind of girl.  In fact, I was never a girl who did anything resembling a sport when I grew up, and I despised running…with a passion.

A challenge was thrown out that I run in a crazy 200 mile race (Ragnar Relay) as a fundraiser for my favorite organization that works to fight human trafficking (Love 146).  I weighed that option for a good while before I agreed to rise to the impossible challenge.

At 32, I began running, for the first time in my life.  I worked out already and thought, “How hard could this be?”  I set out one morning to run a mile down our road (which meant another mile back).  I seriously thought it would be do-able.

It was not.

I made it about a quarter of a mile and thought I would die right there on the road behind my house.  I walked then with spurts of running in between.  Pathetically limited and short spurts.  I made it to the end of the road and realized I had to get back.  Grr!  More of the same walking with short running intervals, an encounter with a weird bug that would not leave me alone (I’m not generally an outdoor girl), and the Florida heat and humidity of a June morning all but discouraged me.  Had I not already invested money into the Nikes I found on sale for $20 (I’m cheap), I would have called it off right away.

But I didn’t.

I continued almost every day in a similar manner for the next two weeks until I made it the mile to the end of the road without stopping.  Then I stopped and walked for a reward.  When I began to run again that day, my knee began to hurt in a way I had never felt before.  Research told me it was my IT band.  I had just started and would already have to take some time off.  I just knew I was not meant to be a runner.

I researched how to “fix” the injury and found I needed to do good stretches and work all my leg muscles through cross-training in order to strengthen what doesn’t get used in running.  Ice also helps.

At that time, I felt it was my chance to give up.  Who would have blamed me, right?  I just wasn’t meant to be a runner and it was something better left for those more equipped.  But then I remembered why I had agreed to run in the first place, and I decided to go back out there, into the hot Florida summer’s oppressive humidity, for the kids that could be rescued and protected by my fundraising and awareness efforts.  So in the moment I made that decision, two passions began in my life.

Running got better for me, and though I often get discouraged still, I keep doing it.  Even after I had to take off a few months because I was having issues with my ITB again.  I think about those kids, my health, and now I also get support from our fantastic local running community.  I’ve gotten faster and my endurance has increased.

Now, it isn’t just a personal sport for me anymore.  I try to mix it up by running a few times a week on my own, doing speed work with a group one evening, and then putting in miles with a group early on Sunday mornings.

I feel I’m becoming a more well-rounded runner, and other than the pain I occasionally feel in my ITB, which I’ve learned how to take care of (as long as I put in the time), I love the way I feel when I’m done.  If I run in the morning I feel amazing all day.

I’m learning to give myself personal challenges and not to compare myself to other runners.  I can do the running in community, but it is still a personal endeavor as I am the only one in my head and body.  I can do it physically, if I can just get my brain to believe it too.

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Another cool thing about running is the excitement of races.  I’ve earned medals for just finishing, and even a few prizes for placing in my age group at a few races (1st in my age group at the last race I ran).

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