Standing Taller

My personal trainer did an assessment on Friday, and my hard work in the gym is paying off! My left hip only drops slightly now when I do one legged squats, my core strength is improving and my upper body is getting stronger as well.

When I first started the training sessions, my posture was not what should it be. Slowly over time, my lifestyle of sitting in the car, sitting at a desk and sitting at home had become more rounded and my back muscles had become weaker. I already had read about how too much sitting can cause your hip flexors and hamstrings to tighten and glute muscles to weaken  (and I’ve had issues with these as well). In fact, sitting has been described as the new smoking in terms of negative health effects, even for runners.

My sessions with the trainer have really opened my eyes not only to my body’s weaknesses, but my lack of balance and coordination. We’re not just doing crunches or squats — everything has an extra twist or complexity to make it difficult. I’m not only training my muscles, but my brain and its communications with different muscles. I’m amazed now that I ran all the marathons I did. I’m amazed sometimes that I’m even able to walk at all, let alone stand! Somewhere along the way, the communication between my brain and certain muscles has broken down, for various reasons. I can see parallels now to how communication can breakdown partnerships, including marriages and friendships, or companies, causing the people or entities involved to stop functioning as they did.

I see the strength training now as a means of rebuilding connections, not just building muscles. My posture when I’m walking around is MUCH better. I feel taller now — when I’m sitting and walking. My posture is even better when I’m doing lunges. I still have work to do, but I feel that I am on the right course.

I’m sure you’re going to ask — are you running yet? Well, I’m planning another test run this afternoon or tomorrow. I did a test run last Saturday, and was still dealing with some tightness in my right calf. I got some work done on it and have been foam rolling and stretching, which is helping. Hopefully, I’ll have some good news to report from my next run.

Overall, the recovery has taken longer than I planned. But I realize now that, mentally, I also wasn’t ready to run. I think I was a little bit afraid — I didn’t feel like I could trust my body to do what I used to. And I wanted to first try and correct some of the issues that might have caused all the problems I’ve had before I jumped back in. I have put a race on the calendar, however — a local 5K later this spring. It’s a short race, but I thought it might help to have something to work towards.

I’ve also been enjoying yoga much more than I thought I would. On Friday, I stopped at Target on the way home from work and bought an actual yoga mat. I’ve been using a generic exercise mat, but noticed my hands and feet would slip at times. I decided to invest in a yoga mat before I tear the other one up. I went to a fantastic yoga class last Thursday, where I do some moves I didn’t even know existed, and wouldn’t have thought I could accomplish. I don’t think I’ll ever be limber enough to tie myself in a knot (or put my ankles behind my shoulders), but I am feeling better. It wasn’t running, but for the first time in a while, I felt that same sense of achievement that I had after completing a tough track workout or a 20-mile run. It felt good to be confident in my body’s abilities again.

So, I can say I have been busy exercising, but not running yet. But between the strength training and yoga, I’ve been busy! But I’ve been thinking about the trails in George Bush park, and about friends who are training for spring races (I was envious of one friend who’s signed up for a spring marathon, but since it’s right before a major industry conference for work, I couldn’t go anyway). I’m looking forward to hopefully joining them soon.

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Down But Not Out

I don’t know if it was the weather, or withdrawal from being off work between Christmas and New Year’s but I was feeling low. In addition to the weakness in my left IT band and right calf, the lack of sunshine made me extremely cranky. All I’ve wanted to do is sleep. It’s too bad we can’t hibernate (or less to do so we can sleep more) in the winter, like bears do. My stomach has been strange (probably from all the chocolate and sugar plums dancing around the work breakroom), and I had a huge megazit on my chin. On Friday, my nose was so stuffy I almost couldn’t breathe. I took a rest day from training and managed to avoid getting a full-blown cold. But I may not be so lucky next time if the cold, damp weather continues.

I also made the mistake of weighing myself one day last week — I thought I heard the
scale gasp! I spent most of that Thursday in a cloud of depression because of that. Being out for the surgery and the usual holiday goodies have caught up with me. So it’s back to watching the calories. I’m going to try out an app to track them, and see how it compares with Weight Watchers.

I went back to my doctor today to discuss some concerns I had about why my calf and IT are still giving me issues. I did get a shot in my left hip, which hopefully should help the IT band. It turns out that I should have been icing — for some reason, I just haven’t been doing it. The doctor also suggested trying some other stretches for the calf.

She did remind me that what I’ve been going through is normal following the type of surgery I’ve had. I am getting stronger thanks to the personal training, but I’m still weaker on my left side due to the left nerve that was giving me grief. It was comforting to talk with her — she has been through back surgery and abdominal surgery, and could sympathize with my frustrations over wanting to heal faster.

Luckily, I’m able to continue with the training, but will need to stay off the bosu ball for a while. My trainer has had me stand on the curved side of it while doing upper body weight exercises.

I decided to take the advice of friends on Facebook, and enrolled in unlimited yoga at a local studio this month. I’m going to try it out and see if it can help. I plan to make the most of my time there while I decide if I want to continue with it through 2015.

I know I said last time that I hadn’t blogged much because of work and the holidays. It was true that I was busy. But I also think I was in a funk. I was scared that I would never get back to normal, that I would never get in the shape I want to be in. I worried that maybe I was being foolish (and that maybe everyone out there thought I was crazy). I was pretty down for a while. But after realizing that I need to make some adjustments to my recovery regime, I’m feeling down, but I’m thinking that I’m not out of the race either.

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Out of Hibernation (and into the New Year)

It’s been some time since my last blog. I came back from my trip to Amsterdam to a busy November and December. Between end-of-year deadlines at work, Christmas shopping and my sessions with my trainer (among other things), my schedule seemed practically non-stop. This blog ended up being a casualty of my limited time.

I have been making some great progress with my personal training sessions. I’m being pushed in ways I hadn’t been pushed physically before, and while it’s been a challenge, I feel like it is starting to pay off. I feel stronger, and I’ve noticed that my posture is better. I’ve been doing planks as part of my strength training regime, and I noticed today that I can hold the planks longer. Getting in cardio has been somewhat of a challenge due to time and energy. I’m still not quite where I want to be with running — in fact, I’ve been dealing with some Achilles and plantars fascitis, plus trying to tame an IT band that has a mind of its own. I’m doing what I can, though.

Given that it’s a new year, I’ve been thinking over the goals I want to achieve this year — the priority goal, obviously, is to get back in shape and be ready to train for the Houston Marathon when the new season of Katy Fit starts this July. This weekend, I’ve been examining other personal goals for 2015 that I would like to tackle, such as saving more money, making time to write and play music for fun and to read (I’m doing another book challenge that started New Year’s Day, so this should help with the latter goal).

I did get to take some time off between Christmas and New Year’s, and all I wanted to do was sleep. I felt like an animal in hibernation! I did need it, though it felt strange to be doing so little after being so busy. Even though the sun was actually out today, I slept late and was slow to wake up this Sunday. But I’m ready to come back out of hibernation and tackle the new challenges of a new year, including new opportunities at work and my ongoing efforts to regain my physical strength.

To achieve my goals, I’m stealing an idea from a friend. She wrote down her goals for last year in a notebook, which she would revisit periodically to see whether she was on track with those goals. I’m planning to do this — hopefully, I can stay on track as well.

Whatever your goals are in 2015, I wish you the best of luck in achieving them!

My Real Masterpiece

A friend posted this Huffington Post blog article on Facebook this past week, and it really struck a chord with me. I turned it over in my mind as I finished up the workweek and while I lounged on the couch Saturday morning, enjoying coffee and bingewatching the finals of American Ninja Warrior (I had no idea it would be so addictive!)

The blog, Your Body is Not Your Masterpiece, urges women to stop obsessing over perfecting their bodies, and that our bodies are not projects, but paintbrushes we use to create real art, whether it be through our spirituality, our relationships or our work.

Over the years, I’ve struggled with accepting my body for what it is. I’ve gone through periods of being chunky (like when I first went away to college and didn’t have mom’s cooking or her watchful eye against junk food) and out of shape (like recently). Around ages seven to nine, I also went through a chubby phase, and I think that my mother worried that I would grow up to be fat. She enrolled me one summer in aerobics, which I hated. I felt humiliated to have to leave my friends and playtime to go sweat it out with a bunch of middle age ladies (who seemed ancient to me at the time). I also remember how hurt I was when the girl down the street called me fat and told me I needed to lose weight. I remember not being able to wear the designer jeans that other kids wore, or not being able to have certain foods that my friends could eat (most types of cereal were off the menu, except for Cheerios – when I saw the cereal bar at the college cafeteria, it was like dying and going to heaven!)

Once I turned 10, I grew out of my chubbiness. Today, I look at pictures of me in junior and senior high school, and I see what looks like a normal, healthy, sometimes pretty girl. But in the back of my mind, I saw myself as not thin enough, and therefore not good enough. Problems with acne, haircuts and clothes that I deemed not cool enough compared with others, and self-esteem issues due to the cruelty and indifference of so-called friends just exacerbated my negative feelings towards myself.

I’m not saying this to hurt my mother — like all of us, she did the best she could, and I wouldn’t trade her for the world. And I know that I’m not the only woman who feels this way (given the dozens of diet programs and pills advertised on TV that promise to deliver amazing results, the plethora of exercise programs out there, as well as plastic surgery and other beauty enhancements available.) Combine these with the magazines that feature models with figures the majority of women will never have (and the airbrushing of photos to make these women even more perfect), and clothes in a number of stores that seem to be made for women with no curves at all, and it’s no surprise that women today have body issues. Even when I’m shape, I never feel like my thighs are thin enough (and trust me, running doesn’t make cellulite go away. I’ve tried!).

For a long time, running and exercising were a way for me not only to mold my body, but a way of addressing the insecurities I felt about myself. Like I’ve mentioned before, being sidelined with an injury has given me time to examine other areas of my life, and I realized that I was so focused on running, I had neglected other areas of my life, such as a deeper relationship with my husband and friends, as well as nurturing other areas of interest. The idea that I should stop obsessing over the shape of my paintbrush (my body), but what I paint (the relationships I build, the work I do, my spiritual life and other interests), really hit home with me. I also realized that I’ve spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME obsessing over what my body should be, and not what it is, and learning to love what I have.

It’s ironic that I was thinking about all this while watching American Ninja Warrior, a show about people who push their bodies to the limit to do incredible things – run, climb, jump, and crawl up tower walls like a spider. They’ve made the bodies and their athletic abilities projects — one contestant even quit his job to focus on training for the American Nina Warrior finals in Las Vegas! I found myself really getting into the show, cheering, yelling, knee bouncing with anxiety as I watched people struggle on the course. I don’t see myself actually competing on the show, but would love to be in the shape that some of the contestants are. But the article made me realize that my body is not the ultimate project, nor my hopeful future marathon times, but what I give to others and to the world in other areas of my life. And that is the real masterpiece that I can contribute.

 

A Bucket List of Bucket Lists

This week is my last full week in the office before I take time off for my back surgery. I have my pre-op appointment early Monday morning, and then I get to go into the office and try and cram in some of the assignments I have to turn in before I leave. I suspect I won’t finish them all, and will likely have to haul my laptop home so I can finish things up for this month.

Not running has been frustrating, particularly when I receive my weekly newsletter with the group training schedule. It’s strange not to be rushing to the track after stopping at home to change and have a quick snack or preparing my fuel belt and laying my clothes out Friday night before the long run Saturday morning. I have found ways to occupy my time during this forced break (including the book challenge I wrote about last week and my return to piano lessons, which I’ll blog about in the future), but I’m still finding I don’t have time to do everything I want, like start outlining the novel I want to write during National Novel Writing Month this November, and should want to do. For example, I should spend more time cleaning house, but frankly, I’m not that good at cleaning, and the house just keeps getting dirty, so why bother? I do the basic necessities, such as laundry and running dishes through the dishwasher. I actually swept the downstairs floor today, but didn’t feel like I made much of a difference!

I am riding the exercise bike and doing some swimming, but as any devoted runner will tell you, it’s not the same, not by a long shot. This is the first time in my life that I have been so sidelined with an injury (and I suspect it won’t be the last, given that I’m getting older!) It’s given me a newfound appreciation for not only being able to run (even if it’s a crappy long run or track workout) but made me appreciate just having good health, something I think I have taken for granted.

It’s also gotten me thinking about bucket lists. I’ve kicked around different ideas about places I want to travel, marathons I want to run, and other things I want to accomplish during my life. A friend I had lunch with this weekend told me that I’m too young for a bucket list, but given that the first 41 years of my life went by in a blink, I’m thinking I should actually type up the list.

My desire to be super-organized (which I don’t always live up to in real life), is to have a bucket list of bucket lists – top travel destinations, top marathons, and a list with miscellaneous items, such as my goal of appearing on the game show Jeopardy before I die. I think I may start working on it now, and perhaps post the lists on my blog in the future. Maybe I might actually achieve some of these goals if I make myself accountable to my audience! (I’m also thinking of just starting a Bucket List savings fund so I can actually pay for these goals). After all, this blog is intended as a chronicle of my hopeful comeback to running marathons (and running pain-free is definitely high on the bucket list!)

I’ve also decided to use the blog as a way of examining my life – what is actually going to make me happy, and what goals do I really want to achieve. There are a few things I’d previously wanted to do that I’m more than happy to leave behind, such as sewing (that damned bobbin thwarted me every time), knitting (I really think I have four thumbs instead of two) and skydiving (I’ve had friends rave about it and say I should jump, but I just keep seeing myself panicking at the last minute, and someone having to push me out). Renewing my scuba diving certification and writing a book are still high on the must-do list.

I realized the other day that I’m finally making progress on something that hasn’t really been a bucket list item, but something I needed to learn for my own well-being: Making peace with imperfection. I’d read about it in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (mom gave it to me, hoping I’d finally get the message). I’ve always been hard on myself in terms of my achievements and shortcoming – someone told me it stems from being an only child, which may be true. To be honest, I think I’ve used running in the past as a way to escape, not just from problems in my life, but from my imperfections. There’s nothing wrong with using a run to blow off steam from a bad day, but I think I sometimes used it as a way to block things out. Not running has forced me to look at myself and my life, and I’ve come to a realization: I can beat myself up for gaining weight and not being in the shape I was in January, for not saying the right thing at a social function, for fumbling something at work, for this or that so-called shortcoming, or I can let it go. I’m also not going to get down on myself for not getting everything accomplished that I hope to in a weekend, or for watching mindless reality TV on a Friday night (like I did after another LONG week).

In short, there’s always going to be deadlines or something that needs tending around the house. Even when things are going well, not everything will go according to plan. I don’t think I’ve yet had a good race day where I got everything exactly right; perfection, I’ve realized, is a never-ending pursuit. And while I still hope to keep pursuing more great race days, I’m learning to be more accepting of myself and the challenges I’ve been facing.