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Really, I think the biggest challenge as an adult-onset athlete is having the self-discipline to NOT act on my natural enthusiasm (and end up pushing it too far).

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Making a commitment to exercise after months or years (in my case) of getting out of shape forced me to have a keen awareness of exactly how out of shape I actually was.  (And who wants to think about that?!)

And once I started in my exercise routine, I had to force myself to remember that I was in my 40’s, not in my 20’s.  I no longer could stay out late, eat and drink like a moron, (apologies to my friends in their early 20’s) and then just lace up my running shoes in the morning and expect my body to perform for me.

I was run down.  I had spent years getting to my general state of un-fit-ness.  Now that I had made the mental/emotional decision to do something about it, it was hard to remember that my body needed time to catch up with that decision.

I had to face that fact that even though I wanted to do something (run a half marathon) verrrry badly, my body simply was not capable of doing it in its present condition.  It would be capable, but I had to face reality:  the process was going to be much slower than I thought I’d be able to endure.

Even when I felt great out on a run, I had to have the self-control not to go harder, faster or longer than my training schedule called for.  I had to operate from the knowledge that the more mature my body is, the more rest it needs.  That even though I felt on-top-of-the-world during that endophin-laden long run, that my body wouldn’t feel that way tomorrow if I continued too far or too fast, taking an emotional approach to my running rather than a systematic approach.

[When I started out, my systematic and logical approach wasn’t something I just arbitrarily made up.  I got the advice of someone who absolutely knew what she was doing (Thank you, Shelly!  I still appreciate all you’ve done for me!).  I also got a copy of a great book for adult-onset newbies, Marathoning-for-Mortals-9781579547820

Marathoning for Mortals, by John Bingham.

I followed that advice and I didn’t deviate from it, regardless of how I felt. If you are new, get a mentor.  Whether it’s someone you talk to or someone you read, it will make all the difference in the world!]

I had to remember that feelings aren’t facts, even when the feelings are physical.  (“I’m tired, my legs hurt.  Waaaah!”  “I feel great; I could run another couple miles!”)  I had to discipline my body and my will to obey my mind and my training, and not the other way around.

I knew if I didn’t approach my running in this systematic, logical way, that I would get all emotionally spastic about my runs and end up either burning out or injuring myself due to making stupid decisions based on my early enthusiasm.  I also knew that the systematic, logical approach would serve me well on those mornings that I just didn’t want to get out of my warm bed and lace up my shoes and hit the road.

After more than 3 1/2 years of running, walking, resting, racing, being victorious, screwing it up, loving it, hating it, being enthusiastic, being bored, being cheered, being mocked, being crazy, and being happy, I’ve become a different person.

A stronger, better runner.  An athlete, even.  (Though it’s still hard to think of myself that way.)  But I’ve also grown mentally, emotionally and in the strength of my will.  Those are things I never anticipated when I laced up my shoes for that pathetic initial effort in May 2009.  And they made me a better daughter when my mother was dying.  They made me a better mother when I had to make the hard choices for my children.  They made me a better wife, friend, writer, speaker and business person.

While I love the physical benefits of running, it seems, looking back, that the hardest thing (the self-discipline to do what I need to do, even when I don’t feel like doing it) was the one that changed and benefited me the most.

Go figure.

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So when you saw the title of this post, did you really think I was going to post my “Before” photos here in all of my XL glory?  Seriously?  HA HA HA HA  No.

But here’s the idea: 

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Now please, before you go reading anything into this cartoon, please know I just snagged it from google images (credit given) because the lady still looked cute, even for a big girl.  Kinda like me.  So I appreciate her struggles, even though she is, well, a cartoon.

The thing is, I DID just take some super-duper-top-secret “BEFORE” photos.  I’m getting ready to start something new this Monday and I’m certain that the last quarter of 2010 is going to yield awesome results for me physically!  The Before Photos will be my evidence of how far I’ve come. 

But I am most certainly NOT going to be sharing those “Before” Pics here unless I’ve got some hottie “After” Pics of myself to post along side them.  This will take time, effort, and cooperation from my metabolism.

If you want to know why most people don’t embark on these weight-loss odysseys that require photographic evidence, I have a theory. 

I do NOT think the problem is not wanting to face one’s blubbery image on the screen.  I do NOT think the problem is embarrassment of the throngs of curiousity-seekers who might ogle at your photo like some sort of freak in a carnival tent. 

No, I’m pretty confident that the Real Issue is that Before Photos are NOT a one-person job.  There is another person clicking away at the camera to capture all that voluptuousness.  In theory, this photographer is an encourager, someone who you trust.  But the Before Photo is where theory meets reality. 

It’s ugly, people.  In so many ways.

I shall illustrate.

My photographic helpers were daughters Ninja (11 year-old tomboy) and Princess (10 year-old girlie girl). 

Princess:  Mom, you don’t look that fat.  You look cute.

Ninja:  You don’t look fat at all Mom.  (pause)  *giggle*

Me:  What?

Ninja:  (collecting herself)  No.  You look great Mom. 

Princess:  It’s just that we’re not used to seeing you with, you know, THAT (points to my XL belly sticking out between the bottom of my bright yellow running bra and the waist of my black compression shorts.)

Me:  Yes, I usually try to be more modest.  It’s not like I’m going to be wearing this get-up out at…

Princess:  (interrupting)  No, really Mom.  It’s not that you look like a hootchie or anything.  It’s just that I had no idea your belly was so…

Ninja:  (cutting her off)  Let’s take the pictures, now.  (clicks away at camera)  Okay, turn to the side now.

Me:  (turning) Like this?

Ninja:  Sure.  Yeah, Yes…Yes…  ACK!  WOW!  Oh Mom, I had no idea. 

(Princess flees from hallway photography studio, possibly in fear, possibly to avoid being caught laughing at mama.)

Me:  Nice.  Did you get the stinking picture?

Ninja:  Yeah, Mom.  Here’s your camera. 

Me:  (looking at the photos)  Ugh.  I have my work cut out for me.  Thanks for your help, girls.

Princess:  (peeking back around the corner)  You really do look cute, Mom.

Ninja:  In a silly kind of way.

Princess:  Yes, “silly.”  That’s it exactly.

Me:  (muttering to myself as I head away from the camera crew, who I imagine is now dissolving into a fit of giggles) I guess the whole experience could have been worse.

Helpful Husband:  (from the next room) What experience?

Exactly.

So this is exactly why most people do NOT put themselves through the ordeal of those Before Photos. 

Marathon training?  No problem. 

Intense cardio?  Awesome.

Strength training from hell?  Bring it. 

They are small potatoes compared to the ordeal of the Before Photos. 

But I figure if you can make it through the Before Photo ordeal, then everything else is downhill from there! 

Check back with me on December 31, and I’ll tell you whether it was worth it!  🙂

 [UPDATE:] 

Helpful Husband has now been exposed to this blog post.  After laughing hysterically–a little too loud and long, I might add–he asks, “When did this happen?  Was it here?  Was I here?  Really?” 

“A couple weeks ago.  Yes.  Yes.  And yes.”  Hard stare at HH.

Long pause while HH ponders whether he would have been in more trouble if he’d been involved during the infamous photo shoot than he is for being so very unaware. 

Again, I say, it could have been worse!

 

 

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Instead of writing an Official Blog Post on Sunday, another Rest Day [insert heavy SIGH], I did what every other warm-blooded American did tonight.  I watched the Survivor finale and reunion. 

Love it or hate it, this show is a microcosm of life.  It’s your life and mine, under pressure and under a microscope.  How many of us could survive 39 days with our every minute on camera?  (Give me a shot at a million dollars and I’d try it, mind you.)

Apply enough pressure and a microscope and a camera to any human being and it will get ugly.  This show is about the human condition.  And that fact is why I absolutely love watching it, week after week.

What does this have to do with running?  Or midlife?  Or any of the other stuff you’re accustomed to coming here and reading?  I’ll tell you.  This show is about strategy.  You may love or hate another person’s strategy.  The one thing that is certain is that no one is successful without a strategy. 

Priorities.  Values.  Morals.  Focus.  Passion.  All these go into making a person successful.  Or not successful.  These will determine our strategy.  And the biggest guarantee of failure is to avoid having a strategy. 

I’ve noticed that in races, my age group “Masters Female” (translate that: older broads in their 40’s) is usually larger than  the groups younger and older.  This surprised me at first.  Especially when I noticed that if I were two years older or three years younger, I’d have come away with an award, even with my Very Slow Pace.  What was going on here?!

Well, I think when you get to be about *ahem* 43(ISH), and you start to fight metabolism and hormones and failures and expectations, you start looking for something–no matter how emotionally or spiritually mature you are.   Many of us have buried a parent.  Some of us have buried friends and even children.  We view our lives WAY differently than we did when we were in our 20’s.

So a 40-ISH woman faces her world and thinks, “Sheesh, how did I get here, compared to where I figured I’d be (even if “here” is absolutely Wonderful!) and where on earth am I headed.”  And that 40-ish woman looks at her life and her wonderfully metabolism-challenged body and says, “Well, this is ONE area where I actually CAN make a difference, God willing.”  And then she begins to make some decisions. 

In short, she begins a Strategy for managing the Wake-Up Call that is Midlife.  For many, that involves taking up the sport of running.  And THAT, I believe, is why there are so many stinking competitors in the Old Lady Masters Female divisions of the races that I run. 

And Survivor?  What does this have to do with Survivor?  Especially because the cute little pixie who still has her metabolism intact won the big prize? 

It has everything to do with Survivor.  Because the game is about Strategy.  Strategy.  It’s about being On Purpose.  People with WAY different values and ethics and morals–VERY different strategies–have won this game in different seasons.  But nobody won on accident.  Everyone who won, won with a strategy.  Just. Like. Life.

If you want to “Outwit, Outlast, Outplay” whatever issue you’re facing in life, you’re going to need a strategy.   And everybody’s got some Issue that they’re facing.  Most people have lots of Issues working at the same time.

Your strategy won’t be the same as your neighbor’s.  And whether yours is noble and worthy and righteous is between you and God, quite frankly.  The thing I know for sure, is that without a strategy, you’re sure to drift into the stream of life, with no real purpose and leaving no real mark.  You’ll be voted off the island of your hopes and dreams.

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My strategy, when I looked into the mirror and barely recognized myself anymore, was multifaceted.  Part of that strategy involved a focus on my health.  Part of that focus involved exercise, specifically running.  Part of that involvement, included races and training.  And part of that training includes each and every run and rest day in my training schedule. 

I’ve picked a strategy for this part of this season of my life and I’m sticking with it.  Every stride and every mouthful is part of my strategy for navigating the “physical” part of this season of my life.  For me this involves Long Run Friday, trail runs, race numbers, and Body Glide.  It will probably be different for you.  But still I ask you and I challenge you: 

What’s your season?  Make a decision.  Make a plan.  Commit to a strategy.  If you’re a godly person, commit that strategy and plan to God and allow Him to change it if you discern your strategy is out-to-lunch.  And by all means, Get Busy. 

Plan.  Commit.  Act.  Learn.  Adjust.  Grow.  Encourage.  Enjoy Results.  Give Thanks.  (Repeat regularly as necessary, which will be often, and bathe each step in prayer if you’re so inclined). 

It won’t look the same for any two people.  It’s not a cookie-cutter approach to success.  Without it, the best of us are doomed to failure and with it, we each have a shot at our prize, whatever that means to us.

It’s the formula for effectiveness in running.  In business.  In raising a family.  In being a good friend.  In playing Survivor.  In life. 

Which is exactly why I Love The Game.

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Well, the results of our Most Important Gear Poll are in and the Running Shoes were a shoe-in with 50% of the vote.  (Shoe-in!  Clever, I know.)

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Also garnering votes were uniboob bras (second place), water bottles, BodyGlide and the ever-popular “other.” 

Highlights in the “Other” category included (not necessarily in order of importance…):

Beer!

iPod

My inhaler.  🙂  I’ve gotta breathe.

Well, you can’t argue with breathing.  One of my favorite things to do.  And, coincidentally one of the reasons that I don’t particularly care for swimming.  Not that you asked.

ANYWAY, thanks for participating in our Great Gear poll. 

Have a great, healthy, active weekend, everybody!  😀

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It’s a 12-miler today.  Drove the route Thursday in my car.  Um.  It really is kinda long.  Hope Mom’s HalfWay House Potty Stop is open for business at mile 6.4. 

It’s been since Monday since I’ve laced up my shoes and gotten out there to run.  Don’t care how cold or yucky it is.  So. Excited. To. Run. Today!

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THE PLAN:  12 mile run today.  SO glad to get back out there after three days off and after the monstrous-hills-from-hell trail I ran last weekend!

PREDICTION:  Awesome, of course.

THE REALITY:  To be determined.  I’ll update you all afterwards, assuming I survive.

[UPDATE]:  Okay, so 20 degrees really is cold.  Not so bad when you’re running down residential areas where houses and trees break the wind, but today I went an extra mile out and back in the middle of my longest running route (turning 10 into 12 miles), and I got to run in some Very. Open. Spaces.  Wondering if I will ever completely thaw out!

That being said, the run was AWESOME!  There were little snowflakes flurrying around the entire time I ran, but no where near enough for accumulation.  Had to avoid the puddles ice patches, where water had frozen for a stretch on the sidewalk, and make friends with some doggies who were bravely defending their yards from intruders, but overall, it was a very great day. 

I felt better about running the 12 miles when I considered that it was only 1.1 mile short of the half-marathon distance that I’d conquered and that I’d be able to do one of those again with more grace than the first time.  But I had to force myself to stop thinking that even when I was finished with my Longest Training Run Ever (to date) that I still wouldn’t have gone half the distance of the marathon that I’m going to be doing in less than three months.  Ack! 

Among many other things, I’m especially thankful today for my hydration belt, my hideous compression pants, Mom’s HalfWay Potty House (just knowing it’s there makes me feel better, whether I end up stopping or not!), safe streets, courteous drivers, warm showers and a family who supports me in this truly crazy journey.

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Just a reminder, Sunday is the last day submit your recipes for our Contest. 

The How (guidelines) of the Contest can be found and entries can be submitted HERE.

The Why (desperate plea for help) for the Contest can be found HERE

The drawing for The Prize will be held on and the winner will be announced on Monday. 

 

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Yesterday was a wonderful family day.

Yesterday was a 10-mile run day. 

Today is a Rest Day. 

Who knew after you’re 40 your body does most of its hard work when you’re actually resting

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Ahhhh.  Life is good.

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