Back to the Trails

After roughly five months without running, I finally ventured back out today. It was too beautiful of a day out not to take advantage of it. I figured today would be a great time to test my shin and see how it held up to running again. It felt so good to be outside this morning, with the temperatures in the high sixties/seventy mark and not a single cloud in the sky. The flowers are beginning to burst out in bloom. It felt amazing to be out walking – running again.

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At first I thought that I’d just go a short route just to test my leg, but once I got out there – well, you can see from the picture above, I just had to go my favorite long path just to be out there. After all, it has been a wet and gloomy (yes, cold too) few weeks for us down here in “sunny” Florida.

My leg held up okay…not great but it’s healing. It was mostly walking interspersed with some running and I did fine for the first couple of miles before the leg started sending out some warning signals. It wasn’t pain, but rather just a little zing here and there just to let me know to back down. Normally, I’d ignore the signals and keep pushing through it. Not now, I’ve been humbled by the lowly leg. It cracked the whip on me hard when I wouldn’t stop punishing it with the running before. Yes – I’m aware I’m referring to my body parts as individual entities. Sometimes it feels that way.

My brain and my body are constantly at war with each other. The brain says we can do it! Let’s go and take on the world! My body says, uh uh, no. There’s 52 years of wear and tear on these parts…slow down. The body parts seem to be winning the battle against the brain for now. But that’s ok, brain is learning to listen and eventually they’ll play nice.

In the meantime, I walked – ran a little until the leg sent out little zingers. Then I’d slow down and take some time to look at the beauty around me. Take pictures. Soak in the sunshine.

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Boot Camp

When the doc told me to stop running due to stress fractures in my shin, I pretty much stopped doing anything. I didn’t post any blogs, I just kind of slid into a funk. Originally I was only going to be booted for a month then it was two months then a couple more weeks. When I finally got it off, I was told no running for a while. By that time I felt as if I had gained weight, lost all my muscle tone and just felt generally crappy.

It’s amazing how much of a boost exercise gives your brain, not to mention the benefits your body gets from it. The only problem for me is – it’s so hard to get started. I was doing great for a while there as long as I kept the momentum going. Much like a pregnant woman who gets a free pass to eat and gain weight during the pregnancy, I started eating junk, telling myself that I might as well enjoy something if I couldn’t run. Huge mistake, I know.

Instead of hitting the trails, I decided to try boot camp. I found a great one. It’s small so that it feels as if I had my own personal trainer. The trainer is great, she keeps us moving without sounding like a drill sergeant. The best thing about this is the way it’s giving me a good workout without putting all the stress on my shins, ankles and feet. It’s a slow process but I feel my muscles getting stronger again. My endurance is improving and all without feeling any bone pain in my body.

This is not to say I’m not going to go running again. I will definitely be hitting the trails, especially when those beautiful days. But I’m going to keep mixing it up with an overall training program. Keep taking the calcium supplements and be a little more conscientious of keeping the nutrients that my body needs for bone health.

Perhaps I’ll be able to work my way up to a marathon one day. Yes, I think running a marathon could be one of the things on my bucket list…

Booted!!!

I’ve been booted! The doctor put a boot on my leg!

Not something any runner likes to hear. I’d been experiencing a lot of pain in my shin for going on a month now and it was interfering with my running. I figured that I’d probably worn out all the cushioning from my running shoes and needed new ones, but I kept putting off getting shoes because there was so much going on in my life. School started and as any parent knows, there’s a lot of expenses associated with the start of the school year. So, I put it off.

Meanwhile I’d go running and have to ice my shin for a day or so after. I figured maybe giving myself a few days off from running would help. I took a few days off, then ran again. The pain would come back, but I’d keep running through the pain until I didn’t feel it anymore. Of course, once I stopped running it would come flooding back.

I decided to take a week off from running. I actually started feeling much better and stopped walking with a limp, so I tried again. This time I made sure to go out and buy some new running shoes. Saturday morning came and it was a gorgeous day outside. Excitedly I put on my brand new running shoes, hot pink shoelaces and all, and ventured out.

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I noticed that I was still feeling discomfort in my shin while walking.  Annoyed, I thought, okay stop being such a wuss and get through this.  I ran. I pushed myself halfway through my five mile route when I finally had to admit that there was something to this and that I really should go see someone about it.  The other problem I was encountering was the fact that my mother had been having a rough time in the past few months requiring several trips to doctors and even a hospital stay. I was already taking a lot of time away from work for her and also for my daughter with her school needs. I really couldn’t afford to take any more time off so I tend to put myself way down on the bottom of the list. Which is what most mothers do.

It was time to put myself way up on the top of the list, even if it was just for a short while. After all if I’m not healthy, how will I take care of them, right?? So, I made an appointment.

The doctor looked at my leg, poked around, watched me walk, sent me for X-rays then an MRI.

“Stress fractures,” he pronounced.  “I’m going to put a boot on you to relieved some of the pressure on your shin while you walk.”

“I guess that means no walking or running for a while, huh?” I asked.

He looked at me with a raised eyebrow and a lopsided smile and said, “Nope.”

It feels like my leg has been put in a prison. The boot is so cumbersome and annoying. I’m getting irritable because I don’t like being told I can’t run. Actually I’m annoyed because every time I do try to run, the pain is so bad that I have to stop. I’m pissed off because the weather is cooling down and we are having some of the most beautiful fall days that are perfect for long runs and I can’t go. I’m just incredibly frustrated right now.

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I know that I should have gone to the doctor as soon as I noticed that kind of sharp pain. Muscle aches, we all know those can be worked through with rest and icing, but this one felt like it was in the bone. I know it was partly my fault for pushing it to the limit and for not taking care of it immediately. It’s just so much easier to take care of the people around me than it is to concentrate on myself.

The lesson learned here is – if you neglect yourself long enough, you will reach a point where you cannot take care of those around you.

So, bottom line is I need to keep the boot on until all the pain is gone from my shin. Then hopefully I’ll be able to get back out there to run. The disappointing thing is, I’m going to have to start all over again with my running progress. Hopefully it’ll be very, very soon so I can enjoy the beautiful fall weather before it gets too chilly. The good thing is I’m in a warm climate so even if it gets chilly, we still have beautiful fall like days all throughout the winter months. So, I’ll just focus on that.

Fifty Two Life Lessons

My fifty second birthday is peeking over the horizon at me. Just a few more days and it’ll be on top of me. It’s truly amazing how quickly the years fly by. Especially once you have kids. There was a time when I thought being fifty was ancient. It was so far down the road and quite frankly I just never really envisioned myself being in my fifties. That was where my parents resided. Then one day I wake up and realize with a shock that I’m there. I’m officially middle-aged.

The interesting thing is – I don’t feel like a middle-aged person. I still feel and think like I did when I was younger. I still enjoy running and being active. I still find amusement in the stupidest, little things and delight in beauty around me. Somehow I always associated middle age with boring, dour looking folks who have long outgrown fanciful things like dreams and playing. At least that was how I always saw my parents and their friends, or maybe that was just how the younger generation sees things. But, being in my fifties really isn’t bad at all.  I’ve learned a lot of things along the way and actually look forward to learning more as I get older. Every stage in life has its own level of learning and it’s not about getting old, it’s about learning and growing mentally and emotionally.

Since I’ve been doing some reflecting on life, I thought I’d try to come up with 52 life lessons that have worked for me. In no particular order… I’m just typing them up as they come to mind.

1. Smile. Smiling does wonders to change a mood. People respond positively to a genuine smile, and that positive response goes a long way in boosting your own mental state. I don’t mean walk around grinning like an idiot every second of the day. It’s just that we all have a choice… we can choose to look at the good or bad aspect of situations. Those who choose to dwell on the good things tend to be much more approachable and easy to be around.

2. Don’t marry just for the sake of getting married. There are literally billions of people on this planet. Life is too special to be wasted being with someone that isn’t quite right for you. When you meet that perfect match, you’ll know it. If you haven’t, at least have fun meeting people along the way. There’s nothing wrong with being alone when you’re comfortable and at peace with yourself. Being married to the wrong person and trying to make it work, only adds stress and unhappiness along the way. Too many times I’ve seen (I was one…) where people meet and say that they can work around the differences and change the person. Trust me, it’s not easy to change the core of who someone is.

3. Exercise. Okay, I can hear the groans already. A lot of people think exercise is overrated. It’s not. It truly does create a more positive state of mind as well as better health. I’ve gone through periods of exercising and not. Whenever I went for a while without a regular workout regime, I started feeling bad both physically and mentally. My physical feeling would be aches, pains and a feeling of being too heavy. The discomfort that I felt with myself only brought my mental state down. Then I would get back into running and always, without fail, I’d feel that boost of confidence. That positive energy would start flowing through me again. Our bodies are just like any mechanical thing we may have such as cars. If you don’t take your car in for regular tune-ups and make sure the tires, oil and other things are changed or maintained on a regular basis – it’s going to break down on you and quit. Our bodies are basically the same way. They need to be maintained and treated well to carry us through our lifetime.

4. Play. Always make time for playing. We work and spend much of our time trying to save a little money, pay bills, maintain our homes, cars and take care of our families. It’s incredibly important to make time for fun. Otherwise your mind is going to get so bogged down with responsibilities. Make time to let loose, go somewhere new, experience something fun. Just get out and clear your head of problems and really enjoy yourself.

5. Choose your battles wisely. If you’re going to get into an argument with someone, at least make sure it’s a worthwhile battle. Otherwise it’s wasted energy. If it really isn’t important and about something that isn’t going to affect your life and surroundings, then just let it go.

6. Learn something new whenever possible. Take a class, read, explore…you’ll be a much more interesting person for it.

7. Make time for animals in your life. They can teach a lot about unconditional love.

8. Try new experiences. I went snow skiing for the first time in my life last winter and had a fantastic time. I don’t want to find myself sitting in a wheelchair at eighty wondering what it would have been like if….

9. If you have kids, give them the absolute best you can. Prepare them for life and give them the tools needed to succeed. And love them unconditionally.

10. Think before you speak. Who among us hasn’t been quick with our mouths only to regret the words coming out. Maybe this is something that has to be learned over time, but it’s very true that our words can sometimes cut deep.

11. Be sensible about your finances. Money isn’t everything, but it’s nothing to brush aside either. Find a good balance where you have enough money so you don’t have to worry about your next meal or how you’ll pay your bills, but at the same time don’t let money run your life.

12. Leave a place better than when you arrived. Pick up after yourself, get rid of trash, etc. None of us want to live in a dumpster so why would we just leave trash laying around?

13. Make time for books and movies. They’re great for relaxation and entertainment, but don’t make them a focal point of your life.

14. Enjoy good food. Be open to trying different dishes and flavors.

15. When in love, love with all your heart. If the love fades then let it go and move on. Know that nothing is forever and sometimes the universe knows what we need at certain points in our lives.

16. Laugh often and laugh loud.

17. See the ocean at least once in your life.

18. Go to the mountains at least once in your life.

19. Possessions are there to enhance your life, not to encumber it. Be willing to give things away when they’ve outlived their purpose. Life is not about things, but about experiences.

20. Always treat others the way you would want to be treated.

21. Never underestimate the power of sleep. A good night sleep will do wonders to boost morale and lift spirits.

22. If you see something beautiful, stop and take it in. Don’t be in such a rush that you miss a great sunset or the glitter from the sun dancing across a lake. We’re not going to be here forever so don’t take beauty for granted.

23. Take care of the older generation. They’ve been around a long time, they deserve to be respected and cared for. These were people that were our age at one time. Always remember that we will all get to that point at one time or another and treat them how we would expect or wish to be treated ourselves.

24. When doing a job for someone, do it well. You wouldn’t appreciate paying someone to do something for you only to see that they’re putting in a half-assed attempt. Do your job well and to the best of your ability.

25. Get crazy once in a while. Let your hair down and don’t be afraid to look foolish. As long as no one gets hurt by your actions, it’s good to let loose.

26. Create something. A picture, poem, story, garden… anything. Just put something together and watch it grow.

27. Nothing’s perfect. We live in an imperfect world, with imperfect people. Accept these imperfections and learn to see beauty in them.

28. Cry. Don’t be afraid to cry and show your emotions.

29. Show appreciation whenever you can. People usually respond amazingly to a simple but genuine “thank you”.

30. Take vacations. Even if you don’t have the money to travel someplace exotic, a simple drive to the beach or countryside can rejuvenate ones soul.

31. Take time for inner reflection. The world we live in is so fast-paced and hectic that it’s easy to lose touch with yourself.  Step back once in a while to take a breather and meditate. Gather your thoughts and center yourself.

32. Nothing is permanent. Sometimes someone or something that was so good for us at one time can become a source of anxiety or frustration after time. If this happens, it may be time to step back and away from that source. We don’t all go down the same paths in life. Paths intersect for periods of times and then they may divide and you find yourselves going down different paths. It’s okay to move on. Don’t hold on so tightly and refuse to let things flow.

33. Enjoy a good glass of wine.

34. Accept change. It’s inevitable in this changing world we live in. Why fight it?

35. Dress up and wear something incredibly sexy once in a while.

36. Take lots of pictures. Going back and looking at them usually puts a smile on my face.

37. Don’t procrastinate. Easier said than done, I know. But taking care of things right then and there reduces stress in your life. You’re not constantly thinking of the things that need to be taken care of when they’re done on the spot.

38. Accept people for who they are. Too many times, especially in relationships, people will find something that they’re not 100% happy with and place their focus on “fixing” that imperfection. It doesn’t work. Determine if it’s an imperfection that you can live with and leave it alone. If not, move on.

39. Eat sensibly. What we put into our bodies does have an impact on how we feel. Maybe not immediately but over time…  You wouldn’t put dirt into your gas tank, would you? It would muck it all up. Our bodies are the same way.

40. Give what you would like to receive. I’m not talking about things. I’m talking about love, gratitude, respect…

41. Don’t follow the crowd. Too often the crowd is doing things only to be accepted or to be popular and often that entails things that we may not be in agreement with. Step back and be true to yourself.

42. If you see someone being bullied or pushed around, stick up for them. Let them know they’re not alone and let the aggressors know that what they’re doing isn’t cool.

43. Spend time with a baby who is discovering the world for the first time. Seeing things through their eyes really puts things in perspective.

44. Dream. The day you stop dreaming is the day you stop living and start just existing.

45. Enjoy getting older. It may not be so much fun to see the wrinkles on the face, but really, they’re an indicator of what a person has been through. The wisdom and knowledge gained from all those years should be embraced and revered.

46. Think about the choices you make. Your kid wants to go out and play with you but the house needs cleaning….  choose the playtime with the kid over cleaning. Cleaning can be done anytime, but the playing with the kid will be gone over time.

47. Treasure the people in your life. You never know how long they will be there so enjoy every moment you can with them.

48. Bullying, stalking, threatening actions are not cool.

49. Splurge once in a while on yourself. I have a hard time with this one. I tend to want to save my money and time for my mother and daughter that I tend to forget about myself. But when I do something for myself, it’s a great morale boost.

50. Don’t be self-centered. People who are able to forget about themselves to focus on other people or tasks tend to reap more than those who spend all their time thinking of their own desires.

51. What?? We’re not done yet????

52. Live, love, laugh and just enjoy the hell out of this life. Be kind, have fun, get crazy. We only get one shot at this, why not have fun while we’re here.

Happy birthday to me!!!!  Cheers!

Nothing like a good run

After weeks, months of getting sidetracked from my running schedule, I went for a long one today and it felt great. Granted, it was more of a walk peppered with short running bursts, but the main thing is getting out there. The release of endorphins in my brain always makes me feel more positive and energetic. There are several different routes that I like to take when I get out there to run. They’re based on the time I have for running and my mood. This one is one of the longer ones that I like to take on the weekends if I don’t have other pressing things to do. It takes me out for a good hour and by the time I get home, I’m tired, sore and exhausted but I always feel great mentally. It’s a beautiful route. almost zen-like if you can just lose yourself in the surroundings.

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Quiet, lots of shade and just beautiful.

When I don’t run or do some type of exercise, I usually start feeling frustrated and negative about things. That’s probably why I keep going back to running. It just takes away the negative energy and clears my head. If any of you read my last post, you’ll see that I was really at a point where little things were bothering me. I know so many negative people. All they see around them is the negative aspects of things. In reality everything has negative and positive aspects to them. It’s all in what or how you choose to look at them. When I’m not feeling good about myself, not making time for exercise then I can easily fall into that trap also. Without preaching, I’ve tried to share my feelings about exercising on a regular basis and typically the response I get is that they don’t like to get sweaty and dirty. Okay, that’s their choice and I respect that. For me, an hour of sweating in the heat and pushing through discomfort really pays off in feeling good the rest of the day.

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How can one not enjoy being out in this beauty?

Some people are able to set up a schedule for themselves and adhere to it. I find it impossible with an elderly parent and a teenage daughter. Too many unexpected things come up. That’s why I really need to push through being too tired on some days and take full advantage of every day that I can possibly get running in. The other stuff I can’t help.

I’d join a running club if I could. It would probably give me that extra motivation to be around others who enjoy the same thing. And to have a running partner who is counting on me to show up at a certain time for our run. Maybe someday when life settles down a bit more for me.

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To all you runners out there – see you tomorrow out on the trails…

The Perfect Rain

Ever feel like that? When you’re out and the rain comes, but it’s perfect. It fits the day, the mood and just lends fresh, clean feeling to everything.

I went out running this evening after work. It wasn’t easy for me to get started. I was tired, feeling sluggish and lazy. One of those days when I just had to push through my desire to vegetate on the sofa and get out there. It’s Monday and I was feeling sore still from my run over the weekend. Work is always heavier on Mondays. Then on top of all that, I needed to make a couple of stops on my way home after work to pick up a few things. It was hot and muggy. I felt sticky and dirty. Need I go on?? I just did not want to get out there today.

For me, when I get like that, I just need to keep moving. Do one thing after another, methodically get myself prepared to go. Didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it, but I also couldn’t allow myself to sit down because the sofa has a tendency to wrap itself around me and just keep me cocooned in its soft comfort. Anyway, I finally ran out of excuses and headed out the door.

It had been raining off and on the whole day mingled with sunshine and that usually creates a hot, steamy, sticky mess. So the heat immediately hit me in the face as I walked out the door. I willed myself to clear my mind of all discomfort and focus just in the moment and started walking. Then I started trotting, slowly, but I was moving. Without really noticing it, some clouds had moved in and a nice little breeze was kicking up.

Then the rain came…gentle and soft. Caressing my skin. Cooling it. Not enough to soak my clothes or even really get them wet but just enough to dampen my skin with fresh, cool moisture. Replacing the stickiness from the earlier heat of the day. Giving me energy to pick up my feet and break into a run. I could see the soft gray clouds drifting surrounded by blue skies.

I’ve had several instances in the past month where I went running and came back home soaked because a storm moved in. My clothes would literally have to be wrung out and my running shoes would be unwearable for a few days as they needed to dry out. While getting caught in a storm isn’t a bad thing, in fact sometimes it can be fun…it’s definitely not so much fun if the lightening decides to come out.

Today’s rain was perfect though.

Losing Ground

I’m back.

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. It’s amazing how little life events have the ability to wipe out any momentum you’ve built up in your daily routine. I was doing good for a while there… had a regular running schedule, eating healthy and I felt good. Then just one thing happens and everything snowballs and here I am starting over again. So aggravating.

My mother became ill to the point where I needed to go over and check on her daily. I was driving her to her appointments and doing all the shopping for her. Plus trying to take care of her place. Don’t forget I’m also a single mom to a teenager. Teens require attention – lots of it. Did I mention I’m also an only child? Everything pretty much fell on my shoulders these past couple of months and I had to put myself on a back burner. I tried to keep up with the running, but I was so tired and stressed that most evenings I’d just come home and vegetate for the little time I had before crashing.

I’ve had a chance to really see how stress can have a huge impact on your life. It really does put on weight, cause depression and illness. Too much of it and I can see people giving up. Not that I’m anywhere close to that, it’s just been an eye-opener for me to see just exactly how much of an impact an illness within the family can have.

Things are looking up now, mom is recovering nicely. It’s Summer which means “no school, no homework”, which translates to less stress (temporarily) for me as a parent. I’m working on getting my momentum back. There’s this app called “Map My Run” that I’ve downloaded to help me track my running progress. I can see where I’ve lost a lot of my stamina from before, but I’m building back up to it. The app is actually kind of cool if anyone wants to check it out.

The one thing I’m really taking away from this whole experience is to maybe try and reach out to anyone who is stuck in a much more serious situation with ill family members or a struggling single parent trying to juggle several things, and offer help in any way possible. It seems too many people have isolated themselves from one another, leaving some individuals who may not have a large support group to fall back on, to flounder about on their own. It’s really difficult for those people who find themselves in a situation where they’re taking care of an older and younger generation while still struggling to hold down a job and pay their own bills. Not to mention the stress that can get overwhelming at times.

I hope this blog wasn’t a downer for some of you. My intent wasn’t to moan and groan about my plight but rather to show how stress can really drag a person down if they don’t have other people to reach out and assist. If this blog has convinced just one other person to reach out and offer help to someone they see struggling, then I’ll feel like I’ve made a difference.

Meanwhile, I’m back out there again…running.