I run because…

Today is National Running Day. I follow a lot of runners and read a lot of running and fitness blogs, and there was a prompt floating around: “I run because…”

It got me thinking…why do I run?

Short answer: I run because I can.

Long answer: I run because it makes me happy, it pushes me to become a better person, to eat cleaner, and to take better care of myself. It gives me alone time to clear my mind. It prevents me from having to take anger management classes. It gives me time to enjoy nature and get some fresh air. Running gives me confidence, physical and mental stamina, and peace. I run because I can’t afford a therapist. You get the idea.

I started running in high school. For whatever reason, I just always knew I’d be on the cross country and track teams. I don’t know why I had it in my head. I dabbled in softball and did some gymnastics as a kid, but I never really played organized sports. It just wasn’t my thing. My mom jokes it’s because I don’t play well with others. There might be some merit in that.

When I first started running, I was not good. (Disclaimer: I’m still not). I was the slowest girl on the team, and that’s not an exaggeration. Every race, I gutted it out for second-worst time on the team with one other girl, and she usually won. Many of my peers seemed naturally better at running that I was. There were several freshmen on the varsity squad. Now that I’m more experienced, I realize that I was running with some amazingly talented people. As a slow freshman surrounded by speedsters, I felt like a failure. But I kept coming back. And coming back.

And every time I came back, I got a little faster. Was I ever the fastest? Nope. Did I still feel inadequate compared to other, faster girls on the team? Sometimes. But I was still proud of my improvements.

I finally made the varsity cross country team off and on my senior year, always as the slowest on the varsity squad, and I had to bust my butt for it. I won “Most Improved” at the end of the season. From freshman to senior year, I took over 9 minutes off my 5k time (told you, SLOW). I was so proud of myself and incredibly excited for spring track season, which had always been my stronger sport (relatively speaking, that is!).

During winter training, I somehow managed to hurt my back. It took forever for the doctors to figure out why I was in so much pain. My legs were going numb and I couldn’t sleep. Sitting in a school desk was excruciating. I was miserable. Turns out, I had torn a disc in my lower back. I still have no idea how.

With that, out went my track season. I never got to see how much I had improved in the 3200m run. Watching from the sidelines was awful, but I had no choice. I was too injured, and recovery was going to take months. I felt really sorry for myself; luckily, had I had other activities to keep me busy. I didn’t get well enough to run again until about halfway through my first year of college.

I ran sporadically throughout college, but never more than 4 or 5 miles at a time. It wasn’t a priority and I had other things to occupy my time. I picked it up much more regularly after I graduated and started my first job in South Carolina, where I hadn’t made friends yet.

I’d gotten back into a serious fitness regimen in the spring of 2010 when I started having a lot of pain and cramping in my abdomen and back. As it turns out, I had a giant cyst in my ovary. One so big, they had to remove the cyst and the ovary via open abdominal surgery. I spent the next 8 weeks recovering. During that time of inactivity, I realized how important running actually was to me. How much healthier it made me, mentally and physically. Because I was a runner, I recovered from surgery faster. Because running made me more aware of my body and how it should feel, I noticed something was off and had it checked out, despite my doctor’s suggestion to “just wait.”

As soon as I got the OK to start running again, I signed up for my first half marathon. It was something I’d “always wanted to do,” but never bothered making time for because I thought I could do it later. That surgery made me realize that there isn’t always a “later.”

If you want to do something, go do it. This was made even more real to me when Dan tripped during one of our runs together and broke his tibia and tore his MCL, ACL, and PCL. He hasn’t been able to run since, and just had another surgery with the hope that he will be able to in a few months. So far, things are looking good. I had the same feeling last summer, after Kim passed away and I realized I’d never watch him come running down Royall Prairie Lane ever again.

So. I run because I’m here, I’m healthy, and I can.

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The importance of order

The lack of recent blogs is attributable to many things, but mostly to the fact that I had pretty major surgery back in June and was unable to exercise for several weeks. That’s all over now (and I’m fine, thank God), so on to bigger and better things.

I’ve talked about making time for exercise and eating well before, but one thing that I’ve found really helps me get my workout in and ensures that I pack a healthy lunch is the order in which I do things.

See, I’d found myself frequently pressed for time before work, and though I’d almost always manage to complete my workout, I’d rush to work empty-handed in the lunch department. That means no snacks during the day and fewer healthy (and cheap) options for dinner. Also, I was putting my coworkers’ lives in danger by allowing my blood sugar to drop so low.

So, to get my priorities in order, I made one simple switch: I make my lunch immediately after I work out, before I shower and get ready for work.* This isn’t a huge change, but it helps me budget my time better. It puts figuring out my food for the day ahead of putting on makeup and over-styling my hair. It lessens the rush I put myself through before I hop in the car for the commute to work. It gives me peace of mind that, if nothing else, I will be well-fed throughout the day.

If I dawdle or oversleep, it’s not my workout or lunch that suffers – it’s my appearance. And if having a great variety of healthy food packed in my lunch box means having to wear my hair in a ponytail because I didn’t get a move on, then so be it. I still look good for work, and I don’t have to worry about mortally harming my coworkers as I rampage to the vending machine for a Snickers bar.

*I work nights, so I have more time in the morning than most people. Obviously, packing your healthy lunch the night before work would serve the same purpose.

Working around injury

Ever since I started working at a newspaper back in college, I’ve had mild carpal tunnel syndrome. Most of the time, it’s a minor annoyance; tingly fingers and sore forearms, but it can be quite painful. It’s pretty dependent on how many days I work in a row and what other activities I’ve been doing. It’s been pretty bad lately, so I’ve been trying to scale back the types of exercises I do to give my poor little wrists a break. Given that Jillian videos and circuit training typically comprise my workouts, that puts me in trouble! Push-ups, planks, mountain climbers, etc., are integral to those routines.

To shake things up and give myself the chance to recover, I’ve been doing my regular videos but modifying exercises that require me to be in push-up or plank position. Instead of mountain climbers, I’ll do jumping jacks; instead of push-ups, I’ll do dumbbell rows; instead of plank twists, I’ll do bicycle crunches. You get the idea. This enables me to get the general benefit of the original exercise without aggravating my injury. I’ve also found that it helps to use a set of hand weights as hand holds for push-ups and the like. Instead of placing my hands flat on the ground, which puts them at a 90-degree angle, I’ll set my weights down where my hands need to be and grasp them like a handle while I do the exercises. This keeps my wrist straight and reduces the amount of strain I put on my forearms.

These modifications seem to work for me, and I don’t have to sacrifice my workout. What do you do to work around injury and give yourself a chance to recover?

Making time…again

Life has been insane mode ever since the beginning of February, when we did our taxes and found that we owed the government a disgusting amount of money. From that point on, our free time was consumed with working overtime and looking at homes to buy so we could take advantage of the tax credit (something we’d been hoping to do, anyway).

Let me tell you, living under that kind of financial stress for so long can really put a damper on working out and eating well. We were hellbent on saving as much money as possible, so the quality of our food was downgraded a bit, though we did cook at home much more to save some cash. And by cook, I mean we made a lot of tuna sandwiches and fruit smoothies. In fact, I think there was a period of about two weeks where we didn’t eat a single hot meal.

THANK GOD IT’S OVER.

Anyway, Dan and I both fell off the workout horse, but we’ve picked ourselves up and are back in the saddle for yet another ride. I’ve been loving some of Jillian’s older workout videos that I found via The Shredheads. They are similar to 30-Day Shred in approach but incorporate more moves from her book, Making the Cut (which I wrote about at length here). You can read a review of the Biggest Winner set here.

So, I’m writing to say … I’m baaaaack.

Making time

Everyone is busy. Really, really busy. That can make it really hard to get in a workout and eat well. Dan and I knew this upcoming week was going to be particularly rough, so we tried our best to prepare. We planned out the meals we wanted for the week and went to the grocery store Sunday afternoon. Stupid, I know. It was Super Bowl Sunday and the place was packed. We then came home and proceeded to prepare our major meals for the rest of the week. It took us maybe 90 minutes to make the following:

  • Baked chicken
  • Baked scallops
  • A huge chopped salad
  • A few pounds of steamed broccoli and cauliflower
  • Pasta salad with fresh veggies
  • Lemon garlic asparagus
  • Homemade macaroni and cheese

All of that, coupled with the nuts, raw fruits and veggies, and string cheese we snack on, fed us for the entire week. In fact, we probably ate better this week than we usually do, even though we were much busier. I adapted my workouts by trading in  my 40-minute sessions for some 30 Day Shred. That enabled me to squeeze my sweat sessions in, despite my lack of time. All in all, it was a pretty successful week.

When you make the commitment to eat well and exercise, it’s important to plan ahead so you can follow through. Make it a priority; Try to anticipate what your week is going to look like  you so can adjust accordingly. It will prevent disappointment and lead to success, which will motivate you to keep going.

Making the Cut – The Verdict

So, I’ve more or less finished Making the Cut. I have to admit, I didn’t stick to it 100% – I switched up some days off and modified the meal plan. It also took me longer than 30 days; more like 35, but I’m pleased with the results.

I took my measurements yesterday to find that I’ve lost a total of 6.5 inches from my body. I feel that’s pretty impressive, considering I wasn’t particularly out of shape to begin with. I don’t know what my weight is, but I’ll try to access a scale in the next few days to find out.

I can only imagine the results I’d have gotten if I’d followed the plan without any modifications. I have to say, Making the Cut is a superb program, especially if you have a specific event (wedding, vacation, whatever), that you want to look fit for. Even if you can’t follow it to the letter, just limiting your calories to the suggested amount and doing the prescribed workouts will yield serious results.

Moving forward, I’m upping my calorie uptake a little, and I’m going to do a rotation of Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism; No More Trouble Zones and 30-Day Shred. Once it warms up a little, I’ll hit the ground running again.

My hope is to keep this up so I won’t have to make a mad dash to feel comfortable in a swimsuit come pool season. And I want to beat everyone at arm-wrestling.

A test of patience (I passed)

Yesterday was a stupid day.

It was one of those days that start out great, but end up being terrible because so many little things go wrong.

  • The Internet wasn’t working, and we had bills to pay
  • I had to call the car insurance people to deal with a bill issue
  • The desk was so messy that I had to clean it to find what I needed before I could call the insurance people
  • Slider knocked a huge, full glass of water over, where it spilled all over my purse and its contents
  • Some work stuff went awry
  • So on and so forth

So nothing really big happened, but all the little things really added up to wear me down.

That morning, I really wanted to get to the grocery store to take advantage of Shop N Save’s $10 off $50 or more coupon, so I knew I would have to cut my workout short. Naturally, I was going to do the 30 Day Shred, just because I was so pressed for time, but I COULDN’T FIND IT ANYWHERE. So I tried to hunt down my No More Trouble Zones dvd to do a few circuits of that. Same thing … nowhere to be found.  I was so irritated that I couldn’t find what I was looking for that I nearly scrapped my whole workout so I could go to the store.

Then my voice of reason kicked in: “At least put in Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism and get in a few circuits. Just put it in. Do it.” And I did.

Even though I only got in about 25 minutes of exercise (and ran out of time for the store anyway), I felt so much better. Had I not worked out, I would’ve regretted later. I also would’ve been a grumpy mess. Taking that 25 minutes to get my sweat on helped me to diffuse my frustration and start my day with a kick.

Not only that, but I don’t have to feel guilty for skipping a day.