Friday, July 30, 2010

Running to Remember

Barring any unforeseen injuries, I'll be running my first 5K race six weeks from tomorrow!

(Yes, I'm totally knocking on wood right now, after the injury reference. I'm not terribly superstitious, but...oh, who am I kidding? I'm a baseball fan! Of COURSE I'm superstitious!)

The race I've chosen is incredibly meaningful to me. It's the Arlington 9-11 Memorial 5K Run, and you can read its history at

My 9/11 story is nothing special - I didn't lose a loved one, or witness the horrific events as they unfolded. But I was in DC that day, just a few blocks from the Capitol and scared out of my mind. The experience had a profound effect on me, and not in a positive way.

Everyone I know seemed to recover from 9/11 and go back to their normal lives with little difficulty, but the terror and overwhelming sadness caused me to lose any skills I once had for coping with stressful situations. I don't know why it all affected me so deeply; all I know is that I never was the same after that day.

Losing the ability to handle stress definitely had an impact on my weight and fitness, as I became much more prone to emotional eating. I'd been in great shape leading up to my wedding just 10 days before the terror attacks, but lost the drive to exercise when it felt like the world was ending.

From then on, every major challenge I faced in my life, from my mother's deteriorating health to my struggles in finding a permanent job, etc., led me further down the road to poor health. Without good coping skills, I drowned my sorrows and stress in junk food and laziness over and over and over again.

I think the reason the pattern kept repeating so easily was that I didn't even recognize what was happening. Only in the past couple of years have I been able to look back with clarity and pinpoint all of the problems and how they built upon one another. September 11th didn't make me fat, but I realize now that if I had dealt with my own emotional reactions to that day in a more constructive way, I might not have developed such unhealthy habits in the aftermath. It's my own fault for letting things get so bad, but at least I'm finally doing something about it now!

When I run around the Pentagon on September 11, 2010, I will remember the poor innocent souls who perished there nine years before. I will pray for their families and loved ones and hope that they're living well today. And with each step I will release the fear, sorrow, and anger I've carried for far too long, and hopefully start getting back some semblance of my pre-9/11 self.

Not to put too much pressure on my very first race or anything, but it sort of feels like I'll literally be running for my life. :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

When You Least Expect

It would be a tad too optimistic to claim that my recent slump is over, but I have made an unexpected breakthrough!

Saturday's "excessive heat warning" joined forces with severe nasal/sinus congestion to leave me feeling more beat down than ever yesterday. I was dreading my evening run, convinced it could only go poorly.

As I laced up my fancy sneakers, my racing dreams seemed worlds away. I tried to give myself a pep talk, but the best I could conjure was a list of cliches: "Fake it 'till you make it;" "Go through the motions;" "Just do it."

My expectations were low when I stepped onto the treadmill. The plan was to run my 21 minutes in two blocks with 3 minutes of walking in the middle. I wanted the first run to be at least 11 minutes long so the second run would be shorter than the first. The farther I got past 11, the better...but in truth I doubted my ability to complete the 21 minutes with only one walking break.

As soon as I started running, something just clicked in my head. Without any drama or fanfare, I said to myself, "I'm just going to run the whole thing straight through. I don't think I CAN do it...but I just WILL." It was as simple as that decision. And I did it. I DID.

Now, I know that running 21 minutes at 5mph is no great athletic feat. The true victory for me last night was mental. My body was clearly capable of completing the run, but what had been suffering in recent weeks was my mind. I hope this breakthrough gives me enough momentum to get back on track. I have until August 3rd to register for the 5K I want to do before the price goes up, so this is the week when I need to be mentally strong enough to commit.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Dog Days of Summer

I'm having major motivation issues right now. I thought I was back on track after a week or two of laziness and excuses. I thought I'd gotten my head back in the game.

Not so, it would seem. I feel myself disengaging mentally. Where I used to look forward to my runs all day long, now I dread them. Where I used to enjoy every lap of my swims, now I'm back to feeling like I did in the beginning, pushing myself just to get through the workout so it can be over.

My inner lazy slug is trying to take over again, and I don't know why. It's not that my goals are any less interesting to me...I still want to run a 5K, and then a 10K, and then start training for a triathlon. I still want to lose weight and improve my overall health and live an active lifestyle. I just don't feel like working hard at it right now.

Could it be just a phase? That's what I'm hoping. It has been a long, hot summer, and I'm feeling a little worn out, burned out, beat down. Maybe what I need is cooler temperatures and the fresh-start feeling that autumn always brings. Unfortunately summer is still in full swing, and autumn is way off on the horizon.

I need to find a way to recharge my batteries NOW. I do have a beach vacation coming up in a couple of weeks, and hopefully that will help. I hope to get in 2-3 runs while on vacation, but otherwise I will spend my time relaxing, playing with my kids, enjoying my relatives and friends, and not worrying about the scale or the treadmill.

Until then I guess I will "fake it 'till I make it." I'll keep pushing forward physically and hope that sticking with the exercise will eventually get my brain to re-engage and my motivation to return. If anyone wants to give me a pep talk, feel free! And thanks! :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

I'm starting to think my unhealthiest habit isn't my love affair with cake or my lengthy list of excuses not to work out. The worst thing I do to my body is fail to get enough sleep on a regular basis.

I've always been much more of a night owl than a morning person, and it wasn't hard to get away with that sort of schedule when I could balance my late nights with sleeping in later than most people do. I still used to average 6-7 hours of sleep per night, never 8, but I functioned reasonably well.

Ever since I started getting up at 6am to swim most mornings, I've been operating on even less sleep, because I haven't balanced that out with an earlier bedtime. I generally go to bed sometime between 12 and 1, which means I'm getting 5-6 hours of sleep most nights, and it's just not enough. It's a vicious cycle that self-perpetuates and gets worse and worse. I'm not getting enough sleep, so I'm tired all day and not working or performing other tasks efficiently. This leads to having to stay up later to get enough work hours in or find time to get other things done....and then I'm even MORE tired the next day. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Recently I've read that lack of sleep impedes weight loss, and it's easy to see how this is true. Sometimes when I'm sleepy I turn to sugary treats to give me a little pick-me-up. And some mornings I am just too exhausted to get up and swim. I believe there are also physiological explanations of how sleep deprivation impedes weight loss but I can't recall them offhand. All I know for sure is that I'm tired, and I don't know how to fix it.

I love the idea of having enough energy every day to be able to do everything I need to do in a timely fashion. I just don't know how to reverse the cycle in which I'm currently stuck. How do I force myself to go to bed at a reasonable time every night, especially if that hour arrives and I still have things I need to do? How do I adjust my thinking to make sleep a higher priority?

Maybe I should have saved this post for a "Tuesday Tips" entry, since what I need is some advice on how to get more sleep so I can be healthier. But I'm really sleepy today after staying up way too late the last 3 nights (and most nights last week as well) and I feel like I'm close to a breaking point. Please help if you can! And please forgive me if this post is not well-written...I'm definitely not as good with words when I'm overtired. So see, it's in your best interests as a reader of my blog to help me get more sleep so that what you read makes sense. :) Thanks!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Meet Me Halfway

Once again I have let time slip past without updating this blog. You really shouldn't be surprised, if you know me at all. :)

For the last week or so, I have really been off my game. I've had a lot going on, and when my focus shifted to other aspects of my life, my fitness motivation lapsed a bit. My diet has been heavy on cupcakes and my mornings have been light on trips to the pool. I even missed another week of running due to treadmill issues, scheduling issues, and major laziness issues. I'm sure you can guess the biggest culprit among those three!

The good news is that this week I am back on track! After Sunday's run I am officially halfway through my walk/run program and will now shift from mostly walking to mostly running! I opted to do my last run (15 minutes) nonstop, saving the walking for the end, and it went great! My leg is holding up well...only the slightest bit of pain, and it actually seems to be lessening. I don't know for sure if the new shoes made the difference; I'm just grateful the difference was made regardless!

If my running continues to go well, I think I'll be ready in the next few weeks to select a target 5K. I actually have a race in mind, and I ought to be ready just in time, but I want to wait a little longer before I say anything, lest I jinx it. I had just registered for my first race back in the winter when my leg pain got unbearable and I realized I needed to see a doctor and stop running for a while. I don't want to officially choose and register for another race until I'm a little more certain that I'll actually be able to run it this time!

Swimming continues to go well. My flip turns are getting smoother, though they're still more turn than flip. I guess it doesn't really matter how they look as long as they get the job done, right? As I get more comfortable doing them, my whole workout gets a little easier. I think I'll be looking for a new challenge in the pool soon, just to keep things interesting. A friend sent me a pool workout she read about, so I might give that a try.

I'm off to start week 9, running 18 minutes and only walking 12...wish me luck!