The Courage to Start Over Again

I find myself “back at square one” when it comes to my fitness goals. After a year of limited ability to exercise, followed by surgery, followed by recovery, I find myself with the ok to exercise from my doctor and no motivation to do so. I did go out one day and I ran three miles. I felt as if it were a half-marathon and that I was under-prepared. I was sore for four days afterward. Apparently I’m not ready for that and need to start slower.

Dejected and unmotivated, I decided to re-read my blog to see how I was able to get started the last time. Not only did I find my initial posts motivational, I found that I have left a record that, if not beneficial to anyone else, is a goldmine for me.  I struggled just as much back then just to get started walking on my treadmill. The difference is that I know just how far I got from that humble start. I need to do it again, and I need to find the courage to do it. I think I just did.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling that I already did this and shouldn’t have to do it again (the “poor me” trap), or the trap of thinking that I am just not the fitness “type”, or the trap that it just doesn’t matter. I do have to do it all again, but hopefully this time I will learn from past lessons and not get discouraged or take too many false steps.

I am the fitness type, because I’ve been fit and I loved it. I learned this late in life, not having been much of an athlete as a child. I learned that strength training makes me more stable…more graceful (I was never a graceful child). Running, eventually, makes me feel healthy and energized…at least the shorter runs do. The longer runs make me feel powerful in a whole different way…conquering my fears and proving to myself that I can do it.

It does matter. Being fit and healthy is a gift that only I can give myself and one that will extend my life and enhance my quality of life as I get older. It matters because it makes me better at all I do, provides me with endurance, energy, and perspective. It gives me confidence. I was getting used to the words, “I am a long-distance runner”, now I’ve removed all my “13.1” magnets from my car because they made me feel like a fraud. I earned them with blood (not much), sweat (a whole lot), and a few tears.

It won’t be easy, but what worthwhile goal ever is? I have new commitments that will make it harder for me to find time for fitness, but I’m used to scheduling challenges. I have my own, personal record of how to get to my goals, and I will…

Find the Joy in the Journey!


Eat More, Move Less, Gain Weight…Duh!

We all know the mantra, “eat less, move more, lose weight”. It is universally true, but that doesn’t make it easy to do. I was doing rather well in my goal to get fit and lose weight in the process. Then I started training for half-marathons and my body changed, if not my weight. I put on more muscle and burned a lot more calories…but I also ate more to fuel that work. It is shockingly easy to eat more without even realizing it. My real problem came on when I stopped training. I didn’t really mean to, but life intervened and I’ve not yet gotten around to re-balancing and fitting my workouts back into my daily life.

Looking back over the last six months, it’s clear to me what has happened. That is when my younger daughter started high school 15 miles away from home. It’s about an hour and a half for me to drive carpool, picking up two other girls, driving through rush-hour traffic, and then driving to work.  Fortunately I don’t have carpool every day and recently we added a fourth girl and my duties have shrunk further. Even so, on days I have carpool, I have to add the lost hours back into my workday leaving less time for workouts.

Starting in November, my daughter joined the Freshman basketball team and between practices and games, I’m driving even more, and almost on a daily basis. Fortunately, one of the other girls in the carpool is also on the team, so we do a lot of ride-sharing. As basketball wraps up, softball is starting. I have no one to share rides with for softball…so on to the end of the school year.

Just last month, I added a class of my own…back to school! Now I have even less time to workout. It is time to re-balance, for sure. I am not in a position right now to cut back at work or school, but I do know that I waste a lot of time on things that don’t support my goals but provide stress relief without all the effort of going for a run. I know that I can carve out time for getting back to a healthier fitness routine.FitBit Tracker

I am going back to basics and setting a new starting point. I stepped on the scale and recorded the disappointing results in my fitness app. I started tracking my food too. A clear pattern emerged immediately. It wasn’t a surprise, but seeing it on my computer makes it more real to me. I eat too many calories, more than half of which I consume after work. I do not get nearly enough fruits and vegetables in my diet. I am not drinking enough water. Taking a peek at my FitBit data, I am not moving much at all.

So, little by little, I will make improvements and reclaim some balance in my life. Changes, especially those that require more time and energy, are always disruptive, but time to take a deep breath and find a new routine that supports my goals.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the determination to never give up on your goals!


No Time To Be Tired–Time To Train!

I have been struggling to keep myself on track with my training choices. I am signed-up for a half-marathon in mid-October, and although I’ve been running, I haven’t been training or even running on any consistent schedule. Instead, I’ve been focused on how tired I am trying to keep up with my youngest child who just started high school miles from home and work.

Last night, I came home from work, put on my running gear..and ran. Just the 5k circuit through my neighborhood, but enough. I didn’t feel like doing it. I didn’t particularly enjoy it while I was doing it…but, in the end, it was good. As I walked back home, Eye of the Tiger came up on my iPod. As adrenaline rushed through me, I thought of a different tiger, one on a cereal box…yes, I felt GREAT!

Today, I finally looked up the Hal Higdon half-marathon training plan. It’s what I used for my first half…which I extended to three half-marathons last fall. I also used it to train for a half-marathon this spring. But, this last one, I hadn’t bothered to follow any plan…I was too busy. I counted out the weeks until my race, which is on October 19th…five and a half weeks. I looked down at the training plan to see that I should already have built up to eight miles for my weekly long run. This past Saturday, I set out to run six miles, but due to the heat and a poor hydration strategy (strategy: I don’t need to bring water for a run under 8 miles), I ran out of steam after four miles. I did run six miles the prior two weekends, so I’m not completely behind, but I do have some catching up to do.

I also should be running three consecutive days during the week and should have built up to five miles on the second day. So, with a three-mile run under my belt from last night, I set out for a four-mile run tonight. I could feel the stress on my legs by the end, which I take as a good sign. I’m getting prepared for the long run on Saturday. I’ll have to modify the rest of the plan a little so that I can train to the best of my ability by the race. So, I won’t be running any smaller races, I’ll instead progress over the next five weeks to run eight, nine, ten, eleven, and twelve miles for my long runs. If that proves to be too difficult, I’ll train to a maximum of ten miles. Either way it’s a little daunting, but it serves me right for being lazy about my training.

I have time to catch up, I just need to do it. Now that I’m adjusting to my new schedule, it’s starting to get easier. My runs over the last two days have reminded me that I feel better when I run on a regular basis. So, even though tonight I had to squeeze in the run after work, before errands, and before a late dinner, it was worth it.  Now if I can just get back to the gym.

Find the Joy in the Journey…

Running the Trails–Or At Least Trying To!

After my daughter and I finally made it to the AYBT Basketball Nationals, we had to wait an additional 24 hours for the first game. Last night her team played and won at 7 p.m. and then lost their 9 p.m. game. With a whole day off until the second evening’s games, I planned to fit in a run, but I never got to it. I didn’t want to run on the treadmill, and it looked on the map like there were trails that came pretty close to the hotel. I asked at the front desk and learned that I’d have to drive to a nearby trailhead. Meanwhile, some of the girls and moms wanted to go shopping. I’m not much of a shopper, but I looked forward to the company.

Between meals, shopping, and quite a bit of reading, I never got in a run and suddenly it was time for the games; another win followed by a loss. So, this morning I took a different tact. As soon as I got up, I put on my running clothes. I went to the lobby for the breakfast buffet and felt a bit odd about the way I was dressed…but then at least I was wearing clothes…some people actually eat their breakfast in their pajamas…in public! Of course, when I ran into other parents, I would mention that I was going on a run on the nearby trails. This forced me to actually follow through.

I got into the car with a good idea of where I was going only to find that I was off in the wrong direction. I’m pretty good at reading maps and getting oriented, but I had misread the map. In my defense, it was a rather sketchy map, with only the main streets showing. Eventually, I plugged the name of the trailhead into my map app, but it couldn’t find it so I tried the closest major intersection. Finally, I found my way.

At the trail head, my plan was to lock my keys in my new car and memorize the external keypad to get back  in. I sat there memorizing and decided I needed a back-up plan, so I wrote the code on my hand. That didn’t seem good enough, maybe I’d sweat it off, so I opened up my iPod Touch Notes app and put it in there too. Now I was ready. I got out of the car and locked the door. I tried the keypad and sure enough it worked. Next I put my purse in the car and re-locked it and took a step away. Suddenly I wondered if I could still unlock the car simply by touching the driver door handle. Turns out that I could. So, this great feature, especially great for athletes who don’t want to run or swim with car keys, was no good on a car with push-button start.

I got my keys out of my purse and re-locked the car. Looking around, I couldn’t figure out which way to go, so I looked at the map posted at the trail head. This map, too, seemed to make little sense and seemed to indicate a direction that had me crossing a busy road with no marked intersection. In the end, I just explored and ran down the paved path. It only went about a hundred yards before it took me through a gate and made a hairpin turn on to a gravel track. I followed the gravel, and about a half-mile in, found myself at a maintenance barn and a gravel parking lot. The trail itself became dirt and grass. I kept going, but soon the track turned into a rutted mess and I was concerned about turning an ankle. I turned around and ran back to the car. I figure I ran about two miles. It didn’t seem worth it.

Sometimes, you just have to go through all the obstacles and still not achieve your immediate goal. Even so, I learned a few things and I did get some exercise.

Find the Joy in the Journey…even when it is circuitous and seems pointless!




Time To Get My House In Order: Getting Fiscally Fit

Eventually I would like to retire, and I’d like to have lots of years ahead of me to enjoy it. This means getting my affairs in order, among other things. I am inspired by a former boss, now retired. As a parting gift to the rest of us, he told us to hire a financial planner and figure out when we could retire. I liked his advice, and planned to take it. Then the proverbial stuff hit the fan and I put that idea on the back burner.

Now, it’s time to take a deep breath and see what lies ahead. I still have a few, unfortunately large, unknowns in my financial future, but I took the plunge none-the-less. The first thing I did was to get a will drawn up and to create a trust for my children. It’s a relatively simple thing. Basically, if I die, all of my assets will be swept into the trust. Any liabilities I have can be paid from the trust, including funeral expenses, and then the rest, including life insurance, will go to my children. There are rules for when the money can be disbursed, so I know it will go primarily towards their education. If I live to the point where they are all independent, which I fully intend to do, then I can change the trust at any time.

Having made sure that my children are protected, the next project was to find that financial planner and figure out a likely retirement scenario and to make sure I get on track and stay on track to meet my pre and post-retirement goals. I was fortunate to get a recommendation from a trusted friend and I found the planner to be a great match for me.

It may seem simultaneously boring and scary to put together a financial plan, but the good thing about hiring a planner is that they do all the research and the math and they make recommendations for you based on your own goals. Based on my goals, I will likely have to work for another ten years. If some of those financial blows happen, perhaps longer. If I manage to weather the upcoming financial storms, perhaps I can retire a bit sooner.

I feel very fortunate to be in such a good position, but it is not an accident. I have always been a saver and I’ve always tried to live within my means. I’ve also always had a good handle on my priorities and I’ve done without things I’ve wanted so that I could live by my values and priorities. For the most part, that has meant investing in my own education and the educations of my childen. The great thing is that once they are all independent, I can finally spend my money on new priorities, including travel.

What a relief to have some answers and trusted advisors in my corner. Next up is making sure that I have the physical fitness to enjoy retirement.

Find the Joy in the Journey…sometimes that means knowing when to ask for help!

Time To Get My House In Order: Getting Physically Fit

Back in February, I joined a gym and had a fitness assessment. The trainer created a workout routine for me and eventually I adopted part of it. I was still running as my primary exercise, but I added the upper and lower body weight machines to my routine a couple of days a week. Even so, I gained a bit of weight over the winter, hopefully due to building muscles…but I had my doubts.

I returned for another assessment this week. The good news was that I was within two pounds of my original assessment. The bad news is that it wasn’t added muscle…All in all, I’m pretty healthy, but there is always room for improvement. I know I need to be in the best health I can be so that I can enjoy my life as I get older and make the most of a (hopefully) long retirement.

My goals haven’t changed since my initial assessment; I want to lose weight (oops!) and increase my strength so that I can run faster. I’ve not made progress on my goals, but at least I stayed active during the winter, multiple polar vortices not-withstanding. Now to up my game. The trainer had me return to learn some new things in the gym.

The trainer and a trainer intern took me through some new exercises, mostly with free weights. She told me that I should come to the gym around that same time, or in other words 1 p.m. This is not at all likely as I work from 8 a.m. until around 6 p.m. and I don’t take an extended lunch. Hmm…she mention that the “Jersey Boys” dominate the area most of the time.

I learned a few things. First of all, I learned that I need fairly light-weight dumbbells and that I could find up to 15 pound weights upstairs (i.e. away from all of the young men). Secondly, they showed me some exercises with a stability ball…and I was shocked by what I learned.

I know I need to do core work and that I’ve not been doing any of the recommended core exercises. They showed me some simple exercises with the stability ball, some with weights and some without. In every case, it was much harder than I anticipated. The next day, even though I only did some practice exercises, my abs were hurting!

The bottom line is that I now have too many workout plans to do all at once. I have a new half-marathon training plan, one that is very flexible and perhaps I just need to work all the other plans around it. I have new exercises to do with free weights. I can do these on the main gym floor, or up in a quieter area…or I can even do these at home.

I’m not a quick adopter of new exercises, so I am grateful for the lessons, but I still need to approach things at my own speed. Somewhere in my basement is a stability ball…I need this most of all. One exercise was simply to place my feet on the ball and bridge my back up…sounds simple, but the ease of it depends on whether my hands are on the floor, or only my elbows…or best of all, my hands on my hips.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the right balance and stability to ensure physical fitness through-out your lfe!

The Arms (Almost) Have It

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity with Eight Grade Graduation and other end of middle school events, quarter close in an acceleratedly crazy work environment, and the dawn of multiple summer sports for my newly minted high-schooler.

I’ve not run enough. I’ve not been to the gym to do my strength training enough, I’ve missed lunch and then over-consumed at dinner too much. In other words, I’ve lost my equilibrium and my health goals have been tossed to the side for the time being.

Today, I had a couple of important meetings and had to dress accordingly. We’re a rather casual company. Given my status as a plateaued weight-loss woman, I am rather limited in my wardrobe…especially in these days of 90 degree weather when it’s still spring.

So, this morning I grabbed a top that I recently bought on a whim at TJ Maxx. Now, I’m not much of a shopper these days, but my daughters wanted to go there and I got fairly mesmerized by their discounted merchandise. The top I wore today is sleeveless, which is against the corporate dress code. I wasn’t too worried about it, but I did try a jacket or two and decided it was just too hot for a jacket and went without.

Now, the funny thing is that when I took a last glance in the mirror, I didn’t even think about my arms. It wasn’t until much later, after all the high-level meetings and hot assignments, that I finally had a second in front of the mirror in the ladies’ room to think about my arms. Huh…not bad. Not the taut, muscular arms of my dreams (think Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2), but, well, not bad!

So, not all is lost in my quest for health and strength to carry me through for the rest of my life…I may have had to take a step back temporarily, but I didn’t even realize the progress that I’d made in the months prior.

Find the Joy in the Journey…sometimes it just sneaks up on you!

Those Fearsome Hills

As I sped along the highway between my adopted hometown, the only hometown my children know, and my birth hometown, I enjoyed the drive in my little, stick-shift car. Although I drive a small, fuel-efficient car, it is completely up to any challenge, or so I thought. Certainly the state trooper who stopped me could attest to the fact that it can hit top speeds! With a grandfatherly touch, he assured me he’d have me on my way quickly and even advised me of the speed-traps up ahead. I was careful to obey the speed-limits for the rest of the weekend, but what I didn’t anticipate were the challenges from the fearsome hills of my beloved hometown valley.

Last year, I ran the hilly 5.25 mile race in my hometown. It was the longest run of my life at the time and the distance and hills were a worry. I had been training with the Bridge to 10k program and was near the end, so I figured I had the distance work covered. I added some hill work to my training and felt as prepared as I could be in the time I had to prepare. My main goal was to run it in under an hour and at 57 minutes, I met that goal. In the intervening year, I’ve trained for, and run, four half-marathons, the last one in mid-April. Recently I’ve added strength training and cut back on my running.

I approached the run this year with a more relaxed attitude and more confidence. In the end, I ran it in 57:18. My legs were fine and those hills and the distance weren’t a problem for them. It was my heart and lungs that suffered from the hills, those fearsome hills. I started off slowly, mostly due to the crowd of runners trying to push out of the narrow main street. I was distracted at first by a drone, hovering over us, purportedly photographing the start of the race. Soon enough, I was through town and on the first ascent.

Since the prior year, I’d learned a lot of techniques. I knew when to take the water, to walk while I drank a small portion of it, then to get on running. I knew to lean forward at the ankles and push my way uphill, I knew to open up down the hills to gain ground. I was comfortable with the distance and just kept plugging away. The biggest problem I had was that I’d lost some cardio-pulminary  strength. My legs were fine on the hills, and that’s what probably got me across the finish line at about the same time as the prior year…but then I had to go sit on the sidelines for several minutes to catch my breath.

Afterward, I re-joined my family and drove a group of us back to the hotel so that I could take a shower before we resumed our family reunion activities. This was the first time I’ve driven a manual transmission vehicle on these hills. In all the years I’ve driven a stick shift, I don’t ever recall having to downshift to get up a hill, but in my hometown, several hills required a downshift to third, but one impossibly steep hill took a drop to second to manage. These are the hills I ran.

I learned a few things from this run. The human body is an amazing, adaptable machine, but it requires a lot of maintenance and it requires frequent use.

Find the Joy in the Journey and the fun in taking on the hills in your life!

Getting Strong

I joined a gym a few months ago. My fitness counselor took my basics, tested my fitness, checked my BMI and body fat ratio. She designed a strength-training workout for me and had the college intern take me out to the floor and teach me how to use the equipment. Since then, I haven’t been back too many times, but lately I am more focused on making strength training part of my routine.

On Tuesday I went to the gym and looked at my workout sheets. I’d been making it about once a week, but at least I’d been doing both the upper body and lower body workouts each time. Unfortunately, I’ve been skipping the core work…because it’s done on a mat rather than a machine. I just can’t get myself to pull the mat out in the middle of the serious weight-lifters and start doing a very poor imitation of a core workout. I always think I’ll just go home and do some planks or crunches, but it never happens.

Today I made it to the gym for the second time this week and got to work. I moved quickly through the workout and tried to increase the amount of weight I was lifting wherever it seemed appropriate. I do see some improvement in what I can do, and I know that if I can get to the gym at least twice a week I will see even more improvement.

Meanwhile, I’ve not been running as much. It is so hard to fit it all in, but I know that I will be able to find an equilibrium and it will involve more physical activity, not less. I have a race coming up in ten days, so I really need to get out on the road and up and down some hills, too. We’ve had a lot of rain lately, which has discouraged me from getting out and running. Even without too many more runs, I know I can tackle the race…but of course I want to beat my time from last year!

I have to accept that I just may not be able to beat my time from last year…I am on a different path right now. I am trying to improve my strength, and I have made a good start. I am also trying to lose weight. I’ve not been as successful there. Partly it is that I’ve been running less and partly that I’ve been weight-training more. I’ve gained rather than lost weight, but I trust that some of that is due to an increase in muscle mass.

The main thing I need to do is focus on getting to the gym at least twice a week and doing both the upper and lower body workouts. I need to focus on three sets of twelve reps and increasing the weight when I can. I hope to solve my body aches and pains along the way.

I have chronic shoulder pain that has only been helped by many visits to the chiropractor, for instance. If I can strenghten the muscles around my shoulder, maybe I won’t need the expensive chiropracty. I have arthritis in my knees that has previously been helped by physical therapy. Weight loss has greatly reduced the pain, but the lower-body workout I’m doing is very similar to the physical therapy that previously worked wonders on my knees as well.

There is no downside to becoming stronger. Self-care comes in many forms and this is one.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the Joy in becoming a stronger person!


Every Day I Run Is A Good Day

I haven’t been running much since my last half-marathon, a month ago. Not running makes me feel guilty and out of sorts. This Mothers’ Day weekend I found myself childless and at odds. I planned to get a lot done around the house, but on Saturday I just slept in (until 8 when the sun became too much for me). I stayed in my jammies playing games on my phone. Eventually I ventured down to the kitchen for breakfast.

My daughter was camping with her Girl Scout Troop and I was in an empty-nester funk. I planned on running six miles, but just never made it. I think, in retrospect, that I needed a better plan than run and de-clutter. I needed something to get me out of the house like lunch with a friend…that would have at least prompted me to get the run in first.

I decided to watch a DVD, something rated R, since my daughter and I are strictly PG-13 or below on our movie nights. I perused my collection…turns out that most of my R-rated movies are real downers. I ended up watching Presumed Innocent. I vaguely remember when it was filmed, partly here in Detroit and partly in Cleveland. Although I clearly recognized the skyline as shot from Windsor, Canada, and the shot in the external elevator descending upon downtown Detroit, the rest were from memory. I knew the family dinner was shot inside the Atwater Brewery and that the courthouse scenes were shot in Cleveland.

The rest of the movie had me thinking about how people behave and what would I have done in their situation. I knew the ending (spoiler alert!) and I think that gave me more perspective to examine their behavior than the first time I saw it, when it came out.  If I were the wife, and my husband cheated on me, would I plan an elaborate murder and frame my husband? No, of course not. If I were him, would I have been seduced by a power hungry (and very sexy) co-worker? No, I wouldn’t (then again, I know plenty of middle-aged men have affairs in which they did not need to be seduced…so maybe I just can’t get into character on this one). Upon discovering that my wife killed someone I loved, would I keep quiet about it so that my son didn’t lose his mother? That is the harder question, but I still think I would not. What kind of life would any of them have…

Thoroughly done in, by my day of doing nothing, I went to bed. I slept well and when I got up I went on that six mile run. Ah! It was a glorious day, it was also Mothers’ Day.  At this point, six miles is my sweet spot. More is just annoying, too time-consuming and exhausting. Less is just barely worth getting out the door. The weather was wonderful, high sixties, low seventies. The sun was out, the path was dry and clear.

As I ran, I realized that running has become a way for me to deal with stress, a safe place to be in my own brain thinking deep thoughts, and makes me feel good about this body that can do this previously unimaginable thing called running.

Back home, I showered and waited for my daughter to be dropped off (Girl Scout Leaders are AWESOME! They know what a gift they gave all the moms by dropping off the girls rather than making us all drive to pick them up.). As soon as she was home, we were off to her softball game. I finally felt like a mother on mothers’ day!

Find the Joy in the Journey…treasure the moments for too soon they shall pass.

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