When I started this whole "journey to a healthier me," I don't think I completely knew at the time I would be stepping out of my comfort zone as often as I do. It started with my first 5k, a mud run, that started my crazy love of running. The back of the race shirt said, "The comfort zone is a made up place". I laughed to myself and thought, "obviously they have never been in my shoes, I am queen of the comfort zone." That race tested that idea. I did every obstacle, I faced fears, I let go of misconceptions of what I could do, what my overweight body could do, and when I crossed the finish line I knew my life was going to be different from that day forward. And it has been.
As I have stated in my other blogs, I am still learning, I am still trying to figure things out and I am still running, albeit slowly. With my latest leap out of the perceived comfort zone, my insane idea to sign up for a half marathon, I am pushing my body and my mind to do things the old me would never have thought possible. In the process I am also learning I need to take better care of myself. I need to figure out how to fuel my body, how to rest properly and how to get aches and pains taken care of before they become serious issues.
I live with a disease that is under the umbrella of Inflammatory Bowel Disease called Ulcerative Colitis (the other is Crohns) and so fueling is still a difficult thing I am trying to figure out and hopefully I can get it settled sooner than later. It is an autoimmune disease that makes me tired all the time because my body is constantly fighting itself. While I am still trying to focus on how to fuel and rest properly to have enough energy to run, I figured I should focus on the things I know I can do something about and that is taking care of the aches and pains.
Thanks to some encouragement from fellow sponsored athlete, Addie Green, I have stepped way out of my comfort zone and gone to see a chiropractor. I have always thought that they were for "real athletes" and was honestly scared of the snap, crackle and pops (although I have always been okay with those noises from Rice Krispies.) Anyways, after hearing from her that I would feel a million times better and having her calm my nerves a dozen times or so, I found someone who fit the criteria she gave me. I needed to find someone who did A.R.T. and preferably was a sports chiropractor. After some googling and review searching, I settled on
Active Chiropractic. The doctor is a triathlete and he never once questioned my motives for wanting to do a Half marathon. Instead, after one visit I feel like I can conquer the world and maybe even a triathlon one day. I will probably blog more about my trips to the chiropractor the more I go, but so far, I think I may have found a new way to feel better.
Once again I stepped out of my comfort zone and it hasn't been as scarey as I thought. Maybe that shirt from that very first race was right: The comfort zone is a made up place.
Run, walk or crawl, just keep moving forward,
Please click below to read Addie's awesome blogs including about her running the Boston Marathon!
Music has played a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. I started singing and taking voice lessons in middle school and went to college on a voice scholarship. I understood the importance of training my voice with vocal and breathing exercises and took special care to not harm my "instrument" as best I could. I am trying to use that dedication I had then for my training now. I recently started training for my first half marathon and I have to keep reminding myself how hard it was when I first started singing when I get discouraged with my running. I had a lot of naysayers when I told people of my dreams of singing solos and being in the spotlight the same way I have people look at me like I have three heads when I say I am going to run a half marathon. It isn't going to be easy, I am going to hit a few "wrong notes" here and there but I am going to make it to the end.
Since music has played such a huge part of my life, it only makes sense that I am driven by music when I run. Just like I have my favorite songs to sing, I have my favorite songs to run to. When those certain songs come on, a whole new feeling takes over my body. It is almost easier to move, easier to breathe and I am determined more than ever to finish what I started. It is an out of body experience, I can just let go and let the music run for me.
My playlist is full of songs that do something special for me, a driving beat that makes me want to dance, an 80s song that reminds me of my childhood when I could run in the woods with wild abandonment, a heavy metal song that reminds me of letting loose at a concert, or a song that reminds me of my late father, who was my biggest cheerleader when I was singing. I have carefully picked each song to push me forward, make me happy and try and keep my attitude positive when I am feeling like I can't take another step. I am trying to make this training as painless as possible and when I cross the finish line, I am sure I will remember exactly what song was playing on my playlist.
My 5 "must have" songs:
When I first started to seriously get moving, I tried everything. I knew I wanted to be a runner but I also know I wanted to get fit fast (I was a bit delusional). I pushed myself out of my comfort zone at the gym as much as I could and tried spin class, swimming, yoga, Body Pump, Body Combat, Zumba and lifting free weights. I finally settled into a routine. During the week I would either take a spin class or would lift followed by running or swimming. Saturdays I would do a 30min spin class followed by an hour of Zumba and on Sundays I would do yoga. I loved my gym routine. Then I hit a wall.
I suffer from an autoimmune disease and had kept it in check, for the most part, for about 10 years and out of the blue it rebounded with a vengeance. I was exhausted ALL of the time and I couldn't drag myself out of bed for my early morning workouts. None of the medicines that had worked before, were working to put it back into remission, so I wound up getting immunosuppressive infusion therapy. I was (am still) exhausted all the time but wanted to get back to the gym, only problem is every time I would go, I would get sick. So I have thrown cross training out of the window, along with my gym membership. So what now?
Now I am focusing on my running. I am looking for a quality yoga DVD I can do at home and sometimes doing Zumba on my Wii (my dogs watch me like I have lost my mind) I am also looking at adding some other type of exercising I can do at home. The big thing for me right now is figuring out how to be a better runner. I know cross training is important but until I find more interesting ways to work out without having to step into a germ gym, I am gonna try to literally run my butt off ;)
So, what are some of your favorite at home workouts?
There you are the last .1 of the race, you speed up and start looking along the sides of the chute for someone, anyone, who is there to cheer for YOU. Sometimes there isn't anyone there. Thankfully, as runners, we can count on the fact that there will be at least one other runner to high 5 and make us feel good for a split second. The next step is to dig out the cell phone and call someone who knows us, who couldn't be there, to let them know that we finished. I am lucky to say that I have a great support system. I have my family, my running team and my fellow RunJunkEes.
I understand that not everyone feels like they have a person or group of people they can rely on to understand the journey. Instead of listing every person who I have and thanking them, I would rather focus on how I am learning to be my own support group.
I have spent a long time trying to please the people around me. I want to be liked by people, accepted by people but in that, I have forgotten how to make sure I accept myself. I have people who come to races with me and help me train and tell me how proud they are of me. It doesn't mean as much as it does when I do something that surprises me. I live in a world where I don't see the changes other people see, I easily forget the successes I have almost as quickly as they happen. I am learning to be proud of me, to revel in the moment for a little longer and to accept that I did that!
For those of you out there who feel as though they don't have a support group. Join me in celebrating ourselves. If we can start being proud of what we are doing, the other people out there will just be the icing on the cake. My biggest cheerleader, my biggest fan should be me. I should be the one pushing me because I am the one who wants this. I am the one who decided to make this my journey. If someone else hops on my bandwagon then that is awesome but I need to be better to me. I hope some of you out there who feel like you have noone, remember that you are worth it and you have fellow RunJunkEes waiting to hop on your bandwagon. Your first support group should be yourself and when you are ready, we will be here waiting at the end of the chute to high 5 you :)
Being overweight for the majority of my life, I have often felt like I didn't belong in a sporting good store, let alone a specialty running store. I had even walked into one a few years ago and had been laughed at when looking for a pair of sneakers. So you can imagine the hesitation I must have felt when I needed to find real running shoes. I had been having knee, hip and shin issues when I was starting to run and since I already had a reconstructed ankle, I knew I needed to make sure I had proper shoes. I could have done what a lot of people do and picked the prettiest ones I could find online and hoped for the best. The only problem was, it hadn't worked out for me before and I was at the point where I would almost rather give up than walk into a specialty store. Until one day while running on the treadmill, I just couldn't take it anymore. I got off, walked out to my car and started heading home. I.was.done.
When I pulled out of the gym parking lot I decided to before I gave up completely, I would suck it up and go in the local running shop across the road from the gym. Lucky Foot was like no other specialty store I had ever been in. They were really busy so I thought maybe I could come back other time but before I could make my exit, I was stopped by an associate. He asked if he could help me with anything and I stuttered a little and finally got out the words that I wanted to be a runner but everything hurt. I closed my eyes and waited for the laughter and when I didn't hear it, I opened my eyes quickly and looked around. He simply smiled, asked me my shoe size and we went from there. He spent a lot of time watching me run and using a specialized running app, he explained exactly what kind of shoe I needed and why. I tried on a bunch of shoes be for settling on the right ones, the only problem was, I didn't have any money. I asked him if it was OK that I come back when I could afford them and he said "sure". Here is where a lot of people would take their information and head straight to their computer.
I did not head to my computer and look up the best price and order online. I went back a few days later and with money in hand, I bought my first pair of "real" running shoes. For a running store to be THAT helpful and understanding and to spend so much time with me, it was the least I could do. I am glad I did because I have felt comfortable enough to go back time and again with questions, to celebrate milestones and... to buy more shoes.
I see it asked time and again on different threads, whether we should buy online or in the store. My answer is always the same, Buy Local. I see my local running store giving back to the community. I see them at every race. I have gone to pack-it pickups in their store and when I am at race expos, they are the familiar faces that make me feel like I belong. The owner, Jeff, was one of the first people I wanted to tell about my sponsorship and when I did tell him, he gave me a huge hug and told me he was proud.
If we don't support our local stores, we won't have any place left to go to get our gaits analyzed, to ask why one shoe works and another doesn't or to pick up a new pair of socks the day before a race because our dog ate one. If it weren't for Lucky Foot and their staff, I would not be running today. I would have probably hit up the ColdStone next door and never looked back. We need our local stores to help the people who can't quite get the fit right or who don't even know where to start. I am lucky to have an awesome local running store.
To Jeff and the gang, thank you for being so patient with me, I signed up to run the half this November, so be ready to see me a lot more when I am freaking out over every little thing.
I never was allowed to have a hamster growing up. Most of my friends had a rodent of some sort, a guinea pig, a gerbil, a hamster, but my parents fit very squarely into the "no rodents" category when it came to pets. So, when I finally made it to my 30s, I decided to get myself a hamster. My first one, BenMenudo, was kinda sedentary, he was chubby, mild-mannered and a lot like me. He would only run in his wheel when noone was watching, he ate a lot and if I put him in his ball he would sit and stare at me. One morning I came in to find him legs up next to his wheel, he had moved on to the giant hamster ball of beyond. (I promise you, this story has meaning just please stick with me.)
As the week went on, I couldn't bear to look at his empty cage so I went to the pet store and looked at what they had to offer. Then I saw her. The crazy new hamster who, unbeknownst to me, was going to inspire me. I brought her home and could tell from the crazy noises coming from her carrier box that she was NOTHING like her predecessor. I set her box into the freshly cleaned cage, opened it up and watched. Zangkoo (all of my animals have weird names) immediately jumped into her wheel and started running as if her life depended on it. She then quickly hopped off, found a quick nibble, grabbed a quick drink and then jumped right back into her wheel. She ran for 4 hours straight. I was amazed by her. I wished I had her energy and I knew she was trying to teach me something. So I put her in her ball and set her free. She ran up and down the hall, if she got stuck she would turn and bang around until she had an open road ahead of her. She would weave around chairs, under the dogs and into various rooms, she was fearless.
Now, what does this have to do with me? Well, I just signed up for my first half marathon. I have learned from a crazy little hamster that even though I am stepping into uncharted territory (for me) I need to pay attention to the things I know. "Run when I can, fuel when I need to, and if I get stuck, bang around until I break loose and as the path opens up, weave and bob without fear." If a crazy little hamster can dance her way around my house (and 4 dogs), I can dance my way through a half marathon. Keep spinning those wheels, JunkEes, I know I will be and follow along as I bump my way through my first half marathon training. ~Megan
SLOW. moving or operating, or designed to do so, only at a low speed; not quick or fast
It comes up often, especially when running. I am slow. I am trying to get faster but I will always be, in comparison to most runners I know, the slow one. Some people believe that if they are slow, they are inferior to others. I used to be that way. I used to think that speed defined me as a walker, a wogger, a jogger, not a runner, that I was inferior to "real" runners, because I was... SLOW. In fact, I know all kinds of fun facts about being slow. Did you know that the sloth moves 3 miles an hour? Did you know that unless being pushed, a couch doesn't move at all? Did you know that turtles can move pretty darn fast if motivated to do so?
I learned this last little fun fact while visiting my local zoo. It is a small zoo but it has a lot of cool animals. One of my favorites has always been the orangutan and chimpanzee exhibit. The exhibit is a 4 foot tall fence with a large canal of water on the other side and in the middle of the enclosure is an island. On the island you can see the different "apes" playing and having fun, but their favorite thing to do it seems is to stand on top of these large turtles that like to sun on the bank of the canal. They also like to sort of "skip rocks" with the turtles and send them flying into the water. Most visits I have made, I spend some time looking at the goofy apes, offering to toss them nuggets from my cup of food that I always buy to feed the giraffes. After I do this, I watch the turtles. Sometimes they are taken by surprised, ridden like a make shift surfboard down to the water. Sometimes they get flipped before they even fully can get into their shell and hide. However, the BEST part, is when they see one of the crazy chimpanzees heading for them and they high tail it down the embankment and into the water. They can move FAST!
I kind of always pictured myself like a turtle when I was "running" but this new-found information was enlightening. I could continue my usual miles slow and steady but I could zip pretty quickly if I tried, and if I had the right motivation. I do hope to get faster but in the process I need to walk before I learn to run. I need to accept my slow-ness and I also need to celebrate it. I need to not be dragged down by the naysayers and not be intimidated by the superfast. I am proud of every mile I complete and I don't do it for anyone out there but me.
Dan posted a shirt today with the slogan, "Slow Runners Make Fast Runners Look Good, You're Welcome" and he was kinda bothered by it. I have to say, as a slow runner, I am bothered by it too. It has too many words for me. It should simply read "Slow Runners Look Good". Be proud of being slow. Be proud of being fast. Just be proud of getting out there and moving. Your journey is YOUR journey and as much as I need to take my own advice on this one, Just be proud of yourself. We may be turtles, but man, we can move.
Crawl, Walk, Run Forward,
This week I was asked to write about how it makes me feel when someone tells me I "inspire" them. This is a difficult question for me to answer. I still have a very hard time accepting that someone like me, who hasn't run a distance longer than a 10k, someone who still walks more than she runs, someone who hasn't reached her goals can inspire someone else. However, I am told this and it makes me want to try harder and to find things in myself that are inspiring. I have said before that we are our toughest critics and it holds true for me every day, every hour and every minute.
Every morning I wake up and try to inspire just one person a day. I even have a coffee mug that says "Be Inspiring" on it to remind me. Sometimes the person I need to inspire most is myself. I am thankful for those who find me inspiring, they remind me to not be so hard on myself and to get out there and go. Their words make me want to be a better me. They remind me that I have come a long way from where I was. They are the people who help keep the flame inside burning even when it is trying to go out. Every person has a journey and the people who have told me I inspire THEM are also the people that inspire ME.
I want to take a moment to thank the people who have inspired me: my running team TuTu Many Races- every time someone exceeds their own expectation, they make me so proud to be a part of their journey. My brother- who even though I will be in constant competition with, stayed with me and finished by my side at our first race together and also organized a local 5k to raise money for their local food bank. Everyone else in my family- for cheering me on every torturous step of my journey. My fellow sponsored athletes- for accepting me into their ranks and doing extraordinary things that make me want to be like them. Finally, every RunJunkEe who shares their story of success, weakness or race. Without Dan and all of my fellow RunJunkEes, I would not be who I am today. I may inspire a few of you, but you ALL inspire ME.
As I look at my Facebook feed, I notice that I bypass a lot of it and seek out the RunJunkEe posts specifically. I am never disappointed when I am greeted with stories of success, inspiration and drive. The first two I understand but it is the last that I find I struggle with. I hear it over and over, "I have drive." I question, how do I get to that point? Where does it come from? What sacrifices do I have to make to be driven? I am amazed at these people who see the course ahead of them and plow through. I know that their drive isn't easy. I hear the stories of what got them there, how they stay there and even the struggles they still face, but for me, I often struggle to take myself out of Park.
I could tell you that I get up every morning at the crack of dawn, get dressed and run, but I am not going to lie to you. I struggle. Sometimes I make it all the way to the door and my internal GPS will change routes to "Fastest Distance" and bypass the tough stuff a.k.a. my run. So what do I do? Again, I could tell you that every time I detour the GPS and it continuously says to me, "at the next corner, make a U-turn" but sometimes, I just go with the flow and continue on about my day, mindlessly following the "fastest route". I am telling you all of this because I don't think I am the only one out there who struggles with this. In fact, I know that even those long distance people who seemingly run for hours, miles upon miles, struggle to find their drive, but I am here, asking those who push through the parking break to help me and others like me put ourselves in drive more.
I know a lot of what has to happen is to have a mindset that pushes us to be better. I am working on that. I have changed a lot over the past year. However, I am a creature that is paralyzed by fear all too easily. I am not afraid of running into snakes or being seen, hell the idea of the boogeyman lurking in the woods of my country road doesn't even deter me much. What I am afraid of is success. I have created my identity as the "token fat girl" and before you say, "you shouldn't be so hard on yourself," I already know that. It doesn't change the fact that for 20 years of my life, I avoided situations where I would be physically uncomfortable. I made jokes at my own expense before anyone else could and even went as far as to say, "I may be fat, but you are ugly, and I can diet" in retaliation to those who beat me to the punch line. I physically AND mentally do not know how to be anyone else, other than the "fat girl". The even stranger bit of my psyche is that when I look in the mirror, I don't always see the girl everyone else sees. I never really saw the morbidly obese girl staring back at me, I saw someone who was thinner. It was when I looked at pictures, that I was shocked to see HOW MUCH I had let myself go. So the question again is, Where do I find that kind of drive?
I look to the people who are out there running for what seems like forever. I know that your drive comes from within, but I challenge you to tell us, the ones who are in park or idling in neutral, is there ANYTHING that will help us to find our drive? Is there anything that we can do to hijack our lives back and push us forward? Are there tricks we can do to help us along? For now, I will continue to be the student driver. I will continue to try and unlock the mystery of the drive and I will keep moving forward and hopefully more often than not.
Step away from the scale, I repeat, step away from the scale. Now, you might be wondering why someone in my position, with more than a few pounds to lose would be telling you this. I have my reasons and I think it could help a lot of people who have chained themselves to this idea that to be healthy, attractive, and/or sexy, they need to weigh a certain amount. Why does society decide for us how much we should weigh to be healthy? More importantly, why do we measure our worth and our success by a piece of glass and a magic window that tells us our weight?
I have battled my weight for years. Ever since puberty I have been one of the "fluffier" girls in my class, group of friends, etc. AND I let the scale tell me how worthy I was to be happy. Guess what? When you put that kind of faith into a machine, you aren't going to like who you are very much.
When I was going to weight watchers, I learned two ways to measure my success: 1. What the scale says and 2. What the tape measure says. I wasn't losing weight as fast as I was losing inches, actually when I started working out and running, I was GAINING weight but I was still LOSING inches. Hmm. So now I was stuck. Do I listen to what the scale is telling me? Or do I listen to what my tape measure, and subsequently my mirror, was telling me?
I decided I would listen to the one that was making me the happiest AND I started looking for other ways to find success in my journey for a healthier me. I have lost close to 50lbs but I have lost almost 10 dress sizes. I even have a love affair starting with my mirror.
How does this relate to running?
With my running, since I am super slow, I started giving myself little goals. Run past 2 mailboxes, take 5 seconds off a quarter mile, try for a negative split at least once. Each run I try for something different. If I am successful, I push further or faster the next time.
Another thing I have done to help measure my success is to try and take away the words "just" and "only". It was "just" a mile. It was "only" an inch. I even have a RunJunkEe friend who, whenever I say anything like that, will get on me for being negative. You see, if we celebrate and give power to the little things, we eventually will have giant successes. Also, don't be afraid to let people know your little successes and share them with the group but even more importantly, don't be afraid to be your own cheerleader too. So I challenge you to step away from the scale (unless you are doing Josh's challenge) and to find other ways to measure your success, no matter what it is.