Tuesday, June 17, 2008

let's get physically, physically, physically fit

The greatest incentive that I have to go out running every Saturday morning is the knowledge that there is a group of people that are waiting for me.

As easy as it would be to turn over and close my eyes at 6:15 on a quiet weekend morning when the house is perfectly still, I have yet to do that because I know that there are people that will actually be looking for me and expecting that I show up. Add to that, I'll be regretful when 7:00 rolls around and the kids are all awake and I didn't get out and do this one thing for myself.

Usually the scene unfolds with me convincing myself to get up and GO.

After laying in bed until the last possible minute, (I'll get up on an even number. No, odd. No, even), I will carefully remove Henry from my chest and place him on Charlie's, climb out of bed, get dressed, lace up my shoes, quietly brush my teeth, fill up my water bottle, grab my recharged iPod and headphones and a banana and tip toe out the door.

Not once have I regretted going for a run, once I'm out.

It's just the getting out that's tough.

I'm still having problems with my feet falling asleep (which I believe is a function of my calf muscles constricting the blood flow to my feet) and the whole act of running isn't yet a pleasant experience for me. But I suspect that similar to the time and energy, sweat and tears it takes to sleep train a child, so is the time and energy, sweat and tears that it takes to get in shape.

Neither is going to happen overnight and both take discipline.

Saturday, during a four-mile run through one of the local wildlife canyons, even though my feet were totally asleep in my shoes, I was determined to run most of the course without stopping.


I was the only person who saw the two-mile marker on the ground and turned around to finish my course. The rest of my team, who are in much better shape than I, completely missed it and were running past the point where we were supposed to turn around.

And if I had been on a bicycle, or better yet a moped, I would have caught up to them to inform them of their oversight. But I'm very slow and I'm always last and my team was far, far away.

So instead of worrying about my teammates, I was excited that "Ah ha!!" every one is running further than we have to! and I'm going to turn around and be back at the cars! and it will almost be like I WON! because for the first time ever, I won't be coming in last!!

At around 3.5-miles with a little ways left to go, I felt my right calf muscle tingle and then I felt a sharp electric shock - followed by the most intense HOT sensation and excruciating pain. I've had leg cramps before during pregnancy and when I swam on the swim team. But I've never had a leg cramp so intense that it felt like someone was trying to skewer the muscle in my leg.

I damn near collapsed.

I cried out a bunch of expletives.

I tried to stretch it out.

I tried to walk.

When every step that I took threw my leg in to a muscle spasm that was visible on the SURFACE of my skin, I thought about laying on the ground and letting the vultures that were circling over head come and put me out of my misery. I thought about why I am doing this stupid running thing because out of the last six weeks, I've been physically handicapped from running for at least three of them - to the point that I hobble around the house for a couple days after a run. And even though my teammates ran a whole mile more than me, they still caught up and beat me on Saturday. I am the SLOWEST one in the group.

I'm no athlete.

But I used to be.

And I really want to be, again.

I definitely don't want to feel old and decrepit!!

When my parents divorced and my mother moved to South Carolina, she was very involved in the YMCA. I was on the swim team and gymnastics team and I took horseback riding lessons and would ride my bike all over town. I would go on weekend hikes with my mother and was a willing participant in a wide range of various outdoor activities. When mom started playing tennis with members from our church on Sunday mornings, I would play too. I have no doubt that it is because of my mom and the lifestyle that she embraced, I grew up being active. I played on the tennis team all through high school and won a coveted athletic scholarship for tennis to college.

But the first month of school, I hurt one of my knees and was put in to rehabilitation and within a week I realized that rehab, tennis team, a full course load and Freshman year socializing just don't mix. So I quit playing tennis and doing anything active. (Unless you count partying until 2 AM as aerobic.)

School and life were in the way. And then later, once I married Charlie, graduate school was in the way. And then we were working and trying to have a baby and I was so busy from work and so depressed from infertility that I had no desire to work out.

Sure, we had gym memberships and we'd get out for walks or bike rides every now and then, but we never did anything consistently. And my weight slowly crept up. And up. And up. And I felt lethargic and depressed and I would think that once we had a baby, THEN I'd get in shape. And every year when we'd make our New Year's Resolutions, I'd think THIS will be the year. But it never was.

Finally, we had a baby. Or rather, three. And it was difficult to get in shape and to make the time to have an exercise routine. We would go for walks around the block with the children and that was a great time to reconnect, but we weren't getting in shape. Because to get in shape it would take time and energy, sweat and tears. And cutting back on our ice cream intake.

And well, that was too much work.

But this year, I'm really inspired.

There's my friend who has asked me to run with her and I've joined a group. And now all of a sudden there is accountability to be there every week and gosh darn, I paid money for a t-shirt and if I don't run I'm not going to get it.

And there's my encouraging husband who wants to get in shape, himself.

And then there's my body that feels a lot older than it actually is. I cannot believe how after a mere 20 years, I have lost almost ALL flexibility. There was once a time I could climb out of bed and immediately do a round off, backhand spring and split. On a balance beam. These days, when I climb out of bed, I wobble around complaining of a stiff back and legs for a good 30 minutes.

But most importantly, there are my children, those little people that I really want to keep up with as they grow older. I want to be able to take them kakaying and surfing and snow skiing and kick a soccer ball with them without completely injuring myself. I want for them to look at me and be PROUD of the person that they see. And I know that if I lead a healthy and active lifestyle - the chances are greater that they will lead healthy and active lifestyles.

And when I think about Tim Russert, one of my favorite journalists who died suddenly this past Friday of a massive heart attack, I can't help but think 58 is way too young to die. And perhaps he wouldn't have, if he'd led a healthier lifestyle.

So although my right leg is still bothering me and I know it will probably be a few more days before I can get out and exercise (or walk without a limp), I have every intention to keep up with my running. Even though I suspect that the next time I run my feet will fall asleep and with every pounding step the vision of laying in bed peacefully sleeping will enter my mind, I will keep up with consistent exercise because I really want to be the kind of person who cares enough about my body to take care of it.

I can wish for good health.

I can want it, too.

But I must will for it to happen.

And now that Charlie has convinced me to compete with him in a local triathlon in late August, we've got a mutual physical goal that we'll be striving towards. But before race day, we're hoping that (at least) one of our family members will volunteer to come to town and watch the kids so we can participate.

Operators are now standing by.

(Hopefully, they'll answer the phone.)


What about you? Are you at a good place with your physical fitness goals - and if not - what do you think would help to inspire you?

Or ... if you are ... what inspiration can you share?


  1. It's funny that you posted this today, because today I have triumphed. I have problems with my feet. Without going into the how and why of it, I have spent the last seven years fighting nearly every day with all that I have to be able to walk. Most of that time I haven't been able to, and I've had eight surgeries, four of which left me in casts for many long months.

    Getting through this has been the hardest thing I have ever done. There is the loss of independence, the loss of trust in my body, the utter helplessness as I dealt with no one knowing what was wrong, and then having my extremely talented surgeon tell me that not only did I have something that happened to almost no one, I had the worst case he had ever seen.

    I've gone into surgeries knowing exactly how much they will hurt, exactly how hard it will be to recover, and with the anguish of wondering if I'm making the right choice, or if I should throw in the towel and get used to a wheelchair, or I don't know what.

    My feet have torn themselves apart, been broken and reshaped and stitched and screwed together. I've laughed as my surgeon pulled screws out of my feet and with my next breath asked him about risk factors from the next surgery we're talking. I've cried as the only foot that could bear my weight went bad and turned around and found the strength to ask for the help I needed to move home, across an ocean, to my surgeon.

    It has been seven very long years, and while there is much about it I wish had never happened, I can never regret the person I became while in these trenches. I had what should be my last big surgery in March. I started walking on Saturday, and today I spent the day alone, fixed myself lunch, and otherwise went about my day independently. There wasn't once a point when I wanted to do something and I couldn't. I'm in the process of planning to pick my life back up where it was before all this happened.

    This has gotten long, but what I initially started writing to say is that I think I may just have won. It snuck up on me. Today was just a preview of what it could be like, but it's the first time I've been able to see that as a possibility in a very long time.

    You asked about plans and goals. Well, I'm starting PT next week, and I'm planning on throwing myself into it. I love having the control over my fate and the ability to get stronger. And when PT is hard, or I'm tired? I find the prospect of going somewhere and not wondering if my feet will hold up pretty inspiring.

  2. Maybe you have, I haven't checked in for a while, but I really sincerely do hope you will see a chiropractor about your feet falling asleep. I wouldn't mess around with that.

    Also, there's a great book I wanted to recommend - Everyone is an Athlete, by Phillip Maffetone. Great book for runners.

  3. I find that laziness outweighs inspiration most of the time. You've done a reasonable job of inspiring me a bit though! I can identify with a lot of what you're saying: the previous great shape; the morning stiffness after 2 pregnancies in 2 years; wanting to be healthy and active with the kids as they grow up. (I've got to say, sometimes I think it's just WEIRD that someone on the other side of the world writes about a life that's just so similar to my own...)

  4. I have PCOS and 7 years ago when I came off the pill to get pg, I started gaining weight mere seconds after throwing away that little pack of pills. One set of(VERY) large twins and one 10 pound singleton later, I was out of shape, had saggy stomach skin and couldn't walk up the stairs without huffing and puffing.

    Then, 2 months ago my mom went to the dr. for shortness of breath. To make a long story short, she has hereditary heart disease and last week at the age of 57 (otherwise healthy) she had a triple bypass.

    I joined StrollerFit 2 months ago and am working on changing my eating habits. It's hard, but soooo worth it. I want to be around for my grandchildren one day.

    And, you are right about the excercise...it's getting there that is sooooo hard. I have never regretted going at the end of class!!!

    Good luck!!!


  5. Michelle M in TX6/17/08, 8:33 AM

    Well, I can definitely relate to being slowly out of shape. I yo-yo all my life. I spend months in shape and then something happens (an injury, a personal crises, whatever) and then I go into a slow descent into flabbiness. Just recently I was introduced to a great website and inspired by my best friend who's lost 44 lbs since Jan. The website is www.thedailyplate.com It really helps me focus on the amount of food, the calories they contain, and the effect of exercise on my ability to eat more food. It has motivated an exercise-phobe into not wanting to miss a day of some form of exercise. I know that journaling your food intake makes a huge difference, but it's so drab to do it on paper. Now that it's on my computer, which is always on, it's so much more palatable and easy to do.

    I've lost almost 10 lbs in 3 1/2 wks and only the first week was really difficult w/hunger pains and reluctant exercising. :) By the way, I was running as well and was shocked to find out that my elliptical machine burns more calories than running or treadmilling.

    Good luck!

  6. You go, girl!

    I wish I had more inspiration or advice to share, but I'm trying to get on the fitness wagon myself...TIME is the big issue (excuse) for me.

    I'm proud of your ambition and drive, though. If anyone can do it, you can!!!

  7. Well your story inspires me, I hate to work out.With a passion. The only form of exercise I enjoy is swimming. Thats it.
    I have tried to get into other things but I end up losing interest.
    I want to start running but know that it will be hard to get motivated.
    Good job on keeping up with it!

  8. Last Oct I had finally had it with the 10lbs increase every year since my 14yearolds birth! Plus the aches, pains, excessive tireness. So i signed up for the YMCA to do one of those free assessments of health! I was 14/100 -WAY BELOW AVERAGE! On every single test. So I started out trying to get in to shape by myself, no luck. I have no willpower, no drive and if any pain showed up I quit and went home. Not good. By January I was still faking it and getting no where fast. I started talking to this "trainer" who was working with someone else. BEST thing I have EVER EVER done for myself. She takes each muscle to the brink of failure once a week. I tried eating fabulously healthy, no preservatives, no processed food, small portions, very small amount of sweets etc.(very difficult for me) I did that for two months and lost 14lbs. But I am so afraid of success I have weaned off the good eating and havent' lost a lb since. But physcially I feel awesome. I am strong, my endurance is 10 folds better. I still have a long long long way to go, but it is a process. After 20 years of not moving, it is going to take more than over night to become atleast AVERAGE. I did a 5K on Saturday and have signed up for a 10K (no thanks, I mean thanks to you)in August. I may walk 89.9999% of the time but I am going to do it. I too want to be here for my grand children without excessive healthy problems. Also the way the weather is going I want to be healthy enough to evacuate:) if need be.
    You are an inspiration to me on many levels. I want you know that. It is hilarous how many times a day something in your writtings come up. I know you would laugh. Thanks for all you do, and for your mad ability to get it down in writing. Keep up the good work. Slow and steady wins the race!

  9. I struggle with the whole getting up out of bed to exercise thing. I HATE. hate. getting up in the morning. At least you get the I'm glad I came out of here feeling, me- I am never glad I woke up early to exercise.

    Given that you're exercising in the morning with a big group - doesn't give you too much of a choice. I chose to find some other time of the day that worked for me (usually at night or in the evening). Then I got lazy and couldn't find time at night. Beware - if your race is in the AM, it's good to practice in the AM. I really suffered the morning of my race because of my night running.

    Now I'm running at lunch. I make sure I get enough food to run (i.e. eat lunch at 11, and then run at 1). This is probably the most consistent exercise I've been doing since I was in college trying to lose the freshman 25 or preparing to get married and running almost daily to deal with stress.

    I tend to go on highs and lows. You have feet falling asleep (I actually tried your shoelace tying thing, but that made mine fall asleep. It was wierd), while I have IT issues and exercise induced asthma. It is a struggle. But at the end I feel it is worth it. I can now run for more than a mile at a time again (almost 3 without stopping) and I feel better. So you asked for tips on motivation... what keeps me going is saying the following things in my head "to the end of the block, ok, to the next street, ok, to that sign..." until I reach the end. Baby steps all the way.

    And writting down my progress: 5.17 2 mi, 19 min (1 stop)... 5.30, 2.5 mi, 23 min, no stop. You can tangibly see you're getting better helps give you the feel of accomplishing a goal.

    Now if I can only decrease my food intake along with that, I'd be golden!

  10. From all the long comments on here, it looks like this is a topic interesting to many, including me. We could start an online support group of our own!

    The only thing that works for me is to do something every day. As soon as I skip, I skip more.

    And I know things will be better when our youngest goes to school in two years. I'm sure it will. Right?

  11. I have never been a runner (I remember being horrified in junior high when I found out what the "cross-country" team was). But in the past, I have enjoyed biking, swimming and walking. Unfortunately, four children and a full-time job have left little time for any exercising. (Although there's always time for eating M&Ms, I find!) Anyway, I have been trying to get out and walk an hour every day, and I found this article on CNN that talks about the health benefits of walking. That really inspired me because "just walking" did kind of feel like a wimpy workout. It's good to know it's worth the effort!
    Sorry, I don't know how to put it in as a link, but you can probably cut and paste it into your browser.
    Tracy in Minnesota

  12. For leg cramps you need to use tropical basil essential oil. It takes them away almost instantly. I know from experience.

    I don't know what to do about the feet though.

  13. Shayna will be starting preschool in approximately 1 week and 15 minutes (LOL) and they happen to have a gym there (the local Jewish Community Center), so I started my diet two weeks ago in preparation for actually working out. I can't wait to drop her off and head up to the machines and/or basketball courts! I am also going to buy myself some new running shoes to get me motivated! Good luck! Oh, Shayna told me that she misses the trips and would love to babysit them in August!!!

  14. My husband says that I'm allergic to exercise. I so want to prove him wrong.

    I was never a good athlete; I was a dancer. I danced for years and was in great shape. Once I got away from dance and my eating habits weren't that great, my body changed a bit. It's the pregnancies that killed me.

    WW was good but not getting to meetings b/c of commitments with my kids didn't help. And I found myself thinking about food (what should I eat/ is this good for me/ how many pts. is this?) was not healthy; focusing on food ALL the time seemed to make it worse for me.

    Exercise is the key; I just need to grab your motivation and do it.

  15. Karen in Buffalo6/17/08, 12:27 PM

    "Ditto" to just about all of the comments about getting motivated to exercise. The aches and pains that I've noticed in my joints since my twin pregnancy have been virtually eliminated with the help of a supplement: Glucosamine/Chondroitin (promotes cartilage regeneration and supports healthy joints). I would highly recommend it!

    Tim Russert's death is just so sad. He was an amazing man.
    Go Bills.

  16. So, did you "win"? Or did the rest of the team catch up while you laid on the ground with your calf cramp, waiting for the vultures to land?

  17. i'm just starting to get my head around exercising again after the birth of my fourth.

    my pregnancies have wrecked havock on my body. i have deep hip aches and body aches all over, like you were saying in the morning, but all day. i'm not sure if this is 'normal' after having children. in fact, i just saw an orthopedic this morning for the hip pain and was refered to another dr. for the body pain.

    they prescribed physical therapy so that will help me jumpstart getting in a couple of workouts a week.

    i used to run with the trips and now am searching to by a used single baby jogger for the baby. that way we can also exercise as a family. i plan on walk/jogging and focusing on consistency over speed/distance. i'm not going to regain my strength fitness over night.

    it's easiest for me when i have a regular scheduled time or commitment.

  18. I'm not athlete, but I'm making an effort to stay in shape. Getting to the gym is the hardest for me. Getting the motivation and the time -- that is. BUT, then I remember that it's a break from the kids and that usually pushes me to go!

    My husband and I take a endurance weight lifting class together. It's very challenging, but it's really rewarding too. Plus it's a chance to do something fun together once or twice a week. Then I run a little here and there and do a little pilates sometimes too.

    Exercising with someone is key. I love having exercise and date night all at once! And finding a consistant time to do it helps too. I'm not a morning person, so I go in the evening. I plan all day for it: make dinner ahead of time, so we can eat right when we get home. I know exactly what time I have to leave to make it to class on time, so I plan all afternoon to make sure it happens. Like an appointment that can't be missed. Good luck!

  19. *sigh*

    I'm 36 and I've only had a singleton. 10 months ago. I need to get off my butt and do exactly what you're doing. Everyone warned me that your body changes after you have a kid, but did I listen? *snort* No.

    The fact that my husband adores me, no matter HOW I look is not helpful. He's sweet, just not helpful. And he's a stick that doesn't enjoy exercising. Depression from years of infertility and pregnancy losses don't help either. And it's typically in the triple digits this time of year when it comes to outdoor temperature in north Texas. So I don't have a lot of motivation myself.

    Yeah...I got nothing. But hoping to find some inspiring thoughts from your other readers. :-)

  20. I too remember the good ole days of being in shape. I have always been a small woman, but at one time I was a ripped small woman.....with muscles and everything. The "thirties" has turned me into a mass of mushyness. I keep thinking about getting in shape, I just never seem to get around to it. Good for you! Hope you get your feet checked out.

  21. Although I do not have time to heed my own advice these days, one word for ya..Yoga, Yoga, Yoga (okay that's three) Not only will this increase your flexibility, but it will keep your hips open and knees safer from all that running which can do serious damage on the joints. Good luck:)

  22. I was debating on taking an evening walk last night...after reading your post, I took my butt out the door and huffed and puffed for 30 minutes! Thanks!

    My feet fall asleep while running, and have since I was an athletic teenager.

    Also, my friend and I had the best time the other night, getting together and talking about all of your funny posts. The Costco one killed us! I promised her I would leave a comment letting you know how much we enjoy your blog, and how it has become our new reference point, much like Seinfeld used to be.

    LOVE your blog!

  23. And that was the one morning that I couldn't make it!
    I'm so sorry about your leg. Hopefully this road trip is some good rest for you. This past Sat we ran around Lake Miramar. I made it all the way around. It was SO hot I thought I was going to pass out. I haven't gone 5 miles since I was in high school.
    Will totally miss you on 7/4 at the 10k!