Friday, February 18, 2011

To Run or not to Run? "Lifestyle" Decisions

I have been thinking a lot about running my first race lately. I grew up not thinking of myself as much of a runner, and here I’m thinking of entering the Boulder Bolder which is held every year on Memorial Day. Now, I’m not saying that the distance would be that hard for me to do. Not to brag, but I completed my first 10K distance just last Sunday. I think I’m wondering more at the whole experience of racing. The one time that I went to the Boulder Bolder was as a spectator and it looked like a big, crazy (some runners complete with costumes, but this is Boulder we’re talking about) mob when they took off at the starting line. One of the things I love about running is being in the outdoors. It’s just me and the world in motion. It not only gives me a break in my routine, but it is a stimulant; a rush of endorphins and stimuli that one can’t get from being still.

When I run, I can let my body get in a zone and just go for as long as I need, while my mind wonders through random thoughts, shifting between the internal and external. Breathing? Yep, still feels good and steady. Is my foot hitting the pavement the way I want it to? Yeah, but maybe I could spread my toes a little more for a better landing. Hey, didn’t I just hear this song on my MP3? Oh, there’s that osprey again. I bet that’s his favorite branch. I love that the randomness of the thought is sometimes what helps me to stay in my zone better, allowing me to complete my run without focusing on all the little things; the little things that would stop a less experienced athlete from pushing the boundaries in search of what their body is capable of.

The thing about running is that I haven’t been running that long. As I mentioned in my first post, I am a P90X graduate. This is an extreme program, but there are some thing that I learned about myself while on this video based, at home program that I would like to pass on to you. This program is not for everyone, but in order to explain some of my theories on fitness better, I think I’ll have to take my readers back to a couple of years ago. Two years ago, I was back to normal, at least as normal as I thought life as a wife and mother with hypothyroidism should be. I’d been on the gluten free diet for a year and I had been playing with the elimination diet for a couple of years before that. Actually, there were several foods that I had given up due to pregnancy preference that I never really enjoyed post baby, but I digress.

My numbers where finally in a range that I would call normal. My TSH levels were low enough that I felt good and it had been a small victory that I finally talked my doctor into upping my prescription so that I didn’t feel so tired all the time. Sure, I had some baby chub, but don’t we all after two kids? The problem was, and I didn’t realize it until it was almost too late, that I had anemia due to iron deficiency and messed up cycles. It was bad enough that I had to go to the ER for a four-pint blood transfusion, because my body wasn’t keeping up. I don’t know what the scientific numbers are, but a friend of mine mentioned to me, after my low iron levels had sent me to the ER, that it was common for people with gluten problems to have nutrient deficiencies. I’ve read enough to know that she was more than likely correct in her assumption that my body wasn’t lacking nutrients, but the ability to absorb them.

This was the shot in the arm, no pun intended, that I needed to get me serious about my physical health. I was already aware of my digestive and food allergy related problems, but I still needed to do more to get my body to work the way it was meant to. Thank goodness, God knows everything that I need long before I need it and he is the one who created me the way I am, because he put people and events in my life in the right sequence to help me on my road to recovery. I don’t think I would have started writing again like I did in high school if I hadn’t had been put in a position where doing everyday chores became a struggle. I ended up spending that time using my mind and practicing my creative writing skills, when I wasn’t taking care of the basic needs of my children. Without it, I don’t think I would have had the courage to write this blog.

My body was weak from the anemia, but I got tired of not being able to do very much after the first couple of months. It was about this time that school started and we live close enough that I could walk the kids to school. The first couple of weeks were hard because I was wiped out after just walking my son to Kindergarten every day; pushing his younger brother in the stroller as we went. I have Irish/German stubbornness in my veins, so I knew I had to keep at it. Like the age-old saying, “What doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.” After those first few weeks, I was finally able to walk the kids to school at a normal pace and I started feeling well enough to get other stuff done around the house too.

Before kid number two, I had been rollerblading to lose the baby chub from my oldest son and I did this for many of the same reasons I love to run. I decided to bust out the roller blades and the jogging stroller and the more stamina I gained, the more my competitive streak started to push me to try longer distances and different routes. I started to feel human again. My friends and my husband were very supportive of these little steps to gain my health and I think every positive comment just propelled me to keep at it. I also noticed, that the days that I didn’t do something, I would physically ache by the end of the day. Since aches are a part of hypothyroidism, I just decided that whatever I was doing physically was working out those aches during my workout and that just made me realize that just because I have a bad thyroid, that I don’t have to let it determine how I feel. By exercising and eating right, I was daily gaining back the health that many of us take for granted.

By this point in my story, my husband decided that he’d had enough of being out of shape and had picked up the P90X DVD’s from a college at work. I was skeptical about this infomercial workout program and told him that he could do what he wanted, but there was no way that I was going to join him. It took the first round of me watching him try not to kill himself to realize that I could do this workout. I started to pick and choose videos from the program and try them out on those days that I couldn’t rollerblade for one reason or another. I had been told by a chiropractor that I should do yoga to relieve the aches and pains that I had from my thyroid, so that was one of the first ones that I tried. Not an easy workout by any means, but I was soon hooked.

It took me a while to do the entire program according to the book and almost a year after my trip to the ER to have the stamina to even attempt the six day a week program. It seriously kicked my butt, but it was as if I was back in that stinky gym in high school lifting weights and I was loving it. I was seeing muscles that I hadn’t seen since my landscaper days and my clothes were threatening to fall off the more calories that I burned. I was hooked. Fast forward to last fall when I decided that I had done one round and I was ready for the next challenge. A mommy friend of mine mentioned that she was starting to run again and I thought, “I’m in pretty good shape after one round. I wonder how far I could run.”

I decided to start by running home after dropping the kids off at school, a little over ¾ of a mile one way. Soon, I was running farther and farther. I worked it into my workout schedule, because they have a variation called “Doubles” where you have the option of doing cardio on the strength training days. Not only was I hooked on Tony Horton’s workouts, but now I was running. One of the women at church, who happened to be a stay at home mom and a half-marathon runner, wanted to get a running club going. I was maxing out at 3 miles a couple of times a week at this point, but decided to give it a shot. The first time I ran almost 5 miles and was ready for a good nap. Now I’m running on average 6 miles a couple times a week and our group usually runs between 3.5 miles and 6 miles, depending on how everyone is feeling that day.

Which brings me back to the present day. Should I take my running to the competitive level? Probably, but let’s just say the Boulder Bolder question is still up in the air until I have at least one other person that is willing to run in that mob with me. I’ve learned that exercise is a crucial part of keeping my body working right. God made our bodies to work and it is much happier when it does so. I also don’t fight the aches that come with my chronic illness and I don’t feel chronically ill when I’m active. I’ve also learned that if I want to be successful, in life as well as fitness, small obtainable goals are key. I don’t look past the next 90 days or the next potential race with my fitness goals, but I do know that I am able to keep at it daily much better than I ever have in my adult life.

Health is important to me personally. I’m not in it for fame, even though our running club did end up on the front page of the local paper (talk about a shocker there). Would I love to win a race some day? You bet! Will it be this year? Personally, I’ll be happy if I’m at the front of the pack. Do I want to end up looking like I did two years ago, out of shape, fat, and unhealthy? I’ll give you a resounding “NO!” I know what it takes to look this good and I want to keep it that way. I’ve learned that being on top of my health has so much more to do with not only what I eat, but how I treat my body. God gave me this body so that I might do his work. I can’t do that if I’m flat on my back with more health problems than I know what to do with. Am I cured? No, but my numbers are good and I feel great. I plan to take this one small goal at a time and see where it takes me. Who knows, I might try for a marathon one day, but I think I need to go shoe shopping first. I’ve almost worn clear through this pair.

It’s all part of the “Lifestyle” now.

1 comment:

  1. Great testimony on how taking charge of our health can give us a great return. Good luck at the Boulder Boulder. I guess I'll be watching on TV to see if I can find you in the crowed, lol.