20th November 2010 | Megan
I haven’t run since October 9, 2010. I feel it necessary to write the year because for me it seems like a millennium. Since I began running 15 years ago, aside from a birth of a child, I have never taken more than two or three weeks off and generally during that time I had some cardio outlet, a bike, a swim, a class of some sort. This “time”, I went from the pinnacle of training in Ironman, ramping to almost twenty hours per week straight to ZERO; couch, ice pack, massage stick and some gentle stretching. I have wondered if how I feel is what it might be like to give up cigarettes cold turkey.
I hear my running friends; their laughter and excitement enter Steve’s Bagels on Sunday morning, their faces sweaty and red, as I sit holding a spot at the tables. I feel not even worthy of a coffee and bagel as my accomplishment is now reduced to the drive over and recycling the empty water bottles that tumble out of my car as I get out. I have pure, raw envy for the chit chat about how one of them picked up the pace at the end or who they saw while they were out. It is great to visit for the hour but somehow it feels like I missed happy hour and showed up at a dinner party late. AWKWARD!
I find myself looking longingly at running women on Main Street; have become a voyeur, search out runners as they pass my house, rubberneck when I am driving and crane to hear any running conversation in the grocery aisles. Addict, I guess.
There are so many difficult aspects about not running. Just ask my husband or my children. I am cranky, moody, short and also disorganized. It is funny how when there is more time in the day, the less I get done. It shouldn’t be this way. For fifteen years now whether I have been employed outside the home or at home, I have woken up sometime between 4:30 and 5 am and begun my day with exercise. It has been the same…wake up, make coffee, gulp down my orange juice-water drink, return emails, plan the day, then head out the door to exercise. Home generally before the kids are up, I am ready to go!
Now, I wake up at brunch time (6 am) and have about 15 minutes before the house becomes active. Disheveled and rushed, I frantically make lunches, feed bellies, empty the dishwasher, clean up and then drive the kids to school in my pajamas underneath a housecoat. What have I become?!? There is no mind clearing exercise that prepares me for the day. There is no surge of blood pumping through my veins, I hate it! It seems that the rest of the day, I accomplish tasks but am waiting for something to organize me. I am foggy at best.
I could be exercising a bit. It is just that nothing appeals to me like running, at least of the exercises that I am “eligible” to do. I am skilled at developing weight lifting programs for others, but for myself, I am a cheater. I don’t like to follow what I prescribe so I have lifted sporadically. I could swim with a pull buoy between my legs, but after 20 minutes of that there are two issues…I am freezing, swimming with my arms isn’t warming enough and then of course, my measly biceps fatigue quickly. When my orthopedic doctor suggested swimming just using my arms, I figured he was guaranteeing his employment having to perform shoulder surgery within a few months.
My dog even has suffered. I can no longer run with her off leash. We are walking now, up to three miles but I can see in her eyes that she knows this isn’t right. Even my friends dogs have suffered. The whole neighborhood is sliding downhill!
This week however, I have seen the light. My leg rehabilitation hasn’t made any leaps and bounds in recovery, it is slow, arduous process but the rest of my life is adjusting. SLOWLY, but adjusting. I am forcing myself to wake up and head down two flight to the dungeon where the weights are located. I am spinning on the exercise bike with no foot straps or tension. It is a start. I am beginning to make more of my day without the morning exercise. I am getting more organized, learning how to start the morning without the Power Surge, more like a hand cranked generator. The end result is becoming more similar as I am learning to adapt, I just miss the instant blast of charge from running. Someday… but for the sake of the life in front of me, I hope it is soon.
12th November 2010 | Megan
Attention grabber? Are you thinking lumpy bottom or curd filled food? Poor Cottage Cheese seems to get a bad rap in either case.
There are the unfortunate photos of women in magazines (with their faces blocked to protect the affected) in bikinis with dimply thighs and bottoms, the thousands of ads promoting topical ointments curing the curse and “spot” treatments that promise a smooth, unachievable airbrushed body.
Then there is Cottage Cheese, the food. The one that was in your lunch box, room temperature and stinky as a kid growing up. The food that always seems to be mixed with a fruit, whose juice has now made the curd runny and uninviting. Oh, Cottage Cheese, the lumpy stepsister of all cheeses smooth and fabulous.
She is the one though! Cottage Cheese the food, a blessing, healthy, inexpensive and low calorie snack, ingredient and substitute for many higher fat foods. I fell in love with cottage cheese as a child when my Aunt Pat made her famous tuna dip. Aunt Pat’s dip also had lots of wonderful mayonnaise in it but I preferred to view the tuna-cottage cheese ingredients as fat cancelling. We always had cottage cheese in the house as a child, likely for the quick appetizer of Aunt Pat’s. It is truly a miracle food. Not sure if my Mom knew that then but it should be reason to keep it in your house now.
Lil’ Bit of History- The term “cottage cheese” is believed to have originated because the simple cheese was usually made in cottages from any milk left over after making butter. The term was first used in 1848. The curds and whey of nursery rhyme fame is another dish made from curds with whey, but it is uncertain what their consistency was, if they were drained at all or how they were curdled (which affects the flavor). Some writers claim they are equivalent or similar
Cottage Cheese has had its detractors mostly because of its consistency but consumers also complain that the taste is not worth the calories. The truth is that the taste is the most mild of the cheeses and the consistency can be a bit gagging if you have a “lump” phobia. I believe that if you feel this way, you have not explored the flexibility of Cottage Cheese. I have never been one to substitute applesauce for real sugar in recipes or butter alternatives. I have always been sort of a purist, REAL food just less of it. BUT, Cottage Cheese has such amazing health properties that I feel it can enhance recipes and your body shape at the same time with little notice in the flavor department.
Here’s the SKINNY- There are 90 calories in a half cup of 2% lowfat Cottage Cheese and it packs a whopping 14 grams of protein (only 81 calories in 1% lowfat, but hey, live a little)! Cottage Cheese’s protein is casein, which is a slow digesting protein that comes from cow’s milk. The benefit of casein is that it takes several hours for your gut to break down and so it is absorbed at a higher rate than other proteins. Pure, clean nutrients right into your body! Because of the slow breakdown, more calcium is absorbed by your body, which is wonderful for women’s bone health.
Understand the benefits but still not over the consistency? Let the blender be your friend. Surprisingly, cottage cheese blends right down into a nice creamy texture which can be added to just about anything. I have read that people use it in place of cream cheese or butter but again the purist in me just wants to add it to things, not replace it in recipes. My favorite ingredient in a smoothie is cottage cheese. After a long run, I will add it with greek yogurt and tons of frozen fruit. Whip it up into the most creamy, delicious recovery drink. Quality protein and carbs make for wonderful workouts the next day. Today for lunch, I mixed it with tuna and salsa and loaded it on a bagel. Yum! It is versatile as it can be savory or sweet. I still love it with pineapple the most, I think it reminds me of my childhood, but it can also be flavored with spices to become a topping for crackers or low cal nutritious dip.
I have to think that consuming a bit of cottage cheese regularly can also helped with the cottage cheese on the thighs. Not sure but just sayin’…
8th November 2010 | Megan
This weekend I had the opportunity to volunteer at the ING NYC Marathon. I had committed to this several months ago because a training buddy of mine was running and it seemed like a selfless way to go watch the marathon, leaving my husband home to run the kids around. OK, it was a really solid excuse.
I left my house at 6 am and headed into NYC, a little over an hour drive. Even being alone in the car seemed like a luxury. It was 34 degrees when I left my house, my car warned me that it was conditions for ice, it didn’t know that clearly it was going to be a gorgeous day. I parked the large family vehicle in the only garage that would take me ($10 extra) and headed to the course. I was assigned mile 17, which was the official Poland Spring Hydration Zone. Three layers of clothing, 7:30 am, and a large cup of coffee, I was ready to begin working.
For two solid hours, hundreds of us lined up cups, poured water, stacked layers and recycled plastic one gallon containers. In that one aid station (26 in total) there were 10,000 cups of water poured before the first athlete even started, over 200 volunteers busy at work. I met a woman that comes every year from Texas to volunteer, plans her entire vacation around it, others from New York City who wouldn’t miss the day, and more like me, who were first timers to this marathon experience.
Around 9:30am the first athletes flew through. Challenged athletes in carbon wheelchairs, hand cycle athletes and then those running with prosthesis. The speed at which these athletes travel is amazing, their commitment to the race solid and their machinery while high tech and expensive was not as impressive as their ability to power it.
Next the elite women came in. WOW! Graceful and powerful, their tiny outfits and sinewy bodies gave me chills. OK, I was already freezing but seeing this pack fly by piled on my chills. Gazelles, their intense focus forward was balanced out by the grace in which they moved.
Next the men, sub 5 minute pace. 26.2 miles. Pack of wolves. Enough said. I have never watched a marathon and witnessed the elite athletes running. The speed that they are moving is so fast it cannot even be replicated on my treadmill.
As these first groups of athletes passed, the volunteers fought to serve up the water. At least, three of us did. Which one of us would the athlete “choose” to take the water. We laughed as we were vying for their attention. A competition within a competition. Then it happened…
The remaining 40,000 athletes now needed our attention. No longer cold and standing around, we all worked tirelessly to fill and refill. Those 10,000 cups going and quickly. I have never seen so many volunteers working in unison to get water to the athletes. Bobby Flay, Meredith, Al Roker, the Chilean Miner, then also Wonder Woman, Minnie Mouse, a Beatle, and many men in neon orange full body suits came by, a man wearing a rhino head and thousands of ordinary runners grabbing cups of water and thanking us for being there.
Amongst the throngs of athletes, just when I was ready to take a break, my friend Tony ran by. It was his first marathon and he was my excuse for being a volunteer. Reenergized by his smile and stride, I yelled, rang cowbells and handed out water for another hour. Finally at 2:30, I ended my day.
I stopped at a yogurt shop which happened to the nearest food choice before retrieving my car and heading back to reality. On the ride home, I realized that I was totally wiped out! Volunteering can be just as taxing as competing. During the drive, I tried hopelessly to figure out what I would be feeding the family but I also decided that I would have a new personal commitment to running.
I was going to be a HORO athlete. Help One, Run One, H.O.R.O. From this day forward for every race I run, I will volunteer at one. Trust me, I have had plenty of volunteer experiences in my running career but actually setting this goal excited me. So, from here on out, HORO. For the athletes, for the race directors and for myself, I will be out there serving up water, aid, cleaning up or whatever needs to be done so that the day is an effortless experience for all.
I am tired, my back hurts, my eyes are bleary, but I feel rewarded. I think I need a recovery week.
31st October 2010 | Megan
I recently had to get my picture taken, or as my friend Traci from Texas says, “had to get my picture made”. Having your picture taken “on purpose” can be awkward, foreign and downright humbling. Fortunately, the photographer and her assistant were wonderful in making the experience comfortable. Nonetheless, it was a very out of the box experience. I think it is important to be uncomfortable at times in life. From uncomfortableness comes growth.
As I was trying hard to smile “naturally”, I was thinking that I must look like a stiff piece of cardboard. The photographer and her helper, are both former models. Being in front of a camera is a cake walk to them. I thought as I was being natural (ha!) in front of the camera, how foreign it felt to me, and how I must look to them, uncomfortable, unnatural and ill at ease.
This made me think of what it is like to start a running program for the first time. Often times, I hear women say, “Oh, I could never run.”, ” I don’t have a runner’s body”, or “I am not good at it, it’s uncomfortable”. When I hear those comments, it seems incredulous to me as running as been ingrained in my being for the last fifteen years. “Of course you can”, I am thinking, “why not, it is so easy”, says the veteran runner inside me. Running is a lot like smiling naturally, we all do it, we have all done it and it is what our muscles are meant to do. We were given the muscles in our face to move into a smile just as we have been given wonderful leg muscles to move us. Educating or recruiting muscles to smile or run on purpose can feel robotic and stiff at first. But it gets better and easier and with some practice it starts to feel natural and GOOD!
Not that I have a future as a supermodel, but by the end of the shoot, it became much easier, sort of like running my programmed 5 miler, my face knew what to do just as my body memorizes my steps. When I first started running, I felt the world was looking at me. Were my arms moving wildly, was I bouncing too much (were THEY bouncing too much), is my step too big, do I look like a poser? Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic Gold Medalisit Marathoner once said, ” When I first started running, I was so embarrassed I’d walk when cars passed me, I’d pretend I was looking at flowers. “ Guess she got over it pretty quickly!
Trying something new in front of the world (or even two people) can be daunting, but with time it becomes rote. Running is that way. It takes time before you realize that it is natural, no one is really looking, and your body was meant to do it.
At the end of my “photo session”, as I was beginning to feel pro, the assistant (former model) said to me, “You know, the best pictures of me are the ones that have been taken when I have crossed the finish line”. Imagine that! A woman who made a career out of smiling naturally for the camera, had the best smile after running a race! I think I will keep my day job and run. She is right, there is nothing like the wonderful feeling of crossing a finish line to put a beautiful, natural smile on a face. Had I known that, as I struggled through the shoot, I would have visualized that finish line and it would have been a breeze! Nothing like being out of the box to bring you back to the familiar.
26th October 2010 | Megan
That’s the new me.
Trying it on for size and uncomfortable with it.
I recently suffered an injury that will likely take me three months to begin running again. Doesn’t my partially detached hamstring know what this is going to do to me?
Karma. Guess I should have treated that hamstring nicer. A little more stretching, a little more strengthening.
Detached. My hamstring. My mental state. My social scene of exercise. My goodness!
30 minutes of exercise a day, every day, is what “THEY” recommend. I know it will be soon enough that I can get on some machine like an elliptical to get the time in. I know that soon enough I will be able to walk the dog, to get the time in. But see, for me it is more than the time and the physical benefit. I NEED endorphins, blood pumping, over hill and dale, exercise that clears my mind, or if I am with friends, fill my heart with joy and belly with laughter.
So far, I have done planks and push-ups and some other strength work. I hope to swim tomorrow with a pull buoy to rest my legs. I wonder what it is going to be like to begin running again. I dream about running. Really, am dreaming about running. It is true that you always want what you don’t have.
I also recently heard, “it is better to have it and not use it, then need it and not have it” . This was said on a radio talk show about the use of a side burner on a BBQ grill. I, of course took it as a reference to my loss of running. I swim, I ride, I run. Always in my back pocket was the gift of running, now I need it and don’t have it.
My promise to my body is to get it so strong during this time of rehabilitation that when I am ready to hit the road, my muscles and tendons are ready. I promise to work on my core and upper body as much as I hate the gym. I will be better because of this.
The few times I have been injured before, my husband tip-toes around me, as I am not the happiest person to live near. My children aren’t used to me waking up the same time as them or sometimes even later. No one knows how to respond to my “new me”. My hair is cleaner, my shirts are something other than a race tee, and I have WAY too much time to organize the other parts of my life. I think I am annoying everyone, including myself.
I want it back. REATTACH. I promise I will respect it all. I will remember what this is like and do what I can so that it won’t happen again.
REATTACH dear hammy, reattach.