Avoiding a Vacation Set Back: Day #1

I am heading out  today for a much needed two week vacation. In years past, I had a tendency to gain 5-7lbs for each week of vacation. Too much foodie tourism and too little movement. Things are different now. Or least I like to think they are. I still plan on eating well, just not with reckless abandon; and I plan on tempering the eating with exercise or at least of lot of steps logged every day.

So, my vacation blogging goal is to post at least one fitness achievement or workout fashion statement for each day of vacation.

Today was Day#1 (though I did go to our weekly 6:30am meeting at work). I was exhausted from one on call day and two late nights packing but it was really beautiful out (and at least when I made the decision not too humid) so I willed myself to get out there. It was not pretty. Honestly with how bad I felt with the hills and the humidity (it had really gotten moist by 9:30am), I was wondering how it was that I finished a half marathon just 7wks ago. But I got her done at a sub-11min pace (yes, that’s pretty speedy for me and no it’s not about how fast you are; it’s about having put in the effort no matter how fast or how slow.)

Here’s my other summer lemon workout look. Puma running capris and an Under Armour ribbed tank.

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Fitbit count >15,000k steps before making it to the destination. (Yes, I am publishing this from 30,000 feet–yah! JetBlue in-flight wifi.)

 

Feeling 40

On the morning of my 38th birthday I promised myself I would be in the best shape of my life by my 40th birthday. I gave myself 2 years, hauled my Not-A-Morning-Person ass out of bed at 5:45am, and headed for my first reformer class. So lots of core work and runs later minus lots of unnecessary carbs (though not totally paleo), I have to say, I am pretty proud of myself.

And, though I can say with confidence that I feel better and look better than I ever have–while I wholeheartedly believe that 40 is the new 20–I must admit there are some tell-tale signs that I have the physiology of a 40 year old.

1) I have grey hairs.

2) I have more chin hair than my husband (who is rockin’ a full beard these days!)

3) Worse, some of those chin hairs are grey too!

4) No amount of investment in an industrial strength push-up bra will re-orient my boobs.

5) Speaking of boobs, mammograms. Ugh.

6) I rock raccoon eye. Not just when I am post-call or have been crying. Nope, just All. The. Time.

7) I have a pooch. Not my puppy, rather a tenacious fold of abdominal skin that mimics a beer gut without any of the beer.

8) I can sense the weather in my toes (don’t blame the heels!), my knees (don’t blame the running!), and my left thumb (blame surgery!).

9) A night out is staying up past 9pm without pajamas on.

10) I have forgotten what 10 is.

Happy Birthday to Me! I’m feelin’ 40.

 

13.1 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Thought I Could Never Run a Half Marathon

I used to think I could never be a runner but yesterday I ran my 4th half marathon. I didn’t place in my age group and my official race pace was a slow and steady 11:16/mi but I am still a proud runner.  I wish I hadn’t been such a doubter for so long. So, here are a 13.1 things I wish someone had told me when I thought I could never do this.

1) You never feel good until mile 2-3, so don’t give up. I promise you, you will feel invincible by the time you hit the halfway point whether it is mile 2.5 of a five-miler or mile 6.5 of a half. Bottle that feeling and take it with you during the first few miles of every run, long or short. That’s what got me started yesterday and kept me going as the heat went up and the muscles started aching as I hit the midpoint of the figure-of-8 loop at mile 7.

Stott SPX Home Reformer

Stott SPX Home Reformer

2) But even if that feeling propels you to hit the road, the trail, or the treadmill day after day, you cannot be a runner unless you build up your core. For me, I have done this with pilates (mostly Stott reformer) and Pure Barre (whenever I get the chance). A strong core will help your stride and prevent injuries. My choice of core training also works on the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the hips, thighs, and butt all of which make for a stronger, more efficient runner.

3) Modern life is filled with distractions; running allows you to be alone with your thoughts. People ask me how I find time to write the occasional blog post with my hectic schedule. Honestly, I mentally compose many of them on my runs just like I often compose specific aims for my research or household to-do-lists while running.

4) Running with you significant other is a great alternative to high calorie, sedentary date night. Though we often run together listening to our playlists or podcasts, that time we spend together, just the two of us out there, whether or not there is conversation involved, allows us to bond and stay fit.

5) Running is a great way to make new friends and stay connected with old ones. I have made new friends and mentors running while travelling for work. The race I ran yesterday has been a way to connect with my best friend from residency at least once a year in person and even more frequently has we text or phone each other on how the training is coming along. (Different specialties, different cities, surgeon schedules = little if any chance to see each other but planning a race together is a great solution, and has the added bonus of not letting our surgeon schedules be an excuse not to take care of ourselves.)

6) There is no such thing as a runner’s body. Look at yourself in the mirror. Think you’re not a runner because of your size or your shape. WRONG. Yesterday, I ran alongside, in front of, and behind other 5’3″ women who easily weighed 100lbs more than more or 40-50lbs less than me. There were men and women of all shapes and sizes. From the kind of bodybuilder physique that one would think is incompatible with running to the tall, lean supposedly quintessential runner’s body, to (and this encompassed just about everyone there above age 30 I would venture to guess) the love handles, spare tires, muffin tops, touching thighs, beer guts, and saggy arms that are a reality of middle-aged life no matter how much we run.

7) Even if it won’t transform your body, running has health benefits that you may not have thought of. Running outdoors means more VitD conversion. That alone with improve your energy levels but then there are also the endorphins that both improve energy levels and mental well-being whether you activate their secretion outdoors or on a treadmill. And (though it may gross out some of my readers) a little bit of long-run colon ischemia is a decent remedy for constipation (except when there are port-a-potties involved–eeeeww, now that grosses me out). Weekly long runs while training for a long race is what I think of as the Runner’s Cleanse–who needs kale shakes!

8) Running outside brings opportunities to glimpse the world from another perspective. There is so much architecture, so much greenery, so much wildlife that you would miss if you weren’t a runner. Yesterday, as we approached mile 10, I made eye contact with a gigantic brown bear just 4 feet away from me. As I ran by (and boy does a bear siting make you run faster!) (s)he padded across the course behind me. There were plenty more vistas of bucolic farmland and beautiful (though potentially fear-provoking) animals along the Iron Horse Half course in lovely central CT yesterday.

9) On a related note, running outside makes you feel outdoorsy even if your are not. I mean, come on, I stared deep into the eyes of a giant bear and lived to tell about it. Need I say more?! 

Newtons Distance U

Newtons Distance U

10) If you have a shoe thing (like I do), being a runner gives you a whole other category of shoes to covet. Yesterday I ran in my Newtons. Super cute pink and neon yellow…wait yes of course the lugs…awesome lugs for an easy forefoot motion made for my PR for a half. (You shouldn’t buy running shoes for aesthetics and colors but I won’t lie I sometimes do and it’s what started this running thing for me in the first place).

11) Long run days and race days are perfect justification to eat with reckless abandon. My pre-race farm to table meal with my fellow runners was one of the best meals I have ever had. In my quest to be healthy, I am often limiting how much I can indulge at these types of places. Sharing an appetizer (or skipping them altogether) or splitting an entree and definitely passing on dessert. But, on the night before a race you have have an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert and, as I did, have ice cream for lunch two days in a row.

12) With running, especially for slow, unathletic types like myself, the only competition is yourself. You set the goal (pace, distance, runs per week, etc). You achieve that and “Yah! You’ve won.” There’s no score, no one upmanship, there’s only you to improve. Yesterday, I was hoping to finish under 11:05 but a mile 4 port-a-potty break and some heat and fatigue on the back half slowed me down. Still, I was 3 sec/mile faster than my last half pace so yah!, I won. Go me!

13) Signing up for races is a great motivator, especially if you can make a weekend of it. If you are not a natural athlete (like me) and if exercising (not matter how much you blog or tweet about it) still feels like a chore, signing up for a race gives you reason to keep getting out there to train. And, if you sign up for an out of town race, book a room at an inn, find childcare for the weekend, etc. I promise you you will not just skip the race because you are not ready. You will make sure that you are ready because, quite honestly, that post-race feeling (see 13.1) and the chance to hit an amazing farm to table bistro that you might not otherwise be able to enjoy are totally worth it.

13.1) Running 13.1 miles will totally make you feel like a badass no matter how slow you ran, or how low in your age group you ranked.

 

Top 10 Hits to Tackle 10 Miles

I ran 10 miles yesterday and it felt great. I could not have done it without musical accompaniment and I wanted to take a minute to thank my lyrical running coaches.

Mile #1) I would like to thank the Beastie Boys for encouraging me to get my Body Movin’ and teaching me it’s “not about perfection.”

Mile #2) I would like to thank Carly Rae Jepson who made me run faster as I contemplated “Would he [the elusive college hottie] have been more likely to Call Me Maybe if I had just taken on running 20 years ago?”

Mile #3) I would like to thank Justin Timberlake for telling me to get over the past because with this run, I would be “burning up” and Bringing Sexyback.

Mile #4) I would like to thank Jason Derulo who powered me over the hills so that someday my booty also “won’t need no splaining.”

Mile #5) I would like to thank Will.I.Am (sorry can’t bring myself to thank Beebs) for helping me find #thatPOWER to get to the other half of this run because “whatever doesn’t kill ya, makes ya stronger.”

Mile #6) I would like to thank Pitbull because, once I made it to the second half of the run, he made sure I kept “running through the world” and make sure Don’t Stop the Party.

Mile #7) I would like to thank Austin Mahone since, well…you know… who doesn’t want to just think Mmm Yeah as they hit the otherwise nondescript Mile 7. That’s really “all that I can say” about this.

Mile #8) I would like to thank Britney Spears who said it was okay Scream and Shout as the fatigue really set in through the center of town even though “all eyes [were] on us” where Main St. meets Center St.

Mile #9) I would like to thank Demi Lovato for shining upon me the Neon Lights to get me through the last stretch of the run by “pretend[ing] we’re running out of time.”

Mile #10) I would like to thank Prince for helping me revel in how Sexy…..(yeah, this is a family blog so I can’t go there–also reason why no title listed for mile #4–but trust me it helped me crank that last mile)

And, of course, before you ask these lyrical coaches were speaking to me through my yurbuds–there’s nothing better to run in if you want to be motivated by music to crush those 10 miles.

 NOTE: From time to time we will write about some of our favorite things. Unless specifically noted, we have purchased these items on our own and have not received any royalties or other perks for sharing our product opinions with you.

Mentorship on the Move


A mentor is a kind of coach, a personal trainer, so to speak, for one’s career where the sport is not an athletic endeavor but an intellectual or technical endeavor like surgical research or operating on the aorta. A mentor empowers, encourages, and nurtures self-confidence for someone to grow their career, master a skill, negotiate the challenges of institutional politics, and become a leader in their own right while balancing the constant tug of war between work and life that busy, ambitious young professionals in any field face.

So why am I writing about mentorship in my blog dedicated to life outside of work? Well, because sometimes work and life come together harmoniously. Given how complex the work-life balance equation typically is, I feel compelled to share this story of mentorship on the move.

Running is hard for me. When I do it, I love it and feel really good. But I am pretty slow (and I am okay with that–I run to get to the finish and not to win any speed awards) so being committed to running takes a lot of time and have not figured out how to make daily running (or nearly daily running) as part of my daily regimen. But I do the best that I can. I am sure that a running coach would bring out the best possible runner locked up deep inside me.

At a recent professional meeting, I was fortunate enough to go for a run with a fantastic senior surgeon (we say this for Professors of Surgery; they aren’t necessarily old and this woman is NOT old–just needed to clarify). She could be a semi-elite runner if she weren’t a surgeon. She has a runner’s build and is super speedy. But it turns out that she’s also a great running coach. She can temper her 5-6min/mi pace down to as slow as 12min/mi pace on demand. Perhaps this is because she is a seasoned educator who has often had to achieve a single educational goal among those with vastly different abilities or perhaps it is her own inherent athletic ability that allows her to adjust so well to the needs of her pupil, in this case the slow runner. I heard this from a traumamama friend of mine who was marshaled through her first race with this amazing surgeon-coach.

Last fall, the three of us hit the streets of San Francisco together during a break from a professional meeting, and over 4.5mi at a 11:19 pace we discussed a lot of things related to our work as surgeons. During that run I benefited not only from the cardiovascular activity but also from wise counsel on topics ranging from how to approach my hospital administration about challenging safety issues or how to approach my then pending grant revision or when is the right time to consider a career move. Turns out it was a great on-the-move mentorship session and this senior surgeon is actually an amazing surgeon-coach-mentor.

Last week, I had this surgeon-coach-mentor all to myself. We don’t regularly keep in touch (though I am sure she would be available if I reached out to her more frequently). But, there we were, in the same city for yet another work-related meeting, and the sun was out. I asked if she would be willing to go for a run with me and she graciously agreed.

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It was 4mi over 44 minutes of one on one counsel regarding how to best make the most of my new position in this national organization that had brought the two of us together again in the same city. She has more than a decade of insight into the opportunities and challenges of being an affective and effective member of the group. This is the kind of mentorship that is typically elusive to those navigating professional organizations. But there I was, lucky enough to get her undivided attention for nearly an hour on this topic important to my career AND get a great run in. Of course she was fully conversational the whole time while I was panting, but hey I will never improve my running endurance or become a daily runner if I don’t get out there an put one foot in front of the other as often as I can.

Putting that one foot in front of the other with such a great role model and thoughtful advisor is such a gift professionally and personally. We are once again traveling to the same city and I am hopeful we will be able to run together again before we depart.  I feel lucky to have found a mentor  who empowers, encourages, and nurtures self-confidence in me while we are on the move.

 

How Nordstrom Helped Me Get My Run On

I am fascinated by runners. And so, I spent the better part of my adolescent and adult life trying to be one. It was one failure after another. To be sure, I wasn’t trying to run consistently frequently bogged down by the litany of excuses (kids, career, lack of natural athletic prowess, blah blah blah) that kept me sedentary for months (I shudder to think maybe even years) at a time. 

But when the zeal for fitness struck, I sometimes thought I was a fool to try to run. The 1 mile run during the Presidential Fitness Tests of my elementary school days was simply humiliating. I was not fast. I was not graceful. It was just awful. (In case you are wondering, I found the pull up and push up test to be humiliating as well but with someone holding down my feet I managed to make it through the sit-ups.) However, the allure of combining exercise, which has always been difficult for me, with an equally needed connection to daylight kept making me try to run. And, of course, the belief (true or not) in the simplicity of “all you need is a pair of shoes” was appealing. 

My earliest memory of trying to run was in high school. I tried running in loops around our backyard pool. My thought at the time was if I could make it around the 120ft perimeter without stopping for several loops then maybe I could make it to the street in front of the house. It never happened. So having now run two half marathons through the streets near that house is feels pretty awesome. I hope to make this a personal annual tradition for myself.

In college, I lived with several runners. These were girls for whom running was like brushing their teeth; they just could not go on with their day without getting a run in. I was in awe of them and I tried running on my own along the very popular riverside path near our college in hopes of emulating them. I never made it more than a quarter mile. So it felt really amazing to run 4.0 miles in row without stopping along that same path the weekend of our 15th college reunion a few years ago. I can’t wait for the future girls’ weekend that involves us running a race together. We may all run at different paces but the experience of sharing that accomplishment will be a much better bonding moment than some of our college shenanigans.

In medical school, I so badly wanted to be a runner that I actively sought help. I was lucky enough to have some runner friends take me under their wing and go out to the local track and lakeside path. They patiently trotted alongside me as we went from electric pole to electric pole. But once again I could not do it. It turns out that I ended up coming back to my alma mater and (though still not with the regularity that I would hope for) running past the same electric poles is totally feasible. I hope that these streets will provide years and years of training for my running aspirations.

In residency, having developed the laser-like focus on getting things done and done well (as all residents must possess) I tried again by supplementing my efforts with what I thought was the right gear. I researched running shoes and I went to Marathon Sports and Fleet Feet to splurge on the kind of running shoes that their experts said would work for me. Once again, I had friends (and also a husband) who indulged in the electric pole to electric pole routine of trying to run. We even had a glorious lake and magnificent city skyline as a back drop to these efforts but it was a total fail. To my delight, the last 4 trips I have taken back to the city where I did my residency all involved long runs along that same running path. 

In all those years of fits and spurts of trying to run, I never became a runner. Every time I tried I had to stop due to back pain, neck pain, and jaw pain with each stride. This persisted even in custom fitted kicks. Clearly, I was doing something wrong and 7 years passed and I really never tried to run again. I actually had an elevator script down on running about how “I just don’t have a good stride. It’s too painful to run…I will never be that person who runs for fun.” And, the sad part is I believed it.

Then sometime in early 2011, a New Balance Minimus shoe came on sale at Nordstrom. (Browsing the Nordstrom iphone app for sales is something for which I confess I need a twelve-step program.) By this time, I was starting to focus more on my fitness and was making cardio a more frequent part of my life. I found it easiest to get in cardio during work trips and was in search of a pair of lightweight, packable shoes to work out in. They looked cute and for elliptical jaunts I really had no other requirements than cuteness. Plus, they were on a huge discount so I pulled the trigger (or more precisely hit the ‘purchase now’ key).

A few months later, while on a work trip, the workout room was closed. But I was literally 2mi from the Pacific Ocean and so on a whim I threw on my Minimus sneakers and went for a run. It was August 2011. I fumbled with my Nike Run app and missed half the run. But I put one foot in front of the other for 2.5mi without stopping. It was like a 13min pace and most days on rounds I walk that fast but you know what, I felt the emotions of that person who runs for fun. And I felt good. No back pain. No neck pain. No jaw pain. The forefoot stride was what had been eluding me all those failed attempts at running.

Since then, I have been far from consistent and I haven’t picked up much speed but I can put one foot in front of the other for few miles at a time without stopping pretty much whenever I am motivated to do so. I surely need more motivation to be that person who runs for every day because, well, it’s so much fun, but I am truly a different person. And I have a Nordstrom sale and the minimal kicks to thank for uncorking this potential to be a runner that I probably had within me all along. 

Calling an audible on health and fitness goals

I like to consider myself goal oriented but sometimes I call ‘an audible’ on the goal at hand.

For example, I might say to myself on a Saturday that I have off that my goal is to enjoy a day trip with the family but when Saturday arrives I might decide that overhauling the basement storage situation is a better a goal.

When it comes to health and fitness, these on-the-fly goal adjustments are fraught with dangers.

First the good. I will sneak in a treadmill workout with a goal of running for 30 minutes. However, as 30 minutes approaches I will notice that the machine says 2.78 miles so I will say to myself “just keeping running until you hit 3 miles.” But, when I hit three miles it’s only 7 more minutes until hitting a 40 minute workout. When I approach 40 minutes I reflect on the 15 minute increments that break our hours into quarters and I say to myself “you can do anything for five more minutes” Voila, I managed to workout for 15 minutes longer than my original goal. This kind of audible is clearly beneficial for me. I wish it would happen more often but I often call an audible in the wrong direction (see example below) of getting a workout in because the alternative goals are just easier to meet.

Moving on to the bad. I have been tracking with MyFitnessPal for nearly two years now. When I am consistent (e.g. minimum of 4 weeks in a row), I know that I meet my weight loss goals so my daily goal is to track. But, along comes a bad call night when my tracking lapses or it’s a day like Thanksgiving and by noon my daily allocated calories are spent so why keep tracking for the rest of the meal or it’s my kid’s birthday and I absolutely must have a cupcake but I just can’t bring myself to see the caloric value staring me back in the face. I just say to myself “oh well, tomorrow’s another day.” The problem is that if tomorrow also presents a tracking challenge (for example, last week Thanksgiving was followed by a busy 32 hours on call was followed by my kid’s birthday) then I just say “oh well, I will just start tracking again next week.” And, if next week is an on-service week….

You get the picture, it’s so easy to put off this kind of a goal and the ensuing cycle of self-sabotage is vicious. If I make it to the workout in the first place or if I make it to my final meal of the day very close to being in my daily range for caloric intake, I am apt to meet my goals. In fact, the positive feelings of being on the mark inspire me to be an over-achiever during those moments in time (see the good above). But if I let myself down, I am liable to give up, hate myself for giving up, and be so mired in self-hatred that I can’t pick myself up again.

This same scenario is why 3 years passed between attempts at basement storage overhaul. The hate is so much easier to feel than the positive energy that will surely follow a challenging workout, an excess pound shed, or an alphabetically arranged garage storage unit. I called an audible on writing about this topic. You’ll have to wait and read about guilt-ridden mom sporting some gold heels on a later date, I am trying to get motivated for a Monday morning workout and my first complete week of tracking in a long time.

All you need is a pair of shoes…

When I first started running, a friend of mine was extolling one of its many virtues by stating that “All you need is a pair of shoes.”  Well, that was right up my alley.  I get to buy shoes and that’s it?  Sweet.  I am a shoe shopping expert.  So, I set out to Athletic Annex to go buy my pair of shoes.  I introduced myself, and shared that I was never a runner and had signed up for a 5K.  The sales person was very nice and supportive, and then stated that we could start by videotaping me running.  I literally almost turned around and walked out of the store.  Are you kidding me?!  You want to videotape me and my bouncing post baby belly running?  He obviously noted my stricken face and quickly reassured me it was from the knees down only.  Whew… Once I started breathing again we did the videotaping bit, he analyzed my foot strike and got me into a great pair of shoes.

 Saucony-Ride-6-Medial-Side
A couple of weeks into the couch to 5K program, a personal trainer at my gym was talking to me about my newfound fitness plan and started telling me about the benefits of exercising with a heart rate monitor.  To be honest, I wasn’t really sure about it, but figured I would try it.  So, I bought a Polar heartrate monitor and actually have been very pleased with it.  On my long runs, when my heart rate starts to go up, I know it is time to hydrate a bit more or have something with some calories in it (I’m a big fan of the sports jelly beans instead of the gels).  It also helps me more closely approximate my calorie burn which I use in the My Fitness Pal app.
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Well, about a month after adding my heartrate monitor I was on a run and totally bit it.  I was watching this teenager who actually looked about 12 years old and was so focused on him not hitting me with his car that I literally face planted.  Although I was able to complete my run despite my newly skinned knees and torn running pants, I realized that I probably should start running with my phone.  Therefore, an arm band was added.  Because I was now running with my phone, I added the Map My Run app.  It keeps track of my running workouts, and since it uses GPS, it literally maps my route and calculates the distance traveled and the pace.  
 
My son thinks that my phone is the most fun toy ever made.  It lights up, makes sounds, and is super fun to teethe on.  Sigh.  Since the iPhone is not drool-proof, it now does not play music or transmit sound through headphones.  Running with my phone had spoiled me with my music availability and now used to running with music, I felt lost without it.  I then began “borrowing” my husband’s Ipod mini and using a wristband to have easy access to change songs or playlists as needed.
 
About two months ago, I hit a weight loss plateau.  My weight was Not budging.  I added additional workouts, tried to change up my diet, and nothing was working. One of my friends started telling me about her FitBit One and how much she loved it.  Needless to say, I splurged and got the FitBit One.  And, it really is great.  It tracks steps taken, flights of steps, calories burned, and my (lack of) sleep.  The other great thing about it, other than its ability to sync wirelessly with your phone, is that it links to the My Fitness Pal app.  I log my exercise and food intake into My Fitness Pal and this then transmits over automatically to the FitBit app.  
fitbitone 
So yes, I probably look ridiculous when I run.  I started with a pair of Sauconys, and now have a heart rate monitor, my heart rate monitor wrist band on one side, an Ipod mini on my other wrist, my iPhone on an armband, and my FitBit One on my hip.  My iPhone apps also reflect my increased amount of technology.  I started with My Fitness Pal to log my food, and now have added not only Map My Run and FitBit apps, but also the Pure Barre App.
 
Some people may say all you need is a pair of shoes, but hey, I’ve always liked accessorizing.

To the dark side and back…

I am not going to lie, I have pretty much been on the thinner side of the scale my whole life (with obnoxious amounts of dieting as previously mentioned), but it’s true.  I rarely needed to buy a size larger than a 4.

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All of this changed, however, when my husband and I decided to start a family.  Two heartbreaking miscarriages and two fertility medications later, we were successfully pregnant.  And, about 25 pounds heavier than my usual weight….at the start of my pregnancy.  Well, add 22 pounds of pregnancy weight onto that over the next 9 months, and by the time I gave birth I had an overall weight gain of close to 50 pounds.  Now I know this may not sound like a lot to some people, but for the record, I am 5’ 1”.

Unfortunately some people were brutal to me about this weight gain.  I can absolutely sympathize with Kim Kardashian and Jessica Simpson.  I actually had one person poke me in my thigh and make the comment about how big my thighs had gotten.  Women would just look at me and make cruel comments about how you can never lose all the weight.

I dropped the 22 pregnancy pounds pretty easily, but at 4 months postpartum I was still with almost 30 extra pounds and I was depressed.  I was officially overweight, unhealthy, and unhappy. No, not post-partum I can’t get out of bed depressed.  It was a “I can’t stand the way I look or feel” depressed.  It really hit me when I looked back and realized that I had only ONE picture taken of my child and I together because of my insecurity.  That is when I knew I had to make a change.

My career continuously teaches me that life is too short, and that message never rang more true than at this point in my life.  Although I do believe that life is too short not to eat a piece of cake every once in awhile, life is also too short to not be happy with yourself…especially to the point that you won’t have your picture taken, even with your newborn child.

So, I talked to my wonderfully supportive husband who seriously is the best man on the planet.  I started to think about my life and wanted to set a goal… something that I never thought I could do in a million years.  I signed up for a 5K.  Again, this may not seem like much to some people, but even when I was young and thin and a cheerleader, I was Never a runner.  I hated it.  Running around the track in high school was my own personal 7th level of hell.  But I needed something, anything to help pull me out of the dark place I was in, and I was hoping those 3.1 miles would be it.

Let me tell you, getting back in shape and in the gym was tough.  I felt awkward, big, and quite frankly, ugly.  I didn’t have cute gym clothes and couldn’t find any that were flattering.  So I worked out in maternity t-shirts and baggy shorts.  And I started out slowly, working out 3 days a week and slowly increasing to now 6 days a week when my schedule allows.  I did the couch to 5K program and literally started by running in 1 minute increments.  I also slowly and steadily changed my diet.  I downloaded My Fitness Pal and began recording my food.

Six months after my first road race ever, and before my child’s first birthday, I ran a half-marathon.  I felt such a sense of accomplishment I can’t even begin to explain the depth of it.

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I was now 20 pounds lighter, but not yet still at my goal.  That is when I found Pure Barre.  I had a girls’ weekend and saw my best friend since 3rd grade for the first time in over a year, and she looked great.  I mean, high school thin and fit great.  So I asked her what she had been doing and she replied, “Oh, this is all from Pure Barre.”  I had no idea what Pure Barre was, but took a class with her over that weekend.  And just like the prior post, it was brutal!  I actually flipped her the finger during my first class, told her she was crazy, and that I didn’t realize that extremity seizures were supposed to be a good thing!  Well, needless to say, that first class unveiled my next self-imposed fitness challenge.  I signed up for the New Client Special, and told myself I had to go to at least 10 classes that month for the price.  I haven’t looked back since, and that was 5 months ago.  In the first 2 months I lost 2 inches off my waist, and those aren’t the only changes I have enjoyed.  Besides the better posture and the beginnings of sculpted arms and abdominal definition, I have regained even more confidence.  Confidence not only in how I look, but also in appreciation for what my body can accomplish!  I am working my way towards the 100 club, and loving every minute of it.

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I celebrated my “Run-niversary” last weekend.  I ran the same race, but instead of the 5K, I ran a 15K at a pace three minutes less per mile.  The past year has been a journey from a very dark place, but having had the “overweight” experience has been an enlightening one.  Having been subjected to all the negative comments and jokes has made me not only a more sympathetic person, but because of the determination it gave, a healthier one as well.

13.1 thoughts from a half in my hometown

It’s been a long time coming with me and running (but more on that in a later blog).

For about a year now, my focus has been 13.1 miles, a perfect distance, in my opinion, to feel a huge sense of accomplishment but still be mobile later the same day. I personally have no goals to double that, EVER (just had to get that on the record for my inaugural blog post).

It’s fall. The weather is cooler. The calendars are packed with running events. As I heard and read about all these fall races–especially the half marathons–I was questioning my decision to run a half in my hometown instead of say, run 13.1 in the Windy City dressed like a zombie, or 13.1 in SF to be greeted by handsome tuxedoed eye-candy, or maybe even 13.1 flanked by Boston Strong.

But yesterday, as I ran a PR over 13.1 miles of pavement in my home town, I had no regrets. Here are 13.1 reasons why.

1) I lined up to run in front of my high school’s field house (where I spent many a tortured hour not being able to run around the .25mi track or having to wear a bathing suit in a co-ed swim class) without any self-esteem baggage.

2) I got to run past the public housing complex that I called home for the first 5 years of my life and felt hopeful that the folks cheering from the doorways would also someday feel as secure in food, shelter, and good health as I am.

3) I got to run past the construction site where until recently stood my birthplace.

4) I got to run past an intersection I have cursed for many years, delighted to see that traffic lights are soon to go up.

5) I got to run past blocks and block of glorious old cotton mills that have been reinvented–much like I am trying to I reinvent myself to be a fit person–for modern times.

6) I got to run by the school of engineering that attracted my immigrant dad to this town and reminisce about the days when we were the only people in the town with our last name.

7) I got to run by the temples and the ethnic groceries that reminded me of how many more immigrants have followed in the 40 years since to make this town the rich melting pot that it is.

8) I got to run past the site of the old factory where my mother worked 12-18 hrs/day until her hands were raw so that she could help save up for our college educations.

9) I got to run past the laundromat where we used to our laundry when I was very young and wondered how it was that I became the brat for whom a second floor laundry room was a deal breaker in the most recent house hunt.

10) I got to run across a bridge that they told us was temporary in 1986 without falling into the water underneath.

11) I got to run past the local general hospital ED (where I spent many an hour being evaluated for a broken bone or an unnecessary but acutely inflamed vestigial organ) and was neither a patient nor a provider.

12) I got to appreciate the river front path that I now realize I foolishly ignored for twenty years when I could have been running (or at least walking) along it.

13) I got to see my mommy and daddy at the end. They still don’t get why I would want to run 13.1 just for fun but it was great to be there with them in this town.

0.1) Memories with every footstep.