Monday, May 21, 2018

Shift

This past Saturday was the Brooklyn Half, and good lord did Mother Nature have it in for everyone.  Cold, driving rain, gusty winds - absolutely miserable conditions.  The runners gutted it out impressively and I'm very grateful to whoever gave me the weatherproofing advice for m poster, and even more grateful that Laura loaned me her raincoat.

It was really hard to be there and not be running the course.  It was even more disheartening when I broke into a jog to be sure I caught Laura before she passed by and I still still still felt the pain in my hip that sidelined me in the first place.  It's been plaguing me since April 7th and healing so slowly that some days I really can't tell if I'm making any progress or not.

But it's always gratifying to cheer for runners and to be inspired by them - and I was even more inspired that Laura set a PR for the course!  I assume she just wanted to run the damn thing as fast as possible to get warm and dry.

Now that it's done, now my attention is turned toward November and the full marathon even more than it was.  In a perfect world, I'll be starting my training in four short weeks.  We'll see what my body actually has in store for me.

One of the most important things I took away from the day came up in conversation with Laura on the long (looooooooong) train ride home as we talked about how she made it through.  We had planned to talk on the phone a lot - Laura loves company on her runs - but the rain and the madness just made it too hard to do anything but focus on what she was doing.  She told me she talked to herself, reminded her that her quads are strong, reminded herself of all her training, reminded herself that she was capable - and, surprise surprise, it was incredibly helpful.

It got me thinking that because I love running so much and I miss it so much whenever I'm sidelined, my mental state with injuries is usually one of panic, worry, paranoia, and being so overly in tune and in my head that there's no room to think about anything else.

I need to remember to have faith, hope, and the hardest one of all, patience.  I want this over now.  I want to be back now.  I want to feel strong now.  Well, I'm not getting what I want, and certainly a negative or fear-based attitude isn't going to get it to me any faster.

So as so frequently happens, I'm taking a cue from Laura to try to choose my thoughts more wisely.

I will also, very happily, be headed out of town for two fabulous short trips over the next two weeks - first, to spend the holiday weekend with my family in SC, and second to Philly for Marc's opening night and another long weekend.  The distraction, the break from the day-to-day, from the stress teaching can put on my body, and from my awful mattress, will hopefully get me out of my own head, and allow time to do its thing and heal.

Which means, dear blog, that I will see you again in June!  I hope everyone who is able to has gotten outside today, because oh my goodness it could not be further from Saturday's monsoon.  Spring is back on track.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Quick Restore

It's one of those weeks where I'm feeling sort of uninspired to write - I've already written loads about my mystery injury, pulling out of the Brooklyn Half, and all the emotion and uncertainty that goes along with that.  To save you from more pontificating on the same, I just want to share a restorative pose that I've been loving lately.

Having this sharp in my adductor/groin area, I'm having to pull back a lot from demonstrating in my classes.  I'm trying to avoid lunges altogether, which is challenging to say the least.  And since I'm pulling back from demonstrating, I'm definitely not doing yoga for myself - I can't remember the last time I took a class, and I think the last time I practiced on my own was in Costa Rica!  While that makes me sad and I continue to be uncertain of what's safe to do to aid in my recovery and what's not, I know that I can always count on restorative yoga poses to help both my body and my brain in this weird and frustrating time.

Restorative Bridge pose is something you can do so easily - all you need is something to place under your sacrum to elevate it while you lay down.  Traditionally it's done with feet on the floor and knees bend, and either with a yoga block or a bolster - but a thick book would do the trick just as well if you don't have any props.  As long as your prop is a comfortable height and as long as it is placed on your sacrum - not your tailbone, not your lumbar curve, but in between - then you should be able to rest comfortably in the pose.  Comfort is what restorative yoga is all about.

Since I've had such hip funkiness going on lately, I've really loved this variation of it, pictured below, with legs straight.  It's a passive way to open up the hip flexors without putting any weight, pressure, or strain on it.  It's an amazing stress reliever no matter what is going on in your body or your brain.  I recommend staying in it for as long as you possibly can, starting by breathing deeply and slowly, and then allowing yourself to relax into it and let your breath flow without worrying about manipulating it further.

Picture courtesy of Kelly Collins from her lovely post,
6 Restorative Yoga Poses for Adrenal Fatigue

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Change of Plans - Running to Cheering

Earlier this week, in my ongoing text chain with my mom and sister, we had a conversation about the accident prone-ness of our family.  My sister's joints pop in and out at will, my nephew Atlas apparently get through a meal without biting his own lip or tongue, and my mom and I often have the weirdest and most random of physical/medical issues.

So how funny and fitting that on the morning I'm drafting a blog about the consequences of my sudden and seemingly out of nowhere injury, I bruised the absolute living hell out of my foot.  How, you ask?  By stepping up on my step stool in my kitchen.

Just so typical.

As far as the actual subject of my blog - as I mentioned earlier, in the middle of my 5 mile run at the beginning of last month, I suddenly started feeling pain around my right groin/psoas.  It was a sharp pain, but seemed to spread out as dull pain all along the right side - my right lower back, glute, and hamstring.  The pain has been with me throughout these last almost five weeks - improving, but soooo slowly, and not without setbacks.

I've officially had to come to the conclusion that's been slowly turning inevitable these last couple of weeks - there is no way I can safely run the Brooklyn Half on Saturday, May 19th.  I physically could do it - but it would be very dumb and very painful, and motivated by nothing but pride and stubbornness.

This is incredibly disappointing, but I feel so loved and supported by my running partner and Marc, and I'm reminding myself that I don't have to run, I just love to run.  My leg isn't broken, I still have both of them, and I will eventually heal (right?).  This year will just be my turn to give back to a race I've run three times already by offering love and support to the awesome runners from the sidelines - and talking to Laura on the phone as much as I can during the race so she doesn't go crazy by herself.

My true focus, my major goal, is the main event:  my first (and probably only) New York City Marathon.  There are 178 days until November 4th, and I intend to use every last one of them to get healthy, strong, and prepared.

I'm lucky to be in the amazing care of Fabricio, my top notch physical therapist, and his fantastic new massage therapist Izzy.  They are top notch not just in their expertise, but in how much they truly care for their patients.

Again - I'm really disappointed.  I definitely didn't come to this realization dry-eyed.  But there is no way I'm jeopardizing the marathon - and more importantly, my long-term running health - for this race.  And besides, my absence will probably push Laura into her best half marathon time by a long shot. 

So anyone getting ready to run Brooklyn, I wish you the most amazing race and race day conditions - I'll still see you there, but this time I'll be cheering myself hoarse on the sidelines!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Bite Sized Yoga from Laura

A quickie today - my beautiful friend Laura has a fabulous YouTube Channel, Laura Runs and Eats, on which she chronicles her runs, has a running book club, and now offers weekly mini-yoga/Pilates sessions to target specific troublesome areas of the body.  I did her Upper Body Flow class last night before bed and it was the perfect way to end the day.

Check them out and happy May!




Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Unconventional Training

When I look back on my favorite phases of running, up at the tip top is definitely right around when Marc and I got married - the October before, I trained for and ran my first half marathon with my sister.  I was shocked at how great the race felt and how great I felt afterward.  The following May, I ran my second half - my first of many Brooklyn Half Marathons, and I've never felt as good after a half as I did after that one.

It's probably no coincidence that I was feeling amazing running at the time when I was at my lowest body weight of my adult life - and I was cross training like crazy in an effort to fit into my ridiculously tightly corseted wedding dress with Refine Method, a fancy boutique-y workout class that I had gotten a great deal on thanks to my association at the time with Athleta.  It focused on a variety of weight lifting, bodyweight training, TRX, and cardio - it was a full-body workout that left you flat on the floor by the end, every single time.

I got in the best shape of my life, I felt strong and amazing - and then I stopped going, because it was expensive and my discounted deal had run out.  I don't even know if I noticed a decline in my running performance at the time, but I think random aches and pains became more prevalent.

Ultimately, when I ran the Disney Marathon the following January in 2014, that marathon pulled back the curtain on every point of weakness and consequence of bad form that there was.  My right hamstring, left knee, left foot, and overall running and fitness really suffered.

Finally, in the fall of 2014 after fits and starts of trying to get back to running post-marathon injuries, I discovered my incredible physical therapist (and if you need help with anything ever, you must go to him!) and have been on a journey ever since to learn more about my weaknesses, strengths, running form, and how to handle it all.

I haven't been injury free by a long shot since starting physical therapy, but each issue that crops up has been a tremendous learning opportunity and experience to get smarter and stronger.

Fast forward to two and a half weeks ago, and in the middle of a five mile run, as I excitedly got back in the swing of running post-Costa Rica to train for this year's Brooklyn Half, my right hip flexor started feeling a little weird and tight and sore.  I kept going, taking more walking intervals and trying to figure out the exact right way to stretch so I could access the weird pain I was feeling.  Was it inner thigh?  Hip?  Psoas?

It's weird, it's off-and-on - but unfortunately, running turns it back on.  I've been going to PT twice a week and after a couple of attempts to run afterward, I've finally been hit over the hammer with the fact that I need to completely stop until the pain goes away (it always takes me so long to learn that lesson...).

And yet - the Brooklyn Half is in 23 days.  And I've yet to do a long run beyond a couple of 6 milers before Costa Rica - back in early March.  And I've now gone a week without any running at all.

My one saving grace:  I'm back to really spending time getting my butt kicked and getting stronger in a cross training class, this time with my local gym, The Rock in Astoria.  It only took living five minutes away from it for nearly four years to finally join.  I'm stepping up my strength training game - modifying movements that bothers my hip - with a TRX class taught by the incredibly fun and tough Dorothy.

Now that I'm stuck in a situation where I need to train for a race and I can't run to train, I'm hitting the gym as much as possible without overdoing it.  Instead of an 8 mile run this past Saturday, I took a HIIT class with Lizette, another fantastic trainer, and I was a puddle of dead muscles and sweat by the end.  Adding to that some long walks so I can tire out my legs without upsetting my hip, throwing in shorter, harder bursts of cardio through jump rope and biking, and foam rolling like a monster, and I really feel like I'm doing everything I can to get my body in better shape than it was the day before - which is pretty much the point of training for any athletic event.

Even though I'm feeling very under the gun by how quickly the Brooklyn Half is approaching, I've ultimately come to accept that if my body's telling me it's not up for it, I have to bow out and take to the sidelines, cheering on the runners.  As my partner in the Bk Half for the last two years, my work wife, bestie and running Sole Sister Laura keeps reminding me - All roads lead to November.  This year is the New York City Marathon which I have striven to be a part of for over two years with blood, sweat, tears, and miles.  If this injury is here to teach me a lesson, I think I'm learning it.  And I will walk that damn marathon if I have to.

To be a runner, running can't be the end-all, be-all.  It needs to be a part of a larger puzzle that respects your body's limitations, needs, biomechanics, and the weak parts that are telling you they need to be made stronger.  For someone like me who likes to make a training plan and rigidly stick to it, whose favorite thing is running above all else - it's a hard lesson, and it takes a lot of painful repetition to stick.  I think, though, that I'm finally getting it through my head, into my body, and hopefully that will translate to my hip.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Book Report: The Confidence Code for Girls

Another book report?  I know, it's crazy.  This is a short and sweet one - The Confidence Code for Girls by journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.  Kay and Shipman previously authored The Confidence Code, geared toward woman in 2014.  They broke down tons of research, interviews, and social science to discuss all the ways in which women struggle to build confidence and the ways in which they can overcome internal obstacles to build more.  They came out with their second version, targeted toward girls 8 and up, just this year.

I read this book after my friend & boss Shari loaned it to me - we both teach Girl Power Yoga classes at Karma Kids Yoga, and this is absolutely perfect for that and for pretty much any girl anywhere.

I had never heard of and still haven't read the adult version of The Confidence Code, but having read their book for tweens I both really want to read it - and almost feel like I don't have to, because this book is so thorough and still completely relatable, even for those of us out of those middle school years.

Through clear and relatable writing and impressive illustrations, comics, and graphics, the authors break down what they see as the three top elements to a confidence code - 1. Risk More 2. Think Less 3. Be Yourself.

It's that second one that definitely resonates the most with me - and also at first glance, sounds like the opposite of any advice we would ever want to give our kids.  We want them to always be using their brains, learning, and thinking more, right?  What the "Think Less" key actually addresses is the over-thinking and catastrophizing that so many women and girls do about so many things every single day. 

As women, we can so easily get in our own heads and get in our own way and hold ourselves back from doing the things we want to do because our high emotional intelligence has a way of seeing a risk from every angle, sometimes emphasizing the scary parts.  When we just do it - as opposed to overthinking and psyching ourselves out - we take the action necessary to gain more confidence.

I highly, highly, highly recommend this book to basically everyone - men, women, parents, kids.  Everyone is someone or knows someone who can benefit from the keys and fascinating research outlined in this book.  I know I would have devoured this book as a kid, and I think it would have really pushed me to be more of a risk-taker.

Check out a news segment on the book here, and happy Monday - especially a happy Marathon Monday to everyone out in Boston this morning!  Fight through this nasty weather and make it a beautiful day!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Book Report: Rising Strong by Brene Brown

Last year, I wrote a blog that wasn't quite a book report because I was too overwhelmed by the book to fully write about it.  The book was Brene Brown's The Gifts of Imperfection, and it remains something I feel the need to turn to over and over and over again because it's just so chock full of wisdom.  I felt the same about her book Daring Greatly.

In Costa Rica, one of my missions was to do little else besides read in the sunshine.  I'm very proud to say that I accomplished that goal, and the only book of the stack that wasn't fiction or memoir was Brown's Rising Strong, the next of her works.  I wasn't sure if I was even going to read it at all, because I knew it would be a lot to digest and I was on vacation, after all.  Hardly the place you feel like delving into such topics as fear, vulnerability, shame, and failure.

But in typical Brene Brown fashion, once I picked the book up, I could. not. put. it. down.  The combination of her academic research and credentials and her gift for storytelling and Texan wit makes her books the kind that you know you should read slowly but you just can't stop.  I feel like highlighting the whole damn thing.

When a book makes you feel that way - and makes you feel like maybe you should start therapy - it can be hard to write about it a simple bloggy book report-y "I liked it!" kind of way.  I'll do my best to briefly summarize some of her key points, and leave you with some of my favorite quotes.

The cornerstone of this book is the idea of dealing with our failures or simply those moments that trigger a deep emotional response in us by slowing down and getting curious about what we're feeling and why - instead of whatever our typical reaction might be, such as lashing out or blaming others or wallowing.  She breaks this process down into the 3 R's - the Reckoning, the Rumble, and the Revolution.

The Reckoning is that moment when you know something needs to be addressed - maybe it's a very obvious and big failure at work, or maybe it's just a smaller moment where something emotional gets triggered by something seemingly innocuous.  The Revolution is applying what you learn in the rumble to live more wholeheartedly.

The book focuses on the middle part - the Rumble.  She writes, "The goal of the rumble is to get honest about the stories we're making up about our struggles, to revisit, challenge, and reality-check these narratives as we dig into topics such as boundaries, shame, blame, resentment, heartbreak, generosity, and forgiveness."  Part of the work of this is writing our "shitty first drafts" of what we're feeling when we're feeling it, a term borrowed by the inimitable Anne Lamott.  Not looking to be right, just looking to be as honest as possible, even if that brings up less-than-lovely qualities in ourselves or total irrationality.

This book much more than her previous two includes a ton of stories - both her own and those of people who have given her permission to share them - about struggles with work, family, relationships, and more - the big face-down failures and the small day-to-day frustrations.  She uses all of these different stories to illustrate how we can use the process of the shitty first draft and of delving deeper into learning the delta (or the difference) between what we initially think and feel versus what the reality of the situation is.  Are we assuming the worst about other people and ignoring our own share of the blame?  Or are we stuck in a shame spiral, when the reality is that we're being too hard on ourselves?

This book covers BIG topics.  I just finished reading it again, a little slower (and with a highlighter) after devouring it in Costa Rica, and I still feel like it needs a couple more rereads to get all the way into my heart and my brain.  So I'll simply insist that you get your hands on a copy ASAP and read it cover to cover a minimum of two times, and leave you with some of my favorite quotes:

"When we stop caring what people think, we lose our capacity for connection.  But when we are defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable"

"Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty."

"They [compassionate folks she interviewed] assume that other people are doing the best they can, but they also ask for what they need and they don't put up with a lot of crap." (most compassionate people I interviewed had most well defined/respected boundaries)...I lived the opposite way:  I assumed that people weren't doing their best so I judged them and constantly fought being disappointed, which was easier than setting boundaries.  Boundaries are hard when you want to be liked and when you are a pleaser hell-bent on being easy, fun, and flexible."

This last pull quote is actually not from Brown, but from a passage of Desmond Tutu's book that she quoted.  This hit me very, very hard - for most people, I think forgiveness is one of the hardest topics to grapple with, and she writes beautifully about it.  My favorite excerpt, though, is the Tutu passage:

"To forgive is not just to be altruistic.  It is the best form of self interest.  It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and hanger.  These emotions are all part of being human...However, when I talk of forgiveness, I mean the believe that you can come out of the other side a better person.  A better person than the one being consumed by anger and hatred.  Remaining in that state locks you in a state of victimhood, making you almost dependent on the perpetrator.  If you can find it in yourself to forgive, then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator."

This book came out three years ago, in 2015, and I still have to catch up to Braving the Wilderness, her most recent book which came out last year.  I'm so thrilled that someone with so many powerful messages is getting the success that she's getting, and I really think this world would be a better place if we all dove into the hard topics she covers in her books.

**Edited to add - check out her SuperSoul conversation about Rising Strong with Oprah Winfrey!

Shift

This past Saturday was the Brooklyn Half, and good lord did Mother Nature have it in for everyone.  Cold, driving rain, gusty winds - absolu...