Posted in Myths

Monday Myth—Holidays Produce Stress

Monday Myth … between the perfect gifts, decorations, 5-course meals and finding the best deals on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, having a ‘successful’ holiday season produces stress.

Fact: Holidays don’t produce stress … your choices do.

While each of the things mentioned above is good and can add to your enjoyment of the season … none of them is important enough to allow them to add dangerous stress to your health. While certain types/degrees of stress can strengthen us—walking 10 minutes farther, memorizing poems, setting reasonable deadlines—anxiety-producing stress can harm us.

We’ve heard it said before, but it needs repeating … stress kills!

Research suggests that 60-90% of health issues are caused by or exacerbated by unhealthy stress. Because life isn’t perfect, we all have some of the signs/symptoms below at any given time … but if any of them get worse during the holidays, you may be making choices that are creating stress.

Stress Warning Signs and Symptoms

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying
.

Emotional Symptoms

  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness
.

Physical Symptoms

  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds
.

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

.

As you think about the coming weeks … will you do what you do out of a healthy place of love and strength because you want to create a memorable holiday season for yourself and others? Or are you doing them out of a need to validate yourself and/or impress others?

Meditate on the fact that things/events/etc. don’t add any value to who you are as a person.

'Peace' photo (c) 2008, momo - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
You are enough … simply for being you. 

Even if everyone else buys huge gifts for everyone else … why do you have to? Especially if you can’t afford it.

Even if everyone else has a zillion lights/decorations/etc … why do you have to? Especially if you don’t have the time, money or energy to do it.

Even if everyone’s kids have new homemade pjs for Christmas morning … why do yours have to? Especially if you’ve never sewed before.

It’s your choice. 

Again none of the holiday traditions are bad (unless they’re bad … like eating or drinking too much) most of them are quite lovely and if you have time/money/energy on your hands… then by all means celebrate the season to the hilt.

But if necessary, adapting a less is more attitude could help you make wiser choices and will decrease the stress in your life.

Because making choices that will add unnecessary stress to your life seems kind of counter-productive to the whole meaning of the season … doesn’t it?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What tips do you have for making wise choices to reduce stress, especially during the holidays?

 

Posted in Thankful

Thankful for Peace Found in the Tensions of Life

Peace. It’s what everyone wants, especially beauty queens.

Peace. For many years it seemed invasive to me. I thought a day, a circumstance, an action, a person, a prayer, a moment, an event or something would make it happen. I thought if only I could get all the planets of my world aligned in a certain way then I would have peace.

With time I’ve come to realize that endless pursuit of perfection was bringing stress, not peace.

Peace. It is possible, but not as I thought before.

.

Today I’m thankful for peace… especially when found in the tensions of life. 

.

Over the past few years, I’ve changed my eating habits to take better care of my body.

I’m thankful for the peace I’ve found in that tension…
by saying no to good-tasting, familiar, but unhealthy foods,
I feel better and have more energy then I thought possible.
.

.

Sometimes relationships have been a challenge for me. At times, I’ve felt like a failure as a wife, mother, friend, sister, daughter and more because I couldn’t be everything for everyone.

I’m thankful for the peace I’ve found in that tension…
by realizing I didn’t have to lose myself or change the other person,
but instead I need to allow them to be them and me to be me.

.

After surviving a life-threatening accident, I spent years depressed because I didn’t know how to live with my new normal … pain, limitations and a deformed leg.

I’m thankful for the peace I’ve found in that tension…
by celebrating all the good that happened,
while being honest about the disappointments I now live with. 

.

Post-accident, when my pain was severe, all the pain and suffering of the world overwhelmed me to the point of feeling helpless, because I knew others dealt with much more than I did.

I’m thankful for the peace I’ve found in that tension…
by realizing I can’t prevent or stop everyone’s pain and suffering,
but I can make life better for a few children around the world by sponsoring them.

.

As I wrote about in a guest post at Rachel Held Evans’ site… I’ve been in a spiritual/religious funk and I have more questions and doubts than ever.

I’m thankful for the peace I’ve found in that tension…
by accepting that there will be mysteries in life I don’t understand,
while continuing to search and explore for a path that works for me.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

.
What are you thankful for today?
And how do you find peace in the tension of life? 
Posted in Uncategorized

Pushing Through a Bad Run—Guest Post at Rachel Held Evans

Over the past few years, I meet a writing friend, Rachel Held Evans online. Her writing has been a major help and comfort to me during my roller coaster spiritual/religious transition over the past few years.

Then I had the pleasure of meeting her this year and playing host through Amish country for her, when she came to this area to do research for her next project/book. And Rachel graciously read an early copy of Because I Can and then wrote a kind endorsement for it.

Today I have the honor of having a guest post on Rachel’s popular blog. In the post, I compare my running journey with my spiritual journey. 

Here are some excerpts from my post Pushing Through a Bad Run

.

How do the ups and downs of my recent runs compare with the spiritual roller coaster I’ve been on over the past few years? My beliefs have been in transition, which at times has been exhilarating and other times exhausting…

.

A few days earlier I ran four miles with friends and I was ready to swear off running forever. I was tired, I hurt and I know my friends were ready to kill me because all I did was complain about my body, the weather and anything to do with running…

.

I’ve been having a bad run. A bad run of faith and beliefs. I’m tired, I’m hurt and I know my friends are ready to kill me because all I do is complain about Christianity, churches and anything to do with religion…

.

Go to Rachel’s blog to read the whole post … and then give me your advice. Yes, I’ve opened that door, the floor is yours … I need advice.

 

Posted in Body

Philadelphia Half-Marathon Recap

“This letter post is longer than usual because I lack the time to make it  shorter.”
– BlaisePascal

 

Though I took steps to prepare myself for the Philadelphia half-marathon on November 20, 2011… as the race weekend had approached, I wondered if I had done enough. I’m used to feeling slightly nervous before any race, so I tried to simply accept the feelings, instead of allowing them to sap my energy.

Since I was doing the race with the Runner’s World Challenge, I went to a shakeout run on Saturday morning led by Bart Yasso from Runner’s World (RW). I normally only do a mile or two walk the day before a race, but I did a 3-mile slow run with the other challengers because I didn’t want to stop early and appear wimpy. (darn pride)

Then I went to the Fitness Expo and walked a few hours to see everything and attend a few seminars. I know a lot about running, but I learned some very helpful tips from the RW staff. (will share in a future post) As I went to bed Saturday evening, I wondered how tough the race would be with all the exercise my legs had that day.

I slept fairly well, but woke up early. (normal before a race) I drank some coffee and ate a small portion of my normal breakfast … oatmeal with peanut butter, cinnamon and chia seeds. (A favorite since reading Born to Run)

I mixed up my sports drink that I’ve been using for the last year after trying Gatorade on long runs and not liking the sweet taste or the way it made my stomach feel. I made sure I had my Galloway timer, headphones and my phone. Instead of a watch, I use the Nike+ running app which tells me my pace and distance.

Then I drove to Philadelphia to join the other RW challengers for a breakfast at the Four Seasons. I drank water, sipped on a little coffee and nibbled on a bagel. Plus I used wonderful, clean porcelain toilets instead of smelly porta-pots. (perks of being in the RW challenge)

The Philadelphia Marathon … empty starting area about 15 mins before the start

I’ve never done a race this large before, so the corral system was new to me. With 25,000 runners, they start the race in waves. When you register for the race, you give your estimated finish time, then you are given a certain color corral to be in with others that will be running a similar pace as you will.

As part of the RW Challenge I was supposed to be in the gray corral, but I knew most of the other challengers would be running faster than I would, so I went to the purple corral which was behind the gray corral.

The corrals were a farther walk from the hotel than I anticipated (darn detail I missed) and the crowds were already starting to move at a slow walk when I got there. I looked around for purple bids, but saw all different bid colors. I’m still not sure if I was in the right corral or not, but I met another challenger and we decided to start together.

We were still walking when we crossed the official start line. The crowds threw off my normal cool-calm-collected-race-starting routine and I think I started my running app a little before the starting line. 

Soon after the start, the road widen and the crowd started running. I felt like I was part of a giant worm that wound its way down the Ben Franklin Parkway. 

All the roads were closed with no parked cars along them and runners filled the streets for the whole race. We weren’t shoulder-to-shoulder, but once or twice I was almost hit in the face by someone’s arm when they tried to stretch their shoulder/arm/etc.  This was new to me as I’m used to running races where after a mile or two, runners might me in front and behind me, but not beside me.

With other runners all around me and spectators lining most of the route, the first few miles went past quickly and I didn’t even hear the distances/pace my app was telling me until a few miles into the race. I realized the distances weren’t quite lining up with the race markers (the difference increased the farther I ran) so I tried to forget about the distances and only focus on my average pace it gave me. (I was aiming for 11:30)

My timer was set for 5 minutes of running and 45 seconds of walking. I followed this about 80% of the time, always moving to the sidewalks when I walked because I didn’t want to walk in the middle of runners.

Around mile 4, my needy left leg started bothering me which made me realize I ran the first few miles too fast. (did mile 2 in 10:30) I slowed down and massaged my leg during my walking breaks. This helped somewhat.

I adjusted my walk/run times around mile 7 and mile 9 for some hills. I also adjusted my stride and how I landed because the bottom of my right foot (my good foot, don’t you fail me!) started bothering me around mile 8 or so.

Around mile 10, I was wondering why the heck I wasn’t home on the couch. 

Though I was totally exhausted, I managed to hold my desired pace during the last few miles by focusing on the running advice RW editor, David Willey gave us, “Run the mile you are in.”

It was discouraging to hear my running app tell me I’d run 13 miles, but according to the race markers I had almost 3/4 mile to go! I assume I started my app slightly early, but not that early. The race had many turns and apparently I don’t know how to take the shortest route, plus with moving to the sidewalk every 5 mins, I managed to add almost 3/4 mile to my race. 

The crowds of spectators lining the last mile gave me energy for a strong finish. As I crossed the finish line, I received a shout-out from Bart Yasso who was calling out the names of both half and full finishers. (Some of the elite runners did the full in the same time I did the half!)  

“My buddy Janet finishing strong.
Janet is running… because she can.”

– Bart Yasso

Finished!

My app told me I did 13.9 miles! Though I doubt if I started it a tenth of mile before the start, I’m going to assume that, so that means I did 13.8 miles. The racing bids had electronic chips in them that track your time from the second you cross the start line to the finish line. My official chip time was 2:36 … which means I averaged 11:30 per mile.

Which means this was my fastest half since the accident!

I’m so thankful that with regular exercise and healthy eating (most of the time) my body continues to get stronger.
Our bodies are amazing! And yours can do more than you think it can … so get moving!
Running might not be for you, but find something that you like, walking, hiking, biking, exercise classes, etc … just do it.

Because you can!

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Update: According to another runner, her app also gave her the wrong distance. She’s assuming the GPS screwed up somewhere. So maybe I did closer to 13.1 miles, which means I averaged 11:90 per mile, so my spring half-marathon was slightly faster, I averaged 11:60 there, but either way I finished it. 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Recaps of other half-marathons I have done:
Disney Princess Half 2/26/12
Lehigh Valley Health Network 9/11/11
Garden Spot Village Half 4/9/11
Half Sauer Half Kraut 6/10
 
Recap of the full maraton I did:
Bob Potts Marathon 5/20/12
.

If interested, Because I Can is a memoir of my recovery and my return to running. 

Posted in Body

Half-Marathon Training with Runner’s World

It’s Friday and on Sunday I’m running the Philadelphia half-marathon. This is the third of four half-marathons I’m running in less than a year. This is not an amazing feat compared to Dana Casanave who ran 52 marathons in 52 weeks, but it is amazing for my body considering the hell it has been through and that doctors didn’t know if I would even walk again.

 

 

I’m running it with the Runner’s World Challenge, so I’ve been getting a weekly email from Bart Yasso, (Chief Running Officer for Runner’s World) with great articles covering nutrition, apparel and more. Plus I had various training schedules to choose from based on my ability.

I feel prepared for the race… not quite on top of the world, but yet ready to do it. Since my last few months have been busy, with the release of Because I Can, I’ve only done about 80% of the workouts on my schedule, but since that is the standard rule of thumb to have a successful race, I think I’ll be fine.

Along with doing the required training runs, the week leading up to a race is important also. What I do or don’t do in the last week can make or break my race.

Other than a few short, easy runs earlier this week, I didn’t run a lot this week. I’ve found for my legs to be totally rested on race day, they need more rest in the days prior to a race then they did pre-accident.

Here’s some other important things I do leading up to a race…

Get enough sleep 
Drink plenty of water
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables 
Eat enough protein
Trim toenails
(important!)
Stretch, stretch and stretch.

Stretching is important for everyone… and it’s especially crucial for a body like mine with so many injuries. If I don’t keep my legs stretched, I will feel it on race day. By feeling it, I mean about halfway through the race, my left leg will feel like it has a knot in it. This will progressively get worse, forcing me to walk more than run… and maybe even having to stop to massage and stretch it. I’ve had this happen during training runs when I didn’t prepare enough, so I’m doing my best to avoid that.

I did an hour of yoga on Wednesday and will do yoga again this afternoon. Plus I’ve been doing a few stretches most mornings and evenings all week.

A major benefit of the Runner’s World Challenge is the perks on race weekend.

First on my list of events is the Shakeout Run (the itinerary says it will be two to three miles, I plan to find a shortcut and only do an easy mile or two) on Saturday at 9am, with Bart Yasso and others from Runner’s World.

Later in the day, I’ll go to Health and Fitness Expo where I will probably take in more seminars than walking around so I don’t tire my legs. I will also meet more of the Runner’s World editors and experts at a PRERACE STRATEGY SESSION with them.

Then on race day, Runner’s World has a special lounge for all the challengers (about 300) indoors at the Four Seasons. Which means along with good pre and post race food, we get the most important thing available to a runner. Instead of standing outdoors in long lines to use smelly porta pots before the race… we will be using a private, indoor porcelain throne! (Now you’re jealous, right?)

I don’t know if I’ll be blogging over the weekend, but I plan to post real-time pictures on Facebook and Twitter and I’ll do a recap post of the weekend and race next week.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Have you done a half or a full marathon?
If so, what advice do you have for the week or days before a race? 
Posted in Mind,
Spirit

Stopping the Flow of Sand—or Not

'CRW_6770.jpg' photo (c) 2002, Hunter Nield - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I block the spot where sand has started to flow.
Not a grain escapes anymore.

I take a deep breath grateful that I stopped that danger in its tracks.

Until… sand begins to flow from a gap on the other side.

I twist and turn trying to stop the flow of that sand.

I manage to stop it for a time, but then a force causes some sand to squeeze out on the other side again. In vain I try to stop the flow on both sides.

.

Sand gets on me… irritating my skin. When I reach over to brush it off, I inadvertently loosen my hold on the flowing sand.

The sand flows freely.

I watch it go.

I’ve been annoyed. Frustrated. Tired of trying to stop the sand from flowing.

So now, I’m content to watch it flow.

Then I remember what I’ve been told about the danger of allowing any sand to flow freely.

If you allow any sand to flow … it will all flow.

I jump back into action. I need to stop this before it gets worse! I study how to stop the flow of sand. How to prevent it from escaping. How to counteract it. How to make it all stay put.

And again I stop the flow of the sand.

I’m miserable, anger and annoyed, but for a time, there isn’t a damn grain of sand flowing anywhere. I have no time to help others or to enjoy life because stopping the sand takes all my time and energy.

Until…

Until some moment in life causes a few tectonics plates to shift and a few grains of sand escape. Followed by a few more… and more.

I watch the sand begin to flow again.

With a touch of concern, but not enough to try to stop it.

Then I realize that I also feel relief.

Relief? I didn’t expect to feel that.

I enjoy that feeling for a time, then something nudges me… reminding me that I shouldn’t be enjoying the feeling of relief. Relief is a bad feeling. A feeling I shouldn’t allow myself to get used to. Relief will deceive me into complacent living and ruin my life. I must continue to contort myself into almost impossible positions to stop the sand from flowing out.

I remember the dire words of warning… if any sand is allowed to flow, your foundation will not be strong. And it will cause you to lose everything you’ve built over the years. Your life will have no meaning if you don’t cling tightly to all the sand.

I study what’s happening. I explore my feeling of relief. The relief brings a measure of peace and even hope with it. I like it. And I wonder if I would feel even more relief if I allow the sand to flow. Instead of being threaten by flowing sand, maybe I will find some value and beauty in it.

I take a deep breath and lift my hands.

'Sand Waterfall' photo (c) 2007, Brent Pearson - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

The sand flows freeing… and it is beautiful.

I look around to make sure that I’m still alive. That the world is still upright. That I still love and care. That life continues.

I’m pleasantly surprised to find that everything continues as before. The trees are tall and strong. The flowers are blooming. The birds are singing. An airplane flies overheard. I still love my husband, my sons and others.

So sand can flow and life is still okay?

Since I’ve quit worrying about what sand is flowing where, I see more beauty, feel more joy and have more energy to focus on others around me. 

I could get used to this…

 

Posted in Myths

Monday’s Myth — Caffeinated Beverages and Dehydration

I like coffee … especially in the winter (on a related note, I do not like winters in PA)

I’ve often heard or read that drinking caffeinated beverages causes dehydration. And even though caffeinated drinks contain water, that water doesn’t really help you because it’s counter-acted by the caffeine. As a runner, I wondered about this, because I know how crucial staying hydrated is for my energy levels, especially during a long run. I was happy to discover recently…

That’s a myth.

Not healthy!

According to a review in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics

Drinking normal levels of caffeinated beverages does not cause a net dehydration effect. The mild diuretic effect of caffeine is offset by the large amount of water in the caffeinated beverage.

Note: the key word is normal … if you are drinking a full pot of coffee by yourself, you will probably see negative results from it.

But if you enjoy a cup or two to get going in the morning … stop thinking that it is bad for you.

The stress of worrying that the caffeine is bad for you is worse for you than the caffeine is.

The same holds true for drinking a soda every now and then. If you enjoy soda occasionally, the caffeine won’t dehydrate you. But if you’re drinking a 6-pack of soda a day… you will probably see negative results.

Our bodies are amazing and as long as we drink plenty of water, we should be able to handle some caffeine without causing dehydration.

Moderation is where it’s at.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

What are your thoughts on caffeine’s effect on staying hydrated? 

 

Do You Face Reality or Live a Lie?

Some people are willing to deal with reality and some people are not. I recognize and identify with both groups … because I’ve lived both ways.

Between my personality and the environment I grew up in, I could have easily won an ignoring-reality contest. I was a pro at ignoring, sugar-coating or reframing anything to avoid having to deal with an unpleasant reality.

Growing up, once a year my family and our best friends would do a day-trip to Hershey Park.  Disney might call themselves the happiest place on earth, but with an amusement park and chocolate, Hershey wins!

That day was often the highlight of my summer … so when I woke up on one planned Hershey Park day (age 13 or so) feeling sick on my stomach, I ignored it. I didn’t want my parents to make me stay home so I told no one and I told myself I’d feel better soon.

I did begin to feel better at the end of the day … but only after I had thrown up after every ride. Sometimes I made it to the closest restroom, sometimes I didn’t. (I owe some park workers a major apology) After a few quick dashes to the bathroom or behind bushes, the others figured out what was going on, but I kept insisting I felt better. Each ride proved me wrong … but each time I was sure this time was the last time.

Yes, when it came to ignoring reality … I was a pro and I still struggle with wanting to take that route at times.

Fully accepting reality … of my physical injuries and the following emotional and spiritual hurricane has been the hardest thing I have done in my life. I wrote about that struggle in Because I Can and I’ve found something interesting surrounding the release of my story.

.

I was honored to have an article about my story in Woman’s World in early September. The article was well-written, but  I found it interesting that they preferred to ignore my true reality by cropping the picture. And instead of fully addressing my struggles, they made “finding happiness” the focus.

A friend called after reading it wondering if the title was my words. I assured her while I’ve learned to be content and to live life to the fullest, I’ve never said that I’ve found the key to happiness. (nor are my teeth actually that white)

How is a reader to understand why I struggled to accept my new normal if they are not shown my true reality?

 

In contrast, in a piece about my story in Fitness Magazine in October they wrote about my true reality and showed a picture of it (without any photoshopping). Though this article was shorter, they gave the reader an honest picture of my reality. Plus they also gave helpful suggestions from  Alicia Salzer MD on how to make a comeback.

  • Train your brain
  • Ask for support
  • Visualize victory

..

Comparing the feedback from both articles has been interesting. I’ve gotten more feedback from Fitness. Do you think it’s because they showed my true reality? Some of the feedback has been from others struggling with a tough circumstance and seeing what I’ve overcome has helped them take steps forward in overcoming their reality. I have not received any comments like that about the Woman’s World article.

Reality sucks at times … but ignoring it doesn’t help yourself or others. 

Like my puking day at Hershey Park … in the end I wished that I would have honestly dealt with my reality. I was so sick, I didn’t enjoy the day—I would rather have been home in bed. Plus I made it worse for others, especially those poor park workers.  And the truth is, I could have gone to the park another day that summer with other friends.

Reality might not be fun to deal with sometimes. But we need to do ourselves and others a favor and face it. If we don’t honestly face it, aren’t we living a lie?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Do you face, address and deal with reality?
Or do you prefer to ignore it … aka live a lie?