Posted in Body

Running Mantra—Run the Mile You are In

After I posted this here, this post was picked up by Runner’s World and printed (with a few edits to clarify things for their readers) in their Other Voices Blog.

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To prepare for the Bob Potts Marathon on May 20th, I’ve been increasing the distance of my long runs. I’ve done 13, 15, and 16 a few times. This week I plan to do 20 miles! The long runs are exhausting and I know the marathon will be even more so. I’m already looking forward to celebrating and resting on May 21st.

But one thing that has been cool to see is how my body responses to being pushed slightly farther each week. Each week I wonder how my legs will feel and so far, on each run they’ve felt slightly stronger. That doesn’t mean I don’t have pain. I have ongoing pain in my left leg—the calf looks the worst, but I have more pain in the thigh area, where damaged nerves give me a continuous pins-and-needles feel (like a sleeping arm that won’t quite wake up).

Usually during the first mile or two of a run, the damaged nerve pain intensifies for a time until everything is in running mode again, then it decreases to being a slight annoyance. Then during the last few miles, I have the normal aches and pains of a tired body being pushed beyond its comfort zone.

Aside from the physical, I’ve found one of the toughest aspects of a long run is mental. I’ve been doing my long runs with Bev, Deb and Tab… three friends that are also training for Bob Potts. We usually chat at the beginning, but most times the conversations dwindle to short spurts here and there as the miles increase.

So then the mind games begin.

I think back to the hours of physical therapy I did. Turn my ankle left forty times, right forty times, up and down, around in circles. Pick up a towel with my toes, forty times in a row. And repeat it again and again and again. If I did that, I can do this!

I think of the many others that have run long distances and survived. I write fabulous blog posts or begin the outline of my next book or rehearse conversations that I want to have. I repeat mantras… One step at a time. Doing what I can. Because I can.

Recently on a long run, I remembered a mantra that David Willey, Editor-In-Chief of Runner’s World, shared in a pre-race strategy session at the Philadelphia Half-marathon.

Runner’s World Pre-Race Session with Pam, Peter Sagal, David Willey, Bart Yasso

“Run the mile you are in.” - David Willey

At the time I dismissed that mantra because when doing short distances, if I only think of the mile I’m in… I start a run or race too fast. I have to think of the entire distance I need to cover, so I don’t start too fast and run out of energy before I reach the end.

But as my miles have increased, I have grown to love that mantra and I’ve dubbed it my long-distance mantra. After five miles or so, my early energy and adrenaline is gone, so I don’t have to be concerned with pacing myself, I naturally gravitate to a snail’s pace.

Then my thoughts want to turn to how much farther I have to go… and that can be overwhelming. (and sap energy!) After finding myself feeling overwhelmed a time or two because I focused on how many more mile I have to do, I’ve been trying to only focus on the mile I’m doing at the moment.

Instead of stressing about how much farther I have to go, I run the mile I am in.

It’s hard to describe the difference it has made to not think about the five, ten or fifteen miles I still have to do, but to focus on the mile I’m doing. Along with not sapping my energy needlessly, I enjoy the sights and sounds around me… which is beneficial in many ways, including preventing stiffness in my neck and shoulders.

Come to think of it… isn’t that also true for the rest of life?

Focusing on the moment is ten times more pleasant than
tiring myself thinking about future moments that aren’t here yet. 

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What mantras help you during your runs? Or during life in general?
 
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Sharing our Stories… Because We Can

I do what I can, with what I have…

Because I can.
Because I’m breathing.
Because it gives me meaning and joy.
Because life goes on even though I have a new normal.
Because the beauty in life didn’t end when my life almost did.
Because doing what I can is an expression of my gratitude for how well I’ve recovered.

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I encourage you to do what you can…

Because you can.
Because you are breathing.
Because it will give you meaning and joy.
Because life goes on even though you have a new normal.
Because there’s beautiful moments in life waiting for you to discover them.
Because you are capable of so much more than you’ve ever dreamed possible.

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I share my story…

Because I can.
Because I am breathing.
Because it gives me meaning and joy.
Because no one should feel alone when they’re faced with a new normal.
Because seeing others receive encouragement is a beautiful thing… for them and for me.
Because sharing stories is how we grow, how we are inspired and how we learn to live well.

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Stories can make us laugh and cry. They can encourage and heal. They can make a bad day turn into an okay day, or even a great day.

So I’ve created a page for you to share your story about doing what you can…
because you can!

 

Posted in Body

Running on a HOT Monday Morning!

Friends of mine, Bev, Deb and Tab have also signed up to do the full marathon I plan to do on May 20th. Most of the time, we do our long training runs together, generally on the weekend, but this weekend everyone was busy, but our schedules were open to run this morning.

Well heeeello HOT Monday morning!

I like hot weather, but 80 degrees at 9AM in the middle of April in Pennsylvania is unexpected.

So how does one adjust when a long run is planned and it’s at least 20 degrees warmer than expected?

You slow down, don’t run quite as far, make sure you carry a sports drink and have a friend give you ice water along the way.

After I struggled while doing my first half-marathon post accident, I realized I need more than just water when running long distances. I don’t like any of the sports drinks on the market, so I experimented with sports drink recipes until I came up with one I like.

Now I carry my own sports drink with me in a fuel belt whenever I run more than 8 or 9 miles, especially if the weather is warm. So that was the first thing I made sure I had today.

Janet's sports drink

As I wrote about a few days ago, I do Jeff Galloway’s run/walk/run method and I’ve discovered that running 3 minutes/walking 1 minute is my sweet spot. We did the first few miles with that ratio, but we were starting to struggle, so we adjusted our timers and did 2.30 minute runs and 1 minute walks. It was only 30 seconds less running at a time, but it was enough to keep us going.

Another friend, Karen met us after 3 miles to do about 5 miles with us. When she finished she drove to a nearby convenience store and made our day by giving us all ice water to drink there and to refill our bottles with. You rock, Karen!!

Our original plan had been to do 12 or 13 miles today… but the others weren’t feeling great with the unexpected heat, so they were happy to call 10 miles a good run today. I’ve had days like that and sometimes you just have to quit early… it’s best for your body and your mind.

But for some reason, I felt better than I expected to today (maybe the sports drink? Or a sign that I need to move south someday soon!) I felt good enough to continue another mile or two. I ended up with a total of 11.75 miles of run/walk/run and another mile of walking split between the warmup and cool down.

Now I plan to enjoy this hot weather on my lounge chair on the front porch!

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What are your tips for running in hot weather,
especially when it’s unseasonably warm?
Posted in Body

Running Shoes—Regular, Trail, Minimalist or Barefoot?

Since returning to running after being injured, I’ve tried various types of running shoes… everything from shoes with the most support possible to barefoot shoes. I’ve also tried various brands of shoes… Brooks, New Balance, Nike, Puma, Reebok, Saucony and Scotts.

I tend to be a naturalist and minimalist in most things in life, so when I read about barefoot running, I was intrigued right away. After miles of research and a blister or two, here’s my ‘expert’ opinion.

My running shoes... Puma, New Balance, Scotts, Reebox, Vibram

I think running barefoot or in minimilist shoes is our natural state of running… but only when we are running on a natural surface.

Other than some trails, grass and sand, most of the surfaces we run on aren’t natural. Concrete and asphalt are much harder than any natural surface, so when running on those surfaces, it’s only logical that we need some support for our feet, legs and body.

Plus since my injuries, I’ve realized how important it is not to overstress any one area of my legs/feet, but to strengthen all of them. Since shoes are different and therefore work my legs/feet differently, I think wearing different shoes on different surfaces is the best way to give my legs and feet the best care possible. (how many times can I use the word different in a sentence?)

When I run on rugged trails, I wear a trail shoe… right now it’s a Puma Complete.

When I run on roads I wear a neutral running shoe… right now it’s a New Balance 890SB.

I do the majority of my runs on trails with a packed small gravel surface (thankfully I live near a rails-to-trail) For them I wear minimilist running shoes… right now I alternate between Reebok Realflex and Scotts T2. (Just starting running in the Scotts and love them!)

After trying various surfaces and distances with the Vibrams, and having some aches and pains, I decided to limit my use of them. I want/need to protect my legs/feet, so I view them as a tool that can help me get stronger, but not as a regular running shoe. I walk in them and I do about one run (3 to 4 miles) a week on the rails-to-trails trails or I use them at the beach (which isn’t often enough).

So to wrap up, I think going as minimalist as you can will give you the strongest body, especially your legs and feet… and it might even help some knee or hip pain, because studies have shown wearing shoes with too much support or stability can cause issues.

You need flexible ankles and feet to run in minimalist shoes. This is a great video from Running Times, that will help you determine if you have enough flexibility and it also has exercises for your feet. And it includes great info about stretching the plantar fascia.

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Additional information about minimalist running:
Advice from Coach Jenny at Runner’s World: How to Reap the Benefits of the Barefoot/Minimalist Running Movement without Getting Hurt

A debate between a leader in the barefoot running world and a sports podiatrist-biomechanist:  Barefoot Running, Two sides of a very hot topic.

 

Would love to hear your thoughts on
what shoes you think are best on what surfaces.

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Disclaimer: The Pumas and Scotts were given to me to test. But as you can tell, at this time, I’m not loyal to any one brand… because before brand loyalty comes finding what works best for me. If I had to choose brand(s),  I’d say Scotts for their fit/design and New Balance for their durability.
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Posted in Because I Can

Celebrating—Because We Can!

Kathryn B

Now that I’ve posted excerpts from each chapter of Because I Can… I want to share a video from one of the book launch parties for Because I Can.

After too many years of recovery, depression and doubts about whether or not I’d ever finish my book, it was a night of celebrating with old and new friends. At the time, I did a post about how the people in my town rock with pictures from this party.

A friend Lynne, who wrote the website updates in Because I Can, has the coolest kids and her daughter Kathryn captured the evening on film and recently sent me this well-done video.

My hometown was/is going through some changes, such as the familiar grocery store closing, people moving, etc. so I tied my story into that by talking about how adjusting to change is difficult.

Here’s a glimpse into the evening….

Hollywood, you better watch out… this gal is one amazing bundle of talent!

Thank you Kathryn!

Posted in Because I Can

One Step at a Time… Because I Can

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I’m posting excerpts from Because I Can.
This is from the Epilogue. (There’s links to the other excerpts at the end of this post)

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One breath, one step, one day, one word, one prayer at a time… life moves on. I’m grateful for my recovery, while being realistic about the fact that life won’t be perfect going forward.

Whether that is physical … this is planet earth, accidents happen and injured bodies hurt.

Or mental … there will always be new things to learn, that will challenge what I know and give me new things to ponder.

Or spiritual … I don’t know what’s ahead, but years ago, I promised myself that I would follow God (whatever that means) not people, wherever that leads and I want to continue that.

This journey of renewal has taken me down paths I wasn’t aware of before,
so I assume there will be more. 

One step at a time….

I continue to be amazed how stressing a body slightly, by going half a mile farther or doing a workout five minutes longer than the previous one, doesn’t hurt the body, but instead strengthens it and makes it healthier.

I wonder how that pertains to my mind and spirit. Does reading and processing something outside my comfort zone mean I’m headed down a slippery slope because I’m moving away from what I know or does it mean I moving towards a healthier place?

While I’m disappointed that the physical effects of my injuries will be with me for the rest of my life, I am grateful for all I’ve learned through this chapter in my life … though I would have preferred to learn it from reading a book, instead of going through the accident and the following hurricane.

But it happened and I only have the choice of today and going forward. I’ll keep asking, seeking and knocking, because I’m more fully alive today than ever. I celebrate hope as I breathe deep and hang on for this crazy never-ending ride of renewal.

What gives me hope, what pushes me forward—is the simple, but powerful idea that I want to live each day to the fullest, body, mind and spirit … because I can!
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Earlier excerpts from Because I Can:
The Prologue
Chapter 1: The Accident
Chapter 2: 50% Chance of Death
Chapter 3: Waking Up
Chapter 4: Paranoid and Anxious
Chapter 5: Questions 
Chapter 6: Flying Home
Chapter 7: Back on my Feet
Chapter 8: Walk On
Chapter 9: California Again
Chapter 10: A Hurricane and My Obituary
Chapter 11: Mentors and Counselors
Chapter 12: Educating this Mennonite Girl from Small Town America
Chapter 13: Quitting God 
Chapter 14: Surgery Again
Chapter 15: Doubts about Miracles and Prayers
Chapter 16: Embracing Life Again
Chapter 17: Running Again
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This completes the posting of excerpts…
if you want more to read (and to fill in the gaps)
there’s about 250 more pages to read in Because I Can
purchase paperback, Kindle, Nook or iPad copies here.

 

Posted in Body

Run/Walk/Run for Healthy Running Today and in the Future

When it comes to running, there are different camps about walking during a run.

The tough running school of thought is that runners do not walk, they run. The thought is to be a true runner, you should run the full distance of any run and definitely of any race.

The medium school of thought is that walking is okay on extreme hills, long distances, when your lungs are screaming or you have pain somewhere. People in this group don’t usually schedule walking breaks but they will take them if the conditions or circumstances warrant it.

Then there is the run/walk/run crowd which I am a proud member of.

I’m thankful that Jeff Galloway has made this an acceptable way of doing runs. For me running is about being healthy today and in the future. Doing the run/walk/run method makes running more manageable, both physically and mentally, which increases the chances that I will continue doing it longer.

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Soon after I started running at age 28, I discovered that I get exercise-induced asthma if I didn’t warm up with a 5 or 10 minute walk before I started running. So I’ve been warming up with a walk for about 18 years, but before being injured I rarely took walking breaks during a run. I was young and tough (ha!).

When I returned to running in 2008 with a beat-up body, taking walking breaks was the key to strengthen my body and not injury myself. But I figured with time I would quit taking walking breaks and return to continual running.

During 2009 and 2010, as my body became stronger, I increased my run/walk ratio from running 1 minute and walking 1 minute to running 8 minutes and walking 2 minutes. Then I figured I can drop the walking breaks, so I did a 5k or two without walking. My times were slower than when I took walking breaks! Plus, after those races my body ached a lot more than normal. I felt lousy and I didn’t want to ever run again.

That’s when I looked more seriously into Jeff Galloway’s run/walk/run method. Jeff says,

“Most runners will record significantly faster times when they take walk breaks because they don’t slow down at the end of a long run. You can easily spot these folks. They’re the ones who are picking up speed during the last two to six miles when everyone else is slowing down.”

That’s when I decided that run/walk/run was the only way I would run. I bought a timer, which quickly began one of my running essentials… whether I’m doing 3 or 13 miles. I like not having to check my watch all the time. I just listen for the beep and/or feel the vibration of the timer.

Jeff Gallowy’s rocking timer!

I planned to do my first post-accident half-marathon in the summer of 2010 with the 8/2 ratio. I trained with that ratio, but that race was a bust… the day was hot and humid (temps in mid 90s). I felt lousy and ended up doing more of a 5/5 ratio.

After that I backed off and settled into a 4/1 ratio for a time. I did a successful half-marathon with that ratio last April and felt good. Then over the past few months I began doing a 3/1 ratio and decided that is my sweet spot. I feel best during and after a run with this ratio.

With the 4/1 ratio, I often found myself checking my timer to see how soon I can walk. But with the 3/1 ratio, the three minutes fly by so fast, that my timer beeps before I even think about walking.

While long distances are still a challenge, especially as I train for my first full marathon post-accident, I’m finding that I’m enjoying running more than ever. It’s not a chore, it’s doable.

Jeff has recommended ratios based on mile pace… and he suggests a 2/1 ratio for my normal pace of 12 to 13 minute per mile, but I like the 3/1 ratio, so I’m going to stick with that.

I call the timer my running dictator… but I’m not a die-hard. Whether on training runs or races, I’ll mess with the 3/1 ratio, especially if I want to walk on an upcoming hill. And in most races, I run through the first walking break or two, especially if it’s crowded and there’s no place to step out of the way of the other runners.

But I don’t push my walking breaks off too long, because I agree with Jeff that,

 The earlier you take the walk breaks, the more they help you! To receive maximum benefit, you must start the walk breaks before you feel any fatigue, in the first mile. If you wait until you feel the need for a walk break, you’ve already reduced your potential performance.

Another great thing about the run/walk/run method is that it scales running down from a monster that looks overwhelming to many to something that almost anyone can do. It’s been great to see a number of my friends who never ran before start running over the past few years. And they’ve been amazed at what they can do with the run/walk/run method.

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I’m counting on this run/walk/run method to help keep me
healthy (and sane) today and long into the future.
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Have you ever tried the run/walk/run method? Why or why not?

More info: Running Well With a Timer—Transitions and Speed Work.
How I went from a hospital bed to a Successful Full Marathon
Posted in Because I Can

Running Again or Not?

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I’m posting excerpts from Because I Can.
This is from Chapter 17: Running Again

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A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Could I? Would I take that first step?

The day after my doctor’s permission to try running, I went to the park, figuring it would be best to try running on a trail rather than on a road. I began my normal walk, still not sure if I would actually try running. I wanted to, but I was scared.

When my planned ten-minute warmup was up, I kept walking, telling myself it was best if I made sure my body was warmed up. But fear was really the main reason for the continued walk. I was scared of pain and scared of disappointment.

What if something starts hurting so severe, I’ll know that I can’t ever run again? 

My fear of finding out whether (or not) I could run again was so big, that tough-no-emotions-Janet slipped back into action. I wouldn’t allow myself to fully think about how disappointed I would be if I couldn’t run again. Because of that, I hadn’t told anyone that I was going to try running. I figured if it didn’t work out, I’d rather deal with my disappointment alone than have to explain it to others.

I knew I’d be upset if I couldn’t run, but I was also concerned that disappointment would start a downward spiral into depression again. I didn’t want to go back to that dark place. I didn’t know if I would survive another round.

I toyed with the idea of just thinking about running, but not actually trying it. Maybe knowing it was an option was enough to make me happy, I didn’t actually have to do it. That way, I could always think of running as a potential … but if I tried and it didn’t work, I would lose that hope.

Oh, the mind games I played that day. I don’t remember how long I walked, but after meditating, praying and thinking through every scenario, I knew I needed to try running. I had to know whether or not I could run.

I leaned forward slightly, picked up my foot and…

 

Photo Source: immuvit.tumblr.com 
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This is the first time in posting these excerpts that I’ve quit mid-sentence… but I couldn’t help it. Next week I’ll finish this series by posting an excerpt from the Epilogue.

If interested in finding out how my running went that day and to read more about my physical and emotional recovery… here’s the order page for paperback, Kindle, Nook or iPad.

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Other excerpts from Because I Can:
The Prologue
Chapter 1: The Accident
Chapter 2: 50% Chance of Death
Chapter 3: Waking Up
Chapter 4: Paranoid and Anxious
Chapter 5: Questions 
Chapter 6: Flying Home
Chapter 7: Back on my Feet
Chapter 8: Walk On
Chapter 9: California Again
Chapter 10: A Hurricane and My Obituary
Chapter 11: Mentors and Counselors
Chapter 12: Educating this Mennonite Girl from Small Town America
Chapter 13: Quitting God 
Chapter 14: Surgery Again
Chapter 15: Doubts about Miracles and Prayers
Chapter 16: Embracing Life Again
 
Epilogue: One Step at a Time… Because I Can!

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Embracing Life Again

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I’m posting excerpts from Because I Can.
This is from 
Chapter 16: Embracing Life

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I focused on being aware of the world around me. I noticed there was something about having my five senses—touch, sound, sight, smell, taste—engaged in experiences that made them more memorable. I had known this to a degree—that’s why everyone likes fragrant centerpieces and good music while food is served, but I realized it more fully in everyday life. I was fascinated by this concept and I was struck by the realization that everything we have was meant to be used to its fullest potential.

Obviously my injured muscles were weak post-accident, but even my uninjured muscles quickly weakened when they weren’t used. The same was true for my feelings, when I stuffed them, instead of feeling them, I was miserable. (And made everyone around me miserable) When I toyed around with checking my brains at the door and just accepting whatever life threw at me, I was depressed. When I didn’t examine and stretch my spiritually, but tried to accept this new chapter of my journey with my old beliefs, I was ready to kill myself.

Looking back over the progress I’d made in each area, made me aware that to continue moving forward and to fully live life, I needed to accept the reality of all of me … even my unwanted leg. Yes, it had a stark deformity that affected what I wore and what I did every day. But considering how bad it looked, it worked amazingly well.

Would I be able to shift my focus to not only see the negative,
but to also see the positive?


Slowly I tried to. I allowed myself to marvel about how well it functions considering how bad it looks. I was impressed how good the circulation to my left foot is. It’s generally as warm as my right foot. I still wore clothes that covered it, but I began showing it more freely to others if we talked about it.

A time or two, depression tried to suck me back into its dark vortex. But if I focused on living in the tension of celebrating all the good that had happened, while being honest about the disappointments I lived with … I had hope that despite this nasty chapter and the lingering effects, life was worth living.

I had survived, now I was going to do all I could to thrive.

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Do you embrace life and live it well? Why or why not?
 
Other excerpts from Because I Can:
The Prologue
Chapter 1: The Accident
Chapter 2: 50% Chance of Death
Chapter 3: Waking Up
Chapter 4: Paranoid and Anxious
Chapter 5: Questions 
Chapter 6: Flying Home
Chapter 7: Back on my Feet
Chapter 8: Walk On
Chapter 9: California Again
Chapter 10: A Hurricane and My Obituary
Chapter 11: Mentors and Counselors
Chapter 12: Educating this Mennonite Girl from Small Town America
Chapter 13: Quitting God 
Chapter 14: Surgery Again
Chapter 15: Doubts about Miracles and Prayers
 
Chapter 17: Running Again
Epilogue: One Step at a Time… Because I Can!