Posted in Body

It’s Runner’s World Half and Festival Weekend!

Looking forward to a fun, busy weekend of meeting old and new running friends. And running movies, running seminars, running apparel, running gadgets… and of course, some running!

Runner’s World Half

Now that the training is done, the biggest question is the weather. And it’s looking great!! Sunny and pleasant both Saturday and Sunday… with morning temps in the high 40s, then getting up to mid 60s.

I’m doing the half marathon on Sunday and the forecast is a runner’s dream come true!
Sunday 8:30am: at the start, sunny and between 44 and 48 degrees.
Sunday 11am: (when I hope to finish), sunny and around 55 degrees.

So what should you wear?

With a projected temps in the high 40s for the start, you will probably need a sweatshirt (or two) and maybe even sweatpants.

But for running, the general guideline is to dress for 20 degrees warmer. So dress for running in whatever you would be comfortable in if you were standing around and it was 20 warmer.

For most of the half, the temps will be around 50… so dress to run in whatever you would be comfortable in if it was around 70 degrees. For me, that will be a tee shirt and shorts.

Here’s info about the gear check Runner’s World has available…

Gear check will be provided for runners on race day. Each participant will receive a plastic bag with their race packet that will serve as your gear bag on race day to hold pre and post-race clothing while you run. Signs on race day will direct you to Gear Check. Make sure to attach your gear tag to your gear bag before you leave it with the Gear Check crew, so that it’s easy to find when you come back for it. After the race, please remember to reclaim your checked bag.

Please note: DO NOT leave valuables, cash or jewelry in your gear bag. The event is not responsible for any lost items. Gear bags must be claimed before close of the Finish Line Festival on race day.

What nutrition will you give your body?

Another thing to think about over the next few days is what you eat. Good food (or lack thereof) will make a world of difference in how you feel on race day! Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible…. so opt for a baked potato instead of fries. Or have oatmeal instead of a sugary cereal. Reach for an apple or banana instead of a cupcake. (you can celebrate with a cupcake after you run)

Also, don’t eat too much of any one thing. Eating a variety of foods will give you better nutrition, but be careful with trying new foods. Maybe try a little, but get most of your nutrition from foods you are used to eating.

And of course, drink water regularly. You don’t have to super hydrate, but just make sure you don’t dehydrate yourself anytime between now and raceday.

Want your world to know how your run is going?

Here’s a fun thing to do… you can have your race progress automatically post to your Facebook and/or Twitter throughout your run. Plus, your friends and family could get texts or emails with your progress as you run. Sign up here.  (don’t you love modern tech!)

btw… when I signed up, this automatically posted to my Facebook page… The split times of janet oberholtzer will be posted to my Facebook page in realtime during the upcoming 5K on race day. Powered by Xact.
I’m registered for the half, not the 5k (I even double-checked my confirmation and it says half) so I assume this is just standard wording of the automatic update.

I want to meet you!

I’d love to meet as many of you as possible, so stop me and say hi if you see a green BECAUSE I CAN shirt anytime this weekend (don’t worry, I have multiple shirts, I won’t be wearing the same one all weekend)

I signed up for a few things ahead of time and will plan the rest of my time on the fly.

Friday 6PM: Movie · Run For Your Life
Saturday Noon: Movie · UltraMarathon Man: 50 Marathons, 50 Days, 50 States
Satuday 2pm: #RunChat meetup.
Saturday 3pm: Seminar · Women’s Running: Why It’s Different for Girls
Saturday 5pm: Seminar · Course Strategy: How to Run the RW Half
Satuday 8pm : Keynote Speaker, Matt Long

And most importantly, have a great weekend! Do your best, but life is too short to stress over whether you covered x amount of distance in x amount of time. Unless it’s your career, running is about so much more than pace and speed. It’s about doing something that is good for your body, mind and soul.

So run well and run smart… because you can!

Selected as a New York City Marathon Ambassador!

Received a great email yesterday…


You’ve been selected to represent your state as a
Marathon Morning Across America Ambassador in the second annual
Marathon Opening Ceremony featuring the Parade of Nations.

New York City Marathon Morning Across America

Here’s how it happened, I posted this on Facebook last week…

The ING New York City Marathon is looking for “Marathon Morning Across America Ambassadors”… a person from each state to represent their state in a Parade of Nations. I’d love to represent Pennsylvania! To apply, I need to: “submit a 150-word statement telling us why you’re the best person to represent your state.”

How do I best tell my story in 150 words?

If I use your comment to enter, I will send you a free copy of Because I Can! And if I use your comment to enter and I’m selected, I will send you an amazing prize box! A Because I Can book and shirt, bottle of champagne, a NYC souvenir, a marathon souvenir, a tree leaf from Central park and more!

Many of you gave me great ideas and suggestions (facebook threads here and here).
Thank you!

This is what I submitted… (150 words exactly!)

I almost lost my leg and my life in an accident. Thanks to amazing doctors, I survived, but they had doubts if I’ld walk again due to massive injuries.

I recovered better than anticipated, thanks to a few things: skilled medical personnel, support from family and friends, the endurance from being a runner the previous 10 years and growing up on a Pennsylvania Dutch farm in a strict Mennonite family (almost Amish) where hard work was the norm.

By “doing what I can, because I can” I returned to running four years post-accident and the beautiful rolling hills of Pennsylvania provide a great place to train. Running is my personal Declaration of Independence and I want everyone to know they’re capable of more than they give themselves credit for. I’m thrilled to be able to do the NYC marathon and I’d be honored to be a Marathon Morning Ambassador. 

I used concepts from a few of your ideas, but I used words most directly from Sarah Emlen Besterman’s and Daniel Toocheck’s comments.

And I won!!

Thank you Sarah and Daniel! Both of you will be receiving a gift basket. I’ll be in touch with details after the NYC marathon.

They asked that we wear something to represent our state. So what do I wear to represent Pennsylvania? Eagles shirt? A cheesesteak? Amish clothes? IM ABLE clothes? (since they are sponsoring me to do the marathon) Because I can clothes?

Any suggestions?
Posted in Because I Can

Life Freaking Rocks More Days than Not

So a few days ago, I had one of those days that didn’t involve any sunshine, cupcakes or rainbows. No, not at all. Instead it was a day of being annoyed, angry and sad at the circumstances of my life, which caused me to mutter words under my breath in yoga class that weren’t conducive to relaxing.

After some time spent reflecting, followed by a good night’s sleep, I woke up the next day feeling better, but not exactly perky or ready to tackle the world.

I had planned to run a 10k being hosted by my local hospital… the hospital where I had additional surgeries after coming home from California six weeks following the accident. Because the hospital was such a big part of my recovery, I like to support it, but Sunday morning I found myself wondering why they had to pick this particular day to do their darn race.

But I went… because one day spent at home feeling sorry for myself is permissible, but two days is an indulgence of time that I don’t want to waste my life on.

As I stepped from my car, the familiar pre-race sights and sounds greeted me and I found my spirits lifting a tad. Saying hello and chatting with various running friends had me relaxing more and I knew I was where I needed to be.

As I did a warm up walk, I couldn’t help but be grateful as I looked up at the hospital building where I spent weeks not knowing if I would ever walk again. Then I smiled as I replayed the scene in my mind a few weeks later when I was first able to put weight on my legs and I played a joke on Jerry by ‘falling off my wheelchair’.

Taking a few deep breaths as I stretched my beatup, but strong legs,
I found myself saying, Life is good. 

The race started and after a slow first mile due to the crowd, I felt good and with perfect running weather, I soon found my groove and ran the 10k (6.2 miles) in about 66 minutes, which is a great time for me.

About 100 yards from the finish.     .Photo by Patrick Leaman

As I traded race stories with friends (which is an essential part of running) following the race, I was struck again by how much running means to me. And I’m so grateful for how well I recovered and how many obstacles I’ve overcome.

I couldn’t have done it without tremendous support from my family, friends and community.
I’m also grateful I had the opportunity to have additional surgeries and therapies on my left leg which decreased my pain and increased my range of motion allowing me to run again.

Thinking about my journey made me all the more thankful that I said yes to doing the NYC marathon for the IM ABLE Foundation on November 4th. And that by doing that, I’m giving others the opportunity to overcome obstacles that they face in life.



So today, (on my birthday when I wrote this) I’m feeling all reflective, thankful and grateful. So I might have a down day here and there, that’s okay and that is normal, but overall
my life freaking rocks!

I don’t like asking for money, but I really, really want to help IM ABLE do what they do best… provide resources to help individuals with disabilities overcome obstacles and be as active as they want to be, so they also have more rocking days than down days.

Would you please consider donating to IM ABLE?
And when you give at least $26, I will give a gift to you!
I’ll send you an autographed copy of BECAUSE I CAN.

Click here for all the details. 

Thank you very much!
Posted in Body

What Running Shoes Shall I Wear?

One of the greatest things about running is that you don’t need an array of supplies or equipment to do it. You don’t need a court, field, diamond or rink. The reality is, you have all you need with your body. (Though it is a good idea to put on some clothes)

And since most of us won’t be running on natural surfaces like sand or soft earth, it’s also a good idea to have a pair of shoes to run in. And figuring out which pair of shoes is the best for yourself can be tough sometimes.

When I started running the first time (at age 28 as my sanity-saver after giving birth 3 times in less than 5 years) I wore whatever sneakers I had for the first few months. After a time, I realized that running was something I wanted to do long-term, so I went to a running store and was fitted with shoes that work for me.

I don’t remember which model, but I remember they were New Balance shoes. I loved those shoes and they lasted for a long time. (which was very important considering I had three little people and I was starting a business with my husband)

My New Balance shoes

When I started running the second time (at age 42 after not running for 4 years due to the dang injuries) I knew my beatup body, legs and feet needed a good pair of shoes. Because everything from the structure of my feet, to my gait and my stride had changed, I experimented with various shoes during the first few years back to running.

And guess what, though I have accumulated and still wear some other running shoes, I find myself reaching for my New Balance shoes the majority of the time.

New Balance 890s is what I wore when I did
my first post-accident marathon on May 20, 2012.

This fall at a local race, I was wearing my New Balance 890s when I met a New Balance rep who graciously gave me another pair to wear for my two upcoming races… the Runner’s World Half and the New York City Marathon. I’m grateful for them and have put some training miles on them to make sure they are broke in.

My new New Balance shoes — same model, different year

So if you are asking the question many runners ask, “what shoes shall I wear?” I advise you to try out some New Balance shoes. No brand/shoe is perfect for everyone, but with their various styles/models/etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if you find one you like.

Plus, if their shoes work for my beatup body, I think they will work for many others also.

And if you are asking how you know which model you need… I have an answer for you! Go to a running store with staff that is trained and can help you find the best model for you.

For those of you in the Reading area, go to A Running Start in West Reading. Not only do they carry a range of shoes, but they will do a gait analysis to see how you run and what shoe is best for you.

For those of you in the Bethlehem area, check out Aardvark Sports Shop on Main Street.

Do you have a favorite running shoe? If so, what is it?
Posted in Body,

Hell Yeah, I Feel a Difference!

Yesterday I made plans to go to a restorative yoga class today because the gentle stretching and the easy yoga poses are perfect to keep me flexible with all the running I’m doing right now.

But this morning… I wake up with no desire to go, but since I meeting my friend Bev there, I make myself go. I arrive a few minutes early, so I update my Facebook status with: Gentle yoga, it does a body good.  (I think that’s called trying positive reenforcement on myself)

I’m okay through the first 15 minutes of the class, though I find myself feeling out of sorts and having a hard time relaxing. I wish I was home on my couch.

Deep breaths. In and out. Relax.

I tell myself yoga is exactly what I need. Yoga will refresh me and help me feel better. Come on Janet, you know they say yoga is perfect for times like this. (Who are ‘they’ and what do they know anyhow?)

After doing stretches on one side of our body, the instructor (a wonderful, amazing instructor!) says something about pausing and being aware of how our body feels. She asks if we notice any difference between our legs and hips on one side versus the other, since one side was stretched and one wasn’t yet.

Under my breath, I respond with, Different? You’re damn right, my legs feel different! Stretches or no stretches, they always feel different. They’ve felt different for 8+ years now. Different? I know all about different!” 

Geez Janet, chill! The rational side of my brain (known as tough-no-emotions Janet in Because I Can) tries to calm me down. It’s not that bad. Sure your leg is funky, but you can do most of this yoga without modifying. And think of all the running you can do.

Yes, Yes, I know.

But enough already. I’m tired of doing what I can, because I can. (who came up with that stupid saying anyhow?) I just want to be me. Normal, equal me. And the only difference I want to feel in my legs is when one is stretched in yoga and one isn’t.

But no, I feel all kinds of different all the time. My left leg and hip feel different and it’s not a good different. The ankle is stiff. The knee can’t be bent too far without discomfort. That hip is tighter than the other one. Though my pain continues to decrease, half of the nerves in my left thigh still tingle and even burn at times.

Sitting pose I can’t do

Deep breaths. In and out.
It’s going to be okay.

I muddle my way through the rest of yoga, modifying where I need to. We do a sitting pose where our legs are supposed to twist like some crazy-ass pretzel.

I can’t even begin to do it with my left leg, so I do an extended child’s pose, burying my face in my mat to hide the tears that threaten to flow.

I know being tense when trying to stretch is counterproductive, so I try to let go of my tension. I’m not upset at my body, it’s doing the best it can, but I’m annoyed that this is my life. I’m frustrated that I won’t ever have two good, normal, similar legs.

I’m sad that I don’t get a do-over. That I won’t ever get over all my injuries. That my body will never be the way it was before May 20, 2004. (damn, I hate that date!)

I know it will be okay. I know that I will snap out of this. I know that I have a lot to be thankful for. I know that tomorrow will look better. I know that I will run a 10k in the morning. I know that I’ll be all about doing what I can, because I can tomorrow.

But today I’m not feeling that way, not at all…

Consistency Helps Dawn do Anything—Because She Can!

Dawn and Dawn

This year at Fitbloggin’ I roomed with Dawn 1 and Dawn 2. (does that make me the Cat in the Hat?)

I was impressed with both of their stories. They both embody what it means to make major life changes and never give up.

Today I’m sharing Dawn 1’s story as one of Your Inspiring Stories. I’m totally impressed with her! She is an amazing, kind, caring individual. She’s a wife, mother and caring aunt (raised her nephew).

Along with that she’s a walker, a blogger and a queen (seriously, she has a crown and all!).


Be inspired by Dawn’s story… one step at a time, she’s doing it!
Janet: Tell us a little about yourself.

Dawn: I’m 45 yrs old, married with 3 children. I live in Maryland and work as a mechanical engineer for the past 24 yrs. I’m an optimist and I try to make the best of every situation.


In 2007 you decided to make some changes to your life, why? 


I had tried to make the “weigh loss” change many times in my life. I remember going to Ocean City, MD in June of 2007 with my family.  I weighed in around 350 lbs at that time (378 lbs at my highest). I remember riding a surrey there on the boardwalk with the kids. I just remember how wonderful it felt to be out on the boardwalk hearing the ocean in the sunshine with my kids. I turned 40 on that trip too and felt like life was going by.

After coming home I kept thinking about it and about a month later I remember writing to my online friends that I was “willing” to try again. A few weeks after that I attended a Dr. Oz seminar in DC and I took away that 30 mins a day of exercise could change my life. So I went home and the very next day I walked out my door and down the road 15 mins and then 15 mins back.  I continued to walk everyday after that and the weight started coming off.


It’s hard to make changes, how did you do it? 

Really my change started about a year before my Ocean City trip when I started seeing a therapist. I didn’t go for weight loss, but I went for many other things in my life… my mom had cancer for the second time, my 17-yr old cat was dying, I was having problems with my oldest (my nephew) and my son had an eating disorder. I think it helped to open up my past for me and I started to let go of my abusive childhood.

In the beginning I just made the promise to myself I would walk EVERYDAY. I made a bet with a coworker that I could walk 100 days in a row. With food, I just stopped eating sweets at first and tried to eat more whole foods. I modified my family’s favorite recipes to make them healthier too.

I also joined TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) so I had some accountability for myself. I also told everyone what I was doing.  So often in the past I would keep weight loss to myself but I realized that was just telling myself I thought I was going to fail. So this time I was telling everyone and it made a big difference.

Also at the Dr. Oz seminar there was a trainer there named Joel Harper and I had bought his DVD. Joel had given everyone his email address, so I emailed him when I couldn’t do his DVD. We started emailing every week and he really helped keep me motivated.

His favorite word was “CONSISTENCY”.

I felt like I had put so many things in my life to push me forward, that I couldn’t fail this time. Plus so many people knew and I didn’t want to let anyone down. I was always good at not letting others down. In the beginning it was the help of others knowing that pushed me forward till eventually I pushed myself for me.


Is there any certain situations/events/circumstances that could cause you to slip back into to your previous habits?

I found that anxiety is my big kryptonite and it seems like so many things cause me anxiety. I also think obesity and depression go hand in hand. I’m not sure which comes first, but I had a psychiatrist once tell me all obese people were depressed. I didn’t want to believe her as I always thought I was a happy person. But as I’ve went through this journey for myself I’ve realized that yes, at times I do suffer from depression. It’s the anxiety though that seems to throw me into the old behaviors the most.


If so, how do you counteract that?

Therapy has been a big key for me, so when I’m really struggling a lot I go for a “tune-up”. Usually I see my therapist about once a month or every other month now.

Walking also brings me a lot of joy and helps relieve depression and anxiety for me. I have a road near my house I call “my road” and whenever I’m struggling emotionally, that’s where I go. It’s almost instant that when I walk down that road my emotions come to the surface and either through smiles or tears (or both things) they are washed away.

Writing also helps me a great deal. I blog at Fixing Myself Happy. I think just writing out my feelings is so therapeutic for me.

Dawn and her family

What goals have you reached that you didn’t know if you could?

Since I’ve spent almost my whole life morbidly obese (350 at age 15) I really never thought I could overcome my obesity. So setting weight loss goals was really never something I thought possible. But when I started losing weight this time I set some goals.

My first was to lose 100 lbs and take my family to Disney World. I wanted to ride all the rides and act like I was 5 :) I reached my goal in Aug 2008 and In June 2009 we went to Disney.

My next goal was to lose 200 lbs from my highest weight and be the Maryland TOPS queen and to win a trip to Nova Scotia to compete for international queen. For those that don’t know what TOPS is… it’s a non-profit weight loss support group similar to Weight Watchers, but it’s only $28 a year. What I love about it is your chapter really becomes family :) So my chapter and my sweet state coordinator (who is in my chapter) rooted me on every week and in December of 2009 I reached my goal and in April of 2010 I got my TOPS crown.

I wanted my next goal to be a physical one, so I decided to run a 5k. I never thought I could run but in June 2010 I ran my first 5k but soon realized my real love was walking so I decided to walk a half marathon, I accomplished that in Oct 2010 with my husband who has lost 130 lbs during my journey too. Then I did another half in Oct 2011 with Mike and 9 of our TOPS folks.

Mike and Dawn

What goals do you have for yourself in the future?

I had hoped to walk a full marathon next week in Baltimore but I just didn’t have the walking speed I needed to complete the marathon in the time limit. I also found out my mother has cancer for the 3rd time. So Mike and I will do another half together next Saturday. A full marathon is still a goal in my future.

I really believe I will accomplish it because if I’ve learned nothing else during these past 5+ yrs it’s that “I CAN DO ANYTHING” if I want it enough and work hard enough to accomplish it.


What does a well-lived day look like to you… or in other words, if you knew you were dying tomorrow, what would you do today?

Boy, that’s a big question, I know I would want to spend it with my husband and 3 kids and I would want to spend it outside. I would love if I could hike through the hills but also wade in the ocean :) I would want to laugh and convey to my family just how much I love them.


Consistency helps Dawn do what she can!


Did you catch what happens when consistency is the key? You can do anything! I love that concept which Dawn’s story illustrates so well.

What area of your life do you need to apply some consistency? 
Leave encouragement or questions in the comments for Dawn.
You can also connect with her on her blog,
Fixing Myself Happy and on Twitter.
*More of Your Inspiring Stories
Chris Kaag—Doing What He Can, Because He Can!
Troy Roland—Hockey and Running, Because He Can!
Running at Age 72 and Age 84—Because They Can!
Living Each Day Well–Because She Can

Running Truly is for all Ages
Michele Lynn—Believed She Can… and She Did!
Beverly Shantz—Living and Laughing… Because She Can!
Roni Noone does Fitbloggin’—Because She Can!

Dreams Come True: A Training Run on the D & L Trail

In the fall of 2010, I first biked the the D & L Trail from White Haven, PA to Jim Thorpe, PA (about 25 miles) with a group of friends. At that time I had been running again for a year or two, but my beatup body still had a long way to go to recover well.

As I biked the trail that day my left leg hurt like hell, but yet thoughts about doing a training run on that trail if I ever do a full marathon ran through my mind. But I stopped my wandering mind and told myself that my body would probably never be strong enough to do a full marathon, so I shouldn’t dream about it and set myself up for disappointment.

Yesterday I did a marathon training run on that trail!

Handsome driver, Jerry


This fall I’ve had to schedule my training to be ready for both the Runner’s World Half (Oct 21st) and the New York City Marathon (Nov 4th), so this weekend it was time for a 20-miler. I mentioned my dream of doing a run on the D & L Trail to Bev (my running pal) and we decided to make it happen!

There is a shuttle available from Jim Thorpe to While Haven, but since we didn’t want to do the full 25 miles, I sweet talked Jerry into being our driver. He dropped us off at the Tannery Road Trailhead and picked us up at Glen Onoko, which cuts a few miles off either end, bringing it down to 20.5 miles.

9:15am: Bev and I freezing in the 47 degrees at the start

It rained a little in the last few miles of driving there and though it was cloudy and damp with threats of rain all day, thankfully it didn’t rain at all! We walked the first half mile and then did the rest with our regular run/walk/run routine of running 3 minutes and walking 1 minute.

For the first few miles, the dampness caused the thigh area on my left leg to tighten up (felt like a vise grip was being tighten on it). Thankfully between me rubbing it during our walking breaks and the temps warming up slightly (57 at the finish), it loosen up and the discomfort decreased.

Beautiful waterfall about 7 miles into our run

The trail has only one access point (with a restroom) in those 20.5 miles. It’s about 7.8 miles from Tannery Rd at Rockport Road. Another running friend, Rose is also doing the RWHalf, so Jerry dropped her off at Rockport, and she joined us for the 12.6 mile stretch to the finish.

Rose, Bev and I leaving Rockport for the next 12.6 miles

The trail has a pea-gravel surface and is almost flat (2% downgrade) with beautiful scenery on all sides. For the first 15 miles or so, the Lehigh River is visible on the one side almost all the time, while the other side has stone ridges, steep hills, beautiful trees and mountain laurel.

What’s not to love?

The Lehigh River – photo by Rose Petri

Here the trail is close to the same height as the river, but at some places there is steep drop down to the river. In the last five miles, the trail moves away from the river, but there are still beautiful trees everywhere. And there are railroad tracks running along the trail here, where trains from The Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railroad pass by periodically.

Walking break sometime in the last five miles. – photo by Rose Petri

We arrived at the Glen Onoko parking lot and woke Jerry from a nap in the car about 4 hours and 10 minutes after we left the start (10 min warmup walk, 3 hrs and 52 min of run/walk, with a 5-min break when we met Rose and another few minute break around mile 16)

As I was running, I savored the day and appreciated what I was doing, but I didn’t allow myself to celebrate too early, for fear I wouldn’t be able to finish. (but then again, since there was no trail access for the last 12+ miles, finishing was my only option)

But as soon as I was in warm clothes, the reality of fulfilling my dream began to sink in. (and this morning my sore legs are really driving that reality home :)

Warm clothes and breathing toes

Bev and Rose also felt great and it was an amazing day for all of us!

Maybe it was the cool temps, maybe it was that I’ve learned what to eat before a long run and what drink/fuel to carry, maybe it was all the cross-training I’ve been doing… whatever it was, my body felt stronger than it has since the accident.

With this being the best and the fastest long training run any of us has done… watch out world, we are all feeling like we’ll be rocking the RWHalf and NYC Marathon!

Nothing like finishing!

Along with being a great run, it’s a great reminder that by doing what we can, with what we have, there’s no telling what we are capable of.

Do you have some dreams that feel ‘impossible’? While they might be ‘impossible’ now… do what you can, with what you have, where you are today and you might be surprised what you can do someday.


Have you reached an ‘impossible’ goal?

If you are a runner, how’s your training going for any upcoming races you have?


Posted in Health,

A Plant-Based Diet for Fuel, Energy and Less Pain

Recently I wrote how a bike ride made me realize how much my pain has decreased over the past year as I’ve increased my exercise with more running, biking and working out at gym.

After I posted it, I also thought about how different my diet is now from what it used to be and I know that my food choices play into my ongoing healing as well. 

During the first few weeks post-accident, as I lay in the California hospital, food did not appeal to me. With all the meds (pain, antibiotic and more) in my system, my stomach rebelled at the thought of anything being added to it.

Most days, half of what I did manage to eat ended up in the pink-kidney shaped upchuck bowl. The combination of the accident and me losing 20 lbs in a few weeks gives a whole new meaning to the term “crash diet”.

The caring hospital dietitian visited my room a few times a week because I kept sending my tray back too full (or Jerry would eat it, but I’d have to tell them what I did or didn’t eat).

She said she would make me anything I’m hungry for (wonder if she could come live with me now) Trouble is, I wasn’t hungry for anything. But she kept trying, making various things she or I thought I might be able to eat.

Soup is comfort food for me, so she made some of that (homemade!). I liked it and so did my stomach. So soup it was… almost every meal for a few weeks.

And I’ve never forgotten the advice she gave me…

I didn’t make drastic changes to my diet right away, but slowly I tried to retrain my wicked sweet tooth and make wiser choices. With time, I began noticing how food either gave me fuel (energy) or it didn’t. So over the past few years, I’ve made major changes.

The biggest change has been switching to a plant-based diet.

Sporting a No Meat Athlete shirt on a hike

First I read about the benefits of a plant-based diet on No Meat Athlete for a few months. Then on January 1, 2010, I decided to try it for one month to see how I feel. I felt so good that I stuck with it. For a few months, I ate fish occasionally, but I soon quit that. 

It’s hard to describe exactly what I mean by “felt so good” because it’s not like I never get tired or that all my pain (and wrinkles) disappeared, but I feel better overall.

While I feel like my food choices helped my pain decrease, there’s no way I can provide proof, but I do know that my diet has given me more energy, which helps me work out more, which I know helped my pain decrease!

Now I aim to eat well as much as possible. It probably ends up being about 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time I eat food I want to (chips, cupcakes, etc) but might not provide fuel. And I’m okay with that.

I’m aiming for healthy, not perfection.

I don’t preach about the benefits of a plant-based diet, because it is a big change and each person has to make the choice for themselves. But if you are interested in what a plant based diet is like and the benefits of it… I have the perfect thing for you to read.

Leo from zenhabits, wrote a great post covering everything you need to know,
A Guide to Eating a Plant-Based Diet.

Go, read it and learn… even if you can’t imagine why you would or should only eat plant-based foods, you might be surprised what you find out.

Have you noticed how certain foods make you feel better than others?
I don’t preach about my diet, but if you ask, I will tell/share all… any questions about my plant-based diet? 


Will Exercise Give You Victory Over Pain?

Today I’m celebrating another victory over pain!

Pain has been my constant companion since May 20, 2004 at 1:30PM… thankfully it’s been decreasing every year, but yet some remains. A bike ride yesterday is causing me to reflect on how exercise has helped decrease my pain.

Photo by Linda Wingard

Though I had been a runner before the accident, I had rarely gone biking. But after each of my surgeries during the 4 years following the accident, part of my physical therapy included biking on a stationary bike.

In June 2006, following three months in a cast or walking boot after a surgery to stretch my achilles tendon that was shorten by injury, I was back in therapy on a stationary bike and I wondered what biking outside would feel like.

I was unsteady at first, but after a few minutes I got the hang of it again. Guess the saying, “You never forget how to ride a bike” is true. I had been almost dead and had almost lost my leg, but I didn’t forget how to ride a bike.

Soon I was biking a few miles a couple times a week by doing loops around a mall parking lot. It was boring, but easy riding, and was fun when my friends Bev and Bev joined me. Then winter came and the bike was put away.

The next year, I biked occasionally  but I didn’t get back into a regular habit of biking again for some time. After another surgery in 2008, I was able to start running again and I decided biking would be good cross training, plus it would be fun because I was stronger and could ride farther.

I bought my own bike and began sprinkling rides in with my runs. Short distances felt okay, but biking uses different muscles than running and the first few times I attempted a longer bike ride, I thought I was going to die!

The motion of biking aggravated some of my injuries in a way that running did not. While the injury on my left calf is my most pronounced injury, thankfully it doesn’t feel as bad as it looks. That ankle and foot give me some pain, but most of the nerves in the left calf are cut, so other than two sensitive spots, the majority of that area is numb.

But my left thigh is another story.
It doesn’t look as bad as the calf area, but it has given me more pain!

I had a deep (into my femur) 15″ long L-shaped laceration starting a few inches above my knee, up to my hip and over across my buttock. (don’t worry, I’m not posting pictures, but you can see the beginning of it on the biking picture) This injury was so severe that my trauma surgeon first considered amputating my leg at the hip, but after evaluating it again the following day, he decided it could be saved.

You know the pins-and-needles feel when your arm falls asleep? As you shake it, the pain intensifies for a few seconds as the nerves reopen, but then all is well again. In this injury, the nerves were not cut as they were in the calf area, but they were damaged and/or compressed. These damaged nerves never fully reopened, so I constantly have various degrees of pins-and-needles pain all over my left thigh.

As I increased my walks, then added running and biking, this pain varied a lot… somedays better, somedays worse. Everything I learned from the research I did into how nerves work and how our bodies heal had me convinced that increased exercise would help it. Because increased circulation increases blood flow which facilities healing. (if you’ve had either personal or medical experience with this, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it)

I’ve written how pain warrants stopping, discomfort does not but sometimes I blurred the line between the two and the discomfort/pain I had in those nerves during and after exercising had me questioning my sanity.

What am I thinking? What am I doing to myself?
What if all this exercise makes me feel worse as I age, not better?

But yet, I kept going.

Because I also realized that if I skipped exercise for a time, not only did my body ache more and my legs get stiff, which would only worsen as I aged, but that black hole of depression would start calling me again.

So I kept walking, running and biking. And a few times in the past two years, I tackled long bike rides (ranging from 35 to 50 miles) with friends who bike, some quite experienced (what was I thinking?) Each time I vowed to myself that I will never bike that far again!

My left thigh would be screaming during the last 10 miles or so and I’d have to slow down significantly. During the one 50-mile ride I attempted, I was in so much pain and was so angry with myself for trying it, that it was all I could do not to fall to the ground in a crumpled heap wailing for help. (definitely crossed the line between discomfort and pain that time)

But with time after each ride my sorry memory would forget the pain when someone mentioned a bike ride, especially if it was on a new trail and I’d hear myself saying, I’ll be there! And without fail, at some point during the ride, I’d begin to wonder if I had serious brain damage that I kept saying yes to long bike rides.

Persistence pays off!

Yesterday I biked 35 miles and while I had the normal pins-and-needles feel a few places, I didn’t have any major pain in my left thigh while I was biking. I could hardly believe it! I rubbed my thigh a few times to see if it had any feeling at all, because not feeling pain from it as I rode had me thinking it went totally numb.

This morning my legs are tired (which is normal for anyone after a long workout) and I still have the pins and needles feel at a few places, but I don’t have any major pain. I’m still shaking my head with a mixture of disbelief and joy! 

As I think back over the last year or so since I’ve increased my exercise (and gave my body better fuel, but that’s another post) I realize the pain has been decreasing, but so slowly that it was hardly noticeable at first.

During training for my May marathon, especially during/after the long runs, my whole body ached from the increased time and distance on my feet, so I didn’t notice a decrease in those pain levels.

But after race day, when my body was rested up again, I noticed that pain had decreased. I think the increased circulation from running longer and farther must have forced some of the compressed nerves to open more, which decreased the pain.

Then in June, I’ve started working out with Chris Kaag at Corp Fitness. Those exercises  caused me to use muscles I didn’t even know I had! Which made it a constant struggle to find the place where I push myself, but not too hard.

But thankfully most times, I found that place, avoided injury, and my whole body is getting stronger. And I guess stronger allowed those nerves to heal even more which is decreasing the pain more.

So running helps biking and biking helps running and the gym helps both… and they all help me in the rest of life. 

Throw in some yoga and the occasional massage and while I’m not totally painfree (actually I assume my pain-o-meter is so skewed that I don’t even know what painfree feels like anymore) I feel better than I had and that’s a victory!

I have a few weeks of tough training ahead of me for the Runner’s World Half on 10/21 and then the New York City Marathon on 11/4, so I’m counting on the fact that thinking through this and writing about it will help me when I don’t feel like giving it my all during a workout.

And I hope it encourages you to move, because everyone (injuries or not) benefits from moving. Don’t push through severe pain, but push through discomfort… because if my story is any indication, you have no idea how good you will feel. 
Update: I’ve also written about how food choices have played a role in my recovery…  A Plant-Based Diet for Fuel, Energy and Less Pain