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October 22, 2013

Through the Fire

Through the FireSky Fire

“What is to give light must endure burning.”
~ Viktor Frankl

 

There is an old saying in the world of fitness:

No pain, no gain.

There is an old joke in medicine that goes like this:

Doctor, it hurts when I do this,” said the patient.
Well, then don’t do that,” said the doctor.

Like an angel and a devil sitting on each shoulder, I often hear both voices at the same time. Yesterday I was at CrossFit™ and our workout had one exercise that just hurt. The weight was too high, the movement too awkward, the feeling was wrong even when I slowed it down. The one voice in my head says It’s just 4 rounds – do it…and then the other voice says that’s 80 reps you crazy woman you will not be able to walk tomorrow.

In the end, the desire to do the workout despite the pain won. It took me longer than almost everyone else, it hurt, and I finished it. But I know the risks. I have had enough injury to know that pushing too hard can do real damage. I have also done enough exercise to know that often, my greatest gains come from finding that edgy space right between pushing hard and pushing too hard and working right there.

Pain, in theory, has a protective element to it. The doctor joke is only half a joke…pain is partly a signal to stop doing the thing that hurts. That said, we can condition ourselves to override some of that. We can raise our pain threshold so that it takes more and more stimulus to get to that place of “stop.” We can convince ourselves that pain is good.

And sometimes it that is fine. Continue reading…

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August 14, 2013

To Fail Better

To Fail Better

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

~ Samuel Beckett

I don’t do failure well. OK, I know that sounds funny. After all, failure is failure and it’s not meant to be beautiful or graceful. Failure more typically looks clumsy and awkward, right?

Tonight at CrossFit we were working on Power Cleans (PC) and Snatches. I was getting comfortable working up to a heavier weight so when we went to start a timed workout that was going to call for 15 PCs and an equal amount of Front Squats, I lightened the weight a bit and figured it was going to be fine. It was the plate push that killed me. Why or why pushing a weight across a stretch of turf make my thighs feel like jelly is still a mystery to me…but I did that plate push one time and the weight I had easily cleaned 5 times just a few minutes earlier wouldn’t get over my knees.

One time. Two times. Three. Nothing.

I put the bar down and stare at it for a minute. Everyone else moves on to the next rep without me.

Eventually I change out my plates and finish up at a lower weight. But inside a part of me hurts. It’s some mix of frustration and anger and embarrassment. I feel a little betrayed by my body and maybe even more betrayed by my mind that somehow could not overcome the obstacle and see a way through. Continue reading…

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July 23, 2013

What’s My Age Again?

What’s My Age Again?

CandlesMy friends say I should act my age

What’s my age again?

What’s my age again?

~ Blink 182

I turned 44 not long ago. Quietly and without fanfare. It was not that I was trying to avoid it, but maybe just trying to let is sneak by unnoticed…

Earlier this year, my friend Larry and I had a conversation about age. It went a lot like this:

Me: I’m still young, lots of time!

Him: What’s your definition of young?

Me: A state of mind, heart and body?

Him: So that means a bright active 85 year old runner is young even though he doesn’t have plenty of time…

Me: Ok, so at what age is someone no longer young regardless of attitude or health? Who is young? Are you young?

Him: No – I am not. Is a 30 yr old young? A 20 yr old? Who is young? And middle age means just that, I won’t live to be over a 100 so I am not middle age I am older then that.

Food for thought right? We live in a youth-oriented culture. Young is a commodity, and aging is a thing we hide at the cost of hair dye, Botox, and perhaps even self-deception. Think about this carefully now: are you young? Really?

Regardless of how we see ourselves, our age is our age. It’s a real number. Just like others that we try to avoid.

I could tell you that one motivation for me to keep up with a pretty aggressive exercise regimen is to stave off time – and there is truth to that. Physical aging happens more quickly in those who don’t actively exercise. And being frankly sedentary will – as many studies now tell us – kill you sooner than otherwise expected.

I rarely feel old, and I am used to being told that I look younger than my years…enough so that sometimes I can fool myself. But if you exercise enough – long enough, hard enough – your age will become more clear.

The first day I walked into a CrossFit class it was intimidating. There was a lot of gear I had never seen and finishing up was a class of exhausted, sweating looking people doing things that I was pretty sure my body was not designed to do. But this is me…I’ll try anything once.

Twice even. Continue reading…

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February 28, 2013

Excuses, Excuses

Excuses, Excuses

It seems like the older I get and the longer I engage in an activity, the more excuses I can find to not do the activity.

This morning it was cold. If you are not a native Californian, please feel free to laugh now. I am sure it was not actually less than 50 degrees outside. But as I contemplated getting dressed for a run…well…I did feel cold.

There can always be something in the way. Cold, Tired. Sick. Stressed. Too much work. Too much laundry. Too many meetings. My life, wonderful as it is, is full of things, big and small, that can stand in the way of a run. Or sleep. Or 10 minutes to just sit and be quiet. Continue reading…

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February 26, 2013

Fits and Starts

Fits and Starts

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.
― Joseph Campbell

IMG_3686

I had sort of abandoned this blog. Still, after all these months, the notes trickle in…we miss you, where did you go, when is it coming back.

There are things we have to do for ourselves, not for others.

After my back injury, I was really frustrated. I healed a little, ran a little, hurt some more. I think I did that for months. I eventually thought I am not going to run again – that was a fun experiment, but my body has called it quits. I rode a bike, went back to yoga, walked, stared at my running shoes. Continue reading…

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June 28, 2012

Perspectives on Pain

Perspectives on Pain

Tomorrow is my birthday and I will have been running – and sometimes not running – for a year.

That seems crazy. I am sure I’ll have something more to say about it when I wake up.

Today, I have been just over 24 hours without medication for my back and my whole right leg is very unhappy about that – so it should not surprise anyone that I am going to say something about pain.

Pain is one of the great secretes of running. (and don’t any of you deny it)

When you are a non-runner, you look at runners along the side of the road or on treadmills or wherever and you think: Wow, that looks painful! You might even occasionally ask a runner why they would engage in an activity that looks like it hurts and they might laugh and say: Running doesn’t hurt – it feels great!

When you start running, you quickly learn that pain is just part of what you sign up for. Seasoned runners are kind of like military veterans. They won’t just go about telling everyone about their battle injuries – but once they know you are part of the team they all have a story or 5 or 10 to share because now they know you will understand. You hurt your foot and someone is there to tell you about their chronic plantar fasciitis or their last broken toe. Get hip pain and sure enough you will suddenly find 3 runners to tell you about their bursitis. Knee pain? No worries – five of your new runner friends will tell you about how they came back from that ACL repair and that that was the very thing that pushed them to a new personal record or their first marathon.

And you are going to tell me that running doesn’t hurt???

Running does hurt. Seriously. Let’s just all admit that. But it also feels great and this is the catch. When you pass that point where the feels great part exceeds the part where it hurts you are hooked.

Maybe that’s when you actually become a runner.

At least I can tell you this – ever since this injury got me to the place where I physically can’t run, I miss it all the time. Each and every time I see a runner on the road or the beach or simply tying their shoes, I get a little pang of sadness, envy, longing. I want that to be me.

Here is a true story from this morning. Continue reading…

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June 27, 2012

Up One Hill and Up Another

Up One Hill and Up Another

I got my MRI results today and I could use this space right here to review it and grieve over it a bit more, but I am not going to.

At least not today.

Today I spoke briefly on the phone with an old friend who always cheers me up. We mostly didn’t talk about my back, but about love and relationship and family and life. I just felt better when we hung up.

Tonight as I was reflecting on my day, I remembered a trip he and I took together in college to Yosemite National Park. We were camped for a time by a little lake in a more remote area of the northern part of the park. Beyond the lake was a ridge that looked like it must have a great view. The first day we set up camp we decided we should go up there to see the sunset. It took almost an hour to get to the top…and we found it was not the top at all. There was another higher ridge just beyond. So we watched the sunset from there and decided to try for the higher peak the next morning.

In the morning we set out. Up the first ridge, across a little flat, up the second ridge to the top…but no…seriously. Not the top, but another peak just beyond that. No problem it was early, we set out for the next one. Get to the top and then go back to camp for lunch. Up we go. What we found there was not what we had imagined. From the top of that ridge, we faced a mountain. A really, really big mountain. All those “peaks” it seemed had just been the foot hills.

For us, on that day, the mountain was just too big. We had not prepared for it.

I started running almost a year ago. I have had challenges on many levels but this thing with pain has been an interesting voyage. Continue reading…

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June 14, 2012

A Rocky Moment

A Rocky Moment

 

 

 

 

 

 

So while I sit around not running this week waiting on my ultrasound results, I might as well tell you about some other things.

At the end of May, I had the pleasure of going to Philadelphia and attending the annual meeting of the American Academy of Clinical Endocrinologists. I had not been to Philadelphia since I was a teenager, and was hoping to get out at least a little and see some of the city.

Since I took up running, and I travel often for work, it has become kind of a fun adventure to find cool places to run when I am away from home. When it turned out that the Philadelphia Museum of Art was almost exactly a mile and a half from my hotel…well, how could I resist. And, yes, I took a picture with the statue too. And no, I am not going to post that. Continue reading…

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June 13, 2012

Got Your Panties?

Got Your Panties?

A few of you have asked where I have been. I have a lot of blogging to catch up on. It will all help to explain why I spent the better part of 3 hours at the office of an orthopedic surgeon today.

But I want to start with this.

Two weekends ago, me and my two friends – W and B – we took a little mom-cation to Palm Springs. When moms are away, they talk. Not about the kinds of things men think they talk about. Surprisingly, even when what we are trying to do is get a day away from our kids, we talk about our kids.

B told this story:

She has a habit of doing a sort of oral check list when she leaves the house – “Got my phone, got my keys, got my purse…” You get the picture. So one day, she is folding laundry and her 18 month old toddles up when she is folding and says “Mommy, what’s that?” “Those are panties,” says B. “They are sort of like pull-ups for grown ups.” Sort of.

So the next day, they are leaving the house and B is doing her checklist. “Got my phone, got my keys…”

“Got your panties?” chirps her child.

We all laughed. B then recounted how her mom had always stressed that she should always have on nice panties in case she had to flee a fire in the middle of the night. After all, we can’t have firemen seeing us in old panties…or worse.

Now it was my turn to really laugh. My mom used to say the same thing. Seriously – how many of us got that advice drilled into us when we were growing up? But even more I figured I aught to tell my girlfriends about the time I did happen to end up in my panties with a group of firemen. Continue reading…

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May 14, 2012

Races with Girlfriends

Races with Girlfriends

Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.

Oprah Winfrey

So much has changed for me in 11 months of running that it’s hard to wrap my mind around it.

If you had ever ever told me I would even think of entering a race – even months after I started running I might have called you silly to your face. When I first started running, people constantly asked me what I was training for. I quickly realized that this is common conversation between runners – many of whom run (at least in part) so that they can participate in races.

This was a conversation that happened the other day when I was running with a friend. I was a hot day and we were stopped on the side of the path at a drinking fountain. Another runner – I think she was from South Africa – stopped about the same time.

My friend: Hot day, huh?

Other runner: Oh yes!

My friend: Are you out here training for something?

Other runner: Not at the moment…(pause)…but there is always something to train for right!

And she flashes a happy, sweaty smile and takes off. Continue reading…

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