Category Archives: Exercise

Runner Art, Color Run and 5K Challenge

Last week I had Running on the brain.

After several requests to attempt a painting geared for runners I decided to dive in and see what I could come up with.  I worked for days on end, got stuck, quit – then came back to it until I finally finished it:

I am a Runner

 

 

I wanted this piece to be for anyone who runs, whether competitively or for fun, young or old. I researched popular quotes and none of them really seemed to fit with the piece so I took a few words from here and there and added a few of my own.  In all, I think it turned out pretty well for my first try.

Another reason why running was on my mind is because I joined Kyra’s Virtual 5K Challenge as a means to help keep me in shape since I spend so much time sitting and painting.  This challenge she’s created is pretty fantastic and SO organized – she has a Facebook Group set up so that runners can talk with one another, she’s offering prizes (including a print from my painting above) and she even had merchandise made (t-shirt, anyone?)  You can find out all about it.  Just click on the icon below:

 

Little did I know that joining this 5K would not only keep me motivated to get regular exercise but as it turns out, it’s also going to help me train for an ACTUAL 5K race!  No, there’s nothing wrong with your eyes – you read right.  I signed up for my first 5K race, right here in town:  The Color Run.  Now, to those of you who’ve done this race before I know it’s not the same as other races because participants spend more time getting splattered with paint than they do run, but still, I’m terribly excited.  I even put my own team together, including my husband who is not a runner at ALL!  The race date happens to be our wedding anniversary, so that will make it extra special.

A few of you might be wondering how all of this training is affecting my back since I gave up running several months ago because of my back issues.   Well, I am working on a post that will serve as an update on how things have been going since I figured out what was actually wrong with my back (if you missed it you can read that post here) and I’m eager to share my progress with you.

Have a good week, everyone.

 

Run! (through the Forest), Run!

Guess who went for a run yesterday?  Yep.  Me. 

I hear you.  You’re saying, ‘With your back?  Are you crazy?  Didn’t you swear that you were done with running – FOREVER?’

Let me just say that I didn’t intend on going for a run;  it’s just that I didn’t have much choice.

 

Craig wanted to get out of the house.  He’s been off work for over a month and is trying to regain some of his strength since having surgery last week, so he thought he’d go with me while I walked the dogs.  Great! I thought.  I don’t mind walking the dogs alone but it goes a lot faster when there is someone to talk to along the way. 

There happens to be an Osprey’s nest about 1/4 of a mile from where we park our car.  It is sectioned off so the birds can’t be bothered but there is a pathway in which one can walk the entire perimeter of the nest.  I’ve been wanting to do a larger watercolor of nesting Osprey for a couple of years now but have never had the time to set up my tripod and take good reference photos.   Together, we came up with a plan: we’d all walk to the nesting site where I’d set up the tripod and camera; leave Craig to take photos while I walked the perimeter with the dogs.  We’d circle around, meet back up and then all walking back to the car together. 

All went according to plan until we started heading back up the path to collect Craig.  Emmie, as you know is a rescue dog.  She has her quirks, which don’t bother me in the least – that is, until I need her to do something and she refuses.  Emmie is very sensitive when it comes to the weather and heard a distant rumble of thunder and that was that.  She sat flat on her butt and refused to move unless it was towards the car.  Normally as long as I wait patiently she comes around, but yesterday?  Not going to happen in a million years! 

I was too far to yell to Craig that we were ‘stuck’ and that I had no choice but to take the dogs back to the car, so off we went.  At first I walked as quickly as I could but then I started realizing that I’d been gone way too long already.  And of course, it was the ONE day that neither of us brought our phones so I had no way to tell him where we were or what was happening.  My fast walk became a jog and then I started running with the dogs to the car.  When we arrived I looked like I was having an asthma attack.  I fumbled around, opened the door and they hopped inside.  Then I realized how hot it was inside the car.  Damn it!  I can’t just leave them in the car! 

I drove to a shady spot and opened up the sunroof on the car and lowered the windows – then ran back to the Osprey nest where Craig stood wondering what on earth was going on.   As soon as I saw him I stopped and bent over like I was going to vomit.  Out of breath with legs that felt like rubber I choked out that the dogs were in the car and that I had to get back to them right away.  I grabbed the camera and tripod, asked if he was okay and could make the walk back on his own (he said yes to both), turned around and ran back to the car.

By the time I got back I thought I was going to pass out.  Note to self: I definitely, DEFINITELY need more cardio! 

Craig slowly came out of the wooded area about 15 minutes later where the dogs and I were in the car waiting. 

…and the photos?  Here’s a sample from the nearly 60 images he took:

blogosprey

There are young ones on the nest and I will be making an effort to go back when they get bigger.  This is Mama Osprey looking straight at Craig.  Notice that she’s looking directly at the camera. She looks like she wants to swoop down and knock him unconscious.  And, um….did you notice the talons on this raptor?  Yikes!

Today, I’m definitely feeling the effects of that run.  My lower back is achy and sore, and for some reason so is my incision site from surgery last year (HELLO body!!  Did you not get the memo that I’m supposedly all healed by now??)  As long as I don’t overdo today, I should be fine. 

Have a good Thursday;  I’ll be back tomorrow with my Gratitude Photo Friday post, along with an update on Craig. 

No Mercy for Maintainers

It was after 7:30 am and I was still waiting for the doctor to arrive.  My husband made a valiant attempt at keeping me calm but I knew the longer I waited, the more anxious I was going to get. 

The nurse poked her head into the door and before she could say anything I asked, ‘When is the doctor due to arrive?’ 

‘He won’t be here until 8, but there is a video we like to show new patients so I’m going to put that on for you to watch.  He should be here by the time you finish up.’ she said.  She hit the Play button and moments later my doctor appeared on the TV screen welcoming me to the hospital’s Pain Clinic.  He began discussing why chronic pain plays a part in a vicious cycle for patients. ‘When you’re in chronic pain,‘ said the doctor on TV, ‘it’s difficult to exercise.  When we don’t exercise, numerous things begin to happen – we grow weaker, and sometimes begin to gain weight.  Because of this, depression can set in, and…’  I could finish the rest of that sentence without the video’s help:  when you’re depressed, you have little motivation to do anything, including exercise because you’re in pain.  Throw in for good measure one’s tendency to binge eat when she’s under stress and you have a vicious cycle that can be debilitating if not tended to.

When I worked for my dear elderly friend Patty, I watched as pain slowly robbed her of any desire and subsequent ability to perform simple tasks without becoming short-winded and weak. Arthritis had taken over and she lost her will to exercise daily even though she knew if she didn’t make the effort to move regardless, her body would deteriorate which, unfortunately, is what happens to many people.  Sometimes the pain becomes such a major player in our lives, everything else seems futile.

 

This year will mark my 8th year of maintaining a 100+ pound weight loss.  I feel confident saying that the past 9 months have been the most challenging I have ever faced as a maintainer. Major surgery and a subsequent degenerative disc issue in my back have been actively threatening my livelihood. 

I have always relied on the act of movement to help keep my weight steady and my body strong, but as of late I’ve felt like a swimmer struggling against a very strong current, just barely able to keep her head above water.  What does one do when her Golden Key to Success is being threatened?  Does she sink, or does she swim?

Some things I’ve noted during this time of transition :

What works today may not work tomorrow.  To me this means I can’t always rely on exercising that extra length of time to compensate for that double-serving lemon square I chose to eat.  I am constantly re-evaluating what I can and cannot consume.  Despite my best effort I am not always going to be able to have my cake and eat it, too; bodies age; we suffer injuries.  Adjustments are necessary and crucial in maintenance. 

When I was heavy I often thought of my body as my enemy and I have recently noticed these feelings trying to resurface. As a result, I am constantly reminding myself to be flexible.  If I am in too much pain to do my regular exercise routine I do have other muscle groups that I can work on (hello, hand weights).

Having something else to focus on is extremely helpful.  I built my online business while recuperating from surgery last year.  I engrossed myself into my art and the therapeutic benefits I gained from making that decision has brought me so much satisfaction, I cannot begin to describe it.   A few weeks ago when I was getting very little relief in my back, I still managed to paint in short, mini bursts throughout the day as much as my body could tolerate.  When I called the painting finished, I stepped back and saw that I was probably doing some of the best work of my career:

…perhaps the most important thing of which I’ve noticed is how important it is to have a solid support system in place in the form of friends (online and off) and family – people whom I can turn to when I need to vent, want to eat, or have a hand to hold onto. 

 

It’s now Friday morning and I am attempting to type this while laying on my side in bed.  It’s been 2 days since my spinal injection and I continue to wait while the side effects of the shot dissipate so I can see whether or not it will provide the relief I desperately need.   I am getting ready to put away my computer and go to my closet where my workout clothes lay. I will do what I attempted to do without success yesterday: walk beyond half a mile.  Today, I will aim for a mile; tomorrow, I will attempt to go farther. 

I may not be moving on yet, but I’m moving, nonetheless.  Right now, that’s what’s important. 

Have a good weekend, everyone,

xo,

~Ellen

Today’s post brought to you by the letter M

Missing:

I’ve been scarce, lately.  No post since Monday, and I’ve not been reading any blogs, either.  In fact, I’ve barely been on the computer.  I haven’t exactly gone missing but it kind of feels like it.  So, here’s what’s going on….

MRI:

…as in, Monday I have an MRI scheduled for my lower back.  It’s getting increasingly worse. Acupuncture has not helped; in fact, it seems to make my back feel even more angry.  I’ve been rotating between walking and laying down.  I can’t sit for more than 5 minutes at a time (unless I’m pretty medicated) and standing still is impossible.  So, I’m either walking on the treadmill at a slow but steady pace or I’m on the floor doing yoga stretches.  This has made my time in the studio very challenging.  I can’t paint and walk at the same time so I’m doing very short but furious bursts in between.  Not an easy task.  Still, I did manage to finish this little guy:

I went to the doctor yesterday and there may be a change in my diagnosis of degenerative disc disease.  He used words like bulging and/or ruptured disc. I asked him point-blank whether the excess weight in my younger days could have contributed to my condition.  Of course he couldn’t answer this with complete certainty but he assured me that if I were still carrying around those extra 100+ pounds I could likely be completely immobile right now.  This brings me to something I cannot stress enough: don’t abuse your body.  Respect every aspect of it, because It has to serve you the rest of your life.

Minus the Mister:

Tomorrow, my husband and I were supposed to be heading to Arizona to visit his sister.  I had to make the difficult decision to give up my ticket.  Sitting that long is an impossibility for me.  This was not an easy choice, but it’s the only answer for me if I want to protect my back from further irritation.  Besides, couldn’t you just see me in Arizona and then have my back go out?  I mean yes, there are worse things than being stuck in Arizona but what a nightmare that would be!  After a long discussion, I convinced my husband to go without me.  At least one ticket will be used and honestly, he really needs to get to a warmer climate for a few days.  Working outside in this single digit weather can be unbelievably draining.  So, it looks like I’m going to be a bachelorette for a few days.

Maintenance:

As part of my decision to continue with my Gratitude Jar, it has become easier to find things to be grateful about even when I could feel sorry for myself for having another health crisis less than a year after major surgery.  Since walking eases my pain, it’s been a breeze maintaining my weight.  Chronic pain kind of takes away my appetite, anyway.   I can’t imagine what it would be like if I were completely unable to move.  I swear I’ll never again complain about my ‘dreadmill’.  It has literally saved my sanity.

All right folks, I’m outta here for now.  Be good to yourself this weekend and I’ll see you back here sometime next week. 

xo,

Ellen

Progress Report!

It’s been a while since I’ve given an update post on my physical health, so guess what?  Today is your unlucky LUCKY day!  Actually, I’ve been waiting to post about my health until I’ve had something good to report.  Recovery can be so incredibly slow, sometimes it feels like you’re not making any progress at all until one day you wake up, put on your jeans and find that HEY, today the zipper is going up while the swelling is going down!  Yay!!

Actually, more importantly than jeans fitting (I’m loving my yoga pants too much these days) is my stamina increasing.  This week I achieved a milestone and captured it on Instagram:

 

This is a photo of me wearing my giant Elton John-style sunglasses along with my hiking companions.  We just finished my longest walk/hike since surgery: 2.75 miles!  Brulee was particularly excited for me – can you tell? 

The best part?  Very little fatigue afterwards.  Translation:  no zonking out on the couch as soon as I walk back through the door.  Progress!! 

Here are a few more shots on the trail over the past week or so:

 

 

The above shot was taken earlier last week, before the rain from Hurricane Sandy sent the remaining leaves falling to the ground.  (By the way, if you’re on Instagram and like me to follow you, just leave your username in the comments section. If you’d like to follow me, my username is:  ellenbrennemanstudio)

 

All in all, I am happy to be feeling more like myself.  I still have to plan carefully, though.  I can’t seem to get to yoga class on the days that I hike; it’s simply too much.  I’m incorporating both back into my life, but alternating accordingly. 

Taking these long walks has been great for my mind as well as my health.  I think about new ideas for paintings, listen to music, and when I’m ready to focus on something else, I’ve been listening to Rob Lowe’s book, ‘Stories I Only Tell My Friends’.

Initially, I wasn’t really interested in this book. Despite the fact that he’s been around as long as I have, I just recently became a Rob Lowe fan thanks to Parks and Recreation.  The audiobook I wanted was checked out, so I grabbed this one instead.  I have to tell you, this book has been such a great read.  Narrated by Rob, he is a master storyteller, and he leaves no stone unturned.   Even if you aren’t a fan, I think you’d enjoy it.  I just finished it today and was sorry that it ended – a sure sign that you’re reading a great book!

My plans for the weekend are pretty much laid out for me.  I’ve been painting tiny three by three inch canvases and turning them into ornaments for Christmas by drilling a hole through the stretcher and stringing through ribbon.  I decided that I’m going to paint them until I no longer enjoy doing them; then that will be it.  I don’t know how some of these Etsy sellers can churn out identical wares over and over again.  I admire them, but I’d go mad working that way.  Anyway, this is the result of what my weekend will look like:

Anyone else have specific plans this weekend?  I hope you all have a good one!  See you back here next week Smile

XO,

Ellen

Best Walk Ever

Earlier this week I gave a hint at some exciting news around my house that was making not only me happy but also my dogs. Vickie wondered whether a new cat had moved in next door (she was awarded the prize for the most interesting guess, btw)

My news is absolutely HUGE….. to me.  You probably won’t have any trouble dialing it down a bit when you read about it, because – well, it IS only my ability to take the dogs for a walk…a 2 mile walk; by myself!!

Yes, after over four months of living in a bad scene from the movie Groundhog Day, I can finally say that I am making great strides in my recovery.  Strides. Get it?  (Yes, I know it’s corny, but I’m high on life right now so let’s pretend that was funny). 

It’s been over a month since I tried walking the dogs by myself. The last time I ended up with a terribly swollen abdomen and incision pain for days afterward. What a difference a month can make!

So, to commemorate this next chapter in my life – the one where I begin the slow journey back to that physically strong woman I vaguely remember, I leave you with some photos that I took on what I’m now appropriately referring to as ‘The Best Walk EVER’.

 

 

The official Start of our walk together:

 

The beginning of our walk!

Some beautiful foliage along the way:

 

We came to one of Brulee and Emmie’s favorite holes.  I don’t know what lives under that uprooted tree, but the dogs always, without fail, pay a visit.

 

 

This photo came out a bit fuzzy because Emmie was getting frustrated that we were stopping to take so many photos and she jiggled the camera a bit.  Still, look at those colors!

 

 

And finally, on our way back to the car.  Is it any wonder why I’m painting nothing but trees right now? 

 

Being able to take my dogs for a walk is a goal that I’ve been waiting to achieve since the beginning of summer.  Being able to actually do it and suffer no consequence makes me feel like my body starting to forgive me for allowing this surgery.  

I’ve been so inspired by my progress and the colors of the trees lately, that I’ve begun a series of inspirational quote paintings.  Here is one I finished earlier this week:

 

2tree

It reads: 

“I am still standing.  Through wind, rain or drought.  I am rooted, still.”

And that about sums things up right now. 

Have a great weekend, everyone. 

~Ellen

Crossing the Finish Line: My interview with a Fleet Feet Sports trainer.

Writing primarily about maintenance and weight loss over the past two years has allowed me to meet some very interesting people online.   Chances are, if you’ve stumbled over my blog it’s because you are looking to connect with someone who has similar interests.  I expect to find health conscious people visiting me on a daily basis here; but imagine my surprise when I met a like-minded, kind and interesting woman by the name of Laurie while on vacation in Florida this past May.  Before Craig and I left to return home, she and I exchanged contact information and we’ve been emailing each other ever since. 

Laurie, along with the local Fleet Feet Sports store in her hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, bring together people of all ages and sizes and lead them in a program called No Boundaries. This program targets beginners and is structured to help them cross the finish line of their first 5K. 

Hello.  My name is Ellen and I am not a runner, but if I walked into a Fleet Feet store and came face-to-face with the following poster, it just might force me to reconsider that which I think defines me.

 

 

As I learned more about Laurie and what she does for the health conscious community I simply couldn’t resist asking for an interview.  Luckily she said yes, and I’m grateful to help spread the word about people like Laurie, Fleet Feet Sports, and the programs they sponsor like No Boundaries

First though, here’s a bit of an introduction about Laurie: 

At the age of 38 she signed up for the Race for the Cure 5K in Knoxville.  Though she never ran before, she was doing strength training and walking around 20 miles a week.  She and a group were supposed to walk the course.  A few however, decided to run so Laurie ran as well.  When the others took a walk break, she just kept on running.  That was in 1997 and she’s never looked back.  “Crossing that finish line gave me an amazing sense of accomplishment, and I’ve been running ever since,” said Laurie. “I have completed approximately 250 races of various distances over the last 15 years, including three 100 mile relays and one 200 mile relay. So far this year I have run half marathons in Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina. I competed in the Palm 100, a 6-person, 100 mile relay from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach and back. I enjoy traveling to races, and hope to run a half marathon in all 50 states. I still have 38 states to go!”

 

 

When I asked Laurie to share some of her favorite races, I could tell that narrowing them down wasn’t going to be an easy task.

“Some of my favorite local races are Hot to Trot on Thanksgiving Day, which is a Fleet Feet sponsored race that gives pottery mugs to age group winners. The store owners choose a charity to support each year,” she said. “Also, New Year’s Day 5K where the first 100 runners of each gender to cross the finish line receive a wine glass; the Santa Hustle half marathon and 5K, where everyone receives a Santa shirt, hat & beard to wear during the race; the Norris Dam 12K Challenge, which is a hilly, winter race in a state park, and where the post race refreshments include a chili competition; and the Cross Knox 10 Miler, which is run entirely on greenways. I like to do any race that benefits a cause.”

 

I’d never heard of Fleet Feet Sports since there isn’t a store located in my area, so I asked Laurie a bit about the program and how she became involved in helping others find the joy of running.

“I became involved with Fleet Feet when I completed the Triathlon 101 program and began coaching in February 2011,” she said. “The No Boundaries program is a Fleet Feet Sports couch to 5K training program. There are two coach-led training sessions per week, and a training plan is provided for the other days.”

Laurie is a certified Fleet Feet coach, which means that she had to attend their training program, pass an exam and obtain First Aid/CPR certification. She currently coaches the No Boundaries and Next Steps program, which is a 10K training program. Not challenging enough for you? No worries, because Fleet Feet offers training programs for half marathons, marathons, and triathlons as well.

 

What piqued my interest in the No Boundaries program however, was that, dare I say – even I could do it; that it would be something I’d actually be interested in doing!   “Anyone who is healthy enough to walk can participate in the No Boundaries program,” said Laurie. “We have 3 No Boundaries programs each year, and each program has a goal race. Some participants walk the race, some run/walk, and some run the entire distance. Many of our participants go on to the Next Steps or Long Distance programs. Some repeat the No Boundaries program to improve their time and/or to keep themselves accountable. If you don’t show up for training, you will be contacted to see if you’re alright.”

“We offer clinics on hydration, nutrition, and gear selection. Coaches can be contacted via email between training sessions. Once a month, a local physical therapy office comes to the store for free evaluations. We want people to succeed, and try to equip them with the tools they need.”

Listening to Laurie talk about the No Boundaries Program made me wonder if I might be better off training in a group environment instead of using my standby method: a C25K IPhone app and my treadmill. I asked her a bit more about the types of people that she trains.

 

“Fleet Feet provides a comfortable environment for people of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Some of our participants struggle with walking a mile, and others can run that distance. There are participants with issues such as arthritis, diabetes, and obesity. Children may participate in a training program if a parent is also enrolled, and we have participants in their 70s,” she said.

“The participants are very supportive of each other, and form friendships that last beyond the end of the program. As long as their doctor approves, they can participate. Some of our participants have reached a certain age and realized that they need to take care of themselves in order to take care of their families. Others were athletic when they were younger, and want to return to a healthy lifestyle. I have watched some of my first trainees go from completing a 5K to completing a half marathon in less than a year. Others are sticking with the 5K and 10K distances. There’s a place for everyone at Fleet Feet.”

Finally, I asked what inspires her most about the participants in the program.  “I am most inspired by our participants who are a little overweight, in less than optimal physical condition, and who aren’t convinced they can actually cover the 5K distance,” she said.  “To watch their transformation over 8 to 10 weeks is wonderful. The self-confidence gained by completing the program and crossing the finish line of their goal race is hard to describe, and many of them are moved to tears. The coaches certainly are!”

Interested? Just walk into your local Fleet Feet Store and ask about their No Boundaries Program or one of the many other training programs they offer.  If you’re like me and don’t have a Fleet Feet store nearby, Laurie suggests to use Google and do a little research on what is available locally such as running clubs.  Perhaps even some employers might offer a similar program.

“The first step is the hardest,” said Laurie.  “But the majority of runners are nice people who enjoy helping others enjoy running.”

I think it’s fantastic to know that these types of resources exist.   Sometimes it’s easier to take that first step when you’re surrounded with knowledgeable people who want to support you in a safe, encouraging, positive environment.  Many thanks to Laurie and Fleet Feet of Knoxville, Tennessee, for providing such an important service to their community. 

 

Have you participated in a Fleet Feet Program or similar running program in your area?

Before I forget…

Oh my gosh, where has the summer gone?  It’s early September and already the weather is getting cooler, the leaves are changing, and pumpkins are gracing the shelves in my local supermarkets.  Even though I’m not ready to perch a pumpkin on my porch, I did snap up this beast of a mango:

I love mangoes but the ones that I see year round cost so much yet offer so little they’re barely worth the price, so I haven’t been buying them.  But these babies are full of juicy, sweet goodness.  Look at all of the flesh I was able to cut off of one mango:

Craig and I were fighting over the last few bites.  I’m going to have to grab a few more from the store before they make another disappearance!

 

Not much has been happening this week.  Or, maybe something did and I just can’t remember.  As my doctor and I work on leveling out my hormones, I have been experiencing some strange occurrences – my memory has been terrible, and I’m definitely not as sharp as I was before surgery.  A fellow blogger called it Brain Fog and knew exactly what I was referring to.  She made me feel better by stating that it is a common symptom for peri-menopausal/menopausal women.  My husband was more than relieved to hear this and has since been spending time researching; yes, that’s how bad it’s been.  I’ve spent the last couple of weeks certain that we have kleptomaniac night-gnomes living in our house.  Things that I use on a regular basis have come up missing, only to eventually find them resurfacing in closets, drawers that I rarely use and yes, even the freezer (*ahem* that’s where I found my spatula).  I long for the day when I no longer have to yell out, ‘Where on earth are my SHOES?!’

All I can say is thank goodness I don’t have to concentrate while I paint.  My mind goes on autopilot when I pull out the paintbrushes and I go by instinct which is great for my creative side; my business side however – oh, boy.  This is one of those times when I wish I had someone to do all of my marketing, networking and paperwork and leave me to just paint.  I think most creative types are that way, though. 

Anyway, here is this week’s Etsy painting:

The photo that inspired this painting was taken while visiting the Center for Birds of Prey outside of Charleston, South Carolina earlier this year where this Great Horned Owl was rehabilitating from an injury. To see such a magnificent bird that close and personal was a rare and amazing experience.  I simply had to get a close-up of the talons on this guy.  Check them out:

 

 

I am planning on taking a break from blogging and from my Etsy shop for most of next week.  My husband is on vacation and it feels like ages since we’ve spent any quality time together.  I will however, be working on a post that I’m beyond excited to share with you.  I was able to snag an interview with an exceptionally interesting and very kind woman that I met while on vacation in May of this year.  Her name is Laurie and she’s the kind of person who radiates when talking about something she’s passionate about.  One of Laurie’s passions is running.  So much so, that she coaches a Couch to 5K program (as in, if you’ve never ran in your life, you can become a runner) as well as a 10K training program.  Now as you all know, I am not a runner; but hearing Laurie talk about the program she’s involved in really ignited a spark within me.  She made me re-think the possibility of running again – maybe even signing up for one of these training programs to help get me back into the shape I was in before surgery!  I’m very excited to have this opportunity to share Laurie’s story and information about this program that might just be waiting for you in your town!  Stay tuned!

Have a great weekend, everyone. 

XO,

~Ellen

 

Retro Walk Revisit

The other day my husband and I were driving down the road towards the pet store.  We were officially out of treats for the dogs and they let us know it that morning when they sat at the empty treat jar on the counter long after Craig left for work and I started painting.  So, because our dogs are severely spoiled rotten we love our dogs so much, we headed out at 6:30 that evening despite the fact that it was raining. 

 

Craig was driving which gave me a chance to sit back and gaze out the window.  I spotted a figure alongside the road, probably about 50 yards ahead of us.  I watched as we grew closer to each other.  For some reason, though I couldn’t figure out why at the time, this person looked odd.  It wasn’t until I was nearly 30 feet away that I realized what the young man was doing. 

‘Hey!!’  I said to Craig and pointed.   ‘He’s retro-walking!’ which is my term for walking backwards.

Since my surgery a couple of months ago I’ve been fighting to stay active.  My definition of active has changed considerably since surgery.   Before, I had a hard time finding a moment to sit down long enough to tie my shoes.  Post-surgery however, has left me struggling to get back into a routine.  Everything makes me tired.  Everything.  In fact, right now I need to get up and brush my teeth but if I do, I’ll come back to this laptop and instead of finishing my post I’ll set it on the floor because I’ll need a nap after all that activity.  lol

(Rest easy, ladies – retro walking has not changed my lower body type to that of the opposite sex.  The guy has good lookin’ legs though, no?) 

 

Retro-walking has actually been one of the few things I’ve been able to do that leaves me feeling tired, but in a good kind of way.  I used to do this as an exercise during the winter months when it was too cold to walk outside and I needed something, anything to take the boredom out of walking on the dreadmill in my dank basement.   I’d read that it was good when recovering from an injury because it was easier on the joints, but happily found out that it was easy on the entire body as well, even after abdominal surgery.  I was able to start out as slowly as I needed and still felt the benefits of elevated heart rate.  Just so you know, retro-walking increases heart rate up to 47% more than when walking forward!

Another benefit to retro-walking after surgery was that it helped with my post-anesthesia ‘brain fog’.  For weeks I suffered from a hazy state of mind (remember when I accidently signed up for an online dating service?)  When walking backwards, either by treadmill or on any flat surface it takes some getting used to.  You really have to think about what you’re doing.   I had to clip the safety key from the treadmill to the tail of my shirt so if I veered off the platform I could just pull away from the key and not careen into the wall. 

This brings me to another reason why I was intrigued by the guy I saw the other day.  I for one, wouldn’t dream of walking backward on a busy street.  Knowing me, I’d step smack in the middle of a pothole or worse: road kill.   No thanks.  For me, I like the safety of my treadmill for this exercise.  If you on the other hand, are a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, throwing all caution to the wind kind of person and want to head out right now and try it for yourself, here are a few tips that will keep you safe whether inside or outside:

 

  1. if using the treadmill, start out slowly.  Give your body time to get used to the motion of walking backward.  After all, how often do you normally do this, right?  
  2. the recommended distance for the first week is .25 of a mile. 
  3. clip the safety key from your treadmill to the tail of your shirt.  This way, if you should happen to lose your balance, you won’t hurt yourself.
  4. Once you feel comfortable enough, let go of the side bars on the treadmill.  You’ll get the most benefit this way.
  5. if retro walking outside, start out on a smooth running track, or walk with a partner who will forward walk; this way he or she can warn you of potholes, uneven ground (again, think potholes) and help you set your pace.

One of the things that I find upsetting here in my neck of the woods is that there are barely any sidewalks on which to walk.  It’s unfortunate if you want the convenience of putting on your shoes and heading out the front door.  Unless I want to be in my basement on the treadmill I have to get in my car and drive elsewhere in order to exercise.  A friend of mine once wrote to the mayor of our city and asked why there were no sidewalks.  The answer? They didn’t want anyone walking because they felt it was too dangerous for pedestrians.  Well then, where do we walk?   There are plenty of places for bikers, but walkers still struggle in finding a safe place to exercise. 

Is it just me or have sidewalks become a thing of the past?  I remember when I was a kid and it was strange NOT to see a sidewalk.  Do you have sidewalks where you live?

Starting Over

I am not a runner. 

Heck, I’m not even much of a walker right now. 

I’m sure you’ve seen this photo in some form or another.  Maybe on Pinterest or around the Net, but in case you haven’t:

 

Right now, I would love nothing more than to run like the little girl on the bottom.  Seriously. 

When I went to my post-op appointment my doctor said that I could begin incorporating my normal routine back into my life as tolerated. ‘Yoga? Sure, you can slowly begin doing that. You can even do some light jogging!’ he said with enthusiasm.

Light jogging?! Is he joking?  I know for a fact that if I even attempted something like that, well…..let’s just say the outcome wouldn’t be pretty.

 

I’m having déjà vu moments these days.  When my mind tells me that I must try to get up and exercise – any exercise, my body simply fights the idea.

I’m tired.

It’s too hard.

It’s physically draining.

How about I don’t but say I did? 

These are the same phrases I used when I was 100 pounds heavier.  In many ways I have never felt more like the fat girl wearing thin than I do right now.  My circumstances may be different – I need to put on some weight due to the post surgery blahs, but  thin doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. Or strong.  Or competent.  Or physically stable, even.   I may not be carrying the weight this time around, but I feel as if that healthy gal I long to be, is far,far from my grasp.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I am making progress, though my definition of progress is the fact that I’ve mastered the art of rolling out of bed without wincing.  Pain and fatigue seem to be my BFFs right now.  I encountered a minor setback this past Monday when I fell going up the stairs; no serious damage done but I’ve been pretty uncomfortable all week long thanks to that little spill. Still, I simply couldn’t allow any more time to pass without doing something physically productive.  So, I started forcing myself to walk on the treadmill.  Currently, it takes about 30 minutes to walk 1 mile.  I do the majority of that walking with one hand on the machine, the other hand gently holding onto my stomach.   

This is certainly not where I thought I’d be five weeks after surgery.  Hearing from other women who have had this type of surgery provides a bit of comfort in the way that at least I don’t feel so abnormal.  Almost every woman I’ve been in contact with has said that it’s taken anywhere from six months to a year before they started feeling really good again. 

If that’s the case then I’m officially placing myself back at the starting line; square one.  It’s been a while since I’ve had to start over.  I thought that part was behind me, but clearly life hands us surprises now and again, and we either face them or we don’t.  My body was far from perfect before my surgery, but I felt healthy, strong.  I want that strength back, no matter how long it takes. 

So, the million dollar question is: how do I start?  Well, I’ve done this before so I should know, but what I needed was motivation.  I started pouring through old journals, hoping for some entries that described what I was doing in the beginning.  I didn’t find anything relevant so I went to Sahar’s FatFighterTV and read through the amazing stories of my fellow maintainers like Jane, Lynn, and Cammy.  Then I  reread my story.  It was a very emotional read.  In one sense I was deeply saddened because I’m clearly not at the level of health I was when that article was published.  It was as if I were gaining strength from someone else’s story.  The following words were the ones that jumped out at me:

…I focused solely on one thing: moving my body. I bought a pedometer, attached it to my waist, and kept track of how many steps I was already averaging; then I aimed for 500 additional steps every few days until I reached the recommended 10,000 steps a day.

Wearing the pedometer gave me instant gratification because I could see my progress at any given time.

Moving my body was the key to my success all those years ago.  Here today over a decade later, it’s still the one thing that’s going to be critical if I want to get back in shape and stay that way, so I’ve got to get back to basics: dig out that pedometer, and literally take it one step at a time.

 

How do you keep a positive attitude when you have to start over?