My Why – This Triathlon Thing…

JQN_0586-(ZF-5809-28111-1-001)I realize that’s it’s been a really long time since my last post. I have lots of reasons, or should I call them excuses, maybe. Busy… yes, just like everyone else, only I’m “retired”. All of those things that I thought I would have time for – well, I’m not quite sure what happened there.  I will say, what I am doing, I do love. No it’s not all fun and games, but I’m very grateful to have the opportunities that I do have. Thank you to my hard working husband for allowing me this freedom earlier in my years than most get to have it!

About this triathlon stuff, it’s not really the fun part of my retirement. While I’m trying to keep the positive thoughts going, I have to admit that it’s not easy for me.  If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that injury has been a huge part of my journey in this stuff. I’m embarrassed to say that after all of this time, injury is still a part of my journey. I posted a photo journal awhile back if you want to check it out. “Coping with Injury…” I haven’t had a break from physical therapy in over a year and a half now. It’s only been about six weeks since I graduated to bi-weekly rather than weekly visits. Even with insurance though, this stuff gets expensive! Let’s not forget to mention all the appointments with the specialists that keep sending me to physical therapy!

For those who might need the nutshell scoop to catch up, here you go. Just skip this paragraph if you’ve been along for the ride. Since my husband inspired me to start this athlete type activity about four years ago now, I’ve had just about every piece and part of this body from the neck down worked on. The list includes feet, ankles, calves, knees, hips, upper and lower spine, shoulders, arms, hand… The biggies that forced the cycles of extended time off followed by having to start all over again were: a stress fracture in the hip, two major abdominal surgeries, herniated disks with nerve impingement in the upper and lower spine, sciatica, a partial tear of the hamstring from the hip bone and bone contusions from a bike crash. Things that remain on going and cause flare ups along the kinetic chain include arthritis, sciatic nerve pain, bursitis, and tendonitis, as well as nerve pain from multiple cysts in the spine.

So really, who does this? Shouldn’t I be a poster child for something?

And then there is this thing you have to do at the very beginning of a triathlon called swimming. It’s been almost as The sky is not y limit
challenging for me as the injuries, or so it feels like it is anyway. I started taking lessons a year and a half ago and I am just now feeling like I’m starting to get it. Even still though, I feel anxiety every time I get in the pool. In the last couple months I had to start swimming in open water. That’s a whole new challenge I’m having to overcome in.

You might be thinking, “Give it up already, lady!” I admit, I do ask myself why I don’t give up. I ask it pretty often, too. So for both of us today, I’m putting it down in writing, so I can remind myself whenever I need to, why I do this.  Here goes.

  • Exercise is healthy for my body. It’s going to hurt regardless of what I do or don’t do, so why not let it hurt for my good.
  • It makes me stronger. My bumper sticker: “Strong is what’s left when you’ve used up all your weak.”WIN_20150601_130942
  • I’m happier with my appearance. Not too bad for a retired lady. My husband is happy, too!
  • It’s a way I can be good to myself.
  • I get multiple rewards from it, as you can see.
  • I get metals. I think I’ve become a metal junkie.WIN_20150601_132408
  • It gives me a goal to work toward. My first half Ironman, 70.3 miles, is in October this year.
  • It makes me mentally stronger. I have to get past the tough workouts in my mind before I can physically accomplish them. When my body says “no”, my mind says “go”.
  • I found an awesome coach who says she will never give up on me. If you’re looking for a coach, check out this bio!
  • I’ve learned I can do far more than my mind or anyone else thought I could. This is a huge reward for me.
  • I love the freedom I feel when I run and bike.
  • I get to watch the moon set and the sun rise when I’m out on my workouts.Sunrise
  • When I’m doing a workout I can meditate, refocus and regroup from whatever life is throwing my way.
  • I can sing, talk to myself and even throw my hands in the air like I just don’t care. Of course, I’m more apt to do these things when I’m in a deserted area.
  • It’s great stress relief. Yes, retired people still have stress.
  • I’ve made lots of new friends and they’re awesome!
  • I get lots of support and encouragement from these new friends. We’re all in this together.
  • It gives me a sense of accomplishment.
  • It keep me disciplined.
  • It causes me to eat healthier as I know my body needs fuel to function properly.
  • It causes me to be more sensitive about being sure to get proper sleep each night.
  • I sleep better!
  • I can reward myself with desserts on occasion and the calories don’t stick to my thighs!
  • It makes me feel younger.
  • It’s empowering.
  • My husband is proud of me. He likes the results, too.
  • It enables me to participate in a sport with my husband, giving us more time together.
  • We’ve been able to take several trips together for races. We’ve run in some beautiful places. Kona Tri Start LineSmith Rock Half MarathonMountains 2 BeachBarcelona

I’m sure there are more reasons that aren’t coming to mind right now, but you get the idea. I have many good reasons to keep doing this triathlon thing! So for now, the plan is to continue. I have days when I can’t do what I want or what’s on the schedule, but I do what I can, when I can. I am smarter about my training and recovery. I listen to my body and I do recovery in “beast mode”. I do my physical therapy exercises and stretches. I use my recovery tools – foam roller, rumble roller, PVC pipe and the stick. I ice and heat the different pieces and parts daily, sometimes multiple times. I’ve done injections, dry needling and nerve blocks. I even have a home traction unit and I use it!

My why? Because it’s worth it! I’m worth it!

I’ve been told from time to time, that I’m an inspiration. I’ve been inspired by others at times, but it’s usually an emotional reaction, not inspiration that moves me. I might be mentally stimulated to “feel, but the best kind of inspiration for me is inspiration that moves me to do, to act. My husband inspired me to start running. The joy and enthusiasm he had moved me to action.

Maybe you read my list and saw things that you would like for yourself. How often do we see what someone else has and we want it, but never take the steps necessary to get there. We have reasons, or are they excuses, as to why we can’t do the same. This can apply to many things in our lives.

Running 1There is nothing amazing or inspiring about me. I’m just like you. I have bad days, I have disappointments, issues, and times I don’t want to work out or don’t feel like working out. So how did I get here? One day at a time, one workout at a time. I overcame each negative thought, one at a time. I overcame each injury, each setback, one at a time. Each step in the right direction gets me closer to where I want to be. Progress is often slow, but slow progress is still progress.

What’s your goal? What’s that big thing you want for yourself, that change you need to make? What’s stopping you? If I can do it, you can do it, too. Anybody can do it! So why not take that first step? Take it now before you change your mind!Do it NowJust do it

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The “Doright” Muscle – Work it!

bike at sunriseThis morning was beautiful here in AZ!  We had a brief, very brief, reprieve from our normally hot summer temperatures.  Our lows were in the 70’s this morning!  Normal lows this time of the year are upper 80’s to low 90’s so, yes, this was NICE!  I had a bike ride on my workout schedule today and the cooler temperature just added to my enjoyment!

I love my rides, almost as much as I do my running.  I don’t wear any headphones to listen to music on my rides.  It’s just safer that way.  I find that without music blaring in my ears, I’m much more focused on my thoughts.  Of course, family members and friends are always at the forefront of my thoughts and today was no different.

Another thing on my mind this morning was my workout schedule and how important it was to make sure I get my strength training done.  It’s not the focus of my workouts, but it is necessary for me to maintain the thing that is my focus, which is running.  Without the PHX Halfstrength training, all the supporting muscles won’t be able to handle the load that I put on the muscles used to run.  You know, how the leg bones connected to the hip bone.  I can have a strong leg, but the hip has to be able to support it.  If the supporting muscles aren’t strong, I run the risk of injury, which means no run at all.  Being on the injury list is extremely frustrating for a runner.  I speak from a place of a lot of experience on the subject of injury, so, no matter how busy the schedule, the strength training must be done.  It’s the right thing to do.

“What’s the point?” you ask.  Those two strings of my thoughts this morning; family, friends and muscles are closely tied.   You see, I know people who struggle with things and some of them struggle with their own will and doing what’s right.  Of course, we all have our struggles and we’ve all struggled with doing the right thing, but I see a relationship between them and muscles here.

When I started running, just over two years ago, I was over what the ideal weight should be for my build.  Like everyone else, I had tried all kinds of diets, cleanses, pills and exercise plans, for years actually.  I would have seasons of success, but before long, the weight would be back and whatever muscle I had gained, would disappear.  When I started running, I wasn’t doing it to lose weight or get healthy.  My only motivation was to be able to run so I could spend more time with my husband, who had started running.  Yes, I did lose weight and yes, I did get much healthier and I did love the result!

The benefits that came from running were great motivators to help me keep up the good work, but my focus wasn’t on fewer calories, burning fat or building muscle.  Running made me want to eat healthier meals, so my muscles could have the proper fuel they needed to help me continue to do what I wanted to do.  I wanted to run, so I took the steps needed to help me do it.  Eating healthier was the next right thing for me to do.  I started reading about running to gain knowledge.  That was the next right thing.  I got a coach to give me direction and help me improve, another right thing.  A workout plan came with having a coach, thus, I had a workout schedule.  Skipping a scheduled workout on days when I didn’t feel like running wasn’t an option, even though there were days I had lots of good reasons to not run.  I had a coach to answer to, so I ran.  I had to exercise my mind and emotions, stretch beyond my perceived ability and develop a new mental toughness.  My focus was on running, the thing I wanted to do.  All the resulting benefits of doing the next right thing, were just icing on the cake.  Oh, and running lets me have my cake and eat it too!

Let’s jump back to the family and friends who struggle with doing the right thing.  What do you think about shifting the focus here, much like my focus shifted from losing weight to just doing what I wanted to do, which was run?  If the focus were on doing what we really want to do and we do the next right thing in whatever the given situation, instead of focusing on the thing that we don’t want to be a part of our life, it seems that the results would just fall into place as part of a natural progression.  If we focus our time and energy on the goal we want to achieve, instead of the mess we may be surrounded by, we are looking ahead to a better tomorrow, a better future.   Keeping our focus on the mess or the thing that’s become a monster with the power to destroy our lives, is like spinning our wheels in the mud.  We waste a lot of fuel trying to move forward and we might move a little, but we sink right back in.  We get nowhere and we stay stuck in our rut.

1-4-man_flexing_muscles_21ed3It’s going to take some strength training to get us where we want to be.  I like to keep things simple, so my suggestion sounds really simple, but it’s not so easy to do.  May I suggest that the focus be on exercising the “doright” muscle?  That’s pronounced “do right”, and the meaning is simple.  It just means that the focus be on doing the next right thing.  You focus on the here and now.  Even if you find yourself in a very dark place and you can’t see any way out, there is almost always one right thing that you do know to do, so do that.  Stop looking at the darkness or the impossibility of the situation.  As you do it, you strengthened the “doright” muscle.  Often doing the first right thing will help us see what the next right thing should be, so how about another rep.  Do it!  Maybe that’s all the strength you have for today, but tomorrow is a new day.  Plan to wake up and only look at the next right thing to do and do it.

All those little “doright” reps, are just small individual movements, but when you keep doing them, you achieve something much bigger Donkey_1_arp_750pxand you get to the place you wanted to go.  It reminds me of the story of the donkey who fell into a deep hole.  The farmer couldn’t get him out, so he decided to bury him.  As the farmer shoveled dirt into the hole on top of the donkey, the donkey shook it off.  He made a little movement, a small step on top of the dirt that was supposed to bury him.  After many repetitions of those small steps, the donkey found himself in a new place, outside of his hole.

Over time, it’s going to get easier and easier to work the “doright” and before you know it, that muscle will become more toned and defined.  People will start to notice the change and compliment you on it.  Before you know it, you will have moved forward.  You’ll be in that new place now and find it’s not so dark anymore.   You’re stronger than that monster from your past and he’s no longer a threat.  You’ve become an athlete!  And what’s an athlete do?

Give me 100 “do rights”!  Now let me see you flex!      woman flexing

Digging Deeper, Whatever It Takes!!!

runningI got the MRI results of my Cervical Spine and now know the reason for my latest round of aches and pains.  This one happens to be a literal pain in the neck!  I have three bulging disks and two more disks that have bone pressing against the nerve root.  Doctor reviews regarding the impact of this on my running are mixed.  I’ve heard everything from, “no more running”, “try cycling instead” and “no running for 6 to 8 weeks”, to “maybe after another week you can run a little”.  So, the co-pays continue to mount and it seems I go from appointment to appointment.   It’s a daily struggle against the disappointment that would try to bring me down.

If you think you’re getting weary of hearing my about my woe’s, I think I’ve got you beat.  I would much rather be writing about exciting events and joyous occasions!  I was greatly anticipating being able to put my first full marathon experience on paper.  That was supposed to have been next weekend, but I guess that’s on hold, once again.

Until this week, I had never watched a whole episode of “The Biggest Loser”.   I’ve seen bits and pieces of the show when the loser logocontestants weigh in, but I’ve never seen all the work that was involved to achieve these dramatic and impressive weight losses.  This particular episode happened to be the start of the new season.  As contestants were chosen and placed on teams, those who were on Jillian Michael’s team, seemed to express more emotion, both positive and negative.  I soon found out why!

These poor contestants weren’t given the opportunity to “ease” into their training.  They knew that it wouldn’t be easy, but they had no clue as to how difficult it would be until they were passing out and rolling off the tread mill into a heap on the floor.  Most of them were throwing up in buckets that were readily at hand, as if the need Jillian Michaelsfor the buckets had been anticipated.   On top of the complete misery and high level of emotion that the contestants felt, there was Jillian Michaels, screaming in their faces.  And I mean screaming!

I can think back to some of the workouts my coach assigned that I thought were tough.  I only remember once when I thought I might throw up.  It was on mile 16 of my farthest run yet, just before the stress fracture in my hip.  I think the heat just got the best of me that day.  One other time I was doing a hard speed workout and as the pavement ran out on a dead end road leading into the dessert, I was afraid I might pass out.  I wondered how long it would take for someone to find me out there, but those experiences seem like nothing compared to what these show contestants were facing.

I have to say that I’m thankful for a coach who doesn’t scream in my face, telling me that I’m wasting his time!  I’m not sure that I would respond so well to that.  However, a couple phrases that Jillian said, or rather screamed on the show, did make me think.  The phrases, “How bad do you want it?” and “Dig deep”, have been rolling over in my mind all week.

Of course, I can apply these phrases to running.  I really do want to run a marathon, at least one at some point.  I’ve been working pretty hard to try to accomplish that, in spite of the string of injuries, but certainly not as hard as these contestants.

But more importantly, I’ve got bigger goals in mind than running a marathon.  More than half of my life is probably already over.  Jillian 2Those years are gone and I can’t get them back.  My biggest goal is that my life would count for something.

The problem of obesity is at epidemic proportions in our country and the producers and coaches on “The Biggest Loser” want to bring change and make a difference.  Obesity isn’t the only thing that is rampant in our society.  There are plenty of other social issues that need to be addressed.  It’s going to take many people who want to make a difference and bring change.  I think the reality is that it will take every single one of us!  And I believe that every single one of us would say that we want to make our life count for something.  But how bad do we want it?

I’m not here on this swirling planet, just to exist, please myself and have a good time.  I want to make a contribution somehow.  I’ve got ideas that I’ve thought about, but haven’t done much with.  Years ago, I put some things on paper, but that’s about as far as I went.  They aren’t things that I can achieve on my own.  On my own, I don’t have what it takes to make it happen.  It’s bigger than me.  As a result, these things are left undone, unaccomplished and myself, unfulfilled.

I can hear Jillian screaming at me now.  “What are you afraid of?”  I think my answer is much the same as the contestants on the show.  “I’m scared of failing”, “afraid of the pain of the workouts” and “not being able to eat bear claws again”.  Yes, you heard that right. A contestant seriously said she didn’t want to give up bear claws.  In case you don’t know, “bear claws” are a sweet, flakey and delicately, delicious pastry!  I’m afraid I am not quite ready to give up sweets either; however eating sweets isn’t what’s holding me back from my goal in this case.

How bad do I really want it?  Am I willing to dig deep and probably endure pain, as the contestants on the show had to?  Am I willing to do whatever it takes?  I mean really do WHATEVER it takes?  Inconvenience myself, make sacrifices, take criticism, overcome obstacles, throw up and expose my ugliness in public?  Do I REALLY want it???  Or will I just keep on existing, pleasing and taking care of myself, sitting on the couch all day eating bonbons or bear claws?

It’s true!  Change starts with a choice.  It’s got to be more than a resolution we make for the New Year.  It has to be a thought out, purposeful decision to take action if you want to bring change.  As Jillian Michaels described the exercise that one contestant was supposed to be doing, she said, “It’s as simple as hand, foot, hand, foot”.   The exercise was called the “bear crawl”.  Jillian broke it down into tiny movements, one after another.  You just have to move one hand, then one foot, then one hand and one foot.

Jillian’s instruction to do one movement at a time was simple, just like I try to live my life, one day at a time.  If I look at the whole big picture all at once, I can be overwhelmed and terrified.  Well if that’s the way I live, what am I missing?  Why haven’t I achieved my goal to make my life count for something and to make a difference in this world already?  I mean, I’ve already lived half my life.  I’ve wasted my own time!

attack dog Jillian told me what I was lacking.  She said, “I want attack dogs, pit bulls, fire breathing dragons, on my team. “  I’ve lacked the “attack dog” spirit.  I’ve been more like a tiny, playful, furry, cuddle up, lap dog.  I’ve liked my creature comforts, but I’ve lounged around long enough.  It’s time to dig deep! It’s time to do whatever it takes!  Who’s with me?

Thanks Jillian!