Take the Plunge – A Running Commentary

Take the plungeSometimes you just have to take the plunge, dive into the deep end and start swimming.  Last week I finally did that. At least I did it metaphorically.  For years Chris Russell from Run Run Live has encouraged me to pull my more popular commentaries into a digital book.  For years I have slowly gone through to find the posts that people liked the most.  I have re-written most of them, edited than and formatted them for a digital format.  In March of this year I told friends I thought the book would be ready in two weeks.

Ruled By Fear

That’s when the fear set in.  It’s not ready.  It’s not good enough.  No one will want to read it.  Who would bother buying it?

So it sat there on my flash drive waiting for someone to knock on the door and read it.  But that’s not how it works, right?

Working Up The Nerve

Last week I finally worked up the nerve.  The funny thing is that on Sunday night when I opened it up to edit it one more time I began to realize it was complete.  I had written and rewritten, edited and reedited it so many times it was complete.  It really had been fear holding me back.

Testing the Water.

So, being not quite ready, still afraid of failure, I tested the waters.  I created four covers and put them out on several different mediums to see which one people liked the best.  The response was overwhelming.  I received hundreds of votes for a cover.  And suddenly my confidence rose.  Suddenly I worked up the nerve to publish.

Taking the Plunge

On Thursday I published A Running Commentary to Kindle.  Right away my most loyal friends and even a few strangers bought it.  The Infamous David Murphy even left a review.  But once it was out there I realized, it doesn’t matter how many people buy it.  It was the risk that I needed to take.  It was the deed that I needed to have done.  I can now say, I have published my book.

The interesting thing is that now, I am excited about doing it again.  I have even started a pulling together a new one on the journey to becoming an Ironman.  Sometimes it is taking the plunge that matters.  The end results are just the icing on the cake.

 

Summer of Reading

Summer Reading

Reading book with hot cup at island , Relax concept

This was a summer of reading.  To be fair most of my summers are full of reading.  It has been this way since I was a child but this summer was a summer of a different kind of reading.  It was the summer of discovering a different sort of book. This summer I read books that might help me to be better at starting my business.  This was the summer I read books that would help me develop better work habits, find my grit and discover the original within myself.

Summer Reading List

I read three main books, The Power of Habits, The Originals and GRIT.  Interestingly all three of these books left me wanting more.  Not more in the sense that they didn’t tell me enough but in the sense that I didn’t feel as though I fully sucked the marrow out of each book.  Each book left me understanding that I would have to reread them, over and over again.  And I am okay with that. I look forward to these rereads.

However, one of these books changed the way I have been living my life.  Or maybe it made me recognize the change in my life.  To be honest I am not sure.  What I do know is that I have recognized a change in my life in the past few months and I believe the changes are all based on an initial habit.

Accidental Habit

On April 24th I went for a ride with my youngest son.  It was just meant to get me out of the house.  I was tired of dealing with a recent injury and thought biking might help.  That day, my son fell in love with riding and decided we should ride every day.  It has been 137 days and we have kept up this habit.  But better than that I have found that building a habit of bike riding has leaked out into the rest of my life.

A Better Mom, Wife, Business Owner

I used to say that running made me a better mom, wife and friend.  Now that I am not running I am learning that having good habits makes me better at so many things.  Creating the habit of riding lead to a habit of eating better which lead to a habit of spending less money which in turn lead to a habit of having a cleaner house.

Maybe I would have recognized this without the help of The Power of Habits.  But I love having the backing of that book.  I love finding that this isn’t just a coincidence but something we can work towards.I love that now I think about the habits I want to build and the ones I want to lose.

Building Better Habits and Losing the Lesser Ones

 

I have always loved reading.  I have loved getting lost in a story and leaving the hectic nature of the real world.  Because of that I have seldom found joy in reading self-help, business or other non-fiction books.  It has been interesting to build a new habit of reading books that would normally not make it to my summer reading list.  It has been fun to see that that habit can lead to so many others.

So many of the bad habits I have run me in circles.  So many lead me down a road of guilt and shame.  Of course I still have bad habits.  I assume most of us do.  But reading The Power of Habits has at least made me think about them.  Reading this book has given me something to think about and isn’t that the first step anyway.

Transformation Tuesday

Transformation TuesdayToday is Transformation Tuesday.  I won’t be talking about transforming my body. Instead I will be talking about a bigger transformation.  A transformation from depression to happiness.

It is hard to believe it was three years ago. Sometimes it is hard to believe because it seems like it was only yesterday.  Sometimes it is hard to believe because it seems like it happened to another person in a whole other time loop.  Three years ago, I could barely move out of my bed.  It seemed the safest place to be because leaving the bed meant I had to face a reality that was too much.  Three years ago we were helping our daughter through her depression and because I was so focused on keeping her alive I forgot to watch my step and fell into the black hole that is depression myself.

The Black Hole

The black hole doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling of depression.  It is so much worse than a black hole. It is so much more raw, so much more painful and scary than I could ever describe.

I remember lying on the bed and not wanting to move.  Lying there all day, having friends bring my son home from school.  Having him tell me about his day but hearing his voice in a cloud that I couldn’t understand.  I remember seeing my husband looking at me as I lay there.  I remember the look of fear in his face that matched the fear in my heart.  The fear of life without my daughter.  Because no matter how much I tried to think positively I couldn’t see an outcome that had her surviving.

The Big Liar

But depression lies.  Depression showed me the worst moments for my daughter.  Depression made me see nothing but the bad outcome.  It even showed me, in vivid color, through my dreams the moment we would lose her.  And that moment played over and over and over again in my head. It was and still is an unbearable image.

I remember these things so clearly now.  And now, today, right now, I know that depression is a big liar.  Depression lies and when you are in that big, dark hole you have to choice but to believe it.

Transformation Tuesday

I look back on those days during that horrible time in our lives and I can and can’t believe that was us.  I can because the pain is still there, still so raw in my memory.  But I can’t because Megan did make it and she’s happy and healthy and doing so much with her life. I can’t because my life is so very different.  I can’t because our family is so different. Our family appreciates life more because during that time real life stopped.

That time is a distant memory.  We made it through. We made it through enough that the fear of falling back into the hole has faded to just a whisper.  The fear may linger but the happiness is so much more real.

I never thought we would see this day.  But we have and I am so grateful.

Today is Transformation Tuesday for National Suicide Prevention Week.  Share your transformation story.  Tell me how you survived.  Who did you call? How did you get help? What makes you happy today.

Also, because we know the good that the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is doing, Megan and I are raffling off a beautiful quilt.  There are only 100 tickets.  Every $10 donated will buy you one ticket.  Click here for more information.

Because I Can

Because I canI rode my bike today for the the 130th day in a row.  Earlier this week I counted my miles since I started this streak back in April and discovered I have biked over 2200 miles during this time.  Why?  Why would I keep this streak going? Why would I place a priority on riding every single day no matter what? Because I can.

But wasn’t that always the answer?  Why did I run marathons? Why go back and conquer the Ironman after my DNF in 2004?  Why become a blogger? Start my own business? Why do I do most of what I do?

Because I Can

A few years back I asked some of my readers for their favorite running photos.  I received many and I used most of them in posts over the years. But the one that always comes back to mind when I think of challenges, pushing through, doing more than we need to do, is the one at the top of the page of my friend Geri, running up this rock quarry. It is such a metaphor for life.  Life is hard but you keep pushing, you keep tackling and you overcome.  You do this because you can.

But there is a caveat.  We keep pushing and we keep tackling because we can now.  Being able to is not a guarantee.  I have been struggling with this the past few months.  I can’t run.  But I am so glad I did run while I could.  I am so glad I didn’t miss out on the coolest opportunities.

A New OpportunityQuarry Crusher

So last week when my friend David called and told me about a new series, the Quarry Crusher, there was a little bit of envy.  My first thought was of Geri’s photo.  My second was to realize that I couldn’t be involved with this race.

This is a working quarry right here near Baltimore.  Every other day of the year this quarry is operational.  But this year, they are closing it down so runners can challenge themselves.  Oh what I wouldn’t do to be able to run this. Not only because of the challenge but because the more I read the more fun this event sounds.  The support, the organization and the simple novelty of this event would sell me in a minute.

But alas, I can’t.

You, however, can.  Thanks to the race organizers I have obtained a discount code for my readers. Visit the Quarry Crusher site and put in BECAUSEICAN to receive 20% off your registration.

If you run it, please come back here and share your experience so I can live vicariously.  Tell me what you think of the race and which Quarry Crusher you would do next.

 

Standup Paddleboarding – Workout of the Week

standup paddleboardingIt has been months since I struggled to put on my own pants, months since I had to have help getting out of bed or months since I hid in the bathroom between customers so that no one would see me cry.  It has been months since the pain was so intense I couldn’t see a future without it.  But still, everyday there is a moment in which I move just the wrong way and I can feel the shadow of that pain.  Moments when I realize I just can’t do this or that anymore.  Which is why I was so nervous about trying standup paddleboarding for the first time since my injury.

Standup Paddleboarding with Capital SUP

This would be all me.  No instructor standing with me, reminding me to keep my spine in neutral. No one to tell me when to say when.

Before I even made the decision to try it, Christopher Norman, at Capital SUP reminded me that there were no rules, no distance goals, no time goals.

This was a test.

I could decide step by step whether paddleboarding was going to work for me.

The first step was standing up.  Although I had done standup paddleboarding before and had no problem, there is a big difference between now and then.  My core muscles have atrophied from underuse, my stabilizers are nonexistent.  I worried.  Could I do this?

The first moments were iffy.  I wibbled. I wobbled but I didn’t fall down.  The first step was a success.

Step By Step

The next steps were as much mental as physical.  Could it hurt my back to bend over and dig in with my paddle? Sure.  But, what would happen if I thought about every single stroke? What would happen if I concentrated on using my legs, my strongest assets, to help with each and every dig?  It meant being mentally engaged throughout but considering the pain that was on the line if I didn’t. I knew that I would get it done.

Although I was fully prepared to turn around at any moment, willing to get down on my knees and paddle that way if need be, willing to just give in, I made it. I made it to the end of the creek and back.

And I enjoyed it.  I enjoyed the feel of the water under my feet, the sweat that dribbled down my back, the conversation with the other people in my group.  I enjoy it more than I had the first time, because this time it was about freedom.  The freedom to add one more thing to my workout schedule.  The freedom to do more and get stronger in a different way. The freedom to have one more pain free moment in life.

Saving My Bucket List

bucket listI have been building my bucket list of races for almost as long as I have been a runner.  It is hard not to add to that list when you surround yourself with runners and immerse yourself in running communities both virtually and in real life.  Some of my bucket list races are still on the list because, although I have applied over and over again, I have still not been accepted.  One is on the list because I kept thinking this would be the year I would qualify and I never did.  And some are still there just because I hadn’t gotten around to them yet when I got injured last fall.

The End of The List

In the last few months, I have found myself toggling between despair because I know those races will never be run and daydreaming that something would change.  I have finally stopped the toggling and found myself, last week wallowing in my despair. Woe is me.

The Solution To My Bucket List Dilemma

But then last week, after speaking with my friend Karen, I realized I don’t have to give up the list.  No, I can’t run them, but that doesn’t mean I can’t experience them.

This fall, I will be heading to Bar Harbor, Maine, one of my favorite places on earth to volunteer for a race that has been on my bucket list for well over ten years, the Mount Desert Island Marathon.  Although I have had this planned for months I had not considered volunteering for others.

Building Excitement

Since this idea of volunteering for my bucket list marathons entered my head last week I find myself excited once again.  I spent most of friday going through the list, trying to decide how I can make each one more special by volunteering.  I day dreamed of being bike support for Big Sur, registration and finish line support for the crème de la crème of all races, the Boston Marathon, manning a water stop in Manhattan for the NYC Marathon.  Oh, the possibilities that have been raised by this new adventure.

And while we are at it, why not hit my triathlon bucket list as well, starting with Ironman Maryland and ending with Kona? And how about the Bay Bridge Swim?

It is so easy to fall into despair. It is easy for me to miss running, regret the races I could have run, and simply walk away from the sport all together but I won’t do that.  I love running too much.  I love the people I have met through this sport. I love the race experience from start to finish. And I have always, always loved the volunteers.

It just makes sense for me to become one.

Which race would you most like to volunteer for?

 

Songs That Make Me Cry

Songs that make me cry

You might expect the songs that make me cry to bring up memories of lost love, teenage angst or tragic events in my life.  Of course, there are a few of those that make me sad but until this week I have never known a song to make me cry.  Until this week I would have laughed at the thought that Drunken Lullabies by Flogging Molly would be one of those songs.

As it turns out this was the week I grew tired of putting on a brave face.  I miss running.  I miss it with all my heart and would give up most of my marathoning experience just to run an easy three miles again.

Running Playlist

This was brought home this week by an accidental playing of my running playlist.  One of the kids picked it off my ipod and had it playing in the car.  It’s filled with fast paced songs to get me through my marathon. It is actually my running list, turned marathon playlist.  And it is full of all my favorite running songs.

Still, that song. Oh how it ripped at my heart.

Maybe if it were another song, a song I hadn’t listened to on my all-time favorite run through Boston, maybe if it were Peace Sells which is also on the playlist but wasn’t there on that gorgeous spring morning in 2011.  Maybe then my heart wouldn’t have broken.  Maybe then I wouldn’t have wanted to sob into my coffee. But it was that song. The song I listened to just before Blaise headed out to run the Boston Marathon for the first time. The song I finished the run with, cruising by other runners like they were standing still, feeling stronger than I have ever felt.  It was that song that made me stand taller, feel stronger and faster than I knew I could feel.

There are days I can put on a brave face, but this week, listening to that song, I cried.  I cried for a lost love.  Bigger than any loss I felt as a teenager, bigger than I have felt outside of death.  Oh, the loss of running.

Don’t get me wrong, tomorrow I will bounce back, but today I cry.  I cry for my the lost love of running.

Xcelerated Fitness – Workout of the Week

Workout of the Week Xcelerated FitnessLast week during my workout of the week at Club Pilates I discovered that I could indeed get a core workout in even with my back injury. This week Scott at Xcelerated Fitness showed me something that really surprised me. He showed me that there is still an athlete under all of the fluff I have accumulated since I had to give up running eight months ago.

Workout of the Week

Before I showed up at the Xcelerated Fitness Studio, Scott told me this would not be a workout.  It would be an assessment.  I pictured filling out a form with my goals, my injury and my limitations.  And that was definitely part of it.  But the biggest part of it was Scott giving me exercises to find out my strengths and weaknesses.  He had told me ahead of time that he’s worked with people with limitations. But being the Doubting Ann that I am I was not convinced he grasped the extent of my back injury.

I was wrong.

I am not ashamed to admit I was wrong.  Within a few minutes I could see where he was going and what he was attempting to do. The first few times he asked me to do an exercise, I hesitated and then when I couldn’t do something I apologized.  He immediately told me not to do that.  The whole point of this assessment was find out what I could and couldn’t do.  The reminder to not apologize raised my opinion of Xcelerated Fitnes.  But when I really started to realize what Scott had to offer, when I saw how much he cared, my opinion soared.

It was his passion for what he was learning about me.  It was his excitement to see the things I could do and his ah-ha moments really helped me see how working with Scott would be helpful.

My Ah-ha Moment

But the real ah-ha moment for me came as I started to realize I could do strength training again, as long as I modify in a way that doesn’t pull my back into the mix. Having learned last week that it was important that I keep my back in neutral throughout and having worked with Scott this week I see why I need these modifications.  I understand that modifying a workout doesn’t make the workout a wimpy workout.  It just makes a different workout.

This was the moment I realized I might one day be the athlete I used to be again.  It will take work to get there but it will take work that I am willing to put in. With each modified exercise Scott gave me I could feel muscles I hadn’t worked in months leaping into action. With each exercise I caught a glimpse of the athlete I used to be.

Confession

It was also the moment I began to understand why someone would work directly with a personal trainer.  For me, the idea of working with a trainer has always seemed like an indulgence.  After working with Scott and realizing what a personal trainer can offer, I get it.  Sometimes you can’t do it on your own whether because you or injured or because you are completely new to fitness.  Working with a trainer is about more than needing someone to motivate you.  It is about what you can learn.

At one point we found an exercise that was just not working.  I was will to give up and move on.  But a light went on in Scott and he asked me to try it one more way.  Not only did it not hurt but I could feel my muscles engaging.  This was just one more way I could see the benefits of working with Xcelerated Fitness

Workout of the Week So Far

The last time I did a workout of the week for Patch.com I was in a different place.  I was unstoppable and I found the benefit of each new workout was more about the communities that built up around those workouts than about the workout itself.  This time it is different.  This time it is personal.  I need to find the athlete I once was.  I need to see Ironann again.  Two workouts in two weeks with two different studios has helped me to find my way.  Two workouts in two week has helped me realize that there is hope for those of us who are chronically injured.  I look forward to seeing what I learned next week.

Knuckle Lights – Product Review

I discovered Knuckle Lights in the winter of 2011.  I was worried about my husband on his early morning runs and was thrilled to find a product that would allow him to be seen.  The bonus was that Knuckle Lights allowed him to see more as well.  The obstacles that had tripped him up were no longer a problem.

 

Over the years I have found so many more uses for our Knuckle Lights. Meg and I attached them to our gear stroller during our last 24-hour Walk For Suicide Prevention because we found headlamps encouraged bugs to fly at our heads. We use them when walking our big black Great Dane because we can hold the leash and a knuckle light at the same time. This makes Rocky more visible to cars. We even use the when we are making repairs in dim places are the house.

New & Improved Knuckle Lights

When Knuckle Lights contacted me to ask if I would like to review their latest rechargeable model I jumped at the opportunity.  I was sold on rechargeable.  Had that been the only upgrade, it would be well worth the purchase of a new set. Although I have been a fan of the product from the beginning I cannot begin to tell you how scary it was when Meg and I completed a 15 hour overnight walk last may and both lights began to dim.  It was a learning lesson for sure, always carry extra batteries. But it was not a lesson we wanted to learn in the middle of the woods in the middle of the night.

First Impressions

Having worked in retail my first impression was a true first impression.  I love the new packaging.  One of the downsides of carrying Knuckle Lights in the past was the packaging.  Too often the front of the package dislodged from the back making the product unsaleable.  The new packaging, a sturdy box, looks better and eliminated this problem. In addition because the new packaging is easy to open it is also easy for you to let your customers demo the product ahead of time.  There is a hefty price on this product.  For the money that is spent customers want to know what they are getting. From a consumer standpoint, it is much easier to open and get organized right from the beginning. My first impression was that it would also be easy to repackage and use for storing the Knuckle Lights when I am not using them.

Knuckle Lights Review

The Surprise Upgrade

The thought of using the box for storage became obsolete when I saw the my second favorite new upgrade.  Magnets are built into the side of each light so you can store them together.  This may seem like a small design change but early in the morning when I am searching for everything I need for a walk, the frustration of finding only one of my lights can send me in a tailspin.  Having two lights is one of my favorite things about Knuckle Lights. Having two lights allow me to light up a wider stretch of the trail and it allows me to signal cars in both directions. Running with one is just not the same.  I love the new magnet feature because it eliminates this worry.

Knuckle Lights Review

 

More Compact Design

From a design standpoint, the new Knuckle Lights rises far above the old. They are much more compact and sleek.  They have a sexiness to them as opposed to a purely utilitarian look. It is never just about how a products looks but there is something about a sleek build that makes you think quality.  Once you hold them you feel this quality.  They are still light and compact but there is a much higher quality feel to them.

Upgraded Strap

Another feature I have loved about Knuckle Lights from the beginning is the ability to hold a Knuckle Light and still use your hand.  Because they attach to your hands it is like running hands-free.  If you need to carry a water bottle or phone you can without having to juggle a light and a bottle.  Unfortunately the old design would begin to loosen after several wears. The clasp would not grip as tight and I would find myself having to hold onto the light to make sure it was more secure.

The new strap is designed with button holes as opposed to clasps.  This eliminated the problem of the clasp loosening up.

Unfortunately, the new design is not quite perfect and I foresee some redesign of this feature in the future.  The button is difficult to get into the hole and doesn’t have that satisfying snap that allows you to know it is indeed secure.

 

Knuckle Lights Review

 

A Matter Of Hand Size

The only real problem I have with the new lights is a big problem for me.  The old design was much easier to turn off and on midrun.  My thumb met the on/off button with no problem.  The new button is oddly placed for my hand size.  However, when I made this complaint to my husband, he put them on and didn’t find the same problem at all.  This is one more reason the new packaging is so great.  You can take the product out, try it on and see whether the button works for you or not.

IMG_8517

  1. Much better packaging
  2. Less Slippage With Grip
  3. Sleeker Design
  4. Rechargable

The Cons

  1. Buttons on strap are difficult to button
  2. The on/off switch is slightly awkward.

Final Thoughts

Knuckle Lights have saved me and my husband on more than one occasion.  Being seen and being able to see makes any con negligible.  The only product I have found that comes close to Knuckle Lights is the Zephyr Fire 300 and it is a very far,far second in my opinion.  It is not intuitive. It doesn’t have the same hands-free feel and most importantly it is only a single light.  I cannot overstress the importance of having two lights during a dark run or walk.  Knuckle lights review

 

Pilates – Workout of the Week

Pilates Workout of the WeekLast week I wrote about the mental side of training.  I wrote about the difference one small statement can make on your psyche.  That one statement, that one reminder that I would be so much worse off with this back injury had I not been starting from such a high place of fitness,  would have made my workout with Jennifer at Club Pilates worth my time.  But this workout was so much more for me.

Don’t Over Do It

From physical therapists to acupuncturists to friends and family I have been warned not to over do it.  I get it.  I have been an over-doer in the past.  But what they can’t see because they couldn’t feel the pain I was in, is that there is no chance I will over do it again.  The pain I dealt with for the first 6 months of this injury was too much.  I am terrified of ever going back there.

But I can see where I will end up ten years down the road without taking proactive steps now.  I look down the road and see a day when I am either using a walker or a wheelchair because I can no longer support my own weight and I don’t want that. I want to find a way to avoid it.

Is Pilates The Answer?

I have wondered about Pilates for a while. One of the doctors I saw prescribed a brace.  I wore it for all of 2 hours and couldn’t stand it another minute, just too hot.  However, I saw the benefit of having the support around my core. I felt the difference the stability had on the way I walked.  That is when I first started thinking about Pilates.

If I could use my own muscles to secure my core, wouldn’t that be a better solution. But could I?

Physical therapy had become an exercise in frustration because every time I left the office I would spend at least a full day not being able to pull up my own pants or turn over in bed or even sit comfortably for more than 15 minutes at a time.  The tiny little pelvic tilts they were asking me to do were too much.  How could I possibly do Pilates?

Taking Charge

I was a little worried about Club Pilates before I went in.  My sister-in-law a Pilates instructor.  Would a classroom environment work for me?  I spoke with Laura Cutchall, owner of Club Pilates in Severna Park about my doubts.  She confirmed what I had been thinking.  If I can strengthen my core, create my own brace with my muscles, then I will be more stable and feel less pain.

She answered my doubts as well by reminding me that I am in charge. I have an injury.  Yes, I could hurt myself if I didn’t listen to my body, if I didn’t explain myself fully to her staff or if I became competitive with people next to me.  This was about me. I had to take charge.

Private Lesson

The first thing she suggested was that I work directly with Jennifer so we could figure out just where I stood.  Almost immediately, Jennifer gave me an answer that helped.  Neutral spine.  Yes, Pilates uses the pelvic tilt a lot, just like my physical therapist.  But that doesn’t work for me.  The minute I go into tilt I activate the pain.  Working with Jennifer I was able to find neutral and concentrate on keeping neutral throughout several exercises. It wasn’t easy but I could feel the difference.  I could feel my core engaging without feeling the pain I had experienced throughout physical therapy.

Small Steps

Years ago, when I was training for Ironman, I wrote about how to eat an elephant. One bite at a time.  How will I get my core stability back?  The same way.  One breath, one move, one workout at a time.  Can I do Pilates?  Thanks to Laura and Jennifer at Club Pilates I know that I can.  But I also know that with this injury I have to be the one in charge. I have to be honest with myself and with instructors. I can’t expect anybody else to feel my pain.  They can’t. I need to take charge.

Can I reverse some of the damage that has been done?  Not to the fractures.  No.  I have been assured that that will never change.  But to my atrophied muscles?  Yes.  Thanks to Laura and Jennifer for giving me the confidence to see that this is possible.

This is a part of a new workout a week series I am doing to find out just how many workouts I can do if I modify them.  I am tired of being limited.  With the series I aim to prove that I can find my limits and still honor my body with workout.  If you are a trainer or fitness profession with a local studio and are interested in being part of this series, please contact me at BrennanAnnie@me.com.