Friday, May 25, 2012
Well, it seems I have your attention right now. And, because of that, there are some thoughts I'd like to share with all of you that are deeply personal...things I have not shared with even my closest SparkFriends up until now. I hope you don't mind if we go a little deeper and a little darker today, but I promise we'll come out in the light.
The reason I want to do this is because there is such a momentum with my blogs right now and, I suppose, with my life in general. I fear that you will think that I am doing all of this on sheer willpower. And that you will become discouraged if you can't seem to muster the willpower to make lasting changes in your own health. I want you to know that this burst of energy that I've been seeing is not based on willpower (more explanation in a bit). I'm beyond thrilled that I can encourage and motivate so many of you, but I've been hearing murmurings from discouraged friends. And I have taken them to heart.
The most touching was from a dear friend from high school. She wrote:
"I'm inspired by your dedication to your new, healthy lifestyle. I'm jealous that I'm struggling to get there myself. I'm happy that you're accomplishing such amazing things and loving your life! I'm angry that I'm struggling to get there myself. I'm delighted that you look and feel amazing! I'm disappointed that I'm struggling to get there myself. Oh, did I mention that I'm struggling?
I wish I could find out what is wrong in my head. I still can't stop making poor choices when it comes to food and I really struggle physically to complete any kind of workout. I'm extremely angry at myself for letting my health get to this point and I'm frustrated that I keep bouncing back and forth between healthy and non-healthy choices.
I just want to tell you that I truly admire you for continually making healthy choices and I pray that I will get there someday, that I will have the strength to overcome my food addiction, that I will have the strength to stop pitying myself."
Oh, honey...I see you! And I so relate to what you are saying. I want to share my darkest moments...those times that have led me to this point. And, it truly is a journey. And guess what? This might be where you are right now...and you have only good things to look forward to in your health journey, my friend.
Let me start by admitting that I grew up in a family of addiction. My parents (and all subsequent step-parents) were all drug addicts. In addition, my mother was bi-polar and I grew up as the oldest of 5. As children, we saw horrific things that no child should see, at the hands of domestic abuse. We were never physically abused, but we were most certainly emotionally and verbally abused. But, I had to hold it together because I was the protector. Frankly, I'm shocked that I never developed an addiction to any substance like marijuana or tobacco or alcohol. I firmly believe the hand of God has been on my life since I was a child.
However, this does not mean I haven't struggled with addiction. I have been addicted to more benign things: Coca-Cola, fast food, Facebook. Looking at this list almost makes me laugh...except that any kind of addiction results in too much time spent on that thing...and it damages relationships. And that is not funny.
That being said, I do honestly feel that my genetic propensity toward addiction is partly why I have seen success in my diet and exercise program this time. I suppose I have, if you will, traded addictions. Talk about taking lemons and making lemonade! Health is not a terrible addiction to have.
Still, this is why I am SO focused on listening to my body. Because, if it gets out of hand, it could lead to injuries, obsession, eating disorders. I'm not naive enough to think that I'm immune to the possibility of these things. But I'm being smart about all of it...and paying attention and staying alert. The moment it becomes an unhealthy obsession is the moment I will need to take a step back and re-evaluate some things.
I've talked about my roller skating accident a bit - usually from a positive standpoint (thank God I can walk, etc.) But I haven't really shared the defining moments from that experience...that really do fuel what I'm doing today. In fact, I haven't shared this with anyone.
When the accident occurred, I was in a crowded roller rink with plenty of little kids watching. My sister and I were doing great...she was teaching me some T-stops in the middle of the rink. It can only be described as a freak accident. In less than a second, I was on the floor, holding my shattered elbow bone so it wouldn't come out of my skin and unable to move because my wrist and ankle were also broken. The time spent waiting for the ambulance felt like an hour. I knew that every kid in that place was watching in horror...and their moms were thinking, "My kid will NEVER go roller skating again!" I tried not to scream because I didn't want to scare them, but it's a lot of pain for a person to bear at once.
Luckily, I have had 3 kids naturally. I'll tell you what...pregnancy breathing is a lifesaver and really got me through that wait for the ambulance. The other thing that got me through was my sister's voice. She just kept talking to me and I didn't let her stop. Her voice carried me through that entire night. I refused to open my eyes, because I didn't want to see the damage...for fear I'd go hysterical. So, my eyes were shut for hours. (I hope that I can be that voice that carries some of you through your darkness.)
Still, I was thinking, "It's just a broken arm. I'll go back to work on Monday and I'll be embarrassed but it'll heal and I'll still try out for derby in July." Cut to the emergency room, where it felt like we had to wait FOREVER to see an orthopedic surgeon. X-rays, a million nurses, lights and voices. Still...my sister's voice through every moment. I remember I had finally calmed down (probably drugs) and gotten the pain under control. I was OK. Then, the nurse came out and said, "Leah, I need to talk to you. You need to know that this is bad. Real bad. Your recovery will be long. You will need a lot of help when you get home." You guys, I knew at that point that I had 5 broken bones, but I just hadn't thought about what that meant. As she was talking, I completely lost it. I mourned the fact that I wouldn't be going back to work for weeks (turned into 3 months) and that I would be a huge burden on my family and friends. I hate to be a burden.
Surgery was successful. Recovery in the hospital...well, it was so rough. Ok, maybe I lied a bit earlier about no drug addictions. If I could get an IV of Dilaudid for use at anytime, I would be ALL over that. That stuff was FANTASTIC. And, man, I sure did need it. Most of the time, I had friends and family there to keep me company. But at night, people went home. I don't know why I woke up every single night at 4am. Like clockwork. But I did.
And one night...I woke up...and wasn't prepared for this thought to hit me: "Your roller derby career is over before it even began." This was a huge moment for me. I had been hardcore training and working out for 3 months prior - 6 days a week - and had lost 15 lbs. I WANTED this. When I realized that there wasn't any hope for it, my soul mourned its loss. I really was hysterical. ALL that work...all those 5am workouts...all that pain...for what? Nothing. I was SO upset, I was sobbing to the point of hyperventilating and my body was shaking. The nurse ran in and I tried to explain but I couldn't. All I could do was cry. She thought I was in pain physically, but I wasn't. It was a deep soul pain. Thank God for her...she brought a warmed blanket and it really helped to calm me. And I drifted off to sleep.
I've already shared in a previous blog about the recovery physically. It was long and difficult. But emotionally, I shut down. I slipped into my normal depression (thanks for passing that on, Ma) and I distinctly remember telling myself one day, "I will never be able to do anything fun again. I will never be able to play a sport. Forget skiing. I can't run. I can barely walk. I can't even do softball. There is nothing I can do physically anymore. For the rest of my life."
Look...I know it's hard sometimes to see successes all over SparkPeople. While they are motivating and so encouraging, they can also feel like a knife just stabbing you in the heart. But, if you are feeling that way right now, I'm here to tell you...we have ALL been there. You aren't alone. And you CAN push through it. Personally, I needed some help in the form of medication. There is no shame in that...it really helped me and got me to a point where I was positive enough to be able to think, "You know...maybe I could walk a bit."
You're not alone. You can do this. You REALLY can. Just don't give up. Just keep going. Please keep going.
I watched a video blog this morning and literally got the chills because this guy (one of my favorites on SparkPeople) was talking to exactly this issue of feeling discouraged. I know it's 8 minutes long, but you guys...if you are discouraged, I promise this will encourage you. You really should check it out.
All that to say...I'm not doing this from willpower alone. I'm doing this from a place of pain, where I endured quite a lot of emotional turmoil and gained some strength from going through the dark places. Your struggles can and will be used to fuel your future successes.
When I cross that finish line tomorrow, it will be a victory in the face of my accident. It will signify that I am no longer defined by my past or my limitations.
I know we hear this a lot, but it's the truth...if I can do this, so can you. And we can do this together.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
You know, I've found myself spending a lot more time on this site over the past few weeks.
When I first started, I would do the basics every day - log my food and exercise, and get as many points as I could and that would be that. I never even bothered to check out the Friend Feed and I rarely read anyone's blog posts. It was pretty much a bare bones approach to SparkPeople. It's not that I didn't think everyone on here was nice or I didn't enjoy adding SparkFriends. I did. I had a couple SparkFriends that I recognized because they frequented my Team message boards, but not too many. It's just that it didn't seem REAL. It was a virtual world with a bunch of people I'd never met and probably never would and this virtual world wasn't part of MY world.
But then things took a super sharp turn. I recall a few weeks ago deciding to just browse through the Friend Feed because I had received some SparkGoodies and sweet messages from a couple people I didn't know. Went through and liked a few statuses...checked out a couple blogs and left some comments. And it was kind of fun. I mean, I'm a self-proclaimed Facebook addict, so I know how this all goes. But still...I thought, "I'm already addicted to FB and Twitter...do I really want ANOTHER social media site? This is why I am not on LinkedIn yet or Tumblr. Can't manage them all!"
Then came what I like to call "the explosion". There was that blog post about my first run of a distance of 5k. I am not sure what it was that was so popular about that one, but I suddenly had an inbox blowing up with comments and gifts and kind words. I have received 390 comments on this one blog entry! As this was my first experience like this, I felt so touched and I vowed to write a personal note to every single person that commented on this blog. Well, I made that commitment when there were about 85 comments. Haha. I believe I managed about 300 return comments. But, man...things started taking off and once I was awarded "Motivator", I could no longer keep up. However, through that crazy few days, I managed to add about 150 SparkFriends (and continue to add each day).
In response to that blog, I realized that all of you are so very REAL and so many people are in need of encouragement and inspiration and most of us are all in the same boat, no matter where we live or what our circumstances in life may be.
I have been up to date on my Friend Feed for the past week. I don't miss a post!!! Yes, I see you all out there! I like any status where someone spins 20 or more. I like ALL statuses of people receiving fitness minute awards and any status that shows someone has worked out or feels great about their health. It's just a "like"...but I see it as a little bit of encouragement that I can give to my friends here on SparkPeople...an "atta girl/atta boy...keep on keepin on!" if you will. I really do read every blog that comes across my Friend Feed now. Don't always comment, but if it resonates with me, I certainly will. I wasn't too involved in my Teams before, but now I am finding new friends there every day as well.
And what has happened as a result of one decision to read through a Friend Feed? I can't even explain it to you. Somehow, this melee of random virtual profiles has transformed into living, breathing, phone talking, text messaging, Facebook friending, struggle sharing, motivation giving, REAL LIFE frienships in MY real world! A divide has been crossed and, somehow, this community is REAL now!
It is the motivation I receive from all my SparkFriends that keeps me positive and keeps me writing these blogs. It's incredibly circular the way this works! I truly believe that, without you, I would not have the motivation that I have or be able to provide any motivation at all.
Thank you so much for being true friends. For being there for me and allowing me to be there for you. Now...Spark on, friends!!! It's a beautiful day!!! I'll catch you on the Friend Feed, eh?
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Well, I've been sitting here rubbing my eyes and trying to figure this blog out for a little while now. Usually, I create my entire blog in my head during my morning run. But, today I was focused on the run and nothing else.
I had heard there was a 5k/10k coming up here in my town on Saturday, but had dismissed it because, you know, MY first 5k isn't until July 28th. However, I received an e-mail yesterday from a personal trainer friend from church (she actually led the "Made To Crave" study that I was in that started me on this whole healthy lifestyle) and she is giving a presentation on health after the race and wanted to know if I'd come watch. Suddenly, the idea that I'd so quickly tossed aside a week ago began to turn itself over in my head.
I thought, "Of course I'll go see Julie speak and support her." If I'm going to be there, I might as well go a bit earlier and see all the race day festivities. And, if I'm going to do that, I might as well run the race, seeing as it's the same length that I've been running with no trouble in my training runs for the past couple weeks. And, you know, I probably won't run the entire race. I'll probably walk some of it, but I know for a fact I can finish in under an hour...which isn't bad for a chick who broke 5 bones just two years ago. This could be a really big victory for me. And it would be some good experience for future races. And, I mean...it's right in my backyard. I don't have to drive anywhere or get up super early. Ohhhhhh.....ok...."REGISTER". Done.
I've done my due diligence and research and tapered my run this morning down to just 2 miles (man, that felt short!) And tomorrow will be a complete rest day...healthy eating, to bed as early as possible. Friday, a short 20 minute run with some speed bursts. As good of sleep as I can get on Friday, then it's Race Day. Through all of this, I will be hydrating like a monster because the high on Saturday will be 94 degrees, sunny and 0% chance of rain. I don't expect it to be too bad when the race starts at 9:30am and, luckily, it's just a short 3.1. Nevertheless, I am already hydrating.
I texted my family last night (mom, stepdad, sisters) to tell them what I had so flippantly decided to do. My mom was quite worried, but we ended up having a great chat after that and I guess I can share some of that...perhaps it will give you some insight into what this sport means to me now. Perhaps it will resonate wtih you...or remind you of another activity in your own life that brings you just as much joy. Plus, I love to be nosy and read other people's texts. Haha.
Are you conditioned for the run? Remember to hydrate well before, during and after the run. Please take it easy and at a realistic pace! The goal is to "finish the race", not be the first to finish. To meet your goal, you will need to run a mile in 15 minutes.
Mom. I am conditioned. I've been running for a month under a certified personal trainer's guidance. I am laser focused on my injuries and listening to my body cues now. I run a 5k as my normal practice short run. It's not that hard. I am training for a half marathon next May. I normally run 5k in 43 minutes and usually don't push too hard. But if I don't get 40, who cares? I will have finished a 5k in under an hour just 2 years after a devastating accident. That will be sweet victory.
Well, I guess I need say no more. I did not know you were training. I am so proud of you and, judging from what you have shared with me, your goal is attainable.
You're a cute mommy to worry. :) My body has completely transformed in the past 4 weeks. I can feel it. And see it. I feel like a brand new person. Confident, beautiful and completely EMPOWERED. It's amazing! I've never been more happy in my entire life. I am literally GLOWING.
No more antidepressants. :) Sometimes depression is chemical, hormonal and/or environmental with life stressors. Sometimes all it takes is a little help getting to the normal level and then one can learn to cope and manage the depression without meds. You don't have to live with the generational baggage anymore.
Yeah. Running has released a lot of emotions. It has almost changed me emotionally and spiritually more than it has physically. I didn't expect that. I never want to get up and do it, but the second I get outside and that 6am burst of dawn hits my lungs...it's instant energy. I work a lot of things out in my head while I'm running.
I'm so proud of you.
I cannot believe I'm a runner and pretty much on my way to becoming an athlete in a sport. It's crazy! I never thought this would be possible at my weight and with my past injuries...but these excuses were just smokescreens and not real. They were lies, based on FEAR.
Whatever it is that fulfills you the way running does me, I hope you find it. And I hope you do it for the rest of your life. There's just nothing more thrilling than feeling truly alive...and I wish for that for every one of you.
If there's any way I can help you, you guys know how to find me.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Ohhhh yeah...THAT got your attention, didn't it??? Haha.
This past weekend, I was privileged to speak with one of SparkPeople's GREATS in the sport of running - ABSOLUTZER0. I am not gonna lie - one hour on the phone with this guy is probably the equivalent of several books' worth of race prep/running knowledge! What a great gift he gave me! We just geeked out about running and had a wonderful time doing it.
One of the subjects we talked about was "naked running", which is running without music or a Garmin or any other type of gadgetry. Runners vary in their preferences...some absolutely rely on an mp3 player and others don't.
ABSOLUTZER0 is a purist, if you will. He runs to the sound of his own heartbeat and his feet on the pavement - for a couple reasons. First, he enjoys interacting with people - other runners on the course and also the crowd. Second, without music to distract him or drown everything out, he is better able to focus on his body's cues and what is going on inside him and around him while he runs.
In light of a blog I recently read where WONDERWOMAN shared that she went to turn on her ipod at the Green Bay Cellcom Half Marathon this weekend and found that it was dead, I decided to give this naked running a try this morning. Call it a beginning runner's experiment.
Frankly, I LOOOOVE my music. I have determined that I don't necessarily use the beat of my music to pace my run...my pace stays pretty steady...but it does keep me moving and awake and helps me break the run up a bit. So, I really wondered if this would be awful. However, I refused to allow negative self-talk in and to be open-minded and give it everything I had.
The run started off well, but I will admit...I was tired today. My body was just worn out. So, I knew that would affect my overall performance. I had a decent interval at the start of the run, but walked most of the first half after that.
In addition, I had a pretty off day nutritionally yesterday. I definitely learned this morning that it is NOT good for me, personally, to try to run the day after I have had almost no vegetables. I didn't eat crap or anything...I mean, it was just all protein and complex carbs. Still stayed in my calorie range...but no leafy greens. What a lesson!!!
Oh, friends...let's just say this. There is one thing that I said I will NEVER EVER do...but this morning, I had to submit to the fact that I will need to handle this issue as I delve into longer runs. The dreaded and disgusting...port o potty. So disturbing for me! Halway through my run, I faced this fear. And, as any good runner knows, it's best to get these things out of the way during training and not have the first experience with it be during a real race. This is unpleasant, but it is the nature of our sport. At some point, we'll have to visit this dark chamber of putrid death.
I'm pretty sure I gagged for a quarter of a mile after that. BUT...any sadness I felt at a loss of music was FAR outweighed by my joy of running in the fresh, summer morning air.
In all seriousness, this naked running was not a terrible experience at all. I definitely did learn about my breathing patterns, which was interesting. And there were plenty of great sounds from nature itself to keep me entertained the entire 3 miles. I mean...have you heard these BIRDS??? They rock!
Final verdict: I'll probably stick with my tunes and my interval timer, because they give me pleasure but I've also decided to work some naked runs into my training schedule at regular intervals - if only to know how my body feels to not rely on interval times and Lady Gaga at varying distances. I feel versatility in training is important, because you just never know what's going to go down on race day.
On a side note, I had mentioned previously that there was a smiling lady about my age that I keep passing every time I run. We have that little "runners' connection" and are always happy to see each other...although we are always running in opposite directions and we've never met. This morning, before I left the house, I penned a quick note:
I don't know your story, but you should know that you're beautiful!
And I'm proud of you for running!
[Insert Leah contact info here]"
Well, as usual, we passed around the same spot that we always do and she said, "Good morning!" And I could actually hear her today because I didn't have my earbuds in! I proclaimed, "I have a note for you!" and passed it to her.
On the way back, we passed again and she introduced herself. Sarah. Yay! A new running friend!!! She said she usually runs alone, but if I wanted to run with her, we could go together sometime.
Which brings me to a future blog:
A Beginning Runner's Experiment: Running With A Partner.
Stay tuned, folks!!!
Monday, May 21, 2012
You know something? That Coach Nicole is tricky! Let me just explain to you how this crafty woman lured me (a self-proclaimed exercise hater) into a seemingly innocent little challenge that has turned into one of the best things that has ever happened to me: The Spring Into Shape Bootcamp Challenge.
Imagine this...here comes an e-mail with a sweet little lady (Nicole) on it that says, "Hey lazy Leah! Join our super simple and easy challenge that only lasts for 4 very short weeks and you could win $300! ALL you have to do is a really tiny 10-minute video every day and add at least 10 minutes of cardio (preferably 30) to your schedule three times a week. EASY!" (Ok, ok...I paraphrased that).
So, of course, I thought, "Wellll....aren't you the cutest little thing? I am quite certain I am able to do 10 measly minutes a day and sometimes 20 minutes (with cardio). Yeah, this sounds simple enough. I'M IN!"
Week 1: OH MY GOSH...HOW LONG IS THIS VIDEO?! Coach Nicole, my body won't stretch that way! But...cardio wasn't bad. Actually...30 mins three times a week is pretty easy. No probs there.
Week 2: I hate these videos...but...they are only 10 minutes. Just do it, Leah...and you'll feel better afterwards. Cardio is making me feel AMAAAZING! Ramping it up now to 60 minute workouts thrice a week.
Week 3: Wow...halfway point is over already? Cool. Hey, these videos are getting easier. And I have muscle in my arm! Cardio is the best thing that's ever happened to me and I don't even WANT to take two rest days. MAKE YOURSELF REST, LEAH!
And that brings us to today...the second day of Week 4. I had just finished my standard daily video (Pilates...which I DESPISED the first week, but I gotta tell ya...I am actually seeing abs forming and it is shocking. So...I kinda like it now...even though it's still torture). I also added a 20-minute full body resistance band workout. Body feels awesome. My running is taking off like crazy...about ready to kick my long run on Sundays up to a 5-miler.
And, as I was getting ready for work, it was like everything about this challenge hit me all at once:
I am getting abs.
I have lost 5 lbs in 3 weeks.
My body feels so...tight and strong. No more flabby mess.
I have so much energy.
I love running.
My stomach is smaller.
I can get through those Bootcamp videos really easily now.
I don't want to stop after the Challenge ends.
I couldn't care less if I win $300.
I am ONE run away from 1,000 monthly fitness minutes - this has never happened.
This is the first time I've ever looked in the mirror and noticed a change in my body.
With alllll these thoughts swishing in my head...I not only thought, "WHO IS THIS PERSON THAT I'M LOOKING AT IN THE MIRROR???" I realized...that Coach Nicole...she's a tricky little saint. And I LOVE her.
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