Monday, June 30, 2014

Our Lives are made up of Seemingly Unremarkable Moments

"Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones."

~Phillips Brooks~

Our Lives are made up of Seemingly Unremarkable Moments

There are only two weeks to go before the biggest running challenge to date which is a 20 mile trail race on my nemesis trails. This would be on the infamous Wyandotte County Lake Trails with the even more infamous, cantankerous three sisters (three hills, aka the three bitches) that wait for victims in the last couple of miles of a 10 mile loop. So needless to say on the 20 miler I will get two opportunities to meet them. Every time I have done one loop here it has kicked my butt so the idea of finishing one and going back for another is somewhat intimidating. My hope is a respectable finish and to use this as a building block for my other ridiculously impossible sounding endeavor of running a 50K. I really feel like if I can conquer this challenge in a halfway reasonable time then I might be able to at least picture myself tackling the next. The plan right now is getting on the trails as much as I can this week and then shutting it down after July 5th and get some much needed rest!      

This weekend I got a group together and ran 10 miles on Saturday and hiked 10 or 11 miles with my wife on Sunday. I had a couple of friends I was hoping would run with me and I was thinking about all the times I struggled to keep up with different groups and feel bad for slowing others down. This led to posting on the Trail Nerds Facebook page calling it the Slow and Steady Saturday Summer Loop calling for mid to back of the packers to join in and run. I thought it would be a good opportunity to get others who might shy away from other group runs.
The turnout was great with about a dozen people showing up and even more who wanted to be there but were not able to make it; I am hoping we can make this a more regular thing in the future. We started at 7:30 on a warm and humid morning heading for the first stretch of bridle trails which you can almost always count on being muddy and/or rocky. We encountered quite a few horses this morning with no incidents as we all moved aside and let the riders determine whether they would pass or we should go by. Having so many horses on the trail adds to the obstacles and makes the muddy sections really hard to maneuver, especially the hills.
Entering the bridle trail
Bridle trail gets a little messy
By the time we exited the bridle trails our group had spread out into a few smaller groups and as we entered the single tracks people went different ways. Spider webs let you know quickly when you head down a section that the group in front did not take. We all made our way out to the dam and were greeted by a welcoming breeze and a chance to take in some calories before reentering the trail onto more single track and then a road crossing before the final section of bridle trial leading to the dreaded hills. The first big hill is a muddy, energy zapping mess and always gives me trouble. Thankfully, the hills are conquered or at least completed and we cross the last street to my favorite part of the trail which is the home stretch. Everyone makes it back with minimal wear and tear and overall I think today was a success.
Kristen and I hiking the trail
Then on Sunday morning my wife and I head out there to hike the trails and do some exploring and spend some time together in nature. It is funny how different parts of the trail look going at a more relaxed pace and taking time to look around. I have been wanting to add hiking to my training regimen to help deal with some muscle imbalances from running. Today is serving two purposes; I am able to open up my stride length to stretch and use some other muscles and it is giving me an idea of the pace I will need to keep when rest breaks are needed during the race.
It is once again fun to watch my wife Kristen relax and rescue caterpillars and snails, moving them off the trail to safety so they would not get stepped on. We both love being outdoors for different reasons; Kristen loves to look at all the different insects and explores with childlike enthusiasm and I enjoy the solitude and spiritual feeling I get from being in nature. Later,  Kristen’s forward progress and exploring nature came to an abrupt halt when she backed up into a perfect "boxing out" position after she almost stepped on a copperhead. It took her a second before any actual words came out but she pointed at it and I got the message rather quickly. He was sunning himself and was not deterred when I tossed a couple of small branches by him so I found a long stick and moved him to the side and had her go past behind me. I tossed the stick aside and followed close behind her. Later on we came across some more peaceful wildlife in the form of a couple of deer.

Copperhead sunning himself

The deer were much more peaceful

Moving closer to the hills I inconspicuously gave her the option (a few times) of skipping the hills and taking the road around; she was having none of it. In her true nature she ran up the last one which I videoed and you can’t hear it but as she ran by me she said “all the way to the top he says”. We completed our journey for the morning coming out of the woods and cleaning up as best we could before heading to IHop for a well-deserved late breakfast! All in all it was an exhausting but very good weekend and we will be adding to our hiking adventures in the near future on these and other trails around.

The thought I had this morning while looking back at the weekend is that our lives are made up of many seemingly unremarkable moments; when we take time to realize who they happen with and where we are at that very moment, they become memorable.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Some Days You Have to Look Back to See How Far You Have Traveled!

Some Days You Have to Look Back to See How Far You Have Traveled!

…I was closing in on 14 miles and saw my wife coming towards me; she had driven ahead for the third time and came back to encourage me to the end of my run. As I crossed the intersection she came along side me as I was struggling to stay focused on putting one foot in front of the other. As a couple of cars go past I see the drivers looking at me and I realize that my wife is walking next to me and keeping up. Granted she walks pretty fast but I can’t help…is she really walking and keeping up with me? …

“Sometimes it's necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly.”
~ Edward Albee ~

Sunday morning I went for a long out and back training run. I had a few friends that were going to join me for at least parts of it. I woke up at 4 am and it was storming, which I am fine with as long as there is not too much lightning. A nice rain and some distant rumbles of thunder can be relaxing, and a good distraction. Two of the people who were planning on meeting me were not able to make it so I set out on my own with one other possibly meeting me at the halfway point. This being a road run was going to unfortunately give me lots of time to think about things. I decided not to focus on how far I had left to go and to pick away at it a little at a time beginning with one 5K and then began working on my second which would take me to Wornall Road. Now I was focused on getting to the halfway point and just as I was approaching it Janice met me with a water bottle and a banana; where she told me that she had to get home and would not be able to run with me but she wanted to support me. She left me to get on my way and went to hide the rest of the water for me at about the 12 mile mark (which was much appreciated).
As I ran around Loose Park and towards the second half my mind began to take over. Once again the thoughts of “what business do I have thinking I can run a 50K?” Needing to find something else to focus on I looked for my third 5K and then began working on number four. I arrived at my hidden water bottle and downed a couple of jells to keep moving and talked myself into reaching the half marathon distance and then take a walking break. Shortly after I began walking my wife passed me in her car and hollered “I found you, I’ll be back”, I had no idea what she was up to. After crossing a busy intersection I saw her running towards me. She had parked her car down the road and came back to help me finish the last few miles. She leap frogged three times to support me to the finish and I was closing in on 14 miles and saw my wife coming towards me; she had driven ahead for the third time and came back to encourage me to the end of my run. As I crossed the intersection she came along side me as I was struggling to stay focused on putting one foot in front of the other. As a couple of cars go past I see the drivers looking at me and I realize that my wife is walking next to me and keeping up. Granted she walks pretty fast but I can’t help…is she really walking and keeping up with me?
I joked with her, asking her to at least look like she was working hard to keep up while walking. I look at the people driving past thinking how pathetic they must think I am. I must look pretty sad dragging my sorry butt down the road. Thoughts and more thoughts continue to attack my brain and I told my wife I want to reach the 25K distance and that would give me about a half mile cool down walk before getting home. I even asked her at one point “if I can just barely finish 25K, how was I going to reach 50K?” She was encouraging as always asking me if the day I was throwing up behind the tree, did I think I would be where I am today; but my mind can be pretty powerful and not always in a positive way. I was somewhat pleased since that was my longest training run but it did not suppress my thoughts. My main focus right now is surviving and having a respectable 20 mile race in July. All along hoping that would answer some questions about what I really could do and what was inside me.
This morning doing an early morning 3.1 mile training run before work I tried to redirect my thoughts. I somehow pictured some conversations I had with people about my transition from a 250 pound, negative, hypertensive person to who I am today. I visualized the picture that I showed to potential clients or people I was doing wellness coaching with. I guess you can say that I needed to look back to see how far I have traveled to get to where I am; I have heard that sometimes it's necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly. If I look back a few years ago I would see today’s 5K run was my long run. Plus the people I have met through running still amaze me and are some of my best friends.

The moral of this little story is this: When you get frustrated and are battling the “thoughts”, stop and take a look back. If you are in a better place or at least moving forward, continue on. Find what works and has worked to get you to this point. Continue setting goals that challenge you and even scare you a little. Build your support system and allow them to brace you up every now and again; you will be there for them as well. Finally, never stop moving forward unless it is to remind yourself of how far you have traveled!   

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Work out Anxiety and Depression

"The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new."
~ Socrates ~

Work out Anxiety and Depression

For many years I did not understanding the “empty” feeling deep inside of me and of course I was always a worrier. My Mom would ask me what was wrong and all I could say was, I don’t know. I have always liked doing physical things but never thought about the reasons why. People at work thought I was crazy because I liked to be in a trailer throwing boxes all day. Later in life fitness became a way to be healthy and feel better. Little by little I began to realize that it really did make me feel better and as a personal trainer I was given the opportunity to see it work in others as well. Since I have become more open in talking about anxiety and depression I have been lucky enough to have so many people open up to me and tell me their stories. What it all boils down to is that we all have a story and the more we relate to each other the better off we will be. Now getting to my point of this post; exercise of any kind will help you deal with anxiety, depression and make your story a more positive one.
I am not a medical expert but I want to take some time to talk about the benefit of getting involved in some type of exercise program to help deal with anxiety and depression. I am convinced of two things based on my own experiences. First, I believe that interval training helps get the body used to dealing with stress. By getting your heart rate up and allowing it to return to normal and continuously repeating the process, I feel like your body learns from this and does not “panic” because it is used to the process and in time it will return to normal quicker. Second is that for years I have struggled with (self diagnosed) Seasonal Affective Disorder and the last two years I have run outside anytime it is possible during the winter. By doing this I have given myself maximum exposure to the sun and lessened its affect on me. The irony is amusing when you watch people’s reactions when you are out in the elements and they are sure that you have lost it. They do not realize that what you are doing is keeping you whole.
Moving from the physical and health benefits but staying with the mental health benefits we have to look at increased self esteem and confidence. The more you learn to do for yourself, the better you feel. Setting and reaching goals can be very rewarding and encouraging. The most important aspect of setting goals is to make them realistic at first; there is plenty of time as you progress to set one that scares the heck out of you. Working out with a partner, personal trainer or a class/group setting increases inclusiveness and can help with feelings of being excluded. Finding ways to be around like-minded people who have similar goals can help keep you accountable and increase your odds of success. This can be a safe, positive atmosphere for people who struggle with social interaction. If a class setting is too much at first try a trainer but do not be afraid to have someone with you and “interview” the trainer. You must be able to relate to this person and they must understand where you are in your journey.
There have been many studies and articles done on this subject. It does not seem to have to be aggressive or strenuous activities either, although many who suffer these things seem to gravitate towards endurance sports. Even 15-20 minutes of walking or using an elliptical can help you feel more relaxed and balanced. Increased blood flow and circulation will increase gas exchange in the capillaries. This simply means that more oxygen is brought to your blood and toxins (gases) can be released; this is in addition to the toxins released while you sweat. Incorporating cardio workouts helps to regulate your blood pressure and heart rate. Exercise triggers the release of hormones and chemicals needed to keep the mind balanced while releasing stress from the body. One of the best known chemicals is endorphins which act with receptors in the brain to help block pain.

There is too much evidence not to give exercise a try; the better you feel, the better decisions you will make and the more positive you will be. Remember that if you woke up breathing today, it is not too late! I would love to hear your stories and thoughts on this. 

Sometimes There is a Certain Comfort in Darkness, Sometimes it is Just Darkness

"Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream befo...