Happy Side Effects and Learning Curves

When I started running last July I weighed somewhere around 176 pounds.
I weighed myself yesterday morning and I am at 161.5.
That’s roughly 15 pounds in 29 weeks.
1/2 pound per week.
The ‘slow and steady’ kind that guarantees permanent results.
Which is a good thing.
But weight loss wasn’t why I started running.
Pretty ironic for a woman who’s been “on a diet” since 1979 (funny, that’s about a year after I last ran voluntarily).
For the record: I am 5′ 4″. 

No, I started running, as stated on my About page here, for a couple different reasons.
Yes, there was that “my husband was a runner and I think he misses it ” thing.
But more than that was the whole
faux Nike ad from What Women Want.  I wanted to feel that way when and from running. I wanted that love affair with “The Road”.  And slowly but surely, that has become more than just a tear-jerking scene in a Helen Hunt movie for me. I have come to love “The Road” and love that unconditional acceptance from “The Road” no matter how long it’s been since the last time I met with it/her.

And along with that has come what I call the Happy Side Effect of weight loss!

Ahhh weight loss. Let’s talk about that for a moment, shall we?

This time last year I was edging dangerously close to hitting the 200 pound mark for the second time in my life, and neither of those resulted in a bouncing baby anybody.
My blood pressure had been ‘borderline high’ (130/80) for a good four years, my cholesterol numbers have stayed below 300, but the ‘good’ cholesterol was a little on the low side and the ‘bad’ cholesterol was a little on the high side. (My personal jury is still out on that good/bad cholesterol thing, but I err on the side of caution and take the doctor’s word for it.)
I got winded walking up a flight of more than five stairs; my ankles, knees, hips, and lower back hurt far more often than there was ever any reason for them to. I wasn’t in “bad” health, nothing life-limiting, but still not as good as it could have been.
I was, in short, The Average, Low-End-of-Obesity, Out-of-Shape, American.

Fast-forward to today.
Yes, I’m losing weight.
And for the first time in thirty-four years I don’t have a Goal Weight.
That amazing, amorphously specific, all-consuming, unattainabe Number.
Oh don’t get me wrong, I thought I had one.
Wanna know what it was?
One Hundred Thirty-Five Pounds.
I am, as previously stated, 5’4″ tall and depending on which “Ideal Weight Chart” you choose to believe in my “Healthy Weight” is anywhere between 105 and 150 pounds. And I have made the trip from one end to the other of that spectrum – including a lot of swings way off that higher end – numerous times.

The truth is that I have no clue what a healthy weight is for me.
Not a truly healthy one.
And certainly not a healthy, slender one.

I know how to get skinny.
I have “attained” that particular “goal” by: starving myself; abusing diet pills (the old-school, early 80s, over-the-counter kind); abusing laxatives (that’s a hard one to put in writing); by fad-dieting (name one since 1979 and I’ve probably at least played at it); and by calorie restriction combined with over-exercise.

I know how to work-my-butt-off-out then go home and sabotage my own efforts with not just what I shoved in my face but how much of it I shoved in there.

I know how to over eat healthy.
It doesn’t matter how whole the grains are, how lean the meat is, how fresh the vegetables are, or how high the fiber is if you eat two or three times as much of something as is necessary or healthy.

What I don’t know is this: I have absolutely no idea what a healthy weight is on my body with the combination of eating a reasonable, healthy diet and consistently exercising.
None.
I don’t know if “That Number” is 135 pounds, 145 pounds, or 125 pounds.

I have never known my body in a truly balanced, healthy state.
Okay, that’s not true.
When I was eight, nine, ten years old I knew my body in that state.
Because when I was about eight years old my mother went through what my family called her “Health Food Kick”. She started reading Adelle Davis’ books and eliminated all processed food from our diet. And at that age I was playing outside – physically active – more hours of the day than I was sitting in front of a television. In school we had actual Physical Education Class, and Recess. You remember Recess don’t you? (And not the adorably quirky Disney Cartoon.)

The only other time in my life that I was intentionally, all-around healthy was when I was pregnant with my son.
I was diligent about what I ate. I was conscious of sodium consumption because I was determined that I was not going to develop edema which my Ob/Gyn was nearly obsessive about. Having suffered two previous miscarriages I was (as we Southerners are wont to say) dead-set and by-god determined to bring a healthy child into the world so I ate healthy like it was my job.
I wasn’t “working out” per se, but I was in college which had me moving from class to class in different buildings, and my workstudy job entailed giving campus tours which was a lot of walking!

But past that I honestly have no clue what my body being nourished and moved and functioning as a truly healthy, living entity looks or feels like. This is the Learning Curve from this post’s title. Learning what exactly a truly healthy body feels – and yes looks – like for me.
What is its size?
What is its shape?
What does it feel like?
And yeah, a little bit of me wants to learn what That Healthy – Truly Healthy – Number is.

What I do know is this: My body – given a healthy diet and consistent exercise – will let me know what its healthy weight is.

I am that incredible combination of excited and terrified to find out what THAT number is!

10 in 2: We Finished It RUNNING!

I recently had a comment saying that the liked my “I’ve never run ‘X’ miles posts every few runs.  Well, tonight’s is another one.

Today we ran TEN FREAKIN’ MILES!!  Everybody together now: 
I HAVE NEVER RUN TEN MILES (freakin’ or otherwise) IN MY LIFE!

I don’t know about anybody else, but I certainly feel better having got that out of my system!

This was our run.
Before you get all impressed by that elevation chart down there, please understand this:  Between Miles 1.5 and 8.5 we’re running on a local running/biking trail that is essentially flat.  The mapping program – ALL of them – picks up on the terrain on either side of the trail.  Our elevation change really weren’t all that impressive for most of the run.  It was just l-o-n-g!

And painful.
These are our “Splits”.
As explained to me by my HCRP (husband/coach/running partner) “splits” show your speed/minutes per mile for each individual mile of a run and show how consistent/inconsistent a runner is at maintaining a particular pace.  This is – I am learning – very important information to have.
Back to the Splits…
As you can see we were pretty consistent with our times with the notable exceptions of miles 5 and 8.  Let me tell you what happened there.

Mile 5:
My left
hamstring tightened up like an over-wound wristwatch spring so we had to stop completely for a good couple minutes so I could stretch, as well as walking an entire two minutes in that stretch.  It got better, but never “good”.  In addition, my right shoulder tightened up just as severely.  At first I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why.  Early in my running I realized that I have a tendency to ‘bunch’ my shoulders up which causes muscle tension pretty much everywhere.  Once I realized that – which actually happened during a tai chi class – I have made a conscious effort at ‘dropping’ my shoulders and keeping them, my arms, and hands (actually in reverse order of effect) loose and relaxed while I run.  It finally dawned on me that it was a sympathetic reaction to the tightness of the hamstring on the opposite side of my body.  You never realize how much a single part of your body impacts your run until it isn’t acting right!

And I developed a blister on my right foot just where my foot starts arching up past the ball of my foot.  That’s where I got the first blister I ever had and – ill-fitting shoes aside – if I’m going to get a blister that’s where it’s going to be.  The most aggravating part about the blister is the fact that I was wearing $14 running socks and $120 running shoes – that I’d been fitted for at a local running store no less – and still got a flippin’ blister!  I coulda done that in Dollar Store socks and WalMart tennies!

Mile 8:
Ye Old Hamstring kicked back in, whatever the muscle is at the top of the leg where the thigh and hip come together on my right leg started screaming at me, my left knee added its dulcet tones to this little symphony of pain, my shoulder tightening was giving me a headache, and frankly I was tired!  So we walked a good two minutes, and Rich was completely willing – even suggested – that maybe I just needed to walk out the last 1.5 miles.  And he would totally have done that to avoid the possibility of me doing permanent damage.
I thought about it for about half a second before the thought of having to come here and admit that I walked the entire last two miles of my first ten mile run hit me and frankly that pissed me completely off at myself.  Oh heck no (remember, I gave up profanity for the new year…)!  I was not finishing my first ten mile run walking.  I had not busted my butt since last July to WALK the end of my first really long run!  If I wanted to WALK I could have been doing that all along!
So we took off running and even with a couple extended (by 30 seconds each) walk intervals we finished RUNNING!  Tired and sore but RUNNING!
I came home and bee-lined it to our (wonderful, fabulous, I could just about live in it) jacuzzi tub, added a generous scoop of epsom salts with eucalyptus and soaked for a good 40 minutes til the water started cooling off.

Now.
I’m sore.  Make no mistake about that.  And my blister has a blister.  But I just ran TEN FREAKIN’ MILES people!  There’s gonna be soreness.
There will be soreness next weekend when we increase our distance to eleven miles, and the week after that when we increase to 12.  And most assuredly after our Half in March.
But there are no injuries – blistered blisters notwithstanding.

And by God, there was no walking to the end of that run either!

Product Review/Demi-Rant

DISCLAIMER:
Guys, feel free to skip this one altogether. It’s about running bras.
There are no anatomically correct illustrations.
Sorry!
/END DISCLAIMER:


I am A Runner.
I am also a relatively well-endowed female. (No pictures. Just take my word for it.)
Buying bras has been a nightmare for me for well over thirty-five years (I’ll be forty-seven in eighteen days – do the math) and that nightmare has only got worse since taking up running.

I tell women friends who are interested in taking up running that there are two things you don’t ‘cheap out’ on: Running Shoes and Sports Bras. Doing so in either case will lead to short-term pain and long-term damage that simply can’t be undone.

I’ve gone through a progression of four different running bras since I started running. The Exercise Bras I had when I first started got me through about the first two weeks, but the minute I my run/walk intervals surpassed the “run three minutes/walk two minutes” mark they just weren’t getting it and that short-term pain thing became more than apparent. If you’re a woman and you’ve ever been pregnant or breastfed and had that swollen, glutted, thing that happens?  Yeah, THAT is the kind of pain I’m talking about! Not fun.

After months of trial and error I’ve narrowed my ‘collection’ down to three that I am willing to “endorse” (because really, isn’t the entire world waiting to see which bra I use?!) with caveats/warnings for each one.

The Enell

My First Favorite Running Bra!

My only reason for seeking a replacement for it was that I lost enough weight that it fit too loose through the shoulders and had therefore lost some of its ‘support factor’. Otherwise, I would just about wear this bra 365/24/7.
I love the wide shoulder straps.
I love the fabric.
I love the feel of the thing.

I do not love the raw spot/sore it rubbed at the bottom center where the last hook-and-eye and my skin met repeatedly once I started running more than about two miles at a stretch. I actually wore it to run a 5K and ‘fixed’ it by affixing a piece of moleskin over the bottom of the bra where it closes. I don’t think I should have to make modifications like that to a $64 bra.

Dear Enell People:
Great bra! Fix that little bit at the bottom and you have a fan for life!
Signed,
Me in Memphis


The Vero

I. Love. This. Bra!

This was “Contestant Number Two” recommended by and purchased at my local running store after The Enell wore a hole in my hide.
Well constructed, good support.
Love the “encapsulation” aspect.

Two Problems:
#1 The Vero has ‘convertible straps’ which means it can function as a “regular” bra with the straight over the shoulder straps, or you can criss-cross them to work with racerback tanks, etc.
Nice feature.
In theory.
In practice that same ‘removable hook’ that makes the straps convertible works its way loose while you’re running and the next thing you know one of The Girls is … shall we say … “free to move about the cabin”. If you happen to be running with your loving spouse or a good friend you have an assistant handy to help get things back under control. If not, you have to hope you can get another runner to stop along the course – wasting precious time – and re-hook you up. That or you finish your run holding one boob in your hand like you’ve had some sort of unfortunate implant incident. Not fun.  And frankly kills your run time.

#2 The straps themselves are narrow enough that the first time I wore this bra on a run longer than a couple miles I ended up with raw spots rubbed across the tops of my shoulders that were nearly cuts. There is a relatively inexpensive solution to this: Braza Cush-eez Bra Strap Cushions with Silicone Pads. Arguably one of the best ten dollars I’ve spent in a long time. However, there is that part of me that says “I spent forty dollars on this bra and I have to buy ‘accessories’ to keep it from causing injuries?”

Neither of these keeps me from wearing this particular bra, but I reserve it for distances of three miles or less and most definitely won’t be wearing it in any road races ‘just in case’.


Last, but certainly not least . . .
The Juno

If I love the Vero, I am in love with the Juno!

Comfort: Check.
Support: Check.
Stability: Check.
Ease of Putting On/Taking Off: Could be easier, but if it were it wouldn’t doo that voodoo that it doo so well so I can totally live with the struggle. I consider it part of my pre- and post-run upper body stretch.
To date I’ve worn this bra on as long as an eight mile run with almost no complaints.

Once gain there was strap rub at the collarbone (yes, even with Glide liberally applied) that bordered on being open wounds. So my handy-dandy little $10 investment buddies up there came in both handy and dandy. I’m getting (mostly) over my whole “After spending $XX on a bra why should I have to modify/accessorize it to prevent injuries?!” outrage.

BUT!
The biggest problem came from something as simple as the tag on the back. After last night’s run I am now the less-than-gracious hostess to a lovely, 1/4″ in diameter open wound in the middle of my back directly under where the manufacturer’s tag was on the bra.
Yes, I most likely “should have” thought to cut it off before wearing it. I didn’t.
Should I be injured because of an oversight? I think not.

So this morning I did what any other red-blooded, product-injured American would do. (Not “Hire an attorney”.) I contacted the manufacturer via their website:
“I recently purchased a Moving Comfort Juno exercise bra. I am a fairly large-busted woman, I am also a runner (currently training for a half-marathon). I have run the gamut of running bras and have to say I absolutely LOVE the Juno. It provides the support I need and is – as running bras go – exceptionally comfortable. Great product!

However, I have a couple design suggestions.
1) Pad the straps at the point where they cross the collarbone. I spent $52 on this bra only to have to spend an additional $10 for bra strap pads after my first run in the Juno left me with open sores rubbed on my collarbones. Yes, I applied Glide.

2) Get RID of the tag on the back where the hooks are!! After last night’s five mile run I now have a fairly significant open sore rubbed in the middle of my back where the tag was. I’ve removed it, but honestly after spending $52 on a single bra I don’t believe I ought to be forced to make modifications.
Thank you for your time and consideration of my requests. I am a Moving Comfort Girl where my running bras are concerned, I recommend them to everyone I know that works out. But I do warn them about these two problem areas.
Thanks!
Julianne T”

And within a couple hours received a very courteous reply from an actual person (my new friend Tegan at Moving Comfort) indicating that they had received my feedback and would be getting it to the ‘appropriate party’. In this day and age when I get obviously automated responses from my Congressman and Senator, I was pretty impressed by that.


So there you have it.
My low down on the up top of women’s running equipment.
Hope it was helpful!

Short Run = Short Post

Tonight was a short run night.  We set out to run five miles but owing to a slight miscalculation of the route we ended up only doing 4.4.

I have discovered that the mile between three and four is my Sweet Spot.  Everything feels good – legs, lungs, even hills come easier in that stretch.

Tonight we finished our run at what will be the end of the half-marathon we’re doing in six weeks which finishes running up a hill.  (Who does that to people?!)  Two weeks ago when we ran our six mile route that consisted of the first and last three miles of the Half that hill kicked my butt!  Of course it had help from the cold and the fact that I was running six miles for the first time in my life, but I mostly hold the hill responsible since I ended up walking halfway up it.  Tonight I ran all the way to the top!  That felt really great!
And yes, if you read my last post, I was repeating “I think I can.  I think I can.  I think I can.” all the way up.  And I did!

I’ll be posting a product review/rant/vent tomorrow.
Guys – if there are, in fact guyS reading this – feel free to skip that post.  I’m going to be bitching about reviewing running/sports bras.  You won’t be missing a thing!

AND as of today my blog is listed on Pace Per Mile’s Blog page!!  I had seen a post on their Facebook about submitting fitness, endurance, running, triathlon or exercise blogs to be listed on their site and Tweeted to their 10,000 followers whenever said blog is updated.  I dismissed it because, really, I’m not really an “endurance” runner and it isn’t like I either run or post every single day.
A little later one of my good friends – a Real Runner who’s run for years and is training for an upcoming Marathon –  posted a link on my Facebook wall and suggested I submit my running blog to them.  THIS running blog right here that you’re reading.  I was surprised A) to find out she actually reads my blog (which really tickled me); and B) that she suggested the very thing I had already dismissed.  Being a big believer in Signs From God/The Universe I decided to go for it.  I submitted my link, remembered that I hadn’t written about Sunday’s run, did so, and about five minutes later got the Twitter notification that Pace Per Mile had  mentioned me.  I literally, physically jumped up out of my chair at work so I could call Tonia and tell her what had happened.
I am ridiculously excited about this!! 

I can’t BELIEVE I didn’t write about this!!

Sunday we ran THIS!

That’s EIGHT miles.
Eight.
Miles.
All at once.
On purpose no less!

As you see the course is H-I-L-L-Y!

But we did it.

I was absolutely exhausted after.

But we did it!
I did it! 

I had my first experience with Gu.  Next time, which will be Saturday when we run nine, I’m going to try the Chocolate or Vanilla Bean flavors.  The Orange Cream flavor I got wasn’t so much a favorite.  I think there was a disconnect for me between flavor and texture.

I was, of course, exhausted!  I was in bed and out cold by 8 am.  But the good news was that Monday morning I wasn’t really stiff or sore.  At least not as much as I expected to be.

I got a little piece of (worthwhile) advice from my husband/coach/running partner.  He said it with all sincerity, love, and gentleness, but what it all came down to was “Stop whining!!”  When things got tough I did keep going, but not without an abundance of “I can’t do this!”  “I’m never going to make it!”  “This is crazy/stupid!” whining.  His recommendation is that I become my own personal Little Engine That Could (Can).  And he’s right.  All the whining and negativity aren’t really serving me.  So that’ll be me Saturday “I think I can!  I think I can!  I think I can!” every time the course gets rough.

Tonight is a short run – 5 miles – and the fabulous weather we’re having (current temperature 72° at 4 pm) is totally conducive to running outside instead of the monotony of a treadmill.  I am so ready for Daylight Savings Time to come – or go whichever one it does in Spring – so it’s lighter longer and we can do all our running outside!

But back to that “short run” comment up there.
First: I used “short run” and “5 miles” in the same sentence.  Me.  The person who, six months ago, couldn’t have run one mile without stopping several times!
Second: Do you see the bottom loop on that picture up there?  That’s a little over 1.5 miles.  Last summer when I was doing the running training program that got me from couch potato to running almost all of a 5K in ten weeks I started doing my training runs around that path.  The first time I did it took all I had to make it around once.  On Sunday, that was the end of an eight mile run!  I can’t even type those words without getting a little choked up.

My husband/coach/running partner is taking great amusement out of my newfound derision for treadmill running.  As is a runner friend at church.

Gotta run!
No, really.
I have got to run!