Monday, July 22, 2013

To Tri or not to Tri

I've been a runner now for three years. I picked up the hobby very passively at first, really almost by accident. I decided that I was out of shape and needed to make some changes, so I started adding some daily walks on the treadmill to my routine. It helped with my stress levels and seemed a healthy way to get some 'me' time.

And then one day, completely on a whim, I picked up the pace a little.  Slowly, oh so very slowly at first. On a 30 minute walk, I ran for 3 minutes. The next walk, I added a little more running, and then more and more running... you get the idea.

And then I did my first 5K, a charity run for Make-a-Wish through a local junior high school. And then I picked up some books about running, and worked my way up to running half marathons, and just like that-- I was hooked.

There have been a lot of stories written about why people train for and compete in endurance sports. The Oatmeal recently did full justice to the topic with this, the best comic I've ever read about running. All of that? It's totally my story too.

On the advice of some very smart people, over time I added some cross training activities--swimming, biking, and yoga--to balance out my training and work on my upper body as well. And although I enjoy them to some extent, biking and swimming are sorta like my second choice ice cream flavor (Red Velvet Cake) if the store doesn't have my favorite (Coffee Heath Bar Crunch). I'll swim, or bike, when I can't run.

Which is the situation I find myself in right now.

I did my latest half marathon back in June. I finished the race, but I knew by about mile 8 that something had gone Seriously Wrong with my right calf muscle.

Image Links here; those legs aren't actually my legs. 

It felt sort of like a really big, really mad hornet repeatedly stinging my leg in the same spot, over and over again, with every step I took, just to show me what a bad ass hornet he was.

Stupid hornet. I barely made it to the finish line. My leg has not been the same since. I've got it now on a rest-ice-compression-elevation (RICE) treatment plan, and strictly no running for another couple of weeks, when I'll test it again. If there's no improvement, I'm off to the doctor.

What do runners do when they can't run?

Mope. Be frustrated. And rely on the cross training. It doesn't help that I've been flirting with the idea of entering my very first Triathlon later this summer. It's a sprint distance Tri (300 m swim, 12 mi bike, 5K run), which is one of the shorter distances in a Tri and felt like a great entry point for me. But with the bum leg, I'm now faced with the run portion being my weakest sport, not my strongest.

And yes, that hurts my pride more than just a little.

So, do I go out there, and do the Tri, and have to face the possibility of walking the 5K?

Or do I put off my first Triathlon experience until my leg is really healed and I'm running again?

I'm not keen on going out there my first time and knowing I'm not going to be able to give it my best effort. Racing already has enough mental hurdles built into it, I don't need more to deal with when I'm out there. But not competing feels a little like giving up. If I give that up, will it make it that much easier to give up on other goals? What kind of snowball effect am I creating for myself? How fast do I slide down into my old lifestyle?

Sadly, I think it comes down to understanding that a muscle can't really heal unless you rest it, and even walking a 5K might put too much strain on it. The more I keep re-injuring it, the longer it will take me to get back out there for real.

I'll give it another test run in a couple of weeks, and make a decision then. Biking, swimming, a some wishful thinking will hopefully get me back out there again soon, scaring the neighbors with my spectacular glow-in-the-dark running shoelaces.

Pretty sure you're going to see me coming.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The eye of the beholder

Ladies. Listen up. 

Allow me to be direct.

Every time you refer aloud to your own body, face, abilities, or appearance in a negative way, our daughters learn how to be critical of themselves. 

They hear you calling yourselves fat. They hear you belittling your own 'junk in the trunk.' Our daughters all know that we think we're too tall, too short, too dumb for math, too flat, too curvy.

And they hear that and think "if this woman I admire thinks that she's fat, I'm fat too." And our poor daughters fully believe that, even when they are perfectly healthy. Or even if they are in fact painfully too thin.

Guess where we learned how to do that to ourselves? I can tell you that.

Guess what our culture of self-loathing does to our daughters? I can tell you that, too.

When we eliminate and marginalize our own power and confidence and importance in this world, we're teaching our daughters how to do the same thing. This is why we're still fighting some of the same battles for equality that our mothers and grandmothers fought. We still haven't learned. We still don't have equal pay for equal work because, deep down, most of us don't think we deserve it.  

Love yourself. Teach your daughters how to love themselves too. That's the first step toward real, unquestioned equality.

The rest of the world does quite enough to try to extinguish our power; to systematically, religiously and legislatively remove our rights, and to make us small and weak. Unworthy men and unsupportive sisters do not need our help in this endeavor. 

If compliments come your way, accept them with a smile and a Thank You, do not dismiss them or shrug them off with a 'yes, but...'

When you win awards or pass tests or finish races or win contests, or when you compete and try and train and practice and study and work and earn the rewards of that amazing work--own that too. Celebrate in your accomplishments! Don't caveat them.

Example: "Yes, I finished that 5K but I was near the bottom of my age group." 

Argh! You both started and finished a 5K! Scream your head off, blow your trumpet, wear your tutu and rainbow clown wig and freak out like you're 10 and it's the first day of summer! The 'yes, buts' completely negate your hard work. Don't do that to yourself! 

So the next time I see any one of you tear yourselves down in your own posts, or when we are together at lunch, or at the mall, or within my hearing at all, I am officially calling you out on your nonsense. 

Sisters--and the men who love us--there really are lives at stake here. Yours. Mine. Our daughters. Enough is enough. We need to love our daughters enough to love ourselves, first. We are, each of us, worthy of that.  And we certainly owe it to our daughters, and to those daughters who come after them.

Because when we have women who love and respect themselves, as a cultural norm, it's won't be possible for a 'war on women' to get a foothold. It's not possible for anyone to take away our power unless we give it away through our lack of faith in our own strength, abilities, and beauty

And for our sons? Oh yes, we owe it to them as well to believe in our own strength and beauty. We owe our sons this: future wives and mothers and sisters and daughters and friends who are strong, equal, confident and full partners in our collective future. To give them anything less than the full scope and scale of our talent and heart is patently unfair to them.

So next time you'd like to bully yourself over your hair or your career or your body or any other situation over which you have little or no control: don't. 

Find something you like about yourself instead. Anything. (Some examples: I have a superb eye for medieval manuscripts, or I can wear a crazy rainbow clown wig better than anyone I know.)  Dwell on that one good thing about yourself that you know, deep down, really kicks ass.

Show our daughters--and sons--that little trick instead.