Random Reasons I run

I run for a lot of reasons.  Some are practical such as building strength and endurance and keeping my good cholesterol levels up.  Others are personal such as relieving stress and keeping balance in my life.  The following are just some of the more random reasons why I run:

1 – It’s cheap.  Running shoes?  Check.  Shorts?  Check.  Tshirt?  Check.  No other sport costs so little and gives you back so much.  Who needs a gym membership when you can buy a pair of running sneakers and be ready to go?

2 – Lifting weights is boring.  There’s plenty to be said about cross training and strength training no matter what sport you do.  But how much fun is it to lift weights?  Not as fun as finding a new trail to explore or racing a 5k.

3 – To escape the zombie apocalypse.  Until the walking dead can learn to pick up the pace those who run will always have an upper hand in a survival situation.

4 – Weird looks and comments.  Tell someone you run for fun and you’ll get a load of amusing responses.  Better yet, go for a run in the afternoon when the heat index is over 90 degrees and watch how many drivers stare at you in confusion.

5 – It’s tough stuff.  Automatic bragging rights are bestowed on anyone who says they run.  The farther the distance or faster the speed the more satisfying it is.

The Knee Bone’s Connected to the Hip Bone?

I have considered myself a runner since 7th grade when I first joined the track team.  At 30 years old I like to think all these years of running have made me fairly tuned into my body.  That being said it seems that there’s always something new to learn.

Winter 2012 I started to develop some knee pain while running.  I recall a run that resulted in me having to actually stop completely and walk the final 2 blocks home because the pain would shoot through my knee with every step.  That was usually a sign it was time to replace my running shoes.  Unfortunately getting new sneakers didn’t alleviate the problem so off to the family doctor I went.  I was lucky in that my doctor was also a runner and referred me to a physical therapist who was a runner as well.  I can’t speak for all runners, but I think most of us feel a lot more trusting of someone who actually does what we do as he or she is less likely to tell us to just stop running.

The physical therapist went through his normal protocol in analyzing my running style as well as my feet.  He stated that I was wearing too much of a motion controlled shoe and that because my arches were normal I should be in a more neutral shoe.  I found that quite interesting as I had been wearing Asics Adrenaline shoes for a few years without any issues.  Rather than put me through sessions physical therapy if it wasn’t needed, he recommended that I change my shoes first and see if that helped.  Luckily Scranton Running Company took back my recently purchased pair without issue to exchange them for Asics Glycerin instead.

That seemed to do the trick.  I was able to train for and run my first half marathon Sept. 2013 without knee pain.  I was glad to have such a simple fix.  Or so I thought.

Over the years the knee pain started again.  It never was bad enough to stop my runs, but it also made them a lot less enjoyable.  I knew there was no injury as sometimes my right knee would hurt and sometimes the left.  Sometimes it was along the outside of my knee, sometimes the inside and sometimes the kneecap.  Sometimes I could run 5 miles pain free while other times 2 miles would have them locking up.  It was a frustrating mystery that left me feeling as if I’d never be able to train for a half marathon again.  I tried telling myself there was no point in seeing a doctor unless I got to the point where I couldn’t run since there was no consistency in the pain.  I tried to be content with the fact that I was physically able to run at all and accept the fact that maybe just age and wear and tear on my body was causing it.

This winter I reached a breaking point.  Nearly every run, particularly if the weather was less than 50 degrees, was resulting in knee pain.  I was afraid to run fast and I was afraid to run more than 3-4 miles.  It wasn’t enough just to be able to run, I wanted to train again.

I finally caved and went to the family doctor who referred me to sports medicine.  When I scheduled the appointment I was told the doctor was a runner and that all his patients said nothing but good things about him.

I was partially concerned that I could have the start of osteoarthritis, but the xrays of my knees taken at my visit showed nothing of that nature.  I was diagnosed with squinted patellas (meaning my kneecaps turn inwards) which is fairly common among women given our hip structure as well as a slight leg length discrepancy, again something fairly common among most people.  Neither of these sound like anything major but when you start putting your legs through mile after mile they can make an impact.  The doctor recommended 2 sessions of physical therapy, one to include a thorough gait analysis, and said to follow up if I didn’t find improvement in my running.

I was extremely impressed by the physical therapy sessions.  The first one the physical therapist identified my hip flexibility as a likely source of my knee pain.  Having ran hurdles for years in track and done numerous hip flexibility drills I found this very surprising.  He said often when we have sit down jobs it leads to losing mobility in our hips.  He gave me various strengthening drills as well as foam rolling techniques to use to help improve this.

My second session was my gait analysis.  This consisted of running on a treadmill while a different physical therapist filmed from behind and alongside of me.  While my form and stride were very good, she pointed out that I was a hamstring dominant runner meaning I wasn’t engaging my quads or glutes as much as I should be.  By relying on my hamstrings to do the majority of the work  this was putting more stress on my knees.  She also pointed out that my hips were dropping more than they should be, again a sign of limited mobility in them.  She went over warmup drills and cooldown stretches to begin including before and after my runs.

My physical therapy sessions were right before the start of my first season coaching track for Dallastown.  As any coach will tell you it seems counterintuitive but you’re usually not as in shape during the season as you are the rest of the year.  This was certainly true for me as while I found time to workout, I was usually getting in just 1 run per week so it was quite challenging to figure out if my newfound strategies were helping much.

Once the season ended I began running more frequently and I’m happy to say that 90% of the knee pain is gone and I’m building up my mileage to hopefully run my 2nd half marathon this fall.  As long as I do a thorough warmup with my mobility drills and foam roll regularly I only get a twinge of knee pain here or there.  I have also tried to add more hills to my runs as it forces me to engage my glutes more and build strength.  The days I’m not running I do DailyBurn workouts and I give props to the trainers on there for incorporating a lot of mobility and stability moves that I believe complement the exercises the physical therapists gave me.  I had a follow up visit with sports medicine last week and the doctor was very happy with my progress.  He said that I had even decreased the slight leg length discrepancy from the hip exercises I had been completing.

I would have never guessed the pain I felt in my knees wasn’t from anything in my knees at all but rather in my hips.  Proof once again of just how connected our body really is and how much more there is to learn about it.

 

The Hate in Debate

All throughout the news coverage of the inauguration today I kept hearing the newscasters say how historical of a day it was.  I will admit that I have never watched an inauguration, and the only reason I saw/heard pieces of this one was due to my husband having it on TV.  I’m not sure if it is said every four years how historical of a day it is or if that phrase was unique to today.

In any case I will agree that history was made today.  A man whose main qualities seem to be arrogance and immaturity is now in charge of our country.  I’m not writing this blog to promote my views or spark controversy.  Rather I want to draw attention to something that has grown exponentially throughout the election season – the hatred within debating differences of opinion.

I remember the first time I watched the political debates on TV.  It was my senior year of high school, fall 2004, and I would miss the opportunity to vote by a few weeks given my birthday falls on Nov. 22nd.  Most of my classmates did not have the ability to vote either, but that did not stop us from turning our AP Chemistry class into a full blown debate zone.  There were only about 10 of us in that class, but 2 students became very passionate on the issues and were the key debaters given their strongly held opposite viewpoints.  Mr. Conley, being a genuine educator, allowed us to spend most of our class time the day after a debate aired discussing the various topics.  It was a very enjoyable and thoroughly educational experience.  At no point in time did anyone get nasty with each other, even the 2 who had the most heated exchanges.  The debates stayed in that classroom and when the bell rang we all rushed to lunch, taking with us expanded knowledge but never any resentment towards those with differing opinions.

In college I took a few philosophy courses and one was focused on contemporary moral problems.  Controversial issues ranging from the death penalty to abortion to stem cell research were discussed and debated.  One of the key elements to the class was formulating solid arguments, not just spewing personal opinions.  We were taught to find evidence that supported our viewpoints as well as learn the arguments of the opposing side.  There were some very opinionated and passionate people in that class and sometimes the professor had to interrupt, not because people were being disrespectful, but rather we would run out of time and need to move onto another issue.  Again we all left the class with more knowledge than we had when we arrived and no animosity towards anyone who argued the other side of an issue.

If high school and college “kids” could have civil debates with each other why does it seem adults find such difficulty in doing so now?  Is social media completely to blame due to it ease of attacking nearly anyone whether they be friend, family or complete stranger?  I have been utterly disgusted this week by the posts in my news feed from people on both sides of the political spectrum.  Not only is there a lack of respect for one another, but the full ignorance of the facts is appalling.

I do blame mainstream media for providing opinion based news rather than true fact based journalism, but everyone has the ability to research issues on their own.  I could also point out how often you see people arguing with one another on mainstream news shows with no respect for what another person has to say.  They talk over one another, they interrupt each other and worst of all they write off the other person’s views the moment they realize they are not in agreement.  This year’s presidential debates displayed much of the same behavior.  This just helps reinforce the idea that this is acceptable in debating with another person.

Am I irked by certain posts made by people with opposing viewpoints from my own?  At times and usually because I know they have done no research on the topic.  Do I feel an overwhelming need to attack them for it and try to force my thoughts upon them?  No.  My in depth political discussions are reserved for those who are close to me.  Those who respect me enough to not degrade me for simply not agreeing with them.  Apparently the vast majority of our society has not reached that level of maturity and decency that they feel the need to attack one another for no legitimate reason other than to reinforce their opinions.

If we are to truly “Make America Great Again” we need to start with learning how to decently communicate with one another.  To respect differences in opinion.  To not let one’s differing views define the relationship we have with them.  To stop disregarding what someone has to say the moment we detect they do not agree with us.  To act like civil human beings instead of self centered jerks.  To stop the hate when we debate.

No More New Year’s Resolutions

For years I loved the start of the new year.  The chance to start anew with a fresh calendar meant the chance to wipe the slate clean and become a new person.  Or so I thought.

The more I think on the concept of New Year’s resolutions the more I think they set us up for failure by implying high expectations.  We create our lists and share them with family and friends determined that this year is going to be our year!  We will do more than we ever have – lose weight, save lots of money, find our dream job, take on the world!  Never mind the fact that statistically most resolutions are abandoned by February.

Now I’m not saying that goal setting isn’t a good concept.  I just think creating a year’s worth of goals to begin on one particular day of the year is futile.  Every month, every week and every day we have a chance to tackle a new goal.  Whenever people ‘fall off the wagon’ instead of thinking “Oh well, maybe next year” they need to think “Tomorrow is a new day.”

This year alone without ever having made a formal New Year’s resolution for any of them, I have accomplished several goals.  In August I decided to keep a log of my workouts to ensure that I never skip working out more than two days in a row.  To date it has worked.  I wanted to explore new subjects as I missed learning, and I signed up and completed two Coursera classes.  I’ve also watched several documentaries on a wide range of topics and in doing so have developed a passion for certain causes.  I’ve donated more money to charities than I have any other year.  I didn’t hold off and wait for 2017 to begin.  I simply made internal goals and picked my own date to start.

Every year I formally or informally create a resolution to write more.  This is made with the underlying hope that somehow that will be what starts me on a path to writing a novel.  I failEvery year.  Some could argue it’s because I don’t set out an actual plan.  Much like running though I cannot force myself to stick to a regiment of writing.  The passion has to be there or else it will feel like a chore that I will grow to loathe rather than love.

This year I’m not going to make that resolution.  I’m not going to make any.  I am just going to trust that when the time, energy and motivation are right for a certain goal then I will undertake it.  I don’t need to wipe any slates clean.  I’m not striving to become a “new” or “better” person.  I’m content to enjoy my life as it is and who I am as a person.  Life doesn’t always need to be a checklist of goals we need to achieve.

Here is to 2017 becoming whatever it is meant to be for all of us, with or without New Year’s resolutions.

Water – My Element

I believe all of us are drawn to one of the 4 main elements (earth, wind, water, fire) more than the others.  Water has been my element for as long as I can remember.

I am fortunate in that I have been to the Atlantic Ocean every year of my 30 years of existence.  This past spring I finally saw the Pacific Ocean as well as Multnomah Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the country.  I’ve swam in and kayaked on lakes and I’ve cruised the Caribbean.

I grew up not far from the Susquehanna River.  Thanksgiving and Easter were spent at my grandparents’ house where my cousins and I either played on the frozen pond or waded in the creek.  I spent my first year of college living on campus and often took walks to a nearby creek.  When I moved to Northeastern PA I quickly found both a river to run alongside as well as a lake to visit when I needed to clear my mind.  It seems I am always drawn to water no matter where I am.

Water calms me and opens my mind as a natural form of meditation.  It connects me to nature in a way that nothing else does.  It has the ability to make me appreciate life all while realizing how minuscule I am in this world.  I am in awe of its power to give life as equally as it can destroy it.

Tonight I ran across the Susquehanna River and looking at it from atop the bridge it finally clicked to me where my advocacy passion lies – water.

I am strongly against fluoride being added to the water supply and refuse to drink my tap water because it is added to it.  I feel anger when I read articles about states prohibiting their residents from collecting rainwater.  I want to cry when I see images of the glaciers melting.  I am appalled when I view pictures of trash accumulating in the ocean.  I loathe companies such as Nestle who seek to expand their business in states where drought is affecting the locals.

This is why I feel so much empathy for those in Standing Rock, ND.  They are fighting for the right to clean water.  A right that shouldn’t need a protest.  A right that every human in existence is entitled.  I feel helpless in my ability to assist them, but I can only hope that my bringing attention to their plight serves to help them.

Water is their cause.  Water is my element.  Because of that we are connected.

Goodbye Again Facebook, Hello Again Blog

My one and only New Year’s Resolution this year is to write more.  I know that’s very vague and it is said that goals should be specific such as “I will write 3 blogs per week” so that you can better track if you’re achieving your goal.  I don’t tend to do most things the way they should be done though.  With that said to me writing more is just that, to write more.  For me that can be anything from journal entries to blogs to short stories.

If you’re reading this I’m going to assume 1 of 2 things.  Either 1 – you don’t know me and you’ve stumbled upon my blog to which I say welcome and thanks for stopping by or 2 – you do know me and you saw my Facebook post stating if you want to keep tabs on me after my Facebook deactivation that you should bookmark my blog.  I deactivated my Facebook once before in the fall of 2013 for about a month or two, and not only did I not miss it, but I found that I was a lot more productive without it.  I also found myself actually reaching out to people to interact with them as opposed to relying on a newsfeed stream to help me keep in-the-know with their lives.  I’ve realized that the only way I will actively dedicate myself to writing more lately is to remove the distraction of Facebook at least temporarily.

So with that said I am back to my blog and hope to be writing more entries of a varied nature.  I invite you to leave comments, throw me some ideas to write about, anything you want really.  I don’t write for anyone specifically beyond myself, and I don’t stick to a theme.  I know those blogs that center around a main concept (kids, food, etc) tend to see more success, but I find the idea of that too limiting.  I like to write about whatever I want as I feel it sparks more creative thinking.  As I said I tend to not do anything the stereotypical way.

Here’s to a 2015 filled with more writing!

It All Started with Pancakes

I recently found the blog 100 Days of Real Food.  I am amazed at the ability for this family to go cold turkey on processed food for 100 days and consider them a real inspiration.  With that said I personally cannot be that dedicated or motivated to do something so drastic.

Like most I’m a creature of habit and in order to change specific habits I need to ease into them.  In this case I chose to start with one meal, breakfast, and one recipe – pancakes.  Prior to finding the blog I relied on Eggo chocolate chip pancakes to be my food of choice in the mornings.  Once I actually read the ingredients on the box, however, and realized many of them I couldn’t pronounce let alone guess what they really were, I realized I should really be making pancakes from scratch.  I love homemade pancakes (and by homemade I mean Bisquik pancake mix), but always found that freezing leftover pancakes would result in hard spots once I microwaved them to eat later.

The recipe I found on the blog for whole-wheat banana pancakes intrigued me for 2 reasons:  one – it promised that the recipe worked great to freeze pancakes and two – it called for white whole wheat flour which promoted a milder taste than typical whole wheat.  A few weeks ago I put the recipe’s claims to the test and found that it held true to its word – I was able to eat great pancakes from freezing and microwaving and I didn’t notice a taste difference in eating whole wheat.

I will admit I cheated in being 100% healthy – the first batch I made followed the recipe but near the end I threw in some chocolate chips.  I made my second batch today splitting the original recipe into two bowls so that I could add frozen blueberries to one and chocolate chips to the other.  It is my hope to find “healthy” (ie organic and dark) chocolate chips so there won’t be any future guilt in making the recipe.

Since making my first batch I have begun making other small changes as well in hopes of improving my eating habits.  I’ve bought all natural peanut butter and jelly along with whole wheat bread.  I admit I’m getting used to the bread’s texture, but I’m hoping the more I eat it the more it doesn’t phase me.  I’ve been choosing snacks from the organic aisle such as Annie’s Cheddar Squares which I will attest taste identical to Cheese Its.  Today I found pumpkin spice Kefir which made me super excited as I love nearly everything pumpkin spice flavored.

Don’t let me fool you – I have indulged in Pizza Hut, ice cream and Tastykakes this past week.  I am, however, taking baby steps towards a healthier, more natural diet.  Each time I choose something that is less processed or organic, or I make it from scratch I build more confidence that I’m moving in the right direction.  And it all started with pancakes.