Better Parenting Through….Running?

“I’m not talking to you until Christmas!” T whined.

“Fantastic!” I snapped back.

“Mooooooooom. Why can’t I bring three lego guys to school?”

“Nope. Nope. You said you weren’t talking to me. Why are you still talking?” I turned up Morning Edition to drown him out.

Not my finest moment. Not his finest moment either.

Most days are made up of way too many not-my-finest-moments. Every morning I promise myself I will try to be a better mother to the boys. It is hard to focus on the moments beyond the mistakes.

On Sunday I shared a magical morning with T. The boys watched as I ran my second 5K. Last year, three months after I started jogging, I ran the same race with disastrous results. This year I’m two weeks out from my first half marathon. I’ve followed a 16 week training program and have worked hard to be prepared for race day. Running the 5K again was a lark. While I am extremely slow, I’ve been running so many miles that 3.12, a distance I’d only achieved once or twice before last year’s race, didn’t make me blink.

I ran the whole thing with a goofy grin on my face. As the leaders looped back around before I’d even reached the one mile mark I clapped my hands and whooped for them. I wasn’t concerned about my snail’s pace at the back of the pack. My boys were at the finish line to give me hugs and kisses.

A couple of minutes later the four of us made our way back to the starting line for the 3K community fun run. My husband walked it with C and some friends. T wanted to run.

It was up to him how much we ran or how much we walked. He started strong, darting through the crowds. I laughed as my much less nimble body chased after his. Just a few minutes in he looked at me, “Mom….Mom, my legs hurt.” “I know, baby. But I believe in you! Keep going!”

His pace was all over the place, but most of the time he ran. About halfway through there was a water station and I asked if he wanted do grab some. He shook his head and told me he didn’t want to stop. The effort was on his face, this race was hard for him but he wasn’t giving up.

Near the end he struggled, “I think I’m going to die!” he gasped. “It feels that way, doesn’t it? But I don’t think you are going to die today.”

He was exhausted and proud when we crossed the finish line. We made our way to the sideline to wait for Z and C. I could not get the grin off of my face.

T walked a little bit during the race, probably less than half a K. He is 5 years old and he really surprised me. Not just because he ran farther than I thought he could, but because watching him muscle his way through the distance was just like watching myself.

How many times have my legs hurt since I started running on a whim last July? How many time have I seriously thought I was going to die if I kept going? How many times have I skipped a water break because I knew if I stopped I’d never start again?

Today I am strong and confident. I don’t care that I’m slow, I am very steady.  I am a positive example for my sons. T can see my confidence. He wants to be like me. My running has the potential to inspire him and his brother to be active. He sees me setting goals that feel impossible and then he watches as I work to achieve them. He thinks running is cool. Because I run.

I have an anxiety disorder and self image problems. I don’t wear the confidence with ease quite yet. That doesn’t matter. It is getting stronger as I get stronger.

Did T tell me he didn’t want to talk to me until Christmas less than 24 hours later? He did. Was my response an immature and bad example? Yup. Every moment isn’t going to be one of parenting excellence. I’m still proud of the two of us for trying hard things. And for doing them together.

boys ready to race

C and T ready to race!

t and k post race

After the 3K.

t and k post 5k

Photo credit: Kevin Rivoil

T and I made the paper!

I Am Badass (for 2/10ths of a mile)

Sleeping Lessons by the Shins was playing through the earbuds loud enough that I felt it in my chest. At about 2/10ths of a mile into my run the guitar started building followed by the drums. Epic songs. I am a sucker for epic songs. As the music swelled I thought, “I am badass. I. Am. Badass. I AM BADASS.”

I started to cry.

Um, yeah. Those tears were a quick reminder that I’m not, in fact, a badass. A realization that made me laugh really hard.

Today is the one year anniversary of my little running deal. A year ago today I fast walked two miles in Green Lakes Park. I didn’t own running shoes, or a running bra, or running anything.

Somehow I’ve managed to keep with it. I am embarrassingly slow. I hate 99% of the time. The farthest I’ve ever gone is a measly 6 miles. I’ve lost a whopping 3 pounds.

But. BUT! At 36 I made a lifestyle change and became a regular exerciser for the first time in my life. I feel more at ease in my body. I feel strong. My endurance has improved dramatically. And now, at 37, I feel better than I have in my entire life.

I might not quite be a badass, but I can do hard things. I can do hard things. For real. Scaredy cat Karen, the gal with the anxiety disorder, agoraphobic tendencies, IBS, and chronic self hatred. I can do hard things.

So I’m slow and I can’t go very far. So what? I can do hard things. I am a different person than I was a year ago. And I like this person way more.

A year ago I fast walked two miles and couldn’t imagine running for one. Today I did my first workout of a 16 week training program for a half marathon. Three miles slogging through high humidity and a heat index of 90 degrees. It sucked big time. At 2.5 miles I was quite sure I wasn’t going to make it. But I can do hard things. And I forced my slow body that was dripping with sweat to keep on moving.

A year ago I had no idea a half was 13.1 miles. Today I tell myself I am getting through those 13.1 miles on October 19th come hell or high water. Even if I have to crawl. Because stand back motherfucker. I can do hard things.

And now: A self-indulgent year of running selfies!

But seriously, I don’t instagram these because I think I’m hot shit. Um, the pictures clearly show a middle aged lady who is still has an “overweight” BMI. But you don’t have to be a hot young thing to be a runner. I’d venture to say most runners aren’t hot young things. The only thing that matters is lacing up those shoes and getting out there. Have you thought about doing this? Please, give it a try. I promise it will be a gift to yourself. I also promise it will hurt like hell and frustrate the living shit out of you. But it is worth it. If you were sitting in my living room with me I’d force you to feel the front of my thighs. They are like solid rock! I have muscles! You can have them, too!

first running selfie

First running selfie. July 9, 2013. Still fast walking the whole time. The front of this girl’s thighs did not feel like solid rock.

anti vanity shot

September. The anti-vanity selfie. Seriously, if i can do this with my big hips and post-two-child belly  anyone can! Also, my head looks like a penis.

first 5k

October. First and only 5K. What a disaster. At least I can laugh at it now. So this running thing isn’t smooth all the time. That doesn’t matter. What matters is you still go out and try again the next day.

hungover

November. First hungover run.

Christmas run

December. Christmas Day!

8 35 mile 3 in under 30 fastest ever

January in Florida. Fastest mile ever at 8:35. See? Told you I was slow.

12 degree day

February. Twelve degrees. My chin was frozen.

one year of running

July 1, 2014. Post run today.

 

Flip Side

It was cold out there during my jog this morning. In the high 20s, but the wind was cutting and brutal. Since I wrote the post about jogging last week I’ve struggled. Don’t get me wrong, I go. I do it. But it has been harder.

Writing a post that declared I’m sticking with this exercise thing nudged my anxiety. And she informed me that I was a fraud. A non-jogger. That after my fancy proclamation I would fall on my proverbial face and never lace up my sneakers again.

Oh my god, she is such a fucking bitch.

Wednesday was a rest day, so last Thursday was my first jog after the post last week. Man, the anxiety dogged me for the whole 3.12 miles. It was scary hard. At the end I wanted to cry.

That’s the flip side to this whole thing. It’s important to acknowledge. Exercise is as much of a head game as it is a physical activity. You have to convince yourself to go. You have to convince yourself that you can do it, that you are worth the time it takes, that you are doing good work even when you aren’t PRing all the time. Sometimes you give it your all and you still don’t achieve your goals. Sometimes you phone it in and hate yourself a little. I’m guessing that the struggle is just a part of the game long term.

If it is hard for you, if you get discouraged, well, I do too. Let’s just keep on keeping on.

photo (28)

Sometimes there aren’t ecstatic pride selfies. Sometimes there are exhausted and pissed and frustrated selfies. But it is part of the process.

If you guys love blogs and FB as much as I do you’ve come across that Fit Mom “What’s Your Excuse” meme. I don’t want to link to it because I think it is incredibly harmful, but a quick google search will locate it if you are interested. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the picture. While she is wearing workout gear, she also is in full hair and makeup. It is great for her that her hard work has paid off and that she has earned her conventionally attractive figure. She didn’t earn her conventionally beautiful face, she was born with it. But she is beautiful and if I looked like her I’d feel pretty great about myself as well.

A lot of conversation has happened in the media and online about her message. The fat shaming (which she insists is not fat shaming) is obviously problematic. But putting all that aside I find the image, the implied goal, to be rather boring. Instead it is extremely plastic, completely unattainable, and frankly I feel sorry for her because she is missing the point.

No matter how hard they work out 99% of women are not going to look like her. Especially without hair and makeup done and a professional photographer lighting the session. She has achieved what society and the patriarchy has dictated is the female standard of beauty. But that standard is bullshit. It is unrealistic. It is designed to keep us striving for a goal most of us will never achieve as a way to undermine us and keep us less than.

I don’t jog five times a week so I can look like her. No matter how hard I exercise the stretch marks from my second pregnancy aren’t going anywhere. My boobs will never be perky again. The lines will never disappear from my forehead or from around my eyes. In fact, they are going to be joined by a shitload more wrinkles as time marches on.

I do this because it makes me feel good. I have more energy. It is probably keeping my anxiety a bit in check. Last week my father asked me how I’ve felt since starting the jogging. “Lighter in my body.” I told him. “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean I weigh less. I just mean it is easier to maneuver my body around in the world. I have more control, feel capable of more.” That is more of a reward than trying to look like Gisele.

If Fit Mom really wants to inspire people why is she advertising physical beauty as the outcome? Isn’t it more helpful and more honest to cop to how hard it is to regularly exercise? To admit that some workouts suck. You let yourself down, but you dust yourself off and try again the next day? Because cumulatively you feel pretty terrific in your body even if a group of frat boys wouldn’t deem it fuckable? No frat boy would want to get with this middle aged lady. And guess what? I don’t give a crap because I can’t imagine wanting to get with a frat boy either.

On her website she has a bunch of tips for her “healthy lifestyle” including putting post its in her kitchen that say “Food is Fuel”. It actually made me cry when I read it. I feel sorry for her. Food is joy, food is celebration, food is delicious, food is family, food is pleasure. Moderation is certainly key, but denying yourself the richness of experience that eating provides? Making food the enemy? Major red flag. And to be clear, this is pure speculation, but it is moving towards a disordered relationship with food.

I want to encourage my friends to exercise because I can’t believe how wonderful and proud it has made me feel. Just a month or two ago I would have told you that I could not jog for 5 miles. I simply couldn’t do it. And now I’ve done it three times. I am amazed that my body is doing hard things. If a lifelong couch potato can do this you can, too.

So keep posting selfies. Even if you don’t look like Fit Mom (I sure as fuck don’t). Even if the workout sucked ass. Every time out there isn’t going to be a win.

————————————

Back to this morning. After my jog I was chilled to the bone. Z had to split for work, so I settled the boys in front of a movie and ran for a quick shower. The hot water felt amazing everywhere but my belly, ass, and thighs. Fat concentration means less blood flow to the surface. The cold was intense in those areas. The water burned as it hit the red patches, still icy to the touch.

I was trying to rub life back into my thighs when I heard C pad into the bathroom. “Hey kiddo, what’s up?” I called. He sidled over to the corner of the shower curtain and pulled it back with a huge shit eating grin on his face. This kid. He really does have the shit eating grin to end all shit eating grins.

He grinned at me. And then he triumphantly held up a deli bag of ham.

Motherhood. God damned Motherhood. When I imagined it years ago I never thought it would involve a toddler interrupting my shower time holding a contraband bag of deli meat that he scored. Let me tell you, the shaved ham in the bathroom was way more hilarious than anything I came up with when dreaming of future children. Man, these kids keep me laughing. Even if I was pissed as hell when we went downstairs 20 minutes later only to discover the fridge door had been left wide open.

lion t

We went to the zoo today. When we walked by this display T insisted I take his picture. With his crazy hair he makes a perfect lion.

safari c

And here is my intrepid explorer. He’s probably hunting for some ham.

Addicted

As I was descending into the pain of the stomach bug Sunday I had a moment of panic. Then I realized it was a rest day. I wasn’t going to miss my jog because I was sick. At that moment I decided I’d be well enough to run Monday.

Monday morning I was far from 100%. The diarrhea continued. My belly gurgled and flip flopped. I ignored it and put my running tights on. When I woke up it was 15 degrees warmer than it was on Saturday when I ran. How could I miss a day of balmy 36 degree weather?

photo

I did it. It was pretty ugly, but I did it.

The jog was slow as hell. I changed plans and skipped the hills, shortened it to exactly two miles. But I did it.

Last night Z was sick. And T had nightmares. And I’m not sure what the fuck C’s problem was, but he was up 5 times. No one in our house got a lot of sleep. This morning I dropped the boys off and did my stretches. I jogged those hills that I skipped yesterday. Lack of sleep affects my performance more than anything, just two minutes out of the house and I knew I was in trouble. But I told my tired legs to figure it out. Even on the mile with the hills I somehow forced myself to keep it under an 11 minute pace.

Last week was freezing and snowy. It was the first real taste of winter jogging. The boys were out of school for Thanksgiving break, but Z was working most days. He promised we’d figure out how to make my jogs happen. And we did. I returned from Monday’s run frustrated at my slower pace, but I was working out how to safely run on the roads and avoid the ice. I thanked Z for making the time for me to go as he headed out to work. I told him I realized something as I was outside in the freezing cold. Wanting to do this isn’t the issue. I don’t think I’ve ever really wanted to jog. I still don’t know what has kept me at it for the last 5 months. No, I don’t want to do this. I need to do it.

Life feels out of control in so many ways. The new graduate program I am planning on enrolling in will not be happening until the fall of ’15 rather than next fall. Another year is a big deal as I am hurtling towards 40. Another year before I start the job search. I’ll still take a course a semester and I’ll put a big dent in the coursework before I officially matriculate. On top of that money is tight. We are trying to be frugal, Z is being fantastic about picking up extra work wherever he can find it, but supporting a family of four on an assistant professor’s salary is challenging. We’ve made our bed. We both wanted me to be home with the boys, so this has been our choice. And we are luckier than most. We haven’t done anything to earn our safety net, we were just born to parents who can provide one. Dumb, dumb luck. We do not have anything to complain about. We have a beautiful home and can make our mortgage. We certainly don’t have to worry about putting food on the table. I just look forward to a time when we don’t have to have texted negotiations about how we are going to afford to put gas in the car.

So money is tight. Z is crazy busy at work. The boys are growing up at a bewildering and breakneck pace. I’m writing a research proposal and putting together the first powerpoint of my life for class and I feel like an academic fraud as well as an old lady in a young person’s game. The anxiety has been brutal this fall.

Yeah, life doesn’t feel out of control, I feel out of control.

The jogging. Forcing myself to go everyday. Measuring my progress. Proving I am stronger than I’ve believed my whole life. Jogging three days in a row of freezing cold and snow and not seeing one other person out there. It all makes me feel powerful and proud and just a little bit in control. I’m showing up to something. Even when it is hard or uncomfortable or life is overwhelming me. I need it. In just five months I’ve become addicted.

It doesn’t feel completely healthy, but when one suffers from anxiety with ocd tendencies I’m not sure any new obsession, um I mean hobby, ever can be 100% healthy. I fear if i don’t make my five days a week something terrible will happen. Getting sick scares the shit out of me because it will mess with my weekly routine. I didn’t really want to go yesterday. I was weak and still recovering from the stomach bug. But I needed to go. It wasn’t a choice. And it made me feel better.

cold jog

Why all the redundant selfies? Believe it or not, I’m not trying to humble-brag. I’m actually pretty damn proud of myself, nothing humble about it. But in keeping with the honestly thing the jogging pictures are never filtered or altered. There has been no radical physical transformation in my appearance. My BMI is still firmly in the overweight category. The biggest change has been in my bad cholesterol and you can’t see that in a photograph. I post the selfies because I am not a size two beauty. Who cares? I’m still fucking thrilled with myself.

PRed 5k

But the biggest reason I post the obnoxious selfies (besides the fact that my dad likes to keep tabs on how I’m doing) is if I can do it you can, too. I’m no one special. I’ve shunned exercise all my life. But I’m out there doing it. I include my times occasionally, which is also the antithesis of a humble-brag because they are damn slow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m making progress. But my fastest mile, and the only time I’ve broken 10 minutes, was 9:47 I believe. In the picture above I’d just PRed 5K. Kept it under 11 minute miles the whole time for 33:49. Yes, it is much like I jog through molasses. I guess I feel like the slowpokes should get to celebrate as much as the speed demons. I’m never going to be the best at this. I’m never going to be near the best. But I’m doing something for me. I’m plugging along. I’m proving that my middle aged body can do something I didn’t believe it could for my whole life. That smile on my face is sincere. I may not be fast or skinny or cut, but god dammit I have earned the right to be proud.

You should give it a try. And you should be proud, too. You should post selfies and your times and if they aren’t as fantastic as those of your friends you shouldn’t give a fuck. Because you are amazing. I am amazing. We are kicking ass and we are taking names.

You Guys Rock

Obviously this is a teeny tiny little blog. The readership is small and I’d guess that more than half the folks who stop by know me in real life. I am grateful for everyone who does read. It still surprises me that anyone would take time out of their busy day to check out my stuff. I realize what a raging narcissist you have to be in order to blog and I feel guilty about it. Besides the narcissism I really am motivated by the hope that writing about hard stuff (mental illness, parenting, struggling to exercise, poop, poop, and more poop) can be helpful to someone who is reading-I know, pretty narcissistic in itself, who the fuck do I think I am? Some self-help guru?

Since I started jogging I’ve been talking about it a lot here, on instagram, and on FB. The posts have been a mix of “I’m so proud of myself” and “If I can do it anyone can do it!” and “sometimes this sucks ass”. As a self-loathing narcissist (I know, I’m rolling my eyes, too) it has been weird to feel this much pride about an accomplishment. The friends who have commented or messaged me that they are working out because of the stupid selfies about my progress have helped me keep going. And made me feel better about the unflattering photos I’ve posted and stories I’ve told. I have a rule-when it comes to exercise pictures I don’t use filters. I’m doing hard stuff, it’s ok that I look like ass. It is certainly more honest.

The well wishes and support I got from you guys before the race actually helped get me through the 5K. I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job of explaining myself here, but I just wanted to thank you. I want you to know how much your kindness has meant to me. And I wanted to apologize. You guys were rooting me on, telling me I could do it. And I am embarrassed that I let you down. I’m embarrassed I didn’t run the whole thing. I’m embarrassed that my official time was even slower that I estimated at 38:01 minutes placing 311th out of 333. I wanted to let you know that I don’t take your presence or support or friendship for granted. So seriously, thank you. And next time I’ll try and do better.

The race humbled me. Usually I hate that word. It has been appropriated by the famous. When an actor wins an academy award and says he feels humbled I roll my eyes and think “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” According to the online dictionary it means “lower (someone) in dignity or importance.” Winning big doesn’t make you feel lower, it makes you feel like the king of the fucking world. Well, let me tell you what. I was big time humbled by the race. It was not a fun experience. But I guess the lesson is to pick myself back up and move on.

Usually I jog on Mondays, but being the weekend was so exhausting it seemed like a smart idea to take a rest day. Getting back out there this morning was almost as hard as the race itself. I didn’t want to go. What is the point? There isn’t anything to look forward to. Honestly, the race was such a shitshow for me running-wise that I was scared to go back out. On top of that it was cold. Yes, I’m a huge baby.

But I went. I put on the shirt I was given at the race and I went. I ran the whole two miles–mile 1 in 10:41 and mile 2 in 11:14. You know what? I was proud of myself. The accomplishments might not feel as “real” to me when they are not part of a timed race, but perhaps I need to get over myself. I am going to keep chipping away at this motherfucker.

T medal

Just past the finish line a guy handed all the runners medals. T is in love with mine. He keeps asking if I won the race. I keep laughing and telling him no. He says he thinks he would have won if he was running. There is a a family 3K after the women’s race and Z and I promised him we will do it with him next year.

c gold medal

Because T wants the metal C wants the metal. Oh brotherhood.

Gryffindor wins

About a year ago my folks went to Orlando and got me this awesome patch at Harry Potter World. Two nights ago Z sewed it onto a hoodie of mine. I’ll be rocking it everywhere from now on. Go Gryffindor!

How Not To Run A 5K

Let’s get this out of the way: I did not shit myself.

I did it. Mostly I did it wrong, but I finished. If you are planning on running your first 5K my advice is to don’t be like me. 

Don’t eat almost nothing the day before because you are grappling with horrendous diarrhea, and you know, you shit yourself that morning. You will get a migraine around bedtime. You will take your migraine medicine which will make you feel like garbage the next day.

Make yourself drink a ton of water if you have been having the shits, because duh, you are dehydrated.

Seriously, just don’t have an anxiety disorder. And if you do don’t have a multi-day anxiety event leading up to the race that emotionally and physically exhausts you.

If the race isn’t until 9:50am do not be an idiot. Force yourself to consume something other than 2/3rs of a cup of coffee and a few sips of water.

Marvel at your fucked up body’s ability to have diarrhea less than 24 hours after you took 3 imodium. Take 3 more. STILL HAVE THE SHITS. Take another one. (Ok. I totally nailed this one.)

Do not get to the race almost two hours early. You will be miserable. It is just another way that you will drain yourself of adrenaline before the god damned race begins.

Even if you are a huge introvert arrange to have someone there with you. You do not want to be alone. You do not want to have to take one of the free backpack thingies to carry your stuff with you during the race. It will make you super uncomfortable and not a single other woman you see running the race will be doing it.

If you don’t have someone there before the race you certainly will want someone there for you when you finish. Otherwise you sort of feel like an idiot.

Pick a day without a torrential downpour.

If you can’t have someone there figure out how to arrange a ride home so you don’t have a mile and a half walk in said downpour soaked to the bone and freezing cold to contend with at the end of the race.

Set yourself a reasonable goal, like just be ok with finishing because it is your first 5K! so you aren’t blinking back tears of disappointment when you don’t beat your best time and when you end up walking on and off for the second half due to being hungry and dehydrated and exhausted because you did such a shitty job prepping for the run.

There you have it. I finished with a pace somewhere a little under 11:49 a mile. Couldn’t shut off my phone app until I got undercover because of the rain, so it was turned off at 3.4 miles instead of 3.1. The whole race was a struggle. Mostly I’m disappointed I walked part of it. My body was so fatigued from the anxiety and hunger and dehydration. It gave me the finger when I told it to keep on running.

Long before I decided to do this race Z told me he had a work event on this date. When I signed up I knew he would not be there. I wanted to do it alone. I hate asking for help. And I enjoy doing stuff solo-going to movies or restaurants or shopping alone is my preference. It was a bad choice. I should have asked someone. It’s not like I don’t have friends here who would have come. So lesson learned. Act like a grown up and ask for some help.

Bottom line? I’m bummed. I wanted to kick the race’s ass and get under 35 minutes and feel super proud of myself. Through all the anxiety leading up to this morning I believed deep down that I’d be able to run the whole thing. Believed it fully. I wanted to write about it here and feel great about my achievement. So I’m pissed. I’m mad at myself. I’m frustrated. As I told Z about the race I had to stop several times because I was crying so hard. I know I can run 3.1 miles without stopping. But it doesn’t feel like it counts when I’m doing it alone. The official times will be posted on the website sometime in the next day and it makes me feel like a fraud for doing less than what I know is my best. I know that doesn’t make sense. Believe me, we cover my bizarre belief that the world thinks I’m a chronic liar at length in therapy.

So ugh. Yuck. Bleh. Not a great race. Not a great morning. I guess that I’ll just have to do another one.

pre race

Freaking out pre-race.

photo (16)

Back at home after what seemed like a never ending walk.

photo (17)

Seriously, I ran the race with that stupid yellow backpack flopping all over the place. The straps wouldn’t stay on.

photo (18)

Number 43.