Extra, Extra! I’m RunInspired’s New Homepage Feature Story!

Just a quick update today – and a warm welcome to anyone who has stumbled upon JessRunsHappy thanks to my exciting feature at RunInspired! I was honored when they asked me to share my weight loss and running story, and couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. And it’s an even bigger honor to be their new homepage feature story!

Go check it out and let me know what you think. 🙂

You can also follow RUNspiration on Facebook for other features and daily motivation – check them out and happy running!

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Grateful

It’s really starting to sink in that I’m running a half marathon in a little over one month. And I can’t lie – I am terrified! 

So I’ve kicked my training into high gear, but it’s a double edged sword. I’ve incorporated a bit of cross training into every day and it’s already paying dividends. But the funny thing about training with this new knee is that I’m constantly walking the line between “is this pain from a new injury?” and “I need to train harder to make sure I don’t get injured again.” It’s a constant struggle – I sometimes take a day to rest between runs because I’m afraid of hurting my knees, but after that day off I worry that I won’t be trained enough for this race and will therefore tear my ACL again and need another year of rehab.

What can I say, sometimes it’s hell inside my head.

At times.

BUT… there are plenty of things I can do besides my training to ensure that I succeed. I can visit my orthopedist to have him take a look at both knees for good measure. I take my glucosamine every day. I skip heels at work in lieu of flat shoes that don’t tax my joints. I sleep with my knee brace on after a tough workout, to avoid twisting it in my sleep. I’ve picked up KT tape (and found that it’s a miracle!)

kt

seriously, what is this stuff made of, unicorn hide?

Tonight, I also realized the power of simply being grateful.

Let me explain: I had a 2 mile run on the training plan and got it in, even pushed the pace towards the end, but felt a few twinges in my good knee so I stopped at 2.5 miles. But instead of ending my workout there, I moved to a stationary bike and told myself to give it hell for one full mile with a level 4 difficulty. I worked it out on the bike throughout my physical therapy and remember pumping my fists in victory when I hit a 10 minute mile, so imagine my surprise when I hit a mile in 4:15!

Jazzed up from setting that new PR, I grabbed a Bosu ball and banged out a few sets of triceps dips, balance push-ups and squats then ended with a nice stretch. That’s when I realized that every little thing I do in addition to my running now is helping to prepare me for this race. I may be worried about taking a day off from running, but while I trained for my last race, I skipped cross training entirely – and paid dearly for it with a torn ACL! Now, I’m smarter. And with every extra rep, squat, and curl, I’m making myself stronger.

As I stretched I stared at my legs and felt an immense wave of gratitude wash over me. Sure, they ache and they’ve given me a lot of trouble in the past 18 months, but I am so thankful for these legs. They’ve come a long way in my 30 years, and I can’t wait to see where they take me next.

gym

a runner, from top to bottom

And I’m also grateful for my brain – along with those tree trunk legs, the positive thinking I cling to during my training is what’s going to truly get me across that finish line. Sometimes I get a little (okay, a lot) wrapped up in the crazy rabbit hole of negative self-talk and doubt, but all I need to do to silence that is picture myself crossing that finish line with two solid legs and a smile on my face.

So tell me: what are YOU grateful for? What have you gone through to get you where you’re at today? Whether you’re just starting or a seasoned veteran, you’ve got to be thankful for something – let’s share the love!

Change Your World

After last night’s post about my favorite running store (and my great experience there last week), I have a quick update to share.

In my time at the store during last week’s party, I got to chatting with the fit expert and her co-worker while I was trying on my magical sneakers. One of the managers caught wind of my story and asked me to share it on camera as part of their “Change Your World” video series.

The store has asked people to share their inspirational running stories with the world in the hopes that our journies might inspire someone else to sign up for that ultra marathon, make the leap into their first 5K, or even lace up to start with. I think it’s a great idea but I can’t lie – going from being the girl that used to say I wouldn’t run unless I was being chased to having a running store manager tell me that my story is inspiring is enough to put stars in my eyes.

So, without further ado, I present to you what happens when you give me free green beer and combine my favorite holiday with my favorite hobby, then put me in front of a camera:

I do wish I’d taken the bobble ears off. But other than that, I regret nothing 😉

Give a girl the right shoes…

…and she can rule the world!

just ask Kelly.

just ask Kelly.

I’m a firm believer in being professionally fitted for sneakers. It’s gotten to the point where I won’t even consider buying running shoes without having a professional help me find just the right kicks for where I am in my training.

Have you ever been to one of these places? I can only speak about my store (Road Runner Sports), but the process is similar everywhere: you meet with an expert who talks to you about your running habits (what are you training for, how many miles do you run a week, pavement or treadmill, paper or plastic, Giants or Jets, etc). They have you run on a treadmill barefoot and film it, then analyze your gait to find you just the right sneaker, all for free.

my papa getting his treadmill time at our last father/daughter fitting

So last week, with the final 5 weeks of my training staring me in the face – and my local store hosting its annual St. Patrick’s Day party! – it was a no brainer that I was heading in for the perfect sneakers to end my training and carry me over the finish of my half marathon at the end of next month!

you know the way to this Irish runner’s heart…

I enjoyed some free green beer in my new “Kiss me I’m a runner” mug while I waited for my turn on the treadmill, and had a good time talking with other runners at the party. I got called up and chatted with my expert about my goals, did my quick filmed jog on the treadmill, and got my “diagnosis”. No big surprises there: I put more weight on my right side to compensate for my left knee and I pronate (my ankles roll out when I run). Also I have SUPER high arches – no lie, at my first fitting the expert called all of his coworkers over to demonstrate how he could slide a pencil between the top & bottom of my foot where my arch completely missed the ground. Which was super confidence-building.

But anyway – it was finally time for my sneaker recommendations! Cue the heavenly music and angels bearing boxes of Sauconys and Nikes as I go into full-on Sex & the City fantasy mode. New Balance, Brooks, Mizuno, Asics, Pearl Izumi – you name it, I tried it on!

Carrie Bradshaw ain’t got nothin’ on me.

This is always my favorite part of the sneaker-buying process: it’s the one time in my life where I truly feel like a celebrity. I sit comfortably and give myself foot rubs and leg massages with the store’s foam roller and sprinter stick while the shoe runner brings out pair after pair of colorful kicks for me to try on. Every time they open up a new box I turn into Cinderella, oohing and aahing over the fun colors and gushing about the different features this shoe offers over the others, just waiting for the perfect fit. I even take a sprint around the store to test out the last 3-4 pairs, finally narrowing it down to my perfect, ultimate pair:

I may love them more than a human child.

I may love them more than a human child.

Brook’s Transcends.

They are *the* best. They cradle my ankle and help my alignment, but give me enough cushioning so that my knees don’t even hurt after 4 hilly miles. I don’t remember runs this smooth even before my knee surgery! I’ve never run in Brooks before, but just under 8 miles into this pair and I can already tell that this is the beginning of a loooong and beautiful relationship.

So tell me about your favorite running shoes! Have you ever been professionally fitted? What’s your perfect pair at the moment? Come on: Let’s get some shoes.

Training Post-ACL Reconstruction

I used to run through my aches and pains and told myself it made me a tougher runner. It turns out I was injuring myself even more. With each mile I logged, the tiny tears in my left ACL grew and grew, leaving me vulnerable to the nearly-full tear I experienced at Mile 12 of the Atlantic City Half Marathon in October 2012.

The resulting surgery and therapy -and the 9 months off from running while it healed- gave me the chance to work with orthopedists and physical therapists to learn all about my body and how to take care of it. They introduced me to an arsenal of tools to help keep my knee, and the rest of my joints, healthy and happy through the miles:

tools of the trade

disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or expert, but these are all magic.

TENS Unit: This was a gift from the running gods, let me tell you. When I started physical therapy after my surgery, my therapist put the pads on my thigh to stimulate the muscles and basically bring them to life again. I was given my own machine for use at home (thank you, health insurance!!), and was shown how to use it for pain management too. It was magic – there were still the usual post-surgery pains, but I could move around the house a lot easier while the pads were on and “buzzing”. Eventually the TENS became a part of my every day routine – 20 minutes on the bad knee at the end of the day to relax and revive the muscles, with ice & a quick massage. Now, 13 months after the surgery, I still use these puppies on my bad knee after a tough run or long day on my feet – hell, I even use it on my good knee too, to ease the usual overuse pains it’s developed with the extra pressure it had to take on while the bad knee healed. It’s like a little package of magic, and I don’t know what I’d do without it!

Ice: Even on the coldest days, I’ll ice up after a run if I’ve felt any little pinches or pops during my run. It’s a simple way to calm down any inflammation I may have, whether it’s because of a hilly run or a humid day (thanks to the surgery, I’m one of those people whose knees swell in even a tiny bit of humidity).

Glucosamine Chondroitin: AKA Osteo-Bi-Flex or any of the popular Glucosamine tablets you can find in the pharmacy. These are expensive, but I take them every day because I can feel an obvious difference if I don’t! My orthopedist didn’t want to do surgery immediately. Instead, he gave me these pills for 6 weeks, had me do daily strengthening exercises, and let the swelling go down. In my case, surgery turned out to still be necessary, but I’m convinced that these pills (along with the strengthening exercises that I still do to this day) helped me get stronger and made it possible for me to bounce back from surgery as quickly as I did.

Now, here’s the key: these are just tools. They only work if I put in the hard work and *train* with them! Strength training has been a HUGE part of the recovery process for me, as we determined it was the lack of training that got me here in the first place! I neglected to build up my leg muscles and only focused on mileage while I trained for my race, and that (combined with my family history of weak knees) spelled disaster for me at Mile 12.

Now that I know how to take care of and listen to my body, training post-ACL reconstruction is a lot of work, but it’s not impossible. If you’ve had an injury, how do you cope with it in your training? Have you ever used a TENS unit? What are your thoughts on glucosamine? Tell me all about it in the comments!

(Not) Running in Vegas

Forgive my absence in the past week or so – I spent the first week of March at a big conference in Las Vegas and kind of fell off the grid. I had all intentions of lacing up and setting out for a run on the strip each morning, breathing in the fresh spring air and snapping gorgeous pictures, then ending my day with some blogging from my desk at the Venetian, overlooking the strip while glamorously sipping wine and watching the sun set over the mountains in the distance.

the view

seriously, it would have been great.

But, it turns out that 12+ hour days on my feet left me basically dead to the world when I wasn’t on the expo hall floor. This was a big, stressful event to coordinate (being my company’s event coordinator, I take it pretty seriously), so I ended up focusing much more on the job than myself the entire week. The only “me time” I managed to carve out was in the ridiculously over-sized bathtub in my suite at the end of each day, soaking in hot water to ease the muscles in my aching feet, legs, knees, and back to make the next day bearable.

tao

and also dinner with the team at Tao one night. because, well, TAO.

Long story short, I ended up not running for the entire week. 8 days, to be exact. And I had some serious doubts about being able to pick it back up from where I left off before Vegas, too. Especially with the crazy jet lag I had to work through all day Friday when I got home. Seriously, that stuff is no joke!

I had some major runner doubts. You know them well: those niggling little thoughts that creep up on you and chip away at your confidence as a runner each time they loop through your brain. You’re going to fail at your half marathon next month. All this time off, you’re not even a real runner. You don’t even have the urge to run, clearly you’re a poser. Just go down to the casino and eat your weight in chocolate souffle like you want to, go on.

So imagine my surprise when I woke up yesterday morning and wanted nothing more in the world than to run. Just flat out hit the pavement and breathe in the air and take in the sights of my town at my own leisurely pace as everyone prepared for our annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. And I did exactly that – for over 3 nonstop miles I cruised around my streets and waved at other runners as we passed by each other, so happy to run on streets and sidewalks that were just three days prior covered in 3 inches of unmeltable permafrost.

one happy runner!

The sun felt so nice – too nice for how I dressed actually. I had been dying to try out a new running jacket I got on clearance at RoadRunner Sports last month but it ended up being too hot so I had to wear it around my waist for most of my run! The only thing stopping me from going any farther was my knee, which was still a little angry at me for the crazy torture I had put it through in the past week.

This run ended up being one of my favorite runs in recent memory. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was all the parade prep going on around me, or maybe in running, just like in love, absence really does make the heart grow fonder. All I know is that runs like yesterday’s remind me why I love running so much, and renew my sense of gratitude for the gift of running.

So how was your weekend run? Did you fight through a few tough miles, soak up the sunshine, take on a new distance, compete in a race? I want to hear all about it, tell me a story in the comments!