Running and… Physical Therapy

It’s time for Running and… Physical Therapy!

In Episode 2, I’m chatting with Tiffanie (aka @star_wars_runnah) about how her job as a physical therapist for children 3 years old and under has helped her stay grounded and healthy throughout a 20+ year running career that includes a handful of Boston Marathons and even more Star Wars costumes.

What – or who – else do you want to see on Running and? Let me know in the comments!

Let’s Talk About Running and…

Part of my reason for launching a YouTube channel was to not only share my own stories, but to share the stories of other runners, because we’re more than just runners.

Today I’m excited to introduce my new video series: “Running and…”!

There’s so much great running-focused content out there. But what interests you beyond running? This series takes a closer look at the things that make us runners tick in the hours we’re not logging miles.

I’m kicking off this new series this week with my good friend Hollie (@fueledbylolz) as we chat about running and… swimming!

Let me know what other topics you want to learn more about from me or from other runners – and I hope you enjoy!

Virtual Racing: Yay or Nay?

Back in February, I was SO excited to sign up for 4 New York Road Runner races in the spring and summer. I was fresh off of a health scare that had rattled me into a new outlook of sorts, so I was riding that motivational wave.

It helped that NYRR races are kind of my favorite things in the world. Others might think it sounds crazy, but there’s just something about getting up at the crack of dawn, rolling out to the train station, watching the sun come up from the train window, riding an empty subway, and jogging to the starting line to run a full loop or two around Central Park with 5,000 other people, then wandering the city for the rest of the day.

But, as luck would have it (can it still be called luck in this, the year of our lord, 2020?) ‘Rona showed up and made in-person racing a thing of the past. I held out hope for a few months that they’d be postponed, but the reality sunk in somewhere around June that nothing was going to go as planned this year, least of all racing in Central Park with thousands of other people.

Instead, virtual racing became the norm, and lots of people opted for running their races on their own time and in their own comfort zones – which usually meant alone.

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I’m no stranger to virtual races, having done a handful of them when I first started racing, mainly for the bling and fundraising purposes. In my experience, these races were usually done as an honor system type of thing, where people ran the miles whenever they wanted, and there was no checks or balances of entering your time to be “counted” as participating. You were merely sent the medal/shirt/bib/whatever swag came with your registration, and that was that as far as the “race” organizers were concerned. As such, I didn’t necessarily view these types of virtual races as “real” – it doesn’t seem right when I’m not running on the same course in the same conditions as everyone else.

In 2020, however, now that the idea of virtual racing is basically all we have left to cling to as runners in terms of goal-setting, it seems as if the systems have been majorly upgraded. Runners enter their times in the digital race results portals of their races, and compete for real. I have only participated in two, both of them still very much like the previous virtual races I’ve done, with no such technological advances, but I know handfuls of people who have run them and loved them. Some have run virtual Boston, others are prepping for virtual NYC… heck, some have even won their virtual races!

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I, on the other hand, ran my one notable virtual race on the treadmill, alone, put on the medal as I walked to the shower, then hung it up on my medal rack shortly after that and promptly forgot about it after the picture was posted to instagram.

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As you can see, my virtual race experience through the pandemic isn’t necessarily a rousing success story – I only registered for one other race, back in early September, and still haven’t gotten any more information on it ($50 down the drain, possibly??), and I don’t have any desire to register for any more in the near future.

But that’s why I’m writing this post today: did any of your races get cancelled or turned into virtual races during the pandemic? How has your virtual race experience been? Tell me everything!

Gluten Be Gone

If the pandemic has given me anything (aside from crippling anxiety), it’s more time to focus on my own health. On the mental side of things, I’ve started seeing a therapist again (5 stars, 10/10, highly recommend), and on the physical side, I noticed that I was feeling sluggish and bloated after certain meals, but not always. My skin was also reacting poorly to *something*, and having experience with cystic acne in the early 2000’s that turned out to be an allergy to egg whites (go figure, which has also since gotten better), I thought maybe I would try a little unscientific investigation of my own.

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I started tracking what I was eating on a daily basis, and discovered that (shocker) I was eating a lot of gluten, a fair amount of added sugars, and a TON of corn or corn-based products. Like, SO much corn. Also a lot of wine on the weekends. What can I say, a kiddie pool and a bottle of cab became my go-to Saturday activity from June through mid-September. It was safer than the beach, amirite?

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So I did what any rational human being would do, and I nearly entirely eliminated all of those things from my diet in one fell swoop. Corn, gluten, wine, and added sugar: 96-99% gone. 

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Yes, I know cold turkey is not necessarily the best way to do these things, and by eliminating them ALL at once, there’s no real way to determine which of them was really giving me issues. BUT…

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In the 8 or so weeks since I started, I’ve lost 10 lbs without doing anything different exercise-wise, my skin is slowly clearing, and the bloat is all but gone. My knees don’t hurt all the time. People are commenting that I look thinner, especially in my face, and I can definitely see it there. I’m also pleased that I no longer have the belly bloat I had gotten used to and chalked up to the quarantine-15 or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

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Now, I’m only still doing this because it’s actually pretty easy for me. I wasn’t eating bread on the reg, and the corn products were mostly snacks and stuff that I could easily replace – like swapping my daily lunch corn tortilla wraps for a slice of gluten free bread for open-faced sandwich action, or cutting my evening snacks of chips and salsa entirely. Added sugar was tough at first, but once I got over that initial “sugar withdrawal” mild headache for a day or so, I no longer crave sugar like I used to. 

The one thing I find most shocking of all is that I’m eating less but feeling more full. I don’t know if it’s something to do with the stuff that I eliminated being empty calories or what, but I’ll take it. I mean, eating less is bound to help you lose weight, that’s just simple science, but usually eating less = being hungry all the time (at least in my experience), and I’m not feeling that this time around. 

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This is all to say that I found something that worked for me. Take that with a grain of salt though: I am by no means a healthcare professional, and I do have plans to see an actual doctor to confirm that these sensitivities I’ve “discovered” so unscientifically are indeed real.

But, for what it’s worth, regardless of the results of those tests, I can see myself sticking with this lifestyle for the foreseeable future. 

How about you: do you have any food allergies or sensitivities? How did you discover them? Share your experience in the comments and let’s bond over some imaginary almond milk lattes and gluten free muffins. 

Running in Place

In my 10 years of running (happy runniversary to me, btw), I’ve never hidden my love for the treadmill. Yes, running outside has its perks, and I’ll always love it, but having my pace set for me, music/Netflix/water at my fingertips, air conditioning, a bathroom nearby… everything about the treadmill appeals to me. I don’t find it boring like so many other runners I know who call it the “dreadmill”.

For basically all of my running career, I had various gyms at my disposal to get my treadmill runs in. And then, COVID-19 happened. Gyms were shut down temporarily, but the longer they stayed shut, the more the thought of working out/breathing heavily with a bunch of strangers in an enclosed space with a windows that don’t open became unthinkable.

That’s why I threw out a lifeline on Facebook one evening in the form of a question I asked maybe once every year in the off chance that someone might reply:

“Does anyone have a treadmill they want to sell or get rid of?”

Fast forward two weeks, and behold: my virtually brand new baby.

An old friend from high school that I hadn’t spoken to since 2000 had been wanting to get rid of her treadmill for two years. A few months after buying it, she found herself unable to use it, so it sat in a spare room gathering dust all this time, seemingly waiting for me. After a few days of measuring and rearranging furniture, my husband and I picked it up on August 16th, spent a few hours sweating and swearing to put it back together, and just like that, I had my first treadmill.

Coupled with the Peloton app I’d discovered a few months prior, this was the game changer I had been waiting for.

All of the times I’d said that I’d run more “if I only had a treadmill”? I wasn’t lying, even to myself. Now that I have it, I have been so much more active in the 2 months since it became a part of my life. Every morning – or maybe every other morning some weeks, if I’m being honest – I get up, roll into running gear, brew some coffee and make my way to the treadmill where I get a minimum of 20 minutes in before my day starts. Sometimes I walk, sometimes I run, sometimes I do a bit of both.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was working out sporadically, with anxiety and depression creeping in on the edges of my mind basically every time I stayed stagnant for too long. This machine – while some might call it a bore or a bastardization of what running really is all about – has given me an outlet that I didn’t even know I needed.

What do you think of the treadmill? How have you managed to cope with running through the pandemic?

Guest Blog: Why I Run

I haven’t done guest posts here on the blog before, but when my friend Jimmy reached out about wanting to share his experience with running, I jumped on the opportunity. Jimmy and I work together, but more importantly, we share a love of working out, Star Wars and all things pop culture – seriously, when he was cleaning his desk one day he gifted me with a little Darth Vader Funko Pop and his set of Kylo and Rey figures to keep watch of my stuff when I’m not there. A few months ago we had a nice chat about how running helps us both, and now he’s sharing his story with you guys. I hope you enjoy!

It all started around New Year’s Eve. I felt like I had been hit by a ton of bricks. Work had been very hectic for the final 6 weeks of the year. It was non-stop. I felt like I didn’t have a chance to come up for air. I kept telling myself, “All you have to do is make it until the 24th & you’ll have a whole week off for yourself.” Well, when that day came, I felt like I couldn’t get out of that gear that had kept me going through those final weeks of 2019. I couldn’t relax. It felt like my heart was going to beat through my chest.

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After a few days of dealing with this uncomfortable feeling, I decided to go to the doctor to see if it was an underlying condition. I explained to the doctor what I was going through & if I should be worried. She was very upfront with me & explained it was stress-related anxiety. Me? With anxiety? That can’t be the case! I thought I was invincible. No one is invincible & that’s OK! We discussed a plan of action that included changes to my diet & exercise regimen. I have always been self-conscious about my weight. That certainly was not helping the situation.

I organized a schedule. Thanks to the hospitality of my girlfriend’s mother, I was able to prepare chicken on their grill each Sunday for the upcoming week. I am a creature of habit, so getting into a groove was not an issue. During this time, I discovered how much easier it was to go to the gym after dinner than it was heading over right after work. You need a little bit of a recharge. It was an excellent way to get the blood flowing. I was sleeping much better at night. Everything was going great; work had calmed down a bit after the new year & my new diet was helping me reach numbers on the scale (not that it was the ONLY goal of this endeavor), I hadn’t seen in quite some time. I was feeling FANTASTIC. Then we were all hit with a right upper cut.

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This pandemic arrived like Thanos in Wakanda. It was very difficult to adjust at first. How was I going to get all the right ingredients for my diet with the stores being ransacked? How was I going to exercise without being able to go to the gym? Workout like I had been for the first 3 months of the year. I was knocked down on the mat & I didn’t know how I was going to reach for that turnbuckle. Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Well, I had to take a stand. I was not going to let this situation consume me. I was able to find healthy alternatives.

I have been very lucky all my life. My grandparents live right next door in a tiny, brick house. It was always great for birthdays & anniversaries. Just a few paces across the lawn. They have this small weight room set-up in their basement that my father & I use from time to time. It has become a good friend of mine since quarantine began a month ago.

I began a new workout schedule. Just happy that I had a place to let my frustration out after a long day at work(ing from home). Something was missing, though. When I found out what it was, I couldn’t believe it.

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I pulled the cover off the treadmill in the basement like it was the DeLorean & decided that I was going to start running. As a younger boy, I DESPISED distance running. I’d rather play a game of pick-up basketball or football. Times have changed. I decided that I was just going to go for it. I’ve got to tell you; it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My mind feels so clear when I’m on the treadmill or just on a jog around the block. Each time I strap up my shoes, I want to reach a new milestone.

It does not feel like I am running AWAY from my problems, rather running TOWARDS them. I have been feeling much more confident. I feel more comfortable walking around the house with my shirt off (sorry, Mom & Dad). Yes, I am still dealing with anxiety & the other facets of everyday life, but running & working out regularly have helped me control them. Another thing I did notice that required correction was the incline setting on the treadmill. I kept hitting my head on the basement ceiling. Oh, well, a tiny roadblock that was easily fixed with the flip of a switch.

Everyone handles issues in their life differently than their neighbor. There is no instruction sheet. We must find ways to cope, either on our own or with some help. It is OK to get some help. There is no shame in that! Running has become the sword that I fight these battles with every day.

We are going to get through this pandemic. There are good days & there are bad days, such is life. My hope is that when we come out on the other end, we’ll be better off. I certainly will not take the little things for granted just like how I used to view running as a chore, I now see it as a hobby.

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Until then, I hope everyone stays safe & healthy. We’ve got this!

Sweating Through Health Scares and Pandemics

My last post in October was about how I was excited to be in the middle of a strength training plan that helped me drop some weight and get back into fighting mode. At the end of it all, it really did work: I lost about 15 lbs and a handful of inches and it was just the kickstart I needed to get through the holidays with a healthy mindset.

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we even threw a hell of a roaring 20’s themed NYE party!

Then January brought a health scare that I talked about a bit on Instagram, when I found a lump in my breast and went through a month of testing before finding it was benign. That month brought new levels of anxiety that I wouldn’t wish on anyone: migraines so bad that I ended up in the ER one morning at 3am, a pinched nerve in my back/chest that my doctor had me get an Xray for, and itchy hives all over my body. Working out took a backseat, so yes, I dropped off the face of this blog, and gained some of the weight back. But once the anxiety cleared and the results were in, I returned to working out pretty regularly.

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Then the coronavirus showed up.

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I’m not going to clog up your feed with any hot takes on this bullshit, but I’m also not going to sugarcoat how I’m handling it. We’re blessed in that my husband and I both still have our jobs, and we’re working pretty much 8-5 every day, just to maintain some kind of schedule, and to KEEP those jobs. It’s been a struggle here, much like I’ve heard from other people. I’m not glad it’s happening, but I am glad that it’s shining a light on the importance of being aware of your own mental health and taking care of yourself when anxiety is at an all-time high. It’s a shame that it took locking us all up in our houses to realize it, but here we are.

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I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, or the next day. But I’ve been working out to maintain my sanity, whether by shutting my laptop off in the middle of the day and going for a run around town (while I’m still allowed to) or by carrying handweights around the house every hour when my watch tells me to stand up (while I wish I’d gotten a treadmill before all this happened, I sure am glad I got an Apple Watch for Christmas). I’m also still doing my good old DVD and playing Just Dance on the PS4, and using my watch’s 7-Minute-Workout app a few times a day just to get my heart pumping.

If I can laugh at anything about this whole thing, it’s the fact that suffering from extreme OCD in college – to the point where I washed my hands 50-60 times a day and bled from cracked skin on my knuckles for months at a time – has prepared me for the contamination fears we’re all experiencing today: I can track what needs to be disinfected and know exactly how to open every kind of door without using my hands. Score one for living with an acute anxiety disorder for 3 years.

But I just figured I’d pop on here and share what’s going on over here in the hopes that it reaches someone – anyone – who might need a little pick me up. I know it seems dark right now, but trust me. We’ll get through this.

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Is It a Training Update If I Don’t Have a Race Planned?

So I don’t have any big race coming up but I’ve still been working out pretty consistently and have been getting lots of questions on Instagram about what I’m doing so… is it a Training Update if I’m not actually “training” for something?

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I’m going to take the Regina George approach and say whatever. I’m calling it a Training Update and wishing I had cheese fries.

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I’ve been running lightly – not like on my tiptoes, but like, sparsely? Infrequently? You get the idea. The point is, the 6-week plan that I’m currently just about to wrap up Week 3 of is focused much more on strength and cross training, so I just don’t have the time to spend on running, writing, working, and running a house/marriage/social life at the same time. I would have thought the lack of mileage would turn me into a babbling lunatic, but on the contrary: the strength training has me feeling unstoppable.

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Also, this Laughlete shirt that I won from their Instagram contest is making every workout even more fun, so there’s that.

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But really, the daily, no-excuses, HIIT workouts of the Biggest Loser Last Chance Workout DVD kicked my ass at first, and are now helping me fit into clothes a little better and keeping me from getting winded when I take the stairs at the gym.

My logic behind this whole easy-on-the-running-but-heavy-on-everything-else plan was simple: lose weight, get stronger, get faster.

The expanded version of this thought process goes something like this: I have gained weight since 2018. It was a rough year both physically and mentally, and now that I’m 36, weight loss is harder to come by. But by making smarter decisions and really focusing on weight loss in the past month or so, I’m finally starting to see results, as I noticed yesterday when I got the dailies of my most recent on-camera work for my day job:

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Yay for weight loss AND a lighting upgrade, good lord.

So, with weight loss dialed in, next comes getting stronger. This is pure self preservation and wisdom imparted to me by my physical therapist who laughed at my pathetic attempts to engage my gluteus on day one of my therapy back in April.

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You see, since 2017, my #runallthemiles attitude landed me in physical therapy and/or the chiropractor’s office on 3 previous occasions with injuries to my piriformis, achilles and psoas, so perhaps it’s time I wise the f*ck up about my training. Meaning, stop JUST running and actually strengthen all the other muscles that running doesn’t use, especially if I’m not running AS much.

Combine that with the fact that there are only so many hours in the day, and a plan that involves 6 weeks comprised of 6 days of working out for 35-45 minutes per day MAX, and I was sold. “I can do anything for 6 weeks,” I told myself.

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Thanks, Kimmy.

And wouldn’t you know it, here I am halfway through Week 3, and I’m seeing it and feeling it. It’s extra motivating knowing that I’m only halfway through this and I can’t wait to see where it takes me. I also know from past experience that once I DO run consistently again, this weight loss and strength training/muscle building is all but guaranteed to have a positive impact on my running, so that’s even more exciting. I’m not planning on breaking a 7 minute mile or anything ridiculous, but I’m at least hoping things will feel a little easier with less weight on my joints and stronger leg and core muscles to support me while I run.

How is your training going? Are you training for nothing in particular? Have you ever done the Last Chance Workout or any other workout DVDs? Share in the comments!

Behind the Instagram Curtain Part 2

A few years back I wrote a post that I probably enjoyed more than you readers did, where I broke down some of the more popular or entertaining shots on my Instagram feed and let you in on what it took to get the shot. Going through my own feed and remembering the lengths I went to – or what was just out of the frame that you couldn’t see – was pretty entertaining for me, so here it is: Behind the Insta-Curtain, Part 2:

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This was taken on our first morning on the Channel Island of Jersey during our Eurotrip this past May. While Jersey was everything wonderful and Euro-chic – and we had an incredible time and can’t wait to go back, hopefully next year around the same time – do you see that little dark spot in the brown dirt just under and to the right of my bag?

Yeah that’s pee. A man had just taken a leak directly under an old WWII bunker that we were exploring and I had walked “in” on him. I asked Mike to take a picture of me, but this photo is of me actively saying, “Please don’t get the pee in the shot.”

It didn’t work.

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Sure, it’s an inspirational pic of a couple of friends showing off one’s new Momentum wrap. But in reality, we were hunched under our hoods as the skies opened up above us, and Liz’s coworkers (my ex-coworkers) watched us from the windows above us, wondering what the hell these two chicks were cackling like bog witches about.

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After this run, I took my stretch to the little dock in the center of the park, which is apparently a favorite spot for toddlers and toddler parents alike. Just out of frame to the right of this photo, a particularly inquisitive child was screaming to her mother behind her, “MOMMY, WHAT IS SHE DOING?” Right after this photo, I burst into laughter and the mother profusely apologized. The things we do for Insta.

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For my first Flat Runner in a while, I decided to take advantage of the light coming in through my front door, and laid my race shirt and bib out on the floor there. My cat, Sam, decided this meant I was making him a bed because he repeatedly tried walking into the shot and laying down on top of everything. He got so fixated on this shirt that I had to have my husband hold the cat out of frame just to get one picture.

And then I let him have the damn shirt, I’m not a monster.

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I did genuinely collapse on the floor when I walked in from one particularly hot run in this shot; that’s not made up. But even though we clean our floors semi-regularly, you don’t realize just how filthy a floor can get until you collapse on it in a sweaty heap.

So there you have it – a peek behind what goes on behind the scenes of my Instagram feed! If you want more ridiculousness like that, be sure to give me a follow there if you aren’t already. I promise, I sing badly to 70’s classics and complain about the weather at least 3x a week on my Insta-Stories, and you’ll get a lot more footage of my cat being obsessed with me, too. It’s a win-win.