Mile 26

Real Talk: The TCS New York City Marathon left me turned off about running. With having to put our cat to sleep the day after the race and dealing with injuries for months post-race, I never felt that post-marathon high.

I deleted almost all of the pictures from that day off my phone. But for some reason, I couldn’t delete this one: the Mile 26 marker.

I still remember how I felt when I snapped this picture. Every inch of my body hurt. It was dark and rainy, spectators had all gone home. When I saw Mile 26 I thought “Who cares. There’s no triumphant final push left in me, why should I take a picture?”

But I did, and every time I clean my camera roll, I still won’t delete it. It took me 7 months, but now I know why: because it was the lowest point I’d been at in months… BUT I KEPT GOING.

I got that medal. I pushed through a mental and physical hell I created for myself over 25+ miles through the five boroughs of NYC and I survived, just like I’ve survived every other “lowest” point in my life. It’s a reminder that there’s always something to look forward to, even if I have to go through just .2 more miles of hell to get to it.

When you get to your Mile 26, just keep going. I know it hurts. But it’ll be worth it.

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

Be honest: there are probably a few lies you’ve told yourself but don’t want to admit to. Today I’m going to come clean about two of the lies I’ve told myself in the 5 months since the NYC Marathon: 1) I wasn’t injured and 2) I don’t really want to run anymore anyway.

If you’re a regular reader, you know all about my lack of motivation after the NYC Marathon. A lot of that had to do with this injury that I didn’t want to admit to. After my post-marathon runs turned into pain fests just a few miles in, I took time off. Shortly after the New Year, I lost my job and my motivation to run. I tried to run every other week only to have that leg flare up, and soon I was in pain even when I didn’t run; shooting spikes of fire radiated from my butt to my knee while I sat on the couch or drove to the store.

I started working again in mid-March, around the same time I attempted to push through the pain for a 6 mile run to prep for my upcoming half marathon at the end of April. It was a terrible run and I had to walk last 3 miles. The resulting pain was the worst it had ever been, and left me unable to walk for a day and a half (and limping for 4 more days). That’s when I realized Truth #1: I really WAS injured.

So about 3 weeks ago I went back to my chiropractor. And he’s helping. S-L-O-W-L-Y. The work we’re doing is painful and can only be done in little bursts every few days. I’m not allowed to even try running. All the forced downtime has me frustrated. I feel weaker than I have in years. I’ve gained more weight than I care to admit. I officially dropped out of the NJ Half Marathon in April.

As a result, I’ve spent much less time on social media. So much so that I’ve lost more than 400 followers on Instagram in the last four months. Apparently, a girl who muddled her way through 26.2 miles in a pathetic 6+ hours back in November isn’t as interesting when she has to stop running and fight her way through injury, weight gain and depression. Such is life.

But not spending hours running or scrolling through my social media feeds has helped me spot those lies, along with a few other things.

One: before the marathon, I spent WAY too much time on social media. A wholly unhealthy amount of time. Many hours a week. I’d be at dinner and found myself scrolling “just a little more”, and paying attention to the real flesh and blood people in the room just a little less.

Additionally, I realized that I’ve been coping with this injury by creating lie number two: convincing myself that I don’t really enjoy running anyway.

With an injury that has no defined finish line and seems to keep coming back, I found myself – in classic depressive fashion – isolating myself from the usual injured runner banter. I stopped interacting with runner friends. I got complacent. I said meh, running isn’t all that great anyway. Which led to I’m not that great at running anyway, and ultimately, I just won’t bother with running anyway. 

I had actually convinced myself that I didn’t really like running that much after all.

Because resignation is easier than treatment and rebuilding.

Giving up is easier than doing one-legged squats to build up those glutes.

Quitting is easier than fighting through another round of soft tissue work where the doctor and the nurse each take a part of me and bend and twist and dig.

And it’s a hell of a lot easier than the work I’m going to have to do to get back into the shape I was just a half a year ago.

But yesterday, something changed. Over the weekend I traveled to Boston to cheer on my sister-in-law Meredith as she took on the Boston Marathon (and CRUSHED IT!) and spent a few hours in the hotel gym on Sunday doing squats and leg lifts and crunches and push ups and planks and swimming. Then on Monday I walked. Tuesday I was sore, but by Wednesday, I felt strong again.

Not “I can run a marathon” strong, but I didn’t wince on the stairs. My core felt tight instead of weak. I drove home from work with the windows down and realized – I can’t wait to run again. The idea popped into my head completely unbidden for the first time in months. And I smiled.

Because I know I’ll run again. It’s going to take time, and I’m going to need to do a LOT of work to get back even a fraction of the strength I lost. But I’m willing to put that work in, because I don’t want to feel weak and soft and injured anymore. I’m ready to feel strong again. I’m ready to be a runner again.

Race-cations and Anxiety

Truth time: at both the Star Wars Light Side and Dark Side Challenge weekends, I had some anxiety issues.

At the Light Side races, I suffered a pretty nasty panic attack in the middle of Downtown Disney after finishing the 10K and hanging out with friends at the We Run Social meetup. I had to sit by a fountain and calm myself for 15 minutes before sitting down for dinner. I didn’t talk about it in my recaps because after it happened, I leveled off and the rest of the weekend went off without a hitch.

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I was still sniffling when I took this picture.

But then just last month, between the 10K and Dark Side Half marathon, I started feeling kind of burnt out and stretched thin. While I didn’t have a full on panic attack, things were a little bleak as I made it to the start line:

I remember filming this video as we walked to the start area, and as soon as I posted it I realized – oh no, that’s not my usually happy bubbly pre-race thing! I should delete it! But I knew it was important to share the truth, and it stayed up. And that’s why I’m writing today.

In the documentary about her and her mother that came out after their passing, Bright Lights, Carrie Fisher has a manic moment towards the end of the film and says:

“You know what would be so cool? To get to the end of my personality. And just like, lay in the sun…. I’m sick of myself.”

When I saw the film for the first time and heard Carrie say those words, I burst into tears: finally, someone had said it. At last, someone was able to put into words the feelings I’ve had for years about myself when I get anxious or depressed or have an episode. And of all people to do it, Carrie Fisher. Of course.

My anxiety levels tend to get higher when I travel, even if it’s a fun trip. And when I have a big race on the horizon,  my levels spike too. So a big race-cation is basically asking for trouble. Through trial and error I’ve learned that I need even more quiet time when this happens, and quiet time in Disney during a race weekend is hard to come by.

By the time I toed the start that morning, I was tired of running, tired of Disney, and tired of myself. Just like Carrie. But I managed to run my way through it – literally – and come out the other side, just like I have every other time. It’s painful, and it’s not easy, but there you have it.

Just like I always say when talking about these things, remember: this is only my personal experience. Whatever you’re going through, take it with a grain of salt. Not everyone goes through the same things, but I wanted to share for folks who might experience similar issues and show them that they’re not alone.

How about you: have you ever experienced anxiety while traveling or in the lead up to a big race? How do you cope? 

How Bootcamp is Changing My Game

Since the reality finally hit me that I will be running 19.3 miles over 24 hours in less than 6 weeks (and 26.2 miles around the City of New York in less than 12 months!), I’ve decided to step up my fitness game, one month at a time.

This month, I joined Bulldog Strength and Conditioning for a month of bootcamp/ Crossfit-style classes, with the goal of upping my overall endurance and strength training game in the home stretch before my next half marathon and spring race season.

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My friend Kevin found this place about a month ago to get us ahead of the holiday weight gain by taking a drop-in class the Saturday after Thanksgiving with our friend Angela. I’ll admit: I was hesitant. I’ve done a few month-long boot camp style memberships at other gyms and while they were good workouts, I wasn’t a fan of their mentality and sometimes condescending attitudes. In some cases, the instructors cared more about socializing with the members than helping them get a good workout. Too often I’d see people sacrifice form for time and just flail around without the personal attention they should have been getting for $150+ a month – or worse, they’d get injured!

Having an injury-prone body to begin with, I like to focus on form and doing things the right way for the maximum benefit and to keep myself healthy. And it’s important to me that if I’m working with trainers, I make a personal connection with them about my fitness history and don’t feel too intimidated to ask them for help. So I went into this class with a grain of salt. But from the beginning, the owner Keith was super helpful – asking me about where we found him, what our goals were, what we were currently doing to stay active, etc. When I brought up running, he was psyched to hear about my plans for a half in January and asked me smart questions. Before we even started, I was impressed.

The class size was small; about 10 people, which was great – no crowding, plenty of time for personal interaction, and room to move. We kicked things off with a warm up that included 200M sprints, and Keith and his co-trainer were quick to point out that I should find this part easy, calling me out in front of the class – this was fun! After the warm up, they started cranking some old Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails music to get us into the groove, and we were off onto interval training, two workouts that we repeated two times each. The moves seemed simple at first, but after one minute on and only 15 seconds to move to the next workout, we were MOVING. My one friend had to tap out because it was so intense, and I don’t blame her – I had to pause a few times to keep my breakfast from coming up to make an appearance!

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After just over 40 minutes, we finished completely spent, sweaty and shaking, and I was hooked. I hadn’t pushed myself like that in months, and it felt great. I’ve been so scared of overdoing it and not being able to run that I’ve been shortchanging myself. No more.

On the spot I decided to commit to a month with Keith and his crew. But because he’s a smart businessman and a good trainer, he was open to discussion. He understood that I couldn’t commit to a full 5x/week schedule simply because the gym is 30+ minutes away and I need to spend more time running for now, and was able to work with me on a plan that fits my schedule and my budget.

Last night I took my first class of the month and I already can’t scratch my nose without that soreness in my arms and shoulders – and I screamed when a sneeze earlier this morning made my abs work unexpectedly. But I’m pumped to see where these workouts take me in my running. Tomorrow I’ve got 7 miles to run, and another class Sunday.

It’ll be a tough schedule to stick to this month to get all of my miles in AND reap the benefits of a month of bootcamp too, but I’m committed. If I’m going to do this 26.2 thing, I’ve got to do things I’ve never done before and work harder than I ever have in any training cycle – but I’m ready!

Taking Time to Be Grateful

After doing this blogging thing for a few years now, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to me and how it’s changed my life. Which has caused me to get pretty introspective lately – in a good way.

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Back in 2003 I was miserable, but I hid it by being overly confident and brash. Think Samantha Jones from Sex & the City but without all the ridiculous sex stuff.

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but WITH the martini habit

I was in college, but instead of figuring out the balance of how to have a social life while excelling in school, I avoided going out almost entirely and threw myself into professional development instead.

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Taking extra classes, loading up on extra-curriculars, networking, building up my resume and getting an awesome internship with the NJ Devils. I took no prisoners and managed to do some amazing things. But my confidence was SO delicate.


At the end of every day, I was truly miserable. I would either hang out with my friends in their dorm rooms and watch TV and eat and drink to oblivion, or go back to my dorm room and do the same, but alone.

When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, I knew something had to change. I HAD TO CHANGE. To beat the odds now stacked against me, I started to pay attention to what I ate at the dining hall. I watched an hour of Everybody Loves Raymond on the stationary bike in our dorm gym instead of on my bed. And wouldn’t you know it, I started to lose weight – and my confidence started to grow too.

Fast forward a few more years: I graduated, got a big girl job in the real world, and jumped into the dating scene. I reconnected with an old friend from my high school days and we started something serious – and I even convinced him to marry me! My friends started having babies and getting married. Throughout it all, I continued to lose weight and shape my new life along with my new body.

 

Fast forward even further, to when I discovered running. I ran my first race in 2010, started falling into a rhythm, and discovered the world of running bloggers. I would see them talk about all the progress they were making and all the opportunities they had and get all moon-eyed over just how awesome that would be, never expecting to do anything like that. But after realizing that in addition to these blogs there was a whole fitness and running community on places like Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, I decided to jump in too.

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My first race ever: a Pink Ribbon 5K with my papa and cancer-free mama ❤

Instagram was my first foray into the online fitness community. Then I started blogging, and soon Twitter and Facebook followed. When I started this ride I NEVER expected it to be as much of a blessing it has been, and that’s the truth. But I put myself out there in a few different – and scary – ways: offering to share my story, baring it all about my history with depression and anxiety, talking about the impact weight loss and running has had on my personal relationships, etc.

And then one day, those things I used to see the running bloggers talking about – they started happening to me.

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Shape Magazine interviewed me. I was asked to take over the Brooks Running IG feed. I was invited to run the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile. I’ve been selected as an Ambassador for the 2016 RWHalf and Festival next month. And as I get ready for what is shaping up to be an unbelievable few months, I have to take this moment to thank you all for coming along on this adventure with me.

I am TRULY grateful for all of the amazing opportunities that I’ve been given; I’m one of the luckiest people I know. But none of it would be possible without you reading, commenting, liking, following, and being with me on this ride. Whether I know you in real life or have only ever “met” you online – or even if you never say anything! – please know that I appreciate you taking time out of your day and reading and looking at the stuff I put out into the ether.

Thank you for being here – and I look forward to seeing where this road takes us in the future!

My New Celebrity Fitspiration

So, I’m a big Star Wars fan now. I’m guessing you knew that already though.

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While I love the whole fictional universe, I also dig the new stars in the franchise. They’re a talented, eclectic bunch of people with different personalities and styles, and I’m loving all of them. Especially Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey.

I liked her in the movie, but when I discovered her Instagram a few weeks after seeing the movie back in January, I was instantly hooked. She’s adorable,  you guys.

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Also, with posts like this, let’s face it: she’s kind of my spirit animal. 

In a sea of vapid, cookie cutter “celebrities”, her feed stands out. You can really get a sense of her voice and what she’s passionate about – she’s not afraid to speak up and be goofy – AND she loves posting videos of her insane Star Wars workouts. These aren’t little “yay for bicep curls!” videos though. This chick is putting in some serious WORK. So what did I do? Take notes on her workouts and adapted them for myself, of course!

What does the Daisy Workout consist of? Here’s a sampling from a few of her recent videos (note: technical terms are NOT my strong suit. I just call them as I see them):

  • Walking lunges with overhead weight
  • High Knee jumps
  • Pull ups with elevated legs
  • Kneeling bicep band pulldowns
  • Pilates 100’s
  • Jump Squats
  • Jump squats with overhead bar & press
  • Lateral Jumps
  • Lunges with band twist
  • Suspension cable pull ups
  • Kneeling jumps
  • Medicine ball tosses
  • Kettle bell squat lifts (5x arm)
  • One legged box jump
  • Squat jumps with bar
  • Straight overhead Leg lifts
  • Straight leg situps

Now, this is by no means meant to be an official workout, please don’t try all of these and sue for damages when you can’t lift your head off the pillow the next day. I am NOT a professional – I was just looking for a good strength training workout and these moves clearly helped our girl Daisy so why can’t I give them a shot?

Word of warning: after doing half of those exercises up there for a full 40 minutes Tuesday, I’m STILL sore 48 hours later. So please, workout at your own risk.

But while these moves are HARD and have me grunting and swearing and unable to get into my car without screaming the next day, I do know this: I feel pretty badass when I’m done!

How about you: Who’s your current celebrity fitspiration? Have any famous-people workouts to share? Gimme gimme!

 

Springtime Update!

Oye. I can’t apologize enough for the break in blogging I’ve taken recently – I have good reason though! Work has been gearing up in anticipation of a big product launch and a lot of events that I’m managing, and I also came down with a nasty stomach bug that knocked me out for pretty much the last 4 days. BUT – I have been running, and happy, and all the things that you keep coming here to read about, so let’s recap the past two weeks with a LOT of pictures!

After my hooky day in the city, I had a pretty OK long run that weekend. It was definitely not the great 10 miler I had the week before, but I know exactly why that was the case: I had no water. 
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The time on the watch up there is a lie, because I stopped the watch each time I took a break to heave for breath and work the paste out of my mouth, which was about 4 times after mile 5, when I ran out of agua and the temps soared past 65.

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But, the weather was nice and I was able to finally wear my new Skirt Sports Happy Girl skirt in Psyched – a print that while sufficiently loud for my tastes, matches nearly everything I own!

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Want some Skirt gear of your own? Use code JRH20 at the new SkirtSports.com and get 20% off your order!

After that learning experience, I took on the next week of training with a little less intensity than I wanted. My first run of the week was banging, thanks to Mr. Kenny Loggins here (any Archer fans out there get why I was so stoked when this was the first song of my run??)
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But after that I did some biking on Wednesday to cross train, and Thursday was lost due to it being St. Patrick’s Day. I DO celebrate other high holy days aside from Christmas, you know.

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So does Sammy “I’ll Allow This” Gamgee

I also was super stoked to get my shipment from Swanson Health Products:

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Full disclosure – these folks reached out to offer me a gift card to order whatever I wanted in exchange for a shout out here, but after one order I can honestly say they’re freakin’ awesome!

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This chocolate bar I ordered from them: EVEN MORE awesome.

I’d never heard of them before, but once I took a look at their website I was sold. They’ve got everything you could possibly want: vitamins, snacks, cooking stuff, juices, you name it they’ve got it. And the prices are really more affordable than I expected too. I’m a big fan of the brown rice pasta pictured up there, and of course that amazing chocolate bar (the wrapper of which I had to fish out of the garbage for a picture because I ate it so fast). The Tart Cherry vitamins were also a great find – I’ve been meaning to try them out and thanks to their deal of the day I was able to get two bottles for the price of one! Give them a visit and let them know I sent you 😉

That weekend – yes, after skipping my second run of the week, bad runner – I took on 9 miles. And it was not very good.

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This is another case where the numbers lie – I carried a bottle of water with me and managed to get my hydration situation under control, but the last 4 miles were allll aboard the struggle bus thanks to skipping my second run. I just felt out of shape. You know what I mean. I managed to push through a much slower second half than first half while having flashbacks of horrible race experiences where I burned out too early and vowed to take on the next week with renewed intensity – but not after a pretty awesome weekend filled with hockey, BB-8, and Starbucks (Cherry Blossom Frappuccino, I love you)!

My first run that week was better – my usual 4 miles at a bit slower than I wanted, but still solid pacing. I swam on Wednesday for the first time in a while and remembered just how awesome swimming really is (thanks for coming with me, Kevin!), and then took on another 3 miles on Friday to break in my new Brooks Transcend 3’s.

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Saturday night I went out to a bachelorette party at Pinot’s Palette, where you can bring wine and snacks and paint a masterpiece – which was a stinkin blast!

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I did take it easy on the wine and snacks though, because I had a long run early the next morning before Easter festivities:

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And while the pacing on this looks slower compared to other long runs, I’m actually extremely proud of myself: the first 5 miles were excruciatingly slow thanks to a 2 am bedtime, and yes, SOME wine, at a total of 1:02. I told myself those whole 5 miles as I saw my pace hover around 12:15 that this run was about endurance, not pace. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. But after my gel at mile 5.5? I ran those last 5 miles in 56 minutes, baby! My final mile was even in the 10’s, I almost screamed. It was TOUGH, and took a lot of focus especially in that final mile or two when I just wanted to walk, but I did it and proved to myself that I could come back from a sucky start.

I vowed to look at training not as *just* training but as a way to build my confidence in long distances, and with each long run this cycle I’m learning something new and loving it. Nevermind the fact that I woke up late Sunday/early Monday with the stomach flu to end all stomach flu’s. Seriously, I was curled up on the bathroom floor at one point, crying and begging Jesus to take my pain away. He must have been super surprised to hear from me then, of all times.

BUT the plus side – if there is one – is the 4 days I had to take off to recover gave me time to heal from blisters, calf pain, and general soreness. I’m ready to rock a few miles tonight as a shakeout before Saturday’s 11K down in Atlantic City for the April Fool’s Race Series for sure! This race is about fun – coming off a bad illness like this I know I lost a lot of strength (I broke a sweat taking the stairs at work today), so I’m not going to push myself. It’s not worth it with my goal race coming up in May.

So that about does it for me, kids! How’s your training going? Tell me all about it in the comments!

Pins and Needles

Since I first started getting acupuncture done, a lot of folks have asked me for details. How does he know what do work on? [we talk about it at have a mini therapy session at the start of every treatment] What parts of your body do the needles go in? [depends on what he’s treating that day] Do they hurt? [nope!]

It’s a weird experience – and one that I detailed in depth in my first post about it last month – but I’m happy to chat about it as much as possible, if only to spread the word that this stuff is pretty magical. I know some folks might be skeptical about it, and that’s fine. Hell, I was skeptical too, before I tried it. But I started noticing a positive difference immediately after my first session and it’s only gotten better with more treatments.

Last night I had my third session, where we worked a little more on my anxiety and depression points (wrists), appetite control (ears), and continued treatment on my knees for pain management and increased energy overall. In my second session 2 weeks ago he introduced the concept of focusing on drawing in the energy while I sit with the pins in my body – “Think of the pins as little antennas, drawing in the energy” – and while I kind of made this face at first…

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… I decided to go with it and found that it kind of worked. When I went on my last long-ish run this past weekend, I started to feel the usual twingey feeling in my left knee at around mile 3. So I stopped to walk, stretched a bit, and focused on the spots those needles sat in during my last treatment, along with some breathing exercises that the doctor taught me. While it didn’t erase the pain (I mean, nothing will), the pain didn’t last as long and didn’t return when I stopped for the day. I had a few little pinches and pops here and there but nothing lingered. I’ll take it!

And I know I’m a broken record about it, but I can’t overstate it: the appetite suppression points he worked in my ears are unbelievably effective. I haven’t binged in almost a month and have lost between 8-10 lbs depending on the day. The urge to turn to food when I’m stressed, bored, or upset is simply no longer there. Sure, I get the usual pangs if I’m truly hungry (4 hours after a smoothie and an hour past my usual lunch time when I’m stuck in a webinar). And when I finally get the chance to eat, I also don’t find myself so ravenous that I reach for the first bad choice. Smarter choices are easier to make.

I’m super excited to see what this means for my half marathon training. Even though I only just started, the added energy, weight loss, and anxiety relief is sure to help across the board. I’ll be sure to post more about it as I continue both my treatments and my training, but in the meantime consider this a resounding endorsement for pins and needles!

What do you think – do you do acupuncture? Or do you rely on any other alternative treatments like it? Share in the comments!

 

NYC Marathon Lottery & Acupuncture #2

This isn’t my usual kind of post, but because I’m so excited about my day, I had to share!

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Woo-hoo #1: At noon, I entered the NYC Marathon Lottery for the first time ever.

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You heard me: I threw my hat into the ring for a chance to run 26.2 miles around my favorite city in the world in about 10 months. Having never run more than 13.2 (ish) miles in my life, this is the most terrifying, exciting risk I’ve taken in a long time. I mean, my odds of actually getting in are astronomically low, but what the hell? Gotta be in it to win it.

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Me, when I find out they let me in.

Woo-hoo #2: I’ve got my second acupuncture appointment tonight!

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Having this to look forward to makes me so indescribably happy, I can’t even put it into words. I had an awesome experience my first time around, and 2 weeks later I’m still feeling the positive effects: hello, weight loss, decreased appetite, and finally feeling balance in my life once again!

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In addition to continuing to work on my existing issues that we started treating in session 1, we’re also going to be working on my knees today so I’m excited to see how that works out.

So that’s my Thursday in a nutshell! How about you? Are you entering the NYC Lotto? Have you tried acupuncture? Did you know it was possible to use nothing but Kristen Wiig GIF’s in one post?

My First Acupuncture Session

After reaching out for help when I was having a tough time last month, I found a lifeline in a completely unexpected place: acupuncture. I’d never considered it for things like depression or anxiety, but this guy came so highly recommended by both my mom and dad that I figured why not??

I treated my appointment like I was taking my car in for an oil change: while you’ve got the hood open, you may as well take a look at EVERYTHING that’s wrong, right? So I went in with a list of issues to treat: anxiety and depression, a lack of motivation and energy, and food cravings & weight gain. Who knew if he’d be able to treat it all, I thought, but it was worth mentioning everything while I was there.

Once I got in and filled out the paperwork, we settled in and he asked me one simple question: What’s bothering you?

Would you believe I started crying immediately? It was pure relief: here was a skilled professional – with a background in psychology, no less! – asking me to spill the beans so that he could make it all better. Relief doesn’t even begin to explain it.

So he worked through my issues by asking smart questions that, in some cases, really made me think. He didn’t just ask “What makes you happy?”, but “Why does that make you happy?” It was truly fascinating stuff that challenged my thinking and forced me to open up in ways I didn’t expect to so soon after meeting this guy!

But after about 10 minutes of discussion, he got to work with his hands. I laid down on the table under heat lamps (mmm) and he did something called “palpating”. While it felt like he was massaging the tense spots in my back or on my ankles, he was locating the points that needed needles. This was where his skill was immediately apparent: he’d touch one spot and say, “No, right?” and I’d feel nothing. Then he’d move his fingers a millimeter to the right, send a shooting pain through my back, and go, “A-ha! There it is.” Whaaa??

It was like he didn’t even have to try! With a few simple touches he knew just where I was holding onto my tension and where the needles would be most effective. I was blown away. He focused on those 3 issues in 4 different spots: the anxiety and depression on two separate points of each wrist and in my back; the lack of energy in my calves and ankles; and the food cravings in my ears! Eek, right? The outsides of my ears, but still!

He did all of the stuff in my back and legs first, and all I had to do was take my shirt off, lay face down on the table, and he got to work. Before he’d place each needle he’d say where he was going and what each needle would do, and I honestly felt NOTHING: 8 in my back and 5 in each leg. But once he got to my wrists, things got interesting. “Here you’ll probably feel something, just warning you,” he said. I steeled myself and told him to go ahead, and while it wasn’t pain, it certainly was… something. Warmth, pressure, slight stinging. And while he put two needles on either side of each wrist, I felt it more in my left wrist.

Once he was done he told me to relax for 10 minutes and let the needles do their thing – “Even fall asleep if you can! It helps if you can relax as much as possible.” As relaxed as you can while laying topless and facedown in a stranger’s home office covered in 20 needles, I thought with a laugh to myself as he walked out of the room and let me be.

I tried to let my mind wander, and while I didn’t fall asleep, I definitely relaxed and focused on the sensation in my wrist, breathing deeply. After what felt like a very quick 10 minutes, he came back in and gently told me he’d start removing the needles. He painlessly plucked each one out, then started a semi-painful massage to release all the energy that the needles had drawn out. I say painful because he DUG very deep – it took my breath away! I told him at one point that it hurt, and he apologized and used a big vibrating pad instead for a few moments, saying that it wouldn’t be AS effective. I didn’t want that – I wanted the full effect! So I sucked it up and told him to keep using his hands, and he did with a laugh and some encouraging words. Score one for putting on my big girl pants and dealing with it! After a few more minutes of massage, he had me put my shirt back on and laid me down on my back to do my ears.

I’ll be honest: the needles here didn’t hurt a bit, but these were the most painful for him to discover. He used a dull cotton swab to find the points in my ears (because his fingers were too big!), and the painful spots he found were SO MUCH MORE ACUTE! If you’ve ever gotten a pimple in your ear, you know the shooting pain I’m talking about. But he was “pleased” to find that each ear only needed 4 needles – most people need many more, he said!

So he popped those 4 needles in each ear and left me once again to relax. This time I really did almost doze off; thanks, heat lamps! When he came in 10 minutes later I needed a moment to come to. He took those needles out and placed cotton balls in my ears (I later discovered he did that because there was a tiny bit of blood, which is normal), and sat me up slowly, talking me through the physical things that I might feel as a result of this session: small bruises, tenderness, maybe even some warmth, especially in my wrists because those are the major points that everyone experiences something with. That would be the leftover energy, he said, and it was normal. I thanked him profusely, made my next appointment (for this Thursday!), and left.

And this is where it gets weird: as soon as I walked out of his office, it’s like a switch was flipped in me, and the fog had lifted. The whole drive home, I smiled to myself and soaked everything around me in with a peacefulness that I can’t really describe. The strangest part, though, was the sensation in my right wrist and arm. When I moved my wrist in one way (trying to grab my purse, for example), a warmth throbbed through my muscles all the way to my elbow. It wasn’t bad at all – it was just.. interesting! I can’t describe it.

I got home and had a great night; ate a very light dinner, got my outfit ready for the Joe Kleinerman 10K the next day, and didn’t have any of the usual cravings I get before bed to stuff everything in the snack cabinet into my face. I didn’t experience the usual pre-race jitters, and when I laid down for bed I felt myself tear up a little at how utterly calm I felt. It was like I finally realized that everything was going to be OK, after being so anxious for so long. And while I haven’t written my race recap yet, spoiler alert: it was my best race yet. I didn’t PR but I smiled and breezed through every step, no usual race-day tension or doubts or emotional roller coaster.

Could it have worked that fast? Was it all in my head? I honestly don’t know one way or the other. All I know is that it’s been a little more than a week and while I’ve had minor moments that caused me the usual tension (work, life, etc), that overall peaceful feeling always comes back. I’m more motivated to do even little things like clean the fridge or cook dinner. And the most obvious sign? My appetite isn’t as ravenous as I used to feel, I haven’t had one sugar craving, I’ve avoided every temptation without a hint of stress, and I haven’t binged once (where I’d usually binge 4-5 times in one week). I feel less bloated and have more energy, even with a sinus infection this past week.

So that’s my (so far) positive experience with acupuncture! I’m looking forward to this week’s session – he’ll focus on my knees in addition to everything else. So here’s to keeping the good vibes flowing, whether they’re all in my head or not!

Have you ever had acupuncture before? How did you like it? Tell me in the comments!