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.

anxiety

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.

thanos

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.

dust

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.

run dance

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.

fullsizeoutput_4816

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.

+Kx7ter9Txe0651avSxdQQ

Then the coronavirus showed up.

fullsizeoutput_4eb9

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.

9KOn6K3lQ8a75W9ejCShOg

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.

fullsizeoutput_4ea5

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?

giphy.gif

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.

IMG_7927.jpg

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.

IMG_8406.jpg

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

IMG_8453.jpg

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:

IMG_8993.jpg

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.

IMG_1784.jpg

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.

giphy.gif

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!

Hitting the Reset Button

Running and I were not best friends there for nearly 2 years. We weren’t even like… friends you ask to pick you up from the airport or help you move a couch.

me-readjusting-my-husband-so-he-stops-snoring-all-night-32719913

But that’s because I was doing it for the wrong reasons.

4-up on 10-13-19 at 5.15 PM (compiled)

Is this wildly-popular-on-instagram sweatshirt one of those reasons? Maybe.

I was running because that was what I thought I should be doing, as a “runner”. And I’m not using quotes because I don’t consider myself a runner – I am. But that’s not all I am.

After the NYC Marathon, I took time off from running, lost my job, and then injured myself when I tried to get back into running just for the sake of running. I stopped paying attention to what I ate. I ran races I didn’t want to run, just because other people wanted me to. And by forcing myself to push through it and run all the miles for appearances’ sake, I neglected everything else and my body and mind paid the price. Instead of running to feel better, it made me feel worse.

IMG_6104.JPG

I ran from one Instagram-worthy photo to the next, while behind the scenes, my body and mind were being held together with duct tape and crossed fingers. And I can’t ignore the fact that I behaved the way I did in part because I felt the pressure of nearly 16,000 people on Instagram “watching” my feed. To ignore that would be irresponsible.

So instead of ignoring it – or imploding like I’ve seen others do – I quietly worked on myself. Behind the scenes, in fits and starts, for nearly a year now. I stopped taking photos and posting about every workout on social media. I ran. I didn’t run. I tried yoga. I gave up yoga. I turned off all social media notifications on my phone. I connected with therapists and people who could help me get stronger physically and mentally.

IMG_6609

With the false sense of wisdom that only time can provide, I’m comfortable saying the Fifth Avenue Mile was a turning point for me. It was the first time in a long time that I felt confident and ready, in mind and body, to race. My unexpectedly stellar performance is the proof I needed to know that my work is paying off.

Don’t get me wrong: the work to get back to 100% is ongoing, and always will be. I know that now. But this is the first time since the 2017 NYC Marathon that I’m enjoying the work. And while I don’t have any race plans on the horizon, I’ve got other plans.

F44E7921-6891-41FE-BA06-D7E4735BCB3F.jpg

I’m currently 2 weeks into a 6-week program that is already paying dividends in terms of how I feel. I’m less bloated and have more energy. The goal is to get back down to my pre-marathon weight and strengthen my body top to bottom so that when I do race, I’ll be as strong as I can be in that moment. At age 36, that’s not an easy task, and 6 weeks is just the beginning. But it’s refreshing to think that you can always hit the Reset Button.

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.

Capture.JPG

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.

giphy

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.

dsc02114

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.

img_0462

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.

shape1

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!

Peek a Boo!

Hey, strangers! I bet you thought I disappeared, didn’t you? Well, I’m still here, just a little busy, you know how life goes.

IMG_2500.JPG

Here’s a picture of a scenic lake to denote the ambiguity of life. Or because I thought it was pretty.

How have you been? The summer has been moving along quite quickly over here, with lots of exciting updates and races and training to talk about – so let’s jump right in, list style!

I’ve (re)started using My Fitness Pal

About a month ago, I had a wake-up call when I saw a photo someone had snapped of me after a BBQ. I could say it was a bad angle and I had just eaten my weight in delicious goodies (and had a few bloat-inducing beers), but it was proof of  what I’d been denying for weeks: I’d been slowly gaining the weight I lost at the beginning of the year. Even though I was working out like crazy and getting faster with each run, but my tighter clothes and the scale clearly indicated that something needed to change.

About 4 years ago I used My Fitness Pal to keep track of my food and exercise and found some success with it. But after 6 months I convinced myself that I didn’t need it any longer. “I’m a smart person, I know how many calories are in everything, no app needed!” Well that lasted for a while, but clearly things change (and so did I)!  At the suggestion of a friend, I fired up the app once more, started logging my food and exercise… and I was shocked at how grossly inaccurate I was at counting calories all this time!

IMG_2960

But I was grateful for the wake up call and kept at it, logging my meals, snacks, and workouts every day for about a month now, losing just about 5 lbs as of last week. I’m feeling stronger, things are fitting more easily, I’m not as bloated, and in general I’m glad to be back in the My Fitness Pal swing of things. Have you ever used it? What are your thoughts?

I booked my final NYRR 9+1 race!

That’s right, the 2017 TCS NYC Marathon is in my sights, and I’m not letting up.

Capture

I’m volunteering at a long run next month, registered for their weekday evening Fun Run, and decided to have the Marathon Kickoff 5 Miler be my final NYRR race of the year to earn my 9+1 for entry into the 2017 marathon!

Speaking of NYRR…

… I ran two Road Runner races in the last three weeks! I’ll have more pics and full recaps soon, but I finished both the FRNY Pride Run and the Run to Breathe, remembering halfway through each race why running in the middle of summer is a friggin nightmare.

We tried our hands (arms?) at kayaking – and survived!

My brother and sister-in-law like to go kayaking and because it’s something to do outside that looked like a pretty good workout, I wanted to get a piece of that action. So they took  us to one of their favorite spots and wouldn’t you know, we freakin loved it!

DCIM146GOPRO

DCIM146GOPRO

DCIM146GOPRO

It was a REAL workout – and not just for the upper body, either! I was shocked to find different parts of my body aching even 48 hours after – like my butt and hamstrings, from holding myself upright in the kayak! I never would have thought it could be so total body, but it was, and I loved it. Thanks for introducing us to a new adventure, Mere!

I completed ONE of my outfits for the Star Wars Rebel Challenge!

This one I’m really excited about, you guys. ICYMI, I got into the Rebel Challenge in Disneyland next January, which means I’m running a 10K on Saturday and a half marathon on Sunday, and both races are STAR WARS THEMED! I don’t think I have to elaborate on why this is pretty much the 2nd or 3rd coolest adventure I’ve ever embarked upon, next to marriage and maybe interning for the NJ Devils back in college.

A lot of thought went into this costume, too: because it’s a themed Disney race, I knew I HAD to go in costume. It’s all a part of the fun! But because this is my first challenge-style race with back to back mileage, I didn’t want to get too crazy with stuff I normally wouldn’t run in, especially for the half marathon. Which made it pretty easy to decide on who I’m going to run those 13.1 miles as:

IMG_3277

BB-8!

Because he’s fast and sarcastic and round (kind of like me), BB-8 was a natural choice.

giphy.gif

As for the 10K the day before, well – I’ve got some ideas for that costume, but I need to find AND test some gear out to see how feasible it would be to run in. I’m about 90% sold, because it’s a shorter distance and I can do anything for 6+ miles, especially since I plan on taking it easy and stopping for lots of pics during this race (so I won’t need to stop as much during the half). Stay tuned!

That about does it for me – I’ve got some other posts and recaps coming up this week too, but in the meantime, how’s it going by you? What have you been up to during these dog days of summer? Tell me!

Half Marathon Training Week 2 (& Giveaway Winner!)

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone out there in the blog-iverse! I hope you spent some time today treating yourself however you like best, whether with chocolate or a run or vegging on the couch or wine (or all 4). Hubby and I celebrated in a low-key way, which is how I like it: with a box of Star Wars chocolates, some nice cards, a delicious seafood dinner at a Portuguese restaurant around the corner, and a nap. ❤

Half marathon training is in full swing over here. I’m still more than 2 months from race day but feeling super confident thanks to all these longer races I’ve been doing in the “off” season. My weekly long runs have stayed around 5-6 miles for a while, and my 2 training runs during the week are at a solid 4 miles apiece (when they used to be 2.5-3ish). This training cycle is all about that base [mileage], and I’m happy to log more miles consistently, because it means big improvements in my speed! Case in point: this week’s runs:

I logged 14 miles this week, all under 12:00/mile. This was especially exciting during my long run on Saturday, when I managed to nail 6 full miles at that amazing pace. I can’t remember the last time I did that! Usually once I go over 5 miles I slow down considerably, but this is promising.

The difference this time around? I know I may sound like a broken record, but the acupuncture has really been a game changer. Thanks to the appetite management treatments, I’m still not overeating or snacking like I used to. This has led to a pretty noticeable weight loss: depending on the day it’s between 12-15 lbs! I’m so glad I’m not lugging that extra weight around with me on the pavement! I go for treatment #4 this Wednesday and can’t wait to give him the good news 🙂

Along with the  weight loss, the acupuncture has also increased my energy levels in a big way. I wake up before my alarm, feeling refreshed and ready to go almost every day, regardless of when I get to bed the night before. And even though I recently took on an extra role at work on top of my existing responsibilities (meaning 2x the pressure, focus, and mental energy needed each day), I’ve still managed to nail my workouts even after a full day of work for the past 2 weeks.

On top of the running I’ve been doing to kick off this training cycle, I’m focusing on making those cross training and strength training days count, with full hours dedicated to arms or legs, with core work to cap off every session. I’m finally noticing little changes in my body and will keep it up to see where I can go from here.

And when I take a rest day, I really TAKE that rest day. Like this past Friday, when I went to see Star Wars for the [I don’t want to admit how many]th time and got up close and personal with Mr. Kylo Ren here:

IMG_3529

That’s about it for training this past week! I do want to close out this update with a fun announcement: our Love to Run Giveaway winner! Drumroll please…. Congratulations Miss Meridith Daniel! I clicked “random winner” and you were our lucky lady!! Check your inbox for instructions on how to claim your prize pack 🙂

giveaway winner

Mere and I had a fantastic response to this giveaway with almost 450 entries, and we thank each and every one of you for participating! It’s such an honor to work with companies like Greecie Girl and Cocogo to bring you guys these contests, and I can’t wait to bring you even more opportunities to win fun stuff in the future!

So now that we’re starting a new week, tell me: how is your training going? Did you do anything fun for Valentine’s Day? 

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…

images

… 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!

 

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!

Climbing Out of a Black Hole

I try to keep things 100% real here, but it’s hard when things get tough. I mean, the title of my blog has “happy” in it. If I’m not happy, what am I? But this is my blog after all, so here goes:

When I started this fitness journey back in 2004, I was more than 100 lbs heavier & suffered from crippling anxiety, OCD, and depression. My hands would crack and bleed from over-washing and some days I couldn’t even leave my dorm. With 5 years of exercise, therapy, medication, and a healthier diet, I managed to find my way out of that hole. And even though I managed to wean off the OCD medicine (and haven’t had an episode in years), I will occasionally fall back into that hole.

Which is where I’m at right now.

For the past three weeks or so, I’ve been in an emotionally bad place. The best way I can describe it is like I’ve been watching a movie of my life. Some days it takes a huge effort just to get out of bed. A few days, I slept 18+ hours and have had no motivation to do anything. One day my husband had to physically pull me out of the car to take a walk at the park, and all I wanted to do was cry the whole two miles. At holiday gatherings I found myself fighting back tears while watching everyone else laugh. I’d put on a happy face to go for a run or to a movie, and then fall right back into staring at the TV or a blank wall, trying not to cry.

Some more well-adjusted folks might read that and think “What a head case!” Hell, I even think that sometimes – I’ve had a perfectly happy holiday season, I have family and friends that love me, a great job, a roof over my head… what the hell could I possibly be so depressed about? And when I think that, I get even more upset, and it spirals from there. Those of you who’ve experienced depression or anxiety know what I’m talking about, and it sucks.

What brought it on? Is it just the Holiday Blues? The lack of structure being off from work for so long? The unhealthy food and abundance of wine? All three? Who knows. And it’s hard to even put into words exactly what goes through my head when I’m in the middle of it. But I’m lucky: my friends and family have all been nothing but supportive. And to be honest, today is one of my first good days. Coming back to work, monitoring my diet, and forcing myself to be physically active are all helping, but it takes time. I’m pretty sure I’m bouncing back slowly, but there’s always a fear that it’ll creep back up and paralyze me again.

I don’t have a specific purpose for writing this post, to be honest. Part of me needed to write it to clear my head, but it’s also for anyone who has gone through – or is going through – something similar. If you’re in the middle of it, know you’re not alone, no matter how lonely you might feel. The sun will come out. It always does. And don’t be ashamed to talk about it or seek help. Negative thoughts spread like wildfire and sometimes all you need to do to break the cycle is talk to someone else, even if it hurts.

I also hope that anyone lucky enough to have never experienced depression or anxiety realizes it’s not trivial. With physical illness, you experience symptoms that others can see; runny nose, broken bones. But with mental illness, the symptoms are hidden. So be kind to others. Even if they’re smiling and seem happy on the outside, you never know what kind of battle they’re fighting on the inside.