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Happy Anniversary Walk Fiercely!

Happy Anniversary glitterMy labor of love is celebrating one year in publication this week!  I am so grateful to everyone who has read, shared, commented and supported Walk Fiercely in any way.  I couldn’t have continued to do this week after week without you.

I’ll be honest.  This is hard.  Coming up with a new topic every…single… week that has some relevance and can keep people’s attention is not easy.  I can admit that there were weeks I struggles with that.  And I can go back and tell which ones I was passionate about and which ones I felt like I was just “phoning in”.  I know I probably shouldn’t tell my readers that.  But you are all intelligent people and I’m sure I am not telling you anything you didn’t already figure out on your own.One year in time

At the same time, Walk Fiercely has been the most rewarding thing I have ever done. It has brought people into my life I would never have met, given me a drive that I wouldn’t have found otherwise, had an opportunity to inspire people and opened doors that wouldn’t have opened otherwise.  Granted, some of those doors closed before I was able to walk all the way through.  But that is part of the process you learn from as well.

I really just want to take the time to share the highlights over the last year- the good, the bad and the ugly.  Let’s start with the ugly and work our way up.  The “Naked and Afraid” blog on May 19, 2015 took an eye-opening, and likely TMI, look at what I saw when I looked in the mirror.  Not something I ever thought I would be sharing.  But I know there are so many people that feel the same way I do and I wanted to give a candid account of my experience.  What I learned from that post is that no matter how thin, tall, attractive or strong you are, everyone has aspects of their body they would like to change.  None of us are perfect.  But we need to always love ourselves- imperfections and all. And who can forget my riveting account of a very close call in “Shit Happens” on July 7, 2015. Instead of making any quips about that, I will suggest you go back and read that one for yourself.  Finally, “Don’t Sweat It” on November 10, 2015 discusses the composition of sweat, why it’s important to sweat and the fact that I am the queen of sweat.  And believe me, it is not pretty!

I hate to use the word “bad” to describe these next posts because there is definitely something to learn from all of them.  But bad does seem to be appropriate to characterize them.  The biggest fail I’ve had over the last year was the plank challenge.  This was chronicled in “If at First You Don’t Succeed” on August 25, 2015. I tried a plank challenge and it did not go well.  I knew that was a lofty goal for me.  But I was ready to go for it. Epic fail.  At the end of the blog I vowed to try it again in the future.  And I did, I just didn’t write about it. Why? Because I failed again.  Lesson learned- don’t try a plank challenge until you’ve done more ground work on your core to prepare. “The Struggle Is Real” from December 8, 2015 talks about holiday eating temptations and the challenge to make good food choices.  But the reality is that’s a struggle I deal with every single day!  On February 23, 2016 I posted a two part series about injuries.  I shared my own injuries and how I cope with them.  In addition, I talked about how to prevent and treat injuries. logo

Now the fun part, the good!  So many things fall into this category I can’t possibly name them all.  I’ll just try to hit some of the highlights. First and foremost are the races I’ve completed over the last year starting with “The Flying Pig”, blog date May 5, 2015.  What an incredible experience!  My first sanctioned full marathon, my first experience hitting the wall, my first experience having someone complete the whole race right by my side (thanks Maryanna!) and my first out of state race. I wasn’t thrilled with my final time but I met my goal of completing the race and, therefore, was able to get my first tattoo at age 44, blog post from May 12, 2015.  The next race was the Charleston Distance Run dated September 8, 2015.  The 15 mile distance of this one makes it unique.  I had ran the 5K event in 2008 and the 10K a few years later.  But I had never attempted the 15 mile showcase event.  I am happy to say that was a successful race as well.  That was followed by the City of Oaks half marathon in Raleigh, NC from November 3, 2015.  At first I was a little disappointed in myself because I had originally signed up for the full.  Due to starting a new job and not being able to train as hard, and the fact that my race partner got mono during training, we had to drop down to the half.  Definitely legitimate reasons, but couldn’t shake the feeling that I settled in some way. That all changed when I decided to make the most of the half and try to beat my best time in a half marathon.  To quote the King of Pop, I “beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it. No one wants to be defeated”- and I wasn’t.  I beat my time by 6 whole minutes.  What a great feeling!  And most recently the University of Charleston half marathon, which I blogged about just a few weeks ago on March 22, 2015. There was jogging involved. I beat my half time again by 5 whole minutes.  So, in the course of 5 months I had reduced my half marathon time 11 minutes.  ELEVEN! Just saying.

I’d like to think I have been able to bring some encouragement, humor and motivation to my readers.  With that, I introduced two of my own principles that I thought might motivate others to get out of their comfort zone. “The Half the Distance Principle” from May 26, 2015 suggesting that a way to get through your long workouts is to look at it as only having to do half the distance. Because the reality is once you get halfway, you gotta turn around and come back.  I have to tell you that I use this principle every single time I have a long walk.  This weekend was a 14 mile walk and I mentally thought about those first 7 miles, what my route would be, how many hills I could tackle, etc.  And then I turned around a came back.  Try it, it works!  The second principle was “5 To Stay Alive”.  I posted this one twice because it is a little more detailed and involves getting other people involved. Those posts were “August 4, 2015 and February 16, 2016.  But the thing I was most proud of was my squat challenge, dated January 1, 2016.  The month of December I committed to do a squat challenge, starting day 1 with 50 and ending on day 30 with 250.  By the end of the month I had done 3295 squats.  To be clear, that is a lot of squats and my quads and hamstrings felt every one of them. Totally worth it!

With all the experiences- good bad and ugly- I would have to say the most rewarding part are the people I have come in contact with as a result of Walk Fiercely.  There is a guy that takes the boxing class before me.  I had no idea he even knew about the blog.  But one day he came up to me and said “aren’t you the girl that did the squat challenge?”  Why yes, yes I am. We started talking and he wants to do it too.  Robert’s Running has also referred a couple people to me that have been in the store and mentioned that they wanted to walk a race or do a marathon.  They contacted me and I hope I was able to help.  If not, I am just glad I made two new friends.  And then there is Felicia Marshall (Felicia, I hope you are reading this one).  She has been a huge supporter and faithful reader.  I am not even sure how she heard about the blog.  I don’t actually know her. I’ve never met her in person.  And I want that to change soon.

Thank youI guess I just want to say that my heart is full of thanks and gratitude that you have allowed me to share my story and hopefully encourage others.  I am looking forward to what the future holds for Walk Fiercely.  If you have any suggestions for post topics and/or would like to share your story with me, please comment through the website- www.walkfiercely.com.

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The 10 Mile Experience

When: April 2, 2016

Where: Charleston, WV

Route: Train station, across South Side Bridge, east on Kanawha Blvd, up Greenbrier St to NorthGate, to the very end of NorthGate (the very furthest end of the Ticket Master parking lot), filled in with about ½ mile more on the boulevard and back to the train station.

Wow, it was a very eventful 10 miles, even though I was by myself.  I missed my walking partners. One was on a cruise, poor thing, and one had a wedding to go to.  For me, the biggest advantage of having a workout partner is the social aspect.  It really makes the time go by faster.  But being alone also has its upside.  It gives you time to think. And you get a chance to appreciate the beauty and scenery that surrounds you as you get your miles in (see photos). In case I haven’t mentioned it lately, we have the most beautiful Capitol in the country, including DC.  But I wasn’t totally alone.  During the 10 miles I passed some of my favorite people along the way- long-time friend Steve L., college friend (so also “long time”) Sarah Crandall Fletcher and one of my mentors who is always supportive and encouraging, WK Munsey.  Seeing other people working toward their goals, definitely motivates you to step it up and work toward your own goals. Sky on walk

Wind was a huge challenge on several levels.  It really picked up when I would walk on the boulevard by the river.  Now, it could have worked in my favor…but it didn’t.  I could have had a tailwind when walking up hill, helping me propel to the top, and a headwind going downhill so it wouldn’t be so bad.  But NO.  Just the opposite.  Headwinds to further challenge me up the hills and tailwinds to make me just slightly off balance coming down.  The other joy that the wind brought was more allergy issues.  At times it looked like it was snowing with all the leaves blowing off the blooming trees.  Good thing I used the inhaler before and after.  I’m sure that helped.  But the breathing was labored at times.  And finally, the wind was so blustery that it kept blowing the earbuds out of my ears. No lie!  I had to keep putting them back in and once I got the right one in, the left one would pop out.  Not the end of the world, but so very annoying! I wasn’t actually wearing my usual earbuds because I lost them.  These were shaped differently and not in a good way, obviously. Northgate sign on walk

Enough of the bellyaching!  Let’s get to the good stuff. When you’re all alone, what is a girl to do?  SING!  I was listening to ‘70’s Funk on Pandora.  Nothing better to get your groove on.  As if Pandora knows when I need a pick me up, they always play something inspiring when I need it.  Today was no exception.  As I am walking up the last leg of Greenbrier St. before reaching NorthGate, I was huffing and puffing but refused to slow my pace.  What song comes on? Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’.  Damnit!  I hadn’t gotten enough yet.  I needed to get up that hill!  So The Gloved One ad I got it done.  Even NorthGate has a couple of little hills to conquer.  I was heading back on the return 5 miles and hit one of those hills.  Again, Pandora comes through for me.  ‘Baby Come Back’ from Player came on.  And this is where being in an isolated area comes in handy.  My favorite part of the song is “Have you used up all the love in your heart? Nothing left for me, aint’ there nothing left for me-hee”. I sang it at the top of my lungs on the top of the mountain.  I’m telling you, if you’ve never rocked that lyric, you are missing out on life. Other notable tunes that kept a spring in my step were Al Green ‘Let’s Stay Together’, Wild Cherry ‘Play That Funky Music White Boy’, Marvin Gaye ‘Let’s Get It On’ and Hall & Oates ‘Sara Smile’.  That one isn’t upbeat,  but I just love Hall & Oates. Capitol on walk

Stats of walkI have to give partial credit to the wind for the next positive of the walk.  Because I was rockin’ to the oldies and keeping up the pace, I was able to finish the hilly walk with an average mile time of under 13:00.  I think that’s the first time that’s happened. The other factor was that I jogged a little portion of the route.  Every little bit of time with a faster pace helps the final time.  I’ve been trying to incorporate some jogging with a future goal of jogging a whole half marathon. You just might read a blog about that in the future.

I have strong leg muscles.  But at 45, the backside seems to be sliding down my legs a bit.  Recently, I have asked my trainer(s) to help me raise that up to match the muscles that are underneath.  Walking the hills definitely helps.  I sort of do my own little evaluation after each walk.  After this training, I could feel the glute muscles very prominently.  So I text Micah, my trainer, and said “I may never get an Allison booty (the other trainer).  But my muscles underneath are fierce. If it wouldn’t be inappropriate for you to touch my ass, I’d prove it to you!” His response was “Haha I can tell working with you that they are all muscle.”  That is just the kind of relationship we have.  When it is time to work, we work hard.  And when it is time to laugh, while still being supportive and encouraging, we do that too. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And finally, if you use a Fitbit you know that one of your goals is to hit 10 flights of steps per day.  I usually hit that goal because my house has steps.  But when you train on hills that is not a problem!  Yesterday, on the walk alone, I earned 85 flights of steps. For the whole day I had 104 flights. It’s relatively accurate.  It is calculated by a combination of elevation and arm movement. So, unless you’re flapping your arms around in an elevator or on an airplane, the Fitbit knows not to count that. City Skyline on walk

Overall, it was a great training day with only a little over 2 months until race day.  I will continue to add mileage to my long walks and continue to push myself on the hills.  My hope is that all the conditioning will make the actual race a piece of cake.  Remember to keep your goals in sight and never give up.

Next week, Walk Fiercely will be celebrating 1 year of publication! I hope you’ll stick around and read that too. Don’t miss it! Sign up through the website to receive the blog in your email every week.

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The Grass is Always Greener

As the saying goes, when people refer to “the grass is always greener” they think others have it better than they do and are never satisfied with their own situation. I will admit that from time to time I have had those thoughts.  But in this circumstance, I am literally referring to GRASS….and pollen and trees… and all the glorious wonders of nature that make an allergy sufferer miserable. The greener the grass, the more I suffer.

If allergies have anything to do with genetics, then I have my father to thank for it.  If not, then maybe the West Virginia climate is to blame.  Whatever the origin, I am the only child (of 4) in my family that has allergies.  This week I walked 13 plus miles on Saturday around Charleston, including Bridge Road, Carriage Trail (twice), Greenbrier St. up to the YMCA and the boulevard. Then topped it off with a little stroll at Kanawha State Forest. Everywhere you looked, the vegetation was in full bloom.  Gorgeous to look at, terrible to react to.  Yellow pollen covering everything.  The weather was great and brought people out by the dozens to cut grass.  Again, I love the smell of fresh cut grass but that is where my affection ends.Allergies-Symptoms

I was an adult, living with 2 cats and sleeping on a feather pillow. I woke up every morning with puffy eyes and congestion. That’s when I decided maybe I should see if I had allergies. Spoiler alert- I did, including cats and feathers!  I did a little research online to see how they check for such things and found out that typically it is a prick test.  They lightly prick you with the allergen itself and wait to see if and how you react to it.  I was also told that the doctor I was going to also did follow up shots to check for certain allergies.  I arrive for my appointment.  I lie on the table with my back fully exposed. The nurse puts a series of black marker dots in a grid shape on my back and she starts pricking me. I’m told I have to lay still for 15 minutes for the reaction to take place and that it might itch.  Immediately, I am itching like crazy and I can feel my back getting hot.  About halfway through, the doctor comes in and checks on me.  One look and he says, “Oh…My…God!  Yep, you are reacting!”  He starts out the door and I can hear him yelling to his staff “Hey guys, you gotta come take a look at this!”  I was like a science experiment to them.  Welts on my whole back, some as big as quarters.  Needless to say, when the 15 minutes was up the doctor came in the room and announced that I would not need the additional follow up shots.  No kidding??!!  He hands me a list of allergens with the ones I am allergic to checked off (see picture).  Out of 50 things, there are 7 that I am not allergic to!  Let’s do some math.  That mean there are FORTY-THREE common things in our environment that I am allergic to.

Allergy ReportI decided to start doing shots once a week as a treatment plan.  I did that for five years.  But after that it loses its effectiveness.  So I decided to switch doctors and get re-tested to see if there was any change. This time the test had pretty much the same outcome. But when the new doctor came in to give me the results he started with some professional advice saying, “You should probably just live in a bubble. And I’m going to mark the paper with the things you aren’t allergic to because it will be a lot easier.”  Well, all righty then.

At that point, I just decided to make the most of it and live with the allergies the best way I can.  Now I just take a Claritin every day.  Maybe I should do more.  But I don’t like nasal sprays and the shots didn’t make a significant difference.  Fortunately, I am not allergic to any food or drugs (that I know of).  So nothing truly life threatening or requires an EpiPen.  But still quite a nuisance, especially on a day when I’ve spent over 4 hours in Mother Nature’s proverbial bosom.

Ironically, while I was out in it I didn’t really notice much of a reaction.  But upon nightfall, the symptoms kept creeping up until eventually I was wheezing, coughing and could literally feel pollen stuck in my throat.  I had to resort to using my inhaler of Albuterol.  I haven’t had to use it in so long I was afraid it may have expired.  Good news!  I doesn’t expire until April.  I took about 4 puffs of that in hopes it would tame the symptoms.  I believe it did, to an extent  But, apparently not enough, as I was told I was snoring pretty bad that night.  In my defense, I did warn of that possibility before bedtime.

I know allergy suffering isn’t unique to me.  Almost everyone I know suffers from some form of environmental allergies.  I even know people who have allergies and are in denial saying they don’t. It amazes me how severely the beauty of nature can affect someone’s health and general well-being.  We all treat it in different ways.  I hope we all get some relief from the symptoms.   And I encourage you to seek medical attention if you think you have allergies.  You don’t have to just live with it.

What I do know is that I won’t let my allergies keep me from enjoying my life and the great outdoors.  Training for a marathon requires me to be outside for long periods of time.  And I intend to rock that race in June.  Bring on spring and summer.  ALLERGIES BE DAMNED!

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5 Firsts, a Dead Last and a PR: UC Half Marathon

Over the weekend I completed the University of Charleston Half Marathon.  I know they have done this race for years, but it was my first experience.  In the week leading up to the race, I just wasn’t feeling it. But, I paid for it and I had to walk 12 miles for training anyway, so I figured I should suck it up and get it done.  When I arrived at the location I started taking note of how this race was different than any of my other races.  By the end of the race, I realized it gave me 5 “first” experiences, one “last” experience and an unexpected PR (personal record).

FIRST: I didn’t have my cheerleader, bestie, doppelgänger and sister, Donna, with me as my support. I have to say, that made a huge difference.  Not in my result, but in my mental game.  Starting with when I got there and realized I had no one to talk to or stand with or just to be there.  It’s an unsettling feeling to be in a crowd of hundreds and realize you are alone.  I tried to find a spot out of the way and inconspicuous to wait until the start of the race.  I kept overhearing other people’s conversations and wanted to jump in and comment.  But stopped myself because I didn’t want them to think I was the crazy, pitiful, friendless girl that just wanted to fit in.  I even had to ask a stranger to take my start picture.  All before race pictures look happy.  Notice I didn’t even take an after picture.

UC Half before shot

Even though my biggest supporter wasn’t there, I do have to give a shout out to some unexpected friends that were on the course and cheered me on.  Bethany Kinder, Duncan McClung, Christine DeRienzo and even my friend from high school, Jeremy Whiteside, who happens to be the mail carrier in the area.  Thank you so much for the encouragement.  You have no idea how much that little bit of encouragement helps to keep us going.

I also want to thank all the volunteers.  Most of them were students whose professors or coaches probably made them do this.  They were out there in the rain, early, for hours making sure we were on the right track and routing us on, without ever complaining (at least I never heard them).  I’m sure they would have rather been doing something else.  Thank you!

FIRST: This was my first race where the weather wasn’t ideal.  I’ve been very lucky over the years and I knew my luck would eventually run out.  I will admit that I don’t enjoy racing or training in inclement weather.  But I knew I had to put on my big girl panties and suck it up. When I was at home getting ready, I heard the rain on my roof and I was dreading going out in it. Notable to say that the reason I heard it and didn’t’ see it is because it…was…still…DARK!  Fortunately the downpour stopped and during the race it was just a few sprinkles, some misting and dry most of the time.  The biggest obstacle was dodging the puddles.

FIRST: In every one of my previous races, whether it was full or a half, there is always at least one person that says, “You walk faster than I run.” Surprisingly, that didn’t happen this time.  I did have a woman ask me, while I was passing her, if I was walking the whole thing.  I told her most of it and she told me that was great.  But in place of that usual comment I got an even better one.  As I was crossing the pace sensor at mile 12.5 the volunteer, a man about my age, said “there’s the most distinctive walker in Charleston.  I see you all the time!” Then he started swinging his arms and imitating my stride.  I’ll take that as a compliment, whether is was meant as one or not. I laughed and told him that my sister calls my left arm my “death arm” because I swing it so much it sometimes becomes a weapon.

UC Half- action shotFIRST: The blog is called “WALK Fiercely” for a reason. I am not a runner and don’t want to be.  But I decided to play a little game today. Since the course was flat, I thought why not try jogging at least part of every mile- all 13 of them. Believe it or not, I did it! I started out making it the downhill parts.  But then I got crazy and started doing some uphill as well.  I can’t really say it was fun, per se, but it did keep me motivated and challenged. And I felt very accomplished that I did it!

FIRST: As the race started and everyone is fresh out of the gate, running at top speed, I am bringing up the rear as I walk briskly. Apparently, my walk wasn’t brisk enough. This was the first time I have done a race where the police pace car was right behind me! Why were they behind me, you ask?  Because I was DEAD LAST at the time.  Well I wasn’t having that! I felt like he was going to pull me over for a walking violation at any time. I think that was when I got the brilliant idea to jog it out. By the time we hit the half mile marker, he was no longer behind me and I was no longer last.

PICTURE

…And a PR I unintentionally, and without malice, lied to my readers.  In the November 1, 2015 blog about the City of Oaks race in Raleigh I had a personal record and said it would be my last PR.  Good news! It wasn’t.  The fact that this course was flat and add into that the jogging part of every mile, and you get a new PR!  Last time I beat it by 6 minutes for a finish of 2:43:20.  Today I broke that record by 5 more minutes with a time of 2:38:16! Woohoo.  As crazy as it sounds, now I want to beat that time, which means I will have to jog even more of the course next time. Ugh, I can’t think about that right now.UC Half stats

It’s also worth mentioning the very nice guy who took pity on my after the race.  Once I crossed the finish line I went over to get a bottle of water, a napkin and an orange slice.  The orange was juicy and delicious. But in my fatigued state I went to throw away the peel and the napkin and I missed the trash can.  I should also mention that I was literally standing right beside it. As I attempted to reach down and pick it up to try again, this nice young man (a student I’m sure) saw me from about 50 feet away and immediately said, “No, no, no.  You are not bending down to get that! I got it.” As he picked up the pace toward me.  I replied with, “Oh thanks.  I love you!”  And at that moment, I meant it.

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There’s a “Spring” in My Step

After months of cold weather and overcoming the “blizzard of 2016”, it has finally happened. Spring is here! I know it isn’t officially spring until March 20th.  But as far as I am concerned, it’s here early and it’s here to stay.  Definitely giving me a spring in my step.  The longer, warmer days not only boosts my general mood and wards off the winter blues, but it also means my training can move from inside to outside. In the wise words of the Doobie Brothers, I’m “Takin’ It to the Streets”. spring-has-sprung

Last week I was able to do all but one of my training walks outside.  It felt so good to literally pound the pavement and feel the sun on my face.  My walks ranged from 5-11 miles.  The shorter walks were flat and the longer walks had hills.  The two short, flat walks both had a per minute mile average of under 13:00 minutes (12:40 and 12:55 respectively).  And even the longer walks with hills were a respectable pace of under 14:00 minutes (13:53 and 13:57 respectively).  As always, I have to thank my walking partners who make those long walks tolerable.  Jennifer and Angel helped make the 10 and 11 miles feel like a stroll. They are both rock stars.  Jennifer walks with me so we can have “girl time” and catch up with each other’s lives.  Angel walks with me because he is training for the same marathon and is my gym husband.  Being outside with the beautiful scenery, wind on your face and traffic breezing by certainly breaks up the monotony, some (me) would say torture, of being on the treadmill for almost 3 hours.  The only downside of being outside is missing my gym family.Garmin Collage

The race in June is full of hills.  I am trying to learn from the mistakes of my last marathon with hills by making sure the long walks include hills, hills and more hills to build stamina.  The 11 mile walk was chock full of hilly goodness.  The route started at the train station, west on MacCorkle Ave and up Corridor G.  The first hill on Corridor G is affectionately referred to as Capital Punishment Hill so it’s no cake walk.  Then down to Kroger, crossed over to the access road to Davis Creek and then it got interesting.  We went up the hill to the new church.  That hill is fierce!  Trust me when I tell you I was praying I would survive by the time I got to the top. On the way back we stayed on the access road to Oakwood.  There are two hills on that route.  Both are short but both will make your ass muscles scream! We still had about a mile and half left once we got back to the train station so we went up and over South Side Bridge to the Boulevard and finished it out coming back over the bridge for that last little incline for good measure.  I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling the 11 miles before we started.  And I am proud to say that we both killed it today.  The sun wasn’t out so it wasn’t hot and humid, walking conditions were good and once we got in our stride we were unstoppable.

One of the mental mantras I use when training on hills is “What goes up, must come down”. No matter how steep, long and tough the hill is you eventually get to the top and get to reap the reward of coming back down.  While I am walking uphill, between the blood red face, sweating and panting, the people around me probably think I am having a heart attack.  If I am able to talk, I usually assure them that I am fine.

Ultimately, my training goal for this race is to incorporate a walk up to the airport and back, with other hills as well, as part of my 20 mile day.  That’s a big and scary goal.  But that’s the thing, goals are made to challenge you.  So bring it on!  And if you see me walking on Greenbrier St. in a few weeks, give me a friendly honk and an “atta girl”.  I’m going to need it.

On Saturday, I’m taking a break from hills to participate in the University of Charleston half marathon.  If you’ve wanted to try a half or even if you’re a veteran racer, give this a try.  It’s flat and scenic. Below is a link to register.  Join me, won’t you?

http://www.uchalfmarathon5k.com/

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The Eyes Have It

Eyes

 

I recently had cataract surgery on my right eye and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to see well enough to write a blog this week.  But I’ll be back next week and seeing the world in a whole new light…literally.  Walk Fiercely, my friends!

Injuries (Part 2): Prevention and Treatment

For anyone who is active, chances are you have had your share of injuries.  Some are temporary, with treatment they are gone, never to return again.  Some are long term, the ones you have to deal with on a regular basis.  The short term injuries are really just a nuisance.  You treat it, rest, maybe even consult a physician. But after a while, you’re good as new and back to your normal routine. As you can imagine, the latter are harder to deal with because the injury is with you all the time.  Even if it is dormant for the moment, there is always the chance it will flare up at any time, without any warning.  But if you follow some common sense guidelines, you will overcome those injuries and be even better than before! Of course, we would all like to avoid injuries in the first place.  So let’s start there.

Tips for avoiding injuries:

  • Don’t bend your knees more than half way when doing knee bends.
  • Don’t twist your knees when you stretch. Keep your feet as flat as you can.
  • When jumping, land with your knees bent.
  • Do warmup exercises before you play any sport.
  • Always stretch before you play or exercise.
  • Don’t overdo it.
  • Cool down after hard sports or workouts.
  • Wear shoes that fit properly, are stable, and absorb shock.
  • Use the softest exercise surface you can find; don’t run on asphalt or concrete.
  • Run on flat surfaces.
  • Don’t be a “weekend warrior.” Don’t try to do a week’s worth of activity in a day or two.
  • Learn to do your sport right. Use proper form to reduce your risk of “overuse” injuries.
  • Know your body’s limits.
  • Build up your exercise level gradually.Weight loss meme

This is one of those situations when I would say “do as I say, not as I do”.  If I was being honest, of the 14 tips above I really only follow half of them.  My biggest fails are warming up, stretching and cooling down.  All of which I know I need to do and would help my injuries.  I guess I am just stubborn and set in my ways.  I do remember to stretch when I get so tight I can’t avoid it, especially my hamstrings.  They get tight as guitar strings.

The most common sports injuries are:

  • Sprains and strains
  • Knee injuries
  • Swollen muscles
  • Achilles tendon injuries
  • Pain along the shin bone
  • Fractures

What to do when you do get injured:

Never try to “work through” the pain of a sports injury. Stop playing or exercising when you feel pain. Playing or exercising more only causes more harm. Some injuries should be seen by a doctor right away. Others you can treat yourself with the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)

Call a doctor when:

  • The injury causes severe pain, swelling, or numbness
  • You can’t put any weight on the area
  • An old injury hurts, aches or swells
  • The joint doesn’t feel normal or feels unstable.Chewing meme

If you don’t have any of these signs, you can likely treat the injury at home.. Use the PRICE (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) method to relieve pain, reduce swelling, and speed healing. Follow these four steps right after the injury occurs and for the next 48 hours for quickest recovery and best results

  • Injured tissues must be protected against further injury. Protect your small injuries by applying bandages, elastic wraps, or simple splints. Something as easy as taping an injured toe to its healthy neighbor can do the job. See your doctor for problems that require precision splints or casts.
  • Reduce your regular activities. If you’ve injured your foot, ankle, or knee, take weight off of it. A crutch can help. If your right foot or ankle is injured, use the crutch on the left side. If your left foot or ankle is injured, use the crutch on the right side.
  • Put an ice pack to the injured area for 20 minutes, four to eight times a day. You can use a cold pack or ice bag. You can also use a plastic bag filled with crushed ice and wrapped in a towel. Take the ice off after 20 minutes to avoid cold injury.
  • Put even pressure (compression) on the injured area to help reduce swelling. You can use an elastic wrap, special boot, air cast, or splint. Ask your doctor which one is best for your injury.
  • Put the injured area on a pillow, at a level above your heart, to help reduce swelling.

We can’t live in a bubble, which makes us all susceptible to injuries.  I hope you’ve found some helpful information in this 2 part series.  Go. Work hard. Play hard. And walk fiercely!

(The graphics don’t go with the topic.  But they made me laugh.  That was good enough for me)

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Injuries Part 1- Head to Toe

Disclaimer: I am finishing this blog up after celebrating National Margarita Day at my favorite Mexican restaurant, Plaza Maya, with some margaritas and karaoke.  I am not responsible for tpyos or things that don’t make cents.

It’s a fact.  No one likes injuries.  They hurt, slow you down, throw you off course, cost you money (if you see a doctor) and generally put you in a bad mood.  Of course there are different levels of injuries- some are short term requiring just some rest and OTC treatment, some are long term requiring a physician and specific treatment.  The short term injuries are mostly just a nuisance and annoyance.

Unfortunately, the majority of my injuries are long term.  I am constantly trying to manage them (yes there are several) and still stay active. I am pretty much a hot mess, head to toe.  And in that order, here is my list:

  • Neck: Your neck is supposed to have a curve in it. Mine is straight and that means I hold a lot of stress in my neck and shoulders.  I tend to raise my shoulders, in a shrug position, and not even realize I do it. On most days, I feel the knot and try to rub it out, usually unsuccessfully. Triggers are working on a computer (which is a major part of my job), lifting weights above my head (which I still do, I just use lighter weights and have the supervision of my trainer) and spending a lot of time laying around on my recliner (which is the hardest thing not to do because I love it!). At the worst pain it is difficult to move, difficult to chew, causes migraines and can be difficult to swallow.  Treatment includes getting regular adjustments from my chiropractor and deep tissue massages to work out the knots and release the toxins that build up in my body.  I am told by the doctor and the massage therapists on a regular basis that I am “tight” and they wish they had longer to work on me. That’s not news to me.  I can feel it.  When it is really bad, I ice my neck several times a day and make sure to sit upright on the couch and not recline.  All of these things help, of course.   But it would be great if I didn’t have to deal with it at all.Straight neck
  • Back: I have herniated discs in my lower back. This has been confirmed with an MRI.  A herniated disc is often referred to as a slipped disc. The inner tissue located in the center of the disc can be placed under so much pressure that it can cause the outer tissue to rupture or herniate. Even though the vertebrae is in the middle of the back, the pain usually manifests on the left or right side and proceeds to radiate down my leg, making all movement difficult.  You might hear people talk about their “sciatic”.  I’ve used that term as well.  Whether or not it is the same thing, I’m not really sure.  But people seem to be able to relate to that.  Triggers include sitting for a long time, driving long distances without a break and being inactive.  Treatments include adjustments from the chiropractor and using Thermacare heating pads.  This used to be my primary issue.  But, knock on wood, it hasn’t flared up much lately and the neck has become my constant source of discomfort.Heating pad for backHerniated disc
  • Knee: I honestly have no idea what this ailment is called. My doctor told me once, but I didn’t pay that much attention.  Instead he suggested a brace to use (shown in photo) and I wear it any time I am working out, whether it is a walk, boxing or training.  Not sure how it works, but it works!! It is flared up a bit now, which is my own fault.  When the brace gets sweaty, after time it stretches out.  You can’t launder it but you can hand wash it.  Since the brace is only $9, I just get a new one when it starts to get stretchy and gross.  Unfortunately, I am past due for a new one and it has caused a little discomfort, noticing it mostly on steps.  And I did buy a new brace over the weekend. Let the healing begin!Knee brace
  • Plantar Fasciitis: Let me tell you, this one is a bitch!  This condition is the most common form of heel pain. Plantar fasciitis is caused by straining the ligament that supports your arch. Repeated strain can cause tiny tears in the ligament. These can lead to pain and swelling. There are many contributors to this.  But in my case it is high arches.  When it first started the pain was excruciating.  Triggers for me were wearing the wrong shoes and overuse.  I went to a podiatrist to find out what the heck was happening. Once diagnosed, he sent me to the expert in this area- Don at Charleston Department Store.  They specialize in fitting people with this condition.  My shoe size is 8-8 ½ depending on the style.  I do know that athletic shoes need to be bigger to accommodate your feet swelling and spreading.  So I was a 9-9 ½.  When he measured my foot he told me I was a 10 narrow.  I looked him straight in the eye, and said “you are smoking crack”. He stood his ground, put me in a New Balance 847 size 10 narrow.  And do you believe it worked!!!  This was at least 5 years ago and I haven’t had a serious flare up since. When I did have flare ups, the best thing to do was freeze a bottle of water and roll it on the bottoms of your feet.  The only downside is that this shoe comes in 2 colors- “nurse white/blue” and gray/pink.  I wear the gray/pink version.  But I have begged them to come out with difference color options.  I have tried other shoes, both NB brand and others.  After wearing them one time, I can feel the heal pain.  So I have accepted my fate and I stick to the 847’s.  Praying every day that they will come out with a stylish new color.

With anything chiropractic, you would be amazed at the things that these ailments can affect in your body. Much like stress can wreak havoc on you in ways you can’t imagine, so can these issues. Everything from headaches and swallowing to menstrual cycles and eyesight.  It’s crazy.  I am a huge believer in chiropractic care.  Not everyone is.  And I will admit that I have been seen by great, good, bad and really bad ones over the years.  I’m blessed to have the best for the last 10 years and have come to only trust him with my adjustments. When I stop by and they tell me he isn’t there, instead of going to the other partner, I politely thank them and leave.  There does need to be a trust you have with your chiropractor, as with any doctor.

I didn’t mean to bore you with all of that.  But maybe my experience can help someone else who is frustrated and experiencing the same thing. For anyone who is active, injuries are likely a part of your life.  If you are inactive and using injuries as an excuse, STOP that today!  Even though they are inevitable, they don’t have to stop you. Listen to your body, identify the problem, treat appropriately and get back at it!

Look for next week’s blog, Injuries (Part 2): Prevention and Treatment, for more in depth information on how to prevent, identify and treat your injuries.

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The 5 to Stay Alive Principle- Revisited

Note: This was originally posted on 8/4/15. But I have many new readers since then and I was recently asked about it by someone so I thought I would update and revisit this topic.  I truly believe that having started my marathon journey like this, with the support of friends and family had a direct affect on my initial and continued success.  And anyone who has a marathon on their bucket list would benefit from trying this as well.  

One reason I wanted to revisit this is that with winter upon us in full force, people tend to hibernate and not think about training for races or staying as active.  Sometimes the thought process is “I’ve got all kinds of time before I have to think about that.  It’s only February.”  Well let me tell you, it’s never too early to start. One of my favorite sayings that I heard for the first time from my friend Scot last winter is “summer bodies are made in the winter.”  So true! Quit procrastinating and get to it!

Summer bodies are earned in the winter

The other reason, like I said above, is that I was talking about this just this weekend with my friend Jennifer.  She has become one of my closest and dearest friends, knows the struggle, always encouraging and a source of strength for me.  But, we were only acquaintances at best when I originally posted this. So I figured she, as well as any other followers that have recently started reading Walk Fiercely, might find it interesting and helpful.  For those who have read it, nothing wrong with a little refresher.  Might spark someone to give it a try or share the idea with another friend.

In 2013 I had been on a health kick for about a year and had completed a couple of half marathons (13.1 miles).  I knew I had to step up my game and come up with another goal to keep my interest in staying active and healthy.  So, I figured I’d walk a marathon (26.2 miles). Before that, I was only half crazy! (marathon humor) I researched races that were close by and they all had a time limit of 6:00.  I knew I walked fast and might be able to make that time.  But when I did cross the finish line, if the time was 6:00:01 or higher, I would feel like I failed.  So, I decided to do one on my own and take at least the finishing time pressure off myself. I picked a date near my 43rd birthday and decided that completing a marathon was the gift I was going to give myself. As I trained I would map out my route around Charleston, WV with my Garmin watch. As the miles added up, I realized how incredibly boring it was to walk alone, even with music.  So, I started asking friends to join me.  Knowing that they weren’t interested in training for a marathon, I would only ask them to walk part of the training route with me.  The training schedule gradually increases the long walks each week.  It was around the time that the long walks were 10 miles or more that I started adding friends.  That’s when I started doing some math (there is a lot of time to think when you walk that far) and realized that if I divided 26.2 by 5, that would be 5 friends and 1.2 miles to spare.  I have used a variation of this principle to train for all 3 marathons I have done.  I must mention that I have 2 friends that have been involved in all three marathons, but for number two and three, the landscape has changed, some friends have moved on (from walking, not from being my friend!) and other friends have surfaced and have been included.  That’s a pretty awesome part of this too!  It has worked great for me.  And so, The 5 to Stay Alive Principle was born!5 to Stay Alive logo- yellow

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: As you are training, keep mapping out your course and write it down, including the position of each mile (or every 5 miles if you prefer). If you have to type it in your phone on your way so you don’t forget, then do that.  But if you can remember be sure to record it as soon as you get home. Don’t assume you will remember…you won’t. And be specific.  For example, “Start at Main and 42nd St. turn right at 53rd and left at First Ave, etc.”  Eventually, you will remember the route from doing it.  This makes planning so much easier when you incorporate your friends.

Step 2:   Select the friends that you want to include and ask them to participate.   For this it isn’t about who your closest friends are.  It is about which friends will be the best to help you reach your goal. Can they walk 5 miles?  Can they keep your pace?  Are they supportive of what you are doing?  If you are lucky, like I was, it will be your closest friends that are also the ones that will help you reach your goal.

Step 3:   Ask them if they will be willing to participate in your 5 to Stay Alive training plan and explain how it works to them.   I am willing to bet that 9 out of 10 times they will jump on board immediately. Make a list of the friends that are willing to do it so you can easily reference when you need a walking buddy.

Step 4: Decide when and how far you want to train on a particular day.  Like I said, my long walks are always a Saturday (90%) or Sunday (10%).  As for how far, you can start this principle at any distance.  But I think I started it once I passed about 10 miles in my training.  So, any walk longer than 10 miles, I would ask at least one friend to join me at some point.

Step 5: Select the person (or persons) to go with you on the next walk and tell them what your expectations are for that walk.  For example, “Michelle, I have to walk 16 miles on Saturday.  Can you meet me at the Drug Emporium parking lot at 10:00 and walk the last 6 with me to keep me motivated?  And would you mind bringing me a room temperature bottle of water. I will even text you on my 9th mile to let you know I am about 14 minutes out.”  She now knows where to be and when,  what is expected of her (6 miles and water), what your goal is (16 miles)  and that  she might need to give you some extra motivation around mile 14 to get those last two done.  If you are going to use multiple friends on the same day, follow the same procedure, just make sure you let each one know where and when to meet and any other expectations you have.

Step 6: Execute the walk!  Not much more to say about this.

Step 7: After completing the goal, pat each other on the back, give it an “atta girl/guy” and celebrate the victory!  And, of course, thank your friend(s) for helping you!

Step 8 (optional):  Maybe one of your friends will do the same thing for themselves and set a goal to strive for with the help of their friends.

Over the 6 months of training and fine tuning my plans and my route the first time, this 5 to Stay Alive theme just kept coming up and I decided that if it worked for me, maybe it would work for others too.  So, I bring you my wisdom and experience.  For the purposes of the blog I am talking about it in terms of training for a marathon. Feel free to tweak it to accommodate any length race, sport or goal you are interested in.

Please share your thoughts on if you would try this or not and why.  Together we can fine tune it to be even better.  Of course, if you have tried it I would love to hear your feedback on if it worked.

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Super Bowl, Super Eats

Every year there is a huge build up to the World Championship Football game, also known as the Super Bowl.  Whether it is the commercials, the half-time show, the greatest moments in history or the competition between the two teams going head-to-head, the chatter is constant for the week(s) leading up to the big show.  But for me, one of the things I get excited about is the FOOD! I always looked at the Super Bowl as an invitation to eat and drink too much, either at someone’s house for a party or a bar where the vibe is contagious.  This year was no exception.  I started thinking about it as soon as the two teams were decided.  The thing is, I had no real passion or dog in the fight this year.  Just relying on the fact that if every other American is going to celebrate it, I should too.  What if I miss something that everyone will be talking about the next day (aka, puppy monkey baby commercial)?  We can’t have that!

As the date approached, I started having other thoughts about how I should handle the game.  Since I have been on the healthy path again for a few weeks and doing well on Weight Watchers, the idea of going to a bar (because no one invited me to a party) to eat fattening, greasy food and drinking unnecessary alcohol became less and less appealing.  Coming up with a better alternative became my goal.  And instead of going out, I invited my sister and brother to come over and watch with me.

I decided to reach out to my Weight Watchers class.  Our class has its own Facebook page.  I posted that I was going to make healthful party snacks and posed the question “What are your favorites?”  As always, they jumped at the chance to help me out.  Their constant support is really priceless.  I got a lot of great suggestions.  But Lisa posted a link to an article ‘28 “Super” Appetizers Recipes with Smart Points’. It was as if it was speaking directly to me!  I gave it a look over, shared it with my sister and made my final decisions based on what sounded good, Smart Points values and difficulty of the recipe.

My menu was: (see photo)Super Bowl Spread

  • Veggies w/ low fat ranch (no brainer)
  • Baked pretzels
  • Chicken breast with wing sauce
  • Eggplant fries
  • Taco dip
  • Pizza rolls
  • Peanut butter cookies for dessert!

It occurs to me that maybe it would have been better to write this one last week so everyone could enjoy these recipes for the Super Bowl. But I didn’t have the information at that time. So for future gatherings where you might be looking for just the right dish, here is the link to the article.

http://cardioforcosmos.com/2016/02/05/28-super-appetizer-recipes-with-their-smartpoints/

Now, back to the food.  I made the dip first.  It had a really good taste. But it was too thin, even after refrigerating for a few hours to firm it up.  I think it was a combination of the fact that both the sour cream and the cream cheese were reduced fat and the lettuce and tomato added on top was too watery.  Then I made the chicken “wings”.  Basically just took chicken breasts, cut them up and used some wing seasoning.  Here’s a tip.  Don’t go to Kroger for wing sauce or salsa ON Super Bowl Sunday. It will not end well for you.  Fortunately, my friend Robin suggested a seasoning package that comes with directions and roasting bag.  Good thing she told me it was on the bottom shelf or I would have never found it.  Bottom line, those turned out delicious.Buffalo Wings seasoning

Followed the chicken up with making the cookies.  Oh, my, God!  They were delicious.  All they have in them is peanut butter, light brown sugar, one egg and a little baking soda.  Here’s the problem.  The recipe says it makes 60 cookies for 1 point. I made them pretty small and I might have gotten 30 out of the batter.  There is no way you could stretch that batter to make 60.  Making the reality that they were probably more than 1 point.  But worth it!  With only three of us, there were quite a few left.  I sent them home with my brother. Otherwise I would have eaten the rest of them before the game was over.

I saved the eggplant fries and the pizza rolls for last, thinking they would only be good if served fresh.  I was right.  The eggplant fries were very tasty, served with marinara sauce.  But they were at their peak when hot.  Once they got cold, they lost a little something.  Let’s be clear, we still ate them, but they were better hot.  And finally, the pizza rolls.  They were probably my favorite.  Made with turkey pepperoni, Weight Watchers string cheese, pizza sauce and eggroll wrappers. They were mighty tasty! And I kept my beverages to one 12 oz diet Coke, no alcohol, so no wasted calories.

At the end of the game, I can honestly say we were all satisfied and full from the offerings I had prepared.  The moral of the story is that you can still spend time with friends, have a party (or attend a party) and still serve healthy, filling food to your guests.  If you are going to a party where you have little control over the menu, take a dish you’ve prepared so you know is something light and tasty. And look for the best options like fruits and vegetables, as well as don’t graze near the food. That is a temptation that won’t end well.  Trust me, it is my biggest weakness.  But, I’m working on it.

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