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The Long Road Back February 22, 2014

Filed under: challenge,exercise,injury,lessons learned,running — Susan @ 8:00 pm

photo credit: Unsplash/Sylwia Bartyzel

Last night, I had a dream about trying to do a triathlon. It was a short, “fun” triathlon and I recall that maybe I just showed up, hoping to participate. But I couldn’t find any of my gear. I had to leave the course and run into a nearby apartment building and run up 3 flights of stairs to some random apartment to get my running shoes, or bike helmet or something. Then I came back down and I couldn’t find my bike. Where are the bikes? I asked frantically. I could see the very last, slow runners coming in to the finish. Someone said, the bikes were “over by the lake” wherever that was. Somewhere out of sight. I realized, with a sinking feeling, that I did not have my act together and even if I found my bike and the lake I would never finish in time. My friend, who had finished the race, showed me the “medal” which turned out to be a piece of tacky plastic like one would get from a gum ball machine. The whole thing made me wake up sad.

Sometimes I see photos of my prior teammates working out, training for marathons and triathlons and big rides and such and I can’t believe that that used to be me, training hard six days a week. These days I am feeling pretty bad-ass if I can accomplish a short little half-walk half run. I’ve been back to Couch to 5k, but it’s a very slow process and nothing like it was the first time.

The GOOD news is (in case this turns into a total whine fest!) that I’m both getting physical therapy (2x a week, which is helping SO MUCH) and have also returned to seeing patients as a physical therapist. It’s a little surreal, but it feels good to be out and about in my little car, in this beautiful weather (sorry, non-Californians) and helping people in their homes. I am so awed by my own PT who has crazy mad skills and has helped me have the first pain-free run I’ve had in almost a year. So YAY for that.

I’m moving my focus back toward writing again, and that also feels really good. I have a book coming out with SheBooks in the near future (believe me, you’ll hear all about it!) and next week I’m traveling up to Seattle for a writers’ conference. SUPER BIG YAY!

I’m still here. I’m walking around, and every so often I even break into a little jog ;-). I’m going to be trying to figure out my upcoming races – I would love to do the Oakland Running Festival and See Jane Run this year. Anyone else??

 

 

Book Review: Ultimate Booty Workouts! February 3, 2014

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I’m going to be totally honest here. Normally, I would not be on the lookout for a book called Ultimate Booty Workouts. But I happen to think that its author, Tamara Grand, is FANTASTIC and so when it was published hot off the presses very recently, I could not resist a peek inside.

I don’t really give my booty- I mean- as a booty – much thought. I think of it as a stack of flattish pancakes somewhere back there. But as a physical therapist, and as a recently injured/surgeried person, I do think give my whole hip-pelvic-gluteal area a LOT of thought. It has undergone a lot of deconditioning and resulting instability. And as I read through this incredibly thorough, thoughtful, clear and well-written book, I thought, “Whoa. My booty does need some help!”

I have so much admiration for Tamara. She is not only an inspiring personal trainer, she is also a good writer, a super kind person, a KNITTER (something I feel is so out of my capable-zone!), a cool mom and a great friend.

First off, I will say that I loooooove the many dozens of photos of the Real Tamara doing the Real Workouts in this book. I WISH WISH WISH that her own beautiful face (and booty) were gracing the COVER of the book. Because when I picked it up, I immediately thought, “Who’s THAT? That’s not Tamara!” Okay, whatever. Get beyond the cover and open up and all the wonderful insides will become very obvious.

the real Tamara!

the real Tamara!

But don’t just look at all the awesome and helpful pictures. READ THE WORDS. Because I loved what the words said! In addition to the great visuals of the various workouts, there are also extremely helpful sections (DO NOT SKIP!) about women and weight lifting, nutrition, weight loss, posture, injury prevention (and rehabilitation). In other words, it’s NOT JUST about your booty.

As I flipped through the pictures, so many of them were familiar to me. I had already done so many of these (and had a love-hate relationship as well) and had no idea that they were doing such good things for my bootycore. Which in turn is doing such good things for my hip and my abs and all the other stuff it’s connected to (ie., almost EVERYthing). And because there are lots of upper-body and leg strengthening workouts as well, it’s really about your whole body. It would be impossible to do these workouts without also getting some pretty darn strong arms and legs as well. There are fabulous and very important sections on warming-up and cooling down. And stretching. With a foam roller!

I am going to put my two cents in and say that I think this book should be re-titled (Not Just Your) Ultimate Booty Workouts.” Because truly there is so much good stuff in here. I have begun doing some of the exercises, gingerly and gradually, and darn, it feels good. To wake up my little stack o’pancakes.

 

Taking Time To (Re)Treat January 25, 2014

IMG_4834So many things have helped me on my path to health, but one that I have been practicing for over 25 years is the retreat. I love this word. It means to take a step back; it means to take refuge. It also means to re-treat: to treat oneself, again. I first came to Santa Sabina in the mid-eighties, when I was a budding calligrapher (little known fact). I signed up for the Friends of Calligraphy retreat,  not really knowing what I was getting into.

It took my breath away. Silence, and beauty. The scratching of pens on paper in what had been set up as the Scriptorium. Words on paper (or on walls). A great spaciousness. My mind was blown.

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Once I started coming to this place, I felt I craved it like one craves chocolate, or oxygen. Once or twice a year (especially when I had babies and small children), I would slip away for twenty-four hours, to step into the quiet corners. I could climb the steps to the straw-bale Hermitage and “be the hermit” for a brief while.

IMG_1617 IMG_1612 IMG_1611Sometimes I came on my own, or with other writer friends. Sometimes I came with groups- calligraphers or poets. I experienced several amazing poetry weekends – one focusing on the work of Rilke, others with Jane Hirshfield and Naomi Shihab Nye. There is poetry everywhere here, and art. The art basement is a generous space filled with art supplies of all kinds – a calligraphers’ nook, a collage room. It invites gentle creativity.

IMG_1633 IMG_1630Several years ago, I began offering group retreats myself at Santa Sabina. It has been one of my greatest joys. Two years ago, I led a retreat called Stories of the Body. Participants came together to share stories through collage, art, writing, movement, and to be with their own bodies’ stories in silence and reflection and silent, mindful meals. It was so moving and beautiful. I have been trying to book a date for a return visit for years, but the center has been undergoing many renovations and there have not been dates open — until now! I am thrilled to be offering Stories of the Body again at the end of March.

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There’s an early-bird discounting until January 28th, and I’m also offering a discount to YOU, blog readers. (you can take advantage of both!) For readers of this blog, just enter the code FOODFOODBODYBODY and you’ll get an additional reduction in price.  I am also offering a deposit option with extended payments for those who cannot pay all at once.

I am hoping to be able to offer a weekend scholarship for one retreat assistant to this retreat this year. The work involved would be minimal but of great help to me (registration, set-up, logistics). If you feel that you would benefit from this special time away (and into yourself), please email me with the following:

  • Why you feel this retreat would benefit you at this time
  • Your commitment to attend if chosen
  • Experience in dealing with groups (ie your “people skills”)
  • DEADLINE: February 1, 2014

Exercise and eating well have been so elemental in my health journey, but this – THIS- has been an invaluable element that I often forget. Being with myself. Taking time for the quiet. I hope you will join us.

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The San Francisco Hot Chocolate 5k (Race Recap) January 16, 2014

it was a hot chocolate party

it was a hot chocolate party

Yesterday was the first official race I’d done since last June (See Jane Run). I was excited, I was nervous, I was happy. I started myself on the couch-to-5k program again a few weeks ago, and as of this week I’m up to Week four. I told myself I’d just go at whatever pace felt comfortable, and I just wanted to finish and celebrate being back in the (sort of) running world again.

I was a Hot Chocolate Ambassador for this one, meaning they sponsored my race registration (thanks Hot Choco folks!). I have to say, for someone living in the East Bay, this was one darned inconvenient race. First of all, there was no same-day packet pickup, so all race packets needed to be picked up at the San Francisco Presidio Sports Basement beforehand. All I can say is, it’s a good thing I am still not back to my job yet! I LOVE Sports Basement the store, and the Presidio is absolutely gorgeous, but MAN, it is not an easy place to get to. I was giving it directions from THREE separate GPS devices (two apps plus my car) and not ONE of them could locate the store correctly. Fail. I kept driving PAST it or OVER it on the freeway. So, that was a pain. Once inside the store, though, the place was teeming with Hot Chocolate volunteers and there were virtually no lines. I was able to present race information for a dozen people and get EVERYone’s goodie bag. BTW, the goodie bags were AWESOME.

pile o goodie bags!

pile o goodie bags!

The biggest item (aside from chocolate!) in the goodie bag was this fantastic fleece HOODIE complete with thumb holes. So great for a chilly January day. So much better than the (hardly ever used) stack of coupons and protein bars that come in most goodie bags…

The race folks also sent out a dozen emails warning us to NOT park in or near the race, and to take these shuttles, but there were no East Bay shuttles (cough: for next time, please) and BART trains did not start running until half an hour after the start of the race. So it was a real trick getting over twelve East Bay runners over to the park for start time.

It was emotional starting the night before, setting up my pre-race pile. I hadn’t done that in so long, and it is such a beloved ritual.

pre-race pile

pre-race pile

One of our Team in Training honorees, Justin, recently passed away. This was such a heartbreak for our team. Justin came out at the start (and end) of many of our race trainings and he was so inspiring and encouraging and… relentless. I was so so sad to hear about this loss of such a good young guy. His memorial service was yesterday also, so I made sure to wear our team shirt with his name on it, and this run was in his honor.

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I couldn’t sleep well all night. I kept waking up about every hour, worried about sleeping through my alarm. Four-thirty came soon enough and I got up, ate my traditional whole wheat English muffin + peanut butter, and then went to pick up Lily for our carpool. It felt so great to be picking her up in the pre-dawn hours again! So many times we did this during our triathlon training, and it made me feel all emotional and nostalgic.

We met up with Annie, Lisa and Mary for our carpool and then headed over to the city. My friend Caroline had posted a welcome sign (Happy Running, Susan & Friends!) on her garage door. Awww! We could see lots of people on the streets all headed to the park. One last stop at Starbucks for hot coffee and bathroom, and we were off! I was toting my big inflatable gold “5″ with me. (for my fifth year of running and 5th healthaversary!)

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The race itself was BIG. I had no idea how big it would be, but they announced something like 10,000 runners. Pretty awesome! I lined up in the last corral which was the one that allowed walking. There were LOTS of people there!

Corral E/Start line

Corral E/Start line

I had that nervous happy butterfly feeling when we inched toward the start line. Then the air horn went off, and we start shuffling off! It was one of the most crowded races I’ve been at – similar to Bay to Breakers – and the road we were on  was so narrow, we could not help going pretty slow. I hung with Lily, Mary and Lisa (her first race! Ever!) and we got nice and warmed up until the course spread out and then we did a little bit of slow-running intervals. There were a few loops so we got to pass the faster runners going the opposite way on a few occasions. That’s always inspiring and exciting.

Mary, Lisa & Lily at the start!

Mary, Lisa & Lily at the start!

This race had some rolling hills – some flats – going through Golden Gate park, which I LOVE. For the first three-four years I lived in San Francisco, I was always just a few blocks away from the park. I spent a lot of time in there, getting lost in the trees and paths. It felt like coming home.

We did alternating jogging and walking, whatever felt right. (mostly depended on up or down hills!) It felt like a push from my regular workouts, but also not painful. Julie and Anne met us right at the the finish line and urged us to push through the last bit. It felt good to do a little sprint but then I was panting! In a few minutes, Lisa and Mary came through. It was so exciting to see Lisa cross her first finish line!

Woo hooo! First finish line ever!

Woo hooo! First finish line ever!

Victory chocolate! We had little chocolate fondue cups with bananas (ergh) and other stuff to dip in. Marshmallows, mmmm.

hot chocolate fondue, mmm

hot chocolate fondue, mmm

We took a bunch of photos, met up with the whole group.

 

It's @sarahlou1976!

It’s @sarahlou1976!

Team Weight Watchers!

Team Weight Watchers!

George, who had been my first mentee when I was a mentor for Team in Training, is now a traithlon mentor himself, as well as training for his first 50-mile ultra marathon race. BEAST, George! So happy to see him again.

Triathlon Team reunited!

Triathlon Team reunited!

All in all, I was really happy to return with this sweet not-so-little race. I was really glad to be surrounded by friends. After all that happened in the latter part of 2013, this felt like a great way to start the year. Yay for chocolate and running!

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Photo Shoot (Me) January 10, 2014

silly shot with Junior & Juniorette

silly shot with Junior & Juniorette (photo credit: Laura Duldner)

About a month ago, I got an email from someone at a diabetes publication, saying they’d found my blog and wanted to interview me. Yay! I like doing interviews. I was feeling good about my 5-year (!) healthaversary coming up, and it felt great to commemorate it like this. Five years!

The phone interview was fun. I blathered on. The writer who was interviewing me asked a lot about advice I’d give someone who was newly diagnosed. I realized the stuff that helped me then is the stuff that continues to help me now; i.e.. small changes. That is why Weight Watchers, Couch to 5k , #wycwcy (What-You-Can-When-You-Can) and other small, gradual steps have made all the difference, both at the beginning and on an ongoing basis. In many ways, I am starting from the beginning again.

After the interview, the writer said they could find some pictures here from my blog, or I could send some. Then a few days later I got an email saying that they’d like to “send a photographer.” SEND a photographer? Here?

Yes. And then last week I heard from the photographer herself. I had NO IDEA what big-deal photos she had taken (look here and have a heart attack like I did). She informed me that I was going to be on the COVER of the magazine and did I have a hair stylist? A makeup person? (#faint) I hurriedly went to check out this magazine and saw… 40 million readers… and the people on the cover? Gulp. Looked to be about twenty years old.

It threw me into a tizzy of anxiety, nerves, wanting to eat Everything In Sight, and just have a general meltdown.

Monday came. My hair stylist (aka my regular person who sweetly offered to come to my house before work) and my Makeup Person (friend of mine, who I had a vague idea “did makeup” but again had no clue what a pro she is!) arrived. I threw every piece of clothing I owned onto my bed in a fit of despair and I-Have-NOTHING-To-Wear!!

The hair blowout was fine. I was used to that. But then… the makeup… OMG.

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trying to be cool as a cucumber

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a bit beyond my usual naked face + Burts Bees tinted chapstick

The photographer arrived early, to “scout out” the house and surroundings for suitable backdrops. She decided on the front porch and “yard” (it’s more of an overgrown jungle). She got her equipment set up while I got my Face on. It took like 90 minutes which was fascinating and also kind of overwhelming. I felt like a painter’s canvas! But the end result was the most natural makeup I’ve ever worn and I still felt pretty much like me. Whew.

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me + Junior, and sans glasses

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She’s not messin around. So… I guess they didn’t like the Instagram selfie I sent in?

We took about a gazillion shots on the front porch and in the yard. Many outfit changes. Sweaters. Scarves. Running clothes. Medals. No medals. Rocky shot! I have-to-pee shot! (apparently this “elongates” the body- who knew? one could look so svelte when waiting in line at Portopotties?) We even went up to the park nearby (where I usually run) and I did some fake-running while she photographed me from her belly on the very edge of the trail. I pretty much had to run OVER her body while she exhorted me to “Keep coming at me, at me, at me!!” She had to do a costume change herself when we got back to to the house, so encrusted she was in trail stuff.

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She really worked for her money that day!

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Here she demonstrates the “have to pee” pose. Very elongated!

It turned out to be, after all, a lot more fun and a lot less stressful than I anticipated. The stress happened before and… after.

It was pretty trippy to do this. It messed with my head in various ways. Of all the magazines to be on the cover of, I was pretty proud and happy to be on a diabetes health magazine. (the only one I could ever hope for is to be on the cover of THIS magazine) I loved doing the interview. But the focus on my physical appearance for hours on end was just unnerving. I’m not used to it, and it just made me all discombobulated. I got really unbalanced. I sort of lost it a little. I was anxious and moody and jumpy and weepy. I found myself thinking crazy thoughts like, I hope they PhotoShop me. (even though I am so against that kind of thing!)

Going for a run-walk near the beach brought me back to myself yesterday. As did returning to a beginning meditation class this week. This is tricky stuff, y’all…

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running the next day

 

Baby Steps, Baby Sweats, and Goodbye for Now January 5, 2014

Filed under: body image,emotions,exercise,good things,health,injury,Nia — Susan @ 9:59 pm

A couple of weeks ago I sweated for the first time since September. It was a gentle, beautiful, emotional and extraordinary experience. I went to a Nia class, which was one of the very first kinds of movement I ever did, five years ago. Danielle was the instructor, and it was one of her final classes before she leaves for a two-year journey to China. IMG_2220One of the other dancers was Alexis (pictured in my post here 2009). She brought her adorable six-month old baby with her, and danced with her in a front carrier. Her gentle, modified moves were perfect for me, just creakily getting back into movement. She didn’t bend as low or hop in the air or do any sudden moves. Just gentle.

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babydancing

Because it was Winter Solstice weekend, Danielle did a routine called Mandala that involved no spoken instruction. She moved, we followed, and she indicated transitions by clapping her hands. It felt so organic and wonderful. And the music? It made me tear up immediately. She played the music of Kitaro, which brought back really intense memories of a long ago time…

……………………..

Back in one of my first home health physical therapy jobs when I was in my twenties, I had a patient named Oscar. He had a really advanced spinal cord tumor which had left him with paraplegia. I first worked with him in the hospital and then at his home. After some time it became clear that he was not getting better. His final desires were to walk again, however limited, and to go home to his homeland of Argentina. None of his doctors believed in either of these goals as either possible or advisable, but he was a determined guy.

When I visited him at home, he played Kitaro for me for the first time. “Listen,” he said, and he put these huge cushy headphones over my ears. This was at the very beginning of “New Age” music, and I’d never heard anything like it. He believed that it was magical. That it would help him walk. And one day I’ll never forget, he played this music through speakers in his living room, and step by step, he walked about ten steps across the floor. I was holding him by two shaking hands with a gait belt, and pulling his wheelchair by nudging it with my toe, and both of us were sweating bullets. But to the soundtrack of this incredible otherworldly music, he took his last walk.

Next, he asked me to take him to Macy’s in San Francisco so he could buy a traveling outfit – new pants and a jacket, and gifts for his family. It took all that I had to transfer his unwieldy body and his heavy wheelchair into my little Toyota hatchback, but we made it. I wheeled him all through that department store and helped him stand up (in physical therapy terms, using Maximum Assist) so he could see himself in a full length mirror. As we were leaving he said he wanted me to have a gift, and he bought me this beautiful ivory colored poet shirt with huge billowing sleeves. Because you are really a writer, he said. (yeah, he knew) Shortly after, he got onto a plane to Argentina and that was the last I ever heard from him. I assume he made it home for his final wish. But that was one of the most moving and meaningful experiences I ever had as a therapist.

I was young. Super young. And in retrospect I broke all kinds of rules I probably or maybe wouldn’t do now: I took a patient somewhere in my own car (liability no-no!). I accepted a gift from a patient, and lunch too. All these things are super frowned upon now (and probably then as well!). But that experience changed me.

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Hearing Kitaro again in this return-to-movement class was terribly emotional for me. Danielle was leaving. Oscar had been leaving. I was returning to something I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to do again. All of this without words, but in stretching and turning and circling around the room. I had a hard time keeping the tears in. (so I didn’t)

Danielle has been an amazing teacher for me  - graceful and strong and fun. I will miss her Michael Jackson Nia classes, her Halloween class, all of them. She sent out so much healing energy to me when I was hurt and I really felt her caring. I will miss her. I’m glad I got to experience her Nia one last time before she goes. Godspeed Danielle, and thank you. oxoxo

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My 5th Healthaversary is Coming: Hot Chocolate 5k with me! December 15, 2013

hot-chocolate-logoEvery January, I reflect back on January 2009, when I first started this blog. I think about how I felt back then. Scared, unhealthy, hopeless. And how far I’ve come. Even with this recent injury, I always knew that I had a core of well being inside that wasn’t going to go away even if I couldn’t do much.

This coming January will be my 5th healthaversary. Five years! And I’m going to celebrate in two ways. One, I’m going to participate in the Hot Chocolate 5k on January 12th in San Francisco. I would LOVE to have as many friends doing it with me. A hot chocolate party! It comes in both 5k and 15k distances. And the “swag bag” is crazy awesome – it’s actually a fleece jacket! What!

2013-HC-this-is-your-goodie-bag_WITH-sizing-chartI’ll also be hosting my traditional walk-to-the-labyrinth and brunch at another time, but I realllly wanted to do something “5-ish” for this special five year commemoration. After the ordeal I went through this fall, I am more grateful than ever for my health. This will be the first 5k since my injury. I am hopeful and optimistic that I will be able to complete the 5k, most likely walking. That pesky hip injury I was dealing with BEFORE my ruptured disc? It’s talking to me again (sigh).

So please please please sign up! 15k or 5k, your choice. You can run like a gazelle or waddle like a wombat (that’ll be me). It’s probably going to be chillyish but we will have some cozy fleece! And hot cocoa! It will be a big, beautiful, Foodie McBody Party. No running necessary! (but it’s certainly allowed and encouraged if you like running)

PRICES ARE GOING UP DECEMBER 30th so please take advantage of the early pricing. If you use the code FOODFOODMUG, you will also get a free hot chocolatey mug on race day. Yay swag!

PRP-Snack-Tray

And…. Ta-da!! As an official Hot Chocolate Blogger, I have been authorized to give away one FREE RACE REGISTRATION!

This has been a really amazing five years. The most challenging, exciting, incredible five years of my life. I’m ready to celebrate.  Join me!

If you want a chance to be the recipient of this free registration, leave me a comment here below and tell me FIVE THINGS that keep you healthy! Also, follow the Hot Chocolate 15/5k on Twitter and Facebook to get all the sweet details.

And the winner of the race registration is… JULES!! Congrats, Jules, I’ll be sending you your registration code. Can’t wait to see you (and everyone else!) out there on January 12th!

HCSANFRANCISCO500X500

 

 
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