Today we have our very first guest blogger!
I am excited to begin a short series where guests share their thoughts, words and experiences. We start with my dear friend Sandra. She is a twenty something writer in the midst of building a house (from scratch), a home, a healthier life and soon, a family. I’m thrilled to be on this journey with her and hope she will continue to share her experiences here with us. Please give her a warm welcome.
Written by guest writer, Sandra Hickey
“Running is horrible, the most terrible physical activity I can think of. I will never run, I never want to run, ever. Have you ever seen a runner with a smile? Of course not, it’s agony!”
This was me. I was always sure that I would never be a runner in my entire life. I was positive that running was the most horrible torturous form of exercise that you could possibly do. But then a few years ago, when I was experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety, I realized that exercise was one of the best ways to make myself feel better. So I started working out, 3 days a week, and it was amazing how the change in my focus from working out so I could lose weight or look better, to working out for my mental health actually made me stick to a schedule at the gym. I wanted to feel good, I craved the way I felt after a good sweaty workout.
One day, while at the gym, I thought, maybe I’ll try to run. This treasonous thought came to mind because my little brother has always been a runner and my husband was a runner in high school, so I thought, maybe I can do it. Maybe. And since I had been working out so much I wanted to challenge myself, just to see if I could. So I started running and almost immediately I remembered why I hate running, why I’ve always thought of it as some kind of punishment.
After just a few laps around the small track at my gym I started breathing heavily and got the dreaded “stitch”. It felt like the devil was stabbing me with his pitch fork or a red hot poker just under my ribs on my right side. As I tried to continue running through the awful pain, I imagined this devil was running along beside me, taunting me, jabbing at me, laughing: “You can’t do this, you are a failure, you are not capable of ever becoming a runner. Loser! Stop now!” So I stopped. I was frustrated. I felt like I could run if it weren’t for that terrible agonizing pain in my side. So I walked for a little while and then tried running again, only to be assaulted again by a pain that almost had me doubled over. At this point in my personal challenge I didn’t want to have to quit, but I didn’t know what else to do. I needed to find out why this was happening.
I did keep running, but I couldn’t run very far without getting a stitch and I was feeling discouraged and honestly annoyed. I felt like my legs and mind wanted to go much further while the terrible stitch was telling me I had to stop. Why was my body doing this to me? One day I decided to try not eating anything within a few hours of running. This seemed to help somewhat, but there were still certain days even before I started running , where I could feel something in my side, the beginning of the pain, that I knew would twist my insides into a painful knot.
Finally I decided to ask my husband’s mother who is a long time runner what she thought caused the horrible dreaded stitch. She told me that she thought it was connected to deep breathing. This was an interesting concept for me. I thought I was already breathing deeply when I was running, but now I decided to really pay attention to how I was breathing. So the next time I was in the gym, running around the track, I focused on my breathing, making sure that I was breathing in deeply, making my stomach pooch out with each inhale and not just breathing shallowly in my chest.
Insight and Meditation:
And you know what happened? After weeks of focusing on my breathing, I began to realize that it was not just breathing deeply but also steady and even breathing that kept the stitch at bay. So I focused on it, breathing in and out, in and out, steady and even deep breaths, almost a meditation while running, zeroed in on my breathing. And magically my stitches seemed to disappear! And even if I felt a stitch coming on, that horrible feeling that my internal organs wanted to start cannibalizing themselves, I would say to myself, focus on the breathing and once my breathing was even and steady and deep again, the pain would start to fade away. Suddenly I realized, with amazement, that I could be a runner. That being a runner is simply about a mind-set, about realizing how to control your breathing and then pushing your legs forward.
Who’s a Runner? This girl!
So I was a runner. This lasted for about 8 months before the knee pain set in. It started on my left side, just a teeny tiny pain in my knee while I was running. I ignored it, hoping that it wasn’t anything serious, because I didn’t want to stop running. But slowly and surely the pain increased as the weeks went by, until finally the pain started in my right knee as well. I didn’t know what it was. I scoured the internet, trying to figure out what might be wrong with me. Was it runner’s knee? I thought maybe it was a mistake to only focus my workouts on cardio and not strength training. (FYI: Runner’s knee, generally speaking, is when certain muscles in your thigh are weak, while others are strong, causing your kneecap to be pulled to the side while walking or running. Sounds pleasant, doesn’t it?) So I thought this was the problem, but I was already too far gone to help myself.
Now that I was definitely injured I had to stop working out completely and focus my efforts on ice and IBProfen. The recovery was slow. After about a month and a half out of commission (no gym, no running, barely able to walk around) I finally started to feel like a normal human being again. About 2-3 weeks after that I started to slowly work out again. Since I’m stubborn and I didn’t see a doctor right away (I don’t necessarily recommend this),when I finally did, they recommended I see a physical therapist.
Doctor with a Foot Fetish?
Now here’s the funny part…my physical therapist wanted me to take my shoes off so he could see my feet! Whaaa? Foot fetish?! After looking them over, he discovered my true problem and it definitely wasn’t something I would have thought of on my own. Apparently, I have an over-pronation problem. For those of you who don’t know what pronation is, here’s a quick description: Pronation refers to the feet (The term for the opposite of pronation is supination, which is also a serious problem), in a normal case when walking or running a person would walk off their heel, then the ball of the foot and finally off the tips of the toes, straight through. Someone with over-pronation does not talk this way, they walk inwards. The reason for this is a falling arch, which means the arch of the foot collapses whenever I take a step causing me to walk off the side of my big toe versus off the tips of all my toes (Hence why my physical therapist wanted to see my feet, I had a callous on my toe from walking/running this way!). Running this way is very stressful on the knees. Mostly likely I never would have realized I had this problem if I had not decided to become a runner. So, now with the right shoes and the correct strengthening exercises for my muscles, I was on my way to running again.
Six Step Program to Devil Free Running:
So, to sum up what you should do in order to become a runner:
1. Stop telling yourself you can’t do it. You can do it! Anyone can!
2. Focus on your breathing! Don’t focus on the way your legs feel, or how tired you are, focus on your breathing. In and out, deep and steady. You can do it, don’t listen to that ugly devil with the discouraging remarks!
3. Next, make sure you have the correct shoes. You might want to see a doctor if you aren’t sure what kind of running shoes to buy (You can buy shoes with extra support or inserts to wear in your current shoes). Don’t get hurt like I did and have to stop working out all together and go through a long recovery period. Make sure you have the right equipment to keep your body working properly. Think knees, ankles and feet!
4. Include a strength training program with your running. (If you can’t afford to go to a gym and use their equipment, buy yourself some ankle weights or an exercise ball and use them at home to keep your muscles strong!).
5. Don’t forget to stretch!
6. Just do it. Set goals, again, don’t listen to that devil running beside you telling you that you are a failure. Even if you can’t run far, or you run very slowly, you are still a runner if you run regularly. There is no better way to reduce stress and anxiety and to feel great than exercise, so get out there and realize the benefits! There is nothing more freeing than flying over the ground, moving your body, feeling that light-headed runners high.
I know whenever I see someone running on the side of the road, I think, Go Go Go!!
Become a runner!
Get out there!
Read Full Post »