Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The 30 days of Movember - A Fitness Challenge

With  my post RAGBRAI/Chicago Marathon exercise break becoming more and more resembling laziness.....I dragged my sorry butt to the gym this evening - it wasn't easy.  My couch was begging me to take a seat and check-in on the latest Superstorm Sandy coverage.  

But my body was saying something different.  My body was begging me to stretch out my limbs, to workout some of the stress that we all build up from life in general, to get the endorphins flowing.

So, my body won tonight.  Unfortunately, I had to take my workout indoors - no more rides or runs outdoors due to the darkness with the earlier evenings.  

I picked out a dreadmill (aka a treadmill) and got my legs moving.  Wow!  I hadn't forgotten how to put one foot in front of the other at a quick pace...shocking!

I decided I should take it easy having not really run much in the past few months.  So slowly I trotted along....picking up the pace as my legs warmed up.  But I promised myself  I was only going to run for 30 minutes.  I was not going to push myself.  Let's take this easy.

During that 30 minutes I started to think about setting a new challenge for myself.

Drum roll please.....

I will participate in 30 minutes of activity each day of Movember.

No, that is not a type.  Movember is the month previously known as November.  Check out this website if you don't know about Movember.  Movember is when men grow mustaches for the month while spreading awareness and raising funds for men's health issues, specifically prostate and testicular cancer..

Of course, I cannot grow a mustache, but I can certainly help inspire others to be healthier and learn more about ways to prevent cancer. 

Since exercise is known to help prevent cancer, my challenge involves exercise.

For the 30 days of Movember, I am challenging all of you to consider joining me to do some activity for a minimum of 30 minutes a day.

Dancing around your house
Playing tag with your kids
Hula hooping
Strength training

Anything....the point is to get off your couch....to get active for 30 minutes each day.  Don't have 30 minutes?  Really?  Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier.  Take a walk during your lunch.  Take 30 minutes to play with your kids.

Get active!

And if you are a male, grow a mustache while you are at it.

An extra bonus?  We will already be ahead of the game for the holiday meals and goodies that we so regret in January.  We will already be on a path of being active!

So....who wants to join me?  Take on the challenge with me?  Join in on Movember?

To join the challenge - request to  join the private Facebook group:  30 Days of Movember - A Fitness Challenge using this link  https://www.facebook.com/groups/220227311442098/

Once I add you to the page, post your daily 30 minutes of activity.  We will support each other....provide encouragement....become cheerleaders for one another.  All while creating healthier lifestyles for all of us.

And don't forget to sign up for Movember.  There is no cost associated and even if you only raise $20, the funds add up.  Last year, Movember raised over $124 million worldwide in ONE month!  Become a MoBro and grow a hairy ribbon on your upper lip to fight Prostate Cancer.  Ladies, show your support and become a MoSista!  

Come on!  What are you waiting for???

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My To Do List

To Do lists.

You either love them or hate them.

I love them when I am crossing things off - nothing like that sense of accomplishment, regardless of how mundane the items.

I will admit though that I hate to make to do lists.

Creating lists require me to be organized in my thoughts.....to know what it is I want to accomplish.

The sheer idea of thinking of all the mundane things that need to get done - clean the refrigerator, sort the mail, stop at the dry cleaner, return x,y, & Z to the store...etc, etc, etc - drives me crazy.

Life is too mundane to begin with.  Why would I want to make a list outlining the numerous mundane things I have to do?

Nope....all the fantastic feeling of accomplishment crossing things off the "to do" list doesn't outweigh the cons of completing a "to do" list for me.


Unless it is something larger than the mundane tasks.


Unless it is about living life.


Unless it is about finding joy in those mundane parts of life.

I am a follower of the blog and website Tiny Budda  and am inspired daily by quotes, words of wisdom, various posts about life in general.

This week I came across a post entitled "10 Simple Ways to Enjoy Life's Journey More."

Now here was a "to do" list I could get my arms around, that I could get excited about, that I looked forward to accomplishing.

Simple things like - 

Take a discovery walk.   Today, while I was lying on the couch with my daughter, just enjoying a quiet moment together, I was taken aback by the sun streaming through our front window with the orange red burnt leaves blowing in the wind.  This moment reminded of my "Enjoy Life's Journey To Do List",  so I asked Rachel to join me on a walk around the neighborhood.  I usually run along the route we took....in the shadowy sun-rising morning hour....and never really took time to enjoy my neighbors gardens, the fall decorations, etc.  What a joy to walk alongside my bubbly 9 year old as she chatted about life as a 9 year old....with her hand in mine.  Wonderful.

Take lessons or classes  My children certainly do this - Rachel takes cello , her brother attends circus camps, all the kids have attended various camps/lessons for sports and music.  Seems so simple to sign them up.  At what point did I decide that I no longer needed to learn new things?  Guess what.  That is ending this week.  I've decided to sign up for a Rock Climbing class.  And I'm also toying with the idea of learning how to play another instrument in addition to those piano lessons I took as a child ...maybe the guitar or violin.  And a language would be fun....perhaps Italian so I can dream about an exotic vacation in the far, far, far-off future?  

Keep a gratitude journal  Such an easy thing to do but something I had never done until a friend suggested it several years ago.  What a difference it made in my outlook.  At first, I really had to think about my day and what I could be grateful for.  But a few days in, I began to notice myself showing gratitude throughout the day....as those little things we so very often overlook became so evident.  Talk about changing your mindset.  This was a game changer for me.....until I became to comfortable and stopped writing them down.  And then I had a difficult situation thrown in my lap that lead to a very tough few months - a time when I probably needed a gratitude journal more than ever - but it was something that was completely forgotten about.     Today I began to take note again....and it was the little things like the sun streaming in the window, the squeeze of my daughter's hand in mine, a little baby overjoyed with glee when a dog appeared at the park during our walk.  Simple things....things we overlook.....and when we take notice....have the ability to change our outlook.

And my favorite on the list?

Bike more.  OK, twist my arm!

My least favorite on the list?

Create a detailed plan for your day.  Oh no!  Not create a "to do list" within my no to do list list??  Further inspection does not indicate creating a list of the mundane things you need to get done but to make sure that you include those really amazing experiences you want to enjoy so those mundane items don't take over.  OK,....I can accept this one.

My plan is to check off all the items on this list.....over and over again.  This isn't a list that will get crumpled up and thrown away when it is completed.  No way.  This is a list that will continue to tell my life's story.  To help me enjoy the journey.  Yes, there will still be all those mundane things in life that have to be done, but in the end, it is the list of how I enjoyed my life that will matter.

Who wants to join me??

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Time to Get Unstuck

I was asked point blank this week if I was happy.  Without a pause or moment of reflection, my answer was "no."

And the person that asked me this question wasn't surprised by the answer.  Yet I was.

I was shocked at how effortlessly I was able to respond and with such clarity.

I hope I am alone in feeling this way but I am sure I am not.  It is a tricky feeling.

The last few years I have felt stuck.  Felt trapped.  Felt as though I was treading water,  Felt unfulfilled.  Felt just plan and simply - BLAH.

Yes, I have accomplished a lot.  Yes, I have wonderful children.  Yes, I have great health.  Yes, I have a great job.

But, it isn't enough.  I having this nagging feeling all the time that I am wasting time.

I am just not happy with where I am in life.

Where do we spend most of the hours of our life?  At work.  And the last few years, work has become just that.....work.

I used to look forward to going to work, to do something that fulfilled me and made a difference.

Don't get me wrong.  I have a fantastic job with a fantastic employer.....but I am not happy doing what I am doing anymore.  It isn't what the company is asking me to do.  I am just not happy working in corporate america.  I am very appreciative of my job and my employer.  It is just that I think I have changed....and I need something else.  Office politics and I don't work well together.

Being a city girl that loves the hustle and bustle living is a small town, doesn't help matters.  Yet, this is a fantastic town.....again, don't get me wrong.  I have fabulous friends, a fabulous support system, my kids are in great schools, have great friends and to them. this is home.

Over the years, I have shared that I feel "trapped" in my life....however, as most of us, I do not have the luxury of just quitting my job and picking up to live elsewhere.  Years ago, I would have done just that.  But, being the sole breadwinner and being responsible for more than just me, doesn't make that seem feasible.

That conversation a few days ago has been nagging at me.....it has continued to pop up in my mind.  Are you happy?  No.

So what do I do with that revelation?  How to I make a much needed change?  Where do I begin?

These are the thoughts that keep running through my head.

And I am sharing them with all of you to keep me honest.  And honestly, because I need your help.

I don't know where to begin.  I cant seem to see beyond that "have too's"  The "would be niceties and the life changing ideas" don't seem to be jumping out at me.

Deep down I know I need to figure out what it is I want to do with my life.  I want to be in a job that brings me more joy, that impacts people, that isn't fraught with office "politics."  I want to be in more control of my schedule....of my day.....of my life.

Yet, I love my employer.  I do enjoy where I work.  It just doesn't give me enough personal satisfaction.  Work has become just that.....work.

So, where to go from here?

I need to make some changes.  I need to either need to embrace my current state and add to it another aspect that makes me feel fulfilled or make a change - new job, new city. etc.

Enough of me just thinking about it....time to think about taking action.

What is it I want to do?  I haven't a clue.  I just know I want to be doing something different.

So, I ask all of you that know me in such a variety of avenues, what is it you see in me?  What is it you think are my strengths?  What is it you see me being successful at?  What is it you see me taking a risk on?

What ideas and suggestions do you all have for me?

I know it is a lot to ask you, but I know we wouldn't be friends if we didn't look out for one another.

This is about finding a daily activity (I hate to just the word job) that makes me happy....which makes my children happy....which makes me happier....and makes me a much more interesting friend to spend time with.

Many of you know that I've been barely staying afloat.  Somehow with all that has happened the past 8 years, I forgot to keep moving forward and just got stuck.

Perhaps this is just a mid-life crisis (kind of feels like one) but I'm not out buying a red convertible....still driving the blue mini-van.

Help me get unstuck!  I am ready!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Stopping to Smell the Roses along 26.2 Miles

I feel as though I should provide some sort of disclaimer for the story I am about to share.   What I did this weekend is not something I would recommend anyone do on a routine basis....but boy, was it worth it!

No, I did not jump out of another airplane.  Nor did I rappel off the side of a skyscraper.

I ran the Chicago Marathon.

"Huh?" you may ask.  "What's wrong with that?  You are a runner Barb.  RunningSTRONG for Hope - duh."

Well, I ran it without training.

A typical training plan for a marathon takes 18 weeks.  18 weeks ago was June 3rd.

Hence my problem.

I was in the middle of training for my biggest challenge to date - cycling across Iowa for a week in July....in 100 degree temperatures.

OK, some of you may not find that to be a big hurdle.  But for me, cycling was not something I was comfortable with.  The longest I had ever ridden was 65 miles this past October ....and that was difficult.  

I didn't feel at ease with my bike.  

The little bit of cycling I had done in the past didn't prepare me for 7 consecutive days of cycling - with the shortest day being over 50 miles.  And did I mention the sweltering heat in the middle of cornfields in July?  Oh, and camping in this heat was involved.

So, starting a marathon training program back in June was not on my radar.  I figured when RAGBRAI was over in July, I'd just pick up running again.

Or so I thought.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I became a cyclist on that trip across Iowa.  Somehow along the way, I found I didn't enjoy running anymore.

Some of these feelings had been festering for sometime.  Maybe it was a little running burnout from my half marathon a month in 2011.  Maybe it was my running group breaking up due to work commitments and moves.  

All I know for sure is the few times I tried to run after RAGBRAI were torture.  I didn't enjoy it at all.  So, instead I signed up to ride a Century in Door County Wisconsin, which required more time on the bike.

Yes, I did get in a few runs.  I am embarrassed to admit that the longest run I did this year other than the Austin Half Marathon in February and the Illinois Half Marathon in April was 7 miles.  And that 7 miles was downhill.....down the bottom end of Mt Hood in Oregon.  So I had gravity on my side for that run.

Yet here I was on Sunday morning.  Lining up with close to 40,000 other runners in Grant Park under the Chicago skyline as the sun rose.

Lining up in Corral E...the charity corral.  Lining up next to serious sub 3:30 marathoners and first timers with plans to make it to the finish before the course closed.  Team-in-Training, Team to End Aids, PAWS, Fox Foundation, Team World Vision, Imerman Angels, and numerous other organizations.  Over 3,000 runners that not only dedicated their time to complete a 18 week training program but to also fundraise for causes near and dear to them.

I was surrounded by a sea of yellow.  This is why I was there.  This is why I showed up regardless of my training.  To participate as a member of Team LIVESTRONG.  A team of over 250 runners that raised over $230,000 to kick cancer to the curb.  Over 80% of those funds go directly to programs that assist cancer survivors.

On my wrist were the names of 26 cancer warriors - most that ran out of time in their battle with cancer....others still showing cancer who is boss.  Each mile along the route was dedicated to one of these folks.  

My mom and dad were mile 1 and 2.  Fitting since my life began because of them so it only made sense that this journey began with them.  Mile 25 and 26 (plus .2) were dedicated to my sister Janet and my husband Brian.  Again fitting because both were very instrumental in my adult life and have left an enormous footprint on the Barbara that you know.

In between were grandparents, sisters, fathers, friends, a son and daughter.....all loved ones that were very important to a variety of my friends - friends I have made throughout my lifetime.  Some friends from high school, others from college, one or two from my work life, many others from my experiences with LIVESTRONG and a few others complete strangers I know only from Twitter or my blog.

These 26.2 angels that were along for the run are why I was there.  Why I was putting myself through the intense pain a marathon causes a human body to endure - even worse for a body that wasn't trained.  

And although only 2,000 people finished behind me....and this was by far the slowest marathon I ever ran....it was the most memorable marathon for me.

I ran alongside my friend Kate for the first 16 miles.  This was Kate's second marathon with Team LIVESTRONG but her first one was derailed by a bum knee that forced her out at mile 3.  I was there at mile 3 cheering her on when she realized she had to stop.  Hardest decision for a runner to make but she made the right decision.  No doubt about it.  One knee surgery later and she was back again this year.

She tells me I got her through the first 16 miles but it was her that got me through those 16 miles.  Without Kate's diligence to stick to our Jeff Galloway run/walk plan (we both decided this was the smart route to take since I was under-trained and she was unsure of her knee), I am certain I wouldn't have finished as I would have gone out too fast and crashed.  Every 4 minutes Kate would let me know it was time to walk....and 1 minute later she'd remind me it was time to start again. 

Eventually we did part ways but not until we mutually agreed to do so at mile 16.  

I ran the next 8 miles - typically the dreaded death march and hitting the wall miles - with ease.  I stuck to our plan but picked up the running pace just a little.  Surprisingly, I felt great.  

I had no business being out there.  But with each mile marker, I would look down at my wrist and see the dedication for that mile.  And thinking of that individual.....or the friend that made the dedication.....inspired me to keep going.

At mile 24 I came across another teammate that at first glance was just taking a walk break.  But once I saw his face, I knew something wasn't right.  He was injured and had been walking with great difficulty since mile 20.  It was cold on Sunday and he was shivering.  The sun had ducked behind some clouds and the wind off Lake Michigan had picked up a bit - not great for a body that was just sweating.

We began chatting and although he suggested I go on and finish, there was no way I was going to leave this gentleman - a cancer survivor no less.....and thereby a hero in my eyes.  I was finishing with him....no matter how we got there....and was immensely honored to cross that finish line with him.  His determination was inspiring.  As we walked together, we shared our stories.  It was, by far, the most touching moment I have ever had in all the races I have run over the years.

I showed him my wrist band and shared with him mile 25 was for my sister Janet.  It struck me how appropriate this was as Janet would do anything for anyone.  She always put others before herself and her needs.  Perfect for this mile.

Mile 26 was from Brian and with every marathon  I have always teared up crossing the finish line.  Partially because just finishing a marathon is such an overwhelming experience but also because I started all this to honor Brian.  And after watching him suffer through his cancer, through the pain - both physically and emotionally, finishing a marathon always reminds me of this pain....and how much he suffered knowing how difficult life would be for myself and the kids without him in our lives.

It was so appropriate that I was running this last mile in honor of Brian with my new friend - who during that last mile was making a video of us running....and added a message for his wife...it was apparent how much he loves her and how much their love for one another helped him during this race and the race for his life.

Yes,...it was hard.  I would never recommend anyone try this....and I'll never run a half or full again without training.

I do wonder if I had trained would my experience been as inspirational to me.

And yes, I did high five every kid along the way, read as many posters as I could, thanked volunteers, danced along with the music on the course, chatted with a few friends I came across spectating and had a beer.  And thanks to Kate, I finally noticed The United Center after running by it three times.   All things that I would have missed had I been going for the 4 hour marathon.

And yes, I did realize I do enjoy running still.  Although, now I also enjoy cycling too.

Pain really is temporary.  Stopping to smell the roses is memorable.