Tag Archives: health

10 Steps from your Couch to a Half Marathon

It’s been a little over a month since I ran my first half marathon and a little over a year since I took up running altogether! Being the geek that I am, I spent as much time training for my first half as I did researching training/prep recommendations on the internet. Now that the newness of my shiny medal and personal goal completion is starting to wear off, I thought I would add my take to the internet on what can help a couch potato become a runner!

1) Pick a race that gets you excited!  Signing up for a race that inspires you and makes you hungry to cross the finish line can make all the difference when you get behind in training or you’re trudging through the last few miles. It also gives you a date to complete your goal, which will help you plan your training schedule and keep your commitment to it. I had tried several times to “become a runner” and signed up for events that didn’t really strike a chord with me. It wasn’t until I signed up for the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon at Disneyland with several inspiring friends that I actually followed through on training and completing an event.

2) Find a training schedule that fits your needs, and don’t give up if you get off track.  The most distance I had covered in one outing prior to my first half was just under 8 miles, and I certainly didn’t run it all. I had gotten off track due to work, vacations, and holidays. While I did find out on race day that my knee is pretty disagreeable once 9 miles have gone by, I still finished. And I finished happy. If I had been too hard on myself during training, I would’ve lost the motivation to keep going. If I had given up because I fell behind on “the plan” I never would’ve made it to the race and found out what I was made of!

3) Sign up with friends.  My friends (a mix of new half marathoners and seasoned runners) kept me excited and moving when I started to focus on the distance and the pain. I was able to share my joys, share their joys and feel the experience so much more than if I had tackled my first half marathon alone. Also, it’s really nice to have someone with you to take those important photos! If you don’t have friends that will run a half marathon with you, join a running club or meetup and make some new friends!

4) Tell everyone you know that you’re training for it.  Even if you spent the week eating junk food and sitting on your ass, the more you say you’re doing it – the more you start thinking like a person training for a half marathon. Also, peer pressure can be a real motivator. And you’ll find people in your life to support you in your goals! You can also do this via social media – I used the iPhone app Map My Fitness to track my training (and friends “liked” my workouts), and I made a Pinterest board for motivation and half marathon tip bookmarking.

5) Stretch! Stretching was a huge piece of the puzzle for me.  The more I stretched throughout my day, the better I felt on run days. I started stretching more as a part of daily life a couple of years ago when I started seeing a chiropractor – while it helped me get more out of each visit with him, I didn’t really start seeing the importance until I began running. Miss a day of stretching and see how far your muscles are willing to carry you! I came across this great stretching guide for runners. Remember to stretch a lot! At your desk, when you wake up, when you unwind for the day.  Get a foam roller for help stretching those muscles!

6) It’s okay to walk if you need to!  I did. Though as the race wore on it was easier to jog than walk – my knee didn’t like the long steps of my walking pace. There were plenty of other people walking, and I was still passing a lot of them. I wanted that medal!

7) Make a running playlist that you use in training and use that playlist on race day!  This really helped me in the middle of the race, when the excitement of the start was over and the adrenaline of the finish had yet to build up. It helped me keep pace and zone out instead of worrying how many miles were left.

8) Go shopping!  It turns out, if you have the right clothes and shoes running long distances is a lot more comfortable. I ended up treating myself to a pair of Brooks running shoes, and I’ll never look back. Plus, they’re Seahawks colors! I bought some nice running shorts two days before the race, at the race packet pick-up event. I bought a Flip Belt there as well, and man do I love that thing!

9) Record your training and your experience on race day!  Yes, you might feel like your time is slow or face is too gross and sweaty for a selfie. But when you look back years from now on your start – these memories will be priceless. Seeing my training stats for the year on my MapMyFitness app was pretty awesome too (92.6 miles in 2014, which is 92.6 miles more than 2013!).

10) Be happy.  Running for fun is a luxury. Be happy that your legs move, your heart beats, your lungs exhale. And when it hurts, remember how lucky you are to be doing what you’re doing.

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My Health is in my Hands.

Three years ago, I had a strange health scare. I developed discoloration on my skin at my joints, followed by edema (swelling) of my legs and feet. I visited my primary care doctor soon after the swelling started, he put me on a basic anti-inflammatory and sent me home unimpressed. I took the anti-inflammatory as prescribed but the condition worsened. I returned to my primary care doctor and he prescribed another anti-inflammatory without so much of a raised eyebrow at my condition. In addition to the swelling I also had some other red flags – blood pressure steadily increasing at every visit, headaches, fatigue. Yes, I was overweight so these things weren’t totally unusual but I was very concerned with the fact that my status quo of physical capabilities was suddenly turned upside down.

I decided the following afternoon to go to urgent care. Something was wrong and I didn’t want to just sit back while I lost my ability to walk. Urgent care took one look at me and said I should go to the emergency room immediately. They were concerned that something life-threatening like a blood clot was the problem, and didn’t want to take any chances. Even though I knew something was wrong, hearing a medical professional say it was an emergency scared the shit out of me. I called my mom in tears in the parking lot, she met me at home and drove me to the ER. They admitted me as soon as they took my blood pressure – it was 200+ over 120 (which is really bad I soon found out). My condition was a mystery to the ER doctors – they ran every test they could think of while they pumped me full of drugs to bring my blood pressure down. At one point all four ER attendings were standing at the foot of my bed, reviewing my chart and scratching their heads.

They released me early the next morning once my blood pressure was reading normally, with medicine in hand and an appointment for a rheumatologist later that day. They didn’t have any answers about the swelling, and so I just had to wait and hope the rheumatologist could come up with something. My mom came back to my house and we tried to get a little sleep before the appointment, then off we went to the next round in mystery illness. My rheumatologist and her staff were amazing. They made me feel comfortable and I knew they were working hard to figure out what was going on. I probably had each test they could think of, ran at least twice. Everything came up negative or inconclusive.

To deal with the swelling, my doctor put me on prednisone. What a terrible drug to have to take (essentially poisoning your body), but it brought the swelling down and I was able to walk normally again. I visited my rheumatologist almost weekly to complete lab work and talk about symptoms. Being the only person in the waiting room under 60 was a bit odd, but my unusual circumstances made me a high priority. The first round of prednisone didn’t finish it off, the swelling came back and since we were no closer to an answer They started me on another round of prednisone. I of course was doing a fair amount of googling symptoms at this point, trying to find something that might put us on track to an answer. The results were scary – everything I read had me thinking I was facing a lifetime of autoimmune disease. At 28.

My doctor kept looking, and I kept taking my prednisone. This course of treatment finished up, and we waited. Waited for the swelling to return. Waited for something else to go wrong. But nothing happened. Just as suddenly and unexplained as it came, so it went. At my final appointment, I could tell my rheumatologist was happy for me but still concerned because she couldn’t tell me what had happened to me. And it became clear to me that was what really drove her – knowing the why about things. I really lucked out – I had a doctor who was still passionate about the why.

This experience taught me a few things:

1) You MUST be your own health advocate. If you feel something is wrong, don’t stop until you get someone that believes you and helps you understand what is happening.

2) Life is short, and should be appreciated as much as you can physically do so. I had several months of limited mobility and the mere possibility of lifetime or terminal illness, and all I kept thinking was how much I had wasted not getting out in the world and taking in every last bit in any form that I could. Physically, mentally, emotionally.

3) It’s never too late to change! I just had my annual physical with my doctor a few weeks ago and thanks to taking up running at the first of the year, I was able to come off one of my high blood pressure medications! And all of my other vitals are outstanding! I could tell my doctor was actually proud of me, for being proactive in my health!