Paths Unexpected



It's been so long since my last post about walking, and one of the things I promised myself about the blog move was I'd make more time for the combox, so I've lifted comments from the last post and answered some of them here. 

August was a good month outdoors--I'm really sorry to see it end. I think I might have lost a pound or two, certainly nothing terribly exciting. I've gained some muscle, for sure. I see it and I feel it. I've discovered beautiful trails to walk. And I've started to run (something entirely unexpected). I found encouragement in some really lovely places. Patrick, who is the finest athlete I know (and now I'm going to have to do some 'splaining with five other boys who call me "Mom"), has been my biggest cheerleader. There's no condescension. No patronizing air of superiority. He's just really, super encouraging.


Mary Beth has started texting me pictures of her own runs. When Sloane noticed my old running shoes were showing signs of wear, Bobby supplied the latest pair of shoes. Paddy noticed that, so he sent Nikes to Katie and Mary Beth (we might be a tad competitive even in the generosity department around here;-).  Paddy made sure I had rain gear and then complimented me on how well I wear his hand-me-downs. I really do love that rain jacket.

My stepmother walked with me in Charlottesville. She's got hills on her path! And I'm pretty sure she was pacing herself so that I wouldn't get winded. She handled the hills just fine. She's graceful, active aging personified and she inspires me.

And Kristin, who is finding her running legs again after Lucy's arrival, is able to deep-down understand that whole thing about having super short legs and more determination than natural inclination. We've had long talks about the ins and outs and she's incredibly patient with all my questions. Yesterday found us looking online for local 5Ks. So I guess I'm in this thing. 

My little girls check my Fitbit stats regularly. Karoline promises to run my first 5K with me. Sarah promises to take pictures at the finish line. Nick likes to compete (when he can find his Fitbit). And Mike spent last weekend patiently listening to me strategize about trails and training and how much distance would be too much. I'm really very concerned about negative effects of "too much" because I tend to, well, sort of obsess about things and I can easily go overboard.

I have a "running community." I call them "family."

My friend Nicole shared the Runmeter app with me. I've been using Couch-to-5K and I'll stick with it a few more days, but then I think I'm going to switch over to interval training using Runmeter. After the fourth week, the C25K program is really just increasingly long jogs. I'll do those jogs, but I think Runmeter can give me more information and more coaching prompts. One bonus is that I can share with Nicole, which I couldn't do before, because she has a Jawbone Up and I have a Fitbit. I'm not letting go of my Fitbit, though. It keeps me informed-- and moving. What started in June as a quest to walk 10,000 steps a day has become something so much more than I expected. I've loved every minute outdoors. I've learned I won't die if I run (I'm not exaggerating. I still have these leftover chemo fears and one of them was dying while running.) 

I'm still out there alone on the trails, not the slightest bit interested in running clubs or running buddies. I invited Katie to come along one day and she played by the rules and walked very quietly beside me. I might invite her back one day. I'm still hoping to meet my Fitbit buddy Aimee and hike in Charlottesville. If not, I'm going to do that hike alone in a couple weeks.



I might meet Kristin and run behind a stroller with her, just because that's something I've always wanted to do (and because I kind of love Kristin and Lucy). Oh, and I've invited Mike to come along on walks. He has a standing invitation. But only him.

I've got a few folks steadily encouraging me from afar-- checking my stats, cheering my progress, answering my doubts with kindness and knowledge.

So, I'm all for fitness community of the encouraging and brainstorming kind. And really, if one day I found myself running alongside someone on a regular basis, I'd be surprised, but only in the same way I've been surprised by so many things on the trail this summer.


Speaking of fitness community, let's get to your questions.

Jenny wrote: I love this! I'm anxious to settle into some better writing and walking routines myself. The brain dump activity is something I know would benefit me, and I love to journal that but can't manage to do it without little ones climbing all over me. My question is - after you brain dump into notes, do you go back and read that? or just leave it alone? How do you distinguish between the things you want to remember to act on later and the stream of consciousness? Thank you for always being an inspiration.

Thanks for your kind words! The speech-to-voice function or the Notes app isn't perfect, by any means. So, it's pretty critical for me to look over what I dictated when I get home and fix Siri's crazy translations. Then, if there are things there I want to keep for later (column ideas, profound thoughts I want to pass on to my kids, menus for Christmas dinner;-), I transfer the notes to files where I can find them. I really should learn Evernote. It would be perfect for this kind of thing.

Catharina said: Love this post!I feel that I have rounded a corner with regards to self-care, too, but some more encouragement is always good :-)
I was wondering about your bedtime. If I would get up at 5 AM, I would need to be in bed at 9 PM. I don't have teenagers yet, but I'm guessing that would be highly unpractical. Or not?

Along the same lines, 

Christine commented: I was also wondering if you are able to get 7.5-8 hours of sleep with big kids in the home and such an early rising time. I have found weight control to be SO much easier when I have gotten enough sleep. The experts concur with that. I have also read and heard that weight loss is around 80% about what you are eating and 20% about exercise. It is very difficult to lose much weight solely through exercise, but it certainly has many other benefits. I go to the YMCA six days per week. I wish I would have taken better care of myself when my children were younger. I was a martyr and I did no one any favors. It was so much easier to read on the couch than to exercise.

First the sleep: I don't stay up until my big kids go to sleep. As long as they're under roof, I can sleep just fine even if they are still awake. If they're out, I tend to doze and then wake when they come and sleep soundly when I know everyone is here. But we keep pretty strict and reasonable curfews for all involved. Mike has traveled a lot this summer. When he is out of town and when the children have all their activities during the daytime (instead of after school and into the evening), I can usually be asleep by 10:00. That's been the case this summer. All that changes, oh, right about now;-). 

I've learned that soccer practice is very late four nights a week. Too late and dark to run (though I'm going to test that). I certainly won't be able to run the wooded trails. I might be able to do circles around soccer fields, but I'm not likely to like that at all. I will, however, be able to sit in the parking lot, without wi-fi, and write in 90-minute to two-hour chunks. That means I'll only need about a half hour in the morning to link and upload pictures on days I blog. So, I'll be getting home from soccer around 10:00, but I won't have to be up at 5:00 to write. I can just get up at 6:00, spend a half hour at the computer, and then head outside. I think it's do-able. We shall see.

As far as diet and weight loss go, I've read research. Lots and lots of research. Seriously, you should see my shelves of books on the subject. I've talked to health professionals. It's not a simple matter of counting calories. I don't eat sugar, or grains (except occasional rice, maybe once a week), or dairy. I don't do soda or processed foods. Period. I'm careful about portions. Heck, I'm careful about everything I eat. I walked 243 miles in August and had absolutely no refined sugar all month (until Friday, August 29, when I ate 1 of these amazing peanut butter cups. Worth it. Worth every single calorie;-) But clearly, there is more to the puzzle than calories or even "clean eating."

There's more to this for me than calories in/calories out.

I have Hashimoto's disease; it's complicated. In terms of overall health and weight loss, for me, exercise is at least half the equation. Maybe more. I can't eat any better than I do. That's my reality. Peace will coming in learning to accept my body for what it is while also doing everything I can to maximize my health. It will also come when I tune out the voices, long ingrained in my subconscious, that tell me the truest measure of my value is the number on a scale.

most importantly, perhaps, exercise for me is not primarily motivated by weight loss. Maybe exercise is only 20% of the weight loss equation. For me, exercise is about 75% of the weaponry in the war on depression. It's a war I've been fighting all my life. To be outside and to move is a critical component of the battle plan.

I hear you about self-care. I went through really good periods of excellent exercise routines when my bigger kids were little. Those were happier and healthier seasons for me. The martyr periods weren't good for anyone.


Judy wrote: A question, Elizabeth - how do you anticipate fitting in an hour and a half of walking in daylight during winter? (Here-Canada- it is not light until close to 8.00am and dark a little after four.) It seems nature is part of what is filling you up, but those short daylight hours are the ones when I assume you homeschool, prepare and clean up meals etc. Do you, plan to follow the rhythm of the seasons in which God (perhaps) intends for both us and his wild creatures a time of greater rest - shorter walks? I'm not sure your competitive streak will settle happily into that (smile!). It is lovely to read about how energized you are by this lovely summer routine - just wondering about a few months from now - how you imagine making it work.

and Sarah echoed Judy: Like Judy, I'm wondering how this will play out with later sunrises and school starting. I'm sure you'll come up with something. I'm also slightly jealous----I am most definitely not a morning person. Every evening, I feel alive and ready to start a new habit in the morning, but then the morning comes with the aches and pains and the despair over a little battle with insomnia. I know I could walk at night, but it gets dark and it seems to make so much more sense to get it in in the morning! I think I'm overthinking it.

You are so right! Nature has played a huge part in what is filling me up. This summer, I made sure to get about 10,000 steps in the morning, give or take 2,000. They were almost entirely in the daylight and they were also mostly on trails. Fill. Fill. Fill.  I didn't think I'd like walking at night, but I learned that I quickly got a second wind and I really did like it. It was cool and, of course, it was still daylight. My boys practiced soccer in the early evening, very close to some beautiful trails (you can see them below). So, I did a lot of evening walking and enjoyed several sunsets around beautiful lakeside paths. I ended many August days having walked 7-10 miles during the day and into the evening. As it gets dark earlier and they train later, those trails will be closed. So, I will go in the morning (mostly in the dark) and probably try to squeeze in a real, live nature walk with the kids during the day at least three times a week. I've written it into our school plans. 

Part of the impetus to start running was to make that morning time more efficient. I can't plan on an hour and half. But I think that by the end of October, I will be able to run three miles in a little over a half an hour and then walk the remainder of that hour. The Fitbit has made me very conscious of seizing opportunities to be active, so I know that if I get that good hour in in the early morning, the rest of the day will be more than enough activity-wise. I also recognize that most of those morning runs will be in the dark, so I'll make a conscious effort tot get out with the kids during the day into the sunshine, however cold that sunshine might be.

I've always loved early morning walks, so I've done quite a bit of dark, winter walking. I wear a reflective vest and stay on sidewalks in fairly busy places. It's not the same as these treasured quiet, wooded summer walks, not at all. This week and last, I've played with routes and tinkered with timing so that maybe I can begin on neighborhood streets and end on trails as the sun rises. Still working that angle.

I think that if you want to start a morning habit, maybe if you push through the tired and just do it a few days, the insomnia will work itself out at bedtime. I know that my sleep quality has improved dramatically. If you genuinely are energetic in the evening, maybe some reflective clothing and this headlamp and you go for it?

Emily said: The line that hit me was how you'll keep on walking, even though you haven't lost any weight. That's a big thing for me--would I keep working out if I didn't lose weight? Because to me, working out---> weight loss (at least that's what my doctors tell me). It's something to chew on, if I'd do it without the weight loss part of it. I think if I had an iPod I'd be much more motivated to do it on my own. But I have to say I do like the physical benefits, regardless of the weight issue...

Oh, Emily! You filling those beautiful, new-to-you lungs and breathing in and out and me pushing past the doubts about what damage was done with chemo and radiation-- that should be plenty, shouldn't it? Just to be alive and well enough to move. But then the people come alongside and they all have solutions on how to achieve a more perfect weight. And why you should reach a more perfect weight.  And the doubt creeps in. And we falter and think, "Why bother? It will never be good enough. I will always be a little soft and a little round. I will never be perfectly fit."

It's good enough. I'm telling you. It's way more than good enough. The privilege of moving and breathing and listening to a beating heart. It's enough. For both of us.

Let's keep reminding each other.

All the photos today were taken with my iPhone yesterday morning, on the first run/walk of September.

And, yes, I gathered pictures from August into another video.

Because I like to remind myself that it was good. 

The song is Matt Redmond's 10,000 Reasons. It's my favorite first-thing-in-the-morning song.