2.28.2011

The Benefits of Running

Has anyone ever told you that running is hard on your body? I have received advice by many suggesting that as I get older I should run less to save damage to my body. I have even been told marathon training is for younger runners. My response....I am not the oldest runner out there and as long as I can run I will run!

 
But seriously, how can anyone argue that running is bad for me? Running has so many health benefits:
  • It is a great cardiovascular exercise and who can say cardio workouts are bad?
  • It releasing endorphins that can promote stress release.
  • It is a weight bearing exercise that can promote new cell growth in your bones and can be a means to prevent osteoporosis.
  • It is great for your muscles but increasing or maintaining muscle tone.
  • It can promote weight loss when done in accordance with a healthy diet.
But for me the benefits can extend beyond the general health benefits:
  • It is a sport I can do by myself, for myself. And yet, it is a sport I can involve my family in.
  • The general costs of the sport are low. My main cost is a good pair of running shoes.
  • It allows me a healthy means to engage my personal competitive nature even if I am only competing against myself and aiming to create new PR's. However, my training and running includes regular races to connect with and compete with other runners.
  • It allows me to connect to my spiritual self and brings my mind back to the moment.
  • It gives me time to just be me.

2.26.2011

Osteopenia anyone?

A few weeks ago my doctor ordered a bone density test. The main indicators (besides some funny bone sounds I hear at times) were that I am female, thin-framed, athletic, white, and "low-weight" (FYI, my BMI is perfect for my height and age). The result, I have osteopenia.

I have never heard of osteopenia and naturally, my first response was oh no. How would you respond if you were just told you had some unknown health condition?

But as time has passed and I have done my research the oh no feeling has left. Osteopenia is a new condition recently (I believe around 1990) classified by the World Health Organization to help people have an understanding of their health and risk factors. You are diagnosed with osteopenia if your t-test from your bone density test is between 1.0 to 2.5. Essentially, it is a standard deviation test with the norm being a 30-old woman. By the way, if your t-test is greater than 2.5 you have osteoporosis.

So what does this all mean? Not much really since most of the population has osteopenia. Some doctors prescribe medications and I am happy my doctor doesn't go that route. It may not be necessary for all and just because I have osteopenia, I won't necessarily get osteoporosis.

So what am I doing? After reflecting on the potential causes I questioned if I should have had less soda and alcohol over the years or ate more calcium I decided I did nothing hugely wrong. I can't say I have ever had an unusual, restrictive diet but I did have low hormone levels during my pregnancy (so perhaps my hormone levels have always been low). It could be genetic but the truth of it all lies in one undeniable fact.

I am unfortunately getting older and the norm is a woman younger than me (therefore, one would imagine my calcium levels would be less). So am I doing nothing? Absolutely not! Instead of taking calcium supplements most days I am going to aim for all days. Instead of opting no to that added sour cream, I will say sure and opt for light or fat-free (there is 4% of my RDA), and I will commit to one glass of delicious fat-free milk each day (there is another 30%)!

And I will continue to set an example for my daughter to follow that includes activity, not just diet. I will continue to run and add additional weight-bearing exercise. And I will have fun!

Happy Running!

2.25.2011

To run or not to run?

Usually that is a simple one for me. If I have the time, I run. It is the best therapy around!

But today I sit cuddled under a blanket enjoying the privilege that I am sick on a day that my husband is home too. Wow, a little time for me to recoup. The treadmill is beside me beckoning me to hop on, I must resist. I must focus on healing and recovering from this nasty cold that has been plaguing me for days.

Many times I continue to run if I am sick. If I can function and work, I run. If I feel like I have been hit by a bus, I rest. As a mom, the limits of performance are different. When I was single and a non-mom, I really did let myself relish and rest when a hint of illness hit me. Now, I push forward.

In my desire to see if I push myself too hard, I looked into others opinions on running and came across a brief article written by Christine Luff (March 18, 2010; About.com). Luff states to use the neck rule. If the illness is above your neck, feel free to run. If the illness is below your neck, rest. Sounds simple enough in most circumstances. In all reality, today my super-cold is all above the neck but I know from experience, if I were to run today, my head would be screaming and I would be more inclined to dizziness.

So today I rest and plan to get back to running tomorrow.

Happy Running!

2.23.2011

Stretching....so wonderful but so often ignored

We have all heard how important stretching is for flexibility, injury prevention, and workout recovery. Yes, those gentle stretches help ease the muscles and get the juices flowing. In other words, stretching not only helps lengthen muscles but it also improves circulation.

I am sure you stretch more each day than you know. The stretch of your back when you have been at the desk to long. The stretch of your arms or fingers when you have been at the computer to long. For that matter, the stretch of your neck. When I think about it, I am constantly incorporating stretching into little moments of each day.

However, after my hip injury I have become a believer of focused stretching of my muscles that need it the most, the muscles most inclined to raise issues. And even though I do realize all the great benefits of stretching, I still find it so hard to squeeze into my day everyday. I can't say I really ignore the need and desire to stretch, only that it goes to the wayside when the life of a mom becomes the top priority. So what is a mom to do? Create means to make stretching fun for you and your children. Go ahead...get up and stretch now! Your muscles will thank you.

Happy Running!

Prioritizing Time

Yesterday was my Dad's birthday and it was a challenging day for me. The run I hoped to do in the morning didn't happen. I awoke at 1:00 am feeling awful due to a huge cold coming on; however, I still dragged myself out of bed at 4:30 am to go to work.

I became a working mom that had moments of sadness as I thought of my Dad and how hard things must be for my mom. I even had a co-worker get teary eyed thinking of my Mom. My mom is indeed tough and although I know she too had a heavy heart, I wonder if more tears were shed on Maui due to the weepy-natured people me and my co-workers are.

After work I turned into just Mommy (yeah) as I headed off to pick up my daughter from school. She was happily playing at the water table and her teacher said she did great talking about her Share Toy. That's my girl! However, on the ride home she confessed she did cry for me a bit at school. I told her it is okay to miss people and confessed I cried a bit for Dad. She told me that it was okay.

Once home, I began unpacking lunch bags and going through the normal Mommy/Wife routine and wished for the ability to just curl up somewhere and sleep. Instead, I turned to my daughter and announced that I think I want to run. She eagerly accepted the idea, squealed and ran off. Wow! She does like my runs! She came back with the Ice Age DVD and asked for a movie and a snack. Now I see, she had a hard day too and wants to unwind. I put in her DVD, give her some fruit pieces, and start running to Ice Age. This is a true sign that I am indeed a running mom!

The run was great. An hour of bliss to unwind, reflect, and go through my feelings. At the end, I went outside with my husband and daughter. While I stretched on my yoga mat, hubby gardened and my sweet daughter ran back and forth in the yard (in her running shoes of course) getting her exercise. She proceeded to join me on the yoga mat to stretch. I taught her some stretches, she taught me some moves (which were more cardio than stretching) and I pondered how wonderful this life is.

However, today I think I may need to take a rest day to overcome this nasty cold just a little before jumping back onto that treadmill tomorrow.

Happy Running!

2.22.2011

Reflecting Back on the Run for the Whales

Course Map by Pacific Whale Foundation
This year my Run for the Whales was the half marathon course through Wailea, Maui, Hawaii. My struggle was overcoming the uncertainty I had about my body, its performance, and if I could trust it to hold up to the challenge.

Shortly after Christmas I sustained an injury that was best diagnosed as a muscle or tendon tear in my left glutes. It was painful and knocked me off my feet. I questioned if I would ever get my running legs back and decided to train smart. My pre-race mileage and runs were cut back. I focused on letting my muscles heal through proper nutrition, rest, massages, and appropriate training. Then it was race day.

Shortly into the race I felt some minor discomfort in my hip but it quickly warmed up and responded well. I was running and loving it! However, this course was tough! The inclines may not have all been steep but they were long. It challenged my endurance and faith in my running capabilities but I pushed on knowing my Dad was by my side in spirit. And surprisingly enough, I was doing just fine. I may have felt more struggle than my previous half marathon, but I kept going mile after mile.

Then the true challenge hit me. The final miles were in what we call the Maui Rollercoasters near Big Beach. The ups and the downs made my hip ache and my pace, as well as most others it appeared, slowed.  I could see the same struggle on the faces of others and knew I wasn't alone. I continued running, pushing myself to go that final mile as strong as I could. I wasn't worried about a new PR, I wanted to finish strong.

And the end result? I did finish strong. I may have hurt like I never did in my first half marathon but I was proud of my accomplishment. I finished. I regained faith in my body. I regained trust in my training. I was proud. So what did I do post-race? I enjoyed the post-race awards for a bit and then headed home to host my daughter's 3rd birthday party!

Date: 2/5/2011
Time: 2:02:23
Pace: 9:21
Overall: 105 of 190
Division (F 30-39): 18 of 31

Incline Running

For an after-Christmas and New Year's present my dear husband purchased me a treadmill. It is a much appreciated addition to my home and part of my long-lived dream to have my own personal workout room. The one catch, the design of the treadmill pushes me to now focus more on incline training versus the flat course. (You cannot set it to 0% incline.) This isn't really a bad thing when the race courses on Maui can be quite a rollercoaster at times. On that note, what are the merits of incline training?

* Incline running works your body differently as you engage your upper leg muscles.
* Incline running works your calf muscles differently by promoting more of a stretching and lengthening action.
* Incline running takes more energy. Trust me, when I first started incline training a short distance workout had a greater rate of perceived exertion than a flat course - outside or treadmill.
* Note - my incline training has a similar rate of perceived exertion as running with my daughter in the jogging stroller on a course of variable inclines. Therefore, my incline training will improve my running and races with my daughter without making her endure longer training sessions.

What are the negatives? I can think of only one major one. I had to come to terms that my incline running pace is slower than my traditional base runs of the past.

Happy Running!

2.21.2011

My Inspiration

It seems so perfect that my father's birthday has always been so close to President's Day. The United States President has a huge job and is meant to be the leader of many. In all reality, I am sure we all underestimate the challenges the President must face and how hard it is really to do his job. But still, many of us are able to reflect back and name a President that we feel is or was excellent. One we feel truly overcome the challenges, led us in the right direction, and is someone we can ask our children to as an example of greatness and who is perhaps our hero.

My hero is my Dad. His temperant was always cool and collective. His sense of humor was enlightening. He was witty, he was brilliant, and he was dedicated to his family. He loved my Mom and as a child growing up, I always knew how much he loved and cherished her and that he would always be there for us all.

A year ago at this time I was anxiously awaiting to fly back with my daughter to visit him and my family. We were supposed to arrive on his birthday but due to my daughter getting sick, we delayed our flight. I couldn't get there quick enough. I wanted him to know how much he meant to me, how much I cherished him, and I wanted to ask him a billion questions.

However, when I finally got there I was just content to be in his presence, to see him, to hear his voice, to know I could hug him whenever I wanted. My questions and words floated away. I was as close to peace as I could be. I was even content sleeping in the other room with my daughter instead of watching late night TV with him and my mom, knowing they were together and they were near.

This year I need to face my Dad's birthday without him. I won't be able to call him, to say happy birthday, to hear his voice. I miss him so much and even though I know he is here with me, it isn't quite the same. He was the first person I confided to with my goal of running a marathon. I will keep to that goal and not give up no matter how hard it may get because I run to honor him, to remember him. It is my promise to him, my link to him. It is hard to explain but it is what it is.

My Dad set the bar high for all husbands and dads. He was truly magnificent and he is my guiding angel. At times I feel bad I hold my husband to the bar my father set because it is asking for near perfection but I am one who has always and will always strive for perfection. (Trust me, I do realize no one is truly perfect.) It is out of my love for my Dad that I write today. I miss him terribly but try to find some sort of comfort that he is indeed a larger part of my life now, guiding my actions and decisions, compelling me to be a better mother, sister, daughter, and wife. Compelling me to be the hero he truly is. Compelling me to be worthy of remembrance and honor as we remember and honor the great President's in our history.

Happy Running!

2.20.2011

What do you do post-event?

After a run I focus on rehydrating. No matter how much I hydrate during the race, I always seem to crave more liquid post-race. My drink of choice....cytomax with amino acids or a delicious homemade sports drink. If those aren't available, give me some chocolate milk, muscle milk, or then finally I will go to plain water.

What do I eat? At first, NOTHING! Don't show me any food. Give my body time to just take in the liquid then I tend to develop a huge sugar craving. This is the one time I do allow myself a mini powdered donut (or two). The level of indulgence is directly related to the miles put in.

Now please don't underestimate the power of massage. If you can get a post-race massage, DO IT! Don't pass it up. The big races here on Maui often have massage students at the finish line eagerly awaiting to soothe any discomfort. Feeling fine? Still go for the massage. I skipped it once and paid the price the day after.

Then rest, stretch, and for me....get back to running at easy paces and short distances. My muscles say thanks when they get used. Even some time on the cycle does the trick. Just remember, you do need to allow your muscles to heal.

What am I doing post-Whale Day? Some running aspects are being applied since I spent 14 hours running around, jumping, dancing, screaming (for fun), etc. So today, rest, relax. Give my body a break. Tomorrow, back to running!

Happy running!

2.19.2011

Event Day

It is a day almost like any other day that has a huge event. Usually the big early morning events for me are races. Today it is Whale Day, a huge festival hosted by Pacific Whale Foundation, which I am a part of. Feel free to find out more at http://www.mauiwhalefestival.org/.

I am up at the wee hours with my husband and daughter still sleeping. That is par for the course in my life. But I am not running. I am set and ready to go. My preparedness plan pretty much followed the course for pre-race. Check....bag is pack. Check....sunscreen is here. Check....meditation and reflection time. Check...in proper uniform and ready to go. Ironically, I am wearing running shorts, I have a hat (that could serve as a running hat), and I don a pair of old Nike Pegasus running shoes. However, now my running shoe of choice is Nike Free Run. Now that is a shoe! What are your favorite running shoes?

I sit here waiting, typing, as I wait for my ride to arrive. And then yes, we go to my planned pre-event morning nourishment. However, that does not match race day in the least. No Powerbar with soymilk for me today. I really want that Diet Coke and Granola Bar. What can I say? Whale Day impacts me on a different level that a run!

Happy Running!

2.17.2011

How do you unwind?

It is the time of year when work gets crazier then crazy and I try ever so hard to squeeze in the time for me after family.

So what do you do when your day has reached that limit and you can't take anymore? Some may reach for a beer (tempting), a bar of chocolate (delicious and tempting), a bag of cookies (maybe not). What do I do? 

Yesterday started at 4:30 am as I crawled out of bed ready to confront the the day. It was an day of uphill battles and unexpected twists....I find out my husband has a meeting to attend at 5:00 pm, will I be home in time? I find out due to a booking error (a friend of a friend has a hotel booked on the Big Island, not Maui), I will be have an overnight guest. No worries, right?

My daughter joins me at work at 4:00 pm and after I finish up some essential tasks and she plays a few minutes on the toys outside my office, we begin our journey home. Thank goodness it isn't too long of a drive because now my toddler has reached her limit (I approached mine about an hour ago) and I drive with her in a full-blown tantrum. We get home near 6:00 pm, she is now in the shower with me screaming while I try ever so hard to get to the bottom of it all. Then it comes out....she still wanted to play!

Of course, don't we all? After a nutritional breakfast of waffle with blueberries (peanut butter for me too!), which I turned into a quick and easy dinner, I ask my daughter "should Mommy run?" The reply stills rings in my ear, "YES!" She is wise enough to know if I run, I will relax.

I don't run too long. Just 20 minutes on the treadmill with a couple of sprints mixed in. I don't have much more time. My daughter plays by my side, telling me stories. There is happiness in the house....finally! I rinsed in the shower one more time and in walks my surprise overnight guest and believe it or not, the house is in perfect tranquility! Temper tantrum, what tantrum? Stress, what stress?

The power of running for me is the peacefulness that emerges. It is where I am supposed to be, it is what I am supposed to do. It is me. And although the beer may be nice and the chocolate may be delicious, the run leaves me feeling relaxed, cleansed, and powerful! And that is just what I need to recharge for the next day.

2.16.2011

Reflecting back on the Maui Half Marathon

The day started at 4:20 am with a wake-up call and a cell phone alarm. Sleeping through the race is not allowed. After cuddling with Palma for a moment, I crawled out of bed to change and eat a little breakfast -- a Powerbar and chocolate soymilk that Palma eagerly shared with me. Thirty-five minutes later we were all out the door heading to Whaler's Village...the start.

I was experiencing no major nerves today (I had those all week) but may have been a bit edgier than usual and I was definitely ready to run! After spending some time with John and Palma, I headed to the pack of runners at the start. I said a silent "Our Father" and sang a silent "Peace is Flowing Like a River" and remembered that today's run was for Dad. I know he is with me in spirit and has been every step of the way.

After some organized stretching and a fire dancer show the final 10-second countdown commences to a slow start due to a bottleneck at the race chute. With a final "Go Erica" from John, I am on my way. The run itself was not too bad. I am focused on maintaining my pace and not being compelled to go faster than I want to. I am here to just do my best for Dad today, winning is succeeding, not coming in first.

I enjoy watching other runners stop to take pictures. Cute idea and it will probably result in a great photo journal but you will never find me doing that. I am not one to slow down to take pictures when I run. I am there to run and I continue to run and thank each person that hands me a wet sponge, water, or Gatorade. I cheer and clap for the first two runners who past me on the flip side. I smile at others and send thoughts of hope and encouragement to those facing challenges or who have hit the wall (a runner can tell). And I remember why I run.

In my training in a long run I found and felt God and since then I know I am running to learn the lessons my spirit is to learn. I run to be a better me. I run for Dad and once I hit mile marker 12, I dedicated my final mile to him. I run for Palma to show her women are strong and can do whatever they put their minds to. I run for the boy on the sidelines holding a "Just Do It" sign giving high fives to show him we can all just do it. I run because it is me and I feel through running I have a story to tell. And of course, I run for the joy of reaching my goal for that day and today my goal ends at a finish line with John and Palma there on the sidelines. I see them, hear them, and blow them a kiss as I make my way to the finish line thinking I did it. So what's next? More training, more races, and perhaps the full marathon next September.

Date: September 19, 2010
Time: 2:08:39
Pace: 9:49
Overall: 330 of 1256
Females: 144 of 812
Division (F 35-39): 20 of 146

Welcome to Running Mom

Aloha and Welcome!

I am currently in the process of getting this blog up and running. My goal - to use communication with others as a means for me to stay focused on my mission. So what is my mission? Besides aiming to be a great and patient mom, which is a struggle at times with a toddler, I am officially beginning my training for the Maui Marathon in September. Woah!!!

Who is this blog for? Anyone. You don't have to be a runner, you don't have to be a mom, you just need to be someone aiming to make life a wonderful experience and you need to have dreams and ambitions. Don't we all?

What exactly will this blog contain? Who really knows! It is just the beginning of an evolution of what it is truly meant to be. I hope to share my journey with you.

Peace and Happy Running!