Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Today is the last day of 2010. I have to say that this has been a pretty awesome year. I kept my job in the face of massive layoffs, 'ran' six miles every day for a month, learned about sustainable agriculture by working at a CSA, ran my first half-marathon, came in third in a national art competition, donated 10 inches of my hair to other women affected by cancer, designed and built an award-winning gingerbread house, and best of all, I finally feel I have started living life beyond cancer.

For the past four December 31st's, I have made the same resolution: I want to be alive next December 31st. As I sat on a plane this afternoon, flying home from a quick warm-weather getaway, I looked down at the black and white landscape- snow and trees seen from the aerial perspective, I remembered my resolution.

And I decided, this year, I think I will make a different one. Surviving another year doesn't seem like a resolution I need to make. I feel like this is a monumental shift in thinking for me, and a pretty significant accomplishment. Resolving to do something other than just be alive in 365 days means I finally feel secure in the knowledge that my life is not measurable in days, weeks, or even months. I finally feel confident in planning the life ahead of me in years.

When I was twenty-one, I was told that there was a 50/50 chance I would live to see June 2011. Five years. 50%. At the time I was told this, I remember articulating that the statistic made me feel as though I was being robbed of my invincibility. But looking back, I think it wasn't my invincibility that was lost. I never thought I was invincible. What was taken from me when I was provided with that statistic was my future. I stopped planning in decades, or even years. I started living on a much shorter timetable. Looking back, that shift makes me really sad. At twenty-one, I doubted whether I would live to graduate, find a job, or find someone who could love me, cancer and all.

But I have accomplished all of those things. And so much more. Each accomplishment brought me closer to the belief that I could live my life. A full, long life. So this year, I will not resolve to live until next December 31st, because it should be a given. I will make a different resolution, if you want to call it that at all. I prefer to think of a resolution as a promise, because promises are meant to be kept. So I promise to keep writing, running, and not just surviving, but living, for the next 365 days...And beyond.

Happy New Year!

Hope, Love, Run,
Marathon Girl

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Does This Life Make Me Look Stressed?

I was dying to run outside today. Over the last five days, I only worked out once. This is a significant deviation from my normal 5-day a week routine, but I have been under a lot of stress recently, and I reached my breaking point on Tuesday. I didn't workout that night, or the next, or the one after that, or after that. I spent the time I would have been exercising catching up on all the work I was unsuccessfully trying to keep up with.

I don't want to make a pattern out of not working out, but I decided this morning I didn't want to go to the gym, not because of time, but because there were no classes I wanted to take. So I considered running in the cold. said the current temperature was 15 degrees. Brrrr. Luckily, it warmed up to 35 by this afternoon, so I decided I would suck it up and go for a run.

I am SO glad I did. In just the few weeks since I switched to the treadmill, I forgot why running outside is so much better. The calorie burn might be similar, but for me, the added benefits of running outside make it much more productive. Doing a trail run like I did today gives me a clarity and peace I don't get when I'm running indoors. On the treadmill, my mind doesn't wander the same way, and the end result of today's run was a lot of time reflecting on the stress I've been feeling lately.

This week, I found myself literally crying to various people in my life that I am doing everything I can, giving everything I've got, and still feel that I'm being told it's not enough. It was this feeling of failing despite giving every piece of myself that led me to reach a breaking point this week.

I spent a decent amount of time trying to figure out how I could find balance and do it all. The solution this week was that I gave up my workout routine, something I value and consider to be one of the most important things I do for myself. Running today led me to the conclusion that perhaps I shouldn't be looking for a way to do it all. Maybe the answer is the opposite of what felt natural to me. Don't try to devote more time to what's stressing you out when you're feeling overwhelmed. Do less.

Not so long ago, I used to be an expert at avoiding stress. It was actually something I consciously kept out of my life during and after cancer treatment. Stress is bad. There is a lot of research to back this up.

If I go a little further back in my life, however, I had a very different perspective. In college, I ate stress for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I worked, went to school full time, substitute taught, and still made time to do various projects that were unrelated to my school work. I was forced to give up the stress-around-the-clock lifestyle when I got sick. In a way, that was a gift. I was so tired, that I had to prioritize what I needed to do. The things at the bottom of the list never got done. Because of this, I also learned to say no the year I was doing chemo. Before, I said yes to anything I was asked to do, if I didn't have time, I managed to make it. On chemo, that wasn't an option.

What I realized as I ran today was that I have returned to some of my old ways. I am not living on stress like I used to. I don't want to return to that, but I think I have let my perfectionist ways to suck me into a stressed out state. I find myself agreeing to do things I could easily say no to, knowing I don't have time to accomplish them without giving up something that really matters to me. I've also gone above and beyond, not because I would get something extra out of it, but because someone else would benefit.

I think it's great to give everything you've got, I wholeheartedly believe in always doing your best. But when you reach a point where it comes at such a high cost, leads to a breakdown, compromises things I deeply value, it's too much.

If I push myself like I have been, I will without a doubt burnout. I hope that the people who are asking so much of me will understand that when I say no, it is because I am already giving as much of myself as I healthfully can, and and hopefully not more than I should.

Hope, love, run,
Marathon Girl

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Choose Happiness

I found this on the Earndit twitter feed and thought it was a quick, profound read. Take a minute and check it out. Here are the closing thoughts: Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

Monday, December 6, 2010

New Season, New Routine

Winter is officially here! This weekend, the weather took a turn from chilly and officially arrived at freezing this morning, with some flurries just to make sure I knew it wasn't fall anymore.

I love when the seasons change; I feel lucky to be alive to witness all milestones, and the changing of the seasons is no exception. But I have mixed feelings about the onset of winter because it marks the start of about three months when the weather is not conducive to running outside. It's not all bad though. Winter is an opportunity to try out new indoor fitness options, and revisit my old favorites. So, instead of running all the time, I've been transitioning to my winter routine, which includes a smorgasbord of winter-friendly activities including pilates, kickboxing, cardiodance, strength training, swimming, spinning, and whatever other classes I can piece around my schedule.

Despite all the variety, I do practice what I consider to be 'maintenance runs' a few times a week through the winter. These are short (2-5 miles), usually involve speed work, and are done on the treadmill. I'll be the first to admit that I don't do enough speedwork during my outside runs because I like to just go and not think about keeping various paces throughout my runs. The treadmill, on the other hand, seems monotonous and dull when I compare it to outdoor runs that include trails, rivers, roads, and hills.

When I'm doing the hamster-on-a-wheel thing, contained in the gym, looking out longingly through the floor-to-ceiling windows at the once bright, now frozen landscape, speedwork is suddenly a lot more appealing. I did a 5K's worth of speedwork this morning, circuit trained my upper body, and I am pleasantly sore now.

It's not fun to get up the extra half hour earlier and go to the gym rather than rolling out of bed and putting on sneakers to go for a pre-work run, or easier yet, sleeping in, but when it's 20 degrees out, the thirty minutes of lost sleep is worth it.

On the days I want to turn off the alarm and sleep through my workout time, I always remind myself that I have never, ever regretted doing a workout. Honestly, there are days I have chosen to sleep, and sometimes I don't regret making that choice, but sometimes I do. Going to the gym? Doing the run? I have never wished I skipped it, so my advice for staying motivated through these dark, cold, and short days is to remember how you feel when you finish that workout, knowing what you've accomplished while your friends, neighbors, and coworkers are still rubbing the sleep from their eyes. Think about that as you set your alarm clock tonight, and as you wake up tomorrow morning.

Hope, Love, Run
Marathon Girl