Are You Genetically Lazy?

I have often wondered why some people like exercise and others don’t. When I was a kid I wouldn’t say I was a person who really enjoyed exercise, primarily because I wasn’t good at most sports due to lack of practice, and the fact I wasn’t good at it meant I didn’t want to practice, creating sort of a negative feedback loop.

As I got older I started liking it more, I think primarily because my tolerance for not being good at things got higher as I got older. Not knowing how to do something, or just not being good at it, wasn’t a blow to my self esteem. I knew that there were other things that I was good at, making lack of mastery in the sports arena less threatening. For instance, I enjoy running but I know I’m not and likely never will be a fast runner. And that’s okay. I find the exercise itself is rewarding, and I like how I feel after.

I know this is not the case with everybody. Some people really struggle with motivation to exercise. Which seems odd, because it’s something our bodies really need – you’d think that psychological issues aside, we’d all be equally motivated to do it. But science is showing that’s not really the case.

This video from ASAPscience shows that research is proving that there is a genetic mutation that can be responsible for some people’s couch potato tendencies.

I think there is also a habit and nurture aspect to this as well. For me, I am motivated inherently to exercise IF I’ve been doing it enough. When I’m fit, my body starts to crave exercise if I don’t do it enough. But if I let myself get out of the habit and out of shape, I will have no motivation at all – mostly because I know that exercise = pain if I’m not in shape. And it will take a few weeks of pain to get back to being in shape to the point where I enjoy it again.

So it is a habit – and one that you have to experience some pain to develop. There could also be a nurture aspect, in that if no one models for a child that it is possible to get past the pain to a point of enjoyment, and also that this is a desirable and enjoyable thing to do once you get that far, then that child might not have much motivation to seek out that experience. Which in humans, may play into a “generational couch potato” link as well.

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Goals With Plans

One of the things I like about running is that it gives me a chance to exercise my muscles in goal setting and planning, things that I feel I don’t do very much of as a stay at home mom type person. I do plan to clean, do laundry, etc., with the goal (possibly unachievable with two little boys in the house) of having a clean or at least presentable home – the accomplishment of which feels less like I’ve accomplished something awesome and more like all I did was keep filth and chaos at bay.

Suffice to say, it’s not the most motivating thing to just be treading water all the time. The mess and I are in a constant competition to see who will win. Usually it is the mess. I would feel worse about this but it is 4 on 1 including the cat, who as the only one that poops in a box and coughs up hair balls on the regular, makes the most disgusting messes of all.

The odds are always against me.

But running is an area of life where I can actually feel like I am somewhat in control of things. I can see and feel myself making progress. When I am not injured or having surgery, that is.

Now that my surgery and recovery are mostly behind me, I am in a goal setting phase with running again. So, what’s next? What do I want to focus on?

Well, between the ankle injury and fitness lost from recovery, I am not sure when I will feel ready to start training for longer distances. Stamina is basically gone. I think it will come back, but I also don’t want to place a lot of repetitive stress on a healing ankle. So I think I will focus on getting back to doing 5k and 10k races and work on getting faster at those distances.

I’d like to think I’ve learned something from the injuries I’ve dealt with since I started back to running over the last year, and I would say the big takeaway is that the experts are right – you cannot work on speed and distance at the same time. And since I apparently have to choose, I guess I’d rather run fast than far. I’d like to do both but it seems I have to choose one thing at a time.

My next race will be the Inspiring Hope 5k on May 10, which I will be running and walking. Gotta start somewhere I guess.

There doesn’t seem to be much that looks interesting enough to plan for until July. Starting in July I’d like to do:

Mill Creek Run of the Mill 5k – July 12
Run-a-Muk 10k – August 23
Snohomish River Run 10k – October 26

Other things might crop up, but these are the races I will plan to do. After October I will decide if I want to try moving up to the half distance or stick with 10k’s for a while longer.

Factory parts no longer under warrantee

Been pretty quiet on the blog lately, I know. I’ll rectify that situation now and give a brief update. But look out – I’m gonna be all old and talk about my health problems. Worse, I’m gonna talk about my lady parts.

The upshot is, the factory warrantee on my lady bits is about to expire. About the time I stopped posting, I started having some female problems. More specifically, I had the recurrence of some problems I had managed to keep on the back burner for the last few years.

A few years ago (2010), I had been having a lot of heavy bleeding between periods, which my doctor at the time kind of dismissed as being no big deal given that we knew I had some fairly good size fibroids. Her attitude was kind of “well, you have fibroids. Bleeding happens.”

I wasn’t satisfied with this answer though because up to that point, it hadn’t been happening to me. I knew that the fibroids had been there for years and never caused any abnormal bleeding before. Why did they suddenly start bleeding now? That didn’t seem right to me, so I asked her, how do we know everything is normal? She basically said, we don’t know, I am just making certain assumptions based on your age and general health. You don’t fit the profile for uterine cancer, but would you like me to test and make sure?

I said yes so she did an endometrial biopsy. And found that I had complex endometrial hyperplasia – which is not cancer, but can develop into cancer in some cases. She prescribed a round of progesterone and assured me that they could probably make the condition reverse and my bleeding would stop being an issue.

It didn’t work. I was referred to a gynecologist. Two more rounds of progesterone, more tests and still no improvement.

This time (early 2012) I was referred to a gynecological surgeon. The first words out of his mouth were – I think you are at high risk for this to develop into cancer given that you don’t fit the profile and aren’t responding to the usual course of action and I recommend hysterectomy.

That scared me. I had just adopted two high energy little boys and basically felt that my home situation was not under control enough to where I could consider anything that would incapacitate me for more than about 5 seconds. I wasn’t ready to take that step. So we decided to try some last ditch efforts to keep my factory parts. He prescribed megestrol, a high dose progesterone pill that is given to cancer patients to fight endometrial cancer (which I did not have, but I did have a precancerous condition so it was an appropriate treatment).

I also had to have a D&C. At the end of this, it appeared that the hyperplasia had finally been reversed and so I was able to avoid having the hysterectomy at that time. Instead, I was put on the Mirena IUD to provide a constant localized dose of progesterone in hopes that this would keep the bleeding issues at bay. Mirena actually stops periods completely, so after a few months I wasn’t supposed to be having any bleeding at all – not even my period.

It worked for a while but in early November, I had a period after not having had one for over 6 months. So once again, things were not responding as they are supposed to. And honestly, at this point I am just tired of worrying about this. Who wants to have the big C hanging over their head? I don’t have it now – and I don’t want to have it at any point in the future. I don’t really want to give things a chance to develop to that point.

So now is as good a time as any to take care of this. My life basically feels under control, I know my kids will be okay and that I will be okay, there is no reason to continue having this scary thing hanging over my head. I’m healthy and want to stay that way. So it is coming out in early March. I am just ready to be done with it.

How this ties into my running is, that since I don’t know how I will recover from the surgery, I am trying to get in as much running and exercise as possible before the big day so that I can be in as good of shape as possible beforehand. I am hoping this will make the recovery easier. It’s supposed to be laparascopic and minimally invasive, but still there will be some down time and recovery involved.

I have some goals I am working toward (partly to make myself feel better about this situation). I plan to do a half marathon at the end of January, and just did a 12k on December 15.

Some of my other plans for 2014 are on hold though – I won’t be doing the Heroes Half in April. I should be walking and maybe doing some short distance running by then, but 13 miles is right out. So running wise, I expect that I will spend most of next Spring and early Summer in recovery, and maybe if all goes really well, I can do a half sometime in the fall.

I will have to be careful though. They say you only get one chance to recover from this so I plan to take it easy and come back slowly. But until then I plan to run as much as I can, as fast as I can, until I can’t.

Because I can never just be happy

Because I can never just be happy when I have accomplished something big (like running an entire 10k at a 9:02 pace, when I seriously didn’t even think I was capable of that, for instance) I have decided that my goal pace for my next race is going to be 8:45.

So on Wednesday, I did 4x800s with the following paces:

1 mile progressive warm up (400 @ 12:00, 400 @ 11:15, 400 @ 10:30, 400 @ 9:45)
1 x 400 jog 11:45 pace
1 x 800 9:30
1 x 400 jog
1 x 800 9:00
1 x 400 jog
1 x 800 9:15
1 x 400 jog
1 x 800 8:45
1 x 400 walk

That’s 4.25 miles, and right now it is some hard effort, yo. It was pretty much my only hard effort this week, what with Halloween and half days at Max’s school and all. I also have a pretty bad cold that I am trying to overcome (I first started feeling it on Sunday morning but it apparently didn’t slow me down by much).

So next week I hope it will be back to normal and healthy again for a few weeks and I can get back to more running, weightlifting, etc.

Eat and Run Mom Guide to Running in the Rain

Tomorrow I will be running in this:

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But as my aunt reminded me on Facebook, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. Or at least the wrong clothes. I have a 10k race in 4 weeks, so skipping out on this run is not really an option. And besides, it’s only September 28. If I start skipping out on things because of rain now, then I will be trapped inside until March – and that’s if Spring comes early. So I gotta get out there. Rain or no rain, I am doing this thing.

Fortunately, having lived an active life in Seattle for most of my years means I know a few things about how to stay happy and comfortable in bad weather.

The main thing to remember is that rain is not the enemy. Wind and cold combined with rain can be your enemies, however. If nothing else, they’ll all conspire to make you miserable. So you need to dress appropriately. Look for clothing that cuts the wind, without adding too much warmth. You will only be cold for a few minutes at the beginning of your workout anyway. Your body warms itself up pretty quickly, so what you are looking for is to stay as dry as possible, and to keep wetness away from your skin. You want to avoid chills and chafing. So avoid cotton, look for wicking fabrics just as you would during hot weather. Synthetic fabrics are usually best.

For me, the ideal rain gear includes a pair of long tights with a slightly fuzzy inner layer (such as the Under Armour cold gear brand), a lightweight long sleeve top for fall type weather, or a heavier top when it gets colder, and an outer layer jacket that cuts wind and is water resistant. I say water resistant, NOT waterproof, because your own heat and sweat should be able to escape. The worst ski jacket I ever had was one that was waterproof – I sweat a lot, so waterproof meant all that water couldn’t get out. After about an hour I would be wet all the way to the skin – in skiing, this is a downright dangerous situation. Not a very comfortable situation for running either.

Protecting your hands and feet is also important because fingers and toes can get cold. Personally, I prefer to wear wool socks, but no gloves unless it’s really cold. What works best for me is a long sleeved short with a hole for the thumb. If hands are cold at the beginning of the run, then I tuck them inside, and slowly let them poke out as I warm up. If I get really warm, I push the sleeves up. Obviously this wouldn’t work in Minnesota, but it works here where it’s not so cold.

Headgear is another important consideration. I like a hat with a bill – baseball type caps are good – because it keeps rain out of my eyes and off most of my face. Rain on the face is kind of annoying, plus I wear glasses most days and they create a visibility issue, so a little protection in that area goes a long way towards keeping me happy. Stocking caps don’t really keep the rain off, and for the type of weather we typically get in Seattle, they are too warm. Anything too warm just has to be discarded after a couple of miles anyway.

While we are on the topic of discarding your clothes, the last “rule” of dressing for Seattle type rain is to dress in layers. As I said, you warm up as you go along, so you have to plan to unzip or remove things along the way.

The final thing you need on a rainy day run is a positive attitude. The hardest part is just getting out the door – as always, the first mile is the hardest. If you can just get geared up and going you will probably find yourself happy to be outside even if the weather isn’t so nice.

The First Mile

As I was logging my miles on the treadmill today, I was thinking that I completely understand people who say they hate running. Even though I have personally come to love it, if all I had to judge by was how I feel when I first started out, back when just running a mile was a struggle, I would hate it too. One of the things I am grateful for in my life is my time in the Air Force, many years ago, when I discovered running longer distances could actually be enjoyable (I ran cross country in junior high, but never enjoyed it).

Since leaving the Air Force, running (and cycling to a lesser degree) has always been my go-to sport, due to the fact you can do it anywhere and don’t need special equipment. During the period earlier this year when I started back to running, I at least knew that if I put in the miles, eventually things would get easier and I would hopefully enjoy it as much as I used to. So that helped me stick with it when things sucked. There was the hope that the suckage would give way to enjoyment, and the memory of it having happened in the past. So I stuck with it and sure enough it got better.

But even now, the first mile of any run is always a bear. During that first mile is when my body likes to weigh in and let my brain know how unhappy it is to once again be doing this running thing. It does its best during that first mile to convince me to quit, usually with a little pain here and there. Today it was my shins complaining first, then a twinge in the hip, then a little ache in the foot.

Then miraculously after the first mile, the pain went away and things got easier. As I knew it would.

My typical strategy for dealing with the first mile is just to go as slow as I need to until things loosen up. I find this is particularly true on the treadmill since I do not have the distraction of scenery to keep my mind off any discomfort I may be experiencing. Once I am warmed up, I can pick up the pace and go. But I need to give myself plenty of leeway during the first mile to get both brain and body in gear.

What do you do to overcome that little voice that tells you to give up or quit?

Today’s workout

TREADMILL 5 min. warmup walking, 3 miles running, 5 min. cool down.

TOTAL Distance: 3.54mi, time: 43:08, pace: 12:11min/mi, speed: 4.92mi/hr

Strength Training: Legs, hips, back