The Long Run

The wonderful thing about living in the mountains is that on any given day you can go out and re-center yourself. Breathe in the fresh air around. Listen to and create a silence within yourself. This is so important in our crazy busy lives. When I finish a week with three soccer practices, cross country meets, appointments, car problems, homeschooling, and running errands I am physically tired and mentally drained. When my feet hit the pavement of the road outside my house, I can begin to feel my body unwinding. It helps that a fair amount of the trails are downhill from my house. Once I reach the gravel road I notice the sound of my feet meeting the gravel and I begin to feel the mountains rising up around me. This is the ground reminding me that for each and every action in my life there is an equal and opposite reaction. As I am pushing against the Earth, it is push back against me giving me strength with every step. When I reach the compacted earth trail, interspersed with rocks, I can feel the energy of the earth pushing out the worries and the stresses of the week. The trees encircle the trail and me with energy and oxygen. The steep rocky portions of the trail open up onto mountaintop fields that take my breath away and give it back each and every time I run. As I come back into the forest the downhill welcomes me back to my childhood, and I run with my arms loose and a smile on my face. Each sharp turn gives a burst of energy. Coming back up toward my house is the steepest part of my routes and it reminds me that there is always a challenge ahead; but I also know that I have already conquered other challenges and the ability to summit those small mountains has also given me the strength to make this final push home.

I breathe deeply the last few minutes of my run, soaking in the peace and strength of the mountain around me, knowing that although I will walk into a house full of noise I am ready for it.

Busy Mom Check in

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One week of soccer/cross country is down with only about ten more to go! My optimistic workout plan was not as successful as I had hoped, but I always say hope for the best plan for the worst! I was dressed and ready all three days of soccer practice last week. I got rained out the first day as did my daughters team. The second day was a resounding success as I was able to run five miles! My typical mountain runs have around 600ft of elevation change over the run. Last week’s soccer practice run was flat and 1,000 feet lower in elevation than my usual run. The end result was a faster pace at an easier effort! Nothing beats clocking a faster time to boost your confidence! If you are ever feeling beat down by your times head to an easier route you have done before and you will see how much you have improved!

Day 3 I was ready to go for a run with a friend, but my shy kiddo needed me more so I did not get a run in then. This is where the mental game of making your life healthier sets in. One out of three days I ran. That sounds like a fail. To progress I must change my mindset. I got in five miles! That is a win, especially for a first week attempt! I can’t call it good and not push for three days, but I can’t beat myself up for what I did not get done. I can’t help rain, and I am a mom first and foremost so I will take what I got and run with it! Pun intended!

This week I have already improved and I got one run in with a friend. One practice was canceled this week so I will have to go with a backup plan run which is either on the treadmill at home or get a babysitter for a run in the neighborhood. The third practice this week looks iffy with my shy girl so a run may not be likely on those days. We will keep working on that day. Then my running buddy puppy has a hurt paw so I revamped my weekend long run plan to include a human running buddy. Looking forward to that as I have not run with her in months! This is pretty much the crux of trying to exercise and be a mom.

Which leaves the tip of the day:

Plan workouts so they don’t get lost, but be aware life is not going to cooperate. Be flexible and have alternate plans. Then and most importantly keep finding the positive because no matter how little you do you are at least doing something and things can only get better!

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Fitting it in

I was inspired by those fitness contestants at the last hotel I was visiting.  I bet some of you are wondering how that is working out for me.   Inspiration is not the same as execution.  Life tends to get in the way of working out, but part of this process is learning how to fit it all in.  So my first strategy is to remind myself to work out.  With chemo brain this can be hard so I place my puny 8lb weights on the corner of the kitchen counter.  That way I am visually reminded every time I walk in and out of the room.  With four kids I pass by them 100 times a day.  So even if I stop and do one set of anything a quarter of the times I walk by then I am getting in 25 possible sets!  I have upped the number of each arm exercise I do as I pass by and I am beginning to see changes in my arm musculature.  I am also, more importantly, able to lift our heavier pans with more ease.  So I plan to keep this up.  I am trying to get 3 sets of 15 of each exercise each day.  Each set may be hours apart, but 3 sets is better than no sets!

 

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My running is getting to be more challenging as I have to run for at least 30 minutes vigorously to keep the joint pain at bay.  With the heat lately, I have been forced to do treadmill running, and there is a reason it is called the dreadmill.  It is so boring even with a movie on I can’t seem to keep my eyes away from that ridiculously slow-moving distance counter!  So I am excited for 3 kids to start soccer.  Now this might seem like a crazy statement, and I will admit I am fully capable of making crazy statements; but it’s true!  With three kids in soccer that is three practices a week.  That is three chances for me to run outside!!!!  It is boring to run around the soccer field a ton of times, but it is way more interesting than the dreadmill!  If I can get at least two of those days, plus a long run on the weekend, then I am sure I can see some positive changes!  I hope you all can maybe use one of these ideas to try to get some more optimized time also!  Happy workout!

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Fit Inspired

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I have four kids, and as we all know at some point and time they get frustrated at what their siblings can do.  They play soccer better, they run faster, and they do EVERYTHING better!  This can sometimes lead them to give up on a task, but more often than not they try harder until they are better than their peers.  They constantly try to do as well as their siblings.  I am currently trying to recapture this childhood ideal.  The ability to be undeterred by those that are better than you.  The ability to look at someone else’s success and see possibility!  I must admit this is harder than I thought as I am just struggling to find time to work out.  I have hit a major slump in my workouts and gained 10 lbs. over a month of travel.

I was feeling a little down when I went down to the hotel exercise room to sneak in a quick, or rather slow, five mile run.  As I logged my first slow mile a lady came into the hotel gym with a man who appeared to be her trainer.  She was quite fit, but not muscular.  Moments later a very buff lady walked in.  I began to feel a smidge self-conscious.  Then in walked a seriously buff woman.  All three there surrounding me with their super fit bodies and me with my nice layer of pudge.  I thought about stopping as I finished a slightly faster 3rd mile.  But then I realized that I was the beginning rung on this ladder of fitness.  While I may have been the least fit woman in the room, each woman showed me the next step in my path.  The second lady worked harder than the first, and the third had worked the hardest.

I kicked the treadmill up a notch and cranked out two more miles.  I may not have been as strong as them, but I could be!  Those super buff women have reignited my fitness fervor, and I have since been upping my running game.  I have added squats, planks and some upper arm weights.   Here’s to all those that inspire rather than bring you down!

Cancerversary

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         When I was about twelve years old I was visiting my grandparents in Las Vegas.  I remember being in the back bedroom with my brother and two younger male cousins.  All of a sudden I heard laughter coming from the front of the house.  I looked at the boys and noticed that they seemed to not hear it.  I felt as if the laughter was calling me to the front of the house.  I left the room, dodging controller cords from the Nintendo, and headed down the hallway to the front of the house.  I looked at the family pictures as I passed smiling at the old pictures of people I knew, and a few I didn’t.  As I entered the living room the men of the family briefly glanced at me and almost immediately returned their gaze to the blaringly loud TV.  Once I turned right into the dark kitchen I could see the women of the house sitting at the dining room table illuminated only by the dimmed chandelier. 

 There were five of them at the table; my mom, my aunt Anita (who I bore a remarkable resemblance to), my aunt Linda, my Abuelita (my grandmother), and my auntie Annie (my grandmother’s sister).  I paused a minutes as another eruption of laughter occurred causing me to wonder if they were laughing atme.  A worry immediately assuaged by my mother’s smile and open arms as she welcomed me to the table.  Shy as all get out I crawled into my mother’s lap as best I could at twelve.  They all smiled at me as the conversation continued, each taking turns telling old family lore which always had a hilarious ending.  With each bout of laughter I felt their energy and strength flow into me.  Some stories were fun from beginning to end and some started out very sad, but they all ended in laughter.  From that day on I was one of them and spent many nights soaking in their laughter, stories, and strength.

           Today is a cancerversary for me.  Four years ago I was diagnosed with cancer and forced to wean my youngest daughter all in one very long day.  Four years ago I was able to tap into the energy absorbed from all those nights and plow forward into this new state of being that includes cancer.  Today I look back as those powerful women in my life looked back.  I do not see the pain and the hardship.  I only see stories, strength, and most importantly laughter.  I look forward knowing that, while that table and that dining room are gone, they will always be with me giving me strength and reminding me to look at all the good in life.  Today is a happy day to live and laugh another day.

   

Lessons Learned

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          So I have been running for two and a half years now.  Scarily enough I started for two to three months running in my Keen hiking shoes as I was too cheep to buy running shoes.  I was convinced that I was not going to like it since I had never like running.  After I discovered it helped my joints I decided to take the plunge and buy actual decent running shoes.  I aam a cheep person so this was a big jump for me.  I even jumped to buying expensive shoes as I had had one bad shoe buying experience since treatment and learned I could not buy cheep shoes now that my joints are messed up.  I suddenly realized how important it is to buy the right gear!  While, amazingly, I was not uncomfortable running in Keen shoes I was not super comfortable.  Once I took my first run in actual running shoes I knew there was no turning back! 
          Flash forward to today as I wear a knee brace on my left knee.  I am a mere four weeks  from my Moab trail race and I my whole left leg is out of whack.  My knee is sore and tight…not injured…no not injured…hopefully.  I have tight calves, shins, and left hamstring/quads.  I am fairly confident that my knee issue is due to my tight muscles as soon as I do a good round of stretching or yoga I am immensely improved.  My left hips pops in an unsettling way but I was still able to do a 11 mile run this week.  Last week on my long run they downhills were painful.   So my husband told me I was just getting older… He has a good sense of humor but on this one point I believe he was wrong.  As we brainstormed the injury we have come to the conclusion that it is all due to a cheep pair of shoes.  I wanted to put off purchasing another pair of trail running shoes as they cost $100 so I bought a pair of $30 costco tail shoes.  Oops.  Since my long run in those shoes two or three weeks ago I have been having this knee issue.  On that run my running partner and I made one other catastrophic mistake:  we talked about our lack of injury in our training.  Double oops.  Last week my running partner ended up with a re-aggravated ankle injury.
          I have new shoes on order from REI and I hope to get the in and broken in before our race.  Until then I will be taking it somewhat easy.  The problem with that is I have to run about four days a week to keep my joints from regressing to a painful state.  So how do I rest my knee and make my other joints happy.  I am going to try the strategy of shorter runs which seem to not hurt paired with yoga on the days in between.  I will get back to you after this coming weekends long run to see how that is going.  I will also be wearing my new shoes in stints to get them broken in. 
          As usual life is all about learning and not a day goes by that we do not learn something new.  This month it is a double big whammy of lessons: 1. don’t talk about injuries until after a race, and 2. DON’T BUY THE CHEEP SHOES!!!  Ok Maybe I will have learned that lesson now.  They say writing things down helps you remember them. I will see if that is true or if it is just a reminder of ones past mistakes. 

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Fitness Defined

I have said one of my main goals is to continue to get more fit, but after some time on a few exercise groups on facebook and after listening to the commercial onslaught from the radio I feel as though I should define what I mean when I say “fitness.”  Now having four girls this is a topic I consider with great thought.  What do I want them to think about their bodies and fitness?  I said earlier that I enjoy my muscles because they show how much I can do.  But does this mean I am fit?  Yes and no.  Many people may believe that that having a fit body mean a certain measurement on some part of their body.  But do I want my girls to think that they need to go weigh and measure their body at all time?   I, of course, have been there and done that but all this gets you is a pile of numbers that may or may not mean much. These numbers are most helpful when first starting out and the out of shape body speaks louder than the small growing fitness portion of our body.  Somebody could have some small measurements but still be winded from running across the parking lot.  So to me fitness is a functional term. Fitness means being able to up and do something without being winded or too sore at the end.

So my fitness goals are:
1. to hold a heavy pan long enough to pour out the food without having to set the pan down to rest.
2. to be able to have semi good posture.  since my treatments I hunker over more than I used to and as my bone density is low this could lead to permanent posture so I want to avoid being the hunchback of New Mexico.
3. to improve my half marathon time to under 2hrs
4. to get outside to run more since I seem to have less motivation to get on the treadmill and my joints desperately need it.  Ok this isn’t a fitness goal but it’s kind of in the realm right?

So there you have a few of my fitness goals.  I am sure they will change as time goes on or as I achieve them.  I hope some of you are able to set some goals and achieve them also!  We never know what we can do until we try!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Tuesday Food Day 1

I am sure you have all had the same experience as me at any given point in your life, when you go into the doctor’s office and they weigh you and look at you and tell you how much healthier you would be if maybe you lost a little weight. Now when you are a breast cancer patient they get real serious about this. The data apparently is undeniable that the heavier you are the greater the risk of recurrence.

breastcancer.org gives the following statistics:

Compared to healthy-weight women:

  • women who were obese when diagnosed had a 30% higher risk of recurrence and a 50% higher risk of dying from breast cancer no matter the characteristics of the cancer
  • obese and overweight women diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer had worse disease-free survival (the length of time a woman lives without the cancer growing) and worse overall survival (the length of time a woman lives with or without the cancer growing)

The journal of Clinical Oncology gave this information in an article from 2014:

In conclusion, the growing number of observational studies consistently show that maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active may confer additional improvements in breast cancer survival beyond surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.13

 

More and more research is coming out with how having a lower BMI helps prevent some cancers and some recurrences. So with my doc gave me a stern talk and told me to get more exercise and to lower my BMI. Given this information I have come up with some goals. As part of this journey I will be working on three main elements of my life.

  1. Continuing to get fit. Making sure my body is always ready to do any challenge I feel like trying.
  2. I want to work on my mind. I have less patience than I used to and I want to work on that. I want to spend more time enjoying every moment with my family.
  3. I want to work on eating more vegetable and helping my family to do the same.

 

Now for reference I am not a foodie or a chef by any means. I am not the biggest fan of cooking and my dishes come out fairly mediocre. So any recipe I try better be easy! I also do not have a distinguishing palate so I can only say if a dish is good, bad, or maybe needs something. For the life of me will not be able to identify what is needed although I will always start with garlic!   Each week I will try some new recipes from around the internet mostly as I am too lazy to get in a cookbook and with four kids it is way easier to search on my phone here and there than it is to get out some books and not have them lose my spot. This week I went back to kale chips. Now I didn’t exactly use a recipe from online as I had done this before. However the last time I had done it I used parmesan cheese unfortunately one of the children had left it out and so I was left to improvise. Not a good spot for somebody who is not a great cook, but a common occurrence for a mother of four children. I decided to use this time as an experiment to get not only myself but my kids to eat more veggies.

First I started out with a nice bunch of organic Kale. I forgot to take a picture until after the end of the week so my kale looks a little weak but I will replace this picture with a nice one as soon as I buy more kale.

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I set the oven to 275°F. While the oven was warming up I washed two kale leaves and carefully dried. then I cut the main stem off and sliced them into bite sized pieces.

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I divided the kale into four bowls and sprinkled the will a small amount of olive oil, approximately 1 tbsp. Then I mixed the kale to make sure it was thoroughly covered. Next I added one of four different spices to each bowl: salt and pepper, garlic powder, taco seasoning and wasabi. I just sprinkled until they looked fairly covered after stirring it up. See this is where I fall down in the cooking category. Net time I will try to measure it out.   Oops. I then lined a cookie sheet with parchment paper as I hate messy clean up. I spread the contents of one bowl onto the cookie sheet and placed them in the oven.

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I let them cook for about 20 min and they came out perfectly crisp! Yay a win for me! Now for the results of the experiment.

  1. Salt and pepper- not too bad. The kids were not impressed. So I ate them.
  2. Garlic powder- very garlicky as I let one of my kiddos add it. The kids liked this one the best but agreed it was a little too garlicky. I ate them.
  3. Taco seasoning- this one turned out surprisingly well and was the second most liked flavor. I also ate these.
  4. Wasabi-the worst. I am not sure what I did wrong but these were horrible! There was no wasabi flavor or heat at all. I looked forward to these the most but was sadly disappointed.   I kept eating these hoping the next bite would be better. I was wrong.

In the end the kids were not impressed, but I remembered how much I love kale chips! I would however go back to parmesan as even with this experiment parmesan was the best. Unless maybe I added parmesan and garlic! Either way kale chips are super easy and can be a fun experiment!

 

Well that is it for the first food related post! I hope to do at least one a week and hopefully they will get better and more organized! Please comment and let me know what worked and what didn’t!

Scars of accomplishments

This week has been a reminder of why I exercise. Alan Rickman and David Bowie both passed away from cancer. It is another not so subtle reminder that this lovely disease has made its mark on my life. But this is where I choose to let it end. I acknowledge my fears and concerns that my life may be shortened as these peoples’ lives were.   If I were so inclined I might even have a good cry. Then I let it go. I look in the mirror at my jagged scar on my chest and I remind myself how it looks like Harry Potter’s scar. Just like it served dually as a reminder of what could have happened it also serves to remind me of what I can do. Then I raise my arms and check out how my guns are coming along. Yes I have a slight obsession with my musculature because those muscles tell me what I can do.

I can swing around 40lb bags of pellets fairly easily.

I can easily pick up all four of my children. Not all at once but every now and then I lift three at a time.

I can heave around the Christmas tree I cut down in my yard.

I can do around 25 push-ups should I feel inclined.

I can literally hang around the playground with my children.

I can see my leg muscles becoming more defined and in them I can see what strength they have given me.

I can hike a 14,000 ft mountain in Colorado and they will take me on many more!

I can run 13.1 miles by the ocean in California or in the mountains by my house.

I can run around and goof off with my children on the playground.

I can do squats while holding my 80lb daughter showing her that strength and love will often coexist.

I can take on any challenge placed in front of me or more importantly chosen by me.

So I will head outside when I can and even when I feel I can’t because I must let those muscles be free to remind me what I can do.

 

 

The Background

To understand where I am now you must first understand where I have been.  I believe that everything in our past leads us to be able to accomplish what we must do in the present.  So here it goes.

In the summer of 2012 I was sitting pretty.  I had just turned 34 and had celebrated my youngest child’s 2nd birthday. I had just lost a few pound before going on a dream family vacation to Florida.  My four children seemed to be loving the beach, the ocean, and the pool. I was still nursing my youngest at two and I was even enjoying the ocean! I have a great fear of drowning and have always sunk in water so this was a huge accomplishment! I had received my first job offer as a math teacher and was getting an even more promising job opportunity while we were there.   I felt pretty healthy as I could keep up with my kids and even carry my two youngest around at the same time almost everywhere. Granted their total weight was a whopping 40 pounds, but I could do it for long distances!

Our return led to a great change in all that bliss. I breast lump that I had been watching for two years seemed a little different, but given that I had been watching it for two years I was not worried. Luckily my doctor was. This began the worst health year of my life as I was diagnosed with stage 2 or 3 breast cancer.   We don’t know the exact staging as I choose to start with chemotherapy first rather than surgery which is where they usually stage cancer. I had 6 rounds of chemo, a mastectomy, more chemo, a hysterectomy, and radiation. I tried a few osteoporosis medications but they left me crippled with joint pain. Now I am just on an anti estrogen medication.

I have a completely changed body from where I was 3.5 years ago. I have persistent joint pain in my hands and feet from osteoporosis medication. Some days I cannot grip things tight enough to open things due to the pain. I must ask my children for help or use scissors. My left chest and shoulder musculature are week and scar filled. I must be careful not to have any wounds or scratches on my left arm to avoid infections as I have no lymph nodes for that arm. I must also not wear anything tight on that side to make sure I have no fluid accumulation in that arm. My math brain is mush. I have a hard time doing simple calculations. I had to quit my job to focus on treatment and my children and I can no longer return to teaching as I have such a hard time with simple math. Teenagers generally don’t trust a math teacher who has to use a calculator for everything.

My body is different and so am I. I had a strong desire to spend a lot of time outside after the treatment was over and so I started hiking. I live in the mountains and finished treatment in the spring so this was a cheap easy activity to do. I had lost a great deal of musculature so the start of my hiking was slow as I gradually rebuilt my muscles. I had to be sure to workout frequently or I would lose what small gain I had made. I worked toward a goal of hiking a 14,000ft peak in Colorado. As I worked toward that goal I had to fit in short hikes where I could and one day I discovered I had a short amount of time before the sun went down. So I ran a few sections of the trail and discovered that running wasn’t altogether terrible! So I continued running with my dog who seemed to love the activity far more than I. The more I ran the less pain I noticed in my feet and hands! This activity that I had avoided my whole life seemed to be the only thing to keep my pain down in my joints!

I jumped in with two feet and started running 4 days a week. At first I would just jog as far as I could and then walk until I felt I could run again. I repeated this until I could run most of the way down my road. As soon as I had that down I had to work on the big hill that led back to my house! Once I conquered that, which took months, I decided that this new activity was really fun and my pain had virtually disappeared. Thus began my running life.

Since then I have run one half marathon and am training for a trail half marathon now. I have spent many hours reading and researching nutrition. I have become a vegetarian and every day I work towards becoming healthier to be around for my children and to help them to become healthier. This blog will be about my journey to better fitness and health and how I can help my family in the process. I hope that posting will help keep me trying new recipes and setting new exercise goals!