Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Luck of 2011

The Greeks have this tradition where on the first day of the New Year we eat bread. Ok, it’s a little more complicated than that. We buy a round loaf of sweet bread, called Vasilopita or in English St. Basil bread, made special for the New Year holiday. What is special is that a coin is placed in the bread dough and then baked inside the bread.

When the first day of the New Year arrives we cut the bread into slices and dedicate each piece to an aspect of our lives and the people in the family. For example, every year we cut the bread into 11 pieces and dedicate them to the following: home, health, finance/work, and then the 8 people in our family (each member gets their own slice). When we are handed our pieces, everyone digs through their bread. The person who has the coin in their piece is bestowed good luck for the New Year. The year 2011 was my first year in which I had the coin. So, according to the Greeks I should have had a very lucky year. In retrospect I did. I have a very happy and healthy son, my relationship with my husband has grown stronger, and I have discovered my love for running. Of course 2011 had its pitfalls, mostly in the academic and job arena. But I learned a valuable lesson.

What I learned in 2011 was that I need to make myself (health and happiness) my number one priority. Once I learned this (which wasn’t easy), everything else just fell into place. Along this path of health and happiness, I discovered myself. I am pretty sure I lost my sense of identity along time ago, even before becoming a mommy and wife. My priority was school and work and it’s no surprise that the strong focus on these two aspects in my life have paid off immensely. But I was a workaholic with no outside interests. I forgot what I loved to do, because I never had the time to do it.

When I had my son in April 2010, it took almost a year to discover that the way I had been living life before wasn’t what life was about. March 2011 was when I turned it all around; school (as important as it is) became lower on my priority list. And jobs which I would have died to have before, I so graciously turned down. My priority became taking care of my family. And to do that to my fullest I needed to make sure I was feeling happy. I hit the gym and soon after I told myself I was going to do something I never thought I could, run a half marathon. And I did. That goal opened a door to a world I never imagined being at my fingertips.

The year 2011 wasn’t about luck; it was about learning to live life correctly by trying to enjoy every day.   Granted I did have my setbacks (mostly between Thanksgiving and Christmas), but the setbacks I experienced were necessary reality checks to help inspire and motivate me to continue being strong for myself and my family.

2011 was an amazing learning experience. But 2012 will be the year I shine. As John Lennon sang in his song Instant Karma “Well we all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun…Why in the world are we here surely not to live in pain and fear.”

Be Inspired, Stay Motivated, Run Strong! Happy 2012

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My First Blind Date and it Involved Sweat and Stretching!

Yesterday I had my first blind date, and it was AMAZING!

In March I invested in a personal trainer. Best money I ever spent. GeraldDean was amazing, she quickly whipped my ass into shape. She never took excuses and always pushed me harder. GeraldDean was Irish and was (at one point) a part of the Celtic group River Dance. I don't know if it was because of the Irish superstition of luck, but whenever I had an exercise with reps she always made me do one more for luck. And it became a habit of mine to always push to do one more sit-up, pushup, pull-down, etc, for luck. GeraldDean trained me until my first half-marathon in October (Disney Wine and Dine) and when I got back I had a message on my machine. Because of obligations to her dancing troupe in Long Island and future traveling she was quitting my gym and no longer employed as a personal trainer. My heart sunk, she was my rock in this new journey of mine.

So I decided that I would take sometime to train myself, using what she taught me, and I hit the road. After 2 months of being MIA from the gym I finally went back, more because it was too cold outside for a decent run. While there I bumped into the head of all the trainers and he informed me that I had 5 more sessions left. Not wanting to waste the money, I told him that I would like someone who could help me improve my pace and teach me to be a stronger runner.

The next day is when I met her, my new trainer. Alexandra was amazing. A triathlete who refused to train anyone who wasn't either a runner, swimmer, or biker. We did some great strengthening exercises  (which I will post about later) and when we were finished she stretched me out and rolled a medicine ball on my stiff muscles. It was the best experience. Along with the training, every four weeks we will do a session where she takes my biometrics and determines my future workouts based on the results. She also promised that within the next few months I will see an improved pace (we shall see, keeping my fingers crossed).

The funny thing was, every time I would slow down during a rep she would look me in the eyes and say in a greek accent "You are a Runner. A strong, determined Runner." You bet your ass I am!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Love I Took for Granted

Do you know that saying (I'm sure you do), that one that says something like "If you love something let it go and if it's meant to be it will come back."? I know that I just stated it totally wrong, but you understand. Well, that's been me and running the last month. Running let me go, gracefully. The truth is it happened slowly. And it all began during an amazing five miler I was having.

I was running through the upper west side of Manhattan, keeping an awesome pace (actually one of the best paces to date) and at mile 4.85 I fell into a pot hole. I just shook it off and kept going, but at the end I knew I twisted my ankle pretty bad. It hurt, but what was worse was how bad the small injury shook me. I had been running since March and had minor setbacks (shin splints and sore muscles). But it was the first time that running reached out and hurt me. And with any relationship that hurts, I got scared. I know it was only a twisted ankle, but for the first time I realized that I was vulnerable during the only time I felt safe. Running has been my escape, my paradise. Me and the road. No worries about my relationships, being a mom, school, work; and for the first time I felt good about me. The depression that had engulfed my life had disappeared. This was my world of running. But after the minor setback I was hesitant, it hurt me like so many other aspects of my life. Just like the way I was raised (resist conflict by all measures), I let go. I put my running shoes in the closet and I stepped away. And slowly I fell apart.

It was crazy to realize how the activity of running was keeping my world together. It was the glue that kept me grounded. But I didn’t realize the extent until now. Thanksgiving came and I ran the treadmill a little bit, but not the mileage that I was use to. And as the holiday approached I slipped into a depression. Thanksgiving has always been hard since I lost a friend 5 years ago in a very tragic car accident the day before the holiday.

After the holiday I became swamped in school work and mommy obligations. The two constantly conflicted with one another which began to cause massive guilt to build up. There were numerous times where I was on the verge of a melt-down; and at one point where it just happened. Sitting at my desk I just cried and cried. Why couldn’t priorities be easier to manage? The stress of my PhD program was taking a toll on my marriage and every day my husband and I were at each other’s throats. Keeping sane was becoming more difficult, I felt like I was drowning and once again my life felt like it was falling apart and depression began to slowly take over.

One day after coming home from a long day of work and school, I opened my closet and there sat my beautiful bright blue running shoes. For the first time in my life I felt a love towards an inanimate object. I picked them up and gazed at them. My shoes missed me as much as I needed them. At that moment I gathered all my running gear and packed it away in my gym bag. I walked out into the living room and informed my husband that I was going into work early so I could run. The next morning I woke up excited. Today was the day I reconciled with a love I didn’t really know I had.
I drove to work, dropped off items in my office, and hurried over to the gym. I walked the track a few laps to warm up and then jumped on a treadmill. For 40 minutes I gave it my all. Granted it wasn’t as good as my previous five mile run, but it had been a while. The moment I stepped off the treadmill, I had a bounce in my step. I was happy and I felt good. I gradually got back on the horse and it felt great. I am not as edgy and snippy which has decreased the tension in my marriage. And the guilt of having to be away from my son has somewhat subsided.

Running has taught me time management. It has also shown me that my number one priority is taking care of my physical and mental self. A happy mommy is a good mommy. Looking back I feel bad about taking time off. But in all honesty, I needed to truly see how this sport has shaped me and made me stronger.

So my running affair continues. Every date we have is one that I will never again regret.