I’ve moved!!

•January 22, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Hello blog readers!

I’ve moved my blog and website to a new host where I’ll be expanding the site, adding new features and generally living out loud — but even bigger. It’s exciting and I want you to join along! Please update your bookmarks, RSS feeds, subscriptions, etc. in order to keep following me and keep the conversations going!

See me at www.amymoritz.com

Keep training and finding adventure!

Amy

Pool running: Feeling like a cartoon character

•January 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

There is always a certain amount of dread at the beginning of an interval workout. Pacing, whether it be by land or chlorine, is still an elusive art for to me. This week’s interval swim workout featured 200 yard sprints. The longer the sprint, the more dread tends to build, both over how much it will hurt and low-grade concern over hitting the prescribed times.

Ah, but the most excellent news is that my coach is Canadian. From time to time, he forgets to convert distances. Hence, while he knows I’m currently swimming in a pool where one length equals 25 yards, I’m pretty sure he gave me the split time for meters instead. I sense this because my slowest of the six 200-yard intervals was 21 seconds faster than the time he gave me.

The good thing about being able to make up stories in your head is that you can make up great stories. Sure, it probably was the wrong time. But this time, I let myself think that I was superfly and super fast. In a week where I got the news that running had to be shut down for about two more weeks, it was just the story I needed to tell myself.

Then came the pool running.

I have described that I feel ridiculous doing this.

Let me walk you through it.

First, I strap on an aqua jogging belt. It’s not a floatation device, but it is buoyant and keeps me from sinking.

Then, I go.

You use a regular running motion. (Oh and yes, you’re in the deep end, not running on the bottom of the pool.) Swing your arms as normal and use your normal stride. The big key is to stay upright and not lean forward.

It feels a bit unnatural at first. Kind of like running in jello. Or as if you are a cartoon character, running suspended in space. I think about the Hall of Justice from Super Friends and ask myself if I feel a bit superhero like. Nope. No superhero. Just one of those crazy, silly and lovable cartoon characters.

I move ridiculously slow and am sure the swimmers in the pool are looking at me and rolling their eyes. (Then again, I’m pretty sure that swimmers do that to me when I’m actually doing a swim workout. So really, the only difference here is that my head is above water and I’m not looking at the world through my blue-tinted metallized  lenses.)

My time pool running is spent concentrating on my form. Allegedly, you can change up your speeds, but at the moment I have only two speeds: Run and Float.

Runners have long used pool running as a way to recover from injury and with great success. Anecdotally, I’ve heard about runners who took to the pool and returned to land to win championships or give personal best performances.

The revered magazine Runner’s World has written about ways to make pool running fun and touts it not just as a cross-training method but as a way to actually maintain your running fitness and form through an injury.

And so while I feel a bit silly and awkward, the pool running is starting to grow on me. I get to watch what’s going on at the pool, something impossible when your face is constantly in the water lap after lap. Plus, I get to create new stories for myself.

I become a champion pool runner. Where does she get her spirit from? Look at her go. In another three minutes she’ll have another lap completed. Pool runner extraordinaire!

I smile, laugh at myself, and climb out of the pool, happy and spent.

Injury recovery: The effectiveness of the ridiculous

•January 20, 2011 • 3 Comments

When the phrase “hilly run” was uttered, the doctor just smiled.

He listened to my brief history and description of my symptoms and confirmed my self-diagnosis. I have plantar fasciitis in my right foot.

There were no surprises here, but getting a trusted medical opinion in addition to the experiences of my coach and my stellar Internet searching skills seemed not only harmless but potentially valuable. What I like about this particular podiatrist is that he (a) is an athlete, hence he understands my desire to return to training and my desire for long-term health and (b) does not want to waste my time.

And so we start with a lot of little things. And some of them just make me feel silly.

Time, however, to embrace that silly things are often good for us.

On my rehabilitation docket:

1. Rest

Shocker. No running for another two weeks while my foot heels. Also, no weight training exercises which involve squats. This means so long to my kettlebell workouts for the moment, but there are plenty of other things I can do. Included on the list: downhill skiing, ice skating and snowshoeing (if I stretch first). Cross country skiing is out for the time-being. Since I have never been on skis, this is not a huge crimp in my winter style. But since I did want to try skiing this winter (adventure resolution!) it’s nice to know that downhill face plants can still be in my immediate future.

Among the training activities I can do, pool running has been added to the end of my swim workouts. There are grand stories of runners who have used pool running to key successful returns from injury. I believe them. I believe my coach. But have you ever done pool running? You feel … ridiculous. More on this in a future post. Trust me, though. It’s ridiculous.

2. Treatment

I was issued an AirForm Night Splint to wear when I sleep (or watch TV, read, blog, etc.) The splint keeps my foot at a 90-degree angle which gently stretches the plantar fascia. These, I am told, are supposed to be very effective. I understand the science and believe my medical professionals. However, it feels slightly ridiculous to sit on the couch with this apparatus attached to my lower leg. It feels even more ridiculous to crawl into bed with it on.

Is there a pattern in my recovery here? Ridiculous seems to equal effective.

Also part of the treatment plan: an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory daily and rolling a frozen water bottle under my foot for 20 minutes after any physical activity.

3. Rehabilitation

I’m headed to physical therapy for some ultrasound and stimulation. Ah, another new experience.

In addition, at home it’s time to add some specific exercises to my daily routine. One is a stretch for the back of my leg, the other is a strengthening move that involves curling a towel with my toes. OK, the towel move? Yep, it registers on the ridiculous meter.

But if the ridiculous helps calm the inflammation in my foot and gets me back into my running shoes, then bring on the silly feeling. If nothing else, I’ll have plenty of reasons to smile at myself through the recovery process.

Haiku for a Winter Day

•January 19, 2011 • 2 Comments

Some days, minimalism just feels like the right way to go. Strip down the chaos, the unnecessary clutter and focus only on the essentials:

Laundry pile slowly shrinks

Organization

Healing happens with patience

My focus today is creating the space for amazing things to happen in the next few days. And now for my moment of Zen on a cold, gray winter day. Embarrassing? A tad. But it makes me smile remembering the little kid inside of me, who could care less what anyone else thought:

My mom and Miss America

•January 18, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Somewhere there is a picture of my mother in curlers.

The shot is vivid in my mind. The colors slightly faded, the way old pictures are. She a young woman, dyeing her blonde, with her hair up in big rollers covered in a net. She has the goofy look people give when caught off guard and smiling for the camera. The shot is a bit fuzzy, probably taken in haste. And for some reason, the color yellow is prominent in my memory.

The photo is not part of my stash of family memorabilia. I looked and couldn’t find it. I suspect after describing it, my mother will locate and destroy it.

It, however, is the first visual which comes to mind when it’s Miss America pageant time.

The story goes that the night of the Miss America pageant my mother always received a Toni Home Permanent. I’m not sure how old she was, or how long the tradition lasted, but I know she and my grandmother were involved in the home perm beauty night.

Me? I never had a perm, home or otherwise. My mother cursed my hair as a child as the waves turned to snarls. Oh, there were tears before elementary school when she would comb my hair back into a ponytail. (Dear Mom: There is a head attached to the hair. Love, Amy.) We watched the Miss America pageant every year but I never had much interest in the pageant circuit myself. It wasn’t that I thought badly of beauty pageants or of the people who did them. It was that I didn’t think I belonged anywhere near anything to do with beauty.

This year, I did not watch the Miss America pageant, in part because I don’t have a working television connection but more pressingly because I was working in the sports department newsroom. So I did not see Miss Nebraska win the crown. But I did think of my mom and frizzy hair.

Once upon a time, the Miss American pageant stood as the symbol of all that was wrong with gender stereotyping. And there’s something to be said for perpetuating a limited view of how women should look, of judging outward appearance and of trying to quantify things like beauty and grace.

No, I may not ever have the outward looks of a contestant in a Miss America pageant. But just as I’ve learned to redefine myself as an athlete, I’m learning to redefine myself as beautiful. It’s a slower process than the athletic one, but my athletic journey has taught me just how powerful the stories are which I tell myself — and how capable I am of changing them.

There won’t be any Toni Home Permanents in my future, though some days I have the urge to go a great Sephora spree. Other days, I’m quite content in my post-work out compression socks and messy, sweaty ponytail. And I’m learning that I can feel beautiful either way.

Wear layers and keep moving

•January 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The website which routinely delivers my weather news noted it felt like 9 degrees. It was starting to snow. And I was ready to go.

It was time to head out for a snowshoe adventure. Granted it was tame both in duration and terrain. And granted at the farthest possible corner of the loop my toes and fingers were starting to go numb. And that plantar fasciitis in my right foot? Yeah, it was starting to bother me.

But that jaunt was exactly what I needed.

Forget crisp. This was cold bordering on bitter.  A shock to the senses sometimes helps stir things up, physically and mentally.

Yes, winters in Western New York can be tough. And long. And did I mention long? Previous coping mechanisms had been to eat junk food, watch too much television and whine. But that no longer fits into what I want for my life. So the only other option is to embrace winter.

How to survive in the cold? Wear layers and keep moving. Ice skating has been part of my activity repertoire. When I was but a toddler, our backyard flooded in the fall, froze in the winter and my dad strapped four-bladed skates to the bottom of my boots. If memory serves correct, Tuesdays and Thursdays were free skate at the Kenan Center. Ice skates hung in my elementary school cubby during the day and we would walk to the rink instead of straight home after school.

In the past few years, I added snowshoes to my list of outdoor activities. Not that I’ve gone out on them often. The excuse is usually lack of playmates. Mark got me out this weekend and for that I am grateful. It’s right in line with my desires for this year — doing things I love with people I love — and it reminded me that if we move in the direction of the things we want, life has a funny way of supporting us.

For the first time in four years,, I enter a new calendar year without any big athletic firsts. No first triathlon. No first marathon. No first Ironman. My desire for performance goals are really just for my amusement and frankly doesn’t excite me like conquering those inaugural events did. Getting back healthy in order to train and race this summer is the real goal of the next few months. Healing, however, can be boring. And that’s been a difficult adjustment.

Just as I was looking for a bit of wisdom with which to start the week, The Dalai Lama had a tweet today (yes, the Office of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has a Twitter account) which read:

With the realization of ones own potential and self-confidence in ones ability, one can build a better world.

Sometimes, you see, it’s not necessarily about having a well-constructed plan. Often, it’s only about your energy and your thoughts.

Injury and training plans will come and go. My only true goal is to continue to create joy in my life. At times, without the big picture goal, life feels like a bit of an aimless wander. Sometimes aimless wanders are fun. Sometimes, they produce anxiety. When the later happens, the best course of action is to remember is to wear layers and keep moving.

Ice fishing: Another chance to create adventure

•January 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

The toe warmers jammed between my two layers of socks did not seem to be heating up. In fact, my feet were getting rather cold, but I was determined not to complain. This was part of the experience. OK, it’s a part of the experience most people try to avoid (hence the toe warmers) but what’s a numb foot on an adventure?

Best Boyfriend Mark had been waiting for this opportunity — to take me ice fishing. I had never been fishing before, ice or otherwise, and was up for giving it a try. Who knew? Maybe I was a great fisherwoman and didn’t know it.

The day after we returned from Disney, Mark eagerly waited for my call, picked me up and took me to procure my fishing license. For $29 and a few minutes of time at Dick’s Sporting Goods I became legally able to fish in New York State for a year.

We then headed out to the small boat harbor and found plenty of others already set up on the ice, some in tents, some braving the easterly wind that would bring in a general snow fall later that afternoon. We picked a spot, drilled two holes (Well, Mark drilled the holes. He wanted me to try. I declined.) and then put up the folding tent.

Mark helped me bait my hook. (And by help me, I mean he did it.) I plunked my line into my fishing hole and began to fish.

Fishing consisted of jiggling the line, waiting, jiggling the line, waiting, and occasionally checking to make sure my bait was still on my hook.

“Is there a skill to this?” I asked Mark. It seems as if the real skill in fishing is picking the right spot, although I did try to make up fish songs so that they would come and play with us.

Mark caught two fish first. Then I noticed my line starting to move away from me. I pulled the line up through the ice and — a fish! It was a smelt. I know nothing about smelt other than there is some sort of smelt festival in Lewiston every year and I find the name fun to say.

I got another smelt. Then there was a small tug on my line. I pulled it up and there was a sunfish — all colorful and pretty. I touched it briefly (meaning I put my finger on it). Mark got each fish off the hook and tossed it back into the water for me.

He caught a perch and a bass (though if put in a lineup, I’m not sure I could tell the difference just yet) but alas, I won the fish count: 5 to 4. This apparently is a slow day in ice fishing. Still, I was rather content. It was fun. It was different. It was relaxing. It was a different kind of adventure — not exactly a challenge, not quite action-packed, but one which still took me to a new place and outside of my comfort zone. All good adventures, big or small do that.

I had posted on Facebook that I was off to my first time ice fishing and a dear friend commented, “Amy, you live a cool life. You go girl!”

That made me smile. And pause.

I always wanted to live an interesting life, but never thought I did. Other people’s lives were interesting. Everyone else was cool. Me? I was boring.

But really, that was just a story I was telling myself, the story I chose to create. When I decided to choose a different story — to embrace challenges and new things and take opportunities and live from a place of joy — slowly, I began to see my life as pretty cool. I didn’t get there in one big leap. It came through choices made every day and it took a good friend to point out that what one of the things I want most for my life, I already have.

When we want to choose something different for our lives, we often seen it as needing to be big, dramatic and lasting. Often though, if we focus only on the choices we make for the day in front of us, the cumulative affect takes us to a new place, a better place, one that we otherwise couldn’t imagine if we had to sit and make a grande plan instead of letting life unfold.

We create our own story. We get to create our own adventure.

That wast the lesson the sunfish taught me as it swam back down into the icy waters of Lake Erie.

 
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