Posted in exercise, mental health, mindset, parenting, physical health, podcasts

Running with The Kid

The Kid has an enormous amount of energy.

To be honest, it’s exhausting.

But it’s who he is and, for the most part, it’s good for him. As a general rule, we all are too content to sit. He often can when he needs to and the rest of the time? In motion.

He received a small indoor trampoline for his birthday last fall, and while not aesthetically pleasing, it was a welcome addition to our living room. He used it frequently.

By mid-July, the beginning of our 5th month of shelter-in-place, I noticed that his energy was waning. He was more content to sit and almost never used the trampoline. Easier for me, sure, but a definite red flag.

School started online in early August, and while he doesn’t have hours upon hours in front of the computer, he does have hours of school work, and no playground to run around on.

This is not evidence that we need to go back to school. This is evidence that I need to do more to keep him moving.

I decided to bring him in to my morning running routine. We started with a plan of two weekday morning runs per week and one run on the weekends. We chose a short loop in our neighborhood dubbed The Cat Lady Loop and two mornings each week, we’d go out and run three quarters of a mile. He can usually do that distance without complaint and we didn’t need a ton of time to get it done.

We did two runs as planned that first week, decked out in bathing suits so we could swim for 10 or 15 minutes when we got home.

Over the weekend, we ended up hiking instead.

The Kid has a couple of podcasts he listens to regularly, including one called The Big Fib. The Big Fib is in the midst of a several-part series and he was anxious to hear the next episode, telling me he couldn’t wait until Thursday when it was available.

Thursday morning last week, I downloaded the new episode onto my phone and we listened to it while we ran a new route.

Together, we easily went just over a mile without any of the usual “this run is too long” complaints.

“Mom! That wasn’t even hard!”

In our post-run swim, we talked a bit and he suggested we go three mornings before school instead of just two. At first, we decided Monday, Wednesday, Friday, but then we decided to change Friday to Thursday. So we could listen to the new episode of The Big Fib on our run. The episodes and our time running nearly perfectly line up.

Yesterday, we easily ran a mile while listening to the new episode. Wednesday, without a podcast, we ran a mile on a new loop, as yet unnamed. No problem.

This weekend, we’re going to try the Starbucks loop (without a stop for a drink)—1.6 miles. He’s done it quite a few times with a fair amount of walking. I will definitely bring podcasts for that one but with him running more consistently, I’m curious to see how he does compared to last time, maybe a month ago.

This week, his energy is higher. He’s bouncing on his trampoline again. He’s walking around to tell stories again.

I’m relieved. And I’m happy to have a morning running partner. Even if we’re only running a mile.

♦    ♦    ♦    ♦    ♦

As an aside, here are the podcasts he listens to:

  • The Big Fib
  • Brains On!
  • Smash Boom Best
  • Big Life Kids Podcast
  • Eat Your Spanish
  • Tumble Science Podcast
  • Wow in the World
  • Stories Podcast
  • Storynory
  • The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian
Posted in about me, ebb & flow, exercise, mental health, mindset, motivation, physical health

Depression prepared me for shelter-in-place

First: this is my experience. It might not match yours.

I’ve struggled with depression for about as long as I can remember. In relatively recent years, I’ve learned how to manage it.

Mine seems to be connection-related. When I feel well-connected to important people, my brain chemicals stay happy. When I feel disconnected from people, my brain tries to kill me. Occasionally literally.

There is a limit to how much control I have over being connected to people. Everyone is busy. There is no village. (This is a highly destructive side effect of our “rugged individualism” and so many of us struggle with it.)

What can I do that doesn’t involve other people?

I can run. High-intensity exercise in general is helpful, but running seems to deliver the most immediate and most reliable hit. People in my circle know that if I’m struggling, an entirely appropriate suggestion is to go for a run. It doesn’t magically make everything better, but it does improve my mood and tidy my mind.

The thing is—I don’t love running. It vacillates between pretty good and tedious, depending on the day. I don’t run long distances. (Two half marathons taught me that 13 miles is too many miles.)

On the other hand, I love how I feel after I’ve run.

Between the couch (or the bed) and the post-run goodness, I have to get changed (ugh), I have to wear socks (ugh), I have to run (ugh), I need to wait until I’ve cooled off before I can shower or change or I will get out of the shower still sweating* (ugh), I need to get dressed again (ugh).

(*In the summer here, it takes at least 20 minutes after coming back in the house to stop sweating, but since we put in a pool, I just jump in after a run and refresh that way and that’s definitely not at all ugh.)

There are a lot of places for this to get derailed.

As a result, I’m quite used to forcing myself to exercise when I don’t really feel like it.

Speaking of “when I don’t really feel like it”…

High-functioning depression requires so much powering through. Getting tasks done when I don’t feel like it is a way of life.

Enter shelter-in-place.

I will not be in a good head space if I stay in my house all day.

I get up and get dressed every week day. This still affords me “lazy Saturdays” if I want them.

The weather was gorgeous when this all broke in March. It was easy to go for an afternoon walk and a run some other time and a bike ride with the family in the evening.

And then it was summer.

Afternoon walks stopped.

I learned to get up and go for a run first thing in the morning. And to do something outside in the evening when the sun was low or set. Whether I felt like it or not, because my mental health depends on it.

This is what I’ve been doing all along. The what and then when look marginally different. When I go back to working at work, running in the morning will stop, because I have a limit on how early I’m willing to get up. I don’t need to worry about that now, though. All I need to know is that this morning, I dragged myself out of bed and went for a run.

 

 

 

Posted in about me, cancer, ebb & flow, gratitude, physical health

The cancer bus ride started 13 years ago

Lucky number 13!

Thirteen years ago, I started my cancer journey (though the diagnosis didn’t come for another week or so).

It changed everything and it changed nothing.

It was not a blessing in disguise. It didn’t “happen for a reason” (except for whatever the biological root causes were … for which science has guesses but not answers).

It did have a lot of silver linings.

I was lucky—as lucky as one can be going through half a year of chemo, a month of radiation, and continuing on afterwards—in that my long-term side effects have been minimal. (Long-term side effects of the radiation, if I have them, aren’t expected to kick in for another few years. And they are terrifying, so here’s to hope that they pass me by.)

“Still alive” is a good baseline, but quality of life matters.

That’s true whether you’ve had cancer or not.

New Year and birthdays are often calendar points where we might be reflective and introspective.

This date and my cancer-free date (one week before Thanksgiving) give me two additional calendar points to pause and reflect for a minute.

Privileged to be able to forget most of the time that I ever went through it all in the first place. To be able to plug along.

Grateful to be here, to be healthy, to be writing, to be photographing, to have a son (infertility is a common side effect).

My wish for you is to assess or reassess without death threatening you. Or, if you currently feel threatened by death, use it as motivation to introspect. Use it as an excuse to be vulnerable with your people. (And make that a habit.)

Here’s to the next 13 and more! Cheers!

Posted in about me, exercise, mental health, motivation, physical health

Another morning habit I won’t keep

I finally hit the wall. Which is funny, because I’ve mostly been sitting.

For the past six weeks, I’ve been going for a walk almost every afternoon, to get some sun and fresh air and get out of the house. Until recently, it’s been nice out. Now that it’s officially “hot” (100+ degrees), I’ve started using a sun umbrella and taking a water bottle.

We’ve been biking three to five evenings each week with The Kid.

We’ve been lifting out in the garage usually twice a week.

We’ve been running sporadically.

But I still don’t feel … active enough? I think there’s just not enough days with heart rate up. The bike rides tend to be slow, walking in hot weather with an umbrella is average pace. Neither of those raise heart rate.

Also, I’ve been waking up around 6 most mornings, usually just before or with The Climbing Daddy’s alarm. The Kid wakes up between 7 and 7:30. So I have an hour or more most days between when I get up and when the chaos begins.

Twenty of those minutes go to journaling; that still leaves time.

So I decided to go out and run. Not far—1.5 to 2 miles. If some day I’m inspired to run more, I will.

Today was the first morning to run. Today, of course, I woke up close to 7. Tired.

Laying in a puddle of sleepy shame, I decided to start tomorrow.

I got out of bed to go to the bathroom. The act of getting out of bed and starting to move was all it took. I decided that I could run today and that I would feel better if I ran today and didn’t postpone it for another day.

So I went. It was cool (relatively) and sunny and lovely outside. I did a slow-even-for-me mile and a half.

The run itself was fine—not amazing, not terrible—and the feeling of getting it done is excellent. The mood-boosting benefits of the run are always welcome.

As an added bonus, when I got home, I texted a screenshot from the tracking app to a friend. (We often text about exercise things and will congratulate or encourage each other. Kind of long-distance exercise buddies.) I included the text: “Almost didn’t do it. Feels good to get it done.”

She replied, “You inspired me. I was literally putting on my shoes to walk the dog, but I think we’ll run a bit now.” And they did.

Gotta start somewhere. I started today.

Posted in about me, cancer, ebb & flow, gratitude, motivation, physical health

An anniversary without which there are no others

It was a long, rectangular room, with posh reclining chairs lining three walls and turning the corners on the fourth. The remaining space had a counter with cabinets and maybe a sink behind it. I don’t remember more detail than that.

Except that attached to the front side of the counter was a small Liberty Bell replica, one that works.

On the last day of chemo, when you get up out of your comfy chair, poison coursing through your veins for the last time, you get to ring the bell.

Twelve years ago today, I rang the bell.

Of course, you’re nowhere near done with all that cancer or cancer treatment have to offer. The short-term side effects of that treatment were still looming. The long-term side effects … well … I’m not sure all of those ever go away. And of course, the increased risk of other cancers as a result of this cancer’s treatment? That doesn’t go away.

You really don’t know that cancer isn’t what kills you until you die of something else. I mean, it’s nowhere near acute any more, but I am, both medically and self-defined, at risk for cancer.

As per doctors, Leukemia, skin cancer, and breast cancer all gained some strength in their potential as a result of the treatments. They haven’t mentioned thyroid cancer, but they didn’t protect my thyroid during radiation treatments (that I recall), so I’d guess that one is on the list, too.

As per my own thinking, my body has already shown me that it’s willing to flip on the “good host” switch.

Sometimes being a good host is not a good choice.

So I do things to reduce my risk. As much as I possibly can? No. But quite a bit. (You could argue that it’s more than most people do, but how my body actually functions has nothing to do with that comparison, so I avoid it.)

I also work to reduce The Kid’s risk. Because there are even more carcinogenic materials in normal life than there were when I was young—and they affect fetuses and kids more than adults—but many of them are avoidable. (It might be my greatest frustration that making money trumps consumer safety, and the countless loopholes available to businesses who want to avoid inconvenient or potentially expensive restrictions on ingredients/components.)

All that said, it’s been a hell of a dozen years. The best of times, the worst of times, and all that.

I was doing well at living well, and then I got knocked off course. I’m on my way back to doing well at living well.

Grateful every day for health and mobility, even when it feels like being excused to lay on the couch for 6 months would be great.

I can vouch: it’s not great. (And I wasn’t even in bad enough shape from chemo actually to be laid up the whole time.)

I recommend being preventative as much as you reasonably can and picking one or two things to be diligent about. Don’t wait until you have a positive biopsy before you assess your habits. (Or, truly, any other unpleasant health diagnosis. Cancer is a big one, but it’s certainly not the only.)

You are worth the time, the energy, the effort.