Friday, December 30, 2011

warm wet morning run, and getting sucker punched by the mirror

I forgot to check the weather as I was getting ready for my run this morning.  This meant stepping out to wet pavement and a light mist falling was a bit of a surprise!  I have rain gear, but I wasn't tempted to turn around and go back in for it.  This was mist, not really rain.  

I was dressed for 22 degrees and I think it was almost twice that warm.  This meant steady adjusting as I ran.  First I pulled the face warmer down off my face, so it was just a collar.  Then off came the big heavy mittens.  Then I had to zip my pullover down as far as it would go.  Finally, I pulled the face warmer even off of my neck and just carried it.  I was still pretty hot by the end of my run...enough that I was peeling off my gloves and my headband before I even got back into my building.

Last night I got to show my daughter and her hubby where my running route is.  It's a fun and -in truth- proud thing for me, showing people that.  She was in awe..."it's so long."  Well...yeah.  Really it IS quite long, for Karen from January 2011.  And Karen from December 2011 can do it without much difficulty.  Which is WAY cool.

I needed that bit of boost, I think.  I'm behind on laundry, so for 2 evenings I've been wearing jeans that are technically a size too small - that doesn't feel good.  And then at my sister's house last night I caught several glimpses of me in the mirror they have directly across from the toilet.  No matter how nicely one dresses, no matter how strategically one uses supportive undergarments to "nice it up," no matter how far I have come along the journey, fitness-wise...something about seeing myself with everything all hoisted up and pulled down and hanging out everywhere as I errr take a seat....UGGGGGHHHHHHH it's a bit more reality than I care to deal with.  But it's like a spectacular train wreck or matter how horrible the sight, my eyes just zoom right there to that blasted mirror every time I get in there.  They don't seem to know how not to.  

So....thanks, God, for the opportunity to feel encouraged after the mirror gave me several well-placed gut punches.  

He's pretty cool like that. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

mustn't move the shoes

My journey from bed to the street on running mornings is a very exact routine.  I do each little part of it exactly the same every day.  I get up, head for the bathroom, brush my teeth and hair, and get into my running clothes.  Then I go to the living room closet and get my shoes, reflective vest, headband and facewarmer.  I stop by the kitchen and grab a 100 calorie snack, which I eat while sitting on the couch and putting on my shoes.  I stretch (always the exact same stretches, in the exact same order).  I put on the reflective vest.  I put my glasses in a safe place where I can find them when I return (crucial, since I can't *see* them to find them).  I put on the headband and then the facewarmer, and zip my pullover neck allll the way up to seal the area around my neck.  I put my keys in my left pocket and my cell phone in my right.  I put on my skinny gloves and my big fat mittens.  And out the door I go.  

This is not so much an OCD thing as a simple coping mechanism for the fact that I just really can't think AT ALL at 4:25 in the morning.  I need everything to be the same, or I just can't figure out what to do next. 

I had taken all my running gear to Ames with me when I visited my son, so that I wouldn't miss the run (and I didn't!)  Getting home Monday night, I put my shoes in the spare bedroom, where I'm sleeping this week, having given my bed to my daughter and her hubby while they visit.  

I'm telling you...I can't change a little detail like where I put my shoes.

The end result of that was that I forgot my reflective vest this morning.  And didn't even realize it until I was almost home.  I DID notice while running that cars were getting a lot closer to me than usual...they normally go quite out of their way to give me about 15 times as much room as I actually need.  Every time one passed me at only 10 feet or so away, it startled me a little bit.  But I didn't notice WHY they might be so close (as in:  not seeing me until they were basically on top of me) until I was 5 minutes from being done.  DUH.  

Well anyway, I am certainly grateful for not getting run over this morning.  And I am more mindful than ever that I need to make sure all elements of the run gear are in their normal positions before I go to bed at night.  

In other news, near the end of my run today I ran 4 minutes continuously at a pace harder than I can remember running for that long up to this point.  Felt good, pushing me a little.  I need to do that; the dark of winter and the busy-ness of life have stolen almost all of my bike time, so I'm actually getting quite a bit less exercise now than I was a few months ago.  Which (in combination with my recent food struggles) would explain why (I'm pretty sure, at least) I've stayed at the same size (or even a wee bit bigger) for awhile now.  

The beauty of not being on a diet or a program - no need to freak out.  I will just keep pressing in to letting the Lord teach me to love my body - will just keep starting over every time I fall down...and the rest will work itself out.

I love the freedom in that.

Monday, December 26, 2011

go away, sleepy thing, and a run when tempted not to

One of the reasons I write (and there are many) is that I frequently have no earthly idea what I know until it runs off my fingers, through the keyboard, and startles me as it turns up on the page.  This happens to me quite frequently.  The most recent instance was this past Friday morning.  I was writing out my gratitude list (I do one most every morning), and suddenly I saw a pattern  I had written 3 things I was grateful for...and they were all about being given the grace and stamina to deal with being exhausted in different situations.  DING!  The light went on, and I realized....that sneaky little sucker is back.  Ohhhh no you don't! 

Sure, it had been 2 busy weeks...sure, I had some early mornings, some long work days, some late nights...but that thing that attaches itself to me and forces me to AIN'T from any of those things, folks.  It leaves tracks across my life, and I've been walking around for years not seeing it.  This time, though, the evidence on the page lit up my understanding, and before I wrote one more word, I stopped and prayed, reclaiming the ground that had been lost again and sending that icky little thing on out of Karen Territory.  Truth:  I was wiped out before I prayed, and was reset to "just fine, thank you very much" immediately upon noticing and praying.  And it hasn't pestered me all weekend, despite way too much road time, despite early mornings and being up wayyyyyy past my bedtime, despite making not the most stellar food choices.  

In a meeting with a friend and a pastor earlier this week, the pastor had mentioned that when we are delivered of things that are pestering us, when we are in Christ, it's like we have a "No Trespassing" sign in us.  BUT just like in the world we know, trespassing signs get ignored sometimes.  And when something has had a lot of permission for a long time to hang out in our lives, it is often fairly persistent in trying to find its way back in past the sign.  I believe that's the case between me and that thing that caused me so much exhaustion...that's been an issue for most of my life, and so I don't suppose it wants to be permanently separated from its right to mess with me.  Color me prepared for repeat action, where it may be necessary.

In other news, I was sorely tempted not to run this morning.  I am still at my son's house (leaving after I write this) but I have all my running gear with me.  The plan was to run.  But then last night he and I were having so much fun with all our technology toys that I totally lost track of, as he was serving up dinner he mentioned ironically that it was 10:45 PM, and I just about fell out of my chair.  I thought it was about 6 PM!  Not kidding!  

So I went ahead and ate supper, because I was hungry and it was yummy...and I even ate more than I should, knowing the lateness of the hour.  As I bid him good night, I said I didn't know if I'd make it up to run, and he told me I should just take a break.  And really...that sounded good.  After all, we took a nice bike ride yesterday before lunch.  It's not like it was a zero-exercise weekend!  And I had stayed up way too late, after all.  Maybe I'd just skip it.

But as I was going to sleep with my belly uncomfortably full of food and my legs a little achy, I realized:  I am going to spend 3 hours driving today.  Driving makes me sleepy AND it makes my legs swell.  Running combats both of those issues.  The most hateful thing I could do for this body on this morning was to skip my run!

So I was up and out at 7, sluggish and not at all graceful, but I DID do the full run, and my body is already thanking me, and my mind is clear and feels less likely to try to nod off on me on the interstate.  

Check it out:  exercise is its own reward in my life today!

Monday, December 19, 2011

back to the run, and not joining any programs

I got back out there for my run this morning, after having missed both Wednesday and Friday's runs last week due to fatigue from holiday event schedules.  Rolling out of bed at 4:25 felt absolutely wretched...but once I was out there on the pavement, it felt FANTASTIC.  So good to be back to what my body loves.  This week (especially after missing 2 runs last week) I am sticking with just running the faster-to-me but not-yet-3-steps-per-second rate for a full 30 minutes.  

I realized this morning that I've kind of been coasting, for the last week, where it comes to loving my body.  My food choices have not been stellar, on top of missing those 2 runs.  I've been sliding into not paying attention, and that's a major place of giving up ground in my life (I think it is part of the cause for all the times I've "found" the 50 or so pounds that I've lost so many times.)  So I've been leaning into the Lord this morning, and I'll keep pressing in for letting Him teach me to love my body.

Meanwhile, last week a coworker came to let me know he's working on starting a TOPS group at work.  Was I interested?  I think he was disappointed at my immediate no.  He tried to encourage me a bit, and I appreciate the intent - he didn't know me before my recent return from JPUSA, and my weight loss happens so slowly and such small increments that he probably is unaware that it is even happening.  To one with no history with me, I surely just look like a lady with a weight problem who should open herself to a program.  I just grinned at him and told him, "I am DONE with programs.  I am sticking with what I am doing - I've lost 50 pounds in the last year and a half."  This conversation happened while we were both quite busy, so I wasn't at liberty to explain the details of "what I am doing," so I suppose in some ways that conversation wasn't very fair to him.

Maybe I'll get a chance to clarify one day.

Happy Monday, all. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

this is my miracle healing story

Some of my blogs are easy to write...they trip off the ends of my fingers at 100 words per minute, require 2 minutes of editing, and - presto! - I am moving on to the next thing.  Others I wrestle with, clumsy, frustrated, and hit the "publish" button with some degree of loathing.  And then there are the ones I don't want to write at all.  This has been one of those.  Oh, it's not NEGATIVE.  Not a diatribe, not angry, not painful.  It's not high intellectualism or deep theology that can be so hard to shape into words.  It's the retelling of a story from my life - a miracle, really - and I just haven't wanted to tell it.

Cuz some of you will understand it, and some won't.

Some of you will get excited, and some will roll your eyes. 

Some of you will ponder it, and some will get offended, maybe.

That's what happens when we dip into the topic of spiritual healing.  <-There's your warning...if you want off this train, now's the time to do it, and I won't hold it against you!  If you read on, know that it's MY STORY, absolutely, 100% real in my life, and all I can do is re-tell it (after the Lord has hammered my reluctant butt about half a dozen different ways for not doing so already.)

Maybe you've read my stuff enough already to know that in August, I followed the Lord's leading and moved back from a dream realized in Chicago to return to a job with the best boss I've ever had in Rock Island, Illinois.  About a month after the move, I found myself getting tired.  Really, really tired.  First it was just the need to go to bed early - 9, then 8, then 7 PM most nights. 

I figured I was just adjusting to the change.  In Chicago, I worked a 6 hour shift  on weekdays, and I lived in community, which meant I didn't have to do any of my own cooking or shopping, and even cleaning was just helping my roommate keep one little room tidy (other than once every other month, when I had a few extra hours of work helping keep our building cleaned up).  It was a beautiful, much slower-paced life than the one I returned to.  In Rock Island, I work 8 hour days, and I do all my own everything.  I figured I was just adjusting.  That's why I was tired.  Just 45 years old, adjusting to dramatic change.  I'd rest a bit and move on through it.

But it kept getting worse.

Soon I was going home daily to eat lunch quickly, and then get in 10-35 minutes of nap before going back to work.  I needed the rest, to get through the afternoon.

Soon I was taking a 10-30 minute nap in the mornings before work, just so I could get moving enough to do work at 8 AM. 

Friends speculated that maybe I was depressed about having left Chicago.  I didn't FEEL depressed, though.  I mean, I've DONE depression, on a rather major scale, more than once in my life.  I know that place.  I was feeling WAY too blessed to be depressed.  I was having too much fun for that.  The well of peace in me was much too deep for that.  I was too constantly amazed at God's provision in my life for depression.  People kept raising it as a possibility.  I didn't argue.  But I knew for sure it wasn't so. 

I tinkered with my exercise regimen - more exercise, less exercise, a week off.  It didn't help.

I studied my diet for deficiencies.  I changed up my ratios of proteins to carbs and such.  It didn't help.

Soon I was going home from work some days as early as 3 go to bed...FOR THE NIGHT.  Around that same time, I missed a couple of days of work because I just flat could not get perpendicular for more than a few seconds.  I've been a somewhat low-energy person all my life.  Illness has often meant exhaustion for me.  I know tired.  But this...this was beyond anything I had ever experienced.  And nothing was making it better.

I had fought seeking medical help for a long time.  I didn't want some doctor to ask me 3 questions, not listen, make assumptions, and stick me on an anti-depressant.  But missing work meant I HAD to do something - my employer is way too good to me for any justification of not taking care of an issue that affects my work.  So I found a doctor and made an appointment.

The doctor (recommended by my boss of awesomeness) was wonderful.  He listened so intently.  He didn't cut me short.  He didn't make assumptions.  He made photocopies of all the notes I had printed out for him regarding my diet and exercise patterns and family health history - part of my objection to this exhaustion was that I was living more healthy than I have ever lived in my entire life.  Great exercise, fabulous could I be so tired?  Honestly, I was afraid.  I thought I was going to get big, bad horrible news since I had studied it all so intensely, tried so hard, and the exhaustion had only gotten increasingly worse over time.  The doctor ran tests:  EKG, full panel of blood screenings, urine test, and just to be safe he had me get my past-due mammogram and pap. 

He didn't speculate at all when I went that first time.  I truly appreciated that about him.  I felt like he had an open mind, and so often doctors seem to think they know the answer even before the whole story is out of my mouth.  I came home from that doctor appointment at 2:30 in the afternoon and went to bed and slept til what would normally have been my bedtime. 

When I got up for a late supper, I remembered "the book."  Oh.  The book.  I HATE the book.  It's a gift from a very wise and faithful friend.  It's called "A More Excellent Way - Be in Health" by Henry Wright.  The book is about spiritual roots of physical ailments.  Wright has done massive research and the stuff he shares in that book tends to be spot-on.  Unlike some spiritual healing movements, he doesn't say the illness is all in your head.  He basically explains, when you have this specific spiritual stronghold, your body responds in that physically measurable way.  The point of the book is that when you attack the illness at its spiritual root, you can often find it arrested or even healed, separate from the need for medical intervention. 

I hate the book because it so often says things to me that I NO WAY IN HELL want to consider.  It makes me mad.  It scares me, because it puts some serious tools in my hands (all faith-related) and challenges me to use them, and not just rely on a doctor to write me a prescription.  Often when I look something up in there, I say aloud that it is stupid and wrong and I throw it on the floor and walk away from it.  (If you thought I was some kind of incredibly mature and deeply faithful person, here's your true revelation about my wonderfulness....Karen becomes offended and throws tantrums when shown spiritual truth.

Well I didn't want to read the book.  I had already been studying SO MUCH on the internet, and pondering my family history, and I had decided that the doctor was going to tell me I had a thyroid problem.  I wasn't excited about the prospect of getting on thyroid meds...I hear that fine-tuning the right balance for those is often not fun, and who wants to have to take meds for the rest of their life?  Nonetheless, it looked like the sure answer.  I didn't want to read the book.  I glared at it from across the room for quite awhile before opening its pages. 

I looked up the stuff on thyroid.  It provoked the usual response in me - anger, frustration, denial (and I'm not putting all the detail about that here in this blog, cuz if you haven't read the book, you won't appreciate the answers in their fullness, and it will just create more doubt and possible we're just not going there, 'k?)  It listed specific spiritual strongholds as causes for thyroid, and gave testimony of people who were healed and med-free.  I considered the causes listed and was LIVID.  Both were areas in my life in which I had struggled in the past, but was CONSIDERABLY freer than I had ever been before.  Areas where I had received much healing.  Areas where I had grown and put much brokenness and weakness behind me.  This couldn't be my issue! 

The more I pondered it, the madder I got.  I thought about the people I know of who suffer from thyroid issues.  Down to the last one, I could see that the spiritual causes he listed were probably spot-on.  True of them, but surely not of me!  I was seething as I considered it.

I thumbed through the book, looking at lots of ailments that cause exhaustion.  They all seemed to come back to these same spiritual roots.  Well that just made me even madder.  "This is wrong and stupid!"  And I threw it on the floor.  If the book were alive, it would surely cringe when it sees me coming.  I hate that book.   

Having been awake for more than an hour, I was again exhausted.  As I rolled over to go back to sleep, a light dawned within me.  My anger was WAY out of proportion to the situation.  That's A HUGE SIGNPOST for further investigation.  I fell asleep praying and remembering instance after instance of spiritual growth, healing, and deliverance in the past 2 years.  In every case, without exception, here were the steps:

1.  Someone or something points out to me that I might have a spiritual issue.
2.  I become overly angry, saying silently to myself and even sometimes aloud what is really true:  "I have been delivered from that in a major way!  I've already had major healing in that area!"  I insist that it's wrong.  I don't have that spiritual issue.  Period.
3.  The Lord whispers silently to me...really, not even just a word...just...kind of like the feeling that He's raising one knowing eyebrow at me, you know?
4.  Filled with reluctance and fear, I concede.  Okay Lord, if You say so, I'll trust you.  Show me and I'll do what You say.
5.  BAM!  Often instantly, but always at least astonishingly quickly, He delivers me.  Often He does it with no further action requirement from me.  Sometimes I have to go make an amends or something.  But the healing and the freedom...they come SOOOO fast, once I surrender to Him.

That's what I fell asleep realizing.

I woke up ready to surrender.  I told the Lord that it seemed to me like He was showing me that my exhaustion had a spiritual root - probably one or both of the 2 the book mentioned.  I told the Lord I was terrified.  What if I believed this, and then I was wrong?!  What then?!  It's hard to describe how scary that possibility was, and outside of the situation I have NO IDEA why it's so scary.  But it's surely one of the major reasons we so often don't consider spiritual cures for physical maladies - I KNOW I'm not alone in this fear.  

I know of a pastor who anoints people, lays hands on them, casts things out, prays with them for deliverance, etc.  (and I know a story or two about spectacularly miraculous healings...we're talking from stage 4 cancer here, people.) I told the Lord I would call that pastor and make an appointment.

Here's the God's honest truth:  that very morning, as soon as I made that promise to God, I was healed of my exhaustion.  My energy went immediately, without hesitation, right back to normal levels.  I mean, I didn't yet know that I was healed.  But my surrender to Him was the moment of my deliverance - time proved that. 

My surrender was on a Friday morning.  That Sunday night, I visited that pastor and his prayer warriors (cool inside secret:  2 of those were MY PARENTS).  If you've experienced these things, you will perhaps appreciate this detail:  something didn't want me there.  When I walked through those church doors, a pain like the stabbing of a filet knife seared through my head, and I felt very sick to my stomach.  Something didn't want me to do what I was doing.  

I ignored the something (somewhat thankful, even, for such a confirmation that I was on the right track) and walked right on into the sanctuary. They anointed me.  Prayed with many hands on me.  Gave me a prophetic word or 2.  The pastor helped me renounce my ties to the things at the root.  I had no idea whether I HAD to go through all of that or not, since the effect of the healing was by this point 2 full days old...but I had told God I would do it, so OF COURSE I did. 

I was hesitant to believe the healing.  I didn't want to tell people.  I didn't want to trust it.  I was still in the grip of the "what happens if I believe and it's not true?" question.  I stayed quiet, watching.  When friends asked me if I was better, I stated cautious optimism, but not certainty.  I kept expecting that maybe the exhaustion would rise back up and push me back into bed.

But it didn't.  I was really healed.  Really delivered.  I watched.  I waited.  I tried to believe.  I tried not to doubt.  I didn't do it very well.  My energy stayed with me.  The test results from the doctor took A LONG TIME to come.  When I had been at full energy for something like 10 days, I finally got labs back in the mail  The doctors answer:  vitamin D deficiency.  Take 50,000 units of vitamin D once a week for 4 months and then come back to see me.

Uh.  Okay.  Labs are labs and my vitamin D numbers were low.  That's not imaginary!  BUT.  I had been healed already for 10 days by this point, without any vitamin D supplements.  Get it?  HEALED.  

I went and got the prescription vitamin D pills.  I'm taking them faithfully.  I'll follow up with the doctor as ordered.  I'm not dissing medicine.  I'm not trashing the doctor.  I'm not arguing with chemistry.

I'm saying the exhaustion - the actual spirit that was causing it in my body - was cast out when I surrendered to God.  Maybe the thing I did at the church with the pastor and the prayer warriors somehow sealed the deal so it couldn't return - I don't know.  I just know as sure as I'm living that the exhaustion was NOT depression, that it was REAL and had me completely as its prisoner, that it LEFT, and that the cure arrived 10 days (2 weeks, actually...I couldn't get to the drugstore for a couple of days) before the vitamin pills. 

I've spent time around people of all different sorts of faith.  Some people believe you get healed because your belief is strong enough - because your words agree with God's truth.  All I know is while my surrender to God was 100% real, it was also plagued with enormous doubts and fears, and it was followed up with my repeatedly expressing reluctance to believe in the healing.  People:  I DID NOT "earn" this healing by my great faith or my true confession.  GOD DID THIS WORK.  All of it.  At one point as I kept asking Him the question of, "What if I believe this, and I'm wrong," I practically felt Him chuckling, saying, "You're not doing this...I AM.  You don't have to cover my butt, Karen...I'm big enough to defend my own reputation." 

This all happened back in September and October.  I didn't write about it before now because I've had so many conversations where people got upset when they heard about why should YOU get a healing if I DIDN'T?  I told myself not to upset people, not to make trouble, not to risk creating offense.  But in the time since then, the Lord has shown me repeatedly that I need to write it down.  I need to tell the story.  I need to share what I've been given.  He even took me through a "round 2" of spiritual healing recently, when I discovered that the horrible loneliness I was wrestling with (and losing to daily) also had a spiritual root.  Just as quick as I conceded to possibility that this was true - yup, you guessed it - BLAMMO that sucker was gone, and I was returned to peace and joy exactly where I am, free from the soul-sucking loneliness that had been wrecking one day after another for weeks. 

So that's Karen's true-to-life story of a faith healing.  I don't have all the answers.  I won't defend it.  It is what it is.  May the telling bring forth every blessing the Lord intends.

much love,


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

one missed run

Well, I didn't make my run this morning.  I had sat up entirely too late last night, blasting through a writing block that had plagued me for days.  I did with that block the same thing I've been doing with my body - gave it the best shot I had, even knowing my best seemed clumsy and not particularly well done.  And then let it go, just as it was, with grace and not condemnation.  I'm loving this lesson, the more it gets hammered into my life.

So with an after-11 bedtime, 4:25 AM was brutal.  The alarm went off and I stumbled to the bathroom, determined to keep my run appointment.  But halfway through getting out of my pajamas, I ended up changing my mind - I was so tired I was sick to my stomach and was kind of half-falling-over when I stepped.  So I got back into bed to sleep for 40 more minutes, and then did my 40 minutes of prayer time (part of a project/commitment I am working out right now)  under the covers (aloud, so as not to fall back asleep), and when I finally got back out of bed, I was in much better shape.

Will I make up the missed run?  I don't know.  It's a crazy schedule week.  So maybe...maybe not.  The beauty of not being "on a diet" or on any sort of deadline at all for reaching any magic weight or size is that I can just move mercifully forward, and not sweat one missed run.

Monday, December 12, 2011

the body wants to run

My legs begged me all weekend for a run, sore as they were.  I find it ironic that BEGINNING exercise causes muscle pain, but then when you've been at it awhile, SKIPPING exercise does the same.  

This morning my run was:

5ish minutes of warmup walking
1 minute of slow jog (I'm just always gonna need that, I think, to get the hinges lubed)
30 minutes of faster running (though still just 2 steps/second)
5ish minutes of cooldown walking

It was a really good run, despite the fact that when my alarm went off at 4:25 AM, the arguer in me hit it pretty hard on the subject of Staying in Bed a Little Longer.  Really it was the sore legs and not any great motivation in me that got me up and rolling despite the desire for more sleep. 

It was 34 degrees out there, which felt downright balmy after last week.  I left the face warmer home, and halfway through the run I had the zipper on my pullover unzipped as far down as it would go. 

This past weekend while visiting JPUSA, I learned a new-to-me anatomical word to describe that lovely handle of fat of the lower abdomen (like, way below the belly button).  I was going to put it in here, but then when I googled it, Urban Dictionary (a favorite website of mine) gave some very DIFFERENT interpretation of the term, and did so in that kind of way that beats the crap out of the self image of plus-size folks, so I'm just not gonna say it.  Not gonna perpetuate icky feelings in others about their bodies, period.  Enough damage has been done with fabulous words like muffin top and cankles.  I'm not adding this one to the pile.

Cuz part of love is not poking at what hurts, just for the fun of the poke.

Friday, December 9, 2011

running on pristine snow, wet feet, and a fun fall

I never bother to look out the window in the morning before I run - I'm always too intent on getting up and out before the lazy part of me can pipe up and offer the argument that more sleep sounds better.  But these days I DO check the weather as soon as (or sometimes before) I am upright, cuz details matter as the temperature drops.  This morning it was the usual (as of late) temperature at 4:30 AM:  22 degrees.  The difference between today and some other days:  humidity was at 80%.  That reads to me as COLD so I finally dug my mittens out and put them on over my gloves, and I made sure to wear the heavy wool socks and not just the little skinny ones. 

I stepped out the door to:  SNOW!  Not just the little dusting like I experienced earlier this week...this was accumulated snow on the ground, on the sidewalk, on the street, everywhere I stepped.  SNOW!  YAY!!!  My favorite part of it, being so early in the morning, was that much of what I stepped on was snow that had not been touched at all.  No people tracks, no animal tracks, no tire tracks, no nuttin'...beautiful.  That brings out the child in me.  I caught myself expressing my joy aloud more than once (and people, noises DO NOT come out of me at that hour of the morning, so you KNOW I was loving it!)  

The snow, it turns out, heightens my awareness of the incline on which I am travelling.  The way it goes is after I walk out my back door, during the 5ish warmup minutes I am climbing an extremely steep hill.  Then the first half of my run is more or less downhill.  I mean, it has a couple of mostly flat spots, but even THEY are slightly inclined, and then the rest of it is more notably A HILL, though admittedly a gently sloping one.  Since the first half is mostly downhill...then, you understand, the second half when I turn around is inherently UPhill.  It's something I notice in the amount of effort it requires of me, even in clear weather.  The running downhill part on the snow this morning was just flat FUN (though I ran slower than usual, being cautious not to slip and fall).  The running uphill part...WOW.  I can't believe how much more effort it takes just to lift my feet that tiny half-inch higher.  Definitely took away my breath a bit more, and apparently my abdominal muscles must do some of the work for stepping higher, cuz they were feeling the burn by the end of the run.

Hey, that's GOOD news!

There were 2 awkward parts of the run.  The first was that about 3 minutes into it, I stepped in a puddle I didn't see at a corner.  I'm still running in mesh shoes, having not yet found winter running shoes. foot was VERY WET, right away.  That turned out not to be such a big deal.  It was pretty cold for about 2 minutes, and then warmed back up.  Interestingly, every time my foot found a new source of moisture, my foot would be cold again for 1-2 minutes...and then it would warm up again.  Weird.  But manageable.  (There must have been plenty of moisture out pants, because they are getting a little too big, are a little too long...and they were wet clear to the knees by the time I got home.) <<--YEAH I said my pants are getting too big...and I SMILED when I said it!

The other awkward part of the run was actually when I was done running, during the cooldown walk.  I always cut across a very steeply inclined ditch to get to and from my building to the street.  Coming back down that ditch, I took a fall (which I guessed was probably going to happen) as soon as I started downhill.  It's really of no consequence...falling in snow on grass is just fun, not hurtful.  So I got up with my whole bottom half coated in snow and inched my way sideways down the hill.  I don't know if I'll continue doing that daily, or will take the long way around, through the driveway.  I'm pretty lazy.  There will probably be more winter falls, before all is said and done. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

1st snowy run, challenges in cold, and moving toward 3 steps per second

Today was my first run EVER on a snowy day.  It was GREAT!  I mean, there's not snow on the roads or anything...but it was still fun to see snow all around me as I ran.  I'm a fan.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised at loving it - as a kid, I really enjoyed winter horseback riding.  So maybe there is hope that I'll run outside all the way through the winter, as I want to do.

I'm running without glasses still, as I haven't yet purchased the terrorist mask.  My current ensemble is keeping me warm enough.  I am dealing with the icky wetness of my facewarmer as my hot breath interacts with the frozen morning air.  When I get almost to my building door, I peel off the facewarmer and always immediately realize that the back of my hair is soaking wet with quickly-freezing sweat, and my collar is drenched in that sweat - it gets cold and gross almost the instant I take off the facewarmer.  Also, my eyes water from the cold as I run, so I'm trying to get little icicles on my lashes all along the way (I remember them well from winter riding).  If this whole paragraph sounds like a complaint, it's mostly not.  The only part I detest is the wetness over my mouth area.  The rest is just stuff I notice and somehow find interesting (WHY do you read me?!) and it just makes me feel kinda like a badass, which is fun for me.  LOL 

My intervals this week look like:

5-ish minutes of warmup walking
1 minute slower jog
14 minutes faster run
1 minute slower jog
14 minutes faster run
5-ish minutes of cooldown walking

And it hasn't even been hard, making that transition.  In fact, on Monday I went too far before turning around, so I had a couple of extra minutes at the end.  So before the end of the running part, I did one full minute of running at 3 steps per second.  And this morning I did that again, too.  3 steps per second runs me out of breath pretty quickly.  I'll definitely be advancing in fitness when I start adding THAT pace as more than just 1 odd minute in 30. 

Final note:  I am STILL shocked at how much I am enjoying myself running.  This is not at all what I ever in life understood about myself.  What presumptions are YOU making about yourself that could be undone, causing joy, if you let God show you?

Just asking.  :-)

Monday, December 5, 2011

early early in the morning, and loving amidst a backslide

Part of my 40 day prayer project includes 40 minutes daily as part of my "first fruits" of the day given to the Lord.  Now, you understand...I was already getting up at 5 AM to fit in my run, my shower, my breakfast, my readings, my grat list, and whatever blogging I might do before I go to work.  NONE of those items are negotiable - they are gifts the Lord has given me to add depth and joy and grace to my life, and I won't surrender them.  And I very much want to do the 40 day prayer project thing. current waking time on MWF is 4:25 AM.  

Here's the nifty thing I found last week and again this morning:  when I choose to do something that seems way too hard (like getting up at 4:25 AM) in order to be obedient to God or to put Him first in some way...He adds the increase.  I actually have been waking about 5 minutes BEFORE the alarm, well rested.  I have had quite a bit more pep in my step as I go out the back door for my run.  I don't for a minute think this is just some physical phenomenon - that somehow my body prefers the earlier hour.  It's just God covering the part of this that my body won't do on its own, and THAT, my friends, is pretty darn groovy.

In other news, I have thought in the past week or two that I've stopped losing weight, which hasn't surprised me, as amidst wrestling with loneliness, food has been an issue.  This morning I no longer "think" it, I know it.  I didn't weigh - I can just note it in the way my clothes fit.  Happily, since what I am doing is not at all about numbers, either on the scale or in the tags of my pants, I don't have to fall into a funk over this fact.  I am letting God teach me to love my body.  If I only loved A PERSON when they were doing well, and detested them when they stumbled, then the truth would be that I truly didn't love them at all.  Same goes for this body.  So I'm struggling, and even backsliding a bit.  This would NOT be the time to fall into self contempt.  This is the time to love my body, and to keep "beginning again" until I am back in a better groove and the backslide has been not only arrested, but reversed.

End of story.

Friday, December 2, 2011

sorta kinda ice, no heel-toe running, and advancing toward 3 steps per second

My phone said it was 27 degrees outside this morning when I headed out for my run; when I got outside, there was enough moisture in the air that I was glad I had put my goofy face warmer on.  Wet cold air is cold.  

On a happy turn of events, the City of Rock Island came yesterday and FIXED the water leak that's been bubbling up out of the middle of my street on a very steep hill for months now.  This made getting to the top substantially easier, as I wasn't trying to negotiate around THAT in the dark.  

I think we must have gotten a little snow shower or sprinkling of rain or something.  While the pavement wasn't flat out WET, it did have an extremely thin, almost imperceptible layer of ice sort of patched along here and there.  This made my run interesting.  I never actually slipped, but I kept feeling the slipperiness under my feet at the edges of my shoes as I ran.  It kept me running in smaller steps than usual, and when it was time to turn around, I didn't just loop in a hustling circle...I came to a stop and carefully turned, determined not to fall in the road right there in one of those dark spots where it would be too easy to get run over by some bleary-eyed early morning driver.  

By the way, I don't know if I've mentioned this week that my run cycle has been 

5ish minutes of warmup walk
1 minute slower jog
9 minutes faster run
1 minute slower jog
9 minutes faster run
1 minute slower jog
9 minutes faster run
5ish minutes cooldown walk

It has been a pretty easy cycle; next week I'll definitely advance to the next level, which memory seems to tell me is 1 minute slower jog, 14 minutes faster run, twice (I'll check the tiny book to verify, but I think I'm right on this one.) 

Recently I spent some time looking at youtube videos on running form, just trying to make sure I'm not messing myself up in any major way.  I think I'm doing okay - I lean forward right, my arms do the thing they should, and my feet come down on the middle of my foot (I didn't say that well, but my brain is struggling this morning...trusting you get it). 

I had a very, very brief stint of a bit of running in college, for just like 4 weeks or something, while I was in a mandatory PE class that was "fitness" - a lot of weightlifting and some running.  I got killer shin splints in those few weeks.  My tiny running book told me what that PE teacher never did...that shin splints come from taking too long a stride and landing on your heels.  I REMEMBER landing on my heels...feeling like properly running was that kind of extending and stretching.  MAN shin splints hurt!  I remember!  The good news is that I don't do that silly kind of running anymore, and there is no sign of shin splints.  The videos all say land on the middle of the foot, and I do, which is a pretty short stride.  

NOW....interestingly, one of them said I should be making 3 steps per second.  I make 2 steps per second.  This goes a long way in explaining to me why it takes me nearly 15 minutes to run a mile.  Sooooo....after I do the next couple of phases and get up to 30 minutes all at my current faster pace, the next thing I'll do is more intervals.  Back to the original beginning, with the "slower" part being what is my "faster" part now...and the "faster" part being 3 steps per second.  Oh, the dread that fills me when I consider this advancement.  But I'ma do it, fer realz. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

new spiritual project to end 2011 and begin 2012 well

As some of you know, this is only one of my two blogs (though this is by far the more active of the 2).  I tend to keep them very compartmentalized, focusing on the "letting God teach me to love my body" part here, and on the "talking through the journey of my faith" part over there.  I think that's mostly okay - the naked blog has a very specific purpose.  

Nonetheless, in truth my faith is not something separated from the rest of my life.  

Today, thanks to the greatest boss in the world, I get to start a 40 day prayer project, directed by a book he shared with me and some others, called "Give Me 40 Days - Your Invitation for an Encounter with God," by Freeda Bowers.  I'm so excited about this, mostly because while my prayer life certainly isn't dead, it's definitely been colder for awhile than I like it to be.  I don't know about you, but I DESPERATELY NEED the occasional fanning of the fire within.  And letting God teach me to love my body...well, that's simpler when I am more in tune with him, eh?  

This is, in truth, more important than any exercise I can do or any dietary change I can make.  This is dealing with the roots of it all.  After all, as today's scripture from that book says, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you."  The "these things" it speaks of are clothes and a place to live and such...but I'd say "the ability to love my body in real terms" also falls under that umbrella.

So that'll be my focus for the day:  seeking the Kingdom of God first.