aging · Health · Menopause · Running · Uncategorized

Outrunning old age?

Cholesterol1

For all my adult life, going in for my annual physical was alot like going to Adam’s parent/teacher conferences when he was growing up – all  warm fuzzies and “You’re doing a great job” and “No problems here.”  After all, I’m not overweight, I run, I don’t smoke, I eat lots of fruits and vegetables – and did I mention, I run? Running has felt like my talisman against any health issues – after all, if I can run a half-marathon, surely nothing could be wrong with my body, right?

Wrong.

I recently went for a bone scan and bloodwork at my new doctor’s office, a very personable OBGYN who was recommended to me as someone who has a concentration on women in “my stage of life”. (Unlike the girls of today who have no problem mentioning their – um, periods –  around the opposite sex, I still feel akward saying I am in “menopause”, but there it is.) I was not surprised at the results of the bone scan, showing that I am going down the slippery slope to osteoperosis, since my mother and grandmothers all had it, and my scan from several years ago showed bone loss. I was prepared to have to start weight lifting and maybe even some sort of hormone therapy. What I was not prepared for was the results of my bloodwork, showing that I – the runner- now have high cholesterol!

Surely the lab made a mistake and got my blood mixed up! In our family, Keith’s side has the cholesterol and heart issues and my side has cancer, plain and simple. My parents always ate whatever they wanted, and even though my mother was pretty heavy on the cheese and butter,  never had cholesterol problems. My mother and grandmothers didn’t really die of anything specific, but basically just wore out at an old age. Keith’s family on the other hand, have all died at fairly young ages of heart related problems. I’m always on him about his eating and worry about his cholesterol, so he thinks this change is pretty humorous – I feel like my body has tricked me!

My research has shown  that cholesterol often goes up in ladies in my “stage of life”. Great. Here’s the other kicker – I have struggled all my life with my weight – in fact, sadly I have based much of my self-worth on what the scale says – and the last few months I have gotten down to a very good weight for me. So get this – osteoporosis is worse in thin people, because if you are carrying around a lot of pounds, your bones are getting weight bearing work all the time! Is there no justice here?

So here’s my confession – even though I know in my head that at least 90% of my good health all my life comes from my genes, I have still harbored a certain feeling of superiority in my low blood pressure, good cholesterol, and ability to pretty much do whatever I feel like. Now I am having to admit that just because I am a runner, I am not immune to my body letting me down. I’m just thankful it is not worse.

I go this week to talk with my sweet doctor, but I pretty much know what she will say – I need to do more cross training so that I am exercising every day, not just those few running days, weight bearing for my bones, and more focus on my diet – I guess I need to  cut back on the red meat and sweets, and  drink red wine(!) We will discuss hormones, although I am not so sure I want to go down that road. I feel like the student who has made a bad grade and has to face the music.

Isn’t it sad that I am feeling guilty over what is a normal part of aging? I don’t apologize for my gray hair and wrinkles, yet I feel like it is my fault that these other changes are happening.

What has been your experience?

 

 

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Struggling to Finish

The half done cross stitch in the bag in the attic. The pie safe that I refinished 25 years ago that still has the bottom doors off. The yellow paint on the wall over the top of my cabinets in my otherwise white kitchen. The photo albums that look great from 1988 – 1993 and the shoeboxes full of pictures after that. With embarrassment I admit one of my deep, dark secrets – I have a problem finishing what I start!

In my defense, I have finished the big things – I never started a degree that I didn’t finish or a class for that matter, and I rarely stop in the middle of a book, unless it is just awful. It’s the little things that tend to fall by the wayside.

I did not realize my problem until a few years ago when I started counting up the half-way projects around my house (there are more!). I blame it on the ADD I now realize I have had all my life – Keith and Adam diagnosed me many years ago – since I do get easily distracted and bored with things, but that is not an excuse. Not following through is a bad habit that I am making an effort to change.

During my early morning run with my friends the other day, I had this on my mind, and the verse, “I have finished the race” from 2 Timothy kept going through my head. I realized how much running has taught me about getting things done! When I start out to do a training run of 4 miles and finish, that sense of accomplishment carries over to other areas of my life. I find myself using the same “self-talk” I use when running to finish up something like cleaning the bathroom – “10 minutes more and you will be done,” “You can do this!”, Just keep moving”. Running has taught me to persevere.

I am trying to develop a different mindset. When I feel myself starting to drop off in the middle of some project, either at my job or at home, I start reminding myself that I need to “Get’r done”. Just like in a race when I tell myself that I can do it, I keep on going. Just a little further – no matter if it is cleaning out a closet, weeding the garden, or sending notes. Keep going!

Sometimes I want to quit trying as a Christian – I get discouraged and frankly lazy and don’t read my devotionals or take time to pray. Paul says in Galatians 5:7 – “You were running a good race – who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?” In other words, why are you not finishing? Are you allowing someone or something to distract you?

In this marathon we call life, I need to keep my focus on the finish line. The King James Version of the Bible has a wonderful old fashioned word for perseverance – steadfastness. I want to have that. I want to hang on until my job here is done, even if it is no longer fun or enjoyable. I don’t want to look back on my life and regret the unfinished work. I want to get that finisher’s crown.

But right now I need to go finish weeding the daylilies that I left when I decided to work on this for a while!20140614-152138-55298683.jpg

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A Good Run

Anyone who starts a running program know that you are going to have good days and bad days. There are going to be days when the wind is at your back, the road is smooth, and your feel like you could go forever. Then there are those runs where your legs don’t seem to move the way you want them to – somehow they feel disjointed from your body. Your stomach rumbles, it is too hot or cold, you can’t breathe right and your clothes are chafing. On a training run, you can just power through or maybe even decide to scrap it and try again when the planets are more in line. But on race day, you hope and pray for a day when it all comes together.

Saturday was one of those special days for me when the road spread out before me, beckoning me on. I have been leading a Run for God class since January and we had 6 ladies training for their first half marathon, as well as my son Adam and his girlfriend Jess. We also had about 6 folks working on their first 10K and first 5K. Thrown in the mix were several veteran runners. It has been so fun to see the “newbies” be excited and nervous about what was for many their first race ever and for others their first longer distance. I decided that I wanted to put in the time to train right for this race, and with nothing else major going on, I got in all the long runs and most of the shorter ones. Both physically, mentally and spiritually I felt the best I can remember going into a race.

Photo: Before the start of the Run at the Mill Half yesterday. Awesome group of ladies!

The day dawned misty and a perfect 50 degrees for the Run at the Mill. We ran through the beautiful spring countryside of Northwest Georgia, with the trees budding out and the redbuds and dogwoods blooming. For most of the race, we were in a fog, which gave a dreamlike feel. One person commented that you couldn’t see what was up ahead, and I kind of liked it – how like life, I thought. We can only focus on what is right in front of us.

I watched my pace to make sure I was not going out too fast, and stayed close to a 10 minute mile for most of the race. With this being a Christian based run, there was a wonderful feeling of openness and camaraderie along the way. I ran alongside a group of women from Illinois and found out they were all teachers, so we enjoyed sharing the fun of working with middle schoolers.  I saw a guy favoring his knee and we had a discussion about old football and baseball injuries. I ran with Adam and Jess for a while and we looked at the old farmhouses we passed. One guy commented as I passed him about my shirt with Calhoun First UMC on the back and we ran a few miles together and found out we had several mutual friends.

When I started to get tired, I prayed. I prayed for all our group members out running, for Adam and Jess and for our church member going through a bone marrow transplant that we had dedicated our run to. I prayed for Doug, our wonderful group member who found out he was having heart issues when he stared getting tired on his runs and is now facing open heart surgery.  I thanked God for my healthy body and for allowing me to be able to do this at 55 years old.

Sweet Methodist church we passed that was playng hymns from its belfry.
Sweet Methodist church we passed that was playng hymns from its belfry.

 

The last mile turned out to be a hill but I kept going, feeling strong. I came up on my good friend Angela, who has finished 2 marathons in the past 7 months, and is in great shape. I ran past her. I felt kind of bad, but I couldn’t stop! That last mile is one of the reasons I love to run. I wish I could put into words how I felt as I neared the finish. Yes I was tired and my legs were hurting. Yes, it seemed that the end would never come. But it was exhilarating! I knew Doug was waiting and I wanted to see  his smiling face. I love the feeling of gratitude and grace that I felt as I came around the bend and saw the crowd ahead. I love the feeling of accomplishment and power as I came across the finish at the end.

I often feel inadequate in my life. At my job, I don’t always feel that I am the best person to catalog computers or to keep up with the ever changing technology. I sometimes feel like a failure as a wife. I don’t do a good job at calling my aunts or sending cards to people I care about. When my parents were alive, I often felt like I let them down. I am not a great housekeeper and I don’t have a manicured yard. I have never considered myself beautiful. But I can run. It may not be much, and I may not be fast, but I can put one foot in front of another and move forward for several hours. And that is something.

Despite feeling strong and getting 2nd  in my age group, I was surprised to find that I actually ran this race slower than the last half marathon  that I did in October, when I was struggling to finish. So this teaches me something – finishing a good race isn’t about going fast, just as finishing well in life isn’t about being successful in the world’s view. Finishing a good race is about encouraging others, enjoying the scenery, knowing your pace and talking to God along the way. And maybe you’ll get a “Well done” at the end.

Jess,Adam, me and Molly after the race.
Jess,Adam, me and Molly after the race.

 

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Still hungering for God

I have made it through another Friday fast and I felt similar to how I feel during a long run or race – I voluntarily put myself through something that was uncomfortable, and at times I asked myself  “Why are you doing this?” One good outcome of the fast is that I am searching the Scriptures and writings of learned people for why we are called to fast. A few observations:

“More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. David writes, ‘I humbled my soul with fasting’ (Ps. 69:10). Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear — if they are within us, they will surface during fasting.” Celebration Of Discipline, Richard Foster, p67

Friday morning I made a point to have time to read my devotional book and pray. I especially made a point to spend time thinking about what I needed to confess and my “secret sins”. A biggie for me is pride and pride is sneaky and takes many forms. Writing this blog can quickly become prideful and I am constantly praying that I am doing it for God’s purposes. Fasting can quickly become prideful also, so I tried very hard to be aware of that.

” Fasting is a means not only of turning away the wrath of God, but also of obtaining whatever blessings we are in need of.” John Wesley, When You Fast

Like running a marathon, going without food makes me weak and when I am weak and tired, my defenses are down and my true self comes out. I definitely had to fight being impatient and irritable as my day went on, but something else happened also. I found myself leaning on God. Just as I have prayed many times for God to help me through a difficult run, when I felt those hunger pains, I was reminded of why I was empty. It was because I was voluntarily not eating in order to be closer to God, and I asked Him to help me. He got me through.

“Fasting helps us keep our balance in life. How easily we begin to allow nonessentials to p precedence in our lives. How quickly we crave things we do not need until we are enslaved by them … Our human cravings and desires are like rivers that tend to overflow their banks; fasting helps keep them in proper channels. ‘I pommel my body and subdue it,’ says Paul (1 Cor. 9:27).” Celebration Of Discipline, Richard Foster, p68

On my run on Saturday, I thought about how I don’t seem to be doing this right – surely I should be feeling more in touch with God after making the effort to deprive myself in this way. What was the point? Then I thought of my friends who had given up sweets for Lent – surely each time they wanted a piece of chocolate they wondered what the point of it was. How does not eating a butterfinger give God glory? One part of it is the discipline. When I am running for several hours, I may not realize what is happening to my body, but it is slowly getting stronger and more used to the distance. In the same way, I am disciplining myself by saying no to food for a short time and hopefully I am growing spiritual muscle.

“Perhaps in our affluent society fasting involves a far larger sacrifice than the giving of money.Celebration Of Discipline, Richard Foster, p66

Finally, my short fasts have made me aware of all the food around me! Throughout the day I found myself reaching for something to eat out of habit. I am not a person who “forgets” to eat! Even at school I have crackers and cereal bars and peanut butter in case I get hungry. When I look around my kitchen I am appalled by the amount of food I have for just me and Keith – sometimes I don’t have room in my cabinets for all the food. Surely this is sinful. If I have gained a new awareness and compassion for those who go hungry not by choice, then the fasts have been worth it.

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Toilet Paper and Bible Study

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On a recent frosty morning, Adam, Jess and I ran in the Hot Chocolate 5K/15K in Atlanta. We rushed to get to the parking area by 6:30 am, then sat in the warm car talking and having a good time until we realized it was about time for the race to start! We then had to rush around to get to the porta-potty, get our numbers pinned on and get to the start! I was doing the longer race, so after getting them started, I went back to the car to get the rest of my stuff and stated laughing when I looked in my front window.

How classy, I thought! There was a roll of toilet paper, thoughtfully provided by Adam, and the copy of Run for God 10K/Half Marathon book sitting under it, displayed for all to see on the dash of my little Prius! As I have rattled this around in my head, however, I realized that the image represents running perfectly for me!

First, the toilet paper – running is first and foremost a physical act, involving all aspects of our bodies – including the part that comes in contact with the toilet paper! I am kind of a joke with my running buddies for struggling with what is known as “runner’s trots”, which is when the call of nature comes on at some point in the middle of a great run, and I don’t mean the need to pee. My race day and long run eating plans center around avoiding this unhappy occurrence, and without going into too much detail, suffice it to say it has ruined many a run for me. But beyond this part, running involves working to make my legs and lungs strong, keeping my body warm or cool, making sure I have adequate carbs and electrolytes, doing what I can to decrease chafing and blisters, and avoiding injury and soreness. Running has taught me to listen to my body for what it needs and I love how it feels when it responds to what I ask of it.

But running is so much more than the physical act of pushing my legs to shuffle along. It involves my whole self, especially the spiritual part that is represented by the Run For God book sitting on the dash. Running has taught me that no part of me acts without the rest – whatever I do, my physical, spiritual, mental and emotional self is involved. My friend and yoga teacher Angela Deaton, calls running “Moving Meditation”, which I love! Similar to the proverbial student taking a test and asking God for help, I have asked Him many times to get me through the next mile. Often I will say, “Okay, God, it’s just you and me out here, help me finish this out.” And then I start praying for everyone who comes to mind. I let my mind float freely in a way I never do when sitting with a devotional book or Bible or in church. When I am running, there are fewer distractions and I actually listen to what God is saying, as opposed to telling Him things. My mind is bored – imagine that! And that is when I am forced to listen.

God and I finished the 9.3 miles in a rush of endorphins and praise on Sunday! Adam and Jess met me at the finish with smiles and hugs. As we moved through the crowd for me to claim my prize of chocolate, Adam fished a wad of toilet paper from his pocket. “Here, Mom,” he said. “I knew you would need this.” How well my sweet boy knows me!