Friday, March 29, 2013

The Meaning of Being Fit

On the way to Florida, I spent some of the incredibly, awesome 22 hours reading ACSM's Resources for the Personal Trainer.

Yes, I know. Snoozeville at times, but I found a couple of topics which really made me think.

Tell me about a time when you felt you were the fittest
That used to be an easy question to answer. I used to say I was in the best shape of my life when I played volleyball at Western Illinois University. That's when my coach, Julie Kartel, emphasized good nutrition and introduced me to weight lifting for athletes. In college, I dated a P.E. major who did triathlons and enjoyed running races, but no, not me. I was not a runner. I didn't want to "train". I just wanted to play volleyball. I ran when Coach Kartel required it of me. I didn't enjoy it. Are you kidding me? Running is painful. I just wanted to play volleyball.

I graduated from college, got a job, got married and had kids. During that time, I struggled through my 30s with my parents' failing health and eventual demise. I swore after my mom died that I was going to get in shape and not follow in her footsteps.

Before I turned 40, I decided I wanted to be Fit, Fabulous & 40. How was I going to achieve that? I decided I wanted to try and do a triathlon. Yah, I know, Mr. P.E. Major. "I'm not a runner. I don't want to do triathlons. I don't want to train." Blah, blah, blah. But I also don't believe in failing. So to prove that I could do it, I had to train. I had to put in the sweat and the hours of work. And, suddenly, before you know it, I'm at the finish line of IMLOU screaming to my family, "I am an Ironman!" Running has not only become a requirement for my training plan, but it's become my therapy time. My time to think about life...or forget about it. My time to solve the world's problems. My time. MY TIME.

So naturally, the answer to my question has changed. I would now say that I am in the best shape of my life. I can swim 2.4 miles, bike 112, and run 26.2 all in less than a single day. I weigh just a few pounds more than I did in college. Of course, some of the body parts look a little different than they did when I was in college, but Hey! I've given birth to three babies. Leave me alone!

Jeff & I at Wyndham Palm-Aire
AND...for the first time truly ever that I can recall I am wearing a bikini. Yes, at the age of 44, I purchased a bikini and I've worn it on vacation ALL WEEK. Mainly, because I will never see these people again, but I am wearing it.

I feel fabulous. I know I am the fittest I have ever been in my life and probably in the best shape I ever will be again. I love the way I feel in my own skin and want everyone around me to feel the same way. So, what is the meaning of FIT to me? The feeling which comes from inside, the feeling which says I am happy with who I am, and where I am in my life. I am FIT, FABULOUS and in my 40s.


They're back

Right before leaving on vacation I found myself waking up several times a night. Itching. No, not that kind of itch. My belly. My back. Scratch, scratch, scratch. After applying lotion, I was able to go back to sleep. I just assumed it was dry skin from winter.

The Back of my Leg
Yes, 22 hours in a car is a LONG time
On the way to Florida, I discovered a small patch of hives on the back of my knee. Grrr. I started applying cortisone cream like a mad woman.

Once in Florida, my elbows and forearms started to break out. I'm taking Allegra but I wish I had also brought the Zantac 150 for an extra dose of antihistamines. Cortisone cream is not helping.

I guess I should be thankful that it has not moved to my eyes yet. Guess who will be going to see a dermatologist next week?


Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Break: Day 1

Every once in a while you get a blessing in life that you don't fully understand until you in the midst of it. We left Friday night to start our vacation and made it to Paducah, KY for our first  night's stay. We were smart. We reserved a room ahead of time and even though Country Inn and Suites' website told us we were getting a 2 bedroom with a pull out coach, we wound up sleeping 3 in a bedroom Friday night because we "that's all we have left". Ahh-huh. Yah. Thanks. 

Because we got the 5 hour jump on our drive, I decided to be nice and not force my family to get up at 5 am. Instead, I woke up at 6 and started showering so we could get moving at a decent time. However, have you ever traveled with 3 daughters, 2 of which are NOT morning people? With the hot breakfast starting at 7 am, getting gas and (ahem) me chasing down a Starbucks but having to be satisfied with Panera, we didn't get on the road until 8 am. OUCH. Oh well. No worries. We're still ahead of the game, right? 

Most of the drive went well. We made one pit stop and I really expected banjos to start playing. The sign for the restroom was scrawled in a Winnie-The-Pooh like handwriting and with the 3 deer head on the walls I knew immediately we were in TN. Having to explain to my 11 year old daughter why your butthole would be bigger if you had to go to prison for shoplifting? PRICELESS. Yes, Tennessee, you still have class. 

The only traffic glitch was an extremely LONG area around Chatanooga for some unknown reason. I think that was during my 2nd nap of the day. When I woke up, I tried to find ways to amuse myself. I rolled down the window to enjoy the balmy 50 degree air. I watched two teenagers walking along the highway make more progress than we were. I took pictures of the back of my knee to show my Facebook friends that my hives have not gone completely away. Annelise let us know she needed a restroom soon to which I responded "Run up that hill and go! We'll still be here when you get done." Apparently, she did not appreciate my sense of humor. 

We started looking for a room around 9 pm. At our first stop, we were told there were no rooms from Belleview all the way to Orlando, FL. Say what? How many hotels does Orland have and there are no rooms? We were convinced someone was lying to us. 

Stop. No vacancy.
Stop. No vacancy. 

I started visualizing us sleeping in the van at a rest stop. Hmmm. If we drove straight through, we'd arrive at Fort Lauderdale about 4 am. Not unreasonable, right? Well, maybe for me who got about 4 naps in during the day, but the idea did not thrill Jeff. 

$10 glass of chardonnay
First drinks of vacation: $17 Ouch

We called Wyndham Bonnet Creek in Orlando and explained that we were owners and looking for a room for the night. Hey, what do you know? They are all booked up! However, they did help us find a room at the Marriott World Center for $244 a night. Price is not an issue when you want a place to put your head for the night. We didn't even quabble when we had to sleep 3 in a bed again. Samantha and Annelise are so lucky they didn't have to participate in the "everyone lay on your left side....ok...roll over...1.2.3." routine for the 2nd night in a row. 

The good news? We only had 3 hours left to drive on Sunday...which means we all agreed to sleep in....if you can. I was awake at 7 am, showered and had my first Skinny Hazelnut Macchiato by 8 am. Of course, my girls didn't move quite as quick and because I was already happy with my caffeine high, I didn't gripe. We'll get to the beach today. That was all that mattered. 

Watermelon Mojito
We arrived at the Wyndham Palm-Aire about 2 pm Eastern. While Jeff checked us in, I decided to investigate the amenities that the Palm-Aire had to offer and look what I found?  The open air lounge right next to the pool! What better way to celebrate arriving in Fort Lauderdale than borrow $10 from your teenage daughter to purchase  a Watermelon Mojito!

After unloading the car, I gave the girls 10 minutes to change into their swim suits. No lolly-gagging! The sun was waiting. Unpacking suitcases can wait until the sun goes down. While at the pool, I check my Facebook to see everyone back home complaining about their "Illinois Spring Break" which was being blanketed by several inches of snow. Samantha, who keeps showing more frequently that she does come from my gene pool, posted this on Facebook: 
Everyone needs to stop complaining about the snow, I have some real issues right now! This palm tree's shade is interrupting my tanning!
I'm pretty sure my comment about everyone hating us resulted in this post on my wall from my friend, Nate, the local law enforcement officer who also happens to plow snow as a side job: 
You have had a lot of posts about the weather....I would hate for you not to get to see snow with the rest of us and I happen to know a guy with a plow that could put enough snow in your drive way that it would still be there for you to enjoy when you return. That is all...enjoy your trip!!
So far about 25 people have liked Nate's post. I'm sure the number will continue to rise....especially after I posted the picture of my new Billabong sandals on the dash of our van with a beautiful blue sky in the background. 

Abby & Annelise enjoying sand between their toes
Around 5, we decided to wrap up our poolside adventure and go check out the beach before dinner. Have I mentioned that it was a high of 93 here today? Wait, everyone back home does not want to hear that? Ohh...I didn't realize. I thought you would actually be happy for me. Mawhahahahaha.

Jeff facebooking about his evil wife
While at the beach, instead of fully engaging with the beautiful gift of glorious sun and sand around us, Jeff decided he needed to clarify his position on the snow on our driveway: 
To all my friends back in the snow reading Carla Ironman Lebers obnoxious Facebook posts and thinking of retaliating, please keep in mind that I have not been rubbing it in from the pool all day!
What? Just because he does the snow shoveling he thinks he can throw me to the wolves? I will remember this! 

After a day of eating licorice, peanuts and Swedish fish, we were ready for a decent dinner; however, our youngest children are fairly picky eaters. We decided to go casual and eat at the Aruba Beach Cafe on a recommendation from the front desk staff at the Palm-Aire. A 30 minute wait for a table for 5 didn't seem unreasonable especially considering the restaurant is right on the ocean. The hostess handed me a Blue balloon with OCEAN scrawled on it while she explained that this is how they find us so DO NOT LOSE THE BALLOON.

Who thought it would be a good idea to give kids a balloon on a windy oceanfront? Do you realize how many people hate my 11-year old right now? The 30 minute wait turned in almost 60 minutes. I was almost ready to tell Jeff we should just go order a pizza and eat in the room when they came to find us. 

Blackened Seafood Trio
Unfortunately, we did not get to sit outside and enjoy the fresh ocean breeze, but sat inside. problem. Annelise asked if she could order the $30 filet mignon even though Jeff suggested she wait until we ate a steak house instead of a seafood cafe/bar. I ordered the Blackened Seafood trio. Samantha ordered the seafood stir-fry, Jeff the Aruba burger and Abby the chicken strips. I think it's fairly sad to say that the best food of the night looked like it was Abby's chicken strips. I think you can find my review on Trip Advisor later for the Aruba Beach Cafe at 2 stars. 

Day 1 is complete. We are getting ready to go to the beach now. Let's just see if I have the nerve to wear my new bikini.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Runner's Knee

Everyone faces injuries, right? I am just being tested and will come out on top, right?

Two weeks ago my half marathon training plan called for a 13 mile run. Since I hadn't run more than 8 miles since the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon last November, I knew 13 miles was not a smart idea. So instead I backed it off and ran 10 - 10 long miles on the treadmill. And while it felt good to get the miles done it was not without concern. Every time I tried to push my speed I wound up with a quick sharp pain in my knee. Hoping it was just a temporary issue I slowed down to finish my miles. (Have I mentioned that I'm goal oriented and I tend to follow a training plan quite well?)

For the next week, my knee didn't bother me. On Friday I went out for a 7 mile run around a local park. The fresh air felt great. I was trying to get my run done before my first class of the day. I started to charge up a hill and BOOM! Sharp pain. I did a little skip step & the pain went away. I continued on my run; however, every time I pushed up a hill my knee screamed at me. Sharp, quick and it was over. After my run, which got shortened to five miles by the way, I didn't have any pain at all. I shared my concern with runner friends and RICE was suggested. My doctor posted on my Facebook that if the pain continued I should come in for an MRI because I am so paranoid about an MCL or ACL tear bringing me down.

Rest seemed to be the order of the week. I continued to teach my classes without incident but stayed away from running. On Wednesday I took a full day of rest. No classes. No running. Just walking around the malls and stores to prepare for vacation. I even decided it was time to get new kicks.

New Kicks
On Thursday armed with my new running shoes I decided to just run 3 easy miles on the treadmill. I made sure to properly warm up with walking as well as dynamic stretches. I felt good....until about a half mile in. CLINK. I could almost feel my knee cap hitting against my thigh bone. Argh. Damn it!

I took a deep breath. Runner's knee? Really? Now? You've got to be kidding me.

I quickly added up my race entry fees: $75 for Indy half, $55 for Tremont Tri, $165 for Muncie 70.3, and $185 for the Chicago Marathon. A small fortune which could be thrown into the wind! Stop it! No negative thinking.

If required, I could just focus on my classes. I mean races are great but I'm not out to win. I recognize my limited abilities.

Then reality hit in my Zumba class Friday. Two separate times my knee cap shifted. It took my breath away and scared my class participants. They could see it in my eyes and hear it in my gasp of breath.

I am beside myself. I'm reading every article I can on runners knee. We left on vacation Friday and I iced my knee for te first hour. I'm hoping a couple of days of pure rest and my knee brace will help. We will see how my run goes on Monday. No running on the beach for me. No long runs. Just a lot of R&R and some short, easy runs paired up with a supportive knee brace.

Say a prayer for my sanity. Say a prayer for my knee. Say a prayer for everyone around me because if I don't get exercise soon, it will not be pretty.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Smell of Nostalgia

Because my family is even more impatient than I am about starting a vacation (if you can believe that), and no one liked my idea of hitting the road at 5 am, we decided to start our family vacation today.

Changing our plans required the coordination of a logistics manager of a Fortune 500 company. My day was completely full between teaching Pump and Flow, running to Wal-Mart to purchase Les Mis for the 20 hour car ride and attending the middle school talent show where my rock star sang her little heart out.

Note: The talent show was well worth my highly unproductive afternoon. So many talented and brave kids who got up on that stage to showcase their blessings in performance. While waiting for my baby girl to perform, the school superintendent came through. Now keep in mind the super & his family are our normal travel companions. Unfortunately, they cannot vacation at spring break this year because their freshman daughter is playing high school softball. Needless to say, The super did not want to talk to me, to hear me gloat about putting my toes in the sand. Sadness... But I'm sure we'll soon have another vacation planned which will include them.

This year Jeff and I decided to take a different approach to spending money for the kids on vacation. We gave them each $100 and told them they could spend it as they wished but it needed to cover any tanning, pedicures, books, magazines, music or souvenirs for vacation. If they chose not to spend the money, it was theirs to keep and spend as they wished post-vacation. So far it's been an interesting experiment. Samantha decided she didn't need a pedicure. Abby decided she only needed one book but definitely wanted a pedicure before leaving. Annelise went to Barnes and Noble and SURPRISE spent nearly $60 there. Guess who is going to be very picky about any souvenirs?

So after school while I took Abby to get her pedicure, Samantha and Annelise ran Mozzy down to the kennel. Once home, I was on a mission to make sure everyone was packed and suitcases ready for Jeff to load up while I was teaching my final class, Zumba.

Thanks to all of our organization we were actually ready to hit the road by 6:30. Probably more because I threatened to not leave tonight and get up at 4 am if they didn't get their butts in gear.

We hit the road but of course no one had dinner prior to leaving. As we discussed places we could stop in Springfield, I mentioned Jolly Tamale. Man, you could have heard a pin drop for about 5 seconds. The girls all swore I told them Jolly Tamale had closed long ago which to them explained why we hadn't gone there in a couple of years. I, personally, think they just misunderstood me. JT closes every year during the state fair and I'm pretty sure they thought I meant permanently. Oops

After stopping to pick up carry out from Jolly Tamale, we got back in the car and Annelise said, "Do you smell that? That's the smell of nostalgia." Nostalgia for her? It's ancient history for me. I had lunch at Jolly Tamale just about every weekday from 1986-1988 while I attended Lincoln Land Community College.

And, yes, I still get the same thing every time. Sancho, no lettuce, medium sauce. Occasionally when I have someone to share with I'll also get an order of nachos. Yes, that is nostalgia. The sweet taste of cheap Mexican food which filled the belly of a poor college student.

So lets hear it for the smell - and taste - of nostalgia.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Indy Half Prep

My first "major" race of the summer is now 9 weeks away. May seems so far away and yet time will just fly by and suddenly I'll find myself in Indianapolis running a half marathon!

According to my "Run Less, Run Faster" training plan, my long run needed to be 13 miles. UGH. What a daunting task. Trying to squeeze two back to back hours of running in between teaching classes, catching my daughter at her pitching lessons, the middle school Sock Hop, swimming, and shopping for spring break seemed unlikely. Add in rainy weather and it just complicated things. I mean who wants to run 13 miles in the cold rain - or better yet - 13 miles on the treadmill?

Before the Miles
My longest run since last year's Wine & Dine Half Marathon has been 8 miles. Yep, I'm a slacker. Knowing I had less than two hours between pitching lessons and getting ready to chaperone at the middle school Sock Hop, I decided to hop on the treadmill and get as many miles done as possible. I mean what's a training plan if it can't be modified, right? 

And God bless modern technology. When I do long runs on the treadmill, I have to watch an action film. No romance. No comedy. No "Princess Bride". Only an action film will do. Luckily, Samantha went to the library earlier in the day and checked out 4 movies, one of which included "Man on the Ledge" starring Sam Worthington. Yep, bodda bing bodda boom. Nothing wrong with staring at Sam for an hour and 45 minutes. 

Proof that I got it done!
As the miles rolled off, it became apparent 13 miles was not going to happen. I had to be off the treadmill by 5 pm to get ready for the Sock Hop. I made it through 10 miles at my half marathon pace + 30 seconds per miles. Nice, easy, relaxed....long and boring run. 

After the miles, cheeks are flushed by headband still in place. 
Oh sweet momma! It felt great to get the 10 miles done even though it was on the treadmill. In the end it was all worth it. My new Iron Goddess Bondi Band stayed in place. It absorbed all of my lovely sweat. Mmmm, there's a fine thought. And my legs felt pretty good.

Time to get ready for the Sock Hop.

Now I don't know what I was thinking, but I guess I thought I was actually going to do the "Mom" thing and sit on the sidelines and watch all of the kids dance their little hearts out. Within 2 minutes of getting there, one of the little girls pulled me out on the dance floor. Unfortunately, this did not sit well with Abby who wanted nothing to do with her momma shaking her thing. HEY! I am a Zumba instructor, you know? I can still dance.

Good Slow Dance Choice
At the end of the sock hop, the DJ finally gave into the request for a slow dance song. I held my breath. Oh please don't let these 5th & 6th graders pair up boy/girl.....and luckily, they did not. The girls dance with girls and (I wish I had a picture for future blackmail) the boys danced with boys. Oh my yes! Wouldn't that be a sweet thing to have when some young stud comes around asking my daughter to the high school prom?

After 10 miles on the treadmll and two hours dancing at the sock hop, this lady was tired...and hungry! I wrapped up a long, busy, endorphin filled day at my favorite establishment, Perdue's,  having my favorite meal, the Cajun turkey burger 86 the bun with sweet potato fries. Now THAT was a great way to end a fabulous day.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Love Languages

I talk about two books constantly: "Outliers" by Malcom Gladwell and "The Five Love Languages" by Gary Chapman. "Outliers" is a book about the factors which contribute to one's success in school and sports. Don't get me started on that one! The other is a book about understanding human nature and how we relate to each other. I highly recommend both books.

I read "The Five Love Languages" about 10 years ago. I've known this for years about myself, but my primary love language is TIME. Time spent with someone is a great way to connect and stay a part of their life, but other strong love languages for me include Words of Encouragement and Physical Touch.  My lowest love languages are Acts of Service and rock bottom of them all is Gifts. If you want to take a short quiz, you can find your Love Language by completing these questions.

I've said for years that I do not want to buy a gift just because I feel obligated. I want to buy a gift because when I see it in the store I look at it and know I just have to buy it for you. The same goes for gifts that I receive. I do not want chotchkies. I do not deal well with clutter. I do not want to be a part of a bunco group because I don't want to bring home a bunch of junk I will never use. Most of the said chotchkids will continue to sit in my basement in storage collecting dust. No matter how cute they are.

But if you do hit upon something special. Something which you know will melt my heart. Why, yes, I will joyously accept your generous and thoughful gift.

And that is what happened yesterday.
My IRON Goddess Bondi Band

My dear friend and ZUMBA class participant recently won five headbands from Bondi Band....and she picked one out just for me!!!

The fact that she thought of me when she was placing her order did, in fact, melt my heart. Of course, it also relates to the most significant day of my life as well. Have I mentioned that I am an Ironman? Yes, yes, I know, you have heard the story. As a sign of my appreciation for Jodi's generous gift, I proudly put my Iron Goddess Bondi Band on and pumped up the music for an awesome ZUMBA class.

So, thank you, dear friend. Thank you for thinking of me. Thank for you the gift which means something to me. I will think of you every time I wear it and proudly call myself an Iron Goddess.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Like sand in an hour glass

So are the days of our lives.

After I wrote my post about Samantha growing up, she posted this picture on her Facebook wall: "From the beginning to the end" with the two pictures from pre-school to her senior year.

I guess we are both feeling her age today.

Sand through my fingers

It's like sand sifting through my fingers. 

Wasn't it just yesterday that I was in college? Wasn't it just yesterday that I moved to the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago? Wasn't it just yesterday that she was born? 

1996 - Milwaukee, WI
I find myself trapped in some type of strange, psychedelic time warp. I look at these pictures and I remember these moments so clearly. They WERE just yesterday. We found our first house in Tremont on Samantha's 1st birthday.

I think about the day we brought our first family dog, Cocoa, home. A rambunctious little puppy who knocked Samantha over in the driveway and skinned up her cute little nose, knees and the palms of her hands.


I mean look at those cute curls. I've always said God laughed when He gave me three daughters. I am not a girly mom and my dear Samantha she is a girly girl with beautiful banana rings in her hair. I don't know what to do with that gorgeous hair?!? Yes, He laughs and mocks me daily.

Mother's Day 2003
I think back to Samantha walking into her first grade classroom and telling her teacher, Mrs. Tyra, that her mommy was going to have her baby today in that loud booming voice which came from such a tiny little body.  Always so enthusiastic about life. Always so positive. That is my baby girl.

Senior Night 
But unfortunately, she is no longer my baby. She will be graduating in just a few short months. Next fall, she is setting her sails in a new direction as she moves to Chicago to attend DePaul University. People ask me all of the time if I am worried about her moving away. Well, yes, I am her mother. I will worry, but at the same time she is excited about the new opportunities she will be given in Chicago. I am excited about watching  her move on, grow up, and enter this next phase of her life.

I am blessed. I am blessed to have Samantha as my daughter. I love you, my little baby girl with the beautiful curly hair and the loud voice (which thankfully you have FINALLY grown into). You have grown up to be a beautiful young lady and now I can't wait to watch the rest of your life unfold. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

8 Miles of Therapy

What's the best way to end a long week? Need you ask? Yes, end it with exercise.

For some reason, sleep eluded me thursday night. I had a busy weekend of touring DePaul University with Samantha and Jeff on Friday and the Les Mills Quarterly in Rosemont on Saturday....all of which added up to me being one tired puppy today.

At the Les Mills Quarterly, I did Body Pump. I tried to do Step; however, I didn't want to wind up with sore glutes and calves on Sunday when I needed to do a 8-mile run. I decided to sit out and watch GRIT Strength.

Finally, it was time for Flow. Can I just tell you how much I love this new release? Two balance tracks including Bird In Flight and a back bend in the Lower Back track. Wow!

However, when we got to meditation, I couldn't focus. My mind wanted to wander. Being in the middle of a very active gym does not make for a great meditation.

After a few more attempts to drink the Les Miils Kool-aid, I realized it just wasn't going to happen. I drove home that night reflecting on the day and all that happened. Why did I feel so unfocused?

By the time I got home, my mind was filled with all sorts of thoughts. What am I doing with my life? What is direction I want it all to go in the next year? What's going to happen when a position I know about comes open? Will I be able to continue my current training level? And what's going to happen during the next school year? Samantha will be going to college and Abby will be in the 6th grade and in all likelihood able to play junior high sports. How will all of that affect my time?

Exhausted as I was, sleep came in fits Saturday night. I kept waking up with all of these thoughts / dilemmas swirling through my head. When the alarm went off to get ready for swimming, the last thing I wanted to do was a couple thousand yards in the pool. I pushed off the wall for my timed 800 yard swim to start my workout.

And then stopped.

Lack of sleep and swirling thoughts made any attempt at swimming very difficult. I kept looking at the clock waiting for the session to end.

By early afternoon, I wasn't sure the 8 mile planned run was going to happen. Maybe a nice nap instead?

But the swirling thoughts wouldn't stop. I finally got dressed for my run. I made myself promise I would get at least 5 miles finished before giving up. I started the first mile at a slow warmup pace, got slightly slower for the 2nd mile and then the endorphins kicked in. All of the worries, questions that swirled through my head seemed to be lifted away with the fog. I started negative splitting the next 4 miles and FINALLY felt like I was doing EXACTLY what was I was suppose to be doing.

It is amazing to me how good a few miles on the open road can make you feel. I think every person who is mentally or emotionally stressed needs to take their issues out on the open road. While the solutions to your problems may not be found there, one can definitely find temporary relief from the worry.