Upon Trauma & Grief…and Writing Again

TW: Death, pet death, drowning

I’ve been absent for a while, unable to feel inspirational enough to write or even to inspire myself. But then Joan Didion, one of my favorite writers, passed away this week. If you read A Year of Magical Thinking (and if you haven’t, you absolutely should), you know that Joan dealt with not only the sudden death of her husband, in front of her, but later the same year, the slow death of her daughter to cancer. From that trauma and pain came her lovely book about grief and healing. Remembering her journey helped me to process the end of my journey. Even writing this, which I’ve been drafting in my head for months, is a huge step forward.

So what happened? In late September, I was working from home alone, except our three dogs: Coco, our elderly girl of 14 1/2, Jax, now 6 and Suki, then 6 months. Coco had been struggling for the last year with some mobility issues but still got raving health reports from our vet. That day, she was struggling a bit, so I had to carry her outside to go to the bathroom. I left her there and walked back inside with the puppy. A few minutes later, I went back outside and realize that Coco was floating lifeless in the deep end of the pool. I jumped in, pulled her out and tried lifesaving measures. I was told later that CPR on an animal, even when performed by a vet, is less than 10% successful. My kind neighbor heard my shouting, ran over and then got her car for a quick drive to the vet we share. Unfortunately, too much time had gone by and Coco did not survive.

My lovely Coco

Processing what had happened was so difficult. I felt responsible even though now I can see that it was a freak accident. At the time, though, it sucked all of the life out of me. The pain was so great, I couldn’t image how people who lose a spouse or a child could ever cope. What I realize now is that the intersection of trauma and grief is a strange one. You never quite get to deal with the traumatic event, the flashbacks, the post-traumatic stress, because you are thrust immediately into grief. You have a husband who you made a frantic call to and rushed to the house only to find you gone. You have a child who lost the dog that she’s spent her whole life with. You eventually need to make arrangements, to say goodbye, to start informing your friends and family. You shield the majority of people from the entire story. You push all those feelings down.

Luckily, I realized I needed a few things. First, I needed an emergency session with my therapist. She was instrumental in telling me that even though this was a pet, I still had to go through the grieving process and especially allow myself to be sad when I needed to. Validating my feelings was important. We also took a nightly walk with our other two dogs, giving them attention and love and allowing my Husband & I to talk out our feelings together. Honestly, we also got a short-term prescription from our doctor for some medication that helped us relax and keep calm. We had to not only take back the pool so it wasn’t a negative place. We also needed to make sure our other dogs knew where to go to get out of the pool if they ever fell in, especially the puppy who had never been swimming.

While these things helped, I still went through a depressive slump. The thing is if you have depression, you can slip into a dark place for a lot less! I wasn’t working out regularly (not even yoga) and I was overeating a lot. Needless to say, running went straight out the window. I wasn’t necessarily eating unhealthy, I just was just eating until I felt over full and even a little sick. It’s a familiar concept for those that self-harm: make something hurt outside so the inside doesn’t hurt so much.

I kept thinking I would get back to “normal” next week, then the week after. Pretty soon it was December and I still was stuck. I think I didn’t want to treat myself well because I was still blaming myself for what happened. The “What Ifs” were the worst. What if I hadn’t gone inside with the puppy, What if I had brought her back in right after she went to the bathroom, What if I was able to get to her quicker.

I read recently that grief is all the unexpressed love you have. In focusing on that love, I have been able to turn some of that love towards myself. I started doing yoga, even if it was only 10 or 20 minutes. Then, I focused again on my eating. Last week, I even fit in some strength workouts. Did a switched get flipped? No. Not even close, but I’m moving forward and pushing through. All I can do is take one day at a time.

I still sometimes sit out by the pool, either sitting on the part of the deck where I pulled her out or just in my chair next to it. I still have flashbacks but I quickly try and replace them with good memories. My husband and I continually trade videos and pictures and we have some gorgeous pictures of Coco around the house so we are bombarded by beautiful memories.

Coco & the puppy, Suki

Really in the end, life is about processing feelings and moving through. For all I have lost in 2021, I have gained a lot too and that can’t get lost in all the grief. I’m choosing to take all of the unexpressed love and spread it around.


Half Marathon Training: Week Seven Schedule and Week Six Fail

This week’s schedule is a little different since I did my long run on Monday this week because of the holiday. Therefore:

Monday: Last week’s long run
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: Run 4 minutes, Walk 2 minutes, 5 times with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down
Thursday: Crosstrain
Friday: Run 4 minutes, Walk 2 minutes, 5 times with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Run 5 miles – Run 3 minutes, Walk 2 Minutes

So why do I say Week Six Fail? Mostly because I am being dramatic. I did my first 4 minute interval run and had a great pace. I didn’t finish the full 5 mile long run though. I tried but I just didn’t have anything left in the tank so I stopped just short of 4.2 miles. I normally do my cardio fasting so as my miles increase, this will have to change.

I can say I gave it my all and I will try again this week. I also missed all of my cross training! I’m going to try and be better about that in the future.

Again, I was beating myself up for not completing the 5 miles and thought about repeating the week. Then I remembered my 4 minute interval run and that I was solidly in the mid-eleven minute pace for that, even hitting the high-tens for a few intervals. I realized I need to keep going instead of being worried I’m not progressing enough to push forward. A good all-around life lesson too!

Until next week…Happy Running!

Half Marathon Training: Week 5 Recap and Week 6 Schedule

Week 6 Schedule:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Run 3 minutes, Walk 2 minutes, 6 times with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down
Wednesday: Crosstrain – Weights or yoga this week
Thursday: Run 4 minutes, Walk 2 minutes, 5 times with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Crosstrain – Weights or Yoga
Sunday: Run 5 miles – Run 3 minutes, Walk 2 Minutes

Week 5 was definitely a week. I have been so busy at work, it would have been so easy to skip. So did I? Sort of…

I did my Tuesday and Thursday runs and even got below my 12 minute pace goal on Thursday. I did yoga for cross training on Wednesday. So where did I go wrong? I’m going to say I didn’t! For my cross training on Saturday, I wrapped it into my first solo trip to Disney so I ended up walking more than 12 miles! I stayed over by myself Saturday night and was having so much fun, decided to go to the Magic Kingdom by myself on Sunday. I ended up walking almost 8 miles that day! I think it’s great self care to spend a little time by yourself doing something that you love.

I did bring my running clothes and shoes to the hotel but I didn’t feel like running 4 miles after all of that walking. I went back and forth on whether I should do the long run on Monday or whether I should repeat the week. I finally decided just to push forward. So I am moving on to Week 6 and will be skipping Week 5’s long run. We’ll see how that goes and I will report back next week!

Half Marathon Training: Week 5 Schedule & Week 4 Recap

Week 5 Schedule:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Run 3 minutes, Walk 2 minutes, 6 times with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down
Wednesday: Crosstrain – Weights or yoga this week
Thursday: Run 3 minutes, Walk 2 minutes, 6 times with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Crosstrain – Weights or Yoga
Sunday: Run 4 miles – Run 2 minutes, Walk 2 Minutes

Week 4 Recap:

It was so humid on Tuesday’s run, I felt like I was running through applesauce! I did it though and was able to shave a few more seconds off my pace. Wednesday’s yoga, a 30 minute practice, was nice. Thursday’s run was the first 3 minute interval but it wasn’t as hard as I though it was going to be. I did drop and break my water bottle a few minutes in though, so that was a bummer. I skipped Saturday’s yoga (I was just too tired and decided to read my book then watch a movie instead – well worth it!)

Not gonna lie, Sunday’s run was awesome and terrible all in one. I started well after 8am and it was already 90% humidity! I felt like I was creeping along and the last mile was tough. During that mile, I was really looking forward to the walking intervals and as soon as I hit 4 miles, I started walking. Some days are just gonna be like that, though! When I got home, I realized that I shaved 14 seconds off my pace from last week! I was really not expecting that! I think that goes to show that we can be mentally harder on ourselves than we really need to be.

I’m excited for all of the 3 minute intervals next week and to see if I can get below an 11 minute pace for the 4 mile run next Sunday. An update from last week’s recap: the dog was reunited with his family! I may have jury duty next week too so hopefully I will take advantage of all the waiting time and get some more non-running blog posts done!

Half Marathon Training: Week 4 Schedule & Week 3 Recap

I realized that I like having my long run on Sunday and a rest day on Monday so I’m not starting the work week worrying about a run. So, here’s the modified schedule for Week 4:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Run 2 minutes, Walk 2 minutes, 7 times with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down
Wednesday: Crosstrain – I’m sticking with yoga
Thursday: Run 3 minutes, Walk 2 minutes, 6 times with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Crosstrain – Yoga again
Sunday: Run 4 miles – Run 2 minutes, Walk 2 Minutes

Week 3 went much better. I did switch my days around so I ran on Tuesday, Thursday & Sunday and did Yoga on Monday & Friday. My run on Sunday was 4 miles, my longest yet. It was somewhat interrupted by a lost dog running down the street but after snapping a few quick pictures, posting to the neighborhood Facebook group and handing him off to a park ranger, I was off again. After the stop, I couldn’t get my Seconds app to announc the sets, so I was thrown off for a few sets and was running with my phone in my hand to see the timer. Luckily I was able to get it working for the last mile or so. I ended up going closer to 4.5 miles by the time I add in the walking warm up and cool down.

My pace is dropped again with the lower run sets and I kept it consistent all week, even for the long run. I also really enjoyed doing the yoga for my cross-training. I did 30 minutes of slow flow on Monday and 45 minutes on Friday. It was great to have the extra stretching too.

All in all, I am very happy with the week!

Half Marathon Training: Week 3 Schedule & Week 2 Recap

Here’s the schedule for Week 3:

Monday: Run 2 minutes, Walk 2 minutes 7 times with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down
Tuesday: Crosstrain – I will probably do yoga this week
Wednesday: Run 2 minutes, Walk 2 minutes 7 times with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Crosstrain – Yoga again
Saturday: Run 4 miles – Run 2 minutes, Walk 2 Minutes
Sunday: Rest

Week 2 recap: The running was great. I ended up doing the 3 mile run on Sunday instead of Saturday but I fit in 14 sets and ran a little over the 3 mile mark. My pace keeps improving and I will strive to get under the 13 minute average mile next week. Considering that 1/3 of my runs are walking right now, I am extremely happy with that pace!

Cross training did not go as well. Between starting a new job, getting ready for back to school and not sleeping a few nights, I skipped every cross training day! That’s OK though because you are allowed to have priorities other than exercise sometimes! Hopefully next week will be more consistent.

Workouts I Didn’t Finish: 30 Day Breakaway

I’ve written several posts about workouts that I loved explaining why you should try them too. Did it seem like I love every workout I try? Well I don’t! I thought it would be good to also tell you what I didn’t like and why.

When I started my half marathon training, I thought the Beachbody program 30 Day Break Away would be a great way to start. It’s a 30 day program with a combination of running and lifting that culminates in a 5K on day 30. This is the first workout program that I tried with Idalis Velazquez, one of Beachbody’s super trainers that also does workouts in Spanish. The program is set up so you lift and then you take the audio run portion with you using the Beachbody on Demand app on your phone where Idlais gives you prompts as to what the run is and what your level of effort should be.

The first week, which is all I did, went like this:

Monday: Total Body Strength followed by a Fat Blasting Ladders Run
Tuesday: Upper Body followed by a Rest Day Roll Out
Wednesday: Core Fuerte followed by a HIIT Run
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Lower Body followed by a Tempo Intervals Run
Saturday: Rest Day Roll Out
Sunday: Rest

So what didn’t I like about it that made me quit after a week? I think the biggest things was that the runs didn’t seem like they were helping me train. Despite watching all of the introductory videos, I couldn’t tell the deference between the Ladders, HIIT and Tempo runs. They were all literally interval runs where you ran a 30, 60, 90 seconds with walking periods in between. There were prompts to give different levels of intensity but no description on what those would be until you hear the prompt during the program. I ended up running just over 1.5 miles each of these days in about 20 minutes of work but I felt terrible after each one! Much different than the 2.5 to 3 miles I can do under my current program.

The lifting portion was a little hectic as well. While I thought the exercises themselves were good, it felt like Idlais’s earpiece wasn’t giving her the proper counts. There were times where transitions between exercises were rushed and I had to rewind to understand the prompts and complete the exercise. By Wednesday, I was contemplating continuing with the running portion but swapping out the lifting portion with something else. When I really thought about it, I wasn’t enjoying the running portion either!

An easy way to give up is to get stuck with a workout program that just isn’t working for you! I am glad I quit this running program because I am getting much more training (and enjoyment) from my current program. Just because it worked for someone else or it was really popular doesn’t mean it’s the right program for you.

I will definitely write about a few more programs I didn’t finish, including the one that made me take a break from Beachbody programs all together!

Half Marathon Training: Week 2 Schedule & Week 1 Recap

Here’s the schedule for Week 2:

Monday: Run 1 minute, Walk 2 minutes 10 times, with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down
Tuesday: Crosstrain – I chose a 30 minute upper body strength workout and 10 minutes of core
Wednesday: Run 2 minute, Walk 2 minutes 7 times with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Crosstrain – I chose a 30 minute total body workout
Saturday: Run 3 miles – Run 1 minute, Walk 2 Minutes
Sunday: Rest

Week 1 went well. I consistently increased my pace each running day. The only SNAFU was accidentally starting my Apple Watch on Saturday as a strength work out instead of a running one for the first 10 minutes. Since I was supposed to do distance instead of a set number of intervals, I erred on the side of running a full 3 miles once I set my watch correctly, which probably figured out to about 3.5 mile run for the day. I also didn’t remember to track the number of intervals I did, but I think it was around 15.

Overall, I’ll take the week as a win!

I’m Training for a Half Marathon!

I was not a regular runner pretty much my whole life until I decided to start running about seven or eight years ago. I ran for several years, finishing a dozen half marathons and a bunch of 5ks, 10ks and other races. I decided to take a break from running long distances after running a Disney race in January when it was 20 degrees! It was the frozen feet for me! I haven’t run regularly in over two years. I recently realized how much I missed running, especially getting outside, and training for a big goal.

It’s been a while, so I chose a training plan from Self Magazine that involves running intervals in a Couch to Half Marathon mindset. Even though I have run this distance before, I needed to treat my training as if I was a true beginner. I haven’t even run a 5k since July 4, 2019!

This week has been great. I have 3 training runs, each doing intervals of running for one minute and then walking for two minutes. I also have two cross training days and two rest days. The intervals make it much easier to run for a long period and I can really increase my pace for my runs knowing I will have a short walk. I use an App called “Seconds” using pre-programmed intervals so it prompts the beginning, halfway point and end of each interval.

So my actual week one training schedule looks like this:

Monday: Run 1 minute, Walk 2 minutes 10 times, with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down
Tuesday: Crosstrain – I chose a 30 minute upper body strength workout and 10 minutes of core
Wednesday: Run 1 minute, Walk 2 minutes with a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Crosstrain – I chose a 30 minute total body workout
Saturday: Run 3 miles – Run 1 minute, Walk 2 Minutes
Sunday: Rest

My goal is the Miami Half Marathon, a race I’ve always wanted to run. I also may add the Disney Half Marathon, which is always run around my birthday. I have a chance to run it for Team JDRF, which was a great experience the last time I did it.

I’ll post my training schedule on Sundays and let you know how I’m doing as I proceed. Wish me luck!

Let’s Talk Portion Control

The key for most people to a lot of things like digestion, maintaining or losing weight and fueling your body all depends on portion control. I say most people because before we get into this post, this may not be for you if you have have disordered or restrictive eating in the past. Please consider this before continuing.

Have you ever found yourself eating “healthy” but not losing weight? Did it make you want to give up? Maybe it is your portion sizes. In a land where we get bread before meals, unlimited sodas, bottomless mimosas (a favorite of mine) and huge portions when we eat out, it’s not hard to sometimes understand what a “regular” portion is. We get asked if we want to supersize things when the original portion was probably plenty. We eat chips out of the bag instead of thinking about what the serving size is and figuring out how many services we are actually eating.

The worst things about eating too much is that overfull feeling you get. When I was younger, I used to go to the Pizza Hut all-you-can-eat buffet for lunch and eat until my stomach hurt! It was almost a rule you couldn’t leave until you felt that way (actually, it was a rule, I’m not going to kid myself). I can only imagine the thousand of calories I ingested…then had to go back, sit at my desk and try and have a productive afternoon.

I think I finally got good at portion control when I was packing lunches for my daughter to eat at school. Since she has Type 1 Diabetes, it is essential that she knows how many carbs she is eating so she can give herself the appropriate amount of insulin. Every morning, I pack her lunch and snacks and include a little note with all of the carbs counts for the day.

Packaged foods or single serving items are easy but I have a scale to measure grams or fruits and vegetables. I also use it for chips and other snacks out of a bag (I used to count out 28 veggie sticks or 30 grapes before that scale, so it is a lifesaver!) Almost every type of food has a code you type in so it tells you exactly the nutritional value for that particular serving size. You can get this scale on Amazon. This is great if you are counting your macros as well.

Another way to keep track of your portion sizes and your macros is to use a program like Ultimate Portion Fix. You have several different sized containers representing veggies, carbs, proteins, fruit, healthy fats along with nuts and dressings. Based on a formula, you figure out how many containers or each you can eat each day based on your weight, activity level and goals. This is extremely helpful when preparing your own food at home and something that I have personally used in the past. It also helps to keep eating fruit and veggies in the front of your mind because you have to get your containers in. Alcohol is allowed and counts as one of your carb containers.

The benefits I see from managing my portion sizes really boil down to the fact I feel satisfied but not overly full and bloated when I am balancing my macros with healthy portion sizes. Note the key word satisfied and not hungry. Now obsessively measuring your food when you are NOT eating in a balanced way is not what I am advocating. I am not suggesting you count out 10 almonds to eat for lunch. There is a big difference between restricting your portion sizes and managing your portion sizes. Please take this advice in a healthy and balanced way.

Do you have a problem managing your portion sizes and how does it make you feel? Comment below.