So, I ran five miles today. For some people, that may not be a big deal, but it is for me. You see, as a kid, I wasn’t very athletic, and I HATED running (I still do…lol). It wasn’t until I started playing volleyball, and was actually good at it, that I really enjoyed physical activity.
I didn’t exactly have an “easy” childhood. In elementary school, I had a bully. He was older than me, and quite large. He’d follow me to school, follow me home, kick me, punch me, beat up on me in any way he could think of.
My mom told me to ignore- I can still hear her voice, “Ignore, Renee, ignore, ignore, ignore…” My dad, on the other hand, got pissed and told me to fight back. Unfortunately, neither of these seemed like a good option. It’s hard to ignore a big, ugly, mean guy who’s got you on the ground and is kicking you. And I really don’t like confrontation, I prefer to avoid it; and fighting back against a male who is older, and huge, just didn’t seem like it would end well.
A few years later, another male tried picking on me, and I actually put an end to that. I did fight back, by smashing his head against the bus. Although I felt terrible about it, I was never bothered again, by anyone. Even though I was left alone, I didn’t really like most of the people at school, so I was pretty much a loner. I tried out and made the cheerleading squad, but quit in the second season, it just wasn’t my “thing.”
In college, I finally came to a point where I really got to know myself a lot better, and my confidence grew. I also discovered that, as an art major, I wasn’t really learning anything. Sure, I learned about art history, and I learned the names of techniques. But, I was already doing those techniques, just not knowing they were a “thing.”
So, one day at the mall, I all of a sudden got a wild hare up my a$$. I stepped into the recruiter’s office, and said, “I want to be in the Air Force.” Well, after working on getting in shape, and going to MEPS for processing, I signed on that dotted line. Twelve days after signing, I was on my way to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for boot camp.
The bus ride from the San Antonio airport to the base was the quietest ride I’ve ever experienced in my life. Nobody spoke. I think we were all scared $hitless, wondering what the Hell we had gotten ourselves into. Well, once we got off that bus, we didn’t have time to think about it. We were met by umpteen military training instructors in Smokey hats getting in our faces and screaming at us. Oh, $hit.
Well, the time in boot camp went by FAST. I graduated as part of an honor flight, and excelled in tech school, combat medical readiness training, and clinicals. My experience as an airman and as a surgical assistant helped provide a solid foundation for other aspects of my life.
At some point in my late twenties, I decided to get back into shape again. I was diagnosed with peripheral vascular disease, and building muscle and exercising helped. As a matter of fact, it helped so much that I didn’t have to take medication for it any longer! I figured if I’m going to the trouble of working out anyway, why not try bodybuilding (natural, no drugs)? (Ladies- contrary to what you may think, you will NOT get “big” if you lift heavy. You don’t have any testosterone!)
There was a trainer at the gym, Chase, who competed in bodybuilding. He was awesome, and very helpful to me, so I did really well. I also had a boss, Kerry Lawley, who was a competitive bodybuilder (he still gives me advice even though neither of us are with that company any longer). I’ll tell you what- my triceps were bigger than some of the guys’ legs that went to the gym…lol!
Later on, my knees became very painful; and I was diagnosed with chondromalacia patella. After physical therapy, it got a little better. Not great, but better. The physical therapist commented that I had “Hella strong quads.” This made me happy!
However, it seems that if it’s not one thing, it’s another. In July of 2008, something else happened. I didn’t know what it was, at first. Jerry and I were sitting on the sofa, watching Nimh’s Island (no clue why). All of a sudden, I couldn’t see half the TV. It was really weird. I assumed I had gotten something in my eye, and asked Jerry to hand me the eye drops, and I went to bed.
The next morning, I woke up for work, and my eye was still messed up. I drove to work, and I could see my store, but the store across the street to the right wasn’t there. I drove to the bank, and I could see one gas station, but the one across the street wasn’t there. Man, oh man, this was freaky. After I got back to work from the bank, I called the eye doctor. They told me to come in immediately, because it could be a detached retina. They said it was an emergency situation, but it could be fixed.
I called Jerry, and we went to the eye doctor. Thank goodness a lady I knew, Marcy, was working, because I was really worried. After several hours of testing, they said it wasn’t my eyes, that there was some sort of “defect” in my brain. Oh, $hit.
After an MRI, I was sent to a neurologist, Dr. Nguyen, in Shreveport. When we saw Dr. Nguyen, he told me, “You had stroke, you had stroke.” I was like, “I had stroke…?” WTF…?!?!?! Now I was in full-on panic mode. Dr. Nguyen sent me to a cardiologist, Dr. Iqbal Singh, for a consult. He was a tall guy with a turban, and spoke with a British accent. He was really cool- until he told me I had to have a TEE.
When he told me that, I was like, NOPE. He said, “You don’t even know what that is.” Ummmm, yes, I do. I informed him that I used to be a surgical assistant, and had actually assisted in these procedures, and that I definitely did NOT want one. Well, he got his way, and I had the TEE, along with numerous other tests. To this day, my stroke remains a mystery. There is no reason it should have happened.
All my tests showed I was in perfect health. They did change one of my medications, though, as a precaution. On the new one, there is no way I can shred down to the way I was before, and I can’t take any fat-burners because of the danger of stroke. But, I still maintained being active, and really enjoyed doing extreme obstacle courses (Warrior Dash, Mud Fears Me, etc.).
Well, again, it’s always something, so of course more crap was thrown at me. After dealing with sciatica for over a year, I finally got used to certain stretches, so I can usually manage it. Then I had to have an emergency surgery. Then another emergency surgery for a perforated appendix! I mean, this $hit was getting ridiculous. I went 38 years without having to have any surgeries, except for a minor office procedure for a cyst. And now TWO in ONE year…?
The bad thing about the appendectomy was that it was an open procedure, not laparoscopic. So, recovery took longer, and when I started working out again, it was like torture with my abdominal muscles. But no pain, no gain, right…?
When I think about things people go through on a daily basis, it really puts things into perspective. My dad died of lung cancer three months after my stroke, but he lived with it for years. My sister was a victim of domestic violence, being severely beaten to within an inch of her life, only to have a ruptured cerebral aneurysm and brain surgery later on. My nephew survived being kidnapped. I have a cousin who survived breast cancer. Many other friends and family members have also been through traumatic experiences. And guess what? Life still goes on. Life will go on with us or without us- do we want to live it to its fullest, or just try to get by?
So, last Friday, I did a chest and arm workout with free weights, and ran four miles instead of my usual two. Granted, it was a snail’s pace run, but I didn’t walk any of it. I decided I wanted to try for five this Friday. I mean, I survived a bully, high school, boot camp, chondromalacia, a stroke, sciatica, and two surgeries- so, time to tell Murphy and his Law to “screw it.”
I’m fortunate to have some fantastic people in my life. I have some very encouraging family and friends, so I took to social media to reach out and ask for tips in accomplishing my five mile goal. There were so many people who offered words of encouragement and “liked” my status- so, many thanks to them! I also got some advice from a few experienced runners. Here’s what they had to say:
Angela Waskom– Marathoner, fitness coach (and awesome friend who did my first Warrior Dash with me)
“I love that you let nothing stop you from what you want! Keep this mindset and you will go far!! I like to break up my runs into fartlek or interval runs. I stay running, but I change up the pace, slow, medium, sprint. This helps use different muscles throughout and make it feel like a slow run is a rest after sprinting. (similar to walking after a jog) Start with maybe only bursts of 10-15 second sprints followed by a slow jog. Use a GymBoss or a timer on your phone to help you time your different speeds for the intervals you want (for an interval run) or just do it naturally by how you feel (fartlek run). Changing it up always helps the miles go by faster for me! DON’T do static stretches before your runs! Always do dynamic stretching (stretching as if you are moving). Save your static stretches for after your run! Make sure you are properly fueled and hydrated before your runs to ensure you have enough energy to make it through! And most importantly!! DON’T let your ego mess with you!! Listen to your body and take a walking break/stop if needed!”
Brent Sexton– Tri-Athlete, Vet-Med student, my cousin, and ISU Cyclone
“My best advice is find a program or schedule and stick with it. Try to find one that fits your goals (5k, triathlon, etc.), fitness level, and has some flexibility. Vet school has been very time consuming and I used that as an excuse not to exercise, but I’ve gotten after it this semester. I found a free triathlon schedule that tells me what days to do what. It had a gradual step up program which is important, and I can make it easier or harder depending on how I’m feeling. Like other people say, listen to your body. I don’t like to slow down or stop when I’m hurting (I think it is the wrestling mentality from high school that I just hate to give in), but it’s important. Just today I had to take a break in my 5 mile run. Stretched my leg out a bit, walked for a while, then completed the run.”
Brian Sexton– Marathoner, cyclist, teacher, my cousin, and ISU Cyclone
“Work your hardest, but listen to your body. The majority of injuries happen when people try to push themselves to hard, especially after injuries have happened. Keep working hard!”
And last, but certainly not least…
Cade Remsburg– Marathoner, college friend, and ISU Cyclone
Cade is not just a marathoner, he is THE marathoner. He has ran a sub 3:30 in all 50 states, and is only four states away from running two sub 3:30s in all 50 states. He is also 24 marathons into his third round! (He has a marathon in Olathe, Kansas today, the 16th, and Boston on Monday, so best wishes, Cade!)
“Believe in yourself.”
Here’s the thing- without these three words, no amount of other advice will help. If you don’t think you can do it, you will only be dragged down.
Admittedly, believing in yourself is easier said than done when you’re facing adversity and roadblocks. Thinking about all the words of kindness offered to me made my run easier today. I even ran into Angela as I was running my last half mile.
Oh yeah, about that run? I’m icing my knees and I have blisters on my toes, but I did my five miles. I did a round of shoulder and arm exercises with free weights then ran four miles. I did another round of weights and got water, and ran my last mile, followed by more weights. I turned up my iPod, Burn MF by Five Finger Death Punch, and finished off with hammer curls- 20 pound dumbbells, followed by 10 pound dumbbells to failure. Oh, I was definitely a burning MF!
About that bully? Well, turns out that back then, he was having homosexual feelings. He was confused and didn’t know how to deal with them. I’m not sure if he’s dealt with them yet, because 30 years later, he’s been charged with felonies.
But, I ran five miles today.
Believe in yourself.