Injured Runner: Pretending I belong at the gym

The gym is an interesting place. And, I picked the most un-“gym-y” gym to go to. I joined the YMCA at the end of January and while it’s been great, it definitely has been awkward and uncomfortable at times.

I’m just not used to being around a lot of other people while I exercise. When you’re a runner, it’s the norm to run away from strangers as you get your workout done. In a gym though, I feel like everyone is starring at you and judging you.

How many times have I been on the elliptical and if someone is on the machine next to me, they will look over to glance at my screen? Pretty much every time.

Why do you care how long I’ve been on the elliptical or what number I have the resistance on? I have a freaking stress fracture that’s healing so leave me alone and mind your own business!

Maybe it’s just newbie gym goer paranoia. Maybe nobody else really cares what I’m doing.

I do have to admit that when I’m at the gym and on the elliptical, I do spend time observing other gym goers. I mainly do this to help pass the time because I cannot use headphones while I workout so I’m not listening to any music or podcasts or anything. (Back when I was running, I rarely listened to music because my running time was time spent with my thoughts).

So, what have I noticed? Not everyone wipes down their machine after using it. Some people wipe down the machine before and after using it though! A lot of people use the treadmills, which I just can’t wrap my head around on days when the weather is so nice outside. I just want to yell at them and tell them to take their run outside!

It’s also interesting to see how people use the treadmill. Because I’ve been going to the gym on a regular basis, I’m starting to recognize the same people. There’s this one girl who uses the treadmill at a way-too-fast-speed because she will sprint for less than a minute, and then literally hop to the side of the treadmill while the belt is still running, catch her breath, and then go back to sprinting. She repeats this pattern a few times and clearly spends more time resting than running. But, who am I to judge? I’m the one who got injured from running, after all …

Along with being a slave to the elliptical, I have gone to several group classes. So far I have learned that I like flow yoga the best, because I feel like I’m getting a better workout. The jury is still out on Pilates. I have only gone to one class so I will try again another week. I haven’t done a spin class yet and am kind of afraid to, but will hopefully get my butt to one soon. (The reason I’m afraid is because I’ve done a spin class outside of the Y before and it was pretty difficult! But, a great workout!) And the pool? I actually haven’t done any swimming since becoming a member of the Y. I’m still trying to figure out not-so-crowded times to use their pool.

 

Do I love the gym? No.

But, it’s definitely keeping me sane and moving during my sabbatical from running.

 

Sitting is the new smoking, so I guess I’ll stand

I’m trying to embrace standing, I really am.

But, I am horrible at it.

I have poor running form so it doesn’t translate well to good/proper standing (or sitting) posture. Or, is it my natural poor stature that translates into bad running form?

I moved to a new area of the office, so I have a brand new desk. It’s an adjustable desk so I can decide if I want to sit at work, or stand.

The desk, in its standing position

The desk, in its standing position

I’ve only been at it for two-and-a-half weeks and let me tell you, it’s not easy!

I begin my day standing. I check emails and do work that doesn’t take as much brain power as some other tasks might.

Magic button that adjusts my desk

Magic button that adjusts my desk

By lunch time I am definitely sitting. (I take an early lunch because I get hungry by 11 a.m. — or even earlier!)

On a good day, I’ll stand for another hour or two in the afternoon.

My cube-mate and I will try to encourage the other to stand. We don’t compete. It’s more of a “Ahhh, you’re standing now? OK, I’ll stand, too!”-type of set-up.

I tell myself that the standing is helping me become a healthier runner and just in general, a healthier human being. Because, sitting is the new smoking, according to so many.

And, if you’re too lazy to open and/or read those articles I linked to, just Google “sitting is the new smoking” and check out the images and infographics. If those don’t scare you, um, I guess go take a smoke break?

But, sometimes sitting is just so nice

But, sometimes sitting is just so nice

How do you avoid sitting all day at work? If you have a standing desk, how often do you stand? (Because I’ve been told that standing all day is also bad for you!)

As is every thing in life, it’s all about moderation, right?

OK, now that I’m done typing this out at my computer while sitting at a desk in a coffee shop, it’s time for some healthy standing time!

18 miles of pain and no pain

Last Saturday’s run was quite a victory for me.

Mainly, because I did it after taking the GRE.

I went into this run drained from said test. But also, hopeful. I hoped to run the full 18 without walking. And, I did!

Now, running 18 consecutive miles may seem like a cake walk for someone who has done four marathons but I’ve been taking this training cycle very conservatively and slightly injured. (Dang it, IT band!!)

Despite the downpour the night before, it was actually sunny out during my Saturday run! I saw a little of everything … I ran past my old elementary school and past Husky Stadium through a sea of purple (the Dawgs got the W, obviously) and worked my way to the Arboretum. I turned around at Madison Street/Park and headed toward Montlake again. One of my coworkers/friends lives in Montlake so I stopped my Garmin and refilled my water bottle and chatted with her and drank some ginger ale and then continued on my way.

I left her house at around mile 10 and was shocked that my right knee felt fine. Everything else felt a little “mrghs” (like, not in pain but just fatigued from all the running). I ran through the UW campus and met up with my friend, Benjie, who was going to finish up the last four miles of my run with me. Although I was running 9-min mile to 9:30-min mile pace on my own, once I hit those last four miles I was pretty spent. I was dragging my feet at nearly 11-min mile pace!!

But, I was happy because my IT band stayed in check. No real horrible pain this time!

I have still been foam rolling like crazy and icing after every run. And, not to worry, I’ve been doing all those IT band stretches.

That Saturday afternoon, I had no IT band pain but, everything else hurt.

Bring it, Chicago.

You need to eat more!

Remember back when I officially announced that I am anemic (AKA iron deficient?)

Well, my mom wanted me to get a second opinion. Not a second opinion about whether or not I really do have anemia (the judge has spoken on that one). She just wanted another doctor — her primary care physician — to take a look at me.

After I started injecting myself with spinach (and by that, I mean taking iron supplements thrice a day! — Yes, THREE times!) I started having stomach pains. (A few of the common side effects of taking iron is constipation, nausea, dizziness … just an FYI). When I called the doctor’s clinic after a month of being on the iron — telling the kind people that I would like to stop taking the iron — they told me to not stop. They did not advise it. They said I could drop down my dosage to two pills a day.

Even though I wanted to be a non-compliant patient, I listened. I obeyed.

And then, I went to this new doctor.

She was more reassuring about my anemia. She said with the “proper diet” I can get my iron levels back up and won’t have to take the supplements anymore. And, after looking at my lab results from the other clinic, she said I can lower my dosage to one pill a day! (I like her already!)

Not only that, but she recommended that I EAT MORE. Yes, you read correctly. Because I burn so many calories running, she thinks I am not replenishing sufficiently by what I told her I am eating and the number of times I eat a day. (She said it wouldn’t be abnormal if I were eating every three hours). But, you know, when you work in close proximity to another young woman, you get kind of self conscious that she will judge you and think that you eat a lot or too much.

But, there you have it.

I’m a runner. And, I’m anemic. So, I will eat and eat and eat.

I will eat more. I will drink more water and stay hydrated.

Who knows, the doc even said I may notice improvements in my running (AKA faster times).

And, if she couldn’t make a better first impression on me as a new patient, she called me a “high performance athlete!”

I’ll take that.

I can’t help it, it’s the anemia

It’s official! I’m anemic!

The first hit on Google (from the National Institutes of Health) says that anemia is “a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells provide oxygen to body tissues.”

What does this mean???

It means all those times I was “too lame” to go out to the bars with you, well, it was the anemia. Whenever you heard me grumbling about not being able to play consecutive points in the cup during ultimate games, well, that was the anemia, too. Every time I told you I was tired … you guessed it! It’s been the anemia all along!

So, really, none of it has been my fault at all. (Er, or maybe it has. After all, I am in the female vegetarian distance runner category of people).

But now I have a legitimate reason for feeling low on energy. Because, I really am! I have the lab results to prove it! (Out of 10 different “things” tested, seven are below the normal range. And only one of the three that’s within range is at the upper end of the range — my platelet count).

My mom “blames” herself for my anemia. She says she should have “forced” me to eat meat when I was a child so that I wouldn’t’ve become a vegetarian. Now, she tells me I should just “eat tofu every day.” (Seriously, mom?)

I have a prescription for iron supplements. I take three tablets a day! I also had another blood test last week to find out if I am low on vitaminB12, which could have something to do with the low iron thing. (Don’t ask me to go into details. I’m not a doctor …)

Nothing else in my daily life has changed. I’m still planning on doing the Vancouver Marathon in May.

(I just now have a legitimate excuse/reason for my lame/frowned-upon actions and/or comments).

I’m judgemental

She walked into the room and my immediate thought was, “Surely, she can’t be my doctor!”

She looked like she was a mere one or two years older than I am.

She’s a resident.

She’s fresh out of medical school. Sure, she technically did graduate and has a PhD. Sure, she technically is a doctor. And, she must be one of the “good ones” since UW Medicine hired her, right?

I’m thinking all of these thoughts while she introduces herself to me and then I interrupt my thoughts on “how new of a doctor she is” with “how horrible of a person I am.”

Am I an ageist? I guess I am! Am I judging her? Yes I am!

If she went into med school right from undergrad, then, indeed, she could be a mere one or two years older than I am.

A small — 5 percent — of me wanted to make up some excuse about money running out on my parking meter so that I could get up and leave. (Wouldn’t that be something for my first “adult” visit to the doctor?)

But, then I thought about Phyllis. And, other friends and acquaintances who are in medical school right now — they are probably studying their brains out right this second as I type! I thought about how one day my friend Phyllis is going to a great, professional, well-liked physician. But, the only way she will one day become this awesome doctor is if patients give her a chance and let her be their doctor.

So, no, I didn’t walk out on the kind — but very young-looking — doctor. (It made me feel slightly better when I saw a few strands of gray hairs mixed in with her dark brown locks. Gray hairs mean she was really stressed out during med school because she studied all the time, right?)

And, in all honesty, she was fine. She was nice, professional. I asked her if I could add her as a friend on Facebook. (This is a joke. I did NOT do this. I am just trying to add some humor in this dry post …) I did however casually ask her about her credentials. It went like this:

Me: So, did you go to the UW for med school?

Her: Oh, no, I went to Wash U and then Duke for undergrad. I’m still getting used to the weather here.

Me: (Internal sigh of relief that she received her education from “good, respectable schools.”)

Now, we wait. I’ll get results back from my blood work next week on whether or not I am anemic.

And, so much for trying to establish myself as a “real patient” who goes and sees her physician on an annual basis. Aren’t residencies one year? This time next year, “my” doctor won’t be here anymore.  Guess I’ll  just have Phyllis give me diagnoses so she gets more practice!

The patient is in

I don’t have a doctor, or, as I have come to learn while working at a hospital, a PCP (primary care physician).

I usually don’t think things ever get “bad enough” to go to the doctor. I’ll just sleep more, pop some Advil.

However, one time my senior year in college, I got a cold and my mom “was sure” that I had mono (I didn’t, for the record), so I went to my doctor at the time. My doctor at the time, was my pediatrician. Yes, I was 21 years old, and I went to my pediatrician. I was still covered under my mom’s insurance and that’s where it was covered at. I hadn’t been to Dr. W since I had a physical exam in high school, you know, those ones they forced you to do yearly before you could participate in school sports.

So, the day came. One of my roommates dropped me off to see the pediatrician and I did my best to act like I was still in high school, not that I was a senior in college. My biggest fear was that I would run into one of “my children” (throughout college I worked part time at a pre school and it wasn’t located too far from this pediatrics clinic).

I felt like I was Ross in that one episode of “Friends” where he still sees his pediatrician … you know the one I’m talking about!

Once I was allowed to escape the waiting room — the most dangerous area to be spotted — I felt a sense of relief and waited alone in one of the patient rooms for Dr. W to see me. She knocked on the door. Her usually light knock. It was comforting. Maybe the pediatrician isn’t so bad?

But, now, moving forward a few years, I am 25 years old. I cannot see the pediatrician anymore (nor do I want to). I have my own insurance plan! I’m a grown up! And, a responsible adult sees her doctor once a year!

Back to that problem of not having a doctor though …

My mom’s best friend recommended a doctor to me. She had another doc in mind but apparently that one is well-established and isn’t accepting new patients. I called the office the other day to make an appointment with the second pick doctor. Well, apparently she’s a pretty good doctor too because she also isn’t accepting new patients! I put my health care into the hands of the receptionist on the other end of the phone line, she picked out a physician who did have availability.

We’ll see how this turns out … the only reason I am going is so I can once and for all know if I am anemic or not. After that, I guess I don’t really have to be seeing a doctor.

Sure, maybe I’m a bit irresponsible when it comes to my health. I do however stay on top of my twice-a-year dentist visits and yearly eye doctor appointments! And, despite not having a PCP I do have an OBGYN. (But, yeah, you got me on that one. I received a letter from her office saying I’m overdue for my yearly check up).