This is 30

All names in this post are changed to protect the old and innocent.

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She felt bad that she kept having to leave me alone at the table. First it was to go get water. And then it was to go order ice cream.

No, she wasn’t extremely hungry or thirsty. She was trying to subdue her tastebuds that were on fire at the moment.

Samantha and I met up for dinner at a place that has take-out chicken sandwiches. She assured me that the tofu sandwiches (for this vegetarian) were also delicious. You can choose the level of spiciness of your sandwich and I ordered mine “medium” while Sam decided to go for “hot.” She said she ate there before and ordered medium but that she felt like it wasn’t spicy enough.

Well, folks, we’ve learned that there is a big difference between “medium” and “hot” at this place. While I was scarfing down my sandwich, she could barely eat hers.

“Kristin, what’s wrong with me? I’m in pain!” she said.

It’s one of those scenes that you want to be laughing at, but it actually didn’t come across as funny to me. I felt bad because there was nothing I could do to help her. (And she clearly was not in the position to be laughing).

“Do you want some of my sandwich?” I offered.

Sam said it was too late. Her mouth was already burning. She went back for more water at the self-serve station and left a little later again to order vanilla ice cream in hopes that the cold cream would off-set the burning sensation in her mouth.

“Is this what it’s like to get old?” she said while half laughing. Or, was it I who said that to try to lighten her mood?

Either way, maybe this is what getting old is like. Most of my friends and I are now 30, or about to approach 30.

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I have one friend, Brandy, who just got back surgery last week. Yes, back surgery! And, just like me she is only 30 years old! And, I have another friend, Maggie, who is about to get a colonoscopy because she has been having unresolved gastrointestinal problems.

Maybe this is the 30 that no one talks or writes (or posts on social media) about.

Except that I have been constantly writing and reminding you all about my year-long running injury!

We hear stories or see Facebook posts about Judy from high school’s new baby boy, or Agatha and her husband’s new million-dollar house or Angie’s elaborate wedding in the Bahamas.

We don’t hear the stories about the surgeries, doctor visits or that time your friend Sam could barely eat her dinner because she ordered it too spicy.

So, let’s be real. (I guess) this is 30.

Injured runner: Learning how to swim yet again

I have had to learn how to swim now four times in my life.

  1. As a child when I was maybe three or four and my parents had me take “little tadpools” swim lessons — or whatever the classes were called at the time.
  2. As an adult when I decided to participate in my first triathlon the summer of 2012 and had never done any “serious swimming” before.
  3. As an adult when I found out I was injured from running last summer and needed to learn how to swim on a consistent basis and for a longer period of time.
  4. Most recently, as of a week ago, when my physical therapist told me to continue swimming without kicking my legs!

This post is going to be devoted to the fourth point because I have conveniently linked out to past posts about points #2 and #3 and I didn’t have a blog when I was four.

Ever since re-learning how to swim as an adult for my triathlon five years ago, I have had mad respect for swimmers. They are tough. They are relentless. They are strong. They can freakin’ hold their breath for so much longer than the average person!

And, now that I have attempted to swim without kicking my legs — so, yes, only using my arms — my respect for swimmers has increased twofold.

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I arrived at the pool Friday a little nervous. I was hoping that the lap lanes were not crowded because I didn’t want to be bumping into other swimmers. Luckily, I only had to share the lane with one other woman so we split the lane. She’s someone I regularly see at the pool and for some reason this time we started chatting and actually introduced ourselves to each other. I mentioned to this 60-something-year-old woman that I probably wouldn’t be in the pool for very long today since I was going to be swimming without kicking for the first time. She replied that she thinks that swimming without kicking is easier.

I placed the little floatie-thing — is there a name for it? — between my legs, just above my knees, and was on my way. As soon as I swam my first stroke, I felt uneasy. My stroke felt “uncontrollable.” I don’t know how to explain it other than saying that my lower half of my body felt like it was floating so much that my top half felt like it was being submerged under water with a greater force than normal. I felt like I couldn’t easily turn my head to take my breaths of air. Whenever my hands and arms would swing back into the water, I felt like I was pounding into the water and creating huge splashes. Sometimes, my arm would even waver and cross over my body as it re-entered the water.

I basically felt like I was not in complete control of my body. A few times I even swam too close to the lines that divide the lanes and ended up hitting the plastic markers!

Oh, and I was moving way slower than I normally do when I swim while kicking.

This was all so hard that after one lap I wanted to quit. I took off my googles, because for some reason they were fogging up, and looked over to my new friend and said, “Wow, that was tough! I don’t know how many more of these I can do.”

I don’t know what I was expecting her to say to me but what she did say kept me going.

“I’m rooting for you, Kristin!” she replied and dunked her body back into the water and continued with her laps.

OK, if this woman thinks I can do it, I can do  a few more, right?

With each lap I completed, the easier it became and the more comfortable I felt about my new swimming routine. I kept telling myself, get to 5 laps, then get to 10 laps, until I reached 15 laps and decided to call it a day.

For reference, I normally swim 30 to 36 laps on an average good day, with upwards of 40 to 45 laps on a really good day.

The good news was that after this workout, I didn’t experience any knee pain. The main reason my physical therapist does not want me kicking while swimming is because I told him that sometimes I have knee pain while swimming.

I’m doing all of this — including my PT exercises — to build strength and eliminate my knee pain.

And, so that I can get back to running once again.

So I’m OK with learning how to swim yet again.

From injured to beyond angry

I skipped my swim today.

I was so mad, so angry about not being able to run that swimming — my “substitute” to running — just felt like a slap in the face.

When a family member suggests that you “not run any more marathons” in the future, how are you supposed to receive that? I’m injured. I have a stress fracture that is healing at a snail’s pace. Sure, I think about running all the time but I am in no manner thinking about when my next marathon will be. And, of course I have had flickering thoughts about whether or not I will even decide to run a marathon again.

I know I’m not the only injured runner in the world. I know there are people who have experienced far worse set-backs in their life.

But, in my little world, it’s all a big deal.

I have a second opinion scheduled for next month — the soonest I could be seen, of course — and this appointment is now my one glimmer of hope.

I still do have hope somewhere deep inside.

(Even if I feel broken, frustrated and beyond angry).

A runner who isn’t running

It’s been 11 months since my last injury-free run.

It’s been nine months since my last run.

As each day passes, I feel less and less like a runner. I try not to think about running or not running since it just puts me in a bad/sad mood.

But, it has been nice when others make comments to me, treating me like the runner they knew before I got my stress fracture.

One friend who is currently training for an IRONMAN, recently messaged me on Facebook asking for running advice. She asked me for any nearby hilly running route recommendations because she needs to do more hill training in preparation for her race.

I was touched that she reached out to me and responded with a few of my go-to routes. (Yes, Discovery Park, you obviously made the list!)

And then I was chatting with a colleague who used to work on my team and she asked me if I was running again yet. When I told her that I wasn’t and that I have still been experiencing off-and-on knee pain, her response was something along the lines of, “Wow, that must be really hard for you. After all, several of us on the team ran but you were the only real runner among us.”

I was beaming on the inside that she called me a real runner.

We’ve been having a few sun breaks in Seattle in the midst of all the dumping-rain spells. I do still gauge the temperature based on whether it would be running-shorts-weather or not.

So, some runner instincts still cannot be erased.

 

Knowing your strengths

I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs personality test a few times but always took it with a grain of salt. After all, depending on my mood, I swing between getting an “I” or “E” (so, introverted or extroverted).

Recently at work we took the Clifton Strengths assessment. I’d never heard of the test before but it was pretty eye-opening. Based on many questions answered, it assesses your greatest strengths. (They call them “themes” and there are more than 30 themes to be placed into!)

In a workplace, knowing one another’s strengths helps with building better teams and thus producing better, timely work.

My top five strengths include: responsibility, individualization, analytical, strategic and achiever.

The “individualization” one first caught me by surprise because I thought it meant that I preferred to work as an individual and (essentially didn’t want to be around other people). It’s actually not that at all. When it comes to Clifton Strengths, individualization means you are intrigued by the unique qualities each person has. You don’t like to group people into “types” but would rather know how each person is special and different.

I definitely have a “get it done” attitude which is where the “responsibility” and “achiever” themes come from. I don’t always associate myself as a super analytical and strategic person but I guess those must come from my journalistic upbringing. I learned that you need facts to prove things. You need to write/report based off of known knowledge, not just what people may say.

Knowing these strengths goes beyond being helpful in a work setting. They can be applied to your personal life and goals as well.

We don’t always know exactly what our strengths are. Or, is everyone just way more self-aware than I am?

Something non-running and non-not running-related to talk about for once 🙂

Injured runner: I’m having a hard time swimming

Things OK to do while on the mend:

  • Walking
  • Elliptical-ing
  • Biking/spinning
  • Core and strength training
  • Swimming

Things not OK to do well on the mend:

  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Bearing weight on my knee (so like, table top/cat/cow position in yoga would all be a big fat no!)

I’ve been doing a pretty good job of consistently doing all but the swimming on my first list. I stopped going to yoga altogether after I talked to my doctor about a month ago to get specifics on what I can and cannot do while I let my stress fracture heal. I know I can still go to yoga but that I wouldn’t be able to do all the moves everyone else is. (So far, I haven’t gotten the courage to go back).

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So, why is swimming so hard? I’ve done it before.

But, my doctor had also told me to avoid breast stroke when I swim — too much kicking of the leg/knee out that could cause aggravation to the injury. Um, as a runner where swimming is not my forte, breast stroke was my saving grace! Now that I have to do the crawl the entire time, swimming is way more stressful and tiring and time consuming.

Right now, I only have the lung capacity to do two laps (so out-and-back twice) of the crawl. After two laps I am winded. I am gasping for air and my heart is beating pretty quickly. I hate having to pause/take a break, especially if there are other swimmers in the lane — it just messes up with the whole flow!

So, what do I do? Just keep going to the pool and get better? The last two times I went to the pool, I spent a majority of my time using the kick board. I wouldn’t mind doing backstroke either, but this takes skill if you have to share the lane with others …

It’s also hard to get better at swimming when I only go once a week. But, the lap swim schedule and my work schedule and how crowded the pool gets on Saturdays leaves me with just Sunday swim days.

Maybe I’ll try aqua jogging. That doesn’t take being in the lap lane. I keep running into my old high school cross country coach at the pool and he’s been telling me to aqua jog instead of doing mindless laps back and forth if I hate it so much.

Maybe I don’t need to get any better at swimming. Maybe I’ll just stay in the slow lane and kick board the entire time.

But, it would be nice for my workout to not take an hour plus …

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.