Obi-wan: The Emotional Side of Post-Injury Athletes

The following is the third in a series of guest blogs written by my Dad, affectionately nicknamed “Obi-wan” for his sage advice and guidance in using The Force in my life. He is also the inspiration behind Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays and the person who first taught me how to get strong and stay fit.

The classic baseball team photo *awesome*, age7

He also taught me how to throw a ball and swing a bat so I could play baseball at age 5. Whattaguy. Note the excellent grip and form on that bat.

Here he is, ladies and gents, Obi-wan.

May The Force be with you. (Image courtesy of LucasFilm.com)

May The Force be with you. Not my Dad, btw.
(Image courtesy of LucasFilm.com)

As an avid reader of Abby’s blog I read with great interest April’s “Effects of De-Training” with the supporting study data. The study data on the effects of de-training on highly trained runners or cyclists supported what everyone, regardless of fitness level, has found out when starting back into a training regime after a layoff: your fitness levels have tanked!

Since when is 20lbs so much to lift?

Since when is 20lbs so much to lift?

Having never been a highly trained endurance athlete but more of a self trained fitness enthusiast who has had a number of enforced training layoffs due to injury and illness, the data was particularly interesting to me to see the effects of de-training on highly trained athletes.

It also made me wonder about the emotional effects of de-training and re-training on well trained endurance athletes and also the average person working to stay fit in today’s busy world.

Later that day Abby and I had a long discussion about the effects of de-training and how her recent experiences with chronic illness, anesthesia, surgery, and an enforced layoff after her surgeries had affected her. Our conversation ranged into the emotional side of starting to train again after an enforced period of de-training.

Try as you might, the human body does not bounce back after major surgery or de-training. Sigh. I know.

Try as you might, the human body does not bounce back after major surgery or de-training. Sigh. I know.

We agreed that retraining our body to once again be able to perform at the pre-layoff levels had both a physical and emotional component that one needed to understand. It’s more than just pushing ones self to get back into the gym, on the bike, or onto the track.

In other words how does one get their mind around starting again after injury, illness, or enforced layoff for any reason?

So proud of a measly 1.5mi run 4 weeks after surgery. My body felt like jello, but I was mentally SO ready to be running again.

So proud of a measly 1.5mi run 4 weeks after surgery. My body felt like jello, but I was mentally SO ready to be running again.

In trying to get a better handle on the emotional side of re-training after an undesired training layoff, I turned to the source of all wisdom in today’s world, the internet.

After trying a number of searches included “re-training”, “emotional effects of de-training”, “starting training again after de-training” and other searches without gaining much insight into the emotional aspect of re-training, I did come upon an article which gave a helpful acronym which they associated with re-training after de-training:

SMART

 S – Set Specific Goals

M – Set Measurable Goals

A – Set Adjustable Goals

R – Set Realistic Goals

T – Set Time Based Goals

Be SMART. You don't want to end up like this poor fellow.

Be SMART. You don’t want to end up like this poor fellow.

This same acronym has been applied in various different disciplines including business, and while the above would seem to be a helpful way to go about getting started again, it doesn’t in my mind address the emotional component of starting to train again.

When one has the fear of re-injuring yourself, the uncertainty of how the surgery you had will affect your ability to participate, or just the self conscious aspect of reentering the gym or workout facility at a different level of performance, having a plan helps but doesn’t address the fears that we all have of lacing the sneaks back up.

Working out with awesome friends helps A TON when working your way back after a layoff.

Working out with awesome friends helps A TON when working your way back after a layoff.

As with anything in life fear of the unknown and tolerance of ambiguity are the greatest fears that we have as humans and the fears around restarting our exercise regime or fitness program is no different.

Upon reflection I don’t know that there is any easy answer or strategy for overcoming our fears. But as with all things in life, they are lessened by facing them head on and getting started with a realistic plan of action which will allow us to once again “go out and run” (or whatever)!

Thanks again to Obi-wan for another great post. Have you ever had to work your way back into shape after a hiatus? How did you do it?

Now go out and run…or whatever ;)

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: Forward

This year hasn’t flown for me where school is concerned. The opposite, in fact. It has CRAWLED.

Whatever is slower than a snail, that's what this year has been like.

Whatever is slower than a snail, that’s what this year has been like.

But when I look back at exactly one year ago today, it seems like it was only a few months ago and not twelve. One year ago today, I spent most of the day under anesthesia, in the OR and recovery room, having my colon removed to cure my Ulcerative Colitis.

Sent this the day after so Obi-wan didn't worry so much. See Dad? I'm smiling = I'm ok!

Sent this the day after so Obi-wan didn’t worry so much. See Dad? I’m smiling = I’m ok!

What a difference a year makes.

Last year, I couldn’t run 2 minutes on the treadmill before I had to jump off and race for the bathroom. Last week, I ran a PR in the half marathon. 1:40, thankyouverymuch. Oh, and I’m gonna kick ass in Chicago running for Team Challenge in three weeks!

Jersey, baby!

Jersey, baby!

Last year, I was so sick I was getting chemo pumped into my veins, iron IVs, and hydration solution every week. As of right now, I’m only on one drug, soon to be DRUG-FREE!(This probably means very little to anyone but Mrs. Obi-wan. Look, ma! No drugs!)

No more blogging with one hand and getting Remicade in the other!

No more blogging with one hand and getting Remicade in the other!

Last year, I missed just about every single running/walking/sporting event with my friends. This Thursday, I’m walking in lower Manhattan with my lululemon family and friends in the Taking Steps walk to spread IBD awareness. (Join me!)

Go ahead, ASK ME!

Go ahead, ASK ME!

Last year, I was terrified I wouldn’t make it through my first year of DPT school because of the two surgeries, the colostomy bag, or some other unforeseen disaster. Not only did I conquer my first year of school, this Friday I will be exactly halfway through my first rotation. And I’m feeling great about it!

Abby Bales, Student Physical Therapist and wheelchair driver extraordinaire.

Abby Bales, Student Physical Therapist and wheelchair driver extraordinaire.

What a difference a year makes. I cannot thank my friends, family, classmates, running community, lululemon family, and all of you enough for all of your support and encouragement over this past year.

I guess today’s post embodies all of what Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays are really all about: forward motion in the hopes of a better tomorrow.

I was scared to go forward with surgery but I did it and I don’t regret it one little bit.

I was scared to go forward with school, not knowing if my body would hold up, but I did and I made it through (with a little LOT of help from Birdie).

I was scared to come forward about my disease and surgery and all that but I did and managed to not only make new friends, but reach out into the IBD community to help other people struggling with the same decisions I had to make.

And no matter what happens, it is always better to be here than not to be here. I know that now more than ever.

Happy colon-free-iversary to me! I am totally colon-free and kicking ass!

Now go out and run!

Blogger On the Run, Indeed

Welcome to all of you clicking over from Women’s Running Magazine! And thank you so much to Kara and WR for the featuring me as their Blogger On the Run. It’s an honor.

womens-running

If you haven’t seen it, you can click here. I thought long and hard about how graphic I would get while describing my experience at the Jersey Marathon. In the end, I decided to go for it and flat out say “diarrhea” because, hell, that’s what it was. Not “tummy trouble” or “bathroom stuff” dammit. It was diarrhea and it’s what people with IBD deal with every single day.

TMI? Maybe. Deal with it.

Finishing in Jersey. Feeling a whole lot better than I was at mile 15, obviously.

Finishing in Jersey. Feeling a whole lot better than I was at mile 15, obviously.

If you comment on the post over at Women’s Running, you will be automatically entered to win a 12-month subscription for the magazine. So go comment!

As a running blogger, I sometimes feel pressure to share my every workout, every run, everyday stuff the way that other bloggers do. But when I first started this blog, Obi-wan (my Dad) counseled me to focus on what I wanted to say and who I wanted to reach.

"Use the Force. Stretch out your feelings". Obi-wan's always so smart.

“Use the Force. Stretch out your feelings”. Obi-wan’s always so smart.

I didn’t want to be like the other bloggers. I wanted to share information, science-y stuff, and help runners run stronger and get smarter. Obviously, some stuff changed as I got sick. Like, I didn’t run as much and for a long time.

I didn't run so much as I laid around and shuffled up and down my block.

I didn’t run so much as I laid around and shuffled up and down my block.

But no matter the fact that I don’t blog 3 times a day or break down every mile of every run or didn’t run for weeks at a time or have tons and tons of giveaways or get invited to special events, I’m still a Blogger On the Run! Just a different kind of Blogger On the Run.

And I want to thank Women’s Running Magazine for recognizing that and inviting me to be a part of their feature.

And for those of you who haven’t heard yet, now that I’m all healed up and running again, I’m running for a cure for Crohn’s and Colitis! RUN WITH ME! Or cycle. Or swim. Or elliptical (is that a verb?). Or walk. Or hop.

Kick some ass with me, won't you?

Kick some ass with me, won’t you?

Here’s the gist:

  • Donate $15 to my fundraising page and you get one entry into the raffle.
  • For every $10 over the initial $15 that you donate, you get one more entry into the awesome raffle.
  • Email me the amount you donated: runstrongereveryday@gmail.com so I know how many raffle entries to mark down for you
  • Wear the bib I send you on April 9th (don’t forget to water proof it!) and take a picture
  • Rock your 5K and share your photos with me!

Thanks again for stopping by!

Now go out and run.

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: Weight

Guys, I’m in midterm week month, so blogs may be shorter or non-existent until things settle down over here in Crazy Town. But it’s Tuesday so let’s not forget why it’s good to be here instead of the alternative.

Weight.

It’s become a nasty word in the world these days, wouldn’t you say?

Gaining weight. Weight of the world. Light-weight.

It’s not too long ago that the word weight carried a negative connotation to me as well. Yet recently, I’ve begun to embrace it.

What is weight to you? (Image courtesy of shutterstock.com)

What is weight to you?

There is nothing more comforting or calming to me than to feel the weight of my husband against me.

A hug, a hand, or when he is recruited to be my blanket because I just can’t get warm enough in the winter. I breathe easier, my heart rate slows down, and I almost always fall asleep.

Something about the weight of my hand in his.

Something about the weight of my hand in his.

When I was recovering from surgery, it was all about the weight. Was I eating? Was it leaving me properly in my new device? Too fast? Too slow? Was I gaining weight?

Despite one person’s comment that my 20 pound weight loss was (after a 5-day hospital stay and one organ removed) “looking good” on me, gaining weight was a top priority post-op. Both times post-op, actually.

GI surgery means things get scary in that world and weight gain = success!!! Normally a dirty phrase in my world, I was thrilled to see the scale headed back toward my normal.

I was healthy again. Weight was a good thing.

Feels good to be healthy again.

Feels good to be healthy again.

And there is nothing in the world that feels better than having the weight of a baby on your shoulder as you rock her to sleep.

My sister-in-law was always asking if it was too much for me to have her lying on me or if she was heavy in my arms. Heavy? Psh. Weight is no matter when my little Peanut needs to be rocked to sleep. I shooed her away and held Peanut as long as I possibly could.

Like Obi-wan says, there is no house so peaceful as the house of a newborn baby.

I don’t mind feeling the weight anymore. It reminds me to be calm, to be grateful, to be present. And that’s certainly Better Than the Alternative.

Now go out and run.

Dreading Starting Over…AGAIN

Confession: This week was my first official workout back in the gym with weights since my 2nd surgery in October. And I was dreading it.

But let me tell you why.

I have been weight-lifting since I was in middle school. Obi-wan made sure I knew proper form and how to put a routine together so that when I was on my own, I wouldn’t be intimidated by my surroundings.

Kiana Tom, my first weight-lifting guru. Courtesy of Obi-wan, of course.

Kiana Tom, my first weight-lifting guru. Courtesy of Obi-wan, of course.

Ever since, I could be found pumping iron (snort) in the weight room at college, in Brooklyn, and now at NYU’s Palladium alongside the undergrads and jocks. I never shied away from lifting with the big boys, even the Broncos, and often found that I was the only gal in many weight rooms throughout my young life.

Wedding day Gun Show.

Wedding day Gun Show.

After this surgery, I dreaded getting back into the gym. I dreaded feeling weak AGAIN. Only being able to lift light weights AGAIN. Being so, so, SOOOOOOO sore AGAIN. Starting from Square One AGAIN.

I feel like I’ve started over so many times this year, I dreaded that feeling yet again in the weight room.

From walking with my drugs to running with my friends, starting over has been hard.

From walking with my drugs to running with my friends, starting over has been hard.

I know that there are many days of crazy soreness ahead as I attempt to build my muscles back up to where they were pre-op. I know that there is frustrating fatigue waiting for me, probably weekly, as I find my new limits.

But I also know that I gotta start somewhere and I gotta start NOW. Well, and I’m allowed to start now, according to my surgeon.

But if not now, when? It’s only going to get harder and harder to force myself back to the gym, so why not this week?

20lbs is what I can do? Then 20lbs it is.

20lbs is what I can do? Then 20lbs it is.

I’m already sore from the hamstring curls, static lunges, abductor raises, tricep pushdowns, straight bar curls, overhead presses, and seated rows I did on Tuesday. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take too long for me to start feeling like the animal I know I can be in the gym :)

Do you lift? Have you ever had to start all over again after a long absence? Do you dread the soreness the way that I do? Ugh. There’s sore and then there’s the soreness that only comes from being away for months at a time and having your muscles atrophy substantially to the point of being sore from carrying boxes up and down 4 flights of stairs.

I feel like such a wimp. Here’s to wimpyness!

Now go out and run!