New Normal

It’s corny and trite, but true. Getting sick gives you perspective. I didn’t expect to feel this way when the doctor told me I have ulcerative colitis. I didn’t think anything, really, except “sooooo, I DON’T have cancer, right?” That’s where my mind was: no cancer=no big deal. Well, no cancer still=HOORAY! AWESOME! YIPPEEEE! except for now it also comes along with, “so, I’m going to have this for the rest of my life?” Wow. Buzz kill.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the Obi-wans can relate to my predicament. Together, we have these really uplifting conversations about our New Normal. “What’s that,” a healthy, young individual might ask? It’s establishing new limits, expectations and parameters in which I live now that I’m aware of this disease I have. For me it means I have to come to grips with the fact that I may not be able to get through a run without stopping for a POJ break. It’s not something I can power through and deal with later. It also means that I can’t push as hard as I want to every single day because I can push myself right into a flare-up and then where would I be? It also means my life sometimes revolves around a bathroom. Yay, me. Bottom line: I have to learn what my New Normal is, day by day, so that I can work within it. Ignoring that my body is different now is only setting me up for failure in the very near future.

But we’re all dealing our own version of New Normal, with or without health problems.

We’re all getting older (sorry, it’s true) and our bodies can’t do for us what it did 10, 20, 30 years ago. It’s not that we should crawl into a hole and give up once we get past a certain age, but we have to respect the New Normal and learn to work with it if we want to succeed and meet our goals. Otherwise, unreasonable expectations are set and never met and THAT is the most depressing way to go through life: never meeting a goal. Yikes. I don’t think I could live that way. This is the reason why there are different prizes for different age groups at races. There’s no way to compare the performance of a 70 year-old with that of a 24 year-old. (Which is not to say a 70 year-old couldn’t outrun a 24 year-old, I’ve seen it done–it may or may not have been me during my first marathon, it’s just that physiologically you cannot compare the two)

Maybe you have an old injury that prevents you from pumping a lot of weight the way you did in college. Maybe you have a new baby who keeps you so busy you can only run twice a week (if that)…and sleep even less! Maybe you have some crazy auto-immune disease like me (welcome to the club–strength in numbers!). Maybe it’s temporary and you’re getting over being sick. Maybe you’ve got 60 extra pounds on you that you didn’t have in high school basketball. Maybe you’re a soldier who lost a limb. Maybe you’re a former star athlete who just can’t jump as high or run as fast as you could 10 years ago. Maybe you had adult-onset something or other. Maybe, maybe, maybe…there are a million reasons why you find yourself in the New Normal zone. Don’t be scared of it. EMBRACE IT!

Now, what do you do? Let go of the phrase, “I used to be able to…” and leave the past in the past. What you could do or did 10 years ago or yesterday doesn’t matter when you’re trying to figure out what you can do today. Focus on the “CAN” of that sentence. I can run one mile without stopping. I can complete a marathon, no matter how long it takes me. I can do 30 sit-ups before my one-year old starts crawling all over me. I can take a 20 minute walk around my block. I can try that new class at the gym. I can still do at least 5 pull-ups (good for you! I cannot.) And on, and on and on. Then test those limits and see what more you can do. Or, try something new in which you have no previous experience or expectations of yourself.

Used to run and now you can’t? Try yoga. Used to have all the time in the world to leisurely go to the gym and now you’re home with a kid? Try P90X. Used to be able to run the mile in 5:30 (hello, speedy)? Try an indoor cycling class and dominate there. Got an injury that’s keeping you from doing your favorite activity? Pick up another hobby in the interim. Can’t be as active as you used to be? Be active when you can and learn to live with it when you can’t. Respect the New Normal and you will feel a whole lot better.

Whatever you do, don’t keep looking back over your shoulder at a former life because you’ll likely fall flat on your face into tomorrow. And no one wants to start tomorrow face down on the floor. That’ll just set you up for a bad day, am I right?

Hopefully, this helps some of you out there who are writing to me about struggling to get “back below…” a certain weight, time, etc. Keep trying, but set some more realistic goals for yourself. Hey, I had to and I’m much happier for it. I think the Obi-wans are, too, but you’d have to ask them that 😉

Now go out and run!

Note: Yesterday’s announcement about the fundraising party at Jackrabbit was incorrect. It’s not tonight, it’s next week, Thursday, August 11th. I’ll remind you again next week, but mark your calendars!