Running with asthma: A race of one

I was supposed to run a 5K today as part of my “me-and-my-big-ideas” Facebook proclamation to run one race a month in 2014. Things were looking good: I made it through races in  January and February even though they aren’t typical “racing months” up here in New England. With spring around the corner, my resolution was looking like a sure thing.

Funny how “sure things” can become “not sure things” so quickly.

I’ve been plagued for the past few months by the reappearance of an old and not-so-welcome friend: Asthma. I used to blithely wave away the notion that asthma was any big deal for me, but it’s become a bigger deal this winter for reasons I can’t really ascertain. Tweaks in medications, short stints of Prednisone, a newly acquired Nebulizer. . .all these things work for a bit. . .but then I’m back to sucking air like a fish out of water whenever I try to run more than a mile.

Today should have been  my “March” race day. A 5k to support autism research, it was the only race I could fit into a jam-packed month. But, a recent head cold had settled into my chest and walking up the stairs was proving difficult. How could I run 3.1 miles when a walking the dog around the block was an effort?

So, instead of pinning  a number to my chest, I decided to slog out 3-ish miles alone, at my own pace, in my rainy neighborhood. It was slow going, with lots (and lots) of walking (and coughing) breaks. I got soaking wet. And pissed off. And worried. And frustrated.

I know my woes are no different from the runner with a reoccurring hamstring injury that is always in the back of their minds, or the swimmer whose shoulder tweaks during a workout, pulling them out of the pool while it heals.

And I know running has been so good for me and for my breathing overall. And that it will only take a few good weeks to get back to where I was before I got sick. But, right now, I just would really, really love to breathe like a normal person.

And run like someone who’s been working at it for two years, and not like a pack-a-day smoker who just decided to get off the couch.


Have yourself an anxious little Christmas

Christmas has always been my favorite time of the year. . .theoretically.

In actuality, it’s making me feel kind of sick. Lately, whenever I start to think about what I have still to do—-all the posts I still need to write for work, the holiday activities I’ve promised to do with the kids, the Christmas cards, the gift shopping, the cookie making, the “making merry and bright” . . .I feel like I’m about to spiral out of control. Or just lie on the ground and weep.

Even the little Christmas Countdown app I have on my iPhone makes my hands break out in a cold sweat. Two weeks?????

I need more time. More. Time.

Though, I’m sure that’s not the only problem. Part of it is the overload of a to-do list that will not quit. Part of it is some weird expectations I have on myself for what the holidays “should” be like and what we “should” do. Even though some of those things aren’t even things the kids care about doing. (Seeing Santa? They could care less. I want the photo.)

But, I’m trying to de-stress in ways that don’t involve eating a jar of Nutella, guzzling wine, or yelling at the kids. How?

* Getting outside. Honestly? I’d probably never do this if I didn’t have a big dog with soft eyes who looks at me as if she’s saying, “PLEASE take me for a walk” And, while it’s One. More. Thing I have to do a few times a day, once I start walking down the street with her, I feel the burdens of the day lifting from my shoulders. I always try to walk at least a half a mile (or so—I don’t measure it!), and breathe really deeply while I walk. I’ve had a few freezing walks the past few days, and while I sometimes wish I didn’t have to go outside (especially at 10pm!), I never regret it afterward.

* Zzzzzzzzz. 15 minutes on the couch and—wow—so much better. Reminds me of when I was in college and would arrive at the library at 7pm most nights, put my books down, my head on the desk, and fall promptly asleep for a short while. Just like then, I wake up ready to handle the next bunch of tasks. (don’t tell my former bosses, but I did the same thing when I worked in an office.)

* Magnesium. I started taking a magnesium supplement a few months ago on the suggestion of my doctor who said it might help me with those mood swings that come up every month. (YOU know what I mean) I’m supposed to vary the dosage based on where I am on my “cycle” but I’m lazy and just take 250mg every night. I can’t say that this is good for everyone (and you should always talk to your doctor before you take any supplements!), but I swear I’ve been a little more even-keeled this fall and winter.

* Just stop and go to bed. I’m a morning person and though I’d love to be productive at 10pm, I’m really just staring at my computer screen, getting nowhere. I don’t expect to get “enough” sleep this month, but I’m trying to get as much as possible.

* Lowered expectations. I will never have a house neighbors wants to visit for my decorating tips. I don’t make 10 different kinds of Christmas cookies or write a note on each Christmas card. And if we don’t see Santa this year, we’ll be okay. I think.

I’m doing okay and trying to remember why I love this holiday so much, though there is always room for improvement. How are you doing? Any other things I could be doing?

ScreenShot2012-09-27at74056AMThis is my last of three sponsored posts with Harvard Pilgrim (here are links to the first one and second one.) All the thoughts, opinions, and advice expressed are my very own. Want to find even more ways to be well? Check out 

Stop and give me 15 — easy self-care in fifteen minutes (or less)

Holding down a part time job, while homeschooling three kids, keeping house, and taking care of a dog doesn’t leave me with loads of time to sit back and think about me, me, me. But, when things start to get really stressful, I need to set aside even the smallest bit of time for me, or I start to feel like that lady in the Calgon commercials of yesteryear. And while a nice, long luxurious bubble bath sounds nice, I know I’d spend the entire time up to my neck in bubbles, thinking about everything I need to do.

Instead, I have a few quick tricks up my sleeve that take less than 15 minutes but leave me feeling like I did something good for myself. And I tell myself that someday, maybe when the kids are all at college, I’ll be able to take that bath.

Go out for a walk
I’ve always loved walking places when I lived in more urban areas, though I’ve grown more sedentary in suburbia where nothing is really “within walking distance”. This is where having a big black lab is a plus: She definitely needs to work off her doggie energy, and I can cover quite a bit of ground in 15 minutes. Since my kids are old enough to watch themselves (and I’m not going too far in such a short amount of time), I get to spend that time alone with my thoughts in the fresh air. For those of you without dogs, lace up your shoes anyway and hit the pavement for a little power walk—with or without the kids in a stroller. It really does feel great, even when the weather isn’t ideal.

I’m not a meditating kind of person, but after reading Mommy Niri and Lisa Johnson’s posts about their experiences with meditation, I’ve given it a shot. Just sitting quietly for a few minutes with my breath, telling my brain to s-l-o-w down feels really good. This is best done when the kids are still asleep in the morning, or when they are engrossed in a project downstairs, since angrily yelling, “Leave me alone! I’m meditating!” kind of defeats the purpose.

Spa Lite
I can’t ask the kids to sit tight while I run off for a massage at the local spa, but I can leave them downstairs while I spend 15 minutes taking care of my skin with a yummy smelling face mask and some heavy-duty, wrinkle-avoiding cream. Or, another trick I’ve done for years is to rub gobs of hand moisturizer on my hands and then plunge them into little disposable rubber gloves. Sure, I get really weird looks if the UPS guy comes to the front door, and–boy–do my hands get hot, but the reward is super-soft hands, especially if I can stand to wear them for a good long time (bedtime is good too).

Ten-minute tidy
Housecleaning isn’t often mentioned in pampering lists, but, since a messy house ruins my mood like nothing else, I swear by this trick: I set the oven timer for ten minutes, put on some great music, and the kids and I run around the house, putting away toys, clothes, papers, dishes. . .No I can’t clean my house in ten minutes (I wish!) but when the timer goes off, we all can see a big difference—and, if I’m lucky, the kids ask if they can “keep cleaning a little longer“—-er, OK kids. . .go crazy! I’m going to lie on the couch.

Pump Iron
In the perfect world, I’d have a gym membership and, after a nice long run or aerobics class, I’d have another hour to work on my chiseled arms and six-pack abs. In reality, I know any gym membership will go unused, as will big complicated home programs that require expensive equipment or an hour of time. But since gravity doesn’t seem to be giving me a break, I’ve decided to fight back. I grab the little 5-pound hands weights I keep in the family room, and do arm exercises for 10-15 minutes. Bicep curls, triceps push, deltoid squeezes, upright rows. . .It’s pretty amazing how many I can do in those few short minutes. I won’t have “Madonna-arms” doing this, but at least I can help tone things up a wee bit.

When all else fails. . .
I hide in my walk-in closet with a really, really good piece of dark chocolate and eat it v-e-r-y slowly.

Do you have any quick tricks for taking care of yourself during the day?

ScreenShot2012-09-27at74056AMThis is my second of three sponsored posts with Harvard Pilgrim (the first one is here!) All the thoughts, opinions, and advice expressed are my very own. Want to find even more ways to be well? Check out