Monday, December 29, 2014

Finding Strength in Recovery

So, I haven't been participating in any "high impact" activities for a solid four months now; the longest I've withdrawn involuntarily from my usual running/soccer lifestyle. I wrecked a ligament in my tendon in the final weeks of Summer 2014 indoor soccer, from overuse between my two soccer teams and two volleyball teams, and the blatant disregard for its subtle hints that I should take it easy. I can even remember the one kick that ruined me. I was unable to take stairs without wincing, unable to walk without limping; this was enough for me to realize I had to simply stop for a while. Never in my entire athletic life have I had an injury that's put me on the bench for more than one week or two. I realize how lucky I've been, and I realize that I sorta, kinda, maybe had this coming.

I went to an orthopedist, who told me no bones had been broken, simply that a ligament had been torn. Should I have gone to physical therapy? Yes. Did I? Nah. I used a different kind of therapy.

I rested it, iced it. I was the girl wearing thick socks and tennis shoes to, at and from work as if they were regular work shoes. I felt sorry for myself for a little while too. I also realized how lucky I was to never have wrecked myself during my glory days on the soccer field in high school and college. Straight up, injuries suck. But they're also important. A lot of mental strength, patience and self-determination are born from life's little ways of forcing you to slow down.

When my body couldn't scream at me any louder to get it out and active again, I bought a new bathing suit and goggles, and headed up to the NY Health and Racquet Club locations that held a pool, at 23rd Street. At home, I'd watch YouTube videos and recall what it was to smoothly execute a flip turn, and the proper freestyle breathing techniques. I started visiting the teeny, crowded, always-a-wait pool two nights a week. I wished I was back in Miami, doing laps here instead.

But what can you do. I was able to swim 30 minutes straight, without stopping, quite easily. Swimming's a very lonely sport. No wonder I never lasted long with it in high school. But, I was incredibly lucky to have this rehabilitating activity to keep my heart rate up and my muscles loose during my otherwise inactive days and nights.

I nervously gave myself two or three days on the slopes, protected in my ACE wrap in my snowboarding boot. It did alright until one or two really tough, tight turns (inevitably due to the fact that the crew took one trail and I had accidentally started down a different one, and was trying to redirect myself), at which point I'd have to call it a day. This was NOT the time to push my ankle.

Maybe now that the Christmas hullabaloo's died down, or the fact that I just turned 30, or because it's going to be 2015 any day now, I decided it's time to get back out there. I have excellent range of motion, and no pain when I walk or climb stairs. I popped into the gym at lunch today and after 20 minutes of stretching, cautiously approached the cross trainer. I set it on a flat grade and only pressed my resistance up to about a 6. I "skied" it out for about ten minutes then climbed up on a treadmill.

I was actually scared of it. I felt like it was going to swallow me whole, like I wouldn't have control over how fast it was going. That my ankle would remember what running feels like and tighten up, or give out. I wished the treads were softer, or had a little more bounce in them. I can imagine it's a similar feeling for anyone starting a weight loss program, or a training regimen. You're filled with doubt. You're filled with fear. Well... this is all I have to say about that:

There are four ways you can handle fear. You can go over it, under it or around it. But if you are ever to put fear behind you, you must walk straight through it. Once you put fear behind you, leave it there.

I walked for a minute at 4.0mph then upped it to 6.2mph and jogged for nine minutes.

...without pain!!! I trotted along, and slowly, every muscle in my lower legs, my abs, woke up. They waved and said, "Oh, hiiiiii! Welcome back, girlfriend! We missed you!" It felt incredible. I'd never doubted myself, or the strength of my body like I did today. I felt ashamed, embarrassed. I'd never dealt with recovering from an injury before. My experience is so minor compared to people who come back from crazy accidents. They are hero's to me. So here I go... baby steps. Without fear.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Four Types of Strength

I love those funny e-cards. They keep things real. I came across one the other day that made me consider what it means to be strong, and how many different types of strength there are.

So I'll touch on four that I completely categorized, and made up, tonight.

1. Physical Strength. You push through an obstacle because you can tangibly see your immediate goal. There's no blind hope, no leap of faith. You can see, smell, taste the finish line.
  • You see an opening in the closing subway doors. You jam your hands inside and rip those doors apart to make it to your 7:30 a.m. meeting on time. (I take the NYC subway for 40 minutes, twice a day, so I tend to reference it a lot.)
  • You carry the last of your nine, plastic (just kidding, go green, don't use plastic) grocery bags on your pinky finger because you'd rather cut off your circulation than go back to the car for a second trip. 
  • You find a way to make it another 30 minutes in the bedroom when you could be getting sleep before your five back-to-back meetings tomorrow morning because, well, because.
  • And because sometimes you just need a darn King Cone:

2. Mental Strength.  This is when cognitive attributes help you prepare for, get through, or recover from tough situations.

  • We rehearse our speeches and wear lucky underwear so we don't blow it in front of a room of suits.
  • We tell ourselves we WILL survive the ice bath at Tough Mudder.
  • We work out, especially when we don't want to, so we can help put off osteoporosis and heart disease for as long as possible.  
  • We soldier through moments when we just want to collapse, and cry our eyes out, because we remember that tomorrow's sun will rise, and we can start over.
3. Character Strength. We all know what this is. We're lucky to have the opportunity to either witness or exhibit these beautiful, life moments each day. They can be as frequent or as spaced as you like. It's those moments when you have a choice, to do the right thing, the humble thing, the necessary thing, whether quiet or loud, to make a situation right.

  • You give your morning train seat up for an elderly, overweight, handicapped, pregnant, bag-laden or child-scuttling person on the subway. (Yes, those are pretty much the six people for which you MUST give up your seat. No excuses. Just do it.)
  • You take the high road. Swallowing what you really want to say and, instead, confidently displaying tact and grace to amend an otherwise hostile situation.
4. The "You" Strength. There's no one else in the world like you. And there are moments when you'll do something incredibly strong, and probably even surprise yourself, not because it was the pre-meditated "right thing" to do, or because you'd seen someone do it before, or because you knew you had it inside of you. You didn't do it for power or attention. It's an instinct, that, if asked to explain afterwards, you'd fumble over phrases like, "I don't know, man" or "Just did what I had to do".

I leave examples of the "You" strength to your imagination; to the little, heroic moments that you've had in your own life. The personal and public battles that you've won. Or even the ones that you've lost, but guess what? You learned. You know what they are. Those are the most satisfying moments.

Life's not meant to be wasted. Go surprise yourself. "You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice."

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Power of Music

"Music only makes me stronger."

I almost titled this blog, "A Terrible Run". Because that's how it started out. Tonight was an incredible evening for New York City. Cool, calm, quiet for a Monday. I'd just come out of an hour and a half of ping-pong with my impressively-talented-on-the-table Italian friend (play with the best if you want to improve!), and I wasn't ready to call it quits for the evening, as I mosied home from the 116th subway stop. Late summertime in New York City is absolutely fabulous. And up by where I live, next to Riverside and Sakura parks, there's never a shortage of dogs and their owners, new parents with their baby strollers, and oh, of course, the ever-inspiring runners and walkers who are indulging in every ounce of non-gym-time before the summer finally shuts its doors. I trounced into my apartment, semi-folded my work clothes back into their corners, grabbed my new favorite Nike "Miles Ahead, Worries Behind" tank, training shorts, headphones and headed out.

Within a few steps, the ankle that I'd destroyed in soccer last Thursday night, huffed, puffed and moaned at me that this run wasn't going to happen. I limped through my first two blocks, convinced that I would push through it. What did I do? I turned up my music. Should I have been running? Nope. Does loud music cause long term damage to your inner ears? Yep. Was I going to resist a beautiful night out on the Hudson River? NOPE.

Don't run this late on unlit paths. Like I did.

Wow, this city. Well, OK, so that's actually Jersey that you see. But, you know what I mean. Limping along, I wasn't sure which direction to go. I ended up running from 130th Street, down the water's edge to 96th street and back up through Riverside Park. As I usually do in races as well, my body naturally starts to run faster and faster once I've reached my halfway point. When my music is pumping, I stop listening to my body and concentrate on the instruments composing the song. Since most of my workout music is house and techno beats, there's not too much to dissect, but focusing on each measure of music takes my mind off of how far I have left to run.

The paths through Riverside Park are open and breezy. Local security patrol the paths, but in remembering those horrific stories of runners being attacked in NY parks, well in ANY park ever for that matter, I ran with my car key between my pointer and middle fingers, ready to mercilessly stab it into an attacker's neck. (Hey, you can never be too careful.) By the time I made it up to 116th street, I was audibly panting and moaning, practically dry heaving. My ankle was killing me, and I had to stop for traffic lights to cross through Columbia University. But I couldn't stop. The music was driving me. I wanted to run faster and faster. I sprinted across campus and finally slowed down about a block from where my car was parked on Morningside Drive (New Yorkers have to move their car four times a week to opposite sides of the street for the street sweepers.) It ended up being just over 4.5 miles-not bad for a Monday! Best of all, I could go guiltlessly hoark down some pasta and dark chocolate.

The funny thing is that my soundtrack tonight was my slower music. I remember the first time a slower song accidentally snuck itself into one of my playlists. I realized that the beat of the music wasn't what necessarily kept me going. It was the lyrics. Depending on what mood I'm in, what kind of a day I've had, what parts of my life I need to reflect on, the lyrics of the music can be what will motivate me through a run. When I run, I don't worry about troubling things in my life. Running is an escape. A source of freedom. I let the music pierce my body and surge through my veins. It has a way of finding a worry or concern, and smoothing it out by reminding me that there's only so much ever in life that's truly in my control. Sometimes, all you need to do is let the music empower you. Whether it's slow or fast, it will touch you in ways you never expected. Just listen. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Second Place

ARGH! We lost our championship game tonight, with my corporate volleyball team. I wanted this one so badly, considering our massive victory in the semifinals against the number one team.

I started this team exactly one year ago. We were a hodge podge of sizes, shapes, talent. As Sid says in Ice Age, "We're the weirdest herd I've ever seen." And I've grown so attached to them; their hearts; their individual progress and growth in their technical skills and their attachments to each other as team members. I love seeing people have a good time because of an idea that I put into action. It pretty much lights up my heart. Does that sound stupid? Probably. But I sincerely mean it. What a source of joy.

And how far we've come! Fifth place in the first season, second place in the second season, and second place again in the third season. I'm tired of second. It's justifying to know when your team's done well enough to be considered the top of the league; the best. It's validating. And I want to give them a relief from all their hard work. I wanted to just scream when we lost by ONE POINT in the third game. But, as a captain, after both teams have shook hands and you've walked past them hugging their giant first place trophy, new sweatshirts and free-bar-tab goodies, my team huddles together and no one has a word to say, I've got to come up with something.

You have to put on a brave face. You can't be overly chipper and all "Well, we sure did our best guys!"; that comes off as obnoxious. You just have to verbalize what everyone's feelings inside, and lightly spin hope for the next season. You've gotta keep it short and sweet. Everyone wants to go their separate ways and handle it by their own means and methods. Confidence, a gentle smile and strong, comforting words are really all you can give them. Don't ever make excuses for why the other team won. Thank and congratulate your players, the team. And let them be on their way.

...of course this is all to be followed up with a post-work team happy hour some time next week, so we can REALLY talk about how we feel!

Well, like I told my teammates: "We'll get our day in the sun, and until we do, we'll make it hard as hell for anyone else to enjoy theirs."

Silence at Sunrise

"Silence? What can New York-noisy, roaring, rumbling, tumbling, bustling, story, turbulent New York-have to do with silence?" -Walt Whitman

It's deafening. To find yourself in complete silence, unaccompanied by another human, not even by sight, at sunrise in Manhattan, is terrifying and beautiful. 

I wasn't aware that I had set my internal alarm clock for sunrise-o-clock (4:30am?? Excuse me, what??) Ok, ok, so maybe I was a little heavy-handed at Forcella's happy hour with my soccer team last night.
A little vino?
It looks incredible, doesn't it? And on a rainy, Tuesday night? Seriously, how could anyone stop at just one...? I think I woke up so early because my body needed to drink its weight in water. 

Regardless, I couldn't get back to sleep and of course there was a million and one things racing through my head, so I had another one of those
putmyshoesonandgrabmyheadphonesandwalkoutthedoorbeforemybodyknowswhatshappeninggg!!! moments. (I think I should rename my blog.) Tricking my mind and body is clearly becoming a theme to getting myself out the door.

But WOW. What a morning. I jogged slowly up to Riverbank State Park and started around the track. There were four walkers out there with me. I have no reason to ever run on a track, with the abundance of parks near me, so naturally I found an incredible beauty in this nostalgic experience. It took me back to the paper I wrote in 8th grade about "What Freedom Means to Me". I wrote about how free I felt when I ran up and down the soccer field. I got a D on that paper. I think the teacher was looking for something a little deeper than running down a soccer field, and singing in the shower.

I, oddly, had the same feeling of freedom on the track this morning. I truly felt completely free; my mind lost every single worry, concern and care that I'd been carrying for the mile or so that it took me to get up there. On that track, there's no competition. No one's better than me. I don't have to worry about sideswiping another runner or dodging a yellow taxi. I won't trip on a tree root or a crack in the sidewalk. I'm not looking for the next landmark in my route and I certainly am not watching the clock to get back home. No one's looking at what I'm wearing, no one's wondering what my story is. I'm not looking at what other people are wearing and I'm certainly not trying to guess their story. It's me, the feeling of fresh air in my lungs, my quads gently pulling me forward, a clear, calm mind and that magnanimous, grey sky. 

Cash Cash's "Take Me Home" broke my hypnosis and the urge to pound out some sprints overcame me. I probably took four loops around the track and would sprint on the stretch featured above. 

This is how my body feels about sprinting at 6:10 in the morning. 

But this is what I got out of it. 

There's something about clouds that make everything seem so much quieter. I could barely hear the early morning traffic over the GW bridge. 

And when I finally couldn't bear the sound of silence any longer (and the mosquito's discovered how delicious my skin tasted), I gathered myself together and found the road to take me home.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Beach Thoughts

I took off two days last week, to slow things down a bit, and ended up out on Long Beach, Long Island on Saturday afternoon. The weather was incredible, blue skies covered the expansive beach. I brought Sadi, my new soccer ball (yes, it's the end of Adidas spelled backwards, and yes I not only gender-characterized my pink ball... but also yes, ... I named her!!) and went for a quick dip in the ocean.

Just the smell of the salt water, the feel of the sand, flavorful crab cakes and lobster bisque for lunch. It really transported me out of New York City. This was one, happy girl.

Of course this became a day of reflection; my thoughts on life on a broader scale, particularly in this very undulating chapter of my life. A very wise friend gave me some great advice which I sketched out and saved as the background on my cell phone. It couldn't be more positive, through my clouds of uncertainty. Whatever the future holds, the moments that are good, and the moments that are bad, they are all still moments; which must be cherished.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sunday Morning on the River

I really wouldn't have done it if it weren't for my amazing, incredible, inspirational girlfriend, Fran. We were out at her movie premiere last night and she told me she was going to take a jog the next morning. She asked what I was planning to do. "Um, sleep the eff in?" It was already about 11:30pm on a Saturday - wayyyy past my bedtime.

So my internal, corporate-slave clock woke me up at the obnoxiously early hour for a weekend, 8:30am. I can always tell what the weather's like by the amount of light that's filling my room and, oh mama, it was going to be a gorgeous day. I texted Fran and asked her if she was going running. She was still sleeping. But I had it in my head, so I just putmyshoesonandgrabbedmyheadphonesandwalkedoutthedoorbeforemybodyknewwhatwashappeningggg!!!

And, OH! What a day to run. Say hello to the GW bridge!

I'm sure I've mentioned before how unfortunate it is that you can't wear short training shorts, the tight, biker kind?, in Manhattan like you can in Miami. For as progressive and liberal as this city is, there's apparently no place for the tops of your thighs to be seen while you're running. (People judge you. "Oh, you think you're hot stuff with those super short, super tight designer shorts?" They judge. I know it. I know they do.) Well, too bad for the upper west side today. I threw on my sky blue Nike Pro Core 3" Compression shorts because they make me feel like I'm wearing absolutely nothing.

See that awesome dent in my leg? That's a first world sports injury. I was sailing last year on my dad's hobie cat and sure enough, we're riding high and as one of the hulls plummet under the surface, I grab my little sister to pull her off the back of the boat before it capsizes, but oh no! Her ankle was caught under a black strap on the tarp annnnnd we got stuck on the boat longer than we wanted. My leg hit some piece of metal on our way into the water and, well, it apparently took a chunk of my leg.

And in honor of the World Cup, here's a picture of my favorite fields. Soccer on the Hudson? *heart flutter

It was an awesome run. Balanced by some unusually healthy grocery shopping later in the day? Good start to the week.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Burgers, Baby

I never EVER make burgers. Yet so inspired by Jamie Oliver's 15 Minute Meals over the weekend, I wanted to try a burger. Into the meat I tossed:

- crushed red pepper
- black pepper
- Vermont Maple Mustard (from Fox Meadow Farms)
- thyme
- Japanese style Panko seasoned breadcrumbs

The pan was turned on Medium-Low and the burgers cooked for just about 8 minutes on each side, crisping the outside a deep brown and leaving the inside just a teeny bit pink. I threw freshly shaved American cheese on the top for a few minutes at the end, then took them off the heat, covered the pan and let them sit for a few minutes.

Burgers included: fresh pickles, tomato slices and garlic cooked kale.

The burgers were incredibly flavorful - quite unexpectedly so! I'M A BOSS BURGER COOKER!