We are what we think. Thoughts from my sister….
So here I am, confined to my beautiful, sanctuary of a home for 6 weeks, recovering from a hip replacement at the tender age of 45. “You’re so young for a hip replacement!”, everyone says. “What happened?” “Nothing glamourous,” I say. “No accident or extreme sports injury. Just bad bones.”
Lying in my hospital bed for the first few days, I started thinking my life over, as one does when one has time to reflect. I have an angel of a husband, whom I do acknowledge, sits too low down on my daily lists. I have two really special kids that give me many happy “lump in the throat” moments, a big retail job that I love (most of the time), a peaceful family home and some great pets and friends to complete the picture. But as I lie – just a number in this hospital factory where I am only a small, temporary part of a very efficient system – I think seriously about my fabulous life and the question of balance comes up again.
The afternoon after my operation when my family came to visit, I noticed things I am not sure I would have picked up a few weeks ago, when my head would then have been full of transactional stuff, to do lists and tasks and, “What’s for supper,” and more. My restless husband, body language so clear – arms folded and pacing, the eternal optimist – willing me to be fine. My teenage daughter, always so gracefully composed yet this time her beautiful, big blue eyes tinged with concern. And my twelve-year-old son, perpetual motion, examining everything to see how it works, but every few minutes coming back to me, touching me with his warm, chunky, boy hands. I don’t think I would have noticed all this had I not been this way – very special things to me, much more meaningful than, “Are your bags packed?” or “Is the table cleared away?” or whether I have made the grocery list for tomorrow.
Back to balance then – the working mom conversation – an old one but very much in play as I recover, quite happily actually, and slowly at home. Much easier than I thought although I needed some discipline in the beginning not to look at my work emails or worry about the girls at the office and whether they were managing fine. Well, in my absence, I reminded myself, again, that life goes on. Sure, I may be missed but the retail cycle ticks along regardless of who’s in charge.
I asked my daughter once, during my recovery period, “Am I an OK Mom?” to which she replied, “Of course but you are much nicer since you have been at home; you’re not so shouty”. How right she is. My life slowed down for a while and so I had quality time and quantity time without the (self-induced) pressure of a career mom’s lifestyle.
Can I keep this up, when I go back to work – protect my balance and still do everything I want to for me and for my family? Of course I can, I have thought about this a lot. But it requires a different kind of discipline, one I am ready for, quite seriously. This is not a new conversation but I have a new solution, thanks to my also new hip.
And here’s the twist in my tale. I need to have my other hip replaced as well in the near future. However, I have a theory I am going to try, one of, “Can brains and good karma beat biology?” If I slow down, take the pressure off, shift my balances and spend time on the right aspects of my life, I think I can stall the coming of a second new hip.
I don’t need to be superwoman; I just need to keep on being a super woman.
What a privilege to be able to hear her story and her message. Thanks to BUFF® South Africa for bringing out such a top athlete. Emma has been a BUFF® sponsored athlete for 20 years. Says something about the integrity of both parties. Both are the genuine article! The real deal.
Not only is Emma an elite athlete, she is also a wife, mother of three, has a PhD in Biochemistry, is a writer and an entrepreneur. Oh sorry I forgot….Emma is also a firefighter!
Emma the athlete:
Her message throughout her presentation; but illustrated here in this video clip of her at UTMB 2013:
“My goals for this edition: First to enjoy myself to the maximum, do my utmost and try to be up there at the front if at all possible. It’s got to be a race that you have set your heart on. Because if you just think of your time, numbers and distance, maybe you won’t finish.”
Emma the scientist:
Take a look at her interview on here: I Run Far…..with specific reference to her focus for her PhD – the effects of Ultra Running on the body.
Some standout points for me taken from the above interview:
“Even today I’m amazed at the amount of people running and ultrarunning. The trend is brutal and every weekend there are thousands of races everywhere. I love that there are many people passionate about the sport and that organisers are working so hard to make their races bigger and bigger, but I worry that people do things without common sense, preparation and, sometimes, to just look good or say what they’ve done on social media. Sometimes it seems like we lose a little of the essence of why we do sport, why we run trails. Then it stops making sense. We have to remember that we move, run, and cycle because we feel alive, because it gives it so much, and because it makes us feel good, healthy, brave, and vital! Now with my thesis project, SUMMIT, I hope to open peoples’ eyes to see the dangers out there associated with ultra distances. I’m talking about if you’ve not previously had a medical checkup, a stress test, a biomechanics study. I’m talking nutritionally and making sure you’ve tried smaller distances before going and running half marathons or ultras. With the results I’d like to make sure that we’re getting people to do their homework in order to fulfill their dreams in the most healthy way possible. With the SUMMIT (health in ultramarathons and its limits) project, we are still studying many parameters associated with long distance, but at a highly summarised level we are seeing:
- That we’re still easily dehydrated when drinking much more than 2% of our body weight during ultras—so our performance is compromised along with other biochemical parameters.
- Our right ventricle suffers during long, continuous, and intensive efforts—and that there are hearts that are poorly suited to long distance or many hours of training.
- That the role of our genes can be greatly influenced by the simple facts of having or having not trained, having eaten well, or having slept well. Not everything is written in the genes, but they have the ability to express it.
- Our immune systems struggle after ultras and we’re very vulnerable to viruses, getting colds, and generally becoming ill.
The heart is suffering because of the effort they are putting in over many hours. Then there is also bone decalcification—bones lose calcium and can cause osteoporosis much sooner than someone who hasn’t run as much. The studies also show that there is an increased risk of ventricular fibrillation in men, too; not women, though.
So I would tell young people to wait a while before starting to run ultras—your metabolism will thank you in the future. We’re also seeing that exercise can be more beneficial than prescriptions to prevent premature death from almost all causes like heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, hypertension, colon cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, osteoporosis, sarcopenia, functional dependency and falls in the elderly, cognitive impairment, anxiety, and depression. This benefit is seen in both sexes and increases with the volume and intensity of exercise. You start seeing all these positive effects with only 30 minutes of exercise a day or 2.5 hours per week.”
Note to self: Do it with heart. Do your homework. Know your body. Have a base.
Emma the writer:
Emma the entrepreneur:
What an awesome initiative. Go on…sign up!
Girl power, without a doubt.
Serious about life?
Serious about health and fitness?
Just plain serious?
Well let’s not forget to have fun and enjoy the less-serious side of what we take seriously!
Being not so serious in our active wear….
We’re all onions. Layered with complexity. The real juice and flavour of our souls hidden deep inside, covered by a weathered, papery exterior – giving no clue as to what really lies beneath. Like a diamond stashed within layers of dark and peaty coal.
Why hide the awesomeness? Afraid of the tears when you peel back the layers? But once the tears have dried what about the delicious host of flavours that the inner onion provides?
So, why not peel back that musty display, risk the tears, be vulnerable, and feel the flavour of you.
Did you win? Was it a PB? How fast? How far? How long? Strava? Was it measured? Logged? Recorded? Great! But are you winning? And….How did you feel?
Did you feel like a winner?
Are you inspired?
Did you enjoy it? Did those around you, enjoy you?
In your efforts to be a winner, don’t forget to feel like one.
Go meet some girls and feel their unmeasured inspiration http://www.thisgirlcan.co.uk/meet-the-girls/
“This Girl Can celebrates the women who are doing their thing no matter how they do it, how they look or even how sweaty they get. They’re here to inspire us to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome.”
So – get moving girls!
The New York City Marathon
“Oh, you ran a marathon? How heavy was the sled?” Hillary may not have been dragging a sled but she sure completed a marathon …I think after reading her story you’ll forgive her for leaving the sled behind.
I met Hillary almost ten years ago while working in the disability sector and she was the then CEO of the Western Cape Cerebral Palsy Association … this is her story…
I was approached to participate in the 2011 New York City Marathon as they were looking for people with disabilities who would like to run the New York City Marathon. My reply was, ‘Hell, No!” I have a disability sticker on my car so that I can park nearest to the entrance to where I need to go, and left it at that!! However it got me thinking…
What would it take to do a marathon? Could I do it? Did I want to do it?? Would such an undertaking be a good or bad thing to the overall welfare of my body especially as I was growing older?
I had very little to go on. The goal was completing the New York City Marathon, in November, and it was now February! So before I signed anything I need to explore the physical and mental possibilities of such an undertaking. I went through all the tests and was cleared. However, the one question I kept asking, to which there was no clear answer, was: Could someone with Cerebral Palsy undertake this type of venture? I decided to find the answer and began this journey with the support of experts, professionals (both medical and sport) and my family.
Christopher, my husband, came out with me in the evenings. On one of the first occasions, I could hardly complete one kilometre, and whatever distance I did cover I developed a crippling stitch. So the first few sorties were not very encouraging and got me quite worried. What had I let myself in for? Perhaps it was being too foolhardy, and dare I say, perhaps a bit stupid even to think that I could achieve this.
But it was up to me. It was my own self determination and self-motivation to get out and do the walking. I had no one checking up on me and it was up to me to get my shoes on and to get out and walk. My weeks at work can be very taxing and I did not always want to go out in the evenings, but as the time for the marathon approached I took myself out every other day. Right from the beginning though Sunday mornings were always for a long walk. First it was the Pavilion on the Sea Point sea front and then it was the broad walk from Muizenberg to Kalk Bay and back, with lunch at Kalkies. There after Christopher, Tallulah (my dog and training partner) – and I would go down to Sea Point Pavilion on a Sunday morning and walk on the beach front. Each week we would walk a little bit further. In the initial stages of the training I tried “running” first between two lamp posts and then walk between the next two, but I soon decided that actually I would be better off if I just concentrated on setting a good walking pace.
As my training progressed, so too did the distances that I was able to cover. Christopher and I went up to Bainskloof in July and we decided to walk down to where the road crosses the river. We discover afterwards that it was a distance of 14 km! Early on in my training Christopher had bought me – a step counter, which we call the ‘red dot’ and which counts the number of steps I take, the distance I cover and the time it takes, which proved to be very useful. On this first long walk I was so tempted to turn back after 5km, but Christopher patiently got me to go on to the bridge, and when we got back felt very happy at having not given up and for doing the whole distance. Most surprisingly though, after that walk, was that I was not exhausted!
Thereafter it was sheer determination and self-discipline! The fun part for me was planning the walk. Lying in bed and designing which route I was going to follow. The first big walk I did from the house was another 15 km round trip with Tallulah and when it was not a long walk together with her it was with her and Christopher either along the Sea Point promenade or from Muizenberg to Kalk Bay, for lunch and back again, or from Kalk Bay to Simons Town. During the week I would try and go out two or three times and walk between 4 & 5 km.
Eventually in September I realised that I had to step up the pace, so one Sunday I decided that I had to see how far I could walk in one go and how long it would take and how I would feel afterwards. So we set off one Sunday morning in September, which turned out to be one of the hottest days that month, 30°C, and my aim was Muizenberg! That I think would have been nearly 30km away, but in the end I made it to Lakeside which was 21km away! I had completed half a marathon! I now knew that I could do a whole marathon. I felt fine. My body was tired but it did not ache. It had taken me just over 4 hours so I now had some idea as to how long a full marathon might take. I now just had to get out on a regular basis and get the kilometres on my shoes!
Marathon day arrived. It was now or never! As we waited for the gun to send us on our way, I admit that there was a tear in my eye and Matthew (my son who had agreed to walk with me as my guide) gave me a hug. One of the things I was most nervous about was the fact that I had never participated in an event like this before and so was not aware of how to run with other runners, and so when we got to about the 5 mile mark the rest of the field had started and were catching up with us. Fortunately the roads were wide and for the most part people just ran past. However there were a number of other runners who were not pleased to have a ‘walker’ on the course and were rude with remarks or pushing. But they were just a few people. The other disabled runners and their guides all wore luminous green tops, so there was no mistaking who we were. What was also very heart warming and exceedingly encouraging was how many of the fellow runners who passed gave words of encouragement.
Another aspect of the encouragement came with spectators shouting words of encouragement to us as we passed; I had printed my name on my shirt so there was no mistaking who I was, though there were times when I was sorry that I had put my name on it because so many people were shouting out my name, and I did not know how to respond.
Matthew and I had agreed that should he at any point along the way feel the need to point out that my walking was not what it should be he could say ‘ladders’ which would be a reminder to me, to pick my feet up. I must say that I do not remember him saying that, however, there was one point, and this was the point of my whole undertaking of this venture – to see if this sort of activity would improve my walking – was when I became very aware that my body was very tired and that my walking was laboured. So what I did was; I mentally went through my body, starting at my head, using my mind’s eye, to see what was happening to my body. When I got to my hips, what I saw was that I was not swinging my legs from my hips but instead I was somehow propelling my body forwards. Now knowing this to be the case, I then started to use my hips and my walking became easier. I felt very satisfied that when the sweeper van came through at about 4 pm there was no inclination to get on to it. At about 5pm the roads were being reopened and we then had to walk on the pavements. We could always see other people in front of us and were aware of people still walking behind us. However we knew that so long as we were still walking there would be someone waiting at the finishing line.
At last I could see the finishing line, and Matthew and I held hands and crossed the line together, 10 hours and seven seconds after we started! I had, with the help of many achieved what I had set out to do! I was so tired but the sense of pride and achievement and having my son doing it with me, was a very very special moment in my life!!
A couple of weeks ago Suzie’s life ended. Her life as it had been. A freak accident left her paralysed from the chest down. Wheelchair bound. Dependent. We all know a Suzie. Maybe not directly. But we all have a friend of friend, a distant relative, a connection with a Suzie story. Being part of a Suzie story compels one to do a stocktake. A gratitude check. A quiet “thank heavens that wasn’t me” – but it could have been. What does being the lead role of a Suzie story do for Suzie? No gratitude checks here. Maybe a “why me”?
A couple of years ago, if asked, I would have replied, “Shoot me please if I come away from an accident unwhole”. But over the last few years, perhaps being part of, and meeting a few Suzies, I have had a mind change. Now I say, “Keep me in the game”. If I am breathing I am still in the running. Perhaps not in the same race. I’d like to think that once the denial, anger, grief, more anger, more grief have passed that I’ll have the courage to exit the change room saying, “I’m here to play, put me back in the game”. I wish for the strength to be able to see the things that are still beautiful. To be able to take stock. A gratitude check. A quiet “thank you; I am still here”. If it is only my eyelid that I can move, then I wish for the courage and patience and strength to become the best damn eyeblinker in the world. Leave me in the game until my final whistle blows.
Thanks to the Suzies who have led me to slowly change my thinking and attempt to embrace “what is”.
Below is the video “The Runners”. Not necessarily linked to Suzie, but linked to life and the variety of others.
This 21km programme was put together for me by a good friend (and biokinetisist by profession) Heath Keyser. He also happens to be an uber-athlete. This is where my running started……it got me going and has kept me going!
I used this programme over and over again and will still default to it. And remain injury free. I started by walking the time and did that for the first six weeks, and then started at week 1 again, but this time incorporated running. It’s an awesome framework to make work for you and where you are in your running life. It’s a great place to start if you want to run but don’t know where or how to start.
I also earned the title of “bossy boots” when I started my 50 year old colleague (and dear friend) running using this programme. He ran his first half marathon six months later and is still running.
Key things that work for me and have allowed me to make sense of my running and enjoy it:
– Never underestimate the power of walking. If you don’t have the legs, mind or “krag” to run……then walk
– Sleep enough, rest enough
– Respect the easy days and take them easy
– Keep it fun
– Less is more
– Focus on form
So here it is: 21km Running Programme
The approximate distances each week are based on running at 6 min/km. So if you run 30 min at 6 min/km that equates to 5km. If you run faster, that is fine, but rather run for time as the program states.
Hills means choose a hilly route. Don’t avoid hills; seek them out. Once a week, pick a hilly route. If there is only one significant hill in your area, run it from each direction. Climbing builds strength in your quads and gets the heart rate up.
Easy is used as a recovery run or for your long run on the weekend.
Fast is pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and this improves your fitness.
Running for time also helps you to run an out-and-back course. For example, if your running time is 24min, run out for 13 min and back in 11 min. You usually run the second half faster because just like a racehorse sniffing the home straight, you tend to pin your ears back and go faster.
Training is built around a paradox—you don’t get fitter when you’re training. You improve when you’re resting. That’s when your body rebuilds from hard sessions. Rest means no running that day. However, it is active rest, so you can do gym, cycle, swim, stretch or just put your feet up!
Important parts of your program to remember:
• Drink water – the most important nutrient you put in your body! At least 6-8 glasses per day. It contributes more than half of your body weight, plays an important role in physical performance. It’s an easy thing to do.
• Get good shoes.
• Don’t worry how far you are running. Rather than set a distance goal, set a time goal. Increase the time gradually (10% increase a week) to avoid over extending yourself.
• Stretch – this is a personal choice. You may choose something like yoga over an intensive stretch session.
Tips for Successful Running
1. Structure your Sessions
The best way to become an accomplished runner is to get on a regular training program. A good program tells you what to do each day, and it is organised around sound training principles. You will make more progress if you understand how the programs are structured.
2. Build Gradually
It has been found that the body can handle gradual increases in distance very well and is less likely to get injured. The general rule is to increase mileage no more than 10% a week. This is especially important in running where the impact stresses are much greater than in cycling or swimming.
3. Vary the Pace
The most common mistake of novice runners is to plod along day after day at the same moderate pace. They always train at a jog and then when they want to actually run, their body doesn’t respond. Top runners, on the other hand, know how to alternate fast intervals on the track with leisurely runs in the forest. Fast runs/intervals provide the chance for improvement while slow runs allow the body to recover and get stronger. The big mistake is going the same speed day after day. If you always run at a moderate pace, your body won’t know that you want it to adapt and get faster.
4. Vary the Volume
Just as you vary the pace, you should also run different distances during the week. By gradually increasing the distance on your weekend run, your body adapts quickly to the increased workload.
5. Keep It Fun
Training should never be a noose around your neck. You are running for fun, relaxation and to improve your fitness. Explore different routes, alternate runs on pavements and contour paths, run alone and then in a group, try to break your personal record for the local time trial, sign up for a low-key race. Boredom should never be an option.