Try, Try, Try, Try, Try it Again

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Well, it’s that time again!  I’m off my latest round of antibiotics, feeling mostly better, and I am ready to start working on my fitness.  Did I say ready? Perhaps that’s a stretch. It’s more like I’m to the point where I have no valid excuses to further avoid it. Welcome back Operation Lace Up.

I started testing the waters about a week ago to see where I was at strength-wise. The first day I told myself I’d only go one mile, and alternated walking and jogging every quarter-mile.  That went pretty well. I was able to walk at a 15-minute mile pace and jog at a 12.5-minute mile pace. The next day the sorest part of my body was actually my arms because a few times I leaned pretty heavily on the treadmill handles.  I’m pretty sure that’s cheating but sometimes I have to do it to get through a run!

Later that week I was able to use the same alternating pace to walk/run 1.5 miles.  Then yesterday evening I headed outside for a jog. Mentally, running outside is easier for me. There’s pleasant things to look at and the time passes much more quickly. There are a few challenges, however, such as airborne allergens, hills, and having to talk to people as you pass them. I’m sure it sounds rude to categorize that as a problem, but when your lung function is somewhere around 40%, you don’t have extra breath for conversation during exercise. Sorry neighbors!

When I began, I figured I would try to run a bit longer than the quarter-mile, maybe up to a half-mile. I started to feel stubborn once I got going, however, and decided just to run the whole thing. I managed to get through, but it wasn’t pretty. It felt awful, but I got through the 1.5 miles at a 14-minute mile pace. I should have been proud of myself, but honestly, I was a little upset initially.  It was so hard, and having just come off antibiotics, my lungs are less congested than usual. I was hoping it would feel better than it did. But then I realized I have plenty of things to be happy about.

First, I’m not all the way back to square one in spite of multiple setbacks this winter. After my first bad illness last winter the best I could do at first was walk at 17-minute mile pace.  I’m glad I’m not there. I don’t even think I’m going to need the Couch to 5K program this year. I’ll just build on that 1.5 mile run, slow though it was. Second, I have a new pair of shoes. And I got them for free!  I’m part of a Facebook exercise group for CF women and there I heard about a program through the Rock CF Foundation called Rock CF Kicks Back, where you can apply for a free pair of running shoes to get you started with exercise.  I applied and they sent me an awesome pair of shoes! Thanks guys!

Third, I have my Fitbit this year and that’s motivating. It’ll be fun to see how many miles and steps I can rack up this summer. And fourth, I won’t be doing it alone since Jaime is reinstituting his One for One pledge.  It’s always easier when you’re doing something unpleasant together 😉 Lastly, as I was brooding over my difficult run, I remembered an incident that happened just a few weeks ago. We had just bought Lucas a little orange balance bike. He was so excited!

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Pleased as punch.

One afternoon, I went on a walk with him so he could practice riding it. He’s not generally super persistent when something is challenging, but he’s been trying really hard with this bike. As he was pushing himself along the other day, trying to get the hang of it, he started singing. The songs were from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood which has been a recent favorite cartoon. First he sang, “If something seems hard to do, try it a little bit at a time. Try, try, try, try, try it again…keep trying you’ll get better! Try, try try.” Then he transitioned into, “It helps to say what you’re feeling.”

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Singing his little heart out.

It was adorable, and encouraging to see him applying those lessons to his situation. It’s what I need to do too, keep trying and remember that it will get better, even though it feels impossible at the beginning. How am I feeling? A little frustrated, but I don’t need to be back to my optimal fitness level tomorrow.  This is hard to do, but I can do it a little bit at a time. Thanks for the helpful reminders, Lucas.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress!  Maybe by my birthday at the end of June, I’ll be back to running two miles in 25 minutes. That’s my current goal, but it’s subject to modification depending on how things go.

Well, I’m off to lace up my new shoes. I can do this! It’s going to get easier 🙂

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If At First You Don’t Succeed

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Well, I have been putting off this post for quite some time.

A couple months back I wrote about a promise I made to Betsy. Knowing how much of a drag running had become for her, I pledged to run every day that she ran. It was meant to be an act of solidarity. It was meant to encourage her, to make her feel like she wasn’t the only one drudging through something unpleasant.

“What a good husband!” they said.

“What a noble gesture!” they proclaimed.

Well, I failed.

I started off well enough. It was May, the weather was great, and Betsy was really knocking it out of the park. I was feeling really inspired and motivated by wife’s unrelenting will. She didn’t enjoy it but there she was, out hitting the pavement or revving up the treadmill day after day. And so was I. On occasion I missed a run but I always made it up the next day.

Then came August and the start of the soccer season.

Suddenly I was busy coaching and I started to miss a day here and a day there. Before I knew it I “owed” Betsy four or five runs. She graciously offered me the opportunity to hit the reset button and start over. I declined. I thought I could catch up. I would just go every day the next week and I would be all square. But I didn’t. One week turned into two. And before I knew it I was going to have go running every day for the next two months in order to match Betsy’s total.

I suppose there were a few somewhat legitimate excuses but in the end they were really just excuses. Exactly the sort of excuses that Betsy can’t afford to make. I’ve gone from feeling like a failure to feeling like a complete loser. In the classic 1990s movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Robin of Locksley’s loyal companion, Azeem, suggests that “there are no perfect men, only perfect intentions.” I guess he has a point.

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It’s hard to argue with a man that carries a sword like that.

So I am getting back on the horse. I suppose I could go on about how I plan to stay on track and how this time will be different but when it comes down to it, actions speak louder than words. And I have to get to running! So I’ll just leave you with the wise words of William Edward Hickson:

‘Tis a lesson you should heed,

Try, try, try again.

If at first you don’t succeed,

Try, try, try again.

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Juuuust kidding!

Re-entry

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Things are going pretty well over here in the land of the Venturas. I am continuing to take the anti-fungal drug and although there are some side effects, the most bothersome ones have lessened and it is manageable. I hope and pray it will make a difference for my lungs.

In the meantime I’ve re-entered my normal life!  I’ve been able to tolerate my usual level of activity for the past week or so and it feels wonderful. Thanks to some help from loving friends, my house is looking much more clean and organized, and today I spent a little over an hour digging up weeds outdoors. The weeds in our front beds seemed to sense the opportunity and multiplied at an alarming rate over the past few months. Lucas helped me by throwing the non-prickly ones in the compost bin. We pretended they were carrots instead of weeds and he had a blast!

Lucas and I have re-entered our social life as well and have enjoyed some playdates with friends and visits to the park. I am working hard at building up strength and fitness.  I joined a group of “cysters” (that means other women with CF) on Facebook who are using exercise to stay healthy and a handful of us are doing a 30-day ab challenge. Jaime expanded his One for One to include this and is suffering right along with me ;).

Operation Lace Up is in full swing and I’m on week two of the Couch to 5K program. Yesterday I was able to up my distance to two miles and did a combination of jogging a minute and a half and walking two minutes for the duration of the two miles. I’m moving at about a 14 minute mile pace which is a drop from the 12.5 minute pace I worked up to last summer, but I think it’s a good start.

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This made me laugh! You’ve gotta keep a sense of humor about such things 🙂

It feels great to be progressing and I hope these increased levels of activity and exercise will help me regain my lung function.

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This is what Lucas gets to do while I’m on the treadmill. He declined my offer to trade.

Jaime’s One for One (you can read his post here if you missed it) has been a great source of encouragement to me! He has found the time to run in the midst of a particularly busy spring schedule and I am so proud of him and grateful for his love and support. Maybe some day Lucas will run with me too.  For now, he’s been encouraging me by telling me multiple times a day that I’m not sick anymore.  And he’s got it right! The oppressive, acute symptoms are gone. I don’t know where my lung function is sitting right now, but maybe it’s best I don’t know.  Rather than focusing on that, I can get on with the business of living. There is no need to wait for a good report or a higher number. Today I can enjoy this life I love so much–colored at times with struggle and frustration and disappointment and defeat, yet bursting with joy and laughter and friendship and love.

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour but this hour.” ~Walt Whitman

One For One

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A couple of years ago, a friend turned me on to a newish brand of shoes. TOMS is a California based shoe company that has become fairly popular, not only for their stylish kicks, but also for their social consciousness. TOMS’ pledge is that for every pair of shoes they sell, they will donate a pair of shoes to an impoverished child. They have expanded this pledge to eye glasses and they have also started a clean water initiative in conjunction with the coffee roasting branch of the company. TOMS has received some criticism but for the most part, I think they do a lot of good. Their slogan is “One For One”.

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One For One.

The other day, while I was browsing the new selection of TOMS paseos, I couldn’t stop thinking about this “One For One” mantra, but in a way completely unrelated to the purchase of a new pair of shoes for the summer. By now you have all become familiar with Betsy’s Operation Lace Up. Once a joyous activity, running has become a laborious task for my wife. She does it to maintain her health but it is a struggle. I would even go as far to say that it is a battle. But it is a battle that Betsy wins. Time and time again, even when she gets knocked down and has to start from zero, she laces up her running shoes and gets back on the treadmill or goes out, pounding the pavement of our neighborhood. Although her body might work against her, Betsy makes up for it with a strong will and a disciplined mind.

Betsy and I are complete opposites in that regard. I have a perfectly healthy set of lungs and a body that is still in relatively good condition. But I am lazy. So lazy! As part of her quest to improve her lung function, Betsy completed a couch to 5K training program last summer. In all honesty, the couch is about as far as I have managed to get in terms of running in recent years. It is so easy for me to give into to the TV or the tablet. I don’t really have a good excuse. I’m busy. But so is everyone. I’m tired. But so is my wife (even more so than me, truth be told). Betsy runs anyway.

I watch her run and I am amazed because I imagine that if I was the one with compromised lung capacity, I’m pretty sure I would have thrown in the towel on running. Betsy runs for me and she runs for Lucas. It’s not easy, but she is unrelenting. She embodies the old Nike catch phrase “Just Do It”. Can you tell I’m a little obsessed with shoes?

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Iconic.

So I’ve decided to get off the couch. I’m out of excuses and honestly, I feel guilty. Running will be good for me but mostly I’m going to start running because I can no longer ignore my wife’s example of perseverance. I have made a promise to Betsy that I will match her running schedule. Every day that she runs, I will run too.

One For One.

I am not looking forward to this. I hate running! Running is the worst! I used to do it to stay in shape for soccer. As I’ve gotten to be an adult I have done it sporadically to prevent myself from weighing 300 lbs. It’s never something I’ve enjoyed. But that doesn’t matter now. Now I’m running for a different reason. I’m running for the sake of solidarity. I’m running so that Betsy doesn’t feel like she is doing this alone.  Don’t expect me to be signing up for a marathon any time soon (you do realize that poor Pheidippides died when he got to Athens right?????) but if this gesture can be the smallest bit of encouragement to my wife, then I will have accomplished my goal.

I’d much rather be slipping into a pair of these than my running shoes.

One For One. Wish me luck…