Friday, January 24, 2014

So you're feeling inspired...

In the age of McDonalds' Coffee-is-hot-so-I'll-sue-you, I need to first say, I am not a certified athletic trainer.  Although I used to get sat on and had that suspended-spit-slurp-it-back-in game played on me by one...  (read: older brother.)  I'm not a medical doctor, but I sleep with one.  I am a mom, who has run, gleaned advice and tips from every source possible, and wants to share what I know.  So don't sue me if you roll an ankle or pull a hamstring please. :)

That out of the way, let's pretend you have been inspired to "run Fargo" this year. That may mean a 5k, a 10K, the half marathon or the full. But this is all new to you, where do you start?? First, register for an event.  Nothing seems to motivate me faster than money I've spent! There is no set and fast rule about having to first run 5ks, then 10ks, then half-marathons.   A lot of people jump right to a half.  Personally, I don't like 5ks, just because I'm only getting in my groove at around 3 miles. I am envious of people that can bust from a start line and sprint 3 miles, because I sure can't!  And yes, there is plenty of time to train for one. Most programs are 12 week programs, some are 10, so that means you don't need to start until February.  To be realistic, if this is your first race, you are not attempting to set a course record, but rather finish. And there is plenty of time to train to finish.  So decide, and register!

From now until your training schedule begins (that is like your daily 'to-do' list) focus on fitness, cleaning up your diet, and maybe shedding a few holiday pounds.  What training schedule to use? There are many many out there, some are free (Hal Higdon) and some are fee-based and give you very specific, tailored workouts.  Ask around (or me) and I can help you find one!

What will you need for this process? First off, shoes. What running shoes are best? That is like asking which spice is best. Every recipe calls for different spices, and different running styles require different shoes. My advice is go to a shoe store that is knowledgeable in running shoes and have them watch you walk, and see what they recommend. Also bring in any shoes you have run in. If you have never run, bring a pair of shoes that you have worn a lot.  Any of my boot heels would show that I walk on the outside of my feet, and thus run this way too.  Shoes are important.  They also should be a half size bigger than your normal shoe size to allow room for your toes.  Black toenails are not pretty, and are pretty painful, but are a right of passage for some runners.

Men, you can skip this paragraph, though I am sure you have your own issues.  

 Women, you need a good sports bra.  I can't stress this enough. The one you lift weights in, or ride bike, or pull weeds, is not going to cut it, well, that is if you are any bigger than probably a C cup.  If you are "blessed," you need the girls locked and loaded, not bouncing around.  From experience, chaffing HURTS.  Motion plus sweat can really take its toll if they are not securely fastened down.  Try on a lot of styles, jump, wiggle, jump some more when you are trying them on. Sadly, a good bra is going to run you on the upwards of $50, but to prevent chaffing, it is worth it. 

Music. While my brother (not the spit-slurping one, a different one), an 8 time marathoner, has the rare gift of being able to run without tunes (ie: freak of nature), I need them.  I get way too tired of my own voice in my head.  For me, an iPod shuffle is awesome, because I don't need the music in any particular order. If you are extremely Type A, this probably won't work for you.  Music isn't a necessity, but for me, and many, it sure helps.

Finally, you just need the desire, and commitment to complete this goal.  Anyone can do it, I firmly believe that. The Biggest Loser Contestants run a full marathon! It won't be easy,  but when was the last time you accomplished something outstanding that wasn’t?   It doesn't matter what your finishing time is or your pace.  What does matter is you set out to finish a race, and you did!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


There are those nights that I am pretty sure my children have been free-basing pixie sticks without my knowledge. 
Tonight was one of those nights.  

Friday, January 17, 2014

What running does not feel like.

I have shared what running often feels like to me: meditative, refreshing, calming, frustrating and rewarding.  What it shouldn't feel like is having a 2 ton elephant taking a nap on your chest.  There was a time in my life though when this is exactly what running felt like for me.  If this is what running feels like to you, maybe I can help shove off  that elephant!

I knew I had some allergies.  In my 20's I had the whole back-scratch testing done, and it showed I had outdoor allergies, like grass and some trees, mold and dust.  As long as I took an over-the-counter antihistamine, things remained pretty much in control.  Then I went through a body altering experience and everything changed.  Pregnancy:  not only did I lose a bunch of awesome shoes due to a full size increase in my foot, I gained some never-there-before-waves to my hair. In addition, I apparently gained some allergies to dogs and cats.  So it makes perfect sense why I live with 4 cats and a dog now, right??

When I began to run in 2008, my chest was always tight.  When it was windy, it was worse. I just thought this was what running felt like.  Even as I became more conditioned and trained, it just always felt hard to breathe.  I just muscled through it, and thought I was pretty tough for doing this sport that felt so horrible.  Those that could push through and ignore the inability to breathe where those mystical creatures called "runners."  I was feeling pretty badass about being one of those people.

It wasn't until an overnight stay in a home which housed several dogs that I finally started connecting the dots.  My animal allergy had always been an annoyance when I wasn't diligent in taking my antihistamines.  My eyes would itch and my nose would run, but it was annoying, not frightening.  That night as I laid in bed with the Good Doctor, I was mentally talking myself out of an ER visit.  I literally could.not.breathe.  My breaths sounded like a combination of a dying goose and a squeaking mouse.  There was an elephant on my chest who had no interest in removing itself.  I had to sit upright in bed to get any air in. The Good Doctor, never having witnessed this before, said I sounded asthmatic.   The episode eventually subsided, but it was with great clarity that we realized I must have excercise/allergy induced asthma.

As I mourned the loss of my perceived badassery, I was overjoyed that maybe running could feel something other than difficult.  After moving to Valley City, I decided to be officially tested for asthma.  Asthma testing requires a lot of deep breath taking, and then measuring those breaths.  Then they give you a little puff of stuff to breath in.  There is like 9 increasing doses. If you react to any of those increasing doses, you have a diagnosis of asthma.  Within about 45 seconds of the first dose of the magical irritant, the elephant, and about 3 of his friends were planted firmly on my chest.  The Respiratory Therapist bluntly said, "You look like crap" and I fully agreed.   He gave me inhalers to reverse the attack, and I left there with the knowledge that I had in fact been reacting to allergens and my sport.

Nowadays, 2 little puffs on my inhaler prior to a run has made a night and day difference in what running feels like.  It is enjoyable, restorative and not nearly as suffocating as it once was.  If exercise feels like elephants camping out on your chest, maybe you also have exercise induced asthma.  Keep track of when you find it difficult to breath, and if it coincides with allergies and/or exercise, it may be worth investigating with your physician.  While running isn't the exertion level of shuffleboard, and it does take some cardiovascular training, it should not feel horrible and asphyxiating. Happy Running!

Monday, January 13, 2014

The exhaustion of being "on."

Parenting is exhausting. I don't mean the first months of sleepless nights, the crying, the night feedings, waking in the morning to find you have put a clean diaper over a dirty one.  Those are physically exhausting times, but the beauty of that early time is that if you are more cloth monkey than wire monkey in your mothering, your baby is going to be fine.  

I am talking about the exhaustion that comes when they are older.  The exhaustion that comes with being "on" almost all of your waking hours.  Even the most demanding professions usually come with two 15 minute breaks and a half hour or hour lunch.  I'm beginning to think I should loan my 3 children to investigative agencies for their tracking skills, because they ALWAYS FIND ME.  They must have a heightened sense of smell that is exclusively used in locating and zeroing in on the smell of despair, because within 42 seconds of locking the bathroom door, they have found me.   

As they age past nighttime feedings into toddlerdom and beyond, the exhaustion of trying to be a good parent is overwhelming.  I don't mean "good" as in mastering the most vogue pinterest birthday treats-giving the latest electronic device-ensuring they have the current in-fashion wardrobe "good".  I mean good as in my ultimate hope is we are raising children who will eventually be productive, accountable members of society, a society they don't feel entitlement from, or that they are owed from.  Children that, when finding themselves in tough situations, will make good choices because we have instilled them them decision making abilities.  Children that will know life isn't always fair.  It is exhausting being "on", and also continually shutting up that bad parent voice that sits on the exhausted, selfish, responsibility-free dusty shelf located in the corner of my brain.  For Example....

My Oldest (age 9): "Mom can I play Minecraft?"
Me: "No"
My Oldest: "PLEASE can I play Minecraft?"
Me: "No, go play with some Legos."
My Oldest: "Mom, I made my bed."
Me: "Thank you!!"
My Oldest: "Now I get to play Minecraft?"

Me: (Bad parent voice starting play in my head says: 'For the love of Pete, let him play already so we can get to page 3 of the People magazine, we have been trying to read this for 35 minutes!!') "No, I said no Minecraft! How about you go play with your Lego Minecraft set or go do some origami?"
My Oldest: "Mom, here is an origami Yoda and Darth Vader and a leaping frog and a  fox.  Now can I play Minecraft?
Me: (Bad parent voice really starting to bark 'Screw it!! Let him do it! We can enjoy the next 14 hours in peace!!) "No. I have said no, and my answer isn't going to change.  Please go find something to do!"  (Bad parent voice grumbles in my head, and knows this is probably round 1 of 3 of this same scenario that will occur this evening.)

When it comes to 3 year olds, they are not quite the negotiators, but the perpetual motion they are in, and the desire to teach them to make good choices creates never ending exhaustion.  Examples:
"No we don't eat BBQ chips for breakfast."
"No we don't stack stools on top of laundry baskets on top of chairs to get something (like childrens' Advil) because you can fall and get hurt."
"No we don't put kitties in the washing machine (or dryer) because they can get hurt."
"No we don't throw Thomas the Tank Engine at brother's head because it hurts."
"No we don't fee the dog chips (or Clif bars, or meat, or pretzels, or cereal, or crackers) even though she really likes them because she will get sick.
"No we don't eat 7 bags of fruit snack because you will get sick."
"No we don't color on the walls, only paper."
"I see you did that! That's wallpaper. We don't rip that off."
(Bad Parent: "Oh Shiiiiiiit.")
"No we don't cut Mommy's stuff, only paper.
(Bad Parent screams: "F&%$K! You CUT THAT ????)
"No, you can't watch Cars again, (and again and again...)"
(Bad parent pipes up, "Give the child a bag of cheetos and put in Cars, on repeat. We have a Hoarders marathon to watch.")

When I comes to my daughter, at every turn I feel like I am waging a war against societal pressures women face to be skinny, pretty and perfect.  The conversations are always heated and passionate, and exhausting:
My Daughter (age 6): "I want to wear my pink skirt."
Me: "I'm sorry, it isn't washed yet. Wear some jeans."
My Daughter: "JEANS are UUUUUGLY."
Me:  "It's -27, it is more important to be warm, and kind and smart."
My Daughter: "Jeans are not pretty!
Me:  "It's -27, it is more important to be warm, and kind and smart."
My Daughter:  "No one will think I'm pretty!!!" (insert flailing and back bending tantrum about here)
Me:  "It's -27, it is more important to be warm, and kind and smart.  How about jeggings?"
My Daughter:  " I HATE jeggings!! THEY FALL DOWN!!" (Said no female ever, except my daughter."
Me:  (Bad parent at this point is slugging back whiskey at 7:30am as she sits on that dusty shelf in my brain saying "Give her the damn skirt! Who cares if it smells like feet and dirty dishclothes! She'll stop this fit!) "It's -27, it is more important to be warm, and kind and smart."
And this will be the first of many of these encounters this week.

It is wearing. It is all out exhausting to be present, and meaningful, and honest. And honestly, there ARE days I miss those days of my 20's when I could sit, uninterrupted and watch TLC all afternoon, and eat a pint of spinach dip for lunch as I sat wrapped in a blanket.  No one to worry about except me and my cat.  My 17 year old geriatric cat probably misses those days more frequently than I.  And honestly, there may have been a morning recently where multigrain Doritos seemed close enough to Chex cereal to count for a breakfast food for the 3 year old.   And maybe I hope by acknowledging the exhaustion it will validate that I'm doing something right.  So as with so many things, I guess this quote is perfect for parenting: "It's not going to be easy, it's going to be worth it."

Saturday, January 11, 2014

What to do with all that venison sausage....

I'm pretty sure there are other women out there that have a freezer full of venison sausage. In this part of the country, that Friday in November is anticipated by hunters as greatly as Christmas morning is to a child. This year, we only filled one tag, but still have quite a freezer full of meat.  Completely bored out of my gourd with sausage and kraut, or sausage and potatoes, or sausage and more sausage, I found something else to do with it. After putting the ingredients into a recipe calculator, it came out to around 200-225 calories per cup, so a pretty healthy alternative to any cream based recipe, and by using Venison vs. kielbasa, you save some calories. The original recipe came from Epicurious, but here is my tweaked version:

Sausage and Leek Soup

yield Makes 6 main-course servings


  • 4 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), halved lengthwise, then chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery rib, finely chopped
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 8 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth (64 fluid ounces)
  • 2 medium boiling potatoes
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 ring Venison sausage
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • White pepper to taste


Wash leeks in a large bowl of cold water, then lift out and drain well in a colander.
Cook carrot and celery in 1/2 stick butter (Or olive oil) in a 4- to 5-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. 

Add leeks and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, 15 minutes.  

While stock simmers, brown sausage in separate pan in a small amount of water, ensuring not to burn sausage.  When browned, slice into thin rings.  Also while stock simmers, peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

Melt remaining 1/2 stick butter (must use butter here) in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, then add flour and cook roux, whisking, ~3 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 cups simmering stock, whisking vigorously (mixture will be thick), then whisk flour mixture into remaining stock and return to a simmer, whisking.

Add potatoes, sliced sausage, and marjoram and simmer soup, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper.

I served this with french bread.  It reheated beautifully the next day.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Rekindling of Friendships

ChAoS in MOtiOn
The Rekindling of Friendships
This was the article I meant to write for last week’s paper, but in true Chaos in Motion form, I was fixed to the couch with a three year old in my lap for about 3 days as he fought fever and chest congestion.  On the upside of it, I did get some amazing cuddles  and “Wuv you’s” and the opportunity to see Disney Pixar’s “Planes” movie… about 237 times.  So anyway…
“A year from now, you’ll be glad you started today.” I have always loved this quote. It shifts my thinking from looking towards a huge, seemingly impossible challenge, to looking back at an achievement. Since this will be my 40th year on God’s great earth (come July) I have some lofty goals for 2014.  Therefore last night I decided to meet up with an old friend.  Afterwards I had that feeling of “Why have I waited so long to do this??”  My old friend and I go back to my mid twenties. Before marriage, and before kids.  I always felt better after meeting my friend. Though my old friend sometimes smells a bit funky, I don’t mind.  You see my friend is the gym.  Tuesday I joined the Valley City Rec Center, and I had not had a foot inside a gym for over 4 years. 
When the Good Doctor was in Iowa, there were a few perks of residency, in addition to the 80 hour work weeks, and getting to dine as a family in the soft glow of fluorescent lights in the hospital cafeteria, there was the Hospital owned haunted rental in which we lived that literally had no insulation.  But the best perk was a YMCA membership.  The Y in Mason City was built only a few years before we moved there and was a wonderful facility.  The best part of the facility, as decided by Residency spouses, was the drop in day-care available.  What this actually translated to all of us was the opportunity to take a shower. In peace.  For as long as we wanted.  With no small eyeballs watching us.  The work out acquired while there was a mere side benefit.
But since moving here, I hadn’t joined a gym.  For what reason? None really that I can even think about.  I think I may have peeked into the rec shortly after moving here, and thought…”meh….”  And then I got pregnant, and then had a baby, and then my memory fails me for the next year after that… But sometime in the last few months, I heard that the Rec was open 24/7, which was a huge bonus for this night-owl, and I peeked in there when my son was giving roller skating a shot, and I was hugely impressed.
Tuesday night I decided to meet up with my old friend. Not that I have broken up with running, I just need more.  My body misses the burn that only those Nautilus machines can yield.  I need to work different muscles in an environment that is not my basement, where my children use the treadmill as monkey bars, while I am running.  It was like meeting up with an old friend, talking and laughing until you are crying and then realizing the hours have slipped by. Then wondering why you haven’t done this sooner.  Yup, that was what the workout was like.  I’ll spare you the play by play, but an hour and a half had passed before I knew it, and I felt like I was “me” again.  I also realized that my last remaining nerve that the Polar Vortex and housebound kids had frayed to a pulpy rawness, had been somewhat mended.  
I’ve decided that I will run the Fargo Marathon’s Half Marathon again this year, should my left foot and heel decide to behave.  This will be the Marathon’s 10th year, and my 6th running of Fargo. My goal is it to be my fastest.  I am 6 years older one more kid, and also heavier than my first run.  I can’t change the age or the kid part, but I am going to desperately try to change the weight part.  I am not going to address weight much in these pieces, because I believe scales are just numbers, and I would rather be healthy, fit and heavy, than rail skinny and unable to run after my kids.  The pounds on a scale also are not always indicative of important things like resting heart rate, cholesterol level and risk of heart disease.  In fact the more I have run, the heavier I have become. So while the 25 year old me was lighter, the 39 year old me ran 26.2 miles.  I will take health over “a low number” any day.  All that being said, all my jeans have miraculously shrunk between November and January!  
So I am going to go back to using another old friend: the“My Fitness Pal” app on my smartphone.  You can also utilize this tool on the computer, if you don’t have a smart phone, but I find it extremely helpful to consciously eat.  It is very simple. Basically you enter in what you want your daily allowance of calories to be and then record what you eat.  (Note! It defaults to a ridiculously low number of calories for an active person, like 1200 or something like that, so make sure you increase it!! ) If you have a smartphone, you simply scan the barcode of any packaged item you eat, and it records it.  You also then enter any exercise you complete for the day.  Making me conscious about what I am choosing to put in my body, makes eating for the right reasons, and eating the right kinds of foods a little easier
My 2014 has already started with a rekindling of old “friendships.”  What are your goals for this year?  When you read this piece, it will be page one of a book called “2014”.   350 some pages later, what adventures will have twisted and turned through the beautiful journey you call life?