Symbiosis

After the worst drought Southern California has had on record, our elusive wet friend has finally arrived. The precious rain came with a stormy ferocity – thrilling the farmers, confounding the commuters, and inciting the news teams.

I personally welcomed it by taking a four-mile run in the morning downpour with my yellow Lab Winston. Even though I was getting soaked to the bone I felt exhilarated … strengthened … refreshed. Judging by Winston’s jaunty gait and wagging tail, he also found it heavenly. For me, running has always been a source of replenishment; the rain was not going to stop me. And Winston? He was born for the water.

But, regardless of whether we take pleasure in the precipitation or consider it a nuisance, there is no denying one fact: rain is essential for renewing life.

As spring arrives, we think not only of April showers, we think of growth, rebirth, and restoration. As the rains enriched our parched land, I encourage you to ask yourself a few key questions: Has my life become a little dry? Could I use a fresh source of nourishment? What might I do this season to promote personal renewal?

Parched

There is no better time than Spring for growth. Consider the many aspects of yourself that may need recharging: the social, physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual. Try focusing on one key domain that could use some revitalization. (To explore further see my October, 2013 post Keeping Your Balance with a Wellness Wheel). Write down a few steps you can take to bolster that area. Start today. 

One area that most of us would benefit from stimulating is our physical health. How about focusing on getting more exercise, or even just incorporating more movement into your day? This will also have a reviving impact on other life areas.

In his new book Eat, Move, Sleep, author Tom Rath suggests, with research to back it up, that increasing the amount you move each day will have a powerful effect on your mood, risk of disease, cognitive functioning, and energy level. It will even make you live longer.

He describes how our ancestors had a physical way of life that supported greater health. Daily survival required them to expend a body-enriching amount of energy. They spent most of every day moving about on foot, without the “benefit” of state-of-the-art conveniences and technology. But us moderns spend more time sitting down than sleeping. This is terribly damaging to the human body. Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are but a few of the consequences. Isn’t it a sad paradox that our “advancements” have inadvertently set us back?

You can make changes today to counteract this problem of a dangerously sedentary lifestyle. Start moving more. Expend more energy to have more energy.

Rath offers a number of helpful ideas. During your workday – about every 30 minutes – get up and stretch, walk around, and perhaps step outside. If you find it helpful, set your smart phone timer to prompt you. This movement will enhance your productivity, brighten your mood, and help your body deal with the demands of hours of sitting in an office.

I have incorporated Rath’s advice into my workday in the last few weeks. Getting up from my desk and walking around the office, as well as taking a few minutes in the morning and the afternoon to do some stretches has made me more relaxed and efficient. I have felt less fatigued and more energetic when I leave work. This new habit, among others, has been like a delightful spring shower – just the kind of renewal I needed.

Tulips

“I want to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”  (John O’Donahue, Irish Poet)

 

 

Jeannine and Reggie

Jeannine and Reggie

Starting at the Finish Line:

One woman’s triumphant journey from disabling illness to half-marathon runner

If you met my friend Jeannine, you would like her. She is one of those gracious people that seems naturally friendly, naturally smart, naturally kind, naturally strong. If you met her at the Inland Empire Running Club (IERC), you would also guess that she was a natural born runner. During the workweek, she fastidiously follows the training plan set forth by Reggie, her Boston Marathon runner-husband. This is after teaching science to junior high students all day.

In the last two years she has run seven half-marathons and has achieved a “PR” (personal record) every time. You may be starting to think, “Well, it’s easy for people like that.” Well, let me tell you something about Jeannine you would never guess if you met her. Just three years ago, she suffered from an illness that nearly destroyed her life.

What started as sore muscles and joint pain soon turned into an illness that left her bedridden, burning with fever, unable to eat, frightfully thin, dehydrated, with barely the energy to speak. In her words, “I was literally molting; my hair fell out and my skin fell off!”

She had to take a leave from her teaching job, let her husband take care of the kids and the house, and allow her mother to move in to care for her. At one point, her daughter asked, “Is Mama going to die?” Day after day, leaning on her husband’s arm, she hobbled into dozens of doctor’s appointments seeking a diagnosis for her ailment. It took months for the team of specialists to determine that it was “Stills Disease,” an autoimmune disorder that is often life-long and permanently disabling.

When the mysterious malady was finally labeled, the proper treatment could be administered.  This led to slow but steady progress. Before long Jeannine could leave the house and do short errands. Mustering up her strength, she pushed herself toward a small goal: to greet Reggie at the finish line when he ran the San Diego Marathon.

She explains, “I was in so much pain that day – as I approached him, I nearly stumbled. I had only left the hospital two weeks prior.”

Then she saw something that changed her life: the San Diego sun beaming on a throng of people: black, brown, yellow, white; they were young and old, thick and thin, male and female, perfect form and pitiable form – every one of them finishing the race. As she moved through the dizzying mob of fatigued but ebullient runners, each drenched in sweat and smiles as they approached the finish … Jeannine had an epiphany:

“In one year I will complete the half-marathon race – running, walking, or crawling … I will cross this finish line.”

Preparing for that half-marathon became the cornerstone of her recovery. It took five months for her to be able to walk even a mile. But, one step at a time, she worked her way up to several miles. It hurt and she was tired, but she kept on going. She was determined to get healthy enough to accomplish her goal. Over a period of months she strengthened, eventually able to walk 5, then 7, and finally 9 miles through her Chino Hills community.

Jeannine explains, “Pretty soon walking 9 miles got boring, so I started jogging – just a little bit.” It was February – the race was only four months away. She had never entered races before, and certainly never considered herself “a runner.” Her husband asked her repeatedly to come join him at IERC. When he explained that they have walkers who complete races, Jeannine reluctantly agreed.

Reggie reports, “I knew she would finish the race. And I also knew she would not walk; she would run.”

Jeannine showed up at IERC the next Saturday morning and found herself amongst kind and helpful people, all eager to support her success. She was embraced by her walk/run pace leader, Lizette, now a dear friend. With her new group of allies, Jeannine painstakingly prepared for victory – over the wretched illness and over the 13.1 mile race.

On race day there was no surprise. Jeannine completed the distance, finishing strong. She not only ran it, she crossed the finish line hand-in-hand with Reggie.

Two years later Jeannine and I are sipping coffee at Starbucks. We discuss the pain and the pleasure of running and what it has done to enhance our lives. Her smile is wide and she radiates health. Looking gorgeously fit, she may be in the best shape of her life (certainly the best shape of anyone in that Starbucks). Grasping for the right words to describe her process, she makes a teacherly gesture with her thumb and forefinger. Thoughtfully, she tells me,

“When I first start each run, I don’t want to move – my muscles are tight and my knees ache. Eventually my legs warm up, the pain is gone, and I can pick up my speed. What keeps me going? Knowing the pain is temporary. It won’t keep feeling like this. Even though it is intense and you don’t think you can endure, if you keep going, you get through it. And then somehow, it’s an important and meaningful part of you.  I guess now, I can call myself a runner. That’s how life is.”

If you like the support of a group, you can visit IERC on a Saturday morning in Chino Hills at Butterfield Ranch Elementary School at 7:00 am. For more information regarding IERC, check out our website at ierunningclub.com , visit our Facebook page, or write to us at info@ierunningclub.com .

*This article was first published in Chino Hills Life Magazine (Hibu company).

Lisa & Jeannine

Jeannine and Lisa after the Surf-City Half-Marathon

Reggie, Jeannine, Lisa

Lisa, Reggie, and Jeannine after running the Surf City Half-Marathon