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Yoga Review: Yoga for the Rest of Us

I’m training for my fifth half marathon this fall. Since I DNFed my last race and I have a history of leg problems, I’m trying to be diligent about following my training schedule – including stretching.

Yoga for the Rest of UsAnyone who knows me knows that I suck at stretching. It’s so boring! Even in my gymnast days, I was never that flexible compared to my teammates. I was powerful, strong, and I just muscled my way through everything and they would bend themselves in half and take a nap. Every year, my gym put on a show in June – four performances over three days. The team kids were in every performance and we were expected to warm ourselves up on show days. I remember my last show weekend; even with a stress fractured back and sore knees, my “warm up” consisted of two standing back flips – one tuck, one pike.

Now that I’m getting a bit older, I don’t bounce like I used to. I still think stretching’s boring but it’s a necessary evil but my legs and back will thank me for it in the long run. My half marathon training program prescribes a stretching workout once a week, so I’m doing it with yoga DVDs.

In playing to my strengths, for this training cycle, I’m getting a different yoga DVD from the library each week. I hope the novelty of a different workout each week will keep me entertained even if I feel pathetic trying to stretch my ex-gymnast body.

I opted to start slow and easy with Yoga for the Rest of Us.

I’m not going to sugar coat it: this is an exercise DVD geared towards older people. If you don’t mind the possibility that the 60 year-old on the screen might have more balance and flexibility than you, it’s a good place to start. The good thing about this program is no one was a super-skinny contortionist that puts your efforts to shame.

A lot of yoga DVDs tell you that you can modify the poses using a yoga block or a yoga strap; this DVD showed you how to do it with a chair – something everyone has. It was a good stretching workout for getting back into my yoga groove. I definitely felt muscles that I haven’t stretched in a while and I built up a decent sweat during the sun salutations.

Overall it was a good workout for my first yoga session of race training, but I’ll probably need something more challenging in the near future. I’m glad there are super easy yoga DVDs like this because my impulse would probably be to start with an advanced power yoga routine that would make me feel self-conscious compared to the lithe gumby people on the screen.

EDIT: I just found out that the race I was training for was canceled. That’s a pisser. Doing yoga once a week is probably still a good idea. If nothing else, it will help with modeling.

Day 91/90 – Two-Speed Life

Day 91 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I had a good day living at two speeds.

I warned you I’d do the 90 Days of Awesome until the end of August.

Gorgeous Photo of Me by Devon Christopher Adams from earlier this summer.

Gorgeous Photo of Me by Devon Christopher Adams from earlier this summer.

My life tends to oscillate between two speeds: full-speed ahead and crash-and-burn. Moderation is a foreign concept for the most part without deliberate thought and diligence. I was up at 5am and literally hit the ground running today, which got me on a roll of activity:

  • Ran 4.2 miles – it feels good to see myself building up endurance.
  • Visited Rev. Patrick – I appear and disappear at will at CCH.
  • Bought potting soil at the nursery for the patio garden.
  • Went to the market for paprika and vegetarian bouillon.
  • Made Terry’s lentil soup – love this recipe! I use extra broth instead of wine.
  • Boiled chicken for Rosie – yes, she gets chopped chicken with every meal. She’s spoiled.
  • Planted broccoli, cucumbers, and greens beans on the patio – peas and parsley will be planted later this season.

By 2:30, I was exhausted and felt a massive headache coming on despite being conscientious about drinking water throughout the day. From warp speed to full stop – I popped two acetaminophen, threw The Perks of Being a Wallflower into the DVD player for background noise, and collapsed onto the couch for a nap and woke up about 90 minutes later. After I woke up, I still had a few items to crank through on my to-do list, mostly house chores that didn’t require too much mental capacity. Thank goodness for that because my body woke up significantly earlier than my brain.

Practicing moderation is part of my recovery, but until I get better at that, I’ll have to keep doing the up-and-down lifestyle. Thankfully, my life has the flexibility to allow me to take naps when I need them most days.

In case you missed it: Day 90 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Celebrating the Life of Atticus VanSlyke.

Day 66/90 – Living in KT Tape

Day 66 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? Wearing KT Tape on my foot and leg is keeping my pain under control and allowing me to go running.

My Leg in KT Tape - I always prefer Black

My Leg in KT Tape – I Always Prefer Black Tape.

I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, but I’m back in KT Tape.

I’ve been running more lately to get in shape to train for a half marathon this fall. I found a new 4.2-mile route through Papago Park that I love, but it has more hills that I’m used to doing. Even though I’ve been diligent about my running form, my feet and legs hurt – especially on my left side. When I roll the golf ball with my foot or roll The Stick across my lower legs, the pain is a 9 out of 10.

Last night I put the shin splint and plantar fasciitis applications on my left leg. They’re making the pain much more manageable. This morning I did a 4-mile run on a flatter route and the pain wasn’t as bad. Every day now I stretch my calves and arches multiple times at work and every night I use The Stick and foam roller on my lower legs. Thank goodness I’m a masochist because this stuff hurts.

The only downside of living in KT Tape again is I can’t be barefoot except when I’m in the shower. I wear socks all the time to help keep the tape in place longer – even when I’m sleeping. The upside of living in Phoenix is it’s so warm at night that I don’t need covers in bed so there’s less of chance of snagging my tape on my sheets.

I hope stretching and running on flat ground for a few weeks will be enough to bring my pain under control. KT Tape is awesome, but I prefer not to live in it full-time, especially with my race being 4 months away.

In case you missed it: Day 65 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I’m falling back in love with singing and serenading myself in the car.

Day 59/90 – Quasi-Mental Health Day

Day 59 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I took a quasi-mental health day.

This is how I looked after running 4 miles. I was covered with a film of sweat.

This is how I looked after running 4 miles. I was covered with a film of sweat.

I won’t deny that I’ve needed a break. I’ve been cranking hard on client work this summer. When I was a solo lawyer, my days were my own. I only went to my office when I had clients and otherwise I worked from home and my schedule was entirely my own. I had a day like that today.

I got up at my usual hour but instead of heading to the office, I headed out for a run. It felt so good to pound pavement in the middle of the week. After I finished breakfast and cleared email, I ran errands in the middle of the morning. The file server at work was fixed so I worked from the home office for most of the afternoon. It felt so good to break up the monotony of my every day routine. I need to remember to do that more often.

Having structure in my day creates security but it can also create a rut. I need to keep my energy moving by mixing things up periodically.

In case you missed it: Day 58 of the 90 Days of Awesome – My work played hooky on me.

Day 55/90 – Running with Gary Vaynerchuk

Day 55 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I went running with Gary Vaynerchuk!

This is an old picture but it embodies how I felt after riding 21 miles today.

This is how I feel after a good run.

And by that, I mean I went running while listening to is podcast on my iPod.

I’m still trying to figure out how running fit into my life in terms of my schedule. Yesterday, I took myself for a run/walk after walking Miss Rosie. I wanted to try out my new water bottle that straps to my hand to stay hydrated and test a new running route through Papago Park.

Love this guy!

Love this guy!

I started out thinking I would just walk my new route, but then I remembered that walking is boring so I started running.

My run/walk was a little over 4 miles and I did it with gorgeous surroundings and Gary Vaynerchuk’s #AskGaryVee podcast blasting in my ears. Every time he started a new question, I would switch from running to walking or vice versa. The timing was just about perfect in terms of not wearing myself out too fast. I love listening to him answer questions from entrepreneurs. He’s real, blunt, but loving with his delivery, and he gives good practical advice.

It took about an hour to do the whole route. I was so sweaty by the time I got home but I felt great. And my new water bottle is exactly what I was looking for regarding my hydration needs. It’s really comfortable.

In case you missed it: Day 54 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Just a Really Good Day.

Day 16/90 – Running in the Sun

Day 16 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I went running!

Photo courtesy of Jeff Moriarty

Photo courtesy of Jeff Moriarty

I’ve decided it’s time to get back in shape. I want to increase my stamina and get some more muscle tone in my quads, back, and arms. Plus, I feel better when I work out on a regular basis.

Here’s my challenge: I live in Phoenix. It’s freakin’ hot here. It’s coolest in the morning, but that’s also when I am most productive in terms of writing and professional work. I don’t want to give that up, so I either have to get up even earlier than my current 5:15am alarm, or suck it up and run in the evening.

So today I took myself for a run at about 5pm. I set out to do a 3-mile run. Working out in the summer is not new to me, but it was a little brutal to go from barely working out to running in 110-degree heat. I had my sunblock, clothes made out wicking fabric, and I was hydrated, but it was still hard.

I didn’t realize until I was out there that my regular route is mostly in the sun. Did I mention I overheat easily if I’m in the sun too long? I ended up running 1.5 miles and walking 1.5 miles home. I was so hot when I got back that I grabbed my water bottle from the fridge and dumped it over my head.

I think running will become a regular part of my life again, but I will be relegated to running at sunrise, sunset, or running in the shade. I also want to work on my tone and flexibility with push-ups and stretching.

In case you missed it: Day 15 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Rockin’ my Fake British Accent!

Still Don’t Officially Know What’s Wrong with Me – and I Don’t Care Anymore

I love my running shoes.

I love my running shoes.

I am officially over my medical mystery. I don’t even want to think how much time I’ve spent in doctor’s offices and hospitals or how much money I’ve spent on medical tests related to my chest pains, dizziness, fatigue, and night sweats. And we still have no idea what’s wrong with me.

My cardiologists (all three of them) determined I have a hole in my heart but it’s a congenital defect that shouldn’t be causing my symptoms. My primary care doctor drew nine vials of blood and ran every test he could think of – CBC, thyroid, hormones, Epstein-Barr, other random illnesses – and everything came out negative or normal.

I’m annoyed that trying to do the right thing and take care of myself yielded no actionable results. It disrupted my marathon training and left me unprepared so I couldn’t finish the race. I feel like I wasted my time and I am frustrated that I don’t have any answers except what’s not wrong with me. I’m done doing this process of elimination. I’m ready to call it and apply Occam’s Razor. I say I have reoccurring costochondritis, fatigue from the fact that I work myself into the ground on a regular basis and have depression, dizziness from low blood sugar from my eating disorder, and night sweats caused by anxiety. I changed my linens and took the blanket off my bed so I’m cold when I tuck myself into bed at night, but it seems to be decreasing my night sweats so that’s good enough for me.

My Race Shirt for Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon 2015

My Race Shirt for Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015

I’m ready to say “fuck it” and get back into cycling and running. When I go on The Undeniable Tour for two weeks, I plan to go running in every city I stay in. I am a much more balanced person when I work out on a regular basis.

Just in case some things really wrong with me and they just haven’t found it yet, I still don’t leave the house without my Road ID strapped to my left wrist. That way, if I collapse or something, my bracelet will contain the information the emergency medical team should know about my medical history.

Will I try to train for another marathon? I’m not sure. I workout more consistently when I have a race on my calendar and a training program to follow, so I’m looking for a race to train for – either a 10K or a half marathon. I’m contemplating doing a half marathon trail run in June. That could be really fun. We’ll see what happens.

Cleared to Workout Again

. . .and there was much rejoicing.”

For those of you who haven’t been following the drama related to my heart, I started having chest pain after long runs in November. After seeing to cardiologist’s and having two ultrasound, a stress test, wearing a heart monitor for 24 hours, and getting a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), they diagnosed me as having a congenital heart defect called patent foramen ovale (PFO). However, my heart defect apparently is not the cause of my pain or the dizziness, fatigue, or night sweats I’ve been having.

My doctors aren’t sure what’s causing my symptoms but they’re pretty sure it’s not a cardiovascular problem so my first cardiologist said I was allowed to work out again and took me off the beta blockers. (Did you know that beta blockers are the only banned substance in archery?) I made an appointment to see my primary care doctor to run blood work to see what else is going on in my body. In the meantime, I’m working out!

Still Smiling after Running 3 Miles - Feb. 14, 2015

Still Smiling after Running 3 Miles – Feb. 14, 2015

And it feels so good to exercise again!

On Saturday morning, I took myself for a 3-mile run, probably at a 10-minute/mile pace. My body could definitely tell that it hadn’t worked out in a while. My chest hurt for most of it but not enough to get me to stop. My legs held up great. (I would be surprised if it turns out I have a bad case of costochondritis – which I’ve had off and on since I was 11 – plus another medical condition that’s causing the other symptoms. Costochondritis is an inflammation of the chest wall that hurts like a bitch that there’s not much they can do about it.)

I took myself for a bike ride on Sunday. I meant to do 10 or 12 miles but I ended up doing 14.5. My quads and butt muscles got a work out. I didn’t realize how steep Galvin Parkway is through Papago Park – thankfully I rode up the hill at the beginning of my ride so I can coast down it on the way home.

One of the best parts of working out again is it giving up my mind a chance to rest and let ideas flow through it. There is no way I can act on an idea while I’m running or riding – not even a chance to send myself an email – so my thoughts have an opportunity to tumble around in my brain and develop in a non-directed organic way. It’s the closest thing I have to being creative. It was very nice to have that mental respite again.

My return to running couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m going to the Dad 2.0 Summit this weekend in San Francisco (blogging conference for dads). I’ll be speaking with them about the legal dos and don’ts of having a blog. It looks like there’s going to be a group of us going for a run together one of the mornings. I hope our route includes at least one hill.

I Still have a Defective Heart – But That’s Not the Problem

So here is the update about my heart.

My doctor called me late on Tuesday afternoon to let me know that the transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) showed that I have a hole in my heart (PFO) but there is no blood flowing where it shouldn’t be. My doctor said unless I have a stroke, I don’t need to have the hole patched. I seem to be one of those people who have a heart defect, but it is not problematic.

GRRR by Meghan Dougherty from Flickr (Creative Common License)

GRRR by Meghan Dougherty from Flickr (Creative Common License)

The good news is my fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, and night sweats do not appear to be caused by a cardiovascular problem. The bad news is I’m still having the symptoms and we don’t know why.

So it’s back to the drawing board. I made an appointment with my primary care doctor and we can attack this problem from a new angle. I suspect he’ll order blood work to see if my numbers have changed from my last full physical. I may ask him to throw in a hormone test to see if it might be early menopause. I called my other cardiologist to ask if I needed to keep taking the beta blocker. (Remember: I’ve never had high blood pressure.) His office called me to say that he wants to see me for a follow-up. Perhaps he’ll have some suggestions about what else could be causing the problem.

Since my heart defect isn’t causing my symptoms and my symptoms didn’t show up until I was running 15 miles at a time or more, I hope I can start working out again soon. Before I started training for the marathon, I was running 22 miles and biking 19 miles a week. I was doing two 4-mile runs and two 6.5-mile runs each week. I’d like to get back to that.

It’s frustrating to feel like part of my life is on hold. Part of me wants to say “fuck it” and do whatever I want whether that’s running the hills when I’m in San Francisco for the Dad 2.0 Summit, taking a high intensity step aerobics class, or treating myself to a few hours of trampoline tumbling. I don’t like being told that there’s something I can’t do. I definitely plan to have a candid conversation with my doctors about being more active while we figure out what’s wrong with me.

In case you are wondering, no, I haven’t become completely reckless. And yes, I make sure I’m wearing my Road ID before I leave the house, just in case.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015 – DNF

I did the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon yesterday . . . well, more accurately speaking, I started the race. Unfortunately, I was unable to finish it. As many of my friends suggested, this was not my race.

AJ & Ruth at the Starting Line for the Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon 2015 (Photo by AJ Grucky, used with permission)

AJ & Ruth at the Starting Line for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon 2015 – Probably my Happiest Moment of the Day (Photo by AJ Grucky, used with permission)

I needed to have an awesome day on race day to complete 26.2 miles. That’s what I had a few weeks ago when I ran 20 miles and I felt like I could easily run 5 more. Yesterday was a good day, not a great day. I didn’t feel particularly bad when I started the day just after 4am. I got up, made coffee, got dressed for the race, walked the dog, had a banana and a bagel with peanut butter, packed my gear bag, and walked a mile to the light rail station. I had an enjoyable chat with a guy from Minnesota on the rail who was the 3:40 pacer for the race on the ride across town. He said he was going to run the race with a GoPro camera strapped to his chest.

The starting line is pretty uneventful. I met up with my cousin AJ and we lined up in our corral. Just before the race started, I had my usual pre-race 5 Hour Energy and 2 ibuprofens. As our group started the race I tried to be mindful of the advice I heard from so many people – Don’t start out too fast. I tried to tell myself, “We’re just going for a jog.”

I never felt like I found a groove in this race. My music kept me going and I occasionally found someone to pace with. My hands started tingling around Mile 2, and I knew that couldn’t be good, but thankfully a cleared up after a few more miles. My right arch hurt starting pretty early on in the race and I had intermittent hip pain on both sides, but I pushed on. By Mile 9, I was pretty certain I would be losing some toenails after the race.

In terms of time, I had a great first half of the race. My half marathon time was 1:58 (9:07/mile pace). Around Mile 12, I started questioning if I really wanted to finish the race. At Mile 14, I really started to hurt and started slowing down. The 4-hour pacers easily passed me. After the turnaround in Old Town Scottsdale, my chest and my liver hurt so I decided to walk. I was surprised by how much my whole body hurt once I stopped running and how slowly I was walking, even compared to how slowly I had been running. I was done.

Both of my Feet are Sore but this is the Worst of my Toes

Both of my Feet are Sore but this is the Worst of my Toes

I promised myself I could stop at the next medical tent, which turned out to be at Mile 19. A friendly nurse gave me a chair, verified my identity, and asked what was wrong. When she discerned that I wasn’t in imminent danger or in need of significant medical attention, she gave me a bottle of Gatorade and called for the shuttle. Another nurse put a towel that had been soaking in ice around my shoulders. I felt like crap.

Gene, my kind shuttle driver, zipped me to the finish line where I pick that my bag from gear check and met up with my family. I sent out a handful of text messages to the people who I suspected were tracking me via my RFID chip who might be wondering what had happened to me. I was bummed I couldn’t finish the race but it was the right decision. I felt so weak, so lightheaded, and my stomach hurt like a bitch that my aunt took me home instead of going out with everybody else. After a few hours of rest, I started to feel human again.

Thank you to everyone who supported me along this journey to do this race and a special thank you to the crew and volunteers who work the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon and my friends Karen, La Dessa, Valerie, Dannie, and Bill who cheered me on from the sidelines. You guys made my race a lot less painful.

Will I try another marathon? I’m not sure. The next thing on my to-do list is seeing my new cardiologist and getting my heart fixed. My new guy specializes in my type of heart defect so hopefully he can determine what’s causing my symptoms and how to fix it.