Friday, April 13, 2012

Sleep? What's that?

I started this blog back in '07 because a friend encouraged me to write as a way to communicate with others who share similar interests and also as a way to keep writing; something I love but don't find time to do. Part of my frustration back in '07 was that I was recently divorced and busier than ever. When I had been been married I was always busy but now as a divorced woman, working two jobs and raising two girls, the word "busy" took on a whole new meaning. There were days I felt I had to schedule my potty breaks. I know there are many of you out there in similar situations, who have equally, or quite possibly even more demanding schedules. This blog was intended to share my struggles with being a single working mom, a graduate student and a runner and perhaps find ways to "make it all work," despite the demands that were placed upon me. However, this blog itself is proof that there is simply NEVER enough time, as I rarely post.

I am a perfectionist by nature. Type A personality all the way. Work is what I do. I often wonder what it would be like to be more laid back and sit and read a book while the dishes are piled in the sink, and the laundry sits undone. My kids will tell you I don't rest until it's all done. The problem is that it is rarely ever ALL done. There is always something to do. As I have grown older I have tried to find balance, in fact if there is anything I have strived for in life it was to find balance in all that I do. From exercise, to work, to eating habits etc. Extremes in anything rarely pay off. But that work mode, that drive to get it ALL done, has been hard to curb (I blame my Dad for that. Darn his work ethic that rubbed off on me). And because now I am the only adult in the house I have what I call the "mom duties" AND the "dad duties." Sometimes, I'm mopping floors or baking banana bread, nursing sick kids and doing girl stuff but other days I am mowing lawns, cutting down trees, fixing leaking pipes or cleaning out the gutters. It just comes with the territory of being a single mom. And so comes that battle to find the balance. The search for extra time in the day to get it all done. And then there's the ME TIME. How and when do I find time to run? Better yet, when is it OK to call it a day and just sleep?

I titled today's post: "Sleep? What's that?" because in many ways I feel like I have been trying to sleep since I was 17 when I got my first job. Since then, it seems that sleep has been something that eludes me. There are days where I feel like the only time I will ever get to sleep is when I'm ill or when I'm dead. As parents, we know that with the birth of one's children sleep is something you will probably never do again, at least not until they're out of the house and by then, your body has gotten so used to living on such little sleep that you just automatically get up early. Ha! And so goes life right?

Today is the last day of my Spring Break. It has been a good week off and I've accomplished quite a bit. Not as much as I would have liked, but enough to feel somewhat productive. I told the girls last night that I was going to "sleep in" on Friday morning, my last day of Spring Break. With my oldest being 18, I am now afforded the privilege of having her drive my youngest to school sometimes. So, despite the fact that my To Do List is as big as ever, I told myself to take a day and sleep. A gift to myself if you will. A way to find that "balance." And so I went to bed at a decent time on Thursday night and relished in the fact that I was going to just sleep and sleep until my body had had enough. I have never had a hard time falling asleep and it was no different last night. As soon as my head hit the pillow I was out. The girls came in the morning before they left for school and kissed me goodbye. I felt a little guilty actually, but I just laid there and sleep overcame me again and I slept. I could hear the rain hitting the skylight and I wrapped the blankets closer around me until the jolt of the phone awakened me and my youngest's voice said: "Mom, can you come get me? I don't feel well." She'd been at school for maybe an hour. Sleep? Who needs it?

Vanessa on our 22-mile training run last December. She rode her bike while we ran and carried extra water for us.
And so it goes folks. I sit here writing this blog as my daughter is sleeping in her bed nursing a sick tummy, my dishes are piled in the sink, I have a stack of papers to grade, laundry waiting to be washed and folded, gutters that need to be cleaned after yesterday's storm and I'm thankful. Thankful that God saw fit to fill my body with energy and a stubbornness that just won't quit. Yes, I often do not get enough sleep and because I am a working mom, I don't get to go on all the field trips or soccer games or see my daughters perform in all their plays and choir performances and sometimes I have to have my oldest take my youngest to her doctor appointments because I've used up all my sick days. And on those days I often feel guilty. Guilty that I am not able to be supermom and do it ALL. It's life though. And it's a good life and I have to acknowledge the fact that I am not supermom and it's OK to take off the cape. I often wish that I could have been a stay-at-home mom and enjoyed all those moments with my girls. Each of us is dealt a hand of cards when we are born. We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just the way we play the hand.  

And so I'm thankful. Thankful that I am strong and have two jobs that supply for our needs. Thankful that I have the energy to run when times allows it. Thankful that I have two wonderful girls who are growing up to be beautiful, strong, independent young women. Thankful that I was home today when that phone call came through and that sweet little voice at the other end of the line said: "Mom? Can you come get me? I don't feel well."

"I'll be right there babe."

These are the cards that I was dealt and I will play them to the best of my ability and maybe, if there's still time, I'll go for a run.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Love/hate ralationship with "rest days"

I've worked out non-stop for over a week now with no rest day. Not smart. I know this, but I don't follow my own advice out of an incessant need to exercise my body to its limits. Well, now I'm paying for it. I went out Thursday night after work and went for a six-mile run after doing 6 days non-stop of yoga, even though my body was craving rest. On a couple of days last week, I actually ran AND did yoga. My body was begging for rest. So much so, that my run sucked that night. I simply had no energy. My legs felt like lead. But we've all had days like that though right? Days where you're just not "feeling it." As athletes, we learn to ignore those kinds feelings and to push through it because we know that we will feel better on the other side of that workout.Those feelings are usually temporary and are quite often replaced with a huge high following the workout.

So after my run Thursday night, I just crashed. I fell into a deep coma-like sleep already feeling pain in my joints and muscles. So on Friday (Good Friday no less) I ended up having a forced rest day if you will, and on the first day of my vacation. Body was happy. Brain was not. My brain usually wins so I gave in to the body this time. Actually I had no choice. I've had this happen before, where I will go for days and days and sometimes weeks with no rest day and eventually my body just says: "That's it. We're done." Mentally and physically I was done. I couldn't have worked out even if you were paying me to do so. I simply had no energy to speak of. You'd think I'd know this by now right? Perhaps I was waiting for a sign that my body needed rest?

Every athlete knows that rest days are essential to good training; no less important than proper hydration and eating habits. However, I know I'm not the only athlete out there that struggles to take a break from training. There is this incessant desire to run, to feel the wind in my face and the adrenaline begin to flow, to push one's body just a little further. It's a drug all of it's own and when we don't get our drug, we often get cranky.

I practice Bikram yoga on the days when I am not running, as a way to cross train and because it provides such a thorough workout in only an hour and a half. The stretching alone does wonders for my running. For those familiar with Bikram yoga, you know it is an intense hour and half. It is definitely not a workout for the faint of heart (aka WIMPS). I've seen body builders nearly pass out from exhaustion halfway though the workout. There are twenty-six postures that make up the Bikram series and once we reach the floor series, we practice savasana (dead body pose) in between each posture. Each savasana lasts for about 30 seconds and one is supposed to lay there completely motionless as the sweat drip/rolls off your body. No scratching, wiping or moving allowed. Just REST. This rest allows one's body to return to normal breathing and for the blood flow to return to normal after the constricting poses. To quote Bikram Choudhury (founder of Bikram Yoga): "This asana is important because it allows tensed muscles to relax and blood to flow equally to all parts of the body." It's essentially a healing that is taking place. I'll admit that savasana is often one of the hardest poses to practice because one must be completely STILL. Being still is not always easy. Trust me, it looks easier than it is. It is welcoming at first but with the adrenaline that is flowing through one's body, it is only natural to want to get up and continue on with the strenuous activity of burning fat, stretching or what ever else you may be striving for. Simply put, the body needs rest. And I'll admit, I'm not good at it.

So, after pushing myself this last week and on my first day of spring break, I end up in bed because my body was screaming for rest. My body didn't give me much choice. I spent the next 24 hours in bed attempting to regain my strength. Tired muscles, arthritis flare-up and lack of hunger is what I ended up with.

Of course for the first couple of hours, I laid there complaining in my head about the workout I had planned and was now not going to do. I was going to hit up the yoga studio at 9 am,(something I never get to do in the AM because of work) and then later that afternoon I was going for a 5 or 6 mile run. 2 workouts in one day on my first day of vacation. I was psyched. WAS being the key word there. My body had a very different idea of how I was going to spend that first day of vacation. I proceeded to lay in bed for the next 24 hours nursing my aching joints and muscles and attempting to eat despite the fact that everything made me want to puke.

Twenty-four hours later, I feel much better. Not 100%, but better. Whatever was ailing me is slowly going away and I am beginning to feel a bit more "normal" (I know, I know, for the average person I am not normal because of my insane workout schedule but this is MY normal). So, I'm taking the rest of vacation day #2 to catch up on light housekeeping duties, grade tons of college papers and then quite possibly hit the yoga studio at 3 this afternoon. Have I learned my lesson? Probably not. It's my personality. I push everything to its limits. But, I certainly am going to pay more attention to the little signs my body gives me and not let my brain win this game every time.