Sunday, April 14, 2019

Learning to Listen to My Body

Apparently, I've been overdoing it.

That's basically what my rheumatologist told me this week, in a very nicely worded diplomatic sort of way. When I protested that this is my usual level of activity, she told me what I already knew but needed to hear it again: I'm fighting an aggressive inflammatory illness and I need to scale back to allow my body to calm down.

I already knew this, but still. It kind of sucks.



Regular readers know I've been battling rheumatoid arthritis for the past couple of years, but I've been able to maintain the same level of activity I've enjoyed my whole life. For the past couple of months, I've had an ongoing struggle with an uptick in disease activity. It's been a roller coaster ride of painful flares followed by steroids and relief from symptoms. Rinse and repeat.

This past week I had the worst flare of my disease since I was diagnosed. A late night of fun in the city last weekend followed by a hot 8 mile run was enough to push me into a full-blown flare. By Thursday, I hurt so bad and felt so ill that I was near tears. I saw my doctor, had blood work done and was restarted on the steroids, with the carefully worded advice to take it easy.

A warm but wonderful morning for a long run 
Before I saw my doctor, I already knew I had to dial things back for a while. I could barely finish my 4 mile run on Wednesday. When I got home from that run, I called the race director of my upcoming 10 mile race and asked to drop down to the 5k. I was so glad that this race had the option. Otherwise, I probably would have lined up and pushed my way through the entire distance, which wouldn't have been wise.

Admitting defeat is never easy for me. I am always in 150% with everything I do. My drive to be the best at whatever I take on makes me good at my job and it makes me a good athlete. Unfortunately, I am not skilled at accepting limitations. As a long distance runner, we train ourselves to push beyond our limits. Find our strong. Go outside our comfort zones. Work hard, play hard.

Caught me some sunshine in Warrior 1
Part of my recovery plan.
Now I need to accept my limits. Work adequately, play gently. Recover smartly. And stay within my comfort zone. It's a whole new mindset for me and being the driven, type A kind of person I am, you know I'll excel at moderation.

I plan to continue running, but for now, I'll be running shorter distances. My 5k this past Saturday, which I'll be recapping this week, was hard. While I'll post the recap on Tuesday, if you follow me on IG you already know that I came in first in my AG. But I was disappointed in my finish time because I couldn't run the entire 5k without stopping. To some of you, I might sound ungrateful. "You won your age group and you're disappointed?" Yes, because I know I can do better.

I left it all on the course and got an AG win.
Training is going to be different. I'm going to have to learn how to work on speed and endurance while trying to keep my disease from flaring every time I push myself. Is it possible?

Maybe, maybe not. But I'm not ready to quit yet. RA is not going to defeat me.

Rheumatoid arthritis speaks and forces this runner to listen /via @oldrunningmom #curearthritis #runchat 

Have you had to deal with setbacks in your training? How did you manage it? Any other RA warriors out there with advice?

I'm linking up with Deborah and Kim for the Weekly Rundown.

48 comments :

  1. Congrats on your win! Like many runners 've had my share of injuries. I used that time to take a break and think about my priorities. It wasn't to continue running because I knew it wouldn't help with my injury. I knew I had to stop running in order to get better so I could continue to run.

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    1. If only this was an injury! I have no idea what the future holds. As long as this body will let me run, I will. Now to figure out how.

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  2. Well, what you could do is instead of running longer distances, focus on getting really, realy good at running the 5k. That could be challengning and rewarding, and there would still be lots of fun races for you to do. Good luck! Hope this flare dies down and you feel better soon.

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    1. I'm definitely heading in the direction! I think it will be fun and whole different kind of challenge for me.

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  3. There is so much running through my mind as I read this, dear Wendy, and a heart overflowing with good wishes and a few tears. You will still push beyond your limits, but those limits are adjusted and as you so well note, you will excel at realigning your priorities and activities. Although I never achieved the feats that you did, I had to give up running last year and it has not been easy; I will always miss it. And as I get older and older (I have a decade over you) I see, I feel the necessary adjustments. It's all part of the game. You're going to be okay. And we'll all be right alongside you for the ride.
    You rock, my friend, no matter what. Sending love and hugs from the East Coast.

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    1. I so appreciate your empathy and support, Connie. As a lifelong runner, I can't imagine not running! We'll see how this all plays out.

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  4. This is so hard, I can see, and any runner (anyone) would find it hard. I think the way you work this out will be such an inspiration to anyone battling with constraints of any kind, and I salute you for your honesty. When I started blogging about running I wanted to share honestly and transparently about being a back of the pack, middle aged woman runner, and finding blogs like yours was massive for me as something I could emulate. I wish you very well in working out what you can do. I'm sure you WILL excel at moderation!

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    1. You know I don't do anything halfway--it's going to be interesting how this "moderation" thing is going to work out!

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  5. You know this already, but "admitting defeat" and "winning my AG" don't seem to fit in the same post. I do like your new motto -- work adequately, play gently ....

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  6. As you know , I have had some setbacks myself with running this year. Sometimes our body is not in sync with our heart. I don't believe it's giving up , it's just changing your goals. I will wait to comment on your race when you recap it but I agree w what Courtenay said above. Thanks for linking up!

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    1. Getting older is just not for the strong willed, is it? I'll be interested to see what you're planning on. We're in this together!

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  7. Congrats, again, on the AG!! That had to feel pretty sweet after the tough week getting there. Maybe the 5K is your new distance? It's a difficult animal in its own right; I can see all kinds of (fun) challenges in the midst of working towards conquering that distance. Thanks for linking with us ;-)

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    1. Yes and no. I've got more thoughts on this in the recap, but I was pretty surprised to win my AG with that finish time. I felt so awful crossing the finish line and I know I can run faster than that. So yes and no.

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  8. I wish I had some great pep talk for you. I don’t think you need to give up exercise (at all), but obviously at least right now things have to change. Maybe it’s a matter of digging really deep & thinking about just why you REALLY run. And then making sure your decisions align with why you run.

    Can you run without racing? Is distance worth the pain you so often have to endure? Would accepting more walking in exchange for less pain be worthwhile? What are the benefits of distance & speed? Obviously these are questions only you can answer. You should’nt have to but life isn’t always fair. �� The only thing certain in life is change. It’s painful & not always fun. Feel free to cuss at me & move on!

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    1. I would never cuss at you--these are the same thoughts running through my head right now too! I am going to focus on shorter distances for a while. Clearly the run/walk intervals were doing me no favors as far as speed and endurance. It's a crutch that I'm not going to use anymore. I'm not ready to give up running-it's who I am, really--and so I have find a way to make it work for me.

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    2. :)

      Everything is so individual. Waling breaks really do work for me -- but for me, they have to be short, otherwise I slow down too much. I am not a power walker. I don't do anything fast!

      I have no doubt you will make it work for you, but it will probably continue to have to be flexible. That's probably the secret -- changing it up with how you feel, rather than how you *want* it to be.

      My husband has a cousin with MS; she was dx very young & so has had it for decades. She really struggles with simple things, and life is difficult for her, but she still has the best attitude (most days, of course she gets down sometimes, we all do).

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    3. I would agree with you about being flexible, but it does feel like I'm spinning my wheels quite often!

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  9. This is a timely post for me and I get the frustration of having to scale back permanently. As a runner, injuries occasionally happen and you do whatever it takes to heal. But when it’s something that doesn’t heal? That you have to deal with and try to not make it worse? And you can’t do what you want because it will become worse? That sucks. I am beginning to realize that this is my future and to be honest, it’s hard to take.

    I hope you find a way to run and workout enough to give you satisfaction without regret for what you used to be able to do. That whole acceptance thing is not a great place to be in, I know.

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    1. While I'm not glad you are struggling with the same issues, it's nice to know I'm not alone. Acceptance and finding my new normal will take time. But fighting the same battle, week after week, is over. That was not fun. I"m glad not to have any long distance races on the calendar for a while.

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  10. I'm so sorry that you had such a bad flair this week :( It sounds like you are absolutely doing the right thing for your body by scaling back a bit. You definitely made the right decision for the race and walked away with an AG award! I wish I had more of a pep talk for you, but just know that you can never go wrong by listening to your gut AND you have a bunch of people sending you tons of positive thoughts! :)

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    1. I so appreciate all the support and everyone listening to me here while I sort this all out. Hopefully I'll get on top of this!

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  11. My current workout regimen IS setback. I texted my BRF earlier this week to tell her that I wanted to add another 30 minute spinning class to our weekly sessions in place of the fun Pound class we do b/c my knees just can't take the lunging and squatting AND the spin class is the only workout that feels closest to running (heart pounding, sweat pouring, endorphin rush at the end). It stinks to have to find work arounds and modify, but the alternative (no workouts at all) is not even an option. We will both keep working, but we will both do it more smartly, huh?

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    1. That's what they say, work smarter, not harder, right? Now to figure out how to get it done!

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  12. Overdoing it? YOU?? Ya think? :P
    I think your AG victory is the universe's way of telling you you're on the right track.
    There is no shame in doing what is RIGHT for you.

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  13. Love your "I'm gonna excel at moderation" attitude! Accepting our limitations is tough. I did not do well accepting my limitations when I dealt with a hamstring injury for the past 2 years, and I probably sabotaged myself many, many times during that period. We Type A runners do have the attitude that we will just push through it, even if pushing through it is making everything worse.

    Congrats on the AG win! Way to moderate!!! :)

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  14. The majority of my setbacks come in the form of injuries. It's nothing like a chronic disease (although sometimes I feel like I'm chronically injured!), it still makes me realize that there's a time to push and a time to take it easy. When you push too much, that's when the body revolts. I hope this week is better!

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    1. My body has been revolting for a couple of months. Clearly it's time to change the plan. I'm hoping my body lets me!

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  15. Congrats on your age group award! You are my hero so keep doing what you are doing no matter what the distance and keep inspiring us all!

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    1. Awwww! You're making me tear up! As much as I'm happy about the AG award, I really want to go up against the fast runners and earn it!

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  16. The positive side is that you get to challenge yourself at new distances and learn all about yourself as an athlete in a different way. Whatever this chapter of running brings for you, I know you'll excel at it :)

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    1. I hope so! It's been a long time since I've challenged myself with short distances. I'll take any and all advice!

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  17. Congratulations on the imperfect AG win. Your disappointment makes total sense. Good luck with the recovery, I know you'll ace it. Off to make sure I'm following you on IG. I'm fairly sure I am, but never saw that

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    1. I'm so glad you get it! It sounds so ungrateful. Hoping to bring it strong for my next 5k!

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  18. Wendy I'm so sorry you're dealing with the flare. I know how frustrated I can get when it comes to an injury - I can only imagine how this must feel. I have no doubt that you will pursue these new distance challenges with gusto and will crush it. Looking forward to reading your recap.

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    1. I'm kind of excited to take on a new challenge. You know I love me some speed. Let's see what happens.

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  19. I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. It sounds so tough. I'm hoping you can manage it well enough that you are able to do the things you love.

    I don't know a lot about RA to be honest. It is genetic/hereditary?

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    1. They really don't know--my grandma had RA so it probably is hereditary. RA is a systemic disease. A lot of people confuse it with osteoarthritis which only affects the joints. RA affects every organ in the body. Most of the symptoms are due to the products of inflammation in the body. I can deal with the pain, but the fatigue is what gets me. I'm hoping that focusing on shorter distances will allow me to keep running!

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  20. you say you know you can do better, Wendy, but on this particular day you actually did your absolute best! i know it's hard (boy, don't I know)but it could be helpful to stay as much in the moment you are in rather than thinking about what you could have done or have done in the past. RA doesn't DEFINE you, you do - define yourself and doing your absolute best always, even if it means it's "less than" what you did before this stupid disease came into your life.

    I am crossing everything over here that with a little bit of rest you'll be coming back for more miles again!!

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    1. You are absolutely right and this is the best thing anyone has said to me in a long time! Thank you for your insight and yep, after a light week, I've got a plan in place and we'll see how things go!

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  21. Congrats on that age group win! I'm sorry that you're dealing with RA flare ups and they're making things tough. It sounds like a good decision to switch to the 5k and I hope that changing up your training will help.

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  22. Well congrats on that award. I can imagine how disappointed you were to not run the longer distance.

    But you ARE running. I am sure you are sick of hearing that some people cannot even do that.

    I have never used run/walk intervals. I am torn about them. Everyone tells me that I have to in I want to survive 26.2.

    Don't know what I am going to do....

    Help!!!

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    1. See how your training goes! Once you get to the longer runs, you'll know if you have to work them in. If your goal is just to finish, then I'd do the intervals. No shame in that!

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  23. Surviving and staying in the game (in running but in all things life) is all about adapting. And the fact you saw the need to do the 5 km, instead of the 10 miler, clearly shows how you are adapting and you are a survivor. RA won't win. Like the great long distance runner you are, you are trained to find your strong even in the most trying of circumstances.

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