Sunday, November 25, 2012

Music III

To quiet the persistent nagging of one who shall remain nameless, my current running mix - slightly skimpier than usual at the moment because I had to rebuild my iTunes library:

  • Best for getting into rhythm: Ho Hey
  • Best to fire me up: Kill Your Heroes
  • Most likely to make me laugh (tie): Tusk and Sexy and I Know It
  • Most likely to make me sing along: Lonesome
  • Most likely to spur me into playing air drums while running: Little Black Submarines
  • On there longest - seven years! - and therefore an appropriate title: Can't Let Go
  • Newest: Home
  • Most likely to skip (three-way tie): End Love, Pumped Up Kicks, Waltz #2
I can't explain what makes something good for me to run to. My only firm criteria, I guess, is that it has to be rock or pop. Drums help. Jack White helps. A lot of things are on there for sentimental reasons - concerts I went to, videos I love, the person who introduced to the song to me, etc.; even if it's not a good running song per se, it puts me in mind of a good moment. Some songs rotate off quickly - the record was MGMT's Kids (played once, ear worm, waste of $1.29). Ideally I'd add a song every couple of weeks, but they're so hard to find.


Sunday, October 07, 2012

Some Help from the Maggot Gallery, Please!

I get a fair number of emails asking for running advice, and I answer woefully few of them. (I don’t even answer lots of my work emails these days; I get about 70 daily and if a particular email is not among the 20 that require immediate attention—unless it arrives fortuitously in an interstice of activity—it may not get answered for weeks, if ever.)

So I’m calling out to the experienced Maggots to help me with the following questions. Some of the issues call in part for medical expertise, but many do not, and I know that my readers are steeped in Maggot and other wisdom and could answer some of these better than I could even if I had the time.

Please help me address the following:

Question 1, from Liza:
Do you have any tips on running to lose weight? I gained a lot of weight about a year and a half ago after going on SSRIs—I’m 5'4'' and in less than 6 months went from 125 lbs to 160. The weight gain was probably due to a combination of the meds and no longer being depressed (during the worst of my depression I had truly no appetite). My shrink and primary doc have told me not to worry too much about now technically being overweight, and I trust them. Clearly, suicidal ideation is much more dangerous for my health than the extra pounds. I am in pretty good shape—I bike to work everyday (about 15 miles total) and swam regularly over the summer. However, I would like to lose at least some of the weight, both for vanity reasons and out of concern for my health. I started running a month ago with the hopes of losing weight, and while I feel great with the extra exercise, my weight hasn’t budged. In fact, I actually GAINED a couple pounds. So any tips on how a beginning runner ramp it up and start losing some weight? I’m not totally opposed to dieting, but I already eat very healthfully, so I feel like there’s only so far I can go on that end.

Quick answer: read this post, but I know there’s a lot more you all could offer.

Question 2, from Kristi:
So. Have always had the motto “If I’m running, follow me 'cause some bad shit’s happening behind me.” I have exercise-induced asthma, environmental allergies, and bad knees.

BUT. I’m sick of feeling like crap and want to eventually be able to run without my lungs spasming. I also want to be able to run with my high-energy dog in hopes of finally wearing her out for once.
How can these two things happen together? How can I train myself to run with these three problems (I’ve read all of your advice on running as far as I’m aware, and have never seen a “I have a clusterfuck of RUNNING HATES ME problems, halp” post, but maybe I missed one) without some serious issues, and how can I train my dog to run with me?

Quick answer: You’re going too fast. Almost anyone can run despite many strikes against you if you do it slowly and carefully. And, this sounds a lot like exercise-induced asthma. Other advice from the Maggot gallery?

Question 3, from Covered in Issues and Wanting to Run:
So, I’ll start by saying that I have been walking with only a tiny bit of running, because hey you have to start somewhere right? Every other day for the last 2 weeks…and I LOVE it! I love the running part of it. It’s addicting. I’ve always wanted to be a runner, but let’s face it… I’m SO CLUMSY and SO OVERWEIGHT that I thought it was pretty much not even feasible.

Here’s the rundown on the issues I’m facing and would like to overcome because I HAVE to get my health in check before I become diabetic like my parents or have a heart attack like every other fat person. I’m 26, 5'11'', 290 lbs (I was 311 post-baby, so I’ve been working). I have severely touchy asthma. I lose breath (not just get out of breath, but my lungs tighten up) when I am physically active, have a cold, during allergy season, you get the picture. I’ve been running, but only for 1-2 minutes at a time because I get SO out of breath I can hardly see straight; I’m also getting the WICKED side cramps.

Now, I’m starting to get shin splints. Last time I got shin splints was in middle school PE and within a week they became stress-fractures (in both tibias) and I had to be in a wheelchair for 2 weeks. Suffice it to say I can’t afford to have a 1 year old and be in a wheel chair, and I decided to run to make me HEALTHIER, so WHAT the hell am I supposed to do!?!! I don’t have health insurance (yet: it’ll start in December), so going to the doctor is limited. I’m considering going just for a new inhaler.
I would appreciate any and all help you can give me. Thanks in advance for even reading this!

Quick answer: Yet again I say, SLOW DOWN. Side cramps = going too fast. Re: asthma—you will have a hard time without an inhaler. Other advice?

Question 4, from Didi:
What do you think about Jeff Galloway’s Run Walk Run? 

I tried getting myself into running slowly by your method some time ago and kept getting short of breath—realized it was exercise-induced bronchospasm and did better with some albuterol, but then my enthusiasm kind of faded. A friend convinced me recently to sign up for a half marathon (it was 8 months away at the time), and I have actually been running 2-3x/week using Run Walk Run (this is a lot for me since I’m a 2nd year resident with a 6yo and always exhausted). I’m in a rut in the sense that I’ve been having a lot of trouble increasing the run portion and the total run/walk time (haven’t gotten beyond running for 2.5 min max before walking and beyond 40 min total run/walk). 

I’d appreciate any advice!

Quick answer: Slow … oh for heaven’s sake you know the rest. If you can’t increase the amount of time you’re running and keep having to walk, you’re running too fast. Maggots? What say you?

Question 5, from Amy:
Do you have any tips for running with rheumatoid arthritis? (Don’t worry, of course this is not a substitute for real medical advice from my doc!) I’m a young person (and med student) who used to be a dedicated runner—NEVER fast, but used to run 6-8 miles most days and LOVED it (college). Diagnosed with RA last year, quit even trying to run b/c of the pain. Whenever I’ve asked about exercise, I’m told “well, if it doesn’t hurt it’s ok, if it hurts don’t do it.” Thanks guys. But I really miss running, and it’s the most convenient way to exercise with my schedule. Problem is that every time I get excited about trying it again is when I’m in a flare … Thanks, love your blog!

Quick answer: running most days instead of every other day is a recipe for injury, so if you’re doing that again, STOP. What else?

Help them out, Maggots.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Advanced Maggotry II

Are you really ready for Advanced Maggotry? Take the following quiz:

  1. Have you been running (nearly) every other day for at least six months?
  2. Can you run for more than 30 minutes without stopping?
  3. Do you always resist the temptation to run two days in a row?

If any of your answers are No, go back to Beginners.
If all of them are yes, you might be ready for the next step.

How To Get Faster

  • When you're running nice and slow and then you suddenly feel all tired and weak and like you have to walk, instead break into a sprint. Just for a little way, then you can walk if you want. You can finish your run sprinting/walking or sprinting/slow running.
  • Do a faster run in a different direction that is much shorter than your usual run. (This works particularly well if you're pressed for time and contemplating not running at all.)
  • In general, try to avoid just doing your usual run faster. Your brain will tell you that it's impossible. You need to distract yourself.

How To Go Farther

  • Plot out an out-and-back run -- a straight line -- that is new and that is farther than you usually go. Make extra sure to go slowly on the way out. You'll feel fine at the turnaround, and you'll have no way to cut your run short at that point.
  • If you're having trouble adding distance to your usual route, it's easier to change the beginning of the route than the end.
  • In general, it's better to do one longer run per week rather than adding a little time on to every run. For instance, if you usually run 40 minutes, do one 60 minute run and three 40 minute runs rather than four 45 minute ones.

and lastly:

How To Sneak In An Extra Run

A lot of people have a problem with the every-other-day plan, because weeks, inconveniently, have an odd number of days. If there's one day you really can't run, you're forced into a pattern where you have only three running days every week. If you're ready for Advanced Maggotry, once a week you are allowed to have two runs that are 36 hours apart instead of 48. So you could, for example, run Tuesday evening, Thursday evening, Saturday morning, and Sunday evening. It means you add in one morning run if you're an evening runner or one evening run if you're a morning runner. Do not abuse this privilege. You may have four runs per week MAXIMUM.

Other suggestions?

Oh and p.s. I do have a twitter thing now. We'll see.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Running Ruts

In a rut? Tired of running? Too bad! You have to do it anyway.

But there's ways to get you over the hump. Here are 10 ways I've overcome running ruts:

  1. Hack a new trail: change up your running route. If you're running in the city, find a bit of country. If you're running in the country, find a town. If you're running by water, look for some hills. This is starting to sound like that creepy Runaway Bunny story, so I'll stop, but you get the idea.
  2. If you're running on a treadmill or track, run someplace real instead, for chrissake.
  3. If you still can't run three miles without having to stop and walk, run more slowly. Even if you're being overtaken by elderly nuns, the kick from having run the whole way will make you want to keep it up.
  4. Run away from home. Some of the most memorable runs I've had have been in new places. Search "running routes in ____" online and you'll find all sorts of suggestions, often including safety tips. (My all-time favorite run was on Santorini in 1999, and I doubt it will ever be surpassed - I mean, come on, it's Santorini - but I've had great runs in lots of odd places, including the industrial wasteland near O'Hare airport, where I came face-to-face with a deer.)
  5. Buy new shoes.
  6. Buy new laces if you don't need/can't afford new shoes.
  7. Find a running partner.
  8. Ditch your running partner. (Tell them it's not them, it's DoctorMama.)
  9. Sign up for a race. (Note that I have done this exactly once, and it was a marathon, which has its perils. I'd do a race again, but only if it started after 10 am, which they NEVER DO. Why?! They are discriminating against us stiff late runners.)
  10. If your significant other is putting up a fuss, tell them that running will make you less crazy, and this is good for everyone. If they continue to whine about it, give them a demonstration of crazy.
What's worked for you? And/or where was your all-time favorite run?

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I love my patio so hard. Here’s the view from where I sit:

(Not pictured: the smell of the honeysuckle, the taste of the cappuccino, and the ant creeping up my leg.)

New things …

Our 17 year old cat, Moth, died. As pet deaths go, it went as well as it possibly could. He stopped eating or drinking but seemed comfortable; still purred when petted. I was sitting by him when he breathed his last. I cuddled his soft body and cried while HB brought me tissues, then TH held him, then HB. We buried him out here in the patio, his favorite place. HB said, “Oh! Wait!” and ran and got a rubber band (Moth’s favorite thing to play with) and had TH tuck it in with him. That was when TH cried. Then we all sat on the couch and petted our other cat (the one pictured above) and cried a little more and talked about the good times with Moth. HB got out a box of Thin Mints he’d been saving and we all had some. It was practically a Cosby episode, the kind that makes you roll your eyes because of how unrealistic it is.

He even peed his last time IN his litter box.

Our leftover cat was utterly bereft. I’ve never seen a cat grieve so. He spent his days and nights glued to me. We were soon to take a trip and I realized I couldn’t leave him alone, so I went on a hunt for a Moth-like replacement. When I got Moth, he was 7 years old, abandoned at a shelter because his family “moved.” He was doing a terrible job of selling himself compared to the cute kittens – hugely fat, wild dilated eyes, fur flying off him as he shedded from stress – but something about him spoke to me. I stuffed him into the too-small cat carrier and staggered home. With diet and exercise he lost 7 pounds and was a svelte beast the rest of his days (slimming down a cat is not hard to do, by the way). We had our ups and downs – turned out he detested infants – but one thing he taught me was how to savor the smallest things. He was an outrageously happy cat.

So I came across a cat being taken from his owner because she’d overfed him to past 30 pounds (she herself had an eating disorder in the opposite direction). Incredibly sweet, but almost at the point of not being able to walk. I hauled him home in a dog crate. We’ve had him 3 months and he’s lost 7 pounds already and can now turn over, walk, run, jump, and, thank sweet heaven, clean himself. Below is a comparison picture I did for his 2 month anniversary. We named him Foosa, after the fierce cat-like creatures of Madagascar. Our other cat was back to his old self almost immediately.

What else … my job is vastly different since January. I ditched many of my clinical duties (including weekend rounding!) for a much larger role in two huge medical education projects, and it’s a wild ride. Stressful, of course – I don’t do mellow – but in a good way.

Running is great; no Nana drama to speak of; HB is often wonderful and sometimes horrid rather than the other way around and is finally willing to have play dates; and cycling season is in full swing, but I’m pretty used to it.

There are some tough things. A big one is that I’ve got some [drops voice to an old-lady whisper] sex problems that go way, way back but I’m only just acknowledging. I wish I could be all out there, loud and proud, but I am a sex talk wimp. I have never discussed them in detail with anyone, EVER, and just mentioning it here makes my pulse and blood pressure rocket. Maybe I’ll be able to put it down here at some point; that would likely be very helpful, but I can’t promise it. (As if it would be some kind of treat anyway! Probably not something most people want to read.)

One other big event: TH shaved. He’s had a very long goatee for some ten years – not quite ZZ Top or Gandalf, but dramatic, and that plus his shaved head made him look a little scary and a little old. Now he looks sweet-faced and about 15 years younger, which disorients me and garners me some well, well, look who robbed the cradle! looks. Almost everyone tells him he should never grow it back, but I liked it. And not just because it kept me from seeming all Demi.

I so love hearing from you about your running successes. Don’t forget to go slow and go every OTHER day. I am right as usual.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Just Get Off Your Ass

I’d have been a bit, um, stricter in tone and instructions, but this is very timely, given what I said in the comments yesterday.

How Sitting All Day Is Damaging Your Body

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday, January 02, 2012

Has Anger Solved Your Other Problems?

Get me started on posting again, and I can’t seem to stop, sorry! Actually, I have been saving up this post since last spring, and it’s another email post, so it sort of autofilled. It’s about something that absolutely delighted me and made me even more aware of the value of not hanging on to anger.

First, check out this post by Anne Nahm (and her link to her earlier post) for a beautiful illustration of this tenet. She claims that she would have responded to something with anger if she’d had her wits about her, but I am skeptical, and anyway it ended up not mattering.

I’ve written before about how bad my college experience was. Much of the blame for this is on me — I did no research, applied to only one, and never even visited the place before my brother dropped me off with a trunk of clothes and a bag of feta cheese (a story for another time). However, it was genuinely a bad place. It has an exalted reputation, and therefore does not have to treat its students well. The students there were also … troubled. Already damaged — by their ambition, by the pressure they or their parents put on them to excel, by the fact that they had spent so little time developing their own personalities, by privilege … who knows. I made some friends, but none of them are even on my Facebook page now.

And I had an unhappy, often angry roommate there who ending up sticking me with a big phone bill (this was the pre-cell era; long distance calls were pricey). After asking a few times, I figured it was better to write it off rather than create more bad feeling in the universe over some money. (That is not to say that I was saintly about it; oh no, I complained.) I managed to come up with the money, but I had a collection service on my back for a while.

I wrote it off, but I never forgot it. I always wondered why she had done it. I didn’t think she was evil, and I thought she had plenty of money.

Then last spring, this popped into my inbox:
From: College Roommate
Subject: oh my
Date: May 27, 2011 2:32 AM

Dear DM,

It’s [Roommate], from so so long ago. I stiffed you for a phone bill. I owe you money... with interest. It’s been bothering me for about ... twenty years. Would love to pay you back! For real!

I hope this finds you well!
From: DoctorMama
Subject: oh my
Date: May 27, 2011 10:17 AM

oh my indeed!
I don’t think I’ve been this surprised by an email, like, ever.

It makes me happy. Not for the money — which of course I don’t need/want now and would never accept. Happy because it did always bother me — again, not the money, but because I always wondered about what bad place you were in in your head then, and why, and that I never knew if you ended up thriving or sinking. I know I was in a bad place ... I hated it there and did not thrive until I left.

(I have something that has bothered me for 30 years: I once arranged to stay with a penpal in France, but when I got to Europe ditched her to travel with my new boyfriend instead. I was only 15 and I suppose I should cut myself some slack, but somewhere out there is a middle-aged French woman who is probably still pissed off, and I’d love to apologize. I have no way to do so — I don’t even remember her name. Maybe there’s a Craigslist Missed Connections in France?)

Anyway. Find a random college student who is hard up for cash and give it to her, and the world will be back on its axis. And then tell me about it if it’s a good story.

Although I will never attend any college function, I do look through the reports, and it looks like you HAVE thrived? I would like to hear details if you feel like it.

College was a surreal time in my life — as if I saw a movie about it rather than lived it. None of it felt authentic. I am grateful for my life these days. My job, running, my strange husband and even stranger son — everything kind of fell into place eventually.

I’ve kept a blog for the past six years: If you want proof that I have not been bitterly adding up the interest on your debt for the past 20 years (honestly I do not even remember the amount), you can look there. Or if you want to take up running (if you don’t already), which is a crusade of mine.
From: College Roommate
Subject: oh my
Date: May 29, 2011 8:17 AM
Thank you. You are very gracious. I love your blog! I want to run!! But I don’t really know how to “start.”

Re: The phone bill. I will do it! I have just the college student in mind. Like me, she is the child of an alcoholic. Like me, going to [an overrated college] ... and like me, probably pretty broke and embarrassed about it. And struggling with the ramifications of growing up surrounded by addiction. I know her through an Alateen group I sponsor. Good. Thank you, thank you.

I think ... that I was just really broke, ashamed, lost, and wanted someone to take care of me. I was angry. I wanted someone to “pay.” And you got stuck with that. And it has haunted me for decades. It was incredibly selfish and egotistic and I so appreciate your response, on so many levels. 

College was a horrible place. It was horribly destructive for me as well. And yet ... it was a necessary stop on the journey. Able to see it more clearly now in many regards.

I will read your blog, and will have many questions about running!
So, if you are looking around for a New Year’s resolution (and are already running, of course), try finding some anger and/or guilt, root it up, and let it go.