Guest Blogger Series: 4 Months to 5k Chapter 2… When Your Health Has Other Plans

One year ago today, everything changed.

I had experienced back pain for years.  So many years, I honestly can’t remember not having back pain.  I always chalked it up to the consequence of getting older & all of those gymnastic days/car accidents/falling incidents (yeah..I’m a klutz) of my youth.  Being a teacher, spending long days on my feet on floors with no more than carpeting or tile on top of cement didn’t help. Also, carrying all that extra weight was not helping, and I knew it. However, it was normal to me.

Then I started having trouble standing.

And walking.

And gardening.

And I couldn’t stand and teach a 20-minute lesson without stopping and attempting to stretch out my back.

And I couldn’t walk my students down the hallway without pain that made me want to cry.  

I knew something was truly wrong.

On January 7th, 2019 I had an appointment with a doctor whose specialty is spinal injuries.  She couldn’t even complete her evaluation due to the pain I was in from the tasks she needed me to do.  As the tears were rolling down my cheeks, she told me she was putting me on bed rest until she could review the results of my x-rays and MRI.  

Two weeks later she put me on bed rest for three months & gave me a referral for physical therapy.  She also told me that I had extensive nerve damage along with adult-onset scoliosis and I would most likely end up in a wheelchair within 6-12 months.  



Luckily for me, my Aries personality does not like being told what to do or what will happen to me.  I believe in being the captain of this ship, and no one controls its destiny except me. That prognosis was not going to be my destiny. 

Time for a rewrite.

I did my research.  I went to physical therapy.  I followed (and still follow) every single directive, and then some.  A wheelchair, at this time in my life, was not going to be my destination…

Here I am, January 7th, 2020, and I just ran 1.5 miles on the treadmill, with a 40% incline, at a steady speed of 3.2.  Granted, it took a little over 20 minutes but what a wonderful victory! I am so proud of me and so grateful and thankful to the universe for not only being in this place where I was not supposed to be but for also blessing me with that stubborn, determined personality.  I don’t care if I’m labeled an Athena, or if my pace is slow, or what people may think of me. My story is mine to write and in this story, I am unstoppable.

Here I come 5K…

Click here to see Chapter 1.

You can find Sonya (NJGardenTeacher) on InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.

Guest Blogger Series: 4 Months to 5K Chapter 1… Not a Resolution. Just the way it’s gotta be.

I’m not exactly the kind of person who does New Year resolutions I feel like setting them just ensures your failure. However, I have set some serious goals for myself for 2020. 

In my younger years (and I’m talking young as in teenager young) I used to run. I was very athletic and loved the freedom that running gave me. After I had my son at age 21, running definitely fell by the wayside and I started picking up a lot of pounds. 

You may call that baby weight. I know I called that baby weight. My baby is 27 now… and I am still carrying that baby weight. 

I’ve decided to commit to discovering what I loved about running again. In the past 6 months, I have lost over 50 pounds in the quest to run again.

Although some people may consider this the easy way (trust me it wasn’t) I had vertical gastric sleeve surgery in February 2019. Because I have been blessed with the wonderful autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and hypothyroidism, the struggle to drop the pounds is real. But, a goal without a plan is just a wish, and one of the main goals I had set for myself after the surgery was to run a 5k. 

Since my weight loss has not been as dramatic as I thought it would be, I had to pick myself up by my sneaker laces and figure out how I was going to achieve this goal. Setting a goal for running is much easier when you have friends who also run. I’m thankful to have such a wonderful friend in Scoot a Doot’s own Mer because she always encourages me and celebrates my small victories with the same (or sometimes bigger) excitement as she does large victories. She knew I wanted to get back to running. I happened to be talking to her about my goals on the phone today and somehow wound up signing up for the Hot Chocolate 5K in Philly on April 4th

Immediately after I messaged her to tell her I signed up, I was really concerned because I haven’t run since October.

Then suddenly it popped in my head… Get out there and run. Now the weather today is not the best. It’s cold. It’s raining. And I have natural hair. If you don’t know, raining does NOT go well with natural hair. (PS – I also hate cold weather!)

However, I got out there in the best running outfit I could put together, drove to my local park, and did the None-to-Run Week 1, Workout 1 interval walk-and-run for 30 minutes. There were times I could run a little more and there were times where I skipped the short-run and opted for the walk. 

Most importantly, I got out there and did it. It was far from pretty or quick, but I said to myself if you can do this on a day that is cold, rainy, and you know you’re going to get soaked, then you can do this no matter what. Guess what I discovered? I can do this, no matter what. 

Wish you could see this soaked Athena in the freezing rain?  Well, your wish has been granted!  See you next Friday!

You can find Sonya (NJGardenTeacher) on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Don’t Call it a Comeback…yet

Yeah, it’s an LL Cool J kind of morning. You’re welcome for the earworm!

This week, I restarted C25K in preparation of a race next month and eventual half marathon training (11 months, holy…). Typically, my C25K starting point is actually the C/couch, where I have been perched for several months. And it’s hard. It’s so, SO hard. That first one minute run feels like an hour.

This time around, I had only been out of commission for 2-3 weeks, so that first one felt… good. And the pace was… pretty decent, actually. And immediately upon finishing, I made plans with my running pal, Sara, to go running again.

And then we did! Last night, I did my Day 2 run and it was still good. Pace was slightly slower, but still well below my usually Week 1 pace. And yeah, I was out of breath. And yeah, my calves hurt (I blame the wedges I was rocking at work yesterday). But it was just… good.

I like good. I would like to keep having it feel good. Because good feels good!

Here’s the thing. I’ve never made it past Week 6. I think this is because Week 6 sucks, but it could be because I am a habitual non finisher*.

And this time, week 6 coincides with my first race since the October, in which I finished last in my age group.



That was not a great feeling.

This journey has been full of plenty of great feelings (the first time I ran a full mile) and a whole lot of not so great feelings (last year’s Diva Dash). But it is always full of feelings. Always.

Right now, the feeling is anxiety. Not a lot, but I can feel it growing. I get ridiculous race-day anxiety, every time, to the point where I panic as soon as I start running and can’t continue (I can walk, and I always finish the course, but I CANNOT run). And it happens most days when I run at all, although not at the same level. I’m always anxious that I’m not going to be able to do it. (I’m not sure what my brain thinks happens if I can’t do it, but it is definitely scared).

Clearly, anxiety does NOT feel good. And I need to learn how to work around it. Which, in fact, is actually the point of the race I booked next month – to start getting used to it again so that next April, I don’t have a heart attack on the Atlantic City Boardwalk and run into a casino to hide.

I haven’t really found a way to get rid of the anxiety yet. Maybe there isn’t one, but I have to believe there are at least ways to make it more manageable. And once I get that under control?

I’m gonna knock you out 😉 **

*Please note my not using the word quitter. I don’t want Meri to give me the look.

** Please pardon the cheese. It’s early and I’ve given up coffee. And cheese.

So, help a girl out? Tell Bec she’s not alone in the race anxiety. Tell her how you work through it. Tell her to suck it up and stop crying like a little girl with a skinned knee.

Chick Chat: Firsts

Everyone has to start somewhere. When our friend, Shannon, asked us to share some information about first starting out, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for a Chick Chat!

When did you first start working out – running, walking, whatever?

Cam – I feel like I’ve been working out forever… it started with dance when I was a kid, then swimming and belly dance and yoga when I was a teenager.  I started R.I.P.P.E.D. after I had my daughter and worked with a personal trainer for lifting weights and strength training to lose baby weight.  The running came when my trainer suggested it for cardio.  I was skeptic, but my friend Jana asked me to do this awesome thing called Ragnar and I really didn’t want to be left out.  So basically I started running so I could hang out with my friends.

Victoria – I started walking  – then – running regularly a few years back  as cross training for crew. I first ran a minute, walked a minute. Then increased it to two minutes of each, then three and so on. Soon enough, I ran a mile. Then two. Then three.

Meri – When my elder son was 15 months, I learned of a new franchise called Stroller Strides. Within the first year I had such great success with the program, I went on to become an instructor. During the last seven years, I’ve picked up different classes along the way: Jazzercise and Bikram yoga.

I had a couple of false starts with running, I’d attempted the Couch 2 5k program once or twice. However, I first started actually running two years ago when I got my treadmill. My weight has always fluctuated but with running, I’ve been able to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and that’s important to me.

Jess – I started running in late 2011 because all of my friends were doing it, and they’re pretty cool chicks so I thought “I want to be cool, too!” It’s maybe not the best reason to start up a healthy habit (maybe I should have started because I wanted to be, you know, HEALTHY), but that’s what it took.

My love affair with yoga has been going on for much longer, since 2001 when I took a class my first semester of college. Prior to 2001, I was pretty much a bump on a log. Except when I was dancing, of course!

Bec – About five minutes ago. Okay, no, about 16 months ago, but I’m still very much a newb. All of my adult life, I’ve had an on again/off again relationship with exercise. But if I’m honest, it was mostly off again. I just… didn’t like it. Last winter, I started Zumba and my first C25K attempt right around the same time, partially because I felt like it was time to change my life and my body, and (bigger) partly because, like Jess, all of my friends were doing it. Baaaaah. Hee.

Brooke – I’ve been active my entire life- dancing, running, teaching aerobics, practicing yoga. I’ve gone through phases where I’m less active, or I’m more into one thing than another, but I’ve always exercised. I’m fairly athletic (and competitive, ha), so it comes easy to me. I also enjoy it, which helps!

Vic's first rowing regatta.

Vic’s (middle) first rowing regatta.

What newbie mistakes did you make?

Cam – Newbie mistakes would be under-eating and under-hydrating. I never took myself seriously as an “athlete” and kind of blew off any warnings about taking care of basic needs first. I was a horrible eater and didn’t properly fuel my body. As a result, I’d puke after every race. I now have this complex, when I see the finish, I get nauseated. It’s my greatest fear to toss my cookies in front of everyone at the finish line.

Victoria – One of my big newbie mistakes was not investing in decent running shoes right away. The proper support makes all the difference! I also didn’t understand the importance of replacing shoes every few hundred miles. The tread wears – for me, rather unevenly – so when my feet or ankles start feeling a bit sore, new sneakers are always my first line of defense.

Meri – What newbie mistakes didn’t I make? I started with the wrong shoes that created such pain and blisters that I was absolutely miserable. I figured since I was already miserable, I’d attempt barefoot running, on the treadmill, without any training or preparation. I signed up for a mud run as my first 5k. I didn’t cross train at first and had horrible IT band issues. But I feel like this is all a learning process and you just pick things up as you go. There’s many things that I try once and then say, “Well, I won’t do that again.” But so many more that I try and feel elation.

Bec – So many. All of them? Maybe. I ran faster than I was ready to. I ran longer than I was ready to. I did a Zumba class and a two mile run back to back (owwwwww). But the most common mistake I made, one that I’m still making today, is not trusting my body to tell me what it can handle when I’m running. My body is fine, chugging along, and my brain gets right in the way by thinking we’re not ready for this. Guess which one wins? I’m working on not running “in my head” so much, but that is definitely a work-in-progess.

Cam's first 5k - she's the one chatting on her phone on the far left.

Cam’s first 5k – she’s the one chatting on her phone on the far left.

What do you wish you knew then that you know now?

Cam – I wore the wrong shoes for so long, and lived with horrible joint pain. I wish I would have had my feet evaluated years ago.

Victoria – I initially tended to overdress, and overheat. It’s good to remember you’ll heat up generally 15 degrees while running, so it’s a GOOD thing to feel chilled as you head out the door for a 3-4 mile loop. You’ll warm up five or so minutes in and will be thankful you don’t have to haul extra layers along for the next few miles.

MeriFor so long, I just thought that I couldn’t run. I had such a lack of confidence when it came to running. I wish I’d gotten past that sooner because running is so freeing. To know that I’m capable of running great distances is incredibly rewarding. For me, it’s about doing it and I’m glad that I finally got to a point in my life where I believed and wanted it enough to do it.

Jess – My newbie mistake was giving myself permission not to be amazing at what I was doing from the start. I set really, really high expectations for myself, so it’s easy to get frustrated when I’m starting something new. Learning curves are not for the impatient, but I’ve learned to really force myself to just enjoy the process. I’m not going to be the fastest at the race or the most limber in class, but I can keep learning and growing within my respective practices. That’s what it’s all about!

Bec – That it gets easier. Well, no, it actually gets harder, but you get stronger and it doesn’t feel so hard. Yeah, that.

Brooke – The most important thing, for me, is consistency. You won’t improve if you’re only running once each week. Run easy, run hard, run fast, run slow, run/walk. Just go for a run! At least three times each week, if you can.

Once you finish your run, you have to stretch. Running tightens everything; you’ll feel great the next day if you take some time to loosen up while your muscles are still warm. I usually stretch for at least ten minutes.

Also, find some support! I don’t mean in a bra, or the perfect sneakers (though those are obviously important too). I mean, find a friend to run with you. Find a friend to talk to about running. Most activities are more fun when you have a buddy to do it with you and this sport is no different.

Mer's first 5k, the Philadelphia Down & Dirty mud run.

Mer’s first 5k, the Philadelphia Down & Dirty mud run.

We’re all at different points of our fitness paths. When did you start out? What sort of newbie mistakes did you make? What’s something that you wish you could tell your past self?