Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rolling With the Punches

A few months ago I thought that on October 31st I’d been running a marathon in Dublin. I registered, I started to train and then life got in the way. It turns out I have to work the 31st, that I absolutely must be in Barcelona on that day. But it also turns out that I haven’t been able to train for the Valencia marathon on November 26th. Why? Well because my body hasn’t dealt with the training as well I’d hoped. (My hip and lower back hurt like holy hell.) Or maybe because working for a politician is not very conducive to having time for yourself (or a back that doesn’t spasm). And although I spend a good part of my long work days and nights dreaming of having Haruki Murakami’s schedule--he runs or swims long distances almost every day, eats a healthful diet, goes to bed around 9 p.m. and wakes up, without an alarm, around 4 a.m. — at which point he goes straight to his desk for five to six hours of concentrated writing--I do really enjoy my job and realize that I'm lucky have it.

So, anyhoo, here it is late October and I’ve got a gimp hip and low mileage, but I’m not going to let any of that get me down. I will run a marathon and I will run for the rest of my life. I hope. I pray.

Meanwhile, I will concentrate on healing and strength training and losing weight. (Somehow I suspect that being lighter—I’m kind of top heavy—will do wonders for my hip and spine.) To this end, I present my, humble but attainable, November goals:

1. Strength training / Pilates twice a week

2. If it hurts to run, don’t sulk, go to the pool or get on that elliptical.

3. Lay off the sugar!

4. Don’t be a drama queen; this too shall pass.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Few Final Thoughts on Birth Control Pills

I changed a lot in my twenties—went from being a very unhappy, rather dark person to a surprisingly stable, happy, healthy person. That growth came from many things: falling in love and then working (sometimes very hard) to build a marriage, to master two new languages, to adapt to living very far away from home in a rather closed society. I worked in several different places and became confident as a professional. I traveled and learned to navigate the murky world of immigration paperwork. I started going to the gym and dressing like a woman. I accomplished quite a lot in that decade, but I can pinpoint the one thing I did in my twenties of which I’m proudest and that’s getting off the Pill. It didn’t happen until I turned 29, but it happened and that, along with running, has changed me, emotionally and physically, in ways I never would have imagined.
I went on the Pill when I was sixteen. I had a boyfriend and a lot of strong teenage passions: poetry, veganism, radical politics and skinny boys in rock bands. I tried “going off” when I was 19 and studying in Madrid. Not because I had any problems with the Pill (big breasts and clear skin—what was there not to love), but rather because I was single. After a few months off the Pill, I looked like a 14-year-old boy: I was super skinny and had a nasty case of acne, which in turn made me want to just die. Seeing my reflection in the Madrid metro, I hardly recognized myself.
When I arrived to the grime and humidity that is Baltimore in August, I went directly to the dermatologist, burst into tears and begged, “What, what can I do?” And he, like so many American doctors, smiled and said, “Go back on the Pill, my dear.” And so I did, for ten more years.
I was absolutely terrified of ever going off the Pill again and turning into a 14-year-old monster, so when my ortho try-cyclen prescription ran out once I was living in Spain, I took the package to the local pharmacist, whispered my predicament in the tone another woman might use to talk about infertility or incest, and that calm Catalan man skimmed through some thick three-ringed binders until we found a European pill with the same ingredients. In Spain, you don’t even need a prescription for the Pill, just the brand name, “Suavaret, por favor.” And you’re good to go. Suavaret, it’s suave, a light purple color, feminine, kind, easy going down.
When Spanish women hissed about the dangers of the Pill (blood clots, low sex drive, mood swings) I ignored them. They obviously weren’t prone to acne or truly terrified of pregnancy. But, little by little, I began to wonder what my body would be like without the Pill. No round stomach, no big breasts? And my mind? No more mood swings or black-cloud days or sudden crying jags? And—I really wondered about this one—What about that force that fuses body and mind? The ole sex drive? What would that be like?
But I was scared to take the plunge, to deal with the skin problems and possible depression. To catch a glimpse of acne in the closing metro doors and want to scream or hide.
I kept putting going off the Pill on hold. It wasn’t the right time because I had to start a new job, or go on vacation, or fly to a wedding in London, or a book fair in Frankfurt. And then on a flight from Atlanta to Barcelona, my feet swelled up, which sent me on a wild internet search and round of doctor's visits to understand Porque and ended with me saying Basta.
In April of 2008, I stopped taking birth control pills. Did my skin break out? Yes, a little and it still does. Did I get skinny? I lost some weight, but I also started running soon afterwards, so who knows if one thing has anything to do with the other. Did my sex drive come back? Yes! And I never even knew I’d lost it. A whole new world.
Did my mood change? Yes, it was as if a cloud lifted and all the struggles of becoming an adult woman culminated in throwing away the pills I’d been taking every night at ten pm for basically thirteen years.
I felt, and still feel, absolutely fantastic: changed, liberated, recovered. Now, does this mean that I want to tell you “Get off the pill now! Traditional medicine and pharmaceutical companies are evil!” Well, no, not necessarily. I mean, I do sort of think that, but I think every woman has to find her own way out of the labyrinth of hormonal birth control. It’s actually kind of like running, yes I know it’s the secret to life, but I’m not going to proselytize. Every girl has to get there on her own.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day in the Life

copied from Ana-Maria, one of my all-time favorite bloggers

Friday, October 14th

6:30 wake up
Make coffee
Read NY Times online
Slowly get dressed to go run
7:15 Walk instead of run because my hip hurts
8:00 back home, eat toast with pb and a kiwi, look up "hip pain" on the internet
8:15 shower, dress, blow dry hair
8:33 hastily pack gym bag and run out of the house
8:55 arrive to work for 9 am meeting
9-2:45 work
2:45-3:30 go to gym and stretch like a wild woman
3:30 eat apple and rush back to work
3:30-7: work. eat banana
7:15 go home, eat pb and toast, email my mom, and shower ( I didn’t shower after the stretch sesh at lunch)
8:30 head up to Gràcia to meet L for a drink and “how was your summer” catch-up. Best hour of my week! Sometimes there is nothing better, or more relaxing, than having a glass of wine with an intelligent American woman.
10:00 leave Gràcia a little light-headed, take subway one stop in the wrong direction, correct mistake
10:30 meet Charles a half hour late for dinner at our Friday-night Italian spot. Apologize profusely. Think about how nice the guys are at the Italian spot and beg them to STOP giving us free desserts. Hear all about one guy's recent bike trip.
11:30 take an after-dinner walk with Charles
Midnight: Hit the hay and pray for painless run Saturday morning

Friday, October 7, 2011


I’m swamped with work and life, but getting back on track with running thanks to new routines.

Lately I've been waking up at 6:30 and getting out the door before work so that no matter what happens at the office, I get my run in. Morning running, I've found, has several advantages:

- Only one shower a day

- Fewer slow-moving tourists out and about

- Cooler weather and less humidity

- No late night snacking because I have to hunker down and get to bed!

And a few disadvantages:

- Shorter distances. Due to time constraints I can’t say go for a seven mile run just because I’m feeling good.

- The first mile is slow going because I’m still sort of waking up

- I must drink coffee first but then it makes me so thirsty

My body loves having a routine. I’m getting in bed by 11:30 most nights, which is really excellent for me. And, now I have time at night to take walks with my husband and discover parts of the port of Barcelona I’ve never seen before.