Second dose update: Tales from the ones who went first

First of all, I am incredibly grateful and lucky to have received the Pfizer vaccine. I’m also incredibly fortunate that the company I work for had the resources, knowledge, and structure to implement a successful vaccination plan for its employees. 

After my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, waiting for 15 minutes for the all clear that I’d passed the window for an allergic reaction.

For those of us who have received the vaccine, most are in direct contact with COVID+ patients. Others are exposed on a daily basis to the community at large due to teaching, essential work, etc. An interesting phenomenon? Feeling guilty about getting the vaccine. I’ll admit that at times, I wonder how I got so lucky, especially since I don’t work in the ICU or ER. However, treating a few patients last week who were COVID+, I am relieved that I have more than just my PPE to defend myself. I am now fully vaccinated. If you’re lucky enough to be offered it, don’t waste the opportunity!

It’s been well documented in previous posts my decision making process in getting the vaccine at all, and then how the second round went. I updated the second post to add that I did have a much stronger reaction the second go-round. This was to be expected and, in fact, a welcome sign that my body had an appropriate, albeit unpleasant, response. My story is not unlike that of my colleagues. 

So, what were the issues? As follows, after the second dose, most people reported:

  • Arm soreness that appeared more quickly. For the first dose, it was about 12-18 hours after, lasting about a day. The second dose, this soreness appeared within hours, and seemed to last longer overall. 
  • Chills. Most of my colleagues reported this issue about 12 or so hours after the first dose. This only lasted a few hours. This sensation may or may not have been accompanied by a fever. My highest recorded temperature with chills was 98.8, but I had a couple of colleagues who spiked fevers over 100 degrees. 
  • Brain fog. Again, a fairly universal complaint. Arising a few hours after the injection, and lasting about a day. This was most apparent while performing detailed work like documentation. 
  • Temperature regulation issues. Hot flashes were common. For some of my colleagues, it was the same day; others, like me, had this the next day. 
  • Headache. Some of my colleagues reported a headache that responded well to ibuprofen. I actually started day two after with a mild headache and took a dose of ibuprofen myself.
  • For those who had Covid recently, their reactions to both doses were anecdotally worse than those who likely don’t have antibodies to the virus.

For me, for most of day 2 after my second dose, I felt amazing. No pain. No fatigue. Great mood. I actually went out after work and ran my fastest 5k in months. I was not the only one of my colleagues to experience this sensation. I honestly wish this gift to all who get the vaccine!

I came across this article about why some people with Covid-19 don’t have symptoms, and it was fascinating. It has to do with the spike protein of the virus binding to pain receptors, essentially nullifying any sensation of pain. This is a very sophisticated virus. It still doesn’t answer the question about why some of those infected have no symptoms, and others have severe effects. But since the vaccine utilizes the spike of the virus as its tool for stimulating the body’s immune response, was this the reason why I felt so amazing? Had my white blood cells working to recognize the spike also pass the binding information to my pain receptors? Or was it the early morning dose of Advil to stave off a potential headache? Who knows. Any effects from the ibuprofen would have certainly worn off by the time I ran that afternoon, though!

The most important thing to understand is that everyone I know who has received both rounds of the vaccine have had a full recovery from the immune response. And, well, yay for 95% immunity! I feel very lucky, indeed. 

In Virginia, we have moved into phase 2 of vaccine administration: group 1b. I’m so excited to see pictures of my friends who are teachers and non-hospital based healthcare providers with their CDC cards! Don’t know where you fall in line with receiving the vaccine? You can visit the Virginia Department of Health website or for that of your state for more information. The Good Rx website also has a page with multiple links to resources, including national pharmacies who are ready and waiting to administer the vaccine when it becomes available to the general public. 

As far as the rollout is concerned, there are already problems. It’s been slow, and seemingly chaotic. According to usafacts.org, only 16.2 million Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and only 2.8 million have completed the series. That’s less than 1% of the nation who are fully vaccinated. There are many who have already missed their second dose. There are already reports of shortages of the vaccine.

And another hurdle? The shortage of skilled clinicians who are available to administer the vaccine. I had this conversation with a fellow runner who has been volunteering for the State of Virginia’s Medical Reserve Corps testing, and now vaccination clinics. I now have 2 friends who are a part of this effort! She says it’s been really challenging to find nurses and pharmacists who are not working elsewhere and are available to assist with these clinics. So, the plea by President Biden for retired medical professionals qualified to give injections to help is warranted. 

Speaking of President Biden, I’m encouraged by new federal leadership taking over, hopefully forming a more organized rollout of the vaccine than we’ve had thus far. We need to give the new team, including a new CDC director, time to get their acts together, as the transition was not smooth at all. In fact, it was well into January before they were allowed access to vaccination data. I’m happy to see Dr. Fauci in his element and able to speak freely about science. I’ve even seen posts rolling out from the US Department of Health and Human Services providing science-based information regarding COVID-19 on social media. Amazing. Science is real. Public health education actually works. We just have to provide it. 

A welcome sight! Public health information from the federal government on social media.

For those of us who are generally following the rules, wearing masks out in public, avoiding large social gatherings outside of our quarantine circle, it’s enormously frustrating to see others who deny science and don’t do their part to control the spread. I have been guilty of losing my patience in the grocery store when I see maskless shoppers. This phenomenon has been dubbed “panger.” And trying to explain the benefit of wearing masks even to some of my patients who question the practice is often like talking to a brick wall. 

Even though the vaccine is rolling out, we still must follow public health measures to control the spread. We still don’t know if those who are vaccinated can still carry the virus. And based on the numbers, we have a long way to go before we reach herd immunity. We also don’t know how the emergence of new strains will affect the efficacy of the vaccine, although scientists are optimistic for now. We will have to wait and see. 

Feel free to use this graphic.

If you’d asked me 5 years ago if I would expect to be a part of the biggest epidemiological experiment in history, I would have said no. Yet here we are. There are still evolving answers to how much, how long, and what type of protection the vaccine affords us. I still feel better having it, though. If you are waiting for yours, I hope you gain access soon. 

Have you received both doses of the Covid vaccine? If so, what was your experience, and which one did you receive? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Just breathe….

Hallelujah! We have a shiny, new President and the first female Vice President of the United States. Both of them have the experience, temperament, and appropriate focus to actually lead this nation out of darkness. It felt like it took forever to get here. 

“We must end this uncivil war.”

President Joe Biden

The tyranny and error of the past 4 years is hopefully over. I spent most of that time feeling anxious and in disbelief of all that had been revealed about the ills of our country. He gave misogynists and white supremacists permission to come out of the shadows and into the mainstream. Because of him, we have an attempted rapist on our Supreme Court. Because of him, we have a resurgence of white supremacist groups in the form of Proud Boys, etc. Because of him, we had an attempted coup, aided by sympathizers in our own government. In my conservative county, Trump flags fly almost more than the American flag. And just Monday, flyers with swastikas were posted all over the small town of Ashland in my county. It was one last, desperate attempt to scare those fighting for social justice. 

Pearls in honor of my sisters in the Panhellinic Council (my sorority’s jewel, too!) and Chucks for Kamala!

But ladies, watch out! Make sure you’re wearing your shoes. There’s glass everywhere! Kamala Harris has broken the glass ceiling! I enjoyed seeing posts from my friends who are Alpha Kappa Alpha members like Kamala. My best friend from graduate school is not only an AKA sister, but also a fellow alum of Howard University, just like Madam Vice President. I thought about them all day. Like them, I also wore my pearls and Chucks on Inauguration Day. We have much to owe Black women in restoring our faith in American democracy.

What a beautiful ceremony! I’m grateful I had the day off to watch it all live. It was lovely, despite the weirdness of the circumstances as the dangers of the pandemic and threat of violence from white supremacist terrorists loomed, forcing limits to the crowd size. 

Although I loved Lady Gaga’s interpretation of our National Anthem, and I appreciated the performance of Jennifer Lopez, I was most impressed by the poetry of Amanda Gorman.

“The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

Amanda Gorman

Such poignant words from such a young soul. I remember the idealism I possessed at 22 years old. But by no means did I have the wisdom and way with words to express my feelings like Amanda. She is simply outstanding. 

I was admittedly nervous that something terrible would happen to prevent this day from culminating. But I’m relieved that the inauguration is complete. Let the work begin. There is much to do. Because now, the status quo is not enough. We must be better. We must seek and demand justice and truth. We must drive hate back into the shadows from which it came. And we must find the light. 

But at last, I feel like our country has leadership that’s here for the people, not for sheer power or to reap the benefits of office for themselves. That, in and of itself, is light. 

I hope you are finding the light this week. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy. 

My 2020 in Running and Biking!

Totals: 

  • Running: 772.5 miles
  • Biking: 372.8 miles

Races: 

  • Southern Tour Ultra team relay in Wilmington, NC on January 18th
  • One City Half Marathon in Newport News, VA on March 1st
  • Taco Trot Virtual 5k
  • Monument 10k virtual 
  • Marine Corps Marathon virtual

Longest run: 26.2

Longest ride: 23.8

That’s it! 

With my crew awaiting the start of the relay race!

The year began in splendid fashion by taking a road trip with several friends to Wilmington, NC to run the Southern Tour Ultra as a team relay event. I think I ended up with 16 miles by the end of the day. It was fun, cold, and muddy! But a fantastic way to start the year!

After running my only in person race of 2020, the One City Half Marathon.

I’m so grateful that I got to run the One City Half Marathon. It was the last big race in person before the lockdown started. I really enjoyed running in my hometown. If I knew this would be the last “normal” race for the foreseeable future, I would have soaked in even more of every moment! The Shamrock Marathon weekend was supposed to happen a couple of weeks after that, and it was canceled, along with a slew of other races, as we know. 

Last year was my first as a Nuun Legacy ambassador! I’m thrilled to be back in 2021!  I have been using this as my primary electrolyte replacement for several years now. I really fell in love with the new Nuun Endurance last training season. It has more carbs than Nuun Sport, and it made a big difference with how I feel during long runs. And, in these pandemic times, I have enjoyed Nuun Immunity so much!

As the pandemic wreaked havoc with access to gyms and in person races, I took to my bike for cross training. In the early days of the outbreak, my bike provided a much welcomed respite from the 4 walls of my home. Although my bike is more of a cruiser than a road bike, I pushed it to its limits last year!

Biking the Capital Trail as my team ran 20 from Dorey Park. Here with Pink Nation head coach, Blair!

I also helped coach the Pink Nation, one of the Sports Backers Marathon Training Teams. And although the 2020 training season was weird, it was still meaningful, and Sports Backers ended up having a fantastic fall marathon event from Dorey Park along the Virginia Capital Trail. They truly made the most of a difficult situation. 

Crossing the “virtual” finish line of our MCM course in Richmond.

Running with the team helped me in my training to run the Marine Corps Marathon virtually. Although we picked a rather awful weekend weather wise, punctuated by remnants of Hurricane Delta, we were successful in completing our race. 

I ended the year with the Runner’s World Run Streak, running at least one mile every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. 37 straight days of running. I’ve never done that before!

The final day of my run streak!

What has this year taught me? 

  • I can do really long runs on my own. My longest solo run now has been 14 miles.
  • Running solo is meditation time. 
  • Virtual races, although not as exciting, can be meaningful. 
  • The Richmond running community is absolutely amazing, and without them, I would not have been able to run my marathon nearly as easily. 
  • Running has been slow since I got sick in August, but I’m finally starting to build up my endurance again through consistent training.
  • Doing a run streak will not kill me, and might even make me stronger mentally and physically.

Thanks for reading about my year! I sincerely hope that 2021 brings better adventures.

My next events: 

My bib for the Desert Storm 218 Miler
Use code ANNE20 for a discount on registration!

Happy running, everyone!

How did your year in running go? Did you do more than you realized? What do you hope to run in 2021? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy. 

Vegan Chickpea “Chicken” Salad

Oh, behold the versatility of the chickpea! Where would vegans be without them? Of course they turn into delicious hummus, but you can also mash them to become a nice substitute for chicken. Much like the recipes I’ve shared for Vegan Tuna Salad and my Buffalo Chickpea Salad, this one is the same method, just different seasonings and add-ins.

Extremely forgiving, you can add in whatever diced veggies you like to add crunch or pack in extra nutrients. Try adding diced celery or shredded carrots to this mix if you choose. Adding a bit of finely diced onions adds a punch of zest; use whatever you have on hand. I like red or green onions especially.

The key spice for this salad is dill. Using a bit of dill relish and a touch of dill weed with a dollop of spicy mustard adds the flavors I would typically incorporate into a traditional chicken salad. Use whatever vegan mayo is your favorite.

The other tip of mine when making salads with mashed chickpeas is using a pastry blender to cut and mash the beans. It works so much faster than a fork, and you have great control over the degree to which you break down the chickpeas!

A pastry blender makes fast work of mashing chickpeas!

So without further ado, I give you the basic recipe for Vegan “Chicken” Chickpea Salad!

Most of the ingredients I used for this batch of vegan chickpea “chicken” salad

Ingredients: 

  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • About ¼ cup sliced green onions or diced red onion
  • ¼ cup vegan mayo
  • 1 T spicy brown mustard (or use whatever you have on hand. I like my mustard zesty!)
  • ¼ cup dill relish
  • 1 tsp dried dill weed (I love the Lifehouse brand)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • In a medium sized mixing bowl, mash the chickpeas using a pastry blender or fork until mostly broken down.
  • Add all the other ingredients.
  • Mix until ingredients are incorporated well.
  • Serve on bread or toast or in a wrap or add to a leafy green salad.

Now that your mix is made, you can use it in multiple ways! As a sandwich, I like to add more mustard and sliced pickles to add more kick. I’ll also add sliced tomato when they are in season. You can also make this into a wrap, adding whatever veggies you like. Or simply make it a great addition to a garden salad. Just like most salads, there is no exact science to making this recipe. Make it your own! This makes enough for 3-4 servings. Enjoy!

Prior to mixing
After mixing
Served on a sandwich!

If you try this recipe, let me know! Take a picture, post to Instagram, and tag me @annecreates. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

The Week After…

It has now been one week since the attempted coup. I had prepared what I thought was a carefully laid out, well researched post about my feelings in response to last week’s events at the Capitol, and I even posted it. It was really more of a temper tantrum when I continued to look at it. Some of you actually saw it. But I decided to pull the post. It conferred too much of my own emotional response to the events than I wanted to convey. 

My post alluded to finding joy in the misery of those who caused the insurrection now that they are beginning to suffer the consequences of their actions. I also talked about the role religion has played in the recent events. The fact is that most of us are angry. Those who protested were hoodwinked by their party and bought multiple lies about not only the election, but about the virus and wild conspiracy theories as well. The rest of us are still in shock that it happened, especially considering obvious cooperation from someone in charge of security. 

But finding joy in anyone’s misery dehumanizes them. And it makes those on the “right” side who do that not so moral as well. Dehumanizing any living being is how atrocities against others begins. (And, yes, I feel this way about eating animals, too.)

We have substantial, long standing, structural problems with the architecture of government and societal norms in America. The ideals of meritocracy upon which our country was built are not working in its translated state. Do we actually believe that everyone is born with equal opportunity? That everyone who works hard will have the same chances to succeed? To state that you do is disingenuous. The truth is that anyone not born white and male has to pull their bootstraps up some, or perhaps what seems like forever, to reach equal ground. 

As a white person, I know I have certain unspoken privileges. And to have conversations with my Black friends about the talks they have to have with their children about things I have never considered discussing with mine… things like how to survive getting pulled over by a police officer… is really overwhelming. And in my time as a home health provider, I was witness to how the most marginalized people in our society survive. My privilege smacks me in the face. 

But the idea of meritocracy in America has devolved into something that looks more like rugged individualism. We have lawmakers and leaders who preach the notion that those who are white and in hard times are not to blame for their own misfortune. They have taught the lie that it’s immigrants, liberals, people of color… the list is long… who are to blame. Lies were also spewed about the origin of Covid-19 and the severity of the disease. And we have been conditioned as a society to care about ourselves first; the sense of community isn’t what it once was.

As a side note, science does not care if you don’t believe in it. It will carry on anyway. The climate will continue to get warmer if we don’t reduce carbon emissions. Species will become extinct if we don’t halt practices that destroy their homes. The earth will not be able to sustain us in time. And the pandemic will never end if we don’t wear masks, socially distance, or take the vaccine. But just like there are no atheists in a foxhole, there are no science deniers on a Covid unit. 

The fact is that we can all benefit from governmental reform. There is a growing wealth disparity in this country that has only gotten wider during the pandemic. We need to end loopholes for the very wealthy that help them avoid paying their fair share in taxes. Trickle-down economics doesn’t work. We need to raise the minimum wage. We need laws that end wage disparities. We need to work to end policies that promote systemic racism. We need to work to promote equality and safety for LBGTQ persons. We need a fair, just, affordable, and equitable healthcare system. I firmly believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. We need policies that protect our environment. We need to end corporate influence in our government. And we need a legislative branch not paralyzed by gridlock between parties. Our government should work for the people, not corporations or religious entities. 

We are the most prosperous country in the world, and yet many of our citizens live marginally. What’s worse is that it seems like it’s designed to be this way. Our mental and physical wellness can be much more robust if we have a government who supports efforts to improve how it works for everyone, not just the wealthy. Right now, this is not what we have. And although I never meant for my blog to be about politics, I feel like my readers need to know where I stand on these issues. To not discuss them is a bit tone deaf, and I don’t feel like I can carry on with fitness topics and vegan recipes without touching on my feelings about recent events first. 

I’m feeling weary and tired, much like the American flag pictured in this post, which I photographed in my town. I am so ready for power to transfer to the new administration. I have to trust that justice will be brought to those who were guilty of insurrection. I’m not ready to work on unity, especially because reports are swirling that this isn’t over. But I am taking a moment to try to understand how those who are guilty reached this place, because I have no desire to allow history to repeat itself. If it can happen in Germany in 1923, it can happen in America in 2021. 

I know emotions are running high right now, but a bit of empathy can go a long way in deciphering how America reached this place.

Today, I’m watching the impeachment trials. I hope our Congress does the right thing. Those who are guilty of contributing to the dismantling of our democracy must answer for their transgressions. I’m just idealistic enough to believe that our country will, eventually, repair itself, emerging from this rubble as a better, more equitable nation. 

How are you doing since last week’s events? I’m here to listen. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

What country is this?

Where do we live again? Because it doesn’t feel like America anymore.

How did you sleep last night? I have to say, I didn’t have a great night. Other than staying up late because I couldn’t stop watching the train wreck, I tossed and turned with weird dreams most of the night. This certainly does not contribute positively to one’s well being. 

The news out of our nation’s capital yesterday was disturbing on so many levels. As a country, we saw how people protesting for social justice have been treated for months. Tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, arrests for the smallest of offenses. Even ordering dispersal of crowds for ridiculous photo ops. And yet armed white supremacists have been allowed to march the streets and occupy government property, including in my own state of Virginia, with little to no consequence. 

The culmination of this was yesterday, when domestic terrorists stormed the Capitol as Congress was completing the counting of votes of the electoral college. Their goal was to disrupt our democratic processes, fueled by spiraling conspiracy theories. Our sitting president incited this. The plan has been brewing for weeks on social media. And yet law enforcement wasn’t prepared? Or did they willfully ignore the warnings and allow it to happen? I saw videos myself of police high-fiving protestors, taking selfies with them, and clearing barricades to let them pass to allow access to the capitol building. Twitter is teeming with footage. So were the police complicit with the insurrection? This smacks of favoritism and corruption. Where is the “law and order?”

Obviously we don’t know the full story yet. But I hope we will know more soon. And I hope that more arrests will follow. This wasn’t “Antifa.” This was a mob of violent domestic terrorists seeking to overthrow the government. A mob that was stoked not only by our sitting president, but many Republican lawmakers who refused to accept the outcome of a legitimate election, proven multiple times in court and in recounts

My daughter asked me which day was scarier: 9/11 or this. I was still more terrified about 9/11. Not only was I pregnant with the daughter who asked me this question, but the threat seemed so intangible and out of control. And although this disruption to our democracy is shocking, there were definitely systems in place that allowed it to happen. Systems that can be corrected. And we need the appropriate powers to actually do their jobs to protect our Constitution and Republic. 

Today, as I drove home from work, I saw a large truck proudly displaying a giant Trump flag and another large flag I didn’t recognize. Imagine the mindset of someone so emboldened to drive around like that after what happened yesterday. It’s unfathomable. Our country needs help. 

What are your feelings about the events from yesterday? If you don’t live in the US, what impression do you have of our country now? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy. 

Round Two is Done!

Second dose.

Same as the first.

A little bit sorer

And a little bit worse. 

Is it sorer? Yes, a bit. Worse? That’s yet to be determined. 

I received my second dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine today. My employer warned us to expect a stronger reaction this time and to plan accordingly, for example, planning to schedule your vaccine at the end of your shift and to space out doses from your colleagues of the same discipline. But I’m off today, so I got it in the morning without dramatic fanfare. I didn’t even get a bandaid! I did, however, get a shiny new entry on my CDC card.

My updated card.

It is assumed that this dose is more risky because now your body reacts to recognizing what was introduced weeks ago. The immune response can be stronger for this reason. There is also a window in which you can receive it, starting at day 18 after the first one for the Pfizer vaccine. Some trial participants have warned of severe immune responses after the second dose with both Pfizer and Moderna versions, which seemed to especially affect younger participants.

So, what about that second dose? With the rapid proliferation of the new variant of the virus in the UK that has already spread to the US among those who haven’t even traveled outside of the country, some medical experts are considering delaying it. This is to ensure more people can get vaccinated, since 70% immunity from one dose is better than none. Considering that there hasn’t been a definitive plan set forth by the federal government for vaccinating, and that the development and implementation of any plan is being left to the states, this might make sense. But this plan, which was originally devised in the UK, has been met with much criticism. I think that frontline workers should absolutely receive both does in the recommended time frame since we have definite, regular exposure to the virus. But from a public health perspective, I understand why a one dose plan would be favorable for the general population, especially if doses are in short supply. (More debate on this plan here.)

It’s now late afternoon, and, so far, so good. My arm is already a bit sore, where last time it wasn’t until I rolled over in the middle of the night that I felt it. Other than that, not much is different than the first go round. Crossing my fingers that it remains this way! Even if I do have a mild reaction like a fever, it’s still got to be better than getting COVID itself. I will definitely update this if things change, though!

I’ve enjoyed and felt a bit of pride for all of my friends sharing their vaccination pictures and stories on social media! It’s still a difficult choice, and I completely understand apprehension which arises from a multitude of reasons. But for those of us who can, getting vaccinated helps your community as much as it can help you. I certainly feel more prepared to help patients who are COVID positive and a bit safer running errands. I’m still going to wear my mask and socially distance, though!

Feel free to share my graphic!

Have you been vaccinated? If so, have you received your second dose yet? I’d love to hear about your experience. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy. 

***UPDATE***

About 12 hours after getting the vaccine, which was just after 9:00 last night, I developed chills and body aches. I spent most of the night feeling very cold and huddled under multiple layers of polar fleece. This morning, getting ready for work was met with hot flashes! Go figure. I did work today, but was definitely not 100%. I hope tomorrow is better!

Run Streak Complete!

What did my run streak teach me?

For the first time in my life, I have successfully completed a run streak of more than 30 days. Starting on Thanksgiving day, I have run at least one mile, finishing today, New Year’s Day. I averaged almost 17 miles per week. I’ve certainly had weeks with more mileage overall, but the consistency of the run streak was rewarding. Here’s what I learned:

After my first run of my streak on Thanksgiving Day! I was at the beach with my immediate family.
  • Daily runs won’t kill me. I really feared it would make me more prone to injury. I think keeping the overall mileage low was key for this for me, as was having a good running base to begin with. 
  • My brain enjoyed the daily meditation time. Like most runners, I use the time on my feet to sort out all kinds of life’s issues. A daily dose of blowing off steam was hugely beneficial. My mood has been happier overall in the past month.
  • Although my actual running pace is not much faster, I’m able to avoid walk breaks for my 3-6 mile runs at this point, making me faster overall. This marks a significant improvement in my overall cardiopulmonary endurance, and it’s another sign of progress from being sick in August with a presumptive case of Covid. But I’m still hugely frustrated that I’m slow. I see speed work in my future…
  • I have mental blocks on some of my most common running routes where I almost always take a walk break. Pushing through my shorter runs to keep going has helped me overcome a few of those places where my brain begs to walk. 
  • Running in the dark can be fun. I haven’t really run pre-dawn or post dusk in quite some time. When I worked full time, I would definitely meet friends in the pre-dawn hours to fit in my longer midweek marathon training runs, but these were in the summer. In the winter months, I never found the need to do this, and would often use the lack of sunlight as an excuse to not run. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed having a Noxgear vest to stay visible during my night runs. 
My first night run with my Noxgear vest! I did figure out it was on upside down.
  • Knowing I’m going to run takes the planning out of my workouts. Sometimes I would go to the gym, do some piddly cardio, and then lack direction with whatever strength training I was going to do besides my basic planned olympic lift. But going into my day with the intention of running at some point kept me focused on that run streak goal.

I’m glad that I shared that I was doing this. Sending the goal into the universe held me accountable to achieve it. If you follow me on Instagram, you may be tired of my daily running posts! I mean, if you didn’t post about your run, did it really happen? Ha!

After my last run of the streak today!

Is a run streak for everyone? Maybe not. But it was a fun goal to check off the bucket list, and I’ve proven a little something to myself about discipline. 37 days, but it’s done! What’s next? I hope to get back to some olympic weight lifting now that my streak is over. I’ll stick to my winter running schedule until half marathon training begins in a few weeks! I’ve got the Sports Backers Half Marathon in March and the Blue Ridge Half Marathon in April on the calendar. Thanks to Runner’s World Magazine for the inspiration!

The last month of running as captured by my Garmin!

Happy New Year! Have you ever completed a run streak? If so, what did you learn about yourself? I’d love to hear about it! As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Another New Year?

It’s the time of the year that we traditionally begin to wind down, reflect, and think about what we want to accomplish in the next year. For most of us, we will bid 2020 a swift farewell. This dumpster fire of a year can’t be finished soon enough. And as nice as it is to think that 2021 will begin with a clean slate, I can’t help but look ahead a bit apprehensively. How about you?

As much as we should congratulate ourselves for surviving a miserable set of 2020 circumstances, many of us feel a bit guilty about our current fitness levels or those few quarantine pounds we somehow found. So, here we go again. Fitness goals. Weight loss goals. New Year’s resolutions. Sigh. Is the pressure on yourself really worth it? 

Indeed, many of us have enough on our plates already. I think the goal should really be to simply get moving and to fuel our bodies as nutritiously as possible on a regular basis. Being consistent is better than trying to force perfection and burning out. It’s as much a benefit to our mental health as it is our physical well-being. It’s not entirely our fault if we’ve been less active or have made less than ideal food choices lately. 

Let’s think about the public health challenges we have faced this year which have contributed to our decreased activity levels. Maybe you were a gym member and found your gym closed for months during the pandemic. Maybe you had to trim expenses due to job loss or furlough, so the gym fees had to go. Maybe you are now working from home, cutting out walking into and around the office every day. Most of us also cut down on our errand running to avoid exposure. How many of you have seen your step counts decrease dramatically in the past few months?

Now, let’s talk about food. I recently ran into a friend of mine who is in the midst of a career change to become a nurse. One of the things she said struck me. In her training, she has learned how important your food choices are in managing your health. Indeed. It’s why I quote Hippocrates on my home page for this blog. 

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Hippocrates

As far as public health challenges unique to this year in choosing food, there were many! In the beginning of the pandemic, I personally felt panic when I went into the grocery store. Empty shelves will do that. It’s bad enough that there wasn’t a roll of toilet paper or paper towels to be found, but when a grocery runs out of tofu, that’s really saying something. It was easier to stock up on non-perishable, processed goods to ensure we actually had food to eat, even if it wasn’t something we typically bought. It also reduced our need to go to the store so frequently. 

If you just really needed to eat out, for a while, just about the only restaurants that were open were fast food drive throughs. Most of what you can find here, even if tasty, is hardly nutritious. Plus we literally sit in the car and feed our faces. And yes, I’ve been guilty of this myself. I’ve visited Taco Bell more often in the past few months than I have in the past 15 years. 

So, what actually goes into your $3 value menu meal and your shelf stable processed groceries? The two most planted crops in the USA are soybeans and corn. That’s no accident. These crops are subsidized by the government, which makes it really appealing to utilize them in every way possible. This is how we end up with additives to processed foods like high fructose corn syrup and soy protein isolate. Malodextrin? That’s from corn. Dextrose is, too. Even our gasoline has corn in it. If you know someone with a soy or corn allergy, have a chat with them about how challenging it is for them to find prepared foods they can eat. Derivatives from these crops are pervasive in processed foods. 

It really isn’t a stretch to say that processed foods are essentially subsidized by the government, which means they are cheap. A quick Google search about subsidized crops in the US will lead you down a rabbit hole of information and viewpoints on what is broken about this system.  It’s really challenging to convince someone on a limited budget to buy whole foods when buying one apple can cost more than a bag of chips. When they can buy the whole family dinner at McDonald’s for what one meal costs at Panera. Cheap calories equals full bellies, and perhaps also hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. What seems like a ridiculous food choice to people with means is a very realistic choice for someone without. It was a conundrum I realized as a home health practitioner. Finding the answers to these problems will take a public health overhaul.

Say that you can afford to eat a healthy, whole foods based diet, and you work out on a regular basis. Maybe you even invest in protein powders to supplement your intake of this macronutrient. Did you know that the most frequently utilized ingredient in these powders was once a waste product? Whey protein is actually a by-product of cheese making. If you’ve ever made dairy cheese yourself, it’s the cloudy liquid left over when the cheese curds separate. This liquid is then processed and dried to result in a powder added to lots of supplements: whey protein isolate. Guess which industry is also subsidized by the government? You guessed it: Dairy. So whey, as well as its partner casein, are popular protein supplements because their production is subsidized. If you want to learn more about the negatives of the dairy industry, check out the non-profit Switch4Good

Our food choices are not entirely dictated by us. They are shaped by a manipulated system. Beyond the government subsidies controlling our food supply and choices, there are teams of lobbyists working for the food industry to influence agency policies. Most of us know, our health really begins in the kitchen, but you may not know how much our diets are swayed by the food industry itself. 

So as we enter 2021, realize that many of the things that kept us from being as healthy as we could be in 2020 were beyond our control. We should focus on what we actually can control, like eating more at home, eating fewer processed foods, and moving more. Changes don’t have to be over the top to be beneficial. The better and more consistently we care for our bodies, the less vulnerable we are to health issues. We should get outside as much as possible, because our souls could use a change from the four walls that surround us. And we should give ourselves some credit for surviving a pandemic. 

Taking your dog for daily walks is a great, simple activity goal.

Be kind to yourself. If you set fitness goals for the New Year, it’s ok to make them simple and realistic, like taking your dog for a walk every day. Consistency is key. This pandemic is still raging, so continue to wear your masks and avoid large social gatherings. The pandemic will end eventually. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.

Merry Christmas!

I hope this year’s celebration was enjoyable, even if it had to be modified for the pandemic and all of the many circumstances that marked the year 2020.

Since my in-laws live next door, they are a part of our quarantine cluster, so the morning was spent per usual for Christmas: breakfast and present opening with them.

Speaking of gifts, I’m writing this on my new gadget: a Chromebook! I’m still trying to figure this out, but I’m getting there. 

My dog Ellie enjoying a toy from her stocking!

New this year: my family and I had a Zoom call, complete with my brother and his family, my parents, and their new kitty, Lacey. They all live about an hour or so away, and my dad is especially vulnerable to the virus, so no big gathering this year. Even though I did visit in person a couple of weeks ago to deliver Lacey, another real visit will likely not happen again until I’m fully vaccinated.

Another tradition for me since 2013 is going for a run on Christmas day! This year’s run was a 5k, keeping my running streak going that began on Thanksgiving day.  

Love to run on Christmas!

The holiday season holds lots of mixed emotions for so many. Grief may occupy space for those of you experiencing your first without a loved one. For others, you may be celebrating the first with a new family member. I’m sure many have altered plans due to the pandemic and feel a bit lonely. Still others may feel conflicted by their spirituality. But whatever mixed bag of feelings you may own, I hope there is some joy there this year. 

To all who celebrate, have a merry Christmas!

Peace and love to all. As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.