My Quarantine Life: Week 46

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We were able to get blueberries again!

Porch running during winter was a great idea. It definitely helped me to get some runs in on days when the roads were too icy to be out. However, the past few days and in the days to come, the temperatures outside are well below zero. I don’t mind running in the cold, but I cannot risk frostbite, as I have had frostbite too many times already. 

I have not been able to run for about a week due to the sub-zero temperatures and it is driving me nuts. Even though I keep the porch cleaned off, it is still frozen right now due to how cold it is outside. While I would say that my front porch is a safer surface for running than the ice laden streets right now, it is not a great idea.

I have been toying with yoga on and off for about 10 years. Yoga is a great exercise for runners to cross train. I have my own yoga mat. I have taken classes at some high-end yoga studios in a city in which I used to work. Hundreds of dollars later, I finally admitted that yoga classes were a waste of money. I was not able to do even half of what they were doing. I would spend 70% of the class just lying there “peacefully” on my mat. I was not about to pay $40 an hour to lay peacefully on a mat.

I tried a chair yoga class at a local fitness center that was a more affordable option. The instructor, however, was horrendous. The woman was like a military drill sergeant. You can read about that experience in the “my yoga pants went to yoga” post.

Since then, I have tried various yoga DVDs. I have mostly gotten them out of the library so that they are free. No cost involved was a much better option. I was even able to get some yoga DVDs from other libraries through inter-library loan. This was, of course, prior to the pandemic.

Since I do not have treadmill access to run and I am unable to be outside in sub-zero temperatures, I’ve been grasping at straws. MY gaze fell on my yoga mat. Again, I keep thinking I want to do yoga. The problem has been finding yoga that I can actually physically DO.

I asked around a few friends I know who do yoga for their recommendations. I did some research into various yoga DVDs that they recommended. I chose one and decided to purchase it. I figured I would only purchase one yoga DVD. If it didn’t work, then I would forever give up on yoga. I do not have money to burn on yoga DVDs.

I have the yoga DVD in question and it is excellent! I finally found a yoga routine I can actually do. Well, I can’t do all of it. I can do MOST of it, and I am okay with that. When I was trying to take in-person yoga classes, I estimate I spent about 75% of my time laying there doing nothing because the class was way too hard for me and 25% of my time actually physically able to do the activity.

The yoga DVD I have now I am actually able to physically do 75% of the activity in the yoga routine. Instead of just laying there for the other 25%, I am able to do a slightly different modification of the activity. So while I struggle with 25% of it, at least I am not just laying there.

This yoga DVD is one of the best purchases I have made. 

The past few days have kept me indoors due to below zero temperatures. I have been doing the yoga DVD everyday. It helps to be able to do something. I am still going crazy not being able to run. But the yoga DVD is bringing the crazy down from about a 10 to an 8. At least I’m able to do something.

The long range forecast looks like next week will be warmer – above zero. Let’s hope so. I’m going nuts stuck inside. Running on my porch works for days when the roads are too icy to be out, but I can’t risk frostbite on these frigid days.

How are you surviving this winter so far?

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Pandemic Winter Running

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Jolene in the cheese toy.

We have been getting a steady series of ice storms the past few weeks. I don’t mind snow. Snow provides traction. I can run and walk in snow. Ice poses extreme challenges. I do not balance well to begin with and ice is very hazardous for me.

One of the goals for the pandemic is to not fall down. When I fall, I have a tendency to get hurt. With the status of our health system, the goal is for me to need as little health care as possible. 

Last winter, I had a gym membership so that I had treadmill access for when it was ice outside. That all ended in March once I was put into quarantine and am still not supposed to be indoors with anyone else. That means I must run outdoors.

In trying to figure out my pandemic winter running strategy, I have felt a little like Goldilocks when she was trying out porridge. It has taken time for me to figure out how to safely run when there is ice outside.

Last week I was fortunate we had a brief warm up. I was able to run outside on December 30 for my last run of 2020. We have since been continuously pummeled with ice.

A few weeks ago, in an ice storm, I decided to run inside my house. I ran through the various rooms upstairs, This was a disaster. It was slow because there was a lot of weaving in and out of rooms and around items in the rooms. It made me dizzy because there was a lot of turning around. I only got 1 mile in on that “run.” Running inside my house was not going to cut it.

I thought about running around inside the garage, but the car needs to be in there for the men to come help me with the snow and ice. So inside the garage is out as an option.

Since running upstairs did not work out, I decided to do the opposite and try running downstairs. I figured the basement would be ideal because I could just run in large circles around the entire footprint of my home. 

While this was a great idea mentally – no dizziness, no boredom, it was a horrible idea physically. The basement has a concrete floor and it literally killed my knees. I was in pain for days after. I only got in 2 miles on that run. Basement running is out because my body can’t take the pounding.

A treadmill is out for numerous reasons. First, this house is over 100 years old. While everything is up to code, it is in the older end of code. I know that neither the electrical nor the flooring would be able to take the pounding of a treadmill. Second, I looked at treadmills online. They weigh at least 50 pounds. Even if I had it delivered to the house, I would not be able to get it inside and set it up. I am unable to handle anything more than about 20 pounds or so. Even when the cats’ Chewy boxes arrive, I have to open them outside and bring in the contents one at a time because I cannot lift the box to bring it inside.

With upstairs, the garage, the basement, and a treadmill all out, I was running out of options.

Then, somehow it dawned on me. I am not sure if it was inspiration from other people in quarantine across the world or what, but as I was looking out my front window at the ice covered street, I got the bright idea to run around my front porch.

The front porch is one of the reasons why I bought this house. I have a glorious front porch that fully spans the entire front portion of the footprint of the house. It is probably as large as both my living room and the cats’ play room combined. It is wood, so no concrete floor. It has a carpet on it, so no ice.

I ran outside on my front porch today and it was just right!

I successfully got in my first 3 mile run of 2021. Yes, I had to run circles around the porch, but it is large enough that it did not make me dizzy. I was sure to change direction every once in awhile like you do on a track. I was able to be outside in fresh air, which I love. While my running pace was a little slow, it was only about 30 seconds slower than if I had been running on the roads. So the fact that I was running in circles and doing frequent turns did not slow me down that much.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to have figured out my running in winter dilemma. 

I am pretty sure that the front porch took the pounding of my running fine. The front porch feels a lot more stable than some of the floors inside my house. Even if the front porch did have problems, it would be easier and cheaper to have the front porch floor repaired than the floors inside my house.

Not only did my run on the porch go well, but I also have a light on my front porch. So I will be able to run either before or after work, even in the dark, just by turning on my porch light. It will be a lot safer than running in the dark on the roads. Safety running outside is always a challenge this time of year due to daylight hours.

My pandemic winter running plan is to run outdoors on the roads as weather permits. As long as there is not ice, I can run the roads. If there is ice, I will run on my front porch.

Another plus to my front porch running was that it started to rain freezing drizzle on my run. Luckily, I was on the front porch, so the precipitation didn’t bother me one bit. I did not get any on me because I was on the porch. My footing was sure and I had a great run.

I have always said that as long as the cats are ok, I am ok. This is true.  My second saying is that as long as I can run, I am ok.  I am so glad to have figured out a winter running plan. If I can do my 3 miles a few times a week, then I know I’m okay.

Running on my front porch is just right. I didn’t get bored or dizzy, and the surface worked well for my body. As long as I keep the snow off the front porch (I do), then I do not typically get ice on the porch due to the carpeting there.

What strategies have you found for pandemic winter running?

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My Quarantine Hat Trick

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Of course, my greatest hat trick in life are these 3 right here.

Consistency pays off. In 2020, it paid off for me in a huge way. 2020 is now my highest mileage year since 2015. I did not even race this year. I did not train. There was no marathon. There was no half marathon. I just did three miles at a time.

The year 2015 was the last year I ran a marathon. Of course, when you spend 5 months training to run 26.2 miles, it is a high mileage year. Then, in 2016, I was in the hospital. At first I was misdiagnosed with a stroke. Now we know it was just a very bad episode of multiple sclerosis. 

Last year, 2019, was very exciting because it was my first year back on the race circuit after my stint in the hospital and subsequent recovery. I did a lot of training last year to prepare for my half marathon comeback.

If you had asked me 6 or even 4 months ago if I thought 2020 would be my high mile year, I would have said no. I toyed with the notion last spring of doing a virtual race this fall. Then my hopes for even a virtual race were dashed because I did not have adequate access to food to train.

The doctor was not happy because between March and July I lost 15 pounds unintentionally. I have had a horrible time trying to get food in the pandemic due to severe food shortages. There was just no food to be had.

There was no way I could train for a race without adequate access to food. But I knew I needed to keep running. Both for my sanity as well as for the fact that running helps me to retain my mobility that MS threatens to steal. I kept running but only did 3 miles at a time due to nutrition.

From October 2019 to March 2020, I had a gym membership. The gym membership definitely helped. The first 3 months of this year I had access to a treadmill. I don’t mind running outside when it is cold. The thing that gets me is ice. I am a fall hazard on a sunny, 50 degree weather day on flat ground. I cannot run on ice. As soon as ice appears, I am stuck inside. 

Having the access to the treadmill for the first 3 months of 2020 definitely helped. 

Being quarantined since March, I have been running outside. I have consistently been running 3 miles a few times a week this year. 

Being in quarantine has helped me to be more consistent with my running this year. Running is my biggest coping skill. Especially in the pandemic, my mantra is that if I can run, then I am ok. 

Being home and not having to drive any place has been helpful to me in fitting in runs either in the beginning or at the end of the day. I actually have enough time to run without having to worry about a 30 minute driving commute. 

I was also able to better accommodate my disability in quarantine. I do not do well in heat. Not only has my MS cooling vest been an absolute life saver, but I have been able to time my runs for the coolest part of the day so I was able to run consistently through the summer. 

Sure, there were some weeks when the heat completely sidelined me and I could only run once in a week or not at all. But being able to work from home and not having to be out and about in the heat was definitely helpful in allowing me to maintain a higher level of functioning throughout the summer.

It’s been 5 long years since I have been able to join the 300+ mile club. I never thought that I would do it with just 3 mile runs. Consistency pays off.

In a horrible year marked by a pandemic and food shortages, I was able to run more miles this year than I did last year when I trained for and ran a half marathon. The achievement completely blows my mind.

Being in quarantine has definitely helped me to manage my MS better, which means that my level of functioning is higher than it was before. When I do not have to drive every day and go someplace, I am able to get more done. If MS has taught me anything, it’s that I can have the best laid plans, but then your body will be like “haha, not happening.” The 2020 quarantine has helped me to regain some control over my own body.

This week running outside has been difficult. We had a freezing drizzle for almost a week straight. Last week I only got in one run before the freezing drizzle started. That kept me inside because I do not do well on ice. I had a hard enough time getting to my mailbox. 

I have to have a winter plan since I no longer have treadmill access. I cannot go to a gym due to my quarantine. I am not supposed to be indoors with anyone else. I can’t even go to the grocery store. 

My plan for the winter is to just run circles around a room in my house. I heard of people doing that in small NYC apartments last spring during lockdown. I figure I can run circles inside my house to get through this winter.

The challenge with that scenario is that I have an old house over 100 years old. The floors are not able to take that kind of a beating. So this past Tuesday when it was freezing drizzle outside, I did run around the inside of the house. I had to do it very carefully and it was the worst experience ever. I only went one mile. 

But it was one mile. If I have to get through 2021 only doing one mile at a time, then so be it. 

But I would rather do 3 miles (or more).

For the record, the freezing drizzle / ice finally did melt this week. I was able to run outside Friday and today. I just have to take winter one day at a time. But I do know that if the weather is too slippery for me to run outside, that I can always run one mile inside my house.

My goal for 2021 is to do a virtual race. I do have one picked out. Now that I have better access to food, I am certain that I will have adequate nutrition to be able to train for a half marathon in the fall of 2021.

I still fully believe that I have at least one in-person full marathon left in me. Right now, I am thinking that the earliest I would be able to run a full marathon in-person safely is probably 2023. We will see how the pandemic goes.

But I know that running is in my heart. When I run, I feel closer to God. I know that God is telling me I still have at least one full marathon left in me yet.

I am thankful that I still have the ability to run. Whether it’s one mile or 3 miles, I will get there.

I am completely surprised that 2020 is my highest mileage year and that I was able to do it 3 miles at a time. This year has been the ultimate running hat trick for me. 

My only goals in life are to keep running and keep my cats together. In one of the most horrible years in history, I was able to reach a mileage goal. I’m still running this year. I won’t stop. I’m hoping 2021 mileage can top this one.   

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