When helping yourself means reaching out to others for help

“How would you feel about categorizing your book as self-help or personal growth?”

I was having a telephone conversation with an editor at a publishing house about my memoir. I had finished the manuscript in August and had been pitching the project to literary agents and publishers, taking online workshops on how to publish a book, and tweaking the pages based on feedback from readers.

I was never sure whether it was a good idea to call my book a memoir. I’m always visiting bookstores to look at what’s on the memoir shelf or the self-help, psychology, or personal growth shelves, so I get why she was asking the question.

It’s my fitness journey, that’s true, but I wouldn’t say fitness defines me.

“Sure,” I said, “I’m good with that.”

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My short, but entirely sweet, 3 days in Reykjavik

Do you remember that week in 2010 when a volcano eruption disrupted air travel through much of Europe? I do. My husband, Bob, was on business travel in Amsterdam at the time and got stuck. Poor Bob. For a day or two he contemplated returning to the United States by getting a train to England first and then crossing the Atlantic on board the Queen Mary 2 from Southampton to New York.

That volcanic eruption? It was in Iceland. And if business wasn’t slow enough on that arctic island, that dark cloud didn’t help.

Since then, the fog has lifted for Iceland, and Reykjavik, the capital and largest city in Iceland, is one of the hottest places to visit, even when it’s below freezing much of the year. And for good reason. The tourism industry is incredibly strong - there are more than 600 tour companies operating in Iceland - and the major tourist spots are well run, offering good food and knowledgeable guides.

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How you know it's working

It's ridiculous that after all these years I'm still fighting with myself at night to wash my face. I look at myself in the mirror as I'm brushing my teeth and think, what's the worst that could happen?

And then I clean my face, removing any makeup around my eyes, exfoliate, use toner, apply products my dermatologist prescribed for me and then serum and nighttime moisturizer on my face and neck. The whole thing takes too long, but there aren't any short cuts. I've tried.

The other night, as I was having this conversation with myself in the mirror, I noticed my skin was looking not bad. I've still got that lived-in look, but the lines in my forehead, in particular, were, without a doubt, less prominent. 

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Excerpt from GETTING MY BOUNCE BACK: Holiday Parties

I went to my first holiday open house of the season last weekend and took pleasure in getting ready in five minutes. All I needed to do was grab something festive from my closet and put it on. For the first time in years everything in there fits; some things a little loosely, although I’m fine with that, too.

So here are the two things I want to mention about holiday parties:

1. How you feel

2. How you look

I would say these are one and the same because how you feel is most of the time how you look.

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Mission Accomplished: Marine Corps Marathon October 22, 2017

I used the opportunity while I was waiting to see Dr. Andrew Wolff at Washington Orthopedics and Sports Medicine on the Tuesday before the 42nd Marine Corps Marathon (MCM), my second marathon ever, to read the race FAQs.

He squeezed me in after I limped out of my chair late Monday morning. Usually Mondays are my workout day off, but my MCM training schedule included short runs every day except for Friday the week of the race. I felt so good during that early morning 4-mile run that I remember thinking, “This is what it feels like when running feels good.”

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"There is no joy without gratitude"

Two Sundays ago I crashed after running 18 miles as part of my Marines Corps Marathon training and was trying to nap.

I limped downstairs into the kitchen and told Bob my legs were twitchy.

"I'm so exhausted but can't fall asleep."

"Have a shot of Old Bushmills," Bob said.

"A real shot." 

It was 2 o'clock.

"No sipping."

I poured myself a glass of whiskey and drank it. In one shot. 

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Marine Corps Marathon training update

JSYK I'm 6 weeks away from the Marines Corps Marathon (MCM) on October 22. This will be my second marathon ever and my first MCM.

Back at the 24-week mark I shared my proposed 20-week training plan with Kevin and Zach and both expressed the same perspective. Even though I've been running for 3 years, I chose a RunnersConnect training plan for beginners in order to ease in slowly.

Still, Kevin especially was worried about my committing to any training plan while I was still dealing with my typical issues - hamstring strain and glute pain. Both of these are overuse injuries, Kevin pointed out, so diving into even a mildly rigorous running schedule before these are completely healed just didn't make sense to him. Zach, too, worried about this. Remember I have hamstring and glute soreness after simple body-weight squats. Forget about kettle balls.

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Harder, better, faster, stronger: And now, smarter

I always found it ridiculous that high schoolers who never played sports thought the football team was made up of dumb jocks especially when many players ended up at our best colleges and universities.

Where did the stereotype of the dumb jock come from?

Just watch a professional soccer game or Major League Baseball or any Olympic event and think about how much stuff the players are pouring into their brains before, during, and after the games. Ok some of these athletes might make stupid decisions off the field in their personal lives, but these have nothing to do with smarts.

So I'm not surprised to read about another study showing that exercise is good for your brain.

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Cherry Blossom 10 Miler 2017: Call It Love and Devotion

"We need to head home early so this one can get into bed," Bob gestured at me as he told our friends at a Vassar event at the National Museum of African American History and Culture last Saturday night that we'd need to duck out.

"She's got an early race tomorrow."

It was true, I did need to be up by 4:30 am Sunday morning, but it's not like I'm a professional or even competitive athlete. I've been running and doing these races for 3 years, and this idea always crosses my mind.

But still.

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Rock n Roll Half Marathon, Washington, D.C., 2017: The Good Ol' Days

"Girl, go faster. We're late for brunch."

Among the many political signs at last Saturday's half marathon was this one, my favorite, because whenever anybody asks me about my experience as a runner, I always say that I'm a 50-something who wanted to go to lunch but went for a run instead.

We were lined up at the start when a group of three women around my age asked me if I would take their picture. Through the lens of the iPhone camera I could see one of them wanted to be at brunch instead of shivering on 14th Street and about to run 13.1 miles in 26 degree weather.

"Have you done this before?" I asked.

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Where it began

By last Thursday afternoon I was feeling the effects of the upper body workout I did with Zach Schumaker, my trainer, on Wednesday night. My pecs were so inflamed and sore I wasn't 100 percent convinced I wasn't having a heart attack. In general I welcome delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) because it means I'm placing stress on my muscles, allowing them to adapt.

But then of course I'm forced to change up my training. So on Friday, instead of cross training on the elliptical or swimming, I did walking intervals on the treadmill at a 12 percent incline; no stress on the upper body but I got my heart rate up high enough to feel great getting ready for work and throughout the day.

I was planning to do a long swim Saturday morning but still felt sore. A year ago I would have pushed through but if I've learned anything through all of this it's the value of deloading. So instead, with my head still on my pillow, I smiled.

I'll do an easy run.

It wasn't the run that made me smile, although I enjoy these shakeout runs.

It was the bagel. With peanut butter.

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But I do I do

"Welcome to my year of aging youthfully."

This is what I typed in response to one of the birthday wishers on my Facebook timeline on Wednesday. (Remember when we called it a "Wall"?)

"You are finding the key to aging backwards," my childhood friend Debbie Levine Herman wrote.

(I fully embrace the world of Facebook. I view it as a gigantic community bulletin board and LOVE seeing posts no matter how trivial or silly and count on them to keep me up to date period.)

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But, oh, I got stamina

Why it matters what I tell myself when I run

I reconnected over the summer with a woman I first met when I was living outside San Francisco and our daughters had become friends. We were having coffee in Palo Alto late one afternoon when she told me she had lupus. 

The subject came up because she was apologizing for meeting me in her workout clothes as she was just coming from the gym.

Really? Everyone in Palo Alto looks like they're in exercise clothes.

She told me that one of the ways she copes with bouts of extreme pain in her joints is by exercising regularly.

This memory popped into my head a few weeks ago as I woke up after sleeping nearly 12 hours. The last of my Thanksgiving guests had left late on that Saturday, and I practically passed out within minutes.

My plan had been to do a longish run that Sunday morning, but when I stepped out of bed, my sides and lower back were so sore and stiff that I nearly crept down the stairs to make myself a cup of coffee.

I assumed I had suffered a sleeping injury by being in bed so long.

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Any minute you will cross that line

There is always something to be positive about.


Election Day is here and these last few weeks have been like trudging in the mud. Everywhere you go, everyone you talk to, people are uncomfortable with how this election is making them feel. About their country, about the world, about their communities, about themselves.

The New York Times new column Meditation for Real Life could not have appeared in our feeds at a more opportune moment.

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Parks Half Marathon, Sept. 11, 2016 - Open up the champagne, pop!

There are those runs you know are gonna be hard, and you head into them as if you're about to do battle.

But when you finish you feel all the more celebratory.

That's where I am with this morning's Parks Half Marathon, which meanders through Montgomery County's gorgeous parks.

At packet pick up yesterday at RnJ Sports in Rockville I overheard a woman tell her friend that although there were 2,500 people registered for the race, 20 percent probably won't show up. 

"Because of the weather?" I jumped in. 

"For whatever," she said. "Just because." 

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When life gets in the way, yeah

Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.

This popped into my head after I instinctively extended my arm to help a woman, probably in her late 50s, as she walked from her car into a theater in Warsaw, Indiana, a few weeks ago.

We were standing on a slight incline steps from the entrance.  A bus pulled up and began to unload. I was seeing the 2 pm matinee of "Grease" at Wagon Wheel Center for the Arts with my close friend Carmelita Watkinson, and it was a gorgeous day. We were there to see her awesome and talented son Sean play the role of Danny Zuko.

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Magical mystery ride

"If you don't believe in yourself, why should anyone else believe in you?"

"You have to love yourself before you can expect another person to love you."

These phrases were etched into my being years ago, but in the past couple of weeks I've had a bit of an epiphany.

I used my early morning walks to catch up on podcasts after my finger surgery when I could not run or swim or bike and zoomed in on an interesting connection from one podcast to the other.

Sometimes it makes sense to hang back and let someone else have confidence in you. 

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As long as I can feel the beat

“Will this affect your exercising?”

My cousin Jonathan was hosting his annual summer barbeque for the Washington Belkins. While most of my family members are still in New York, there’s a respectable number in Washington as well as in Florida.

It was a little more than 24 hours after Dr. David Moss, a hand surgeon, removed one of the joints from my right ring finger and fused the bones together with 3 wires.

 “Yes,” I started to say, “more than I anticipated.”

“I’m sorry,” he said.

Jonathan’s mother, Leslee, was visiting for a few days. Stanley, Jonathan’s father, died not too long ago.  He was a celebrated master chef, and Jon himself does an awesome spread year after year.

“It’s ok. Thanks for asking."

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