Tag Archives: The Zen of running

The Science Behind How Running Can Make You Smarter, Happier, and Get You Off Medications

I have recently turned 44 years old and have received an inspiring and informative book as a birthday present entitled Spark by John J. Ratey, MD from which I will quote frequently for this blog. I started to run at 42 and I can honestly say that my running turned me into a smarter, more focused, more tolerant, more emphatic, more resilient, and definitely more punctual person.

 

Picture from one of my first 2-mile runs in March, 2015.

 

The same year I started to run in 2015, I also completed my first marathon, California International Marathon in 4:13.

 

At the time, I was only concerned about my cardio workout and getting stronger in tennis, a game I have played for more than 22 years. Unlike other runners who got into running to lose weight, beat depression, control their ADHD disorders, or to deal with the loss of a loved one, my story is quite ordinary. I wanted to balance my exercise regimen and increase my fitness level to be a better and stronger tennis player. Tennis was love for me and it will always give me joy. I even published a book entitled Change Your Grip on Life Through Tennis, which you can purchase by clicking on the link.

At one of my book signings.

 

KEY POINTS FROM SPARK:

  1. In October of 2000 researchers from Duke University made the New York Times with a study showing that exercise is better than Zoloft at treating depression.
  2. Serotonin is called the policeman of the brain, because it helps keep brain activity under control. It influences mood, impulsivity, anger, and aggressiveness.
  3. Dr. Ratey states that “going for a run is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin, because, like the drugs, exercise elevates these neurotransmitters. Therefore, with this new power to change your brain, all you have to do is lace up your shoes.”
  4. Regular aerobic activity, such as jogging, running, rowing, swimming, biking, tennis calms the body. Moreover, Dr. Ratey points out, that exercising is predictable and controllable, which gives a sense of self-confidence.
  5. Exercise also boosts dopamine, which improves mood and feelings of wellness and jump-starts the attention system.
  6. Although walking is good, jogging or running is better if your body can handle it. Getting the heart rate up for twenty or thirty minutes is key.
  7. Exercise helps rewire our brains. Moreover, when exercising with others the key is on the social connection to others.
  8. Having depression increases the risk for dementia, so why not prevent that by taking a brisk walk, doing a Zumba class, running, etc.?
  9. Challenges and learning new things are important, because they boost our resilience.
  10. Exercising puts you in control of your mood, your day, so go ahead and use it as much as you want without any side effects other than well-being, calmness, joy, and satisfaction after a job well-done.

To sum things up, exercise is the ultimate drug that works wonders and has no side effects, other than a general feeling of joy.

For more info on running and real estate, whether buying or selling, please e-mail me at carmenmicsa@yahoo.com, or call me at 916-342-2446. Running for real estate with joy!

 

Making Long Runs in New Places, Towns, & States Fun, Enriching, & Memorable!

Traveling to new places with my family means bonding, having fun, laughing, trying new foods, and exploring. We love to play sports, hike, visit museums and caves, and enjoy being together. Yet, my favorite way to explore new places is to do it at my own running pace before our children even wake up and are ready to start their day with us.

We have recently visited the Midwest and have enjoyed Chicago, the impressive, unforgettable, and most beautiful American city in my humble opinion, the sweeping and undulating corn fields of Illinois and Indiana, the magnificent lush forests, the balm weather, the history, and spending time with our friends.

After having spent a week in Illinois, we headed to French Lick, Indiana, a quaint, small town with a population of around 1,800. I also wondered about the name and found out that this town used to be a French Trading Post built near a spring and salt lick. Known for its Pluto Water and healing springs, French Lick is also the hometown of basketball legend Larry Bird.

 

The signs pointing to the many adventures around French Lick, IN.

From the moment we drove into town, I noticed the winding paths. As always, my husband helped me plan and plot my run, so I had a route ready for the next day.

THE HISTORY

 

On a crisp June morning with 55 degree temperatures, I took off for my long run that had to be at least 10 miles. I was soaking in the fresh air and was giddy with excitement. I was also thinking of my friends back home in Sacramento who had to put up with the 107-degree sweltering weather. In less than a mile, I arrived in front of the French Lick Springs Hotel, which is on the United States National Register of Historic Places for its architecture and old charm in our modern world (the hotel first opened in 1855).

 

Front of the French Link Springs Hotel, where I took the path leading to the next small city West Baden and the other historic hotel West Baden Springs.
Running down this paved trail was enjoyable.

 

After about two miles of running, I  reached the next town and hotel West Baden Springs Hotel,  also named the Carlsbad of America. I loved the arched entry and the brick path. I stopped to take some pictures, as well as learn about the history of  the hotel and its mineral water and baths that were alleged to cure more than fifty ailments.

The double arches confer a European appearance to the hotel.

 

As I ran on the brick path towards the hotel and the beautiful gardens, I learned that it was the original brick street installed when the hotel was built in 1902.

I loved running through the garden of West Baden Hotel, as the brick road reminded me of some streets in Romania, where I grew up.
I could not resist taking a selfie of the water fountain in the middle of the garden that was a healing place many years ago when visitors came to find cure to their illnesses by drinking the springs water.

 

Running is social – connecting with a local runner

 

Around mile 3 into my run, I ran into a local runner. I asked him how long the trail outside the West Baden Hotel was and he told me that the path ended right after the bridge. At that point, I  figured I might as well repeat the same loop and asked him  if I could join him. David told me that he was running his usual three-mile  loop, so I was happy to have company and talk to a local runner. I found out that he was a teacher, married with two small children, and that his wife was a nurse. We talked about Indiana and why he liked it. I also told him a little bit about California and our lives there. He told me that  he enjoyed running 5K races and that he also ran a half marathon with his wife in Kentucky. David was polite, kind, and a good running companion, which made my long run more enjoyable. No matter where I meet new runner friends, I feel so blessed to be part of a worldwide running community. Our universal love of running does not need translating; it simply resurfaces like a well-balanced surf board above high and tall waves.

David kept me company for about three miles and regaled me with stories from his hometown French Lick, IN. I enjoy meeting new runners who are passionate about our sport and run with happy feet.

 

After an enjoyable run, I said good-bye to David and thanked him for his company. I only had four miles left to make it to 10 miles, so I  headed  back towards French Link, passing by churches, small restaurants, a  mini golf course, and small antique stores.

I loved the brick church and what it represented: Christianity , warmth, friendliness, and hospitality of Southern Indiana.
Our Lady of the Springs Church  founded in 1887 faces the street sign reading Indiana Street.

 

TRIVIA

 

Besides exercising, socializing, learning about the history of French Link and West Baden, I also gathered some fun trivia knowledge that I can share during my runs with my runner friends back home.

TOMATO JUICE 

In front of the French Link Hotel, there is a sign about the invention of the tomato juice. In 1917, French Lick Chef Louis Perrin ran out of oranges to squeeze for juice during the breakfast rush. With a group of Chicago businessmen waiting, Chef Perrin improvised and squeezed some tomatoes. The businessmen loved it and spread the word: tomato juice was great stuff. By the 1920, tomato juice was promoted as a health drink.

Tomato juice trivia

 

WEST BADEN – THE CARLSBAD OF AMERICA

According to one of the signs in  front of the hotel,Carlsbad means “Charles’ bath,” named for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who is believed to  have discovered the mineral springs at Carlsbad in 1347.

ORIGIN OF THE WORD HYGIENE

West Baden Springs Hotel had four springs all known for their amazing healing properties. One of the springs was named Hygeia, based upon the goddess of health in Greek mythology. Thus, the word hygiene comes from this Greek goddess’ name.

With running tours becoming more popular, I am grateful to go on my own running tours and learn on the go, as well as immerse myself in  the culture of the new places I visit. During this trip, I have become fascinated with fireflies, brick homes and buildings, the dancing corn fields extending for miles, and the ubiquitous  red barns.

When traveling, I also like to apply this German saying: “we grow too soon old and too late smart,” which matches with my philosophy to explore new places we visit with the eyes of a curious and inquisitive child and the soul of a wiser traveler.

 

This teapot was hung on the wall of the German Restaurant we had lunch in French Lick. Our kids loved the Polish sausage and the home-made pretzels.

 

For more info on running and real estate, whether buying or selling, please e-mail me at carmenmicsa@yahoo.com, or call me at 916-342-2446. Running for real estate with joy!

5 Worst Running Injuries I had in My First Two Years as a Runner and What You Can Do to Prevent Them

Romanians (Yes, I am Romanian American and quite proud of it) have a great saying: “smart people learn from the mistakes of others, whereas not so smart people learn from their own mistakes.” I would love for you to learn from my mistakes and know that learning from your own mistakes is unavoidable. Besides,  when things happen for the first time, it has little to do with your intelligence level: it has to do more with life’s constant element of surprise, or what I like to call an ocean wave sweeping us off our feet when we are least expecting it.

Balance

 

One of the things I think I am pretty good at is balancing my busy parent, professional, intellectual, and athletic life.  I feel that I can juggle things, because I use my calendar well and try to write down all appointments, all my to-do lists, and still have room left for fun activities. I also found out that as a runner, balance is key. I need to balance my workouts, the time on my feet, as well as make room for tennis and strength training. But what happens when you become a little too confident in your running abilities? Well, you tip the balance scales to the heavier training cycle of running, so you start doing two runs a day even after a race you did the same day, which I have done and felt great at the time. You know that your form is good, so you won’t get injured, but overuse injuries can creep up upon us. Our bodies take the beating up to the point of quitting, so that’s when we start having problems.

 

Five worst running Injuries I have had in the last two years

 

I always thought I had a stronger body than my body really is! And, yes! I am an optimist who likes to wear the rosy glasses often. Moreover, just because I have played tennis for 22 years and never got injured is not enough to proclaim the Herculean strength of my body. As a matter of fact, once I started to run in 2015, I realized how many weak areas I had in my body, starting with the ankle which I injured in my first month of running due to poor form and improper shoes for my feet (I was wearing the low Altra shoes that offer no support to our ankles), but bounced back in 4 days. Then the knees pointed out to me that I had developed IT band syndrome, when I felt pain on the side of my knees and runner’s knee when my knees hurt right below the knee cap.

My first  half marathon Run the Sly in 2015, my first year running. I wore the copper fit knee sleeves to protect my knees from hurting, especially during longer runs.
My first CIM marathon that I finished in 4:13, even though I pulled my groin muscle at mile 18 and had to slow down.

 

Although I always ran with my knee sleeves on for about a year, as if they had magical powers, I had discovered that I could run without them with no pain when I forgot to put them on. That day I ran freely without any “crutches,” so to speak and felt like Forrest Gump .

Next injury took me almost six months to clear, as I had developed Planter Fasciitis after buying running flats that had a lower heel drop than I was used to and due to my tight calf muscles. Every morning, the sharp pain in my heel felt like walking on needles or stepping on a nail, but once I started my run, I was pain free and kept on going.

Towards the end of 2016,  I also developed a mild form of shin splints, with pain running up the inside of my lower legs.  Shin Splints can happen to runners whose feet maintain ground contact too long, or if the foot lands too far in front of them. Higher mileage will also contribute to shin splints.

My fifth injury came on totally unexpected on March 21st, 2017 after I did some intense speed workout on the track. I did 4 mile repeats and felt great until I got home and started to limp badly. My husband asked me if I twisted my ankle, or my foot. I said “no.” My speed workout felt wonderful as always.  I just didn’t know what happened, but I was sure I would be like brand new by the morning. And, yes: my rosy glasses were on. I had no clue that I had developed one of the worst injuries that only affects 0.6 percent of runners from what I have read – see how special I am?

I had developed peroneal tendonitis on my right foot, which is extreme pain on the outside area of the foot right above the ankle. Unlike all the above-noted injuries that never stopped me from training and running races, this one left me limping and unable to run. Yes, I was smart to stop running, while resting and icing, but it was mainly because my injury forced me to do that. I have not run in two weeks, doing aqua jogging, stretching exercises, and foam rolling.

After two weeks of rest and doing aqua jogging, Pilates class, and core exercises, I have tried acupuncture http://www.acupunctureinsacramento.com for the first time in my life to attack the tendon and be able to restart my Mountains to Beaches marathon training coming up on May 28th in Southern California. It worked so well and I highly recommend it, but check about your injuries with your doctor first.

Do You Have Peroneal Tendonitis? Here is How to Fix it

http://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/peroneal-tendonitis-stretches#2

Although the article below talks about 5 most troublesome running injuries, which I had all, my sixth running injury comes and goes depending on how long and intense I run. I have had piriformis syndrome on and off, which is simply pain in the gluteal muscles, making it hard to maintain a certain pace, once it kicks in. I like to call this injury a kick in the butt, not figuratively speaking, as that’s the area that hurts and slows me down.

The 5 Most Troublesome Running Injuries

 

When it comes to healing all kinds of running related injuries, I recommend reading James Sullivan’s advice below and then read about my healing methods.

http://www.mensjournal.com/expert-advice/how-to-recover-from-running-injuries

 

CARMEN’S 20 HEALING METHODS FOR THE ABOVE-MENTIONED INJURIES AND ADVICE:

 

  1. Listen to my body and address the issue promptly.
  2. Read many running books and changed my running form after reading the Chi Running book by Danny and Katherine Dreyer. I highly recommend it, as I was able to apply the lessons and improve my form and speed.
  3. Read about the injury and take action to heal the body while running, if safe to run.
  4. Changed the type of shoes I wore and currently run in the Nike Lunar Glide 8, which are better for my feet.
  5. Changed my running shoes every 400 miles to avoid injuries.
  6. Rolling my foot on a tennis ball daily and often while working at my desk to get rid of Plantar Fasciitis.
  7. Using the foam roll often and doing different Yoga stretches.
  8. Doing weekly core and strength training exercises, such as squats, lunges, kettle bell swings, bridges, and so on.
  9. Doing hills to strengthen my body, especially my gluteal muscles.
  10. Running much slower on my recovery days to allow my body to fully recover.
  11. Running with friends to keep myself accountable.
  12. Using the sauna to loosen up the muscles and recover well from tough workouts.
  13. Using the Epsom salt baths after long runs.
  14. Not running the day before a race and especially before a marathon.
  15. Using the chiropractor once to realign my body.
  16. Using the acupuncture and common sense to heal the tendon.
  17. Not taking Levofloxacin or Ciprofloxacin antibiotics, as they can weaken the tendon and ankles, leaving one more prone to injury.
  18. Talking to other runner friends and asking for their advice.
  19. Staying humble.
  20. Being wiser about life and running – hopefully!

 

CARMEN’S 12 GOALS FOR RUNNING STRONGER AND INJURY-FREE IN THE FUTURE ALL THE WAY TO 100:

 

  1. Balance my tennis and running better, meaning that I won’t do a speed training session the same day that I play tennis. Instead, I will do an easy run the day I play tennis, or no run.
  2. Strengthen my muscles more.
  3. Do more stretches after my runs and ice more often at the first sign of soreness.
  4. Give up racing, if a small nagging injury is present and wait to be totally healed.
  5. Run mostly 5 days a week instead of 6, unless I am behind my schedule and my body feels healthy to handle the extra pounding.
  6. Do two easy runs a day when feeling good, but never a hard run followed by an easy one. After a hard run, or race, I can do aqua jogging to relax the body and muscles.
  7. Incorporate aqua jogging and biking into my weekly workouts for cross training and getting the body stronger.
  8. Listen to my body more and respond with rest when needed.
  9. Be flexible in rearranging my running schedule, if my body cannot accommodate a speed workout that day.
  10. Mix road and trail running, but avoid running too many hills on tired legs.
  11. Order custom orthotics for my high arched feet to take away the pressure from the calf muscles.
  12. Use acupuncture, deep tissue massages,  and active release techniques to stay strong and healthy.

 

I have tried Crossfit for a month and got my body stronger, while learning to incorporate some of the moves into my own strength training schedule, such as the deadlift move.

 

Although these injuries seem to be too much, I have enjoyed my running tremendously and highly recommend it to all my friends as the best mediation in motion out there. I have been successful at it, winning many age group races and even winning first female overall in the Gumby 5K trail run this year. I believe that with the right plan and improved running technique, I will continue to run many more races and marathons. Running is life!

For more info on running and real estate, whether buying or selling, please e-mail me at carmenmicsa@yahoo.com, or call me at 916-342-2446. Running for real estate with joy!

16 Life Lessons I Learned from Running in 2016!

“Running gives us the total freedom to be ourselves, while negotiating life one stride at a time.” Carmen Micsa

Physical Fitness Lessons

  1. When in doubt you can do something, just do it anyway. I have learned this lesson this summer during the week I ran 101 miles just to see what it is like to run like an elite runner. I had started my week with a 15-mile run on the American River Parkway in the morning. In the evening, I went running through Ancil Hoffman Park and doubted I can have a decent 5 mile run, but to my great surprise, I ran in the low 8s and felt great. It also helped to see a coyote roaming around and trying to beat the summer heat.
    On the American River Parkway
    Coyote prowling around Ancil Hoffman Park

    2. When the legs get heavy, stop clenching your fists and teeth; instead, lighten up! Anytime I am tired, I love looking up at the sky. The turkey vultures seem to  have the smoothest and seamless fight pattern. They glide effortlessly and float with grace. I try to imitate them, while making my body glide down the trail with ease and determination to  end the heavy breathing and my body’s fatigue.

    The ducks were quaking and moving while I was just admiring them and taking a break from my long run.

    3. When you feel sluggish, look for someone slower than you to make you look better. I remember being at the end of my run and getting into a desperation mode when I came across this steady and determined tortoise crossing the bike trail. I smiled big and understood that slow and steady is a good thing; yet, I still found enough strength to push a little faster and not listen to my tired body.

    Feeling as slow as tortoise? Get those legs moving!

    4. Body aches all over, but you still need to get your easy run in, which is by no means easy. I remember starting my group strength training class this summer to get my body stronger and avoid injury. After my first class, I got  super sore, as my bosy was not used to the intensity. The next day, I had to do a Fartlek run that started with a 2-mile warm-up. I felt the gluteal muscles halting my entire being and thought to myself that I could just skip this and wait till the next day to run. Yet, once I finished my first two miles and got into doing my Fartleks, I felt so much better and the speed agreed with me.  Moral of the story: find that sweet spot to push past pain and a tired body.

    I used to wear knee sleeves, but not anymore.

    5. Knee pain is making you wince and stop more often than you want. My knees used to bother me until I started to run faster and changed my form and cadence. The quicker turnover of my feet also alleviated the strain I was putting on my body, so every time I get tired, keeping my form as intact as possible is key. http://www.runnersworld.com/race-training/the-great-cadence-debate

Mental Lessons

6.  Relax the mind. Although this is only my second year as a runner, I ran 18 races ranging from 5Ks to 50K this year. I PRd 16 of them and won 7 races in my age group. One reason I enjoy racing so much is because I am really good at relaxing my mind. I know I will be prepared and I do not worry or stress about the outcome of the race. I try to enjoy every minute, while I visualize myself running at a great pace propelled by all the racers around me. I can honestly say that I am not nervous when racing, whether I run a 5K or a marathon, which is why relaxing my mind with positive images and a good pep talk really works.

Winning first place in my age group at the Fabulous 40s 5k run, which felt hard due to the heat, but I ran relaxed and was excited to see my results at the end.

7. Tell your brain stories. You might scratch your heads here, but the reality is that our brains will not distinguish between a true statement or a little white lie, which by the way you should not make a habit to use unless you need to make yourself believe in your ability to keep on running strong. For instance, my favorite mantra is “fresh legs,” which I tell my brain towards the end of a race when I am tired. My brain will accept the story; my finish will be much stronger.

My body was done after 7 hours of running my first 50K, but seeing my sweet Sophia at the finish line running next to me has activated my “fresh legs.”

8. Let the positive energy carry you over the mental threshold. At the beginning of a race, most of us possess this positive energy, but towards the end when legs are tired and want to quit, the energy decreases. My trick to increase and keep my positive energy consistent is simply to observe my breath, the sky, the trees, and anything else that will take my mind off any negative feelings or remarks.

During my first 50K Folsom Gold Rush, I kept my positive energy by noticing the harmony and perfect flow of nature.

9. Surround yourself with positive and vibrant people to boost your own mental strength. We runners underestimate the power of our own words and others, so in order to perform at the level we want, it is imperative to surround ourselves with the doers and believers instead of the naysayers. When our family and friends believe in us, our minds are like a well-prepared plot of land waiting to receive the seeds that will later will grow into healthy plants. Our minds are no different and need the same clearance and preparation.

Finishing California International marathon strong. I had so many friends and family who cheered on me and believed in me so that made my running the marathon easier and more enjoyable, as my mind received all the good vibes.

10. The power of distracting the mind and redirecting our thoughts. I can honestly say that all women who are mothers like myself will get this very easily. During long runs, I have learned to distract any negative objections my mind brings up, as well as redirect my thoughts to more positive images, such as celebrating at the finish line. Additionally, whenever necessary, I treat my mind the same way I used to treat our toddler kids by using the power of distraction. The beauty of this is that my mind will accept distractions when body and legs are tired, whereas our children who are older now detect any attempt to distract them when I change the subject.

Even stopping for a jumping picture can be enough to distract the mind and infuse energy.

11. Let imagination guide the mind. During my 20-mile race before running CIM (California International marathon), I used one of the signs someone made for us runners to fuel my imagination and to make me run at marathon pace the entire race. The sign read: “Pain is temporary. Facebook pictures are forever. ” I smiled when I saw that, because as the Facebook queen- ha!ha! I could totally relate to the sign. I even started to write my won FB post in my mind, which helped me continue my run at a strong pace without hardly any pain.

Feeling strong during my 20-mile race three weeks before my CIM marathon.

Spiritual Lessons

12. Running brings us closer to God. With every step and stride, we go through a giant leap of faith. We believe in ourselves and are grateful to the higher powers guiding us. Moreover, when I ran my first marathon in 2015, I felt that God attached angel wings to my shoes that helped me run non-stop for 26.2 miles.

Finishing the first marathon CIM 2015 was truly a divine feeling.

13. The Zen of Running. Running with calm and composure turns us into Zen runners.  It is easy to overreact and worry about things that are not under our control, but if we learn to harness the Zen in us and smile when things get tough, then we will enjoy ourselves more and will be stronger mentally.

Enjoying a trail run on a frosty morning and feeling Zen about my run and life.

14.  Running is humbling. We as runners know that every race can take a sharp turn in a good or bad direction, so we  try to stay humble and not let our minds take off with too much elation and excitement.  As Lao Tzu says in one of my favorite books Tao Te Ching: “The further you go, the less you know.”

A humbling view from one of my trail runs through Cronan Ranch. The view left us in pure awe.

15. Running is serenity soothing the mind, soul, and body. When calmness turns into serenity during my runs, I experience an exhilaration similar to being on the peak of the tallest mountain. My poem about serenity that I wrote after one of my runs can also attest to this indelible feeling:

Serenity

“The crowns and branches of the trees

dip themselves in a pool

of serenity.”

The flowers at the edge of the river brought peace and serenity to my run at the beginning of spring this year.

16. And last, but not least, running is my meditation in motion. With every stride, I feel the pulse of the earth underneath my feet. I meditate on the mundane, the nature around me in correlation with God’s amazing grace, life and death. When I meditate and run, I am in sync with the world around me and feel so ALIVE. Running is LIFE.

The blooming trees in spring offer the perfect backdrop for my meditation in motion.

 

With all the lessons learned in 2016, I feel that I am barely scratching the surface of life and that the further I go with my running, work, being a mom, wife, professional, writer, friend, the less I know. I ran 1,649 miles in 2016 and looking forward to running even more in 2017. Namaste! Happy 2017 filled with wonder and many spiritual wanderings.

For more info on running and real estate, whether buying or selling, please e-mail me at carmenmicsa@yahoo.com, or call me at 916-342-2446. Running for real estate with joy!