Running Through the Zoo & Miles for Migraine

Earlier this year, I wrote about “Crunching my Way to the Zoo,” and all of the trials of exercise after being inactive for so long. Finding an exercise plan that doesn’t anger the Migraine gods is a serious challenge. I went through months of frustration as I discovered that shoulder shrugs make my neck muscles tighten up, I have to keep my head up or I’ll get dizzy, burpees make me want to puke and if I get up off the floor too quickly I come close to passing out. This has also been a period of great self-discovery. I’ve built up stamina and strength. I can now easily walk to the National Zoo in my neighborhood. I’m even taking advanced yoga classes. I even notice some definition in my arms.

This summer, my boyfriend encouraged me to start running with him. After rolling my eyes, making excuses and whining about it, I figured I should at least try. All winter I had been consistently running on the elliptical for about 20 minutes, but pavement is a different beast. When we first started, he’d give me small goals along the way, knowing that I was not going to be able to go far out of the gate. “Just make it to the next light and then we can walk across the bridge” or “we’ll walk uphill but then run the rest of the way to the Chipotle.” These small landmarks were key for me in not giving up.  Every distance was a small victory.

I soon found I actually enjoyed running in the neighborhood. Much better scenery than in the gym. One day, my boyfriend suggested that I run through the Zoo and meet him at the park while he took a longer route. Genius! It’s a common sight to see people in running shorts zipping through the Zoo after work. I could be one of those people! I would be distracted by the animals and maybe never notice the distance. So I took the challenge and made it all the way without stopping (except to pause for the stray kid in my path or a traffic jam of strollers). It may have helped that I was running was completely downhill…but that’s not the point. I made it!

To put this into perspective, the distance from my house to the bottom of the Zoo is probably a mile. I’m not setting any records. The cheetah doesn’t try to race me as I run past. I’m often out of gas by the time I get to the bottom and I’ve never been able to run UP the steep hill to get home. I do take flatter routes and am able to go further. At most, my jogs are around 2.5 miles and each time I stop for less and less breaks. This time last year, I was struggling to walk through the Zoo and now I can run through it!

However, my exercise progress stalls every time my Migraines go on a rampage. In the last six weeks, I’ve visited the ER twice. Recovery has been slow. I’ve done some random workouts here and there when I feel up to it, but overall stick to simple stretching, walking and yoga so that I don’t exacerbate the headaches. It’s so frustrating when I feel like I’ve made progress only to have to start at the beginning after a long period of being down.

This most recent relapse has been exceedingly hard because I had set a goal of running in the Miles for Migraine 5K in Philadelphia on October 11th. I’ve always wanted to run a 5K. Earlier this summer when I started running I thought I would have plenty of time to train for it. With the deadline approaching, I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to participate, knowing that I’m not up to full strength. I also won’t be able to go to the actual race in Philly due to a family obligation, so maybe I should wait until next year.

Then I realized that it doesn’t matter if I run the entire distance, my goal can just be to finish- and I’ll feel damn proud about that too. And I don’t have to be in Philly. I can run (& walk) 3.2 miles wherever I am and still be part of race. You know what, you can too! Can’t get to Philly? Challenge yourself on October 11th to run or walk the distance. Not ready to go that far? Then pick a different distance, a goal you’ll feel good about. If you can raise money for the cause, that’s great. If not, you can still raise Migraine awareness by deciding to participate and sharing on social media. So I challenge you to join me in reaching an exercise goal on October 11th! What goal do you want to achieve?

If you decide to fundraise or are able to attend the event, here’s more info on how to register for Miles for Migraine: http://milesformigraine.org/

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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