Category Archives: Thoughts on Life

Attempting to Get My Groove Back

I’m alive! Hello!

Once again, I’ve found myself without much to say…therefore I just don’t say anything at all.

The truth is, running hasn’t been too great. It’s actually been pretty hard. Until yesterday, I hadn’t really had what I would call a “good run” since before Eugene. Not that they were all bad, some were just fine, but for whatever reason recently I have just felt out of my groove.

At first it was lingering marathon soreness, then it was a week of just feeling sluggish, then there was a week of intentionally really slow runs. And now? I don’t know. I’m caught in this weird place of really wanting to run but wanting the runs to feel good and to have that magical endorphin feeling connected to them, which hasn’t been happening.

I was getting impatient. Here I am, pretending/attempting to “train” for this crazy relay business and it just doesn’t seem to be working. The miles are there, but the satisfaction isn’t, if that makes any sense. Maybe it’s a little burnout, but I don’t really think so. I think my legs just went through the grinder during Eugene, and I was too anxious to return to normalcy. Marathons are tough man.

There’s also the issue of my way-too-tight right calf, which has also been annoying. My achilles/foot/calf have just been generally tight, and it’s taken a lot of extra rolling and stretching. I think it’s actually my shoes, which is weird since I’ve never felt that my Pure Connects didn’t have enough support, but maybe it’s time for a new pair. (That sentence sounds awful, sorry, but hopefully you understand). They don’t have a ton of miles on them (compared to others I’ve run in) but I don’t know…they just feel worn out. Have you ever had a faulty pair?

Anyway, this is all kind of leading somewhere.

Saturday was a great example of the whole “not-so-great running” scenario I’ve been facing. My plan was to do a double run day. 12 in the morning, 6 in the afternoon, to help simulate some relay running. The 12 in the morning were fine, but not awesome. Par for the course recently. I finished feeling fine, and looking forward to the slow-and-easy run in the afternoon.

Wrong. wrong . wrong.

Those 6 miles felt like complete garbage. I was wearing compression socks for the first time ever, and both my calves felt like rocks the entire time. Read: so far, NOT a fan of the compression trend. My AM run ended around 11, and my PM run started around 4, so maybe there wasn’t enough time between the two?? I don’t know. Either way, I know for a fact that double-days have worked for me in the past and this one was pure poop. I took my frustration out on a Red Robin burger and that helped, per usual.

I’m being dramatic. But it’s just not fun when running is hard. NEWS FLASH ROBYN, RUNNING IS HARD. I’m such a whiner, sorry.

But I was determined to get back in my groove. So after some yoga-action on Sunday (two weeks in a row, I don’t even recognize myself), I tried my best to orchestrate a good run for Memorial Day.

I picked my favorite 10 mile route, decided on no watch, and pre-determined the brunch spot for afterward. If running wasn’t going to be fun, then damnit…I was going to make it fun.

I opened the front door on a mission to make my lemons into lemonade, and…womp, womp, womp: RAIN. Seattle has really been showing off its aversion to summer recently. And for someone who is typically a forecast expert, this wetness came as a surprise.

I considered the treadmill for about .6 seconds, and finally decided to get over myself and giddy-up.

And wouldn’t you know it…despite the miniscule caveat, I FINALLY had a great run. It felt smooth, it felt fresh, and the rain only helped set the stage for the peaceful running stage.

I finished feeling much more restored than I have in a while. Sometimes going through the motions of running just doesn’t cut it, and when that happens I really need the synchronization of body and mind to remind me of the magic of the sport.

I really hate complaining about when running is “hard.” Every single day I try and be thankful for just the ability to run, as there are many who can’t. It feels so petty, then, to complain about something that most of the time I consider to be a huge gift. But sometimes you gotta let it out. Everything in life ebbs and flows, and running is no different. Per usual, sometimes we need the bad to appreciate the good…and for me, the bad runs also really help me to focus on the other important factors like stretching, hydrating, fueling, etc. All of which should never fall to the wayside, but oftentimes do when we aren’t forced to consider them.

So I guess you can say I’m (hopefully) getting my groove back. I’m going to resist the selfish urge to complain when the going gets tough, and when it does I’ll try to remember that no one is forcing me to do it. And really, running is hard. It just is sometimes, and it’s one of the many reasons why it’s so great.

How was YOUR weekend?

Post-Marathon Thoughts

My brain always goes back and forth between two different things once I finish a big goal race:

“OH MY GOSH, MUST DO SOMETHING ELSE NOW! Half-marathon PR? Ultra? Another 26.2 in two weeks? Gimme something BIG!”

and

“I don’t want to anything! I’ve earned it! Let’s take 6 rest days a week and on the other day run slow for 2 miles! Summer vacation! Hooray!”

I’m sure you can guess which of these is more prevalent than the other…but for the most part, these are the two extremes I’m vacillating between.

It always happens, and I’ve finally figured out why.

I am currently both: a) directionless, and b) burnt out.

I’ve been focusing on one singular goal for 4-5 months. It’s been getting me up in the morning when I wanted to sleep, it’s given me intention and purpose in my gut-busting workouts, and it’s kept me excited to put all my hard work to the test. Frankly, I love having a big race/goal on the horizon, which is why more often than not I have a BIG goal on the drawing board.

At the same time, however, our bodies and brains can only handle so much focus. The thought of jumping into any kind of training anytime soon sounds incredibly unappealing. It makes me shudder a little bit to think of abiding by the governing powers of a training schedule at the very least for another month.

So as you can see, there is a bit of a conflict of interest between my two mindsets right now. I want to respect the fact that I’ve given a lot to training during these past few months and give myself a break. The marathon distance, as well, beats you to a pulp, and I know that while I may feel completely recovered—I’m far from it.

So there’s that. But there’s also the case of “post marathon blues” that some of you may have heard of or experienced yourself. I am certainly susceptible to these feelings, and I already can feel them taking form. Essentially, post-marathon blues are what’s leftover once the glitz and glamour of the race are over. I wouldn’t say that I’m completely done reveling in my BQ state—but I definitely feel a little loss now that my training’s over.

I really enjoy the journey of a big goal. I love the prospect of trying to make my far-fetched dreams into a reality, and it makes the process of running day after day so much more enjoyable to know that there’s this sparkly potential for greatness out there.

So while training can get overwhelming and mundane at some points, I am almost always a little sad to have my training come to an end, even when the final race result is satisfactory.

If I’m being honest, I think part of this feeling is that the Eugene end wasn’t 100% satisfactory. I know I have more in me, I know there’s more potential out there. And while I definitely don’t have the energy nor the desire the jump into anything for a while, the fire is definitely there.

So where does that leave me? Well, somewhere in the middle of the previously mentioned extremes, I suppose.

I do love knowing that running offers so many options. Running fast, slow, long, short, trail, road, inside, etc…there’s plenty to choose from. And while I don’t feel ready mentally or physically to make my next choice just yet, I’m excited at the prospect of something new being out there.

In a lot of ways, I still feel very new to this sport, and I love that. I know I’ll figure out someday what my limitations are, but for now…I’m choosing to believe/hope that there are a lot more glass ceilings to break through.

Do you experience the same type of post-marathon blues, or do you kick up your feet and lounge for a while?

What’s Worked: Reflections on Marathon Training

As I approach these last few weeks of marathon prep— namely, the taper stage— I’ve been reflecting a bit on how this bout of training has fared compared to others.

There were a lot of different strategies I incorporated this time around which made for a lot of new experiences. And while it’s still 17 days ‘til race day (*shudder*), I think it’s pretty safe to say that these strategies have worked.

As of right now, I feel healthy, strong, and mentally prepared to make Eugene an “A” race. Since I’ve had more than a few marathon-training mishaps in the past, I thought I’d write a bit about the things I’ve implemented this time that seemed to have made the biggest difference.

Following an actual training schedule.

I know, right? NUTS.

But honestly, other than roughly sketching my first marathon training around a Hal Higdon program, I’ve never really followed a “schedule.” Before, I would just try to gradually increase my mileage and my long-run distances. And somehow I kept winding up with injuries that forced me to take weeks off at a time. I didn’t go into my last two marathons 100% healthy. In fact, I was more concerned with my injuries flaring in those races than the actual running. Luckily, I was able to complete both races—but they didn’t have that climactic, “I gave it everything I have” feel that 26.2 is supposed to have.

So I changed my method. I bought the Advanced Marathoning book by Pete Pfitzinger and decided to let him take the reins. I made a few tweaks to the prescribed programs (long runs on Saturday instead of Sunday), but otherwise—it was all up to Pete. The schedule wasn’t too much more demanding in terms of mileage, but if definitely offered components that I’d never used before.

Suddenly, all of my runs had intention behind them.  There were paces I never, ever trained at—both fast and slow—and workouts I’d never done before. I liked it though. This new approach was refreshing and interesting—and it added some color to the “10 miles at an average pace” runs that had become too frequent in my schedule.

I now have a pretty good idea of how my 5k pace, half-marathon pace, and goal marathon pace all feel according to effort as opposed to solely by my watch. I feel more in tune with my exertion levels and when to push and when to hold back. I also have a much better gauge of my strengths and my weaknesses—which feels good both going into race day and future training. For instance, to work on: hills, tempos, and workouts in the middle of long runs. To capitalize on: race day brain/competitive nature, speed work, and finishing strong.

I love that this new schedule has given me new favorite workouts, too. Somehow I’ve developed an infatuation for 800 repeats as well as half-marathon pace shorter runs—both of which require hard, fast rap…which I also kind of love right now.

Rest Days

I think there has been one week this entire training cycle that I didn’t take a rest day. Otherwise, they have been as integral to each week as the long run. I’ve gone from avoiding and hating any rest days at all to welcoming them with open arms whenever they come.

I am certain that this change has made a critical difference in my body’s health, but perhaps more so—I’m convinced that they’ve done wonders for my brain. While I definitely still get a little restless on rest days—it’s the temporary holding back that gets me excited to get back out there the next day. My workouts or runs the day after rest days always feel so fresh and strong, and I’m having a hard time remembering back to the time when I disliked rest days.

Through this, I bluntly have to state that, IMO, any runner who doesn’t take at least one day OFF a week is fooling themselves. There is everything to be lost, and nothing to be gained, by not letting our bodies recover. I’ve learned this the hard way too many times, and it took me too long to realize that this habit was actually the thing holding me back.

In our sport, sometimes the greatest strength of all can come from when we go against our instincts to keep pushing. It’s a strange concept in a country riddled with laziness and lack of motivation— but something I’ve come to realize is that there can always be too much of a good thing.

Running-specific strength training

On a similar self-preservation topic, I think a key component of this training cycle has been the strengthening I’ve incorporated.

I’ve always been a regular “lifter”—but mostly in an arms-and-core-only kind of way. Part of it was that I didn’t like straying from routine, and the other part was that I never wanted my legs to be too sore to run.

Overuse injuries that were all stemming from muscular weaknesses kind of forced me to change my habits. I started going to the total-body strength class that I always talk about, and all of a sudden—the aches that always plagued me weren’t there anymore.

The class toasts every single muscle group—including my glutes, hammies, and quads, and it also incorporates a lot of plyometric work that improves balance and ankle strength. All of it is so very good for runners, and while I don’t love the weekly DOMs screaming in the back of my legs, I have also seen my recovery time and speed increase.

And fine, maybe—MAYBE—PSJJ has helped too. I still hate it. Day 101 today, woof.

What’s interesting to me about this whole strength-training concept is that I’ve actually decreased the amount of other cardio-cross training during this cycle. I spin or swim maybe once a week, and otherwise it’s just running and strength classes. I used to be a big believer in a more-is-better approach to cross-training, but I’m starting to think that for me—my body can handle running better than I previously thought, so long as I’m diligent about strength. Which is encouraging, because if there’s a choice of activities…I think you can guess that run > everything else.

Food

I love food. I’m very non-discriminatory when it comes to the food I love. As in, I love a big bowl of vegetables and quinoa as much as I love a piece of chocolate pie.

Really though, I’m all about diversification and all-encompassing love when it comes to my food choices. It’s part of what helps me feel balanced, and I like to think that it helps me become not too obsessed with what I put in my body.

However, the fact of the matter is, I have a digestive system that really does not appreciate being deprived of the things it really needs, therefore ample portions of fruits, vegetables, fats, and protein are essential to ensuring I’m not keeled over in abdominal pain every night.

And not to mention running. I’ve done a bit of experimenting this training cycle to see exactly what types of fuel (food) are best on my stomach for both comfort and performance. Instead of focusing on, “Okay, I know I need a lot of water and a lot of pasta before my long run…then I can have whatever the f I want afterwards,” I’ve started focusing more on the before-and-after fueling of every run. Through this, I’ve discovered that food is really magical. Good, whole, nutrient-dense food can make such a monumental difference in how we perform and how we recover, and it’s this special attention I’ve given to figuring out what works for me that’s yielded a greater understanding of what’s best.

A list of my current staples: sweet potatoes, kale, peanut butter, avocados, eggs, oatmeal, almond milk, apples, bananas, spinach, berries, quinoa, almonds, rice cakes, pasta, zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, chicken sausage, squash, Picky Bars, and black beans.

Of course, I stray from these staples often—there’s lots of chocolate and cookies to be found too—but around my long runs and around key workouts, these are what I’ll go for. A lot of it has to do with my bad digestion, admittedly, but I suppose it’s a blessing in disguise because it’s forced me to think about fueling as opposed to rewarding.

….

Along with all these things, I think that being keenly focused on a tangible, quantitative goal has really helped me through this training. Whenever I get the urge to fall back into an over-training or haphazard habit, I remind myself of the truth that nothing changes if nothing changes.

Do I want to get in an extra couple of miles, or do I want to qualify for Boston?

Whenever I put things in this perspective…the answer’s always the same.

I’m ready to see if the changes I’vee made, and the habits I’ve broken, will yield something great—something I’ve wanted for a long time.

More than anything, I’m happy to have had a solid training cycle that has helped me improve as a runner and has helped me rediscover so many new and wonderful things about the sport I love so much.

 

What works for you in marathon training? What doesn’t work? What changes have you made that make the biggest difference in your training?

Stop Doing Stupid Shit

Yep, harsh title right there. But, that’s the phrase I’ve unfortunately been telling myself more often than not recently.

You see, I know we— as humans—have a hard-wired susceptibility to being distracted. Part of me blames nature, a larger part blames the internet, but no matter how you slice it, the ability to concentrate on one specific thing for a long period of time isn’t so easy.

I myself need a good heaping portion of deadline pressure, marginal stress, and a short time frame to crank out my best work. Frankly, it is amazing what I can do in the hours before something is due—I’m focused, precise, and fast. Not even the distraction of needing to pee can take me away from something if I’m in this kind of zone.

However, as you can probably guess—the majority of the time I don’t have this kind of pressure. Sure, there’s always work to be done, but with a time frame that exceeds a week or a deadline that’s far off, I manage to think of every single other thing in the world to do besides what I’m supposed to do.

I don’t have ADD, and in fact I consider myself a hard worker and driven person, so how in the world has stress managed to become a necessary element in making me productive?

It’s not just in my work life either. If I have a lot of errands that have to be done or chores that need taking care of, I will make it all happen. This is one of the reasons why I run in the mornings on days I know will be stressful; a run jump starts my interpretation of “a productive day.” And I don’t want to toot my own horn (because trust me the self-criticism will come later on), but sometimes I am shocked at just what I can accomplish when the productivity monster kicks me in the pants. (<— entertaining image right there)

BUT. Want to know why I am amazed at my own ability to “do things?” Because way too much of my time is, otherwise, spent doing stupid shit.

Again, I blame social media and the internet to an extent. As many of us remember from our college years of writing papers in the library, when Facebook was only a click away…our best intentions to be productive were always thrown out the window. Then came Twitter, which thankfully I didn’t become aware of until after I graduated, and now there’s Instagram, Tumblrs, blogs, PINTEREST, and lord knows however many other time-wasters that I haven’t heard of yet.

But here’s the thing…yes those things exist and yes smart phones exist and wah wah wah we are all a product of our society. BUT, we—on our own—make the decisions to use these things; we consciously decide to break up our real-life routines for the sake of our digital realities. And this, my friends, is 100% our own fault.

I might just be talking to myself here; maybe all of you are wizards at ignoring your phone and checking all your networks just a few times a day. If so, I applaud you. Thankfully, most social media  sites are blocked at my place of work…making that distraction much easier to avoid. Which is why blogs, especially of the running variety, are my default “mental break.” And that’s fine…sometimes. I like reading them, I learn a little something from a lot of them, and they help keep me inspired and motivated in my own running pursuits.

But when it’s 2 pm…and I’m randomly typing in URLs in hopes that someone, somewhere has posted something new…it’s a problem. It’s nothing more than boredom and the hope that for a few minutes, someone will distract me from continuing to do the things I actually ought to be focusing on. In other words, I’m actively searching out stupid shit to fill my time with.

And you know what? I am nearly 100% positive I’m not alone in this habit.

It’s a little depressing…but once I start trying to recognize the times when I’m just doing something to keep from doing something else, the list starts to pile up. All of a sudden, it’s not just the internet or my phone; it’s staring at my pores in the magnetized mirror for 8 solid minutes, or randomly choosing to pluck my eyebrows at 5 am when I should actually be leaving for my run.

All these little things aren’t harmful, but they—for the most part—don’t serve a purpose. All they’re doing is taking time away from the much more productive and constructive things I should be doing.

Thus, I’ve realized that all these time wasting activities are really just stupid shit—and none of it really adds to my life. Yes, I do need to pluck my eyebrows every so often and yes, as an active blogger, using Twitter is useful and informative. BUT, when I’m using those things in place of more time sensitive, important matters—they become inhibitors.

I’m not saying that I should never zone out on the couch watching reruns of Gossip Girl (yes, still on that one), and I’m definitely not saying I should quit social media. But those activities need to become more purposeful and less default-ish. Does that make sense? In other words, if I’m ever going to have a prayer of getting anything done (and be a productive member of society) I need to have intention in my actions rather than waiting for the stress of time running out to tap on my shoulder.

Deciding to tackle our to-do lists doesn’t take much effort—but they wind up having a huge time-saving and de-stressing effect. I love the feeling of getting something done I’ve been putting off for too long (um, hello buying new windshield wipers for a car driven in SEATTLE). It’s such a satisfying feeling—but what normally shocks me whenever this self-congratulations happens is just how easy it is to get things done.

Somehow, all the stupid shit we’ve managed to replace our productivity with makes all those TO-DOs so much more daunting. And sure, it’s easier to use your thumb to scroll through an infinite amount of tweets, photos, and gifs…but it’s also completely empty. I like to feel that when I do lay on the couch for hours and when I do read through Twitter, it’s because I genuinely do need a break from being busy…and not the other way around.

What’s the point of all this? Well, besides castrating myself for succumbing to the all-too-tempting shoulder-devils of the internet, I suppose I’m hoping that writing this will help hold me a little accountable. Admitting is the first step, as they say, and while I’ve always known that my iPhone was a portal to infinite opportunities for stupid shit— it’s time I reclaim a little bit of control.

I really love my real-life life. And I want to try and stop doing the stupid shit that keeps me away from it. Yes, I love you internet people as well—and I’m not planning on leaving you. But this world is much more interesting if there’s something left to the imagination—rather than being auto-refreshed every hour.

So consider this my pledge; to be the highly functioning person I know I’m capable of being—rather than just another street walker whose nose is pressed to a screen. Time to look up and look out.

And as Louis C.K says…

“‘I’m bored’ is a useless thing to say…you live in a great, big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say, ‘I’m bored.'”

Things I Don’t Like (That You Probably Love)

It’s Friday people, which means two things:

1) I have actively abandoned all good intentions to pack a breakfast or lunch and instead just buy something instead (it never fails…every. single. week.)

2) It’s time for a list!

do you see how my subject matter and form matched one another right there? I’m a visual rhetoric genius.

We’re going to do the opposite of Friday Favorites today and take a look at some of the things I do not like. And not just that…the things I don’t like that apparently every female seems to just love.

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not trying to act like I’m exceptionally unique or different. Because I’m not. I’m a very stereotypical, boring girl—right down to my weakness for chocolate and my love of quoting Kristen Wiig. However, I have noticed that there are a lot of things that everyone is totally OMG OBSESSED with…and I’m like “meh.” And in fact, there are many popular female things that I actually really, really dislike.

*Warning: This post may offend. I’m merely stating my own opinion, and I realize that my views may very well be in the minority. Sue me.*

Without further ado…

1) Running skirts

I’m sorry. I just can’t do it.

I don’t get it, I don’t like it, and I have zero interest in ever partaking in this “running attire.” It’s not that I think they’re necessarily unflattering or ugly…most people look fine enough in them…I think it’s more the principal of the matter. To me, running is an athletic and very non-glamorous activity, and I prefer to dress the part—which does not, IMO, include wearing a skirt. Skirts and dresses are great—for after a run and after I’ve removed my sweaty shorts.

Sorry, but skirts to me are for cheerleaders (and with all due respect, I know you all need the leg room for splits and kicks and whatnot), but in the sport of running, your legs don’t need the same freedom.

And sorry, again, this definitely included sparkle skirts. And running dresses? Don’t even get me started.

2) Gu

Maybe this has something to do with the time I was force fed a chocolate Gu at the end of a marathon, or maybe it’s because I have a sensitive stomach, but frankly…I can think of few things less appetizing than these packs of flavored syrup.

Blech. Even thinking about them makes me queezy. I realize there aren’t a ton of fuel options available, hence why a lot of people use this stuff—but even regular Swedish fish probably do the same thing as a regular Gu. And would definitely taste much more delicious.

3) Neon shoes

You know how bright pink and orange and yellow shoes are all the rage this year?

Not into it. And apparently I’m the only one, because most people can’t get enough of them. It’s not that I dislike bright colors—although my bland wardrobe might suggest otherwise—but I just prefer for my running shoes to be very simple.

And yea yea…the Pure Connects I wear are relatively bright, however they are definitely the tamest of the options available. If it were up to me, every running shoe I buy would be white with a sprinkle of blue on them somewhere.

Alas…functionality trumps looks in the running shoe world, therefore I am sure before too long I’ll be wearing neon pink racing flats and you all can have the last laugh. For now, I’ll stick to my simple white and turquoise babies.

4) Fans in the gym

In every spin class I go to, I will actively seek a spot in the room that is shielded from the incessant, annoying fan that everyone seems to covet. I am one of the few people who opts for the instructor to not turn the fan on when they offer, and I grit my teeth whenever everyone whoops and cheers for it.

I don’t know what it is, but nothing bothers me more than simulated cold air blowing in my face while spinning. One of the best parts of spin class is all the SWEATING that happens, and I hate when that experience is hindered by a fan. Maybe I’m just a light sweater, and maybe I’m just a first-world-problem crybaby (truth), but I’ll maintain my fan-hate forever.

Big, sweaty, air-blocking men…you are my favorite spinners to sit behind.

5) Plain yogurt

I’ve tried so hard with this one. I know you can put plain yogurt in just about anything in the world—from smoothies to pancakes to baked goods that would probably taste much better with butter—but I just can’t stand the sour, bland taste of regular plain yogurt. Give me all the strawberry, blueberry, and pomegranete you’ve got…but keep that nothing-flavor goop for yourselves.

And “regular tart” froyo? Vom.

6) Coconut water

If you do anything even marginally athletic…from just occasionally going to the gym to running back-to-back marathons, this new trend has undoubtedly been pimped hard to you. Electrolytes! Healthy! Hydration! OMG SO REFRESHING!

Maybe my palate is really just that unrefined, but I think this stuff tastes like a dirty sock that was soaked in water for a few days and then refrigerated.

7) Fuel Belts

Again, I know this is a personal preference thing. But if there’s one thing I can’t stand while running, it’s the feeling that something is weighing me down or interfering. Sometimes even just my Garmin and iPod SHUFFLE feels like too much. I tried wearing a fuel belt that someone lent me ONCE, and it bothering me so much I had to take it off, hide it under a bush, and come back for it later.

I suppose I admire anyone who can pull off fast, efficient running with these things. To me, especially in a race with lots of fuel stations, they’re completely unnecessary. Keys and fuel in your shorts’ pocket, hand-held water bottle if necessary, all good.

……

I’m really not a big hater, in fact I’m much more of a cheerleader than anything else, but sometimes when you’re surrounded by all the bells and whistles of the most popular things of the time—you need to let loose some steam. And who knows, my opinions on these things could change. This time next year, I could be sitting in the front of a fan during spin while wearing a running skirt and fueling with Gu and coconut water. You have my permission to call out my hypocrisy.

But for now, I prefer to maintain my stance on these “all the rage” trends.

But now I’m really curious…

How do you feel about these things? Love? Hate? Want to start an anti-plain yogurt/froyo club with me? Want to throw rocks at me for hating on the running skirt? It’s okay…I’m bad at being a girl sometimes.

 

 

Changes, My PSA, and an Epiphany

I had a bit of an “a-ha!” moment recently, and while it may seem trivial and a little like, “No shit, Sherlock” to most people…it’s kind of done a 180 on how I approach both my training and my running.

It all started when I first heard my new favorite quote/life mantra:

“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

(First heard from this girl, originally coined by this guy.)

Simplistic and to-the-point. But when you think about this idea a little more closely, it starts to highlight some of the things in our lives we’d rather hide away from.

It got me to thinking about the things I always wish would change. Obviously, I eventually landed on one of my favorite parts of life: running.

“What do I wish would change about running?”

Well, a lot. I’m constantly thinking about the things I want out of running. I want to BQ, I want to be faster, I want to stop getting injured, etc. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: What have I changed to make these things happen?

The answer? Not much.

Let’s take the “stop getting injured” thing for instance. The last four injuries I’ve had were all due to overuse. They were injuries caused simply by wear and tear over time, and all of them were—in that regard—completely preventable. So why, then, did I keep getting hurt after my first 4-month of no running due to an overuse injury?

Well, because I was stuck in the habit of working my body too hard.

When I get hurt,  I convince myself that I’ve learned my lesson…I’ll never overtrain again, I’ll stop working out so much, and I’ll start taking more rest days.

4 injuries later, and that lesson hadn’t sunk in. And it’s because I, by habit, overtrain. I wasn’t changing any of my habits, so why should my body stop responding in a deconstructive way?

Let’s take a look at my most recent injuries (knee bursitis, IT band syndrome, and ankle tendonitis—yep, all this year). What was similar about all three instances?

1) I was marathon training

2) I was over 50 miles per week

3) I was running 5+ days a week

The body is an incredible thing, and it can teach us a lot. Clearly, my body had been trying to teach me something about how it handles the above factors…and it only took me 3 different overuse injuries to figure it out. It seems so simple, so logical, however for me—and I’m sure for many runners—hindsight is always much more crystal clear than foresight.

Because running is a habit. We develop habits, and we stick to them—because they’re familiar. They’re comforting. Because we know we can do them and they satisfy us.

Running and exercising excessively became habits of mine…and unlike picking split ends or biting nails, the addictive nature of endorphins make these habits a lot harder to let go of. And why let go? These things are good for us, they make us happy. What’s the harm in continuing the habit of excess exercise?

Well, a lot actually. And it’s not just the tangible problems (injuries), either.

Now that I’ve kind of figured myself out, and I’ve recognized that injuries aren’t going to change if I don’t change, I’m realizing all the other problems that resulted from always wanting high mileage and high intensity workouts. Burnout, anxiety, chronically tired, isolated, etc.

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

As someone who is constantly striving for the betterment of my own life and the lives of those around me, I’m all about constructive changes.

Constructive changes in the form of listening to my body instead of pushing it, taking rest days at least once a week, and realizing that there’s a lot of goodness out there that doesn’t come in the form of sweating for hours on end.

(And seriously…rest days have become the best days. Ever. How did it take so long?)

It’s a work in progress, and obviously I still and will always love me a good hard workout, but I’m feeling much better than I have in a long time thanks to this recent influx of “moderation.”

I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that I had two significant PRs recently in conjunction with the extra rest and breathing room I’ve allowed myself. My body seems to be responding appreciatively to the changes I’ve made…and as a result, I’m reaching new levels that I didn’t really think were possible before.

Because I truly believe when you become proactive  in making real change happen, the things you always hoped would happen seem to follow closely behind.

I love running so much that I want to do it as much ans as long as possible. I would so much rather choose to not run an extra mile or an extra day for the sake of safety rather than let my body choose for me in the form of a disabling injury.

My body’s been choosing my breaking point for me for too long, and I’m deciding to regain control over the situation.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. 

And on that note, here is my PSA for the day:

Runners, take rest days. As someone who went weeks, sometimes even a whole month, without resting once, I really do know what I’m talking about here. I get it—you crave a workout, you love your workouts, you don’t feel right without them.

But guess what? You’re a human and an athlete—and your muscles and bones eventually will not tolerate incessant beating. Exercise necessitates rest…and you are undoing all the work you’ve put in by not letting your body recover. No progress can be made with continual wear and tear, so ask yourself why you’re really avoiding rest if your intent is to be fitter and stronger.

I was that type of runner and exerciser for so long, and while I’m still working out all the kinks, I’m recognizing just how much more harm I was doing than good.

Take care of yourselves. Take care of your bodies. I know so many runners in real life and through blogging who are constantly complaining of fatigue and lack of improvement, and I cannot emphasize enough how much rest and letting yourself of the “I must always exercise” hook will better your running and your life.

And to sum up this somewhat nonsensical ramble of a post, here’s another quote to chew on, which does a much better job of getting to the point than I do.

“Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running.”
– Julie Isphording

Resolutions Revisited

As the end of the year draws nearer, I’ve started thinking back to the resolutions I made at the beginning of this year to see—you know—if I’ve succeeded or, well, sucked.

My resolution for this year was a bit simplistic and also not necessarily super tangible. All I really wanted was to do more things that ordinarily scare me.

At the end of last year, I was thinking a lot about how I shy away from things that are either hard, inconvenient, or simply unknown. We all do it—it’s in our natural protective natures—but I wanted to do something about these fears. I wanted to take away their power by facing them head on, no matter how big or small they may be.

It’s a little silly actually…it really all started with admitting how much I hated running hills. I would drive to various parts of West Seattle that I knew would be hill-free, all because hills made me nervous.

As a runner, I knew this was a weakness, and it was something I could very easily change. So it began with the hill fear, and then my resolution expanded out to encompass all the other things I’m afraid of in my life.

So how have I fared over the past 10.5 months?

Well, when I first started thinking on my progress with this resolution, my first thought was:

Wow, I did nothing.

But, upon a little more scrutinizing…I realized that somehow I’ve actually done a pretty good job at following this resolution. But admittedly, it wasn’t on purpose.

So let’s do a little trip back down 2012 memory lane. By the way, can you BELIEVE it’s almost the end of the year??

Here’s some of the ways I’ve been successful at facing my fears this year:

I am no longer afraid of hills, in fact…I seek them out. Sure, I prefer for a race course to be flat and happy, but I now recognize the benefits of incorporating hills, and I regularly try to keep them in most of my runs. And as someone who’s currently desperate to get faster, I don’t really have an option.

Hill fear? Win.

-I quit my job.

Oh yea, that little thing. This was frankly one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do—and I don’t really wish that conversation with your employer on anyone. I left a cushy, some would say “ideal” job without much knowledge of what my next job would hold. So while this wasn’t necessarily something I was actively avoiding like the hills, it was definitely something that I was petrified for a long time to do.

-I started a new job.

No matter how you slice it, starting a new job is tough. You don’t know anyone, you don’t know where to go, you don’t know where to sit… it’s kind of terrible. And with my new job particularly…not only did I not what to do, I also barely knew the subject matter. I took a grand total of ZERO finance or business classes in school, and all of a sudden I needed to know what terms like “hedge fund,” “crossing,” and “enhanced asset allocation” meant.

Needless to say, it was a process. A scary process. However, it definitely fit the bill for taking on scary things.

I met new people.

This really might not seem like a big deal, but to me…it actually was. As someone who prefers to be alone most of the time and has a hard time even getting together with good friends, I’ve never been in the business of “putting myself out there” or however you say it. But this year, I put my introvert tendencies aside every so often and met some pretty sweet people along the way.

-I got beat up by the marathon, and then did another one.

After the horrors of Tacoma started to wear off, there was never really a doubt in my mind that I would—at some point—run another marathon. However, the closer and closer Chicago came this year—I began to realize just how much of an impact Tacoma had made on me. While I had all the ordinary taper worries, I was also paralyzed with fear that something like Tacoma would happen again. It was the reason that I was more worried for Chicago than any other race—although I didn’t necessarily confess it to anyone. I knew I had an easy way out of not doing Chicago. Since my ankle was questionable, it would have been understandable, some would say smart, to just not run Chicago. However, this was an opportunity to face the unknown instead of walk away from it—and while I didn’t realize it at the time, it was a great test of my resolution.

So now that I’ve talked about how great I was at following my resolution (insert snarky tone here), let’s take a look at the “room for growth” in regard to facing my fears.

{In my company, “room for growth” is code for “weaknesses” on performance reviews.}

I suppose the good and bad thing about this resolution is that it’s never quite done. Even if I have taken on a few things that previously scared me, there are always going to be more things out there—even if I don’t know about them yet. And in all honesty, I could probably write a whole post about the things I’m afraid of ever trying, fixing, getting better at, etc. But, that would be a little overly self-deprecating and depressing, so instead I’ll focus on one…because it’s been on my mind recently:

I realized, or more like admitted to myself, that I’m afraid of the 7s.

Whenever I see a time on my Garmin that is under 8:00, I immediately panic: I convince myself that my lungs are on fire, my legs are going to fall off, and I’m going to start heaving on the side of the road whenever I see a pace starting with a 7.

And while paces below 8 are certainly a bit faster than I’m used to, I think I’ve let my fear overrule my determination to make these paces stick. It almost feels like if my watch just lied to me and said that a 7:50 was actually 8:10, I wouldn’t even know the difference. And while I definitely try and keep in check my “comfort” and “discomfort” with certain speeds,I think that my brain has a big effect on how my body “feels” at those speeds.

I’m fairly certain this is very normal for most runners, and it’s why training our mental game is just as important as training our legs.

So back to my resolution…although it’s getting toward the end of the year, I’m going to try to stop being so afraid of the 7s.

It seems a little strange to try and “get in” my resolution so late in the year, but isn’t that what they’re for? I think most people forget about their resolutions around mid February or so…myself included…but sometimes a little retrospect can do us some good, as well as show us that while we may have made some progress, there’s always “room for growth.”

What were your new years resolutions this year? How have you done at achieving them? What scares you?