Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cleaning house and what running means right now

Running will always be an integral part of who I am. Why I run, what I get out of it, and what it means to me has changed significantly and will continue to do so over the course of my athletic life. Having been injured/not at 100% for well over a year now, all I have really paid attention is what running HASN'T been for me (fun. pain-free. self-esteem building). I think you get the picture. I didn't reflect on those negative feelings until I had some quiet time in late December.

If you know me outside this blog, you know that I am less organized than most and prone to procrastination (stop laughing, sister). For example, I moved to a new apartment in July of last year. I did not have my medal rack and race bib holder unpacked and on the wall until the end of December. For something with so much personal meaning, you'd think I'd have gotten around to it sooner. Nevertheless, both are finally situated in the perfect spot but carry a different load from their previous home.

This "cleansing of the wall" could be chalked up to having too much. Too many medals. Too many bibs. Yes, both were approaching max capacity but that would not have prevented me from slapping them back up as they were in my old place. What changed were the feelings that came up when I sifted through the bibs and medals. When I first started running/racing in 2006 and for a long time afterwards, medals were a big motivator for me. I'm not going to lie. Once the challenge of completing a distance for the first time was met, it became about what I could get for crossing the line. With a few exceptions, the decision to register for a race depending largely on a medal (that there was one and that it was COOL), and a shirt that wasn't cotton. Added to that was a desire to keep up (no pun intended) with my running friends who were smashing PRs and collecting medals on what seemed like a weekly basis. I put pressure on myself to keep up, believing that the frequency and quality of racing was the only measure of satisfaction or accomplishment in the sport.

Now, before I go further, let me say this. There is nothing wrong with racing every weekend and chasing "bling." I am not passing judgement or saying it is a bad thing. For the majority of recreational runners out there, a podium finish is a pipe dream. So why not race for something else that makes you happy and rewards you for your time and effort? I certainly have. What happened recently was a shift in that thinking brought on by a confluence of factors, two of which are time and money. I did not have much of either. More importantly however, was the change in my physical ability to run. I couldn't. And for while, looking at bibs and medals made me sad. Then bitter. Maybe throw in resentful and jealous too.

Hindsight being what it is, I realized how lucky I had been that I could race what I wanted to when I wanted to. Some of that ability could be related to my age at the time and some of it to dumb luck. I was in my mid-late twenties. I didn't cross-train. Or stretch. Or lift. Or eat all my vegetables. I was just out making friends and enjoying running. Because that was enough, I didn't realize that there could be more, until I needed it. With this perspective shift came a shift in what my prior running accomplishments meant to me and how they would (or would not) motivate me moving forward.

Rather than have a bib rack overflowing with crinkled paper, I hung only the few bibs I had from 2014. The hope is that I will have bibs equal to or above that number for 2015, now that I am on the road to health. Not in a "I must beat that number" way, but in a "I CAN race and I am dying to feel my feet on a trail again" way. I am already registered for two races (with my PT's blessing) between now and the end of April. That is half of my bib count from 2014. Should I continue to progress, I will look into more.

My medal rack had a few pegs still open but it seemed cluttered to me. Run a race, hang it up, run a race, hang it up, repeat. It wasn't that they didn't all mean something to me, it was that the ones that meant the most were being crowded out by those that meant a little less. As I unwrapped the tissue paper (yes, I packed them in tissue paper) I started putting aside certain medals. My first half-marathon, Marine Corps 2011, Cherry Blossom (all of them, sigh), and a few others. Having those few hanging in plain sight means more to me now than every piece of metal en mass. Now I see what is possible, what comes from hard work, and what it means to suffer and come out the other side.

THAT is what running means to me now.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Checking in

It is ten days into this year and a little over a week into nurturing change. So far I've reinvested in things I already knew made me happy and am trying new things that I think will contribute to my overall happiness. It hasn't all been sunshine and rainbows but nothing ever is. I have heard numerous times that creating new habits and breaking old ones takes at least three weeks, so I am by no means out of the woods. I have found several things that are working for me in terms of staying on track, accountable, and motivated. I'm sharing here, of course, and I'm interested in hearing what does and does not work for you as well.


I created a Google spreadsheet and kept it simple. Eight columns with the week range and days of the week. Four rows per week, one each for the specific things I'm tracking. Right now those things include weight (a weekly weigh-in, no more than that), completing my PT exercises (daily is the plan), workouts (type, not miles or duration), and sleep (hours the night before). None of these are set in stone and will probably change over the course of the year. 


Not in a "hey world, I'm trying to XXXX and I'm going to tell you all about it in minute detail whether you like it or not" way. More of a "I have a workout buddy and she has access to this spreadsheet" way. My buddy has a tab of her own that she updates with what she's tracking. We touch base about once a day to see how things are going and provide high fives or butt kicks as needed. Yes, friends and family are incredible sources of support but fellow athletes "get it" and know how to pump you up or talk you down in a way that others might not.


None of this is easy. And it will never go smoothly. With that in mind, I decided to document this process in a lighthearted way. So far that has taken the form of pictures via Instagram, some of which also make their way on to Twitter or Facebook. It is another form of accountability, of course, but it also a way for me to remind not to take this too seriously. Yes, I am trying to accomplish something, but no it does not make or break my world. Here are a few:

First circuit workout in 10+ years

New pants and all the colors!

One of many pre-spin class shots

The ongoing 30 day yoga challenge
So, that's me. How has the year been treating you? What have you found that successfully motivates you and keeps you on track? What hasn't worked so well? Tell me!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Calendar Reboot

Happy January 2015. If you know me outside of this blog, you know that I do not make New Years Resolutions. I'll spare you the litany of reasons why and skip to what I am up to in the first few days of this year. A fellow runner-blogger I know shared a 30 day yoga challenge in a group we belong to, offered by DoYouYoga. I love practicing yoga, I love what it brings to my life, and I haven't had a consistent practice in quite some time. This challenge, plus an awesome gift card from MS to a local studio, should be just the ticket to get me back in my blissful yoga zone.

What I have liked about this challenge so far is how short the videos are. While most studio classes and DVDs are an hour or more, these videos have been 20 minutes or less. I find it makes them easier to fit in to my day (can anyone justify not having 15 extra minutes in their day?) and helps me ease back into a routine without stressing my body. This last part is particularly important to me as I am trying to up my cardio workouts. The last two days I've done the yoga and then gone straight into my longer workout. My body gets warmed up, my mind gets focused, and I still have tons of energy to devote to the harder workout. I am mixing that up a tad today, as I did a morning spin class and am going to do my yoga later in the evening to wind down from the day. I'll be posting a picture a day on Instagram (yay accountability!), please follow along and join in the fun!

When I started drafting this post yesterday, I was also catching up on some of my favorite blogs. One kickass chica in particular, SoCalRunnerGal, had recently posted her year in review/look ahead and she said something that clicked with me. I've been searching for the right word or words to explain how I approach this time of year and she hit the nail on the head. Aspirations and Intentions. YES. Those are exactly the words I have been looking for and express how I look at the next week, month, and year. Life is so unpredictable and I've learned over time that nothing is set in stone. I can make all the plans in the world but that doesn't mean any of them will work out, no matter how hard I try. I am learning to embrace that flow and those two words just fit. There is fluidity in them, space to grow, room to breathe. Grace. I could always use a bit more grace. As I'm typing this, I realize that perhaps the appearance of those two words and this yoga challenge are no coincidence.  I see you, Universe. I see you.

What about you? Do you do resolutions? Goals? What are you hoping for this year? What are you looking forward to this year? What do you think your biggest challenge will be this year? For me, consistency. Consistency has never been my strong suit, and no amount of training plans/logs/etc has changed that or worked well for me. Perhaps a more genuine approach, better suited to who I know myself to be, is the way to go. I think I'm on the right track!