I didn’t run for a week and here’s what happened…

Being a runner and having an injury is the worst! An injured runner is someone you don’t want to cross. Injured runners are even scarier than runners who have a case of the “taper crazies”.  Anyway, my most recent taper week was challenging to say the least. There was even a point where I crumbled to the floor in my apartment and whined about how badly I wanted it to be race day (pathetic I know!).

In the end, my taper went as well as expected and I was pumped for my race. I did pretty well too (within 5 minutes of my goal time!) especially considering I got injured in mile 6.  After my race, I was in a lot of pain, and when I saw the doctor her diagnosis of my injury was a right LCL sprain. The prescription – no running for at least 2 weeks. I was supposed to “rest”. I actually cried after I left.

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Runners HATE not running! In fact, before this week, I hadn’t taken more than 3 days off of running in over a year. For me, running is just about as productive and useful as therapy. I need it. It’s a part of who I am. I am a runner.

So, naturally, I’ve been a little out of sorts for the past week. Because, instead of pushing my body beyond its limits, I actually didn’t run for a week. I am training for a marathon and want to be healthy for my race. So, I followed the doctor’s orders, and I’m craving running so badly I want to scream! Is it possible to be addicted to running?

Anyway, here’s what happened when I didn’t run for a week:

Monday: While icing my knee at work, I bought the Brooks thermal running jacket I’ve been eyeing. I knew I couldn’t use it for a few weeks, but all I could think about was running so I broke down and bought it! After work, I went for coffee and then I came home and played games, drank wine, and ordered sushi with my roommates. I had hours before I had to go to bed! My first night off I socialized.

Tuesday: I came home and called a friend. Then, I cooked dinner – roasted veggies and chicken to be specific. I ate dinner at the table while gossiping with my roommates. Then, I poured a glass of wine and watched Grey’s Anatomy. Spoiler: I’ve watched three seasons of Grey’s Anatomy in the past week.

Wednesday: I went to the nail salon after work. I spent a few hours listening to music and relaxing at the salon. Then I came home and ate dinner. Next, I went out to work on a song I’m writing with a friend. I stayed out late because the next day was a holiday and since I am injured there no Turkey Trot for me (cries!)!

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Thursday: Thanksgiving! I woke up late and got dressed to go back to my hometown. I enjoyed my favorite Thanksgiving tradition – High School Football! After an afternoon of relaxing, we had a nice family dinner. I didn’t overeat to prep for a long run over the weekend, I didn’t overeat because I “earned” it during my Turkey Trot, and, importantly, I didn’t undereat because I didn’t run. Then, we went shopping until 2 AM! I didn’t have to worry about getting home or to bed to run the next day.

Friday: More shopping, napping, wine drinking, and Grey’s Anatomy watching. I browsed Amazon for deals on running gear and ultimately bought myself a new running watch. I cannot wait to hit the road again and try it out!

Saturday: I woke up early and did laundry! Surprisingly I had less laundry than normal (duh!) so I even had the time and patience to wash my sheets and sneakers! I made coffee and breakfast at a leisurely pace and, of course, watched Grey’s Anatomy. Later I had a long lunch with a friend and went to the movies. Saturday was the hardest because it is normally my long run day. In Boston, it was 55 degrees in the afternoon and I spent it inside! I was so angry and agitated. It felt like the smallest comment could set me off into a spiral of never-ending anger. On the flip side, it was nice to spend time with my friend and get important “adult” things done.

Sunday: I woke up early (again) and made some coffee. I walked to Whole Foods to buy ingredients to make brunch. It was nice to go for a walk! Putting on my sneakers gave me a little jolt of energy. When I came home, I made two quiches – broccoli cheddar and spinach, tomato, and mozzarella. After brunch, I worked on finalizing my applications for graduate school. I took a short nap in the middle and then worked on this blog post. Soon, I’ll be off to rehearsal for my a capella group!

Tomorrow will be Monday again and officially one week of no running. I am both proud of the strength I exhibited to take care of myself and incredibly anxious to lace up my shoes and get back on the road. Tomorrow after work though I’ve planned to have dinner with a friend from college and do some PiYo or yoga. That will keep me busy!

Not running for a week was difficult! I worried about a lot of things. I was afraid I’d lose my speed and endurance. I was fearful that I’d gain weight (thanks, social media holiday posts!). I ruminated about how I could possibly be so hungry even though I wasn’t working out. Subsequently, I fretted about if and what I should eat since I wasn’t running. I felt disappointed when I picked holiday sweets and also felt like I was losing momentum on all my nutrition goals. I was so mad, and I was angry about being so irritated. Truthfully, there were days where it felt like rage was radiating from inside me and that I was going to be stuck in anger forever because my only outlet for my anger was running. And, I didn’t understand why I was so tired! I suspect the persistent worrying and anxiety was part of the culprit! So, although I had a full, engaging week I was actually a mess.

Yet, I survived and nothing that terrible happened. Needless to say, this week has had a lot of ups and downs. Unsurprisingly when I wasn’t allocating time for running I had time to see friends, relax a bit, catch up on my shows, finalize my applications, get my nails done, do laundry, and cook nutritious meals! That’s a lot!

Even so, I missed running every day. I snapped at people who told me “you’re fine” or “don’t worry”. I felt jealous when people sent me ‘Snaps’ of their running adventures. I felt like an impostor because I didn’t do a Turkey Trot or take advantage of the unseasonably warm weekend weather. I spent hundreds of dollars on running gear because all I could think of was running. I convinced myself that my passion justified the expenses. The good news is, soon I’ll be back at it, and I’ll pick up where I left off with marathon training!

Speaking of which, I am currently a mentor with an organization called Dreamfar High School Marathon. Dreamfar High School Marathon challenges high school students to reach their full potential—physically, socially, emotionally, and academically—through a mentor-supported marathon-training program. Dreamfar offers students a judgment-free, non-competitive environment in which they can test their physical, social, and emotional limits. With incredible team unity, unyielding support from dedicated mentors, and unequaled amounts of fun, Dreamfar students learn to believe in themselves, forging a lifetime memory that lives on in their attitudes, actions, and self-image forever. Dreamfar reaches out to every student in a given school because we truly believe the mix of students from across different cultural, academic and socio-economic lines coming together to accomplish one goal creates a very special and rich experience for all involved.

I didn’t run this week, but I’ll be back logging miles and pounding pavement soon enough. If you’re able to support my running journey and the Dreamfar program, please click here to donate!

See you on the road!

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Mindful Miles for #RWRunStreak

 

For 37 days between Memorial Day and July 4th, I conquered a mile a day! I did it! I’m so proud!

There was lots of griping on on Twitter about how exhausted I was and how my pace suffering. I skipped out on social plans or sleep to squeeze in a single, unenjoyable mile just to say I did it. I ran at 9:45 PM with a sunburn because I couldn’t break the streak after a lazy beach day.  I missed out on cross-training because on my normal cross-training days I was too tired after running. I watched the weather incessantly. My running plan had contingency plans for impending rain and thick humidity. My body hurt practically every day for a month. Also, there was so much laundry!

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And, for all the complaining, it was amazing! In fact, I feel like I could keep going! 

Earlier this year I wrote my declaration to running! I said, “I am a Runner” and reaffirmed my belief that there is so much more to running than miles or minutes. I realized that after over a decade of being unable to trust my body, I had the strength and ability to trust myself and my aspirations. I set goals, I remained committed, and, as a result, I grew stronger. I definitely gained strength during this running streak. My mile got stronger and faster, and my confidence was palpable.

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Sometimes I felt like Squidward when he said, “I sorta don’t feel like playing my clarinet today.” [Squidville, 2001]
During some particularly challenging runs, I wanted to stop the streak. I told myself it was arbitrary and pointless. I felt so drained. Somedays running was monotonous or I just wasn’t “feeling like it”. While my interest in running did not dissipate, there were days when my enjoyment or motivation to start definitely did. In those moments, I remembered the struggle and pride of relearning to walk (twice) and that I’ve done even more difficult things before. I always got my workout in!

Slowly and over time, I turned to mindfulness to propel me through my running streak. I used mindfulness to allow my body to move in ways that felt strong and natural. I listened to the cues my body was giving me. I reinvigorated my love for running. I realized my body can do some amazing if I set my mind to it! My running streak was dedicated to learning, practicing, and appreciating running mindfully. 

Here are some of my favorite mindfulness techniques that I practiced during my running streak:

  • Set an Intention. I set an intention for my run by focusing on why  I am running and what I want to gain from my run.  I decide before I leave, what I need from my run – fuel, energy, breath, strength, insight, space, etc. Often I set out for each run with a goal in mind. These goals typically motivate and fuel my run, but my intentions are less defined. Instead of focusing on time or distance, I try to focus on quality and effort. I allow less structured expectations and let myself “just run”. This mentality changes how I experience running. Zeroing in on my intentions helps me remember why I love running in the first place. It helps me be attuned to the experience of running – in the moment.
  • Be Present.  I am present when I focus on my breath, my body, or things I am observing. I try to notice three things I am feeling, hearing, seeing, and thinking while I run. Sometimes just the act of noticing these things helps ground me during my run.  When I’m present, I notice what hurts, what feels strained, and what feels strong. I don’t attribute weight or meaning to what I’m recognizing or the choices I am making about my “Right Now Run” (e.g., switching to intervals). I just allow myself to notice it, adjust if necessary, and keep moving. If I get distracted and my mind wanders I allow myself to notice that too, and then I refocus by giving my attention to the sensations of my body.
  • Count. I count steps, breaths, stop signs, crosswalks, anything! I try to focus on counting to 10 without losing my concentration. If I notice my thoughts drifting or I lose count then I start over.
  • Synchronize. I synchronize my running with my music or my breathing. The feeling of synchrony helps me set a pace that feels natural. Instead of fighting my body, I align my running with my body or music so I can feel motivated and strong.
  • Repeat a Mantra. I repeat mantras to myself to help me keep moving! I like words/phrases such as, “finish it”, “breathe”, or “relax”. I am an auditory learner so speaking these words in stride is an incredibly effective way to connect my body and my mind.

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    July 4, 2017 – #RWRunStreak Day 37!

I started the #RWRunStreak to recommit myself to running and to enjoy a new challenge. I finished with a sense of pride and a new set of mindfulness tools and skills.

I don’t recommend a running streak for weight loss (I gained weight!) or for distance work (I ran fewer miles, on average, than my “typical week”!). However, I do recommend it if you are up for a challenge, excited about improving your short distance runs, want to practice sticking with a goal that’s relatively low-stakes, and if you love running!

I’m excited to keep using these mindfulness tools and techniques for many more miles to come! Do you have mindfulness techniques that you love? Feel free to share them below! I’m excited to read your comments and thoughts!

I am a “Runner”

I never identified as a “runner” until someone else named it for me. I described my weekly mileage, the feeling of invincibility, the restlessness I feel when I’m not running, and they named it – “you’re a runner.”

Over a year later, I still wasn’t convinced. My friend even explained to me, “You’re a runner. I’m just someone who runs.” The differentiation wasn’t clear to me. One seemed affiliated with an identity whereas the other was associated with a series of actions or behaviors. I’ve been grappling with being a runner (tossing around the hashtag (#runner) and seeing how I “stack up” among other people whom I consider to be “runners”) for the last fourteen weeks. I’ve lamented over long runs, skipped out on social plans to get up early and run, thrown tantrums during taper week, and logged several hundred miles.

I am a “runner”.

A year ago, I wrote that I didn’t care that I didn’t finish a half marathon. In the grand scheme of things, I didn’t. Today though, I completed my redemption run! I finished the race that got the best of me a year ago, and I got a PR! 

I told a friend who asked me about the race the following:

Well, it was perfect. I felt amazing. I was so strong and confident. I didn’t psych myself out at all! My mindset this time was so different for the training and everything – 3rd time’s a charm I guess! Hard to explain, but I learned a lot this time around. I am overall so much healthier than any other time. I like that feeling – it took a lot of work. I am really proud. I’m just excited to feel so great. It’s refreshing!

I never thought I’d talk about running like that! These days I rely on expected consequences of running like “runner’s highs” and the sense of camaraderie I feel when another runner nods at me when I’m out on my course. I talk about my workouts and training goals using lingo like “negative splits” and “form drills” because I know what those things mean! Settling into running as a hobby as opposed to a compulsion or as an act of punishment/retaliation has been a long, difficult journey. I’m so proud of where this journey has taken me!

It’s never easy to train for a race when you’re prone to compulsions, have a chronic physical illness, and have a history of regimented behaviors around food and exercise. This type of training took a special amount of conscientiousness. Trust me, intentional focus on my behaviors and my motivation, and a healthy relationship with food and exercise were essential to my success.

As I was reflecting on the past fourteen weeks of training and mental preparation, objectively there are several things that made a difference for me.

Here’s my recipe for success:

Ingredient Specifics Dosage
Food High Protein and Healthy Fats; No Carbo Load 3X Every Day
Water  Just Water. 12 oz.; 3X Every Day – Or More!
Caffeine Coffee w/ Truvia and Milk No More Than 2 Per Day; Not After 11 AM
Sleep White Noise Machine Allocate 8 Hours Per Night
Weighted Blanket Use When Sleeping Every Night
“Naked” Runs No Tracking, No Timing. Just Run! Once a Week
Amazing Grass Supergreens and Fiber Before Food or Coffee 1X Every Day
Alcohol Any None 2 Weeks Prior to Race

[ Note – Inevitably, different strategies will help others feel successful. This approach worked for me. Find what works for you and stick with it!]

Primarily I believe I was successful because I stayed committed to my training plan, forgave and forgot missed or bad workouts, and celebrated the small victories as well as the big ones. And also because… cross-training. I can’t stress this enough. Cross-training made ALL THE DIFFERENCE.
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A lot changed for me during this training season. For example, rather than simply thinking of food as a necessity after a long run to replenish lost calories, I started relying on a consistent strategy for meals so that I could feel nourished and energized for my workouts during the week. The mentalities, “calories in, calories out” and, ” I run so I can eat” were both replaced by the simple, yet sometimes hard to digest (pun intended), concept that food is fuel. I ate food that made my body feel good and strong. I used my bullet journal to keep track of my meals and sleeping patterns; this mindfulness strategy helped me stay accountable to my training goals.

While there were several concrete ingredients to my success, on a subjective level there were also critical connections, realizations, and mindset changes that helped me feel successful.

For example, during one of my more difficult runs rather than struggling through, trudging along, and wondering “Will I finish?”, somewhere along the way, I started to think, “I will finish!”. This epiphany hit me like a breath of fresh air; it felt light, crisp, and perfectly necessary. I can’t quite explain it, but this realization empowered my mind and my body. I finally knew I could do it; there was no doubt in my mind that I would finish the run even if it was incredibly challenging. From that moment on, my training felt lighter and less burdensome. A heavy hunch that I might fail was lifted from my mind, and I felt like I could trust myself and my body in a way I never experienced before.

In that moment, running no longer felt like an obligation. It felt like it was a part of me – like a feeling rather than a task. In that moment, mileage or minutes didn’t matter anymore. I learned that I don’t have to race every run and often I’ll be better in the long run (pun again) if I listen to my body and respect all the cues it’s giving me about how to feel and be my best.

That was the moment I became a “runner”.

Changing my thinking during that run granted me confidence. Moving forward, I knew I was capable of accomplishing whatever I set my mind to – as long as I was consistent and intentional. The plan mattered that’s undeniable, but it didn’t matter just and only because it was “the plan”. It mattered because it was the right combination of training, self-care, and confidence – it was my recipe for success.

I did not experience that kind of freedom when I prepared for or ran my other races. Now, rather than running to grasp a sense of control, or running out of compulsion, I run because I want to and because I believe in my own strength! I run because I can.

I no longer see running as just a test of endurance. It is also a test of my preparation and self-care, and I am always going to be up for that challenge!

 

45 Thoughts I had in a 45 Minute Spin Class

Oh wow! The words are flying out from under my fingers faster than I can process them. Which, is kinda like how fast my brain was whirring during my spin class tonight. Honestly endorphins and anxiety can do some kickin’ things in my head!

So, here are 45 thoughts I had in a 45 minute spin class.

  1. Okay play it cool. Just walk in and pick a bike – I got this. 
  2. How the heck does this thing work? [tugging, pulling, and pushing buttons and knobs to adjust the bike settings] Everyone is probably looking at me.
  3. Instructor: “Is anyone new?”[timid hand raise] Me: Keep playing it cool. Just nod and say things like awesome and cool. 
  4. Instructor: “Be kind to yourself tonight” Me: Right on. Okay. This could be okay. I can handle a bit of self-care.
  5. I love this music. Maybe I’ll add it to my running playlist.
  6. This is gonna be such great cross training!
  7. I definitely don’t belong here. What was I thinking?!  I’m a huge impostor.
  8. Am I even doing this right?
  9. I look like a fool.
  10. Why is this bike moving so fast? My legs feel out of control. Oh, my legs feel like Jello. I’m definitely doing this wrong. 
  11. [Looks around the room] WOAH all these girls are so skinny.
  12. [Looks in the mirror] I’m probably the fattest girl in this class.
  13. They probably all think I’m too fat to be here.
  14. Everyone in Boston is so FIT. What’s with all these fit people? It must be a city thing.
  15. Hey wait. I run half marathons. I can handle a 45 minute spin class.
  16. This shirt is too big. It puffs in all the wrong places. It makes me look bigger than really I am. 
  17. Okay just don’t look in the mirror.
  18. Wow why am I so conceded that I can’t stop looking at myself in the mirror?
  19. Why aren’t other people sweating? 
  20. [Looks around the room – again] Oh there are people who are struggling WAY more than me. 
  21. I got this. 
  22. Just keep breathing. 
  23. This music is great. Okay, just focus on the music. 
  24. Is it weird that I’m singing along to Katy Perry Eye of the Tiger?
  25.  Why isn’t there a clock in this room? Where is the clock?!?! How many minutes has it been?
  26. What the heck is a moderate hill anyway? My thighs hurt more or less – that’s my measure of resistance.
  27. I cant believe all these people are so skinny. 
  28. I wonder if they think I shouldn’t be here. 
  29. I bet you they aren’t thinking about me at all. 
  30. Okay just count the beats. Be present. 
  31. How many calories am I burning?
  32. Oh, these bikes don’t have any tracking devices! How many miles did I go? How am I supposed to track this in my app later?
  33. Why are my thighs so huge? 
  34. I said, I wouldn’t look in the mirror!
  35. Wow only three more songs left. That wasn’t so bad! 
  36. I totally got this. 
  37. Make this count. I’m skipping my run for this. 
  38. How is this song not over yet?
  39. I wonder if Grey’s Anatomy is going to be good. 
  40. NO! FOCUS!
  41. How did I not realize that whenever I lean forward the instructor can see down my entire shirt?! 
  42. At least I’m wearing a matching sports bra.
  43. If I have a snack when I get home will I ruin my workout? 
  44. Almost there. Don’t give up. Power through. 
  45. Made it. Phew! That wasn’t so bad. I’d do that again!