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!

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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!