Guilty Pleasures, I Mean Running Motivations

One of the hardest parts of running was going out solo.  I loved BRG for the camaraderie, chatter, and support.  Being a bit competitive, I also needed to know that I would keep up with the others.  Knowing that we were going to do our first fifteen-minute interval as a group made me make sure I was ready to do it in with the group.  When I am in weight training classes, I have to be able to use heavier weights.  (I know that no one else cares; this is totally a me issue.)

Running on my own each Saturday was a mental challenge.  When I first ventured out, I would run around the blocks near my house, creating an escape plan if I tired or wimped out and needed to head home.  Within a few weeks, I was making myself commit to a three-mile loop.  First starting out, it was hard to be alone with my thoughts:

     “What made you think you were a runner?”

    “Can you feel your belly jiggling when you run?  Why bother doing this?”

    “You’ve tried to be a runner in the past and failed.  What makes this time different?”

Once I got going, I was okay and managed to find a more positive thought process.

   “I’m going to do a full three miles, even if I need to go past the entrance and backtrack before I leave.”

     “I’m going to do three miles in 38 minutes.”

At some point during my run, I think something out of my mind: “I should train for a half marathon. You could totally do it!

There are two things that help me change my negative thoughts while running: cheesy music and Pokemon Go.  Yes, I did mean to write that.  I consider myself a bit of a music snob; Mike jokes that I only like bands that no one else knows.  I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I can definitely hold my own in a conversation about most music genres.  When I am running lately, I usually listen to one of the following:

Cheesy 90’s pop music  (think Brittney, NSYNC, and the Backstreet Boys)

Obscene 90’s gangsta rap

They get me through my runs.  The heart wants what the heart runs.  Hamilton gets into the mix a lot, but I’ve been listening to it for so long now that I need new tunes.  Hamilton is still my go-to for motivation.  As I run down a busy street listening to my cheesy pop music, I pay even closer attention to others around me, fearful that I will be hit by car listening to “Backstreet’s Back,” revealing my secret to the outside world.

Pokemon Go?  Ugh, this one is embarrassing.  We take a lot of walks as a family.  When Outtie was with us, we took two twenty minute walks daily.  We go hiking and do a fair amount of Geo-caching.  When I finally gave in to the Pokemon Go craze, Mike and I instantly became competitive.  Playing while running provides a distraction.  I can hatch an egg and try to catch new Pokemon.  I am embarrassed admitting that the game gets me through runs, but it totally does.

BGR often reminds us, “If you run, you are a runner.”  I guess I can add, “Even if you do embarrassing things while running, you are a runner.”

Back into Routine/ The Power of Yet

As much as I enjoy having the summer off with Liam, we both thrive on routine and keeping busy.  After two months of unplanned bliss, we were both ready to return to school.  I go back a week earlier so I am already back into the swing of things when Liam’s first day finally arrives.

Last year was terrifying for Liam.  After six years at his daycare center, he was starting first grade at a new school.  He had all summer to worry about this transition.  By the time September rolled around, just mentioning school made tears swell in his eyes.  After the first day, he was fine.  That’s the thing about our fears; the unknown is the worst part. This year, he started to work himself up about the first day as he and my husband walked through the school’s parking lot.  Liam had an epiphany: “I know this building.  My friends are here, and I know my teacher.  I’ve got this!”  With that, he wiped his tears and jogged to the playground.  I’m so proud that he was able to get ahead of his brain and prevent fears from taking over his thought process.

As much as I love summer with Liam, I also love teaching.  I love the beginning of the school year.  Everyone is hopeful and full of promise.  I’ve had two months to reflect upon what went well and what I need to change.  I am blessed to be in a building that promotes autonomy, community, and perseverance.  This is our third year using the Summit Public Schools personalized learning platform; it forever changed my views of teaching and learning.  I love watching my students grow and discover their own personal learning styles.  In addition to teaching Habits of Success, I am able to incorporate mindfulness strategies into my lessons.  I’ve watched students’ confidence grown.  They’re proud of their achievements and celebrate their successes.

My favorite A-ha moment of the past few years stems from Carol Dweck’s work on the growth mindset.  Her inspirational TED Talk teaches the “Power of Yet,” this idea that it is okay to struggle.  It is important to change our thinking from “I can’t do this” to “I haven’t done this yet.”  This is life-changing!  It affects every aspect of my life!  I am so happy that it is rubbing off on my students and my son.  Liam sometimes spends an entire session at his “ninja skills class” trying to perfect a single move.  There is nothing better than when he jumps into my arms after completing a skill that had eluded him for weeks. My students play around with note taking strategies until they find one that works for them.  They set goals for themselves and develop plans to stay on track and reach them.  I love this possibly of trial, error, and reflection.  I love this energy!  I’m going to try my hardest to keep this feeling of new beginnings and hope last throughout the year!

I am also going to try to practice what I preach.  I’m going to push myself to be better and nourish my body and mind. I set personal and professional goals for the year and developed plans to reach them.  Through this journey, I need to remember that things are not always going to be easy and have a reflective growth mindset to respond to setbacks and plan next steps.  New school years provide such hope and promise!

Intervals vs Non-stop

In spite of my best-laid plans to work out more and prepare healthy meals this summer, it didn’t happen.  It never does.  Summer is a blur of day trips, playing, and grilling.  I find I am actually much healthier during the school year, a time in which every minute is at a premium and everything is planned.  Last week, I actually lost two of the six pounds I gained this summer.  I managed three three mile runs, two yoga classes, and a weights class.  I joined the Insta-Pot cult and made healthy meals.  That old advice “If you want to make sure something gets done, give it to a busy person,” radiates through me.  With a turn of the calendar, I am back to being the mom and teacher who plans to the minute and gets stuff done.

I’m getting over my fear and dread of solo runs and starting to find sweetness in the solitude of being on the path with my music and my thoughts.  Saturday, I went to the local park that offers a three-mile loop.  It is a little hilly, and its hills are deceptively long, sneaking through slight inclines and curves.  My goals were to get my time out of thirteen-minute pace and to again run without stopping.  (Did I mention that I am not fast?)  I slowed down a few times, remembering my coaches words that it is okay to run “barely faster than you walk.”  Pushing myself, my overall pace was 12:35, only five seconds slower than my Gaspee pace at the end of my training.  I left the park ecstatic!

Monday, I met up with my BRG crew leading the next session.  We ran the familiar boulevard using an interval plan.  Maybe I was warmed up at the end of the day and still enjoying the benefits of an earlier yoga class.  Maybe it was the flatter path of dirt instead of paved concrete.  I was able to pace 12:29, my fasted three-mile pace ever!

I truly believe that I was able to push myself because of the intervals.  When my goal is to go nonstop, I don’t push myself for fear that I will burn out.  Knowing that I had a break coming up, even if only thirty seconds, let me push myself.  I find myself thinking about how to transfer this to other aspects of my life.  Maybe we push ourselves further if we know we are allowed to take breaks, rest, and recover.  This an important lesson for everyday life.  It is also important to remember for my students and my son.  When we are getting frustrated, tired, and on the verge of burnout, it is okay to rest and recover.



Grieving in the Social Media Age

Four weeks ago, we made the difficult decision to put down our five and a half year old lab.  He had been fighting medical issues for nine months.  Every time we thought he was on the mend, a new ailment appeared.  Our amazing vets determined that Outtie had autoimmune issues.  He was taking seven pills daily to feel no more than “okay sometimes.”  His joints ached, making him unable to comfortably stand up and walk around until after his anti-inflammatory pills kicked in two or so hours after he took them.  Being the best, sweetest lab ever, Outtie tried to put on a happy face for us.  When he stopped eating and refused to take his medicine, even when covered in peanut butter, my husband and I knew that it was time.


A rare occassion in which Outtie slept on his bed rather than next to it
Having both grown up with dogs, we know the pain that accompanies losing a family pet and the unfair reality that we never get enough time with our faithful companions. This is our second dog as a couple. We lost our first dog at the age of fourteen; he had a long and love-filled life.  Our then three-year-old son was sad but bounced back much quicker than his parents.  (In his defense, Jakey was pretty laid back and didn’t play much by the time Liam came around, reminding us of a thirteen-pound guinea pig.) Losing Outtie hit us in all the feels. We sobbed when we made the decision and broke the news to Liam. We sobbed together at the vet.  We sobbed on the way home and most of that evening.  We teared up and cried daily as we adapted to our new, dog free home.  Liam begged us for another dog to fill the void.  We are still too hurt to think about replacing our buddy.



A boy and his dog

Outtie showing his disapproval to my decision to work out rather than pat him
Outtie was the dog we will use to compare any future dog.  He was loyal, friendly, and full of energy.  When he was well, he would chase a thrown toy until your arm tired.  He had a special place in his heart for each of us.  He and I went for long walks, hikes, and runs.  I talked to him the entire time, not caring how silly I looked to people passing by a grown woman having a full on conversation with her lab.  He followed me around the house while I did household chores, listening to me the entire time. For Liam, he taught the unwavering love of a dog. He played with Liam, listened to him practice reading, and played tug. As for my husband, it was clear that, while Outtie loved all of us, he was Mike’s dog.  I often joked that I would never love Mike the way Outtie did.  (Partially because I will never wait for Mike outside of the bathroom.)  A month after his loss, we still have tear-filled moments of grief. (I’m crying as I write this.)



Liam assumed that Outlaw loves books about dogs and went out of his way to find them and read them to him
Anyone who knows me knows of my love/hate relationship with Facebook.  I’ve deactivated on a few occasions.  As I get older, I’ve learned not to take Facebook personally and to use the Unfollow and Unfriend buttons as my mental health requires.  I use Facebook to post pictures of my son and our adventures.  I use it to keep a hilarious group message going with my yoga girls and to participate in a few running groups.  I make a conscious effort to keep my interactions there positive.  I did not post of my mother’s death on Facebook, choosing to call the people who needed to know and sending an email containing her funeral arrangements.  A few people contacted me after reading her obituary. in the paper.  Obviously, I didn’t post anything about losing Outtie.  It was too raw and painful.  I wasn’t ready to share my pain with 300 of my closest friends and acquaintances.  As the weeks go by, I find myself having to explain what happened to people.  We walked Outtie twice a day; we’ve had to explain to our neighbors why they haven’t seen us out and about.  When we have friends over, we have to explain what happened.  Each time, I tear up as I explain how hard it was to watch him suffer and that we know our difficult decision was for the best.  Every conversation includes a comment that they didn’t know and didn’t see it on Facebook.  I have to explain that publicly sharing grief just doesn’t feel right for me, not that there’s anything wrong with it.   When friends post about deaths of family members,  I’ve been thankful to be in the know, sending cards and stopping by wakes when local.



After sharing news of Outtie’s death three times this past week, we’ve wondered if it would have just been easier to post it on Facebook, “like” a bunch of condolence comments, and continue healing.  Would it have been easier for people to share a quick, “I’m sorry, how’re you holding up?” when we see them rather than having to explain where the dog is and trying not to cry.  As the weeks go by, we’ve donated his LL Bean bed, food, and supplies.  I sweep up less and less of his hair each time I sweep.  I teared up each time I dumped piles of fur in the trash.  Now, I get upset when there isn’t much fur.  As time goes by, I wonder if I should have relied on Facebook for more than updates about where the local food trucks will be parked throughout the week.  I wonder why I refuse to rely on social media as a place to share grief. Maybe there are still social interactions that I believe should be face to face.  However, this experience with losing our beloved family pet is making me think that sharing pain and loss on social media may become a new part of our healing process.