Running is a “Get To”

 

Banjo and I during one of our spring-like runs last week!

 

My students often ask if they “have to” complete certain parts of assignments. My reply is always “No, you get to do that part.”

“Get to?”

“Yes. Get to.”

When we read I am Malala, there were many conversations about the importance of education. I remind them that the educational opportunities so many students here resist are the same ones Malala and her friends are willing to fight to receive. During our Socratic Seminars, we discuss the concept of education equaling freedom. Even before reading Malala’s book, directions have always been explained as “get to” rather than “have to.”

I had to remind myself this as I am getting deeper into half marathon training. I get to do this. I get to push myself, set a goal, and complete it. I may not reach that three hour goal the first time around, but I am nine weeks away from putting a “13.1” sticker on the back of my Subaru. (Yes, I am going to order it ahead of time and put it on my car before I leave the race!)

When I tell people I have been running, many times I hear reasons why they can’t, past injuries, bad knees, etc. I get to do something that many people cannot, even for short distances. As I go deeper into training, the goal is to run at least two short runs and one longer run each week. I’ve been managing two two to three mile runs after school and completing a long run during the weekend. Last Saturday, I set out with the goal to complete at least five miles, allowing enough time to shower and get ready for Liam’s first penance at 10:30. We experienced a Nor’easter the night before, leaving 150,000 people without power. Once I got to the fields near the airport, strong winds whipped my face. I’ve run in the cold; this was a whole other beast. I wasn’t feeling well. Also, I was sick and was having difficulty taking deep breaths due to a terrible sore throat.  (A trip to the clinic Sunday revealed an ear infection.) I felt like it would be a failure if I turned around. However, running is a “get to.” If I miss a workout, it will be okay. The world will not end. I will not forget how to run. I called Mike to inform him I was on my way home.  I managed to get out for two short runs later in the week.

Yesterday, I had a wisdom tooth pulled. (Yes, it has been a week!) My goal is to try to get out and run today after work. If it happens, great. If not, life will go on, and I will get in my long run Sunday. The world will be okay. I get to run. It clears my mind, makes my body stronger, and reminds me I can do great things.

What a Difference a Year Makes!

Last night, I went to Lippett Park for the next round of Beginning Runner’s Group. Exactly a year ago, many of us were meeting for the first time. We were nervous and timid. This time, hugs and laughter filled the air.  Last night, we were the ones assuring nervous first timers that than can absolutely do this, that they will be able to run a 5k in June. All of the things that seemed unsure or impossible a year ago are part of my everyday life. I can run a few miles without stopping.  I can run (interval) seven miles… in a row!  I can set goals and know I will achieve them.

I love the support BRG provides. Without that support, I never would have been able to become a “real runner.” The thought of training for a half marathon would be as unfathomable as trying to hitchhike to the moon.  Running has taught me that I can set goals, work towards them, and achieve them.

Running has taught me to appreciate what my body can do. Every Saturday morning, I track my measurements. While I have only lost five pounds during my year of running, I’ve lost ten inches.  My feelings about food have changed dramatically; I no longer look at food as a reward or exercise as a punishment. For the first time in my life, I think I have managed that healthy, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing attitude towards food. While I would like to lose another ten pounds, my focus lies more in changing what my body can do rather than what it looks like.

Running has taught me that positive friends make all the difference. I’ve written about my awesome groups several times. I would never have the confidence to attempt a lot of my favorite memories from the past year if it weren’t for the encouragement of the people around me. I’ve stepped out my comfort zone countless times this year. I would never have done so without people cheering me on, keeping me accountable, and filling the training with laughs and conversation.

Running had taught me the importance of not just setting goals, but also being vocal about them. For years, I dreamed of being a runner. I was able to make that happen. When I signed up for the half marathon, I didn’t really tell people, still questioning my ability. Mike proudly started bringing it up in conversation with friends, “Tell ________ what you’re training to do.” Nervously telling people makes me more determined to reach this goal.  I publically set my goals at the gym, writing them down for all to see. While talking about training last night, conversation leaned more towards how excited we were to crush this goal than how worried we were about running thirteen miles.  Setting goals keeps me motivated and accountable.

By this time next year, I will have completed two half marathons. If they go well, I am going to throw my name into the New York City Marathon lottery, letting chance decide whether or not a marathon is in my cards. At this point, I would love to be able to tell my grandkids that I ran a marathon. I would love to be able to cross that goal off the bucket list. If it doesn’t happen, I will not beat myself up over it. I am too proud of what I can do to get hung up on where I haven’t made achieved (yet).

 

The Splints

For years, I’ve struggled with shin splints. After even aerobic workouts, my right calf could throb for days. Stretching and consistently working out have been the two best ways I’ve prevented them. Taking long breaks from exercise then returning like no time passed always leads to injuries.  When I take classes and particpate in Rhode Runner runs, a warmup is guarenteed.  During my solo runs, I have to remember to warm up and cool down.

This past Saturday, I did something that goes against everything I’ve learned about running: I went for my longest run yet and barely stretched. Oh, am I paying for it! I am doing every possible remedy: Tylenol, ice, heat, stretches, Biofreeze, foam roller. Nothing is helping. Wednesday, I ventured out for a shorter run but only made it to just under two miles, knowing that I would make things even worse if I kept going. I tool Tylenol and iced it three times last night.I haven’t worn any of my heeled booties, sticking to my Teiks each day this week.  I don’t have a desk in my class, only a cart where I hook up my computer. While standing there, I’ve been stretching my calves as often as possible. The hope is that these steps will help me heal.

That being said, I am nervous for my next long run. Everything I’ve been reading about half-marathon training says that I should be running at least three times a week.  I’ve only been getting out twice and had to cut yesterday’s run short. While I am aware of the body’s need to recover and repair, I am also nervous about falling behind in training an missing my goal. Now that the warmer weather is sneaking in, it should be easier to fit in quick afternoon on weekdays.

Tomorrow, I will venture out with the intention of running seven miles.  If my body tells me to stop, that’s what I will do. My aspriration is to be more than halfway to my goal of running thirteen miles!

If anyone has any suggestions for aleviating and preventing shin splits, I will happily try them!

 

Actually Loving the Longer Runs

If you had told me a year ago that I would be going out on long runs, I would have assumed you were thinking of the wrong person. “Running” three miles was a huge feat. So the fact that I went out this Saturday and ran six miles still boggles my mind. I have to admit that I am enjoying the longer runs for several reasons.

It is therapeutic to get out on my own. The rhythm of heading out for longer distances is excellent for the mind! I can zone out, listen to my book, and the miles go by much easier than I ever imagined they could.  While I could never (at this point) cover that distance on a treadmill, I enjoy setting a course and exploring my neighborhood. Thanks to Overdrive, I can borrow audiobooks for free. I’ve managed to listen to five books in the past month and a half! Running longer distances is definitely helping my mental stamina.

Because I am focusing on distance, I run much slower on my longer sessions. During a shorter session, I aim to keep my pace around 12:30 (still not fast, but it’s where I am). For longer runs, my pace goal is at least a minute slower. In some ways, the longer runs are easier. It’s a game of mind over matter, providing another reason to just zone out and go.

I love knowing that I can accomplish these longer runs! Yes, there is a bit of bragging about being able to say, “I ran six miles last Saturday.” I’ve been tempted to post about it Facebook, but squished the thoughts, thinking of this old meme:

This is my favorite thought about enjoying longer runs:

For years, I didn’t think I would ever be a runner. So many conversations about exercise led me to this admission. I’m great at yoga, I’m pretty strong, but I’m just not a runner. Running was one of the only things I genuinely tried to be successful at yet failed. (There are lots of things I am terrible at, but I have never really tried and applied myself.) The fact that I am able to run is huge, not just at face value, but because these goals alluded me for so many years.

This afternoon, I will head out for a quick run after school. I told Mike that it would be a “short run- around two and a half miles.” Last year, that distance would have simply been a “run” in my vocabulary. The fact that I now have short and long runs illustrates my progress.  This weekend, I get to venture out for a seven-mile run. I am looking forward to knowing that I am capable of running more than half of the thirteen-mile goal set for early May.

Game On!

Sunday, I set the plan to head out and complete my longest solo run: five miles! Armed with Scrappy Little Nobody downloaded from Overdrive, I set out to prove mind really is over matter.  As of this week, I am officially training for my first half marathon.  The weather wasn’t bad; it was chilly but not windy.  Two layers made it more than bearable. As soon as I got out on the road, I discovered a cut on the back of my left ankle.  I know that I need new sneakers and have been trying to get the last life out of my current ones before investing in new ones.  After a few minutes, the pain subsided.

Once I got out there, I was fine! After my last run, I played with the interval app, adjusting the intervals to two minutes of running and fifty seconds of walking. I pushed myself during the running times, but not to the point of exhaustion. The goal was to run longer, not faster. I also made a point of running away from my house, rather than doing loops that allow a quick escape to home.  I ran to the airport, fully aware that whatever distance I ran would need to be backtracked if I ever wanted to get home.  Honestly, I wanted to see the Amazon Prime plane up close. While seeing it parked almost daily as I drive by to pick up the highway, it is clear that plane is larger than many of the other planes at the airport. In an airport that mostly hosts 737s, Amazon’s 767 is a big treat. I was hoping to see it a little closer. When I arrive at the spot where it is usually parked, I was surprised to see it gone.  I usually drive by at 7am, it was now 8:30. As I was looking for it, the plane flew overhead. Attempts to get a picture of it in the air failed.  Chasing an airplane was a fun distraction halfway through my run!

 

This plane always looks huge when you’re used to watching Southwest jets
My feeble attempt to chase an airplane

 

The rest of the run was delightfully uneventful. That last half mile dragged, but once I hit the five-mile mark, I felt like I could do another mile. I didn’t, but I felt okay.

Honestly, this run was to prove that I can do it.  Once I made myself run five miles, I know that I can run six miles next weekend.

Finding My Running Mojo

Have you seen my motivation? I seem to have lost it. Recently, I went an entire week without working out.  As of this week, I am officially in half-marathon training. However, for the past two weeks, I’ve only managed one run weekly.  There are many reasons for this:

  • The weather has been terrible: bitterly cold, snowy, icy days make it tough to leave the house
  • I’ve been trying to keep a cold at bay. It’s that awful rundown feeling that you are only one bad night of sleep away from getting the full-blown cold. During the past two weekends, I’ve actually spent a good amount of time on the couch, something I never do.
  • Two weeks ago, Mike went away for work, making it impossible for me to get out for runs on the weekend since I had Liam with me.
  • We adopted Banjo last weekend and spent a lot of time getting him used to his new family and home.

Anyway, I have not been running. I’ve completed lots of other workouts involving yoga and strength training (PRed my sumo squat- 2×205!!), but have not made it out running more than once a week.  Banjo and I have been going for long walks. Because I’ve been trying to get him used to walks on a leash, he and I have only gone running once. Sunday morning, when the weather finally gets above take your breath away freezing, I will need to go out and complete five miles to stay on track for the half-marathon training schedule.  I know that once I am out on the road, I will be fine.

Usually, I love running around the airport, but I can’t seem to get my butt out there.

 

I have been really great about watching my diet and staying active, managing to lose a few more of the weigh I’ve gained since Halloween. Thanks to walking Banjo twice a day, I’ve been kicking but in my FitBit challenges!  It’s taken years, but I have finally stopped treating working out as a punishment for eating too much or a consequence of gaining weight.  I am actually looking forward to getting in that long run this Sunday morning!

Making Banjo Part of the Family

We are all still getting to know each other, learning and establishing routines, and becoming a family of four. Banjo has a lot of energy, definitely requiring more work and guidance than Outtie ever did. It does make us love him more or less; both dogs are just very different experiences.  We are learning each other better each day; it is clear that Banjo is meant to be a part of our family.

Liam loves having a dog again! I think it gives him a purpose.  He used to whine when we ask him to clean his room or pick up toys, but has no problems doing it when he knows that it is crucial for keeping Banjo safe. (Random Legos on a bedroom floor don’t look very different than dog food.) Liam’s mission is to create a suitable nickname for Banjo.  Outlaw became Outtie and, sometimes, “Outtie-budoutie.”  I have no clue how that happened, but it rolled off the tongue.  Liam has quite a few nicknames, Booba, Sport/ Sportpuppy, Booba-dingo, Bug/ Buggie.  We’ve talked about nicknames, why people give them and which of his are his favorites. It also came to be that some nicknames that are mom or dad exclusive. Buggie is from Mama, Sport and Sportpuppy are Dad’s. Liam loves Banjo and he is part of the family; therefore, he must have a nickname.

Over the past few days, Liam has attempted Banjo-wanjo and Banjo-melon.  He’s really trying to make Banjo-melon happen. During yesterday morning’s walk, he explained that only the three of us can call him Banjo-melon.  I love seeing how Liam interprets the ins and outs of how the world works. Because nicknames show affection, Banjo needs one. However, Liam is learning his first awkward lesson about nicknames, that they cannot be forced.

 

Liam’s attempts to give Banjo a nickname remind me of Peter Klaven’s awkward nickname experiences. 

 

Each day, we adjust to each other more and more. Banjo has learned to make a whining sound at the door when he needs to go potty.  We put him on the leash, let him do his thing, and reward him with animal crackers when he’s finished. He settles in and takes all the belly rubs we will give him.

Banjo is getting better on the leash each day. Today, he and I went on our first longer adventure. He did a great job! We did interval; he slowed down when I needed and was more than happy to run. I’m really hoping that he can become my running buddy. The weather warmed up this afternoon,  melting the last on the ice and snow on the roads.  He and I can got in 2.24 miles before picking up Liam at school.  Banjo, with all of his energy, is smart, loving, and eager to learn. I’m thankful he is adjusting to being a part of our family.

I Went a Week Without Working Out… and it was Fine

What is that quote about the best-intended plans?

I had every intention of working out each day this week.  I have a routine established:

Monday: Strength Class

Tuesday and Saturday: Yoga

I usually get at least two in each week. However, all bets were off last week. On Tuesday, I had a faculty meeting after school and stomach issues that evening, causing me to miss out on both running and yoga. We got three inches of snow on Wednesday. I had a hair appointment Thursday afternoon. Friday, Liam woke up at 3 am with leg cramps, and I never got back to sleep. I had been keeping a cold at bay with plenty of sleep and Emergen-C; this night of lousy sleep was enough to bring on a full-blown cold. I skipped running Friday afternoon and spent the weekend on the couch. Mike was in Tennessee this weekend, making me unable to go out running even if I wanted to. I planned to do a few Beachbody on Demand workouts over the weekend, but I could not get myself off the couch.

So there you have it: why I didn’t work out for an entire week. While I thought I would be upset with myself and feel terrible, I am actually okay with this. I managed to keep my mild cold from becoming much worse. We watched The Martian.  I introduced Liam to Fuller House. I caught up with friends Sunday morning by helping at a fundraiser and attended a birthday party that afternoon.

Liam was very impressed that I saw the “Full House” houses at Alamo Park!

Because I didn’t work out, I meticulously watched my food intake, still managing to lose two and a half pounds this week.  (Having a cold definitely attributed to that weight loss. It’s not ideal, but I’ll take it this week.)

This is what I learned by taking a week off: I genuinely enjoy working out. I like seeing what my body is capable of doing and how I feel afterward. Working out is a want to, not a have to.  It is no longer a punishment for being idle or for overeating.  While I am happy when I have the time to work out, I no longer need to beat myself up if it just doesn’t happen.

Making Winter Running Less Terrible

We are in the heart of winter.  At this point, we’ve experienced snow, ice, and bone-chilling cold.  Those first runs when the temperatures dropped shocked the system.  My arms and fingers went numb, my lungs ached.

I signed up for a 5K in Maine over Thanksgiving, thinking that merely wearing a few layers would make everything okay.  While my body managed just fine, my lungs were so upset with me!  For hours after, they felt like I had spent the night in a bar back in the days when people were still allowed to smoke indoors.

Over the past weeks, I’ve figured out a few ways to run in the winter without hating every moment.  I am by no means an expert, but here are a few of my insights:

Layers

I looked at getting a pair of Polartec running tights. Because I could not bring myself to spend that much money on pants, I began wearing my favorite Athleta running tights with a pair of sweatpants over them.  This worked perfectly! My legs have never been cold on a run! I’m so glad I tried this before spending a lot of money on pants I wouldn’t even wear all the time.

I bought a cheap Aeropostale vest before the 5K in Maine. Once I started sweating, it felt awkward. For Christmas, my sister bought me a nicer Columbia vest designed for working out in the cold.  I love this one!  I’m also spoiled with the pockets.  I can put my water bottle in one pocket and my phone in the other.  I will need to think about a way of carrying items when the weather warms up and I am not wearing layers.

Wearing two pairs of pants, two long tops, and the vest makes running in the cold manageable.  It was 15 degrees when we started yesterday morning.  Once we got going, many of us were just fine.  I grew warm enough to need to my hair up.

Knowing Your Roads

I tried to run around my neighborhood a few times while there was still snow on the ground but the temperatures were warmer.  This proved difficult because the sidewalks around the airport were not shoveled, forcing walkers into the main road.  The Boulevard in Providence is always well-shoved.  Because there is a bike lane, there is plenty of room for everyone, even if cars are parked along the road.  Knowing where I can safely run and stay dry makes winter running easier.  This weekend, I decided to take advantage of warmer weather and go for a quick run before taking Liam to a birthday party.  Because one of the backroads near my house was flooded due to rain and melting snow, I had to turn around and run the long way home.

Cold Weather Accessories

Mike needed a face mask while working outside during a frigid spell.  The only store around who still had them in stock was Lululemon. While there, I picked up a face mask for myself, headband-style ear warmers, and tech gloves.  Their tech gloves are the only ones I’ve tried that actually work on my phone.  I tried to find the links but, because they were on clearance, they’re no longer on the site.  The ear warmers are great for runs in milder cool weather.  My head gets too warm while running in a heavy winter hat.  The Lululemon ear warmers even have a slot to pull through your ponytail.

Not All Cold Weather is Equal

One of my better winter runs of the year happened during 17 cold.  However, there was no wind and it just began lightly snowing.  Because of the increased humidity, the cold seemed kinder.  Yesterday’s run brought the same temperature, but dry air and a sharp wind made it feel much colder.

Audiobooks

This isn’t really a cold weather tip.  My Spotify running playlists were growing old and I was too lazy to update it.  A few friends mentioned they enjoy Audible.  I borrow books on CD to enjoy during my commute but haven’t tried them during runs.  Again, I am cheap and wanted to avoid buying an Audible subscription.  Overdrive, an app available through your local library offers the same service for free.  I did find that a lot of popular books are unavailable.  I put a holds on a few books from the Goodreads playlist in the hope that they will become available as I finish the first book I borrowed.  I set out Thursday with a book and was finally able to run farther! I ran four and a half miles, my longest solo run!

Running with Friends

This is another tip that applies to all types of weather, but especially helps during the winter. Yesterday, I met up with a few of my BFG friends for a morning run. If I wasn’t looking forward to seeing people I love, I would’ve stayed in my warm bed a little longer, then made a big breakfast. Running in the cold was much less painful while catching up with friends. I am beyond grateful for my running buddies!

My New Trainer Journal

I am a planner.  Last week, I ordered a journal to track my half-marathon training progress.  I enjoyed charting my runs and other workouts.  I’m looking forward to seeing growth!

     

Staying Awake

I stayed awake until midnight! Not only did we stay awake, we stayed away at our neighbors’ house!

We are blessed with amazing neighbors!  We were so naive when purchasing the house.  We only looked at the house we were interested in buying, ignoring the houses around it.  (I’d like to think that if were anything totally suspicious to see, our eyes would have caught it.) We managed to get friendly, welcoming neighbors.  They’ve all become great friends of ours.  For the past few years, one house has hosted New Year’s Eve.  For lame parents like us, it is a perfect setup.  We can walk over and be social, but be home in our PJs by 9:00.  We went over fully expecting to follow that trend.

After talking, laughing, and eating for awhile, a few of us began yawning.  I looked at my watch to see that is was 11:00!  I was asleep last year at that time!  I seemed silly to pack up at that point; we were staying out and up! When we reached the one minute mark, my heart dropped for a minute, preparing myself for the fact that my mom was not going to call me in two minutes.  I was surrounded by friends, realizing I would be fine.

Liam loved the idea of staying awake.  He was excited to watch the ball drop and follow ed the adults’ lead, hugging his own friends and wishing them a happy new year.

For months, my friends have been telling me about a boot camp class offered by a gentleman who has been on American Ninja Warrior.  They giggle as they talk about how overwhelmed they were in their first class.  I have been nervously intrigued by this class.  After my panic attack inducing experience with my last new class, I was careful not to work myself up about this one.  Last night, I was finally able to give it a try! The class was fantastic! It was challenging but manageable! The class started with a reasonable warm-up. Being able to keep up reminded me that my body is changing and growing stronger. It was set up in rotating stations. While your partner was completing the exercise, you had to plank.  I am great with weights but terrible with body-weight exercises.  However, I am strong enough to hold planks.  When I woke up this morning, I immediately felt that I worked hard last night.  I’m so glad that I went!  Fabio kept the class interesting.  The fellow attendees were friendly and welcoming.  I will definitely attend again!

Ten years ago, most of my time spent with friends involved sitting around, eating and drinking.  I am beyond thankful for friends who push me to try new things, get out of my comfort zone, and make myself better.  Some of my favorite time spent with them involve running, hiking, practicing yoga, and lifting weights.  I am excited and nervous to reach the goals we’ve set for ourselves this year!  We have some big goals for the upcoming year; I’m looking forward to a lot of celebrations!