Cultivate Motivation: Long live the running log!

old logTraining Log, aka “To Run Always” log. See also: a great way to keep yourself motivated and cultivate a powerful desire to go run everyday!

This bit of motivational advice and the inspired running logs pictured are all courtesy of my creative mom! I noticed her updating her running log one morning when she was recently visiting me, and I was so taken by her brilliance and the simplicity of this idea, that I decided to use it for my blog (with her permission of course)!

Why is keeping a running log vital to keeping your training alive? Until about a year and a half ago, I had never worried about documenting my daily miles. Why bother? To me, as long as my feet hit the road once a day, the miles I decided to do were pretty arbitrary and based mostly on what my high school coach told me to do. When I started training for my first marathon and began to take speed and endurance more seriously, I would occasionally keep track of my weekly totals and made sure to include a long run and speed day each week. At the start of every new week, I would pretty much just do what I had done before. I got stuck in a rut!

Point #1: Running logs keep you from forgetting what you had done, and can keep you from getting ‘stuck’ if you can visually see that you do the same thing every week. 

track your resolutionWhen I sought out my coach to take marathon training seriously last October, one of the first things he gave me was a Nathan running log. I just finished it a few months ago (in October) and immediately bought another one….though I wish I had seen my mom’s idea first! I am not really a fan of this log style. There’s a big box labeled course and four squares next to it: time, distance, pulse, and weight. In the lined area is room for notes. Underneath the week is an area for totals.

I don’t like this setup for several reasons: I don’t use “pulse” I enter my avg. pace per mile there instead, I don’t need a box for “weight” so I leave it blank, and the “course” rectangle is not large enough for me. I have to write itty-bitty. It serves it’s purpose as my log…but I have a better solution for you, detailed below!

BUT: no matter what type of log you use, it is imperative to your improvement as a runner to keep one!

Point #2: Seeing your weekly miles accumulate creates a desire to improve, or at least maintain your efforts! Logging the stats from each run should become as cathartic and ritualistic as lacing up your running shoes. It’s even better in my opinion because you are already done with the run and it’s fun to privately revel in the day’s accomplishments! 

All serious runners and elites document the details of their training. In order to improve, you need to be able to see what you have been doing. If you run into an injury or have a bad race, detailed logs can provide reasons as to what might have happened. Perhaps you ramped up your mileage too quickly, maybe you did too many hard days back-to-back…whatever may have caused the problem, a detailed log will be helpful in identifying the culprit. Since this summer, I have been dealing with on and off hamstring pain and I always note which days my hamstrings are giving me trouble. Once a month I get a half hour massage for my hamstrings and low back (I would do this twice a month if I could afford it!) and I make a note of that in my log too.

Point #3: Reasons for bad races, injuries, or plateaus in running can be identified with a detailed training log. Conversely, training leading up to PR’s and amazing races can also be identified as what works, and duplicated!

In the end, no matter where your running takes you, a log will remind you how far you have come. It will become an object of sentimentalism and nostalgia to the future you, and will motivate you daily. No one likes to see empty boxes…so fill them with miles!

*Caution: There may come a time when you forget to listen to your body and start running solely for the mileage…do not let this happen! The running log is important, but don’t let it overrule what your body may be trying to tell you ❤ It is always better to be a little under-trained and fresh than over-trained and burnt out.

new logHow can you find the right training log for you? Make one! This is my mom’s new log, after her old one (see above) was filled. It’s a lot more personal and inspirational than the standard Nathan log that I use every day…I won’t be buying a new one of those, when I fill it I will be copying my mom’s idea instead!

She buys a regular undated daily planner and decorates it with things to motivate her. It’s like a vision board, except on the planner itself! When you log your workout, you will be reminded everyday of what your vision is for your fitness.

My mom also does something else pretty cool, besides just documenting the standard run stats like distance, time, pace, etc., she also treats her log like a mini-diary. In the monthly calendar panel, she writes the quantitative details of each run, but in the corresponding daily panels she makes a mini-diary entry with all the qualitative details. This is brilliant! By documenting what happened that day: bad meeting at work, terrible weather, kid got sick, etc., she can take note of how the day’s events might have affected her workout. If she can’t remember why Tuesday’s mileage might have been lower than it should have been, she can read her journal entry from the day to find out. A day’s worth of good or bad events, and your mood/reaction to them will most definitely affect your run performance!

Tip: Keep your runs more consistent by always running at the same time each day. Personally, I like to run first thing, early in the morning. I’m fresh, rested, and ready to roll! Afterward, I feel positive from the endorphins and ready to tackle the day. I don’t have to worry about “fitting in” my run because I have already accomplished it 🙂

personalize your log

SMART Goals: Settle for Good, Get Great or Chase Perfection?

smart goals

I think modern consumerism has gone and shot itself in the foot this time. All our resolutions (or regular ol’ goals) are still fresh and fulfilled, we’re not even a week into January yet, but my local grocery store already has hearty (heart-‘y’! I seize the opportunity to make bad puns when I can 🙂 ) displays of chocolates, Valentines, and balloon hearts to smack us all in the face when we enter the store! Not that I am anti-love, but I guess the candy companies and Hallmark didn’t realize that the diet/weight-loss industry and gym chains are trying to capitalize on the idea of the “fresh start”. I don’t think candy and chocolates go together with the typical resolution to “lose weight”. Careful now junk food industry, don’t make the weight-loss industry mad!

Okay…this was not intended to be a rant, just thought I’d poke some fun before we got into the serious stuff! Resolutions, goals, or just Tuesday’s ‘to-do’ list, how SMART are you about accomplishing them? (Don’t get offended, I know you are all plenty smart…but it’s a clever acronym that you may have heard before, and that I really like!) I learned S.M.A.R.T. in high school once, and it has actually stuck with me, unlike some other useless word play designed to get me to critically think, etc.

smarter goalsI challenge you to use SMART to tackle a goal, small or big and be amazed! I actually prefer this (left) acronym even more as it includes “ethical” and “reasonable”! Never settle for just SMART when you could be SMARTER (or good when you can be great, but I am getting to that.)

My goals for 2015 are this:

  1. Bed by 9-10pm (10 at the latest): 8-9 solid hours of sleep each night.
  2. Keep my diet clean, comprised of whole foods. Low fat, all natural. Eat enough to fuel my running. *No hard alcohol, 1-2 drinks max. (Reinforced from New Years Eve)
  3. Run a 2:43 marathon! Subgoals: keep running 90 mile weeks, stay injury free, and make one of my runs my “long run”.

Basically, I want to keep doing what I have been doing, but better. Eat clean, recover well, and run more! Each of these goals are specific because I know exactly what I want, for example “bed by 10pm”. There’s nothing vague about that. “Get fit” or “eat healthier” are good examples of what not to do. My second goal concerning diet could be interpreted as vague, but I know what I mean by all natural, and it’s based on how I have documented my eating previously on my blog.

My goals are measurable, I can measure amounts of drinks, I can measure miles, I can “measure” a whole food vs. a packaged food. Are they achievable? Depends. I can control my sleep, my diet, and how many miles I run a week….but I can’t control all the factors concerning the marathon. I can only do my best to set myself up to succeed. I do think it’s realistic based on my training and previous performance.Measuring_the_Infinite

My goals are also realistic in the context of my lifestyle. I have the resources and time to eat well, run, and get to sleep on time. I know there are many people who find it a lot harder, but those people need to weigh their priorities and their “perceived” resources against what they can actually do. Don’t use lack of time as an excuse, the same goes for having a family (they need you to take care of YOU too!), or not having enough money to be healthy. If it is important to you, you will find a way. By realistic, I mean don’t attempt a marathon if you’ve never ran before. Try a half, or resolve to run 5 days a week no matter what. No climber attempts Everest as their first summit!

perfect-enemy-goodMy goals are timely or time-bound, exempting the diet goal. Diet is tricky, because unless you are on a “get-slim-quick-2-week-cleanse” (don’t do it!) diet should not have an endpoint. Diet is the foundation of the other goals you set for yourself. It comes naturally in the process of achieving the other goals that are time-bound. My marathon is a time-bound goal because I committed myself to running the LA Marathon in mid-March. So I have 2.5 months remaining to keep logging 90mi weeks and get my longest run up to where it needs to be. As the date draws closer, you had better believe my sleep and diet will be as fine-tuned and on-point as I can get it so that I can run a 2:43 marathon.

My goals are ethical my diet is vegan, and running a lot doesn’t hurt anyone 🙂 I urge you, if you are considering a dietary change this year, go vegan! It’s the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success! You also withdraw your vote of approval from inhumane factory farming practices and animal cruelty. Instead, you free up valuable resources like water and land for starving children who go without because the animals are using it instead. (Don’t worry, the animals won’t starve….instead the intense and unnatural breeding processes will diminish as consumer demand does! Farmers won’t lose their jobs either, they’ll just farm plant foods instead!)

I’ll be doing a  post on Veganuary soon, but if you want to get started now I urge you to check out their supportive website and make a pledge to go Vegan this January!

Anyway, back to ethics! *I’m skipping reasonable I think it’s a tad redundant after discussing realistic and achievable. Don’t hurt anyone or anything, including yourself ❤ ! This segues into my next point about good vs. great and great vs. perfect.

32fdbd0eac41e2e876006ffb317d355cI think most people by now are pretty aware that “perfect” is an illusion. No one is perfect. For example, it might appear that I always have a healthy diet and I always run well…but of course I don’t! New Year’s Eve is a great example, I drank way too much and consequently ran like crud the next morning. I still ran the miles I was supposed to, but let me tell you…it was not pretty! But the reason we fail or make mistakes is for us to learn what not to do! I needed a firm reminder as to why I don’t really drink or party, and I got it. As long as you learn and don’t make the mistake again, then don’t beat yourself up over it. An important note, “mistakes” should only be made once…after that, they are not mistakes, it’s just you deciding against what you know is right.

There is no perfect. But there is always better. If you are good, there is always great. Don’t settle for good because it is comfortable. Being good is a comfort zone, it’s where you can hold your head up high but not feel challenged at all. You’ll never grow either. Strive to get better always, that’s where the growth happens. That’s where character is built, self-awareness is gained and boundaries are tested.

I urge you to always keep growing and striving to master your craft, hobby, and passion. Even if you think resolutions are ridiculous, you can always make goals. No one is ever done learning, there’s always room for improvement.

How can you be a better friend, family member, community contributer, runner, skier, writer, painter today more than yesterday? Write it down, tell your friends, or register for the event.

Go get it!

I donut run for a “fitspo” body!

Boston_marathon-elite-women_s640x427

Although these ladies look great!

Believe me, I don’t run for the body! These ladies from the Boston Marathon look tough as nails ripped! But I’m going to be honest, as a mortal runner I definitely donut (do not, get it? Sorry! I had to!) look like that! Instead, running has blessed me with some more unfortunate physical gifts…

licensed_to_carry_small_arms_trex_dinosaur_stickeTiny arms, thick legs and tomato calves, black toenails, what are those, bulging veins???

Between rotting teeth (check this out!) and raw chafed skin, running hasn’t exactly given me the body of my dreams. Oh, and don’t forget the inevitable tan lines! Sneaker tans that made me look like I was wearing socks when I wasn’t were the bane of my existence before every high school dance! My sports bra tans looked excellent when I was on the beach…(and not running).

But I’m not really complaining. Here’s the weird thing, I am proud of all these physical abnormalities, like battle scars all these body quirks tell a story about me and that story is quite simple: I like to run. And I run a lot! 🙂

It’s funny how fitspiration (which I wrote about, and don’t promote!) uses pictures of model-esque, airbrushed and toned women and men with catchy slogans like “Sweat is fat crying” to motivate people to lift weights and cram some cardio, when in reality quick changes and rapid-fire, (un)motivational pictures do not work!

summer-body

Here’s a pretty tame and less shaming example of “fitspo”, “Summer bodies are made in the winter”. So what? It does make me think about how I want to look in the summer, it’s subtleties are this: summer= swimsuit/crop tops/short shorts=lose weight! Wait…whaaattt? How did that thought process happen? Apparently, I am going to become a cow over the winter so I better start figuring out what to do about it now…

Here’s my problem with that, weight loss is not my primary concern. Since when did fitness become all about the number on the scale? Health can’t be measured by one number. I love running and right now I am logging ~85 miles a week…so I definitely have a regular fitness routine, but it’s not working any magic for my looks! I bet most runners can relate!

toenailsI won’t be a fitspo model anytime soon…and that’s okay with me! But it’s not okay for all the girls and boys, men and women out there who look at these (un)inspiring pictures of lean models posing under a catchy slogan designed to shame someone into exercise or dieting. Most likely, the models in the photo are the antithesis of fit and healthy. A lot of fitness models and body builders go to extreme measures to achieve that lean, cut look…and even after that they are still airbrushed and photo-shopped to perfection. Perfection does not exist! And diuretics, extreme diets, sauna sweat sessions and deprivation does not translate into a fit, healthy body. If I attempted any of those things, the miles I run everyday would never be possible.

I’ll never have a body that will motivate people to get off the couch. My donut pun used in the title is funny because I eat! The hunger that follows a long run is voracious and undermines any attempt at dieting (not that I diet). I don’t care that I have twig arms, as long as they still swing in sync with my stride I’m happy! Any purple or missing toenails are more of a badge of honor than a reason to switch sports. One great thing about training in the colder months is that it resets any embarrassing tan lines from the summer! At the end of the day, I don’t run to look good and weight doesn’t equal health. I run to run and I run because I love it. If I exercised as a means to a ‘fit’ body, I’d be terribly unhappy 😦

The #1 reason people don’t stick with their fitness goals is because their goal is to get a certain look. They want to lose weight or get shredded and in the process they are miserable because they don’t enjoy their exercise routine. Do what you love, and it won’t matter what you look like. Form follows function…do something enough, and your body will develop to let you perform that function more easily and efficiently. I do not run to get thin, I run and am thin. Do what you love and your body will follow, but by then you won’t care because you’ll be having fun.

karaandshalene

I’m glad I’m not the only one with tan lines! This is more inspiring than any “fitspo” or “thinspo” meme could ever be!

 

Crazy Cold Weather Runner Girl

cold runner

I’ve done a lot of stupid things, but moving from Guam, a tropical island to Corvallis, Oregon in January–the dead of winter–2011, definitely ranks near the top of the list. To put this in context, I hadn’t felt temps cooler than 80 F since I was 7 years old. But I decided to move to Oregon (I promptly bought a winter coat once I arrived) and also continue my morning running routine, which I had established after graduating high school in the summer of 2010. Prior to that, I would run up to 20 miles at 3pm after school, during the hottest part of the day.

I arrived in Corvallis to attend Oregon State University, and having signed up for an 8am class, I decided that running would need to take place at 6am…in the dark, and cold! This isn’t news to me now, but believe me I had no clue what I was doing three years ago! Somehow I managed not to die that first winter, though I stubbornly trained through snowy, slushy, and icy roads.

Runners are known to the public as a crazy bunch, especially long distance runners (i.e. marathoners). And I do nothing to challenge that stereotype!

This winter marks my fourth winter running experience, and I face a new challenge. I have registered to run the Asics LA Marathon on March 15, and I have a time goal of 2:43. This means that I need to train hard all winter long…no hibernating for me! Here’s my predicament: I HATE THE COLD!!! It is literally my kryptonite! Last winter I came down with chillblains in my fingers. Yes, I was wearing gloves, with handwarmers tucked inside each glove, with each glove buried inside my jacket sleeves and my fingers still swelled up in icy protest!

fingers and feet

Info source: The Mayo Clinic, Chillblains Signs and Symptoms

Today was the first really cold day of the season, it was only about 30F but the crazy wind made it feel like 20F! On my run this morning I layered up, but not enough! Thankfully I only had a 30 minute 4 miler planned, and I could not run fast enough! By the time I got back inside my fingers were frozen to the bone and I could not feel my face. I have another run planned for tonight and I am definitely wearing my lower face mask, thicker gloves, and maybe 2 jackets this time!

cold weather training runMy fingers are already not happy with me this year. The pinkie on my right hand gets especially swollen and angry with chillblains, a leftover from last winter. There’s not a whole lot I can do for it except to try to keep my hands warm.

Chillblains can affect the toes, fingers, nose, and earlobes, any place sensitive to the cold that does not receive adequate blood flow. The blood vessels constrict with the cold and if the affected areas warm up again too quickly the dilation of the blood vessels occurs so rapidly that fluid leaks out of the vessels and the area becomes inflamed, itchy and red. These symptoms don’t go away, they persist as long as the area is repeatedly exposed to periods of intense cold followed by heat.

So basically, my finger will be swollen all winter 😦 It ranges from annoying to actually painful. The swelling affects the joints in my fingers and makes certain tasks hard to do, like completely curling my fingers. I’ve got a new heavy duty pair of gloves to try this year, and I ordered a 40 pair value pack of Hot Hands Handwarmers from Amazon this morning, so hopefully I will be set to conquer the cold this week!

The weather forecast for tomorrow is a “wintry mix”, whatever that means…but I’ve heard rumors of snow…this is especially troubling because I have a 6 mile hard tempo run planned for 6:30am. So I am either going to die, or my coach and I will need to have a change of plans. Honestly, on days like today I am just happy I willed myself out the door.

*Update! I wrote this before my second run of the day, and now that I have met with my coach and ran 7 more miles we have decided to call tomorrow’s workout off and instead I’ll just do a regular run. We will resume training as usual with my next workout on Sunday!

Repeat after me: This will only make you stronger. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

If any of you fellow runners have suggestions for battling the cold, please let me know! I’m still learning after living on an island all my life! (Sorry, the treadmill “dreadmill” is not an option to me.)

PSA cold run

Wednesday night fun!

Real Runners Don’t Cheat

Congratulations! If you run then you are a winner in my book! Until you cheat, and then you slowly chip away at my belief that those who run are more likely to be people who possess greater integrity.

week27spirit-01

Cheaters never win, and (real) winners never cheat. It might be my naivete, my slowly-crippled faith in the goodness of people, that keeps me surprised every time I learn of a scandal rocking my sport: running. It’s always been my opinion that those who dedicate themselves to endurance sports are made of tougher stuff. In my mind, that toughness comes from an inner spirit born out of hardships and suffering, which lends itself to honesty, discipline, hard work, and an understanding of the true meaning of life.

It makes sense, true runners do it for the love of running. There’s either no or very little money or fame involved in long distance running. The reward is the satisfaction that comes from setting and achieving personal goals. The feeling of fatigue at the end of a long run is the coveted prize. Pushing yourself beyond your limits and reaching new heights is the ultimate accomplishment.

My idols arerunning is beautiful the best and the most humble in the field: Meb Keflezighi, Deena Kastor, Bill Rodgers, Scott Jurek, Steve Prefontaine. They are all humble and hard working individuals. I don’t know them personally, but a person’s reputation says a lot about them and theirs could not be better. It is because of individuals like them, and books such as The Perfect Mile, that I believe runners are exemplars of character. John Landy, Roger Bannister, and Wes Santee didn’t race to break the 4 min. mile barrier because of the fame, they did it because they each wanted to give their own personal best. Anyone who’s seen The Spirit of the Marathon knows that runners run because it makes them better people.

Scott Jurek is known for finishing 100 mile races and then sitting by the finish line to cheer all the other participants on. Steve Prefontaine has famously been quoted as saying, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” When I fell and busted my knee during a 50k trail run a few years ago, runners around me were quick to offer ibuprofen and a couple walked with me to the nearest aid station a couple of miles away. (I returned the favor and gave them my complimentary finisher’s  750mL craft beer when they later drove me to get stitches after the finish!)

Runners are a different breed. We run long distances for no other reason than the satisfaction that it brings us. But for some reason, we still can’t shake the cheaters out of a sport that takes character. Recently, Rita Jeptoo (arguably the fastest woman on the planet as of late) who won the most recent Boston and Chicago marathons was caught doping. A blood test from September tested positive, and it’s been revealed that she has been using EPO since 2011 😦 I was shocked. Using EPO in endurance sports isn’t uncommon, but from a Kenyan athlete? I know this might be a huge stereotype, but I had believed that athletes from that country were of a different caliber. They grew up facing hardship and I believed that was what motivated them to put in the hard work. I never would have guessed they would succumb to cheating. But I am being harsh. I know this, I can’t imagine the struggles they face in Kenya…and faced with a potential pay day of several tens of thousands of dollars frfree banana t shirtom winning major races…I also cannot rule out the cultural barrier. I don’t know yet if Rita fully understood that she was using an banned substance to artificially assist her training. But if she did understand, and she still chose to cheat, shame on her. That is my position. Lance Armstrong was the last athlete I tried to defend, and I can’t believe how that ended up.

Last Saturday at the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon the winning woman, Tabatha Hamilton supposedly ran the second half of the marathon in 55 minutes, which is three minutes faster than the world record for the half marathon. The first half took Tabatha 2 hours. Her last marathons, one run in over four hours in 2009 and one in over six hours last year, definitely don’t provide evidence for Tabatha’s case!

Why? Why cheat as a recreational runner? I know from experience that even if you win a marathon, unless it’s a major one, very few people  outside of the running world care. I won the Portland Marathon, there was no money involved and I still had to go to school the next day. There was no fanfare, I just did my best and knowing that I gave 100% was what made me happy.

running-2

Life is running through emotions

running is the only thingRunning is easy, because life is hard.

You know the Brooks shoe ad slogan: “Run Happy”? I love it, along with the cool goofy pictures of cartoon runners with big silly grins. I love the apparel with ‘run happy’ written in cursive. I love everything about the message…it helps that my favorite training shoes are Brooks (so far the only shoes that I have repeatedly bought over and over again). So it is a message I fully get behind (I am not endorsed in any way by Brooks). Running should be something you love to do, it should be a happy activity.

But what about when it’s not? If I only ran when I was happy in life, or if I ran only because I thought it would make me happy, I would not be a runner at all. Luckily, I have learned to turn to running to help me cope with a myriad of emotions and running has been an essential part of the best and worst times of my life. In my opinion, the highs and lows of running don’t compare to the things that life can throw at you…and that’s why a good, long run is the cure for anything. During the lows of life running provides an escape and in the highs, running is the zenith. Let me explain below, with the 5 most common emotions that I feel.

SADNESS a.k.a. grief, depression, despondency, heartache, melancholy:

crying is okay here

This is primarily why I am even writing about the topic of running through different emotions. Running has probably saved me a gallon of tears over the course of my life so far…I challenge you to try to cry and run at the same time. I don’t think it is possible, if it were I would have done it already.

I think 80% of my emotions in the past several years have been within the range of sadness. I don’t really know why, maybe it’s because I am a young adult and I feel lost and confused about my life. Maybe it’s because I feel socially inept and isolated. Maybe I just have a genetic tendency toward melancholia and depression…who knows? What I do know is that running (not a medically suitable replacement for antidepressants or therapy) has pulled me through life even on the days where I did absolutely nothing else except cry, eat (or not eat), and lie in bed. Running gave me a reason to take a shower on days when I didn’t give a f**k about personal upkeep (because if you’ve ever been depressed you know that personal appearance is not exactly a priority).

A lot of my sadness stems from feelings of low self worth. I still do feel like a failure in parts of my life, occupationally and financially for example, but at least I have the power to succeed in one arena: running. As long as I go for a daily run, I am not completely worthless. I guess I am lucky enough to live in the Pacific NW where it rains a lot, as much as I gripe about it, there is nothing as powerfully cleansing as a long run in pouring rain. Running while sad can be a cathartic experience. Just take it slow. As long as you are out there, muddling through the rain, you will make it through the other side. Running will get you through to the light at the other end.

ANGER a.k.a. rage, irritation, frustration, hostility:

This isn’t one of the emotions I use during a run…though I do sometimes feel irritated because of my running (things don’t always go well). I learned from several races in middle school that anger never fuels a good race. It’s a fast-burning fuel that might allow you to go out guns blazing but fizzles within the first mile. I’ve never had success channeling rage during a run.

For me, running serves as an excellent way to dull the knife edge of my hostility. A hard run saps me of the strength I need to be angry. I have to be careful though, I don’t get angry very often. When I am angry, it’s usually at myself and that turns into a dangerous road where I use running to punish myself. Or it turns into a spiral of negative thoughts that ultimately ends in me hating myself.

At the very least, it’s hard to maintain anger while running so your edge will soften. Running takes energy, being mad takes energy. I would rather use my energy to run.

HAPPINESS a.k.a. joy, cheeriness, glee, contentment, satisfaction, pleasure:

its simple, run

For the first time in my life, when I was in India, I experienced a sustained feeling of overall happiness for nearly a month! So I know what happy can feel like, I just never seem to be able to get there. I can remember fleeting moments of happiness since then, for example, winning the Portland Marathon. Though I wouldn’t call it joy, it was a deep sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and relief. But that’s running.

I don’t use my happiness to run, I use running to get to my happiness.

I don’t know if I’m just not a happy person by nature, or if I am too hard to please, or what…but the sense of purpose, achievement, and discipline that I get from a run is the closest I can come to feeling happy, or at least content. Moments of bliss usually follow hard workouts, like running a 6 mile tempo run at a 6 minute pace, or blazing through a 10k in 36 minutes…pushing my body as far and fast as I can and feeling the rush of pain and endorphins are sometimes seem like the only thing that can truly make me feel happy.

STRESS a.k.a. pressure, anxiety, tension, worry:

Without a doubt, running is the ultimate stress reliever. I love running without music and just letting my thoughts flow. It’s the closest I get to meditation. The saying is true, if you don’t have an answer to your problem by the end of a long run there is probably no answer. The energy it takes to run redirects the negative energy of stress and worry to a positive place. Low-level chronic stress puts you at risk of a multitude of health conditions, like heart disease and weight gain. Luckily, the best stress relief, exercise, is also the best way to combat the symptoms of chronic stress!

When I am really busy, running helps me clear my head. When I run in the morning I like to plan my day’s ‘To-Do’ list in m head, I list the tasks in order of how I think I will do them during the day. The energy and focus that I get after a good run is usually the impetus I capitalize on to move directly into my tasks for the day. No matter how stressed you are, it is difficult to muster the energy required to fret over your problems when you are good and tired after a run.

MALAISE a.k.a. ennui, unease, listlessness, lethargy, torpor:

This is a hard one. More often than not, I reside in this emotional realm. If I am not sad or depressed, I usually feel ‘meh’. Like I stated before, there are few times I can recall feeling actual joy or happiness. But the emotion is pretty fleeting, and then I fall back into this feeling of malaise or stagnation where I don’t feel sad, but I am not happy. I just am….

This is one of the hardest emotions to tackle with running, because it often feels like you have no emotions to channel. At least when you are sad you can feel the sadness in your bones, and when you are happy, you have a pep in your stride. But when you feel listless, you just feel blank. When I feel this way I usually numb myself, I focus on my school work, or blogging, or watching videos….I don’t know if that is healthy, but it’s how I deal.

I also run to escape this feeling of nothingness. If I could, I would run for 24 hrs. a day to never feel this way. I think this is one of the scariest feelings because there seems to be no remedy. How can there be when often you don’t even know what the problem is? I don’t know how to tackle this problem, all I know is that I need to run and I will feel a little better afterward. Even if I don’t feel better, at least I will have accomplished something.

use me running shoes

Photo source: Combat Boots to High Heels blog, “I Need to Run!!!” Jan 24, 2013.

The problem is, how can you muster the energy required to get out the door in the first place?

I like to use my auto-pilot trick. Basically, I don’t think about not running. I decide I am going for a run, and then I turn off my brain. I have created a habit where I run every morning. I have an end goal, I am training for a marathon, and so I know I need to run. Beyond that, running is really my only life coping skill.

I’ve always ran. Through everything, through high school, the transition to college; through loneliness, depression and happiness; through my eating disorder…everything. It’s been the one constant that I can rely on in my life.

Get Out the Door: 5 Tips to Run No Matter What

forrest gump running gif

Some days it’s just hard to get out the door. There are times when you know you should go for a run, you actually planned to go for a run, but somehow when it came time to actually follow through… you choked. You psyched yourself out, put it off till tomorrow, came up with an excuse. It doesn’t matter what happened, but the end result is the same: you didn’t go for a run, and now you feel guilty about it.

So how can you become a consistent road-warrior & running-addict? Here are my 5 useful tips to get your butt moving!

  1.  Be mindful: Don’t think too far ahead! Keep your thoughts on what you need to do in this moment to get yourself running. I always try to run in the morning and there are many days when my alarm goes off and I don’t want to go run. If I start thinking about why I don’t need to run my mind will find an excuse. So I try to shut off my brain. On auto-pilot, I roll out of bed, pull on my clothes and just go. Only once I’m safely out on the road do I let my thoughts wander. Don’t give your thoughts free-reign to trap you into inaction. Trust me, your mind can conjure up a million reasons to not run if you let it. So don’t let it! Remain in the moment, put on your running clothes, lace up your shoes, and take the first step. Concentrate on what you need to do right now, which is run!
  2. Get inspired: Who is your favorite contemporary runner? Find someone who inspires you and do some reading about how they train. For me, it’s Meb Keflezighi, Deena Kastor, and Shalane Flanaghan. I read articles about their training regimens, dietary and sleeping habits. They never fail to inspire me with their incredible work ethics, discipline, and attention to detail. If I find myself wanting to skip a run, I remind myself that somewhere out there Meb, Deena, or Shalane are training and are each 100% focused on their goals. They don’t slack off or make excuses, and if I ever want to be great like them, I can’t slack off either! So find your woody allen quotepersonal hero and in times of weakness, remind yourself of what it takes to be like him or her.
  3. Practice acceptance: Is it raining? Dark? Cold? Accept it for what it is! Don’t waste valuable mental energy stressing over the elements you can’t control. Instead, see the conditions for what they are and continue to focus on going for a run. If it’s raining, pull on a jacket and go run. Dark? Wear flashing lights and reflective gear. Cold? That’s what thermal gear and gloves are for! Focus on what you can control and accept the rest of it. When you are mindful and have one though in your head, ‘go run’, nothing will get in your way!
  4. Schedule it: The first step toward establishing a healthy habit is to turn an action into a routine. The best way to do that is to schedule in a specific time to run. It’s an appt. with yourself! Allow at least an hour to warm-up, run, and stretch afterwards. Be realistic with how much time you need so that you don’t end up getting stressed out over time or skipping your run due to other conflicts. Find out what time works best for you to run, and then be consistent about running at that time. Do it long enough, and it will become a daily habit! I run every morning and I’ve been doing it for so long that I need to run or I am definitely not the same person the rest of the day!
  5. Find accountability: It’s easy to let a workout slide if there’s no record of it. For the same reason that writing down goals is effective, having accountability makes the intangible tangible. It turns the intangible thought, ‘I should go for a run’ into ‘I need to run, otherwise _____ will happen’ with accountability comes tangible consequences. Accountability can mean diligently keeping a running log and building up a streak of days running. Seeing the miles accumulate will increase your motivation to run. You can have a regular running buddy, or find a supportive running group that will miss you if you don’t show up. You can hire a coach (I workout harder when there are more people counting on me!), join a team, or sign up for a race! You can even run for a cause (for example, Team In Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society which raises money for a cure). Or run to represent, I want to be an exemplar of running while vegan so I always do my best!  If there’s more riding on the line, you’ll be less tempted to skip a run!

lets go