Category Archives: mental health

Run-It’s who I am.

What does it mean to be a runner? Do you have to run a certain number of days a week? Do I have to run a certain number of miles or time? Do I have to have been running for a certain amount of time? Do I have to race? What if I take a break from running of a month, two months, three months? What if I’m injured and have to take six months or more off of running?

These are all questions I’ve contemplated while out on the trails, especially over the last four months. These questions and other similar ones, have jogged around my head because my ability to maintain a consistent running schedule over the last six months has been seriously compromised by a hamstring injury.

I began to ask myself what it really means to be a runner. I’ve written blogs about being a jogger or a runner.  The defining feature addressed in that blog was speed, but I’m talking about something different here.

I’ve been running for awhile and I’ve run in races from the 5k to the 100 mile. Being a runner is a big part of who I am, it’s more than what I do. It’s not I run, it’s I am a runner. Losing running is like losing a part of myself. Some may think I’m being overly dramatic, but many of you will understand.

Running has made me a better person; more patient, understanding, compassionate, and mindful. It’s given me appreciation and gratitude for what I have; opportunity, health, material objects, freedom, and dreams.

You do not have to run for a specific number of days each week or a specific number of miles, or a specific amount of time. You do have to run on a regular basis though. You’re not a runner if you jog across the street to get lunch every day. I’m comfortable saying you are a runner if you run two days a week for twenty minutes, even if you run walk those twenty minutes. As to distance, it’s whatever you cover in those twenty minutes. Many runners don’t measure by miles. They measure by time.

You can call yourself a runner after you’ve run consistently for a month. It’ takes 21 days to form a habit, and if running has become a part of your weekly routine, you’re a runner.

Now the big question for this post—taking time off. Runners have to rest for a lot of different reasons and runners get injured and have to heal. Sometimes this takes a long time. If you’re still a runner in your heart and mind, if your intent is to get out there as soon as you can, if the reasons for your time off is to make you a better stronger runner, You’re a runner.

As long as being a runner is woven into who you are, you are a runner.

Time to Heal…

Being patient with your body and allowing time to heal is difficult, but absolutely necessary if your goal is to run for a long time. I struggle with taking time off just to rest and recover; an injury is just as difficult for me. Usually, I continue running on it-telling myself I can run through it. And many times running through minor injuries is fine. It’s the not so minor ones that you can’t run through. Even some minor ones, get worse if you try to run through them. Knowing the difference, is the difference between an experienced and novice runner.

Injury and time off is unfortunately part of the running experience. Alternatives to running are just not the same. You don’t get that runners high. You don’t get that peace and sense of freedom. The longer it takes to heal the more agitated you become. It’s easy to fall into a pessimistic and defeatist attitude. You become an expert at positive self talk or you fall into a depression. The longer you are in the recovery mode, the farther off running feels.

You definitely go through the seven stages of grief: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance.

Shock and denial are lumped together most of the time, “It’s not that bad,” “I can’t believe this has happened.” “It’s nothing to worry about,” “I can still run, it’s fine.” “It’s the shoes, I’ll just get a new pair.”

Anger is directed at pretty much everyone including other runners and yourself. You beat yourself up about not taking time off right when it happened. You decide you could have prevented it and were just stupid.

Bargaining-” Dear God, I’ll take time off right away next time, if I can just have my running back now.” “I’ll volunteer more and donate money, if I can just get back out there.” “I’ll do anything to get back out there!!” Anything, but take the time to heal that is. You  begin doing research about the fastest way to heal. You spend hours looking at new training programs, super foods, stretches, miracle vitamins, and strength training.

Depression comes in the form of the defeatist. “I’ll never run again.” “this is going to take years to heal.” “It will always hurt to run.” “I can’t be happy without my running.” “I can’t live without my running (you think this is going to far until you’ve been there).”

Testing-“I’ve taken a few days off, I can go back.” “I know it still hurts a little, but a little run won’t hurt it.” “Just an easy three miles.”

Acceptance- “this sucks, but my goal is to run until I die, so I guess I’ll spend six months doing physical therapy and then I’ll take the time to get back to running in the right way because if I don’t, I’ll be back where I was when this started.”

When you’re ready to start your epic return to running make sure it’s slow. Review my return from injury training program found above under the 5k and 10k training program link.

It’s a shame that we can’t start with acceptance. Maybe that should be our goal for our next injury because if we’re honest with ourselves, the next injury will come.

Chores

Does anyone really like them? Maybe you’re one of those interesting people who have convinced yourself that you like them. What makes them so bad is we feel we are compelled to do them and we would rather be doing something else.

To the newly initiated, running can definitely feel like a chore after a week or two when the excitement of something new and shiny wears off. Getting past that is key to gaining the benefits of running to your mental and physical health.

Everyone always says it takes 21 days to form a habit, but for some it could take six months. The first thing to remember when you are building a new habit or trying to change an old one (which usually go hand-in-hand) is that you are not failing if it takes you longer or if you hit bumps along the way.

Habits are built in the neural pathways of your brain. These pathways transform running from a chore to an enjoyable routine, of course there are hard days, there is in everything. As your brain paves the road for you to run down, going for your run becomes automatic.

Things that will help you clear the area for your road and then begin laying the pavement are:

  1. Know why you are going out there. Set an intention for each run. Ask yourself what do you want to get from your run today? Burn off the lunch doughnut, time to think about something, time to destress, time to be alone, get that runners high, reach the next level of speed training, climb the hill that’s been giving you hell.
  2. Focus on small, achievable goals. These keep you motivated and help you feel successful along the way to larger goals. Track your progress even if it is small including, speed, distance, even number of times a week.
  3. Create a routine for your running. This can be as simple as keeping your running shoes just for running. This will set your brain up to go into running mode when you tie up your laces or begin your routine.
  4. Get your running gear ready the day before. Whether you run in the morning or in the evening have your gear where you can see it. If you tend to forget stuff and workout mid-day, keep extra in your car.
  5. Schedule your run on your calendar. If you have time set aside for your run, you’re much more likely to go. When it’s time, just go. Don’t give yourself time to make excuses.
  6. Give it ten minutes. Get out there for ten minutes, if you still want to turn around after that, then do. In my experience, going from zero to moving is the hardest part, once you’re going and warmed up, you’ll want to keep moving.
  7. Create a healthy reward loop. We like rewards. They make us happy and more likely to do something again. What is the best part of your day? Make that a reward after you go for your run. Love to watch a particular TV series, make it after your run. Love your morning coffee, after your run. Love a long hot shower, after your run.
  8. Focus on the good feelings. When you’re out there and when you finish your run. Focus on those positive feelings. Store them in your memory, make them strong. When you’re having a hard time getting out the door remember them—replay them in your head.
  9. Join an established running group or commit to a friend.
  10. Running is hard, but it gets easier. Positive reinforcement goes a long way. Fake it until you make it, does too.

That Can’t be Good for You

jogger - vascular system

Have you heard this one from your family and friends? I have, but the research doesn’t support their concerns.

Many of my friends/family worry that ultrarunning is bad for my heart because it has to work for extended periods of time, like 36 hours, at an elevated rate. The research shows that there is short term stress (duh) but there are no long term negative effects on the heart. Overall, ultrarunner’s hearts are normal and often more healthy than the general population.

The most chronic ailments ultrarunners suffer from are allergies and exercise-induced asthma. On average, ultrarunners miss 2.2 days of work a year for illness. It’s 3.7 for the national average.  All those people concerned about your knees, tell them to rest easy the research doesn’t support that or damage to other joints or cartilage.  Yes, runners get injured. They pull muscles and tendons and sometimes they get a stress fracture. What athlete doesn’t get hurt at some point, even recreational athletes (aka not extreme)?

So ultrarunning is not bad for you. Perfect, that’s exactly what all ultrarunners wanted to hear, so we can look at our friends and family and roll our eyes. Then we walk into another room to sit down with our crew for the next 100 mile race. “Alright guys, you know how this goes. There is no quitting. I don’t care if I’m puking, peeing blood, have diarrhea, twisted an ankle, bloody from falling down. It doesn’t matter. I go until I cross the finish line.”

Sounds like optimal health status to me.

I’ve heard ultrarunners say they want to be healthy and they may have started running to be more healthy. Many of them eat well and take care of their bodies, but I believe it’s more of a taking care of the body to run 100 miles and not running 100 miles to take care of the body.

If it can get so tough out there, why do we do it over and over again? Because crossing the finish line of a 50 or 100 mile run is remarkable. The more difficult the race the more we love it. We earn ever belt buckle we have. We run into hell with a smile knowing it’s going to get hot, we’re going to get burned, and we’re going to want to die.

We do it because we refuse to believe we won’t come out on the other side. We stare down our demons, pull on the boxing gloves and go round after round after round. We’re fighters. When we get knocked down we get back up and keep going toward our goal.

The true benefits of running Ultras: mental fortitude and the belief that you can.

Never Surrender, Never Retreat.

What are your intentions?

intention

It occurred to me today while I was running that I’m selling out on the HURT 100 finish. What! Yeah, I know, right? But here’s what I’ve been thinking this whole time.

HURT is really hard, it’s the most difficult race I’ve ever run and it’s hard for really great amazing runners who are genetically blessed. Plus there are two significant things working against me:  first, the total climate change, and second my inability to shape my training to match the environment I’ll be running in.

Because of this line of thought, my goal has been to just finish the HURT. Just cross that finish line in one piece before the 36 hour cut off.  My goal was to finish under 36 hours…finish at 36 hours…squeak across the finish line minutes before 36 hours.

And that’s when it hit me. I said goodbye to just squeaking across the finish line a year and a half ago when I finished Bryce Canyon 100 eight minutes before the cut off. From that day forward I set out to become faster and stronger. Every work out and run I’ve done since then has been with the intention of becoming faster and stronger. The only “goal” I’ve had has been to become better than I was the day before.

That got me thinking about the difference between goals and intentions. A goal is something out in the future. It’s an object or place we want to reach and sure goals are great, but they are a moment in time. I think this is the underlying problem in lack of motivation. We get board of achieving particular goals. We get bored checking the boxes.

Intentions are unstoppable.

Goals are future oriented. They are a single moment in time—setup, achieved and passed on by. Intentions are right now, they are in the moment. Intentions are guided by your values and beliefs about yourself— who you are and want to become. They are continuance and evolving.

Sometimes with goals we don’t really care how we get there, so long as we get there. Sometimes we take short cuts or cheat a little (only a little). You can’t do that with intentions. You’re either in line with them or you’re not. Every day is not going to be easy and there are days that are going to be downright hard without much movement toward the GOAL, but if you’re true to your intention you’re always making progress.

So from now until HURT I’ll be getting stronger and faster, I will do my best in Hawaii, and my best will be better than what I’ve done in the past.

From Turkey Trot to Santa Run

turkey-trot

Maintaining your running schedule/training can be a challenge during holiday seasons. There are so many reasons and excuses to not get out there: family is in town, too much holiday preparation to get done (shopping, cooking, wrapping, decorating, house cleaning, it never ends), it’s cold (at least where I am), and travel time.

Holidays are very stressful for many people, sometimes they are tied to hurtful memories, sometimes it’s just getting everything done and looking perfect for those you love; sometimes it’s both. The holidays present us with an opportunity to get creative and to bring balance to our lives.

The most important thing to remember about training through this time, or just getting out there at all, is that you don’t want it to be another point of stress. Look at your daily schedule and decide where your run will fit the best and be less likely to cause disruptions or to be disrupted by other commitments you have.

Run what you can, meaning, if you only have thirty minutes don’t bag the run because well it’s “only thirty minutes.” Just get out there, thirty minutes is better than zero minutes and you’re a lot less likely to criticize yourself if you get out there for a short time rather than just not going.

If you do miss a run, let it go. Don’t beat yourself up over it and don’t try to cram it in somewhere else. You’ll have another opportunity to run the next day.

Explain to your family how important it is for you to be able to get your run in and see what they are willing to do to help you. You may be surprised by their giving spirits during this time of year.

I don’t know about all of you, but when I miss multiple days of running, things start to get ugly around my house. I get grumpy and frustrated with things that are normally not a problem. Obviously, grumpy and frustrated not within the scope of “Holiday Spirit.”

If you can stop your running from becoming a stressor, it will be an excellent source of destressing. Running can be your time to just decompress; to get away from all the hectic planning and preparing; to escape from overly involved family; and to compensate for the extra five pieces of pie we plan on eating.

 

santa-run

 

Apps to Keep you Moving

runner-apps

Sometimes running can get boring, at least that’s what I hear, or you lose your motivation. Phone apps are a great way to take care of both situations. Here are a few apps you should check out:

Lesser known motivational/tracking apps

  1. Runner’s world go provides tracking tools, expert knowledge, and motivation. For iphone, it’s free, and has in app purchases.
  2. Runkeeper has training plans created by expert coaches, social networking, motivation awards, audio cues for pace, distance, and time. Iphone and android. Free.
  3. Endomondo tracks a lot of different activities (table tennis included). It gives in run audio pep talks from your friends who also use the app. Free for apple and android.
  4. Couch to 5k great for new runners, provides three 30 minute workouts per week, tracks your time and distance, has a virtual coach to give you verbal cues. $2.99 for apple and android.
  5. Ismoothrun tracks distance and time, but also steps, weather, and the name of the street you started on. You can also migrate workout data between training logs. $4.99 for apple only.
  6. Pacejam is an app that helps with pacing. You set the pace you want to maintain and it adjusts the music speed depending on if you are running too slow or too fast. Free on apple and android.
  7. PaceDJ scans the music on your phone, breaks down all the songs by beats per minute and creates a playlist to match your preferred pace. If you don’t know your pace, the app can measure it as you go and help you choose one. Free on apple and android.

 

Other well-known tracking apps: garmin mobile connect, strava, nike+, and mapmyrun

Fun apps

  1. Runtastic is a story running app. You can download different stories for $1 a piece. Each one is 30-45 minutes long. There are some free stories. It’s free to download, it’s for apple, android, and windows phone.
  2. Charity miles tracks your distance and donates 25 cents per mile to a preselected charity.
  3. Zombies, Run! Gives you missions to run in a zombie apocalypse situation. Your running is vital to your survival. Yyou collect gear and supplies, and you build a base. $4.99 for both apple and android.
  4. For those days or times where you are resting or injured there is Temple run and Subway Surfer.

 

Other interesting apps related to running:

  1. Myfitnesspal tracks calories, breaks down your diet into fat, protein, carbohydrates, sugar and more when you log the food you’ve eaten. You can set weight loss goals or maintenance goals. Free for iphone and android.
  2. Outsider tracks your runs and gives you detailed weather reports. It has a run weather index which tells you how your run will be based on the weather. Free and only on apple.
  3. Localeikki recommends local running routes and gives you details about the surface, traffic volume, and restroom facilities. Free and only on apple.

Use any method to keep yourself running, we all hit ruff spots.