Category Archives: motivation

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.

Graduation

’tis the season of graduation. Every May and June, thousands of people graduate from high schools, colleges and universities around the United States. So with graduation on the brain, how do you know you’re ready to graduate to the next race distance?

There are multiple opportunities for graduating in our life times. Each time we achieve a new level in any aspect of our lives we could say we have graduated. When most people think of graduating, they think of transitions in the educational setting to the next level.

Our youngsters graduate from kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, with their associates degree, bachelors degree, masters degree, and doctorate degree. As far as running goes we move up from 5k to 10k; 10k to half marathon; half marathon to full marathon; marathon to 50k; 50k to 50 mile; 50 mile to 100k; and 100k to 100 mile.

Basically, you graduate when you successfully complete a course of training. That’s all fine and good, but when it comes to running how do you know you have “successfully” completed a course of training?

Many runners don’t begin with the shortest distance and work their way up. They just jump in where they want too. Some proceed to longer distances and others stay where they are comfortable. Here we are talking about those runners who want to move up in distance, although there is nothing wrong with staying put. It’s a personal lifestyle choice because as you move to the next level, your running impacts more and more of your lifestyle.

We know the training that goes into each level of achievement is more difficult than the last.  It takes over our lives a little more with each step. It can change our sleep needs and nutritional needs. It changes the way our body functions (usually for the good but there are injuries too). Our time commitment to running increases and we develop friendships with new people.

We learn about new skills and absorb new information by reading books, blogs and magazines. Our vocabulary increases as we throw out the latest terminology such as being chicked, attitude training, Athena class, Clydesdale class, bandit, aquajogging, and PR. We learn a lot about our  bodies including various tendons, ligaments and muscles.

We put into practice the skills we have learned from the prior level such as foam rolling, stretching, tempo running, packing drop bags, how to stay awake and run all night, how to manage stomach problems while running, and hydration.

You’re ready to graduate when you develop the enthusiasm, drive and grit to take on the challenges of the next level even though you don’t know everything about them.

 

 

 

 

 

Eager Beaver

Not everyone is an eager beaver. Pulling yourself out of the winter hibernation can be quiet the process. “But it’s running!” the beavers say. I know I totally get it beav. I’m right there with you rearing to go, chomping at the bit, barely containing the animal within.

But for some, it takes time for the snow to melt, the limbs to thaw, and the warm blood to reach the toes. It can be especially challenging if you have dropped your miles very low over the winter months or if you had a disappointing race season before the cold hit your neck of the woods.

When your miles drop to the point that you are having to work up to the fitness level where you were at the close of the race season, overcoming that mental hurdle of knowing how hard it can be to come back is your most formidable enemy, but you’ve slain this foe before. Write yourself a good gradual training program, set some goals along the way, sign up for races with increasing distances, and help your running partners thaw themselves out as well. Remember how great it feels when you’re at peak fitness. And at the end of next season, rethink the idea of maintaining a higher milage base.

A disappointing race season can leave you depressed and questioning why you work so hard only to miss the goal you set for yourself. If you find yourself in this space, you really need to get out into the sunshine, even if it is just to sit on a park bench. Soak in some of the suns rays. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Wiggle your toes in the grass and earth. Brush your fingers gently on the blossoms covering the trees. Breathe the mountain air. There is nothing like getting outside away from the business of the city to reignite the fire that fuels your engine.

Once your brain is in a better place, it’s time to rethink your race season. Failures are only failures if you learn nothing from them and continue to repeat them. There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “Failure is not falling down; it’s not getting up.” Find the places where you think you were less than your best and pull them apart until you know why. That “Why” is your starting place.

Turn your why around and look at it from every angle. Get intimate with it. Pull it apart and turn it inside out. Now, come up with a plan to kill the why. This will likely be trial and error during your training.

Trial and error can be fun. It makes you think outside the box. It makes you dig deep and find something new about yourself. You may make new friends through collaboration as you work through this little issue of yours.

We’re runners, we stare into the face of challenge and smile.

 

 

Weaknesses?

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses as a runner is important if you want to improve and lower the risk of injury. The best way to discover weaknesses is to challenge yourself during your training runs. The best time to deal with a weakness is during training runs. Physical weaknesses are easy to find as you ramp up your miles during training or when you are nearing the finish line of a race.

But knowing your mental strengths and weaknesses is just as important and maybe more so. Often times, runners don’t think about this aspect of an ultra despite the well known axiom, “the first half of a one hundred is run with your legs, the second half is run with your mind.”

There is only one race I can think of where my mental state was in a good strong place throughout the race. Everyone is going to experience ups and downs in their mood and belief in themselves during training and during races. The longer the race the more likely this is to happen.

When I first began running one hundreds, I had to deal with serious self-doubt at mile fifty. I knew that and would tell my crew to get me out of mile fifty as quickly as possible. This has diminished substantially as my experience with races has increased.

Experience has been the most helpful thing to combat these down times during a race. Having worked through hard times before, I know I can do it again. Knowing things always come up after being down, helps lift the bad mood more quickly.

A second helpful strategy is using positive affirmations to counter the negative thoughts (even if you don’t believe them and can barely think them) makes each step easier. Remind yourself you completed the training and you are in the best physical condition to complete the race.

A third helpful strategy is distraction. Talk with other runners. Notice the scenery. Pick something in the environment to find such as flowers, various shades of green, rocks,  different animals or bird song. Listen to music or an audio book. Think of positive things in your life.

Fourth is having an experienced crew and upbeat supportive pacers can be a life saver. They will quickly pick up on your negative mood and can offer support rather than agree with your negativity. Even validating your feelings of “this sucks ass” can be precarious.

 

I’d love to hear what others have found helpful in combating negative mental states during training runs and races. Thanks in advance for your input.

 

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.

Appreciation

appreciation

Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy lives that we forget to stop and really appreciate what we have right in front of us. It really hits us hard when we lose something we under appreciated.

Our health is one of the things most people take for granted. If we look around our immediate environment we’ll see others who are struggling with their health. We all have family members and friends who are dealing with some health condition that limits their ability to do some things.

I’m guilty of this same thing. There are a few circumstances where it always hits me though: race day and long runs, which in many ways are the same thing. Maybe it’s just the endorfins that make me stop, literally, and look around me realizing how lucky I am to be out in the mountains running.

I’m very conscious  of what I put into my  body and try to make good decisions about 90% of the time, but even this level of awareness hasn’t saved me from taking my health for granted.

It’s more than just our health that gives us the ability to run. Our friends and families give us the freedom and space to do our running thing. Our socioeconomic status gives us the ability to take the time off to run or not have to work two jobs. Running also takes a certain amount of financial means, not as much as other sports (cycling or triathlon), but shoes can get expensive even if you are not running in the top brands.

The condition of our country plays a role too. Can you imagine trying to be a runner in a country riddled with war? I thank my guardian angels I am able to run safely in the mountains, the city, and the neighborhoods near my home.

Another one is the availability of food and clean water. Running burns through a lot of calories and without enough food to eat on a daily basis would be difficult as would running without enough clean water.

Appreciate the gifts you have been given and don’t waste them. Work hard when you are out there and show your gratitude do those who support you in your efforts.

Finish Line Blues

blues

Wow! After months of training you’ve finally made it across the finish line of your first race. How do you feel?

Well, umm, what do I do now? Sure I have this finisher’s metal or something but…there’s this whole in my life that my training and my daydreaming about finishing filled. This is totally normal. Training may suck at first, but soon you learn to love it and you look forward to even the most grueling workouts. You enjoy the challenge and the runners high, wow, who would want to live without that.

As you approach the event you have been working towards, start looking beyond it. What are you going to do afterward. Is this the only race you are ever going to do? if not, you should find another one. If it is, then find something else physical to do. Losing those endorphins creates a drop in your mood that can last for days or even weeks.

Future plans don’t have to be running related either. There are other aspects of life set up family time or social events. Take a class in something you have always wanted to learn but haven’t had time to do.

Talk with other runners about it. Having someone validate your feelings and provide some guidance when you are down can help you start to pull yourself out of the dumps. Just knowing it’s normal can be enough to lift you a little.

Evaluate how the season or race went with an objective eye not critical. Bashing yourself for mistakes in training or during a race is not productive. Look at where you struggled and find ways that would help you improve in those aspects.

Running for me has never been about the races. It’s always been about the training. Races are just a new place to run and a staffed route (with amazing volunteers I might add). Even when I don’t have a race coming up, I maintain my running schedule, including some pretty high miles.

I like to run races, but if I can’t for some reason, I try to stay involved in the running community through volunteering at events.

If I’m injured that’s when the blues kick in, because it prevents me from running. How do I combat this, I cross train like a boss! I try to keep my mind off of it as much as I can, but also stay optimistic and realistic.