When Bad Runs Happen to Good People

Last week I had a great week running-wise. I was coming off of a great performance (to me) at the Capitola Half. Last week I ran 40.18 miles, which is my highest mileage week ever. The week culminated with a terrific trail run with beautiful views of the Santa Clara valley.

But this week things haven’t been going so great. For the last three days I’ve just felt “off.” I’ve had zero motivation to exercise at all, running or otherwise.This morning I set out for an 8 mile run. After 3 miles I was hot, nauseous, and tired. Rather than push through, I called it a day.

I’m reaching the point in my marathon training plan where I am becoming physically and mentally drained. I still have 7.5 weeks until the marathon and I really think I need the rest of this week to give myself a mental/physical rest.

Since this is my first marathon, I am in new territory here. I’d love to hear from others! Do you ever get ‘drained’ during your training? How do you  cope?

What I’m Listening To: Podcasts du Jour

When recovering from foot surgery, the only exercise I was cleared for was working out on indoor cardio machines such as the elliptical and stationary bike (no treadmill allowed!). Cardio machines can really drive me nuts with boredom. I find when I listen to music I still look at the timer every 10 seconds to see if my scheduled torture time is over yet. So I started switching to podcasts. If I find a good podcast that holds my attention, the minutes on the cardio machine don’t seem quite as tortuous.

Here are the two podcasts that I’ve been obsessively listening to lately. I’m always looking for more suggestions though, so please leave me your favorites in the comments!

1. The Jillian Michaels Podcast
Let me start by saying that I do NOT agree with everything this woman says. She thinks all soy is evil, lifting weights a la CrossFit will make women ‘big,’ and that a 1200 calorie diet is great for weight loss for most women. That being said, there is still a lot of valuable information in her podcasts. She will feature guests such as endocrinologists and food science engingeers to come on the show and talk about different issues. She also features a lot of general motivational/life advice, it’s not just fitness. And what can I say, I find she has a super motivational way of speaking that gets me fired up. I suppose that makes sense she has built a very successful career out of motivating people. One con: there are a lot of plugs for her services on JillianMichaels.com and if she releases a new workout video or book, you can be sure that you will hear about it. Can’t really fault her for that though, I’d probably plug my products like that, too. The podcast is on itunes, website is here.

2. Mojo for Running
Someone at a forum turned me on to this podcast. It’s now defunct so there are no new episodes, but there are quite a few available for download. A lot of the information is geared toward newish runners (e.g., why you should have a long run each week, how to add in speedwork, etc.) but there is plenty for more veteran runners, too. Plus I just like the speaker…she comes across as very likeable and I enjoy listening to her. Podcast is on itunes, website is here.

I’m slowly running out of episodes though, and I’m looking for new podcasts to try out so please leave me some suggestions! They don’t necessarily have to be running/fitness related.

Getting over Fear

Confession: I haven’t worked out for the past three days. Nothing, nada, zip. Not only have I not worked out, but I’ve been eating a lot of junk.

I’m at a point in my life where I am facing some unpleasant decisions which will have a big impact on my future. I’ve been in limbo for the past four months – trying to avoid making these decisions until I had ‘more time’ and ‘more data.’

The specifics of the situation don’t matter. What does matter is that a lot of my mental energy is getting used up right now on “what ifs.” I have a pretty strong Type A personality, and “what ifs” have ruled a great deal of my life. “What if X happens, what if Y happens…” and so forth and so forth

I was doing some introspecting today and realized that what this boils down to is that most of my major life decisions have been influenced by fear. I typically go through all of the unpleasant “what ifs” in my head, and pick the least scary option. The safe option.

Now I’m certainly not advocating an abandonment of reasoning and rationing. I’m a person who likes to think of the pros and cons and look at all of my possible courses of action. That’s perfectly fine. But what isn’t fine is when I settle for the safe option because I’m scared of the unknown.

I’m not saying that all of my major life decisions have been bad ones. Not at all. I’m pleased as punch by a lot of things. But when I look back at the handful of decisions I regret, those decisions were some of the most heavily motivated by fear.

I know, I know, there’s a lot of corny motivational sayings floating around Pinterest. But today I saw this Mark Twain quote:

Right then and there I decided that no matter what, I am not going to let fear guide my decision making anymore. I’m not saying that I’m going to make completely foolish, irrational decisions. But I am going to be more conscious of when I’m being rational and when I’m being fearful.

I guess those Pinterest cheesy quotes are good for something after all?

Do you think about “what ifs” a lot? Do you think there is a difference between fearful and rational when it comes to decision-making?

My Experiences Encouraging a New Runner

As I’ve said in the past, I typically run alone. For the second half of 2011, I was unable to run due to foot surgery. Finally, at the end of January 2012, I would be able to slowly start building up my mileage. As my clearance date for running neared, my husband shocked me one day by saying, “maybe I’ll go for a run with you.”

We’re never been a couple that does that. My road races and triathlons were typically something that I went to alone. Sure, he would ask me how my training was going and showed an interest in that regard, but he certainly wasn’t someone who exercised regularly himself.

Aren't we cute?

Since I was building up my mileage from zero, it seemed to him that this would be a good time to start running with me, as he didn’t really have a fitness base. Fair enough, made sense to me.

Running with a new runner was definitely something foreign to me. I had to learn how to encourage a new runner without turning him off of the sport. Here are some tips I learned along the way thought I would share:

1. Help him/her to keep the pace slow

It’s important not to go out too fast. I know as a new runner I found it incredibly hard to hold myself at a steady pace. What I did with my husband is figure out what pace he could hold a conversation at. I then made sure I was running that pace at all times, kind of like a pace group leader.

2. Let him/her know that it is okay to walk, and that they should take walk breaks early in the run

I think some new runners feel that they should run as far as they can andthenwalk after they are exhausted. It’s a much better strategy to take short walk breaks early in the run, allowing them to go further and for a longer amount of time. The walk/run ratio is going to differ depending on their own fitness base. With my husband he only needed a few short walk breaks but help the new runner figure out what will work best for him/her.

3. Be encouraging, but not patronizing

I was really happy that my husband was adding regular exercise into his life. My first reaction was to be very enthusiastic, constantly saying things like “you’re doing so well!” and “good for you!” during our runs. My husband let me know pretty quickly that he didn’t appreciate too much of this. At first I was hurt, I was only trying to be encouraging. But then I put myself in the new runner’s shoes and realized that I probably sounded like a Kindergarten teacher and I was being patronizing. Fair enough. I scaled it back. A simple “that was a good run!” or “you improved your time by 3 minutes!” at the end of a run typically suffices. There’s definitely a balance to be struck here. You want to encourage the new runner, but don’t patronize them.

What about you? Do you have any tips for encouraging new runners? What do you wish someone had done for you when you were first starting out?

‘Fitspiration’ on Pinterest…friend or foe?

Lately I’ve been a bit of a Pinterest addict. I find it’s a great tool for keeping track of online recipes I see that I’d like to make in the future. I also like to check out the fitness categories. I notice a lot of images like this:

“Thinspiration,” or “thinspo,” has been well-documented as being an important part of online eating disorder communities, such as “ana” (anorexia) and “mia” (bulimia) groups. Typically these groups will have collections of images highlighting thin models, such as this:

But what about this “fitspiration” that is so popular on Pinterest? Is it more of the same thing? Sure, the ideal in the picture is different….typically the images highlight a physically fit woman with very low bodyfat levels. Usually with some sort of motivational quote.

But is this not still making women focus on a near impossible ideal body? You can workout and eat healthy all you want, but the odds of you looking like the women in the images are pretty low. Many of these women are fitness competitors who certainly don’t walk around looking like that all year round. In fact, they are most likely severely dehydrated, just so they can look extra ‘cut’ in their photos.

Rather than focusing on what our individual bodies and being the best that we can be, this is still making us focus on what we “should” look like.

What do you think? Do you find these sort of images motivational? Why or why not? I’d love to hear others chime in on this.

Staying healthy in times of grief/depression

This is a hard post to write.

We recently had to euthanize my cat. He was quite sick for about two weeks, during which we tried different treatments for his liver disease. Ultimately though his condition got so bad that we knew it was time.

I was devastated.

This cat was my life. Well before my husband ever came along, it was just me and my cat. We’ve moved from city to city together, heck, even to a new country. He was my best friend. My baby.

Saying I was ‘grief-stricken’ doesn’t quite capture it. There is a giant hole in my heart and although I know it will get easier with time, it will never really go away.

One thing I did find that helped was to continue to work out. I did this during his sickness as well. Going for a quick run helped me to think and clear my mind. My first reaction as to lay in bed depressed. That’s a natural reaction and if you need to do that for a bit go right ahead. But I knew I couldn’t continue to do this. I asked myself: “is this going to make me feel better?” I knew the answer was “No.” Laying in bed thinking about my baby was only going to make me more depressed.

Sure, it hurts so bad that sometimes I can’t breathe. And I’m not going to say that working out is going to make you feel better instantly. It won’t. But it might help. It’s well-known that physical activity can help reduce symptoms of depression. Furthermore, sticking to a routine (such as an exercise schedule) as much as possible is known to help in times of grief and loss.

Ultimately nobody can tell you how to grieve. It’s something that you need to do in your own way. But just remember to be kind to yourself. For me, being kind includes healthy behaviors such as regular exercise.

 

 

 

Dealing with injury

This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot recently, as I am just now making my running ‘comeback’ after having foot surgery last year. I wanted to share my experiences with you in the hopes that perhaps it will perhaps help someone else.

Backstory

On a lazy Sunday afternoon last August, I was in the kitchen getting some food prep done for the week. I was chopping veggies, putting together salads, and of course, making homemade salad dressings. I was washing the dishes when I accidentally dropped the food processor blade and it landed smack dab on my right foot (it was summer, so I was bare foot at the time). Ouch. Those darn things are SHARP (duh…). At first I was kind of stunned, but then I glanced over and saw the look on my husband’s face and I knew it was bad. I looked down at my foot and there was a LOT of blood (at least it was on the linoleum I guess…).

We went to the ER and they stitched me up. However, the blade had landed right where my big toe meets the rest of my foot and severed my EHL  tendon (this is the tendon that moves your big toe upward). I was completely unable to move my toe. It just kind of….flopped around. It was pretty gross.

Ten days later I underwent my very first surgery. I figured this would be a pretty simple endeavor…just sew up the tendon and away we go. Wrong. They did suture my tendon, but the healing process would actually be pretty touch and go since my surgeon told me I had oddly tight tendons in my foot, probably due to genetics (interestingly, he said this is connected to me having very, VERY, tight hamstrings). They ended up inserting a 6″ steel pin in my toe in order to keep it in place while it was healing. Observe:

And here is an x-ray showing the pin in my foot:

Anyway, nine weeks of crutches and canes and casts and walking boots and physical therapy later, I was finally able to start putting full weight on my foot again. My surgeon gave me clearance to start running at the end of January. I’ve been upping my mileage slowly since then.

Lessons Learned

I mean aside from wearing shoes in the kitchen (while healing, I promptly ordered a pair of ‘kitchen shoes’ and now I always wear them when doing things involving sharp appliances!).

I don’t want this to sound like I’m whining about my injury. I’m not. People have gone through a LOT worse. A LOT. But since this was my first ‘serious’ injury it really taught me some valuable lessons.

Perhaps your injury is less severe. Maybe you have a sprained ankle or tennis elbow or a pulled muscle. Maybe your injury is much more serious, perhaps you have broken bones or a major illness. This isn’t the point. The point is learning to work around your injury and not letting it pull you downward.

There were times in the healing process when I was incredibly frustrated. Lying in bed all day with my foot on a pillow got old FAST. Sometimes it felt like I would never be able to walk again, never mind run. I had a few meltdowns and cried. But you know what? Afterward I picked myself back up, dusted myself off, and kept on doing what I had to do to recover.

If you have a temporary injury it is so important to look past the present into the long-term. Sure, those nine weeks seemed like forever at the time. Looking back, it is such a small blip on the timeline of your life. Don’t get caught up in the now, keep your eyes on the big picture and what you need to do to get there. Maybe you need to rest so you can heal. Maybe you have physical therapy exercises you need to do.

When my surgeon said I could put full weight on my foot but I still would not be able to run for three months, did I go home and sit on my butt? No. Instead of focusing on what I couldn’t do, I had a conversation with him about what I could do. I was cleared for the elliptical and the stationary bike, so that’s what I did. Now, anyone who knows me knows how much I DESPISE cardio machines. BORING. But hey, after being sedentary for so long I knew I had to start working to get my fitness level up so  that’s what I did. When I was finally able to start running again, I was able to make a strong comeback due to getting my cardiovascular endurance up via the elliptical and bike.

The Takeaway

Okay, so this has turned into a long and rambly post. If you’ve actually read this post and have made it to the end, wow, I’m impressed! Here is the takeaway. Don’t let injuries get you down and stop you. Sure, you might need to take a temporary rest to let yourself heal, but you need to stay focused on the big picture. Do what you safely can, let yourself heal, and move forward.