Running the Numbers

Running the Numbers

Runners are obsessed with numbers. We count miles, meters, minutes, steps, hills, workouts, and runs. We measure personal records, wind speed, temperature, heart rate, and weight. The sport is inundated with numbers.

Numbers have great value in running. Whether it’s time, distance, or place, numbers are the sole means of measuring our improvement in the sport. Numbers provide a training plan and can even keep us in check when we’re trying to do too much. But many of us become so shackled to the numbers that we never really just run. Dangerous habits develop when we run for the numbers rather than for the run.

In my experience, I’ve shed waterfalls of tears over the time on my watch. It sounds ridiculous saying it, but when you’ve placed your worth in the number on your wrist, you’ve got a lot riding on every run. I’ve deemed myself a failure for setting out to run 8 miles but calling it at 6, even though my body was down right exhausted. I’ve said things to myself I’d never dare say to someone I love just because the number on the scale increased by a pound from the day before.

I know one bad run doesn’t define success and I am aware that even a five-pound fluctuation on the scale is totally normally but when you’re bound to the numbers all logical thought flies out the window. When we chain ourselves to some shallow definition of success we never grant ourselves the chance to excel.

When the numbers start to suffocate you, take off your watch, close out your Strava, step away from the scale and take a breath. If you’re putting one foot in front of the other you are doing enough. There is plenty of time to run the numbers, it is foolish to do so every day.

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Lady Gaga and Her ‘Normal’ Body

I wish we weren’t thanking Lady Gaga for being brave enough to bear her ‘normal’ stomach on national television. I wish we weren’t calling her stomach normal. I wish we weren’t talking about her body at all. But we are, so here are my thoughts:

Saying that Lady Gaga’s body is ‘normal’ does not give her enough credit. 

Lady Gaga took the stage and belted out song after song while performing aerial stunts, dancing, and running around the stage in heels (HOW!?). That is not the feat of a ‘normal’ body. That is a feat of a fit, strong, and healthy body. Lady Gaga was brave to show off her stomach, that society apparently deems as less than perfect, but it shouldn’t take bravery. Women’s body’s should not be so scrunitized that even someone as fit and strong as Gaga runs the risk of being shamed for showing some skin. We shouldn’t be talking about how Lady Gaga’s or any woman’s body looks, we should be focusing on what woman’s bodies can do.  

So here’s a little reminder to stop analyzing your stomach and your thighs, stop scrolling through Instagram’s of fitness models and celeberties. Instead, get up and move your body. Test your body to see what it can do and then say thank you. Thank your body for hanging in there despite the cruel things you often say to it. Thank your body for being powerful and strong, and for giving you the ability to move. As long as you’re doing the best you can to nourish your body and keep it moving, then chances are you’re pretty damn healthy and that is enough. 

Give Lady Gaga some more credit and give yourself some more credit. We are all more than just bodies and we are all enough.

A Female Athlete Triad Podcast

I watch the news while I’m getting ready in the morning but this morning, after about 10 minutes, I decided if I heard “Trump”, “Conway”, “travel ban” or “ethics” one more time I was gonna LOSE IT! So, I headed to YouTube, typed in “education Ted Talks”, clicked on one that sounded interesting and proceeded to lose it anyway. This gave me the idea to try listening to podcasts while I’m running. Not exactly a novel idea, but a first for me.

So today as I ran I listened to a podcast on the Female Athlete Triad that I found to be informational, easy to understand. and pretty insightful in many ways. (There was also a lot of chat about the paleo diet, which isn’t my jam, but the overarching messages are applicable to a wide range women.) Here are my thoughts and major takeaways.

You need your period. Is it nice to go 4months without breakouts, cramps, cravings, and tampons? Yes. But unfortunately, that isn’t good for you. Many women believe amenorrhea (not getting your period) is fine, but the longer you go without your period the greater damage you are doing to your body. Some consequences of amenorrhea are infertility, hormonal imbalance, and bone loss. Bone loss is a biggie, especially in your peak years of bone growth, and leads to osteoporosis. If you’re not getting your period, seek help to get it back. If you’re still not convinced it’s an actual problem, listen to the podcast for a brief science behind your period.

You need to sleep and eat. If you plan to eat, workout, and sleep, but you only have time for two of three you should prioritize eating and sleeping most of the time. This does not make you lazy, it makes you smart. In order to be at your physical and mental best you must be nourished and well-rested. Exercise is important, but if you’re not eating or sleeping exercise may be doing more harm than good. Train smarter not harder. 

Be willing to face your issues with food and exercise. If all you ever think about is food, exercise, and your body you’re probably not at your healthiest physically or mentally. Accept that those things may be an issue for you and work to challenge them head on.

If you have a problem, talk about it. Don’t have your period? Tell someone. Struggling with overexercising, undereating, or body image? Tell someone. Having people to support you lifts a huge weight off your shoulders. And chances are someone close to you is struggling with the same thing. Working out with a community is awesome, but it can also be problematic if you struggle to take time off and take care of yourself. If people in your fitness community catch you miss a day it’s commonplace for them to nag. This can be counterproductive for someone dealing with disordered eating or exercise patterns. But if people know what you are going through they will support you and encourage those days off rather than getting on your case for missing a workout.

Your people love you for you. They don’t love you because of your defined abs or your 5k time. They love you because you’re a good person with talents, ideas, and interests. Their love isn’t dependent on your current level of fitness. If your worried about what those around will think if you begin to exercise less, eat more, or simply use your time in other ways, go back to my last point and talk to them. Your friends and loved ones want you to be happy and healthy. They don’t care how thin you are or how fast you run, they will support you. You are enough. 

Why I March

On Saturday, I stood among half a million people of all ages, races, genders, and sexual orientations in hope of conveying a message that I believe in. It was overwhelming, exhausting, exhilarating, and inspiring. It is difficult to put into words the spectrum of emotions that I took home with me that evening. Unsurprisingly, it did not take long for backlash from a slew of sources to attempt to muffle the noise the marches created.

I’ve read some articles, blogs, and comments on the march from both sides of the isle. The mixture of reactions to Saturday left me hopeful yet confused, inspired yet frustrated. I try to empathize with the views and opinions of others while I understand I  process everything through a lens of my own bias. Sometimes understanding is easier than others but no matter what, I try. 

To the women who do not support the Women’s March and its many messages, I respect your opinion and I am open to listening to your point of view. I will try to see things through your eyes and disagree civilly when we collide. I will not dismiss your opinions as stupid, uneducated, or hateful.  In return, I ask you to please offer me the same chance. Do not dismiss my opinion as whiny or ungrateful.

Productivity occurs when we engage in meaningful, understanding conversations with one another. Will we all agree on everything? No. Will we maybe agree on somethings? Probably. I will continue to read rebuttals to the march and try to see things from a new perspective, in the meantime I would like to share a few of the reasons I felt compelled to march and I hope that if you disagree you will at least give it some meaningful thought.

I march because although women in American may be equal to men on paper, we are not always in practice.

I march because I understand my position of privilege as a well-educated, white women in this country and feel an obligation to try to use it for the benefit of others.

I march because if teaching was a male-dominated profession do you really think so many of us would struggle to make ends meet?

I march because although women in other parts of the world have it A LOT worse does not mean I should settle. What kind of example does that set?

I march because although I currently have control over my own uterus, I fear that that may change.

I march because I teach in a classroom full of immigrants where SEVEN different languages are spoken and not a damn kid is bothered by another’s gender, accent, skintone or dress. I can’t see that as anything other than incredible.

I march because on a 95 degree day, I second guess if it is really hot enough to justify running in a sports bra, worrying my adaptation to the weather will be misinterpreted as an invitation for crude sexual advancements.

I march because my grandmother and my mother worked hard so that I could grow up in a more equal society than they did and although they’ve done a damn good job, we still have work to do. I march because I want my 2-year-old niece to have fewer inequalities to fight when she’s my age.

These are some of my reasons. I am sure, regardless of opinion on the march many women agree and many women disagree with my reasoning. And that’s okay. Healthy disagreement moves us forward, but only if we work at it. Only if we listen. Only if we admit when we are wrong.

We’re all trying to figure out this life thing for the first time. Listen to one another because there is always, ALWAYS more to learn. 

Inauguration Thoughts

Two years ago I was clueless about politics. Like, CLUELESS. I will fully admit, I still don’t know much, but I’m learning. I watch the news, I read, I talk to people, I google stuff I don’t understand. I am more informed than ever before and I learn something new every day.

I think this motivation to get with the program has stemmed from a few places. First, the basic fact that I’m growing up has probably been the most significant factor. Leaving the fantasyland that is college (as an undergrad) and entering the real world forces you to open your eyes and become a real person. Next, I moved to Arlington, VA. Living (literally) two miles up the road from the Pentagon and mere miles from the Whitehouse forces you to engage in politics to an extent. You can’t have a conversation with many people in the DMV without at least some political undertones. This has its ups and downs, but if you accept it and use it as a tool, you can learn a lot. Finally, more recently, as is the case with MANY, November’s election. It was simply impossible to avoid politics this past year.

So here we are, the night before the 2017 inauguration, and I have some thoughts running through my head. Despite what my small-town, white, working-class upbringing may indicate, I (very proudly) cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, she is not the leader being inaugurated tomorrow. It hit me as I sat in a copious amount of traffic on my way home from class tonight, what an incredible opportunity living in the DC area COULD be this weekend. I wish the person being inaugurated was someone I felt pride for and would be honored to see, but that just isn’t the case, so instead I, like many others, am looking for a silver lining. It’s a bit foggy, but here’s what I can see.

First, next weekend, the DC streets and bike paths that have become my home over  2.5 years of long runs will still be waiting. I will continue to pound the pavement and work to make myself better, regardless of who is holding the power in this country.

I will cherish my own position of power as an educator and continue to teach my students positive values like respect, inclusion, kindness, and tolerance. It is more important now than ever before in my lifetime.

I will #justshowup at the Lincoln Memorial at 5:25 on Wednesday mornings to work my ass off and spread positive vibes with the incredible November Project community, all while continuing to be awed by this nation’s capitol. What a privilege it is to run this city.

I will continue to put forth my best effort in my master’s education and write the best thesis I can, in order to make an impact on the intersection of athletics and mental health one day.

And finally, I will lead by example. I will treat people with respect despite opposing opinions. I will listen to views that contradict my own and do my best to keep an open mind. I will engage in productive and meaningful discussions because I believe that is the only way to fuel change. I will spread compassion and positivity when I can and ask for help and support when I need it. I will work on myself each and every day and encourage others to do the same.

This is not the end of anything even though I know it may feel that way. If you want things to get better, be better.

Spread love.

 

 

 

 

Oh…and Thanks, Obama.

Moments

Moments. This life, our day to day existence, boils down to a collection of moments. Our moments define us. Small moments, monumental moments, long or short moments, wasted moments, forgettable moments, fleeting moments. All of our moments, pieces of a puzzle, assembled to become the image of our life. No one moment more important than its successor or predecessor, for without every piece, our puzzle shall never be complete. We hope for a greater abundance of moments and dream of longer moments. We wish our moments aways and drive them to speed past. As tragedy floods our lives, moments slow. We shiver as they breeze by with the wind in blissful times. Moment by moment, the pieces of our puzzle find their place. Every unconscious breath we take counts a moment that illustrates our life.

Every unconscious breath we take counts a moment that illustrates our life. Often, what we fail to recognize is that each and every one of us has only one puzzle. We throw pennies in a well, wishing for the pieces to another’s puzzle, not considering how they will never fit into our own. Our fate is destined in the moments we have been blessed with, it is a shame not to cherish each piece. As we wish to alter our moments we tend to forget they are not infinite. Once the last piece of our puzzle has been placed, our collection of moments becomes an image of our life.

We must hold sacred each moment we are given, for others are robbed of their pieces each day; never able to complete their puzzle. We must fill each moment with optimism and love, so that in the end, when all of our pieces fit, our puzzle is a work of subtlety flawed beauty to be admired for eternity.

Take It Easy

Distance running is obsessive. To engage in a sport that often means spending 40 minutes to 2 hours in blazing heat, freezing cold, or howling wind alone,  you’ve gotta be a little obsessed (with a side of crazy). The obsessive nature distance runners have with their sport is both a blessing and a curse.

Obsession with running is a blessing when it’s 9 am on a Saturday, but you’ve already done more physical activity than most Americans will do all week (probably an actual stat). Or when you’ve had a stressful day at work and those miles you force yourself to get out and run clear your head and refresh your mood. But the obsession can quickly turn from productive to problematic.

Despite training through 8 years of competitive cross-country and track, countless 5ks, numerous half-marathons, and four fulls, I still have not mastered the art of listening to my body but some of our most important training days are the ones that we truly take easy. It can be a struggle when training for a big race not to run every run to your fullest potential, but it’s necessary.

The most difficult part of learning when to take it easy is being able to tell the difference between feeling like crap and…feeling like crap. You may head out for a run and feel like crap because you decided to push the pace or the mileage a little bit faster or farther than usual. That is the good type of feeling like crap and that is what makes us better runners. Other days you may head out for an easy run and still…feel like crap. You may have run harder the day before, not slept well the previous night, or caught a cold. Or there may be no logical reason at all that you can think of. Either way, you feel like crap and your body is telling you something. This is when you need to listen.

I am notorious for getting down on myself any and every time a run does not go as well as planned. Today I did not let that happen. Today, I had one of those “feel like crap for no apparent reason (but probably 6-7 little reasons)” kinda of days. Often on these days I get frustrated and rather than take it easy, push my run harder and faster than I would have had I felt good off the bat. This is counter-productive. I will literally take the sign my body is giving me to slow down, cut it short, or rest and give it a big FU by doing exactly the opposite of what I need. (This is probably why I went into the Boston Marathon with a torn hamstring.) BUT, today was different.

By a half a mile in I made the decision to NOT look at my watch. I decided I would run easy and 100% by feel. I also made the decision to run one mile less than I set out to do. Finally, I decided when I got home I would stretch, shower, and eat without analyzing my splits or my distance run.

Today, my body gave me a sign and I listened. A year ago I would not have and a year ago I sustained an injury that took me out for 3 months. As runners, we need to look at the big picture. We need to look ahead to the goal that we are working towards, whether it’s a PR, a new distance, a running streak, or another goal. If you are struggling to get past a less than stellar run, put it in perspective. This afternoon I cut my run short by a mile, will that affect my time at the Boston Marathon in May? Probably not. Will if impact my ability to run Chicago in October? Maybe. Not running that mile probably did more to prevent injury and illness than running that mile would have done to improve fitness.

When you have bad running days (and you will) do not take them to heart. You don’t let every great run make you think you’re unstoppable, so don’t let every underwhelming run make you think you’re incapable. Look at the big picture, remember the goal, and take it all in perspective. Ask yourself: will running this run 10 seconds per mile slower or two miles shorter decrease my chances of reaching my goal? If the answer is no, take off your shoes, put down you watch, and be done. Tomorrow is a new day and there are always more miles to run.