My biggest fear – slotted somewhere between death, hospitals, and tucking the back of my skirt into my underwear after visiting the ladies’ room – is being overwhelmed. Any situation I can imagine where my knee-jerk instinct is to control everything so that nothing changes or happens can be reduced to my fear of feeling overwhelmed.
When I feel overwhelmed, nothing is rational and anything (tragic, scary, or painful) can happen.
And I am feeling anxious lately. I’m going to say it’s because I have a half-marathon race coming up (in a few weeks). It’s a lot of sleeps away. Still, I’m using it as my focal point and am nervous about my training runs leading up to it.
A friend asked how things were going with my new run coach and how my anxiety levels have been in my races so far this year. My running anxiety is vastly improved, but I still feel it. Each race I am given another opportunity to face deeper levels of my fears.
Will I be fast enough? Will I run as fast as I want to? What if I run too fast? What happens if it starts to hurt? Will I beat my previous time?
I made the biggest shift of my running career recently: I want to Run Happy. I know that the feeling I have after a race is far more significant to me than the time on the clock. I can suffer through the whole run and run faster than some, but still feel dejected and overwhelmed when I’m done. That is not happy.
Earlier this year I watched two friends run a race. It was just after New Year’s day – when most of us are still basking in late nights, rum balls, and over-enjoying baked goods, and no one is ready to really run races. They were very fast and ran really well. I expected them to complain about how much they suffered and how much they hated the level of exertion it took to run as fast as they did. When I caught up to them as they were munching on cookies, I asked how the race went. “It was fun!” said one of them. My overwhelmed-self wanted to punch my good friend in disbelief. FUN? Seriously?!
I didn’t understand. I drove home thinking that she was happy with her time. If I ran as fast as she did, would my race be fun? I thought of the mammoth effort of training it would take me to run as fast as she did. If I was faster than her, would that give me bragging rights? Not once has anyone EVER said to me that they ran faster than I did in a race: it’s simply irrelevant. We are not professionals or elite athletes or Olympians. No one will be following our results in tomorrow’s newspaper.
Lately, I think I’m figuring it out. She ran happy. She may have overcome some pain in the run, she may have pushed herself more than she expected to, she may have run the distance faster than she ever had before – and those would all have been nice perks. But the way she felt about what she was doing was happy.
I’ve been running for a few years: compulsively, determined, stubbornly, and at times to my detriment (over-training, anemic). I like/enjoy it in equal parts to the amount of stress is causes me. I have always thought that if I could get to an end result – be it a certain time, placing, or running faster than whomever I happened to see that day – I would feel immense relief and be a changed person. It hasn’t happened and I’m slowly learning, like it’s rocket science, that it won’t happen. I am running for myself, for fitness and enjoyment and to be outdoors and be part of the community – I am not running for a finish line. I am going out to run happy every time I put on my shoes.
Nothing we do is ever done in a vacuum. Whether you are an author, a runner, or a patient finishing their last treatment of chemotherapy, there is a team of support that helps to make things happen. Sure, one person is the individual who actually completes, leads, and wins – but along the way there are many, many others who assist the process.
People who are at the forefront of these events have the determination, the drive, the natural talent, special abilities, or -in cases- the misfortune of a disease. They differ from the rest of us simply because we are not the one in their position. Everyone has their own personal goals or challenges to master.
We don’t necessarily need to be at the forefront of something, either, to benefit or need the support of others. I will never win a race or be as fast as some of the people I run and train with. But my goals, and pursuit of them, are my own challenges. As I progress towards these goals, I realize how much support means to me and how much I need it.
When I recently wrote about my friend Matt what struck me the most were his comments of how much he fed off and appreciated the support of his team. [Matt ran the Zion 100 mile race and finished third, with an amazing push in the last 15 miles from 9th place]. Given that running for almost an entire day (and night) gives you a lot of time to think, Matt mentioned how much he thought about all the support he had not only on the course, but at home as well. A lot of people knew Matt was running this race and were keenly interested in his journey – people he works with, who saw him run, who trained with him, or read about his mission of running for the greater good. A collective and physical energy followed him through his race.
I run a lot of my runs solo now; I’ve moved away from the group dynamic because of choice and circumstance. What I miss the most is the companionship and, through this, the encouragement. Something as simple as having another body present, doing the same thing, is both motivating and comforting.
I do have other external supports though. There are random strangers – there is the lady I see with her dog most days I go for a run. She smiles and waves; sometimes she says “Good job.” My husband is my biggest support. He asks about each run, makes time for my runs, and encourages me in my process. He is also supportive of another support: my coach.
My coach provides not only my training routine, he also provides support. A good coach finds an athlete’s strengths and works on nurturing those aspects. They find what works for an athlete’s physical potential, but also how they can excel mentally.
There now exist these kinds of mental supports in races as well. Much like having your own cheering section, some races have volunteer sports psychologists who monitor athletes as they run. They provide motivation and encouragement to help alleviate stress and anxiety. They give external feedback to support the best in everyone.
While we each must meet our own challenges and overcome what we fear, it’s nice to know that a complete stranger can believe in our ability. It’s comforting to know there are those along the way to guide us and give us confidence when we may find that lacking. At very least, someone yelling in your general direction is enough to lift your spirits. You may not know them but you can draw from their goodwill. Thank goodness for spectators.
We’ve all been told that dieting doesn’t work. It’s not the diet the sabotages you but the idea that a) you can keep it up and b) you will continuously thrive in this depleted and sacrificial state.
Losing weight is pretty easy: eat less and exercise more. Ta-dah! Now I will wave my fairy godmother wand and it will work.
There are as many reasons why a specific diet won’t work long-term as there are people. Each person has a different body, metabolism, nutritional requirements, and motivation. I’m just a girl running, not a doctor, so I only know what has worked for me.
When I was pregnant I found I was really in tune with my body. I ate what my body needed and felt really good. I continued to exercise throughout my pregnancy and put on a healthy amount of weight. Once my baby was born I was in a shocked and sleep-deprived state. I ate whatever I could that would make me feel better: mostly emotionally better. This only worked short-term. When you’ve been up all night with a colicky baby and you feel nauseous and you have to start your day with this same baby, the last thing you emotionally crave is a bowl of oatmeal and a leafy salad. No: you want coffee, probably really dry toast, and then later you’ll want chocolate. You want stimulus and an endorphin kick to get through both you and the baby crying.
As a runner, running long distances equals a higher calorie burn. I feel hungrier because of the energy output but my body needs food as fuel for energy. I can’t just throw back a few glasses of wine and eat a bags of Cheetos after each run. I may not gain weight, but in the long-term I won’t feel very good.
As a runner I want to run faster and having less bulk to heave along is one way to get there. There are many calculators you can use to figure out your ideal racing weight. I will never lose 10 lbs to knock off minutes from my half-marathon or marathon time. I don’t need to have a LuluLemon body but I could do without the spare-tire feeling. It makes me feel lethargic and it’s the feeling I want to lose, not necessarily the weight.
Overall, I think the basic premise on what to eat is in how it makes you feel. Food, in its basic form, is fuel. We put good fuel in our body and our body can perform better and we are more emotionally balanced. Our emotional reaction to our body image is often distorted by the underlying issue of how we *feel* about ourselves, not our physical appearance.
Give yourself a hug, no matter how you look. Take a break from bad-mouthing yourself or looking at the mirror in spite. Go on an emotional diet and let your hunger dictate what you eat, not your moods.
Where I live April is a month when Spring starts to be more reassured. There is change, there is a welcoming of the outdoors into our lives, and we relax a little more into the sunshine.
There was a lot of emotional growth and change internally for me this month. My running improved both physically and mentally leading me to a very successful 10k race at the end of the month.
I really enjoyed the sunshine — every day it was there I noticed it. My husband also met me a few times for coffee dates (during daylight hours!) and it was such a lovely highlight of my day: to enjoy each others company for a few minutes alone in our day. It was these little things that really brought me so much joy and ease for April.
ANOTHER day off — sunshine — gardening — sleeping — eating.
realizing it was almost time to leave work and thinking it was lunch — an easier hill workout — funny company — being okay where I am — cooperation by example.
the kids’ independence — some time alone — managing to get housework done in record time — yummy split pea soup — good & kind bloggers.
being somewhat organized — adrenaline to fill in the rest — the joy and curse of kids’ texting — email contacts — relief from sore hip/glute/hamstring pain.
a morning without incident — recovery day — choosing food that is better for me — an evening alone — going to bed early.
my husband coming home – waking up and actually feeling rested – making changes for myself – more running shoes – resting.
Yoga — no running — happy kids — another evening alone — an afternoon with my boy: cookie date and a haircut.
some ease in the morning — planning for relief — a day where nothing is scheduled — the warmth that sunshine brings — choosing to create my own dynamics.
coffee date with my Love — running with friends — warm, yellow split pea soup — planning vacations — a hot shower.
the rain will pass — time to do errands and shopping — changes in schedules — the satisfaction of an easy blog post — a day off.
a canceled appointment makes my work schedule easier – a re-scheduled appointment means I still get my treatment — learning to not “try so hard” — feeling clean after a shower — so many leftovers I don’t need to make dinner.
dinner date — a delicious and relaxing dinner — looking at artwork — that the things you do every day can be easy some days — sleeping as soon as I crawl into bed.
no rain for my run — being cozy inside for the hailstorm AFTER my run — having fun on my run — spending time with my kids — a nap.
yoga — the DADDY taxi — a nap — not having to do groceries — baking a cake.
the rain that stopped falling — less coffee, more tea — the LOVE in my life — seeing my kids succeed — being kept in the loop.
a massage — the smell of Spring — family cooperation — trusting certainty — waking up happy.
knowing that tired legs is more normal than I thought — Wednesday! — green lights in traffic — recognizing that seeing change is easier than being change — choices instead of obligations.
being busy at work – a visit with my Love (during daylight hours!) – the rain is holding itself aloft (it’s not pouring) – that I am willing to go out and run today, and tomorrow – that my kid wants to know how to do laundry.
it’s pouring rain and it’s my day off running – excitement for a friend currently running a 100 mile race – I could wear jeans to work – jeans can look clean even when they’re not – that simpler is better.
a sunny morning — an early morning run — a successful birthday party — watching girls have fun at bowling — a nap in the afternoon.
sleeping in — a warm cup of tea — yoga class — inspiration — dairy-free ice cream.
a nap — that black goes with anything — that what isn’t my problem, isn’t my problem — some ease in my day — the toaster over helping me make dinner.
a run in the sun — tea with my favorite date — getting to work on time — making it through the day when I only wanted to stay in bed — perspective is useful.
waking up to someone I love – that my shirt and pants don’t clash – manifesting what we need in our lives – the yellow blossom on the newly planted magnolia tree – more sunshine.
nothing is forever — windows to look out of — not making lunches — smiles from random strangers — being inspired by others’ passion.
a good good good night’s sleep — gluten-free coconut bread — feeling more content — wanting to blog — a bit more trust in the process.
a run with my hubby — confidence — breathing through my fears — Bach’s rescue remedy — that the kids can stay home alone.
sunny weather — the comfort of friends — trust in my ability — a great race! — the support and congratulations of friends.
a day off — more sunshine — early morning coffee — time alone — watching my daughter see her own success.
watching my son wipe up water I’d spilled on the floor — congratulations from people who know nothing about running — that the kids wake up when I wake them — vulnerability — the blogging community.
Helen has walked by the same M&M candy on the floor four times now. It is brown; at first she thought it was a rabbit turd. There are no rabbits in the house but her first reaction was not logical. Lately she has not thought about much in a rational way. A drop of something brown, small, and hard is not what you’d expect to see on your floor.
She hasn’t picked it up. It hasn’t moved. The birthday party from where it dropped was over 5 days ago. No one has swept, vacuumed, or stooped in those 5 days to deal with this. It is not so much of a problem: no one will wipe out stepping on it. The most it will be is a mess. In its sweet, hard-shelled state it is completely innocuous. It is more like a lamp shade than a puddle of water in that way.
Helen doesn’t know what to do with the brown M&M. She doesn’t want anything to change and moving the little drop may release a chaos, like the fluttering of butterfly wings.
Helen and John have been talking about moving for months now. John is mostly talking, Helen has tried to listen. It’s easier when she doesn’t have to be a part of some things.
John wants to move out. His life with Helen is not what he was expecting or hoped for. She remind him that he has to take responsibility for his own actions. She fusses and scolds and now John has taken her advice and is moving out.
Helen met John through a mutual friend. They were both new to the city and wanted more involvement in out community. They wanted to meet their neighbours. They both toured local artists’ shows, showed up for the opening of the community gardens plot, and were part of the neighbourhood’s organizing committee. Neither of them showed up for any of the meetings so they didn’t meet this way. Helen’s friend Allison had a community garden plot. John had never seen rosemary grown so big and asked her about it. Allison liked his interest, so she thought he might be interested in Helen as well. Allison thought both her rosemary and Helen were blossoming.
Their first date was at a coffee shop to see a local band play. John was in his element, but Helen found the music loud. She didn’t notice this at the time; she focused on John and assessed her reactions. Mostly she fiddled with her sweater, pulling the sleeves over her wrists and then pushing them back. She wore her favorite sweater as though it was an oracle that could predict their future. By the end of the evening Helen felt confident in her sweater and decided she liked John’s attention.
Two years later, two surprise birthday parties later, John has changed his mind. He wants to grow and move out of these tight circles. Helen is not sure if he means their relationship or the small apartment they rent but it has been a long time since she had a strong opinion about anything. She decides he means both and leaves it at that.
Helen finds John’s newspaper tucked under the cushion of the coach. He has circled several rental ads for larger apartments. He makes more money than Helen does. She knows he is not looking for them both.
She wonder how she could be so stupid, naive, disconnected. She trusts John, but then forgot to pay attention to herself. She laments that she forgot to say what she wanted.
Helen doesn’t know what she’ll do. This is a big change and not one she will absorb lightly. Looking back, it could be said that this was bound to happen. Or that it was months in the making. But nothing was really finalized and nothing really did change. For now, she’ll leave the M&M where it is.