On Blogging and Motivation

Some may say you only need a beating heart and a pair of sneakers to start running. To me, it’s bigger than that. You also need motivation, which is not always easy to find. 

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I’ve really been enjoying my summertime hiatus, both from regular blogging and from regular training. I’ve been going with the flow: one week I will work out five times, the next week not at all. I am eating healthy again now that I’m not “rungry” all the time. I’ve been binge-watching The Good Wife and trying not to wish the summer away even though I’m excited for fall, my favourite season.

Despite not being much of a runner or blogger lately, I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about this space since I published my marathon race recap. I usually don’t share my blog among my family and friends (anxiety will do that to you!) but I chose to share that post with my run club and everyone was very supportive. A couple of friends have been training for their own first marathons and I am happy to hear about their progress and share in the excitement that you can only get from tackling such a big, scary goal.

Recently I was asked to speak at my local Running Room to a Learn to Run clinic. The group started from scratch and will be running their first 5K race in September. I did the same program back in 2011, before I had this blog. 

My talk was about my journey from being sedentary and overweight to running a marathon within three years. I mostly focused on motivational tips — which was a little funny considering just a few weeks ago I was in a slump, feeling at a loss as to how to get back into running and find that spark again.

Thankfully, several of my Facebook friends helped me out when I posted a status looking for advice. That’s item number one: Find a support network that believes in what you’re doing and helps motivate you in a positive way.

Here are a few other tips I passed on during my clinic talk:

Avoid all-or-nothing thinking. I used to be TERRIBLE for this. If I couldn’t run a fast 5K — I shouldn’t do one at all. If I hadn’t run X number of half-marathons — I shouldn’t do a marathon. It’s not all or nothing. Just take the training plan one day at a time. If I listened to my all-or-nothing thinking, or even to the naysayers, I’d never get off the couch. 

Believe you can do it. Sounds simple, but … at one point in my life I truly felt it was impossible to run five kilometres, let alone more than 42. But eventually, by taking things one day at a time, it became a little more attainable. Once things got a bit easier I was able to look back on the progress I had made and that helped me realize even more progress was possible for my future. Eventually the “lightbulb” went off in my head that I was absolutely CAPABLE of doing longer distances, even if I couldn’t do them right then I knew I could had something to work towards. Believing it’s possible is half the battle.

Develop your mental toughness. A couple of years ago I realized that if I relaxed while running and thought positively, I could actually reduce the amount of pain I was in while running. The stress was making my chest tight and the run wasn’t enjoyable — I just wanted it over with. I posted about it here. I recommend practising keeping the negative thoughts out so you can do the same during a race. I also like creating mantras that are simple and easy to repeat in my mind when the going gets tough during a hard training run or at the end of a race. 

And a few other motivational tips from my brilliant Facebook friends:

  1. Buy new running clothes
  2. Start with a small distance and still count it as a success
  3. Go Garmin-free
  4. Take a break and do something else to stay fit 
  5. Set a long-term goal
  6. Run with a new running group
  7. Read this article from Runner’s World

 

Happy and Healthy

Two weeks ago the pain in my knee that caused me to stop running for two months after the marathon finally went away.

I took a few days to think about whether I really wanted to run again and that resulted in a couple of long and drawn-out blog posts that are now in my draft folder. For now, I think I’ll save them for another day — maybe if those feelings ever come back again.

For now, I am taking things slow. I’ve been out on three runs since my knee started feeling better. A 20-minute effort, a 5K with negative splits, and 6.6K last night.

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They’ve all felt good. I am enjoying not putting pressure on myself. Sometimes it can be hard to feel motivated and actually lace up my sneakers, and I think that’s because I was afraid of how hard it will be to get back at it. But when I relieve myself of any expectations about speed or distance it feels a lot easier.

Once I’m out there, I’m reminded of why I love running. My heart is pumping, my muscles are being challenged, I am sweating. But I’m not fighting through injury pain, slogging through dangerous winter conditions, or staring at my Garmin worried about pace.

Running is familiar and enjoyable to experience again instead of making me uncomfortable and unhappy.

This summer was front loaded with activity. My husband came home from out west and then started a new job out of town, we moved into a new apartment, and then went on a week-long family getaway. August has been a lot more quiet and I’m loving it.

I look forward to continuing my short runs a few times a week and combining them with strength training. For the past three years I’ve always set very specific and sometimes ambitious goals.

My goal right now? Be happy and healthy. Cheers to that.

My First DNS

In running lingo, a DNS means “Did Not Start.” And this Saturday, I will experience my first one.

In reality I never really registered for the race, so it’s not an official scratch. But I do feel like it is.

The Joe Maguire Road Race in Woodstock, New Brunswick, has been an annual tradition for my family for several years. It’s just a given that we all run it every year.

Woodstock is my parents’ hometown — they are junior high school sweethearts — and they have been running it for about a decade. Since then, several other family members have used it as their first 5K goal race.

I walked it once when I was in university and have participated every summer since I started running. I always run the 5K and try to get a PR thanks to the really fast course.

To me, this race has always represented how far I’ve come in my healthy-living journey. There was a time, before I became a runner, that I felt guilty and resentful every time someone mentioned the race. I could never run 5K, I thought.

You can read a little more about my experiences with the Joe Maguire 5K here and here.

In June, a couple of weeks after the marathon, I wrote out a plan that I though would pretty much guarantee myself a PR at the race on July 27.

The wheels of that plan came off pretty quickly when I realized some lingering knee pain from marathon training was not going away.

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I made the shockingly responsible decision to stop running until I was 100 per cent better. 

Which means I’m not racing on Saturday. Sure, I could complete the 5K, with a bit of pain in the knee and a slow time. But I’m just not interested in that.

At first I was bummed … and then I was surprised how quickly I got over it. I’m planning to drive to Woodstock tomorrow and cheer on my parents. I’ll take in the sights as a spectator and just enjoy the day.

I’m looking forward to it — no pressure, and no guilt when I have a beer or two later tonight. I’ll probably still carb up, though.

Woodstock, I’ll see you next year!

I Was Afraid …

I was afraid … I would completely fall off the healthy-living wagon after the marathon because I no longer had a goal to work toward.

Instead, I took a week off and then got back at it in a gradual way. Now I feel healthier and more fit than I did while training. My clothes even fit better.

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I was afraid … of switching to strength training. I procrastinated for a couple of weeks and then finally sucked it up and went to the gym. It was difficult at first but gets a bit easier every day. I am proud of my progress.

I was afraid … of working out with my husband. I thought I might slow him down. Turns out we are a great team!

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I do two or three workouts with him a week when he is home on his days off. We do things in the weight room that I wouldn’t dare do if he wasn’t there with me, like the bench press.

I was afraid … I would be depressed from not running. I had a few days in June when I was still coming to terms with my injury and was jealous of everyone who was racing.

Thankfully, I got over that pretty quickly, and now I feel like a break of running is the best thing for me.

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In the end, there was no reason to be afraid. Life is good.

Seeing Progress

I’m finally starting to feel happy with my workout routine. I’ve been consistently going to the gym for about a month now — instead of solely running like I was doing before — and I’m starting to see progress.

Even the fact that I’m going five times a week is something to celebrate, and I’m getting there every day without having to push myself too much. I used to dread working out and now I’m excited about it.

I think one of the keys for me is doing something new every day, whether it be a different muscle group with weights or a fitness class. This morning I went to lap swim for the first time in a year and it felt so great.

On the weekend we had a visitor in the form of Tropical Storm Arthur. I was very fortunate to only be without power for a day and a half.

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Just one of the many trees we lost in my city.

During the storm I did an electricity-free workout at my parents’ house with body weight and dumbbells. The next day I went to the gym for a hot shower but decided I needed to earn it first.

I started off with my first treadmill HIIT workout. It was slow thanks to my dodgy knee, but I thought it was a lot of fun to do the intervals and it made the time go by faster.

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Charging my phone at the gym and taking selfies, like the mature adult I am.

I also brought along an old strength routine that my sister recommended to me in university when I was trying (and failing) to be more healthy. It’s designed specifically for my body shape: meso apple.

You’re a Meso Apple If You…
1. Are muscular and can hold your own on any playing field.
2. Have a dancer’s slim but strong legs.
3. Are like the best desserts: soft in the middle.

Find more about the workout here!

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With great workouts like these, maybe I will just quit running forever. 

I’m kidding, I’m kidding.

I still miss running a little bit. Today I have my long-awaited doctor’s appointment and I hope to get some answers about the knee pain that’s been nagging me since the marathon.

Fingers crossed.

Strength Training And A Shorter-Than-Expected Run

After the marathon I felt extremely weak.

I could run far, yes, but the training did a number on my body. I couldn’t stand on one leg without shaking — and after solely focusing on running for months, my upper body strength was a joke. I could hardly open a pickle jar.

My post-marathon knee pain finally forced me away from the roads and into the gym. I’ve been doing weight-lifting workouts for about three weeks now.

My husband has been home during the past three weekends and he’s helped steer me away from my beloved cardio machines and into the big scary weight room. He helps push me out of my comfort zone and provides support when I need it. We love working out together.

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Workouts with him tend to mostly focus on upper body. Arms, chest, back and shoulders with “heavy weight” for 10 reps and 3 sets of each exercise. I always do my physio exercises after, which are core-focused moves like planks, bird-dog and bridges.

During the week I’ve also done rowing, core workouts, spin class and Group Power, which is a weight-lifting/cardio class that I DO NOT recommend taking a year-long break from. Yowie.

I’ve said over and over again on this blog that I am not a natural athlete. And I’ve definitely experienced my share of frustration lately with how weak I feel.

I have certain problem areas that are very hard to train: I can’t do a push-up. Crunches hurt my neck. I struggle with soreness and I can pull things really easily. It’s always an uphill battle.

However, I have been seeing some improvements. Slowly but surely I am increasing some of my weights. I hope that if I can stick with this for three months then I will no longer feel like a weakling. And I know it will be good for my running once I get back out there.

Speaking of running … I decided to test out my knee on a short run today. It’s the beginning of a new week and I wanted to see if maybe my injury was behind me and I could start running again.

I headed out the door around 6:30 a.m. I skipped wearing my Garmin so I could run based on feel. I did two loops near my house and also went up a side street.

The first loop was terrible, but the second loop was a little better. I kept reminding myself that I was a marathoner even though I did feel quite out of shape. My knee felt OK — not perfect, but better than before.

I was hot, sweaty and tired when I got home and sat down to measure my run on Google Maps. I was guessing I had done about 5K.

Nope. 2.2K.

The uphill battle continues.

I’m Not Running Much … And It’s No Longer OK

The following post is a pity party — guest list: one. Enter at your own risk.

You will notice my feet are inside here. Not ideal.

My running sneakers have turned into inside gym sneakers. They’re sad about it.

I ran a few times in the first couple of weeks following the marathon before I realized I had a real problem with my right knee.

I had pain in it leading up to the race but I thought it was just overuse. I ran the marathon on a happy little cloud of adrenaline, so it didn’t really bother me. Whenever I run since then, and sometimes when I don’t, the bump on my knee really hurts.

After about four or five post-marathon runs, I decided I was tired of trying to run through injury. It’s just stupid. I decided to be smart. I stopped running.

After three months away, my husband came home the past two weekends and he’s been helping me learn about weights.

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In turn, I made him do planks with me. He hated it — just like that one time I made him run a half-marathon with me.

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I’ve been strength/cross training for about two weeks now and it’s going well. Mostly I just lift heavy things, yawn at myself in the mirror, and then put them down. I also do physio exercises to strengthen my core. It’s not the most exciting thing in the world.

I did two kilometres on the treadmill last night, one at 5K goal race pace, and then got off. It’s been a month since the marathon and my knee still hurts.

I’ve enjoyed my time off from running, getting stronger, having my workouts be one-hour tops and significantly less sweaty, but this past weekend that seemed to change.

I have a major case of running jealousy.

I feel like I’ve had my decompression time and now I’m itching to get training again. But I can’t. I always seem to be injured. When I’m not injured, I’m slow. I’m so tired of it.

I am a healthy 25-year-old female of a normal weight. I’ve been trying to become an average runner for three years. I’m still not there, and it’s frustrating.

Everyone and their dog seems to be racing every weekend and hitting new and exciting goals. Even my own mother did a secret triathlon on Sunday (yeah, don’t ask…)

I could tell you I’m happy for everyone. But the truth is, when I drive by someone who is running, I want to run them off the sidewalk. My anger feels like the heat of a thousand suns in the pit of my stomach. Hey, I never said I was normal …

My main goal is to get faster and live up to my potential as a runner. Here is my ideal plan: PR 5K at the end of July, PR 10K at the end of September, and PR half-marathon in October. Then eat a grilled cheese and settle in for a long winter’s nap.

My current PRs are:

5K: 27:42

10K: 58:41

21.1K: 2:17.01 (gun time)

I’m not sure my ambitious plan is going to happen — and I need to be OK with that. I will try to do everything I can to get there, but it just might not be in the cards for me. Until then, I’ll keep yawning in the weight room, dreaming of the trails outside.