Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Good Balance: Solo vs. Buddy Workouts

I few months ago, when I was still laid up and hadn't been cleared to run, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted my fitness journey to look once I came back. I knew I wanted to focus more on my own fitness goals and also have the freedom to do whatever workout or run struck my fancy whenever the whim hit. I wanted the freedom to make my own schedule again.

But, I'm a coward and was scared to give voice to this because a major part of having more independence in fitness meant letting Elizabeth down. She has been such an amazing support through this entire process, and she's my bff. I felt terrible telling her that I wanted to be able to focus on what I want and what my body wants. I felt bad telling her that I didn't want to run every run with her.

Of course, Elizabeth is amazing and knows me way too well. Back in January, before my first run back, she texted me this:
Apparently I am incredibly transparent and she reads me like a book.
And I legit almost started crying because why is she so good to me?!

Later that month, we went to the gym and I told her that I had done a lot of thinking and wanted to be able to work out together two or three times a week, but that I also needed to have days when I could workout alone. She was really receptive to this (of course!) and we kind of discussed what that might look like. That's why my runs lately have been a nice mixture of alone/with Matt/with Elizabeth. It's been perfect.

Solo runs give me a chance to focus on my body and how things are going, get some alone-time, listen to music, and do whatever I want. They are incredibly important to me, and I appreciate them more than ever now.

Running with Matt offers a lot of the same, because we rarely talk during runs or even run side-by-side, but it also gives me a nice support system when I'm feeling uncertain or self-conscious. Plus, we're both so busy lately that running together gives us some good couple-time.
Matt's photography skills (and his willingness to be my own personal paparazzi) are an added bonus to running with him.
Running with Elizabeth gives us both some much-needed socialization during the week as well as motivation and accountability. I don't ever want to give that up completely; I just needed to cut back.

I started coaching track and field in February, but once my schedule clears up a bit, this is what workouts will probably look like:
I hope to be back to running 3-4 times a week by mid-April.
I know this schedule will remain flexible - none of these plans are set in stone - and I told Elizabeth I'd help her get out the door to run on her own on days I don't go with her to help her stay motivated.

This whole thing had been a big source of stress for me because I overthink everything and didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but now that I know I'll have plenty of alone time mixed in with buddy-time, I feel so much better. Already I've seen that my workouts have really benefited from having the freedom to do my own thing, and now I feel much more comfortable telling Elizabeth or Matt that I want to run alone.

I am looking forward to every workout these days; everything feels new and exciting again. I hope this excitement lasts, and when it inevitable begins to fade, I hope the memory of a year of nothing and how awful that felt helps give me a kick in the pants!


Monday, March 12, 2018

Answering "Why?"

Then (why I started)

I think most women will relate to this. The feeling of inadequacy when you see your body and see what it can do versus what you wish it could do. The feeling of knowing, logically, that you are enough, you are more than your body, and your body is perfectly good, and yet constantly battling yourself to somehow be different.

The feeling of straddling two different realities, one in which you're confident and comfortable in who you are, and the other in which your flaws seem insurmountable.

The moment I decided to pick up running, I was fighting this battle in my head. I was 22 and in graduate school, earning my Masters of Education. I had never felt more confident or more lost. Every day was shrouded in contradictions.

Being "old" on a college campus is daunting. You are surrounded by 18-year-olds who are so much more fit, fashionable, and fiery than you were at 18. How do they keep their hair so shiny? How do they make jeans and a t-shirt look so chic? I was there, a student myself, and so I belonged...and yet, there was a huge divide that made me self-conscious and defensive.
A picture of my cohort and our professors at the end of our program.
Look, ten years on, I know how ridiculous all this sounds. But bear with me.

On campus, I saw young women running effortlessly along shadow-dappled sidewalks and I thought: If I could run outside, I would be more like them.

And so I started. It was not easy. It was partially for the wrong reasons I've already explained and partially for the right ones: health, stress-relief, a need to challenge myself. In the end, those reasons were mine, and that's what matters. They are what drove me to take on something I thought I could never do...and if I did it, that I could never do well, or enjoy doing.

And yet, there I was. Learning to run.
Snapshots of 2009
The Transformation (why I kept going)

When did running go from something that I was trying to use to become someone else to something I needed in my life in order to be myself?

How did that transformation happen?

I think it was a race.

When I first started running, I didn't know road races existed. I just thought people ran for exercise and races were reserved for organized school sports and the Olympics. So when a colleague of mine who had run in high school and knew more on the subject than I did recommended we sign up for a local running club (those existed?!) and a 5k (a real one?!) I was intrigued and immediately interested.

(Okay, wait. My first race was actually a 5k put on by a local church to raise money for relief after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. But that "race" wasn't really open to the public and was untimed and low-stress. I ran it without training; I ran it like I'd run any other run. It doesn't seem to count these days. Plus, I wore cut-off sweat shorts and the race t-shirt. Sometimes I even forget I ever ran it. So, I'm not counting it as my first but here are some blurry 2010-camera-phone pictures to prove it happened.)
So. The first time I realized you could sign up for a true, timed, real race, I was nervous but excited. It was a Komen Race for the Cure 5k. We ran it together. Crossing the finish line was like nothing I had ever imagined. The race gave my running meaning. It gave me a goal.

I was immediately addicted. I searched for local 5ks and ran every one I could.
Finishing my first solo race (5k) - 2012.
The purpose of rehashing this is to get to the point of this post. My why changed from body-focused to self-focused. My whole mindset changed when I started racing. Running stopped being about forcing my body into a certain shape and became about challenging my limits and chasing a mental high that left me feeling accomplished and powerful.

It was the first time in my life I could remember ever feeling that way.

Now (why I run)

I don't need races to keep myself motivated these days, or to feel accomplished. In the ten years since I started running, I've found the drive within myself and races are just icing. That means my why has changed again.

Now, why do you run? feels like a question with an impossible answer. How do I explain the effects running has had on me, the changes it has wrought, the confidence it has built?

How do I explain that it has become a part of my identity? That without it, my perception of the world and my understanding of strength, resilience, determination, and self-realization would be completely different?

How do you put into words the simple but all-encompassing joy that comes with doing what you love? Doing what makes you whole?
I don't know if all runners feel this way, but I have to imagine they wouldn't keep at it if their joy weren't similar to my own.

I may not have even truly ever known why I continued if it hadn't been for this year off. Maybe it would have just seemed like something I do - I just do. But now I have seen how much it has impacted me and changed me, and I know what I am without it.

And I know I am better for it.

So...Why do I run?

Because I am simply not myself when I don't.