Goal Setting

Real talk: I’ve only run a handful of races since the NYC Marathon in 2017.

Yes, I know running races isn’t the only thing that makes one a runner, but when I had previously been running at least 2 half marathons a year, along with countless 5K’s and 10K’s sprinkled throughout the year, every year since like 2012, that’s a big drop.

This was due to a number of factors: I lost my job a few months after the marathon and fell into a depression. A new job a few months after that left little mental time for training, but I still did a few shorter distance races here and there. Then I was sidelined by an injury and nerve issues in 2019 that lasted for nearly the whole year. And then we all know what 2020 brought.

2021 brought a lot of changes. I went unofficially gluten- and corn-free. I started limiting my alcohol intake. I went on a new anti-anxiety medication. I dropped about 15 lbs. I started seeing a few new doctors and had bloodwork done, which helped me uncover a few things that needed to change – and gave me some possible insight into some of those nerve issues I’d had previously.

Back in 2019, my mileage dropped and my running decreased because my legs used to twitch and even give out on me while running anything over 3-4 miles. It felt like little electrical shocks shooting through my calves and my feet, and sometimes even in my hands and arms. I had every test imaginable done: MRI’s, EKG’s, and even an EMG nerve test where they stuck a needle in my leg and moved it around to find and test different nerves. Basically the only test that I DIDN’T have done was bloodwork.

Fast-forward to now, when I started seeing these new doctors. After hearing about my history, one recommended I start taking a B12 supplement, and lo and behold: B12 deficiency can cause exactly the types of nerve issues I was having back in 2019. Obviously, I can’t go back in time and get bloodwork done to see if the two things were connected, and I haven’t run more than 4 miles or so anytime recently to see if the twitching will return, but I’m taking my daily vitamin and feeling cautiously hopeful about running longer distances very soon.

All that cautious optimism has me thinking about the future – which also involves looking back at my past. When I was running a half marathon every spring and every fall, I was almost always training for some race or another. It was a lot of work, but I had found a good balance between running and life, and felt stronger and more confident in general when I was running regularly.

also: I miss those thighs

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe I’m blinded by the Effexor. Maybe I’ll try running and fail at mile 5 again.

But maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll get to mile 6, and then mile 7, and mile 8. And before I know it, I’ll be at mile 13. And maybe I’ll get that confidence back.

Either way, I’m finally excited for whatever happens.

Recovering from a Mental Health Injury

Hey there! It’s been a few months. Where to begin?

When we last left off, things were going relatively well. I started seeing a therapist in October and was making good progress in my mental health. Together we cultivated a toolbox full of anxiety management techniques and dug into the ideas of acceptance and mindfulness. As a result, my running improved greatly. By December, cutting out gluten and corn in September had helped me drop almost 20 pounds, and I had more motivation to keep it up.

After the dumpster fire that was 2020, I was ready to enter the New Year with high hopes. Or rather, I planned to tiptoe into the year quietly, so as not to spook it and send it running, on fire, into the barn, thus starting a blaze that would level the entire city.

The fact that I haven’t blogged for 5 months tells you all you need to know about how that worked out.

Two days before New Year’s Eve, we were faced with a family emergency that threw our little team of two into chaos. Then just as things started to calm down on that front, my mother came down with COVID. With a lot of stressful nights and careful watching, she is now back to 100% healthy. We’ve continued to work through a handful of other unrelated issues since then, but after the 1-2-3 punch that was January-February-March, I made a change and wanted to share here.

No, not wearing a fanny pack 24/7 (although I really dig this one)

I started medication again.

I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression since age 12, and went on Zoloft back in 2003 to manage severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. While the medication made me gain much of the weight that took me years to lose, it worked. I am a big proponent of medication for mental health, but for some reason, kept telling myself that I didn’t need it this time. I had found running and acupuncture, and I was in therapy. Shouldn’t that be enough? It sort of was, until I found myself in crisis around the end of February.

The best way I can describe my tipping point is that it felt like I was working two full-time jobs. In addition to working 9-5 for money, every free hour was spent working on my mental health. Every thought was focused on my own thoughts. My mind was in constant motion from one anxious thought to the next, with no safe place to land. I moved in and out of depressive states that put me in some dark places. VERY dark.

But if living with anxiety and depression at that level was like treading water endlessly, starting Effexor was like grabbing onto a life raft and finally feeling the relief of not having to try so goddamn hard for the first time in months – years, really.

The pic I sent my husband after I picked up my new prescription for mental health (covered in cat hair that I didn’t see until later).

With Effexor, I still have anxious thoughts. But instead of the anxiety flowing through my whole body and causing a physical reaction in my clenching stomach and sweaty palms and racing heart and shortness of breath, the thoughts… stay in my head. I don’t know how else to explain it. It’s fascinating. The medicine “opens the window” and gives me the mental space to work through the anxious or depressive thoughts using the tools that I’ve developed over 7 months of work in therapy. It’s still work, but it’s not as stressful, and it’s easier to let those thoughts pass and return to regular thoughts.

It’s also not some magic bullet, either. I was faced with a hugely stressful situation last week that created a swell of anxiety that not even Effexor could stop. The day was rough and I spiraled, thinking that it was a sign that I had backslid into my old ways, the medicine was useless, that nothing could fix me. But the window had been “opened”, and after a day or so, I was able to approach the situation tentatively and work through it a bit. It was a good reminder that while meds are helpful, I am also stronger and better equipped to handle anxiety than I was a year ago thanks to therapy.

We decided to try Effexor because its mechanism of action is similar to Zoloft, which I had a good experience with, but also includes norepinephrine to possibly improve my energy levels and attentiveness, which had been impacted. And despite being worried about weight gain, Effexor has had the opposite effect of the Zoloft and I’ve lost a few pounds already. I don’t feel the need to turn to food for comfort, and nighttime snacking (which was my Achilles heel) is all but nonexistent. It’s motivating me to move more but not affecting my sleep. I wish I’d started this stuff years ago.

July 2020 on the left, April 2021 on the right.

I say all this with an asterisk: just because I am having a good experience doesn’t mean that it’ll work for everyone. I’ve had people message me about it but don’t want to sound like I’m pushing this drug or overselling it. This is just me explaining how it’s helped me and keeping the conversation about mental health going.

In December, Olympic runner and filmmaker Alexi Pappas shared her story of depression and the importance of treating mental health issues the same way we treat physical ones. She referred to them as “mental health injuries”. That phrase stuck with me.

As runners, we are often sidelined by things like shin splints, hairline fractures, or torn ACLs. But we treat those injuries with things like physical therapy and medication. Why don’t we view mental health struggles the same way?Having a mental health injury isn’t a weakness in the same way that pulling a muscle isn’t a weakness. They stop us in our tracks, take time to recover from, and in some cases, there is often a chemical – physical – imbalance, and medication like the one I’m on can be an IMMENSE help. But yet, the stigma around it remains.

Why?

I’m tired of being anxious and depressed and feeling like a prisoner in my own mind. Now that I found the combination of things that seems to work for me in this moment, I’m going to talk to anyone who will listen about it, in the hopes that it helps even one person take that step and get help for themselves, whether that’s through therapy or medication or both.

And that’s what’s going on in my world these days. How are you doing?

Running in Place

In my 10 years of running (happy runniversary to me, btw), I’ve never hidden my love for the treadmill. Yes, running outside has its perks, and I’ll always love it, but having my pace set for me, music/Netflix/water at my fingertips, air conditioning, a bathroom nearby… everything about the treadmill appeals to me. I don’t find it boring like so many other runners I know who call it the “dreadmill”.

For basically all of my running career, I had various gyms at my disposal to get my treadmill runs in. And then, COVID-19 happened. Gyms were shut down temporarily, but the longer they stayed shut, the more the thought of working out/breathing heavily with a bunch of strangers in an enclosed space with a windows that don’t open became unthinkable.

That’s why I threw out a lifeline on Facebook one evening in the form of a question I asked maybe once every year in the off chance that someone might reply:

“Does anyone have a treadmill they want to sell or get rid of?”

Fast forward two weeks, and behold: my virtually brand new baby.

An old friend from high school that I hadn’t spoken to since 2000 had been wanting to get rid of her treadmill for two years. A few months after buying it, she found herself unable to use it, so it sat in a spare room gathering dust all this time, seemingly waiting for me. After a few days of measuring and rearranging furniture, my husband and I picked it up on August 16th, spent a few hours sweating and swearing to put it back together, and just like that, I had my first treadmill.

Coupled with the Peloton app I’d discovered a few months prior, this was the game changer I had been waiting for.

All of the times I’d said that I’d run more “if I only had a treadmill”? I wasn’t lying, even to myself. Now that I have it, I have been so much more active in the 2 months since it became a part of my life. Every morning – or maybe every other morning some weeks, if I’m being honest – I get up, roll into running gear, brew some coffee and make my way to the treadmill where I get a minimum of 20 minutes in before my day starts. Sometimes I walk, sometimes I run, sometimes I do a bit of both.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I was working out sporadically, with anxiety and depression creeping in on the edges of my mind basically every time I stayed stagnant for too long. This machine – while some might call it a bore or a bastardization of what running really is all about – has given me an outlet that I didn’t even know I needed.

What do you think of the treadmill? How have you managed to cope with running through the pandemic?

Guest Blog: Why I Run

I haven’t done guest posts here on the blog before, but when my friend Jimmy reached out about wanting to share his experience with running, I jumped on the opportunity. Jimmy and I work together, but more importantly, we share a love of working out, Star Wars and all things pop culture – seriously, when he was cleaning his desk one day he gifted me with a little Darth Vader Funko Pop and his set of Kylo and Rey figures to keep watch of my stuff when I’m not there. A few months ago we had a nice chat about how running helps us both, and now he’s sharing his story with you guys. I hope you enjoy!

It all started around New Year’s Eve. I felt like I had been hit by a ton of bricks. Work had been very hectic for the final 6 weeks of the year. It was non-stop. I felt like I didn’t have a chance to come up for air. I kept telling myself, “All you have to do is make it until the 24th & you’ll have a whole week off for yourself.” Well, when that day came, I felt like I couldn’t get out of that gear that had kept me going through those final weeks of 2019. I couldn’t relax. It felt like my heart was going to beat through my chest.

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After a few days of dealing with this uncomfortable feeling, I decided to go to the doctor to see if it was an underlying condition. I explained to the doctor what I was going through & if I should be worried. She was very upfront with me & explained it was stress-related anxiety. Me? With anxiety? That can’t be the case! I thought I was invincible. No one is invincible & that’s OK! We discussed a plan of action that included changes to my diet & exercise regimen. I have always been self-conscious about my weight. That certainly was not helping the situation.

I organized a schedule. Thanks to the hospitality of my girlfriend’s mother, I was able to prepare chicken on their grill each Sunday for the upcoming week. I am a creature of habit, so getting into a groove was not an issue. During this time, I discovered how much easier it was to go to the gym after dinner than it was heading over right after work. You need a little bit of a recharge. It was an excellent way to get the blood flowing. I was sleeping much better at night. Everything was going great; work had calmed down a bit after the new year & my new diet was helping me reach numbers on the scale (not that it was the ONLY goal of this endeavor), I hadn’t seen in quite some time. I was feeling FANTASTIC. Then we were all hit with a right upper cut.

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This pandemic arrived like Thanos in Wakanda. It was very difficult to adjust at first. How was I going to get all the right ingredients for my diet with the stores being ransacked? How was I going to exercise without being able to go to the gym? Workout like I had been for the first 3 months of the year. I was knocked down on the mat & I didn’t know how I was going to reach for that turnbuckle. Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Well, I had to take a stand. I was not going to let this situation consume me. I was able to find healthy alternatives.

I have been very lucky all my life. My grandparents live right next door in a tiny, brick house. It was always great for birthdays & anniversaries. Just a few paces across the lawn. They have this small weight room set-up in their basement that my father & I use from time to time. It has become a good friend of mine since quarantine began a month ago.

I began a new workout schedule. Just happy that I had a place to let my frustration out after a long day at work(ing from home). Something was missing, though. When I found out what it was, I couldn’t believe it.

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I pulled the cover off the treadmill in the basement like it was the DeLorean & decided that I was going to start running. As a younger boy, I DESPISED distance running. I’d rather play a game of pick-up basketball or football. Times have changed. I decided that I was just going to go for it. I’ve got to tell you; it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My mind feels so clear when I’m on the treadmill or just on a jog around the block. Each time I strap up my shoes, I want to reach a new milestone.

It does not feel like I am running AWAY from my problems, rather running TOWARDS them. I have been feeling much more confident. I feel more comfortable walking around the house with my shirt off (sorry, Mom & Dad). Yes, I am still dealing with anxiety & the other facets of everyday life, but running & working out regularly have helped me control them. Another thing I did notice that required correction was the incline setting on the treadmill. I kept hitting my head on the basement ceiling. Oh, well, a tiny roadblock that was easily fixed with the flip of a switch.

Everyone handles issues in their life differently than their neighbor. There is no instruction sheet. We must find ways to cope, either on our own or with some help. It is OK to get some help. There is no shame in that! Running has become the sword that I fight these battles with every day.

We are going to get through this pandemic. There are good days & there are bad days, such is life. My hope is that when we come out on the other end, we’ll be better off. I certainly will not take the little things for granted just like how I used to view running as a chore, I now see it as a hobby.

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Until then, I hope everyone stays safe & healthy. We’ve got this!

Sweating Through Health Scares and Pandemics

My last post in October was about how I was excited to be in the middle of a strength training plan that helped me drop some weight and get back into fighting mode. At the end of it all, it really did work: I lost about 15 lbs and a handful of inches and it was just the kickstart I needed to get through the holidays with a healthy mindset.

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we even threw a hell of a roaring 20’s themed NYE party!

Then January brought a health scare that I talked about a bit on Instagram, when I found a lump in my breast and went through a month of testing before finding it was benign. That month brought new levels of anxiety that I wouldn’t wish on anyone: migraines so bad that I ended up in the ER one morning at 3am, a pinched nerve in my back/chest that my doctor had me get an Xray for, and itchy hives all over my body. Working out took a backseat, so yes, I dropped off the face of this blog, and gained some of the weight back. But once the anxiety cleared and the results were in, I returned to working out pretty regularly.

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Then the coronavirus showed up.

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I’m not going to clog up your feed with any hot takes on this bullshit, but I’m also not going to sugarcoat how I’m handling it. We’re blessed in that my husband and I both still have our jobs, and we’re working pretty much 8-5 every day, just to maintain some kind of schedule, and to KEEP those jobs. It’s been a struggle here, much like I’ve heard from other people. I’m not glad it’s happening, but I am glad that it’s shining a light on the importance of being aware of your own mental health and taking care of yourself when anxiety is at an all-time high. It’s a shame that it took locking us all up in our houses to realize it, but here we are.

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I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, or the next day. But I’ve been working out to maintain my sanity, whether by shutting my laptop off in the middle of the day and going for a run around town (while I’m still allowed to) or by carrying handweights around the house every hour when my watch tells me to stand up (while I wish I’d gotten a treadmill before all this happened, I sure am glad I got an Apple Watch for Christmas). I’m also still doing my good old DVD and playing Just Dance on the PS4, and using my watch’s 7-Minute-Workout app a few times a day just to get my heart pumping.

If I can laugh at anything about this whole thing, it’s the fact that suffering from extreme OCD in college – to the point where I washed my hands 50-60 times a day and bled from cracked skin on my knuckles for months at a time – has prepared me for the contamination fears we’re all experiencing today: I can track what needs to be disinfected and know exactly how to open every kind of door without using my hands. Score one for living with an acute anxiety disorder for 3 years.

But I just figured I’d pop on here and share what’s going on over here in the hopes that it reaches someone – anyone – who might need a little pick me up. I know it seems dark right now, but trust me. We’ll get through this.

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Hitting the Reset Button

Running and I were not best friends there for nearly 2 years. We weren’t even like… friends you ask to pick you up from the airport or help you move a couch.

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But that’s because I was doing it for the wrong reasons.

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Is this wildly-popular-on-instagram sweatshirt one of those reasons? Maybe.

I was running because that was what I thought I should be doing, as a “runner”. And I’m not using quotes because I don’t consider myself a runner – I am. But that’s not all I am.

After the NYC Marathon, I took time off from running, lost my job, and then injured myself when I tried to get back into running just for the sake of running. I stopped paying attention to what I ate. I ran races I didn’t want to run, just because other people wanted me to. And by forcing myself to push through it and run all the miles for appearances’ sake, I neglected everything else and my body and mind paid the price. Instead of running to feel better, it made me feel worse.

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I ran from one Instagram-worthy photo to the next, while behind the scenes, my body and mind were being held together with duct tape and crossed fingers. And I can’t ignore the fact that I behaved the way I did in part because I felt the pressure of nearly 16,000 people on Instagram “watching” my feed. To ignore that would be irresponsible.

So instead of ignoring it – or imploding like I’ve seen others do – I quietly worked on myself. Behind the scenes, in fits and starts, for nearly a year now. I stopped taking photos and posting about every workout on social media. I ran. I didn’t run. I tried yoga. I gave up yoga. I turned off all social media notifications on my phone. I connected with therapists and people who could help me get stronger physically and mentally.

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With the false sense of wisdom that only time can provide, I’m comfortable saying the Fifth Avenue Mile was a turning point for me. It was the first time in a long time that I felt confident and ready, in mind and body, to race. My unexpectedly stellar performance is the proof I needed to know that my work is paying off.

Don’t get me wrong: the work to get back to 100% is ongoing, and always will be. I know that now. But this is the first time since the 2017 NYC Marathon that I’m enjoying the work. And while I don’t have any race plans on the horizon, I’ve got other plans.

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I’m currently 2 weeks into a 6-week program that is already paying dividends in terms of how I feel. I’m less bloated and have more energy. The goal is to get back down to my pre-marathon weight and strengthen my body top to bottom so that when I do race, I’ll be as strong as I can be in that moment. At age 36, that’s not an easy task, and 6 weeks is just the beginning. But it’s refreshing to think that you can always hit the Reset Button.

Race Recap: 2019 FRNY/NYRR Pride Run

Just like we’ve done in years past, my good friend Kevin and I hopped on the 5:37AM train into midtown for the FRNY/NYRR Pride Run 5 Miler and let me say before I go any further: I was SO unprepared.

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Not unprepared in terms of forgetting sneakers or gels… I mean I had been in physical therapy since May for an Achilles issue and nerve problems that make my leg give out on me, and I’d only run about 4 miles in the lead up to this race.

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Per my therapist’s orders, this was going to be a fun run (no sh*t), and it was also going to be my first run in the heat, which made for a pretty miserable time once I hit mile 2.5-3. BUT ANYWAY…

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We arrived at the start area at around 7:30 or so and killed time by posing for photos and covering ourselves in sunscreen until our other running buddy, Stephen (aka Lady Champagne Bubbles), arrived.

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We ran into a few other friends doing the race while we made our way into the corrals and hung out waiting for the starting gun, and the sweat we’d broken into before even starting the run should have told me what I had to look forward to. I say again: I was not prepared.

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As we crossed the starting line, we took off at a pretty solid 12:00-ish/mile pace. Stephen cantered off ahead because he’s in MUCH better shape than me, but thankfully Kevin hung back and took it easy with me. Every quarter mile or so we’d catch up with Stephen who waited for us, but by about mile 2.5 I realized I had pretty much used up all I had in the tank.

It was a miserable feeling. I’d run these hills dozens of times before. In much worse conditions. Hell, I ran the goddamn 2017 NYC Marathon in rain for more than 6 hours!! I really should just listen to the universe and pack it in. Why should I bother when all I do is finish after all my friends and get injured anyway?

All those negative thoughts you get in the middle of a race? I had them.

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I mentioned my insecurities to Kevin at one point and he talked me through them – saint that he is – but while he helped my mental game, my physical game was just too far gone. My therapy had been focused on isolating the muscles that were causing me pain, working them gently and slowly strengthening them. The lack of running while focusing on those smaller, foundational things really sucked a lot of conditioning out of me.

Thankfully, I wasn’t SO far gone, and we made it to mile 4 relatively soon. Kevin made deals with me to get to the next light post, the next stop sign, the next tree. It worked, sort of. There was a lot of walking. But once we got to the final half mile or so, I realized I’d done it. Kevin asked if I was OK with he and Stephen taking off and finishing strong, and I said go for it. The only thing that makes a miserable race worse is knowing you held people back.

So off they went and I hunkered down for the final sweaty, breathless half mile. The nice thing about the Pride Run is that in the final mile, all of the local running clubs come out to cheer you on in the final mile or so. And because it’s Pride, the music is bumping, the energy is high, and the love is on full blast. All I had to do was shift to the side of the course and hold my hand out as I ran, and I was rewarded with high fives and screams and cheerleaders galore.

All that excitement was just what I needed to get down the last hill and over the finish line – and for Kevin to snap this hysterical picture of me thanking the running gods that the damn thing was DONE:

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Afterwards we all hung out for a bit eating the rainbow ice pops they handed out at the finish line and taking pics – of course I can’t let Stephen take a nice photo just one damn time – before heading home to recover in the air conditioning.

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As always it was a great race that I highly recommend, especially for first-timers. It’s high-energy and a wonderful way to support a fantastic cause that is dear to my heart.

Just Do It. No, Really.

After a few weeks of pretty solid base building after the New Year, I started officially training for April’s NJ Half Marathon – and, drumroll please – I’ve stuck 100% to the plan so far!

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la la la la, la la la la, training time!

I’m feeling myself. I no longer have to make that horrible noise when I get up out of a squat (you know the sound, we’ve all made it) and I can comfortably run about 4-5 miles without any lingering pain. I’m not about to crank it up to 10 just yet, but I’m getting there.

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YAY ME

Looking back on the last few failed attempts at a – and I hate this word – *comeback*, I keep searching for reasons why this time is different. There are a few, mainly the fact that I’m not injured or coming back from an injury, and I’m mentally in a better place than I was the last 2-3x I signed up for a race and didn’t even make it to the starting line in the past year.

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I’m also feeling about 1,000% sassier thanks to a great job and having other fulfilling hobbies outside of running

But while I was getting dressed in the gym locker room the other night after a full, draining day of work, the last piece of the puzzle finally came to me: I’m shutting up about it and getting it done.

Or, to paraphrase the most popular sports company slogan in history: I’m just doing it.

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Fact: the post-work runs are hard because I have to get through a whole day of work before I can do them. [And before you say “run in the morning!”, just know I’ve tried it time and time again and it just ain’t happening. I’m 35 years old and if I haven’t learned to love losing an hour of sleep to get a workout in yet, I’m not going to. Go bark up someone else’s tree about how *magical* it is to wake up before the sun and let me sleep while you get your sweat on. I’ll have the coffee ready for you when you’re done, I promise.]

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I’ll even be SMILING by then because I GOT MY FULL 8 HOURS OF SLEEP

Fact: The weekend runs are tough because I have nothing really lighting a fire under me to go and just get it over with every morning.

In the past, I’ve skipped weekday runs because I’m tired after work and convince myself on the drive home to treat myself to a rest day. Or I spend a half hour in the gym locker room on a Saturday morning scrolling through Twitter or Instagram looking at other people’s workouts when I could have been done and on the way home already, just because I can’t psych myself up to get out there.

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*thinking* I wonder if they give medals for procrastination…. 

This time, I’ve made a point as soon as those “maybe I should just skip it” thoughts creep into my head to simply… stop. Stop that thinking, consider the workout non-negotiable, shut up and JUST DO IT.

If it’s quiet in the locker room, I resist the urge to sit on the bench before I change and scroll through Twitter for another 10 minutes. I just put one foot in front of the other and change and get up those stairs and on a treadmill and JUST DO IT.

When I wake up on a Saturday morning and lazily make my coffee and plop down at my desk and start scrolling through Twitter, I allow myself 15 minutes before I make myself stand up from the desk, shut up and JUST DO IT.

Yes it’s a pain in the ass to schlep 14 pounds of gear from the house to the car to the gym locker room, to change into cold running clothes while surrounded by a dozen screaming tweens who just got out of swim practice, and to get onto the treadmill. Yes, it’s easier to lay in bed, and it’s more tempting to skip a run and read a book or catch up on Netflix.

But once I run, man does it feel good.

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like, “the hills are alive” good

Yes, it’s good to talk about running with other runners online. It’s good to read blog posts with titles like “how do you get motivated?” and “top tips for getting started with running again”. But more often than not – and this is going to sound harsh but I mean it in the most encouraging way possible – it really is as simple as shutting the hell up and JUST DOING IT. Get up off the hiney, put the sneakers on, get the keys and GO.

I’ve gotten harsh with myself MANY times in the interest of getting my miles in. If you’re lacking motivation or find it hard to get up and moving, I invite you to do the same. It gets easier the more you do it. Once you stop thinking about it, you’ll have so much more time to just do it.

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And I promise you’ll rock it when you do. Nicolas Cage in Con-Air style.

Impostor Syndrome

If job searching after working for one company for five years is like jumping back into the dating pool, starting a new job is like the first day of school, but on steroids. And much like a new school year, I looked forward to starting my new job back in March because it meant a fresh start. But more than that; I had the chance to adopt a new persona.

You see, for five years at my last job, I was known as the runner. But after the NYC Marathon, I wasn’t running. So I didn’t feel like a runner anymore. I had a serious case of Impostor Syndrome.

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When meeting new people at my job, the subject of hobbies came up a lot as an ice breaking conversation topic. But I avoided talking about running at every turn, even though most of my new coworkers had already seen the blog – hell, it’s on my resume, and the fact that I’d created Jess Runs Happy from the ground up helped land me my current role as a Social Media Manager. Instead, I focused on other things – my cat, my husband, Star Wars.

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It wasn’t so bad: I got to make a lot of new friends with varied interests by *not* focusing on running. And don’t get me started on all the new friends I made by hosting a surprise May the Fourth party. But as it tends to do, time passed. My injuries healed. I started running regularly. I had the urge to chase big scary goals again.

While it’s only been about two months or so, I’ve run more in these 8 weeks than I had in the previous 8 months, and I feel like I’ve learned something with every mile – especially as I get stronger with every run.

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Last week I ran three times, and improved with each run. I even ran 4 miles for time,  just to see how much better I could do than the previous run. I blew my old time out of the water and posted a 4-mile time I haven’t seen since pre-NYC Marathon training a year ago.

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I’m getting nostalgic about marathon training. I’ve got blisters from new socks again. That old black toenail is acting up again. I’m eating more carbs and going to bed early on Saturday nights to run on Sunday mornings again.

I’m proud to say I’m a runner again. 

I don’t know what made my Impostor Syndrome go away. Maybe it’s all the happy mood chemicals flooding my brain thanks to regular running; maybe it’s a fluke and I’ll have another bad week or month or year. Whatever happens, I’m going to ride the wave as long as I can and I’m looking forward to it.

I’m cleaning out the running gear that doesn’t fit anymore. I’m packing my bags every other morning for my evening run and avoiding those late night snacks I’ve grown so used to. I’m signing up for races in the future so I have something to work towards. What matters is I’m feeling more and more like my old self, and that feels good.

 

Ready Player One

Although most of you have probably figured it out by now: Since the NYC Marathon, I’ve been pretty disillusioned with sharing my running journey online.

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*sarcasm* shocking, right?

I guess it comes down to the fact that I started to get tired of playing the game, especially around Instagram.

Looking back, the amount of time I spent on that app is embarrassing. I wracked my brain coming up with a creative Instagram-worthy photo angle for every run. I wasted a half hour after every run selecting, editing, and captioning a picture. I worried about what I wore because I’d already worn black for my past three runs and needed to inject color into my IG feed. I found myself sitting at dinner in a restaurant with my husband, with my nose buried in my phone while I picked out hashtags. I was injured, but I still went on painful runs – sometimes just to “keep the feed fresh”.

And even though I did those things, I still lost followers.

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Then I lost my job and fell into a depression. For those of you who haven’t had the good luck (again with the sarcasm) to experience depression, my idol Carrie Fisher summed up what it feels like with heartbreaking clarity while in the middle of her own manic episode in Bright Lights:

“You know what would be so cool? To get to the end of my personality and just, like, lay in the sun. I’m sick of myself.”

At my lowest point, I was so sick of my self that Instagram seemed like a cruel joke. I hardly felt inspirational. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror, let alone take yet another picture of myself and share it with 16,000 people – the majority of whom I have never and will never meet.

I lost the courage to even try.

Because I dropped out of the game (and yes, it is most certainly 100% a game that Instagram will always win because they control what accounts get exposure), I lost nearly 1,000 followers since November. And I’m losing more every day. I can’t figure out the algorithm no matter how much or little I post or what hashtags I use.

But a funny thing happened since I came out the other side of that whole depression thing: I finally want to run more.

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After nearly 10 months of being disillusioned with running in general and not even thinking about racing, the other day I got an email from the Run Newport folks about running the Newport Half next month and actually got excited.

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The thought of a half marathon gave me butterflies.

I got the jimmy legs thinking about the thrill of the starting line.

I started looking at training plans.

While I’m in absolutely no shape to run the Newport Half (because it’s in less than 6 weeks and I haven’t run more than 4 miles in about 10 months), I’m probably not going to be running it (but I WILL have an entry to give away, woohoo, stay tuned!). But I WILL start slow, starting now.

It’s going to take courage to try again, but I’m ready.

I’ve committed to run 2-3x during the week after work and slowly build up my long run mileage on weekends. The plan is to get to 6 or 7 PAIN FREE miles for a few weekends in a row before I even sign up for something.

It’s not a plan, per se, but it’s more than I’ve done in 10 months, so there you have it.

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Once it became more of a plan in my mind over the past few days, I found myself excited to blog about it – and even more excited to share my story on Instagram once more.

I don’t know what race I’ll be doing or even when I’ll run it. Throughout training, I won’t spend a half hour picking out the perfect filters or an extra half mile trying to get the right running selfie after every run. But I WILL be sharing my journey again, and I’m excited to have you along for the ride if you’d like to join me. ❤