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. ❤

Taking Time to Be Grateful

After doing this blogging thing for a few years now, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to me and how it’s changed my life. Which has caused me to get pretty introspective lately – in a good way.

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Back in 2003 I was miserable, but I hid it by being overly confident and brash. Think Samantha Jones from Sex & the City but without all the ridiculous sex stuff.

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but WITH the martini habit

I was in college, but instead of figuring out the balance of how to have a social life while excelling in school, I avoided going out almost entirely and threw myself into professional development instead.

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Taking extra classes, loading up on extra-curriculars, networking, building up my resume and getting an awesome internship with the NJ Devils. I took no prisoners and managed to do some amazing things. But my confidence was SO delicate.


At the end of every day, I was truly miserable. I would either hang out with my friends in their dorm rooms and watch TV and eat and drink to oblivion, or go back to my dorm room and do the same, but alone.

When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, I knew something had to change. I HAD TO CHANGE. To beat the odds now stacked against me, I started to pay attention to what I ate at the dining hall. I watched an hour of Everybody Loves Raymond on the stationary bike in our dorm gym instead of on my bed. And wouldn’t you know it, I started to lose weight – and my confidence started to grow too.

Fast forward a few more years: I graduated, got a big girl job in the real world, and jumped into the dating scene. I reconnected with an old friend from my high school days and we started something serious – and I even convinced him to marry me! My friends started having babies and getting married. Throughout it all, I continued to lose weight and shape my new life along with my new body.

 

Fast forward even further, to when I discovered running. I ran my first race in 2010, started falling into a rhythm, and discovered the world of running bloggers. I would see them talk about all the progress they were making and all the opportunities they had and get all moon-eyed over just how awesome that would be, never expecting to do anything like that. But after realizing that in addition to these blogs there was a whole fitness and running community on places like Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, I decided to jump in too.

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My first race ever: a Pink Ribbon 5K with my papa and cancer-free mama ❤

Instagram was my first foray into the online fitness community. Then I started blogging, and soon Twitter and Facebook followed. When I started this ride I NEVER expected it to be as much of a blessing it has been, and that’s the truth. But I put myself out there in a few different – and scary – ways: offering to share my story, baring it all about my history with depression and anxiety, talking about the impact weight loss and running has had on my personal relationships, etc.

And then one day, those things I used to see the running bloggers talking about – they started happening to me.

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Shape Magazine interviewed me. I was asked to take over the Brooks Running IG feed. I was invited to run the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile. I’ve been selected as an Ambassador for the 2016 RWHalf and Festival next month. And as I get ready for what is shaping up to be an unbelievable few months, I have to take this moment to thank you all for coming along on this adventure with me.

I am TRULY grateful for all of the amazing opportunities that I’ve been given; I’m one of the luckiest people I know. But none of it would be possible without you reading, commenting, liking, following, and being with me on this ride. Whether I know you in real life or have only ever “met” you online – or even if you never say anything! – please know that I appreciate you taking time out of your day and reading and looking at the stuff I put out into the ether.

Thank you for being here – and I look forward to seeing where this road takes us in the future!

You’re the Best

First off: I didn’t realize that yesterday’s post would start a chain reaction of warm wishes and personal story sharing that totally turned my day – hell, my MONTH – around.

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Thank you all so much for your comments, emails, texts, Facebook posts, etc – each new note brought a smile to my face (and yeah, some tears too, because I’m still a little weepy). You guys are really the best out there. The fitness community is so much like a family, and it’s so comforting to know that when things get dark, just throwing a tiny lifeline of a blog post out there into the ether will sound the alarm and bring me a world of sunshine.

To answer your next question: I AM feeling a bit better, every hour and every day. Thank you! The old saying to “fake it till you make it” is my unofficial mantra these days, and it’s working. It’s good being back at work where my brain is busy and doesn’t have time to focus on negative thoughts. I’m trying not to numb myself in front of the TV and pushing myself to do little tasks like clean out my home office and reorganize photos. I went swimming and did yoga last night to keep my  body moving, and it felt GREAT.

But when I tried to run again yesterday, it was extremely slow going – while I felt like I was pushing at full intensity, I was only going about 13:00/mile, which was soul-crushing to see. So I’m instead focusing on getting my blood pumping in other ways, any way I can manage. What this will do to my performance in this weekend’s race, I’m not sure. I’ll try to run today and tomorrow, even a mile. But come Saturday morning, I aim simply to finish. Those Central Park hills are unforgiving, and everything is an effort when I feel like this. I set some big goals when I signed up for this race a few months ago, but when life gets in the way and puts a roadblock there, you’ve got to adapt and overcome any way you can!

So thank you all once again for your kind words, for sharing your stories, and your heartwarming support. It really means the world to me to have you with me on this crazy ride!

Insta-Thanks!

I say it a lot, but I can’t stress it enough: Instagram is where I first found my home in the fitness community, and it’s by far where I spend the most of my social media time.

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As of now, I’m currently about 60 followers away from 10K (HOLY COW) and while I don’t know when I’ll  hit that amazing, eye-popping milestone, I want to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to each and every one of you.

But I’m going to wear clothes. Especially on the bus. Because, ew.

You guys are truly the best. I read and smile at Every. Single. Comment. And while I try and sometimes fail to reply to every one, I try as hard as I can because I want you to know just how much I appreciate you taking time out of your day to talk to me.

When I look back at the past two years to when I started this whole Jess Runs Happy thing, I see a huge spike in my overall happiness. You folks have inspired me to push myself and do things I never would have dreamed of: swimming, run-streaking, relay races – even going out for a run when I really didn’t feel like it. Hell, I’ve lost count of how many runs I’ve gone on just to have something to post about on social media that day. Some might think that’s vain or silly, but I say it got my ass off the couch and onto the pavement for miles I never would have run otherwise. What’s so bad about that? Nothing.

So thank you. Thank you for looking at the silly pictures I post. For reading the words I string together in a hopefully entertaining way on a semi-regular basis. For not getting tired of all the various ways I capture images of my big dumb face and/or my sneakers. For encouraging me to train harder, smarter, and faster. For giving me a reason to keep doing the things that I sometimes struggle with: running, smiling, being.

For all that and more, THANK YOU!

Cold Weather Running Motivation

Here in NJ, we’ve been lucky this fall. The weather hasn’t been as blisteringly cold as it’s been in previous Novembers. Unfortunately, though, that’s made me a little soft now that the REAL cold weather is on the way.

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Case in point: since it’s been about 60 degrees for the last two weeks, this morning’s 30 degrees for a morning run felt like -10 and I went back inside!

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I’m a baby when it comes to the cold, I’m the first to admit. As much as humidity sucks the life out of me when I run in the summer, I’d much rather have to constantly rehydrate or wait  until sundown to run comfortably than have to face single-digit temps. I know deep down as a runner that cold weather is better for me – hell, every one of my PR’s was set in 40 degrees or less! – but I just can’t bring myself to freeze for the first mile or two while my body acclimates to the weather.

As we get further into the cold season, I’ll get used to it for sure. I always do. But until then, here are a few things that motivate me to get up, get out and get running when the polar vortex makes me want to do anything but that:

Sleeping in my running gear. This is a win-win: once the temps drop below 40, our house gets perpetually cold. Wearing my running gear base layer of tights and long sleeve tech shirt to bed keeps me sleepy-time cozy and takes one prep step out of the equation in the morning because I’m already dressed!

New Music. I don’t know about you, but this is one of my best motivators year round, actually. Knowing I’ve got some new tunes waiting to pump me up in those first few frigid miles makes it a bit easier to bear: if I can just get through that first song, I’ll be warm!

Friends. No one wants to be the person that keeps the group waiting in the cold. NO ONE.

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Self-bribery (see also: Shame). I’mma keep it real here: knowing that I get to go back home and curl up under warm blankets on the couch with a glass of wine after my run is sometimes the number one thing that gets me out the door. The gross feeling I get when I plan a workout only to skip it is reason number two.

A new route. One nice thing about running in the cold is that pretty much everywhere is fair game. In the summer, the thought of heading down to the beach for 8 miles on the boardwalk at 10am is unthinkable, thanks to blazing sun, ridiculous tourist crowds, and the unbearable heat. But in the middle of November? The beach is like a ghost town and those endless miles of boardwalk are ALLLL MINE!

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What about you: how do you stay motivated when it’s so much more tempting to stay in the toasty warmth of your house? Share your tips!

Beating the Post-Race Blues

After a race, you sometimes hear about folks experiencing the post-race blues: without a goal to focus on and a training plan to stick to, the motivation to do anything is hard to come by and slowly life starts to lose that spark. I’ve fallen into that pit of despair more than once, I’ll admit.

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So this time around, I was determined not to let it happen again, by listening to my body and running when I felt like it. After the race, I took a necessary few days off to let my legs recover (they were really achy from that final 1.5 mile sprint), and I headed out for my first “fun” run in months.

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And it was perfect.

I did a few loops up around my parents’ neighborhood and my old elementary school, didn’t look at my watch, walked when I needed, and just enjoyed the fact that I didn’t have to run a certain pace or mileage. Then the sun went down and I got hungry, so I called it at about 2.5 miles.

And then I didn’t run for 3 days (insert sad trombone music). I know, I know – bad runner! But without that training schedule barking at me to put the run above everything else, I finally had time and energy to do all the things that fell by the wayside throughout those training weeks. I caught up with old friends and went to a happy hour! I had date night with my husband! I finally cleaned the house and did the 5 loads of laundry that had piled up! Do you know how exciting it is to see things that have been buried in the bottom of the hamper for weeks on end? It’s pretty sweet.

So when the weekend rolled around, I was itching for my “long run”. Because I wasn’t forcing it anymore, I looked forward to running again! So I headed out and had another delightfully “go wherever your heart takes you” kind of run around my town. Like our friend Penny of the Big Bang Theory, my plan was to “run until I got hungry and then stop for a bear claw” (in the metaphorical sense. What I really ate was sushi).

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The air was crisp, the leaves were colorful, my town was filled with people celebrating a new bakery opening and the YMCA had a Halloween party on the lawn – it was a great day for a run. My knee started to ache a bit a mile from home, so I headed in early and still managed a good 3 miles and change. Again – with no preset mileage needed and without monitoring my pace constantly (although I’m pleased to report that I’m still at my pre-race short distance pace, so woohoo!), it was another “this is why I do this” kind of run.

Since the weekend, I’m pleased to report that there are no signs of the blues in sight! I started using my Desk Cycle in earnest again (12 miles before 10AM on Monday) and have a strength training session planned for this afternoon. In addition to the few shorter runs I’ve taken in the past few days, I’m feeling pretty good about maintaining the endurance I built up through training while also not making it feel like work. And after all, isn’t that what it’s all about: having fun?

I’d say so!