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. ❤

What’s New & What’s Next

I disappeared for a while, and I apologize. My former company underwent some restructuring back in mid-January, which led to me being let go after nearly five years with them. In the interim, blogging took a backseat because I’ve been focused not just on finding a job, but on finding myself.

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this seemed like a zen-ish gif and made me giggle, so there

For the first few weeks, I was miserable and had no motivation to run because I was purely focused on finding a new job. That blah feeling made me even less motivated to run, which fed back into the misery and sapped my motivation even further, and, well… lather, rinse, repeat. So I backed off of social media because… how could I be “Jess Runs Happy” if I wasn’t running and I wasn’t happy?

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It was a confusing time. 

But, as it tends to do, life kept on moving along and I explored interests that I forgot I had.

I spent two solid weeks turning our spare bedroom (previously known as the house dumping ground for the entire 6 years we’ve lived here) into a beautiful home office/Lady Cave, complete with a matching desk, tv stand, and storage unit that I all built with my own two hands.

I hung out with friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. I tried daytime classes at the gym. I wrote A LOT, now that I had a fancy shmancy new office to do it in. I cleaned every room from top to bottom. I donated or tossed more than a dozen huge bags of stuff. I tightened loose drawer pulls and hot glued broken things all over the house. I hung out with my mom a lot. I cleaned the oven. I worked on my Rey costume! Generally, I did everything I’ve been meaning to do for the past 5 years but didn’t have the time to do (and couldn’t bring myself to spend my precious weekends doing).

Before I knew it, I had an exciting new opportunity on the horizon, and the knowledge that all of this Me Time will soon come to an end. With this news, I expected my motivation to come screaming back onto the scene, prompting me to RUN ALL THE MILES!

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Alas, no motivation.

But here’s the kicker: I’m not beating myself up about it.

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In running, like in life, you get what you put into it. And not getting 100% from my running would just discourage me even more. My runs have been hit or miss – some days it feels easy and other days it’s a struggle just to get into my running tights. So instead of forcing myself to run when my body hurts and my heart just isn’t in it, I’ve done other things to keep active. And while I have to get serious in the coming weeks to ensure that I can even participate in the New Jersey Half Marathon in April, I’m not stressing.

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What does that mean? In a nutshell, I’m not going to be chasing a PR in West Long Branch at the end of April like I previously planned. Life just works in mysterious ways and I’m not about to push myself to injury just because I made some proclamation on the internet. It’s not that important to me to get a PR in the half distance this soon after taking a hiatus like I have. The PR will be there when I’m ready, and I’m not ready, simple as that. Right now, my focus for the half will be to finish with a smile, and I’m 100% sure I can at least manage that.

What I WILL be doing is looking forward to a handful of other fun races this spring:

  1. After running both the 10K and Half with them, the folks at the Newport 10K have asked me to be a Blog Partner with them once again, and I’m super stoked to do just that on May 5th. What’s more: they’ve been generous enough to give me a free entry for one of you guys! So stay tuned to my Instagram for details on that when I kick that off.
  2. While I didn’t plan on running it again, my fear of race FOMO got the best of me and I signed up for the Spring Lake 5. So I’ll be hitting the beach once more at the end of May for the official summer kickoff race and will hopefully beat last year’s time there.
  3. For the third year in a row, I’ll be running my favorite race of the year, the NYRR/FrontRunners 5M Pride Run, in Central Park during Pride Weekend in June. This race has a special place in my heart and I look forward to returning to NYC for my first run there since the Marathon.

In addition to these races, I’m not about to give up on chasing PRs just yet. I’m aiming for a new 10K PR in the fall, and will definitely consider stretching for a sub-30 5K, too.

So while I’ve taken a short break from running, you can rest assured I haven’t given up on it completely. I never will. It’s in my blood now – on those occasions lately where it felt good, it felt VERY good, reminding me that I could never give it up entirely.

So thanks for sticking around. I look forward to having you along for the ride as I start this new chapter and chase my running goals with a new attitude in 2018 and beyond!

Gimme a Beat

I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but here in NJ, it’s finally staying lighter later and that makes me one happy runner!

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I swear I’m part plant for how much I love the sun.

Tuesday night I decided to make the most of this new brighter evening time and went for a run after work. It was chilly but manageable, but overall, it was a super 4 miles, mainly because I had the right running tunes.

If you’ve followed me for a while, you probably know that music plays a huge part in my life, especially in my running. New music gets me motivated for training runs when I’m burnt out. A perfectly paced song keeps my legs turning over at the right speed and prevents me from slowing down when I’m in the middle of a brutal long run. And at the end of a tough race, I rely on music to send a fresh surge of adrenaline through my veins and carry me over the finish strong. In short: music is my LIFE. So when the folks at Spring Moves shot me an email, I was intrigued.

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Spring Moves is an iOS app that tracks your running cadence by Steps Per Minute, and plays music to match your pace. I was skeptical at first – would it eat up my battery (nope), would I be able to skip songs (yep), would it be crappy music I’d never heard before (nope)? Besides, I’d tried to make my own BPM mixes before and found that the pacing was never consistent enough, and I’d burn out trying to keep pace with music that was too fast. All that skepticism went away after a few runs with Spring, I’m pretty sure I’ve found my magic bullet.

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Not to mention some fancy Spring headphones!

To start, you select as many genres of music and artists you like. To be sure I’d get a good mix, I went crazy and picked metal, alternative, rap, remixes, and electronic. With more than 25,000 songs in their database, I wasn’t disappointed! Since I started using the app I’ve covered about an hour’s worth of music and only skipped a handful of songs. It’s all stuff that I enjoy but wouldn’t have considered running to because I wasn’t sure of the pacing. But once I got going and the beat kept me moving? Look out!

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How can you be disappointed when they play Nirvana?

Over the course of my runs, I heard System of a Down, Ingrid Michaelson, Black Sabbath, Eminem, Gorillaz, and more. The songs were all originals, slightly tweaked to match my footstrikes at around 164 SPM. In turn, the tunes pushed me to keep turning my legs over even when I felt like slowing down going uphill or towards the end of my run. They even left the curse words IN, you guys! I know it’s not for everyone, but I LOVE when they leave the curses in – there’s nothing like hearing Kendrick Lamar really lay into a beat while I’m pushing up a tough hill – but if that isn’t your thing you can eve change the settings to exclude explicit songs.

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And they even cheered me on when I finished!

Because I was so impressed with the app, I signed on to be a Spring Influencer to share the love with you guys. Want to try Spring for free? Text JESSRUNSHAPPY to 41411 and get one free month of workout music tailored to your pace!

The best part is that it’s not just for runners, either – if your arms are moving, Spring will pick up your pace and play tunes to match you. That means you can even Spring when walking. On those days where you don’t really feel like getting out there, this is a great way to start putting one foot in front of the other and seeing where the music takes you.

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And it took ME to an awesome 11:23/mile pace even after a full day of work.

I can’t wait for my run tonight knowing that I get a fresh selection of new tunes to keep me going. Interested in Spring? Get a free trial here (or here if you’re on desktop) and let me know what you think!

 

My First Acupuncture Session

After reaching out for help when I was having a tough time last month, I found a lifeline in a completely unexpected place: acupuncture. I’d never considered it for things like depression or anxiety, but this guy came so highly recommended by both my mom and dad that I figured why not??

I treated my appointment like I was taking my car in for an oil change: while you’ve got the hood open, you may as well take a look at EVERYTHING that’s wrong, right? So I went in with a list of issues to treat: anxiety and depression, a lack of motivation and energy, and food cravings & weight gain. Who knew if he’d be able to treat it all, I thought, but it was worth mentioning everything while I was there.

Once I got in and filled out the paperwork, we settled in and he asked me one simple question: What’s bothering you?

Would you believe I started crying immediately? It was pure relief: here was a skilled professional – with a background in psychology, no less! – asking me to spill the beans so that he could make it all better. Relief doesn’t even begin to explain it.

So he worked through my issues by asking smart questions that, in some cases, really made me think. He didn’t just ask “What makes you happy?”, but “Why does that make you happy?” It was truly fascinating stuff that challenged my thinking and forced me to open up in ways I didn’t expect to so soon after meeting this guy!

But after about 10 minutes of discussion, he got to work with his hands. I laid down on the table under heat lamps (mmm) and he did something called “palpating”. While it felt like he was massaging the tense spots in my back or on my ankles, he was locating the points that needed needles. This was where his skill was immediately apparent: he’d touch one spot and say, “No, right?” and I’d feel nothing. Then he’d move his fingers a millimeter to the right, send a shooting pain through my back, and go, “A-ha! There it is.” Whaaa??

It was like he didn’t even have to try! With a few simple touches he knew just where I was holding onto my tension and where the needles would be most effective. I was blown away. He focused on those 3 issues in 4 different spots: the anxiety and depression on two separate points of each wrist and in my back; the lack of energy in my calves and ankles; and the food cravings in my ears! Eek, right? The outsides of my ears, but still!

He did all of the stuff in my back and legs first, and all I had to do was take my shirt off, lay face down on the table, and he got to work. Before he’d place each needle he’d say where he was going and what each needle would do, and I honestly felt NOTHING: 8 in my back and 5 in each leg. But once he got to my wrists, things got interesting. “Here you’ll probably feel something, just warning you,” he said. I steeled myself and told him to go ahead, and while it wasn’t pain, it certainly was… something. Warmth, pressure, slight stinging. And while he put two needles on either side of each wrist, I felt it more in my left wrist.

Once he was done he told me to relax for 10 minutes and let the needles do their thing – “Even fall asleep if you can! It helps if you can relax as much as possible.” As relaxed as you can while laying topless and facedown in a stranger’s home office covered in 20 needles, I thought with a laugh to myself as he walked out of the room and let me be.

I tried to let my mind wander, and while I didn’t fall asleep, I definitely relaxed and focused on the sensation in my wrist, breathing deeply. After what felt like a very quick 10 minutes, he came back in and gently told me he’d start removing the needles. He painlessly plucked each one out, then started a semi-painful massage to release all the energy that the needles had drawn out. I say painful because he DUG very deep – it took my breath away! I told him at one point that it hurt, and he apologized and used a big vibrating pad instead for a few moments, saying that it wouldn’t be AS effective. I didn’t want that – I wanted the full effect! So I sucked it up and told him to keep using his hands, and he did with a laugh and some encouraging words. Score one for putting on my big girl pants and dealing with it! After a few more minutes of massage, he had me put my shirt back on and laid me down on my back to do my ears.

I’ll be honest: the needles here didn’t hurt a bit, but these were the most painful for him to discover. He used a dull cotton swab to find the points in my ears (because his fingers were too big!), and the painful spots he found were SO MUCH MORE ACUTE! If you’ve ever gotten a pimple in your ear, you know the shooting pain I’m talking about. But he was “pleased” to find that each ear only needed 4 needles – most people need many more, he said!

So he popped those 4 needles in each ear and left me once again to relax. This time I really did almost doze off; thanks, heat lamps! When he came in 10 minutes later I needed a moment to come to. He took those needles out and placed cotton balls in my ears (I later discovered he did that because there was a tiny bit of blood, which is normal), and sat me up slowly, talking me through the physical things that I might feel as a result of this session: small bruises, tenderness, maybe even some warmth, especially in my wrists because those are the major points that everyone experiences something with. That would be the leftover energy, he said, and it was normal. I thanked him profusely, made my next appointment (for this Thursday!), and left.

And this is where it gets weird: as soon as I walked out of his office, it’s like a switch was flipped in me, and the fog had lifted. The whole drive home, I smiled to myself and soaked everything around me in with a peacefulness that I can’t really describe. The strangest part, though, was the sensation in my right wrist and arm. When I moved my wrist in one way (trying to grab my purse, for example), a warmth throbbed through my muscles all the way to my elbow. It wasn’t bad at all – it was just.. interesting! I can’t describe it.

I got home and had a great night; ate a very light dinner, got my outfit ready for the Joe Kleinerman 10K the next day, and didn’t have any of the usual cravings I get before bed to stuff everything in the snack cabinet into my face. I didn’t experience the usual pre-race jitters, and when I laid down for bed I felt myself tear up a little at how utterly calm I felt. It was like I finally realized that everything was going to be OK, after being so anxious for so long. And while I haven’t written my race recap yet, spoiler alert: it was my best race yet. I didn’t PR but I smiled and breezed through every step, no usual race-day tension or doubts or emotional roller coaster.

Could it have worked that fast? Was it all in my head? I honestly don’t know one way or the other. All I know is that it’s been a little more than a week and while I’ve had minor moments that caused me the usual tension (work, life, etc), that overall peaceful feeling always comes back. I’m more motivated to do even little things like clean the fridge or cook dinner. And the most obvious sign? My appetite isn’t as ravenous as I used to feel, I haven’t had one sugar craving, I’ve avoided every temptation without a hint of stress, and I haven’t binged once (where I’d usually binge 4-5 times in one week). I feel less bloated and have more energy, even with a sinus infection this past week.

So that’s my (so far) positive experience with acupuncture! I’m looking forward to this week’s session – he’ll focus on my knees in addition to everything else. So here’s to keeping the good vibes flowing, whether they’re all in my head or not!

Have you ever had acupuncture before? How did you like it? Tell me in the comments!

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!

Ode to the Fitness Buddy

I don’t know about you, but with no major races on the horizon until at least March, I’m feeling kind of lost when it comes to my running. Without a big goal race to aim for or a plan to follow, I kind of turn into a sassy cranky pants just looking for some kind of structure to my life that’ll help me avoid gaining weight through the holidays and keep me sane when the Christmas madness takes hold.

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Exhibit A: my life.

Luckily, I’ve managed to set a pattern of sorts now thanks to my fitness friend, Kevin. Kevin has been my friend and frequent running buddy for a while now, but recently he’s joined my gym and kicked me into gear in a big way without even realizing it.

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Hooray for structure!

Kevin is usually the one to text me at 9PM on a Friday with “Are you running tomorrow?” What he doesn’t realize is that I’m usually eyeballs-deep in a glass of red wine and when I see his texts I usually say, out loud, to no one, “Well, I wasn’t planning on running in 12 hours but I guess I am now.” And then I finish the glass and put the cake down because no one wants to see me sweating red velvet and Robert Mondavi.

Now that he’s also a member of the same gym, he’s taken to texting me with random thoughts such as “Just throwing it out there. In addition to running. I want to work on abs, arms, and legs. Abs every day.”

And just like that, I’ve got a strength training schedule in my life!

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Exhibit B: this past Saturday’s workout

When I’m in the throes of training, I sometimes lose sight of how fun it is to workout with someone else, so I’m grateful for his reminders. And he’s not the only one!

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My sister in law (who ran the Turkey Trot with me last week!) has been excellent at suggesting we do fun runs and races lately, which I totally need in my life if I don’t want to end up waking up surrounded by empty Godiva chocolate boxes wondering what happened to the past 48 hours.

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And my cousin Heather who ran the Trenton 10K with me is another motivator: she’s got races lined up for pretty much every weekend now through the end of 2017, and I only wish I had her dedication!

How about you: do you have a fitness pal to keep you motivated? How has sweating with someone else helped you on your journey?

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.

IER4cEaNo, not that pit of despair. (photo credit)

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!

Want to Run Faster? Run LESS.

Do you remember when you were a kid and all the adults around you just loved to tell you what to do? Brush your teeth! Wear that bike helmet! Stop diving headfirst off the couch!

fresh-princeYa movin’ with ya Auntie & Uncle in Bel Air!

However, now that we’re older, hindsight has proven that they were really just looking out for us. When you think about it, those shrill commands ultimately prevented our teeth from rotting out of our heads, saved us from high speed bike accidents, and kept us from breaking our necks on the living room floor.

But isn’t it funny how even as adults we sometimes tend to ignore similar good advice, even though deep down we know that it’ll ultimately help us in the long run? Take, for example, cross training.

Back when I first started my fitness journey in 2004, I did a little bit of everything to avoid the workout rut. Whenever I stopped seeing results I’d move on to yoga, strength training, kickboxing, cardio dance, step classes, spinning, everything! Thanks to the gym we lived around the corner from, I did it all, and coupled with running, these activities saw my average mile time go from 13:00 to around 10:30.

Fast Forward to 2012: my husband and I moved to a different town (and away from the gym where all these wonderful activities could be found). Slowly my routine morphed into doing the occasional workout DVD in the living room with lots and lots of running. Then I tore my ACL and things really went downhill.

Picture 859That creepy ice bath machine in physical therapy was the first sign of trouble.

Once I was well enough to run again in 2013, that’s all I did. Mile after mile I clocked, stuck in the 13-12 minute range. For almost 2 years I plodded along, wondering if I hit my peak pre-surgery and if I was destined to stay slow. I couldn’t understand: Sure, I wasn’t doing much (ahem, ANY) of those other cross training activities anymore, but I was running sooo much! Don’t they say “Run More to Run Better”? All that running made me so tired and achy! “Those magazines are nuts anyway,” I’d think. “Who has time to do ALL THE THINGS while ALSO running too? They don’t know my life, they don’t know what’s best for me. But why am I not getting faster??”

lightbulb.jpg

The answer was right in front of me the whole time: I was ONLY running. I was in a classic workout rut, stuck on a plateau and unable to move the fitness needle because running wasn’t challenging anymore.

So I slowly began integrating all of that “other stuff” back into the rotation in early 2015. A zumba class. Biking once a week. Strength training – even a little bit! – each day. Yoga & stretching. Swimming. It took a lot of time, believe me. But after 3-4 solid months of adding these things heavily into the rotation – and yes, cutting back from the super long hours of running – I can say without a doubt that I’m finally starting to see results.

IMG_6675Example A: last night’s 9:37 mile (!!!)

This did not happen overnight, and rest assured that I still have those 12 and 13 minute miles here and there. But I’ve seen consistently lower times in the past month or two, and the only reason I can find for it is that I’m simply running LESS.

coffee-minion-whaaaat

I know, I know. I sound insane. But hear me out. I’m not saying don’t run. What I’m saying here is to focus not just on the running, but on your whole body. Now you see what I was getting at with all that “nagging parent” stuff in the beginning of this post.

Remember all that advice you’ve heard about the importance of cross training? Yeah, it’s true! You really do need to work out your whole body to improve. But it takes sacrifice and prioritization. Those hour+ long runs I’d do every other day are now a half hour, and I kind of hate that. But ultimately I love it because that other half hour+ is spent on cross training which will improve my next run!

This is not news, I know. But once you start seeing results you realize the truth. Whether you hate brushing your teeth or biking for an hour instead of running, you can’t deny the awesome feeling you get from clean teeth or a faster mile time.

What do you think? Have you ever had a lightbulb moment like mine? What’s your favorite kind of cross training? What kind of improvement have you seen in your fitness? Share in the comments!