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.

How the Peloton App Changed My Life

I know, I know, it sounds dramatic. But after using it for nearly six months, I don’t think I can overstate just how much the Peloton app has improved my physical and mental game.

It all started when I was struggling to stay active during the pandemic. My motivation to push myself had all but disappeared, and we cancelled our gym membership as the hope of being safe in a gym faded more with each week the pandemic went on. I wanted to work out consistently, but I needed help. I’d heard about the Peloton app from friends that had the Bike and Tread, but… I was skeptical.

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Peloton as a concept has been mocked endlessly. Who can forget the cheesy Peloton commercial that launched a thousand couch critics , or the exhausting “hot takes” from purist influencers mocking people for spending thousands of dollars on workout equipment when they can just run outside or get a cheap bike and hit the road. To those haters, I say: get a life. If you feel the need to berate or otherwise shame someone for buying a treadmill or a bike with a logo on it? Put the phone down, take a deep breath, and go eat an apple or something. And on the flip side, if you own Peloton equipment, good for you! I don’t give a f*ck how you spend your money, least of all on workout equipment. If buying a branded bike or treadmill helps you get and stay active? GO FOR IT.

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…aaaanywaaaayyy! Popular opinion aside, the bigger concern I had was the cost. At $13/month, the app would be a new commitment. BUT, I reasoned, with the gym out of the equation, we were saving $40/month in membership fees. So I started the free one-month trial of the app and told myself to give it at least that long.

But after the first day, I was hooked.

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Strength Training

The app interface is super easy to use, with an intuitive filtering function that allows you to sort and select classes by type, body area you want to focus on, length, difficulty, music type, and even by instructor. I started small with On-Demand strength training and HIIT classes, 10 minutes at a pop, before work and in between meetings: arms, back, legs, glutes, full-body… you name it, I did it. I learned the lingo, met all the various instructors, and left it all on the mat. Soon, I was stacking 3-4 mini workouts of 10-15 minutes on top of each other in one day.

My motivation came back in spades. I loved seeing badges add up in my profile, and the app’s integration with my Apple Watch encouraged me to get up and get going. There are challenges you can join within the app, and even training programs too.

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Also, even though the On Demand classes are recorded, you can still see a count of how many other people are taking the class at the same time as you. In the middle of quarantine, there was something comforting to log on at a random time and find 7 other people in a class with me.

Walking & Running

In addition to the cross-training strength classes, I also took a few outdoor running classes with some success. It was easier to find the motivation to keep going farther than I’d normally go by simply selecting a 30- or 45-minute run and hitting the road. But everything changed when we lucked out and bought a second-hand treadmill.

Every morning, I rolled out of bed and onto the treadmill for short On Demand walking and running classes. 1-2-3 miles at a time, it added up. If I felt good – and most days, I did – I added another workout onto my schedule and kept going. Instructor Rebecca Kennedy quickly became my Peloton sensei (seriously, I’m convinced we were separated at birth because we have eerily similar upbringings and families).

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I learned how to “high five” other participants, and squealed with joy when they returned the favor. Sharing workouts to social brought me tons of new encouragement from other Peloton fans, and I found my groove again. Soon, I was logging more miles, more often, and I was officially Pro-Peloton (App).

Meditation

Just when I thought I couldn’t love the app anymore, I discovered yet another benefit when my therapist suggested I try daily meditation – and wouldn’t you know it, Peloton has that too!

And just like the more active classes, you can sort the meditation sessions by time, by intention, and more. And again, the participant list was reassuring, with an average of 10-20 people taking “Sleep” and “Rest Day” evening meditation classes “with” me most nights.

Funny story: I logged into an On-Demand “Acceptance” class just after midnight on election night and found 95 other people in the virtual room with me. I haven’t stopped laughing about that since.

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LOTS of people apparently looking for tools to help them gain acceptance on election night, right along with me. 

I could go on, but I don’t think I have to; it’s safe to say I love this app and it’s only helping me more the more I use it. Next to the treadmill, paying the monthly app fee is the best investment I’ve made in my health in recent years. While I’ve already gotten so much use out of it for the past 6 months, I can easily see myself using it for the foreseeable future. And the best part is, there is really no risk of “running out” of workouts, either – there are HUNDREDS of classes On Demand, in every possible combination, with more being added every day. Yay for options!

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Also: I’m not being paid by Peloton to talk up their app (god, I wish) – I just have gotten a lot of comments on Instagram about how I’m liking the app and figured I’d share my full thoughts here. With that said, now I want to hear from you: have you tried the Peloton app, or any of their equipment? How do you like it? 

A Very Special Bonus Episode of “Running and…”

After a great chat about running and physical therapy with Tiffanie (@Star_wars_runnah), our conversation soon turned to our number one shared interest beyond running: Star Wars.

This is a little bonus video of what happens when you put two Star Wars fans together after nearly 8 months of quarantine with no one to show off their toys and talk Star Wars with.

Running and… Physical Therapy

It’s time for Running and… Physical Therapy!

In Episode 2, I’m chatting with Tiffanie (aka @star_wars_runnah) about how her job as a physical therapist for children 3 years old and under has helped her stay grounded and healthy throughout a 20+ year running career that includes a handful of Boston Marathons and even more Star Wars costumes.

What – or who – else do you want to see on Running and? Let me know in the comments!

Let’s Talk About Running and…

Part of my reason for launching a YouTube channel was to not only share my own stories, but to share the stories of other runners, because we’re more than just runners.

Today I’m excited to introduce my new video series: “Running and…”!

There’s so much great running-focused content out there. But what interests you beyond running? This series takes a closer look at the things that make us runners tick in the hours we’re not logging miles.

I’m kicking off this new series this week with my good friend Hollie (@fueledbylolz) as we chat about running and… swimming!

Let me know what other topics you want to learn more about from me or from other runners – and I hope you enjoy!

Virtual Racing: Yay or Nay?

Back in February, I was SO excited to sign up for 4 New York Road Runner races in the spring and summer. I was fresh off of a health scare that had rattled me into a new outlook of sorts, so I was riding that motivational wave.

It helped that NYRR races are kind of my favorite things in the world. Others might think it sounds crazy, but there’s just something about getting up at the crack of dawn, rolling out to the train station, watching the sun come up from the train window, riding an empty subway, and jogging to the starting line to run a full loop or two around Central Park with 5,000 other people, then wandering the city for the rest of the day.

But, as luck would have it (can it still be called luck in this, the year of our lord, 2020?) ‘Rona showed up and made in-person racing a thing of the past. I held out hope for a few months that they’d be postponed, but the reality sunk in somewhere around June that nothing was going to go as planned this year, least of all racing in Central Park with thousands of other people.

Instead, virtual racing became the norm, and lots of people opted for running their races on their own time and in their own comfort zones – which usually meant alone.

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I’m no stranger to virtual races, having done a handful of them when I first started racing, mainly for the bling and fundraising purposes. In my experience, these races were usually done as an honor system type of thing, where people ran the miles whenever they wanted, and there was no checks or balances of entering your time to be “counted” as participating. You were merely sent the medal/shirt/bib/whatever swag came with your registration, and that was that as far as the “race” organizers were concerned. As such, I didn’t necessarily view these types of virtual races as “real” – it doesn’t seem right when I’m not running on the same course in the same conditions as everyone else.

In 2020, however, now that the idea of virtual racing is basically all we have left to cling to as runners in terms of goal-setting, it seems as if the systems have been majorly upgraded. Runners enter their times in the digital race results portals of their races, and compete for real. I have only participated in two, both of them still very much like the previous virtual races I’ve done, with no such technological advances, but I know handfuls of people who have run them and loved them. Some have run virtual Boston, others are prepping for virtual NYC… heck, some have even won their virtual races!

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I, on the other hand, ran my one notable virtual race on the treadmill, alone, put on the medal as I walked to the shower, then hung it up on my medal rack shortly after that and promptly forgot about it after the picture was posted to instagram.

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As you can see, my virtual race experience through the pandemic isn’t necessarily a rousing success story – I only registered for one other race, back in early September, and still haven’t gotten any more information on it ($50 down the drain, possibly??), and I don’t have any desire to register for any more in the near future.

But that’s why I’m writing this post today: did any of your races get cancelled or turned into virtual races during the pandemic? How has your virtual race experience been? Tell me everything!