My silly little plans

All week long I’ve been meaning to run a new route after work – a 7.4 miler! I’ve been excited about it, looking forward to it, even! It’ll be the longest after-work run I’ve ever attempted! But… Monday night I was caught at my desk until after 5pm. This prevented the run because I don’t exactly know how long it will take me to run it, but I know that I usually have about a 13.5 minutes/mile pace. (hey – I never said I run fast). This means I know I need to budget more than an hour and a half to make this run. Since I wasn’t changed into my running clothes until 5:40 on Monday evening, I couldn’t do it. Because the gym at work closes at 7pm. If you are out running around at 7pm and don’t make it back in time, your stuff stays locked inside. Tough luck.

So Monday I did my 6.2 mile route.

Tuesday and Wednesday it was raining, no joy.

Tonight I just knew was going to be my night. I had the time blocked out in my work calendar so nobody could schedule a last minute meeting to derail me. I had all my gear, I even had a running partner – my wonderful husband who often rides his bike while I run, pedaling along beside me as a sort of guard dog/water bearer/crossing guard and all around great conversationalist. Except tonight we somehow completely got our wires crossed about where and when to meet, and by the time we finally met up it was too late to start on my highly-anticipated 7.4 mile run, lest I risk getting my purse with car keys, phone, wallet, etc. locked up in the gym.

So instead of a 7.4 mile run I only got  a puny, lame 4.7 mile run tonight. It may have been the worst run of my entire life. I was so disappointed about the run I didn’t get to do that it completely demolished any joy I might have felt in the one I was doing. I’m sure there’s a life lesson to be learned somewhere in there.

Nevertheless, I’m going to try again tomorrow. Dammit.

Physical Changes

Today I was mighty. This story starts last Friday when I tried a new route from my house, a 7 miler. Because the map I use doesn’t show elevation changes I didn’t know there was a big muckin’ hill at mile 3. Last week I had to stop and walk about halfway up the hill because it is a very big, very steep hill. Today I knew it was coming and was more mentally prepared and able to try a new strategy of intentionally taking bigger, deeper breaths as I was chugging along up the slope and just focusing on one step at a time. Victory – ran the whole way!

It’s been a month now since I’ve been regularly completing longer runs, and I’ve noticed some physical changes that can’t be explained by any other factor, so I’m willing to attribute them to longer distance running:

  1. My feet sport a crop of new calluses and soon-to-be-calluses (aka blisters).
  2. My lips are always chapped.
  3. My forearms are starting to pick up a slight tan – it’s only March!
  4. My thighs are getting bigger – specifically what I think are the abductor muscles in the inner thighs. Not exactly a looked-for result, I assure you, but it is what it is.

I have no idea if I’ve gained or lost any weight – I’ve stopped weighing myself. Which was kind of the point of the focusing on physical achievements. I wanted to get off the mental roller coaster of the scale and put the focus on an area where I could feel successful and in control.

Running, and the Group Exercise Thing

One of the beneficial side effects of the fitness challenge I gave myself a few weeks ago, to run 25 miles that week, was to normalize longer distance runs for me. Ever since that week I’ve been running much longer distances that I had previously attempted on a regular basis. Whereas my usual run prior to my fitness challenge week was 3 to 4 miles, now I’m regularly running 6 miles, and feel that a 5 mile run is a bit short. Monday I only had time for a quick run so I did a 4.3 mile run – one that would have previously been considered one of my longest running routes!

As I run I ponder. Today I was thinking about the recent fad for team/group exercise. I’ve NEVER been a big proponent of group exercise for me, in fact in many cases I’ve gone out of my way to avoid it. I know that a lot of people are super excited about getting a team together to do one of those charity bike rides, or a themed running event like Tough Mudder or a Zombie Run, yet I cannot manage to commit myself to such an undertaking no matter how much I like the people putting together the group. I look at the people involved and I think, “I would LOVE to hang out with her/him/them more! And I even like running! So what’s wrong with me that doing a group exercise event fills me with dread and loathing?”

I’m not entirely certain, but I have a couple of ideas. The first one is that as a “fat kid” growing up, engaging in group exercise (at school PE class, organized sports, etc) always had one inevitable result – I would be a big disappointment to my team and, likely, be the reason why we would lose whatever competition (they’re always a competition – a game or a race) we were participating in. It was always me, the out-of-shape fat girl, who caused the team to fail. I had enough of that humiliation early on in my life that just thinking about group exercise fills me with despair. I just know I’ll be the slowest, worst, most losing-est member of the team. Why would I want to volunteer for that? Whether or not it’s true now, the ingrained reflex remains. It’s hard to override lessons learned in the formative years.

The other part is that, in addition to the fear of sucking at whatever activity I’m participating in, exercising is my meditation time. I’m a solo runner, and I jealously guard that solo time because it’s when I can mull things over in my mind without distractions – no computer, no books, no other people, no phones. Just me and my thoughts (and my workout playlist, of course!). I don’t WANT to have to chit-chat, or smile, or whatever it is that people do when they’re exercising in groups. I want my alone time in my own head so I can make sense of my world, solve some nagging work issue, remember all the things I need to do, organize my weekend plans, fantasize about what I should have said that one time (but didn’t). The thought of giving up that time makes me sad and somewhat grumpy.

I know that the point of group exercise is partly motivation – it helps people to get out and do the exercise when they’ve made a commitment to others to show up for a practice or session. But for me…I don’t need motivation. I’ve got it already. Once I discovered it, I’ve never lost my deep-seated understanding that if I don’t exercise I will feel horrible in my body. I do it whether anybody is watching or not.

Exercising hard, less often

I’ve been focusing on exercise lately. I did my 25-mile week, and that was very empowering! Lately I’ve been working on getting back into bike-riding shape, as well as trying a few longer runs.

Earlier this week on Wednesday I did a 6 mile run after work. Then on Friday I did a 6.8 mile run that, unexpectedly, had a hill about 2 miles in! (I didn’t know about the hill because the route-mapping site I use doesn’t show elevation changes!) Right now I’m enjoying doing longer runs less often, so instead of running every day, or  two to three days in a row, I run a 10K or so every other day and take the day off in between to recover.

Today I did a longer bike ride than I’ve attempted so far this year since bike-riding season started (ie: since it got warm enough that I would consider going out to ride). We rode for about 14 miles, and I just know my undercarriage is going to be sore tomorrow! Every spring I have to go through a process of getting myself accustomed to the saddle slowly over the course of several weeks.

I haven’t been tracking every bite that I eat lately, I’m trying to take a more philosophical view, with the general idea being that if I work hard on exercise every other day or so, and follow the general guidelines I know about eating mostly fruits and vegetables, then I can stop berating myself for every bite, stop measuring, counting, angsting, and just live.

We’ll see. I know I go through cycles where one week this approach will work for me, and the next I’ll throw my hands up and put myself on a strict program. For now this seems to be a good place to be.