An inner athlete's manifesto.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

To Run or Not to Run

I fell asleep last night with every intention of running, until my alarm went off at 7am, and I remembered that it was bitterly cold out--at least for a teasing March that has already had a few days in the sunny 60s. Hibernation mode kicked in, and I slept another two hours.

I only felt slightly guilty for skipping my run when I left the house, even though I have a half marathon in less than two weeks, for cryin' out loud. But a day off is good for you; it's better to take it in stride (get it?) than to get worked up about a missed workout and feel guilty.


I didn't even think of playing hookey again until I got off work at 7pm. It was still light outside, and slightly windy. I was inexplicably inspired by the cool, brisk evening. I took a quick lower loop in the park and retreated back to the gym for bicep, tricep, and core workout. Now my abs and arms feel killer, and my mind is truly at peace with my body.

Tips for Beating Your Inner "Just Don't Do It":

1. Crap happens. The sooner you own this, the better. There will ALWAYS be something that could stand between you and your workout, if you let it. You need to know that.

2. Identify what the sensation is, exactly, that is causing the impasse. Is your body honestly fatigued from stress or the prior day's workout? Is the weather unmotivating you? Do you NEED rest, or are you enjoying being cozy? Are you underfueled (yes, not eating properly can totally kill motivation) or dehydrated? Did you SEVER a limb somehow in your sleep? What the eff is it? Identify it. And then...

3. Categorize your reasons for not working out into two groups: "I can live with that reason" group or the "That is BS and you know it" group. It is important to maintain flexibility between the groups because sometimes your body will mask genuine fatigue with various other excuses (gulp. I said it--the E word). If your reason falls into the first group, and you are not cheating, then by all means, take a load off. If it falls into the second group, well, you may want to do a little more evaluation before playing hookey.

4. Remember this old adage: working out isn't always fun, but no one has ever felt like crap AFTER a workout. One of my instructors in training school told our class once that she actually loathes her workouts sometimes, but she does them anyway knowing the benefits outweigh the un-fun factor. She is right. Sometimes is isn't fun to push your body through pain. That doesn't sound fun at all. But since exercise will always release endorphins, you can never feel worse after a workout. You will always feel stronger, faster, and like you just brought sexy back.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Running Legs

Schlepping through the miles on a cold, rainy day is difficult enough; it is a lot harder when your brain has completely severed itself from the act of running. My will wanted to run—my legs did not, and my mind did not want to focus on the task at hand. Halfway through my run, I lamented, “Where did my running legs go? This used to be easy.”

After a few lame walking breaks where I was feeling lazy and sorry for myself, I remembered that the only way to get my running legs back was to run. I resorted to the following tactics:

1. Stop walking, start running (again). Even if you are running slow, you are running.

2. Focus on a point in front of you and make it to that point. Then pick another point, and do the same. I freaking hate this tactic, but there is a reason why every runner’s magazine out there will give this as advice once every handful of issues—it works. At first, I was picking trees. Then I decided to go with the stoplights since they were all green in the park at the moment, and the color green gives me a “go get ‘em” type focus.

3. Think green. Thinking of the color green made me feel light, airy, and springy. Thinking of orange makes me feel fast and cheetah-like. The purple and white tulips blooming on the side of the road matched my shoes and made me feel fresh. I don’t know why color associations help for me, but they work.

4. Adjust your form. Are you running tall?

5. Pat yourself on the back for even running at all. You may not have broken a training record, but you are running, damn it. You made time out of your day for you.

6. Recall one of your favorite running moments. Mine happened a few weeks ago. It was a perfect, spring-like day (although not yet Spring, which made it all more perfect). I couldn’t have asked for a better run—I was fueled properly, and I was bounding up the hills steadily. About 45 minutes in, I remembered that my body was going to tap into its secondary energy sources and give me a boost any minute. It did. About five minutes later, I got my mental boost. A young girl was riding her bike around the park with her father. She and I were trekking up the same hill at about the same time, only she was slightly ahead. With just the peak of the hill to go, and her dad waiting up at the top, her legs slowed, and it was as if she was pedaling with bricks as feet. “Come on! You can do it!” her dad shouted. “Go get ‘em! Only a few feet more!” an onlooker said. The little girl glanced up at the miniature crowd that had formed on the grass at the side of the road in Central Park—she was a star, she realized. With a mighty effort, she stood up on her biked and pushed with all her strength up her little mountain to the cheers of her crowd. I couldn’t help but smile as I ran past.