Outdoors, finally

I got my first outdoor run today!

Daisy and I walked out a mile, and ran back. We managed to run down a long, steep hill without incident (downhill is still harder than uphill), and Daisy managed to not stop suddenly in front of me with the result of me tripping over her. 

I did manage to pace myself better than she did, as she led me the first half  mile and I led her the last quarter-mile. All in all, an excellent start to our running season.

I expect this is a good point to announce that I am aiming for a 5k on Memorial day. I’d like to do a couple this summer, so that seems like a good starting point.  I know I did the obstacle course last fall, and it was fab (definitely going to try again this year); but I didn’t run it.  So I am pretty excited to get out and do a straight up road race.

My cup runneth over


It’s always good to remember exactly why you decided you love an exercise. After my break–unintended although it was–from running, I gave some thought to why I enjoy it.  I was disconcerted to realize that while I could go as far, it was more difficult and slower. Thinking about why I was out there helped me get through those runs as I rebuilt my stamina.

These are the things I came up with (in no particular order):

exhilaration: the simple feel of my body working in harmony, the rhythmic landing of my feet on the road, the fresh air,  the clearing of my head as I run. These are things I can’t get anywhere else. And make me feel sooooo good afterwards.

the outdoors: you might have noticed from my other posts that I love Mother Nature. Well, I love the scenery; the tricks with the weather she plays I am not so fond of. I can spin many a moment out during my runs by looking at the clouds, or that perfect tree, or the many ponds I run by.  Fall is my favorite season, but all seasons have their charm: snowy landscapes with mysterious shapes, bright lime green of new leaves in the spring, bright flowers in the summer. I guess it is amazing I don’t trip more often!

weight loss: the reason I started running regularly was I discovered that running is the most effective way for me to lose weight. Years of aerobics and walking did not have the same results. I used to think my metabolism was slow, but at some point I realized that it must in fact be highly effective. I eat A LOT. And I have a hard time sticking to a diet, there always seems to be a good reason why I can break it and do better tomorrow.  Running helps me keep weight off even when I do bad.

satisfaction: oh, the power that comes when a difficult hill suddenly isn’t.  When you beat your best mile by 30 seconds. When your long run becomes your short run. When the race you trained and trained for was easy, and so much fun! All these things build to a satisfaction that is hard to beat.

pushing myself: my competitive side loves running. I try not to compare myself to others, because everyone is in a different place in our journey. Butwhen I see American Ninjas who train extensively to do such difficult feats, I feel the least I can do is a slightly better mile or one more rep. When my nephew runs 16 miles on a treadmill, I feel the least I can do is get out  and run–not 16 miles, but a good run 🙂 Those help with my motivation. I  am even more competitive with myself. I need to continue to improve. I am not satisfied with the same pace and races year after year, so I am always looking for something new to push myself with. It spills over into other parts of my life too, and I find I push myself harder in all the things I do.

i’m impatient: another reason I graduated to running from walking is that it takes so. dang. long. to get anywhere. As I am always in a hurry to get to the next place, whether I am working or driving, running seemed to be a natural fit!


Back to Basics

Part C: Form and Determination.

Running well is a matter of having the patience to persevere when we are tired and not expecting instant results.
-Robert De Castella

There is one week a month where I just slow down, and I have no choice about it.  Then I have to work around the fatigue and focus on just getting it done. I suppose I could just do yoga or ride. But I want to run, so I do.

I took some extra days off last week, so I am not cutting myself any slack this week. Today I decided I needed to take a long run, having not done anything over 3 miles for several weeks. Oh, it was tough; 4.1 miles, and I didn’t take an easy route. Four hills on the way out–which I got to run down on the way back 🙂 –and another three on the way back. What was I thinking?

Well, that is when determination comes in. I am truly not sure how I kept going the last mile, my legs wanted to walk but I just wouldn’t let them. I had decided a turn around point  before I started, but I had to keep making deals with myself.

The humidity had gone down (yay!), but it was still nice, sunny and hot out. I told myself if I got to the top of a particular hill, I could turn around. But, then I would be going downhill, so  I might as well keep going. When I was sweating, if I just got to that next patch of shade, I could go back. But then it was cool and breezy, so I might as well go a bit further.  I did that all the way to my original goal; but, boy, was I glad to turn around.

Everyone has their own level of determination. And it grows with each success. A couple of years ago, I would have turned around the first time I thought of it. But by pushing myself, I know how good I feel about it afterwards. And that adds to my determination for the next time. How do you decide to be determined? The answer is in the question: you decide.
The dictionary defines determination as: The act of deciding definitely and firmly; firm or fixed intention to aachieve a desired end.

“The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination.”
-Tommy Lasorda

Don’t confuse it with motivation, because they are separate entities. Motivation is a “motivating force, stimulus, or influence; incentive; drive.” Motivation is what makes you want to  exercise: weight loss, endorphins, that upcoming wedding, whatever.  Determination is you deciding to get out of bed and go running, and then making yourself do it. Or deciding on a 4 mile run and completing it. No matter how slow the miles might have been.

Now, you are determined, and keep running those slow miles. How do you make it through? We all develop our methods, or we stop. I have one friend that loves aerobic HIIT sessions, but gets bored running. She doesn’t run that much because of it. I never get bored.

First, I love the outdoors and the miles pass under my feet as I gawk at the pretty pond or the marvelous shape of that tree. Second, I write.  Specifically today, this post and then a story I am working for my other blog, FictionWriterwithablog (shameless plug, there). That works very well to get me up the hills: while I am working on a particular turn of phrase I don’t pay attention the hill.

And when that doesn’t work, I focus on my form.  I love running with the sun behind me so I can see my shadow. Running with good form that I can see reflected in my shadow encourages me. There are several benefits to working on form. First, you are much less likely to strain something as when you are tired form is usually the first to go.

Have a sore lower back after running?  Strain is placed on the back when you don’t keep your tailbone tucked, which makes the core support you instead of your back, particularly up a hill. It’s the reason that I do so much core work, since I am prone to lower back issues. And usually when I am tired and going up a hill, I have to make sure my tailbone is tucked. This also makes you use your thigh muscles more going up the hill: thus my drills.

Another issue I have found recently is my arms. I don’t know why, but I find I am developing “zipper arms:” my arms cross my midline (or zipper) while running. This is a waste of energy, plus the twisting motion is not good for any part of your torso.  A good fix for this to cup your hands loosely, and turn them up (like you are catching water with each hand) or turn them down. Personally, I find turning them up is better. If I turn them down it tends to make my elbows stick out to the sides, which puts more pressure on my shoulders with each swing.  I cup my hands with my thumb and forefinger (my yoga background is showing), with the palm facing up. That generally straightens my swing out–I just have been having to fix it a lot recently.

As I have said before, everyone finds the balance for them that makes good form. But there is a basis to work off of that will help you find it; and prevent injuries while you are finding that form.

The fastest way to hate running is to hurt yourself.  And there are definitely things you don’t want to be doing:

thanks to running.about for the quotes.