Autumn Running

Fall by Rocky Mountain High

What’s that you say? How’s the running going?

In a word?

It isn’t.

October has been a rough month for me running. It’s been cold, dark, gray, rainy, wet and windy. It’s the kind of weather that makes you want to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea, not pull on your running shoes and sports bra. Of course, it is also getting dark much earlier, and is dark much later in the morning, which completely removes all my motivation. There really is no good reason I can’t run in the dark, (I have several times,) but when it is also cold, wet and windy, I just don’t want to.

That doesn’t mean I am not working out. I’m still strength training every other day. I am also using the Lift app to build a daily habit of exercising. My goal is simple: at least 15 minutes a day doing anything I want. The strength training days are easy. My routine is a little over a half an hour. On the alternate days I’ve been doing a lot of walking.

Since it has been so miserable out in the evenings, usually the best time of the day to get outside is while I am at work. I’ve been packing my lunch, eating at my desk, then putting on my spare pair of sneakers and hitting the sidewalks. I can’t run (my office doesn’t have showers or a changing area,) but I can power walk the neighborhoods around my office. I am almost always out at least 20 minutes, but I usually go 30-45, and occasionally I go the whole lunch hour. It just depends on how I feel.

On the weekends, or when I can’t quite get out of the office, I’ve just tacked on at least 15 minutes to my daily dog walks, which is something my little hound appreciates! The nice thing about walking is that I feel more comfortable knowing how to dress for the weather. Running is tricky because I heat up so much. With walking, I can dress in layers and take off my hat or gloves and shove them in my pockets. That’s harder to do while on the run.

I haven’t given up running all together though! I still have a goal to do 100 miles by December 1, and I have toughly 25 miles to go. Friday we had a rare day of almost sunshine, so I went trail running. Trail running is my favorite. I promised myself I that’s where I would go in order to make it more enticing. The trail was absolutely gorgeous. It might be a bit nasty here weather-wise, but the Midwest is gorgeous in the fall. I was slow, partially because I was out of condition, partially because of all the tree roots hidden under layers of wet leaves, but I had a wonderful time. I even had three white-tailed deer running alongside me for a bit!

Even though I don’t enjoy running as much as I would like, I really love what it does for me. I like feeling strong and having stamina in a way I never had before. I am going to keep at it. I am not giving up!

…but there may be a few less running posts over the next few months.

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain High on flickr

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Building Slowly

I’m in the process of catching up on my blog reading. I missed a lot while I was out on the road! There were some wonderful articles. I wanted to write about a couple of them that got my mental wheels a’ turnin’. The first one is: Habit – the Real Key to Long-Term Weight Loss Success on gokaleo.com.

I’m going to excerpt a bit of it, but you should really go over there and read the whole thing for yourself.

From gokaleo.com:

Five years ago I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that my body was the result of my lifestyle habits. The way I ate, the way I moved, the way I slept, the way I dealt with stress…all these things worked together to produce the body I had at the time. My body, and my health, were a product of thousands of small, seemingly inconsequential behaviors (both conscious and unconscious) I engaged in on a day to day level. Trying to undertake massive behavioral changes all at once, as I had done so often as I tried fad diet after fad diet, rarely worked in the long term, as those massive behavioral changes gradually gave way to the ingrained habits that had established themselves over the course of decades.

I shifted my focus. Instead of focusing on an aesthetic goal and trying to force my body to that goal, I decided to focus on those small, seemingly inconsequential habits that formed the vast majority of my day to day activity. I identified the habits, the nearly subconscious behaviors that I fell back on automatically, that shaped the body and health I had at the time. And once those habits were identified, I identified new habits that could replace them, and I focused on shaping those new habits, slowly and methodically. The end goal wasn’t ‘weight loss’. The end goal was a new habit, a nearly subconscious behavior that I would fall back on automatically in my day to day life. I believed that with new habits and new behaviors, my body and health would change. I was right. []

That’s the essence of the article, but what I loved was what she wrote about the science behind modifying behavior. I am not going to excerpt that part, (seriously, go read it on the site,) but what really struck me was her idea of creating good solid habits that you can always fall back on when times get rough. I immediately started thinking about how I could start to apply those concepts to my own life… when I realized that I already do! I didn’t have the terminology that she uses, or even really do it consciously, but it is how I have approached my weight loss and fitness. A great example has to do with my goals on being physically active.

As I have said many times, one of the things I do each and every day is walk my dog. We go for a half hour in the morning and a half hour at night. I’ve tried lots of different walk times over the past three years – at one time I was trying for 45 minutes each walk, then I tried three 20 minute walks for a while, I played with a 15 – 20 minute walk in the morning and 40 – 45 minutes at night, and so on. It took a long time to find exactly what works for me. But being able to commit to this daily isn’t just about when to do it, it is also takes other little helpful habits, like keeping dog walking clothes right next to the bed – ready for when my feet hit the floor, having routines for what I do when I walk in the door at night, always knowing where his leash, waste bags and treats are, and having them ready to go. These are all little habits that have formed over time. Now walking my dog is just something I do automatically, I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s so ingrained in me that even when things are bad, never consider not grabbing the leash and heading out.

In fact, it is so much a part of my everyday life, that I just recently set myself a goal to do some kind of physical activity each and every day, without ever even thinking about the fact that I already walk an hour or more a day! It didn’t occur to me. Of course, walking with Hermes is great for a lot of things, but it isn’t enough for me to hit my fitness goals, which is why I am trying to develop this new habit. Like Go Kaleo suggests, I’m starting small. I’m shooting for at least 15 minutes a day of extra activity, and it can be anything at all – running, power walks, extra strength training sessions, time on my bike, my boxing DVD, whatever, as long as I do something.

I’ve got a few things that are helping me stay on track. For one thing, I am trying to look at the calendar and plan out what I am going to do the week before. Nothing is set in stone, but having a plan helps me make sure I have the right clothes, shoes and mindset for the day. I’m trying to use all the times throughout the day I have available – morning, afternoon and evening. For example I do strength training in the morning before work. I try to do it every other day, but if I know I have plans in the evening, that might be a great choice for that day. I also have lunch hours available, if the weather is nice, I can get a great power walk in around my office. It’s located near some really good residential areas for walking. Evenings are good for runs and bike rides (as long as the weather behaves,) but it’s good to know ahead of time when I am going to do that so I can pack my running shoes or throw my bike in the back of my car. I’m also using apps, of course. (I do love my apps.) I track running, walking and biking on RunKeeper and use Lift for daily motivation to keep at it!

Right now my goal is to simply build daily activity into a habit, to get to the point where it doesn’t even occur to me not to take an extra walk or hop on the bike when I have a few minutes. This is all part of a bigger goal, though. I love the weight that I have lost and the fact that I am in the best shape I have ever been in… but it still blows my mind. It feels fragile, like it could all burst like a soap-bubble. In some ways, it still isn’t real. But I want it to be, I want to feel like this (or heck, even better) for the rest of my life. I want to keep challenging myself and my long-held beliefs about who I am, what I look like and what I am capable of doing. I don’t want to jump into unsustainable changes, I want to carefully build and sculpt who I will become, habit by habit.


If you visit Go Kaleo, also check out their guest post: Winning the Fat Loss Lottery (not what you think…) by Sean Flanagan. It really speaks to exactly what I am talking about.

Other Runners

motivation-irresistableI never used to notice runners. I’d see them, of course, when I was driving around town, put I didn’t pay any attention to them.

I do now. I think it is like the “blue Buick” syndrome. You never notice blue Buicks… until you buy one. Then everywhere you look: in every parking lot, passing you on the highway, in your neighbor’s driveway – a blue Buick. Running has been like that for me. Now that I have been doing it for a little while, I notice how many other runners there are. I see them everywhere – even now that the weather has turned cool and dark, folks are still getting out there pounding the pavement.

Once and awhile I see someone who motivates me. It might be the way they are running or how they look – something catches my eye and I think “Oh, I hope I can do that someday.” I promise, I try not to be a creeper about it. I keep my staring discrete. Recently I was walking Hermes and saw a man running towards me. His running looked effortless, even though he was moving at quite a clip, and he still had the lung capacity to wish me a pleasant morning. He did not look like I do when I run – sweaty, red-faced, clumsy, face scrunched up in painful concentration. He looked happy, free and comfortable. After he passed, I thought, “If I keep at it, there will come a time when I’ll look like that when I run.”

It backfires though. I was running at the park the other day and I saw this gal coming towards me, running with her arms high on her chest. She looked more like she was boxing than running – with each step her fists were level with her cheekbones. As she ran by I thought, “Well, that just looks uncomfortable.”

Then I started worrying. Do I do that? I remembered that my Run Clinic instructor told us to run with our arms at a 90 degree angle. I know I run higher than that, I didn’t think I was as high as boxer lady, but maybe I was… I started concentrating on my arms, forcing myself to hold them at what I thought was a 90 degree angle. I would do okay and then slowly… slowly… the arms would creep back up. (Incidentally, I think women instinctively run with their arms higher than men. Maybe not all gals, but a lot of us. I suspect it has to do with protecting the bosom.) Anyway… you know what happened right?

(Long time runners are probably laughing at me right now!)

I got through the run okay, but the next morning, and for several days after that, my shoulders and arms were killing me! Lesson learned – allow your body to find its own natural rhythm. That includes breathing, arm placement and anything else. Sure, there are adjustments that can be made with the help of a pro, but doing weird things ad hoc in the middle of a run? Not smart! In other words, “Eyes on your own paper!”

Big Bills, Garage Sales and Pup Recovery

Why yes, I am feeling much better, thanks.

Why yes, I am feeling much better, thanks. I think you should give me some ham.

Hermes had the staples from his surgery removed on Tuesday morning. He’s almost like a new dog. He has so much energy right now – I love it! We just started getting back to full half hour walks at close to our old speed. (I’ve been taking it slow with him to allow for full healing.) Having him feeling better has helped my mood as well.

August was a hard month. I can’t complain – everything resolved itself well, but it was still a tough month. For one thing, it was expensive. My house is a two unit with a one bedroom apartment in it that I rent out. As a rental property, it has to be inspected by the city every few years and the furnace and hot water heater have to be checked by experts. The house passed with flying colors, but the furnace failed the inspection. Not a huge deal, it was old and I was expecting it to go any time, but still a fairly large outlay of cash to have it replaced. Then, of course, I had to pay for the inspections as well. Add to those bills all of Hermes’ emergency pet care, and I’m pretty depleted. I had to pull money from all my “extra” accounts to pay for everything. That means a few of my big plans are on hold.

It was a busy month too. I am wrapping up my freelance work for the summer. I am on the final leg, thank goodness. While I love doing it, it will be good to take a break. Plus there are all the “normal” activities that keep me busy – friends, family, my nonprofit work, my for profit job… all this plus working out 5-6 times a week. Life is good and I like doing all of it, but again, you add on extra things like meeting with furnace repairmen and running to the animal hospital twice a day, and it isn’t only my bank accounts that are depleted – it’s my energy levels as well.

That being said, I thought Labor Day weekend was going to be a turning point. While Saturday was really productive, the rest of the weekend ended up being more of the same – especially the freelance work. That took up the most time. I didn’t get any running in and I only got one of the several naps I had hoped for! (I do love naps.) The bright side was that I started work on my annual garage sale – it’s a huge project, and I have just one month.

Every year for several years now, (I think this will be our eighth,) my best friends and I have held a garage sale at my house. We keep the prices cheap, the booze flowing and good people all around. We’ve pretty much got it down to a science and we do quite well most years. I am hoping for a particularly good year – I would love to replenish some of those bank accounts I mentioned! Since the summer was so busy, we’ve pushed it all to the fall. We are planning on having it October 4th and 5th. We’ve found fall sales to be good in the past, people are still in the mood to hit sales, but there are less of them, so we get good traffic.

I’ve got a ton of stuff to do in preparation. Not only do I have a lot to sell, but the house and yard needs to be put into shape. That’s what was great about last Saturday. I managed to get started on it, and started putting a plan into place how to finish it. A plan is needed – four weeks isn’t far away at all!!

Sigh... this is probably true.

Sigh… this is probably true.

Do’s and Don’ts

I ran across this somewhere on the web and tucked it away as a good reminder:Dos_and_Donts

What I love about it is that it has some good points without being focused on one particular fitness path. For example, while there are several points about eating, the phrase Eat Clean doesn’t appear. (I wrote about why that phrase gets makes me clench my teeth awhile back.) I have heard some conflicting advice about drinking that much water, but considering it is August and high summer in the U.S., if you’re going to be working out outside, it seems like a good plan to me.

I really like the don’s side – especially #1) don’t skip rest days and #4) don’t forget to reward yourself. I think those get forgotten a lot. Since I try to alternate weight training and running, it is really easy for me to skip rest days. (That’s why I don’t get too down on myself when I have a busy week. I just figure they are unplanned rest days.) As for rewards, so far, the results have been their own reward. Then again, taking the time to sit for a while by the river after a long run is an awfully good reward.

Sitting at the river's edge after my run.

Sitting at the river’s edge after my run.

Just a Quick Update

EVEN IF ALL YOUR TROUBLES SEEMED SO FAR AWAYYY

I needed this today. (From wewanderandwonder.com)

I still feel like I am still recovering from my week with the sick pooch (plus a few other random stresses,) so I am not completely on my game. I am still here though, and I love reading all your blog posts! You guys make my day.

Even though I’ve been indulging in some emotional eating, things are still going pretty okay. It’s been hard not being able to walk Hermes like I am used to, though. He is able to get around okay but is still on rest for the next week – until the staples from his surgery come out. We’ve been doing some short (sloooow) walks. They let him do what he needs to do, but don’t do much for me. Normally, I love our walks because they let me work off stress, get some “walking meditation” time in, and burn some calories all at the same time. These little 20 minute jaunts down the block just don’t have the same effect.

Fortunately, the strength training is still going well. I’m loving The New Rules of Lifting for Women, and I’ve kept to my every other day routine. I finally admitted to myself that the Swiss Ball I bought was defective and returned it for a new one. That one inflated beautifully. While I was at the store I also picked up a few more weight plates, and I am ever slowly working my way towards a home gym.

Hermes' "Welcome Home" present from his girlfriends. He doesn't normally get cheese, but when he does, he's a happy pup!

Hermes’ “Welcome Home” present from his girlfriends. He doesn’t normally get cheese, but when he does, he’s a happy pup!

After a pretty decent week of running, I am on a bit of a hiatus. I was going to go yesterday morning, but: 1) I had a small blister on the back of my foot from my work heels. Nothing major, but the equivalent of a paper cut, small but ridiculously painful., 2) it was raining, 3) my raincoat has lost much of its waterproofness and needs a respray, 4) I was super low on sleep on account of Julian and I having not seen each other much lately and spending the previous evening talking. It was much needed time together, but I was really bleary eyed in the morning. Any one or two of these things wouldn’t have kept me from going out, but when I piled them all up… yeah. I threw some Neosporin on my blister, put a good bandaid on it, and crawled back into bed. There is a line between excuses and darn good reasons, and this time it felt like staying home was the smart move.

I’ve got a busy couple of weeks ahead. It’s the last of my summer freelance work and I’ll be wrapping things up. So, I’ll be laboring away on Labor Day, but I am still hoping to get a few runs or maybe some good, strong walks in anyway. It’s too bad Hermes can’t join me, but hopefully he’ll be back at it in full strength in a week or two. Now it is time to shake off this post-stress malaise and get back to looking ahead!

 

Running Quote – Each Step Changes Us

Parallel PathsI have a ton of thoughts going around in my head – posts to write and ideas to share, but I am a little overwhelmed. Hermes’ surgery last week sucked up all my mental and emotional reserves, and now I am running on fumes. So, I thought I would re-post something I saw that made me happy. I loved this quote posted over on Fit For a Year:

You are different in some way than you were the day before

It’s important to remember that each footstrike carries you forward, not backward. And every time you put on your running shoes you are different in some way than you were the day before.

John “The Penguin” Bingham, Going with the Flow, The Penguin Chronicles Archive.

 

Photo credit: Jennifer Elaine Hagedorn

Hermes Update and Dealing with Stress

On a walk in the rain

Can’t wait to see this face.

First, good news! I finally got some good news about my little guy. It has been a long, rough week! As I mentioned, his initial surgery to remove the tumor went well, but it was followed up with complications. Hermes spent two nights in the Emergency Animal Hospital and another night at the vet’s getting blood transfusions and IVs. However, I got the call this morning that he is looking great, has finally eaten some food on his own (his last real meal was Monday morning before all this went haywire,) and is sitting up and bright-eyed. The doc is weaning him off his IVs and if all goes well, I’ll have my little guy back home again by the end of the day.

I can’t wait… the house is far too quiet without him.

Here’s an interesting thing – I’ve been handling the stress differently than I ever have before, and it has a lot to do with the changes I have made over the last year.

I actually hold up fairly well under extreme stress. The day-to-day stuff can really get under my skin, but when things go absolutely sideways, I tend to be pretty solid. I think I get this from my dad who was the same way. (Perhaps a good inheritance for once, eh Andra?) He had some, well, let’s call them “anger management issues” on the day-to-day, but when things went really, really bad, he was always calm, cool and collected. I’ve worked hard not to have the anger problems he had, but I’ve nurtured the calm. I tend to be practical, (sometimes to the extreme,) and while I have my teary moments like everyone else, my goal is always to hold it together until I get through to the other side.

The waiting is the hardest part.* Whenever situations like this come up, especially ones dealing with medical issues, there is always waiting involved. My tried and true method of getting through it is books. Preferably something interesting, but fairly light. My favorite are older, formulaic murder mysteries like the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout. I can’t tell you how many books I flew through back when my mother was in the hospital, waiting on some kind of news.

My other tried and true method is emotional eating. I’m not proud – when the shit is hitting the fan, I’m not going to take the time to count calories. Besides, I love food – and I really love great food, so having something decadent really does make me feel better for a bit. This week, I have been doing both of these things. I’ve been burying my head in books  and coating my throat with wine.

But… that isn’t all I have been doing. I’ve also been running, weight lifting and walking. Now, I need to make this clear – I am not trying to balance out the scale here. There is no way one of my runs will burn up the quantity of dark chocolate almond bark and glasses of wine I’ve had. It’s more that I have added another tool for coping. The night Hermes went in for emergency surgery, I knew it was going to be a couple of hours to before I heard how it went. As I headed towards the kitchen, I heard a voice in my head say, “Is emotional eating really going to help right now???

The rest of me said “*&^$!”

… and then went and put on my running shoes. I had that antsy, nervy energy – the kind that makes you want to pace, or punch something. Going for a run, even a bad run, totally let me escape the situation and work off the twitchiness. And man, were my runs bad. My times were terrible, I had equipment failures, I was distracted and unfocused… and yet, I ran. I found, incidentally, that 2 min run / 1 min walk intervals are perfect for this. I didn’t have the willpower, or the mental capacity, to run much more than this, and “just doing whatever” was actually more stressful because it involved making choices – something I had already been doing way too much of this week. Intervals gave me a structure, a purpose, and a framework, plus I could run full-out for 2 minutes if I wanted knowing I had a break coming. Though by every metric my runs were terrible, for me, they were great.

I also worked on my strength training. I mentioned that I am starting to go through The New Rules of Lifting for Women. Even though without Hermes in the house I could have slept in, instead I got up, got out my weights and went to work. I’ve been walking too. One day this week while I was waiting on a call from the vet, I headed out for an hour-long lunch hour walk. Another morning, before weight training, I went for an early morning power walk.

Sunrise. I took this on an early morning walk this week.

Sunrise. I took this on an early morning walk this week.

This is all really new to me, and believe me, I understand why it wouldn’t be appealing. One of my coworkers is going through a rough time too. He said, “I am having to do enough stuff that I don’t want to do right now, I am not going to make myself run as well.” I get that! And even though it briefly occurred to me to take the rest of my chocolate into the office and put it on the “free food” table in the break room, I haven’t – there is a still the long road of recovery ahead.

Here’s the point – I think everyone deals with stress a little differently. I am not going to judge anyone for how they handle it. For myself, I am surprised that exercise has become something I’ve started turning to. I’ve heard for years that exercise is good for stress, but it always seemed like a lot of blue mud. How could sweating, and panting and working hard feel good? Yet here I am, workout clothes hanging in the laundry, running shoes ready to go.

 

 

* Did I just get Tom Petty stuck in your head? Please tell me I did.