Monday, July 30, 2012

Why I Run: To Set (and achieve!) Goals

I run to give my life structure and clearly-defined goals.  After the rigidity and predictability of academic life and the obvious goals that go along with growing up, I was shocked to find myself floundering in the adult world with few goals in sight.  I'd finished my master's degree, gotten married, bought a house, found a job in my field, and started a family.  As far as adult goals are concerned, I didn't know what else I might hope to achieve.  And I was surprised to find that without goals, I felt aimless and ungrounded.

Enter running.  Running has become a perfect way for me to set goals, both large and small, and feel the sense of accomplishment that comes along with meeting them.  My goals have included finishing the Couch to 5k program, running my first 5k, gradually extending the distance of my long run, running a 10k, consistently running 4 days per week, adding in a day of cross-training, and most recently, completing a 10-mile run.  I love the built-in goal setting that comes with running and the tremendous feeling of pride as I accomplish new milestones.

Setting goals and hitting the mark.  It's what we mother runners do.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Back in the Saddle

I ran for the first time today since July 3rd, and though it wasn't effortless and it certainly wasn't pretty, I am happy to be back.  We spent the last 10 days in sunny Florida where I did some pool running, but mentally and physically, I needed a complete break from road running.

During today's run, which had to be on the treadmill, my legs felt strained from underuse over the past several weeks, and I had to use every ounce of willpower to complete the miles I had planned.  (Full disclosure: a promise of post-run Cheetos and Diet Coke may also have helped motivate me to finish.)

While I appreciate my treadmill and all that it does for me, the hamster wheel concept rings true.

I think I will take a break from my running log for a bit.  I need to reconnect with my love of running and not feel encumbered by counting my weekly miles and studying my average heart rate.  As a self-declared nerd, I love analyzing those statistics, but for the moment, I think I need to run with my heart rather than my brain.  I'm looking forward to running my local outdoor routes this weekend.  How I have missed those roads!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Good news / Bad news

The good news:  I'll be able to run again in about a week.
The bad news:  I have to finish miscarrying this pregnancy in order to get back on the road.

Though I was only 6 weeks along when my body miscarried, I have felt deep and serious grief over the loss of this baby.  I can only imagine how much more heartbreaking a miscarriage is for those further along in their pregnancies.

From the outset, I did not think this would be a viable pregnancy.  My heart knew that I was never meant to hold this baby in my arms, and though I thought I had prepared myself for this outcome, I can't shake the incredible sense of sadness and loss over the tiny life that will never be.  The sweet face I will never see.  The happy laugh I will never hear.  The soft baby skin I will never feel.  The fresh newborn scent I will never smell.  The tiny toes I will never kiss.

You weren't meant for this world, sweet baby, but you will always be in my heart.

But I know that I will (eventually) survive this heartache and come through it a stronger person.  I find myself hugging my children closer these days and enjoying even the most banal of interactions with them.  Life is a gift not a guarantee, and I must remember to treasure the moments I am given.

When I'm ready, I'm looking forward to a refreshing, cathartic run.  I imagine it will be a tear-filled endeavor, as I let my guard down and come face-to-face with my feelings on the miscarriage.  But I can't wait to go out on the road, mourning the loss but also celebrating the life that surrounds me.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Dealing with Frustration

For medical reasons, I'm currently a sidelined runner.  I haven't run in a week, and I'm not sure if it will be days, weeks, or months until I can run again.  I'm trying to exercise patience with the situation, though that is easier said than done.

Our city's heat wave finally broke today (with a high only in the low 90s), which really had me itching for a run.  As I took care of a few errands this evening, it looked to me like the entire city was out running while I sat idly by.  I passed my usual routes and felt a pang of envy for those out running on my favorite stretches of sidewalk.

However, I'm trying to keep this hiatus in perspective.  I don't necessarily have to run today; I want to be a lifelong runner.  If not running right now means that I can continue to run for years to come, then my current break from running is well worthwhile.  I'm allowing myself this virtual pity party, but I need to accept this as a bump in the road and move on with life.  There will be more runs for me in the future when my body is ready to accept them.  In the meantime, I need to focus on all of the good things in my life and know that my return to running will be so much sweeter because of this break.  Absence makes the (already fond) heart grow fonder.

A good reminder for me as I wait out this period of unknown.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why I Run: To Set an Example

I run to set an example for my kids.  I want them to see running as not only an activity that improves my health, but as one of the ways I take care of myself.  I brush my teeth, I visit my OB annually, I run; in all of these ways, I take care of me.

My kids watch me as I spend most of my day taking care of others: fixing meals, patching up skinned knees, settling arguments, folding laundry.  But when I put on my running shoes, they know that I'm heading out for some personal time.  When I come back, I'm hot and sweaty, but I'm also relaxed and refreshed.

I want my kids to know that taking care of themselves is just as important as taking care of others.  Not in a narcissistic way, but if we do not care for ourselves, what could we possibly offer to anyone else?  A broken foundation can do little to support its surrounding structure.  Since I feel like the foundation for my family, I know that I need to care for myself, and I want my kids to learn this lesson, too.

Running is the mortar that helps hold the bricks of my foundation in place.

Though they are only 2- and 4-years-old, I think running is starting to infiltrate their lives.  They point out passing runners when we are in the car, and they hold races in our backyard all the time.  They joined me as we cheered for my husband at his first 5k earlier this summer, cheering not only for their dad but also for all the other runners who passed our corner.

Even if running does not become their lifelong habit, I hope they find something to do that is just for them.  Perhaps it will be music, woodworking, poetry, or cycling.  I don't care what it is.  I just hope that they find it and cherish it as much as I do running.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Slogging through the Humidity

As we're entering our sixth consecutive day of 100+ degree temperatures, an outdoor run at any time of day seems like an arduous task.  I've done a number of treadmill runs during this hot streak, but this morning, I set off early for an outdoor run.  Though the temperature was wonderful (low 70s), the humidity and air quality were abysmal.  My lungs felt like they could never quite fill up, and the air felt thick and heavy.

Today's run felt as humid as this, though of course my landlocked city does not include a gorgeous beach view.  All the humidity; none of the views.

I told myself that my pace didn't matter; I just had to go out and do something for 30 minutes.  It's difficult for my Type A brain to accept such an assignment, but I did make a concerted effort to take it easy.  And if my heart rate monitor's data is trustworthy, I did relax my effort a bit.  Both my maximum and my average heart rates were slightly lower than they were on my recent treadmill runs.

I'm hoping for a break in the heat to clear out the humidity and refresh the air supply.  Though in July in St. Louis, this hope is probably more of a pipe dream...