Start Running by Setting These 3 Expectations

Start-Running

I have a theory that shame keeps a lot of people from running. Tell me honestly (or at least tell yourself) if you can relate to the following story.

Jennifer (Let’s call her Jennifer. That’s a nice generic name if you’re an Xennial.) looks in the mirror and says to herself, “Ugh. My thighs are so fat. I hate my stomach. I need to lose weight.” Then, later that day, Jennifer just happens to read my blog (or, more likely, another more reputable blog or, more likely still, one with a picture of a sweaty lady in spanx and a sports bra) and decides to go for a run. She digs up some old workout clothes that don’t fit anymore. Actually, they do fit. They just hug her body in ways that make Jennifer feel uncomfortable.

“What am I doing? She asks herself. “I look ridiculous.” But she does it anyway.

After 1 minute she can’t breathe. Her lungs burn. Her legs feel like led stacked on top cinder block feet. She can feel her butt, her belly and her breasts bouncing along for the ride. It hurts. So she stops and walks. She tries two more times. She sweats more than seems reasonable for a few minutes of running and her face turns beet red. Jennifer hurries home before anyone sees her and her failed attempt at running, before anyone notices she doesn’t belong.

“I am DEFINITELY NOT a runner,” she says to herself. “FUUUUUCK THAT.”

But here’s the thing. Nothing actually went wrong. If you don’t run, if you’ve never run, or if it’s been a long time since you ran that’s exactly what to expect the first, well, many times out. Which is why the best thing you can do for yourself when you first start running is to adjust your expectations. And adjust them in these 3 specific ways.

1. Expect to walk (more than you run).

This is very near and dear to my heart right now. My long term goal is to run (or, more accurately, complete) an ultra-marathon so I’m incorporating a lot more elevation gain in my training. Twice a week 1/3 to 2/3 of my “run” is actually a hike. I’m having to adjust my expectations just like I would if I were new to running.

A friend of mine once said she doesn’t run, but occasionally she’ll go for a walk and spontaneously run a few feet here and there. YES!!! This is a perfect way to start running. Why do we always make running out to be this hyper intense activity requiring a superhuman and inexhaustible supply of determination? Why not make it a fun, low pressure activity instead?

2. Expect to go slow.

Right here and now make a decision to let go of any numbers you have floating around in your head that define things like “fast” vs. “slow” and “running” vs. “jogging” vs. “not”. Just let them go. Run slow enough that you could easily hold a conversation, maybe even sing along for a line if your favorite song popped through your earbuds. If you’re huffing and puffing slow down. Yes, even more. If you really can’t slow down anymore (even though: yes, you can) take a walk break. Walk until you feel like you could run again without much discomfort.

3. Expect it to get easier over time, but expect it to take awhile.

You’ll be surprised to find that you – yes, even you – CAN actually run. You’ll be surprised how quickly you improve. And, at the same time, you’ll find it takes forever. In part because it’s almost impossible to let go of whatever vision we have stuck in our head defining what a runner is. In part because we constantly raise the bar. Running 1 mile straight seems an impossible feat until it’s easy and a 5K feels out of reach. Before we know it running a half marathon isn’t even enough if we run slower than a specific pace and on and on we go. And finally, it feels like it takes a long time because it just takes a long time. The good news is it can be fun along the way. Like Nick Swardson says at 1:15, “It’s all in what you do with things. That’s what life is. It’s all having fun.”

I know what you’re thinking. Video store??? How old is this bit??? Answer: It’s 16 years old! That’s right. Writing this post reminded me of a 16 year old comedy bit. You know what that means… I have a fantastic memory.

Or maybe you’re thinking you’d like a more concrete plan to begin running. If that’s the case, try this. Work up to three 20 minute walks a week. Walking is as close as it gets to running, without actually running, and is the best place to start. When that feels easy, replace one of your walks with the following:

  • 5 minute walk to warm-up
  • 10 minute run/walk – Stop and start based on feel, as described in #1 and #2 above. I could recommend run and walk durations, but it’s very personal and learning how to run by feel is an incredibly valuable skill worth learning.
  • 5 minute walk to cool down

Most importantly, when you’re done, congratulate yourself on a run well done, for having the courage to try something new and challenging. That is the space – the messy space outside of our comfort zone – from which we grow.

Photo Credit: Race Walking by Eugene Kim is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Original cropped

We Can All Do More

Yoga-Teacher-Graduation-Ceremony

It’s been quite a week.

I graduated from the Maitri 250hr Yoga Teacher Training program Wednesday evening. I don’t really have adequate words to describe the women I came to know through this program. They fill me up. I have to keep reminding myself to check my ego. These ladies just won’t quit with the compliments!

“Thank you. Thank you,” I found myself chanting like a mantra, the words losing weight with each repetition, collapsing into a jumble of abstract sounds, like a tired tongue twister.

I called my husband Thursday evening right before he boarded a plane for home, a day earlier than planned. His surprise arrival meant I got to sleep in Friday morning and take a leisurely shower while he ran errands with the girls.

I’ve been binge listening to Ultra Runner Podcast lately. The latest episode with Kaci Lickteig played while I sipped my morning coffee. She described her suffering during the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run. She spoke plainly about the anger she felt towards her grandma for giving up chemo. The stress she felt over her inability to help rocked her race and, at the same time, drove her to the finish. So she could prove to herself and her grandma that we can all do more than we think we’re capable of.

“Am I angry with my mom?” I wondered. I don’t think so. Although I do feel angry with my dad, for bailing while he was still needed.

Friday night I taught kids’ Superhero Yoga at the Denver Comic Con, and it went really well. The kids were all engaged and my nerves fizzled as soon as we started. Afterwards we went out to eat downtown. The weather was perfect, my family was with me and I was feeling the buzz of beer and relief.

Superhero-Yoga-Denver-Comic-Con

It’s a strange thing experiencing joy in the middle of grief. Celebrating the beautiful moments, both large and small, and continuing on. Going through the motions of daily life as life ends.

I ran during the hottest part of Sunday. My watch stats tell me the temperature ranged between 88 – 106 F. There wasn’t any shade. A visible and textured layer of salt coated my skin by the time I finished. It was hard. But as my hero Glennon Doyle Melton says, “We can do hard things.” I reminded myself that at least the heat meant I was less likely to meet a rattlesnake. I reminded myself that I will survive. I will finish. Or, perhaps more accurately, I will continue. I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other, because we can all do more than we think we’re capable of.

I’m Teaching Free Yoga Classes. You Should Come.

The time has come! The time is now! Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now?? Oh wups. I got carried away for a second there. Actually, the time has come for Yoga Teacher Training graduation. And the time is tomorrow. I can’t believe it. The last year has flown by.

So, naturally, I’m starting to think about teaching, and that is making me feel very overwhelmed. Not so much the teaching part. That part is only a little overwhelming. It’s more so the getting a job part. I’m trying to think creatively, summon the courage to do scary things and also just trust that things will work out.

In the meantime, I have signed up to teach two free yoga classes!

Well, the first one is not really free. Sorry for being misleading there. You will have to pay to get into the Denver Comic Con, which may be sold out at this point… If you do find yourself there, definitely swing by for Kids Superhero Yoga from 5:30 – 6:00 pm on both Friday and Saturday. You’ll get to do things like stop a train, lift a car and rescue a cat from a tree. Also, I’m going to wear a costume.

Kids-Superhero-Yoga-Denver-Comic-Con

If you happen to be an adult you might be more interested in the free yoga class I’m teaching at Matri Yoga – Arvada on Sunday, July 16th at 1:00 pm. You don’t have to practice there to come. I’ve put together a draft of my lesson plan and it’s fairly challenging. But my goal is keep things light and welcome play and mistakes. Mostly because I know I will be nervous and making mistakes myself. So don’t worry about having yoga experience. If you like being active you’ll fit right in.

Free-Yoga-Class-Maitri-Arvada

Hope to see you there!

Photo Credit: It’s Super Tre by Mike Fernwood is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Added to marketing image

Estes Park Half Marathon Race Recap

Estes-Park-Half-Marathon-Finish

I clocked my slowest road time on Sunday at the Estes Park Half Marathon and I couldn’t be more pleased with how it went. No sarcasm there. I probably could’ve run faster if I were 5 pounds lighter or 5 years younger or had 5 more months to train. But I am who I am and I left it all on the course. I ran the best race I had in me.

There was a lot that could’ve gone wrong.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with… ahem… digestion during and after long runs. I didn’t used to have a problem at all. It got a little trickier after Big Girl was born and trickier still now, after Baby Girl. This is a big part of what’s motivating me to clean up my diet. I tried to play it safe by consuming no more than a reasonable amount of fiber, fat, dairy and sugar the day before the race, which is to say I skipped the pizza and had a shake instead. The good kind. Wups.

I thought a lot about what to eat before the race and decided on a Clif Bar and a cup of coffee so I could take care of business before the race started. That’s right. I’m just going to talk about poop here. I accidentally ordered a box of GU with caffeine last week and had to hunt down a caffeine-free variety in Estes Park on Saturday. So as to avoid any, er, diuretic effects during the race.

By “hunt down” I mean we went to one store after lunch and packet pick-up, and that was about all I could muster the energy for. After several hours of half-napping at the hotel it occurred to me that, perhaps, I had underestimated the altitude: 7400 – 7900 ft.

Oh, and my allergies were out of control.

At dinner I told my husband, “Maybe I’ll just take it easy tomorrow.”

“That’s probably a good idea,” he said. “You don’t want to injure yourself if you haven’t trained enough for it.”

Well, geez. I was only really thinking about the altitude and my allergies before he went and brought up training. To be fair- I have ran half marathons with less training. I wasn’t untrained. But I have also ran half marathons with more and better training under my belt. And there was the matter of the ~1000 ft of elevation gain. Let’s just say I wasn’t prepared to break any records. Except for my slowest time.

It’s possible I have my jitters to thank for my race.

The most challenging part of the course – 3.5 miles at a 2.5% grade – hits just after the first mile marker. I was extra conservative with my pace and let a dozen or so people pass me at the base of the hill without flinching. And I’m giving myself major kudos for this. If there’s one thing I’ve learned how to do over the years it’s how to avoid starting out too fast. I used to think, “I’ll be passing these people at mile 10.” But the magnitude of the fast start is typically far more impressive than that. The passing actually starts around mile 2 or 3. In this case, I hoped to catch a few of them on the downhill. Instead, I ended up passing everyone that had passed me, while still running uphill, chugging along at my slothfully consistent pace.

The peak of that hill was definitely the high point of the race, both figuratively and literally. It was early enough in the race that I didn’t feel run down, the views were great and I had a big downhill ahead of me. I even saw a handful of moose running across a neighboring field.

Estes-Park-Half-Marathon

The much shorter hill at mile 6 felt much harder and so began the progression of things just feeling harder and harder. I made a choice to power walk the hill at mile 11. I also made a choice to run all of mile 12, a doesn’t-really-qualify-as-a-hill <1% grade ramp that felt like death. 

But my body defied me and slowed to a walk at mile almost 13. And I felt pretty wrecked afterwards. My knees stopped aching yesterday, but my calves are still super tight. 

Overall I’m really happy with how I ran. I don’t think I could’ve paced it any better. I ran the second half about 7 minutes faster than the first, despite feeling like I had slowed to a crawl. I didn’t really bonk. It just got hard.

With a bit more training I think I’ll be able to subdue the hard in the second half. We’ll see. This was the first race in the Colorado Mountain Half Marathon Series. Next up is Georgetown to Idaho Springs in August.

This Should Totally Work: Pizza, Diet, Cake

Produce-Pizza-Diet

I thought about going on a diet at the grocery store this morning, which is quite a feat because usually I think about how I want to buy all the donuts. I suppose this is something I am always quietly considering underneath all the other thoughts. Sometimes less quietly.

I’ve never been an especially “healthy” eater, but lately my habits have really taken a turn for the bad for me. And by lately I mean about 3 years ago when I got pregnant with Baby Girl and decided Five Guys burgers and fries should become a food group. So it’s her fault really. Hers and Dairy Queen’s for not having a store in California and then having one too close to our house in Colorado.

It’s been a long time since I weighed myself, mostly because I don’t want to know what the number is. Not that the number even matters. I can feel the blizzards weighing me down, lingering uncomfortably in my gut.

But I hate the word “diet”. I don’t want anything to do with that word. I don’t want to start weighing myself. I don’t want to count calories or points or drink shakes. Well, I mean, of course I want to drink shakes. I want to drink the ice cream kind that taste really good and generally don’t belong in a “diet”.

I do want my pants to fit comfortably. I want to run a little faster, or at least feel like there’s less to haul up a hill. I want to poop regular poops regularly. I want to not get diabetes. I want to live until 120+. And I want to feel super hot… basically all of the time. These are reasonable expectations, yes?

I found myself commenting on how strong my inner thighs are during Yoga Teacher Training this past weekend. Later in the day the topic of a woman’s relationship with her thighs came up. I thought to myself, “I just called mine strong.” And then I gave myself a big old pat on the back.

This morning I took Baby Girl to a dance class for toddlers. There were mirrors on two of four walls so I could check myself out easily. That’s what they were there for. I found myself comparing myself to the other moms there. “My thighs are smaller than hers. Phew. Oh, but they’re bigger than hers… and hers… and hers. Uh oh.” And then I thought, “This is not a healthy way of thinking.”

Complicated relationships aside, I could definitely benefit from cleaning up my diet. So I’m going to start washing all my produce, even the avocados and the bananas. That’s not true. But I am going to eat more avocados and bananas. More vegetables and less sugar. I’m going to start immediately. Just as soon as the leftover pizza is gone.

…and the birthday cake arriving Friday.