Fitness Loyalty: From Morning to Midday Runs

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If you work out in the morning, then you understand how important routine is to, simply put, getting it done. I mean, let’s be honest. An alarm clock blaring from across the room doesn’t exactly entice us to get out of bed at the crack of dawn, nor does a pitch black room or the warm blankets we know we’re bound to leave behind.

What does inspire us to open our eyes, ignore the “snooze” button and saunter into the bathroom? It’s the feeling we get from breaking a sweat before the sun has said hello. It’s our ability to start each new day with a bang. It’s the chance to greet the day with energy and positivity.

Few things can replace this sensation, and missing out on that irreplaceable sense of ahh (also known as sweet, sweet endorphins) can be as disastrous as forgetting to brush our teeth or put on pants. If given the choice, I might actually bid adieu to the latter before giving up my precious morning run.

But what happens when it’s not the run, but the routine that changes? How does that affect our morning workout — and the rest of the day at that?

A few weeks ago, I got married. Picture 1

(Back-up Toms. If you’re getting married, put these on your must-have list.)

Then, my now-husband and I searched for an apartment in Philadelphia and signed some lease papers with lots of legal talk on them. Now, I’m about six weeks out from the big NYC to Philly move, working from home, and by no means setting my alarm for the ripe hour of 6:30 AM — a time I’d truly come to love.

Take away my run, and my day will unquestionably be all out of wack. But take away my day, and heck, now my run is all screwy.

For the last week, the first thing I’ve wanted to do upon opening my eyes in the morning is run. Like a Pavlovian dog, it’s what I’ve trained myself to desire. Eyes open. Shorts on. Central Park bound. In a lot of ways, this routine is part of who I am.

For the last week though, I’ve been on no real schedule — at least, not one that requires an early alarm. Not only have I been waking up a full hour or two later, but by the time I get up and recognize that same craving for pavement, I’ve already convinced myself that hey, there’s no rush. Like any weekend morning, I can sit, have my Raisin Bran in peace, drink my coffee, watch the Today Show and shoot off some emails. Eventually, I can lace up and head out. Eventually.

On Wednesday, by the time I actually put on my Reeboks, it was 3:30 in the afternoon — an entire day had gone by before I was able to convince myself to run. Then, by the time I found myself on the East River path, I also found myself with a massive stomachache. Apparently, my body isn’t used to running midday. I was in pain the entire time.

Picture 2

(Why so quiet? What, do people work or something?)

Today was slightly more productive. Today, I told myself it was time to get off the couch and out of pajamas by 11. Today was the day I wouldn’t sit with my feet up on the coffee table until 3 in the afternoon. Picture 3 I succeeded too, exploring Central Park around noon. All of the faces I saw were unfamiliar, and the traffic patterns I’d grown so accustomed to were totally different too. It was strange, and it still felt somehow off.

But it’s progress.

I suppose that, as with running before work, midday runs take some getting used to as well. Knowing me though, just as I’m getting used to this laid back routine, I’ll be thrust into a new life with a new job that requires a new alarm to be set. And when that happens, I’ll have to re-train myself to love the early run once again.

So, tell me. Are you loyal to your fitness routine, or do you change up the times at which you exercise during the day?

A Run Story: Before, During & After “I Do”

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Nobody ever prepares you for the madness that is your actual wedding day. Pictures. Family. Food. Gifts. Everyone throws glasses of champagne in your direction along with plates of mini hot dogs and envelopes filled with sweet, sweet wedding presents — and yet all you really want is to enjoy a quiet moment alone with your (finally) husband. Had I realized the craziness that would ensue, I might have just gone to City Hall. Ultimately, what I learned before, during and even after my wedding day was that a wedding actually has very little to do with the bride and groom. It’s about — and in a lot of ways for — everybody else.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 12.15.53 PMIf you’ve been following along over the last few months, you’d know that running (as always) was there for me as I prepared for the “big day” to arrive. Without thinking, it enabled me to get into the best physical shape I could so that, come April 5th, I’d be able to rock my white, lacy dress with full confidence. Without thinking, it enabled me to make decisions such as what food to order, what type of venue would be most “us,” how many people to invite and whom. It enabled me to shut out the voices from the peanut gallery — you know, everyone who gives their two cents as though your wedding is being planned in their honor. If you’ve never planned a wedding before, be warned, these people exist.

Carrying me through the most important moments, months and even minutes of my life, running was naturally there for me when I awoke on the morning of my wedding — and not just to rid me of my hangover from the night before (though per usual, it helped with that too). I prepared in advance. In fact, months before my wedding, I asked my best friend of 20 years (20 years!) to train. For what? A short, 3-mile run (though to her, this was practically a marathon).

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 12.21.26 PMThe thing for me is that I knew that, in order to feel “normal” (whatever that is) and as though the day was like any other on April 5th, I’d need to run, even if just for a few moments to clear my head. I didn’t want to be alone either. I needed someone who could laugh, crack jokes, reminisce. On my wedding morning, that’s exactly what we did. On very little sleep (because I obviously couldn’t drift back to dream land once I opened my eyes — despite it being 6:30am) and with a slight headache (because I obviously couldn’t say no to a celebratory shot and a bottle of wine the night before), we ran. It was slow and it was ugly, but it was exactly what I needed. To my best friend since 2nd grade, thanks for putting up with what could decidedly be the weirdest wedding day request ever made by a bride. Also, I hope your thighs weren’t too sore at the party.

As far as I can remember, I hadn’t been nervous during any of the weeks leading up to my wedding. It was planned as well as a wedding at a bar could be. All of the details were set and in place.

But as much as my morning run calmed me, by the time my hair and makeup were done and my overnight bag packed into my parents car, the jitters began. Maybe it was that I had only eaten half a smoothie and a mini energy bar. Or maybe it’s that the last time I had transported my wedding dress in a car, I unveiled it to find a massive yellow splotch on the bust (it was a flaw in the silk material, but because I was paranoid, this time, I wrapped it in a white sheet — as though that would actually help). Either way, I can only imagine what my reaction would have been to all of the wedding day madness had I not started my day with my usual morning run.

The funny thing about your wedding day is — and correct me if I’m wrong, fellow former brides — I can’t actually remember my wedding. I don’t mean that in the wish I hadn’t drank so much kind of way. I was lucid from start to finish.

Rather, it’s that the evening itself flies by in a flash. One minute you’re putting on your dress and being told to get into a thousand different poses by your photographer, and then next you’re dealing with some last-minute issue, fixing your hair (man, was it windy!), greeting 120394820395 people (most of which you know — some of which you don’t), trying to stuff a mini hot dog in your mouth so you don’t keel over, cutting a cake, dancing to “your” song, and chugging a glass of champagne to make the chaos seem more manageable.

And then, 10 months of planning is over along with the party. Just like that.

On top of that, your toes are numb from wearing 4-inch heels for 7 hours without complaining once. Thank goodness I brought backup in the form of a sparkly silver pair of TOMS. Without them, I think my feet would have simply given up and fallen off.

Almost immediately after the wedding, Noah and I escaped to his family’s home on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina for a few days of rest, relaxation, quiet and us. It was the perfect opportunity to quiet our brains, our bodies.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 12.15.42 PMWe biked.

We set up yoga mats inside and stretched.

We walked on the beach.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 12.15.22 PMAnd, of course, we ran. Not very far and not very long. After all, I literally managed to damage the nerves in my toes by wearing heels and rocking out for so long. But as the feeling came back, and the tingling sensation less painful, we laced up and loved every minute of it, from the nature preserve to the beach…

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 12.15.14 PM…and back home to our oceanfront apartment, where we refueled after our run with delicious breakfasts and equally tasty views.

As I’ve contemplated everything that happened — all of the change that took place (I’m a married woman!) – over the last, ummm week, running has once again been the anchor in my mind, helping to ground me, helping to calm me, and helping to bring me back to this place where life doesn’t center around calls with caterers and run-ins with nameless RSVPs. It’s followed me from one place to the next on my journey, from Manhattan during the planning process to Long Island on my wedding morning to South Carolina in the days that followed.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 12.15.32 PMI am sure of it that running will follow me to Philadelphia, the city I’ll soon call come. That’s right. Reality came really quickly after our mini-moon, as Noah and I hopped on a train from New York City to the City of Brotherly Love to take care of some pre-move business and explore. The chaos continues, but in the midst of it all, I still managed to wake up and do my thing — that is, to run.

The Day Before The Day Before The Wedding: 7 Sunshine Miles

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The release one gets from running: it’s both physical and mental, isn’t it? At times, no matter how difficult the journey, you can at least expect that sense of ah that comes with the end of a much-needed run. As you can imagine, with the final weeks of wedding planning, I’ve had a lot of those lately.

Picture 8

Last week marked the first time when I was was able to run consistently in 2014 due to a pesky spring cold and the seemingly unyielding freezing air. And while, prior to that, I did manage to squeeze in yoga (last week, I even flowed twice in one day!) on the regular, it’s simply not the same. If given the choice, I’d take the satisfaction of a run over a sweaty sequence of poses on any day of the week. After all, what yoga studio looks like this?

Picture 7

Last Wednesday, I took a run that was needed in more ways than one. The morning itself was cold, bleak, gray — the morning after one of the many much anticipated “snow storms” of this spring (re: I didn’t see a single flake fall). Given the forecast on my weather app, I didn’t even know if I’d have the chance to get out there. But to my surprise, when I opened my eyes on Wednesday, my iPhone read a mild 33 degrees (sad), and thank goodness too. I needed that run more than ever.

Why? Well, in the words of a great lyrical legend, times, they are a changing. And when times they a-change, I use running to find balance and ease in my life.

On the horizon:

1. Well, for one, we’re officially 2 days out from the wedding. Things are falling into place, and I couldn’t be more excited. But holy cow! Two days. Two short days.

2. After the wedding, Noah and I are spending a few days down in Hilton Head, just to escape the city. I still haven’t packed.

3. And then, after that (drumroll please) — we will eventually move to the City of Brotherly Love. You heard it here first folks, this born and bred New Yorker is heading down an hour south. It’s not far, but it’s a big difference from the life I know. By the way, I’m taking resumes for friends and morning running buddies. Particularly running buddies who like margaritas too.

Picture 6

Margaritas Running, for me, is a reliable source of meditation. I use the time to reflect silently about everything that’s going on in my life. Sometimes, I think about other people’s lives. Sometimes, I think of nothing.

Picture 2

When I don’t run, those feelings, ideas, thoughts about everything and nothing all at once get bottled up inside my head. What happens next is often left to fate — and typically depends on how much wine I have at home.

At the end of the day though, there will always be curveballs thrown in your direction. Without the release of the run — that specially coined term known as “runner’s high” —  I can’t imagining dealing with the change with such a level head.

Running, particularly in this week leading up to the wedding, has been invaluable, especially in thinking over my to-do lists as well as the factors that, simply put, are out of my hands. On Sunday, I treated myself to 8 quiet miles along the west side of Manhattan. It had rained the night before, so the streets were quiet and wet. The air was nippy and slightly windy. But in my head there was nothing but the sound of happiness (dancing to the electric beats of Kaskade).

Picture 1

Today, I set off for another long(er) run, completing 7 sunny miles around the Central Park Reservoir. It’d been far too long since I’d been there, and it felt almost like a warm welcome home.

Picture 4

It’s been well over a year now since I’ve run in or trained for a half marathon, so when push comes to shove, neither of these runs was fast or strong or painless or easy. With each mile after the 5th, I dug deep to a place of strength reserved for moments such as those. It’d been a long while since I’d returned to that place within me, and I have to say, it felt pretty great.

With just days — hours practically — until I say I do, the release received after a great run has been well-earned but also full of purpose. It’s not often that the purpose of a run goes beyond an accomplishment that involves distance or speed, and again, I have to say, that felt pretty great too.

Do you value running for its physical or mental contributions?