As I woke up on Tuesday morning, put on my purple tie dye socks and plugged my way through a particularly tough 5 miles around the bottom loop of Central Park, I realized something: I’m happy and healthy, and I’ve maintained this mindset consistently over the past year.
A full year. Imagine that!
So, in the words of my people, what makes this year different from all other years?
Approximately 12 months ago from this coming Tuesday, I celebrated the culmination of hard work and determination and a feat I thought I could never accomplish when I ran my first half marathon. I’ll be honest; I didn’t train all that hard or have to change all that much about my life. As someone who runs nearly every day anyway, whether there is a race in my future or not, deciding to run my first half marathon really just meant incorporating longer runs into my routine.
Don’t get me wrong; those long runs were hard. Mentally trying, even. I still remember the first time I ran 10.5 miles (the longest of my “training” runs before my first half) around Manhattan’s tip and barely making it home alive, stumbling into the nearest Subway store to grab a bottle of water as I plodded along during that last mile home. That, without a doubt, was one of the hardest runs of my life.
But I did it. And I stand by the belief that anyone can do it too.
Of course, the fact that I feel all happy and healthy now — for one solid year — begs another very valid question. If I wasn’t happy and healthy before I discovered races and training and all those fun and games, then what was I before?
Obsessive. I don’t mean this in a horribly negative way. The problem is that, when you’re running without a purpose – without intermittent goals – you tend to forget about all of the other elements of running that make you strong and fearless.
Like food and nutrition.
I love food, always have always will, and I’ll never understand the people who eat simply for sustenance. Indulging is a source of pleasure, as are the many flavors available in cities around the world. Carvel cakes are definitely included in that statement.
I’m the first to admit, however, that growing up, I didn’t exactly have an eye for the wholesome. Gushers, cookie dough and 16-ounce steaks were more of my jam, and so when I finally realized that I needed to make a lifestyle change (not for weight reasons, rather simply for the sake of being healthier and feeling more energetic), I didn’t know how to do it besides more or less cutting out the crap — and the crap was 80 percent of my diet.
So that’s exactly what I did – and I lost a ton of weight for someone with not much to lose in the first place. To give you an idea, between running 3 to 5 miles a day, every day, my lack of nutrition knowledge, and what I might consider a low point in my life, I was down to about 5’6 and 112 pounds – a weight that can otherwise only be associated with my high school, lack-of-child-bearing-hip years.
The amazing thing is that, though skinny as a pin, I still wasn’t happy. Clearly weight loss wasn’t something I was after; I needed something bigger. I wanted to feel strong. Powerful. Rawr.
The Change: While training for my first half marathon, I was overcome with a wave of relief. I realized that, in order to run strong, I needed to fill my body with the right ingredients. In order to fill my body with the right ingredients, I needed to stop obsessing about food, distance and a lot of other things that had been bogging me down for quite some time.
Training, and maintaining one’s health and well-being, is all about moderation. It’s about knowing when, where and how, but most of all why. After a year of races and events, I feel like I know why I do what I do, and yes, it’s as rewarding as it sounds. Especially when the why is, “Because I deserve this cold, icy, minty Prosseco drink.”
Uneducated. I used to think that in order to race, you had to run billions of miles all the time, maintaining a sense of unyielding dedication from one event to the next. This is off-putting in itself.
We – runners, humans, whatever – need rest. We need breaks from anything we take on in life. It’s these hills and valleys that enable us to apply ourselves to the fullest when faced with a challenge; and, conversely, it’s these challenges that prompt us to let out a deep and much-needed sigh of relief once we’ve accomplished our goals.
The Change: When it comes to racing, experience is the name of the game. In truth, I don’t have much of it yet, but I truly feel as though every subsequent race leaves me more confident in my capacity to perform to the best of my abilities without breaking a bone – or my sense of sanity.
One of the most obvious ways my workout program has evolved is in variety. Running and power yoga used to be the only ways I’d break a sweat, and for 5 whole years at that. Today, I strength train and prefer restorative flows to vigorous sequences. I look at my non-running days as ways to strengthen myself on the pavement. And, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I don’t lament over genuine days of rest. This – and this alone – may be the biggest and most relieving change of all.
Naturally, there will be weeks when I feel off balance, days when I feel like I’ve made the wrong decisions, moments when I want to crawl under a rock and shut out the rest of the world. What I sometimes have to remind myself is that, well, who doesn’t experience these very same feelings?
At the end of the day, I know that running will always bring me back to center — to that place where I can find and fully embrace that happy and healthy version of myself once again.
As for Wednesday, it’s a strength training and yoga kind of day after 3 consecutive runs at 5 miles each. My goals for the week were to reach 25 miles (I’m at 15 with 4 days to go) and to squeeze an 8-miler into Thursday or Friday morning. When that’ll actually happen is still TBD.
- What’s one way your running has dramatically changed — physically or mentally — in the last year?