Friday, March 8, 2013

There's Been A Change in the Weather

While yes that is indeed a true statement in that sentence structure, meaning that we got a few warm days this week and I got to run outside even skipping Step inside the gym to drain the last bit of sunshine and dry roads/trails instead...that is not exactly what I meant by that title.

What I mean by it is kinda in the way I might say "I got my running mojo back"...and the 'change in the weather' is really about the changing of an attitude and finding my way back to what I didn't realize I was missing...

We’ve all been there. We’ve all hit a slump of some kind and it suddenly became a little harder to lace up our sneakers for a run. For me it began late March 2012, when at CrossFit I managed to mess my lower back up again in a really bad way with my disc slipping and subsequently pinching my sciatic nerve. It was so much worse this time than the first incident in that I was physically unable to do much of anything and even getting out of bed each morning was painful and had to be done in a certain way. Anyway, 2 months of being down from running was tough enough and just when I was getting back into it, I made the initial trip to NE for a job interview and the next thing I knew I was moving cross country and that presented a whole new set of reasons why my running and mileage slipped as much as it did. At first I kept it up but then it just slipped more and more. Yeah I was running, but it was piddly mileage at best.

And once Winter really hit here, it was becoming even harder and harder for me to be motivated. Plus in my mind it was OK because well I didn't have any reason TO race on the calendar...etc. I stayed in OK shape by doing different sorts of things with running mixed in instead of the usual other way around.

I gained a few lbs, moreso got flabby so to speak, where I gained more in inches than in true lbs, but there was a little of both. I've lost that now, but this whole section about weight gain etc is fodder for another post at another time.

Anyway, it felt like I was just going through the motions of training — using it as a way to stay in decent shape, sure, but with my heart and mind somewhere else.

But only recently have I started to feel like I’m really back.

You know that feeling where you not only don’t mind running, you actually can’t wait to run again tomorrow? Where you wish you could just fast forward your life eight weeks, and see what kind of progress you’ve made by then? That’s where I am now, and I’ve missed this.

Over Christmas when I found out I was selected in the lottery to run the NYC Half Marathon and the training for race in March, I felt my passion for running begin to wake up. But in the past two weeks, it feels like that passion for running is on an espresso and yerba mate bender.
So much so that it is partly what fueled me to sign up for Colfax in May (another half) and for the 3rd time, Chicago (full)

I can credit three things for this new exuberance:

1. My new running habit. Or rather my reborn running habit.
2. Amazing sources of inspiration. As in people, one in particular who singlehandedly, with their incessant mantras and training posts on Facebook, each day in front of my eyes...watching their training for 5 marathons in as many months, with their 1st one just last October, on their way to running the 100 miles in Iceland this coming August...and now we will run not only NYC together, but Chicago as well...
3. Meditation and mindfulness.
I’ve done a lot of sitting meditation and concentration on my breathing over the past months. While I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s possible with sitting, I’m really interested to approach running and the depths of physical fatigue and even pain that accompany it — from this new perspective of learning about myself.

For this, I can credit a book I’ve been reading called Running with the Mind of Meditation. Yeah, I’ve been reading a lot since I moved.  Mostly from the Bible, but a lot of other books/genres as well.

And behind all of this, as important as any of these three things, is the break from running that I took. If I hadn’t done that, I think I’d still be stuck. Don’t feel bad about “quitting,” if you know it’s what you need.

I know from what I’ve written before that a lot of you sympathize with the running rut and have dealt with your own, and maybe still are. How’s it going for you?
Runners experience these up-and-downs because, well, we're just human beings. We experience these in life, why expect anything different in our running-life. What's important is to be mindful that this too shall pass.

Slumps happen, and often times at what seems like the worst possible moment - like, just when you're feeling strong and on top of it all, ready for a breakthrough - and then, bang, slumpsville, or worse injury, or worst of all, both.

Well injuries are one thing, but slumps seem so unnecessary, so seemingly stupid. Can't we all just keep pushing and improving and pushing and improving until the bitter end? No, most of us can't - or at least we won't.

So what's a slumping runner to do?
Some recommend a break, and that may be called for depending on the situation (for instance if you are experiencing overwhelming fatigue). But a break is not always the answer. Sometimes it behooves us to push on, doggedly, even through the hard, tedious, unmotivated runs that we drag ourselves through.

I believe that you have to be out there on the good days and the bad days, and the really really sucky days, to capture, to stumble upon, those magical days that you might otherwise miss. Sometimes a change happens, for no apparent reason, when you're least expecting it - and you would never know if you weren't out there.

Being a runner is not all about loving it every single moment - just like a good marriage, or friendship - it's not all good all the time. If those are your expectations, you're in for a big let down, and you'll probably give up when perhaps you don't really want to.

There's gobs of advice and suggestions for upping one's motivation: Sign up for a race, join a running group, explore new routes, get a partner, plan an exotic running vacation, etc...But the fact remains that for most of us we must find our own reasons for going on, getting out and doing it - and these suggestions may work for a while, but it's unlikely they'll get you through a real, robust case of slumpiness.

For me it is pure habit that gets me through it. Habit takes a long time to develop, and if you quit every time you hit a rough patch, then you won't develop the habit to keep running, to just do it every day.

Instead, you will develop the habit of quitting when you just don't feel like doing it - and that's okay, if that's what you're after. It's not what I'm after, and I believe it's not what most runners are after. If it were we wouldn't complain about slumps - we would welcome them into our lives like an old friend, use the time to do something else, and then pick it up again when the mood strikes. but no. Most runners hate the slump.

"You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." - Jack London

Running is not a state of being - it's a state of doing. You are what you do, and you must accept the ups and the downs. And though the ups are a whole lot more fun than the downs, they are all part of the journey.

If it were easy it wouldn't matter so much. If it does matter, then that means you're a runner - and you should just go for a run.