I Am Still A Runner…

Welcome back from the weekend! How was it for you? Did you race/run/spin/downward dog/walk/lift/etc.? I ran, but mostly did adult things like take care of pressing household issues. I was thrilled (for more than one reason) that the weather was dark and stormy all weekend–no better time to be running all over Deliverance than on a cold, rainy day! So happy I didn’t miss out on the sunshine.

There’s something that’s been on my mind lately, partly because it’s a hot topic of conversation among runners and non-runners alike and everyone seems to have an opinion. What makes a runner a “runner”? Some people have a laundry list of exactly what makes a runner a “runner”. I have one qualification: you run. That’s it.

And it go me thinking…

I am still a runner even though I look like this when I run:

Yeah, Jersey.

…not like this:

Kara Goucher, you're my hero (photo courtesy of Erica Miss America)

I am still a runner even though I mostly run here:

IBD doesn't will never stop me! I *heart* the treadmill.

…not here:

I miss my Central Park runs (sigh)

I am still a runner even though I probably eat too much of this:

Nutritionist asked me to eat more yogurt. 16 Handles froyo counts, right?

…and not enough of this:

It looks like pea soup, but is actually pretty tasty!

I am still a runner even though I am regularly hopped-up on drugs:

No blood-doping here. Just your run-of-the-mill internal biologic warfare.

…and sometimes, even steroids for a race:

Good thing I wasn't drug tested at Philly. I am guilty of steroid use during a competitive event. Not that I'm anyone's competition, but totally 'roided up nonetheless.

I am still a runner even though I don’t finish first.

I am still a runner even though I don’t run very fast.

I am still a runner even though I haven’t raced since Philly.

I am still a runner even though I sometimes choose spinning over running.

I am still a runner even though I don’t get paid to run.

I am still a runner even though I don’t run every day.

I am still a runner even though I haven’t qualified for the Boston Marathon.

I am still a runner even though I don’t run for a team.

I am still a runner even though I sometimes run in a skirt.

LOVE my Speed Skirt.

I am a runner because I run.

And so are you.

Now go out and run!

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: Find It

Please forgive me if this post is a little foggy. I have a fever. And, no, no amount of cowbell will cure it. I tried.

That's me in the back left with an ACTUAL cowbell. Yup, I have the blisters to prove it. (photo stolen from Lala)

But no fever or nasty symptoms can keep me from a Better Than the Alternative Tuesday post. ‘Cuz let’s be real, no matter what happens, I’m still here. You’re still here. And it beats the hell out of the alternative.

So, here we are. It’s Tuesday. Where do you find it? How do you Find It? Have you Found It?

Motivation. Inspiration. Joy.

Clearly, my friends and I think that drums, dancing and really loud cheering is what motivates you. Hey, NYC Half-Marathoners, did it work?

Let’s face it, running can get boring, monotonous, tiresome. If they tell you it’s always fun and every run is amazing and they never struggle with getting out the door, call the doctor. They are on drugs. Honestly, I don’t love every workout when I start it, but I never regret having done one.

So where do you Find It?

Some people (ahem) are motivated by food. Why are you looking at me? Ok, guilty as charged.

When you Find It, that thing that yells at you to get off the couch and lace up your sneakers, nothing can stop you. Not rain, not fatigue, not unsupportive friends/family/partners, not muddy roads or dirty clothes. You are a machine.

Vanity, health, camaraderie, food, shame, rewards, Type A crazy–Find It. Because whatever It is, you’re gonna need It.

This is all I need to get me out the door in the spring. Pretty trees! Sunshine! Flowers!

On the days you don’t want to run, It will force your butt out the door. On the days you don’t feel like strength training, It will drag you to the gym. On the days you are feeling sorry for yourself, It will slap you silly and bring you to your senses. On the days you “just don’t wanna”, It will tell you “but you have to.”

How do you Find It? You get real honest with why you run, lift, do yoga, kickbox, whatever. If you figure out why, you will Find It. Don’t judge yourself for what It is, just own It and make It work for you. In the end, it doesn’t matter what gets you going so long as It keeps you going.

Is it beach season that motivates you? A pending vacation always gets me going!

And if you keep on going, isn’t that better than not going at all? I thought so.

Now go out and run!

 

“How Do You Stay So Motivated?”

…JB asked. Last night, this very unexpected question came my way from my gorgeous husband and I struggled to give him a concrete answer.

If I’m being honest, what comes to mind first and foremost is vanity.

Gabrielle Reece, courtesy of SI.com

Gabrielle Reece has always been an inspiration to me. She’s strong, she’s healthy, she’s visibly athletic and she’s had two babies…and still has THAT BODY. She is a testament to clean living and exercise and I want to be like her some day…you know, 6’3″ and blonde 😉 Let’s be honest, I am not genetically metabolically blessed and I’m ok with it. I’ve had to exercise my entire life to stay in decent shape so working out is nothing new to me as I venture deeper into my thirties. I guess I should probably be grateful for that.

The other component of my devotion to fitness has nothing to do with motivation at all. Fitness is part of my LIFE, pure and simple. In my world, there is no option to skip workouts just like there is no option to skip brushing my teeth in the morning. I started the habit of exercising for life very young and now it’s just as much a part of my life as breathing.

 

I have always liked cake = must work out. Coincidentally, this is also the year I started running.

Public shame is another tool I use to stay motivated. I set goals, tell everyone I know about them, and then am forced to give updates on my progress when people inevitably ask, “How’s such-and-such going?” That’s what got me to the start line of my 1st marathon in NYC.

I'm not ashamed of this less-than-flattering, heavier Abby picture. That is me ROCKING NYC for the 1st time!

Sharing my fitness and life goals with others has motivated me to stick it out on many an occasion. Twitter and Facebook have opened up an entirely new community for me to seek motivation and encouragement from, which is an awesome benefit of social media.

But beyond those reasons, I find that fitness has taken over a new space in my heart these days. With my flare-ups threatening (and sometimes succeeding) to derail every single workout I try to do, I have started to realize just how important exercise is to me as a person. I guess you really don’t know how much something means to you until it’s taken away.

Working out makes me feel better about how I look and who I am. Running makes me feel a sense of accomplishment. I feel powerful and strong (duh, I know) when I lift. I feel a sense of camaraderie with my fellow classmates when I spin. I feel peaceful and like a dancer when I finish yoga. I am exhausted in the very best way after I swim.

I am my best me when I am happy in my fitness life. I guess that’s the final thought.

I want to be my best me for my husband, my family, and myself. So I make time to run, spin, flow, swim and move in a way that makes me feel good. And that is the best motivation of all: to feel good.

Me. Feeling good, post-sweat.

What motivates you? What gets you to the gym/on the road/in the class? Share with us.

Now go out and run!

When To Get a Run Coach

Ahhhhh, marathon season. In the age of social media, blogs and internet articles, advice is in abundance. What should you eat? How many days should you run per week? What should your mileage be? How do you deal with a pesky IT band problem? What are the best shoes for you? The “answers” are everywhere and everyone swears they’ve got the silver bullet to get you across that finish line.

But sometimes you need a coach.

Ryan Hall has famously dropped his coach after a bummer finish in Chicago. Kara Goucher split from Alberto Salazar this fall and I haven’t found out whether or not she has a new coach/team yet. There are plenty of other examples of famous, extremely successful professional athletes who don’t have coaches. Gina Colata from the New York Times wrote about the conundrum between getting a coach and going it alone this week (she’s keeping hers, by the way).

So, how do you know when you should bother trying to find a coach?

1. You’re changing your distance. There is a HUGE difference between running a half marathon and a marathon. They are completely different beasts and should be treated as such. A coach can help guide you through the trials and travails of adding on mileage without beating your body up.

2. You want to get faster. Sometimes it’s a simple difference in workouts that will make you faster. Sometimes it’s having someone tell you what your goal pace for a weekly speed run should be. Sometimes it’s being held accountable for your workouts and effort. Coaches can help with all of this and have lots of tricks to help you PR.

3. You keep getting injured. Good coaches are excellent at being bossy. They tell you when to back off the speed or mileage and when to see a physical therapist/acupuncturist/massage therapist/orthopedist about a nagging injury. They’re also the ones who can help with strength-training routines to combat common injuries (or, at least they should be).

4. You need motivation. Coaches are excellent motivators. I remember Coach Mustache my freshman year of high school. He never said an unkind word to me or berated any of us the way you might imagine a coach would and we all ran our BUTTS off for him. He just knew how to motivate us (Conference! Regionals! Sectionals! State!).

5. You’re new. Get. A. Coach. Pleeeeeeeease. There are some tricks and tips they can offer you that will make running so much more enjoyable, thus increasing the odds that you will keep on doing it. Remember, “most people don’t run long enough on their first wind to realize they have a second.” Don’t be that guy. It can be discouraging. Get an expert’s advice.

There are certainly bad coaches out there and, as noted in the NYT article above, there isn’t any national overseeing body that certifies running coaches. However, making sure your coach has some sort of education where anatomy and physiology are concerned is key. Also, your coach should be a runner. That might go without saying, but I’m going to go ahead and say it since a certain trainer seems to be spouting advice all over TV about how to run a marathon and he/she HAS NEVER RUN ONE. I mean, seriously.

If they haven’t been through the hell at mile 23, I’m tuning out. Just being honest.

Anyway, there are great coaches out there and it’s even better to join a team where you can commiserate with others about how much hill workouts suck and that marathon course is super-fast and what’s your goal time at this weekend’s race? Teams are great and they usually have multiple coaches with different training styles, so find one you like. Find one you gel with. Find one you trust. And then GO FOR IT!

Now go out and run!

 

Getting Motivated And Staying Motivated

For most of us, exercising is a way to stay in shape. Vanity, pride and fear keep us going to the gym, hitting the road and trying that new workout that promises to burn 800 calories an hour (really?). I would argue that mere physical condition isn’t enough to keep runners going. In fact, if getting “in shape” is the reason people start running, it is almost never the reason that they keep running.

We runners are a different breed. Whether you are a 5K runner, a marathoner or an ultra-marathoner, you are a runner and you are different. We do grueling workouts under extreme weather conditions. We build our days, our diets and our social lives around our runs. We travel the world to race the same distance over and over again. We wake up early to pound the pavement or the treadmill.

Our sport is your sport’s punishment.

And we do it willingly.

And happily.

And we’ll do it again tomorrow.

But why do we run? Like I said, the first answer out of most people is “to stay in shape.” I get that. Me, too. But when we dig deeper, it is something else, isn’t it?

For me, it’s a challenge to do something I’ve done for 21 years and see if I can do it better and better every day. I run to prove to myself I can get faster, go farther if I dedicate myself to it. I run against only one person: me.

This is not unusual for most runners. The pros try to beat one another, sure, but we amateurs are out there running against only one person: ourselves. We are our own motivation to keep going day after day.

So how do you stay motivated when the only competition you have is the person in the mirror every morning?

#1. Run with people who are faster than you. I remember the exact moment when I was 14 and I passed the #3 girl on our varsity cross-country team. I had worked hard all season to get into shape and was always 6th or 7th (read: last on our team) but in this race and the ones after it, I was 4th and 3rd. I will never forget how those 6 women pushed me in our workouts to work hard and never give up.

#2. Find a race. Your marathon might be over, but that doesn’t mean your racing season has to be! You’re in probably the best shape of your life when you toe the line at a race you’ve trained 4-6 months to run, why leave it at the finish line? Find a 5k or a 10k to really race in a month or so and start tailoring your workouts to a shorter distance. It will allow you to recover from your long training runs, but keep you from diving headfirst into a training slump.

#3. Run for a charity. I’ve said it over and over again: running for someone or something else is far more fulfilling than just running for yourself. Believe me on this one and go out for a charity you hold near and dear to your heart.

#4. Set goals. I want to run a 7-minute mile. I want to run a sub-4 hour marathon. I want to beat my best 5k time. I want to run a mile without stopping. Set your goal. Map out a plan. Take the first steps out the door. Do it.

You can do anything you want to, you just have to be brave enough to TRY.

Motivation is not always an easy thing to find and it’s even harder to maintain. But if you are proactive about it, you can keep your motivation levels high throughout your training season and have some fun while you’re at it. Besides, if it isn’t fun anymore, why the hell would you still be doing it?

Now go out and run!

Whether you’re a runner or an athlete of a different kind, what keeps you going??