The mind plays tricks

I was just reading a book the other day that discussed how the brain is rather conservative when it comes to how much you can push yourself during exercise.  Basically, when your body’s core gets to a certain temperature, your brain tells it to stop or at least slow down.  I suppose it is when you are pushing yourself to the max and don’t think you can get any further (similar to hitting a wall).  Unfortunately, I don’t think many people even reach this point.  I say “unfortunately” because folks tend to give up too easily and aren’t willing to push themselves to the limit.  Hey, I don’t do it all the time, but I do it as often as I can.  It’s actually a great feeling even though you think you are going to hyperventilate and collapse.  Okay, I will admit that the “great feeling” usually comes after the experience is done and over.

After reading about the brain’s conservative nature, I went for a run on the bridges the other day and thought about ways to override the system.  “Okay lady, you are going to get to the point when you think you are about dead, but just keep pushing through and keep those legs moving.”  That seemed easy enough, right? Fortunately for me I was running with someone who moves at a faster pace.  I often try to keep up with him and manage to for quite some time (the longest being 8 miles, but he continued on to 14 miles so I have to believe that he was just holding back).  This is always a test for me and I force myself to work harder in order to keep up for as long as possible.  Some days just seem easier than other days.

Well, it was one of those days where I really had to work at it in order to maintain his pace.  As we started running up the bridge while the burning sun shined down on us, all I could think about was tricking my mind. My mantra for that long uphill battle was: “You are strong, you can keep going, don’t slow down!”  It seemed to work because I was on his tail the whole way up.  Then I made the mistake of thinking that there was still three more miles to go with 3 more uphills.  It was all over as soon as I thought that.  After another half mile I slowed down and told him I was going back for the other runners.  Geez, that was a defeat.  Okay, not really, because I worked my butt off during those first 3 miles!  Then I made another mistake.  I looked at my Garmin which told me how fast I was actually going.  That doesn’t seem right… I only ran that fast!  Who was playing tricks on me, my mind or this technology?

So, I am pretty sure that I didn’t outsmart my brain during that evening run.  It still managed to get the best of me.  I did learn something, though.  Positive thoughts can drive us, while negative thoughts can slow us down. I have no idea what my threshold is if I were to fully apply myself, but I will continue to reach for it and someday I may find out (hopefully not the day I end up in the hospital… maybe having a conservative brain isn’t a bad thing).

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The Year Mark

I know that on occasion I have highlighted my running background to include why and when I started running and who inspired me to run (my mother of course!).  I will add that my running in the past has been very sporadic and I almost always focused on a goal, achieved the goal and then stopped running once the goal was met.  I think that happens to a lot of people.  They master that 5K or half-marathon and then feel that they have had enough with the running and move on to something new (or revert back to channel surfing).  It takes passion and dedication in order to continue running because it is not always exciting and pleasant.

I guess you can say that I finally broke through the mold and decided that I hadn’t had enough when it came to running.  A year ago, I had just given birth to my third angel and I was wondering what I was going to do to lose the nasty baby weight hanging off my mid-section.  After each previous pregnancy (well, not right away with the first), I had found that running worked to get me back to a normal size.  I also found out during those times that I couldn’t just go out and run without a goal in mind.  After having my first child, I set my mind on the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon.  That was my first half marathon and I was so proud of myself for finishing it in a decent amount of time.  After that I ran a few smaller races, but I stopped pushing myself when it came to running.  Then, I decided to run a marathon with Team in Training.  Well, that training lasted about two months until I found out I was pregnant with number two.  I felt that I hadn’t yet built enough of a running base to continue safely.  However, four weeks after giving birth I got on that treadmill and started again.  That time I worked towards another half marathon and I finished the San Jose Rock n Roll a few months later. Once again, my running became sporadic and I did the occasional short distance race.  What do you think happened next? Right, I got pregnant again.

I know that was a long story about my uphill and downhill battle with running.  However, I know that I am not the only one that this has happened to.  Yet, I can finally say that I am out of that rut.  I feel like I can finally call myself a runner and I have become a consistent one too.  During this past year, I have not gone longer than a week without running (I rarely go longer than 3 days).  Sure, I had goals, like the marathon I completed as part of Team in Training.  However, there was a stagnant period where I wasn’t really training for anything and I still just kept running for the sheer pleasure of doing it.  Then I became a coach and now I kind of have to run, but I am more than okay with whatever I can do to keep myself running.  Of course I now have new goals that are even crazier than the first ones.  I never imagined that I would keep pushing myself harder to improve my running more and more each day.  Sure, I don’t always want to wake up at 4:00 am to go run 14 long miles or get on the treadmill so I can drag out those 6 miles, but I do it anyway.  Afterwards I feel great and I am thankful that I have a passion that I can pursue.  I can’t picture myself stopping now…

Staying cool on a hot summer run

Okay, that title just doesn’t make any sense.  Not if your hot summer run is in Florida.  Staying cool just isn’t an option, but you can at least make the attempt to stay cool.  But that’s all it will be, an “attempt.”

So, first you attempt to beat the heat by running before the sun comes up or after the sun goes down.  Basically, it will pretty much be dark outside.  Keep in mind, though, that no matter when you run, it will still be hot.  If the weather guy says it will be 76 degrees at 4:00 am, what he really means is that it will be 76 degrees with 90 percent humidity.  Therefore, it will actually feel like it is at least 90 degrees outside.  I did mention 4:00 am right? I suppose you can use your imagination to figure out what it would feel like at noon when the sun is high in the sky.  Sure, it might be less humid at noon, but then you have the sun’s heat to bring the heat index up over 100 degrees.  And you know it’s bad when you check the weather online and see a bright red warning at the top of the screen that recommends you stay inside.

Okay, so around sunset or sunrise and anytime in between is your best option to stay cooler.  I didn’t say you would stay drier, but maybe slightly cooler.  And I know how the wind can sometimes be a burden when it is forcing you to work harder during your run (at least when you are facing the headwind), but you are often thankful of its presence during those hot summer runs.

Water is good to have.  Well, I am sure you know all about staying hydrated, especially when it is hot outside. But who likes to drink warm water when they are trying to get cool?  I often freeze my bottles overnight only to find out that they are already warm by the time I reach mile 2.  I would have to carry a cooler of ice with me! Better yet, leave a cooler or two in a designated area along your course!  For one thing, it gives you something to focus on (yes, our next break will be at the cooler!).  It also gives you ice and cold water.  Who wouldn’t want that at mile 5 of a hot summer run?  The ice goes into my bottles along with the cold water that has been sitting in the bed of ice.  Water has never tasted so good!  Then you grab some ice and rub it all over your body.  You could care less about the people watching you giving yourself a rub down.  I usually stick a few ice cubes under my hat and I am good to go (maybe a few inside my sports bra too).

Well, that bliss doesn’t last long because then all of your ice is melted and you are left back in the sweltering heat.  But wait?  Are those sprinklers on in that person’s yard?  Oh crap, they look so delightful, but then you catch a whiff.  It smells like sulphur and some kind of funk.  Right, those darn sprinklers are shooting out reclaimed water and who knows where it was reclaimed from.  I could care less, but I actually really don’t like the smell and it is bad enough that I walk into the coffee shop later smelling like dirty socks, bad body odor and sweat.  I don’t need to be smelling like someone’s funky butt as well.  Skip the sprinklers, but fountains are fair game.  They are usually chlorinated and smell just like a pool.  Some shoot straight up from the ground so bend over and get that rat’s nest wet so it all drips down your body (I don’t recommend getting your shoes all wet… something about water slogging around your feet while you run just doesn’t appeal to me).  Some fountains you aren’t actually allowed to walk into, but who is going to see you taking a dunk at 5:00 in the morning?

Okay, so we know cold water is a luxury so take it when you can get it.  Then there was something new I tried today.  A freezer pop.  Not just any freezer pop, but an electrolyte freezer pop.  It tasted so delicious at mile 5 and I could feel it cooling my insides almost immediately.  I am definitely going to stock up on a supply of those! (however, you do have to take the advice of setting out a cooler because that freezer pop won’t be frozen anymore if you try to carry it in your fuel belt).

Fountain jumping, ice rubbing, cold water stocking, freezer pop sucking and early rising are some ways to stay (or attempt to stay) cool on a hot summer run.  Any more ideas??

Running Fashionista

I remember glancing through an article in Runner’s World a couple of months ago.  It wasn’t an article that I actually took the time to read.  I think it was titled “Fastinista.”  Get it…  like fashionista, but fast?  Anyway, it talked about the new fashion trends in running.  It discussed women wearing “sassy and stylish athletic wear” to set personal records while gaining attention.  One of the new trends is the running skirt.  When I see them I can only picture Serena Williams out on the tennis court.

Let me just say that when I am out running on the street I do not want to gain attention.  For one thing, people tend to criticize my running form.  On top of that, I don’t want people looking at any of my jiggling parts.  Then, there is the concern of the tangled hair that looks like a home for a bird.  If I wanted people to look at me then I would wear a big sign on my back that says “Look at me, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!”

Fortunately for me, I don’t have to worry about finding a date or a soul mate.  I have my man.  I can kind of see how some women may dress up all “sassy and stylish” to lure in an athletic fellow with ripped abs and a nice butt.  Yet, isn’t that what the gym is for?  Most of those runner dudes out on the street are a bit on the skinny side and tend to be shorter in stature (well, I do feel pretty tall when I am waiting at the starting line of a race). I can see how single women at the gym might need those tight yoga pants and strappy tanks and tend to actually add more makeup before they arrive at the gym.   And I suppose the cougars are just looking for some young love.  Sure, I don’t want to look like I buy my gym clothes at a second hand store (wearing someone else’s nasty sweat just doesn’t appeal to me), but I don’t go out of my way to “dress up” when I go out for a run or hit up a class at the gym.

However, for some reason I still don’t understand, the other day I walked into Target and glanced through the clearance rack only to come across a running skirt for $8.   Wow, that’s a steal!  I should just try that on.  Why not?  So, I picked up the skirt and walked into the changing room.  I put it on and looked at myself in the mirror and thought that it looked rather cute.  Then I realized something.  I was trying on athletic wear and calling it “cute.”  It was actually something I thought I should wear for a day out on the town, not while running through town.  I started running in place and wondered how I could tolerate the swishing on my legs. Practicality took over at that point and I placed the skirt back on the rack.  That was silly.

But do not make fun of me if you see me wearing a running skirt someday.  It just might happen…