Who Are You Running Against?

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It has been so long since I have written a post that my blog page fell off my commonly clicked sites. Hmm…Time to write. My lack of writing has not meant lack of living, thinking, or cooking. Just distracted with new developments.

Recently we discovered that I am pregnant…again with our now third child. This has been an exciting curveball, as I also signed up for my first half marathon. My swollen feet will be lined up at the starting line in just 2 weeks, 6 days, 22 hours…etc. This is not how I imagined things would be happening, but here we are. It has been a real challenge to keep up my regimen for training. Honestly it has dwindled down to a few strength and agility exercises here and there, along with the occasional run. Never have I felt more disappointed in my efforts. What only helps is when my eyes pass over a story about a 9-month pregnant rock star who runs a marathon and delivers a few hours later. What human strength and perseverance!

Then something occurred to me. A new perspective was brought about after a recent 5k. The crowd was huge and people of all sorts of fitness levels came out for the fun run, but for me I pay to compete with myself. Or so I thought. All this time of training and years of hitting the pavement I have been comparing myself to the best I know. Their performances push me to achieve as good a performance. When I fall short of whatever unrealistic expectation I set, the belt tightens and more rigorous guidelines apply. Perfection has kind of always been something I knew I could never be. I’m too ____(You name it)___. However, I somehow deceived myself into thinking that if I were only ___(You name it)___ I would be able to meet these ridiculous goals.

Before you get worried that I am a highly demanding person, you have to know that I am only this way with myself. When it comes to others my eyes are pretty accurate and I tend to extend others far more grace. My husband says that when I look at myself it is like looking into a fun house mirror. The races I have been running up to this point have been races against myself by comparing myself to unrealistic expectations. For this race I decided to change my mentality. This race I accepted that I am pregnant and haven’t been at my best. The race I run needs to be against the self I am now and not the person I wish I could be.

Crossing the finish line of the 5k, an amazing feeling swept over me. My eyes glanced at the timer and it said a time of 23 minutes. This was not my fastest time, but somehow it was acceptable. The old me would reprimand myself all the way home and come up with a solution to fix it for next time. This time being healthy and carrying a baby was success enough.The other runners began to fade from my concern and being strong in the moment became at the forefront of my mind during the run.

One friend reminded me in a conversation recently that you never know how you will feel on race day, and that feeling is a big indicator of your time and performance. Sometimes training your mind is an important factor forgotten in race prep. To be healthfully competitive, you have to race against who you are today. Maybe in a session you had a 5:30 min/mile, but the day before the race you sprained a muscle or became ill. Is it fair to beat yourself up for not performing as well as your best training time? Think of the successful races as a reward for your training and not just what you run for.

No matter if you are running a race, striving for weight loss, or are working onĀ other health-behavior changes, we all need to cut ourselves some realistic slack. When we beat ourselves up, we are not helping, but hurting progress. We all have a bad day or fail a meal (or several). It is not about where you messed up, fell short or even if you won. The important factor is how you ran towards your goal. So, be strong in the moment and hold on the best you can. Let less than perfect be okay. Each moment is a new opportunity to improve and enjoy the journey you are on. The end result will take care of itself.

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To Run or Not To Run?

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This sounds like a silly question for this blog. Well I am here to help you improve your quality of life based on research and personal experiences. We all know that running has so many benefits and can be a great staple for cardiovascular fitness. While the benefits can be numerous, there can also be negatives. Not just from running, but keeping the same routine. Let us take a closer look before you lace up and hit the pavement.

Running is not bad. I would like to be clear. The benefits and studies surrounding running outweigh any negative I could present. I love running myself. I never thought to stop and look at how it could affect me negatively. As with any program or exercise, the more you do the same thing the more prone you are to plateaus and increased risk of injury. You can avoid this by simply changing up your program every once in a while. Great runners do not just run to get better times and performance. They know that some strength training and multiple types of cardio will give them the best results.
Other Cardiorespiratory Fitness-boosting exercises:
-Plyometric exercises (power exercises. jumping or explosive movements)
-Dancing (make it a date, take a class or lessons, play dancing games on your game console, etc.)
-Play a game of basketball with some friends
-tennis
-step-aerobic class
-cycling

The more ways you learn to get that heart rate up to cardiovascular levels, the better you can cope with injury. Let us say you get an injury from running and damage your achilles. Having multiple types of exercises in your routine increases the chance that you will find something low-impact enough to continue exercising with your injury. Sometimes when an athlete gets an injury he or she can get withdrawal symptoms of mild depression, anxiety, and even lowered self-esteem (1). By having variety you increase the chance you will be able to cope and modify to find something you can still do.

For some, especially women according to a psychological evaluation, safety was an important factor (2). There is truth to why women would be afraid of running outdoors, because we have all heard of abductions while running. However, there are things you can do to help ensure a safer run according to active.com (3). These are some of their suggestions:
-Do not run alone
-Change up your route
-Carry runner’s pepper spray
-Take a self-defense class
-Run against traffic
-Do not run with earphones.

With all of this said, running has far too many benefits to not be included in any exercise program. Taking steps to prevent the few possible roadblocks make it still an excellent choice. With the right shoes and armed with this information there is no reason to say “No” to running! So get out there with confidence and a better chance for success. Happy running!

References:
1. Psychological Effects of Running Loss on Consistent Runners, Study done by Connie S. Chan of University of Massachusetts and Hildreth Y. Grossman of Harvard University, 1998.
http://www.amsciepub.com/doi/abs/10.2466/pms.1988.66.3.875?journalCode=pms

2.The Benefits and Costs of Serious Running, Wayne F. Major. March 11, 2011.
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/04419057.2001.9674226#.Uf-oUpK1GSo

3 .http://beta.active.com/running/articles/6-running-safety-tips?page=1