May 29, 2010

I'm giving up speed.

In order to make running a greater joy for me, I'm giving up speed. It's hard for me not to feel like I must keep up with the faster times of my running peers and friends.

I'm am short (4' 9") and into my middle-age years and am quite used to making allowances because of my height. And I like to think that with a few adjustments in my daily life (such as learning to climb store shelves, or at least cleverly knocking things off of them, keeping a step stool as my trusty side-kick--which I do kick around the kitchen by the way, etc.) I can overcome this shortness thing. But this one of speed is really hard to hurdle over. It's pretty hard to not to pick up a running magazine or read about a training plan and have them not talk about speed. 

So here I am, a rather short runner, with a pretty good average stride pace of 175 (180+ on tempo runs) steps per minute, which puts me anywhere between 10 to 12 minutes a mile depending on stride pace. Now, I did a little research and the average size runner running at 175 steps will cover a mile in 9-10 minutes. So even though I am running the same pace, it takes me about 2 minutes longer to cover that mile. This explains why I don't like to run races. Would you want to run a race where everyone around you runs 10 miles, but you have to run 12 and finish with the same times? Neither do I. I know I can cover the distance, I don't need a race or medal to to validate that.

Over the years I've been running I've tried the logical solution of increasing my stride length to gain more distance and thus shortening the amount of steps it takes me to cover a mile. Well I gave up that idea because when I did try to stretch out my stride I ended up injuring myself as I was forcing my body to take on a running form it did not like. I tried quickening my stride pace, but even the most elite runners run on average a 180 step pace, not much faster than I am running already, so obtaining a quicker foot turnover isn't all that realistic either, especially at my age, but I will continue to try. 

But, one thing I can do is be damned proud of the fact that consistently every Saturday I am out running for 2 1/2 to 3 hours at a time and running weekly a total of 6 to 7 hours. There sure aren't many 48 year old women who can do that!!! And that fills me with much joy.

How are you going to make your next run more joyful?

May 18, 2010

In the Zone?

Many would agree with me that one of the most enjoyable rewards of working out is the time spent being in the "Zone". Where it may not be the prime factor that defines a really great run for me, the absence of finding that place in any workout certainly classifies it as an rather unpleasant one!

While being in the zone applies to states of being not inclusive to exercising, it is the one where I most frequently can attain it. No one can tell you you are in the zone but you, as I believe it is an individual experience, and I can tell you when I'm in it, but it's not a place that I can get too by repeating the same conditions workout to workout. I consider myself in the zone when the stiffness and fatigue of warming up have faded, my pace feels comfortably hard, at a level and intensity I can maintain for a while and I feel like I have infinite energy. My mind becomes free from concentrating too much on my workout, form, steps or whatever I am doing and I am just enjoying moving. But then again, I am totally focused on that workout as well, outside thoughts and environmental factors diminish, my body is snyched with what I am doing and whatever I am doing feels almost effortless. I am relaxed, happy and confident.

One thing is certain though, the harder I try to get there, the less likely I am TO get there. At least with me, I need to be relaxed to let the body and mind work together in that wonderful unison. One reason I think I don't enjoy strength training workouts is because it's so much easier to get into that zone feeling while doing steady paced cardio such as running, cycling, and dancing or a yoga routine I know well. The body sort of goes on autopilot with those type of workouts.

Other conditions that make it harder to reach the zone are injuries, weather (too hot, too cold, etc.), location (being inside on treadmill vs. outside, gym, etc.) and mood. Though, sometimes when I am feeling most fatigued and fowl when I head out, I am surprised with wonderful zone moments regardless--can't figure that one out!

With all this in mind, I intend to be more mindful of the times I am in the zone, appreciate it and certainly enjoy the times I am there!

May 15, 2010

A new purpose, a new direction

Why do I run and workout? Endorphins. Pure and simple--endorphins. Those wonderful class of neurotransmitter chemicals largely responsible for our feelings of happiness and well-being.
Somehow I forgot this. I forgot it among my struggles increase my speed and endurance, overcome various injuries and illness as a result thereof, and fight to maintain a 60 pound weight loss.

It recently occurred to me as I resisted going out the door on yet another difficult and painful run, "Why was I putting myself through this?" I thought about this more as I ran. I also asked myself, "Why was I having frequent aches and pain not related to a specific injury? Why was I even running to begin with?" Then I finished the run and remembered why. It was the feeling at the end. The wonderful feeling of accomplishment and triumph and the simple joy of moving my body.

And then I returned to ballroom dancing. My husband and I have been away from our beloved dance club for nearly a year and were only recently able to return. It was only after I returned that I realized how much I had missed it and how much joy I felt dancing. Moving around the dance floor to me is freedom, I lose myself in the dance, allowing my true self to show and I feel like I am flying across the dance floor!

And so it is when I lose myself in a run, I forget about distance and speed, even where I am on the trail. I don't care what time it is, when I return or even what's waiting for me at home. I realized that is what I want most from my runs. I will never be a fast runner; I'm a middle aged, very petite woman for Pete's sake, why am I trying to compete with younger, faster, more experienced runners when I have the best thing out there from my runs—JOY!
So it is with this new purpose that I recommit myself to this blog and hopefully inspire a few people along the way to do the same—to discover the joy and vibrancy in themselves in exercising body and mind in healthful ways.
I invite you to come along with me, comment and share your moments of joy.