Training Tuesdays: reflections on a year without any real running

I sometimes cannot believe that it’s been a year and a half since my injury. At first, I tried to get right back into the rhythm of regular running, determined not to lose an ounce of fitness.  I realized, though not as quickly as I should have, that jumping back into running was doing my injury no good. I pulled back on my running a little bit, then a little bit more, then even more than that.

Now, a year and a half later, I’m reflecting on a year of negligible running. I went from consistently running 10-15 km, 3-4 times per week to training for an ultra marathon to going weeks on end with no running at all.  My longest run since last October? 7 kilometres.  Even that distance is a…distant (pun intended) memory. I used to so firmly believe all these (mostly irrational or untrue) things about running that my running and exercise routines were bordering on obsessive. On the other side of my injury, I can see how my overly rigid views about running weren’t always healthy. For instance:

1. Running is the only way to stay fit: Sure, my cardiovascular fitness and endurance are a far cry from what they used to be, but it doesn’t mean I’m not still fit. I was just incredibly super fit back then. What I am now is hella strong. Just the other day I did tricep dips for the first time in about a year (my trainer and I never do tricep dips, but trust me when I say she gets my arms working), and they were so easy. I remember that I used to struggle to do five. So yeah, maybe I can’t run a 10k anymore, but I can rock multiple sets of tricep pushups, deadlift 110 lbs, run with 90 lbs on the prowler, and do negative pull ups  That’s something.

2. I’ll get fat if I can’t run: I’ll be brutally honest and admit that my running obsession started out mostly as an attempt to counterbalance my serious sweet tooth.  I always thought if I didn’t run, I’d have to cut out any and all sugar. Well, I eat way less restrictively than I used to, never run and, though I don’t know the exact number, I don’t believe I’ve gained anymore than 10 lbs. And you know what? I’m happier not obsessing over running an extra 5 km several times per week just to keep that 10 lbs off.

3. I have to run for a long time to see running’s benefits: I used to plan my days around my workouts and runs, sometimes fearing I was bordering on obsessive. If I didn’t run for at least an hour, I didn’t feel like I’d had a good enough workout. Well, the tides have changed. Now, 45 minutes of non-running is a good workout day for me. I workout less, have more flexibility in my daily schedule, and I don’t feel any worse for it.

I’ve said before that I sometimes struggle with the fact that I may never run distance again, but honestly I think those moments of struggle just reflect remnants of my old ways of thinking about fitness. The reality is that my SI is way more stable since I’ve stopped running. I’d probably be happy getting back to one or two short runs a week, and that’s more because I like to exercise outside than anything else. If I never run an ultra, never run half marathons or, hell, even if I never run a 10k again, I think I’m going to be just fine.

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Monday Musings: problematic patterns

I recently wrote about how wherever you go, there you are. That post and its sentiments have followed me around like a dark cloud since putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, as the case may be). At its heart, that post is about patterns. This past week, I attended a Neuroleadership Institute Summit and, as one would expect with a conference about neuroscience, I heard a lot about how our brains form patterns, and how challenging it can be to reprogram our brain to form new patterns.  For the record, patterns aren’t always a bad thing. In fact, many serve us well and free our mind from needless clutter. It’s just that not all of them do.

Herein lies why that post has sat so heavily with me. Among my many patterns, one is continuing to move into new jobs only to become quickly and intensely frustrated, at which point I become incapable of seeing anything beyond the negative. I get the flight syndrome, the sudden urge to escape and move on to greener pastures. And yet, when I start to look elsewhere, I look at the exact same types of roles, as though somehow a new organization or new colleagues or new mission, vision and values will somehow change the work itself. It makes no sense.

Except that it makes perfect sense. Because our brains are wired to keep us in a state of homeostasis, we will automatically choose the path of least resistance when faced with the discomfort of change. Change is perceived as a threat by our brains, and our brains cannot actually distinguish between real and perceived threat.  It’s fascinating, until you’re the one stuck in the pattern and seemingly unable to kick yourself out of the rut. Then it’s a pain in the ass, and then I get stuck in yet another job that frustrates the hell out of me and I’m left asking myself why I keep falling into the same pattern when I know it yields the same troubling results time after time.

I’ve broken problematic patterns in the past: the urge to pick up and move as a means of changing who I am (yes, I’m moving again in a few months, but no, this time it’s not to be a different me in a new place), dating essentially the same (wrong) person over and over again, or continually making friends with flaky people who aren’t there for me the way I want friends to be. I’ve broken all those patterns over time. What I’m not clear on is what was the impetus for change in those scenarios? Was there a straw that broke the camel’s back or was it just the recognition that the pattern needed to break and a willful intention to make things different? I suspect it was the former, which is troubling because it seems the more emotionally exhausting and less direct way to break a pattern. Either way, this current pattern needs to be broken. I need to trick this little brain of mine to stop sounding the alarms every time I contemplate a career change. I don’t know how to do that yet, but when I do, look out world.

Mid-Week Tangent: Dangers of a New Neighborhood

I am in love with my new neighborhood and the impact it has on my commute (hello, 15 minutes!), but there is a dark side to my new neighborhood: it’s full of tempting and delicious…and expensive distractions.

We walked 10 blocks in each direction from our house and discovered all manner of ways for us to fritter away our money. There are pizza shops, and fusion restaurants galore, and dear lord there is a Dairy Queen a mere 600 metres from my doorstep. I should not be allowed to live so close to my beloved pecan mudslides. Not only are they dangerous for my health but they also put a serious ding in the pocket book, weighing in (pun intended) at a steep $7 per treat.

Suffice it to say, there’s a lot of temptations at my doorstep now.  The one benefit of the suburban life was that very few temptations were within walking distance. Ultimately, I am too lazy to get into my car to drive for treats, but I will walk to them in a heartbeat. This does not bode well for me in my new neighborhood.

Already, in the span of three days, we’ve visited a nearby bakery twice. I am not normally a fan of yeasted donuts (cake donuts for life), but this donut was the best yeasted donut I’ve ever had. And I didn’t have to pay upwards of $4 for it, nor step foot in a hipster donut haven. I wish I could share a picture with you of this dulce de leche stuffed donut coated in thick caramel frosting but I devoured it so quickly that you get only this:

If you look closely, you may be able to see remnants of its deliciousness.

At this point, I am deeply concerned about our bank balances and our waist lines. This could be a very, very dangerous five months for us.

Monday Musings: on the return of relaxation and its enormous power

It surprised me how much weight I was carrying from this move. It wasn’t that we weren’t organized. It wasn’t that we didn’t have a lot of time to deal with it. It wasn’t that I’m not overly skilled at moving (because I am, care of 10+ moves as an adult. and that’s not even counting all the dorm moves in university). In my experience, moving is just one of those things that is all encompassing. It eats up your life for weeks on end as you fill your precious leisure time with unglamorous tasks like…

…purging junk you’ve been clinging to for a decade…

…trying to list shit to sell online to absurd bargain-hunting flakes…

…packing in waves so you aren’t living in an empty house for too long but not leaving too much til the end…

…and trying to clean years of filth from the darkest reaches of your home (hello, under the kitchen sink, I’m talking to you)…

As if I weren’t feeling enough like a shadow of my former self with the new job and the heinous commute, adding moving to the mix took my monster status to the next level.  There has been no fun, or at least no fun that hasn’t been overshadowed by nagging feeling that shit still needs to get done. Then, this weekend the clouds parted (literally and figuratively), and we were blessed with a true Sunday Funday and I had forgotten how significantly true relaxation alters one’s state of mind.

For the first time in months, we weren’t weighed down by the mental stress of feeling like we should be doing something else. We leisurely and carelessly strolled the streets of our new neighborhood without that nagging feeling that we should be packing or cleaning or organizing. It was glorious. We played at the local Pitch & Putt course, which ended up taking a full three hours thanks to many, many beginners slowing our roll (as a sidenote, never have I felt so good at golfing), and I didn’t once think “oh crap, this is taking too long and now we’re going to be f*$%ed later on.”

I cannot tell you how much lighter I felt without the stressful weight of the move. Relaxation truly is a miracle worker.  It didn’t take a major vacation or even wildly elaborate plans. We did what we always do: walked and golfed and drank some wine (not at the same time), but we did it without the burden of a million unfinished tasks. This feeling may not last long, but I’m going to enjoy the peace of relaxation while I can.

Monday Musings: wherever you go, there you are?

It’s true what they say. Wherever you go, there you are. I have moved to new cities a few times, five times to be exact, and each time, despite new surroundings and jobs and friends and patterns and routines and sometimes my own best efforts, I come out on the other end as more or less the same person. Yet as I sit here one week from moving into our new and temporary rental in the city, I am hoping that for once this old adage won’t ring true.

I’ve been a self-proclaimed monster for three months now.  Imagine living with a monster for three months.  My boyfriend deserves a serious reward. I get up way too early (for me), deal with a commute that fills me with so much rage, spend my work days dragging my feet and soul and brain around like dead weights, and then try to cram all of my fun life activities into the 1.5 hours of free time I get before going to bed to do it all over again. It has made me a Royally Unpleasant Person (capitalization to emphasize how very deserving I am of an official moniker). I don’t like myself much these days so I can’t imagine that others are terribly enamoured with me either.

Next week, however, I will receive the gifts of sleep and time. I move closer to work, substantially closer in fact. And it has become my light at the end of tunnel. I can sleep in a whopping one to one-and-a-half hours longer (!!!!!!). I can start work at a normal time and leave work at 5 and still be home at the same time I get home now leaving at 4 pm.  I get 2.5-3 hours of commuting time back to myself, part for sleep and part for fun. In my mind, this surely has to make me a better human again. It simply must. I imagine myself as I used to be: quite sociable when I want to, able to get through a work day without feeling as though it’s all for naught, and maybe, just maybe, being able to stay up past 9 pm on a weekday. I imagine it to be glorious, and imagine myself as a ball of bright sunshine instead of the angry, brooding dark cloud of bitterness that I am these days. Dear God, people might actually want to spend time with me again!

Here’s the thing: wherever you go, there you are. So what if my commute and lack of sleep aren’t the real issues here?  I’ve blamed my work malaise and general lack of sociability on a crippling combo of exhaustion and commuter rage. But what if it’s the other way around? What if the job and the lack of sociability are the cause of the exhaustion and commuter rage? What then? It’s been a nagging little voice in the back of my head for weeks, one that I’ve been trying to sweep under the rug with reassuring thoughts that it just has to be better. Deep down, that little voice is still there. I haven’t silenced it and I am not convinced its voice shouldn’t be heard. I’ve been holding out hope that I’ll be a brand new, shiny me next Monday morning. But what if…whatever you go, there you are?

Real-Talk Thursdays: I want the toll fees back

I am not naturally a morning person. I like to wake up at a reasonable hour and slowly start my day, not be jolted from depths of deep slumber at an ungodly hour only to rush out the door in under 25 minutes. It is not my happy place. I sometimes envy morning people but, truthfully, most often I think there is something seriously wrong with them.

What does this have to do with toll fees? Well, recently one of our major suburban-to-urban commuter bridges removed a long-standing toll fee. Hurrah for money back in our pockets! Right? After a couple weeks of experiencing the post-toll-fee world, I’m not so sure my answer is yes. When the tolls were first removed, I complained that the traffic would be so much worse, but in my heart I didn’t really believe it. Would people really avoid the most direct route to work just to save $6 a day? As it turns out, yes, yes they would. And they have been, daily, flocking to my highway and my bridge and ruining my peaceful morning commute.

I left at 5:10 am the other morning (!!!!!). I mean, good God, that is early. Normally, at that time I would fly downtown, probably arriving in around 35 minutes.  It took me 46 minutes.  That is 11 minutes longer. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is 31% longer. I also tend to judge the quality of my early, early (EARLY) morning commutes by the number of times I have to come to a full stop on the highway due to traffic volume.  If I stop zero times it is a fantastic day, 1 time is okay, 2 times is getting to be a bit much and anything more than that is a travesty. The other morning I came to 2 full stops. That’s normal for 6 am traffic, but not 5:10 am traffic. For the love of everything good in this world, there should be some reward for getting one’s ass out of bed and on the road that early and that reward should be smooth sailing!

Yes, I realize it is banal and utterly first-world problem territory to be complaining about traffic. First and foremost, I don’t care, because an unpleasant side effect of my early mornings is a sharp spike in my grumpiness. Secondly, I am actually not complaining about the traffic, but rather the removal of the toll fee that evidently kept traffic at bay for years.  I will gladly pay the government $137 per month for the great joy of a smooth morning commute. It is a small price to pay for my peace of mind, general attitude, and the extra 20 minutes of sleep I would get on the daily.

The very least the government could have done was postpone the toll removal until October 1st, at which point I would be completely oblivious to the effects thanks to my cushy, new, temporary city digs. It’s true what they say: timing is everything.

Mid-Week Tangent: Perks of Having a Homemaker

For four months, I played the part of homemaker and it was a brief but wonderful time. I loved not working. It was grand. And then I went back to work and my world turned into a hectic, mad rush to fit everything in: workouts, work, making breakfast, lunches, helping with dinner, keeping the house tidy, running errands, finding time for friends. Ugh. It was too much. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed since the day I went back to work.

Then, just last week, something magical happened: my partner wrapped up his work until our move. Now, let me just start by saying that my partner has always been wonderful at dividing and conquering household stuff. The problem was that when we were both working, we were rushing around together to get everything done. Both of us felt stressed and overwhelmed. Now that he’s off work I’ve experienced the wonder of being on the receiving end of some seriously fantastic home-making.

Here are just a few of the benefits I’ve experienced:

–I haven’t made a lunch salad in days. I do not miss it. At all. Also, I firmly believe that a salad just tastes better when someone else makes it for you.

–Our dining area no longer looks like a bomb went off in it. Seriously, I used to just cringe staring at all the crap piled up on our table waiting to be organized or put away, but who had the time? And it wasn’t as important as other things. It is oddly soothing to come home to order and tidiness.

–Hallelujah! The bed is being made again! I don’t know why I find it comforting to come home to a bed that’s been made, but I do. Much like the dining area debacle, it’s pretty low on my priority list (think: almost dead bottom) but when it does happen I just feel 10,000 times better.

–I’ve gotten so many treats! My boyfriend knows the way to my heart, and that is through candy and various other sugar-laden things that I shouldn’t be eating but eat with gusto nonetheless. Just yesterday I received a text mid-afternoon that said “there’s three new treats for you to find.” Scavenger hunting for treats! Could there be a better thing to come home to after work? No. The answer is no.

Lest you think I’m totally superficial, in all honesty the nicest thing has been feeling less overwhelmed at the end of the day. Instead of walking in the door and feeling like there’s another 10 things to do immediately, I now feel like I have time to breathe and relax and I am so, so appreciative of that. Trust me when I say when I’m not an overwhelmed stress-ball, it’s also a much better scene for my boyfriend. This is a total win-win. We’ve also been able to spend more quality time together. Just yesterday, we went out, on a work night (!!!!). I mean, it was just a trip to Superstore but, who am I kidding, Superstore trips are like my favourite thing ever.

I think you can tell that I’m a big fan of this transition. Although temporary because, you know, we can’t live without the income forever, it’s still pretty nice to have so many of life’s things taken care of before I even walk through the door at night. Having a homemaker is pretty freaking fantastic.