“It’s a waste of time feeling sorry for yourself because it doesn’t change anything or help anything. You just have to keep on keeping on.” – Roger Ebert
Last week was a rocky one for me. I started off the week feeling awesome – determined to make the best of my injury by getting strong, lean, and really improving my strength so that I could come back a better, stronger runner. And then after a few days of strength training, my foot was feeling worse. After a trip to the dr., I was suddenly feeling totally deflated again (more on that later this week). I totally went off the hinges and was in a deep, dark place once again.
And then, the day after Roger Ebert passed away, they were paying tribute to him on the Today Show. I typically only watch 10-15 minutes of the Today Show in the morning and it’s only on in the background as I’m getting dressed. On this particular day, I happened to be watching when they read the quote above from Roger Ebert. I felt as if Savannah Guthrie was talking to me.
And just like that, in a matter of seconds, my entire attitude shifted. I have a foot injury – SO WHAT? Yes, it sucks that I can’t run right now, but if this is the biggest problem in my life right now, I have no right to feel sorry for myself. After all, Roger was right – it doesn’t change anything or help anything. Feeling sorry for myself only makes me a miserable person to be around and leads to my own self-destruction. And that’s not good for anybody.
So if you are suffering from an injury or otherwise have to take time off from running, remind yourself of Roger’s words. Remember what you have in life to be grateful for and focus on the positive. In this case, I am going to do my hardest to lead by example…
I was having a rough week last week. I was down and out and just didn’t feel like running any more. I was rejected by the NYC Marathon lottery and the Nuun Hood To Coast relay team contest and said to myself, “why am I doing this?” I had a lunch date with my husband on Thursday and he asked me how my training was going. My response was “I’m over it. I have to run 20 miles tomorrow morning and I don’t want to. I’m over this whole marathon training thing and just want it to be over.”
And then…I had the most amazing 20-mile run the next morning. It was probably the best 20-mile run I have ever had. I felt strong, energized, and didn’t feel like dying when I was done. Tired, yes. Wanting to curl up and die, no. And the rest of the day I felt great, too. Sometimes after a super long run I just want to lay in bed all day, but this time I had things to do and a Girls on the Run 5K to get ready for – and I had the energy to do it. (This is actually the best recovery strategy: make plans throughout the day after your long run because your muscles will recover faster if you keep them slightly active rather than vegging on the couch all day.)
So, I went from feeling really crappy about things to feeling awesome as a result of one run. It’s amazing what one great run can do for the mind and the body! I’m now ready to tackle the next two weeks of peak training before it’s taper time. Don’t get me wrong – I still look forward to June 4th when the marathon is over and I can take some time off from “training.” But at least now I don’t dread the next couple of weeks. Instead I accept them as tools that will sharpen me that much more for the big race.
So if you are ever having a bad day, week, or month, go for a run – it just might be that one run that will turn everything around!
I always tell people to stop at the first signs of an injury, rest, and cross-train until the pain is completely gone, then resume running. This is always easy advice to shell out, yet I can never seem to follow it. I – like a lot of runners I know – am stubborn and like to think that if I ignore something, it will go away. It’s taken me a long time to get to the place where I am at today. A place where I follow my own advice.
Just less than two weeks ago – right before the Mountain to Fountain 15K – I started experiencing some pain in both of my legs. It is about half-way up my shin on the inside of the tibia. The pain was very mild and came and went, so I really didn’t think much of it. After a few more days of running, however, the pain got a little worse. On Saturday, I was out for an 8-mile (very hilly) run and I could feel it in my two shins/calves. I stopped at the end of the run and had a very hard conversation with myself. My heart wanted so badly to ignore the pain and keep on my training schedule like everything was normal. But in the end, my mind won. I am forcing myself to rest and heal up this time before it gets so bad that I have to take several months off.
I’m not sure what it is. It could be one of two things: stress fractures or muscle inflammation. The fact that the pain is in identical spots on both legs makes me think that stress fractures are less likely, so I’m treating it as if it’s muscular. This morning I had acupuncture done and I’m feeling very optimistic that I’ll be running within a week. The acupuncturist seemed to think that it was muscular and could feel a small knot in each leg. According to him, the pain is directly on my spleen line and other indications (such as the color of my tongue) point to the spleen being out of balance. So, he needled a bunch of places along the spleen line in an attempt to get the chi, or energy, to move away from the knots and disperse into the rest of my leg. He even seemed to think that one treatment might be enough to heal me. We’ll see how the next couple of days feel and then I’ll test things out or go back for more acupuncture. Based on the last time I had acupuncture for my hip pain, though, I am hopeful. And very proud of myself for stopping when I did and listening to my body.
I recently had a potential client come to me who wanted to qualify for Boston. “Great!” I said. “What is your marathon history and desired time frame?” She proceeded to tell me that she wanted to qualify this year before the September Boston registration opened. The problem? She had run 3 marathons before, all with finishing times right around 5 hours (give or take 5 minutes). This would mean that she needed to shave off 1:20 from her marathon time within the next 6 months.
I was completely straightforward with this woman and explained to her that yes, I could help her get faster and work towards a BQ, but I would be a horrible coach if I promised her that it would happen in 6 months. Any effort to even try would put her at extreme risk for injury and overtraining and that is not something I was willing to do. Give me 2 to 3 years to get her there and it could happen. But in my expert opinion, such a drastic goal in such a short time frame was dangerous and simply not realistic.
In the end, this woman decided to look around for a different coach – one that COULD get her to a BQ before September. While I hope she finds a coach that is a good match for her, I also hope that there are no coaches out there promising such things because they give the rest of us a bad rap.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, wondering where the line is drawn between unrealistic dreams and achievable reality. When I ran my first marathon, getting to Boston was a fantasy and simply a dream at that point (I finished around 4:50). It’s taken me 10 years to bring my marathon time down by an hour. Granted, I took several years off to have kids, but if you take those out, we’re still talking about 6 years. That works out to 10 minutes off of my finishing time every year. I’m finally at a point where I only have 16 minutes to cut in order to BQ. Suddenly my unrealistic dream has turned into an achievable reality.
It’s fun and exciting to see dreams transform into realistic goals. The problem is when we cannot distinguish between the two. When it comes to goals, my philosophy is that small and realistic is key. Small goals are easier to achieve, and when we achieve something we set out to do, we feel a real sense of progress and achievement. In turn, this keeps us motivated to work hard and achieve the next goal. So instead of setting yourself up for failure by aiming to cut an hour off of your marathon time within 6 months, aim for 10 minutes instead. Or instead of trying to run continuously for 30 minutes only one week after starting an exercise program, aim instead for a timeframe of 3 months. If you meet your smaller goals, then set new ones and keep working slowly and steadily towards your ultimate dream. This will help you stay motivated, safe, and feel a real sense of accomplishment.
A friend of mine recently came up with such a great idea that I have to share. We were discussing the motivation to run, especially when it is cold and dark out in the mornings, and we wanted to come up with something to make us get out the door and run every day. And the idea “Smile and Mile Challenge” was born.
The idea is simple: run one mile (or more) every day and make someone smile every day during the month of February. The mile part is self-explanatory. The smile part came out of wanting to do something good in the world, and what better way than to make someone happy, even if just for a moment. And how good do you usually feel knowing that you made someone else smile? I know that it always makes my day a little better.
What I love the most are some of the ideas that my friend came up with for the “smile” portion. While it is easy to simply give someone a compliment to make them smile, that might get a little boring by the end of the month. Instead, we can take inspiration from Operation Beautiful and leave sticky notes of affirmation in random places. For example, write “You are beautiful just the way you are” or “you are amazing” on a sticky note and leave it on the mirror in a public restroom. If you saw that, how could you not smile? Or, how about taking a piece of chalk with you on your run and writing a message on the sidewalk for passersby to see? It serves two purposes: it makes someone else smile and it makes you feel good knowing that you made a difference in someone’s life, even if just for a moment in time.
The group participating in our “Smile and Mile” challenge keeps getting bigger because, really – what a great idea. If you need a little motivation to get you running and want to make other people happy at the same time, I invite you to join the challenge!!