Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Marathon Do's

Now that I've released most of my regrets about the marathon it's time to put together a list of things that really did work - and would work for any distance for that matter.

  1. Remember to have fun. At the end of the day I'm not an elite athlete (nor will I be) so my times don't matter. I like racing because it's enjoyable and I like to see what I'm capable of achieving, but at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter what my time is or how many people are ahead of me. Frankly, it shouldn't matter if I come in dead last. The surest way to destroy the fun of running is to endlessly clock and measure performance until the joy is completely sucked out of the experience. As you might imagine, this is something I struggle with because I have a tendency to expect too much too soon.
  2. Figure out a race routine during training. This routine includes everything from what foods to eat and when, which gels to use, and how to hydrate. It also includes wear-testing clothing to ensure comfort, because as the miles pile on, what seems like a small inconvenience can become a huge headache.
  3. Go out at a reasonable pace. It can feel effortless to run faster at a race than you usually do in practice, but it's far better to start out easy and pick up the pace later. I was very glad that I went out at a normal pace, because otherwise my late-race breakdown could have finished me off altogether.
  4. Evaluate and commit to your goals. It doesn't matter what these are - it could be finishing in a specific time, or it might be to just have fun. Either way, if you commit to them honestly you'll be pleased at the result. Despite my disappointment at my time, my primary goal was to finish. Because I did this, I felt deeply successful.
  5. Plan to rest afterwards. This could totally just be me. And it could be because I'm old and boring, but if it's your first race, assume you'll be exhausted and resist the urge to make big plans for afterwards. I could barely walk after, so spent the entire day laying on the couch.
  6. Be sure to stay hydrated and energized. After you've figured out what works in training, be sure to repeat it during the race. The excitement can make it seem like you don't need it, but the last thing you want is to run out of steam because you're dehydrated or have low blood sugar (both prompt the brain to put a stop to the silliness).
  7. Take time to reflect afterwards. You've earned it!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Marathon Don'ts

Please take this in the spirit of light-hearted ribbing, rather than self-castigation (is that a word?). I am proud of my accomplishment, but really want to help anyone I skip these completely avoidable bad choices:

  1. Don't stand in line at a Portapotty during the race, UNLESS you're gasping. Seriously. It's not a road trip to your grandma's house. The time you spend standing around is unfortunately NOT subtracted from your final time (the way it is on my training runs). Stopping may also give your body an opportunity to highlight some good reasons to stop altogether.
  2. If you did all your training runs alone, don't view the actual marathon as an opportunity to begin chatting with everyone. Everyone says not to try anything new during a race. I've never in my life had a conversation whilst exercising, but didn't include this in my consideration of what it means to try something new. Turns out that while making friends can be inspirational for some people, it's not especially helpful if you haven't practiced it ever. In fact, it can make a person downright breathless, perhaps leading to a loss of focus.
  3. Check your required gear before you go. No, I did not forget to charge my MP3 player. Really. But this time, I chose to plug it into a wall jack instead of my computer, because I thought it was the same. Guess what?  It's not. So instead of charging, it played on unbeknownst to me. I would have been better off if I'd completely forgotten to charge it.
  4. Do not become completely dependent on technology. Train with and without music, leave your watch at home occasionally, etc. When my music died, I found it incredibly difficult to keep going, because it had become so completely ingrained in me. 
  5. Pick more than one completion strategy. My plan to finish was to cling to the pacer. There was no plan B or C. Which meant that I had to come up with these plans when I was already tired and losing motivation. If I had been prepared for the unexpected during the race, I think I would have coped better. Of course, if I hadn't gone to the bathroom, I might not have needed a plan B (did you know pacers won't wait for you? Keep it in mind.) although I still probably would have.
  6. Dress for the actual weather, rather than the hoped for weather. I did manage to change to warmer clothing the morning of the marathon (though making choices at 5am is not optimal), but still clung to the promised high, removing layers before the race started so that I wouldn't get too hot. Guess what? Promised temperatures did not materialize and I was freezing for a good 5 miles before I finally put on my jacket. Again, asking yourself to make thoughtful decisions during a long run is really not possible (at least I proved myself completely incapable of doing so).
  7. A marathon is not the place for a pity party. When the cramps hit, I felt like I was the only person out there struggling. I thought I was the only one in pain. Frankly, this is just not possible. It was also completely unhelpful. 
I think that's it. I will remember all of these things next time and begin practicing some of them now (though there is nothing I hate worse than listening to my own self huffing and puffing on a run).

Monday, May 28, 2012

Sometimes it Really is About the Finish

I will begin with a confession - I deeply considered quitting the race at several points during the run yesterday. Deeply. Considered. Part of it was my time - I lost my mojo after the halfway point (and my mp3 player died!!!) and began to question my sanity. But MOSTLY it was due to some very severe cramping in my legs...think pain of childbirth.

So I spent a good 45 minutes considering how to spin the story of my unfortunate drop out. "It was so sad, but I was afraid of doing permanent damage to my legs." (total lie...I never once thought that)  Unable to come up with a convincing story, I also considered intentionally twisting my ankle so I could be carried back to the start line. It took every fucking ounce of mental and physical strength keep moving forward at a slow walk for all of mile 22 and part of mile 23. As I shuffled along I committed to finishing no matter what, even if I walked the remainder of the race. And I fully planned to do so, until I realized it would take me a lot longer if I walked regardless of how slow I managed to run (this became clear as I watched people literally zoom past me). So I begged and pleaded with my legs to jog ahead, managing to run the last 3.5 miles to the finish line. Once I started running, I knew if I stopped to walk for even one second, there would be no way to run again.

In the end, as I crossed the finish line, I felt an incredible sense of pride at becoming a marathoner. I burst into tears of joy, in fact. Followed by tears of agony.  It was definitely worth every minute.

And I couldn't have done it without the support I received from all of you (and my family). You kept me accountable - you pushed through your own struggles (whether running or drinking or something else) and in so doing, you gave me the courage to push through mine.

Today, I'm not sure quite how I feel. I think it will take quite a bit of time to process all of this.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Marathon: 24-Hour Countdown

By this time tomorrow I'll be rounding the 3 mile mark (or 5K) of the marathon, provided there are no catastrophes (oversleeping is the most dangerous one). For the last several days, I've been memorizing the route and visualizing it so that when I'm running I can concentrate on the next section, rather than on the entirety of the the task at hand. It's interesting, because I've discovered that thinking in terms of numbers really doesn't work well for me - I'm always thinking about the number to complete - smaller breakdowns just don't help. For example, on a 6 mile run, where I'm tired at mile 2, telling myself to think just about completing the next two miles automatically leads me to think, "yeah, but then I'm still not done, because I actually have four more to go!" Then I feel even more exhausted because I'm not even half way. Obviously, on longer runs the problem is magnified.

Instead, what I find helpful is to break the route into sections.Then, if I get tired, I think "I just need to run around that curve, over the hill, and down to the finish." Never mind that this simple list might include 10 miles. If I can forget that (and believe me, I'm terrifically skilled at forgetting the "middle" parts of those details), I can keep running. It's hard to explain - I've been unconsciously doing it for a while now - but hopefully it makes sense, because that's my plan for tomorrow.

I was thinking that to quit drinking, we use similar mental tricks to pass through cravings. What works for one person may not work for another, but trying out different strategies is key to success. I know that I counted obsessively and talked myself up - I told myself how good I would feel if I kept going, I reminded myself that it would get easier if I kept going, I reminded myself of all the reasons I was doing it. Very much like running. Seriously. If you're sober, you can do anything you set your mind to, because you've already had all of this training. If you want to get sober, keep trying different mental tricks - I know you can do it.

My other strategy is that I'm going to run "for" others. Kristen Armstrong creates a prayer band that lists one person per mile. During that mile, she prays for them. I'm going to do something similar. You'll all be on my list. If you're still drinking and want to stop, I'll be praying that you find the courage and the help you need to stop. If you write a sober blog, I'll be sending prayers of thanks for all of the help and support you've given me over the last two years. If you're sober and we've never talked but you read this blog, I'll be sending prayers of thanks that we're all in this sober boat together, even though we've never talked. I still need to make a complete list, but I'm looking forward to it.

And I am looking forward to this run. Not because I'm a fast runner and will impress anyone with my time. And not to prove to anyone else that I can do it. I'm looking forward to this run as a celebration of all of the work I've done - a celebration of making a commitment and following through on it. It will be a metaphorical reflection on the distance I've traveled. The very fact that I'm able to do it is a testament to the support I've received. It will transformative, no matter what happens out there.  


Friday, May 25, 2012

Why I Quit Drinking

I can list one hundred reasons why I'm thankful I am sober. It's not just the improvements to physical and mental health, but also the many simple things I notice now that I'm not rolling between drunk and hungover. I don't forget these things often, although sometimes sobriety feels so very normal that I can take it for granted. I don't want to drink and I don't miss it, so it seems easy to assume life will continue in this way indefinitely.

What I had forgotten until recently is the WHY of quitting. It's easy to believe I finally quit because I was sick of feeling hungover and exhausted from waking up with an anxiety attack at 3am every morning. It's quite possible that I got tired of pausing when the alarm went off to body-sense how hungover I felt. It would even be plausible to say I quit because I was quite done with half-remembered fights with my husband, or that my daughter's continual stomach aches finally delivered the message that I was a bad mother. While these factors contributed to my desperate desire to stop, it was only the realization that I NEVER knew QUITE what I would DO after I swallowed that first drink. Would I get to bed on time, or would I stay up until 2am? Would I break a glass, spill some wine, trip down the stairs? Would I leave the house in a blackout? Who knew really what I was capable of. The one person who should have been able to answer that question was either passed out or too pissed to answer the question. It was only the certain knowledge that came after I summarily cut my wrists open that finally showed me I could cause immeasurable damage without any cognizance of the consequences that pushed me into recovery.

I want (and need) to remember that. I'm not sober because my body is a temple, or because I'm "training", or because I take my health seriously (hello pound of M&Ms! hello cigarettes!), I am sober, because drunk, I am capable of anything...none of it good. And I really hope I never forget that again.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In Hiding

I just inadvertently published a blank post. Crap. It's ironic because I was just thinking about how intently I'm avoiding writing about my feelings. I have successfully evaded writing in my journal for months at a time. I decided to write a post about this very issue and then published a blank page. Hmm.. less interesting when I describe it - sort of like explaining the punchline to a joke kills the funny.

Anyway. It looks like we'll be moving cities (and country) again to go back to California. I feel a deep sense of love & hate about this move. I will be happy to leave snow and winter behind. I will be sad to leave the mountains. I guess that's it. I'm not sure what I'm doing. It brings back so many memories that were unhappy for me. It takes me back to the lack of work-life balance and to the stress of racing to keep up. I'm hopeful that I will be able to find some kind of balance, now that I know more than I did then.

Part of the fear comes from the many moves we made when I was growing up. I can clearly remember one of the last moves we made as a family. My dad was drinking heavily at the time and my parents were both in the bar most nights, leaving me home alone with my brothers. I was twelve. I didn't want to move. My (alcoholic) uncle told me the move would be a good thing, because it would mean less stress for my dad. His drinking would improve. The move came on the heels of at least two dui's and my dad's downward spiral at work. I didn't believe my uncle. And I was right. My dad drank more (if possible) after the move than he'd done before. Our home life spiraled out of control as my parents brought their drinking home with them.

I fear this move for the same reason. I don't want to be stuck out there in a new city without any support, living on a visa, trapped if my husband decides to start drinking again. That said, I know he could start here too. I know we only ever get today. I know that this is probably the right move for me anyway, independent of anything else - more opportunity for a better job, especially, but it still terrifies the hell out of me.

Hitting publish to get rid of the dead air space up there.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Holding Steady

It's interesting that when I was drinking I thought I was a very reliable person. I considered myself dependable and hard-working. I thought I had an innate ability to keep things together, even if they weren't perfect (and sometimes looked like a five-year-old had sewn the edges together). When I got sober, I realized how false this perception really was. With eyes wide open, and no barrier between me and the world, the badly sewn edges were blindingly obvious. The funny thing is that while everyone knows being drunk creates a barrier between the drinker and the world, few remember that so does a hangover.

And it wasn't only that I was too drunk to notice. It's more that I looked at all the things I hadn't done (yet) to evaluate my reliability, rather than look at the things I was doing. I've read that people with gambling addictions see a loss as an almost win, whereas "normies" see it as a pure loss - this happens at the subconscious level, in the brain. This perception keeps them betting, because they feel so close to recovering...so close to winning. That is sort of what I was doing as an alcoholic. I measured my self-worth against all the things I'd never do, or didn't do.

In sobriety, the "at least I didn't do X" really doesn't play a role anymore. Instead, I try to take responsibility for what I have done and to follow through on my promises. I have become reliable. My moods fall within a more normal range, my energy levels are fairly consistent, and I'm able to follow through on what I say I'll do. I am present enough (work in progress) to be a real partner in things. More than simply keeping my commitments to others, I'm better able to keep the ones I make to myself. So even though the word "reliable" would have sounded pretty boring a few years ago, now, it feels just right.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Alcoholic Marathon

My anxiety about the marathon has been waxing and waning. It is now a week away and I find myself oscillating between thinking I can probably do well - make a decent first-time time, feel okay in my legs, and enjoy the experience - and wondering how badly it will end up hurting. Will I hit the wall? Will I actually cry? Or possibly twist my ankle on mile ten?

All of this was put into perspective this morning when it occurred to me that if I was still drinking, it wouldn't even be possible to consider running that far. When I was drinking I rarely took the time to exercise, and when I did it was truly half-hearted. On the other hand, even if I managed to struggle through all of the training required, I think this is what the build up to the marathon would look like:
  • Plan to REALLY cut back on my drinking for the last week, knowing that the run would be much easier if I stayed relatively sober. 
  • Decide that a week of not drinking really made a lot of sense.
  • Each day, revise the length of time down... 7 days, 6 days, 5 days, etc.
  • On the night before the race, promise myself that I won't drink more than one glass of wine with dinner. Rationalize this by referencing French people.
  • Drink until late in the evening.
  • Wake up, feel like crap, decide I'm coming down with the flu and skip the run, or 
  • If my ego is too fragile to completely skip the race, chug water and tylenol and drag myself through the entire race in 8 hours.
This may sound silly, as I know many of you ran while you were drinking... but I know that's exactly how it would have played out for me. That's the kind of drinker I was and those were the kinds of life sacrifices I made so that I could keep drinking. I needed to drink so badly that I gave up any goal that took me away from drinking. Any attempt I made to change my life during that time was destined to fail, until I stopped drinking altogether.

It's really so nice to be here. Worrying about how it will go, knowing I've done the work to prepare, and knowing that I've done my best is an amazing feeling, no matter what ends up happening out there. I have willingness to accept the outcomes of the race, knowing that I did the hard labor to get here. For the first time in my life, I have really stuck with my own commitments to myself. I ran through wind (ick), rain, snow, and cold weather. I've run when I was tired and felt like laying on the couch. Twice, I even got up at 6am on the weekend to run. Having done that, it's impossible for me to let myself down no matter how the race itself goes.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Hodge Podge

Last night I had this dream where I asked you all if it was okay to write a mixed up post with a bunch of different stuff in it. Then, as though this was an IM window, I waited for your response before proceeding. In the light of day I can see various impracticalities with that approach overall, so I'll write my post as is. However, if there are things you'd like me to talk about, please send me an email or put it in the comments.

Book Review Fridays: Let's Pretend This Never Happened
Jenny Lawson writes at The Blogess and is incredibly funny. Her book is so funny that at times tears were running down my face while I laughed my ass off, trying to keep it together so I could keep reading. Anyone around me must have thought I was insane. Some content in the book has already been covered on her blog, but for the most part it was new to me (I haven't read every single post, so don't quote me). Read it. This book will definitely pick you up and take your mind off of any lingering sad stuff.

New (to me) Running Technique
I've been reading Chi Running and can honestly say I'm astonished at the notion that running improvement might be more a matter of technique than muscle. I haven't applied myself fully to all of the techniques outlined in the book, but I tried out a few yesterday and was amazed by the difference. Hills were a snap. (I know!) Take a look at the book if you have the opportunity - there's good advice for beginners as well as more experienced runners.

The Odds are Good, but the Goods are Odd
This week I was painfully reminded of the importance of vigilance with respect to safety in AA. It is tempting to believe that everyone is there for the same reasons we are: to grow and learn. There are people there (and everywhere) who pay lip service to the program and continue to behave in ways that are "sick". (quotes optional) From my standpoint, the power of the message is that the basic principles of AA apply not only to drinking, but to every aspect of life. These principles include honesty, self-reflection, accountability, and service. When we drink we know we lie about our drinking, but in sobriety we see that we lied about so many other things as well. We turn to people who are strong in their sobriety to help us cross our own bridges and this is essential to the program, but it creates an inequity of power. I believe it is the responsibility of the sponsor to ensure that there is no abuse of power as a result. Unfortunately, there are those who will use this power to betray and manipulate. There are those who should not sponsor because they are not strong enough to treat this relationship with the respect it deserves. As a result, they undermine the integrity of the program as a whole...even if they aren't using. I guess what I'm saying is that it's important to treat the sponsor-sponsee relationship the same way you'd treat a teacher-student or doctor-patient relationship. If it doesn't feel right, find a new one.







Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Mystical Taper

I say mystical, but only because I find it such a challenge. My muscles are tired, too tired to run. I'm ready for some rest - physically, mentally and emotionally, and yet. And yet, some part of me believes I should continue to push push push. I'm ignoring that voice. It is just not true that any benefit can be gained at this point. With the marathon a mere 10 days away, the only thing I can do to further prepare at this point is to rest and work on the mental game. Physically, I've done what can be done.

So it's time to rest. This is a good learning opportunity for me in general. I have such a tendency to push myself past my limits without ever stepping back for a break. We all have to do this sometimes, but when it becomes habitual and we never take the opportunity to recharge, the effects of tiredness and stress become cumulative. With respect to running, without rest, you never fully recover from the micro-tears in your muscles and court injury. I think life works this way too.

I am working to change this about myself. I remember that it's important to push past tiredness when I really don't feel like going to work, but I also try to deliver on the promise of rest. This not only gets me through those days when the very last thing I want to do is go into work, but allows me to recognize the efforts I've made.

It's a small celebration, but it's still a celebration.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hello Pain

One constant in most writing by ultra marathon runners is the heightened ability to push through pain. They keep running 50 or 100 miles regardless of blisters, heat, dead muscles, and god knows what else. Yesterday I felt like I finally experienced this when I ran 23 miles. Yup. Sounds like I'm lying. I know if someone told me they ran 23 miles I would figure their GPS blew out and exaggerated the entire thing. In fact, for most of the day I randomly thought "holy crap, I just ran 23 miles!" And then I'd eat a cookie. Because it felt like the correct celebratory thing to do.

But back to the topic of pain. There was a point in the run where it actually hurt more to walk than it did to just keep shuffling along in an approximation of running. My calves were cramped beyond belief and my feet were on fire. The thing was, I just kept going (because the intense pain began at mile 19) for another hour. And so I know I am ready for the marathon in two weeks, because I truly could have tacked on another 3 miles at that point. It finally became viscerally clear to me that despite the pain I felt during the run, it would be far worse once I actually stopped running. And it was. And I think I can relate this to life in general when crisis hits - I think I finally understand what it means to say that the only way out is through. I think I finally understand what it means to talk about relentless forward progress. It does seem unfortunate that I needed to put myself through twenty-three miles to get there when a commitment to meditation might have done the same thing. Except that I love that running proves to me how strong I've become.

On a totally different topic, it's time for me to go back to meetings. While I think I have benefited from the break - having settled into my own sobriety and life - I am concerned about forgetting where I came from. I don't like that I occasionally find myself thinking about the taste of a drink. Or that when someone mentioned scotch the other day, I could instantly remember how it felt in my mouth. Also, I finally feel ready and willing to help someone else. Although this blog may be helpful to others (especially if you go back to the beginning) it really isn't the same thing (because at the end of the day I'm just blathering away about what's going on inside my head and I don't risk much by saying it). And if we move (and we will likely do so) I will need support through the stress and change. Just thinking about it gives me butterflies.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Hills

I've recently read two running books that talk about running hills as metaphor for life. The first is Mile Markers, by Kristin Armstrong and the second is To Be a Runner, by Martin Dugard. Armstrong celebrates hills because she knows that the only way to become stronger is to run them. She knows there is satisfaction at the end of the climb - both physical and mental. She writes about pushing through these challenges as a training ground for life. Knowing she's physically strong enough to tackle a hill gives her confidence that she can handle life's challenges. For Dugard, hills serve a similar purpose. He uses hills as a reminder that the only way to end the pain of a challenge is to push through it. The end of the pain is not found in stopping, but in pushing over.

I avoid hills like the plague. When I try out a new running route each turn is determined by whether there's an incline visible. If a hill is unavoidable, I'll choose the one with a lower grade. Running hills reminds me of how it felt to run when I first started out - lungs burning, muscles screaming, brain in over-drive attempting to stop the insanity. Running uphill is hard. I'd rather not do it even though I know it's the perfect way to build strength and to become a better runner. I wonder what this suggests about my approach to life - do I take the easier route and miss out on opportunities for growth? I kind of think I might. At least sometimes. Since I've gotten sober, I no longer avoid responsibility and I've stopped lying. I've started to try to make choices based on the long term rather than making decisions based on immediate impulses. At the same time, I do what I can to avoid the hard choices. (I don't necessarily take the easy way out, but I will defer the decision for as long as possible.)

With this realization I've started running hills intentionally. I am choosing harder routes because I want to train my mind to keep moving forward through difficult situations, rather than stop dead. I want to prove to myself that I'm able to get through things that are hard. And I want to be a better runner.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spring Flowers

I adore spring. Each day brings slightly greener changes. The air smells good. And it's suddenly warm enough to really sweat. Longer days make it easier to get up in the morning and stretch out the evenings so that time doesn't feel quite so compressed. Dog walks are pleasurable again, now that five layers of clothing aren't required. The runners are out in force in my neighborhood (who knew there were so many of them? And where were they when it was below zero?) and more people seem to be smiling.

Each time the season changes I'm reminded of the excuses I used to drink in the past. Something in the sense memory triggers all of the old reasons. The voice is much quieter now, but still there. The patio furniture comes out and I remember long weekend afternoons spent reading on the deck with gin and tonic. The bars advertise summery drink specials and I remember extended lunches and wasted afternoons. Each night when I go to bed and it's still light out, I remember that longer days used to mean more hours for drinking.

This year I don't feel nostalgic for those things the way I did last year. I hit my 20-month anniversary on Saturday, so I already have one sober spring to figure out how to fill the time. Now, I know that I'll still lie on the deck, but the experience won't be marred by the half-stoned drunk and patios are just as fun with a diet coke and the right friends. Afternoons back at the office are less guilt-ridden and more productive. I've also learned that I need 8-hours of sleep whether the sun is still up or not. For all of this, I am incredibly grateful.





Friday, May 4, 2012

Lessons on Marathon Training

Although I have yet to run my first marathon, I can say with certainty that I've already learned so many lessons. Most are lessons in progress, but I thought I'd share:

  1. Run on tired legs: I think this is key. In order to complete a marathon you have to keep going way past the point of muscle exhaustion. Most running books will tell you to take a day off if you have muscle soreness because when you run on tired legs you risk injury. For my final weeks, I'm ignoring this advice and only taking a day off if it will prevent me from completing the mileage for my long run on the weekend.
  2. Ignore the voice in your head that tells you to stop running immediately. This is related to the item above, but is a bit different. Whenever I exercise (even if I'm just climbing a few flights of stairs) there is a voice better known as laziness that starts to scream at the first sign of exertion. Eventually, it becomes quiet, but then reasserts its position at various mile markers. The only way to finish a marathon is to become adept at ignoring the advice. This doesn't always mean telling it to shut up, in fact, just like dealing with a 2-year-old, it sometimes means bribery, begging, and pleading.
  3. The line between running too much and not doing enough is razor thin. In order to complete this thing I need to put in as many miles as possible, without breaking anything. Finding that line is difficult - as I discovered when I pulled that muscle in my foot. Sometimes the exhaustion creeps up on me and I need to sleep for twelve hours to recover. For the most part my life is so busy that I don't come close to "running too much" even if the number of miles is insanity.
  4. Keep life and running in balance. In the Lore of Running, there is a chapter on the self absorption of runners. Apparently, all they talk about is running. The advice: to talk about other things so that people don't think you're obsessive.The suggestion is that we'll still be completely self-obsessed, but somehow fake it through with others. For the most part, I'm able to keep running and life in balance because my life demands it - between work, kids, and marriage I'm not able to get too far off the path. That said, as a mother, I find I have to actively make time for running. It's far easier to give up the things I love (that also keep me sane) because it seems difficult to fit them in. This oscillation has been good for me - it's helping me to find the balance.
  5. I really do love running. Despite the muscle pain and the annoying need to push through exhaustion, there is a part of me that craves sore leg muscles after a few days off. I adore the clarity of mind that comes from going out for an hour. I love learning that even when I feel I have nothing left to give another surge of energy usually appears if I keep going through the pain. I'm finding strength I didn't know I had.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Trust Your Body

Running has been an interesting experiment in viewing food as fuel. For most of my life, food has oscillated from unfortunate necessity to emotional comfort. It has always been both an enemy and a friend. Before there was alcohol, there was food. I spend most of my teenage years feeling too fat. I was always on a diet that didn't work. My weight went up and down depending on what my family circumstances were at the time. When I was fifteen, I finally found a plan that did work. It involved eating next to nothing and purging any accidental "binges". Once I figured out how well it worked I began to binge in earnest. When I found the strength to stop I quickly gained twenty pounds. Although I've been symptom-free since my mid-twenties, I have an on-again off-again relationship with body-hatred. My weight, it seems, is always on the way up or the way down.

Over the past year my weight has been fairly stable. Even with all the running I haven't gained or lost. Despite claims that "muscle weighs more than fat" my dimensions haven't shifted either. I can see muscles in my legs that weren't there before, and I even have the beginnings of abdominal muscles (underneath leftover baby skin). However, not much has changed.

Unfortunately, I can also see that as the stress in my life picks up, so does the habit of body critique. Instead of feeling joy at what I'm able to accomplish, I still find myself looking at the scale to see how I should feel about myself. My eyes still skip over my "assets" to find fault. I still somehow feel like I should be able to run and lose weight. 30 miles = 3000 calories, give or take. It seems reasonable (even rational) that some weight would have been lost over these long months. But then I remember the candy, the chocolate, and the cake I've eaten. Sometimes it was eaten to cover off emotional pain and anxiety, but often it was sheer desire to enjoy it. Mostly, it's been hunger.

Instead of continuing down this path I've been on, I'm making a real commitment to trust that my body knows better than I what it needs to run. Theories of thin and better race times are no more scientific than those old 1200 calorie diets that Glamour magazine used to publish. (They probably still do publish them...) At the end of the day, we are all unique. At the end of the day, our brains analyze a truckload of data to find stasis. At the end of the day, I am tired of trying to outwit my body. I am tired of the wandering judgmental eye.

So I am embarking on an attempt to accept and love my body. I will try to appreciate it - for all it does - and stop cataloging the "good" and "bad". I will try to enjoy it. Moreover, I am going to go back to viewing food as fuel, instead of as temptation. There is no good and bad. If I eat too much junk, my body makes it clear (gas is such an interesting message delivery system). Otherwise, I think the safest path is to follow the hunger, to listen carefully, and to eat joyfully.

In a nutshell, I will work on acceptance and find joy in where I am right now.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Girlhood

I really hate how mean little girls can be to each other. It's an incredible challenge to me to understand how to help my daughter cope with being "unliked" at her school. Part of me knows that many kids feel excluded and struggle to fit in. Another part of me wonders why her and why now. I know there is little I can do but listen and hope that listening is enough to help her through. And hope that she will continue to talk to me about how she's feeling and not decide it's pointless because nothing changes as a result of our conversations.

It reminds me of a bunch of different movies that begin with an awkward, unpopular girl and end with a beautifully made-up and confident girl at the end. When I was my daughter's age (and older) I clung to the hope these movies offered. They indicated that if I could get the right clothes and makeup all of my problems would end and I would be transformed. I somehow knew it wasn't the inside that needed changing then, it was the outside. That I would be liked by the popular girls if they only gave me a chance.

I don't think that's happening with the under-ten set. At least not yet. But it is as painful to watch from this vantage point as it was to experience back then.
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