15 Things Running Has Taught Me

IMG_4473It’s been nearly two years since I ventured into the world of running, but only recently that I’ve started to think of myself as a runner. In this time, I have learned:

1. If you look cute when you leave the house, great. If you look just as cute when you get home, you’re doing it wrong. 

2. Sweat is fat crying. Sweat hard, sweat often.

3. Listen to your body. Not that little voice in your head that tells you to slow down, or go home. Listen to your breath, FEEL your heartbeat. Fancy heart rate monitors are great, they’re also expensive and unnecessary. 

4. In your playlist, no song is stupid if it keeps you moving.

5. It’s okay to walk.

6. Learn to block out distractions. 

7. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Pain =Progress 

8. Don’t ever smell any of your clothing after a run. Trust me.

9. Don’t carry water or Gatorade if you’re not going to drink it.

10. Not everyone appreciates my rendition of “Sexy and I Know it,” especially at 5am.

11. Everything bounces and wiggles. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G. Get used to it.

12. Long sleeves make great tissues.

13. Protein. Protein. Protein.

14. Good form is better than being fast.

15. If you’re seeking perfection, you’ve picked the wrong sport. There will always be someone stronger and faster. Compete against yourself, not those around you. 

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5am

Last night, I went to bed early like the responsible adult I am (I work morning shifts, and have come to value a decent night’s sleep), and was awoken by a series of important (albeit annoying) text messages at the ungodly hour of 11pm.

I couldn’t get back to sleep; I tossed and turned, turned and tossed.

An earlier version of me would have used this poor nights sleep as an acceptable reason to skip the 5am workout I have meticulously planned for this morning. Instead, I allowed myself to ‘snooze’ for 15 minutes before picking myself up out of bed (dragging) and “reporting for duty.”

There are no shortcuts, no excuses. No one’s going to do it for me. In fact, no one cares whether I workout or sleep in.

It’s all on me.

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Peace and Love,
Mandixoxox

Bluenose – Part 2

My Dad and I after crossing the finish line.
You can see I’m still out of breath… This was my dad’s first race, I have his time (10 minutes better than mine) to live up to!!

“Dead Last Finish is greater than Did Not Finish, which trumps Did Not Start”  — Anonymous 

Months of preparations have lead me to this moment.
A Marathon Official screaming “Keep left for finish line!!” and hundreds of fans line Brunswick Street as I come around that last bend. Only 100 meters to go…
Coldplay’s Every Teardrop is a Waterfall is playing in my ears – fitting since I can feel myself tearing up with a mixture of excitement and pride already. 

I desperately try to soak in the moment while frantically searching the crowd for someone, anyone I know. 50 meters…
I dig deep, pushing against the ache in my hips, and the cramp in my leg I mysteriously woke up with this morning, and can’t seem to shake. 10 meters…
One last deep breath and I cross the first sensor marking the finish line, hesitating only slightly when I hear the announcer call MY name. 5 meters…
Arms over my head, one final burst of energy and I’m over the last two sensors and through the finish gate. “WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” I screamed as I erupted into a puddle of tears.

I did it.

I actually did it, and a whopping 40 minutes faster than last year!!!

The Journey

“I run the marathon to the very last mile”     — Beastie Boys

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. 2011 was a mixed bag. My heart had never been more full, my spirit had never been so broken. The defining moment, for me, was May 18th (2 days before the Bluenose). In a text message, I was told the relationship I had been pouring everything into was over, and there was nothing I could do about it. Defeated, heart broken, and severely depressed, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, but I had made a commitment. And so, I took to the streets of Halifax for the 10K, finishing in 2 hours – not bad all things considered.

I spent the next six months going through the grieving process: denying it was over; agonizing; bargaining; reflecting… In August I sustained a head injury that complicated my “recovery.” But, by January I had turned a corner. Enough is enough. It was time to get back up.

The Training

“Dig deeper. Push Harder. BE Profound.”  — Me

Having spent eight months in bed, I was in horrible physical shape. Mentally and emotionally, I was ready for this!
I began (at my cousin Sheldon’s insistence) with the Biggest Loser Bootcamp 4 days a week. Boy-O-boy did that wake my body up!! Four weeks later, instead of starting level 3, I started doing run/walks…
The C25K iPhone app soon became my favourite. My first outdoor walk/run was 5K, it felt amazing, so liberating (read more about that run here).
In March, I added the Map My Run app, which keeps track of my routes, speed, distance, and averages my pace so I have an accurate idea of how well I’m doing.

The Setbacks

“Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like muscles of the body.”  — Lynn Jennings

That first run was the beginning of a string of setbacks and complications that, to this day have not stopped, nor slowed me down. Shin splints, supination, pulled muscles, torn ligaments, heel spurs, clothing malfunctions, failure to lose weight/inches and progress through the training process… You name it, and I have likely endured it! 

The Motivation

“Workouts are like brushing my teeth; I don’t think about them, I just do them. The decision has already been made.”  — Patti Sue Plummer

Changing my view on the world around me was not easy, but some how I seem to have accomplished it (9 days of 10, anyway). Oprah once said that running was the best metaphor for life because you get out of it what you put in. Adopting that philosophy in my life and surrounding myself with positivity and calm has become a passion of mine (right up there with writing). They’re both something I work hard at, and strive desperately to improve on. 

Equal motivation for me, was simply doing it. Years ago when I visited the gym regularly, the tredmill was always my favourite part of my workouts, and for years, I’ve hummed and hawed over getting a tredmill of my own. Instead, I began running outside. Outdoor running is MUCH harder than running on a tredmill, and I love the challenge!! Battling the elements; moving faster to get warm, or to get home because it’s raining, or because it’s hot, all par for the course…

I’m a game player too, secretly competitive – There’s no better competition than with myself!!
When I’m out for my run, in my head I’m playing game after game with myself:
Can you run faster than him?… I bet she runs slower than you… I wonder if I can climb this hill in two minutes… If you walk up the hill, you have to run down it at double time… If  you finish in less than 40 minutes, you can go to Booster Juice… Can you run to that rock?… Can you run up that hill?

If all that fails, I sing along to my iPod – OUT LOUD!

The Playlist

Music makes or breaks my workouts. All of my worst runs have been my worst runs because of iPod malfunctions. Music has been scientifically proven to positively benefit any exercise program:

There are four factors that contribute to a song’s motivational qualities: rhythm response, musicality, cultural impact and association.

The first two are known as “internal” factors as they relate to the music’s structure while the second two are “external” factors that reflect how we interpret the music. Rhythm response is tied to the beats per minute (bpm) of the song and how well it matches either the cadence or the heartbeat of the runner. A song’s structure such as its melody and harmony contribute to its musicality. The external factors consider our musical background and the preferences we have for a certain genre of music and what we have learned to associate with certain songs and artists (Click HERE to read this article in its entirety).

Here’s a short list of my “life saving” songs from today, many of which I sang OUT LOUD!:

The Pretender – Foo Fighters (I’m the voice inside your head you refuse to hear…)
She Knows What to do With a Saturday Night – Billy Currington
Every Teardrop is a Waterfall – Coldplay (I turn the music up, I got my records on, I shut the world outside until the lights come on, Maybe the streets alight, maybe the trees are gone, I feel my heart start beating to my favorite song…)
Love the Way You Lie – Eminem & Rihanna
Look at me Now – Karmin
Forgot About Dre – Eminem & Dr. Dre (So what do you say to somebody you hate, Or anybody tryna bring trouble your way)
Pumped Up Kicks – Foster the People (All the other kids with the pumped up kicks, You better run, better run, outrun my gun…
Thriller/Heads Will Roll – Glee Cast
Party Rock Anthem – LMFAO
Never Say Never – Justin Bieber & Jaden Smith (I will never say never, I will fight till forever…
Crash Your Party – Karmin (Who do you think you are a super S-T-A-R…
Shoop – Salt & Peppa
I Love Rock N’ Roll – Joan Jett 

Now What?

 A much needed break, and back to running 3-4 times a week… There just might be something fantastic in store for 2013! 😉 Stay tuned!!

Peace and Love,
Mandixoxox

New Year’s Resolutions

“I do think New Year’s resolutions can’t technically be expected to begin on New Year’s Day, don’t you? Since, because it’s an extension of New Year’s Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much nicotine in the system. Also dieting on New Year’s Day isn’t a good idea as you can’t eat rationally but really need to be free to consume whatever is necessary, moment by moment, in order to ease your hangover. I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January the second.”              — Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’s Diary

At the end of December, we take a mental inventory of all the things we did, or wanted to do throughout the previous year. Filled with hope for the next calendar year, we begin making a grocery list of things to do or habits to quit, and we call that list our New Year’s Resolutions. 

From the get-go, it is a set up for failure. Generally speaking, a typical resolution doesn’t see the end of the first quarter. And by the time Lent rolls around, we’re kicking ourselves for not quitting smoking, or dropping those “last ten pounds.”

Resolutions are not something I generally participate in. This year, however, I decided I would. But, I made some alterations to the “typical” process. Instead of choosing clichéd things like lose weight, quit smoking (something I don’t actually do), or workout more, I marinated on the thought of resolutions throughout the month of January and carefully constructed a list of items that would improve my ME. Resolutions that emphasize my spiritual side, and help me to define my place within the universe. More importantly, resolutions that I won’t abandon by the end of March. 

In 2012 I resolve to:

Write and Paint more
Writing and painting are something I have always done to express myself. When my verbal skills falter, I am able to find the words in writing. And should I not be able to express myself in written words, paint and canvas have always been there. Over the years, I have tried many mediums of art, from photography to sculpture and I always come back to writing and painting. 

Meditate more
Meditation is something I was introduced to, formally, in 2011. I had always been curious about how to do it. Isn’t it just breathing? It wasn’t until I made a conscious effort to learn about meditation, that I learned about the mind-body connection. How becoming centered within myself changes the way I view the world. I am less stressed, less anxious, and more aware of myself and my emotions. 

Practice yoga more
Yoga and I have been friends for years. Since I lived at home with my parents and followed VHS tapes in my bedroom as best I could with what little floor space I had. After all this time, I am still a beginner, and that is okay. To me, yoga is not the practice of going to a class filled with strangers or following a video at home, it the experience of doing it. Much like meditation, it is a time for me to connect my mind to my body.

Do one kind thing each day for someone
This should be an obvious choice for everyone. We live in a cold dark world, filled with anger and hate. Simple acts of kindness like holding a door open for the person behind you; laughing at a colleague’s joke – even if it wasn’t funny; or smiling at a stranger as you cross the street. These small acts may not seem like much, but they radiate positive energy into the universe and, can even change a person’s day completely

Become more present in my daily life; worry less about the future
I am a worrier. I often find myself just going through the motions, and I sometimes fail to really see what is going on around me.
I take the same route twice each day: out my apartment door, across the hallway, out the building door, down the stairs, across the parking lot to the car. Every day, twice each day (some days more), for two and a half years, and only yesterday did I notice a small tree standing between two others. Surely it was new? Unlikely since it is March and the ground is still frozen. I notice the small things, the insignificant. When my coffee table has been moved an inch, I notice. When the floor has been vacuumed poorly, I notice. And yet, I walk through the same parking lot day after day and fail to see the things around me. Upon further investigation, I discovered that this small, and beautiful tree had indeed been there all along, and I had failed to see it. 

Have an adventure
Put simply, I am boring. A creature of routine. This year, I resolve not to abide by my daily “schedule” and instead, make every effort to do things spontaneously. To fly by the seat of my pants, and see what kind of trouble I can get myself into.

Open my heart to all the wonderful things around me
A little less than a year ago, I was a broken women. Never in my life had I experienced such gut wrenching pain. As I struggled to get through those first days, weeks, months, a hardness started to grow over my heart. I craved affection, and yet spent as much time as I could alone – even though I did not like my own company. I started to become cynical about everything. And then one day, as if by magic (or fate), I was sitting alone and it hit me: The world is filled with wonderful and beautiful things. The universe will give back to me as much as I give to it.

Take a vow of silence
Those of you reading this that know me, may laugh at this one. Ha! She can’t be quiet! And, you might be right. But, I still want to try it anyway! I look at it like fasting, but for the mind. A few days (or a week) where I can vanish off the grid, and be alone with my thoughts.

Go on a trip by myself
Single, independent, and not afraid to show it! To me, vacationing alone is the ultimate show of inner strength. I view this resolution as my Everest.

What resolutions did you make for 2012? 
How are they working out for you?

Peace and Love,
Mandixoxox 

My Favourite Way to Meditate

Floating deep within my bathtub, arms crossed loosely over my chest, warm salt water enveloping me.
Calming music playing quietly.
I close my eyes and I imagine that the vanity light poking through the shower curtain is the sun high above me, its rays lightly kissing every inch of my exposed flesh.

My carefully measured breath, the low hypnotic rumble of the ocean.
I am transported away from my Halifax suburb.
I breathe in, the crystal clear salty water ebbs, and  as I exhale the warm ocean waves crash over me.

Sinking deeper, I take a breath for me, for the stress of my day.
I take two for my body:
One to thank it for holding me up today. 
One to repair and heal it.

I take a breath for my mind, allowing the ocean waves to wash away all my troubles.
I take one for each of the people I have encountered today who may not be willing or able to cleanse themselves of daily pressures.
I take a breath for every moment of a moment in which I had a negative or unkind thought.

I breathe.

I breathe and I float and I imagine.

What is your favourite way to meditate?

Peace and Love,
Mandixoxox

T.G.I.Disappointed

With James Taylor’s How Sweet it is (to be loved by you) playing in my ears, the full extent of my disappointment set in. A mere 14 minutes into my evening run, and I could not take another step. The obstacle this time? Not the anticipated icy sidewalks, not the blistering cold, but my body. A pain so excruciating in my shins. It paled in comparison to the dark cloud washing now over me.

In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.     — Bill Cosby  

Do I want to fail?
That question floats on an endless loop in my head, even as I scream my reply: NOOOOO! I DOOOOOOOOOON’T!

I’ve become all too familiar with the concept of failure and disappointment in my twenty nine years. School, relationship, roommate, relationship, roommate, job, relationship. It seems life is an ceaseless series of failures and disappointments designed to test our character and resolve. 

Have I let any one of my previous failures or disappointments define my life? 
No

So what makes this one different?

Is there a discriminate difference between disappointments of the mind and failures of the body? Are the two mutually exclusive? Can we overcome one without acknowledging the existence of the other? 

The answer, quite simply, is no

Our minds see no difference in physical or physiological reasons not to carry on. Those that cannot walk don’t do so because they don’t want to – they can’t.
In order to overcome such mind/body barriers we must recognize that we are human, and that failures or disappointments are just another opportunity to learn, grow, and do better next time. 

If I am to meet with a disappointment, the sooner I know it, the more of life I shall have to wear it off.     — Thomas Jefferson

How will I mend my bruised pride?
A warm bath, ice for my shins, hot chocolate, and a prayer of thanks for all successes of the day. I’l
l try again on Monday 

Peace and Love
Mandixoxox