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. 


Quote of the Day…

Not because I run fast. 
Not because I run far.

And no one can tell me I’m not.

— John Bingham

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,

Staying positive in a negative environment

I had a bad day at work today. 

No wait. It’s been a rough couple of weeks – at work. 
Busy nights. Even busier days. Short staffed. Cranky customers.
You name it, and I have smiled through it.  

The hardest part about my line of work is staying positive during those moments of high stress. When things become toxic, it’s incredibly difficult not to get sucked into it. Making excuses for the chaos helps, for a moment: referring to our deficits as growing pains, and telling myself repeatedly (and my staff too) “it’s going feel worse before it feels better.” 

But what about when those “excuses” don’t help?

Generally, when I am having a bad day, I become even more introverted. In an attempt not to take out my stress and frustrations on those around me, I begin an inner dialogue. Asking myself in many different ways:
What about this situation is controlling me?
Can I change what is happening?
What can I do to IMPROVE the situation?

When nothing is the answer to at least the first two, then I have a conscious decision to make: let the situation continue to affect me, or not.

One of the first things I learned when I first started working with Karen Furneaux, back in early 2011, on my stress and anxiety issues is first to breathe then to feel. 
Once I have taken a few “clean” belly breaths, I then focus on feeling my feelings – giving them some legitimacy. Then, and only then, can I detach them from the stress, anxiety, or frustration of the day/hour/minute.  

Finding a moment to breathe sounds like a no-brainer, right? You try it when you’re crazy, crazy, crazy busy, and your boss is yelling at you. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have the “chance” to really breathe.
On this day, I made a choice, which turned out to be the wrong one. I chose not to find a moment for myself. I allowed my job to be number one over myself, and I paid the price. My performance for the remainder of my shift was sub-par. I was miserable, and it was evident to my entire team.
It wasn’t until I got home, staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, that I took that first cleansing breath. It felt good.

Instead of lecturing myself about the importance of taking care of myself first and foremost (a common occurrence after a high-stress situation), I decided to focus on some positives instead, what I have as opposed to what I do not. This is a small sampling of what I came up with:

At work:
– An employee who I’ve only known for 3 days and who has returned for the summer while on break from school, told me how much she loves me
– I have at least one person who I can count on every day, no matter what is going on, no matter what I need. I can talk to her on a personal level, or lean on her on a professional level.

At home:
– I have friends and family that are there for me, whatever I should need.
– The box of hair colour I put in after work turned out really good.
– I am independent both financially, and emotionally.
– I have this blog as an outlet.

Bottom line: where ever there may be shadows, there is also bound to be light.

Peace and Love,

Run, Mandi, Run

I found this during Monday's run. Someone left it just for me! ...or so I would like to believe

In the midst of training for the Bluenose Marathon in May, running has become a big part of my daily life. It seeps into conversations, keeps me up late at night on google, I’ve blogged about it several times, and someday’s, is plastered all over my Facebook news feed.

Everything I have done since January I have done for this race. Every morsel of food, every wink of sleep: fuel for my body.

Every ice pack, every day’s rest, every drop of sweat, bruise, pulled muscle, shin splint. Every setback, minor, moderate or severe, all of it, for the Bluenose. 

During today’s run (a new personal best, yaay me!), I had a moment. Some might call it an epiphany, but for now, let’s call it a moment. It was fleeting. Gone and over as quickly as it revealed itself.

I had just finished climbing a particularly challenging hill (at a brisk walk), and was getting set to run down it. I planned to slow back to a walk when I reached the bottom, but found I’d completely zoned out.

Something good was playing in my ears. My brain stopped whirling inside my head, replaying the days events. My breath was calm, my lungs did not ache. My body ceased to move forward, rather the ground below me began to move, carrying me forward. Somewhere along the way, I closed my eyes. A scary thought now, but it felt right in the moment. The calm washed over me. I breathed deep into my belly, and I felt renewed. 

Gone were the grueling hours at work today, my sore feet and aching back. Gone were the plans I was making and remaking in my head. Gone were my thoughts on tonight’s dinner, or did I have to pee, or maybe I should take it easy today since my leg was bothering me. It was all gone.

And as I took another deep breath, I got excited. Was this it? Was this the moment I have so anxious and excitedly been working towards? Was this the moment I finally become a runner?

And then it was over. 

180 seconds of pure bliss, over in a flash… much like life.

Peace and Love,

Just a Quiet Day At Home

The world outside is cold, and I want no part of it!

There’s always something a little naughty about having a day off in the middle of the week, whether a mental health day, sick day or just an extra day off.

Sleeping late, while the rest of the city fights traffic (traffic being particularly difficult in Halifax these days, given the current transit strike situation). Skipping all the bits of regular weekday routine: no hair and makeup; no decisions about what to wear (does this uniform make my butt look big?); no groaning about being tired; no tedious water-cooler conversations with coworkers about this TV show, or that news story.

Staying comfy-cozy in pajamas on a cold winter weekday, as the rest of the world goes about its 9-5 business can be particularly rewarding. An unexpected break from the daily grind can energize the mind, and invigorate the spirit.

My favourite thing to do on an extra day away from work/school? Oh, well that’s simple:

N o t h i n g

While my definition of nothingness may vary from others, more specifically what I actually did today was this:

N o t h i n g

No workouts, no work, no phone, no chores. Just me, pajamas, and a veg-out on the couch. 

As Keane once sang: Oh, simple things, where have you gone? The world is so void of simple things that we all deserve a quiet day, now and again, to do nothing – not even stop to smell the roses. 

What would you do with a bonus mid-week day off?

Peace and Love,