This Runner's Trials

The real every pain reliever

Posted by runnerstrials

I had my first panic attack in seventh grade. Getting only a 91 on a science project sparked this event.

After a trip to the ER, some drugs and a day off from school to "recover", I still felt like crap. For some reason, I decided to practice sprints (for softball) in my backyard. I just ran and ran and ran as fast as I could for as long as I could.

And guess what? I felt better. This act cleared my head, took a huge weight off of my chest and allowed me to see things more clearly. Running helped me feel like me again.

The anxiety kept coming back though. Lousy grades were replaced by unrequited crushes and untrue rumors in high school, homesickness in college, job hunting in grad school and infertility and infertility-related costs now.

I've been on and off medications and in and out of doctor offices for the past decade or so. But none of those treatments ever worked for me for very long.  (I should note I've never been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder or depression. For managing these clinical conditions, medication is almost always necessary.)

Only one thing has helped me. And I bet you can guess what it is...


Running truly is my drug, my every pain reliever and my refuge.

It's been rough lately.:

  • I keep questioning if I'm doing the right thing by taking a few months off from baby making to run a marathon.
  • I feel so hopeless each morning when I take that evil, little white birth control pill. My doctor assures me it's what's best to help me conceive in the future, but I have my doubts. Lots of them.
  • It pains me so much that we've drained so much of our savings to pay for fertility consultations, treatments and surgery and we're not anywhere to the real infertility expenses like IUI (intrauterine insemination) and IVF (in vitro fertilization).
  • Etc...

I wanted to run yesterday. I needed to run yesterday. But I couldn't.

It was my day off from running according to my training plan. And I had no time. I had a yoga date with Brittney (that actually never happened... thank you Charlotte traffic for pretening to be Atlanta's).

So I spent yesterday sulking. And eating. A lot.

I went swimming early this morning and it didn't help. The a.m. hours of today closely mirrored yesterday's.

Then during lunch, I ran.

I had a 5 mi run planned with 2 x 1 speedy mile repeats. It was well over 90 degrees at noon and I had no car (Hubby's is in the shop so he has mine) to take me to the gym where the treadmills live in the comofrtable air-conditioning.

So my plan was to run the 1.6 mi to the gym, do my 2 mile repeats on the treadmill, then run the 1.6 mi home. 

I was dreading this all morning. I highly doubted I'd be able to reach and keep my mile repeat pace after running in the heat.

But I did it :) I left Garmin at home so I wouldn't be worried about my pace on my "warm up" and get burnt out. The workout was a huge success: 1.6 mi run warmup, 1 mi @ 7:24, 0.5 mi @ 8:34, 1 mi @ 7:19, 1.6 mi run cooldown.

And my mood instantly lifted. I was insanely productive at work this afternoon, I'm looking forward to catching up with friends tonight and I'm motivated to clean (!). I heart running so much.

Does exercise help you overcome mood funks? What other tactics do you use to ease stress?

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Getting Through the Long Run

Posted by runnerstrials

Hi guys! Happy Sunday. I am coming to you from my inlaws' back porch staring out onto the lake. Could life be any better? Oh yes it could... if tomorrow wasn't Monday ;)

I don't know about you, my fellow runners, but long runs are my weakness. I hate everything about them:

  • The time commitment.
  • Carrying so much fluids and fuel and making sure I'm taking in the right amount.
  • Not knowing if I'll be able to finish.
  • Worrying if I'm going too fast or too slow.
  • How sore my hamstrings are after pounding on the pavement for hours. I
  • How cranky tired and hungry I feel for the rest of the day.

But these guys are a necessary part to any half- or full- marathon training plan so we must do them :(

I was talking to Jen the other day. And we both agreed that we try to do our long runs on Saturday mornings to get them out of the way. When you know you have to run 8 or 12 or 17 miles, it's completely daunting. I doubt myself and dread the workout for days.

This makes me think that the long run challenge is much more mental than physical. I guess this could be said about all things running...

Think about it. When I started running in college, I never ever thought I'd be able to run the whole way around "perimeter", a 3 mi loop that circles the Clemson campus. As I've embraced distance running more, I now find a 3 mi run fairly easy. But part of that girl is still somewhere in me. After doing a long run, I sometimes doubt I really did the distance. How could I have just run 10 miles? That's the distance between point A and point B, there's no way I can run that far.

Being a runner really plays with your mind. I often tell people I "just" run half marathons since I don't consider myself a marathon runner (yet). How can doing anything for 13.1 miles be prefaced by "just"? That's insane. I sound like such a running snob.

Getting back to the long run...  I honestly believe most in shape people are physically capable of running, walking or being on their legs for 10, 15 or 20 miles. It's our minds that convince us that we can't do it.

Yesterday morning I had to run 14 miles. My longest run in almost 2 years! My legs were sore from hot yoga, my last long run was a disaster and it was humid, so I was convinced I couldn't do it. So I used some mind games to get through it. I:

  • Thought about good past race experiences. I figured what better way to give myself confidence than to recall successful, fun running times?
  • Ignored my pace... kind of. Thinking about happy running times often had me increasing my pace a bit too much. My goal for this run was to keep a 9 minute/ mi pace. I forced myself to slow down when I was near 8 min/mi, but I didn't force myself to speed up if I was closer to 10 min/ mi.
  • Reminded myself I am lucky to be able to run. In the first few miles, I passed 2 people in wheelchairs who probably couldn't run. I thought of my family members who are fighting chronic diseases and physically can't run. I reminded myself of when I had to take a week off from running last month due to my surgery and missed it SO much.  
  • Broke up the run. I've heard other runners and bloggers say that they're not running a 12 miler, just four 3 milers. Ummm yeah I've never been able to look at a run like that. Then yesterday at the 8 mile mark, I stopped and stretched. I then told myself, you have less than a 10k left. A 10k. Less than an hour. That's what you'll be running after the 1300 m swim and 27 mi bike in 2 weeks during your triathlon and you'll be WAY more tired and hot than this. You can do this. Whenever negative thoughts tried to flood my mind, I reminded myself it was just a 10k.
  • Bribed myself. I know you shouldn't reward yourself with food but when you're 10 miles deep into a run, it can really help! I told myself if I could this, I would reward myself with a sprinkle waffle cone full of full fat ice cream. Mmmmmm and I did just that last night.
  • Fueled properly. Heat exhaustion is a real threat during summer exercise. I took tons of precautions to avoid it so I wouldn't psych myself out. I drank 3, 12 oz bottles of gatorade (I planted them along my route before I ran) and a pack of sharkies during my run. It was a little bit more than I usually take in but I wanted to show heat exhaustion who's boss.

And guess what? This worked! :) I finished the 14 miles at an 8:52 average pace!

I was one happy chick after finishing. I then proceeded to pass out for 2 hours,  eat everything in sight and beg my husband for leg massages  but those side effects of a long run are for another post ;)

What helps you get through tough activity sessions? Do you use music? I don't. I'm one of the few people who never exercises with music. Do you like working out with friends? I <3 running buddies.

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My favorite workout

Posted by runnerstrials

A long time ago (too long ago!) in my early twenties, I wasn't a distance runner. In fact, I couldn't even run for 5 minutes. Back then, my favorite  form of exercise was 45 to  60 minutes on the elliptical. I'd hop on the sucker, pump up the resistance, go 5 minutes forward, 5 minutes backward, repeat for the entire time  and call it a day. To me, this was  the ultimate workout.

Now my preferred way to exercise is to race. The competitive side of me loves seeing how hard I can push myself. The (huge) control freak in me loves seeing if I can maintain that pace for a set distance. And the child in me loves getting shiny objects as a reward  for hard work ;)

But, alas, not every day can be a race day.

So what's my favorite workout?

  • Long runs are daunting, draining and hit-or-miss.
  • Easy runs are... well easy, so not the best workout.
  • Biking, swimming and yoga are all so new to me I'm not even sure I'm doing them right. And I couldn't imagine picking a favorite workout that didn't require these beauties ;)

That leaves one thing: Speed work.

Specifically, tempo runs. I heart tempo runs.

For a tempo run, you:

  • Start out with a warm up run.  Usually 1-2 miles at an easy pace.
  • Next, run HARD- my goal pace is between 1/2 marathon and 10k race pace- for a set amount of miles- usually 3-5 for me.
  • Last, you end with a cool down run. 1 mile or so at an easy pace.

And you're done. Wasn't that easy? Umm... no.

Doing regular tempo runs makes you faster. Period. Your body gets more efficient at running at an uncomfortable pace. You can read more about tempo runs in this article from Runner's World.

Why do I love tempo runs? Now that is easy to answer.

  • They work. When I first started doing tempo runs last Fall, my goal tempo pace was 8:15 per mile. I thought I was going to die the first few times I had to run 3 miles at that pace. Now, that pace is towards the more comfortable side of my running spectrum. I never ever thought I'd say that.
  • They make you feel hardcore. Tempo runs are a great, fun way to push yourself. I sometimes doubt my ability to finish when I have one or 2 miles left, but I'm always able to complete it.  I always feel so accomplished and hardcore after a tempo run. And I know I got in a great workout. This feeling of satisfaction stays with me for the rest of the day :)

The one downside of tempo runs? I usually end up doing them on the treadmill. I prefer ideal conditions and don't want the heat, cold, rain, wind, etc. get in the way of my hard workout. We did experience spring here in Charlotte for 3 entire weeks so I got in a few outdoor tempo runs back in March. And oddly a couple of weeks ago we had a "cool" front so I got in a great tempo run outside in the tolerable 85 degree weather.

Today was my first tempo run of marathon training:
1 mile warm up, 3 miles @ 7:47, 1 mile cooldown.

It was wonderful.  My hamstrings didn't want me to do it because they were screaming from hot yoga with Katie yesterday and my hilly bike ride this morning. But I didn't listen to them. I finished and now my hammies are grateful.

Tempo runs never disappoint. Go try one now :)

What's your favorite workout and why?

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