Tag Archives: running

Cowboy boots & Confidence

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Over the past month, it’s become pretty clear to me how much of my self-confidence is tied up in running. I didn’t start running to gain self-confidence, but as an escape from a day-to-day existence that I wasn’t happy with. But, running offered me a way to be in my physical body without worrying about its shape or weight or how it acted and appeared in space with other eyes viewing it. It became this strong, confident vessel that moved me over dozens of miles a week. I started to look up when I walked down the street.  I stopped craving, stopped needing, external (male) validation of my looks to feel attractive. I started to love my body all on my own — the muscular bits, the skinny bits and the round bits alike. When I realized how much running helped me, well, be more me, it sort of stuck and became a more serious hobby. I ran a half marathon. Then, I ran a couple more. Then, a full marathon.

Last summer, I injured my right ankle and had to cancel plans to run the Philly Marathon this past November. I got angry, then pretty seriously depressed for several months. It was only after a month or so of training for the Vermont City Marathon that I snapped out of my funk.  As I’ve written about previously on here, however, Vermont City ended with me in the medical tent instead of a victorious leap over the finish line. I hit the physical therapy and the cross training right away. I’m running whatever distance I can cover without pain, and taking days off in between these efforts to ensure I heal. I’m doing my best to stay positive and love what I can get in, however small.

But I can feel the insecurity and hateful self-talk creeping back in just a little, and that scares me. I don’t want to be back in that depressive place I’ve been so many times before. But I catch myself thinking “No one wants to read what you have to say,” when I think about posting here. I’m not feeling as motivated at work. I’m tired a lot. I giggle like a shy teenage girl instead of engaging people in conversations about things on which I have an opinion or something interesting to say. But what has really been noticeable this past month is how I’m self-conscious about my body all the time.  I’m worried about my hair. I feel awkward and fat in social settings. I’m hiding behind layers of clothing. I’m obsessing over the 3 freakin’ pounds I’ve gained (as if that’s anything). I just feel clumsy and oafish and like I take up too much room.

The other day, at the physical therapists office, I was looking down at the floor or my feet so much, he actually called me out on it more than once. But when all I can think about is how I’m a huge klutz and I feel too heavy and unattractive and then there’s a man standing there watching my stomach to ensure it’s properly engaged while I move through exercises, it’s all I can do to not end up rocking myself in the corner while swearing off food forever. So I look down. I don’t stand up straight. I retreat inside myself and become quiet, self-conscious. All things that decidedly do nothing for my form or my ability to hold a remotely intelligent or substantial conversation.

I know in my brain that I the things I catch myself thinking and feeling aren’t the remotest bit true,  that those feelings are all a little bit insane, but, yet, I still catch myself feeling them.  So, I’ve decided to kind of force myself out of it. I’m trying to act how I want to feel and I think, then, the positive feelings will follow. I’m writing about my nuttiness and insecurity here, whether or not you want to read about it.  I’m cooking myself fabulous and healthful meals. I’m being kind to others. I’m being kind to myself. Relishing the little moments. Allowing my voice to be heard. I’m standing up straight, head and eyes forward, shoulders back. Insecure, sad Rachel can stay in her corner, but this chick? This chick is struttin’ her stuff. Kickin’ butt and takin’ names. In cowboy boots. Because what screams kick-ass and confidence more than a pair of cowboy boots?

yeehaw!

yeehaw!

cowboyboots2

confident! happy!

Act how you want to feel and then the feelings will follow? Worth a shot!

Where do you derive your self-confidence? Do you have feel ridiculously, irrationally insecure?

No Running.

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This past week was a whirlwind of busy! Work has been kind of ridiculous for both myself and A, I’m in the middle of a six-week intensive Biochemistry class, I’m going to physical therapy twice a week, and still trying to maintain a somewhat normal schedule with respect to exercise, cooking, sleeping and spending time with friends and family.

Despite such a busy week, I did manage to get in some decent workouts. A couple spin class podcasts, a couple walks, some weight lifting, nightly ab work, a hot yoga class, and one attempt at a run kept me active throughout the week, but had me missing running more than ever. I definitely logged onto Facebook and Dailymile more than once last week and jealously sifted through all of the great runs my teammates and friends were posting, and the gorgeous running temperatures every morning certainly didn’t help the yearning. I’m also really missing all my running friends who I was used to seeing 2 or 3 times per week and now haven’t seen in almost a month.

So sad :( Please heal quickly, Rachel!

So sad 😦 Please heal quickly, Rachel!

But, I’m staying positive and looking forward to another week of physical therapy and ancillary work to continue building up my fortifications against further and future injuries. I hope that a really awesome ART sports massage will be in my near future as well. So what’s on tap for this week?

Monday — Physical Therapy + nightly abs

Tuesday — walk/run + abs + PT homework

Wednesday — Harvard Stadium with November Project + PT homework + weight lifting + abs

Thursday — bike ride + Physical Therapy + abs

Friday –run/walk + walk

Saturday — yoga + abs + PT homework

Sunday — run/bike ride + abs + PT homework

Not ideal, but something! What are you doing to keep moving this week?

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

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After my undoing at the Vermont City Marathon a little over a week ago, I jumped immediately into “fix it” mode.  I confirmed with my regular doctor that nothing was torn, broken or ruptured and got a prescription for physical therapy.  Great!  So I headed to the physical therapist two days later for an initial consult. Verdict? Too flexible of a lumbar with hips that are “inappropriately” tight and weak for the kinds of activities I like to engage in (ie: running marathons).  I also got the okay to do any and everything that doesn’t hurt, including running up to five miles at a time.

Feeling positive, but not ready to jump into anything just yet, I gave myself the rest of Thursday and all of Friday to rest and heal more.  By Saturday, I was desperate to sweat, so I downloaded a podcast from a spin class and jumped on my bike that’s hooked up to an indoor trainer in the basement (so I could easily abort mission if all the figurative wheels fell off), and, had a great, sweaty, pain-free ride.

The next morning, despite the climbing temperature, I made my way outside donning my running sneakers. Nervous, I breathed in deep, and took off at a VERY slow pace down my street. Knee felt tight, I noted, but not painful.  Hopeful, I kept going. I made it a little over a mile before the pain set in again and I had to shut it down. I turned around to walk home and it only took about a minute of walking before the pain and tightness subsided. I had a tiny bit of residual soreness for the rest of the day, but woke up Monday no worse for the wear.

So what’s on the schedule for workouts this week?

Hello, old friends. Source

Hello, old friends.
Source

Monday — first real physical therapy appointment.

Tuesday — another spin podcast; arms + abs + PT homework

Wednesday — going to give the Harvard Stadium stairs a shot and see how I feel! Yoga and more PT homework in the evening.

Thursday — outdoor bike ride; second PT appointment

Friday — test run again (worse comes to worse, I get a good walk in); PT homework, abs and arms

Saturday — hot yoga class + PT homework

Sunday — short run if Friday went okay OR a long bike ride

 

Although I am still disappointed about how my race went down and I, of course, dislike not being able to run, I’m counting this injury as a blessing in disguise. Even though I’m fairly decent about warming up and cooling down from runs and doing some strength training, I know I haven’t been as good about as I *should* be and this is forcing me to really get back to basics, to really think about training in order to run instead of running in order to train.  A couple years ago when I was seeing a personal trainer once a week and working on strength and balance stuff really regularly, I was a much better athlete overall (not to mention, more toned and with less extra fluff).  I’ve needed to reconnect with that version of Rachel for awhile now, and, while I wouldn’t necessarily have selected injury as the path to get there, at least I’m working down that path. In the space I have without running my life at the moment, I have the time to retrain my body properly, to build the strength I so clearly lack, and to make all these PT and strength routines that will help me stay in a less-injured state later on a daily habit.  Bring it on.

 

 

Vermont City Marathon

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The weekend started off a little rough, but once we made it up to Burlington, Vermont on Friday evening I started to relax a little bit. The hotel we were staying at was brand new and really beautiful (despite a few bugs they were still trying to work out) and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on Friday evening despite the wet weather. I even made a new friend!

Sad, at first, because of the rainy forecast.

Sad, at first, because of the rainy forecast.

Why is there a tree in this bench?

Why is there a tree in this bench?

Are you interested in being my buddy?

Are you interested in being my buddy?

Buddies!

Buddies!

We went to bed relatively early Friday evening (after I checked the weather forecast for Sunday and the race start time for the one billionth time, as per my typical pre-race nuttiness) and I awoke Saturday morning refreshed and ready for a day of eating well and marathon-sanctioned laziness. Yes! But after eating breakfast and heading outside to go to the expo for number pick-up, I started to panic a little bit about the seriously wintery weather. Even though I had trained in worse, and it would have been quite a bit more miserable to run in unseasonably hot weather than unseasonably wet and cold weather, logic and confidence did not take over until later in the day after a frantic email to my coach for a quick pep-talk.

The expo was fairly decent and number pickup was a breeze. There were a lot of local running and sporting goods companies which is always great to see and the volunteers were all super friendly. I also won a t-shirt from City Sports and got my name called out over the loud speaker (seriously, I might as well have broken the finish line tape for how excited I was — I never win anything!). A made me a cute sign to cheer me on, even though we both knew it wouldn’t survive past dropping me off at the start line, and I got to eat some Cabot cheese! Anyone who’s seen my car knows that I love at least two things: running long distances and eating Cabot cheese!

In any case, the rest of the day was spent eating lunch at American Flatbread, lounging in the hotel room, and eating a light dinner at a little Italian restaurant before heading to bed for a solid night’s sleep.

Sunday, I got up at 5:30 to give myself plenty of time to drink coffee, eat some breakfast, and get into a good head space for the race. My legs were feeling fresh and light, my digestive system was cooperative, and, armed with my heavy duty trash bag to keep me warm and dry before the start of the race, A and I made the 5 minute trek to the starting area so I could check my bag and line up with the 4:00 pace group a few minutes before the gun went off at 8:03am. I had the usual pre-race jitters back in the hotel room and initially upon arriving to the start area, but once I was lined up with the other runners, I surprised myself with how calm and confident I felt. I was ready and I knew I could both finish and finish around the time I was shooting for while still feeling alright at the end. The gun went off, I ripped my trash bag off, and crossed the start line.

Once I got going, I hardly even noticed the rain, which, despite my Saturday weather-induced panic attack, I had know would be the case. I was happy to have picked up a last minute pair of gloves and ear covering headband at the expo the day before, but otherwise, my light capris and two light layers of Team Wicked Bonkproof long sleeves proved to be the perfect combo for the temperature and weather. I hovered in the 8:50-9:10 pace range for the first 10 miles and felt relaxed and easy. The course was beautiful, with it’s spring green rolling hills and epic views of a choppy, angry Lake Champlain. I didn’t mind the mud or the puddles or the few ill-placed water stops that made all of us stop short because the other runners and volunteers were so friendly. At each mile marker, I’d reflect on something that I had really enjoyed about the last mile and that helped keep me staying positive and moving forward when things got a little harder  when we started hitting some of the harder hills in the 13-17 mile range. Those zapped me a bit, energy-wise, and my pace slowed down, but I was still on target and knew that if I had a few conservative miles where I needed to take it a little slower, I’d have more energy in the tank for the last 10k and I could push again, when it was going to be flat/downhill, the crowd support would increase again, and I’d have the wind at my back.

And, just as I had wanted to, I started to speed up again after the 20 mile mark. I was certainly feeling tired, but knew with only 6 miles to go, that I’d make it. But then my left glute started feeling a little tighter than I appreciated. I stopped to walk through a couple water stops to give it a break, and that helped for a mile or two and didn’t slow me down much. Around mile 23, the outside of my left knee started talking to me, too, but pretty quietly at first. At mile 23 in a marathon, though, everything is sort of talking to you a little bit, so I made a mental note about it, but kept going, stopping at the water stops to stretch my glute, which seemed to be getting tighter as I went on. I started getting discouraged since my pace had dropped pretty rapidly, but thought as long as I kept stopping to walk and stretch a little at the water stops and as needed, I’d still make it. I wouldn’t come in sub-4, but I might still PR by a couple minutes.

Around mile 24, I had to stop and stretch out my glute and then when I got going again about 20 seconds later, my knee started talking again, but even louder. I run-limped past another woman who had stopped on the side, complaining of the same issue and a medic on a bike who was passing by gave us a stretch to do. I tried it and it made it feel better, so I started going again. I made it about 1/10th of a mile before I had to stop again. I stretched and then walked until it felt like it loosened up and then tried running again. I only made it a few strides before it hurt so much I had to stop again. I pulled off to the side of the bike path we were running along and stretched again. When I started to walk after stretching, I only managed to hobble forward two steps before my knee hurt so bad I crumpled and started to cry. I don’t think any pain has made me cry since I was a little girl, but this did it.  Several other runners stopped to try to help me, but I told them to keep going. I kept trying to hobble forward, determined to make it to the finish line, only 1/2 mile away at this point. The pain kept intensifying.

A very nice runner or spectator (I’m not sure what he was) came to my rescue and said he’d help me hobble to the finish and this time I agreed to the help. We made it a few minutes, stopping every couple feet when I couldn’t move, before medical volunteers saw us and made me stop. They hobbled with me for a little bit, but then told me that they had to call a golf cart to take me to the medical tent, and that they didn’t want me to finish. I called and left a voicemail for A from one of their cell phones. Stubborn, I made them keep walking with me while we waited about 15 minutes or so for the golf cart to arrive. I thought, maybe I could get to the finish before they’d come to get me, but with having to stop every couple steps, this didn’t work, and I was shoved into the golf cart and transported off the course.

This was certainly not the race nor the weekend I had imagined for myself, and I am so incredibly frustrated and upset that I ended up injured after several months of solid training, of really listening to my body when it needed an extra rest day or some easy miles, after struggling with my ankle injury that still likes to flare up every once in awhile and is a constant effort to mediate, after missing my fall marathon. As stupid as it sounds, I’ve cried a couple times over it. But now I’ve got to work to channel this setback into some positive move-forward energy.

Other than the injury, I can truly say that I feel pretty darn good for having run a fast (for me) almost-marathon yesterday. That is a huge indication of my fitness level, and, if I’m smart about rehabbing, I will come back bigger, faster and stronger. I will kick some smaller race distance ass this summer, I will do some much-needed track work, I will strength train, I will train through the heat and then through the beautiful fall, and the harsh winter months again, I will run Boston, and then, I will be back next year, Vermont City Marathon, because you haven’t seen the last of this runner yet.

Move it!

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Since I decided to talk about all of the food I’ve been eating on Fridays, I thought it might be appropriate to balance that out with a weekly work-out post. This might end up going a different direction each week, but it will probably include a recap of workouts from the past week as well as some goals for the current week.

This past week was the first week of my marathon taper, so there was a little bit less intensity involved, but overall still a solid week of training. My week looked like this:

Monday: Ran 5 easy miles in the evening.

Tuesday: Made it a lunch run since I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Got in 7 and change.

Wednesday: November Project! I love meeting friends early in the morning to tackle the Harvard Stadium Sections. If you haven’t done it, you should try it, or one of the other November Project Workouts!

I completed a "full tour," which is up and down all 37 sections!

I completed a “full tour,” which is up and down all 37 sections!

Thursday: I was going to go for a leisurely bike ride, but ended up taking a 3 mile walk with A and our dog, Klezmer,  in the morning since we both woke before the alarm. I want to do this more often — it was such a lovely and relaxing way to start the day together.

Friday: Hit up November Project again for some hill repeats. I curse these the entire time I do them, but I know they make me stronger!

Saturday: Met up with friends for a long run through Boston. I had 15 to complete and ended up with 16 miles for the day instead. We also ran a 5k in the middle, which was nice to get some faster, Marathon Pace miles in the middle of a long workout. Rain held out, too, which I was thankful for. One long run in the pouring rain is quite enough for one training cycle, thank you.

Me, looking chubby, Rosa and Janice. Trish is taking our picture!

Me, looking chubby, Rosa and Janice. Trish is taking our picture!

Sunday: Since A’s mom was staying with us Saturday evening, and we were indulging in a lovely brunch (it came out delicious!) a little later in the morning, I signed myself, her and A up for a morning spin class. So, so, so glad we did this. I always forget how much I LOVE these classes and definitely want to incorporate them more into my weeks!

This week  will probably be a lot of easy miles as well, since the Vermont City Marathon is right around the corner! The extra time will be used to sleep in, study for my Orgo final and indulge in a little downtime. I might try to catch a yoga class or at least do a yoga podcast at home once or twice to facilitate getting my tired body healed, rested and ready for 26.2!

How were your workouts last week? What are your goals for this week?

Run, Run, Run

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Running discovered me pretty late, and when it did, it was anything but a passionate love affair, at least at the beginning.

See, I had met running before and we had never really gotten along. But then my roommates in college seemed to like running so much, I tried to like it, too. Our love that first year was short-lived, but I remembered how good it made me feel when we were really focused on one another, in those hour-long sweat sessions at Gold’s Gym. Life got busy and complicated, though, as it often does, and we parted ways for awhile.

We met again on a chilly fall evening my senior year in college. It was unexpected, but running felt like the only way to escape from the messy tangle of relationships that had ensnared me. I needed somewhere calm, somewhere that didn’t involve a fight or confrontation, and running opened its arms wide and without judgement. We didn’t meet often, over the next several years, and I was often drunk or crying, but running didn’t care and always managed to soothe me, to talk me down from the ledge.

Then, the winter after I graduated and I turned in one rocky relationship for one that felt more stable (and eventually ended in marriage), running decided to stick around. We got together several times a week, even through a cold and icy winter, for short 30 or 40 minute therapy sessions. Sometimes our time together was intense and physical; other times quiet and reflective.  Our relationship deepened.

The years ticked by, and as I approached my wedding date, running and I moved to the next level, too. I needed a distraction, a stress-reliever, and once again, running held my hand through the process. We picked our first race — a half marathon — and worked together to get my legs and my heart to that finish line and then down the aisle. We grew so strong together as we entered into a commitment we were both sure would last a lifetime, vowing to work through injuries and burn out, busy schedules and competing priorities.

Running, I didn’t love you when we first met, I didn’t even like you, in fact, but these days I miss you when you’re not a part of my day, like I’d miss my arm if I woke up without it. You’ve given me a confidence in myself both physically and mentally that I never would have discovered on my own. You’ve kept me sane when life has gotten out of control. You’ve challenged me and helped me grow in all aspects of my life. You’ve filled my life with joy, and even though we’ve had our disappointments, even though we’ve failed each other on more than one occasion, we always come back to each other full of forgiveness, ready to start a new day together. Running, you are my passion and I love you more each day (even when I say I hate you).

Weighty

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I’ve never been a skinny girl.
In fact, I’ve always had a round belly and an equally round face. Hips. Legs without that yearned-after gap slender girls have.  As a child, I was cute in a chubby sort of way, with ringlet curls and a penchant for girly dresses, overalls and funky colored tights. I loved Marvin the Martian and often bummed around in Looney Toons t-shirts and leggings (hello, child of the ’80s), rocking out to Meatloaf and the Bangles with my mom. I didn’t think about my body and how it looked compared to other girls or in the context of what others might think about me. I didn’t think at all about what I put into my body. I had no interest in sports and was never pushed to be athletic (minus my 2 year stint with karate) or to join any sports teams. I read, I wrote poetry, I aced all my classes, but riding my bicycle? No thanks.  When I was little, I was blissfully unaware of what it’s like to feel shame and I undressed in front of friends while we played dress up without worry, swam nearly-naked at one of my father’s colleague’s house parties, wore clothes that didn’t fit my body without a second thought.

I don’t remember when my mindset changed — probably sometime around middle school —  but cute and chubby morphed  into impossibly awkward, my ringlets changing to an unruly mess of hair (made worse by terrible haircuts), my sense of “style” became a source of anxiety, and I was suddenly acutely aware that a round belly and short, fat legs were not what all the traditionally beautiful girls were sporting. I was uncoordinated, slow and weak in gym class, and somehow that mattered in a profoundly public way. I went from shameless and carefree to insecure and self-loathing overnight. I was unfortunately fat and ugly and there was no way out of that body. When I see pictures of myself from this time period, I still hide them from my friends and husband, as if those who love me now, as an adult,  would hate me if they saw me during this gawky, adolescent phase.

I grew out of the ugly, but the worry and self-doubt over my appearance only got worse as I got older, but I was conflicted, having been raised to be strong, independent, and not fit into a mold.  So, I still dressed differently, but I daydreamed of being model-thin, with perfect, perky breasts, flawless skin, grace, poise. I still had curly hair, so I cut it until all of the curl was gone, and dyed it black. I remember wishing that I’d get into a horrible accident, convinced that having to be bed ridden and tube-fed for months would be the weight-loss miracle I hoped for. I ate almost exclusively one type of Kashi cereal for a year. I stole weight-loss pills from the pharmacy I worked for and hid them in a box in my nightstand and took them every night before bed. Instead of judging my self-worth more on the classes I aced, the poetry contests I won, and all the community work I had taken on, I was only concerned with what others thought of my appearance. When my boyfriend at the time talked to me one day about all of the girls he thought were pretty (and I was not on that list), I tried to emulate them. I didn’t let myself off the hook — every time I looked into the mirror all I saw was a worthless, ugly, klutzy girl.

College was a little better. I had worked through things with the boyfriend and he came with me to Boston, desperately in love with me. Other boys noticed me. I did well in school. I made friends. I let things slip a little, gained weight back. I broke up with the boy and felt ugly and unwanted all over again. That nagging, insulting little voice took up residence once more in the back of my head.  I lost the weight again, this time with Weight Watchers and a gym membership and not a borderline eating disorder; I started hiding behind makeup; I started dressing like other girls. But I only ever felt pretty or sexy when men told me I was — this feeling was never self-generated. I never felt comfortable in my own skin.

I’d love to tell you that one day I snapped out of it, but to be honest, feeling beautiful is still a struggle for me, but I have definitely come a long way from the girl who wished a terrible accident upon herself. Running has given me the greatest gains. It has helped me gain confidence and given me a sense of grace I have never felt before. I feel strong and capable when I lace up my sneakers, and it doesn’t matter what I look like. It’s the only time I don’t feel like I need makeup to leave the house, the only time when men in trucks honk at me that I feel angry instead of, secretly, like my appearance and worth has somehow been validated by their horn or cat-calling.

I guess the confidence running has instilled in me has also trickled over to my non-running life, too. I enjoy dressing in clothes I find pretty and flattering, not those some male in my life finds alluring. I don’t automatically compare my body to every other female’s in the room, I don’t feel clumsy and out of place every time I’m in a group.  I enjoy eating healthy and working out because I know how much better I feel inside and out and how much better I function in my day-to-day existence. I am not obsessive or restrictive anymore. When I gain a few pounds these days, I don’t fixate (though sometimes I do need to remind myself not to), and, most importantly, I like who I see in mirror. She isn’t perfect (but who wants to be?), she doesn’t look like anybody else (and that’s a good thing), she still doesn’t have a gap between her thighs (but these legs have run marathons, climbed mountains), and she doesn’t need anyone else to approve of her to feel whole (but she does still have a compulsive need to wear makeup when leaving the house).