What I’ve learned in the past year about running (and not running)

Been a long time! And it’s been a long year. Lots has happened in the life of Christy, and unfortunately, most of it has had nothing to do with running. Maybe I can share some of those things in a future post.

But as of May 7 I’m back in the saddle, and I’m mulling my previous inactivity so I can better understand how to stay consistent moving forward. I’ve let my lack of movement discourage me and even depress me at times, but I can’t afford that anymore. I’m done.

So, in no particular order, here’s what stands out as I look over my shoulder.

1. I need external motivation.
As much as I’d love to lace up and pop out of bed before the sun on nothing but sole gumption and discipline, I’m not that person. I need a cattle prod (“Omg, I’ve gained 10 pounds and can’t afford to gain any more”) or a shiny, sparkly object dangling in front of me (“Cool! I get a tan even on a 6:30 p.m. run!”). I love running for the sake of running, yes. But it simply isn’t enough to crack me out of my calcified state and put me back on the road or trail, at least not at first. I know this about myself, and I don’t beat myself up for it anymore. I simply seek out sources of external motivation now, harness them, and use them to my advantage.

2. Gear and technology matter to me.
I’d love to be an unencumbered runner who doesn’t care about carrying music or GPS or other “things” with me. But yep, I’m that runner. If I’m going to put in the effort and the miles, I want to know exactly how many miles I ran, what the elevation was that tortured me, how many calories I burned in the process. And I don’t want to have to manually map out my route before or after to find that out, either. I want to know I’m not going to crash and burn early because I relied too heavily on infrequent water fountains in the searing Texas heat, so you’re going to see a water bottle in my hand, and likely you’ll see a G2 packet sticking out of the little zippered pocket on the bottle’s hand-wrap as well. And yes, if I need that extra push, I want to know Gaga or Bun B are just a “play” button away from giving it to me.

In fact, I credit two pieces of gear that I discovered recently with getting my butt of the couch again. They were the external motivators that got me going, and I’m grateful to them. More on those in a near-future post.

3. Clothes matter to me.
Not necessarily the cuteness of the clothes, really. But having comfortable, functional and non-homely ensembles that I can quickly throw in a bag or throw on as soon as I come in from work is key. If I need a new sports bra or if my usual running shorts are too tight right now, those are barriers. Where I spend money is on good, hearty sports bras and quality shoes: Even though I didn’t pay for them, I can now vouch for the greatness of Nike Frees for both support and lightness. Under Armour makes great pullover bras that keep me still (as much as possible). The Nike running capris in this review were too big for me when I first got them, but now they fit perfectly. Sigh. But I can at least now vouch 100 percent that they’re comfortable, airy and supportive. I also found some gray and bright fluorescent yellow running shorts from Target: cheap, really comfortable, the cut is great, and they’re darn cute. I also bought a package of colored men’s Fruit of the Loom A-line undershirts (tank tops), trimmed the hem at the bottom since they’re super-long, and wear those over my sports bras. They’re cotton but they’re so airy and comfy that it doesn’t matter.

4. Route variety matters.
I started off in May walking and running around my neighborhood here in Deep Ellum (northeast of downtown Dallas). It was great, it was exciting, it was easy to just walk out of my door …. then it wasn’t. It got old real quick and I realized that I needed to branch out. I’m ADD when it comes to routes, and I know that now. And it’s ok. I simply make sure I don’t wear out the same old paths. If I think I’m going to see or experience something a little different from before, that gets me out the door more quickly.

5. Marriage can really wreck a routine. At least mine.
I married in my early 30s. That meant I had my solo routines down pat before I aligned myself with another (albeit wonderful) human being who had different solo routines. It became a clash of the solo routines. Part of my adjustment period was re-learning some solo routines and carving out a separate, solo mindset even though I was no longer solo. It was difficult. But now I’m no longer a newlywed, and I’m learning to compartmentalize better: No, the person I’ve aligned myself with doesn’t run. No, that doesn’t mean I have to stop running, or only run with the same frequency that he does (read: hardly ever). Yes, the two shall become one, but remember: There are still two people in the equation. Christy the individual didn’t go anywhere. She can still do the solo things she used to do (sans other men! Rimshot), even though it doesn’t feel that way. For some reason, that break from an enmeshed mentality has been difficult for me.

6. I must have grace with myself or not even do this.
Without getting into a bunch of navel-gazing on how harsh and critical I am with certain aspects of myself, I can be pretty unrealistic. I haven’t run or worked out much in a year, I’ve gained 10 pounds and it’s 100+ degrees outside; I can’t expect a 10-minute mile out of myself. I can’t expect myself to finish a run without stopping and walking some for now. My big goal has always been to be able to run around the 10-mile White Rock Lake loop. A few weeks ago I completed the loop, albeit with many walking breaks and one large sit-down break where I paused my GPS/timer altogether to rest for 10 minutes. I have to be happy that I completed it and slowly work toward straight-up running the loop. Slowly. As slow and as long as my body needs. My other goal is running __ miles per week — the __ needs to be realistic, not idealistic. That fill-in-the-blank is set at 10 miles a week for now. If I run three days a week, I make that goal. It makes me feel good, and I pat myself on the back. If I don’t make that goal? I’ll smile and tell myself “next week.” The Nazi Running Marm act I’ve given myself in the past hasn’t worked as well for me as I’d like to think. It’s ultimately sidelined me in the form of discouragement, and I see that now.

The time of day can make or break a run

Brian wanted to see a movie last night. So that meant our 2.25-mile run had to happen earlier in the day. It’s Texas, and it’s July. That meant daring the 100+ degree heat to mess with us during our 5K training run.

I used to run in the heat of the summer day. I used to play soccer games in this heat. But it’s been a while, and exerting in the 2 p.m. sun is something that takes (re-)acclimation.

We drove to our usual Katy trailhead on Knox Street. Instead of bringing one water bottle to share like usual, we each brought one. We dressed loosely. We ran in the shade when possible.

Still, it was a butt whipping.

We had to take two walk breaks, with one of those breaks being a whole quarter-mile. I squeezed water on my head throughout the run. I even ran in the opposite lane because there was a measly strip of shade there and was nearly run down by a cyclist.

It felt good to see the very last quarter-mile marker, and it felt extra satisfying. Sometimes mere survival can make you feel like a stud.

While I looked like someone had pushed me into a pool, Brian somehow managed to complete the run with half a bottle of water left. Huh? Harrumph.

Hills are our friends

Runnery date: Sunday, June 24

I like staying at my boyfriend’s because he’s got great hills around his apartment. I mean, that’s not the only reason I like staying with my boyfriend. But you know what I mean.

Yesterday’s runishness produced that blissful day-after muscle soreness that I love. That soreness lets me know I actually stretched my limits a bit.

Boyfriance and I started off walking briskly down the street by his apartment, took a right at Green Oaks, and met up with quite possibly the steepest grade in Arlington. That’s not saying much. But around here, it counts as steep. We got our elbows moving and hoofed it up the hill, which I love, love, loved.

I think there are three big climbs on that route. The first time we just walked it, and it took us an hour. This time, we ran two of the three hills. But just a bit — I already have to finagle to get boy-f to go with me as it is. He freely offered to accompany me this time, which I liked but didn’t let on too much that I did. He may have offered to go, but that didn’t cut down on the frowns. He’s quite the surly runnishness partner.

When we wrapped back around to his apartment about 45 minutes later, I told him I’d meet him back. I wanted to do a little more walkunning, but on a shorter route. It was getting dark.

I jogged down the hill of the street by his apartment — I hate going downhill — and took the same right at Green Oaks. Instead of heading toward that first steep hill, I took a right into a beautiful neighborhood, hoping there would be an outlet somewhere along the way. I loved how the ascent of tree-lined street seemed to wind into mystery, the sight of which just made me need to turn into that neighborhood, darkness coming or not. I walked until the the street started giving grade, then I began running.

Running uphill feels gorgeous as it is, but even better is being surrounded by beautiful home after home situated on hills steeper than those on my and boyfriance’s route. Mature trees everywhere, quiet calm, inconspicuous wealth displayed not by size but by quality. Nice ambiance. I mostly walked when the street was level or downhill, but the sun was really starting to beat me home. And I still had no idea whether this street led anywhere useful.

I picked up the pace and mostly ran the whole last half. The coming darkness is good in that it’s like I’m having to outrun some sort of danger. It feels a little like being stalked, a slight fear of finding myself, a female runner who stupidly didn’t bring a cell phone or anything helpful in a bind, in a vulnerable situation. Talk about incentive to run run run. It’s enough to make me think about making late dusk my runnishness time all the time.

At that point, I not only was running the climbs, but the descents and the flats, too. The sun sunk past the horizon already, and the only light left were the dregs. A tad of fight-or-flight came over me, and I ran like I was being chased. I was thanking God when the neighborhood street wound around and revealed the road I needed to get home. That road is the last big hill before the run-walk is over, and I gave it everything I had.

As I entered my BF’s apartment complex, I slowed to a walk. I decided cutting through the pool area would be quicker and a little bit more interesting. Plenty of people were left over in the huge pool area from the day. A group of TexMex folks laughing it up about whatever, a couple still reclining by the pool … and three people playing volleyball in the sand court. Three! That means they need one more!

Normally when people are playing v-ball out there, I’m with my dude. The surliness would increase a ton-fold if I were to suggest stopping by to see if they need a couple more players, so I typically just don’t. But I was alone and I grabbed the moment.

They not-so-enthusiastically aggreed to let me on the court, but I didn’t care. I got a few volleys in — including a block and two dirty, sandy dives — before their fourth player came back from an apparent beer run. That was ok, because the boy-f was probably about to call a search party as it was. I thanked them and ran off, my New Balance trail runners in hand. Boy-man was standing outside waiting on me and said he was worried.

He may not be much of a walkyrun partner, but protective, he is.