Last year, I jumped on a friend's "Year of No Fear" bandwagon.
As she approached her birthday, she vowed to try new things that scared her -- so did I.
With my birthday just a few weeks away, I have been wondering what my THING for this year would be (because I'm one of those people who has to have a *thing*).
On my run this morning I found it.FULL ENTRY
When I was little -- about 4 or 5 -- my parents used to make me the same offer every night the evening news came on: If I was quiet throughout the whole newscast, I'd get a dollar.
But I'm not patient, and I could NEVER make it through the whole newscast without telling them whatever pressing item I believed I needed to tell them.
So, I never made a dollar (hindsight... when I think of all the money I could have racked up over the years...).
I feel like my little plan to keep my short runs to a sub- 9 minute/mile pace is my way of getting a second chance at earning that dollar.FULL ENTRY
“Central casting couldn't have found a better family.”
That’s the line my parents and I have heard over and over from public relations folks over the years.
By age 7 I knew how to succinctly explain my own birth. By age 8, I could thread my own microphone through a complicated outfit, artfully hiding the cable so that it wouldn't show on camera.
I learned how to diplomatically answer questions at a young age.
I was a fast study when it came to the media. Smile, nod, say what they want to hear, and then they go the hell away.
I became downright good at it.
That is the problem, though. I started to feel like I was downright good at many things (except math of course).
I don’t know whether I was a fast learner because I felt like I had to always get it right on the first try, or because I just liked to figure out how to master something quickly.
This skill of mastering things easily on the first try, though, is a double-edged sword.
It means, that the first time I didn't nail something right out of the gate, I immediately pegged myself as a failure.
For someone who already feels pressure to be perfect, clearly jumping straight to failure is not the ideal.
And so, if you’re me, you become so stubborn that you just don’t try something, or, you become obsessed with mastering the thing at which you failed.
The not allowing myself to fail complex also played a big role in my becoming a runner.
My mother, a teacher and child development major in college, summed it up to me this way: “You were never competitive because you were an only child. You never had to compete. You always just expected to finish first or be the best.”
It’s also why running is an unlikely love.
Running was the first thing I was just plain awful at. And, at times, still am awful at.
It’s not easy. It’s hard. There is always someone better. Or faster. Or stronger.
I hate that.
I hate being last.
I hate being slow.
I also know it’s good for me to get repeatedly knocked down a few pegs – I can still hear my parents saying they were not going to allow a prima donna daughter in their house.
Running has taken more time and patience than I would normally dedicate to something in order for me to improve.
It hasn’t taken days, or week, or even months: It’s taken years.
Years of forcing my body out the door to run when I knew I’d be running against no one but myself – I am my own worst competition.
Running forces me to really compete against myself to improve – and for someone who not only expects but downright demands perfection out of the gate for herself, it would be an understatement to say it has been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.
I have always thought of myself as someone who doesn’t quit or give up no matter what – but running made face that claim head on. Running is the first sport to test my will in a way I never thought possible.
Running has made me want to stop.
Running has made me doubt myself.
Running has made me prove and earn every step I’ve taken.
Running has forced me to fight every demon I have always tried to bury – the overweight girl who hid behind her sense of humor; the woman who doesn’t like people to get too close to her just in case they get bored and she gets too attached and then she winds up hurt; the woman who adores writing but worries every day that people are just telling her she’s good at it because they know that is what she wants to hear and she’s never had to fight as hard at writing as she has had to fight at becoming a runner.
Running scares the shit out of me, because it makes me worry if I give up or quit I’ll be everything I always said I wasn’t.
And if there’s one thing I like less than failing, it’s being wrong.
"We are born
Not for ourselves
But to help others"
That saying hung on three wooden signs strung together with chain on the back wall of every cabin at the summer camp I grew up attending.
From age 7 on I saw it every day for six weeks straight.
It sticks with me to this day as important.FULL ENTRY
You knew this post was coming, didn't you?
That darn sappy and sentimental heart that I wear on my sleeve must be kicking into overdrive again.
But look, I'm a list-maker. I love to make lists. And it's nearly Thanksgiving. And soon it will be my birthday. So just deal with my saccharine post and know I'll be sure to write a tough-as-nails one again soon.
It's just that, well, this year I have a lot to be thankful for.
So here they are (in no particular order)
- The friends who run with me and who make me laugh while drinking coffee so that it is entirely likely it will come flying out of my nose
- My patient husband
- The funniest little man I know, who gives me a thumbs up for the days I have to wear heels and don't want to, as well as the days he sees me come tearing in from a run
- Discovering new favorite words, every day. Today's? Insuperable. (No, I'm not telling you what it means, go look it up and learn a new word.)
- Family who is willing to make me strong coffee right when I need it most, or, tell me to "get over it" (thanks, Judith)
- Books with dog-eared pages
- The slight tap-tap-tapping sound my Vibrams make when they hit the pavement
- Real, hand-written letters
- The kind of run where you feel like everything around you has stood still
This weekend, I ran one of my favorite 10 mile routes, as I often do.
But it's been a minute since I've run it alone.
Completely alone.FULL ENTRY
For many runners, "turkey trot" races act as the perfect appetizer to Thanksgiving dinner. But before the starting gun goes off, it's important to warm up those muscles in order to avoid injury, particularly in the cold weather. So today we bring you the top five dynamic stretches you should do to get your body ready to run.
Have an idea for a fitness feature? Tweet me @ApozTV.
Sometimes exercise can feel like a Sisyphean task. In the beginning: We set goals. Week one: We take initial steps towards our goals. Week two: We are fairly excited we’re onto week two of exercise and feel pretty good about ourselves and our increased physical prowess. Week three: We brag a bit to friends and family. We are, “Fitness buffs,” and they should be informed. Week four: Life happens and we skip exercising. Skip to week eight: You are no longer an “exerciser.” Repeat this humbling routine again three months later. Like Sisyphus laboring over getting a boulder to the top of a mountain only to find it roll back to the base.
Fitness is a repetitive task. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. Reach your goal. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. Reach your goal. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. Reach your goal. The unfortunate challenge is too often efforts at regular exercise can be repetitive false starts.
Greek Gods have watchful eyes, so Sisyphus preserved in his seemingly mundane task. Most of us do not have such fortune of deities “urging” us on during every workout. Therefore something more personal is needed to continue to nudge us forward. Science has shown us that, monotony is mastered through meaning.
So often the key to exercise is seen as goal setting when the reality is that the key to adherence to exercise is more likely “meaning making.” Certainly set goals, but do not neglect the potential for curiosity and passion in daily workouts. When swimming is about completing 40 laps swum back and forth, motivation may wane. Yet when it is about experiencing the water through one’s fingertips or seeing how far one can propel one’s self with a single dolphin kick, meaning is made. When solely about running 13.1 miles, it could be a one-time deal. Yet when it is about being part of a community where all struggle, strive, and laugh together, meaning is made. Exercise is repetitive… make it meaningful and you will repeat it well.
Dr. Adam Naylor leads Telos Sport Psychology Consulting and is a Clinical Assistant Professor in Boston University’s School of Education. He has a decade and a half of experiences working with professional through amateur athletes – of note: US Open competitors, NCAA champions, Olympians, Stanley Cup winners, and UFC martial artists. Beyond sports, over the past five years he has served as a corporate performance and wellness consultant. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ahnaylor.
Nick Downing is in his second season as the New England Revolution’s strength and conditioning coach, a position that was created with the hiring of head coach Jay Heaps. This is Downing’s second go-around with the club, having previously played for the Revs a decade ago.
In his current position, Downing is responsible for developing and enhancing the Revolution players’ speed, strength and endurance, as well as their overall conditioning and fitness in conjunction with both the coaching and medical staffs. Through an integrated approach – including weight training, cardiovascular training, plyometrics, and nutrition – Downing has created both position-specific and individual programs to help the Revs emerge as of Major League Soccer’s most fit teams.
Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations have hit the store shelves, right next to the sale-priced Halloween candy, which can only mean one thing: the holiday season is officially upon us.FULL ENTRY
It was announced today that you'd let a limited number of people apply to run the Boston Marathon. You'd "issue a limited number of invitational entries for the 2014 Boston Marathon for those who were most impacted by the events of April 15, 2013," you said.
I am proud to say I'll be a charity runner come April, running for a worthy and important cause on behalf of The Forsyth Institute.
I'll also tell you that if I wasn't already training for Boston, I'd be one of the people trying to write you 250 words to accept my application to run.
I am downright bummed that today was a cross-training morning.
Sure, my swim was nice (didn't even have to share a lane). Sure, I got a good workout.
But when I left the pool and it started raining -- a heavy rain -- all I could think was how much I really wanted to be running in the rain.
I am one of those people who loves rain.FULL ENTRY
Not a day goes by that I don't write.
Even if it's the smallest thing: A letter to a dear friend. A poem. A paragraph that I think could be the start to something bigger.
Even if I am working on a longer project and taking a break from it, not a day goes by that I don't write or think about writing.
For me, there are no "rest days" from writing.
I think that's why it is so hard for me to "rest" from running.
All my wise, long-time running buddies tell me I need days off from running. And, I do (for the most part) take those days. I'll do yoga, or bike, or weight lift or swim.
But I'm always still thinking about running. Just as I am always thinking about writing.
Would it be so wrong, I wonder, to run a little every day just as write a little each day? Even just a mile? A half mile?
If I had to go a day without writing, I'd be grumpy. In fact, on the days when I am itching to write and haven't yet had a chance to do so, I *am* grumpy (apologies to my friends and co-workers).
And lately, I've found, that I'm the same way if I don't run.
Even one day off from running seems to have an impact.
I keep wondering what it is about writing and running that seem to work wonders for my brain.
And then, today, as I was watching my son play in the bathtub filled with bubbles, my favorite quote about writing popped into my head:
Start writing. No matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.
The same could be said for running. The first few steps of a run for me are always tough, but once I start, I suddenly have a clear path and purpose.
Writing, and running, is my way of resting. Once that faucet is open, it's often hard to turn it off again.
A perk and pitfall of my job here is that I get to see what articles and trends are capturing people's attention on a fairly broad scale.
It's fascinating to see, actually. And, sometimes, those trends hit close to home and fit right in my wheelhouse.
Take for example, the chatter over these two articles about runners/running. The first was a piece in the Wall Street Journal (an opinion column I'll note) called OK, You're a Runner. Get Over It.
The writer, it seemed to me upon reading the piece, was simply saying he feels the vast majority of people (in this case he's focusing on runners) out there are oversharing. In a world where it has become so easy to share (heck, look at me, I blog and am all over the social channels all day long) he's grown tired of it because some of it, though not all, he noted in one paragraph, seems disingenuous.
So noted, Mr. Stafko. There certainly more ways for a person to amplify their voice or thoughts on a certain subject matter. I would argue, though, that these people you are referring to have always been around. We're just seeing them more due to a little thing called exposure.
It was a lot easier to ignore the person who wore nothing but running race shirts when they were simply out shopping for a running magazine. Now, however, they are out shopping for a running magazine in their running t-shirt and taking a photo of themselves doing so and then posting that photo to their Facebook running group, which then will be shared socially with their equally passionate runner friends and will thus somehow by sheer volume of shares or dumb luck, wind up in your newsfeed.
Not that I speak from experience.
The Runner's World response to Mr. Stafko's piece, was meant to deflate his argument a bit and simply tell the runners of the world that he's just a disgruntled human being.
Based on the tone of this response, it was crafted as tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek. And, while I am a passionate runner who took umbrage with some of the things Stafko said, I think it missed the mark.
In my experience, the runners I have met and run with have been kind and accepting of all people, even, GASP, non-runners.
So Stafko doesn't like people who wear nothing but running shirts. So the 26.2 or 13.1 stickers bother him. So he thinks, maybe, perhaps, some people are just being showy.
Runner's World knows, probably better than many publications, that that view has always been around.
But who cares?
Whether you are one of those people who needs to talk (or in my case write) about everything you're doing, or whether you're one of those people who just puts their head down and grinds, it simply does not matter.
The road I run is wide enough for everyone. We don't have to agree, we just need to learn how to share the space.
Major milestone today, kids: With my 3-mile pace-pusher this morning, I hit the 500 mile mark.
That means I've run 500 miles this year. I'm pretty pumped about that.
To celebrate, I'm doing another round of "Elizabeth by the numbers," because, well, I'm a nerd at heart and data makes me happy.
So without any ado at all, let's get to the stats.
- 500 miles run
- 9 races
- 2 pair of Vibrams
- 80 pounds lost
- 18250 push-ups done
- 730 cups of black coffee consumed
- 4 training plans
- 26 tech running shirts
- 12 pair of spandex running shorts
- 3 hydration belts
- 36 packs of GU consumed during races (about 3 per race)
- Average 5k pace a year ago: 11:36/mile
- Average 5K pace now: 8:50/mile
- Number of times I've tweeted #amazeballs: 574
Amount of fun I'm having? Immeasurable.
Here's to more miles with friends this weekend!
Note: Elizabeth is running the Boston Marathon in April. Want to support her cause? Learn more here.
At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious: It's November.
April, and The Boston Marathon, seems at the same time quite far off and yet right around the corner to me.
I logged my first run in the snow a few mornings ago, and my marathon partner, David, and I have our long-run training plan all mapped out for the next few months.
I don't scare easy, but something about seeing all those miles stacked up on top of one another made my pulse quicken. Considerably. My pulse quickened considerably.FULL ENTRY
Going through some items as I was preparing to pack them away for our move to the new house, I came across some old books.
If there's one thing I love more than anything, it's a good, worn-in, old book.
The sheer amount of books I own got me to thinking about the various things people collect. I love to collect books, and unique pens (fountain specifically).
My runs? I think of them as collecting moments.
Maybe that thought sounds too idyllic and romantic and Pollyanna-ish for you, but for me, it's exactly right.
I run to collect moments. All for myself.
That run in the rain, where I got soaked and loved it. The moment I crossed that first finish line. The high five I got from my son after a 5K. Laughing so hard on a long run with friends, I forgot what mile we were on. The quiet, and dark hours alone in the mornings where it seems I am the only person in the world who is awake and on the road.
Getting a hug after I ran a slow four miles with a good friend after the Boston Marathon last year. Running up Peter's Hill with my now marathon partner talking about wanting to run Boston.
Those are just some of the moments I've already collected.
I don't run for the running. I run for everything I find there.
The process of re-integrating back into the civilian life can prove challenging for some veterans. Approximately 45 percent of soldiers who return home from deployment are marred, to varying degrees, from the rigors of combat. For one group of vets, a CrossFit facility in Middleton has become a sanctuary, of sorts, where they work together to mend both the body and the mind. Intense workouts act as powerful stress relievers and provide them with a rush of endorphins. And the camaraderie among members offers them a sense of support and belonging. In many ways, they've become a new band of brothers. Watch as they explain how this unconventional approach to healing has helped them physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Do you have a fitness-related story idea to share? Tweet me @ApozTV.
I am one of those people who has some hard and fast rules: Don't offer me decaf coffee unless you want to make me grumpy; Never write about a series of things without using an Oxford comma; and never NEVER take back something you wrote.
And yet, here I am, breaking one of my own rules and taking back something I wrote.
I'll give you a second to wonder which thing it is I'm taking back.
If you and I have spent any time talking over coffee, then you already know that the middle is just about my favorite place.
In my writer's mind, the middle of a story is the piece with the engine-- it drives a reader -- it's where the "meat" is.
As an extrovert, the middle -- or common ground -- is one of the best places for me to learn about someone else: That place where you and I are standing face to face and seeing things eye to eye because we are in the same spot.
The middle is also my favorite part about running.
No, NOT the finish. I know this goes against some kind of unwritten runner's credo or something since we all LOVE the finish line on some level, and sure, I do love it. I just happen to love the middle more.
Why? The middle is where the work is really done.
The first few miles are all raw excitement for me during a race. And the end is sweet, sweet relief that I made it, it's over. The middle is where you test yourself. It's the place you fight your brain the loudest (you've heard it, I'm sure, saying "why on EARTH are we putting ourselves through this, can't we just STOP?").
In relationships, the middle also puts you between people.
This weekend, I'll be in the middle of two people who have greatly influenced my running (and real) life. My boy Salsman (of Project Adam fame) and Laura, the runner friend I was so intimidated to ever run with, who is now one of the first people I check in with when I want a solid run and great company.
How is that like the middle?
Let me put it to you this way: On the broad spectrum of running (and life) there will always be people ahead of you and behind you. And, because of either the way the universe operates or sheer dumb luck (sometimes a combination of both) your position will constantly be shifting on that spectrum.
Laura was (and still is) the seasoned pro in my running life when I met her. She's also the reason I wound up doing my first 10-mile race at the time (and loved it).
Now? Salsman is in the position I was just a year ago. Only this time, *I'm* the one taking him on his first 10-miler.
Just to keep myself honest, though, I'm dragging Laura. And, it's quite likely that Salsman (who already runs a faster 5k and 10K pace than I can hold) will pass me, and my position on this little spectrum will shift once again.
But I know it is only a matter of time until I find my way back to the middle -- and I rather like it that way.
My son is at that age now, you know, the age where he questions everything.
Sure, it can be exhausting -- "Mama, why are we having this for dinner?" -- but I also love the fact that he questions things.
Over the course of the last three days, my son's questions about running seem to have reached maximum capacity.
- "Mama, are you fast?"
- "Mama: Does everyone have to have a water bottle when they run?"
- "Mama, can you run far far, like, wicked far?"
- "Mama, how come you swing your arms when you run?"
I've been trying, as best I can, to answer his queries...
- "I'm faster than some, but lots of people are faster than I am."
- "It's a good idea to always bring water."
- "I've run wicked far, but I know people who have run much farther than I have."
- "I don't know really, I guess my arms just do that by themselves."
And then, with the adapt interviewing skills like someone who has been a reporter his entire life, he asked me, "Mama, do you think you will always run?"
I thought about his question a bit before I answered, saying simply, "I hope so, buddy, but that may change, lots of things happen out of the blue sometimes."
As someone with a father who battles Multiple Sclerosis, I realized his question had a cut to it. My son did not ask if I always wanted to be able to run, but rather, if I thought that I would be able to run.
Children are so astute sometimes -- and mine makes me really think about things on a daily basis (though I'm sure it is not on purpose).
Every day that I put one foot in front of the other and run, it makes me smile. Even the ugly runs. Even the runs where it feels like every runner in the state of Massachusetts is passing me.
Forward is forward.
I swam this morning, since it was my cross-training day.
Tomorrow, it is back to running.