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Setting lofty goals

27 May

For about six months, I’ve been working on a running goal I have. I have made this goal public now, and I’ve asked for advice and input. I want help taking my marathon training to a level I have never reached, so I’m sticking this out into the blog-o-sphere. 

Here’s the deal: I want to run a marathon and finish as close to 4:00:00 as possible before I turn 50.

Here’s the background: I started running in 2010 and finished my first marathon one week before I turned 40. My time was around 5:15 (I can look for the official time, but that’s close). In the last seven years, I have trained for ten marathons and completed eight. Even with those finishes under my belt, I’m still relatively inexperienced because I did not run consistently before I began training.

Here’s the setup: My best marathon finish in 2014 was 4:39:46. That’s a 10:41 average pace per mile. In order to finish a marathon in 4:00:00, I’d have to run 9:10 per mile.

Here’s the reason: You can say this is misguided, unhealthy, or even stupid. Years ago I heard someone say that most people don’t consider you a real runner unless you can run at least 10 minutes per mile. I know that’s rubbish and poppycock, and what constitutes a “real” runner is completely and totally relative to each person, but I have always had that in my head. And by that standard, I have never really been a real runner. Who cares, right? Let’s go with this instead: It’s important for me to set this goal and to be able to say I did everything in my power to accomplish it. I want to try, and even if I fall short, I know it will be a valuable learning experience.

Also, the BQ for me is 3:55. Not that I even care!

runner

I might look like this at the finish. But with slightly more agony.

What do I need to accomplish this goal?

I need help to create a strategy. This is a lofty goal but it is by no means impossible. I believe it will require attention to all aspects of training including nutrition, sleep, recovery, stress management, weight, body mass, strength, flexibility, gear, and (of course) running.

I need help figuring out how to safely lose about 15 pounds while training. Imagine running for four hours while carrying a gallon jug of milk in each hand. That’s the same as running a marathon with 15 extra pounds of fat on your body. It is logical to assume that losing fat will increase the chances that I can run faster over a period of four hours. I don’t want to be skinny; I want to be strong! I am strongly opposed to using pills, potions, or powders to lose weight, so don’t suggest I use your plan. I realize that losing weight requires adjustments to caloric and macronutrient intake as well as activity, so I want to choose (and eat a lot of) the foods that will support my goal and eat little to none of the foods that do not support my goal.

I do not need a training plan. There are literally hundreds of marathon training plan resources available online and in actual paper books. I have tried several different methods and not one has resulted in a more significant improvement to my performance than any other, but I do know what has worked well for me in the past and I know where to find plans.

I do need to run faster. That’s obvious, right? In order to run faster, you need to practice running faster! I’ve worked with trainers and have incorporated focused speed work into my training, and every single time I’ve gotten injured. That is a real danger for any runner, and it speaks to my inexperience and overall conditioning. I need help with this aspect of my training!

I might need a coach. I probably can do this all on my own, but there is no question that an experienced running coach would be helpful. I do not need a coach to write a customized training plan for me (see above). What does a coach provide, then? Guidance to help me get from where I now am to where I want and need to be.

I need your support and encouragement! Go for a run with me, or go for all of my runs with me! Tell me you’re excited and you believe in me and you think I’m gorgeous. It won’t make me faster, but it won’t hurt! Whatever you do, please, please, please don’t tell me I can’t do it or it’s silly to make a goal like this.

What else do I need? Should I join a running club? Eat more kale? Practice meditation? Get the same surgery that Jamie Sommers (the Bionic Woman) had? Spend a week with Shalane Flanagan or Bart Yasso? Do I just need more hugs?

 

Have you ever set and accomplished a goal like this? What did you do? What did you not do? Who helped you? What, if anything, would you do differently? Share with me!

Loving and losing

16 Apr

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about my weight loss. A lot of friends and family did exactly what I asked — they told me “Yay!” — and helped me celebrate my accomplishment.

But one friend made a comment that caused me to ponder the reasons people lose or gain weight, and the reasons people decide to make those changes to their bodies. We can lose or gain for many reasons, positive and negative, and several factors might motivate us to make changes.

Later in the day, as I was writing and rewriting this post in my head, a friend said on Facebook that his wife had started a diet. A friend of theirs commented, “Tell your wife she is perfect just the way she is.”

And that set me off!

I want to propose the idea that it is possible to truly, deeply love yourself and your life, to be very happy and content, and still want to lose (or gain) weight. That decision need not come from self-loathing, a desire to conform to any real or perceived standards, or any other unhealthy attitudes toward one’s own body or food.

At times in my life, I have certainly hated my body and wished it would magically become smaller without me having to make any lifestyle changes, even though I knew that wish was ridiculous. It’s the dream of every person who has an addiction — to do whatever you want and not face any negative consequences.

Since I became an athlete and a personal trainer, I have had to confront and refine my ideas about body image, weight, health, and wellness. I know that weight loss is not always a reason for congratulations. I also have become very passionate about the fact that we feel comfortable saying, “You look great! Have you lost weight?” to friends and family, but when we notice someone has gained weight (and don’t lie, you notice) you don’t ask or wonder if that person is physically, spiritually, or emotionally well. We think loss is “good” and gain is “bad,” but both are usually more complex.

This time, I am working toward weight loss as part of a focus on overall wellness, but I also have a very specific and perhaps lofty goal: I want to take about 20-30 minutes off my marathon finish time. In case math isn’t your thing, that means I would need to run at least one minute per mile faster than I did at my best. A goal like mine requires attention to nutrition, sleep, stress, weight/mass, attitude, meditation (which I don’t do!), strength training, AND running. I’m 45 years old and I’ve only been running for only six years, so I have a lot of work to do!

hearthandsFor me, this weight loss is an act of self-care. I’m eating whole, real, delicious food that helps support my goals and activities. I feel strong and beautiful and capable. And I’m in love with my life, which is exactly why I believe I’m seeing improvements in my body and my training.

I believe you can love yourself and still want to change. Do you? I’d like to know.

Noticing changes 

14 Apr

You know those Facebook friends or the people you follow on Instagram who are all fit and constantly posting pictures of their exposed abs and tight buttocks? I usually unfollow those people because (let’s be honest) I’m jealous.

Because of the way I feel about those people, I have pretty strict rules about posting comments about my own weight loss or pictures of my (emerging) abs or (not-so-bad) buttocks. I mean, nobody wants to see that anyway. Well, if they do, they’ll ask.


Despite the fact that it generally bothers me, I think I understand why people who have nice bodies, or people who are going through body changes like weight loss or muscle development, post pictures — they want others to tell them “Yay!” In my family, we say “Tell me yay!” when we do something good. My nephew made it up.


Here’s the point (finally!) of my post: I’ve lost 10 pounds in the last two months, and no one has noticed.


To be fair, I haven’t really told anyone that I have been working on losing weight. I started Weight Watchers online in February, and in March I did my first Whole30 with a friend. Changing my eating pattern, continuing to run and bike, and adding strength training has changed my body in ways that are very noticeable to me. I’ve been working really hard, and I feel great (super sexy) and I have a lot more energy than I have in a long time.


So either it’s not noticeable to others, or nobody wants to comment. I have also been growing out my hair and it’s pretty crazy compared to my old pixie cut. Maybe that is why no one has noticed. 



I’m conflicted about posting this because, like I said, I am somewhat contemptuous of unfollow people who show off their bodies. But honestly, I really just want someone to tell me “Yay!


That’s not so bad, is it? Please don’t unfollow me. 

Believing I’m enough 

8 Apr

For most of my life, I’ve felt like I was too much — too fat, too loud, too crazy, too emotional — too much of the bad things and never enough of the good. In the last few months, that has changed. 

I’ve been focusing since October on wellness, which for me means making changes or improvements in several areas of my life. I began a running/training program designed to reduce stresses, increase the body’s use of fat as a fuel source, and strengthen the heart. It is much lower in intensity than the typical training program, and for the first several months I saw little improvement. But lately I’m making steady (and kind of huge!) improvements and it’s incredibly rewarding. 

I also made a goal to change my nutritional habits so that most, if not all, of my choices were supporting my training and helping me live my best life. In March I started the Whole30 and it really has changed my life. Every day I eat a lot of whole, real, delicious food! I’ve lost weight, I sleep better, and I have more energy than I ever have. 

I’ve made other changes to my thought processes, relationships, and in my approach to dealing with conflict and frustration. I don’t have everything figured out, and I don’t hope to. But I’m moving forward and it’s empowering.

Just this morning, I thought “I feel like I am enough, not too much or to little. Just right.” My wish is for you to feel like you’re just right, too. 

Sinking on Sunday 

8 Jan

Sundays are hard. I think it’s a mixture of sadness that the weekend is nearly finished, anxiety about the upcoming work week, and loneliness. And currently, hormones. 

Sundays are my long run days. Today I had to get out on the trails, even though it was only one degree above zero, because our high temperatures have been negative this whole week. I wasn’t warm out there today, but I was so happy to spend an hour outside. 

Often I spend the majority of my Sundays alone, spend too much time in my head, thinking about all of the things I should be doing to improve myself. I get down. I stay there. By Monday morning, I’m fine.

Tonight I’m going to hang out with my three favorite people — my nephew and nieces. They will help me forget about myself for a while. It’s impossible to feel sad when you’re running around the house or playing hide and seek or monsters or Candyland. 

Do you have a hard time with Sunday? How do you make it easier? 

Running in the snow 

3 Jan

Please refrain from calling me crazy because I love running in the winter! In the evening after a fresh snowfall, the path is peaceful and still. I listen to my shoes crunching on the snow and occasionally see a deer or rabbit looking for food. The path where I run has no lights, so when I run after dark in the autumn I can see only a few feet in front of me, but in the winter the ambient light reflects off the snow and it’s nearly as bright as day. 


What I like best about running in the winter, besides making tracks in fresh snow, is the idea that I’ll be a stronger, faster runner in the spring because of the work I put in when I have to wear multiple layers of socks, pants, shirts, hats, and gloves! 

#runhappy #runlikeagirl

Being a jiggly runner

12 Nov

This morning, a public figure who is somewhat well known in the running world posted a message in social media saying (paraphrased): if you jump up and down in front of a mirror and parts of you jiggle, you need to run a few more miles.

You can imagine the feedback that ensued. I posted a comment, which I rarely do, saying I’ve trained for six marathons and parts of me still jiggle. And I’m damn proud of that.

When I first started running more than four years ago, I weighed nearly 200 pounds. I felt very insecure about exercising in public, and I am sure that to some of the other runners I encountered I looked like I was about to die when I was struggling through my 2.6 mile daily jog. All runners are dedicated, at least to a certain extent, but those of us who started out in the “Clydesdale” or “Athena” categories–or remain there–know that it takes just a tiny bit of extra courage to run alongside the skinny runners when you aren’t so svelte. When I’m out on the trails or running a race and I see a runner who is not skinny, I always give them a smile or a wink or a word of encouragement because I know what it is like to feel like everyone is watching your fat butt and thinking you should have stayed home with your comfort food and stretchy pants.

As an aspiring personal fitness trainer, I felt disappointed by this person’s comment. Though it goes without saying, shaming people about their bodies is no way to motivate them…unless you’re sadistic, or masochistic (which one is correct?) but then you might have bigger problems.

Today I am a marathon runner, and I’m still overweight, and parts of me still jiggle. I’m really proud of all I’ve accomplished and will continue to accomplish despite the fact that I carry a little extra fuel in my lower body than some runners do. That’s more of me to love and to cheer for when I cross the finish line.

Keep running, all you jiggly people! Shake those booties with pride!