Archive for the ‘Running-fitness’ Category

Two of my favorite runners ever: the Americans, Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher

I recently had to take 2 weeks off from running due to illness & just being seriously over-worked.  A couple weeks after having gotten back into it, I took another 6 days off for vacation.  And to be perfectly honest, the thing that was the hardest for me during those times off was…frankly, not being able to run.  I thought about it frequently, even had dreams about it!  I missed it so much.  I missed how it makes me feel physically, spiritually (that’s a biggie), and emotionally.  And so I fully realized how much running means to me in my life.

I’m not a marathoner by any stretch of the imagination, but I do consider myself a serious runner in that I pay close attention to my times, my speed, my running frequency (i.e. I write it on my calendar, document my mileage most of the time, etc).  I started running in 2004 when I went home to NC for the summer and became a regular visitor of the Cane Creek Middle School track a couple miles from my parents’ house.  Said track happens to be in one of the most spectacular valleys in western NC.  Lucky me!  Anyway, I had put on quite a few pounds during the last year of my Master’s degree, and was just feeling down about a lot of things.  Running seemed like a good way to kickstart feeling good again.  My dad was a runner all my growing up, which may have had something to do with my particular choice of exercise.  So I dabbled in running for the next couple years and then became quite serious about it around 2007-2008.  I reached my peak fitness last summer, 2010, able to run about 6.5 miles in just over an hour.  For a marathoner, that’s nothing; for me, that’s tremendous. Unfortunately, I’ve gone a bit downhill the last couple months, hence this manifesto to the importance of fitness, and more specifically, of running (if that’s your exercise of choice).

Running changed my life and continues to do so in every positive way imaginable.  If there is any space that I consider my own church or temple, it is the space I enter when I’m having a really good run.  A good running mix on the ipod is key — I have various visualizations I use depending on the song, what I need to keep myself going, etc.  My self-esteem seems to be directly correlated to how much I’ve been exercising; which really means, my self-esteem is directly related to how my body feels physically and the degree to which I’ve had a good dose of endorphins.  The mind-spirit-body connection is in its full glory with running.  I’ve had a similar experience with Bikram yoga, probably because it too is an extremely intense form of exercise…I love Bikram, but I prefer running.

A chubby kid who began dieting probably at age 9 (if not earlier), I’ve had my battles with body dysmorphic disorder and feeling unworthy physically.  As women in 2011, I think most of us have had to contend with socio-cultural expectations of how women are “supposed” to look, what is considered desirable, and so on.  And I admit, there was a time when I ran simply to “get thin,” and it is with a degree of embarrassment that I admit that.  But I say with total sincerity that my desire to be a great runner and to get my body in great physical shape goes so far beyond anything having to do with appearance.  Sure, I like to fit into my jeans without effort just as much as the next person; but running and the space that I enter when I’m running has to do with transcendence — transforming consciousness through intense physical activity, taking care of one’s body to live life to the fullest.  Running has also changed my relationship with food, because I think more about eating to fuel and nourish myself.  So I’m more diligent about considering foods’ nutritional value, rather than just how many calories or fat grams they contain.

I’m not one to get preachy (unless I’m waxing poetic about Tori Amos or something nutty like that), but I do think that exercise and taking care of oneself physically can and does change peoples’ lives.  I hope I will be one of those 75+ year-old women who you still see kicking ass at races — they are out there, no doubt.  So in the meantime, I’m going to get myself a new pair of running shoes, and continue on my goal to run a hearty half-marathon.

Enjoy these clips!  The first one is the American runner Shalane Flanagan coming in 2nd at last year’s NYC Marathon.  What an inspiration!  The second clip is from yesterday’s Boston Marathon.  Huge congrats to fellow American Desiree Davila coming in 2nd.

Some running mix ideas — these really get me through tough runs:

1. Pat Benatar’s “Invincible”

2. Y Kant Tori Read – “On the Boundary”

3. Almost anything by Nine Inch Nails

4. Bangles – Hazy Shade of Winter

5. B-52’s – Juliet of the Spirits

6. John Legend – Give me the Green Light

7. Kate Bush – Be Kind to My Mistakes

And as a cool down, try Sade’s “Smooth Operator”!  🙂  Happy running!

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Running is eternally difficult for me no matter how much I do it!  Actually I take that back…if I’m running 5-6 days a week & pushing hard, I’m cool.  Otherwise, it can feel like torture.  But the irony is that it’s totally changed my life — my self-esteem, my energy, my zest for life!  And what a way to get outdoors!  I love running along the Hudson — access @ 181st.  I usually run to or beyond (if I’m lucky) Fairway & back.  Hoping to get the mileage up.  Sending good vibes to all the brave souls doing the NYC Marathon next weekend!

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