5 Tips For Running With Your Dog

dog running

 

Since the weather is finally getting nice and summer is just about here, you might be giving running with your dog a thought. I run with my dog Kina, a Malamute/Husky, and even though she’s literally, “Born to Run,” our running relationship hasn’t always been a great one. You’d think you could just hook the leash on and go, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. So here’s some tips I came up with if you’re thinking about taking Fido for a spin around the park.

 

1. Know your breed and get a clean bill of health BEFORE you start running

It’s important to know what kind of runner your dog is genetically prone to being. A dachsund isn’t going to have the running ability or endurance that a collie will. If you have a mixed breed dog, research the breeds you believe the dog to have and go from there. Big doesn’t necessarily mean, “great runner” and small doesn’t disqualify a dog from being a good runner, either. For example, a Great Pyrenees is a terrible runner, while Corgi’s are fantastic even though they have short legs. Also keep in mind that dogs can also have bad hips, knees, elbows, shoulders  and backs, just like us, so be sure to get a clean bill of health from the vet before beginning this adventure. You want this to be a great experience for both of you. Not one where you’re dragged on the concrete chin first (this may or may not have happened to me. It did.)

2. Have the right equipment

You would think the longer the leash the better, right? Nope. Save the long retractable leashes for leisurely strolls. When running with your dog, the safest way is with a shorter, sturdy leash no longer than 4′. This will give you control over your dog should there be a distraction, “Squirrel!” and help in training your dog to heel to whichever side you’re most comfortable with. When you’re running both of you will have less time to react to obstacles, so you will need to keep the dog as close to you as possible. Also a harness is the safest way to run with your dog versus a collar or lead to again have the most control over their body you can in the safest way. You can get really sturdy leashes and harnesses at Target or Walmart for less than $20 combined.

3. Start slow and work on training

Even though I have a dog that was ‘born to run’ Kina still needed to build up her fitness before she could run 3 miles at a steady pace without a rest. Just like when you started running, you will need to start slow with the speed and time out running. A good rule of thumb is walk a quarter mile, run a quarter mile, and increase that time in slower increments. ALWAYS LET THE DOG BE THE JUDGE OF FATIGUE. A dog can’t talk and tell you if they’re tired or if they’re hurting so watch their body language. If they stop running, you stop running. If they sit or lay down, let them until they are ready to get back up. Never, ever push them. As far as training is concerned, you want them to heel to one side while you run, and other basics like yielding to other people and dogs on the path, as well as not chasing bicycles.

4. Always, and I mean ALWAYS, bring water

Dogs don’t sweat. They cool themselves down through the pads of their feet and panting. Even a bald dog doesn’t sweat. It’s so important to give your dog generous water breaks each and every single mile, especially in the summer months, when you’re out running. Old Navy has a great traveling water bottle for dogs for about $5 that clips right to the leash. Also let your pup stop at puddles and get her feet wet. Study signs of over heating and heat stroke in dogs and be aware of the symptoms should they start.

5. Watch the surfaces you run on

Hot concrete and asphalt in the summer is not easy on your dog’s paws, so if you have to run on these surfaces, do so during the coolest part of the day. If you can run on grass, crushed limestone, or a groomed trail, that’s ideal. Be sure to check your dog’s paws at the beginning and end of every run and never make them run on cracked pads or other foot injuries.

So with these tips in mind, running with your dog should be a really great experience for both of you!

 

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. 

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Your Super Rad 4 Week 10k Training Plan

10k post

What up runners and fitness freaks? If you’re following me over on the Instacrack, you’ve been seeing my jazzy runner self covering some mileage and signing up for races. I’m super jazzy about coming back full throttle now. I even did a track workout today! Huzzah!

Anyhoozer, I have committed to some races over the summer…even the dreaded Steamboat Classic! But the 4 miler this year…not the crazy pants 15k where I saw Baby Jesus a few times. A handful of shorter distances on the calendar, and I’m hoping to whip my hienie back in shape to conquer that 1:45 half at the Chicago Half Marathon in the fall. Maybe even running for Team Bright Pink again.

My first race is coming up in less than a month. I’m hoping it’s the Possum Run 10k outside of Atlanta, but if my travel plans fall through, my fallback race will be the DG Five Miler here in good ol’ Chi Suburbia. Either way, I have a month to whip dis ass into shape. So I consulted everyone’s favorite crotchety local coach, Patches O’Houlihan, and he gave me this rad 4 week plan. Now, this is an advanced/experienced runner plan. If you’re a newbie or coming off a long hiatus, consult someone who knows what they’re talking about to tailor this plan for your needs. Also, if you’re some kind of good runner, you might need a little more in your plan. But if you’re a average age grouper competing against your best, this so far is my most favorite plan to date.

Now I only take one complete rest day a week. My body is ok with that. Yours might not be and that’s ok. Take two. Also, after a hard workout, go easy on yourself the next day if possible. You will get faster if you recover than if you go run your pants off everyday. You also don’t want to injure yourself. That would defeat the purpose of running a plan at all.

Week 1:

Day 1: 4 mile tempo run

Day 2: 2 mile speed fartlek

Day 3: Rest (or active rest: yoga, cycling, swimming)

Day 4: 3 miles easy, plus three hill repeats

Day 5: 7 mile long run

Day 6: 2.5 mile shake out run

Day 7 rest

Week 2:

Day 1: 4 mile tempo run

Day 2: 4 x 800 meters

Day 3: Rest (or active rest: yoga, cycling, swimming)

Day 4: 3 miles easy, plus three hill repeats

Day 5: 8 mile long run

Day 6: 2.5 mile shake out run

Day 7 rest

Week 3:

Day 1: 4 mile tempo run

Day 2: 5 x 800 meters

Day 3: Rest (or active rest: yoga, cycling, swimming)

Day 4: 3 miles easy, plus three hill repeats

Day 5: 10k practice time trial at tempo pace with 5 x 30 seconds at race pace

Day 6: 2.5 mile shake out run

Day 7 rest

Week 4:

Day 1: Cross train for 30 minutes. You’ve earned it.

Day 2: Sit on your couch and eat chips. I’m kidding. But it’s a total rest day.

Day 3: 2.5 mile tempo run.

Day 4: Sit on your couch, part 2.

Day 5: 3 mile shake out run. Super duper easy pace.

Day 6: Sit on your couch and hydrate. You’ve got a race tomorrow.

Day 7: WIN THAT RACE, YO!

So we’ll see how this goes. I’ve never ‘trained’ for a 10k before, so it’ll be interesting to see how this works out. Tweak this plan to work for you, of course. The philosophy is to gain strength, endurance, and speed quickly. Turns out you really can make that happen efficiently without running a bajillion miles a week. I’m still a skeptic, but I didn’t puke after my track workout today, so there’s that, I guess. I do add a lot of strength training and core work to this plan, because I have to do a lot of this training in the gym, so since I’m there…

What are some of your favorite race training plans? Do you always need a plan for racing or do you mostly wing it?

 

  


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You Don’t Have To Eat Sad Food To Eat Clean Food!

food post

Oscar the Grouch is apropo of nothing. He just works.

The term “clean eating” is getting a lot of use lately. Which is great! I think a lot of the issues in American health today have to do with our garbage food supply. I’ve been working with the National Restaurant Association’s #KidsLiveWell campaign over the last week, and it’s nice to see that they are taking the initiative of expanding the average child’s palate beyond corn dogs and chicken fingers. I happen to be one of those dirty hippies who believes a lot of the additives in our food are the cause of the increase in certain childhood disorders, like autism. Here’s a pretty eye opening article on the effects of certain dyes found in many popular foods.

While “clean eating” has many definitions for many people, mine is pretty simple. I like my food to have as little processing as possible, no GMO’s, artificial sweeteners, refined sugars and HFCS, and no factory farmed dairy or animal protein. That shit will kill you quick. I began eating clean last July, and sang of its benefits for the better part of six months over on JSJ! No super vegan-paleo-glutenfree-nastyshake-ickypoo just good food. You can still get yer meat and taters, bro.

 

Food Post 2

A couple of healthy living bloggers I love to hate just seriously died upon viewing this picture. The carbs alone killed them. Sorry not sorry.

But that’s the thing! You have to eat, yo. Even if you’re trying to lose weight, you have to give your body the food it needs. Any ‘guru’ out there telling you they’re running a bajillion miles and taking a psychotic amount of spin classes then eating egg whites with a pound of red pepper flakes is A.) Totally lying and hitting that drive thru HARD when they leave the gym B.) deep in a disorder you do not want to emulate because it will kill the average peasant C.) Probably has really stinky farts.

Exhibit A…a post on Instagram that is indicative of oh…the majority of what ‘Healthy Living Bloggers’ post…

tumblr_inline_n2hsitupMe1rp6fdm

This is a spaghetti squash frittata with coconut sautéed mushrooms; topped with mashed avocado and strawberry slices.

This is sad food, people! Don’t let the happy red strawberries fool you! This dish is practically weeping it’s so sad. Like, who is getting joy from eating this? Who puts “Eat more mashed avocado that isn’t guacamole” on their bucket list? Close your eyes and imagine what these flavors as described must taste like. Are you gagging yet? It’s like a baby food medley that hasn’t hit the food processor yet.

Now I get it…people have actual reasons for eating weird stuff. There are certain disorders and health conditions that benefit from a restrictive diet. I was a vegan for a very long time. I totally get it. But why the sad food combinations? Let’s compare two cereals.

1387462773606

This is a happy, clean cereal. It would be vegan without the honey, but you get it. It looks like oatmeal. Oatmeal with the delicious awesomeness of coconut milk.

16e56aeeafac11e3a29b1257959990eb_6

This is another blogger’s food post. Yes, this is a sad cereal and representative of something Kina horked up this morning. What is it you ask? Oatmeal soaked in something called InBru. Coffee made out of rice hulls. This is SAD CEREAL, PEOPLE.

I’m not trying to be a brutal hater, but I just think more people would eat a cleaner, healthier diet if they weren’t shown that this is the way to go. You can pretty much adapt any recipe you want to suit your needs without it looking like the charred remains of what food used to look like, or dog vomit. You’re living a healthier lifestyle to LIVE life, right? SO LIVE LIFE and eat happy, clean food.

So there’s that. My .02 on the whole thing. Whatever.

Just an FYI, I’m going to be posting my daily workouts again over on Instacrack because I don’t have time to bloggy blog every. single. workout. everyday, and besides that supes boring. I’m training for a race in Atlanta (The Possum Run 10K) on June 21st, while I’m down there visiting my prison wife, Kristi. I’ll probably write more about that tomorrow, because I’m following this awesome 4 week 10K training plan you might want to give a whirl for yourself. It’s been going SO WELL, I’m eyeballing other races in July and August. Methinks my mojo has been restored! Or it’s temporary insanity caused by Hi-Ball energy water. Who knows.

**The links in this post are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.

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That Time I Went To A Group Fitness Class

group fitness

‘Sup peeps? Had some Adventures in Fitness® here over the last few days, and when that happens, I write a blog. Lucky you, right?

So for the 5 of you who didn’t just back click to whatever you were reading, here’s what’s going on in my neck of the woods.

Still on track, training is going very well, can’t complain about much… I’m doing everything I can to be consistent and stay injury free. I have been in a huge time crunch this week with work, life, staring off into space, etc. so I’ve been looking for ways to get as much bang for my buck, so to speak, with my workout each day. I need to keep rebuilding my fitness, but I have no time. WHAT AM I TO DO?!

I was lamenting this with my home slice Cara on Saturday night while we dunked various shellfish in drawn butter and drank wine, you know, what awesome champions do, and she suggested, “Take classes all week!” Then proceeded to tell me the various forms of human torture our chain of healthclubs offers us for free. All with insane names like, “Shred your brain and pray for death!” and “Insane sweat beasts dancing with dumbells!”

Group fitness? Like Jazzercise? Someone cute and perky on a headset yelling out choreography to sped up club remixes of Top 40 songs? Uh…no.

But Cara insisted that these classes were just like those videos from “The Firm,” which I actually quite like, and I would get a huge workout in a small amount of time.

Ok, then. I’ll give it a whirl.

The first class I tried was a cardio/light weights/step aerobics class called, “Two left feet and a sore ass” or something. All I know is that as soon as I walked in, I was living my life-long nightmare of being the big, slightly awkward girl, in a room full of gorgeous lululemon clad, perfectly ironed ponytail, housewives. Great. This won’t suck AT ALL.

Actually, it was fine, and I’m typing in a full body cast today it was such an intense workout. My glutes haven’t been this sore since that time in Tijuana… maybe I don’t have to tell you every story.

The next day it was time for, “Ninja Turtle Calf Shred” or whatever. Basically it’s a kickboxing, karate, plyometrics class with weighted weapons. Again, the band of gorgeous people were there, and my red-faced moose self towered over them and the ground probably shook a little when my feet hit the floor. I was DONE by the end of this class. Insanely hard. As I huffed and puffed, clutching my chest, screaming, “BUT I RUN MARATHONS!” while everyone bounced around me with what seemed to be endless energy… no wonder these women are tiny. I felt like I needed an all you can eat buffet after this one.

It also left me so sore I can only move my eyelids at this point.

While I wasn’t happy that Group Fitness classes seemed to bring me back to my insecure ginormous 9 year old self sick with envy over all of the cute, tiny girls…it is fun to try different things and see where exactly your fitness is lacking. You get comfortable in thinking that running handles most of your needs, maybe you do some core work and lift weights here and there, but one of these classes doing total body fitness is an eye opener for how weak your body truly is in spots.

Will I stick with it after this week? I have no idea. Right now it’s fun, and I’m feeling the burn so to speak. Tomorrow I’m taking a class called, “XTREME Body: You’re Going To Wish You Were Never Born” so that might change. I guess the real test will be how it has improved my running fitness. I ran a quick 4-miler after class yesterday, and it was ridiculously easy after juggling 15lb weights while standing on my head. If I start wearing lululemon instead of regular clothes and flat ironing my ponytail before class, though, I demand someone stage an intervention.

How to Run Hills… Without Hating Your Life

JAR Hill post

During my hill workout yesterday, I thought to myself, “Self, you are really good at running hills. Mayhap (I always talk to myself in Shakespeare) you should write about running hills. Because it’s not a topic that has been covered 7 million times or anything…”

I know. You can get actual knowledge from real experts about this exact topic. Most of which say you should lean in to the hill, slow your pace, shorten your stride, and use your arms to help power you up, then make your way down. I’ve actually listened to this advice when training, because WRITTEN BY EXPERTS, but I never found it helpful. To me I found it to be too much to think about while trying to do something hard. That simply doesn’t work in my brainspace. I’ll trip or something. Also, you look dumb leaning forward with a short stride, furiously pumping your arms. I might wear wacky compression socks in public, but I’m not about to look dumb, people.

So while I was chugging up that monster hill that I swear on all things holy (it’s in front of a monastery, so yeah) will get you in shape in a matter of days, I decided to put my own spin on things and talk about how me, a person naturally good at running hills, runs hills. I made a point to check in and make a list of the things I was doing to help you, my fellow runners.

Flat backs, people. 

I used to have a skating coach that would scream, “FLAT BACK!” because a natural tendency for a human is to either break at the waist and pitch forward when things are physically hard, or sit back on your heels and arch your back. A flat back is important for both going up and down hill because you will want to break at the waist while you climb, then sit back on your heels when you descend while arching your back. Both will get you eating chips on the couch rather quickly because these postures will get you injured. So think “belly button to spine” which will engage your core muscles and make your glutes handle the work. Yes, you will pitch a bit going up, and lean back a bit going down because gravity is a thing, but you will have your body in alignment and working efficiently.

Put your booty in it

Like I briefly touched on in the last point, you want your glutes (your big ol’ butt, anatomy flunkies) to do the work. They are one of the largest muscle groups in your body, and are built to handle some work. Not your hamstrings, not your knees, your glutes. This is where foot placement comes into play. You have to…HAVE TO…have a forefoot strike. Even if you try to strike oil and heel strike your heart out when the hill is over, while you’re doing your thing ascending and descending, STAY OFF YOUR DAMN HEELS. This will engage your glutes, take the stress off your knees and hamstrings, and let the big muscles handle the big job.

Don’t mess with your stride or pump your arms like crazy

Your stride isn’t going to make or break your hill speed. Maybe it does if you’re like, a real runner, but for we mere mortals, we aren’t typically climbing mountains, and our regular old middle of the pack stride is just fine. Also, don’t flap your arms and pump them like a mental patient. All that’s going to do is make you tired and give you a side ache…and you will look really dumb. Like, really dumb.

Breathe

I always take a deep breath at the base of a hill and just start chugging. The faster you get up, the faster you’re done. Because they’re hard work, you tend to puff like you’ve shoveled asbestos your whole life and pretty much give yourself a coronary by the time you get up the hill. This is where I like to use good ol’ Yoga breath. Breathe in for three counts, breathe out for three counts. It also keeps your mind off the “Holy freaking cow I’m on a freaking hill that isn’t going to end, I’m probably going to die here, and oh yeah, I HATE MY LIFE.”

Distract yourself

Mind games always work. Just like I pointed out in the last post, doing something like counting your breathing will occupy so much space in your simple animal brain, you will simply forget you are dying whilst running up a hill. Some runners I know do math, I happen to be rapping my favorite Jay-Z song as loud as possible because I don’t want to look dumb, I want to sound insane…whatever you have to do to get your mind off the task at hand, pull a Nike and just do it.

I’m not an expert, but I’m good at getting this body of mine up hills pretty easily so maybe a little bit of what I do will help you. Or maybe it’s more useless running information you file in the back of your mind. Really though, the only way to get really good at running hills is to…um…run them. Don’t treat this like a speed workout on the track (me) and put it off. You’re going to be at the end of a 15k race when you turn the corner and oh look, there’s a monster hill and you’re going to go up that thing hating your life and wonder why you didn’t run more hills. So go run some hills already!

#1000Miles – Mid-Week Check In

midweek check in

So it’s Thursday, and I just thought I’d check in and let you know how the week is going since I laid down the gauntlet and decided that I was officially back on the horse and this was happening.

The good news? So far so good. I’m being committed and consistent.

The bad news? Mars is in retrograde and the 19th couldn’t get here fast enough when it finally stops.

Workouts

Monday: 3 mile tempo

Tuesday: 4 miles nice and easy/core and strength circuit

Wednesday: 3 miles of hills/coached soccer practice

Today: Scrapped the speed/strength workout for pushing my dead car up a hill and doing a lot of walking because I had to push my dead car up a hill. Damn you, Mars in retrograde!

The running is getting better. Yesterday’s hill workout was a full 15 seconds per split faster than when I did it three weeks ago and had to yak up an Egg McMuffin in the street because my lungs were firmly lodged in my throat. I’m still not happy with any splits in the 9’s after how fast I’ve been training indoors all winter, but I did discover that a lot of that has to do with my gait changing a bit and adjusting to the terrain. I also need new shoes. First car, then shoes.

I’ve decided that I hate Yoga Sculpt because it’s not at all based on the principles of Yoga, it’s something a fitness marketing expert invented to get lululemon clad housewives in the door at lunchtime. Just because you do a few down dogs and end the class in Shavasana, doesn’t mean it’s Yoga. It’s basically ‘barefoot bootcamp in a hot room on a yoga mat’. Burpees and shadowboxing violate my inner Yogi’s sensibilities. So I scrapped that class and went back to my good ol’ strength/core circuit. It gets results and I don’t have to do any of those damn mountain climbers.

mountain-climbers

For tomorrow I have a 4 mile fartlek planned, a yoga day and soccer bonanza on Saturday, and then a 7 mile long run with a yoga chaser for Sunday. It’s still making me nuts that it seems so easy and I feel like a slacker-face.

Nutrition

I’ve been eating clean, and watching my intake as well as cutting out the booze. Well except for last night when we recorded ‘Wine and Sass!’ because it’s called WINE and Sass, not Sober and Sass. Oh well, one night a week isn’t killing everything…

Green Drank

I haven’t had an Egg White Delight McMuffin since last Saturday, and I am doing the good ol’ Green Drank for my afternoon snack every day. Yesterday I had to have a rainbow roll for lunch or some kind of homicide was going to happen. I’ve been craving salmon like a lunatic lately, so I must be deficient in my daily fish breath quota. No wonder my cat is bothering the crap out of me lately. egg white delight

With the help of my old faves, Vitamin Water and Raspberry Honest Tea, my hydration is getting better. I just wish I liked water. I freaking hate water.

Mental

I’m ok as far as trying not to be a nutcase perfectionist heaping a ton of pressure on myself. I have to say that focusing on my fitness routine and training plan has been super helpful in dealing with some of life’s shitstorms this week like both my car and computer deciding to make good on a suicide pact they made five years ago. Good grief. Couldn’t the toaster short out? Why’d it have to be both the things I need for my livelihood? At least the sun is out so I don’t have rainy day depression making this a huge crisis.

when will it end gif

A huge help has been my gratitude journal, the ‘Until Today!’ daily devotional I read with my coffee every morning, and the Headspace meditation app. I highly recommend them all. Or tearing your hair out and screaming into pillows. That probably works, too.

So not the suckfest I thought this week was going to bring, so I got that going for me. I still haven’t gotten a speed workout in…but I never do those. I hate them, and right now I refuse to do anything I hate until I have to.

And so it begins…race training

rocky post

It’s official. I’m entered in the Downers Grove Five Miler next month, and it will be my first race of 2014. I haven’t run this race before, but I chose it because I’ll know the course, and it is a distance I can be ready for in six weeks. Ready for competitively. If I’m gonna race, I’m gonna race.

I raced most of last year on the fly. I didn’t take my training all that seriously, and it included a lot of junk miles, sun and booze. There’s nothing wrong with that! C’mon now! I WON a half marathon after laying in the sun all day drinking margaritas and jumping off cliffs!

JAR post 2-2

I know, I know. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut.

For realsies, though, I’m taking this season seriously. I’m getting into it a bit late, and I’m changing pretty much everything to not only get my fitness back, but increase my speed while not aggravating my injury. When you’re injured you can’t just wing it.

I needed to sit down and get a plan together for training, recovery, and nutrition. Here are the challenges I’m facing:

Time.

Injury.

Motivation.

Time is an issue. I’m a morning person, and running in the middle or at the end of the day is the living worst for me. I also have to get the most bang for my buck when I do work out.

The injury is bad. I’m on that precipice where if I push too hard, it’s going to be a freaking disaster.

I’m motivated, but I’m in a space mentally where my ego and emotions might torpedo me a bit. I tend to be obsessive about everything, and get frustrated when things don’t go well. I’m one of those runners that stare at my watch incessantly and play mind games with myself. I need to let go and trust that things are going to work out. I’m also going to be exhausted and would rather couch surf with a glass of wine than go pound pavement.

One-BIG-glass-a-day

So the workouts are going to be pretty easy on the mileage to start averaging about 20-25 miles a week. But they’re going to be work. Speed workouts, hills, fartleks, tempos, and a sorta-long run, it’s going to be a tough 25 miles a week. Supplementing those workouts are going to be core, plyo, yoga and strength work to build better stability and strength to help prevent any further injury. A lot of recovery is built into this plan, too. If you’re dealing with a chronic injury or health issue and want to keep going, you have to be kind to yourself. There’s no point in pushing, because you’re only going to push yourself right onto the couch.

PatchesOHoulihan

Nutrition is probably the biggest component of this. The food budget isn’t the Whole Foods bonanza it used to be, but it’s important to get back to eating clean, and getting the supplements I need to help all of this along. And like, not making my hydration needs met via wine, and things like that. I’m also a volume eater, meaning I like to EAT. Ain’t no small meals happening up in heeeeuh. Three meals, two snacks…simple stuff. Fish, veggies, green drank, greek yogurt, the usual. Up my water intake, and save the wine for the occasional toast. I know…I’m crying too. It’ll only hurt for a few days…then I’ll wonder how I even found an Egg McMuffin appealing in the first place. It’s also important to keep your weight down when you’re running on a chronic injury, because you want as little stress on your body as possible.

So that’s the plan, man. Finishing up the second day, I feel pretty not-bad. Right now the biggest struggle is mental, because I expect the speed to magically be there, and it just isn’t yet. I’m trying to make all of this a lesson in patience.

#1000Miles: Getting back on the horse…

JAR post 1

The universe is having its fun with me… I love/hate when that happens.

‘Retreat’ has never been a word in my vocabulary. I’m a fighter. I’m a survivor. I have only quit something a handful of times, and it was usually because I had to quit, not because I wanted to. I’ve used the word ‘Retreat’ once in my life.

It was 2001 and my last nationals in skating. I had planned on retiring after this nationals and going on with my adult life, but I wanted to make this last trip special. I knew I would never be in an arena, waiting in the pit, wearing a costume, ever again. I just knew that it was time to put a period and close this chapter in my life.

Long story short, there was an incident with a family member that made the whole experience one of the worst in my entire life. Instead of enjoying this last moment and doing everything I wanted to do, I was now caring for a 10 year old, and I literally had zero focus for my event. My coach, wanting to let my family know that it was bananas that a kid that wasn’t the most talented skater, but had an insane work ethic, continuously got the shaft, and it was making me a headcase. Instead of hearing the message and saying to themselves, “Uh…maybe we should quit being self centered assholes and give Jenni her one last moment,” they just took it as an insult and it made things worse.

I went home with 17th place. I had made the final and placed in the top five the year before.

I threw my skates in a closet and fell off the face of the earth for 10 years. It was the only other time I had retreated in my life. 15 years of competitive skating that was nothing but a continuous struggle for me was meaningless. I had never had a moment.

13 years later I would retreat again.

Why run anymore?

I have the hips of an 80 year old.

My gym membership was cancelled, and it’s a luxury I simply cannot afford.

I don’t have time to run. The time I do have, I can’t just leave 3 kids alone and go for a run.

I raised thousands for breast cancer and ran for those women with all my heart and soul, but I’m still defined by my past. I could raise thousands more, and no one would look past things that happened years ago. It’s the ugly baby I’m forced to carry around with me.

I worked so hard to achieve and be perfect. But he had an affair anyway.

Whatever. There is no point. Time for another period on another chapter in this book.

I trained WITH A COACH for the entire winter, running sub-8’s and my first run outside I ran in the 9’s. Nice to see I wasted so much time with all of that.

There simply is NO POINT.

And honestly? I was ok with retreating. I was tired. I felt the same way I did after the 2001 Nationals. Maybe the new chapter has new things for me.

Or did it?

Like I said in the beginning of this post, the universe was going to work on this a little, and this time I was going to pay attention. Not like last time when I turned off my eyes and ears to the world around me.

A couple of running friends reached out, and it planted a seed. People missed me. All this shitstorm and people noticed I wasn’t there. Kind of an asshole move on my part if I ignore them, right?

Oh? A free race entry at the end of the month to a pressure-free race? That could be fun…and free!

I stopped and picked up a Competitor and Chicago Athlete magazine at the gym where the lady that checks me in usually noticed I was there pilfering the free magazines but I hadn’t been there in over a month. Busted. Oh I get a corporate discount here because of my new job, and I can afford it now? You’ll comp the month I missed?

Hmmm…

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So the seeds were planted. I could now go to the gym near my office during lunch breaks, and the kids had somewhere to play while I ran.

Then the phone rang. It was my coach Patches O’Houlihan (not his real name, duh. Watch Dodgeball and you’ll get it.)

“Sale!”

“Not my name anymore, Coach.”

“You’re always going to be ‘Sale who runs like she wants to be a pretty fat-girl’ no matter what you’re calling yourself. Sale, I haven’t seen you at a single track workout in April.”

I told him I had quit running and ran off my long list of justifiable excuses.

“You’re a damn coward, Sale.”

A coward? Did this man just HEAR me? I’m just trying to make my life work, and he’s calling me a coward because I didn’t go to his stupid track workouts? Have a seat COACH, I’m about to ream you a new asshole.

So I did. And he listened. “There she is. There’s that pissed off fat girl. Come to a track workout and get even more pissed. I have never met someone so scared to death of being good at something in my whole life. Put yourself first and get your fat ass (It’s a term of endearment, I swear. He says I can be a good runner but I insist on running ‘like a fat girl’ because I wear running skirts and headphones, and don’t follow a training plan. Runners are jerks.) on the road.”

I still didn’t go to the track workout. I freaking hate those, and being agreeable isn’t exactly my nature. But I did go re-up at the gym, grabbed a yoga sculpt class on my lunch hour, and then ran a couple of miles later that night. Slow miles. Easy miles. No pressure.

Later on that night, I got a text from another running friend. “How’s the running going?” and details of her marathon this weekend.

How’s the running going? Well I ran.

I ran.

I ran and I have a lot of friends who care if I run.

Listen to the universe, Jenn. It’s telling you something. Nobody’s letting you fall off the face of the earth this time.

Today, I went for a 3 mile run. I intentionally forgot my watch and just ran. I have no idea how fast or slow I was going, but the miles went by really fast, and I felt good afterward. Really good. I thought of this blog post while I was out there, I thought about that last nationals, which is a memory I can barely speak about, much less think about.

I had asked for a moment then.

I’m demanding one now.

Retreating isn’t an option. You can’t turn your back on something that saved you. A year ago we were living in a hotel after losing everything in the flood, and I forced myself to get up and go out every morning at 6:30 because my family needed me and my sanity.

This is no different. My family still needs me and my sanity. I’m also on an Egg McMuffin kick that isn’t going to burn itself off. I can’t end this story with being insane and fat. The story I’m avoiding and trying to change ends that way. I am not sending the message that I retreated. The fire in the belly is there. I just need to light it again, is all…while being a lot kinder to myself in the process. Yes, I will probably run a little slower. So. What. It doesn’t matter. It will be temporary. The legs will come back.

I have no idea where my mileage is, how far I am from 1,000 miles, and I guess it’s a good thing, because it would only make me feel like a failure to know I’m so far away from my goal. How much I’ve backslid. How much ground I’ve lost.

The miles don’t matter. It’s the journey. I’m back on the horse. I will race again.

My fight is back. I’m running the Downer’s Grove 5 Miler a week before my birthday as my ‘comeback’ race. I promised I would be Elizabeth’s legs in my first race of the year, and while it’s going to be 6 months late, I’m going to keep that promise.

In the words of my father, “It’s only just a road…”

Thank you, universe.

 

 


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The Great Experiment…And Feeling Pretty

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So it’s Sunday, a rest day, and I have to say that I’m happy with how training went this week. Doc, Coach and I came up with a plan that’s going to dedicate March to a ‘less is more’ way of training. Running wise, it’s only putting me at about 20 miles a week, but there’s a huge focus on strength training, plyometrics and working on therapeutic conditioning like barre classes, Pilates, and Yoga. The running is super intense. Intervals pushing me a full minute faster, sprints, and fierce tempo runs.

Of course this freaks me out, because in my mind anything less than 35 steady miles a week is ‘hobby jogger’ territory, which I totally am, but every runner thinks they’re Prefontaine in their own mind. I look at the upcoming race calendar and I freak out as I compare that to my goals for 2014. How in the world am I going to make a dent in that running 20 crazy fast miles every week and lifting weights for an entire month? Mostly indoors?

I’m a doubting Thomas. I trust no one.

But Coach made a good point. Remember after the flood, when most of my training happened on a hotel treadmill? Shorter, faster runs for 6 weeks, and then I went out and KILLED the SF 10 miler? Without all of the other cross training, and eating in restaurants three times a day?

Yep. That happened. Ok, then. We’ll give it a shot.

I can say that this philosophy takes a lot of mental pressure off. You feel more like a success breaking it down and doing other things, rather than looking at your mileage log and going…uh…an 8 mile tempo, I feel like crap and only want to run 4. FAIL. So mentally, I have to say it’s a nice refresh.

We’ll see how it goes for Shamrock this year. That’s the first race of 2014, and I ran that sucker pretty fast last year.

In other news…

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Are you one of those people that primps for the gym? Like, you make sure you look really good and check the mirror a couple of times before you leave the locker room? I’m obviously not one of those people, because I’m always red-faced, gross, and covered in sweat. I also don’t see the point of getting pretty, getting gross, and then re-prettifying myself afterwards. That’s just a lot of time and steps I don’t have.

I bumped into my friend Dawn at the gym yesterday, and she’s in her cutest lulu, full makeup, awesome ponytail, and there I am…cute clothes, but bust down and ratchet as always.

WHY. I ask her. WHY. Why are you such a weirdo?

After she took a step back because I smelled funky, she essssplained to me that once a week, she comes to the gym ‘done up’ to mostly socialize and feel good. It’s usually a rest day, and she doesn’t like talking to people when she’s gross, and it’s just nice to feel pretty.

So after I wiped the snot dripping off my nose with the back of my hand, I pondered this idea. What if I went to Yoga today feeling ‘pretty’. Would I be more social? Would I feel better about my practice? I decided to give it a try. Why not? Let’s see how different it all is if I check myself in the mirror before I head out of the locker room…

#1000Miles Week 12: 722 Miles to go…Time For Some Spring Cleaning

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Time to refocus and clean house a little. It’s the first day of a new month, hopefully this brutal winter is on its way out, and it’s a fresh start to a new season.

I don’t know about you, but February sucked ass. There’s really no other way to put it. For me it actually started back in November, if we’re being brutally honest, and because I have this habit of doing what I think people want instead of listening to my gut instincts, things tend to go on way too long before a good house cleaning happens.

You know what I’m talking about. Your gut and everyone around you is saying, “No. This isn’t right, you’re depleting yourself going down this path,” and you are so afraid of letting people down or you feel obligated to tough it out, and then you hit your limit, which at that point has you lighting a match once you’ve doused everything in proverbial gasoline?

And when it happens, you stand there watching it burn, and you say to yourself, “Shoulda listened. Woulda been easier to handle this months ago. Coulda bypassed feeling like crap over the last few months.”

For me, a lot of it had to do with this second chance at total freedom I was given in late January. My past was over. Officially behind me. No more struggle. Nothing left to worry about or hold me back. You would think I would embrace this closed chapter in my life. Giddy with being free of this thousand pound weight on my back, but nope. It literally paralyzed me. It was like being stuck in waist deep mud, andstuck in the mud you can see the shore 3ft away. 

It was so weird. Was I that enmeshed in the struggle, that now that it’s gone I don’t even know who I am without it? Am I so conditioned to be fighting something that I am lost without it?

I knew what it was. Deep down I knew what I had to do to move forward. I had to shed that last bit of “Old Jenn” skin and officially embrace the joy and fear that came with “New Jenn”. I consulted my therapist, healers, friends, family, and they all said the same thing. I even went on a celebratory Caribbean vacation to mark this milestone in my life, and my gut instinct when I came home?

Change it all. Delete the JSJ blog, go for the next chapter, clean house, do those other projects, embrace the world out there you haven’t seen yet. The people you haven’t met. The lessons you haven’t learned.

On that vacation, I didn’t think about writing or the day to day grind. But I did run. Every morning, I got up and hit the treadmill and looked over the ocean. The running was there. Being stuck in the quagmire of my own mud had made me lose focus, and that weekend of sun, fun and running brought it back.

I didn’t listen to my gut. I tweaked things here and there, and even asked the universe for a sign on what to do. Was the direction I was going in the right one or not?

Obviously I got that sign I was asking for. No, it wasn’t. But again, too scared of upsetting people to make a hard change, so I just kept pleasing them at my expense. My hip and knee were also just blown. Maybe too much running on the ship. Most likely too much navel gazing instead of getting out and clearing my head.

Finally, I got mad. Wait a minute here…THIS IS MY LIFE. I know what I need to do, and I just need to do it. Quick like a band-aid. So I got back on the treadmill, pissed off that I haven’t been able to run outside since New Years because Mother Nature needs a damn estrogen patch.

I started with 20 minutes. Fast. No dread of a long countdown mind fucking me while I run on that stank treadmill, but something that was actually a lot harder than a steady paced five miler, but perception of a short clock would not make it a state of never ending dread on a moving belt.

Then I went to my Yoga class that I had been blowing off, and my favorite instructor, Meg, was subbing all week. Score. I set my intention for the practice that day as, “Get my mind right.” During the practice, Meg came over and offered an adjustment and Reiki as I was in pigeon pose. After class I thanked her, and asked her why she picked me. She knows I do not like to be touched, and like to hide in my little corner of the studio.

“It was all over your face. Not the same face I always see, and you’ve been different in your practice. I knew exactly what you needed.”

It changed everything. All of a sudden my mind was right, and my energy was centered. I was also still pissed off. Mostly at myself. But with that anger, it was time to clean house. It was going to suuuuuuucccckkkkkk, because I knew that a handful of people were going to be mad at me or even hate me for it. But last year, when I started my first journey, I cleaned house for the first time, and removed every toxic thing in my life, no matter the consequences. I had left the door open in November and some of that dirt blew back in my house. Time to get the broom.

And yeah, it sucked. It’s hard to see people not understand that you are a person with feelings and goals, and that sometimes the landscape changes in life and you need to go with your gut. I’m human and it does put a pang in the guts to see people act like you’ve wronged them, or you owe them something when you’re just putting up a healthy boundary for yourself. It’s hard not to scream back and try to make them see your point. But they never do, and they’ll go on to the next, as will I.

The lesson here? Keep moving. I’m injured, and I won’t be able to race until the end of March now, so that just helped the mud I was stuck in that much thicker. Those moments I got out of my head and on the treadmill or yoga mat? I came that much closer to doing what I need to do, but I wasn’t consistent, so it just turned into an endless cycle of peaks and valleys that went on for months.

The other lesson is to listen. Listen to your gut, what the universe is telling you, and what the people who always have your back unconditionally are saying, even if it’s a difficult truth you don’t necessarily feel ready to hear. I didn’t want to hear, “Shut down JSJ and focus on the big picture, it’s time to move on.” Fear is a bitch. But it’ll also keep you stuck in the mud.