The Moment Before You Quit

 

The Moment You're Ready to Quit

I’m writing this on a runner’s high. I have a big week of training and some big workouts out on the schedule. And so far? I seem to be crushing it. I’m sure this week seems like such a triumph because I was extremely low energy the past two weeks while I tried to kick the head cold that stayed for far longer than it was welcome. This week by comparison, I’m feeling like superwoman. It’s a great feeling.

There were several times during my workout today when I felt like quitting. Like I could just stop my watch, jog a bit, get my breath back, and mosey on home. “It would be so easy”, I thought.

There’s that moment when you’re pushing through a speed workout when you feel your muscles “drop”, when they almost let go. It’s almost like your transmission sputters for a second and you realize that your body could stop at any minute if only your mind decided that’s what it wanted (or should) do. It’s that moment when you think that you have your cruise control set, you take your foot off the pedal, and you’re shocked to find that you are decelerating instead of accelerating.

And then? You make a decision. As a runner, you decide whether or not the feeling of quitting is going to trump the feeling of finishing strong, no matter how hard it might hurt. And if you’re like most runners, you probably know that deciding to continue almost always pays off in the end. You finish the workout wondering why you ever even considered giving it up and throwing in the towel on your dreams.

But that’s the challenge, isn’t it? We make a choice in this singular moment. The moment between succeeding and quitting.

We choose pain over comfort.

We choose struggle over the “easy” way.

We choose to be a little more crazy and a little less defeatist.

We choose to prove to ourselves that the “what if” can actually come true.

We choose to push when we really don’t want to.

Because the alternative seems crazy when you really sit down and think about it.

It’s a bit of mental jiu-jitsu we play with ourselves. (I played this game a lot with myself in a matter of 5 miles today.) The funny part about running is that you’re never just going to have one of these moments. It’s called long distance running for a reason, people. Just because I chose pain over comfort once in today’s workout didn’t mean that I was done making decisions. I had to make the same decision about 10 more times before the workout was finished.

[I just verbally vomited a ton of platitudes all over this blog post. And I'm not going to delete them.]

I ran the fastest mile repeats I’ve ever run in my entire life today. That’s not a small feat. I will struggle to outdo myself the next time this workout is on my schedule, just like the time before that. Proving to myself that I can run faster and longer over time is a battle with no one else but myself. It’s a battle with that moment between allowing my muscles to disengage and to keep pushing forward. The small bit of irony in all of this is that 1 minute after that repeat, you feel like you could conquer yet another one. “Sure, bring it on!” you tell yourself. And so, you do.

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Inspiration: Running Song Playlist

A lot of people are surprised I listen to music during the majority of my runs. In fact, it’s very rare that I am not wearing my iPod even for one run every once in awhile. I don’t think listening to music is a “crutch”, but an added perk to my running experience, if you will.

This year, I haven’t been that diligent in updating my running playlist. Last year I compiled my favorite songs following the Chicago Marathon and I noticed this year that a lot of my favorites haven’t really changed. The list below, however, are the new additions that I’ve been addicted to lately. Some of them are slower than you might expect for a running playlist, but I find that most of them work for my cadence. And if they don’t have a “good beat”, they usually have an emotional component that makes me motivated to run faster.

Enjoy! (Links to songs on Spotify included)

What kind of music do you listen to when you run? Do you prefer running with or without music?

The First Step to Finding Motivation

Ahhh yes, Motivation with a CAPITAL “M”. It’s a toughie. Everyone wants more of it and we’re all trying to find ways to get it. We have all of these things we want to do–but often lack the motivation to actually see them through.

[Disclaimer: I do not claim to have all the answers. If I knew the secret to finding motivation, I wouldn't spend the occasional Saturday in my PJs, eating cookies, and watching movies in bed until 9 pm. So... there's that.]

When it comes to running, the motivation to be consistent and potentially improve on race times has to come from within. I think it’s important to know why you want to run. Unless you’re running for your life, you’ve likely made the decision to “become a runner” on your own. Spend some time thinking about what running does for you or how it makes you feel. Personally, I run for many different reasons:

I could go on and on. When I was younger, I ran because I was on a cross country or track team. I ran however fast or slow the coaches told me to. I went through the motions and happened to be somewhat successful. I didn’t really know why I was there. Sure, my friends were involved and I liked being part of the team. But running didn’t become a personal passion for me until after I graduated college. I was in that weird post-graduate limbo where you don’t know what you want to do with your life, who to reach out to for help, or how to stop freaking out over things you can’t control.

So, one day I laced up my shoes and I decided I’d go for a run. I had to get out of the apartment and relieve the stress of searching for a full-time job somehow. I needed something to look forward to (other than “we’re not interested” letters or an empty email inbox), so I signed up for my first half marathon. I put the race on my calendar and followed my ‘countdown calendar’ to race day.

I didn’t consider myself strong, but I knew that I would get stronger. I didn’t consider myself a runner but I told myself that I would be once I finished the half marathon. I didn’t have a coach, but I trusted in training plans that I found online and asked others what worked for them. The details didn’t matter, as long as I just put those shoes on and started moving.

Now, I know why I run. I’m not motivated by appearance, but how running makes me feel.

If I feel strong, I feel happy. And happy is wonderful.

The hardest part of running is just showing up. Once you “show up” to run (mentally and physically), you will discover why you run and be more motivated to make yourself strong and happy.

How do you find the motivation to run?

It’s not a funk! You just need to RUN!

Ok, so if you’re reading this, you’re probably a regular runner. You like to sleep, eat, and breathe running. Getting Runner’s World in the mail is the best day of each month, a new pair of shoes feels like running on pillowy clouds, and you likely pack your running gear in your suitcase before your ‘civilian’ clothes before going anywhere, vacation or otherwise.

Unfortunately, as much as you love it, some days just feel more difficult than others. I had one of these days yesterday.

Afternoon lethargy creeped up on me in the afternoon at work. I tried to kick myself out of this feeling by sipping on a small cup of coffee and eating some oatmeal. It didn’t work. I went home, sat on my couch with my coat still on, and thought to myself,  “Do I have to run today?”.  Cue the endless cycle of bad thoughts and justifications for thinking these bad thoughts.

I’ve only run once this week.

Why am I so tired?

I am so behind.

Rest is more important.

It’s cold out.

I don’t want to go to the packed gym.

The treadmill is so boring.

Am I going to meet my goal this spring?

Is my mileage too low?

What can I accomplish if I don’t run tonight?

Won’t I feel better if I stay home & watch TV on the couch?

And so on.

So I did what I usually do in this situation. I decided to settle. I would run easy for 45 minutes and move my tempo workout to Friday morning. It was a good solution. I wasn’t in the mood to push myself, but I knew that A run was better than NO run. I just needed an easy run to clear my head.

Something happened when I left my apartment. It’s been balmy here in Chicago all week. And last night it was 32 degrees when I left for my easy run. A weird foggy mist was in the air and it was a calm night with light wind. In other words, perfect running weather. I got started and instantly felt lighter. I looked down at my watch after only 0.84 miles. Already? If I had been running on a treadmill, this probably would have felt like an eternity. Somewhere between 0.84 and 0.99 miles, I changed my mind and decided to suck it up.

“I will run my tempo tonight afterall”. My watch beeped at the 1 mile mark and I pushed the pace. And I’m so glad I did. Because 7 miles later, I returned home feeling accomplished, refreshed, proud, and relaxed. I didn’t feel like a blob for backing down from a tough workout.

It only took about 6 minutes of physical activity for my body and mind to tell me the same thing:

Thank you! You just needed to RUN!

-J

1,000 Miles

Milestones are always fun and I just passed a big one during my speedwork session last night. I have officially run more than 1,000 miles since the end of January when I started my training. ONE.THOUSAND. That’s a lot of miles. I’ve been running 3-4 times a week since the end of January and it has already paid off in more ways than I can count. (If you’d like a list, please let me know and I’ll dedicate an entire day to creating it for you!)

Sure, 1000 is pretty cool. I consider it a pretty big deal. But it takes a runner to look at that number and say “that number isn’t high enough. next year I will dominate my miles”. I’m sure a lot of you know what I’m talking about. Once you reach one milestone, you go voraciously after the next. You can call it the ‘running bug’ or an ‘addiction to running’ or whatever. But I think every runner that genuinely loves to run knows what I’m talking about. We will never stop. We can’t stop. Why would we stop? I look at some of those monthly mileage numbers and wonder why they aren’t higher. Yet, others make more sense. (November, for instance–after my first marathon and during a small bout of tendonitis.) Every runner is different and we all experience things differently.

I just know I’ll be running more mileage in 2012. My level of fitness between now and when I started my training in January is like night and day. I recall struggling to run a 6 mile tempo on the treadmill last February and how great it felt to have accomplished that. Six miles isn’t enough for me anymore (although there are days when 6 miles is necessary!). I’m excited to amp up my training in a couple of weeks to begin preparing for my spring half marathon schedule. My official goal is to run a sub-1:40 half marathon. I realize this is a lofty goal, but I feel like it’s well within my reach if I dedicate myself to serious training like I did most of 2011. My marathon pace was 8:07, but my half marathon PR pace is 7:55. I am totally capable of running the half at a quicker pace; I just know it!

Last Friday was my birthday and an extra special gift arrived from my Dailymile Secret Santa match! I got the book “Mile Markers: The 26.2 Most Important Reasons Why Women Run” by Kristin Armstrong. The book has been on my list for awhile and for whatever reason, I was reluctant to spend the money and buy it for myself. (Afterall, at a time when you should be shopping for others, it’s hard to stop shopping for yourself once you start!). I’ve only read 50 pages of it so far, but I love it already. It’s short-n-sweet tidbits about running camaraderie, struggle, excitement, joy, and love. I recommend every female runner out there go out and buy it. (I’m especially enjoying reading it before I go to bed. It’s my ‘running meditation’ before my morning miles the next day.)

 

I’m planning on running this weekend while home for Christmas and I’m oddly excited for the lack of snow. Typically I’d be disappointed that we wouldn’t be experiencing a White Christmas, but some rainy miles sound perfect to me right about now. I’m looking forward to fun miles, fun meals, and laughs with family. And it might just be my first run EVER on Christmas morning! (probably while everyone else is asleep and warm in their beds ha)

To bring an end to this rumination on miles and dedication, I’d like to leave you all with a gem of a music video. The title may be about “walking 500 miles”, but this year I RAN 1,000 FREAKIN’ MILES! :all smiles:

-J

Before A New Year Arrives

Two weeks left of the year?! When did that happen? Maybe it’s these unseasonably warm temperatures that Chicago has been enjoying, but I could have sworn it was just Thanksgiving the other day. (Mmmmm …turkey!) But before the next two weeks run away from me, I’ve made a list of things I’d like to accomplish:

  1. Finish a freakin’ book! I’ve been carrying The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen around in my purse for about 3 weeks now and the last time I read one page of it was probably two weeks ago. That’s what happens when your commute on the blue line is more like riding in a can of sardines than commuting comfortably in a seat. It took awhile for me to get into this book and now I’ll just be frustrated if I don’t finish it. (Afterall, I’m a few books away from completing my Goodreads goal of finishing 20 books this year. Eek!)
  2. Hang artwork and shelves in my apartment…finally! We took the time to paint…and stopped at that. I’m like a broken record ever since we moved into the new place in September. “This weekend we WILL hang our artwork/frames”….Ok, NEXT weekend we will hang our artwork/frames. I have an intense dislike of blank, white walls and right now I’m seeing more of this than I’d like. It will be done.
  3. Finish the year strong and go to Bikram yoga at least once per week. This is a very modest goal. Afterall, you’d think that I would be able to take the time to go to one (if not, two) classes a week. It’s become much more difficult in the past few weeks to do so and I don’t like deleting ‘Bikram’ from my google calendar each week when other things take over. Besides, it’s starting to get cold out and Bikram just feels good.
  4. Wake up early and actually enjoy that cup of coffee in the morning….because chugging it before rushing out the door just isn’t the same.
  5. This probably goes without saying, but I need to sit down and come up with my 2012 goals. Career goals, running/racing goals, personal goals, etc. It’s going to be a great year, I can just tell! But only if I stop to take the time and figure out how to make it all happen.

I found this list of “30 things to stop doing to yourself” the other day and I can’t stop thinking about it. Some apply more than others, but all of them are smart and inherently true. I suggest checking it out–great way to get an attitude check before January 1st, 2012.

AND, this spoke to me as well: The One Resolution to Make in 2012

If I say I will do something, I will do it. The end.

 

What do you have planned for the coming year? What do you want to accomplish by the end of this one?

-J

 

 

Seven Things

Life is a Run invited me to share 7 things about me that others may not know this week. I think it’s refreshing to read others’ blog posts that have absolutely nothing to do with running. While running may be what connects me with people I never would have interacted with otherwise, it’s nice to know more about them than what their 800 splits are, the pace of their last long run, or their half marathon PR.

So, my “7 things” are as follows:

  1. My name is Jenny, but my REAL name is Jennifer Holly. My twin sister’s name is Lindsey Noelle. And YES we were born in December, fairly close to Christmas. Apparently one of us was supposed to be named Julian (Jillian?), but my mom decided on Jennifer and Lindsey instead. I don’t really ever remember being called Jennifer and I’m not sure who decided that Jenny would be my more common name. Hmmm…questions to ask the family!
  2. I’ve lived in 4 different Chicago neighborhoods, despite only living here for 5 years. When I started college, I lived in Lincoln Park near campus. Then I moved around a bit to Wrigleyville and then Pilsen on the south side. Now I’m in Wicker Park and like it more than any of the others. I think I have a disease that requires me to move some place new, throw out possessions I don’t need, clean out my closet, and paint some new walls every 6-12 months. Hopefully this disease takes care of itself and allows me to remain in the same apartment for longer than that this time around!
  3. I always carry a book in my bag or purse, but usually take more than 3-4 weeks to finish it. I have a massive Goodreads list of books I need to read and have barely made a dent in it. The list is never-ending! Sometimes I think I dedicate more time to seeking out good books and adding them to my list than to actually reading them. :-) Woopsies!
  4. I reserve my Sunday evenings for catching up on my favorite TV shows. Lately these shows have been Dexter and Boardwalk Empire. I seriously can’t wait until Mad Men and Shameless make their return appearance in January. I already have the date saved on my calendar. :-) Without my comfy couch, a glass of wine/beer, a soft blanket, and my TV shows to watch on Sunday, I’m not sure how I’d stay sane. It’s my “me time”.
  5. I’m sure a lot of people have this problem, but I’m notorious for creating TO DO lists that are highly unrealistic. Sure, it’s good to be determined and focused, but my list is just silly. I even have multiple TO DO lists–because one is never enough. I use Wunderlist for groceries and other random items, WorkFlowy for lists that need to be outlined, and I always have a simple weekly planner on me that I cover in post-it notes that include more ‘to do’ lists. I should just choose one and stick to it, shouldn’t I?
  6. I HATE brussel sprouts. Yes, with an intense passion that rivals all other forms of hatred. I always have and I always will. My mom made a mistake this year for Thanksgiving dinner. She made brussel sprouts thinking that this would be THE year I’d try them out again. But she was sorely mistaken. I’m not budging. I’ll stick to other greens like asparagus (which happens to be my favorite vegetable ever).
  7. Confession: half the time I sit down to write my blog posts, I don’t know what I’m going to write about. I think I’m okay with that. I’m not trying to cater to anyone else or provide advice for other runners. Just sorting through some things in my own head and putting them on digital paper so that I can keep track of where I’ve been and where I could be going. I love seeing that people subscribe to the blog, don’t get me wrong! The little comments and notes are nice and it makes me realize how easily connected we all are, especially in the running community. So blog on, all, blog on!

Those are my ’7 things’. What are yours?

-J

Autumn Loves

Lately I’ve been savoring the little things BIG things. It’s the time of the year to think about what you’re thankful for and what you’ve accomplished in the past 11-12 months. I’ve been thinking about it lately and decided that I’d be silly to think that life is anything but good.

Life is good.

I am super happy about some things happening in my life and the lives of friends & family. It’s easy (especially in the city) to feel compartmentalized and sectioned off from the rest of the world. But everyone is working towards something awesome, it seems. I’m happy to be around people that are driven, know where they want to go, and are figuring out a way to get there. (Again, this goes back to the video I posted last week—I still can’t get over it.)

Short and sweet…I’m thankful for:

  • my sister, Lindsey. My day wouldn’t be the same without our Gchat convos. PLUS she just got hired by a landscape architect in D.C. and she’ll finally have a job doing exactly what she wants to be doing! I’m so excited for her–for real.
  • a workplace with a lax dress code. Because dress pants on a rainy day just don’t work out as well as jeans and boots do.
  • my sweater drawer. I will be thankful for this drawer for approximately the next 5 months.
  • the fact that I survived Bikram yoga last week!!! I’m obsessing over this new workout and love the way I feel after sweating for 90 minutes in a room with a ton of other sweaty people trying to contort their bodies into odd shapes. There really is nothing like it.
  • my puppy. She may be a rascal sometimes (admittedly, she’s not really a puppy anymore), but she always goes crazy when I come home after work.
  • an active family. I’m running the Drumstick Dash in Indy this weekend with my mom and brother. How awesome is that?
  • hot apple cider. ’nuff said (even better when it transforms into a hot toddy)
  • the ability to feed myself good food. I look forward to cooking good dinners every weekday. Good food, good beer, and good company is all I need.

The little things have become the big things.

-J

 

Creating Change

I found this post on Cup of Jo’s blog this weekend and I can’t stop thinking about it. Despite the fact that this entire past year has been nothing BUT change, I still feel like there’s always room for more. I’m looking for my own kind. And this video just got me super excited to find it:

Enjoy!

-J