Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Running Away

I am not one to condone running from your problems, but sometimes we all need a good run.

I wrote this to a friend earlier, and the thought has really stuck with me.  Sometimes all we need is a good run. 

Lately, I have been extremely stressed.  I've been waiting on some news (hopefully good) and balancing budgets and training dogs.  I've been focusing on time management and on weight management.  I've been trying to work hard while still giving myself time to relax.  I've been busy.  Last week, I took a few days off from training.  Monday was planned because I'd worked out the previous 7 days.  Tuesday was cancelled because we ended up staying up later than planned on Monday, so we needed extra sleep.  Wednesday was cancelled so I could bathe dogs instead (at least I was being productive).  By Wednesday afternoon, though, I felt the effects.

Wednesday was not the most fun of days.  In waiting for the news, I felt as though I could not leave the computer.  I barely got anything done, and every movement was painful.  I felt stiff, sore, tired, and depressed.  I wanted to eat everything and anything in sight (luckily I controlled this urge).  I'd felt this coming on, but Wednesday was really bad.  All I really wanted to do was cry.  I also wanted to go to bed and sleep, but I was too fidgety to seriously contemplate that.

As I was driving to pick Hans up from work, I couldn't stop tapping my fingers or shaking my legs.  My mind was going a mile per second and I couldn't seem to harness my thoughts or stay on track.  My stomach was in knots and my chest was tightening.  Something needed to change, but I couldn't figure out what.  And then it hit me.

I needed to go for a run.

It was too late to go for a run by the time we got home, so I made sure to set my alarm for early Thursday morning.  The goal: Run 3 miles.  It wasn't far, but I knew I just had to get out there, and a quick run would do it.

I set out early Thursday, and I felt sluggish yet anxious during my warm-up.  My body was still waking up, but my mind was screaming, "I want to run!"  As I started my jog, I was excited, but all I could feel physically was the tension throughout my body.  My legs were tight, my arms were tight, and my chest was extremely tight.  I focused on my breathing.  Breathe in, left, right, left, right, left, breathe out.  Breathe in, left, right, left, right, left, breathe out.  Breathe in, hold it, breathe out.  Breathe in slowly, fill up your lungs, drop your diaphragm, take in more air, hold it, breathe out.  Clear your mind and focus on the breath.

As I did this, I felt myself begin to relax.  I started to allow other sounds to register.  Step.  Hear Cody's collar jingle.  Step. Hear his panting.  Step.  Hear my breath.  Step. Breathe. 

All this happened within 1 kilometer, a measly 0.64 miles.  Around the 2 kilometer mark, things really changed.  All of a sudden my chest opened up.  My arms relaxed, and I felt myself begin to smile.  I wanted to run more.  I did a quick check of Cody to make sure he was up for more, and then I continued on. 

I hit my half way marker, but instead of turning back I rounded the corner and continued down the block.  I passed multiple opportunities to turn back, but I continued on.  I ran to the next light and decided that would probably be enough, so I made the turn to head back home.  Three quarters of the way home, though, I knew I wanted more, so I turned off my route.  I added a few more blocks.

By the time I reached my usual ending spot, I was done.  I had run 4.03 miles, I was ready for my cool down, I was relaxed, and I was happy.  I walked and I allowed my breathing to return to normal.  I allowed the sweat to begin to evaporate.  I allowed my heartbeat to slow.  I allowed myself to smile and enjoy how relaxed I was.

When I started writing this post, I was merely going to talk about how great running (or any workout for that matter) can be when it comes to dealing with stress.  I was going to talk about how exhausting your body physically can help you mentally.  I was even going to mention how it can help your dog too.  While writing this post, though, I realized just how meditative running can be.  I realized how focusing on the breath is such an important part of any meditation, and how it's both the first and last thing one will do in yoga.  I realized that by allowing my mind to clear I was able to temporarily forget all my troubles and just live in the moment.

If someone were to ask me why I run the answer may vary.  You may hear, "Because I really love dessert." or "Because it makes my a** look great."  or even, "I need to wear out Cody somehow."  While all those responses definitely have some truth in them, none of them are the full reason why I run.  I run because I feel good when I do it.  I'm happy when I run.  I could be in pain, sweating buckets, and thirsty, but I am happy.  Not only that, I am happy after my run.  I am happy the whole day after my run.  I am happy when I see others running down the street, and when I go to the gym.  I am happy as I lace up my sneakers and strap on my heart monitor.  I run because it makes me happy.

And so, when I am stressed or sad or tired, the first thing I want to do is run away.  The run is just what I need.

Monday, May 14, 2012

What Could Go Right

Four years ago, I was a bit lost.  I was two years out of college, with a degree in music studies, and I had no clue what I really wanted to do.  I thought about all the things I enjoyed doing most, and all the things I had any knowledge about, and I tried to picture me in a position where I could use those things.

I looked into (a bought a few materials for) teaching voice.  I knew I didn't really want to focus on anything too serious there, but I had a friend who owned a dance studio and wanted to offer some voice options, and I thought that might be good for me.  Of course, this was at the beginning of the recession, and people who were going to seek out a voice teacher were looking for something more than someone at a dance studio.  Also, I really was 100% sure that's what I wanted to do, so I never really pushed the issue.

I looked into becoming a history teacher.  I take issue with most public schools, though, so I knew I'd really want to work in the private sector.  This requires a bit more education than just a degree in history or education (think masters or Ph.D), and I even took the time to investigate what I would need to do prior to continuing my education.  Of course, since my degree was in music and not history, and I'd be attending a different school, I'd essentially have had to return to school for another 4 years just for a second Bachelor's, and then continue on.  I didn't necessarily mind the work, but I couldn't afford the cost.

I was really struggling.  I felt like I had no purpose.  One of the few things that made me feel better was taking Cody out for walks or to the dog park or to some other fun place.  He needed me.  He needed me to brush him and bathe him and feed him and give him exercise.  He gave me some sort of purpose, but I felt like there was more.

Then one day, my mom announced that she was going to dog training school.  It sounded like a lot of fun to her, and she wanted to see what it was all about.  This set my wheels turning.  I LOVED dogs.  I loved spending time with Cody.  I loved hanging out with dog people.  I loved watching dogs play.  I just couldn't get enough of them.  Suddenly I thought, "Maybe I should go to dog training school too!"  And that's when I was struck with paralyzing fear.

I had already spent four years studying a subject that I'd originally loved.  Music was my passion, and in four short years my passion had died in a fiery mess leaving me with destroyed confidence levels and quite a bit of self-loathing.  I'd say it had left me with pile of sheet music too, but in a fit of rage after graduation I promptly destroyed most of that (a fact I still very much regret to this day).  After spending so much time on a subject I once loved just to have that love destroyed, could I really go on to study dogs?  Dogs was the only other subject that I loved as much as music.  My time with dogs was the only other thing that I used as a coping mechanism when I was feeling down.

 If I studied them, would I hate that too?  Would my love for them be destroyed too?  Would I be left the empty shell of a person with no purpose, no passion, and no love?  If all that happened, what would become of me?  I couldn't risk it.  I couldn't risk losing the one thing I still had left to love.  The one thing that belonged to me and only me.  Even though Mom had invited me to join her at school, I just couldn't do it (another fact I regret).  I made lots of excuses, and they were all valid, but the real reason was just that I was too scared.

Still, though, I couldn't get the idea out of my head.  I kept thinking about it and thinking about it.  I looked at websites and asked Mom about her school.  Mom, in her infinite Mom-wisdom asked me to come visit her for a fun, weekend trip.  I agreed to and we made plans for a few months in the future.  And I kept thinking about going to dog training school.  Finally I started to talk to people about it.  I confided in Hans first.  He's patient and understanding, and I knew he'd give an appropriate response.  In his infinite Buddha-like wisdom he made it very clear that he could not make that decision for me, but he'd support me in whatever I did.  He also made it clear that it wasn't necessarily a bad idea.

Next I confided in my closest friends.  Like sisters to me, they cheered me on.  "Do what you love!" they said.  "We love you!"  God, I love those women!

Next I confided in a close friend of mine at the time, Adam.  I couldn't even bring myself to say the words out loud, and he and I often communicated via chat anyway, so that's how I told him of my thoughts.  I told him how scared I was, and he was pretty straight forward.  What he said will stick with me always.  Essentially, he said, "I don't see what there is to be scared of.  You know life right now sucks.  You are afraid of doing this because it might not work out, but what if it does work out?  That could be amazing."  I was mad at him at the time for not understanding my fears, but I quickly became eternally grateful.  He called me out on my bullshit, and told me to "put on my big girl panties and deal with it." (That is a direct quote).

Lastly, I decided to mention, just in passing, my ideas to my dad.  I love my dad, but he often has some very set views on the world.  When I told him I was going to college to study music, he tried to convince me to study engineering.  If he thought it was a bad idea, it wouldn't necessarily mean that it was, but it would make going forward much more difficult.  To my surprise, when I mentioned this little idea to him, he said he thought that was a great idea, and that I'd probably be really good at that.  Well, that about did it.  I was ready to go to dog training school.

A visit to mom, followed by a visit to a school closer to home solidified the decision.  I was going to embark on a new adventure.

Now, I have been running my own business for 3 years.  I am not going to lie.  It is HARD.  It requires a lot of time, a lot of effort, and very little sleep.  It requires a lot of patience that I do not have.  It requires organization and a lot of hard work.  But the payoffs, the payoffs are great.  Some people might not enjoy it as much as I do, some may even hate it, but for me it is perfect.  Waking in a bed next to my hubby, snuggled by three dogs and two cats (now you know why we have King) makes it all worth while.  Training a dog so he can find his perfect forever home makes it all worth while.  Helping a family cope with their new puppy so they don't rehome her makes it all worth while.  Being recognized as I pick up my race bib for my first 10k as "that lady who runs with her dogs all the time" makes it all worth while (and kind of awesome).

There are some major things in the works right now, and I hope to be able to share them with you soon, but in the mean time I want to do two things.  First, I want to thank everyone who helped me come to this decision.  Everyone who helped support me.  Everyone who loved me even if they didn't agree with my decision.  Everyone who helped my business grow.  Thank you!  Second, I want to share with anyone and everyone who may be feeling the same way that the fear you're feeling is normal, but it's also pointless.  Not changing anything will never make anything better.  Sometimes you have to do something huge to turn your life around.  Just get out there and do it!  Once you do, you'll wonder what you were afraid of in the first place.
Good luck!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Second 10k

Sunday, I ran my second official 10k.  I signed up for it not long after the Monument Ave 10k simply because I was losing my motivation to run, and I didn't want to just quit.  It seemed to help.  While I didn't necessarily have the motivation to work on speed, and I wasn't really trying to beat a certain time, I did have the motivation to at least get out there and run, and that was good.  Most of my runs were longer and more relaxed, and that was even better.

Since the Monument Ave 10k, I've actually run 2-3 non-official 10ks and a few 7-8ks, so I wasn't expecting this 10k to be too hard.  HA!  This course had a few more hills than what I usually run, so to say things were easy would be a long shot.  Still, though, it wasn't too bad.

My official time was 1:05:34.56, about a minute slower than the Monument Ave 10k.  Considering the course and the fact I didn't train as hard, I'm OK with this.  I also learned that my second 5k of the race (the second half) was about 2 minutes faster than my first 5k.  Part of this may be that I saved more time on the down hills, but I also feel that I pushed myself harder on the second 5k.  During the first half, I was trying to conserve energy so I didn't peter out, but during the second half I gave it all I had.  There was also one runner who, whether she knew it or not, helped me keep pace.  I think she was trying to beat me, and I was trying to beat her.  I pushed myself much harder because of her.  In the end, just when I thought I had her beat, she flew past me.  I was disappointed, but I was also really proud of her.  If I'd had any air with which to speak, I would have thanked her for pushing me harder.  After looking at the results from my Garmin, I saw that my pace during my last kilometer was a minute faster than during the rest of the race.  Of course, this also tells me I'm capable of much more than I think I am.

All in all, I had a great run.  The best part was seeing Cody and Hans waiting for me at the finish.  I could tell Cody was searching all the runners looking for me, and when he saw me that tail of his wagged and wagged and wagged.  Once I got to him I got lots of kisses.  I think he needs to be part of my cheering squad in every race!

There are a few other races I want to sign up for, but I think I'm going to hold off.  Marathon training starts on June 2nd (less than a month away!), and I don't want to over-commit to anything!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Credit Cards Killed The Street Musician

I was taking a lovely stroll today on my way to pick up my race packet for a 10k I'm in on Sunday (oh yeah, I'm registered for another 10k), and I happened to pass by a street musician playing the accordion.  It is not uncommon to pass by many a musicians in this part of town.  Generally, however, they are mediocre violinists or sometimes a drummer, so an accordionist is fairly rare, and he attracted my attention.  I don't know much about the accordion, so I can't say how good or bad he was, but the accordion isn't much of a popular instrument anyway, so it made me happy.  In fact, it made me happy enough that, after I'd picked up my race packet, I decided to search my purse to see if I had any spare change.  I did, in fact, and so I dropped some in his bucket.  He thanked me, and I went on my way.

This got me to thinking, though.  Credit cards killed the street musician.  Even I remember a day (it wasn't that long ago) where street musicians were much more common.  I was wondering what happened to them, when I had an epiphany.  No one carries cash anymore, so no one gives these musicians any money.  Without the money, it is not always worth it for the musicians to play.  Of course, one could make the argument that the musicians are playing simply for the love of playing.  Some may even be college students using this time to practice in front of an audience.  Still, though, I think there would be many more if they made just a little more money.

This accordion player I saw was sitting in his spot for at least an hour.  When I gave him money, he had a grand total of maybe seven dollars (that's being generous).  He may have taken some money out and hidden it, but since I didn't see many people giving money, I doubt that was the case.  I wonder how many people liked his music.  I wonder how many people liked it enough to donate.  I wonder how many people liked it enough to donate AND had spare cash.  I was surprised that I had some, and if I hadn't he would not have gotten any money from me.  (It would be extremely rare for someone to like his music enough to go find cash somewhere.)  I wonder how much more money he would have had in his bin if fewer people carried credit cards and more people carried cash.

I suppose that someday street musicians will have to accept Square.  Until that day, I may have to make a point to carry some cash when I go through that part of town.

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things: Running Edition

1) That feeling as I hit my stride and each step is no longer an effort.

2) The smell of honeysuckle.

3) The smell of the barbeque restaurant as they prepare for the day.

4) The sound of Cody's collar and tags jingling next to me.

5) The sight of the flowers blooming in the city.

6) Learning new roads by foot.

7) Seeing sights I'd generally miss by car.

8) Returning to my route by car and remembering my run and how good it felt.

9) The soothing effects of a hot shower (I wish I owned a hot tub).

10) Watching Cody sleep after a long run.  He's so tired!

11) Surprising myself by running farther than planned.

12) Knowing I can run a 5k and not worrying about having to walk.

13) A cool, cloudy day that makes for a great run.

14) Running in the pouring rain.

15) Drying off after getting soaked from running in the rain.

In case you can't tell, I've really been enjoying running.  My past few runs have been hard but very, very satisfying.  Why didn't I do this sooner?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Thursday was a busy day.  I knew it would be busy, but I also knew it would be worth it.  It would be worth it because Friday we were planning to go to the beach.

I knew I needed the vacation.  I was tired and worn down.  I felt like I couldn't catch my breath.  I was unbelievably tired, and I kind of felt like I was going to cry at any moment.  I needed a moment to just relax.  On Friday, Hans and I along with our neighbors and our friend, Shannon, loaded up our cars and headed down.  Things are busy around here, so I had planned on getting some work done.  I had visions of me leisurely sending emails from my laptop, of reading on the back deck, of going for long runs and bike rides, of getting in some great ab and upper-body workouts on the beach, and of relaxing with some yoga. 

Within thirty minutes of leaving, though, something happened.  I actually took a breath.  I took one deep breath, and I knew that nothing was going to get done this weekend.  I didn't want to cook or work out or send emails.  I did kind of want to do yoga, but I'm not very proficient at yoga, and I didn't want to have to follow a DVD or magazine.  I took this long list of things that I had planned, and I threw things out like they were trash.  I didn't want to look at a computer...Trash!  I did want to go for a run...Save!  I didn't want to worry about my abs...Trash!  I did want to finish a book...Save!  After all this, I found that I was actually able to breathe.

For the first time in a while, I felt like some of the pressure had been lifted.  I found myself laughing a lot.  I felt well-rested, and yet I still found myself dozing off in the middle of the afternoon...just because I could.  There were a lot of emotions that came with this trip too (for reasons I can't quite explain), and I need to take some time to process it all, but this trip was perfect.  It was perfect weather, perfect food, perfect company, and perfect timing.

I'm back home now, and I know that things will get busy again.  I know that work will be hectic and overwhelming at times.  I know that sleep will not always come so easily.  I know that not everything can always be that perfect.  However, I also know that trip was like a breath of fresh air for the soul.  I feel renewed and refreshed.  I feel like I can breathe.