From fun to FOMO to frustrated

Watching friends, old acquaintances, and perfect strangers do epic things on social media can be super fun. Woah, people do all kinds of crazy cool stuff! Trips and ultramarathons and insane workouts and grad school and babies and, and, and. It’s fun to watch— but there can be an insidious kind of creep from fun into FOMO into frustration. There will always be someone more accomplished, more intense, stronger, faster, than you are. Don’t let this belittle your accomplishments! And don’t let it stop you from trying, either. It’s like pendulum between these two poles— can you balance challenging yourself with honoring yourself? Being inspired to excel with being proud of what you’ve already accomplished?
My long run last weekend was 7 miles. Whether that’s crazy intense, or borderline lazy, depends on who you ask.  An ultramarathoner might say “that’s cute,” whereas a non-athlete might say “that’s insane”. I don’t think it’s lazy or insane. I think it’s a little bit of a stretch beyond “easy” and it felt great. You don’t need to feel bad about yourself because other people do more. There’s always more. More isn’t always better. Sometimes more is injury and bad moods and burnout.
Then again, I was proud of myself for biking the six miles to work a few times recently. But the other day, it was pretty cold and possibly going to snow, so I took the bus instead. Students and coworkers of mine biked, though. I could have, I realized. Am I afraid of being cold? Wet? Am I worried about being unsafe, or uncomfortable? Or am I just making excuses? I need to have actual conversations with myself to tease this out. Lucky for me, circumstance forced it— the train I was going to take on a sleety morning was running super late. My choices were to also be super late, or to bike. I biked. And I lived to tell the tale. It wasn’t even all that hard. The worst things that happened to me was that my fingers were kind of cold for half an hour. So, I needed that kick in the pants from mother nature. More was, in fact, better, at least that day.
I recently read (listened to, actually) David Goggins’ book Can’t Hurt Me. He’s famously spoken about the way our minds trick us into thinking we’ve met our body’s limits. I can’t do more, you think, when you’re at about 40% of your potential. This is super cool to think about. It’s inspiring. It helps to challenge that voice that says “I can’t”, when another voice says “I wish I could”. And there’s the key, I think: do you wish you could? Or do you feel like you should because someone else does?
IMG_3667

I ran this 8-miler with killer hills slower than a lot of other people did. I don’t care!

Books about running that aren’t about running

I’m not a fast runner. I’ll never win a major race, and I’m not particularly interested in going after a big marathon. I just like to run. Similarly, I’m  kind of a lousy reader— slow, prone to mixing up letters and words, easily distracted. Yet, I love to read, and I love to run. I also love to read about running. And I’m in luck: there is lots of great writing on the subject, from technical manuals to memoirs to novels to philosophy. While I love a good geek-out, it’s these latter categories that really grab me. Maybe because running can be so solitary and long miles give us time to think, writing on running is often perceptive and introspective. In fact, much of this writing is really more about living in the world than it is about putting on foot in front of the other. 


I certainly haven’t read every book about running (yet). But I find myself coming back to some favorites. The books I return to share a theme of running not just as a sport, but as a conduit for humanity. The first one that pulled me in was Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Fans of Murakami’s fiction will recognize his voice: keen observation, simple description, slightly magical air. He writes about the routines of running, the suffering, the odd sense of comfort, and how these mirror the writing life. Reading it was meditative for me. Another classic, Running & Being, from the so-called “philosopher king” of running George Sheehan, delighted me in a different way. The chapters are titled things like “Living”, “Discovering”, “Learning”, “Racing”, and “Meditating”. Sheehan, like Murakami, is preoccupied with the suffering of running. Is this the secret sauce? Suffering? I don’t know, but there’s something about it that compels runners and writers alike.

Continue reading

Active Commuting Adventures

Since my recent relocation to Portland, my commute has changed. A lot. Instead of a mile to campus for teaching, or driving to different neighborhoods in Tucson for the mobile clinic, now I’m heading from NE Portland to Marquam hill most days. It’s no fun to drive, and parking is a non-starter. And I hate spending a lot of time driving in the city anyway. The trip takes a while, either way, so I have to make my commuting time count for more than just transportation. Those two-ish hours every day count against the 24 I’m allotted, no matter how you slice it. Is it coming out of my exercise time? My professional reading time? My sleep?!? So I’ve been testing out my commute options! So far, I’ve been. . . Continue reading

It’s January. Are you running?

It’s January, and I just moved from Tucson to Portland, OR. Winter is peak running weather in Tucson— sunny in the daytime, and cool in the mornings and evenings. In Portland, it’s. . . dark. From 4:30 PM until 7:30 AM. And wet. I’ll treadmill it if necessary, but it sucks the joy from my life. So what’s a girl to do? Adapt. Here’s what I’ve tried so far:

  1. Gear. Since Ragnar last year, I haven’t had much use for my reflective vest  but now I do. I also needed a better headlamp. Now I’m visible, and I can see. Safety? Check. Add that to toasty tops and tights and something to keep my ears warm, and I’m feeling pretty good. I’m still figuring out which shoes are best for slick sidewalks (any advice??), but I’ve got muddy trails covered. 
  2. Adjust expectations. Yes, I can run in the dark. In the rain. I won’t melt. The rain is often kind of misty and drizzly— almost pleasant, in a way. Portlanders aren’t phased the way Tucsonans are— I used to joke that people stayed home if it looked a little cloudy. Here? Bring it on. People are out there. I also thought it would suck running before it’s light out, remembering pre-dawn runs of yore before early hospital shifts. But 6 AM is way better than 4:45, even if it’s dark. 
  3. Learn to love the mud. Pippi, Max and I ran on some Forrest Park trails last weekend and we had a blast— it was sloppy, but who cares? There’s a distinct joy in getting dirty. Own it.
  4. Back up plans and cross-training. Some days it’s too nasty. A gym membership was in order— so I got one. I can use the treadmill, sure, but maybe a functional training class (kettlebells! boxes! bodyweight!), a rowing workout, or some cycling, too. Cross-training has its own set of benefits that I’m starting to enjoy, like feeling stronger on hills.
when you gotta, you gotta.

What other tips to you have for me to help me run all winter long?

Running on a Hot Day: Why Bother?

There are lots of tips out there for how to surive running in the heat— basically, go early or late, hydrate appropriately, wear light clothing, run slower. But if you’re not training for a hot race (Badwater? what are you, nuts?), why bother?

Well, there are likely physiological benefits, so if you care about that sort of thing, or you’re looking for a performance goal, keep reading. Training in the heat can potentially improve VO2 max, blood plasma volume, sweat rate, and skeletal muscle force— and this translates into cooler conditions. Neat!

Continue reading

Kinesio taping: yea nor nay?

I’ve had a minor niggling calf pain for a week or so. Should I kinesio tape that sucker? Kinesio tape (also called KT tape, though technically that’s a brand name): it was a hot ticket at the olympics a few years ago (London, maybe?). I’ve used it before, for minor tweaks and sore spots. I see others at the gym doing it. Patients of mine ask about it. Professionals (hi PTs!) do it. Theoretically, kinesio taping is supposted to increase blood and lymph flow by lifting the skin— this isn’t the same as traditional athletic taping, which is meant to create stability. Because I’m a science person, I’m immediately skeptical of a claim without evidence, even if it seems generally sane.

So, let’s ask: Kinesio tape. Is it safe? Does it do anything? Should I cover myself in multi-colored tape before my next workout?

taped up and ready to run.

why yes, my KT tape does match my skoras, than you for noticing.

Continue reading