Monday, May 25, 2015

On Running, Not Running, and Not Getting Greedy

I've never claimed to be an athlete. Not at all. I never passed the mile in gym class. Running was always hard and painful. Then I met Chris. It seemed to come easy to him--running, that is--and if you looked at him now, you'd think it was always that way. Chris loves to run. He truly, really loves it. But it hasn't always been easy. I watched him try to run through injuries, struggle with getting in shape, and pour himself in a run that did not feel good. I've seen him run races and really worry if he was going to pass out afterward.

Few people know the real work he puts in and struggles he has gone through to make it where he is today. Few people truly love running the way Chris does, I think. 

Throughout our relationship, I wanted to understand and share that love for running with him. He wanted a running partner and I wanted to be there for him. I can't tell you how many times I tried, and each time, I would fail again and again. A couple of times I made it up to running 30 minutes, but it always felt too hard.

Until this past fall. For some reason, I decided to try again. And I took it really slow. Having the Nike Plus app helped me to understand how far I had gone and my pace without guessing. I could see my improvement. And I was getting somewhere. Everything was going great. I had never ran more than three miles before, but I finished two 5k races, improved my speed, and even ran ten miles once. Ten miles. By myself! I enjoyed my runs as they added structure to my days that I had been missing since I worked from home.

Then our schedules grew more complicated in the spring. And it got cold in February--real cold. Record-breaking cold. I fell apart in February. I couldn't keep at it. I was so tired and could not drag myself out to run below 30 degrees. So I stopped. I went for a few runs in March, but I was disappointed by my pace. I'm the kind of person who has to run in the morning, and I hate taking two showers in a day. I decided to wait until summer to try again. I was disappointed with myself, but I knew I could get back at it when my schedule calmed down. And as of this week, I've gotten back into it.

Through this experience of taking off a couple of months of running, I have learned a few things about myself and about running in general.

Just because you take a break doesn't mean you have quit. That is up to you.
I felt like a failure for taking a break, but I realized that I decide whether it is a "break" or "quitting". A break is temporary. Quitting is an absolute end. You can decide if you want to get up and try again.

Sometimes a break is absolutely necessary to help you heal.
Before I took a break, my hip flexor would start hurting about 3/4 of a mile in. I just kept going. And going. And it would hurt my entire run. I should have stopped earlier. I needed a break to heal. Now it doesn't hurt at all. And when I ran those few times in March after my "break" in February, it didn't hurt either. So this time has given me a chance to heal up.

Don't get greedy with "too much too fast".
Along with the idea of taking a break to heal up, I need to remember to pace myself. I need to really ease into it. I'm not training for anything. I'm not trying to compete with anyone. I need to be patient with myself.

Less pressure can be a good thing.
Before, I used to post my time for each run. I worked hard to get better times. However, that pressure can sometimes not be a good thing. I think in general I might just post my distance and not worry about times so much unless I meet a big goal. Also, I used to plan to sign up for races to give myself a goal. However, as it turns out, I kind of have big freak outs at races, so I probably should just run for me. Maybe I'll try a race again, but I don't want races to be my main reason for running. When I race, I feel the crowd choking me and we're all running and I feel like I have to run faster than everyone or else I'm going to die. I'm not exaggerating--I feel like death is coming for me. Some zombie apocalypse phobia coming out or something.... Also, training for long races was also really putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on me. The longer the race, the more time you need to train. I would look at my plan and know I needed to go run for two hours, but I just didn't have time. So what did I do? Nothing. If I didn't have that pressure, maybe I could have gone for a four mile run. And that would have been a lot better than nothing at all.

This past week, I went for two runs. They felt good. I felt good. They weren't long. I didn't even check my watch for my pace the whole time. It's far from where I was, but I'm not pushing it. I don't have to. And I would rather keep my shins and ankles happy. There's time to add on more distance and speed. I'll get there again, and I'm actually probably incredibly lucky that I didn't hurt myself before by trying to run through an injury. It will be easier this time since I'm not starting from scratch--and this time I'm going to do it right by acknowledging from the beginning that it is a long journey. I should have recognized that earlier by watching Chris work so hard through all those runs. Running isn't necessarily a race.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Life Lately: Changes in Season

I was so relieved when spring finally came. Finally, a break from the cold wind. I need sunshine in my life in ways I never suspected before.

Our family has gone through a new dynamic this semester with me back in the residential classroom. I have worked from home throughout my time as a mom, and so has Chris (after Eliot turned six months old). It has been an incredible blessing. Chris and I could take turns watching the boys for each other to work, and the flexibility of Eliot being in preschool and then my mom watching them once or twice a week was amazing. I frequently took the boys on adventures by myself so Chris could work in the morning while he was "fresh". This semester, though, since I finished up my dissertation in the fall, I taught a few classes at a local community college. I wanted to expand my experiences some, and I truly enjoyed it, but I knew we would have to change our schedules.

Chris watched the boys through the morning and afternoon three days a week. Two days a week, they went to my mom's house. And then we tried to strike a balance on weekends. Chris had some special time with the boys and I kept up with both jobs, but it did make everything more fast-paced. When I came home from work, I was more tired and Jack was napping, so I'd just try to play with Eliot some. Chris did almost all of the grocery shopping, and the dinners I made were uninspired. These are all simple challenges that working mothers face, and while I have been a "working mom" as a parent, I was experiencing it all in a new way.

I have new respect for moms who work outside the home. It's not that I didn't respect them before, but now that I have been both a work-from-home mom and work-outside-the-home mom, I can see how hard it is to leave your toddler crying at the front door and then give it your all at work and come home feeling hungry but without an idea of what to cook for everyone (and feeling like it is asking too much to try to haul everyone to the grocery store).

So now that the community college semester is over and I am just teaching a few summer courses online, I am excited to get back to similar, old routines. I am feeling more free in my schedule. Eliot is in his last week of school and Jack is seeming like he "needs" to nap less. Over the past few days, I have taken the boys off by myself on adventures again (just the three of us) like I used to in order to give Chris time to work. We went for a walk at the arboretum. The next day, we went to eat lunch at Fazoli's (kind of like "fast food" Italian) followed by Italian ice and then we played in the pool. Then I took them to a splashground after Eliot got home from school.

We've had some fun adventures as a whole family too. We took Marlowe to the beach for the first time and we also went strawberry picking, our annual tradition.


Over the past couple of months, we have all been working very hard on the yard as well. It all starts with the constant clean up of pollen and the weeding and the trimming, but then eventually we get to the fun part: the planting. This year, we planted more bananas, canna lilies, elephant ears, flowers, and then some tropicals that will stay in pots. I love watching the elephant ears and bananas come back--it's my favorite time of year. The boys love working in the yard with us. Eliot has a blast picking out plants while Jack loves to run around. They're both eager to help us plant or dig holes or spread mulch or whatever needs doing. Last week, we worked to spread mulch to give it that clean look. And while we're always going to need to weed and clean up the yard, I think for the most part, we have all the planting done.
There's just something to being outside, something about all the green, that makes the days feel so much better. Maybe it's the sunshine. The boys play in the yard, dig in the sandbox, and swim in the pool while I sweep up or pull weeds and Chris plants more canna lilies. I love our little tropical garden backyard.

This time right now (somewhere inbetween spring and summer) is my favorite time of year.

Monday, May 18, 2015

One Year of Soccer

This past weekend, Eliot played his last spring soccer game. He played both the fall and spring seasons, making for a full year of soccer. He has come a long, long way even from last fall.

Eliot started taking lessons back when he was two (and a few months) with Lil' Kickers. There, they play games involving soccer skills, like red light-green light. I remember his first class, he didn't even want to stretch with everyone. He was so scared. Then he got TOO into it. He would run around and not listen to the coach. On his third birthday, I took him to a class and had to take him out early because he headbutted a girl. I will never, ever forget that for my entire life. Ughhhh! But, it is memories like that that make me realize that we are indeed making progress. After that class session ended, we took a little break until the fall.

As I've said before, Eliot would just cry on the field for his first fall soccer game. Then he grew in confidence and made a goal almost every game. He was still greatly distracted since he was just as happy to run around growling like a dinosaur or play airplane. He was three at the time.

This spring season, though, his concentration has really improved. He is so ready and "in it" for the game. He inches up just waiting for the play to start. Maybe he's just paying attention or maybe he is really fast, but he has done a surprisingly great job recovering the ball and taking it down the field. He's actually quite good, I think, for a four-year-old.

I'm not putting pressure on him to be anyone or do anything specifically. I just tell him to go follow the ball and have fun. I praise him for his hard work, not necessarily getting goals, and he really seems to be having a great time. I'm not trying to say he's Olympian. I'm not saying he was handed a scholarship today. I'm just saying that I'm proud of him for trying his best, giving it his all, and not just crying or growling at people. He's growing up.

Jack has been so eager to play soccer too, so I have him signed up to start Lil' Kickers class in a couple of weeks. It is a parent-child class, so he will get to interact with kids his age, play structured activities, and kick a soccer ball around. I'm excited to share in this journey with him too. As for Eliot, he will be taking summer Lil' Kickers classes too that focus on developing skills and applying those skills in scrimmages. I also signed him up for a week-long soccer "camp" in June--it's only an hour in the morning, though. He was even asking this morning when he was going to soccer.