Rethinking Running

Time to be honest:  I’m starting to dislike running.  I want to like running, because I’m getting better at it, and I can do it anywhere, at pretty much any time (especially being a resident of southern California), but lately the thought of running hasn’t been exciting me.

I’m relatively new to running, having started at the end of August of last year, when my friend Tavi showed me some running basics, and off we went on my first-ever run.  I made it farther than I thought I would – 2 miles – and in the next two weeks, I went running 5 more times.  While running around my neighborhood, I began noticing how many strip clubs are nearby – there are six, within walking distance of my place (don’t you wish you lived in my neighborhood!), and that led to the creation of my running goal – to run past all six, in a continuous loop, without stopping.  The route is 6.4 miles, which is slightly more than a 10k.

It was around that time that I began charting my runs, so I could track my progress and see my improvement.  I’ll share the chart later in the post.  It was nice to see that as I kept running, I was able to run for longer amounts of time, and get faster, too – once, I was able to jog for 60 minutes straight, and went 5.1 miles!

I didn’t run at all in December – because I spent a majority of it in Michigan, where it was too cold to hit the streets, and only twice in January, which also had a 10-day trip back to Michigan, and I’ve been struggling to get back into the swing of things since then.  So far, my two runs in February have been awful: the first one simply felt terrible, and I ended up giving in early and walking home, and I nearly died on the second one (perhaps a slight exaggeration).

Because my two most recent runs were so dreadful, I wasn’t looking forward to this week’s run.  “Just do it, and get it over with,” I told myself, “you’ll hate it, but once it’s done you can go a whole week without running again.”  But I knew that I wouldn’t have what I would consider a successful run with that attitude, so yesterday I sat down (literally, on my couch), and figured out how I could rethink this whole running thing.  I’m not ready to throw in the towel altogether – mainly because I can’t bear to admit that I’d be giving up on my strip-club-based goal – but I really needed to shift my thinking.  I can’t hate running, or I’ll never reach my goal.  So I came up with a two-pronged plan of action to help adjust my attitude.  Here it is:

1) Change of Scenery. I hate to admit it, but my neighborhood is kinda ugly.  It’s full of strip clubs, as you already know, but there’s also lots of auto parts stores, boring brown cookie-cutter apartment buildings, and not much open space.  Sometimes I run at night, and many streets are poorly lit, or not at all, and sidewalks start and stop randomly, often mid-block, or are buckled and pitched and therefore unsafe (leading to my near-death last week).  But I can run anywhere, really, so it’s time to get in my car and start driving, even just a few miles, to explore new neighborhoods on foot.  I drive 30 minutes to get to Richard Simmons’ classes in Beverly Hills, so surely I can drive 10 minutes to run someplace new.

2) Take the Pressure Off. I’ve realized that I’ve been putting an incredible amount of pressure on myself to complete successful runs.  The pressure is a result of two thought patterns:  1) “This is my workout for today, and I like to exercise for at least 45 minutes, so I have to run at least that much or this workout is gonna suck.”  and 2) “I’m never gonna reach my goal unless I continue to improve.  I haven’t run 5 miles since November – I should run 5 miles today, at least, or I won’t get any closer to my goal.”  The undue pressure, I think, is weighing me down.  But how to alleviate it?  For starters, I’ve decided a run no longer has to constitute my entire workout for the day.  It’s that simple.  I’ll go running, and if I feel great and pound the pavement for a long time, than fantastic.  If not, then I’ll stop, and I’ll refuse to feel bad or consider the run a failure, and move on.  I can easily augment a not-so-lengthy run with additional cardio.  It’s not the end of the world.  As for the second thought pattern, I’ve decided to just not focus so much on the goal.  I’m going to put it on the back burner for now.  Instead, I’ll just focus on each run on its own, and see how I do.  The strip clubs aren’t going anywhere (I presume), so I’ll get to them when I get to them.

Time to put the plan in action.  On my to-do list yesterday was getting the oil changed in my car, and I know an oil-change place right next to the Chandler Bikeway in Burbank.  The Chandler Bikeway is a 2-mile long bike path that the city built along a former railroad route that opened about 5 years ago.  It’s very nice – there are three lanes: two for bikers (one in each direction), and one for pedestrians, and it’s well landscaped and maintained:

I dropped my car off at the oil change place, was told it’d be ready in about 30 minutes, and hit the bikeway.  I didn’t tell myself I had to run a certain distance or amount of time, I just starting playing my favorite songs on my iPod, and I ran.  And you know what, I felt great!  I didn’t push myself extraordinarily, I just tried to keep up a good pace.  I ended up running most of the length of the bikeway and back – a total of 2.9 miles, in 33 minutes.  My route (I went from B to A and back):

Time to update the chart:

  • 9/21/10: Distance: 3.1 miles.  Time: 41 minutes.  MPH: 4.53
  • 9/27/10: Distance: 3.3 miles.  Time: 45 minutes.  MPH: 4.4
  • 10/5/10: Distance: 3.2 miles.  Time: 40 minutes.  MPH: 4.8
  • 10/12/10: Distance: 3.8 miles.  Forgot to note time and MPH
  • 10/16/10: Distance: 2.9 miles.  Forgot to note time and MPH
  • 11/1/10: Distance: 3.1 miles.  Time: 36 minutes.  MPH: 5.16
  • 11/6/10: Distance: 5.1 miles. Time: 60 minutes.  MPH: 5.1
  • 11/14/10: Distance: 3.9 miles. Time: 45 minutes.  MPH: 5.2
  • 11/28/10: Distance: 4.2 miles. Time: 46 minutes.  MPH: 5.47
  • 1/4/11: Distance: 3.0 miles. Time: 34 minutes.  MPH: 5.3
  • 1/24/11: Distance: 4.4 miles.  Time: 45 minutes.  MPH: 5.86
  • 2/1/11: Distance: 1.9 miles.  Time: 20 minutes.  MPH: 5.7
  • 2/9/11: Distance: 3.5 miles.  Time: 38 minutes.  MPH: 5.52
  • 2/16/11: Distance: 2.9 miles.  Time: 33 minutes.  MPH: 5.28

It was my slowest run since the beginning of November, but with my new no-pressure attitude, I’m not going to dwell on such things.  After I picked up my car, I swung by my gym, about a mile up the road, and rode 27 minutes on a bike to augment my daily workout.  In total, I spent 60 minutes working out.  What’s even more exciting than that is that for the first time in a while, I’m looking forward to my next run!

Keep it up, David!

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20 Responses to Rethinking Running

  1. Karen says:

    You are the Superman of overcoming mental obstacles! You never cease to amaze me!

  2. Laurie says:

    You encourage me daily!!

  3. Darlene says:

    David, I’ve been following you for a while now. I just started my reinvention journey (I refuse to call it a diet) and literally just started in a gym this week. I decided to register in a bunch of 5k’s in the spring which gives me a goal to prepare for. That goal helps keep me motivated. Big picture goal is to do an actual marathon next year. Once the weather breaks here I plan to ditch the gym and get outside to walk. There is nothing like the fresh air to clear your mind and help you see things clearly. ps. I’m down 12 lbs since 1/1/11!

  4. Sara says:

    I really appreciate all of the work that you do on your thinking patterns. Those are what keep us fat, lazy, etc. Way to go!

    If you head a bit West from home, you can go running (in the cooler weather) at Balboa Park (Victory and Balboa +/-). Soon, the cherry blossom trees will be in full bloom and the park is a sight to behold.

    If you head a bit further east and south, you can go running on the dirt path that parallels the road running through Griffith Park. Take the 134 east to Victory, exit and turn right twice. Find a place to park the car and hit the trail. I think you can do the same if you turn right and then left. There are some good uphill hikes there, too.

    Variety is the spice of life.

  5. Ellen says:

    You also can’t put too much pressure to maintain your previous speed when you haven’t been running much. I had to take a good chunk of late December and early January off the gym because I had a horrible chest cold, and my 1-hour distances my first couple times back on the elliptical were atrocious. I was also at a much lower resistance rating than I was before I got sick, but my heart rate was just as high.

    You’ll build your strength back up, but that’s the thing about exercise – when you take some time off, you have to realize there’s going to be a little backsliding, and forgive yourself for it. You’ll bounce back.

  6. Maria says:

    I still want to invite you with our group Alpha Runners… we run every Saturday around Griffith Park. Rain or Shine! Hope you take me up on this offer… running with others is also a motivation! Either way, Keep it up David!

    • David says:

      Thank you for the invite! Yep, running with buddies is definitely a motivator. Saturdays are tough for me – I have a regular class that I take, but I’ll get back to you! -D

  7. Mom says:

    All great replies, especially the comment about your excellent thought processes and the comment that you are a superman of overcoming mental obstacles. Keep it up David!!!

  8. Tavi says:

    variety is the spice of life!

  9. ragemichelle says:

    Awesome. I’m so looking forward to starting again.

  10. Rebecca says:

    I’ve had similar feelings over the past 2 years, since starting my running journey, so I totally get it. I still have a love/hate relationship with running, and maybe always will. But, I can tell you, when I hit a goal I’ve set for myself, the love really takes over ;0). I wish you luck and lots of fun on your running adventure. (Also, it may help to pick a training schedule to stick to. Hal Higdon covers about any distance you want to accomplish, from 5k to marathon).

    Keep up the positive attitude, you rock!

  11. I jogged today (there’s no running in my world yet) longer than I have in as long as I can remember. I jogged a mile and a quarter and walked a mile and a quarter, and I felt like a rock star. 😉 Coupled with circuit training, I feel pretty great about my workouts lately. And I’m looking forward to my jog tomorrow too. =)

  12. nicolette atkins says:

    Running is fun. Did you know that Amy ran her first half-marathon the day after the Discover Beethoven 5 concert? Before I blew out my knee, I used to run 5 and 10K charity races at Griffith Park just about every weekend. A lot of fun and a lot of free t-shirts…well not really becos there was an entrance fee that went to the sponsoring charity. Best one ever was Chrysalis — a homeless shelter downtown that rehabilitates people and tries to introduce them back into society, get them jobs, etc. Some of the people in their program trained and were fitted out and they all ran the race with us. That was inspiring. Just a bunch of people putting one foot in front of another and trying the best we could to make it. I would also run the annual Turkey Trot 10K down in Dana Point on Thanksgiving Day. Now there’s a way to justify the pumpkin and pecan pie dessert. Keep it up David!

  13. Collin says:

    I think your new approach is great and you don’t have to love running. Your dedication to power through your frustration, however, shows that you’ve got the mental toughness to be a great runner. I usually don’t time myself or even track my distances too closely, I just go with how I feel and that makes my runs much more enjoyable. I’m running the Portland marathon in October, you should join for the full or the half! It’s great to have a race goal to work toward 🙂

  14. Joanne says:

    Have you heard of MapMyRun.com? It’s a great site and you can enter in your location and they will show you maps of runs of varying distances in your area. You can calculate your own runs and either make them public or private. They also have MapMyWalk.com and MapMyRide.com

  15. Bookbody says:

    I’m glad you seem to have found the joy of running again! The next time you find your motivation to run flagging (or to supplement your current attitude adjustment), I strongly recommend the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I’ll admit that it’s total Barefoot propaganda, but it also really inspired me to get back out there and run again.

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