Running Backwards — Part II

Welcome back to the world of the running!

I’m determined to stop having to start over every time I lace up my running shoes. So — just as any normal, sane, non-over analytical person would do — I’m looking back on my relationship with running to find out where we (me and running) got off track.

Disclaimer: This series of posts isn’t intended for any purpose other than to keep me from giving up, yet again. Because this serves as proof that through my running ups and downs, I am much less cranky when lace up on a regular basis.

Wondering what you’ve missed so far? Catch up on “Part I”!

I’m not sure what the bigger draw was for me — the actual running, or the fact that I COULD run and I WANTED to run. Almost more than I wanted to surf.

So as soon as I could comfortably knock out 5+ miles on the treadmill, I decided I was going to run outside. In public. On the boardwalk.

Half a mile later, I was toast.

Up until this point, all of my running had been done within the safety of the walls of my gym, on a softly humming contraption of plastic, rubber, and a digital display.

But I thought I was past the hard point. I was comfortably running 18+ miles each week at the gym. How could half a mile outside be so miserable?!

I didn’t get it.

My first summer of surfing

But what I did get was the joy and relief I felt at being in the water. After so many months of working my way back into running shape, I would be damned if I was going to have to start over just to run outside. Forget it. Instead I’d focus on my swimming, minimal surfing ability, heavy drinking talent, and soaking up every second of beach time as I could.

Circa 2007: Looks fun, right?!

Here we go again…

So I stopped running. For the first time.

It would take a few pounds and a fantastic gym buddy to get me to reconsider my abandonment of running.

But I did come around. Eventually.

And I started in a familiar spot. On a lone treadmill before heading into my kickboxing class.

Before long, I remembered how much I loved the soft hum of the treadmill and the rhythmic landing of my feet on the belt. I was coming back to life.

But no matter what my level of success was in the gym, the outdoor run still taunted me. So I avoided it at all costs. I didn’t want to lose my momentum again.

Gradually I completed my move from the city to the beach — with a brief stint in Brooklyn. Once living on the beach full-time, I realized maybe I could have it all. Surf whenever I wanted — or at least whenever I had the inclination to shove myself into a wetsuit. Swim whenever I wanted to get wet when there were no waves, and without having to haul my board down to the beach. Or run — or walk — whenever I wasn’t in the mood for either of the other options. But I had no treadmill to fall back on this time. I was on my own.

My new running path — who wouldn’t love this?!

And as could be expected, I lost my running mojo again. I would dabble in a run here and there. Mostly to beat away some random life annoyance. But it was nothing that would stick.

I’m not going to get my running legs back by sitting on the couch. Want to see where I’m at in my comeback? It’s all there on Dailymile.

Warning: it’s not pretty.

Running Backwards — Part I

Welcome back to the world of the running!

Let me make one thing clear — I’m not a runner by nature, instead by influence and peer pressure (I’m looking at you Sara, Chanthana, Des, Heather, Shannon, Kate, Kevin, Sean, etc.). That being said, one of the best feelings I’ve ever known is stepping outside my door and taking off for a 3, 5, or even 8 mile run without any other thought, or care, in the world.

So why did I ever stop running? This is the question I’ve asked myself nonstop the last few months. And to get back to where I once was — and eventually move forward — I decided to take a look back at how I fell into running. Maybe then I can pinpoint where it — or I — fell apart.

And someday — when I get frustrated and miss a run or two — these posts will be here to remind me of exactly how far I’ve come and why I don’t really want to throw in the towel. Again.

Taking a look back…

Despite being on my high school’s track team — getting me to run any farther than 1 – 2 miles took the help of a higher power. Namely that of my throwing coach, Mr. Marchewka (aka “Chewk”) — who I swear stood 8 feet tall and at least 4 feet wide. Not the kind of guy you’d think to argue with — although that didn’t really stop me when it came time for our weekly team conditioning run. I’d rather spend my time running sprints, practicing jumps, working on my throws, in the weight room, even trying to nail down my hurdling — ANYTHING but a long run.

Loved my school — hated the workouts.
Photo: Crystal Lake-Cary Patch

And everything over 1 mile was something I considered a long run in those days.

Not surprisingly, my track days weren’t in my top 10 list of things I’d miss after I graduated. Heading off to a brand new fitness center at DePaul meant I could do whatever, whenever. Learn to play racquetball? Done. Start practicing yoga? Check. Kickboxing? Loved it. Club volleyball? But of course. Anything but lacing up my running shoes.

Fast forward a few years and a move to New York after my college graduation and I slowly got myself settled into a good routine — yoga, kickboxing, spin class, dance, circuit training. Nothing crazy — just consistent. But notice the one thing that doesn’t appear on that list? You got it. Running. I still wasn’t ready to go there.

And then one day it happened. See — the one thing I wanted more than anything was to surf. I’d been dreaming about surfing since I was a little girl growing up in the middle of a cornfield, as far removed from the ocean as you can be but with enough knowledge that it existed — somewhere — to make me want it. Bad. And here I was — finally, living on the coast with the ocean just a subway ride away.

All I ever wanted — at last.

And somehow — it was in my pursuit of living out my surfing dreams that I found my way back to running.

See — I had decided to restructure my regular training in order to best prepare for my upcoming summer on the beach and in the water. The biggest concern I had was my core. I even hired a personal trainer to get me through to Memorial Day weekend.

During our first session, my trainer asked me if there was anything I absolutely would not do. My response — “running”. No way, no how. She said okay and made a quick note on my evaluation forms.

But yet — just 3 short weeks later — I found myself on a treadmill going faster than 4 mph. Somehow, I had 15 minutes to warmup before my training session. There was more than one elliptical machine available, a couple of stairclimbers, as well as one or two stationary bikes open. But none of those seemed appealing. Instead, I walked over to the closest treadmill and started walking. A couple of minutes later, I decided I didn’t want to just walk and I turned up the speed. Just a light jog at first. And before I knew it, I was running full-out for at least 3 – 4 minutes before I noticed my trainer had arrived and was standing next to me. Laughing. I slowed myself down, stepped off the treadmill, and simply said “I don’t want to talk about it.” as we walked over to the mats.

A week later she asked me what changed, and I said I didn’t really know. I was bored and decided to give it a shot. And I enjoyed it.

Before long, I was heading out of work as fast as possible to snag a treadmill at the gym. And if I couldn’t, I’d rush home to claim one of the sad, outdated machines in my building’s “fitness center”. Anything to get my run in. Every mile I ran and every second I knocked off my any previous run made me feel just a little bit more alive.

And that was the start of my return to running. My first return to running, anyway.

Ready to run!

Coming “Clean” — But Why?

The spring cleaning bug has me rolling on all cylinders. It started with organizing my desk, then my bookshelves, and then the pantry, and then dusting off my workout gear. My weights, yoga mat, Bosu ball, boxing gloves. I’m truly ashamed to admit how dusty they have all become over time. It’s more than enough to make it clear that something needs to change — my habits and my mindset. And if I want these changes to stick over the long-term, I need to really define the “Why?” behind making the changes.

When it comes to my health and fitness — defining a “Why?” should be easy. Right?

Wrong.

Is it about looks or all of the clothes that are now too small? Maybe. But I’ve been down that road before, and a smaller jean size doesn’t buy happiness outright. There is more to it than that.

Is it because I’m staring down the barrel of my 30th birthday? Maybe. But what will happen after the big birthday comes and goes? I don’t want to be facing 4-0 in the same place.

Is it because I feel like I’m stuck on pause while my friends and family are busy with weddings, babies, buying homes, making their last school loan payment while I’m just adding to mine? Maybe. But none of that is really about me. I’m really am happy for their successes and joys and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The one thing I keep coming back to is that I miss my old life — the running, the surfing (ok — maybe that was more paddling and wiping out than surfing but still…), the yoga, the spinning, the hiking, the Wednesday nights playing beach volleyball by sunset. Part of me wants to resent my move to Boston because it forced me to give up my access to most of those things. But the truth is — if I really want to, there’s a way to do all of it here. It’s just going to take a little more work than it used to.

I may never get over the peace of being able to walk 20 steps out my front door and being able to run along the ocean for as many miles as my legs would carry me. And I’ll never forget those few months I could roll over in bed and watch the waves break, while I tried to drag my butt downstairs and into a wetsuit.

But there is nothing stopping me from making the short 10-minute walk down to the beachfront running path here. And there is nothing stopping me from teaming up with friends here that already surf to make the trek to the shore. And there is nothing stopping me from getting up 30 minutes earlier each morning to make some time for yoga. And there is certainly nothing stopping me from treating my stomach like a glorified garbage dump.

I know it’s completely unreasonable to expect perfection right out of the gate, but each new day is an opportunity to practice living as clean and healthy as possible. And you know that saying, “practice makes perfect”? One day at a time, I will work to make the changes that I need in order to get the results I want to see. And while I may never be 100% “perfect”, I’ll be damned if I’m not giving it one helluva try.

What is the first step you take when you need to “clean” things up a bit?

And They Called It “Puppy Love”…

Where are my manners?

If you keep up with me on Twitter you may have noticed some references to some new dude in my life, named “Payton”, starting back in December.

Everybody, I’d like to introduce you to the newest member of my household — Payton!

Let's all take a moment and say "Awwww!"

Our story actually goes back to last summer when my aunt kept going on and on about this dog, “Will”, at Animal House Shelter that she was desperately trying to get adopted. And of all the dogs she had mentioned to me, there was just something different about this one. One look at his pictures online and I was hooked.

I went back to Illinois to visit my family for a couple of weeks around my birthday and decided I wanted to go put in some volunteer time at the shelter — and finally get to meet this mutt that had already won me over.

We met. And I was hooked.

Smitten!

The only problem was that I live 1100 miles away and, thanks to some construction on my apartment, I was temporarily homeless and would be crashing with some friends for a while. Oh, and I wasn’t even sure if my landlord would give me the “okay” to ever have a dog. Minor detail.

So as much as I was already smitten, I had also accepted the reality that, by the time I got my stuff together, he would be long adopted. I was sure of it.

Three months passed, and suprisingly, “Will” had not yet found his “forever home”. My aunt had kept me posted, with regular updates and stories of him from each of her visits (she spent time with him every time she was there as a volunteer), and she was getting increasingly concerned that he hadn’t yet found his home. So, as I was getting ready to make another trip back to Illinois for the holidays, I started to give some more thought to the idea of bringing him home with me. The construction was at least finished in my apartment (the rest of the house was another story) and my landlord was usually pretty accommodating to my very rare requests, so I went ahead and asked. And he was all for it!

My flight to Chicago landed at 8:30 am and I was at the shelter with “Will” by 2 pm the same day. It quickly became clear what my priorities would be this trip. By the end of that first visit — 4 hours later — he was happily curled up on my feet and as calm as could be — so calm, in fact, that one of the staff members was slightly worried that he may be sick.

I didn’t take him home immediately. I had another 13 days in my trip and I was trying to organize the logistics of this decision in my head:

  • How am I getting him home to Boston?
  • Where will I be able to stay with him in tow the rest of my trip?
  • What can I adjust in my budget to cover his expenses?
  • Will he be able to adjust to Boston?
  • And lastly — What if they don’t approve my application? (That was possibly the dumbest fear I had — not only did I have my aunt as a reference and my landlord’s okay, I actually graduated from high school with one of the adoption counselors and I had his stamp of approval.)

So I quickly went to work — finding a rental car, canceling my return flight, mapping out the best route back east and tracking down a pet-friendly hotel along the way, shopping for all of the pet necessities (I couldn’t possibly bring him to Boston without a new Bruins rope toy…), and thinking about a new name.

That last one was actually the easiest. He’s a total sweetheart, ridiculously smart, and a great runner — very strong and kind of stealth. It seemed so obvious. Payton.

"I'll just lay here and cuddle for a while..."

Now please note — that’s PAyton. Not PEyton.

Just to prevent any confusion during football season...

"Seriously. How hard is that to remember?"

He’s named after one of the finest running backs Chicago — and football, in general — has ever known. Walter “Sweetness” Payton.

"That's right. This is MY house."

So on December 23, 2011 — the adoption became official. I went back to the shelter on Christmas day to pick him up — figuring it was best that I not expose him to the gaggle of nieces and nephews when he’s fresh out of the shelter.

"Go ahead cats, make my day..."

So we spent some time at my dad’s, made a quick visit to see my aunt, went to the vet and the groomer — and before I knew it, it was time to pack up the rental car and head back to the east coast!

Blue Steel, baby.

So stay tuned — you never know when Payton will make an appearance here!

"Puh-, puh-, puh-please put more pictures up, Mama..."

I Bake, You Bid!

… And together we help end cancer! Okay, okay — maybe that was a little cheesy, but it’s all for a great cause. My friend Amanda, over at Tales from a Kitchen Misfit, is training to run the Boston Marathon to benefit The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society with Team in Training.

You see, bloggers — especially food bloggers — tend to do things a little bit differently in general and this is no different. Amanda has decided that the best way to bring us together, satisfy some sweet tooths (teeth?), and raise some money all at the same time is by putting together a virtual bake sale featuring goodies from some of her (and my) favorite bloggers out there. And what a bake sale it is: Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cinnamon Apple Peanut Butter, Double Chocolate Velvet Cake, Fudgy Brownies with a Swirl, and my own — now award-winning (seriously!) — Pear Bread with Vanilla and Ginger.

So how this works is that you go check out the full list of treats up for grabs, pick your favorite (or favorites), and leave a comment with your bid. Bidding will end on January 28th, at which time Amanda will reach out to the winning bidder and the blogger/baker to coordinate delivery of the goods. Once the winning bidder has made their donation directly on Amanda’s fundraising page, the blogger/baker responsible will whip up a batch of the winning item(s) and send them on their way.

What are you waiting for?! Go get your bid on!

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