I’d Rather Run with Scissors…Or, Running with ‘dese D’s

It always feels awkward returning to the blog after an extended (in this case, EXTREMELY EXTENDED) hiatus. Launching into a post without acknowledging the gap seems odd, but explanations sound more like excuses and, in the end, who really cares?

I don’t know. Hello? Hello!  I’m back. I have 2 kids now and I haven’t run for over a year. Oops. The “oops” pertains to the fact that I haven’t run for a year. I intended to have two kiddos, so……well done, me. Procreation goal complete!

I would love to feel like a runner again. I would love to be in decent shape and be able to go out for a 6 or a 7 miler without breaking a (figurative) sweat. “Oh, I ran an easy 7 today,” I’d like to be able to say.

There’s one thing standing in my way right now…well…erm…make that TWO.

I’m not talking about the kids, although scheduling a workout around the demands of mommyhood and miscellaneous adulting is not easy. The problem, you see, is that I’ve opted to breastfeed our second born, and I’ve gone from size 34A (pre-baby) to 36D.

At age 33, I’ve got boobs.

I have little to no idea how to cope with that.

The obvious first step was to BUY A SPORT BRA THAT FITS, so at about 3 months postpartum I did just that. I went to Target and bought the typical stretchy (and cheap) sports bra that I’ve worn before…just in a size LARGE rather than SMALL. Done and done, I think to myself.

Then I went on my first run after having a baby and learned a very valuable lesson: sports bras for the curvy need to actually DO something. As a flat-chested runner, the sports bra is mostly about covering what should be covered. If it looked cute, that was an added bonus. As a nursing mama runner, I learned that the added weight and bounce must be compensated for…or I will pay the price with every step.

So, I texted a friend who’s always been naturally gifted in the chestral department. “Tried to run…OW! What kind of sport bra do I need?” She texted back some recommended brands and I learned another lesson: pretty much every bra manufacturer makes a variety of “support” options. Huh. Seems like I should’ve noticed that before, but I’d always just bought the cheapest option, which of course is the one with “light support.”

Armed with this newfound knowledge, I bought a far sturdier sports bra and tried again. This time, everything stayed in place but the entire contraption felt so confining. It was hard to breathe. Dang boobs! Why is this so difficult?

After that experience, I let myself push running to the side. Maybe I’ll pick it back up in another 6-8 months, when the baby is (possibly) weaning. It just seemed like it wasn’t worth the effort. I’d as soon run with scissors as run with boobs.

The desire to “be a runner again” isn’t easy to squash, however. And because I’d rather not be attempting to get in shape in the middle of a Kansas summer (adding another degree of difficulty and discomfort to the already less-than-ideal equation of 1 year without running + 2 boobs), I tried again.

The third time may really BE the charm.

Or I’m just getting used to these things.

Or I’m a little farther out from giving birth and I’ve recovered even more.

Or…who cares? I went for a 2-mile run, and it felt surprisingly decent. That’s good enough for me!

Now, flush with a runner’s high (or delirious from prolonged sleep deprivation), I thought I’d take a few minutes to share some tips with any other nursing mama runners out there:

Tip #1: Get the Ugly One
I’m used to buying sports bras based on pretty color or cool pattern. DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP. Seek out the ugly duckling of the sports bra world. You want something with thick shoulder straps and without too much elastic. If you can slingshot it across the store, it’s not for you. (Also, maybe don’t slingshot bras across a store. I think they frown on that.) It should feel sturdy and a little rigid. You need it to be strong enough to be up to the considerable task.

Tip #2: Try that puppy on.
It’s surprisingly tricky to get the right fit. Less elastic means more trouble finding just the right thing. You need something tight enough to provide that all-too-important support, but not so tight that it inhibits breathing.

Tip #3: Don’t forget the pads.
One of the only annoying things about breastfeeding is that you can’t turn the system off. It’s always there, ready to go. The bouncing, the movement, the warmth, or some combination thereof can unexpectedly activate letdown. I slip in some nursing pads as insurance against the wet t-shirt.

Tip #4: Pump (or Nurse) Before You Go
Make it easier on yourself by lightening your load before you go. It will make things more comfortable all the way around, decrease the risk of unexpected letdown, and if you’re like me and your baby refuses to take a bottle (augh!!!) it increases the chance that you can get a run in before a full on “I WANT MAMA/A SNACK” meltdown ensues. A win for everyone.

Tip #5: Splurge on a few workout tops.
I’ve been fighting this one because I hate to spend money on a temporary situation, but I’d recommend buying at least two comfy workout tops that accommodate your new bust size. If I had things that actually fit, I’d probably have a little more motivation to get out there and run. Since I’m being stubbornly cheap, every attempt to run involves fishing through a pile of shirts that just don’t fit and squeezing into a too-small something and then frowning at myself in the mirror at all the extra bulges. It’s an unnecessary blow to my self-confidence.

Those are my tips! What haven’t I thought of?

 

 

 

Advertisements

Operation Laziless

Well, it’s no lie that the post-marathon-attempt era has not exactly helped me live up to the name “megarunr.” More like “litlrunr,” or maybe more like “usedtarunr.” Neither of those things look like my given name and I already have a URL all picked out and associated with the blog, so that really only leaves me with one option.

Give up on the whole blogging thing? Hahahaha, no. I like to ramble waaaaaaay too much for that. Pack ALL of my running clothes when going to the gym? Well, that’s a start. But no, I was thinking more along the lines of a boost in motivation. A mental kick in the pants, if you will. Because I know that this isn’t a physical thing. Sure, my body craved a little rest following four months of increased mileage and running 6 days a week. So give it a week…maybe two. But five? That, my friends, is the result of accumulating laziness and becoming accustomed to sedentary evenings.

It is comforting to know that (as always) I’m not alone in my struggle. I think the “spring-to-summer” and “fall-to-winter” transitions are the toughest. Moving from middling to extreme temperatures is no fun at all, and it’s much more comfortable to stay inside than to go into the sauna and turn yourself into a sweaty, red-faced, exhausted mess. I know all of my running friends are coping with the same issues, and I know several are trapped in the disinclination spiral just like me. Isn’t it nice that we all go through the same things?

For me, a big problem is that I’m not training for anything specific. That’s never good. I have a semi-crazy plan that might change this, but I can’t say anything until I get it approved by Running Buddy. (She is, as always, central to the crazy plan…but this time I’ll give her a chance to say no before I blog about it!)

Another problem is that I’ve built up more days of “not running” than running. A routine has been established, and it’s gotten to where I’m proud of myself for any physical effort whatsoever. I’d like to raise the standard a bit and break out of this rut. So, next week I’m going to be exercising every single day. I don’t normally post my training goals on the blog…first because I imagine it’s probably boring, second because I think there’s a limit to the amount of accountability I can handle (I’m working on the Swamp Rabbit post! Honest!). In this instance, though, it might be a kick in the right direction. I know I’d definitely like to be a little less lazy…and maybe even get a little faster. We’ll see.

Operation Laziless:
SUNDAY ——– 2 miles
MONDAY —— XT (1 hr. spin class)
TUESDAY —— 5 miles  
WEDNESDAY – 6 miles (track practice)
THURSDAY —XT (shudder…30 min. aqua jogging)
FRIDAY ———- 3 miles
SATURDAY —– 4 miles

Catsup…Ketchup…CATCHup.

It feels like it’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted. Anyone who’s read this blog for any length of time can probably guess that a lull in blog posts equates to lull in running…and you’d guess correctly. Again. Unfortunately, said lull is coming at a most inconvenient time. First of all, have you stepped outside this morning, upper South Carolina residents? Holy cow! There was a decided nip in the air this morning to go with last week’s temporary drop in humidity. It is very nearly the time for perfect running weather. Secondly, I have two races coming up this month.

The first, the Furman Blue Shoes 5k, I’m not so concerned about. I mean, it’s going to take more than a lull for me to be unable to finish a 5k. Plus, it’s a cross country race. Tehe. (Insert giddy excitement here.) I love cross country! I’ll get to wear my spikes! It’s going to be so much fun!

The second, however, is the Spinx Runfest. A surely hilly half marathon in downtown Greenville. All my big talk about a half marathon PR is not consistent with a lull that makes me miss a long run. Drat and a  half.

So, what’s up with this lull? Mostly, I think it’s just that I’m coming off the initial I HAVE A TRAINING PLAN  high. I seem to have squandered my limited quantity of motivation on making it out of summer. I need a mental kick in the pants to get through the dreaded “middle” part of the training plan—that place where the mileage and the fatigue are high. I’ve also been distracted by other things, like work (balancing work life and real life is something I’m still working on) and trying to find gas for the car (Sidenote: It is refreshing to realize how dependent I am on something so trivial. It makes me think…and reevaluate…and such. From a practical perspective, however, it’s amazingly inconvenient.)

The other reason for the lull is that I had something a little scary happen during my run on Saturday and it’s made me nervous. I was about a mile into what was supposed to be a 5 mile easy run, and I was feeling great. Honestly. It was the first time in quite a long while that I actually felt GOOD while running. I felt strong and in shape. Then, I came up to a busy intersection and the stoplight was not in my favor. I slowed down and came to a stop to wait for it to change. Almost immediately after I stopped, I lost my vision. Everything went black. I did my best not to hyperventilate, and thankfully I kept my balance, but it was really scary. It was somewhat akin to that “getting up too fast” feeling, but how would stopping a run produce the same effect? Clearly, I’ve stopped running lots of times. That’s never happened before. Did I forget to breathe? Is that possible? I’m sure it’s nothing. I just had a regular checkup, and blood pressure, pulse, cholesterol, and all that were fine and dandy. But it’s got me spooked nonetheless. Fortunately, one of the perks of the buddy system is that there’s someone to go for help in the event of spontaneous blindness or loss of consciousness. RB and I will hit the squishy trail today and start rebuilding my confidence. Husband likes the idea of being my “support crew” for long runs by riding his bike along with me, so I won’t have to worry about being by myself for that this weekend, either. Which pretty much leaves me with no excuse not to run. Just what the doctor ordered. 🙂

And there you have it. A loaf of lull with a tiny bit of craziness sandwiched in the middle. My life, the balogna sandwich. 🙂

Lack of Running Buddy = Lack of Motivation

Okay, I have a confession. Megan has been out of town for a week and I have failed miserably in my training. I have been slacking on my crunches, I have been slacking on my push ups, and worst of all…I have been slacking on my running! Since she’s been gone, I’ve run a grand total of 3 (yes THREE) miles. Pathetic. And the only reason I have any miles at all is because she graciously motivated me all the way from Kansas with a phone call. So thanks for that Megan, but GET BACK HERE SOON! Your running buddy needs you!! 🙂

~Running Buddy

Dog Days of Summer

Don’t worry! I’m still here! Megan’s feeling under the weather this week so I thought I should pick up the slack and write about running! I’m still puttering around at 10-20 miles a week (okay, much closer to 10 than 20—but I’m hoping to pick up my mileage a bit next month). I thought today I would write an ode to my other running buddy!

On those days when Megan and I don’t run together I have a backup partner who is really good at keeping me motivated—my dog! His name is Jack and he’s a year and a half old Shepherd/Retriever mix. Jack is a great running buddy because he’s always willing to run and he’s always so enthusistic about it. As soon as the running shoes come out he starts barking and howling with excitement, I tell him to sit so I can put on his leash and he can’t even keep still for more than half a second—his tail is wagging like crazy and he keeps jumping up and sitting down anxious to go. By the time I finally manage to get his leash over his head he pulls me to the door and off we go!

I think the best thing about having a dog as a running buddy (besides the obvious guilt factor I feel if I DON’T take him for a run) is the fact that he doesn’t care what I look like or how fast we go. He never tells me to speed up or fix my form, he doesn’t judge me if we only run 1 mile instead of 2. (Sidenote: Megan would like me to add that she doesn’t judge me or critique my form, which is true, but she DOES have a tendency to adjust the pace.) In fact, he’s perfectly content with any distance that we run and any speed that we go. He knows the route and he jogs along next to me, pausing occasionally to sniff something interesting or wait for me to catch up. It did take awhile to train him to run my pace, but now he knows my speed and he adjusts to stay within a leash length of me.

My favorite part is when it’s hot outside and I’m exhausted and sweaty, I look over at him and his tongue is hanging out and he looks up at me and we have a mutual understanding—let’s run home now! I like to encourage him and tell him…good job! Keep it up! We’re almost there! Encouraging him has a way of encouraging me too! Together we’ll always make it home.

~Running Buddy

Just One More…or, The Games We Play

During my Saturday long run, I was contemplating the mind games runners tend to play on themselves. For example, when it comes to me and long runs, the best bet for success is to get far, far away from my house. If I listen to whichever inner voice recommends doing two 7-mile loops instead of an out-and-back 14, I’ll very likely find myself sitting on my front porch in an hour, wondering how in the world I managed not to start that second loop. I know that sometimes it’s safer if I just don’t have any choice in the matter. Would you like to get home? Oh, sure. Well, it’s 7 miles…thataway. Go!

Another fun game is playing with numbers. This is particularly helpful on the track. No, I’m not running 25 laps. I’m running 6 repetitions of 4 laps, with one extra just as icing on the cake. 1-2-3-4-1, 2-2-3-4, 3-2-3-4… This also helps keep my mind off the lap counter, which very cruelly shows how many laps TO GO instead of how many laps ARE DONE. Boy, am I tired. What? 17 to go? Ah, man!

A third game, closely related to the numbers game, is the seductive simplicity of JUST ONE MORE. Runners learn early on that they can always do the last of something. The last hill, the last interval, the last mile, the last lap…the finality of each makes them possible. The runner thinks, “this is it. Just one more, and I’ll be done.” And then, out of the depths, comes a reserve of energy the runner didn’t know was there. The real trick is staying strong in the middle—when the light at the end of the tunnel is nowhere to be seen. This is where just one more becomes a trick the mind can play on the legs.

I’m running 16x400m at 82-84 second pace. For the first set, I get one minute to rest between each 400m. After that, Coach drops the rest time down to 45 seconds. I’m starting to drag at the end of the second set, seriously struggling through the third when Coach says, “Just one more, and you can stop at 12.” Out comes an 83. “Ok, Megan, you have a little left. Just one more.” Another 83. “I bet this time it’s over 84. Give it a try.” Hanging on at 84. “It’d be a shame to quit now, wouldn’t it? Just two more, and you’ll have finished the whole workout.” At this point, I’m throwing Coach some serious death glares for messing with my head, but I finished it. And at a pace that would’ve been unthinkable the year before.

It’s cross country, and we’re running a ladder on a golf course. It’s October, and after battling a drenching cold rain all the way up the ladder, we’re now facing a freak thunderstorm on the way down. The lightning is frequent and the thunder is loud, and someone (probably me) recommends that we call it a day. “Just one more,” Coach says, in an attempt to subdue mutiny. Off we go for the 1200m. “Just one more,” as you can probably guess, extended to include the rest of the workout AND the (albeit shortened) cooldown. I wasn’t thrilled with the conditions, but the results of the workout were great and (better still) no one got struck by lightning.

It’s years ago, back near the beginning, and my brother and I are lining up for the Sunflower 5k. I’ve run the course before, and know it has a major hill at the beginning and several rolling hills leading up to the finish. I impart this information to little bro, and we take off. I spent the whole race chasing him, but as I round the corner into the last set of hills I pull up beside him. He’s laboring, and to be helpful I tell him “Just one more.” He strides out and we crest the top of the hill only to face…another hill. Oops! “Just one more,” I say again, and oxygen debt prevents me from saying more. Little bro and I struggle up to the top of the second hill, and upon reaching the top we see ANOTHER HILL instead of a forgiving downhill slope to the finish line. By now, I’m in no condition to offer any kind of advice, but I manage to charge up (what really was) the last hill and make it through the chute first. It was to be the last time I beat my brother in any race, and he’ll always claim that I tricked him into an early kick. I really wasn’t out to get him, but he’ll never believe me, and always has a sore spot for “just one more.”

No Turning Back…

It’s official. I’m registered for the Greer Earth Day HALF MARATHON. There’s $27.50 and a free t-shirt on the line now, which for me means that there is no turning back. Boy, that sounds ominous.

I almost talked myself out of this one. I’ve never participated in a half marathon before, and the last time I got close (that infamous Green Valley 10 mile race) I went out too fast, hurt myself, and spent the last 4 miles chanting “gonna make it, gotta make it” and begging my legs not to walk. Not the most delightful way to spend a Saturday morning. Since then—and that was 2 months ago—I haven’t gotten over 7 miles, so reason and logic would suggest that I sit this one out in order to prevent a repeat of the aforementioned undelightful Saturday morning. Self-preservation chimes in to recommend sticking to the 10k-and-under races, so as to say in one piece. And then pride wonders just how horrible I’m going to look crossing the finish line…IF I even finish, that is, shout doubt and cynicism.

The voices inside my head seemed to be of one accord. “Register for the 5 mile,” they whisper inticingly. “Running buddy is doing it, it’ll be fun, just like the Reedy.” But whether from obstinacy or optimism—or maybe from obstinate optimism—I just couldn’t do it. I want to run the half. I want to do something I’ve never done before. I want to maintain my goal of participating in all of the races in the GTC series. I want my minimum of 10 points, and my free t-shirt, and my finisher’s medal. (Sidenote: I also want a course map…anyone know where I can find one? The link on the race website didn’t work.) I believe I have prepared myself for the fact that this must be another of those “just run and try to finish” endeavors; that I will be out there for 2 hours and that I should absoutely, positively not start out at faster than 9:00 pace.

This ought to be interesting.

Running Math (Inside Megan’s Head)

Had a delightful Easter Eve Day 6-miler this morning. It was my farthest run since the Reedy 10k, and a definite step towards the half marathon goal. For some reason, my brain partitions distances in groups of five:

1-5 miles = small/low effort
6-10 miles = medium/”real running”
11-15 miles = large/long run/highly dedicated
16+ = extra large/impossible impossibilities

That’s just the way my brain works. And, I should probably add, the way it works as it applies to ME. I’m not saying that anyone who sticks to the 1-5 mile range is not a “real runner.” I forget the percentage, but it’s safe to say that many (most?) Americans fall into the “Gee, I couldn’t even run ONE mile” category, so pretty much anyone who runs AT ALL is already in a relatively elite group. All I’m saying is that for me, I know I’m getting more serious about my training when I cross into that second mileage level. The difference between 5 and 6 miles is subtle, and probably doesn’t mean a whole lot physiologically, but the act of choosing the longer distance over the shorter is no small feat. (Sidenote: Um…wow. I know, I just harped on running cliches in my last post, but that’s something different than running puns. Right?)

For me, I know that if I can run 6 miles then I can commit to 10. And if I can run 10 all by my lonesome, then I can run 13.1 with a crowd. Ahhhh, running math. Delicious.

More Motivation

I’m really enjoying the Lance Armstrong commercials for Dick’s Sporting Goods. I love the one where he’s telling the customer (who’s considering a little “light cardio”) how to “kill the coward within.” I was going to post the video here, but Technical Writer Megan really didn’t care for the way the video box was outside of and misaligned with the post margins. So here’s a link to the Youtube video, which is definitely worth a click if you haven’t seen the commercial before. It’s less than a minute long.

Kill the coward within. Tehe. That still cracks me up. Lance is much nicer when he’s telling me “great job” on completing my longest workout ever.

Remotivation…or, 1001 Reasons NOT to Run

Had a fantastic run this morning. Just an easy 3, but considering how sporadic running has been for me lately it qualifies as fantastic that I can lump “easy” and “3” together to describe the same workout. I figured I’d spend a mile coaxing my legs out of a jog and into the 8:45 range, but they happily went there on their own. It would appear that I’m getting my “running autopilot” back, and I couldn’t be happier.  You know that feeling you get when you’re getting back into shape and you can actually start worrying about being BORED on a run because you’re no longer concentrating 110% on keeping your legs/knees/ankles/feet operating in perfect harmony? Glorious.

I’m hoping to use this experience to springboard back into slightly more serious training. Um, “springboard” is not the right word. Slightly too abrupt. I will be sliding (sliding???) back into more serious training? No, that doesn’t work either. Getting into shape is definitely more like going uphill than downhill. Well, whatever. Metaphors fail me. The thing is, husband and I have this slightly unrealistic goal (Exhibit A: Paris Mountain 20k) of competing in every race of the GTC Racing Series this year. So far we’re 3 for 3, but the Greer Earth Day Half Marathon is 5 weeks away and I haven’t run 10 miles since the Green Valley race in early February. Realistically, if I can get a long run back up to 10 miles (or slightly longer) I know I can finish, but I’m a little curious to see how my hip holds up to more stress. I’m pretty sure it was the FAST of at Green Valley that did me in, so it’s probably best if I don’t try anything speed-like and set the “all running, no walking, just finish” goal for the Half.

And then there’s the fact that I’ve got to get a long run over 10 miles in 3 weeks. Hmm. Interesting. Coming off another slow week of training, this seems like quite an undertaking. I’m conveniently blaming this week’s laziness on visiting relatives, but we all know that it’s just me. Before that, I was treating and recovering from (and possibly babying) the hip injury from Green Valley. Before that, I took two weeks off as a mental break from the marathon training. And before that, it was Christmas. Or it was icy. Or I was writing a thesis. Who knows? There are always so many reasons NOT to run! And of course, the less consistent I am, the more uncomfortable I am when I finally do get out there. Then, I feel sorry for myself and my out-of-shapeness, and I’m even less motivated. 

It’s just so much easier to take time off of running than it is to make time to run. On occasion, I think this is just fine. I don’t really want running to be my top priority. That is, I don’t want to carefully plan my meals around my next run. I don’t want to lose a weekend between planning for and recovering from a long run. Like the time I missed out on a fun night with friends because I accidentally fell asleep after a 14-miler…fell asleep in the middle of the floor…while stretching…and fell asleep again after promising one of the stood-up friends that I’d head over in a couple of minutes (I’m still REALLY sorry about that, Jen!).

Nope, missing the occasional run is just one of the luxuries of being a recreational runner. The problem is my penchant for laziness, and the way one unplanned rest day has a tendency to steamroll into a whole lethargic week. Or more. Which is one of the dreadful things about running…it takes a long, looooong time to build a base and get in shape, and a ridiculously short time to slough off the benefits of that training. I can spend 60 days running and building a base, and it takes only 4 or 5 days off to begin the downhill slide (Ah-ha! THAT’S where the word “slide” is appropriate) back to being a “civilian,” as non-runners are called in “Again to Carthage.” What seems even more unfair is that this effect is more pronounced the better shape you’re in. Granted, it’s not like flipping a switch between “in shape” and “out of shape.” It is something you feel, though, and it can be discouraging to have to work your way out of the discomfort phase and into the “autopilot” phase after a few too many days off.

Fortunately, like many things in the world, there’s a counterbalance to this seeming injustice. Once you’re hooked on running, even though there are 1001 reasons daily NOT to run, all you really need is that 1 reason TO run. For me, the Greer Half will do nicely. I’ve never raced a Half Marathon before, so it’ll be an instant PR as long as I finish. Sweet! I’m also still trying to recall where I was a year ago, and how far I’ve come to rebecome a runner. I’d like to keep taking 3 steps forward for every 1 back. The run today went a long way towards remotivating me. 😀