Sunday, February 26, 2017

I love running. That is all.

I've had a topic I've wanted to blog about for almost a month now, and it keeps getting sidelined.  Plus I had a phenomenal visit with my big sister this week!  It'll all have to wait til next week because today, I am just overwhelmed with joy and literally crying and have to shout out the rooftop of the Internets that I love running.

I've been gradually increasing my run intervals since I started back to (w)running at the beginning of February, and today I broke the one-minute interval of running - hooray!  Today's run was 30 minutes at 2 minutes walking / 1 minute, 30 seconds running.  If my left heel and right big toe continue to improve, next week I hope to bump that to 2:2 intervals.

Compared to the half marathons I've run and the marathon I ran (which admittedly was probably my poorest performance and worst-feeling race of all the races I've done) and the smaller road races, this is total peanuts.  But compared to the August 16th-end of January, it's like an ultramarathon, with all the endorphins, sense of accomplishment, and pure joy that go along with it.  (I assume.  Ultramarathons, I can confidently say, are not in my future)

Running gets me outside when I otherwise wouldn't be out.  This past week was gorgeous (thanks, Global Warming?) and this morning is right back to chilly weather.  But oh man, the light blue February sky, the early morning sun peeking through Monet clouds, seeing the vast empty park and the other few hardy souls out running or walking, letting my mind go off leash and unplugged and wandering to the Brooklyn Half and someday, dammit, the NYC Marathon, and all the work it takes to get there, and the things I've done right in the past and the things I've done wrong, paying attention to my form, and just being so unbelievably grateful for my body and for what it's capable of and for what it's gone through and overcome and what it will accomplish.

When I got home and moved into my post-run routine of snack and stretch, I just started crying out of nowhere.  Granted, a part of it is probably due to the fact that I had a terrible night's sleep last night, and bad sleep = quick tears for me every single time - but I really had just turned into a leaky faucet of thankfulness.  I am so grateful to have gone from being in a cast to where I am now, even though where I ultimately want to be is far beyond where I currently am...if that makes sense.  Having the ability to even just run 90 seconds at a time gives me an unbelievable well of hope.

There is a lot to be frightened of and angry about at this moment in our world and our country, and that's all the more reason to move deeper toward what brings you satisfaction and joy.   If you have something that makes you feel this way, go to it today.  If you don't, go exploring and find something. I suggest going for a run.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Sounds of Silence

Full disclosure:  As I write this, I am bouncing and fidgeting in my seat with anticipation and excitement at seeing my sister in an hour.  Just one hour!!!  I can't take it.  It's her first kid-free, husband-free getaway since the kiddos were born, and we are going to eat all the food.

Since my attention will be 100% swept away this week as a result, I'm writing today.

This morning marked another first in my return to running - or as I'm referring to it for now, (w)running, because my intervals for any given run contain a higher ratio of walking than running as I ease back in.  My left heel, for the record, feels great - about 98% recovered after these frustrating last six months of recovery.  My right big toe, which I just stubbed stupidly on New Year's Eve, is still talking to me a little it.  It's always something...

Today was my first run post-injury that I did with zero headphones.  No music, no podcasts, no nothing (except my running app telling me when to walk).  Nothing in my ears but the sound of my breath, my steps, and my neighborhood.  It's an absolutely invaluable form of meditation that I didn't even realize how much I missed.

I've been desperately missing the endorphins from running these last six months.  I've missed being outside, I've missed that active alone time, I've missed romance runs with Marc, the chance to do training runs with Laura, missed running into friends in the park, missed the unmatched feeling of having accomplished something great before most people (non parent-people, anyway) are awake on a Sunday morning.

The silence - the head space, if you will - was something I forgot about.  It's one of those things that you know is good for you, you know you genuinely enjoy, yet you sort of sabotage yourself on.  We've become conditioned to always be looking for the next source of information input, and so I feel I have to have a podcast or a playlist or I won't enjoy myself.  I keep forgetting - my own company is pretty awesome, and it's so important to give my brain time and space to wander off.  Plus, nothing is motivating like a really detailed daydream about running the NYC marathon.

If you're not a runner, take a walk - or do a solo yoga practice that you make up as you go along with no music and no guidance.  Find some kind of activity with which you'd normally have some background noise and turn off the noise.  It's one of the easiest and most satisfying shortcuts to presence.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How to open your heart, even when you're tired. Or lazy. Or both!

Happy (day after) Valentine's Day!  Or as I like to think of it, Love & Chocolate day.  It's always been one of my favorite holidays, even though I spent most of them single in my teens and early twenties.  I never wanted to be one of those negative, bitter folks about it - why force it into a pigeonhole of just being about romantic love?  We all have people we love in our lives, and my God, who doesn't love an excuse to eat all the chocolate?

This week, in the spirit of opening and sharing our hearts around Valentine's Day, I want to share one of my favorite restorative poses - a pose I love all the more because I actually cannot stand the non-restorative version of it.

Matsyasana, or fish pose, is a very intense upper-back-and-neck backbend.  For me, there is nothing restful or peaceful or pleasant about it.  My neck doesn't like going that far back, my throat doesn't like being that exposed, and I always feel like my shoulders are shoving themselves into my ears.

From YogaJournal.com, as photographed by David Martinez.  Not my fave...
The restorative version of this pose, however, is absolutely delicious for a variety of reasons.  First of all, there are a billion different ways to do it.  Even though my favorite version involves two yoga blocks, you can enjoy this pose even if you don't own a single yoga-related item (including a mat).  You can use a yoga bolster, pillows, rolled up or folded up blankets, or even super thick books to mimic the feel and heigh of blocks.

The fact that I couldn't find a picture of my favorite way to do it on the Internets just shows you how many ways there are to enjoy this deliciousness - check out the variety of a Google image search of it.

The idea is to support yourself and prop yourself up until you are 100% comfortable and can sustain your position for 5-15 minutes.  (Or longer!)  Prop up either starting at the base of your spine or just below the shoulder blades - you can either prop the head up so it's level, or give yourself a hint of that big throat opener by letting it rest on the ground or propping it up a little lower than your heart.

In restorative fish, take slow, deep breaths with a focus on the inhalation and the deep expansion of the ribcage.  You can keep your focus on the breath or come into any number of visualizations.  Imagine the breath massaging or soothing your heart, or imagine your heart as a warm, shining beacon of light.  Or, you know.  Just relax and take a little yoga nap.

Pictured with smaller-than-average yoga blocks - I prefer a slightly thicker block, but it still feels deeeeelicious.
It's a lovely (and yes, cutesy) pose for this full-of-love holiday, but it's also a really great pose to take in the thick of winter.  Walking around the city, we all scrunch our shoulders up and hunch forward to stave off the cold and wind, leading to caveman posture and ridiculously tight chests and shoulders.

Bonus points - take a deep breath of some essential oils (like Eucalyptus, Peppermint, or a blend like doTerra's Breathe) to really open up.  You can also put your feet together and add on supported baddha konasana (or cobbler's pose / butterfly) by supporting your knees with blankets, pillows, or blocks.  YUM.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Running. Just in time.

I have to start by saying - I should really plan on writing my blog before reading the news.  My plan was simply to write about the absolute joy and glory and gratitude of finally, finally, FINALLY - after almost six months - I went on my first walk/run since my injury.  And as of this morning, my second!

And then - Betsy DeVos and the inevitable gutting of our public schools.  HR 861.  A permeating feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, despair, rage.  A feeling that all the phone calls and protests are for naught.  How can I write about something so trivial as running after all of that?

Because running will be an absolutely essential tool for my sanity during these hard times.  Last week I touched a bit on self care, and running is really more of the same.  Part of why it's been so hard not to run is that it automatically gives me more energy and confidence and ability to take other people's crap without taking it on.  Running doesn't just make me physically stronger and more powerful, it makes me mentally and emotionally stronger and more powerful.

If there's one thing the left needs over these next years, it's strength and power.

I'm starting slow.  Walking for 4 minutes, running for 1 in intervals for 30 minutes this week.  Seeing how I feel.  Checking in with my feet. (Yes, feet plural - my right big toe doesn't want to feel left out of all the attention my left heel is getting) But even that slow, steady start is bringing back a strength and a joy that I haven't felt in so long I almost forgot how amazing it feels.

We're going to get knocked down a lot in the coming years, no doubt about it.  What matters is the strength to get back up and fight harder and smarter with each subsequent issue worth fighting for.   I waited about a thousand times longer to get back to running then I thought I would have to when I first went to the doctor back in August, but there is no time like the present to get it all back.

Stay tuned for more about how my running - and eventual races - are going to be put toward good causes in this good fight.