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Running Through Negative Self-Talk

9 Sep

Here is the truth: I am not as confident as I seem sometimes.

I try hard to be though, because I LOVE being strong and happy and I LOVE doing my best to lift others up. But every now and then, self doubt creeps in…especially with my running. While I love running, I would certainly not be described as a “natural runner”. Running is something I really have to work at and even my “best” is still considered “slow” to some. It never bothered me though because I always knew I was giving my best.

Lately though, with all the walking I have had to do, I have had negative thoughts try to creep into my head. When I look in the mirror at my body I think…

Good grief, there is no way my body will look the same ever again.
It cannot be possible that I will ever race with good times again.
If I can do it, will it take me a million years to get there?
There is no way these legs will EVER look as strong and as toned as they used to.
Can I even do this anymore? Should I even try?

And my favorite…
If all I’m doing these days is walking, can I still legitimately call myself a “runner”? AM I A FRAUD!?

It’s that last one that really gets to me. Am I…a…WALKER!? EGAD!

But you know what, I am determined to not let this temporary situation keep me from thinking I am any less of a runner. There are runners who have to sit on the sidelines all the time for days, weeks, even months at a time. They are still runners, and so am I.

A while back I got my husband a business book and it had a section about negative self-talk. While it was not specifically aimed at runners, it had a basic lesson that I think is totally applicable. It makes the analogy that letting negative, unconfident thoughts enter your brain is like allowing it to tune to a USUCK Radio station. What we need to do is the opposite. Tune into UROCK Radio and get grooving!

Finding your mental toughness and your UROCK Radio is hard. For some people, especially those just starting their running journeys or returning from a sabbatical, this may very well be a daily task. I have heralded the benefits of group/social running before as a way to find support, but you cannot rely on them 100% to keep you going.

There will be times when it is just you…staring down at your running shoes…needing a push…needing some motivation…and no one will be there. No one will be there to hold your hand. No one will be there to give you a pat on the back and say, “You can do it!” No one will be there at the end of the run to congratulate you. There will be no sweaty hugs or cheerleaders. Even worse, there may even be people telling you it is okay to quit…that it is okay to not try so hard…that it is no big deal to let yourself down and not reach your goals.

You will have to get out there and get the job done because YOU want it and YOU know you can do it. YOU have to have the gumption to reach over and turn off the USUCK Radio.

I've posted this before but it is fitting today...

So how do you do that? How do you find your UROCK Radio?

Quit with all the self-limiting statements and questions. (I’m talking to myself here, too!) Stop adding question marks to the ends of your statements. Instead of thinking, “Can I do this?”…think, “I CAN DO THIS!”

Use less-harsh wording. For example, if you have a run that wasn’t your best, don’t get pissy and say, “That run sucked.” (I am so bad about saying that.) Instead, go with “Well, that obviously wasn’t my best. What can I do differently to give it my best next time?”

Write on your mirror. I am a dry-erase marker wielding monster. I leave notes all over my bathroom and dresser mirrors. I may or may not have drawn a little box on the mirror where my face goes with the phrase, “This is what a runner looks like.” over it.

Remind yourself what makes YOU feel good about running. If you are motivated by nice gear, pick up a new running singlet. If rockin’ tunes get you going, update your playlist. If weight loss or keeping weight off is your goal, put photos or your former self everywhere to keep you going. If you have a competitive spirit, find a race online you have never done before and sign up for it. Keep the routine fresh! Letting things go stale will only get you down.

Whatever you do, don’t think it is just you. Running is a relationship. Every runner (and walker) goes through peaks and valleys and we all struggle with negative self-talk sometimes. You just have to work through it.

What are YOU dealing with in your mental running game? Are you at a peak or at a valley? What do YOU do to push down the negative thoughts and bring up the positive ones?

Achilles tendinitis nearly sidelined me for good.

22 Aug

About a year and a half ago, I was at a point where I was running on a treadmill religiously. The one running group that I ran with only met on Saturday mornings, so that left me running solo during the mostof the week. I was just starting to train for a marathon, so getting in my scheduled runs was very important. At the time, my husband was in night school two nights a week finishing his degree, so I found it much more “social” of me to be hitting the treadmill at the gym than going right home. Plus, I knew that if I went home to an empty house, I might get sidetracked and start doing other things other than run.

Hitting the gym meant hitting the treadmill. Wanting to mimic the great outdoors, I made sure to set the treadmill on at least a 1% incline. After about a month of running on it, I started to notice this weird creaking in my right Achilles tendon. The best way to describe it is this…imagine an old episode of The Munsters or The Adams Family and think about the sound effect used when a spooky old gate swings. THAT is what it felt like AND sounded like whenever I flexed my right foot. It was weird…and sounded gross. Concerned about my symptoms, I immediately headed over to WebMD.

Turns out that I either had foot cancer or Achilles tendinitis…I went with Achilles tendinitis.

Red Spot = No bueno.

Going down the checklist of typical symptoms, I knew this is what was plaguing me. Here are some things that can cause Achilles tendinitis (according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons):
• Rapidly increasing your running mileage or speed (CHECK!)
• Adding hill running or stair climbing to your routine (CHECK!)
• Starting up too quickly after a layoff from exercise (CHECK!)
• Overuse resulting from a natural lack of flexibility in your calf muscles
• Flattening of the arch of your foot
• Trauma caused by sudden and/or hard contractions of your calf muscles (such as sprints) (CHECK!)

So now that I figured out what I had, I had to figure out how to get rid of it.

The simplest solution I could find anywhere was…RICE. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation.

I hate the RICE treatment.

Why couldn’t this be like a cut where I throw some Neosporin and a Band-Aid on it and go about my business as usual? *sigh*

I *HATE* resting. I *HATE* being kept from what I love to do most. What is even more frustrating is that the very activity that I love most is the root cause of my pain! What the heck!?

Stupidly, I tried (in vain) to run through my pain. Once I warmed up, everything felt fine. However, the second my ankle started to cool down, the creaking and popping set in again…worsening everyday. Doing more research revealed to me that Achilles tendinitis can actually develop into a chronic problem.

There is no faster way to scare the buhjeebus out of a runner than to threaten them with CHRONIC PAIN…as in scar tissue and pain everyday forever and ever. No, thank you.

Finally, I submitted…knowing that resting would be the ONLY way I would ever get to that marathon. Here are the guidelines I found for recovering from Achilles tendinitis:
MILD INJURY: 100% recovery after 2-10 days
AVERAGE INJURY: 100% recovery after 10-42 days
SEVERE INJURY: 100% recovery after 42-160 days

My recovery efforts also included keeping my leg propped up as much as possible at work (thanks to a spare empty trashcan), icing it in intervals (thanks to my squish CVS Cold Peas Therapy inserts), and keeping it compressed (thanks to my McDavid compression ankle sleeve). I would say, all in all, it took me a good 3-4 weeks to be able to run and feel no pain at all.

However, the joy of being able to run and STILL feel no pain is priceless. I am so glad I put my stubbornness aside and forced myself to rest. I am afraid I wouldn’t be running now if I hadn’t.

I am convinced that my repetitious hill intervals on the treadmill caused my problems, as Achilles tendinitis a classic overuse injury. How I hate the treadmill. But, it gives me an option to keep running on days when it is pouring down rain, below 20 degrees, or when it is just too hot for this pregnant runner to be outside. So, I am learning to love it again…or at least tolerate it. And to keep my body from ever getting close to this injury ever again, I take great care in making sure I supplement treadmill runs with outdoor runs. Outdoor runs allow my foot strike to vary more often so my muscles don’t take quit the same beating.

If you think you might be developing Achilles tendinitis, I highly encourage you to rest and incorporate these stretches into your routine. Prevention and stretching is SO important.

Stretch, stretch, and stretch some more.

What is the WORST running injury you have ever faced? How long did it take you away from running? How did you deal with it?

Lessons Learned from My DNF

11 Aug

In racing, there are two acronyms that make participants cringe: DNS (Did Not Start) and DNF (Did Not Finish). The DNS sometimes does not feel *quite* as bad because there are lots of reasons why a person may not start a race: unpreparedness/lack of training, injury, illness, personal emergencies, etc. Things come up. It happens. The DNF, however, leaves a sting that most racers do not easily forget. I know this feeling personally.

This is a SUCKY feeling.

I have taken a DNF in two races, and those two experiences still haunt me. The first DNF I took was in a Thanksgiving Day 5k race about 5 years ago. I had just started taking my running seriously earlier that summer and now that November had arrived, I was approaching my first running winter. Running through summer seemed fine, and, honestly, I had not thought running through cold weather would pose any problem greater than having to wear heavier clothing. How wrong I had been! This particular Thanksgiving Day was unusually cold (about 25 °F – COLD for this native Louisianan), but I did not think much of it. I was ready to race! After all, it was *only* a 5k…

The race started out fine and I was running along as usual, until I hit the 2.5 mile mark. My lungs felt like they were on FIRE. I couldn’t breathe. I started panicking…which only exasperated the problem. Before I knew it I was doubled over, hands on my knees, gasping for air. I started to have a full-on panic attack over not being able to catch my breath. I started coughing and wheezing. IT. WAS. TERRIBLE. Doing my best to pull myself together, I started walking hobbling…determined to finish. Another ¼ mile down the road, I could *see* the finish. It was RIGHT THERE. So close.

I never made it. The gasping and wheezing started up again and I knew that if I did not stop, I would pass out. The cold, thin mountain air (I was living in South Carolina at the time) was too much for me. I had to quit.

As it turns out, I was later diagnosed with cold weather induced asthma. Lesson learned…run with my inhaler when the weather dips below 40 °F and never for one second think you are invincible. 🙂

Dear inhaler, I love you. You keep me running.

In hindsight, maybe that DNF does not seem quite that bad. Medical reasons prevented me from finishing. It wasn’t like I just gave up…you know, like my second DNF. I look back on my second DNF and all it does is make me angry.

A couple of years ago, I was gearing up for my first duathlon. After running for several years, I was seeking a new challenge. Not quite ready to increase my distance to half or full marathon status, I decided a sprint duathlon (5k run/14mi bike/5k run) was the perfect next step for me. I got a bike and started training. Running had become easy for me, and it turned out that I was a natural on the bike. This duathlon thing would be a BREEZE! For weeks before the event I practiced my bricks. By the time the big day arrived, I was ready!

On race day, I got body marked and checked into the transition area early. I laid out all of my gear and went over my mental checklist of what I needed to do. A slight case of nerves set in, but overall, I was doing okay. The race started with a bang! On my first run I made GREAT time…in fact, it is still one of my fastest 5k times ever. I was moving on adrenaline and I loved every second of it. T1 went smoothly and before I knew it, I was out on the bike. Half way through the bike leg, things started going downhill (no pun intended). I was totally unprepared for this ride. My training rides had been in a *slightly* hilly area. This race was an hour north of my home…in the mountains. BIG difference. Stubborn me was determined to keep the pace that I had trained for…even if it killed me.

14 miles later I pull back in for T2. I was exhausted. I threw off my helmet, put on my running shoes and started my second run. It was awful. Completely awful. My legs completely bricked up. Every part of my body was telling me that we were done. Finished. My head was spinning and I felt like I was running on broken legs. I had practiced this a thousand times and I just could not get myself together. There was absolutely no gas left in my tank.

I quit.

And I cried. A lot.

This feels miserable.

Mad. Frustrated. Disappointed. I should have known better. There was so much that I had done wrong. I had not hydrated well enough. I had not replaced my electrolytes and calories throughout the race. Most importantly, I had ignored my inner voice that had been saying, “Pace yourself.”

Looking back, maybe I could have finished. Maybe if I had taken a second, calmed down, collected myself, stretched, eaten a snack…maybe things would have been different. But I gave up. My competitive spirit overshadowed my best judgment and I got what I deserved…a big fat DNF.

Every time I try a new race distance or new type of race, these memories play out in my head. They make me more determined to stay focused and race smart, not hard, and complete the task at hand. As long as I can help it, there will be no more DNFs for this competitor.

Have you ever taken a DNS or DNF? How did it make you feel? What did you learn from it?

Today’s Awesome Factor = 8…and a half.

8 Aug

Normally, I like to keep my “awesome factor” posts in the 5-star range, but due to the latest happenings with my toes, this Monday morning got docked a few points. More to come on that in a moment…

Lots of fun stuff has been happening over the last few days, so I thought I would play catch-up today!

In case you missed my big announcement on Twitter last night, I have decided to enter the fit2Bmom Spring 2012 Model Search. I know I am not 5’ 10” with a face and body like Heidi Klum (when she was baby bumpin’ or after), but I am a real mama-to-be who thinks I might be a good candidate for this contest. The contest required a video entry so here is my submission. Let me know what you think! (On another note, could that video still be ANY worse?? Sheesh.)

At my race on Saturday, I snagged the cutest Brooks Running koozie. I know it’s not a big deal, but I like fun stuff like this. And, if nothing else, it’s making me smile on this Monday morning. Run happy!

I also have some other awesome race swag headed my way. The Louisiana Marathon has a special going on that if you sign up with the code “SPIBELT” you get a free SPIbelt race belt with The Louisiana Marathon logo on it! YES! I have wanted to try out SPIbelt for a long time and now I get to try it for FREE! I have always feared that these race belts would not stay put on my waist, but we’ll see. Very excited about this!

And lastly, I believe I have broken a toe…or two. This is why my Monday is not rocking an official Awesome Factor rating of 10 or higher. Last night, while overzealously putting my laundry away (read = feverishly putting my laundry away because I thought my dinner cooking on the stove was about to start burning), I stubbed the ever-lovin’-MESS out of my toes. I have never ever EVER stubbed my toes this badly. They immediately turned red and started swelling a little. Thinking I would be fine, I went to bed later that night and tried not to worry about it.

This morning, however, was a different story. The two smallest toes on my left foot are now black/purple and DEFINITELY swollen. Luckily, my job has a full service medical center on site. I went to see the nurse this morning and she is pretty positive they are broken. I did not get X-rays done because even if they are broken, unless the toes are deformed (which they are not), there isn’t much they can do about them anyway. So, she just taped them up nice and straight and sent me on my way with some supplies. Superb.

Oh, and the best part…based on how bruised one of the nails is, she expects me to lose it. SUCK. If I am going to lose a toenail, I want it to be from “earning it” from my running or training…not from doing something stupid. :/

I fear this foot issue will put a cramp in my running this week and at this point in my pregnancy, I really *REALLY* can’t afford to have anything sideline me. I am so thankful for every day I get to run and I am not ready to sit out just yet. Until my toes are back at 100%, I still plan on walking. This girl has to do something to break a sweat.

How are things going in YOUR world today? What do you think of my fit2Bmom video? Do you think I can win? Have you ever broken your toes (or anything else)?

The Runner’s Rite of Passage

27 Apr

So here I sit at work…looking like THIS.

It's sexy, I know.

(Please don’t judge me by my awesome purple argyle socks from Target or my uber sexy Doc Martens steel toe work boots.)

Last night, at the Happy’s Running group I must have pushed it a little harder than I should have. Don’t get me wrong, I was by no means a speed demon out there, but my knees, calves, and ankles are having a harder time adjusting to this extra 15lb of baby weight than I’d like to admit.

No worries, a little icing (Thanks to my handy dandy Peas Cold Therapy from CVS! Ha!), a little elevation, and a little stretching and I should be good to go again tonight to stay on my half marathon speed training program.

The occasional sore muscle is certainly nothing to be seriously complaining about, but it got me thinking. What was my “Runner’s Rite of Passage?”

You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all had that injury or running issue that, once conquered, made you think, “I am a RUNNER! I made it through! I have ARRIVED!”

When I first started running, it was the shin splints. But I was able to conquer that by getting better shoes, adjusting my running form, backing off on my mileage and then building up properly again.

About a year ago, it was Achilles tendinitis in my right ankle. This SUCKED. It took me out for almost a whole month! However, I was able to conquer it with rest and a good, tight ankle compression brace. I also committed to refusing to be a slave to the treadmill. The continuous identical foot strike motion from the treadmill was wreaking havoc on my ankle. So, I took my training outdoors and never looked back! I still hit the treadmill
on super cold or rainy days, but I mostly like to kick it outside.

This past February during the Rock N Roll Mardi Gras Marathon, I developed the ULTIMATE Runner’s Rite of Passage. That’s right…the dreaded BLACK TOENAIL.

Look, I know its gross and I’ll even do you the favor of not posting a picture of it. If you’ve never had one, consider yourself lucky. If you have, wear it like the badge of honor that it is! You earned it with all those miles!! (Okay, so its not quite as cool as a medal or trophy, but deep down, you know it means that you’ve been training like a boss!)

So, after blisters, sore muscles, shin splints, achilles tendinitis, and now the black toenail, I feel like I have arrived. I AM A RUNNER!

What was the biggest Runner’s Rite of Passage YOU have conquered?