Be Competitive…With Yourself

32 weeksThe other day I was doing one of my long runs (over 13 miles) and feeling great. Nothing was hurting (unbelievable) and my pace was decent compared to recent runs. About 4 miles out a woman passed me as if I was standing still. For about 20 seconds my heart sank. I’m too slow, I thought and it took a lot of effort to get that thought out of my head.

flowerbloomsI spent the next 2 miles telling myself:

You aren’t competing with her;
       you are competing with yourself.

This is a difficult lesson for me.  I don’t think of myself as very competitive, but I guess at some level I am. When I look at other runners (strangers, friends, family) I always feel like a failure. I’m too slow, it takes me forever to improve, blah, blah, blah. But when I look at myself and how far I’ve come and how much better I am than I was, I can’t help but feeling like a superwoman. Obviously I’m better off focusing my energy inward, don’t you think?

dontlookbackIn High School we were supposed to run a mile for gym class and I could barely walk it. Only a few years ago I periodically needed a cane to walk. I remember walking over the Brooklyn Bridge with my family and being totally crippled by the task. When I first started running it took 14 or 15 min to run a mile. The idea that I would ever run a half-marathon was inconceivable, but  I’ve already run over 13 miles (twice and counting) and my regular pace fluctuates around 11 min miles (12 or 13  min miles on those really long runs and under 10 in my last race).

And I’m not done improving. In 32 weeks I’ll be 50, but I’m faster, stronger, and braver than I’ve ever been in my whole life. And I got this way– not by looking at other people– but by constantly competing with my old self.


Don’t Skimp on Yourself

33 weeksThe original title of this post was “Don’t Skimp on Running Shoes.” Then I added “Or Running Bras.”

Then I thought, “Well, that doesn’t apply to people who don’t run….” So I started looking for the bigger message and I realized it was more about making sure you take care of your own needs.

The right pair of running shoes can make you feel like a track-star!

If you are exercising regularly (especially running or walking), good shoes are important. They provide a foundation. They keep you from getting hurt. If you buy cheap shoes things will hurt more than they need to and you will be more likely to give up.

The same goes for running bras. I can’t speak for women of all sizes and shapes, but larger women particularly need to invest in some good running bras; something with maximum support, wide, padded straps, and absolutely no underwire (trust me on this). There are fewer choices when you are shopping for plus-sized running bras.  The goal of a good sports bra is nothing should move.

running braGood running shoes and good running bras cost money. When I started running I didn’t have much money and it was tempting to try to purchase cheaper products. I think if I had gone this route, my running days would have been numbered. Instead, I opted to go without other things (I had one pair of work shoes for a really long time) and invested in good quality bras and shoes.

In the long run (get it??) the investment paid off, because I was able to meet my goals. When you are cutting back, there are plenty of ways to skimp and save. Cutting coupons, buying store-brands, waiting for sales. But when it comes to the things that support you (shoes, bras, whatever) don’t always go for the cheaper option.  Invest in what you need– invest in yourself.

Set Good Goals

34 weeksI never realized the importance of goals, until I didn’t have any.

In a few past posts I’ve discussed a time in my life when my world fell instantly and irreparably apart.  In some ways I will always be healing from that time.

goalOne of the things that was so devastating was that everything I thought I was working towards was instantly taken away from me. I lived for more than three years without any goals at all. (Unless you count getting through the day a goal, which, I guess it was.)

I was spinning out of control without goals.

When I started to heal, I also started to make new goals. At first they were very small goals. In 2011, for example, I wrote down these three goals:

  1. I will walk two times per week or more. Any length walk will count.
  2. I will enter some type of race or walkathon to celebrate my new activity.
  3. I will continue to blog about my life, paying more attention to the Wins than the Fails.

Click this image to learn more about writing goals.

I didn’t reach any one of them in 2011.

Except I have reached all of them. Eventually. It may have taken me a lot longer to get the strength I needed, but I did achieve these amazingly simple and yet insurmountable goals.  And I continued to make new goals.

Here are some of the current goals I’m working towards:

• On September 13th I will complete a half-marathon in less than 3 hours.
In 2015 I will run 1,000 miles.
• Before my 50th birthday I will post 40 things I’ve learned in my 40’s.

I also have some family, education, and career goals, that are shared in different places and with different people. What are your goals?

Tissue Paper Skin

tissue paper

The more I laugh, the more lines I see. How can that be a bad thing?

I took a selfie today with my very dear friend that I’ve known forever and immediately posted it to Facebook. On my phone I thought we looked lovely together, but when I looked later on my computer, the picture was larger and my first thought was “Where did all those wrinkles come from?” My gut reaction was to take the picture down and I seriously had to talk myself out of it. I’m pleased to say I didn’t take much convincing.

What I thought about was how the wrinkles on my face remind me of my grandmother. When I was younger I used to think that my grandma’s skin looked like tissue paper. I thought it was so lovely, like a present waiting to be opened.  When did we as a society decide that aging was a bad thing? As my grandma used to say, “Getting old isn’t so bad. It sure beats the alternative…” So I’m looking at those wrinkles differently now.  I’m seeing how lovely the lines outlining my smile look, and how you can tell I’m smiling just by looking at my eyes.

twainThere is something wonderful about aging that our youth-oriented culture seems to forget. Growing old is an accomplishment. It is a win. As I’ve grown older I’ve learn to value life more, think less about what other’s think, and take better care of myself. Truth be told, you couldn’t pay me to be young again. I was so messed up back then.  I’m enjoying my life so much more now that I’m old.

Don’t Bully Yourself!

35 weeksThis might seem so obvious as to be ridiculous, but I couldn’t move forward until I learned to be nicer to myself. I have spent most of my life as my own worst enemy.  No one could ever make me feel as low or as bad about myself as I did. It has been a constant struggle learning to quiet the nasty comments in my head, and to speak kindly and encouragingly to myself.

bully1You know the old trope of the angel and devil sitting on each shoulder, telling you what to do? For most of my life, I have had the equivalent of Tania Degano (Muriel’s Wedding), Sadie Saxton (Awkward), and Regina George (Mean Girls)  sitting on my shoulders telling me what a loser I was. Sadly, I believed them when they said I was fat, ugly, worthless, and not worthy of being loved.

The truth is what other people say to you or about you isn’t nearly as important as what you say to and about yourself.  It has been a long, difficult process.  I started by trying to compliment myself more. I worked on trying to forgive myself for past mistakes. To let myself be less than perfect. Even recognizing that this is an essential part of my journey, I find I have to re-learn this lesson over and over.

bestieDespite my best intentions,  these “mean girls” still come out from time to time. When I choose to veg out on Netflix rather than get my workout in, for example. Or when I backslide on my food plan, treating myself to something “off limits.” It takes a lot of work and effort to quiet their shrill voices.

I find that I’m most successful when I try to imagine what I would say to my daughter, my sister, or my mother, and then say that to myself. But why do I find it so hard to be nice to myself?

13.1 Miles (Unofficially)

13point1funToday I ran 13.1 miles for the first time.  I say for the first time because my race is still 6 weeks away. I’m hoping to run this distance (maybe a little farther) a few times before the actual race. Even if I don’t, today was a big accomplishment. I proved to myself that I can do it (something I haven’t been totally sure of).

Today’s run was brutal. It wasn’t the “joy of running” that I frequently blog about. It was more like the “slog of running.”  I had to wake up early (6 am) to try to beat the heat of the day. Even at that it was about 80˚F/76% humidity when I left the house, and in the high 80s when I finished the run.  The first 6 or 7 miles were fine, but after that I really had to convince myself to keep going… Every! Single! Mile!

get strongerMost of what made the run difficult is my own attitude. I know it is hot, so I should run slower. I know that it is a longer run than what my body is used to, so I should run slower. I know that I beat my goal time (3 hours) by almost 17 minutes. Yet the nasty voices in my head wouldn’t let me just relax into the run. I kept pushing to go faster and the more I pushed the harder the run got.

Around mile 8 I noticed that my toenails were hurting. Really?? It was all I could think about for a good portion of the run. How my pinky toenails were going to fall off… Oh please could they just fall off and put me out of my misery.

Towards the end I almost gave up.  I’m not sure what pushed me to go the last few miles.  Maybe it was the knowledge that, good or bad, I was going to post about the run afterwards. Maybe it was the constant stream of positive self-talk, as I desperately tried to be my own coach. My mantra sounded something like this:

long runYou can do it. Don’t fall. Don’t quit.  Keep going. Just 3 more miles. Oh, I like this song. A little faster. Don’t fall down. C’mon, you can do this. Just 2 more miles. You can run 2 miles easy. Don’t trip. Watch out for that car. Keep it up. Just 1 mile left… and so on.

Whatever it was, I did finish the full 13.1. I was dripping with sweat.  Every bone and muscle was sore. My toenails were painfully cutting into my toes. My stomach was starting to cramp. And I don’t know when I’ve ever felt that good.

And I can’t wait to try it again!