Self-sabotage, my old friend.

To be human is to practice the art of self-sabotage to some degree or another; whether we acknowledge it or not, everyone does it. Some of us, like myself, are well practiced at self-sabotage. Maybe even a master. I mean, if you’re going to do it, do it right! Go big or go home! (I’m a fan of using ridiculous mantras to justify my life choices…especially the bad ones.)

This past fall I started dental school. It’s a pretty big deal and a goal I’ve worked towards for a total of twelve years total. There were some diversions and a span of a few years where I did not think this was going to happen. To be honest, I could have made things much easier on myself and taken a more direct route. But, like I said, I’m a master of self-sabotage. Now that I’ve made it, for all intents and purposes my goal of being a dentist is as good as accomplished (minus four years of intense schooling that leaves VERY little time for anything else), I thought I had moved beyond the habit of self-sabotage. Silly me!

School started in August. It’s been six months (I’m on spring break now hence the random blogging); in that time I’ve grown quite a bit. The first semester was a lesson in adaptation; it took a hot minute to feel comfortable in my class of (mostly) very pretty and privileged (mostly) 22 year olds. I’ve learned how to manage my expectations of myself while balancing 25 credits a semester with 2-3 hours of commuting a day and the demands of managing a four-kid-household. I’ve realized that C’s really do get degrees and are okay (once you’re actually in your program) as long as you’re learning everything you need to know to be successful. Like I said, I’ve grown quite a bit… I’ve also grown a bit physically too.

Before mid-August I was running quite regularly, doing fun runs every few weeks. When school started my activity level declined dramatically. Along with not running much I was sitting, literally just sitting, eight to ten hours a day five days a week. I manged a fun 5k with my nine-year-old and a random 10k race in October but on a day-to-day basis…pretty much nothing.

sitting and studying

When I’m not in school sitting I’m at home sitting and studying. So. Much. Studying!

Just before Thanksgiving I discovered that my blood pressure had gotten high. For a weekend it was very high. I was both shocked and panicked (which probably just made my blood pressure even higher).  How did this happen? I’m healthy, I’m a runner!!! Well, I was a runner. But still, it hadn’t been that long!

I took stock of the situation and realized I had also managed to tack on close to fifteen pounds of extra weight. (I know that’s not really That much but I’m a small person, even five pounds on my five foot two self is notable). One of the sets of scrubs I had bought at the beginning of the school year didn’t even fit anymore. Yikes! This didn’t happen all at once, it was a slow, steady creep to an overweight and unhealthy me. I had this idea that I was a fit, healthy person but obviously my self-perception was inaccurate. High blood pressure has wreaked havoc on the women in my family lately. I was motivated to do better, I started getting up even earlier than I already was to run a couple miles on my handy-dandy treadmill a few times a week.

And it was helping. My blood pressure went down to borderline high instead of Yikes high. My monthly mileage has been close to 40 again. I felt pretty decent, like I was building better habits and being healthy…But my weight was not really moving. Sure it would go down for a day or two but it always creeped back up. What the actual F was going on here?

I was starting to get frustrated…Until one day, just after an early and gross two miles on the treadmill, it hit me…Self-Sabotage!

Here I was pushing myself to get up and run, working hard to get back to a state of good health, but at the same time I was eating whatever was convenient and drinking a good (heavy) craft beer or two at least four times a week. And I was using the more regular running to justify it. I’d tell myself it was a treat… you know, for all that hard work. (eye roll!) It was one or two steps forward, one or two steps back which equals not moving at all! As soon as I saw it I was irritated with myself. What’s the point of missing sleep and working to get back in shape if I was just going to pull the rug out from under my feet and end up back where I started at the end of the day?

self sabotage

Self sabotage at its finest! 

Now that I’ve caught myself employing the old self-sabotage tactics I’ve been a little more conscientious about what, when, and why I’m eating and drinking. Awareness is half the battle.

knowing-is-half-the-battle-215704

Awareness = knowing. Now all I need are some lasers.

Time will tell exactly how effective my new found awareness of my own negative tendencies will be in getting back to a fit and healthy state. Either way this has been a good reminder of the importance of consistent good habits and self-awareness (not my strongest suits). You can’t sit back and coast on yesterday’s success; reaching one goal, even a big one, does not mean you can just stop working. (Mantras again.)

Here’s to health, well-being, and regular running!

 

Are you feeding the PR?

One of my favorite things about running (which I’ve likely said before) is that you can achieve success even if you’re not medaling or winning races. As a runner success is measured in what we call the PR: the Personal Record.

It’s exactly what it sounds like, your individual record fast time. (Sometimes also called a personal best.)

Running is all about self improvement, pushing yourself to be better than you were the race before or, heck, even the run before. Work hard, challenge yourself, get faster. That’s the beauty of running. It’s that simple.

Well, on paper is that simple. In reality it can be much more difficult than it appears especially if you’ve been running for a while.

As a new runner the gains come quickly and relatively easily. You feel more fit within a few weeks, your race times naturally drop as a function of just running regularly. But after a few years of running three to five days a week almost year round a PR becomes much more elusive. You actually have to strategically work for it.

I recently ran the Detroit half marathon for the second time in two years. It was my fifth half marathon and it was not a PR. Far from it, this was my slowest half yet. It was even slower than the same race last year but this time I didn’t have the excuse of recent illness to blame. It’s tempting to write this race off and say that me & the PR just don’t meet in Detroit, maybe blame luck or circumstances. Excuses are always easy to find. But, really, I like this particular race. I enjoy the atmosphere, the course, and the city.

So what’s the problem here? Why haven’t I PRd in Detroit?

After contemplating the matter it occurred to me that the PR is like a monster: You have to feed it to keep it alive.

Both this fall and last, and really in general of late, I have not been feeding my PR monster.

How can I realistically expect to PR when I haven’t been eating well, sleeping enough, or following a real training plan? PRs thrive on hard work and at least adequate levels of self care. If you’re going to attempt to push your body to new limits you have to give it the resources and fuel to do so. This is something I try to tell my 18 year old all the time. “You’re not eating well and you’re not sleeping, of course you feel crappy!”

Around the tenth mile in Detroit, when I was still running but not very fast, I realized I might need to tell myself the very same thing sometimes.

Fall is a busier season in my always busy life. Not only am I coordinating and adjusting to my kids going back to school but I’ve also been coaching cross country the past two years. I thoroughly enjoy it but it’s demanding, requiring at least fifteen hours a week of my time and attention. All this does not leave time to properly train for a long distance race. Or sleep more than six hours a day (if that). Or plan and prepare good meals.

My point here is that I shouldn’t expect a PR if I didn’t prepare for one. Does this mean I shouldn’t do fall races? No, not necessarily. But I should be realistic with my expectations for the races I do. You really do get out what you put in.

So despite it not being a PR, I’m going to celebrate the success I did have with the Detroit half marathon this year. I ran some fast (for me) miles on the beginning. I learned some important things about my self. I ran most the race and didn’t die in the last three miles, not completely at least.

Maybe I’ll take on another half marathon in the spring and maybe then I’ll give my PR monster the time and attention it needs. Or maybe I’ll just keep chugging along for the fun of it and enjoy the scenery.