Running and Meditation

“Life is not a race. It’s a gift. Enjoy it. Don’t rush through it.”  – Daniella Kessler

I started something new at the beginning of January – meditation. Initially, I thought I’d try it for a month to see if I could make it work this time around.

With my yoga practice over the years, I’ve dabbled in meditation. I know the benefits but have never been able to make it stick. Near the end of December, I was in a yoga class and the teacher was talking about breathing. Standard practice in yoga since it’s not all about the poses, breathing is just as important. I noticed that my breaths were feeling very shallow at the beginning of class and once we did some breath work in a guided meditation, I felt like I was actually taking quality breaths again. Hmmm…maybe I need to meditate daily?

How many times a day do you take a deep, meaningful breath?  Probably never if you are like the average person.  We spend our days rushing from the moment our eyes pop open in the morning till the time our heads hit the pillow at night.  With all that rushing, our breaths tend to be shallow.  Our thoughts are scattered. We are always thinking of what’s next, not what’s now.

Present. Aware. In the moment.

Since the new year was coming up and I had my AHA! moment again in yoga, I thought it was time to really try meditation.

I downloaded the Calm app and started on January 1st. I started with a 1 minute guided meditation. Huh. That wasn’t so bad. The next day, I moved on to a 5 minute meditation. It felt like 5 hours. But then I started to find a rhythm. I let go of the idea that I had to do it “right”. Whatever feels right to me was the right way. Now, I can do about 10 minutes most days of the week. I’d love to say that I do it first thing in the morning before the day starts but that doesn’t happen. It could be during my lunch at work. It could be before or after my run or workout. It could be right before my head hits the pillow for the night. Sometimes I use the app, sometimes I try on my own. I let go of having it done at the same time everyday or even the same way.

So have I noticed a difference in the almost 2 months of daily meditation? Absolutely, yes. I feel calmer about things. When negative thoughts creep up, I acknowledge them as thoughts and then release them. With running, I find I focus on the present moment rather than looking at my watch and wondering how much longer do I have to run.

I didn’t start meditating to improve my running. I mean, running and meditation seem like two polar opposites of each other. In reality, they both are complementary to each other so they are bound to crossover.

A lot of time, I find that running is a form of moving meditation. Maybe not so much when I’m on a group run, but a solo run is a time when I tune into the present. I’ll notice the sound of the wind through the trees. The rhythm my foot steps make. The morning dew on the grass. The smell of pine trees or trash on a humid summer day when it’s garbage day. Ewwwww…that’s not so enjoyable.

Have you ever been zoned into a run that you don’t recall any of it? That’s called being present. I find that happens a lot to me especially on the trails. I’m so focused on the present that my mind isn’t thinking of anything. It’s kind of freeing.

Ironically, there’s plenty of apps to help you slow down and be present in the moment. I know we are all trying to reduce our screen time but this is an easy, do any where option that anyone can use. And all it takes is 5 minutes to get started and to feel the difference. Here’s 5 meditation apps that I have tried and liked.

Calm

I love the first thing that you see when you open the app is, “Take a deep breath”. Why, thank you for the reminder! There’s options for soothing sounds like a crackling fire or thunderstorm in addition to daily 10 minute guided options. Easy to use and quite enjoyable.

Headspace

This app promises that 10 sessions, 10 minutes a day, can train your mind towards a happier life.  The first 10 sessions are free but further use of the app after those sessions requires a fee.

Happify

This app can be used anytime, anyplace.  There’s no need to have a set meditation time. Want to do this in your office at work? No problem. Walking during your lunch break? Got it! There are activities each week that help change your perspective to a more optimistic view and to start seeing improvement in your life satisfaction.

 Stop, Breathe and Think

This app asks questions in a simple survey as a way to “check in” with yourself with how you are feeling. You are then lead through a guided meditation based on the results.

Smiling Mind

This app is based on your emotions. Having a happy day? Let’s build on that. Crabby, no good day? We’ll work with that. Another perk of this app is that it’s meant for the whole family from ages 7-adult. Plus, who wouldn’t want to put a smile on their mind?

Do you meditate?

If so, do you use an app?

My Week in Workouts

Another week down! Sadly, I had zero runs on the trails. My calves were feeling super tight from all the runs with Microspikes lately so a break was needed. Runs were interesting thanks to winter and Max got a lot of miles to celebrate his big week.

Here’s the rundown of my week in workouts.

Monday

10 min ARC trainer warm up

30 min Stepmill Intervals

Strength training

Tuesday

5 mile run with Max

With the NH Primary Election being held today, my kids didn’t have school so my only option to run was in the morning before Ron left for work. It was rather warm Monday and overnight which led to some black ice on the roads and refreeze on the sidewalks. I tried to stick to the sections that had been sanded but some sections were nothing but ice. Running turned to skating.

I originally had a plan to hit a residential area of town that doesn’t see as much traffic in the morning. Plans changed when a car pulled over up the road from me as I was running toward it (I was facing traffic on the left side of the road). My spidey sense fired up even though I had Max with me. We crossed the road and as we were running past the stopped car, they took off and it wasn’t in a slow controlled manner. As they drove away, I turned to look back and the car had stopped once again farther up the road. Maybe they were taking a phone call or something else. Whatever the case, I didn’t like it so I aborted my run plan and headed in the direction of where there would be more traffic. Not ideal but at least I felt better with more cars around just in case.

I hate that someone made me feel uncomfortable like that. I hate that I can’t run wherever and whenever I feel like it without feeling compromised by some asshole.

Wednesday

10 min Stepmill warm up

3.26 mile treadmill hill climb (1109 ft elevation gain)

Strength training

I know everyone likes to bag on the treadmill (myself included) but it really, really is a good training too. It sucks the life out of you but sometimes you need to do things that you don’t want to do especially when you can’t get to the mountains to run sustained climbs. 30 minutes of running with over 1100 ft of elevation gained? Not bad. My sincere apologies to the peeps on the treadmills next to me. There was sweat flying everywhere!

Thursday

7.1 mile run with Kyle and Charles

It seems like every Thursday morning lately it’s either super cold or snowing. Well, it wasn’t super cold Thursday, but the snow was flying. Just like last week, we got the phone call mid run that school was cancelled because of the snow. However, this time, we knew and could run longer. I call that a win.

For those keeping record, that’s the second day of the week my kids were out of school and I got to spend the day with them instead of doing all the freelance work that I needed to get down. Good times…

Friday

Rest day

Saturday

7 mile run with Max

3.7 miles ice skating

I knew the temps and wind chills were going to be brutal Saturday morning. I slept in a bit and took my time getting ready. By the time I was ready to run, it was a balmy 3 degrees. The good news was that the wind died down a bit so the wind chills weren’t as bad. The only time I felt cold was about the first 1/4 mile. It felt like I had an ice cream headache from eating ice cream too fast. But then I warmed up and things were all good.

The saving grace was that it was a perfect bluebird day with blazing sun. My favorite kind of winter day! FYI – I just realized that the pic at the top looks very similar to the same one I posted last week. That must be my single digit run outfit. Lol!

Later that day, we decided to go ice skating. I hadn’t been in probably three years and before that it was probably 20+ years. My skating skills on a scale of 1-10 are a solid 2. However, after yesterday’s session, I’d say I moved up to at least a 4.

Sunday

10.5 mile run split up between Kyle and Max

It’s amazing how drastic the temps can change in 24 hours. When I set out for my Sunday morning run, it was almost 30 degrees. But the odd thing was that it kind of felt colder. It was lovely not to have ALL the layers on.

I met up with Kyle for about 4+ miles and then ran by my house to pick up Max for the remainder (and he still had energy to play stick afterwards). We had to celebrate how far we’ve come in 1 year – it was Max’s Gotcha Day after all! It’s crazy to think that one year, we could barely walk him on a leash and now he’s walking and running on leash like a champ. Hard work, patience and love goes a long way!

How was your week in workouts?

Linking up with the Weekly Run Down.

How My Fitness Has Changed Over the Past 20 Years

You know the 10 year challenge that’s been floating around? Personally, I don’t really get it. I think everyone should look different than what they did 10 years ago. It’s called aging, people. We are meant to do that! Anyway, the 10 year challenge had me start thinking about how my fitness has changed over the past 20+ years. Some of it is the same but my perspective towards it has seen the biggest change.

Let’s start at the beginning.

I really started working out in my teens. I had an amazing PE Teacher who was also a Competitive Figure Bodybuilder. She was tiny (maybe 5’2″?) but so strong. She wasn’t bulky but you could tell she had muscles. It’s pretty common to see that in women now but in the early to mid 90s, that was unheard of. I mean, Kate Moss and the heroin chic was the thing. My teacher had us in the weight room lifting heavy and teaching step aerobics. No one was sitting still. We had to move! I fell in love with strength training but was more likely to brush it off for time on the stairmaster, treadmill or an aerobics class because those were the things that were going to help me lose weight and “tone up” according to all the fitness magazines.

When I was in college, even though I was an Exercise Science major, I still gravitated toward the cardio side of fitness at the gym with weight training thrown in for good measure. I’m proud to say I never fell into the “Barbie weights” trap even though a lot of my friends swore that you’d get big muscles from lifting more than 5 pound dumbbells. I knew that wasn’t true and stuck with my heavy weights. But still, to me, exercise was only for weight loss/maintenance and aesthetics. I liked it but it felt more like something I had to do because if I didn’t I’d gain 10,000 pounds in 1 day. Which is totally and completely false, by the way.

After college graduation, it was more of the same for the rest of my 20s. I was a regular gym goer. I would hit the gym at least 6-7 times a week after work and on the weekends. Some weekends were spent hiking for our workout. My 20 something year old self didn’t even think about waking up before 6 a.m. to exercise. Hahahaha! I still was fixated on how many calories I could burn with cardio equipment. I didn’t have any goals other than to keep my weight in check. I was kind of on autopilot going through the motions – 45-60 minutes of cardio, strength training, done.

When I was in my late 20s, I came up with the dream that I wanted to run a half marathon before I was 30. It seemed like it was a crazy far off idea since I’d only run here and there for no more than 3 miles at a time. When I was 29, I trained and ran my first half marathon…my first race ever. I got the running bug but still made the gym and cardio a priority over running.

My 30s came along and Ron and I were ready to start a family. I was regularly running a couple days a week, going to the gym and had found I really liked yoga. I soon found out I was pregnant but then miscarried around 11 weeks. I started spotting after a run. Even though the doctors reassured me and I knew that running had nothing to do with it, I stopped running for 2 years. I toned down my cardio and strength workouts and focused on lower intensity walks and yoga. I didn’t run again till after my twins were born.

Postpartum running became my everything. I signed up for my second half marathon (Seacoast Half – same as my first!) as motivation to get back into shape. I didn’t have a gym membership so walking, initially, became my thing. My two little babes, our dog Cooper, and I would spend lots of outside time walking during my maternity leave.

When I was cleared, walking turned to running. I’d wait till Ron came home from work to leave for my run. There were some days, where I didn’t want to run. I wanted to hang out with my little family and not miss out on anything. On those days, Ron would tell me to go for a run because it was not only good for me but good for him to spend the time with the kiddos. But there was also days that I would thrust a babe in Ron’s arms and then hit the door running. I needed some me time!

That training period was anything but easy. I can’t say that I loved running but I think it was an important time for me to remember that I was more than a mom. I still had my own thoughts, ideas and dreams. Running was a place for me to think about that.

After my second half marathon, I was hooked on running. It became a regular part of my routine. I also found a regular yoga practice. I started strength training at home, lifting heavy weights. Things were shifting.

The rest of my 30s were a continuation of that shift. Exercise was no longer something I “had” to do for weight loss/maintenance. It wasn’t something I “had” to do for the illusive 6 pack abs. It was something that I wanted to do. It made me feel good. It made me a happier person. It made me feel strong, not just physically, but mentally too. Running made up a big chunk of my exercise time but I still made time for strength training, yoga, hiking, biking, snowboarding and other forms of movement to fuel that feel good feeling.

And now that I’m in my early 40s, I have zero intentions of stopping that feeling. My workouts are about gaining strength, running faster (hopefully), staying injury free, and to keep the body moving because it feels GOOOOOOD. Gone are the days when I think a workout isn’t good enough unless it’s 60 minutes or longer. I know that short and sweet workouts can give me the same feel good feeling.

I’m sure my fitness journey will continue to evolve with every decade. That’s normal. I hope to be doing yoga, running, biking, snowboarding and whatever else I feel like doing for the rest of my life.

Exercise isn’t a bad word. It shouldn’t be looked at as something you “have ” to do. Find what you love and you’ll feel the difference.