are you there Serotonin? it’s me, Sam

Brain: Having the usual?

Me: No, no Anxiety for me today. I think I’ll give Depression a try. Make it a double.

Despite my best efforts, my physical health as well as my mental health have gotten the better of me the last several weeks. What seemed like normal winter blues and cabin fever from being repeatedly sick snow-balled into a full-on depressive episode, something I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing in quite some time.

I’m still in the thick of it. I’ve lost interest in most things. I’m weepy. I’m exhausted.
I am starting a new medication and weaning off the ones that seem to have lost their luster. I’ll be fine, this isn’t my first rodeo.

But I am not here to talk about it actually. Just here to say hi since it’s been awhile since I have posted.

So Hi! I’m still here. I’ll be me again soon. I just need some time.

itchin’ on a photograph

Let me be clear about this: I love your race photos.

I get a chill any time I see an action shot, in the moment, of pure joy, grit, determination, perseverance, even temporary torture because I know all those feels. I focus on your face, your expression, your cadence, your stride. I see your muscles, your months of hard work, your spirit.

I know where you are. I am with you. I am cheering for you!

Despite what I know about how I react when I see your race photos, I do not have those same feelings when I see mine. And not just now, but since high school cross country, winter track, spring track and throughout my on-again, off-again love affair with running and racing that has spanned 22 years.

I go out for a run, and I love this body- everything it does, everything it is capable of. It can carry me up hills, it can lift heavy things, it can go fast – or at least, it used to and I am determined to make it fast again. It gives high fives and hugs and fist pounds and waves to other runners, to my friends, to all the people I love.

I go to work, or out with friends, or even the grocery store and I love this body. I’ve had good jobs, horrible jobs, better jobs and now a great job that gives me a great deal of satisfaction and even balance with the rest of my life. I’ve had good friends, bad friends, and amazing friends that fit different parts of my life. I have a great boyfriend who loves me in spite of my inability to load a dishwasher properly or get through a week without crying about something. And most of the time, I love myself.

I have lived for years on a roller coaster of anxiety, panic, and depression that has peppered an otherwise wonderful life. A far from easy life, full of loss and hardship of every kind. But a wonderful life that I love, and I do my very best to honor the body that carries me through this life.

Except, when I see my race photos, all of that love and appreciation disappears somehow.

I see everything bad that has happened to me and how it shows on my body. Its mass. It’s bigger than it’s ever been. And then the camera adds 15 pounds or more to my face, my legs, my arms. I see how big I am in relation to the men and women next to me. My body has changed immensely through the last 22 years- especially the last 3 years- and so have I.

I am frustrated that I have worked so incredibly hard to get my body back to doing the things I love to do, and when I look at those photos, I don’t see any evidence of that journey. Yes, I see a woman whose face is full of joy. She’s running! She’s doing things! But how could she be happy when she looks like that? Which is embarrassing, because I don’t think those thoughts when I look at anyone else. Not you, not anyone. Just me.

So I don’t post those race photos, because I am afraid that is what you will see. The fear is actually paralyzing.

And it’s not just now. I have always experienced a massive disconnect between the satisfaction I received from my athletic pursuits and how I saw my physical body in my race photos- even when I was much, much smaller. And as much courage as it took to write this, I sadly will still not post my recent race photos. The ones that bring me to tears, and mostly because I feel bad for myself for being so broken- I know what’s behind that photo, and that’s all the things I see when I look at your race photos, and I can’t look at my own photo, smiling, coming across the finish line, so proud of myself, and feel her joy.

I want to cheer for her, but I can’t. I love my body, but it’s complicated.

So I have some work to do, not just on my pace or my endurance, but on my eyes. I want to change that negative narrative that happens every time I see my body in motion. I want to see me the way I see you, so brave, so determined, so awesome.

We do this awesome thing, we runners. Here’s to hoping I can soon cheer for me the way I cheer for you.

the super bowl diet and week 2 training

I ate all the things last week.

And last night.

And possibly today. I’ve had a normal start but I have not run yet so anything could happen.

Unfortunately, despite the title of this post my poor choices had zero to do with the Superbowl other than the gross consumption of things like pizza and chicken wings.

I didn’t even watch the Superbowl.

But I do confess that this insane feeling of starvation very often happens when I start to ramp up training. My cravings are hugely out of whack and I find myself completely distracted by intense hunger pangs all day long. The odd part is, my approach to eating for the last year or so, somewhat consistently, has been to eat all day. No, not graze, not snack, not “small meals.” I eat what one would constitute as a complete meal roughly every 2-3 hours: 830-1130-2-4-7. And yet, I was still a ravenous beast.. although it seems to have somewhat subsided today.

I started eating this way as a result of finding the RP Diet Templates last year, and while I had quite a bit of success using them it involved a level of precision (weighting, measuring, and in my case, agonizing) that I couldn’t continue forever but I do come back to it for 8-12 weeks at a time when needed.

I did take away a lot of healthy habits that truly worked for me, though, and one being that I continue to eat in relatively frequent and consistent intervals throughout the day to stay fueled, mostly craving free, and less hungry. Plus, I generally eat more balanced meals being more focused on macros vs straight calories. For me, more balanced = less primal desire to take down an ice cream sundae before bed.

My training itself has been going well though! I made it through all 6 days last week and hit exactly what I had planned, even with a little extra credit on my Sunday long run (ran 7 instead of 6!) And my first race of the season is this coming Sunday, a 7.1 miler that ends gloriously with a finisher medal and unlimited beer and food at a brewery. Who wouldn’t sign up?

I don’t have any sort of performance expectations at this race, as I am (planning on) using this as a training run, but who knows what will actually happen come race day.

Here’s this week’s plan, already in progress:

  • Monday: Rest
  • Tuesday: 3 Miles (Became 2.5) + Strength
  • Wednesday: 5.5 Mile Tempo Run + Strength
  • Thursday: Cardio Cross-Train + Strength
  • Friday: 4 Miles with 4×100 Striders
  • Saturday: Rest, optional 1-2 mile easy easy run
  • Sunday: Great South Bay Mardi Gras Run
  • Totals: 19-21 Miles, 30 mins Cardio, 60-80 mins Strength

 

 

motivation for the unmotivated + week 1 training

Let’s face it- winter training is hard: It’s colder, darker, and the urge to hibernate on your cozy couch is intense. I’m no stranger to feeling less than psyched about layering on every article of cold gear I own plus anything that lights up or reflects in order to sludge through miles in the dark, trying not to fall on my face or get hit by an oncoming car.

Motivation is a myth. There is no way any of us is going to have the fire burning inside of us each and every day to get out there and train our bodies to be more than they are today. Most of us aren’t professional athletes- we have shit to do! Jobs! Families! Obligations! Throw in a Spring race or two, and running just becomes something else that you have to do… except somehow, we think it’s optional.

And that’s where we go wrong.

Running is the one thing in my life that’s just mine. And without it, I am less present, less emotionally available, less capable of tackling the other things I have to do because I am more stressed, more irritable, and more apathetic towards my other obligations. Why on earth would I make the one thing in my life that centers me optional?

For me, as fun as Couch Me is for about five minutes, Runner Me has her shit together (…mostly). She eats better, she sleeps better, she is a better friend and a better partner.

If you are like me and your relationship with running runs just as deep, do yourself a favor. The next time you turn off your alarm and are tempted to roll over and go back to bed, or the next time you leave work and 2 blocks before the gym you are faced with the urge to drive right past it and make a date with your couch instead, take stock in just what you are giving up by caving to the instant gratification of an unplanned rest day. Who do you like better? Runner You? Or couch You?

There are days Couch You is going to win, and that’s OK. But the more Runner You shows up, the better you know you are going to feel about all the other Yous that make up You, so when your motivation is seriously waning, hold onto that. Hold it tight. And get out the door!

In other news… sickness and injury all behind me, I am officially half marathon training! Woo!

Here’s what this week looks like. I am slowly ramping up mileage since I got off to such a rocky start but I am finally ready to play with pace.

  • Monday: 30 min Strength + 30 Mins Cardio Cross-train
  • Tuesday: 3.5 Miles (1 up, 1 Moderate, 1 Moderate / 4×100, 0.5 down
  • Wednesday: 30 Mins Strength + 1.5 Miles EZ
  • Thursday: Rest/ Stretch/ Roll
  • Friday: 4.5 Miles Tempo
  • Saturday: 30 min Strength + 30 Mins Cardio Cross-train
  • Sunday: 6 Miles EZ

Totals: 15.5 Miles/ 60 Mins Cardio X-train/ 90 Mins Strength

netflix and chills

My fickle immune system has been at it again. I had started feeling really great physically (finally!) and began dipping my toe into ramping things up to a moderate level- playing with pace, longer runs, more frequent workouts. I ended my “base” training cycle with 6 easy miles last Saturday, excited and mentally ready for the more challenging grind of half marathon training, as I have several races lined up this Spring/ early Summer.

Then Sunday something felt really off. Did I forget to take my meds? I have been on antidepressants for years and missing a dose or two can seriously knock me sideways. I couldn’t tell but I took my pills for the day and headed to the gym for a strength workout and some easy cross training.

When I got home, I was hit with a tidal wave of tired.

Like, so, so tired.

I laid down on the couch for a few hours before moving to the bedroom for another several hours. Aside from meal prepping, I don’t think I was vertical again for the rest of the day. I felt like I had the flu- but without all the other symptoms except for some body aches and extreme exhaustion.

Monday was more of the same, and it was freaking me out. I decided to skip my workout later that night and fought back tears because I didn’t feel right and I just didn’t know why.

Around 6 that night, it all became clear: congestion, ear pressure, swollen throat, sneezing all ascended upon me so fast I barely had time to process what was happening before I was miserably lying in bed, in complete disbelief that not only was I sick again, but this was going to be ANOTHER bad one. Why, cruel universe, why?

For the next couple of days, I was sentenced to my bed, unable to move. I couldn’t have worked from home if I tried. Life was all tissues and snot and You on Netflix. (Which was good! I think. I did have a fever.)

Once I was upright again, half-functioning, and back to work, I experienced a lot of training envy. I saw all my Instagram friends crushing workouts and I wanted to be crushing it too.

“I could run.” I would assert myself

“No, Sam, you can’t. You had a 103 fever yesterday. Shut the fuck up.”

This heated argument went on inside my head Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I lost a full week of training, but I have to keep telling myself that losing a week’s worth of fitness is better than winding up with walking pneumonia for the better part of a month. I’m so stupidly jealous of people who get these mild colds and sniffles and can hammer through a workout in spite of feeling run down. I have never, ever been able to do this with success.

Which brings me to an important point- it is so important to listen to your own body. Yes, people say this all the time and despite this conventional wisdom, very few of us actually do it. We are overcome with training anxiety, fear of losing the fruits of our labor, of losing strength, losing our athletic mojo. I see you out there- back at it minutes after your fever just broke. Maybe you are a genetic powerhouse. Maybe you can do it and not relapse. The more power to you! But it is hard to watch you out there, still crushing it when the rest of us are soaking our beds with sweat as our fevers spike, break, and spike all over again forever and ever for days.

Anyway, things are on the mend- I did my first workout last night. A tempo run was planned but my energy dipped hard late in the day so I did the ol’ switch-a-roo with the training schedule and did my strength workout followed by some easy cardio. Tonight will be attempt #2 at Tempo. Wish me luck!

how to survive a crappy pre- season

Have you been extra sick this season? Perhaps you got an over-use injury on the outside of your foot because you ran a half marathon you barely trained for. How about a hip injury from gaining so much weight the last three years that your joints just can’t handle it?

All three? Oh wait. That’s me.

Even if you’ve only been hit with a cold, mild injury, or just about anything that has sidelined you temporarily, you are bound to lose some fitness and the climb back to where you were before the pile of crap that is your life happened might not be easy.

I’ve had hard comebacks before, but this season has tested not only my mental toughness but made me question if my body was even capable of mild athleticism anymore. There were tantrums. It tortured me and really broke my spirit. Who would I be if I weren’t an athlete? I’ve lost that part of myself for brief stretches of time before but forever?

And then, after nearly 8 weeks of trudging through miles barely faster than a slow walk and taking more rest days than I was comfortable with because everything hurt and I wanted to cry, I started having small break-thrus.

A sub 12-minute mile.

A run over 3 miles that didn’t have me wincing in pain the entire time.

A sub 11-minute mile. And then a sub 10. Hooray!

I’m nowhere near being “back” but for the first time in what seems like too long I feel like I am making progress, and that feels amazing.

Having the will to keep showing up to your workouts despite everything going wrong is not easy, and If you are having a lousy time like me, here’s some advice from the trenches:

  1. Keep a workout journal and write everything down- Even if your workout was complete shit and you hate your life. Sometimes you don’t even know you are making progress. Journaling forces you to be mindful- which I need, because my brain environment is all anxiety and chaos.
  2. Pay attention to your heart rate if you have a fitness watch. (I have a Garmin Vivoactive 3). Not all miles are created equal, and even though your body isn’t cooperating, your lungs could be making strides. More small changes to pay attention to.
  3. Make a running/ fitness Instagram account and DO NOT LINK IT TO YOUR NORMAL INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT. Your non-running friends really don’t want to hear about your training (sorry) and that’s not very motivating. Use it to make friends with other runners. You’ll be surprised to learn you are not alone and many are on very similar (sometimes crappy) journeys. The running community is supportive and inclusive.
  4. Retail therapy! I shouldn’t be promoting my poor spending habits, but having really awesome gear, including compression stuff and foam rollers for recovery really helps. And cute running clothes OBVIOUSLY. Wanna wear that new outfit? Gotta go run first, lady (or dude). I love it all- Oiselle, Lululemon, UnderArmour, Brooks, New Balance, Lole, Athleta, Tracksmith, Just Strong.
  5. Cross train when you can’t run Don’t completely abandon ship and dive into that pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey if you have a bad day. Spin, strength train, whatever. (And then, ice cream. Life is about balance.)

I know it sucks. It sucks hard. Losing fitness is frustrating and when you are at the ripe old age of 36 like me your metabolism looks at any time off you are taking as a one-way ticket to fat pants. Then try one of your old workouts with a 10lb weight on each hip… doesn’t really work so well.

But whether you have big PR goals or running just keeps you sane, don’t let it get the best of you. Sometimes the sweetest days are simply the ones you worked the hardest for.

don’t call it a comeback

No really, don’t.

I don’t know what the hell to call whatever is happening to my body, but for the first time in probably my whole life, I don’t seem to be bouncing back with incredible ease, which has been the one saving grace through a lifetime of tragedies, setbacks, and loss. I have the resilience gene.

Or at least, I did. And maybe I still do, but this “comeback” to running and my once super-fit life has been such a slow, painful climb that it’s allowing much larger amounts of fear and self-doubt to creep into my already frustrated thoughts. If I was really honest, I’d say I was angry. So in the spirit of going into 2019, a year ripe with lofty goals I have set for myself, with the best chance of achieving those goals, I need to lay it all out on the table. I’m fucking mad.

And despite dealing with some shade of anxiety or depression, sometimes both, almost daily, for 2/3 of my life, I have usually managed to sew threads of a positivity into the things I do, my thoughts, my interactions.

I like myself. I am a glass half-full person. I love early mornings and the sound of the rain and maintain a sense of Zen even when I am sitting on the Long Island Expressway in bumper to bumper traffic because someone pulled over to use their cellphone and everyone just had to look. I’m completely annoying that way. It’s who I am.

And it’s that part of me that is so afraid to admit that I’m having such a hard time seeing the good in what is happening to me, this extra challenge that life is handing me. Who is this person who can’t look at this as an opportunity to change course and try harder? I don’t know her. And I don’t like her. I dislike her so much that I also have to admit I am welling up with tears as I write this.

Some say you have to fail to move forward. Hell, I do. I say that all the time. I’ve written entire essays on getting comfortable with failure because it’s truly been the key to my success in my professional life. But standing at the intersection of weight gain, injury, illness, and a chaotic holiday season, I’m feeling lost. I am having a hard time, and I need to get out of my own way.

I did not run today. The fire inside me that’s still there, just dimmer right now, whispers “you mean you didn’t run yet today.” And I agree with her, and I probably will run, but at this moment, I am sad that this has all gotten to me the way it has.

And in spite of my emotions and a body that so far, has fought me with a fierceness I was honestly not expecting, I am going to keep showing up until I find my rhythm again. I have no other choice.