Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Just Running Around

This video was taken during Sunday morning's Vancouver Sun Run -- the route passed very near our condo, and the band you hear playing here began very early and very loud! We didn't mind too much as the enthusiasm and energy is contagious and it's great to see the runners picking up their step to match the beat. Pater and I have both run the Sun Run several times in the past, although not for many years -- it's soooo big now -- over 59,000 runners participated last year.

Karen asked me, in a recent comment, if I'd write something about how I stay motivated to run. My first thought was "If she only knew" as I've been having a tough time with running lately; it seems that some illness or injury keeps interrupting my progress each time I think I'm getting back into a running groove.

But then I realized that this frustration is a result of my motivation, and that I am, indeed, committed to staying fit, at least, even when/if I can't run. So I thought perhaps I could put together a few words about what keeps me going.

I've never thought of myself as athletic, but I was a habitual walker, covering miles daily as a child and teen. I started running after I met Pater, but only when I met my friend Cathy, in Prince Rupert, did it become a habit. Getting away from domestic responsibilities to run with a friend turned the activity from chore to fun, and I would even squander my babysitting budget on running if I had to. Moving to Nanaimo, I found another running partner who would also abandon kids and dishes for a run and we'd cover miles while chatting about Simone de Beauvoir and Mexican tiles for the floor and how we met our partners and how hard we found it to juggle our kids' and husbands' needs with our own. My running used to supplement Aerobics classes -- signing up for (and paying for!) classes meant I'd rarely miss that exercise, but running seemed more likely with a friend's company.

However, many times Alison wasn't available, so I'd strap on my Walkman (remember those? clunky yellow things at least five times the size of Ipods -- we thought them so sleek and portable) and listen to CBC (for my non-Canadian readers, public, i.e. non-commercial radio). These days, if I bothered with an Ipod, I'd catch up on podcasts, new recordings by favourite artists, AND all the good old stuff that really gets the feet moving.

So far, I haven't needed that added incentive though. My needs these days are rather for time when my mind can just sputter along, bursting out with one observation after another, formulating goofy ideas, remembering and reframing events, making to-do lists, worrying about kids, resolving to meet some goal or other. So much of my work is either with students or with books, ideas, writing, that I'm glad to focus on the physical and leave my brain some time just to process without any input other than that of movement. Especially when I'm working on an article, as I am these days, I like to take running breaks in between research and writing, and I'm often surprised by what ideas come out of that change of pace.

But I think Karen wanted more specific tricks for getting into the running shoes and out of the house. Well, besides arranging to run with a friend or to try running with an Ipod, I found that to get back into running after I've stopped for a long while (due to injury), I like a small goal. Many people work toward Fun Runs by joining a local running clinic, again getting a social benefit with the added advantage of some training help. My daughters and sisters have found this a great way to get running, but here on my little island, the extra commuting to town just isn't worth it to me right now. I like running for the convenience of being able to go right from my back door. So when I started back at running a few years ago, I followed this LearntoRun10K program; it's beautifully designed to build strength, confidence, and pride by mixing running intervals with walking intervals. Although I didn't run a formal 10K at the end of the program, I used it as a base, adding a kilometre a week onto it 'til I was ready to do a half-marathon. I did two of those in the fall of 2007 and then had some setbacks (first some back problems, then some Achilles issues).

Now I'm trying to get that base back again. I was doing well up until a few months ago when first one bout of 'flu, then another of a sinus infection, put me behind. I've been having some hip tightness lately and have slowed down to respect that, but I make sure I keep up with my twice-weekly Pilates class, some cycling, lots of walking, and I'm hoping to build up to at least ten- kilometre runs again soon. At almost 56, I don't take this for granted, though, and I realize that I may have to switch back to walking at some point. Meanwhile, I'm patient with myself and I keep setting reasonable goals for improvement. As well, I run to suit my personal circadian rhythm -- I prefer running before noon, and I try to make room for that in my dayplanner several days a week. And while I don't actually pencil my runs in, I do prioritize them as activities that have to be made room for, and I try to do that early in the week. If they weren't such a habit by now, I might even write those times into my planner and honour them as if they were doctor's appointments or faculty meetings. I've read Financial Planning advice that says to "Pay yourself first" in order to get a Savings habit happening and I think if you don't do the same for Personal Fitness, there will always be another priority waiting to chew up that time, especially if you're a mom.

Finally, my motivation for running is that I know how it makes me feel -- confident, proud of myself, aware of my reserves of strength -- and look -- not only does it help me control my weight, but aerobic workouts also benefit hair, skin, and overall vitality. I know running is not for everyone -- many people dislike its repetitive quality, finding it tedious; many others find it uncomfortable; many find it too hard on their joints. And I'm so far from being an accomplished runner that I would never presume to offer advice about it Except That a favourite reader asked. So there you go, Karen, is there anything useful here? One of my colleagues a couple of years ago embarked on a program of dragon-boating and outriggering, supplemented by dance classes and yoga, and she claims she did so after asking me how I found the energy to run given that our workloads felt so heavy. Apparently I gave her some inspiring answer along the lines of "I don't know. I just go out and do it," and she's teased me ever since for spurring her on by adapting Nike's slogan. If I can do the same for you, let me know!

And if you don't like running, here's proof that walking can be good for you as well, especially if you have a willing Granddad.

These photos are taken on the Seawall just near our place -- Nola loves to stick her tongue out when the wind's blowing -- so funny. Not sure if it's a technique you'll want to adopt.


  1. Great ideas to keep the motivation going!

    I'm so envious that you're able to run. I really miss running but once my hip went bad, I had to stop all high-impact activities. What I loved about running was that point at about two miles (I rarely ran more than three at a time) where I'd hit that groove and everything felt totally in sync...breathing, stride, awareness and everything would drop away and leave me so totally in the moment. Skiing still gives me that, and horseback riding.

  2. Pseu: I know I'm running on borrowed time -- I don't think I'm genetically blessed the way the Vancouver octogenarian marathoner is -- she's so impressive! You've described exactly what I like about running -- being in my body, physically so present in the moment. I'm not brave enough for skiing nor overly fond of the cold, truth be told. I suppose I'd have to take up swimming, but then there's all the wet changerooms and lugging of towels -- running's just so simple and straightforward.

  3. Thanks for a really nice post - if I had the get-up-and-go, I'd be truly inspired!! :0) And it's lovely to see the fun you and Pater are having with Nola. Patricia

  4. I swapped running for brisk walking b/c realized I'd not even be able to walk distances if I kept punishing my knees. Still elevate heart rate up in the training zone, and get the endorphins. Don't miss running; some days walk faster than others- it's about moving.

  5. I feel good WHEN i'm exercising, but then when life takes over, responsibility looms, I just quit. I'm stop and start.

    Today I found my grandma's shawl; she used to do her ab exercises on it all the way til she reached 105. I guess that's motivation! She worked out til the last breath...

    I know if I could just go on a walk I wouldn't feel so tired, so irritable. I think I'm starting perimenopause too, which doesn't help motivation. Going to the doctor next week.

    I am so glad you keep up your health. I just don't know how you had time to run when you had four kids!

    Thanks, Mater

  6. Don't be embarrassed about giving advice. I loved this post and have bookmarked it for future motivational reference.

  7. Patricia: Well, you've get up and gone all the way across Europe, haven't you! And yes, we do have such fun with our little girl and I suspect there's lots more to come.
    Duchesse: I absolutely agree. For six to eight years, I swapped out walking for running, same reasons as yours. I just missed some aspects of running, but I agree you can get the same benefits from walking (and you don't always have to change, which is a nice plus!) As you say, it's about moving.

    Karen: It was tough to keep exercising when the kids were home, and I'm the first to admit I often traded a clean house for the time to run -- by which I mean I didn't clean the house but ran instead!! So much about running a household is never-ending and I really had to be a bit selfish. I'd give myself some slack, though, with exercising since I was, after all, running after four kids -- as are you with your three. You're moving all the time, I'm quite sure!
    Lesley: Thank you! I just hate to sound preachy-teachy!

  8. It is good to be reminded of making time and planning and just going. I'm not a runner, not sure I ever will be again, my back and knees may not allow it, but I love long brisk walks, preferably now on a wooded path with only the company of my thoughts -- how reinvigorating those are. At this point though, after months of joint swelling and difficulty with any exercise, I am more at the point of just starting back, and taking it slowly as well. Your posts is a good encouragement and good reminder.

  9. Mardel: I love those kind of walks as well -- I really enjoy my own walking company at my own pace. Hope that you manage to get moving again -- does the warmer weather help at all?

  10. Mater, were you teaching when you were raising the kids? How'd you 'do it all?'

  11. P.S. I am going out top buy the new self-help runaway bestseller, "Women Who Love Nola Too Much."

  12. Karen: Until my kids were all in school, I was able to stay home with them, but I had a piano/music theory studio out of my home. I didn't go back to get my BA (then MA, then doc.) 'til I was almost 40! And I did it by prioritizing -- and housework never won in that game! (I was no superwoman, in other words)
    You'll have to come visit some day and you can admire Nola close-up!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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