Something had to give

Today should’ve been a long run day.  “Long” is a relative term, of course, but we’re talking 4 or 5 miles, slow but steady.  Instead, I shuffled through a little over 2.  This isn’t the first time I’ve cut my long run recently, but it was the first time I did so without being actively sick.

You see, I’ve been struggling to keep all my balls in the air lately, those metaphorical balls being:

  1. Parenting
  2. Making progress on my PhD
  3. Running
  4. Staying physically healthy
  5. Staying mentally healthy

It became increasingly clear over the last month that maintaining all five together was unsustainable, because #4 kept breaking down.  Something had to give, and my physical health is what did.

I have to back off somewhere else, it seems, while my immune system recuperates and my body gathers its strength.  #1 is inescapable, and I can’t cut back on #2 if I hope to graduate.  #5 underlies all the rest and has to take priority.   That leaves #3, running.

Thus, temporarily, I’m cutting way back.  It’s a bit tricky mentally—running is wrapped up in my lingering body image issues—but I’m hoping the benefits of rest will make up for that.  I’ll reassess in a few weeks.

Anyone else in a similar position?

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I forgot how to have a relaxing Sunday morning

It’s been a rough weekend.  Little Boy brought home a stomach bug, which he then generously gave to me, who passed it on to his dad.  (At least there was some stagger so we had one semi-functioning adult at a time.)  There has been a lot of ugh, turn the TV on and just try to distract ourselves while we get through this.  Even feeling somewhat better, my appetite has been too low to give me any real energy, mental or physical.

Needless to say, I did not go for my usual Sunday run this morning.  I sat and ate breakfast, and drank a cup of tea, and tried to gather myself for the day.  I felt so tense, as though there was something I ought to be doing—but there wasn’t.  Little Boy was puttering around the kitchen mostly not getting into trouble.  There was no hurry, nothing planned.  There were chores to do—there are always chores to do—but they didn’t need doing right away.  So why was it so hard to relax?

Maybe running on both my weekend mornings is getting to me.  Maybe I need more breaks like this, so that I know how to deal with them when they arise.

A happy running memory

Sundays are recovery runs, and last weekend was no different.  I go out slow, relaxed, stretching my legs from Saturday’s long run, taking a route with only vaguely known distances, allowing myself to turn around when I feel like it.  It’s a low-pressure day, and it’s usually fairly pleasant.

I started stiffly, a bit sore from the day before.  Just keep at it, I told myself.  It takes you about a mile to warm up.  Then it gets easier.

Not a mile, said a memory.  Two kilometers.

And suddenly I was back running the loop I used to do in high school, training for a half marathon.  Knowing that if I could just make it the first 2K, up to the first left turn, I could make it all the way.  I could picture the brilliant snow, the sharp winter sun, the roads that were sloppy because they hadn’t been completely plowed.  Street after street of clean suburban houses, in developments too new for mature trees.  Crisp air.  Footing that was crunchy or icy or wet.  I ran that route in bad weather, too, including the dark gray obscurity of a heavy fog, but it’s the bright blinding days that merge together into a single memory of the joy of running.

The enveloping happiness of the memory caught me by surprise.  My brain doesn’t really do happy memories.  Its recollections mostly come with hard stabs of embarrassment or deep pangs of nostalgia and longing.  But this memory was good and inviting and warm.

The rest of the run went by in a pleasant daze, filled with more details of the past.  I could imagine what I used to wear to run: fuzzy green sweatpants, thick socks, double-layered gloves, a close-fitting knit hat.  And the same long-sleeved cotton shirt I had on at that very moment.

It was altogether the most joy-filled run I’ve had in quite some time.  Alas, the spell broke in the last few hundred meters, when I had to dodge around the new posts blocking the path to our neighborhood and my mind switched to thinking up choice names for the members of our HOA board.

Requiem for a running shoe

I bought a new pair of running shoes last week, which means it’s time to retire my old pair.

Old blue running shoes.

My old running shoes, artfully posed after their final run.

Usually, I replace my running shoes on a roughly yearly basis, but I held on to these for more than two years.  When the one-year mark came around, they were still holding up well, and it seemed a shame to get rid of them unnecessarily.  And then I was pregnant and not running as often or as far, and so it seemed silly to spend money a brand-new pair of shoes that wasn’t going to get much use.  And then I was a new parent with barely any time for running, much less shoe shopping, so I stuck with my trusty blue shoes.

When I first bought these, I was a bit concerned about their in-your-face blueness, but I quickly grew to like it.  There’s no way to say this without sounding a bit ridiculous, but they made my feet feel, well, special.  It was oddly motivating, catching bright flashes of blue as I ran.  My new shoes are a more sedate white, better for long-term use as everyday sneakers down the line but not quite as exciting different as the blue ones.

One of the things I’ve always liked about running is the relatively low barrier to entry.  You can’t play ice hockey without skates, or baseball without a bat and ball, but you can head right out the door and start running without any equipment at all.  There’s an argument to be made that a good pair of running shoes helps prevent injury (and indeed, it was the increasing twinges in my shins and knees that told me it was time to buy a new pair), but I didn’t buy proper running shoes until I’d been an active participant in the sport for several years.  I think my next “official” running gear after that was a fancy set of gloves, designed to keep my Raynaud’s-afflicted hands from going completely numb on cold days.

Nowadays, I’m the proud owner of two moisture-wicking T-shirts, one pregnancy-tested sports bra, and an expensive-but-oh-so-very-worth-it running stroller.  Plus — and this was particularly helpful in the pre-stroller days — a husband willing to wear a hydration belt on our long runs.  Oh, and a stopwatch from Target.

So tell me folks, what would you do with a pair of old running shoes?

A dose of positivity

After my last two posts, I thought we might be overdue for a post focusing on good things.

  • I made butternut squash soup yesterday.  It was – in my not-so-humble opinion – quite delicious.  Making the soup was actually a fairly substantial achievement for me, not because it is hard to make butternut squash soup (it’s not), but because (1) my husband does almost all of the cooking, and (2) this is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time but was unable to muster up the energy to make the time.
  • This morning’s run was accompanied by beautiful baby song.  (And no, that’s not a euphemism for crying.  It’s how I refer to the lovely cooing Little Boy makes when he’s happy.)  We ran a half-mile further than usual.
  • The eggs in the nest on our backyard patio have hatched into a pair of baby mourning doves.  Like most newborn animals, they are simultaneously incredibly ugly and some of the cutest things you’ve ever seen.

Running strollers and the fear of judgment

On a recent morning, Little Boy and I were out for a run when he started to get fussy.  This wasn’t a huge surprise; his relationship with the running stroller can be described as grudging tolerance at best.  It was also a particularly windy day – I don’t know how much that affected him, but it was certainly making the run harder on me.

My first response to a disgruntled Little Boy is to stop, pop my head around the sun shade, reassure him of my presence, check that he’s comfortably positioned with sunglasses still on, do a quick sniff test, and then give him a kiss and resume running.  If the grump level continues to rise, I’ll unstrap him from the stroller for a hug; at that point, it’s time to turn around (if I haven’t already) and head for home.

The path we run on is a popular spot for joggers, walkers, and bicyclists of all ages, so we pass and get passed by numerous people on a typical day.  When I’m pushing a baby who has decided to be, as my husband calls him, Mr. Fuss E. Pants, I become extremely self-conscious.  What are these various people thinking of me?  What kind of judgment must they be passing on my mothering skills?

What a selfish mother.  Can’t she see that her baby’s upset?  How can she keep running like that?

Logically, this anxiety has no basis.  No one has ever actually said such things in my hearing, nor even given me an obvious dirty look.  I know that Little Boy will be fine; our runs by design avoid mealtime and naptime, and the need for a diaper change would be unmistakable.  After a certain point, the best strategy for taking care of him is to get back home – and the fastest way to do that is to keep running.

My husband has no such worry in this situation.  He automatically assumes that any observers are sympathetic (oh, poor Daddy instead of oh, poor baby).

So why am I so concerned?  I wish I could more easily let it go.  This type of anxiety is almost always unproductive, and it permeates other parts of my life as well.  If I could just say to myself, “I’m going to submit this paper and deal with what the referee says when it comes,” I might be closer to graduating than I am now.

Sigh.