Running Buddha

Running Buddha, Sub 60 10k, Temple Building, Zaimu Challenge

A funny thing happened yesterday. While searching for the image to accompany my blog, I suddenly felt “some kind of way.” I’m not sure what that phrase really means (ha), but I felt excitement and a sort of recognition, seeking and finding yet another runner. Not just runners… I’ve been seeking and finding elite track athletes. Women who spend hours a week training their bodies to be efficient and fast. Side note: they’re all fine, too.  Yassss!

Mikele Barber

The feeling surprised me because although I was sprinter in high school, I didn’t really enjoy the work that went into it.

As a kid, I loved racing classmates and neighbors. Sprinting felt like flying, and I could count on being first or really close. But running varsity track wasn’t exactly fun. It was okay to run hills and stairs, jump boxes, pull tires and the like. Yet when it came to the conditioning runs, either long distance or endless sprint repeaters, I hated them.

I avoided running for years after high school because I had such unpleasant memories of conditioning. Occasional school yard races with my elementary students or fellow teachers? Sure. Distance running or any type of training? Hell no.

So I’ve found it surprising to come to running on my own terms and enjoy it. There’s much to love about it including the sights, smells and fresh air outdoors, and the overall feeling of accomplishment and fitness after a strong run. I can set personal goals and work toward them sans stress.

Me, finishing Tuesday's "3 miles and strides."
Me, finishing Tuesday’s “3 miles and strides.”

But this feeling yesterday, this connection or bond with women who work at running was certainly new.  And it fits with my current feelings and approaches to things, so I’m going with it.

During many of my runs, I learn lessons, and sometimes I share them here. Whether I blog about it or not, I’m always growing while running. When I’m absorbing lessons while running, I always think Running Buddha.

With all of this in mind, I plan to document my journey to a sub 60 10k. From the mental and physical discipline, to the workout specifics and rationale, and everything in between. I’m about one week in to a 16-week program, so join me!

Blogs about running lessons will be categorized Running Buddha. Blogs about the program, Sub 60 10k.

7, 8, 9…

Running Buddha, Sub 60 10k, Temple Building, Zaimu Challenge

In 2014, I began a running plan via my RunKeeper app. It’s a fat burning plan, and alternates intervals with steady runs to increase your fitness level. The app features several such plans for goals like run a 5k (3.1 miles), run a 5k in less than 30 minutes, and so on. Although I don’t enter races, I run 5ks and a rare 10k (6.2 miles), as part of a regular exercise regimen.

While perusing the plans back then, I noticed a 7-mile training run included to build endurance for a 5k. At that point I was a consistent 4-mile runner and 7 miles seemed daunting. It was a little too far outside my comfort zone, and after all, I was just a casual runner. The goal and the fear intrigued me, though. I filed it in the back of my mind to target later and stuck to the simpler fat burning plan.

Fast forward to 2016. One day, more or less due to happenstance than planning, I ran 7 miles! And then I did it again on purpose which was actually harder to do! After 7, the new uncomfortable, too-far-out-there goal I secretly filed away was 10. One day, I’ll run 10 miles. (I have zero or less than zero interest in training for a half or whole marathon, by the way, so don’t get any ideas). Anywho, 10 gives me the same jitters 7 did a couple of years ago, and I had no plans to hit it soon.

Sanya Richards-Ross

This weekend, I signed up for a new training plan via RunKeeper. Based on my current fitness and mental readiness for challenge, I selected a sub 60min 10k. This means running just over 6.2 miles in under an hour. It’s definitely doable, but unlike past running ventures, it will take actual training, rather than casual effort.

Before signing up, I skimmed the plan and noticed an 8-mile run in the mix. I felt the familiar tension, but brushed it off because of the two 7s under my belt. I locked in the plan and completed my first run (4 miles) on Sunday.

But today, while looking at the run calendar to confirm date of said 8-mile run, I blinked, observing there was much more in the offing. This 16-week plan starts off comfortably, but quickly ramps up to regular long runs – something I’ve never done with any consistency. There are two 7-milers on tap, and after a few weeks, not one but two 8-milers, two 9-milers, and shock of all shocks, yes a 10-miler.

I said it was time for a challenge. Wow. Here it is.

One step. 10k.

Running Buddha, Sub 60 10k, Temple Building, Zaimu Challenge

Today I began a 10k training program.

I started on Day 3, as I’d already completed the equivalent of the first two days on my regular regimen. I ran my standard distance – 4 miles – so it was an easy entry.

IMG_8426My distance running has been primarily self-taught/self-guided until now. I’ve been comfortable, and now that I’m fully settled into my new life, I’m ready to break boundaries.

I want to prove to myself that I can set and accomplish goals with consistency and commitment. These ingredients are sometimes lacking in my creative endeavors, and the combination of structure, challenge and discipline will reap benefits in the weeks and months to come.

Today’s run was to be conversation pace, defined on this plan as 11:15-11:30 minutes per mile. I nailed it at 11:20 average pace, but it was interesting to note that my conversation pace was more like concentration pace. Because I usually go much slower at the beginning and much faster at the end, I constantly checked my pace to make sure I was on target. I made mid-course adjustments the whole run to make sure I remained on track. I had to remain focused to keep pace.

The plan is a sub 60 10k. That means my goal is to run just over six miles in just under an hour. This is a doable stretch for me. Although I’m confident I can be successful, I know it will take more effort than I’ve given in the past. Normally I run just for fun. Now I’m running for excellence. I don’t plan to enter an actual race, but I do plan to run faster, and longer and increase my overall fitness.

Today I took a step, and won. My next run is set for Tuesday…

In progress

Running Buddha, Temple Building, Zaimu Challenge
Ajee’ Wilson

Today I ran another 4 miler. I don’t generally run two days in a row, but rain is forecast for tomorrow, so I had to get it in.

I had modest goals – namely maintaining yesterday’s performance with the addition of a slightly faster warm up mile.

To my surprise and delight, I crushed it.

I pushed the warm up mile and was progressively faster on all miles thereafter. I even dropped my average pace by 30 seconds.  That’s pretty shocking, and in truth, I hit my target. As in, what I expected to be doing after a couple of weeks of effort.

Next steps? Keeping this up long term, and not just as a quick trick a couple of days here and there. I’m still taking breathers on mile four, so I’ll also plan to build endurance for speedier runs.

I’m excited to see my mind and body work together to create an outcome. This is one of the things I most appreciate about running. It shows me I can visualize and enact things in the real world.

Now to apply this to projects in progress…

—-

Read about Ajee’ at the 2014 Penn Relays here.

Indigo Stretch

Zaimu Challenge

My running trail is an enchanted forest. Trees and grasses in various stages of bloom flank the whole path. Today I experienced the first honeysuckle this season. Nose candy.

Micro climates and mini ecosystems pulse in the enchanted forest. A chorus of birds on this stretch. A pond of frogs and cicadas on the next. More birds with new songs here. A deer crossing there. A snack bar for bunnies and so on. You experience this all within the first 1.5 miles of the trail. If you’re open to the sounds, scents and scenery, you’re never bored along the way.

indigo bunting
Indigo Bunting by Dan Vickers

Months I spent running that stretch, turning around at 2 miles and heading back in. But there’s a stretch farther in the distance. I make it there often now, but what a treat the first time I tried a five-miler…

Somewhere around the 2.25-2.5 mile turnaround, you spot them. About the size of sparrows, they boast a magnetic, electric blue. Their chirps are loud and persistent from atop the nearby trees, yet sometimes they bounce and fly along side you as you run. Cheering you on.

If you’re not sure you’ll make it to 2.5, these blues are worth the stretch. For the longest time I simply called them my electric birds. Google tells me they might be indigo buntings.

Blue and I went for a run date this morning – the first in months. We ran an easy conversation pace, and blissfully far enough to say hello to the indigos on the back stretch.

Good morning, sunshine.

Tune In

sickness, Temple Building, Zaimu Challenge

I have DVD programs for cardio, strength training, and yoga, and I’ve relied on these for years. On running days, I wake up and I jog the same trail, albeit different distances, on a regular basis. There are good reasons to avoid the same routines and paths, but I embrace the repetition.

Today was a strength day, so I whipped out my barbell set and selected a DVD from my strength program. The workout was surprisingly easy. When I am well, I can finish the hour-long program in an hour.  I compare that to two days ago, when I was in the early stages of recovering from a cold. Fatigued, and probably a little behind on calories, I had to stop every 5-10 minutes for a short break. Tuesday’s hour-long workout took more like 75 minutes.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 6.03.55 PMI like doing familiar routines because it allows me to objectively assess how I’m doing that day. Am I phoning it in, or am I doing my best, even though my performance is lacking? Did I eat enough, did I eat the right foods? Am I doing too much? Should I stretch or rest tomorrow because my body needs a break?

I can ask myself these questions because the routines leave mental space available for contemplation. I think it’s important to tune in daily and assess how you’re doing – mentally, physically, and in all areas really. Since I typically exercise early in the day, I can adjust my plans based on what I’m discovering in my early morning movement.

Do I ever bring in new programs/routes? Yes, whenever it’s time! After all, the point of the sameness is listening to what my body needs. And every once in a while, it asks for something new.

Letters to my little sisters.

Personal Narrative

A week from today is my 40th birthday. *shimmies*

I’m very excited about this milestone. Aside from seeing Ailey, I’m not sure what else I’ll do to commemorate it. I want to go dancing. Salsa, like Ailey’s Revelations, is high on my list of favorite things.

As we were planning this week’s episode of Whiskey, Wine & Moonshine, Sojo realized this would be our 40th episode. We decided to call it 40 Before 40. It’s literal, in that it’s the 40th before I turn 40 (Ms. Smart and Sojo are a tad younger). But it’s also a play off bucket lists and things people want to accomplish before milestone birthdays.

I hadn’t created a 40 before 40 list, but I thought it might be enlightening if we discussed what we have accomplished thus far in life, what we have planned for the next phase, and what we would tell our teenaged selves if we could send some love to our past.

Sharing encouragement and life lessons with younger women is something I’ve long wanted to do. I have particular areas in mind, and some of my current planning is grounded in this work.

Our episode was an interesting one. Unfortunately, Sojo wasn’t able to join us (shout out to Kedar), and Queen Neen from the In Deep Show was there in her stead. We talked about body image, romantic relationships, sex, finances, health, and career.

For the seasoned readers among you, what have you learned that you would like to share with the younger generation? What do you have planned for the next phase of your life?

Make it non-negotiable

30 Day Blog Challenge, Temple Building

Today is National Women’s Health & Fitness Day. People who have met me via social media and in real life, know I make #templebuilding a priority. The days I get up and exercise in the morning are the days I’m off to a fabulous start. But there was a time when that wasn’t the case.

I’m a self-described athlete. I ran and biked like most kids in my neighborhood growing up. I was a gymnast in elementary school.  A cheerleader in middle school. I danced (band auxiliary) and sprinted (varsity track) in high school.

I engaged in fewer structured activities in college, although I danced (partied) several hours a week which definitely counts for something. After college I had an on again, off again love affair with local gyms.  I stocked up on exercise DVDs for the off again moments. Even as an elementary school teacher, I woke up early enough to exercise, chant, drive 30 minutes and still get to work by 7 a.m. I prioritized prayer, sleep, laughter, water and movement. They kept me in good spirits and good health.

When I became a full time doctoral student in 2007, things changed. I found myself a recluse when class wasn’t in session. All the time I read and wrote papers, thought about theory, drank coffee and ate McDonald’s. Seriously. All the time.

Me: May 28, 2012 after exercising at home.
Me: May 28, 2012 after exercising at home.

A few months in, the side effects from that “food” and the disgust from Super Size Me, spurred me to choose healthier meals.

(Sidebar: I didn’t eat fast food for a year after that, and with the exception of two iced coffees in 2007, I’ve never consumed McDonald’s again). I was no longer exercising, because who had the time? But I knew my body was ready to move again.

Despite my desire to exercise, it was a struggle at first.  I had to force myself to stop reading or writing to go for a walk or a short run. I argued with myself – one more page, or one more paragraph. Then another. I’d panic as I watched the setting sun, realizing it was now or never.  I’d throw on some fitness gear and get moving.

That happened many times, until:

  • I realized I always felt better after exercise, and
  • I scheduled it. I made it non-negotiable.

The very first time I put an exercise appointment on my calendar, my dissertation advisor wanted a meeting. I had to break it to her, “No, I’m not available at that time. I’m exercising then.” She, a woman very much into self-care, supported me and offered several other times even with her busy schedule. I understood then, to the degree I was serious about taking care of myself, I could figure out the rest.

And so I set my exercise schedule daily. I incorporated strength training, swim lessons, and running, all depending on my class and homework schedule. I treated exercise like any other important appointment. I was definitely going to attend, so I had to plan the rest of my day around it.

Over time it has become less of an appointment and more of a way of life. Sometimes this means running on treadmills when I’d rather be outside. Sometimes it means a 15-minute high intensity interval workout instead an hour of strength or cardio. Sometimes it means evening workouts although I definitely prefer sunrise exercise.

The point is, I’ve made it a part of my regular routine. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

Happy temple building!