The Benefits of Running

I’ve posted a few times in the last couple weeks about the weather finally getting warm enough to run outside. There is something so relaxing about just losing yourself in your thoughts as you settle into a good running rhythm. But there is more to love about running.

Here is a great graphic from NordicTrack spelling out a few more of the great benefits that come from tying on your shoes and hitting the pavement:

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Perfect Day for an Outdoor Run!

A few weeks back, I wrote about my first outdoor run in a long time. I have to admit, I think it may have inspired me a bit. I spend so much of my time in the gym, that I often wonder if I forget about all the other exercise opportunities that are outside of those walls – including what I’ll admit was my exercise “gateway drug” (also know as outdoor running).

I got lucky tonight – it just happened to be my usual “long run” (or cardio-only) day of the week, and the weather was perfect to take it outside. There’s something about a slightly overcast, mid-60s day that just makes a run fantastic. You never really get too hot, the sun doesn’t keep you squinting, and it’s a little easier to get lost in your thoughts when you’re looking at the beauty around you (in my case, my route took me past a skyline including the Washington Monument and the Capital Building … twice … not to mention the really cool landing route of the planes into Reagan National). To be honest, I spend most of my work day looking forward to my workouts anyway. But knowing that I had a run outside instead of the treadmill tonight? It gave me even more to look forward tonight.

I think I’ve finally figured out a great route, too – from my apartment, down into Alexandria, out past the Pentagon, and back around to the other side of my neighborhood. Makes for a 7+ mile route, which is what I tend to do on the treadmill. It’s nice to focus more on how I feel than when the treadmill tells me I need to speed up or slow down. I’m pretty sure there were times I was running slower than I typically do, but I know there were a few times I was trucking, too. And we’re not even going to talk about some of those hills (yowza, that’s a change from the treadmill!!)

Here’s hoping we have a few more spring days in our future … though the way the weather here has been lately, it’s winter one day, summer the next … because these outdoor runs have been fantastic.

First Outdoor Run in a While (a.k.a. The Reminder I Needed of Why I Fell in Love Fitness)

Every once in a while, something outside of my control forces me to shake up my weekly routine a little bit. Late last week, my gym was closed for building power upgrades on Thursday night … meaning no Spinning class for me to teach that evening. Luckily, the weather outside was nice, so I decided to do something I haven’t done in a while, and run outside.

The area in which I live is very pedestrian-friendly (being on the more urban side), and designed in such a way that it’s pretty easy to just take a big loop and end up back where you started. So I suited up, put on the one pair of pants that could hold both my apartment key and my mp3 player (I know, city running with music in my ears is probably not the best decision … but I kept it low enough to be aware of my surroundings), and set out on my way.

It actually ended up being a great run. I wore my heart rate monitor to make sure I was pushing myself as hard as I should be, but other than that, it was really nice to be able to just run, rather than being so focused on how much time was left on the treadmill, or how fast I was going, or what I needed to do to get to X number of miles by X time. It was just me, the road, and my body telling me when I needed to speed up or slow down, or when I’d done enough (okay, that’s not totally true … once I was about an hour in, I started playing that mental “once I get to …” game that always ends up turning into something more once I get to the initial “once I get to”). I ran for 75 minutes, and predicted I’d probably run somewhere close to 8 miles – which, yes, being me, I plugged into MapMyRun.com this morning, and found that the route I run was, in fact, just over 8 miles.

While I likely ran a slightly slower pace than I typically do, I’m also taking into account the fact that I had to tackle a few hills, and at times I allowed myself to just get lost in my breathing or take in my surroundings (fun fact: there is a bridge/park in my neighborhood a little farther north than I have ventured before. I did not know it existed. But once I was both a little freaked out and enthralled at the same when I realized exactly how close to the ground the planes landing at Reagan get? I realized that clearly I need to make a point to actually explore my own neighborhood. Because it was pretty cool).

I guess the biggest discovery I made that day was more of a reminder than anything else. You could almost say it brought me back to what made me love to run in the beginning … and how it became my “gateway drug” to the world of fitness.  It’s hard to admit, but I’ve been a little burnt out lately. I have been feeling like I’m going through the motions, and those motions weren’t quite giving me the same joy that they had for so long. The fact is, it wasn’t always about how fast I was running, or how many miles I was covering, or how heavy I was lifting, or how many heavy hills I could cram into a Spinning class. In the beginning, it was about feeling good. Being one with nature – and my own thoughts. Feeling the breeze on my skin, and the fresh air in my lungs. What could you say I learned (again) that day? That the rush doesn’t have to always come from, well … the rush. There’s a lot to say for just letting your body tell you how it feels, and letting that drive you, rather than the external forces. We spend so much of our days in the go-go-go of today’s society … every once in a while, we have to let our workouts slow down a little, turn off our thoughts, and just be.

Haven’t Done That in a While…

I decided to do something I haven’t done in a while tonight.

There are two things you should know about me before I go any further: one, I have “favorite” machines in the gym (Really. Read this.), and two, I have a tendency to get crazy ideas into my head and decide I just HAVE to do something.

Which is how I ended up running eight miles tonight … for the first time in probably three and a half years.

Now, yeah, if you’ve been reading this for any amount of time, you know I’ve been doing at least one seven-miler a week for the last several months. In fact, I used to run an 8-miler almost every Sunday when I lived in Nashville (the beauty of a gym with a movie theater inside it – I spent a lot of time running and watching bad movies). So it’s not like this is some huge feat … it’s more a case of following through on the thought I had while I was sitting at my desk this afternoon.

I worked my legs pretty hard – I thought – last night. Went up on some of my weights, felt that shake/numbness/tingle pretty strongly between my third and fourth set on the leg press. Naturally, being me, I was disappointed to have little more than a little tightness most of the day (fear not: good old DOMS has started to take hold on most of the space between my hips and knees).

Which is probably why this genius thought set in: “It’s the night for a long run. Maybe if I can get my second-favorite treadmill (I kid you not, I really do play favorites – this “second favorite” being the one treadmill that doesn’t have a built-in 60 minute time maximum … for the record, the favorite is the end one with the fan directly overhead), I’ll do eight miles tonight. I mean, I ran seven at the fastest pace I’ve ever run last week, so why not?”

Again, being me, I was thrilled to see that the “score on time” treadmill was open. I set it for 90 minutes (assuming it would take me a little over 70 minutes to run eight – I clocked in at 70:30 – and then I’d do the incline pyramid I usually walk following my runs … you know, because running 7-8 miles isn’t enough, why not walk another mile-plus?? Yes, there is something seriously wrong with the way my brain works). And I told myself there was no way I was walking until I hit that eight mile mark. Did it feel great? No. My pace was definitely slower than a week ago, but I was still averaging just over an 8:45 mile, so I really can’t complain. Yes, somewhere between miles five and six, I was praying that eight would hurry up already, cause the news stories were starting to repeat themselves, and I was getting kinda bored.

But in true me fashion, I did what I always do: Got an idea in my head. Ran (in this case, literally) with it. Rocked it. It really is all about your mindset – telling yourself that you don’t quit when you’ve had enough … you stop when you’ve reached your goal.

My First Time…

You could say it was somewhat of a defining experience. My heart was pounding. My breathing heavy. I could feel the excitement building as I got closer to finishing.

Seriously, get your heads out of the gutter! I’m talking about my run this evening. It was the fastest 7-miler I’ve ever clocked.

Tonight was the first time I’ve ever finished seven miles in under an hour… admittedly, it took 59:45, but hey, those 15 seconds kept me under an hour. Even more exciting? It was a full 40 seconds faster than the seven I ran last Monday (and last week started with a particularly hellish, self-defeating day, so that really is saying a lot. Today’s only compliant? That we were getting snow in the last week of March).

It was one of those accomplishments that really makes me think about just how far I have come throughout the years. If you’ve ever taken a few minutes to read a little about me, you know that running didn’t come easy to me. Heck, I thought the world was ending the first time I ran two miles and didn’t feel like I was going to die. Or made it down to a 10-minute mile an hour pace (for the record: tonight’s run clocked in at about an 8:30 pace).

The point I’m trying to make? You are a lot stronger than you believe. It’s all a matter of recognizing that although you may not see it from one day to the next, over time, you are capable of accomplishing far more than you may have ever believed possible. Always focus on the little accomplishments along the road to your overarching goal, because those little accomplishments? They can help you not only reach your goals … but go well beyond where you ever thought you could be capable of going. One or two seconds off your time, or running an extra quarter of a mile may not feel like much, but those seconds and quarter-miles add up.  It doesn’t happen overnight – but does anything worth having?

A Little Pre-V Day Gym Humor For You …

I don’t have a sweetie to celebrate with tomorrow, but if I did … I could totally see myself saying this (yes, I’m totally that person who peeks over at the speed on the treadmill next to me just to make sure I’m running faster…).

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