I am no longer training for the Chicago Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon.
Despite the month-long inner turmoil I have been experiencing over this issue, in the end it was a pretty easy decision. My outside runs in the heat have been brutal, and finding motivation to hit the gym before work has been difficult; therefore, I can count on one finger hand the number of times I've hit my target mileage since starting in May. Not good when you're just aiming to FINISH a half, let alone improve your time.
Plus, the guilt I've experienced over missing these goals is drastically affecting my overall activity--as if strength training is only a reward to be earned through tempo runs and intervals. It's like I needed to abandon this race before granting myself permission to incorporate other types of exercise into my life.
Do me a favor and smack me in the face (live or via e-mail) if I ever contemplate running 13.1 miles in the summer again.
It seems like I am constantly locked in battle with my best possible self, fitness-wise, trying to strike a healthy balance between how I want to look and what is realistically achievable. Pursuing aggressive goals without setting myself up for failure. Celebrating my progress without comparing it to others. I know it isn't just me, that lots of people have trouble maintaining their goal weight and a healthy body type, but come on now. I am 30 years old, not some in-the-dark teeny bopper who thinks she can eat a cheeseburger a day and not have it metabolize in her ass. I know that my physical AND mental health benefit when I take better care of myself. And yet, I am constantly surrendering to the same poor impulses, forever digging myself into the same proverbial hole.
And the older I get, the harder the battle. When losing weight in my early twenties, I was able to drop 17 pounds by just following Weight Watchers. There were a couple times where I pulled out my Richard Simmons videos, and Luke and I did the occasional hike on the weekends, but exercise wasn't a regular part of my day. Then I had kids, and everything changed. Even after hitting my pre-pregnancy weight last fall after months of careful eating, dedicated Shred workouts, and a semi-regular running schedule, my body was still different. The by-products of my crappy twenty-something choices were still there, only multipled (damn you, tire gut). Drastic changes to flaws I've been complaining about since high school will involve a higher level of dedication than, say, shredding a few times a week. Semi-related to this is the fact that I want to graduate beyond the point where I'm convincing myself to slip on my running shoes or pop in the Shred - rookie motivation problems that should no longer be an issue at this point in my life (HELLO YOU ARE A GROWN-UP JUST GET OFF YOUR ASS AND MOVE ALREADY). I'm tired of using excercise as a means to a tactical end - a way to drop weight, a method for improving balance or gaining strength. It's necessary right now since my body isn't as fit or capable as it could be, but one day I want to do these things just because I enjoy them. How funny that Linda just published a post on this very concept. Her "now" is my goal.
On the bright side, at least reaching that goal feels possible. Next month will mark my first running anniversary - the longest I've maintained any athletic endeavor - and I am so insanely proud of this words can't even express it. Despite a lack of speed, consistency, and flexibility, I can call myself a runner. If I can do that, I can do anything.
I've been pecking away at this post on and off for more than a week now, and frankly the original point is lost on me. It's not about dropping out of Chicago or chasing down the body I had at 23. It's just that I feel like I'm thisclose to nipping this thing in the bud, this one-step-forward, two-steps-back mentality that zaps my enthusiasm for wellness and short changes my total potential. It doesn't help that my world feels so small lately, so self-absorbed with short-term goals and material objectives (buy a toddler bed replace our kitchen table fix the floor boards the fridge is on its last leg ahhh), and now that Kara and Nathan are older and our family more grounded, it's becoming more important to me to leave a bigger mark on the world, to contribute in a way that lightens somebody's load and benefits society as a whole. There are certainly more important issues to focus on than the size of my waistline. Believe me, I know this. But right now, that has to be a priority, too.
Part of accomplishing this, I think, is working with my reality and not against it. For example:
The earliest I can get out of bed to exercise is a quarter to six. Not 5:15, not 5:32, not 5:40. Blame it on laziness, insanely late bedtimes, the rain, whatever. Either way, I need to acknowledge this truth and plan accordingly (i.e. no five-mile runs before dawn).
Commuting to the gym does not work long term. Sure, I managed to stay on task during most of my training for the Mini, diligently rolling out of bed half-awake two to four times a week to make the twenty-minute drive, but when motivation is at an all-time low, even the thought of packing a locker room bag is reason enough to scrap a workout completely. Plus, I hate starting my days without seeing Luke or the kids, and when I go to the gym, that's exactly what happens.
Luckily, there is a solution, in the form of a YMCA-like facility within walking distance of my house that has a decent enough fitness center, evening classes that mesh perfectly with bedtime, and reasonable membership rates to boot. Luke and I never explored this option before because he wasn't interested in hitting the machines, so it was easy enough for me to just go with my employer's "in-network" option, which is actually the higher quality gym, and suck up the drive. Now that Luke's been running again, he's more open to strength training and cross, so now it makes sense to go with something that accommodates our entire family. And no driving for me + free childcare for Luke = win-win all around. We'll sign up first thing next month, and I can't wait.
Working out after bedtime is the exception, not the rule, and never to be counted on, no matter how appealing it seems at the time. The longer I have to postpone a workout, the less likely it is to happen. (Running dates with friends aside, of course.)
Willpower is good, but abstinence is better. It's much harder to avoid eating the ice cream in your freezer than it is to refrain from buying it at all.
Okay, seriously, enough navel-gazing already. To make up for the lack of cohesion in this post, here are shots of my kids from two weeks ago, at a park you've never heard of, where we hung out with people you don't know. Enjoy.
Bird-watching at the park's nature center.
Momma: "Kara, can you see anything?"
Kara (Enthusiastically): "No!"
Father and son on the move.
Stair-climbing to a lookout point.
Girl power at its finest, with friends from our Rensselaer days.
It all really boils down to this, doesn't it?