Category Archives: motivation

The Comparison Trap

The other day, one of my girls said, “I’m in a pain hole and I can’t get out!” We spend a lot of time on our team working to push ourselves when you reach that fork in a race where you can either choose to blast through the pain tunnel or stay where it’s safe and (more) comfortable. She excels at getting into the pain tunnel but post-race can be just plain miserable for her; when she crosses the line, that’s all she has and we end up carrying her back to the tent. As much as we giggled about her pain hole comment (and her question about whether she still had arms), I found myself thinking about it this week as I checked my email for the fifteenth time looking for interview invites (for residency), checked an online message board for the interviews others were getting and scrolled through Instagram looking at everyone’s seemingly amazing training and racing posts. I realized that I’m caught in a comparison trap and I can’t get out. 

There’s a saying about never knowing about the rocks that other people carry and I think social media exacerbates this in a way. Despite knowing that social media is highly curated, it’s hard to avoid the creeping sensation that everyone else is running faster, doing more and generally better than you. For me, daily posts by other runners that include phrases like #neverstop #workharder #rundaily don’t inspire me, they discourage me. I’m nowhere near lazy; I’m busy coaching a team, applying to residency, and keeping life going but if I’m not killing my workouts (or even really interested in doing them), I feel like a failure by the time I’ve done my first internet scroll in the morning. I’m not sure what the solution is but I definitely need to start the process of building a ladder or find some teammates to carry me back to the tent to regroup.

How do you react to the comparison trap? Have you tried a social media hiatus? What is it about social media that makes us automatically filter our lives?

Calm (Alternative Title: Mindfulness I Can Tolerate)

I am one of the least intentionally mindful people on the planet. I move at 100 miles an hour, I always have ten projects in the air and generally consider it a successful day if I get through half of my to-do list. Recently, however, while on Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, I was introduced to calm.com which is a website and app dedicated to simple mindfulness exercises. What I like most about the site is that it has 3 minute guided mindfulness exercises, which are a tolerable length even for me. There are also numerous options for calming noise on the right sidebar which is a nice feature for when I’m working or reading something that doesn’t require 100% concentration.

As I’ve shared many times on here, I struggle with significant running anxiety. Interestingly, my race anxiety has decreased a ton over the past few years (maybe too much as sometimes I feel like I don’t care about race outcomes any more) but my workout anxiety remains incredibly high. I don’t sleep the night before a big workout and as I get ready to start, I’m nauseous and in full on panic mode. Flooding one’s muscles with cortisol is not exactly the way to prepare for success so I made a deal with myself to try to incorporate some mindfulness features into my pre-workout prep. Now on workout days, my routine goes warm-up –> 4 laps of jog the curve, stride the straights –> drills –> eyes closed, mindfulness moment. I close my eyes, work through one of the mindfulness actions of wiggling my toes and attending to that action and take some deep, intentional breaths. It sounds hokey and one of my biggest challenges is not rejecting the idea but my workouts have improved MARKEDLY since starting this. It could certainly be incidental but it seems that taking a few moments to focus before starting helps to bring my heart rate down and narrow my focus.

For me, a few minutes of intentional mindfulness a week is a much more tolerable way to work on focus and anxiety than yoga, which has the paradoxical effect of making me significantly more stressed about my schedule, my lack of flexibility and so on. I do still do my 20 minute routine for runners but beyond that, yoga has never seemed to work to help my mental game. I’m hopeful that adding this small touch of mindfulness will be a good addition to my pre-race routine and help me move back towards a healthy dose of anxiety and race anticipation.

Do you practice mindfulness? How do you focus yourself before workouts and races?

Recently Read: Inspiring Women All Around

No additional narrative is needed to share this beautiful piece about how running can save you, no matter when you discover it. That being said, the story about Ms. Keeling is an incredible testimony to the fact that it is never too late to start and that daily activity will extend your life both in years and quality.

I teared up reading this account of Bobbi Gibb’s first Boston Marathon out of an appreciation for the walls she knocked down for female distance runners without ever asking for glory or recognition. I’m thrilled that she served as Grand Marshal for this year’s event, where almost 50% of the participants were female.

Finally, a not running related article that I’ve shared with every single woman in medicine that I know. I don’t know the woman behind this blog but trust me that if I ever figure it out at a conference, I will hug a stranger for the first time. Her willingness to share her struggles and challenges as well as her advice has been enormously helpful in my own decision making process.

Time for Plans and Projects

Spring

This little guy poked his head up in our side flower garden yesterday, perhaps optimistic that the 65 degrees and humid would be here for good. I’ll admit that I felt a little optimistic as well, as I sweated through an easy 7 in shorts and a tee shirt. It felt most like Spring, however, when I hit the track for the first time since November. It felt like Spring not only because the track was dry instead of under ice and snow, but because I felt awkward and rusty as I attempted to get in my striders. The first straightaway was downright comical. I couldn’t remember how to lift my knees, pick up my cadence or pump my arms. 100 meters felt like forever. By the 8th straightaway, however, familiar efficiency was coming back and my mind started to drift to all the progress that seemed imaginable but just out of reach.

She felt that she was full of the most splendid plans and projects…

How To Start Running: Month 3

(Just finding this? Here’s Month 1 and Month 2.)

Month 3 Picture

This month is where you’ll really start to pick up steam, getting up to 20 minutes of exercise and 14 minutes of running by the end of the month. By now, your runs should be a habit and you should be feeling comfortable when running for 2 minutes at a time. We’ll build on that by adding running time first and then by decreasing your walk breaks in between.

Week Workout Plan
Week 9  16 minutes (1:30 walk 2:30 run. Repeat 4 times)
Week 10 16 minutes (1:00 walk 2:30 run. Repeat 4 times. 2 min walk to end)
Week 11 16 minutes (1:00 walk 3:00 run. Repeat 4 times)
Week 12 20 minutes (1:30 walk 3:30 run. Repeat 4 times)

 

 

Welcome to Skechers

For someone who generally has plenty to say, it’s hard to put into words what today’s post means to me. For anyone who has run competitively, sponsorships are an incredible gift and shoe sponsorships are the holy grail. Yes, shoes serve a practical purpose since most of us go through shoes at an alarming rate but beyond the practical, a shoe sponsor is validation, hope and motivation all wrapped up into one incredible document.

I met Dave at the Craft Brew Race last June, where he got a pair of GoRuns into my hands. I subsequently fell in love with the shoe and started trying to get SkiRack and Fleet Feet to carry them locally. When the opportunity to apply for the 2016 Team came around, I jumped. Dave and I were able to chat leading up to Philly and I had high hopes that I could demonstrate to Skechers just how great an investment I would be. I won’t lie that part of my post-race disappointment came from feeling like I’d blown my chance with Skechers. Imagine my relief when within minutes of my race, a text came back from Dave that said “It’s just one race, we all have bad ones.” That’s a company that gets runners…

All of this to say is that for 2016, I am beyond ecstatic to announce that I’ll be racing for Skechers Performance along with some other awesome Northeast runners.

As you’ll start to see on my sponsors page and with product reviews for Skechers shoes and apparel, with great opportunity comes great responsibility. I’ve always aimed to be transparent when I am given gear to test and this will be no exception. Yes, Skechers will be providing me with free and discounted gear but they are extremely clear in their social media policy that we are not only encouraged but expected to be honest, good, bad or neutral. 

I’m so excited to reveal this next chapter in my life to all of you and to join with Skechers Performance as I strive for the next level in my running.

Have a fast day.

 

Recently Read: Youth Sports, the Trials as a BQ and Master’s Goals

  • I’m a huge advocate for lifelong activity, not only because I believe sports teach valuable lessons for surviving life’s obstacles but because obesity is a pathology that crosses over all walks of life and costs us enormously both financially and emotionally. Thus, I was interested to see new data on participation in youth sports and disheartened to see that overall participation has dropped. This is one of the reasons I love cross country; it’s not expensive to be a part of and there is a place for absolutely everyone.
  • Sometimes it’s difficult to explain to people that my goal is the Olympic Trials when I have no chance of making the actual Olympic Team. Although the by-line is a little offensive and the USATF quote is similarly obnoxious (The average marathon time in 2013 for women was 4:41, almost 2 hours slower than the OTQ at 2:43), this article does a decent job of capturing what the Olympic Trials Qualifier means to runners for whom the Boston Qualifier is not enough. I qualified for Boston by almost 20 minutes in my very first marathon but still wanted something to strive for and needing to shave 34 minutes off (I’ve taken 23 off to date) is my version of the BQ.
  • I joke that I’m really training for my masters career after I finish residency, so stories like this (and like Deena being top American at Chicago at 42) give me tons of hope!
  • I love this article about the purpose of education because it’s also spot on for the purpose of a high school sport. The score is NOT the main event. Showing up, working hard and pressing on when things don’t go your way IS the main event. Being accountable to teammates and coaches is the main event.

Coaching Millennials

One of the beautiful things about coaching is that every season offers the opportunity to get to know your runners, both returning and new, in a totally different way. They grow and change individually but even more significantly, the team dynamic shifts every year and new parts of each runner are revealed. We just returned from our weekend training camp and yet again, I was blown away by the talent and character of the girls I have the opportunity to coach.

This year, our training camp was a whole new experience for all of us. For years, we’ve been heading to Northern Vermont with the boys team. For various reasons, we decided to shake it up this year and split up the boys and girls teams. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the co-ed nature of cross country but after our experience last weekend, I am so glad we embraced the change. We had a full weekend to just be together with no distractions and what came out of the weekend was a bonded, focused team with extraordinary positive energy.

I recently read an article on coaching millennials, the colloquialism for those of us born 1980s to 2000s. Born in 1983, I’m on the cusp of Generation X and Millennial but am definitely more X than Millennial. The article points out a few key differences that coaches need to acknowledge when coaching millennials:

  1. Strong emphasis on teamwork and collaboration
  2. Desire to have ideas matter
  3. Lack of organic leadership skills
  4. Need for affirmation

From my perspective, numbers 2 and 4 are the biggest influences on a day to day basis. One of the biggest things I’ve tried to do over the years is get real buy-in from my runners. One of the ways I approached this at our training camp was to have the team generate their expectations and come to consensus on team goals, both process and outcome oriented. Not surprisingly, they all came up with a relatively homogeneous list for both that was reflective of our team ethos. The process of discussing what they want from a team culture, however, is far more important than a polished list of expectations. As the season goes on, I look to my team for input on any decision that they can help me to make. Ultimately, it’s their team, I’m just the person responsible for getting them places on time with both shoes on.

Number 4 is a far trickier issue. For all their amazing qualities, I would say that we have a team crisis of confidence and occasionally a crisis of niceness. I am blessed with 25 caring, gentle young women who take great care of each other. In so doing, however, they sometimes question whether they earned their spot on the team and struggle to pass each other in races for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. Tied into this is the aforementioned need for affirmation. One tactic I’ve employed is to give concrete, regular feedback whenever I see great things rather than waiting for an athlete to need affirmation. When someone has great form, I’ll comment immediately so that they can remember what their arm swing or knee drive feels like. After a race, I try to be as specific as possible with feedback so that it is personalized rather than vague.

What generation do you identify with? If you coach, what are your collective team strengths and weaknesses?

Week in Review 6.1.15 to 6.7.15

Monday: 8 miles around Spear Street.

Tuesday: Off Day, prorated to 8 miles.

Wednesday: Speed day. 3 by 400, 3 by 300, 3 by 200 at R pace with full recovery. Hip smarting big time but moving well on the track. 10.7 miles for the day. Legs afterward.

Thursday: 6.5 recovery miles in the humidity with Carl. Botox Clinic for the morning for kids with movement disorders. Reminded me to be grateful for every run.

Friday: Saw my first delivery!!! I didn’t expect to be unmoved by a new human entering the world but it was all I could do to not cry as he arrived. So much for being the professional! Oh, and ran 8 miles around Red Rocks.

Saturday: Tempo Workout between events at the State Meet. 4 by 5 minutes at T pace (6:31, 6:34, 6:40, 6:38). Felt super easy. 9.4 miles total.

Sunday: 15 mile long run. Somehow didn’t think I needed to bring fuel or water, which turned out to be a bad call.

Total Miles: 65.6

Really excited to get a decent week of mileage in. The weather was pretty amazing most days and I am getting a handle on my hips. I’m still not doing a great job of getting strength work in, so I need to make that a priority now that I’m back to normal mileage. I’ll be staying at 65 for the next two weeks so hoping that as I get used to this, I can build in more strength. I’ve been good about marching and drills, though, and feel like my form is getting better. I didn’t end up running the Capital City Stampede as planned because it coincided with the Vermont State Track Meet and let’s face it, I’d much rather watch my girls run than compete. I’ll be looking for a replacement race shortly, however.

I don’t have much constructive to add to the conversation about Alberto Salazar and Galen Rupp, except that I’m really glad that my excuse/way of explaining things has nothing to do with “pushing the envelope” on supplementation. I spent a good part of the week angry about the whole situation but ultimately I’m proud to run clean and to have teammates who do too. I hope that NOP gets investigated heavily and I welcome all the drug testing US Anti-Doping and WADA can bring to clean up our sport.

On a more cheerful note, a lovely piece by Natalie DiBlasio about finding your OWN fast and being proud of your progress.

Not All At Once

Last week, I was on the phone with the mom of an alumna with whom I remain close and we were talking about balance and the tendency of some women to take on too much. She remarked that she once heard Madeline Kunin (former Governor of Vermont and generally incredible woman) say that “Of course women can have it all. Just not at once.” That quote has hung with me since our conversation.

I am rarely overwhelmed by my schedule. In the past week, however, I’ve felt a bit overbooked and increasingly like I’m doing a sh*tty job at all my commitments. As I struggled out the door for my workout on Monday, feeling like I should remain tied to my desk instead of running, I finally admitted that something had to give, at least for the next few weeks.

Right now, my priorities are the Boards and MMU Nordic. The former is self-evident from a career perspective. The latter reflects a core priority in my life: give back to the community that raised me. Every season of coaching is special but when a State Championship is likely and you have three and four year skiers who have given their all to get here, they deserve your all right back.

By the end of my workout, I’d come up with a temporary solution (which I suppose made the whole run worth it). Until the end of ski season, I’ll use ski practice as my recovery days. I have two days a week slotted in as recovery runs and since the purpose of a recovery run is to just move, skiing will do just fine. This saves me a double workout twice a week and takes some pressure off. Is it the most specific workout for running? No. But it will have to do. Yesterday was an incredible day of skiing and it was made even better by being able to enjoy it for what it was, not worrying about when I was going to get my run in.

What compromises have you made to better fit running into your life?