Life can be crazy and sometimes I am at a loss of what to do to make it manageable. There are times I throw myself into my work and believe it should take precedence over everything else so that I will get stuff done and feel better. Other times I look at a big pile on my desk and revolt by ignoring it and saying it will get done in due time. Then there is the hectic nature of home life and having three kids to feed and entertain and get to soccer or t-ball, homework, etc. My head spins just thinking of it all.
The question for me has always been not just how do I fit my running and workout schedule into such a chaotic schedule, but should I? Should I feel guilty running at lunch during work? Is it okay to spend another hour away from kids to go for a run when I already work full time? Am I being selfish to go to bed early instead of spending time with my husband just because I have an early workout planned? I think these questions just highlight the point that exercising and training for something, running and working out, they take focus and dedication. It can feel overwhelming, but in the end, it makes me feel better and gives me more productivity at work and gives me the balance I need in my life to feel positive.
It is also important to remind yourself that it doesn’t always have to be a long session. If you really do have a lot on your plate, then maybe a quick half hour won’t hurt to be away from your desk and rejuvenate your productivity. Plenty of studies have been done on this subject and getting even a small bout of exercise in is better for you than nothing. If it’s better for you, it’s likely better for your work performance as well as your loved ones surrounding you.
Giving yourself moments to work out, or even not work out (if you’re indulging in something else) is better for you in the long run. This gives you the opportunity to enjoy those moments with your loved ones and feel accomplished with a clear head at work, instead of resenting these things. The goal is to make each day feel like a blessing instead of an obligation.
I love that running brings people from all walks (or runs) of life together. Regardless of your athletic history, your weight, or your age, anyone can take up running and feel the benefits of it almost immediately. I would say there are many runners, in fact, who do not consider themselves athletic. Often times they chose running because they didn’t make the soccer team or were sick of sitting on the bench in the other sport they were playing at the time. I heard this a lot when recruiting high school kids. Running provided them an opportunity to participate and they were able to push themselves while not worrying about playing time. Running gives a person the chance to prove themselves as an individual with the support of a team.Many people pick up running later in life, to make new friends or to get in shape. There are those who were born to run and those were also good at other sports, but I think many just want to be part of something.
I often wonder how many people use running as a competitive outlet. I heard Seth Rogan being interviewed on the radio this morning. When asked if he watched the Olympics, he was pretty nonchalant about it and said that he just doesn’t get excited about sports and people winning. He claimed that he has tried to in the past, but it just “wasn’t his thing.” My immediate reaction was that I absolutely could not relate to this sentiment. How can you not care if someone wins? Now the funny thing about my competitive attitude (besides the fact that it can really irritate those around me), is that it is my drive and motivation both now and throughout my running career. I worked hard and I suppose there was some natural talent there, but mostly I just hated to lose. This is different than why other people choose to run or has very little to do with what gives them the push to train for a marathon or break 18 minutes in a 5k. I love it! That is why our sport can be for so many different people. You can smile every step because you are so happy to be out there, or you can grit your way through it because in the end, all that mattered was that you did it.
I think we can all remember a time where we came home from a run thinking that it was awful and despite all your best efforts of preparing and doing all the small things, it just didn’t go well. I know I can be really hard on myself when that happens and spend a lot of time analyzing what went wrong. It is important that you realize those days are going to happen. I had one run with a coworker recently that went south quickly (literally and figuratively). When it was all said and done, I had to chalk it up to just one of those days. The quicker you move on and realize it is all part of the process, the sooner you find your stride and have a good run to back it up.
Last week was a tough one for me. I love the summer and all that goes along with it. I won’t lie, the running has been less than ideal. I go out for runs and struggle with the heat, humidity and quality of air. My normal pace has felt so hard and I can’t seem to recover between intervals. After a tough week of thinking that I won’t reach my goals, I gave myself a weekend to reflect. Instead of thinking I need to do more, I think I just need to change what I am doing. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. No wonder I was driving myself crazy.
What will I change? I will get back in the weight room. I saw such a huge difference in my running when I was lifting weights twice a week. It is great to feel strong and I also feel less beat up throughout my running when my glutes are strong and I work on my core. It feels good to take a day off of running, especially if you replace it with a weight session. Weights are not easy for me, so I push through them because then the running becomes more enjoyable.
I think as runners we make getting out the door and going for a run a habit. However, we continually struggle with making the small things a habit. It is extremely crucial to get 7-8 hours of sleep. Any less than that and you are not giving your body time to recover. It can do amazing things while you are sleeping, but you need to let it do so. As much as I loved the Olympics, I am relieved they are over. I was recording more coverage than I had time for and sacrificing sleep to watch everyone compete in everything. I mean it’s only on once every four years, right? Not to mention the emotional drain they caused. (Abbey D’Agostino falling in the 5k and Jenny Simpson winning bronze in the 1500 both made me cry.)
I also can lose some of my focus when it comes to pre- and post-run fueling. I was so upset when my mile repeats on Friday didn’t go well, but had I just been more prepared, I wouldn’t have run out of time for breakfast and ate that doughnut at work 2 hours before my run. Talk about a drop in blood sugar during mile 3. Think ahead so you can be successful in working towards your goals.
The funny thing is that sometimes just running won’t make you stronger in running. You need to give your body other things to strengthen and recover it so that when you are running you feel good. It’s time for me to get back to those weekly weight sessions and implement cross training to give my body variety. Running an easy 4 miles at lunch does nothing for me if I feel bad and put strain and pounding on my body that it is unnecessary. It is very possible that a 45 minute weight session followed by some foam rolling is just what the doctor ordered, and how I can reach my goals.
It’s been great working at CARA and finding out all the wonderful things we do as an organization. I have learned a lot about outreach and all the ways we are in touch with the running community. There are many differences in working with runners in this world versus the competitiveness from my old coaching world, but one thing remains the same. Runners who run together stay together.
Every weekend I go to different training sites to meet people, answer questions, or just see how groups are doing. I try to run with as many different people as I can and the one thing that is constant everywhere is that the groups running together are such good friends and running partners and supporters of each other. So many factors play a role here. We have a common goal, we are there for each other during some tough moments (while running and outside of running), and we spend a lot of time together so conversations are constantly flowing and people really get to know each other.
I actually have a friend that I run with, and we call each other running soulmates. We don’t run together every day, but there is not a day that goes by without us reaching out to one another to talk about our running or to check in with the other. This is absolutely crucial to any success I have in running. She holds me accountable. Other people might have a personal coach who can do this for them. Either way, you have this partner (or group of people) who have a similar goal or in the least, know what your goals are. Marathon training is long. Not just the running; yes the running is very long, but the weeks put into the training can be overwhelming. We do an 18 week plan, which is over 4 months of your life, or to put another way, a third of your year. That is a lot of time spent with a group of people. It is fun to witness and even better to be a part of it. CARA has had people get married from situations like this. Best friends are made and a lot of times, a social circle is formed (or beer circle, whatever you want to call it).
Our running partners are just as invested in our training as they are in their own training. Your successes are their successes. We know how important it is to have those people to get you through an 18 mile run. Those same people probably get you through some serious times in your life, as well as lend a listening ear or a helping hand. This is why we are such an interesting group of people. Others think we are “crazy” for running a marathon and “waking up so early on weekends,” but it really is so much more than that. For us, it is a lifestyle, not just training.
It’s always a tough weekend when you go on a wine tour with your husband, sleep in (which never happens with 3 kids), and pick fresh blueberries. Notice I didn’t mention any running in there. It was a rare weekend without running. Should there have been running? Probably. Could there have been running? Probably. There were many years where this would have led to guilt and regret on my part. Nowadays, I just take it in stride. My husband forgot running shoes. Was it crucial for me to ditch him in a hotel room on our anniversary weekend so I could get 10 miles in? (Granted I am not training for the marathon this year, but still.)
As runners we tend to over think everything. Literally everything. Down to the tiniest detail. Should I eat this protein bar now or in 5 minutes? Should I go to the bathroom before I warm up or after? I wish it was 5 degrees warmer outside, or maybe 3 degrees colder. Should I wear gloves and a head band or just gloves? I’ve hear this debate take 10 minutes amongst runners. Most of the time, we truly believe these very small details can make or break us having a good race or a good run. And in a few cases, maybe they matter, but most of the time, if we step back and have a bigger perspective on something, it probably won’t matter. I say, don’t stress about it! Enjoy life as it comes your way (and sometimes gets in the way of your running). You know how hard you are working, so if stuff gets in the way, relax, take a deep breath and move on.
I moved on by making myself wake up at 5:30am this morning and getting in a 6 mile tempo. It’s not my usual Monday morning routine, but hey, if wine and blueberries are what mattered on the weekend, then it was time to make this matter to start my week. By 6:30, I was stretching and the weekend was behind me. I was happy with what I had just accomplished and ready to start my work day. Having perspective, staying positive and believing in the hard work you do is what is going to keep you going. Our sport is tough enough without beating yourself up about the small things.
My name is Leah Bohr and I am starting this blog as the new Director of Training at the Chicago Area Runners Association. We have a large number of members (about 2,000) who are currently training for the Chicago Marathon, as well as a few other locations (including Berlin!). We have various ways of communicating with them, but I thought it would be a good way for me to connect with as many of them as possible on a more personal level if I started a blog. I’m a pretty avid runner myself. I’ve been running for more than half of my life and it holds a pretty dear place in my heart. I am married with three kids (7 year old Ben, 2 year old twins, Ellie and Evan) and live in the burbs. I went to DePaul University on a XC and Track scholarship which is definitely where I learned how to be a successful runner. It has been my years after college where I learned what kind of role running would play in my life.
When I was hired as CARA’s Director of Training, one of the things that excited me most was that I was going to be part of a much larger running community. I had amazing experiences as a Division I Track and XC coach at a wonderful university and it was not easy to leave there. One of the things that intrigued me was how many more runners I would reach and this community of runners who was out there day in and day out, just like me. Running (or competing in any sport) in college is a commitment. But besides school, it is often times your only commitment. Sure, some people try and pull off a part-time job or an internship. Ultimately, though, your day is organized around a couple of classes and then getting in a good, solid workout. There is a much larger percentage of people who don’t have that life style.
In my short time here at CARA, I have been amazed by those around me. There are so many dedicated runners out there. It doesn’t matter how fast you are or whether you break course records. (Trust me, coming from my competitive background, that is a tough statement for me to make). It is about the work ethic and commitment to something that is not easy and often times difficult. As we all know, there is so much to get out of it, and I think that is worth discussing. I also think it is important that no matter what kind of person you are, life balance is important. I drove this home with my team when I was coaching and I believe it to be very true for my own life. I am happiest when I have balance in my life and when I was running in college, I was running my best and fastest when I had balance.
So I guess that is what this blog is going to be about. A commitment to running in a life that deserves balance. A love for something that some people just cannot understand, but a community of people who do understand and know we are all really in this together.