Sunday, January 29, 2012

Consistently Inconsistent

Competition Winner

You've heard the saying that the only thing constant is change, right?

Well, for me, when it comes to running, the only thing that's consistent is my inconsistent pace.

Today I had all the makings for a successful run: It was a beautiful, sunny day in the upper 40's and I was adequately rested, fed, and caffeinated. So, why did I run so much slower today than last time? Almost a minute/mile slower to be exact.

Sure, I know the "long" runs are about endurance, not speed, but at this stage in the game I don't exactly consider the runs I'm doing to be "long." (That starts next weekend.)

So, it remains a mystery to me what causes my pace to change so much from day to day; what causes me to run at such a good pace one day and then so slow the next.

Anyone else experience this or unraveled the mystery?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Resolve to find what inspires you

Inspirational Stones

Image: Photography by BJWOK /

Inspiration is one of those slippery words, like idealism or love, that is sometimes hard to define.

I recently read an article in the December issue of Runner’s World magazine about a young man named Ben who lost 120 pounds in one year. On his website, Ben posted a video of his journey, beginning with photos of himself as a “normal-sized” child who grows into an overweight, unhappy adult, his weight soaring to 365 pounds, before he becomes “inspired” and begins his transformation into a happier, healthier Ben. More than a million people have watched Ben’s video, perhaps relating to his struggle or cheering his success.

I, however, was left with one question after watching Ben’s video: What, exactly, inspired him?

An email sent to Ben asking him to shed some light on this important and pivotal moment of inspiration went unanswered. Perhaps Ben is too busy these days running races and touring the country as a newly minted motivational speaker.

Or, perhaps he simply can’t. Inspiration, that certain “je ne sais quoi” that influences you to do something or spurs you into action, is as intangible and fleeting as a puff of warm air on a cold window pane, shifting and then dissipating out of existence almost as quickly as it appeared.

Ask anyone why they exercise and you are certain to receive a variety of automatic responses, such as “to stay healthy,” “to lose weight,” or “to de-stress.” But the real question, the harder question, is why anyone wants to do these things in the first place?

For some, maybe it will be watching Ben’s video and seeing a hero quality in him, someone they can look up to. For others, maybe they have lost someone to diabetes, heart disease, or some other possibly preventable obesity-related illness.

My mother has always struggled with her weight, trying different diets to varying degrees of success. Then, in the late 1990s, we took a vacation together to Florida and walked on the beach every morning. My mother enjoyed our walks but not the fact that she had to huff and puff to keep up.

The realization that she was only in her mid-forties and struggled during these daily walks inspired her to make a real change and, following our vacation, she embarked on the healthiest and fittest decade of her life. She had always wanted to lose weight, but it was that specific “a-ha!” moment on the beach that compelled her to finally achieve her goals.

Simply wanting to be fit and healthy is sometimes not enough. It’s digging deeper and finding the real reason for your desire that is likely to garner successful, long-term results.

So, as you begin to define your hopes and goals for the New Year, make sure you know not only what you want to do, but why you want to do it. Possessing a deeper understanding of why you want to achieve a goal may bring you one step closer to success.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Stick it to the Ick

"Brrr, stick 'em, ha-ha-ha, stick ' em" --Beastie Boys

After being cooped up for five days and repressed by some viral/bacterial ick, it was immediately healing to lace up my new Kinvara running shoes and slip on my new, neon-yellow Gore cycling/running jacket (both generous Christmas gifts, compliments of Santa and Mom).

The instant I stepped out of my stuffy house and inhaled the cool, crisp January air, my frame of mine switched from illness to wellness.

I set out for an easy 2-3 mile run. Within the first ten minutes, I knew I'd run 3. Despite my body feeling a bit tired and sluggish, my stride felt smooth, effortless.

At the half way point, I was surprised to see that I was running my best pace in weeks; a full minute/mile faster than my past few runs. As I turned around and headed for home, my pace continued to decrease despite it being the more uphill and headwind leg of the route and the fact that I wasn't adding any intervals. I was reacquainted with my former negative-split self for the first time in a long time. "Hello, negative-split self!" :)

I wanted to shout from the rooftops: "I'm healed! I'm healed!" Or maybe break into song; a twist on Irene Cara's tune:

What a feeling, bein's believin'
I can have it all, now I'm runnin' for my life
Take your passion, and make it happen
Pictures come alive, you can run right through your life . . .

I'm not quite sure what happened out there today but I will chalk it up to being extra well-rested.

Oh, and by the way, take that, ick.