Weight Loss, the Body Image Aftermath

It’s been a year since I opened up about my weight loss (read the original post here) and I could never have imagined the impact sharing my story would have.  Over the past year I’ve been contacted privately by more people than I could ever have imagined who were simply saying thank you for inspiring their own personal change. And that silly swimsuit picture has been viewed more times than I care to think about.

But the story doesn’t end with a happy, YAY-I’M-SKINNY-NOW-ALL-OF-MY-PROBLEMS-ARE-GONE. Poof! Magic!

There’s a lot more to it than that.  Like everything else, it’s not what what it’s made out to be.

There’s an aspect to weight loss that no one talks about and an aspect to life that we all struggle with – a mental aspect that’s a lot harder to change than the number on a scale.

In the months following my weight loss I was surprised to learn my body adjusted to the change faster than my brain. For a long time I was genuinely surprised when I saw my reflection. Why? Because in my mind, I still identified with being a size that I no longer was. For months afterward, when I went shopping I looked for baggy shirts that would hide a pooch I no longer had. I refused to wear shorts because I didn’t want anyone to see my thighs. I kept my hair long because I thought it made my face look thinner.

It’s been EIGHT YEARS, and to this day, when I look at myself in the mirror I still don’t see myself as being thin. It’s not until I see myself in a photo that I see me as the world sees me, and I’m still incredibly self conscious of the size of my thighs. They’re the first thing I see when I look at my own reflection.

Eight years and seven marathons later, and I’m still adjusting to my “new” body. Up until last year, I wore running shorts that were a size too big because I thought the ones that fit me made my legs look fat. Then one day out of necessity, I bought a pair of spandex because I was having range of motion problems with my shorts when I did running drills. It took a week for me to actually wear them out of the house. When I did, I couldn’t help but think everyone was staring at me.

Y’all, the last time I bought jeans they were a size 0 and I still have a body image problem. Psychological issues are serious business. They’re strong and long lasting. Building yourself up in your own mind is a long process regardless of where you are, where you came from, where you’re going or what others think of you.

The change starts in the mirror. We all have flaws, pieces of ourselves we don’t like – for me it’s my thighs – no, I don’t particularly like them but I try to remind myself that my thighs are what help me run. They are strong. They propel me forward. They catch me when I fall. It’s something I fight every day.

Every. Day.

No one is perfect. Everyone struggles. Our struggles may be visible, or they may not. They can internally motivate you to change or they can suffocate you. In the end it’s up to you.

That piece of yourself that you don’t like, take it and use it. Improve yourself. But know that change doesn’t come quickly, it takes time. For some of us, it takes eight years…and counting.

2017 Shiner Beer Run Race Recap

Oh Shiner. What do I say?

Let’s start by talking about what the race was like last year. Last year, it was cold. 38 degrees and super windy. I ran a 1:37. It was a 2 minute PR and I won my age group. It was a great race and an awesome day.

This year, apparently, wasn’t last year.

This year, I ran a 1:46, 10 minutes slower than my PR (9 months ago), and placed 4th in my age group, I missed 3rd by nearly 5 minutes. If you could illustrate the word BLOWUP this would be it. I haven’t finished a half north of 1:45 since Rock ‘N Roll San Antonio in December 2014 (at the time it was a PR, and I was thrilled).

I’ve never had bad race. I’ve had some that didn’t go quite as planned but I could always pinpoint the reason afterward. I couldn’t do that after Shiner. I left Shiner with my tail between my legs, having no idea what happened. No clue what went wrong.

But you can’t have improvement without the occasional failure so the most important thing I can do now is to dissect the race, and learn from my mistakes. This race was unique for a few reasons and I think several factors each influenced the outcome. No one of these factors was the sole reason for failure but I think they each had their own, albeit small, role in the resulting meltdown.

Factor #1: The Heat & Humidity

It was HOT and HUMID. 73 degrees when the race started and that was BEFORE the sun came out.

Factor #2: The Wind

Even though Weather Underground said the wind was blowing at 5-6 mph, all the flags and trees seemed to think otherwise. I don’t know what the wind speed actually was but it had to have been in mid teens.

Factor #3: The Course

Shiner is a HILLY course. I mean HILLY. The first five-six miles are all up hill. The hills are steep, short and compact with little room for recovery between them.

Factor #4: Music Malfunction

For some unexplained reason, the music on my phone stopped working at mile four. Trying to maintain my pace, I dug my phone out of my belt and reset the app, started and stopped the playlist over and over to no avail. I decided that I didn’t feel like dealing with it, so I shoved the phone back in my belt and took out my earbuds. I did the rest of the race without music.

THE ANALYSIS

After a week of thinking about it, and talking it over with my running partner, I think I finally have a handle on what went wrong.

It’s no secret that I train by heart rate. I’ve talked about it here before. But for some reason I went into this race with the hair brained idea that I wasn’t going to run by heart rate. Instead I was going to run by pace/effort and see where that took me.

I can tell you exactly where it took me. Into the seventh circle of Hell.

I spent the first five miles sticking as close to pace as I could, even with the heat/humidity and while climbing that hill. I occasionally glanced at my heart rate which was 178-180 (I normally race at 170). I pushed myself hard going up the hill, thinking that I could use the downhill to my advantage later in the race to give my heart a break and relieve some of the effort. If you look at the heart rate graph you can easily see exactly how much time my heart rate spent above my normal 170 racing heart rate.

When I got to the downhill portion we turned straight into the wind, AND the sun came out. The combination of the two effectively cancelled out any advantage the downhill provided. I was banking on that reprieve in effort and it never came. It was defeating. And the defeat happened in silence because there were no spectators and I didn’t have music.

The further into the race I got, the more I slowed down. Around mile 7, I got wise and went back to watching my heart rate but the damage was done. I was gassed. My normally controlled heart rate was out of control, spiking easily above that 170 mark despite slowing my pace.

I tried to race a half at 95% of my max heart rate when I’ve been training at 87-90%. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work. Shocker, right?

The lesson is: Race day isn’t magic.

Yes, you can count on a certain amount of adrenaline to gut out the last couple of miles but it can’t carry you through an entire race. Getting a PR is hard and requires almost perfect conditions. Shiner wasn’t a PR day but I failed to recognize the non-ideal conditions and therefore didn’t slow my pace and expectations to match.

Going into a race with high expectations is hard. I put a lot of pressure on myself to perform at a certain level and it caused me to abandon my core racing strategy.

That’s the mistake. That’s where it all went wrong.

Notice I haven’t mentioned anything about my toe.

Three days before Shiner, it was so swollen I could barely walk on it, and I was really beginning to question if I could even race.

But desperate times call for desperate measures.

I unwound a paperclip and using the flame from my stove, performed a little DIY surgery on my foot, burning four holes in the top of my toenail to relieve the pressure. It was disgusting, amazing, and incredibly effective.

For those of you into gross stuff. Here are pictures. Before. During. After. I’ll spare everyone else from looking at my foot.

Did it work? Yup. Improvement was almost immediate. I was able to run on it, gingerly, a few hours later and by race day it was still noticeably tender but much better.

Though I would LOVE to be able to blame my failed race on my toe, I can’t. It didn’t bother me much during the race. I may have been subconsciously altering my stride/form to avoid putting pressure on it, thereby adding to the already increased heart rate but any difference that may have made pales in comparison to the enormity of the strategic error that occurred. The toe didn’t help any but it wasn’t the real issue.

My sock WAS bloody after the race though. Fun times.

Where does that leave me? With a massively bruised ego. I wallowed in defeat for two days but I was reminded that I need to shut up and suck it up. Bad races happen. BCS is in a couple of weeks and if I don’t want BCS to follow in the footsteps of Shiner, I need to evaluate, regroup and move on. There it is.

I can tell you what I WILL be doing at BCS…running by heart rate. Lesson learned.

Shiner Half & BCS Training Update

Training for Shiner & BCS is coming along nicely. If you remember, back in September, I wrote this awesome training plan for myself and though I’m using it as something of a guideline, it’s not getting followed, exactly. Or at all, really.

About two weeks after I wrote my training plan I left on a 16 mile run and came home 20 miles later. It had been a long week and I needed the alone time. It was more for therapy than training but after that I decided to up my long run volume this training cycle. My body is fully capable of handling the higher mileage and it seemed like a good chance to experiment. I’ve run 6, 20+ milers in the last 8 weeks. Including a 26.2 mile monster that featured 1,500 feet of climbing/decent at the Hockley Community Center. That was fun. Right?

The goal became making the dreaded 20 mile run “no big deal” and I can easily say that I was successful. Running 20 miles is no longer a big deal. BUT I’m tired. Very tired. More so than in past training cycles. I’ve learned some valuable lessons, most notably that I shouldn’t do more than two consecutive weeks of 20+ mile runs. Every three weeks I need a recovery week. Duly noted.

Speed work has been going pretty well. I skipped my last scheduled tempo run due to some emerging achiness in my knees and shins but a couple days of hot baths, targeted massage and cross training did the trick. Other than that the speed sessions have gone according to plan, with one exception…

…since I lost the Y to Harvey, I moved to a new gym. The temperature inside the new gym isn’t nearly as cold as the Y was, and sometimes it’s downright hot in there. As a result my heart rate has been higher and my tempo run paces have been slightly slower than normal by about 10 seconds per mile.

What was a 7:08/mile tempo run at a heart rate of 171 at the Y, is now a 7:19/mile tempo run at the same heart rate…which is slightly frustrating.

At first I thought it was me, as I hadn’t done any tempo runs since training for Boston and I took the summer almost entirely off from structured running. Instead I spent all summer playing with my friends and running a ton of trails.

When picking up speed work up after a layoff, you never really know how those first few speed sessions will go. They’re kinda like sticking your hand into one of those mystery feeling boxes. You never really know what is inside.

It feeeels like an eyeball…but maybe it’s a grape? 

It feels like a tempo run, kinda. From 2 years ago? It left me wondering, what happened?

Maybe my age is finally catching up with me? Maybe I’m paying the price for goofing off all summer? Maybe I’m just not as fast as I was back in April?

Thankfully there have been a couple of times when it’s gotten cooler outside and the temperature inside the gym has followed suit. I’ve had a few runs that resembled my old YMCA-pre-Harvey pace so I’m pretty sure it’s not me.

Which is good. I was getting paranoid.

Because the tempo runs have been slower, I’m slightly concerned that although my heart/lungs are in good enough shape to handle a seven minute mile, my legs may not be.

To supplement the tempo runs and work on my leg turnover I’ve been doing strides at the end of easy runs and have done a series of 2 mile intervals at 10k pace (6:45)  but if it worked remains to be seen.

I was hoping to find out on Saturday because it’s FINALLY time for Shiner! I’ve been looking forward to the Shiner Half Marathon since I finished Boston back in April. After the race I sat at the post-race party in Fenway Park, drank my special Samuel Adams 26.2 Celebration brew, and I switched the countdown timer on my watch. That seems like forever ago but it’s finally here!

Unfortunately, yesterday around 2:30 pm I was moving some firewood and dropped a piece right on my foot. It landed squarely on my big toe. I screamed and yelled a bunch of four letter words and cried a little BECAUSE IT HURT and watched my toenail turn purple – then the rest of my toe decided purple was an awesome color so it decided it wanted to be purple too. Moral of the story, don’t move firewood wearing flip flops.

I’m feeling pretty lucky that I didn’t break my toe.

I was planning on using Shiner as my last tempo run prior to BCS but right now I can barely walk, let alone race. I’m confident that I can complete Shiner on Saturday…it just may not be very fast because this HURTS. Like a lot. Badly enough that, last night, I briefly considered a trip to urgent care for something stronger than ibuprofen.

I’m disappointed. I wanted another stein. Hope isn’t lost entirely but I’m not exactly optimistic.

What is it with me and injuries right before a race? Last night when I was laying in bed with ice on my foot I realized it was the second time in six months that I had been elevating and icing an acute injury. Last time it was the mountain bike incident prior to Boston. At least this time I was doing something productive and not something incredibly stupid.

Next week is supposed to be peak week for BCS training. Peak week may or may not happen depending on how quickly my toe heals. According to the plan (that I wrote but haven’t been following), I’ve got a longer run scheduled for next Tuesday of 13 miles with 7 miles at marathon pace, one last 24 mile run on Saturday and if my body feels good I’ll do a marathon pace run on the following Sunday. Peak week mileage should be in the mid-70s. After that all I have left is a two week taper.

Regardless of what happens with my toe, I’m ready for the taper. I need the taper. I’m both physically and emotionally exhausted. Training for a race does that.

Yes, I can run fast but I don’t like it. The process of getting my body from summer-of-trail-running-fun shape to marathon race shape is uncomfortable and sometimes downright painful. Constantly pushing myself drains me emotionally. By the time I make it to peak week I’m ready to give up running altogether.

But then race day comes. Racing is awesome. It hurts but I’m rewarded emotionally and shortly thereafter I forget about the pain of training and start making plans to do it again. Because that’s what I do.

And because of marathon legs. Marathon legs are my favorite.

15,000 Steps

My watch has a pedometer on it. I like it. It’s not the reason I bought my watch but it was kind of a bonus.

Do I really need a pedometer? No. Running keeps me from being too lazy but it’s kinda fun seeing how many steps I take.

Like other fitness watches mine gives me a step goal to meet. But the goal isn’t static. It changes every day based on how many steps I took the day before. It goes up if I meet/surpass my goal, and down if I don’t.

When I first got my watch I turned the steps goal into a game. How high can I get it? Run, it goes up. Take a day off, it goes down.

Over time I noticed a pattern emerge. When I’m not training for a race the goal is usually around 13,000 steps. When training for a race, the goal creeps up and when it goes over 15,000 I’m almost always forced to take a day off. Either I get sick or I notice an emerging injury.

It happens every time.

It seems 15,000 steps is magic level of stress my body can handle effectively. And it can’t handle much more for long.

Case in point, a couple of weeks ago I came down with a MASSIVE cold.

At first it wasn’t bad. A slight cold usually doesn’t slow me down much and I did some easy runs without an issue. After a few days of coughing and sniffling, I started to get better. My symptoms were going away so I did a tempo run, as it was on my plan. The tempo run went fine. Great actually. No problem.

I woke up the next morning feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.

I relapsed and spent 3 days laying in bed. After the relapse I just happened to glance down at the steps goal on my watch. 15,981. Oh. And that was after laying in bed for two days.

My body makes me take a break. It doesn’t ask politely, “Joni, will you please take a day off?  You’re pushing me a little too hard.”

Today my steps goal is 15,059. It’s been over 15,000 for two days now. My rest day isn’t until Friday.

 

Yesterday I had some mild tightness in my shins and some pain below and to the outside of my left knee leftover from a very hard weekend. Heating pad. Stretch. Foam Roll. Massage the shins. Repeat. All day yesterday. They felt okay yesterday afternoon so I went on my normal Monday run.

During my run they didn’t hurt at all, not even a little, but afterward everything was worse. Today they feel better but not great.

My last and longest tempo run of the training cycle is scheduled for this afternoon, 10 miles at half marathon pace. If things in my body feel okay later this afternoon, I will go out and get it done. But most likely I’ll be skipping the tempo and doing something else. Maybe I’ll go for a walk…

It happens every time.

That silly steps goal is a reminder that as much as I’d like to think so, I’m not invincible. I’m a ordinary person, albeit a somewhat crazy one, with ordinary limits trying to push myself to do extraordinary things. Apparently my limit is 15,000 steps. What’s yours?

Mind Games & The 40 Percent Rule

We run with our legs, right? Well, technically, yes.

But there’s something else that isn’t talked about much and I argue is the single most important factor in running and racing and that’s training a strong mind.

How many times have you found yourself there? In that place where you have given up. You’re umpteen miles from home, your body is exhausted, your brain is telling you to quit.

You’re so miserable that you’d give anything to have the run finished, you’ve thought about calling someone to come get you but that would be admitting defeat. So you don’t. Instead you slog through what seems like the longest miles of your life. Grumpy, miserable, on the verge of tears. Suddenly, every little discomfort in your body becomes a tiny pebble, turned boulder, in your shoe.

Tired. Hungry. Thirsty. Sweaty. Legs trembling. Armpits chaffed. Make it stop already.

Those are the runs when you do the real training. The real work. It’s not on the easy runs, it’s the hard ones. The ones where you want to quit, but you don’t. That’s when you become an endurance athlete.

There’s science to the mind games. Your brain wants to maintain a state of homeostasis, the happy place where the body can maintain a stable internal environment despite changes in external conditions. In the case of endurance running, our brain wants us to actually finish what we started and not kill ourselves in the process, so it self regulates.

Because it’s awesome, our brains can monitor all of body’s systems to know exactly how far and how fast we can push ourselves while still maintaining that happy, comfortable state. All this is done without our knowledge. It says, “Joni, slow down. You can’t hold this pace for another 7 miles…”

…and it says it with side stitches. Muscle cramps. Fatigue. The list goes on.

Your brain is wanting everything to be a-okay, it’s protecting you. But there’s more in there. There’s more to give.

I recently read an article in Hustle about a millionaire, a navy SEAL and the 40% rule. It’s about how your brain will hold you back from your body’s true potential.

It says, “…when your mind is telling you you’re done, you’re really only 40 percent done.”

It’s mentioned again by Steve Magness in the book The Science of Running. I believe it. It’s the reason I can run mile 25, faster than mile 24. The reason I can only do 15 pushups when I’m working alone but can somehow manage 60 when my trainer is watching.

Your brain wants so badly for everything to be comfortable, it will do everything it can to keep you from being uncomfortable. Including telling you to quit. It’s a powerful thing, the mind.

Much like we train our legs and our hearts we have to train our mind, as well.

How do you train your mind? You force your body to recreate the pain of a race during training. We force ourselves into being uncomfortable under controlled conditions so that when we’re uncomfortable during the uncontrolled conditions of a race we know what we can safely push ourselves through.

It’s knowing the difference between challenge pain and warning pain, choosing to listen to the warning pain, and telling the challenge pain to go fly a kite.

We need to know exactly when we can tell our brains to shut up.

That’s the difference between running and racing. It’s also the difference between finishing and winning.

The only way to do that is to purposefully put ourselves in a place where our brains are telling us to quit…and then running 5 more miles. You never make progress while being comfortable, it’s not until we truly push ourselves out of our comfort zones, both mental and physical, that we find growth – this is true in life as it is running.

So, the next time you’re up late with a sick kid and all you want is sleep, do the long run anyway. The next time you’re tempted to cut that tempo run short, don’t. Unless you’re on the verge of injury, by quitting you’re robbing yourself of valuable training, not of your legs but of your mind.

And training your mind might be the most important part.

Almost-But-Not-Quite Paleo Bacon & Spinach Quiche

I’m going out on a limb here, y’all. It’s a recipe!

If you know me, at all, you know I love to cook. And right up there next to cooking, is feeding people. It brings me joy.

But one of the biggest challenges of balancing family and this ridiculous running habit has been dinner. Though I often workout twice a day, my main workout is always in the late afternoon/early evening, right about the time I should be making dinner.

Prepping everything ahead of time is helpful but can still lead to some very late meals and that’s not cool. I struggled with this for a long time but then one day, I discovered my oven had a delayed start feature.

I can put things together and toss them in the oven before I leave. I then tell the oven how long it needs to cook, what temperature to cook it and what time I want it done. When I get home from my run there’s a piping hot something-or-other waiting for me.

Modern technology for the win! It’s a miracle!…

…except not really. I would have figured this out a lot sooner if I’d ever bothered to read an owners manual. Apparently every oven does this. Oh well.

The hunt was on for dinner recipes that qualify for the toss-it-in-the-oven-and-go-running method.

This quiche, a Frankenstein’s monster of about three different recipes, is one of my favorites.

In the case of today, I prepped the egg mixture and the crust at 10 AM, assembled it at 3 PM and put it all in the oven on a timer to be ready when I got home from my workout at 6 PM.

Work smarter, not harder. Right?

Even better, I almost always have all these ingredients on hand and it’s easy to throw together when I’m staring blankly in the fridge wondering WTF I’m going to make for dinner AND my kids eat it. Bonus!

If you’re not into paleo, the quiche can still be made as is, and the crust substituted for a traditional flour based model or one of the ready made crusts from the grocery store.

(Please note, this is not a food blog with fancy food porn pictures. I took these with my cell phone while I was making dinner. Be nice.)

To make the crust, toss 1 cup almond flour, 3/4 cup tapioca flour, 1 tbsp xantham gum, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp baking powder in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Then add in the egg and let it run until the egg is well integrated.

Remove the lid and add 4 tbsp cubed, very cold butter and pulse until the mixture has the texture of wet sand. Then, with the processor running, slowly drizzle in water until the mixture comes together in to a ball.

Like this.

Dump the whole thing out, shape it into a disc, cover it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge to chill out.

Then forget you’re not wearing an apron and wipe your hands on your legs…

While the crust is chillin’ in the fridge assemble the egg mixture. Mix together 12 eggs, 12-ounces of bacon cut into 1/2 inch slices and cooked, 1/2 cup of sour cream, and 10 ounces of frozen spinach which you have thawed and wrung out in a clean kitchen towel (this is important, just say no to soggy quiche!). Throw in 3/4 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper.

When assembly time comes, grease a spring form pan with butter/tapioca flour or coconut oil.

Roll out the crust between two layers of plastic wrap, making the crust slightly larger than the diameter of the spring form pan.

(Warning: despite the tapioca starch and xantham gum, this crust lacks the elasticity of a flour based crust. If you attempt to roll it without the plastic wrap, it will fall apart. Even with the plastic wrap it’s a tricky situation. The plastic wrap helps things significantly. Don’t skip it.)

Slowly remove the top layer of plastic wrap, then gently wrap the crust and the bottom layer of plastic wrap around a rolling pin. Remember, the plastic wrap is holding it all together.

Pick up the rolling pin and move the whole thing to the greased spring form pan. Slowly unroll the crust into the pan so that the plastic wrap is on top. Then peel it off.

Fill with the egg mixture and put it in the oven!

Let it bake for 40-45 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Ta Da! Serve with cut up fruit or Strawberry Salad (sliced strawberries, honey goat cheese, toasted almonds and poppy seed dressing). Yum!

Print Recipe
Bacon & Spinach Quiche
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Paleo Crust
Quiche
Course Main Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
Paleo Crust
Quiche
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the almond flour, tapioca starch, xantham gum, kosher salt and baking powder in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined.
  3. Add the egg to the dry ingredients. Let the food processor run until fully integrated.
  4. Add the cubed butter and pulse until the mixture looks like bread crumbs.
  5. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in enough ice water so that the mixture forms a ball. You may need all the ice water, you may not.
  6. Form into a disk and let chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  7. Grease a spring form pan and roll out the crust between two sheets of plastic wrap so that it's about 1.5" wider than the pan
  8. Remove the top layer of plastic wrap and gently roll the crust, along with the bottom later around a rolling pin and gently move to the pan.
  9. Press the crust into the pan and fill with the egg mixture.
  10. Bake at 375 degrees F for 40-45 minutes until the center is firm. Let cool and remove from the pan.
  11. Cut into wedges and serve with fruit or a salad.
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Not A Morning Runner

I have a confession. I am not a morning runner.

Every productivity and success article I’ve ever read says that to be successful you have to get your exercise done in the morning…to which I say, “Pshaw! Whatever.”

I’ve tried, trust me.

I am a morning person, most days I’m up by 5:30 and in a relatively good mood by 5:45 but for some reason that doesn’t translate to running. I would much rather have my quiet time in the morning on the couch with a cup of coffee than spend it sweating, panting and questioning why I choose to participate in this particular variety of torture.

I spend the hour leading up to most morning runs reminding myself that to be a runner I actually have to go running.

To which I respond, “Ugh. Really? Right now? Can’t it wait ’til later?”

Anytime I’m forced to run in the morning, the workouts are always hard. Just going for an “easy” run is a chore. Forget doing speedwork. Notgonnahappen.

In the evenings, however, it’s a different story. In the evenings my running clothes practically jump onto my body. I leave the house with a level of exuberance that can only be rivaled by a dog who finally escaped the confinement of her backyard – tail wagging, ears flopping, bounding down the street with her mouth open and tongue flapping in the breeze.

Yes, I just likened myself to a dog.

That’s how I feel during my evening runs. I’M FREE! Free from the stress of the day, free from the dirty dishes, free from the washed but not folded laundry, free from the never ending cries for Mom.

My evening runs are so ingrained in my body’s rhythm that on rest days or the days when I’m forced to exercise early due to scheduling conflicts I find myself unsettled, pacing and fidgeting almost uncontrollably from 4-6 PM. I can’t help myself.

I’ve tried to love the morning run but I can’t. I want to love it; it would be so convenient, so easy. I don’t love it, it doesn’t love me. At least we’re both in agreement.

For me, I get my best work done in the morning. If I need to concentrate on something like writing training plans, answering emails, blogging, or doing my volunteer job it needs to be done before lunch.

After lunch I have a hard time sitting still and focusing, so instead I do things like pick up the house, do schoolwork with my daughter, fold laundry, and prep dinner. By 4:00, I’m tired of being at home, and my the kids are tired of me so a trip to the gym is exactly what the doctor ordered. That’s my ideal workout time. My golden two hours of time to myself.

It wasn’t until I figured this out that I began exercising consistently.

Like anything else there are exceptions. I have no problem getting up early on Saturday mornings for a 5 AM trail date with my friends…mainly because they always end like this:

I mean, who doesn’t want an excuse to eat donuts and drink beer before 8 AM?

You too have your own body clock – your own perfect timing and unique schedule.

Maybe a 5 AM run wakes you up and energizes you, or you may be like me and find yourself getting fidgety around 4 PM. Maybe you need a mid-day break and your prime exercise time is lunch.

Once you find that golden hour (or two), don’t schedule anything else! Protect it. Reserve it especially as your exercise time. That is YOUR TIME to take care of YOU.

You’ll find that the more consistent you are with your timing, the easier exercising consistently will become. Your body will get used to the activity and crave it. Not only will your body adjust to the pattern, your family will as well and if you’re like me with little kids in tow getting everyone out of the house will be easier.

Everyone in my house knows what happens at 4 PM.

The kids don’t fight it, my husband doesn’t ask what time I’ll be home. It’s amazing. It’s freeing. It’s something I look forward to all day.

It is finally my time to be me. So I run, tongue flapping in the breeze…