Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Lessons Learned: Looking Back at the Streak

By the time you read this, I would have completed my crazy little running streak.  I made it and it actually flew by as if only a few days passed.  The plan was to run a minimum of one mile every day for 40 consecutive days, but it ended up being a little more than that.  This is because my Go-FAR run club girls had a group run the day after my streak was scheduled to be over, plus I had another run with my boys and a post-yoga class run just to sweat a little.  Oh well, one extra run wasn't going to kill me after lasting this long.  Make that two more, or wait, three more extra runs?  I also have a 5K and a half-marathon coming within days of the streak's end.  So total, this will make 46 consecutive days of running.  Whew!  I surely did not see that coming.  I must be a little crazier than I originally thought.  One day I will eventually sit down and calculate exactly how many miles I covered during this time, but that will be a day when my brain is less mushy than it is right now.

So how was the streak, you might be asking?  It was a learning experience in ways I did not expect.  I thought I would be tired, burned out and ready to get it over with.  I thought an injury might happen or my schedule would get too busy.  I thought my family might grow resentful because I was too focused on a silly little promise I made to myself without any rewards to gain.  None of that happened.  Instead of burning out from the daily routine, the running became highly addictive.  I learned that running in the morning before my schedule gets crazy really is the best option.  I have normally been an evening runner because of my super early work schedule, but since I was trying desperately to keep things from getting stale during this time period, I made some adjustments.  So, morning runs won most of the time over evening workouts.  The only thing that could have prevented me from getting my run out the way first thing in the morning was my ability to dream up a worthy excuse.  As long as I did the run in the morning, the stress of squeezing it in later was eliminated.  This meant getting to the gym at 4:30am for treadmill runs some mornings because it was just too damn early to run alone in the dark by myself.

Another lesson learned from the streak was to keep the running light and fun.  I read once that in order to change your attitude towards a given task, you have to change the way you refer to it.  Instead of saying, "I have to run later", you would say instead "I get to run later".  This would make it feel like a treat is waiting for you instead another tedious item to be crossed off your to-do list.  On days that I needed to do longer runs, I made it a point to take my time exploring new routes or even revisiting old ones that I seldom made time for anymore.  I made my way down to Memorial Park for runs at least once per week to keep things interesting.  If you are unfamiliar with my reference to Memorial Park, it is the running mecca in the Houston area and it is easy to rack up double-digit mileage exploring some of the running trails in that park and surrounding area.  I trained for my first marathon doing most of my runs along the Memorial Park and Allen Parkway trails, so in a way this brought me back to my running roots, like some sort of informal homecoming.

Some runs were in mild weather, some were in freezing cold temps and a few were in the rain.  Normally I am not a rainy weather runner, but I got caught out there in a few showers a couple of times during the streak and survived them nonetheless.  I ran alone, with old friends, with new friends, with my boys, on the treadmill, and on the trails.  I ran with music, without music, sometimes without a watch, but always with a clear mind and a free spirit.  It was wonderful and the deeper I got into the streak, I felt tremendously blessed to be able to walk out the door and put one foot in front of the other in good health with a sound mind.  The streak slowly transformed itself into a celebration of sorts, a testimony for all the souls that ever dreamed of running, but simply did not or could not for one reason or another.

My husband has always been the health nut of our family.  Every family has at least one and yes, it gets annoying!  He eats well, lifts weights, bikes, swims, and runs just to keep himself strong.  However, when my husband was sick a year and half ago due to kidney failure and in his weakest state, his weight plummeted 60 pounds.  He could not walk across the room without feeling winded and needing to rest.  Back then, he would have given a pirate's treasure just to be able to walk around our house with ease.  My thoughts went to him and back to that time of our lives when good health was not taken for granted.  Because of those memories, I would end my runs giving thanks to God for the ability to lace up my running shoes and push my body in ways that some others may not be able to do.

This reminds me of a quote I read today that said, "If you really want to do something, you will find a way.  If you don't want to, you will find an excuse."  Isn't this the gospel truth?  This streak taught me to prioritize the things differently so my joy was not trampled by all the "must do's" and "have to's" of my daily routine.  I got to enjoy my oldest hobby at it most basic level and learned to love it again.  The whole experience was so positive that I even considered extending the streak by another 20 days just to see if I could make it.  That idea got squashed because it is easy to let too much of a good thing morph into a bad thing.  There was no need in getting greedy.  My running would always be there and the possibility of doing a repeat performance could remain a viable future option.  Instead, I decided to try a streak of a different kind.  For 30 consecutive days, from January 15th through February 13th, I will be participating in a yoga streak.  No, this is not an original idea of mine.  My gym is sponsoring this 30-day yoga commitment and it will give me a chance to further explore a hobby I have pushed to the back burner for far too long.  If I can experience just some of the joy I gained from this last streak, I should be in a very happy place by the end of the next one.

A Side Note:  On days that I did run with my iPod, I had what I call my "feel good" playlist on a loop to keep my feet snappy and my mood positive.  I shared it here in case you need a little "mood" music too!

My Streaking Playlist:

  • "Freedom" -Nickie Minaj
  • "Madness" -Muse
  • "32 Flavors" -Alana Davis
  • "On to the Next One" -Jay-Z
  • "Hall of Fame" -The Script
  • "Paper Cut" -Linkin Park
  • "Working Day and Night" -Michael Jackson
  • "Life is a Highway" -Rascal Flatts
  • "Are You Gonna Go My Way" -Lenny Kravitz
  • "Home" -Phillip Phillips

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