Running does not have logic on its side

If you are reading this, I’m sure you’ve been asked the following questions a few hundred times:

“So what exactly are you running from?”
“Do you get the runner’s high?”
“Don’t you get bored?”
“Don’t you get lonely?”

Am I running from something? Well, yes, most definitely, I am running as a means to escape life’s difficulties, this I must admit, is completely true. We all find avenues of escapism purely as coping mechanisms. No matter how perfect our lives might be, we all experience conflict in one form or fashion. Life is messy. Relationships take work. It’s hard to be a parent. The workplace can be a stressful place. Balancing a family budget is rough. Managing a family is no small task. Resisting temptation is a constant battle. Being a successful adult means fighting through all the hard stuff and loving those around us. It’s all about honoring the spirit of whatever task is at hand and being passionate about the end result. So, yes, I’m running from my problems.

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 Do I get the runner’s high? I’m out running, and thinking, and problem solving. I’m getting my blood flowing and releasing serotonin, thereby elevating my mood and reducing my stress and anxiety. So do I get the runner’s high? Well, yes, I guess I do. With all my blood circulating so well and all of that there serotonin I’ve got going on, yes, it does produce a sort of high in me. This is most clearly demonstrated when I come home from a run to greet my basically still-asleep husband in the kitchen and I’m talking 90 to nothing and he responds with mild irritation. That’s when I think to myself, “yeah, you’re a little fired up right now, Dendy, aren’t you? Chill out a bit.” That’s when I proceed to clean up, eat, and get on with my day. I’m able to get ready very quickly when I’ve got that runner’s high going.

 

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Do I get bored or lonely? No, never. I consider myself to be a sociable person, but I’m also quite introverted. I enjoy the quiet solitude of my runs. I like to be alone. I like my “me time.” Long solo runs are my absolute favorite. It’s just me and the road or trail. I set the pace for the run, I pick the soundtrack to accompany my epic run, I stop and take selfies if I’m so inclined, I pick the route. I’m in total control. I like to be in control. Naturally, not every run goes according to plan. I struggle on runs at times. Some runs, however, are nearly effortless. I, alone, however; am responsible for the run. I don’t have to apologize to anyone, I don’t have to wait on anyone, I don’t have to feel like I’m inconveniencing anyone. It’s just me. I have to answer to no one but me. This is about me and my running. This is about me strengthening not only my body, but my mind. No one else will carry me over the finish lines of my races, I will have to do that for myself.
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 So maybe the reason I don’t get bored or lonely on long solo runs has to do with the fact that I am an antisocial control freak. I mean, I do display those characteristics. But more than that, I am out there thinking and getting stronger. The runner’s high I experience is an added bonus, certainly, but most importantly the time alone and the increased blood flow do wonders for my overall mood and my ability to problem solve. The clarity with which I see difficult life situations while on a run is uncanny. I have solved more problems than I can count while out on a run. This is, quite possibly, the most constructive use of my time possible. I’m maintaining my physical fitness, carefully considering life situations, and improving my overall mood.
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I mean, I get it, running does not have logic on its side. There’s no ball we’re running after, no reason to run around in circles, and it just seems pretty pointless. I guess I should be flattered by the questions I’m asked by non-runners. They are in awe of me. They cannot fathom why a person would want to wake up before the sun and fuel for a run. They can’t possibly grasp the concept of running for 2-4 hours straight. They worry they would get bored or lonely if they attempted to do what we do each week in the name of improvement. Not everyone is willing to put in this hard work.

So, we runners should embrace our unconventionality. We are unique. We are runners, and … running certainly does NOT have logic on its side.

 

 

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Am I a Dreamer, Or Just a Fool?

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In graduate school I took an American Literature course where I learned about the Romantic Period and the Realist Period in art, most specifically in literature. The Romanticists’ characters are larger than life, the plots are unusual and typically contain a happy ending, the setting is often made up, and the language is figurative and flowery. Conversely, the Realists’ characters are common, the plots are ordinary with a possible unhappy ending, the settings actually exist, and they employ everyday language.

This whole concept of Romanticism vs. Realism has always stuck with me. I’m not exactly sure why I’ve always been so fixated with this concept, but I think it must be because I struggle with finding a balance between these two modes of thought. Flowery language, made up places, larger than life characters, and happy endings are so much fun! I guess that’s the stuff of which Disney movies are made. It’s fun to think in this way; to have my head in the clouds and the sky be the limit. If you believe it, you can achieve it. Life is a wonderful adventure. Let’s think of happy things and pursue our hopes and dreams. It’s all very kumbaya; very, “let’s go sit Indian Style (or Criss Cross Applesauce) in a circle around a tree and be one with the universe.” But, alas, the dreamer must come back down to earth and operate in the real world if she wishes to live a normal life.

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So, I’m a bit of a dreamer by nature. I’m a romantic. The fact that I am this way makes me kind of hard to love, honestly. I tend to have whimsical illusions that border on fantasies. I need practical, rational people around me to sort of talk me down from these ledges I find myself perching on at times. Often, I talk my own self down, but sometimes I need someone else to do it. If all we did was dream and focus on the pretty stuff, when would we ever get anything done? The real world is one of mortgages, child rearing, employment, and household management. It’s paying bills, grocery shopping, and attending meetings. It’s traffic jams and waiting in cash register lines. It’s holding our tempers and often losing our tempers. It’s saying things we don’t mean and neglecting to say the things we genuinely mean. In short, life is rough. The real world can be cruel. It’s easy to become disenfranchised. Amidst all of this real world turmoil, a little dreaming is a respite.

So, the answer to the Romanticist vs. Realist conundrum is to find a balance between the two schools of thought. Live in the real world. Keep your feet planted on the ground. Maintain a good head on your shoulders. Remember that we must be tough to survive. Conversely; however, keep dreaming. Keep setting big goals and achieving them. Keep believing in yourself. Don’t immediately shoot down an idea or goal telling yourself that you’re too busy or too tired. Fight for what you believe in and what you want. Be a dreamer insofar as you believe in the possibility of success, even if you fail at your initial attempts.

Be a dreamer that expects a lot out of yourself and  inspires and motivates others, but also mind your real world duties and responsibilities.

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Be a dreamer, but don’t be a fool.

 

Two Faced … One Looking Backward at 2016, One Looking Forward to 2017.

New Year’s is countdowns, fireworks, champagne, tradition, plans for bettering ourselves, hopefulness, and fresh starts. New year’s is a time to assess the past year and make resolutions for the upcoming year.

 
img_9508I’ve never been one to make a resolution on New Year’s Eve, per se. Honestly, it seems most people make grand resolutions they never really intend to keep. They proclaim they will begin doing something or they will quit doing something, but they don’t make the necessary changes in their lives that would ensure their success. They believe that by proclaiming they’d like their lives to change, that magically their lives will simply change.

Since I became a runner; however, I make running related goals each year. This got me thinking about what new year’s resolutions are and how this practice came to be.

 
Of course I know that a new year’s resolution is a promise to commit to a goal to improve life after careful consideration of the past year. But how did this tradition begin? After some research, I have gleaned that the tradition dates all the way back to 153 B.C. January is named after Janus, a mythical god of early Rome. Janus had two faces — one looking forward and one looking backward. This allowed him to look back on the past and forward toward the future. On December 31st the Romans imagined Janus looking backward into the old year and forward into the new year. This became a symbolic time for Romans to make resolutions for the new year and forgive enemies for troubles in the past.


I rather like this image of Janus with two faces … one looking backward into the old year and one looking forward into the new year. I liked the idea so much I played with graphics, as I enjoy doing, and created a “Dendy of Two Faces” for my (and maybe your) enjoyment.

But I digress. Many inactive people will make a resolution to exercise and/or eat healthier in an effort to lose weight. The advertisements on television and the internet will focus on losing weight, getting healthy, saving money, drinking less alcohol, etc. Many will begin some sort of new regimen for the purpose of a better year. New Year’s is a natural time to set goals, and frankly setting goals and working hard to systematically achieve them is a commendable exercise.

 
New year’s resolutions are seeds full of possibility and potential that set intention. We look back at our previous year and set goals for the new year. The new year is an exciting time. It is a time for us to start fresh. For us athletes, it means that we continue doing the hard work we’re already doing with a new fervor and resolve.

So, while I find it easy to set running related goals, I find it much harder to set life goals. Perhaps this is because life is tough and at this point, running makes sense to me. Perhaps as I gain more experience with setting and meeting my running goals, I’ll become more successful in setting and meeting my life goals. It’s worth a shot anyway. Running has taught me to believe in myself and to try hard to systematically achieve my goals.

So, my plan for 2017 is to approach my non running related goals with the same fervor I have for my running related goals. My resolution for 2017 is to be better. To be better, not just as a runner, but as a person.
Here’s to all of us making and keeping our New Year’s resolutions. Happy New Year’s.

Runners Need Each Other

So, I have a theory about distance runners and triathletes: we are introverts that have always relied on ourselves and have a hard time accepting help from others. Many of us are very extroverted introverts, but introverts nonetheless. We enjoy solitude and self-reflection. We are introspective and possibly described by others as “deep.” So, it’s no big surprise that we tend to complete the majority of our runs solo. We approach running as we do virtually every other thing in our lives … with discipline, dedication, and great thought. We will certainly go for a social run with another runner or a group of runners and we’ll have a great time, it’s just that we don’t necessarily need that group atmosphere to push us to work on our sport. We’re fine running alone. I must admit; however, getting involved in a connected network of runners has helped me with motivation and inspiration these past couple of years. If you haven’t forced yourself to branch out and run with a group on occasion, or at the very least to forge social media connections with other runners, you are really missing out. Do it. Put yourself out there. Get a group. At some point you are going to need to ask for help and you’re going to want supportive running friends to help you. Trust me. It will happen.

You know how giddy we get when we talk about running? Well, the only thing better than that personal giddiness is sharing it with another giddy runner. How fabulous is it when you find out the person you are talking to is also a runner? It’s simply the best. I become overjoyed! I just want to know everything about their running experience. Do they have a background in running? At what age did they start? Do they race often? How often do they run? Are they training for anything at the moment? Do they cross train? What shoes do they like best? What gadgets are their favorites? Where do they predominately run? Do they trail run? Have they ever completed an overnight relay run? Have they been injured? How do they balance their jobs, families and running? The list of questions goes on and on. I want to know it all. I want to talk about races we have in common. Difficult courses. I want to hear all of their gross running experiences and I’m ready to share mine. The runner bond is like no other. It brings people incredibly close incredibly quickly. It’s quite astonishing how profound the bond between runners is, and I believe this is in large part because we have similar makeups, personalities, and quirks that make us well suited for distance running.

So, are there common personality characteristics that all of us runners posses? Ask yourselves, do you find that you are any of the following?

  • Introverted
  • Adventuresome
  • Brave
  • A leader
  • Goal-Oriented
  • Decisive
  • Determined
  • Tenacious
  • A Planner
  • Confident
  • Obsessive
  • Masochistic
  • Creative
  • Self-aware
  • Competitive

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this right now, you exhibit many, if not all, of the previous characteristics. I know that I do.

Runners tend to enjoy quiet introspection while running where they can see things in a way they don’t ordinarily get to see them when they don’t have time for them. Additionally, the fact that we will set out early in the morning for hours of running demonstrates that we are comfortable with some solitude. Runners love to see new things, period. They are explorers, enjoying the outdoors and appreciating nature. They are risk-taking adventurers that love the feeling of movement. Runners are brave, and they are leaders. Runners are goal-oriented and decisive. When a runner makes up her mind to do something, she goes after it with all of her heart and soul, for she possesses great determination and perseverance. Runners are tenacious, approaching difficulties head on. Runners are planners and they follow through with their commitments. Runners are confident and they rely on themselves to get through tough times. Runners are constantly learning to block out the emotional aspect of pain, and this serves them well in their day-to-day lives. It’s not that we are necessarily masochistic, it’s just that we have learned to soldier through discomfort and not only continue to fight, but keep coming back for more. Runners are also creative and wistful and are probably the most self-aware people on the planet. We spend a lot of time thinking while running, and so we know ourselves pretty darn well. I have met enough runners by now to know that we all pretty much fit this above description, so it is only natural that runners would make great friends to other runners.

Because I am somewhat introverted, it took me awhile to convince myself that running in a group setting and forging friendships with other runners was a good idea. Additionally, because I tend to be very self-conscious and insecure, I was scared to death to run alongside others. What if I looked stupid? What if I ran way too slow? What if my heavy breathing was really annoying? What if I needed to blow a snot rocket out of my nose? What if, what if, what if? Honestly, still to this day, I cannot run a normal run alongside other runners unless it is a race and I have my earbuds in and I am completely detached from the other runners. This is the only way I can normally run. But over the last two years I have invited others to share runs with me and I have attended group social runs. I have forced myself to do this for many reasons. First and foremost, I enjoy a challenge and I know that forcing myself to run with others will ultimately make me a more confident, capable runner. Well, maybe some day. For right now, I’m still a nervous ball of awkwardness every time I run with others. Do my fellow runners think I’m a total spaz? Who knows. Probably not. I’m sure I’m magnifying things. But, I know for sure that there’s just something about sweating and pounding the pavement side by side that allows for intimate conversation and instant camaraderie. It is rather like  a sort of communion, like sharing a meal; breaking bread. The shared participation fosters fellowship.


But there’s a more important reason why I feel it necessary to share runs and have connections with runners; it is because running is hard and it’s nice to have camaraderie with those who know exactly what this means. Sometimes I lack inspiration and motivation and I can draw from my running buddies’ good mojo. Sometimes I’m the one offering the good vibes to my runner friends. Sometimes I’m in need of advice. The bottom line is that runners need other runners. It’s as simple as that. We need each other. We belong to a select club that not many people understand. Running, more than any other sport, allows the intensity of a relationship to come through.

So, if you haven’t already, join your local running club. Take part in group social runs. Make social media connections with other runners. Share your running passion with others.

What do sports teach us about life?

As I was watching my daughters play soccer this weekend I started thinking about the spirit of competition and how organized sports help mold individuals into lifelong leaders. Of course it’s easy to get bogged down in the ins and outs of the sport and to forget about the way that sports give people many outstanding attributes that they might not otherwise possess. I am happy that my girls play a competitive sport, and I started listing in my head the positive lessons I’ve noticed my girls learning. This also made me think about my sport of running and the positive changes I’ve made in my own life through my involvement in my sport. So, what do sports teach us about life?

 1. How to win and how to lose.emily dickinson

Obviously, one of the first things learned is how to lose and how to win. A competitor should be graceful when he loses as well as when he wins. When we lose it’s easy to become upset, and honestly, a bit of upset after a loss is a good thing. For, the goal is to come out on top; to perform well; to enjoy a victory. Often times; however, despite our best efforts, we lose. In these moments it is important to remember the bigger picture. To remember that a loss should not deter us from continuing to work hard for what we want. It is important during losses to continue to honor the spirit of competition; to respect your opponent and to allow them to make you better. Conversely, sports teach us to win gracefully. Nobody likes a gloat. The truth is, as trite as it sounds, we win some, and we lose some. It’s certainly more fun to win, but we must always remember that we cannot win every time. Besides, if we did win every time, would the victories be as sweet? I think not. Emily Dickinson in the poem “Success is Counted Sweetest,” asserts that “to comprehend a nectar, requires sorest need.” In other words, to truly appreciate victory, we must experience defeat.

2. How to handle criticism.

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Perhaps one of the most beneficial things one learns from playing sports is how to handle criticism. This is something that I, to this day, struggle with. It is important to realize that it is not humanly possible to achieve perfection. We all have things we need to work on. If a person criticizes the way we do something, it does not mean that we are not good. It simply means that someone has made an observation about the way we do something and offered their opinion regarding it. That’s really all it is. An opinion. It may or may not be relevant to us, but people are entitled to their opinions. In a sports situation, if a coach offers an opinion regarding the quality with which we are performing, the opinion is relevant to us. It is not as if we are perfect; we have coaches nearby observing things about the way we perform that we might otherwise never have realized. If a coach takes the time to articulate an observation he has regarding our performance, we should take that as a compliment. If the coach didn’t think we had it in us to improve, he wouldn’t waste his time on us. In sports, it’s important to take criticism in stride and to avoid getting our feelings hurt and getting emotional when someone offers us criticism. Additionally, handling criticism from coaches ensures that we won’t let mistakes define us; instead we will learn from them.
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3. How to persevere.

Playing sports teaches us how to work hard, deal with discomfort, overcome obstacles, learn from struggle, push our body’s limits, get back up after falling, and to never give up. In short, sports teach us to persevere. These qualities are obviously necessary in athletics, and they certainly spill over and apply to the rest of our lives. In any given situation, resilience and determination are great contributors to success. When we fight through hard times and push past discomfort, we get to the good stuff. All great things worth having in life take effort and don’t come easy. The good things are worth fighting for and require perseverance, right? Sports teach us to develop that part of the brain that is in charge of perseverance, and the sooner we learn to fight for what we want, the more successful we become.

4. How to share, work together, and celebrate others.

Playing sports also teaches us how to share, work together, and celebrate others. One cannot hog all of the limelight and never share. There is enough room for all of us to shine, and instead of trying to prevent others from shining, we should cheer others on and motivate them. By cheering on teammates we are building them up and celebrating them. The simple fact is that one person cannot do everything. When we share and work together we achieve so much more than when we attempt to do everything on our own. In order to share the limelight and work well with others, we must be willing to ask for help and receive it, and we must trust others. The ability to share, work well with others, ask for help, trust others, and cheer others on are all integral attributes of leaders. They are also attributes of great community members. Truthfully, they are simply good attributes of human beings.

5. How to set goals and have a positive attitude.

Playing sports teaches us to set goals, and this builds confidence and a positive attitude. Achieving an athletic goal we’ve set for ourselves requires us to believe in ourselves, and each time we succeed, we become more confident. Naturally, we will fall short of our goals at times, but we learn to take those losses in stride, soldier on, keep a positive attitude, and keep fighting. Setbacks will happen, but good athletes do not let those setbacks destroy them. A good athlete takes every experience, good or bad, and learns from it. It is truly the way that we respond to setbacks that dictates our future success. A positive attitude, even when we are struggling, will keep us working toward our goals.

6. How to make sacrifices.

Sports teach us how to make sacrifices. In order to pursue our passions, we must prioritize our lives and carve out time to dedicate to them. This might mean that we sacrifice idle time in order to squeeze everything in, and making sacrifices requires self-discipline. As an adult, how many times have you had to sacrifice sleep to squeeze all of your responsibilities in? How many times have you had to turn in early in order to be prepared for the following day? Playing sports forces us to get accustomed to making tough decisions regarding our schedules and our priorities if we want to accomplish our goals. Isn’t that the nature of being a successful adult? If we lazily retreat from responsibilities will we achieve all of the things that we aspire to? Most definitely not.

7. How to show respect.

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Sports teaches athletes to respect authority, not because they fear authority, but because they realize that their coaches want what is best for them. Showing respect is not limited just to coaches, either. A well-rounded athlete respects their teammates, opponents, officials, and themselves. Let’s face it, there comes a time in every athlete’s life where he doesn’t agree with a decision a coach, official, or teammate makes. It’s bound to happen. A respectful athlete, even when he is displeased, will show courtesy amidst frustration. Clearly, this spills over into the athlete’s off-field life as well. There will be a time when the athlete will face a spouse, boss, coworker, etc. with whom he disagrees. In sports, athletes are placed in this position with regularity, and hopefully they learn to maintain their composure and remember their manners.

8. How to hold yourself accountable, keep on learning, and take care of yourself.

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Athletes are privy to team practices, strength training, and a wealth of professional coaching knowledge, but it is up to the athlete to apply all of the knowledge they gain through these experiences. A successful athlete puts in extra work on their own time. He practices on his own because he wants to improve and he does not want to lose any momentum he has gained through his practice sessions. When athletes put in extra work they are learning to hold themselves accountable. They are learning that if they want something bad enough, they must work for it, even when no one is watching them. Every single time an athlete takes a coach’s instruction to heart he is learning and becoming better. He is conditioning his mind and body and developing himself immeasurably.

9. How to see the bigger picture.

Athletes know that there’s more to life than just the game. They know that family, friends, faith, and education are what holds the true meaning to life. Athletes; however, have an intense passion for their sport. Engaging in their sport brings them great happiness, purpose, confidence, and health. The sport certainly enriches their lives, but it should not be the be all and end all of their worlds. It is important for athletes to be completely engaged in their activity and to take the necessary steps in their lives to accomplish their goals, but they must remember that there is more to life than the sport. Involvement in sports enhances our lives, but it shouldn’t run our lives.
I am intensely proud that my daughters are involved in a competitive team sport. I truly feel that they are learning lifelong lessons out there on the soccer field. They are confident and poised and they don’t allow themselves to give up. I know that their involvement with their soccer club has been a huge contributor of the fine women they are becoming.
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