Running With A Group & Running Solo

I was always a solo runner and quite proudly. I like my pace, my music, my aimless routes, my schedule.

I now teach running though so pretty obligated to run with a group and I tell you what… it’s fucking great.

I’ll never give up my solo runs but I’m really surprised at how much I love it and the reason why is it makes you feel close to people. Getting an endorphin rush on a beautiful day and talking about running – which is my truest passion right now – and I feel the emotional depth of years of friendship with people I met 6 weeks ago and see twice a week.

It has the additional benefit of getting me to slow down. I like to run hard, nay – I love to run hard. And that puts a lot of stress on the body and I’m always balancing the distance it’s smart to run with the distance I’d like to run. But slowing down to run with my sweet old ladies and my wine mom’s I get in a ton of distance with adding to my fatigue.

And then we get coffee after and it’s lovely.

Also, I occasionally get to hang with the other instructors and exchange tips and ideas and it’s great.

So that’s that. If you run solo give a thought to trying group and vice versa. But really the answer, like so many things in life, is do both.

The Break Through Mile

Running had felt so piss lately. I love running and when it feels bad, I feel bad.

I actually end up running more, too much in fact, when running sucks and that makes it suck more. It’s like being an alcoholic where you want to drink because you want to be happy but drinking makes you unhappy and you know it; still the only signal your brain gives you is the drink to be happy signal.

When I have a bad run the only thing I think will fix how I feel is a good run.

And it finally happened. I owe it to work, strava, and unexpected solitude.

So work because I went to went to my job as a running instructor today; Unexpected solitude no one showed up to run club; and Strava because even though no one showed up I figured I’d run anyway so people would see that I had run and I’d log this route that I’d been wanting to show off.

And with my worn out shoes, shin splints, piriformus syndrome, and unsatisfactory cardio (because it’s the start of the season and my expectations are set by the end of the last season) my running was piss. My legs hurt, my form sucked, my breathing sucked but why stop? I’m on the clock, have nothing better to do, and Strava is recording so fuck it.

And like I said, it finally happened that I broke through. Probably 3k into the 5k(ish) run my legs loosened up and I felt free – I got that running-fast-breathing-slow-meditative-feeling-the-music-connected-to-the-earth-and-the-sun-freedom-feeling that we chase.

Quite a relief.

Worst Is First Mentality

I have a procrastination problem – sometimes even with things I like and want to do. I tend to out-think myself and lose a lot of time waiting for the right time. I organize and re-organize my to-do list; I overthink and self-argue about what I’m going to listen to; I get coffee, snacks, beer, whatever… always trying to better do the thing I’m about to do and then never doing it.

What I’m doing now to work on the problem is – as I titled the post – Worst Is First Mentality. I think of everything I should do today and figure out which I don’t want to do, feel like I shouldn’t have to do, doesn’t suit me, doesn’t reinforce my self image, basically whatever is the one I most want to put off. And I do that. And I do it without getting a coffee first, or putting on a movie in the background, no crutches no nothing.

For one, nothing ever takes as long as you think. I remember when I’d put off the dishes til mid-day and I’d open YouTube and select a 15 minute video and crack a beer and feel all set up to do a chore and then… I’d be done. I’d still have 11 minutes of video left and a full beer.

But even knowing that I’d still put off doing the dishes for days until it seemed like such a hated chore that I felt better putting it off than getting it done.

So with the New Year my resolution, my guiding principal was Tidy & Prompt. And in the spirit of that I started doing the dishes first thing every morning. In the silence, and the low-light, uncaffeinated while boiling the kettle.

And then it’s done before I’ve even thought about it and there’s nothing hanging over me for the day, nothing I should be doing while I try to focus on what I’m doing.

I used to believe in, and advocate, The Cascade Effect. I believed that working out first thing in the morning set you up to blow through everything else in a day joyfully. And I didn’t notice that it stopped working for me. I trusted that what was once true would always be true. Until Wes Watson said it doesn’t take discipline to do something you enjoy doing. To make the habit of working out everyday I had to do it first thing, but once it was a habit and once I loved it (not merely enjoyed it but loved it – something I should write about in the future) then it actually became a distraction. It became a procrastination tool. I’d feel like I had done something important and expect an afterglow cascade effect to take care of everything else. I built an auto-pilot that stopped taking me to my desired destination.

And now with honesty and effort I’ve built a new auto-pilot. I don’t even think about doing the dishes every day and I don’t even think about putting off other things until after this video or when it’s bright outside. Seriously, as a weird end-note here I also had a problem of thinking the little emotional boost of a sunny day was a vital stepping stone to getting something done.

I guess that’s the key – I tricked myself into thinking I could make myself feel like doing whatever. And if I didn’t feel like it then my goal was to find a way to make myself feel like it. But really the goal should have been to do it regardless.


Proscribing People Diet & Exercise (Without Being A Dick About It, Hopefully)

I know I wrote about this already this week but I had a memory today and it’s relevant.

When I was a kid I was given St. John’s Wart and told by my caregiver “We’re both going to take it for awhile, for our memory.”

It was a lie. I was depressed and this was being done with the good intention of fixing me. Which is extremely condescending, dis-empowering, disrespectful, and every other bad thing.

And as a depressed person and an internet person I also see millions of tweets like:

Me: *is extremely depressed*

Everyone: Just go for a walk!

Which I get but I’ve seen it so many times now I feel like it’s the depressed people being dicks at this point. But anyway…

What you never want to do as a role model – and if you’re into fitness and you’re recommending fitness to others with the hope of helping them that’s exactly what you’re being so cope – is give someone the impression they’re not good enough or that this is going to solve their problems.

Depression is real; stress is real; job loss and debt and rejection and existential crisis is real. If your only problem is you don’t exercise then yes, exercise will solve your problem otherwise you are going to have all the same problems.

But it’s like lifting weights – the weight is always going to be as heavy as it is, nothing turns 100 pounds into 75 pounds, but your footwear, your stance, your breathing, your nutrition, and a lot of other factors (like even music) will effect how heavy it feels.

If you were going for a really heavy lift and I thought you had poor shoes on, or like a single hiking boot, I’d get your attention and help you.

And so it is with life. You may be crushing under the weight of something and it isn’t going to change but you can be set up to lift it strong or you can be set up to lift it weak.

I can’t know exactly what you’re going through and nothing is going to magically make into one of the special people who doesn’t have that problem but I have lifted some serious shit in my time and I can at least help you with a form check and add to your base of strength.


We Love People By Trying To Get Them Healthy

And it’s tough.

You don’t want to come off judgey or pushy with people you care about but how we express love for ourselves is how we’ll express it for others and for us health psychos that means being healthy.

Health and happiness aren’t mutually inclusive, you can be healthy but not happy; however I don’t think you can really be happy without being healthy. Like, I think you actually have to be healthy to enjoy hedonistic, unhealthy foods even. Have you ever eaten massive, indulgent burgers everyday? It stops being fun.

But getting someone who is doing that (i.e, me in my 20’s) to see that is tough. Fit people telling others what to do can seem like saying they’re not good enough and causes them to take a defiant fine-the-way-I-am-and-even-proud-of-it stance. Like me, in my 20s.

So what are some strategies to love someone as they are AND help them on a path to getting better?

Number one for me: Vitamins as gifts. Taking vitamin D one winter was the first step to realizing my mood is my nutrition period. It doesn’t matter what you tell yourself to think because you and thinking is downstream of the chemicals at your body’s disposal.

Giving someone vitamins as gift will get them to take them for a while and likely they’ll let it run out but hopefully they’ll notice what the lack of vitamins feels like and take them from then on because they feel like it, not because you ever told them to.

You can meal-prep or snack-prep for someone close to you. I hear there are people who use food as love anyway so this shouldn’t be too out of the ordinary.

The point is I-made-you-something or I-bought-you-something communicates love better than telling them to include something in their diet or to go out and buy something.

Exercise is the master class I have yet to master though. People will get good emotional feedback from eating healthy pretty quick. I had a friend tell me the first day he didn’t have a huge, over-the-counter sandwich for lunch he noticed right away he didn’t feel like garbage in the afternoon.

It takes a long time to see and feel the benefits of regular exercise though. Extremely especially for people who think that exercise is only about losing weight. They will experience (or we fear they will experience) any recommendation to exercise as body-shame.

But even with people who know there’s big emotional benefits to working out and who haven’t built a habit of it yet it’s tough to be a Drill Sargent for people you care about – even though you’re doing it precisely because you care about them.

The inclination is to express your love by letting them be comfortable; by telling them it’s okay and they don’t have to take on anything more right now. We’re used to pushing ourselves and being austere and knowing exactly how tough we can talk to ourselves – but with others we go for the softest possible touch and move up from there until we give up.

In relation to anybody we know what the deal-breakers are and we know (vaguely) what the the ideal would be – but we don’t know how to navigate the in-between.

And it’s tough because I know all advice is autobiography. When I was a musician self-expression was the only reliable path to happiness for me so I recommended it, sternly, to everyone. It eventually became wrought and unreliable and I found that health was a much more reliable path and so now it is the hammer I use on the nail of anyone else’s unhappiness.

With so many people it simply may not be their time yet and you have to keep loving them anyway – and remembering that your encouragement is an act of love from you to them rather than a burden from them to you.

But you know, I also think back on some of the bizarre, hurtful, or unhelpful things people have said to me over the years on my faltering journey towards health and I see they always came from a place of love on their part – but it was a lazy, fearful love. People encouraging me not to quit drinking because I was fine; people telling me not to work out because I might hurt myself because I’m sickly; people telling me not to try something again and that maybe I wasn’t cut out for it because I’d failed and my feelings were hurt.

Bold love should make the people you love braver, it should make them joyfully want to be better, to reach higher and be sure they can reach higher. Your love shouldn’t be complicit in holding someone back – just as your self-love shouldn’t be complicit in holding you back, right?

My Surprisingly In Depth Thoughts & Feelings About Whiteboards

I don’t actually like them.

That’s it. That’s the whole post. This post is really about my love and respect for paper.

Here’s the story I want to tell in chronological order:

I’ve owned dozens of small and extremely large whiteboards over the years and tried a number of times to track goals on them. It never works out. Because whiteboards are ugly and writing on them makes my ugly writing even uglier and it’s stupid and uncomfortable to write on something that’s vertical and since it’s temporary anyway fuck it.

But it’s clearly so efficient… no. No method is efficient if you end up not using it.

I was inspired by a study I saw about people who wanted to organize their mail. Which must have been a hella old study I guess. Some people built a folder from cardboard while some bought an expensive, nice looking folder specifically to organize mail.

The high cost folder group organized their mail for longer and more diligently and enjoyed it. And even if nothing else they said they felt they had to use it because hey, they paid for it.

So I first switched to poster board. 14 by 22 inch sheets of basically construction paper. And I got my girlfriend to calligraphy three months across the top and my goals down the side. They were beautiful and they were permanent marker, they were tangible, they were a history being recorded.

You can wipe something off a white board and it’s like it never existed. And you know that even when you’re looking at it.

But with paper it’s always there. Even if you crumple it up and throw it away that piece of paper always says what it said.

Eventually all the goals became habits and tracking them wasn’t necessary anymore. Which what this post was originally going to be about – Your goal should be to turn all your goals into habits and then I discovered I’m irrationally serious about whiteboards.

Anyway I stopped tracking big, arching goals on poster while I was still writing work outs in a notebook. Which felt like a misuse of paper. Whole pages used for 2 or 3 vertical lists. Not enough context to be a history – it didn’t need to be a book, it could simply be on scraps.

So I switched to index cards. I’d write my daily to-do list on one side and my work out on the other and at the end of each week I’d review the little stack with pride. Or, better, with guilt because something was on the list 3 days in a row and it was an accountability reminder.

Then my girlfriend wanted to get into a work out habit and routine of her own and what did I do to try and help? Brought out the whiteboard.

I wrote my work out on half and hers on the other. I felt like it would be a visual reminder for her to hit a work out and that we were in it together. And besides I felt like I was starting to waste cards because I was writing the same things in the same order (since my training shifted from the various and explosive training for Spartan to straight forward muscle building for the winter).

What happened? I started improvising my workouts because I didn’t feel like wiping and writing everyday and for her it became part of the living room scenery instantly.

Fuckin’ whiteboards.