Running, obsession, and a midlife crisis

I’ve been feeling a bit lethargic about running lately.  I’m not sure why.  Don’t get me wrong, I still run 6 days a week and still do my workouts.  I think the warmer weather has made it harder to get outside and get going.  But it isn’t about wanting to run, it is about running.  If I only ran when I felt like it, I would probably run a couple days a week and eventually just stop.  To be honest, I get up at 3:30am, get to work by 5:30, leave work about 2:00pm, get home by 2:30, get running around 3:00, finish running about 4:00, cool down and take a shower by 4:30 and then I get a chance to rest.  It makes for a long day.

Someone asked me recently if I was obsessed with running.  I guess I am to some extent.  I really am not an obsessive person, but I think having a goal that I desperately want to meet has made me more obsessive.  Also, as I have written before, if I weren’t obsessive, I wouldn’t run.  I have to push myself and I like that I can do that.  I have only really pushed myself a couple times in my life.  Running has brought out an area of my life that I never knew I had, discipline.  So I run each day and thank God that I live in a country that gives me the freedom to do so.

Yesterday was Hill Run Thursday.  I decided to try and break my record for running up this huge quarter mile hill.  I have only done it 4 times in a row in the past, so I thought I would try to get to 5.  I put on my new Saucony Fastwitch shoes (which I love by the way) and did a 2 mile warmup.  Then the hill…  I ran up and down over and over.  In the end I actually ran 6 repeats of this hill – a new personal record.  I wasn’t trying to break any speed records, but I broke my record and my goal for running this hill.

As I was running home I thought to myself, having goals and meeting or exceeding them makes running (and life in general) much more fun.  It is when I have no goals or deadlines or challenges that my life becomes boring and plain.  Running gives me new goals almost weekly and I love it.  I love the challenge and the trill of running up a huge hill 6 times in a row (I never thought I’d say that).  I love running farther and faster.  I can’t wait for my marathon in September to see how far I have come.  Boston or not, I think I have come a long way since March 2012 when I started (my Nike Plus app tells me so anyway).

So in the end I don’t think I am obsessive about running.  I think that by the time I turned 49, I looked at myself and didn’t like what I saw.  I was obese, lazy, on a CPAP to breath at night.  I had a type of a midlife crisis.  I didn’t buy a fast car or try to “find myself”.  I just went for a run and never stopped.

Now that I am 50, I like who I am.  So if that is obsessive, then I guess I am obsessive.

But I think happy might be a better word.

Running has made me love the outdoors!

Yesterday was my off day from running to let my body recuperate, and my body needed that day.  Our workouts last week were the first I had done in a month or so and though it had positive effects on my running, my muscles didn’t like it much.

So yesterday I got home from work and went for a two mile walk.  It is funny how after running each day for a year now, I enjoy the outdoors for the first time since my childhood.  I had gotten into the routine of essentially being outside for a little as possible.  I’d go from my house to my car and from my car to my work and then eight hours later reverse that processes.  I hated to be outside.

Now, I am outside about an hour a day and I love it.  I think that because I decided to run in any weather (except for lightening), I have begun to enjoy all weather.  In the summer I really appreciate rain and wind, since it is so hot.  In the winter I appreciate the cold and the feeling after a mile or so of my body heating up under my running clothes like a furnace.  I really have learned to appreciate the days with moderate temperatures and no clouds in the sky.

I tend to learn from experience rather than from what people tell me.  Experience has taught me that being outside helps my mood.  Running does a lot of help for my mood also, don’t get me wrong.  But there is something about the outdoors, especially in the sun, that makes me feel better and seems to keep me healthier and happier.

Of course you don’t have to run to get outside and experience this feeling of, ahhhh.  But for me, running outside in all types of weather has made me a better person at home, at work and in general.

Okay, these are just my experience as I mentioned before.  But I have been challenging those I know who suffer from depression and health problems to just get out of the house.  One day, if it hasn’t been done already, researchers will prove that being outside and hour a day will make you healthier, happier and live longer.

Experience is a great teacher.

Is running an obsession?

This is the question I have been asking myself lately; is running an obsession for me?

Answer: Of course, it has to be!

What 49 year old would go outside 6 days a week and run the same route in rain, snow, cold or hot?  Who would do this for almost a year and take between 1 – 2 hours a day doing it?  Who would want to wake up in the morning and have the first feeling one of pain as they get out of the bed?

Running takes almost 100% of my free time.  Running makes my body hurt.  Running is boring.  Running pushes my cardiovascular system to the edge (sometimes).

If running weren’t an obsession, I WOULDN’T DO IT!

But let’s look at it from another perspective…

Running has helped me loose over 85 lbs.  Running helps me sleep better.  Running helps me deal with life’s stresses in a way I never had before.  Running has brought down my heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar and in general added years onto my life.

Everyone has an obsession.  I am glad that running is mine.

I love running.

Running is cheaper than therapy (part II)

Yesterday was not a fun day.

Work was piling up.  My family has been sick.  It seemed all the world wanted something from me.

I love my work, but somedays are frustrating.  I thought of running after I got home, even though it was my off day.  Then my son was sick, so I took him to the doctor and didn’t get home until 4:00.  By then I was not in a good mood, even tough my lovely wife tried to cheer me up.

So I ran.  It was only 3 miles since it was my off day, but I ran an 8:09 pace which is good for me.

I wrote a post a while back about a bumper sticker that I saw that said, “Running is cheaper than therapy”.  Really, to be totally honest, running has become therapy to me.  Yes, I want to run races and to do well in them.  Yes, I want to run a marathon as my dad did in his 70’s.  But I realize that running helps me deal with life.  It helps me at work to be more efficient and productive.  It helps me at home to be less frustrated at normal circumstances.  It just helps.

Here is an article that says that running increases dopamine.

Health newstand says this about dopamine:

Dopamine is widespread in the brain as well as the rest of the nervous system. This neurotransmitter plays a critical role in the control of movement. It has a stimulating effect on the heart, the circulation, the rate of metabolism, and is able to mobilize many of the body’s energy reserves. It helps to modulate brain activity, control coordination and movement, and regulate the flow of information to different areas of the brain.  Dopamine is believed to release chemicals that allow us to feel pleasure (e.g., endorphins).

I’m not sure why I went in this direction with this post.  I guess I realize that my days are better when I run.  Is it chemical (dopamine, endorphins) or just the fact I am finally getting in shape and feel better about myself?  I don’t know.

This is what I do know…

I love running.

Running up Mountains

Okay, not “mountains”, but a really steep hill.

Yesterday was my hill run day.  Everyone I talk to says hill runs are the best for increasing your endurance and speed in a race.  So, the last day of January I go out for my second week of running this hill/mountain.  Last week I ran it twice and ran some other routes in between each hill run.  This week, I changed it up.  I ran about 1.8 miles before I got to the hill to get warmed up some.  Of course it was also the first time in 10 months that I forgot my phone, so I don’t know how fast I was running, but when I reached the hill, I was breathing a bit hard.

Up I went – up the hill.  It was a rough run.  I got to the top and it levels out for a bit before I turn to go back down the hill.  By the time I got to the bottom (which was hard in and of itself since it was so steep), I was ready to go up again.  Without a break I went for it.  Back up the hill to the top.  This time it didn’t seem as hard and as I went back down, I felt pretty good.  My goal was three times, so I went back up.  Not bad.  It seemed that each time I went up I felt a little easier than the last.  My legs were tired and running down the hill was harder, but I was shocked that I was able to make it three times without much fatigue.  I then ran a couple more miles to make sure I made 5 miles and went home to take my son to a doctor appt.

What an end to a month.  It was close to record mileage, but since I forgot my phone, I am not 100% sure.  But for two months in a row now I have been able to run over 150 miles.  Wow, it wasn’t but early fall that I could barely break 100.  Also, I am on pace to make my third 40 mile week in a row.

Do you want to know why I love running?  The activity is rather boring and takes a lot of time, however I love running because I can run faster and farther with little skill.  Running just works best if you do it.  Also it doesn’t really cost too much, except for shoes that can be found rather cheaply on sale.   I work with technology all day long.  I have computers and phones and tablets and gadgets blinding my eyes.  When I run, it is just me, outside with the sound of my feet on the pavement.  I’m alone..  I work through problems in my head.  I pray.  I get out my frustrations.  It really is better than therapy.  No pills, just nature, neighbors and running shoes.  Wet, cold, hot, sunny, cloudy.  Any and all weather.  Whatever the weather is like at 2:00, that is what weather I am going to run in.

Ultimately, running up mountains is a good name for this post.  I named it that for the hill run, but every run is a run up mountains.  It is primal.  It is therapeutic.  It is just nature and me, alone, together.

I love running.

“Running head games” or “The psychology of running”

On a quick note… I changed my run plan around for this week.  TJ likes to run his first day back for the week as a normal run and then on Wednesday do a tempo run.  I did this last week, but found that by doing this, my hill run was on Friday and then I only had one day before my long run.  I wonder if that was my issue on Sunday with my hip and legs hurting so much during my long run. So, I’m trying my tempo run this afternoon and see how it goes.  I think having 2 regular days before my long run should help.

I am sure many people have written about the psychology of running, but the more I run, the more I am convinced that 50% of running is in my head.  What I mean is that my mind will tell me to stop, tell me to slow down, tell me my legs are tired, etc.  My mind will tell me, “don’t run today it is too cold, it’s raining, it’s snowing, it’s hot and so on”.  I think the psychology of running is as much of telling your mind to shut up as anything else.  There are times to listen though.  If I am running and my hamstring starts to pull, or my knee hurts, I’ll tell my body to relax and slow down a bit until the pain goes away.  But for the most part, running is a mental activity in which I run best when I do the opposite of what my head is telling me to do.

This is the reason I get home from work and immediately get on my running clothes and go out for my run.  I say hi to my lovely wife and pat the dog and wave at the kids and I’m off.  If anything interrupts that schedule, my chances of making my run for the day goes down dramatically.  Habit is as important in my running as anything else.  In the summer when it is 107 degrees and 90% humidity, I have to run anyway.  In the winter when it is 22 degrees and 20 mph wind, I have to run anyway.  6 days a week 52 weeks a year, on vacation or during a holiday, I cannot give my head an excuse not to run.  If I do it once, then I’ll do it again and before I know it, I’ve stopped running.  Then the momentum is gone and it is twice as hard to get going again.

These are my thoughts on the head games I play with myself to make myself do something I’ve not done in 49 years.  Run.  I’m up to 40 miles a week now.  The half marathon is in less than 3 weeks.  My body has to contol my mind, not the other way around.  I guess what I am talking about is discipline.  Also wisdom to know when to stop or when to ignore what I am feeling.

I love running.

Running is cheaper than therapy

I know this statement has been around a while, but it is true.

Yesterday was not a good day. I got home from work and ran 4 miles. Then last night it all fell apart. I was upset about everything and the situation was not going in a good direction. So, at 8:00 at night and 37 degrees outside I got on my shorts and tee shirt (I could have been wiser about that part) and put on my Saucony Mirage 2 shoes that TJ bought me and went for a run. I didn’t run fast, probably a 2 minute slower pace than normal. Speed wasn’t the issue. I had to get away. I ran about 5 more miles and headed home.

What a difference a run can make. I was calm and had gotten over all the issues I had. My lovely wife went to Walmart while I was running, so I came home and drove out to meet her there. It was a good night from then on.