Have you ever tried to retrain your brain?

Have you ever tried to retrain your brain?

It fascinates me as a runner how much the brain is used in running and how much “memory” occurs during a run.

For instance, last summer I got into a rut of running 4 mile runs.  It was hot and I run at 2:00 in the afternoon.  I was in survival mode and just wanted to hang on for cooler weather.  So for 3 months I’d run 4 miles each day.  However, when cooler weather prevailed, I had the hardest time getting past 4 miles.  I was in good shape, but almost exactly at the 4 mile mark, my body would shut down and I’d have to stop.  Finally I ran with TJ on a traditional 7 mile run on Christmas day and was able to begin to break free of the 4 mile blockage – but it was hard.

I blame this rut on my brain.  Of course I could have gone 5 miles or more at any point, but my whole body would just stop when it was trained to stop at 4 miles.

Let me give another example.  Over 3 years and 3,500 miles of running, I kept my cell phone in my right hand to track my runs.  I take it on every run; every 5K and even on my full and half marathons.  I’m used to having it in my hand.  This winter I decided to try and teach myself to switch hands during my run.  This was partly due to a light wrist sprain and partly to see if I could reteach myself to hold my phone in my left hand.  So while running I would suddenly remember to put my phone in my left hand.  After a while, without noticing, it was back in my right hand.  I’d then put it back in my left and then it would reappear in my right.  This went on and on for a month or so.  I would never remember putting my phone in back in my right hand.  Eventually I retrained my brain to notice when I would move it from my left hand to my right hand.  I’d then purposely move it back.  Finally I was successful in moving my phone to my left hand and leaving it there until I decided to move it back.  I know this is a minor example, but it demonstrates how I retained my brain.

Simply put, do the thing your want to do and do it over and over again.  When you fail at it, do it again.  Eventually you will retrain your brain to notice and then you can finally break the habit.

I’m relating this to running, but it works in almost any area of life.  Bad habits can be broken and good habits installed by just doing and failing and doing and failing until you just do it!

Retraining my brain has helped me become a runner, eat better, lose 100 lbs, change my work habits and live a better life.

Just don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is the beginning of success.  Failure means you have tried.  If you never try, you will never fail, but you will also never succeed.

If you try again every time you fail,  get up every time you fall, keep moving forward with your goal, you will see the success you want to obtain.

Never give up.

Tom

Advertisements

278 to 3500

Today is my running anniversary.

I’ve now run for 3 years and over 3500 miles.

I started this journey at 278 lbs.  My running began after a physician directed diet that brought my down to 220 lbs.  I now weight 186 lbs.

Running isn’t easy for me.  Starting my running career at 49 years old and having been in horrible shape, my running is almost always accompanied by pain.  I run with hip pain and heel pain most of the time.  I don’t know if it is a good thing or not, but the hip and the heel are on opposite sides of my body.

Over the past 3500 miles I’ve learned a lot about myself.  I don’t listen to music while I run, so it is just me out there.  I can be a boring person to run with by myself. LOL.  I have learned to do things while I run.  I pay more attention to my surroundings, I pray, I say hi to people I pass.  I try not to think of the next hour or two that I’ll be pushing myself and try to distract myself in anyway I can.

During my runs I have solved a lot of problems.  It may be the oxygen getting to my brain, it may be the quite and the fact I have nothing else to do but think.  I will say that most of my good ideas and problem solving have occurred during my runs over the last 3 years.

Just some philosophical musings from a 3 year runner.

Yesterday’s run went great and I have a new system for running that seems to be working well.  I’m going to try it a few more times and then I’ll post it for everyone.  So far, I’ve done this for 3 runs (4, 13 and 8 miles) and my runs have been better, stronger and I’ve felt better afterwards.  Check back in a few days and I’ll tell you my system if it keeps working for me.

Have an awesome week and keep running!

Tom

From 110 to 8 – why I’m thankful #WeAreThankful

I was thinking to myself during my hill run yesterday…

I’m thankful I can breath!

I’ve been running now for several years.  My Nike app says that I have run 2,993 miles.  7 more miles to a total of 3,000. Wow.

They say running can be bad for your heart.  They say that long runs can damage a heart.  I say that breathing is much more important then the alternative.  Running these 2,993 miles has change me, made my life happier, given me more freedom in life, made my family life better, reduced my heath care costs and prolonged my life by possibly 30 years.

I’m thankful I can breath!

My Grandfather died at my age.  He was my height.  He was overweight, as I was 3 years ago.  In the prime of his life, it was over.

My Mom was always concerned about my weight.  Others were also, but she had reason as I was the same stature as her dad.  Hmmm, would I live past my early 50s?

What does the title of this post mean?  I’ll tell you.

3 years ago, at the point I weighed 278 lbs, I had a sleep study done.  I knew something was wrong and the study agreed.  During that short night with a thousand wires all over me watching my every breath, I had an apnea incident (stop breathing for 10 seconds or more) on average 110 times each hour.  My oxygen level got down to 60 and within a few hours of starting the test, they stopped it, put a cpap mask on me and let me sleep the rest of the night.

I’m thankful for technology.  That sleep study saved my life, I’m sure.  Afterwards, a series of event happened (as I have recalled in this blog) where I lost 100 lbs, I started running, and everything changed.

2,997 running miles later, I had another sleep study.  This time, I wanted to see if I still needed my cpap, and if so, how bad was my apnea.

Less then 8!

That is right, I actually went from 110 apnea incidents to less then 8.  Considering less then 5 is normal, I still suffer from mild sleep apnea, but I’ll take that all day long.

I’m thankful I can breath!

Running literally saved my life, perhaps in a more dramatic fashion then others because of my genetic makeup.

I am thankful.  I am thankful to my family, friends, but most of all to God who put me on this miraculous path.

Finally, I was asked by the Outreach Coordinator of Oscar Insurance (they provide health insurance in New Jersey and New York) if I would write a post on thankfulness and participate in their #WeAreThankful campaign.  I don’t know them and they don’t know me. However, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to participate when I have been given one of the best testimonies a guy can have!

I’m still alive!

I’m thankful I can breath!

Mile 25 of my 5 mile run

I had a mile to go to finish my run.

I was beat.  Totally beat.  I told myself that I would quit a half mile early.

  • It was hot – not as hot as in the middle of summer, but a hotter day then we have had lately.
  • I forgot to take my Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) before my run.  My legs were so tired and heavy.  Was this the reason?
  • I increased my mileage from 4 to 5 miles a day just this week.  Was that why I was beat?
  • I am running a hillier area and one hill is huge.  Am I just worn out?

These are the thoughts of a runner perplexed at 4 miles as to why his run is going badly.  Pace?  What pace?  I threw pace out of the window a couple miles ago.  Actually all summer I have kept my love for speed away and just tried to be consistent on the run.

I tripped.  Sort of tripped.  I literally stubbed the top of the front of my new running shoes.  I’ve never done that before, I thought to myself.  Maybe I should walk home.  I don’t want to hurt myself on a basic run.  I don’t want to be stupid.  I don’t… I can’t… I won’t…

Then the thought occurred to me.  Just a year ago I ran a marathon.  I felt worse at mile 25 of that marathon then I did now at mile 4 of my 5 mile run.  My body needs to learn.  I need to master my body.  It must submit to me if I ever want to run a marathon again, let alone qualify for Boston.  This feeling… The feeling of being spent, exhausted, tired, hot and having nothing left inside… Maybe this feeling is a gift.  Maybe this is training for mile 25.  Only a little over a mile to go and I’ll be done.  My body will learn that it has to comply with what I am doing.  Not to the point of getting hurt, but I need to teach my body, my mind and my spirit that I can run through this feeling.  I can complete the race.  I can run up that last hill and finish what I set out to do.

5.01 miles after I started, I finished.  I literally had nothing left.  It was hard to walk the rest of the way home (about 100 yards).

I finished. What a great feeling.  I had the worst run of the summer and I felt like I just completed a marathon.  I didn’t give up.  I didn’t give in.  I didn’t walk until I met my goal.

Today… who knows, maybe I’ll run 6 miles just for fun!

Have a great weekend.

Tom

Running, hurt, better, running, happy

Somedays running can be ordinary.

Somedays you think your run was ordinary, but it really wasn’t.

Somedays running is fun and you feel like you can run forever.

Somedays you get two miles into a run and know you need to stop or risk getting hurt.

Monday I ran my 4 miles.

Tuesday I ram my 4 miles.

Wednesday I woke up and my ankle hurt so much I could barely walk.  Strange that I was fine during my Tuesday run.  Of course it was HOT and I was tired.  I hadn’t slept well the night before and the heat, though not as bad as at other times, just got to me.  I ended up walking several times.

So I woke up Wednesday and limped out of bed.  At work I had to walk slowly and favored my other foot.  It hurt so much, I wondered if I had sprained it.  I had visions of having to take weeks off of running and just keep weight off of it all together.  That afternoon I decided to walk through my neighborhood.  I figured it would work its way out of make it worse, but at least I’d know what I was up against.  So I walked a couple miles and headed home.  To be honest, it was better after a while.  I still couldn’t run on it, but I could walk without issue.

Yesterday I woke up and felt fine.  No pain.  No limp. All was well.

So I went for my run yesterday afternoon.  It was awesome.  Not only did my ankle feel fine, but I felt like I could run forever.  I ended up running 5 miles, which was longer then I’ve run in a long time.  I felt comfortable. It was cool outside (I love the polar vortex in the summer) and all was well with the world.

This morning I am back in the 184 range for my weight.  I have been creeping up past 184 off and on since my vacation.  184 is not where I want to be as a goal, but is acceptable to me, so that is good news.

Ultimately, somedays are good and some are bad.  I’ve said this before, but if you have a bad day, know that a good one is coming soon.  If you have a good day, don’t be shocked at the next bad day because it will happen.  That is the way we are made and that is life.

I’m glad I had a good day yesterday.  I really needed one.

Tom

 

Running/mountains/life – the good, bad and the…

One thing I’ve learned since I began running in March of 2011… some days you feel like superman and some you don’t.

Yesterday TJ, RS and I went to the mountain to do our weekly run.  If you have read this blog at all over the past several months, you will know that I found this crazy road going up a mountain in our local state park.  I’ve run it many times now.  A few weeks ago, TJ coaxed me into going further past the top of the mountain.  There is a long hill that goes down and then a very steep climb up to the end of the road.  By the time we leave the car and make it back, we run about 7.5 miles on the mountain.

Back to my starting sentence.  Yesterday I didn’t feel like superman.  We started our run (RS likes to run alone, so he left after us) and my legs had no strength.  They honestly felt like rubber.  I kept racking my brain as to why this would be.  I hydrated well this weekend and last week.  I eat well.  I slept better then normal.  Also I walked Friday and took Saturday of.  I should have been smokin!

Not!

I figured by the time we got going my legs would wake up.  They didn’t.  I got to the top of the mountain and felt like I was on mile 20 of a marathon.  I was shot.  What kept me going?  Other then being almost 4 miles away from the car and running with TJ, I kept thinking to myself, “This will help my legs get used to running tired – like at mile 20 of a marathon”.

So I finished.  It wasn’t pretty, but I didn’t walk.  I pushed through.  To be honest, coming down the mountain was the worse!  I had to concentrate to keep my legs from giving way as we pounded down the steep inclines.

Running really does mirror life sometimes.  There are days when you wake up and you feel like you are at mile 20.  It is not only hard to get going, but it can be hard to keep going.  But we have to keep our eyes on the prize and push through.  Every up also has a down and every down has an up.  Life is never going to stay as good as you feel right now or as bad.  Life means change.  When you are tired, just keep going.  When you are happy, be thankful.  When you are sad, know that one day you will be happy again, whether you feel like you will be or not.

Before I sign off I want to congratulate RS who made it to the top of the mountain for the first time.  As we were coming back, we passed him.  I told him he made it and he said, “Really?”.  He didn’t know he had made it to the top!  Hmmm.  Seems like life also.  Sometimes we have everything we ever wanted, we make it to the top of the mountain and don’t even know that we have arrived.

Running/mountains/life.  Gotta love it!

Tom

Runner’s mood boost

I ran yesterday.  The first non-stop run since my SI joint acted up last Tuesday.

All in all I’d say it was a good run.  I didn’t push myself as I didn’t want to get hurt again.  At this point, I’d rather run slow then not run at all.  I think my family agrees as I seem to be addicted to endorphins.  When I can’t run, I get just a bit grumpy.  I’ve never been one to get a runner’s high, at least not that I’ve noticed.  I can notice though, that if I don’t run I just seem more moody and angry at the world.  Fortunately I am a pretty laid back person, so I can hold in most of my frustration. It is amazing though how I miss that ability to get my frustrations out while on a run.  I guess I get a runner’s mood boost rather than a runner’s high.  Either way, it really helps.

So my running yesterday was a good thing for everyone.  I ran in my old Saucony Mirage shoes.  I am trying to get away from my Fastwitch shoes because I think they might be some of the reason for my injuries.  I am a heavy runner and they are basically a racing flat.  The Mirage are much more built up and steady.  The Mirage I ran in yesterday also only have about 100 miles on them, so they have plenty of time left on them.  I will be going to my Brooks PureFlow 2 after I get over my SI joint issue.  I don’t want to introduce another variable into my running until I know I am well.

Back to my run.  I got in 3 miles at about a 9:30 pace.  My hip felt a little strange.  It didn’t hurt, but it did feel like it wanted to turn inward as I ran.

Today I am going to walk a mile before my run.  I hope that will loosen me up more and remove any stiffness.

I guess running has become a way of life.  I never thought I’d become so dependent on it, but I’m glad I am!