There is a one word answer: Yoga.
Why do I let my daily yoga practice slide? It just takes 10 minutes (or less) to do a mini practice at home and after my body (and soul) feels incredible.
To repeat wise words from the world’s oldest yoga teacher featured in Older Faster Stronger, Ida Hebert, “Yoga is good for three things: strength, stretching, and your spirit.” Another of Ida’s quotes sticks in my mind: “There’s a difference between being happy doing something and finding happiness in doing something.” She strives to find happiness in doing whatever she’s doing, whether chores or play or exercise.
And to borrow my own words from OFS: “Yoga is the yin to running’s yang. Running exhausts while yoga recharges energy. Running tightens. Yoga loosens. Running exhilarates and pounds. Yoga soothes aching muscles. Running works a few muscles hard. Yoga works all muscles softly. Running drives forward in a headlong rush, providing an amazing cardio workout. Yoga glides in multiple directions, building muscle strength, flexibility, functional strength. Running breathes in a huffing rush. Yoga breathes with control.”
And so yesterday, to renew my commitment to yoga (and give myself a serious dose of my own advice), I trotted 2.5 k to a yoga studio and enjoyed a delicious hour of my body in healing motion. Today, I feel younger, stronger.
First group run back from an injury, and my fellow striders are readers of Older Faster Stronger — newly retired and new to running, seasoned for-lifers, coaches, Boston qualifiers, new mom pushing stroller, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever (who herds us/leads us).
A beautiful menagerie who run with the Runners Soul in Lethbridge, Alberta.
What trail they lead me down, winding around a frozen lake, path snow dusted, massive prairie sky drenching us with winter sun.
Their marathon club invited me here to share wisdom, advice, inspiration from my Older Faster Stronger super-fit year, yet they explode my heart with their zeal, their running goals:
– to keep an activity streak going (do something every day, whether run, walk, swim, bike, ski, chase stars…)
– to run a marathon in every capital of Canada (this from a 65-year-old newbie runner; she says, I better get cracking with 14 to complete)
– to find fun and joy in every run (which sometimes includes donuts)
That searing pain in my back? What pain? What back? What winter? What cold?
Their running dreams buoy me so I become feet gliding on air.
Too soon, this run is over.
On Day 7, I felt like Superwoman, running a 10k along the beach, with five 200-metre sprints tucked into the back end. Immediately after, my partner and I took a 6k walk to the farmer’s market, which I had scouted on my run. I felt so awesome that I took over carrying ALL six bags of fresh Gulf seafood and Florida produce while my partner ducked into the wine store. And if that weren’t stupid enough, 50-something Superwoman decided she should run the last block back to the hotel while carrying those six bags. Third step in, pain stabbed into my back, just above my left buttock, and I knew immediately my running streak was over.
A mere week in.
Next day, I woke up feeling like a magician’s prop — the one that gets sawed in half, only for real. I considered hobbling out a k just to keep the run streak going but that went against my deepest values as a runner — which, as ultra Pam Reid put it in my book Older Faster Strong, “I run to protect my running.”
Heck, even attempting a running streak in the first place cut against the the principles that successfully took me through my Older Faster Stronger super-fit year. And that is to take a balanced approach to running, with rest days and cross training and yoga, to run in a way that would enable me to keep running into my 90s and maybe 100
So what possessed me to attempt the streak? A new running adventure? A regime to keep me disciplined through a winter and spring that would take me away from my running club and a running program? To discover the meaning of running?
Oh yes, I wanted something from that streak — maybe a touchstone to get me through this next year of incredible change in my life, a new direction in writing but, much more than that, building a new house on an island a few hours away from my best running pals and the best running club in the world. The move is months away and I know we’ll stay in touch, run together when I’m in the city and when they visit, yet I’m already feeling the deep loss of daily commune with my running sisters.
Damn it, maybe this run streak/injury has given me something after all — realization that this loss will be huge and I can’t just plug in a daily run to fill it. That I can’t run away from that pain but must figure a way to run with it.
Train. First week of streak, I’m just running for the joy and fun of it. Second week, I’m trying to write a “running streak program” for myself, thinking about how to insert long runs, fast runs, interval training, hills into daily runs. It doesn’t feel like a bad thing or like work either. After years of running, varying runs to squeeze out maximum fitness just feels right, for mind and body.
Some runners put in a 1/2 marathon a day or more. Not this runner. And so my daily mileage may seem puny into day 7 of my running streak — ranging from 6 to 10k a day. First I’m on vacay and walking miles of beach every afternoon. And I’m still figuring out what my body can handle while running every day. The point of this running streak adventure for me is not to spend huge chunks of my day running but to enjoy every day running. So far, seven days a smiling.
My go-to imagery to get me through tough spots in a race is to conjure up a dolphin “swimming” alongside me, laughing, pulling me along. As I jogged onto the snow-white Fort Myers Beach for my morning run, the real thing appeared, surging through the water about 30 or 40 feet off the beach. I had decided on a shorter easier run, but the magic made it difficult to stop.
This is a joyous, liberating, uplifting result of committing to running every day. When I wake up, my mind does not wrestle with whether to run or not. Instead of being mired in that muck, my thoughts leap immediately and delightfully to this: How to make the run fantastic.
Today’s 10 k scamper: Reveling in key scenes of the novel I will sink into after this vacay wraps in a week.
Day two of my bid to run every day of 2016 may have been my last had I not practiced extreme defensive running. This was my routine during the 10K scamper down to the beach: Get to crosswalk, wait for walk signal, raise arm to point to where I’m crossing, look over my shoulder to make sure no one’s turning right on a red. I even make eye contact with any driver in proximity to ensure he sees me. And yet with all of that, two motorists — while making eye contact with me and seeming to indicate they would yield to MY RIGHT to cross — actually turned on red lights and sped up through crosswalks, forcing me to leap back. What kind of driver intentionally forces a walker/runner off a crosswalk? Really? Seriously? Today’s run was in Ft Lauderdale, a city full of shuffling retirees for gad sakes. But as is so often the case with drivers who seem enraged by the sight of runners, both offenders were white 50-plus men. Times like this I fantasize about firing a paint gun full of putrid green paint onto the vehicle. Or perhaps it should be blood red.
So this idea popped in my brain a few days ago and, crazy as it is, I’ve decided to go with it.
A few years ago, the bizarre idea of running a marathon lodged itself my brain and would not let go even though I had never wanted to run one; in fact, I swore to all my running buddies that the half marathon was as far as I’d ever race. But I went with that gonzo idea and it worked out pretty well. Great health, happy brain, youthful energy, weight loss, quitting smoking, forging new best friends, heck, a running book all followed!
So here I am on New Year’s Day running around the Ft. Lauderdale Executive Airport because a) it’s one of the few low traffic areas to run near my sister-in-law’s, where we visiting and b) the crazy idea that popped into my brain a few days ago was this: Run every single day for the entire 2016 year.
Here’s why the idea is nutso: A body needs rest, so running every day is not necessarily healthy. I’ll have to work hard to vary run lengths (what’s the minimum I can go and still feel like I have run?) and develop a strict routine of cross training, stretching, yoga etc. to stay injury free.
But here’s why I’m starting this running streak: In a word, focus.
My best writing days always follow on the heels of the mornings I run. And I am digging into a massive new writing project in 2016 that will require intense singular solitary focus, more than I can muster now.
Training for marathons turned back my biological clock back a couple of decades. So I am putting my faith in running again, to help me develop the kind of deep focus required to get me to the finish line of my next writing project.
I run for a huge pile of reasons but mostly I run so that I can write.
I may be the lone bizarre runner who really detests listening to music on a run. It messes with my pace & my mind. One song might get me in a groove while another kicks me out. And I really don’t have time or inclination to keep putting together perfect play lists.
But listening to a podcast during a solo run is like having a smart, articulate pal along to keep me company. I love NPR (This American Life), CBC (Q, Sunday Edition, Big Ideas and more) and now, thanks to being interviewed on many for OFS, I have discovered running podcasts.
It’s great fun on the run to listen to running commentary from athletes, medicine doctors, philosophers of the sport & authors.
So I’m sharing a few of my favs here. Okay, I’ve linked to some interviews with me but you can go to their site and subscribe to get all their episodes! You’ll learn, get inspired & have more than a few laughs with fellow running enthusiasts from across North America.
The Running Lifestyle: http://www.therunninglifestyle.com/the-podcast/
Another Mother Runner http://anothermotherrunner.com/2015/03/21/153-find-get-older-faster-stronger/
Running Academy: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/everyday-runners-podcast-matt/id788298024 (my interview TK)
Runners Connect: http://runnersconnect.net/running-interviews/margaret-webb/