Hallelujah, I found my running mojo again! For months, that blissful my-body-feels-worked-but-happy-and-I-just-can’t-stop-smiling kind of feeling eluded me, and running felt more like a chore as I slogged through mile after mile on the treadmill. However, in the past month or so, I’ve felt increasingly happy to lace up my shoes and run, run, run, and I attribute the return of my mojo to these three changes in my approach to running:
1) I set a goal for myself and signed up for a couple of races to hold myself accountable.
A habitual runner, it’s easy for me to run endless miles at any easy-ish pace, and while the accumulation of miles is “nice” from a “stay in shape during the winter months” kind of perspective, it’s also boring. With my 30th birthday looming, I decided that I’d like to challenge myself to to run a good, fast race this spring. I haven’t raced for two years, and I wouldn’t exactly call my experience in the Eugene Marathon “racing”. What that experience did teach me is that I LOVE following a training plan. This spring, I plan on running the Shamrock Shuffle in Portland (I’m doing the five mile run with my cousin) and Race for the Roses Half Marathon in April. I’m hoping to go big in my half marathon. I have a lofty finish time in mind, so I’m doggedly digging away at a training plan…which brings me to the next point:
2) I’ve been challenging myself with speed workouts (and trying to run more of them outside!)
Rather than pound the pavement in an endless accumulation of miles (as I am wont to do without a plan), I’ve been incorporating speed workouts two times a week. I alternate between tempo runs and intervals on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Over the past six weeks of training, I’ve developed a tentative respect for speed workouts, for though they are glitteringly painful, they are also effective. Case in point: Last Thursday, I had planned to run intervals on the treadmill between yoga classes and college counseling work. The sun was shining, it was fifty degrees outside, and there was no justification for me to run on the treadmill, which is where I admittedly do most of my winter running (and much of my reading too!). So, I laced up my running shoes and took my run outdoors. Needless to say, fresh air and sunshine are magical, especially after endless days inside with rain and snow. I was supposed to run six miles as follows: 1 mile warm up, 1 mile at 6:45, ½ mile recovery, 1 mile at 6:45, ½ mile recovery, 1 mile at 6:45, 1 mile cool down. However, the combination of the endorphin-boosting sunshine and several weeks of diligent speed work paid off, and I surprised myself by keeping my intervals between 5:30-6:30. By the end of the workout, I was smiling ear to ear, despite feeling nauseated and entirely overworked. The elusive runner’s high was back!
3) I’ve explored new places on foot rather than relying exclusively on routine treadmill runs.
My cousin Mandy and I spent last weekend in Nevada City, California (a historic gold-mining town about an hour from Sacramento) visiting my cousin Kyra and her brand-new baby, Will (more on this later – swoon!). One of my favorite things to do when visiting new cities is to get up early, early and explore the area on foot. Yes, there’s a moderate chance I’ll get lost, but with a GPS watch and my cellphone in hand, it’s unlikely. And there’s something empowering and peaceful about discovering a new place solo before sunrise. I ran over twenty miles this past weekend in Nevada City, a town whose old-fashioned downtown strip, neighborhoods of itty bitty bungalows, and forest trails provided a charming change of pace (pun intended, definitely).
And with that, I’m off for a run!