As Bethany Meyer starts her Boston Marathon training with some resolutions—which don't really include running. To remind you, Bethany is documenting her training twice a month here on AMR, thanks to Stonyfield Organic Yogurt, who generously offered us a number for a mother runner in the Boston Marathon.
I stir cherries into my rolled oats. And proceed to choke down the first bite. Blech. Bland. I had hoped the cherries would sweeten the oatmeal, but no. The second bite doesn’t go down any easier than the first.
After two plus weeks of my kids on break and my husband home more than I’m used to, every ounce of me is yearning to get back to a routine. Official training for Boston began on Sunday, and it’s time to switch gears from celebrating the holidays with indulgent food (and wine and beer and homemade Bailey’s) to fueling the machine.
My breakfast of oatmeal remains flavorless from first bite to last.
Every ounce of me is yearning to get back to a routine--except for my stubborn taste buds.
It’s the first week of 2015 and week one of marathon training. The gym treadmills and elliptical machines are occupied around the clock. Weight Watchers is emailing me daily. So, yes, I’m going to talk goals.
1. Get to the start line of the Boston Marathon healthy. And cross the finish line smiling.
Easier said than done. But fueling the machine--eating the right foods, getting enough sleep, cross training, icing, foam rolling--one day at a time will maximize my chances. I hope to bring the joy to Boston so I can cross the finish line smiling.
2. Learn to be still long enough to meditate.
Here’s where it starts to get tricky.
I don’t do still well.
Actually, I don’t do still. Period.
In mid-December, Coach assigned me a speed workout. 4 x in and out 150s. Run 150 meters for each interval. Stride out the first 50 meters, gun it for the middle 50 meters, then ease up and glide through the last 50. Take 3 minutes rest between each one. Do a good 1.5 mile warmup and cool down.
I dropped the kids off for their last day of school and hustled over to the track to get started.
During my 1.5 mile warmup, this was my inner monologue: “Did Coach say 150 meters or 150 yards? Wait, what’s the difference? I’m on the track, and I know that one lap is 400 meters. Or is it 400 yards? Meters. It’s meters. So, if I have to run 150 meters--I think he said meters--that means less than half a lap. And I have to break that into 3, but I have to be thinking about my speed with every 50 meters. Or yards. Or whatever.”
I know. It’s scary to think I’m in charge of the well-being of four human beings. And that I’m allowed to operate a car.
Figuring out where 50 meters--or yards--started and ended three times over on the track was too much for my December brain, so I opted to do the speedwork on the turf football field. Which is yards, not meters. Potato/potahto. Per coach’s instructions, I strode out the first 50 along the end zone, then I turned and gunned it for the middle 50, and eased up for the final 50.
During my 3 minutes standing rest, this was my inner monologue: “That was fun. I would have been a hot mess figuring out that distance on the track. 3 minutes is a really long time to stand still. I think I’m going to practice my handstands.”
My yoga instructor is reading this and yelling, “Yes! Atta girl, Beth!”
My running coach is reading this and simultaneously composing an email to me. It reads: “Handstands between intervals, Bethany? Let’s revisit the benefits of standing rest.”
The math piece of this speed workout was a challenge, yes. But not as much as the standing still part. It’s not just a me thing, is it? I think it’s an athlete thing. We’re wired to move. To the detriment of our training at times. Ask a runner what the hardest part of her training is. Getting up early? Maybe. Fitting it in? Sure. Among my circle of running friends, it’s often the rest day. Or the dreaded taper.
When Dimity asked me about my goals for this year, the very first thing that came to mind--even before the M word--was “be still long enough to meditate.”
When I asked my husband to take a picture of me to accompany my goals, he grabbed my yoga mat and his camera, put me on a narrow bridge, and told me to strike a meditative pose. I sat crisscross applesauce, placed my hands on my knees, joined my middle fingers and thumbs, and closed my eyes. And that lasted for all of 30 seconds. Because I am wired to move. And I like inversions. So I stood on my head instead. On a narrow bridge with a 6 foot drop on both sides to nothing but concrete, I stood on my head.
Kids, don’t try this at home.
My yoga instructor is reading this and yelling, “Yes! Atta girl, Beth!”
My running coach is reading this and simultaneously composing an email to me. It reads: “What if you had fallen, Bethany? You can’t risk a serious injury just to score a cool photo.”
And it was a cool photo.
Plus, I never fall out of a headstand.
Being still is my falling.
That need to move--to occupy body and mind--is pervasive in my life. Folding laundry while watching TV. Scarfing down my dinner so I can load the dishwasher while my family sits and eats in an attempt to get out of the kitchen at a reasonable hour. Scrolling through Facebook a dozen times throughout the day. OK, two dozen times throughout the day. Checking email as soon as I pull into the driveway before I’m even out of the car. Reaching for my phone before I lift my head from the pillow every morning. Practicing handstands during standing rest between intervals. Pushing up into a headstand when asked to emulate meditation.
I’ve allowed no space in my life for stillness.
I’d like to change that. I’m scared to change that. But I owe it to myself to change that. I know we should be as specific as possible in committing to goals, so I will attend 1-2 meditation classes this month. They take place on Wednesday evenings. After dinner. Right after I’ve tucked two of my kids into bed. At the same time I like to put on my comfiest sweatshirt and flannel pajama bottoms and scroll mindlessly through Facebook.
My yoga instructor is reading this and doing headstands, handstands, crow, side crow, wheel, half binds, full binds, and jumping for joy. All while yelling, “Atta girl, Beth!”
My running coach is reading this and simultaneously composing an email to me: “If meditation helps you get your head on straight AND you agree to keep the headstands and handstands in the yoga studio where they belong, I’m all for it. Also, take your husband with you.”
3. Run and live with intention, instead of getting things done merely to cross them off my list.
That’s another tricky one. Few things in life give me more joy than the act of crossing items off my list.
Running has been my physical outlet for the better part of a decade. I’ve had the good fortune to run under the guidance of a coach for the last eighteen months. He urges me to set an intention for every run. Late last week, for instance, my intention was simple: “Don running gear. Exit the house before I lose my mind on my husband and all four of our children. Be home in time to make dinner.” That’s not exactly the type of intention Coach has in mind.
His intentions for my runs are more pace, time, and effort-specific. He is steadfast in his belief that a runner should approach every workout with a goal. This has been a challenge for me because I do a great deal of my thinking when I run. It’s where my writing takes shape. It’s where I do mental inventory of my pantry. It’s where I think about pretty much everything but running. The shift to running with intention requires that I am present every time I lace up my sneakers.
I had an 8 mile run on the schedule for Sunday, which I bumped to Monday. We had plans to take the kids to see Stomp in the afternoon. My husband went to the office in the morning, and I found myself rushing at the thought of getting the miles logged. 8 miles was my long run for the week. I know Coach’s intention with my long runs is time on my legs. The antithesis of squeezing it in. So, I downloaded a book to my iPhone because I knew it would force me to slow my pace. Time on my legs. Setting an intention and sticking to it. It’s a discipline. I have work to do.
Yoga has become an important part of my life over the last three years. I try to practice once a week. We often begin class with a reminder to set an intention. When I began practicing, my intentions were consistently physical. “Get lower in chair pose. Don’t stop to rest during the backbend series. Go for a full bind instead of a half bind.”
My strength, balance, and flexibility have improved since incorporating yoga. The runner in me celebrates each of those as victories. When you’re a runner, and you can touch your toes without pulling your hamstrings, you’re winning in my book.
But my intentions have also changed over time. They’re no longer physical. “Be as kind with myself as I am to my friends. Accept that certain people in my life may not be capable of giving me what I need, and be thankful they are giving me the best they have. Shut down the negative talk in my head and open myself up to encouragement and forgiveness.”
My math remains abysmal, but my head space? I’d like to think it’s evolving.
Maybe it’s the running.
Maybe it’s the yoga.
Maybe it’s the marriage of the two.
Maybe it’s being 40.
Nevertheless, my goals are on paper and I expect that changing my behaviors to see them to fruition will be a tough pill to swallow.
Harder to swallow than rolled oats and cherries?
How are your sitting still skills? What about rest days and tapers: tougher than a long run?