Monday, February 8, 2010

Why I Started Running

I've been doing a lot of introspection lately. A Lot. I've been debating about how much to share here, because that's not really what my blog is about. Not that my blog is about much, but it's definitely not about deep thoughts or what crazy notion is circling my head at a given moment. But this I think is worth writing down, so that I will have it on record when I need the reminder about why I have running shoes in the first place.

The Story

I've always gotten a lot of headaches. A Lot. My mom tells the story that when I was in elementary school, she would get calls about once a week from the school nurse: Your daughter says she has a headache, may I give her an aspirin.

Fast-forward 20-some years, I finally got myself to a headache doctor. His diagnosis: in technical terms, I was a stressed-out, perfectionistic, worrywart. Who me? We tried this and that, and I did generally get better, but I was still getting headaches. I was doing just about everything within my control to improve my general wellbeing, and the next step was big-time medications.

Well...everything, that is, except for this: Aerobic exercise has proven as effective as medication for controlling stress and anxiety.

Sigh...ok, fine.

Why running? Well, I could run at home. Or at a conference, or at my parent's, or on vacation, so it's portable. That was important. Also, I'd read a book* by Barbara Delinsky several years before, in which the heroine was a runner.** Not a super fantastic runner, but a woman who'd suffered from severe asthma all her life. When she decided to start running, she first researched how to start running, and then scaled back what she learned to an ultra-basic, run-walk plan.

I thought I could probably do that.

So I took myself to the library and researched how to start running. And I bought a pair of running shoes at the New Balance shop, conveniently located in the same building as my office. I used the first edition of The Beginning Runner's Handbook, and I discovered that I could run! And I didn't feel like my lungs were going to burst into flame and leave me in ashes on the sidewalk, unlike all my previous running experiences!! (Suicides in basketball and volleyball practice. Ugh.)

End Story

So, did running help with my headaches? It's definitely part of the overall picture. When I take care of myself, I have very few headaches. Let's repeat that, this time in bold.

When I take care of myself, I have very few headaches.

Taking care of myself includes, but is not limited to: getting proper sleep, getting regular exercise, not eating too much crap, and generally keeping a lid on the stress and anxiety. It seems like these basic things wouldn't be so hard to do, but as my family and friends all know, sometimes I just really, really suck at them.

From the beginning of January, I've pretty much sucked at them, and surprise, surprise, January was a pretty headachey month. I've only been running a few times two times over the past month. Even though those two runs have felt sooo good, I've just been having a really hard time getting out the door with my running shoes on. Hence, this reminder.

It's interesting. Although I enjoy the excitement of races, and it's fantastic when I improve my PR, I've discovered that they don't really motivate me to get out the door on a day-to-day basis. So although I've certainly been looking at races and plotting which ones I might enter, I think for the time being, I'm going to take a break from racing and worrying about time and speed and just focus again on getting out the door consistently.

Taking care of myself -- I don't need to run far or to be fast to do that. I just need to run.

* Moment to Moment. This is one of her early books, a fairly sweet romance that I think was originally a category. Nowadays, she writes more woman's fiction.

** Actually, in quite a few of her books that I've read, the heroine has been a runner.