I’m a terrible member of my running group. To be fair, the last two Sunday mornings in a row have been rainy, and I’m battling a cold, so I didn’t think it would be smart or healthy to run outside in the rain while I’m still sneezing and sniffling. But whatever my excuse, I haven’t been to a single long run with the group. Oh, I go to the speed workouts at the track, which is really what I wanted coaching for, but I probably could use the coaching on my form for the long runs too.
So of course, when I woke up this morning to a downpour, I snuggled deeper into my covers.
Don’t think, though, that this meant that the 8 miles I had scheduled as my long run for the week, leading up to the Charleston Half Marathon in less than 3 weeks, was going out the window.
After sitting in parking lot traffic due to an accident from the rain (literally, I was in park or engine completely off for a half an hour – good thing I had my new book of lists to fill out!) I was itching to get moving. But I also knew that 8 miles on the treadmill was going to be a challenge. 8 miles is hard enough outside where I love it. The treadmill is hard enough for 3 miles.
The trick for my anxious brain when it comes to the treadmill is to keep me constantly mentally occupied. Zoning out on the treadmill is next to impossible for me for more than like a quarter of a mile. So I packed both a physical bag and a mental bag of things to keep me occupied while pounding the machine.
1. Plan to follow to mentally check things off to satisfy my borderline obsessive compulsion for lists? Check.
I devised a plan to keep both my body guessing and my mind working to keep up. Arriving at the gym, I hung up my hoodie, arranged my Nuun flavored water in one cup holder on the machine and my plain water on the other. Normally, any run longer than 7 miles I pack GU for a boost, but I decided against it for the gym. Inhaling a gel while going effectively nowhere seemed weird. I settled for electrolytes and extra water since I didn’t have to carry it.
2. Electrolytes and hydration? Check.
The gym was airing the “I Am Britney Jean” documentary on the televisions and as a certified lifelong Britney Spears supporter, I was stoked about it. Not only is watching Britney’s gorgeous face in front of me effectively distracting from watching my mileage or pace, but her dancers are fit as hell and watching them rehearse was totally motivating. On commercial breaks I switched back to my iPod.
3. Pop music distraction? Check and check.
I started with a two mile warm up jog at a 10:54 pace. This is the most comfortable, conversational pace for me on a flat route. It felt good. At two miles, I took a short walk break like I would at track practice to rearrange my headphones, answer some texts, and reset my form for the upcoming sprint.
4. Warm-up? Check.
Sometimes when my body is tired, instead of taking a break or slowing to walk, I keep running or even run faster just to get the miles overwith. For a long run in a controlled environment, I had the advantage of setting a pace my body had to force itself to keep up with. So I did a 1200 meter interval at an 8:27 pace. By the third lap, I was really feeling it, but this was happening on TV.
I’m can’t pretend I’m not ALL about dancers’ bodies and for a quarter mile, I used the fantasy of having dem abs as motivation. 2.75 miles down.
5. “You wanna hot body? You better work bitch.” reverie? Check.
Winded, I allowed myself a 200 meter walk break, to shake my legs out from the sprint, guzzle some electrolytes, and plan my next move. “Timber” by Pit Bull and Ke$ha came on my iPod for the first time (it’s a new addition to my playlist), and a new song on my playlist always gets me moving. I started up a 1 mile easy pace jog, following Ke$ha’s directions that I “better move.”
6. Taking solace in knowing half my mileage was in the bank? Check.
I jotted down what I’d done so far while walking, which is considerably harder than you’d think. My plan to do another 1200 interval was feeling a little ambitious, so I went for an 800 at the 8:27 pace and decided to see if I had another 400 at that pace in me. Of course, I did not, as I’d set my minimum goal lower. Aim high. Lesson learned.
Banked another mile at my easy pace, and the Britney doc was ending. I knew if I tried more intervals at this point I’d tank too early and have to walk too much. So I gave it another mile at my easy pace, and with just 2ish miles left, decided to alternate between 400m sprints and 200m walks for about a mile and change, then finish out with a cool down jog. With Britney ending, I knew I needed some country jams to hype me up and put a smile on my face for the last of my workout. I could see the few people that were braving the gym on a Sunday night watching me in the mirror as I struggled to push buttons with sweaty fingers, but it didn’t bother me. I knew what I was doing even if it looked to them like a girl who was trying to go too fast and giving up repeatedly (that’s what interval training is, y’all – push hard, slow down, repeat. Keep your heart rate guessing).
7. Give not a crap what other gym-goers might think? Check.
The final mile was sweet, sweet, sweet. I cruised it back down to an easy pace and simply tuned into the victory of 8 miles on the treadmill being essentially over. I daydreamed about all the food I wanted to inhale, debated between which book to start reading, and generally enjoyed listening to my favorite badass Miranda Lambert. When it was finally over, I looked around triumphantly. I don’t like to be competitive with other people, and I usually have gym anxiety when I go alone or am not in a class (I spent a long time uncomfortable in a larger frame worrying the skinnier girls were secretly smirking at my size not changing). This time, I looked around at all the people, some running harder than me, some slaving away on the stair machine, some sauntering around not doing much, just looking good, and knew I’d put my hard work in and it didn’t matter what any of them thought.
8. Victory lap? Check.
It doesn’t matter that I’m 25 pounds down from where I was a year ago. Fluctuation between confidence and self-consciousness will always be a little bit of a battle for me in one way or another. For me, the way to combat that is to set my own goals, my own plan, and know I worked as hard as I could. After that, I’m on a high that no shade, skepticism, judgment, or one-upper can throw off.
20 days to my 2nd half-marathon.