Runaholic

On an 80 degree cloudless June day in Duxbury, MA, I found myself lacing up my purple running shoes, filling up a plastic, worn-out water bottle, and strapping my iPhone case to my right arm. It was training season again, with only four weeks left till my third half marathon.   It was time to tackle eleven miles in this dreadful heat that my body was fully rejecting that day.

As my feet smacked the pavement I felt a bit queasy. It was only mile two… I had nine more to go. I was told by my marathon-running family friend to never focus on how much you have left, but to focus on what you’ve accomplished. For some reason, I was focusing on that I had nine left, and then eight, seven and a half. Yikes!

At mile eight, as I approached a very unattractive hill covered in a blanket of sunshine, my brain demanded my feet to slow down to a brisk walking pace. I felt defeated already. How had my first training gone so flawlessly, and this effort been so torturous? How was I supposed to finish 13.1 miles in four weeks, when the the humidity would likely be even higher?

The next four miles were spent in agony – cramps, sweat, and dehydration were overcoming every ounce of my run-down frame. After a mix of running/walking I finished the eleven miles in a lot longer time-frame than predicted.

You might be wondering why I put myself through this misery. Shockingly enough, running for me has always been very therapeutic. It gives me a sense of inner peace and belonging. It’s time spent that’s all mine. I have runs that are reflective and fulfilling, and runs that are both physically and mentally challenging, but running has truly become a passion of mine, and the only person I let myself compete against is myself.

The following Friday morning I ran twelve miles at 6AM in the rain before work. It sounds miserable, and although challenging, the run went extremely well with no walking spurts, and a solid average pace of 8:37 minutes per mile. It was also far from miserable, but rather, it felt somewhat euphoric and empowering. I had accomplished my last long distance training run before the average person had started their workday.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that some long runs are going to be far from enjoyable, but if you can push through those rough runs, you’re likely to have successful runs in the future. (It’s a lot like life!) One more week until the Fairfield Half Marathon, and I couldn’t be more excited.

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Book Review: The Defining Decade

Have you ever read a book (or for a lazy man’s comparison – watched a movie) and found yourself tempted to tell everyone, including the smelly hobo sitting next to you on the bus, how good it was? You finish it in less than a week (or a day if you’re one of those non-human speed readers), brushing your teeth with your head immersed in the pages. Well, this is how I felt about the Defining Decade.

Clinical psychologist, Dr. Meg Jay appealed to my 20-something-year-old brain with stories of patients, in whom I frequently saw myself – announcing (sometimes out-loud) “Aw! I’ve felt like that before!”

The main message of the book is that your 20’s matter, and yes, of course they matter, but she does make a valid argument that society has us influenced to believe our 20’s are for experimenting, partying, and having mindless sexual-based relationships with attractive, brainless, going-no-where Joes. Although the sooner you take yourself seriously the sooner you’ll achieve the life you’ve envisioned. In turn, the happier you’ll be.

It sounds simple, but many 20-somethings feel lost, confused, depressed…And aren’t these suppose to be the best years of our lives? (they are not – according to Dr. Jay)

The book is separated into three parts: work, love, and the brain. Oddly enough I enjoyed the work section the most. Dr. Jay tells stories of patients who felt lost working at dead-end jobs, and others feeling like they’re floating in a huge ocean unsure of which way to swim.

In the brain section, Dr. Jay dives into how the 20-something brain works. After all these years of mockery and disbelief, my Dad’s famous saying, “Your brain is not fully developed!”, is indeed scientifically proven.

The love section was interesting, but it’s written under the assumption that the reader wants an all-American family with babies galore. This isn’t a bad thing, but I think Dr. Jay could have considered some alternative lifestyles. I think her overall point here was that planning when you want these things is important. Unfortunately, matters such as falling in love, and having children, aren’t as easy to plan.

Mainly, this book beautifully demonstrates that your 20’s not only matter, but serve as the most transformative period of one’s adult life.

I’ll stop gushing about this book, but seriously, read it. It’s wonderful.

Who doesn’t love food? Oh right…

“He thinks eating is a waste of time,” I’ll never forget these words that came out of my sister’s mouth talking about her high school loser boyfriend.

I may have been a chubby 5th grader with my baby-fat belly poking out of my bell-bottom jeans (yes, they were cool back then), but this stuck with me because who could possibly believe eating is a waste of time!

Eating is magnificent, a daily act that should be savored, planned, enjoyed. But is it?

For many, food is so readily available that eating becomes an act of unconscious, habitual behavior. There’s no doubt that overeating is an issue, Americans are famous for it, and navigating your way around a supermarket or even a populated area that’s generously decorated with McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts, it’s easy to see why.

I’m not trying to get into the problem of obesity in America (an issue that’s been exhaustively discussed) but I have been reading up on eating mindfully, and I’ve got to say the whole idea fascinates me. Mindful Eating roots back to Buddhist teachings and is practiced as a form of meditation. Being fully present as you consume food can help you reevaluate the way you eat and even live your life. I work 9 to 6, often using my lunch break to squeeze in a workout at the gym across the street, so I get it; most people don’t have time to sit down, and reflect on each bite they consume, but there are certain things you can do to be more aware of what garbage (or antioxidants) you’re putting into your body.

Follow these steps to eat more mindfully on a busy schedule:

1. Plan – I’m not suggesting you create an intricate Google doc of every morsel you plan to consume for the week. Just take a little time each day to decide what you want to eat, keeping in mind how it will make you feel.

2. Be present – Have you ever sunk deep into your couch with a bag of Doritos?…10 minutes later your sweatpants are covered with small specs of orange, your grease-covered hands scooping for crumbs, and your stomachs screaming at your brain for a lack of self-control. We’ve all been there. So stop eating crap on the couch. Stop multi-tasking, eat slower, and pay attention to your senses while you eat.

3. Read about food – I was listening to a podcast about the meat industry the other morning, and it was pretty eye-opening. Hearing about chickens being overfed until they’re immobile turned me from partially vegetarian to fully. Seriously, make up your  mind – AND STICK TO IT. Read the health or nutrition sections of your favorite news sites like Forbes or The New York Times. Or check out a food documentary on Netflix. It might open your eyes.

4. Respect your body – Do I sound like Oprah? Well, I apologize, but seriously, everything you put into your body is going to affect your mood, energy level, mindset, etc. If you realize how food can actually affect your day-to-day life, you might just become more mindful. Start by eliminating one junk food you eat regularly and see how you feel.

If you want to eat a cheeseburger, eat it, enjoy it, but think about what you’re eating from time to time. You respect the ones you love, right? If you love food, respect it just the same.