Runner’s High

Run Happy?

Why yes, I will.  Why?  Because I lucked out last night, my friends.

All day at work I had been looking forward to quittin’ time when I could hop in my vehicle and haul tushie over to Fleet Feet to pick up a new pair of running shoes.  I noticed that my joints and feet took a pounding on my long run last week – I woke up the next morning more/differently sore than usual – so even though I had just gotten shoes in June, I was overdue for a new pair.  Seemed kinda soon to me but those babies were shot.

Anywho, when I arrived at the shop, old shoes in hand (to donate, of course, cause the last thing I need lying around my small-ish apartment is a stinky old pair of running shoes…and it’s for a good cause) I was greeted by a sea of runners decked out in flourescent clothing.  What, pray tell, was this?

Turns out I had happened by the store during the “Switch on Your Run – Brooks Fashion Show, Contest, and Run.” What?!?!?!?  Oh, yeah, baby!

You see, Brooks is my brand.  I have some screwed up foot issues that in turn affect my knees and hips and can sometimes make running a bit tricky for this chickie.  Brooks Ravenna are the only shoes that correct this issue which allows me to hoof it for 15-20 miles at a time.

If not for Brooks, I wouldn’t be able to be the runner I am.  Yeah, I owe ’em a lot.

After slingin’ my old Ravennas into the donation box and gettin’ fitted for my new pair (I don’t know why I even bother with a fitting anymore – Brooks Ravenna, size 9.5, please), I walked on over to the Brooks demo table to talk to the friendly rep and impress upon him my devotion to his brand.  Well, I must have been pretty convincing – or he was just sick of hearing me talk – cause half-way through my Ode to Ravennas he stopped me to ask, “Hey, have you gotten one of these?”  “One of these” was a neon green dry-wick shirt that everyone who showed up for the aforementioned “Switch on Your Run” received for participation. 

I love neon.

Well, friends, it took all my willpower not to jump across the table and give this man a great big smooch!  I hadn’t made it in time for the event – all the runners left while I was tryin’ on my new shoes – but he still gifted me the shirt!  The only thing I love more than free schwag is free neon green schwag :).

Folks, things just got better after that.  Every Brooks item in the store was 20% off.  Yes.  I do not lie…but I did buy…this:

My love of neon is such that it is no surprise my formative years occurred during the 80s.

Yay for new running gear!!!  I was so excited to try all this stuff out that I headed directly home, laced up my new shoes…

Nothing makes a run feel easier than new kicks.

…pulled on my new shirt…

AH!!! Hurts my eyes!!! But, hey, I’m visible.

…and headed out for a quick – not to mention safe (who could miss me in that shirt?) – run.

When I got home, I had a mini fashion shoot…

Always so happy after a run.

…to nerdily document…

I heart thumb holes.

…my hot, new gear.

Pockets are da bomb. Diggity.

So, thank you Brooks rep whose name I don’t know!  And thank you Fleet Feet for catering to all of my running gear needs!

Do you have a favorite brand of shoes and/or athletic clothing?

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Categories: Runner's High, Running | 4 Comments

To Race Or Not To Race…

…that is the question.  The question that periodically haunts this runner’s brain and so makes a fine topic for this week’s Two Cents Tuesday.

TCT#6: Does one have to race to be a runner?

There’s no doubt in my mind that I am a runner.  When someone asks me to describe myself, it’s one of the first words that comes to mind.  As I write about in the “Run with me…” section of this blog, running is so much a part of who I am and what I do that it almost doesn’t bear mentioning at all.  It’s sorta like breathing – everyone breaths all the time but do we ever really talk about it?  No, cause it’s just what we, as living beings, do.

That’s like me with running.

However, as much of a runner as I consider myself, I rarely enter races.  The one exception is the Manchester Road Race.  I’ve run that race every single year of my running career (except for 2007 when I was living in England), but that has more to do with family tradition that anything else – my dad ran it for years before I started running; I picked up where he left off.

I’ve run a couple of half marathons in addition to Manchester but that’s really it.  I also don’t keep close track of my mileage or times.  Sure, I know my ballpark figures but I don’t put much stock in them – looking at distances covered and average mile times is more just a way for me to see where I stand year to year.  I may improve or I may even decline.  Regardless, I keep on running. 

In fact, running is such a way of life for me that it’s almost stopped being exercise.  My body is so used to hoofing it that I rarely look at my every day runs as “working out.”  Oh, I know I could push myself harder – go longer, go faster – and occasionally I do, but “going for a run” is much more mental for me than anything else.  Moving my legs, sensing my muscles propel me down the road, hearing my breathing in my ears, feeling the sweat trickle down my neck – all of that combines into a meditative state in which I think about everything and nothing at the same time.  My mind roams free as instinct takes over and my body just runs.  There’s nothing else like it in the world.

However, despite my passion and my belief that I truly embody what it means to be a runner, I feel a weird guilt every time anyone asks me the last race I ran and/or what next race I’m training for.  I also feel guilty when people assume that I’ll be running a particular race (because I live nearby the route or I’ve run it before) and I have to tell them that I’m not.  I feel like they must think I’m not a true runner if I’m not entering races.  Cause that’s what runners do, right?  They race?

Not me.  I don’t care for racing.  I don’t like the pressure.  I don’t like the restrictions.  When I run I want to run on my own terms.  I want to run for however long I feel like at whatever pace I feel like.  Races take that freedom away.  Still, I can’t help but feel sorta guilty for thinking that way.  Must I run races to be a runner?  I think not.  But then why do I sometimes feel judged for not signing up for every road race that comes my way.  Where does this guilt come from?  Is there some great public perception – that I am inadvertently buying into – that to “run” means to “race?”

What do you think?  Must a runner race to be a true runner?

What are your two cents?

Categories: Exercise, Runner's High, Running, Two Cents Tuesday | 4 Comments

Hurts so good…

My mom and I went to get our nails done last night.

Pretty piggies, no?

Like many women, I enjoy this stereotypical girl activity not only for the massage and pampering aspect of it but also for the pretty polish.  However, like far fewer women out there, I have ulterior motives when it comes to that pretty polish – sure it’s a festive fashion statement but it also does a phenomenal job of covering up blackened toenails.

Yes, you read that right: blackened toenails.  As a distance runner, I get these quite frequently.  They’re generally a sign that I’ve been increasing mileage and sometimes indicate that I might need to size up in a particular shoe.  I once drastically increased my mileage over a short time span in shoes that were just a touch too small and I walked – more like hobbled – away with two bruised toenails and five with blisters under the nail.  Yes, I popped them – rubbing alcohol and a safety-pin are all ya need – and yes, three of those seven injured nails did eventually fall off. 

Here’s the weird part, people: I liked it.

Call me a masochist, but that’s not the only disgusting and painful thing that I like about running.  For instance: chafing?  Ew.  Ow.  For the love of Pete, it burns!  But…  YES.  Bring it on.

And sweating?  Oh, yeah.  There’s nothing quite so satisfying as a good sweat.  Especially the fine crust of salt that forms as the sweat starts to dry.  It’s like I just took a dip in the Dead Sea.

A trip here is definitely on my short list.

I don’t even need to get into the physical pain pleasure that comes with running itself – sore muscles, labored breathing, blissful exhaustion – namely because I already have. 

**Now is when you are supposed to scroll through all my earlier posts to find those previous mentions.  Hey, I’m not above shameless self-promotion.  Why else would I have a blog?**

So, why do I, along with the vast majority of runners out there, derive such pleasure from such pain?

There’s a very interesting scientific theory behind it that I largely agree with but, for me personally, there is a much simpler explanation.

Feeling running-related pain in all its various manifestations makes me feel like a bad-a**.  It makes me feel tough.  It makes me feel strong.  It makes me feel like I’m capable of heroic feats.  It makes me feel like Beatrix Kiddo.

Bada** Mother.

I realize that I’m not superhuman and pain/injury might occasionally get me down.  But don’t EVER count me out.

I’ll just put polish on those bruised nails and revel that it hurts so good.  🙂

What makes you “hurt so good?”

Do you wear exercise related injuries like badges of honor?

Categories: Injuries, Runner's High, Running | 4 Comments

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Truer words were never spoken, my dear readers.

I’ve spent the last couple of days feelin’ annoyingly shi**y.  Not in a funk but just ick-tastic enough that it’s put a damper on things.  If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know that I’ve also not been able to squeeze in much physical activity during the past few days either.  Whelp, therein lies the source of the shi*…

Things started to turn around yesterday afternoon when I killed the Static Five-Minute Plank Challenge.  Feelin’ pretty impressed with myself, I then went for a run and that was all it took – the blues were gone, the slight sniffle that had been developing over the course of the day disappeared, and I slept better than I have in the last three nights.

All this only confirmed what I already suspected.  I’m addicted to running, guys and gals.  Just a couple of days sans run and I start to feel withdrawal symptoms.  I’ve been good about fitting in other kinds of exercise when I’m too busy to run and I’ve been really good about cross-training and building my upper body strength…

Those shoulders are coming along nicely, no?

…but nothing quite does it for me like a good ol’ run.  Exhaustion, sweat, endorphins, serenity.  Yup, running is the only drug I need – well except for the occasional glass (or two, or three…who am I kidding, sometimes I need the whole bottle) of wine.

I may be addicted, but it’s a healthy addiction and if it keeps me sane then fair enough, right? 

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I can also apply this adage to the foods that I eat.  I’ve stuck to pretty much the same basic diet for the past eight years or so.  What can I say, people?  I’m a creature of habit.  Far from being boring, this routine cuisine has served me quite well – it’s nutritious enough to keep me energized and healthy while also offering enough “wiggle room” and indulgences to keep me happy.  Again, I must say…

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

So, my darlings, this week’s edition of What I Ate Wednesday shall be renamed What I Eat Always.

Mornings always start out with coffee.  Must.  Have.  Coffee.  Just one cup, mind you – and no caffeine after 10:00am – but I’ve gotta have that one cup.  Oh, and if you’ve ever lived with me, you know that you probably shouldn’t talk to me before I’ve had that cup.  Fair warning…

Say hello to my little friend.

Breakfast typically starts with fruit – an orange, a peach, some grapes, a pear – I’m not picky.

Little friend #2.

There’s only one fruit that has not ever made an appearance in my breakfast – or any other part of my diet, for that matter: an avocado.  Ew.  They taste like how sweat smells.  And the texture?  **gag**  Don’t even get me started.

Anywho, breakfast continues with an english muffin or toast – there’s usually a variety of spreads involved, one of which is always a nut butter of some kind – …

Sometimes the nut butter doesn’t make it to the muffin…

…and a handful of vitamins.

Cocktail includes: multi, fish oil, B-complex, MSM, calcium, and a pro-biotic.

I haven’t hidden the fact that I have a sweet tooth – mid-morning usually involves some sort of candy.

I go for the classics.

Lunch is a relatively staid affair – not very exciting but it does the trick.

You know what they say about an apple a day?

Throughout the day there are many refillings of this…

Green is my favorite color.

…because we all know how important it is to stay hydrated.

On days I’m not enjoying a glass of vino, dinner is preceded and/or accompanied by a glass of seltzer mixed with one of these…

I told you I had a sweet tooth…

…and drunk out of this…

Ahhh…

Quick sidenote: The glass is from Nashoba Valley Winery – good wine, worth a visit.

Dinner is usually centered around a HUGE salad.

Big Bowl of Friends.

This one included iceberg, romaine, cherry tomatoes, celery, red onions, some olives, a crumbled up Morning Star Farms Garden Veggie Patty, and a generous dusting of nutritional yeast.

I keep my nooch in a tiny little tupperware – you know my love of tupperware.

With a random gathering of crackers on the side…

Yes, those are animal crackers – a lion and a bear, maybe? No, I am not five-years-old.

…and a cup o’ pudding or cottage cheese concoction – two slightly melt-y Pumped Up Strawberry Cheesecake Bites and a spoonful or two of Friendship Whipped Cottage Cheese – for dessert…

Doesn’t look like much but it tastes delightful. In other news: cute spoon, huh?

…dinner is complete…except for the mango that’ll come into play when I realize I want just a little something extra to tide me over till morning.  🙂

The lovely cashier at my local grocery store – who sees me nearly every week – once told me that I have a mango fetish. She is correct.

And that about does it.  A day in the life of Michelle’s belly.  🙂

Do you have a “standard” diet?

What foods are staples in your culinary repertoire?

Do you have a particular form of exercise that you just can’t do without?

Categories: Candy, Cottage Cheese, Nut Butter, Runner's High, Running, Salad, Sweet Tooth, What I Ate Wednesday | 7 Comments

Mountains and Mochi

Hello, blog-o-sphere!

Another day, another post, and another phenomenal find to share with you!

Yesterday was a no run day for me.  I know that rest days are an essential part of a healthy running regimen but consciously taking that time off is definitely something I struggle with.  Sometimes it’s hard for me to back off from my exercise schedule, especially when I see the physical and feel the mental benefits of pushing my body to its limits.  There’s nothing more satisfying than an exhausting work out – endorphins are real!  BUT, I’ve learned from experience that if I don’t allow my body to recover every once in a while all I end up with are injuries – bruised and falling off toenails (yeah, I know…ew), sprained ankles, inflamed IT bands that take months of physical therapy to heal…  Yup, sometimes rest is best 🙂

Anywho, healthy running tips lecture aside, I still like to stay moderately active on my rest days so my mom and I decided to take a walk up to Heublein Tower.  It’s a beautiful walk and the views from the top of Talcott Mountain are absolutely extraordinary, even on a cloudy day.

See?

Looking at this photo reminds me of another great reason to take rest days: taking it easy allows me to appreciate the natural beauty that, as an inveterate outdoor exerciser, always surrounds me.  When I’m bookin’ it down the road, solely focused on beating a personal best, the scenery becomes a blur.  However, when I slow down and stay present, what I see in front of me often takes my breath away 🙂

Moving on, I left mom on the mountain (well, not really, but I like the alliteration) and made way for mochi at The Green Teahouse.  The Teahouse is one of my favorite local places and I find that every time I go there I discover a new tea concoction.  This time around I was introduced to the wonderful world of mochi.  If you’re new to mochi, they are delicious little balls of glutinous rice – sweet and chewy, sort of like a more natural version of a gummy candy.  I had heard of mochi before but never in conjunction with tea so when I saw the tiny little yum-drops at The Teahouse I just had to give ’em a go.

I started out with a blend of two teas – Monkey’s Chocolate and Banana Split – a combo I was introduced to at my last visit to The Teahouse with Caitlin over at Cait Plus Ate.

Yum-tastic

I would have been happy just stopping there.  That’s what Caitlin and I did last time and, let me tell you, that iced tea was nearly life-changing but, in keeping with the whole “taking it slow” theme of my rest day, I paused to fully take in the new offerings at The Teahouse.  That’s when I noticed the mochi and soon after the sign declaring The Teahouse’s ability to turn any iced tea into a delicious smoothie-like frappe.  You pick the teas, they do the blending et voila!  The tea version of a Frappucino!  Duh, this was a no-brainer – “Hello, Mr. Tea Man, sign me up for one of those!”

Yeah, you want some, dontcha?

Frappe = delicious, but I didn’t stop there.  Oh, no I didn’t.  Here’s where the mochi comes in.  The Teahouse has all sorts of different toppings like tapioca “bubbles” in flavors ranging from lychee to yogurt and, you guessed it, glutinous rice balls!  Yay!  They have two flavors of mochi-goodness, original and chocolate.  I got both…and some yogurt “bubbles” to boot 🙂

My friend, Roxanne, stealing a tapioca “bubble”

mmmMMMmmm…  This thing was goo-OOO-ood.  Just look at this nugget of chocolate mochi fantastic-ness:

Oh, yeah…

Serioulsy, those wonderful tea people at The Green Teahouse know what they’re doing.  This drink was so good that I’m sad the whole experience is over – more reason to go back for another, hmmm?

So, if you’re nearby, go check this place out.  You won’t be disappointed 🙂

How do you occupy yourself on exercise rest days?

What positive things have you experienced by taking things slowly and staying present?

Categories: Injuries, Rest days, Runner's High, Running | 5 Comments

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