Mad Dogs and Milestones
“Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.” -Robert H. Schuller
This past Friday’s run was one part Field of Dreams and a few parts Wild Kingdom. I walked out the front door at about 8:30 in the morning, so it wasn’t blazing hot just yet. I had on one of my new favorite workout shirts, a black strappy thing that looks more like something a ballerina would wear, not a runner. I like it. There were new songs loaded into my iShuffle. (I will post the new additions to my workout mix this week) and I had a very specific goal set in mind: to run, without stopping to walk, my whole route, which is about 2.4 miles. For some that is as easy as walking out to the mailbox, but for me, once upon a few months ago, it was damn near impossible. (See this post for a little back story: Oh. My. Hill.)
I walked 3 minutes up the hill in front of my house and turned left onto a cross street and started to run. I ran for a total of a hot minute before I spotted an unfriendly looking yellow dog. Yes, THAT yellow dog. The one I’ve mentioned in posts before. The one who has taken a shine to chasing me down the street, apparently just for kicks or because he knows he can. Let me preface the rest of this conversation by saying that I am a big-time animal person. Dogs are my favorite beings on the planet. I will stop and chat with just about any dog I come across. However, there is something different about this dog and I can see it in his smug furry face that he enjoys bullying me.
I changed direction quickly, hoping that he hadn’t seen me. But, of course, he had and proceeded to high-tail it after me, setting the scene for this week’s Conversations With Myself: The Mean Yellow Dog Edition.
Me: Oh, s*^t. That dog is out of his yard again. What the crap!
Me: Go the other way before it sees you.
Me: I’m going!
Me: Slow your roll. It will smell your fear. And don’t look it in the eye. NEVER look a wild animal in the eye.
Me: Damn. Damn. Oh, hell! Here he comes. He’s running at me again.
Me: Calm down, this dog has chased you at least four other times and hasn’t bitten you yet.
Me: Yes, but maybe today’s the day he skipped kibble-time and is looking for a snack. Look! People washing their car! I’m gonna walk back through their yard so if the dog attacks they’ll see it and help me. Oh, hell! He’s right on my heels.
Me: Walk slowly, breathe and go back the other way. The neighbors are over there.
Me: Ok, ok. I’m going. Oh, he’s falling back. Thank you, LORD!
Me: Ok, I think he’s gone. Ok, he’s definitely gone.
Seriously? That dog is trying to break me down.
I was able to loop back to where my route begins, so I started over and got back on track fairly quickly. My anxiety about the dog turned into a little bit of anger at the lack of responsibility exhibited by its owners and as a positive result of that angst, I was having a strong run and clipping along at a good pace. I was rehearsing the following pretend conversation in my head when I was jolted, once again, out of my fitness bliss:
“Dear Sir or Madam Yellow Dog Owner, please adhere to Nashville’s leash laws by keeping your dog in the yard or on a leash, as it has exhibited aggressive behavior and WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!?!?!?!?!”
That, my friends, was a deer bursting out from the trees and running across the road right in front of me. I looked down at my Polar and witnessed the second fear-induced heart rate spike of the morning. I kept running. Just like Forrest Gump, I kept running.
In the weeks leading up to this particular run, I had been setting mini-goals to meet at different stages in the route. For example: Run just a little farther than last time and see if you can make it to the big oak tree. Don’t stop at the oak tree. Run just a little farther down to the stop sign. These little mini-goals started to accumulate and on Friday I made it through the entire route without walking. The only stops I made were three 45-second stops to stretch out my hip and legs. (I’ve been having some issues with that, but have found that being vigilant about stretching and foam rolling keeps me moving.) I made it back to my front door somewhat unbelieving that I just had just run that whole way. Me? The girl who 6 months ago ran only to escape wild animals and gunfire? I spent the rest of the day feeling a sense of accomplishment as big as any I’ve ever had. And I’ve had some pretty good moments in life. Today, I’m looking forward to finding and plotting out my 3.2 mile route. Progress!
Here are a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way that have helped me become a better runner. (These come strictly from my own experience and I’m clearly no expert, so make sure to seek out a pro for advice.)
1) Being aware of my posture has helped me to get in the habit of breathing more efficiently, as better posture opens up my rib cage and allows for deeper breathing. It also just makes me feel stronger. Slouching makes the upper-body tension that I’m trying to avoid worse. Simple square shoulders and a little lift in my chest and I’m having a much better run.
2) Bounce is a dryer sheet, not a running technique. Initially, I felt that the more pep I had in my running step the better. I found that it just wasted my energy, slowed me down and made my back hurt. Leave the bouncing for trampoline.
3) Keeping my arms relaxed is so helpful for me. Yes, they are an important part of the mechanism, but I don’t have to run down the road looking like I’m right and left upper-cutting the air in front of me when they move. Relax, girl.
On a final note, here is my Weekly Work-Out Round Up #3: (7/16-7/22)
Monday: Run 40 min.
Wednesday: Bike 1 hr.
Friday: Run 35 min. No walking! Yay!
Sunday: Bike 1 hr.
Not bad, but not perfect. Step it up!
Photo Source: Me