2nd August 2011 | Megan
Anxiety is that pit in your stomach, racing heart, hyper-ventilating feeling that can occur when you toe the line at a race, take a driver’s license test, or watch your child in their first speaking part in the school play. It can be present in situations as mundane as those and as serious as life threatening situations, it is all the same. Understanding how to deal with anxiety, how to use it to your advantage is the key to being successful in racing and in all aspects of your life.
In the years that I have been racing, competing in events from 5Ks to Ironman competitions, I have had the opportunity to learn how to corral anxiety and use it to my benefit. It is a fine balance, as an athlete to figure out how to be not too laid back but not too anxious. Once that balance point is found, it is easy to replicate in life situations and be successful in running events and life’s more complex moments.
In running, you will have friends and training partners whose stamina and talent crush you during training runs. Then later in a race, they fall apart, citing that the sun, moon and stars were not aligned or that the course was bad or that they tied their shoes differently. Sometimes you will see them before the race and the look of defeat is already on them or their verbal cues have started…”I didn’t sleep a wink, the yogurt I ate was bad…” the list goes on, setting low expectations to already discount their performance. Then on the flip side, there is the athlete that can barely breathe before the race, their heart is racing and the anxiousness overwhelms their ability to enjoy the experience or compete to their level.
Several years ago, I struggled with anxiety. I would hyperventilate and begin the downward negative thought spiral before a race. It hit me like a ton of bricks every time I came to a starting line. It wasn’t until I was treading water with 1800 people at my first Ironman performance that it occurred to me that this feeling wasn’t going away. I remember distinctly that moment and it will stick with me forever. I realized that trying hopelessly to fight this feeling was useless and that if I couldn’t beat it I should welcome it. Success!
Easier said than done, if you let anxiety in, in the right amount, you WILL be able to succeed to the best of your ability. The mental aspect of racing can turn a mediocre athlete into a superstar. Even if you NEVER aspire to be anything besides a recreational athlete, controlled anxiety allows for the best experience. So…what is the magic recipe for anxiety management? Here are ten tips to help figure your brain out so that your body can do the work it needs.
1. Take control and responsibility for what you can control, your own physical state. Forget the other stuff.
2. Don’t let the weather, the course or the other athletes control your thoughts. The weather and the course are the same for all at that time. The athletes? refer to #1.
3. Manage your race in small increments. Knock the miles down one by one.
4. Think, “I can do anything for X minutes”. Putting your goal time in perspective to everyday activities makes it less daunting.
5. Look around, get excited about the adventure. Soak in the race experience. Breathe.
6. Have a mantra… develop a repeatable phrase that gives you strength. It could be religious or inspiring or something that simply makes you focus. After my last child, my mantra was, “I am lean, I am fit, I am strong”. I was far from those things but repeating them made me believe and ultimately got me there.
7. Make music in your head. Think of a song that rocks you. Music can slow your heart rate and increase your endorphins.
8. Ask yourself, “what is the worst that can happen?”. An event is an event, that is it. Take control of the venue and environment, don’t let it take control of you.
9. Have a realistic time and strive for it. Set purpose in your race. Not setting a goal, discounts your effort and the proper anxiety won’t be available.
10. Say hello to anxiety when it creeps up. Welcome it to your race and use it to reach your potential.
After all of this, sometimes races don’t have the expectation that you hoped. Knowing you layed the right ground work, you will be able to reflect and improve in a positive manner. There will always be the naysayer sitting on one shoulder, it is addressing the good guy on the other that will make your race more enjoyable and welcome success. Love the anxiety that you have!
8th June 2011 | Megan
I had a very cool opportunity to participate in a focus group that discussed protein shakes and women. How we use them, do we use them, what we think..
I really had never given protein powders or shakes much thought as I am a foodie, not a “scoopy”; I would rather have real food then scoop “presto-powder” out of a container. I also believe that as women and athletes we get enough protein in a well-balanced diet. As runners, we are creatures that use carbohydrates as a first source, then fat, then protein.
However, when it comes to recovering properly from a long run, a good dose of protein aids in muscle recovery, repair and therefore a quicker turn-around to the next workout. The key is taking protein with an adequate amount of quality carbohydrates to replace glycogen stores. And also, utilizing the magic window of 30 minutes after exercise to consume food.
In the past few years I have developed a quality shake that I use to aid my big workout days, especially those in the heat. Getting appropriate fuel in after exercise on a hot day with minimal time and effort can be as draining as Clue, finding Colonel Mustard in the Living Room, with a candle stick…you get the picture. The variables are huge and the outcome not always spot on. I have developed what works for me, quick, whole foods focused, and DELICIOUS.
The recipe below makes a HUGE smoothie for one (I never have a problem). Don’t be afraid by the cottage cheese, you won’t even know it is there. The cottage cheese gives the smoothie an ice cream thickness (don’t worry no curd is visible) and packs this shake with quality protein. The banana is a great potassium source for replenishing what you have lost on a hot day. If you want to reduce the calories, use water instead of milk, the shake still will have plenty of quality nutrition.
So here it is… The Run Like a Mother® Refreshing Recovery Drink!
Run Like a Mother Refreshing Recovery Drink
Serving Size: a generous one serving
Amount Measure Ingredient
——– ———— ——————————–
1/2 cup yogurt, skim milk
1/2 cup cottage cheese, 2% fat
1 each banana
2 cups strawberries — frozen
1/2 cup 2% low-fat milk
2nd June 2011 | Megan
It is always a hope as a mother that their children emulate our better habits. Lead by example, follow in our footsteps, the apple not falling far from the tree… all meaningful clichés that have been ground into us since we first found out we were pregnant. Of course, we also want them to pave their own path so with this careful balance we try to grow them up the best we can.
This past year was a big year in our household. Abby, our oldest daughter went off to college. I wondered how she was going to do her laundry, brush her teeth, take her vitamins, even wake up without me. Oh, and with a heavy heart and a tear in my eye; she survived famously. Abby did all those things ,or maybe she didn’t, but she didn’t need me.
This is what we want. To raise an independent child. We encourage it when they are three years old; make eye contact, tell Mrs. So and So hello and ask if she needs help doing anything. So why is it so heartbreaking when they turn into the person that is self sufficient, reliable and independent?
In late winter, Abby said she wanted to run a 1/2 marathon. The Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon to be specific. She wanted to do it as a CCFA Fundraiser. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation has a wonderful program called Team Challenge that inspires, encourages and coaches you to the starting line of a 1/2 marathon. (to read about Abby, her story and why she chose Team Challenge please click here )
When Abby said she wanted to run a 1/2 marathon, my heart skipped a beat. WOW! She has never run except for on the basketball court, soccer field or mini-triathlon when she was 10. Now she wants to run?!? Cool, I can help her so much; give her training programs, nutrition advice, pacing and race day thought, the list goes on.. maybe I will even run it with her NO, wait, this is her thing, her challenge, her commitment. Back seat I go.
In March she began running, all by herself at school. I would wait anxiously to get reports of how her long runs went. On some weekends she would come home to do her long runs with her Team. Now that she has been home from school the last month, she has finished the training with them driving nearly an hour to do the group run. Abby would come home and plop on the couch, big smile on her face and nap the afternoon away.
Tomorrow I will drop her off at the train station so that she can ride to Virginia with Team Challenge. Her close friends are trekking down and I will meet them there to cheer her on. She is doing this all by herself, not because a friend was doing it, not because her parents asked her but because she decided to take the initiative and the challenge. Just as parents want our kids to do.
I can’t wait to see her at the finish line but seeing her take this journey has been a HUGE proud Mama moment. I don’t think I can even put into words how I feel as a Mom but amazingly more proud as a bystander watching a young girl become such a beautiful women. She is a Rugrat all growed-up. Run on Abby!
24th May 2011 | Megan
Watching Justin Bieber- Never Say Never with the family on a Friday night; nestled in my favorite chair with one ice pack on my hamstring , another on my heel bone spur, and a glass of wine in my hand, I wondered what I was going to get out of this movie aside from some quality tv watching with the family. “This is going to make you like him, Mom”, promised Jane. “Honestly, I was not a Bieber fan until I saw this at the movies, please, you gotta watch!”, pleaded Sarah. Even my college aged, Wiz Kalifa loving oldest daughter chimed in.
With no choice but to watch the cherub faced boy on the screen, I buried my hamstring into the ice and tried to “engage”. This year has been off to a slow start, filled with many distractions and several nagging injuries. I am at the point where I wonder at what point my training will start. I feel like I am aimlessly wandering through the previews at movie theater waiting for the real show to start. My mind wanders during Bieber just as it has during this year, trying to engage.
So Bieber watching becomes a metaphor for my year so far…I am told that it has started, yet I don’t know when it began. Not that I haven’t been exercising, there just has been a lot of spottiness with intensity and continuity. I am plagued by my hamstring tear and a bone spur but truthfully I think it is my lack a concrete goal. I was supposed to run the Boston marathon with my sister and I couldn’t. I raced a few bike races, started to feel motivated then a few weeks of desk type work and I lost the feeling.
So here I sit, watching Justin, listening to him say “never say never”, how is it that The Biebs and all his 16 year old wisdom can affect me. Duh, I know, never give up, always have a goal, don’t let detractors grade on you, blah,blah,blah. Broken record, preaching to the choir, Justin!
But here I am. For awhile I was training with a friend who has a big goal, but I think she has surpassed me. I guess it is for the best. It is better not to try to keep up, I am still injured, yet my mind thinks I can run for two hours no problem.
I shouldn’t always have to do a “big race” but the truth is, I love it. Love the training, love the schedule and love the day. It is a sickness and a health. When I have a goal race, I am sharper in every way; organized, eat better, and am a do-er. But why do I need this to accomplish that?
I think it is a lot like pointing to something in another direction while ripping a band-aid off. A distraction that makes the uncomfortable tolerable. I have a goal race to spice up the everyday chores of life. “If I get all this done, I can go for a long ride…” Mind games.
So Justin, thank you for your Never Say Never attitude. Your movie is for the girls but somehow you got this middle-aged woman thinking. I “engaged” in your movie and now need to find the goal just as you did. Perhaps all your bubblegum-ness is the distraction I needed to see the message loud and clear.
14th May 2011 | Megan
As we are busy improving our hearts, muscles and minds, research is showing that we aren’t taking good care of our skin. Running is great for adding years to your life but if you don’t take precautions to protect your skin, it could all be for naught.
Not taking the appropriate precautions can increase your risk for melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
Increased risk factors would be:
• exercising during high sun hours
• not wearing sun screen or reapplying
• not wearing protective clothing such as ones that don’t cover your exposed skin but also wicking fabrics that allow sun exposure through the fabric
“Most runners trained 25 to 45 miles a week, and almost 15 percent ran more than 45,” said lead researcher Christina M. Ambros-Rudolph, MD. “The more miles they put in, the more skin lesions they had.”
The most obvious reason for their increased risk, she noted, was their excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Many worsened the problem by neglecting sun protection. Almost all tended to wear shorts and short-sleeved or sleeveless shirts, leaving their legs, arms, and upper back sun-exposed. Only 56 percent regularly used sunscreen. The researchers also pointed to another factor in the runners’ increased melanoma risk: depleted immunity from all the high-intensity exercise, which may have left them more vulnerable to skin damage. “I believe that this will prove to be the key factor,” said Arnold W. Klein, MD, professor of medicine/dermatology at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. “Intensive exercise makes them nutritionally depleted, compromising their immune system.”
“While marathon running is perceived as healthy, suppressed immunity and sun damage are associated with medical risks,” concluded Dr. Ambros-Rudolph. “Runners must take greater precautions, above all choosing training and competition schedules with lower sun exposure, wearing adequate clothing, and regularly using sweat-resistant, high-SPF sunscreens.”
excerpted from www.skincancer.org , to read full article
Sun Protection Tips for Runners
• Choose “off hours” to run when the sun is less intense. Seek shady routes.
• Apply sunscreen before getting dressed or before you leave home. If you are racing, don’t wait until you arrive at the site to apply. Nerves make for bad sun screen application!
• Choose a sunscreen that is water resistant or listed as “sport”. Use an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen.
• Keep your head covered! Visors are great for keeping the sun off your face, but the top of your head needs protection too!
Always keep sunscreen in your car or right by the door you head out in the morning. Make this part of your “brush your teeth” routine in the morning before you head out the door!