Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mollie Rant: Does running suck?

I understand, conceptually at least, that running is not for everyone. Not everyone needs to like what I like or do what I do, and there are plenty of other ways to get exercise, enjoyment, feel accomplished, etc.

But you know when you're in a group of non-runners, and the topic turns to running, and inevitably it devolves to variations on: "running sucks," "I think it's actually bad for you," "it's not enjoyable," and "it's just not for me"? These statements are said as facts, as if one (or however many) person's opinions on running define what running is.

So this is the point at which I write a blog post. Because you can say to me, "I don't enjoy running and I've never understood why some people do." (And then you can then ask me what it is that I like about running and we can have a great conversation.) But you can't say "running sucks" as if it's a fixed fact. I mean, I don't like mayonnaise, but that doesn't make it inherently bad. That just means that after trying it a number of times, I'm pretty sure I do not like it. BUT maybe someday some genius chef will present me with mayonnaise in a whole new way and I will say omg I had no idea! Turns out this is good and I want it on all my sandwiches!!! (Ok the mayonnaise metaphor got a little out of control. Sorry. Back to running.)

What I'm getting at here is that there is a difference between liking an activity and the inherent "goodness" of that activity. So my question is, why is it that, more than any other sport as far as I can tell, everyone has an opinion on running and thinks their opinion is fact?

I have thoughts. Obviously.

Despite its apparent ease (i.e. most people can put one foot in front of the other with a little bounce thrown in), running actually has an unexpectedly high barrier to entry. And people don't recognize this! So for example, I would not decide I want to be an ice skater, go to a rink five times over the course of one month, then frustrated by my inability to gracefully skate backwards and spin and jump a la Julia Lipnitskaia, loudly proclaim, "Ugh ice skating sucks! It's just not for me." Nor would I join a basketball team, go to practice a few times, and decide that basketball is harmful and unhealthy because my calves are sore from jumping and my feet hurt from changing direction. Everyone recognizes that learning a sport, skill (think music!), or anything really, requires sustained effort.

While running does not require much technique, necessary components of the activity itself should be approached like techniques (if that makes sense). I'm talking about mental things like developing consistency, dedication, and ability to push beyond comfort zones, and physical things like endurance, stretching and strength training routines, injury prevention tactics. And I am delighted to report that all these things can be learned! And anyone can learn them! So for those people who "want to like running but..." I say give it another shot. Try harder. Or try smarter. Talk to a coach, other runners, the internet, email me! Obviously I think running is great and I will be happy to tell you all kinds of reasons why. (Oh wait I already have here here here and here.)

And for those people who are not interested in running, that's cool too! I hope you find something you love that is rewarding and makes you feel mentally and physically awesome!

But don't tell me that running sucks.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

How cold is too cold for running? How much snow is too much snow?

If you're in America, you're now familiar with the phrase "polar vortex" and all that entails. Unfortunately for me, this incredibly uncomfortable weather phenomenon is occurring (and keeps reoccurring!) in concurrence with my return to Boston from California and the start of my marathon training. Well played Nature, well played.

So I've been recently testing -- how cold is too cold to run outside? And how much snow is too much snow?

A couple weeks back I did my first little track workout, which was mercifully cut short by the fact that 30 minutes after the sun went down the water on the track froze into sparkly crystals, menacing a degree of danger I was woefully unprepared for. (I was having a terrible workout, so ending it early was probably for the best anyways).

Then it got warm, rained, and all the snow melted. Hooray! Then it got insanely cold again. I mean we're talking daaaays in the "feels like" single or negative digits. And being the staunch treadmill hater I am (no but really, time stops), I ran outside regardless.

So how cold is too cold for running?

I say that there is no such thing as too cold for running. (Within reason I suppose -- my experience is Boston, not the Arctic.)

Though I'm not saying that running in cold is great or ideal, but there are some things you can do and know to make it manageable:

  • Run at the right time of day. Because as I've learned, once the sun goes down it starts to get dicey cold-wise and slippery-wise. 
  • Dress appropriately! Single digits = fleece-lined running tights, a non-cotton under-layer, a fleece turtle-neck shirt, gloves, and a headband. 
  • Everything will feel a little bit harder because it is more difficult to breath when it's really cold. Your muscles will not get oxygen as quickly/easily as normal, so don't stress if your pace is a bit slower than usual. (This article says that the real reason it's harder to breath is because the air is so dry when it's cold. Either way, same result.) 
My perspective is so skewed at this point that I just checked the temperature -- a balmy 20/feels like 8 -- and thought to myself, ok not too bad! 

And how much snow is too much snow? 

Unfortunately this one is easier to answer. If there's snow on the sidewalks (and it did not literally just come out of the sky) don't run. You risk slipping, or adjusting your gait to keep yourself from slipping, which can throw off your biomechanics and cause weird injuries.

If you can run on plowed roads instead of sidewalks, then by all means do it up! But please be careful of cars.

My final word of advice on this: find a friend! (Which I think is a bullet point in all my running advice lists...) The hardest thing about running in the cold is getting up the motivation to walk out the door. If you have someone to meet, you will be far less tempted to stay inside.

Good luck, run fast, stay warm, happy winter!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Winning at the Weekend: Skiing and Running!

Weekends are my favorite! And this weekend -- involving skiing, long running, and a hedgehog -- was especially awesome. 

It started eaaaarrrrly on Saturday when I got up at the crack of dawn (ok ok, 6:45 am) to load my stuff into a car and get on the road to New Hampshire for the day. A group of eight took the day off homework and reading and Somerville/Medford/Camebridge life and things and escaped to the mountains! 

It was a Saturday in February (dun dun dunnn), so the parking situation was ugly and the lines were a bit long, but by 11ish we were on snow and loving life and sunshine and hero snow. We skied at Loon Mountain (which is not bad at all!) until we were the last ones on the snow and sitting on the very last chair at 4:20. 

We were only out there for a day trip, so we drove back that evening -- a little bit sore, a lot tired, and very pleased with ourselves. By the time I got home it already felt like I'd had a whole weekend...but nope, there's another day! 

After stretching, some quality foam roller time, and a very deep sleep, I awoke Sunday ready for my next project:  LONG RUN! 

Oh hey I have not really blogged about this yet -- mostly because I haven't really been blogging at all, and also because I don't want to jinx the things -- but I'm marathon training again! I registered for The Boston Marathon way back in September and am finally feeling good and on my way. Yesterday was my longest run to date: 15 miles. 

Route details here.

Much like skiing the day before, the conditions were perfect. Warm (50ish) and sunny and not windy. (Dear Boston, Can the rest of winter be like this please? Ok thanks. Love, Mollie) And the miles felt fine! I think we averaged around 7:50 pace, and all felt great until afterwards when post-post-run omelet I lounged on my couch and "reading for class" immediately became "napping."

[One sec -- let's talk about my post-run omelet: Cremini mushrooms, garlic, spinach, jack cheese, adobo sauce, avocado, ketchup, sourdough toast. It doesn't get any better than that.]

And then I ended the weekend eating all the snacks and watching the Super Bowl with a bunch of Seattle fans who have a pet hedgehog THAT WAS DRESSED UP AS A SEATTLE FAN. I know guys. I know

Hope you had a great weekend too!