Tuesday, September 24, 2013

What do you think you can't do?

On Sunday, I ran 4.8 miles straight, no stopping. When we started our run, my friend Kate said, "I mapped this. I know we only usually run three miles, but today it should be closer to four miles." Oh shit, I thought. I'm not a four-miler. It was hard at first. In the erratic global warming weather that has overtaken the Northwest, I had overdressed in anticipation of torrential rain. Now it was sunny and I was too hot. Eventually, as we ran, the cloud cover returned and we ran in a comfortable cool drizzle. At one point Kate said, "let's do these stairs!" with an excitement I could not in that moment understand or get behind. Then, "You want to do one last loop around the park?!" The run seemed to go on and on. When I finished, my hips were so tight I couldn't fully extend my right leg. As I climbed my front stairs and looked at my iPhone mileage tracker, I was shocked to see my distance amounted 4.8 miles. I smiled in spite of my aches.

I got in the warm bath right away and relished in my pride at having done something that I had simply decided wasn't in the cards for me. I've always strongly identified as a recreational runner. It's fun. It's efficient exercise when it's all you've got, and during family vacations, it is a catharsis from the drama like nothing else. Three miles has always been enough for me. Boom. Done.

But now I feel like a whole new world has opened up. If I can run five miles, what else can I do? Can I run six? Probably not if I only run once a week, but someday..... The best part about this recent running coup for me was the afterglow. That evening after the run, I went to a cocktail party and drank a delicious Manhattan. Freshly bathed, dressed in clean clothes, I sipped my cocktail reveling in the ache in my quads and all the delicious sensations that follow great exercise.

The next morning at work I had a student who was at the studio practicing her second time of Bikram Yoga. The first time she said had been "grueling." Why, she wondered couldn't she simply stop practicing for the day when she didn't want to do it anymore. "It's psychological" I told her. "When you finish this 'grueling' 90-minute practice, you will feel so good about yourself, not just physically, but mentally." I proceeded to share the experience of my run the day before. I told her how I was sure I couldn't run four miles, and that I had run almost five. I told her how the doors of potential opened up for me once I got through something I thought I couldn't get through.

At the end of class (which, but the way she completed like a champ), the student came out of the studio smiling ear to ear. "How was it?" I asked as she slumped red-faced on the bench mustering the energy to tie her shoes. "Hard." she said. "But I did it!" I know the feeling.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Getting older, wiser, and more crazy

The other day a good friend of mine on the heels of turning 45 told me that, in a heat of inexplicable fury, she came close to abandoning her beloved husband and children in a Scandinavian country until she realized she just had PMS. I too am about to turn 45 and suddenly the PMS among my women friends of the same age is off the charts-- emotional, irrational, inconsolable, kind of crazy. My "crazy" related to PMS has always come in the form of severe body dysmorphia. Just prior to my period, I suddenly hate, not just my body, but all of my clothes, my hair, my face. And, of course, like my friends, this affliction seems to be getting worse rather than better as I climb the age ladder.

One thing I always tell my students in yoga is that, if they are filled with criticisms, complaints, distracted self-talk during their yoga practice, they should work harder, push themselves more in the physical realm so their mental Jabberwocky will start to shut off. For me, physical exertion, whether yoga, running, biking, or moving all of my furniture around the house three times, is the only remedy for my destructive PMS mental tirades. It makes sense that when I feel worst about my body, using it is what helps to take my mind off of it. My body has a purpose-- to move.

PMS creates irritability, fatigue, bloating, depression, and a thousand other things depending on who you are. Exercise produces endorphins-- elevated mood, increased energy, even euphoria. It is hard sometimes to exercise when one is in a state of PMS. Who wants to put on teeny tiny clothes and practice yoga in a hot room with a bunch of people who all look great? I do! Amazingly, even when I am feeling at my worst about my body, I want to do yoga. Hormones can be rotten, but they can be really good too. You just have to work the system!