embracing the beat: running with music

The other day it was a gorgeous day. Kiddo and I spent a lot of time walking around the neighborhood with a friend and her daughter. Because it was such a great day out, I let napping go a bit. Unfortunately that makes for a crabby baby.

Despite Kiddo’s apparent crabbiness, Paul watched him while I took off on a run (that’s why he’s such a good husband). Lately, I’ve been running without a plan; just running for the sake of running. I love being outside and alone (even for 20 minutes), so recently, I haven’t cared about how far I’ve been going. This particular day wasn’t much different.

However, what made this run stand out from other runs was the first song on my playlist. It was Lady Gaga’s “Teeth” (In true Gaga fashion, the video is a bit weird, sorry about that). For some reason my iPhone was turned up to an ungodly high level, but when this particular song started playing I quit caring. If you listen to the song you’ll understand when I say the song has a very clear and distinct beat. Immediately, I was ready to run hard.

Listening to music while running is a highly debatable topic. Some people swear by it, others wouldn’t be caught dead wearing headphones on a run. I, personally, am torn. I find music encouraging and motivational. It can be dangerous (not only for your ears, but you can’t hear your surroundings), and it can actually hinder your running.

Marburg, Germany, where I lived for a semester during my Junior year.

That was actually my problem when I first tried running. I became serious about running in the summer of 2008. I had just come back from studying abroad in Germany and needed to shed a few pounds (I had been on a strict diet of Auflauf, Kirschwein, and Kinderschokolade). However, whenever I went running, I would come home completely worn out. I felt like I had been hit by a car. I couldn’t understand why, because every runner I had ever talked to never mentioned feeling so awful. Tired? Yes, but not this bad.

I soon discovered that I was working myself too hard. I had actually tried to start running in 2006, but I was experiencing the same feelings (like I had just been mugged and left for dead) and back then I had been quick to throw in the towel. I figured out that listening to music while running was actually hindering my experience.

When I started running, making it to this bridge and back home (about a mile or so) was my goal.

Rather than giving up for the second time, I decided to try running sans music. I left Gaga at home and really focused on running well. I realized that I wasn’t listening to my body enough because I couldn’t hear myself. I started focusing on breathing better and after some time I was able to add music back into my runs.

Now, I love listening to music while running and you will rarely find me without my iPhone. And there are days when I embrace the beat of each song. That is exactly what happened the other day. As soon as I heard “Teeth” I knew I was in for a hard run. The next song was by Nine Inch Nails, then two by Timberland, followed by Gorillas. Each song had a strong beat that I tried to match with each stride I took.

I think I ran a little over 2.5 miles in 27 minutes that day. I wasn’t really concerned about how far I went, or even how long it took, I just wanted allow the music to push me harder. It was probably one of my most favorite running experiences yet.

What’s your opinion on running with music? Do you embrace the beat, or is it better for you to run without the distraction?


am i a runner?

It’s that time of year again, when all I want to do is hibernate til spring. It’s not even too cold yet. We don’t always have piles and piles of snow at this point, but it’s usually pretty cold. And, despite the warm weather, I have no desire to run. I mean I want to want to run (cue Cheap Trick), but I’m just not feeling it. I think it’s the stress of getting ready for the holidays that’s causing my desire to run to run away (that’s confusing). We spend Christmas with my family and I am very happy to be going this year. But now we have an extra person to pack for, and that extra person has a lot of extra stuff, and all that extra stuff takes up extra space, and it’s just too much for me to handle right now. On top of that, we’re taking the cat with us.

I checked out this book from the library to try to motivate myself to run. It starts out with a mother debating on cutting her run short by two miles. I thought, “If I cut my run down by two miles, I wouldn’t run at all!” It got me thinking: Can I call myself a runner if I don’t have a continuous list of races I’m preparing for? What if I have stretches of time when I don’t run at all, and enjoy it? Should I be proud that I ran two miles, even if they were slow? What do I really like about running?

I think it’s probably clear to anyone reading this that my answer to all those questions is yes (well, except the last one, but that goes without saying), but I will explain my reasoning anyway.

Question 1: Can I call myself a runner if I don’t have a continuous list of races I’m preparing for?

Yes. One thing I have noticed when reading running blogs or books by runners is that they always talk about the races they’re training for. The thing is that these people are (many times, but not always) being paid to write about these races. If they didn’t talk about them, they would be out of a job. I shouldn’t be upset by the fact that I’m not living up to the same standards as a professional runner. I’m not a professional runner, nor do I claim (or want) to be. I can still call myself a runner, even if I don’t have that many miles under my Asics.

Question 2: What if I have stretches of time when I don’t run at all, and enjoy it?

Yes. I think I’m pretty hard on myself. I mean I just had a baby for Pete’s sake. I don’t know why I’m expecting to jump back into running so quickly. Especially, now that it’s cold out too. Before this year I NEVER would have attempted to run in the winter, and now I’m upset with myself because it’s three weeks into my goal of running once a week in winter and I might not get a run in. I think it’s OK to call myself a runner, even if I miss a week (or more) here and there. I’m only human.

Question 3: Should I be proud that I ran two miles, even if they were slow?

Yes. It’s a silly question, but I think it’s still valid. I don’t know how other people feel, but I feel inadequate when I read how disappointed people get when they run slow, 10 minute miles. A 9 or 10 minute mile is my goal! I know I am not going to be shattering world records any time soon (although, I would be very proud of myself if I did), but I try to set goals that are realistic for myself. Running is an individual sport and the only person I need to impress is myself. I can call myself a runner, even if I’m the last one to cross the finish line.

Question 4: What do I really like about running?

Hmm…I think this question is going to have to wait for another time. This post is already getting a bit long (and I’ve got to keep it interesting, or else people will stop reading).

So, I may not get to my run this week, and that’s OK. In the meantime, here’s a cute baby to liven up your day.

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

OK, I wasn’t being too creative when I came up with that title, but I found it fitting. Tonight I ran (almost) 2.5 miles – in the snow! There really wasn’t that much snow, but it was more than I usually run in. I realized that I have been making excuses not to run. First it rained, then it snowed a little. Then I decided I needed to find my gloves, but never started looking. Today I decided I would just go.

As I got going, though, I thought to myself, “This is very enjoyable”. It was the exact opposite reaction I was expecting. I’m not really a fan of being cold or wet (and definitely not at the same time). I didn’t even know it was snowing until I went outside. The snow hit my face perfectly – just cold enough that you know it’s there, but not so cold and wet that you’re miserable. It wasn’t too windy either and I think that helped. Enough about the weather.

Running at night was also a different experience for me. I liked the peaceful quiet of running at night. Even though it was sometime around 6:00PM it seemed much later. All the houses were dark and a bunch had their Christmas lights up. I had put on my usual running playlist before I left, but I wished I had chosen Christmas music instead. Another great thing I discovered about night running – nobody can tell when you’re singing along to the Spice Girls!

I did end up cutting the run short, which is why I didn’t quite make 2.5 miles (more like 2.4). By the time I got to the 2 mile corner where I have to decide to continue on or head home, my phone was telling me I had been out for 27 minutes (and I call myself a runner?) already. Really I’m not too disappointed. I figure it’s better to go slow than not go at all. However, I was also starting to feel a bit tired, so I thought it’d be better to head home.

I also made a decision while I was running tonight. I am going to challenge myself to run (outside – the treadmill doesn’t count) once a week this winter. That might not sound like anything to most runners, but I usually hibernate during the winter. I think this challenge can only make me a better runner. Or I’ll slip on some ice and break my neck. We’ll just have to see what happens!

my first breath post-baby

Yesterday the baby turned 2-months-old. Today I decided, on a whim, to go for my first post-baby run. To be honest, I haven’t thought about running since my last run in April, when I was just 5 months pregnant. Today, though, I felt up for a short run.

It was a cloudy 40ยบ day out; not exactly my favorite weather for running. I wasn’t even sure what to wear, but I knew if I thought about the weather too much I would chicken out. I quickly threw on a running tank, running pants, a long-sleeve T-shirt, and tied a pink bandanna on my head. I stretched, put on my mom’s old running shoes (mine are too small post-baby), turned on some Lady Gaga, and headed out the door.

I’ve had a few opportunities to be out on my own since the baby’s been born, thanks to Paul’s extended leave from work. On all of those occasions I still had the baby in the back of my mind. However, during my run, all I could think about was the run. It was the first time I didn’t feel bogged down with “mom fog” as well. It felt so good to get out and just run without having to think about all the other things I needed to do that day. I am a stay-at-home-mom; I don’t work outside the home, so running is my one chance to get away and do something that makes me feel good.

I felt that I should probably assess my current physical state since it’s been so long since I have run. I have the Adidas miCoach app on my phone that has an assessment workout that I like, which lasts 12 minutes. I thought that was perfect for my first run. I’m not ashamed at the fact that sometimes I can only go a mile or two. I learned early on that I do not enjoy running if I push myself too far. Sometimes a mile is all I can do and that’s OK.

My plan was to do the assessment, which begins and ends with two minutes of walking, and then I’d run home. However, my favorite running song came on as I made it to my corner, so I felt obligated to continue on the run. That is what I love about running. There’s nothing that says you can’t keep going.

How I did!!

The last two blocks of my run were the most difficult. My favorite song had finished and I was running into the wind. I was pretty tired and regretting not wearing gloves by the time I got home. However, I was greeted by a happy baby who had just woken up from a nap and been fed when I went in the door and that made the whole run worth it.