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?


scandalizing your grandma

This past week we were in Arizona visiting Paul’s family. His grandma has a condo, so we flew down and met up with his parents and aunt and uncle there. It was really nice to see everyone because they live pretty far away and most of them hadn’t met Kiddo yet.

Overall, the trip was great; however, by the end of the trip I was ready to get back to my normal schedule (i.e. Kiddo must sleep in his own room). I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal to go back to sharing a room with him, but by the end of the trip I was starting to feel like I needed a vacation to recover from my vacation. It also didn’t help that he seemed to be teething (although, we have yet to see evidence of that). Oh, well…such is life with kids I guess.

Anywho…we spent the week catching up with family and doing a few excursions around town. I also got 3 runs in, which were awesome! The weather was perfect for running; mid 60s and sunny most days. The first day I ran the main loop of the condo park, which ended up being 3 miles. I decided to do the same route on my second run and 2 miles on my third day. I was pretty happy with that. On vacations in the past I would have skipped running altogether, but now it seems like that’s one of the best parts of vacation. It’s the only time I’m completely alone. Such is life with kids :)

The funny thing about running in the condo park were the reactions I received. I’m used to getting friendly nods of encouragement from other runners and walkers around my neighborhood. The condo park is more of a retirement community (there’s a minimum age requirement to live there), so my running was a bit of a strange event for most of the people there.

Being that I’m younger than all of the residents there by at least half the average age, I received a few stares as I ran along. What I found hilarious was the complete opposite reactions I received from the men vs. the women there. The men were very friendly (nodding and waving as I ran past), while the women would stick their noses up in the air and turn away from me, acting as if they had no idea I was there (but being really obvious about it). The only time I got a different reaction from men was when they were with their wives. Obviously, they couldn’t be checking out the “hot dish” running by with their wives around.

Not that I would say I’m anywhere near Gisele Bündchen level of attractiveness, I have been known to turn a head here or there (sorry to toot my own horn). That was a while ago, though, so it was nice to have a reminder…even if it was from someone who could be friends with my grandpa. I could be wrong, but I think that’s what happens when you have a baby – you’re willing to take whatever compliment from whoever is willing to give it :)

How about you? Have you ever received any strange reactions while running?

winter games

Please note: I think I should point out that although I do encourage having fun while running, I am not encouraging anyone to run on ice. Please be careful when running in slippery weather!

It might sound a little silly when I say that I like to play games while I run. Well, I do. It keeps me motivated and gives me something to think about when the run gets long.

It had snowed before one of my last runs and that gave me a chance to try out a new game. I call it “Slippery Sprints”.

I’ve mentioned before that I appreciate it when people take the time to shovel their sidewalk. However, this game only works if you live in a neighborhood with somewhat lazy neighbors. My neighborhood is a bit like that. About half the people shovel in a timely manner, and the rest (Paul included) hope that the sun melts the snow before they have to deal with it.

Anyway, the game is simple: whenever you see an snow/ice patch ahead, sprint to it. When you reach the snow, slow down to a careful jog or walk to avoid falling. Then repeat as you see fit.

There’s really no exact science to the game (that’s why it’s a game), so I don’t recommend doing this in place of real speed work. It’s just a way to pass the time. And it’s kind of like being a kid again. Don’t even try to tell me you didn’t see how far you could slide on the ice as a kid!

How about you? Are there any fun “games” you like to play when you run? I’d love to hear about them!


a few race photos

I will post more on Monday about the race today. Until then, here are a few photos to hold you over. Unfortunately, it was too cold for Kiddo to be outside, so the only photos I have right now are before and after shots. That’s still fun anyway, right? Enjoy!


That is all for now…I need a nap!

no jacket required

Other than the lack of leaves on the trees, you would have no idea that it was January in Iowa.

This is more like the January I’m used to. The poor cat (he looks so small!).

Yesterday it was 58º out, so as soon as Paul got home from work, I ran out the door. I didn’t even take my phone. I normally always take it, but being such a nice day I just wanted to be outside. I just felt like running. I wore a T-shirt! I’m starting to regret buying new winter running clothes.

(Pardon my hair. Lately I’ve been looking like a sad character from a Charles Dickens’ novel and this is the best I could do.)

Anyway, my run was not the greatest and it was my own fault. First, I should have worn long sleeves. My arms were very cold. However, what caused me to cut my run short was my lack of energy. I didn’t eat nearly enough before running and I knew it. I maybe could have gone a bit farther, but when I got close to downtown I started to smell food and I had to head home. Then we ordered a pizza and I ate over half of it.

I do have a bit of news that I’m excited about, though. I signed up for the Red Flannel Run in February. I decided I really need some motivation and doing a race in a month seemed like the perfect thing. I’ve also picked out the races I would like to do this year. I would like to do the IMT Des Moines Marathon in October, so I picked a few that will work with training for that. I tried to pick races that sounded fun. Here’s my list:

Red Flannel Run (3 miles) – February

Doughnut Run (5K) – April

Midnight Madness (10K) – July

Prairie Fest (5 or 10K) – August (tentative)

IMT Des Moines (Marathon) – October

300+ miles!

I actually got a run in last week, but then Paul took the computer and I never got around to writing about it. This past week we had record highs and Kiddo and I were able to go for a walk without coats on! I don’t think I’ve ever done that in January.

Anyway, I just did an assessment this week, because I figured it had been about a month since I started running again and it seemed like a good time. My bigger accomplishment this week is that I have officially logged over 300 miles on my shoes! I was going to wait until spring, but my shoes are getting pretty old, and since I’ve hit 300+ miles I think I’ll start looking. It seems like we won’t be getting too much snow this winter anyway, so I don’t need to worry so much about getting my new shoes all snowy.

The shoes I’m currently using are Asics 1140s (an older version of the 1150s). I’m fine with them, but I’m looking for something different. I got them originally because my mom gave me her old ones, so when I bought my own I went with what I was used to. I used Runner’s World’s Shoe Advisor and narrowed it down to the Mizuno Wave Inspire 8 or the Nike Air Pegasus+ 28. I’m looking for something a bit lighter than my Asics, but also decent for distance running.

If anyone uses either of these shoes, or similar models, and have advice or opinions I’d love to hear from you!

holiday running

I hope everyone has been having a great holiday season! I managed to get two runs in this week. We’re visiting family, so I had extra people to keep an eye on Kiddo while I went for a run. Normally I like to plan out my route before I leave the house, but I was actually looking forward to running without having a plan. Both runs only ended up being about 2 miles long, but they were enjoyable. It wasn’t really cold enough for it, but I got new running clothes, so I thought I’d try them out.

Kiddo got to experience his first real snow before we left home. He was an excellent traveler and slept most of the 4 hour ride. I sat in the back seat with him and I think that helped. We also brought the cat along with us, so we pretty much exploded into my parents house when we got there.

Paul and I actually had a chance to go out alone while my parents and sisters watched Kiddo. After getting lost downtown, we finally found an amazing Indian restaurant. Paul received a new camera lens for Christmas and wanted to take some pictures at night, so we walked around an area that I knew would be perfect. Anybody know where we went?

All in all, I’d say it was a pretty good ending to a pretty good year!

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.

no-fun run

Yesterday I had my first postpartum no-fun run. I went running last Thursday and really enjoyed the run. However, yesterday it didn’t go as well as I had hoped. At first my iPhone started acting funny and I had to stop and fix it. That really made me wish I could run without it. I really like to know how I did and I need to listen to music or I focus too much on how tired I am, so I’m stuck taking it with me. It’s really amazing how one little screw up early on can mess up a whole run.

I don’t know about other runners, but I really enjoy looking at (and inside) the houses as I run by. I’m pretty nosy, so I claim I’m just looking inside to get decorating ideas, but I really just want to see what other people are doing. For this reason, I have curtains on all my windows and I try to keep them closed all the time. I especially like this time of the year, because people get a little crazy with the Christmas decorations, and a lot of people are proud of their trees, so they display them right by the window.

I was totally looking forward to getting to see some awful decorations, and I did, but non of my pictures turned out well. So I ended up stopping to take pictures for no reason. I think there must be something about running in the snow that makes bad decorations even better anyway.

At one point my shoulder started to hurt. This tends to happen when it’s cold outside because I shrug my shoulders a lot when I’m cold and it really bothers me when I run. I decided to cut the run short and go home at that point. Therefore, I only did 2 miles, rather than 3, which is what I set out to do.

Bad run aside, the week has been pretty good. We decided to eliminate meat at home, so I’m getting used to making more vegetarian dishes. I’m not entirely opposed to eating meat, but I decided it was better for us to stop. I was also making lasagna and the ground beef looked really unappetizing. This week we’ve been trying to eat up whatever meat we had in the freezer. Today I made myself scrambled eggs with onions, peppers, and spinach for lunch. It was pretty tasty. I hadn’t been too creative, so I have been mostly eating salads this week and I was happy for a change.

Kiddo has started constantly sucking his thumb. I’m not entirely against it, but I’m not really sure if I’m for it. It’s nice that he always has his thumbs with him and it does a pretty good job of comforting him when I can’t be there right away. Judging by how furiously he goes at it, though, it seems like it might become a problem when he’s older. It’s probably a little early to determine if it will be a problem or not. Either way, he looks cute doing it!

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!