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?

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winter wear

I’ve been wanting to do this post for a while, but I’ve been putting it off. Today I decided I needed to sit down and get it done. It’s already March and winter’s practically over. Hopefully it’s not too late :)

Anyway, my goal this winter was to run at least once a week. Besides missing one week just because, and one week being sick I did a pretty good job meeting that goal. And I totally made up for those weeks during 5K training.

Now that I’m a somewhat-seasoned winter runner, I can finally post on something I really love: clothes. Anyone who knows me, knows my style isn’t great. I’m a jeans and t-shirt girl. Fine, but I love running clothes (it’s the only time I really feel comfortable wearing pink). Unfortunately, I don’t always have the best cash flow to sport lululemon, but I do have a few functional pieces that work well for me.

So, what to wear when running in the winter? My mom (she’s also a runner) was joking with me the other day, that you can always tell who hasn’t been running all winter. You can tell because they usually wear sweatshirts when it’s 50º out. I’ve tried running in a sweatshirt – it doesn’t work.

My typical running attire during cold days (around 30º this year) include: running pants, supportive tank bra, long-sleeve running shirt, jacket, socks, hat, and gloves. If the temperature gets colder than 30º I simply add layers.

Pants: I finally splurged on a pair of Under Armor tights this winter and I love them. They are super comfortable even though they are tight and they totally keep my legs warm. I also have some capris (cheapos from Target) that work great when it’s not super cold out (between 40º-50º). I used to wear yoga pants because I was scared of running tights, but then I realized how much you use your legs when you run and the tights keep you plenty warm.

Tank bra: I wear a tank bra because it’s a way to add a layer in winter, but gives you the support you need. Since running clothes tend to be a bit on the tighter side, I tuck it in to keep my mom belly from showing (nobody wants that). I’m not sure if that will work in summer, so I might be reconsidering tucking it in then. I recently got this one and love it!

Long-sleeve shirt: I usually wear race shirts because they are pretty similar to the baselayers I’ve found at Target and they work well. Basically, you want something that keeps the sweat off. I don’t mind wearing cotton when I need to layer, but even when it’s cold out I find that the baselayer alone does a better job than cotton on its own.

Jacket: The midwest can be windy in the winter, so a jacket is a major necessity. I decided to get a decent one this year and found this one by Mountain Hardwear. I had never heard of the brand, but it was on sale, and it had pockets with zippers. Turns out they can be a bit pricy. So far, I have been very satisfied. One thing I really like is that my neck stays warm when the zipper is completely zipped. I haven’t really needed a neck warmer this winter. It also does a great job of shielding the wind. When I ran the Red Flannel Run I wore a huge winter jacket, which I wouldn’t normally wear, but it was FREEZING (and it went with the theme of the race).

Socks: I recently discovered SmartWool and I love them! When I got new shoes this year, I was worried a bit about running in the winter due to the meshing of the Mizunos. However, I have not had a single issue with cold feet this winter thanks to my socks. I totally recommend getting some if you want to run in cold weather. Who cares if they’re $15 bucks? You’re toes will thank you.

Hat and gloves: This winter I’ve been wearing generic hat and gloves because, frankly, I don’t care. As long as my head doesn’t itch and I can work my iPhone quickly I’m happy. I usually have other things that bother me more (runny noses, stiff shoulders, etc.) than the stylishness vs. practicality of my hat and gloves. One thing I will say about my gloves is that I will not run in cold weather without them. They are as important as my shoes. If my hands are cold I am miserable. Even though they are a bit bulky, I like that I can expose my fingers for a few seconds to cool them off when my hands get sweaty.

So there you have it! I think I got a bit lucky with the winter this year, so I might have to make some revisions next year. But I really, really hope not!

how to out-run a dog

(Source)

The other day I had been having one of those days. The type of day where, although you greatly appreciate the community you are a part of, you just want to curl up under a rock and be left alone. Needless to say, I thought a run would help lift my spirits.

Then I was chased by a dog.

I am by no means a dog-hater. I actually really like dogs. Well, I did. I’m not really sure anymore. Part of me really wants to get a St. Bernard. I think I watched Beethoven too many times as a kid. But another (increasingly growing) part of me is hugely afraid of dogs. The bigger, the scarier.

You see, two years ago (holy cow, is it really 2012 already? It took till almost March for me to figure that out!) I was bit by a dog. Everyday, on my way home from work, I had to walk past my neighbor’s house and their dogs would run at me. For awhile it was mostly annoying, but one day one of the dogs got overly protective and bit my knee. I had to call Animal Control and it developed into this whole thing (the owners refused to believe that their dog did anything).

Since then I’ve been super cautious around dogs. I don’t think I ever really quite got over it. Yet, I still want a St. Bernard (of course, my dog won’t be a biter).

Back to my “No-Good-Very-Bad-Day”. As I said, I just wanted to run and clear my head. I even went out without my phone or a watch. When I started out, my neighbor was taking her dog out and hooking him up to his chain. The chain broke, and the dog tore after me. Thankfully, the owner yelled at me to stop running and don’t move (T-Rex can’t see you if you don’t move), the dog came to a skidding stop next to me, jumped on me a little, then got distracted and ran off. My neighbors were able to corral him back inside and I continued on my run. However, it shook me up a bit and I wasn’t able to enjoy the run as much as I wanted.

I looked around for a bit of advice on avoiding dogs and even checked with the local animal shelter. Here are a few suggestions for how to avoid run-ins (ha) with dogs.

1. Don’t run. You’d think you could just run away, but in reality, you probably can’t. If you run and/or scream the dog may think you want to play chase.

2. Turn to the side in an unthreatening position and don’t make eye contact. Facing the dog can seem threatening and turning your back to him may encourage chasing.

3. Wait a couple of seconds before trying to get away. Lots of time dogs will simply bark for a while, then get bored and move on. At that point you can start backing away (but still don’t turn your back to him).

4. Take your shirt off. If the dog lunges at you, give him something else to bite besides your arm. Give him your jacket, or shirt, or water bottle, or a stick. Get something between you and the dog as fast as possible. Paul suggested spraying the dog with your water bottle (he’s a biker and that works pretty well on a bike).

5. Contact Animal Control. If you are bitten by a dog, you have the right to report the dog to Animal Control. Many states and cities (mine included) require you to report dog bites. For more information on what to do you can take a look here.

If you’d like more advice, you can check out WikiHow, or check with your local animal shelter. Runner’s World has some good advice as well.

Anybody else have dog chase stories or advice? I’d love to hear them!