Excuses, Excuses…

“Nobody believes your excuses but you.” -quote unattributed

Let’s start off by loosely defining an excuse as a way of mitigating responsibility or blame versus a reason which clearly explains a fact. To be be grossly over simplistic, consider this example. Excuse: I couldn’t run because I had a cold. Reason: I have no legs, I cannot “run”.  In the excuse, I could have run, but I do not mention that I made the choice not to run. I defer the responsibility to the cold. For those who feel the man with no legs is just making an excuse, that he could run on his hands, the quotation marks around the word run are just for you.

Somewhere I have a list of excuses.  I sat down one day and wrote them all out. I don’t have the time.  I’m not fit enough.  It’s snowing. I had a solid list of a hundred different excuses and there were many variants – It’s snowing could expand to 6 or 7 different types of precipitation.  I then took my list and crossed off any excuse I had already used before.  My logic for this was simple, any excuse I had previously encountered, I should now be able to figure out a way to get it done.  If snow was a problem, I would just get a gym membership and run inside or do some research into snow cleats. I then started going through and crossing off the excuses that I knew had not stopped friends.  I am too old to start running got crossed of since I know many late in life runners. Physical maladies got crossed off the list. Unexplored limitations got crossed off the list – how do I know that beyond Portugal is the end of the world if I have never sailed beyond the sunset? I have never run a marathon before axed.

Of the 10 or 15 excuses that were left free from the magic marker most were either silly or sad.  The sad ones were quite often morbid (car accident, death in the family) and the silly ones were just taking up space on the page (alien invasion, rabid chipmunks on the loose.)  There were one or two valid reasons.  It took me too long to recognize Cannot run due to injury as a valid reason. Time used to spend with loved ones is still on the list and even more important with losses in the past couple of years. Running doesn’t pay the bills is still on that list, but maybe someday it will get crossed off.

What are your excuses and what are your reasons?  Maybe you should sit down this week and write them all out, get them off your chest, and air your dirty laundry. Figure out which are the just excuses and which are valid reasons.  Make the choice and own it.  I’ll leave you with a stupid little joke from my door to door sales days.

I was selling prepriced natural gas door to door.  This was in Canada and the rumor of all Canadians being nice is greatly exaggerated, especially when they think you are trespassing.  I finally came across a smiling house wife who seemed very interested, but halfway through my spiel, she turned and said “I’ve got to go, there are two chipmunks screwing on my dining room table.”

Intrigued, I held the door and said, “There are two chipmunks screwing on your dining room table?!?”

She said, “Oh dear, I overshot my mark.  There aren’t any chipmunks inside.”

“Why would you say that?”

“Well, I figured I wasn’t going to buy from you so any excuse would do.”

Accountability

Still focused on food intake and consistency, I lost another two pounds this week, weighing in at 271 lbs.  I did have a day of hot and passionate cookie love but was able to keep this from becoming a daily ritual.  I chose to run only 3 times this week.  My 11 miler on Saturday had been planned to be 12 but I chose poorly at dinner the night before, didn’t get up early enough to make oatmeal, and didn’t bring a water bottle or energy replacement.  Towards the end of the run I was suffering from some shin and knee pain so slowed down and then chose to stop and take a couple days off.  I still logged 21 miles last week though.  Swam as cross training and didn’t get to do the simple weight training exercises, my own fault and poor planning. Lots of stretching and reread some of my training books to reaffirm why I was having some physical problems and recommitted to following my training and my rest and recovery plan.

The Singing Treadmill Guy

If you work out at the Kennebec Valley YMCA and you hear sporadic broken choruses of “Domino” by Van Morrison or “Dance to the Music” by Sly and the Family Stone, I was probably running on the treadmill at the time. This was probably proceeded or followed by whooping, clapping, wheezing, and/or  the occasional rebel yell. When I am in pain or feel like I’m not going to make it, guttural grunts of “C’mon”, “Let’s Go”, or (when things are really bad) a high pitched, desperate and whiney  “Seriously” will escape.  I am, without a doubt, the loudest and most vocal person at the Y.  Those of you who know me are asking how this is different from any other scenario I place myself.

A friend of a friend before we were friends would hear me at the Gym and post about it on her Facebook page.  I remember seeing a comment on Facebook through the newsfeed about the Singing Treadmill Guy and I thought, that’s so cool, I want to run with that guy! Turns out it was me.  That lovely lady is now one of my running buddies. Not everybody is so keen to run with the singing treadmill guy.  I have been yelled at from the far side of the gym, people have moved treadmills, and recently in a race I was heckled for a good couple of miles.  On the flip side, I have have had a number of people come up to me after races and thank me for keeping them motivated. I just do my thing. What I am surprised about is how nobody else is so verbal.

Occasionally I will see people chatting on the recumbent bikes or if they are walking on the treadmill, otherwise it’s as silent as a mausoleum. I don’t expect to hear people singing, but I am surprised that people keep their motivation to themselves.  Being in the gym, we have entered the arena, even if it is only against ourselves.  I am used to the best of coaches yelling at their players, mostly yelling positive encouragement. What about the fans?  I love running races where they print my name on the running bib so that random people along the route will cheer you on when least expected. I am surprised not to hear more work out partners pumping up their friends. I know you are thinking, how can I hear them if I have my earphones on or over the sound of my own mellifluous voice?  Well, I do try to unplug at least once a week and the silence is oppressive.

Singing helps me in a number of ways.  When I’m running alone, it helps me to remember to breathe.  Most of my training guides say that I should be running at a pace where I can still talk and singing reminds me to check that.  I am rarely running so slow that I can get out a whole verse. When I am running with others, singing is entertainment and fuel for the conversational fires; were we in school when that song came out, was it our first concert, did that song play at our wedding? I will use parts of a song like a martial artist will use “Hai” to chop a wood block in half, as a conduit for energy and focus. When I am tired and can’t remember the words to a mantra, base lines will become my mantra. “BaDump bumbumbumbum Bah Da Da” from ZZ Top’s La Grange is incredibly helpful for keeping me on pace. Most importantly, singing makes me happy.  Running makes me happy.  Happy breeds happy.  Sometimes on the trail, I’m not so happy, so out comes a song.

Give it a try the next time you run. Let out a little ditty or musical doggerel.  Give yourself a whoop or a very verbal pat on the ass. I hope to hear you all singing on the railtrail come spring.

Accountability

I am still focused on losing 1 1/2 lbs a week, but I am ecstatic to announce  I lost 4 lbs this week.  I am currently 273 – 12 lbs in 6 weeks!  For this I thank the added miles and running 5 days instead of 4.  I was very consistent with my eating and that really helps too. I have been swimming each day I run and got some coaching my last time in the pool so that made things more difficult and challenging.  Worked out with weights on the circuit twice and stretched every day.  I will pick a 15-20 minute workout this week and will add it into my regiment.

A Proud Run/Walker Am I

Friends I haven’t seen in a while will start a conversation, “I see you have been running alot from your posts on Facebook.”

“Yep.  Keeping on track.  Running 4 or more times a week. I’m over 26 miles this week!”

“Wow that’s great.  Isn’t that hard on your knees?”

“Nah, I run and walk so it’s not so difficult on my joints.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself!! You don’t need to degrade your running like that.  At least you are getting in your miles.”

I am NOT being hard on myself or denigrating the hard work I put in when I mention I’m a run/walker.  If anything, I’m being a little cocksure, a little holier-than-thou with a dash of liberal intelligentsia snobbery. Don’t you know run/walking is the way to go, old chap.  Everybody’s doing it or at least, everybody should.

Ok, running and walking isn’t for everybody, just like barefoot running isn’t for everybody.  However, I believe that running and walking can help everybody at some point in their running training.  I have been following the Galloway method for three of that last 5 years running and it has been helpful to me in many ways.  It helped me complete my first marathon.  It helped me to keep active and maintain fitness levels when I was injured during ITB strains, plantar fasciitis, and shin splints.  It helped me start running again when I suffered great injuries that halted my running for longer periods.

I have found that all the benefits that he promotes with his Run Walk Run method have helped me continue to run during difficult times.  As the website states, his method will

• Speed you up: an average of 7 minutes faster in a 13.1 mile race when non-stop runners shift to the correct Run Walk Run ratio – and more than 13 minutes faster in the marathon

• Give you control over the way you feel during and after

• Erase fatigue

• Push back your wall of exhaustion or soreness

• Allow for endorphins to collect during each walk break

• Break up the distance into manageable units

• Speed recovery

• Reduce the chance of aches, pains and injury

• Allow older or heavier runners to recover fast, and feel as good as in the younger (slimmer) days

• Activate the frontal lobe – maintaining your control over attitude and motivation

I highly recommend checking out Jeff’s website JeffGalloway.com. I first found him through reading his books, but most of his core information and the basis of his entire method is on his website.

Accountability:

After the previous week’s indulgences and continued “Hunker Hunger” as snow and cold weather prod this old bear to put on layers for hibernation I was worried about stepping on the scale this week, especially after a The Midwinter 10 Miler Classic post race Bacchanalia at Joe’s Boathouse.  However, the odds were ever in my favor as I lost another 2 lbs and now stand at 277 lbs. Swimming is getting stronger and I have upped some of my swims to a half mile.  I did one day of weight training this past week and have been stretching every day as a necessity after my fall on the ice last week.

As a side note to today’s article, one of my goals for this year is to follow my training, to have faith in the system and to develop my understanding of the method through experience and consistency.  I failed to do so during the race.  I have a couple poor excuses.  The first being I have been fighting off a cold/flu over the past two weeks and was weaker than I wished.  The second being nerves over ice on the course as the race was sandwiched between two snowstorms. The third was that I had a friend who I think of as faster and stronger than me offer to run with me.  Instead of saying I was going to run slow, I should have explained my goal for the pace and run MY race, but I was weak, I was egotistical, and I was a cruddy friend for not trusting my running friend enough to tell the truth. I will do better next time.