Change your direction (even just a little) and see where it takes you...

I did something a little different this weekend during my 10-mile trail run, and it’s got me inspired to be a bit more deliberate in my running routine. I am running my second marathon in less than three months, after all. Oh, yes, there’s that…

In the past, I’ve bemoaned the fact that summer (read: hot, humid weather…and cold beers, ice cream & late nights) has a way of tricking up my regular running routine. I’ve also shared how I’m determined – determined, I tell you! – to stick with my early-morning run plan. Here’s where I’m at: not a complete and utter failure but not entirely happy either.

But I had an epiphany this weekend, somewhere around mile 6 as I pushed myself up yet another hill on the Vasa’s 5k loop. Why don’t I do this more? I asked myself, meaning:  why don’t I shake up my running routes more often? Usually when I run the Vasa, which I do as much as I can from the time the snow melts in the spring and through fall, I start from my  house a couple miles away. The first part is on neighborhood roads, but then it’s all hilly, wooded terrain. It’s beautiful. And challenging.

I stick with the out-and-back route that ends up being 8 miles. When I want to tack on a couple more, I add on a 1-mile loop at the trailhead and then another one closer to my neighborhood, also on trails.

It’s always the same.

But this past weekend, I opted to veer off my well-beaten path, taking the 5k loop that eventually leads me back to the main trail and back toward my neighborhood roads.

It was a subtle, simple change, but it made all the difference. I found myself re-invigorated about tackling the Vasa’s rolling hills. It’s not that this particular loop is really any different scenery-wise to the other trail sections I’ve been running. Still, it was different enough. I realized just how familiar the other route had become to me.

I’m thinking I need more of this – more variations on the routes that I could basically run with my eyes closed.

Training for my second marathon this October is decidedly much different so far. Aside from the fact that I’m not working with a coach right now, I also find myself simply in a different mind-set. From the moment I put my name into the lottery with two other friends for the Nike Women’s Marathon, I considered gaining entry to be an amazing opportunity – I hoped it would work out so that, yes, I could continue my training, maintain the fitness I’d built up all winter, but also so that I could experience a big-city marathon. And one with two great runner friends.

This is not to say that I don’t want to run well. I just find myself wanting to feel good throughout, to go at it with no aspirations of setting a new PR. Just enjoy it.

This, obviously, affects one’s training. I think I’m still trying to figure that one out. If you’re not going all-out, if you’re not so, so focused as I was this past winter and spring training for the Bayshore Marathon – but you still want to run a good race – what does that look like exactly?

What I do know: I feel better when I run several times a week, at least four times. And a long run feels like an absolute necessity. My head and body seem to need an 8-10 miler each week. So maybe that’s just one of the many results of training the way I did earlier this year: your body becomes accustomed to and actually craves all the awesome things a run can do for you physically and mentally.

I suppose it’s the feeling we achieve when we truly understand and listen to our bodies. We just know without a doubt what is needed – amount of running each week, the food and rest that’s required — for us to be the kind of strong person we want to be. Not that it’s always possible, or even partially possible, sometimes. Life happens. But it’s what we strive toward anyway.

Anyone else feel this way? Does your mind and body request (demand?) that you run a certain amount each week? Feel like you’re in a bit of an exercise rut? Here’s a goal for you this week: shake up your regular exercise routine.  Pick a different route — go left instead of your usual right. Finally tackle those hill repeats. Cross-train — for the first time, or by doing something entirely new to you. Just go for it.

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