Sunday, March 25, 2012

Social Media and Athleticism

***I am going to use some terminology that might be offensive to some, Sorry! Also, this is a bit of a rant so read on if you wish... This is also probably going to make me seem OLD!!!***
Isn't this the truth!!!

It is a rare occasion, anymore, to have a conversation with a friend that doesn't include at least a brief mention of Facebook. Daily Mile is creeping up to be of similar stature with the running crowd.

I have been analyzing the impact of social media on my life for some time. Many smart (and not so smart) people have conducted studies on the psychological impact of social media on humans. Like any research, you can find a study to match any position you would like to take on this issue, I am going to be the guinea pig for this post though!

So, in my case I gave up regular use of Facebook back in December. I now have, what I call, Facebook Sunday. Every Sunday I allow myself unrestricted use of Facebook and I can honestly say that I probably spend no more than an hour on the site. What I have realized is that as I gave up Facebook, Daily Mile has slowly taken it's place. The good news is I try to restrict my Daily Mile usage to the time that I log my workout and as long as it takes me to review and comment on my friends' workouts; though I am at the point that I am probably going to divorce Daily Mile, too.

You see, I am a relationship person. Why would I want to spend so much time connecting with people on a website when I can talk with them on the phone or share my stories with them in person. I believe in the human connection and feel that technology has changed the way we connect as humans; not always a bad thing but not my favorite thing either!

Every person uses social media in a different way and the impacts can be both positive and negative. For instance you have the Facebook stalker, Facebook whores, Facebook abusers, Facebook philosophers, Facebook bullies, Facebook complainers; search Facebook on Urban Dictionary and you will find an enormous list of terms that describe facebook and the different types of users.

What does this all have to do with my athletic journey? Well, let's talk about the positive first!

The Good 

When I started training for my first marathon I found myself constantly posting about my first 14/16/18/22 mile runs on Facebook (this was before I knew Daily Mile existed). The feedback I got from my friends was amazing! People were telling me I was inspirational, dedicated, amazing, etc. I didn't/don't really think I am any of those things but it still felt good to hear positive feedback. Then I ran the marathon! My sister posted about my run as I was running, people cheered me on virtually, my sister read me facebook posts peaple left for me during my final five miles and it kept me motivated!

Similarly, I learned that I had/have other friends who are/were training for equally challenging events and I was able to get their advice, cheer them on and encourage them along the way.  I had a friend who did a 21 mile swim and I got on-line and cheered her on through Facebook all day. I was able to be connected and watch someone accomplish something that seems so untouchable to me.

So what is not to like? How motivational to see other folks share their journeys and support people along the way! Just putting yourself out there on a social media site can bring with it enormous encouragement and support!

Not a bad thing, not a bad thing at all, right?

The Bad

Although utilizing social media for motivation is a great thing I have noticed that it also makes me extremely competitive and social media took my competitive nature to the extreme. I was watching my friends run faster, run longer, run smarter (yes this is very true, I've had some stupidity in my training this year) than me and it was making me crazy! I started wondering why they were having, what seemed to me, more success than I was. It took a bit of a toll on my mind. I started beating myself up for not being as 'good' as everyone else.

The leader board feature on Daily Mile can be a mind (again can't use my favorite term here) game. If you pay a lot of attention to the leader board you may find yourself running that extra mile to be at the top. I know this sounds messed up, but honestly is my policy folks!

Also, I realized that as I was deciding which smiley face to use every time I posted a workout, I reached for the big one with the open mouth. This is the one that basically says the workout was fantastic. I was creating this amazing illusion of workout perfection for myself, my supporters when in actuality there were plenty of times I was in pain but didn't want to admit it. Wow, I'm really making myself sound awesome...

I've also been amazed at all of the folks who are 'friends' with people on these social networking websites that they have never met. I get the point in making new friends and expanding your networks but who really needs 500 friends? I limit all of my social media to people I know or have some sort of relationship with. Every time I find myself adding that special someone who I have never met before, they disappoint. I realize this is not every person's experience and I am extremely glad for that!

I recently had a conversation with a friend out in Maine who told me she became friends with someone on Facebook because they run in the same groups. That new 'friend' ended up mocking her training because they are slow and should not consider themselves runners. Here's the thing, they run a 10:00 mile on their LSD runs. What is slow about that? And who should be judging whether you are a runner. Remember this quote? I've posted it before:

"If you run, you are a runner. It doesn't matter how fast or how far. It doesn't matter if today is your first day or if you've been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run."  -- John Bingham

In short, this interaction was demoralizing to my friend and negatively impacted her training. I heard myself saying to her 'sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me." Uh, yeah, that statement has great sentiment but is not really true! I'm going to save you that rant, if you want to hear it, you are welcome to email me and I will send you plenty of arguments against it...

My Position

Although I have found wondrous benefits of social media on my athletic goals, the negative impacts have far outweighed the positives for me. I congratulate the people who can continue connecting through social media, make new friends and expand their networks without the negative influences; I am just not one of them. I recall, I started this journey for me, and need not lose site of that.

I will not judge how others use social media, but I will encourage people to read this post if I hear the comments or constant need to connect is bringing them down. I will also continue to use Facebook on Sundays to catch up with my friends and to invite my friends to parties. I will, probably, continue using Daily Mile to cheer on my friends through their athletic pursuits and share my own athletic persuits (especially since it is a fantastic tool for so many people) but I will no longer let it impact my person!

Here's the thing. I am a true believer that everyone has their own journey with athleticism and at NO point should we compare ourselves to those around us or judge those who are improving themselves unless we are professional athletes. Let's face it, I am not a professional athlete, nor do I aspire to be one! So, this obsession with Daily Mile, for a short period of time, took away from my training. I am proud to say that I have given myself a bit of an attitude adjustment and am no longer comparing myself to others. It took some time to realize I always need to come first when challenging my body NOT my ego.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Naming It!

I know everyone will relate to this in some fashion...

Have you ever had a crush or really liked someone but didn't know what to do about it? You know what I am talking about; it is that giddy feeling or the butterflies in your stomach that make you feel more alive when you are thinking about the person or around the person? I know you have.

Or better yet, have you ever been on a date and you really wanted the other person to give you a hug or a kiss but they didn't? Have you ever walked away wondering why you didn't make the first move? I'm sure everyone has had this experience. I know I have. As a matter of fact there was one instance some time ago where I went on a date and at the end we were standing in the parking lot and we were both awkward and we both took the time to name it. What do I mean by naming it? Well he told me that he was always awkward at the end of dates, I then told him that it was OK because I felt just as awkward as he did. Side note: As a matter of fact earlier in the day I told my colleague that I was going on a date with this guy and was kind of excited, she made me practice hugging her in her office so I would hug him that night. That isn't even the best part of the story... The best part of the story is that I straight up told the guy that I am so bad at the dating thing that I practiced hugging my colleague in her office that day so I could have the courage to hug him on our date. Seriously??? What was I thinking! I followed it up with outstretched arms while basically saying let's try it. This is only one of MANY Sarah stories or Sarahisms (as some of my friends like to call them) that I have tucked into my back pocket.

I actually hold this story very close to me as it was a special moment for many reasons. It illustrates extreme vulnerability/courage/strength to simply name what you are thinking and feeling while understanding the outcome might not be what you expected. Oh, but did I mention I got the hug? It was a very endearing moment that I'm sure will be remembered for a long time...

Every day I wake up and look in the mirror and name it. I always say to myself that this is going to be an extraordinary day. Whether it turns out that way, or not, is an entirely different story, but at least I name what I want to come from the day.

With that all being said, I have discovered another thing that I love about my athleticism and I'm going to name it right here, right now. What do I love about putting on my shoes and going for a run? Or putting on my swimming suit and heading to the gym? It makes me feel strong, secure, healthy and confident. It makes me face life head on. It all makes me feel young. Seriously, I love that I feel like a kid when I am running, I love that I have friends surrounding me who have the same desires as me whether it is finishing a 5k, half marathon, marathon, triathlon, century ride... I love that it doesn't always have to be taken seriously. I mean, look at these pictures of me from a race last weekend!
Me and Laurie post run!

Laurie, Me and Judi, Yes I wore THAT!
I have also discovered that my athleticism has given me the ability to 'name it' more often. For instance I have named some of my biggest personal flaws (my scatter brained nature, my laziness as it is related to cleaning my house, my fear of failure and rejection) because I get to confront all of these demons (I hate that word because they really don't haunt me and it is too dramatic) every time I challenge my body/mind.

Being an athlete makes me feel like I can conquer the world!!!

Yesterday I went out for an eight mile run with some of my favorite people and as we were running I went through almost every state of mind. I probably said to my friends that the run sucked, the hills were hard, the heat was killing me. I also know I said that it was a great run, it felt fantastic and I felt accomplished. How is it possible that I could have experienced all of that in a one hour and thirty minute jaunt through Westerville, Ohio? I have no clue but I know that by naming it for myself I was present the entire time. The sense of accomplishment I felt at the end of that run as my body was steaming and caked with salt was amazing. It made me feel young, so much so I celebrated with Boone's Farm and very dear friends last night!

Now if only I could find the courage for...

Here is the 'anthem' that was played way too many times last night:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

And on the 72nd Day

The other day, while in the most thought provoking spot in my house (otherwise known as the shower) I had a moment; for some strange reason the fable 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' popped into my head. I was thinking about the story and felt some compassion for the boy who cried wolf. I was thinking about how, in the story, the boy cries wolf to amuse himself and then I realized the boy was probably lonely and looking for some friends/companions but didn't know how to ask for what he truly needed. I felt bad that the boy didn't know how to ask for what he needed and in trying to bring people near him he isolated himself even more.

OK, so I admit I over think things!

On Friday I found myself telling people about my discovery of compassion for the boy. I don't think I was ever successful in eloquently making my point, so what did I do? I started relating it to running and continued over thinking...

Last night I attended a lecture (or should I call it stand up comedy) by Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano, fellow CU Buffs, with the intention of sneaking out the back if I was bored to tears; instead the exact opposite happened and I was fully engaged. These guys were pretty hilarious AND they had some very good points.

To set the stage for where I am going with all of this I have to remind you of my 2012 aspirations. I entered this year with the plan of running another Half marathon, another Marathon, some crazy mileage goals (for running) and a goal of trying to run a mile a day (born out of a challenge and a story I read in Runner's World magazine about two years ago). For the last few weeks my body has started asking me for a rest day, but my mind has rebelled. I have been hesitant to take a rest day because I honestly don't know how I would handle it.

Adam and Tim started talking about the difference between being tough and stupid. Two of my buddies looked back at me... Adam and Tim then began telling a story about Adam limping along with an injury, while fully intending to run fifteen miles the following day. This story was to illustrate the importance of not being stupid. One of my buddies and I had a brief side conversation that included both of us acknowledging that we walk the line of tough and stupid daily.

I started thinking about my body and how it is begging for that break and considered how I might nurture my mind while giving my body what it needs. I then reflected on what Adam and Tim preached during their lecture; the message was basically that we all need to learn to make someday, today. So what does that really mean? Well have you ever decided you wanted to do something fairly innocuous and instead of doing it right now, you decide it will get done tomorrow? I have, I do it all the time with cleaning my house, for example. They basically were telling us that if there isn't a true life barrier (financial, age, physical, etc.) to beginning our journey toward a goal then we have no excuse but to start today. Remember my last post regarding the statement 'but I didn't.' It is essentially the same message. Do it now, so you don't have to say but I didn't later.

Finally, Tim and Adam talked about the importance of being flexible. They told a great story about Adam going to a track meet with his plan for winning the race. The plan included Adam taking off at the gun in front of the pack and not letting anyone pass him. I honestly had a hard time understanding how this one plan made Adam flexible but then they continued on talking about the what ifs. What if someone passed Adam? What if he tripped? What if, what if, what if??? He didn't have a plan... No one ever did pass him, but he didn't have a plan for what he might do in that instance.

I started thinking about what I might do if I couldn't run because I was being inflexible and walking the line between tough and stupid? I really don't have a plan... In thinking and dreaming about this I realized that my other goal includes participating in my first Olympic distance triathlon, for which I am already registered, and how training for that can fill in the gaps and allow my body some rest from running, but what about my mile a day challenge?

Well, as I continued thinking about walking the line between tough and stupid, about flexibility, about making today that someday and about the boy who cried wolf, it all  started to make sense (to me at least)! If I want to be tough and give my body what it is asking for (by being flexible) so that it can continue being loyal to my mind, I need to make someday today!

SO, on the 72nd day, I shall rest...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Who Cares About Running...


Well, not really, but I didn't kill myself when I swapped out the electrical cord on my dryer!!!

The electrical cord project made me reflect on my early running days. I remember a conversation from many many years ago that included me telling my sister why I was embarrassed to run. At the time, I lived in Boulder, CO and if there is anything to know about Boulder it is that a bunch of super athletes make a living there by coaching the greater population, who all seem to be aspiring super athletes! These are the people who go for ten hour runs or go out for century rides just for fun. I told my sister and her friend Beth that I was embarrassed because I had to stop often and I was SURE people were staring at me when I was running. My sister and her friend told me I was crazy and that more often than not, people were just happy to share the trail with a new runner and were even impressed with my willingness to get out there. Let's just say I has some physical conditions that made running, hmm..., excruciating at the time.

I have learned something very valuable over the years; when you think others are judging you, it is most likely because you are judging others. Think about it... Have you ever been scared of going to the gym because you thought everyone was looking at you? I have, and the reality is most people aren't looking at everyone else in the gym, you are... Just so you know I am oversimplifying right now because I could probably write a book on this subject. Basically, I feel like people are judging me most, when I am judging others.

So, what does all of this stuff have in common? I bet you thought I would never get back to it...

Well, I have been talking about this electrical cord situation for probably about two months. I was using my old dryer, until my sister helped me move it out of the laundry room a week or so ago. All this time, and immediately after having conversations about this cord situation I would find myself in the laundry room inspecting the old cord, the new cord, the outlet. I would unscrew some screws, watch a youtube video, screw the screws back in, research electrocution, talk to my friends, talk to every person at every ACE hardware around town, call my dad, talk to Dukie, unscrew some different screws, watch more you tube videos and on and on and on. Even typing that was exhausting. Many people close to me have heard the dryer saga. Bought a new dryer and have an old electrical outlet. What to do...

I had enough today and walked into the laundry room with confidence. I went with all the tools needed to tackle this project. After standing around, adjusting, studying the cords I dove right in and swapped out the cord. What I did today was EXACTLY what I would have done the first time I wanted to tackle the project over a month ago. Why didn't I do it then??? I was afraid; legitimately afraid that I could potentially electrocute myself, afraid that I would break the dryer I just bought, afraid of what I might look like if I eventually had to get some help.

Ten/twelve years ago I started to dabble in running but it didn't stick until last year. Why you may ask? Perhaps because I was scared of failure, what people thought, etc... I bet I would have started loving running earlier in life had I walked into it with more confidence and embraced it like it was my own.

There is a lesson in all of this, I procrastinate and take minimal risks because of fear. I could have 12 or more marathons under my belt had I started running years ago, but I didn't... I could have had a brand new, working dryer for the last month if only I had swapped out the cord, but I didn't...

I'm sure there are many more 'but I didn'ts' in my life (just to be clear they are NOT regrets, rather, just acknowledgement that I took a different path) and I am determined that each 'but I didn't' in the future is with good reason. This is me acknowledging that risks have great rewards! Take those risks so you don't have to say 'bud I didn't.' Seriously? What is the worst thing that could happen? The girl or guy you want to go out with might say no? He/she might say yes! You may not finish the 5k? But you just might finish it! Try it out, see what happens because you might get so say you accomplished something because 'I DID!'

Here are some pics that were taken because I decided to take the risk! I need to take more risks.

Bike the Drive: 30 mile ride on Lake Shore Drive, Chicago!

Just finished my first half marathon 2010.

Second half marathon 2012.
Attempting Vail Pass 2011. 
Finishing my first full marathon 2011.

 Thank you for reading my ramblings!!!