Thursday, January 17, 2019

Tough Transition


As of late, this blog has had a heavy focus on mental health. While I enjoy writing about mental health and mental health hygiene, I feel I’ve neglected writing about running. Many of my readers started reading this blog for the running content, so I hope I haven’t left too many of them behind.

For years my running was mostly defined by pushing limits--more weekly, monthly, and yearly mileage. Faster times, higher age group finishes. And I must admit: I liked it. I liked setting new personal records. I liked pushing the limit for how many miles I could accumulate. It kept me motivated and always left me wanting to do more.

Pushing the limit left me with a feeling of never being satisfied--in a good way. Ran a new PR? Great. Now run even faster. Finished 12th in my age group? Great. Now finish even higher.

Last year was a tough change for me. I spent a lot of the year--all of the winter and some of the spring--injured, and I raced my slowest marathon ever in May. In the past when I've coached track and cross country, I've always been able to run with most of the faster runners. The past two seasons the only time I could run with them was on easy runs.

It's been hard not to get down on myself. I can't help that age will naturally slow me down, and I can't help that I have less time to train now that we have a kiddo, but it's still hard to know that PRs at most distances and pushing the envelope for how far I run in a given week, month, or year, are behind me.

It's definitely made training harder. Without a possible PR in sight, it's harder to be motivated. Before, I could tell myself: if you don't get out the door for this run, you're jeopardizing your chance at setting a PR. Now, when I'm feeling unmotivated, all I have is telling myself: it's good for you.

I wish I had more motivation to run for health reasons. I know running is good for both my physical and mental health, but those reasons are harder sells for me than getting faster.

What about you? I'd love to hear from people who have had to find new reasons to stay committed to an activity. How was the transition? What got you motivated?

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Running for Mental Health


Around a month ago I started feeling mildly manic (hypomanic). Before that, I hadn't had a hypomanic episode since August. That episode was very short and pretty mild, and a medication change knocked it out quickly.

However, the medication change—an increase in a drug for mania—left me exhausted in the mornings and made it hard to get out of bed. Eventually I was able to decrease the medication, and things were going well (though the exhaustion stayed) until I flew out to Washington D.C. for my late uncle's memorial service. It was a late flight and I didn't get great sleep the two nights I was there. After I got back from the trip, I started feeling hypomanic for a couple days.

Then, I moved into a mixed state. A mixed state is where symptoms of both mania and depression are present at the same time or close to each other. For me that meant feelings of extra energy, restlessness, and anxiety on some days or parts of days, and lethargy, sadness, and regretful feelings the rest of the time.

Though the mixed state wasn't unmanageable, it did make things difficult. Everything from chores to going for a run felt like a huge effort when I was depressed, and when I was hypomanic, I could hardly sit still.

I've been feeling much better now besides still being exhausted in the morning, and one big factor has been running. About three days into my mixed state episode, I was sitting in my recliner, trying to decide to go for a run. I was feeling depressed, and the effort of a going for a run seemed insurmountable.

But, I decided to force myself out of my comfy chair and get going. I told myself I'd run thirty minutes—a simple out-and-back. It was shorter than I usually run, but it seemed manageable.

As I approached the fifteen minute mark, I discovered something—I was feeling better. My motivation was higher, I wasn't feeling lethargic, and I was enjoying myself. So, I decided I'd run for forty minutes rather than thirty.

The mood-boosting effect didn't stop after my run. I felt better the rest of the day, and the day after I did a fifteen mile run.

The boost I get from running doesn't happen all the time, and it doesn't always last for an entire day or more, but in this case forcing myself to run was worth it for the mood boost, even though it wasn’t not a permanent solution to a mixed state.

Last December I had a manic cycle that lasted a couple weeks, and this year it was only hypomania followed by a mixed state, and the duration was shorter. Though I'm still experiencing some depression, I'm feeling much better and have been able to decrease a medication after a visit with my nurse practitioner.

On a later post, I'll write about some information about exercise and depression.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2019: It’s Goal Time


This year it was difficult coming up with goals. I’ve had to resign myself to the fact that I’m getting older and have less time to train, which means there aren’t many distances left to set new personal records.

So, this year’s goals will be not as focused on fast times, but there’s still one distance where I think I can manage a new PR. Here we go:

1. Run a PR in the 50K
Though most of my PR days are behind me, this one seems doable. I’ve run two 50K races, and one was on a very difficult course, and the other was coming off an injury with limited training. With some decent training and a good race strategy, I think I can meet this goal.

2. Write 52 blog posts
This one’s all in my control, so there’s no reason I can’t get it done.

3. Submit two stories to Runner’s World
Once again—all in my control.

4. Raise $1310 for Team World Vision
Fifty dollars per mile. I’m counting on the generosity of neighbors, family, and friends to help me raise money to bring clean water to communities in need. I’ll also be contributing some of my own money and offering training plans in exchange for donations of any amount to Team World Vision. You can donate here:
Team World Vsion - Donate - Nate Leckband - Participant Page

5. Break 18 minutes in the 5K
My other time goal. Last year I wanted to break 17 minutes, which turned out to be too ambitious of a goal. I ended up only running 17:46, so this year I at least don’t want to get any slower.

There they are—five goals, and I think they’re all doable. I’m hoping it will be a productive 2019.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018 Goal Results


Once again I’m going to use a percentage basis of rating my goals. The years when I did an all-or-nothing approach just left me depressed and didn’t give me any credit for how close I came to meeting my goals. Here are the goals and results from 2018:

Goal  1:
Average at least one blog post a week. Between the blog I (mostly) retired, tcruncoach.blogspot.com, and this blog, I averaged over 52 blog posts 2010 - 2013, and 2015 - 2016. In 2017 I only got in 40, so I'm hoping at least twelve more this year.

Result: I did it! I had to cram a bit to make it by the end of the year, but it happened. Score: 100%

Goal 2:
Average two days per week doing strength/cross training for my glutes/core/etc. With two lower leg injuries, one that's been hanging around for over nine months now, I'm definitely going to be running fewer days per week and lower mileage, so I want to take to opportunity to do some supplemental exercises. Who knows? I lifted weights a lot in high school and stayed pretty injury-free, so maybe I'll surprise myself and run some faster times on less mileage.

Result: I didn’t track this one closely, but I know I was weight and strength training three or four days a week through March when I had a gym membership, and did glute, hip, and core exercises two or three days a week after that, so I’m going to give myself a score of 100%.

Goal 3:
Submit two stories to Runner's World. I've already got one almost finished, which means I just need an idea for the next one. I'm planning on both being rejected, but also hoping that at least one gets a couple words on why it was rejected (none of the others I've submitted has).

Result: Done. Neither were accepted, but I’m going to keep trying. Score: 100%

Goal 4:
Set a PR in the 50K.

Result: Didn’t run one due to timing of races and injury. Score: 0%

Goal 5:
Complete a 50 mile race. I have some friends doing the Minnesota Voyageur 50 Mile, so I think I'm going to run that one.

Result: Again, injuries and timing of races kept me from running a 50 mile, but I did get in a marathon. Score: 52%

Goal 6:
Break 17 minutes in the 5K. The 50 mile race is July 28, so that means I have a good amount of time to recover and then aim for some fast 5K races during the fall racing season.

Results: Injuries and being older and slower kept me from this one. I only managed a 17:46. Score: 96%

And there it is. By my calculations I met my goals by 75%. Not as good as last year, but not bad for being injured most of the first half of the year and missing out on a couple of races because of scheduling conflicts.

In my next post, I’ll set out goals for next year.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Slumps


Ever been in a slump? I’ve been stuck in one for a while. Really it’s been two slumps—sleeping too much and rudderless running.

The rudderless running isn’t too bad since I don’t need to start a real training plan until February, but I’m still running less than I want to. Part of it has been a time thing, but part of it has been a lack of motivation. 

The sleep thing has been more of a bother. Since.I made a medication change last July, sleeping too much has been a problem. If I let myself, I’ll sleep 10+ hours a night.

I should be able to get past my sleep slump. Once I’m awake for an hour or so on the days when I do force myself out of bed, I usually feel fine. Still, it’s so easy to hit snooze and sleep as late as I possibly can to get to work on time.

I’m hoping that a visit to the nurse practioner that manages my medications will mean I can reduce the dose of one of my drugs. I think that’ll make a difference and make it easier to get up in the morning.

As for running, I’m going to set myself up a training schedule, even though I’m not training for anything in particular. I don’t do great running just for running’s sake, so setting a goal of being as fit as possible to run with the track athletes I help coach in the spring would be a good start.

What do you do when you experience a slump? What gets you out if it? I’d love to hear from you.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Improving Mental Health: Heaven's Reward Fallacy


This post is part of a series about cognitive distortions I've dealt with and how changing them helps improve my mental health. Of the sixteen most common cognitive distortions (read: Cognitive Distortions: When Your Brain Lies to You to see all sixteen), I'll be writing on the handful of distortions that have been most helpful for me to tackle.

One common cognitive distortion that everyone succumbs to from time to time is the Heaven's Reward Fallacy. The PositivePsychologyProgram website writes the following about the Heaven's Reward Fallacy:
This distortion is a popular one, particularly with the myriad examples of this fallacy playing out on big and small screens across the world. The “Heaven’s Reward Fallacy” manifests as a belief that one’s struggles, one’s suffering, and one’s hard work will result in a just reward. It is obvious why this type of thinking is a distortion – how many examples can you think of, just within the realm of your personal acquaintances, where hard work and sacrifice did not pay off? Sometimes no matter how hard we work or how much we sacrifice, we will not achieve what we hope to achieve. To think otherwise is a potentially damaging pattern of thought that can result in disappointment, frustration, anger, and even depression when the awaited reward does not materialize.

It's easy at times to feel like we're not getting what we deserve. Why didn't I get that promotion at work when I worked so hard? Why doesn't this person want to date me when I've worked so hard at being his friend?

The best way I can think of in combating this cognitive distortion is to simply take things as they come. Realize that sometimes people get what they deserve and sometimes they do not. Realize that your hard work and sacrifices may not result in a reward. Don't see yourself as "deserving" something, but instead appreciate the positive things that come your way, and don't feel resentful when you feel like you're not getting rewarded in the way you feel you deserve.

This is the last of my series on cognitive distortions. If you're interested in reading the entire series, you can do so by going to the following link: Cognitive Distortions.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Improving Mental Health: Always Being Right


This post is part of a series about cognitive distortions I've dealt with and how changing them helps improve my mental health. Of the sixteen most common cognitive distortions (read: Cognitive Distortions: When Your Brain Lies to You to see all sixteen), I'll be writing on the handful of distortions that have been most helpful for me to tackle.

A common cognitive distortion is Always Being Right. The PositivePsychologyProgram website says the following about Always Being Right:
Perfectionists and those struggling with Imposter Syndrome will recognize this distortion – it is the belief that we must always be right, correct, or accurate. With this distortion, the idea that we could be wrong is absolutely unacceptable, and we will fight to the metaphorical death to prove that we are right. For example, the internet commenters who spend hours arguing with each other over an opinion or political issue far beyond the point where reasonable individuals would conclude that they should “agree to disagree” are engaging in the “Always Being Right” distortion. To them, it is not simply a matter of a difference of opinion, it is an intellectual battle that must be won at all costs.
This cognitive distortion affects my mental health indirectly. I rarely engage in political discussions on social media for a couple reasons. First, my Facebook friends generally fall into two categories: those I agree with politically and those I don't. I don't see a lot of in between, so any political discussion I get into is either argumentative or falls into an echo chamber, and when there's so little chance anyone's mind is going to be changed, it's just not worth it. Secondly, it just makes me anxious. I generally don't like getting into arguments with friends and family, and in that regard it doesn't really matter who's right.

So, spending time trying to prove I'm right is neither productive nor good for my mental health. Also, it's healthy to look at one's own opinions and beliefs and not be afraid to change them when there is information to the contrary.

Thanks for reading.