August 16, 2013

Running for Relaxation

Last week, I had a major setback with my dumb neck injury. Although it had been fine for about a week, I apparently got too lax and started doing crazy things… you know, like sitting at my desk instead of standing all day. Bad move. Last Tuesday it started tightening up, and on Wednesday, it hurt so badly that I had to leave the office and go work from the comfort of my hotel, where I could take muscle relaxants and use my TENS machine to electroshock my lats into relaxation. Yes, it is halfway into my “Breathe” month and my preferred method of relaxation is still forcing myself to be calm. (It’s obviously working well for me.)

This week, though, my NYC physical therapist made me a proposition (not that kind of proposition, Adam). He said that if I can go ten days without pain, I get to start lifting weights (albeit light ones) and transitioning to a regimen that I’ll do on my own instead of having to hit PT three days a week. My gleeful response? “TODAY IS TOTALLY DAY ONE!” That’s right, challenge accepted.

Today is now day 3 of no pain (well, barring some tightness Wednesday afternoon that I’m not going to count because it felt minor). Today in PT, my therapist told me that I still felt kind of tight, but I feel okay, so I’m going to just hope we’re going with my definition of “not in pain” and not his definition of how locked up my back is. Rules are rules, bud!

I genuinely do feel a lot better today and yesterday than I’ve felt since my episode last week, though, and I think one of the main reasons is that I’ve been getting back to running. On Wednesday morning, Jen and I went for a short run along the Hudson before she headed off on an amazing road trip of the West Coast. I woke up feeling a bit yucky (and skipped the Physique session I had originally planned to do before my run), but since she was literally boarding a flight that afternoon and I hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye, I felt like I had to go see her. While jogging to meet her, I told myself that I could go as slow as I wanted, and that pace didn’t matter – and I found my stomachache and my mood gradually improving as I ran the mile or so to our meeting spot.

View of the Hudson from W72nd Underpass
This pretty view at our meeting spot didn’t hurt.

By the time I met up with her, I was enjoying the beautiful day and starting to feel good – and my pace was picking up too. After we said goodbye and I headed for home, my pace picked up even more, and while my first mile had been around a 10:30 pace, my last mile was around an 8:30 pace. I wasn’t trying for a fast pace, but it was nice to see it naturally improve just as I relaxed and enjoyed the day.

Hudson Bridge at W62nd
I love running on this short stretch of bridge along the Hudson!

After going running outside almost every day this week, I realized that running may actually be a good form of stress relief and relaxation for me. While I enjoy most of the workouts I do, they still usually feel like work. But running first thing in the morning while listening to a podcast doesn’t feel like work at all; it feels like taking time for myself to be calm and get my day off to an amazing start.

My week of working from home is up today, and on Monday I head back to Dallas. I’m going to miss the river views and running route of my home in NYC, but I think it’s probably time that I start making more of an effort to run in Dallas as well. My hotel isn’t in a great area for running, at least in the early morning or evening, when it’s dark out, but it really wouldn’t be that hard for me to drive somewhere and run from there. (Hey, I already drive to various boutique studios all over Dallas for whatever other workouts I want to do!) I already committed to starting twenty days of yoga on Monday using a Groupon to Uptown Yoga, but after seeing how great I feel this week when I’ve been running (almost) every day, I think I’m going to tack daily runs onto that plan as well. Maybe I can run around the little lake near my office and then shower at my office, or maybe I can run to and from yoga if it’s light enough out that I feel safe doing so. If I’m relegated to the treadmill for whatever reason, that is not relaxing for me, but I think I should be able to find ways to run outside most of the time.

And this weekend, I’m really getting back to the running I love – kicking off my fall marathon season with the Chasing the Unicorn marathon in Pennsylvania. Given that I haven’t run a marathon in 2.5 months (when I did San Diego), I’m a little nervous about how it’s going to go. The time limit is a strict 4:40, and that’s not too far from the pace I’ve been using on my shorter runs! But I think it will be good for my legs to try for the long distance, and I do have a few free weeks in September where I can add another marathon if I DNF this one. The race is on a river towpath and the weather is supposed to be pretty ideal (for summer), so I’m hoping it will just be a nice, relaxing 26.2 mile jog that will ease me back into marathon season.

Happy Friday everyone!


6 thoughts on “Running for Relaxation”

  1. Running is a great way for me to relax – for sure! Mostly because it’s fairly brain-less (unless I’m trying to do tempos, or anything like that). Classes take a little more concentration (at least for the uncoordinated, like myself).

    I just started listening to podcasts during runs. Although I like being jazzed up by music, the podcasts make the runs fly by. Plus, I feel like I’m learning something. Love it!

  2. I think that if your workouts feel like “work,” then you need to find something you love to do!! The boutique classes should be fun rather than something you don’t like to do!

  3. I have suffered with some chronic neck pain and my TENS unit was a lifesaver. Really helped alleviate and reduce the pain. My PT put me on a home stretching program (along with TENS therapy) and have noticed improved range of motion in my neck and less pain.

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