Why? Because I like you.
Day 3: What does STRENGTH mean to you?
For a very long time, I thought that being fit was synonymous with being skinny. But when I started running, I started noticing that the bodies running with me on the trail and during races came in a variety of sizes and shapes. I mistakenly assumed that some of the "bigger" bodies were slow runners and you can imagine my surprise (and instant craving for some Humble Pie) when they would breeze past me effortlessly.
I also started to realize that being thin wasn't the be all, end of physical achievements. Just like you can be large and in shape, you can also be skinny and totally out of shape. After struggling with my own body image (a struggle that never truly leaves you), I started to redirect my focus on strength. More than being thin, I want to be fit ... and strong.
Nothing gives me more confidence than finishing a long run (or any run for that matter) and finishing it STRONG. In the past year, strong has become one of my favorite words. I've replaced my old desire to "run fast" and now I am forever telling Clayton that, "I just want to run strong. I want to feel strong when I run".
Strong trumps skinny. Strong trumps thin. Strong trumps waif.
For the upcoming Hoosier Half Marathon, I've completely revamped my running schedule. I chose a new plan and am taking a completely different approach to my weekly runs. In the past, I attempted every single training run with the mindset of "try to run a little faster than your goal race pace so that on race day, your goal pace won't feel so hard!" This logic always made perfect sense to me.
Until this year.
My new training plan has only one midweek run dedicated to running at goal pace (and no faster). The rest of the runs, including the weekend long run, is designed to build the endurance and STRENGTH that will allow your legs to carry you 13.1 miles no matter what. Hal Higdon, the plan's creator, recommends your other runs (again, including the long run) should be comfortable.
For people with common sense, this shouldn't be a new concept. But for me? It blew my mind. I've been running several times a week for almost 4 years and am just now learning how to train the right way, to train for running STRENGTH, not to reach a spefiic time on the race clock.
Do you know how much pressure I've put on myself to always run as close to race pace (and usually faster) as possible? Do you know how many times I've broken down and cried and ruined my entire day because I kept failing because I was trying too hard to be fast and not trying hard enough to just be strong? Do you know how burnt out I've been from the sheer stress of the training process?
Seriously. Mind. Blown.
Strong. I wanna run strong.
I'm really looking forward to building my running strength in other ways this year, too. For example, this winter I procured a pair of trail running shoes (On ebay ... like a boss. A cheap, thrifty boss.) so I can zip through dirt paths and experience the natural peaks and valleys of Mother Nature.
Nature makes me feel strong. Running on dirt and leaves and dodging branches and roots on the ground is exhilarating (and exhausting). It feels so primal. Whenever I venture to the wooded paths in our area, I can't help but feel like I can relate to our ancestors, to the ones who relied on the strength of their legs for survival. (But I'm quite thankful that I'm not out there with a crossbow chasing after a buffalo and can just order a pizza when I get home.)
What does STRENGTH mean to you?