I'm not a doctor. You're all clear on that, right? Get medical advice from a professional, um, medicine person. Not from a poet. Also, there's more swearing. Because I can.
I also want to remind you (and myself) that some of these realizations/developments/changes were 16 months or more in the making. Process, process, process.
If you want to start from the beginning, you can do so here. Here are 51 – 60:
51. I SMILE
If I can't smile when I'm working out, I am working too hard. It's not that I always want to smile, don't get me wrong, but if my face is locked in a grimace and my hands are so tightly fisted that I'm leaving fingernail dents in my palms, I'm taking energy that could be going to my workout (usually my run) and putting it into the wrong places. I slow it down if I have to, but often, just smiling is enough to get me to relax. Just because it's work doesn't mean it has to be agonizing. If nothing else, I smile during the last tenth of a mile or so of every run—fast runs, medium runs, long runs. I smile at the end of hard runs because they're almost over. I smile at the end of easier runs because I feel good. It sounds stupid, but it makes a difference, truly.
52. I SWEAR
I am mighty. My runs reinforce my mightiness—and not just the easier runs. It was the difficult runs that made me first declare my mightiness. I finished them despite their difficulty—that's what made me mighty. I don't have to be mighty to do the easy stuff, right? So when I say I swear, I don't mean that I swear in anger or frustration, although I suppose I probably do. I do, however, almost invariably swear in satisfaction at being the conquering heroine. When I finish a run at a higher speed than I've managed before, I swear. When I add a mile to my long run and get through it, I swear. When I have a tough run and muscle my way through it by sheer force of will, I swear. And that swear is almost inevitably the same every time: That's right, motherfucker. That's right. Don't question the swear. Don't ask who the motherfucker is. I don't know. But I have showed that motherfucker who is boss, and that boss is me.
53. I LISTEN
This is part of cutting myself a break, and it's how I'm starting to learn what my body needs: I listen. I know, for example, that an egg over root vegetable hash with some toast makes a good pre-run meal, as long as I give myself time to digest it. Hot sauce? Bring it on. I know that I can eat huevos rancheros the night before a 5K and be just fine. I also know that I never, ever want to eat tuna fish before a run, even several hours before. I know that I need to pour a little Gatorade into my water for long runs (or when it's really hot) and that coconut water and I don't get along well. You live, you learn. If I listen, I can avoid injury—I know when my shoes are losing their shape, when I need to invest in a couple of new running bras (and trust me, they're an investment, but totally worthwhile), when I'm fighting off a cold. It's experience, yes, but it's also paying attention to that experience. One isn't much good without the other.
54. I DISTRACT MYSELF
If I'm inside, that means Netflix. Instant Netflix is the savior of my treadmill workouts. I put my iPad on the treadmill and go. If I'm outside, it means music (kept at a volume low enough that I'm aware of my surroundings) or talking to Jed or having something specific to think about. But really, the outside world is distracting enough for me; it's the treadmill workouts that require entertainment. I recommend finding something with enough action (however you define it) to keep you occupied and enough of a story to keep you wanting more. This is not the time for Masterpiece Theater (not for me, anyway). It's the time for Alias. Or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Extra points if it's funny. Double-extra points if it's funny and has a good soundtrack. When I was watching Alias, I waited for the fight scenes (I never had to wait long). The soundtrack would pump me up, and I could get through a rough patch and come out the other side.
55. I TAKE INVENTORY
Speaking of rough patches, they used to be enough to get me to quit for the day. If my head wasn't in the run, I could use a rough patch to stop. But I read somewhere (who knows where) of a runner who said she (he? The research for this post is pathetic. Why are you reading this?) talked herself through rough patches by taking inventory. Mine goes something like this: "Legs? Okay. Breath? Okay. Shoulders? Okay. So quit whining, you're fine." The first two items are self-explanatory: if I'm not in pain and not having trouble regulating my breathing, I'm good to go. I've also learned (by listening…see what I did there?) that I slump a little when I get tired, and I can feel that slump in between my shoulder blades. So I check to make sure that my shoulders are okay. If my spine is in place and my shoulders are relaxed down (not forward, just not bunched up at my ears), I'm not slumping. And if I am slumping, I can tell myself to knock it off. During some runs, I don't take any inventory at all. During others, it seems like I never stop.
56. I SPEED IT UP
I have found, strangely enough, that some of the days when I'm just not feeling it are the perfect days to take the difficulty up a notch. I don't know why this works, but I suspect it's a matter of focus: I'm not feeling the run because I'm not paying enough attention. One day, I decided to use my "bad" run for speed work, and ran intervals—periods of hard running followed by periods of jogging for recovery—instead of jogging the steady pace of what I think of as my "regular" runs and damned if it didn't work. When I can't bear the thought of running five miles, I can often handle running a quarter of a mile (about 400 meters, if you measure that way), and if I set the pace to something challenging, I force myself to pay attention. Who knew? I'd say this works maybe three-quarters of the time—it's the first thing I try when I'm having a tough time, and if it's going to work, it usually starts showing signs right away. If it doesn't work?
57. I SLOW IT DOWN
Yes, it takes me longer to get the miles in, but really. The difference is minimal, and it's better to run five slow miles than to quit during the first. I should add that five miles is pretty much the shortest distance I run these days—and if none of my tricks get my head in the game, I make it my five-miler day and save the mid-length or long run for another day. The world isn't going to explode if I do 7 miles on Thursday instead of Wednesday, or if I shift my long run (right now between 10 and 12 miles) from Saturday to Sunday. This is, for reasons that should be obvious, my last resort—slowing down is better than quitting, and running a short distance is better than running no distance. And it doesn't matter if you're running the same distances that I am (or if you're walking, or rowing, or elliptical…ling). The theory's the same. If you're scheduled to walk two miles and you can't seem to get into it no matter what you try, maybe you just need to slow it down. Or walk a mile (or whatever your light workout is). The road will still be there tomorrow.
58. I PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT WORKS
I listen to my body before, during, and after a workout and before, during, and after a meal. I pay attention to what I ate before a really good run, to what schedule of light and heavy days works best for me, to what time of day I'm more comfortable working out. If it seems to to work, I do it again. If it keeps working, I keep doing it. Am I setting up false corollaries? Probably. If so, they'll work themselves out in time. Or they won't—am I setting myself back at all by believing that a day off before my long run feels better than a day off after my long run? I seriously doubt it.
59. I DON'T PAY ATTENTION TO ANYONE WHO SAYS I'M DOING IT WRONG
Because fuck them. I've lost 100 pounds. I've done it without injury, in a way that feels sustainable to me, and in real-world conditions. Could I have lost 130 pounds by now if I'd used someone else's methods? Maybe. But so what? I've. Lost. 100. Pounds. If someone is that desperate to tell me I've done it wrong, I think that probably says more about their insecurities than my process.
60. I KEEP MY PHONE IN THE OTHER ROOM (OR LEAVE IT AT HOME)
Not only that, but I keep it on vibrate. As much as I talk about how helpful it is to keep myself distracted, outside distractions can derail me. I will take a workout-ending distraction if I can get it, so I make it so that I can't get it. Simple as that.