I'm not overly fond of New Year's resolutions but I do firmly believe in reflecting and tinkering. This story begins on 12/31/15.
The wife and I had a fairly benign but thoroughly enjoyable New Year's celebration this year: more than a few drinks, lots of laughs, lots of reflection (we do that a lot), and then in bed well before midnight. The next morning I woke up at my usual "you've got to be kidding, really?" time, began to manage through my lightly hungover state and then sat to reflect (see, there it is again).
I landed on the following: I never did anything I'm proud of while drunk; whilst all my proudest moments and accomplishments never included an ounce of booze.
And I know I'm not the only one. Google "drunk regrets" and you get endless, often painful, stories and visuals.
More importantly, as a self-diagnosed health nut, I've tried all sorts of health challenges and fitness routines; and I'm super conscious of what I eat but yet I've never tried being stone-cold dry (which I find interesting considering that I don't drink that often anyway). So to that end, time to experiment with a 100% dry year in 2016.
Salud! (he says with water)
"Today I will run what you will not so that tomorrow I will run what you cannot."
My goal is complete: I completed the four most common races, all in one year. While my objective of making regular updates throughout my training and immediately post-race fell by the wayside, I'm satisfied with the results nonetheless.
[Disclaimer: These results may vary and I am not recommending or condoning anybody follows or adheres to my training routine, gear, or plan. These are my results and my results alone.]
I'll dispense with the romanticism typically associated with avid and life-long runners. I'm not one of them. They are much more eloquent at describing the other-worldly feelings associated with running. I shall instead focus on the observations gleaned as a result of my experiment in running.
The Shoes. As I wrote in the kick-off post, my running experiment started with the all too important assessment of the shoes. I started in minimalist shoes but as my mileage increased to roughly 25 miles per week I noticed more pain during my runs. I went to see an orthopedic doctor, a physical therapist, and a podiatrist to make the necessary adjustments. I started doing more leg strengthening exercises via different tension rubber bands and changed to a more rigid running shoe; as my podiatrist instructed (he's an ultra-marathoner), "your form goes to crap after 20 miles so you'll want to have a shoe that can support you, especially if you're a first timer." Net, the majority of my training was done on a pair of bright orange Saucony Progrid Guide 5s; very cushiony and a smooth ride. Towards the end, when I was running 40+ miles per week, I transitioned to a pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 12s; not as pillowy as the Saucony's but more medial arch support. My only recommendation when it comes to shoes, especially for first timers, is to visit multiple running stores and try different shoes; do the treadmill and camera thing that most of the top quality running stores offer. If you can afford it, see a podiatrist, a running podiatrist preferably, so you can rule out any crazy physiological issues you may have before you start piling on the mileage.
The Gear. Other really helpful equipment, once I surpassed the hour-long training runs, were:
The Race. I ran all the races I planned on racing except the Summit Fest 1/2 marathon, I opted instead to run the Little Miami 1/2 in late August. Little to my knowledge but that course (very fast, super flat) is known to be a great prep race for the Air Force marathon. Regarding The Race, my initial goal for the marathon was to finish; then, as I got closer to the race, I set a sub- 5hr goal. Then, on race day, around the 8 mile mark, I decided to stay with the 4 hr 30 min pace woman. Around the half-way point, there were ~15 people in our group and it started dwindling from there. By mile 18, the 4:30 group was down to 7-8 runners, by mile 22, there were four of us, and finally in the end only three (me included) crossed together. The woman in the pink shirt (pictured above) was amazing: she held the sign 90% of the time, kept the exact pace for 4 hrs 30 mins, and was chirpy / encouraging the entire time. As for me, I cross the finish line and thankfully nearly passed out. Why thankfully? I had nothing left, I didn't hold back and conserve energy; I picked the right stretch pace. I didn't train for 4:30 and I wasn't ready for 4:30 but I challenged myself: either I do it or pass out trying. I'm a masochist apparently.
I have no idea. I'm currently not running. I've gone back to my old fitness routine and I feel great. Will I ever run again? Probably. I'm sure I'll start to remember the euphoria of the long distance run and the serenity of my mind simply shutting off while I piled up the mileage. Perhaps I'll do a few short races just for the race high. Who knows, maybe I'll start long distance running again in the spring when the weather improves. Maybe.
For now, my running experiment is complete, I accomplished my goals. I learned a lot about what my mind & body can do when tested. I confirmed my do now ideal. I learned that my mind goes to some comical places when it has nowhere to go for 4 hours at a time - a useful tool for long road-trips as well.
Most importantly, I'm grateful that I was able to conduct this experiment.
Thinking about the ends v. the means...
My wife and I recently implemented a scaled reward system for our kids in order to improve the morning and evening routine. I.e. we wanted (nay, needed) a way to motivate the boys to get ready to go to school in the morning - as well as getting to bed at the prescribed hour at night - without all the fuss and whining and, hopefully, with less stress. So we implemented a weekly tracking and end-of-week reward incentive-based system. The ROEs are simple: if at the end of the week they successfully navigated the morning or evening session all five days, they each get a $1 per session (max weekly benefit = $2 / child). The scaled portion of the incentive system comes into play at the end of the month: if at the end of the month they achieved at least 75% total success rate (30 / 40 combined sessions), the child gets a book of their choosing (fortunately, they both love books so still a valuable reward in their eyes). We scaled the reward system because, as a family, we don’t value perfection, just progress.
Before implementing, however, my wife and I debated whether the ends justify the means. Specifically, are we rewarding our kids for actions that they should inherently be doing selflessly themselves? Is this a bribe or an incentive? Are we getting ourselves, and our boys, on a slippery slope of strictly reward-based actions? Will they forever stop being good unless we pay their ransom? It doesn’t appear that way, at least so far. We both concluded that short of loss of life or limb (e.g. there is no reward for NOT jumping on your brother’s spine) small reward systems paired with heavy positive reinforcement and long term goals yield pretty consistent results.
While it is still too early to determine how long the boys will remain engaged in this little experiment, over the course of one month, the system has worked fantastically and the rewards are valued by each child. Nobody is stressed in the morning (or night) and they’re both excited to get themselves ready and track their accomplishments on the calendar. Moreover, they’re learning about money management and planning; both are budgeting for some “significant” purchase in the future.
The line between “bribe” and “incentive” is gray and my wife and I both agreed that we have to be judicious in linking reward systems to behavior. So, yes, they are still required to keep their rooms in order, put laundry away, help out around the house, eat their vegetables and get daily exercise...with no bartering. The rest, at least at this stage and age, is fair game. Bring it boys.
Just read this: "Every year, seemingly due to New Years' resolutions, sales of cigarettes drop by about 30 percent in January, but then regain half that in February, and are back to normal levels in March."
I say the same applies to gym memberships, diets, and any other "behavioral change" tied to a date. No need to tie life improvements to milestone dates like New Years (or Lent, etc). I postulate that enduring change doesn't occur overnight and doesn't care about the date -- so start now, keep at it, don't give up.
PS. The same applies to the other 1-day celebratory events: Valentines Day, Birthday, Mother's / Father's Day and even Christmas. Celebrate the moment and the person (as applicable) every day, space it out. It's less expensive than 1-time, all-out blowouts and - more importantly - the person (or persons) will appreciate the longer-term commitment. Space out the love and fellowship throughout the whole year!
What is the difference between being comfortable versus being complacent? I have no idea, so I challenge myself. Challenge my thinking, my parenting, my husband-ing; attempt to challenge my assumptions and my understanding of things. I won't get it right all the time so I welcome all constructive feedback. The goal? To "...be satisfied with life always but never with one's self." (George Jean Nathan)