All of us have a big week ahead of us regarding this running gig!  Our 5Kers are going to run a full mile without stopping, our 10Kers are going to tackle a distance beyond their tried and true 3.1 miles and our half marathoners are going to embark on a double digit run.  It's going to be a week of successful milestones!!  If this past week or a certain day didn't go as planned, well . . . . . welcome to this sport they call running.  It's all about balance and we just do the best we can.  Some days and weeks will go wonderfully smooth with schedules and weather and body mechanics and mental attitude.  Some days or weeks, we will just want to have a "throw away".  We live to run on those wonderfully smooth weeks, so stay with me and keep that head up!

With running training and the challenges that it presents, you've just got to trust the "adaptation process".  Those muscles and lungs and heart and joints will totally cooperate with you if you ease them into it nicely - slow and steady, week by week.  So be nice to them right now!  And let your thought processes be nice too!  That muscle in our head - you know, that brain thing - THAT muscle is very important too.  Very very important.  You've got to visualize your finish line.  You've got to tell yourself that today is going to be a good run, or at least tell yourself that you are going to give it your best regardless of your circumstances of the day.  Don't forget the power of the group as well.  If you can't wrap your head around it, someone will punch it into you :) 

Have I ever told you the 3 rules of RUNaway?  I may not have hit on them this season.  Well, here they are . . .

1.)  No quitting on a run.  For newbies, I always tell them "there is no quitting on the first day of a running program", but the same holds true of a run.  Now sometimes it is okay to stop a run (ie, major pain or just a really really bad day), but barring these events, your confidence will skyrocket once your mind pushes your body to go the extra (with good sense of course). 

2.)  No talking or thinking negative body image or calorie counting.  We are running to help our bodies and figures, not to beat ourselves up!  We are not going to be able to run off every square inch of fat on our hips today, so lose that thought.  And what we ate last night after the kids went to bed is history.  Day over.  Done.  Equate running with a diet and it's sure to become a crap job and I'm thinking you'll probably quit.  So be done with the body critique when you run unless it's something like "Damn, my hamstrings are like steel!" 

3.)  No whining about the weather.  Hey, it is what it is.  We got a dose of ridiculous humidity this week - in January, no less.  You run despite the weather and when those perfect fall or spring days peek over the horizon, you will truly say "Ahhhh, now I get it!"  Running in the elements is an experience and one that runners love to talk about after the run :)  At some point in your running routine you will run in hellish heat, suffocating humidity, "blow you backwards" wind, downpouring rain, and bitter "I can't feel my nose" cold.  The weather is part of it and it really is a wonderful part of running.  Don't let it get you down.  Use it for bragging rights later.

Speaking of weather, if we can't moan about it, how can we deal with it?  It's January, so naturally, since we live in Houston, it's - yep, totally unpredictable.  On the menu this month, "I'll take the humidity with a side of wind."   Year round, we Houstonians basically live in a rain forest.  The humidity is at or near 100% saturation which means that while our body is attempting to cool us with sweating, the air is so wet, that our sweat stays on our body like the candy coating of an M&M.  But take a deep breath.  We can do this and do this well.  Here's how to successfully cope with the humidity (and heat when it graces us with our presence in probably a few weeks) . . . . We take it easy.  Remember, our bodies WILL adapt, but at a patient pace.  We keep our heart rate as low as we can when exercising (not to worry, it will still be working and getting so much more efficient).  We keep our breathing deep, relaxed and oxygenated.  We wear appropriate running clothes to draw the sweat from our bodies and we often run with a towel to mop ourselves off.  We drink lots of water and even some low calorie sports drinks to get our water, salt and potassium levels balanced.  Our body systems are building and getting stronger even in crappy weather conditions, so don't give up!!  And when the temperature dips or the humidity falls, your heart will get to spend less effort focusing on cooling your body and that strong heart of yours will give it's training that you've adapted it to right to your performance!  You can tell that even now, your body is responding positively every week because you are able to run further, but once a cool snap hits or the humidity dips, your body will reward you by going farther or faster or easier that you are used to!

Quick review - how's that running form?  Is your posture good?  Are you leaning forward just a bit, but not too much?  Is your stomach and abdomen engaged and strong?  Are your neck and shoulders relaxed and arms swinging gently?  Is your stride short and your pace easy?  (Remember, our group is not an Olympic trials group and no one watching you in their car gives a flip on how fast or slow you are running.  They can't tell; they are driving 35+ mph for Pete's sake.  And if someone at a social gathering asks you how fast you run, tell them that you run for the enjoyment of the sport and not for time.  That will shut them up immediately.  Really, it will!)  Continuing on . . . . Are you planting your foot on the ground quietly and not stomping?  Is your breathing relaxed and can you talk?  (If not, slow down and take a deep cleansing breath.)  And can you answer yes to all of these questions 20+ minutes into a workout?  Train yourself with good form now and you'll be oh so happy later.

Keep that faith, my friend!  You are doing fabulous and your running journey is yours to take and embrace.  And it's a pretty spectacular one when you step back and think of how bad ass you are.  Running mimics life in all sorts of ways.  It tests our physical, mental and spiritual strength.  Give yourself a little bit of faith and you've got a success story right around the corner.