Running is good for mind, body and especially soul

When the alarm on my phone buzzed this morning, my brain started its familiar sabotaging tricks: stay in bed, it’s Sunday! Don’t drive to Wanderers and run a stupid 10km race. Stay in bed, it screamed. Luckily I had committed to two friends that I’d run the race with them, which was a good enough excuse to fight back those negative thoughts.

Meeting up with Tanya among 7000 runners was surprisingly easy and as that gun went off, we had already started to catch up. Work, life, kids, food, running… all the usual stuff.

I had promised my trainer, Stacey, that I would focus on my heart rate and my breathing, so the walk / run approach suited me perfectly.

Crossing that 10km finish line felt like a 90 minute “free” coaching session aka marathon. I vented, Tanya advised. I quizzed, she answered. I opened up about insecurities and she was able to stop me in my tracks, continually making me question, “but why not?” And “is that true?”

The rewards of running are endless…

Some days, you learn about your body. Other days, you test the willpower of your mind. But every now and then, it’s the company during the run which is what you need most. Today was that kind of day!

Surround yourself with people who inspire you, who build you up and make you believe in yourself. There’s no better time than when you are out on a run because when you’re running, you’re automatically in a winning frame of mind. When you run, you are already giving back to your body. The conversations are pure gold.

Thanks Tanya! Good soul food! I forgot about the uphills and didn’t obsess about watching the time on my Garmin.

Oh and I did offer to push the pram during our run while Tanya tweeted & cheered on the Rockies 21km leading runners. Wow! New respect for runners who run pushing prams because it is not easy! You do feel like a million bucks when people cheer you on though! That last kilometer was amazing!

Thanks Rebecca! *high 5*

My magical jumping beans

I was out running last week when literally out of the blue, I remembered a memory of the magical jumping beans from my primary school days.

Growing up, my family spent every holiday we could dragging our caravan through the Kruger National Park.

We would set up camp as close to the fence as possible in the hope that the smell of our braai tjoppies would lure the hyenas. During the scorching days, we camped out at drinking holes for hours with the zinging drone of insects in our ears just waiting for the Big 5 to get thirsty.

It was on one of these holidays that I stumbled across some magical jumping beans lying under a tree.

I collected them up and carried them around in a used yoghurt cup (most probably a choc chip flavor as this was my favorite and still is). The beans mimicked popcorn kernels and would jump erratically with a life of their own. Magic!

I was mesmerized. It kept me busy for days and instead of scanning for animals on our drives, my head would be looking down, into the cup, with delight.

Magic in my hands!

This was amazing! And I thought that when I returned to school, the kids would fall at my feet, dying to hold the magical jumping beans in their hands.

It was just before the holiday ended that my beans slowed down and eventually stopped jumping. My heart sank. How I was going to convince my schoolmates of my beans and their tricks. I was devastated.

I returned home and threw the cup with its contents in the bin. School holidays ended and for weeks, my eyes drifted out the classroom window, remembering the clickety click sound of those jumping beans. There was no way anyone would have believed me and so I kept it a secret and when we had to report back on our holiday, I spoke only of zebbies and giraffes.

As the leaves of winter have fallen and spring arrives In Jo’burg, there are pods scattered on the pavements along the road where I run near home. Every time my running shoes crunch on the pods, I remember the beans. 

I know that everyone has a similar memory, their own bean story. How absolutely wonderful life would be if we could capture those feelings again, that innocence, and not listen to the naysayers but truly believe in the magic of jumping beans.

So then, magic or not?

The Tamboti tree flowers in September and the pea sized seeds develop in three-lobed capsules which fall, when mature in November, to the leaf litter below. If you stand by a copse of Tamboti trees on a hot November day you may hear a distinctive rustling in the litter and if you look more closely you will see some flicking in the litter due to some seeds jumping intermittently. Collect some of these jumpers and place them on a plate in the hot sun and the jumping becomes more invigorated. Open one carefully and you will find a small larva whose body suddenly contorts causing the bean to jump. This is the larvae of the small grey moth Emporia melanobasis which parasites the seed when still green. ~ http://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_tamboti.html

Caravan image credit: SANParks

Jump on the bus

You can hear the bus coming down the road. The rhythmic shuffle. The feet pounding in unison. Sometimes a whistle. Other times a tambourine. The leader shouting out to the runners behind them.

If there’s one thing I love about road races, it’s the buses that pace runners! These angels ensure we run the time we’ve set out to run but also to get us to that finish line. I encountered my first bus during my first Two Oceans half marathon.

That’s me in the red top, next to Dave, coming up University Drive.

A newbie to races and unsure how to pace myself in those final few kilometers, pacesetter Dave took all that stress away and helped me walk and run when I needed to in order to save my energy. He sang songs, told stories and made me believe that the race was in his hands and I didn’t need to worry.

Those last few meters coming up University Drive are still imprinted in my memory when he shouted out to me and others, “You’ve done it! Run like horses to the stables!” LOL

He was right. I have the medal to prove it too.

Hanging with someone who has your back, who only wants you to succeed and gives you the right guidance along the way is something special. In the races, these buses have flags so you can see them.

But it’s worth looking for those “flags” in other areas of your life too. Find those buses in your life, not just on the road.

Find them at work where it’s particularly tough and you need the extra support to reach your goals. Ignore toxic people who have their own agendas.

Find them among your friends, the ones who lift you up and tell you what you need to hear, rather than what you want to hear.

Running this race called life is tough. Jump on those buses and finish your race!

Okay heart, let’s try stop the beating

A few weeks ago, my personal trainer SuperStacey noticed that every time I ran, my heart rate would skyrocket above 190bpm. It’s never bugged me and I wouldn’t be faint or out of breath when I ran. But it didn’t look right.

Heart rate

This is what my heart rate usually looks like. I start running & it shoots up!

In typical Stacey fashion, she did some research to understand the issues and came up with a mini programme to train my heart. In her words, “…it makes no sense to only strengthen your hamstrings, glutes and core while your heart is what’s letting you down on the runs.” I did also occur to me that with all the running that I was doing, my aerobic fitness was terribly low. Not good.

Running Junkie Francis recognized my new running program on my Strava update as the “Maffetone” method. The what?

*Created by Phil Maffetone, the Maffetone Method is a style of training that focuses exclusively on aerobic running. Using a heart rate formula of 180 – your age (plus several corrections for injury, fitness level, health, etc.) you come up with an “aerobic maximum heart rate.”

In a nutshell, the low heart rate based Maffetone training method is meant to build up my aerobic base and keep my runs in the fat burning zone. Sounds good!

Talk about frustration, but the last couple of runs have been dreadful! Just when I get going, my watch beeps warning me that my heart rate is over the limit into what Garmin calls “Threshold” and a little red heart flashes on the watch face. I’m meant to slow down a bit until the heart turns to green indicating that my heart rate is down to aerobic levels.

Lower heart rate

Forcing myself to stop and bring down the heart rate – so far so good. It’s a big difference.

I run a few meters, hear the beep, slow down and then come to a crawl before I can run again, hear the beep, come to a crawl… a few times I’ve even had to stop to bring it down as it hovers in the 170’s!

This morning’s run felt a bit easier and it is something I’m keen to get right. It’s the patience I’m not so good with!

This is a run in March vs. May. Notice the difference in running zones.

I’ve discovered with running that there’s always something new to learn about my body and to shape my training around a new challenge.

Speed sessions. Strength training. Breathing techniques. Building my core. Leg work. When it comes to running, the training programs are endless.

I must also confess that I’m not the biggest fan of running in winter. This “maffetone phase” of mine suits me because it means I can focus on a few shorter runs, even run at the gym and not have any long distance training runs to focus on during the colder days. I might as well give it a go.

Have you ever tried it? Has it worked?

* Source: https://strengthrunning.com/2015/02/maffetone-method-and-base-training/