Runner’s High?

I’ve only been running for 11 years now, but very often I feel this sense of strength and determination during my run. It’s not endorphins, just this single-mindedness to keep going. Today I ran 10 miles for various reasons. I thought I’d do a 15K (9.3 miles) as I continue to train for a marathon. But with my upcoming work schedule, a long run will not be in the cards for 2 weeks, so I figured I’d push it today. It was 59 degrees, cloudy, a cool breeze–perfect for a long run.

Maine is beautiful most of the time, but the autumn in Maine is glorious. The leaves are all changing but after the rain this weekend, many have fallen. It’s getting near the end of the gorgeous season, so I’ve been trying to get out and run while I can to enjoy the colors.

During the last few miles of my 10 miler, my body was starting to hurt. My hips, my right calf, my hamstrings, everything. But I pulled my shoulders back, looked straight ahead and just kept moving. Once I was finished, I guzzled chocolate milk, took ibuprofren, closed the door to my home library so my cat wouldn’t attack my feet (he loves those compression stockings!), and slowly got my body to the carpeted floor. As I lay on my back, I pulled my right knee to my chest…and started to giggle….and giggle….and laugh until I cried.


Apparently, this isn’t necessarily endorphins, or the runner’s high, but this euphoria was due to endocannabinoids. These are biochemical substances that are similar to cannabis and can give you that sense of calm. Typically, I feel very serene after a run and am able to deal with stress a bit easier, but today was something different entirely. It’s like a laughing orgasm! Something that felt so intensely good, in this case the relaxing then stretching of my muscles, that my body felt the need to release pressure and it came out as hysterical laughter. It was so friggin’ cool! ūüôā It was so much better than crying, which is what my body usually does after anything too intense.

Of course, after I stretched and showered, I wanted to eat everything…so I did. I literally cleaned out my fridge and threw everything into a bowl and ate it–lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, canned peas, leftover pork loin and cooked egg yolks. It was absolutely delicious. And weird.

And now that evening is here, I will rub my legs with a muscle salve, eat some candy, and hopefully sleep a truly restful, pain-free sleep.

Good night, y’all.

May you have sweet dreams that make you smile or laugh out loud.

Flexible Thinking

I have run only once or twice a month for the past three months. I don’t have it in me right now to run on the treadmill and the cold weather forces me inside. So I march in my living room or jog in place to get my 10,000 steps daily. It doesn’t always happen, but I do give it some effort.

Today was grey outside and a bit breezier than I expected, but at 36 degrees I had to give the outdoors a chance. I had planned on walking for a mile or so and see what happened. After just a tenth of a mile, I threw a little jogging in and decided I’d give this a shot. I listened to a variety of TED talks while I walked/jogged/ran 3.5 miles. And somewhere in the middle of all of that, I cried.

One reason I stopped running this fall had nothing to do with the weather. It was because I’d end up crying in the middle of every run. When I listen to music, my brain will wander to wherever it wants or maybe even needs to be, and that would eventually lead to thoughts or memories about my brother, and I would cry. But after a few of these “grief runs”, I started to dread running. My conscious mind was not ready to face more memories I didn’t want to remember, and since running seemed to bring those out, I just stopped doing it.

So today I went for some TED talks instead of music. My body has craved the movement of running and I felt like I could handle whatever my crazy brain had in store. Of course I didn’t look in depth at all the TED talks first.

I ran to a few talks and I can’t tell you what any of them were about except the artificial intelligence one that I skipped over and the one that made me cry that stayed with me this whole day. It was about money shaming, and how some people are taught that their self-worth is tied to what their bank account says. And the woman giving the talk is a financial advisor and near the very beginning she says that her brother died. And she started to cry.

For fuck’s sake, how do I get these?!? Of course I started to cry because I am that person who will cry if anyone else in the room is crying and plus we had this one shitty thing in common. And like nearly every other time I’ve run these last few months, the grief started to overwhelm me. But today I let a brief thought of my lovely brother enter my mind, then let it go out. I concentrated on the speaker’s voice instead and listened to her story. This was about her, not me.

Once I got home, I walked around a bit outside, stretched on the front steps then went into my house where the wonderful aroma of bread baking greeted me, along with the sounds of my husband and son playing RISK. I stretched some more with a smile on my face as I let those endorphins do their job as they made my world seem like such a nice place to be.

Running used to calm me and put me in a better place mentally and physically. Today it definitely helped with that tightness in my chest I mentioned last time, and it typically helps me with my “flexible thinking.” When something doesn’t go my way, I can take a deep breath, assess the situation, accept it and come up with something just as good or better. I’ve said many times that having a positive outlook does not come naturally to me (my brother was the same way). But how I feel after I run certainly helps that.

Does this mean I’ll run every day or nearly ever day liked I used to, looking for that runner’s high once more? I doubt it. I’m not being negative here, just realistic. If I can change the time I wake up, then maybe I can, but I’m not sure I’m ready to do that. I currently enjoy my mornings with my family and I need to really map the morning out if I’m going to do this. It’s something to work on I guess, right?

I hope you’re finding your calm and happy place this winter, wherever you are. Take care of you. ‚̧

The Great Outdoors

This has been a stressful week. Nothing extraordinary happened at work or at home. The library was very busy for the first few days and I was finally able to be productive for the last two. Home was the usual hectic schedule of trying to squeeze in making dinner and taking the boy to basketball practice and do my own workouts and laundry and all the other stuff. But there was nothing more stressful than usual.

And yet by Friday afternoon, I wanted to hide in my home and never talk to anyone again.

Typically I enjoy working with the public. People can drive me crazy but I usually find humor in odd behaviors or just roll my eyes at¬†those that irritate me. But not this week. I had reached my fill of humans and I needed the day and week to end. I knew I had my son’s game to go to this weekend, as well as a visit to my mom, yet¬†I wasn’t sure I could face either event.

I got up this morning WAY too early and a little grumpy. I still refused to think about the day ahead and just read a book for a while. Once my husband was up, we talked about my frustration with people and needing a break and about the courses I started to look into, possibly for a career change. Maybe something I could do from home or just something *not* with the public and with very few people. He was surprised but just let me talk. My son woke up then, so no further conversation was had, but that was ok. I needed to¬†do a little self-assessment and figure out what’s going on in this brain of mine.

A while later, I bundled myself up and went for a run. It was 28 degrees, plenty warm and dry enough, but my face still froze. And yet it was a very enjoyable run. I just listened to my music and pushed myself when I was able and didn’t really think at all.

Once I got home, I stretched and did a few chores then showered. My kid got ready to go and we were off to the game.

No anxiety. No anger. No frustration.


How come?

Did I purposely say to myself, “Ok, Hol, get a grip. You’ve got to do this, so just let it go”?¬† Of course not. That would probably be a very emotionally healthy thing to do, but I’m not there yet.

Was it the run?

Yeah. I think so. There’s something about a bit of heavy breathing and sweat and fresh air that does something to my brain. Something really, really good. Not only does my body feel better after a run, but my mental and emotional health is vastly improved. Endorphins are the absolute best drug.

But I don’t think it was *just* the run, but being outside.

All I want to do in the winter is stay indoors and sleep and read and not interact with anyone outside of my household. It’s cold and my body hurts when I’m cold, so leave me alone and let me stay inside and bake blueberry muffins and cranberry bread. I walk and run on my treadmill and lift weights and watch exercise videos, therefore my fitness level is still maintained, so why go outside?

Maybe because there’s a lot of life out there. It may be winter in Maine but there are birds and deer and rabbits and turkeys and squirrels and I get to see them right here, in my town, on my road, in my yard!¬† The trees may be bare but the snow and ice make them beautiful again. The spruce and the pine are always gorgeous, too,¬†and just seeing them brings me comfort I wasn’t aware I needed.

Photo courtesy of Stephen LaRochelle

Photo courtesy of Stephen LaRochelle

Hearing and seeing all the life that is out there, makes me want to live. Makes me want to be a part of others’ lives, too. Even those annoying humans.

Well…some of them, anyway.

Do you ever just want to hibernate? Or hide? How do *you* keep going? I’d love to know.






That tingly feeling

I’ve been toying with the idea of renaming this blog. I haven’t been able to run for a few months now, and after my PT telling me that long distances were permanently out of the question, I wasn’t sure I even wanted to run anymore. I’ve been walking on the treadmill this winter while watching many episodes of Arrow on Netflix (I have a major girl crush on Felicity and¬†drool-worthy fantasies of¬†Oliver). This has been an enjoyable way to maintain some sort of fitness level.¬† I’ve only lost 2 of the¬†7 pounds I gained over the holidays, but I’ve just started to improve my eating habits again so the weight will be lost. Eventually.

This morning, as I walked on my treadmill and watched drama unfold in the fictional Starling City where Oliver is in fact the mortal superhero Green Arrow, my mind drifted to other names for this blog. “See Holly Read” was suggested a while back by my friend, Jess. I do love being a book pusher, but not sure I’m ready to only write book reviews.¬†As I considered other topics to write about, I realized that I don’t have a helluva lot of interests. I love to write, eat, read, visit libraries, hang out with my family, friends and cats…..and run.

Sure, I can give you an opinion about nearly anything but I don’t want to write about just anything. Obviously I need to be a key component of what I write about (hence the “See Holly”) and that’s not because I’m so narcissistic. Ok. It’s not *just* because I’m narcissistic. It’s also because there are no rights and wrongs when I write about myself and how the world affects me. It’s my opinion, my feelings, my views. Rarely are there answers, yet typically¬†more questions. But in writing about myself and how I fit into the world, I’ve come to realize that so many others feel just as lost or insecure or uninformed as I do. We all try to put on a good face, but often we have no idea what we’re doing or how we got where we are.¬†We do the best that we can and keep chugging along.

So after finishing my treadmill walk, I climbed¬†upstairs out of my dark basement and away from¬†beautiful Oliver, to discover the sun was out and it was 40 degrees outside (Maine’s mini heat wave). And you know what? Right then¬†I knew I didn’t want to rename my blog. I just wanted to keep chugging along.

And I wanted to run.

As my son buzzed around the house finishing his chores and my husband came inside after snowblowing the driveway, I put my headphones and jacket on and ventured outside for, what I told my husband, would be a mile walk. Just to get some fresh air.

After 5 minutes, I slowly jogged from one telephone pole to the next. I alternated walking with slow jogging, then skipped the walking and just ran. It was slow and I had to continuously “stabilize my core,” but I did it. Instead of that 1 mile, I took my old 5K route and ended up back home 43 minutes after I began. It was slow…but my god it was good. Maybe even orgasmic.

Well…I felt a little tingly at least.

Admittedly I also felt pain during my run. Mostly my hip and just a twinge from my back. But I didn’t feel sluggish. I just felt…grateful….happy to be able to do this¬†with my body, even with the bits of pain. I felt ecstatic to be OUTSIDE, especially knowing that tomorrow’s temps will be back in the single digits. I was curious to see how my neighbors were doing and how they’ve fared so far this winter. It was nice to see some of them out and about, even if they were just clearing the snow and making room for more. There were still more smiles out there than frowns (although I did hear a bit of cursing, too).

This run just made me feel alive. More than I have all winter. I wish everything could make me feel this way, but not everything does. It’s been a really rough few months for most New¬†Englanders–below freezing temps and more snow¬†than we’ve had for a long time.¬†The weather doesn’t affect everyone the same, but there’s no doubt that many folks have felt more blue than normal this year. I certainly have.

Today’s run¬†gave me hope that the winter *will* in fact end some day, and maybe I’ll be able to run like this again when it’s even warmer with no¬†hat or jacket.¬†That sounds amazing! (Endorphins are truly magical, aren’t they? Best.drug.ever.)

But tomorrow, will I wake up in pain and feel angry at myself for overdoing it? Will I be able to walk on the treadmill in the morning and not have back spasms? Or will running be an integral part of my life again?

Maybe all of the above. Although I’m really¬†hoping for the latter, since I already have a summer 5K race all picked out. ūüôā And honestly? I (and my family) really need those endorphins to counteract¬†the effects¬†of the¬†pill I’m taking. Things aren’t going well in that respect. But that, my friends, is¬†another post for another day!