Running. It’s What I Do, Darling.

I am not adverse to working out. I loved it when I had a trainer and was a gym rat — I was so close to getting my Michelle Obama arms! In college, I played rugby and handed out concussions and broken noses to other players. Before that, I was a goalie for my soccer team. But running? Running is dumb. I’d joke that you’d only find me running if someone was chasing me.

Rugby is so fun. 10/10 would recommend.

Because runners are so annoying. All they can talk about is running. Their personal bests. The injuries they’ve sustained. How they have to wake up stupid early in the morning but then get to watch the sunrise over the canal. And, of course, how much they love running and why we non-runners should become runners too.

When you don’t run but the person you’re talking to is and all they can do is talk about is running.

But then I became one.

Runiversary

December 20 marked a year of running. And in that time I ran 446 miles (or 712 kilometers), over 78 hours, and 6 races. This is surreal. Yet, I find this comforting to know where my time has gone on those early mornings and weekends.

If you didn’t know I was a Type-A gal before, this outta give it away.

Oh, and bonus, I am down a pant size. Which has never ever happened before in my life.

Happy Pants Dance!

Roadrunner – Meep! Meep!

I am lucky enough to have a friend and mentor in Michelle E. She pushes me to do things I wouldn’t do. Like running. I repeatedly “shooed away,” as my 3-year-old would say, her invites to do trail runs or run a race saying that I was too busy with Orange Theory Fitness or weight lifting or… anything! And then I ran out of excuses and I conceded to running my first race — The San Tan Scramble. A 9K (or 5.5 miles).

So I started training. A few days before Christmas I ran two miles around the block. The next day another two miles. I ran on pavement and I ran on the trails. I followed the plan that Michelle had given me almost to the letter.

The sun rises as we parked. And there were horses!

Then came race day. We parked the car as the sun rise was spilling rosy pinks and purples. I was nervous and cold. But I was also impressed with the race set up. Aravaipa Running put together the race. The San Tan Mountain trails felt like the place to be. Several hundred runners waited for the chance to run. A DJ booth was set up and fantastic pump-you-up jams were blasting before seven in the morning. For after the run there was a beer garden, a wood-fired pizza, an aide station, and an impressive snack section. There were typical snacks: bananas, orange, bagels, and peanut butter. And the not-so typical: grilled cheese sandwiches, freshly made burritos, M&Ms, pretzels, pickles, gummy worms, potato chips, and more.

Noms.

The 50K, 26K, and 17K runners were out on the trail and now it was going to be our turn. We were corralled at the starting line and the DJ shared instructions about which colored ribbons to follow, how our bibs matched the colored signs on the trail, which ribbons not to follow … it was more than I could take in. My stomach was in knots. Then he started to count down until it was time for us to go.

And then we started running, Michelle and I together. The faster folks were zipping past us. This was fine with us. She encouraged me to leave her and run at the pace I wanted to do. I protested. We were supposed to run together I thought. Side by side. But then came the hills. My combined rugby and soccer training instilled in me that when you meet a hill you dig in with your toes and sprint.

Michelle shared that I reminded her of the roadrunner as I left little clouds of dust and dirt behind me. Don’t get it twisted. I am not fast. (Proud 12-minute miler over here.) However, feeling the strength of my legs as I blasted past folks up a hill felt good. So did having a new nickname. (My previous rugger names were “Crazy Shorts,” “Pinky,” and “Ladybug.”)

Meep-meep!

Then, one hour and eleven minutes later, my first race was in the books. We received our trophy which was a freaking adorable cup and I noshed on all the munchy-crunchy foods that I wanted that day.

2018’s Run-Adventures

I couldn’t stop. I wanted to run as many races as I could. I think Michelle may have had a hand in it. Yes, I remember it now. She was keen to make sure I had another race on the roster so I could have something else to work towards.

Like four miles at Coldwater Rumble just two weeks later. And after that a 12K at Elephant Mountain on February 3 which kicked our butts. The Mesquite Canyon 8K on St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t so bad except that it was all up hill. April is too hot for trail running, at least, during the day. So, as a birthday present to myself I ran my first night race. By myself. I left the course blasting Queen’s “Who Wants To Live Forever?” The last race of 2018 was the Javelina Jagover’s 15K. I felt incredible.

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Michelle’s end game was to get me to Ragnar in November. And I wanted it. I was ready to go and spend a few nights with friends. To get barely enough sleep while we waited our turn to run a loop around the McDowell Mountains. But life had other plans. And that’s a story for another day.

Still. What a year!

All You Need Is Shoes & Other Lies Runners Will Tell You

Running is a cheap sport, I was told. All you need is a pair of sneakers and you’re off. Hah, I say! My gear now consists of:

  • Pavement Running shoes
  • Trail Running shoes (grippy claws on the soles to better grip the ground with)
  • Toed socks
  • Hydration pack
  • Headlamps (2X)
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Wireless headphones
  • Fit belt (to hold phone)
  • Winter hat (to cover the ears and slip a pony tail out the back)
  • Summer hat (to keep the sun off my face during the day and the bill works to rest the headlamp at night)
  • Pepper spray
  • Sport bras without wire (because I’m an idiot and should have known better. I still have the scars from my first 10 mile run on my, erm, brain.)
  • Actual running pants (because cotton yoga pants are not running pants. I split the crotch wide open but didn’t realize until I started a small brush fire.)
  • Body Glide (see previous bullet about the yoga pants debacle.)
  • Life-time supply of Oxyclean (because running clothes must be washed immediately after use and, ideally, when no one else is the house.)

And I want more gear.

Running as a cheap sport. Hah again, I say!

Runner’s Paradox And The Runner’s Rewards

In college I was brazen. I thought I could try out for the women’s soccer team as one of their goalies. Never mind they already had three goalies and each had scholarships to be there. The women had matching uniforms and I was rocking hot-pink Umbro shorts (with the mesh AND pockets!) from Goodwill.

My spirit animal

Our warm up was to do a two mile loop around the field. My lungs were on fire. My memory ends there. I likely blocked it out. Although I do remember the burning and achiness of my lungs and the gratitude to stop moving.

And now I’m here. A trail runner. Two miles is now, indeed, a good warm up. Yet, there is something about running that makes one ponder life choices. Or, I do.

There’s a shirt that says it best (and should anyone want to send me one I’ll take a size medium): “I love running. Just not while I’m doing it.”

First, I start out on the trail or sidewalk and my body and mind work together to barrage me with messages of doubt: Hey! This is dumb. Why are we doing this? We should be asleep! Who is chasing us? This hurts. I’m not having fun. It’s too dark out here.

What my mind and body say for the first mile or so.

And if I’m running a race (with the only true intention being to finish), my mind starts to compete against the other racers. This is insanity.

But then something odd happens. Something wonderful. I found my stride. My body doesn’t ache (or I’m not so focused on it) and my body is powerful and strong. Warrior-like. Kick ass b! That’s me, look at this, I’m out here running longer than I ever have before and I don’t feel like death. I actually feel kinda good. I feel great. I am powerful and strong.

This is usually when I’ll trip over a rock or my own foot. I usually recover, but somewhat clumsily.

Other benefits to running include:

  • Running does have a euphoric effect. 
  • The amount of calories burned! All the junk food and wine!
  • The medals for each race. Except I have a nice collection of cups.
  • That zen-like moment while running when you’re alone with your thoughts – good or bad.
  • The knowledge that your body is stronger than you give it credit for.
  • Your amazement in your own abilities to go farther distances with each run.
Before the San Tan Scramble. 2019’s First Race. My anniversary race.

Yes, it’s true. We runners are annoying and long-winded. But we do enjoy it and think you might because there was a time when we thought running was dumb too.

With gratitude,

Martita signature

Review of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids

I am going to make a guess that Dr. Laura Markham is a fan of to-do lists. Her book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids is filled page-after-page with bulleted lists of what one can do to help guide their child (or children) to have more empathy for themselves and others.  I too am a lover of lists and good advice and, so, I devoured this book.  If you’d like to check out my notes, I will leave a link to them and other resources at the end of this post.

"Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids" book on hardwood floor

The book is broken into three main sections. The first is focused on how we can learn to regulate ourselves. The second part is dedicated to how we can foster a connection with our children. And the third section is titled: “Coaching, Not Controlling.”

Starting With Ourselves

When I say it out loud or when you read the book, it sounds like common sense – but sometimes we need to get hit with some common sense. To help guide our children (or be in any kind of relationship we care about), we have to start with ourselves. If something triggers our anger, resentment or some other emotion we need to be with that emotion. Not make ourselves feel wrong or bad for having that emotion.  We certainly can’t respond positively from that place.

To start with ourselves means that we have to find ways to make sure our “fuel tank” is full. As Rumi put it, we have to make regular visits to ourselves.  How often do you check in on how you’re feeling? If our fuse is short and we have no patience left then we won’t be able to be available to our children, spouses, friends, co-workers … etc. This isn’t covered in the book for very long (could be it’s own book!), but it’s a foundation on which the rest of the sections rely on. So, the takeaway: find ways to center yourself.

For me, I look to meditation especially the RAIN exercise.  And, not being shy to call out for help.

A Real Life Example by Littlest Martha and her Little

Not that long ago I was a single parent for a few weeks (huge shout out to all the single parents! All the props!!). It was Sunday and I wanted to make my kiddo pancakes. Ok, I wanted pancakes. I had a premix of batter (healthy stuff that was in the pantry unused for a reason) and frozen bananas.

Banana pancakes on Sunday morning! What a lovely way to start the day. But, as an interim single parent of a toddler, I needed the television to keep him calm. Good in theory but he can talk now and has opinions. The show I choose wasn’t good enough. He wanted a particular episode but couldn’t tell me which one. He could whine and say: “NOT THAT ONE!”

Now, did I mention that I can’t cook? I can burn things really well. And so I was par for the course with my regular cooking technique as the pancake batter was sticking to the pan and yet when I flipped a flapjack I could see chunks of it were totally raw. It wasn’t working out.  In the trash it went.

Not ready to give in I decide to make eggs. I can, usually, make eggs. But not that morning. I broke the egg yolk (which is criminal when you want sunny-side-up eggs) and got shells in the pan. And I wasn’t attending to the kiddo so he was in full meltdown mode. Eggs in the trash. TV off. Bad move with the TV. He was crying so hard his face broke into red bumps and had the couldn’t-breathe-gasps. My heart was broken: I suck as a mom. I sure as shit can’t cook. This isn’t working.

I scooped up the kiddo and we moved to another room (away from the TV and kitchen) — our collective triggers. This made him even more upset (didn’t know we could go to an 11!) as I wasn’t addressing his wants of putting on a program of his liking. But I held him close to me and put on my meditation timer for two minutes. I asked him to take deep breaths with me.  That we both needed to calm down.

Since he’s a toddler I really exaggerated the breathing by pushing my stomach all the way out and making loud whooshing sounds for each inhale and exhale. The first minute he resisted but the last minute he gave in. The tears slowed, the rash faded and his breathing became a little bit more normal. We were seeing each other again.  I don’t remember what I said to him but I remember being present and showing him that I cared. After that we had cereal and watched a show together.

BUT I also, in the midst of the crying (his and mine), reached out for help. Grandparents PapaJaja (as they are known as one entity in our household) were going to come for a visit in the afternoon. I texted them that if they wanted to come earlier it would be most appreciated. It was intended as a joke but JaJa knew a cry for help and they were there within the hour.  She urged me to go and do something for myself. She taught me about the value of having a full tank so we can give of ourselves to others. When we’re on empty those around us get the dregs.

So I did. I went to a coffee shop. All by myself. It was heaven. Thank you again, PapaJaJa.

 

Fostering A Connection

Swinging at the park

The time we spend with our kiddos is always special. We know that. Here comes that common sense wallop again. When with our kids are we present? Are we fostering a connection with our littles? Maybe.  Sometimes?

Dr. Markham has taken considerable time to provide guidance on how we can carve out at least 15 minutes each day with the focus being to reconnect.  In those 15 minutes, screens are not allowed and that includes cell phones for parents. “Special Time,” as she calls it, is every day and it alternates from when the play is lead by the child and when parents can choose the activity.

When we have an opportunity to guide the play we can roleplay whatever emotional gunk that is being worked out in the household at that time: the fun of sharing, the fun of listening, hitting isn’t nice … etc., etc.

Fostering a connection is valuable onto itself but goes a long way to build trust. And then, when the tantrums flare up our children know they can come to us for guidance.

 

“Coaching, Not Controlling”

Yes, yes. Whatever we need to call it, Doctor. Teach me how I can get my kid to behave in restaurants and grocery stores!

Now for the good bits! Yass!

 

Well, full disclosure – the book doesn’t provide guidance on specific examples like what I mentioned above but she does provide the tools we need to help our children cope with what they are feeling. (And then I did a search and found an article on her website. Yes, yes she does provide guidance for specific examples like parenting in public.)

Let’s take a step back, please. Dr. Markham has a lovely quote in her book that helps frame how we can rethink about how we raise our kiddos.

“Although discipline means “to guide,” in common usage it always seems to include an element of chastisement or making the child feel bad along with guidance. To change our thinking, we need to change our wording beyond “discipline,” which most of us associate with harsh teaching. Instead, let’s offer our child loving guidance.”

Loving guidance.

There. Right there — the book’s essence in two words.

If we can help children understand and accept their emotions just as they are and do so with loving guidance then we’re more than halfway there.  The trick (per the book, and I’ve started to witness already) is that once the tiny human has recognized the feeling then the feelings lose their charge and begin to dissipate. (TIP: This can happen with adults too. Being able to learn how to label emotions as they arise can help you navigate aspects of our adult life too.)

Fun Fact!  The lifespan of an emotion is less than 90 seconds!

This Fun Fact is brought to you by brain scientist and author Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. Dr. Markham doesn’t mention Taylor in her book but I have to share the 90-second rule with you.

According to Taylor:  “Once triggered, the chemical released by my brain surges through my body and I have a physiological experience. Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of my anger has completely dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over. If, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run.”

If we can understand and apply the 90-second rule in our lives then we can start to see an impact on our children.

I’m listening to you, Mom.

Dr. Markham understands that children are always listening to us.  In much of the book, she provides examples of how we can narrate for our children. Something as simple as: “You are so mad at your brother.”  Then, once the emotion has been labeled it loses some of its staying power and we can shift on to how to help our child problem solve the situation they are in.

Favorite Examples

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids is filled with tips, exercises, and anecdotes on how to help children feel safe with their emotions and develop their emotional intelligence. And, if you’ve not realized by now, I do recommend picking up a copy.  The following are two exercises we’ve implemented in our house and we love them.

Swapping “Stop Whining” with “Strong Voice”

The high-pitch frequency of a kid’s whine is like nails on a chalkboard for parents (and maybe all adults?).  According to Dr. Markham:

Remember that whining is an expression of powerlessness. Refusing to hear until they use a big kid voice further invalidates them. But you don’t want to reward the whining by “giving in”, so instead consider this exercise (inspired by Lawrence Cohen’s “Playful Parenting”:  Hey, where did your strong voice go? It was here a moment ago. I LOVE your strong voice! I’ll help you find it. Help me look. Is it under the chair? No … in the toy box? No. HEY! I found it!  That was your strong voice. Yay!  Welcome back strong voice. Now, please tell me again what you needed, in your strong voice.”

The kinda crummy part is that we often hear the whining when we’re scurrying around (i.e. trying to leave for work). So doing the exercise at a time when already stressed and feeling pressed for time may feel counter-intuitive.

However,  having done the exercise enough times we can often ask our kiddo where his strong voice went and he will revert back to using his words.  Of course, now our little guy knows he can use his strong voice to demand things: “Mom, I want ice cream! for brekfest!”

Now to find re-visit the chapter on setting boundaries. But, hey, cup half-full here:  there has been a reduction in the whining!

Keeping YOUR Cool During A Child’s Meltdown

You’re in it now. Not sure what happened but the kid is having a meltdown and you’re in the middle of it. Big tears (crocodile or not) are flowing freely. Eyelids are red and puffy and for whatever reason, your child forgot how to swallow and has reverted to a stage of drooling you’ve not seen since they were an itty-bitty.  The following list includes some things to try and remember and do to get and stay calm.

  • Acknowledge your own feelings
  • Remind yourself that it isn’t an emergency
  • Remind yourself that expressing feelings is a good thing
  • Take the pressure off
  • Take a deep breath and choose love
  • Tolerate the emotion without taking action
  • Find a way to process your own feelings

Keep it simple. Your child needs you to to witness her outpouring of emotion and let her know that she is still lovable, despite all these yucky feelings. Explanations, negotiations, remorse, recriminations, advice, analysis of why she’ so upset, or attempts to “comfort” her (“There, there, you don’t have to cry, that’s enough”) will all shut down this natural emotive process. Don’t force her to express herself in words; she doesn’t have access to the rational brain when she’s so upset. Of course, you want to “teach” but that needs to wait.  Your child can’t learn until she’s calm. You don’t have to say much. Your calm, loving tone is what matters. Intead, consider the following expressions:

  • You are safe. I am right here.
  • I hear you. Everybody needs to cry sometimes.
  • you’re telling me to go away, so I will move back a little bit, but I won’t leave you alone with these scary feelings
  • When you’re ready, I’m right here for you. 

I remember instances where I’m trying to tell him why X wasn’t a good idea when he was gulping for air between sobs. Those messages didn’t land, especially since all he wanted was to feel safe, not made to feel wrong or bad on top of it.  So I find the expressions listed useful and liberating as I now know that the first priority is to just be there for my little guy.

In Closing

Thank you, Reader, for hanging on this long. I hope the information helps you and inspires you to take time for yourself (if you’re a parent or not) and to look to your (or your child’s) emotions as messengers and not something we have to push down and avoid.

With gratitude,

Martita signature

Resources:

Ir reading my little chapbook blog post didn’t tucker you out, here are some other fantastic resources that you may want to check out.

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talk
(it’s awesome!)