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For years I have fought with the natural cycle of my body. My period would arrive and I would be like, “Ugggh one more thing to manage around everything else I am doing.” Now instead of resisting and fighting with my body’s natural cycle and the inconveniences it brings to running, mothering, and working…… I work with it.
Once a month my cycle acts like a siphon of much needed energy for my brain and muscles. It stresses my nerves, patience and hijacks my sense of humor (ask my husband about that one!). During this regular scheduled monthly occurrence I am afraid to be around anyone for fear that I have been possessed by someone unrecognizable to the outside world who will wreak havoc on my skills and relationships.
Then, one day the light bulb came on. I don’t know if it was when I was trying to manage stuff in the bathroom with my little boys busting in and out, or if it was talking with my amazing coach that enlightened me to to stop fighting the cycle and work with it instead.
One week out of every month since seventeen years old I have lackluster energy and little desire to exercise let-alone train for anything. Yet, I muddle through with junk miles and poor recovery for fear of losing fitness. Ha! The irony is that the junk miles hurt me more than helped. Once my period had passed and energy level returned to normal my body was stuck recovering from the slog the week prior which hurt more than helped.
I complained about this to my coach and she proposed what today seems so obvious. She said, “Listen to what your body is telling you. Slow down. You feel tired and overwhelmed. Slow down everywhere, and offer yourself the kindness and understanding you give to everyone else.” So I did. Now I schedule training on a three-week cycle. On the fourth week I give myself permission to “do” and run less. I run no more than three miles, three days that week. I also got really honest with people I deal with on a daily basis about my cycle and instead of taking on more I take on less.
The first time I did this I was nervous about it hurting my ambition and fitness. It didn’t. In fact, I came back stronger, faster, and more organized. It sounds too cliche to be true but it is the truth. Instead of putting my body in a hole that I needed to climb out of I maintained. I gave my body time to adapt and it worked.
Each month when the lack of energy (which is now more intense than it was when I was seventeen ) begins to set it I count the days on the calendar and prepare to move into an easier gear (pun for you bikers intended). Of course, there is a moment where I lament this forced slow down but than I remember how much better I feel when I work with my cycle instead of fighting it.
Working with my cycle also means being honest with the boys in my household about what and why mommies sometimes need a little potty break …..alone. They get it. They also now know it isn’t their fault when I don’t laugh at something I would usually find funny. Why fight nature? Being upfront and honest about womanly needs that enable human existence in this world is really not too much to ask.
Most Sunday mornings my “church” is running a trail, eating pancakes with my family, or cruising slopes in the mountains. Sometimes however, I do find myself in the sanctuary of a building that holds a proverbial steeple. Growing up I argued to my Mom that I was closer to God on the mountain. Back then I meant I was higher in the sky to where God lives. Today that takes on such larger meaning.
Many ask why I would drag two boys (make that three) to church on the only day of the week we have no where to be. The sermon I heard on this day articulated it so well for me, “it is a place where we experience the world as it should be.” I am drawn to church to experience hope that the world can be a place of calm, peace, and forgiveness. When I feel low I can count on these sanctuaries – nature, church, community – to lift me up and remind me there is something beyond what we can see and touch in this world.
Every time I am in church I cry. Until recently I couldn’t give this feeling words. One Sunday morning the sermon hit on the topic of being touched by Jesus and God. Perhaps it is my unexpressed feelings weighted in my tight shoulders, tensed brow, and gritted teeth loosening and relaxing under the “touch” of something I can not explain but only feel that causes a letting go that allows the tears to fall.
The pastor went on to point out we are ultimately all on the same path. Somewhere along the path we are given the opportunity to feel something greater than ourselves or as how he describes it we are touched by Jesus. For some, our paths may be interrupted by something so great, so much bigger than ourselves that we can’t help but be made aware that there is something greater at work here to believe in. For others it could be more subtle. Whether it be Jesus and God, or something, or someone else who moves us, shows kindness or love, we can’t let our world get so crazy that we miss what is to the right and left of our paths.
It is not religion or obligation that has me longing for the sanctuary of a church. My Mom took us to church for a “moment of peace” as she likes to say and to hear and sing beautiful music. The sanctuary calls her in hopes of peace (which might have gotten when I wasn’t fighting my little brother).
I am not a religious person but, I am a spiritual person. Noah and Eric were baptized as a right of passage that introduces them to core beliefs of faith, hope, peace, kindness, and love. I want them to know how to find their own sanctuaries for these things. I want them know about church and how its stories came to be, like what Christmas is, really. I also want them to know that they can come to the church to experience the world as it should be. I found sanctuaries in running, on the mat, in the mountains and in the special moments. As they grow, my hope for them is they find safe places to go and feel that which the can not see.
Both running and experiencing the world as a parent are constant reminders that no matter how big the challenges I face are there is something larger at work to have faith in. My daily practice is to do what I can to extend the grace I experience in sanctuary beyond the walls, mat, or trail and carry it with me through the chaotic world.