The Road to 26.2: Why I Run

The Road to 26.2: Why I Run

By Heather Nelson

Here’s some of the responses I’ve got since committing to running a marathon: “You’re crazy!” “I get bored after running a mile!” “Well…good luck!” “A marathon?! Really?!”

The words of encouragement and well wishes make the 26.2 miles seem more real, daunting. I’ve started to feel more pressure, and I thought to myself, “Why am I running a marathon?”

It’s not entirely about the 26.2 miles. Sure, I want to complete a marathon in my lifetime, but it’s about how I feel when I run. This is something that most of my friends haven’t considered when I’ve opened up about running. I always feel crazy for liking something that a lot of people seem to despise. And, in all honesty, I don’t love every run. But running is just one form of exercise I’ve really learned to appreciate. It makes me feel good…

So, here are the reasons why I run (even if running sounds despicable to you):

  1. It boosts my self-esteem. There’s nothing quite like exceeding all expectations one set for herself. Two years ago, I never imagined being able to run more than four or five miles. I never would’ve run outside or signed up for races. Finishing a run leaves me feeling high — and that positive energy lasts for hours afterward. Runner’s high is real! 

    The greater the endorphin surge in these brain areas, the more euphoric the runners reported feeling.  — from ‘How to Achieve a Runner’s High’

    2. It combats depression/reduces stress. Depression takes away my desire to move. Gearing up for a run is normally the last thing I want to do when I’m not feeling my best, but I lace up my Brooks anyway. Running helps manage my depression. Acting opposite to my emotion is just one way I attempt to end the negative cycle. Distance runs help me to combat problems nagging at me — sometimes I simply acknowledge the thoughts and other times I actively search for a solution. Short, speed runs are perfect for clearing up aggression and tension.

3. I sleep better. The nights that I get the best sleep? Nights after I’ve exhausted myself with a run. I’m actually able to turn off my brain and just sleep.

4. It builds confidence. As mentioned before, I’ve achieved more than I ever thought possible with running. I solely compete with myself in an attempt to continually improve. Running allows me to grow stronger, more empowered with each step.  It’s as simple as that.

5. Running has taught me to be mentally tough. There’s nothing worse than running against the wind (except maybe humidity). A runner’s mind is forced to adapt and focus on overcoming obstacles. It’s easy to concentrate on the negative. Training the mind to dispel doubts is a runner’s biggest strength.

Running isn’t just great for physical health, it’s a great exercise for mental health, too. This is why I run.

The Road to 26.2

The Road to 26.2

By Heather Nelson

I signed up for my first marathon. That’s right — 26.2 miles. The full thing.

It’s been a dream of mine (what? I know…) to run one since I learned of the Boston Marathon in 2005. I was 12, then. The Duck Boat Tour took us down Boylston Street, the tour guide announced the street marks the end of the world-famous marathon.

Thirteen years ago, I wasn’t even kind of a runner. I hated running. I only ran because coaches forced me to during soccer practice. The coaches said it was “conditioning”.  I believed it was torture.

A few years ago, I picked up running (my favorite form of cardio) in an attempt to whip myself into shape. Running seemed like the cure I needed to catapult myself into “fitness.” While this wasn’t 100 percent true, I found that running became an outlet for stress. It started with short runs everyday. After I mastered the short runs, I signed up for a 5K, then a 10K…. Since then, I’ve finished a total of seven runs — three 5Ks, 2 10Ks (plus another one this weekend), a 10-mile run, and a half marathon. And I’m always aiming to better myself, to push myself.

If you run, you’re a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far.”

  • John Bingham

I don’t run to “win”. But that’s the beauty of it — it’s just me and the pavement. At the beginning of the new year, I made it a goal to run a marathon by the end of 2018. As the months ticked away, I started to kick myself for not actually committing.

So here I am, 13 years later, prepping for an ultimate test. I have no doubts I’ll be pushed to my limits. Running isn’t for the weak. It’s a sport that demands so much from body and mind — that’s half the struggle. Ten more miles seems daunting in the moment, but with the right mindset it comes and goes with the breeze.

Through the next 15 weeks, I hope to share my experiences with training. The ups and downs. The lessons learned. The continuous trials of tackling 26-plus miles. One step, one breath, one mile at a time.

 

I look forward to sharing my journey with you. If you have any suggestions, questions, etc, feel free to leave a comment.

 

 

25 things I’ve learned in 25 years

25 things I’ve learned in 25 years

The clock struck midnight — February 1. My 25 birthday; halfway to 50; a quarter of a century, if I’m lucky enough to live 100 years. I half-expected a Cinderella-esque transformation at that very stroke of midnight. Instead, I slept. My 25 birthday? Like any other day. I should’ve dropped birthday expectations long ago, but there’s something about birthdays that excite me. You’re another year older, another year wiser?

I don’t consider myself an expert on anything, especially life advice, but I thought I’d share a few things I learned in my 25 years of life.

  1. You can’t plan the future (and, yes, sometimes that’s scary). 

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a “planner.” It eases my anxiety a great deal to know (and prepare) for my next moves. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to schedule out every second of life. It’s something that I’m still figuring out and accepting.

 

2. It’s hard to keep in touch with all of your friends/acquaintances…

but make sure to keep the good ones around. The ones that stick with you through the hardships in your life and are there to celebrate life’s joys with you, too.

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Some of my best friends (not all of them are pictured) live far from me. I miss them every day, but am thankful for Facetime, texting and social media.

 

3. Assess your values and establish them as priority.

It’s important to identify your values and prioritize them. You’ll refer to these values when developing friendships, relationships, starting new jobs, etc.

 

4. It’s OK to ask for help.

Seriously. Anytime, anywhere, any situation. Ask for help, if you need it.

 

5. Single life isn’t all that bad.

It’s during the times that I’ve been single that I’ve learned the most about myself. I’ve focused on self-love, my health (all aspects) and finding time for my passions. Embrace your single-ness, it’s not the worst thing ever (even if it feels like it sometimes).

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The joke is … I’m the single one in this picture.

6. Take time to discover yourself and your values/beliefs. 

This doesn’t happen overnight. And this might be something that you take time for regularly.

 

7. There’s not ONE right way to pursue wellness. 

Some prefer yoga, others prefer lifting. I’ve found that running helps relieve stress. After I picked running up a year ago — I took a long hiatus post-high school — and since then I’ve signed up for a number of runs to keep myself motivated. Find what works for you. Research. Talk to your doctor. There’s a plethora of ways to eat and exercise, you’re bound to find something that works.

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This is me at my first half marathon, which I ran in October 2017.

 

8. Pursue what makes you happy, not necessarily what will make you the most money. 

I will never forget this piece of advice my dad gifted me.

 

9. Find time to travel/explore.

Go beyond your comfort zone. Learn something new. Be a tourist.

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Saberseminar & Fenway & amazing friends.

 

10. Support a cause. 

Do some research and donate your time or money (or both) to something greater than you.

 

11. You don’t have to be religious to be moral/a good person.

 

12. Vote. 

Please.

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Me posting voting in the 2016 election. 😦

 

13. Regularly take “me time”. 

See above. It’s important to just relax and spend time treating yourself.

 

14. Learn to let things go.

It’s not worth hanging on to hatred towards someone or something (unless it’s the Yankees). Once I started to move on from past grievances, I felt better about myself. Also see: Kesha’s song.

 

15. Perfection isn’t real.

Still accepting this one. More on that later.

 

16. You never stop learning (if you keep an open-mind). 

My favorite thing, in the last year or so, is to check out non-fiction books from the library. Reading non-fiction allows me to expand my knowledge on a topic I already appreciate or want to know more about. Keeping up on current events is quick way to learn information about the world around you.

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I took time on my trip to Boston to visit several historical spots in the city. This included learning more about one of my favorite historical figures, John F. Kennedy.

 

17. Coffee is the lifeblood that fuels champions.

It’s never let me down.

 

18. Mental health is REAL.

Mental health is real. Mental health is real. Mental health days are real. Mental health should be treated like physical health. Mental well-being is important.

 

19. Conflict is a part of life. 

How does that saying go? “Life isn’t always easy.” …or something like that.

 

20. Take risks, even if you fail. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve failed when trying something new, but I suppose that’s a part of life. It’s like in basketball when you’re trying to shoot a three-point basket, but you actually airball.

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KU doesn’t know anything about missing a shot or two….

 

21. Don’t compare yourself to anyone.

Social media is super deceptive. It’s not hard to see someone’s life and make assumptions based off what is shared. Remember that every person is unique. There’s no “timeline” to life.

 

22. Don’t harbor regret.

It’s like the saying, “live and learn.” There’s a reason for everything — even if that reason was solely to teach a lesson.

 

23. Let ’em talk. 

Like the Kesha song.

 

24. Trust your gut.

Because it’s probably right.

 

25. You can do whatever you set your mind to.

Bring your ideas to life and act. Waiting for the “perfect” moment will get you nowhere.

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The University of Kansas was my dream school. Yes, my dream school. I let no one AND no thing stop me from attending. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

 

10 Things About Me

10 Things About Me

By Heather Nelson

In an attempt to get back to blogging regularly, I thought it best to start — or restart — with a post about me. I’m not great at writing about myself. It’s almost like hearing the dreaded interview question, “So, tell me about yourself.” I’m bad at it. Where do you begin? What do you include? If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you know the obvious things about me. (If you don’t, here’s my about me page.)

So here’s 10 (probably) lesser-known things about me:

  1. I’m an advocate for mental health 

When I was a senior in college, I spent many nights considering suicide. It wasn’t until months after my graduation that I found the help that I needed. I spent a long time believing that the thoughts floating through my head were normal and scared to admit to anyone that I was even contemplating something so alarming. Now, I know that it’s OK to not feel 100 percent happy all the time, and I know how to manage my anxiety’s highs and lows. I share my story with others in hopes that it encourages because mental health shouldn’t be a taboo topic to discuss.

2. Kids are an important part of my life

For the past two years, I’ve worked as a daycare teacher. I didn’t envision myself at this job post-graduation, — I didn’t study education in college, and my career goals were a bit more selfish — but it’s one of the best things that’s happened to me. The children have taught me to be self-less, patient and loving. Who doesn’t love walking in to work to hugs from 12 children every morning?

3. I’m not a morning person

I’ve never been a morning person; I prefer watching Netflix into the early morning. My mom told me stories about when I was in kindergarten and refused to wake up for school. “You used to cry every morning,” she said. “There was always something wrong that put you in a bad mood.” My mornings are tear-free, but I’d steer clear of me before I’ve had a cup of coffee. The catch? I’d prefer not to sleep past 9 am for fear of wasting the day.

Note: On weeknights, I’m in bed by 10 pm solely because of how early I need to be up. I really love sleep.

4. I consider myself an introvert

I despise large groups of people, dread public speaking, rejoice canceled plans, and prefer alone time.

Note: This is probably why I love running — it’s just me and the pavement and my thoughts (and a really rad playlist).

5. I’m a creature of habit

I’m the orders-the-same-thing-every-time type. I like routine. I meal prep one breakfast and lunch for the week. I rarely watch new TV shows or movies. I drive to the gym after work every day. Saturdays (or Sundays) are for Premier League soccer. A break my routine results in me feeling completely lost.

6. I’ve never traveled abroad

I’m not counting Mexico for a few reasons: 1. I was 10. 2. I stayed on the resort the entire time. My parents denied my desire to study abroad while I was in college (mostly because of the cost). Someday I hope to visit each of the continents — maybe not Antarctica.

Note: I’d also like to visit each of the 50 states. And all 30 MLB ballparks.

7. I’m an awful cook 

I was never one to watch my mom in the kitchen or to offer her help. In turn, I feel completely helpless in the kitchen. I’m jealous of food bloggers, who know how to substitute flour and how to create their own concoctions. I’m slowly becoming a better baker, but I can’t live off muffins and cookies and protein pancakes.

8. love reading and writing

I consider these to be my second job — someday, hopefully, my full-time job. Lately, I’ve been interested in non-fiction, which I previously hadn’t been fond of. I attribute this to the fact that I enjoy learning and reading allows me to explore more about the subjects that I love. (Most non-fiction I’ve read includes: baseball, American history during the 1960s and 1970s, and, really, any sports.) I also enjoy Stephen King novels. My favorite: 11/22/63. 

Note: Journaling is easy because it won’t see the light of day, but I sometimes fail at writing to publish.

9. I’m afraid of mediocrity 

I don’t want to wake up one day unhappy with the choices that led me there. I don’t want to lose sight of what’s important to me and what I plan to accomplish in life. There’d be nothing scarier than realizing “too late” that I wasted time on silly things. It’s cliché, but I want to make a difference. 

Note: I’m also scared of spiders (OK, most bugs), heights (falling to my death), sharks and things that bump in the night.

10. I’m working on… 

Besides the things I’m always working on — creating a more consistent writing schedule, eating healthier, reading MORE… — these are a few smaller things:

  • training for and running a marathon
  • actually saving money
  • finding concrete ways to support the Women’s Movement (and other causes I advocate for)
  • further my education

 

I’m reading two books right now, running a couple of times a week, and refraining from spending my paycheck on clothes. Looks like I’m on my way…