I was all set yesterday to write a long, whiny post about how I am not really feeling the whole “training plan” thing right now, but I had a great long run this morning so I think (hope?) this post will be a lot less petulant.

But it’s true — I’ve been struggling mentally the last few weeks, or even months, with my running. I actually feel really good when I’m running, so it’s not that I’m having any physical problems or feeling really slow or sluggish or injury-prone or even that I don’t enjoy myself when I’m out there. It’s just that I don’t feel motivated. And that is so frustrating! And as tough as it is to have to talk myself into hitting the treadmill or getting out the door, it’s just as mentally draining to dread my runs so much.

I know that some of that is just the fact that it’s winter; it’s hard to psych yourself up when it’s so dark outside all the time. But there are a few other factors at work, too, so let me just sit back and overthink and overanalyze this for a bit.

First, a picture of my dad and me in our festive outfits, ready to run on Christmas morning:

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(Our festive outfits made for a very magical run.)

My relationship with running is changing. I have been thinking lately about how much running saved me a few years ago, when I was so heartbroken and so angry and I had nothing to channel my sadness into. I thought about how the structure of a training plan gave purpose to my workouts and showed me that I could accomplish a lot more than I ever thought I could. The endorphin rush I got after even the slowest, shortest run was enough to stave off a lot of that dark cloud that hovered there on the horizon, and I think the simple, physical act of running saved me from succumbing to it. (I think the fact that I was unable to run while pregnant and dealing with the loss of my mother had a much bigger impact on me than I thought at the time, by the way, but that is another story for another day.)

Another thing that’s different is that I’m out of the frantic, bewildering new-mom phase. During Will’s early months I cherished my running time because it was mine. I was desperate to know that I was still me, that I still had something that was just mine and meant that I was (though I hate to type these words) “more than just a mom”. What I mean by that is that I was desperate to know that my identity was still intact, even after such a huge, profound shift in my sense of self.

Another piece of this, I should add, is that I’m no longer trying to lose weight. In fact, I’m trying to not lose weight. I would be kidding myself if I said losing the baby weight wasn’t part of my motivation to run. Of course it was. But it isn’t anymore, and I now don’t know how to replace that part of my motivation.

But things are different now. The dark cloud has cleared; I don’t need running in the same way that I used to. I feel settled and comfortable and like myself still — just with a little person attached — rather than trying to retrofit myself into some esoteric, intangible definition of what mom should look like. And now I’m trying to figure out how to fit running into this new life.

Like I said, while I’m running I feel great — energetic, fast, joyful. But mentally I’m just going through the motions right now, and spending naptime on the treadmill has becomeĀ so much less appealing when I could be doing about a thousand other things. So I’m trying to make a few changes. First, I’ve started running early again. Don’t hate me, but Will gets up much later than a lot of other babies — usually around 8 a.m. So in an effort to be more efficient and productive with my time — and to keep that day’s run from hanging over my head all day — I’ve been getting up early to run before Will wakes up. It’s been working great — the only challenge is dragging myself out of bed, but it’s not like 6:30 is a punishingly early hour. (For perspective, Steve gets up at 5 a.m. to work out every day before he goes to work, so my 6:30 is REALLY nothing to complain about.) I hoped to go out with the stroller this week since it’s been warm, but it didn’t work out. Maybe next week.

I am also still following my training program to a T. I know that if I didn’t have a training program to follow I would be slacking off right now, maybe running three miles here and there. Plus, the Saturday group runs have been rest for my soul the last few weeks, as I usually have to run alone, and this way I can make some new running friends.

Lastly I am remembering that despite the fact that I am not actively grieving or staving off depression or dealing with anything unusually stressful at this point in my life, running does help keep me sane no matter what’s going on. So there’s that, too, and that’s very valuable!

That’s a lot of words about running, isn’t it? Here’s a picture:

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Tulips to start the new year!

And for Will’s doting grandparents:

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Here is your grandson, sitting in a basket, next to a giant stuffed cheetah which my little niece Sophie gave the name “Softer”.

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