Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Weathering the Perfect Storm

Slump? I ain't in no slump... I just ain't hitting.
~ Yogi Berra ~

Edie Bailey: This is a hurricane coming straight at us!
Melissa Brown: Let me reduce sails, Sandy, or even go back home.
Alexander McAnally III: This is my boat. We're gonna ride this thing out, not for fun, for safety. Do what I've always done: go with the flow.
~ from the movie The Perfect Storm ~

The Perfect Storm

A definition of The Perfect Storm: 
A particularly bad or critical state of affairs, arising from a number of negative and unpredictable factors.
Some definitions of a Slump include:
A period during which a person performs slowly, inefficiently, or ineffectively, especially a period during which an athlete or team fails to play or score as well as usual; to decline or deteriorate, as health, business, quality, or efficiency; to sink heavily, as the spirits; a decrease, decline, or deterioration. 

I believe a slump can be a simple mental issue that keeps stealing your focus or it can be a combination of mental and physical burnout leading to hitting a wall. In my case, I think it was the burnout factor combined with worn out running shoes, a couple of left hooks and a roundhouse kick from life which led to my recent perfect storm. At first I was getting very frustrated with myself for not doing what I should be doing or thought I should be doing, and then I realized I was “shoulding” on myself again. Who says I should be doing anything right now anyway? Who says I have to keep to any schedule right now with everything going on? Anyway, however you color it, I have been in a slump or at least a funk. 
I started by going back to the gym and focusing on head clearing workouts with the weights and that is when it hit me. When a batter gets in a slump the best thing to do is take them back to the basics; get them doing drills, hitting off a tee, and most important is to get them out of their head. Using this analogy, my plan of action was to start with ordering new road and trail shoes and then focus on getting back to basics. I have not taken a real break from running in two years. I have backed off a couple of times but I was always afraid to stop for too long because of the difficulty of starting back up again. So backing off now won’t kill me. 
I have some muscle imbalances to work on in my hip region that cause extreme tightness in my hip flexors as well as dealing with allergy type symptoms for the past month. It is funny how things change. In the beginning I only lifted weights, then I slowly and grudgingly added minimal cardio until I realized that running was the missing link to round out my workouts. For some time I was balancing weights, core and cardio in a well-rounded blend of a workout. Slowly as I increased mileage, other pieces took a back seat until for a while I was pretty much just doing the running part. Hence, the getting back to basics part of my plan. I am using the B2R Level One training system for foot, leg and core strength which I got from Eric Orton’s born2run.com site. I have been getting back in the gym as I said and hitting the weights; not in an effort to bulk up, but to build back my upper body strength. This while walking and going on hikes with my wife when possible and running when the urge hits me, but nothing forced for now. I have put any long distances races on the back burner for now but I still want to be able to cover long distances whether on training runs or pacing friends. When the time is right and I am feeling it, I will get the 50K knocked out but I am playing that by ear. 

Here are some thoughts and ideas on dealing with and getting out of a slump: (You may need to adjust your list to what works for you.)
1. Realize that a setback does not mean starting over at the beginning
2. Give yourself a break and stop beating yourself up
3. Talk to friends who will support and encourage you
4. Read books to find motivation (lately a lot of books on hiking the Appalachian Trail)
5. If your block is with running, try a new route or setting, ditch your watch, and switch up what you keep track of. If you normally run X miles, run for X amount of time. If you run roads, try some trails and if you run trails, try somewhere new. 
6. If your block is with working out, or a nutritional plan, or a creative block, go back to something more comfortable and re-group
7. Re-evaluate your goals and find something smaller to set your sights on for a bit
8. Avoid using this setback as an excuse to give up completely and derail yourself
9. Find a way to have some fun with what you are struggling with. **The number one reason kids quit things is that they stop being fun**
10. Remember why you started in the first place and what it was like when it was working

I am trying whatever it takes to get my head spinning clockwise instead of counter clockwise and ultimately to a non-spinning status. I need to remember that sometimes it is okay to stop and regroup. To listen to my body and not run if I don’t feel up to it. I am surrounding myself with like-minded people who are supportive and positive, as well as spending some quality time with me.  I do not believe that most people take the time to recharge their batteries and stay at optimal power. I can tell you for a fact that I am not always good at letting myself be silent and allowing for a recharge, but I am working on getting better. Sometimes when people are totally focused on training, it is hard for them to understand when you need to back off to refocus. I am lucky to have my wife, friends and the amazing Trail Nerds to help keep me moving in the right direction.  
The only one who needs to understand me right now is me and let me tell you that is good news for you. Thanks for hanging with me and following the trials and trails of my journey. I would love to hear input and suggestions about working out of a funk. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It should not surprise you when a clown tumbles.

It should not surprise you when a clown tumbles.

People are always so surprised to find out that someone who laughs or makes people laugh suffers from depression. Have you not heard the saying, “if I don’t laugh I will cry”? Besides, people get very good at answering “I’m fine/okay/pretty good, how are you?” And now the conversation has moved on to you and past the question.

This subject is periodically brought to the forefront when a famous person loses the battle with depression and takes their life; most recently Robin Williams. The fact of the matter is, people take their lives every day and it rarely makes the media or the real reasons are hidden due to the shame or misunderstanding of the condition. Every one of us knows of someone who is fighting or has fought this battle.

Some people are lucky enough to have one or two friends who, when they say “how are you?”, either you feel like you can answer honestly or they read you and say, “really, how are you today?” It is only when you are able to open up that you realize, you are not alone in feeling depressed or sad. And the fact is, it is okay to feel sad about something that has occurred and sometimes people simply get overwhelmed and go to their dark place for a while.  

The critical part is to have someone who will not judge or try to fix you that you can talk to during these times. Since the cause is not always as simple as this or that, you need to know what your triggers are. Journaling is a tool that can come in handy for much more than exercise and eating; it is a good tool to find triggers. Once you understand yourself better it is time to use outlets to regain balance. Talk to someone, exercise, go for a run, but get yourself balanced without burying the feelings.

Develop cues with trusted people so they know you might need some help that day; I did this by accident once by using a line from Top Gun. Whenever I got into a spot and was struggling with something I started catching myself saying “Talk to me Goose.” It was kind of as a joke, but a few wise people picked up on it. Just do whatever it takes to get through the rough spots.

Learn about the signs of depression and really get to know your friends and family members. They do not need ideas on ways to stay busy or things they should try to do to make them happier, what they need is to have people who understand them. Know that comments like “oh, here comes Mr. or Mrs. Grumpy/Happy/Negativity…” really don’t help either. They do not need to be reminded that they are sad, they just need you to be there for them.

Education is key and people need to understand that suicide is a permanent “solution” to a temporary problem. I have heard it said before that if someone has cancer they go to the specialist and everyone supports them. Why is it that in this day and age people still feel the need to hide mental health issues? There is help and a variety of resources available and easily accessible; seek them out.  If you are suffering from depression, please get help somewhere! If you suspect a friend, family member or coworker is suffering from depression, help them find help. At least tell them that you are there and willing to listen without judgment if they would like to talk. No one should have to fight this battle alone.

Please get help somewhere! 

These are just a few resources to look at:

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

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