Make Room for Joy

by Shelley English

This morning I was driving to work, and approached the exit from one interstate to another.  The exit is two lanes that merge into one. Usually, fellow commuters follow proper etiquette as the right lane merges into the left, forming one line. But occasionally, drivers from the right lane attempt to squeeze in before their turn.  They do this by attempting to pass the car ahead of them, even as their lane dissolves into the left.

As a (perhaps too) defensive driver, I sometimes take it upon myself to “keep them in line” by placing my own car in the middle just enough that they cannot safely go around me.  Of course I’m not proud of this behavior. Getting to work is serious business. We have little time or patience for dawdling drivers, and even less for those who try to cut corners or push through the bottleneck to come out ahead.

As I began my exit, it seemed the car behind me was hanging to the right. Gripping the steering wheel and glancing in my rear view mirror, I expected to see the driver behind me glaring ahead, intent on passing me and cutting the line. To my surprise, she instead appeared to be singing gleefully and enthusiastically. In spite of the rest of us, she was carrying on her own car karaoke party. She appeared to be aware of her surroundings and was not, as it turned out, trying to get ahead. She was simply enjoying her morning commute, not letting a little traffic harsh her groove.

Her mirth was contagious. I immediately felt happy, and found myself smiling and singing along to my own music and “going with the flow”. The rest of my commute – and my day – was so much more enjoyable.

So during the daily commute or any other drudgery, I hope to remember the merriment of my fellow commuter from this morning.  I hope I will remember to make room for joy!

Six Great Gift Ideas for Runners

Seems like most of the running I’m doing this month is from one event to another. We’re all hustling toward the finish line …that is to say, the line marking off the last item on the gift list. A recent study conducted by eBay found that holiday shoppers’ heart rates increase by 33% while shopping, which is comparable to running a marathon.

If you are a runner, or are shopping for one, you’ll be glad to know it does not have to be a marathon task!  Here are six great gift ideas for any runner.

  • Water flask or belt: No matter what distance a runner prefers, hydration is essential. For most organized races, water and nutrition support are provided. But it is a good idea to have hydration readily available when training. I prefer the small flask with a grip free strap made by Nathan Sports. It’s very lightweight and comfortable and I don’t even really have to “hold” it while I’m running. Mine also has a small zipper pocket for lip balm, stingers and other items.  Some runners prefer the flask belt, so they can carry both water and supplemental hydration.
  • Massage Equipment: There are many, many options out there.  In my opinion, you can choose just about anything for a runner and you can’t go wrong.  From handheld rollers to foam rollers, anything that helps massage sore, tight muscles and assists with stretching is a runner’s best friend. The Pro-Tec Orb is one of my daily go-to products. You can view a demonstration of its use here.   Addaday  also has some of my favorites, and more that I’m aching to try.
  • Lights and Reflective Gear: This time of year especially, most of my running will not take place during daylight hours, so lights and reflective vests are essential. Head lamps can be cumbersome; my husband recently purchased lights that can be clipped to the bill of my cap, and they are just as bright as the expensive headlamp I bought last year. For colder weather, there are also beanies with lights attached to the forehead area.  Some reflective vests also come with lights. Many jackets have reflective material on them as well.  An extra flashing light to attach to your clothing is a great idea…can’t have too many lights. Since my dogs run with me, I also use a reflective leash, and am considering lights to attach to their collars. These items can be found at any sporting goods store.

    My Running Quilt from Project Repat, celebrating my first 3 years of running!
  • T-Shirt Quilt:  Most runners have no shortage of t-shirts and technical shirts. They are great race souvenirs, but eventually take up a lot of space. This is where the t-shirt quilt comes in. It’s a great way to re-purpose those souvenir shirts. Some companies accept payment in advance and provide a gift box with prep and mailing instructions, so the runner can then select and send the shirts they want to use. My husband happily gave me one for Christmas last year…from Project Repat. I helped design it, and I love it. Honestly, I’m almost ready for another one!
  • Bib/Medal Display: Bibs and medals are other items that a runner accumulates quickly, and there are several options for displaying them.  Medal displays come as wall hangings or standing racks. There are albums available for preserving bibs, and there are even companies who will take the collection of bibs and make them into tote bags.
  • Race Entry: Perhaps one of the best gifts for a runner is paid entry into a race. If your runner has been talking about a particular race coming up in the next year, you might look into the gift options. Some race organizers offer gift certificates so that the runner can register with the proper information at their convenience. Be aware of any rules pertaining to transfer or refund of entry fees, in case the runner is unable to participate. Another option is the virtual race, which is becoming quite a trend. There are virtual races for just about every interest and distance, and many good reasons for running them. A future post will explore virtual races in more detail.

What ideas do you have for the runners in your life? If you’re a runner, what’s at the top of your wish Iist?

Freezing Shmeezing: Winter Morning Running

by Shelley English

Evidently I have low standards.

This thought crossed my mind at 5:20 this morning. I was warming up for the first of our twice weekly predawn runs.  And my human running friends had unapologetically bailed on me.

To be fair, one friend injured her ankle several weeks ago.  The chilly weather has since crept in, and it seems understandable – wise, even – to stay in bed at least until daylight while she recovers.

My other friend informed me last night that she has higher standards…for higher temperatures, that is.  Her code?  Nothing below 20 degrees.

She had drawn a line in the frost.

Sure, it’s now below freezing most mornings. But “zero-dark-hundred” is still my favorite time to run.  One of the first things I noticed when running became part of the morning routine was how happy my dogs are to see me crawl out of bed.  Before, no one in my household was that excited so early in the morning!

There must be something in the crisp morning air. I love being one of the first in my neighborhood to step outside and breathe it in. I love the slight chill of spring and summer mornings…and yes, even the brisk fall and winter currents.

Geared up for winter running!

Mentally and spiritually, it’s simply the best way to begin a day.  It’s a great time for meditation and brainstorming, both during warm-up/cool down and during the run.  It gives me some time to clear my mind and check in with my soul before diving into all of the to-do lists.  And in the wintertime, there is nothing quite so serene as running during lightly falling snow.

And there is the bonus of accomplishment, having achieved my exercise goal before most people have even rolled out of their warm, cozy beds!

So maybe my standards are low…at least when it comes to the winter running temperatures I’m willing to endure.  But other than the ones I have declined, there has not yet been a morning run I have regretted.

Now, when my dogs don’t even want to go for a run with me, then I’ll know I’ve crossed the frost line!