Sunday, May 6, 2012

Chi Running and the Problem with Comparisons

Hi everyone! My friend Rachael complained to me on Friday that she hadn't felt inspired all week because of my recent lack in blogging. My excuse was something like, "It's hard to blog about running when I'm not really running." Nevertheless, I feel compelled to deliver an extra-inspirational post today ;)

First of all, I found my new favorite drink today:

Starbucks Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappucino

Yes, that is chocolate whip cream on top. And yes, you should go buy one right now. It was life-changing.

I've been making progress (albeit slow progress) with my ITBS as of late. You may remember that I had scheduled an appointment with a physical therapist last week. Well, after finding out that it would cost $200 out of pocket for the initial consultation, I decided to just stick with deep tissue massage and my own strengthening exercises. And, I'm happy to say that over the last two weeks I've gotten three pain-free 3-mile runs in. My knee has still been sore, but no debilitating pain, which I couldn't be happier about.

I feel that I owe at least some of the credit for my pain-free runs to a little movement you may have heard about called "Chi Running." I haven't read the book (although I'm contemplating buying it), but the Chi Running website features a little blurb about IT band syndrome and how you can alter your running form to help keep the pain at bay. The two main things it talks about is keeping your pelvis level (both front-to-back and side-to-side), as well as making sure your feet are landing midfoot either directly below your body or right behind it. I've been mostly concentrating on the pelvis part, because I think the side-to-side movement is what's really screwing with IT band. On my 3 mile run yesterday, I noticed that I felt a slight twinge when I got lazy and started ignoring my hip movement, but as soon as I corrected it, the pain was gone! I'm going to continue to implement these Chi Running principles into my training, and hopefully once I'm fully healed it will keep me from suffering from this injury in the future.

I have a bit of sad news, although it comes accompanied by much happier news! I won't be running the Med-City half-marathon on May 27th, because we're going to California to meet my new nephew, Henry! :) He's two months old now, and we can't wait to see him. There will be many more races to sign up for, but we'll never get to see Henry this little again.

Alright, time for a more serious topic- yes, even more serious than my injury ;) Lately I've been struggling with comparing myself to other runners- whether it be people I know personally, people I don't know at the gym, or other running bloggers I've never even met. And I know I'm not the only one who struggles with this. Racing brings out the competitive nature in all of us, whether we're racing against others to place in our age group, or just racing against ourselves for a new PR. It can be disappointing when we don't meet a time goal, especially if someone running their first race ever makes the time goal we missed look silly. Or if someone runs a much better time than you (a time you'd kill for!) and yet they're disappointed about it. But that's the thing- we all fall differently on the spectrum when it comes to talent. For example, I just read in the most recent issue of Runner's World that if you can run a sub-25:00 5K, you're a "serious runner." I was confused- by whose standards am I a "serious runner?" I definitely don't consider myself one, but I know that some of my friends might, based solely on my race times. In comparison, I consider women who run sub-20:00 5Ks serious runners. It's all about personal perception. Another example- last fall while running a half-marathon, I passed two girls with shirts on that said "Friends don't let friends run 5Ks." I wanted to smack them across the face- especially since I had three friends who were running their first ever 5K that day, which is a HUGE accomplishment!

My point is, some of us have to work really hard for a sub-30:00 5K, while others might run a sub-2:00 half marathon with minimal training. But as one of my friends told me today, it's those of us who have to work harder for our goals that achieve the greater satisfaction. I definitely think a sub-1:50 half marathon is within my reach, once I'm 100% again. Even though that may not be fast by some people's standards, I've worked hard for it, and endured injuries for it. And when I DO run a sub-1:50 half, I'm going to be ecstatic about it, no matter what everyone else's finishing times are. But first I have to focus on getting healthy :)

What was the highlight of your week?

Any long runs/races this past weekend?

Have you ever struggled with comparing yourselves to other runners?


  1. Great blog Aimee!! I've heard mixed things about chi, if it helps with your ITBS them I say go for it though!!

    I raced a 10k today, time was 38:36 and I think I cracked the top 10. Good fitness test for me as my goal half marathon is in 2 weeks! It's the inaugural rock n roll half here in Portland.

    I definitely compare myself to other runners. I find it motivating though! Either: I'm not as fast and strong as them and that is motivation to get better. Or: I am in a better state of fitness, which does nothing to my pride but is encouraging to know that my hard work is paying off and hopefully I can inspire them!

    1. That's an awesome 10K time Mike! Great job :) I know you're going to rock your half!

      I agree, comparing yourself to faster runners can also be motivating, and I use it for that purpose a lot. I think I'm just letting myself get discouraged because so many people I know are out there setting PRs, and I haven't ran more than 3 miles at a time in about a month ;)

      You are seriously an inspiration to me, Mike! Your times just keep dropping, and it makes me believe with the right training (and healthy legs) that I can do the same :)

  2. 1. I watched the 5 Year Engagement followed by a evening at a local winery with wine, food, and live music!

    2. After feeling like I have been in a running slump all week, I finally manned up to a refreshingly awesome long run on Saturday morning. It ended up being my longest and fastest run (10.02 min/mile). Although It is embarrassing, Miley Cyrus “The Climb” has been my theme song for the week. Listening to this song on repeat got me through a couple of rough runs where I just didn’t want to be running. Life can be frustrating, and although life was a huge mental block running early this week, when I finally freed my mind on Saturday morning I had one of my best runs.

    3. It is hard not to compare yourself to others and I do it constantly. I try to let it motivate me towards my goals and not let it discourage me of having not met my goals yet. I struggle with the “10 minute mile” as I very slowly get a couple seconds closer. It feels like a magic number that makes me a “real” runner and I want to be a real runner.

    1. Did you like that movie? I really want to see it too- love Jason Segel!

      I'm so glad you got out of your running slump. I feel like a lot of the time the best runs are the ones you have to force yourself to go on. Sometimes when I have big life things going on, I get my best thinking done on my runs. Like they say, "Running is cheaper than therapy!" :)

      You've improved so much over the past few months and I'm so proud of you!! You'll be ready for a 10K in no time ;)

    2. Loved the movie! There was lots and lots of laughing.

  3. Comparing ourselves to others will automatically prove disappointing. Unless you're Ryan Hall, you will have someone faster than you, and even then, he gets beat.

    I think chasing down any goal is fantastic, no matter what it means to someone else! I hope the ITB is better soon.

  4. I completely agree. Lately I've been letting that disappointment discourage me, when I should just be turning it into motivation!

    I hope taper is treating you well! When's your marathon?

  5. "Comparison is the thief of joy" (-Theodore Roosevelt). It's funny, I saw this quote this morning and it really struck a cord with me. It's funny that your blog topic was the very same thing!

    I can't say that I compare myself to many other runners. I'm still just amazed with my bad self that I can get out there and put a few miles behind me. I'm realistic enough to know that I'm most likely never going to be competitive at this running thing and I'm fine with other runners flying right past me:-)

    I heard today about several people in my life who are my age or younger and have debilitating conditions such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, back injuries, etc. who are invalids or pretty much disabled. They would like nothing more than to go for a pain free walk around the block. Thinking about it on my run made me feel so fortunate.

    I'm not this zen in other areas of my life. I am definitely guilty of comparing myself to others in in many other areas. I think all of us humans might be guilty in one way or another. Is it possible that we can use comparison as a motivator, but also keep our perspective so we can appreciate the place we are at right now? Hmm...I need to ponder further.

    1. Thanks for that quote- it is so true! I'll have to remind myself of it whenever I get too down on myself :)

      Running also makes me feel very fortunate to have a healthy body that I too often take for granted. My grandma had a form of inflammatory arthritis, as does my mom, and I have a gene that makes it likely that I'll be afflicted with the same thing. I've read that exercise is one of the best ways to keep the onset and symptoms of arthritis at bay, so hopefully getting in regular exercise now will benefit me later in life as well.