Have you entered my race entry giveaway for the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon? The deadline is February 24, 2014 at 11:59PM! Please see the post below for more details or click here to go directly to the post. Thank you to everyone who has already entered! Good luck!

I am not a very self-aware person. Fortunately, I have many great people in my life who help me understand myself! A few months ago, I posted a running update to Facebook and someone who I have known for 11 years left a comment that said that they weren’t surprised that I had developed into a serious, dedicated runner because I am the type of person who always focuses on being as best as I possibly can at whatever I do and who does what it takes to get better.

I hadn’t ever thought about myself like this before, but after reflecting a bit on this comment, I would have to say that it’s pretty accurate. Once I took ownership of my weight loss journey, I found myself doing all sorts of things that I never, ever dreamed I’d do because I wanted to achieve my goal. These days, I’m doing things like telling Sheila to hide the Valentine’s Day candy that she bought me because I know I don’t have the willpower to refrain from consuming an entire bag of Mike ‘N Ikes in one day!

mike and ike

I have no idea how anyone can resist these! (Source)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my jobs involves teaching at a local community college, and I take a lot of pride in doing a good job and being the best possible instructor for my students. I know that we all used to laugh when our professors told us that they read the course evaluations that we completed at the end of the semester, but I actually do read them all once the grades are turned in and I’ve even made up my own evaluation to get more in-depth feedback. One of the comments that consistently shows up on my evaluations is that I am a very helpful and accessible professor who provides whatever help is necessary to help students succeed and who responds to emails very quickly at all hours of the day. At the risk of breaking my arm patting myself on the back, I won’t deny that this is true. I also place a great deal of pride in the fact that my co-workers and supervisors at my other positions can reach me via email at all hours of the day.

However, this has come at a bit of a cost.

Some folks need to go on long vacations in order to de-stress and relax. Although I enjoy vacations because they provide me with the chance to actually get through a book, I have found that a nice long run is all I need to get myself in a better frame of mind. I’ve started so many training runs feeling stressed out and worn down only to find myself feeling absolutely wonderful by the end of the run.

IMAG0991

Why pay a lot of money to fly several hours to get away when the Towpath is free and just a few minutes away?

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a great state of mind on a run, feeling very positive and enjoying myself, and had my great mood interrupted by an email. Ever since I got my first smartphone in September 2012, I have had all of my Gmail “pushed” to my phone and I receive a sound notification whenever I receive an email message. At first, I liked this feature because it meant that I wouldn’t miss an email. However, my gut reaction is to check my email whenever I hear the notification, and I would often find myself reading emails and composing a response in my mind as I ran.

IMAG1120

Took this great shot while on the Towpath last fall. I wonder how many other great shots of wildlife I missed because I was too busy reading emails while running?

In fact, I thought for sure that I was going to miss my chance at a sub-2 half marathon at the Towpath Half Marathon because of my stupid phone. Around mile 10, I heard my phone indicate that I had a text message. Thinking it would be an inspirational text from Sheila—who was out of town at the time—I checked my phone, hoping to get something that would help give me a badly-needed infusion of energy.

What was it?

A spam text from a former student inviting me to sign up for a text messaging service.

Needless to say, I got very frustrated. Fortunately, I rebounded quickly and managed to pull off a sub-2!

The easy solution to this issue would be to leave my phone at home, but I’m not a big fan of running in isolated areas like the Towpath without a way to access help if I get hurt. I also use my phone to stream music while I exercise. Additionally, I want to be sure that I can be reached if something happens to Sheila while I’m gone.

Perhaps an even easier solution to this issue would be to turn off my Gmail notifications while I’m running. However, every time I did so, I heard a voice in my head telling me that this was the wrong thing to do, and I left them on. Of course, I would then wind up having a great workout interrupted by an email, and the refreshment that usually comes after a workout would be diminished due to the stress that I had accumulated during the workout.

Eventually, I decided that I had enough after an email notification somehow caused my Spotify playlist to stop playing correctly during the midst of a great treadmill run. I lost my focus and I couldn’t get it back. Although I finished the run on a positive note, I didn’t have the postrun high that runners cherish after a great run, and I knew that I had to start turning off my email notifications. I told myself that setting aside one hour per day for myself in the midst of busy work days didn’t make me a bad person, a bad worker, or a bad instructor. I never thought that my smartphone would help me learn important life lessons, but it did!

Since then, I have had a great string of focused workouts. Having an uninterrupted hour each day has been great, and I have found myself leaving Fitness 19 feeling very refreshed and renewed.

1008432_987230016126_1390291577_o

Great things happen when one is focused during a workout! My 5K PR is 25:24. Here’s hoping for a new timed 5K PR at the Bay Village Snoball 5K this weekend.

I fit in almost 4 great miles outside today during a break in my schedule, and the effect on my mood was unbelievable. I bounced into my evening class tonight feeling amazing and I’m sure that I had more to give my students tonight because I took time for myself earlier in the day.

Maybe you’ve already turned off your email notifications on your smartphone, or perhaps you don’t even have a smartphone at all. The lesson to be learned is bigger than that, though. All of us have major commitments in our lives. Some folks work in important, high-pressure jobs, while others have family obligations. Regardless of what we have going on in our lives, I hope that we all make a serious effort to ensure that we have some “me” time in the midst of our daily lives.

Some of us may have trouble wrapping our heads around the idea that taking time for ourselves is not only the best thing for us but also the best thing for the people with whom we associate in our lives, but it’s true. As your training for the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon or any other spring race for which your training begins to kick into high gear, don’t think of your training and workouts as something burdensome that you have to fit into your busy day. Instead, think of them as life-giving activities that will make you a better person and help you cope better with the challenges that life far too often throws our way!

What steps have you taken in your own life to create space and time for yourself?