I’ve clipped back into a running regimen these past few weeks. Cliche, but I immediately feel more like myself. Both running and writing give me the space I need to process my life. Writing confronts emotional and intellectual complexities directly, but running somehow, semi-miraculously, enables me to digest these things “in the background.” I don’t ever set out on a run with an intention to “think through” a particular issue, and sometimes I’m not even aware I’m in the throes of analysis. But I invariably return to my front door with conclusions. Sometimes, these suddenly-claimed clarities are so acute that I must go immediately to my room to write down what’s emerged in the form of to-dos, sweat dripping off my arm right onto the notepad as if extra punctuation. It is a generative, addictive pastime. I have had such a long relationship with it that I know there will be days in the not too distant future where I will dread my running habit, and so I am currently letting myself enjoy a renewed honeymoon phase.
But the way I run now is so different from the way I ran in my teens, twenties, and even my early thirties. At earlier stages in my life, I ran to stay thin. I was focused on pace, mileage, and calories burned. Nowadays, I run for mental clarity and the general benefits of moving my body — it just feels good to break a sweat, elevate my heart rate, and stretch my muscles. And so my runs are more about form and consistency. I can’t say my current pace is doing wonders for my self-esteem but I actively try not to care. I only check pace at the mile markers, and even then, and more inclined to shrug than adjust my tempo based on how I’m doing. Instead, my goals right now are to run every other day for around 30 minutes, and to focus on form. On the latter front, at every mile marker, I check in with myself with the following: “Is your chin up? Are your shoulders back? Are your arms in close at your sides? Does the gait feel easy and solid?” I also like to remind myself throughout these jogs to “Run smart, not hard,” something I picked up from a Nike Run Club coach. To me, this means that if I’m totally burning my energy pounding up a hill, I coach myself to fall back a bit. Go slow. Keep up the reserves for the last five minutes, when I am always flagging. If I have a little extra gas in the tank, by contrast, I accelerate my pace. This clement approach is wildly different from the way I used to run, which was as if I was being chased by a pack of wild dogs — I would be furious with myself if I could not keep up a strenuous pace I’d set for myself! I remember sprinting the final stretches of many miles just to keep tempo with my target. Not so any more. This is the Jen of 38: a bit gentler, a bit less disciplined, for better or worse. (I think for better.)
Sharing these scattershot thoughts in case you need a boost to get outside and break a sweat. Other tacks I use to ease myself back into a fitness routine:
- A good playlist! I have been loving running to Harry Styles’ new album. The first five tracks in particular are fantastic — up tempo, fun, catchy!
- An every-other-day commitment. I picked this strategy up from a Magpie. I find it much, much easier to commit to this than “I hope to run 3-4 times this week, whenever I can squeeze it in.” This pattern makes me enjoy my days off and prevents me from situations where I haven’t run in three days and then need to cram in a few runs at the end of a week right after one another.
- Schedule workouts on your calendar. In NYC, I would run every other morning, as soon as our nanny would arrive, and it was helpful to have that time absolutely cemented into my weekly planner, blocked out in caps and all. At that time, I found it easier to run before digging into my day, noting that it could be difficult to unplug and squeeze in a run when I was in the midst of working on something. In Bethesda, I have been finding the converse easier: I like to finish my day at 4 P.M. and use my run as a “buffer” to digest before clipping into Mom mode for the evening. This has in part been achieved by organizing my work such that I am always doing my heavy writing / thinking in the morning (maker’s time!) and focusing on lighter weight tasks with a finer granularity in the afternoons.
- Buy new gear! Having fresh running gear has helped me ease into this routine with renewed energy. My favorite recent buys —
THESE WHITE RUNNING SHORTS — LOVE THE COLORS, THE POCKET DESIGN IS GOOD, AND I LIKE THE HIGH WAIST
BOXER-STYLE RUNNING SHORTS — THE ELASTIC ON THESE IS PRETTY SNUG, SO IF YOU ARE BETWEEN SIZES, I WOULD GO UP…I TOOK AN XS AND IT FITS WELL BUT CAN IMAGINE IF YOU ARE BETWEEN SIZES, IT WOULD BE A BIT SNUG
FEETURES MAKES THE BEST RUNNING SOCKS — OBSESSED
I ALWAYS RUN WITH A HAT TO KEEP SUN OUT OF MY EYES / OFF MY FACE — I LIKE THESE UNFUSSY CHAMPION “DAD HATS”
Even more chic fitness finds for summer below…
HIGH-RISE WHITE RUNNING SHORTS WITH PASTEL ACCENTS AND CURVED HEM
MARYSIA SCALLOPED IVORY SEERSUCKER TENNIS DRESS — THIS SILHOUETTE IS ABSOLUTELY STUNNING (AND IT’S ON SALE FOR 60% OFF!)
RETRO-INSPIRED VERSATILE NYLON ATHLETIC SHORTS WITH EMBROIDERED LOGO FROM TORY BURCH IN LAVENDER
MINT GREEN LIGHTWEIGHT TRAINING SHOES FROM NIKE
POWERBEATS PRO WIRELESS EARBUDS IN AN IVORY COLOR…DOESN’T HURT THAT THESE ARE ON SALE AT TARGET FOR 20% OFF
CROPPED RIBBED SCOOP NECK TANK TOP IN BLACK WITH LETTUCE HEM — PERFECT PIECE FOR LOWER INTENSITY WORKOUTS
ADORABLE “HAPPY” WHITE CREW SOCKS WITH MULTICOLOR STRIPE FOR A LITTLE EXTRA PEP IN YOUR STEP
CHIC SHORT SLEEVE POLO TENNIS DRESS WITH CONTRAST STRIPES AND A PLEATED SKIRT
HIGH-NECK CROPPED PERFORMANCE TANK WITH SIGNATURE NIKE CHECK IN ARMY GREEN
PEACH-COLORED RIBBED SPORTS BRA AND CAPRI LEGGING MATCHING SET BECAUSE WORKING OUT IN STYLE FEELS UNDENIABLY GOOD
MESH AND NEOPRENE CLEARANCE ATHLETIC SNEAKERS IN DUSTY ROSE WITH SPECKLED FOAM SOLE
COTTON-JERSEY PASTEL TURQUOISE CREWNECK SWEATSHIRT FROM SPORTY & RICH
HIGH-RISE STRETCHY DRI-FIT NIKE LEGGINGS IN MINT GREEN — OVER HALF-OFF AT NET-A-PORTER!
SET OF TWO RETRO-STYLE FOREST GREEN AND WHITE WRIST SWEATBANDS…THIS PICK IS THE PERFECT COMBINATION OF STYLISH AND FUNCTIONAL
6-INCH INSEAM FLATTERING BIKER SHORTS WITH SIDE AND BACK ZIP POCKETS
P.S. More on running.
P.P.S. June obsessions.
P.P.P.S. Good friends.