Never Asking for Perfection

I spent an entire marathon training season saying this year’s Top of Michigan Marathon would be my last full marathon. It’s such a time commitment and it is far too easy to get distracted. But, somewhere along the trail, I realized why I was driven to register in the first place. And when I crossed the finish line I was overcome with emotion.

For me, running is hard. I’ve wondered if I have some sort of exercise-induced asthma because it’s so difficult for me to breath. And both of my lungs collapsed in a traumatic accident, which may also be a factor. But, until a few years ago, I was not a runner. Today, I run 3-5 times weekly—usually training for my next race.

Why run

If I ever take time off from running, I can feel it. A few days, and my mood turns depressed. My body gets stiff and I start to ache. I’m tense and irritable. So I’ve become addicted to the adrenaline boost. A quick run can turn a bad day good. It washes away the stress of a long day at work, gives me a chance to think through issues and inspires me.

But running a marathon is hard. Those 26.2 miles are no joke and if you don’t train properly you risk injury and failure (something I don’t cope well with). So when I had to quit before I even hit the halfway mark at last year’s race, I was disappointed. I wasn’t surprised. I hadn’t taken my training seriously, the weather was hot and humid, my water supply was limited and I was just not prepared. When 2019 race registration opened, I signed up determined.

Marathon training

My training kicked off with a new, aggressive routine. I was logging 10-mile runs in the first month and incorporated speed and strength workouts into my program. But, with a month and a half to go, I got derailed. Travel plans, long hours at work and a lack of prioritization put me behind schedule. My first 16 miler was cut short by bad weather and stomach discomfort. I walked the last 4 miles of a 14-mile run instead. I was defeated and considered transferring to the race’s half marathon instead.

A few weeks later I finally logged that 16 miler and I felt great. Throughout my training, I never took more than two days off, but I hadn’t been hitting my mileage. So, I was determined to finish strong—and I did.

Race day

The morning of the race, I was unsure, but I knew my body was strong. At mile 10 I was keeping my pace. I passed the spot I broke down last year when I called my husband and told him I couldn’t finish. I continued running beyond the halfway point, pacing ahead of my time from the 2017 Chicago Marathon.

I reached mile 16 and realized how much better I felt than during my long training runs. At mile 18 I pushed on knowing this was as far as my training would take me. By mile 21, I realized I was going to finish.

This year, I knew my body and I was prepared. The course increased the number of aid stations and I made sure to utilize the resources. My husband refilled my water belt along the course and I maintained my fuel routine. I came out strong and steady, but even as I dropped off I was pacing to finish by my goal time.

At mile 25, I felt invigorated. I crossed the finish line knowing I’d logged a personal best. I sobbed to my husband, “I finished.”

Running is hard for me. Sometimes I feel like I can’t breath. I have to take deep breaths to remind my lungs to fill with air. I focus on my breathing a lot. But I can run, so I do.

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Day 6: Writing Retreat — Binge Culture Part 2

Almost immediately after publishing my last post, I realized I hadn’t answered my first question on this topic: Why do we binge?

What I really want to know is what the science behind it is. Why are we drawn to addictive behavior? Let’s find out…

Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s difficult to find research on binge behavior that isn’t dedicated to binge eating or drinking specifically. But there are parallels between these, including an addictive and compulsive personality.

Addiction is complicated. It is one of the most pervasive and least understood of maladies. It’s not that we don’t understand addiction per se, but our understanding is controversial. Is it biological? Is it inherited? Is it a disease process? Is it psychological, or psycho-social, or cultural? Is it a characterological disorder or just pervasive poor judgment?

The Continuum of Addiction and Addictive Personality

Personality traits of someone who is inclined to participate in binge behavior can include:

  • Obsessive compulsive
  • Stressed, lonely
  • Passive aggressive
  • Socially isolated
  • Deceptive
  • Anxious
  • Depressed
  • Ashamed

However, these characteristics are generally used to define an alcohol or drug addict, rather than someone who has an obsessive personality that results in compulsive behavior. So, is there even a link between different types of binge behavior? Is it even something worth exploring?

According to Greatest, yes. Binge behavior is the result of coping with negative feelings that are caused by either psychological, chemical and sociocultural factors. And you can binge on just about anything — food, exercise, shopping, sex and so on.

So, how do you cope with this addictive personality if it starts to become a problem? You should first solicit the help of a professional, who can let you know if it’s the result of a mental health issues. But if you’re using binging to cope with your stress and anxiety, you may be able to self treat. From meditation to writing to acknowledging, there are plenty of was to ensure you’re leading a healthy lifestyle.

Day 6: Writing Retreat — Binge Culture

From excessive drinking to “Netflix and chill,” binge culture is consuming a generation. But, what are the risks in a binge lifestyle? The term “binge” is negative, traditionally referenced to discuss those with binge eating or drinking disorders. However, with the introduction of platforms like Netflix, Amazon Video and HBO GO (the list goes on), binging has just become a normal pass time. Honestly, it might have actually started with DVD boxsets of our favorite television series: The Sopranos, Sex and the City. And, recently, even NPR got in on the fad with the release of their podcast S-Town, a seven-part series that was made available in full earlier this spring. (If you haven’t listened to S-Town, I highly recommend it. The great story telling from Brian Reed pushes the line between art and exploitation.)

So, what are the risks related to this binge culture we’ve created? From anxiety to depression, the introduction of smartphones have brought with them a plethora of health concerns, providing users binge access to anything, any time. And our binge-focused entertainment industry has it’s own set of health-related issues:

  • The lack of movement can increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and obesity
  • Addiction: It gets in the way of our plans, much like people’s addiction to smartphones, drugs and alcohol
  • People who partake in binge watching are often isolated and more more likely to suffer from depression and loneliness; they are also likely to lack self-control

Our binge viewing is even changing television programming. Many consumers are now opting for “à la carte” television over traditional cable and scheduled air times. And Americans aren’t the only ones making this shift, people around the globe are embracing the binge culture. While it doesn’t look like binging is going anywhere, research does indicate better storytelling will be another result of this lifestyle shift.

Are you a binge consumer? Probably — 70 percent of us are. Netflix defines binge watching as consuming two to six episodes of a show in one sitting — generally this amounts to two or more hours. Smart TVs and streaming devices are making it easier than ever to binge, whether on your commute, at the gym or from your couch. And, Netflix has found that different types of shows are binged at different rates:Netflix Binge Scale

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of binge entertainment — from podcasts to TV series. But, as someone who experiences anxiety when I can’t access information immediately (via my smartphone), I think it’s valuable to acknowledge and recognize the risks related to our binge culture. Are you putting off errands? Are you staying up all night when you have an early morning meeting? If so, it might be time to reconsider your habits. Or, at the very least, take a break and don’t remain sedentary during you next marathon viewing (that’s why I like Hulu, the commercials provide an easy opportunity to get up and move!).