Getting Squirrelly

Posted on November 16, 2012. Filed under: Running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

My dogs made a new friend this fall.  A squirrel decided to vacation in the oak tree in my back yard. The tree’s branches stretch in a long line between my roof and the greenbelt behind my house, and the squirrel runs laps through my backyard on nice days.

It was the squirrel that befriended my dogs.  Befriend, terrorize, whatever you want to call it, the outcome is the same.  He sits in the branches and chatters loudly, calling my dogs out to play.  Then he plops himself down on the roof overlooking my deck, back legs splayed out like a butterfly and front legs daintily crossed, and stares calmly down at my dogs as they bark wildly.  They can do this for hours.

I’ve watched the squirrel get fatter, lazing about on the roof, as the weeks have progressed. It’s been a great year for acorns, and there’s loads of squirrel food on the ground. (I sometimes I have to remind my dogs that they’re not squirrels and shouldn’t eat acorns.  You know how it is. Friends mimic friends.  They see the squirrel root around in the yard and want to root around too.)

But I haven’t seen the squirrel around much since the time change.  My dogs keep vigil on the deck, searching the branches and roof for signs of him, but he hasn’t called.  My guess is he’s holed up with his acorns, getting ready to hibernate.

I know how he feels.  Once the time change hits, I want to do the same thing.

Seems like every year between Daylight Savings Time and Groundhog Day, my motivation to get out of bed early and work out dries up like the leaves.  I find myself sleeping in and foraging the pantry for all kinds of food I know I shouldn’t eat.  For me, that’s a bad combination:  zero exercise + loads of goodies = blah.  I end up feeling terrible by Christmas.

This year, I made a conscious decision to not be like our new friend the squirrel.  Instead, I decided to be proactive.  The only way I can get motivated during the coldest, darkest days of the year is to make a plan:

  1. Make a date.  I selected a race and a date:  Austin Half Marathon, February 17.  It was an easy race to pick—14 weeks out from the day of decision, and my friend is running it.  As I recently discovered, running a race is so much more fun with a friend by your side.
  2. Pen it in.  There are many great training plans to choose from. I follow Hal Higdon’s 12-week training plan.  Seeing my entire plan laid out on paper with my times penciled in as the weeks progress really motivates me, so I keep a paper copy of my training rather than an electronic one.
  3. Post it up.  I tack my training calendar on the fridge 2 weeks before my official training start date.  I need time to see it, absorb it.  Reassure myself that I can do this. I’ve done it before.
  4. Blab.  The best way I know of to commit to a race is to tell everyone I know that I’m going to run it.  To say it makes it so.
  5. Get moving.  Although I’ve been “pretraining” for a long time, “real” training begins once I mark my times in pencil on my calendar on Day 1.  This time around, I think the first week will be the hardest, partly because Week 1 begins the Monday after Thanksgiving and partly because the mornings are getting colder.  On the bright side, maybe my start date will prompt me to not eat enough to feed a family of 4 on Thanksgiving.
  6. Register.  I usually register for a race after I start training.  This time, I will likely wait until I’m about half way through training.  This race is a big one for me. I haven’t run a half marathon in over two years and, to be honest, I’m a bit afraid.  I haven’t run more than 6 miles since I injured my hip two years ago.

Isn’t that the way? Fear is the biggest deterrent I know:  Fear of injury, discomfort, cold.  Failure.  But not this time.

As much as I may be afraid that I can’t run a half marathon, my bigger fear is that I will become like the squirrel and find my way out of a hole sometime toward the end of winter, wondering where all my time—and training—went.

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4 Responses to “Getting Squirrelly”

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I know what you mean. I feel like without a race or event on my calendar, my activity level drops dramatically. I hope your trianing goes well !

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Thanks! Just read your post too–I do the same thing. Ignore strength training and core work when I should be hitting it hard. I need to make a plan and stick to it. It’s too easy to do nothing.

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Yea, I find a plan and routine is key for me. Helps me stay on track even if I miss a day here or there.

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Well good luck sticking with your plan and your routine (even on days when you’re sore).

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