The Gross Habits of Runners

Running.

It can be beautiful, exciting- graceful, even, to watch. But a lot of the time, it is raw, uncensored and downright disgusting.

Back in high school, my unwavering dedication to “finish things once you’ve started”, combined with my daily, mounting resentment at joining the track team, defined the beginning of my illustrious love/hate relationship with the sport of running.

The rules were simple then:

  • Do what the coach said.
  • Try to run faster in each race.

But what about the other rules of etiquette?

**Sniff. Sniff. Whroossh.**

I looked over at my best friend and running teammate as she finished blowing her nose….

in her shirt.

We were freshmen in high school then, and that is one memory you don’t easily forget (Trust me, I’ve tried), along with her priceless response:

What?! I didn’t have a tissue!

My face must’ve said it all- a mixture of embarrassment, shock and utter disgust. I ran especially hard that day during practice- away from her and the web of snot that now adorned the front of her shirt.

How could someone- a runner; an ATHLETE…be SO disgusting? Had people no shame?

Just the beginning…

This was just the beginning. As time went on and I started running with an increasingly talented gene pool, things only progressed from bad to worse. At one of my first cross country meets in college, seconds before the gun was set to go off, I looked down the line of runners just in time to see a girl using the starting line as a bathroom.

Blood, gore- I can handle it. However, when it comes to bodily fluids in the form of mucus, phlegm, spit or excessive sweat, I run in the other direction. On one hot and humid day of practice during college, a group of us were out for a run. A couple of girls had their hair pulled back into ponytails, and the sweat was wicking off of their ponytails and into the faces of whoever was behind them. One of them thought it was ok to pass gas while another decided to blow her nose sans tissue…

Aside from when you’re at a doctor and they use that tongue depressor, I actually found myself gagging during that run. From that day forward, at practices, I started looking around for people to run with based not on performance- but on personal habits and hygiene…because 9 miles is a looong way to run with an unpleasant running mate*.

Perhaps I really am a priss. Maybe I don’t qualify as a “real runner” because I refuse to use the woods as a bathroom; I don’t blow “snot rockets” or spit or pass gas during runs. My argument is simply this: Do runners really have a lack of control over these things, or does running genuinely provoke these bodily responses in people?

Today, I run alone.

Postpartum Body Frustration

While the baby is asleep, I’m on the floor doing mountain climbers, and I’m sweating profusely. I haven’t even changed out of my clothing that I wore on the 10+ hour drive up to Long Island from North Carolina.

I switch from mountain climbers to burpees, my bra strap falling down off my shoulder as I jump up and head back down to the floor, and in that moment I’m overwhelmed with frustration.

I hate myself for not having the body that I want to have post-baby. I hate myself for the way I look…

…for the fact that I’m watching the Olympic Trials…watching these women, some of whom I competed against in college, achieving their dreams.

What are my dreams?

Currently…. to fit back into my jeans that I wore pre-baby. To look at myself in the mirror and not see the roll of fat around my waist where I once had 8-pack abs. It seems like not that long ago, I was in great shape, and now I feel slovenly.

d i s g u s t i n g .

I hate looking at myself in the mirror, but at the same time, I can’t look away. Not much has changed. My diet has pretty much been the same. I’m running a lot less. Maybe that’s the reason. Maybe my hormones still haven’t shifted back into place. Who knows what the cause is? All I know is that when I go for my 1X/week run with Diana, I’m gasping for air…doing almost an 8-minute mile…

frustrated that I’m slowing her down…

frustrated that I’m not running a full minute faster, like I used to…

frustrated that my body’s not doing what I want it to do…

frustrated at the aches and pains and the stress over my lack of sleep…

Role Model for Myself; My Daughters

I’m trying to raise healthy daughters, and I want to be a healthy role model for them. So, why can’t I get it together? Why is it so hard?

I do pilates 3X/week. I recently re-joined my women’s indoor soccer league. Yet still, the number on the scale doesn’t move. If anything, I feel fatter.

Greg says that I look great. That he loves my body. But I don’t love my body. I know what it looked like before. I know what it felt like before, and it doesn’t feel the same. For a brief moment, I ponder whether one of my worst fears has come true: “If you get pregnant and have a baby, you’re going to get fat.” You’re going to have a ‘mom’ body.

But I see my friends who’ve had children, most of whom got their bodies back almost immediately, by some small miracle, it seems. They waltzed into the hospital, had their baby, and waltzed right back out into their size 2 jeans.

Focusing on Body Image Too Much

It seems the more I obsess over looking the way I used to, the further away I get from it. I find myself in this slump where…how do I achieve that body without killing myself? Because a large part of me, honestly, doesn’t want to wake up super early in the morning and do a long, hard run and come back at the end of the evening and go for another run… or do some other form of exercise.

I feel like my days of doing two-a-day’s are long gone. And for what reason would I have to do that anyway? And how would I fit the time in? I can barely squeeze the time in now to go to my pilates classes.

I try to balance everything out with Ava because I do revolve around her schedule; we all do. I also try to be, first and foremost, fair to Greg because let’s be honest – I’m working but not really. Two hours a week hardly qualifies – but then again, two hours a week is all I can manage at the moment.

Having a baby and being a stay-at-home mom who’s also trying to work is definitely challenging. And whatever you think it might be like before you have a baby, you’re usually WAY off. It’s something you sometimes hear, but you have to experience it yourself to really GET it – to really understand it.

I can’t wake up early every morning and leave Greg to care for the baby because it wouldn’t be fair. I’ve got to figure it out.

All of it.

But first, let’s start by fitting into my jeans.

Baby steps, as they say.

5 Myths About Exercising in Cold Weather

Myth #1 – Exercising in cold weather is bad for you.

FALSE. Just because the weather is cold outside doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad for you to go for a run. Just be sure to warm up properly – either by doing some dynamic stretching or by easing into your run at a slow pace before building up to faster paces.

Myth #2 – Running in cold weather is bad for your lungs.

FALSE. Research shows that runners are not in danger of freezing their lungs, even in the coldest places on Earth such as the North and South Poles. Thanks to our body’s ability to adapt to different weather situations, air reaches body temperature by the time it greets our lungs. [via]

Myth #3 – Running in cold weather burns more calories.

TRUE.  There is a lot of speculation as to whether exercising in cold temps burns more calories. Some experts argue not while others argue yes. According to Glen Haney, MA, certified personal trainer and exercise physiologist, “It is true that you burn slightly more calories in colder weather. That’s because your metabolic rate increases to warm your body, and that bit of extra work means more burn.” [via]

However, it should be noted that the amount of calories you burn is really due to exertion – not the temps outside.

Myth #4 – Your body needs extra sleep during the winter months.

FALSE. During the winter, you may feel more tired, sluggish, or feel like you need more sleep. This is due to the fact that during the winter, the days are shorter, and the amount of light is limited. Believe it or not, this lack of light affects our body’s sleeping cycles because it causes an increase in the production of melatonin.

Melatonin is the chemical responsible for our body’s sleep/wake cycles. The more your body produces, the more tired you may feel. The best thing you can do is maintain your normal sleep/wake routine. You may feel a little more tired in the a.m., but as soon as you get moving, you’ll be fine.

Myth #5 – You don’t need to hydrate as much during the winter.

FALSE. According to cold weather studies conducted at the University of New Hampshire, you may be at an increased risk for dehydration during the winter than during the summer. We lose respiratory fluid when we breathe, and we also lose fluids when we sweat (sweat evaporates faster in cold, dry air). 

Interestingly, despite this fluid loss, the sense of thirst that would normally be triggered during warm weather is not triggered the same way (if at all) when in cold weather. According to Robert Kenefick, UNH associate professor of kinesiology, this is because cold weather actually alters our thirst sensation.

The key to staying safe is to make sure you are properly hydrating – especially in cold weather. Hydration can take the form of: hot tea, vegetables, and fruit, to just plain old water. 

What other exercise myths have you heard? Share them in the comments section!