I was about to title this post “Just Relax Already!” but I thought the answer was better than the prompt. What’s this post about, you ask? Two seemingly unconnected topics that have been circling my brain as of late.
The first is regarding stretching. As most of you know, I’ve been religiously stretching almost everyday. What I quickly noticed is how short I used to hold stretches for. It wasn’t until the PT-recommended regimen that I realized that holding a stretch for 30 seconds is WORLDS APART from what I used to do; namely, half-heartedly holding a stretch for ~5-10 seconds. Another (totes obvs) thing I realized is that stretching is boring. That’s why there’s no such thing as “passive TV watching” in my life anymore. Any time we’re watching a show or movie, I’m sprawled out on the ground, stretching and rolling.
Finally, and this is the thing I wanted to write about, what I’ve noticed is that there are different phases of a stretch. The first is when I get into the stretching position. I immediately feel the stretch in the desired muscle group. However, as I get about 10 seconds into the stretch, I sometimes notice that I’m tensing up in other muscle groups. For instance, when I do a spinal twist stretch, I notice that my bottom leg, the one that’s not actively stretching, often tenses up. Then I have to actively release that leg so that I can get into a deeper stretch. It was really weird to me at first, but then I realized that it sort of makes sense. If your muscles are tight, stretching can hurt at first and your body reflexively compensates in a way to minimize the discomfort.
Everyone takes to stretching a little differently, so I’m not trying to tell you what to do. However, if you do like stretching or find it helpful, I think it’s worth trying to hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds. Then, during the stretch, do a mental body scan and check your various muscle groups for tension. If you notice any tension, try to release the muscle if possible. If not, just breathe, relax, and try to deepen your stretch. If you can, hold stretches for longer than 30 seconds. Every time I start the butterfly stretch, my knees are up near my armpits, but over the course of 1-2 minutes, they get much closer to the ground. So, even if you don’t think you’re very flexible, perhaps you just haven’t given your body a chance to really respond to stretching.
The second thing I wanted to write about was my low-level anxiety re:the Oakland Half Marathon. I was fretting about it the other day; specifically, I was fretting about whether I could meet my “A goal” of under 2 hours. And even more specifically, I was fretting about whether I could go sub-2 on a long course. Last year, I ran it in 2:05:40 over 13.25 miles. That extra 0.15 miles is the difference between running a 9:09 pace and a 9:03 pace… basically, it’s the difference between hard, but doable and hard, and I might die. OK, so I’m being a bit dramatic, but you know what I’m saying, right?
I was voicing my concerns to the Gypsy Runner the other day, and he (wisely) told me not to over think it. True, but I can’t help myself. He also told me that I’m a much better runner than I was last year. Also true, but it’s hard to believe that when I feel like I’m running so slowly most of the time these days. So, my anxiety is being fueled by one part lack of confidence plus one part lack of courage. I haven’t yet worked myself up to the point of accepting the pain that will be required to suffer through 13.1+ miles of 9-minute miles. But I think I will get there in the next 3.5 weeks. And until I do, I guess there’s no point in worrying too much about it.