Let's Be Very Clear About the Goal

 From the morning run. How can I keep from singing?

From the morning run. How can I keep from singing?

First, this clearly isn't going to be a "31 days in a row" kind of thing. There will be 31 posts, just not on consecutive days. I could probably write for several hours about all the reasons, but mostly, it can be summed up this way: I have a house full of kids. Many of them are teenagers. I find mothering teenagers and younger children at the same time to be an unpredictable, 24/7 proposition that makes the margins for writing exceedingly narrow. 

Now, let's talk about goals. Last time I wrote, I mentioned that my goal was to finish a 5K and run the whole thing. In the past couple days, I've re-examined that goal. Upon closer inspection, I see that it wasn't my primary goal. My primary goal was to banish depression. Remember? That's probably even what all the walking was about.

What I learned this week, on the bad run day and the day after it, is that I really do need sustained time in motion, preferably in the sunshine. I knew this week would be a hard one. I'm very familiar with anniversary reaction and this week--last year--was pretty terrible. I should have taken extra time to be sure to move more, not less.

Should have. But I didn't. I'd returned home from three weeks of traveling to three different places and I tried to scramble to put everything in order and get back on a solid academic schedule. There were four birthdays to celebrate, a funeral, and then a tailgate party to plan when Patrick was in town to play locally. I scurried. But I needed to rest. 

I was so tired and depleted on the day of the big game that when Patrick texted me from the locker, struggling with fresh waves of grief brought vividly to life by many memories of his grandfather over the course of Paddy's childhood in this very stadium, I was grateful for the rain. The dam broke for me, too. 

I didn't run the next day. I didn't even walk. I plodded through the chores and the ordinary movements of life. I drove to soccer and dance. I kind of wallowed. Gloom gathered. That bad run (that had been my last run) haunted me. It wasn't fun any more. Still, I knew I that had available to me a very powerful antidote to depression. I needed to find a way to make it work. There is science behind the quest to run every day:

“What we’re finding in the research on physical exercise is, the physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed … physical exercise changes the level of serotonin in your brain.

It changes, increases their levels of “feel good” hormones, the endorphins. And also — and these are amazing studies — it can increase the number of cells in your brain, in the region of the brain, called the hippocampus.

These studies have been first done on animals, and it’s very important because sometimes in depression, there are fewer of those cells in the hippocampus, but you can actually change your brain with exercise. So it’s got to be part of everybody’s treatment, everybody’s plan.”


I sat down with the calendar and mapped out the next day. I did it all on paper. (My digital rabbit hole is the subject for another day, but let's just say that time in front of the computer requires equal or more time away from it outdoors.) I decided that running the whole way was less important that moving for a longer period. So I planned a run with distinct, purposeful walk breaks every seven minutes. And then I also planned to walk a half hour when I finished the run. 

Much better.

Throw in the fact that we were down to one car and I walked another 6,000 steps in the neighborhood  throughout the day and I went to the gym to really stretch things out, and I ended the day on a much more even keel. 

The goal is to be healthy--in my brain and in my body. If I have to take a 1 minute walk break every 7 minutes for every run for the rest of my life, just so I can run long enough to get the anti-depressant effect, so be it. I've long suspected that I'm more about endurance than speed any way.

More about that tomorrow.

 From the evening walk...

From the evening walk...