Low Budget

This post is a bit of a mix; it’s a review of some of my low budget gear and practices from this season.

My Music: After leaving my long time MP3 player behind on an airplane, I bought a new one. I wasn’t really happy with it, because it required an extra step for getting the playlists off the computer. So, when it shorted out and could not be recovered (even after several days of rice bag treatment), I was not too disappointed.

The short out was fascinating all by itself. It was at the end of a long run, and the music started flaking in an out, skidding along. There would be bursts of static, then a little more music and a skid. It continued like this for a minute, and I thought this is what my brain would sound like if it shorted out and I fainted. Then. Silence. I thought, “Wow. I could be dead now.” And my MP3 player actually was dead, but I was still running.

Instead of buying a new one, I went to my kids and got a hand-me-down. Since my son had gotten an iPod for Christmas, his MP3 player had gone unused. Now I’m back to old technology that syncs beautifully with the rest of my old technology!

One of my practices is to switch out entire playlists of music. Right now I have two sets. So, switching back to the old one, I’m remembering that there’s a lot of good music that I like that I haven’t heard in a while, like “Gypsy Road” by Cinderella.

Headphones: The wires for headphones drive me nuts. Over the course of several years, I have settled on this arrangement. I have a homemade elastic band that goes on my right forearm near my elbow. My MP3 player rides there. It doesn’t bother me, doesn’t get too much sweat, and is in the perfect place for skipping to the next song or altering the volume. I run the headphone wires under my shirt and tuck the excess into the elastic band. I wear a sweat wicking headband over my headphones, which cuts out the wind noise. My headphones are just the ones that came with the player. They are cheap, but they get the job done.

Once these pieces are in place, the final problem is keeping the cord from bouncing too much or getting pulled down by my sweat-soaked shirt. (In the past, I have taped the cord down with water proof Band-Aids. This works great, but it takes a lot of time and Band-Aids.) To solve this I purchased a cheap necklace with a wooden cross on it. I tied a lark’s head (a kind of slip not) in the necklace and threaded the cord through that. This keeps the cord from falling. The necklace is a cord with both ends knotted onto itself, and it can be adjusted by sliding these knots toward or away from each other. It is an elegant, functional design.

I have grown fond of this five-dollar cross, and I love the deep color it takes on once it is sweat soaked. (Yes. I love that old cross. So despised by the world.)

Form First: This season I have swallowed my pride and reduced the weight and repetitions of many of my strength exercises. I have been focusing on doing the exercises with good form. My mantra is “Form First.” Before, I had a certain amount of ego wrapped up in the number of squats I could do and the weight that I could move. Now, I am focusing on drills that isolate running motions. Also, I am doing donkey kicks (without any weight) as opposed to hamstring curls. Donkey kicks are just what they sound like. You get on all fours, kick one leg out behind you, and then raise it above your butt. It helps if you imagine that you are running. Exercises like this have really improved my core strength and made me a more stable and smooth runner. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

My pooch: One of the reasons I run is that I am vain; I like to look like a runner. One of the parts of my body that I have never-before been happy with is my pooch, my lower abdomen, which I think looks way too much like a pot belly. But recently, I made peace with my pooch. It happened like this. I was reading Runner’s World and was looking at some yoga illustrations. The yoga instructor was doing poses that isolated the knee raise portion of the running gait. I had two simultaneous thoughts: the woman doing those poses was beautiful and she had a pooch like mine. Then I thought, she needs that pooch to do those moves! Then I thought, I need my pooch too! Without it, I don’t have any leverage! Still, I suck my abdominals back to my spine when I do crunches.

The warm-up mile: The first mile that I run is easy and broken up by a strength routine with push-ups, downward dog, mountain climbers, back extensions, and sit-ups. I run a couple minutes, stop for calisthenics, then repeat two more times. Then I run through the end of the first mile and start in on the core of my running or cross-training.

Because of my recent chiropractic treatments and a few things I’ve read, I’ve started realizing that back extensions are as much about waking up and grooving the muscles as they are about strength. When I do back extensions, I think about the fact that my brain is sending a signal to those muscles to contract and then relax. Both signals are equally important.

One morning during this routine I realized push-ups forge the mind and the body into one. The mind says “push,” and the body does it. Yes, I meditate while doing push-ups.

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