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Transformation: Emotional Running

Four months ago, after a yearlong hiatus I decided it was time to take back my run.

Prior to my break, running had been therapeutic for me. It had been my means of emotionally escaping the world when I didn’t want to deal with whatever was going on in it.

Running had been where I found comfort when trying to deal with the grief of losing my father. It was where I found peace and serenity when my world was in chaos. I’d love to tell you that over the last 4 months I have found my love of running again.

But, that wouldn’t be honest.

The truth is, running hasn’t been the same for me; I’ve had to do a little soul-searching to figure out why.

I started running back in 2011 when my Father passed away. Back then running was amazing to me. I loved every moment I was out there. When I was running, I felt connected to my father emotionally. I felt like it was time that I spent with him, even though he wasn’t with me anymore.

It stayed that way for several years. Back then I ran three to five miles on a run. It was my hour of cardio each day. In 2013 I ran my first half marathon, and I got addicted to the bling. I learned that I loved medals. They were this neat little trophy that I got to hang on my wall and see my accomplishment. It made me feel good about myself.

In 2013 I ran four half marathons. They were spaced out between February, June, October and December. The time in between them running still held all it’s beauty and glory for me. I used my time running to escape troubled marriage. I used it as time alone to figure out the answers to life, the universe and everything. What happened next? Where was I going? What was I doing?

In 2014 I ran four half marathons. I earned my first Run Disney Coast to Coast medal doing the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in January and the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November. I ran a couple local half marathons in between just to make sure that I kept my endurance up. Running was just something fun I did for me back then.

2015 started the same. I was running for fun and for bling. I loved the medals so much that I started running local half marathons that had cool medals just to bring them home. Somewhere between May and August of 2015 I decided that I wanted to take on something bigger than a half marathon.

I decided to do the Dopey Challenge. This event required that I build up the stamina and endurance to run for 4 days in a row; A 5k on day one. A 10k on day two. A half marathon on day three. A full marathon on day 4. Training for this event and building up to that kind of distance meant I racked up some half marathons along the way. Six in fact. In 2015 I ended up running a total of 10 half marathons and in January of 2016 I completed the Dopey Challenge.

This was my best year of running. I was so proud of myself, I felt so accomplished. I never wanted to do it again, but completing a full marathon was a bucket list item of mine and it’s an experience I still look back on with smile.

I struggled with overuse injuries during my training.

I knew that running 10 half marathons in a year to reach my goal had been hard on my body. I had achilles tendonitis in both ankles. My doctors told me I should slow down and stop running as much. But, I didn’t listen. Running was how I dealt with emotions. It was one of my major coping mechanisms.

I was in the middle of some big life transitions and running was how I was dealing with it. I started running half marathons almost every other weekend. Two in January two in February, three in March, three in April, two in May.

In May of 2016 my work situation changed, and I didn’t have all the free time I once had. I was working two jobs and juggling a new relationship. My new relationship was very time demanding, and I had far less free time than I was used to working two jobs, so for a few months, I put running on the back burner.

I started running again in July, when the anniversary grief of my fathers passing rolled around and then when the relationship I was in started spiraling into epic failure, I started running to escape it again. I went right back to running two half marathons a month for September, October and November. As the relationship improved again, I backed off a little, went back to running about one half marathon a month. By the time I was done I had run 18 half marathons in 2016.

I followed the same pattern in the beginning of 2017, averaging one half marathon a month until I hit the point in May that I stopped running altogether.

I have this tendency to do everything to excess. It doesn’t really matter what it is. Work, writing, playing games, putting together puzzles, sex, drinking, eating; Whatever is making me feel good, whatever is making me happy, I want that thing in epic volumes.

This is a behavior I have been working on changing in the past year.

I’ve been focused on trying to find balance in things. To appreciate things in smaller amounts the way I learned to appreciate food in smaller amounts after my weight loss surgery. I’ve been focused on being more reflective; On looking at what I am doing and making sure that I am doing it for the right reasons.

In this last 4 months of trying to take back my run and trying to find the love of running again, I’ve noticed a few things.

I really enjoy those three to five-mile runs. I’m out there, I’m happy. The sun is hitting my skin, I am taking in mother nature and I feel that emotional connection to my father again. But, those long runs, 8 miles, 9 miles, 10 miles, 11 miles. I’m pushing myself to go the distance, wondering why I am doing it.

Additionally, those long runs take a long time. I find myself feeling guilty about the time I am spending on myself when I have so many work and career related things I should be doing.

I’ve also noticed, that when I am not using running to escape life, I don’t seem to need those long runs the way I used to. There used to be a time that when I ran six or seven miles I still felt like I had emotions to work through and the longer I was out there running the longer I had to process and work through those emotions.

Now that I am in a better place in my life, I’m finding that I just don’t need running the way I once did. This was a huge transformation in what running has been for me. But this is also the first time in the history of my running career that there is nothing I am using running to get away from.

But I still love the medals. The bling. For me, the medal is the reward part of my SMART goal setting process. It’s what I get for accomplishing my goal, putting in the training and holding myself accountable.

This had me in a little bit of a conundrum.

Typically, you only get cool medals for half marathons. Yet, I don’t want to be running a half marathon every other weekend, or even every month. But here at the end of my training for the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend, I’ve discovered something new. Virtual Runs with large-scale accumulated distances. I’m considering doing a lot more of these sort of little run challenges to keep earning those medals that I love so much and going back to only running about 4 half marathons a year.

I’ve changed. How I feel about running has changed. That’s not really a bad thing, it’s transformation. It’s where I am in my weight loss, weight maintenance and fitness journey today.

I’m not feeling that whole “I just felt like running,” need to run until whatever hurt inside me starts to go away emotional need to run. I’m not feeling that “Run Pandora, Run,” need to Forest Gump my emotions through miles and miles of running.

You’ll noticed I said “considering” though. I haven’t set anything down in stone. Part of me is also wondering if my lack of enthusiasm for those long runs has more to do with the fact that I am just getting back to those long distances and they are harder than they used to be.

I’ve also considered that I’ve been training in high heat and humidity. It’s not really running season yet. As the weather starts to change and fall comes, how I feel about running might change.

No matter what happens next in my run journey, I am happy to be running again. I’m grateful to the good folks at BariLife who put the opportunity to return to Paris and redo my dream half marathon again. Training for this half marathon has brought running back into my life and helped me start looking at how I am going to reincorporate it into my world on a regular basis.


Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Cooper Institute Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies. Her training and coaching services are offered exclusively through GoGirl Fitness Studio.

Make #YourBariLife the best it can be.

Visit the BariLife Website for all your Protein and Vitamin Needs!


Transformation: Is Comparison The Thief of Joy?

Transformation. The word makes most people think of change in form or appearance. But, transformations come in many fashions.

Four months ago, I announced in my “#ThisIsMyBariLife” post that thanks to the good folks over at BariLife, I was going to back to Paris to run in the annual Paris Run Disney Half Marathon Weekend.

I had stop running entirely for almost a whole year.

My last half marathon had been back in May of 2016 when I completed my 40th half marathon at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend event in Anaheim, California.

If you’ve been reading my blog for the last several months you already know why I stopped running. I discussed it back in April in my “The Truth About Why I Stopped Running” blog. Finding the joy in running again is important to me.

Trying to change my mindset about running has been quite a transformation process for me over the last few months. I’ve learned quite a bit about myself in the process. It’s been enlightening.

I started running again back in early May. Typical of most training plans, my runs were short in the beginning. My long runs were 3 and 4 miles runs. They were hard, I was struggling with speed and realizing quickly that I didn’t have the long duration cardiovascular endurance that I had once had.

I didn’t care. I was ecstatic to be out there running again.

Early Prep For Paris RunI felt empowered, each time I went out for a run I felt like I was taking back a little piece of myself that had gotten lost in the last year.

4 weeks into my “Prepping for Paris” training plan, I broke my toe in an altercation with a suitcase that I had left in the middle of the living room to unpack later. The repercussions of procrastination at it’s best. The broken toe knocked me off the training plan for 6 weeks while it healed.

At the end of July, I jumped back on the run. I was scared that losing 6 weeks was going to be a huge setback for me. I was concerned and uncertain I would be able to build that cardiovascular endurance back up in time to run 13.1 miles in Paris.

Trying to jump back into training in the middle of the summer when the heat and humidity levels in North Carolina send the heat index into danger zones before noon was a struggle for me. I noticed very quickly that I had to pay close attention to where my heart rate was rather than just getting out there and nonchalantly doing my thing.

I was A LOT slower than I had been in my early May short runs.

There were days that instead of running any sort of set interval times I was basing my intervals on my heart rate. Running until my heart rate got to a level that I knew I needed to slow down, and then walking until it dropped to a level that I knew it was okay to run again.

I use typically use the HRR method to decide what my target heart rate zones are. It’s a little more accurate than the typical heart rate calculation formula of (220 – Age) x Intensity.

It’s more accurate, because it is taking into consideration the cardiovascular health of each individual person based on their resting heart rate. Your resting heart rate tells you how many times your heart beats per minute at rest. The lower that number the healthier your heart is. The average resting heart rate for adults is between 60 – 100 bmp (beats per minute).

These days, my resting heart rate is averaging about 55. I just turned 42. So, using the HRR method of (220 – 42) – 55 x Intensity + 55 my target heart rate range is 128 – 159 if I am calculating the low-end at a moderate intensity level of 60% of my heart rate reserve and the high-end at a vigorous intensity level of 85% of my heart rate reserve.

Formula for HRR Method of Target Heart Rate Calculations:

(220 – Age – Resting Heart Rate) x Intensity + Resting Heart Rate

I learned very quickly, especially in the summer heat and humidity when your heart rate shoots up faster than normal, that being on the high-end of my target heart rate zones was something that I couldn’t do for long periods of time. When it came to long duration, if my heart rate was over 150, I was struggling.

I found that my “happy pace” was with my heart rate somewhere 145 during my running intervals and around 135 on my walking intervals – that would be on average an intensity level of about 65% and 73% of my target heart rate reserve.

This bothered me a bit. The “Cardio Zone” is 70%-84% of your maximum heart rate. This is the target heart rate zone that you are typically trying to achieve during cardiovascular exercise. It bothered me that I couldn’t reach and stay in the high-end of those zones. I was barely hitting the low-end of this zone when I was out there. This is the zone where exercise is described as “You are pushing yourself, but not straining.” For me to achieve that, I’d have to be averaging heart rate zones of 141 – 158 on a regular basis. The high-end of that zone didn’t feel like I was pushing, it felt like I was going to keel over and die!

I decided to sit down with my numbers and do some research and comparisons.

Pandora On The RunIf I used the standard formula for heart rate calculations (220-42) x .70 and (220-42) x .84 that would put my target heart rate for the “Cardio Zone” at 124 – 149 – which meant my “happy pace” at 135 – 145 was smack dab in the middle of that target heart rate zone and on the higher end of that zone when I was doing the higher intensity segments of my intervals. This made me feel a lot better! Applying the HRR formula to the “Cardio Zone” standards of the typical formula had made me think I was training at sub-par levels.

I looked up target heart rate ranges specific to the HRR method. I had completely forgotten that when using the HRR calculation methods, also known as the “Karvonen Formula”, the definition of target heart rate zones is slightly different. When using this formula the “Aerobic Zone” is 70% – 80% of heart rate reserve and the recovery zone is 60% – 70% of heart rate reserve.  That means my heart rate should be at about 141 – 153 during my run segments and about 128 – 141 during my walk (recovery) segments. This made me feel a lot better.

Looking at the numbers transformed my outlook on my progression.

Because I was so much slower than I used to be, I was feeling a little defeated. But once I looked at these numbers and started considering that back when I was running a 12-minute mile my resting heart rate was in the lower 40s and I had a much higher cardiovascular threshold, I started to feel a lot better about myself and where I am with my training.

I often tell my clients that fitness fits us all, it just fits us all differently and it fits us differently at different times in our fitness journey. I’m exactly where I need to be right now in my running journey. My heart rate is in all the places I need it to be, at all the times I need it to be there. I’ve gone from not running for almost 12 months, to being able to run 11 miles at once. My pace time is averaging about a 14 to 15-minute mile, which has me well under the 16-minute pile pace requirement for this event. I’ve gone from ZERO – to being ready to run a half marathon in 17 weeks while spending 6 of them on the bench due to a broken toe.

They say that comparison is the thief of joy. That can be true if you are comparing yourself to someone else; Even if that someone else is an older version of yourself. But comparison can also help you put things into perspective and transform your outlook, especially when that comparison is based on data that shows you how well you are progressing in your fitness journey.

This sort of data comparison is how fitness professionals just like me help keep our clients motivated and show them what they have accomplished. How ironic that applying it to myself did the same thing for me eh?


Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Cooper Institute Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies. Her training and coaching services are offered exclusively through GoGirl Fitness Studio.

Make #YourBariLife the best it can be.

Visit the BariLife Website for all your Protein and Vitamin Needs!


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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

This is #MyBariLife

BariLife has decided to send me back to Paris to represent the WLS Community as I attempt to find my love of running again.
Please take the time to visit their website and check them out!

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