Letters to myself: How running and endorphins allow me to see a clearer picture

Sadly, I’ve developed a lot of bad habits in my life. I drink too much coffee, I procrastinate, and I’m often late for everything. Not to be too hard on myself though, I’ve developed a truly healthy habit over twenty years of rarely letting a day go by without heading out for a run. If it hasn’t exactly saved my life, it’s come pretty close.

When I was single and not sharing the burdens of life with anyone, I felt them heavy on my shoulders. Some nights, the weight of my problems and responsibilities kept me from falling asleep. After glancing through the paper in the morning and having my cup of joe, I’d always put on the jog bra, lace up the running shoes, and head out the door. (I was usually also wearing shorts, a t-shirt and socks.) I recall one particularly egregious period when I thought I couldn’t make the rent AND the car payment AND the minimum on my credit cards. Before dozing off the previous evening, I envisioned skipping the rent and making the back seat of my Toyota Tercel my new bedroom. There was always a way to keep the creditors at bay on my MasterCard, even if in doing so, I got an ulcer.

I ran my four-mile loop that morning, slowly at first and then picked up speed. I’d been angry during mile one, less so during mile two, discovered a spring in my step for mile three, and by the time I arrived back at my apartment, my head was clear. I knew that my financial issues were real, but could be addressed in ways that didn’t leave me homeless. I had a steady job. Money was coming in. I simply had to reorganize and believe in my ability to take care of myself. So what had happened in between a restless night’s sleep and the end of my jog?

Endorphins.

You’ve heard the word before. They’re morphine-like chemicals that our bodies create naturally. While debate exists about the “runner’s high” often associated with endorphins, there is scientific proof that they reduce pain and induce euphoria. A hardy laugh and an orgasm can produce the same effect, but rather than rely on friends to be funny or my partner to be “in the mood”, I’ll pound the pavement, thank you.

Running and endorphins have helped me recover from a broken heart, job loss, rejection, illness and motherhood frustrations, to name a few. I clear my head and am allowed to see a difficult situation not as a mountain, but rather a pile of dirt to be addressed one shovelful at a time. (And it only costs me the price of running shoes – and that jog bra.)

Gotta run.

– Althea

Green Asanas: Eco-Friendly Work Outs

Down dog, up dog, tree, proud warrior, mountain pose.

The New Year is upon us, and with it, the desire to get back into pre-holiday shape. And for me, that means getting back into my regular yoga routine. Thankfully, this is one area I’m already pretty green in, but I thought I’d share some of my tips for making any workout a little more earth-conscious.

  • Nontoxic workout equipment: Whether you’re running, doing yoga, or lifting weights, you’ll likely need things like mats, bags, blocks, clothing, and other implements to make your workout more constructive. You can improve your workout by choosing options that are free of toxins like dioxins, synthetic dyes, and the like. Look for natural wood, non-synthetic fabrics like cotton and bamboo, and products made without PVC (flexible plastic). Check out some clothing ideas at Green Living Ideas.
  • Reusable water bottles: Don’t spoil your eco-routine with disposable, one-use water bottles. Not only are these likely to be laced with BPA (bisphenol-A—a hormone disruptor), they require a lot of energy and resources to create, and are often chucked into the landfill rather than recycled. A good quality reusable water bottle (I recommend stainless steel) will keep you hydrated without the eco-ills and health concerns.
  • A clean wash routine: When you’re done sweating, consider how you clean up after yourself. Whether you’re washing your laundry, in the shower, or wiping down equipment, choose cleaners that won’t contribute to indoor air pollution by looking for low-VOC, fragrance-free cleaning solutions (or make your own). Also check package labels to be sure your brand of cleaning products will biodegrade quickly in the environment. Oh, and don’t forget to go easy on the water consumption, too.

Those are just some quick suggestions for greening-up your New Year’s resolution to lose the holiday fat.

– Lucy