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Keepin’ it Real on Hilton Head Island (and a Giveaway winner!)

Posted May 30 2013 6:36am

In recent weeks, I’ve found myself searching for clarity surrounding one very basic question that I truly believe most runners — and most athletes, for that matter — face at some point during their careers. Come to think about it, us life-ers probably consider this quandary far more than once. Maybe this is a reoccurring ordeal.

The big questions: Where has my passion gone? What happened to my love of running, and how can I reclaim it once again?

One of the first steps on this inward journey, in addition to tagging along for the ride on Under Armour’s What’s Beautiful campaign, has been to simply take a step back. Lay off. Stop being so hard on myself. I’ve said to myself recently, it’s okay to go through these lulls.

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(My goodie box of Under Armour gear arrived on Thursday evening with awesome sneakers, a sweet purple tank and the coolest neon braided headband ever!)

At home in Manhattan, I began to explore a variety of different pathways on my daily morning runs. From Soho to the High Line, I made a solid effort to consider whether I really wanted to run the lower loop of Central Park as I readied myself each day, or was I just making a sharp left out of my apartment out of habit — because it was easier than thinking, planning and attempting to go in another direction.

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It helped. Immediately, these minor decisions enabled me to begin to rekindle a sense of excitement long forgotten since I’d stopped racing last September (wow, I can’t believe it’s been that long). But it wasn’t enough to re-light the fire completely – especially with increasingly warm, muggy morning temperatures. I needed something more.

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(Here comes the sweat mobile!)

Fortunately, I received an e-mail from a yoga studio I had once signed up for, but never actually went to, just around my birthday in late April. The e-mail contained a code for $10 off a yoga session at Mang’Oh studio in Murray Hill, not far from my apartment. Looking up the studio’s schedule, I was pleasantly surprised to find a 7-8am sunrise class 5 days a week. Given the distance from my apartment to where I work, this actually worked out perfectly, and so in the midst of testing new running routes, I also resolved to make it to Mang’Oh — and was immediately glad I did.

As I’ve continued to consider and reconsider my efforts over the last few weeks, however, I’m still struggling to fully recapture what I once had. As I mentioned before leaving for Hilton Head over Memorial Day weekend, part of this journey, I think, requires more than a measure of sweat; a lot of it demands attention to an overall healthy, runner-friendly lifestyle. And yet, without a race to look forward to — to prepare for, body and mind — what’s the franking point? I’m still trying to answer that.

If I’ve been uncertain about all of these emotions balling up inside of me, I’ve been equal parts certain of something else. Come Memorial Day, I was in dire need of a break. My mind was basically shutting down, and I had to get away.

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I’ve been making the trip down to Hilton Head since Thanksgiving two years ago. My first time marked the first Thanksgiving I’d spend away from my family, and it was a big step in both my life and relationship with Noah. That pivotal decision to abandon aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews on the all-American holiday marks the potential begin a tradition of your own — that point when you don’t break away, but you begin to branch off. From the moment I arrived and heard the thunderous ocean waves from the balcony of the condo, I knew I’d spent my last Thanksgiving in New York.

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While I’ve been down to Hilton Head twice now in November, I’d yet to visit during the warmer summer months. And man have I been missing out. No longer are the mornings 40-degrees, the peak of the day barely clawing 60. At least, during the five days I spent hanging in Hilton Head over Memorial Day (and a little more), the weather never dipped below 70 during the day, and the coldest it ever got at night was a tolerable 65. It was totally and unquestionably perfect.

Now, when I’ve traveled here over Thanksgiving, one of my favorite parts of the getaway is the ability to run; November in Hilton Head is basically an outdoor sports-fanatics dream come true.

Memorial Day tells a different story. By the time the clock strikes 10:00, it’s borderline too steamy to run without shade, and if it’s a beach run you’re craving, well, you’ll be hard pressed to find any of that sweet, sweet tree coverage you so desperately need.

Trying to harbor this new sentiment of moderation, of change, of letting it be and going with the flow, I didn’t wake up each morning with any intention of I-MUST-RUN. Instead, I woke up slowly (what’s that?), I read (who has time for that?), I cooked healthy, delicious dinners (wait, kitchens can be bigger than closets?), I rode my bike (um, a hot pink bike, to be exact) and yes, when I felt like it, I went out for a short, steady, sunny jog.

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Running on the beaches of Hilton Head is a treat. They’re special, you know, the sand packed harder together than anywhere I’ve ever been before.

Unfortunately, I’ve been battling an unknown issue with my left big toe. I’m not quite sure what it is exactly — I’d diagnosed myself as having tendinitis for the last three months, but as it fails to go away and almost certainly returns, I’ve begun to look to other possibilities. What I haven’t yet done is committed to any extended period of rest. I mean, it’s just my big toe, right?

But because of this unnamed overuse (most likely) injury, I’ve also recognized that beach-y runs are less than ideal. While the tightly packed sand creates a superb running surface, there’s still a ton of give each time your foot strikes the ground. While awesome on most occasions and for the majority of outdoor runners, it’s a little iffy given the condition of my toe, as the sensation tends to intensify the more it presses into the ground.

Cest la vie. What resulted on Monday, Memorial Day, was a fun mixture of surfaces, pathways and scenery, lending to, overall, a great — albeit hot, sweaty and tired — run followed by a bit of sangria holiday fun. 

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I even got to wear-test these awesome new sneakers sent by Under Armour as part of their What’s Beautiful campaign. How did they know that purple and lime green are one of my favorite color combinations? The world will never know.

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On Tuesday morning, still on my hiatus from work, I managed to wake up before 8:30, which, to me, is the true cutoff before it gets too hot to lift a finger outdoors. Leaving Noah behind in bed, I set off on a lonesome run along, yes, the beach. I gave in. Cest la vie all over again. 

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I don’t know what it was, but something about the morning air and ocean waves called my name louder than I could ignore, and so I listened and, being mindful of any aches or twinges in my big toe. On Tuesday, I knocked out 5 miles along the shore, making it home before 8:45.

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Because in Hilton Head, a single workout a day is never enough (or at least that’s what I’m told), the day continued on from there with not one but three separate bike rides, one to a local spa where I treated myself to a hilariously southern manicure and pedicure (the salon was decked out in magenta colored boas and wide-brimmed hats), and another through a nature preserve that offered wonderful views. Our last bike ride was to dinner and home; lesson learned, check for street lights before doing so.

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Between the lakes, marshes and massive alligators, biking offered a really nice and different way to move and shake. That said, by the end of the day, I was totally exhausted. 

As always, while I’ll certainly miss the impromptu pina colada breaks on the beach…

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…I am absolutely happy to be back in my apartment, back in my home, back in New York City. But also as always, I am glad to know that I have these places to escape to when the waters get rough.

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(Home sweet home.)

On that note, more happy news: Congratulations Kate ( check out her blog here ) on winning my Odwalla giveaway last week, posted just before I took this nice, long break from blogging. To claim your prize, just shoot me an email with your address, which I’ll forward to our good friends at Odwalla in order to get your package shipped. Woot woot!

  • Do you have a backup route when you get bored of the same run? How many?
  • Have you ever run on the beach, and did you enjoy it?
  • Do you plan your vacations around running or exercise, or do you try to relax your body when getting away from home?

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