Tracking as a way of life? No thanks

Six different fitness trackers--3 with black wrist bands, one light blue, one yellow, and one darker blue, all against a green background.

Six different fitness trackers–3 with black wrist bands, one light blue, one yellow, and one darker blue, all against a green background.

Yesterday Sam asked people to weigh in about whether she should replace her FitBit. It’s not working properly and she still has some time to go in the summer step challenge. The thing is, Sam likes tracking. And I can appreciate that. She said she knew what I would say (meaning, she knew I’d say, “Noooooooooooo!”).

But I would only say no to the question, “Should, I, Tracy, get a FitBit and start tracking everything all the time?”  For Sam, my answer is different. In fact, if she likes tracking (and she does; she’s a data hound) and it doesn’t have a negative impact on her attitude about herself (and she’s so darn well-adjusted that it doesn’t), then yes she should. Why suffer along with broken gadgets when you can get a new one? Also, she’s about to make a very cool and upward career-move, so she can reward her accomplishments with a new shiny toy.

I’m the opposite. I lamented last week about how the 100 day step challenge is about a month too long. I find it interesting at first to get a read on my activity level. But after that I’m more like: are we there yet?

Sam said, “I think you take it all more seriously than me.” That’s very likely. It’s not that I take it super super seriously. Part of me knows that in the grand scheme it doesn’t really matter. I mean, it’s not like the teams actually win anything. And come September we’ll just move on and I’ll do what I do without counting my steps.  I’ll know when I have a “good activity” day, but I kind of know that anyway. How does being able to say “I hit 36,000 steps today” change anything?

If, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter, I don’t really need to know. So that’s kind of where I end up if I take things to their logical conclusion.

For me there is something insidious about monitoring and tracking. I have compared it to the panopticon before (an 18th Century prison design that forces inmates to engage in self-surveillance because they never know when they’re being watched). In that first early blog post, I was talking about food tracking (that’s got to be the worst type of tracking I’ve ever experienced). Sam chimed in about how she likes it in “Another Perspective on Tracking.”

We go back and forth with this issue a lot. And we’re both of the “you do you” variety. And I would never begrudge anyone their simple pleasures (like tracking gadgets).

I’ve gone even more in the other direction lately. This summer, I’ve gone out a few times without my Garmin! Just running freestyle. I didn’t even take it with me to Scotland in July and I had some amazing runs where I felt satisfied and free, not checking my pace and instead doing what felt right at the time. That pleases me and more importantly, feeds my soul in ways that external measures never do.

I blogged last week about intuitive eating and how much I like it. This is another place where Sam and I go in different directions. But the appeal of intuitive eating is consistent with my affinity for becoming aware of and following internal cues. I realize that my inner cues might sometimes be off (if I’m sick, if I’m tired, or what have you). But personally I do better when I try to live with that sort of mindful awareness for the most part.

And that’s why the idea of tracking as a way of life doesn’t agree with me. But if it agrees with you, that’s okay and I encourage you to venture out and find the right gadget for you.

So to answer your question, Sam: yes, get yourself a new one!

Does tracking as a way of life appeal to you or leave you cold (or somewhere in between?)?

100 days of counting steps is like a marathon, only longer

Three outside stairs (in Chicago) with a right foot in a robin blue running shoe and the bottom of a brown leg (Tracy's) on the lower step.

Three outside stairs (in Chicago) with a right foot in a robin blue running shoe and the bottom of a brown leg (Tracy’s) on the lower step.

Sam and I are both doing the Virgin Pulse Global Challenge, which is 100 days of counting steps as a member of a seven-person team. We’re not on the same team. She’s on Nasty Women and Bad Hombres (a team specially crafted to win and which is currently 304th globally and 1st at our university), I’m on Oh, the Humanities! (a team not specially crafted to win that currently stands at 9040th place globally and 21st at our university).

I’m doing it despite that last year I said I would never do it again. I got drawn in by FOMO.

We’ve got 15 days to go and, like last year, I’m ready for this to be over. Today it occurred to me that this 100 day challenge is feeling like a long, long event that loses it’s shine after a bit.  I’ve run a marathon and done other distances of running events and triathlons in the past, and they all have a similar psychological pattern to them (for me, anyway).

At the start, I feel super enthusiastic and energized. I want to be there. I like being there. It’s fun to be doing what I’m doing. I’m up for the challenge. This is the part of the race where you feel like you can do anything. That’s how I felt about the step challenge for about 6 weeks.

I was in a routine and it felt good. There were some tougher days when I didn’t do my regular walking commute and had to make a plan if I was going to get those steps. I traveled a bit, and that threw off the routine but I managed. But for about the first half, it felt pretty good.

In the middle part of a race it’s easy to lose your focus. The mind starts to wander. All the scenery looks the same. I sometimes experience boredom or a sense of doubt about why I’m even doing this. But despite all of this, I’ve still got the energy to stick to the plan.

That’s how it felt for the past month. I’ve got other things on my mind and some days I just don’t care that much about steps. I get the idea — I know that mostly it’s no problem for me to get between 15000-20000 steps in a day. But other days, like if I work at home or drive to work or go to a pool party, it requires more effort and planning. I need to go for walks or plan a 10K run or risk falling short. My mind wandered but I stuck it out.

Going into the home stretch of a race — that’s when I feel as if I want to tap out. The doubt about why I’m doing this can shift into the downright conviction that this is a useless undertaking that makes no sense. Instead of a lack of focus, the mind fixates on just one thing — finishing. This is the time in a long race that I haul out all of the affirmations I can muster. I can do this. I’ve trained for this. I’m strong and full of energy. Seriously, anything. And still, it’s a slog. I just want it to be over.

It’s day 85 of the challenge. I’m in home stretch mode. I want it to be over. It makes no sense. I’m kicking myself for allowing FOMO to motivate me to do something that I have already determined loses its luster before the end. And to top it all off, I’m about to go sailing for two. And it’s hard to get steps on the boat. And I just want to enjoy my vacation.

Not that I don’t enjoy activity on m vacation. But I can start to resent goals and monitoring and tracking and all that. And that is the stuff of which the global challenge is made. I will stick it out to the end. I’m on a team and that adds to the commitment, even if my team doesn’t stand a chance of victory. At least some of my team members have had a good experience dedicating themselves to the challenge. As did I for the first bit. I guess it’s time for my affirmations.

I know we’ve asked this before, but I’ll ask again: how do you feel about tracking your steps? Is this a part of your life? A thing you do from time to time (for a time, like the 100 day challenge)? A thing you would never do because…?

It only took 27 years, but now I’m a bona fide intuitive eater

Image description: Colour photo of three small chocolate bowls, each filled with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, on white plates with blue and gold around the edges.

Image description: Colour photo of three small chocolate bowls, each filled with fresh strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, on white plates with blue and gold around the edges.

It sort of snuck up on me. I’ve known about “intuitive eating” for over 25 years. When I was a graduate student in Cambridge, MA, I used to browse the shelves at Wordsworth Books looking for something, anything, that might help me lose my obsession with food and weight and dieting. Like many of us, I tried diets, thinking that if I could just lose the weight I’d stop obsessing. That didn’t work. Even when I lost the weight I didn’t stop obsessing. A lot of the time I didn’t lose the weight anyway. And the attempts to lose it just increased my obsession with food.

At some point in the very early nineties, I stumbled upon a new approach — intuitive eating.  The idea behind it is simple: eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’ve had enough. Eat what you want to eat. There are no “good” foods or “bad” foods. For a chronic dieter who constantly moralized foods as good and bad, who weighed and measured portions and always felt deprived, who thought all day about what to eat and when, whose too-small meals were over too soon because there was so little on the plate, intuitive eating sounded like the key to freedom.

I hardly even cared anymore whether I would lose weight (well, okay, I cared a little). I just wanted to be okay with food and okay with my body.  It was a little bit terrifying to think what would happen if I released the restrictions and changed my way of thinking. But it was more terrifying to anticipate living like I was forever. That was around 1990. Fast forward to our “Fittest by 50 Challenge” that got the blog started back in 2012.  By January of the challenge, after a brief encounter with “sports nutrition,” I reconnected with intuitive eating.

The basic approach is championed by a host of authors such as Geneen Roth (Breaking Free from Compulsive Eating), Carol H. Munter and Jane R. Hirschmann (Overcoming Overeating), and Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch (Intuitive Eating). The idea is that you can release yourself from food and weight obsession by releasing yourself from the restrictive approach mandated by “the diet mentality.”

In Intuitive Eating, Tribole and Resch outline ten principles. They have a comprehensive website where you can find these principles and become a part of a larger community who subscribes to this way of eating. The ten principles are:

  1. reject the diet mentality
  2. honor your hunger
  3. make peace with food
  4. challenge the food police
  5. feel your fullness
  6. discover the satisfaction factor
  7. cope with your emotions without using food
  8. respect your body
  9. exercise: feel the difference
  10. honor your health with gentle nutrition

I remember reading their description of what it was like to live like a seasoned intuitive eater. They said you stopped thinking about food all the time. You wouldn’t care any longer about the number on the bathroom scale. All foods would be permissible and you would reach for what you really wanted at the time. They said that though you might think that would mean that for the rest of your life you’d eat chocolate chip cookies all the time and never want a celery stick, that would turn out not to be true. Sometimes you might be offered cake and not feel like it. Other times you might order a veggie burger and fries and not eat all the fries. Not eat all the fries? Yeah right!

When I read that for the first time, even when I read it in 2012, I felt skeptical that I would ever get there. But through the past five years of blogging, I have devoted myself to living by the principles of intuitive eating. I do reject the diet mentality — there is nothing anyone could ever do to convince me to go another weight loss diet ever again. I honor my hunger by eating when I’m hungry. This was a foreign concept to me when I first started intuitive eating. I was so used to eating by the clock — if it’s noon it must be lunch time — that I didn’t even know what hunger actually felt like.

I do not agonize about food anymore, nor do I accept what the food police tell me. Eating chocolate instead of strawberries doesn’t mean I’m “bad.” Eating salad instead of fries doesn’t make me “bad.” That is why I wrote the post “Why Food Is Beyond Good and Evil.”

If there was one thing I wanted to do was to stop eating to the point of discomfort. But when you’re deprived most of the time, it’s all or nothing. Either I’m “virtuously” eating steamed vegetables with brown rice and cubed tofu, or going to town on too many pieces of deep dish pizza. By “too many pieces” I mean more pieces than I need to feel satisfied.

But over time I’ve learned how to listen to my body and can tell, for the most part, when it’s time to stop. I eat foods that I enjoy, so it’s easier to feel satisfied.  I don’t need food to soothe me anymore. This is not to say I never reach for chocolate when I’m in a funk. If I do, I do it with awareness not out of compulsion. I can and do have chocolate in my pantry all the time. One bar can sit there for months. This was not a thing that used to happen.

Our fitness challenge helped me learn to respect my body. Wow — I did two Olympic distance triathlons just before I turned fifty! And I’ve since run a marathon and several half marathons. And my body is pretty awesome. And it deserves good treatment. So there.

I also subscribe to the final two principles: I exercise and I honor my health.

The other day a friend said that I am a very “disciplined” eater. I challenged that assessment, asking what he meant. He said, “well, I’ve seen you eat potato chips and you just eat a few then put the bag away.” It’s true. I do that. But not out of discipline. That was the old way, the “diet mentality” way. I now do it because that’s what I feel like doing. I want a few chips. So I eat a few chips.

Now I realize intuitive eating has its detractors. Sam doesn’t believe in it at all because, she says, her thyroid meds mean she’s never hungry. If she only ate when she was hungry she wouldn’t eat.

Catherine is also skeptical. One of her reasons is that environmental factors are also important.

That’s fine. Me? I’m a huge fan. And though it may not be the cure-all that works for everyone, it has taken me from being a food-obsessed chronic dieter with a history of disordered eating, to a confident eater who enjoys food but is neither intimidated by it nor indifferent to it. I enjoy it and am fortunate enough to be in a position to acquire and to eat a range of delicious foods. That is an incredible achievement for me. It’s only within the past week or so that I realize that I actually live by the ten principles of intuitive eating pretty much all the time now. Coupled with that, I have maintained my weight within a 5 pound range effortlessly since 2013. It’s definitely a manner of eating that I embrace and feel fortunate to have learned.

Have you had any experience with intuitive eating? If so, we’d love to hear about it.


Fitness as a Feminist Issue: Let Us Count the Ways

Yesterday Sam and I were guest speakers at the Wellness Wednesday Coffee Break on campus for staff who work in the Support Services Building. They invited us to talk about the blog, how it came about, and what, as feminists, our “alternative” fitness message is.

We gave a little history of the blog — how we started it in 2012 to document our “Fittest by 50 Challenge” and then it grew into an amazing community. And we talked about what we see as five main “themes” that drive a lot of our blog content.

Here’s a poster we made for a different event a couple of years ago.

blog themes1

The blog still remains true to these feminist themes of equality, inclusivity, empowerment, aesthetics, and embodiment.

We spent about 20 minutes on the themes and then opened it up for Q&A. Questions ranged from “how do you take on the daunting task of changing people’s default views that equate fitness with thinness and “getting fit” with dieting?” to “what exactly did you do during the challenge (in terms of workouts) and what do you do now?”

It’s always interesting to present a feminist message to a group who, for at least some of the people in it, haven’t heard it before. There were lots of heads nodding as we talked, which shows that what we had resonated and maybe even influenced a few people to reconsider their approach.

Above all, we promote the idea that enjoyment is key. If your fitness routine feels like a punishing and joyless obligation that requires enormous discipline, it might be worth reconsidering what you’re doing.

When you think about fitness from a feminist point of view, what does that mean to you? Are there any themes not on our list that you think are worth highlighting?

“Beauty is not one size fits all”

Image description: three panels side by side, each a colour picture of a model on a catwalk in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit fashion show. Left is a curvy woman, tanned, with long dark hair, wearing a gold one-piece swimsuit. Middle is a slender woman of clour with short dark hair, a silver bikini bottom and a cropped loose long-sleeved top, bare midriff. Right is a smiling woman of colour with medium length dark hair, wearing a belted one piece with a scooped neck and capped sleeves. All three are in bare feet.

Image description: three panels side by side, each a colour picture of a model on a catwalk in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit fashion show. Left is a curvy woman, tanned, with long dark hair, wearing a gold one-piece swimsuit. Middle is a slender woman of clour with short dark hair, a silver bikini bottom and a cropped loose long-sleeved top, bare midriff. Right is a smiling woman of colour with medium length dark hair, wearing a belted one piece with a scooped neck and capped sleeves. All three are in bare feet.

Before I get into this, I need to emphasize the disclaimer that I’m not a big fan of the idea of a Sports Illustrated catwalk fashion show, where models show off the latest swim wear. Perhaps marginally less objectifying than the swimsuit issue itself (which is clearly not about the swimsuits but about the models and has nothing to do with sports), its emphasis still appears to be more on the bodies than the fashion.

But that aside, if you’re going to do it, then why not represent a diversity of shapes and sizes.  That’s what a Sports Illustrated swimsuit fashion show in Miami did recently. And it sparked a debate in Australia, as reported by the BBC news. Objecting to including plus sized models in the show, columnist Soraiya Fuda of Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, wrote:

“If the fashion industry decides to stop using models who appear to have starved themselves to skin and bones – as they should – they shouldn’t then choose to promote an equally unhealthy body shape.”

The president of the Australian Medical Association also chimed in, comparing “overweight” models to models walking down the catwalk smoking cigarettes. His point: both send an “unhealthy” message.  We should not, in his words,”celebrate obesity.”

Professor John Dixon, head of clinical obesity research at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute advocates for body diversity among models. He says:

“We know the stigma associated with obesity is so strong that we should respect people who are obese for their ability to feel good, look good and dress well,”

The fact is, people come in all shapes and sizes. We have said a number of times on the blog that it is possible to be both fit and fat. And in any case, let’s be clear. fashion shows are not trying to represent “health” anyway. They set the normative ideals for our society’s conceptions of beauty. For a long, long time, the ultra thin beauty ideal is about all we ever saw in the fashion industry.

Clothes were made to fit thin, lean bodies. If you weren’t of the normative body type, it was (and still is) more challenging to find comfortable, stylish clothes that fit. Having a diversity of body types represented on catwalks is a win in the sense that it sends a message that beauty is not one size fits all.

To promote this idea in the most revealing of all items — the swimsuit — is a radical move. If the fashion industry doesn’t just represent beauty but actually has a significant influence on its construction, then presenting attractive swimwear for larger bodies and modelling it as such is an extraordinary break from past practice.

What are your thoughts on body diversity in catwalk modelling, particularly but not exclusively for swimsuits? (I recognize this as a loaded question because many of us have complicated feelings about catwalk modelling of swimsuits more generally)

Pushing ourselves made easy: biking with my kid in the mitten (Guest post)

by Alison Reiheld

My 9 year old, who we refer to as Son 2 on the internet, is a bikes lover. A year and a half ago, he got a superb little road bike, about as small as they come.  For his birthday last year, we got him his own cycling kit, padded butt and back pockets and all.  By Christmas, he had a second one. He loves riding with his dad (my spouse) who is on a local cycling team who loves Son 2 almost as much as we do. But since they cycle so much more and so much longer than I usually do, Son 2 and I don’t usually share this thing, and we have almost never shared it without my husband also being present. The only exception is biking the perimeter of Mackinac Island in the summers, and that is delightful but only about 7 miles around.  I am pretty sure the farthest I had ever ridden with them was 12 miles. Most of my fitness is walking or hiking with a little running and some weight-lifting thrown in.

Every year, my husband stays home and takes care of the house and/or goes to take pictures on the summer airshow circuit while the boys and I and my mom and brother and his family all go up to the northern part of the mitten (near Traverse City, MI). Last year on our trip we noticed a lovely paved trail running alongside US-31 from Charlevoix up to Petoskey and parts beyond. I promised Son 2 we would bike it this summer.  And lo and behold, we both remembered that promise. The trail turns out to be called the Little Traverse Wheelway, and offers a whole range of possible segments with parks and views of the lake and elevation variations.

AR Picture1

Map of the Little Traverse Wheelway.

So we went to a cool place called Right Tree Adventure Rental (non-trivial feature for this venue: Right Tree rental fees are actually donations to Right Tree which does physical activity and confidence-building for young women, and is staffed almost entirely by young women) in Elk Rapids, MI. We’ve rented kayaks from them in the past, but never bikes.  No road bikes to be seen.

But ah, plenty of right-sized multi-geared hybrids and mountain bikes. Harder work than a good light roadbike, but better than a fixie every time and more pleasant on an un-kitted backside than a roadbike would have been.

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Son 2 and Right Tree bikes in the back of the car, view from the back.

So what happens when a 41 year old fat academic who likes to think of herself as fit but not really into cycling goes cycling on non-ideal equipment with a bike loving 9 year old who routinely bikes farther than she does? Awesomeness happens. A good time ensues.

Before we even reached the trail segment we chose as our starting place, we stopped at the World’s Largest Cherry Pie and saw the Charlevoix drawbridge go up to allow a whole passel of masted boats and large yachts to pass from the harbor to the lake.

Our starting point was a MDOT park just off of M-31 a bit outside of Charlevoix with parking, restrooms, picnic tables, and lake access as well as an old-fashioned water pump that brings up earth-cold delicious water for which we would be all too grateful in a few hours.

AR Picture3

We hydrated up, had a few Pringles for good measure in anticipation of sweating our salt out, watched the waves wash up on the rocks, and headed out with brimmed caps responsibly worn under our bike helmets to keep the sweat out of our eyes and the sun from our pupils.

The first mile or two north from there is right alongside the lake, either just up on the shore or a few hundred feet in through trees and widlflowers.  Sometimes I led, and sometimes son 2 took lead. Here he is way out front early on.

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Then, the steady climb up towards the bluffs above the harbor in Petoskey begins with a gentle up and down that is cumulatively, well… up.  The alert cyclist knows what this means for the ride back. All along the trail, butterflies and grasshoppers were out in force. On a fast downhill segment, I caught one bruisingly on my closed lips before it bounced off to the side; never suck wind with your mouth open through insect-filled air. I was a centimeter of open lips away from something much more surprising.

The segments with trail right next to the water had the sussuration of waves loud enough to drown out traffic on nearby M-31, and on a bright blue day like we had, there was plenty to see and hear and smell along the whole course of our chosen segment: the sun-hot fields of clover and wildflowers smelled delicious, dogs and people were wading and splashing in the water, the temperature changed as we rode sun-dappled trails from shadow into sun into shadow, back into sun again.

AR Picture5

Periodically, benches could be found alongside the path. A dentist’s office had a cooler next to the trail with a sign that said “Water! Help yourself and enjoy the ride!” It was laminated for repeated use.

Not too far from our turnaround point, the trail passed an architecturally unhorrible strip mall which held a Coney Dogs shop so we stopped for a hot dog for Son 2 and veggie-loaded mac and cheese for me. It was a perfect interlude.  There were more flush toilets available at parks and gas stations along the way than we needed (lack of publically accessible toilets is a perpetual problem for distance cyclists, as I understand it). We turned around at East Park in Petoskey, at mile 9-and-a-bit.

If we had kept going, we’d have been able to check out Petoskey and its even more spectacular even bluffier overlooks. Here we are ready to head back and do it all again.

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Just to our left in the image, there was a trailside fresh sweet cherry stand staffed by a young teen where we could have bought sugary deliciousness and had a pit-spitting contest if we’d wanted to, had we not just eaten.

With the bay near Petoskey in the background and East Park below, we took a sweaty selfie and headed back. Being up on the bluff at our turnaround point meant that the 9+ miles back to our car at the lakeside MDOT park where we’d started would be overall downhill. I did not cry salty tears at the prospect. More than one “whee!” was uttered by us both at various points on the ride out and back, and I confess to having fully abused the privilege of a long echo-y tunnel at one point, yelling “echoooooo!” multiple times with a startling and persistent lack of originality. We saw two monarchs spiraling up tens of feet into the air in a magnificent helix, and smelled hot pine more than once.

One of the best things about having an older elementary, middle, or high school kid in your life is that they may have hobbies you think aren’t for you. Or aren’t as much for you. And yet you try those activities anyway. And lo, they are good and provide experiences you wouldn’t otherwise have had. Not only do I do physical things I might not otherwise do, we see museums I might not otherwise choose and play games I might not otherwise play (I wouldn’t say I am good at Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering, but I am better than I have been since I played MTG in college).

If you are ever up in the TC/Charlevoix/Petoskey/Mackinac area, I highly recommend the Little Traverse Wheelway for a family ride because it can be divided into workable segments almost irrespective of fitness level. See the map at the top of this post for how this could be done. For the most fit, the total length can be as long as 23 miles, for a 46 mile roundtrip with lots of up and down from lake level to bluffs and back again, through forests and suburbs and boardwalk over swamp and charming town and the Victorian section of Petoskey as well as the sort of lakeside and bluff views we loved best.  There are loads of other trails up in these parts, as well.

We pushed ourselves, both of us, at a total of nearly 19 miles (about 30k) on hybrids with unaccustomed gearing.

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And we both agreed that it was lovely. The mark of a good bike ride is, I expect, that one is tired but still having fun.  Son 2 agrees this is definitely what happened. And he agrees that the cold well water was “delicious.” He put as much on his face as he did in his water bottle.

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When things are beautiful and the company is relentlessly enthusiastic , I can work a lot harder than I usually do and still have a darn good time.

And so can my kid.

I commend it to you.

The pros and cons of a summer without a “goal race”

Image description: Headshot of Tracy, a woman of colour with short blond hair under a blue running cap, wearing white earbuds and a neon yellow t-shirt, Newport Harbor in the background, grey cloudy day.

Image description: Headshot of Tracy, a woman of colour with short blond hair under a blue running cap, wearing white earbuds and a neon yellow t-shirt, Newport Harbor in the background, grey cloudy day.

For the first time in years I don’t have a goal race or event in view.  Ever since Anita and I had our not-fun half marathon in late May I’ve taken a time out from training for. Instead, I’ve opted to enjoy running without a specific goal in mind.

This goes totally against what I had learned from my coach, Linda, through the half marathon training. When I started working with Linda she emphasized the importance of having each run have a purpose. I liked that. Instead of just running, her training plans made me feel as if I was training.  There were intervals and tempo runs and long slow runs. Each assignment had a pace goal and a time goal. Something to work towards.

But after the half marathon I wanted to dial it down. Way down. In fact, sometimes, like when I was in Edinburgh, I didn’t even use my Garmin. I just ran for a while and then came back and had a shower. Since I had no goal race, not training for anything in particular, I didn’t have to try to be faster or go further or anything. That’s a big “pro” of not having anything specific in view.

In a word, it made me feel free and easy about my runs.

But it’s also a “con.” Goals motivate. Maybe sometimes the motivation feels a bit “stick” like, but it’s a motivation nonetheless. When we were training for the half, knowing that I would be running a half in six, five, four, three, two, one week got me to do things I didn’t even think I could, like run a kilometer in under six minutes (just one, mind you).

I’ve now been running for two full months with no goal and it’s getting a bit tired. It’s fit well with my hectic travel schedule, since goal-less running is a good fit when on the road. But I think I’m ready to focus on something again.

Violetta and Rebecca have both talked to me about fall half marathons. I know Rebecca is stoked to do the Potamac Half in late October. It was hard to turn down the allure of an event that bills itself as “the easiest half marathon in America,” but I don’t think I can make it. I’m also not sure I want to train for a half.

Instead, I think I’m going to go for either the MEC 10K on October 21 or the Halloween Haunting on October 28.

Either way, it’ll give me something to work toward. I had my fastest 10K time ever in the 2014 Halloween Haunting, just after my 50th birthday, the lead up to which I’d engaged in the most intensive training period of my life prepping for the two Olympic distance triathlons that season.

So that’s the new plan.

Obviously, whether you do better with a goal depends on what you run for. I know people for whom actual events just don’t even figure into their running equation. They run not for times or training but to clear their head, gain a sense of well-being, feel energized and healthy, or even to get their creative juices flowing for a writing project or some other creative undertaking.

What about you? Do you think you do better with or without a goal event?