Saturday, July 16, 2011

On Social Running & Trying New Things

Lululemon AthleticaOn Thursday I went to the Lululemon Athletica Grant Ave Run Club for the first time! I have Aron at runner's rambles to thank for alerting me to the existence of these clubs. (She started the one in Walnut Creek with a friend a while back, and the two of them are now Run Ambassadors for the store.)

It's been a really long time since I've run with other people on anything like a regular basis. There was a point a few years ago when I was really busy when I was making running dates with lots of different co-workers in order to force myself to stick to a schedule and get my runs in, but that was only ever with one or two other people at a time. A few years before that I used to run with a local running club, but then some things changed in my life that made it hard for me to come to the scheduled runs. I'm kind of a loner by nature, though, so it's not something I miss all that often. Plus, running alone means I don't have to plan ahead of time when or where I'll run or what workout I'll do, and also that I can change my mind without affecting someone else.

I thought it might be cool to try running with a group again, though, just to see how I liked it. If you plan on running with the club regularly, you can sign up to have your miles tracked and earn Lululemon gear when you reach certain benchmarks (I believe that 25 miles gets you a pair of socks, at 50 you earn a water bottle, 100 = a tech shirt, etc.). Also, every other Thursday they do "roga" -- ie. running followed by free yoga. Since I know for a fact I don't stretch enough in spite of my best intentions, I figured this might not be such a bad thing to try.

This is all kind of a big deal because I have always found it very, VERY difficult and stressful to try new things, especially on my own, especially when those new things involve meeting strangers. Additionally, I've always felt a little ambivalent about yoga, so it's kind of like I'm trying TWO new things in one day. I want to take a moment to give myself mad and much-deserved props for this.

And the results? Well, I have to say the jury's still out. I'm not sold yet, but I'm also still open to trying it again a time or two.

The truth is that it turned out to be not all that social of a run. By which I mean not social at all. Since I needed to run at least 7 miles, I decided to jog the 3-miles there & then run with the 4.5 mile group (they also have a 3mi & 6 mi group), then either jog or BART home depending on how I felt. The store & group were easy enough to find, and after all the new people got signed in, one of the ambassadors (Jan) led us through a dynamic warm up involving high knees, butt kicks, lunges, and wall sits, which was fun. Once we started running, though, my group got spread out pretty quickly; we all had instructions for the route on slips of paper, but I figured I could pretty safely just follow the girl in front of me since she seemed to know where she was going & was running at about my pace.

Then, at some point, I realized that she was definitely NOT following the route on the paper (not really sure why; I wonder if maybe she was in the 3 mi group & just got in with us for a little while somehow). Suddenly I found myself completely lost and alone in the middle of Russian Hill with only my dinky little not-very-smart phone as my only hope for reorienting myself and getting un-lost. This took about 10 minutes and involved running an additional mile (as I was about half a mile off course -- see the red lines in the map there) and a lot of squinting at Google Maps on my tiny-tiny screen and trying to figure out which way was north. Finally, I got back to where I was supposed to be and finished the route.

In addition to feeling kind of bummed about that, and about not having the chance to socialize with a single person in the course of my run, my right Achilles had begun protesting VERY loudly early-on about the wisdom of all this -- bad enough, in fact, that if I had been on my own and known where I was going I probably would have stopped after a mile or two. As it was, it quieted down enough once I got un-lost that I managed to get back (I really, really didn't have the time to walk 2.5 miles back to the store), but that evening it was still pretty darn unhappy with me. Fortunately, I'd gotten enough mileage in earlier in the week that I could take Friday off without feeling too badly.

On the plus side, yoga was pretty cool. It was relatively straightforward and chill and not too hippy-dippy, and I think some of my major muscle groups definitely appreciated it. (Let's just forget for now that I got back a good 15 minutes after most people in my group thanks to blindly following the wrong person and being hopelessly unfamiliar with Russian Hill / North Beach). They also do a free class at 9:30 am on Sunday mornings, which seems like it could be really fun and beneficial except that it is at 9:30 am on Sunday mornings.

So I'm willing to go back and give it another try, mainly because it wasn't horrible, and most of the reason it wasn't great had to do with getting lost and dealing with weird Achilles issues. I may have to re-think which group I run in, though; the 4.5 mile route was pretty darn hilly, which I wouldn't mind except that a) I need to treat these days as easy runs, and too many hills makes it hard to do that, and b) I also really need to limit how much I run dramatic downhills on concrete because of my shin splints. If the six mile route is flatter (which is what it sounded like), then that might be better for me overall (even though it sounds like most people in that group run wicked fast, so it might end up being just as un-social for me).

There's also another club that meets at the Cow Hollow store on Saturday mornings at 9 am, so that could be an option at some point, if I ever manage to convince myself that it's worth the missed sleep to get up and get over there. The city is flatter over there and there are more non-concrete options for running, so that might work out better for my shin splint issues. Still, I will definitely give the Grant Ave club another try two weeks from now for the free yoga. :)

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