anxiety,  apps,  autism,  exercise,  mental health,  mindfulness,  motherhood

Thoughts from the treadmill

J has finally, FINALLY recovered from the last two weeks of being really sick, and I thought for sure that we’d be back on track with behaviours and motivation.

Apparently, that was wishful thinking.

Lately it seems like it’s getting harder to determine if J’s behaviours fall into the “anxiety” category or “I’m a 17 year old boy and just want to be a punk sometimes” category. Throw in illness, changes in schedule, changes in semester, or anything else, it starts to get even more difficult to parse those things out. It’s downright frustrating as a parent (and I sense for J too), and I’m realizing more and more the frustration part is coming from not understanding J’s motivations and less from his actions.

Friday morning I was putting in my 5 mile run on the treadmill, mulling and stewing about J’s situation. I’ve officially started training for the full marathon (and hired an awesome coach to keep me on track!) in May and have done plenty of 5 mile runs over the last month, but Friday’s workout ended up being a really hard run for me. I was waiting to receive an important text (which I had to stop the treadmill after 2 miles to respond to, then hop back on and finish the other 3). I had Stranger Things on in the background (right now I’m re-watching the series while I’m on the treadmill) but couldn’t even “zone out” enough to keep me distracted from the fact that I was running in the exact same place for 50 min. I was acutely aware of how hot it was in my basement and regretting not turning on the floor fan to a higher setting, and every minute on the treadmill seemed to take a century to pass. When I finished the workout, I stumbled to my phone and logged my workout into the app, utterly annoyed at the whole ordeal.

I scrolled through the calendar, looking for every 5 min mile workout I’ve done and compared Friday’s experience to all of the other 5 mile experiences over the last month and a half (because I wanted to prove to myself how terrible I really ran that day) and that’s when I had a little epiphany. Every 5 mile run that I had logged before was in some little way different than the other. Some 5 mile runs involved a few sprints after the mileage, some 5 mile runs were easy runs, some 5 mile runs were speed work outs. But there was something else I noticed.

The app I’ve been using has me check in two additional pieces of information besides time and distance completed. It has me log in “how I felt” and my “perceived effort.” Those two things may seem really similar, but as I reflected back on the month, I noticed that there was a week and a half where I had the flu and missed runs, and for days after my “how I felt” rating was “poor.” I also noticed, that even when I was feeling “normal” or “good” my “perceived effort” could range from light, moderate, or hard. I had the realization that J’s not the only one whose days can fluctuate so much from day to day, even when every day “seems” normal. I have lots of different factors that can affect my “normal” daily experience. Friday’s run was crappy because I was mentally distracted with J. I also realized as I checked the boxes on the app that I had gotten to bed really late the night before, which made me feel more physically exhausted. I had to start and stop the treadmill which broke my mental and physical flow and made the run seem even longer. I also realized, that as crappy as I felt my time was for that mileage on Friday it was better than some of my 5 mile runs back in early January. Logging and tracking my runs and mental perceptions had helped me have a better perspective on where Friday’s run fell into a whole month and a half’s worth of training.

And here was my “terrible” Friday run: 9:45 mile pace. Out of the three other days I checked, there was only one day I ran faster than this time. It seemed WAY worse than it really was.

Which had me thinking…what I tracked my days like I tracked my marathon training workouts. Would I feel as stressed out about work or J as much as I think I am? How often do my “high stress” days occur? How often does my “how I felt” ranking match up with my “perceived effort” ranking? How would it improve my perspective of the overall situation?

What if I could somehow get J to track and log his days like that too?

I’m on the quest now for a good app for that.

If I can learn to manage and see my stress for what it really is (how I feel verses my perceived effort) then maybe I can respond better to J’s stress. And maybe, if we can get J to be able to do the same thing, then maybe it will help us see the difference between “anxiety” and “17 year old boy” a little better.

Just some thoughts from the treadmill…

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