“It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.” Henry Ward Beecher
By now, even if you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’ve noticed the full-beard facial hair trend. I’ve never been a fan of it. Because growing a full beard overnight is not an accomplishment for most men of my middle-eastern background, having one has never equated with being a manly-man for me. I first took note of the trend around June of 2014. It was a circulating buzzfeed post about the world cup, and the hottest bearded soccer players to watch. Well, hello there Giorgos Tzavelas, Claudio Marchisio, and Graham Zusi. I even posted the link to my Facebook, saying that “I’ve never been a fan of facial hair, but paired with the right pair of thighs, I may reconsider.” I’ve always been a fan of soccer players’ thighs.
But over the last 6 months, I’ve been bombarded with men with full on beards all over LA. Blonds, brunettes, red-headed men, all embracing it. My older sister visiting over the summer was actually one of the first to notice it. She pointed it out to me; I shrugged it off and said, “Yeah, I’m not a fan.” Then a couple of months later, I’m sitting at a bar for happy hour, and every single bartender has a full beard, and they seem like they’re kinda cute. About a month later, another bearded bartender (at another happy hour), tells me that having a full beard is called being a lumbersexual. Hmm…I’m a girl who likes made up words (runsanity), and suddenly these guys seem a little more than kinda cute. Then I wonder, if full facial hair can start to grow on me, just based on repeated exposure, what else can?
They say it takes about 15 exposures to a new food for a child to learn to like it, and 21 days of a new behavior for it to become a habit. (Better data suggests that it may actually take anywhere form 18 – 254 days for a new behavior to become a habit, but let’s ignore that and not get discouraged.) Try brussel sprouts 20 times and you’ll crave it. Get up early to exercise for 21 days and it will become a habit.
I used to hate running; now it’s hard for me to go a few days without a runner’s high. But I still hate hills! I practically gave myself an anxiety attack over having to run them in the Nike Women’s San Francisco Half-Marathon. My hatred of hills almost caused me to miss one of the most inspiring races/weekends of my life. But I survived that race, including the hills, and once I survived it, I was actually a changed runner. What if I change my mindset.
Rather than looking at getting up hills as the part of a course that I need to survive, I could actually look forward to it? If I make myself start to run hills regularly rather than avoid them, could I possibly learn to enjoy them? I mean I do want to improve my pace, and by now the nerd in me has studied enough about running to know that hill repeats and sprints (ugh) are the way to do it. If I can actually start to find facial hair remotely attractive, train myself to drink an entire beer (that’s a whole other story), and learn to love to run; then maybe I can start enjoying hills.
New plan: repeatedly expose myself to running hills; incorporate a hill workout into my weekly run cycle. Ok, bring on hill Mondays! I’ll start with a warm up, then run up and down 5 hills that are each about 1/4 to 1/2 a mile between Santa Monica and Sunset Blvd, and end with a cool run down the hill. It’s been about 6 weeks of this once a week plan. The first time out was hard. By hill 4 I felt like death. I was “running” at a snail’s pace hunched over and I may have been wheezing. Do I have exercise-induced asthma? I don’t think so. By the time the 5 hills are done, I feel much more drained than I do after running 10 miles straight. A couple of days later when I go for my flat 6 mile run, it’s the easiest run I’ve ever done….wait, 6 miles is already over?
Three weeks into hill Mondays, my 6 mile flat run is easy and faster than I’ve ever run it. This is the first pace improvement I’ve had in the last year of regular running. Six weeks into hill Mondays, I’m actually running and not dragging up the hills, I’m not hunched over, and I am drained but not wheezing at the top of the hill. I’m not loving hill Mondays, but I’m not dreading them. Maybe I should have practiced hill repeats before running the Nike Women’s Half in San Francisco, but there’s always next year, or the year after that. I pause at the top of the hill on Sunset Blvd and look down at the view, not of the sun hitting the palm trees; I look down at my legs. If I keep this up, I’m going to have male soccer player thighs myself.
For your viewing pleasure: