Monthly Archives: March 2016

Oof… but at least I have new sneakers.

Oof. Ugh. Bleagh. Hmmmmrrrph.

Any of these noises could characterize how the past two weeks have felt. Work has been busy (and that means a lot of sitting in front of a computer because if I’m not seated in front of a computer, I’m not really getting anything done) and on top of the extra-hefty workload, the computers and/or computer systems I need to use for work have been unpredictably unreliable. I’ve been playing this clip from Office Space in my head frequently.

Most days I return home from work with only the energy it takes to crawl from my garage onto the living room floor-where my dog tries to revive me with his smelly kisses- and the desire to put on my bathrobe and lie on the couch with a gallon of ice cream and a remote control. It takes all the will power I have- ALL of it!– to put on my gym clothes and get back in the car to go workout or go running. With the stress of having too much to do and not enough time to do it in, my workouts have been critical in keeping my sanity. Even if I get to the gym late and think I would rather drop a kettle bell on my foot and call it a day than actually expend the mental energy it takes to plan a workout, I leave the gym feeling more refreshed and centered than when I arrived.

Keeping to my routine of alternating gym days and running days not only makes sure that I unfold myself from seated-at desk-with-fingers-on-keyboard position and use my muscles once in a while, but it also insures that my body, my poor, hunched-over body, is as tired as my mind is at the end of the day so that I can sleep well and take on the next day with all my faculties functioning at 100%.

The days when I most feel like giving myself a get out of jail free card and excusing myself from the gym are generally the days that I need it most. I can tell how my day is going by how tempted I am by the sugar-laden office snacks that seem to spontaneously emerge  like fungi in a damp forest. The more stressed I am, the more likely I am to eat something with frosting, and the more critical it becomes that I talk myself out of going to bed as soon as I get home and into some exercise. I need that break to force me out of my own head and into the realm of the physical world; it’s sort of a re-set button for my brain and body.

Consumed this beaut' last Friday. Perfect frosting to cake proportions.
Consumed this beaut’ last Friday. Perfect frosting to cake proportions.

Along with keeping me from turning into a crazy asshole, I’ve been using my fitness regime as a treat to motivate me to get out of bed every day and go to work. Nothing motivates me to earn money like spending it. Some might call me cheap frugal, and they’d be right. I don’t like spending money. I’d like to save all of my money in a pile and sleep on it like Smaug, so sometimes I make myself buy something that costs more than $20 just so I don’t become a paranoid money-hoarder who stuffs every last nickel into her skirt hems and lives on dandelion greens and bits of food salvaged from other people’s garbages.

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a new pair of running sneaks (and they cost so much more than $20 that I almost threw them back at the nice man offering them to me and ran out of the store). After the marathon (actually, it was during the marathon, around mile 17), I decided that my beloved Topos weren’t quite enough sneaker to stand up to the mileage I was putting on them. All of the things that I love about the shoe- their lightness, the fact that it feels like there is nothing between me and the road, the spacious toe box- started to count against the shoe on my long runs.

They are light, and I like that, but they don’t seem to be made of sturdy enough material to stand up to continuous, rigorous use (never thought I’d say that about a pair of running shoes. LL Bean slippers, maybe, but not running shoes). I wore a hole in my first pair 5 months in. The roomy toe box I still love, but the entire shoe feels a little shapeless, and I needed to buy a pair of inserts to give more stability to my narrow  feet. The feeling that there is little between me and the road is really what made me think about relegating my dear Topos to the “10 miles and under ” category of runs. There is too much pounding and not enough shoe to absorb the concussion; every pebble on the road and every inconsistency in footing is felt, and after a while, it’s uncomfortable.

One of my running buds, Kelly, who, for some strange reason likes to run for hundreds of miles consecutively, but good thing for me because girlfriend knows her shoes, suggested I try a show made by Newton that she really loves. She even had an old, tired pair for me to try. I borrowed them for a week and was hooked.

Behold! My newest crush.
Behold! My newest crush.

The Topo’s claim to fame is that they are a pretty minimalist shoe and they sort of let your foot do what it wants to do, and I like that, but my propensity is to run a little flat-footed and I think not having a lot of stability to support my foot within the shoe was part of the reason I was having some IT band/knee pain leading up the marathon last winter. This show, the Newton Gravity V, has a little more going on, but is still pretty light and gives my toes enough freedom to be individuals. The biggest difference with this shoe is the lugs that span the ball of my foot.* They make me want to run more on my fore foot (no more slappy feet, I hope!) which I think will help prevent any IT band flare ups (insert ‘praying hands’ emoji here).

Check out my lugs.
Check out my lugs.

These shoes, while different from the Topos, are pretty great. I’ve been adjusting to them; going from a well-loved pair to a new pair was a more drastic change than I’d anticipated, and they make my legs tired in different ways than the Topos do. Today will be their long-run debut; I’m about to test them out on a fairly flat 10-miler this morning. I think they’re ready for it and I hope I am too. I’m starting to understand why most runners seem like the Imelda Marcos of sneakers with a vast collection in every shape and for every possible kind of run.

 

*Don’t know what lugs are? That’s ok, I didn’t either until someone said “these shoes have pretty big lugs” and handed me one. Upon inspection, I noticed that it has rubbery, sticky-outy thingies on part of the tread. Those are the lugs.

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Why is it Always Running!?

“Ugh, why is it always running!?” a little boy exclaimed as he rounded a corner of the sidewalk on his scooter and was faced with a herd of sweaty adults clomping toward him. I belonged to that herd of runners and, after a hot and arduous set of repeats up a hill that looked deceptively small from the bottom but was in fact endless, shared the little boy’s sentiment; why, indeed, is it always running?

I had a really great run on Tuesday- the night we charged up the aforementioned hill. Some days, the gears seem to be turning in sync, and running feels much easier; I have been having more of these days of late, days when I am able to push the discomfort of being sweaty and out of breath aside and focus on going a little faster than feels natural, days when I am actually sad to reach the end of my run.

There are still, however, many days when I hate running.  Days when all I can focus on is the fact that I am hot and tired and I wonder if I can sneak back to my car and drive away without anybody noticing. I had two of these days this week, and one of them was today. The hardest part about today’s run was the fact that we ran past our parked cars in the middle of our run, and one member of the group actually did decide to go back to his car and drive home. It was difficult to tell him “See you Tuesday and have a nice weekend” as he walked toward the parking lot when what I really meant was “Take me with you!”

Even on the days when I feel like I’m totally sucking, I’m still faster than I used to be. Our entire group, actually, has gotten faster overall. I’m able to keep up with the “fast” members of our group and I, generally, don’t feel quite so close to death at the end of each run.* We are all becoming faster and fitter, and it is a great feeling to know that, not only am I improving, but that the program is working for everyone, and we are all very different people.

A contributing factor to my crappy running today and on Thursday  was the fact that I’m still figuring out how to manage my time so that I am getting in good workouts on the days that I don’t run. This week was a fail for me in the time management department and, because I was tired from long days at work, I didn’t drag myself to the gym as often as I should have. The one day I did make myself go, I merely pedaled the elliptical while I watched a few episodes of Forensic Files; it was better than nothing, but just barely.

FullSizeRender-38
Fifty shades of green.

One thing that I did really well last week, and have done already this week, is plan healthy meals and make them ahead of time so that I have a higher probability of having time to make it to the gym. I think I’ve finally found the meal planning technique that works best for me, and that is to make one or two dishes on the weekend that we can eat all week. For variety, we make some sort of salad to accompany our main dishes and that keeps us from getting bored. This week’s star is a cauliflower/asparagus soup, and I am looking forward to it.

When I think “healthy” I think of a meal that is made mostly of vegetables and doesn’t have a lot of added fats, sugars or processed ingredients. It has taken some time to train myself not to add cheese to everything I eat and to substitute a salad for a side of sugary, carb-heavy bread (sometimes), but I’m getting there. This week, I’m going to stick to my healthy diet (and avoid the booby-trapped cupboards full of Girl Scout cookies) and make a better effort to drag myself to the gym even if I am tired and traffic is bad and I get home from work wanting only to snuggle with my dog and cat.

Essentially what I looked like all last week.
Essentially what I looked like all last week.

 

*By “keep up” with the fast runners, I mean that I can see them for the entire duration of the run instead of just glimpsing them as they disappear over the crest of a hill in the distance.