Tag Archives: fitness freak

Put Your Muscles Where Your Mouth Is

Yesterday my six week CrossFit challenge came to a close. It was a bittersweet day because, although we were happy to have made it all the way through the course, we were sad about our weekly meetings coming to an end. Much as I suspected, I am not the only one who enjoyed working with the same group of ladies each time I went to class.

The six weeks went by quickly and, as I looked around the gym while we were doing our last WOD (Workout of the Day) together, I was surprised and impressed by how far we had all come in such a short amount of time. Everybody looked stronger, we knew the names of the movements we were supposed to be doing (a big improvement for sure; at many times during the six weeks I felt sorry for our instructors- it must have felt like herding cats trying to get us all going the right direction!), and, most impressive of all, nobody was complaining. Having a group of women, who two months ago would not have described themselves as particularly fit or at all CrossFit savvy, working together on a hot, Hawaiian Saturday afternoon and not hearing any complaints about the aches, pains, and sweat is a big accomplishment!

Our final WOD; do you hear the Eye of the Tiger theme from ‘Rocky’ playing?

Our final workout was a team workout, so, while we didn’t do all of the movements on our own, we did all do the 2 burpees every minute on the minute, and that counts for something, right? As a team, we managed to get through almost three rounds (we had just goblet squats and burpees left to power through, c’est la vie) and, I’m ashamed to admit, that when I first looked at the whiteboard and saw the 20 minute cap, I was concerned we wouldn’t make it through one entire round. Essentially what I am trying to tell you is that this group of ladies and I are a bunch of badass mofos and, when there are tacos at stake, we don’t play around.

Our final WOD was followed by a Taco Tuesday (on Saturday) themed fiesta, and it was well-deserved. No matter where we started from, we all worked hard to make ourselves just a little bit better each time we stepped into the gym. Using the guidance provided through the daily emails, we each tried to find a way to eat more healthfully, and, even from day to day, I could see physical improvement in all of us. There were ladies who couldn’t run the entire 400 m warm-up run on day one, and, by the time we were up to running a mile, Coach Gil said it was the first time he had ever had all participants in the New You group finish in under thirteen minutes. Progress! The first time I tried to do an overhead squat holding just the light PVC practice bar, my shoulders and hips were so stiff I almost fell over, and now I can do them, tentatively, with 25 lbs of total weight. Tentative progress, but progress all the same!

Kettlebell swings. To demonstrate how much I’ve learned, I knew to ask if we were supposed to be doing American or Russian style swings.

I’m excited to see how CrossFit will influence my running (yeah, I signed up to continue. That’s how it is with me, I guess; I sign up for things like this thinking it will be a fun, one-off experiment and I’ll have a funny story to tell about that time I trained for a marathon or that time I did several weeks of CrossFit, but then I really enjoy what I’m doing and see changes in myself that I really like and I’m hooked.) In the short-term, the workouts have made me very tired, but I think that is to be expected as my body adjusts to being challenged in a new way (challenged, tortured, po-tay-to, po-tah-to). I think CrossFit will be good at countering the stiffness that running, just by the nature of the fact that your body is always moving the same way, inherently creates. This must be why so many runners I know also like to compete in triathlons because the swimming and the biking force you to do something a little different, but I’m afraid of sharks and I don’t like to put my face in public pools because they are gross, so triathlons seem to be out for me. Also I think that people would laugh at my cruiser if I tried to ride it in a race. So, CrossFit it is, for now.

I think, in the long run, it will help my running. With a stronger core and more balanced strength, I predict that my endurance will increase and I will maybe even become a little faster. Time will tell. I don’t know if I will see these kinds of results in the upcoming Hapalua half-marathon (ummmm…..it’s next Sunday! One week!) because I am so flippin’ tired, but, I am going to take it a bit easier this week to allow my muscles some rest. Of course, it’s also time to start eating some extra carbohydrates- music to my ears; bring on the pasta! Last year I ran this race in about 2:05, and this year I hope to run it in under 2:00. After my fantastic marathon, I thought that this was a pretty achievable goal, but I’m starting to have doubts. I will be happy to knock any time off of last year’s race, and ultimately hope that I don’t add time, but if I’ve learned anything from having trained for two marathons and, now, three half-marathons, it’s that every day is different, and you’ve got to run the best you can in the moment. Here’s hoping my newly-found CrossFit muscles feel revived and ready to help power me on after a week of rest!

CrossFit: it’ll put hair on your lip!

Stayin’ Alive

 

View from the gym. Makes it easier to play through the pain when you’re looking at this.

Yes! More than halfway through my CrossFit ‘experiment’ and I’m still standing.

I’m really enjoying the class and am learning quite a bit about CrossFit. Mostly I’m learning that it really IS as hard as it looks and that I really like working out with only ladies. There is something so liberating about showing up at the gym and knowing that nobody is going to be impatiently waiting for me to relinquish the barbell or be silently judging the (lack of) weight I’m lifting; these ladies, like me, have nothing to prove. I’ve heard the same sentiment expressed by others in our group; we’d all like to continue with the ‘ole XFit (is that a thing? like Xtina?), but we’d like to continue with just ladies. Can it be ladies night every night, please?

This CrossFit program has us meeting three or four days a week for an hour long estrogen-fueled sweat sesh. Most days, we start with a short run to warm-up (ahem, I ran my fastest mile on Saturday, 7:35, no big deal [brushes off shoulders]) which everybody but me seems to dread, but I like it because it’s the only part of the class where I feel like I know what I’m doing. Then, we move on to going over the day’s class goal which is usually learning some new movement, like a clean or toes to bar, etc., and we finish the day with a Workout of the Day (WOD for short, CrossFit is so hip that even the workouts get nicknames) that focuses on whatever the day’s skill was. It’s a pretty simple format.

We’re learning the correct form for lots of types of lifts and movements; they all look pretty straightforward when I watch the coaches demonstrate, but, man, I’ve never felt so uncoordinated as when I’m trying to follow their lead. It’s kind of like dancing, which I’m also not very good at, but I don’t let my lack of natural talent stop me from enjoying myself. So far we’ve learned how to jerk, snatch, clean, squat, toes to bar, pull-up, and burpee. Soooooo….many…..burpeeeeesssss.

We burpee if we show up to class late. We burpee if someone misses class. We burpee if we forget someone’s name. We burpee if we row under or over our rowing goal. We burpee if we’re bored. We burpee if we’re tired. We burpee if we’re hungry. Essentially, we burpee for the heck of it. It seems that, much like my parents’ telling me to “go play outside” whenever I started to annoy them as a child, the coaches instruct us to burpee as a diversion technique. I will admit it is pretty effective and they say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but I’m not sure if “they” ever did a burpee.

I’m not supposed to eat this.

Part of this program focuses on our diet. We are supposed to be eliminating processed sugar (even maple syrup,  which, since I’m from VT, is essentially a food group) and eating more protein and healthy fats. While I haven’t cut out sugar completely, I have almost done so (as an aside, tea without honey is hardly worth drinking), and I am surprised by the difference I see and feel. Swapping sugars for more protein and healthy fats has made me less inclined to snack throughout the day, and I feel like I have more energy in general. I’ll admit that, as a vegetarian, I’ve found it nearly impossible to completely forgo bread and I’m probably eating more starchy grains, like rice, than I’m supposed to be eating, but, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to maintain her sanity

The first week of the program, I cut sugar out completely, and, after a mini-meltdown when Don asked if I wanted to grab lunch at our favorite restaurant, which serves mainly sandwiches, decided that it wasn’t going to be possible for me to both completely eliminate sugar and maintain my status as a functioning member of society. By the end of the week, tired of hard boiled eggs and avocados, I found myself spinning around the kitchen like a whirling dervish trying to find an afternoon snack, cursing my vegetarianism as I imagined my classmates eating grilled chicken. I was probably one paleo recipe away from spending my afternoons crying into a bag of marshmallows; at Don’s recommendation, I began to allow myself the simple luxury of bread and feel much better now.

So far, this has been a great experience, and I’d like to continue pursuing my dreams of CrossFit competency after the New You program ends. I get a good vibe from the other gym goers and the coaching staff is friendly, knowledgeable and chill. My personal favorite is a gal named Coach Tiff because her whole “thang” is essentially my life goal. She seems really happy to be at the gym, even if she is spending much of her time helping a bunch of sweaty newbies adjust their form, and she is so fit that she looks like how I imagine look when I’m dreaming. That level of fitness takes a lot of dedication, and I admire that. I’m sure, since I’m doing this program and all, that I’ll look like Coach Tiff in a few weeks; thats how this fitness thing works, right?

Excuse Me: CrossFittin’ Off the List

Slip, slidin' away.
Slip, slidin’ away.

You guys, I’ve been negligent- both in my blogging AND, I’m sorry to say, in my exercising. It’s as if I took the 23 minute shave off my marathon time, gave myself a big pat on the back with it, and then rested my laurels upon it until one day, a few weeks ago, I realized that my clothes were once again getting a little snug.

I’m a little ashamed of myself that I fell into the trap of using stupid excuses to justify why I “JUST couldn’t work out right now, nope, uh-uh, no way.” Here is my list of stupid excuses, in case you want to try them out yourself (which I don’t recommend because eventually you will be in the passenger seat of a car as it drives by a park full of women doing some circuit/body weight training next to a playground while their children happily play in the Hawaiian winter sun and you will realize that if these women can find a way to fit a great workout in, then you should be able to as well, and you will feel very ashamed of yourself for falling into the excuse trap):

  1. I got home from work so late that it isn’t worth it to drive all the way to the gym for only a short workout (why this excuse is bogus: some is always better than none, this applies to both workouts and dessert)
  2. My dog looks so sad and he has been alone all day, I’ll take him for a walk on the beach instead of going to the gym (why this is bogus: you are an adult who can make her own schedule, walk the dog because he looks sad and then go to the gym)
  3. I’m hungry (bogus: eat a snack, then go to the gym)
  4. I’m tired (see number 1, do a smaller workout, some is better than none, and you’re probably tired because you didn’t sleep well because all you did yesterday was walk your dog and you weren’t tired enough to go to sleep at bedtime so you stayed up for two extra hours looking at Facebook)
  5. My leg/arm/insert body part here hurts (this excuse is not bogus, you should skip a workout or do one that does not involve the sore body part, see a medical professional if it doesn’t improve, and follow the medical professional’s instructions for recovery. BUT, don’t keep using this excuse when your leg/arm/whatever no longer hurts, get back to work when you’ve recovered)
  6. Ok, so I know some is better than none, but I got home from work too late AND I need to make dinner which has an effect on the other members of my family (salad counts as dinner and only requires about 10 minutes to whip up. Do a small workout and pick up some lettuce on your way home. Plus, you can delegate dinner duties to other family members, you don’t HAVE to make it all time, you control freak. Maybe Don wants to eat something made by his own two hands)
  7. I just got out of the car after a 40 minute commute home and I CAN’T get back in to drive to the gym (guess what time it is? PUSH UP TIME!!! Also, what about that idea you had to get up earlier to go to the gym before work? Its time to get back on track with that).

So, you can see I’ve been busier talking myself out of going to the gym than I have actually getting my daily dose of Vitamin E (E for exercise). In my defense (here she goes again with those excuses, amiright?), I was keeping up with the running, post-marathon, until a New Year’s Eve trail run on muddy footing gave me a shin splint which I tried to ignore, did not properly rest and then compounded into something more significant. I gave myself a mandatory two-week break from running while I let that heal, but, once it was all better, I kinda sorta forgot to get back into running and gym-ing. “I need a break!” was my justification, “my body needs to rest!”

At that time, the only thing I needed a break from was eating cookies and watching Fixer Upper marathons on HGTV (that Joanna Gaines, though, how ’bout that interior design wizardry she does? And, she’s so goddamn pretty that I just can’t look away). I started to get back into the swing of things when Half-Marathon training got underway, but I was still slumping in my non-running workouts. Getting up earlier in the morning for a pre-work workout is tough, but I much prefer it to having to get back into the car at the end of the day to battle it out for weight bench real estate with the post-work crowd, and I had started to revisit some of the Phase 2 workouts from the Jamie Eason LiveFit program I did a few years ago, but something was still missing. I had the time, I had the facility and equipment, I had the motivation, but I was lacking a very important part of working out: accountability.

Ah yes, accountability. Why do push ups when you know your push up game is pretty weak and you’re embarrassed to do push ups in public? Why work on getting stronger at pull-ups when they are difficult and you don’t like them? Who’s gonna know if you just pick something easier to do? Usually, nobody, and for me, that’s a problem. I’ve got to start making myself do the things that are hard and maybe make me look a little foolish until I get stronger if I want to improve my fitness. I will admit that pride has lately had an effect on my workouts; I know it is stupid to let my concern over looking foolish keep me from improving my health and fitness, but some days it gets the better of me. The gym that I have the easiest access to is a gym that is frequented by Marines and if you ever want to feel bad about yourself, you should workout next to a Marine. As soon as I walk into the gym, I feel old (it seems to me the median age of the Marine population is 20), I feel flabby (I overheard a young man joyously claiming to the front desk clerk that he weighed 190 lbs and had a 29 inch waist and when I looked at him, I believed him), and I feel weak (whenever I have to ask someone if I can use those 5 lb weight plates, he/she looks astonished as if he/she was unaware that weight plates came in such small increments. Guess what guys, they also come in 2.5 lbs).

Ohhh...yay...
Ohhh…yay…

Last week, in a moment of serendipity, I saw an ad for just the kick in the pants that I need: a six week, ladies only, workout challenge class. There are a couple of problems with this class, the main one being that I will have to miss one of the six weeks because I am having laser eye surgery and have been advised not to do anything that involves sweat dripping into my eyes the week following (which for me, as an over sweat-er, means not moving out of air conditioning for a week, guess I’ll be sleeping at the office…), the other problem is that this is a CrossFit challenge. I don’t know the first thing about CrossFit and that is kind of on purpose. I don’t like fads, especially workout and diet fads. I think they have an air of cult about them (which we have enough of here in Hawaii anyway), and, at least as far as the diets are concerned, I don’t think they are all that effective, but, as the musical poet Ben Harper once sang, “before you knock it, try it first.” The other things that I have reservations about are the title of the challenge- it’s called the NEW YOU challenge, and I don’t need a new me, just an improved me- and the fact that there are group weigh-ins and measurements to be taken- those things are kind of personal and, if weight loss isn’t your goal, kind of beside the point, but, c’est la vie.

There are things about this challenge that are really appealing to me; I will be in a class of all ladies (hey ladies!) and I think that will make me feel less like I should just get out of the way so the beefcake can use my barbell, and it is structured so, not only will I be taught the correct form and function of these exercises, but I also won’t waste ten minutes wandering around the gym wondering what I should do today. The timing works out well with my running group, and I still have one day of rest each week (Friday, already the best day of the work week, now maybe the best day of the week). The challenge comes with a meal plan, which, as I suspected it would be, is based largely on the paleo diet; this doesn’t jive so well with my vegetarianism, but I was assured this wouldn’t be a problem. My first class is tonight, and I am looking forward to it with only a little trepidation (stemming mostly from the fact that I must wear my glasses all week in preparation for my laser surgery and my glasses make my face feel clumsy). I’ll let you know how crossing over to the dark side goes! Any advice for sore muscle relief is appreciated- squats (and I anticipate there being a lot of squats) make my running muscles cringe and I’ve got to keep up with the half marathon training if I want to have a great race in April.

Me, after laser eye surgery. These are the expected results, right?

Run Together, Fun Together

group
Some of us, post race; smiles of victory!

The 2016 Honolulu Marathon has come and gone, and, for our running group, it was a great success! Mother Nature, once again, blessed us with a mostly overcast, cool day and, best of all NO RAIN! Thank you, Mother Nature.

As the fireworks sounded the beginning of the race and we shuffled toward the starting line alongside 30,000 other runners, Don and I each had specific goals in mind for our race. After running last year’s marathon in a respectable 5:02:51, I hoped to run this year’s in less than 5 hours. I had in mind a goal of 4:45, but didn’t expect to knock the more than 15 minutes off of my time to make that goal; it was more of a guideline to help me stay under 5 hours.

Starting the race in the dark of early morning is kind of exciting, and the couple of hours before the sun is fully up feel kind of like a head start. I got a little caught up in the spirit of the moment and kept finding myself going above my pace for the first several miles and needing to slow myself down (at one point my watch said I was running a pace of 8:45, who was I kidding?). We wound our way around Waikiki and past the Honolulu City Lights; it was fun to see them lit up for Christmas without crowds of people milling around them, but my favorite part of the whole course was the first trip up Diamondhead. The race crew there was a group of enthusiastic high school kids cheering and high-fiveing every runner who passed by. Their enthusiasm was contagious and lifted the spirits of us runners as we trudged up the hill in the dark. It’s one thing to be up that early on a cold Sunday morning because you’re stupid ambitious enough to want to run a marathon, but it’s another to be up early on a cold Sunday morning just to support people who are crazy enough to run that far. It was great to see their smiling faces and their cheers made it easier to charge up the hill.

I had hoped to be up the hill near Diamondhead by the time the sun was up, and I managed to do it. I felt pretty good, buoyed by the many miles logged in training and the enthusiasm of the onlookers, until about mile 15 when I started to fade. Last year I didn’t eat enough during the race, and it caught up to me by mile 18 where I began to do a lot of

Li Hing Mui: salty, sweet, sour, looks kind of illegal.
Li Hing Mui: salty, sweet, sour, looks kind of illegal.

walking. I didn’t want to do that again this year, so I made the plan to start eating gels earlier and to eat more of them. It’s hard to know exactly what does the trick nutrition-wise (it’s so much easier to know what doesn’t do the trick), but I think having some extra nutrition along the way helped keep the fade from becoming a full-fledged walking spree. I still swear by the lemonade flavored Huma energy gels; they have the least booger-like consistency and the best flavor of any gels I have tried thus far. A friend who is a veteran marathon runner recommended something called Li Hing Mui, which is dried plum with lots of salt, for cramping. I don’t usually get muscle cramps while running (knock on wood), but I do sometimes feel like I need more salt, so I took a couple Li Hing Mui from him the night before the race. They taste really good, kind of sweet, sour, salty and earthy all at once, and at about mile 18, where I really began to flag last year, I had a couple of nibbles to perk myself up.

26-2-miles-of-alohaIt wasn’t until mile 23 that I had to start talking myself out of walking for the rest of the race- five miles farther along than last year! Small victories!- and, as usual, when I started to think about walking, I also started to remind myself that, after this race was over, I NEVER HAVE TO RUN ANOTHER STEP FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE. Unless, of course, if I want to. People often tell me that they could never run a marathon, that they could never run even 3 miles, and they’re probably right. The hard thing to master about running isn’t the actual putting one foot in front of the other part, it’s the mental part. The talking yourself into doing something that’s hard for increasingly longer distances and amounts of time. The ability to identify a desire to stop versus a need to stop- I wanted to walk at mile 23, I wanted it more than anything on Sunday, but did I need to? Nope. When I finally made it in sight of the finish line, I had to dig down deep to find the power for a strong finish, but I managed to find it partly because I just wanted to cross that goddamn finish line and be DONE with this already and partly because I refused to look as fatigued as I felt.

It was a long, tough race, but it was also a fun race. I worked harder this year than I did last year when my only goal was to survive. It is amazing how much I have learned about running and about myself in the past year; one of the most important things I have learned  how to do is to pace myself so that I don’t go out so strong that I can’t finish my planned route. For this marathon, I had hoped to shave a few minutes off of my time and finish under the 5 hour mark. Despite the fact that I ran the first 10k faster than I’d planned, I still managed to conserve enough energy to finish with a time of….. wait for it….. 4:39:48!

I call this look the "Get outta my way, I see free malasadas" look
I call this look the “Get outta my way, I see free malasadas” look

I really can’t believe that I managed to shave almost 23 minutes off my time, but it made me so grateful that I didn’t walk the last three miles. I think there were a lot of factors that went into making this year’s race more successful than last year’s. The weather was extremely helpful, so were my shoes. As much as I love the lightweight Topos, they just weren’t enough shoe for such a long distance and the Newtons proved to be more cushiony without being too much shoe. I think having had the experience before was also helpful; it’s a lot easier to build on a foundation than it is to start from ground zero, and it’s easier to talk yourself into pushing through the fatigue when you’ve been there before. As always, the running group was instrumental in getting me both to the starting line and the finish line. Misery loves company (which I think should be our group motto since the slogan is already “we run for the hill of it”), and it was great to run into group members out on the course and be reminded that we were all suffering and we were in it together.

While I am glad that the race is behind me, I am sad that the group is on hold for the next couple of months. We’ll start training again in February for the Hapalua half, but it was strange to not get an email with this week’s running workouts on Sunday night, and I felt a bit lonely as I laced up my sneakers (now dry but still smelly) for a short recovery run this afternoon. I’m going to take this break to focus again on making my core and legs a little stronger (read: more ab and leg days at the gym, insert eye-rolling emoji here), do more yoga to increase my flexibility (going for more ballet-dancer and less Tin Man), and sleep in past o’dark thirty on a Sunday morning.

medal

It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like….

Marathon time!

fuel

We are just one week away from the big day; by this time Sunday, the marathon will be a fond (hopefully) memory. Yesterday, Don and I walked to the local running store to stock up on last minute supplies and now our kitchen counter looks like a repository for space food.

The group had its final long run on Sunday morning, and we got lucky with the weather. We had a beautiful 10 mile jaunt over hill and dale under cloudy but dry skies with temps only in the low 70s. Hopefully Mother Nature was giving us a sneak peak of what is to come next Sunday (pretty please?).

I was texting with a friend after our run and she asked what it was I loved about running, and I had a hard time coming up with an answer. There are the obvious benefits- better health, better sleep, better looking physique- but, as you well know, I’m not sure I would call my relationship to running one that embodies love.

It’s much easier to identify the things I HATE about running: I hate the sweat, I hate the sore muscles, I hate the chafing, I hate the burning sensation in my lungs as I start up yet another hill, and I hate the sweat (which I know I mentioned once before, but I really don’t like it, so I think it is worth mentioning again).

The things I love about running are harder to pin down because they are more mental. I love that running is something I can do anywhere at any time as long as I have a pair of sneakers, I love the last quarter mile of every run when my destination is in sight and I know that soon I can STOP, I love getting to explore the less traveled roads, and I love that twinge of pride I feel when someone looks at me in disbelief when I tell them that I have run a marathon and am planning to run another one- I look less like someone who runs and more like someone who loafs; like I’m better acquainted with the ins and outs of the La-Z-Boy than I am with every back road on the Windward side of Oahu.

I guess I like pretty much everything about running… except maybe for the actual running part! This weekend it will all come down to trusting in my training and finding the resolve to talk myself into pushing a little bit harder for just a little longer. Until then, I will enjoy having the license to eat every carb in sight (a license that expires on Monday) and enjoy the fact that, regardless of how Sunday goes, I am once again the fittest I’ve ever been.

Moment of zen at the Heeia Pier
Moment of zen at the Heeia Pier

Sunday Runday

Chinaman's Hat in beautiful Kaneohe Bay
Chinaman’s Hat in beautiful Kaneohe Bay

Our running group just wrapped up week 4 of marathon training and, if I do say so myself, we are looking pretty good.

It feels great to be reunited with this bunch of like-minded freakazoids who’s idea of a relaxing Sunday morning is lacing up their sneakers for miles of sweating. I really missed the camaraderie of the group over the summer; it is a lot harder to push yourself to go a little farther and a little faster when there isn’t any one else holding you accountable, and it’s also a lot less fun.

Last weekend I skipped the group run for the second of the BioAstin Marathon Readiness Series races. This was a 20k (or 12.4ish mile) race that consisted of three laps of a 4+ mile loop. It was hot and a little boring, and overall I felt tired and was disappointed with my time of 2:02. I had hoped to run it in less than two hours, but I guess I should have run a little faster. I’m still working on moderating my pace early in the run so that I can finish strong instead of dwindling to a sluggish stagger at the end. Today, I suffered a similar fate.

We gathered this morning at the Kualoa Beach park for a 10 mile out and back along the coast. This is a run I have done a few times before and, while it is a lovely run with ocean views, it can be quite hot as there is little shade. Today we got lucky and there were some tradewinds blowing, but it was still warm. Although I enjoy this run because it is quite scenic, I kind of always sputter out at the end; there is something about an out and back or a repeated loop that psychs me out.

I think the spontaneity of an unfamiliar route helps keep me engaged when I run; I can’t fall into the trap of remembering that I was going a little faster when I passed that stump the first time, or, I wasn’t quite so hot and sweaty when I saw that dead bird before. I get mentally bogged down by having “been there and done that” already, and it is a habit I need to break. Today, I ran a little above my pace on the way out, and, as I left the safe harbor of the aid station at the turn around point, I felt my legs protest when I began to run.

My gut instinct, when my legs feel rubbery and I’m hot, tired and can’t breathe, is to get discouraged. It is easy to look at the backs of the faster runners receding into the distance and think ” you guys have it made,” but, honestly, running sucks for everyone. This is important to remember. It doesn’t matter if you’re fast or slow. If you’re running 10 miles or 5; running sucks (although, yes, it’s safe to say that there is twice as much suck if you are running 10 miles compared to 5). Running sucks, and it isn’t easy.

I reminded myself of this as I started on the second half of our run. My legs felt heavy and rubbery, my lungs had collapsed, and I was leaving a trail of sweat droplets in my wake. I saw the pair of ladies who had left the aid station after me pass me and then surge off over the horizon, and, just as I started to think “it’s easier for them,” I caught myself and instead thought “you go girls.”

As soon as I let go of that discouraging thought, I felt better. So what if it was hot out and I was running at a 12 minute pace, at least I was running. And so what if those ladies, who I am normally ahead of, were having a great day and I couldn’t keep up; good for them. They were just as hot as I was, they were breathing the same humid air, and they were working at least as hard as the rest of us. Kudos to them.

I allowed myself the luxury of plodding along for a couple of miles and then felt rested enough to try for a strong finish for the last three. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I was running along the sparkling ocean; another great day to be alive. Next time, I will remember to slow down at the beginning of the run and not try to keep up with those who are feeling fresh and fast if I’m not also feeling it. You’ve got to run on the legs you have and not the ones you wish you had, and some days are better than others.

kaaawa

 

Core Power Yogaaaaaaaaa! YOU get to Sweat! And YOU get to Sweat!

Don and I were feeling the burn last week when we took our local Core Power Yoga studio up on its offer of a free week trial. Yeah, thats right an entire WEEK of FREE yoga! What could be better?

Neither Don nor I had ever done yoga in any serious sort of setting. I occasionally do some yoga here at home, mostly Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube,  on days when I just can’t get it together to do any other sort of exercise or on days when I’m feeling particularly stiff and sore and old. I think the closest Don has come to going yoga is his post-run stretching. Neither of us is very flexible, and we both hope to become a little more bendy by conscientiously reminding our bodies to streeeetch and move in ways that do not involve running or lifting (or sitting or lying down peacefully in a hammock).

We started on a Monday evening, and, unfortunately for those of us who like a nice early bedtime on a work night, the only beginner’s class that fit into our schedule began at 8:45 that night. I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was a little nervous to be doing yoga in public with others around to witness, but I thought that a yoga session right before bed sounded like a very relaxing thing. We were greeted by a yoga instructor named Leah who is quite possibly the most enthusiastic person I have ever met and she seemed overjoyed that she got to be our very first yoga instructor in the very first yoga class of our lives. If she hadn’t seemed so genuinely happy and upbeat, I would have rolled my eyes at her, but, you guys, this girl is the real deal. Just being in the same room with her made me see everything through rose-colored lenses; her sweat should probably be bottled and sold as an antidepressant.

As the class began, it seemed like Leah was trying to tell us what she had for dinner (Chana Masala?) or that she has obscure taste in music (Chaka Kahn?) or maybe she had made a really good point about something and wanted to drop the mic on her way out (BOOM shakala!). It turns out that the series of movements we complete to get from one pose to another in yoga (essentially going from standing to a high plank, to low plank, to an upward facing dog) is called a chaturanga dandasana. Say that one five times real fast. The class began with a brief demonstration of the movements, a lesson in how to breathe, and advice to do what we can, and, if we needed to check in with our breath at any time, to get back into child’s pose and take a minute.

I loved the yoga. I loved it so incredibly much. This is how the studio gets people to join; they offer you a free week, you get hooked, and then you crave that awesome feeling. On our first two days of the trial, we attended level 1 classes which, according to the CPY literature, is great for people without yoga experience (ME!). On day three, the only class we could attend was a level 2 class that CPY recommends you have some yoga experience for (2 days is ‘some’ right?), and this was a reach for both of us; Don actually spent a good portion of the hour in child’s pose “checking in with his breath.” Over the weekend, we tried some of the Yoga Sculpt classes that combine yoga with some lifting of light weights with a lot of repetitions, and I think I got the best workouts I’ve had in a while in these classes.

I thought the yoga would be a little bit of a workout and very relaxing, and I completely underestimated the physical challenges that would present themselves. At one point when I was bending forward to hang my torso in rag doll pose, my sweat started trickling into my nostrils; I was literally drowning in my own sweat.

By the time Sunday, the last day of our trial, rolled around, I was all chaturanga’d out. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best idea, as someone who had never done yoga in an instructional setting, to go every day for a week without a break, but the frugal New Englander in me just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a FREE class. My Dad once told me that I should never turn down a free meal (solid advice, for sure) and I’ve taken that sage wisdom and applied it to… everything. I love free, and I loved the yoga, so it only seemed appropriate that I yoga until I couldn’t yoga anymore.

While I struggled to lift my arms at the end of the week (shoulders, so sore), and hold the chair pose for any length of time (quads, so sore), each day I could feel my hamstrings lengthen and my body become more flexible overall. I will definitely try yoga-ing again, I definitely can’t afford to go every day (even though I really REALLY want to), but I should be able to swing a couple of classes a month. Don seemed just as pleased with his yoga experience. He, the fitness freak that he is, particularly enjoyed the challenging yoga sculpt classes (in one, we burned almost 500 calories in an hour according to our FitBits) and even purchased his very own yoga mat, so I know he plans on going back.

Child’s Pose, aka Downward Facing Don

Stretch Armstrong

'Eau De Workout
‘Eau De Workout

Nothing says summer in Hawaii like a pile of sweaty laundry. Our tropical air has turned hot and heavy, and it, once again, feels as if I need gills to breathe. I’m feeling extra loagie today because the air conditioner at work is broken, and I sweated through eight hours of computer work huddled in front of a tiny desk-fan that I scurried out to buy this morning.

I feel like broken AC in Hawaii should be cause for closing the office and sending everyone home- not that I have AC at home, but at least I wouldn’t be wearing khakis and an oxford emailshirt- but that was not the case, sadly. It’s really too bad, I could have used a beach day! I’ve had a lot going on lately; I was working overtime for a while which made it hard to fit in exercise at the end of the day, and over the weekend I received a threatening email.

The email was reminding me that only three weeks remain before the start of the Marathon Training Clinic that successfully got me to the start and finish lines of last year’s Honolulu Marathon. I thought by now I’d be recovered, both mentally and physically, from last year’s effort and feel ready to take on the challenge once again, but I’m kind of dreading it.

I think I’m physically recovered; I’ve been trying to stay running fit by logging at least 9 miles a week (which, as you well know, is nothing compared to training for the big race), and I’ve been making it a point to keep up with the stretches that helped ease the knee pain that accompanied those many miles last Fall. The stretches, I realize, are immensely helpful because, while I was working overtime, I lost the hour or so of TV time that I usually have after dinner which is when I do the helpful stretches, and my IT band started to feel tight and sore again. I’ve been trying not to let that happen again, so I’m focusing my non-running workouts on strengthening the rest of my body and I’ve also been trying (as always) to increase my flexibility.

I’m definitely not mentally recovered from the marathon. It’s just such a long, goddamned way to run, you know? And it’s going to be hot, and I’m going to get sweaty, and my legs will be sore, and I’m going to be hungry every waking moment of every single day. It’s all just a little too much! Last week, I had to give myself a pep talk just to finish a two-mile run, so how the eff am I supposed to run 26.2 miles?

Right now, as I sit on the couch, sticky and head-achy from a day of suffering in the heat (did I mention our office doesn’t really have any windows, so not only was there no AC, but there was also no fresh air), I feel like I could go the rest of my life without running another step. But, then I remember how much fun I have when I’m schlepping along with similar-paced friends, and I think of all the nice views I got to see that I never otherwise would have seen, and the good feeling of being finished with a run (come on- the BEST feeling) comes to mind, and, also, I do wonder if I will be able to shave seconds off my marathon time. I guess I’m not throwing in the towel yet (although I do still have three weeks to decide- I kid!).

In the three weeks remaining before marathon season gets going, I’m going to really push myself to focus on my flexibility. No more skipping the post-run stretching, and hopefully I’ll be able to incorporate a little more yoga into my fitness regime.  I’ll admit that I was partly inspired by the good advice I’ve received over the years from medical and fitness professionals, butI was also inspired by Betsey Johnson. Yeah, fashion design icon Betsey Johnson. I was watching the Food Network show  ‘Worst Cooks in America,’ and Betsey Johnson mad a guest appearance, did a cartwheel followed by a split, and then confessed that she is 71 years old. Yikes; I’ve gotta step up my flexibility game. There is no reason that, if a 71 year old lady can still cartwheel and do splits, that I can’t touch my toes. I’m not aiming for cartwheels and splits, my goal is simply a little less Humpty Dumpty, who was so stiff and brittle he fell to pieces, and a little more Gumby. Any tips fellow non-fitness freaks?

 

The Finish Line is in Sight

I’ve been so absorbed with work lately that the Hibiscus Half Marathon, my last big race (so far) before I attempt the marathon again in December, really snuck up on me.

You guys, it’s this Sunday.

I think I’m ready, but I don’t think my performance will be as spectacular as during the Hapalua. I’ve been training pretty well on my own (I even went on two, solo, ten mile runs and wasn’t bored out of my mind- shout out to Don for meeting me with Gatorade at mile 5; that’s true love!), and my pace has been pretty steady, but, honestly, I am le tired.

Leading up to the Hapalua, I felt strong, I felt fast, I felt powerful and full of life. I felt like Mercury with his winged feet! I’m not sure if it’s just that I miss having the camaraderie and inspiration of running in a group; training on your own is quite different and I think the friendly competition of seeing others improve their speed and stamina is a great motivator. The weather has also suddenly become summer, and where once we had temperate, breezy days, we are now experiencing hot, hot sun, and that, I think, is slowing me down too.

Instead of fleet Mercury, these days I’m feeling more like the ole’ bay mare who ain’t what she used to be; a little creaky, a little slow, filled more with complaints and excuses than with vim and vigor. I need a little break. Lately I’ve been looking forward more to my workouts at the gym than to my zen running time, and normally it’s the reverse. I guess I’ve reached the point in my relationship with running where, much like when I’ve found a new favorite food, I’m suddenly able to see beyond the “new” thing and remember that there are other things I enjoy.

My very own old bay mare; I feel you, girl, I'd rather eat a big pile of food than run too.
My very own old bay mare; I feel you, girl, I’d rather eat a big pile of food than run too.

I’m going to give the Hibiscus my very best effort, and if I’m a little (or a lot) slower than I was at the Hapalua, I’m going to try not to beat myself up about it. I don’t want these races to become too much pressure; they are supposed to be fun, low stress, and count as a big achievement if I simply make it across the finish line standing upright and before the course is disassembled. So, if I don’t beat my bad-ass time of 2:05, I’m going to try to remember that the only thing it means is that I was slower than I was on April 10th; it doesn’t mean that I suck and should work harder- I’ve been working pretty hard. What is it that they say? It’s not the destination, its the journey? Yeah, that sounds right.

 

The Final Countdown -or- OMFG. The Marathon is THIS Weekend! What Was I Thinking???

If you’ve glanced at the countdown calendar on the ole’ bloggy-blog you may have noticed that the marathon is FIVE motherf@&#ing days away. How did it get here so quickly?

Our running group has seriously cut back on our distances in the last few weeks; since the big 20-miler, our long runs have been 7, 10, and 5 miles respectively and the weeknight runs have lessened in intensity a bit too.  My knee is feeling tenuous, but I think that it will hold up through the race. It has to because I’m running it and I’m gonna win.

I wanted to see if you were paying attention there; of course I’m not going to win the marathon- but I am going to finish and I’m going to enjoy every second of it. Some I may enjoy more than others- for example, I think the seconds just before I cross the finish line and crumple to the ground in a sweaty, blubbering heap with a malasada clutched in my grimy fist will be the most delightful, while the seconds immediately following the realization that IM-ONLY-HALFWAY-THERE-OH-MY-GOD-I-STILL-HAVE-THIRTEEN-POINT-ONE-STUPID-STUPID-MILES-TO-GO-HOW-DO-I-CALL-AN-ÜBER-AND-HOW-FAST-CAN-IT-GET-HERE? will be particularly hard to enjoy, but I’m determined to enjoy the experience from early morning start to (hopefully) late morning finish.

There are two good things about the marathon being less than a full work-week away: 1. soon it will be over with and I will not have to anticipate/dread it any more. I will no longer compulsively contemplate how pleasant or unpleasant each and every road I drive on would be to run. I will not need to base my decision on whether or not to order a second margarita on factors of when I last ran, when I will run again, how much water I have consumed in the past 24 hours, the relative humidity, and the temperature forecast to insure I maintain proper levels of hydration. 2. CARB LOADING!!!!! Did you know that it is recommended that you up your carb intake for an entire week before running a marathon? I’m in heaven. I’m going to eat BAGELS, I’m going to eat PASTA and POTATOES and I’m not going to feel an ounce of guilt about any of it- gotta boost those glycogen stores, you know?

Not to get all sentimental and oh-thank-goodness-I’m-blessed-with-my-health-and-two-fully-functioning-legs-and-the-support-system-and-financial-means-to-embark-on-such-a-wonderful-experience-and-the-opportunity-to-achieve-goals-and-learn-so-much-about-myself-ey on you, but, well, yeah; I am blessed with all of those things and this has, so far, been a pretty great experience and I have discovered things about myself and accomplished goals I could only have dreamed of (actually- had nightmares about) a year ago, and I’ve made friends. Friends with whom I am united with against blisters and chafing and hot asphalt without shade. Friends who understand that communion of a spiritual sort early on a Sunday morning doesn’t always happen between four walls and a steeple. Friends who commiserate over strains and sores and politely ignore the fact that I just made a port-a-potty stop a few miles ago…and a few miles before that one too. Training for a marathon is no small thing and it gives me the warm fuzzies to be part of this community of weirdos.

The day approaches. I’ll be wearing bib number 16877 if you want to check my results out online. I was originally hoping to do the damn thang in under 5 hours, and as I grew stronger with my training, I started to toy with the idea of doing it in 4:45. Now, with my knee threatening mutiny, I’m hoping simply to finish and do it at a run. I’m looking forward to this week of rest (two super short runs this week- I may just walk them) and stuffing my face with delicious carbs. I’m also crowd-sourcing suggestions for a fresh marathon playlist. My friend Kath has made a few recommendations and if you’ve got any ideas, I’d love to hear them- I need lots of songs to get me through 26.2 miles!