Tag Archives: Gym

Sometimes it Sucks

I had a rough week. Following a fun-filled week of stay-actioning with some friends who were visiting from upstate New York, it was hard to get back into any routine, but I had particular trouble getting back into the swing of making fitness a priority.

I’m not sure why all good habits are easy to break and, it seems, that bad habits are easy to pick up, but after seven days of stuffing my face with malasadas and sitting on my duff in a beach chair, I didn’t want to go back to a life of being diligent about eating healthy and making exercise a priority.

Doing what I do best, sitting on my butt, enjoying a beer at the Kaneohe sandbar. Can you blame me for not wanting to come back?

On Monday, I dragged myself to a CrossFit class after work and slogged through the WOD. The coach was someone I didn’t know (and I didn’t happen to catch her name), but, as she explained the WOD to us, she recommended that if we weren’t all that good at double unders (jumping rope and having the rope pass under you twice each jump), we should spend about 90 seconds of each round working on double unders and then move on whether we had reached the prescribed goal or not. The goal was a descending ladder of 150 double unders the first round, 100 the second round, and 50 the final round. After I accomplished about 5 double unders and succeeded in whipping myself in the butt and shins with the jump rope several times, the coach stopped by my area and told me that I should probably just do single jumps. It was a humbling moment, but I filed it away under “things to practice at home” and happily did my single jumps.

I awoke on Tuesday sore and tired; a week of being sedentary followed by a tough workout really whipped my butt (literally- that damn jump rope!), and it took me all week to recover. Tuesday’s workout was a short, solo run, and Wednesday and Thursday were more CrossFit classes where I put in wimpy, lackluster performances. Friday was a blissful day off, Saturday more CrossFit, and yesterday Don and I ran about 8 miles before we dragged our chairs to the beach and enjoyed an afternoon of sitting in the sun, doing many reps of beer-can-to-mouth curls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday’s workouts left me with more things to practice at home: pistol squats and wall walks. A pistol squat is where you squat one-legged, like a bird, with whichever leg you aren’t using extended in front of you. Ideally you begin from a standing position, squat all the way down on one-leg, and then rise to a standing position again. On one leg. Go ahead and try it, I’ll hold your beer.

Wall walks were something completely new to me and seem like the precursor to a hand stand (which seems like the precursor to a hand stand pushup; I don’t like the direction this is headed). You start with your feet against a wall and your chest to the floor almost like you’re in a pushup position (or, if like me you don’t do pushups very often, it’s the position you find yourself in when your dog rolls his ball under the couch and you have to retrieve it), and then you walk your feet up the wall and walk your hands toward the wall until, ideally, your nose touches the wall and you are upside down. I didn’t get that far, or, I guess I should say, I did not get that CLOSE. My nose was probably still about 1.5 to 2 feet away from the wall before my arms got shaky and I got nervous about having my butt and legs at a higher elevation than my head. Progress, like most things about me, is slow, I guess.

After my relaxing afternoon on the beach, I made sure to hit the hay a little early last night because I think, along with not eating super healthfully, that part of what was bringing me down and turning me into a slow little weakling last week was that I was just plain tired. Too much fun will do that to you once you reach your 30’s. It seems to have helped; I felt more solid in tonight’s pre-dinner CrossFit class and wasn’t excused from attempting any of the movements.

I learned another new thing at tonight’s class: the Tempo Press. At first I thought that the tempo press was right up my alley because you take about 3-5 seconds to raise a barbell above your head and I’m really slow at everything, but after a few reps, my shoulders were screaming. It’s a good thing I went to the evening class instead of the morning one because my arms are useless now- I’ve typed this entire blog post with my nose; It seems like tonight might bring another early bedtime for me.

Perfecting those beer curls. Good form is important!

 

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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

Ouchie.

Its baaaaack!

Cue the JAWS theme because yesterday I revisited my old friend the ‘Tough Mudder’ workout, and this workout is a blood-thirsty monster. I mean it.

After a bit of fitness leisure time following the Hibiscus Half Marathon (which went totally fine, by the way, I ended up being only about 30 seconds slower than the Hapalua in April) that involved a little travel to the Northeast for a wedding and a lot of beer-drinking and s’mores-eating, I was feeling like I needed to kick things into high gear fitness-wise.

While I was visiting the Shire Vermont, I managed to sneak in a couple of short but lovely runs in the cool New England air, but after a couple of weeks of indulging and several long plane rides, I was feeling a little sluggish and out of shape. Begrudgingly, I accepted the fact that only a hardcore workout would shake things up for me.

In case you have forgotten (and how could you? This workout visits me in my nightmares!) The ‘Tough Mudder” workout consists of doing a variety of painful things an insufferable amount of times over and over again. No, seriously, that is about all you need to know about this workout.

I first became acquainted with this bad boy a couple of years ago when I was participating in a fitness Boot Camp, and it is a point of pride for me that I can actually do it. Well, could actually do it; since I’m a little weak and flabby at the moment, I modified yesterday’s workout so that I could live through it.

I shortened the workout to 8 rounds and split them in half to make this one workout into two shorter workouts. Which exercises did I forgo, you ask? The triceps pushups because, lets be real here, one kind of pushup in a day is one kind too many, and the dips because there is never anywhere convenient to do dips near the cardio equipment. I also swapped the running for ellipticizing since I was planning on going running today.

So, my workout started with 10 squat jumps, then as each round continued I added 10 pushups, 10 burpees, and 10 mountain climbers. Then I swapped to round 2 and started with 10 split jumps, adding flutter kicks, twists, and tuck jumps with each round. By the time I was finished, sweat was dripping into my eyes and I was in full-blown tomato face mode. I slept quite well last night.

Tonight I went for a slow three mile run. My butt and quads complained the entire time and I ran my slowest three miles since the marathon, but I expected that after yesterday. My next goal is to complete the entire workout from start to finish again!

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.

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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.

Back on Track

I’ve been a little lazy, lately.

The past few weeks have involved more desk-sitting and excuse-making than suck-it-up-ing and stick-to-my-plan-ing and I feel guilty about it. Part of my problem is that I’ve been pretty busy at work, and sometimes at the end of the day I can’t muster the energy to tie my sneakers and drive to the gym. Another part of my problem is that my upcoming half marathon isn’t scaring me enough.

Leading up to the marathon in December, I was terrified of having a mid-race disaster. Now that I’ve run the entire 26.2 miles without losing a foot or pooping my pants, I’m afraid I’m not giving the 13.1 miles the respect they deserve. Even though it is only half the distance of the marathon, 13.1 miles is still much farther than anybody needs to run in one go.

Trail with a view.
Trail with a view.

Last week I had a houseguest who helped me get back on track a little bit. While we didn’t go running together- because she adamantly maintained that 3 miles is the farthest distance she needs to run and only if they are three scenic miles, otherwise she’s sticking with the treadmill- we did a few challenging hikes and logged many miles of walking. Not only did the hikes keep me from being glued to the couch in my down time, but, as I struggled not to barf  while ascending Koko Head Crater in the hot mid-day sun, I was reminded of the importance of maintaining my level of fitness and taking my half-marathon training seriously.

Tonight I happily rejoined my running group for some rough and rolling hills. While I was slow and felt tired and achy after a day of sitting in front of the computer, it was refreshing to be running “for reals” and back among the company of my running buddies. I dragged myself to the gym last night even though I left work much later than planned and only had time for a quick workout- some is better than none, right?- and I’ll do the same tomorrow, and, although the plan for Thursday’s group run is speed work (which I hate!), I’m oddly looking forward to it.

So I’m officially back in the saddle again, back on track, getting my groove back, whatever you want to call it. With the half marathon only about six weeks away, I’m buckling down not a moment too soon. My goals for now are to keep making time for fitness and to try a little harder- run a little faster, do one extra pull-up, crank the resistance on the elliptical a little higher- so that I’m making the most of my time even when it is limited.

What goes up, must come down.
What goes up, must come down.

Shifting Gears

Frosty the Snowman's cousin, Grainy the Sandman.
Frosty the Snowman’s cousin, Grainy the Sandman.

With the marathon now behind me- two weeks behind, in fact, and the holidays winding down, it is time for me to stop resting on my laurels and look forward to what fitness in 2016 will mean to me. The past few months have been incredibly busy ones; not only was I in the midst of a super-duper running regime with my eye on that marathon finish line, but after spending much of spring and all of summer unemployed, I started a full time job just before Thanksgiving. Having the structure of a running program already in place helped keep physical activity a part of my daily life as I made the transition from person-who-has-more-free-time-than-she-knows-what-to-do-with to person who now-is-required-to-sit-at-a-desk-for-eight-hours-a-day-and-is-struggling-to-find-time-to-make-gym/dog walking/cooking-priorities.

With the completion of the marathon comes a brief and necessary respite from an intense running schedule, but without the set-in-stone dates with my running group, I’ve been finding it a challenge to make my workouts a priority. The biggest problem I’m faced with is that I’m a morning person and I’d like to be both at work and at the gym in the mornings because it is when I am at my best. Because I am bound by the limits of science and physics and because I do not know where Hermione Granger stashed the Time Turner necklace when she was finished with it, it is not possible for me to be both at work and at the gym simultaneously.

I am fortunate in that my new workplace (at a job I am starting to really like for its mental challenges even though I wish I wasn’t sitting at a desk for hours on end) is flexible and I am allowed to set my own 8 hour workday schedule. This is a huge blessing, and I know it. Because of this flexibility, I have been able to get myself into work as the sun rises and be at the gym ready to go by 4:00 pm. This is, in theory, plenty of time for a normal person to fit in a good workout and still have enough time to make a healthy dinner, and this is where I must find a way to compromise between my laid-back, no hurry no worry, unemployed schedule when I had to be sure to stretch my daily tasks to fill all of my waking hours and my new schedule of one who is gainfully employed and there now seem to be more things to do in a day and, even though I wake up a full hour earlier, less time in which to do them.

For me, the solution, as always, is planning. I’m taking time this week to buckle down on my meal planning so that there are fewer spur-of-the-moment trips to the grocery store for a single item and I’m also trying to make sure I have a loose idea of what I want to accomplish at the gym each week. It is much easier to decide that I don’t have time to go to the gym when the gym is this vague idea of somewhere I will go to do something in order to get a little sweaty; it will be harder to talk myself out of going when I know that Monday is “arms” day and Tuesday will be “legs” day because on Thursday I want to go for a run which means “legs” day can’t be on either Wednesday or Friday. Having a concrete plan makes it much harder to say “no thanks, I’ll pass,” and that is a good thing especially when it feels like my schedule, as often happens this time of year, has wound itself out of control.

It’s mind over matter for us as we wind down 2015 and look forward to new beginnings. It is time to make a plan and give ourselves a hard time if we make excuses and don’t stick to it. Its time to find a goal to work toward- it doesn’t have to be a big goal, maybe you’d like to be able to stay on the elliptical for 20 minutes without feeling like your heart will burst, perhaps you’d like to start lifting weights and have your eye on being able to do some biceps curls with the 10 lb dumbbells without dropping them on your toe, or it might be as simple as dragging your tired, sweatpants-clad butt off the couch and taking a mile walk five days a week- these are good goals! I’ve set myself another big goal of running the Hapalua Half Marathon in April and hopefully improving my time, and having that looming on the horizon will help keep me from becoming fused with the couch (so will the awesome new running skirt my parents gave me for Christmas! I can’t wait to take it on its maiden voyage).

Remember, as you’re setting your post-holiday fitness goals, to set some simple, easy to attain goals alongside your bigger, harder goals. It can be overwhelming to work toward the goal of losing 10 lbs if you don’t have the gratification of first accomplishing the goals of eating more vegetables, walking at least 10,000 steps in a day, or making it to the gym three times in a week along the way. These smaller goals help you achieve the bigger goal and give you that nice feeling of accomplishment, and there is no better motivator than feeling accomplished.

Seeing double? Laundry just became less of a priority- thanks Mom & Dad!
Seeing double? Laundry just became less of a priority- thanks Mom & Dad!